Simple Republic Book 6: The Guardians

The Characteristics of Guardians

Only philosophers are able to grasp the eternal and unchangeable.

  • Those philosophers who are best able to guard the laws and institutions of our State should be our guardians.
  • The following people are simply blind:
    • Those who lack the knowledge of the true being of each thing.
    • Those who have no clear pattern in their souls.
    • Those who are unable as with a painter's eye to look at the absolute truth and repair to the original.
    • Those who are unable to have a perfect vision of the other world, order the laws about beauty, goodness, justice, and guard and preserve their order.
  • Our guardians should have great qualities.
    • Firstly, the nature of the philosopher has to be ascertained.
    • We must come to an understanding about him.
  • Then 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.
  • Let us suppose that philosophical minds always love knowledge which shows them the eternal nature, not varying from generation and corruption.
    • Let us agree that they are lovers of all true being.
    • They do not renounce any beings, as we said before of the man of ambition.
    • They should possess Truthfulness.
    • They will never intentionally receive into their mind falsehood, which is their detestation.
    • They will love the truth.
  • These must be affirmed, for he whose nature is amorous of anything cannot help loving all that belongs to the object of his affections.
  • The truth is most akin to wisdom.
    • The same nature never be a lover of wisdom and a lover of falsehood.
    • The true lover of learning then must from his earliest youth, as far as in him lies, desire all truth.
  • But then again, 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 channel.
    • He whose desires are drawn towards knowledge in every form will be absorbed in the pleasures of the soul.
    • He will hardly feel bodily pleasure if he is a true philosopher and not a sham one.
    • He is sure to be temperate and not 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 considered.
    • There should be no secret corner of illiberality.
    • Nothing can be more antagonistic than meanness to a soul
    • Then he who has magnificence of mind and is the spectator of all time and all existence, cannot think much of human life.
    • Such a person cannot fear death.
    • Then the cowardly and mean nature has no part in true philosophy.
  • One who is harmoniously constituted, who is not covetous or mean, or a boaster, or a coward can never be unjust or hard in his dealings
  • Then you will soon see 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.
  • We have to determine whether he has pleasure in learning.
  • For no one will love that which gives him pain, and in which after much toil he makes little progress.
  • If he is forgetful and retains nothing of what he learns, the he will be an empty vessel
  • He will labour in vain and must end up hating himself and his fruitless occupation.
  • Then a soul which forgets cannot be ranked among genuine philosophic natures.
  • We must insist that the philosopher should have a good memory?
  • Once more, the inharmonious and unseemly nature can only tend to disproportion.
  • The truth is akin to proportion instead of disproportion.
  • 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.
  • These qualities are necessary to a soul, which is to have a full and perfect participation of being.
  • 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
  • And to men like him, when perfected by years and education, and to these only you will entrust the State

Adeimantus: To these statements, Socrates, no one can reply.

  • But when you talk in this way, a strange feeling passes over the hearts of your listeners.
    • They think that they are led astray a little at each step in the argument, due to their own lack of skill in asking and answering questions.
    • These littles accumulate.
    • At the end of the discussion, all their former notions appear to be turned upside down.
    • 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.
  • Yet all the time they are correct.
    • We might not be able to meet you at each step of the argument, as you see that most of the votaries of philosophy become strange monsters when they carry on philosophy as part of education and as the pursuit of their maturer years.
  • The best of them are made useless to the world by the very study which you extol.
  • Then how could you say that cities will not cease from evil until philosophers rule in them, when philosophers are useless?

Imagine then a ship with a captain 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 thinks he has a right to steer, though he:
    • has never learned the art of navigation,
    • cannot tell who taught him or when he learned
    • will 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 they will kill the others.
  • They will chain up the noble captain's senses with drink or some drug.
  • They will mutiny, take the ship and use its stores.
  • Eating and drinking, they proceed on their voyage.
  • Their partisan 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 others  whom they call a good-for-nothing.
  • But the true pilot must pay attention to the year and seasons and sky and stars and winds if he intends to be really qualified for the command of a ship.
  • He will be the steerer, whether 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, the true pilot will be regarded as a prater, a star-gazer, a good-for-nothing.
  • Then 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'.
  • When a man is ill, he must go to the physician.
    • A person who wants to be governed must go to the person who is able to govern.
  • A good ruler should not beg his subjects to be ruled by him.
  • The present governors of mankind are of a different stamp.
    • They may be justly compared to the mutinous sailors.
    • The true helmsmen can be compared to those who are called by them good-for-nothings and star-gazers.
  • This is why among men like these, philosophy, the noblest pursuit of all, is not likely to be much esteemed by those of the opposite faction.
    • The greatest and most lasting injury is done not by her opponents, but by her own followers.
  • Those followers accuse that the most philosophers are arrant rogues, and the best are useless.
  • We shall then 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?
  • Truth was his leader, whom he followed always.
    • Failing in this, he was an impostor, and had no part or lot in true philosophy.
  • His quality as an imposter greatly differs with present notions of him.
    • We cannot 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 has attained the knowledge of the true nature of every essence by a sympathetic and kindred power in the soul.
  • By that power he will draw near with the very being, having mind and truth.
  • He will have knowledge and will live and grow truly.
  • Then will he cease from his travail.
  • The love of a lie will be a part of a philosopher's nature.
  • He will utterly hate a lie
  • 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.
  • 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.

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 most are utterly depraved;

  • We were then led to enquire into the grounds of these accusations.
  • We 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.
  • We next consider the corruptions of the philosophic nature: why so many are spoiled and so few escape spoiling?
    • I mean those who are useless but not wicked.
  • After we finish talking about corruptions, we will talk about:
    • the imitators of philosophy,
    • how they universally damage philosophy through their inconsistencies and by aspiring for a profession which is above them and which they are unworthy of.
  • A true philosopher is a rare plant that has perfected all the qualities required for a philosopher.
  • There are infinite and powerful causes that tend to destroy these rare natures!
  • First and the most specific cause is their own virtues, courage, temperance, and other praiseworthy qualities that destroys and distracts their soul from philosophy.
  • Then there are all the ordinary goods of life: beauty, wealth, strength, rank, and great connections in the State.
    • These also have a corrupting and distracting effect.
  • Grasp the truth as a whole 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.
  • 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 lack of a suitable environment, for evil is a greater enemy to what is good than to what is not.
  • There is reason in supposing that the finest natures, when under alien conditions, receive more injury than the inferior, because the contrast is greater.
  • The most gifted minds, when they are ill-educated, become pre-eminently bad.
  • Great crimes and the spirit of pure evil spring out of a fullness of nature ruined by education, rather than from any inferiority.
  • Whereas weak natures are scarcely capable of any very great good or very great evil.
  • 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, he 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?
  • The public who say these things the greatest of all Sophists.
  • They educate to perfection the young and old, men and women alike, and fashion them after their own hearts.
  • This is accomplished when they meet together.
    • 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.
    • There is a great uproar.
    • They praise some things which are being said or done, and blame other things, equally exaggerating both, shouting and clapping their hands.
    • 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, a young man's heart will leap within him.
    • Private training will not enable him to stand firm against the overwhelming flood of popular opinion.
    • He will be carried away by the stream.
    • He will have the notions of good and evil which the public in general have.
  • Yet there is a still greater necessity, which has not been mentioned.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • How 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.
    • Yet the reasons are utterly ludicrous which they give in confirmation of their own notions about the honourable and good.
    • The world will never 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.
    • Therefore philosophers must inevitably fall under the censure of the world and of individuals who consort with the mob and seek to please them.
    • 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 mental ones?
    • 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.
    • Such a man who is a a citizen of a great city, rich and noble, and a tall proper youth will be full of boundless aspirations and fancy himself able to manage the affairs of Hellenes and of barbarians.
    • 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.
    • In this state of mind, if some one gently comes to him and tells him that he is a fool, he will not be easily induced to listen.
    • Even if there were someone who through inherent goodness has had his eyes opened a little and is humbled and taken captive by philosophy, his friends will not do anything since they think that they are likely to lose the advantage from his companionship.
    • They will 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.
    • He thus can never be a philosopher.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • What else would you expect 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.
    • 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.
    • This is 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.
      • Such marriages will be vile and bastard.
    • When persons who are unworthy of education approach philosophy and make an alliance with her who is in a rank above them what sort of ideas and opinions are likely to be generated? Will they not be sophisms captivating to the ear, having nothing in them genuine, or worthy of or akin to true wisdom?
    • Then, 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
    • 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 will have done a great work before he departs.

A great work, yes, but not the greatest, unless he find a State suitable to him.

  • For in a State which is suitable to him, he will have a larger growth and be the saviour of his country, as well as of himself.

The causes why philosophy is in such an evil name have now been explained

  • The injustice of the charges against her has been shown

I would like to know which of the governments now existing is in your opinion the one adapted to her.

Not any of them.

  • That is precisely the accusation which I bring against them.
  • Not one of them has the philosophic nature.
  • Hence that nature is warped and estranged
  • As the exotic seed which is sown in a foreign land becomes denaturalized, and is wont to be overpowered and to lose itself in the new soil, even so this growth of philosophy, instead of persisting, degenerates and receives another character.
  • 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.
  • I know that you are going to ask, What that State is

No, I was going to ask whether it is the State of which we are the founders and inventors, or some other?

Yes, ours in most respects.

  • But you said before that some living authority would always be needed in the State having the same idea of the constitution which guided you when as legislator you were laying down the laws.
  • We said it earlier but not in a satisfactory way because you frightened us by interposing objections, which certainly showed that the discussion would be long and difficult
  • The question remains how the study of philosophy as not to be the ruin of the State.
  • All great attempts have risk.
  • 'hard is the good,' as men say.
  • 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
  • Boldly, I declare that States should pursue philosophy, not as they do now, but in a different spirit.
  • At present, 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.
  • Even those of who are reputed to have most of the philosophic spirit, when they come within sight of the great difficulty of dialectics, take themselves off.
  • In after life when invited by some one else, they may, perhaps, go and hear a lecture, and about this they make much ado, for philosophy is not considered by them to be their proper business
  • At last, when they grow old, in most cases they are extinguished more truly than Heracleitus' sun, inasmuch as they never light up again.
  • (Heraclitus said that the sun was extinguished every evening and re-lit every morning.)
  • Their course should just be 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!

  • Yet most of your hearers are likely to be still more earnest in their opposition to you, Thrasymachus least of all.

Do not make a quarrel between Thrasymachus and me.

  • He and I have recently become friends, although we were never enemies
  • 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, which is as nothing in comparison with eternity..
  • Nevertheless, I do not wonder that the many refuse to believe, for they have never seen that of which we are now speaking realized.
  • They have seen only a conventional imitation of philosophy, consisting of words artificially brought together, not like these of ours having a natural unity.
  • But they have never seen any human being who in word and work is perfectly moulded into virtue, ruling in a city which bears the same image.
  • 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.
  • This was what we foresaw
  • This was why truth forced us to admit, not without fear and hesitation, that neither cities nor States nor individuals will ever attain perfection until the small class of philosophers whom we termed useless but not corrupt are providentially compelled, whether they will or not, to take care of the State, and until a like necessity be laid on the State to obey them.
  • Or until kings, or if not kings, the sons of kings or princes, are divinely inspired with a true love of true philosophy.
  • That either or both of these alternatives are impossible, I see no reason to affirm: if they were so, we might indeed be justly ridiculed as dreamers and visionaries.
  • 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.

This is difficult, but not impossibile.

  • But do you mean to say that this is not the opinion of the multitude? I should imagine not.

O my friend, 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.
  • 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?
  • In a few, this harsh temper may be found but not in the majority of mankind.
  • The harsh feeling that people have towards philosophy comes from the pretenders, who:
    • rush in uninvited,
    • are always abusing them,
    • finding fault with them, and
    • make persons instead of things the theme of their conversation.
  • Nothing can be more unbecoming in philosophers than this.
  • A person always has view directed towards things fixed and immutable if his mind:
    • is fixed upon true being,
    • has no time to look down upon the affairs of earth or be filled with malice and envy, contending against men
  • 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.
  • A man cannot imitate that with which he holds reverential converse.
  • The philosopher holds 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.
  • If a necessity be laid upon him of fashioning, not only himself, but human nature generally, whether in States or individuals, into that which he beholds elsewhere, will he, think you, be an unskilful artificer of justice, temperance, and every civil virtue? Anything but unskilful.
  • 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.
  • Having effected this, they will proceed to trace an outline of the constitution?
  • 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.
  • Will mingle and temper the various elements of life into the image of a man; and this they will conceive according to that other image, which, when existing among men, Homer calls the form and likeness of God.
  • One feature they will erase, and another they will put in, until they have made the ways of men, as far as possible, agreeable to the ways of God?
  • Now, are we beginning to persuade those whom you described as rushing at us with might and main, that the painter of constitutions is such an one as we are praising.
  • At whom they were so very indignant because to his hands we committed the State; and are they growing a little calmer at what they have just heard? Much calmer, if there is any sense in them.
  • Why, where can they still find any ground for objection?
  • They will doubt that the philosopher is a lover of truth and being.
  • His nature is akin to the highest good.
  • But again, they will tell us that such a nature, placed under favourable circumstances, will not be perfectly good and wise.
  • They will not prefer those whom we have rejected.
  • Or Surely not. They will be less angry at our saying, that, until philosophers bear rule, States and individuals will have no rest from evil, nor will this our imaginary State ever be realized.
  • We shall 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.
  • Then let us suppose that the reconciliation has been effected.
  • None will deny the other point, that there may be sons of kings or princes who are by nature philosophers.
  • When they have come into being will any one say that they must of necessity be destroyed.
  • They can hardly be saved is not denied even by us.
  • But in all of history, no single one of them can escape.
  • But 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.
  • The ruler may impose the laws and institutions which we have been describing, and the citizens may possibly be willing to obey them?
  • That others should approve, of what we approve, is no miracle or impossibility?
  • But we have sufficiently shown, that all this, if only possible, is assuredly for the best.
  • 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.
  • So with pain and toil we have reached the end of one subject, but more remains to be discussed.
  • How and by what studies and pursuits will the saviours of the constitution be created, and at what ages are they to apply themselves to their several studies?
  • I omitted the troublesome business of:
    • the possession of women,
    • the procreation of children,
    • the appointment of the rulers.
  • Because I knew that the perfect State would be eyed with jealousy and was difficult to attain.
  • The women and children are now disposed of, but the other question of the rulers must be investigated from the very beginning.
    • 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.
    • The perfect guardian must be a philosopher.
    • There will be few of them.
    • For the gifts which were deemed by us to be essential rarely grow together; they are mostly found in shreds and patches.
    • Quick intelligence, memory, sagacity, cleverness, and similar qualities, do not often grow together.
      • 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.
  • On the other hand, the steadfast nature is dependable.
    • In a battle, it is impregnable to fear and immovable.
  • But it also often goes to sleep over any intellectual toil.
    • It is equally immovable when there is anything to be learned.
  • Yet 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.
  • They will 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.
    • He must be exercised also in many kinds of knowledge, to see whether the soul will be able to endure the highest of all, or will faint under them, as in any other studies and exercises.

Yes. But what do you mean by the highest of all knowledge?

We divided the soul into three parts.

  • We distinguished the several natures of justice, temperance, courage, and wisdom.
  • 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.
  • A measure of such things which in any degree falls short of the whole truth is not fair measure; for nothing imperfect is the measure of anything, although persons are too apt to be contented and think that they need search no further.

It is common when people are indolent.

Yes, there cannot be any worse fault in a guardian of the State and of the laws.

  • The guardian then must be required to take the longer circuit.
    • He must toil at learning as well as at gymnastics, or he will never reach the highest knowledge of all which, as we were just now saying, is his proper calling.
  • There is a knowledge still higher than justice and the other virtues.
    • 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!
  • But what is this highest knowledge?
  • The idea of good is the highest knowledge.
    • All other things become useful and advantageous only by their use of this.
    • Do you think that the possession of all other things is of any value if we do not possess the good?
    • or the knowledge of all other things if we have no knowledge of beauty and goodness?

Most people affirm pleasure to be the good, but the finer sort of wits say it is knowledge.

  • The finer people cannot explain what they mean by knowledge, but are obliged after all to say knowledge of the good.
  • They reproach us with our ignorance of the good, and then presume our knowledge of it—for the good they define to be knowledge of the good, just as if we understood them when they use the term 'good'—this is of course ridiculous.
  • 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.
  • So they acknowledge that bad and good are the same.
  • There are numerous difficulties in this question.
  • 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.
  • Of this then, which every soul of man pursues and makes the end of all his actions, having a presentiment that there is such an end, and yet hesitating because neither knowing the nature nor having the same assurance of this as of other things, and therefore losing whatever good there is in other things,—of a principle such and so great as this ought the best men in our State, to whom everything is entrusted, to be in the darkness of ignorance?

He who does not know how the beautiful and the just are likewise good will be but a sorry guardian of them.

  • I suspect that no one who is ignorant of the good will have a true knowledge of them.

If we only have a guardian who has this knowledge, then our State will be perfectly ordered.

Yes, 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 knew all along that a fastidious gentleman like you would not be contented with the thoughts of other people about these matters.

True, 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.

No one has a right to say positively what he does not know.

Not with the assurance of positive certainty, he has no right to do that.

  • But he may say what he thinks, as a matter of opinion.

All mere opinions are bad, and the best of them are blind.

  • Those who have any true notion without intelligence are only like blind men who feel their way along the road
  • Do you wish to behold what is blind and crooked and base, when others will tell you of brightness and beauty?

Glaucon: Socrates, please do not turn away just as you are reaching the goal.

  • If you will only give such an explanation of the good as you have already given of justice and temperance and the other virtues, we shall be satisfied.

Yes, I shall be at least equally satisfied, but I cannot help fearing that I shall fail, and that my indiscreet zeal will bring ridicule upon me.

  • No, sweet sirs, let us not at present ask what is the actual nature of the good, for to reach what is now in my thoughts would be an effort too great for me.
  • But of the child of the good who is likest him, I would fain speak, if I could be sure that you wished to hear—otherwise, not.

By all means, 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.

There is an 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 the term 'many' is applied.

  • 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.
  • The sight is the organ with for seeing the visible things.
  • With the other senses, we perceive the other objects of sense.
  • Sight is by far the most costly and complex piece of workmanship which the artificer of the senses ever contrived.
  • The ear or voice does not need any third or additional nature for it to hear and for the other to be heard.
  • The same is true of most, if not all, the other senses.
  • None of them requires such an addition
  • But without the addition of some other nature, there is no seeing or being seen.
  • Sight is in the eyes.
  • Anyone who wants to see will see colours being also present in their sight, unless there be a third nature, as light, specially adapted to the purpose.
    • Without this third nature, the eyes will see nothing and the colours will be invisible.
    • This bond which links together sight and visibility is therefore noble.
    • It is great beyond other bonds by no small difference of nature; for light is their bond, and light is no ignoble thing
    • The gods in heaven are the lord of this element.
  • That light which makes the eye to see perfectly and the visible to appear belongs to the sun.
  • The relation of sight to this deity is that neither sight nor the eye in which sight resides is the sun.
    • Yet of all the organs of sense the eye is the most like the sun.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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
    • 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, but the sun is not only the author of visibility in all visible things, but of generation and nourishment and growth, though he himself is not generation.

  • Similarly, 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 (with a ludicrous earnestness): By the light of heaven, how amazing!

Yes, the exaggeration may be set down to you, for you made me utter my fancies.

  • Please continue to utter them.
  • There is more to be said about the sun.
  • There are two ruling powers.
    • 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').
  • 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.
  • Divide each of them again in the same proportion.
  • 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 lack of clearness
  • You will find that the first section in the sphere of the visible consists of images.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Both the sections of this division have different degrees of truth.
  • The copy is to the original as the sphere of opinion is to the sphere of knowledge.
  • Next consider how the sphere of the intellectual is to be divided so that there are two subdivisions
    • In the lower of which the soul uses the figures given by the former division as images.
    • The enquiry can only be hypothetical, and instead of going upwards to a principle descends to the other end; in the higher of the two, the soul passes out of hypotheses, and goes up to a principle which is above hypotheses, making no use of images as in the former case, but proceeding only in and through the ideas themselves.
  • 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 everyone is supposed to know.
    • So they do not give any account of them, either to themselves or others.
    • But they begin with them, and go on until they arrive at last, and in a consistent manner, at their conclusion.
  • Although they use the visible forms and reason around them, they are not thinking of these, but of the ideals which they resemble.
    • They think not of the figures which they draw, but of the absolute square and the absolute diameter, and so on.
    • The forms which they draw 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.
    • 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.
    • 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
    • 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.

You seem to be describing a task which is really tremendous.

  • 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.
  • 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.

  • About 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
  • Let there be a scale of them.
  • Let us suppose that the several faculties have clearness in the same degree that their objects have truth.