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There is reason in supposing that the finest natures, when under
alien conditions, receive more injury than the inferior, because the
contrast is greater.
And may we not say, Adeimantus, that the most gifted minds, when
they are ill-educated, become pre-eminently bad? Do not great crimes
and the spirit of pure evil spring out of a fulness of nature ruined
by education rather than from any inferiority, whereas weak natures
are scarcely capable of any very great good or very great evil?
There I think that you are right.
And our philosopher follows the same analogy-he is like a plant
which, having proper nurture, must necessarily grow and mature into
all virtue, but, if sown and planted in an alien soil, becomes the
most noxious of all weeds, unless he be preserved by some divine
power. Do you really think, as people so often say, that our youth are
corrupted by Sophists, or that private teachers of the art corrupt
them in any degree worth speaking of? Are not the public who say these
things the greatest of all Sophists? And do they not educate to
perfection young and old, men and women alike, and fashion them
after their own hearts?
When is this accomplished? he said.
When they meet together, and the world sits down at an assembly,
or in a court of law, or a theatre, or a camp, or in any other popular
resort, and there is a great uproar, and they praise some things which
are being said or done, and blame other things, equally exaggerating
both, shouting and clapping their hands, and the echo of the rocks and
the place in which they are assembled redoubles the sound of the
praise or blame --at such a time will not a young man's heart, as they
say, leap within him? Will any private training enable him to stand
firm against the overwhelming flood of popular opinion? or will he
be carried away by the stream? Will he not have the notions of good
and evil which the public in general have --he will do as they do, and
as they are, such will he be?
Yes, Socrates; necessity will compel him.
And yet, I said, there is a still greater necessity, which has not
What is that?
The gentle force of attainder or confiscation or death which, as you
are aware, these new Sophists and educators who are the public,
apply when their words are powerless.
Indeed they do; and in right good earnest.
Now what opinion of any other Sophist, or of any private person, can
be expected to overcome in such an unequal contest?
None, he replied.
No, indeed, I said, even to make the attempt is a great piece of
folly; there neither is, nor has been, nor is ever likely to be, any
different type of character which has had no other training in
virtue but that which is supplied by public opinion --I speak, my
friend, of human virtue only; what is more than human, as the
proverb says, is not included: for I would not have you ignorant that,
in the present evil state of governments, whatever is saved and
comes to good is saved by the power of God, as we may truly say.
I quite assent, he replied.
Then let me crave your assent also to a further observation.
What are you going to say?
Why, that all those mercenary individuals, whom the many call
Sophists and whom they deem to be their adversaries, do, in fact,
teach nothing but the opinion of the many, that is to say, the
opinions of their assemblies; and this is their wisdom. I might
compare them to a man who should study the tempers and desires of a
mighty strong beast who is fed by him-he would learn how to approach
and handle him, also at what times and from what causes he is
dangerous or the reverse, and what is the meaning of his several
cries, and by what sounds, when another utters them, he is soothed
or infuriated; and you may suppose further, that when, by
continually attending upon him, he has become perfect in all this,
he calls his knowledge wisdom, and makes of it a system or art,
which he proceeds to teach, although he has no real notion of what
he means by the principles or passions of which he is speaking, but
calls this honourable and that dishonourable, or good or evil, or just
or unjust, all in accordance with the tastes and tempers of the
great brute. Good he pronounces to be that in which the beast delights
and evil to be that which he dislikes; and he can give no other
account of them except that the just and noble are the necessary,
having never himself seen, and having no power of explaining to others
the nature of either, or the difference between them, which is
immense. By heaven, would not such an one be a rare educator?
Indeed, he would.
And in what way does he who thinks that wisdom is the discernment of
the tempers and tastes of the motley multitude, whether in painting or
music, or, finally, in politics, differ from him whom I have been
describing For when a man consorts with the many, and exhibits to them
his poem or other work of art or the service which he has done the
State, making them his judges when he is not obliged, the so-called
necessity of Diomede will oblige him to produce whatever they
praise. And yet the reasons are utterly ludicrous which they give in
confirmation of their own notions about the honourable and good. Did
you ever hear any of them which were not?
No, nor am I likely to hear.
You recognise the truth of what I have been saying? Then let me
ask you to consider further whether the world will ever be induced
to believe in the existence of absolute beauty rather than of the many
beautiful, or of the absolute in each kind rather than of the many
in each kind?
Then the world cannot possibly be a philosopher?
And therefore philosophers must inevitably fall under the censure of
And of individuals who consort with the mob and seek to please them?
That is evident.
Then, do you see any way in which the philosopher can be preserved
in his calling to the end? and remember what we were saying of him,
that he was to have quickness and memory and courage and
magnificence --these were admitted by us to be the true
Will not such an one from his early childhood be in all things first
among all, especially if his bodily endowments are like his mental
Certainly, he said.
And his friends and fellow-citizens will want to use him as he
gets older for their own purposes?
Falling at his feet, they will make requests to him and do him
honour and flatter him, because they want to get into their hands now,
the power which he will one day possess.
That often happens, he said.
And what will a man such as he be likely to do under such
circumstances, especially if he be a citizen of a great city, rich and
noble, and a tall proper youth? Will he not be full of boundless
aspirations, and fancy himself able to manage the affairs of
Hellenes and of barbarians, and having got such notions into his
head will he not dilate and elevate himself in the fulness of vain
pomp and senseless pride?
To be sure he will.
Now, when he is in this state of mind, if some one gently comes to
him and tells him that he is a fool and must get understanding,
which can only be got by slaving for it, do you think that, under such
adverse circumstances, he will be easily induced to listen?
And even if there be some one who through inherent goodness or
natural reasonableness has had his eyes opened a little and is humbled
and taken captive by philosophy, how will his friends behave when they
think that they are likely to lose the advantage which they were
hoping to reap from his companionship? Will they not do and say
anything to prevent him from yielding to his better nature and to
render his teacher powerless, using to this end private intrigues as
well as public prosecutions?
There can be no doubt of it.
And how can one who is thus circumstanced ever become a philosopher?
Then were we not right in saying that even the very qualities
which make a man a philosopher may, if he be ill-educated, divert
him from philosophy, no less than riches and their accompaniments
and the other so-called goods of life?
We were quite right.
Thus, my excellent friend, is brought about all that ruin and
failure which I have been describing of the natures best adapted to
the best of all pursuits; they are natures which we maintain to be
rare at any time; this being the class out of which come the men who
are the authors of the greatest evil to States and individuals; and
also of the greatest good when the tide carries them in that
direction; but a small man never was the doer of any great thing
either to individuals or to States.
That is most true, he said.
And so philosophy is left desolate, with her marriage rite
incomplete: for her own have fallen away and forsaken her, and while
they are leading a false and unbecoming life, other unworthy
persons, seeing that she has no kinsmen to be her protectors, enter in
and dishonour her; and fasten upon her the reproaches which, as you
say, her reprovers utter, who affirm of her votaries that some are
good for nothing, and that the greater number deserve the severest
That is certainly what people say.
Yes; and what else would you expect, I said, when you think of the
puny creatures who, seeing this land open to them --a land well
stocked with fair names and showy titles --like prisoners running
out of prison into a sanctuary, take a leap out of their trades into
philosophy; those who do so being probably the cleverest hands at
their own miserable crafts? For, although philosophy be in this evil
case, still there remains a dignity about her which is not to be found
in the arts. And many are thus attracted by her whose natures are
imperfect and whose souls are maimed and disfigured by their
meannesses, as their bodies are by their trades and crafts. Is not
Are they not exactly like a bald little tinker who has just got
out of durance and come into a fortune; he takes a bath and puts on
a new coat, and is decked out as a bridegroom going to marry his
master's daughter, who is left poor and desolate?
A most exact parallel.
What will be the issue of such marriages? Will they not be vile
There can be no question of it.
And when persons who are unworthy of education approach philosophy
and make an alliance with her who is a rank above them what sort of
ideas and opinions are likely to be generated? Will they not be
sophisms captivating to the ear, having nothing in them genuine, or
worthy of or akin to true wisdom?
No doubt, he said.
Then, Adeimantus, I said, the worthy disciples of philosophy will be
but a small remnant: perchance some noble and well-educated person,
detained by exile in her service, who in the absence of corrupting
influences remains devoted to her; or some lofty soul born in a mean
city, the politics of which he contemns and neglects; and there may be
a gifted few who leave the arts, which they justly despise, and come
to her; --or peradventure there are some who are restrained by our