Part 6 out of 9
and the other so-called goods of life?
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
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 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 wisdom?
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 other?
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 complete.
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.
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
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
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 realised; 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
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 constitution?
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 thus 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,
they have made the ways of men, as far as possible, agreeable to
the ways of God?
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 highest good?
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 realised?
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
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 impossible.
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
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 or command.
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, 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,
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
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
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 toll 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 calling.
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 of 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
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 ignorance?
Certainly not, he said.
I am sure, I said, that he who does not know now 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 perfectly ordered?
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
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 road?
And do you wish to behold what is blind and crooked and base,
when others will tell you of brightness and beauty?
GLAUCON - SOCRATES
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 fall, 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--otherwise, not.
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 other times.
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
`many' is applied.
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 not seen.
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
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
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
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 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
Glaucon said, with a ludicrous earnestness: By the light of heaven,
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.
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 or 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 themselves.
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 everybody 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 and then
to that which depends on this, by successive steps she descends again
without the aid of any sensible object, from ideas, through ideas,
and in ideas she ends.
I understand you, he replied; not perfectly, for you seem to me
to be describing a task which is really tremendous; but, at any rate,
I understand you to say that knowledge and being, which the science
of dialectic contemplates, are clearer than the notions of the arts,
as they are termed, which proceed from hypotheses only:
these are also contemplated by the understanding, and not by
the senses: yet, because they start from hypotheses and do not
ascend to a principle, those who contemplate them appear to you
not to exercise the higher reason upon them, although when a first
principle is added to them they are cognizable by the higher reason.
And the habit which is concerned with geometry and the cognate
sciences I suppose that you would term understanding and not reason,
as being intermediate between opinion and reason.
You have quite conceived my meaning, I said; and now, corresponding to
these four divisions, let there be four faculties in the soul-reason
answering to the highest, understanding to the second, faith (or conviction)
to the third, and perception of shadows to the last-and let there
be a scale of them, and let us suppose that the several faculties
have clearness in the same degree that their objects have truth.
I understand, he replied, and give my assent, and accept your arrangement.
SOCRATES - GLAUCON
AND now, I said, let me show in a figure how far our nature is enlightened
or unenlightened:--Behold! human beings living in a underground den,
which has a mouth open towards the light and reaching all along the den;
here they have been from their childhood, and have their legs and necks
chained so that they cannot move, and can only see before them,
being prevented by the chains from turning round their heads.
Above and behind them a fire is blazing at a distance,
and between the fire and the prisoners there is a raised way;
and you will see, if you look, a low wall built along the way,
like the screen which marionette players have in front of them,
over which they show the puppets.
And do you see, I said, men passing along the wall carrying all
sorts of vessels, and statues and figures of animals made of wood
and stone and various materials, which appear over the wall?
Some of them are talking, others silent.
You have shown me a strange image, and they are strange prisoners.
Like ourselves, I replied; and they see only their own shadows,
or the shadows of one another, which the fire throws on the opposite
wall of the cave?
True, he said; how could they see anything but the shadows if they
were never allowed to move their heads?
And of the objects which are being carried in like manner they
would only see the shadows?
Yes, he said.
And if they were able to converse with one another, would they
not suppose that they were naming what was actually before them?
And suppose further that the prison had an echo which came from the
other side, would they not be sure to fancy when one of the passers-by
spoke that the voice which they heard came from the passing shadow?
No question, he replied.
To them, I said, the truth would be literally nothing but the shadows
of the images.
That is certain.
And now look again, and see what will naturally follow it'
the prisoners are released and disabused of their error. At first,
when any of them is liberated and compelled suddenly to stand
up and turn his neck round and walk and look towards the light,
he will suffer sharp pains; the glare will distress him, and he
will be unable to see the realities of which in his former state
he had seen the shadows; and then conceive some one saying to him,
that what he saw before was an illusion, but that now, when he
is approaching nearer to being and his eye is turned towards more
real existence, he has a clearer vision, -what will be his reply?
And you may further imagine that his instructor is pointing
to the objects as they pass and requiring him to name them,
-will he not be perplexed? Will he not fancy that the shadows
which he formerly saw are truer than the objects which are now shown
And if he is compelled to look straight at the light, will he
not have a pain in his eyes which will make him turn away to take
and take in the objects of vision which he can see, and which he
will conceive to be in reality clearer than the things which are
now being shown to him?
True, he now
And suppose once more, that he is reluctantly dragged up a steep
and rugged ascent, and held fast until he's forced into the presence
of the sun himself, is he not likely to be pained and irritated?
When he approaches the light his eyes will be dazzled, and he will not
be able to see anything at all of what are now called realities.
Not all in a moment, he said.
He will require to grow accustomed to the sight of the upper world.
And first he will see the shadows best, next the reflections of men
and other objects in the water, and then the objects themselves;
then he will gaze upon the light of the moon and the stars and the
spangled heaven; and he will see the sky and the stars by night better
than the sun or the light of the sun by day?
Last of he will be able to see the sun, and not mere reflections
of him in the water, but he will see him in his own proper place,
and not in another; and he will contemplate him as he is.
He will then proceed to argue that this is he who gives the season
and the years, and is the guardian of all that is in the visible world,
and in a certain way the cause of all things which he and his fellows
have been accustomed to behold?
Clearly, he said, he would first see the sun and then reason about him.
And when he remembered his old habitation, and the wisdom of the den
and his fellow-prisoners, do you not suppose that he would felicitate
himself on the change, and pity them?
Certainly, he would.
And if they were in the habit of conferring honours among themselves
on those who were quickest to observe the passing shadows and
to remark which of them went before, and which followed after,
and which were together; and who were therefore best able to draw
conclusions as to the future, do you think that he would care
for such honours and glories, or envy the possessors of them?
Would he not say with Homer,
Better to be the poor servant of a poor master,
and to endure anything, rather than think as they do and live
after their manner?
Yes, he said, I think that he would rather suffer anything than
entertain these false notions and live in this miserable manner.
Imagine once more, I said, such an one coming suddenly out of the sun
to be replaced in his old situation; would he not be certain
to have his eyes full of darkness?
To be sure, he said.
And if there were a contest, and he had to compete in measuring
the shadows with the prisoners who had never moved out of the den,
while his sight was still weak, and before his eyes had become steady
(and the time which would be needed to acquire this new habit
of sight might be very considerable) would he not be ridiculous?
Men would say of him that up he went and down he came without
his eyes; and that it was better not even to think of ascending;
and if any one tried to loose another and lead him up to the light,
let them only catch the offender, and they would put him
No question, he said.
This entire allegory, I said, you may now append, dear Glaucon,
to the previous argument; the prison-house is the world of sight,
the light of the fire is the sun, and you will not misapprehend me
if you interpret the journey upwards to be the ascent of the soul
into the intellectual world according to my poor belief, which,
at your desire, I have expressed whether rightly or wrongly
God knows. But, whether true or false, my opinion is that in
the world of knowledge the idea of good appears last of all,
and is seen only with an effort; and, when seen, is also inferred
to be the universal author of all things beautiful and right,
parent of light and of the lord of light in this visible world,
and the immediate source of reason and truth in the intellectual;
and that this is the power upon which he who would act rationally,
either in public or private life must have his eye fixed.
I agree, he said, as far as I am able to understand you.
Moreover, I said, you must not wonder that those who attain
to this beatific vision are unwilling to descend to human affairs;
for their souls are ever hastening into the upper world where they
desire to dwell; which desire of theirs is very natural, if our
allegory may be trusted.
Yes, very natural.
And is there anything surprising in one who passes from divine
contemplations to the evil state of man, misbehaving himself in a
ridiculous manner; if, while his eyes are blinking and before he
has become accustomed to the surrounding darkness, he is compelled
to fight in courts of law, or in other places, about the images
or the shadows of images of justice, and is endeavouring to meet
the conceptions of those who have never yet seen absolute justice?
Anything but surprising, he replied.
Any one who has common sense will remember that the bewilderments
of the eyes are of two kinds, and arise from two causes,
either from coming out of the light or from going into the light,
which is true of the mind's eye, quite as much as of the bodily eye;
and he who remembers this when he sees any one whose vision is
perplexed and weak, will not be too ready to laugh; he will first
ask whether that soul of man has come out of the brighter light,
and is unable to see because unaccustomed to the dark, or having
turned from darkness to the day is dazzled by excess of light.
And he will count the one happy in his condition and state of being,
and he will pity the other; or, if he have a mind to laugh at the soul
which comes from below into the light, there will be more reason in this
than in the laugh which greets him who returns from above out of
the light into the den.
That, he said, is a very just distinction.
But then, if I am right, certain professors of education must
be wrong when they say that they can put a knowledge into the soul
which was not there before, like sight into blind eyes.
They undoubtedly say this, he replied.
Whereas, our argument shows that the power and capacity of
learning exists in the soul already; and that just as the eye
was unable to turn from darkness to light without the whole body,
so too the instrument of knowledge can only by the movement
of the whole soul be turned from the world of becoming into
that of being, and learn by degrees to endure the sight of being,
and of the brightest and best of being, or in other words, of the good.
And must there not be some art which will effect conversion in
the easiest and quickest manner; not implanting the faculty of sight,
for that exists already, but has been turned in the wrong direction,
and is looking away from the truth?
Yes, he said, such an art may be presumed.
And whereas the other so-called virtues of the soul seem to be
akin to bodily qualities, for even when they are not originally
innate they can be implanted later by habit and exercise,
the of wisdom more than anything else contains a divine element
which always remains, and by this conversion is rendered useful
and profitable; or, on the other hand, hurtful and useless.
Did you never observe the narrow intelligence flashing from the keen
eye of a clever rogue--how eager he is, how clearly his paltry soul
sees the way to his end; he is the reverse of blind, but his keen
eyesight is forced into the service of evil, and he is mischievous
in proportion to his cleverness.
Very true, he said.
But what if there had been a circumcision of such natures in the days
of their youth; and they had been severed from those sensual pleasures,
such as eating and drinking, which, like leaden weights, were attached
to them at their birth, and which drag them down and turn the vision
of their souls upon the things that are below--if, I say, they had been
released from these impediments and turned in the opposite direction,
the very same faculty in them would have seen the truth as keenly
as they see what their eyes are turned to now.
Yes, I said; and there is another thing which is likely.
or rather a necessary inference from what has preceded, that neither
the uneducated and uninformed of the truth, nor yet those who never
make an end of their education, will be able ministers of State;
not the former, because they have no single aim of duty which
is the rule of all their actions, private as well as public;
nor the latter, because they will not act at all except upon compulsion,
fancying that they are already dwelling apart in the islands of
Very true, he replied.
Then, I said, the business of us who are the founders of the State
will be to compel the best minds to attain that knowledge which we
have already shown to be the greatest of all-they must continue
to ascend until they arrive at the good; but when they have ascended
and seen enough we must not allow them to do as they do now.
What do you mean?
I mean that they remain in the upper world: but this must not be allowed;
they must be made to descend again among the prisoners in the den,
and partake of their labours and honours, whether they are worth
having or not.
But is not this unjust? he said; ought we to give them a worse life,
when they might have a better?
You have again forgotten, my friend, I said, the intention of
the legislator, who did not aim at making any one class in the State
happy above the rest; the happiness was to be in the whole State,
and he held the citizens together by persuasion and necessity,
making them benefactors of the State, and therefore benefactors
of one another; to this end he created them, not to please themselves,
but to be his instruments in binding up the State.
True, he said, I had forgotten.
Observe, Glaucon, that there will be no injustice in compelling
our philosophers to have a care and providence of others; we shall
explain to them that in other States, men of their class are not
obliged to share in the toils of politics: and this is reasonable,
for they grow up at their own sweet will, and the government would
rather not have them. Being self-taught, they cannot be expected
to show any gratitude for a culture which they have never received.
But we have brought you into the world to be rulers of the hive,
kings of yourselves and of the other citizens, and have educated you
far better and more perfectly than they have been educated, and you
are better able to share in the double duty. Wherefore each of you,
when his turn comes, must go down to the general underground abode,
and get the habit of seeing in the dark. When you have acquired the habit,
you will see ten thousand times better than the inhabitants of the den,
and you will know what the several images are, and what they represent,
because you have seen the beautiful and just and good in their truth.
And thus our State which is also yours will be a reality,
and not a dream only, and will be administered in a spirit unlike
that of other States, in which men fight with one another about
shadows only and are distracted in the struggle for power, which in
their eyes is a great good. Whereas the truth is that the State
in which the rulers are most reluctant to govern is always the best
and most quietly governed, and the State in which they are most eager,
Quite true, he replied.
And will our pupils, when they hear this, refuse to take their turn
at the toils of State, when they are allowed to spend the greater
part of their time with one another in the heavenly light?
Impossible, he answered; for they are just men, and the commands
which we impose upon them are just; there can be no doubt
that every one of them will take office as a stern necessity,
and not after the fashion of our present rulers of State.
Yes, my friend, I said; and there lies the point. You must contrive
for your future rulers another and a better life than that of a ruler,
and then you may have a well-ordered State; for only in the State which
offers this, will they rule who are truly rich, not in silver and gold,
but in virtue and wisdom, which are the true blessings of life.
Whereas if they go to the administration of public affairs,
poor and hungering after the' own private advantage, thinking that
hence they are to snatch the chief good, order there can never be;
for they will be fighting about office, and the civil and domestic
broils which thus arise will be the ruin of the rulers themselves and
of the whole State.
Most true, he replied.
And the only life which looks down upon the life of political
ambition is that of true philosophy. Do you know of any other?
Indeed, I do not, he said.
And those who govern ought not to be lovers of the task?
For, if they are, there will be rival lovers, and they will fight.
Who then are those whom we shall compel to be guardians?
Surely they will be the men who are wisest about affairs of State,
and by whom the State is best administered, and who at the same
time have other honours and another and a better life than that
They are the men, and I will choose them, he replied.
And now shall we consider in what way such guardians will be produced,
and how they are to be brought from darkness to light,--as some are
said to have ascended from the world below to the gods?
By all means, he replied.
The process, I said, is not the turning over of an oyster-shell,
but the turning round of a soul passing from a day which is little
better than night to the true day of being, that is, the ascent
from below, which we affirm to be true philosophy?
And should we not enquire what sort of knowledge has the power
of effecting such a change?
What sort of knowledge is there which would draw the soul from becoming
to being? And another consideration has just occurred to me:
You will remember that our young men are to be warrior athletes
Yes, that was said.
Then this new kind of knowledge must have an additional quality?
Usefulness in war.
Yes, if possible.
There were two parts in our former scheme of education, were there not?
There was gymnastic which presided over the growth and decay of the body,
and may therefore be regarded as having to do with generation and corruption?
Then that is not the knowledge which we are seeking to discover?
But what do you say of music, which also entered to a certain
extent into our former scheme?
Music, he said, as you will remember, was the counterpart of gymnastic,
and trained the guardians by the influences of habit, by harmony making
them harmonious, by rhythm rhythmical, but not giving them science;
and the words, whether fabulous or possibly true, had kindred elements
of rhythm and harmony in them. But in music there was nothing
which tended to that good which you are now seeking.
You are most accurate, I said, in your recollection; in music there
certainly was nothing of the kind. But what branch of knowledge
is there, my dear Glaucon, which is of the desired nature;
since all the useful arts were reckoned mean by us?
Undoubtedly; and yet if music and gymnastic are excluded,
and the arts are also excluded, what remains?
Well, I said, there may be nothing left of our special subjects;
and then we shall have to take something which is not special,
but of universal application.
What may that be?
A something which all arts and sciences and intelligences use
in common, and which every one first has to learn among the elements
What is that?
The little matter of distinguishing one, two, and three--in a word,
number and calculation:--do not all arts and sciences necessarily
partake of them?
Then the art of war partakes of them?
To the sure.
Then Palamedes, whenever he appears in tragedy, proves Agamemnon
ridiculously unfit to be a general. Did you never remark how he
declares that he had invented number, and had numbered the ships
and set in array the ranks of the army at Troy; which implies
that they had never been numbered before, and Agamemnon must be
supposed literally to have been incapable of counting his own feet--
how could he if he was ignorant of number? And if that is true,
what sort of general must he have been?
I should say a very strange one, if this was as you say.
Can we deny that a warrior should have a knowledge of arithmetic?
Certainly he should, if he is to have the smallest understanding
of military tactics, or indeed, I should rather say, if he
is to be a man at all.
I should like to know whether you have the same notion which I
have of this study?
What is your notion?
It appears to me to be a study of the kind which we are seeking,
and which leads naturally to reflection, but never to have been
rightly used; for the true use of it is simply to draw the soul
Will you explain your meaning? he said.
I will try, I said; and I wish you would share the enquiry with me,
and say `yes' or `no' when I attempt to distinguish in my own mind
what branches of knowledge have this attracting power, in order
that we may have clearer proof that arithmetic is, as I suspect,
one of them.
Explain, he said.
I mean to say that objects of sense are of two kinds; some of them
do not invite thought because the sense is an adequate judge of them;
while in the case of other objects sense is so untrustworthy that
further enquiry is imperatively demanded.
You are clearly referring, he said, to the manner in which the senses
are imposed upon by distance, and by painting in light and shade.
No, I said, that is not at all my meaning.
Then what is your meaning?
When speaking of uninviting objects, I mean those which do not pass
from one sensation to the opposite; inviting objects are those which do;
in this latter case the sense coming upon the object, whether at a
distance or near, gives no more vivid idea of anything in particular
than of its opposite. An illustration will make my meaning clearer:--
here are three fingers--a little finger, a second finger,
and a middle finger.
You may suppose that they are seen quite close: And here comes
What is it?
Each of them equally appears a finger, whether seen in the middle
or at the extremity, whether white or black, or thick or thin--
it makes no difference; a finger is a finger all the same.
In these cases a man is not compelled to ask of thought the question,
what is a finger? for the sight never intimates to the mind that a finger
is other than a finger.
And therefore, I said, as we might expect, there is nothing here
which invites or excites intelligence.
There is not, he said.
But is this equally true of the greatness and smallness of the fingers?
Can sight adequately perceive them? and is no difference made by the
circumstance that one of the fingers is in the middle and another at
the extremity? And in like manner does the touch adequately perceive
the qualities of thickness or thinness, or softness or hardness?
And so of the other senses; do they give perfect intimations
of such matters? Is not their mode of operation on this wise--
the sense which is concerned with the quality of hardness is
necessarily concerned also with the quality of softness, and only
intimates to the soul that the same thing is felt to be both hard
You are quite right, he said.
And must not the soul be perplexed at this intimation which the sense
gives of a hard which is also soft? What, again, is the meaning
of light and heavy, if that which is light is also heavy,
and that which is heavy, light?
Yes, he said, these intimations which the soul receives
are very curious and require to be explained.
Yes, I said, and in these perplexities the soul naturally summons
to her aid calculation and intelligence, that she may see whether
the several objects announced to her are one or two.
And if they turn out to be two, is not each of them one and different?
And if each is one, and both are two, she will conceive the two
as in a state of division, for if there were undivided they could
only be conceived of as one?
The eye certainly did see both small and great, but only
in a confused manner; they were not distinguished.
Whereas the thinking mind, intending to light up the chaos,
was compelled to reverse the process, and look at small and great
as separate and not confused.
Was not this the beginning of the enquiry `What is great?'
and `What is small?'
And thus arose the distinction of the visible and the intelligible.
This was what I meant when I spoke of impressions which invited
the intellect, or the reverse--those which are simultaneous with
opposite impressions, invite thought; those which are not simultaneous do not.
I understand, he said, and agree with you.
And to which class do unity and number belong?
I do not know, he replied.
Think a little and you will see that what has preceded will supply
the answer; for if simple unity could be adequately perceived by
the sight or by any other sense, then, as we were saying in the case
of the finger, there would be nothing to attract towards being;
but when there is some contradiction always present, and one is
the reverse of one and involves the conception of plurality,
then thought begins to be aroused within us, and the soul perplexed
and wanting to arrive at a decision asks `What is absolute unity?'
This is the way in which the study of the one has a power of drawing
and converting the mind to the contemplation of true being.
And surely, he said, this occurs notably in the case of one;
for we see the same thing to be both one and infinite in multitude?
Yes, I said; and this being true of one must be equally true
of all number?
And all arithmetic and calculation have to do with number?
And they appear to lead the mind towards truth?
Yes, in a very remarkable manner.
Then this is knowledge of the kind for which we are seeking,
having a double use, military and philosophical; for the man of war
must learn the art of number or he will not know how to array
his troops, and the philosopher also, because he has to rise out
of the sea of change and lay hold of true being, and therefore
he must be an arithmetician.
That is true.
And our guardian is both warrior and philosopher?
Then this is a kind of knowledge which legislation may fitly prescribe;
and we must endeavour to persuade those who are prescribe
to be the principal men of our State to go and learn arithmetic,
not as amateurs, but they must carry on the study until they
see the nature of numbers with the mind only; nor again,
like merchants or retail-traders, with a view to buying or selling,
but for the sake of their military use, and of the soul herself;
and because this will be the easiest way for her to pass from becoming
to truth and being.
That is excellent, he said.
Yes, I said, and now having spoken of it, I must add how charming
the science is! and in how many ways it conduces to our desired end,
if pursued in the spirit of a philosopher, and not of a shopkeeper!
How do you mean?
I mean, as I was saying, that arithmetic has a very great and
elevating effect, compelling the soul to reason about abstract number,
and rebelling against the introduction of visible or tangible
objects into the argument. You know how steadily the masters of
the art repel and ridicule any one who attempts to divide absolute
unity when he is calculating, and if you divide, they multiply,
taking care that one shall continue one and not become lost in fractions.
That is very true.
Now, suppose a person were to say to them: O my friends, what are
these wonderful numbers about which you are reasoning, in which,
as you say, there is a unity such as you demand, and each unit
is equal, invariable, indivisible,--what would they answer?
They would answer, as I should conceive, that they were speaking
of those numbers which can only be realised in thought.
Then you see that this knowledge may be truly called necessary,
necessitating as it clearly does the use of the pure intelligence
in the attainment of pure truth?
Yes; that is a marked characteristic of it.
And have you further observed, that those who have a natural talent
for calculation are generally quick at every other kind of knowledge;
and even the dull if they have had an arithmetical training,
although they may derive no other advantage from it, always become much
quicker than they would otherwise have been.
Very true, he said.
And indeed, you will not easily find a more difficult study,
and not many as difficult.
You will not.
And, for all these reasons, arithmetic is a kind of knowledge in
which the best natures should be trained, and which must not be given up.
Let this then be made one of our subjects of education. And next,
shall we enquire whether the kindred science also concerns us?
You mean geometry?
Clearly, he said, we are concerned with that part of geometry which
relates to war; for in pitching a camp, or taking up a position,
or closing or extending the lines of an army, or any other
military manoeuvre, whether in actual battle or on a march, it will
make all the difference whether a general is or is not a geometrician.
Yes, I said, but for that purpose a very little of either geometry
or calculation will be enough; the question relates rather to
the greater and more advanced part of geometry--whether that tends
in any degree to make more easy the vision of the idea of good;
and thither, as I was saying, all things tend which compel the soul
to turn her gaze towards that place, where is the full perfection
of being, which she ought, by all means, to behold.
True, he said.
Then if geometry compels us to view being, it concerns us;
if becoming only, it does not concern us?
Yes, that is what we assert.
Yet anybody who has the least acquaintance with geometry will not
deny that such a conception of the science is in flat contradiction
to the ordinary language of geometricians.
They have in view practice only, and are always speaking? in a narrow
and ridiculous manner, of squaring and extending and applying and the like--
they confuse the necessities of geometry with those of daily life;
whereas knowledge is the real object of the whole science.
Certainly, he said.
Then must not a further admission be made?
That the knowledge at which geometry aims is knowledge of the eternal,
and not of aught perishing and transient.
That, he replied, may be readily allowed, and is true.
Then, my noble friend, geometry will draw the soul towards truth,
and create the spirit of philosophy, and raise up that which is now
unhappily allowed to fall down.
Nothing will be more likely to have such an effect.
Then nothing should be more sternly laid down than that the
inhabitants of your fair city should by all means learn geometry.
Moreover the science has indirect effects, which are not small.
Of what kind? he said.
There are the military advantages of which you spoke, I said;
and in all departments of knowledge, as experience proves, any one
who has studied geometry is infinitely quicker of apprehension than
one who has not.
Yes indeed, he said, there is an infinite difference between them.
Then shall we propose this as a second branch of knowledge
which our youth will study?
Let us do so, he replied.
And suppose we make astronomy the third--what do you say?
I am strongly inclined to it, he said; the observation of the seasons
and of months and years is as essential to the general as it
is to the farmer or sailor.
I am amused, I said, at your fear of the world, which makes you
guard against the appearance of insisting upon useless studies;
and I quite admit the difficulty of believing that in every man there
is an eye of the soul which, when by other pursuits lost and dimmed,
is by these purified and re-illumined; and is more precious far
than ten thousand bodily eyes, for by it alone is truth seen.
Now there are two classes of persons: one class of those who
will agree with you and will take your words as a revelation;
another class to whom they will be utterly unmeaning, and who will
naturally deem them to be idle tales, for they see no sort of profit
which is to be obtained from them. And therefore you had better
decide at once with which of the two you are proposing to argue.
You will very likely say with neither, and that your chief
aim in carrying on the argument is your own improvement;
at the same time you do not grudge to others any benefit which they
I think that I should prefer to carry on the argument mainly
on my own behalf.
Then take a step backward, for we have gone wrong in the order
of the sciences.
What was the mistake? he said.
After plane geometry, I said, we proceeded at once to solids
in revolution, instead of taking solids in themselves;
whereas after the second dimension the third, which is concerned
with cubes and dimensions of depth, ought to have followed.
That is true, Socrates; but so little seems to be known as yet
about these subjects.
Why, yes, I said, and for two reasons:--in the first place,
no government patronises them; this leads to a want of energy
in the pursuit of them, and they are difficult; in the second place,
students cannot learn them unless they have a director.
But then a director can hardly be found, and even if he could,
as matters now stand, the students, who are very conceited, would not
attend to him. That, however, would be otherwise if the whole
State became the director of these studies and gave honour to them;
then disciples would want to come, and there would be continuous
and earnest search, and discoveries would be made; since even now,
disregarded as they are by the world, and maimed of their fair proportions,
and although none of their votaries can tell the use of them,
still these studies force their way by their natural charm,
and very likely, if they had the help of the State, they would some day
emerge into light.
Yes, he said, there is a remarkable charm in them.
But I do not clearly understand the change in the order.
First you began with a geometry of plane surfaces?
Yes, I said.
And you placed astronomy next, and then you made a step backward?
Yes, and I have delayed you by my hurry; the ludicrous state
of solid geometry, which, in natural order, should have followed,
made me pass over this branch and go on to astronomy, or motion
True, he said.
Then assuming that the science now omitted would come into
existence if encouraged by the State, let us go on to astronomy,
which will be fourth.
The right order, he replied. And now, Socrates, as you rebuked
the vulgar manner in which I praised astronomy before, my praise
shall be given in your own spirit. For every one, as I think,
must see that astronomy compels the soul to look upwards and leads us
from this world to another.
Every one but myself, I said; to every one else this may be clear,
but not to me.
And what then would you say?
I should rather say that those who elevate astronomy into philosophy
appear to me to make us look downwards and not upwards.
What do you mean? he asked.
You, I replied, have in your mind a truly sublime conception of our
knowledge of the things above. And I dare say that if a person
were to throw his head back and study the fretted ceiling, you would
still think that his mind was the percipient, and not his eyes.
And you are very likely right, and I may be a simpleton:
but, in my opinion, that knowledge only which is of being and of
the unseen can make the soul look upwards, and whether a man gapes
at the heavens or blinks on the ground, seeking to learn some
particular of sense, I would deny that he can learn, for nothing
of that sort is matter of science; his soul is looking downwards,
not upwards, whether his way to knowledge is by water or by land,
whether he floats, or only lies on his back.
I acknowledge, he said, the justice of your rebuke. Still, I should
like to ascertain how astronomy can be learned in any manner
more conducive to that knowledge of which we are speaking?
I will tell you, I said: The starry heaven which we behold is wrought
upon a visible ground, and therefore, although the fairest and most
perfect of visible things, must necessarily be deemed inferior far
to the true motions of absolute swiftness and absolute slowness,
which are relative to each other, and carry with them that which is
contained in them, in the true number and in every true figure.
Now, these are to be apprehended by reason and intelligence,
but not by sight.
True, he replied.
The spangled heavens should be used as a pattern and with a view
to that higher knowledge; their beauty is like the beauty of
figures or pictures excellently wrought by the hand of Daedalus,
or some other great artist, which we may chance to behold;
any geometrician who saw them would appreciate the exquisiteness
of their workmanship, but he would never dream of thinking
that in them he could find the true equal or the true double,
or the truth of any other proportion.
No, he replied, such an idea would be ridiculous.
And will not a true astronomer have the same feeling when he looks at
the movements of the stars? Will he not think that heaven and the things
in heaven are framed by the Creator of them in the most perfect manner?
But he will never imagine that the proportions of night and day,
or of both to the month, or of the month to the year, or of the stars
to these and to one another, and any other things that are material
and visible can also be eternal and subject to no deviation--
that would be absurd; and it is equally absurd to take so much pains
in investigating their exact truth.
I quite agree, though I never thought of this before.
Then, I said, in astronomy, as in geometry, we should employ problems,
and let the heavens alone if we would approach the subject in the right
way and so make the natural gift of reason to be of any real use.
That, he said, is a work infinitely beyond our present astronomers.
Yes, I said; and there are many other things which must also have a similar
extension given to them, if our legislation is to be of any value.
But can you tell me of any other suitable study?
No, he said, not without thinking.
Motion, I said, has many forms, and not one only; two of them are
obvious enough even to wits no better than ours; and there are others,
as I imagine, which may be left to wiser persons.
But where are the two?
There is a second, I said, which is the counterpart of the one
And what may that be?
The second, I said, would seem relatively to the ears to be what
the first is to the eyes; for I conceive that as the eyes are designed
to look up at the stars, so are the ears to hear harmonious motions;
and these are sister sciences--as the Pythagoreans say,
and we, Glaucon, agree with them?
Yes, he replied.
But this, I said, is a laborious study, and therefore we had
better go and learn of them; and they will tell us whether there
are any other applications of these sciences. At the same time,
we must not lose sight of our own higher object.
What is that?
There is a perfection which all knowledge ought to reach,
and which our pupils ought also to attain, and not to fall short of,
as I was saying that they did in astronomy. For in the science
of harmony, as you probably know, the same thing happens.
The teachers of harmony compare the sounds and consonances which
are heard only, and their labour, like that of the astronomers,
is in vain.
Yes, by heaven! he said; and 'tis as good as a play to hear
them talking about their condensed notes, as they call them;
they put their ears close alongside of the strings like persons
catching a sound from their neighbour's wall--one set of them
declaring that they distinguish an intermediate note and have
found the least interval which should be the unit of measurement;
the others insisting that the two sounds have passed into the same--
either party setting their ears before their understanding.
You mean, I said, those gentlemen who tease and torture the strings
and rack them on the pegs of the instrument: might carry on the metaphor
and speak after their manner of the blows which the plectrum gives,
and make accusations against the strings, both of backwardness
and forwardness to sound; but this would be tedious, and therefore
I will only say that these are not the men, and that I am referring
to the Pythagoreans, of whom I was just now proposing to enquire
about harmony. For they too are in error, like the astronomers;
they investigate the numbers of the harmonies which are heard,
but they never attain to problems-that is to say, they never reach
the natural harmonies of number, or reflect why some numbers are
harmonious and others not.
That, he said, is a thing of more than mortal knowledge.
A thing, I replied, which I would rather call useful; that is,
if sought after with a view to the beautiful and good; but if pursued
in any other spirit, useless. Very true, he said.
Now, when all these studies reach the point of inter-communion
and connection with one another, and come to be considered
in their mutual affinities, then, I think, but not till then,
will the pursuit of them have a value for our objects;
otherwise there is no profit in them.
I suspect so; but you are speaking, Socrates, of a vast work.
What do you mean? I said; the prelude or what? Do you not know
that all this is but the prelude to the actual strain which we
have to learn? For you surely would not regard the skilled
mathematician as a dialectician?
Assuredly not, he said; I have hardly ever known a mathematician
who was capable of reasoning.
But do you imagine that men who are unable to give and take a reason
will have the knowledge which we require of them?
Neither can this be supposed.
And so, Glaucon, I said, we have at last arrived at the hymn
of dialectic. This is that strain which is of the intellect only,
but which the faculty of sight will nevertheless be found to imitate;
for sight, as you may remember, was imagined by us after a while to
behold the real animals and stars, and last of all the sun himself.
And so with dialectic; when a person starts on the discovery of
the absolute by the light of reason only, and without any assistance
of sense, and perseveres until by pure intelligence he arrives
at the perception of the absolute good, he at last finds himself at
the end of the intellectual world, as in the case of sight at the end
of the visible.
Exactly, he said.
Then this is the progress which you call dialectic?
But the release of the prisoners from chains, and their translation
from the shadows to the images and to the light, and the ascent
from the underground den to the sun, while in his presence they are
vainly trying to look on animals and plants and the light of the sun,
but are able to perceive even with their weak eyes the images in
the water (which are divine), and are the shadows of true existence
(not shadows of images cast by a light of fire, which compared
with the sun is only an image)--this power of elevating the highest
principle in the soul to the contemplation of that which is best
in existence, with which we may compare the raising of that faculty
which is the very light of the body to the sight of that which is
brightest in the material and visible world--this power is given,
as I was saying, by all that study and pursuit of the arts which has
I agree in what you are saying, he replied, which may be hard
to believe, yet, from another point of view, is harder still to deny.
This, however, is not a theme to be treated of in passing only,
but will have to be discussed again and again. And so,
whether our conclusion be true or false, let us assume all this,
and proceed at once from the prelude or preamble to the chief strain,
and describe that in like manner. Say, then, what is the nature
and what are the divisions of dialectic, and what are the paths
which lead thither; for these paths will also lead to our final rest?
Dear Glaucon, I said, you will not be able to follow me here,
though I would do my best, and you should behold not an image only
but the absolute truth, according to my notion. Whether what I told
you would or would not have been a reality I cannot venture to say;
but you would have seen something like reality; of that I am confident.
Doubtless, he replied.
But I must also remind you, that the power of dialectic alone can