SOCRATES - GLAUCON
AND now, I said, let me show
in a figure how far our nature
or unenlightened:--Behold! human
beings living in a underground
which has a mouth open towards
the light and reaching all along
here they have been from their
childhood, and have their legs
chained so that they cannot move,
and can only see before them,
being prevented by the chains
from turning round their heads.
Above and behind them a fire
is blazing at a distance,
and between the fire and the
prisoners there is a raised way;
and you will see, if you look,
a low wall built along the way,
like the screen which marionette
players have in front of them,
over which they show the puppets.
And do you see, I said, men
passing along the wall carrying
sorts of vessels, and statues
and figures of animals made of
and stone and various materials,
which appear over the wall?
Some of them are talking, others
You have shown me a strange
image, and they are strange prisoners.
Like ourselves, I replied; and
they see only their own shadows,
or the shadows of one another,
which the fire throws on the
wall of the cave?
True, he said; how could they
see anything but the shadows
were never allowed to move their
And of the objects which are
being carried in like manner
would only see the shadows?
Yes, he said.
And if they were able to converse
with one another, would they
not suppose that they were naming
what was actually before them?
And suppose further that the
prison had an echo which came
other side, would they not be
sure to fancy when one of the
spoke that the voice which they
heard came from the passing shadow?
No question, he replied.
To them, I said, the truth would
be literally nothing but the
of the images.
That is certain.
And now look again, and see
what will naturally follow it'
the prisoners are released and
disabused of their error. At
when any of them is liberated
and compelled suddenly to stand
up and turn his neck round and
walk and look towards the light,
he will suffer sharp pains; the
glare will distress him, and
will be unable to see the realities
of which in his former state
he had seen the shadows; and
then conceive some one saying
that what he saw before was an
illusion, but that now, when
is approaching nearer to being
and his eye is turned towards
real existence, he has a clearer
vision, -what will be his reply?
And you may further imagine that
his instructor is pointing
to the objects as they pass and
requiring him to name them,
-will he not be perplexed? Will
he not fancy that the shadows
which he formerly saw are truer
than the objects which are now
And if he is compelled to look
straight at the light, will he
not have a pain in his eyes which
will make him turn away to take
and take in the objects of vision
which he can see, and which he
will conceive to be in reality
clearer than the things which
now being shown to him?
True, he now
And suppose once more, that
he is reluctantly dragged up
and rugged ascent, and held fast
until he's forced into the presence
of the sun himself, is he not
likely to be pained and irritated?
When he approaches the light
his eyes will be dazzled, and
he will not
be able to see anything at all
of what are now called realities.
Not all in a moment, he said.
He will require to grow accustomed
to the sight of the upper world.
And first he will see the shadows
best, next the reflections of
and other objects in the water,
and then the objects themselves;
then he will gaze upon the light
of the moon and the stars and
spangled heaven; and he will
see the sky and the stars by
than the sun or the light of
the sun by day?
Last of he will be able to see
the sun, and not mere reflections
of him in the water, but he will
see him in his own proper place,
and not in another; and he will
contemplate him as he is.
He will then proceed to argue
that this is he who gives the
and the years, and is the guardian
of all that is in the visible
and in a certain way the cause
of all things which he and his
have been accustomed to behold?
Clearly, he said, he would first
see the sun and then reason about
And when he remembered his old
habitation, and the wisdom of
and his fellow-prisoners, do
you not suppose that he would
himself on the change, and pity
Certainly, he would.
And if they were in the habit
of conferring honours among themselves
on those who were quickest to
observe the passing shadows and
to remark which of them went
before, and which followed after,
and which were together; and
who were therefore best able
conclusions as to the future,
do you think that he would care
for such honours and glories,
or envy the possessors of them?
Would he not say with Homer,
Better to be the poor servant
of a poor master,
and to endure anything, rather
than think as they do and live
after their manner?
Yes, he said, I think that he
would rather suffer anything
entertain these false notions
and live in this miserable manner.
Imagine once more, I said, such
an one coming suddenly out of
to be replaced in his old situation;
would he not be certain
to have his eyes full of darkness?
To be sure, he said.
And if there were a contest,
and he had to compete in measuring
the shadows with the prisoners
who had never moved out of the
while his sight was still weak,
and before his eyes had become
(and the time which would be
needed to acquire this new habit
of sight might be very considerable)
would he not be ridiculous?
Men would say of him that up
he went and down he came without
his eyes; and that it was better
not even to think of ascending;
and if any one tried to loose
another and lead him up to the
let them only catch the offender,
and they would put him
No question, he said.
This entire allegory, I said,
you may now append, dear Glaucon,
to the previous argument; the
prison-house is the world of
the light of the fire is the
sun, and you will not misapprehend
if you interpret the journey
upwards to be the ascent of the
into the intellectual world according
to my poor belief, which,
at your desire, I have expressed
whether rightly or wrongly
God knows. But, whether true
or false, my opinion is that
the world of knowledge the idea
of good appears last of all,
and is seen only with an effort;
and, when seen, is also inferred
to be the universal author of
all things beautiful and right,
parent of light and of the lord
of light in this visible world,
and the immediate source of reason
and truth in the intellectual;
and that this is the power upon
which he who would act rationally,
either in public or private life
must have his eye fixed.
I agree, he said, as far as
I am able to understand you.
Moreover, I said, you must not
wonder that those who attain
to this beatific vision are unwilling
to descend to human affairs;
for their souls are ever hastening
into the upper world where they
desire to dwell; which desire
of theirs is very natural, if
allegory may be trusted.
Yes, very natural.
And is there anything surprising
in one who passes from divine
contemplations to the evil state
of man, misbehaving himself in
ridiculous manner; if, while
his eyes are blinking and before
has become accustomed to the
surrounding darkness, he is compelled
to fight in courts of law, or
in other places, about the images
or the shadows of images of justice,
and is endeavouring to meet
the conceptions of those who
have never yet seen absolute
Anything but surprising, he
Any one who has common sense
will remember that the bewilderments
of the eyes are of two kinds,
and arise from two causes,
either from coming out of the
light or from going into the
which is true of the mind's eye,
quite as much as of the bodily
and he who remembers this when
he sees any one whose vision
perplexed and weak, will not
be too ready to laugh; he will
ask whether that soul of man
has come out of the brighter
and is unable to see because
unaccustomed to the dark, or
turned from darkness to the day
is dazzled by excess of light.
And he will count the one happy
in his condition and state of
and he will pity the other; or,
if he have a mind to laugh at
which comes from below into the
light, there will be more reason
than in the laugh which greets
him who returns from above out
the light into the den.
That, he said, is a very just
But then, if I am right, certain
professors of education must
be wrong when they say that they
can put a knowledge into the
which was not there before, like
sight into blind eyes.
They undoubtedly say this, he
Whereas, our argument shows
that the power and capacity of
learning exists in the soul already;
and that just as the eye
was unable to turn from darkness
to light without the whole body,
so too the instrument of knowledge
can only by the movement
of the whole soul be turned from
the world of becoming into
that of being, and learn by degrees
to endure the sight of being,
and of the brightest and best
of being, or in other words,
of the good.
And must there not be some art
which will effect conversion
the easiest and quickest manner;
not implanting the faculty of
for that exists already, but
has been turned in the wrong
and is looking away from the
Yes, he said, such an art may
And whereas the other so-called
virtues of the soul seem to be
akin to bodily qualities, for
even when they are not originally
innate they can be implanted
later by habit and exercise,
the of wisdom more than anything
else contains a divine element
which always remains, and by
this conversion is rendered useful
and profitable; or, on the other
hand, hurtful and useless.
Did you never observe the narrow
intelligence flashing from the
eye of a clever rogue--how eager
he is, how clearly his paltry
sees the way to his end; he is
the reverse of blind, but his
eyesight is forced into the service
of evil, and he is mischievous
in proportion to his cleverness.
Very true, he said.
But what if there had been a
circumcision of such natures
in the days
of their youth; and they had
been severed from those sensual
such as eating and drinking,
which, like leaden weights, were
to them at their birth, and which
drag them down and turn the vision
of their souls upon the things
that are below--if, I say, they
released from these impediments
and turned in the opposite direction,
the very same faculty in them
would have seen the truth as
as they see what their eyes are
turned to now.
Yes, I said; and there is another
thing which is likely.
or rather a necessary inference
from what has preceded, that
the uneducated and uninformed
of the truth, nor yet those who
make an end of their education,
will be able ministers of State;
not the former, because they
have no single aim of duty which
is the rule of all their actions,
private as well as public;
nor the latter, because they
will not act at all except upon
fancying that they are already
dwelling apart in the islands
Very true, he replied.
Then, I said, the business of
us who are the founders of the
will be to compel the best minds
to attain that knowledge which
have already shown to be the
greatest of all-they must continue
to ascend until they arrive at
the good; but when they have
and seen enough we must not allow
them to do as they do now.
What do you mean?
I mean that they remain in the
upper world: but this must not
they must be made to descend
again among the prisoners in
and partake of their labours
and honours, whether they are
having or not.
But is not this unjust? he said;
ought we to give them a worse
when they might have a better?
You have again forgotten, my
friend, I said, the intention
the legislator, who did not aim
at making any one class in the
happy above the rest; the happiness
was to be in the whole State,
and he held the citizens together
by persuasion and necessity,
making them benefactors of the
State, and therefore benefactors
of one another; to this end he
created them, not to please themselves,
but to be his instruments in
binding up the State.
True, he said, I had forgotten.
Observe, Glaucon, that there
will be no injustice in compelling
our philosophers to have a care
and providence of others; we
explain to them that in other
States, men of their class are
obliged to share in the toils
of politics: and this is reasonable,
for they grow up at their own
sweet will, and the government
rather not have them. Being self-taught,
they cannot be expected
to show any gratitude for a culture
which they have never received.
But we have brought you into
the world to be rulers of the
kings of yourselves and of the
other citizens, and have educated
far better and more perfectly
than they have been educated,
are better able to share in the
double duty. Wherefore each of
when his turn comes, must go
down to the general underground
and get the habit of seeing in
the dark. When you have acquired
you will see ten thousand times
better than the inhabitants of
and you will know what the several
images are, and what they represent,
because you have seen the beautiful
and just and good in their truth.
And thus our State which is also
yours will be a reality,
and not a dream only, and will
be administered in a spirit unlike
that of other States, in which
men fight with one another about
shadows only and are distracted
in the struggle for power, which
their eyes is a great good. Whereas
the truth is that the State
in which the rulers are most
reluctant to govern is always
and most quietly governed, and
the State in which they are most
Quite true, he replied.
And will our pupils, when they
hear this, refuse to take their
at the toils of State, when they
are allowed to spend the greater
part of their time with one another
in the heavenly light?
Impossible, he answered; for
they are just men, and the commands
which we impose upon them are
just; there can be no doubt
that every one of them will take
office as a stern necessity,
and not after the fashion of
our present rulers of State.
Yes, my friend, I said; and
there lies the point. You must
for your future rulers another
and a better life than that of
and then you may have a well-ordered
State; for only in the State
offers this, will they rule who
are truly rich, not in silver
but in virtue and wisdom, which
are the true blessings of life.
Whereas if they go to the administration
of public affairs,
poor and hungering after the'
own private advantage, thinking
hence they are to snatch the
chief good, order there can never
for they will be fighting about
office, and the civil and domestic
broils which thus arise will
be the ruin of the rulers themselves
of the whole State.
Most true, he replied.
And the only life which looks
down upon the life of political
ambition is that of true philosophy.
Do you know of any other?
Indeed, I do not, he said.
And those who govern ought not
to be lovers of the task?
For, if they are, there will
be rival lovers, and they will
Who then are those whom we shall
compel to be guardians?
Surely they will be the men who
are wisest about affairs of State,
and by whom the State is best
administered, and who at the
time have other honours and another
and a better life than that
They are the men, and I will
choose them, he replied.
And now shall we consider in
what way such guardians will
and how they are to be brought
from darkness to light,--as some
said to have ascended from the
world below to the gods?
By all means, he replied.
The process, I said, is not
the turning over of an oyster-shell,
but the turning round of a soul
passing from a day which is little
better than night to the true
day of being, that is, the ascent
from below, which we affirm to
be true philosophy?
And should we not enquire what
sort of knowledge has the power
of effecting such a change?
What sort of knowledge is there
which would draw the soul from
to being? And another consideration
has just occurred to me:
You will remember that our young
men are to be warrior athletes
Yes, that was said.
Then this new kind of knowledge
must have an additional quality?
Usefulness in war.
Yes, if possible.
There were two parts in our
former scheme of education, were
There was gymnastic which presided
over the growth and decay of
and may therefore be regarded
as having to do with generation
Then that is not the knowledge
which we are seeking to discover?
But what do you say of music,
which also entered to a certain
extent into our former scheme?
Music, he said, as you will
remember, was the counterpart
and trained the guardians by
the influences of habit, by harmony
them harmonious, by rhythm rhythmical,
but not giving them science;
and the words, whether fabulous
or possibly true, had kindred
of rhythm and harmony in them.
But in music there was nothing
which tended to that good which
you are now seeking.
You are most accurate, I said,
in your recollection; in music
certainly was nothing of the
kind. But what branch of knowledge
is there, my dear Glaucon, which
is of the desired nature;
since all the useful arts were
reckoned mean by us?
Undoubtedly; and yet if music
and gymnastic are excluded,
and the arts are also excluded,
Well, I said, there may be nothing
left of our special subjects;
and then we shall have to take
something which is not special,
but of universal application.
What may that be?
A something which all arts and
sciences and intelligences use
in common, and which every one
first has to learn among the
What is that?
The little matter of distinguishing
one, two, and three--in a word,
number and calculation:--do not
all arts and sciences necessarily
partake of them?
Then the art of war partakes
To the sure.
Then Palamedes, whenever he
appears in tragedy, proves Agamemnon
ridiculously unfit to be a general.
Did you never remark how he
declares that he had invented
number, and had numbered the
and set in array the ranks of
the army at Troy; which implies
that they had never been numbered
before, and Agamemnon must be
supposed literally to have been
incapable of counting his own
how could he if he was ignorant
of number? And if that is true,
what sort of general must he
I should say a very strange
one, if this was as you say.
Can we deny that a warrior should
have a knowledge of arithmetic?
Certainly he should, if he is
to have the smallest understanding
of military tactics, or indeed,
I should rather say, if he
is to be a man at all.
I should like to know whether
you have the same notion which
have of this study?
What is your notion?
It appears to me to be a study
of the kind which we are seeking,
and which leads naturally to
reflection, but never to have
rightly used; for the true use
of it is simply to draw the soul
Will you explain your meaning?
I will try, I said; and I wish
you would share the enquiry with
and say `yes' or `no' when I
attempt to distinguish in my
what branches of knowledge have
this attracting power, in order
that we may have clearer proof
that arithmetic is, as I suspect,
one of them.
Explain, he said.
I mean to say that objects of
sense are of two kinds; some
do not invite thought because
the sense is an adequate judge
while in the case of other objects
sense is so untrustworthy that
further enquiry is imperatively
You are clearly referring, he
said, to the manner in which
are imposed upon by distance,
and by painting in light and
No, I said, that is not at all
Then what is your meaning?
When speaking of uninviting
objects, I mean those which do
from one sensation to the opposite;
inviting objects are those which
in this latter case the sense
coming upon the object, whether
distance or near, gives no more
vivid idea of anything in particular
than of its opposite. An illustration
will make my meaning clearer:--
here are three fingers--a little
finger, a second finger,
and a middle finger.
You may suppose that they are
seen quite close: And here comes
What is it?
Each of them equally appears
a finger, whether seen in the
or at the extremity, whether
white or black, or thick or thin--
it makes no difference; a finger
is a finger all the same.
In these cases a man is not compelled
to ask of thought the question,
what is a finger? for the sight
never intimates to the mind that
is other than a finger.
And therefore, I said, as we
might expect, there is nothing
which invites or excites intelligence.
There is not, he said.
But is this equally true of
the greatness and smallness of
Can sight adequately perceive
them? and is no difference made
circumstance that one of the
fingers is in the middle and
the extremity? And in like manner
does the touch adequately perceive
the qualities of thickness or
thinness, or softness or hardness?
And so of the other senses; do
they give perfect intimations
of such matters? Is not their
mode of operation on this wise--
the sense which is concerned
with the quality of hardness
necessarily concerned also with
the quality of softness, and
intimates to the soul that the
same thing is felt to be both
You are quite right, he said.
And must not the soul be perplexed
at this intimation which the
gives of a hard which is also
soft? What, again, is the meaning
of light and heavy, if that which
is light is also heavy,
and that which is heavy, light?
Yes, he said, these intimations
which the soul receives
are very curious and require
to be explained.
Yes, I said, and in these perplexities
the soul naturally summons
to her aid calculation and intelligence,
that she may see whether
the several objects announced
to her are one or two.
And if they turn out to be two,
is not each of them one and different?
And if each is one, and both
are two, she will conceive the
as in a state of division, for
if there were undivided they
only be conceived of as one?
The eye certainly did see both
small and great, but only
in a confused manner; they were
Whereas the thinking mind, intending
to light up the chaos,
was compelled to reverse the
process, and look at small and
as separate and not confused.
Was not this the beginning of
the enquiry `What is great?'
and `What is small?'
And thus arose the distinction
of the visible and the intelligible.
This was what I meant when I
spoke of impressions which invited
the intellect, or the reverse--those
which are simultaneous with
opposite impressions, invite
thought; those which are not
simultaneous do not.
I understand, he said, and agree
And to which class do unity
and number belong?
I do not know, he replied.
Think a little and you will
see that what has preceded will
the answer; for if simple unity
could be adequately perceived
the sight or by any other sense,
then, as we were saying in the
of the finger, there would be
nothing to attract towards being;
but when there is some contradiction
always present, and one is
the reverse of one and involves
the conception of plurality,
then thought begins to be aroused
within us, and the soul perplexed
and wanting to arrive at a decision
asks `What is absolute unity?'
This is the way in which the
study of the one has a power
and converting the mind to the
contemplation of true being.
And surely, he said, this occurs
notably in the case of one;
for we see the same thing to
be both one and infinite in multitude?
Yes, I said; and this being
true of one must be equally true
of all number?
And all arithmetic and calculation
have to do with number?
And they appear to lead the
mind towards truth?
Yes, in a very remarkable manner.
Then this is knowledge of the
kind for which we are seeking,
having a double use, military
and philosophical; for the man
must learn the art of number
or he will not know how to array
his troops, and the philosopher
also, because he has to rise
of the sea of change and lay
hold of true being, and therefore
he must be an arithmetician.
That is true.
And our guardian is both warrior
Then this is a kind of knowledge
which legislation may fitly prescribe;
and we must endeavour to persuade
those who are prescribe
to be the principal men of our
State to go and learn arithmetic,
not as amateurs, but they must
carry on the study until they
see the nature of numbers with
the mind only; nor again,
like merchants or retail-traders,
with a view to buying or selling,
but for the sake of their military
use, and of the soul herself;
and because this will be the
easiest way for her to pass from
to truth and being.
That is excellent, he said.
Yes, I said, and now having
spoken of it, I must add how
the science is! and in how many
ways it conduces to our desired
if pursued in the spirit of a
philosopher, and not of a shopkeeper!
How do you mean?
I mean, as I was saying, that
arithmetic has a very great and
elevating effect, compelling
the soul to reason about abstract
and rebelling against the introduction
of visible or tangible
objects into the argument. You
know how steadily the masters
the art repel and ridicule any
one who attempts to divide absolute
unity when he is calculating,
and if you divide, they multiply,
taking care that one shall continue
one and not become lost in fractions.
That is very true.
Now, suppose a person were to
say to them: O my friends, what
these wonderful numbers about
which you are reasoning, in which,
as you say, there is a unity
such as you demand, and each
is equal, invariable, indivisible,--what
would they answer?
They would answer, as I should
conceive, that they were speaking
of those numbers which can only
be realised in thought.
Then you see that this knowledge
may be truly called necessary,
necessitating as it clearly does
the use of the pure intelligence
in the attainment of pure truth?
Yes; that is a marked characteristic
And have you further observed,
that those who have a natural
for calculation are generally
quick at every other kind of
and even the dull if they have
had an arithmetical training,
although they may derive no other
advantage from it, always become
quicker than they would otherwise
Very true, he said.
And indeed, you will not easily
find a more difficult study,
and not many as difficult.
You will not.
And, for all these reasons,
arithmetic is a kind of knowledge
which the best natures should
be trained, and which must not
be given up.
Let this then be made one of
our subjects of education. And
shall we enquire whether the
kindred science also concerns
You mean geometry?
Clearly, he said, we are concerned
with that part of geometry which
relates to war; for in pitching
a camp, or taking up a position,
or closing or extending the lines
of an army, or any other
military manoeuvre, whether in
actual battle or on a march,
make all the difference whether
a general is or is not a geometrician.
Yes, I said, but for that purpose
a very little of either geometry
or calculation will be enough;
the question relates rather to
the greater and more advanced
part of geometry--whether that
in any degree to make more easy
the vision of the idea of good;
and thither, as I was saying,
all things tend which compel
to turn her gaze towards that
place, where is the full perfection
of being, which she ought, by
all means, to behold.
True, he said.
Then if geometry compels us
to view being, it concerns us;
if becoming only, it does not
Yes, that is what we assert.
Yet anybody who has the least
acquaintance with geometry will
deny that such a conception of
the science is in flat contradiction
to the ordinary language of geometricians.
They have in view practice only,
and are always speaking? in a
and ridiculous manner, of squaring
and extending and applying and
they confuse the necessities
of geometry with those of daily
whereas knowledge is the real
object of the whole science.
Certainly, he said.
Then must not a further admission
That the knowledge at which
geometry aims is knowledge of
and not of aught perishing and
That, he replied, may be readily
allowed, and is true.
Then, my noble friend, geometry
will draw the soul towards truth,
and create the spirit of philosophy,
and raise up that which is now
unhappily allowed to fall down.
Nothing will be more likely
to have such an effect.
Then nothing should be more
sternly laid down than that the
inhabitants of your fair city
should by all means learn geometry.
Moreover the science has indirect
effects, which are not small.
Of what kind? he said.
There are the military advantages
of which you spoke, I said;
and in all departments of knowledge,
as experience proves, any one
who has studied geometry is infinitely
quicker of apprehension than
one who has not.
Yes indeed, he said, there is
an infinite difference between
Then shall we propose this as
a second branch of knowledge
which our youth will study?
Let us do so, he replied.
And suppose we make astronomy
the third--what do you say?
I am strongly inclined to it,
he said; the observation of the
and of months and years is as
essential to the general as it
is to the farmer or sailor.
I am amused, I said, at your
fear of the world, which makes
guard against the appearance
of insisting upon useless studies;
and I quite admit the difficulty
of believing that in every man
is an eye of the soul which,
when by other pursuits lost and
is by these purified and re-illumined;
and is more precious far
than ten thousand bodily eyes,
for by it alone is truth seen.
Now there are two classes of
persons: one class of those who
will agree with you and will
take your words as a revelation;
another class to whom they will
be utterly unmeaning, and who
naturally deem them to be idle
tales, for they see no sort of
which is to be obtained from
them. And therefore you had better
decide at once with which of
the two you are proposing to
You will very likely say with
neither, and that your chief
aim in carrying on the argument
is your own improvement;
at the same time you do not grudge
to others any benefit which they
I think that I should prefer
to carry on the argument mainly
on my own behalf.
Then take a step backward, for
we have gone wrong in the order
of the sciences.
What was the mistake? he said.
After plane geometry, I said,
we proceeded at once to solids
in revolution, instead of taking
solids in themselves;
whereas after the second dimension
the third, which is concerned
with cubes and dimensions of
depth, ought to have followed.
That is true, Socrates; but
so little seems to be known as
about these subjects.
Why, yes, I said, and for two
reasons:--in the first place,
no government patronises them;
this leads to a want of energy
in the pursuit of them, and they
are difficult; in the second
students cannot learn them unless
they have a director.
But then a director can hardly
be found, and even if he could,
as matters now stand, the students,
who are very conceited, would
attend to him. That, however,
would be otherwise if the whole
State became the director of
these studies and gave honour
then disciples would want to
come, and there would be continuous
and earnest search, and discoveries
would be made; since even now,
disregarded as they are by the
world, and maimed of their fair
and although none of their votaries
can tell the use of them,
still these studies force their
way by their natural charm,
and very likely, if they had
the help of the State, they would
emerge into light.
Yes, he said, there is a remarkable
charm in them.
But I do not clearly understand
the change in the order.
First you began with a geometry
of plane surfaces?
Yes, I said.
And you placed astronomy next,
and then you made a step backward?
Yes, and I have delayed you
by my hurry; the ludicrous state
of solid geometry, which, in
natural order, should have followed,
made me pass over this branch
and go on to astronomy, or motion
True, he said.
Then assuming that the science
now omitted would come into
existence if encouraged by the
State, let us go on to astronomy,
which will be fourth.
The right order, he replied.
And now, Socrates, as you rebuked
the vulgar manner in which I
praised astronomy before, my
shall be given in your own spirit.
For every one, as I think,
must see that astronomy compels
the soul to look upwards and
from this world to another.
Every one but myself, I said;
to every one else this may be
but not to me.
And what then would you say?
I should rather say that those
who elevate astronomy into philosophy
appear to me to make us look
downwards and not upwards.
What do you mean? he asked.
You, I replied, have in your
mind a truly sublime conception
knowledge of the things above.
And I dare say that if a person
were to throw his head back and
study the fretted ceiling, you
still think that his mind was
the percipient, and not his eyes.
And you are very likely right,
and I may be a simpleton:
but, in my opinion, that knowledge
only which is of being and of
the unseen can make the soul
look upwards, and whether a man
at the heavens or blinks on the
ground, seeking to learn some
particular of sense, I would
deny that he can learn, for nothing
of that sort is matter of science;
his soul is looking downwards,
not upwards, whether his way
to knowledge is by water or by
whether he floats, or only lies
on his back.
I acknowledge, he said, the
justice of your rebuke. Still,
like to ascertain how astronomy
can be learned in any manner
more conducive to that knowledge
of which we are speaking?
I will tell you, I said: The
starry heaven which we behold
upon a visible ground, and therefore,
although the fairest and most
perfect of visible things, must
necessarily be deemed inferior
to the true motions of absolute
swiftness and absolute slowness,
which are relative to each other,
and carry with them that which
contained in them, in the true
number and in every true figure.
Now, these are to be apprehended
by reason and intelligence,
but not by sight.
True, he replied.
The spangled heavens should
be used as a pattern and with
to that higher knowledge; their
beauty is like the beauty of
figures or pictures excellently
wrought by the hand of Daedalus,
or some other great artist, which
we may chance to behold;
any geometrician who saw them
would appreciate the exquisiteness
of their workmanship, but he
would never dream of thinking
that in them he could find the
true equal or the true double,
or the truth of any other proportion.
No, he replied, such an idea
would be ridiculous.
And will not a true astronomer
have the same feeling when he
the movements of the stars? Will
he not think that heaven and
in heaven are framed by the Creator
of them in the most perfect manner?
But he will never imagine that
the proportions of night and
or of both to the month, or of
the month to the year, or of
to these and to one another,
and any other things that are
and visible can also be eternal
and subject to no deviation--
that would be absurd; and it
is equally absurd to take so
in investigating their exact
I quite agree, though I never
thought of this before.
Then, I said, in astronomy,
as in geometry, we should employ
and let the heavens alone if
we would approach the subject
in the right
way and so make the natural gift
of reason to be of any real use.
That, he said, is a work infinitely
beyond our present astronomers.
Yes, I said; and there are many
other things which must also
have a similar
extension given to them, if our
legislation is to be of any value.
But can you tell me of any other
No, he said, not without thinking.
Motion, I said, has many forms,
and not one only; two of them
obvious enough even to wits no
better than ours; and there are
as I imagine, which may be left
to wiser persons.
But where are the two?
There is a second, I said, which
is the counterpart of the one
And what may that be?
The second, I said, would seem
relatively to the ears to be
the first is to the eyes; for
I conceive that as the eyes are
to look up at the stars, so are
the ears to hear harmonious motions;
and these are sister sciences--as
the Pythagoreans say,
and we, Glaucon, agree with them?
Yes, he replied.
But this, I said, is a laborious
study, and therefore we had
better go and learn of them;
and they will tell us whether
are any other applications of
these sciences. At the same time,
we must not lose sight of our
own higher object.
What is that?
There is a perfection which
all knowledge ought to reach,
and which our pupils ought also
to attain, and not to fall short
as I was saying that they did
in astronomy. For in the science
of harmony, as you probably know,
the same thing happens.
The teachers of harmony compare
the sounds and consonances which
are heard only, and their labour,
like that of the astronomers,
is in vain.
Yes, by heaven! he said; and
'tis as good as a play to hear
them talking about their condensed
notes, as they call them;
they put their ears close alongside
of the strings like persons
catching a sound from their neighbour's
wall--one set of them
declaring that they distinguish
an intermediate note and have
found the least interval which
should be the unit of measurement;
the others insisting that the
two sounds have passed into the
either party setting their ears
before their understanding.
You mean, I said, those gentlemen
who tease and torture the strings
and rack them on the pegs of
the instrument: might carry on
and speak after their manner
of the blows which the plectrum
and make accusations against
the strings, both of backwardness
and forwardness to sound; but
this would be tedious, and therefore
I will only say that these are
not the men, and that I am referring
to the Pythagoreans, of whom
I was just now proposing to enquire
about harmony. For they too are
in error, like the astronomers;
they investigate the numbers
of the harmonies which are heard,
but they never attain to problems-that
is to say, they never reach
the natural harmonies of number,
or reflect why some numbers are
harmonious and others not.
That, he said, is a thing of
more than mortal knowledge.
A thing, I replied, which I
would rather call useful; that
if sought after with a view to
the beautiful and good; but if
in any other spirit, useless.
Very true, he said.
Now, when all these studies
reach the point of inter-communion
and connection with one another,
and come to be considered
in their mutual affinities, then,
I think, but not till then,
will the pursuit of them have
a value for our objects;
otherwise there is no profit
I suspect so; but you are speaking,
Socrates, of a vast work.
What do you mean? I said; the
prelude or what? Do you not know
that all this is but the prelude
to the actual strain which we
have to learn? For you surely
would not regard the skilled
mathematician as a dialectician?
Assuredly not, he said; I have
hardly ever known a mathematician
who was capable of reasoning.
But do you imagine that men
who are unable to give and take
will have the knowledge which
we require of them?
Neither can this be supposed.
And so, Glaucon, I said, we
have at last arrived at the hymn
of dialectic. This is that strain
which is of the intellect only,
but which the faculty of sight
will nevertheless be found to
for sight, as you may remember,
was imagined by us after a while
behold the real animals and stars,
and last of all the sun himself.
And so with dialectic; when a
person starts on the discovery
the absolute by the light of
reason only, and without any
of sense, and perseveres until
by pure intelligence he arrives
at the perception of the absolute
good, he at last finds himself
the end of the intellectual world,
as in the case of sight at the
of the visible.
Exactly, he said.
Then this is the progress which
you call dialectic?
But the release of the prisoners
from chains, and their translation
from the shadows to the images
and to the light, and the ascent
from the underground den to the
sun, while in his presence they
vainly trying to look on animals
and plants and the light of the
but are able to perceive even
with their weak eyes the images
the water (which are divine),
and are the shadows of true existence
(not shadows of images cast by
a light of fire, which compared
with the sun is only an image)--this
power of elevating the highest
principle in the soul to the
contemplation of that which is
in existence, with which we may
compare the raising of that faculty
which is the very light of the
body to the sight of that which
brightest in the material and
visible world--this power is
as I was saying, by all that
study and pursuit of the arts
I agree in what you are saying,
he replied, which may be hard
to believe, yet, from another
point of view, is harder still
This, however, is not a theme
to be treated of in passing only,
but will have to be discussed
again and again. And so,
whether our conclusion be true
or false, let us assume all this,
and proceed at once from the
prelude or preamble to the chief
and describe that in like manner.
Say, then, what is the nature
and what are the divisions of
dialectic, and what are the paths
which lead thither; for these
paths will also lead to our final
Dear Glaucon, I said, you will
not be able to follow me here,
though I would do my best, and
you should behold not an image
but the absolute truth, according
to my notion. Whether what I
you would or would not have been
a reality I cannot venture to
but you would have seen something
like reality; of that I am confident.
Doubtless, he replied.
But I must also remind you,
that the power of dialectic alone
reveal this, and only to one
who is a disciple of the previous
Of that assertion you may be
as confident as of the last.
And assuredly no one will argue
that there is any other method
of comprehending by any regular
process all true existence or
ascertaining what each thing
is in its own nature; for the
in general are concerned with
the desires or opinions of men,
or are cultivated with a view
to production and construction,
or for the preservation of such
productions and constructions;
and as to the mathematical sciences
which, as we were saying,
have some apprehension of true
being--geometry and the like--
they only dream about being,
but never can they behold the
reality so long as they leave
the hypotheses which they use
and are unable to give an account
of them. For when a man
knows not his own first principle,
and when the conclusion and
intermediate steps are also constructed
out of he knows not what,
how can he imagine that such
a fabric of convention can ever
Impossible, he said.
Then dialectic, and dialectic
alone, goes directly to the first
principle and is the only science
which does away with hypotheses
in order to make her ground secure;
the eye of the soul, which is
literally buried in an outlandish
slough, is by her gentle aid
lifted upwards; and she uses
as handmaids and helpers in the
of conversion, the sciences which
we have been discussing.
Custom terms them sciences, but
they ought to have some other
implying greater clearness than
opinion and less clearness than
and this, in our previous sketch,
was called understanding.
But why should we dispute about
names when we have realities
importance to consider?
Why indeed, he said, when any
name will do which expresses
the thought of the mind with
At any rate, we are satisfied,
as before, to have four divisions;
two for intellect and two for
opinion, and to call the first
division science, the second
understanding, the third belief,
and the fourth perception of
shadows, opinion being concerned
with becoming, and intellect
with being; and so to make a
As being is to becoming, so
is pure intellect to opinion.
And as intellect is to opinion, so is science to belief, and
understanding to the perception of shadows.
But let us defer the further
correlation and subdivision of
subjects of opinion and of intellect,
for it will be a long enquiry,
many times longer than this has
As far as I understand, he said,
And do you also agree, I said,
in describing the dialectician
as one who attains a conception
of the essence of each thing?
And he who does not possess and
is therefore unable to impart
this conception, in whatever
degree he fails, may in that
also be said to fail in intelligence?
Will you admit so much?
Yes, he said; how can I deny
And you would say the same of
the conception of the good?
Until the person is able to
abstract and define rationally
of good, and unless he can run
the gauntlet of all objections,
and is ready to disprove them,
not by appeals to opinion,
but to absolute truth, never
faltering at any step of the
unless he can do all this, you
would say that he knows neither
the idea of good nor any other
good; he apprehends only a shadow,
if anything at all, which is
given by opinion and not by science;--
dreaming and slumbering in this
life, before he is well awake
he arrives at the world below,
and has his final quietus.
In all that I should most certainly
agree with you.
And surely you would not have
the children of your ideal State,
whom you are nurturing and educating--if
the ideal ever becomes
a reality--you would not allow
the future rulers to be like
having no reason in them, and
yet to be set in authority over
the highest matters?
Then you will make a law that
they shall have such an education
as will enable them to attain
the greatest skill in asking
and answering questions?
Yes, he said, you and I together
will make it.
Dialectic, then, as you will
agree, is the coping-stone of
and is set over them; no other
science can be placed higher--
the nature of knowledge can no
I agree, he said.
But to whom we are to assign
these studies, and in what way
are to be assigned, are questions
which remain to be considered?
You remember, I said, how the
rulers were chosen before?
Certainly, he said.
The same natures must still
be chosen, and the preference
again given to the surest and
the bravest, and, if possible,
to the fairest; and, having noble
and generous tempers, they should
also have the natural gifts which
will facilitate their education.
And what are these?
Such gifts as keenness and ready
powers of acquisition;
for the mind more often faints
from the severity of study than
the severity of gymnastics: the
toil is more entirely the mind's
and is not shared with the body.
Very true, he replied.
Further, he of whom we are in
search should have a good memory,
and be an unwearied solid man
who is a lover of labour in any
or he will never be able to endure
the great amount of bodily exercise
and to go through all the intellectual
discipline and study which we
require of him.
Certainly, he said; he must
have natural gifts.
The mistake at present is, that
those who study philosophy have
no vocation, and this, as I was
before saying, is the reason
why she has fallen into disrepute:
her true sons should take
her by the hand and not bastards.
What do you mean?
In the first place, her votary
should not have a lame or halting
I mean, that he should not be
half industrious and half idle:
as, for example, when a man is
a lover of gymnastic and hunting,
and all other bodily exercises,
but a hater rather than a lover
of the labour of learning or
listening or enquiring. Or the
occupation to which he devotes
himself may be of an opposite
and he may have the other sort
Certainly, he said.
And as to truth, I said, is
not a soul equally to be deemed
halt and lame which hates voluntary
falsehood and is extremely
indignant at herself and others
when they tell lies, but is patient
of involuntary falsehood, and
does not mind wallowing like
beast in the mire of ignorance,
and has no shame at being detected?
To be sure.
And, again, in respect of temperance,
courage, magnificence, and every
other virtue, should we not carefully
distinguish between the true
son and the bastard? for where
there is no discernment of such
qualities States and individuals
unconsciously err and the State
a ruler, and the individual a
friend, of one who, being defective
in some part of virtue, is in
a figure lame or a bastard.
That is very true, he said.
All these things, then, will
have to be carefully considered
and if only those whom we introduce
to this vast system of education
and training are sound in body
and mind, justice herself will
to say against us, and we shall
be the saviours of the constitution
and of the State; but, if our
pupils are men of another stamp,
the reverse will happen, and
we shall pour a still greater
of ridicule on philosophy than
she has to endure at present.
That would not be creditable.
Certainly not, I said; and yet
perhaps, in thus turning jest
into earnest I am equally ridiculous.
In what respect?
I had forgotten, I said, that
we were not serious, and spoke
much excitement. For when I saw
philosophy so undeservedly trampled
under foot of men I could not
help feeling a sort of indignation
at the authors of her disgrace:
and my anger made me too vehement.
Indeed! I was listening, and
did not think so.
But I, who am the speaker, felt
that I was. And now let me remind
you that, although in our former
selection we chose old men,
we must not do so in this. Solon
was under a delusion when he
said that a man when he grows
old may learn many things--for
can no more learn much than he
can run much; youth is the time
for any extraordinary toil.
And, therefore, calculation
and geometry and all the other
of instruction, which are a preparation
for dialectic, should be
presented to the mind in childhood;
not, however, under any notion
of forcing our system of education.
Because a freeman ought not
to be a slave in the acquisition
of knowledge of any kind. Bodily
exercise, when compulsory,
does no harm to the body; but
knowledge which is acquired under
compulsion obtains no hold on
Then, my good friend, I said,
do not use compulsion, but let
education be a sort of amusement;
you will then be better able
to find out the natural bent.
That is a very rational notion,
Do you remember that the children,
too, were to be taken to see
the battle on horseback; and
that if there were no danger
were to be brought close up and,
like young hounds, have a taste
of blood given them?
Yes, I remember.
The same practice may be followed,
I said, in all these things--
labours, lessons, dangers--and
he who is most at home in all
of them ought to be enrolled
in a select number.
At what age?
At the age when the necessary
gymnastics are over: the period
of two or three years which passes
in this sort of training is useless
for any other purpose; for sleep
and exercise are unpropitious
to learning; and the trial of
who is first in gymnastic exercises
is one of the most important
tests to which our youth are
Certainly, he replied.
After that time those who are
selected from the class of twenty
years old will be promoted to
higher honour, and the sciences
which they learned without any
order in their early education
now be brought together, and
they will be able to see the
relationship of them to one another
and to true being.
Yes, he said, that is the only
kind of knowledge which takes
Yes, I said; and the capacity
for such knowledge is the great
criterion of dialectical talent:
the comprehensive mind is always
I agree with you, he said.
These, I said, are the points
which you must consider; and
who have most of this comprehension,
and who are more steadfast
in their learning, and in their
military and other appointed
when they have arrived at the
age of thirty have to be chosen
by you out of the select class,
and elevated to higher honour;
and you will have to prove them
by the help of dialectic, in
to learn which of them is able
to give up the use of sight and
other senses, and in company
with truth to attain absolute
And here, my friend, great caution
Why great caution?
Do you not remark, I said, how
great is the evil which dialectic
What evil? he said.
The students of the art are
filled with lawlessness.
Quite true, he said.
Do you think that there is anything
so very unnatural or inexcusable
in their case? or will you make
allowance for them?
In what way make allowance?
I want you, I said, by way of
parallel, to imagine a supposititious
son who is brought up in great
wealth; he is one of a great
and numerous family, and has
many flatterers. When he grows
to manhood, he learns that his
alleged are not his real parents;
but who the real are he is unable
to discover. Can you guess
how he will be likely to behave
towards his flatterers and his
supposed parents, first of all
during the period when he is
ignorant of the false relation,
and then again when he knows?
Or shall I guess for you?
If you please.
Then I should say, that while
he is ignorant of the truth he
be likely to honour his father
and his mother and his supposed
relations more than the flatterers;
he will be less inclined to
neglect them when in need, or
to do or say anything against
and he will be less willing to
disobey them in any important
But when he has made the discovery,
I should imagine that he would
diminish his honour and regard
for them, and would become more
to the flatterers; their influence
over him would greatly increase;
he would now live after their
ways, and openly associate with
and, unless he were of an unusually
good disposition, he would
trouble himself no more about
his supposed parents or other
Well, all that is very probable.
But how is the image applicable
to the disciples of philosophy?
In this way: you know that there
are certain principles about
and honour, which were taught
us in childhood, and under their
parental authority we have been
brought up, obeying and honouring
That is true.
There are also opposite maxims
and habits of pleasure which
and attract the soul, but do
not influence those of us who
sense of right, and they continue
to obey and honour the maxims
of their fathers.
Now, when a man is in this state,
and the questioning spirit asks
what is fair or honourable, and
he answers as the legislator
taught him, and then arguments
many and diverse refute his words,
until he is driven into believing
that nothing is honourable any
more than dishonourable, or just
and good any more than the reverse,
and so of all the notions which
he most valued, do you think
will still honour and obey them
And when he ceases to think
them honourable and natural as
and he fails to discover the
true, can he be expected to pursue
any life other than that which
flatters his desires?
And from being a keeper of the
law he is converted into a breaker
Now all this is very natural
in students of philosophy such
have described, and also, as
I was just now saying, most excusable.
Yes, he said; and, I may add,
Therefore, that your feelings
may not be moved to pity about
citizens who are now thirty years
of age, every care must be taken
in introducing them to dialectic.
There is a danger lest they
should taste the dear delight
for youngsters, as you may have
observed, when they first get
the taste in their mouths, argue
for amusement, and are always
contradicting and refuting others
in imitation of those who refute
like puppy-dogs, they rejoice
in pulling and tearing at all
Yes, he said, there is nothing
which they like better.
And when they have made many
conquests and received defeats
at the hands of many, they violently
and speedily get into a way
of not believing anything which
they believed before, and hence,
not only they, but philosophy
and all that relates to it is
to have a bad name with the rest
of the world.
Too true, he said.
But when a man begins to get
older, he will no longer be guilty
such insanity; he will imitate
the dialectician who is seeking
and not the eristic, who is contradicting
for the sake of amusement;
and the greater moderation of
his character will increase instead
of diminishing the honour of
Very true, he said.
And did we not make special
provision for this, when we said
that the disciples of philosophy
were to be orderly and steadfast,
not, as now, any chance aspirant
Suppose, I said, the study of
philosophy to take the place
and to be continued diligently
and earnestly and exclusively
for twice the number of years
which were passed in bodily exercise--
will that be enough?
Would you say six or four years?
Say five years, I replied; at
the end of the time they must
be sent down again into the den
and compelled to hold any
military or other office which
young men are qualified to hold:
in this way they will get their
experience of life, and there
will be an opportunity of trying
whether, when they are drawn
all manner of ways by temptation,
they will stand firm or flinch.
And how long is this stage of
their lives to last?
Fifteen years, I answered; and
when they have reached fifty
of age, then let those who still
survive and have distinguished
themselves in every action of
their lives and in every branch
of knowledge come at last to
their consummation; the time
arrived at which they must raise
the eye of the soul to the universal
light which lightens all things,
and behold the absolute good;
for that is the, pattern according
to which they are to order the
and the lives of individuals,
and the remainder of their own
making philosophy their chief
pursuit, but, when their turn
toiling also at politics and
ruling for the public good, not
they were performing some heroic
action, but simply as a matter
and when they have brought up
in each generation others like
themselves and left them in their
place to be governors of the
then they will depart to the
Islands of the Blest and dwell
and the city will give them public
memorials and sacrifices and
honour them, if the Pythian oracle
consent, as demi-gods, but if
as in any case blessed and divine.
You are a sculptor, Socrates,
and have made statues of our
faultless in beauty.
Yes, I said, Glaucon, and of
our governesses too;
for you must not suppose that
what I have been
saying applies to men only and
not to women as far as their
natures can go.
There you are right, he said,
since we have made them to share
in all things like the men.
Well, I said, and you would
agree (would you not?) that what
been said about the State and
the government is not a mere
and although difficult not impossible,
but only possible in the way
which has been supposed; that
is to say, when the true philosopher
kings are born in a State, one
or more of them, despising the
honours of this present world
which they deem mean and worthless,
esteeming above all things right
and the honour that springs from
and regarding justice as the
greatest and most necessary of
whose ministers they are, and
whose principles will be exalted
by them when they set in order
their own city?
How will they proceed?
They will begin by sending out
into the country all the inhabitants
of the city who are more than
ten years old, and will take
of their children, who will be
unaffected by the habits of their
these they will train in their
own habits and laws, I mean in
which we have given them: and
in this way the State and constitution
of which we were speaking will
soonest and most easily attain
and the nation which has such
a constitution will gain most.
Yes, that will be the best way.
And I think, Socrates, that you
have very well described how,
if ever, such a constitution
come into being.
Enough then of the perfect State,
and of the man who bears its
there is no difficulty in seeing
how we shall describe him.
There is no difficulty, he replied;
and I agree with you in thinking
that nothing more need be said.