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The Republic by Plato, translated by B. Jowett

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become the guiding principle of politics, is left unexplained by Plato.
Like the nature and divisions of dialectic, of which Glaucon impatiently
demands to be informed, perhaps he would have said that the explanation
could not be given except to a disciple of the previous sciences.

Many illustrations of this part of the Republic may be found in modern
Politics and in daily life. For among ourselves, too, there have been two
sorts of Politicians or Statesmen, whose eyesight has become disordered in
two different ways. First, there have been great men who, in the language
of Burke, 'have been too much given to general maxims,' who, like J.S. Mill
or Burke himself, have been theorists or philosophers before they were
politicians, or who, having been students of history, have allowed some
great historical parallel, such as the English Revolution of 1688, or
possibly Athenian democracy or Roman Imperialism, to be the medium through
which they viewed contemporary events. Or perhaps the long projecting
shadow of some existing institution may have darkened their vision. The
Church of the future, the Commonwealth of the future, the Society of the
future, have so absorbed their minds, that they are unable to see in their
true proportions the Politics of to-day. They have been intoxicated with
great ideas, such as liberty, or equality, or the greatest happiness of the
greatest number, or the brotherhood of humanity, and they no longer care to
consider how these ideas must be limited in practice or harmonized with the
conditions of human life. They are full of light, but the light to them
has become only a sort of luminous mist or blindness. Almost every one has
known some enthusiastic half-educated person, who sees everything at false
distances, and in erroneous proportions.

With this disorder of eyesight may be contrasted another--of those who see
not far into the distance, but what is near only; who have been engaged all
their lives in a trade or a profession; who are limited to a set or sect of
their own. Men of this kind have no universal except their own interests
or the interests of their class, no principle but the opinion of persons
like themselves, no knowledge of affairs beyond what they pick up in the
streets or at their club. Suppose them to be sent into a larger world, to
undertake some higher calling, from being tradesmen to turn generals or
politicians, from being schoolmasters to become philosophers:--or imagine
them on a sudden to receive an inward light which reveals to them for the
first time in their lives a higher idea of God and the existence of a
spiritual world, by this sudden conversion or change is not their daily
life likely to be upset; and on the other hand will not many of their old
prejudices and narrownesses still adhere to them long after they have begun
to take a more comprehensive view of human things? From familiar examples
like these we may learn what Plato meant by the eyesight which is liable to
two kinds of disorders.

Nor have we any difficulty in drawing a parallel between the young Athenian
in the fifth century before Christ who became unsettled by new ideas, and
the student of a modern University who has been the subject of a similar
'aufklarung.' We too observe that when young men begin to criticise
customary beliefs, or to analyse the constitution of human nature, they are
apt to lose hold of solid principle (Greek). They are like trees which
have been frequently transplanted. The earth about them is loose, and they
have no roots reaching far into the soil. They 'light upon every flower,'
following their own wayward wills, or because the wind blows them. They
catch opinions, as diseases are caught--when they are in the air. Borne
hither and thither, 'they speedily fall into beliefs' the opposite of those
in which they were brought up. They hardly retain the distinction of right
and wrong; they seem to think one thing as good as another. They suppose
themselves to be searching after truth when they are playing the game of
'follow my leader.' They fall in love 'at first sight' with paradoxes
respecting morality, some fancy about art, some novelty or eccentricity in
religion, and like lovers they are so absorbed for a time in their new
notion that they can think of nothing else. The resolution of some
philosophical or theological question seems to them more interesting and
important than any substantial knowledge of literature or science or even
than a good life. Like the youth in the Philebus, they are ready to
discourse to any one about a new philosophy. They are generally the
disciples of some eminent professor or sophist, whom they rather imitate
than understand. They may be counted happy if in later years they retain
some of the simple truths which they acquired in early education, and which
they may, perhaps, find to be worth all the rest. Such is the picture
which Plato draws and which we only reproduce, partly in his own words, of
the dangers which beset youth in times of transition, when old opinions are
fading away and the new are not yet firmly established. Their condition is
ingeniously compared by him to that of a supposititious son, who has made
the discovery that his reputed parents are not his real ones, and, in
consequence, they have lost their authority over him.

The distinction between the mathematician and the dialectician is also
noticeable. Plato is very well aware that the faculty of the mathematician
is quite distinct from the higher philosophical sense which recognizes and
combines first principles. The contempt which he expresses for
distinctions of words, the danger of involuntary falsehood, the apology
which Socrates makes for his earnestness of speech, are highly
characteristic of the Platonic style and mode of thought. The quaint
notion that if Palamedes was the inventor of number Agamemnon could not
have counted his feet; the art by which we are made to believe that this
State of ours is not a dream only; the gravity with which the first step is
taken in the actual creation of the State, namely, the sending out of the
city all who had arrived at ten years of age, in order to expedite the
business of education by a generation, are also truly Platonic. (For the
last, compare the passage at the end of the third book, in which he expects
the lie about the earthborn men to be believed in the second generation.)

BOOK VIII. And so we have arrived at the conclusion, that in the perfect
State wives and children are to be in common; and the education and
pursuits of men and women, both in war and peace, are to be common, and
kings are to be philosophers and warriors, and the soldiers of the State
are to live together, having all things in common; and they are to be
warrior athletes, receiving no pay but only their food, from the other
citizens. Now let us return to the point at which we digressed. 'That is
easily done,' he replied: 'You were speaking of the State which you had
constructed, and of the individual who answered to this, both of whom you
affirmed to be good; and you said that of inferior States there were four
forms and four individuals corresponding to them, which although deficient
in various degrees, were all of them worth inspecting with a view to
determining the relative happiness or misery of the best or worst man.
Then Polemarchus and Adeimantus interrupted you, and this led to another
argument,--and so here we are.' Suppose that we put ourselves again in the
same position, and do you repeat your question. 'I should like to know of
what constitutions you were speaking?' Besides the perfect State there are
only four of any note in Hellas:--first, the famous Lacedaemonian or Cretan
commonwealth; secondly, oligarchy, a State full of evils; thirdly,
democracy, which follows next in order; fourthly, tyranny, which is the
disease or death of all government. Now, States are not made of 'oak and
rock,' but of flesh and blood; and therefore as there are five States there
must be five human natures in individuals, which correspond to them. And
first, there is the ambitious nature, which answers to the Lacedaemonian
State; secondly, the oligarchical nature; thirdly, the democratical; and
fourthly, the tyrannical. This last will have to be compared with the
perfectly just, which is the fifth, that we may know which is the happier,
and then we shall be able to determine whether the argument of Thrasymachus
or our own is the more convincing. And as before we began with the State
and went on to the individual, so now, beginning with timocracy, let us go
on to the timocratical man, and then proceed to the other forms of
government, and the individuals who answer to them.

But how did timocracy arise out of the perfect State? Plainly, like all
changes of government, from division in the rulers. But whence came
division? 'Sing, heavenly Muses,' as Homer says;--let them condescend to
answer us, as if we were children, to whom they put on a solemn face in
jest. 'And what will they say?' They will say that human things are fated
to decay, and even the perfect State will not escape from this law of
destiny, when 'the wheel comes full circle' in a period short or long.
Plants or animals have times of fertility and sterility, which the
intelligence of rulers because alloyed by sense will not enable them to
ascertain, and children will be born out of season. For whereas divine
creations are in a perfect cycle or number, the human creation is in a
number which declines from perfection, and has four terms and three
intervals of numbers, increasing, waning, assimilating, dissimilating, and
yet perfectly commensurate with each other. The base of the number with a
fourth added (or which is 3:4), multiplied by five and cubed, gives two
harmonies:--the first a square number, which is a hundred times the base
(or a hundred times a hundred); the second, an oblong, being a hundred
squares of the rational diameter of a figure the side of which is five,
subtracting one from each square or two perfect squares from all, and
adding a hundred cubes of three. This entire number is geometrical and
contains the rule or law of generation. When this law is neglected
marriages will be unpropitious; the inferior offspring who are then born
will in time become the rulers; the State will decline, and education fall
into decay; gymnastic will be preferred to music, and the gold and silver
and brass and iron will form a chaotic mass--thus division will arise.
Such is the Muses' answer to our question. 'And a true answer, of course:
--but what more have they to say?' They say that the two races, the iron
and brass, and the silver and gold, will draw the State different ways;--
the one will take to trade and moneymaking, and the others, having the true
riches and not caring for money, will resist them: the contest will end in
a compromise; they will agree to have private property, and will enslave
their fellow-citizens who were once their friends and nurturers. But they
will retain their warlike character, and will be chiefly occupied in
fighting and exercising rule. Thus arises timocracy, which is intermediate
between aristocracy and oligarchy.

The new form of government resembles the ideal in obedience to rulers and
contempt for trade, and having common meals, and in devotion to warlike and
gymnastic exercises. But corruption has crept into philosophy, and
simplicity of character, which was once her note, is now looked for only in
the military class. Arts of war begin to prevail over arts of peace; the
ruler is no longer a philosopher; as in oligarchies, there springs up among
them an extravagant love of gain--get another man's and save your own, is
their principle; and they have dark places in which they hoard their gold
and silver, for the use of their women and others; they take their
pleasures by stealth, like boys who are running away from their father--the
law; and their education is not inspired by the Muse, but imposed by the
strong arm of power. The leading characteristic of this State is party
spirit and ambition.

And what manner of man answers to such a State? 'In love of contention,'
replied Adeimantus, 'he will be like our friend Glaucon.' In that respect,
perhaps, but not in others. He is self-asserting and ill-educated, yet
fond of literature, although not himself a speaker,--fierce with slaves,
but obedient to rulers, a lover of power and honour, which he hopes to gain
by deeds of arms,--fond, too, of gymnastics and of hunting. As he advances
in years he grows avaricious, for he has lost philosophy, which is the only
saviour and guardian of men. His origin is as follows:--His father is a
good man dwelling in an ill-ordered State, who has retired from politics in
order that he may lead a quiet life. His mother is angry at her loss of
precedence among other women; she is disgusted at her husband's
selfishness, and she expatiates to her son on the unmanliness and indolence
of his father. The old family servant takes up the tale, and says to the
youth:--'When you grow up you must be more of a man than your father.' All
the world are agreed that he who minds his own business is an idiot, while
a busybody is highly honoured and esteemed. The young man compares this
spirit with his father's words and ways, and as he is naturally well
disposed, although he has suffered from evil influences, he rests at a
middle point and becomes ambitious and a lover of honour.

And now let us set another city over against another man. The next form of
government is oligarchy, in which the rule is of the rich only; nor is it
difficult to see how such a State arises. The decline begins with the
possession of gold and silver; illegal modes of expenditure are invented;
one draws another on, and the multitude are infected; riches outweigh
virtue; lovers of money take the place of lovers of honour; misers of
politicians; and, in time, political privileges are confined by law to the
rich, who do not shrink from violence in order to effect their purposes.

Thus much of the origin,--let us next consider the evils of oligarchy.
Would a man who wanted to be safe on a voyage take a bad pilot because he
was rich, or refuse a good one because he was poor? And does not the
analogy apply still more to the State? And there are yet greater evils:
two nations are struggling together in one--the rich and the poor; and the
rich dare not put arms into the hands of the poor, and are unwilling to pay
for defenders out of their own money. And have we not already condemned
that State in which the same persons are warriors as well as shopkeepers?
The greatest evil of all is that a man may sell his property and have no
place in the State; while there is one class which has enormous wealth, the
other is entirely destitute. But observe that these destitutes had not
really any more of the governing nature in them when they were rich than
now that they are poor; they were miserable spendthrifts always. They are
the drones of the hive; only whereas the actual drone is unprovided by
nature with a sting, the two-legged things whom we call drones are some of
them without stings and some of them have dreadful stings; in other words,
there are paupers and there are rogues. These are never far apart; and in
oligarchical cities, where nearly everybody is a pauper who is not a ruler,
you will find abundance of both. And this evil state of society originates
in bad education and bad government.

Like State, like man,--the change in the latter begins with the
representative of timocracy; he walks at first in the ways of his father,
who may have been a statesman, or general, perhaps; and presently he sees
him 'fallen from his high estate,' the victim of informers, dying in prison
or exile, or by the hand of the executioner. The lesson which he thus
receives, makes him cautious; he leaves politics, represses his pride, and
saves pence. Avarice is enthroned as his bosom's lord, and assumes the
style of the Great King; the rational and spirited elements sit humbly on
the ground at either side, the one immersed in calculation, the other
absorbed in the admiration of wealth. The love of honour turns to love of
money; the conversion is instantaneous. The man is mean, saving, toiling,
the slave of one passion which is the master of the rest: Is he not the
very image of the State? He has had no education, or he would never have
allowed the blind god of riches to lead the dance within him. And being
uneducated he will have many slavish desires, some beggarly, some knavish,
breeding in his soul. If he is the trustee of an orphan, and has the power
to defraud, he will soon prove that he is not without the will, and that
his passions are only restrained by fear and not by reason. Hence he leads
a divided existence; in which the better desires mostly prevail. But when
he is contending for prizes and other distinctions, he is afraid to incur a
loss which is to be repaid only by barren honour; in time of war he fights
with a small part of his resources, and usually keeps his money and loses
the victory.

Next comes democracy and the democratic man, out of oligarchy and the
oligarchical man. Insatiable avarice is the ruling passion of an
oligarchy; and they encourage expensive habits in order that they may gain
by the ruin of extravagant youth. Thus men of family often lose their
property or rights of citizenship; but they remain in the city, full of
hatred against the new owners of their estates and ripe for revolution.
The usurer with stooping walk pretends not to see them; he passes by, and
leaves his sting--that is, his money--in some other victim; and many a man
has to pay the parent or principal sum multiplied into a family of
children, and is reduced into a state of dronage by him. The only way of
diminishing the evil is either to limit a man in his use of his property,
or to insist that he shall lend at his own risk. But the ruling class do
not want remedies; they care only for money, and are as careless of virtue
as the poorest of the citizens. Now there are occasions on which the
governors and the governed meet together,--at festivals, on a journey,
voyaging or fighting. The sturdy pauper finds that in the hour of danger he
is not despised; he sees the rich man puffing and panting, and draws the
conclusion which he privately imparts to his companions,--'that our people
are not good for much;' and as a sickly frame is made ill by a mere touch
from without, or sometimes without external impulse is ready to fall to
pieces of itself, so from the least cause, or with none at all, the city
falls ill and fights a battle for life or death. And democracy comes into
power when the poor are the victors, killing some and exiling some, and
giving equal shares in the government to all the rest.

The manner of life in such a State is that of democrats; there is freedom
and plainness of speech, and every man does what is right in his own eyes,
and has his own way of life. Hence arise the most various developments of
character; the State is like a piece of embroidery of which the colours and
figures are the manners of men, and there are many who, like women and
children, prefer this variety to real beauty and excellence. The State is
not one but many, like a bazaar at which you can buy anything. The great
charm is, that you may do as you like; you may govern if you like, let it
alone if you like; go to war and make peace if you feel disposed, and all
quite irrespective of anybody else. When you condemn men to death they
remain alive all the same; a gentleman is desired to go into exile, and he
stalks about the streets like a hero; and nobody sees him or cares for him.
Observe, too, how grandly Democracy sets her foot upon all our fine
theories of education,--how little she cares for the training of her
statesmen! The only qualification which she demands is the profession of
patriotism. Such is democracy;--a pleasing, lawless, various sort of
government, distributing equality to equals and unequals alike.

Let us now inspect the individual democrat; and first, as in the case of
the State, we will trace his antecedents. He is the son of a miserly
oligarch, and has been taught by him to restrain the love of unnecessary
pleasures. Perhaps I ought to explain this latter term:--Necessary
pleasures are those which are good, and which we cannot do without;
unnecessary pleasures are those which do no good, and of which the desire
might be eradicated by early training. For example, the pleasures of
eating and drinking are necessary and healthy, up to a certain point;
beyond that point they are alike hurtful to body and mind, and the excess
may be avoided. When in excess, they may be rightly called expensive
pleasures, in opposition to the useful ones. And the drone, as we called
him, is the slave of these unnecessary pleasures and desires, whereas the
miserly oligarch is subject only to the necessary.

The oligarch changes into the democrat in the following manner:--The youth
who has had a miserly bringing up, gets a taste of the drone's honey; he
meets with wild companions, who introduce him to every new pleasure. As in
the State, so in the individual, there are allies on both sides,
temptations from without and passions from within; there is reason also and
external influences of parents and friends in alliance with the
oligarchical principle; and the two factions are in violent conflict with
one another. Sometimes the party of order prevails, but then again new
desires and new disorders arise, and the whole mob of passions gets
possession of the Acropolis, that is to say, the soul, which they find void
and unguarded by true words and works. Falsehoods and illusions ascend to
take their place; the prodigal goes back into the country of the Lotophagi
or drones, and openly dwells there. And if any offer of alliance or parley
of individual elders comes from home, the false spirits shut the gates of
the castle and permit no one to enter,--there is a battle, and they gain
the victory; and straightway making alliance with the desires, they banish
modesty, which they call folly, and send temperance over the border. When
the house has been swept and garnished, they dress up the exiled vices,
and, crowning them with garlands, bring them back under new names.
Insolence they call good breeding, anarchy freedom, waste magnificence,
impudence courage. Such is the process by which the youth passes from the
necessary pleasures to the unnecessary. After a while he divides his time
impartially between them; and perhaps, when he gets older and the violence
of passion has abated, he restores some of the exiles and lives in a sort
of equilibrium, indulging first one pleasure and then another; and if
reason comes and tells him that some pleasures are good and honourable, and
others bad and vile, he shakes his head and says that he can make no
distinction between them. Thus he lives in the fancy of the hour;
sometimes he takes to drink, and then he turns abstainer; he practises in
the gymnasium or he does nothing at all; then again he would be a
philosopher or a politician; or again, he would be a warrior or a man of
business; he is

'Every thing by starts and nothing long.'

There remains still the finest and fairest of all men and all States--
tyranny and the tyrant. Tyranny springs from democracy much as democracy
springs from oligarchy. Both arise from excess; the one from excess of
wealth, the other from excess of freedom. 'The great natural good of
life,' says the democrat, 'is freedom.' And this exclusive love of freedom
and regardlessness of everything else, is the cause of the change from
democracy to tyranny. The State demands the strong wine of freedom, and
unless her rulers give her a plentiful draught, punishes and insults them;
equality and fraternity of governors and governed is the approved
principle. Anarchy is the law, not of the State only, but of private
houses, and extends even to the animals. Father and son, citizen and
foreigner, teacher and pupil, old and young, are all on a level; fathers
and teachers fear their sons and pupils, and the wisdom of the young man is
a match for the elder, and the old imitate the jaunty manners of the young
because they are afraid of being thought morose. Slaves are on a level
with their masters and mistresses, and there is no difference between men
and women. Nay, the very animals in a democratic State have a freedom
which is unknown in other places. The she-dogs are as good as their she-
mistresses, and horses and asses march along with dignity and run their
noses against anybody who comes in their way. 'That has often been my
experience.' At last the citizens become so sensitive that they cannot
endure the yoke of laws, written or unwritten; they would have no man call
himself their master. Such is the glorious beginning of things out of
which tyranny springs. 'Glorious, indeed; but what is to follow?' The
ruin of oligarchy is the ruin of democracy; for there is a law of
contraries; the excess of freedom passes into the excess of slavery, and
the greater the freedom the greater the slavery. You will remember that in
the oligarchy were found two classes--rogues and paupers, whom we compared
to drones with and without stings. These two classes are to the State what
phlegm and bile are to the human body; and the State-physician, or
legislator, must get rid of them, just as the bee-master keeps the drones
out of the hive. Now in a democracy, too, there are drones, but they are
more numerous and more dangerous than in the oligarchy; there they are
inert and unpractised, here they are full of life and animation; and the
keener sort speak and act, while the others buzz about the bema and prevent
their opponents from being heard. And there is another class in democratic
States, of respectable, thriving individuals, who can be squeezed when the
drones have need of their possessions; there is moreover a third class, who
are the labourers and the artisans, and they make up the mass of the
people. When the people meet, they are omnipotent, but they cannot be
brought together unless they are attracted by a little honey; and the rich
are made to supply the honey, of which the demagogues keep the greater part
themselves, giving a taste only to the mob. Their victims attempt to
resist; they are driven mad by the stings of the drones, and so become
downright oligarchs in self-defence. Then follow informations and
convictions for treason. The people have some protector whom they nurse
into greatness, and from this root the tree of tyranny springs. The nature
of the change is indicated in the old fable of the temple of Zeus Lycaeus,
which tells how he who tastes human flesh mixed up with the flesh of other
victims will turn into a wolf. Even so the protector, who tastes human
blood, and slays some and exiles others with or without law, who hints at
abolition of debts and division of lands, must either perish or become a
wolf--that is, a tyrant. Perhaps he is driven out, but he soon comes back
from exile; and then if his enemies cannot get rid of him by lawful means,
they plot his assassination. Thereupon the friend of the people makes his
well-known request to them for a body-guard, which they readily grant,
thinking only of his danger and not of their own. Now let the rich man
make to himself wings, for he will never run away again if he does not do
so then. And the Great Protector, having crushed all his rivals, stands
proudly erect in the chariot of State, a full-blown tyrant: Let us enquire
into the nature of his happiness.

In the early days of his tyranny he smiles and beams upon everybody; he is
not a 'dominus,' no, not he: he has only come to put an end to debt and
the monopoly of land. Having got rid of foreign enemies, he makes himself
necessary to the State by always going to war. He is thus enabled to
depress the poor by heavy taxes, and so keep them at work; and he can get
rid of bolder spirits by handing them over to the enemy. Then comes
unpopularity; some of his old associates have the courage to oppose him.
The consequence is, that he has to make a purgation of the State; but,
unlike the physician who purges away the bad, he must get rid of the high-
spirited, the wise and the wealthy; for he has no choice between death and
a life of shame and dishonour. And the more hated he is, the more he will
require trusty guards; but how will he obtain them? 'They will come
flocking like birds--for pay.' Will he not rather obtain them on the spot?
He will take the slaves from their owners and make them his body-guard;
these are his trusted friends, who admire and look up to him. Are not the
tragic poets wise who magnify and exalt the tyrant, and say that he is wise
by association with the wise? And are not their praises of tyranny alone a
sufficient reason why we should exclude them from our State? They may go
to other cities, and gather the mob about them with fine words, and change
commonwealths into tyrannies and democracies, receiving honours and rewards
for their services; but the higher they and their friends ascend
constitution hill, the more their honour will fail and become 'too
asthmatic to mount.' To return to the tyrant--How will he support that
rare army of his? First, by robbing the temples of their treasures, which
will enable him to lighten the taxes; then he will take all his father's
property, and spend it on his companions, male or female. Now his father
is the demus, and if the demus gets angry, and says that a great hulking
son ought not to be a burden on his parents, and bids him and his riotous
crew begone, then will the parent know what a monster he has been
nurturing, and that the son whom he would fain expel is too strong for him.
'You do not mean to say that he will beat his father?' Yes, he will, after
having taken away his arms. 'Then he is a parricide and a cruel, unnatural
son.' And the people have jumped from the fear of slavery into slavery,
out of the smoke into the fire. Thus liberty, when out of all order and
reason, passes into the worst form of servitude...

In the previous books Plato has described the ideal State; now he returns
to the perverted or declining forms, on which he had lightly touched at the
end of Book IV. These he describes in a succession of parallels between
the individuals and the States, tracing the origin of either in the State
or individual which has preceded them. He begins by asking the point at
which he digressed; and is thus led shortly to recapitulate the substance
of the three former books, which also contain a parallel of the philosopher
and the State.

Of the first decline he gives no intelligible account; he would not have
liked to admit the most probable causes of the fall of his ideal State,
which to us would appear to be the impracticability of communism or the
natural antagonism of the ruling and subject classes. He throws a veil of
mystery over the origin of the decline, which he attributes to ignorance of
the law of population. Of this law the famous geometrical figure or number
is the expression. Like the ancients in general, he had no idea of the
gradual perfectibility of man or of the education of the human race. His
ideal was not to be attained in the course of ages, but was to spring in
full armour from the head of the legislator. When good laws had been
given, he thought only of the manner in which they were likely to be
corrupted, or of how they might be filled up in detail or restored in
accordance with their original spirit. He appears not to have reflected
upon the full meaning of his own words, 'In the brief space of human life,
nothing great can be accomplished'; or again, as he afterwards says in the
Laws, 'Infinite time is the maker of cities.' The order of constitutions
which is adopted by him represents an order of thought rather than a
succession of time, and may be considered as the first attempt to frame a
philosophy of history.

The first of these declining States is timocracy, or the government of
soldiers and lovers of honour, which answers to the Spartan State; this is
a government of force, in which education is not inspired by the Muses, but
imposed by the law, and in which all the finer elements of organization
have disappeared. The philosopher himself has lost the love of truth, and
the soldier, who is of a simpler and honester nature, rules in his stead.
The individual who answers to timocracy has some noticeable qualities. He
is described as ill educated, but, like the Spartan, a lover of literature;
and although he is a harsh master to his servants he has no natural
superiority over them. His character is based upon a reaction against the
circumstances of his father, who in a troubled city has retired from
politics; and his mother, who is dissatisfied at her own position, is
always urging him towards the life of political ambition. Such a character
may have had this origin, and indeed Livy attributes the Licinian laws to a
feminine jealousy of a similar kind. But there is obviously no connection
between the manner in which the timocratic State springs out of the ideal,
and the mere accident by which the timocratic man is the son of a retired

The two next stages in the decline of constitutions have even less
historical foundation. For there is no trace in Greek history of a polity
like the Spartan or Cretan passing into an oligarchy of wealth, or of the
oligarchy of wealth passing into a democracy. The order of history appears
to be different; first, in the Homeric times there is the royal or
patriarchal form of government, which a century or two later was succeeded
by an oligarchy of birth rather than of wealth, and in which wealth was
only the accident of the hereditary possession of land and power.
Sometimes this oligarchical government gave way to a government based upon
a qualification of property, which, according to Aristotle's mode of using
words, would have been called a timocracy; and this in some cities, as at
Athens, became the conducting medium to democracy. But such was not the
necessary order of succession in States; nor, indeed, can any order be
discerned in the endless fluctuation of Greek history (like the tides in
the Euripus), except, perhaps, in the almost uniform tendency from monarchy
to aristocracy in the earliest times. At first sight there appears to be a
similar inversion in the last step of the Platonic succession; for tyranny,
instead of being the natural end of democracy, in early Greek history
appears rather as a stage leading to democracy; the reign of Peisistratus
and his sons is an episode which comes between the legislation of Solon and
the constitution of Cleisthenes; and some secret cause common to them all
seems to have led the greater part of Hellas at her first appearance in the
dawn of history, e.g. Athens, Argos, Corinth, Sicyon, and nearly every
State with the exception of Sparta, through a similar stage of tyranny
which ended either in oligarchy or democracy. But then we must remember
that Plato is describing rather the contemporary governments of the
Sicilian States, which alternated between democracy and tyranny, than the
ancient history of Athens or Corinth.

The portrait of the tyrant himself is just such as the later Greek
delighted to draw of Phalaris and Dionysius, in which, as in the lives of
mediaeval saints or mythic heroes, the conduct and actions of one were
attributed to another in order to fill up the outline. There was no
enormity which the Greek was not today to believe of them; the tyrant was
the negation of government and law; his assassination was glorious; there
was no crime, however unnatural, which might not with probability be
attributed to him. In this, Plato was only following the common thought of
his countrymen, which he embellished and exaggerated with all the power of
his genius. There is no need to suppose that he drew from life; or that
his knowledge of tyrants is derived from a personal acquaintance with
Dionysius. The manner in which he speaks of them would rather tend to
render doubtful his ever having 'consorted' with them, or entertained the
schemes, which are attributed to him in the Epistles, of regenerating
Sicily by their help.

Plato in a hyperbolical and serio-comic vein exaggerates the follies of
democracy which he also sees reflected in social life. To him democracy is
a state of individualism or dissolution; in which every one is doing what
is right in his own eyes. Of a people animated by a common spirit of
liberty, rising as one man to repel the Persian host, which is the leading
idea of democracy in Herodotus and Thucydides, he never seems to think.
But if he is not a believer in liberty, still less is he a lover of
tyranny. His deeper and more serious condemnation is reserved for the
tyrant, who is the ideal of wickedness and also of weakness, and who in his
utter helplessness and suspiciousness is leading an almost impossible
existence, without that remnant of good which, in Plato's opinion, was
required to give power to evil (Book I). This ideal of wickedness living
in helpless misery, is the reverse of that other portrait of perfect
injustice ruling in happiness and splendour, which first of all
Thrasymachus, and afterwards the sons of Ariston had drawn, and is also the
reverse of the king whose rule of life is the good of his subjects.

Each of these governments and individuals has a corresponding ethical
gradation: the ideal State is under the rule of reason, not extinguishing
but harmonizing the passions, and training them in virtue; in the timocracy
and the timocratic man the constitution, whether of the State or of the
individual, is based, first, upon courage, and secondly, upon the love of
honour; this latter virtue, which is hardly to be esteemed a virtue, has
superseded all the rest. In the second stage of decline the virtues have
altogether disappeared, and the love of gain has succeeded to them; in the
third stage, or democracy, the various passions are allowed to have free
play, and the virtues and vices are impartially cultivated. But this
freedom, which leads to many curious extravagances of character, is in
reality only a state of weakness and dissipation. At last, one monster
passion takes possession of the whole nature of man--this is tyranny. In
all of them excess--the excess first of wealth and then of freedom, is the
element of decay.

The eighth book of the Republic abounds in pictures of life and fanciful
allusions; the use of metaphorical language is carried to a greater extent
than anywhere else in Plato. We may remark,

(1), the description of the two nations in one, which become more and more
divided in the Greek Republics, as in feudal times, and perhaps also in our

(2), the notion of democracy expressed in a sort of Pythagorean formula as
equality among unequals;

(3), the free and easy ways of men and animals, which are characteristic of
liberty, as foreign mercenaries and universal mistrust are of the tyrant;

(4), the proposal that mere debts should not be recoverable by law is a
speculation which has often been entertained by reformers of the law in
modern times, and is in harmony with the tendencies of modern legislation.
Debt and land were the two great difficulties of the ancient lawgiver: in
modern times we may be said to have almost, if not quite, solved the first
of these difficulties, but hardly the second.

Still more remarkable are the corresponding portraits of individuals:
there is the family picture of the father and mother and the old servant of
the timocratical man, and the outward respectability and inherent meanness
of the oligarchical; the uncontrolled licence and freedom of the democrat,
in which the young Alcibiades seems to be depicted, doing right or wrong as
he pleases, and who at last, like the prodigal, goes into a far country
(note here the play of language by which the democratic man is himself
represented under the image of a State having a citadel and receiving
embassies); and there is the wild-beast nature, which breaks loose in his
successor. The hit about the tyrant being a parricide; the representation
of the tyrant's life as an obscene dream; the rhetorical surprise of a more
miserable than the most miserable of men in Book IX; the hint to the poets
that if they are the friends of tyrants there is no place for them in a
constitutional State, and that they are too clever not to see the propriety
of their own expulsion; the continuous image of the drones who are of two
kinds, swelling at last into the monster drone having wings (Book IX),--are
among Plato's happiest touches.

There remains to be considered the great difficulty of this book of the
Republic, the so-called number of the State. This is a puzzle almost as
great as the Number of the Beast in the Book of Revelation, and though
apparently known to Aristotle, is referred to by Cicero as a proverb of
obscurity (Ep. ad Att.). And some have imagined that there is no answer to
the puzzle, and that Plato has been practising upon his readers. But such
a deception as this is inconsistent with the manner in which Aristotle
speaks of the number (Pol.), and would have been ridiculous to any reader
of the Republic who was acquainted with Greek mathematics. As little
reason is there for supposing that Plato intentionally used obscure
expressions; the obscurity arises from our want of familiarity with the
subject. On the other hand, Plato himself indicates that he is not
altogether serious, and in describing his number as a solemn jest of the
Muses, he appears to imply some degree of satire on the symbolical use of
number. (Compare Cratylus; Protag.)

Our hope of understanding the passage depends principally on an accurate
study of the words themselves; on which a faint light is thrown by the
parallel passage in the ninth book. Another help is the allusion in
Aristotle, who makes the important remark that the latter part of the
passage (Greek) describes a solid figure. (Pol.--'He only says that
nothing is abiding, but that all things change in a certain cycle; and that
the origin of the change is a base of numbers which are in the ratio of
4:3; and this when combined with a figure of five gives two harmonies; he
means when the number of this figure becomes solid.') Some further clue
may be gathered from the appearance of the Pythagorean triangle, which is
denoted by the numbers 3, 4, 5, and in which, as in every right-angled
triangle, the squares of the two lesser sides equal the square of the
hypotenuse (9 + 16 = 25).

Plato begins by speaking of a perfect or cyclical number (Tim.), i.e. a
number in which the sum of the divisors equals the whole; this is the
divine or perfect number in which all lesser cycles or revolutions are
complete. He also speaks of a human or imperfect number, having four terms
and three intervals of numbers which are related to one another in certain
proportions; these he converts into figures, and finds in them when they
have been raised to the third power certain elements of number, which give
two 'harmonies,' the one square, the other oblong; but he does not say that
the square number answers to the divine, or the oblong number to the human
cycle; nor is any intimation given that the first or divine number
represents the period of the world, the second the period of the state, or
of the human race as Zeller supposes; nor is the divine number afterwards
mentioned (Arist.). The second is the number of generations or births, and
presides over them in the same mysterious manner in which the stars preside
over them, or in which, according to the Pythagoreans, opportunity,
justice, marriage, are represented by some number or figure. This is
probably the number 216.

The explanation given in the text supposes the two harmonies to make up the
number 8000. This explanation derives a certain plausibility from the
circumstance that 8000 is the ancient number of the Spartan citizens
(Herod.), and would be what Plato might have called 'a number which nearly
concerns the population of a city'; the mysterious disappearance of the
Spartan population may possibly have suggested to him the first cause of
his decline of States. The lesser or square 'harmony,' of 400, might be a
symbol of the guardians,--the larger or oblong 'harmony,' of the people,
and the numbers 3, 4, 5 might refer respectively to the three orders in the
State or parts of the soul, the four virtues, the five forms of government.
The harmony of the musical scale, which is elsewhere used as a symbol of
the harmony of the state, is also indicated. For the numbers 3, 4, 5,
which represent the sides of the Pythagorean triangle, also denote the
intervals of the scale.

The terms used in the statement of the problem may be explained as follows.
A perfect number (Greek), as already stated, is one which is equal to the
sum of its divisors. Thus 6, which is the first perfect or cyclical
number, = 1 + 2 + 3. The words (Greek), 'terms' or 'notes,' and (Greek),
'intervals,' are applicable to music as well as to number and figure.
(Greek) is the 'base' on which the whole calculation depends, or the
'lowest term' from which it can be worked out. The words (Greek) have been
variously translated--'squared and cubed' (Donaldson), 'equalling and
equalled in power' (Weber), 'by involution and evolution,' i.e. by raising
the power and extracting the root (as in the translation). Numbers are
called 'like and unlike' (Greek) when the factors or the sides of the
planes and cubes which they represent are or are not in the same ratio:
e.g. 8 and 27 = 2 cubed and 3 cubed; and conversely. 'Waxing' (Greek)
numbers, called also 'increasing' (Greek), are those which are exceeded by
the sum of their divisors: e.g. 12 and 18 are less than 16 and 21.
'Waning' (Greek) numbers, called also 'decreasing' (Greek) are those which
succeed the sum of their divisors: e.g. 8 and 27 exceed 7 and 13. The
words translated 'commensurable and agreeable to one another' (Greek) seem
to be different ways of describing the same relation, with more or less
precision. They are equivalent to 'expressible in terms having the same
relation to one another,' like the series 8, 12, 18, 27, each of which
numbers is in the relation of (1 and 1/2) to the preceding. The 'base,' or
'fundamental number, which has 1/3 added to it' (1 and 1/3) = 4/3 or a
musical fourth. (Greek) is a 'proportion' of numbers as of musical notes,
applied either to the parts or factors of a single number or to the
relation of one number to another. The first harmony is a 'square' number
(Greek); the second harmony is an 'oblong' number (Greek), i.e. a number
representing a figure of which the opposite sides only are equal. (Greek)
= 'numbers squared from' or 'upon diameters'; (Greek) = 'rational,' i.e.
omitting fractions, (Greek), 'irrational,' i.e. including fractions; e.g.
49 is a square of the rational diameter of a figure the side of which = 5:
50, of an irrational diameter of the same. For several of the explanations
here given and for a good deal besides I am indebted to an excellent
article on the Platonic Number by Dr. Donaldson (Proc. of the Philol.

The conclusions which he draws from these data are summed up by him as
follows. Having assumed that the number of the perfect or divine cycle is
the number of the world, and the number of the imperfect cycle the number
of the state, he proceeds: 'The period of the world is defined by the
perfect number 6, that of the state by the cube of that number or 216,
which is the product of the last pair of terms in the Platonic Tetractys (a
series of seven terms, 1, 2, 3, 4, 9, 8, 27); and if we take this as the
basis of our computation, we shall have two cube numbers (Greek), viz. 8
and 27; and the mean proportionals between these, viz. 12 and 18, will
furnish three intervals and four terms, and these terms and intervals stand
related to one another in the sesqui-altera ratio, i.e. each term is to the
preceding as 3/2. Now if we remember that the number 216 = 8 x 27 = 3
cubed + 4 cubed + 5 cubed, and 3 squared + 4 squared = 5 squared, we must
admit that this number implies the numbers 3, 4, 5, to which musicians
attach so much importance. And if we combine the ratio 4/3 with the number
5, or multiply the ratios of the sides by the hypotenuse, we shall by first
squaring and then cubing obtain two expressions, which denote the ratio of
the two last pairs of terms in the Platonic Tetractys, the former
multiplied by the square, the latter by the cube of the number 10, the sum
of the first four digits which constitute the Platonic Tetractys.' The two
(Greek) he elsewhere explains as follows: 'The first (Greek) is (Greek),
in other words (4/3 x 5) all squared = 100 x 2 squared over 3 squared. The
second (Greek), a cube of the same root, is described as 100 multiplied
(alpha) by the rational diameter of 5 diminished by unity, i.e., as shown
above, 48: (beta) by two incommensurable diameters, i.e. the two first
irrationals, or 2 and 3: and (gamma) by the cube of 3, or 27. Thus we
have (48 + 5 + 27) 100 = 1000 x 2 cubed. This second harmony is to be the
cube of the number of which the former harmony is the square, and therefore
must be divided by the cube of 3. In other words, the whole expression
will be: (1), for the first harmony, 400/9: (2), for the second harmony,

The reasons which have inclined me to agree with Dr. Donaldson and also
with Schleiermacher in supposing that 216 is the Platonic number of births
are: (1) that it coincides with the description of the number given in the
first part of the passage (Greek...): (2) that the number 216 with its
permutations would have been familiar to a Greek mathematician, though
unfamiliar to us: (3) that 216 is the cube of 6, and also the sum of 3
cubed, 4 cubed, 5 cubed, the numbers 3, 4, 5 representing the Pythagorean
triangle, of which the sides when squared equal the square of the
hypotenuse (9 + 16 = 25): (4) that it is also the period of the
Pythagorean Metempsychosis: (5) the three ultimate terms or bases (3, 4,
5) of which 216 is composed answer to the third, fourth, fifth in the
musical scale: (6) that the number 216 is the product of the cubes of 2
and 3, which are the two last terms in the Platonic Tetractys: (7) that
the Pythagorean triangle is said by Plutarch (de Is. et Osir.), Proclus
(super prima Eucl.), and Quintilian (de Musica) to be contained in this
passage, so that the tradition of the school seems to point in the same
direction: (8) that the Pythagorean triangle is called also the figure of
marriage (Greek).

But though agreeing with Dr. Donaldson thus far, I see no reason for
supposing, as he does, that the first or perfect number is the world, the
human or imperfect number the state; nor has he given any proof that the
second harmony is a cube. Nor do I think that (Greek) can mean 'two
incommensurables,' which he arbitrarily assumes to be 2 and 3, but rather,
as the preceding clause implies, (Greek), i.e. two square numbers based
upon irrational diameters of a figure the side of which is 5 = 50 x 2.

The greatest objection to the translation is the sense given to the words
(Greek), 'a base of three with a third added to it, multiplied by 5.' In
this somewhat forced manner Plato introduces once more the numbers of the
Pythagorean triangle. But the coincidences in the numbers which follow are
in favour of the explanation. The first harmony of 400, as has been
already remarked, probably represents the rulers; the second and oblong
harmony of 7600, the people.

And here we take leave of the difficulty. The discovery of the riddle
would be useless, and would throw no light on ancient mathematics. The
point of interest is that Plato should have used such a symbol, and that so
much of the Pythagorean spirit should have prevailed in him. His general
meaning is that divine creation is perfect, and is represented or presided
over by a perfect or cyclical number; human generation is imperfect, and
represented or presided over by an imperfect number or series of numbers.
The number 5040, which is the number of the citizens in the Laws, is
expressly based by him on utilitarian grounds, namely, the convenience of
the number for division; it is also made up of the first seven digits
multiplied by one another. The contrast of the perfect and imperfect
number may have been easily suggested by the corrections of the cycle,
which were made first by Meton and secondly by Callippus; (the latter is
said to have been a pupil of Plato). Of the degree of importance or of
exactness to be attributed to the problem, the number of the tyrant in Book
IX (729 = 365 x 2), and the slight correction of the error in the number
5040/12 (Laws), may furnish a criterion. There is nothing surprising in
the circumstance that those who were seeking for order in nature and had
found order in number, should have imagined one to give law to the other.
Plato believes in a power of number far beyond what he could see realized
in the world around him, and he knows the great influence which 'the little
matter of 1, 2, 3' exercises upon education. He may even be thought to
have a prophetic anticipation of the discoveries of Quetelet and others,
that numbers depend upon numbers; e.g.--in population, the numbers of
births and the respective numbers of children born of either sex, on the
respective ages of parents, i.e. on other numbers.

BOOK IX. Last of all comes the tyrannical man, about whom we have to
enquire, Whence is he, and how does he live--in happiness or in misery?
There is, however, a previous question of the nature and number of the
appetites, which I should like to consider first. Some of them are
unlawful, and yet admit of being chastened and weakened in various degrees
by the power of reason and law. 'What appetites do you mean?' I mean
those which are awake when the reasoning powers are asleep, which get up
and walk about naked without any self-respect or shame; and there is no
conceivable folly or crime, however cruel or unnatural, of which, in
imagination, they may not be guilty. 'True,' he said; 'very true.' But
when a man's pulse beats temperately; and he has supped on a feast of
reason and come to a knowledge of himself before going to rest, and has
satisfied his desires just enough to prevent their perturbing his reason,
which remains clear and luminous, and when he is free from quarrel and
heat,--the visions which he has on his bed are least irregular and
abnormal. Even in good men there is such an irregular wild-beast nature,
which peers out in sleep.

To return:--You remember what was said of the democrat; that he was the son
of a miserly father, who encouraged the saving desires and repressed the
ornamental and expensive ones; presently the youth got into fine company,
and began to entertain a dislike to his father's narrow ways; and being a
better man than the corrupters of his youth, he came to a mean, and led a
life, not of lawless or slavish passion, but of regular and successive
indulgence. Now imagine that the youth has become a father, and has a son
who is exposed to the same temptations, and has companions who lead him
into every sort of iniquity, and parents and friends who try to keep him
right. The counsellors of evil find that their only chance of retaining
him is to implant in his soul a monster drone, or love; while other desires
buzz around him and mystify him with sweet sounds and scents, this monster
love takes possession of him, and puts an end to every true or modest
thought or wish. Love, like drunkenness and madness, is a tyranny; and the
tyrannical man, whether made by nature or habit, is just a drinking,
lusting, furious sort of animal.

And how does such an one live? 'Nay, that you must tell me.' Well then, I
fancy that he will live amid revelries and harlotries, and love will be the
lord and master of the house. Many desires require much money, and so he
spends all that he has and borrows more; and when he has nothing the young
ravens are still in the nest in which they were hatched, crying for food.
Love urges them on; and they must be gratified by force or fraud, or if
not, they become painful and troublesome; and as the new pleasures succeed
the old ones, so will the son take possession of the goods of his parents;
if they show signs of refusing, he will defraud and deceive them; and if
they openly resist, what then? 'I can only say, that I should not much
like to be in their place.' But, O heavens, Adeimantus, to think that for
some new-fangled and unnecessary love he will give up his old father and
mother, best and dearest of friends, or enslave them to the fancies of the
hour! Truly a tyrannical son is a blessing to his father and mother! When
there is no more to be got out of them, he turns burglar or pickpocket, or
robs a temple. Love overmasters the thoughts of his youth, and he becomes
in sober reality the monster that he was sometimes in sleep. He waxes
strong in all violence and lawlessness; and is ready for any deed of daring
that will supply the wants of his rabble-rout. In a well-ordered State
there are only a few such, and these in time of war go out and become the
mercenaries of a tyrant. But in time of peace they stay at home and do
mischief; they are the thieves, footpads, cut-purses, man-stealers of the
community; or if they are able to speak, they turn false-witnesses and
informers. 'No small catalogue of crimes truly, even if the perpetrators
are few.' Yes, I said; but small and great are relative terms, and no
crimes which are committed by them approach those of the tyrant, whom this
class, growing strong and numerous, create out of themselves. If the
people yield, well and good, but, if they resist, then, as before he beat
his father and mother, so now he beats his fatherland and motherland, and
places his mercenaries over them. Such men in their early days live with
flatterers, and they themselves flatter others, in order to gain their
ends; but they soon discard their followers when they have no longer any
need of them; they are always either masters or servants,--the joys of
friendship are unknown to them. And they are utterly treacherous and
unjust, if the nature of justice be at all understood by us. They realize
our dream; and he who is the most of a tyrant by nature, and leads the life
of a tyrant for the longest time, will be the worst of them, and being the
worst of them, will also be the most miserable.

Like man, like State,--the tyrannical man will answer to tyranny, which is
the extreme opposite of the royal State; for one is the best and the other
the worst. But which is the happier? Great and terrible as the tyrant may
appear enthroned amid his satellites, let us not be afraid to go in and
ask; and the answer is, that the monarchical is the happiest, and the
tyrannical the most miserable of States. And may we not ask the same
question about the men themselves, requesting some one to look into them
who is able to penetrate the inner nature of man, and will not be panic-
struck by the vain pomp of tyranny? I will suppose that he is one who has
lived with him, and has seen him in family life, or perhaps in the hour of
trouble and danger.

Assuming that we ourselves are the impartial judge for whom we seek, let us
begin by comparing the individual and State, and ask first of all, whether
the State is likely to be free or enslaved--Will there not be a little
freedom and a great deal of slavery? And the freedom is of the bad, and
the slavery of the good; and this applies to the man as well as to the
State; for his soul is full of meanness and slavery, and the better part is
enslaved to the worse. He cannot do what he would, and his mind is full of
confusion; he is the very reverse of a freeman. The State will be poor and
full of misery and sorrow; and the man's soul will also be poor and full of
sorrows, and he will be the most miserable of men. No, not the most
miserable, for there is yet a more miserable. 'Who is that?' The
tyrannical man who has the misfortune also to become a public tyrant.
'There I suspect that you are right.' Say rather, 'I am sure;' conjecture
is out of place in an enquiry of this nature. He is like a wealthy owner
of slaves, only he has more of them than any private individual. You will
say, 'The owners of slaves are not generally in any fear of them.' But
why? Because the whole city is in a league which protects the individual.
Suppose however that one of these owners and his household is carried off
by a god into a wilderness, where there are no freemen to help him--will he
not be in an agony of terror?--will he not be compelled to flatter his
slaves and to promise them many things sore against his will? And suppose
the same god who carried him off were to surround him with neighbours who
declare that no man ought to have slaves, and that the owners of them
should be punished with death. 'Still worse and worse! He will be in the
midst of his enemies.' And is not our tyrant such a captive soul, who is
tormented by a swarm of passions which he cannot indulge; living indoors
always like a woman, and jealous of those who can go out and see the world?

Having so many evils, will not the most miserable of men be still more
miserable in a public station? Master of others when he is not master of
himself; like a sick man who is compelled to be an athlete; the meanest of
slaves and the most abject of flatterers; wanting all things, and never
able to satisfy his desires; always in fear and distraction, like the State
of which he is the representative. His jealous, hateful, faithless temper
grows worse with command; he is more and more faithless, envious,
unrighteous,--the most wretched of men, a misery to himself and to others.
And so let us have a final trial and proclamation; need we hire a herald,
or shall I proclaim the result? 'Made the proclamation yourself.' The son
of Ariston (the best) is of opinion that the best and justest of men is
also the happiest, and that this is he who is the most royal master of
himself; and that the unjust man is he who is the greatest tyrant of
himself and of his State. And I add further--'seen or unseen by gods or

This is our first proof. The second is derived from the three kinds of
pleasure, which answer to the three elements of the soul--reason, passion,
desire; under which last is comprehended avarice as well as sensual
appetite, while passion includes ambition, party-feeling, love of
reputation. Reason, again, is solely directed to the attainment of truth,
and careless of money and reputation. In accordance with the difference of
men's natures, one of these three principles is in the ascendant, and they
have their several pleasures corresponding to them. Interrogate now the
three natures, and each one will be found praising his own pleasures and
depreciating those of others. The money-maker will contrast the vanity of
knowledge with the solid advantages of wealth. The ambitious man will
despise knowledge which brings no honour; whereas the philosopher will
regard only the fruition of truth, and will call other pleasures necessary
rather than good. Now, how shall we decide between them? Is there any
better criterion than experience and knowledge? And which of the three has
the truest knowledge and the widest experience? The experience of youth
makes the philosopher acquainted with the two kinds of desire, but the
avaricious and the ambitious man never taste the pleasures of truth and
wisdom. Honour he has equally with them; they are 'judged of him,' but he
is 'not judged of them,' for they never attain to the knowledge of true
being. And his instrument is reason, whereas their standard is only wealth
and honour; and if by reason we are to judge, his good will be the truest.
And so we arrive at the result that the pleasure of the rational part of
the soul, and a life passed in such pleasure is the pleasantest. He who
has a right to judge judges thus. Next comes the life of ambition, and, in
the third place, that of money-making.

Twice has the just man overthrown the unjust--once more, as in an Olympian
contest, first offering up a prayer to the saviour Zeus, let him try a
fall. A wise man whispers to me that the pleasures of the wise are true
and pure; all others are a shadow only. Let us examine this: Is not
pleasure opposed to pain, and is there not a mean state which is neither?
When a man is sick, nothing is more pleasant to him than health. But this
he never found out while he was well. In pain he desires only to cease
from pain; on the other hand, when he is in an ecstasy of pleasure, rest is
painful to him. Thus rest or cessation is both pleasure and pain. But can
that which is neither become both? Again, pleasure and pain are motions,
and the absence of them is rest; but if so, how can the absence of either
of them be the other? Thus we are led to infer that the contradiction is
an appearance only, and witchery of the senses. And these are not the only
pleasures, for there are others which have no preceding pains. Pure
pleasure then is not the absence of pain, nor pure pain the absence of
pleasure; although most of the pleasures which reach the mind through the
body are reliefs of pain, and have not only their reactions when they
depart, but their anticipations before they come. They can be best
described in a simile. There is in nature an upper, lower, and middle
region, and he who passes from the lower to the middle imagines that he is
going up and is already in the upper world; and if he were taken back again
would think, and truly think, that he was descending. All this arises out
of his ignorance of the true upper, middle, and lower regions. And a like
confusion happens with pleasure and pain, and with many other things. The
man who compares grey with black, calls grey white; and the man who
compares absence of pain with pain, calls the absence of pain pleasure.
Again, hunger and thirst are inanitions of the body, ignorance and folly of
the soul; and food is the satisfaction of the one, knowledge of the other.
Now which is the purer satisfaction--that of eating and drinking, or that
of knowledge? Consider the matter thus: The satisfaction of that which
has more existence is truer than of that which has less. The invariable
and immortal has a more real existence than the variable and mortal, and
has a corresponding measure of knowledge and truth. The soul, again, has
more existence and truth and knowledge than the body, and is therefore more
really satisfied and has a more natural pleasure. Those who feast only on
earthly food, are always going at random up to the middle and down again;
but they never pass into the true upper world, or have a taste of true
pleasure. They are like fatted beasts, full of gluttony and sensuality,
and ready to kill one another by reason of their insatiable lust; for they
are not filled with true being, and their vessel is leaky (Gorgias). Their
pleasures are mere shadows of pleasure, mixed with pain, coloured and
intensified by contrast, and therefore intensely desired; and men go
fighting about them, as Stesichorus says that the Greeks fought about the
shadow of Helen at Troy, because they know not the truth.

The same may be said of the passionate element:--the desires of the
ambitious soul, as well as of the covetous, have an inferior satisfaction.
Only when under the guidance of reason do either of the other principles do
their own business or attain the pleasure which is natural to them. When
not attaining, they compel the other parts of the soul to pursue a shadow
of pleasure which is not theirs. And the more distant they are from
philosophy and reason, the more distant they will be from law and order,
and the more illusive will be their pleasures. The desires of love and
tyranny are the farthest from law, and those of the king are nearest to it.
There is one genuine pleasure, and two spurious ones: the tyrant goes
beyond even the latter; he has run away altogether from law and reason.
Nor can the measure of his inferiority be told, except in a figure. The
tyrant is the third removed from the oligarch, and has therefore, not a
shadow of his pleasure, but the shadow of a shadow only. The oligarch,
again, is thrice removed from the king, and thus we get the formula 3 x 3,
which is the number of a surface, representing the shadow which is the
tyrant's pleasure, and if you like to cube this 'number of the beast,' you
will find that the measure of the difference amounts to 729; the king is
729 times more happy than the tyrant. And this extraordinary number is
NEARLY equal to the number of days and nights in a year (365 x 2 = 730);
and is therefore concerned with human life. This is the interval between a
good and bad man in happiness only: what must be the difference between
them in comeliness of life and virtue!

Perhaps you may remember some one saying at the beginning of our discussion
that the unjust man was profited if he had the reputation of justice. Now
that we know the nature of justice and injustice, let us make an image of
the soul, which will personify his words. First of all, fashion a
multitudinous beast, having a ring of heads of all manner of animals, tame
and wild, and able to produce and change them at pleasure. Suppose now
another form of a lion, and another of a man; the second smaller than the
first, the third than the second; join them together and cover them with a
human skin, in which they are completely concealed. When this has been
done, let us tell the supporter of injustice that he is feeding up the
beasts and starving the man. The maintainer of justice, on the other hand,
is trying to strengthen the man; he is nourishing the gentle principle
within him, and making an alliance with the lion heart, in order that he
may be able to keep down the many-headed hydra, and bring all into unity
with each other and with themselves. Thus in every point of view, whether
in relation to pleasure, honour, or advantage, the just man is right, and
the unjust wrong.

But now, let us reason with the unjust, who is not intentionally in error.
Is not the noble that which subjects the beast to the man, or rather to the
God in man; the ignoble, that which subjects the man to the beast? And if
so, who would receive gold on condition that he was to degrade the noblest
part of himself under the worst?--who would sell his son or daughter into
the hands of brutal and evil men, for any amount of money? And will he
sell his own fairer and diviner part without any compunction to the most
godless and foul? Would he not be worse than Eriphyle, who sold her
husband's life for a necklace? And intemperance is the letting loose of
the multiform monster, and pride and sullenness are the growth and increase
of the lion and serpent element, while luxury and effeminacy are caused by
a too great relaxation of spirit. Flattery and meanness again arise when
the spirited element is subjected to avarice, and the lion is habituated to
become a monkey. The real disgrace of handicraft arts is, that those who
are engaged in them have to flatter, instead of mastering their desires;
therefore we say that they should be placed under the control of the better
principle in another because they have none in themselves; not, as
Thrasymachus imagined, to the injury of the subjects, but for their good.
And our intention in educating the young, is to give them self-control; the
law desires to nurse up in them a higher principle, and when they have
acquired this, they may go their ways.

'What, then, shall a man profit, if he gain the whole world' and become
more and more wicked? Or what shall he profit by escaping discovery, if
the concealment of evil prevents the cure? If he had been punished, the
brute within him would have been silenced, and the gentler element
liberated; and he would have united temperance, justice, and wisdom in his
soul--a union better far than any combination of bodily gifts. The man of
understanding will honour knowledge above all; in the next place he will
keep under his body, not only for the sake of health and strength, but in
order to attain the most perfect harmony of body and soul. In the
acquisition of riches, too, he will aim at order and harmony; he will not
desire to heap up wealth without measure, but he will fear that the
increase of wealth will disturb the constitution of his own soul. For the
same reason he will only accept such honours as will make him a better man;
any others he will decline. 'In that case,' said he, 'he will never be a
politician.' Yes, but he will, in his own city; though probably not in his
native country, unless by some divine accident. 'You mean that he will be
a citizen of the ideal city, which has no place upon earth.' But in
heaven, I replied, there is a pattern of such a city, and he who wishes may
order his life after that image. Whether such a state is or ever will be
matters not; he will act according to that pattern and no other...

The most noticeable points in the 9th Book of the Republic are:--(1) the
account of pleasure; (2) the number of the interval which divides the king
from the tyrant; (3) the pattern which is in heaven.

1. Plato's account of pleasure is remarkable for moderation, and in this
respect contrasts with the later Platonists and the views which are
attributed to them by Aristotle. He is not, like the Cynics, opposed to
all pleasure, but rather desires that the several parts of the soul shall
have their natural satisfaction; he even agrees with the Epicureans in
describing pleasure as something more than the absence of pain. This is
proved by the circumstance that there are pleasures which have no
antecedent pains (as he also remarks in the Philebus), such as the
pleasures of smell, and also the pleasures of hope and anticipation. In
the previous book he had made the distinction between necessary and
unnecessary pleasure, which is repeated by Aristotle, and he now observes
that there are a further class of 'wild beast' pleasures, corresponding to
Aristotle's (Greek). He dwells upon the relative and unreal character of
sensual pleasures and the illusion which arises out of the contrast of
pleasure and pain, pointing out the superiority of the pleasures of reason,
which are at rest, over the fleeting pleasures of sense and emotion. The
pre-eminence of royal pleasure is shown by the fact that reason is able to
form a judgment of the lower pleasures, while the two lower parts of the
soul are incapable of judging the pleasures of reason. Thus, in his
treatment of pleasure, as in many other subjects, the philosophy of Plato
is 'sawn up into quantities' by Aristotle; the analysis which was
originally made by him became in the next generation the foundation of
further technical distinctions. Both in Plato and Aristotle we note the
illusion under which the ancients fell of regarding the transience of
pleasure as a proof of its unreality, and of confounding the permanence of
the intellectual pleasures with the unchangeableness of the knowledge from
which they are derived. Neither do we like to admit that the pleasures of
knowledge, though more elevating, are not more lasting than other
pleasures, and are almost equally dependent on the accidents of our bodily
state (Introduction to Philebus).

2. The number of the interval which separates the king from the tyrant,
and royal from tyrannical pleasures, is 729, the cube of 9. Which Plato
characteristically designates as a number concerned with human life,
because NEARLY equivalent to the number of days and nights in the year. He
is desirous of proclaiming that the interval between them is immeasurable,
and invents a formula to give expression to his idea. Those who spoke of
justice as a cube, of virtue as an art of measuring (Prot.), saw no
inappropriateness in conceiving the soul under the figure of a line, or the
pleasure of the tyrant as separated from the pleasure of the king by the
numerical interval of 729. And in modern times we sometimes use
metaphorically what Plato employed as a philosophical formula. 'It is not
easy to estimate the loss of the tyrant, except perhaps in this way,' says
Plato. So we might say, that although the life of a good man is not to be
compared to that of a bad man, yet you may measure the difference between
them by valuing one minute of the one at an hour of the other ('One day in
thy courts is better than a thousand'), or you might say that 'there is an
infinite difference.' But this is not so much as saying, in homely phrase,
'They are a thousand miles asunder.' And accordingly Plato finds the
natural vehicle of his thoughts in a progression of numbers; this
arithmetical formula he draws out with the utmost seriousness, and both
here and in the number of generation seems to find an additional proof of
the truth of his speculation in forming the number into a geometrical
figure; just as persons in our own day are apt to fancy that a statement is
verified when it has been only thrown into an abstract form. In speaking
of the number 729 as proper to human life, he probably intended to intimate
that one year of the tyrannical = 12 hours of the royal life.

The simple observation that the comparison of two similar solids is
effected by the comparison of the cubes of their sides, is the mathematical
groundwork of this fanciful expression. There is some difficulty in
explaining the steps by which the number 729 is obtained; the oligarch is
removed in the third degree from the royal and aristocratical, and the
tyrant in the third degree from the oligarchical; but we have to arrange
the terms as the sides of a square and to count the oligarch twice over,
thus reckoning them not as = 5 but as = 9. The square of 9 is passed
lightly over as only a step towards the cube.

3. Towards the close of the Republic, Plato seems to be more and more
convinced of the ideal character of his own speculations. At the end of
the 9th Book the pattern which is in heaven takes the place of the city of
philosophers on earth. The vision which has received form and substance at
his hands, is now discovered to be at a distance. And yet this distant
kingdom is also the rule of man's life. ('Say not lo! here, or lo! there,
for the kingdom of God is within you.') Thus a note is struck which
prepares for the revelation of a future life in the following Book. But
the future life is present still; the ideal of politics is to be realized
in the individual.

BOOK X. Many things pleased me in the order of our State, but there was
nothing which I liked better than the regulation about poetry. The
division of the soul throws a new light on our exclusion of imitation. I
do not mind telling you in confidence that all poetry is an outrage on the
understanding, unless the hearers have that balm of knowledge which heals
error. I have loved Homer ever since I was a boy, and even now he appears
to me to be the great master of tragic poetry. But much as I love the man,
I love truth more, and therefore I must speak out: and first of all, will
you explain what is imitation, for really I do not understand? 'How likely
then that I should understand!' That might very well be, for the duller
often sees better than the keener eye. 'True, but in your presence I can
hardly venture to say what I think.' Then suppose that we begin in our old
fashion, with the doctrine of universals. Let us assume the existence of
beds and tables. There is one idea of a bed, or of a table, which the
maker of each had in his mind when making them; he did not make the ideas
of beds and tables, but he made beds and tables according to the ideas.
And is there not a maker of the works of all workmen, who makes not only
vessels but plants and animals, himself, the earth and heaven, and things
in heaven and under the earth? He makes the Gods also. 'He must be a
wizard indeed!' But do you not see that there is a sense in which you
could do the same? You have only to take a mirror, and catch the
reflection of the sun, and the earth, or anything else--there now you have
made them. 'Yes, but only in appearance.' Exactly so; and the painter is
such a creator as you are with the mirror, and he is even more unreal than
the carpenter; although neither the carpenter nor any other artist can be
supposed to make the absolute bed. 'Not if philosophers may be believed.'
Nor need we wonder that his bed has but an imperfect relation to the truth.
Reflect:--Here are three beds; one in nature, which is made by God;
another, which is made by the carpenter; and the third, by the painter.
God only made one, nor could he have made more than one; for if there had
been two, there would always have been a third--more absolute and abstract
than either, under which they would have been included. We may therefore
conceive God to be the natural maker of the bed, and in a lower sense the
carpenter is also the maker; but the painter is rather the imitator of what
the other two make; he has to do with a creation which is thrice removed
from reality. And the tragic poet is an imitator, and, like every other
imitator, is thrice removed from the king and from the truth. The painter
imitates not the original bed, but the bed made by the carpenter. And
this, without being really different, appears to be different, and has many
points of view, of which only one is caught by the painter, who represents
everything because he represents a piece of everything, and that piece an
image. And he can paint any other artist, although he knows nothing of
their arts; and this with sufficient skill to deceive children or simple
people. Suppose now that somebody came to us and told us, how he had met a
man who knew all that everybody knows, and better than anybody:--should we
not infer him to be a simpleton who, having no discernment of truth and
falsehood, had met with a wizard or enchanter, whom he fancied to be all-
wise? And when we hear persons saying that Homer and the tragedians know
all the arts and all the virtues, must we not infer that they are under a
similar delusion? they do not see that the poets are imitators, and that
their creations are only imitations. 'Very true.' But if a person could
create as well as imitate, he would rather leave some permanent work and
not an imitation only; he would rather be the receiver than the giver of
praise? 'Yes, for then he would have more honour and advantage.'

Let us now interrogate Homer and the poets. Friend Homer, say I to him, I
am not going to ask you about medicine, or any art to which your poems
incidentally refer, but about their main subjects--war, military tactics,
politics. If you are only twice and not thrice removed from the truth--not
an imitator or an image-maker, please to inform us what good you have ever
done to mankind? Is there any city which professes to have received laws
from you, as Sicily and Italy have from Charondas, Sparta from Lycurgus,
Athens from Solon? Or was any war ever carried on by your counsels? or is
any invention attributed to you, as there is to Thales and Anacharsis? Or
is there any Homeric way of life, such as the Pythagorean was, in which you
instructed men, and which is called after you? 'No, indeed; and Creophylus
(Flesh-child) was even more unfortunate in his breeding than he was in his
name, if, as tradition says, Homer in his lifetime was allowed by him and
his other friends to starve.' Yes, but could this ever have happened if
Homer had really been the educator of Hellas? Would he not have had many
devoted followers? If Protagoras and Prodicus can persuade their
contemporaries that no one can manage house or State without them, is it
likely that Homer and Hesiod would have been allowed to go about as
beggars--I mean if they had really been able to do the world any good?--
would not men have compelled them to stay where they were, or have followed
them about in order to get education? But they did not; and therefore we
may infer that Homer and all the poets are only imitators, who do but
imitate the appearances of things. For as a painter by a knowledge of
figure and colour can paint a cobbler without any practice in cobbling, so
the poet can delineate any art in the colours of language, and give harmony
and rhythm to the cobbler and also to the general; and you know how mere
narration, when deprived of the ornaments of metre, is like a face which
has lost the beauty of youth and never had any other. Once more, the
imitator has no knowledge of reality, but only of appearance. The painter
paints, and the artificer makes a bridle and reins, but neither understands
the use of them--the knowledge of this is confined to the horseman; and so
of other things. Thus we have three arts: one of use, another of
invention, a third of imitation; and the user furnishes the rule to the two
others. The flute-player will know the good and bad flute, and the maker
will put faith in him; but the imitator will neither know nor have faith--
neither science nor true opinion can be ascribed to him. Imitation, then,
is devoid of knowledge, being only a kind of play or sport, and the tragic
and epic poets are imitators in the highest degree.

And now let us enquire, what is the faculty in man which answers to
imitation. Allow me to explain my meaning: Objects are differently seen
when in the water and when out of the water, when near and when at a
distance; and the painter or juggler makes use of this variation to impose
upon us. And the art of measuring and weighing and calculating comes in to
save our bewildered minds from the power of appearance; for, as we were
saying, two contrary opinions of the same about the same and at the same
time, cannot both of them be true. But which of them is true is determined
by the art of calculation; and this is allied to the better faculty in the
soul, as the arts of imitation are to the worse. And the same holds of the
ear as well as of the eye, of poetry as well as painting. The imitation is
of actions voluntary or involuntary, in which there is an expectation of a
good or bad result, and present experience of pleasure and pain. But is a
man in harmony with himself when he is the subject of these conflicting
influences? Is there not rather a contradiction in him? Let me further
ask, whether he is more likely to control sorrow when he is alone or when
he is in company. 'In the latter case.' Feeling would lead him to indulge
his sorrow, but reason and law control him and enjoin patience; since he
cannot know whether his affliction is good or evil, and no human thing is
of any great consequence, while sorrow is certainly a hindrance to good
counsel. For when we stumble, we should not, like children, make an
uproar; we should take the measures which reason prescribes, not raising a
lament, but finding a cure. And the better part of us is ready to follow
reason, while the irrational principle is full of sorrow and distraction at
the recollection of our troubles. Unfortunately, however, this latter
furnishes the chief materials of the imitative arts. Whereas reason is
ever in repose and cannot easily be displayed, especially to a mixed
multitude who have no experience of her. Thus the poet is like the painter
in two ways: first he paints an inferior degree of truth, and secondly, he
is concerned with an inferior part of the soul. He indulges the feelings,
while he enfeebles the reason; and we refuse to allow him to have authority
over the mind of man; for he has no measure of greater and less, and is a
maker of images and very far gone from truth.

But we have not yet mentioned the heaviest count in the indictment--the
power which poetry has of injuriously exciting the feelings. When we hear
some passage in which a hero laments his sufferings at tedious length, you
know that we sympathize with him and praise the poet; and yet in our own
sorrows such an exhibition of feeling is regarded as effeminate and unmanly
(Ion). Now, ought a man to feel pleasure in seeing another do what he
hates and abominates in himself? Is he not giving way to a sentiment which
in his own case he would control?--he is off his guard because the sorrow
is another's; and he thinks that he may indulge his feelings without
disgrace, and will be the gainer by the pleasure. But the inevitable
consequence is that he who begins by weeping at the sorrows of others, will
end by weeping at his own. The same is true of comedy,--you may often
laugh at buffoonery which you would be ashamed to utter, and the love of
coarse merriment on the stage will at last turn you into a buffoon at home.
Poetry feeds and waters the passions and desires; she lets them rule
instead of ruling them. And therefore, when we hear the encomiasts of
Homer affirming that he is the educator of Hellas, and that all life should
be regulated by his precepts, we may allow the excellence of their
intentions, and agree with them in thinking Homer a great poet and
tragedian. But we shall continue to prohibit all poetry which goes beyond
hymns to the Gods and praises of famous men. Not pleasure and pain, but
law and reason shall rule in our State.

These are our grounds for expelling poetry; but lest she should charge us
with discourtesy, let us also make an apology to her. We will remind her
that there is an ancient quarrel between poetry and philosophy, of which
there are many traces in the writings of the poets, such as the saying of
'the she-dog, yelping at her mistress,' and 'the philosophers who are ready
to circumvent Zeus,' and 'the philosophers who are paupers.' Nevertheless
we bear her no ill-will, and will gladly allow her to return upon condition
that she makes a defence of herself in verse; and her supporters who are
not poets may speak in prose. We confess her charms; but if she cannot
show that she is useful as well as delightful, like rational lovers, we
must renounce our love, though endeared to us by early associations.
Having come to years of discretion, we know that poetry is not truth, and
that a man should be careful how he introduces her to that state or
constitution which he himself is; for there is a mighty issue at stake--no
less than the good or evil of a human soul. And it is not worth while to
forsake justice and virtue for the attractions of poetry, any more than for
the sake of honour or wealth. 'I agree with you.'

And yet the rewards of virtue are greater far than I have described. 'And
can we conceive things greater still?' Not, perhaps, in this brief span of
life: but should an immortal being care about anything short of eternity?
'I do not understand what you mean?' Do you not know that the soul is
immortal? 'Surely you are not prepared to prove that?' Indeed I am.
'Then let me hear this argument, of which you make so light.'

You would admit that everything has an element of good and of evil. In all
things there is an inherent corruption; and if this cannot destroy them,
nothing else will. The soul too has her own corrupting principles, which
are injustice, intemperance, cowardice, and the like. But none of these
destroy the soul in the same sense that disease destroys the body. The
soul may be full of all iniquities, but is not, by reason of them, brought
any nearer to death. Nothing which was not destroyed from within ever
perished by external affection of evil. The body, which is one thing,
cannot be destroyed by food, which is another, unless the badness of the
food is communicated to the body. Neither can the soul, which is one
thing, be corrupted by the body, which is another, unless she herself is
infected. And as no bodily evil can infect the soul, neither can any
bodily evil, whether disease or violence, or any other destroy the soul,
unless it can be shown to render her unholy and unjust. But no one will
ever prove that the souls of men become more unjust when they die. If a
person has the audacity to say the contrary, the answer is--Then why do
criminals require the hand of the executioner, and not die of themselves?
'Truly,' he said, 'injustice would not be very terrible if it brought a
cessation of evil; but I rather believe that the injustice which murders
others may tend to quicken and stimulate the life of the unjust.' You are
quite right. If sin which is her own natural and inherent evil cannot
destroy the soul, hardly will anything else destroy her. But the soul
which cannot be destroyed either by internal or external evil must be
immortal and everlasting. And if this be true, souls will always exist in
the same number. They cannot diminish, because they cannot be destroyed;
nor yet increase, for the increase of the immortal must come from something
mortal, and so all would end in immortality. Neither is the soul variable
and diverse; for that which is immortal must be of the fairest and simplest
composition. If we would conceive her truly, and so behold justice and
injustice in their own nature, she must be viewed by the light of reason
pure as at birth, or as she is reflected in philosophy when holding
converse with the divine and immortal and eternal. In her present
condition we see her only like the sea-god Glaucus, bruised and maimed in
the sea which is the world, and covered with shells and stones which are
incrusted upon her from the entertainments of earth.

Thus far, as the argument required, we have said nothing of the rewards and
honours which the poets attribute to justice; we have contented ourselves
with showing that justice in herself is best for the soul in herself, even
if a man should put on a Gyges' ring and have the helmet of Hades too. And
now you shall repay me what you borrowed; and I will enumerate the rewards
of justice in life and after death. I granted, for the sake of argument,
as you will remember, that evil might perhaps escape the knowledge of Gods
and men, although this was really impossible. And since I have shown that
justice has reality, you must grant me also that she has the palm of
appearance. In the first place, the just man is known to the Gods, and he
is therefore the friend of the Gods, and he will receive at their hands
every good, always excepting such evil as is the necessary consequence of
former sins. All things end in good to him, either in life or after death,
even what appears to be evil; for the Gods have a care of him who desires
to be in their likeness. And what shall we say of men? Is not honesty the
best policy? The clever rogue makes a great start at first, but breaks
down before he reaches the goal, and slinks away in dishonour; whereas the
true runner perseveres to the end, and receives the prize. And you must
allow me to repeat all the blessings which you attributed to the fortunate
unjust--they bear rule in the city, they marry and give in marriage to whom
they will; and the evils which you attributed to the unfortunate just, do
really fall in the end on the unjust, although, as you implied, their
sufferings are better veiled in silence.

But all the blessings of this present life are as nothing when compared
with those which await good men after death. 'I should like to hear about
them.' Come, then, and I will tell you the story of Er, the son of
Armenius, a valiant man. He was supposed to have died in battle, but ten
days afterwards his body was found untouched by corruption and sent home
for burial. On the twelfth day he was placed on the funeral pyre and there
he came to life again, and told what he had seen in the world below. He
said that his soul went with a great company to a place, in which there
were two chasms near together in the earth beneath, and two corresponding
chasms in the heaven above. And there were judges sitting in the
intermediate space, bidding the just ascend by the heavenly way on the
right hand, having the seal of their judgment set upon them before, while
the unjust, having the seal behind, were bidden to descend by the way on
the left hand. Him they told to look and listen, as he was to be their
messenger to men from the world below. And he beheld and saw the souls
departing after judgment at either chasm; some who came from earth, were
worn and travel-stained; others, who came from heaven, were clean and
bright. They seemed glad to meet and rest awhile in the meadow; here they
discoursed with one another of what they had seen in the other world.
Those who came from earth wept at the remembrance of their sorrows, but the
spirits from above spoke of glorious sights and heavenly bliss. He said
that for every evil deed they were punished tenfold--now the journey was of
a thousand years' duration, because the life of man was reckoned as a
hundred years--and the rewards of virtue were in the same proportion. He
added something hardly worth repeating about infants dying almost as soon
as they were born. Of parricides and other murderers he had tortures still
more terrible to narrate. He was present when one of the spirits asked--
Where is Ardiaeus the Great? (This Ardiaeus was a cruel tyrant, who had
murdered his father, and his elder brother, a thousand years before.)
Another spirit answered, 'He comes not hither, and will never come. And I
myself,' he added, 'actually saw this terrible sight. At the entrance of
the chasm, as we were about to reascend, Ardiaeus appeared, and some other
sinners--most of whom had been tyrants, but not all--and just as they
fancied that they were returning to life, the chasm gave a roar, and then
wild, fiery-looking men who knew the meaning of the sound, seized him and
several others, and bound them hand and foot and threw them down, and
dragged them along at the side of the road, lacerating them and carding
them like wool, and explaining to the passers-by, that they were going to
be cast into hell.' The greatest terror of the pilgrims ascending was lest
they should hear the voice, and when there was silence one by one they
passed up with joy. To these sufferings there were corresponding delights.

On the eighth day the souls of the pilgrims resumed their journey, and in
four days came to a spot whence they looked down upon a line of light, in
colour like a rainbow, only brighter and clearer. One day more brought
them to the place, and they saw that this was the column of light which
binds together the whole universe. The ends of the column were fastened to
heaven, and from them hung the distaff of Necessity, on which all the
heavenly bodies turned--the hook and spindle were of adamant, and the whorl
of a mixed substance. The whorl was in form like a number of boxes fitting
into one another with their edges turned upwards, making together a single
whorl which was pierced by the spindle. The outermost had the rim
broadest, and the inner whorls were smaller and smaller, and had their rims
narrower. The largest (the fixed stars) was spangled--the seventh (the
sun) was brightest--the eighth (the moon) shone by the light of the
seventh--the second and fifth (Saturn and Mercury) were most like one
another and yellower than the eighth--the third (Jupiter) had the whitest
light--the fourth (Mars) was red--the sixth (Venus) was in whiteness
second. The whole had one motion, but while this was revolving in one
direction the seven inner circles were moving in the opposite, with various
degrees of swiftness and slowness. The spindle turned on the knees of
Necessity, and a Siren stood hymning upon each circle, while Lachesis,
Clotho, and Atropos, the daughters of Necessity, sat on thrones at equal
intervals, singing of past, present, and future, responsive to the music of
the Sirens; Clotho from time to time guiding the outer circle with a touch
of her right hand; Atropos with her left hand touching and guiding the
inner circles; Lachesis in turn putting forth her hand from time to time to
guide both of them. On their arrival the pilgrims went to Lachesis, and
there was an interpreter who arranged them, and taking from her knees lots,
and samples of lives, got up into a pulpit and said: 'Mortal souls, hear
the words of Lachesis, the daughter of Necessity. A new period of mortal
life has begun, and you may choose what divinity you please; the
responsibility of choosing is with you--God is blameless.' After speaking
thus, he cast the lots among them and each one took up the lot which fell
near him. He then placed on the ground before them the samples of lives,
many more than the souls present; and there were all sorts of lives, of men
and of animals. There were tyrannies ending in misery and exile, and lives
of men and women famous for their different qualities; and also mixed
lives, made up of wealth and poverty, sickness and health. Here, Glaucon,
is the great risk of human life, and therefore the whole of education
should be directed to the acquisition of such a knowledge as will teach a
man to refuse the evil and choose the good. He should know all the
combinations which occur in life--of beauty with poverty or with wealth,--
of knowledge with external goods,--and at last choose with reference to the
nature of the soul, regarding that only as the better life which makes men
better, and leaving the rest. And a man must take with him an iron sense
of truth and right into the world below, that there too he may remain
undazzled by wealth or the allurements of evil, and be determined to avoid
the extremes and choose the mean. For this, as the messenger reported the
interpreter to have said, is the true happiness of man; and any one, as he
proclaimed, may, if he choose with understanding, have a good lot, even
though he come last. 'Let not the first be careless in his choice, nor the
last despair.' He spoke; and when he had spoken, he who had drawn the
first lot chose a tyranny: he did not see that he was fated to devour his
own children--and when he discovered his mistake, he wept and beat his
breast, blaming chance and the Gods and anybody rather than himself. He
was one of those who had come from heaven, and in his previous life had
been a citizen of a well-ordered State, but he had only habit and no
philosophy. Like many another, he made a bad choice, because he had no
experience of life; whereas those who came from earth and had seen trouble
were not in such a hurry to choose. But if a man had followed philosophy
while upon earth, and had been moderately fortunate in his lot, he might
not only be happy here, but his pilgrimage both from and to this world
would be smooth and heavenly. Nothing was more curious than the spectacle
of the choice, at once sad and laughable and wonderful; most of the souls
only seeking to avoid their own condition in a previous life. He saw the
soul of Orpheus changing into a swan because he would not be born of a
woman; there was Thamyras becoming a nightingale; musical birds, like the
swan, choosing to be men; the twentieth soul, which was that of Ajax,
preferring the life of a lion to that of a man, in remembrance of the
injustice which was done to him in the judgment of the arms; and Agamemnon,
from a like enmity to human nature, passing into an eagle. About the
middle was the soul of Atalanta choosing the honours of an athlete, and
next to her Epeus taking the nature of a workwoman; among the last was
Thersites, who was changing himself into a monkey. Thither, the last of
all, came Odysseus, and sought the lot of a private man, which lay
neglected and despised, and when he found it he went away rejoicing, and
said that if he had been first instead of last, his choice would have been
the same. Men, too, were seen passing into animals, and wild and tame
animals changing into one another.

When all the souls had chosen they went to Lachesis, who sent with each of
them their genius or attendant to fulfil their lot. He first of all
brought them under the hand of Clotho, and drew them within the revolution
of the spindle impelled by her hand; from her they were carried to Atropos,
who made the threads irreversible; whence, without turning round, they
passed beneath the throne of Necessity; and when they had all passed, they
moved on in scorching heat to the plain of Forgetfulness and rested at
evening by the river Unmindful, whose water could not be retained in any
vessel; of this they had all to drink a certain quantity--some of them
drank more than was required, and he who drank forgot all things. Er
himself was prevented from drinking. When they had gone to rest, about the
middle of the night there were thunderstorms and earthquakes, and suddenly
they were all driven divers ways, shooting like stars to their birth.
Concerning his return to the body, he only knew that awaking suddenly in
the morning he found himself lying on the pyre.

Thus, Glaucon, the tale has been saved, and will be our salvation, if we
believe that the soul is immortal, and hold fast to the heavenly way of
Justice and Knowledge. So shall we pass undefiled over the river of
Forgetfulness, and be dear to ourselves and to the Gods, and have a crown
of reward and happiness both in this world and also in the millennial
pilgrimage of the other.

The Tenth Book of the Republic of Plato falls into two divisions: first,
resuming an old thread which has been interrupted, Socrates assails the
poets, who, now that the nature of the soul has been analyzed, are seen to
be very far gone from the truth; and secondly, having shown the reality of
the happiness of the just, he demands that appearance shall be restored to
him, and then proceeds to prove the immortality of the soul. The argument,
as in the Phaedo and Gorgias, is supplemented by the vision of a future

Why Plato, who was himself a poet, and whose dialogues are poems and
dramas, should have been hostile to the poets as a class, and especially to
the dramatic poets; why he should not have seen that truth may be embodied
in verse as well as in prose, and that there are some indefinable lights
and shadows of human life which can only be expressed in poetry--some
elements of imagination which always entwine with reason; why he should
have supposed epic verse to be inseparably associated with the impurities
of the old Hellenic mythology; why he should try Homer and Hesiod by the
unfair and prosaic test of utility,--are questions which have always been
debated amongst students of Plato. Though unable to give a complete answer
to them, we may show--first, that his views arose naturally out of the
circumstances of his age; and secondly, we may elicit the truth as well as
the error which is contained in them.

He is the enemy of the poets because poetry was declining in his own
lifetime, and a theatrocracy, as he says in the Laws, had taken the place
of an intellectual aristocracy. Euripides exhibited the last phase of the
tragic drama, and in him Plato saw the friend and apologist of tyrants, and
the Sophist of tragedy. The old comedy was almost extinct; the new had not
yet arisen. Dramatic and lyric poetry, like every other branch of Greek
literature, was falling under the power of rhetoric. There was no 'second
or third' to Aeschylus and Sophocles in the generation which followed them.
Aristophanes, in one of his later comedies (Frogs), speaks of 'thousands of
tragedy-making prattlers,' whose attempts at poetry he compares to the
chirping of swallows; 'their garrulity went far beyond Euripides,'--'they
appeared once upon the stage, and there was an end of them.' To a man of
genius who had a real appreciation of the godlike Aeschylus and the noble
and gentle Sophocles, though disagreeing with some parts of their
'theology' (Rep.), these 'minor poets' must have been contemptible and
intolerable. There is no feeling stronger in the dialogues of Plato than a
sense of the decline and decay both in literature and in politics which
marked his own age. Nor can he have been expected to look with favour on
the licence of Aristophanes, now at the end of his career, who had begun by
satirizing Socrates in the Clouds, and in a similar spirit forty years
afterwards had satirized the founders of ideal commonwealths in his
Eccleziazusae, or Female Parliament (Laws).

There were other reasons for the antagonism of Plato to poetry. The
profession of an actor was regarded by him as a degradation of human
nature, for 'one man in his life' cannot 'play many parts;' the characters
which the actor performs seem to destroy his own character, and to leave
nothing which can be truly called himself. Neither can any man live his
life and act it. The actor is the slave of his art, not the master of it.
Taking this view Plato is more decided in his expulsion of the dramatic
than of the epic poets, though he must have known that the Greek tragedians
afforded noble lessons and examples of virtue and patriotism, to which
nothing in Homer can be compared. But great dramatic or even great
rhetorical power is hardly consistent with firmness or strength of mind,
and dramatic talent is often incidentally associated with a weak or
dissolute character.

In the Tenth Book Plato introduces a new series of objections. First, he
says that the poet or painter is an imitator, and in the third degree
removed from the truth. His creations are not tested by rule and measure;
they are only appearances. In modern times we should say that art is not
merely imitation, but rather the expression of the ideal in forms of sense.
Even adopting the humble image of Plato, from which his argument derives a
colour, we should maintain that the artist may ennoble the bed which he
paints by the folds of the drapery, or by the feeling of home which he
introduces; and there have been modern painters who have imparted such an
ideal interest to a blacksmith's or a carpenter's shop. The eye or mind
which feels as well as sees can give dignity and pathos to a ruined mill,
or a straw-built shed (Rembrandt), to the hull of a vessel 'going to its
last home' (Turner). Still more would this apply to the greatest works of
art, which seem to be the visible embodiment of the divine. Had Plato been
asked whether the Zeus or Athene of Pheidias was the imitation of an
imitation only, would he not have been compelled to admit that something
more was to be found in them than in the form of any mortal; and that the
rule of proportion to which they conformed was 'higher far than any
geometry or arithmetic could express?' (Statesman.)

Again, Plato objects to the imitative arts that they express the emotional
rather than the rational part of human nature. He does not admit
Aristotle's theory, that tragedy or other serious imitations are a
purgation of the passions by pity and fear; to him they appear only to
afford the opportunity of indulging them. Yet we must acknowledge that we
may sometimes cure disordered emotions by giving expression to them; and
that they often gain strength when pent up within our own breast. It is
not every indulgence of the feelings which is to be condemned. For there
may be a gratification of the higher as well as of the lower--thoughts
which are too deep or too sad to be expressed by ourselves, may find an
utterance in the words of poets. Every one would acknowledge that there
have been times when they were consoled and elevated by beautiful music or
by the sublimity of architecture or by the peacefulness of nature. Plato
has himself admitted, in the earlier part of the Republic, that the arts
might have the effect of harmonizing as well as of enervating the mind; but
in the Tenth Book he regards them through a Stoic or Puritan medium. He
asks only 'What good have they done?' and is not satisfied with the reply,
that 'They have given innocent pleasure to mankind.'

He tells us that he rejoices in the banishment of the poets, since he has
found by the analysis of the soul that they are concerned with the inferior
faculties. He means to say that the higher faculties have to do with
universals, the lower with particulars of sense. The poets are on a level
with their own age, but not on a level with Socrates and Plato; and he was
well aware that Homer and Hesiod could not be made a rule of life by any
process of legitimate interpretation; his ironical use of them is in fact a
denial of their authority; he saw, too, that the poets were not critics--as
he says in the Apology, 'Any one was a better interpreter of their writings
than they were themselves. He himself ceased to be a poet when he became a
disciple of Socrates; though, as he tells us of Solon, 'he might have been
one of the greatest of them, if he had not been deterred by other pursuits'
(Tim.) Thus from many points of view there is an antagonism between Plato
and the poets, which was foreshadowed to him in the old quarrel between
philosophy and poetry. The poets, as he says in the Protagoras, were the
Sophists of their day; and his dislike of the one class is reflected on the
other. He regards them both as the enemies of reasoning and abstraction,
though in the case of Euripides more with reference to his immoral
sentiments about tyrants and the like. For Plato is the prophet who 'came
into the world to convince men'--first of the fallibility of sense and
opinion, and secondly of the reality of abstract ideas. Whatever
strangeness there may be in modern times in opposing philosophy to poetry,
which to us seem to have so many elements in common, the strangeness will
disappear if we conceive of poetry as allied to sense, and of philosophy as
equivalent to thought and abstraction. Unfortunately the very word 'idea,'
which to Plato is expressive of the most real of all things, is associated
in our minds with an element of subjectiveness and unreality. We may note
also how he differs from Aristotle who declares poetry to be truer than
history, for the opposite reason, because it is concerned with universals,
not like history, with particulars (Poet).

The things which are seen are opposed in Scripture to the things which are
unseen--they are equally opposed in Plato to universals and ideas. To him
all particulars appear to be floating about in a world of sense; they have
a taint of error or even of evil. There is no difficulty in seeing that
this is an illusion; for there is no more error or variation in an
individual man, horse, bed, etc., than in the class man, horse, bed, etc.;
nor is the truth which is displayed in individual instances less certain
than that which is conveyed through the medium of ideas. But Plato, who is
deeply impressed with the real importance of universals as instruments of
thought, attributes to them an essential truth which is imaginary and
unreal; for universals may be often false and particulars true. Had he
attained to any clear conception of the individual, which is the synthesis
of the universal and the particular; or had he been able to distinguish
between opinion and sensation, which the ambiguity of the words (Greek) and
the like, tended to confuse, he would not have denied truth to the
particulars of sense.

But the poets are also the representatives of falsehood and feigning in all
departments of life and knowledge, like the sophists and rhetoricians of
the Gorgias and Phaedrus; they are the false priests, false prophets, lying
spirits, enchanters of the world. There is another count put into the
indictment against them by Plato, that they are the friends of the tyrant,
and bask in the sunshine of his patronage. Despotism in all ages has had
an apparatus of false ideas and false teachers at its service--in the
history of Modern Europe as well as of Greece and Rome. For no government
of men depends solely upon force; without some corruption of literature and
morals--some appeal to the imagination of the masses--some pretence to the
favour of heaven--some element of good giving power to evil, tyranny, even
for a short time, cannot be maintained. The Greek tyrants were not
insensible to the importance of awakening in their cause a Pseudo-Hellenic
feeling; they were proud of successes at the Olympic games; they were not
devoid of the love of literature and art. Plato is thinking in the first
instance of Greek poets who had graced the courts of Dionysius or
Archelaus: and the old spirit of freedom is roused within him at their
prostitution of the Tragic Muse in the praises of tyranny. But his
prophetic eye extends beyond them to the false teachers of other ages who
are the creatures of the government under which they live. He compares the
corruption of his contemporaries with the idea of a perfect society, and
gathers up into one mass of evil the evils and errors of mankind; to him
they are personified in the rhetoricians, sophists, poets, rulers who
deceive and govern the world.

A further objection which Plato makes to poetry and the imitative arts is
that they excite the emotions. Here the modern reader will be disposed to
introduce a distinction which appears to have escaped him. For the
emotions are neither bad nor good in themselves, and are not most likely to
be controlled by the attempt to eradicate them, but by the moderate
indulgence of them. And the vocation of art is to present thought in the
form of feeling, to enlist the feelings on the side of reason, to inspire
even for a moment courage or resignation; perhaps to suggest a sense of
infinity and eternity in a way which mere language is incapable of
attaining. True, the same power which in the purer age of art embodies
gods and heroes only, may be made to express the voluptuous image of a
Corinthian courtezan. But this only shows that art, like other outward
things, may be turned to good and also to evil, and is not more closely
connected with the higher than with the lower part of the soul. All
imitative art is subject to certain limitations, and therefore necessarily
partakes of the nature of a compromise. Something of ideal truth is
sacrificed for the sake of the representation, and something in the
exactness of the representation is sacrificed to the ideal. Still, works
of art have a permanent element; they idealize and detain the passing
thought, and are the intermediates between sense and ideas.

In the present stage of the human mind, poetry and other forms of fiction
may certainly be regarded as a good. But we can also imagine the existence
of an age in which a severer conception of truth has either banished or
transformed them. At any rate we must admit that they hold a different
place at different periods of the world's history. In the infancy of
mankind, poetry, with the exception of proverbs, is the whole of
literature, and the only instrument of intellectual culture; in modern
times she is the shadow or echo of her former self, and appears to have a
precarious existence. Milton in his day doubted whether an epic poem was
any longer possible. At the same time we must remember, that what Plato
would have called the charms of poetry have been partly transferred to
prose; he himself (Statesman) admits rhetoric to be the handmaiden of
Politics, and proposes to find in the strain of law (Laws) a substitute for
the old poets. Among ourselves the creative power seems often to be
growing weaker, and scientific fact to be more engrossing and overpowering
to the mind than formerly. The illusion of the feelings commonly called
love, has hitherto been the inspiring influence of modern poetry and
romance, and has exercised a humanizing if not a strengthening influence on
the world. But may not the stimulus which love has given to fancy be some
day exhausted? The modern English novel which is the most popular of all
forms of reading is not more than a century or two old: will the tale of
love a hundred years hence, after so many thousand variations of the same
theme, be still received with unabated interest?

Art cannot claim to be on a level with philosophy or religion, and may
often corrupt them. It is possible to conceive a mental state in which all
artistic representations are regarded as a false and imperfect expression,
either of the religious ideal or of the philosophical ideal. The fairest
forms may be revolting in certain moods of mind, as is proved by the fact
that the Mahometans, and many sects of Christians, have renounced the use
of pictures and images. The beginning of a great religion, whether
Christian or Gentile, has not been 'wood or stone,' but a spirit moving in
the hearts of men. The disciples have met in a large upper room or in
'holes and caves of the earth'; in the second or third generation, they
have had mosques, temples, churches, monasteries. And the revival or
reform of religions, like the first revelation of them, has come from
within and has generally disregarded external ceremonies and

But poetry and art may also be the expression of the highest truth and the
purest sentiment. Plato himself seems to waver between two opposite views
--when, as in the third Book, he insists that youth should be brought up
amid wholesome imagery; and again in Book X, when he banishes the poets
from his Republic. Admitting that the arts, which some of us almost deify,
have fallen short of their higher aim, we must admit on the other hand that
to banish imagination wholly would be suicidal as well as impossible. For
nature too is a form of art; and a breath of the fresh air or a single
glance at the varying landscape would in an instant revive and reillumine
the extinguished spark of poetry in the human breast. In the lower stages
of civilization imagination more than reason distinguishes man from the
animals; and to banish art would be to banish thought, to banish language,
to banish the expression of all truth. No religion is wholly devoid of
external forms; even the Mahometan who renounces the use of pictures and
images has a temple in which he worships the Most High, as solemn and
beautiful as any Greek or Christian building. Feeling too and thought are
not really opposed; for he who thinks must feel before he can execute. And
the highest thoughts, when they become familiarized to us, are always
tending to pass into the form of feeling.

Plato does not seriously intend to expel poets from life and society. But
he feels strongly the unreality of their writings; he is protesting against
the degeneracy of poetry in his own day as we might protest against the
want of serious purpose in modern fiction, against the unseemliness or
extravagance of some of our poets or novelists, against the time-serving of
preachers or public writers, against the regardlessness of truth which to
the eye of the philosopher seems to characterize the greater part of the
world. For we too have reason to complain that our poets and novelists
'paint inferior truth' and 'are concerned with the inferior part of the
soul'; that the readers of them become what they read and are injuriously
affected by them. And we look in vain for that healthy atmosphere of which
Plato speaks,--'the beauty which meets the sense like a breeze and
imperceptibly draws the soul, even in childhood, into harmony with the
beauty of reason.'

For there might be a poetry which would be the hymn of divine perfection,
the harmony of goodness and truth among men: a strain which should renew
the youth of the world, and bring back the ages in which the poet was man's
only teacher and best friend,--which would find materials in the living
present as well as in the romance of the past, and might subdue to the
fairest forms of speech and verse the intractable materials of modern
civilisation,--which might elicit the simple principles, or, as Plato would
have called them, the essential forms, of truth and justice out of the
variety of opinion and the complexity of modern society,--which would
preserve all the good of each generation and leave the bad unsung,--which
should be based not on vain longings or faint imaginings, but on a clear
insight into the nature of man. Then the tale of love might begin again in
poetry or prose, two in one, united in the pursuit of knowledge, or the
service of God and man; and feelings of love might still be the incentive
to great thoughts and heroic deeds as in the days of Dante or Petrarch; and
many types of manly and womanly beauty might appear among us, rising above
the ordinary level of humanity, and many lives which were like poems
(Laws), be not only written, but lived by us. A few such strains have been
heard among men in the tragedies of Aeschylus and Sophocles, whom Plato
quotes, not, as Homer is quoted by him, in irony, but with deep and serious
approval,--in the poetry of Milton and Wordsworth, and in passages of other
English poets,--first and above all in the Hebrew prophets and psalmists.
Shakespeare has taught us how great men should speak and act; he has drawn
characters of a wonderful purity and depth; he has ennobled the human mind,
but, like Homer (Rep.), he 'has left no way of life.' The next greatest
poet of modern times, Goethe, is concerned with 'a lower degree of truth';
he paints the world as a stage on which 'all the men and women are merely
players'; he cultivates life as an art, but he furnishes no ideals of truth
and action. The poet may rebel against any attempt to set limits to his
fancy; and he may argue truly that moralizing in verse is not poetry.
Possibly, like Mephistopheles in Faust, he may retaliate on his
adversaries. But the philosopher will still be justified in asking, 'How
may the heavenly gift of poesy be devoted to the good of mankind?'

Returning to Plato, we may observe that a similar mixture of truth and
error appears in other parts of the argument. He is aware of the absurdity
of mankind framing their whole lives according to Homer; just as in the
Phaedrus he intimates the absurdity of interpreting mythology upon rational
principles; both these were the modern tendencies of his own age, which he
deservedly ridicules. On the other hand, his argument that Homer, if he
had been able to teach mankind anything worth knowing, would not have been
allowed by them to go about begging as a rhapsodist, is both false and
contrary to the spirit of Plato (Rep.). It may be compared with those
other paradoxes of the Gorgias, that 'No statesman was ever unjustly put to
death by the city of which he was the head'; and that 'No Sophist was ever
defrauded by his pupils' (Gorg.)...

The argument for immortality seems to rest on the absolute dualism of soul
and body. Admitting the existence of the soul, we know of no force which
is able to put an end to her. Vice is her own proper evil; and if she
cannot be destroyed by that, she cannot be destroyed by any other. Yet
Plato has acknowledged that the soul may be so overgrown by the
incrustations of earth as to lose her original form; and in the Timaeus he
recognizes more strongly than in the Republic the influence which the body
has over the mind, denying even the voluntariness of human actions, on the
ground that they proceed from physical states (Tim.). In the Republic, as
elsewhere, he wavers between the original soul which has to be restored,
and the character which is developed by training and education...

The vision of another world is ascribed to Er, the son of Armenius, who is
said by Clement of Alexandria to have been Zoroaster. The tale has
certainly an oriental character, and may be compared with the pilgrimages
of the soul in the Zend Avesta (Haug, Avesta). But no trace of
acquaintance with Zoroaster is found elsewhere in Plato's writings, and
there is no reason for giving him the name of Er the Pamphylian. The
philosophy of Heracleitus cannot be shown to be borrowed from Zoroaster,
and still less the myths of Plato.

The local arrangement of the vision is less distinct than that of the
Phaedrus and Phaedo. Astronomy is mingled with symbolism and mythology;
the great sphere of heaven is represented under the symbol of a cylinder or
box, containing the seven orbits of the planets and the fixed stars; this
is suspended from an axis or spindle which turns on the knees of Necessity;
the revolutions of the seven orbits contained in the cylinder are guided by
the fates, and their harmonious motion produces the music of the spheres.
Through the innermost or eighth of these, which is the moon, is passed the
spindle; but it is doubtful whether this is the continuation of the column
of light, from which the pilgrims contemplate the heavens; the words of
Plato imply that they are connected, but not the same. The column itself
is clearly not of adamant. The spindle (which is of adamant) is fastened
to the ends of the chains which extend to the middle of the column of
light--this column is said to hold together the heaven; but whether it
hangs from the spindle, or is at right angles to it, is not explained. The
cylinder containing the orbits of the stars is almost as much a symbol as
the figure of Necessity turning the spindle;--for the outermost rim is the
sphere of the fixed stars, and nothing is said about the intervals of space
which divide the paths of the stars in the heavens. The description is
both a picture and an orrery, and therefore is necessarily inconsistent
with itself. The column of light is not the Milky Way--which is neither
straight, nor like a rainbow--but the imaginary axis of the earth. This is
compared to the rainbow in respect not of form but of colour, and not to
the undergirders of a trireme, but to the straight rope running from prow
to stern in which the undergirders meet.

The orrery or picture of the heavens given in the Republic differs in its
mode of representation from the circles of the same and of the other in the
Timaeus. In both the fixed stars are distinguished from the planets, and
they move in orbits without them, although in an opposite direction: in
the Republic as in the Timaeus they are all moving round the axis of the
world. But we are not certain that in the former they are moving round the
earth. No distinct mention is made in the Republic of the circles of the
same and other; although both in the Timaeus and in the Republic the motion
of the fixed stars is supposed to coincide with the motion of the whole.
The relative thickness of the rims is perhaps designed to express the
relative distances of the planets. Plato probably intended to represent
the earth, from which Er and his companions are viewing the heavens, as
stationary in place; but whether or not herself revolving, unless this is
implied in the revolution of the axis, is uncertain (Timaeus). The
spectator may be supposed to look at the heavenly bodies, either from above
or below. The earth is a sort of earth and heaven in one, like the heaven
of the Phaedrus, on the back of which the spectator goes out to take a peep
at the stars and is borne round in the revolution. There is no distinction
between the equator and the ecliptic. But Plato is no doubt led to imagine
that the planets have an opposite motion to that of the fixed stars, in
order to account for their appearances in the heavens. In the description
of the meadow, and the retribution of the good and evil after death, there
are traces of Homer.

The description of the axis as a spindle, and of the heavenly bodies as
forming a whole, partly arises out of the attempt to connect the motions of
the heavenly bodies with the mythological image of the web, or weaving of
the Fates. The giving of the lots, the weaving of them, and the making of
them irreversible, which are ascribed to the three Fates--Lachesis, Clotho,
Atropos, are obviously derived from their names. The element of chance in
human life is indicated by the order of the lots. But chance, however
adverse, may be overcome by the wisdom of man, if he knows how to choose
aright; there is a worse enemy to man than chance; this enemy is himself.
He who was moderately fortunate in the number of the lot--even the very
last comer--might have a good life if he chose with wisdom. And as Plato
does not like to make an assertion which is unproven, he more than confirms
this statement a few sentences afterwards by the example of Odysseus, who
chose last. But the virtue which is founded on habit is not sufficient to
enable a man to choose; he must add to virtue knowledge, if he is to act
rightly when placed in new circumstances. The routine of good actions and
good habits is an inferior sort of goodness; and, as Coleridge says,
'Common sense is intolerable which is not based on metaphysics,' so Plato
would have said, 'Habit is worthless which is not based upon philosophy.'

The freedom of the will to refuse the evil and to choose the good is
distinctly asserted. 'Virtue is free, and as a man honours or dishonours
her he will have more or less of her.' The life of man is 'rounded' by
necessity; there are circumstances prior to birth which affect him (Pol.).
But within the walls of necessity there is an open space in which he is his
own master, and can study for himself the effects which the variously
compounded gifts of nature or fortune have upon the soul, and act
accordingly. All men cannot have the first choice in everything. But the
lot of all men is good enough, if they choose wisely and will live

The verisimilitude which is given to the pilgrimage of a thousand years, by
the intimation that Ardiaeus had lived a thousand years before; the
coincidence of Er coming to life on the twelfth day after he was supposed
to have been dead with the seven days which the pilgrims passed in the
meadow, and the four days during which they journeyed to the column of
light; the precision with which the soul is mentioned who chose the
twentieth lot; the passing remarks that there was no definite character
among the souls, and that the souls which had chosen ill blamed any one
rather than themselves; or that some of the souls drank more than was
necessary of the waters of Forgetfulness, while Er himself was hindered
from drinking; the desire of Odysseus to rest at last, unlike the
conception of him in Dante and Tennyson; the feigned ignorance of how Er
returned to the body, when the other souls went shooting like stars to
their birth,--add greatly to the probability of the narrative. They are
such touches of nature as the art of Defoe might have introduced when he
wished to win credibility for marvels and apparitions.


There still remain to be considered some points which have been
intentionally reserved to the end: (1) the Janus-like character of the
Republic, which presents two faces--one an Hellenic state, the other a
kingdom of philosophers. Connected with the latter of the two aspects are
(2) the paradoxes of the Republic, as they have been termed by Morgenstern:
(a) the community of property ; (b) of families; (c) the rule of
philosophers; (d) the analogy of the individual and the State, which, like
some other analogies in the Republic, is carried too far. We may then
proceed to consider (3) the subject of education as conceived by Plato,
bringing together in a general view the education of youth and the
education of after-life; (4) we may note further some essential differences
between ancient and modern politics which are suggested by the Republic;
(5) we may compare the Politicus and the Laws; (6) we may observe the
influence exercised by Plato on his imitators; and (7) take occasion to
consider the nature and value of political, and (8) of religious ideals.

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