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friend Theages' bridle; for everything in the life of Theages
conspired to divert him from philosophy; but ill-health kept him
away from politics. My own case of the internal sign is hardly worth
mentioning, for rarely, if ever, has such a monitor been given to
any other man. Those who belong to this small class have tasted how
sweet and blessed a possession philosophy is, and have also seen
enough of the madness of the multitude; and they know that no
politician is honest, nor is there any champion of justice at whose
side they may fight and be saved. Such an one may be compared to a man
who has fallen among wild beasts --he will not join in the
wickedness of his fellows, but neither is he able singly to resist all
their fierce natures, and therefore seeing that he would be of no
use to the State or to his friends, and reflecting that he would
have to throw away his life without doing any good either to himself
or others, he holds his peace, and goes his own way. He is like one
who, in the storm of dust and sleet which the driving wind hurries
along, retires under the shelter of a wall; and seeing the rest of
mankind full of wickedness, he is content, if only he can live his own
life and be pure from evil or unrighteousness, and depart in peace and
good-will, with bright hopes.
Yes, he said, and he will have done a great work before he departs.
A great work --yes; but not the greatest, unless he find a State
suitable to him; for in a State which is suitable to him, he will have
a larger growth and be the saviour of his country, as well as of
The causes why philosophy is in such an evil name have now been
sufficiently explained: the injustice of the charges against her has
been shown-is there anything more which you wish to say?
Nothing more on that subject, he replied; but I should like to
know which of the governments now existing is in your opinion the
one adapted to her.
Not any of them, I said; and that is precisely the accusation
which I bring against them --not one of them is worthy of the
philosophic nature, and hence that nature is warped and estranged;
--as the exotic seed which is sown in a foreign land becomes
denaturalized, and is wont to be overpowered and to lose itself in the
new soil, even so this growth of philosophy, instead of persisting,
degenerates and receives another character. But if philosophy ever
finds in the State that perfection which she herself is, then will
be seen that she is in truth divine, and that all other things,
whether natures of men or institutions, are but human; --and now, I
know that you are going to ask, what that State is.
No, he said; there you are wrong, for I was going to ask another
question --whether it is the State of which. we are the founders and
inventors, or some other?
Yes, I replied, ours in most respects; but you may remember my
saying before, that some living authority would always be required
in the State having the same idea of the constitution which guided you
when as legislator you were laying down the laws.
That was said, he replied.
Yes, but not in a satisfactory manner; you frightened us by
interposing objections, which certainly showed that the discussion
would be long and difficult; and what still remains is the reverse
What is there remaining?
The question how the study of philosophy may be so ordered as not to
be the ruin of the State: All great attempts are attended with risk;
'hard is the good,' as men say.
Still, he said, let the point be cleared up, and the enquiry will
then be complete.
I shall not be hindered, I said, by any want of will, but, if at
all, by a want of power: my zeal you may see for yourselves; and
please to remark in what I am about to say how boldly and
unhesitatingly I declare that States should pursue philosophy, not
as they do now, but in a different spirit.
In what manner?
At present, I said, the students of philosophy are quite young;
beginning when they are hardly past childhood, they devote only the
time saved from moneymaking and housekeeping to such pursuits; and
even those of them who are reputed to have most of the philosophic
spirit, when they come within sight of the great difficulty of the
subject, I mean dialectic, take themselves off. In after life when
invited by some one else, they may, perhaps, go and hear a lecture,
and about this they make much ado, for philosophy is not considered by
them to be their proper business: at last, when they grow old, in most
cases they are extinguished more truly than Heracleitus' sun, inasmuch
as they never light up again.
But what ought to be their course?
Just the opposite. In childhood and youth their study, and what
philosophy they learn, should be suited to their tender years:
during this period while they are growing up towards manhood, the
chief and special care should be given to their bodies that they may
have them to use in the service of philosophy; as life advances and
the intellect begins to mature, let them increase the gymnastics of
the soul; but when the strength of our citizens fails and is past
civil and military duties, then let them range at will and engage in
no serious labour, as we intend them to live happily here, and to
crown this life with a similar happiness in another.
How truly in earnest you are, Socrates! he said; I am sure of
that; and yet most of your hearers, if I am not mistaken, are likely
to be still more earnest in their opposition to you, and will never be
convinced; Thrasymachus least of all.
Do not make a quarrel, I said, between Thrasymachus and me, who have
recently become friends, although, indeed, we were never enemies;
for I shall go on striving to the utmost until I either convert him
and other men, or do something which may profit them against the day
when they live again, and hold the like discourse in another state
You are speaking of a time which is not very near.
Rather, I replied, of a time which is as nothing in comparison
with eternity. Nevertheless, I do not wonder that the many refuse to
believe; for they have never seen that of which we are now speaking
realised; they have seen only a conventional imitation of
philosophy, consisting of words artificially brought together, not
like these of ours having a natural unity. But a human being who in
word and work is perfectly moulded, as far as he can be, into the
proportion and likeness of virtue --such a man ruling in a city
which bears the same image, they have never yet seen, neither one
nor many of them --do you think that they ever did?
No, my friend, and they have seldom, if ever, heard free and noble
sentiments; such as men utter when they are earnestly and by every
means in their power seeking after truth for the sake of knowledge,
while they look coldly on the subtleties of controversy, of which
the end is opinion and strife, whether they meet with them in the
courts of law or in society.
They are strangers, he said, to the words of which you speak.
And this was what we foresaw, and this was the reason why truth
forced us to admit, not without fear and hesitation, that neither
cities nor States nor individuals will ever attain perfection until
the small class of philosophers whom we termed useless but not corrupt
are providentially compelled, whether they will or not, to take care
of the State, and until a like necessity be laid on the State to
obey them; or until kings, or if not kings, the sons of kings or
princes, are divinely inspired ' d with a true love of true
philosophy. That either or both of these alternatives are
impossible, I see no reason to affirm: if they were so, we might
indeed be justly ridiculed as dreamers and visionaries. Am I not
If then, in the countless ages of the past, or at the present hour
in some foreign clime which is far away and beyond our ken, the
perfected philosopher is or has been or hereafter shall be compelled
by a superior power to have the charge of the State, we are ready to
assert to the death, that this our constitution has been, and is
--yea, and will be whenever the Muse of Philosophy is queen. There
is no impossibility in all this; that there is a difficulty, we
My opinion agrees with yours, he said.
But do you mean to say that this is not the opinion of the
I should imagine not, he replied.
O my friend, I said, do not attack the multitude: they will change
their minds, if, not in an aggressive spirit, but gently and with
the view of soothing them and removing their dislike of
over-education, you show them your philosophers as they really are and
describe as you were just now doing their character and profession,
and then mankind will see that he of whom you are speaking is not such
as they supposed --if they view him in this new light, they will
surely change their notion of him, and answer in another strain. Who
can be at enmity with one who loves them, who that is himself gentle
and free from envy will be jealous of one in whom there is no
jealousy? Nay, let me answer for you, that in a few this harsh
temper may be found but not in the majority of mankind.
I quite agree with you, he said.
And do you not also think, as I do, that the harsh feeling which the
many entertain towards philosophy originates in the pretenders, who
rush in uninvited, and are always abusing them, and finding fault with
them, who make persons instead of things the theme of their
conversation? and nothing can be more unbecoming in philosophers
It is most unbecoming.
For he, Adeimantus, whose mind is fixed upon true being, has
surely no time to look down upon the affairs of earth, or to be filled
with malice and envy, contending against men; his eye is ever directed
towards things fixed and immutable, which he sees neither injuring nor
injured by one another, but all in order moving according to reason;
these he imitates, and to these he will, as far as he can, conform
himself. Can a man help imitating that with which he holds reverential
And the philosopher holding converse with the divine order,
becomes orderly and divine, as far as the nature of man allows; but
like every one else, he will suffer from detraction.
And if a necessity be laid upon him of fashioning, not only himself,
but human nature generally, whether in States or individuals, into
that which he beholds elsewhere, will he, think you, be an unskilful
artificer of justice, temperance, and every civil virtue?
Anything but unskilful.
And if the world perceives that what we are saying about him is
the truth, will they be angry with philosophy? Will they disbelieve
us, when we tell them that no State can be happy which is not designed
by artists who imitate the heavenly pattern?
They will not be angry if they understand, he said. But how will
they draw out the plan of which you are speaking?
They will begin by taking the State and the manners of men, from
which, as from a tablet, they will rub out the picture, and leave a
clean surface. This is no easy task. But whether easy or not, herein
will lie the difference between them and every other legislator,
--they will have nothing to do either with individual or State, and
will inscribe no laws, until they have either found, or themselves
made, a clean surface.
They will be very right, he said.
Having effected this, they will proceed to trace an outline of the
And when they are filling in the work, as I conceive, they will
often turn their eyes upwards and downwards: I mean that they will
first look at absolute justice and beauty and temperance, and again at