translated by Benjamin Jowett
Book V - On Matrimony and Philosophy
SOCRATES - GLAUCON - ADEIMANTUS
SUCH is the good and true City or State, and the good and man
is of the same pattern; and if this is right every other is
wrong; and the evil is one which affects not only the ordering of
the State, but also the regulation of the individual soul, and is
exhibited in four forms.
What are they? he said.
I was proceeding to tell the order in which the four evil
forms appeared to me to succeed one another, when Pole marchus,
who was sitting a little way off, just beyond Adeimantus, began
to whisper to him: stretching forth his hand, he took hold of the
upper part of his coat by the shoulder, and drew him towards him,
leaning forward himself so as to be quite close and saying
something in his ear, of which I only caught the words, 'Shall we
let him off, or what shall we do?
Certainly not, said Adeimantus, raising his voice.
Who is it, I said, whom you are refusing to let off?
You, he said.
I repeated, Why am I especially not to be let off?
Why, he said, we think that you are lazy, and mean to cheat us
out of a whole chapter which is a very important part of the
story; and you fancy that we shall not notice your airy way of
proceeding; as if it were self-evident to everybody, that in the
matter of women and children 'friends have all things in common.'
And was I not right, Adeimantus?
Yes, he said; but what is right in this particular case, like
everything else, requires to be explained; for community may be
of many kinds. Please, therefore, to say what sort of community
you mean. We have been long expecting that you would tell us
something about the family life of your citizens --how they will
bring children into the world, and rear them when they have
arrived, and, in general, what is the nature of this community of
women and children-for we are of opinion that the right or wrong
management of such matters will have a great and paramount
influence on the State for good or for evil. And now, since the
question is still undetermined, and you are taking in hand
another State, we have resolved, as you heard, not to let you go
until you give an account of all this.
To that resolution, said Glaucon, you may regard me as saying
SOCRATES - ADEIMANTUS - GLAUCON - THRASYMACHUS
And without more ado, said Thrasymachus, you may consider us
all to be equally agreed.
I said, You know not what you are doing in thus assailing me:
What an argument are you raising about the State! Just as I
thought that I had finished, and was only too glad that I had
laid this question to sleep, and was reflecting how fortunate I
was in your acceptance of what I then said, you ask me to begin
again at the very foundation, ignorant of what a hornet's nest of
words you are stirring. Now I foresaw this gathering trouble, and
For what purpose do you conceive that we have come here, said
Thrasymachus, --to look for gold, or to hear discourse?
Yes, but discourse should have a limit.
Yes, Socrates, said Glaucon, and the whole of life is the only
limit which wise men assign to the hearing of such discourses.
But never mind about us; take heart yourself and answer the
question in your own way: What sort of community of women and
children is this which is to prevail among our guardians? and how
shall we manage the period between birth and education, which
seems to require the greatest care? Tell us how these things will
Yes, my simple friend, but the answer is the reverse of easy;
many more doubts arise about this than about our previous
conclusions. For the practicability of what is said may be
doubted; and looked at in another point of view, whether the
scheme, if ever so practicable, would be for the best, is also
doubtful. Hence I feel a reluctance to approach the subject, lest
our aspiration, my dear friend, should turn out to be a dream
Fear not, he replied, for your audience will not be hard upon
you; they are not sceptical or hostile.
I said: My good friend, I suppose that you mean to encourage
me by these words.
Yes, he said.
Then let me tell you that you are doing just the reverse; the
encouragement which you offer would have been all very well had I
myself believed that I knew what I was talking about: to declare
the truth about matters of high interest which a man honours and
loves among wise men who love him need occasion no fear or
faltering in his mind; but to carry on an argument when you are
yourself only a hesitating enquirer, which is my condition, is a
dangerous and slippery thing; and the danger is not that I shall
be laughed at (of which the fear would be childish), but that I
shall miss the truth where I have most need to be sure of my
footing, and drag my friends after me in my fall. And I pray
Nemesis not to visit upon me the words which I am going to utter.
For I do indeed believe that to be an involuntary homicide is a
less crime than to be a deceiver about beauty or goodness or
justice in the matter of laws. And that is a risk which I would
rather run among enemies than among friends, and therefore you do
well to encourage me.
Glaucon laughed and said: Well then, Socrates, in case you and
your argument do us any serious injury you shall be acquitted
beforehand of the and shall not be held to be a deceiver; take
courage then and speak.
Well, I said, the law says that when a man is acquitted he is
free from guilt, and what holds at law may hold in argument.
Then why should you mind?
Well, I replied, I suppose that I must retrace my steps and
say what I perhaps ought to have said before in the proper place.
The part of the men has been played out, and now properly enough
comes the turn of the women. Of them I will proceed to speak, and
the more readily since I am invited by you.
For men born and educated like our citizens, the only way, in
my opinion, of arriving at a right conclusion about the
possession and use of women and children is to follow the path on
which we originally started, when we said that the men were to be
the guardians and watchdogs of the herd.
Let us further suppose the birth and education of our women to
be subject to similar or nearly similar regulations; then we
shall see whether the result accords with our design.
What do you mean?
What I mean may be put into the form of a question, I said:
Are dogs divided into hes and shes, or do they both share equally
in hunting and in keeping watch and in the other duties of dogs?
or do we entrust to the males the entire and exclusive care of
the flocks, while we leave the females at home, under the idea
that the bearing and suckling their puppies is labour enough for
No, he said, they share alike; the only difference between
them is that the males are stronger and the females weaker.
But can you use different animals for the same purpose, unless
they are bred and fed in the same way?
Then, if women are to have the same duties as men, they must
have the same nurture and education?
The education which was assigned to the men was music and
Then women must be taught music and gymnastic and also the art
of war, which they must practise like the men?
That is the inference, I suppose.
I should rather expect, I said, that several of our proposals,
if they are carried out, being unusual, may appear ridiculous.
No doubt of it.
Yes, and the most ridiculous thing of all will be the sight of
women naked in the palaestra, exercising with the men, especially
when they are no longer young; they certainly will not be a
vision of beauty, any more than the enthusiastic old men who in
spite of wrinkles and ugliness continue to frequent the gymnasia.
Yes, indeed, he said: according to present notions the
proposal would be thought ridiculous.
But then, I said, as we have determined to speak our minds, we
must not fear the jests of the wits which will be directed
against this sort of innovation; how they will talk of women's
attainments both in music and gymnastic, and above all about
their wearing armour and riding upon horseback!
Very true, he replied.
Yet having begun we must go forward to the rough places of the
law; at the same time begging of these gentlemen for once in
their life to be serious. Not long ago, as we shall remind them,
the Hellenes were of the opinion, which is still generally
received among the barbarians, that the sight of a naked man was
ridiculous and improper; and when first the Cretans and then the
Lacedaemonians introduced the custom, the wits of that day might
equally have ridiculed the innovation.
But when experience showed that to let all things be uncovered
was far better than to cover them up, and the ludicrous effect to
the outward eye vanished before the better principle which reason
asserted, then the man was perceived to be a fool who directs the
shafts of his ridicule at any other sight but that of folly and
vice, or seriously inclines to weigh the beautiful by any other
standard but that of the good.
Very true, he replied.
First, then, whether the question is to be put in jest or in
earnest, let us come to an understanding about the nature of
woman: Is she capable of sharing either wholly or partially in
the actions of men, or not at all? And is the art of war one of
those arts in which she can or can not share? That will be the
best way of commencing the enquiry, and will probably lead to the
That will be much the best way.
Shall we take the other side first and begin by arguing
against ourselves; in this manner the adversary's position will
not be undefended.
Why not? he said.
Then let us put a speech into the mouths of our opponents.
They will say: 'Socrates and Glaucon, no adversary need convict
you, for you yourselves, at the first foundation of the State,
admitted the principle that everybody was to do the one work
suited to his own nature.' And certainly, if I am not mistaken,
such an admission was made by us. 'And do not the natures of men
and women differ very much indeed?' And we shall reply: Of course
they do. Then we shall be asked, 'Whether the tasks assigned to
men and to women should not be different, and such as are
agreeable to their different natures?' Certainly they should.
'But if so, have you not fallen into a serious inconsistency in
saying that men and women, whose natures are so entirely
different, ought to perform the same actions?' --What defence
will you make for us, my good Sir, against any one who offers
That is not an easy question to answer when asked suddenly;
and I shall and I do beg of you to draw out the case on our side.
These are the objections, Glaucon, and there are many others
of a like kind, which I foresaw long ago; they made me afraid and
reluctant to take in hand any law about the possession and
nurture of women and children.
By Zeus, he said, the problem to be solved is anything but
Why yes, I said, but the fact is that when a man is out of his
depth, whether he has fallen into a little swimming bath or into
mid-ocean, he has to swim all the same.
And must not we swim and try to reach the shore: we will hope
that Arion's dolphin or some other miraculous help may save us?
I suppose so, he said.
Well then, let us see if any way of escape can be found. We
acknowledged --did we not? that different natures ought to have
different pursuits, and that men's and women's natures are
different. And now what are we saying? --that different natures
ought to have the same pursuits, --this is the inconsistency
which is charged upon us.
Verily, Glaucon, I said, glorious is the power of the art of
Why do you say so?
Because I think that many a man falls into the practice
against his will. When he thinks that he is reasoning he is
really disputing, just because he cannot define and divide, and
so know that of which he is speaking; and he will pursue a merely
verbal opposition in the spirit of contention and not of fair
Yes, he replied, such is very often the case; but what has
that to do with us and our argument?
A great deal; for there is certainly a danger of our getting
unintentionally into a verbal opposition.
In what way?
Why, we valiantly and pugnaciously insist upon the verbal
truth, that different natures ought to have different pursuits,
but we never considered at all what was the meaning of sameness
or difference of nature, or why we distinguished them when we
assigned different pursuits to different natures and the same to
the same natures.
Why, no, he said, that was never considered by us.
I said: Suppose that by way of illustration we were to ask the
question whether there is not an opposition in nature between
bald men and hairy men; and if this is admitted by us, then, if
bald men are cobblers, we should forbid the hairy men to be
cobblers, and conversely?
That would be a jest, he said.
Yes, I said, a jest; and why? because we never meant when we
constructed the State, that the opposition of natures should
extend to every difference, but only to those differences which
affected the pursuit in which the individual is engaged; we
should have argued, for example, that a physician and one who is
in mind a physician may be said to have the same nature.
Whereas the physician and the carpenter have different
And if, I said, the male and female sex appear to differ in
their fitness for any art or pursuit, we should say that such
pursuit or art ought to be assigned to one or the other of them;
but if the difference consists only in women bearing and men
begetting children, this does not amount to a proof that a woman
differs from a man in respect of the sort of education she should
receive; and we shall therefore continue to maintain that our
guardians and their wives ought to have the same pursuits.
Very true, he said.
Next, we shall ask our opponent how, in reference to any of
the pursuits or arts of civic life, the nature of a woman differs
from that of a man?
That will be quite fair.
And perhaps he, like yourself, will reply that to give a
sufficient answer on the instant is not easy; but after a little
reflection there is no difficulty.
Suppose then that we invite him to accompany us in the
argument, and then we may hope to show him that there is nothing
peculiar in the constitution of women which would affect them in
the administration of the State.
By all means.
Let us say to him: Come now, and we will ask you a question:
--when you spoke of a nature gifted or not gifted in any respect,
did you mean to say that one man will acquire a thing easily,
another with difficulty; a little learning will lead the one to
discover a great deal; whereas the other, after much study and
application, no sooner learns than he forgets; or again, did you
mean, that the one has a body which is a good servant to his
mind, while the body of the other is a hindrance to him?-would
not these be the sort of differences which distinguish the man
gifted by nature from the one who is ungifted?
No one will deny that.
And can you mention any pursuit of mankind in which the male
sex has not all these gifts and qualities in a higher degree than
the female? Need I waste time in speaking of the art of weaving,
and the management of pancakes and preserves, in which womankind
does really appear to be great, and in which for her to be beaten
by a man is of all things the most absurd?
You are quite right, he replied, in maintaining the general
inferiority of the female sex: although many women are in many
things superior to many men, yet on the whole what you say is
And if so, my friend, I said, there is no special faculty of
administration in a state which a woman has because she is a
woman, or which a man has by virtue of his sex, but the gifts of
nature are alike diffused in both; all the pursuits of men are
the pursuits of women also, but in all of them a woman is
inferior to a man.
Then are we to impose all our enactments on men and none of
them on women?
That will never do.
One woman has a gift of healing, another not; one is a
musician, and another has no music in her nature?
And one woman has a turn for gymnastic and military exercises,
and another is unwarlike and hates gymnastics?
And one woman is a philosopher, and another is an enemy of
philosophy; one has spirit, and another is without spirit?
That is also true.
Then one woman will have the temper of a guardian, and another
not. Was not the selection of the male guardians determined by
differences of this sort?
Men and women alike possess the qualities which make a
guardian; they differ only in their comparative strength or
And those women who have such qualities are to be selected as
the companions and colleagues of men who have similar qualities
and whom they resemble in capacity and in character?
And ought not the same natures to have the same pursuits?
Then, as we were saying before, there is nothing unnatural in
assigning music and gymnastic to the wives of the guardians --to
that point we come round again.
The law which we then enacted was agreeable to nature, and
therefore not an impossibility or mere aspiration; and the
contrary practice, which prevails at present, is in reality a
violation of nature.
That appears to be true.
We had to consider, first, whether our proposals were
possible, and secondly whether they were the most beneficial?
And the possibility has been acknowledged?
The very great benefit has next to be established?
You will admit that the same education which makes a man a
good guardian will make a woman a good guardian; for their
original nature is the same?
I should like to ask you a question.
What is it?
Would you say that all men are equal in excellence, or is one
man better than another?
And in the commonwealth which we were founding do you conceive
the guardians who have been brought up on our model system to be
more perfect men, or the cobblers whose education has been
What a ridiculous question!
You have answered me, I replied: Well, and may we not further
say that our guardians are the best of our citizens?
By far the best.
And will not their wives be the best women?
Yes, by far the best.
And can there be anything better for the interests of the
State than that the men and women of a State should be as good as
There can be nothing better.
And this is what the arts of music and gymnastic, when present
in such manner as we have described, will accomplish?
Then we have made an enactment not only possible but in the
highest degree beneficial to the State?
Then let the wives of our guardians strip, for their virtue
will be their robe, and let them share in the toils of war and
the defence of their country; only in the distribution of labours
the lighter are to be assigned to the women, who are the weaker
natures, but in other respects their duties are to be the same.
And as for the man who laughs at naked women exercising their
bodies from the best of motives, in his laughter he is plucking A
fruit of unripe wisdom, and he himself is ignorant of what he is
laughing at, or what he is about; --for that is, and ever will
be, the best of sayings, That the useful is the noble and the
hurtful is the base.
Here, then, is one difficulty in our law about women, which we
may say that we have now escaped; the wave has not swallowed us
up alive for enacting that the guardians of either sex should
have all their pursuits in common; to the utility and also to the
possibility of this arrangement the consistency of the argument
with itself bears witness.
Yes, that was a mighty wave which you have escaped.
Yes, I said, but a greater is coming; you will of this when
you see the next.
Go on; let me see.
The law, I said, which is the sequel of this and of all that
has preceded, is to the following effect, --'that the wives of
our guardians are to be common, and their children are to be
common, and no parent is to know his own child, nor any child his
Yes, he said, that is a much greater wave than the other; and
the possibility as well as the utility of such a law are far more
I do not think, I said, that there can be any dispute about
the very great utility of having wives and children in common;
the possibility is quite another matter, and will be very much
I think that a good many doubts may be raised about both.
You imply that the two questions must be combined, I replied.
Now I meant that you should admit the utility; and in this way,
as I thought; I should escape from one of them, and then there
would remain only the possibility.
But that little attempt is detected, and therefore you will
please to give a defence of both.
Well, I said, I submit to my fate. Yet grant me a little
favour: let me feast my mind with the dream as day dreamers are
in the habit of feasting themselves when they are walking alone;
for before they have discovered any means of effecting their
wishes --that is a matter which never troubles them --they would
rather not tire themselves by thinking about possibilities; but
assuming that what they desire is already granted to them, they
proceed with their plan, and delight in detailing what they mean
to do when their wish has come true --that is a way which they
have of not doing much good to a capacity which was never good
for much. Now I myself am beginning to lose heart, and I should
like, with your permission, to pass over the question of
possibility at present. Assuming therefore the possibility of the
proposal, I shall now proceed to enquire how the rulers will
carry out these arrangements, and I shall demonstrate that our
plan, if executed, will be of the greatest benefit to the State
and to the guardians. First of all, then, if you have no
objection, I will endeavour with your help to consider the
advantages of the measure; and hereafter the question of
I have no objection; proceed.
First, I think that if our rulers and their auxiliaries are to
be worthy of the name which they bear, there must be willingness
to obey in the one and the power of command in the other; the
guardians must themselves obey the laws, and they must also
imitate the spirit of them in any details which are entrusted to
That is right, he said.
You, I said, who are their legislator, having selected the
men, will now select the women and give them to them; --they must
be as far as possible of like natures with them; and they must
live in common houses and meet at common meals, None of them will
have anything specially his or her own; they will be together,
and will be brought up together, and will associate at gymnastic
exercises. And so they will be drawn by a necessity of their
natures to have intercourse with each other --necessity is not
too strong a word, I think?
Yes, he said; --necessity, not geometrical, but another sort
of necessity which lovers know, and which is far more convincing
and constraining to the mass of mankind.
True, I said; and this, Glaucon, like all the rest, must
proceed after an orderly fashion; in a city of the blessed,
licentiousness is an unholy thing which the rulers will forbid.
Yes, he said, and it ought not to be permitted.
Then clearly the next thing will be to make matrimony sacred
in the highest degree, and what is most beneficial will be deemed
And how can marriages be made most beneficial? --that is a
question which I put to you, because I see in your house dogs for
hunting, and of the nobler sort of birds not a few. Now, I
beseech you, do tell me, have you ever attended to their pairing
In what particulars?
Why, in the first place, although they are all of a good sort,
are not some better than others?
And do you breed from them all indifferently, or do you take
care to breed from the best only?
From the best.
And do you take the oldest or the youngest, or only those of
I choose only those of ripe age.
And if care was not taken in the breeding, your dogs and birds
would greatly deteriorate?
And the same of horses and animals in general?
Good heavens! my dear friend, I said, what consummate skill
will our rulers need if the same principle holds of the human
Certainly, the same principle holds; but why does this involve
any particular skill?
Because, I said, our rulers will often have to practise upon
the body corporate with medicines. Now you know that when
patients do not require medicines, but have only to be put under
a regimen, the inferior sort of practitioner is deemed to be good
enough; but when medicine has to be given, then the doctor should
be more of a man.
That is quite true, he said; but to what are you alluding?
I mean, I replied, that our rulers will find a considerable
dose of falsehood and deceit necessary for the good of their
subjects: we were saying that the use of all these things
regarded as medicines might be of advantage.
And we were very right.
And this lawful use of them seems likely to be often needed in
the regulations of marriages and births.
Why, I said, the principle has been already laid down that the
best of either sex should be united with the best as often, and
the inferior with the inferior, as seldom as possible; and that
they should rear the offspring of the one sort of union, but not
of the other, if the flock is to be maintained in first-rate
condition. Now these goings on must be a secret which the rulers
only know, or there will be a further danger of our herd, as the
guardians may be termed, breaking out into rebellion.
Had we not better appoint certain festivals at which we will
bring together the brides and bridegrooms, and sacrifices will be
offered and suitable hymeneal songs composed by our poets: the
number of weddings is a matter which must be left to the
discretion of the rulers, whose aim will be to preserve the
average of population? There are many other things which they
will have to consider, such as the effects of wars and diseases
and any similar agencies, in order as far as this is possible to
prevent the State from becoming either too large or too small.
Certainly, he replied.
We shall have to invent some ingenious kind of lots which the
less worthy may draw on each occasion of our bringing them
together, and then they will accuse their own ill-luck and not
To be sure, he said.
And I think that our braver and better youth, besides their
other honours and rewards, might have greater facilities of
intercourse with women given them; their bravery will be a
reason, and such fathers ought to have as many sons as possible.
And the proper officers, whether male or female or both, for
offices are to be held by women as well as by men --
The proper officers will take the offspring of the good
parents to the pen or fold, and there they will deposit them with
certain nurses who dwell in a separate quarter; but the offspring
of the inferior, or of the better when they chance to be
deformed, will be put away in some mysterious, unknown place, as
they should be.
Yes, he said, that must be done if the breed of the guardians
is to be kept pure.
They will provide for their nurture, and will bring the
mothers to the fold when they are full of milk, taking the
greatest possible care that no mother recognizes her own child;
and other wet-nurses may be engaged if more are required. Care
will also be taken that the process of suckling shall not be
protracted too long; and the mothers will have no getting up at
night or other trouble, but will hand over all this sort of thing
to the nurses and attendants.
You suppose the wives of our guardians to have a fine easy
time of it when they are having children.
Why, said I, and so they ought. Let us, however, proceed with
our scheme. We were saying that the parents should be in the
prime of life?
And what is the prime of life? May it not be defined as a
period of about twenty years in a woman's life, and thirty in a
Which years do you mean to include?
A woman, I said, at twenty years of age may begin to bear
children to the State, and continue to bear them until forty; a
man may begin at five-and-twenty, when he has passed the point at
which the pulse of life beats quickest, and continue to beget
children until he be fifty-five.
Certainly, he said, both in men and women those years are the
prime of physical as well as of intellectual vigour.
Any one above or below the prescribed ages who takes part in
the public hymeneals shall be said to have done an unholy and
unrighteous thing; the child of which he is the father, if it
steals into life, will have been conceived under auspices very
unlike the sacrifices and prayers, which at each hymeneal
priestesses and priest and the whole city will offer, that the
new generation may be better and more useful than their good and
useful parents, whereas his child will be the offspring of
darkness and strange lust.
Very true, he replied.
And the same law will apply to any one of those within the
prescribed age who forms a connection with any woman in the prime
of life without the sanction of the rulers; for we shall say that
he is raising up a bastard to the State, uncertified and
Very true, he replied.
This applies, however, only to those who are within the
specified age: after that we allow them to range at will, except
that a man may not marry his daughter or his daughter's daughter,
or his mother or his mother's mother; and women, on the other
hand, are prohibited from marrying their sons or fathers, or
son's son or father's father, and so on in either direction. And
we grant all this, accompanying the permission with strict orders
to prevent any embryo which may come into being from seeing the
light; and if any force a way to the birth, the parents must
understand that the offspring of such an union cannot be
maintained, and arrange accordingly.
That also, he said, is a reasonable proposition. But how will
they know who are fathers and daughters, and so on?
They will never know. The way will be this: --dating from the
day of the hymeneal, the bridegroom who was then married will
call all the male children who are born in the seventh and tenth
month afterwards his sons, and the female children his daughters,
and they will call him father, and he will call their children
his grandchildren, and they will call the elder generation
grandfathers and grandmothers. All who were begotten at the time
when their fathers and mothers came together will be called their
brothers and sisters, and these, as I was saying, will be
forbidden to inter-marry. This, however, is not to be understood
as an absolute prohibition of the marriage of brothers and
sisters; if the lot favours them, and they receive the sanction
of the Pythian oracle, the law will allow them.
Quite right, he replied.
Such is the scheme, Glaucon, according to which the guardians
of our State are to have their wives and families in common. And
now you would have the argument show that this community is
consistent with the rest of our polity, and also that nothing can
be better --would you not?
Shall we try to find a common basis by asking of ourselves
what ought to be the chief aim of the legislator in making laws
and in the organization of a State, --what is the greatest I
good, and what is the greatest evil, and then consider whether
our previous description has the stamp of the good or of the
By all means.
Can there be any greater evil than discord and distraction and
plurality where unity ought to reign? or any greater good than
the bond of unity?
And there is unity where there is community of pleasures and
pains --where all the citizens are glad or grieved on the same
occasions of joy and sorrow?
Yes; and where there is no common but only private feeling a
State is disorganized --when you have one half of the world
triumphing and the other plunged in grief at the same events
happening to the city or the citizens?
Such differences commonly originate in a disagreement about
the use of the terms 'mine' and 'not mine,' 'his' and 'not his.'
And is not that the best-ordered State in which the greatest
number of persons apply the terms 'mine' and 'not mine' in the
same way to the same thing?
Or that again which most nearly approaches to the condition of
the individual --as in the body, when but a finger of one of us
is hurt, the whole frame, drawn towards the soul as a center and
forming one kingdom under the ruling power therein, feels the
hurt and sympathizes all together with the part affected, and we
say that the man has a pain in his finger; and the same
expression is used about any other part of the body, which has a
sensation of pain at suffering or of pleasure at the alleviation
Very true, he replied; and I agree with you that in the best-ordered
State there is the nearest approach to this common feeling which
Then when any one of the citizens experiences any good or
evil, the whole State will make his case their own, and will
either rejoice or sorrow with him?
Yes, he said, that is what will happen in a well-ordered State.
It will now be time, I said, for us to return to our State and
see whether this or some other form is most in accordance with
these fundamental principles.
Our State like every other has rulers and subjects?
All of whom will call one another citizens?
But is there not another name which people give to their
rulers in other States?
Generally they call them masters, but in democratic States
they simply call them rulers.
And in our State what other name besides that of citizens do
the people give the rulers?
They are called saviours and helpers, he replied.
And what do the rulers call the people?
Their maintainers and foster-fathers.
And what do they call them in other States?
And what do the rulers call one another in other States?
And what in ours?
Did you ever know an example in any other State of a ruler who
would speak of one of his colleagues as his friend and of another
as not being his friend?
Yes, very often.
And the friend he regards and describes as one in whom he has
an interest, and the other as a stranger in whom he has no
But would any of your guardians think or speak of any other
guardian as a stranger?
Certainly he would not; for every one whom they meet will be
regarded by them either as a brother or sister, or father or
mother, or son or daughter, or as the child or parent of those
who are thus connected with him.
Capital, I said; but let me ask you once more: Shall they be a
family in name only; or shall they in all their actions be true
to the name? For example, in the use of the word 'father,' would
the care of a father be implied and the filial reverence and duty
and obedience to him which the law commands; and is the violator
of these duties to be regarded as an impious and unrighteous
person who is not likely to receive much good either at the hands
of God or of man? Are these to be or not to be the strains which
the children will hear repeated in their ears by all the citizens
about those who are intimated to them to be their parents and the
rest of their kinsfolk?
These, he said, and none other; for what can be more
ridiculous than for them to utter the names of family ties with
the lips only and not to act in the spirit of them?
Then in our city the language of harmony and concord will be
more often beard than in any other. As I was describing before,
when any one is well or ill, the universal word will be with me
it is well' or 'it is ill.'
And agreeably to this mode of thinking and speaking, were we
not saying that they will have their pleasures and pains in
Yes, and so they will.
And they will have a common interest in the same thing which
they will alike call 'my own,' and having this common interest
they will have a common feeling of pleasure and pain?
Yes, far more so than in other States.
And the reason of this, over and above the general
constitution of the State, will be that the guardians will have a
community of women and children?
That will be the chief reason.
And this unity of feeling we admitted to be the greatest good,
as was implied in our own comparison of a well-ordered State to
the relation of the body and the members, when affected by
pleasure or pain?
That we acknowledged, and very rightly.
Then the community of wives and children among our citizens is
clearly the source of the greatest good to the State?
And this agrees with the other principle which we were
affirming, --that the guardians were not to have houses or lands
or any other property; their pay was to be their food, which they
were to receive from the other citizens, and they were to have no
private expenses; for we intended them to preserve their true
character of guardians.
Right, he replied.
Both the community of property and the community of families,
as I am saying, tend to make them more truly guardians; they will
not tear the city in pieces by differing about 'mine' and 'not
mine;' each man dragging any acquisition which he has made into a
separate house of his own, where he has a separate wife and
children and private pleasures and pains; but all will be
affected as far as may be by the same pleasures and pains because
they are all of one opinion about what is near and dear to them,
and therefore they all tend towards a common end.
Certainly, he replied.
And as they have nothing but their persons which they can call
their own, suits and complaints will have no existence among
them; they will be delivered from all those quarrels of which
money or children or relations are the occasion.
Of course they will.
Neither will trials for assault or insult ever be likely to
occur among them. For that equals should defend themselves
against equals we shall maintain to be honourable and right; we
shall make the protection of the person a matter of necessity.
That is good, he said.
Yes; and there is a further good in the law; viz. that if a
man has a quarrel with another he will satisfy his resentment
then and there, and not proceed to more dangerous lengths.
To the elder shall be assigned the duty of ruling and
chastising the younger.
Nor can there be a doubt that the younger will not strike or
do any other violence to an elder, unless the magistrates command
him; nor will he slight him in any way. For there are two
guardians, shame and fear, mighty to prevent him: shame, which
makes men refrain from laying hands on those who are to them in
the relation of parents; fear, that the injured one will be
succoured by the others who are his brothers, sons, one wi
That is true, he replied.
Then in every way the laws will help the citizens to keep the
peace with one another?
Yes, there will be no want of peace.
And as the guardians will never quarrel among themselves there
will be no danger of the rest of the city being divided either
against them or against one another.
I hardly like even to mention the little meannesses of which
they will be rid, for they are beneath notice: such, for example,
as the flattery of the rich by the poor, and all the pains and
pangs which men experience in bringing up a family, and in
finding money to buy necessaries for their household, borrowing
and then repudiating, getting how they can, and giving the money
into the hands of women and slaves to keep --the many evils of so
many kinds which people suffer in this way are mean enough and
obvious enough, and not worth speaking of.
Yes, he said, a man has no need of eyes in order to perceive
And from all these evils they will be delivered, and their
life will be blessed as the life of Olympic victors and yet more
The Olympic victor, I said, is deemed happy in receiving a
part only of the blessedness which is secured to our citizens,
who have won a more glorious victory and have a more complete
maintenance at the public cost. For the victory which they have
won is the salvation of the whole State; and the crown with which
they and their children are crowned is the fulness of all that
life needs; they receive rewards from the hands of their country
while living, and after death have an honourable burial.
Yes, he said, and glorious rewards they are.
Do you remember, I said, how in the course of the previous
discussion some one who shall be nameless accused us of making
our guardians unhappy --they had nothing and might have possessed
all things-to whom we replied that, if an occasion offered, we
might perhaps hereafter consider this question, but that, as at
present advised, we would make our guardians truly guardians, and
that we were fashioning the State with a view to the greatest
happiness, not of any particular class, but of the whole?
Yes, I remember.
And what do you say, now that the life of our protectors is
made out to be far better and nobler than that of Olympic victors
--is the life of shoemakers, or any other artisans, or of
husbandmen, to be compared with it?
At the same time I ought here to repeat what I have said
elsewhere, that if any of our guardians shall try to be happy in
such a manner that he will cease to be a guardian, and is not
content with this safe and harmonious life, which, in our
judgment, is of all lives the best, but infatuated by some
youthful conceit of happiness which gets up into his head shall
seek to appropriate the whole State to himself, then he will have
to learn how wisely Hesiod spoke, when he said, 'half is more
than the whole.'
If he were to consult me, I should say to him: Stay where you
are, when you have the offer of such a life.
You agree then, I said, that men and women are to have a
common way of life such as we have described --common education,
common children; and they are to watch over the citizens in
common whether abiding in the city or going out to war; they are
to keep watch together, and to hunt together like dogs; and
always and in all things, as far as they are able, women are to
share with the men? And in so doing they will do what is best,
and will not violate, but preserve the natural relation of the
I agree with you, he replied.
The enquiry, I said, has yet to be made, whether such a
community be found possible --as among other animals, so also
among men --and if possible, in what way possible?
You have anticipated the question which I was about to suggest.
There is no difficulty, I said, in seeing how war will be
carried on by them.
Why, of course they will go on expeditions together; and will
take with them any of their children who are strong enough, that,
after the manner of the artisan's child, they may look on at the
work which they will have to do when they are grown up; and
besides looking on they will have to help and be of use in war,
and to wait upon their fathers and mothers. Did you never observe
in the arts how the potters' boys look on and help, long before
they touch the wheel?
Yes, I have.
And shall potters be more careful in educating their children
and in giving them the opportunity of seeing and practising their
duties than our guardians will be?
The idea is ridiculous, he said.
There is also the effect on the parents, with whom, as with
other animals, the presence of their young ones will be the
greatest incentive to valour.
That is quite true, Socrates; and yet if they are defeated,
which may often happen in war, how great the danger is! the
children will be lost as well as their parents, and the State
will never recover.
True, I said; but would you never allow them to run any risk?
I am far from saying that.
Well, but if they are ever to run a risk should they not do so
on some occasion when, if they escape disaster, they will be the
better for it?
Whether the future soldiers do or do not see war in the days
of their youth is a very important matter, for the sake of which
some risk may fairly be incurred.
Yes, very important.
This then must be our first step, --to make our children
spectators of war; but we must also contrive that they shall be
secured against danger; then all will be well.
Their parents may be supposed not to be blind to the risks of
war, but to know, as far as human foresight can, what expeditions
are safe and what dangerous?
That may be assumed.
And they will take them on the safe expeditions and be
cautious about the dangerous ones?
And they will place them under the command of experienced
veterans who will be their leaders and teachers?
Still, the dangers of war cannot be always foreseen; there is
a good deal of chance about them?
Then against such chances the children must be at once
furnished with wings, in order that in the hour of need they may
fly away and escape.
What do you mean? he said.
I mean that we must mount them on horses in their earliest
youth, and when they have learnt to ride, take them on horseback
to see war: the horses must be spirited and warlike, but the most
tractable and yet the swiftest that can be had. In this way they
will get an excellent view of what is hereafter to be their own
business; and if there is danger they have only to follow their
elder leaders and escape.
I believe that you are right, he said.
Next, as to war; what are to be the relations of your soldiers
to one another and to their enemies? I should be inclined to
propose that the soldier who leaves his rank or throws away his
arms, or is guilty of any other act of cowardice, should be
degraded into the rank of a husbandman or artisan. What do you
By all means, I should say.
And he who allows himself to be taken prisoner may as well be
made a present of to his enemies; he is their lawful prey, and
let them do what they like with him.
But the hero who has distinguished himself, what shall be done
to him? In the first place, he shall receive honour in the army
from his youthful comrades; every one of them in succession shall
crown him. What do you say?
And what do you say to his receiving the right hand of
To that too, I agree.
But you will hardly agree to my next proposal.
What is your proposal?
That he should kiss and be kissed by them.
Most certainly, and I should be disposed to go further, and
say: Let no one whom he has a mind to kiss refuse to be kissed by
him while the expedition lasts. So that if there be a lover in
the army, whether his love be youth or maiden, he may be more
eager to win the prize of valour.
Capital, I said. That the brave man is to have more wives than
others has been already determined: and he is to have first
choices in such matters more than others, in order that he may
have as many children as possible?
Again, there is another manner in which, according to Homer,
brave youths should be honoured; for he tells how Ajax, after he
had distinguished himself in battle, was rewarded with long
chines, which seems to be a compliment appropriate to a hero in
the flower of his age, being not only a tribute of honour but
also a very strengthening thing.
Most true, he said.
Then in this, I said, Homer shall be our teacher; and we too,
at sacrifices and on the like occasions, will honour the brave
according to the measure of their valour, whether men or women,
with hymns and those other distinctions which we were mentioning;
also with seats of precedence, and meats and full cups; and in
honouring them, we shall be at the same time training them.
That, he replied, is excellent.
Yes, I said; and when a man dies gloriously in war shall we
not say, in the first place, that he is of the golden race?
To be sure.
Nay, have we not the authority of Hesiod for affirming that
when they are dead They are holy angels upon the earth, authors
of good, averters of evil, the guardians of speech-gifted men?
Yes; and we accept his authority.
We must learn of the god how we are to order the sepulture of
divine and heroic personages, and what is to be their special
distinction and we must do as he bids?
By all means.
And in ages to come we will reverence them and knee. before
their sepulchres as at the graves of heroes. And not only they
but any who are deemed pre-eminently good, whether they die from
age, or in any other way, shall be admitted to the same honours.
That is very right, he said.
Next, how shall our soldiers treat their enemies? What about
In what respect do you mean?
First of all, in regard to slavery? Do you think it right that
Hellenes should enslave Hellenic States, or allow others to
enslave them, if they can help? Should not their custom be to
spare them, considering the danger which there is that the whole
race may one day fall under the yoke of the barbarians?
To spare them is infinitely better.
Then no Hellene should be owned by them as a slave; that is a
rule which they will observe and advise the other Hellenes to
Certainly, he said; they will in this way be united against
the barbarians and will keep their hands off one another.
Next as to the slain; ought the conquerors, I said, to take
anything but their armour? Does not the practice of despoiling an
enemy afford an excuse for not facing the battle? Cowards skulk
about the dead, pretending that they are fulfilling a duty, and
many an army before now has been lost from this love of plunder.
And is there not illiberality and avarice in robbing a corpse,
and also a degree of meanness and womanishness in making an enemy
of the dead body when the real enemy has flown away and left only
his fighting gear behind him, --is not this rather like a dog who
cannot get at his assailant, quarrelling with the stones which
strike him instead?
Very like a dog, he said.
Then we must abstain from spoiling the dead or hindering their
Yes, he replied, we most certainly must.
Neither shall we offer up arms at the temples of the gods,
least of all the arms of Hellenes, if we care to maintain good
feeling with other Hellenes; and, indeed, we have reason to fear
that the offering of spoils taken from kinsmen may be a pollution
unless commanded by the god himself?
Again, as to the devastation of Hellenic territory or the
burning of houses, what is to be the practice?
May I have the pleasure, he said, of hearing your opinion?
Both should be forbidden, in my judgment; I would take the
annual produce and no more. Shall I tell you why?
Why, you see, there is a difference in the names 'discord' and
'war,' and I imagine that there is also a difference in their
natures; the one is expressive of what is internal and domestic,
the other of what is external and foreign; and the first of the
two is termed discord, and only the second, war.
That is a very proper distinction, he replied.
And may I not observe with equal propriety that the Hellenic
race is all united together by ties of blood and friendship, and
alien and strange to the barbarians?
Very good, he said.
And therefore when Hellenes fight with barbarians and
barbarians with Hellenes, they will be described by us as being
at war when they fight, and by nature enemies, and this kind of
antagonism should be called war; but when Hellenes fight with one
another we shall say that Hellas is then in a state of disorder
and discord, they being by nature friends and such enmity is to
be called discord.
Consider then, I said, when that which we have acknowledged to
be discord occurs, and a city is divided, if both parties destroy
the lands and burn the houses of one another, how wicked does the
strife appear! No true lover of his country would bring himself
to tear in pieces his own nurse and mother: There might be reason
in the conqueror depriving the conquered of their harvest, but
still they would have the idea of peace in their hearts and would
not mean to go on fighting for ever.
Yes, he said, that is a better temper than the other.
And will not the city, which you are founding, be an Hellenic
It ought to be, he replied.
Then will not the citizens be good and civilized?
Yes, very civilized.
And will they not be lovers of Hellas, and think of Hellas as
their own land, and share in the common temples?
And any difference which arises among them will be regarded by
them as discord only --a quarrel among friends, which is not to
be called a war?
Then they will quarrel as those who intend some day to be
They will use friendly correction, but will not enslave or
destroy their opponents; they will be correctors, not enemies?
And as they are Hellenes themselves they will not devastate
Hellas, nor will they burn houses, not even suppose that the
whole population of a city --men, women, and children --are
equally their enemies, for they know that the guilt of war is
always confined to a few persons and that the many are their
friends. And for all these reasons they will be unwilling to
waste their lands and raze their houses; their enmity to them
will only last until the many innocent sufferers have compelled
the guilty few to give satisfaction?
I agree, he said, that our citizens should thus deal with
their Hellenic enemies; and with barbarians as the Hellenes now
deal with one another.
Then let us enact this law also for our guardians:-that they
are neither to devastate the lands of Hellenes nor to burn their
Agreed; and we may agree also in thinking that these, all our
previous enactments, are very good.
But still I must say, Socrates, that if you are allowed to go
on in this way you will entirely forget the other question which
at the commencement of this discussion you thrust aside: --Is
such an order of things possible, and how, if at all? For I am
quite ready to acknowledge that the plan which you propose, if
only feasible, would do all sorts of good to the State. I will
add, what you have omitted, that your citizens will be the
bravest of warriors, and will never leave their ranks, for they
will all know one another, and each will call the other father,
brother, son; and if you suppose the women to join their armies,
whether in the same rank or in the rear, either as a terror to
the enemy, or as auxiliaries in case of need, I know that they
will then be absolutely invincible; and there are many domestic
tic advantages which might also be mentioned and which I also
fully acknowledge: but, as I admit all these advantages and as
many more as you please, if only this State of yours were to come
into existence, we need say no more about them; assuming then the
existence of the State, let us now turn to the question of
possibility and ways and means --the rest may be left.
If I loiter for a moment, you instantly make a raid upon me, I
said, and have no mercy; I have hardly escaped the first and
second waves, and you seem not to be aware that you are now
bringing upon me the third, which is the greatest and heaviest.
When you have seen and heard the third wave, I think you be more
considerate and will acknowledge that some fear and hesitation
was natural respecting a proposal so extraordinary as that which
I have now to state and investigate.
The more appeals of this sort which you make, he said, the
more determined are we that you shall tell us how such a State is
possible: speak out and at once.
Let me begin by reminding you that we found our way hither in
the search after justice and injustice.
True, he replied; but what of that?
I was only going to ask whether, if we have discovered them,
we are to require that the just man should in nothing fail of
absolute justice; or may we be satisfied with an approximation,
and the attainment in him of a higher degree of justice than is
to be found in other men?
The approximation will be enough.
We are enquiring into the nature of absolute justice and into
the character of the perfectly just, and into injustice and the
perfectly unjust, that we might have an ideal. We were to look at
these in order that we might judge of our own happiness and
unhappiness according to the standard which they exhibited and
the degree in which we resembled them, but not with any view of
showing that they could exist in fact.
True, he said.
Would a painter be any the worse because, after having
delineated with consummate art an ideal of a perfectly beautiful
man, he was unable to show that any such man could ever have
He would be none the worse.
Well, and were we not creating an ideal of a perfect State?
To be sure.
And is our theory a worse theory because we are unable to
prove the possibility of a city being ordered in the manner
Surely not, he replied.
That is the truth, I said. But if, at your request, I am to
try and show how and under what conditions the possibility is
highest, I must ask you, having this in view, to repeat your
I want to know whether ideals are ever fully realised in
language? Does not the word express more than the fact, and must
not the actual, whatever a man may think, always, in the nature
of things, fall short of the truth? What do you say?
Then you must not insist on my proving that the actual State
will in every respect coincide with the ideal: if we are only
able to discover how a city may be governed nearly as we
proposed, you will admit that we have discovered the possibility
which you demand; and will be contented. I am sure that I should
be contented --will not you?
Yes, I will.
Let me next endeavour to show what is that fault in States
which is the cause of their present maladministration, and what
is the least change which will enable a State to pass into the
truer form; and let the change, if possible, be of one thing
only, or if not, of two; at any rate, let the changes be as few
and slight as possible.
Certainly, he replied.
I think, I said, that there might be a reform of the State if
only one change were made, which is not a slight or easy though
still a possible one.
What is it? he said.
Now then, I said, I go to meet that which I liken to the
greatest of the waves; yet shall the word be spoken, even though
the wave break and drown me in laughter and dishonour; and do you
mark my words.
I said: Until philosophers are kings, or the kings and princes
of this world have the spirit and power of philosophy, and
political greatness and wisdom meet in one, and those commoner
natures who pursue either to the exclusion of the other are
compelled to stand aside, cities will never have rest from their
evils, --nor the human race, as I believe, --and then only will
this our State have a possibility of life and behold the light of
day. Such was the thought, my dear Glaucon, which I would fain
have uttered if it had not seemed too extravagant; for to be
convinced that in no other State can there be happiness private
or public is indeed a hard thing.
Socrates, what do you mean? I would have you consider that the
word which you have uttered is one at which numerous persons, and
very respectable persons too, in a figure pulling off their coats
all in a moment, and seizing any weapon that comes to hand, will
run at you might and main, before you know where you are,
intending to do heaven knows what; and if you don't prepare an
answer, and put yourself in motion, you will be prepared by their
fine wits,' and no mistake.
You got me into the scrape, I said.
And I was quite right; however, I will do all I can to get you
out of it; but I can only give you good-will and good advice,
and, perhaps, I may be able to fit answers to your questions
better than another --that is all. And now, having such an
auxiliary, you must do your best to show the unbelievers that you
I ought to try, I said, since you offer me such invaluable
assistance. And I think that, if there is to be a chance of our
escaping, we must explain to them whom we mean when we say that
philosophers are to rule in the State; then we shall be able to
defend ourselves: There will be discovered to be some natures who
ought to study philosophy and to be leaders in the State; and
others who are not born to be philosophers, and are meant to be
followers rather than leaders.
Then now for a definition, he said.
Follow me, I said, and I hope that I may in some way or other
be able to give you a satisfactory explanation.
I dare say that you remember, and therefore I need not remind
you, that a lover, if lie is worthy of the name, ought to show
his love, not to some one part of that which he loves, but to the
I really do not understand, and therefore beg of you to assist
Another person, I said, might fairly reply as you do; but a
man of pleasure like yourself ought to know that all who are in
the flower of youth do somehow or other raise a pang or emotion
in a lover's breast, and are thought by him to be worthy of his
affectionate regards. Is not this a way which you have with the
fair: one has a snub nose, and you praise his charming face; the
hook-nose of another has, you say, a royal look; while he who is
neither snub nor hooked has the grace of regularity: the dark
visage is manly, the fair are children of the gods; and as to the
sweet 'honey pale,' as they are called, what is the very name but
the invention of a lover who talks in diminutives, and is not
adverse to paleness if appearing on the cheek of youth? In a
word, there is no excuse which you will not make, and nothing
which you will not say, in order not to lose a single flower that
blooms in the spring-time of youth.
If you make me an authority in matters of love, for the sake
of the argument, I assent.
And what do you say of lovers of wine? Do you not see them
doing the same? They are glad of any pretext of drinking any wine.
And the same is true of ambitious men; if they cannot command
an army, they are willing to command a file; and if they cannot
be honoured by really great and important persons, they are glad
to be honoured by lesser and meaner people, but honour of some
kind they must have.
Once more let me ask: Does he who desires any class of goods,
desire the whole class or a part only?
And may we not say of the philosopher that he is a lover, not
of a part of wisdom only, but of the whole?
Yes, of the whole.
And he who dislikes learnings, especially in youth, when he
has no power of judging what is good and what is not, such an one
we maintain not to be a philosopher or a lover of knowledge, just
as he who refuses his food is not hungry, and may be said to have
a bad appetite and not a good one?
Very true, he said.
Whereas he who has a taste for every sort of knowledge and who
is curious to learn and is never satisfied, may be justly termed
a philosopher? Am I not right?
Glaucon said: If curiosity makes a philosopher, you will find
many a strange being will have a title to the name. All the
lovers of sights have a delight in learning, and must therefore
be included. Musical amateurs, too, are a folk strangely out of
place among philosophers, for they are the last persons in the
world who would come to anything like a philosophical discussion,
if they could help, while they run about at the Dionysiac
festivals as if they had let out their ears to hear every chorus;
whether the performance is in town or country --that makes no
difference --they are there. Now are we to maintain that all
these and any who have similar tastes, as well as the professors
of quite minor arts, are philosophers?
Certainly not, I replied; they are only an imitation.
He said: Who then are the true philosophers?
Those, I said, who are lovers of the vision of truth.
That is also good, he said; but I should like to know what you
To another, I replied, I might have a difficulty in
explaining; but I am sure that you will admit a proposition which
I am about to make.
What is the proposition?
That since beauty is the opposite of ugliness, they are two?
And inasmuch as they are two, each of them is one?
And of just and unjust, good and evil, and of every other
class, the same remark holds: taken singly, each of them one; but
from the various combinations of them with actions and things and
with one another, they are seen in all sorts of lights and appear
many? Very true.
And this is the distinction which I draw between the sight-loving,
art-loving, practical class and those of whom I am speaking, and
who are alone worthy of the name of philosophers.
How do you distinguish them? he said.
The lovers of sounds and sights, I replied, are, as I
conceive, fond of fine tones and colours and forms and all the
artificial products that are made out of them, but their mind is
incapable of seeing or loving absolute beauty.
True, he replied.
Few are they who are able to attain to the sight of this.
And he who, having a sense of beautiful things has no sense of
absolute beauty, or who, if another lead him to a knowledge of
that beauty is unable to follow --of such an one I ask, Is he
awake or in a dream only? Reflect: is not the dreamer, sleeping
or waking, one who likens dissimilar things, who puts the copy in
the place of the real object?
I should certainly say that such an one was dreaming.
But take the case of the other, who recognises the existence
of absolute beauty and is able to distinguish the idea from the
objects which participate in the idea, neither putting the
objects in the place of the idea nor the idea in the place of the
objects --is he a dreamer, or is he awake?
He is wide awake.
And may we not say that the mind of the one who knows has
knowledge, and that the mind of the other, who opines only, has
But suppose that the latter should quarrel with us and dispute
our statement, can we administer any soothing cordial or advice
to him, without revealing to him that there is sad disorder in
We must certainly offer him some good advice, he replied.
Come, then, and let us think of something to say to him. Shall
we begin by assuring him that he is welcome to any knowledge
which he may have, and that we are rejoiced at his having it? But
we should like to ask him a question: Does he who has knowledge
know something or nothing? (You must answer for him.)
I answer that he knows something.
Something that is or is not?
Something that is; for how can that which is not ever be
And are we assured, after looking at the matter from many
points of view, that absolute being is or may be absolutely
known, but that the utterly non-existent is utterly unknown?
Nothing can be more certain.
Good. But if there be anything which is of such a nature as to
be and not to be, that will have a place intermediate between
pure being and the absolute negation of being?
Yes, between them.
And, as knowledge corresponded to being and ignorance of
necessity to not-being, for that intermediate between being and
not-being there has to be discovered a corresponding intermediate
between ignorance and knowledge, if there be such?
Do we admit the existence of opinion?
As being the same with knowledge, or another faculty?
Then opinion and knowledge have to do with different kinds of
matter corresponding to this difference of faculties?
And knowledge is relative to being and knows being. But before
I proceed further I will make a division.
I will begin by placing faculties in a class by themselves:
they are powers in us, and in all other things, by which we do as
we do. Sight and hearing, for example, I should call faculties.
Have I clearly explained the class which I mean?
Yes, I quite understand.
Then let me tell you my view about them. I do not see them,
and therefore the distinctions of fire, colour, and the like,
which enable me to discern the differences of some things, do not
apply to them. In speaking of a faculty I think only of its
sphere and its result; and that which has the same sphere and the
same result I call the same faculty, but that which has another
sphere and another result I call different. Would that be your
way of speaking?
And will you be so very good as to answer one more question?
Would you say that knowledge is a faculty, or in what class would
you place it?
Certainly knowledge is a faculty, and the mightiest of all
And is opinion also a faculty?
Certainly, he said; for opinion is that with which we are able
to form an opinion.
And yet you were acknowledging a little while ago that
knowledge is not the same as opinion?
Why, yes, he said: how can any reasonable being ever identify
that which is infallible with that which errs?
An excellent answer, proving, I said, that we are quite
conscious of a distinction between them.
Then knowledge and opinion having distinct powers have also
distinct spheres or subject-matters?
That is certain.
Being is the sphere or subject-matter of knowledge, and
knowledge is to know the nature of being?
And opinion is to have an opinion?
And do we know what we opine? or is the subject-matter of
opinion the same as the subject-matter of knowledge?
Nay, he replied, that has been already disproven; if
difference in faculty implies difference in the sphere or subject
matter, and if, as we were saying, opinion and knowledge are
distinct faculties, then the sphere of knowledge and of opinion
cannot be the same.
Then if being is the subject-matter of knowledge, something
else must be the subject-matter of opinion?
Yes, something else.
Well then, is not-being the subject-matter of opinion? or,
rather, how can there be an opinion at all about not-being?
Reflect: when a man has an opinion, has he not an opinion about
something? Can he have an opinion which is an opinion about
He who has an opinion has an opinion about some one thing?
And not-being is not one thing but, properly speaking,
Of not-being, ignorance was assumed to be the necessary
correlative; of being, knowledge?
True, he said.
Then opinion is not concerned either with being or with not-being?
Not with either.
And can therefore neither be ignorance nor knowledge?
That seems to be true.
But is opinion to be sought without and beyond either of them,
in a greater clearness than knowledge, or in a greater darkness
Then I suppose that opinion appears to you to be darker than
knowledge, but lighter than ignorance?
Both; and in no small degree.
And also to be within and between them?
Then you would infer that opinion is intermediate?
But were we not saying before, that if anything appeared to be
of a sort which is and is not at the same time, that sort of
thing would appear also to lie in the interval between pure being
and absolute not-being; and that the corresponding faculty is
neither knowledge nor ignorance, but will be found in the
interval between them?
And in that interval there has now been discovered something
which we call opinion?
Then what remains to be discovered is the object which
partakes equally of the nature of being and not-being, and cannot
rightly be termed either, pure and simple; this unknown term,
when discovered, we may truly call the subject of opinion, and
assign each to its proper faculty, -the extremes to the faculties
of the extremes and the mean to the faculty of the mean.
This being premised, I would ask the gentleman who is of
opinion that there is no absolute or unchangeable idea of beauty
--in whose opinion the beautiful is the manifold --he, I say,
your lover of beautiful sights, who cannot bear to be told that
the beautiful is one, and the just is one, or that anything is
one --to him I would appeal, saying, Will you be so very kind,
sir, as to tell us whether, of all these beautiful things, there
is one which will not be found ugly; or of the just, which will
not be found unjust; or of the holy, which will not also be
No, he replied; the beautiful will in some point of view be
found ugly; and the same is true of the rest.
And may not the many which are doubles be also halves? --doubles,
that is, of one thing, and halves of another?
And things great and small, heavy and light, as they are
termed, will not be denoted by these any more than by the
True; both these and the opposite names will always attach to
all of them.
And can any one of those many things which are called by
particular names be said to be this rather than not to be this?
He replied: They are like the punning riddles which are asked
at feasts or the children's puzzle about the eunuch aiming at the
bat, with what he hit him, as they say in the puzzle, and upon
what the bat was sitting. The individual objects of which I am
speaking are also a riddle, and have a double sense: nor can you
fix them in your mind, either as being or not-being, or both, or
Then what will you do with them? I said. Can they have a
better place than between being and not-being? For they are
clearly not in greater darkness or negation than not-being, or
more full of light and existence than being.
That is quite true, he said.
Thus then we seem to have discovered that the many ideas which
the multitude entertain about the beautiful and about all other
things are tossing about in some region which is halfway between
pure being and pure not-being?
Yes; and we had before agreed that anything of this kind which
we might find was to be described as matter of opinion, and not
as matter of knowledge; being the intermediate flux which is
caught and detained by the intermediate faculty.
Then those who see the many beautiful, and who yet neither see
absolute beauty, nor can follow any guide who points the way
thither; who see the many just, and not absolute justice, and the
like, --such persons may be said to have opinion but not
That is certain.
But those who see the absolute and eternal and immutable may
be said to know, and not to have opinion only?
Neither can that be denied.
The one loves and embraces the subjects of knowledge, the
other those of opinion? The latter are the same, as I dare say
will remember, who listened to sweet sounds and gazed upon fair
colours, but would not tolerate the existence of absolute beauty.
Yes, I remember.
Shall we then be guilty of any impropriety in calling them
lovers of opinion rather than lovers of wisdom, and will they be
very angry with us for thus describing them?
I shall tell them not to be angry; no man should be angry at
what is true.
But those who love the truth in each thing are to be called
lovers of wisdom and not lovers of opinion.
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