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Suppose we call it the contentious or ambitious --would the term
On the other hand, every one sees that the principle of knowledge is
wholly directed to the truth, and cares less than either of the others
for gain or fame.
'Lover of wisdom,' 'lover of knowledge,' are titles which we may
fitly apply to that part of the soul?
One principle prevails in the souls of one class of men, another
in others, as may happen?
Then we may begin by assuming that there are three classes of men
--lovers of wisdom, lovers of honour, lovers of gain?
And there are three kinds of pleasure, which are their several
Now, if you examine the three classes of men, and ask of them in
turn which of their lives is pleasantest, each will be found
praising his own and depreciating that of others: the money-maker will
contrast the vanity of honour or of learning if they bring no money
with the solid advantages of gold and silver?
True, he said.
And the lover of honour --what will be his opinion? Will he not
think that the pleasure of riches is vulgar, while the pleasure of
learning, if it brings no distinction, is all smoke and nonsense to
And are we to suppose, I said, that the philosopher sets any value
on other pleasures in comparison with the pleasure of knowing the
truth, and in that pursuit abiding, ever learning, not so far indeed
from the heaven of pleasure? Does he not call the other pleasures
necessary, under the idea that if there were no necessity for them, he
would rather not have them?
There can be no doubt of that, he replied.
Since, then, the pleasures of each class and the life of each are in
dispute, and the question is not which life is more or less
honourable, or better or worse, but which is the more pleasant or
painless --how shall we know who speaks truly?
I cannot myself tell, he said.
Well, but what ought to be the criterion? Is any better than
experience and wisdom and reason?
There cannot be a better, he said.
Then, I said, reflect. Of the three individuals, which has the
greatest experience of all the pleasures which we enumerated? Has
the lover of gain, in learning the nature of essential truth,
greater experience of the pleasure of knowledge than the philosopher
has of the pleasure of gain?
The philosopher, he replied, has greatly the advantage; for he has
of necessity always known the taste of the other pleasures from his
childhood upwards: but the lover of gain in all his experience has not
of necessity tasted --or, I should rather say, even had he desired,
could hardly have tasted --the sweetness of learning and knowing
Then the lover of wisdom has a great advantage over the lover of
gain, for he has a double experience?
Yes, very great.
Again, has he greater experience of the pleasures of honour, or
the lover of honour of the pleasures of wisdom?
Nay, he said, all three are honoured in proportion as they attain
their object; for the rich man and the brave man and the wise man
alike have their crowd of admirers, and as they all receive honour
they all have experience of the pleasures of honour; but the delight
which is to be found in the knowledge of true being is known to the
His experience, then, will enable him to judge better than any one?
And he is the only one who has wisdom as well as experience?
Further, the very faculty which is the instrument of judgment is not
possessed by the covetous or ambitious man, but only by the
Reason, with whom, as we were saying, the decision ought to rest.
And reasoning is peculiarly his instrument?
If wealth and gain were the criterion, then the praise or blame of
the lover of gain would surely be the most trustworthy?
Or if honour or victory or courage, in that case the judgement of
the ambitious or pugnacious would be the truest?
But since experience and wisdom and reason are the judges--
The only inference possible, he replied, is that pleasures which are
approved by the lover of wisdom and reason are the truest.
And so we arrive at the result, that the pleasure of the intelligent
part of the soul is the pleasantest of the three, and that he of us in
whom this is the ruling principle has the pleasantest life.
Unquestionably, he said, the wise man speaks with authority when
he approves of his own life.
And what does the judge affirm to be the life which is next, and the
pleasure which is next?
Clearly that of the soldier and lover of honour; who is nearer to
himself than the money-maker.
Last comes the lover of gain?
Very true, he said.
Twice in succession, then, has the just man overthrown the unjust in
this conflict; and now comes the third trial, which is dedicated to
Olympian Zeus the saviour: a sage whispers in my ear that no
pleasure except that of the wise is quite true and pure --all others
are a shadow only; and surely this will prove the greatest and most
decisive of falls?
Yes, the greatest; but will you explain yourself?
I will work out the subject and you shall answer my questions.
Say, then, is not pleasure opposed to pain?
And there is a neutral state which is neither pleasure nor pain?
A state which is intermediate, and a sort of repose of the soul
about either --that is what you mean?
You remember what people say when they are sick?
What do they say?
That after all nothing is pleasanter than health. But then they
never knew this to be the greatest of pleasures until they were ill.
Yes, I know, he said.
And when persons are suffering from acute pain, you must. have heard
them say that there is nothing pleasanter than to get rid of their
And there are many other cases of suffering in which the mere rest
and cessation of pain, and not any positive enjoyment, is extolled
by them as the greatest pleasure?
Yes, he said; at the time they are pleased and well content to be at
Again, when pleasure ceases, that sort of rest or cessation will
Doubtless, he said.
Then the intermediate state of rest will be pleasure and will also
So it would seem.
But can that which is neither become both?
I should say not.
And both pleasure and pain are motions of the soul, are they not?
But that which is neither was just now shown to be rest and not
motion, and in a mean between them?
How, then, can we be right in supposing that the absence of pain
is pleasure, or that the absence of pleasure is pain?
This then is an appearance only and not a reality; that is tc say,
the rest is pleasure at the moment and in comparison of what is
painful, and painful in comparison of what is pleasant; but all
these representations, when tried by the test of true pleasure, are
not real but a sort of imposition?
That is the inference.
Look at the other class of pleasures which have no antecedent
pains and you will no longer suppose, as you perhaps may at present,
that pleasure is only the cessation of pain, or pain of pleasure.
What are they, he said, and where shall I find them?
There are many of them: take as an example the pleasures, of
smell, which are very great and have no antecedent pains; they come in
a moment, and when they depart leave no pain behind them.
Most true, he said.
Let us not, then, be induced to believe that pure pleasure is the
cessation of pain, or pain of pleasure.
Still, the more numerous and violent pleasures which reach the
soul through the body are generally of this sort --they are reliefs of
That is true.
And the anticipations of future pleasures and pains are of a like
Shall I give you an illustration of them?
Let me hear.
You would allow, I said, that there is in nature an upper and
lower and middle region?
And if a person were to go from the lower to the middle region,
would he not imagine that he is going up; and he who is standing in
the middle and sees whence he has come, would imagine that he is
already in the upper region, if he has never seen the true upper
To be sure, he said; how can he think otherwise?
But if he were taken back again he would imagine, and truly imagine,
that he was descending?
All that would arise out of his ignorance of the true upper and
middle and lower regions?
Then can you wonder that persons who are inexperienced in the truth,
as they have wrong ideas about many other things, should also have
wrong ideas about pleasure and pain and the intermediate state; so
that when they are only being drawn towards the painful they feel pain
and think the pain which they experience to be real, and in like
manner, when drawn away from pain to the neutral or intermediate
state, they firmly believe that they have reached the goal of
satiety and pleasure; they, not knowing pleasure, err in contrasting
pain with the absence of pain. which is like contrasting black with
grey instead of white --can you wonder, I say, at this?
No, indeed; I should be much more disposed to wonder at the
Look at the matter thus: --Hunger, thirst, and the like, are