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Our selections come from the common Jowett translation of Plato's Republic. For further study, I recommend C.D.C. Reeve's better, albeit non-free, translation for Hackett Publishing, from 2004.
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  • I've inserted speaker-labels (e.g., Socrates) to indicate the flow of dialogue -- even in cases where Socrates is reporting what the speaker said. Once characters are established, I thin them out.
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Plato’s Republic

  • Plato’s Republic (reading one)

    "Plato," by Mitch Francis

    “Plato,” by Mitch Francis


    Plato

    Plato in Raphael’s 1509 painting, The School of Athens

    The Republic is widely hailed as Plato’s magnum opus (which is Latin for ‘great work’). Dating from between 380 and 360 BCE, it is the work of the mature, “individuated” Plato — a Plato more the master of his own thought than the disciple of Socrates. In fact, scholars generally divide Plato’s dialogues into what we’ll just break into two groups:

    • In the early period, probably spanning 399-387 BCE, the Socrates we meet fairly and closely represents the historical Socrates. Hence these are often simply called “Socratic dialogues.”
    • In middle and later periods, running from about 386-347 BCE, the dialogues champion Plato’s own, evolved views, which do not always agree with those of the historical Socrates.

    Hence, it’s important to take care to distinguish these: the distinction of periods helps but does not eliminate the need for subtlety in discerning not the voice of a single character, Socrates, but a range of voices.

    *see p. 124 of his “Socrates and the Early Dialogues.” Cambridge Companion to Plato. Ed. Richard Kraut. Cambridge University Press, 2006. 121-169.

    The Republic‘s ancient subtitle, “Concerning Justice,” is an accurate clue as to its central theme. The Socrates we encounter in Book I is very much involved in elenchus, primarily interrogating views of justice. But beginning in Book II, Socrates waxes as exploratory as he has been critical; and at times, he even seems to rely on somewhat tenuous postulates and speculations. And yet there are deep, subtle arguments, artfully presented to deliver an impact that unfolds over time. We don’t understand The Republic by grasping the literal meaning of the words in its text; it requires a more subtle attentiveness. Contemporary scholar Terry Penner* classifies Book I as “Socratic” and the others “Platonic.” See whether you can detect differences that might ground such a distinction.

    It has to be admitted that the subtitle, “Concerning Justice,” misrepresents the scope of this work: It is not only immensely bolder and thus more exciting reading than most political treatises; it treats wide-ranging issues from the structure of the soul to the nature of the good community, from education of the youth to the highest ordering principles of the cosmos, from the value of art and music to the allure of selfishness.

    see W.K.C. Guthrie’s A History of Greek Philosophy, vol. 4, 10 n. 4

    The opening scene is the house of Cephalus, which is just off the Piraeus (the harbor area in the “Athens metro”); and the whole dialogue is narrated by Socrates the day after it actually took place to Timaeus, Hermocrates, Critias, and a less person, all introduced in the Timaeus. The “voices” in his account include his own, and those of Glaucon and Adeimantus (brothers, and perhaps Plato’s older siblings), Polemarchus (Cephalus’ son), Cephalus, Thrasymachus (the Chalcedonian), Cleitophon (son of Aristonymus), and others listening in.

    Jump to


    Book I

    Socrates is descending as the book begins. Significant? Keep this in mind as the plot unfolds… Also, “the goddess” he was honoring would have been Bendis, a Tracian divinity of moon and magic. While the Greeks associated her with Artemis, she was foreign.BendisArtemis Bendis, molded terracotta figurine, (Tanagra?) ca. 350 BC, (Louvre)

    327 Socrates I went down yesterday to the Piraeus with Glaucon, the son of Ariston, that I might offer up my prayers to the goddess…. When we had finished our prayers and viewed the spectacle, we turned in the direction of the city; and at that instant Polemarchus, the son of Cephalus, chanced to catch sight of us from a distance as we were starting on our way home….

    Polemarchus said to me:

    Polemarchus I perceive, Socrates, that you and your companion are already on your way to the city…. But do you see, he rejoined, how many we are? … And are you stronger than all these? for if not, you will have to remain where you are….

    Socrates Accordingly we went with Polemarchus to his house; and there we found … Cephalus, the father of Polemarchus, whom I had not seen for a long time, and I thought him very much aged…. He saluted me eagerly, and then he said:

    Cephalus You don’t come to see me, Socrates, as often as you ought…. For, let me tell you that the more the pleasures of the body fade away, the greater to me are the pleasure and charm of conversation….

    … [Y]ou, who have arrived at that time which the poets call the “threshold of old age”: Is life harder toward the end?

    Socrates I replied: There is nothing which for my part I like better, Cephalus, than conversing with aged men; for I regard them as travellers who have gone a journey which I too may have to go, and of whom I ought to inquire whether the way is smooth and easy or rugged and difficult. And this is a question which I should like to ask of you, who have arrived at that time which the poets call the “threshold of old age”: Is life harder toward the end, or what report do you give of it?

    [T]hese regrets… are to be attributed to the same cause, which is not old age, but men’s characters.

    Cephalus I will tell you, Socrates, he said, what my own feeling is. Men of my age flock together; we are birds of a feather, as the old proverb says; and at our meetings the tale of my acquaintance commonly is: I cannot eat, I cannot drink; the pleasures of youth and love are fled away; there was a good time once, but now that is gone, and life is no longer life. Some complain of the slights which are put upon them by relations, and they will tell you sadly of how many evils their old age is the cause. But to me, Socrates, these complainers seem to blame that which is not really in fault. For if old age were the cause, I too, being old, and every other old man would have felt as they do…. The truth is, Socrates, that these regrets, and also the complaints about relations, are to be attributed to the same cause, which is not old age, but men’s characters and tempers; for he who is of a calm and happy nature will hardly feel the pressure of age, but to him who is of an opposite disposition youth and age are equally a burden.

    Socrates I listened in admiration, and wanting to draw him out, that he might go on – Yes, Cephalus, I said; but I rather suspect that people in general are not convinced by you when you speak thus; they think that old age sits lightly upon you, not because of your happy disposition, but because you are rich, and wealth is well known to be a great comforter.

    330 Cephalus …. [L]et me tell you, Socrates, that when a man thinks himself to be near death, fears and cares enter into his mind which he never had before; the tales of a world below and the punishment which is exacted there of deeds done here were once a laughing matter to him, but now he is tormented with the thought that they may be true: either from the weakness of age, or because he is now drawing nearer to that other place, he has a clearer view of these things; suspicions and alarms crowd thickly upon him, and he begins to reflect and consider what wrongs he has done to others. And when he finds that the sum of his transgressions is great he will many a time like a child start up in his sleep for fear, and he is filled with dark forebodings. But to him who is conscious of no sin, sweet hope… is the kind nurse of his age…. [T]he great blessing of riches… to a good man, is, that he has had no occasion to deceive or to defraud others, either intentionally or unintentionally; and when he departs to the world below he is not in any apprehension about offerings due to the gods or debts which he owes to men. Now to this peace of mind the possession of wealth greatly contributes….

    Cephalus excuses himself to make sacrifices, and his son, Polemarchus, takes up the discussion with Socrates, who is eliciting an account of Justice.


    Socrates Tell me then, O thou heir of the argument, what did Simonides say, and according to you, truly say, about justice?

    Polemarchus He said that the repayment of a debt is just, and in saying so he appears to me to be right.

    Even in this apparently light example Socrates begins to drive the “Wedge of the Good” between power (as represented by a weapon) and ignorance (as represented by insanity). Later in Book III, he argues that wealth (economic power) would undermine the wisdom of the rulers, that economic power must not count as political power in a good community.

    Socrates I shall be sorry to doubt the word of such a wise and inspired man, but his meaning, though probably clear to you, is the reverse of clear to me. For he certainly does not mean, as we were just now saying, that I ought to return a deposit of arms [i.e., weapons] or of anything else to one who asks for it when he is not in his right senses [e.g., when he’s “gone mad”]; and yet a deposit cannot be denied to be a debt.

    Polemarchus True.

    Socrates Then when the person who asks me is not in his right mind I am by no means to make the return?

    Polemarchus Certainly not.

    Socrates When Simonides said that the repayment of a debt was justice, he did not mean to include that case?

    Polemarchus Certainly not; for he thinks that a friend ought always to do good to a friend, and never evil…. Socrates, … justice is the art which gives good to friends and evil to enemies….

    Socrates But see the consequence: Many a man who is ignorant of human nature has friends who are bad friends, and in that case he ought to do harm to them; and he has good enemies whom he ought to benefit; but, if so, we shall be saying the very opposite of that which we affirmed to be the meaning of Simonides….

    Polemarchus Very true, he said…. We should rather say that he is a friend who is, as well as seems, good; and that he who seems only and is not good, only seems to be and is not a friend; and of an enemy the same may be said….

    In the full text, a figure named Thrasymachus takes the lead at this point, arguing against Socrates, claiming that what is often called injustice is in fact the best path. We rejoin the discussion just before a frustrated Thrasymachus departs, and Glaucon takes over the argument.

    Socrates And instead of saying simply as we did at first, that it is just to do good to our friends and harm to our enemies, we should further say: It is just to do good to our friends when they are good, and harm to our enemies when they are evil?

    Polemarchus Yes, that appears to me to be the truth.

    Socrates But ought the just to injure anyone at all?…. [W]ill not men who are injured be deteriorated in that which is the proper virtue of man?…. And that human virtue is justice?… And can the just by justice make men unjust, or speaking generally, can the good by virtue make them bad?

    Polemarchus Assuredly not….

    Socrates Then if a man says that justice consists in the repayment of debts, and that good is the debt which a just man owes to his friends, and evil the debt which he owes to his enemies – to say this is not wise; for it is not true, if, as has been clearly shown, the injuring of another can be in no case just…. [B]ut if this definition of justice also breaks down, what other can be offered? 336b Several times in the course of the discussion Thrasymachus had made an attempt to get the argument into his own hands, and … when … there was a pause, he could no longer hold his peace….

    The appearance of the “might makes right” theory of what “real” justice is.

    338c Thrasymachus Listen, … he said; I proclaim that justice is nothing else than the interest of the stronger. And now why do you not praise me? But of course you won’t.

    A ‘pancratiast‘ is a skilled boxer or wrestler.

    Socrates Let me first understand you, I replied. Justice, as you say, is the interest of the stronger. What, Thrasymachus, is the meaning of this? You cannot mean to say that because Polydamas, the pancratiast, is stronger than we are, and finds the eating of beef conducive to his bodily strength, that to eat beef is therefore equally for our good who are weaker than he is, and right and just for us?

    Is Socrates being a jerk? Or is this way of testing words constructive?

    Thrasymachus That’s abominable of you, Socrates; you take the words in the sense which is most damaging to the argument.

    Socrates Not at all, my good sir, I said; I am trying to understand them; and I wish that you would be a little clearer.

    Thrasymachus Well, he said, have you never heard that forms of government differ – there are tyrannies, and there are democracies, and there are aristocracies?

    Socrates Yes, I know.

    Thrasymachus And the government is the ruling power in each State?

    Socrates Certainly.

    Thrasymachus And the different forms of government make laws democratical, aristocratical, tyrannical, with a view to their several interests; and these laws, which are made by them for their own interests, are the justice which they deliver to their subjects, and him who transgresses them they punish as a breaker of the law, and unjust. And that is what I mean when I say that in all States there is the same principle of justice, which is the interest of the government; and as the government must be supposed to have power, the only reasonable conclusion is that everywhere there is one principle of justice, which is the interest of the stronger.

    Socrates Now I understand you, I said; and whether you are right or not I will try to discover…..

    Thrasymachus Proceed.

    Socrates I will; and first tell me, Do you admit that it is just for subjects to obey their rulers?

    Thrasymachus I do.

    Socrates But are the rulers of States absolutely infallible, or are they sometimes liable to err?

    Thrasymachus To be sure, he replied, they are liable to err.

    Socrates Then in making their laws…. [w]hen they make them rightly, they make them agreeably to their interest; when they are mistaken, contrary to their interest; you admit that?

    Thrasymachus Yes.

    Socrates …. Then you must also have acknowledged justice not to be for the interest of the stronger, when the rulers unintentionally command things to be done which are to their own injury. For if, as you say, justice is the obedience which the subject renders to their commands, in that case, O wisest of men, is there any escape from the conclusion that the weaker are commanded to do, not what is for the interest, but what is for the injury of the stronger?

    Polemarchus Nothing can be clearer, Socrates, said Polemarchus.

    Cleitophon Yes, said Cleitophon, interposing, if you are allowed to be his witness.

    Polemarchus But there is no need of any witness, said Polemarchus, for Thrasymachus himself acknowledges that [a] rulers may sometime command what is not for their own interest, and that for subjects to obey them is justice.

    Thrasymachus Yes, Polemarchus – Thrasymachus said that [~a:] for subjects to do what was commanded by their rulers is just.

    See the contradiction?

    Socrates Yes, Cleitophon, but … admitting both these propositions [implies] that justice is the injury quite as much as the interest of the stronger.

    Cleitophon But, said Cleitophon, he meant by the interest of the stronger what the stronger thought to be his interest – this was what the weaker had to do; and this was affirmed by him to be justice.

    Polemarchus Those were not his words, rejoined Polemarchus.

    Socrates Never mind, I replied, if he now says that they are, let us accept his statement. Tell me, Thrasymachus, I said, did you mean by justice what the stronger thought to be his interest, whether really so or not?

    Thrasymachus Certainly not, he said. Do you suppose that I call him who is mistaken the stronger at the time when he is mistaken?

    Thrasymachus attempts to argue in this interlude roughly that in so far as the ruler is the ruler, the ruler is correct: “No … ruler errs at the time when he is what his implies…” But Socrates gains Thrasymachus’ assent each step along the path to a conflicting conclusion: that the aim of any art is the improvement of that to which it pertains – so “there is no one in any rule who, in so far as he is a ruler, considers or enjoins what is for his own interest, but always what is for the interest of his subject.” Thrasymachus’ irritability mounts as he is thwarted.


    343 Socrates When we had got to this point in the argument, and everyone saw that the definition of justice had been completely upset, Thrasymachus, instead of replying to me, said:

    Thrasymachus Tell me, Socrates, have you got a nurse?

    Socrates Why do you ask such a question, I said, when you ought rather to be answering?

    Thrasymachus Because she leaves you to snivel, and never wipes your nose: she has not even taught you to know the shepherd from the sheep.

    Socrates What makes you say that? I replied.

    Does this description of the success of large-scale injustice remind you of any specific politicians?

    [Y]ou fancy that the shepherd… tends the sheep… with a view… not to the good of himself… and… that… true rulers, never think of their subjects as sheep.

    343b Thrasymachus Because you fancy that the shepherd or neatherd fattens or tends the sheep or oxen with a view to their own good and not to the good of himself or his master; and you further imagine that the rulers of States, if they are true rulers, never think of their subjects as sheep, and that they are not studying their own advantage day and night. Oh, no; and so entirely astray are you in your ideas about the just and unjust as not even to know… most foolish Socrates, that the just is always a loser in comparison with the unjust. First of all, in private contracts: wherever the unjust is the partner of the just you will find that, when the partnership is dissolved, the unjust man has always more and the just less. Secondly, in their dealings with the State: when there is an income-tax, the just man will pay more and the unjust less on the same amount of income; and when there is anything to be received the one gains nothing and the other much. Observe also what happens when they take an office; there is the just man neglecting his affairs and perhaps suffering other losses, and getting nothing out of the public, because he is just; moreover he is hated by his friends and acquaintances for refusing to serve them in unlawful ways. But all this is reversed in the case of the unjust man. I am speaking, as before, of injustice on a large scale in which the advantage of the unjust is most apparent; and my meaning will be most clearly seen if we turn to that highest form of injustice in which the criminal is the happiest of men, and the sufferers or those who refuse to do injustice are the most miserable – that is to say tyranny, which by fraud and force takes away the property of others, not little by little but wholesale; comprehending in one, things sacred as well as profane, private and public; for which acts of wrong, if he were detected perpetrating any one of them singly, he would be punished and incur great disgrace – they who do such wrong in particular cases are called robbers of temples, and man-stealers and burglars and swindlers and thieves. But when a man besides taking away the money of the citizens has made slaves of them, then, instead of these names of reproach, he is termed happy and blessed, not only by the citizens but by all who hear of his having achieved the consummation of injustice. For mankind censure injustice, fearing that they may be the victims of it and not because they shrink from committing it. And thus, as I have shown, Socrates, injustice, when on a sufficient scale, has more strength and freedom and mastery than justice; and, as I said at first, justice is the interest of the stronger, whereas injustice is a man’s own profit and interest.

    [T]he criminal is the happiest of men…. [I]njustice, when on a sufficient scale, has more strength and freedom and mastery than justice.

    344d Socrates Thrasymachus, when he had thus spoken, having, like a bathman, deluged our ears with his words, had a mind to go away. But the company would not let him; they insisted that he should remain and defend his position; and I myself added my own humble request that he would not leave us. Thrasymachus, I said to him, excellent man, how suggestive are your remarks! And are you going to run away before you have fairly taught or learned whether they are true or not? …. [F]riend, do not keep your knowledge to yourself; we are a large party; and any benefit which you confer upon us will be amply rewarded. For my own part I openly declare that I am not convinced, and that I do not believe injustice to be more gainful than justice, even if uncontrolled and allowed to have free play. For, granting that there may be an unjust man who is able to commit injustice either by fraud or force, still this does not convince me of the superior advantage of injustice, and there may be others who are in the same predicament with myself. Perhaps we may be wrong; if so, you in your wisdom should convince us that we are mistaken in preferring justice to injustice.

    Thrasymachus And how am I to convince you, he said, if you are not already convinced by what I have just said; what more can I do for you? Would you have me put the proof bodily into your souls?

    Socrates Heaven forbid! I said; I would only ask you to be consistent; or, if you change, change openly and let there be no deception.

    Socrates argues that rulers, properly speaking, rule for the good of the community in so far as they are rulers. Because they are not serving their own interests, they draw a compensating wage: “good men … must be induced to serve from the fear of punishment… Now the worst part of the punishment is that he who refuses to rule is liable to be ruled by one who is worse than himself.”


    Socrates So far am I from agreeing with Thrasymachus that justice is the interest of the stronger. This latter question need not be further discussed at present; but when Thrasymachus says that the life of the unjust is more advantageous than that of the just, his new statement appears to me to be of a far more serious character. Which of us has spoken truly? And which sort of life, Glaucon, do you prefer?

    Glaucon I for my part deem the life of the just to be the more advantageous, he answered.

    Socrates Did you hear all the advantages of the unjust which Thrasymachus was rehearsing?

    Glaucon Yes, I heard him, he replied, but he has not convinced me.

    Socrates Then shall we try to find some way of convincing him, if we can, that he is saying what is not true?

    Glaucon Most certainly, he replied….

    Note the meaning of the word ‘justice’ for Thrasymachus. As he confirms for Socrates just below, he’s praising as “just” what has been called unjust…

    Socrates Well, then, Thrasymachus, I said…. I suppose that you would call justice virtue and injustice vice?

    Thrasymachus What a charming notion! … I affirm … [t]he opposite, he replied.

    Socrates Now, I said, you are on more substantial and almost unanswerable ground; for if the injustice which you were maintaining to be profitable had been admitted by you as by others to be vice and deformity, an answer might have been given to you on received principles; but now I perceive that you will call injustice honourable and strong, and to the unjust you will attribute all the qualities which were attributed by us before to the just, seeing that you do not hesitate to rank injustice with wisdom and virtue.

    Thrasymachus You have guessed most infallibly, he replied….

    This discussion continues until a frustrated Thrasymachus quits. The “moves” Socrates makes anticipate the fuller argumentation in the rest of The Republic.


    Socrates …. [T]he result of the whole discussion has been that I know nothing at all. For I know not what justice is, and therefore I am not likely to know whether it is or is not a virtue, nor can I say whether the just man is happy or unhappy.

    Book II

    “The Immoralist’s Challenge”

    357 Socrates With these words I was thinking that I had made an end of the discussion; but the end, in truth, proved to be only a beginning. For Glaucon, who is always the most pugnacious of men, was dissatisfied at Thrasymachus’s retirement; he wanted to have the battle out. So he said to me:

    Glaucon Socrates, do you wish really to persuade us, or only to seem to have persuaded us, that to be just is always better than to be unjust?

    Socrates I should wish really to persuade you, I replied, if I could.

    Glaucon Then you certainly have not succeeded. Let me ask you now: How would you arrange goods – are there not some which we welcome for their own sakes, and independently of their consequences, as, for example, harmless pleasures and enjoyments, which delight us at the time, although nothing follows from them?

    Socrates I agree in thinking that there is such a class, I replied.

    Glaucon Is there not also a second class of goods, such as knowledge, sight, health, which are desirable not only in themselves, but also for their results?

    Socrates Certainly, I said.

    Glaucon And would you not recognize a third class, such as gymnastic, and the care of the sick, and the physician’s art; also the various ways of money-making – these do us good but we regard them as disagreeable; and no one would choose them for their own sakes, but only for the sake of some reward or result which flows from them?

    Socrates There is, I said, this third class also. But why do you ask?

    Glaucon Because I want to know in which of the three classes you would place justice?

    358 Socrates In the highest class, I replied – among those goods which he who would be happy desires both for their own sake and for the sake of their results.

    Glaucon Then the many are of another mind; they think that justice is to be reckoned in the troublesome class, among goods which are to be pursued for the sake of rewards and of reputation, but in themselves are disagreeable and rather to be avoided.

    Socrates I know, I said, that this is their manner of thinking, and that this was the thesis which Thrasymachus was maintaining just now, when he censured justice and praised injustice. But I am too stupid to be convinced by him.

    Glaucon I wish, he said, that you would hear me as well as him, and then I shall see whether you and I agree. For Thrasymachus seems to me, like a snake, to have been charmed by your voice sooner than he ought to have been; but to my mind the nature of justice and injustice has not yet been made clear. Setting aside their rewards and results, I want to know what they are in themselves, and how they [justice and injustice] inwardly work in the soul. If you please, then, I will revive the argument of Thrasymachus. And first [1] I will speak of the nature and origin of justice according to the common view of them. Secondly, [2] I will show that all men who practise justice do so against their will, of necessity, but not as a good. And thirdly, [3] I will argue that there is reason in this view, for the life of the unjust is after all better far than the life of the just – if what they say is true, Socrates, since I myself am not of their opinion…. I want to hear justice praised in respect of itself; then I shall be satisfied, and you are the person from whom I think that I am most likely to hear this; and therefore I will praise the unjust life to the utmost of my power, and my manner of speaking will indicate the manner in which I desire to hear you too praising justice and censuring injustice. Will you say whether you approve of my proposal?

    Glaucon has just laid out his plan as devil’s advocate. He utilizes the appearance/reality distinction in his account of how it is that common conceptions of justice (“so-called justice”) seem both correct and contrary to the “might makes right” doctrine (“real justice”). The contrariness is mere appearance: The word ‘justice’ refers to a (sometimes more, sometimes less stable) compromise between would-be mighty individuals. “Good behavior”, obeying the law, and cooperation are surface-veneer which help “save the appearance” of justice – they mask rather than constitute true justice.

    Socrates will have to overcome these challenges in defending his own account of justice. Here are the phases in Glaucon’s argument:

    1. Glaucon proposes a way in which justice might plausibly have arisen as a fear-based truce, for which ‘justice’ is a nice name;
    2. Glaucon tries to show that people don’t really want what we call ‘justice’.
    3. He argues that reason agrees that injustice is better.

    (The [bolded numbering] in the text is mine. ~BL)

    Socrates Indeed I do; nor can I imagine any theme about which a man of sense would oftener wish to converse.

    Glaucon I am delighted, he replied, to hear you say so, and shall begin by speaking, as I proposed, of the nature and origin of justice.

    Glaucon’s challenge:
    phase one

    Do you agree that justice is merely a fear-based truce?

    Glaucon They say that to do injustice is, by nature, good; to suffer injustice, evil; but that the evil is greater than the good. And so when men have both done and suffered injustice and have had experience of both, not being able to avoid the one and obtain the other, they think that they had better agree among themselves to have neither; hence there arise laws and mutual covenants; and that which is ordained by law is termed by them lawful and just. This they affirm to be the origin and nature of justice; it is a mean or compromise, between the best of all, which is to do injustice and not be punished, and the worst of all, which is to suffer injustice without the power of retaliation; and justice, being at a middle point between the two, is tolerated not as a good, but as the lesser evil, and honoured by reason of the inability of men to do injustice…. Such is the received account, Socrates, of the nature and origin of justice.

    Glaucon’s challenge:
    phase two

    Glaucon Now … imagine something of this kind: having given both to the just and the unjust power to do what they will, let us watch and see whither desire will lead them; then we shall discover in the very act the just and unjust man to be proceeding along the same road, following their interest, which all natures deem to be their good, and are only diverted into the path of justice by the force of law. The liberty which we are supposing may be most completely given to them in the form of such a power as is said to have been possessed by Gyges… According to the tradition, Gyges was a shepherd in the service of the King of Lydia; there was a great storm, and an earthquake made an opening in the earth at the place where he was feeding his flock. Amazed at the sight, he descended into the opening, where, among other marvels, he beheld a hollow brazen horse, having doors, at which he, stooping and looking in, saw a dead body of stature, as appeared to him, more than human and having nothing on but a gold ring; this he took from the finger of the dead and reascended. Now the shepherds met together, according to custom, that they might send their monthly report about the flocks to the King; into their assembly he came having the ring on his finger, and as he was sitting among them he chanced to turn the collet of the ring inside his hand, when

    [I]nstantly he became invisible…

    instantly he became invisible to the rest of the company and they began to speak of him as if he were no longer present. He was astonished at this, and again touching the ring he turned the collet outward and reappeared; he made several trials of the ring, and always with the same result…. Whereupon he contrived to be chosen one of the messengers who were sent to the court; where as soon as he arrived he seduced the Queen, and with her help conspired against the King and slew him and took the kingdom. []

    Once the power of the ring removes fear of being caught, would even the “just person” have to give in and be unjust? If you say Yes, you probably believe “psychological egoism,” the view that people can’t help being self-serving. That’s a claim about what causes behavior. “Ethical egoism” is not about what does cause behavior, but about what should: it’s the view that the proper thing to do is … whatever the ring lets you get away with! Is one or the other form of egoism in play here? Or is it both?

    Suppose now that there were two such magic rings, and the just put on one of them and the unjust the other; no man can be imagined to be of such an iron nature that he would stand fast in justice. No man would keep his hands off what was not his own when he could safely take what he liked out of the market, or go into houses and lie with anyone at his pleasure, or kill or release from prison whom he would, and in all respects be like a god among men. Then the actions of the just would be as the actions of the unjust; they would both come at last to the same point. And this we may truly affirm to be a great proof that a man is just, not willingly or because he thinks that justice is any good to him individually, but of necessity, for wherever anyone thinks that he can safely be unjust, there he is unjust. For

    [A]ll men believe in their hearts that injustice is far more profitable to the individual than justice.

    all men believe in their hearts that injustice is far more profitable to the individual than justice, and he who argues as I have been supposing, will say that they are right. If you could imagine anyone obtaining this power of becoming invisible, and never doing any wrong or touching what was another’s, he would be thought by the lookers-on to be a most wretched idiot, although they would praise him to one another’s faces, and keep up appearances with one another from a fear that they too might suffer injustice. Enough of this.

    Glaucon Now, if we are to form a real judgment of the life of the just and unjust, we must isolate them; there is no other way; and how is the isolation to be effected? I answer: ….in the perfectly unjust man we must assume the most perfect injustice; there is to be no deduction, but we must allow him, while doing the most unjust acts, to have acquired the greatest reputation for justice. If he have taken a false step he must be able to recover himself…. And at his side let us place the just man in his nobleness and simplicity, wishing, as Aeschylus says, “to be and not to seem good.” There must be no seeming, for

    [I]f he seem to be just he will be honoured and rewarded, and then we shall not know whether he is just for the sake of justice or for the sake of honour and rewards.

    if he seem to be just he will be honoured and rewarded, and then we shall not know whether he is just for the sake of justice or for the sake of honour and rewards; therefore, let him be clothed in justice only, and have no other covering; and he must be imagined in a state of life the opposite of the former. Let him be the best of men, and let him be thought the worst; then he will have been put to the proof; and we shall see whether he will be affected by the fear of infamy and its consequences. And let him continue thus to the hour of death; being just and seeming to be unjust. When both have reached the uttermost extreme, the one of justice and the other of injustice, let judgment be given which of them is the happier of the two.… And now that we know what they are like there is no difficulty in tracing out the sort of life which awaits either of them. This I will proceed to describe; but as you may think the description a little too coarse, I ask you to suppose, Socrates, that the words which follow are not mine. Let me put them into the mouths of the eulogists of injustice: They will tell you that the just man who is thought unjust will be scourged, racked, bound – will have his eyes burnt out; and, at last, after suffering every kind of evil, he will be impaled. Then he will understand that he ought to seem only, and not to be, just….

    Glaucon’s challenge:
    sealing phase three

    Glaucon In the first place, he is thought just, and therefore bears rule in the city; he can marry whom he will…; also he can trade and deal where he likes, and always to his own advantage, because he has no misgivings about injustice; and at every contest, whether in public or private, he gets the better of his antagonists, and gains at their expense, and is rich, and out of his gains he can benefit his friends, and harm his enemies; moreover, he can offer sacrifices, and dedicate gifts to the gods abundantly and magnificently, and can honour the gods or any man whom he wants to honour in a far better style than the just, and therefore he is likely to be dearer than they are to the gods. And thus, Socrates, gods and men are said to unite in making the life of the unjust better than the life of the just.

    Socrates I was going to say something in answer to Glaucon, when Adeimantus, his brother, interposed….

    Glaucon’s brother summarizes the challenge facing Socrates.

    Adeimantus On what principle, then, shall we any longer choose justice rather than the worst injustice?…. I speak in this vehement manner, as I must frankly confess to you, because I want to hear from you the opposite side; and I would ask you to show not only the superiority which justice has over injustice, but what effect they have on the possessor of them which makes the one to be a good and the other an evil to him…. Now as you have admitted that justice is one of that highest class of goods which are desired, indeed, for their results, but in a far greater degree for their own sakes – like sight or hearing or knowledge or health, or any other real and natural and not merely conventional good – I would ask you in your praise of justice to regard one point only: I mean the essential good and evil which justice and injustice work in the possessors of them…. And therefore, I say, not only prove to us that justice is better than injustice, but show what they either of them do to the possessor of them, which makes the one to be a good and the other an evil, whether seen or unseen by gods and men.

    Socrates accepts the challenge.

    368a Socrates I had always admired the genius of Glaucon and Adeimantus, but on hearing these words I was quite delighted, and said…. there is something truly divine in being able to argue as you have done for the superiority of injustice, and remaining unconvinced by your own arguments. And I do believe that you are not convinced – this I infer from your general character, for had I judged only from your speeches I should have mistrusted you. But now, the greater my confidence in you, the greater is my difficulty in knowing what to say. For I am in a strait between two; on the one hand I feel that I am unequal to the task…. And yet I cannot refuse to help, while breath and speech remain to me; I am afraid that there would be an impiety in being present when justice is evil spoken of and not lifting up a hand in her defence. And therefore I had best give such help as I can.

    Notice Plato’s reason for starting the analysis of justice by turning away from individuals to investigate the just community: He proposes that the justice of the city (as might be expressed, “Austin is more just than Houston”) is in essentials the same as the justice of the individual (as might be expressed, “Socrates was a just human being”). They are each instances of Justice, which Plato s as “the Form” they share. The highest levels of thinking reach toward these essences or Forms.

    Although Plato has more support to offer, it is worth raising the legitimacy question in a preliminary way: How plausible is this theory of Forms? On the one hand, it seems reasonable to think that triangles share something in common, and that studying larger triangles, or equilateral ones, will lead to many insights also applicable to smaller triangles, or isosceles ones. Plato’s account of why this “works” is also plausible: They are each instances of the same form, the Triangle, the geometrical nature of which is expressed by a form-ula, or rule:

    A triangle is any polygon bounded by only three straight line segments.

    Geometrical investigation produces further “triangle truths,” such as that the sum of any triangle’s interior angles totals 180°.

    On the other hand, it’s worth asking whether there is also a single form of the Just in virtue of relation to which all instances of justice are grouped together. In what follows, Plato proposes and hones a conception of the Just. See whether you think his account is successful enough to support the response to Glaucon’s challenge.



    Socrates ….I told them … we are no great wits, [hence] I think that we had better adopt a method which I may illustrate thus; suppose that a short-sighted person had been asked by someone to read small letters from a distance; and it occurred to someone else that they might be found in another place which was larger and in which the letters were larger – if they were the same and he could read the larger letters first, and then proceed to the lesser – this would have been thought a rare piece of good-fortune.

    Adeimantus Very true, said Adeimantus; but how does the illustration apply to our inquiry?

    368e Socrates I will tell you, I replied; justice, which is the subject of our inquiry, is, as you know, sometimes spoken of as the virtue of an individual, and sometimes as the virtue of a State.

    Adeimantus True, he replied.

    Socrates And is not a State larger than an individual?

    Adeimantus It is.

    Socrates Then in the larger the quantity of justice is likely to be larger and more easily discernible. I propose therefore that we inquire into the nature of justice and injustice, first as they appear in the State, and secondly in the individual, proceeding from the greater to the lesser and comparing them.

    Adeimantus That, he said, is an excellent proposal.

  • Plato’s Republic (reading two)
    Socrates And if we imagine the State in process of creation, we shall see the justice and injustice of the State in process of creation also.

    Adeimantus I dare say.

    369b Socrates ….A State, I said, arises, as I conceive, out of the needs of mankind; no one is self-sufficing, but all of us have many wants;… and many persons are needed to supply them…. And they exchange with one another, and one gives, and another receives, under the idea that the exchange will be for their good…. I said, let us begin and create in idea a State; and yet the true creator is necessity, who is the mother of our invention.

    Adeimantus Of course, he replied.

    Socrates Now the first and greatest of necessities is food,… The second is a dwelling, and the third clothing and the like…. [O]ne man is a husbandman, another a builder, someone else a weaver – shall we add to them a shoemaker, or perhaps some other purveyor to our bodily wants?

    Adeimantus Quite right.

    Socrates The barest notion of a State must include four or five men.

    Adeimantus Clearly.

    369e Socrates And how will they proceed? Will each bring the result of his labours into a common stock? – the individual husbandman, for example, producing for four, and labouring four times as long and as much as he need in the provision of food with which he supplies others as well as himself; or will he have nothing to do with others and not be at the trouble of producing for them, but provide for himself alone a fourth of the food in a fourth of the time, and in the remaining three-fourths of his time be employed in making a house or a coat or a pair of shoes, having no partnership with others, but supplying himself all his own wants?

    Adeimantus thought that he should aim at producing food only and not at producing everything.

    [W]e are not all alike; there are diversities of natures among us.

    Socrates Probably, I replied, that would be the better way; and when I hear you say this, I am myself reminded that we are not all alike; there are diversities of natures among us which are adapted to different occupations.

    Adeimantus Very true….

    Socrates Further, there can be no doubt that a work is spoilt when not done at the right time? … For business is not disposed to wait until the doer of the business is at leisure; but the doer must follow up what he is doing, and make the business his first object…. [A]ll things are produced more plentifully and easily and of a better quality when one man does one thing which is natural to him and does it at the right time, and leaves other things.

    Adeimantus Undoubtedly.

    You should be able to follow the dialogue herein as speaker-labels (e.g., ‘Socrates‘) thin out.

    Socrates Then more than four citizens will be required;…. [C]arpenters and smiths and many other artisans will be sharers in our little State, which is already beginning to grow?… Yet even if we add … herdsmen, in order that our husbandmen may have oxen to plough with … still our State will not be very large…. Then, again, there is the situation of the city – to find a place where nothing need be imported is well-nigh impossible…. [T]here must be another class of citizens who will bring the required supply from another city…. But if the trader goes empty-handed, … he will come back empty-handed…. And therefore what they produce at home must be … enough for themselves, but such both in quantity and quality as to accommodate those from whom their wants are supplied…. Then more husbandmen and more artisans will be required[,] not to mention the importers and exporters, who are called merchants…. And if merchandise is to be carried over the sea, skilful sailors will also be needed, and in considerable numbers… Then they will need a market-place, and a money-token for purposes of exchange…. This … then, creates a class of retail-traders in our State. Is not “retailer” the term which is applied to those who sit in the market-place engaged in buying and selling, while those who wander from one city to another are called merchants?

    Yes, he said.

    Socrates And there is another class of servants, who … have plenty of bodily strength for labour, which accordingly they sell, and are called, if I do not mistake, hirelings, “hire” being the which is given to the price of their labour.

    True….

    Socrates And now, Adeimantus, is our State matured and perfected?

    Adeimantus I think so….

    372a …. Let us then consider, first of all, what will be their way of life, now that we have thus established them. Will they not produce corn and wine and clothes and shoes, and build houses for themselves? …. [R]eclining … upon beds strewn with yew or myrtle… they and their children will feast, drinking of the wine which they have made, wearing garlands on their heads, and hymning the praises of the gods, in happy converse with one another. And they will take care that their families do not exceed their means; having an eye to poverty or war.

    372c Glaucon But, said Glaucon, interposing, you have not given them a relish to their meal…. [Y]ou should give them the ordinary conveniences of life. People who are to be comfortable are accustomed to lie on sofas, and dine off tables, and they should have sauces and sweets in the modern style.

    372e Socrates Yes, I said, now I understand: the question which you would have me consider is, not only how a State, but how a luxurious State is created…. For I suspect that many will not be satisfied with the simpler way of life. They will be for adding sofas and tables and other furniture; also dainties and perfumes and incense and courtesans and cakes…; the arts of the painter and the embroiderer will have to be set in motion, and gold and ivory and all sorts of materials must be procured.

    True, he said.

    Then we must enlarge our borders; for the original healthy State is no longer sufficient. Now will the city have to fill and swell with a multitude of callings[:] hunters and actors…, the votaries of music – poets and their attendant train of rhapsodists, players, dancers, contractors; also makers of divers kinds of articles, including women’s dresses[,] more servants[,] tutors …, and nurses wet and dry, tirewomen and barbers, as well as confectioners and cooks; and …. physicians…. And the country which was enough to support the original inhabitants will be too small now, and not enough…. [A] slice of our neighbours’ land will be wanted by us for pasture and tillage, and they will want a slice of ours, if, like ourselves, they exceed the limit of necessity, and give themselves up to the unlimited accumulation of wealth?

    373e Glaucon That, Socrates, will be inevitable.

    Socrates And so we shall go to war, Glaucon. Shall we not?

    Glaucon Most certainly, he replied.

    [W]e have discovered war to be derived from causes which are also the causes of almost all the evils in States.

    Socrates Then, without determining as yet whether war does good or harm, thus much we may affirm, that now we have discovered war to be derived from causes which are also the causes of almost all the evils in States, private as well as public.

    Glaucon Undoubtedly.

    Socrates And our State must once more enlarge; and this time the enlargement will be nothing short of a whole army, which will have to go out and fight with the invaders for all that we have, as well as for the things and persons whom we were describing above.

    Glaucon Why? he said; are they not capable of defending themselves?

    Socrates No, I said; not if we were right in the principle which was acknowledged by all of us when we were framing the State. The principle, as you will remember, was that one man cannot practise many arts with success.

    Glaucon Very true, he said.

    374b

    Socrates But is not war an art?

    Glaucon Certainly.

    Socrates And an art requiring as much attention as shoemaking?

    Glaucon Quite true.

    Socrates And the shoemaker was not allowed by us to be a husbandman, or a weaver, or a builder – in order that we might have our shoes well made; but to him and to every other worker was assigned one work for which he was by nature fitted…. Now nothing can be more important than that the work of a soldier should be well done…. [F]rom his earliest years [she should] devote himself to this and nothing else….

    Glaucon No doubt, he replied.

    Socrates Will he not also require natural aptitude for his calling?…. Then it will be our duty to select, if we can, natures which are fitted for the task of guarding the city….

    375b And is he likely to be brave who has no spirit, whether horse or dog or any other animal? Have you never observed how invincible and unconquerable is spirit and how the presence of it makes the soul of any creature to be absolutely fearless and indomitable?…. But are not these spirited natures apt to be savage with one another, and with everybody else?

    Glaucon A difficulty by no means easy to overcome, he replied.

    Whereas, I said, they ought to be dangerous to their enemies, and gentle to their friends [like] our friend the dog….

    376c …. Socrates Then he who is to be a really good and noble guardian of the State will require to unite in himself philosophy and spirit and swiftness and strength?…. [W]hat shall be their education? Can we find a better than the traditional sort? – and this has two divisions, gymnastics for the body, and music for the soul.

    ….By all means….

    What is Plato’s attitude toward stories for the young? And entertainment for adults?

    You know, I said, that we begin by telling children stories which, though not wholly destitute of truth, are in the main fictitious…. [T]he beginning is the most important part of any work, especially in the case of a young and tender thing; for that is the time at which the character is being formed and the desired impression is more readily taken…. [S]hall we just carelessly allow children to hear any casual tales which may be devised by casual persons, and to receive into their minds ideas for the most part the very opposite of those which we should wish them to have when they are grown up?

    We cannot.

    [T]he first thing will be to establish a censorship of the writers of fiction…

    377c Socrates Then the first thing will be to establish a censorship of the writers of fiction, and let the censors receive any tale of fiction which is good, and reject the bad; and we will desire mothers and nurses to tell their children the authorized ones only. Let them fashion the mind with such tales, even more fondly than they mould the body with their hands; but most of those which are now in use must be discarded.

    Of what tales are you speaking? he said….

    Whenever an erroneous representation is made of the nature of gods and heroes – as when a painter paints a portrait not having the shadow of a likeness to the original.

    Yes, he said, that sort of thing is certainly very blamable; but what are the stories which you mean?

    [T]he battles of the gods… must not be admitted… whether they are supposed to have an allegorical meaning or not. For a young person cannot judge what is allegorical and what is literal… [I]t is most important that the tales which the young first hear should be models of virtuous thoughts…

    First of all, I said, there was that greatest of all lies in high places, which the poet told about Uranus, and which was a bad lie too – I mean what Hesiod says that Uranus did, and how Cronus retaliated on him…. [T]he young man should not be told that … even if he chastises his father when he does wrong, in whatever manner, he will only be following the example of the first and greatest among the gods…. Neither, if we mean our future guardians to regard the habit of quarrelling among themselves as of all things the basest, should any word be said to them of the wars in heaven, and of the plots and fightings of the gods against one another, for they are not true. No, we shall never … let them be embroidered on garments…. If they would only believe us we would tell them that … never up to this time has there been any quarrel between citizens…; and when they grow up, the poets also should be told to compose them in a similar spirit. But … all the battles of the gods in Homer – these tales must not be admitted into our State, whether they are supposed to have an allegorical meaning or not. For a young person cannot judge what is allegorical and what is literal; anything that he receives into his mind at that age is likely to become indelible and unalterable; and therefore it is most important that the tales which the young first hear should be models of virtuous thoughts…. God is always to be represented as …. good…. Then God, if he be good, is not the author of all things, as the many assert, but he is the cause of a few things only, and not of most things that occur to men. For few are the goods of human life, and many are the evils, and the good is to be attributed to God alone; of the evils the causes are to be sought elsewhere, and not in him.

    That appears to me to be most true, he said.

    Socrates Then we must not listen to Homer or to any other poet who is guilty of … saying

    “Zeus, who is the dispenser of good and evil to us.”

    …. [I]t is impossible that God should ever be willing to change; being, as is supposed, the fairest and best that is conceivable, every God remains absolutely and forever in his own form…. [L]et none of the poets tell us that

    The gods, taking the disguise of strangers from other lands, walk up and down cities in all sorts of forms;

    …. Neither must we have mothers under the influence of the poets scaring their children with a bad version of these myths – telling how certain gods, as they say, “Go about by night in the likeness of so many strangers and in divers forms;”…. God [is] perfectly simple and true both in word and deed; he changes not; he deceives not, either by sign or word, by dream or waking vision.

    Your thoughts, he said, are the reflection of my own.

    Book III

    386 Socrates ….Some tales are to be told, and others are not to be told to our disciples from their youth upward, if we mean them to honour the gods and their parents, and to value friendship with one another…. [I]f they are to be courageous, must they not learn other lessons beside these, and lessons of such a kind as will take away the fear of death? Can any man be courageous who has the fear of death in him?

    Certainly not, he said.

    …. Then we must assume a control over the narrators … and beg them … to commend the world below…. [W]e shall have to reject all the terrible and appalling s which describe the world below – Cocytus and Styx, ghosts under the earth, and sapless shades, and any similar words of which the very mention causes a shudder to pass through the inmost soul of him who hears them…. And shall we proceed to get rid of the weepings and wailings of famous men? … the good man will not consider death terrible to any other good man who is his comrade….

    The “Noble Lie”

    [I]f anyone at all is to have the privilege of lying, the rulers of the State should be the persons.

    389 Socrates Then if anyone at all is to have the privilege of lying, the rulers of the State should be the persons; and they, in their dealings either with enemies or with their own citizens, may be allowed to lie for the public good. But nobody else should meddle with anything of the kind….

    How would Plato evaluate the effects of Hollywood?

    [P]oets and story-tellers are guilty of making the gravest misstatements when they tell us that wicked men are often happy, and the good miserable; and that injustice is profitable when undetected, but that justice is a man’s own loss and another’s gain

    Socrates [O]ur youth must be temperate, [showing] obedience to commanders and self-control in sensual pleasures…. In the next place, we must not let them be receivers of gifts or lovers of money…. [P]oets and story-tellers are guilty of making the gravest misstatements when they tell us that wicked men are often happy, and the good miserable; and that injustice is profitable when undetected, but that justice is a man’s own loss and another’s gain – these things we shall forbid them to utter, and command them to sing and say the opposite.

    To be sure we shall, he replied….

    And therefore when any one of these pantomimic gentlemen, who are so clever that they can imitate anything, comes to us, and makes a proposal to exhibit himself and his poetry, we will fall down and worship him as a sweet and holy and wonderful being; but we must also inform him that in our State such as he are not permitted to exist; the law will not allow them. And so when we have anointed him with myrrh, and set a garland of wool upon his head, we shall send him away to another city. For we mean to employ for our souls’ health the rougher and severer poet or story-teller, who will imitate the style of the virtuous only, and will follow those models which we prescribed at first when we began the education of our soldiers.

    We certainly will, he said, if we have the power.

    Then now, my friend, I said, that part of music or literary education which relates to the story or myth may be considered to be finished…. Next in order will follow melody and song…. We were saying, when we spoke of the subject-matter, that we had no need of lamentation and strains of sorrow?

    True.

    And which are the harmonies expressive of sorrow? You are musical, and can tell me.

    The harmonies which you mean are the mixed or tenor Lydian, and the full-toned or bass Lydian, and such like.

    These then, I said, must be banished…. In the next place, drunkenness and softness and indolence are utterly unbecoming the character of our guardians.

    Utterly unbecoming.

    And which are the soft or drinking harmonies?

    The Ionian, he replied, and the Lydian; they are termed “relaxed.”

    Well, and are these of any military use?

    Quite the reverse, he replied; and if so, the Dorian and the Phrygian are the only ones which you have left.

    399 Socrates I answered: Of the harmonies I know nothing, but I want to have one warlike, to sound the note or accent which a brave man utters in the hour of danger … and another to be used by him in times of peace and freedom of action, when there is no pressure of necessity…. These two harmonies I ask you to leave….

    And these, he replied, are the Dorian and Phrygian harmonies of which I was just now speaking.

    Socrates ….by the dog of Egypt, we have been unconsciously purging the State, which not long ago we termed luxurious.

    And we have done wisely, he replied.

    What “friend”?
    The Good.
    Check the text. You’ll see!

    [W]hen reason comes he will recognize and salute the friend with whom his education has made him long familiar.

    The discussants work out the rhythm and instrumentation most conducive to virtue, and then argue in favor of extending “the same control to … other artists,” lest “the taste of our citizens be corrupted” – especially the rulers: “We would not have our guardians grow up amid images of moral deformity…?” Instead, “[l]et our artists … discern the true nature of the beautiful and graceful; then will our youth dwell in a land of health.” Socrates elaborates on this essential role of the arts in education:

    …therefore, I said, Glaucon, musical training is a more potent instrument than any other, because rhythm and harmony find their way into the inward places of the soul, on which they mightily fasten, imparting grace, and making the soul of him who is rightly educated graceful, or of him who is ill-educated ungraceful; and also because he who has received this true education of the inner being will most shrewdly perceive omissions or faults in art and nature, and with a true taste, while he praises and rejoices over and receives into his soul the good, and becomes noble and good, he will justly blame and hate the bad, now in the days of his youth, even before he is able to know the reason why; and when reason comes he will recognize and salute the friend with whom his education has made him long familiar.

    Training in gymnastics “should begin in early years” and “continue through life.” The “warrior athlete,” in particular, should not “get drunk and not know where in the world he is,” and in fact, requires more rigorous diet and training than that of regular athletes. While these matters might seem trivial from a political point of view, Plato is serious about their role in the Good Community: “Neither are the two arts of music and gymnastics really designed, as is often supposed, the one for the training of the soul, the other for the training of the body…. [But] the teachers of both have in view chiefly the improvement of the soul.”

    412 Socrates Such, then, are our principles of nurture and education….

    Plato's Socrates on public health.
    Well, I said, and to require the help of medicine, not when a wound has to be cured, or on occasion of an epidemic, but just because, by indolence and a habit of life such as we have been describing, men fill themselves with waters and winds, as if their bodies were a marsh, compelling the ingenious sons of Asclepius to find more s for diseases…; is not this, too, a disgrace?…. in all well-ordered States every individual has an occupation to which he must attend, and has therefore no leisure to spend in continually being ill.

    And therefore our politic Asclepius may be supposed to have exhibited the power of his art only to persons who, being generally of healthy constitution and habits of life, had a definite ailment; such as these he cured by purges and operations, and bade them live as usual, herein consulting the interests of the State; but bodies which disease had penetrated through and through he would not have attempted to cure by gradual processes of evacuation and infusion: he did not want to lengthen out good-for-nothing lives, or to have weak fathers begetting weaker sons; – if a man was not able to live in the ordinary way he had no business to cure him; for such a cure would have been of no use either to himself, or to the State.

    Then, he said, you regard Asclepius as a statesman.


    The Guardians are divided into Rulers and Auxiliaries

    Socrates Very good, I said; then what is the next question? Must we not ask who are to be rulers and who subjects?

    412c Certainly.

    Socrates There can be no doubt that the elder must rule the younger…. [a]nd that the best of these must rule.

    That is also clear.

    Socrates Now, are not the best husbandmen those who are most devoted to husbandry?…. And as we are to have the best of guardians for our city, must they not be those who have most the character of guardians?…. And to this end they ought to be wise and efficient, and to have a special care of the State?…. And a man will be most likely to care about that which he loves… that which he regards as having the same interests with himself, and that of which the good or evil fortune is supposed by him at any time most to affect his own?

    Very true, he replied.

    Socrates Then there must be a selection. Let us note among the guardians those who in their whole life show the greatest eagerness to do what is for the good of their country, and the greatest repugnance to do what is against her interests. [T]hey will have to be watched at every age, in order that we may see whether they preserve their resolution, and never, under the influence either of force or enchantment, forget or cast off their sense of duty to the State…..

    [T]he word “guardian” in the fullest sense ought to be applied to this higher class.

    414b Socrates [P]erhaps the word “guardian” in the fullest sense ought to be applied to this higher class only who preserve us against foreign enemies and maintain peace among our citizens at home, that the one may not have the will, or the others the power, to harm us. The young men whom we before called guardians may be more properly designated auxiliaries and supporters of the principles of the rulers.

    I agree with you, he said.

    How then may we devise one of those needful falsehoods of which we lately spoke – just one royal lie which may deceive the rulers, if that be possible, and at any rate the rest of the city?

    What sort of lie? he said.

    ….I propose to communicate gradually, first to the rulers, then to the soldiers, and lastly to the people. They are to be told that their youth was a dream, and the education and training which they received from us, an appearance only; in reality during all that time they were being formed and fed in the womb of the earth, where they themselves and their arms and appurtenances were manufactured; when they were completed, the earth, their mother, sent them up; and so, their country being their mother and also their nurse, they are bound to advise for her good, and to defend her against attacks, and her citizens they are to regard as children of the earth and their own brothers.

    You had good reason, he said, to be ashamed of the lie which you were going to tell.

    True, I replied, but there is more coming; I have only told you half. Citizens, we shall say to them in our tale, you are brothers, yet God has framed you differently. Some of you have the power of command, and in the composition of these he has mingled gold, wherefore also they have the greatest honour; others he has made of silver, to be auxiliaries; others again who are to be husbandmen and craftsmen he has composed of brass and iron; and the species will generally be preserved in the children. But as all are of the same original stock, a golden parent will sometimes have a silver son, or a silver parent a golden son. And God proclaims as a first principle to the rulers, and above all else, that there is nothing which they should so anxiously guard, or of which they are to be such good guardians, as of the purity of the race. They should observe what elements mingle in their offspring; for if the son of a golden or silver parent has an admixture of brass and iron, then nature orders a transposition of ranks, and the eye of the ruler must not be pitiful toward the child because he has to descend in the scale and become a husbandman or artisan, just as there may be sons of artisans who having an admixture of gold or silver in them are raised to honour, and become guardians or auxiliaries. For an oracle says that when a man of brass or iron guards the State, it will be destroyed. Such is the tale; is there any possibility of making our citizens believe in it?

    Not in the present generation, he replied; there is no way of accomplishing this; but their sons may be made to believe in the tale, and their sons’ sons, and posterity after them.

    I see the difficulty, I replied; yet the fostering of such a belief will make them care more for the city and for one another. Enough, however, of the fiction….

    Socrates ….[E]very care must be taken that our auxiliaries, being stronger than our citizens, may not grow to be too much for them and become savage tyrants instead of friends and allies…. I am … certain that … true education, whatever that may be, will have the greatest tendency to civilize and humanize them…. but their habitations, and all that belongs to them, should be such as will neither impair their virtue as guardians, nor tempt them to prey upon the other citizens….

    Economic and political power must remain separated.

    Socrates In the first place, none of them should have any property of his own beyond what is absolutely necessary; neither should they have a private house or store closed against anyone who has a mind to enter; their provisions should be only such as are required by trained warriors, who are men of temperance and courage; they should agree to receive from the citizens a fixed rate of pay, enough to meet the expenses of the year and no more; and they will go to mess and live together like soldiers in a camp. Gold and silver we will tell them that they have from God; the diviner metal is within them, and they have therefore no need of the dross which is current among men, and ought not to pollute the divine by any such earthly admixture; for that commoner metal has been the source of many unholy deeds, but their own is undefiled. And they alone of all the citizens may not touch or handle silver or gold, or be under the same roof with them, or wear them, or drink from them. And this will be their salvation, and they will be the saviours of the State. But should they ever acquire homes or lands or moneys of their own, they will become good housekeepers and husbandmen instead of guardians, enemies and tyrants instead of allies of the other citizens….

    Yes, said Glaucon.

    Book IV

    419 Here Adeimantus interposed a question: How would you answer, Socrates, said he, if a person were to say that you are making these people miserable….?

    Socrates ….And our answer will be that, even as they are, our guardians may very likely be the happiest of men; but that our aim in founding the State was not the disproportionate happiness of any one class, but the greatest happiness of the whole….

    423 Socrates ….For indeed any city, however small, is in fact divided into two, one the city of the poor, the other of the rich; these are at war with one another…. But if you … give the wealth or power or persons of the one to the others, you will always have a great many friends and not many enemies. [W]hile the wise order which has now been prescribed continues to prevail … [a] single State which is her equal you will hardly find, either among Hellenes or barbarians….

    Adeimantus That is most true, he said….

    425 Socrates And when they have made a good beginning in play, and by the help of music have gained the habit of good order, then this habit of order… will accompany them in all their actions and be a principle of growth to them…. Thus educated, they will invent for themselves any lesser rules which their predecessors have altogether neglected…. such things as these: when the young are to be silent before their elders; how they are to show respect to them by standing and making them sit; what honour is due to parents; what garments or shoes are to be worn; the mode of dressing the hair; deportment and manners in general. You would agree with me?

    Adeimantus Yes….

  • Plato’s Republic (reading three)

    “Excellences & the Soul”

    So far, Plato’s Socrates has agreed to prove that ⦿ it is best to be just, and that ⦿ in a good community, things go best when members fall into the roles to which they are “naturally” suited. He suggests three tiers made up of leaders (“guardians”), soldiers (“auxiliaries”), and those with other skills (“craftsmen”). He next argues that ⦿ the soul has numerous parts, and that ⦿ what we call “good qualities” are defined by essential reference to these parts. Thus, we cannot understand human excellence without understanding the true nature of the soul.

    Discussion Prep.
    For class, once you’ve read from here through the end of Book IV, prepare responses to the following:

    1. What are the four virtues of the community? How is each defined?
    2. What are the virtues of the individual person? How are the community virtues related to the individual ones? (Hint: Why does Plato have to show that the soul has parts? Why three? What are they? What evidence does he provide in favor of these multiple parts?)
    3. Toward the end of this section, Plato says, “they are like disease and health.” What are like disease and health?


    The Virtues in State and Individual

    427d Socrates But where, amid all this, is justice? Son of Ariston, tell me where. Now that our city has been made habitable, light a candle and search, and get your brother and Polemarchus and the rest of our friends to help, and let us see where in it we can discover justice and where injustice, and in what they differ from one another, and which of them the man who would be happy should have for his portion, whether seen or unseen by gods and men….

    Socrates Well, then, I hope to make the discovery in this way: I mean to begin with the assumption that our State, if rightly ordered, is perfect…. And being perfect, is therefore wise and valiant and temperate and just….

    Wisdom of the practical sort, or prudence: φρόνησις (phronēsis).

    428b First among the virtues found in the State, wisdom comes into view, and in this I detect a certain peculiarity.

    Glaucon What is that?
    Socrates The State which we have been describing is said to be wise as being good in counsel?

    Glaucon Very true….

    Socrates Well, I said, and is there any knowledge in our recently founded State among any of the citizens which advises, not about any particular thing in the State, but about the whole, and considers how a State can best deal with itself and with other States?

    428d There certainly is.

    Socrates And what is this knowledge, and among whom is it found? I asked.

    Glaucon It is the knowledge of the guardians, he replied, and is found among those whom we were just now describing as perfect guardians….

    Socrates And so by reason of the smallest part or class, and of the knowledge which resides in this presiding and ruling part of itself, the whole State, being thus constituted according to nature, will be wise; and this, which has the only knowledge worthy to be called wisdom, has been ordained by nature to be of all classes the least [i.e., the smallest].

    429 Most true….

    Courage: ἀνδρεία (andreia).

    Socrates Again, I said, there is no difficulty in seeing the nature of courage, and in what part that quality resides which gives the name of courageous to the State…. [E]veryone who calls any State courageous or cowardly, will be thinking of the part which fights and goes out to war on the State’s behalf….. [T]he rest of the citizens may be courageous or may be cowardly, but their courage or cowardice will not, as I conceive, have the effect of making the city either the one or the other…. The city will be courageous in virtue of a portion of herself which preserves under all circumstances that opinion about the nature of things to be feared and not to be feared in which our legislator educated them; and this is what you term courage….

    Temperance or moderation: σωφροσύνη (sōphrosynē). Mnemonic: “Temperance graces the nation / each of whose parts accepts its station.”

    430d Socrates Two virtues remain to be discovered in the State – first, temperance, and then justice, which is the end of our search…. [A]s far as I can at present see, the virtue of temperance has more of the nature of harmony and symphony than the preceding.

    Glaucon How so? he asked.

    Socrates Temperance, I replied, is the ordering or controlling of certain pleasures and desires; this is curiously enough implied in the saying of “a man being his own master;” and other traces of the same notion may be found in language…. 431 ….The meaning is, I believe, that in the human soul there is a better and also a worse principle; and when the better has the worse under control, then a man is said to be master of himself; and this is a term of praise: 431b but when, owing to evil education or association, the better principle, which is also the smaller, is overwhelmed by the greater mass of the worse – in this case he is blamed and is called the slave of self and unprincipled….

    431e Socrates And if there be any State in which rulers and subjects will be agreed as to the question who are to rule, that again will be our State? …. [W]e were not far wrong in our guess that temperance was a sort of harmony… 432 …because temperance is unlike courage and wisdom, each of which resides in a part only, the one making the State wise and the other valiant; not so temperance, which extends to the whole, and runs through all the notes of the scale, and produces a harmony of the weaker and the stronger and the middle class, whether you suppose them to be stronger or weaker in wisdom, or power, or numbers, or wealth, or anything else. Most truly then may we deem temperance to be the agreement of the naturally superior and inferior, as to the right to rule of either, both in States and individuals.

    Glaucon I entirely agree with you.

    Socrates And so, I said, we may consider three out of the four virtues to have been discovered in our State. The last of those qualities which make a State virtuous must be justice, if we only knew what that was.

    Glaucon The inference is obvious.

    Justice: δικαιοσύνη (dikaiosynē). Mnemonic: “Justice is said of a whole / each of whose parts fulfills its role.”

    Socrates The time then has arrived, Glaucon, when, like huntsmen, we should surround the cover, and look sharp that justice does not steal away…. Here I saw something: Halloo! I said, I begin to perceive a track, and I believe that the quarry will not escape…. Truly, I said, we are stupid fellows…. [I]n reality for a long time past we have been talking of Justice, and have failed to recognize her…. 433a ….You remember the original principle which we were always laying down at the foundation of the State, that one man should practise one thing only, the thing to which his nature was best adapted; now justice is this principle or a part of it…. [W]e affirmed that Justice was doing one’s own business, and not being a busybody…. [T]his is the only virtue which remains in the State when the other virtues of temperance and courage and wisdom are abstracted; and, that this is the ultimate cause and condition of the existence of all of them, and while remaining in them is also their preservative….

    Mobility within a class can be just, for Plato.

    Socrates Think, now, and say whether you agree with me or not. Suppose a carpenter to be doing the business of a cobbler, or a cobbler of a carpenter; and suppose them to exchange their implements or their duties, or the same person to be doing the work of both, or whatever be the change; do you think that any great harm would result to the State?

    Not much.

    Mobility across classes is unjust, for Plato.

    But when the cobbler or any other man whom nature designed to be a trader, having his heart lifted up by wealth or strength or the number of his followers, or any like advantage, attempts to force his way into the class of warriors, or a warrior into that of legislators and guardians, for which he is unfitted, and either to take the implements or the duties of the other; or when one man is trader, legislator, and warrior all in one, then I think you will agree with me in saying that this interchange and this meddling of one with another is the ruin of the State.

    Most true.

    Seeing, then, I said, that there are three distinct classes, any meddling of one with another, or the change of one into another, is the greatest harm to the State, and may be most justly termed evil-doing?…. And the greatest degree of evil-doing to one’s own city would be termed by you injustice?

    Certainly.

    This, then, is injustice; and on the other hand when the trader, the auxiliary, and the guardian each do their own business, that is justice, and will make the city just.

    I agree with you.

    Application to the Individual

    "3-Part Soul," by Mitch Francis

    “Plato’s 3-Part Soul,” by Mitch Francis

    434d We will not, I said, be over-positive as yet; but if, on trial, this conception of justice be verified in the individual as well as in the State, there will be no longer any room for doubt; if it be not verified, we must have a fresh inquiry. First let us complete the old investigation, which we began, as you remember, under the impression that, if we could previously examine justice on the larger scale, there would be less difficulty in discerning her in the individual. That larger example appeared to be the State, and accordingly we constructed as good a one as we could, knowing well that in the good State justice would be found. Let the discovery which we made be now applied to the individual – if they agree, we shall be satisfied….

    435 …. I proceeded to ask: When two things, a greater and less, are called by the same, are they like or unlike in so far as they are called the same?

    Like, he replied.

    The just man then, if we regard the idea of justice only, will be like the just State?

    He will.

    And a State was thought by us to be just when the three classes in the State severally did their own business; and also thought to be temperate and valiant and wise by reason of certain other affections and qualities of these same classes?

    True, he said.

    Three-part Soul

    And so of the individual; we may assume that he has the same three principles in his own soul which are found in the State; and he may be rightly described in the same terms, because he is affected in the same manner?

    Certainly, he said.

    How will we establish that there are three?

    Once more, then, O my friend, we have alighted upon an easy question – whether the soul has these three principles or not?…. But the question is not quite so easy when we proceed to ask whether these principles are three or one; whether, that is to say, we learn with one part of our nature [the rational principle], are angry with another [the spirited principle], and with a third part desire the satisfaction of our natural appetites [the appetite principle]; or whether the whole soul comes into play in each sort of action – to determine that is the difficulty.

    Yes, he said; there lies the difficulty…..

    A “Principle of Conflict” distinguishes parts of the soul.

    I replied as follows: The same thing clearly cannot act or be acted upon in the same part or in relation to the same thing at the same time, in contrary ways; and therefore whenever this contradiction occurs in things apparently the same, we know that they are really not the same, but different…. 437 ….Well, I said, would you not allow that assent and dissent, desire and aversion, attraction and repulsion, are all of them opposites, whether they are regarded as active or passive (for that makes no difference in the fact of their opposition)?

    Yes, he said, they are opposites….

    The drink example

    439 …. Socrates Then the soul of the thirsty one, in so far as he is thirsty, desires only drink; for this he yearns and tries to obtain it?…. And if you suppose something which pulls a thirsty soul away from drink, that must be different from the thirsty principle which draws him like a beast to drink; for, as we were saying, the same thing cannot at the same time with the same part of itself act in contrary ways about the same.

    Impossible….

    439c Socrates And might a man be thirsty, and yet unwilling to drink?

    Yes, he said, it constantly happens.

    Socrates And in such a case what is one to say? Would you not say that there was something in the soul bidding a man to drink, and something else forbidding him, which is other and stronger than the principle which bids him?…. And the forbidding principle is derived from reason, and that which bids and attracts proceeds from passion and disease?

    Clearly.

    439d Socrates Then we may fairly assume that they are two, and that they differ from one another; the one with which a man reasons, we may call the rational principle of the soul; the other, with which he loves, and hungers, and thirsts, and feels the flutterings of any other desire, may be termed the irrational or appetitive, the ally of sundry pleasures and satisfactions?

    Yes, he said, we may fairly assume them to be different.

    A third part of the soul

    The corpse example

    Socrates Then let us finally determine that there are two principles existing in the soul. And what of … spirit? Is it a third, or akin to one of the preceding?…. [T]here is a story which I remember to have heard, and in which I put faith. The story is, that Leontius, the son of Aglaion, coming up one day from the Piraeus, under the north wall on the outside, observed some dead bodies lying on the ground at the place of execution. He felt a desire to see them, 440 and also a dread and abhorrence of them; for a time he struggled and covered his eyes, but at length the desire got the better of him; and forcing them open, he ran up to the dead bodies, saying, Look, ye wretches, take your fill of the fair sight.

    I have heard the story myself, he said.

    The just-payback example

    The moral of the tale is, that anger at times goes to war with desire, as though they were two distinct things…. And are there not many other cases in which we observe that when a man’s desires violently prevail over his reason, he reviles himself, and is angry at the violence within him, and that in this struggle, which is like the struggle of factions in a State, his spirit is on the side of his reason…. Suppose that a man thinks he has done a wrong to another, the nobler he is, the less able is he to feel indignant at any suffering, such as hunger, or cold, or any other pain which the injured person may inflict upon him – these he deems to be just, and, as I say, his anger refuses to be excited by them…. But when he thinks that he is the sufferer of the wrong, then he boils and chafes, and is on the side of what he believes to be justice…. His noble spirit will not be quelled until he either slays or is slain; or until he hears the voice of the shepherd, that is, reason, bidding his dog bark no more.

    The illustration is perfect, he replied; and in our State, as we were saying, the auxiliaries were to be dogs, and to hear the voice of the rulers, who are their shepherds….

    441b ….Socrates And so, after much tossing, we have reached land, and are fairly agreed that the same principles which exist in the State exist also in the individual, and that they are three in number.

    Glaucon Exactly.

    The soul is a three-part community

    “Universal virtues in parallel particulars”: Because the virtues of the State and of the Individual are instances of the same universal Forms, Plato infers the structure of the (unknown) soul from the structure of the (known) society.

    Socrates Must we not then infer that the individual is wise in the same way, and in virtue of the same quality which makes the State wise?…. Also that the same quality which constitutes courage in the State constitutes courage in the individual…? And the individual will be acknowledged by us to be just in the same way in which the State is just?…. We cannot but remember that the justice of the State consisted in each of the three classes doing the work of its own class?…. [T]he individual in whom the several qualities of his nature do their own work will be just, and will do his own work?

    Glaucon Yes, he said, we must remember that too.

    [O]ught not the rational principle, which is wise, and has the care of the whole soul, to rule, and the … spirited principle to be the subject and ally?

    441e And ought not the rational principle, which is wise, and has the care of the whole soul, to rule, and the … spirited principle to be the subject and ally?…. And, as we were saying, the united influence of music and gymnastics will bring them into accord, nerving and sustaining the reason with noble words and lessons, and moderating and soothing and civilizing the wildness of passion by harmony and rhythm? 442 And these two, thus nurtured and educated, and having learned truly to know their own functions, will rule over the concupiscent [the appetitive], which in each of us is the largest part of the soul and by nature most insatiable of gain; over this they will keep guard, lest, waxing great and strong with the fullness of bodily pleasures, as they are termed, the concupiscent soul, no longer confined to her own sphere, should attempt to enslave and rule those who are not her natural-born subjects, and overturn the whole life of man?…. Both together will they not be the best defenders of the whole soul and the whole body against attacks from without; the one counselling, and the other fighting under his leader, and courageously executing his commands and counsels?

    Glaucon True.

    "Virtue Vinny," by Mitch Francis. Vinny's working on Plato's "Big Four"!

    “Virtue Vinny,” by Mitch Francis. Vinny’s working on Plato’s “Big Four”!

    Socrates And he is to be deemed courageous whose spirit retains in pleasure and in pain the commands of reason about what he ought or ought not to fear?…. And him we call wise who has in him that little part which rules, and which proclaims these commands; that part too being supposed to have a knowledge of what is for the interest of each of the three parts and of the whole?…. And would you not say that he is temperate who has these same elements in friendly harmony, in whom the one ruling principle of reason, and the two subject ones of spirit and desire, are equally agreed that reason ought to rule, and do not rebel?

    Certainly, he said, that is the true account of temperance whether in the State or individual.

    And surely, I said, we have explained again and again how and by virtue of what quality a man will be just.

    That is very certain….

    [H]e has bound all these together, and is no longer many, but has become one.

    443d But in reality justice was such as we were describing, being concerned, however, not with the outward man, but with the inward, which is the true self and concernment of man: for the just man does not permit the several elements within him to interfere with one another, or any of them to do the work of others – he sets in order his own inner life, and is his own master and his own law, and at peace with himself; and when he has bound together the three principles within him, which may be compared to the higher, lower, and middle notes of the scale, and the intermediate intervals – when he has bound all these together, and is no longer many, but has become one entirely temperate and perfectly adjusted nature, then he proceeds to act, if he has to act, whether in a matter of property, or in the treatment of the body, or in some affair of politics or private business; always thinking and calling that which preserves and co-operates with this harmonious condition just and good action, and the knowledge which presides over it wisdom, and that which at any time impairs this condition he will call unjust action, and the opinion which presides over it ignorance.

    You have said the exact truth, Socrates….

    Now for the flip-side of the virtues – the vices.

    And now, I said, injustice has to be considered.

    Clearly.

    444b Must not injustice be a strife which arises among the three principles – a meddlesomeness, and interference, and rising up of a part of the soul against the whole, an assertion of unlawful authority, which is made by a rebellious subject against a true prince, of whom he is the natural vassal – what is all this confusion and delusion but injustice, and intemperance, and cowardice, and ignorance, and every form of vice?…. Why, I said, they are like disease and health; being in the soul just what disease and health are in the body…. 444d ….And the creation of health is the institution of a natural order and government of one by another in the parts of the body; and the creation of disease is the production of a state of things at variance with this natural order?

    True.

    And is not the creation of justice the institution of a natural order and government of one by another in the parts of the soul, and the creation of injustice the production of a state of things at variance with the natural order?

    Exactly so, he said.

    Then virtue is the health, and beauty, and well-being of the soul, and vice the disease, and weakness, and deformity, of the same?

    True.

    And do not good practices lead to virtue, and evil practices to vice?

    Assuredly.

    Checking in with Glaucon’s challenge…

    445 Still our old question of the comparative advantage of justice and injustice has not been answered: Which is the more profitable, to be just and act justly and practise virtue, whether seen or unseen of gods and men, or to be unjust and act unjustly, if only unpunished and unreformed?

    In my judgment, Socrates, the question has now become ridiculous. We know that, when the bodily constitution is gone, life is no longer endurable, though pampered with all kinds of meats and drinks, and having all wealth and all power; and shall we be told that when the very essence of the vital principle is undermined and corrupted, life is still worth having to a man, if only he be allowed to do whatever he likes with the single exception that he is not to acquire justice and virtue, or to escape from injustice and vice; assuming them both to be such as we have described?

    Yes, I said, the question is, as you say, ridiculous….. The argument seems to have reached a height from which, as from some tower of speculation, a man may look down and see that virtue is one, but that the forms of vice are innumerable; there being four special ones which are deserving of note.

    What do you mean? he said.

    I mean, I replied, that there appear to be as many forms of the soul as there are distinct forms of the State…. There are five of the State, and five of the soul, I said….

    Book V


    Show more on the roles of men and women...

    In the first portions of Book V, Socrates agrees to discuss “the family life of … citizens – how they will bring children into the world, and rear them when they have arrived, and, in general, what is the nature of this community of women and children.” There are radical ideas here: the sexes have significant equality, breeding is arranged, the community is conceived as composed of kin, and convention is dismissed:

    Socrates …the most ridiculous thing of all will be the sight of women naked … exercising with the men, especially when they are no longer young; they certainly will not be a vision of beauty, any more than the enthusiastic old men who, in spite of wrinkles and ugliness, continue to frequent the gymnasia.

    Yes, indeed, he said: according to present notions the proposal would be thought ridiculous.

    Socrates But … we must not fear the jests of the wits which will be directed against this sort of innovation; how they will talk of women’s attainments, both in music and gymnastics, and above all about their wearing armour and riding upon horseback!…. Not long ago, as we shall remind them, the Hellenes were of the opinion, which is still generally received among the barbarians, that the sight of a naked man was ridiculous and improper; and when first the Cretans… introduced the custom, the wits of that day might equally have ridiculed the innovation.

    In following such reforms, citizens “will do what is best, and will not violate, but preserve, the natural relation of the sexes.” Moreover, the Guardians are “stripped” of wealth as well!:

    Socrates And this agrees with the other principle which we were affirming – that the guardians were not to have houses or lands or any other property; their pay was to be their food, which they were to receive from the other citizens, and they were to have no private expenses…. Both the community of property and the community of families, as I am saying, tend to make them more truly guardians; they will not tear the city in pieces by differing about “mine” and “not mine;” each man dragging any acquisition which he has made into a separate house of his own, where he has a separate wife and children and private pleasures and pains; but all will be affected as far as may be by the same pleasures and pains because they are all of one opinion about what is near and dear to them, and therefore they all tend toward a common end….

    Socrates bears ever in mind that the findings pertaining to the just community apply as well to the just individual:

    449 Socrates Such is the good and true city or state, and the good and true man is of the same pattern; and if this is right every other is wrong; and the evil is one which affects not only the ordering of the State, but also the regulation of the individual soul….

    And if this is unrealistic… ?

    Socrates Let me begin by reminding you that we found our way hither in the search after justice and injustice…. I was only going to ask whether, if we have discovered them, we are to require that the just man should in nothing fail of absolute justice; or may we be satisfied with an approximation, and the attainment in him of a higher degree of justice than is to be found in other men?

    Glaucon The approximation will be enough.

    The image of justice here is a “measuring stick,” a standard.

    Socrates We were inquiring into the nature of absolute justice and into the character of the perfectly just, and into injustice and the perfectly unjust, that we might have an ideal. We were to look at these in order that we might judge of our own happiness and unhappiness according to the standard which they exhibited and the degree in which we resembled them, but not with any view of showing that they could exist in fact…. Would a painter be any the worse because, after having delineated with consummate art an ideal of a perfectly beautiful man, he was unable to show that any such man could ever have existed?

    Glaucon He would be none the worse.

    Socrates Well … is our theory a worse theory because we are unable to prove the possibility of a city being ordered in the manner described?

    Glaucon Surely not, he replied.

    Socrates That is the truth, I said. But if, at your request, I am to try and show how and under what conditions the possibility is highest, I must ask you… 473 … whether ideals are ever fully realized in language? Does not the word express more than the fact, and must not the actual, whatever a man may think, always, in the nature of things, fall short of the truth?…

    Glaucon I agree.

    Socrates Then you must not insist on my proving that the actual State will in every respect coincide with the ideal: if we are only able to discover how a city may be governed nearly as we proposed, you will admit that we have discovered the possibility which you demand; and will be contented….

    Socrates Let me next endeavour to show what is that fault in States which is the cause of their present maladministration…. I go to meet that which I liken to the greatest of the waves; yet shall the word be spoken, even though the wave break and drown me in laughter and dishonour; and do you mark my words.

    Glaucon Proceed.

    473d Socrates I said:

    Philosopher kings!

    Until philosophers are kings, or the kings and princes of this world have the spirit and power of philosophy, and political greatness and wisdom meet in one, and those commoner natures who pursue either to the exclusion of the other are compelled to stand aside, cities will never have rest from their evils – no, nor the human race, as I believe – and then only will this our State have a possibility of life and behold the light of day.

    Show more on philosophers' qualifications...
    Such was the thought, my dear Glaucon, which I would fain have uttered if it had not seemed too extravagant; for to be convinced that in no other State can there be happiness private or public is indeed a hard thing…. [W]e must explain … whom we mean when we say that philosophers are to rule in the State; then we shall be able to defend ourselves: There will be discovered to be some natures who ought to study philosophy and to be leaders in the State; and others who are not born to be philosophers, and are meant to be followers rather than leaders.

    ….Socrates [T]hose who see the many beautiful, and who yet neither see absolute beauty, nor can follow any guide who points the way thither; who see the many just, and not absolute justice, and the like – such persons may be said to have opinion but not knowledge?…. But those who see the absolute and eternal and immutable may be said to know, and not to have opinion only?

    Book VI

    484 Socrates ….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?

    Glaucon And how can we rightly answer that question?….

    What does Plato take to be the practical use of knowing “the true being of each thing,” grasping its “clear pattern”? Hint: note his allusion in the words, “to repair.”

    Socrates [A]re 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?

    Socrates argues that in true philosophers such knowledge is united with “the other excellences”: “philosophical minds always love knowledge of a sort which shows them the eternal nature not varying from generation and corruption”; “they are lovers of all true being” rather than men of ambition; they are truthful, wise, hardly one to succumb to bodily pleasure; he is “temperate and the reverse of covetous,” hiding “no secret corner of illiberality”; he is “harmoniously constituted” and unafraid of death, neither boaster, nor a coward, nor forgetful; “he… is just and gentle.”

    Adeimantus ….[H]ow 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?….

    494 Socrates [L]et 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?

    Certainly not.

    Socrates Then the world cannot possibly be a philosopher?…. And therefore philosophers must inevitably fall under the censure of the world?…. Then, do you see any way in which the philosopher can be preserved in his calling to the end?….

    Here’s another reference to Socrates’ “internal sign”…

    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….. 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…..

    Socrates [F]or in a State which is suitable to [the true philosopher], he will have a larger growth and be the saviour of his country, as well as of himself.

    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….. 497c. But if philosophy ever finds in the State that perfection which she herself is, then will be seen that she is in truth divine….

    The world has never seen a “perfectly moulded” community governed by the “perfectly moulded” soul; but, yes, The Republic is close!

    …I was going to ask … whether it is the State of which we are the founders and inventors, or some other?

    Yes, I replied, ours in most respects…. I do not wonder that the many refuse to believe; for they have never seen that of which we are now speaking realized; they have seen only a conventional imitation of philosophy, consisting of words artificially brought together, not like these of ours having a natural unity. But a human being who in word and work is perfectly moulded, as far as he can be, into the proportion and likeness of virtue – such a man 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?

    499 No indeed.

    No, my friend, and they have seldom, if ever, heard free and noble sentiments…. There is no impossibility in all this; that there is a difficulty, we acknowledge ourselves.

    My opinion agrees with yours, he said.

    Socrates But do you mean to say that this is not the opinion of the multitude?

    I should imagine not, he replied.

    Do you see here a little more explicitly why Plato argues that philosophers will be better equipped to rule?

    500 Socrates O my friends, I said, do not attack the multitude: they will change their minds, if, not in an aggressive spirit, but gently and with the view of soothing them and removing their dislike of over-education, you show them your philosophers as they really are and describe as you were just now doing their character and profession, and then mankind will see that he of whom you are speaking is not such as they supposed – if they view him in this new light, they will surely change their notion of him, and answer in another strain. Who can be at enmity with one who loves him, who that is himself gentle and free from envy will be jealous of one in whom there is no jealousy? …. [H]is eye is ever directed toward things fixed and immutable… all in order moving according to reason; these he imitates, and to these he will, as far as he can, conform himself…. And if a necessity be laid upon him of fashioning, not only himself, but human nature generally, whether in States or individuals, into that which he beholds elsewhere, will be, think you, be an unskilful artificer of justice, temperance, and every civil virtue?

    Anything but unskilful.

    And if the world perceives that what we are saying about him is the truth, will they be angry with philosophy? Will they disbelieve us, when we tell them that no State can be happy which is not designed by artists who imitate the heavenly pattern?

    They will not be angry if they understand, he said. But how will they draw out the plan of which you are speaking?….

    Show more on conformity to 'the heavenly pattern'...
    A parallel snippet from Plato's Timaeus, 90.
    [I]f a man has seriously devoted himself to the love of learning and to true wisdom, if he has exercised these aspects of himself above all, then there is absolutely no way that his [c] thoughts can fail to be immortal and divine, should truth come within his grasp. And to the extent that human nature can partake of immortality, he can in no way fail to achieve this: constantly caring for his divine part as he does, keeping well-ordered the guiding spirit that lives within him, he must indeed be supremely happy. Now there is but one way to care for anything, and that is to provide for it the nourishment and the motions that are proper to it. And the motions that have an affinity to the divine part within us are the thoughts and revolutions of the universe. These, [d] surely, are the ones which each of us should follow. We should redirect the revolutions in our heads that were thrown off course at our birth, by coming to learn the harmonies and revolutions of the universe, and so bring into conformity with its objects our faculty of understanding, as it was in its original condition. And when this conformity is complete, we shall have achieved our goal: that most excellent life offered to humankind by the gods, both now and forevermore.” (From the Donald Zeyl translation, published by Hackett in 2000.)

    The Sun

    “The Many” – instances of beauty, goodness, triangles, trees, etc.

    507b ….Socrates The old story, that there is many a beautiful and many a good, and so of other things which we describe and define; to all of them the term “many” is implied.

    Glaucon True, he said.

    “The One,” in which the Many are unified.

    Socrates 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.

    Glaucon Exactly.

    Socrates And what is the organ with which we see the visible things?

    Glaucon The sight, he said….

    Socrates But you see that without the addition of some other nature there is no seeing or being seen?…. 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 invisible.

    Glaucon Of what nature are you speaking?

    Socrates Of that which you term light, I replied. 508 Noble, then, is the bond which links together sight and visibility…. And which, I said, of the gods in heaven would you say was the lord of this element? Whose is that light which makes the eye to see perfectly and the visible to appear?

    Glaucon You mean the sun, as you and all mankind say.

    Socrates May not the relation of sight to this deity be described as follows?…. And the power which the eye possesses is a sort of effluence which is dispensed from the sun?…. Then the sun is not sight, but the author of sight who is recognized by sight?

    True, he said.

    The sun is the allegorical child of the Good, and plays parallel roles as the ground of knowledge and of being.

    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.

    [T]he soul is like the eye: when resting upon that on which truth and being shine, the soul perceives and understands, and is radiant with intelligence; but when turned toward the twilight of becoming and perishing, then she has opinion only.

    Why, you know, I said, that the eyes, when a person directs them toward objects on which the light of day is no longer shining, but the moon and stars only, see dimly, and are nearly blind; they seem to have no clearness of vision in them?…. But when they are directed toward objects on which the sun shines, they see clearly and there is sight in them?…. And the soul is like the eye: when resting upon that on which truth and being shine, the soul perceives and understands, and is radiant with intelligence; but when turned toward the twilight of becoming and perishing, then she has opinion only, and goes blinking about, and is first of one opinion and then of another, and seems to have no intelligence?

    Glaucon Just so.

    508e Socrates 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?

    509b Glaucon In what point of view?

    Socrates You would say, would you not? that 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?…. 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….

    The Divided Line

    509d You have to Imagine… that there are two ruling powers, and that one of them is set over the intellectual world, the other over the visible…. 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.

    Very good.

    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?

    Most undoubtedly.

    Next proceed to consider the manner in which the sphere of the intellectual is to be divided.

    In what manner?

    Thus: There are two subdivisions, in the lower of which the soul uses the figures given by the former division as images; the inquiry can only be hypothetical, and instead of going upward to a principle descends to the other end; in the higher of the two, the soul passes out of hypotheses, and goes up to a principle which is above hypotheses, making no use of images as in the former case, but proceeding only in and through the ideas themselves.

    I do not quite understand your meaning, he said.

    Then I will try again; you will understand me better when I have made some preliminary remarks. You are aware that students of geometry, arithmetic, and the kindred sciences assume the odd, and the even, and the figures, and three kinds of angles, and the like, in their several branches of science; these are their hypotheses, which they and everybody are supposed to know, and therefore they do not deign to give any account of them either to themselves or others; but they begin with them, and go on until they arrive at last, and in a consistent manner, at their conclusion?

    Yes, he said, I know.

    And do you not know also that although they make use of the visible forms and reason about them, they are thinking not of these, but of the ideals which they resemble; not of the figures which they draw, but of the absolute square and the absolute diameter, and so on – the forms which they draw or make, and which have shadows and reflections in water of their own, are converted by them into images, but they are really seeking to behold the things themselves, which can only be seen with the eye of the mind?

    That is true.

    And of this kind I spoke as the intelligible, although in the search after it the soul is compelled to use hypotheses; not ascending to a first principle, because she is unable to rise above the region of hypothesis, but employing the objects of which the shadows below are resemblances in their turn as images, they having in relation to the shadows and reflections of them a greater distinctness, and therefore a higher value.

    I understand, he said, that you are speaking of the province of geometry and the sister arts.

    And when I speak of the other division of the intelligible, you will understand me to speak of that other sort of knowledge which reason herself attains by the power of dialectic, using the hypotheses not as first principles, but only as hypotheses – that is to say, as steps and points 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 arrangement.




  • Plato’s Republic (reading four)

    Book VII

    “The Allegory of the Cave”


    John Grigsby’s short 2008 claymation.
    Show more Allegory of the Cave media.
    Orson Welles’ 1973 narration of the allegory in this short animated by Dick Oden.Bertrand Russell’s chapter on Plato’s Republic, from his 1945 History of Western Philosophy; narrated by Geoffrey Sherman.

    514 Socrates And now, I said, let me show in a figure how far our nature is enlightened or unenlightened: Behold! human beings living in an underground den, which has a mouth open toward the light and reaching all along the den; here they have been from their childhood, and have their legs and necks chained so that they cannot move, and can only see before them, being prevented by the chains from turning round their heads. Above and behind them a fire is blazing at a distance, and between the fire and the prisoners there is a raised way; and you will see, if you look, a low wall built along the way, like the screen which marionette-players have in front of them, over which they show the puppets.

    "The Cave," by Mitch Francis

    “The Cave,” by Mitch Francis

    Glaucon I see.

    And do you see, I said, men passing along the wall carrying all sorts of vessels, and statues and figures of animals made of wood and stone and various materials, which appear over the wall? Some of them are talking, others silent.

    You have shown me a strange image, and they are strange prisoners.

    Like ourselves, I replied; and they see only their own shadows, or the shadows of one another, which the fire throws on the opposite wall of the cave?

    True, he said; how could they see anything but the shadows if they were never allowed to move their heads?

    And of the objects which are being carried in like manner they would only see the shadows?

    Yes, he said.

    And if they were able to converse with one another, would they not suppose that they were naming what was actually before them?

    Very true.

    And suppose further that the prison had an echo which came from the other side, would they not be sure to fancy when one of the passers-by spoke that the voice which they heard came from the passing shadow?

    No question, he replied.

    To them, I said, the truth would be literally nothing but the shadows of the images.

    That is certain.

    The liberated one is assessed both in terms of alignment with Being (which is the “metaphysical” condition of the liberated one’s soul), and knowledge of Being (which is the liberated one’s “epistemic” condition). The path of liberation leads through stages from mere opinion (touted as knowledge), into the doubt of aporia…

    And now look again, and see what will naturally follow if the prisoners are released and disabused of their error. At first, when any of them is liberated and compelled suddenly to stand up and turn his neck round and walk and look toward the light, he will suffer sharp pains; the glare will distress him, and he will be unable to see the realities of which in his former state he had seen the shadows; and then conceive someone saying to him, that what he saw before was an illusion, but that now, when he is approaching nearer to being and his eye is turned toward more real existence, he has a clearer vision – what will be his reply? And you may further imagine that his instructor is pointing to the objects as they pass and requiring him to them – will he not be perplexed? Will he not fancy that the shadows which he formerly saw are truer than the objects which are now shown to him?

    Far truer.

    And if he is compelled to look straight at the light, will he not have a pain in his eyes which will make him turn away to take refuge in the objects of vision which he can see, and which he will conceive to be in reality clearer than the things which are now being shown to him?

    True, he said.

    And suppose once more, that he is reluctantly dragged up a steep and rugged ascent, and held fast until he is forced into the presence of the sun himself, is he not likely to be pained and irritated? When he approaches the light his eyes will be dazzled, and he will not be able to see anything at all of what are now called realities.

    Not all in a moment, he said.

    …and from aporia, the path leads forward toward wisdom and the understanding that grasps the source of rhyme and reason in all things — in the allegory, the sun; beyond the allegory, The Good.

    He will require to grow accustomed to the sight of the upper world. And first he will see ⦿ the shadows best, next ⦿ the reflections of men and other objects in the water, and then ⦿ the objects themselves; then he will gaze upon ⦿ the light of the moon and the stars and the spangled heaven; and he will see ⦿ the sky and the stars by night better than the sun or the light of the sun by day?…. Last of all he will be able to see ⦿ the sun, and not mere reflections of him in the water, but he will see him in his own proper place, and not in another; and he will contemplate him as he is…. He will then proceed to argue that this is he who gives the season and the years, and is the guardian of all that is in the visible world, and in a certain way the cause of all things which he and his fellows have been accustomed to behold?

    Clearly, he said, he would first see the sun and then reason about him.

    Bringing it All Back Home?

    How could the one who went free care about “conferred honours” for being a great shadow predictor?

    And when he remembered his old habitation, and the wisdom of the den and his fellow-prisoners, do you not suppose that he would felicitate himself on the change, and pity them?…. And if they were in the habit of conferring honours among themselves on those who were quickest to observe the passing shadows and to remark which of them went before, and which followed after, and which were together; and who were therefore best able to draw conclusions as to the future, do you think that he would care for such honours and glories, or envy the possessors of them? Would he not say with Homer,

    "The Man Cave," by Mitch Francis

    “The Man Cave,” by Mitch Francis

    Better to be the poor servant of a poor master,
    and to endure anything, rather than think as they do and live after their manner?

    [H]e would rather suffer anything than entertain these false notions and live in this miserable manner.

    Yes, he said, I think that he would rather suffer anything than entertain these false notions and live in this miserable manner.

    Imagine once more, I said, such a one coming suddenly out of the sun to be replaced in his old situation; would he not be certain to have his eyes full of darkness?

    Glaucon To be sure, he said.

    Of course the others would ridicule him, saying he came down “without his eyes.”

    517 Socrates And if there were a contest, and he had to compete in measuring the shadows with the prisoners who had never moved out of the den, while his sight was still weak, and before his eyes had become steady (and the time which would be needed to acquire this new habit of sight might be very considerable), would he not be ridiculous? Men would say of him that up he went and down he came without his eyes; and that it was better not even to think of ascending; and if anyone tried to loose another and lead him up to the light, let them only catch the offender, and they would put him to death.

    Glaucon No question, he said.

    [Y]ou will not misapprehend me if you interpret the journey upward to be the ascent of the soul into the intellectual world.

    The allegory interpreted.

    517b Socrates This entire allegory, I said, you may now append, dear Glaucon, to the previous argument; ⦿ the prison-house is the world of sight, the light of ⦿ the fire is the sun, and you will not misapprehend me if you interpret ⦿ the journey upward to be the ascent of the soul into the intellectual world according to my poor belief, which, at your desire, I have expressed – whether rightly or wrongly, God knows. But, whether true or false, my opinion is that in the world of knowledge the idea of good appears last of all, and is seen only with an effort; and, when seen, is also inferred to be the universal author of all things beautiful and right, parent of light and of the lord of light in this visible world, and the immediate source of reason and truth in the intellectual; and that this is the power upon which he who would act rationally either in public or private life must have his eye fixed.

    Glaucon I agree, he said, as far as I am able to understand you.

    Socrates Moreover, I said, you must not wonder that those who attain to this beatific vision are unwilling to descend to human affairs; for their souls are ever hastening into the upper world where they desire to dwell; which desire of theirs is very natural, if our allegory may be trusted.

    Glaucon Yes, very natural.

    Socrates And is there anything surprising in one who passes from divine contemplations to the evil state of man, misbehaving himself in a ridiculous manner; if, while his eyes are blinking and before he has become accustomed to the surrounding darkness, he is compelled to fight in courts of law, or in other places, about the images or the shadows of images of justice, and is endeavouring to meet the conceptions of those who have never yet seen absolute justice?

    Anything but surprising, he replied.

    Anyone who has common-sense will remember that the bewilderments of the eyes are of two kinds, and arise from two causes, either from coming out of the light or from going into the light, which is true of the mind’s eye, quite as much as of the bodily eye; and he who remembers this when he sees anyone whose vision is perplexed and weak, will not be too ready to laugh; he will first ask whether that soul of man has come out of the brighter life, and is unable to see because unaccustomed to the dark, or having turned from darkness to the day is dazzled by excess of light. And he will count the one happy in his condition and state of being, and he will pity the other; or, if he have a mind to laugh at the soul which comes from below into the light, there will be more reason in this than in the laugh which greets him who returns from above out of the light into the den.

    That, he said, is a very just distinction.

    There is something in wisdom that can’t be taught…

    But then, if I am right, certain professors of education must be wrong when they say that they can put a knowledge into the soul which was not there before, like sight into blind eyes.

    They undoubtedly say this, he replied.

    … and instead depends on a power “in the soul already.” Moreover, “enlightenment” consists of more than what one knows: it involves the whole person and requires turning the “whole soul.”

    [T]he instrument of knowledge can only by the movement of the whole soul be turned from the world of becoming into that of being… in other words, of the good.

    Whereas, our argument shows that the power and capacity of learning exists in the soul already; and that just as the eye was unable to turn from darkness to light without the whole body, so too the instrument of knowledge can only by the movement of the whole soul be turned from the world of becoming into that of being, and learn by degrees to endure the sight of being, and of the brightest and best of being, or, in other words, of the good.

    Isn’t philosophy “soul craft”?

    Very true.

    And must there not be some art which will effect conversion in the easiest and quickest manner; not implanting the faculty of sight, for that exists already, but has been turned in the wrong direction, and is looking away from the truth? ….

    But will philosophers serve in this way?

    Socrates [A]nd there is another thing which is likely, or rather a necessary inference from what has preceded, that neither the uneducated and uninformed of the truth, nor yet those who never make an end of their education, will be able ministers of the State….

    The wise will be forced to rule…

    Then, I said, the business of us who are the founders of the State will be to compel the best minds to attain that knowledge which we have already shown to be the greatest of all – they must continue to ascend until they arrive at the good; but when they have ascended and seen enough we must not allow them to do as they do now…. [T]hey remain in the upper world: but this must not be allowed; they must be made to descend again among the prisoners in the den, and partake of their labours and honours, whether they are worth having or not.

    But is not this unjust? he said; ought we to give them a worse life, when they might have a better?

    …and they will recognize the “force” as that of justified reason.

    [T]he State in which the rulers are most reluctant to govern is always the best.

    You have again forgotten, my friend, I said, the intention of the legislator, who did not aim at making any one class in the State happy above the rest; the happiness was to be in the whole State…. Observe, Glaucon, that there will be no injustice in compelling our philosophers to have a care and providence of others; we shall explain to them that … we have brought you into the world to be rulers of the hive, kings of yourselves and of the other citizens, and have educated you far better and more perfectly than they have been educated, and you are better able to share in the double duty. Wherefore each of you, when his turn comes, must go down to the general underground abode, and get the habit of seeing in the dark. When you have acquired the habit, you will see ten thousand times better than the inhabitants of the den, and you will know what the several images are, and what they represent, because you have seen the beautiful and just and good in their truth. And thus our State, which is also yours, will be a reality, and not a dream only, and will be administered in a spirit unlike that of other States, in which men fight with one another about shadows only and are distracted in the struggle for power, which in their eyes is a great good. Whereas the truth is that the State in which the rulers are most reluctant to govern is always the best and most quietly governed, and the State in which they are most eager, the worst.

    Quite true, he replied….

    Socrates specifies a curriculum for the “warrior athletes,” beyond music and harmonics and gymnastics, elaborating a path through arithmetic and geometry to “dialectic”: philosophy.

    “Dialectic” is the highest level of study possible.

    What is this “dialectic”?

    532 And so, Glaucon, I said, we have at last arrived at the hymn of dialectic. This is that strain which is of the intellect only, but which the faculty of sight will nevertheless be found to imitate; for sight, as you may remember, was imagined by us after a while to behold the real animals and stars, and last of all the sun himself. And so with dialectic; when a person starts on the discovery of the absolute by the light of reason only, and without any assistance of sense, and perseveres until by pure intelligence he arrives at the perception of the absolute good, he at last finds himself at the end of the intellectual world, as in the case of sight at the end of the visible.

    Exactly, he said.

    Then this is the progress which you call dialectic?

    True.

    But the release of the prisoners from chains, and their translation from the shadows to the images and to the light, and the ascent from the underground den to the sun, while in his presence they are vainly trying to look on animals and plants and the light of the sun, but are able to perceive even with their weak eyes the images in the water (which are divine), and are the shadows of true existence (not shadows of images cast by a light of fire, which compared with the sun is only an image) – this power of elevating the highest principle in the soul to the contemplation of that which is best in existence, with which we may compare the raising of that faculty which is the very light of the body to the sight of that which is brightest in the material and visible world – this power is given, as I was saying, by all that study and pursuit of the arts which have been described.

  • Plato’s Republic (reading five)
    …. Socrates And assuredly no one will argue that there is any other method of comprehending by any regular process all true existence, or of ascertaining what each thing is in its own nature; for the arts in general are concerned with the desires or opinions of men, or are cultivated with a view to production and construction, or for the preservation of such productions and constructions; and as to the mathematical sciences which, as we were saying, have some apprehension of true being – geometry and the like – they only dream about being, but never can they behold the waking reality so long as they leave the hypotheses which they use unexamined, and are unable to give an account of them. For when a man knows not his own first principle, and when the conclusion and intermediate steps are also constructed out of he knows not what, how can he imagine that such a fabric of convention can ever become science?

    Impossible, he said.

    Dialectic reaches the heights of intellection, “the absolute,” without relying on assumptions. It is the true science.

    533d Then dialectic, and dialectic alone, goes directly to the first principle and is the only science which does away with hypotheses in order to make her ground secure; the eye of the soul, which is literally buried in an outlandish slough, is by her gentle aid lifted upward; and she uses as handmaids and helpers in the work of conversion, the sciences which we have been discussing. Custom terms them sciences, but they ought to have some other , implying greater clearness than opinion and less clearness than science: and this, in our previous sketch, was called understanding. But why should we dispute about s when we have realities of such importance to consider? Why, indeed, he said, when any will do which expresses the thought of the mind with clearness?

    At any rate, we are satisfied… to make a proportion:

    As being is to becoming, so is pure intellect to opinion. And as intellect is to opinion, so is science to belief, and understanding to the perception of shadows.

    Socrates completes his tour of the curriculum…

    …..When they have reached fifty years of age, then let those who still survive and have distinguished themselves in every action of their lives, and in every branch of knowledge, come at last to their consummation: the time has now arrived at which they must raise the eye of the soul to the universal light which lightens all things, and behold the absolute good; for that is the pattern according to which they are to order the State and the lives of individuals, and the remainder of their own lives also; making philosophy their chief pursuit, but, when their turn comes, toiling also at politics and ruling for the public good, not as though they were performing some heroic action, but simply as a matter of duty; and when they have brought up in each generation others like themselves and left them in their place to be governors of the State, then they will depart to the Islands of the Blessed and dwell there; and the city will give them public memorials and sacrifices and honour them… as demigods, but if not, as in any case blessed and divine.

    You are a sculptor, Socrates, and have made statues of our governors faultless in beauty.

    Yes, I said, Glaucon, and of our governesses too; for you must not suppose that what I have been saying applies to men only and not to women as far as their natures can go.

    There you are right, he said, since we have made them to share in all things like the men.

    Well, I said, and you would agree (would you not?) that what has been said about the State and the government is not a mere dream, and although difficult, not impossible, but only possible in the way which has been supposed; that is to say, when the true philosopher-kings are born in a State, one or more of them, despising the honours of this present world which they deem mean and worthless, esteeming above all things right and the honour that springs from right, and regarding justice as the greatest and most necessary of all things, whose ministers they are, and whose principles will be exalted by them when they set in order their own city?

    How will they proceed?

    Gotta start fresh!

    They will begin by sending out into the country all the inhabitants of the city who are more than ten years old, and will take possession of their children, who will be unaffected by the habits of their parents; these they will train in their own habits and laws, I mean in the laws which we have given them: and in this way the State and constitution of which we were speaking will soonest and most easily attain happiness, and the nation which has such a constitution will gain most.

    Yes, that will be the best way. And I think, Socrates, that you have very well described how, if ever, such a constitution might come into being. Enough, then, of the perfect State, and of the man who bears its image – there is no difficulty in seeing how we shall describe him.

    There is no difficulty, he replied; and I agree with you in thinking that nothing more need be said.

    Book VIII

    This reiteration of the larger structure of the book’s argument… in preparation to gather strength for the knock-out.

    543 Socrates ….Let us place the most just by the side of the most unjust, and when we see them we shall be able to compare the relative happiness or unhappiness of him who leads a life of pure justice or pure injustice. The inquiry will then be completed. And we shall know whether we ought to pursue injustice, as Thrasymachus advises, or in accordance with the conclusions of the argument to prefer justice.

    Certainly, he replied, we must do as you say.

    Shall we follow our old plan, which we adopted with a view to clearness, of taking the State first and then proceeding to the individual….?

    Socrates considers each of four governmental forms or “constitutions” and four corresponding personalities or character types: the timocratic, oligarchic, democratic, and tyrannical – in order of descending preference. The timocratic is the “government of honor,” possessed of a military spirit of discipline and glory, but potentially anti-intellectual. In oligarchy, wealth holds the strings of power and virtuous citizenship declines, envy flourishes and the “mere consumer of goods” is born. His characterization of the democratic soul is particularly poignant.

    The Democratic state

    Next comes democracy…. [A]nd how does the change from oligarchy into democracy arise?…. There can be no doubt that the love of wealth and the spirit of moderation cannot exist together in citizens of the same State to any considerable extent; one or the other will be disregarded…. [D]emocracy comes into being after the poor have conquered their opponents….

    Socrates In the first place, are they not free; and is not the city full of freedom and frankness – a man may say and do what he likes?… And where freedom is, the individual is clearly able to order for himself his own life as he pleases?…. Then in this kind of State there will be the greatest variety of human natures?

    There will.

    [D]emocracy…. [I]s not this a way of life which for the moment is supremely delightful?

    This, then, seems likely to be the fairest of States, being like an embroidered robe which is spangled with every sort of flower. And just as women and children think a variety of colours to be of all things most charming, so there are many men to whom this State… will appear to be the fairest of States…. And there being no necessity, I said, for you to govern in this State, even if you have the capacity, or to be governed, unless you like, or to go to war when the rest go to war, or to be at peace when others are at peace, unless you are so disposed… – is not this a way of life which for the moment is supremely delightful?

    For the moment, yes.

    ….See, too, I said, the forgiving spirit of democracy, and the “don’t care” about trifles, and the disregard which she shows of all the fine principles which we solemnly laid down at the foundation of the city – as when we said that, except in the case of some rarely gifted nature, there never will be a good man who has not from his childhood been used to play amid things of beauty and make of them a joy and a study – how grandly does she trample all these fine notions of ours under her feet, never giving a thought to the pursuits which make a statesman, and promoting to honour anyone who professes to be the people’s friend.

    Yes, she is of a noble spirit.

    Hmmm… Does it sound like Plato really praises democracy?

    These and other kindred characteristics are proper to democracy, which is a charming form of government, full of variety and disorder, and dispensing a sort of equality to equals and unequals alike.

    We know her well.

    The Democratic soul

    The “lotus-eaters” are the mythological people encountered by Odysseus. Their lives were sleepily colored by ingestion of the narcotic plant.

    Consider now, I said, what manner of man the individual is, or rather consider, as in the case of the State, how he comes into being…. Is not this the way – he is the son of the miserly and oligarchical father who has trained him in his own habits?…. And if there be … the influence of a father…, advising or rebuking him, then there arise in his soul a faction and an opposite faction, and he goes to war with himself…. False and boastful conceits and phrases mount upward and take their place…. And so the young man returns into the country of the lotus-eaters, and takes up his dwelling there…. [T]he next thing is to bring back to their house insolence and anarchy and waste and impudence in bright array, having garlands on their heads, and a great company with them, hymning their praises and calling them by sweet s; insolence they term “breeding,” and anarchy “liberty,” and waste “magnificence,” and impudence “courage.” And so the young man passes out of his original nature, which was trained in the school of necessity, into the freedom and libertinism of useless and unnecessary pleasures.

    Yes, he said, the change in him is visible enough.

    The democratic soul makes no distinction between noble and base pleasures.

    After this he lives on, spending his money and labour and time on unnecessary pleasures quite as much as on necessary ones…. putting the government of himself into the hands of the one which comes first and wins the turn; and when he has had enough of that, then into the hands of another; he despises none of them, but encourages them all equally…. [I]f anyone says to him that some pleasures are the satisfactions of good and noble desires, and others of evil desires, and that he ought to use and honour some, and chastise and master the others – whenever this is repeated to him he shakes his head and says that they are all alike, and that one is as good as another.

    Yes, he said; that is the way with him.

    Do the “democratic souled” live focussed lives? Do you agree with Plato?

    Yes, I said, he lives from day to day indulging the appetite of the hour; and

    • sometimes he is lapped in drink and strains of the flute;
    • then he becomes a water-drinker, and tries to get thin;
    • then he takes a turn at gymnastics;
    • sometimes idling and neglecting everything,
    • then once more living the life of a philosopher;
    • often he is busy with politics, and starts to his feet and says and does whatever comes into his head;
    • and, if he is emulous of anyone who is a warrior, off he is in that direction,
    • or of men of business, once more in that.

    [T]his distracted existence he terms joy and bliss and freedom.

    His life has neither law nor order; and this distracted existence he terms joy and bliss and freedom; and so he goes on.

    Yes, he replied, he is all liberty and equality.

    Yes, I said; his life is motley and manifold and an epitome of the lives of many; he answers to the State which we described as fair and spangled. And many a man and many a woman will take him for their pattern, and many a constitution and many an example of manners are contained in him.

    The tyrant, Socrates explains, is a “wolf” who …

    Remember when, just above, Socrates returned to quest to “know whether we ought to pursue injustice”? Here he delivers the last hard punch in the text: The tyrant – who represents perfect injustice – is least fulfilled, most fearful, most fake, and in need of tension.

    At first … is full of smiles, and he salutes everyone whom he meets; …making promises in public and also in private! liberating debtors, and distributing land to the people and his followers, and wanting to be so kind and good to everyone!…. But when he has disposed of foreign enemies by conquest or treaty, and there is nothing to fear from them, then he is always stirring up some war or other, in order that the people may require a leader…. Has he not also another object, which is that they may be impoverished by payment of taxes, and thus compelled to devote themselves to their daily wants and therefore less likely to conspire against him?…. And if any of them are suspected by him of having notions of freedom, and of resistance to his authority, he will have a good pretext for destroying them by placing them at the mercy of the enemy; and for all these reasons the tyrant must be always getting up a war.

    He must.

    Now he begins to grow unpopular….

    Book IX

    571 Socrates Last of all comes the tyrannical man; about whom we have once more to ask, …how does he live, in happiness or in misery?….

    So why should I want to be unjust? The external repercussions aside, the internal ones cost my happiness!

    Socrates When such men are only private individuals and before they get power, this is their character;

    • they associate entirely with their own flatterers or ready tools;
    • or if they want anything from anybody, they in their turn are equally ready to bow down before them: they profess every sort of affection for them;
    • but when they have gained their point they know them no more….
    • They are always either the masters or servants
    • and never the friends of anybody;

    the tyrant never tastes of true freedom or friendship…. Also they are utterly unjust, if we were right in our notion of justice?

    Yes, he said, and we were perfectly right.

    Let us, then, sum up in a word, I said, the character of the worst man: he is the waking reality of what we dreamed.

    Most true.

    And this is he who being by nature most of a tyrant bears rule, and the longer he lives the more of a tyrant he becomes….

    576c Socrates And will not he who has been shown to be the wickedest, be also the most miserable?…. He who is the real tyrant, whatever men may think,

    • is the real slave,
    • and is obliged to practise the greatest adulation and servility,
    • and to be the flatterer of the vilest of mankind.
    • He has desires which he is utterly unable to satisfy, and has more wants than anyone,
    • and is truly poor, if you know how to inspect the whole soul of him:
    • all his life long he is beset with fear
    • and is full of convulsions and distractions,

    even as the State which he resembles: and surely the resemblance holds?

    Very true, he said.

    Book X


    In Book X, the Republic’s finale, it is with hesitation that Socrates banishes poets from the city of justice, arguing that, because they trade in appearances rather than realities, they do not represent truth, but merely seem to; and they disserve the populace by stirring the less rational parts of the soul.


    595a Socrates Of he many excellences which I perceive in the order of our State, there is none which upon reflection pleases me better than the rule about poetry.

    To what do you refer?

    To the rejection of imitative poetry, which certainly ought not to be received; as I see far more clearly now that the parts of the soul have been distinguished.

    What do you mean?

    Speaking in confidence, for I should not like to have my words repeated to the tragedians and the rest of the imitative tribe –but I do not mind saying to you, that all poetical imitations are ruinous to the understanding of the hearers, and that the knowledge of their true nature is the only antidote to them.

    Explain the purport of your remark.

    Well, I will tell you, although I have always from my earliest youth had an awe and love of Homer, which even now makes the words falter on my lips, for he is the great captain and teacher of the whole of that charming tragic company; but a man is not to be reverenced more than the truth, and therefore I will speak out.

    Very good, he said.

    Listen to me then, or rather, answer me.

    Put your question.

    Can you tell me what imitation is? for I really do not know.

    A likely thing, then, that I should know.

    Why not? for 596a the duller eye may often see a thing sooner than the keener.

    Very true, he said; but in your presence, even if I had any faint notion, I could not muster courage to utter it. Will you enquire yourself?

    Well then, shall we begin the enquiry in our usual manner: Whenever a number of individuals have a common , we assume them to have also a corresponding idea or form. Do you understand me?

    I do.

    Let us take any common instance; there are beds and tables in the world –plenty of them, are there not?

    Yes.

    But there are only two ideas or forms of them –one the idea of a bed, the other of a table.

    True.

    And the maker of either of them makes a bed or he makes a table for our use, in accordance with the idea –that is our way of speaking in this and similar instances –but no artificer makes the ideas themselves: how could he?

    Impossible.

    And there is another artist, –I should like to know what you would say of him.

    Who is he?

    One who is the maker of all the works of all other workmen.

    What an extraordinary man!

    Wait a little, and there will be more reason for your saying so. For this is he who is able to make not only vessels of every kind, but plants and animals, himself and all other things –the earth and heaven, and the things which are in heaven or under the earth; he makes the gods also.

    He must be a wizard and no mistake.

    Oh! you are incredulous, are you? Do you mean that there is no such maker or creator, or that in one sense there might be a maker of all these things but in another not? Do you see that there is a way in which you could make them all yourself?

    What way?

    An easy way enough; or rather, there are many ways in which the feat might be quickly and easily accomplished, none quicker than that of turning a mirror round and round –you would soon enough make the sun and the heavens, and the earth and yourself, and other animals and plants, and all the, other things of which we were just now speaking, in the mirror.

    Yes, he said; but they would be appearances only.

    Very good, I said, you are coming to the point now. And the painter too is, as I conceive, just such another –a creator of appearances, is he not?

    Of course.

    But then I suppose you will say that what he creates is untrue. And yet there is a sense in which the painter also creates a bed?

    Yes, he said, but not a real bed.

    597a And what of the maker of the bed? Were you not saying that he too makes, not the idea which, according to our view, is the essence of the bed, but only a particular bed?

    Yes, I did.

    Then if he does not make that which exists he cannot make true existence, but only some semblance of existence; and if any one were to say that the work of the maker of the bed, or of any other workman, has real existence, he could hardly be supposed to be speaking the truth.

    At any rate, he replied, philosophers would say that he was not speaking the truth.

    No wonder, then, that his work too is an indistinct expression of truth.

    No wonder.

    Suppose now that by the light of the examples just offered we enquire who this imitator is?

    If you please.

    Well then, here are three beds: one existing in nature, which is made by God, as I think that we may say –for no one else can be the maker?

    No.

    There is another which is the work of the carpenter?

    Yes.

    And the work of the painter is a third?

    Yes.

    Beds, then, are of three kinds, and there are three artists who superintend them: God, the maker of the bed, and the painter?

    Yes, there are three of them.

    God, whether from choice or from necessity, made one bed in nature and one only; two or more such ideal beds neither ever have been nor ever will be made by God.

    Why is that?

    Because even if He had made but two, a third would still appear behind them which both of them would have for their idea, and that would be the ideal bed and the two others.

    Very true, he said.

    God knew this, and He desired to be the real maker of a real bed, not a particular maker of a particular bed, and therefore He created a bed which is essentially and by nature one only.

    So we believe.

    Shall we, then, speak of Him as the natural author or maker of the bed?

    Yes, he replied; inasmuch as by the natural process of creation He is the author of this and of all other things.

    And what shall we say of the carpenter –is not he also the maker of the bed?

    Yes.

    But would you call the painter a creator and maker?

    Certainly not.

    Yet if he is not the maker, what is he in relation to the bed?

    I think, he said, that we may fairly designate him as the imitator of that which the others make.

    Good, I said; then you call him who is third in the descent from nature an imitator?

    Certainly, he said.

    And the tragic poet is an imitator, and therefore, like all other imitators, he is thrice removed from the king and from the truth?

    That appears to be so.

    Then about the imitator we are agreed. 598a And what about the painter? –I would like to know whether he may be thought to imitate that which originally exists in nature, or only the creations of artists?

    The latter.

    As they are or as they appear? You have still to determine this.

    What do you mean?

    I mean, that you may look at a bed from different points of view, obliquely or directly or from any other point of view, and the bed will appear different, but there is no difference in reality. And the same of all things.

    Yes, he said, the difference is only apparent.

    Now let me ask you another question: Which is the art of painting designed to be –an imitation of things as they are, or as they appear –of appearance or of reality?

    Of appearance.

    Then the imitator, I said, is a long way off the truth, and can do all things because he lightly touches on a small part of them, and that part an image. For example: A painter will paint a cobbler, carpenter, or any other artist, though he knows nothing of their arts; and, if he is a good artist, he may deceive children or simple persons, when he shows them his picture of a carpenter from a distance, and they will fancy that they are looking at a real carpenter.

    Certainly.

    And whenever any one informs us that he has found a man knows all the arts, and all things else that anybody knows, and every single thing with a higher degree of accuracy than any other man –whoever tells us this, I think that we can only imagine to be a simple creature who is likely to have been deceived by some wizard or actor whom he met, and whom he thought all-knowing, because he himself was unable to analyse the nature of knowledge and ignorance and imitation.

    Most true.

    And so, when we hear persons saying that the tragedians, and Homer, who is at their head, know all the arts and all things human, virtue as well as vice, and divine things too, for that the good poet cannot compose well unless he knows his subject, and that he who has not this knowledge can never be a poet, we ought to consider whether here also there may not be a similar illusion. Perhaps they may have come across imitators and been deceived by them; 599a they may not have remembered when they saw their works that these were but imitations thrice removed from the truth, and could easily be made without any knowledge of the truth, because they are appearances only and not realities? Or, after all, they may be in the right, and poets do really know the things about which they seem to the many to speak so well?

    The question, he said, should by all means be considered.

    Now do you suppose that if a person were able to make the original as well as the image, he would seriously devote himself to the image-making branch? Would he allow imitation to be the ruling principle of his life, as if he had nothing higher in him?

    I should say not.

    The real artist, who knew what he was imitating, would be interested in realities and not in imitations; and would desire to leave as memorials of himself works many and fair; and, instead of being the author of encomiums, he would prefer to be the theme of them.

    Yes, he said, that would be to him a source of much greater honour and profit.

    Then, I said, we must put a question to Homer; not about medicine, or any of the arts to which his poems only incidentally refer: we are not going to ask him, or any other poet, whether he has cured patients like Asclepius, or left behind him a school of medicine such as the Asclepiads were, or whether he only talks about medicine and other arts at second hand; but we have a right to know respecting military tactics, politics, education, which are the chiefest and noblest subjects of his poems, and we may fairly ask him about them. ‘Friend Homer,’ then we say to him, ‘if you are only in the second remove from truth in what you say of virtue, and not in the third –not an image maker or imitator –and if you are able to discern what pursuits make men better or worse in private or public life, tell us what State was ever better governed by your help? The good order of Lacedaemon is due to Lycurgus, and many other cities great and small have been similarly benefited by others; but who says that you have been a good legislator to them and have done them any good? Italy and Sicily boast of Charondas, and there is Solon who is renowned among us; but what city has anything to say about you?’ Is there any city which he might ?

    I think not, said Glaucon; not even the Homerids themselves pretend that he was a legislator.

    Well, but 600a is there any war on record which was carried on successfully by him, or aided by his counsels, when he was alive?

    There is not.

    Or is there any invention of his, applicable to the arts or to human life, such as Thales the Milesian or Anacharsis the Scythian, and other ingenious men have conceived, which is attributed to him?

    There is absolutely nothing of the kind.

    But, if Homer never did any public service, was he privately a guide or teacher of any? Had he in his lifetime friends who loved to associate with him, and who handed down to posterity an Homeric way of life, such as was established by Pythagoras who was so greatly beloved for his wisdom, and whose followers are to this day quite celebrated for the order which was d after him?

    Nothing of the kind is recorded of him. For surely, Socrates, Creophylus, the companion of Homer, that child of flesh, whose always makes us laugh, might be more justly ridiculed for his stupidity, if, as is said, Homer was greatly neglected by him and others in his own day when he was alive?

    Yes, I replied, that is the tradition. But can you imagine, Glaucon, that if Homer had really been able to educate and improve mankind –if he had possessed knowledge and not been a mere imitator –can you imagine, I say, that he would not have had many followers, and been honoured and loved by them? Protagoras of Abdera, and Prodicus of Ceos, and a host of others, have only to whisper to their contemporaries: ‘You will never be able to manage either your own house or your own State until you appoint us to be your ministers of education’ –and this ingenious device of theirs has such an effect in making them love them that their companions all but carry them about on their shoulders. And is it conceivable that the contemporaries of Homer, or again of Hesiod, would have allowed either of them to go about as rhapsodists, if they had really been able to make mankind virtuous? Would they not have been as unwilling to part with them as with gold, and have compelled them to stay at home with them? Or, if the master would not stay, then the disciples would have followed him about everywhere, until they had got education enough?

    Yes, Socrates, that, I think, is quite true.

    Then must we not infer that all these poetical individuals, beginning with Homer, are only imitators; they copy images of virtue and the like, but the truth they never reach? The poet is like a painter who, as we have already observed, will make 601a a likeness of a cobbler though he understands nothing of cobbling; and his picture is good enough for those who know no more than he does, and judge only by colours and figures.

    Quite so.

    In like manner the poet with his words and phrases may be said to lay on the colours of the several arts, himself understanding their nature only enough to imitate them; and other people, who are as ignorant as he is, and judge only from his words, imagine that if he speaks of cobbling, or of military tactics, or of anything else, in metre and harmony and rhythm, he speaks very well –such is the sweet influence which melody and rhythm by nature have. And I think that you must have observed again and again what a poor appearance the tales of poets make when stripped of the colours which music puts upon them, and recited in simple prose.

    Yes, he said.

    They are like faces which were never really beautiful, but only blooming; and now the bloom of youth has passed away from them?

    Exactly.

    Here is another point: The imitator or maker of the image knows nothing of true existence; he knows appearances only. Am I not right?

    Yes.

    Then let us have a clear understanding, and not be satisfied with half an explanation.

    Proceed.

    Of the painter we say that he will paint reins, and he will paint a bit?

    Yes.

    And the worker in leather and brass will make them?

    Certainly.

    But does the painter know the right form of the bit and reins? Nay, hardly even the workers in brass and leather who make them; only the horseman who knows how to use them –he knows their right form.

    Most true.

    And may we not say the same of all things?

    What?

    That there are three arts which are concerned with all things: one which uses, another which makes, a third which imitates them?

    Yes.

    And the excellence or beauty or truth of every structure, animate or inanimate, and of every action of man, is relative to the use for which nature or the artist has intended them.

    True.

    Then the user of them must have the greatest experience of them, and he must indicate to the maker the good or bad qualities which develop themselves in use; for example, the flute-player will tell the flute-maker which of his flutes is satisfactory to the performer; he will tell him how he ought to make them, and the other will attend to his instructions?

    Of course.

    The one knows and therefore speaks with authority about the goodness and badness of flutes, while the other, confiding in him, will do what he is told by him?

    True.

    The instrument is the same, but about the excellence or badness of it the maker will only attain to a correct belief; and this he will gain from him who knows, by talking to him and being compelled to hear what he has to say, 602a whereas the user will have knowledge?

    True.

    But will the imitator have either? Will he know from use whether or no his drawing is correct or beautiful? Or will he have right opinion from being compelled to associate with another who knows and gives him instructions about what he should draw?

    Neither.

    Then he will no more have true opinion than he will have knowledge about the goodness or badness of his imitations?

    I suppose not.

    The imitative artist will be in a brilliant state of intelligence about his own creations?

    Nay, very much the reverse.

    And still he will go on imitating without knowing what makes a thing good or bad, and may be expected therefore to imitate only that which appears to be good to the ignorant multitude?

    Just so.

    Thus far then we are pretty well agreed that the imitator has no knowledge worth mentioning of what he imitates. Imitation is only a kind of play or sport, and the tragic poets, whether they write in iambic or in Heroic verse, are imitators in the highest degree?

    Very true.

    And now tell me, I conjure you, has not imitation been shown by us to be concerned with that which is thrice removed from the truth?

    Certainly.

    And what is the faculty in man to which imitation is addressed?

    What do you mean?

    I will explain: The body which is large when seen near, appears small when seen at a distance?

    True.

    And the same object appears straight when looked at out of the water, and crooked when in the water; and the concave becomes convex, owing to the illusion about colours to which the sight is liable. Thus every sort of confusion is revealed within us; and this is that weakness of the human mind on which the art of conjuring and of deceiving by light and shadow and other ingenious devices imposes, having an effect upon us like magic.

    True.

    And the arts of measuring and numbering and weighing come to the rescue of the human understanding-there is the beauty of them –and the apparent greater or less, or more or heavier, no longer have the mastery over us, but give way before calculation and measure and weight?

    Most true.

    And this, surely, must be the work of the calculating and rational principle in the soul

    To be sure.

    And when this principle measures and certifies that some things are equal, or that some are greater or less than others, there occurs an apparent contradiction?

    True.

    But were we not saying that such a contradiction is the same faculty cannot have contrary opinions at the same time about the same thing?

    603a Very true.

    Then that part of the soul which has an opinion contrary to measure is not the same with that which has an opinion in accordance with measure?

    True.

    And the better part of the soul is likely to be that which trusts to measure and calculation?

    Certainly.

    And that which is opposed to them is one of the inferior principles of the soul?

    No doubt.

    This was the conclusion at which I was seeking to arrive when I said that painting or drawing, and imitation in general, when doing their own proper work, are far removed from truth, and the companions and friends and associates of a principle within us which is equally removed from reason, and that they have no true or healthy aim.

    Exactly.

    The imitative art is an inferior who marries an inferior, and has inferior offspring.

    Very true.

    And is this confined to the sight only, or does it extend to the hearing also, relating in fact to what we term poetry?

    Probably the same would be true of poetry.

    Do not rely, I said, on a probability derived from the analogy of painting; but let us examine further and see whether the faculty with which poetical imitation is concerned is good or bad.

    By all means.

    We may state the question thus: –Imitation imitates the actions of men, whether voluntary or involuntary, on which, as they imagine, a good or bad result has ensued, and they rejoice or sorrow accordingly. Is there anything more?

    No, there is nothing else.

    But in all this variety of circumstances is the man at unity with himself –or rather, as in the instance of sight there was confusion and opposition in his opinions about the same things, so here also is there not strife and inconsistency in his life? Though I need hardly raise the question again, for I remember that all this has been already admitted; and the soul has been acknowledged by us to be full of these and ten thousand similar oppositions occurring at the same moment?

    And we were right, he said.

    Yes, I said, thus far we were right; but there was an omission which must now be supplied.

    What was the omission?

    Were we not saying that a good man, who has the misfortune to lose his son or anything else which is most dear to him, will bear the loss with more equanimity than another?

    Yes.

    But will he have no sorrow, or shall we say that although he cannot help sorrowing, he will moderate his sorrow?

    The latter, he said, is the truer statement.

    604a Tell me: will he be more likely to struggle and hold out against his sorrow when he is seen by his equals, or when he is alone?

    It will make a great difference whether he is seen or not.

    When he is by himself he will not mind saying or doing many things which he would be ashamed of any one hearing or seeing him do?

    True.

    There is a principle of law and reason in him which bids him resist, as well as a feeling of his misfortune which is forcing him to indulge his sorrow?

    True.

    But when a man is drawn in two opposite directions, to and from the same object, this, as we affirm, necessarily implies two distinct principles in him?

    Certainly.

    One of them is ready to follow the guidance of the law?

    How do you mean?

    The law would say that to be patient under suffering is best, and that we should not give way to impatience, as there is no knowing whether such things are good or evil; and nothing is gained by impatience; also, because no human thing is of serious importance, and grief stands in the way of that which at the moment is most required.

    What is most required? he asked.

    That we should take counsel about what has happened, and when the dice have been thrown order our affairs in the way which reason deems best; not, like children who have had a fall, keeping hold of the part struck and wasting time in setting up a howl, but always accustoming the soul forthwith to apply a remedy, raising up that which is sickly and fallen, banishing the cry of sorrow by the healing art.

    Yes, he said, that is the true way of meeting the attacks of fortune.

    Yes, I said; and the higher principle is ready to follow this suggestion of reason?

    Clearly.

    And the other principle, which inclines us to recollection of our troubles and to lamentation, and can never have enough of them, we may call irrational, useless, and cowardly?

    Indeed, we may.

    And does not the latter –I mean the rebellious principle –furnish a great variety of materials for imitation? Whereas the wise and calm temperament, being always nearly equable, is not easy to imitate or to appreciate when imitated, especially at a public festival when a promiscuous crowd is assembled in a theatre. For the feeling represented is one 605a to which they are strangers.

    Certainly.

    Then the imitative poet who aims at being popular is not by nature made, nor is his art intended, to please or to affect the principle in the soul; but he will prefer the passionate and fitful temper, which is easily imitated?

    Clearly.

    And now we may fairly take him and place him by the side of the painter, for he is like him in two ways: first, inasmuch as his creations have an inferior degree of truth –in this, I say, he is like him; and he is also like him in being concerned with an inferior part of the soul; and therefore we shall be right in refusing to admit him into a well-ordered State, because he awakens and nourishes and strengthens the feelings and impairs the reason. As in a city when the evil are permitted to have authority and the good are put out of the way, so in the soul of man, as we maintain, the imitative poet implants an evil constitution, for he indulges the irrational nature which has no discernment of greater and less, but thinks the same thing at one time great and at another small-he is a manufacturer of images and is very far removed from the truth.

    Exactly.

    But we have not yet brought forward the heaviest count in our accusation: –the power which poetry has of harming even the good (and there are very few who are not harmed), is surely an awful thing?

    Yes, certainly, if the effect is what you say.

    Hear and judge: The best of us, as I conceive, when we listen to a passage of Homer, or one of the tragedians, in which he represents some pitiful hero who is drawling out his sorrows in a long oration, or weeping, and smiting his breast –the best of us, you know, delight in giving way to sympathy, and are in raptures at the excellence of the poet who stirs our feelings most.

    Yes, of course I know.

    But when any sorrow of our own happens to us, then you may observe that we pride ourselves on the opposite quality –we would fain be quiet and patient; this is the manly part, and the other which delighted us in the recitation is now deemed to be the part of a woman.

    Very true, he said.

    Now can we be right in praising and admiring another who is doing that which any one of us would abominate and be ashamed of in his own person?

    No, he said, that is certainly not reasonable.

    606a Nay, I said, quite reasonable from one point of view.

    What point of view?

    If you consider, I said, that when in misfortune we feel a natural hunger and desire to relieve our sorrow by weeping and lamentation, and that this feeling which is kept under control in our own calamities is satisfied and delighted by the poets;-the better nature in each of us, not having been sufficiently trained by reason or habit, allows the sympathetic element to break loose because the sorrow is another’s; and the spectator fancies that there can be no disgrace to himself in praising and pitying any one who comes telling him what a good man he is, and making a fuss about his troubles; he thinks that the pleasure is a gain, and why should he be supercilious and lose this and the poem too? Few persons ever reflect, as I should imagine, that from the evil of other men something of evil is communicated to themselves. And so the feeling of sorrow which has gathered strength at the sight of the misfortunes of others is with difficulty repressed in our own.

    How very true!

    And does not the same hold also of the ridiculous? There are jests which you would be ashamed to make yourself, and yet on the comic stage, or indeed in private, when you hear them, you are greatly amused by them, and are not at all disgusted at their unseemliness; –the case of pity is repeated; –there is a principle in human nature which is disposed to raise a laugh, and this which you once restrained by reason, because you were afraid of being thought a buffoon, is now let out again; and having stimulated the risible faculty at the theatre, you are betrayed unconsciously to yourself into playing the comic poet at home.

    Quite true, he said.

    And the same may be said of lust and anger and all the other affections, of desire and pain and pleasure, which are held to be inseparable from every action —in all of them poetry feeds and waters the passions instead of drying them up; she lets them rule, although they ought to be controlled, if mankind are ever to increase in happiness and virtue.

    I cannot deny it.

    Therefore, Glaucon, I said, whenever you meet with any of the eulogists of Homer declaring that he has been the educator of Hellas, and that he is profitable for education and for the ordering of human things, and that you should take him up again and again and get to know him and regulate your whole life according to him, 607a we may love and honour those who say these things –they are excellent people, as far as their lights extend; and we are ready to acknowledge that Homer is the greatest of poets and first of tragedy writers; but we must remain firm in our conviction that hymns to the gods and praises of famous men are the only poetry which ought to be admitted into our State. For if you go beyond this and allow the honeyed muse to enter, either in epic or lyric verse, not law and the reason of mankind, which by common consent have ever been deemed best, but pleasure and pain will be the rulers in our State.

    That is most true, he said.

    And now since we have reverted to the subject of poetry, let this our defence serve to show the reasonableness of our former judgment in sending away out of our State an art having the tendencies which we have described; for reason constrained us. But that she may impute to us any harshness or want of politeness, let us tell her that there is an ancient quarrel between philosophy and poetry; of which there are many proofs, such as the saying of ‘the yelping hound howling at her lord,’ or of one ‘mighty in the vain talk of fools,’ and ‘the mob of sages circumventing Zeus,’ and the ‘subtle thinkers who are beggars after all’; and there are innumerable other signs of ancient enmity between them. Notwithstanding this, let us assure our sweet friend and the sister arts of imitation that if she will only prove her title to exist in a well-ordered State we shall be delighted to receive her –we are very conscious of her charms; but we may not on that account betray the truth. I dare say, Glaucon, that you are as much charmed by her as I am, especially when she appears in Homer?

    Yes, indeed, I am greatly charmed.

    Shall I propose, then, that she be allowed to return from exile, but upon this condition only –that she make a defence of herself in lyrical or some other metre?

    Certainly.

    And we may further grant to those of her defenders who are lovers of poetry and yet not poets the permission to speak in prose on her behalf: let them show not only that she is pleasant but also useful to States and to human life, and we will listen in a kindly spirit; for if this can be proved we shall surely be the gainers –I mean, if there is a use in poetry as well as a delight?

    Certainly, he said, we shall the gainers.

    If her defence fails, then, my dear friend, like other persons who are enamoured of something, but put a restraint upon themselves when they think their desires are opposed to their interests, so too must we after the manner of lovers give her up, though not without a struggle. We too are inspired by that love of poetry which the education of noble States has implanted in us, and therefore we 608a would have her appear at her best and truest; but so long as she is unable to make good her defence, this argument of ours shall be a charm to us, which we will repeat to ourselves while we listen to her strains; that we may not fall away into the childish love of her which captivates the many. At all events we are well aware that poetry being such as we have described is not to be regarded seriously as attaining to the truth; and he who listens to her, fearing for the safety of the city which is within him, should be on his guard against her seductions and make our words his law.

    Yes, he said, I quite agree with you.

    Yes, I said, my dear Glaucon, for great is the issue at stake, greater than appears, whether a man is to be good or bad. And what will any one be profited if under the influence of honour or money or power, aye, or under the excitement of poetry, he neglect justice and virtue?

    Yes, he said; I have been convinced by the argument, as I believe that any one else would have been.

    Finally, Plato presents the Myth of Er – a myth according to which, after this life, each person spends a period being rewarded or punished based on how he or she lived; each then chooses the next life to live, of human or animal. Interestingly, this myth has been revived by recent Jungian analysts, especially James Hillman. But that work is beyond our scope here.

Philosophy, Social & Political Philosophy, Texts