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The Republic by Plato, translated by B. Jowett

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class, but in the State as a whole. I have another remark to make:--A
middle condition is best for artisans; they should have money enough to buy
tools, and not enough to be independent of business. And will not the same
condition be best for our citizens? If they are poor, they will be mean;
if rich, luxurious and lazy; and in neither case contented. 'But then how
will our poor city be able to go to war against an enemy who has money?'
There may be a difficulty in fighting against one enemy; against two there
will be none. In the first place, the contest will be carried on by
trained warriors against well-to-do citizens: and is not a regular athlete
an easy match for two stout opponents at least? Suppose also, that before
engaging we send ambassadors to one of the two cities, saying, 'Silver and
gold we have not; do you help us and take our share of the spoil;'--who
would fight against the lean, wiry dogs, when they might join with them in
preying upon the fatted sheep? 'But if many states join their resources,
shall we not be in danger?' I am amused to hear you use the word 'state'
of any but our own State. They are 'states,' but not 'a state'--many in
one. For in every state there are two hostile nations, rich and poor,
which you may set one against the other. But our State, while she remains
true to her principles, will be in very deed the mightiest of Hellenic

To the size of the state there is no limit but the necessity of unity; it
must be neither too large nor too small to be one. This is a matter of
secondary importance, like the principle of transposition which was
intimated in the parable of the earthborn men. The meaning there implied
was that every man should do that for which he was fitted, and be at one
with himself, and then the whole city would be united. But all these
things are secondary, if education, which is the great matter, be duly
regarded. When the wheel has once been set in motion, the speed is always
increasing; and each generation improves upon the preceding, both in
physical and moral qualities. The care of the governors should be directed
to preserve music and gymnastic from innovation; alter the songs of a
country, Damon says, and you will soon end by altering its laws. The
change appears innocent at first, and begins in play; but the evil soon
becomes serious, working secretly upon the characters of individuals, then
upon social and commercial relations, and lastly upon the institutions of a
state; and there is ruin and confusion everywhere. But if education
remains in the established form, there will be no danger. A restorative
process will be always going on; the spirit of law and order will raise up
what has fallen down. Nor will any regulations be needed for the lesser
matters of life--rules of deportment or fashions of dress. Like invites
like for good or for evil. Education will correct deficiencies and supply
the power of self-government. Far be it from us to enter into the
particulars of legislation; let the guardians take care of education, and
education will take care of all other things.

But without education they may patch and mend as they please; they will
make no progress, any more than a patient who thinks to cure himself by
some favourite remedy and will not give up his luxurious mode of living.
If you tell such persons that they must first alter their habits, then they
grow angry; they are charming people. 'Charming,--nay, the very reverse.'
Evidently these gentlemen are not in your good graces, nor the state which
is like them. And such states there are which first ordain under penalty
of death that no one shall alter the constitution, and then suffer
themselves to be flattered into and out of anything; and he who indulges
them and fawns upon them, is their leader and saviour. 'Yes, the men are
as bad as the states.' But do you not admire their cleverness? 'Nay, some
of them are stupid enough to believe what the people tell them.' And when
all the world is telling a man that he is six feet high, and he has no
measure, how can he believe anything else? But don't get into a passion:
to see our statesmen trying their nostrums, and fancying that they can cut
off at a blow the Hydra-like rogueries of mankind, is as good as a play.
Minute enactments are superfluous in good states, and are useless in bad

And now what remains of the work of legislation? Nothing for us; but to
Apollo the god of Delphi we leave the ordering of the greatest of all
things--that is to say, religion. Only our ancestral deity sitting upon
the centre and navel of the earth will be trusted by us if we have any
sense, in an affair of such magnitude. No foreign god shall be supreme in
our realms...

Here, as Socrates would say, let us 'reflect on' (Greek) what has preceded:
thus far we have spoken not of the happiness of the citizens, but only of
the well-being of the State. They may be the happiest of men, but our
principal aim in founding the State was not to make them happy. They were
to be guardians, not holiday-makers. In this pleasant manner is presented
to us the famous question both of ancient and modern philosophy, touching
the relation of duty to happiness, of right to utility.

First duty, then happiness, is the natural order of our moral ideas. The
utilitarian principle is valuable as a corrective of error, and shows to us
a side of ethics which is apt to be neglected. It may be admitted further
that right and utility are co-extensive, and that he who makes the
happiness of mankind his object has one of the highest and noblest motives
of human action. But utility is not the historical basis of morality; nor
the aspect in which moral and religious ideas commonly occur to the mind.
The greatest happiness of all is, as we believe, the far-off result of the
divine government of the universe. The greatest happiness of the
individual is certainly to be found in a life of virtue and goodness. But
we seem to be more assured of a law of right than we can be of a divine
purpose, that 'all mankind should be saved;' and we infer the one from the
other. And the greatest happiness of the individual may be the reverse of
the greatest happiness in the ordinary sense of the term, and may be
realised in a life of pain, or in a voluntary death. Further, the word
'happiness' has several ambiguities; it may mean either pleasure or an
ideal life, happiness subjective or objective, in this world or in another,
of ourselves only or of our neighbours and of all men everywhere. By the
modern founder of Utilitarianism the self-regarding and disinterested
motives of action are included under the same term, although they are
commonly opposed by us as benevolence and self-love. The word happiness
has not the definiteness or the sacredness of 'truth' and 'right'; it does
not equally appeal to our higher nature, and has not sunk into the
conscience of mankind. It is associated too much with the comforts and
conveniences of life; too little with 'the goods of the soul which we
desire for their own sake.' In a great trial, or danger, or temptation, or
in any great and heroic action, it is scarcely thought of. For these
reasons 'the greatest happiness' principle is not the true foundation of
ethics. But though not the first principle, it is the second, which is
like unto it, and is often of easier application. For the larger part of
human actions are neither right nor wrong, except in so far as they tend to
the happiness of mankind (Introd. to Gorgias and Philebus).

The same question reappears in politics, where the useful or expedient
seems to claim a larger sphere and to have a greater authority. For
concerning political measures, we chiefly ask: How will they affect the
happiness of mankind? Yet here too we may observe that what we term
expediency is merely the law of right limited by the conditions of human
society. Right and truth are the highest aims of government as well as of
individuals; and we ought not to lose sight of them because we cannot
directly enforce them. They appeal to the better mind of nations; and
sometimes they are too much for merely temporal interests to resist. They
are the watchwords which all men use in matters of public policy, as well
as in their private dealings; the peace of Europe may be said to depend
upon them. In the most commercial and utilitarian states of society the
power of ideas remains. And all the higher class of statesmen have in them
something of that idealism which Pericles is said to have gathered from the
teaching of Anaxagoras. They recognise that the true leader of men must be
above the motives of ambition, and that national character is of greater
value than material comfort and prosperity. And this is the order of
thought in Plato; first, he expects his citizens to do their duty, and then
under favourable circumstances, that is to say, in a well-ordered State,
their happiness is assured. That he was far from excluding the modern
principle of utility in politics is sufficiently evident from other
passages; in which 'the most beneficial is affirmed to be the most
honourable', and also 'the most sacred'.

We may note

(1) The manner in which the objection of Adeimantus here, is designed to
draw out and deepen the argument of Socrates.

(2) The conception of a whole as lying at the foundation both of politics
and of art, in the latter supplying the only principle of criticism, which,
under the various names of harmony, symmetry, measure, proportion, unity,
the Greek seems to have applied to works of art.

(3) The requirement that the State should be limited in size, after the
traditional model of a Greek state; as in the Politics of Aristotle, the
fact that the cities of Hellas were small is converted into a principle.

(4) The humorous pictures of the lean dogs and the fatted sheep, of the
light active boxer upsetting two stout gentlemen at least, of the
'charming' patients who are always making themselves worse; or again, the
playful assumption that there is no State but our own; or the grave irony
with which the statesman is excused who believes that he is six feet high
because he is told so, and having nothing to measure with is to be pardoned
for his ignorance--he is too amusing for us to be seriously angry with him.

(5) The light and superficial manner in which religion is passed over when
provision has been made for two great principles,--first, that religion
shall be based on the highest conception of the gods, secondly, that the
true national or Hellenic type shall be maintained...

Socrates proceeds: But where amid all this is justice? Son of Ariston,
tell me where. Light a candle and search the city, and get your brother
and the rest of our friends to help in seeking for her. 'That won't do,'
replied Glaucon, 'you yourself promised to make the search and talked about
the impiety of deserting justice.' Well, I said, I will lead the way, but
do you follow. My notion is, that our State being perfect will contain all
the four virtues--wisdom, courage, temperance, justice. If we eliminate
the three first, the unknown remainder will be justice.

First then, of wisdom: the State which we have called into being will be
wise because politic. And policy is one among many kinds of skill,--not
the skill of the carpenter, or of the worker in metal, or of the
husbandman, but the skill of him who advises about the interests of the
whole State. Of such a kind is the skill of the guardians, who are a small
class in number, far smaller than the blacksmiths; but in them is
concentrated the wisdom of the State. And if this small ruling class have
wisdom, then the whole State will be wise.

Our second virtue is courage, which we have no difficulty in finding in
another class--that of soldiers. Courage may be defined as a sort of
salvation--the never-failing salvation of the opinions which law and
education have prescribed concerning dangers. You know the way in which
dyers first prepare the white ground and then lay on the dye of purple or
of any other colour. Colours dyed in this way become fixed, and no soap or
lye will ever wash them out. Now the ground is education, and the laws are
the colours; and if the ground is properly laid, neither the soap of
pleasure nor the lye of pain or fear will ever wash them out. This power
which preserves right opinion about danger I would ask you to call
'courage,' adding the epithet 'political' or 'civilized' in order to
distinguish it from mere animal courage and from a higher courage which may
hereafter be discussed.

Two virtues remain; temperance and justice. More than the preceding
virtues temperance suggests the idea of harmony. Some light is thrown upon
the nature of this virtue by the popular description of a man as 'master of
himself'--which has an absurd sound, because the master is also the
servant. The expression really means that the better principle in a man
masters the worse. There are in cities whole classes--women, slaves and
the like--who correspond to the worse, and a few only to the better; and in
our State the former class are held under control by the latter. Now to
which of these classes does temperance belong? 'To both of them.' And our
State if any will be the abode of temperance; and we were right in
describing this virtue as a harmony which is diffused through the whole,
making the dwellers in the city to be of one mind, and attuning the upper
and middle and lower classes like the strings of an instrument, whether you
suppose them to differ in wisdom, strength or wealth.

And now we are near the spot; let us draw in and surround the cover and
watch with all our eyes, lest justice should slip away and escape. Tell
me, if you see the thicket move first. 'Nay, I would have you lead.' Well
then, offer up a prayer and follow. The way is dark and difficult; but we
must push on. I begin to see a track. 'Good news.' Why, Glaucon, our
dulness of scent is quite ludicrous! While we are straining our eyes into
the distance, justice is tumbling out at our feet. We are as bad as people
looking for a thing which they have in their hands. Have you forgotten our
old principle of the division of labour, or of every man doing his own
business, concerning which we spoke at the foundation of the State--what
but this was justice? Is there any other virtue remaining which can
compete with wisdom and temperance and courage in the scale of political
virtue? For 'every one having his own' is the great object of government;
and the great object of trade is that every man should do his own business.
Not that there is much harm in a carpenter trying to be a cobbler, or a
cobbler transforming himself into a carpenter; but great evil may arise
from the cobbler leaving his last and turning into a guardian or
legislator, or when a single individual is trainer, warrior, legislator,
all in one. And this evil is injustice, or every man doing another's
business. I do not say that as yet we are in a condition to arrive at a
final conclusion. For the definition which we believe to hold good in
states has still to be tested by the individual. Having read the large
letters we will now come back to the small. From the two together a
brilliant light may be struck out...

Socrates proceeds to discover the nature of justice by a method of
residues. Each of the first three virtues corresponds to one of the three
parts of the soul and one of the three classes in the State, although the
third, temperance, has more of the nature of a harmony than the first two.
If there be a fourth virtue, that can only be sought for in the relation of
the three parts in the soul or classes in the State to one another. It is
obvious and simple, and for that very reason has not been found out. The
modern logician will be inclined to object that ideas cannot be separated
like chemical substances, but that they run into one another and may be
only different aspects or names of the same thing, and such in this
instance appears to be the case. For the definition here given of justice
is verbally the same as one of the definitions of temperance given by
Socrates in the Charmides, which however is only provisional, and is
afterwards rejected. And so far from justice remaining over when the other
virtues are eliminated, the justice and temperance of the Republic can with
difficulty be distinguished. Temperance appears to be the virtue of a part
only, and one of three, whereas justice is a universal virtue of the whole
soul. Yet on the other hand temperance is also described as a sort of
harmony, and in this respect is akin to justice. Justice seems to differ
from temperance in degree rather than in kind; whereas temperance is the
harmony of discordant elements, justice is the perfect order by which all
natures and classes do their own business, the right man in the right
place, the division and co-operation of all the citizens. Justice, again,
is a more abstract notion than the other virtues, and therefore, from
Plato's point of view, the foundation of them, to which they are referred
and which in idea precedes them. The proposal to omit temperance is a mere
trick of style intended to avoid monotony.

There is a famous question discussed in one of the earlier Dialogues of
Plato (Protagoras; Arist. Nic. Ethics), 'Whether the virtues are one or
many?' This receives an answer which is to the effect that there are four
cardinal virtues (now for the first time brought together in ethical
philosophy), and one supreme over the rest, which is not like Aristotle's
conception of universal justice, virtue relative to others, but the whole
of virtue relative to the parts. To this universal conception of justice
or order in the first education and in the moral nature of man, the still
more universal conception of the good in the second education and in the
sphere of speculative knowledge seems to succeed. Both might be equally
described by the terms 'law,' 'order,' 'harmony;' but while the idea of
good embraces 'all time and all existence,' the conception of justice is
not extended beyond man.

...Socrates is now going to identify the individual and the State. But
first he must prove that there are three parts of the individual soul. His
argument is as follows:--Quantity makes no difference in quality. The word
'just,' whether applied to the individual or to the State, has the same
meaning. And the term 'justice' implied that the same three principles in
the State and in the individual were doing their own business. But are
they really three or one? The question is difficult, and one which can
hardly be solved by the methods which we are now using; but the truer and
longer way would take up too much of our time. 'The shorter will satisfy
me.' Well then, you would admit that the qualities of states mean the
qualities of the individuals who compose them? The Scythians and Thracians
are passionate, our own race intellectual, and the Egyptians and
Phoenicians covetous, because the individual members of each have such and
such a character; the difficulty is to determine whether the several
principles are one or three; whether, that is to say, we reason with one
part of our nature, desire with another, are angry with another, or whether
the whole soul comes into play in each sort of action. This enquiry,
however, requires a very exact definition of terms. The same thing in the
same relation cannot be affected in two opposite ways. But there is no
impossibility in a man standing still, yet moving his arms, or in a top
which is fixed on one spot going round upon its axis. There is no
necessity to mention all the possible exceptions; let us provisionally
assume that opposites cannot do or be or suffer opposites in the same
relation. And to the class of opposites belong assent and dissent, desire
and avoidance. And one form of desire is thirst and hunger: and here
arises a new point--thirst is thirst of drink, hunger is hunger of food;
not of warm drink or of a particular kind of food, with the single
exception of course that the very fact of our desiring anything implies
that it is good. When relative terms have no attributes, their
correlatives have no attributes; when they have attributes, their
correlatives also have them. For example, the term 'greater' is simply
relative to 'less,' and knowledge refers to a subject of knowledge. But on
the other hand, a particular knowledge is of a particular subject. Again,
every science has a distinct character, which is defined by an object;
medicine, for example, is the science of health, although not to be
confounded with health. Having cleared our ideas thus far, let us return
to the original instance of thirst, which has a definite object--drink.
Now the thirsty soul may feel two distinct impulses; the animal one saying
'Drink;' the rational one, which says 'Do not drink.' The two impulses are
contradictory; and therefore we may assume that they spring from distinct
principles in the soul. But is passion a third principle, or akin to
desire? There is a story of a certain Leontius which throws some light on
this question. He was coming up from the Piraeus outside the north wall,
and he passed a spot where there were dead bodies lying by the executioner.
He felt a longing desire to see them and also an abhorrence of them; at
first he turned away and shut his eyes, then, suddenly tearing them open,
he said,--'Take your fill, ye wretches, of the fair sight.' Now is there
not here a third principle which is often found to come to the assistance
of reason against desire, but never of desire against reason? This is
passion or spirit, of the separate existence of which we may further
convince ourselves by putting the following case:--When a man suffers
justly, if he be of a generous nature he is not indignant at the hardships
which he undergoes: but when he suffers unjustly, his indignation is his
great support; hunger and thirst cannot tame him; the spirit within him
must do or die, until the voice of the shepherd, that is, of reason,
bidding his dog bark no more, is heard within. This shows that passion is
the ally of reason. Is passion then the same with reason? No, for the
former exists in children and brutes; and Homer affords a proof of the
distinction between them when he says, 'He smote his breast, and thus
rebuked his soul.'

And now, at last, we have reached firm ground, and are able to infer that
the virtues of the State and of the individual are the same. For wisdom
and courage and justice in the State are severally the wisdom and courage
and justice in the individuals who form the State. Each of the three
classes will do the work of its own class in the State, and each part in
the individual soul; reason, the superior, and passion, the inferior, will
be harmonized by the influence of music and gymnastic. The counsellor and
the warrior, the head and the arm, will act together in the town of
Mansoul, and keep the desires in proper subjection. The courage of the
warrior is that quality which preserves a right opinion about dangers in
spite of pleasures and pains. The wisdom of the counsellor is that small
part of the soul which has authority and reason. The virtue of temperance
is the friendship of the ruling and the subject principles, both in the
State and in the individual. Of justice we have already spoken; and the
notion already given of it may be confirmed by common instances. Will the
just state or the just individual steal, lie, commit adultery, or be guilty
of impiety to gods and men? 'No.' And is not the reason of this that the
several principles, whether in the state or in the individual, do their own
business? And justice is the quality which makes just men and just states.
Moreover, our old division of labour, which required that there should be
one man for one use, was a dream or anticipation of what was to follow; and
that dream has now been realized in justice, which begins by binding
together the three chords of the soul, and then acts harmoniously in every
relation of life. And injustice, which is the insubordination and
disobedience of the inferior elements in the soul, is the opposite of
justice, and is inharmonious and unnatural, being to the soul what disease
is to the body; for in the soul as well as in the body, good or bad actions
produce good or bad habits. And virtue is the health and beauty and well-
being of the soul, and vice is the disease and weakness and deformity of
the soul.

Again the old question returns upon us: Is justice or injustice the more
profitable? The question has become ridiculous. For injustice, like
mortal disease, makes life not worth having. Come up with me to the hill
which overhangs the city and look down upon the single form of virtue, and
the infinite forms of vice, among which are four special ones,
characteristic both of states and of individuals. And the state which
corresponds to the single form of virtue is that which we have been
describing, wherein reason rules under one of two names--monarchy and
aristocracy. Thus there are five forms in all, both of states and of

In attempting to prove that the soul has three separate faculties, Plato
takes occasion to discuss what makes difference of faculties. And the
criterion which he proposes is difference in the working of the faculties.
The same faculty cannot produce contradictory effects. But the path of
early reasoners is beset by thorny entanglements, and he will not proceed a
step without first clearing the ground. This leads him into a tiresome
digression, which is intended to explain the nature of contradiction.
First, the contradiction must be at the same time and in the same relation.
Secondly, no extraneous word must be introduced into either of the terms in
which the contradictory proposition is expressed: for example, thirst is
of drink, not of warm drink. He implies, what he does not say, that if, by
the advice of reason, or by the impulse of anger, a man is restrained from
drinking, this proves that thirst, or desire under which thirst is
included, is distinct from anger and reason. But suppose that we allow the
term 'thirst' or 'desire' to be modified, and say an 'angry thirst,' or a
'revengeful desire,' then the two spheres of desire and anger overlap and
become confused. This case therefore has to be excluded. And still there
remains an exception to the rule in the use of the term 'good,' which is
always implied in the object of desire. These are the discussions of an
age before logic; and any one who is wearied by them should remember that
they are necessary to the clearing up of ideas in the first development of
the human faculties.

The psychology of Plato extends no further than the division of the soul
into the rational, irascible, and concupiscent elements, which, as far as
we know, was first made by him, and has been retained by Aristotle and
succeeding ethical writers. The chief difficulty in this early analysis of
the mind is to define exactly the place of the irascible faculty (Greek),
which may be variously described under the terms righteous indignation,
spirit, passion. It is the foundation of courage, which includes in Plato
moral courage, the courage of enduring pain, and of surmounting
intellectual difficulties, as well as of meeting dangers in war. Though
irrational, it inclines to side with the rational: it cannot be aroused by
punishment when justly inflicted: it sometimes takes the form of an
enthusiasm which sustains a man in the performance of great actions. It is
the 'lion heart' with which the reason makes a treaty. On the other hand
it is negative rather than positive; it is indignant at wrong or falsehood,
but does not, like Love in the Symposium and Phaedrus, aspire to the vision
of Truth or Good. It is the peremptory military spirit which prevails in
the government of honour. It differs from anger (Greek), this latter term
having no accessory notion of righteous indignation. Although Aristotle
has retained the word, yet we may observe that 'passion' (Greek) has with
him lost its affinity to the rational and has become indistinguishable from
'anger' (Greek). And to this vernacular use Plato himself in the Laws
seems to revert, though not always. By modern philosophy too, as well as
in our ordinary conversation, the words anger or passion are employed
almost exclusively in a bad sense; there is no connotation of a just or
reasonable cause by which they are aroused. The feeling of 'righteous
indignation' is too partial and accidental to admit of our regarding it as
a separate virtue or habit. We are tempted also to doubt whether Plato is
right in supposing that an offender, however justly condemned, could be
expected to acknowledge the justice of his sentence; this is the spirit of
a philosopher or martyr rather than of a criminal.

We may observe how nearly Plato approaches Aristotle's famous thesis, that
'good actions produce good habits.' The words 'as healthy practices
(Greek) produce health, so do just practices produce justice,' have a sound
very like the Nicomachean Ethics. But we note also that an incidental
remark in Plato has become a far-reaching principle in Aristotle, and an
inseparable part of a great Ethical system.

There is a difficulty in understanding what Plato meant by 'the longer
way': he seems to intimate some metaphysic of the future which will not be
satisfied with arguing from the principle of contradiction. In the sixth
and seventh books (compare Sophist and Parmenides) he has given us a sketch
of such a metaphysic; but when Glaucon asks for the final revelation of the
idea of good, he is put off with the declaration that he has not yet
studied the preliminary sciences. How he would have filled up the sketch,
or argued about such questions from a higher point of view, we can only
conjecture. Perhaps he hoped to find some a priori method of developing
the parts out of the whole; or he might have asked which of the ideas
contains the other ideas, and possibly have stumbled on the Hegelian
identity of the 'ego' and the 'universal.' Or he may have imagined that
ideas might be constructed in some manner analogous to the construction of
figures and numbers in the mathematical sciences. The most certain and
necessary truth was to Plato the universal; and to this he was always
seeking to refer all knowledge or opinion, just as in modern times we seek
to rest them on the opposite pole of induction and experience. The
aspirations of metaphysicians have always tended to pass beyond the limits
of human thought and language: they seem to have reached a height at which
they are 'moving about in worlds unrealized,' and their conceptions,
although profoundly affecting their own minds, become invisible or
unintelligible to others. We are not therefore surprized to find that
Plato himself has nowhere clearly explained his doctrine of ideas; or that
his school in a later generation, like his contemporaries Glaucon and
Adeimantus, were unable to follow him in this region of speculation. In
the Sophist, where he is refuting the scepticism which maintained either
that there was no such thing as predication, or that all might be
predicated of all, he arrives at the conclusion that some ideas combine
with some, but not all with all. But he makes only one or two steps
forward on this path; he nowhere attains to any connected system of ideas,
or even to a knowledge of the most elementary relations of the sciences to
one another.

BOOK V. I was going to enumerate the four forms of vice or decline in
states, when Polemarchus--he was sitting a little farther from me than
Adeimantus--taking him by the coat and leaning towards him, said something
in an undertone, of which I only caught the words, 'Shall we let him off?'
'Certainly not,' said Adeimantus, raising his voice. Whom, I said, are you
not going to let off? 'You,' he said. Why? 'Because we think that you
are not dealing fairly with us in omitting women and children, of whom you
have slily disposed under the general formula that friends have all things
in common.' And was I not right? 'Yes,' he replied, 'but there are many
sorts of communism or community, and we want to know which of them is
right. The company, as you have just heard, are resolved to have a further
explanation.' Thrasymachus said, 'Do you think that we have come hither to
dig for gold, or to hear you discourse?' Yes, I said; but the discourse
should be of a reasonable length. Glaucon added, 'Yes, Socrates, and there
is reason in spending the whole of life in such discussions; but pray,
without more ado, tell us how this community is to be carried out, and how
the interval between birth and education is to be filled up.' Well, I
said, the subject has several difficulties--What is possible? is the first
question. What is desirable? is the second. 'Fear not,' he replied, 'for
you are speaking among friends.' That, I replied, is a sorry consolation;
I shall destroy my friends as well as myself. Not that I mind a little
innocent laughter; but he who kills the truth is a murderer. 'Then,' said
Glaucon, laughing, 'in case you should murder us we will acquit you
beforehand, and you shall be held free from the guilt of deceiving us.'

Socrates proceeds:--The guardians of our state are to be watch-dogs, as we
have already said. Now dogs are not divided into hes and shes--we do not
take the masculine gender out to hunt and leave the females at home to look
after their puppies. They have the same employments--the only difference
between them is that the one sex is stronger and the other weaker. But if
women are to have the same employments as men, they must have the same
education--they must be taught music and gymnastics, and the art of war. I
know that a great joke will be made of their riding on horseback and
carrying weapons; the sight of the naked old wrinkled women showing their
agility in the palaestra will certainly not be a vision of beauty, and may
be expected to become a famous jest. But we must not mind the wits; there
was a time when they might have laughed at our present gymnastics. All is
habit: people have at last found out that the exposure is better than the
concealment of the person, and now they laugh no more. Evil only should be
the subject of ridicule.

The first question is, whether women are able either wholly or partially to
share in the employments of men. And here we may be charged with
inconsistency in making the proposal at all. For we started originally
with the division of labour; and the diversity of employments was based on
the difference of natures. But is there no difference between men and
women? Nay, are they not wholly different? THERE was the difficulty,
Glaucon, which made me unwilling to speak of family relations. However,
when a man is out of his depth, whether in a pool or in an ocean, he can
only swim for his life; and we must try to find a way of escape, if we can.

The argument is, that different natures have different uses, and the
natures of men and women are said to differ. But this is only a verbal
opposition. We do not consider that the difference may be purely nominal
and accidental; for example, a bald man and a hairy man are opposed in a
single point of view, but you cannot infer that because a bald man is a
cobbler a hairy man ought not to be a cobbler. Now why is such an
inference erroneous? Simply because the opposition between them is partial
only, like the difference between a male physician and a female physician,
not running through the whole nature, like the difference between a
physician and a carpenter. And if the difference of the sexes is only that
the one beget and the other bear children, this does not prove that they
ought to have distinct educations. Admitting that women differ from men in
capacity, do not men equally differ from one another? Has not nature
scattered all the qualities which our citizens require indifferently up and
down among the two sexes? and even in their peculiar pursuits, are not
women often, though in some cases superior to men, ridiculously enough
surpassed by them? Women are the same in kind as men, and have the same
aptitude or want of aptitude for medicine or gymnastic or war, but in a
less degree. One woman will be a good guardian, another not; and the good
must be chosen to be the colleagues of our guardians. If however their
natures are the same, the inference is that their education must also be
the same; there is no longer anything unnatural or impossible in a woman
learning music and gymnastic. And the education which we give them will be
the very best, far superior to that of cobblers, and will train up the very
best women, and nothing can be more advantageous to the State than this.
Therefore let them strip, clothed in their chastity, and share in the toils
of war and in the defence of their country; he who laughs at them is a fool
for his pains.

The first wave is past, and the argument is compelled to admit that men and
women have common duties and pursuits. A second and greater wave is
rolling in--community of wives and children; is this either expedient or
possible? The expediency I do not doubt; I am not so sure of the
possibility. 'Nay, I think that a considerable doubt will be entertained
on both points.' I meant to have escaped the trouble of proving the first,
but as you have detected the little stratagem I must even submit. Only
allow me to feed my fancy like the solitary in his walks, with a dream of
what might be, and then I will return to the question of what can be.

In the first place our rulers will enforce the laws and make new ones where
they are wanted, and their allies or ministers will obey. You, as
legislator, have already selected the men; and now you shall select the
women. After the selection has been made, they will dwell in common houses
and have their meals in common, and will be brought together by a necessity
more certain than that of mathematics. But they cannot be allowed to live
in licentiousness; that is an unholy thing, which the rulers are determined
to prevent. For the avoidance of this, holy marriage festivals will be
instituted, and their holiness will be in proportion to their usefulness.
And here, Glaucon, I should like to ask (as I know that you are a breeder
of birds and animals), Do you not take the greatest care in the mating?
'Certainly.' And there is no reason to suppose that less care is required
in the marriage of human beings. But then our rulers must be skilful
physicians of the State, for they will often need a strong dose of
falsehood in order to bring about desirable unions between their subjects.
The good must be paired with the good, and the bad with the bad, and the
offspring of the one must be reared, and of the other destroyed; in this
way the flock will be preserved in prime condition. Hymeneal festivals
will be celebrated at times fixed with an eye to population, and the brides
and bridegrooms will meet at them; and by an ingenious system of lots the
rulers will contrive that the brave and the fair come together, and that
those of inferior breed are paired with inferiors--the latter will ascribe
to chance what is really the invention of the rulers. And when children
are born, the offspring of the brave and fair will be carried to an
enclosure in a certain part of the city, and there attended by suitable
nurses; the rest will be hurried away to places unknown. The mothers will
be brought to the fold and will suckle the children; care however must be
taken that none of them recognise their own offspring; and if necessary
other nurses may also be hired. The trouble of watching and getting up at
night will be transferred to attendants. 'Then the wives of our guardians
will have a fine easy time when they are having children.' And quite right
too, I said, that they should.

The parents ought to be in the prime of life, which for a man may be
reckoned at thirty years--from twenty-five, when he has 'passed the point
at which the speed of life is greatest,' to fifty-five; and at twenty years
for a woman--from twenty to forty. Any one above or below those ages who
partakes in the hymeneals shall be guilty of impiety; also every one who
forms a marriage connexion at other times without the consent of the
rulers. This latter regulation applies to those who are within the
specified ages, after which they may range at will, provided they avoid the
prohibited degrees of parents and children, or of brothers and sisters,
which last, however, are not absolutely prohibited, if a dispensation be
procured. 'But how shall we know the degrees of affinity, when all things
are common?' The answer is, that brothers and sisters are all such as are
born seven or nine months after the espousals, and their parents those who
are then espoused, and every one will have many children and every child
many parents.

Socrates proceeds: I have now to prove that this scheme is advantageous
and also consistent with our entire polity. The greatest good of a State
is unity; the greatest evil, discord and distraction. And there will be
unity where there are no private pleasures or pains or interests--where if
one member suffers all the members suffer, if one citizen is touched all
are quickly sensitive; and the least hurt to the little finger of the State
runs through the whole body and vibrates to the soul. For the true State,
like an individual, is injured as a whole when any part is affected. Every
State has subjects and rulers, who in a democracy are called rulers, and in
other States masters: but in our State they are called saviours and
allies; and the subjects who in other States are termed slaves, are by us
termed nurturers and paymasters, and those who are termed comrades and
colleagues in other places, are by us called fathers and brothers. And
whereas in other States members of the same government regard one of their
colleagues as a friend and another as an enemy, in our State no man is a
stranger to another; for every citizen is connected with every other by
ties of blood, and these names and this way of speaking will have a
corresponding reality--brother, father, sister, mother, repeated from
infancy in the ears of children, will not be mere words. Then again the
citizens will have all things in common, in having common property they
will have common pleasures and pains.

Can there be strife and contention among those who are of one mind; or
lawsuits about property when men have nothing but their bodies which they
call their own; or suits about violence when every one is bound to defend
himself? The permission to strike when insulted will be an 'antidote' to
the knife and will prevent disturbances in the State. But no younger man
will strike an elder; reverence will prevent him from laying hands on his
kindred, and he will fear that the rest of the family may retaliate.
Moreover, our citizens will be rid of the lesser evils of life; there will
be no flattery of the rich, no sordid household cares, no borrowing and not
paying. Compared with the citizens of other States, ours will be Olympic
victors, and crowned with blessings greater still--they and their children
having a better maintenance during life, and after death an honourable
burial. Nor has the happiness of the individual been sacrificed to the
happiness of the State; our Olympic victor has not been turned into a
cobbler, but he has a happiness beyond that of any cobbler. At the same
time, if any conceited youth begins to dream of appropriating the State to
himself, he must be reminded that 'half is better than the whole.' 'I
should certainly advise him to stay where he is when he has the promise of
such a brave life.'

But is such a community possible?--as among the animals, so also among men;
and if possible, in what way possible? About war there is no difficulty;
the principle of communism is adapted to military service. Parents will
take their children to look on at a battle, just as potters' boys are
trained to the business by looking on at the wheel. And to the parents
themselves, as to other animals, the sight of their young ones will prove a
great incentive to bravery. Young warriors must learn, but they must not
run into danger, although a certain degree of risk is worth incurring when
the benefit is great. The young creatures should be placed under the care
of experienced veterans, and they should have wings--that is to say, swift
and tractable steeds on which they may fly away and escape. One of the
first things to be done is to teach a youth to ride.

Cowards and deserters shall be degraded to the class of husbandmen;
gentlemen who allow themselves to be taken prisoners, may be presented to
the enemy. But what shall be done to the hero? First of all he shall be
crowned by all the youths in the army; secondly, he shall receive the right
hand of fellowship; and thirdly, do you think that there is any harm in his
being kissed? We have already determined that he shall have more wives
than others, in order that he may have as many children as possible. And
at a feast he shall have more to eat; we have the authority of Homer for
honouring brave men with 'long chines,' which is an appropriate compliment,
because meat is a very strengthening thing. Fill the bowl then, and give
the best seats and meats to the brave--may they do them good! And he who
dies in battle will be at once declared to be of the golden race, and will,
as we believe, become one of Hesiod's guardian angels. He shall be
worshipped after death in the manner prescribed by the oracle; and not only
he, but all other benefactors of the State who die in any other way, shall
be admitted to the same honours.

The next question is, How shall we treat our enemies? Shall Hellenes be
enslaved? No; for there is too great a risk of the whole race passing
under the yoke of the barbarians. Or shall the dead be despoiled?
Certainly not; for that sort of thing is an excuse for skulking, and has
been the ruin of many an army. There is meanness and feminine malice in
making an enemy of the dead body, when the soul which was the owner has
fled--like a dog who cannot reach his assailants, and quarrels with the
stones which are thrown at him instead. Again, the arms of Hellenes should
not be offered up in the temples of the Gods; they are a pollution, for
they are taken from brethren. And on similar grounds there should be a
limit to the devastation of Hellenic territory--the houses should not be
burnt, nor more than the annual produce carried off. For war is of two
kinds, civil and foreign; the first of which is properly termed 'discord,'
and only the second 'war;' and war between Hellenes is in reality civil
war--a quarrel in a family, which is ever to be regarded as unpatriotic and
unnatural, and ought to be prosecuted with a view to reconciliation in a
true phil-Hellenic spirit, as of those who would chasten but not utterly
enslave. The war is not against a whole nation who are a friendly
multitude of men, women, and children, but only against a few guilty
persons; when they are punished peace will be restored. That is the way in
which Hellenes should war against one another--and against barbarians, as
they war against one another now.

'But, my dear Socrates, you are forgetting the main question: Is such a
State possible? I grant all and more than you say about the blessedness of
being one family--fathers, brothers, mothers, daughters, going out to war
together; but I want to ascertain the possibility of this ideal State.'
You are too unmerciful. The first wave and the second wave I have hardly
escaped, and now you will certainly drown me with the third. When you see
the towering crest of the wave, I expect you to take pity. 'Not a whit.'

Well, then, we were led to form our ideal polity in the search after
justice, and the just man answered to the just State. Is this ideal at all
the worse for being impracticable? Would the picture of a perfectly
beautiful man be any the worse because no such man ever lived? Can any
reality come up to the idea? Nature will not allow words to be fully
realized; but if I am to try and realize the ideal of the State in a
measure, I think that an approach may be made to the perfection of which I
dream by one or two, I do not say slight, but possible changes in the
present constitution of States. I would reduce them to a single one--the
great wave, as I call it. Until, then, kings are philosophers, or
philosophers are kings, cities will never cease from ill: no, nor the
human race; nor will our ideal polity ever come into being. I know that
this is a hard saying, which few will be able to receive. 'Socrates, all
the world will take off his coat and rush upon you with sticks and stones,
and therefore I would advise you to prepare an answer.' You got me into
the scrape, I said. 'And I was right,' he replied; 'however, I will stand
by you as a sort of do-nothing, well-meaning ally.' Having the help of
such a champion, I will do my best to maintain my position. And first, I
must explain of whom I speak and what sort of natures these are who are to
be philosophers and rulers. As you are a man of pleasure, you will not
have forgotten how indiscriminate lovers are in their attachments; they
love all, and turn blemishes into beauties. The snub-nosed youth is said
to have a winning grace; the beak of another has a royal look; the
featureless are faultless; the dark are manly, the fair angels; the sickly
have a new term of endearment invented expressly for them, which is 'honey-
pale.' Lovers of wine and lovers of ambition also desire the objects of
their affection in every form. Now here comes the point:--The philosopher
too is a lover of knowledge in every form; he has an insatiable curiosity.
'But will curiosity make a philosopher? Are the lovers of sights and
sounds, who let out their ears to every chorus at the Dionysiac festivals,
to be called philosophers?' They are not true philosophers, but only an
imitation. 'Then how are we to describe the true?'

You would acknowledge the existence of abstract ideas, such as justice,
beauty, good, evil, which are severally one, yet in their various
combinations appear to be many. Those who recognize these realities are
philosophers; whereas the other class hear sounds and see colours, and
understand their use in the arts, but cannot attain to the true or waking
vision of absolute justice or beauty or truth; they have not the light of
knowledge, but of opinion, and what they see is a dream only. Perhaps he
of whom we say the last will be angry with us; can we pacify him without
revealing the disorder of his mind? Suppose we say that, if he has
knowledge we rejoice to hear it, but knowledge must be of something which
is, as ignorance is of something which is not; and there is a third thing,
which both is and is not, and is matter of opinion only. Opinion and
knowledge, then, having distinct objects, must also be distinct faculties.
And by faculties I mean powers unseen and distinguishable only by the
difference in their objects, as opinion and knowledge differ, since the one
is liable to err, but the other is unerring and is the mightiest of all our
faculties. If being is the object of knowledge, and not-being of
ignorance, and these are the extremes, opinion must lie between them, and
may be called darker than the one and brighter than the other. This
intermediate or contingent matter is and is not at the same time, and
partakes both of existence and of non-existence. Now I would ask my good
friend, who denies abstract beauty and justice, and affirms a many
beautiful and a many just, whether everything he sees is not in some point
of view different--the beautiful ugly, the pious impious, the just unjust?
Is not the double also the half, and are not heavy and light relative terms
which pass into one another? Everything is and is not, as in the old
riddle--'A man and not a man shot and did not shoot a bird and not a bird
with a stone and not a stone.' The mind cannot be fixed on either
alternative; and these ambiguous, intermediate, erring, half-lighted
objects, which have a disorderly movement in the region between being and
not-being, are the proper matter of opinion, as the immutable objects are
the proper matter of knowledge. And he who grovels in the world of sense,
and has only this uncertain perception of things, is not a philosopher, but
a lover of opinion only...

The fifth book is the new beginning of the Republic, in which the community
of property and of family are first maintained, and the transition is made
to the kingdom of philosophers. For both of these Plato, after his manner,
has been preparing in some chance words of Book IV, which fall unperceived
on the reader's mind, as they are supposed at first to have fallen on the
ear of Glaucon and Adeimantus. The 'paradoxes,' as Morgenstern terms them,
of this book of the Republic will be reserved for another place; a few
remarks on the style, and some explanations of difficulties, may be briefly

First, there is the image of the waves, which serves for a sort of scheme
or plan of the book. The first wave, the second wave, the third and
greatest wave come rolling in, and we hear the roar of them. All that can
be said of the extravagance of Plato's proposals is anticipated by himself.
Nothing is more admirable than the hesitation with which he proposes the
solemn text, 'Until kings are philosophers,' etc.; or the reaction from the
sublime to the ridiculous, when Glaucon describes the manner in which the
new truth will be received by mankind.

Some defects and difficulties may be noted in the execution of the
communistic plan. Nothing is told us of the application of communism to
the lower classes; nor is the table of prohibited degrees capable of being
made out. It is quite possible that a child born at one hymeneal festival
may marry one of its own brothers or sisters, or even one of its parents,
at another. Plato is afraid of incestuous unions, but at the same time he
does not wish to bring before us the fact that the city would be divided
into families of those born seven and nine months after each hymeneal
festival. If it were worth while to argue seriously about such fancies, we
might remark that while all the old affinities are abolished, the newly
prohibited affinity rests not on any natural or rational principle, but
only upon the accident of children having been born in the same month and
year. Nor does he explain how the lots could be so manipulated by the
legislature as to bring together the fairest and best. The singular
expression which is employed to describe the age of five-and-twenty may
perhaps be taken from some poet.

In the delineation of the philosopher, the illustrations of the nature of
philosophy derived from love are more suited to the apprehension of
Glaucon, the Athenian man of pleasure, than to modern tastes or feelings.
They are partly facetious, but also contain a germ of truth. That science
is a whole, remains a true principle of inductive as well as of
metaphysical philosophy; and the love of universal knowledge is still the
characteristic of the philosopher in modern as well as in ancient times.

At the end of the fifth book Plato introduces the figment of contingent
matter, which has exercised so great an influence both on the Ethics and
Theology of the modern world, and which occurs here for the first time in
the history of philosophy. He did not remark that the degrees of knowledge
in the subject have nothing corresponding to them in the object. With him
a word must answer to an idea; and he could not conceive of an opinion
which was an opinion about nothing. The influence of analogy led him to
invent 'parallels and conjugates' and to overlook facts. To us some of his
difficulties are puzzling only from their simplicity: we do not perceive
that the answer to them 'is tumbling out at our feet.' To the mind of
early thinkers, the conception of not-being was dark and mysterious; they
did not see that this terrible apparition which threatened destruction to
all knowledge was only a logical determination. The common term under
which, through the accidental use of language, two entirely different ideas
were included was another source of confusion. Thus through the ambiguity
of (Greek) Plato, attempting to introduce order into the first chaos of
human thought, seems to have confused perception and opinion, and to have
failed to distinguish the contingent from the relative. In the Theaetetus
the first of these difficulties begins to clear up; in the Sophist the
second; and for this, as well as for other reasons, both these dialogues
are probably to be regarded as later than the Republic.

BOOK VI. Having determined that the many have no knowledge of true being,
and have no clear patterns in their minds of justice, beauty, truth, and
that philosophers have such patterns, we have now to ask whether they or
the many shall be rulers in our State. But who can doubt that philosophers
should be chosen, if they have the other qualities which are required in a
ruler? For they are lovers of the knowledge of the eternal and of all
truth; they are haters of falsehood; their meaner desires are absorbed in
the interests of knowledge; they are spectators of all time and all
existence; and in the magnificence of their contemplation the life of man
is as nothing to them, nor is death fearful. Also they are of a social,
gracious disposition, equally free from cowardice and arrogance. They
learn and remember easily; they have harmonious, well-regulated minds;
truth flows to them sweetly by nature. Can the god of Jealousy himself
find any fault with such an assemblage of good qualities?

Here Adeimantus interposes:--'No man can answer you, Socrates; but every
man feels that this is owing to his own deficiency in argument. He is
driven from one position to another, until he has nothing more to say, just
as an unskilful player at draughts is reduced to his last move by a more
skilled opponent. And yet all the time he may be right. He may know, in
this very instance, that those who make philosophy the business of their
lives, generally turn out rogues if they are bad men, and fools if they are
good. What do you say?' I should say that he is quite right. 'Then how
is such an admission reconcileable with the doctrine that philosophers
should be kings?'

I shall answer you in a parable which will also let you see how poor a hand
I am at the invention of allegories. The relation of good men to their
governments is so peculiar, that in order to defend them I must take an
illustration from the world of fiction. Conceive the captain of a ship,
taller by a head and shoulders than any of the crew, yet a little deaf, a
little blind, and rather ignorant of the seaman's art. The sailors want to
steer, although they know nothing of the art; and they have a theory that
it cannot be learned. If the helm is refused them, they drug the captain's
posset, bind him hand and foot, and take possession of the ship. He who
joins in the mutiny is termed a good pilot and what not; they have no
conception that the true pilot must observe the winds and the stars, and
must be their master, whether they like it or not;--such an one would be
called by them fool, prater, star-gazer. This is my parable; which I will
beg you to interpret for me to those gentlemen who ask why the philosopher
has such an evil name, and to explain to them that not he, but those who
will not use him, are to blame for his uselessness. The philosopher should
not beg of mankind to be put in authority over them. The wise man should
not seek the rich, as the proverb bids, but every man, whether rich or
poor, must knock at the door of the physician when he has need of him. Now
the pilot is the philosopher--he whom in the parable they call star-gazer,
and the mutinous sailors are the mob of politicians by whom he is rendered
useless. Not that these are the worst enemies of philosophy, who is far
more dishonoured by her own professing sons when they are corrupted by the
world. Need I recall the original image of the philosopher? Did we not
say of him just now, that he loved truth and hated falsehood, and that he
could not rest in the multiplicity of phenomena, but was led by a sympathy
in his own nature to the contemplation of the absolute? All the virtues as
well as truth, who is the leader of them, took up their abode in his soul.
But as you were observing, if we turn aside to view the reality, we see
that the persons who were thus described, with the exception of a small and
useless class, are utter rogues.

The point which has to be considered, is the origin of this corruption in
nature. Every one will admit that the philosopher, in our description of
him, is a rare being. But what numberless causes tend to destroy these
rare beings! There is no good thing which may not be a cause of evil--
health, wealth, strength, rank, and the virtues themselves, when placed
under unfavourable circumstances. For as in the animal or vegetable world
the strongest seeds most need the accompaniment of good air and soil, so
the best of human characters turn out the worst when they fall upon an
unsuitable soil; whereas weak natures hardly ever do any considerable good
or harm; they are not the stuff out of which either great criminals or
great heroes are made. The philosopher follows the same analogy: he is
either the best or the worst of all men. Some persons say that the
Sophists are the corrupters of youth; but is not public opinion the real
Sophist who is everywhere present--in those very persons, in the assembly,
in the courts, in the camp, in the applauses and hisses of the theatre re-
echoed by the surrounding hills? Will not a young man's heart leap amid
these discordant sounds? and will any education save him from being carried
away by the torrent? Nor is this all. For if he will not yield to
opinion, there follows the gentle compulsion of exile or death. What
principle of rival Sophists or anybody else can overcome in such an unequal
contest? Characters there may be more than human, who are exceptions--God
may save a man, but not his own strength. Further, I would have you
consider that the hireling Sophist only gives back to the world their own
opinions; he is the keeper of the monster, who knows how to flatter or
anger him, and observes the meaning of his inarticulate grunts. Good is
what pleases him, evil what he dislikes; truth and beauty are determined
only by the taste of the brute. Such is the Sophist's wisdom, and such is
the condition of those who make public opinion the test of truth, whether
in art or in morals. The curse is laid upon them of being and doing what
it approves, and when they attempt first principles the failure is
ludicrous. Think of all this and ask yourself whether the world is more
likely to be a believer in the unity of the idea, or in the multiplicity of
phenomena. And the world if not a believer in the idea cannot be a
philosopher, and must therefore be a persecutor of philosophers. There is
another evil:--the world does not like to lose the gifted nature, and so
they flatter the young (Alcibiades) into a magnificent opinion of his own
capacity; the tall, proper youth begins to expand, and is dreaming of
kingdoms and empires. If at this instant a friend whispers to him, 'Now
the gods lighten thee; thou art a great fool' and must be educated--do you
think that he will listen? Or suppose a better sort of man who is
attracted towards philosophy, will they not make Herculean efforts to spoil
and corrupt him? Are we not right in saying that the love of knowledge, no
less than riches, may divert him? Men of this class (Critias) often become
politicians--they are the authors of great mischief in states, and
sometimes also of great good. And thus philosophy is deserted by her
natural protectors, and others enter in and dishonour her. Vulgar little
minds see the land open and rush from the prisons of the arts into her
temple. A clever mechanic having a soul coarse as his body, thinks that he
will gain caste by becoming her suitor. For philosophy, even in her fallen
estate, has a dignity of her own--and he, like a bald little blacksmith's
apprentice as he is, having made some money and got out of durance, washes
and dresses himself as a bridegroom and marries his master's daughter.
What will be the issue of such marriages? Will they not be vile and
bastard, devoid of truth and nature? 'They will.' Small, then, is the
remnant of genuine philosophers; there may be a few who are citizens of
small states, in which politics are not worth thinking of, or who have been
detained by Theages' bridle of ill health; for my own case of the oracular
sign is almost unique, and too rare to be worth mentioning. And these few
when they have tasted the pleasures of philosophy, and have taken a look at
that den of thieves and place of wild beasts, which is human life, will
stand aside from the storm under the shelter of a wall, and try to preserve
their own innocence and to depart in peace. 'A great work, too, will have
been accomplished by them.' Great, yes, but not the greatest; for man is a
social being, and can only attain his highest development in the society
which is best suited to him.

Enough, then, of the causes why philosophy has such an evil name. Another
question is, Which of existing states is suited to her? Not one of them;
at present she is like some exotic seed which degenerates in a strange
soil; only in her proper state will she be shown to be of heavenly growth.
'And is her proper state ours or some other?' Ours in all points but one,
which was left undetermined. You may remember our saying that some living
mind or witness of the legislator was needed in states. But we were afraid
to enter upon a subject of such difficulty, and now the question recurs and
has not grown easier:--How may philosophy be safely studied? Let us bring
her into the light of day, and make an end of the inquiry.

In the first place, I say boldly that nothing can be worse than the present
mode of study. Persons usually pick up a little philosophy in early youth,
and in the intervals of business, but they never master the real
difficulty, which is dialectic. Later, perhaps, they occasionally go to a
lecture on philosophy. Years advance, and the sun of philosophy, unlike
that of Heracleitus, sets never to rise again. This order of education
should be reversed; it should begin with gymnastics in youth, and as the
man strengthens, he should increase the gymnastics of his soul. Then, when
active life is over, let him finally return to philosophy. 'You are in
earnest, Socrates, but the world will be equally earnest in withstanding
you--no more than Thrasymachus.' Do not make a quarrel between
Thrasymachus and me, who were never enemies and are now good friends
enough. And I shall do my best to convince him and all mankind of the
truth of my words, or at any rate to prepare for the future when, in
another life, we may again take part in similar discussions. 'That will be
a long time hence.' Not long in comparison with eternity. The many will
probably remain incredulous, for they have never seen the natural unity of
ideas, but only artificial juxtapositions; not free and generous thoughts,
but tricks of controversy and quips of law;--a perfect man ruling in a
perfect state, even a single one they have not known. And we foresaw that
there was no chance of perfection either in states or individuals until a
necessity was laid upon philosophers--not the rogues, but those whom we
called the useless class--of holding office; or until the sons of kings
were inspired with a true love of philosophy. Whether in the infinity of
past time there has been, or is in some distant land, or ever will be
hereafter, an ideal such as we have described, we stoutly maintain that
there has been, is, and will be such a state whenever the Muse of
philosophy rules. Will you say that the world is of another mind? O, my
friend, do not revile the world! They will soon change their opinion if
they are gently entreated, and are taught the true nature of the
philosopher. Who can hate a man who loves him? Or be jealous of one who
has no jealousy? Consider, again, that the many hate not the true but the
false philosophers--the pretenders who force their way in without
invitation, and are always speaking of persons and not of principles, which
is unlike the spirit of philosophy. For the true philosopher despises
earthly strife; his eye is fixed on the eternal order in accordance with
which he moulds himself into the Divine image (and not himself only, but
other men), and is the creator of the virtues private as well as public.
When mankind see that the happiness of states is only to be found in that
image, will they be angry with us for attempting to delineate it?
'Certainly not. But what will be the process of delineation?' The artist
will do nothing until he has made a tabula rasa; on this he will inscribe
the constitution of a state, glancing often at the divine truth of nature,
and from that deriving the godlike among men, mingling the two elements,
rubbing out and painting in, until there is a perfect harmony or fusion of
the divine and human. But perhaps the world will doubt the existence of
such an artist. What will they doubt? That the philosopher is a lover of
truth, having a nature akin to the best?--and if they admit this will they
still quarrel with us for making philosophers our kings? 'They will be
less disposed to quarrel.' Let us assume then that they are pacified.
Still, a person may hesitate about the probability of the son of a king
being a philosopher. And we do not deny that they are very liable to be
corrupted; but yet surely in the course of ages there might be one
exception--and one is enough. If one son of a king were a philosopher, and
had obedient citizens, he might bring the ideal polity into being. Hence
we conclude that our laws are not only the best, but that they are also
possible, though not free from difficulty.

I gained nothing by evading the troublesome questions which arose
concerning women and children. I will be wiser now and acknowledge that we
must go to the bottom of another question: What is to be the education of
our guardians? It was agreed that they were to be lovers of their country,
and were to be tested in the refiner's fire of pleasures and pains, and
those who came forth pure and remained fixed in their principles were to
have honours and rewards in life and after death. But at this point, the
argument put on her veil and turned into another path. I hesitated to make
the assertion which I now hazard,--that our guardians must be philosophers.
You remember all the contradictory elements, which met in the philosopher--
how difficult to find them all in a single person! Intelligence and spirit
are not often combined with steadiness; the stolid, fearless, nature is
averse to intellectual toil. And yet these opposite elements are all
necessary, and therefore, as we were saying before, the aspirant must be
tested in pleasures and dangers; and also, as we must now further add, in
the highest branches of knowledge. You will remember, that when we spoke
of the virtues mention was made of a longer road, which you were satisfied
to leave unexplored. 'Enough seemed to have been said.' Enough, my
friend; but what is enough while anything remains wanting? Of all men the
guardian must not faint in the search after truth; he must be prepared to
take the longer road, or he will never reach that higher region which is
above the four virtues; and of the virtues too he must not only get an
outline, but a clear and distinct vision. (Strange that we should be so
precise about trifles, so careless about the highest truths!) 'And what
are the highest?' You to pretend unconsciousness, when you have so often
heard me speak of the idea of good, about which we know so little, and
without which though a man gain the world he has no profit of it! Some
people imagine that the good is wisdom; but this involves a circle,--the
good, they say, is wisdom, wisdom has to do with the good. According to
others the good is pleasure; but then comes the absurdity that good is bad,
for there are bad pleasures as well as good. Again, the good must have
reality; a man may desire the appearance of virtue, but he will not desire
the appearance of good. Ought our guardians then to be ignorant of this
supreme principle, of which every man has a presentiment, and without which
no man has any real knowledge of anything? 'But, Socrates, what is this
supreme principle, knowledge or pleasure, or what? You may think me
troublesome, but I say that you have no business to be always repeating the
doctrines of others instead of giving us your own.' Can I say what I do
not know? 'You may offer an opinion.' And will the blindness and
crookedness of opinion content you when you might have the light and
certainty of science? 'I will only ask you to give such an explanation of
the good as you have given already of temperance and justice.' I wish that
I could, but in my present mood I cannot reach to the height of the
knowledge of the good. To the parent or principal I cannot introduce you,
but to the child begotten in his image, which I may compare with the
interest on the principal, I will. (Audit the account, and do not let me
give you a false statement of the debt.) You remember our old distinction
of the many beautiful and the one beautiful, the particular and the
universal, the objects of sight and the objects of thought? Did you ever
consider that the objects of sight imply a faculty of sight which is the
most complex and costly of our senses, requiring not only objects of sense,
but also a medium, which is light; without which the sight will not
distinguish between colours and all will be a blank? For light is the
noble bond between the perceiving faculty and the thing perceived, and the
god who gives us light is the sun, who is the eye of the day, but is not to
be confounded with the eye of man. This eye of the day or sun is what I
call the child of the good, standing in the same relation to the visible
world as the good to the intellectual. When the sun shines the eye sees,
and in the intellectual world where truth is, there is sight and light.
Now that which is the sun of intelligent natures, is the idea of good, the
cause of knowledge and truth, yet other and fairer than they are, and
standing in the same relation to them in which the sun stands to light. O
inconceivable height of beauty, which is above knowledge and above truth!
('You cannot surely mean pleasure,' he said. Peace, I replied.) And this
idea of good, like the sun, is also the cause of growth, and the author not
of knowledge only, but of being, yet greater far than either in dignity and
power. 'That is a reach of thought more than human; but, pray, go on with
the image, for I suspect that there is more behind.' There is, I said; and
bearing in mind our two suns or principles, imagine further their
corresponding worlds--one of the visible, the other of the intelligible;
you may assist your fancy by figuring the distinction under the image of a
line divided into two unequal parts, and may again subdivide each part into
two lesser segments representative of the stages of knowledge in either
sphere. The lower portion of the lower or visible sphere will consist of
shadows and reflections, and its upper and smaller portion will contain
real objects in the world of nature or of art. The sphere of the
intelligible will also have two divisions,--one of mathematics, in which
there is no ascent but all is descent; no inquiring into premises, but only
drawing of inferences. In this division the mind works with figures and
numbers, the images of which are taken not from the shadows, but from the
objects, although the truth of them is seen only with the mind's eye; and
they are used as hypotheses without being analysed. Whereas in the other
division reason uses the hypotheses as stages or steps in the ascent to the
idea of good, to which she fastens them, and then again descends, walking
firmly in the region of ideas, and of ideas only, in her ascent as well as
descent, and finally resting in them. 'I partly understand,' he replied;
'you mean that the ideas of science are superior to the hypothetical,
metaphorical conceptions of geometry and the other arts or sciences,
whichever is to be the name of them; and the latter conceptions you refuse
to make subjects of pure intellect, because they have no first principle,
although when resting on a first principle, they pass into the higher
sphere.' You understand me very well, I said. And now to those four
divisions of knowledge you may assign four corresponding faculties--pure
intelligence to the highest sphere; active intelligence to the second; to
the third, faith; to the fourth, the perception of shadows--and the
clearness of the several faculties will be in the same ratio as the truth
of the objects to which they are related...

Like Socrates, we may recapitulate the virtues of the philosopher. In
language which seems to reach beyond the horizon of that age and country,
he is described as 'the spectator of all time and all existence.' He has
the noblest gifts of nature, and makes the highest use of them. All his
desires are absorbed in the love of wisdom, which is the love of truth.
None of the graces of a beautiful soul are wanting in him; neither can he
fear death, or think much of human life. The ideal of modern times hardly
retains the simplicity of the antique; there is not the same originality
either in truth or error which characterized the Greeks. The philosopher
is no longer living in the unseen, nor is he sent by an oracle to convince
mankind of ignorance; nor does he regard knowledge as a system of ideas
leading upwards by regular stages to the idea of good. The eagerness of
the pursuit has abated; there is more division of labour and less of
comprehensive reflection upon nature and human life as a whole; more of
exact observation and less of anticipation and inspiration. Still, in the
altered conditions of knowledge, the parallel is not wholly lost; and there
may be a use in translating the conception of Plato into the language of
our own age. The philosopher in modern times is one who fixes his mind on
the laws of nature in their sequence and connexion, not on fragments or
pictures of nature; on history, not on controversy; on the truths which are
acknowledged by the few, not on the opinions of the many. He is aware of
the importance of 'classifying according to nature,' and will try to
'separate the limbs of science without breaking them' (Phaedr.). There is
no part of truth, whether great or small, which he will dishonour; and in
the least things he will discern the greatest (Parmen.). Like the ancient
philosopher he sees the world pervaded by analogies, but he can also tell
'why in some cases a single instance is sufficient for an induction'
(Mill's Logic), while in other cases a thousand examples would prove
nothing. He inquires into a portion of knowledge only, because the whole
has grown too vast to be embraced by a single mind or life. He has a
clearer conception of the divisions of science and of their relation to the
mind of man than was possible to the ancients. Like Plato, he has a vision
of the unity of knowledge, not as the beginning of philosophy to be
attained by a study of elementary mathematics, but as the far-off result of
the working of many minds in many ages. He is aware that mathematical
studies are preliminary to almost every other; at the same time, he will
not reduce all varieties of knowledge to the type of mathematics. He too
must have a nobility of character, without which genius loses the better
half of greatness. Regarding the world as a point in immensity, and each
individual as a link in a never-ending chain of existence, he will not
think much of his own life, or be greatly afraid of death.

Adeimantus objects first of all to the form of the Socratic reasoning, thus
showing that Plato is aware of the imperfection of his own method. He
brings the accusation against himself which might be brought against him by
a modern logician--that he extracts the answer because he knows how to put
the question. In a long argument words are apt to change their meaning
slightly, or premises may be assumed or conclusions inferred with rather
too much certainty or universality; the variation at each step may be
unobserved, and yet at last the divergence becomes considerable. Hence the
failure of attempts to apply arithmetical or algebraic formulae to logic.
The imperfection, or rather the higher and more elastic nature of language,
does not allow words to have the precision of numbers or of symbols. And
this quality in language impairs the force of an argument which has many

The objection, though fairly met by Socrates in this particular instance,
may be regarded as implying a reflection upon the Socratic mode of
reasoning. And here, as elsewhere, Plato seems to intimate that the time
had come when the negative and interrogative method of Socrates must be
superseded by a positive and constructive one, of which examples are given
in some of the later dialogues. Adeimantus further argues that the ideal
is wholly at variance with facts; for experience proves philosophers to be
either useless or rogues. Contrary to all expectation Socrates has no
hesitation in admitting the truth of this, and explains the anomaly in an
allegory, first characteristically depreciating his own inventive powers.
In this allegory the people are distinguished from the professional
politicians, and, as elsewhere, are spoken of in a tone of pity rather than
of censure under the image of 'the noble captain who is not very quick in
his perceptions.'

The uselessness of philosophers is explained by the circumstance that
mankind will not use them. The world in all ages has been divided between
contempt and fear of those who employ the power of ideas and know no other
weapons. Concerning the false philosopher, Socrates argues that the best
is most liable to corruption; and that the finer nature is more likely to
suffer from alien conditions. We too observe that there are some kinds of
excellence which spring from a peculiar delicacy of constitution; as is
evidently true of the poetical and imaginative temperament, which often
seems to depend on impressions, and hence can only breathe or live in a
certain atmosphere. The man of genius has greater pains and greater
pleasures, greater powers and greater weaknesses, and often a greater play
of character than is to be found in ordinary men. He can assume the
disguise of virtue or disinterestedness without having them, or veil
personal enmity in the language of patriotism and philosophy,--he can say
the word which all men are thinking, he has an insight which is terrible
into the follies and weaknesses of his fellow-men. An Alcibiades, a
Mirabeau, or a Napoleon the First, are born either to be the authors of
great evils in states, or 'of great good, when they are drawn in that

Yet the thesis, 'corruptio optimi pessima,' cannot be maintained generally
or without regard to the kind of excellence which is corrupted. The alien
conditions which are corrupting to one nature, may be the elements of
culture to another. In general a man can only receive his highest
development in a congenial state or family, among friends or fellow-
workers. But also he may sometimes be stirred by adverse circumstances to
such a degree that he rises up against them and reforms them. And while
weaker or coarser characters will extract good out of evil, say in a
corrupt state of the church or of society, and live on happily, allowing
the evil to remain, the finer or stronger natures may be crushed or spoiled
by surrounding influences--may become misanthrope and philanthrope by
turns; or in a few instances, like the founders of the monastic orders, or
the Reformers, owing to some peculiarity in themselves or in their age, may
break away entirely from the world and from the church, sometimes into
great good, sometimes into great evil, sometimes into both. And the same
holds in the lesser sphere of a convent, a school, a family.

Plato would have us consider how easily the best natures are overpowered by
public opinion, and what efforts the rest of mankind will make to get
possession of them. The world, the church, their own profession, any
political or party organization, are always carrying them off their legs
and teaching them to apply high and holy names to their own prejudices and
interests. The 'monster' corporation to which they belong judges right and
truth to be the pleasure of the community. The individual becomes one with
his order; or, if he resists, the world is too much for him, and will
sooner or later be revenged on him. This is, perhaps, a one-sided but not
wholly untrue picture of the maxims and practice of mankind when they 'sit
down together at an assembly,' either in ancient or modern times.

When the higher natures are corrupted by politics, the lower take
possession of the vacant place of philosophy. This is described in one of
those continuous images in which the argument, to use a Platonic
expression, 'veils herself,' and which is dropped and reappears at
intervals. The question is asked,--Why are the citizens of states so
hostile to philosophy? The answer is, that they do not know her. And yet
there is also a better mind of the many; they would believe if they were
taught. But hitherto they have only known a conventional imitation of
philosophy, words without thoughts, systems which have no life in them; a
(divine) person uttering the words of beauty and freedom, the friend of man
holding communion with the Eternal, and seeking to frame the state in that
image, they have never known. The same double feeling respecting the mass
of mankind has always existed among men. The first thought is that the
people are the enemies of truth and right; the second, that this only
arises out of an accidental error and confusion, and that they do not
really hate those who love them, if they could be educated to know them.

In the latter part of the sixth book, three questions have to be
considered: 1st, the nature of the longer and more circuitous way, which
is contrasted with the shorter and more imperfect method of Book IV; 2nd,
the heavenly pattern or idea of the state; 3rd, the relation of the
divisions of knowledge to one another and to the corresponding faculties of
the soul

1. Of the higher method of knowledge in Plato we have only a glimpse.
Neither here nor in the Phaedrus or Symposium, nor yet in the Philebus or
Sophist, does he give any clear explanation of his meaning. He would
probably have described his method as proceeding by regular steps to a
system of universal knowledge, which inferred the parts from the whole
rather than the whole from the parts. This ideal logic is not practised by
him in the search after justice, or in the analysis of the parts of the
soul; there, like Aristotle in the Nicomachean Ethics, he argues from
experience and the common use of language. But at the end of the sixth
book he conceives another and more perfect method, in which all ideas are
only steps or grades or moments of thought, forming a connected whole which
is self-supporting, and in which consistency is the test of truth. He does
not explain to us in detail the nature of the process. Like many other
thinkers both in ancient and modern times his mind seems to be filled with
a vacant form which he is unable to realize. He supposes the sciences to
have a natural order and connexion in an age when they can hardly be said
to exist. He is hastening on to the 'end of the intellectual world'
without even making a beginning of them.

In modern times we hardly need to be reminded that the process of acquiring
knowledge is here confused with the contemplation of absolute knowledge.
In all science a priori and a posteriori truths mingle in various
proportions. The a priori part is that which is derived from the most
universal experience of men, or is universally accepted by them; the a
posteriori is that which grows up around the more general principles and
becomes imperceptibly one with them. But Plato erroneously imagines that
the synthesis is separable from the analysis, and that the method of
science can anticipate science. In entertaining such a vision of a priori
knowledge he is sufficiently justified, or at least his meaning may be
sufficiently explained by the similar attempts of Descartes, Kant, Hegel,
and even of Bacon himself, in modern philosophy. Anticipations or
divinations, or prophetic glimpses of truths whether concerning man or
nature, seem to stand in the same relation to ancient philosophy which
hypotheses bear to modern inductive science. These 'guesses at truth' were
not made at random; they arose from a superficial impression of
uniformities and first principles in nature which the genius of the Greek,
contemplating the expanse of heaven and earth, seemed to recognize in the
distance. Nor can we deny that in ancient times knowledge must have stood
still, and the human mind been deprived of the very instruments of thought,
if philosophy had been strictly confined to the results of experience.

2. Plato supposes that when the tablet has been made blank the artist will
fill in the lineaments of the ideal state. Is this a pattern laid up in
heaven, or mere vacancy on which he is supposed to gaze with wondering eye?
The answer is, that such ideals are framed partly by the omission of
particulars, partly by imagination perfecting the form which experience
supplies (Phaedo). Plato represents these ideals in a figure as belonging
to another world; and in modern times the idea will sometimes seem to
precede, at other times to co-operate with the hand of the artist. As in
science, so also in creative art, there is a synthetical as well as an
analytical method. One man will have the whole in his mind before he
begins; to another the processes of mind and hand will be simultaneous.

3. There is no difficulty in seeing that Plato's divisions of knowledge
are based, first, on the fundamental antithesis of sensible and
intellectual which pervades the whole pre-Socratic philosophy; in which is
implied also the opposition of the permanent and transient, of the
universal and particular. But the age of philosophy in which he lived
seemed to require a further distinction;--numbers and figures were
beginning to separate from ideas. The world could no longer regard justice
as a cube, and was learning to see, though imperfectly, that the
abstractions of sense were distinct from the abstractions of mind. Between
the Eleatic being or essence and the shadows of phenomena, the Pythagorean
principle of number found a place, and was, as Aristotle remarks, a
conducting medium from one to the other. Hence Plato is led to introduce a
third term which had not hitherto entered into the scheme of his
philosophy. He had observed the use of mathematics in education; they were
the best preparation for higher studies. The subjective relation between
them further suggested an objective one; although the passage from one to
the other is really imaginary (Metaph.). For metaphysical and moral
philosophy has no connexion with mathematics; number and figure are the
abstractions of time and space, not the expressions of purely intellectual
conceptions. When divested of metaphor, a straight line or a square has no
more to do with right and justice than a crooked line with vice. The
figurative association was mistaken for a real one; and thus the three
latter divisions of the Platonic proportion were constructed.

There is more difficulty in comprehending how he arrived at the first term
of the series, which is nowhere else mentioned, and has no reference to any
other part of his system. Nor indeed does the relation of shadows to
objects correspond to the relation of numbers to ideas. Probably Plato has
been led by the love of analogy (Timaeus) to make four terms instead of
three, although the objects perceived in both divisions of the lower sphere
are equally objects of sense. He is also preparing the way, as his manner
is, for the shadows of images at the beginning of the seventh book, and the
imitation of an imitation in the tenth. The line may be regarded as
reaching from unity to infinity, and is divided into two unequal parts, and
subdivided into two more; each lower sphere is the multiplication of the
preceding. Of the four faculties, faith in the lower division has an
intermediate position (cp. for the use of the word faith or belief,
(Greek), Timaeus), contrasting equally with the vagueness of the perception
of shadows (Greek) and the higher certainty of understanding (Greek) and
reason (Greek).

The difference between understanding and mind or reason (Greek) is
analogous to the difference between acquiring knowledge in the parts and
the contemplation of the whole. True knowledge is a whole, and is at rest;
consistency and universality are the tests of truth. To this self-
evidencing knowledge of the whole the faculty of mind is supposed to
correspond. But there is a knowledge of the understanding which is
incomplete and in motion always, because unable to rest in the subordinate
ideas. Those ideas are called both images and hypotheses--images because
they are clothed in sense, hypotheses because they are assumptions only,
until they are brought into connexion with the idea of good.

The general meaning of the passage, 'Noble, then, is the bond which links
together sight...And of this kind I spoke as the intelligible...' so far as
the thought contained in it admits of being translated into the terms of
modern philosophy, may be described or explained as follows:--There is a
truth, one and self-existent, to which by the help of a ladder let down
from above, the human intelligence may ascend. This unity is like the sun
in the heavens, the light by which all things are seen, the being by which
they are created and sustained. It is the IDEA of good. And the steps of
the ladder leading up to this highest or universal existence are the
mathematical sciences, which also contain in themselves an element of the
universal. These, too, we see in a new manner when we connect them with
the idea of good. They then cease to be hypotheses or pictures, and become
essential parts of a higher truth which is at once their first principle
and their final cause.

We cannot give any more precise meaning to this remarkable passage, but we
may trace in it several rudiments or vestiges of thought which are common
to us and to Plato: such as (1) the unity and correlation of the sciences,
or rather of science, for in Plato's time they were not yet parted off or
distinguished; (2) the existence of a Divine Power, or life or idea or
cause or reason, not yet conceived or no longer conceived as in the Timaeus
and elsewhere under the form of a person; (3) the recognition of the
hypothetical and conditional character of the mathematical sciences, and in
a measure of every science when isolated from the rest; (4) the conviction
of a truth which is invisible, and of a law, though hardly a law of nature,
which permeates the intellectual rather than the visible world.

The method of Socrates is hesitating and tentative, awaiting the fuller
explanation of the idea of good, and of the nature of dialectic in the
seventh book. The imperfect intelligence of Glaucon, and the reluctance of
Socrates to make a beginning, mark the difficulty of the subject. The
allusion to Theages' bridle, and to the internal oracle, or demonic sign,
of Socrates, which here, as always in Plato, is only prohibitory; the
remark that the salvation of any remnant of good in the present evil state
of the world is due to God only; the reference to a future state of
existence, which is unknown to Glaucon in the tenth book, and in which the
discussions of Socrates and his disciples would be resumed; the surprise in
the answers; the fanciful irony of Socrates, where he pretends that he can
only describe the strange position of the philosopher in a figure of
speech; the original observation that the Sophists, after all, are only the
representatives and not the leaders of public opinion; the picture of the
philosopher standing aside in the shower of sleet under a wall; the figure
of 'the great beast' followed by the expression of good-will towards the
common people who would not have rejected the philosopher if they had known
him; the 'right noble thought' that the highest truths demand the greatest
exactness; the hesitation of Socrates in returning once more to his well-
worn theme of the idea of good; the ludicrous earnestness of Glaucon; the
comparison of philosophy to a deserted maiden who marries beneath her--are
some of the most interesting characteristics of the sixth book.

Yet a few more words may be added, on the old theme, which was so oft
discussed in the Socratic circle, of which we, like Glaucon and Adeimantus,
would fain, if possible, have a clearer notion. Like them, we are
dissatisfied when we are told that the idea of good can only be revealed to
a student of the mathematical sciences, and we are inclined to think that
neither we nor they could have been led along that path to any satisfactory
goal. For we have learned that differences of quantity cannot pass into
differences of quality, and that the mathematical sciences can never rise
above themselves into the sphere of our higher thoughts, although they may
sometimes furnish symbols and expressions of them, and may train the mind
in habits of abstraction and self-concentration. The illusion which was
natural to an ancient philosopher has ceased to be an illusion to us. But
if the process by which we are supposed to arrive at the idea of good be
really imaginary, may not the idea itself be also a mere abstraction? We
remark, first, that in all ages, and especially in primitive philosophy,
words such as being, essence, unity, good, have exerted an extraordinary
influence over the minds of men. The meagreness or negativeness of their
content has been in an inverse ratio to their power. They have become the
forms under which all things were comprehended. There was a need or
instinct in the human soul which they satisfied; they were not ideas, but
gods, and to this new mythology the men of a later generation began to
attach the powers and associations of the elder deities.

The idea of good is one of those sacred words or forms of thought, which
were beginning to take the place of the old mythology. It meant unity, in
which all time and all existence were gathered up. It was the truth of all
things, and also the light in which they shone forth, and became evident to
intelligences human and divine. It was the cause of all things, the power
by which they were brought into being. It was the universal reason
divested of a human personality. It was the life as well as the light of
the world, all knowledge and all power were comprehended in it. The way to
it was through the mathematical sciences, and these too were dependent on
it. To ask whether God was the maker of it, or made by it, would be like
asking whether God could be conceived apart from goodness, or goodness
apart from God. The God of the Timaeus is not really at variance with the
idea of good; they are aspects of the same, differing only as the personal
from the impersonal, or the masculine from the neuter, the one being the
expression or language of mythology, the other of philosophy.

This, or something like this, is the meaning of the idea of good as
conceived by Plato. Ideas of number, order, harmony, development may also
be said to enter into it. The paraphrase which has just been given of it
goes beyond the actual words of Plato. We have perhaps arrived at the
stage of philosophy which enables us to understand what he is aiming at,
better than he did himself. We are beginning to realize what he saw darkly
and at a distance. But if he could have been told that this, or some
conception of the same kind, but higher than this, was the truth at which
he was aiming, and the need which he sought to supply, he would gladly have
recognized that more was contained in his own thoughts than he himself
knew. As his words are few and his manner reticent and tentative, so must
the style of his interpreter be. We should not approach his meaning more
nearly by attempting to define it further. In translating him into the
language of modern thought, we might insensibly lose the spirit of ancient
philosophy. It is remarkable that although Plato speaks of the idea of
good as the first principle of truth and being, it is nowhere mentioned in
his writings except in this passage. Nor did it retain any hold upon the
minds of his disciples in a later generation; it was probably
unintelligible to them. Nor does the mention of it in Aristotle appear to
have any reference to this or any other passage in his extant writings.

BOOK VII. And now I will describe in a figure the enlightenment or
unenlightenment of our nature:--Imagine human beings living in an
underground den which is open towards the light; they have been there from
childhood, having their necks and legs chained, and can only see into the
den. At a distance there is a fire, and between the fire and the prisoners
a raised way, and a low wall is built along the way, like the screen over
which marionette players show their puppets. Behind the wall appear moving
figures, who hold in their hands various works of art, and among them
images of men and animals, wood and stone, and some of the passers-by are
talking and others silent. 'A strange parable,' he said, 'and strange
captives.' They are ourselves, I replied; and they see only the shadows of
the images which the fire throws on the wall of the den; to these they give
names, and if we add an echo which returns from the wall, the voices of the
passengers will seem to proceed from the shadows. Suppose now that you
suddenly turn them round and make them look with pain and grief to
themselves at the real images; will they believe them to be real? Will not
their eyes be dazzled, and will they not try to get away from the light to
something which they are able to behold without blinking? And suppose
further, that they are dragged up a steep and rugged ascent into the
presence of the sun himself, will not their sight be darkened with the
excess of light? Some time will pass before they get the habit of
perceiving at all; and at first they will be able to perceive only shadows
and reflections in the water; then they will recognize the moon and the
stars, and will at length behold the sun in his own proper place as he is.
Last of all they will conclude:--This is he who gives us the year and the
seasons, and is the author of all that we see. How will they rejoice in
passing from darkness to light! How worthless to them will seem the
honours and glories of the den! But now imagine further, that they descend
into their old habitations;--in that underground dwelling they will not see
as well as their fellows, and will not be able to compete with them in the
measurement of the shadows on the wall; there will be many jokes about the
man who went on a visit to the sun and lost his eyes, and if they find
anybody trying to set free and enlighten one of their number, they will put
him to death, if they can catch him. Now the cave or den is the world of
sight, the fire is the sun, the way upwards is the way to knowledge, and in
the world of knowledge the idea of good is last seen and with difficulty,
but when seen is inferred to be the author of good and right--parent of the
lord of light in this world, and of truth and understanding in the other.
He who attains to the beatific vision is always going upwards; he is
unwilling to descend into political assemblies and courts of law; for his
eyes are apt to blink at the images or shadows of images which they behold
in them--he cannot enter into the ideas of those who have never in their
lives understood the relation of the shadow to the substance. But
blindness is of two kinds, and may be caused either by passing out of
darkness into light or out of light into darkness, and a man of sense will
distinguish between them, and will not laugh equally at both of them, but
the blindness which arises from fulness of light he will deem blessed, and
pity the other; or if he laugh at the puzzled soul looking at the sun, he
will have more reason to laugh than the inhabitants of the den at those who
descend from above. There is a further lesson taught by this parable of
ours. Some persons fancy that instruction is like giving eyes to the
blind, but we say that the faculty of sight was always there, and that the
soul only requires to be turned round towards the light. And this is
conversion; other virtues are almost like bodily habits, and may be
acquired in the same manner, but intelligence has a diviner life, and is
indestructible, turning either to good or evil according to the direction
given. Did you never observe how the mind of a clever rogue peers out of
his eyes, and the more clearly he sees, the more evil he does? Now if you
take such an one, and cut away from him those leaden weights of pleasure
and desire which bind his soul to earth, his intelligence will be turned
round, and he will behold the truth as clearly as he now discerns his
meaner ends. And have we not decided that our rulers must neither be so
uneducated as to have no fixed rule of life, nor so over-educated as to be
unwilling to leave their paradise for the business of the world? We must
choose out therefore the natures who are most likely to ascend to the light
and knowledge of the good; but we must not allow them to remain in the
region of light; they must be forced down again among the captives in the
den to partake of their labours and honours. 'Will they not think this a
hardship?' You should remember that our purpose in framing the State was
not that our citizens should do what they like, but that they should serve
the State for the common good of all. May we not fairly say to our
philosopher,--Friend, we do you no wrong; for in other States philosophy
grows wild, and a wild plant owes nothing to the gardener, but you have
been trained by us to be the rulers and kings of our hive, and therefore we
must insist on your descending into the den. You must, each of you, take
your turn, and become able to use your eyes in the dark, and with a little
practice you will see far better than those who quarrel about the shadows,
whose knowledge is a dream only, whilst yours is a waking reality. It may
be that the saint or philosopher who is best fitted, may also be the least
inclined to rule, but necessity is laid upon him, and he must no longer
live in the heaven of ideas. And this will be the salvation of the State.
For those who rule must not be those who are desirous to rule; and, if you
can offer to our citizens a better life than that of rulers generally is,
there will be a chance that the rich, not only in this world's goods, but
in virtue and wisdom, may bear rule. And the only life which is better
than the life of political ambition is that of philosophy, which is also
the best preparation for the government of a State.

Then now comes the question,--How shall we create our rulers; what way is
there from darkness to light? The change is effected by philosophy; it is
not the turning over of an oyster-shell, but the conversion of a soul from
night to day, from becoming to being. And what training will draw the soul
upwards? Our former education had two branches, gymnastic, which was
occupied with the body, and music, the sister art, which infused a natural
harmony into mind and literature; but neither of these sciences gave any
promise of doing what we want. Nothing remains to us but that universal or
primary science of which all the arts and sciences are partakers, I mean
number or calculation. 'Very true.' Including the art of war? 'Yes,
certainly.' Then there is something ludicrous about Palamedes in the
tragedy, coming in and saying that he had invented number, and had counted
the ranks and set them in order. For if Agamemnon could not count his feet
(and without number how could he?) he must have been a pretty sort of
general indeed. No man should be a soldier who cannot count, and indeed he
is hardly to be called a man. But I am not speaking of these practical
applications of arithmetic, for number, in my view, is rather to be
regarded as a conductor to thought and being. I will explain what I mean
by the last expression:--Things sensible are of two kinds; the one class
invite or stimulate the mind, while in the other the mind acquiesces. Now
the stimulating class are the things which suggest contrast and relation.
For example, suppose that I hold up to the eyes three fingers--a fore
finger, a middle finger, a little finger--the sight equally recognizes all
three fingers, but without number cannot further distinguish them. Or
again, suppose two objects to be relatively great and small, these ideas of
greatness and smallness are supplied not by the sense, but by the mind.
And the perception of their contrast or relation quickens and sets in
motion the mind, which is puzzled by the confused intimations of sense, and
has recourse to number in order to find out whether the things indicated
are one or more than one. Number replies that they are two and not one,
and are to be distinguished from one another. Again, the sight beholds
great and small, but only in a confused chaos, and not until they are
distinguished does the question arise of their respective natures; we are
thus led on to the distinction between the visible and intelligible. That
was what I meant when I spoke of stimulants to the intellect; I was
thinking of the contradictions which arise in perception. The idea of
unity, for example, like that of a finger, does not arouse thought unless
involving some conception of plurality; but when the one is also the
opposite of one, the contradiction gives rise to reflection; an example of
this is afforded by any object of sight. All number has also an elevating
effect; it raises the mind out of the foam and flux of generation to the
contemplation of being, having lesser military and retail uses also. The
retail use is not required by us; but as our guardian is to be a soldier as
well as a philosopher, the military one may be retained. And to our higher
purpose no science can be better adapted; but it must be pursued in the
spirit of a philosopher, not of a shopkeeper. It is concerned, not with
visible objects, but with abstract truth; for numbers are pure
abstractions--the true arithmetician indignantly denies that his unit is
capable of division. When you divide, he insists that you are only
multiplying; his 'one' is not material or resolvable into fractions, but an
unvarying and absolute equality; and this proves the purely intellectual
character of his study. Note also the great power which arithmetic has of
sharpening the wits; no other discipline is equally severe, or an equal
test of general ability, or equally improving to a stupid person.

Let our second branch of education be geometry. 'I can easily see,'
replied Glaucon, 'that the skill of the general will be doubled by his
knowledge of geometry.' That is a small matter; the use of geometry, to
which I refer, is the assistance given by it in the contemplation of the
idea of good, and the compelling the mind to look at true being, and not at
generation only. Yet the present mode of pursuing these studies, as any
one who is the least of a mathematician is aware, is mean and ridiculous;
they are made to look downwards to the arts, and not upwards to eternal
existence. The geometer is always talking of squaring, subtending,
apposing, as if he had in view action; whereas knowledge is the real object
of the study. It should elevate the soul, and create the mind of
philosophy; it should raise up what has fallen down, not to speak of lesser
uses in war and military tactics, and in the improvement of the faculties.

Shall we propose, as a third branch of our education, astronomy? 'Very
good,' replied Glaucon; 'the knowledge of the heavens is necessary at once
for husbandry, navigation, military tactics.' I like your way of giving
useful reasons for everything in order to make friends of the world. And
there is a difficulty in proving to mankind that education is not only
useful information but a purification of the eye of the soul, which is
better than the bodily eye, for by this alone is truth seen. Now, will you
appeal to mankind in general or to the philosopher? or would you prefer to
look to yourself only? 'Every man is his own best friend.' Then take a
step backward, for we are out of order, and insert the third dimension
which is of solids, after the second which is of planes, and then you may
proceed to solids in motion. But solid geometry is not popular and has not
the patronage of the State, nor is the use of it fully recognized; the
difficulty is great, and the votaries of the study are conceited and
impatient. Still the charm of the pursuit wins upon men, and, if
government would lend a little assistance, there might be great progress
made. 'Very true,' replied Glaucon; 'but do I understand you now to begin
with plane geometry, and to place next geometry of solids, and thirdly,
astronomy, or the motion of solids?' Yes, I said; my hastiness has only
hindered us.

'Very good, and now let us proceed to astronomy, about which I am willing
to speak in your lofty strain. No one can fail to see that the
contemplation of the heavens draws the soul upwards.' I am an exception,
then; astronomy as studied at present appears to me to draw the soul not
upwards, but downwards. Star-gazing is just looking up at the ceiling--no
better; a man may lie on his back on land or on water--he may look up or
look down, but there is no science in that. The vision of knowledge of
which I speak is seen not with the eyes, but with the mind. All the
magnificence of the heavens is but the embroidery of a copy which falls far
short of the divine Original, and teaches nothing about the absolute
harmonies or motions of things. Their beauty is like the beauty of figures
drawn by the hand of Daedalus or any other great artist, which may be used
for illustration, but no mathematician would seek to obtain from them true
conceptions of equality or numerical relations. How ridiculous then to
look for these in the map of the heavens, in which the imperfection of
matter comes in everywhere as a disturbing element, marring the symmetry of
day and night, of months and years, of the sun and stars in their courses.
Only by problems can we place astronomy on a truly scientific basis. Let
the heavens alone, and exert the intellect.

Still, mathematics admit of other applications, as the Pythagoreans say,
and we agree. There is a sister science of harmonical motion, adapted to
the ear as astronomy is to the eye, and there may be other applications
also. Let us inquire of the Pythagoreans about them, not forgetting that
we have an aim higher than theirs, which is the relation of these sciences
to the idea of good. The error which pervades astronomy also pervades
harmonics. The musicians put their ears in the place of their minds.
'Yes,' replied Glaucon, 'I like to see them laying their ears alongside of
their neighbours' faces--some saying, "That's a new note," others declaring
that the two notes are the same.' Yes, I said; but you mean the empirics
who are always twisting and torturing the strings of the lyre, and
quarrelling about the tempers of the strings; I am referring rather to the
Pythagorean harmonists, who are almost equally in error. For they
investigate only the numbers of the consonances which are heard, and ascend
no higher,--of the true numerical harmony which is unheard, and is only to
be found in problems, they have not even a conception. 'That last,' he
said, 'must be a marvellous thing.' A thing, I replied, which is only
useful if pursued with a view to the good.

All these sciences are the prelude of the strain, and are profitable if
they are regarded in their natural relations to one another. 'I dare say,
Socrates,' said Glaucon; 'but such a study will be an endless business.'
What study do you mean--of the prelude, or what? For all these things are
only the prelude, and you surely do not suppose that a mere mathematician
is also a dialectician? 'Certainly not. I have hardly ever known a
mathematician who could reason.' And yet, Glaucon, is not true reasoning
that hymn of dialectic which is the music of the intellectual world, and
which was by us compared to the effort of sight, when from beholding the
shadows on the wall we arrived at last at the images which gave the
shadows? Even so the dialectical faculty withdrawing from sense arrives by
the pure intellect at the contemplation of the idea of good, and never
rests but at the very end of the intellectual world. And the royal road
out of the cave into the light, and the blinking of the eyes at the sun and
turning to contemplate the shadows of reality, not the shadows of an image
only--this progress and gradual acquisition of a new faculty of sight by
the help of the mathematical sciences, is the elevation of the soul to the
contemplation of the highest ideal of being.

'So far, I agree with you. But now, leaving the prelude, let us proceed to
the hymn. What, then, is the nature of dialectic, and what are the paths
which lead thither?' Dear Glaucon, you cannot follow me here. There can
be no revelation of the absolute truth to one who has not been disciplined
in the previous sciences. But that there is a science of absolute truth,
which is attained in some way very different from those now practised, I am
confident. For all other arts or sciences are relative to human needs and
opinions; and the mathematical sciences are but a dream or hypothesis of
true being, and never analyse their own principles. Dialectic alone rises
to the principle which is above hypotheses, converting and gently leading
the eye of the soul out of the barbarous slough of ignorance into the light
of the upper world, with the help of the sciences which we have been
describing--sciences, as they are often termed, although they require some
other name, implying greater clearness than opinion and less clearness than
science, and this in our previous sketch was understanding. And so we get
four names--two for intellect, and two for opinion,--reason or mind,
understanding, faith, perception of shadows--which make a proportion--
being:becoming::intellect:opinion--and science:belief::understanding:
perception of shadows. Dialectic may be further described as that science
which defines and explains the essence or being of each nature, which
distinguishes and abstracts the good, and is ready to do battle against all
opponents in the cause of good. To him who is not a dialectician life is
but a sleepy dream; and many a man is in his grave before his is well waked
up. And would you have the future rulers of your ideal State intelligent
beings, or stupid as posts? 'Certainly not the latter.' Then you must
train them in dialectic, which will teach them to ask and answer questions,
and is the coping-stone of the sciences.

I dare say that you have not forgotten how our rulers were chosen; and the
process of selection may be carried a step further:--As before, they must
be constant and valiant, good-looking, and of noble manners, but now they
must also have natural ability which education will improve; that is to
say, they must be quick at learning, capable of mental toil, retentive,
solid, diligent natures, who combine intellectual with moral virtues; not
lame and one-sided, diligent in bodily exercise and indolent in mind, or
conversely; not a maimed soul, which hates falsehood and yet
unintentionally is always wallowing in the mire of ignorance; not a bastard
or feeble person, but sound in wind and limb, and in perfect condition for
the great gymnastic trial of the mind. Justice herself can find no fault
with natures such as these; and they will be the saviours of our State;
disciples of another sort would only make philosophy more ridiculous than
she is at present. Forgive my enthusiasm; I am becoming excited; but when
I see her trampled underfoot, I am angry at the authors of her disgrace.
'I did not notice that you were more excited than you ought to have been.'
But I felt that I was. Now do not let us forget another point in the
selection of our disciples--that they must be young and not old. For Solon
is mistaken in saying that an old man can be always learning; youth is the
time of study, and here we must remember that the mind is free and dainty,
and, unlike the body, must not be made to work against the grain. Learning
should be at first a sort of play, in which the natural bent is detected.
As in training them for war, the young dogs should at first only taste
blood; but when the necessary gymnastics are over which during two or three
years divide life between sleep and bodily exercise, then the education of
the soul will become a more serious matter. At twenty years of age, a
selection must be made of the more promising disciples, with whom a new
epoch of education will begin. The sciences which they have hitherto
learned in fragments will now be brought into relation with each other and
with true being; for the power of combining them is the test of speculative
and dialectical ability. And afterwards at thirty a further selection
shall be made of those who are able to withdraw from the world of sense
into the abstraction of ideas. But at this point, judging from present
experience, there is a danger that dialectic may be the source of many
evils. The danger may be illustrated by a parallel case:--Imagine a person
who has been brought up in wealth and luxury amid a crowd of flatterers,
and who is suddenly informed that he is a supposititious son. He has
hitherto honoured his reputed parents and disregarded the flatterers, and
now he does the reverse. This is just what happens with a man's
principles. There are certain doctrines which he learnt at home and which
exercised a parental authority over him. Presently he finds that
imputations are cast upon them; a troublesome querist comes and asks, 'What
is the just and good?' or proves that virtue is vice and vice virtue, and
his mind becomes unsettled, and he ceases to love, honour, and obey them as
he has hitherto done. He is seduced into the life of pleasure, and becomes
a lawless person and a rogue. The case of such speculators is very
pitiable, and, in order that our thirty years' old pupils may not require
this pity, let us take every possible care that young persons do not study
philosophy too early. For a young man is a sort of puppy who only plays
with an argument; and is reasoned into and out of his opinions every day;
he soon begins to believe nothing, and brings himself and philosophy into
discredit. A man of thirty does not run on in this way; he will argue and
not merely contradict, and adds new honour to philosophy by the sobriety of
his conduct. What time shall we allow for this second gymnastic training
of the soul?--say, twice the time required for the gymnastics of the body;
six, or perhaps five years, to commence at thirty, and then for fifteen
years let the student go down into the den, and command armies, and gain
experience of life. At fifty let him return to the end of all things, and
have his eyes uplifted to the idea of good, and order his life after that
pattern; if necessary, taking his turn at the helm of State, and training
up others to be his successors. When his time comes he shall depart in
peace to the islands of the blest. He shall be honoured with sacrifices,
and receive such worship as the Pythian oracle approves.

'You are a statuary, Socrates, and have made a perfect image of our
governors.' Yes, and of our governesses, for the women will share in all
things with the men. And you will admit that our State is not a mere
aspiration, but may really come into being when there shall arise
philosopher-kings, one or more, who will despise earthly vanities, and will
be the servants of justice only. 'And how will they begin their work?'
Their first act will be to send away into the country all those who are
more than ten years of age, and to proceed with those who are left...

At the commencement of the sixth book, Plato anticipated his explanation of
the relation of the philosopher to the world in an allegory, in this, as in
other passages, following the order which he prescribes in education, and
proceeding from the concrete to the abstract. At the commencement of Book
VII, under the figure of a cave having an opening towards a fire and a way
upwards to the true light, he returns to view the divisions of knowledge,
exhibiting familiarly, as in a picture, the result which had been hardly
won by a great effort of thought in the previous discussion; at the same
time casting a glance onward at the dialectical process, which is
represented by the way leading from darkness to light. The shadows, the
images, the reflection of the sun and stars in the water, the stars and sun
themselves, severally correspond,--the first, to the realm of fancy and
poetry,--the second, to the world of sense,--the third, to the abstractions
or universals of sense, of which the mathematical sciences furnish the
type,--the fourth and last to the same abstractions, when seen in the unity
of the idea, from which they derive a new meaning and power. The true
dialectical process begins with the contemplation of the real stars, and
not mere reflections of them, and ends with the recognition of the sun, or
idea of good, as the parent not only of light but of warmth and growth. To
the divisions of knowledge the stages of education partly answer:--first,
there is the early education of childhood and youth in the fancies of the
poets, and in the laws and customs of the State;--then there is the
training of the body to be a warrior athlete, and a good servant of the
mind;--and thirdly, after an interval follows the education of later life,
which begins with mathematics and proceeds to philosophy in general.

There seem to be two great aims in the philosophy of Plato,--first, to
realize abstractions; secondly, to connect them. According to him, the
true education is that which draws men from becoming to being, and to a
comprehensive survey of all being. He desires to develop in the human mind
the faculty of seeing the universal in all things; until at last the
particulars of sense drop away and the universal alone remains. He then
seeks to combine the universals which he has disengaged from sense, not
perceiving that the correlation of them has no other basis but the common
use of language. He never understands that abstractions, as Hegel says,
are 'mere abstractions'--of use when employed in the arrangement of facts,
but adding nothing to the sum of knowledge when pursued apart from them, or
with reference to an imaginary idea of good. Still the exercise of the
faculty of abstraction apart from facts has enlarged the mind, and played a
great part in the education of the human race. Plato appreciated the value
of this faculty, and saw that it might be quickened by the study of number
and relation. All things in which there is opposition or proportion are
suggestive of reflection. The mere impression of sense evokes no power of
thought or of mind, but when sensible objects ask to be compared and
distinguished, then philosophy begins. The science of arithmetic first
suggests such distinctions. The follow in order the other sciences of
plain and solid geometry, and of solids in motion, one branch of which is
astronomy or the harmony of the spheres,--to this is appended the sister
science of the harmony of sounds. Plato seems also to hint at the
possibility of other applications of arithmetical or mathematical
proportions, such as we employ in chemistry and natural philosophy, such as
the Pythagoreans and even Aristotle make use of in Ethics and Politics,
e.g. his distinction between arithmetical and geometrical proportion in the
Ethics (Book V), or between numerical and proportional equality in the

The modern mathematician will readily sympathise with Plato's delight in
the properties of pure mathematics. He will not be disinclined to say with
him:--Let alone the heavens, and study the beauties of number and figure in
themselves. He too will be apt to depreciate their application to the
arts. He will observe that Plato has a conception of geometry, in which
figures are to be dispensed with; thus in a distant and shadowy way seeming
to anticipate the possibility of working geometrical problems by a more
general mode of analysis. He will remark with interest on the backward
state of solid geometry, which, alas! was not encouraged by the aid of the
State in the age of Plato; and he will recognize the grasp of Plato's mind
in his ability to conceive of one science of solids in motion including the
earth as well as the heavens,--not forgetting to notice the intimation to
which allusion has been already made, that besides astronomy and harmonics
the science of solids in motion may have other applications. Still more
will he be struck with the comprehensiveness of view which led Plato, at a
time when these sciences hardly existed, to say that they must be studied
in relation to one another, and to the idea of good, or common principle of
truth and being. But he will also see (and perhaps without surprise) that
in that stage of physical and mathematical knowledge, Plato has fallen into
the error of supposing that he can construct the heavens a priori by
mathematical problems, and determine the principles of harmony irrespective
of the adaptation of sounds to the human ear. The illusion was a natural
one in that age and country. The simplicity and certainty of astronomy and
harmonics seemed to contrast with the variation and complexity of the world
of sense; hence the circumstance that there was some elementary basis of
fact, some measurement of distance or time or vibrations on which they must
ultimately rest, was overlooked by him. The modern predecessors of Newton
fell into errors equally great; and Plato can hardly be said to have been
very far wrong, or may even claim a sort of prophetic insight into the
subject, when we consider that the greater part of astronomy at the present
day consists of abstract dynamics, by the help of which most astronomical
discoveries have been made.

The metaphysical philosopher from his point of view recognizes mathematics
as an instrument of education,--which strengthens the power of attention,
developes the sense of order and the faculty of construction, and enables
the mind to grasp under simple formulae the quantitative differences of
physical phenomena. But while acknowledging their value in education, he
sees also that they have no connexion with our higher moral and
intellectual ideas. In the attempt which Plato makes to connect them, we
easily trace the influences of ancient Pythagorean notions. There is no
reason to suppose that he is speaking of the ideal numbers; but he is
describing numbers which are pure abstractions, to which he assigns a real
and separate existence, which, as 'the teachers of the art' (meaning
probably the Pythagoreans) would have affirmed, repel all attempts at
subdivision, and in which unity and every other number are conceived of as
absolute. The truth and certainty of numbers, when thus disengaged from
phenomena, gave them a kind of sacredness in the eyes of an ancient
philosopher. Nor is it easy to say how far ideas of order and fixedness
may have had a moral and elevating influence on the minds of men, 'who,' in
the words of the Timaeus, 'might learn to regulate their erring lives
according to them.' It is worthy of remark that the old Pythagorean
ethical symbols still exist as figures of speech among ourselves. And
those who in modern times see the world pervaded by universal law, may also
see an anticipation of this last word of modern philosophy in the Platonic
idea of good, which is the source and measure of all things, and yet only
an abstraction (Philebus).

Two passages seem to require more particular explanations. First, that
which relates to the analysis of vision. The difficulty in this passage
may be explained, like many others, from differences in the modes of
conception prevailing among ancient and modern thinkers. To us, the
perceptions of sense are inseparable from the act of the mind which
accompanies them. The consciousness of form, colour, distance, is
indistinguishable from the simple sensation, which is the medium of them.
Whereas to Plato sense is the Heraclitean flux of sense, not the vision of
objects in the order in which they actually present themselves to the
experienced sight, but as they may be imagined to appear confused and
blurred to the half-awakened eye of the infant. The first action of the
mind is aroused by the attempt to set in order this chaos, and the reason
is required to frame distinct conceptions under which the confused
impressions of sense may be arranged. Hence arises the question, 'What is
great, what is small?' and thus begins the distinction of the visible and
the intelligible.

The second difficulty relates to Plato's conception of harmonics. Three
classes of harmonists are distinguished by him:--first, the Pythagoreans,
whom he proposes to consult as in the previous discussion on music he was
to consult Damon--they are acknowledged to be masters in the art, but are
altogether deficient in the knowledge of its higher import and relation to
the good; secondly, the mere empirics, whom Glaucon appears to confuse with
them, and whom both he and Socrates ludicrously describe as experimenting
by mere auscultation on the intervals of sounds. Both of these fall short
in different degrees of the Platonic idea of harmony, which must be studied
in a purely abstract way, first by the method of problems, and secondly as
a part of universal knowledge in relation to the idea of good.

The allegory has a political as well as a philosophical meaning. The den
or cave represents the narrow sphere of politics or law (compare the
description of the philosopher and lawyer in the Theaetetus), and the light
of the eternal ideas is supposed to exercise a disturbing influence on the
minds of those who return to this lower world. In other words, their
principles are too wide for practical application; they are looking far
away into the past and future, when their business is with the present.
The ideal is not easily reduced to the conditions of actual life, and may
often be at variance with them. And at first, those who return are unable
to compete with the inhabitants of the den in the measurement of the
shadows, and are derided and persecuted by them; but after a while they see
the things below in far truer proportions than those who have never
ascended into the upper world. The difference between the politician
turned into a philosopher and the philosopher turned into a politician, is
symbolized by the two kinds of disordered eyesight, the one which is
experienced by the captive who is transferred from darkness to day, the
other, of the heavenly messenger who voluntarily for the good of his
fellow-men descends into the den. In what way the brighter light is to
dawn on the inhabitants of the lower world, or how the idea of good is to

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