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whatever good there is in other things, --of a principle such and so
great as this ought the best men in our State, to whom everything is
entrusted, to be in the darkness of ignorance?
Certainly not, he said.
I am sure, I said, that he who does not know now the beautiful and
the just are likewise good will be but a sorry guardian of them; and I
suspect that no one who is ignorant of the good will have a true
knowledge of them.
That, he said, is a shrewd suspicion of yours.
And if we only have a guardian who has this knowledge our State will
be perfectly ordered?
Of course, he replied; but I wish that you would tell me whether you
conceive this supreme principle of the good to be knowledge or
pleasure, or different from either.
Aye, I said, I knew all along that a fastidious gentleman like you
would not be contented with the thoughts of other people about these
True, Socrates; but I must say that one who like you has passed a
lifetime in the study of philosophy should not be always repeating the
opinions of others, and never telling his own.
Well, but has any one a right to say positively what he does not
Not, he said, with the assurance of positive certainty; he has no
right to do that: but he may say what he thinks, as a matter of
And do you not know, I said, that all mere opinions are bad, and the
best of them blind? You would not deny that those who have any true
notion without intelligence are only like blind men who feel their way
along the road?
And do you wish to behold what is blind and crooked and base, when
others will tell you of brightness and beauty?
GLAUCON - SOCRATES
Still, I must implore you, Socrates, said Glaucon, not to turn
away just as you are reaching the goal; if you will only give such
an explanation of the good as you have already given of justice and
temperance and the other virtues, we shall be satisfied.
Yes, my friend, and I shall be at least equally satisfied, but I
cannot help fearing that I shall fall, and that my indiscreet zeal
will bring ridicule upon me. No, sweet sirs, let us not at present ask
what is the actual nature of the good, for to reach what is now in
my thoughts would be an effort too great for me. But of the child of
the good who is likest him, I would fain speak, if I could be sure
that you wished to hear --otherwise, not.
By all means, he said, tell us about the child, and you shall remain
in our debt for the account of the parent.
I do indeed wish, I replied, that I could pay, and you receive,
the account of the parent, and not, as now, of the offspring only;
take, however, this latter by way of interest, and at the same time
have a care that i do not render a false account, although I have no
intention of deceiving you.
Yes, we will take all the care that we can: proceed.
Yes, I said, but I must first come to an understanding with you, and
remind you of what I have mentioned in the course of this
discussion, and at many other times.
The old story, that there is a many beautiful and a many good, and
so of other things which we describe and define; to all of them 'many'
True, he said.
And there is an absolute beauty and an absolute good, and of other
things to which the term 'many' is applied there is an absolute; for
they may be brought under a single idea, which is called the essence
The many, as we say, are seen but not known, and the ideas are known
but not seen.
And what is the organ with which we see the visible things?
The sight, he said.
And with the hearing, I said, we hear, and with the other senses
perceive the other objects of sense?
But have you remarked that sight is by far the most costly and
complex piece of workmanship which the artificer of the senses ever
No, I never have, he said.
Then reflect; has the ear or voice need of any third or additional
nature in order that the one may be able to hear and the other to be
Nothing of the sort.
No, indeed, I replied; and the same is true of most, if not all, the
other senses --you would not say that any of them requires such an
But you see that without the addition of some other nature there
is no seeing or being seen?
How do you mean?
Sight being, as I conceive, in the eyes, and he who has eyes wanting
to see; colour being also present in them, still unless there be a
third nature specially adapted to the purpose, the owner of the eyes
will see nothing and the colours will be invisible.
Of what nature are you speaking?
Of that which you term light, I replied.
True, he said.
Noble, then, is the bond which links together sight and
visibility, and great beyond other bonds by no small difference of
nature; for light is their bond, and light is no ignoble thing?
Nay, he said, the reverse of ignoble.
And which, I said, of the gods in heaven would you say was the
lord of this element? Whose is that light which makes the eye to see
perfectly and the visible to appear?
You mean the sun, as you and all mankind say.
May not the relation of sight to this deity be described as follows?
Neither sight nor the eye in which sight resides is the sun?
Yet of all the organs of sense the eye is the most like the sun?
By far the most like.
And the power which the eye possesses is a sort of effluence which
is dispensed from the sun?
Then the sun is not sight, but the author of sight who is recognised
True, he said.
And this is he whom I call the child of the good, whom the good
begat in his own likeness, to be in the visible world, in relation
to sight and the things of sight, what the good is in the intellectual
world in relation to mind and the things of mind.
Will you be a little more explicit? he said.
Why, you know, I said, that the eyes, when a person directs them
towards objects on which the light of day is no longer shining, but
the moon and stars only, see dimly, and are nearly blind; they seem to
have no clearness of vision in them?
But when they are directed towards objects on which the sun
shines, they see clearly and there is sight in them?
And the soul is like the eye: when resting upon that on which
truth and being shine, the soul perceives and understands and is
radiant with intelligence; but when turned towards the twilight of
becoming and perishing, then she has opinion only, and goes blinking
about, and is first of one opinion and then of another, and seems to
have no intelligence?
Now, that which imparts truth to the known and the power of
knowing to the knower is what I would have you term the idea of
good, and this you will deem to be the cause of science, and of
truth in so far as the latter becomes the subject of knowledge;
beautiful too, as are both truth and knowledge, you will be right in
esteeming this other nature as more beautiful than either; and, as
in the previous instance, light and sight may be truly said to be like
the sun, and yet not to be the sun, so in this other sphere, science
and truth may be deemed to be like the good, but not the good; the
good has a place of honour yet higher.
What a wonder of beauty that must be, he said, which is the author
of science and truth, and yet surpasses them in beauty; for you surely
cannot mean to say that pleasure is the good?
God forbid, I replied; but may I ask you to consider the image in
another point of view?
In what point of view?
You would say, would you not, that the sun is only the author of
visibility in all visible things, but of generation and nourishment
and growth, though he himself is not generation?
In like manner the good may be said to be not only the author of
knowledge to all things known, but of their being and essence, and yet
the good is not essence, but far exceeds essence in dignity and power.
Glaucon said, with a ludicrous earnestness: By the light of
heaven, how amazing!
Yes, I said, and the exaggeration may be set down to you; for you
made me utter my fancies.
And pray continue to utter them; at any rate let us hear if there is
anything more to be said about the similitude of the sun.
Yes, I said, there is a great deal more.
Then omit nothing, however slight.
I will do my best, I said; but I should think that a great deal will
have to be omitted.
You have to imagine, then, that there are two ruling powers, and
that one of them is set over the intellectual world, the other over
the visible. I do not say heaven, lest you should fancy that I am
playing upon the name ('ourhanoz, orhatoz'). May I suppose that you
have this distinction of the visible and intelligible fixed in your
Now take a line which has been cut into two unequal parts, and
divide each of them again in the same proportion, and suppose the
two main divisions to answer, one to the visible and the other to
the intelligible, and then compare the subdivisions in respect of
their clearness and want of clearness, and you will find that the
first section in the sphere of the visible consists of images. And
by images I mean, in the first place, shadows, and in the second
place, reflections in water and in solid, smooth and polished bodies
and the like: Do you understand?
Yes, I understand.
Imagine, now, the other section, of which this is only the
resemblance, to include the animals which we see, and everything
that grows or is made.
Would you not admit that both the sections of this division have
different degrees of truth, and that the copy is to the original as
the sphere of opinion is to the sphere of knowledge?
Next proceed to consider the manner in which the sphere of the
intellectual is to be divided.
In what manner?
Thus: --There are two subdivisions, in the lower or which the soul
uses the figures given by the former division as images; the enquiry