Write whatever strikes you, anything of interest that relates to this passage

Please write anything that relates to this passage. It must be at least 1000 words. Whatever strikes you about the passage. 


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The Republic



AND now, I said, let me show in a figure how far our nature is enlightened or
unenlightened: Behold! human beings living in an underground den, which has a mouth
open toward the light and reaching all along the den; here they have been from their
childhood, and have their legs and necks 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.

I see.

And do you see, I said, men passing along the wall carrying all sorts of vessels, and statues
and figures of animals made of wood and stone and various materials, which appear over
the wall? Some of them are talking, others silent.

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 opposite wall of the cave?

True, he said; how could they see anything but the shadows if they were never allowed to
move their heads?

And of the objects which are being carried in like manner they 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?

Very true.

And suppose further that the prison had an echo which came from the other side, would
they not be sure to fancy when one of the passers-by 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 shadows of the images.

That is certain.

And now look again, and see what will naturally follow if the prisoners are released and
disabused of their error. At first, when any of them is liberated and compelled suddenly to
stand up and turn his neck round and walk and look toward the light, he will suffer sharp
pains; the glare will distress him, and he will be unable to see the realities of which in his
former state he had seen the shadows; and then conceive someone saying to him, that what
he saw before was an illusion, but that now, when he is approaching nearer to being and his
eye is turned toward more 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 shown to him?

Far truer.

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 refuge in the objects of vision which he can see, and which
he will conceive to be in reality clearer than the things which are now being shown to him?

True, he said.

And suppose once more, that he is reluctantly dragged up a steep and rugged ascent, and
held fast until he is 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 men 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 the
spangled heaven; and he will see the sky and the stars by night better than the sun or the
light of the sun by day?


Last of all 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


He will then proceed to argue that this is he who gives the season and the years, and is the
guardian of all that is in the visible world, and in a certain way the cause of all things which
he and his fellows have been accustomed to behold?

Clearly, he said, he would first see the sun and then reason about him.

And when he remembered his old habitation, and the wisdom of the den and his fellow-
prisoners, do you not suppose that he would felicitate himself on the change, and pity him?

Certainly, he would.

And if they were in the habit of conferring honors 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 to draw

conclusions as to the future, do you think that he would care for such honors 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 than entertain these false notions
and live in this miserable manner.

Imagine once more, I said, such a one coming suddenly out of the sun 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 den, while his sight was still weak, and before his
eyes had become steady (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 anyone tried to loose another and lead him up to the light, let them only
catch the offender, and they would put him to death.

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 sight, the light of the fire is the sun, and you will not
misapprehend me if you interpret the journey upward to be the ascent of the soul 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 in 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 our 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 a ridiculous manner; if, while his eyes are blinking
and before he 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 endeavoring to meet the conceptions of those who have never yet seen absolute

Anything but surprising, he replied. Anyone 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 light, which is true of the mind’s eye, quite as much as
of the bodily eye; and he who remembers this when he sees anyone whose vision is
perplexed and weak, will not be too ready to laugh; he will first ask whether that soul of
man has come out of the brighter life, and is unable to see because unaccustomed to the
dark, or having 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 being, and he will pity the other; or, if he
have a mind to laugh at the soul which comes from below into the light, there will be more
reason in this than in the laugh which greets him who returns from above out of the light
into the den.

That, he said, is a very just distinction.

But then, if I am right, certain professors of education must be wrong when they say that
they can put a knowledge into the soul which was not there before, like sight into blind

They undoubtedly say this, he replied.

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.

Very true.

And must there not be some art which will effect conversion in the easiest and quickest
manner; not implanting the faculty of sight, for that exists already, but has been turned in
the wrong direction, and is looking away from the truth?

Yes, he said, such an art may be presumed.

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 virtue 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 keen
eye of a clever rogue—how eager he is, how clearly his paltry soul sees the way to his end;
he is the reverse of blind, but his keen 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 pleasures, such as eating and drinking, which, like
leaden weights, were attached 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 had been released from
these impediments and turned in the opposite direction, the very same faculty in them
would have seen the truth as keenly as they see what their eyes are turned to now.

Very likely.

Yes, I said; and there is another thing which is likely, or rather a necessary inference from
what has preceded, that neither the uneducated and uninformed of the truth, nor yet those

who never make an end of their education, will be able ministers of the 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 compulsion,
fancying that they are already dwelling apart in the islands of the blessed.

Very true, he replied.

Then, I said, the business of us who are the founders of the State will be to compel the best
minds to attain that knowledge which we have already shown to be the greatest of all—they
must continue to ascend until they arrive at the good; but when they have ascended 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 be allowed; they must be made
to descend again among the prisoners in the den, and partake of their labors and honors,
whether they are worth having or not.

But is not this unjust? he said; ought we to give them a worse life, when they might have a

You have again forgotten, my friend, I said, the intention of the legislator, who did not aim
at making any one class in the State 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 shall explain to them that in other States, men of their
class are not obliged to share in the toils of politics: and this is reasonable, for they grow up
at their own sweet will, and the government would 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 hive, kings of yourselves and of
the other citizens, and have educated you far better and more perfectly than they have been

educated, and you are better able to share in the double duty. Wherefore each of you, when
his turn comes, must go down to the general underground abode, and get the habit of seeing
in the dark. When you have acquired the habit, you will see ten thousand times better than
the inhabitants of the den, 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 in their eyes is a great good.
Whereas the truth is that the State in which the rulers are most reluctant to govern is always
the best and most quietly governed, and the State in which they are most eager, the worst.

Quite true, he replied.

And will our pupils, when they hear this, refuse to take their turn at the toils of State, when
they are allowed to spend the greater part of their time with one another in the heavenly

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 contrive for your future rulers
another and a better life than that of a ruler, and then you may have a well-ordered State; for
only in the State which offers this, will they rule who are truly rich, not in silver and gold,
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 their own private advantage,
thinking that hence they are to snatch the chief good, order there can never be; for they will
be fighting about office, and the civil and domestic broils which thus arise will be the ruin
of the rulers themselves and 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 fight.

No question. 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 same time have other honors and another and a better life than
that of politics?

They are the men, and I will choose them, he replied.

And now shall we consider in what way such guardians will be produced, and how they are
to be brought from darkness to light—as some are 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 oystershell, 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?

Quite so.

And should we not inquire what sort of knowledge has the power of effecting such a


What sort of knowledge is there which would draw the soul from becoming 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?

What quality?

Usefulness in war.

Yes, if possible.

There were two parts in our former scheme of education, were there not?

Just so.

There was gymnastics, which presided over the growth and decay of the body, and may
therefore be regarded as having to do with generation and corruption?


Then that is not the knowledge which we are seeking to discover? No.

But what do you say of music, what also entered to a certain extent into our former scheme?

Music, he said, as you will remember, was the counterpart of gymnastics, and trained the
guardians by the influences of habit, by harmony making them harmonious, by rhythm
rhythmical, but not giving them science; and the words, whether fabulous or possibly true,
had kindred elements 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 there 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 gymnastics are excluded, and the arts are also excluded,
what remains?

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 the universal application.

What may that be?

A something which all arts and sciences and intelligences use in common, and which
everyone first has to learn among the elements of education.

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 of them?

To be 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 ships 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 fleet—how could he if he was ignorant of number? And if
that is true, what sort of general must he have been?

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 I 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 been rightly used; for the true use of it is simply to draw the
soul toward being.

Will you explain your meaning? he said.

I will try, I said; and I wish you would share the inquiry with me, and say “yes” or “no”
when I attempt to distinguish in my own mind 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 of them do not invite thought
because the sense is an adequate judge of them; while in the case of other objects sense is so
untrustworthy that further inquiry is imperatively demanded.

You are clearly referring, he said, to the manner in which the senses are imposed upon by
distance, and by painting in light and shade.

No, I said, that is not at all my meaning.

Then what is your meaning?

When speaking of uninviting objects, I mean those which do not pass from one sensation to
the opposite; inviting objects are those which do; in this latter case the sense coming upon
the object, whether at a 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.

Very good.

You may suppose that they are seen quite close: And here comes the point.

What is it?

Each of them equally appears a finger, whether seen in the middle 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 a finger is other than a finger.


And therefore, I said, as we might expect, there is nothing here which invites or excites

There is not, he said.

But is this equally true of the greatness and smallness of the fingers? Can sight adequately
perceive them? and is no difference made by the circumstance that one of the fingers is in
the middle and the other at the extremity? And in like manner does the touch adequately
perceive the qualities of thickness or thinness, of 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 is necessarily
concerned also with the quality of softness, and only intimates to the soul that the same
thing is felt to be both hard and soft?

You are quite right, he said.

And must not the soul be perplexed at this intimation which the sense 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

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 two as in a state of division, for
if they were undivided they could only be conceived of as one?


The eye certainly did see both small and great, but only in a confused manner; they were not


Whereas the thinking mind, intending to light up the chaos, was compelled to reverse the
process, and look at small and great as separate and not confused.

Very true.

Was not this the beginning of the inquiry, “What is great?” and “What is small?”

Exactly so.

And thus arose the distinction of the visible and the intelligible.

Most true.

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 with you.

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 supply the answer; for if simple
unity could be adequately perceived by the sight or by any other sense, then, as we were
saying in the case of the finger, there would be nothing to attract toward 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 of drawing 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 toward 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 of war 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 out 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 and philosopher?


Then this is a kind of knowledge which legislation may fitly prescribe; and we must
endeavor to persuade those who are 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 becoming to truth and being.

That is excellent, he said.

Yes, I said, and now having spoken of it, I must add how charming the science is! and in
how many ways it conduces to our desired end, 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 number, and rebelling against the introduction of visible or
tangible objects into the argument. You know how steadily the masters of the art repel and
ridicule anyone 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

That is very true.

Now, suppose a person were to say to them: O my friends, what are these wonderful
numbers about which you are reasoning, in which, as you say, there is a unity such as you
demand, and each unit 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 realized 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 of it.

And have you further observed that those who have a natural talent for calculation are
generally quick at every other kind of knowledge; and even the dull, if they have had an
arithmetical training, although they may derive no other advantage from it, always become
much quicker than they would otherwise have been?

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 in which the best natures
should be trained, and which must not be given up.

I agree.

Let this then be made one of our subjects of education. And next, shall we inquire whether
the kindred science also concerns us?

You mean geometry?

Exactly so.

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, it will 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 tends 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 the soul to turn her gaze toward 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
concern us?

Yes, that is what we assert.

Yet anybody who has the least acquaintance with geometry will not deny that such a
conception of the science is in flat contradiction to the ordinary language of geometricians.

How so?

They have in view practice only, and are always speaking, in a narrow and ridiculous
manner, of squaring and extending and applying and the like—they confuse the necessities
of geometry with those of daily life; whereas knowledge is the real object of the whole

Certainly, he said.

Then must not a further admission be made?

What admission?

That the knowledge at which geometry aims is knowledge of the eternal, and not of aught
perishing and transient.

That, he replied, may be readily allowed, and is true.

Then, my noble friend, geometry will draw the soul toward 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, anyone who has studied geometry is infinitely quicker of
apprehension than one who has not. Yes, indeed, he said, there is an infinite difference
between them.

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 seasons 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 you guard against the
appearance of insisting upon useless studies; and I quite admit the difficulty of believing
that in every man there is an eye of the soul which, when by other pursuits lost and dimmed,
is by these purified and reillumined; 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 will naturally deem them to be idle tales, for they see no
sort of profit which is to be obtained from them. And therefore you had better decide at
once with which of the two you are proposing to argue. 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 may receive.

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 yet about these subjects.

Why, yes, I said, and for two reasons: in the first place, no government patronizes them; this
leads to a want of energy in the pursuit of them, and they are difficult; in the second place,
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 not attend to him. That, however, would be otherwise if the whole State became the
director of these studies and gave honor to them; 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 proportions, 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 some day
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 of solids.

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 praise shall be given in your own spirit. For everyone, as I
think, must see that astronomy compels the soul to look upward and leads us from this
world to another. Everyone but myself, I said; to everyone else this may be clear, but not to

And what, then, would you say?

I should rather say that those who elevate astronomy into philosophy appear to me to make
us look downward, and not upward.

What do you mean? he asked.

You, I replied, have in your mind a truly sublime conception of our 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 would 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 upward, and whether a man gapes 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 downward,
not upward, whether his way to knowledge is by water or by land, whether he floats or only
lies on his back.

I acknowledge, he said, the justice of your rebuke. Still, I should like to ascertain how
astronomy can be learned in any manner more conducive to that knowledge of which we are

I will tell you, I said: The starry heaven which we behold is wrought upon a visible ground,
and therefore, although the fairest and most perfect of visible things, must necessarily be
deemed inferior far to the true motions of absolute swiftness and absolute slowness, which
are relative to each other, and carry with them that which is 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 a view 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 looks at the movements of
the stars? Will he not think that heaven and the things 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 day, or of both to the month, or of the month to the year, or of the stars to these and to
one another, and any other things that are material and visible can also be eternal and

subject to no deviation—that would be absurd; and it is equally absurd to take so much
pains in investigating their exact truth.

I quite agree, though I never thought of this before.

Then, I said, in astronomy, as in geometry, we should employ problems, 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 suitable

No, he said, not without thinking.

Motion, I said, has many forms, and not one only; two of them are obvious enough even to
wits no better than ours; and there are others, as I imagine, which may be left to wiser

But where are the two?

There is a second, I said, which is the counterpart of the one already named.

And what may that be?

The second, I said, would seem relatively to the ears to be what the first is to the eyes; for I
conceive that as the eyes are designed 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 there 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 of, 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 labor, 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 neighbor’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 same—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: I might carry on the metaphor and speak after their manner of the
blows which the plectrum gives, 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 inquire 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 is, if sought after with a view to the
beautiful and good; but if pursued in any other spirit, useless. Very true, he said.

Now, when all these studies reach the point of intercommunion 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 in them.

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

But do you imagine that men who are unable to give and take a reason 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
imitate; for sight, as you may remember, was imagined by us after a while to behold the real
animals and stars, and last of all the sun himself. And so with dialectic; when a person starts
on the discovery of the absolute by the light of reason only, and without any assistance of
sense, and perseveres until by pure intelligence he arrives at the perception of the absolute
good, he at last finds himself at the end of the intellectual world, as in the case of sight at
the end 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 are vainly trying to look on animals and plants and the light of the sun, but
are able to perceive even with their weak eyes the images in 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 best 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 is

brightest in the material and visible world—this power is given, as I was saying, by all that
study and pursuit of the arts which have been described.

I agree in what you are saying, he replied, which may be hard to believe, yet, from another
point of view, is harder still to deny. 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 strain, 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 rest.

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 only, but the absolute truth, according to my notion.
Whether what I told you would or would not have been a reality I cannot venture to say; 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 can reveal this, and only to one
who is a disciple of the previous sciences.

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 of ascertaining what each thing is in its own nature; for
the arts 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 waking reality so long as they leave the hypotheses which they
use unexamined, 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 become

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 upward; and she
uses as handmaids and helpers in the work of conversion, the sciences which we have been
discussing. Custom terms them sciences, but they ought to have some other name, implying
greater clearness than opinion and less clearness than science: and this, in our previous
sketch, was called understanding. But why should we dispute about names when we have
realities of such importance to consider? Why, indeed, he said, when any name will do
which expresses the thought of the mind with clearness?

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 proportion:

“As being is to becoming, so is pure intellect to opinion. And as intellect is to opinion, so is
science to belief, and understand ing to the perception of shadows.”

But let us defer the further correlation and subdivision of the subjects of opinion and of
intellect, for it will be a long inquiry, many times longer than this has been.

As far as I understand, he said, I agree.

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 degree also be said to fail in
intelligence? Will you admit so much?

Yes, he said; how can I deny it?

And you would say the same of the conception of the good?

Until the person is able to abstract and define rationally the idea 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 argument—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 here, 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 posts, having no reason in them, and yet to be set in authority over the highest

Certainly not.

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 the sciences, and is set over them;
no other science can be placed higher—the nature of knowledge can no further go?

I agree, he said.

But to whom we are to assign these studies, and in what way they are to be assigned, are
questions which remain to be considered.

Yes, clearly.

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 from the severity of gymnastics: the toil is more entirely the
mind’s own, 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 labor in any line; 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 industry—I mean, that he
should not be half industrious and half idle: as, for example, when a man is a lover of
gymnastics and hunting, and all other bodily exercises, but a hater rather than a lover of the
labor of learning or listening or inquiring. Or the occupation to which he devotes himself
may be of an opposite kind, and he may have the other sort of lameness.

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 a swinish 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 makes
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 by us; and if only those whom
we introduce to this vast system of education and training are sound in body and mind,
justice herself will have nothing 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 flood 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

In what respect?

I had forgotten, I said, that we were not serious, and spoke with too 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 he can no more
learn much than he can run much; youth is the time for any extraordinary toil.

Of course.

And, therefore, calculation and geometry and all the other elements 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.

Why not?

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 the mind.

Very true.

Then, my good friend, I said, do not use compulsion, but let early education be a sort of
amusement; you will then be better able to find out the natural bent.

That is a very rational notion, he said.

Do you remember that the children, too, were to be taken to see the battle on horseback; and
that if there were no danger they 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 —labors, 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, whether 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 subjected.

Certainly, he replied.

After that time those who are selected from the class of twenty years old will be promoted
to higher honor, and the sciences which they learned without any order in their early

education will now be brought together, and they will be able to see the natural relationship
of them to one another and to true being.

Yes, he said, that is the only kind of knowledge which takes lasting root.

Yes, I said; and the capacity for such knowledge is the great criterion of dialectical talent:
the comprehensive mind is always the dialectical.

I agree with you, he said.

These, I said, are the points which you must consider; and those who have most of this
comprehension, and who are most steadfast in their learning, and in their military and other
appointed duties, when they have arrived at the age of thirty will have to be chosen by you
out of the select class, and elevated to higher honor; and you will have to prove them by the
help of dialectic, in order to learn which of them is able to give up the use of sight and the
other senses, and in company with truth to attain absolute being: And here, my friend, great
caution is required.

Why great caution?

Do you not remark, I said, how great is the evil which dialectic has introduced?

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 up 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 toward 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 will be likely to honor 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 them; and he will be less
willing to disobey them in any important matter.

He will.

But when he has made the discovery, I should imagine that he would diminish his honor
and regard for them, and would become more devoted to the flatterers; their influence over
him would greatly increase; he would now live after their ways, and openly associate with
them, and, unless he were of an unusually good disposition, he would trouble himself no
more about his supposed parents or other relations.

Well, all that is very probable. But how is the image applicable to the disciples of

In this way: you know that there are certain principles about justice and honor, which were
taught us in childhood, and under their parental authority we have been brought up, obeying
and honoring them.

That is true.

There are also opposite maxims and habits of pleasure which flatter and attract the soul, but
do not influence those of us who have any sense of right, and they continue to obey and
honor the maxims of their fathers.


Now, when a man is in this state, and the questioning spirit asks what is fair or honorable,
and he answers as the legislator has taught him, and then arguments many and diverse refute
his words, until he is driven into believing that nothing is honorable any more than

dishonorable, or just and good any more than the reverse, and so of all the notions which he
most valued, do you think that he will still honor and obey them as before?


And when he ceases to think them honorable and natural as heretofore, and he fails to
discover the true, can he be expected to pursue any life other than that which flatters his

He cannot.

And from being a keeper of the law he is converted into a breaker of it?


Now all this is very natural in students of philosophy such as I have described, and also, as I
was just now saying, most excusable.

Yes, he said; and, I may add, pitiable.

Therefore, that your feelings may not be moved to pity about our 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 too early; 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 them; like
puppy-dogs, they rejoice in pulling and tearing at all who come near them.

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 apt 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 of such insanity; he will
imitate the dialectician who is seeking for truth, 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 honor of the pursuit.

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 or intruder?

Very true.

Suppose, I said, the study of philosophy to take the place of gymnastics 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? he asked.

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

And how long is this stage of their lives to last?

Fifteen years, I answered; and when they have reached fifty years 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 has now 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
State and the lives of individuals, and the remainder of their own lives also; making
philosophy their chief pursuit, but, when their turn comes, toiling also at politics and ruling
for the public good, not as though they were performing some heroic action, but simply as a

matter of duty; and when they have brought up in each generation others like themselves
and left them in their place to be governors of the State, then they will depart to the Islands
of the Blessed and dwell there; and the city will give them public memorials and sacrifices
and honor them, if the Pythian oracle consent, as demigods, but if not, as in any case
blessed and divine.

You are a sculptor, Socrates, and have made statues of our governors 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 has been said about the State
and the government is not a mere dream, 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 honors of this present world
which they deem mean and worthless, esteeming above all things right and the honor that
springs from right, and regarding justice as the greatest and most necessary of all things,
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 possession of their children, who will be unaffected by the
habits of their parents; these they will train in their own habits and laws, I mean in the laws
which we have given them: and in this way the State and constitution of which we were
speaking will soonest and most easily attain happiness, 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 might come into being. Enough, then, of the perfect State, and of
the man who bears its image—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

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