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And that which hurts not does no evil?
And can that which does no evil be a cause of evil?
And the good is advantageous?
And therefore the cause of well-being?
It follows therefore that the good is not the cause of all things,
but of the good only?
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.
Then we must not listen to Homer or to any other poet who is
guilty of the folly of saying that two casks
Lie at the threshold of Zeus, full of lots, one of good, the other
of evil lots,
and that he to whom Zeus gives a mixture of the two
Sometimes meets with evil fortune, at other times with good;
but that he to whom is given the cup of unmingled ill,
Him wild hunger drives o'er the beauteous earth.
Zeus, who is the dispenser of good and evil to us.
And if any one asserts that the violation of oaths and treaties, which
was really the work of Pandarus, was brought about by Athene and Zeus,
or that the strife and contention of the gods was instigated by Themis
and Zeus, he shall not have our approval; neither will we allow our
young men to hear the words of Aeschylus, that
God plants guilt among men when he desires utterly to destroy a house.
And if a poet writes of the sufferings of Niobe --the subject of the
tragedy in which these iambic verses occur --or of the house of
Pelops, or of the Trojan war or on any similar theme, either we must
not permit him to say that these are the works of God, or if they
are of God, he must devise some explanation of them such as we are
seeking; he must say that God did what was just and right, and they
were the better for being punished; but that those who are punished
are miserable, and that God is the author of their misery --the poet
is not to be permitted to say; though he may say that the wicked are
miserable because they require to be punished, and are benefited by
receiving punishment from God; but that God being good is the author
of evil to any one is to be strenuously denied, and not to be said
or sung or heard in verse or prose by any one whether old or young
in any well-ordered commonwealth. Such a fiction is suicidal, ruinous,
I agree with you, he replied, and am ready to give my assent to
Let this then be one of our rules and principles concerning the
gods, to which our poets and reciters will be expected to conform
--that God is not the author of all things, but of good only.
That will do, he said.
And what do you think of a second principle? Shall I ask you whether
God is a magician, and of a nature to appear insidiously now in one
shape, and now in another --sometimes himself changing and passing
into many forms, sometimes deceiving us with the semblance of such
transformations; or is he one and the same immutably fixed in his
own proper image?
I cannot answer you, he said, without more thought.
Well, I said; but if we suppose a change in anything, that change
must be effected either by the thing itself, or by some other thing?
And things which are at their best are also least liable to be
altered or discomposed; for example, when healthiest and strongest,
the human frame is least liable to be affected by meats and drinks,
and the plant which is in the fullest vigour also suffers least from
winds or the heat of the sun or any similar causes.
And will not the bravest and wisest soul be least confused or
deranged by any external influence?
And the same principle, as I should suppose, applies to all
composite things --furniture, houses, garments; when good and well
made, they are least altered by time and circumstances.
Then everything which is good, whether made by art or nature, or
both, is least liable to suffer change from without?
But surely God and the things of God are in every way perfect?
Of course they are.
Then he can hardly be compelled by external influence to take many
But may he not change and transform himself?
Clearly, he said, that must be the case if he is changed at all.
And will he then change himself for the better and fairer, or for
the worse and more unsightly?
If he change at all he can only change for the worse, for we
cannot suppose him to be deficient either in virtue or beauty.
Very true, Adeimantus; but then, would any one, whether God or
man, desire to make himself worse?
Then it 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 for ever in his own form.
That necessarily follows, he said, in my judgment.
Then, I said, my dear friend, let 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;
and let no one slander Proteus and Thetis, neither let any one, either
in tragedy or in any other kind of poetry, introduce Here disguised in
the likeness of a priestess asking an alms
For the life-giving daughters of Inachus the river of Argos;
--let us have no more lies of that sort. 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'; but let them take heed lest they make cowards of
their children, and at the same time speak blasphemy against the gods.
Heaven forbid, he said.
But although the gods are themselves unchangeable, still by
witchcraft and deception they may make us think that they appear in
Perhaps, he replied.
Well, but can you imagine that God will be willing to lie, whether
in word or deed, or to put forth a phantom of himself?
I cannot say, he replied.
Do you not know, I said, that the true lie, if such an expression
may be allowed, is hated of gods and men?
What do you mean? he said.
I mean that no one is willingly deceived in that which is the truest
and highest part of himself, or about the truest and highest
matters; there, above all, he is most afraid of a lie having
possession of him.
Still, he said, I do not comprehend you.
The reason is, I replied, that you attribute some profound meaning
to my words; but I am only saying that deception, or being deceived or
uninformed about the highest realities in the highest part of
themselves, which is the soul, and in that part of them to have and to
hold the lie, is what mankind least like; --that, I say, is what
they utterly detest.
There is nothing more hateful to them.
And, as I was just now remarking, this ignorance in the soul of
him who is deceived may be called the true lie; for the lie in words
is only a kind of imitation and shadowy image of a previous
affection of the soul, not pure unadulterated falsehood. Am I not
The true lie is hated not only by the gods, but also by men?
Whereas the lie in words is in certain cases useful and not hateful;
in dealing with enemies --that would be an instance; or again, when
those whom we call our friends in a fit of madness or illusion are
going to do some harm, then it is useful and is a sort of medicine
or preventive; also in the tales of mythology, of which we were just
now speaking --because we do not know the truth about ancient times,
we make falsehood as much like truth as we can, and so turn it to
Very true, he said.
But can any of these reasons apply to God? Can we suppose that he is
ignorant of antiquity, and therefore has recourse to invention?
That would be ridiculous, he said.
Then the lying poet has no place in our idea of God?
I should say not.
Or perhaps he may tell a lie because he is afraid of enemies?
That is inconceivable.
But he may have friends who are senseless or mad?
But no mad or senseless person can be a friend of God.
Then no motive can be imagined why God should lie?
Then the superhuman and divine is absolutely incapable of falsehood?
Then is God perfectly simple and true both in word and deed; he
changes not; he deceives not, either by sign or word, by dream or
Your thoughts, he said, are the reflection of my own.
You agree with me then, I said, that this is the second type or form
in which we should write and speak about divine things. The gods are
not magicians who transform themselves, neither do they deceive
mankind in any way.
I grant that.
Then, although we are admirers of Homer, we do not admire the
lying dream which Zeus sends to Agamemnon; neither will we praise
the verses of Aeschylus in which Thetis says that Apollo at her
Was celebrating in song her fair progeny whose days were to he long,
and to know no sickness. And when he had spoken of my lot as in all
things blessed of heaven he raised a note of triumph and cheered my
soul. And I thought that the word of Phoebus being divine and full
of prophecy, would not fail. And now he himself who uttered the
strain, he who was present at the banquet, and who said this --he it
is who has slain my son.