Part 9 out of 12
unjust, that we might have an ideal. We were to look at these in order
that we might judge of our own happiness and unhappiness according to the
standard which they exhibited and the degree in which we resembled them,
but not with any view of showing that they could exist in fact.
True, he said.
Would a painter be any the worse because, after having delineated with
consummate art an ideal of a perfectly beautiful man, he was unable to show
that any such man could ever have existed?
He would be none the worse.
Well, and were we not creating an ideal of a perfect State?
To be sure.
And is our theory a worse theory because we are unable to prove the
possibility of a city being ordered in the manner described?
Surely not, he replied.
That is the truth, I said. But if, at your request, I am to try and show
how and under what conditions the possibility is highest, I must ask you,
having this in view, to repeat your former admissions.
I want to know whether ideals are ever fully realized in language? Does
not the word express more than the fact, and must not the actual, whatever
a man may think, always, in the nature of things, fall short of the truth?
What do you say?
Then you must not insist on my proving that the actual State will in every
respect coincide with the ideal: if we are only able to discover how a
city may be governed nearly as we proposed, you will admit that we have
discovered the possibility which you demand; and will be contented. I am
sure that I should be contented--will not you?
Yes, I will.
Let me next endeavour to show what is that fault in States which is the
cause of their present maladministration, and what is the least change
which will enable a State to pass into the truer form; and let the change,
if possible, be of one thing only, or, if not, of two; at any rate, let the
changes be as few and slight as possible.
Certainly, he replied.
I think, I said, that there might be a reform of the State if only one
change were made, which is not a slight or easy though still a possible
What is it? he said.
Now then, I said, I go to meet that which I liken to the greatest of the
waves; yet shall the word be spoken, even though the wave break and drown
me in laughter and dishonour; and do you mark my words.
I said: 'Until philosophers are kings, or the kings and princes of this
world have the spirit and power of philosophy, and political greatness and
wisdom meet in one, and those commoner natures who pursue either to the
exclusion of the other are compelled to stand aside, cities will never have
rest from their evils,--nor the human race, as I believe,--and then only
will this our State have a possibility of life and behold the light of
day.' Such was the thought, my dear Glaucon, which I would fain have
uttered if it had not seemed too extravagant; for to be convinced that in
no other State can there be happiness private or public is indeed a hard
Socrates, what do you mean? I would have you consider that the word which
you have uttered is one at which numerous persons, and very respectable
persons too, in a figure pulling off their coats all in a moment, and
seizing any weapon that comes to hand, will run at you might and main,
before you know where you are, intending to do heaven knows what; and if
you don't prepare an answer, and put yourself in motion, you will be 'pared
by their fine wits,' and no mistake.
You got me into the scrape, I said.
And I was quite right; however, I will do all I can to get you out of it;
but I can only give you good-will and good advice, and, perhaps, I may be
able to fit answers to your questions better than another--that is all.
And now, having such an auxiliary, you must do your best to show the
unbelievers that you are right.
I ought to try, I said, since you offer me such invaluable assistance. And
I think that, if there is to be a chance of our escaping, we must explain
to them whom we mean when we say that philosophers are to rule in the
State; then we shall be able to defend ourselves: There will be discovered
to be some natures who ought to study philosophy and to be leaders in the
State; and others who are not born to be philosophers, and are meant to be
followers rather than leaders.
Then now for a definition, he said.
Follow me, I said, and I hope that I may in some way or other be able to
give you a satisfactory explanation.
I dare say that you remember, and therefore I need not remind you, that a
lover, if he is worthy of the name, ought to show his love, not to some one
part of that which he loves, but to the whole.
I really do not understand, and therefore beg of you to assist my memory.
Another person, I said, might fairly reply as you do; but a man of pleasure
like yourself ought to know that all who are in the flower of youth do
somehow or other raise a pang or emotion in a lover's breast, and are
thought by him to be worthy of his affectionate regards. Is not this a way
which you have with the fair: one has a snub nose, and you praise his
charming face; the hook-nose of another has, you say, a royal look; while
he who is neither snub nor hooked has the grace of regularity: the dark
visage is manly, the fair are children of the gods; and as to the sweet
'honey pale,' as they are called, what is the very name but the invention
of a lover who talks in diminutives, and is not averse to paleness if
appearing on the cheek of youth? In a word, there is no excuse which you
will not make, and nothing which you will not say, in order not to lose a
single flower that blooms in the spring-time of youth.
If you make me an authority in matters of love, for the sake of the
argument, I assent.
And what do you say of lovers of wine? Do you not see them doing the same?
They are glad of any pretext of drinking any wine.
And the same is true of ambitious men; if they cannot command an army, they
are willing to command a file; and if they cannot be honoured by really
great and important persons, they are glad to be honoured by lesser and
meaner people,--but honour of some kind they must have.
Once more let me ask: Does he who desires any class of goods, desire the
whole class or a part only?
And may we not say of the philosopher that he is a lover, not of a part of
wisdom only, but of the whole?
Yes, of the whole.
And he who dislikes learning, especially in youth, when he has no power of
judging what is good and what is not, such an one we maintain not to be a
philosopher or a lover of knowledge, just as he who refuses his food is not
hungry, and may be said to have a bad appetite and not a good one?
Very true, he said.
Whereas he who has a taste for every sort of knowledge and who is curious
to learn and is never satisfied, may be justly termed a philosopher? Am I
Glaucon said: If curiosity makes a philosopher, you will find many a
strange being will have a title to the name. All the lovers of sights have
a delight in learning, and must therefore be included. Musical amateurs,
too, are a folk strangely out of place among philosophers, for they are the
last persons in the world who would come to anything like a philosophical
discussion, if they could help, while they run about at the Dionysiac
festivals as if they had let out their ears to hear every chorus; whether
the performance is in town or country--that makes no difference--they are
there. Now are we to maintain that all these and any who have similar
tastes, as well as the professors of quite minor arts, are philosophers?
Certainly not, I replied; they are only an imitation.
He said: Who then are the true philosophers?
Those, I said, who are lovers of the vision of truth.
That is also good, he said; but I should like to know what you mean?
To another, I replied, I might have a difficulty in explaining; but I am
sure that you will admit a proposition which I am about to make.
What is the proposition?
That since beauty is the opposite of ugliness, they are two?
And inasmuch as they are two, each of them is one?
And of just and unjust, good and evil, and of every other class, the same
remark holds: taken singly, each of them is one; but from the various
combinations of them with actions and things and with one another, they are
seen in all sorts of lights and appear many?
And this is the distinction which I draw between the sight-loving,
art-loving, practical class and those of whom I am speaking, and who are
alone worthy of the name of philosophers.
How do you distinguish them? he said.
The lovers of sounds and sights, I replied, are, as I conceive, fond of
fine tones and colours and forms and all the artificial products that are
made out of them, but their mind is incapable of seeing or loving absolute
True, he replied.
Few are they who are able to attain to the sight of this.
And he who, having a sense of beautiful things has no sense of absolute
beauty, or who, if another lead him to a knowledge of that beauty is unable
to follow--of such an one I ask, Is he awake or in a dream only? Reflect:
is not the dreamer, sleeping or waking, one who likens dissimilar things,
who puts the copy in the place of the real object?
I should certainly say that such an one was dreaming.
But take the case of the other, who recognises the existence of absolute
beauty and is able to distinguish the idea from the objects which
participate in the idea, neither putting the objects in the place of the
idea nor the idea in the place of the objects--is he a dreamer, or is he
He is wide awake.
And may we not say that the mind of the one who knows has knowledge, and
that the mind of the other, who opines only, has opinion?
But suppose that the latter should quarrel with us and dispute our
statement, can we administer any soothing cordial or advice to him, without
revealing to him that there is sad disorder in his wits?
We must certainly offer him some good advice, he replied.
Come, then, and let us think of something to say to him. Shall we begin by
assuring him that he is welcome to any knowledge which he may have, and
that we are rejoiced at his having it? But we should like to ask him a
question: Does he who has knowledge know something or nothing? (You must
answer for him.)
I answer that he knows something.
Something that is or is not?
Something that is; for how can that which is not ever be known?
And are we assured, after looking at the matter from many points of view,
that absolute being is or may be absolutely known, but that the utterly
non-existent is utterly unknown?
Nothing can be more certain.
Good. But if there be anything which is of such a nature as to be and not
to be, that will have a place intermediate between pure being and the
absolute negation of being?
Yes, between them.
And, as knowledge corresponded to being and ignorance of necessity to
not-being, for that intermediate between being and not-being there has to
be discovered a corresponding intermediate between ignorance and knowledge,
if there be such?
Do we admit the existence of opinion?
As being the same with knowledge, or another faculty?
Then opinion and knowledge have to do with different kinds of matter
corresponding to this difference of faculties?
And knowledge is relative to being and knows being. But before I proceed
further I will make a division.
I will begin by placing faculties in a class by themselves: they are
powers in us, and in all other things, by which we do as we do. Sight and
hearing, for example, I should call faculties. Have I clearly explained
the class which I mean?
Yes, I quite understand.
Then let me tell you my view about them. I do not see them, and therefore
the distinctions of figure, colour, and the like, which enable me to
discern the differences of some things, do not apply to them. In speaking
of a faculty I think only of its sphere and its result; and that which has
the same sphere and the same result I call the same faculty, but that which
has another sphere and another result I call different. Would that be your
way of speaking?
And will you be so very good as to answer one more question? Would you say
that knowledge is a faculty, or in what class would you place it?
Certainly knowledge is a faculty, and the mightiest of all faculties.
And is opinion also a faculty?
Certainly, he said; for opinion is that with which we are able to form an
And yet you were acknowledging a little while ago that knowledge is not the
same as opinion?
Why, yes, he said: how can any reasonable being ever identify that which
is infallible with that which errs?
An excellent answer, proving, I said, that we are quite conscious of a
distinction between them.
Then knowledge and opinion having distinct powers have also distinct
spheres or subject-matters?
That is certain.
Being is the sphere or subject-matter of knowledge, and knowledge is to
know the nature of being?
And opinion is to have an opinion?
And do we know what we opine? or is the subject-matter of opinion the same
as the subject-matter of knowledge?
Nay, he replied, that has been already disproven; if difference in faculty
implies difference in the sphere or subject-matter, and if, as we were
saying, opinion and knowledge are distinct faculties, then the sphere of
knowledge and of opinion cannot be the same.
Then if being is the subject-matter of knowledge, something else must be
the subject-matter of opinion?
Yes, something else.
Well then, is not-being the subject-matter of opinion? or, rather, how can
there be an opinion at all about not-being? Reflect: when a man has an
opinion, has he not an opinion about something? Can he have an opinion
which is an opinion about nothing?
He who has an opinion has an opinion about some one thing?
And not-being is not one thing but, properly speaking, nothing?
Of not-being, ignorance was assumed to be the necessary correlative; of
True, he said.
Then opinion is not concerned either with being or with not-being?
Not with either.
And can therefore neither be ignorance nor knowledge?
That seems to be true.
But is opinion to be sought without and beyond either of them, in a greater
clearness than knowledge, or in a greater darkness than ignorance?
Then I suppose that opinion appears to you to be darker than knowledge, but
lighter than ignorance?
Both; and in no small degree.
And also to be within and between them?
Then you would infer that opinion is intermediate?
But were we not saying before, that if anything appeared to be of a sort
which is and is not at the same time, that sort of thing would appear also
to lie in the interval between pure being and absolute not-being; and that
the corresponding faculty is neither knowledge nor ignorance, but will be
found in the interval between them?
And in that interval there has now been discovered something which we call
Then what remains to be discovered is the object which partakes equally of
the nature of being and not-being, and cannot rightly be termed either,
pure and simple; this unknown term, when discovered, we may truly call the
subject of opinion, and assign each to their proper faculty,--the extremes
to the faculties of the extremes and the mean to the faculty of the mean.
This being premised, I would ask the gentleman who is of opinion that there
is no absolute or unchangeable idea of beauty--in whose opinion the
beautiful is the manifold--he, I say, your lover of beautiful sights, who
cannot bear to be told that the beautiful is one, and the just is one, or
that anything is one--to him I would appeal, saying, Will you be so very
kind, sir, as to tell us whether, of all these beautiful things, there is
one which will not be found ugly; or of the just, which will not be found
unjust; or of the holy, which will not also be unholy?
No, he replied; the beautiful will in some point of view be found ugly; and
the same is true of the rest.
And may not the many which are doubles be also halves?--doubles, that is,
of one thing, and halves of another?
And things great and small, heavy and light, as they are termed, will not
be denoted by these any more than by the opposite names?
True; both these and the opposite names will always attach to all of them.
And can any one of those many things which are called by particular names
be said to be this rather than not to be this?
He replied: They are like the punning riddles which are asked at feasts or
the children's puzzle about the eunuch aiming at the bat, with what he hit
him, as they say in the puzzle, and upon what the bat was sitting. The
individual objects of which I am speaking are also a riddle, and have a
double sense: nor can you fix them in your mind, either as being or
not-being, or both, or neither.
Then what will you do with them? I said. Can they have a better place than
between being and not-being? For they are clearly not in greater darkness
or negation than not-being, or more full of light and existence than being.
That is quite true, he said.
Thus then we seem to have discovered that the many ideas which the
multitude entertain about the beautiful and about all other things are
tossing about in some region which is half-way between pure being and pure
Yes; and we had before agreed that anything of this kind which we might
find was to be described as matter of opinion, and not as matter of
knowledge; being the intermediate flux which is caught and detained by the
Then those who see the many beautiful, and who yet neither see absolute
beauty, nor can follow any guide who points the way thither; who see the
many just, and not absolute justice, and the like,--such persons may be
said to have opinion but not knowledge?
That is certain.
But those who see the absolute and eternal and immutable may be said to
know, and not to have opinion only?
Neither can that be denied.
The one love and embrace the subjects of knowledge, the other those of
opinion? The latter are the same, as I dare say you will remember, who
listened to sweet sounds and gazed upon fair colours, but would not
tolerate the existence of absolute beauty.
Yes, I remember.
Shall we then be guilty of any impropriety in calling them lovers of
opinion rather than lovers of wisdom, and will they be very angry with us
for thus describing them?
I shall tell them not to be angry; no man should be angry at what is true.
But those who love the truth in each thing are to be called lovers of
wisdom and not lovers of opinion.
And thus, Glaucon, after the argument has gone a weary way, the true and
the false philosophers have at length appeared in view.
I do not think, he said, that the way could have been shortened.
I suppose not, I said; and yet I believe that we might have had a better
view of both of them if the discussion could have been confined to this one
subject and if there were not many other questions awaiting us, which he
who desires to see in what respect the life of the just differs from that
of the unjust must consider.
And what is the next question? he asked.
Surely, I said, the one which follows next in order. Inasmuch as
philosophers only are able to grasp the eternal and unchangeable, and those
who wander in the region of the many and variable are not philosophers, I
must ask you which of the two classes should be the rulers of our State?
And how can we rightly answer that question?
Whichever of the two are best able to guard the laws and institutions of
our State--let them be our guardians.
Neither, I said, can there be any question that the guardian who is to keep
anything should have eyes rather than no eyes?
There can be no question of that.
And are not those who are verily and indeed wanting in the knowledge of the
true being of each thing, and who have in their souls no clear pattern, and
are unable as with a painter's eye to look at the absolute truth and to
that original to repair, and having perfect vision of the other world to
order the laws about beauty, goodness, justice in this, if not already
ordered, and to guard and preserve the order of them--are not such persons,
I ask, simply blind?
Truly, he replied, they are much in that condition.
And shall they be our guardians when there are others who, besides being
their equals in experience and falling short of them in no particular of
virtue, also know the very truth of each thing?
There can be no reason, he said, for rejecting those who have this greatest
of all great qualities; they must always have the first place unless they
fail in some other respect.
Suppose then, I said, that we determine how far they can unite this and the
By all means.
In the first place, as we began by observing, the nature of the philosopher
has to be ascertained. We must come to an understanding about him, and,
when we have done so, then, if I am not mistaken, we shall also acknowledge
that such an union of qualities is possible, and that those in whom they
are united, and those only, should be rulers in the State.
What do you mean?
Let us suppose that philosophical minds always love knowledge of a sort
which shows them the eternal nature not varying from generation and
And further, I said, let us agree that they are lovers of all true being;
there is no part whether greater or less, or more or less honourable, which
they are willing to renounce; as we said before of the lover and the man of
And if they are to be what we were describing, is there not another quality
which they should also possess?
Truthfulness: they will never intentionally receive into their mind
falsehood, which is their detestation, and they will love the truth.
Yes, that may be safely affirmed of them.
'May be,' my friend, I replied, is not the word; say rather 'must be
affirmed:' for he whose nature is amorous of anything cannot help loving
all that belongs or is akin to the object of his affections.
Right, he said.
And is there anything more akin to wisdom than truth?
How can there be?
Can the same nature be a lover of wisdom and a lover of falsehood?
The true lover of learning then must from his earliest youth, as far as in
him lies, desire all truth?
But then again, as we know by experience, he whose desires are strong in
one direction will have them weaker in others; they will be like a stream
which has been drawn off into another channel.
He whose desires are drawn towards knowledge in every form will be absorbed
in the pleasures of the soul, and will hardly feel bodily pleasure--I mean,
if he be a true philosopher and not a sham one.
That is most certain.
Such an one is sure to be temperate and the reverse of covetous; for the
motives which make another man desirous of having and spending, have no
place in his character.
Another criterion of the philosophical nature has also to be considered.
What is that?
There should be no secret corner of illiberality; nothing can be more
antagonistic than meanness to a soul which is ever longing after the whole
of things both divine and human.
Most true, he replied.
Then how can he who has magnificence of mind and is the spectator of all
time and all existence, think much of human life?
Or can such an one account death fearful?
Then the cowardly and mean nature has no part in true philosophy?
Or again: can he who is harmoniously constituted, who is not covetous or
mean, or a boaster, or a coward--can he, I say, ever be unjust or hard in
Then you will soon observe whether a man is just and gentle, or rude and
unsociable; these are the signs which distinguish even in youth the
philosophical nature from the unphilosophical.
There is another point which should be remarked.
Whether he has or has not a pleasure in learning; for no one will love that
which gives him pain, and in which after much toil he makes little
And again, if he is forgetful and retains nothing of what he learns, will
he not be an empty vessel?
That is certain.
Labouring in vain, he must end in hating himself and his fruitless
Then a soul which forgets cannot be ranked among genuine philosophic
natures; we must insist that the philosopher should have a good memory?
And once more, the inharmonious and unseemly nature can only tend to
And do you consider truth to be akin to proportion or to disproportion?
Then, besides other qualities, we must try to find a naturally
well-proportioned and gracious mind, which will move spontaneously towards
the true being of everything.
Well, and do not all these qualities, which we have been enumerating, go
together, and are they not, in a manner, necessary to a soul, which is to
have a full and perfect participation of being?
They are absolutely necessary, he replied.
And must not that be a blameless study which he only can pursue who has the
gift of a good memory, and is quick to learn,--noble, gracious, the friend
of truth, justice, courage, temperance, who are his kindred?
The god of jealousy himself, he said, could find no fault with such a
And to men like him, I said, when perfected by years and education, and to
these only you will entrust the State.
Here Adeimantus interposed and said: To these statements, Socrates, no one
can offer a reply; but when you talk in this way, a strange feeling passes
over the minds of your hearers: They fancy that they are led astray a
little at each step in the argument, owing to their own want of skill in
asking and answering questions; these littles accumulate, and at the end of
the discussion they are found to have sustained a mighty overthrow and all
their former notions appear to be turned upside down. And as unskilful
players of draughts are at last shut up by their more skilful adversaries
and have no piece to move, so they too find themselves shut up at last; for
they have nothing to say in this new game of which words are the counters;
and yet all the time they are in the right. The observation is suggested
to me by what is now occurring. For any one of us might say, that although
in words he is not able to meet you at each step of the argument, he sees
as a fact that the votaries of philosophy, when they carry on the study,
not only in youth as a part of education, but as the pursuit of their
maturer years, most of them become strange monsters, not to say utter
rogues, and that those who may be considered the best of them are made
useless to the world by the very study which you extol.
Well, and do you think that those who say so are wrong?
I cannot tell, he replied; but I should like to know what is your opinion.
Hear my answer; I am of opinion that they are quite right.
Then how can you be justified in saying that cities will not cease from
evil until philosophers rule in them, when philosophers are acknowledged by
us to be of no use to them?
You ask a question, I said, to which a reply can only be given in a
Yes, Socrates; and that is a way of speaking to which you are not at all
accustomed, I suppose.
I perceive, I said, that you are vastly amused at having plunged me into
such a hopeless discussion; but now hear the parable, and then you will be
still more amused at the meagreness of my imagination: for the manner in
which the best men are treated in their own States is so grievous that no
single thing on earth is comparable to it; and therefore, if I am to plead
their cause, I must have recourse to fiction, and put together a figure
made up of many things, like the fabulous unions of goats and stags which
are found in pictures. Imagine then a fleet or a ship in which there is a
captain who is taller and stronger than any of the crew, but he is a little
deaf and has a similar infirmity in sight, and his knowledge of navigation
is not much better. The sailors are quarrelling with one another about the
steering--every one is of opinion that he has a right to steer, though he
has never learned the art of navigation and cannot tell who taught him or
when he learned, and will further assert that it cannot be taught, and they
are ready to cut in pieces any one who says the contrary. They throng
about the captain, begging and praying him to commit the helm to them; and
if at any time they do not prevail, but others are preferred to them, they
kill the others or throw them overboard, and having first chained up the
noble captain's senses with drink or some narcotic drug, they mutiny and
take possession of the ship and make free with the stores; thus, eating and
drinking, they proceed on their voyage in such manner as might be expected
of them. Him who is their partisan and cleverly aids them in their plot
for getting the ship out of the captain's hands into their own whether by
force or persuasion, they compliment with the name of sailor, pilot, able
seaman, and abuse the other sort of man, whom they call a good-for-nothing;
but that the true pilot must pay attention to the year and seasons and sky
and stars and winds, and whatever else belongs to his art, if he intends to
be really qualified for the command of a ship, and that he must and will be
the steerer, whether other people like or not--the possibility of this
union of authority with the steerer's art has never seriously entered into
their thoughts or been made part of their calling. Now in vessels which
are in a state of mutiny and by sailors who are mutineers, how will the
true pilot be regarded? Will he not be called by them a prater, a
star-gazer, a good-for-nothing?
Of course, said Adeimantus.
Then you will hardly need, I said, to hear the interpretation of the
figure, which describes the true philosopher in his relation to the State;
for you understand already.
Then suppose you now take this parable to the gentleman who is surprised at
finding that philosophers have no honour in their cities; explain it to him
and try to convince him that their having honour would be far more
Say to him, that, in deeming the best votaries of philosophy to be useless
to the rest of the world, he is right; but also tell him to attribute their
uselessness to the fault of those who will not use them, and not to
themselves. The pilot should not humbly beg the sailors to be commanded by
him--that is not the order of nature; neither are 'the wise to go to the
doors of the rich'--the ingenious author of this saying told a lie--but the
truth is, that, when a man is ill, whether he be rich or poor, to the
physician he must go, and he who wants to be governed, to him who is able
to govern. The ruler who is good for anything ought not to beg his
subjects to be ruled by him; although the present governors of mankind are
of a different stamp; they may be justly compared to the mutinous sailors,
and the true helmsmen to those who are called by them good-for-nothings and
Precisely so, he said.
For these reasons, and among men like these, philosophy, the noblest
pursuit of all, is not likely to be much esteemed by those of the opposite
faction; not that the greatest and most lasting injury is done to her by
her opponents, but by her own professing followers, the same of whom you
suppose the accuser to say, that the greater number of them are arrant
rogues, and the best are useless; in which opinion I agreed.
And the reason why the good are useless has now been explained?
Then shall we proceed to show that the corruption of the majority is also
unavoidable, and that this is not to be laid to the charge of philosophy
any more than the other?
By all means.
And let us ask and answer in turn, first going back to the description of
the gentle and noble nature. Truth, as you will remember, was his leader,
whom he followed always and in all things; failing in this, he was an
impostor, and had no part or lot in true philosophy.
Yes, that was said.
Well, and is not this one quality, to mention no others, greatly at
variance with present notions of him?
Certainly, he said.
And have we not a right to say in his defence, that the true lover of
knowledge is always striving after being--that is his nature; he will not
rest in the multiplicity of individuals which is an appearance only, but
will go on--the keen edge will not be blunted, nor the force of his desire
abate until he have attained the knowledge of the true nature of every
essence by a sympathetic and kindred power in the soul, and by that power
drawing near and mingling and becoming incorporate with very being, having
begotten mind and truth, he will have knowledge and will live and grow
truly, and then, and not till then, will he cease from his travail.
Nothing, he said, can be more just than such a description of him.
And will the love of a lie be any part of a philosopher's nature? Will he
not utterly hate a lie?
And when truth is the captain, we cannot suspect any evil of the band which
Justice and health of mind will be of the company, and temperance will
True, he replied.
Neither is there any reason why I should again set in array the
philosopher's virtues, as you will doubtless remember that courage,
magnificence, apprehension, memory, were his natural gifts. And you
objected that, although no one could deny what I then said, still, if you
leave words and look at facts, the persons who are thus described are some
of them manifestly useless, and the greater number utterly depraved; we
were then led to enquire into the grounds of these accusations, and have
now arrived at the point of asking why are the majority bad, which question
of necessity brought us back to the examination and definition of the true
And we have next to consider the corruptions of the philosophic nature, why
so many are spoiled and so few escape spoiling--I am speaking of those who
were said to be useless but not wicked--and, when we have done with them,
we will speak of the imitators of philosophy, what manner of men are they
who aspire after a profession which is above them and of which they are
unworthy, and then, by their manifold inconsistencies, bring upon
philosophy, and upon all philosophers, that universal reprobation of which
What are these corruptions? he said.
I will see if I can explain them to you. Every one will admit that a
nature having in perfection all the qualities which we required in a
philosopher, is a rare plant which is seldom seen among men.
And what numberless and powerful causes tend to destroy these rare natures!
In the first place there are their own virtues, their courage, temperance,
and the rest of them, every one of which praiseworthy qualities (and this
is a most singular circumstance) destroys and distracts from philosophy the
soul which is the possessor of them.
That is very singular, he replied.
Then there are all the ordinary goods of life--beauty, wealth, strength,
rank, and great connections in the State--you understand the sort of
things--these also have a corrupting and distracting effect.
I understand; but I should like to know more precisely what you mean about
Grasp the truth as a whole, I said, and in the right way; you will then
have no difficulty in apprehending the preceding remarks, and they will no
longer appear strange to you.
And how am I to do so? he asked.
Why, I said, we know that all germs or seeds, whether vegetable or animal,
when they fail to meet with proper nutriment or climate or soil, in
proportion to their vigour, are all the more sensitive to the want of a
suitable environment, for evil is a greater enemy to what is good than to
what is not.
There is reason in supposing that the finest natures, when under alien
conditions, receive more injury than the inferior, because the contrast is
And may we not say, Adeimantus, that the most gifted minds, when they are
ill-educated, become pre-eminently bad? Do not great crimes and the spirit
of pure evil spring out of a fulness of nature ruined by education rather
than from any inferiority, whereas weak natures are scarcely capable of any
very great good or very great evil?
There I think that you are right.
And our philosopher follows the same analogy--he is like a plant which,
having proper nurture, must necessarily grow and mature into all virtue,
but, if sown and planted in an alien soil, becomes the most noxious of all
weeds, unless he be preserved by some divine power. Do you really think,
as people so often say, that our youth are corrupted by Sophists, or that
private teachers of the art corrupt them in any degree worth speaking of?
Are not the public who say these things the greatest of all Sophists? And
do they not educate to perfection young and old, men and women alike, and
fashion them after their own hearts?
When is this accomplished? he said.
When they meet together, and the world sits down at an assembly, or in a
court of law, or a theatre, or a camp, or in any other popular resort, and
there is a great uproar, and they praise some things which are being said
or done, and blame other things, equally exaggerating both, shouting and
clapping their hands, and the echo of the rocks and the place in which they
are assembled redoubles the sound of the praise or blame--at such a time
will not a young man's heart, as they say, leap within him? Will any
private training enable him to stand firm against the overwhelming flood of
popular opinion? or will he be carried away by the stream? Will he not
have the notions of good and evil which the public in general have--he will
do as they do, and as they are, such will he be?
Yes, Socrates; necessity will compel him.
And yet, I said, there is a still greater necessity, which has not been
What is that?
The gentle force of attainder or confiscation or death, which, as you are
aware, these new Sophists and educators, who are the public, apply when
their words are powerless.
Indeed they do; and in right good earnest.
Now what opinion of any other Sophist, or of any private person, can be
expected to overcome in such an unequal contest?
None, he replied.
No, indeed, I said, even to make the attempt is a great piece of folly;
there neither is, nor has been, nor is ever likely to be, any different
type of character which has had no other training in virtue but that which
is supplied by public opinion--I speak, my friend, of human virtue only;
what is more than human, as the proverb says, is not included: for I would
not have you ignorant that, in the present evil state of governments,
whatever is saved and comes to good is saved by the power of God, as we may
I quite assent, he replied.
Then let me crave your assent also to a further observation.
What are you going to say?
Why, that all those mercenary individuals, whom the many call Sophists and
whom they deem to be their adversaries, do, in fact, teach nothing but the
opinion of the many, that is to say, the opinions of their assemblies; and
this is their wisdom. I might compare them to a man who should study the
tempers and desires of a mighty strong beast who is fed by him--he would
learn how to approach and handle him, also at what times and from what
causes he is dangerous or the reverse, and what is the meaning of his
several cries, and by what sounds, when another utters them, he is soothed
or infuriated; and you may suppose further, that when, by continually
attending upon him, he has become perfect in all this, he calls his
knowledge wisdom, and makes of it a system or art, which he proceeds to
teach, although he has no real notion of what he means by the principles or
passions of which he is speaking, but calls this honourable and that
dishonourable, or good or evil, or just or unjust, all in accordance with
the tastes and tempers of the great brute. Good he pronounces to be that
in which the beast delights and evil to be that which he dislikes; and he
can give no other account of them except that the just and noble are the
necessary, having never himself seen, and having no power of explaining to
others the nature of either, or the difference between them, which is
immense. By heaven, would not such an one be a rare educator?
Indeed he would.
And in what way does he who thinks that wisdom is the discernment of the
tempers and tastes of the motley multitude, whether in painting or music,
or, finally, in politics, differ from him whom I have been describing? For
when a man consorts with the many, and exhibits to them his poem or other
work of art or the service which he has done the State, making them his
judges when he is not obliged, the so-called necessity of Diomede will
oblige him to produce whatever they praise. And yet the reasons are
utterly ludicrous which they give in confirmation of their own notions
about the honourable and good. Did you ever hear any of them which were
No, nor am I likely to hear.
You recognise the truth of what I have been saying? Then let me ask you to
consider further whether the world will ever be induced to believe in the
existence of absolute beauty rather than of the many beautiful, or of the
absolute in each kind rather than of the many in each kind?
Then the world cannot possibly be a philosopher?
And therefore philosophers must inevitably fall under the censure of the
And of individuals who consort with the mob and seek to please them?
That is evident.
Then, do you see any way in which the philosopher can be preserved in his
calling to the end? and remember what we were saying of him, that he was to
have quickness and memory and courage and magnificence--these were admitted
by us to be the true philosopher's gifts.
Will not such an one from his early childhood be in all things first among
all, especially if his bodily endowments are like his mental ones?
Certainly, he said.
And his friends and fellow-citizens will want to use him as he gets older
for their own purposes?
Falling at his feet, they will make requests to him and do him honour and
flatter him, because they want to get into their hands now, the power which
he will one day possess.
That often happens, he said.
And what will a man such as he is be likely to do under such circumstances,
especially if he be a citizen of a great city, rich and noble, and a tall
proper youth? Will he not be full of boundless aspirations, and fancy
himself able to manage the affairs of Hellenes and of barbarians, and
having got such notions into his head will he not dilate and elevate
himself in the fulness of vain pomp and senseless pride?
To be sure he will.
Now, when he is in this state of mind, if some one gently comes to him and
tells him that he is a fool and must get understanding, which can only be
got by slaving for it, do you think that, under such adverse circumstances,
he will be easily induced to listen?
And even if there be some one who through inherent goodness or natural
reasonableness has had his eyes opened a little and is humbled and taken
captive by philosophy, how will his friends behave when they think that
they are likely to lose the advantage which they were hoping to reap from
his companionship? Will they not do and say anything to prevent him from
yielding to his better nature and to render his teacher powerless, using to
this end private intrigues as well as public prosecutions?
There can be no doubt of it.
And how can one who is thus circumstanced ever become a philosopher?
Then were we not right in saying that even the very qualities which make a
man a philosopher may, if he be ill-educated, divert him from philosophy,
no less than riches and their accompaniments and the other so-called goods
We were quite right.
Thus, my excellent friend, is brought about all that ruin and failure which
I have been describing of the natures best adapted to the best of all
pursuits; they are natures which we maintain to be rare at any time; this
being the class out of which come the men who are the authors of the
greatest evil to States and individuals; and also of the greatest good when
the tide carries them in that direction; but a small man never was the doer
of any great thing either to individuals or to States.
That is most true, he said.
And so philosophy is left desolate, with her marriage rite incomplete: for
her own have fallen away and forsaken her, and while they are leading a
false and unbecoming life, other unworthy persons, seeing that she has no
kinsmen to be her protectors, enter in and dishonour her; and fasten upon
her the reproaches which, as you say, her reprovers utter, who affirm of
her votaries that some are good for nothing, and that the greater number
deserve the severest punishment.
That is certainly what people say.
Yes; and what else would you expect, I said, when you think of the puny
creatures who, seeing this land open to them--a land well stocked with fair
names and showy titles--like prisoners running out of prison into a
sanctuary, take a leap out of their trades into philosophy; those who do so
being probably the cleverest hands at their own miserable crafts? For,
although philosophy be in this evil case, still there remains a dignity
about her which is not to be found in the arts. And many are thus
attracted by her whose natures are imperfect and whose souls are maimed and
disfigured by their meannesses, as their bodies are by their trades and
crafts. Is not this unavoidable?
Are they not exactly like a bald little tinker who has just got out of
durance and come into a fortune; he takes a bath and puts on a new coat,
and is decked out as a bridegroom going to marry his master's daughter, who
is left poor and desolate?
A most exact parallel.
What will be the issue of such marriages? Will they not be vile and
There can be no question of it.
And when persons who are unworthy of education approach philosophy and make
an alliance with her who is in a rank above them what sort of ideas and
opinions are likely to be generated? Will they not be sophisms captivating
to the ear, having nothing in them genuine, or worthy of or akin to true
No doubt, he said.
Then, Adeimantus, I said, the worthy disciples of philosophy will be but a
small remnant: perchance some noble and well-educated person, detained by
exile in her service, who in the absence of corrupting influences remains
devoted to her; or some lofty soul born in a mean city, the politics of
which he contemns and neglects; and there may be a gifted few who leave the
arts, which they justly despise, and come to her;--or peradventure there
are some who are restrained by our friend Theages' bridle; for everything
in the life of Theages conspired to divert him from philosophy; but
ill-health kept him away from politics. My own case of the internal sign
is hardly worth mentioning, for rarely, if ever, has such a monitor been
given to any other man. Those who belong to this small class have tasted
how sweet and blessed a possession philosophy is, and have also seen enough
of the madness of the multitude; and they know that no politician is
honest, nor is there any champion of justice at whose side they may fight
and be saved. Such an one may be compared to a man who has fallen among
wild beasts--he will not join in the wickedness of his fellows, but neither
is he able singly to resist all their fierce natures, and therefore seeing
that he would be of no use to the State or to his friends, and reflecting
that he would have to throw away his life without doing any good either to
himself or others, he holds his peace, and goes his own way. He is like
one who, in the storm of dust and sleet which the driving wind hurries
along, retires under the shelter of a wall; and seeing the rest of mankind
full of wickedness, he is content, if only he can live his own life and be
pure from evil or unrighteousness, and depart in peace and good-will, with
Yes, he said, and he will have done a great work before he departs.
A great work--yes; but not the greatest, unless he find a State suitable to
him; for in a State which is suitable to him, he will have a larger growth
and be the saviour of his country, as well as of himself.
The causes why philosophy is in such an evil name have now been
sufficiently explained: the injustice of the charges against her has been
shown--is there anything more which you wish to say?
Nothing more on that subject, he replied; but I should like to know which
of the governments now existing is in your opinion the one adapted to her.
Not any of them, I said; and that is precisely the accusation which I bring
against them--not one of them is worthy of the philosophic nature, and
hence that nature is warped and estranged;--as the exotic seed which is
sown in a foreign land becomes denaturalized, and is wont to be overpowered
and to lose itself in the new soil, even so this growth of philosophy,
instead of persisting, degenerates and receives another character. But if
philosophy ever finds in the State that perfection which she herself is,
then will be seen that she is in truth divine, and that all other things,
whether natures of men or institutions, are but human;--and now, I know,
that you are going to ask, What that State is:
No, he said; there you are wrong, for I was going to ask another question--
whether it is the State of which we are the founders and inventors, or some
Yes, I replied, ours in most respects; but you may remember my saying
before, that some living authority would always be required in the State
having the same idea of the constitution which guided you when as
legislator you were laying down the laws.
That was said, he replied.
Yes, but not in a satisfactory manner; you frightened us by interposing
objections, which certainly showed that the discussion would be long and
difficult; and what still remains is the reverse of easy.
What is there remaining?
The question how the study of philosophy may be so ordered as not to be the
ruin of the State: All great attempts are attended with risk; 'hard is the
good,' as men say.
Still, he said, let the point be cleared up, and the enquiry will then be
I shall not be hindered, I said, by any want of will, but, if at all, by a
want of power: my zeal you may see for yourselves; and please to remark in
what I am about to say how boldly and unhesitatingly I declare that States
should pursue philosophy, not as they do now, but in a different spirit.
In what manner?
At present, I said, the students of philosophy are quite young; beginning
when they are hardly past childhood, they devote only the time saved from
moneymaking and housekeeping to such pursuits; and even those of them who
are reputed to have most of the philosophic spirit, when they come within
sight of the great difficulty of the subject, I mean dialectic, take
themselves off. In after life when invited by some one else, they may,
perhaps, go and hear a lecture, and about this they make much ado, for
philosophy is not considered by them to be their proper business: at last,
when they grow old, in most cases they are extinguished more truly than
Heracleitus' sun, inasmuch as they never light up again. (Heraclitus said
that the sun was extinguished every evening and relighted every morning.)
But what ought to be their course?
Just the opposite. In childhood and youth their study, and what philosophy
they learn, should be suited to their tender years: during this period
while they are growing up towards manhood, the chief and special care
should be given to their bodies that they may have them to use in the
service of philosophy; as life advances and the intellect begins to mature,
let them increase the gymnastics of the soul; but when the strength of our
citizens fails and is past civil and military duties, then let them range
at will and engage in no serious labour, as we intend them to live happily
here, and to crown this life with a similar happiness in another.
How truly in earnest you are, Socrates! he said; I am sure of that; and yet
most of your hearers, if I am not mistaken, are likely to be still more
earnest in their opposition to you, and will never be convinced;
Thrasymachus least of all.
Do not make a quarrel, I said, between Thrasymachus and me, who have
recently become friends, although, indeed, we were never enemies; for I
shall go on striving to the utmost until I either convert him and other
men, or do something which may profit them against the day when they live
again, and hold the like discourse in another state of existence.
You are speaking of a time which is not very near.
Rather, I replied, of a time which is as nothing in comparison with
eternity. Nevertheless, I do not wonder that the many refuse to believe;
for they have never seen that of which we are now speaking realized; they
have seen only a conventional imitation of philosophy, consisting of words
artificially brought together, not like these of ours having a natural
unity. But a human being who in word and work is perfectly moulded, as far
as he can be, into the proportion and likeness of virtue--such a man ruling
in a city which bears the same image, they have never yet seen, neither one
nor many of them--do you think that they ever did?
No, my friend, and they have seldom, if ever, heard free and noble
sentiments; such as men utter when they are earnestly and by every means in
their power seeking after truth for the sake of knowledge, while they look
coldly on the subtleties of controversy, of which the end is opinion and
strife, whether they meet with them in the courts of law or in society.
They are strangers, he said, to the words of which you speak.
And this was what we foresaw, and this was the reason why truth forced us
to admit, not without fear and hesitation, that neither cities nor States
nor individuals will ever attain perfection until the small class of
philosophers whom we termed useless but not corrupt are providentially
compelled, whether they will or not, to take care of the State, and until a
like necessity be laid on the State to obey them; or until kings, or if not
kings, the sons of kings or princes, are divinely inspired with a true love
of true philosophy. That either or both of these alternatives are
impossible, I see no reason to affirm: if they were so, we might indeed be
justly ridiculed as dreamers and visionaries. Am I not right?
If then, in the countless ages of the past, or at the present hour in some
foreign clime which is far away and beyond our ken, the perfected
philosopher is or has been or hereafter shall be compelled by a superior
power to have the charge of the State, we are ready to assert to the death,
that this our constitution has been, and is--yea, and will be whenever the
Muse of Philosophy is queen. There is no impossibility in all this; that
there is a difficulty, we acknowledge ourselves.
My opinion agrees with yours, he said.
But do you mean to say that this is not the opinion of the multitude?
I should imagine not, he replied.
O my friend, I said, do not attack the multitude: they will change their
minds, if, not in an aggressive spirit, but gently and with the view of
soothing them and removing their dislike of over-education, you show them
your philosophers as they really are and describe as you were just now
doing their character and profession, and then mankind will see that he of
whom you are speaking is not such as they supposed--if they view him in
this new light, they will surely change their notion of him, and answer in
another strain. Who can be at enmity with one who loves them, who that is
himself gentle and free from envy will be jealous of one in whom there is
no jealousy? Nay, let me answer for you, that in a few this harsh temper
may be found but not in the majority of mankind.
I quite agree with you, he said.
And do you not also think, as I do, that the harsh feeling which the many
entertain towards philosophy originates in the pretenders, who rush in
uninvited, and are always abusing them, and finding fault with them, who
make persons instead of things the theme of their conversation? and nothing
can be more unbecoming in philosophers than this.
It is most unbecoming.
For he, Adeimantus, whose mind is fixed upon true being, has surely no time
to look down upon the affairs of earth, or to be filled with malice and
envy, contending against men; his eye is ever directed towards things fixed
and immutable, which he sees neither injuring nor injured by one another,
but all in order moving according to reason; these he imitates, and to
these he will, as far as he can, conform himself. Can a man help imitating
that with which he holds reverential converse?
And the philosopher holding converse with the divine order, becomes orderly
and divine, as far as the nature of man allows; but like every one else, he
will suffer from detraction.
And if a necessity be laid upon him of fashioning, not only himself, but
human nature generally, whether in States or individuals, into that which
he beholds elsewhere, will he, think you, be an unskilful artificer of
justice, temperance, and every civil virtue?
Anything but unskilful.
And if the world perceives that what we are saying about him is the truth,
will they be angry with philosophy? Will they disbelieve us, when we tell
them that no State can be happy which is not designed by artists who
imitate the heavenly pattern?
They will not be angry if they understand, he said. But how will they draw
out the plan of which you are speaking?
They will begin by taking the State and the manners of men, from which, as
from a tablet, they will rub out the picture, and leave a clean surface.
This is no easy task. But whether easy or not, herein will lie the
difference between them and every other legislator,--they will have nothing
to do either with individual or State, and will inscribe no laws, until
they have either found, or themselves made, a clean surface.
They will be very right, he said.
Having effected this, they will proceed to trace an outline of the
And when they are filling in the work, as I conceive, they will often turn
their eyes upwards and downwards: I mean that they will first look at
absolute justice and beauty and temperance, and again at the human copy;
and will mingle and temper the various elements of life into the image of a
man; and this they will conceive according to that other image, which, when
existing among men, Homer calls the form and likeness of God.
Very true, he said.
And one feature they will erase, and another they will put in, until they
have made the ways of men, as far as possible, agreeable to the ways of
Indeed, he said, in no way could they make a fairer picture.
And now, I said, are we beginning to persuade those whom you described as
rushing at us with might and main, that the painter of constitutions is
such an one as we are praising; at whom they were so very indignant because
to his hands we committed the State; and are they growing a little calmer
at what they have just heard?
Much calmer, if there is any sense in them.
Why, where can they still find any ground for objection? Will they doubt
that the philosopher is a lover of truth and being?
They would not be so unreasonable.
Or that his nature, being such as we have delineated, is akin to the
Neither can they doubt this.
But again, will they tell us that such a nature, placed under favourable
circumstances, will not be perfectly good and wise if any ever was? Or
will they prefer those whom we have rejected?
Then will they still be angry at our saying, that, until philosophers bear
rule, States and individuals will have no rest from evil, nor will this our
imaginary State ever be realized?
I think that they will be less angry.
Shall we assume that they are not only less angry but quite gentle, and
that they have been converted and for very shame, if for no other reason,
cannot refuse to come to terms?
By all means, he said.
Then let us suppose that the reconciliation has been effected. Will any
one deny the other point, that there may be sons of kings or princes who
are by nature philosophers?
Surely no man, he said.
And when they have come into being will any one say that they must of
necessity be destroyed; that they can hardly be saved is not denied even by
us; but that in the whole course of ages no single one of them can escape--
who will venture to affirm this?
But, said I, one is enough; let there be one man who has a city obedient to
his will, and he might bring into existence the ideal polity about which
the world is so incredulous.
Yes, one is enough.
The ruler may impose the laws and institutions which we have been
describing, and the citizens may possibly be willing to obey them?
And that others should approve, of what we approve, is no miracle or
I think not.
But we have sufficiently shown, in what has preceded, that all this, if
only possible, is assuredly for the best.
And now we say not only that our laws, if they could be enacted, would be
for the best, but also that the enactment of them, though difficult, is not
And so with pain and toil we have reached the end of one subject, but more
remains to be discussed;--how and by what studies and pursuits will the
saviours of the constitution be created, and at what ages are they to apply
themselves to their several studies?
I omitted the troublesome business of the possession of women, and the
procreation of children, and the appointment of the rulers, because I knew
that the perfect State would be eyed with jealousy and was difficult of
attainment; but that piece of cleverness was not of much service to me, for
I had to discuss them all the same. The women and children are now
disposed of, but the other question of the rulers must be investigated from
the very beginning. We were saying, as you will remember, that they were
to be lovers of their country, tried by the test of pleasures and pains,
and neither in hardships, nor in dangers, nor at any other critical moment
were to lose their patriotism--he was to be rejected who failed, but he who
always came forth pure, like gold tried in the refiner's fire, was to be
made a ruler, and to receive honours and rewards in life and after death.
This was the sort of thing which was being said, and then the argument
turned aside and veiled her face; not liking to stir the question which has
I perfectly remember, he said.
Yes, my friend, I said, and I then shrank from hazarding the bold word; but
now let me dare to say--that the perfect guardian must be a philosopher.
Yes, he said, let that be affirmed.
And do not suppose that there will be many of them; for the gifts which
were deemed by us to be essential rarely grow together; they are mostly
found in shreds and patches.
What do you mean? he said.
You are aware, I replied, that quick intelligence, memory, sagacity,
cleverness, and similar qualities, do not often grow together, and that
persons who possess them and are at the same time high-spirited and
magnanimous are not so constituted by nature as to live orderly and in a
peaceful and settled manner; they are driven any way by their impulses, and
all solid principle goes out of them.
Very true, he said.
On the other hand, those steadfast natures which can better be depended
upon, which in a battle are impregnable to fear and immovable, are equally
immovable when there is anything to be learned; they are always in a torpid
state, and are apt to yawn and go to sleep over any intellectual toil.
And yet we were saying that both qualities were necessary in those to whom
the higher education is to be imparted, and who are to share in any office
Certainly, he said.
And will they be a class which is rarely found?
Then the aspirant must not only be tested in those labours and dangers and
pleasures which we mentioned before, but there is another kind of probation
which we did not mention--he must be exercised also in many kinds of
knowledge, to see whether the soul will be able to endure the highest of
all, or will faint under them, as in any other studies and exercises.
Yes, he said, you are quite right in testing him. But what do you mean by
the highest of all knowledge?
You may remember, I said, that we divided the soul into three parts; and
distinguished the several natures of justice, temperance, courage, and
Indeed, he said, if I had forgotten, I should not deserve to hear more.
And do you remember the word of caution which preceded the discussion of
To what do you refer?
We were saying, if I am not mistaken, that he who wanted to see them in
their perfect beauty must take a longer and more circuitous way, at the end
of which they would appear; but that we could add on a popular exposition
of them on a level with the discussion which had preceded. And you replied
that such an exposition would be enough for you, and so the enquiry was
continued in what to me seemed to be a very inaccurate manner; whether you
were satisfied or not, it is for you to say.
Yes, he said, I thought and the others thought that you gave us a fair
measure of truth.
But, my friend, I said, a measure of such things which in any degree falls
short of the whole truth is not fair measure; for nothing imperfect is the
measure of anything, although persons are too apt to be contented and think
that they need search no further.
Not an uncommon case when people are indolent.
Yes, I said; and there cannot be any worse fault in a guardian of the State
and of the laws.
The guardian then, I said, must be required to take the longer circuit, and
toil at learning as well as at gymnastics, or he will never reach the
highest knowledge of all which, as we were just now saying, is his proper
What, he said, is there a knowledge still higher than this--higher than
justice and the other virtues?
Yes, I said, there is. And of the virtues too we must behold not the
outline merely, as at present--nothing short of the most finished picture
should satisfy us. When little things are elaborated with an infinity of
pains, in order that they may appear in their full beauty and utmost
clearness, how ridiculous that we should not think the highest truths
worthy of attaining the highest accuracy!
A right noble thought; but do you suppose that we shall refrain from asking
you what is this highest knowledge?
Nay, I said, ask if you will; but I am certain that you have heard the
answer many times, and now you either do not understand me or, as I rather
think, you are disposed to be troublesome; for you have often been told
that the idea of good is the highest knowledge, and that all other things
become useful and advantageous only by their use of this. You can hardly
be ignorant that of this I was about to speak, concerning which, as you
have often heard me say, we know so little; and, without which, any other
knowledge or possession of any kind will profit us nothing. Do you think
that the possession of all other things is of any value if we do not
possess the good? or the knowledge of all other things if we have no
knowledge of beauty and goodness?
You are further aware that most people affirm pleasure to be the good, but
the finer sort of wits say it is knowledge?
And you are aware too that the latter cannot explain what they mean by
knowledge, but are obliged after all to say knowledge of the good?
Yes, I said, that they should begin by reproaching us with our ignorance of
the good, and then presume our knowledge of it--for the good they define to
be knowledge of the good, just as if we understood them when they use the
term 'good'--this is of course ridiculous.
Most true, he said.
And those who make pleasure their good are in equal perplexity; for they
are compelled to admit that there are bad pleasures as well as good.
And therefore to acknowledge that bad and good are the same?
There can be no doubt about the numerous difficulties in which this
question is involved.
There can be none.
Further, do we not see that many are willing to do or to have or to seem to
be what is just and honourable without the reality; but no one is satisfied
with the appearance of good--the reality is what they seek; in the case of
the good, appearance is despised by every one.
Very true, he said.
Of this then, which every soul of man pursues and makes the end of all his
actions, having a presentiment that there is such an end, and yet
hesitating because neither knowing the nature nor having the same assurance
of this as of other things, and therefore losing whatever good there is in
other things,--of a principle such and so great as this ought the best men
in our State, to whom everything is entrusted, to be in the darkness of
Certainly not, he said.
I am sure, I said, that he who does not know how the beautiful and the just
are likewise good will be but a sorry guardian of them; and I suspect that
no one who is ignorant of the good will have a true knowledge of them.
That, he said, is a shrewd suspicion of yours.
And if we only have a guardian who has this knowledge our State will be
Of course, he replied; but I wish that you would tell me whether you
conceive this supreme principle of the good to be knowledge or pleasure, or
different from either?
Aye, I said, I knew all along that a fastidious gentleman like you would
not be contented with the thoughts of other people about these matters.
True, Socrates; but I must say that one who like you has passed a lifetime
in the study of philosophy should not be always repeating the opinions of
others, and never telling his own.
Well, but has any one a right to say positively what he does not know?
Not, he said, with the assurance of positive certainty; he has no right to
do that: but he may say what he thinks, as a matter of opinion.
And do you not know, I said, that all mere opinions are bad, and the best
of them blind? You would not deny that those who have any true notion
without intelligence are only like blind men who feel their way along the
And do you wish to behold what is blind and crooked and base, when others
will tell you of brightness and beauty?
Still, I must implore you, Socrates, said Glaucon, not to turn away just as
you are reaching the goal; if you will only give such an explanation of the
good as you have already given of justice and temperance and the other
virtues, we shall be satisfied.
Yes, my friend, and I shall be at least equally satisfied, but I cannot
help fearing that I shall fail, and that my indiscreet zeal will bring
ridicule upon me. No, sweet sirs, let us not at present ask what is the
actual nature of the good, for to reach what is now in my thoughts would be
an effort too great for me. But of the child of the good who is likest
him, I would fain speak, if I could be sure that you wished to hear--
By all means, he said, tell us about the child, and you shall remain in our
debt for the account of the parent.
I do indeed wish, I replied, that I could pay, and you receive, the account
of the parent, and not, as now, of the offspring only; take, however, this
latter by way of interest, and at the same time have a care that I do not
render a false account, although I have no intention of deceiving you.
Yes, we will take all the care that we can: proceed.
Yes, I said, but I must first come to an understanding with you, and remind
you of what I have mentioned in the course of this discussion, and at many
The old story, that there is a many beautiful and a many good, and so of
other things which we describe and define; to all of them the term 'many'
True, he said.
And there is an absolute beauty and an absolute good, and of other things
to which the term 'many' is applied there is an absolute; for they may be
brought under a single idea, which is called the essence of each.
The many, as we say, are seen but not known, and the ideas are known but
And what is the organ with which we see the visible things?
The sight, he said.
And with the hearing, I said, we hear, and with the other senses perceive
the other objects of sense?
But have you remarked that sight is by far the most costly and complex
piece of workmanship which the artificer of the senses ever contrived?
No, I never have, he said.
Then reflect; has the ear or voice need of any third or additional nature
in order that the one may be able to hear and the other to be heard?
Nothing of the sort.
No, indeed, I replied; and the same is true of most, if not all, the other
senses--you would not say that any of them requires such an addition?
But you see that without the addition of some other nature there is no
seeing or being seen?
How do you mean?
Sight being, as I conceive, in the eyes, and he who has eyes wanting to
see; colour being also present in them, still unless there be a third
nature specially adapted to the purpose, the owner of the eyes will see
nothing and the colours will be invisible.
Of what nature are you speaking?
Of that which you term light, I replied.
True, he said.
Noble, then, is the bond which links together sight and visibility, and
great beyond other bonds by no small difference of nature; for light is
their bond, and light is no ignoble thing?
Nay, he said, the reverse of ignoble.
And which, I said, of the gods in heaven would you say was the lord of this
element? Whose is that light which makes the eye to see perfectly and the
visible to appear?
You mean the sun, as you and all mankind say.
May not the relation of sight to this deity be described as follows?
Neither sight nor the eye in which sight resides is the sun?
Yet of all the organs of sense the eye is the most like the sun?
By far the most like.
And the power which the eye possesses is a sort of effluence which is
dispensed from the sun?
Then the sun is not sight, but the author of sight who is recognised by
True, he said.
And this is he whom I call the child of the good, whom the good begat in
his own likeness, to be in the visible world, in relation to sight and the
things of sight, what the good is in the intellectual world in relation to
mind and the things of mind:
Will you be a little more explicit? he said.
Why, you know, I said, that the eyes, when a person directs them towards
objects on which the light of day is no longer shining, but the moon and
stars only, see dimly, and are nearly blind; they seem to have no clearness
of vision in them?
But when they are directed towards objects on which the sun shines, they
see clearly and there is sight in them?
And the soul is like the eye: when resting upon that on which truth and
being shine, the soul perceives and understands, and is radiant with
intelligence; but when turned towards the twilight of becoming and
perishing, then she has opinion only, and goes blinking about, and is first
of one opinion and then of another, and seems to have no intelligence?
Now, that which imparts truth to the known and the power of knowing to the
knower is what I would have you term the idea of good, and this you will
deem to be the cause of science, and of truth in so far as the latter
becomes the subject of knowledge; beautiful too, as are both truth and
knowledge, you will be right in esteeming this other nature as more
beautiful than either; and, as in the previous instance, light and sight
may be truly said to be like the sun, and yet not to be the sun, so in this
other sphere, science and truth may be deemed to be like the good, but not
the good; the good has a place of honour yet higher.
What a wonder of beauty that must be, he said, which is the author of
science and truth, and yet surpasses them in beauty; for you surely cannot
mean to say that pleasure is the good?
God forbid, I replied; but may I ask you to consider the image in another
point of view?
In what point of view?
You would say, would you not, that the sun is not only the author of
visibility in all visible things, but of generation and nourishment and
growth, though he himself is not generation?
In like manner the good may be said to be not only the author of knowledge
to all things known, but of their being and essence, and yet the good is
not essence, but far exceeds essence in dignity and power.
Glaucon said, with a ludicrous earnestness: By the light of heaven, how
Yes, I said, and the exaggeration may be set down to you; for you made me
utter my fancies.
And pray continue to utter them; at any rate let us hear if there is
anything more to be said about the similitude of the sun.
Yes, I said, there is a great deal more.
Then omit nothing, however slight.
I will do my best, I said; but I should think that a great deal will have
to be omitted.
I hope not, he said.
You have to imagine, then, that there are two ruling powers, and that one
of them is set over the intellectual world, the other over the visible. I
do not say heaven, lest you should fancy that I am playing upon the name
('ourhanoz, orhatoz'). May I suppose that you have this distinction of the
visible and intelligible fixed in your mind?
Now take a line which has been cut into two unequal parts, and divide each
of them again in the same proportion, and suppose the two main divisions to
answer, one to the visible and the other to the intelligible, and then
compare the subdivisions in respect of their clearness and want of
clearness, and you will find that the first section in the sphere of the
visible consists of images. And by images I mean, in the first place,
shadows, and in the second place, reflections in water and in solid, smooth
and polished bodies and the like: Do you understand?
Yes, I understand.
Imagine, now, the other section, of which this is only the resemblance, to
include the animals which we see, and everything that grows or is made.
Would you not admit that both the sections of this division have different
degrees of truth, and that the copy is to the original as the sphere of
opinion is to the sphere of knowledge?
Next proceed to consider the manner in which the sphere of the intellectual
is to be divided.
In what manner?
Thus:--There are two subdivisions, in the lower of which the soul uses the
figures given by the former division as images; the enquiry can only be
hypothetical, and instead of going upwards to a principle descends to the
other end; in the higher of the two, the soul passes out of hypotheses, and
goes up to a principle which is above hypotheses, making no use of images
as in the former case, but proceeding only in and through the ideas
I do not quite understand your meaning, he said.
Then I will try again; you will understand me better when I have made some
preliminary remarks. You are aware that students of geometry, arithmetic,
and the kindred sciences assume the odd and the even and the figures and
three kinds of angles and the like in their several branches of science;
these are their hypotheses, which they and every body are supposed to know,
and therefore they do not deign to give any account of them either to
themselves or others; but they begin with them, and go on until they arrive
at last, and in a consistent manner, at their conclusion?
Yes, he said, I know.
And do you not know also that although they make use of the visible forms
and reason about them, they are thinking not of these, but of the ideals
which they resemble; not of the figures which they draw, but of the
absolute square and the absolute diameter, and so on--the forms which they
draw or make, and which have shadows and reflections in water of their own,
are converted by them into images, but they are really seeking to behold
the things themselves, which can only be seen with the eye of the mind?
That is true.
And of this kind I spoke as the intelligible, although in the search after
it the soul is compelled to use hypotheses; not ascending to a first
principle, because she is unable to rise above the region of hypothesis,
but employing the objects of which the shadows below are resemblances in
their turn as images, they having in relation to the shadows and
reflections of them a greater distinctness, and therefore a higher value.
I understand, he said, that you are speaking of the province of geometry
and the sister arts.
And when I speak of the other division of the intelligible, you will
understand me to speak of that other sort of knowledge which reason herself
attains by the power of dialectic, using the hypotheses not as first
principles, but only as hypotheses--that is to say, as steps and points of
departure into a world which is above hypotheses, in order that she may
soar beyond them to the first principle of the whole; and clinging to this