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Plato of Athens
The Republic

Squashed down to read in about 100 minutes

"Until Philosophers are kings, or kings have the spirit of Philosophy, cities will never have rest from their troubles."

Wikipedia - Full Text - Print Edition: ISBN 0872207366


As a famous philosopher once said, "The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato". Alfred Whitehead may not have been exaggerating. Many of the conclusions presented in The Republic may seem, with two-and-a-half thousand years of hindsight, just silly. But its method of reaching those conclusions, by a precise process of honest and careful step-by-step searching after absolute answers, has been, and remains, the one great distinguishing feature of the European way of thinking. It underlies the impossible search for perfection which has given rise to Europe's science, politics, psychology, education and much of its angst. It stands in valorous contrast to the world's only other great founder-philosopher, Confucius, whose love of harmony and the certainties of tradition built a very different society.

Socrates, the belligerent Athenian street-corner philosopher, refused to write anything down. It was therefore left to his pupil Plato to record his many discussions, of which The Republic is one. It is presented as a dialog between Socrates and, among others, Glaucon, Plato's younger half-brother, and Thrasymachus, one of the most famous of the 'Sophist' teachers of rhetoric and persuasion who enjoyed such popularity in the Athens of 400BC. We cannot know which of the ideas presented here are genuinely from Socrates, and which are Plato's idealised revisions, but most of us can see much of what we are now in them.

The Republic was written in Greek, a language rather different from English, making many of Socrates' ideas terribly tricky to translate. A few of the trickier words are included in the text, italicised in brackets {techne}.
Arete: Appropriateness to or for purpose, translated here as 'goodness' or 'excellence'.
Dikaiosuene: The central theme of The Republic, translated here as 'doing right' or 'justice' or 'morality'.
Episteme: Science, specialist knowledge.
Glorious Myth: {414} Sometimes translated as 'The One Royal Lie' or 'A Magnificent Myth'.
God or gods: Plato refers to 'gods' 'the God' and 'god' apparently without distinction. It is likely that, along with most of his fellows, he believed in a single supreme god together with a multiplicity of other spiritual powers which might be described as subordinate gods.
Goeteuo: {413} 'To cast a spell on' or 'bewitch' has sometimes been translated as 'propaganda', I've said 'to spirit away'
Mimesis: Imitation, copying, reproduction. Representation as found in literary, artistic and dramatic works.
Momus: {487} The traditional Greek personification of mockery and ridicule.
Nomos: Law, convention, custom, 'that which is expected'.
Paradeigma: Not quite the English 'paradigm'. An example or pattern, especially an outstandingly clear or typical example. In Plato's terms, the 'ideal form'.
Philosopher: Literally, 'friend of wisdom'.
Plato's Divine Sign: {496} "A kind of inner voice which sometimes forbade me to do things" (Apology)
Polis: One of the constituent small, self-governing cities, islands or regions of ancient Greece. Translated here as city, State, society or community.
Psuche: Originally meaning 'breath of life', it is less necessarily religious than the English 'soul' as it covers the life principle, the personality, character and the seat of understanding. Translated here as 'mind' 'personality' and 'soul'.
Sophists: The professional teachers of public speaking, persuasion and what they, if not Plato, called 'wisdom'.
Techne: Technical ability, craft, skill, job, profession.


Based on the classic 1871 translation by Benjamin Jowett, this condensed version reduces the original 130,000 or so words down to a mere 15,000. In achieving this, it may sometimes give the impression that the text shows Socrates simply presenting ideas for others to agree to, but I hope to have included sufficient of the original's detailed arguments to retain an impression of the Socratic method of debate. The numbers in {brackets} are the approximate positions of page numbers in the 1578 Stephanus edition of Plato's works, commonly used as a reference.


Plato of Athens, 355BC
The Republic

"Until Philosophers are kings, or kings have the spirit of Philosophy, cities will never have rest from their troubles."

Socrates: What is Justice?
Polemarchus: It's giving everyone the good or evil they deserve, helping friends and harming enemies.
Thrasymachus: It's following the law, doing what the people in power say.
Socrates: Rulers aren't always right, and they're never happy. Let's try to design a perfectly just society. It'll have people sticking to the skill they're best at, supplying each other's needs. It'll have three classes, golden ruler-guardians, silver auxiliaries and iron and bronze artisans. We'll have no families, but bring up the best people, women as well as men, to be rulers. They'll avoid poetry, do physical training and study philosophy. We'll have justice because everyone sticks to their own job. We'll have the three classes in harmony, just like the mind has three parts: desire, reason and spirit.
Glaucon: So what's philosophy, then?
Socrates: It's pursuing wisdom. Trying to find the immutable, the perfect, the true form of reality. It's not like foolish sailors squabbling over who's to take the helm. It's not like taming a wild beast. Imagine a cave where prisoners have been held since birth, they'd believe that the shadows they see are reality. The true philosopher is like someone who escapes from that cave and sees real things, when he gets back, no-one believes him. We'll get this by careful education up to the age of fifty.
Glaucon: What about the perfect State?
Socrates: It isn't a timarchy built on ambition, nor money-based oligarchy, nor squabbling democracy or gangster-ish tyranny. Our perfect society of philosopher-kings may never exist on earth, but we can hope.

The Squashed Philosophers Edition of...

The Republic
Plato of Athens
Squashed version edited by Glyn Hughes © 2011

{327} Yesterday I went down to the harbour at Piraeus with Glaucon, the son of Ariston, to say a prayer to the Goddess and to see the festival. It was the first time that this festival has been held here in Athens, and I must say that the locals put on a wonderful procession, though the visitors from Thrace were equally, if not more, impressive. There was a new type of race where runners passed batons to each other- a wonderful sight indeed. Afterwards we went to Polemarchus' house with Adeimantus and Niceratus where we found Polemarchus' brothers Lysias and Euthydemus and his old father Cephalus, garlanded as if for a glorification, who said to me, "You don't visit us as often as you should, Socrates. I may be too old for physical pleasures, but I enjoy intelligent conversation all the more." "Actually," I said, "I enjoy talking to old men, for you have already trod the long road. Tell me, Is old age a difficult time of life, or not?"
"You know, Socrates, when we old men get together, most of them just grumble. They complain that they don't make love or drink or go to parties, and that their families don't respect them. But, in my opinion, they're putting the blame in the wrong place. I remember someone asking the old poet Sophocles whether he still enjoyed sex, he replied that he was glad to have left that frenzy behind him. A good reply I thought, for it is not age that matters but character. For a sensible, good-tempered man, old age is easy- otherwise youth as well as age is a burden."
{330} "I am afraid," I said, "that people will say you are content because you are rich."
"There is some truth in that, Socrates. But riches won't make a bad man happy, though wealth has its uses. It makes it easier to avoid cheating and lying, or the fear that one has left some sacrifice to God or debt to man unpaid."
"Fair enough, Cephalus," I said. "But surely doing right {dikaiosuene} is more than just being truthful and returning the things we have borrowed. What if I had borrowed a weapon from a friend who later went mad; surely I would be wrong to repay my debt to him?"
"Ah," said Cephalus, with a smile, "You can continue this discussion with Polemarchus, I must go to the sacrifice."
"Well then Polemarchus," said I, "as heir to this argument tell me what you think it is to do right."
"Simonides says that it is 'to give every man his due', and I think he puts it as well as can be"
"Simonides was a wise poet, but surely he didn't mean to return something dangerous to a madman?"
"I suppose not. I think he must have meant that we owe it to our friends to do good to them, not harm."
"So what then of our enemies? What is it that we should give to them?"
"If we're to give everyone their due, then it looks as if we must give enemies something appropriate; some injury perhaps."
"So Simonides says that justice is to benefit one's friends and harm ones enemies."
"I think so."
"So, what about a just man? In what activity will he help his friends and harm his enemies?"
"In wartime he'll fight against his enemies and for his friends."
"Good. But people who are healthy have no need for a physician. Those on land don't need a navigator. So, what use is justice in peacetime?"
"It is useful in business, where money is involved I suppose."
"Except," said I, "when we want to use money. If we're buying a horse or a ship, wouldn't a trainer or a sailor be a more useful partner?"
"Yes, but a just man is very useful if we want to put our money on deposit."
"So justice is useful if we want to put a pruning-knife or a lyre in a safe place, but if you want to use the things you'd better turn to the vine-dresser or the musician. You're saying that justice is useful when you're not doing things, and useless if you are?"
{334} "But there's another problem. Skill {techné} in defence goes with skill in attack. If our just man is good at keeping money, he'll be good at stealing it as well. Don't men often mistake friends for enemies in that sort of way?"
"I still think that justice is helping your friends and harming your enemies."
"So you still think the just man will do harm to some others? Tell me, if we harm a horse or a dog, do we make the creature better or worse?"
"Worse, certainly."
"Should we use justice, then, to make others less just? Should we use goodness {arete} to make others bad?
"No, I suppose not."
"Heat never cools things down, nor dryness make things wet. It is simply never right to harm anyone at any time. I think both you and I should agree that this view couldn't possibly originate with Simonides, or Bias or Pittacus, or any of the ancient sages. I think it more likely that the idea of helping friends and harming enemies must have come from someone wealthy and arrogant like Periander or Ismenias."
"Very likely."
"Well, we have seen what justice is not. Would anyone care to suggest what justice is?"
{337} All this time Thrasymachus had been trying to interrupt. Eventually he exploded at us;
"Ridiculous, childish nonsense Socrates, and you know it! If you're so clever, you tell us what justice is!"
I was quite taken aback. "Don't be so hard, Thrasymachus," I said, "you wouldn't get in our way if we were searching for gold, would you? Now, Justice is far more precious than gold- and we're doing our best to try and find it."
"Oh, Socrates." He said, with a sarcastic laugh. "I know you of old, with your shammed ignorance. Anything rather than a straight answer."
"And I know you, Thrasymachus. You ask someone what twelve is, then you forbid them to say it's twice six or three times four. I am always willing to listen, and if you listen too, you might learn." Glaucon broke in "Go on, give us your answer Thrasymachus."
"Listen then," he said, "I say that justice, or 'right', is simply what is in the interest of those in power."
"Explain?" I asked
"You know that some cities are tyrannies, some democracies and some are aristocracies. They all make laws in their own ways, but they all make laws to suit the interests of the ruling classes, and in every one those who don't agree are punished as 'wrongdoers'."
"And are these ruling classes infallible?" I asked, "Or do they sometimes make laws which are against their own interests?"
"Perhaps they do. But following the laws is what is right."
"So you're saying that the right thing to do is to support laws which are wrong?"
"Socrates! I expected this. You're distorting my argument with tricks."
"I think trying to shave a lion might be safer than trying to trick Thrasymachus!" I said.
{343} Thrasymachus didn't reply, instead he said:
"You need a nurse, Socrates, to wipe your nose. You don't even know the difference between sheep and a shepherd."
What makes you say that? I replied.
{345}"Shepherds protect their sheep so that they can make a profit out of them. Rulers are just the same, what they call 'justice' is simply making a profit from the people. You're a fool, Socrates. Who comes off best in business? Always the unjust man and he'll pay less income tax too. Always the unjust man gets more and the just man gets less. And its not only in business, the just man gets to be despised by his own friends and relations when he refuses to bend the rules."
"Tell me," I said, "do you really think that rulers actually enjoy being in authority?"
"I don't think it- I know it!"
"Very well. Haven't you noticed that people don't actually want authority, unless they get paid, either in money or in honours, for it?"
"Now, don't we differentiate between different crafts like medicine, or navigation, or wage-earning by their different skills?"
"We do."
"And when the doctor takes his fee, do we say that he is not a doctor, but a wage-labourer?"
"No, we don't.
{347}"Being a ruler is a craft like being a doctor or a navigator or a wage-labourer. If a man does it, we must pay him, but it is a craft in itself. Men don't want to be called mercenary or over-ambitious, which is why they think it dishonourable to accept command without some pressure and some reluctance; the penalty for refusal being to risk being governed by someone worse than themselves. That is what frightens honest men into accepting power. In a city {polis} of good men, there might be as much competition to avoid power as to get it. So, Glaucon, are you with me or with Thrasymachus?"
"I go for the just {arete} life. But we must try to convince Thrasymachus" He answered.
"But if we each keep making speeches, we'll end up needing a judge to decide. Perhaps we should continue as we have, by mutual agreement, then we can be our own judge and jury. Would that do?"
"I suppose so," said Thrasymachus.
"So, Thrasymachus, do you say that the unjust man will fight with anyone to get the greatest share."
"I do."
{352}"Thank you" I said "Now tell me, can gangs of thieves succeed if they treat each other unjustly?"
"I suppose not."
"So those who have a common purpose, whether it is just or not, must treat each other with justice."
"I won't annoy our friends by disagreeing."
"The next question is, whether the just are happier then the unjust."
"I'll begin with a question: Can you see, except with the eye?"
"Certainly not."
"Or hear, except with the ear?"
"So we can agree that the eye and the ear have their own proper functions which they excel at?"
"I understand your meaning."
"And can the eyes perform if they lack their proper excellence?"
"No. If they are blind they can't see."
"Well; hasn't the mind {psuche} its own special functions, like paying attention and deliberating, which it excels at?"
"So a bad mind must be incompetent at attention and deliberation, and a good mind good at them?"
"And don't we agree that justice is an excellence of the mind, and injustice a defect?"
"I admit that."
"Then the just mind and the just man will live well, and the unjust man will live ill? And he who lives ill is the reverse of happy? "
{354}"Then the just is happy, and the unjust miserable?"
"So be it."
"But happiness and not misery is profitable."
"Of course."
"Then, my blessed Thrasymachus, injustice can never be more profitable than justice."
"Go on, enjoy your holiday fun, Socrates." He replied.
"If I do enjoy it, its thanks to you Thrasymachus," I replied, "You've been much more pleasant since you stopped being angry. But I can't say that I do enjoy it; I'm like the greedy gourmet, always wanting to taste the next dish. We still haven't found out what justice is." Glaucon did not seem satisfied.
"You are not making much progress" He said, "Look, there are some good things which we want for their own sake, like pleasure, and some which we want for themselves and their consequences, like wisdom and sight. And there's a third sort, those that we don't want for themselves, but endure for the sake of their good consequences, like medical treatment or exercise. Which category are you going to put justice in?"
"In the highest class, among things we want both for themselves and for their consequences."
"That's not a popular opinion, Socrates. Most people would put Justice in the troublesome class of things we have to put up with for their consequences."
"Perhaps I am slow to learn," I said, "Please explain."
"Men know that it is a bad thing to suffer, so they make laws to protect themselves from each other, and they call these laws 'right'. Now, imagine how a man would behave with no laws to restrain him. You know the story of the Lydian shepherd who found a magic ring which made him invisible?"
{361} "Imagine a just man had such a ring. Would he have such iron will that he could resist taking whatever he wanted? I think not, no man is just of his own will, but only from fear of the law. So much for that, consider how the world views men. The unjust man, if he is skilled, will always appear to be in the right, he'll dishonestly cover up the most monstrous crimes and he'll always have a ready excuse if he's found out. The just man, on the other hand, will act for justice, not just the appearance of justice. And what will happen to him? He'll end up being blamed for others crimes, and like as not scourged and crucified."
I was about to reply, when Adeimantus interrupted; "You've missed the important point."
"Well," I said, "Your brother has already said enough to floor me."
"Nonsense! But listen to this; people say that the Gods decree justice and that those who live justly will be rewarded in the afterlife. They also say, along with Homer;
The Gods may be swayed in their judgement,
By sacrifice and humble prayers.
{365} ...now, what do you think is the effect of this talk? It teaches people that any injustice can be cancelled by being religious, or at least by pretending to be religious. What we need from you, Socrates, is a proof that justice is better than injustice, irrespective of what Gods or men may think, simply because of its effect on those who have it.
I was delighted, "How can I refuse? I've heard justice slandered, so I must come to her aid, but this is a difficult subject, and we're rather short-sighted. Perhaps it would be better if we looked at a bigger thing. Now, can't justice belong to either an individual or a community {polis}?"
"So, If we look at a community coming into existence, we might see how justice originates."
"I dare say."
{372} "Society originates because individuals can't supply all their own needs. Does that seem right?"
"I think so."
"And in the community things are exchanged so that both parties stand to gain."
"We need food and clothing and shelter, so, at least, a community will need a farmer, a weaver and a builder."
"And should each work at just one job {techne}, or should they split the work between them?
"Stick to one specialised skill, they'll be better at it."
"We'll need more citizens then, Adeimantus. The farmer will need smiths to make his tools and the weaver will need to rely on the shepherd. Our community has grown. Do you think it will be able to provide everything for itself?"
"I suppose not, it will need imports."
"So that means ships and sailors and merchants."
"Lots of them."
"And retailers, labourers, a market and a currency. Will that complete our community?"
"I think so."
"So how will our people live? They'll produce wheat and barley, wine, clothes, shoes and houses. They will serve fine cakes on leaves and relax on beds of myrtle."
"No luxuries?"
"I forgot; they'll have salt and oil and cheese and figs, country herbs and acorns to roast by the fire."
{373} "Really!" said Glaucon, "that might do for pigs; people need proper comforts like furniture, sweets, art and prostitutes."
"If they want luxury, they'll need more people; painters, musicians, seamstresses and such. That'll mean more land, and trying to get it from our neighbours, especially if they want unlimited material possessions too, will mean war."
"It will."
{374} "So that means a defence force."
"Can't the citizens fight for themselves?"
"Haven't we already agreed that people work best if they stick to one trade? So those who guard the city must be professionals at that trade."
"They'll need to be like well-bred dogs; strong, courageous and high-spirited."
"But Glaucon," I said "Won't that make them aggressive? We need them to be gentle to their fellow-citizens and only dangerous to their enemies. Don't you think that they also need the spirit of a philosopher?"
"What do you mean?"
"A dog knows the difference between friend and foe by using knowledge, and is not philosophy the love of knowledge?"
"So we must give our Guardians a philosophical spirit."
"Quite so, and that means we must educate them. The beginning is everything, and we must begin young when every impression makes its mark."
"How will we do that?"
{380} "By persuading their mothers and nurses to tell them stories. But we must beware of those traditional tales that portray Gods and heroes as dishonest, like the story of Hera being tied up by her son, or any of Homer's Battles of the Gods. God must always be represented as he alone really is, perfect in goodness and beauty, so that our Guardians can grow up pious and honest.
"I agree. This can be made law."
"We need to reject some passages of the old poets, like Homer's;
His soul took wing for Hades,
Bewailing the youth left behind.
For such will only teach that the afterlife is a terror, and who can be brave if they fear death?"
"Of course."
"For the common people self-control means obedience to their rulers, and restraining the desire for food, drink and sex. So we may approve of things in Homer like;
The Achaeans moved valiantly forward,
In silent obedience to their officers."
"We certainly must."
{393} "Next we must consider literature. Stories are either narrative or representation {mimesis}, or both."
"I can't say I see what you mean."
"I am being rather obscure. You know how writers and poets sometimes include an imitation of some other person speaking?"
"Surely it is harmful for a good person to recite the words of a madman, a slave or a fool?"
"I suppose it is."
"Well then, we can't permit our Guardians to take part in any plays and readings other than those which present the persona of good and noble people."
"It would be rather unseemly."
{398} "In our State each will stick solely to his own trade. You won't find the shoemaker turning lawyer, or the soldier trying to run a business. If we find an actor who can pretend to be all sorts of characters, we will honour him with garlands, and then throw him out."
"Given the choice, that is what to do."
"Next we need to consider music; only brave and noble harmonies must be permitted. You're the musician, Glaucon, how do we do that?"
"The Dorian and Phrygian harmonies would suit. The Lydian is too miserable, even for women, while the Ionian and Phrygian are too languid."
"Good. So we won't need complicated instruments like harps or flutes, we can just have the lyre and the cithara, though shepherds in the country might have some sort of pipe."
"We won't need as many instrument makers either!"
"When we have simple beauty in music and literature and all the other arts, when artists and craftsmen see the real nature of beauty and allow their art to blow across our young men like breezes from a healthy land, then we'll have beauty and goodness in character. This stage of education, Glaucon, is crucial.
"I see."
"And will not those who appreciate beauty recognise it in others and so fall in love?"
{403} "Certainly. But such sharp pleasure, Socrates, leads to sexual desire, with all its madness."
"So it does. We will make a law that a man may embrace and kiss his boyfriend, if his friend allows it, but no more."
"I agree."
"Physical education is next. My opinion is that a sound body does not of itself make a sound personality {psuche}, but a sound mind will make the best of any physique. What do you think?"
"I agree."
"To begin with diet; we forbid drunkenness, of course; a Guardian is the last person who should ever be insensible. Homer never mentions spices, every athlete knows to abstain from them, so I trust you'll agree with me that rich Syracusan cooking or Attic confectionery are best avoided?"
"I agree."
"What about Corinthian girlfriends?"
"Best avoided, too."
"Elaborate food causes disease, just as elaborate music causes indiscipline."
"Very true."
{405} "And indiscipline and disease lead to law-courts and surgeries."
"It is bound to happen."
"And when people start to need lawyers and doctors, we have conclusive proof that the education system is worthless. Men in the courts before snoozing juries, trying to get remedies by legal trickery, is a proof positive that they don't have enough education to arrange their own lives properly. Just as disgraceful is going to the doctor, not with any real malady, but because they've filled their bodies with garbage, which the pompous medical profession manages to name as some new-fangled disease."
"But surely we'll need some doctors and lawyers in our State?"
"Certainly," I said, "but they will have to be good ones."
"That rather depends on what you mean by 'good'."
"A good doctor will be one who has, not just knowledge of medical science, but a wealth of experience of all diseases- perhaps even of his own. For a judge in the courts, on the other hand, experience in his field, experience of wrongdoing, would be a bad thing. A good judge would be an older man who spent his youth far away from wickedness, for evil can never know either itself or goodness. We need a good man to make a wise judge.
"Our young Guardians will have the self-control to do without law-courts, and if we succeed with their physical education, they'll have no need of doctors either. That is why I say that the purpose of both physical and mental education is to train the mind."
"How so?"
"You must have noticed that a life spent in physical exercise leads to an over-tough character, while purely literary training leads to a soft and over-sensitive type?
"I agree."
{411} "Our Guardians must have both elements in proper harmony, achieved through education. I don't need to spell out every detail of their singing classes, athletics and so forth do I?"
"It's quite straightforward."
"So? What next?" I said, "We must decide who among the Guardians is to govern our State."
"I suppose so."
"It's obvious that the elder must govern the younger."
"That is quite obvious."
"They'll need to be intelligent, capable and willing to devote their lives to the interests of the community."
"Quite so."
"And we'll have to keep a close watch on them in case their high principles are stolen or spirited away {Goeteuó}."
"What do you mean by that?"
"I was being rather theatrical. By 'stolen' I mean the process by which people give up their beliefs when confronted by clever argument. By 'spirited away', I mean how people change their opinions when under the magical spell of pleasure or panic."
"Yes, it does work like a spell."
{414} "If we want to see if a colt is nervous, we expose him to alarming noises. We must do the same with our young Guardians; expose them to pleasure and fear, testing them like gold is tested in the furnace. That is how we will choose which of the Guardians is to be a ruler and which is to assist the rulers as an Auxiliary."
"That would be the way!" He said.
"Now, I wonder if we could contrive some sort of 'glorious myth' which would convince the whole community."
"What sort of myth."
"Nothing new- the sort of fairy story the ancients tell, and people still half-believe."
"You seem reluctant to tell us what it is."
"When you hear what I'm going to suggest, you'll see why I hesitate."
"Well, are you going to tell us or not?"
{415} "We shall tell our citizens this tale;
Ye who guard our city, think not that your youth was aught but mere appearance, for you were formed and fed in the womb of mother earth who sent you out to protect this land, your own mother, and all its citizens, your own brothers.Ye citizens are brothers all, but as God fashioned you he mingled gold to some, silver to others and iron and bronze to the rest. The Rulers have gold; the Auxiliaries silver, farmers and artisans have iron and bronze. You are all of one family and must strive that your children find each their proper place. If golden parents see a son of iron and bronze, they must harden their hearts and give him up to the life of husbandman or artisan. If the son of craftworkers has the touch of gold, raise him then to the honour of a Guardian. This is as nature has ordered, for prophecy tells that when men of iron or bronze guard the State, it will be destroyed entire.
That is the story. Do you think they will believe it?"
"Not in the first generation," he said, "but the next may."
"That will do, even a rumour can inspire people. But, let us return to earth. Once our Guardians have a safe place to found a community, they will need houses, not as men of means, but as soldiers."
"What is the difference?"
"I will explain. If a shepherd mistreats his sheep-dogs they will not protect the sheep. Likewise, we must prevent our Auxiliaries, who are strong, from becoming savage tyrants rather than partners and friends. Education is a start, but their material needs matter too."
"I see. So how should they live?"
"They will have no private property. They will eat together, and their houses will be open to all. We'll tell them that they have no need of gold or silver because mere earthly wealth cannot compare to the gold in their hearts. Shall we make this law?"
"I think not, Socrates." Said Adeimantus; "They're hardly going to be happy, living like that. These Guardians seem more like hired watchmen."
{421} "Yes." I replied. "They won't be able to afford holidays abroad or fancy women. But I am not trying to promote the happiness of any one class, but of the whole community. So, don't make us dress our farmers in robes and crowns, or let our potters laze around drinking. The important thing is that each person does their own job, and does it in the very best way possible."
"I suppose that is fair."
"You know, there is another thing which can corrupt people."
"What is that?"
"Wealth and poverty. Wealth makes men idle and careless; poverty makes them slovenly and rebellious. So our Guardians must try to prevent them."
"I agree," he replied, "but here's another question, how will a community with no wealth fight a war if they need to?"
"Adeimantus," I said, "don't you think our well-trained soldiers will be a match for any number of podgy conscripts?"
"In any case, as we have no need for gold, it would be an easy matter to gain allies on the promise that they take the spoils of war."
"At the heart of all this is education. So often looked on as unimportant child's play, it is essential for a sound State that children are brought up with sound character. Now, do we need any more laws?"
"What about business transactions, contracts, excise duties and such?"
{427} "Good men need no orders. But there is one further matter we ought to consider."
"What is that?"
"How we should order our places of worship, our rites for the dead and our prayers to the powers of the otherworld. But religion is not our business, I think we can follow tradition and leave such things to the Oracle of Apollo. So, with that, Adeimantus, I think we have a city founded for you. Now you and Polemarchus can look at it and see for yourselves where justice lies."
"This isn't fair, Socrates." Said Glaucon; "You promised to answer the problem yourself."
"That's true." I said. "I remember. But you must all help me."
"We will."
{428} "If we have founded our State perfectly then it must surely contain the four virtues of wisdom, courage, self-discipline and justice."
"The first of the four that I can see is wisdom, but there is something odd about it."
"What is that?"
"It is clear that wise judgement comes from knowledge, but there are many sorts of knowledge. We can't say that wisdom in the city as a whole comes from, say, the knowledge our carpenters have of woodwork. So where shall we find it?"
"With the Guardians."
"Good. Though they are the smallest class, it is they who rule with wisdom and so make the whole State wise."
"A satisfactory answer."
"Courage is easy to find, it depends on those who defend the community. Our City is therefore brave because of knowledge of what is to be feared."
"I don't understand that, can you explain."
"Courage is keeping safe that which you have learned about what it is that is worth fearing, and never ever being tempted to fear anything else. It's a bit like preparing cloth properly so that the dye will never fade, even with soap. Pleasure and desire can be stronger at washing-out the soul than any detergent."
"I think that's a fair explanation."
"Next to self-discipline, or 'mastering yourself', as people say."
"But to 'master oneself' is absurd. If you are master of yourself, then, presumably, you must also be subject to yourself and one person can't be both master and subject."
"I suppose not."
"I think what is meant is that there is good and bad in everyone and to 'master yourself' is to have the good part in control of the bad."
"Quite true."
"In our State the mean desires of children, slaves, women and the lower classes will be controlled by the wisdom of the superior rulers."
{432} "And, as all the citizens agree about who should rule, we have self-discipline in the whole State, not just the rulers."
"I agree."
"Good. Now we must try to hunt down justice. Can you see where she is hiding?"
"I wish I could, you'll have to show me where to look."
"Tally-ho Glaucon! I think I can see some tracks!
"We really have been stupid, our quarry is right in front of us. Didn't we agree that in our State each person was to stick to their own job?"
"We did."
"So perhaps justice is simply minding ones own business?"
"Look at it another way. Won't our rulers administer justice, and try to prevent one man stealing the belongings of another."
"Which is another way of saying that justice is keeping what is properly one's own."
"So that is justice, and in our community each person keeping to their own class will mean justice and stability for the whole State."
"I agree."
{435} "Don't be too sure just yet. We have more to investigate. We've worked our way down from the city to the individual, let's try looking at it the opposite way."
"If the city has three types of citizen, perhaps we'll find that each person has three parts to his personality."
{436} "When we say that Thracians are fierce, Athenians clever or Phoenicians greedy aren't we describing the people as well as the nation?"
"What's difficult is to see whether fierceness or ingenuity or whatever are different parts of the mind, or whether the one mind does them all."
"How will we solve that?"
"Well, one thing can't act in opposite ways at the same time, can it? If you're standing still but waving your arm, we don't puzzle over whether you're moving or not, we say your body is stationary and your arm is moving."
"That's true."
"Now, wouldn't you say that things like assent and dissent, attraction and aversion are opposites?"
"And can we say that these simple desires form a class, of which desire for food and drink are probably the simplest?"
"I think so."
"Would you agree that thirst is simply desire for drink. It's not desire for any particular drink."
"So," said Glaucon, "each desire has its own natural object, any qualification, like wanting a hot drink, is something added on to it."
"Quite so. Now, isn't it the case that people sometimes do things they don't want to?" Like Leontin the son of Aglaion, who blamed his eyes for forcing him to stare at the corpses of executed criminals when he didn't want to."
"I know that story."
"And what about a man who thinks he is wrong? How can that happen? There must be some larger thing in the mind that chooses between different desires. That thing is what we call 'reason'"
"Just as our State had populace, auxiliaries and rulers working in harmony, doesn't it begin to look as if the mind has three similar elements; desire, reason, and some third one which rules them both?
"The third one is Spirit."
"You can see that in children. They're often full of spirit, long before they develop any powers of reason."
"It has been a rough voyage, Glaucon, but I think we have our answer. There are the same three elements in the personality as there are in the State. Now, do you remember, we agreed that the State had justice when each part carried out its proper function?"
"I remember."
"Can we now see that justice exists in the mind when each faculty acts in its proper way? Desire must be controlled by reason and Spirit rule over all. The just man will have the three parts of his mind in tune like the notes of a scale; he will live at ease with himself. Have we found justice now?
"I think so."
"Good." I said. "And can we agree that injustice is like war between the parts of the mind, a sort of disease?"
"It must be."
{445} "So, we are left to ask whether it pays to act justly, irrespective of appearances, or whether it's better to do wrong if you can get away with it. Now, there are four types of flawed society..."
At this point, I overheard Polemarchus whispering to Adeimantus, "Shall we ask him, then?"
"Ask what?"
"You never finished telling us what you meant by saying that citizens in our perfect community should hold things in common."
"Ah," I said, "I thought I'd got away. But you're stirring up a right Hornet's nest."
"How are they going to make children?"
"I will tell you, but, to be honest, I don't know if I'm right or wrong on this one."
"We won't reproach you."
"I only hope fate won't punish me for my ideas."
Glaucon laughed. "We absolve you, do go on."
{452} "I am going to suggest a rather novel idea; that we educate and train women the same as men. Does that seem ridiculous?"
"It seems to follow."
"I even mean that women, not just young ones but elderly women too, would even train naked in the gym, just like men do now."
"People would think that absurd, by today's standards."
"This is not a joke. We must ask, is the female of the species naturally capable of doing the same things as the male? Even being soldiers?"
"We agreed that different natures work best at different jobs. People will say that men and women have different natures, and so should follow different occupations."
"They will say that."
{455} "This is no answer, just a debating trick. We need to consider what we mean by 'different natures'. If a bald man is a good shoemaker, does that mean that a long-haired man, part of whose nature is opposite of bald, can't be so as well? Of course not, what matters is nature in relation to a particular. Women bear children, of course, and are generally better at cooking and weaving, but don't some men excel at cooking and weaving too?"
"True," he replied, "a good many women are better at a good many things than a good many men. Though, overall, men do tend to be better."
"Quite so. But the sort of skills needed for administering a State are found as often in women as in men."
{456} "One woman may have a talent for music, or medicine, or soldiering, another for medicine or philosophy. And some women will be fit to be Guardians. Just as the Guardians will be the best citizens, the women Guardians will be the best women. Even if we might have to give women lighter duties they can still play a full part."
"I agree entirely."
"Well, I seem to have swum through that wave without drowning."
"And it was a big wave!"
"Wait until you see the next one! I am going to suggest that the Guardians wives and children should be shared by all, with no one knowing whom their parents or their children are. I may be day-dreaming, but I think it would be for the best."
"Not many people will agree."
"As a law-giver, you have chosen your Guardians, men and women, and allowed them to mix freely, do you not think this will lead to sexual unions?"
"Of course it will, sex is a bigger inspiration than logic."
{459} "Now, Glaucon, I know that you keep dogs and pet birds at your house. How do you breed from them?"
"Are you going to suggest that we breed people just as I breed dogs, by selecting only the finest to mate?"
"You have seen my meaning. If we are to have a real pedigree herd of Guardians, only the best men must mate with the best women."
"That will not be easy to arrange."
{460} "True. So we will have mating festivals to bring our brides and grooms together. There will be ceremonies and songs and a cunning lottery, fixed by the Rulers, to decide who is fit to mate. In this way, the inferior Guardians will blame the lottery instead of the Rulers."
"It would have to be that way."
"The children will be taken away to be nursed and educated away from their parents. Any inferior, or deformed, children can be quietly disposed of."
"Mothers will have an easy life!"
"They'll have to be in the prime of life to breed, say from twenty-five to fifty-five for men and twenty to forty for woman. Past those ages they can have sex with whoever they want, unless they're closely related, but they had better take precautions to avoid children."
"If children and wives are in common, they won't know who they are related to."
"They should be able to work it out from their ages, or which group they belong to, or something."
"I see."
{462} "So that about covers family life. Next, we must see if we have built a good and practical State."
"Now, is there anything worse than a fragmented State?"
"Our State will have no 'yours' and 'mine' when people live in common. True, it will have Rulers and subjects but not as master and slave as in other States, but like brothers. There will be no reason for anyone to think of their own success or failure, only that of the State. And, most of all, everyone will feel they are one family because they have wives and children in common."
"I see."
"And won't litigation and family quarrels disappear when all things are in common?"
"They will."
{465} "Arguments can be settled with fists, there and then, as they arise."
"Good. It will help our men keep fit."
"Older men will have authority over the younger ones."
"Then there are all the other little evils we will be rid of; like poverty and debt."
{466} "You remember that our aim was not to make the Guardian class happy, but to promote happiness in the whole community."
"And we agree that there is nothing unwomanly in women sharing the occupations of men, even in war?
"Quite so."
"Warfare is the easiest to imagine. Children will go, carefully protected, to watch the battles of their elders, so that they'll learn about warfare, and their parents will fight all the harder."
{468} "What about the actual fighting?"
"Any soldier who deserts should be demoted to a farmer or artisan, and any who are captured should be left to their fate."
"I agree."
"The brave should be honoured with feasts and crowns, and, you may not agree with this, given something extra."
"What's that?"
"Be allowed to kiss whichever boy or girl they fancy- that would encourage bravery!"
"A wonderful idea!"
"Those who die in battle will, we believe, become holy spirits to guard the earth, as Hesiod teaches."
"We could believe that."
"War should be conducted decently; no stripping of corpses, no burning of houses, our enemies should be treated with respect and no Greek should ever be taken into slavery."
"I agree entirely."
{470} "And we won't desecrate our temples by dedicating weapons in them."
"Certainly not."
"And if we suffer nasty civil wars with fellow Greeks we will not treat them as we would treat foreigners, but try to punish only the guilty minority."
"These are good rules, Socrates," said Glaucon, "but you still haven't shown that such a State would be possible in practice."
{472} "Ha! I've just escaped two waves, and now you throw the biggest of all at me!"
"No excuses, Socrates! Reply!"
"Well, let me remind you that we began by looking into justice."
"When we find out what justice is, do you expect we'll find a man who matches it perfectly, or will you be happy if he just approximates to it?"
"That would do."
"Then what we're looking for is an ideal pattern {paradeigma}. Just as a painter might portray the perfect man, we don't say that he is a poor painter if that man cannot be found. We've been painting a word-picture of an ideal state. Is our portrait any the worse if that state can't be found?"
"I can accept that."
"Now, I happen to think that there is one single change that needs to be made to a State for our ideal to be realised."
"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 who pursue one to the exclusion of the other are made to stand aside, cities will never have rest from their evils, nor humanity itself I believe. Only then will this our State have a possibility of life and behold the light of day."
{474} "That is hardly going to make you popular. You'd better try to convince us."
"Some are naturally fitted for philosophy and leadership. Let me explain. If a man loves something, he must feel affection for all of it, not love one part to the exclusion of the rest."
"I'm not quite with you."
"Really Glaucon!" I said, "Whenever you take a fancy to a pretty boy you call a small nose charming and a big one noble, a dark complexion manly and a fair one divine. You always manage to find beauty in the whole."
"Its true."
"Just like wine-lovers always find a pretext to recommend their favourite tipple, or those who love power will accept deference from anyone, no matter how petty."
"I know."
"So, the Philosopher's passion is for wisdom of every kind- he's ready to learn and never satisfied"
"Lots of people enjoy finding things out. Which are the true philosophers?"
"Those who love to seek the truth."
"Right, But what does that mean?"
{476} "Beauty and ugliness are opposites, they are two. So as they are two, each of them is single."
"That is so."
"The same is true of justice and injustice, good and evil. Each of them is single, but they seem to be a many because they appear mixed up with actions and material things. There are those who love looking at beautiful things, but there are few whose minds are capable of seeing the essential nature of beauty itself."
"The man who recognises beautiful things, but cannot see beauty itself- is he awake or just dreaming?"
"I should say he was dreaming."
"What about the man who knows beauty in itself, yet does not confuse it with particular things which share it?"
"He is very much awake."
"So, we can call his state of mind 'knowledge'; and that of the other man just 'opinion'?"
"Let us ask, does the man who knows, know something or nothing?"
"He knows something."
"Something which is, or which is not?"
{477} "Something which is; how could he know something which was not?"
"So, what fully is, is fully knowable, while what in no way is is entirely unknowable?"
"Good. Then since knowledge is related to what is and ignorance to what is not, then isn't it the case that what lies between them must be opinion?"
"Of course."
"Now, I identify a faculty by observing its field and its effects, I call faculties the same if their field and their effects are the same. Tell me, do you think knowledge is a faculty?"
"It is the most powerful of all faculties."
"And is opinion a faculty?"
"Yes, it is the power which enables us to hold opinions."
{478} "But you agreed that knowledge and opinion were different. If the field of knowledge is of what is, then what is the field of opinion. Surely an opinion cannot be about nothing?"
"No, that is impossible."
"So what is opinion? Do you think it is darker than knowledge, but clearer than ignorance?"
"Very much so."
"It remains for us to discover something that has its share both of being and not-being; if we find it we can fairly say it is the object of opinion. Agreed?"
{479} "Now, lets go back to our friend who denies that there is beauty or justice in itself and ask him 'Mightn't there be a beautiful thing which also seems ugly? Or a righteous act which seems unjust?'"
"Quite possibly."
"What about things which are double something else? Aren't they equally half something? And things big or small, light or heavy, can't they also be their opposites?"
"They are ambiguous, like riddles- one can't think of them definitely either as being or as not-being. They are not so dark as to be less real than what is not, or so clear as to be more real than what is. Our conclusion, therefore, seems to be that the conventional views held by most people about beauty and the rest hover somewhere between what is not and what fully is."
"So those who have eyes for the multiplicity of things, but are unable to see beauty or justice itself are lovers of opinion, rather than lovers of wisdom or philosophers. Do you think they will be annoyed with us for saying so?"
"They have no right to be annoyed at the truth."
{484} "If philosophers understand the eternal and immutable, while non-philosophers are lost in multiplicity and change, which of the two should be Guardians of the State, able to guard its laws and customs?"
"What would be a reasonable line to take?"
{485} "'Blind' is how to describe those who have no true knowledge of reality, no clear standard of perfection to which they can turn. Should we choose a blind man to keep an eye on things? Or shall we prefer the philosophers, who know true reality and have practical experience?"
"It would be absurd not to choose the philosophers. But what other characteristics should he have?"
"Truthfulness. And hatred of untruth. For is there anything closer to wisdom than truth?"
"That follows."
"He will be self-controlled. Never grasping about money, with no touch of meanness or pettiness of mind."
{486} "Very true."
"And if a man has greatness of mind and breadth of vision to contemplate all reality, can he regard human life as anything of any great consequence?"
"So he won't think death anything to be afraid of."
"There is something else; whether it learns easily or not. You can't expect anyone to love a thing that he does with pain and difficulty. We must demand a good memory."
"Yes, certainly."
{487} "So, memory, readiness to learn, breadth of vision, a friend of truth and justice, courage, self-control. Add grace and a sense of proportion. With education and maturity to round them off, aren't they the only people to whom you would entrust your State?"
"Momus himself could find no fault there."
Adeimantus interrupted, "Socrates! Your arguments are like a game of draughts where the expert hems in the unskilled player. It might be impossible to contradict you at any point, but each leads us further astray. In practice, people who study philosophy too long become weird, roguish creatures, useless to society."
"There is some truth in that, but let me give you an illustration."
"A thing you never normally do!"
{488} "Imagine the master of a ship- larger and stronger than his crewmen, but a bit deaf and short-sighted and no great seaman. The crew quarrel as to who is to control the ship, the factions attack each other and even attack the master. They don't know that there is an art of navigation, they've never learned it and don't even consider it something that can be taught. They don't know that a true navigator must study the seasons, the sky, the stars and the winds. So they fight for who should take control, and call the true navigator a useless star gazer. You must understand that I'm trying to show the present attitude of society towards the true philosopher."
"Yes, I understand."
"It is no surprise that people don't value their philosophers, because they don't make use of them. Those who need guidance, from a navigator or a physician, should ask for it. You won't be wrong if you compare our politicians with the sailors in my story."
"I see."
"As to the idea that philosophers are useless rogues, I think I can show you that this is not philosophy's fault."
"Yes, please do."
{490} The philosopher follows truth alone, and where truth leads, won't a company of evils follow?
{491} "A seed, or an animal, will only flourish in its true environment, in an alien soil it can become a dangerous weed. The philosophical spirit needs the right environment to develop properly."
{492} "There are many influences which destroy the best of natures. Some people say our youngsters are corrupted by learning speech-making from the Sophists, but isn't it really public opinion which ruins them?
{493} "How."
"Like the person who feeds a wild beast every day and becomes familiar with its noises and actions, those Sophists teach nothing but popular opinion, they learn how to recognise what the crowd like, and they'll pander to it. They call what annoys the beast 'bad', and what pleases it 'good', but they've no knowledge of the beast's real nature. Could you trust such a teacher?"
"Not really."
{494} "So, can those who follow the opinions of the crowd ever love philosophy?"
"Surely not."
"Our philosopher should be quick-witted, brave and generous, and with such gifts he's bound to be a leader, and his fellow-citizens will want to use him for their own purposes."
"They will."
"They will flatter him and be submissive. Won't he become high-and-mighty and full of excessive pride? And won't he be distracted from philosophy?"
"He will."
{495} "So philosophy is abandoned by those who would be her true lovers, while she, like an orphan, suffers at the hands of second-rate interlopers."
{496} "Abused as it is, philosophy still has a high reputation- so that stunted minds crave it. Like the bald tinker who has got out of prison and come into money- he buys a new suit and sets out to marry the boss's daughter because her family have fallen on hard times."
"A fair comparison."
"The true philosopher is rare. They survive only if circumstances keep them away from politics and public, like our disabled friend Theages. Perhaps I shouldn't mention it, because it is so odd, but my own saviour is an inner voice that tells me what not to do. Without such luck, the best a man can hope to do is to survive by hiding behind a wall, living decently to depart gracefully.
"To do just that would be a great achievement."
"I think we've said enough about the bad reputation of philosophy, or have you anything more to add?"
"No, nothing more. But I'd like to know which sort of society would suit philosophical rule."
"There isn't one, which is just my complaint. I'm going to be bold and suggest that society tackle philosophy in a new way."
{498} "At present those who take it up are quite young and study it before they go on to make a living. The better way is the opposite- learn a little philosophy in youth, then in later life, when they've done with politics and war, they should devote their energies to it. With that their life, and their destiny after death, will be a happy one."
"A bold idea."
"There can never be a perfect society until some chance compels the uncorrupted philosophers, now called useless, to take a part in politics, or until providence inspires our rulers to love true philosophy."
"I agree, but the common people won't."
Adeimantus, most people are sufficiently easy-going to accept wise ideas, as long as they are offered honestly, rather than being bullied, as long as they concentrate on facts, not just personalities."
"The philosophers eyes are turned away from the petty quarrels of men, to the realm of fixed realities, where all is order and justice. Like an artist, our philosopher must begin by wiping the slate of human habits and society clean."
"That sounds impossible."
{502} "Difficult, I admit, but might just one individual achieve it in the whole of time?"
"But just one is enough. And would it be an impossible miracle if others agreed?"
"I think not."
"So, it seems that our proposed State would be the ideal and that to put it into practice would be difficult, but not impossible."
"A reasonable conclusion."
"So, What are the studies these saviours of society are to follow?"
"Yes, that's our next question."
{503} "They must love their country, be tested in both pleasure and pain and in intellectual studies. To learn justice, self-control and wisdom. They must know what is good."
"What is 'good'?"
"Most ordinary people think that pleasure is the good, while the more sophisticated think it is knowledge."
"But those who hold the latter view are compelled to say that it is knowledge of the good."
"Which is quite absurd."
"An absurdity we can't avoid. Even those who think pleasure is good are compelled to say that some pleasures are bad, thus admitting that the same things are both good and bad. The subject is controversial."
"It is indeed. What do you think is the Good, Socrates?"
"Do you really want a blind, halting display from me when you can have nice clear accounts from other people?"
"Now, don't give up Socrates!"
"I shall try, but I fear it is beyond me. But I will tell you, if you like, about something which seems to me to be like a child of the Good."
{507} "Go on..."
"Do hearing and sound need anything else to enable them to be connected?"
"But have you noticed that sight and visible objects do need something else?"
"What is that?"
"It is what you call light. And which of the heavenly bodies is responsible for that?"
"You mean the sun."
{509} "Yes. The sun is not itself sight, it is the cause of sight. And the sun, you will agree, also causes the process of generation, growth and nourishment, without itself being such a process."
"Apply the analogy to the mind- The Good may be said to be the source of, not only of the intelligibility of objects of knowledge, but of their being and reality. Yet it is not in itself reality, but is beyond it and superior to it in dignity and power."
"Please go on, if you haven't already finished."
"I'm afraid I must leave a lot out, but I will continue..."
"Go on."
{510} "Let me sketch out this diagram.

The vertical line divides what we know of from how we know it. In the Visible Realm are the things we can observe, the lowest of which are mere shadows or reflections which we know to be illusions. Physical things we comprehend through belief or opinion. In the higher Realm of the Intelligible, we have knowledge of the true essences, the 'Forms' of reality. The lower type of knowledge of these is not built on opinion, but is forced on us."
"You mean through geometry or science?"
"Quite so. The higher form of knowledge is reached through pure reason, starting with knowledge of the Forms of Reality and ending with them."
"I think I understand."
"Of course, it is not really like lines in a diagram, I'm speaking about lines in the same sort of theoretical way that geometers do. All the same, you can see that the vertical line shows a scale of clarity of understanding; from intelligence, then reason, then belief down to illusion."
"I see."
{515} "I want to go on to picture the enlightenment or ignorance of the human condition as follows: Imagine an underground chamber in which are prisoners who have been chained since childhood with their legs and necks fastened so that they can only look straight ahead. Behind them is a road along which all sorts of men pass behind that a fire so that the prisoners see in front of them the shadows cast by the passers-by and the things they carry. "
"An odd picture, and an odd sort of prisoners."
"They are like us. If they could talk to each other wouldn't they assume that the shadows were the real thing and that any voices they hear belonged to the shadows?"
{516} "Suppose one of them were let loose and was dragged up, probably unwillingly, into the sunlight. He would be so dazzled by the glare that he wouldn't be able to see a thing."
"Certainly not at first."
"But he would grow accustomed to the light- at first he would see the shadows, then reflections in water and such, and at last objects themselves, the heavenly bodies and finally the sun."
"That must come."
"When he thought of his fellow-prisoners, and what passed for wisdom there, don't you think he would congratulate himself on his good fortune?"
"Very much so."
"If he then went back to his old seat in the cave, wouldn't he be blinded by the darkness?"
{517} "And while he was getting used to the shadows, wouldn't he make a fool of himself with the other prisoners?"
"He certainly would."
"Now, my dear Glaucon, consider this in relation to what I said before about the Sun and the Line- you won't go wrong if you connect the upper world of sight with the upward progress of the mind into the intelligible reason. That is my interpretation, what the truth is may only be known to the God."
"I agree, so far as I can understand you."
"It will not be strange for anyone who descends from contemplation of the divine to human life and its ills that they should blunder and seem foolish, for people can be blinded by light as much as by darkness."
"You put it reasonably."
"You see, the capacity for knowledge is innate to each man's mind. We must dismiss the idea of some teachers that they can put into the mind knowledge that was not already there- as if they could put sight into blind eyes. There could be a better skill- to make the mind turn away from the world of change and look straight at reality, at the brightest of all realities which we call the Good. Isn't that so?"
"Most societies today are shadow battles and struggles for power, as if it were some great prize. The better is quite different; the State is best ruled and most tranquil when leaders come to their duties with least enthusiasm."
"Quite so."
"We must now consider how such men should be trained, how they can be led up to the light. And it's not something we can toss an oyster-shell to decide."
{522} "Haven't we already decided on physical training, music and literature?"
"Yes, but we shan't find what we want there, practical skills are rather mediocre. But there is one thing which all trades make use of."
"Something very ordinary- the ability to count and calculate. Few people see how it can draw men towards reality."
"Some things can be accepted as they appear, but others demand thought because our sensations can't be entirely trusted."
"Like seeing things at a distance, or drawings."
"No, you don't understand. Look at my three fingers here. Each one is just a finger. But as soon as we ask 'is it fat or thin' or 'pale or dark' we are confronted by opposites, and we have to decide between them."
"I think I see."
{524} "Our sensations tells us that something is soft or hard, light or heavy, but we have to puzzle out what, in reality, each of these means."
"I understand."
"So, arithmetic will be the first study on our curriculum. Not that our students will be concerned with accountancy or commerce, they are above that, but to fit them for war."
{526} "Excellent."
"Arithmetic is a wonderful way to lead the mind upwards by forcing it to contemplate what numbers actually are."
"That's true."
"What's more, training in calculation leads to quick-wittedness all round."
"It does."
"The next subject is plane geometry."
"That is certainly useful in war, for pitching camp and organising manoeuvres."
"True, but that is the mere geometry of everyday life. We are concerned with the squares and other figures which pure geometry contemplates as perfect and eternal."
"I see."
"The third subject should be astronomy, do you agree?"
"Certainly, knowledge of the seasons is valuable to the farmer, sailor and soldier alike."
{528} "Really, Glaucon! You want to seem practical. How amusing!"
"I prefer to analyse things my own way."
"One moment! I was wrong to put astronomy next. We should have included the geometry of solid figures."
"You're changing your mind."
"In my haste I overlooked solid geometry because it is such an underdeveloped science, but I think we should put it third and astronomy fourth."
"You've attacked me for being practical, but even I can see that astronomy makes the mind look upwards."
"You haven't understood. Do you think that staring at the ceiling develops the mind?"
"So what does?"
"The beautiful stars are the finest visible things. But they are far inferior to the true reality of the heavens which is found in the mathematics of their motion."
"You are asking more of astronomy than is actually in it."
"Yes. What else shall I demand too much from?"
"I don't know."
"Just as our eyes are made for astronomy, so our ears are made for musical harmony."
"You don't mean people torturing strings."
{531} "No. We should consult the followers of Pythagoras; they look for the numerical relationships behind audible concords, even if they don't go much deeper than that."
"It is a lot of work."
"This is merely the beginning. How can anyone acquire knowledge if they can't argue logically?"
"They can't."
"Just like our prisoners left the cave to see the visible world, so dialectic discussion is the way to lead up from our ordinary learning to grasp by pure thought what the Good is."
"I'm afraid, Glaucon, that you won't be able to follow. All I can talk about is an image of the truth, not the reality, only dialectic can reveal that- and only to someone already experienced."
"I can accept that."
"Dialectic begins by grinding down assumptions to the first basic principles they are founded on. From them, the dialectician can begin to abstract and define rationally the essence of each thing and the idea of the Good. Dialectic is the very coping-stone that tops-off our education system."
"I agree, as far as I can understand you."
{535} "Good, all we have to do now is draw up a curriculum. Do you remember the kind of people we picked to rule?"
"Of course I do."
"We want the bravest, toughest, most honest and, if possible, the best-looking. Otherwise they won't be able to withstand our course of study."
"Arithmetic and other studies can begin in childhood, but we mustn't use compulsion."
"Why not?"
"Because a free man should not be a slave to learning. Compulsory physical training does no harm to the body, but compulsory learning never sticks in the mind. Instead, we'll let children learn through play. That way we will come to understand them."
"There's truth in that."
"You remember we said that children were to be taken to battles, to get their first taste of blood, so to speak?"
"Exposure to danger like that is the way to select the best."
"At what age?"
"As soon as physical training is over, at the age of twenty or so, the best will begin their advanced studies. At thirty, those who show perseverance in learning and in war will begin dialectic, it is dangerous to begin sooner."
"Why is that?"
{538} "Like an adopted child who discovers his real parents, knowing the truth can lead to indiscipline and lack of respect for authority. Only steady and disciplined men should begin philosophical discussion."
"How long should they study philosophy?"
"I suppose five years. After that they can be sent down to the Cave to hold some minor public office."
"For how long?"
"Until they are fifty. Then they will be ready to become full-time philosophers, and, when their turn comes, act, reluctantly, as Rulers. Not, of course, for glory but out of necessity. And so, after they have brought up the next generation of Guardians they will depart to the Isles of the Blessed, to be treated as divinities, if the Oracle approves."
"They will be fine men indeed."
"And women. Don't forget the women."
"Of course."
"Well, that is our society, with political power in the hands of philosophers."
"There is no more to be said."
"Now, where was I up to before we digressed?"
{544} "You were about to tell us the four types of imperfect society, when Polemarchus and Adeimantus interrupted."
"Your memory is very good." I said.
"I'm anxious to know what these societies are."
"After our own perfect model there comes, first, the much admired Cretan or Spartan timarchy, second is oligarchy, third democracy and fourth tyranny. There are hereditary monarchies and other types, but they are all really crosses between these four. But, you know, societies aren't made of timber and stone, but out of men whose characters determine the direction of the whole, so we need to look at men as well."
"That would be logical."
"Let us begin by seeing how our ideal state turns into timarchy when the ruling class become disunited."
{546} "So, how does the quarrelling begin?"
"Let us imagine we are invoking the Muses, they might say, teasingly:
All created things alike have their season of fertility and of decay. And though your Rulers are yet wise the motions come always full circle. You have forgotten that four and three, coupled with five and multiplied by three can yield but two harmonies. If you mate your Guardians at the wrong season, their children will have neither gifts nor luck and when iron is mixed with gold a flawed material is made.

"We must accept that, if it comes from the Muses."
"Once strife has begun the iron and bronze begin to crave profit, land and houses while the silver and gold urge traditional values. Society will become envious, greedy, competitive and frightened of having intelligent people in office."
"A mixture of good and evil."
{549} "Quite so. And the Timarchic man will be self-willed. He'll be harsh to his slaves because he hasn't learnt a proper sense of superiority. He'll crave power, not through intelligent discussion, but by showing might."
"How does that happen?"
"Perhaps, as a youth, he hears his mother, or their servants, complain about his father. So, he tries to outdo him.
"That explains it. What's next?"
"Oligarchy, where power belongs to those with wealth. Another man and another State."
"How does that come about?"
{551} "Private wealth destroys timarchy, it makes men extravagant and jealous. As they get richer, they get less honourable. They introduce property qualifications for public offices and the keep the populace down by force. Let me ask you, what would happen if we chose the richest man as captain of a ship?"
"We would get second-rate navigation."
"Exactly. Worse, in an oligarchy, there is strife between the rich rulers and the pauperised masses, and something worse."
"What's that?"
"The wealthy live on investments, without trade or skill, worthless to their city."
"So, what causes all this?"
"A timarchic man sees his family ruined financially, and has to earn his own living. He puts overriding importance on money, and when he gains a fortune he keeps that idea. Even where he is honest, it's only for fear of failure in business."
"Next, I suppose, we have democracy. It rises when oligarchy reduces to poverty men born for better things; they grow angry and crave a revolution. The money makers themselves fuel such desire with poisoned loans and exorbitant interest rates. If loans were made at the lender's risk, not as matters of law, I think there would be much less of this scandalous money-grabbing."
{557} "Democracy begins when the poor, by war or by persuasion, give civil rights to everyone. I suppose many people would think it the best of societies, at least in the short run. But its diversity of ideas is only like a decorated cloak, the sort of thing that women and children desire. However, it is the best place to go constitution-hunting."
"In democracy there's no compulsion, so there's a profusion of opinions. But that means that the best aren't forced to rule, so democracies get worthless politicians who just pretend to be the people's friends."
"How does this happen?"
{559} "Desires we can't avoid or which benefit us are surely 'necessary', those we can learn to avoid or which harm us are surely 'unnecessary'. Now food is necessary, but luxurious banquets are unnecessary. The same goes for sex and other desires. The commonplace man will always be attracted to the unnecessary, the oligarchic man to the necessary. So the son of a thrifty oligarchic character will seek out forbidden pleasures among the Lotus-eaters. This is the beginning of the democratic character."
"I see."
"He'll ignore advice and just live from day to day. It will be wine and song one day, water and diet fads the next. He'll jump from politics to philosophy to business. There's no restraint, no order to his life. This is democratic man."
{560} "Agreed."
"Next, we have the most majestic society and man; tyranny and the tyrant."
"Quite so."
"Doesn't tyranny rise out of democracy as democracy rose from oligarchy, by desire for wealth?"
"The excessive desire for liberty is the downfall of democracies."
"It leads the son to disrespect his father; it destroys the distinction between citizen and foreigners. In the extreme it even gives rights to slaves and treats the sexes as equals. Eventually the citizens come to disregard all laws and there is a struggle between the commonplace drones and their leaders, who are like drones with stings. The result is plotting, scheming, impeachments, trials. The people begin to demand a single, strong, leader."
"I see."
{566} "A leader arises with the mob at his disposal, he brings false accusations and is not afraid of murder, he hints at debts cancelled and land redistributed. He will either be destroyed, or become a wolf."
"He begins a class-war against property owners. If he is exiled, he returns all the stronger."
"That is what tends to happen."
"Then comes the notorious gambit; he demands bodyguards and uses then to grasp the reigns of state. At first he smiles and makes grand promises."
"He has to."
"He stirs up war to show that people need a leader, and taxes them to pay for it. He seeks out men of courage and purges his state of them."
"An odd kind of purge."
"True, a doctor gives a purgative to remove poison while the tyrant does the opposite."
"And yet supporters will flock to him."
{569} "Certainly. Then, when the people discover what a beast they've created, he'll be too strong to depose."
{572} "You know, I think that inside even the best of us have a terrible bestial and lawless side, which often shows up in dreams."
"I agree."
"You remember how the democratic man was produced when he rebelled against his frugal oligarchic father?
"Suppose he, in turn, has a son. The pleasures of a dissolute life buzz round him until madness sweeps away all discipline. The sort of madness we all know through drunkenness or sexual desire."
"I know."
"He'll try for what he wants by fraud, deceit or plunder. He'll ruin his parent's estate and likely turn on his own family."
"Great fun, having a tyrant for a son!"
{575} "He'll end without friends, as evil in his life as some of us are in our dreams."
"That about sums it up."
"Now, isn't the tyrant the unhappiest man, the opposite of our philosopher-king? And isn't happiness in the people tied to the happiness of their state?"
"It is obvious which is the happier."
"Let us examine this tyrant a little more. Would you say that the people of a tyrannical state are miserable slaves?"
"Certainly. Only the tyrant himself has any happiness."
"You think so? Consider this; does a wealthy slave-owner live in fear of his slaves?"
"No, because society protects his way of life."
"Quite so. Imagine he was taken to a desert with his family and his slaves, would he then be in fear?"
"Certainly. There would be nothing to prevent the slaves defying him."
{579} "Exactly. He would have to free those slaves who supported him to oppress the rest. Now, imagine he was surrounded by neighbours who considered slave-owning a crime."
"He would be in constant fear."
"Exactly the predicament of the tyrant. His life is haunted by fear so that he is unable to even go about in public, he's a source of misery to himself as well as others."
"I see."
"So there is the first part of our answer. You remember that we divided the mind of an individual into three elements; one of understanding, one of spirit and enterprise and a third rather mixed one of desire and gain?"
{582} "So we can't compare these lives on the amount of pleasure each one gives, for each takes its own pleasure in knowledge, success or gain. We must look to the goodness or badness in them."
"The lover of gain has only that, but the philosopher will have tasted that pleasure in his earliest years."
"So the philosopher will have the advantage of knowing both."
"The brave, the rich and the wise are all respected. So the philosopher can taste honour too."
"True. Add to that the philosopher's tools of reason and rational argument to judge between the three."
"So we can judge the life of gain the least pleasant, that of ambition the next and the life of knowledge the most pleasant."
"Of course."
"The just man has beaten the unjust in two rounds; now for the title bout, which, like Olympic finalists, we'll dedicate to Zeus the Saviour. To begin; I've heard it said that only the pleasures of intelligence are real, the others mere sham."
"I'll explain. You can help by answering my questions."
"Go ahead."
"Is pleasure the opposite of pain."
{584} "Is there something between pain and pleasure, which is neither? Peacefulness perhaps?"
"When someone is ill, isn't relief from pain the greatest pleasure?"
"How can great pleasure simple be absence of pain? Shouldn't it just be peacefulness?"
"I suppose it can't."
"Quite so. It just seems pleasant by comparison, a trick of the mind."
"It looks that way."
"True pleasure is not just absence of pain. Consider the pleasure of a beautiful fragrance, it comes on suddenly, it relieves no pain and its loss leaves no pain."
"Now, do you agree that there is such a thing as top, middle and bottom?"
"Won't the inexperienced man rise to the middle and still think he has reached the top?"
{586} "Those who don't know wisdom will think they have reached true pleasure when they spend their time grazing like cattle. They'll copulate, they'll fight and they'll kill each other because they're never satisfied with unreality."
"True pleasure is only known to the true philosopher, who, through reason, knows the highest, but can also see the lowest."
"I see."
{587} "And aren't those farthest from reason also the farthest from law and order?"
"So the tyrant is not only farthest from justice, but farthest from real pleasure."
"So the philosopher-king is happiest."
"Exactly. Do you know how many times happier a philosopher is?"
"No, tell me."
"There are three types of pleasure, and there are five types of man, from the tyrant to the democrat, to the oligarch, to the timarch to the philosopher-king. So that's 3x3x3x3x3x3, which is 729. The philosopher is 729 times happier than the tyrant. It is quite obvious."
{588} "Obvious to an arithmetician perhaps."
"So far, so good. Didn't we begin this discussion when someone said that wrongdoing always paid off if you could get away with it?"
"Shall we try to speak with the creature who had this idea?"
"What do you mean?"
"Let us try to build a model of the human personality."
"Like a creature in the old stories. Imagine a beast with dozens of heads, some wild, some tame, which it can change at will. Put alongside that a man and a lion. Then let's wrap them all up inside a human's skin."
"I can imagine that. Just."
"Assuming that doing wrong is worthwhile is like indulging the inner beast and lion, while starving the man."
"I see."
"Behaving justly is like nurturing the man, so that he can tame the beasts."
"I understand."
"Isn't self-indulgence always censured, along with slack effeminacy, flattery and meanness?"
"Why do we despise manual work as vulgar? Isn't it because it shows inability to use the divine side of our nature?"
{591} "With proper education we can build self-control."
"The truly self-controlled will never seek honours, unless he knows they will make him better."
"So he'll never go into politics."
"By the dog of Egypt, he will! If, one day, he finds a society which is worthy of his talents."
"You mean like the one we've built? I doubt if that could ever exist on this earth."
"Perhaps you are right. But perhaps it already exists in some supposed otherworld of the mind. Maybe it is already now there, so that any man with a heart fit for justice can become one of its citizens."
"That may be right."

{The original text of The Republic may end here, but the following passages are usually included.}

{595} "You know, of all the things in our State, I'm most pleased with our decision to reject imitative literature.
"Do keep this quiet, I don't want poets and playwrights to know how I think they damage their audiences. I've been brought up to respect writers, especially Homer. But we mustn't respect a person more than the truth."
"Can you tell me what representation is?"
"If you don't know, I'm not likely to!"
"Come, it isn't always the sharpest minds that see best."
"I'd be embarrassed to suggest anything in your presence."
"You agree that there are many beds and tables, but only one idea of a bed, and one of a table. The craftsman follows the form of a bed, but he can't make the idea itself."
"Now, what would you think of a craftsman who could make the works of any other craft, and could fashion plants, animals, the earth the sky the Gods and even himself."
"He would be a wonderfully clever man."
"Well, you can easily do this yourself, just by holding a mirror and turning it around."
"But you'd only be making reflections, not real things."
{598} "Exactly. Yet that is what a painter does. He does not make a bed, but the appearance of one. God alone created the form of a bed, the carpenter makes a copy of that and the painter's copy is three removed from the real idea of a bed."
"If we look at a bed, or anything, from a different angle, doesn't it look different?"
"It's the same bed, but it looks a different shape."
"Quite so. The painter copies the mere superficial appearance. He could even paint a fellow-craftsman."
"I see."
"What about writers, like Homer, do they really know what they're speaking about."
"It is worth asking."
{600} "We don't expect Homer to be an expert on medicine, but we can criticise the way he tries to give advice on military tactics, politics and education. Did he ever win a war? Which nation's constitution did he write? Was he an engineer like Thales or Anacharsis?"
"Even his admirers wouldn't say so."
"Stripped of its clever language, poetry amounts to nothing."
"I suppose so."
"There is more. A painter can paint a bridle and a bit, but it is the harness-maker who makes them and only the horseman who knows how to use them."
"There are always these three levels- the user, the maker and the representation. Doesn't the flute-maker take the advice of the player on how to make flutes?"
"Yet artists listen to advice from no one, nor do poets."
"Apparently not."
"So we agree, the artist and the poet appeal to the ignorant multitude, they don't know whether their works show the good or the bad."
"So appearance is three steps removed from reality."
"It seems so."
"Tell me this, which part of a human understands appearance?"
"The eye."
"Surely. But doesn't a stick look bent in water? Doesn't shading make flat things look rounded? Don't far things look small? We can't trust our eyes, as the artist and the conjurer know well."
"So humans have happily discovered measuring, counting and weighing, to check these illusions through using number. And which part of the mind is it that comprehends numbers?"
"Clearly the reasoning part."
{603} "Which is the best part."
"So again we see that art and literature appeal to the worse side. But there is something else."
"What's that?"
"If a man loses his son, or something dear to him, won't the good man better bear the misfortune."
"Is it that he will feel no grief, or that he will moderate his sorrow?"
"The second."
{604} "And will he better resist showing grief when he is among fellows, or when he is alone?"
"He'll be more restrained when people can see him."
"Of course. Propriety says that it is better to bear misfortune patiently. Besides, grief stands in the way of what we most need."
"Which is?"
"Reasoned deliberation. We can never know which way the dice will fall, and shouldn't cry over it like little children."
"That's good sense."
"Yet don't we find playwrights and poets and artists always representing these unreasonable shows of emotion?"
"We do."
{606} "Worse, the poet indulges our lowest desires. Few people can withstand the appeal of displays of misery and misfortune. They don't realise how these infect our reasoning. Theatre feeds us with dirty jokes, shows of anger, erotic passion, pleasure and pain, when such things should be allowed to perish."
"I can't deny it."
{607} "So, Glaucon, Homer may be rightly praised as the best of poets, but all the poetry we can allow in our State is hymns of praise to good men. I know the old quarrel between poets and philosophers "quick-witted paupers" as we call each other, but I think it is up to the poets to prove, in prose of course, that they have some value. The issue at stake, making men good or ill, is too great to risk."
"You've convinced me."
"Yet we haven't mentioned the greatest prize that awaits a good man."
"It must be something very big."
"Don't you realise, " I asked, "that the soul is immortal and imperishable?"
He looked astonished. "Can you really believe that to be true?"
"It is easy to demonstrate. You call that which harms and destroys 'evil', that which preserves and benefits 'good' don't you?"
"I do."
{609} "And you agree that each thing has its own specific evil which can destroy it, like ophthalmia to the eyes, mildew to grain, rust to iron?"
"So what is the specific evil of the soul?"
"What we've discussed; injustice, indiscipline, cowardice, ignorance and so on."
"But do they actually destroy the soul?"
"Far from it, wickedness tends to destroy other people and protect the soul that has it."
"So if even its own evil cannot destroy the soul, surely it cannot die."
"It seems so."
"If souls exist forever, there must always be the same number of them."
"I suppose so."
"So, if souls are immortal, we must accept that pure souls are singular. They seem complex and full of conflict only because they are snarled up with bodies- like Glaucus in the old stories, who fell into the sea and became so encrusted with shells and weed that he looked more like a monster than a man."
"What is the true soul then?"
"Its kinship with the divine is found in its love of wisdom and justice for themselves."
"I see."
"Now, can we go on to describe how justice brings rewards?"
"Go on."
{613} "You will grant that the Gods see a man's true character."
"So we may assume that a man receives just rewards from the Gods?"
"But what are they?"
{614} "Let me tell you the story of a brave man, Er of Pamphylia, the son of Armenius. He was killed in battle, and on the tenth day, on his funeral pyre, he came to life again and told this story of what he'd seen in the other world.
He travelled a strange journey and arrived with many others in a curious place where two great chasms lead towards the inner earth and the sky, and another two lead back. In the centre sat stern judges who fixed a sign to the back of each arriving soul telling of what it had done in its time on earth before sending it off to the heavens or the inner earth as was its merit.{618} When it came to Er's turn the judges passed no reckoning, but told him that he was to watch and be a messenger to men. He watched souls arrive, and be sent on their way. He saw souls returning, dusty as if from long travel, to meet together, as if for a festival, in a great meadow. They exchanged greetings, and sought out each other's experiences in heaven or in the earth. It seems that for every wrong done, a man must pay ten times over. As one hundred years is reckoned as a life, he pays for a thousand years. Those who have caused deaths or slavery gain the same treatment themselves, just as those who have been good and just and god-fearing are treated in that way. He did explain what happened to those who died in infancy, but it was not very interesting. One soul asked what had happened to Ardiaeus, the tyrant of Pamphylia, who killed his own father, and was told "he will never come up" the mouth of the upward cave would not receive him. That is the greatest fear. After seven days in the meadow, they set out towards a great shaft of light across heaven and earth. From this hangs the great Spindle of Necessity which support all the orbs of the heavens, and in the centre Necessity herself, and by her, her daughters the Fates with white robes and garlands on their heads and all about sirens sang out the music of the spheres, and to their music the Fates sang. Lachesis of things past, Clotho of things present and Atropos of things yet to come. Lachesis scattered lots upon the ground, saying "Souls of today, it is time to choose your life in the world of tomorrow". And the lots were of every kind of life; poverty, riches, exile, tyranny of both men and animals.
This is the moment, my dear Glaucon, when knowledge of good and ill is all. An iron will is needed to choose the honest course.
The first soul chose the life of a despot. He had come from a life in a peaceful state, and did not understand the horrors that awaited him. Er was filled with pity and laughter and wonder to see so many choose evil when they thought it good. The soul of Orpheus chose the life of a swan, Thamyris the singer chose to be a nightingale, Ajax the warrior picked a lion's life, Atlanta could not resist the honours of an athlete's lot and Epeius, son of Panopeus, who had made the Horse of the Trojans, chose to be a skilled craftswoman. Odysseus, remembering his trials, searched for the uneventful life of an ordinary man, and found it lying neglected, and chose it with great joy as the greatest prize of all.{621} Lachesis allotted to each a guardian spirit, and the souls walked together through great and stifling heat to rest by the river of Lethe-the-ever-forgetting. They drank the waters and slept, and as they slept, a great storm arose and each soul, like a shooting star, was swept away to their birth. Er knew not what befell him, only that he awoke at dawn lying upon his funeral pyre.
So, Glaucon, this tale is preserved, and if we remember it well it will preserve us. If we keep peace with ourselves and the Gods and seek forever wisdom and justice, then, like victors at the Olympiad, we will receive our prize in this life and in our next journey of a thousand years all will be well."

Socrates 471BC-399BC
Plato of Athens c424-348BC
Socrates was forced to commit suicide by poison for 'Corrupting the youth of Athens with new ideas'
His last resting place is unknown. Plato went on to found an influential School.

ISBN 9781326806781
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