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termed either, pure and simple; this unknown term, when discovered, we
may truly call the subject of opinion, and assign each to its proper
faculty, -the extremes to the faculties of the extremes and the mean
to the faculty of the mean.
This being premised, I would ask the gentleman who is of opinion
that there is no absolute or unchangeable idea of beauty --in whose
opinion the beautiful is the manifold --he, I say, your lover of
beautiful sights, who cannot bear to be told that the beautiful is
one, and the just is one, or that anything is one --to him I would
appeal, saying, Will you be so very kind, sir, as to tell us
whether, of all these beautiful things, there is one which will not be
found ugly; or of the just, which will not be found unjust; or of
the holy, which will not also be unholy?
No, he replied; the beautiful will in some point of view be found
ugly; and the same is true of the rest.
And may not the many which are doubles be also halves? --doubles,
that is, of one thing, and halves of another?
And things great and small, heavy and light, as they are termed,
will not be denoted by these any more than by the opposite names?
True; both these and the opposite names will always attach to all of
And can any one of those many things which are called by
particular names be said to be this rather than not to be this?
He replied: They are like the punning riddles which are asked at
feasts or the children's puzzle about the eunuch aiming at the bat,
with what he hit him, as they say in the puzzle, and upon what the bat
was sitting. The individual objects of which I am speaking are also
a riddle, and have a double sense: nor can you fix them in your
mind, either as being or not-being, or both, or neither.
Then what will you do with them? I said. Can they have a better
place than between being and not-being? For they are clearly not in
greater darkness or negation than not-being, or more full of light and
existence than being.
That is quite true, he said.
Thus then we seem to have discovered that the many ideas which the
multitude entertain about the beautiful and about all other things are
tossing about in some region which is halfway between pure being and
Yes; and we had before agreed that anything of this kind which we
might find was to be described as matter of opinion, and not as matter
of knowledge; being the intermediate flux which is caught and detained
by the intermediate faculty.
Then those who see the many beautiful, and who yet neither see
absolute beauty, nor can follow any guide who points the way
thither; who see the many just, and not absolute justice, and the
like, --such persons may be said to have opinion but not knowledge?
That is certain.
But those who see the absolute and eternal and immutable may be said
to know, and not to have opinion only?
Neither can that be denied.
The one loves and embraces the subjects of knowledge, the other
those of opinion? The latter are the same, as I dare say will
remember, who listened to sweet sounds and gazed upon fair colours,
but would not tolerate the existence of absolute beauty.
Yes, I remember.
Shall we then be guilty of any impropriety in calling them lovers of
opinion rather than lovers of wisdom, and will they be very angry with
us for thus describing them?
I shall tell them not to be angry; no man should be angry at what is
But those who love the truth in each thing are to be called lovers
of wisdom and not lovers of opinion.
SOCRATES - GLAUCON
AND thus, Glaucon, after the argument has gone a weary way, the true
and the false philosophers have at length appeared in view.
I do not think, he said, that the way could have been shortened.
I suppose not, I said; and yet I believe that we might have had a
better view of both of them if the discussion could have been confined
to this one subject and if there were not many other questions
awaiting us, which he who desires to see in what respect the life of
the just differs from that of the unjust must consider.
And what is the next question? he asked.
Surely, I said, the one which follows next in order. Inasmuch as
philosophers only are able to grasp the eternal and unchangeable,
and those who wander in the region of the many and variable are not
philosophers, I must ask you which of the two classes should be the
rulers of our State?
And how can we rightly answer that question?
Whichever of the two are best able to guard the laws and
institutions of our State --let them be our guardians.
Neither, I said, can there be any question that the guardian who
is to keep anything should have eyes rather than no eyes?
There can be no question of that.
And are not those who are verily and indeed wanting in the knowledge
of the true being of each thing, and who have in their souls no
clear pattern, and are unable as with a painter's eye to look at the
absolute truth and to that original to repair, and having perfect
vision of the other world to order the laws about beauty, goodness,
justice in this, if not already ordered, and to guard and preserve the
order of them --are not such persons, I ask, simply blind?
Truly, he replied, they are much in that condition.
And shall they be our guardians when there are others who, besides
being their equals in experience and falling short of them in no
particular of virtue, also know the very truth of each thing?
There can be no reason, he said, for rejecting those who have this
greatest of all great qualities; they must always have the first place
unless they fail in some other respect.
Suppose then, I said, that we determine how far they can unite
this and the other excellences.
By all means.
In the first place, as we began by observing, the nature of the
philosopher has to be ascertained. We must come to an understanding
about him, and, when we have done so, then, if I am not mistaken, we
shall also acknowledge that such an union of qualities is possible,
and that those in whom they are united, and those only, should be
rulers in the State.
What do you mean?
Let us suppose that philosophical minds always love knowledge of a
sort which shows them the eternal nature not varying from generation
And further, I said, let us agree that they are lovers of all true
being; there is no part whether greater or less, or more or less
honourable, which they are willing to renounce; as we said before of
the lover and the man of ambition.
And if they are to be what we were describing, is there not
another quality which they should also possess?
Truthfulness: they will never intentionally receive into their
mind falsehood, which is their detestation, and they will love the
Yes, that may be safely affirmed of them.
'May be,' my friend, I replied, is not the word; say rather 'must be
affirmed:' for he whose nature is amorous of anything cannot help
loving all that belongs or is akin to the object of his affections.
Right, he said.
And is there anything more akin to wisdom than truth?
How can there be?
Can the same nature be a lover of wisdom and a lover of falsehood?
The true lover of learning then must from his earliest youth, as far
as in him lies, desire all truth?
But then again, as we know by experience, he whose desires are
strong in one direction will have them weaker in others; they will
be like a stream which has been drawn off into another channel.
He whose desires are drawn towards knowledge in every form will be
absorbed in the pleasures of the soul, and will hardly feel bodily
pleasure --I mean, if he be a true philosopher and not a sham one.
That is most certain.
Such an one is sure to be temperate and the reverse of covetous; for
the motives which make another man desirous of having and spending,
have no place in his character.
Another criterion of the philosophical nature has also to be
What is that?
There should be no secret corner of illiberality; nothing can more
antagonistic than meanness to a soul which is ever longing after the
whole of things both divine and human.
Most true, he replied.
Then how can he who has magnificence of mind and is the spectator of
all time and all existence, think much of human life?
Or can such an one account death fearful?
Then the cowardly and mean nature has no part in true philosophy?
Or again: can he who is harmoniously constituted, who is not
covetous or mean, or a boaster, or a coward-can he, I say, ever be
unjust or hard in his dealings?
Then you will soon observe whether a man is just and gentle, or rude
and unsociable; these are the signs which distinguish even in youth
the philosophical nature from the unphilosophical.
There is another point which should be remarked.
Whether he has or has not a pleasure in learning; for no one will
love that which gives him pain, and in which after much toil he
makes little progress.
And again, if he is forgetful and retains nothing of what he learns,
will he not be an empty vessel?
That is certain.
Labouring in vain, he must end in hating himself and his fruitless
Then a soul which forgets cannot be ranked among genuine philosophic
natures; we must insist that the philosopher should have a good
And once more, the inharmonious and unseemly nature can only tend to
And do you consider truth to be akin to proportion or to
Then, besides other qualities, we must try to find a naturally
well-proportioned and gracious mind, which will move spontaneously