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