Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 Next page
A fruit of unripe wisdom,
and he himself is ignorant of what he is laughing at, or what he is
about; --for that is, and ever will be, the best of sayings, That
the useful is the noble and the hurtful is the base.
Here, then, is one difficulty in our law about women, which we may
say that we have now escaped; the wave has not swallowed us up alive
for enacting that the guardians of either sex should have all their
pursuits in common; to the utility and also to the possibility of this
arrangement the consistency of the argument with itself bears witness.
Yes, that was a mighty wave which you have escaped.
Yes, I said, but a greater is coming; you will of this when you
see the next.
Go on; let me see.
The law, I said, which is the sequel of this and of all that has
preceded, is to the following effect, --'that the wives of our
guardians are to be common, and their children are to be common, and
no parent is to know his own child, nor any child his parent.'
Yes, he said, that is a much greater wave than the other; and the
possibility as well as the utility of such a law are far more
I do not think, I said, that there can be any dispute about the very
great utility of having wives and children in common; the
possibility is quite another matter, and will be very much disputed.
I think that a good many doubts may be raised about both.
You imply that the two questions must be combined, I replied. Now
I meant that you should admit the utility; and in this way, as I
thought; I should escape from one of them, and then there would remain
only the possibility.
But that little attempt is detected, and therefore you will please
to give a defence of both.
Well, I said, I submit to my fate. Yet grant me a little favour: let
me feast my mind with the dream as day dreamers are in the habit of
feasting themselves when they are walking alone; for before they
have discovered any means of effecting their wishes --that is a matter
which never troubles them --they would rather not tire themselves by
thinking about possibilities; but assuming that what they desire is
already granted to them, they proceed with their plan, and delight
in detailing what they mean to do when their wish has come true --that
is a way which they have of not doing much good to a capacity which
was never good for much. Now I myself am beginning to lose heart,
and I should like, with your permission, to pass over the question
of possibility at present. Assuming therefore the possibility of the
proposal, I shall now proceed to enquire how the rulers will carry out
these arrangements, and I shall demonstrate that our plan, if
executed, will be of the greatest benefit to the State and to the
guardians. First of all, then, if you have no objection, I will
endeavour with your help to consider the advantages of the measure;
and hereafter the question of possibility.
I have no objection; proceed.
First, I think that if our rulers and their auxiliaries are to be
worthy of the name which they bear, there must be willingness to
obey in the one and the power of command in the other; the guardians
must themselves obey the laws, and they must also imitate the spirit
of them in any details which are entrusted to their care.
That is right, he said.
You, I said, who are their legislator, having selected the men, will
now select the women and give them to them; --they must be as far as
possible of like natures with them; and they must live in common
houses and meet at common meals, None of them will have anything
specially his or her own; they will be together, and will be brought
up together, and will associate at gymnastic exercises. And so they
will be drawn by a necessity of their natures to have intercourse with
each other --necessity is not too strong a word, I think?
Yes, he said; --necessity, not geometrical, but another sort of
necessity which lovers know, and which is far more convincing and
constraining to the mass of mankind.
True, I said; and this, Glaucon, like all the rest, must proceed
after an orderly fashion; in a city of the blessed, licentiousness
is an unholy thing which the rulers will forbid.
Yes, he said, and it ought not to be permitted.
Then clearly the next thing will be to make matrimony sacred in
the highest degree, and what is most beneficial will be deemed sacred?
And how can marriages be made most beneficial? --that is a
question which I put to you, because I see in your house dogs for
hunting, and of the nobler sort of birds not a few. Now, I beseech
you, do tell me, have you ever attended to their pairing and breeding?
In what particulars?
Why, in the first place, although they are all of a good sort, are
not some better than others?
And do you breed from them all indifferently, or do you take care to
breed from the best only?
From the best.
And do you take the oldest or the youngest, or only those of ripe
I choose only those of ripe age.
And if care was not taken in the breeding, your dogs and birds would
And the same of horses and animals in general?
Good heavens! my dear friend, I said, what consummate skill will our
rulers need if the same principle holds of the human species!
Certainly, the same principle holds; but why does this involve any
Because, I said, our rulers will often have to practise upon the
body corporate with medicines. Now you know that when patients do
not require medicines, but have only to be put under a regimen, the
inferior sort of practitioner is deemed to be good enough; but when
medicine has to be given, then the doctor should be more of a man.
That is quite true, he said; but to what are you alluding?
I mean, I replied, that our rulers will find a considerable dose
of falsehood and deceit necessary for the good of their subjects: we
were saying that the use of all these things regarded as medicines
might be of advantage.
And we were very right.
And this lawful use of them seems likely to be often needed in the
regulations of marriages and births.
Why, I said, the principle has been already laid down that the
best of either sex should be united with the best as often, and the
inferior with the inferior, as seldom as possible; and that they
should rear the offspring of the one sort of union, but not of the
other, if the flock is to be maintained in first-rate condition. Now
these goings on must be a secret which the rulers only know, or
there will be a further danger of our herd, as the guardians may be
termed, breaking out into rebellion.
Had we not better appoint certain festivals at which we will bring
together the brides and bridegrooms, and sacrifices will be offered
and suitable hymeneal songs composed by our poets: the number of
weddings is a matter which must be left to the discretion of the
rulers, whose aim will be to preserve the average of population? There
are many other things which they will have to consider, such as the
effects of wars and diseases and any similar agencies, in order as far
as this is possible to prevent the State from becoming either too
large or too small.
Certainly, he replied.
We shall have to invent some ingenious kind of lots which the less
worthy may draw on each occasion of our bringing them together, and
then they will accuse their own ill-luck and not the rulers.
To be sure, he said.
And I think that our braver and better youth, besides their other
honours and rewards, might have greater facilities of intercourse with
women given them; their bravery will be a reason, and such fathers
ought to have as many sons as possible.
And the proper officers, whether male or female or both, for offices
are to be held by women as well as by men --
The proper officers will take the offspring of the good parents to
the pen or fold, and there they will deposit them with certain
nurses who dwell in a separate quarter; but the offspring of the
inferior, or of the better when they chance to be deformed, will be
put away in some mysterious, unknown place, as they should be.
Yes, he said, that must be done if the breed of the guardians is
to be kept pure.
They will provide for their nurture, and will bring the mothers to
the fold when they are full of milk, taking the greatest possible care
that no mother recognizes her own child; and other wet-nurses may be
engaged if more are required. Care will also be taken that the process
of suckling shall not be protracted too long; and the mothers will
have no getting up at night or other trouble, but will hand over all
this sort of thing to the nurses and attendants.
You suppose the wives of our guardians to have a fine easy time of
it when they are having children.
Why, said I, and so they ought. Let us, however, proceed with our
scheme. We were saying that the parents should be in the prime of
And what is the prime of life? May it not be defined as a period
of about twenty years in a woman's life, and thirty in a man's?
Which years do you mean to include?
A woman, I said, at twenty years of age may begin to bear children
to the State, and continue to bear them until forty; a man may begin
at five-and-twenty, when he has passed the point at which the pulse of
life beats quickest, and continue to beget children until he be
Certainly, he said, both in men and women those years are the
prime of physical as well as of intellectual vigour.
Any one above or below the prescribed ages who takes part in the
public hymeneals shall be said to have done an unholy and
unrighteous thing; the child of which he is the father, if it steals
into life, will have been conceived under auspices very unlike the
sacrifices and prayers, which at each hymeneal priestesses and
priest and the whole city will offer, that the new generation may be
better and more useful than their good and useful parents, whereas his
child will be the offspring of darkness and strange lust.
Very true, he replied.
And the same law will apply to any one of those within the
prescribed age who forms a connection with any woman in the prime of
life without the sanction of the rulers; for we shall say that he is
raising up a bastard to the State, uncertified and unconsecrated.
Very true, he replied.
This applies, however, only to those who are within the specified
age: after that we allow them to range at will, except that a man
may not marry his daughter or his daughter's daughter, or his mother
or his mother's mother; and women, on the other hand, are prohibited
from marrying their sons or fathers, or son's son or father's
father, and so on in either direction. And we grant all this,
accompanying the permission with strict orders to prevent any embryo
which may come into being from seeing the light; and if any force a
way to the birth, the parents must understand that the offspring of
such an union cannot be maintained, and arrange accordingly.
That also, he said, is a reasonable proposition. But how will they
know who are fathers and daughters, and so on?
They will never know. The way will be this: --dating from the day of