Here Adeimantus interposed and said: To these statements, Socrates, no
one can offer a reply; but when you talk in this way, a strange feeling
passes over the minds of your hearers: They fancy that they are led astray
a little at each step in the argument, owing to their own want of skill in
asking and answering questions; these littles accumulate, and at the end of
the discussion they are found to have sustained a mighty overthrow and all
their former notions appear to be turned upside down. And as unskilful
players of draughts are at last shut up by their more skilful adversaries
and have no piece to move, so they too find themselves shut up at last; for
they have nothing to say in this new game of which words are the counters;
and yet all the time they are in the right. The observation is suggested to
me by what is now occurring. For any one of us might say, that although in
words he is not able to meet you at each step of the argument, he sees as a
fact that the votaries of philosophy, when they carry on the study, not
only in youth as a part of education, but as the pursuit of their maturer
years, most of them become strange monsters, not to say utter rogues, and
that those who may be considered the best of them are made useless to the
world by the very study which you extol.
[Socrates] Well, and do you think that those who say so are wrong?
[Adeimantus] I cannot tell, he replied; but I should like to know what
is your opinion.
[Socrates] Hear my answer; I am of opinion that they are quite right.
[Adeimantus] Then how can you be justified in saying that cities will
not cease from
evil until philosophers rule in them, when philosophers are acknowledged by
us to be of no use to them?
[Socrates] You ask a question, I said, to which a reply can only be
given in a
[Adeimantus] Yes, Socrates; and that is a way of speaking to which you
are not at all
accustomed, I suppose.
[Socrates] I perceive, I said, that you are vastly amused at having plunged
such a hopeless discussion; but now hear the parable, and then you will be
still more amused at the meagreness of my imagination: for the manner in
which the best men are treated in their own States is so grievous that no
single thing on earth is comparable to it; and therefore, if I am to plead
their cause, I must have recourse to fiction, and put together a figure
made up of many things, like the fabulous unions of goats and stags which
are found in pictures. Imagine then a fleet or a ship in which there is a
captain who is taller and stronger than any of the crew, but he is a little
deaf and has a similar infirmity in sight, and his knowledge of navigation
is not much better. The sailors are quarrelling with one another about the
steering - everyone is of opinion that he has a right to steer, though he
never learned the art of navigation and cannot tell who taught him or when
he learned, and will further assert that it cannot be taught, and they are
ready to cut in pieces anyone who says the contrary. They throng about the
captain, begging and praying him to commit the helm to them; and if at any
time they do not prevail, but others are preferred to them, they kill the
others or throw them overboard, and having first chained up the noble
captain's senses with drink or some narcotic drug, they mutiny and take
possession of the ship and make free with the stores; thus, eating and
drinking, they proceed on their voyage in such manner as might be expected
of them. Him who is their partisan and cleverly aids them in their plot for
getting the ship out of the captain's hands into their own whether by force
or persuasion, they compliment with the name of sailor, pilot, able seaman,
and abuse the other sort of man, whom they call a good-for-nothing; but
that the true pilot must pay attention to the year and seasons and sky and
stars and winds, and whatever else belongs to his art, if he intends to be
really qualified for the command of a ship, and that he must and will be
the steerer, whether other people like or not - the possibility of this
of authority with the steerer's art has never seriously entered into their
thoughts or been made part of their calling. Now in vessels which are in a
state of mutiny and by sailors who are mutineers, how will the true pilot
be regarded? Will he not be called by them a prater, a star-gazer, a
Of course, said Adeimantus.
[Socrates] Then you will hardly need, I said, to hear the interpretation
figure, which describes the true philosopher in his relation to the State;
for you understand already.
[Socrates] Then suppose you now take this parable to the gentleman who
at finding that philosophers have no honour in their cities; explain it to
him and try to convince him that their having honour would be far more
Say to him, that, in deeming the best votaries of philosophy to be
useless to the rest of the world, he is right; but also tell him to
attribute their uselessness to the fault of those who will not use them,
and not to themselves. The pilot should not humbly beg the sailors to be
commanded by him - that is not the order of nature; neither are "the wise
go to the doors of the rich" - the ingenious author of this saying told a
lie - but the truth is, that, when a man is ill, whether he be rich or
to the physician he must go, and he who wants to be governed, to him who is
able to govern. The ruler who is good for anything ought not to beg his
subjects to be ruled by him; although the present governors of mankind are
of a different stamp; they may be justly compared to the mutinous sailors,
and the true helmsmen to those who are called by them good-for-nothings and
Precisely so, he said.
For these reasons, and among men like these, philosophy, the noblest
pursuit of all, is not likely to be much esteemed by those of the opposite
faction; not that the greatest and most lasting injury is done to her by
her opponents, but by her own professing followers, the same of whom you
suppose the accuser to say that the greater number of them are arrant
rogues, and the best are useless; in which opinion I agreed.
And the reason why the good are useless has now been explained?
Then shall we proceed to show that the corruption of the majority is
also unavoidable, and that this is not to be laid to the charge of
philosophy any more than the other?
By all means.
And let us ask and answer in turn, first going back to the description
of the gentle and noble nature. Truth, as you will remember, was his
leader, whom he followed always and in all things; failing in this, he was
an impostor, and had no part or lot in true philosophy.
Yes, that was said.
Well, and is not this one quality, to mention no others, greatly at
variance with present notions of him?
Certainly, he said.
And have we not a right to say in his defence, that the true lover of
knowledge is always striving after being - that is his nature; he will not
rest in the multiplicity of individuals which is an appearance only, but
will go on - the keen edge will not be blunted, nor the force of his desire
abate until he have attained the knowledge of the true nature of every
essence by a sympathetic and kindred power in the soul, and by that power
drawing near and mingling and becoming incorporate with very being, having
begotten mind and truth, he will have knowledge and will live and grow
truly, and then, and not till then, will he cease from his travail.
Nothing, he said, can be more just than such a description of him.
And will the love of a lie be any part of a philosopher's nature? Will
he not utterly hate a lie?
And when truth is the captain, we cannot suspect any evil of the band
which he leads?
Justice and health of mind will be of the company, and temperance will
True, he replied.
Neither is there any reason why I should again set in array the
philosopher's virtues, as you will doubtless remember that courage,
magnificence, apprehension, memory, were his natural gifts. And you
objected that, although no one could deny what I then said, still, if you
leave words and look at facts, the persons who are thus described are some
of them manifestly useless, and the greater number utterly depraved, we
were then led to inquire into the grounds of these accusations, and have
now arrived at the point of asking why are the majority bad, which question
of necessity brought us back to the examination and definition of the true
And we have next to consider the corruptions of the philosophic nature,
why so many are spoiled and so few escape spoiling - I am speaking of those
who were said to be useless but not wicked - and, when we have done with
them, we will speak of the imitators of philosophy, what manner of men are
they who aspire after a profession which is above them and of which they
are unworthy, and then, by their manifold inconsistencies, bring upon
philosophy and upon all philosophers that universal reprobation of which we
What are these corruptions? he said.
I will see if I can explain them to you. Everyone will admit that a
nature having in perfection all the qualities which we required in a
philosopher is a rare plant which is seldom seen among men?
And what numberless and powerful causes tend to destroy these rare
In the first place there are their own virtues, their courage,
temperance, and the rest of them, every one of which praiseworthy qualities
(and this is a most singular circumstance) destroys and distracts from
philosophy the soul which is the possessor of them.
That is very singular, he replied.
Then there are all the ordinary goods of life - beauty, wealth,
rank, and great connections in the State - you understand the sort of
things - these also have a corrupting and distracting effect.
I understand; but I should like to know more precisely what you mean
Grasp the truth as a whole, I said, and in the right way; you will then
have no difficulty in apprehending the preceding remarks, and they will no
longer appear strange to you.
And how am I to do so? he asked.
Why, I said, we know that all germs or seeds, whether vegetable or
animal, when they fail to meet with proper nutriment, or climate, or soil,
in proportion to their vigour, are all the more sensitive to the want of a
suitable environment, for evil is a greater enemy to what is good than to
what is not.
There is reason in supposing that the finest natures, when under alien
conditions, receive more injury than the inferior, because the contrast is
And may we not say, Adeimantus, that the most gifted minds, when they
are ill-educated, become pre-eminently bad? Do not great crimes and the
spirit of pure evil spring out of a fullness of nature ruined by education
rather than from any inferiority, whereas weak natures are scarcely capable
of any very great good or very great evil?
There I think that you are right.
And our philosopher follows the same analogy - he is like a plant which,
having proper nurture, must necessarily grow and mature into all virtue,
but, if sown and planted in an alien soil, becomes the most noxious of all
weeds, unless he be preserved by some divine power. Do you really think, as
people so often say, that our youth are corrupted by Sophists, or that
private teachers of the art corrupt them in any degree worth speaking of?
Are not the public who say these things the greatest of all Sophists? And
do they not educate to perfection young and old, men and women alike, and
fashion them after their own hearts?
When is this accomplished? he said.
When they meet together, and the world sits down at an assembly, or in a
court of law, or a theatre, or a camp, or in any other popular resort, and
there is a great uproar, and they praise some things which are being said
or done, and blame other things, equally exaggerating both, shouting and
clapping their hands, and the echo of the rocks and the place in which they
are assembled redoubles the sound of the praise or blame - at such a time
will not a young man's heart, as they say, leap within him? Will any
private training enable him to stand firm against the overwhelming flood of
popular opinion? or will he be carried away by the stream? Will he not have
the notions of good and evil which the public in general have - he will do
they do, and as they are, such will he be?
Yes, Socrates; necessity will compel him.
And yet, I said, there is a still greater necessity, which has not been
What is that?
The gentle force of attainder, or confiscation, or death, which, as you
are aware, these new Sophists and educators, who are the public, apply when
their words are powerless.
Indeed they do; and in right good earnest.
Now what opinion of any other Sophist, or of any private person, can be
expected to overcome in such an unequal contest?
None, he replied.
[Socrates] No, indeed, I said, even to make the attempt is a great piece
there neither is, nor has been, nor is ever likely to be, any different
type of character which has had no other training in virtue but that which
is supplied by public opinion - I speak, my friend, of human virtue only;
what is more than human, as the proverb says, is not included:
for I would
not have you ignorant that, in the present evil state of governments,
whatever is saved and comes to good is saved by the power of God, as we may
I quite assent, he replied.
[Socrates] Then let me crave your assent also to a further observation.
What are you going to say?
[Socrates] Why, that all those mercenary individuals, whom the many call
and whom they deem to be their adversaries, do, in fact, teach nothing but
the opinion of the many, that is to say, the opinions of their assemblies;
and this is their wisdom. I might compare them to a man who should study
the tempers and desires of a mighty strong beast who is fed by him - he
learn how to approach and handle him, also at what times and from what
causes he is dangerous or the reverse, and what is the meaning of his
several cries, and by what sounds, when another utters them, he is soothed
or infuriated; and you may suppose further, that when, by continually
attending upon him, he has become perfect in all this, he calls his
knowledge wisdom, and makes of it a system or art, which he proceeds to
teach, although he has no real notion of what he means by the principles or
passions of which he is speaking, but calls this honourable and that
dishonourable, or good or evil, or just or unjust, all in accordance with
the tastes and tempers of the great brute. Good he pronounces to be that in
which the beast delights, and evil to be that which he dislikes; and he can
give no other account of them except that the just and noble are the
necessary, having never himself seen, and having no power of explaining to
others, the nature of either, or the difference between them, which is
immense. By heaven, would not such a one be a rare educator?
Indeed, he would.
And in what way does he who thinks that wisdom is the discernment of the
tempers and tastes of the motley multitude, whether in painting or in
music, or, finally, in politics, differ from him whom I have been
describing? For when a man consorts with the many, and exhibits to them his
poem or other work of art or the service which he has done the State,
making them his judges when he is not obliged, the so-called necessity of
Diomede will oblige him to produce whatever they praise. And yet the
reasons are utterly ludicrous which they give in confirmation of their own
notions about the honourable and good. Did you ever hear any of them which
No, nor am I likely to hear.
[Socrates] You recognize the truth of what I have been saying? Then let me
to consider further whether the world will ever be induced to believe in
the existence of absolute beauty rather than of the many beautiful, or of
the absolute in each kind rather than of the many in each kind?
[Socrates] Then the world cannot possibly be a philosopher?
[Socrates] And therefore philosophers must inevitably fall under the
censure of the
[Socrates] And of individuals who consort with the mob and seek to
That is evident.
[Socrates] Then, do you see any way in which the philosopher can be
his calling to the end? - and remember what we were saying of him, that he
was to have quickness and memory and courage and magnificence - these were
admitted by us to be the true philosopher's gifts.
Will not such an one from his early childhood be in all things first
among us all, especially if his bodily endowments are like his mental ones?
Certainly, he said.
And his friends and fellow-citizens will want to use him as he gets
older for their own purposes?
Falling at his feet, they will make requests to him and do him honour
and flatter him, because they want to get into their hands now the power
which he will one day possess.
That often happens, he said.
And what will a man such as he is be likely to do under such
circumstances, especially if he be a citizen of a great city, rich and
noble, and a tall, proper youth? Will he not be full of boundless
aspirations, and fancy himself able to manage the affairs of Hellenes and
of barbarians, and having got such notions into his head will he not dilate
and elevate himself in the fullness of vain pomp and senseless pride?
To be sure he will.
Now, when he is in this state of mind, if someone gently comes to him
and tells him that he is a fool and must get understanding, which can only
be got by slaving for it, do you think that, under such adverse
circumstances, he will be easily induced to listen?
And even if there be someone who through inherent goodness or natural
reasonableness has had his eyes opened a little and is humbled and taken
captive by philosophy, how will his friends behave when they think that
they are likely to lose the advantage which they were hoping to reap from
his companionship? Will they not do and say anything to
prevent him from
yielding to his better nature and to render his teacher powerless, using to
this end private intrigues as well as public prosecutions?
There can be no doubt of it.
And how can one who is thus circumstanced ever become a philosopher?
[Socrates] Then were we not right in saying that even the very qualities
a man a philosopher, may, if he be ill-educated, divert him from
philosophy, no less than riches and their accompaniments and the other
so-called goods of life?
We were quite right.
[Socrates] Thus, my excellent friend, is brought about all that ruin and
which I have been describing of the natures best adapted to the best of all
pursuits; they are natures which we maintain to be rare at any time; this
being the class out of which come the men who are the authors of the
greatest evil to States and individuals; and also of the greatest good when
the tide carries them in that direction; but a small man never was the doer
of any great thing either to individuals or to States.
That is most true, he said.
[Socrates] And so philosophy is left desolate, with her marriage rite
for her own have fallen away and forsaken her, and while they are leading a
false and unbecoming life, other unworthy persons, seeing that she has no
kinsmen to be her protectors, enter in and dishonour her; and fasten upon
her the reproaches which, as you say, her reprovers utter, who affirm of
her votaries that some are good for nothing, and that the greater number
deserve the severest punishment.
That is certainly what people say.
Yes; and what else would you expect, I said, when you think of the puny
creatures who, seeing this land open to them - a land well stocked with
names and showy titles - like prisoners running out of prison into a
sanctuary, take a leap out of their trades into philosophy; those who do so
being probably the cleverest hands at their own miserable crafts? For,
although philosophy be in this evil case, still there remains a dignity
about her which is not to be found in the arts. And many are thus attracted
by her whose natures are imperfect and whose souls are maimed and
disfigured by their meannesses, as their bodies are by their trades and
crafts. Is not this unavoidable?
Are they not exactly like a bald little tinker who has just got out of
durance and come into a fortune - he takes a bath and puts on a new coat,
is decked out as a bridegroom going to marry his master's daughter, who is
left poor and desolate?
A most exact parallel.
What will be the issue of such marriages? Will they not be vile and
There can be no question of it.
And when persons who are unworthy of education approach philosophy and
make an alliance with her who is in a rank above them, what sort of ideas
and opinions are likely to be generated? Will they not be sophisms
captivating to the ear, having nothing in them genuine, or worthy of or
akin to true wisdom?
No doubt, he said.
Then, Adeimantus, I said, the worthy disciples of philosophy will be but
a small remnant: perchance some noble and well educated person, detained by
exile in her service, who in the absence of corrupting influences remains
devoted to her; or some lofty soul born in a mean city, the politics of
which he contemns and neglects; and there may be a gifted few who leave the
arts, which they justly despise, and come to her; or peradventure there are
some who are restrained by our friend Theages's bridle; for everything in
the life of Theages conspired to divert him from philosophy; but ill-health
kept him away from politics. My own case of the internal sign is hardly
worth mentioning, for rarely, if ever, has such a monitor been given to any
other man. Those who belong to this small class have tasted how sweet and
blessed a possession philosophy is, and have also seen enough of the
madness of the multitude; and they know that no politician is honest, nor
is there any champion of justice at whose side they may fight and be saved.
Such a one may be compared to a man who has fallen among wild beasts - he
will not join in the wickedness of his fellows, but neither is he able
singly to resist all their fierce natures, and therefore seeing that he
would be of no use to the State or to his friends, and reflecting that he
would have to throw away his life without doing any good either to himself
or others, he holds his peace, and goes his own way. He is like one who, in
the storm of dust and sleet which the driving wind hurries along, retires
under the shelter of a wall; and seeing the rest of mankind full of
wickedness, he is content, if only he can live his own life and be pure
from evil or unrighteousness, and depart in peace and good-will, with
Yes, he said, and he will have done a great work before he departs.
A great work - yes; but not the greatest, unless he find a State
to him; for in a State which is suitable to him, he will have a larger
growth and be the saviour of his country, as well as of himself.
The causes why philosophy is in such an evil name have now been
sufficiently explained: the injustice of the charges against her has been
shown - is there anything more which you wish to say?
Nothing more on that subject, he replied; but I should like to know
which of the governments now existing is in your opinion the one adapted to
Not any of them, I said; and that is precisely the accusation which I
bring against them - not one of them is worthy of the philosophic nature,
hence that nature is warped and estranged; as the exotic seed which is sown
in a foreign land becomes denaturalized, and is wont to be overpowered and
to lose itself in the new soil, even so this growth of philosophy, instead
of persisting, degenerates and receives another character.
[#497c]. But if
philosophy ever finds in the State that perfection which she herself is,
then will be seen that she is in truth divine, and that all other things,
whether natures of men or institutions, are but human; and now, I know that
you are going to ask, What that State is:
No, he said; there you are wrong, for I was going to ask another
question - whether it is the State of which we are the founders and
inventors, or some other?
Yes, I replied, ours in most respects; but you may remember my saying
before, that some living authority would always be required in the State
having the same idea of the constitution which guided you when as
legislator you were laying down the laws.
That was said, he replied.
Yes, but not in a satisfactory manner; you frightened us by interposing
objections, which certainly showed that the discussion would be long and
difficult; and what still remains is the reverse of easy.
What is there remaining?
The question how the study of philosophy may be so ordered as not to be
the ruin of the State: All great attempts are attended with risk; "hard is
the good," as men say.
Still, he said, let the point be cleared up, and the inquiry will then
I shall not be hindered, I said, by any want of will, but, if at all, by
a want of power: my zeal you may see for yourselves; and please to remark
in what I am about to say how boldly and unhesitatingly I declare that
States should pursue philosophy, not as they do now, but in a different
In what manner?
At present, I said, the students of philosophy are quite young;
beginning when they are hardly past childhood, they devote only the time
saved from money-making and housekeeping to such pursuits; and even those
of them who are reputed to have most of the philosophic spirit, when they
come within sight of the great difficulty of the subject, I mean dialectic,
take themselves off. In after life, when invited by someone else, they may,
perhaps, go and hear a lecture, and about this they make much ado, for
philosophy is not considered by them to be their proper business: at last,
when they grow old, in most cases they are extinguished more truly than
Heracleitus's sun, inasmuch as they never light up again.
But what ought to be their course?
Just the opposite. In childhood and youth their study, and what
philosophy they learn, should be suited to their tender years: during this
period while they are growing up toward manhood, the chief and special care
should be given to their bodies that they may have them to use in the
service of philosophy; as life advances and the intellect begins to mature,
let them increase the gymnastics of the soul; but when the strength of our
citizens fails and is past civil and military duties, then let them range
at will and engage in no serious labour, as we intend them to live happily
here, and to crown this life with a similar happiness in another.
How truly in earnest you are, Socrates! he said; I am sure of that; and
yet most of your hearers, if I am not mistaken, are likely to be still more
earnest in their opposition to you, and will never be convinced;
Thrasymachus least of all.
Do not make a quarrel, I said, between Thrasymachus and me, who have
recently become friends, although, indeed, we were never enemies; for I
shall go on striving to the utmost until I either convert him and other
men, or do something which may profit them against the day when they live
again, and hold the like discourse in another state of existence.
You are speaking of a time which is not very near.
Rather, I replied, of a time which is as nothing in comparison with
eternity. Nevertheless, I do not wonder that the many refuse to believe;
for they have never seen that of which we are now speaking realized; they
have seen only a conventional imitation of philosophy, consisting of words
artificially brought together, not like these of ours having a natural
unity. But a human being who in word and work is perfectly moulded, as far
as he can be, into the proportion and likeness of virtue - such a man
in a city which bears the same image, they have never yet seen, neither one
nor many of them - do you think that they ever did?
No, my friend, and they have seldom, if ever, heard free and noble
sentiments; such as men utter when they are earnestly and by every means in
their power seeking after truth for the sake of knowledge, while they look
coldly on the subtleties of controversy, of which the end is opinion and
strife, whether they meet with them in the courts of law or in society.
They are strangers, he said, to the words of which you speak.
[Socrates] And this was what we foresaw, and this was the reason why
truth forced us to admit, not without fear and hesitation, that neither
cities nor States nor individuals will ever attain perfection until the
small class of philosophers whom we termed useless but not corrupt are
providentially compelled, whether they will or not, to take care of the
State, and until a like necessity be laid on the State to obey them; or
until kings, or if not kings, the sons of kings or princes, are divinely
inspired with a true love of true philosophy. That either or both of these
alternatives are impossible, I see no reason to affirm: if they were so, we
might indeed be justly ridiculed as dreamers and visionaries. Am I not
[Socrates] If then, in the countless ages of the past, or at the present
hour in some foreign clime which is far away and beyond our ken, the
perfected philosopher is or has been or hereafter shall be compelled by a
superior power to have the charge of the State, we are ready to assert to
the death, that this our constitution has been, and is - yea, and will be
whenever the muse of philosophy is queen. There is no impossibility in all
this; that there is a difficulty, we acknowledge ourselves.
My opinion agrees with yours, he said.
[Socrates] But do you mean to say that this is not the opinion of the
I should imagine not, he replied.
[Socrates] O my friends, I said, do not attack the multitude: they will
change their minds, if, not in an aggressive spirit, but gently and with
the view of soothing them and removing their dislike of over-education, you
show them your philosophers as they really are and describe as you were
just now doing their character and profession, and then mankind will
see that he of whom you are speaking is not such as they supposed - if they
view him in this new light, they will surely change their notion of him,
and answer in another strain. Who can be at enmity with one who loves him,
who that is himself gentle and free from envy will be jealous of one in
whom there is no jealousy? Nay, let me answer for you, that in a few this
harsh temper may be found, but not in the majority of mankind.
I quite agree with you, he said.
And do you not also think, as I do, that the harsh feeling which the
many entertain toward philosophy originates in the pretenders, who rush in
uninvited, and are always abusing them, and finding fault with them, who
make persons instead of things the theme of their conversation? and nothing
can be more unbecoming in philosophers than this.
It is most unbecoming.
For he, Adeimantus, whose mind is fixed upon true being, has surely no
time to look down upon the affairs of earth, or to be filled with malice
and envy, contending against men; his eye is ever directed toward things
fixed and immutable, which he sees neither injuring nor injured by one
another, but all in order moving according to reason; these he imitates,
and to these he will, as far as he can, conform himself. Can a man help
imitating that with which he holds reverential converse?
And the philosopher holding converse with the divine order, becomes
orderly and divine, as far as the nature of man allows; but like everyone
else, he will suffer from detraction.
And if a necessity be laid upon him of fashioning, not only himself, but
human nature generally, whether in States or individuals, into that which
he beholds elsewhere, will be, think you, be an unskilful artificer of
justice, temperance, and every civil virtue?
Anything but unskilful.
And if the world perceives that what we are saying about him is the
truth, will they be angry with philosophy? Will they disbelieve us, when we
tell them that no State can be happy which is not designed by artists who
imitate the heavenly pattern?
They will not be angry if they understand, he said. But how will they
draw out the plan of which you are speaking?
They will begin by taking the State and the manners of men, from which,
as from a tablet, they will rub out the picture, and leave a clean surface.
This is no easy task. But whether easy or not, herein will lie the
difference between them and every other legislator - they will have nothing
to do either with individual or State, and will inscribe no laws, until
they have either found, or themselves made, a clean surface.
They will be very right, he said.
Having effected this, they will proceed to trace an outline of the
And when they are filling in the work, as I conceive, they will often
turn their eyes upward and downward: I mean that they will first look at
absolute justice and beauty and temperance, and again at the human copy;
and will mingle and temper the various elements of life into the image of a
man; and this they will conceive according to that other image, which, when
existing among men, Homer calls the form and likeness of God.
Very true, he said.
And one feature they will erase, and another they will put in, until
they have made the ways of men, as far as possible, agreeable to the ways
Indeed, he said, in no way could they make a fairer picture.
And now, I said, are we beginning to persuade those whom you described
as rushing at us with might and main, that the painter of constitutions is
such a one as we were praising; at whom they were so very indignant because
to his hands we committed the State; and are they growing a little calmer
at what they have just heard?
Much calmer, if there is any sense in them.
Why, where can they still find any ground for objection? Will they doubt
that the philosopher is a lover of truth and being?
They would not be so unreasonable.
Or that his nature, being such as we have delineated, is akin to the
Neither can they doubt this.
But again, will they tell us that such a nature, placed under favourable
circumstances, will not be perfectly good and wise if any ever was? Or will
they prefer those whom we have rejected?
Then will they still be angry at our saying, that, until philosophers
bear rule, States and individuals will have no rest from evil, nor will
this our imaginary State ever be realized?
I think that they will be less angry.
Shall we assume that they are not only less angry but quite gentle, and
that they have been converted and for very shame, if for no other reason,
cannot refuse to come to terms?
By all means, he said.
Then let us suppose that the reconciliation has been effected. Will
anyone deny the other point, that there may be sons of kings or princes who
are by nature philosophers?
Surely no man, he said.
And when they have come into being will anyone say that they must of
necessity be destroyed; that they can hardly be saved is not denied even by
us; but that in the whole course of ages no single one of them can
escape - who will venture to affirm this?
But, said I, one is enough; let there be one man who has a city obedient
to his will, and he might bring into existence the ideal polity about which
the world is so incredulous.
Yes, one is enough.
The ruler may impose the laws and institutions which we have been
describing, and the citizens may possibly be willing to obey them?
And that others should approve, of what we approve, is no miracle or
I think not.
But we have sufficiently shown, in what has preceded, that all this, if
only possible, is assuredly for the best.
And now we say not only that our laws, if they could be enacted, would
be for the best, but also that the enactment of them, though difficult, is
And so with pain and toil we have reached the end of one subject, but
more remains to be discussed; how and by what studies and pursuits will the
saviours of the constitution be created, and at what ages are they to apply
themselves to their several studies?
I omitted the troublesome business of the possession of women, and the
procreation of children, and the appointment of the rulers, because I knew
that the perfect State would be eyed with jealousy and was difficult of
attainment; but that piece of cleverness was not of much service to me, for
I had to discuss them all the same. The women and children are now disposed
of, but the other question of the rulers must be investigated from the very
beginning. We were saying, as you will remember, that they were to be
lovers of their country, tried by the test of pleasures and pains, and
neither in hardships, nor in dangers, nor at any other critical moment were
to lose their patriotism - he was to be rejected who failed, but he who
always came forth pure, like gold tried in the refiner's fire, was to be
made a ruler, and to receive honours and rewards in life and after death.
This was the sort of thing which was being said, and then the argument
turned aside and veiled her face; not liking to stir the question which has
I perfectly remember, he said.
Yes, my friend, I said, and I then shrank from hazarding the bold word;
but now let me dare to say - that the perfect guardian must be a
Yes, he said, let that be affirmed.
And do not suppose that there will be many of them; for the gifts which
were deemed by us to be essential rarely grow together; they are mostly
found in shreds and patches.
What do you mean? he said.
You are aware, I replied, that quick intelligence, memory, sagacity,
cleverness, and similar qualities, do not often grow together, and that
persons who possess them and are at the same time high-spirited and
magnanimous are not so constituted by nature as to live orderly and in a
peaceful and settled manner; they are driven any way by their impulses, and
all solid principle goes out of them.
Very true, he said.
On the other hand, those steadfast natures which can better be depended
upon, which in a battle are impregnable to fear and immovable, are equally
immovable when there is anything to be learned; they are always in a torpid
state, and are apt to yawn and go to sleep over any intellectual toil.
And yet we were saying that both qualities were necessary in those to
whom the higher education is to be imparted, and who are to share in any
office or command.
Certainly, he said.
And will they be a class which is rarely found?
Then the aspirant must not only be tested in those labours and dangers
and pleasures which we mentioned before, but there is another kind of
probation which we did not mention - he must be exercised also in many
of knowledge, to see whether the soul will be able to endure the highest of
all, or will faint under them, as in any other studies and exercises.
Yes, he said, you are quite right in testing them. But what do you mean
by the highest of all knowledge?
You may remember, I said, that we divided the soul into three parts; and
distinguished the several natures of justice, temperance, courage, and
Indeed, he said, if I had forgotten, I should not deserve to hear more.
And do you remember the word of caution which preceded the discussion of
To what do you refer?
We were saying, if I am not mistaken, that he who wanted to see them in
their perfect beauty must take a longer and more circuitous way, at the end
of which they would appear; but that we could add on a popular exposition
of them on a level with the discussion which had preceded. And you replied
that such an exposition would be enough for you, and so the inquiry was
continued in what to me seemed to be a very inaccurate manner; whether you
were satisfied or not, it is for you to say.
Yes, he said, I thought and the others thought that you gave us a fair
measure of truth.
But, my friend, I said, a measure of such things which in any degree
falls short of the whole truth is not fair measure; for nothing imperfect
is the measure of anything, although persons are too apt to be contented
and think that they need search no further.
Not an uncommon case when people are indolent.
Yes, I said; and there cannot be any worse fault in a guardian of the
State and of the laws.
The guardian then, I said, must be required to take the longer circuit,
and toil at learning as well as at gymnastics, or he will never reach the
highest knowledge of all which, as we were just now saying, is his proper
What, he said, is there a knowledge still higher than this - higher
justice and the other virtues?
Yes, I said, there is. And of the virtues too we must behold not the
outline merely, as at present - nothing short of the most finished picture
should satisfy us. When little things are elaborated with an infinity of
pains, in order that they may appear in their full beauty and utmost
clearness, how ridiculous that we should not think the highest truths
worthy of attaining the highest accuracy!
A right noble thought; but do you suppose that we shall refrain from
asking you what is this highest knowledge?
Nay, I said, ask if you will; but I am certain that you have heard the
answer many times, and now you either do not understand me or, as I rather
think, you are disposed to be troublesome; for you have often been told
that the idea of good is the highest knowledge, and that all other things
become useful and advantageous only by their use of this. You can hardly be
ignorant that of this I was about to speak, concerning which, as you have
often heard me say, we know so little; and, without which, any other
knowledge or possession of any kind will profit us nothing. Do you think
that the possession of all other things is of any value if we do not
possess the good? or the knowledge of all other things if we have no
knowledge of beauty and goodness?
You are further aware that most people affirm pleasure to be the good,
but the finer sort of wits say it is knowledge?
And you are aware too that the latter cannot explain what they mean by
knowledge, but are obliged after all to say knowledge of the good?
Yes, I said, that they should begin by reproaching us with our ignorance
of the good, and then presume our knowledge of it - for the good they
to be knowledge of the good, just as if we understood them when they use
the term "good" - this is of course ridiculous.
Most true, he said.
And those who make pleasure their good are in equal perplexity; for they
are compelled to admit that there are bad pleasures as well as good.
And therefore to acknowledge that bad and good are the same?
There can be no doubt about the numerous difficulties in which this
question is involved.
There can be none.
Further, do we not see that many are willing to do or to have or to seem
to be what is just and honourable without the reality; but no one is
satisfied with the appearance of good - the reality is what they seek; in
the case of the good, appearance is despised by everyone.
Very true, he said.
Of this then, which every soul of man pursues and makes the end of all
his actions, having a presentiment that there is such an end, and yet
hesitating because neither knowing the nature nor having the same assurance
of this as of other things, and therefore losing whatever good there is in
other things - of a principle such and so great as this ought the best men
in our State, to whom everything is intrusted, to be in the darkness of
Certainly not, he said.
I am sure, I said, that he who does not know how the beautiful and the
just are likewise good will be but a sorry guardian of them; and I suspect
that no one who is ignorant of the good will have a true knowledge of them.
That, he said, is a shrewd suspicion of yours.
And if we only have a guardian who has this knowledge, our State will be
Of course, he replied; but I wish that you would tell me whether you
conceive this supreme principle of the good to be knowledge or pleasure, or
different from either?
Aye, I said, I knew all along that a fastidious gentleman like you would
not be contented with the thoughts of other people about these matters.
True, Socrates; but I must say that one who like you has passed a
lifetime in the study of philosophy should not be always repeating the
opinions of others, and never telling his own.
Well, but has anyone a right to say positively what he does not know?
Not, he said, with the assurance of positive certainty; he has no right
to do that: but he may say what he thinks, as a matter of opinion.
And do you not know, I said, that all mere opinions are bad, and the
best of them blind? You would not deny that those who have any true notion
without intelligence are only like blind men who feel their way along the
[Socrates] And do you wish to behold what is blind and crooked and base,
others will tell you of brightness and beauty?
[Glaucon] Still, I must implore you, Socrates, said Glaucon, not to turn
as you are reaching the goal; if you will only give such an explanation of
the good as you have already given of justice and temperance and the other
virtues, we shall be satisfied.
[Socrates] Yes, my friend, and I shall be at least equally satisfied,
but I cannot
help fearing that I shall fail, and that my indiscreet zeal will bring
ridicule upon me. No, sweet sirs, let us not at present ask what is the
actual nature of the good, for to reach what is now in my thoughts would be
an effort too great for me. But of the child of the good who is likest him,
I would fain speak, if I could be sure that you wished to hear - otherwise,
[Glaucon] By all means, he said, tell us about the child, and you shall
our debt for the account of the parent.
[Socrates] I do indeed wish, I replied, that I could pay, and you receive,
the account of the parent, and not, as now, of the offspring only; take,
however, this latter by way of interest, and at the same time have a care
that I do not render a false account, although I have no intention of
[Glaucon] Yes, we will take all the care that we can: proceed.
[Socrates] Yes, I said, but I must first come to an understanding with
remind you of what I have mentioned in the course of this discussion, and
at many other times.
[Socrates] The old story, that there is many a beautiful and many a
good, and so of
other things which we describe and define; to all of them the term "many"
[Glaucon] True, he said.
[Socrates] And there is an absolute beauty and an absolute good, and of
things to which the term "many" is applied there is an absolute; for they
may be brought under a single idea, which is called the essence of each.
[Glaucon] Very true.
[Socrates] The many, as we say, are seen but not known, and the ideas
are known but not seen.
[Socrates] And what is the organ with which we see the visible things?
[Glaucon] The sight, he said.
[Socrates] And with the hearing, I said, we hear, and with the other
perceive the other objects of sense?
[Socrates] But have you remarked that sight is by far the most costly
piece of workmanship which the artificer of the senses ever contrived?
[Glaucon] No, I never have, he said.
[Socrates] Then reflect: has the ear or voice need of any third or
nature in order that the one may be able to hear and the other to be heard?
[Glaucon] Nothing of the sort.
[Socrates] No, indeed, I replied; and the same is true of most, if not
other senses - you would not say that any of them requires such an
[Glaucon] Certainly not.
[Socrates] But you see that without the addition of some other nature
there is no
seeing or being seen?
[Glaucon] How do you mean?
[Socrates] Sight being, as I conceive, in the eyes, and he who has eyes
see; colour being also present in them, still unless there be a third
nature specially adapted to the purpose, the owner of the eyes will see
nothing and the colours will be invisible.
[Glaucon] Of what nature are you speaking?
[Socrates] Of that which you term light, I replied.
[Glaucon] True, he said.
[Socrates] Noble, then, is the bond which links together sight and
visibility, and great beyond other bonds by no small difference of nature;
for light is their bond, and light is no ignoble thing?
[Glaucon] Nay, he said, the reverse of ignoble.
[Socrates] And which, I said, of the gods in heaven would you say was
the lord of
this element? Whose is that light which makes the eye to see perfectly and
the visible to appear?
[Glaucon] You mean the sun, as you and all mankind say.
[Socrates] May not the relation of sight to this deity be described as
[Socrates] Neither sight nor the eye in which sight resides is the sun?
Yet of all the organs of sense the eye is the most like the sun?
By far the most like.
And the power which the eye possesses is a sort of effluence which is
dispensed from the sun?
Then the sun is not sight, but the author of sight who is recognized by
True, he said.
And this is he whom I call the child of the good, whom the good begat in
his own likeness, to be in the visible world, in relation to sight and the
things of sight, what the good is in the intellectual world in relation to
mind and the things of mind:
Will you be a little more explicit? he said.
Why, you know, I said, that the eyes, when a person directs them toward
objects on which the light of day is no longer shining, but the moon and
stars only, see dimly, and are nearly blind; they seem to have no clearness
of vision in them?
But when they are directed toward objects on which the sun shines, they
see clearly and there is sight in them?
And the soul is like the eye: when resting upon that on which truth and
being shine, the soul perceives and understands, and is radiant with
intelligence; but when turned toward the twilight of becoming and
perishing, then she has opinion only, and goes blinking about, and is first
of one opinion and then of another, and seems to have no intelligence?
[Socrates] Now, that which imparts truth to the known and the power of
the knower is what I would have you term the idea of good, and this you
will deem to be the cause of science, and of truth in so far as the latter
becomes the subject of knowledge; beautiful too, as are both truth and
knowledge, you will be right in esteeming this other nature as more
beautiful than either; and, as in the previous instance, light and sight
may be truly said to be like the sun, and yet not to be the sun, so in this
other sphere, science and truth may be deemed to be like the good, but not
the good; the good has a place of honour yet higher.
What a wonder of beauty that must be, he said, which is the author of
science and truth, and yet surpasses them in beauty; for you surely cannot
mean to say that pleasure is the good?
God forbid, I replied; but may I ask you to consider the image in
another point of view?
[Glaucon] In what point of view?
[Socrates] You would say, would you not? that the sun is not only the
visibility in all visible things, but of generation and nourishment and
growth, though he himself is not generation?
[Socrates] In like manner the good may be said to be not only the author
knowledge to all things known, but of their being and essence, and yet the
good is not essence, but far exceeds essence in dignity and power.
[Glaucon] Glaucon said, with a ludicrous earnestness: By the light of
[Socrates] Yes, I said, and the exaggeration may be set down to you; for
me utter my fancies.
[Glaucon] And pray continue to utter them; at any rate let us hear if
anything more to be said about the similitude of the sun.
[Socrates] Yes, I said, there is a great deal more.
[Glaucon] Then omit nothing, however slight.
[Socrates] I will do my best, I said; but I should think that a great
have to be omitted. I hope not, he said.
You have to Imagine, then, that there are two ruling powers, and that
one of them is set over the intellectual world, the other over the visible.
I do not say heaven, lest you should fancy that I am playing upon the name
(ovpavos, opatos). May I suppose that you have this distinction of the
visible and intelligible fixed in your mind?
Now take a line which has been cut into two unequal parts, and divide
each of them again in the same proportion, and suppose the two main
divisions to answer, one to the visible and the other to the intelligible,
and then compare the subdivisions in respect of their clearness and want of
clearness, and you will find that the first section in the sphere of the
visible consists of images. And by images I mean, in the first place,
shadows, and in the second place, reflections in water and in solid, smooth
and polished bodies and the like: Do you understand?
Yes, I understand.
Imagine, now, the other section, of which this is only the resemblance,
to include the animals which we see, and everything that grows or is made.
Would you not admit that both the sections of this division have
different degrees of truth, and that the copy is to the original as the
sphere of opinion is to the sphere of knowledge?
Next proceed to consider the manner in which the sphere of the
intellectual is to be divided.
In what manner?
Thus: There are two subdivisions, in the lower of which the soul uses
the figures given by the former division as images; the inquiry can only be
hypothetical, and instead of going upward to a principle descends to the
other end; in the higher of the two, the soul passes out of hypotheses, and
goes up to a principle which is above hypotheses, making no use of images
as in the former case, but proceeding only in and through the ideas
I do not quite understand your meaning, he said.
Then I will try again; you will understand me better when I have made
some preliminary remarks. You are aware that students of geometry,
arithmetic, and the kindred sciences assume the odd, and the even, and the
figures, and three kinds of angles, and the like, in their several branches
of science; these are their hypotheses, which they and everybody are
supposed to know, and therefore they do not deign to give any account of
them either to themselves or others; but they begin with them, and go on
until they arrive at last, and in a consistent manner, at their conclusion?
Yes, he said, I know.
And do you not know also that although they make use of the visible
forms and reason about them, they are thinking not of these, but of the
ideals which they resemble; not of the figures which they draw, but of the
absolute square and the absolute diameter, and so on - the forms which they
draw or make, and which have shadows and reflections in water of their own,
are converted by them into images, but they are really seeking to behold
the things themselves, which can only be seen with the eye of the mind?
That is true.
And of this kind I spoke as the intelligible, although in the search
after it the soul is compelled to use hypotheses; not ascending to a first
principle, because she is unable to rise above the region of hypothesis,
but employing the objects of which the shadows below are resemblances in
their turn as images, they having in relation to the shadows and
reflections of them a greater distinctness, and therefore a higher value.
I understand, he said, that you are speaking of the province of geometry
and the sister arts.
And when I speak of the other division of the intelligible, you will
understand me to speak of that other sort of knowledge which reason herself
attains by the power of dialectic, using the hypotheses not as first
principles, but only as hypotheses - that is to say, as steps and points
departure into a world which is above hypotheses, in order that she may
soar beyond them to the first principle of the whole; and clinging to this
and then to that which depends on this, by successive steps she descends
again without the aid of any sensible object, from ideas, through ideas,
and in ideas she ends.
I understand you, he replied; not perfectly, for you seem to me to be
describing a task which is really tremendous; but, at any rate, I
understand you to say that knowledge and being, which the science of
dialectic contemplates, are clearer than the notions of the arts, as they
are termed, which proceed from hypotheses only: these are also contemplated
by the understanding, and not by the senses: yet, because they start from
hypotheses and do not ascend to a principle, those who contemplate them
appear to you not to exercise the higher reason upon them, although when a
first principle is added to them they are cognizable by the higher reason.
And the habit which is concerned with geometry and the cognate sciences I
suppose that you would term understanding, and not reason, as being
intermediate between opinion and reason.
You have quite conceived my meaning, I said; and now, corresponding to
these four divisions, let there be four faculties in the soul - reason
answering to the highest, understanding to the second, faith (or
conviction) to the third, and perception of shadows to the last - and let
there be a scale of them, and let us suppose that the several faculties
have clearness in the same degree that their objects have truth.
I understand, he replied, and give my assent, and accept your
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