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May I have the pleasure, he said, of hearing your opinion?
Both should be forbidden, in my judgment; I would take the annual
produce and no more. Shall I tell you why?
Why, you see, there is a difference in the names 'discord' and
'war,' and I imagine that there is also a difference in their natures;
the one is expressive of what is internal and domestic, the other of
what is external and foreign; and the first of the two is termed
discord, and only the second, war.
That is a very proper distinction, he replied.
And may I not observe with equal propriety that the Hellenic race is
all united together by ties of blood and friendship, and alien and
strange to the barbarians?
Very good, he said.
And therefore when Hellenes fight with barbarians and barbarians
with Hellenes, they will be described by us as being at war when
they fight, and by nature enemies, and this kind of antagonism
should be called war; but when Hellenes fight with one another we
shall say that Hellas is then in a state of disorder and discord, they
being by nature friends and such enmity is to be called discord.
Consider then, I said, when that which we have acknowledged to be
discord occurs, and a city is divided, if both parties destroy the
lands and burn the houses of one another, how wicked does the strife
appear! No true lover of his country would bring himself to tear in
pieces his own nurse and mother: There might be reason in the
conqueror depriving the conquered of their harvest, but still they
would have the idea of peace in their hearts and would not mean to
go on fighting for ever.
Yes, he said, that is a better temper than the other.
And will not the city, which you are founding, be an Hellenic city?
It ought to be, he replied.
Then will not the citizens be good and civilized?
Yes, very civilized.
And will they not be lovers of Hellas, and think of Hellas as
their own land, and share in the common temples?
And any difference which arises among them will be regarded by
them as discord only --a quarrel among friends, which is not to be
called a war?
Then they will quarrel as those who intend some day to be
They will use friendly correction, but will not enslave or destroy
their opponents; they will be correctors, not enemies?
And as they are Hellenes themselves they will not devastate
Hellas, nor will they burn houses, not even suppose that the whole
population of a city --men, women, and children --are equally their
enemies, for they know that the guilt of war is always confined to a
few persons and that the many are their friends. And for all these
reasons they will be unwilling to waste their lands and raze their
houses; their enmity to them will only last until the many innocent
sufferers have compelled the guilty few to give satisfaction?
I agree, he said, that our citizens should thus deal with their
Hellenic enemies; and with barbarians as the Hellenes now deal with
Then let us enact this law also for our guardians:-that they are
neither to devastate the lands of Hellenes nor to burn their houses.
Agreed; and we may agree also in thinking that these, all our
previous enactments, are very good.
But still I must say, Socrates, that if you are allowed to go on
in this way you will entirely forget the other question which at the
commencement of this discussion you thrust aside: --Is such an order
of things possible, and how, if at all? For I am quite ready to
acknowledge that the plan which you propose, if only feasible, would
do all sorts of good to the State. I will add, what you have
omitted, that your citizens will be the bravest of warriors, and
will never leave their ranks, for they will all know one another,
and each will call the other father, brother, son; and if you
suppose the women to join their armies, whether in the same rank or in
the rear, either as a terror to the enemy, or as auxiliaries in case
of need, I know that they will then be absolutely invincible; and
there are many domestic tic advantages which might also be mentioned
and which I also fully acknowledge: but, as I admit all these
advantages and as many more as you please, if only this State of yours
were to come into existence, we need say no more about them;
assuming then the existence of the State, let us now turn to the
question of possibility and ways and means --the rest may be left.
If I loiter for a moment, you instantly make a raid upon me, I said,
and have no mercy; I have hardly escaped the first and second waves,
and you seem not to be aware that you are now bringing upon me the
third, which is the greatest and heaviest. When you have seen and
heard the third wave, I think you be more considerate and will
acknowledge that some fear and hesitation was natural respecting a
proposal so extraordinary as that which I have now to state and
The more appeals of this sort which you make, he said, the more
determined are we that you shall tell us how such a State is possible:
speak out and at once.
Let me begin by reminding you that we found our way hither in the
search after justice and injustice.
True, he replied; but what of that?
I was only going to ask whether, if we have discovered them, we
are to require that the just man should in nothing fail of absolute
justice; or may we be satisfied with an approximation, and the
attainment in him of a higher degree of justice than is to be found in
The approximation will be enough.
We are enquiring into the nature of absolute justice and into the
character of the perfectly just, and into injustice and the
perfectly unjust, that we might have an ideal. We were to look at
these in order that we might judge of our own happiness and
unhappiness according to the standard which they exhibited and the
degree in which we resembled them, but not with any view of showing
that they could exist in fact.
True, he said.
Would a painter be any the worse because, after having delineated
with consummate art an ideal of a perfectly beautiful man, he was
unable to show that any such man could ever have existed?
He would be none the worse.
Well, and were we not creating an ideal of a perfect State?
To be sure.
And is our theory a worse theory because we are unable to prove
the possibility of a city being ordered in the manner described?
Surely not, he replied.
That is the truth, I said. But if, at your request, I am to try
and show how and under what conditions the possibility is highest, I
must ask you, having this in view, to repeat your former admissions.
I want to know whether ideals are ever fully realised in language?
Does not the word express more than the fact, and must not the actual,
whatever a man may think, always, in the nature of things, fall
short of the truth? What do you say?
Then you must not insist on my proving that the actual State will in
every respect coincide with the ideal: if we are only able to discover
how a city may be governed nearly as we proposed, you will admit
that we have discovered the possibility which you demand; and will
be contented. I am sure that I should be contented --will not you?
Yes, I will.
Let me next endeavour to show what is that fault in States which
is the cause of their present maladministration, and what is the least
change which will enable a State to pass into the truer form; and
let the change, if possible, be of one thing only, or if not, of
two; at any rate, let the changes be as few and slight as possible.
Certainly, he replied.
I think, I said, that there might be a reform of the State if only
one change were made, which is not a slight or easy though still a
What is it? he said.
Now then, I said, I go to meet that which I liken to the greatest of
the waves; yet shall the word be spoken, even though the wave break
and drown me in laughter and dishonour; and do you mark my words.
I said: Until philosophers are kings, or the kings and princes of
this world have the spirit and power of philosophy, and political
greatness and wisdom meet in one, and those commoner natures who
pursue either to the exclusion of the other are compelled to stand
aside, cities will never have rest from their evils, --nor the human
race, as I believe, --and then only will this our State have a
possibility of life and behold the light of day. Such was the thought,
my dear Glaucon, which I would fain have uttered if it had not
seemed too extravagant; for to be convinced that in no other State can
there be happiness private or public is indeed a hard thing.
Socrates, what do you mean? I would have you consider that the
word which you have uttered is one at which numerous persons, and very
respectable persons too, in a figure pulling off their coats all in
a moment, and seizing any weapon that comes to hand, will run at you
might and main, before you know where you are, intending to do
heaven knows what; and if you don't prepare an answer, and put
yourself in motion, you will be prepared by their fine wits,' and no
You got me into the scrape, I said.
And I was quite right; however, I will do all I can to get you out
of it; but I can only give you good-will and good advice, and,
perhaps, I may be able to fit answers to your questions better than
another --that is all. And now, having such an auxiliary, you must
do your best to show the unbelievers that you are right.
I ought to try, I said, since you offer me such invaluable
assistance. And I think that, if there is to be a chance of our
escaping, we must explain to them whom we mean when we say that
philosophers are to rule in the State; then we shall be able to defend
ourselves: There will be discovered to be some natures who ought to
study philosophy and to be leaders in the State; and others who are
not born to be philosophers, and are meant to be followers rather than
Then now for a definition, he said.
Follow me, I said, and I hope that I may in some way or other be
able to give you a satisfactory explanation.
I dare say that you remember, and therefore I need not remind you,
that a lover, if lie is worthy of the name, ought to show his love,
not to some one part of that which he loves, but to the whole.
I really do not understand, and therefore beg of you to assist my
Another person, I said, might fairly reply as you do; but a man of
pleasure like yourself ought to know that all who are in the flower of
youth do somehow or other raise a pang or emotion in a lover's breast,
and are thought by him to be worthy of his affectionate regards. Is
not this a way which you have with the fair: one has a snub nose,
and you praise his charming face; the hook-nose of another has, you
say, a royal look; while he who is neither snub nor hooked has the
grace of regularity: the dark visage is manly, the fair are children
of the gods; and as to the sweet 'honey pale,' as they are called,
what is the very name but the invention of a lover who talks in
diminutives, and is not adverse to paleness if appearing on the
cheek of youth? In a word, there is no excuse which you will not make,
and nothing which you will not say, in order not to lose a single
flower that blooms in the spring-time of youth.