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Version 1.

03 10/20/2011

The People’s Republic: Plato’s Classic Republic, Edited and Restated in Plain English
Copyright © 1998 Raymond L. Woodcock All Rights Reserved

Major Parts
Part 1: Is Justice Good? Part 2: Imagining a Just City Part 3: Running a Just City Part 4: Training the Just Ruler Part 5: The Descent to Injustice Part 6: Justice Is Its Own Reward Epilogue

Traditional Books 1 - 10 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Note: in the webpage version (not presently available online), the Stephanus page numbers are linked to the corresponding section in the Super-Jowett version.

Part 1 Is Justice Good?
Traditional Book One (Stephanus page number 327) Grey and I went down to the harbor yesterday to pray to Bendis, whom the Thracians worship as goddess of the moon. This was the first time they were throwing a festival for this goddess, and I wanted to see what it was like. As it turned out, the harbor crowd put on a nice parade, but the Thracians stole the show. We had just started to come back when Paul, one of my wealthy students, saw us from a ways off. He had one of his servants there, and Paul sent him to run and catch up with us. The servant grabbed the back of my coat and said, “Would you mind waiting until Paul can catch up?” Grey said, “Sure.” So we did. Along with Paul, there were Grey’s brother Adam, another guy named Nick, and a few others. When Paul caught up, he said, “Socrates, it looks like you were planning to go back into Athens, instead of staying down here by the harbor.” “Good guess,” I said. “Well,” he replied, “I hope you weren’t thinking that you could force your way past all of us.” Paul wasn’t exactly threatening me. He and his crew just wanted Grey and me to spend the day chatting with them, which wasn’t really what I had planned. “I’m sure we can work out a reasonable solution,” I said. “And what if we’re not interested in a reasonable solution?” “Then we’ll do what you say,” Grey said, volunteering me along with him. {328} Adam said, “Anyway, I’m surprised that you would want to leave. Haven’t you heard about the horseback relay race tonight at the Piraeus arena? Instead of passing batons, the relay riders will pass torches. Cool, huh?” I said, “Hey, that’s new. They’re passing torches?” “Yes,” Paul said, “and there will be more festival events there, and a lot of young guys. You really shouldn’t miss it. We can all go over after supper and have some good conversation.” So since Grey had already committed us, we decided not to go back to the city, and instead went to Paul’s place. His brothers and their friends were there, and so was his dad, whom I hadn’t seen for a long time. He looked a lot older than I remembered. He had just come from a sacrificial religious ceremony and was still dressed up, with a garland on his head. “Socrates,” said his dad, “how come we never see you down here anymore? I don’t get around like I used to, or else I’d go up to Athens and visit you. As I get older, I find myself enjoying conversation more than ever. It’s something I can still do. Do me a favor: sit here and talk to this old man for a minute before you run off again.”


“Glad to,” I replied. “I like to shoot the breeze with the elderly gents every now and then. They’re like experienced travelers who’ve already been down a road that lies ahead of me. I can learn from them. But I have to tell you, Cap, you’re looking kind of tired today. Is it just because you’re getting older? Sometimes I wonder what it’s like being old. It’s got to be a pain.” {329} Cap said, “The worst part about it is getting together with the other old farts and listening to them complain. ‘I can’t eat,’ they say. ‘I can’t drink. I don’t get laid anymore. My relatives are always hassling me.’ And so forth. To me, that’s a bunch of crap. How come they have these horrible problems and I don’t? I like what Sophocles said, when he had grown old: ‘Yes, I no longer have a love life -- thank God! I’m finally free from that crazy boss.’ And not just that one, but others too. You know what I have in my life now, that I never had before? I have peace. I’m calm, and I’m free. Maybe I’m different from these other old guys. They seem unhappy. Tell you the truth, I don’t think they complain because they’re old. I think they complain because they’re complainers. They probably sounded the same when they were young.” I liked it when Cap got on a roll. “Yeah, Cap,” I said, “but you know, people think you’re so happy just because you’re rich.” {330} “The money helps but, really, that’s not why I talk this way,” he said. “It’s like Themistocles said to the guy from Seriphia: ‘you’re right -- I wouldn’t be famous if I didn’t live in Athens -- but then again, you wouldn’t be famous if you did.’ I mean, sure, it’s tough for a poor good man to handle old age, but it’s also tough for a bad rich man. That’s why old age treats me OK: it’s because I try to be decent, not because I have money.” “Where did you get your money, Cap? Did you make it, or did it just get handed down to you?” “A little of both. I’m halfway between my father and his father. Gramps made a ton of money, but my dad lost a fair chunk. My personal goal, for what I pass on to the next generation, has been to leave my sons with somewhat more than I inherited.” I said, “You sure act like a guy who inherited it.” “Why do you say that?” “Because you aren’t gripping every last penny, like somebody who had to make it himself. You’re not one of those boring people who love their money and can’t talk about anything else. You seem to have a better idea of when money is important and when it isn’t.” “I like to think so,” he said. “Cap, as a guy who has the big picture, what would you say is the best thing you’ve been able to buy with your money?” He said, “I’m probably not like most people. Maybe I’m a weak old man, getting closer to death. For whatever reason, I find I’m a lot more serious now about things I used to laugh at. At my age, a guy worries about going to hell and being punished for his bad deeds. You get these nightmares. But not if you’ve got a clear conscience. In that case, you feel hope. Pindar says it’s ‘a kind nurse in old age, to the man who lives in 3

justice.’ You don’t worry about how you might have cheated or lied to anyone. Naturally, it’s a lot easier to keep this clear conscience if you’ve got the money you need to pay your bills and buy all the sacrifices that the gods require. So, to me, the best thing about money is that it buys me freedom from those worries.” {331} “‘The man who live in justice’, eh? Actually, I can’t say I totally understand what kind of justice we’re talking about here. I don’t know that a man is necessarily ‘just’ merely because he tells the truth and pays his bills. I can think of times when you shouldn’t tell the truth and pay what you owe. For instance, how about if someone gives me a weapon and asks me to hold onto it until he gets rip-roaring drunk, and then give it back to him? It’s his weapon, but I think common sense says I don’t really have to give him what I owe him at that exact moment. Same thing with the truth: yeah, you should tell people the truth, but maybe there are times when they can’t really handle it.” “Yes, there are times like that,” Cap agreed. “So am I being unjust at those times? I mean, I’m not being honest, and I’m not giving back what I owe. If that’s what justice requires, then I’m a cheater for doing what makes sense.” Paul, who had been sitting there listening, broke in on behalf of his father. “But Simonides says that’s exactly what justice is: telling the truth and paying your bills.” Cap said, “You know, I think I’d better let Paul take over for me. I should be getting back to the sacrifices.” “I’m your heir, aren’t I?” Paul asked. “Then I inherit the argument from you.” “Absolutely,” Cap said, with a laugh, and left. I turned to Paul and said, “OK, Mr. Heir, what was it that Simonides said?” “He said -- and I agree -- that you should give everyone what you owe them.” “Well, I’d certainly hate to challenge such a wise man, but I don’t understand him. I can’t believe he’d want me to return a weapon that I’m holding for someone else -- which is certainly not my own weapon, and therefore not something I have a right to keep -- just because the owner, a crazy drunk, wants it back.” {332} “No,” Paul said, “because Simonides also says you owe good to your friend. You’re not doing him any favors by returning the weapon at a time like that.” “Ah. Simonides is saying that justice requires the repayment of a debt, but that I’m not really repaying my debt of friendship if I give the weapon back.” “Right.” “What if the thing my friend has given me is not a weapon? Let’s say it’s a pile of gold. Now my friend asks me to return it, but I think he might use it in a way that will hurt him. Simonides would say that I am not really repaying my debt to my friend if I give him back his gold?” “That’s correct.” “How about enemies? Am I supposed to repay my debts to them too, if I want to be just?”


“Well, yes, you should repay what you owe them. You owe goodness to your friends, but hostility to your enemies.” “I see. Simonides was speaking vaguely, then, as poets often do. When he said we should pay our debts, he really meant that we should give each person an appropriate kind of treatment.” “I guess so.” “Then let’s apply his rule to another situation. What is the appropriate treatment for those who are sick?” “You give them medical care, of course: drugs, for instance, or maybe food or drink.” “And who is best able to perform justice at such times, giving sick people what they need?” “The doctor.” “But the doctor is needed, not in every situation, but only when people are sick?” “Right.” {333} “OK. Now, when are we most likely to need the kind of justice that Simonides has described, in which we are good to our friends and hostile to our enemies?” “At times of conflict and war, when you and your friends stand together against the adversary.” I said, “In other words, just as you can only heal those who are sick, so you can only be just to those who are fighting with or against you. Is there no need for justice in peacetime?” “That can’t be right,” he said. “You think there’s got to be some need for justice even during times of peace?” “I’d say.” “So what does justice do during peacetime?” “One thing it does, for sure, is to help people sit down together and work out fair deals. You need a sense of justice to be a good partner with someone else in a business enterprise.” “Hmm. Who would you say is better at playing checkers: the just man, or the skilled checkers player?” “The latter, of course.” “Who’s better at laying bricks: the just man or the skilled bricklayer?” “Again, the latter.” “Then in what kind of business enterprise is the just man a superior partner?” “Well ... being just is important when you need someone to help you decide how to handle and deal with your money.” “Perhaps, Paul. Let’s say you’re trying to invest your money in some practical way, like buying a horse or a ship. Who do you want advising you: the person who is an expert in being just, or the one who is an expert in horses or ships?” “The one who knows about horses or ships.”


“So in what sort of money-handling operation is justice the most important skill?” “They need just people for those jobs where they safeguard other people’s money.” “So a just person is valuable when the money is going to sit there and not do anything?” “Exactly,” Paul said. “I see. Justice is useful when money is useless, but useless when money is useful. Likewise with tools, weapons, musical instruments, and so forth: justice guards them, perhaps, but when you actually want to use them, justice is not good for much.” “I guess so.” “Paul,” I said, “this raises another question. Let’s say you throw a punch at a guy. Turns out this other guy is a boxer. Boxers know how to dodge and weave. Chances are, your punch will hit nothing but air.” “OK,” Paul said. “Now, ordinarily, a boxer tries to make contact with the other person. But in this case, part of the skill of being a boxer is knowing how to avoid contact. Or look at other examples: the person who is best able to avoid a surprise attack from the enemy is one who knows how to strike first. Likewise, a thief is the most knowledgeable person on the subject of how you could be robbed. These people have these skills because they practice them. Essentially, if you want to be really good at something, you also have to be really good at its opposite.” {334} “I agree with that.” “It seems, then, that the just man can become very good at guarding money only by developing his ability to steal it. This reminds me of Homer, who praises Autolycus, the father of Odysseus’ mother, as being ‘supremely skilled in theft and perjury.’ It seems, as you and Homer and Simonides say, that justice is the art of stealing in order to aid one’s friends and harm one’s enemies.” “That doesn’t seem right either,” Paul said. “All right, then, tell me: how do we pick our friends?” “A friend is someone who I think is a good person, unlike an enemy, who is evil.” “Unfortunately,” I said, “you can’t always tell who’s good and who’s not. Sometimes the ones we think are bad turn out to be good, and vice versa. Then you find yourself doing bad things to your enemy, the good person, and helping your friend, the bad person.” “That does happen sometimes,” he agreed. “A minute ago, we said that, according to Simonides, the just person acts appropriately toward everyone, doing good to the good and evil to the evil. But now we’re saying that, if you follow this approach, sometimes you’ll do evil to the good and good to the evil.” Paul said, “Maybe the problem has to do with these words ‘friend’ and ‘enemy.’” 6

“How so?” I asked. {335} “I think a person can seem to be good or evil, and therefore can seem to be a friend or enemy, but a real friend is someone who both seems good and is good.” “So the just person will do good things for his/her friends, but only when they are good; and will do bad things to his/her enemies, but only when they are evil.” “That sounds reasonable.” “I’m curious, though, whether you think that justice really requires you to do bad things to bad people.” “Well, if someone is evil, and they’re also your enemy, then, yes, I think justice does require that.” “So let’s say your dog gets hurt,” I said. “Maybe it gets its leg cut off somehow. Wouldn’t we say it’s less of a dog than it was before?” “My dog?” “Yeah. The dog loses a leg. It’s less of a dog.” “Yeah, OK.” “It’s a dog injury, not a horse injury.” “Of course.” “The only way it can be a dog injury is if the injury hurts something which makes that dog a dog. With that kind of injury, the dog won’t be the dog it used to be.” “True.” “So if you do evil to the dog, you make it less of a dog. Likewise, if you do evil to a man, you make him less of a man. I mean, when two people are trying to hurt each other, does that make them more honorable and virtuous -- do they become better human beings?” “Hardly.” “Tell me, do musicians, playing music, tend to make their listeners less musical? Or does dryness tend to make things wet?” “Of course not.” “Then how about the effort to hurt your enemies? If it makes them feel and act worse, it’s certainly not making them into better human beings. So what kind of ‘justice’ is it? It sure doesn’t seem like anything that a just man would want to be involved with.” “You’re right,” he said. “We’ve said that we can’t tell for sure that the person to whom we do good really is our friend, and now we’re saying that doing evil to enemies doesn’t yield a just result either. It seems that we must reject the idea that justice is the repayment of debts, giving good treatment to those whom we consider the good people and evil treatment to those we consider evil.” “I agree,” Paul said. “And we’ll oppose anyone who blames that mistaken idea on Simonides or any other wise man.” “Absolutely.” 7

“You know where I think the idea came from?” {336} “Where?” “I think it came from some rich guy who had the power to help his friends and harm his enemies. He wanted people to tell him that it was right for him to act that way.” “I believe it.” “OK. But anyway, to get back to the point, we still don’t have a working definition of justice.” While Paul and I had been talking, his brothers and their friends had been listening, along with a big guy named Thrasher who was, himself, a well-known teacher in Athens. Several times, Thrasher had tried to break into the conversation, but the others had hushed him, wanting Paul and me to finish our line of reasoning. But Thrasher had run out of patience, and now he came at us with a full head of steam, like a wild animal. There was so much pent-up energy in him that the rest of us were actually afraid. He roared, “Hey! If you fools want to find out what justice is, why don’t you end this nonsense? Stop caving in to each other! What is all this vague talk about the ‘duty’ to give people ‘help’ that is in their best ‘interests’? Justice isn’t based on that kind of mealymouthed vagueness. Give me a clear, precise answer! And you, Socrates -- it’s always the same old nonsense with you. You sit there and ask one question after another, but never give views of your own.” Needless to say, Thrasher had put me on the spot. Quite nervously, I said, “Thrasher, if we missed something in that discussion, it was an accident. We think justice is more important than gold, and we wouldn’t risk missing it by ‘caving in to each other.’ We honestly don’t have the answer here, and if you do, you should feel sorry for us.” {337} “Ha!” he snorted. There’s Socrates’ sarcasm for you. I’ve been telling you guys that if I asked him directly for his own views, he’d try to find a way to avoid answering. Now do you see what I mean?” “Thrasher,” I said, “you can’t demand an answer from someone and then tell him, ‘Oh, by the way, I won’t accept this kind of answer or that kind of answer.’ When you start by limiting the acceptable answers, you may not get an answer at all. You evidently don’t like our talk about ‘duties’ and ‘interests,’ but what if we have to use those words to explain justice?” “I’m not telling anyone which answer to give me. I just said I wanted an answer.” “Whether you’re actually telling them what to answer, or that’s just what they think you’re saying -- either way, the result is the same.” “So you’re saying that you were about to give an actual answer of a kind that I would forbid?” I said, “Maybe I was.”


“On the other hand,” Thrasher said, “how about if I give you an answer -- and what if it’s a better answer than any of these others we’ve heard? What should we do to you then?” “Do to me? What you should do to me is teach me, and I should learn from the wise.” “Oh, and not pay for the lesson?” “Pay? Oh, OK: I’ll pay -- when I get the money.” Grey said, “Oh, but Socrates, you do have the money: we’ll take up a contribution for you.” “Still, he’ll do the same as always,” Thrasher said. “He can tear up everyone else’s argument, but have no explanation himself.” I said, “Surely you can’t expect me to have all the answers, when my whole point of view is that I don’t know anything special about the subject, and even if I did have an answer, it might not be one you’d want to hear. Since I’m saying I don’t have an answer, and you’re saying you do, you should be the one who speaks up to teach the rest of us.” {338} Grey and a couple of the others started telling Thrasher that if he had any ideas, he should share them. I think we all knew that he believed he had a very good answer to the question about justice. And sure enough, after we begged him enough, he started to speak. “As you all see,” he said, “this is the wisdom of Socrates: never teaching, always soaking up knowledge from others, and never even thanking them for their trouble.” “I do learn from others,” I agreed, “but I am always grateful for it. I don’t have money, so I pay by praising those who give good explanations. I’m prepared to do that right now, as soon as you’ve finished giving your explanation, which I’m sure will clarify matters.” “All right, then,” he said, “here’s something you should praise. I say that justice is simply whatever is in the interests of the strong people, those who are in control. That’s the whole story in a nutshell. So why don’t you praise me? You said you would.” “I can’t praise you if I don’t understand you,” I replied. “Slow down. Who are these strong people you’re talking about? Polydamas eats beef, and he’s strong; does that mean that the rest of us should live by his rules and eat beef too?” “Same old crap,” Thrasher retorted. “Once again, you’re looking for the worst thing a person could possibly twist my words into, instead of trying to think of whether there might be some sense behind my idea.” “I don’t mean to,” I said politely. “I am only trying to understand.” “Well, try this on, then,” he said. “You’ve got all kinds of governments in the world. Some of them are democracies. Others have aristocrats or a tyrant in charge. But it doesn’t matter. In every one of them, the people in power make the laws. If you break their laws, they call you ‘unjust.’ See, justice is what the government says it is. If you can figure out the interests of the people who control the government, you’ve got your definition of justice.” {339} 9

“Ah. I get it. May I point out that you have just used the word ‘interests,’ which you said we shouldn’t use because it was too vague? Although I grant that you are talking about the interests of a specific group -- the people in power -- rather than the interests of all good or evil people.” “I don’t believe the specific word is an important part of my general point,” he replied. “Except that we agree, now, that the concept of personal ‘interests’ must come into the discussion somewhere. That is, justice does have something to do with what benefits someone. You want us to focus on the interests of those who are in control, and that’s the question: that’s where we have to decide whether you’re right.” “OK. Fine.” “You’re saying that justice is when people obey their governments?” “Absolutely.” “Governments are run by the people in power, who make the laws to serve their own interests?” “That’s right.” “But sometimes people in power make mistakes.” “Sure.” “So sometimes they make laws that don’t serve their own interests.” “I suppose.” “And justice requires the citizens to obey those laws too.” “Yes.” “So, in the name of justice, the citizens must obey laws that serve the rulers’ interests, and must also obey laws that harm the rulers’ interests.” “Makes sense to me,” Paul said. {340} “Are you serving as a witness here?” Carl asked. Paul replied, “No, I’m just agreeing with what Thrasher himself admitted. By what he says, justice may be either in favor of or against the interests of the strong people, the ones in power.” “I think he just meant that the weak people are ordered to do what the ruling people think is in their own best interests, even if sometimes it’s not,” Carl replied. “That’s not what he said,” Paul replied. I broke in. “Guys, let it slide. Whatever Thrasher said, let’s go with what he meant. Thrasher, did you mean what Paul says?” “No way,” Thrasher said. “Do you think I believe a ruler is ‘strong’ even when he’s mistaken?” “Why, yes,” I replied, “I do think that’s what you believe. Didn’t you admit, just now, that sometimes people in power make mistakes?” “Boy, you’re really on the lookout for some trivial detail that you can twist against a person, aren’t you? Let’s get it straight, since you’re such a stickler for these details. Yes, we do sometimes say that a doctor made a mistake, but what we really mean is that this person did something that we would not expect a doctor to do, and at 10

that moment he was not behaving as a doctor. The same is true of anyone else with a special skill. When the ruler makes a mistake, that’s weakness; and at that moment, he’s not really a ruler. So justice -- as I have been saying -- is in the best interests of the stronger party, and that means it’s in the interests of the ruler when the ruler is strong.” {341} I asked, “Do you really think I’m trying to twist things and make you look bad?” “There’s no ‘think’ about it. But don’t worry. You’re never going to win this argument with nitpicking questions like these.” “I’m not even going to try to ‘win.’ But to avoid any further misunderstanding, let me ask about this ruler you were just describing. Is he a ruler just because we all call him that, or is he a real ruler?” “He’s really the ruler. And now go ahead and try to cheat me, Socrates.” “What -- try to cheat Thrasher? That’d be like trying to shave a lion.” “But you just did cheat, by twisting things around.” “All right. Enough of this personal stuff. Getting back to the point, let’s think about your example of the doctor. When we talk about the doctor as a real doctor, do we call him a healer of the sick or a mere maker of money?” “A healer of the sick.” “And do you agree that medicine, and every other skill, has a purpose or goal, something that it tries to accomplish?” “Sure.” “And part of the goal, in any case, is the perfection of this skill?” “What do you mean?” “I mean, the purpose of medicine is to cure a sick body, right?” “Right.” {342} “The body can be imperfect, and therefore can require help from the art of medicine. But is that art like the body -- does it, too, have imperfections that require the help of another art, and does that art require yet another, and so on forever? Wouldn’t you say, rather, that the art of medicine includes whatever is necessary to care for the body?” “Yes.” “Medicine, in other words, is defined according to the best interests of the body, and not according to the best interests of medicine. Worrying about making money from your medical practice, or about the interests of the medical profession, is not the same as practicing medicine on the body. It’s the art of medicine only when you care for the body itself.” “Right.” “Do you agree, then, that medicine and other arts are concerned, not with their own needs, but with the needs of the subjects upon which they are practiced? “Yes.”


“Of course, the whole purpose of learning medicine or any other art is to become a master of its subject matter -- the body, in the case of medicine -- so as to rule and guide that subject.” Thrasher agreed, quite reluctantly. By now, I think he saw where I was going. “In short,” I said, “any art or skill that you can name tries to serve, not its own interests, but the interests of someone or something weaker.” He struggled to express an argument against this, but finally gave up. I said, “Granted, a person in a ruling position can get distracted by money. A doctor can think more about his personal benefit than about caring for his patients. But when a person practices the skill or ability that is responsible for putting him into a position of power, he thinks about the subjects whom that art is intended to benefit. Thus, even though he is the strong one and they are the weak ones, his actions are for their benefit.” {343} It was clear, by now, that we had turned Thrasher’s definition of justice upsidedown. He, plainly unhappy, sneered, “Socrates, your wet-nurse forgot to wipe your nose. It’s time to grow up. Do you think the shepherd tends the sheep because he loves them? People who rule nations treat their subjects like sheep, and constantly worry only about their own interests. Look around you! Justice is exactly what the ruler says it is. The common people serve him, for his happiness, whether it makes them happy or not. Being a just person means getting the short end of the stick. Not merely in dealing with the ruler, either: it also happens in everyday events. When a just man and an unjust man are partners in business, and then break up their partnership, you can bet that the just man gets the shaft. When a just man does his taxes, he pays more than the unjust man with the same amount of income. When there is a government handout, guess who gets it? When a just man goes into public office, he irritates his friends because he doesn’t do them any special favors; meanwhile, he tries to get by on what they pay public servants, and his own personal affairs go to ruin because he’s busy with his public responsibilities. Not so with the unjust man! And the more unjust you are, the happier you become. Look what happens with the tyrant, lord over all he surveys: when he literally rips people’s lives apart, plunders them for everything they own, and turns them into slaves, committing a hundred crimes that would each be good enough for a life sentence, what happens? Instead of becoming a criminal, he basks in the praises of people everywhere. Why? Because we all know that we’d do the same things if we could. We fear injustice, not because we consider it morally wrong, but because it might happen to us!” {344} Thrasher had poured a bucketful on us, and now that he had said his piece, he was ready to leave. But everyone wanted him to defend what he had just said. I told him, “Thrasher, these are really interesting comments. Are you really going to walk out at a time like this? Don’t you care whether we learn the best way to live the rest of our lives?” “You think I don’t care about the subject?” he asked. {345}


“It looks that way. Please, don’t keep your knowledge a secret. There’s quite a crowd of us here now, and we’ll benefit from what you know. I have to tell you, I’m still not convinced. I, and maybe some of the other guys here, do not believe that injustice is better than justice.” “Well, if what I just said didn’t make it clear enough, I don’t know what else I could say.” “Let me put it this way,” I said. “You were precise when talking about the doctor, but not about the shepherd. But the fact is, a shepherd’s job really is to take care of the sheep. It’s not like he looks at a lamb and says to himself, ‘Yum. There goes a tasty meal.’ He’s a shepherd, not a cook. He spends his day in the field with them, watching out to make sure they’re all right. Same thing with rulers. They’re there to serve their citizens. But you make it sound as though they’re power-mad, as though they really like their position.” Thrasher snorted. “Like? They love it!” {346} “Then how come bureaucrats won’t take a job in the so-called public service -and especially in the lower-level government jobs -- unless they get a good paycheck for their trouble?” “Well ...” “Let me ask: don’t you agree that each art or skill has a specific function and provides a specific good?” “Sure.” “A doctor may get paid, but we wouldn’t then say that medicine is the art of getting paid.” “No.” “In other words, there is an art of getting paid, but it’s not the same as the art of healing the sick or building a house. Even if a person with a skill like medicine fails to get paid, he might still produce a benefit.” “Of course.” “Same thing in government. There is an art of governing, and it’s entirely different from making money in government. This art, like any other, is a matter of working on behalf of others who are in a weaker position. Most petty bureaucrats will only take jobs in government, and practice this art of governing, if you pay them for their trouble or if they get some prestige out of the deal. But the best people go into government, not for the money or honor, but because they fear being punished if they don’t.” {347} Grey interrupted. “Money and honor, OK, but what’s this punishment you’re talking about?” I said, “The best people consider greed and personal ambition disgraceful, so you won’t get them into government by offering fame or fortune. They won’t dip into the public trough for their personal wealth, and they would feel cheap if they tried to advertise how wonderful they are. These are the kinds of people we want in government, right? But how do you get them there? You threaten them. Their option is: 13

either you become our ruler, or we’ll choose some schmuck who will make all of us, including you, miserable. These high-quality people would gladly hand off to someone better than them, because they know they aren’t perfect; but in the real world, no one is perfect, and these people offer us a rare and wonderful thing: a politician with a sense of shame. If we had a city full of public officials like this, the loud noise you’d hear at election time wouldn’t be the noise of voices shouting over one another, claiming to be better than the others. The noise would come from these good people, each insisting that the others were the ones who really deserved to be elected. We’d love this, and that would be your proof that the true ruler is not the one who grabs the power and makes everyone serve his interests.” Thrasher was silent. I said, “But maybe we shouldn’t beat that point to death. Let’s talk, instead, about the other thing Thrasher was just saying. He says that the unjust person lives a better life than the just one. Grey, what do you think? Is he right?” {348} “I’m not convinced,” Grey said. “But why not? He had a whole list of arguments there to support what he was saying. I guess we could come back at him with our own opposing list, but then I’m afraid he’d have another list of arguments on his side, and we’d have more on ours, and so forth. Maybe the better approach is just to talk about it and admit what we can, so as to get to the heart of the matter.” Thrasher said, “That’s fine.” “OK,” I said. “If I understand you correctly, perfect injustice -- like what we’d get from the tyrant you were just describing -- is more rewarding than perfect justice?” “That’s right.” “Would you say that one was a virtue and the other was a vice?” “Yep.” “Justice, I assume, is the virtue, and injustice is the vice?” “No, you’re backwards again.” “Justice is a vice?” “Let’s just say it’s a way of being a marvelous simpleton.” “And injustice -- what do we call that?” “Discretion. A sense of what works.” “Unjust people: are they wise and good?” “Yes, if they can be perfectly unjust, so that they control nations. But even the common pickpocket enjoys some advantages, assuming he doesn’t get caught.” “It amazes me to hear you lump injustice together with wisdom and virtue. But at least you’re consistent. It would be easier to prove you wrong if you had said that injustice was profitable but bad. Instead, it seems that you’re going to say injustice is honorable, strong, and virtuous. This seems pretty remarkable, but I think you’re sincere, and you aren’t just toying with us.” {349} “Sincere or not: it’s not your concern. Whatever I am, my challenge to you is, prove me wrong -- if you can.” 14

“You’re right. That’s what I’ve got to do. So, let me ask: does one just man try to take advantage of another just man?” “No way. If he did, he wouldn’t seem so charmingly naive.” “How about taking advantage of the unjust -- is this something that a just man would want to do?” “He’d like to, but he wouldn’t be able.” “I’m not asking what he’d be able to do. My question is, do you agree that the just man would not try to get more than another just man, but he would try to get more than an unjust man?” “Yes.” “And how about the unjust man? Wouldn’t he try to get more than a just man, and also more than an unjust man?” “He would.” “So the just man doesn’t want to have more than another man like him, but he does want more than a man who is not like him; but the unjust man wants more than everyone, whether they are like him or not.” “Exactly.” “You said the unjust man is good and wise, but not the just man?” “Right.” “Which means that the unjust man is like other wise and good men, but the just man is not?” “Of course.” “All right, then, let’s talk about wise men. Take, for example, a musician, as compared to someone who’s not a musician: which is wiser?” “All other things being equal, I would think that there is more wisdom in knowing how to play music than in not knowing how.” “Same thing with people who know how to practice medicine, as compared to those who don’t?” “Yes.” “Now, when the musician is playing music, or the doctor is practicing medicine, does that automatically make them wiser than another musician or doctor?” “No.” “But does it make them wiser than the person who doesn’t know how to practice these arts?” “That’s basically what I just said.” “When a person practices an art, doesn’t he usually think he’s practicing the same art as others who practice that art?” {350} “Of course.” “But how about an ignorant person: if you don’t know what it’s like to have a particular skill, won’t you think to yourself that you’re smarter than the other fools, and also that you are, or could be, smarter than the experts?” “Probably.” 15

“So let me back up for a second. You said that it’s wise to know things, right?” “Yes.” “And it’s good to be wise?” “Yes.” “We’re saying, here, that the wise man wants to be in sync with other wise men, but not with the unwise; but that the ignorant man prides himself on being out of sync with both.” “Yeah.” “This is the same as we said about the just man and the unjust man a minute ago: the just man wants to be like his kind, but unlike his opposite, while the unjust man doesn’t want to be like either his own kind or the opposite.” “I suppose so.” “So the just man is like the wise man, and the unjust man is like the ignorant man.” Thrasher didn’t say anything. He had been sweating a lot anyway, but it was really pouring off him now, and just then I saw something I’d never seen before: Thrasher was actually blushing. I continued. “I don’t know if you’re more willing to agree, now, that justice is wisdom, and injustice is ignorance,” I said, “but if you are, I’d like to go back to your view that injustice is strength. Do you remember saying that?” “I remember. Listen, just because I’m not bothering to straighten you out doesn’t mean I don’t have an answer. But I know you. If I have my full say, you’ll complain that I’m ranting. So instead, I’ll just nod ‘Yes’ or ‘No,’ whatever you say.” “No, not at all, not if it’s not what you really think.” “Oh, yes, I insist. I’ll just say what you want.” {351} “Well, all right. If you insist, then I’ll ask questions, and you can answer them. Let me return to the main point. If injustice is ignorance, then it can hardly be strength. To look at the subject in a different way, do we agree that one country can unjustly make another country its slave?” “Yes. In fact, the best and most perfectly unjust country will be most likely to do so.” “Well, then, about a country that has the power to enslave others: can it do this without justice, or only with justice?” “It depends on who’s right, you or me. Clearly, this powerful country has wisdom; the question is whether that wisdom comes from the country’s justice or its injustice.” I said, “I’m glad to see you’re not just saying ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ but are also giving me these really excellent answers.” “I’m trying to be polite.” “Would you politely tell me, then, whether an attacking country, or a band of robbers, or any other group of evildoers could accomplish anything if they constantly attacked one another?” 16

“Of course they couldn’t.” “And this is because injustice creates counterproductive fighting, while justice encourages harmony and friendship?” “To avoid an argument, I’ll say yes.” {352} “Quite good of you. Anyway, isn’t injustice able to cause that kind of division and disagreement wherever it goes, to the point that any group guided by a principle of injustice will be unable to act as a unit?” “It is.” “In fact, isn’t injustice counterproductive even within a single person, because even there it has the same power to divide his heart, and also because it puts him at odds with everyone else, including the gods? You acknowledge, I assume, that the gods are just?” “I’ll grant that.” “So then the unjust person, in addition to being an enemy of people everywhere, is even an enemy of the gods.” Thrasher said, “Have your fun. I can see that everyone else here would prefer it if I don’t disagree with you, so I won’t.” “OK, then, I will finish my fun. If unjust people were capable of being perfectly evil, they’d tear each other apart, until there was nothing left of any of them. If they can cooperate at all -- and they do -- it’s because there’s still some trace of justice in them. Not that the unjust are great teammates. We’ve already agreed that the just are wiser and more capable of teamwork. But the other question we asked at the beginning is whether just people have a happier life. I think they do, but I’d like to go into the matter carefully, because it’s essentially a question of how to live one’s life.” “Go ahead.” “OK. Let me ask: would you say that your eyes have a purpose or a unique value in this world?” “Definitely.” Thrasher did not seem quite as feisty anymore. It was like we were starting to work together in this discussion. {353} “And that value is, most likely, that your eyes can do things that nothing else can do?” “Yes.” “And would you agree that your eyes need a special skill or ability in order to do those things?” “Yes.” “So when your eyes lack that special ability, they cannot fulfill their purpose?” “Right.” “Would you say the same about ears, or pruning shears, or anything else: everything has a special purpose, and it has to function properly in order to fulfill that purpose?” “Yes.”


“How about your soul? When it comes to things that the soul does, like meditating, or steering your course through life, is there anything else in you that could do the job?” “Nope.” “I think we can agree that an evil soul would steer an evil course in life, and a good soul would steer a good course?” “We can agree to that.” “And we also agreed, did we not, that the just person is wise and productive, while the unjust person behaves stupidly and counterproductively?” “We did.” “So the just person -- that is, the person with a just soul -- will live well and be happy, while the unjust soul will experience misery. This is the opposite of what you were saying at the start, isn’t it?” {354} “It is, Socrates, and I admit that this conversation has been like a banquet in your honor, here at the festival of Bendis.” I said, “I have enjoyed these last few minutes with you the most, because you’ve stopped being so tough towards me and have seemed like you were really interested in where I was going with my questions. Yet it actually hasn’t been such a great feast for me. If this has been a banquet, then I’ve been just a taster of the dishes, jumping from one subject to another -- talking about whether justice is wisdom, and then whether justice is better than injustice -- while losing sight of the real issue that I started with. The truth is, I still don’t know what justice is. Therefore, despite everything we’ve said, I can’t really be sure that justice is good, nor that it makes a person happy.” Traditional Book Two (Stephanus page number 357) I was thinking that would end the discussion. Instead, it was only the beginning. Grey, pushy fellow that he is, said, “Socrates, I’m not sure Thrasher should give up so soon. Now you’ve got me going. Do you really want to prove that it’s better to be just?” I said, “Sure, as much as I can.” “Well,” he said, “I’m not persuaded yet. Do you agree that a thing can be good even if it doesn’t feel good now, as long as it produces good results?” “Yes.” “But it’s not good if it doesn’t feel good now and also doesn’t produce good results later.” “Right.” “So in terms of how it feels and what it produces, there are three kinds of good things. First, there are the ones that feel good for now, but don’t produce any noticeable good results later -- a game, for instance. Second, there are the ones that feel good now and also produce good things later. An example would be if you learn about something interesting and useful. And then, third, there are the things that don’t feel good now, 18

but produce something good later, like exercise, or making money, or taking care of a sick person.” “That sounds reasonable.” “OK,” he said. “Then if justice is good, as you say, which of these three types is it?” {358} “Justice is the kind of good thing that feels good now and also produces good results later.” “Ah, but that’s not the way most people see it. When it comes to them personally, they often think justice is unpleasant. At best, they consider it a painful necessity, like exercise or dieting.” “I know. I think Thrasher held that view. But I was too stupid to understand why.” “Maybe you sweet-talked him into giving up sooner than he should. See, when I look at the world, I notice that people seem to like justice, not because of justice itself, but because of what it can do for them. You don’t really hear anyone explaining why justice is good on its own merits, apart from how it’s profitable for them. But I’d like to do better than that, and I believe you could help me. I’m thinking maybe you would be able to make a case for justice in the abstract, for its own sake. To help you frame your arguments, I’m going to play the part of the bad guy, and argue against justice.” “That sounds marvelous. I can’t imagine anything that a sensible person would rather discuss.” {359} “Great,” Grey said. “First, then, I see that people think it’s good to do injustice to others. Not if you phrase it that way, of course; but when you get right down to it and listen to what excites people, it’s often a matter of getting away with something evil. People may hate to be on the receiving end of injustice, but they really enjoy dishing it out.” “True.” “People also discover, however, that what goes around comes around. As much as they like being unjust to others, they dislike even more having injustice done to then. When they get good and sick of it, they all get together and agree to have neither: they promise not to hurt others so they won’t get hurt themselves. Society develops laws and customs to enforce this state of affairs, and everyone calls these rules ‘justice.’ Nobody believes this ‘justice’ is the best possible arrangement; it’s merely a compromise that we can all live with. It’s the lesser evil.” “Hmm,” I said. “If people could be unjust to others without getting bad treatment back, they’d never make this kind of agreement. If the just man and the unjust man were both given an opportunity to take advantage of others without getting penalized in return, both of them would take it. Law is the only thing preventing them. It’s like that story about a thunderstorm and earthquake that open a crack in the ground. Gyges, a shepherd, sees the crack, goes down into it, and sees a hollow bronze horse, with openings to the inside. He looks in through one of the openings and sees a larger-than-life corpse with a 19

gold ring on its hand. He reaches in, takes the ring, puts it on, and goes back to his work. Later, there’s a meeting of the shepherds. While he’s sitting at this meeting, he twirls the ring around so that the setting is toward the inside of his hand, and suddenly he becomes invisible. Everybody thinks he’s gone, and they start talking about him like people do when you’re not there. After a while, he twirls the ring the other way and becomes visible again. He’s an enterprising sort of guy, and eventually, with this ring, he finds a way into the palace, seduces the queen, kills the king, and takes over.” {360} “Oh, yeah. I know that story.” “Well, if the just man and the unjust man each had a ring like this, they’d both behave the same. They’d be turning invisible so they could take whatever they wanted, have sex with whom they pleased, kill people or set them free, etc. Both the just and the unjust man would be getting away with all kinds of injustice, whenever their personal benefit called for it, because they would both believe that injustice is more profitable than justice. Or, looking at it the other way, if someone did resist the temptation to use this ring, and then if other people found out that he had this power but never used it, they’d consider him a fool -- although, granted, they might all pretend to admire him, fearing that it would be to their disadvantage to admit what they really felt.” {361} Grey continued, “To prove this point, let’s compare a perfectly unjust man against a perfectly just man. The first one, to be perfectly unjust, must have a craftsman’s ability to know what is possible in his art and what is not, and must be able to recover quickly after a mistake. A loser might get caught quickly; but the highest injustice would be to do the most unjust things while having the greatest reputation for justice. If he got caught, he would have to persuade people he was right, and must also have the courage, strength, money, and friends needed to get him out of a jam. Now, let’s compare the perfectly just man: noble, simple, and humble, wishing (as Aeschylus says) to be good without seeming to be good -- because, after all, if everyone praises him for being good, then we won’t know whether he behaves justly for the sake of justice itself, or merely to get all that praise. The only way to test his justness would be if he, the best of men, were generally considered the worst, and yet, despite the lack of praise, he kept on being just until he finally died. And then let us decide which of these two men is happier.” “Incredible!” I said. “The way you’ve described these two individuals -- I see them so clearly, it’s like you were polishing two statutes.” {362} “I do my best,” he said. “So let’s talk about the lives that these two people would live. Pardon my lack of flowery speech, if you will, and pretend that what I say comes from the mouths of poets who praise injustice. They will describe how the just man will be tied up and whipped. They’ll burn his eyes out and torture him in every way possible, and then impale him on a stick. Sooner or later, he’ll get the message: seeming to be just matters more than being just. Meanwhile, the unjust man is miles ahead: he has already decided that he must seem to be just, and at the same time he is accomplishing all of the things that only an unjust man can accomplish. Really, the song of Aeschylus applies to him: 20

The soil in his mind’s so deep That good plans are the fruit he’ll reap. The unjust man rules the city because they think he’s just. He has the ability to marry whoever he wants, and to arrange marriages that enhance his family’s standing. He’s a shrewd bargainer, because he won’t hesitate to be unjust if that benefits him. He defeats his enemies and grows rich, and this gives him the money to help his friends and keep his opponents down. He can make magnificent gifts to the gods and to charity, so that heaven and earth will unite in giving him a far better life than they give the just man.” I was going to reply, but then Grey’s brother Adam said, “I think there’s another point worth mentioning. Maybe the most important point of all.” “As they say, let brother help brother,” I replied, “although Grey has already wiped out any defense I might have made on behalf of justice.” {363} “Yeah, right,” Adam replied. “But let me mention that the reason that parents and teachers give, when telling young adults to be just, is that they must do this, not for the sake of justice itself, but for the sake of their reputations. This way, it is hoped, the young people will seem worthy to society’s powerful people, and will be given some of the advantageous marriages and jobs and other things that Grey was talking about. Parents and teachers (and poets) also say there are heavenly benefits of a good reputation: that if the gods think you’re worthy, they shower their benefits down on you. Hesiod, for instance, says the gods fill the just person’s oak trees with acorns and with honey-bearing hives of bees, and make the wool grow thick on their sheep. Likewise, Homer talks about the blameless king whose fields produce rich quantities of fruit and grain, whose sheep multiply and whose catch of fish is always good. Musaeus and his son have the same basic concept of reward to the just, although in their case the saints get to spend the rest of eternity at a drunken feast. Others say that the rewards of the just extend on to their great-great-grandchildren. This is all very different from what the poets say about the people whom the gods consider evil: those people, it is said, live despicable and miserable lives, like the one Gray was just describing, and must then spend eternity being forced to carry water in a sieve, or rotting in Hell. {364} “Then again,” he continued, “that stuff is not very imaginative or compelling, and meanwhile you’ve got to bear in mind the other things that the poets (as well as the prose writers) say about justice and injustice. Literally everyone says that justice is honorable, but that it’s a hard road, not very profitable, and it brings actual scorn when the just person happens to be weak; whereas injustice brings easy pleasure, and people give the unjust man honor and consider him happy. According to the poets and others, even the gods are unpredictable: they often dump bad things on good people, and good things on bad people. Meanwhile, religious charlatans go to rich people’s homes, telling them that the gods have given them a special power to atone for the sins of the rich people or their ancestors, or to harm the rich person’s enemy; and when they get paid, there’s some hocus-pocus, involving charms, incantations, sacrifices, or feasts and celebrations. The charlatans rely on specially selected passages from the poets, to prove 21

that this is how the gods operate and that you’d better not neglect your salvation. Sometimes they get not merely individuals, but whole cities, to go along with this sort of thing, and there’s a big event, and everybody gets to kill some time with it. {365} “The thing is,” he said, “the young people hear all this, and the smart ones -whose minds are like bees, landing on every flower and always forming conclusions about how to live their own lives -- are asking themselves, in the words of Pindar, whether they can build a greater fortress in their lives with justice or injustice. The first thing they see is what Grey was saying, that the payoff comes from knowing how to be profitably unjust while appearing to be just. As the philosophers have made clear, appearances count for more than reality. So the wise thing to do is to put up a big false front of justice, but as Archilochus recommends, be as clever as a fox behind it. This may require some work, but nothing great is easy. I’ll conceal some things by working through secret partnerships; I’ll learn how to be a good public speaker; and in this way, by a mix of force and persuasion, I’ll get what I want without being caught and punished.” {366} He continued, “Some people say this won’t work with the gods: that they can’t be bought or fooled. But for all we know, there are no gods, or they don’t care what we’re doing. Even if there are gods, the only things we know about them are what we hear from traditions and poets -- and those are the very experts who tell us that the gods can be calmed down by the appropriate sacrifices and so forth. Let’s be consistent. If we believe the poets, we gain more by being unjust than by being just, and we also come out ahead with the gods because our injustice gives us the wealth to afford good sacrifices. We do wrong, and then pray for forgiveness. ‘Ah,” someone says, ‘but what about eternal damnation?’ Well, it’s true that we or our children may suffer in Hell for what we do here. On the other hand, the poets -- who, themselves, are like children of the gods -- tell us, and many people in many great cities agree, that there are sacrifices and other ways to right those wrongs, and that some gods will seek mercy on our behalf. In short, there’s not a single reason to think that it is better to be just than to be the unjust person who knows how to manipulate appearances. Why on earth would any intelligent person, or any pillar of the community, have any desire to praise justice? Indeed, he should laugh when someone speaks well of it. “And in any case,” he said, “it’s not like I’m talking about something alien here. Maybe there’s someone out there, somewhere, who has found Truth, and whose godlike nature despises injustice for its own sake; and maybe there are people who complain about injustice because they, themselves, don’t have the ability to be good at it; but otherwise, for the rest of us, people tend to forgive injustice because they know it’s the natural state of mankind. Starting with the most ancient heroes and continuing right down to wise men in the present day -- including you, Socrates, our teacher -- we have not been taught that we must disregard the benefits of justice or injustice, and must instead root injustice out of our souls regardless of the consequences. Rather, all our lives, we have heard that justice is good precisely because it confers greater


rewards. Thus, instead of being concerned with the justice in our own hearts, we have jealously tracked the injustice practiced -- and the benefits received -- by others. {367} “Maybe Thrasher would say, at this point, that I have given a distorted picture of justice and injustice. But I’m making this case so strongly because I want to hear, from you, not only why justice is superior, but also how it has a positive effect upon the person who practices it. And while you’re at it, I would prefer hearing about justice itself, and not merely its wonderful reputation, saying things that everyone has to agree with, as Thrasher did: that the difference between justice and injustice is a matter of injuring the strong rather than the weak, or of benefiting others instead of oneself. I’ll put up with that sort of obvious argument from others, but since you’ve spent your whole life in the study of justice, I expect more from you.” {368}


Part 2 Imagining a Just City
Grey and Adam were smart guys, and I was absolutely delighted with this presentation they had made. I said, “You two really are, as Grey’s lover wrote after your stunning performance at the battle of Megara, the ‘divine offspring of a famous hero.’ Perhaps the most stunning thing of all is that you can make such a great argument on behalf of injustice, and yet not swallow it yourselves. If I didn’t know you so well, I might think you really believed what you were saying. But now you’ve put me in a bind. How am I supposed to respond? I gave it everything I had when arguing with Thrasher, but I see now that this wasn’t good enough to defeat your arguments. I don’t feel I’m up to the job; and yet it wouldn’t be right for me to walk away without saying a word on behalf of justice.” Grey and Adam, and the other guys sitting there listening, all said that I shouldn’t quit now. “In that case,” I said, “let’s suppose a person with bad eyesight was trying to read small letters from far away, and couldn’t do it; and then somebody suggested finding the same print somewhere else, closer up and bigger. Seems pretty obvious that the reader would prefer to read the bigger print, right?” “Right,” Adam said. “So?” “Well,” I said, “sometimes people speak of justice as an individual matter, and sometimes as a trait of a city.” “Right.” “And, of course, a city is larger than a single person.” “Of course.” {369} “Then justice must be larger and easier to study on the big-print level -- in the city -- than down inside a single person. So let’s start by talking about justice on the citywide level, and then apply what we learn to the individual.” “Good idea,” he agreed. “Now, then. When the city first comes into existence, its justice and injustice must also be coming into existence.” “Most likely.” “OK,” I said, “a city comes into existence because people can’t or won’t survive alone. They need things that others can provide. Can you think of any other reason why they would band together to form a city?” “Nope.” “So people get together, exchanging things that they think will be for their own good, working with all kinds of partners and helpers. Need is the thing that creates it, and the first need is food.” “Yes.” 24

“And then there’s shelter, and clothing, and other needs. And how does the city meet those needs? One guy becomes a farmer, another a builder, and then there are weavers, shoemakers, etc., right?” “Right.” “At the very minimum, we would need at least four or five men.” “Clearly.” “And how will these people divide their time? Will the farmer produce only enough food for himself, and also, at the same time, try to build a house, make clothes, and do all the other things that those other men could do?” {370} Adam said it would make more sense for the farmer to stick with what he does best, and hire other people to do the other things, if he wants to get everything done when it needs to be done. So I said, “This makes me think we’re not all alike, and that some people are good at one thing while others are more suited for another.” “Definitely,” he said. “So you would say that work is better done when the worker concentrates on one thing rather than trying to do many? And that things need to be done at the right time?” “Yes.” “Then our little city will need more people,” I said. “Someone has to make the farmer’s plow. Someone has to make the weaver’s loom. We’ll need carpenters, smiths - blacksmiths and so forth -- and others like them.” “True.” “Then again, we could add shepherds for the sheep, herders for the oxen to pull the plow, tanners for the hides, and still not have a really large city.” “But it won’t be tiny either.” “No, it won’t. Now, of course, the city will have to import things.” “Of course.” “For that, they’ll need traders who travel to other cities.” “Right.” “And the trader will have to take things to trade if he hopes to come back with things that his city needs. So the city will have to produce more than it needs, of the things that it is able to produce.” {371} “Yes.” “So will the city need more farmers and artisans and traders?” “Yes.” “And within the city, how will they exchange their goods?” “Obviously, they’ll have to buy and sell.” “Which requires a marketplace and some kind of money. And if the farmer brings his crops to the market at the wrong time, does he have to sit and wait for other people to arrive if he wishes to sell his crops?” “Not at all. He can use a salesman. Salesmen are typically weak men who aren’t fit for much else. The salesman can sell the farmer’s goods for him.” 25

“These salesmen: we call them retailers, no?” “Yes.” “And let us not forget: there are those whose intellects may not make them the most interesting companions, but who do have strong backs. These hired hands will help make up the rest of our population. And now, Adam, do we not have a city?” “We do.” “And where are justice and injustice, and when did they arrive?” {372} “They must come from the ways in which these people deal with each other.” “You’re probably right. Let’s think about it. What are their lives like? They produce corn, wine, clothes, and shoes; they build houses for themselves, work and eat; and they and their families eat and drink, reclining on beds of fragrant boughs, wearing garlands on their heads, singing of the gods and talking happily to one another, and making sure that their families do not grow beyond their means.” Grey interrupted. “But their food is dull.” “Of course,” I said, “let’s not forget the salt, olives, and cheese; the herbs and vegetables; the nuts and berries and desserts. With food like this, they and their children will live long, healthy, peaceful lives.” “Yes,” he said, “but it really doesn’t sound much different from what you’d provide for a city of pigs.” “What am I leaving out?’ I asked. “Obviously, they need the accessories of modern life: sofas and tables, sweets and sauces.” {373} “I understand. We’re not just talking about any old city. What we’re talking about now is a city of luxury. I, myself, think that the city I have described is the healthier one; but if you’d prefer to examine a fast-paced city, that’s fine. We will probably learn more about justice and injustice in that sort of place anyway. And I agree, many people will want more than I have described: fine furniture, delicacies, perfumes and prostitutes, and lots of variety in each, please. We’ll be needing fancy arts, like painting and embroidery, and we’ll import expensive materials, like gold and ivory.” “Exactly,” Grey replied. “All right. The city is going to have to grow. It must swell with many kinds of expertise that go beyond a person’s natural wants: actors, poets, dancers, dressmakers, tutors, wet and dry nurses, barbers, bakers, cooks, and people to tend pigs and other kinds of animals that we might have gotten by without. And wouldn’t you say we will need far more doctors than before?” “Far more.” “Problem is, won’t we need more land to support all these people?” “We sure will.” “Which means we’ll be wanting some of our neighboring cities’ lands, and if they’re following our example and pursuing unlimited wealth, they’ll be wanting some of ours.” 26

“Agreed.” {374} “So we’ve got to have an army to fight off those other cities when their troops invade. And that means we need even more land, because now we’ve got to support our army.” “Why have an army? Let the citizens defend themselves.” “Ah, but do you remember when we decided that an art is best practiced by focusing on that one skill, rather than attempting to do many things poorly?” “Yeah.” “Well, isn’t war an art?” “I guess so.” “Indeed, wouldn’t you say that war is an art of great importance to the city?” “Yes.” “So our warriors must be highly skilled in the use of their weapons. Neither a weapon nor any other tool is going to show the user how to become skilled with it. Therefore, our warriors will need to spend a good amount of time training. What’s more, we’re going to have to select our warriors carefully. In that sense, wouldn’t you say that a noble young warrior is like a well-bred dog?” {375} “What?” “Just that both of them have to have sharp eyes to see the enemy, speed to catch him, and strength to overcome him.” “Oh. Yes.” “Not to mention bravery. Where there is no spirit -- in animal or in man -- there is no courage. Haven’t you noticed that spirit is unbeatable, that it makes the heart strong and fearless?” “Of course.” “Then again, won’t an overly fierce person be savage toward his fellow soldiers too?” “I agree. That kind of energy could cause trouble.” “So we hope that the warrior can be civil toward his friends, and avoid destroying himself before his enemies get a chance to do so.” “True.” “And there’s the problem. You want a gentle soul and a fierce spirit, but they seem to contradict each other. Is it impossible, then, to find the kind of person who would be the ideal guardian of the city?” “It seems like it might be.” At this point, I was more or less baffled, and I stopped to think. Then I said, “Ah, I think I see the problem. We’ve lost sight of where we were going.” “We have?” “Yes. We’re looking for a being that can combine these opposing qualities, and yet we were just talking about that very sort of being. The well-bred dog, like many other animals, can be sweet to the people it knows, even if they have never been especially kind to it, and vicious to strangers, even though they have never hurt it.” 27

“Right.” “Everybody likes this about a dog. The dog is, in fact, a true philosopher.” “I beg your pardon?” “The dog decides that someone is friend or foe by one factor: whether the dog recognizes that person. If it knows the person, it’s a friend; if not, it’s an enemy. It’s all a question of what the dog knows. Knowledge is the thing that decides what the dog likes.” “True.” “It might be different if dogs didn’t tend to get to know people. But they do. Generally speaking, a well-bred dog likes to learn; and in this sense of being a lover of learning, it is a lover of wisdom; in other words, a philosopher.” “Funky,” he said. “Now, is it any different with the warrior who, like the dog, is able to tell friend from foe? Must he not, by nature, be able to learn the difference between the two? Perhaps it is more complex for a human; perhaps he sees things differently from a dog; and yet does it not come down to the same thing, that a warrior who can defend his city and yet be a teammate with his fellow warriors and a gentleman to his fellow citizens must have not only speed, strength, and fierceness, but also a philosopher’s love of learning about mankind?” {376} “It seems clear that he must.” “Well,” I said, “we have learned a great deal. We now know what we’re looking for in a warrior. The only question is, how do we develop these characteristics in a person? I don’t want to distract you from the original mission, of figuring out how justice and injustice come about, so let me ask: do you think this discussion of the warrior can be helpful in thinking about justice?” Adam said that he felt it was very helpful, and that he wanted to continue. “All right, Adam,” I said, “but then let’s not give up on it, even if it takes us a little while to get there.” “OK,” he said. “Then why don’t we talk about how we would like our city’s warriors to be educated?” “Excellent.” “We could let their education follow the pattern used at present, in which they have physical exercise for the body, and literature and poetry for the soul. Does that make sense?” “It seems right to me.” {377} “And let’s talk about the literature and poetry first. After all, when teaching kids, we start with make-believe stories, while they’re still very young, before they’re old enough to start phys. ed. classes.” “True.” “Of course, young children are very impressionable. It’s not as though we would allow them to hear just any story, made up by just anyone.” 28

“Certainly not.” “So let’s begin by having censors who will reject bad stories, and let’s encourage mothers and others caring for little children to tell them only the good stories. The thing is, we’ll have to reject most of the stories that we now tell kids.” “We will?” “Yes.” “Which ones?” “Well, some of the greatest ones are those of Homer and Hesiod and the other great storytellers. The problem with them is that they tell lies.” “They do? When?” “Whenever they incorrectly describe the nature of gods and heroes.” “I certainly agree that they shouldn’t do that, but which ones do?” {378} “OK, first: you know Hesiod’s story about how the god Cronus treated his father? [Cronus castrated his father Uranus, god of the world, and dethroned him.] Even if such stories were true, they certainly shouldn’t be told to kids. They probably shouldn’t be told at all. In the city that you and I are constructing, the best thing would be if those stories were told only in a special ceremony and the listeners were required to sacrifice some sort of big and expensive animal. That would pretty much discourage the casual telling of such tales.” “I agree. That is a truly offensive story.” “That’s right. A story like that should be prohibited. It makes no sense to tell a young man that, if he retaliates against his father, he is only following the example of one of the greatest gods. Nor should we be telling a future warrior that the gods conduct wars, and engage in plots, against one another. Again, if they do that sort of thing in Heaven, it must seem OK to do it on Earth too. We want our children to believe that fighting is wrong. That’s what old people and poets should be telling them as they grow up. Even if the story is meant to convey a figurative meaning, kids shouldn’t hear it. They may not get the point of the story, and may just remember the viciousness. Better, by far, to tell them stories of virtue.” “Right,” Adam said, “but if somebody asks us what stories we want to tell instead in our city, what do we say?” {379} I said, “Adam, you and I are engaged in the business of creating a city. As founders, we should have some general limits on storytelling, but the construction of tales is their job, not ours.” “But what would the general limits be?” “How about this: God must be described accurately.” “Definitely.” “Isn’t God truly good?” “Yes.” “And a good thing cannot cause hurt?” “Right.” “And if a thing cannot cause hurt, it does not do evil?” 29

“Agreed.” “And if it does no evil, it is not a cause of evil?” “Correct.” “Then God is not the creator or cause of all things. He must be the cause of only the good things. There are more evil things than good things in human life, so evidently God is not responsible for most of what happens to us.” “I agree.” {380} “So Homer is wrong in saying that Zeus dishes out both good and evil, or that the gods Zeus and Athena were responsible for the truce-breaking done by Pandarus, a man. In the city that you and I are building, we won’t be allowing our young men to hear stories like that; nor will they hear Aeschylus’s claim that, when God really wants to destroy a family, he puts the task into the hands of men. If a poet wants to write about the Trojan war or some other horror, he has a choice: either don’t blame God for it, or else explain how God accomplished some greater good through this thing that seems to be so evil. But the poet cannot say that someone is miserable, that there is no greater good at stake, and that God is responsible for the misery. There shall be no such song or writing by anyone, young or old, in a sensibly governed city. That sort of story is a destructive, suicidal blasphemy.” “That’s right,” Adam said. “Here’s another principle that I think our poets should follow. Would you say that God takes on many different shapes, maybe fooling us sometimes, or is he instead always the same never-changing image?” “I guess I’d have to think about that one.” “OK. Well, tell me this: if something changes, it must be because it changes itself, or else because something else changes it, right?” “Right.” “And when something is at its best, it is least likely to be changed or worn down. When a person is healthiest, he’s least likely to get sick; and the healthy plant is best able to withstand hot sun or strong wind. The bravest and wisest person is hardest to confuse, and the well-made product withstands wear the longest.” {381} “True.” “Of course, a good thing, being made well -- whether by man or by nature -- is less likely to be changed by external forces than is a bad thing.” “Of course.” “God, we agree, is perfect? That is, he is an exceedingly good thing?” “Agreed.” “So no external force is going to change his shape. So if he changes at all, it must be because he changes himself.” “Yes.” “And would he change himself for the better or for the worse?” “Being perfect, he can’t change himself for the better, so if he changed at all, it would have to be for the worse.” 30

“But would God -- or man, for that matter -- want to make himself worse?” {382} “No.” “So a god, being the best and most beautiful, must never change.” “That seems unavoidably true.” “So let us not have our poets telling us, as some of them have done, that the gods take on disguises and walk among us, or that they creep around by night in various shapes. That sort of nonsense makes the children afraid and wrongly tarnishes the reputation of the gods.” “It is entirely inappropriate,” he agreed. “On the other hand, while the gods’ shapes do not actually change, do you suppose they might use some form of deception to make us think that they have changed?” “Maybe.” “So do you think that God would deceive in this way?” “I don’t know.” “Don’t you think gods and men hate the true lie?” “The true lie?” “Let me put it this way. Each of us has a core, a deep place in our hearts, where we really want to know the truth. We may kid ourselves in a lot of ways, but when it comes to the things that are most sacred to us, down in the center of our souls, well, that’s one place where we really do not want to be lying to ourselves. A lie there is something that any human being would despise.” “They would hate it.” “When I call it a true lie, I mean that it’s not just a lie that you accomplish by shifting words around in a deceptive way, to reflect a trace of some inner evil. What I’m talking about is falsehood in the soul. You know what I mean?” “Yes.” “And do you agree that both gods and men must hate that true lie?” “I do.” “In fact, there are times when the spoken lie -- a mere deception in words -- is not an evil thing. It might be reasonable to lie to your enemies, for example, or to lie in order to cope with a friend who’s going through some sort of madness, or even to invent stories about the ancient past, of which we know so little, in hopes of wringing some kind of truth from it.” “Right.” “But those rationales may not apply to God. He knows the past, so would you think he would have to make up stories about it?” “The idea is absurd.” “So it’s not as though God speaks about the past through lying storytellers.” “Absolutely not.”


“Well, how about the other reasons I just mentioned, to explain why a person might lie. Does God lie because he is afraid of enemies? Does he have to lie to cope with a crazed friend?” “Afraid? Inconceivable. And no crazy person is a friend of God.” “So we can’t imagine any reason why God might lie?” “None.” “God, then, seems incapable of falsehood.” “He does.” “So God is totally straightforward in what he says and does. He doesn’t change, and he doesn’t mislead.” “That’s exactly what I feel.” {383} “All right. We’ve agreed on two rules guiding what we should say about the gods. They don’t change forms, and they don’t deceive people.” “Yes.” “So we may like Homer and Aeschylus, but we don’t like their stories about Zeus sending a lying dream to General Agamemnon, or about Apollo killing the son of Thetis after promising that he would have a long life. We want our young men to worship the gods and to be like them.” “I agree,” Adam said, “and these will be my laws.” Traditional Book Three (Stephanus page number 386) “Adam,” I said, “we have agreed on some principles of theology, regarding what tales should be told, or not, for purposes of teaching a warrior to honor the gods and their parents and to be a good friend. But let me ask: don’t you think we should have also teach him not to be afraid of death? Will he have the courage to die in battle rather than surrender and be taken prisoner, if he thinks that death is followed by torment in Hell?” “Such a belief makes courage in battle impossible.” “Then we’ll have to require our storytellers to speak well of life after death.” “We will.” {387} “That means we must get rid of the words of the poet who said, “I would rather be a slave on a bankrupt farm than be King of the Afterlife.’ Also, the lines that refer to the afterlife as a place of ‘grim, squalid estates’ that both gods and men detest; and the idea that there is no mind or intelligence in the world after death; and the words that talk about souls that must sadly leave the bloom of youth behind; and about souls crying out as they go on to their fate.” “Definitely.” “Also, we should require our storytellers to stop referring to life after death as a horrible thing. Maybe there are some purposes for which it’s appropriate to send a


shiver up the listener’s spine, but they aren’t right for people who may have to die in defense of the city.” “Then let’s eliminate them.” “The thing is, if we persuade our warriors that death is not to be feared, then they won’t mourn if it happens to their fellow soldiers. Does that sound right?” “It’s what we’ve been saying.” “In any case, the warriors we’re training are philosophically and physically selfreliant, so that, of all men, they are least likely to feel that they have lost something important if a comrade dies.” “That’s right.” “Therefore, these mournings of famous men are best given to low-life men and to those women who have nothing better to do, and our defenders of the city should be taught to look down their noses at such folly.” “Absolutely.” {388} “And, in particular, we would ask Homer to delete stories in which heroes like Achilles and Priam are rolling around on the ground in grief, pouring ashes over their heads and doing other pathetic things to cope with their sense of loss. And we certainly won’t need to hear any more about how the gods supposedly feel bad when some favored human is at risk of death. Our warriors should laugh at such things. If our men seriously believe that this is how even the gods behave, they’ll probably act the same way, and their sense of self-discipline will be eroded by the temptation to whimper.” “You’re right.” “So until we have some reason to reconsider this issue, let’s make a point of rejecting this sort of thing. For a similar reason, we should condemn the opposite extreme, when people fall into uncontrollable fits of laughter. Such fits always seem to lead to extreme reactions. And, again, if such behavior is inappropriate for men, it certainly does not belong in stories about the gods.” “I agree,” Adam said. {389} “So you’re saying that we won’t allow poets to speak, as Homer did, about how the god Hephaestus looked so hilariously funny to the other gods.” “I’m saying this? Well, OK, it is what I think.” “All right. Let’s finish up with something that we were saying earlier. As a general rule, if the gods do not lie -- and if, among men, lying is useful only in carefully managed doses, like a prescription drug -- then let us place this medicine in the hands of the doctors. Ordinary people should not be using it.” “Definitely not.” “If anyone is allowed to lie, it should be the rulers of the city, who might sometimes lie to the citizens or to enemies, if they think that doing so will serve the public. And it should be a one-way street. Lying to the rulers is worse than when a sailor lies to the captain of a ship about what’s happening with the ship and crew.” “That’s right.”


“Lying is a destructive thing, and if the rulers catch a private citizen doing it, they should punish him for it.” “Absolutely.” “OK. Now, on another point: we believe in ‘moderation in all things,’ right?” “Right.” “So our warriors should be moderate in food and drink etc., and they should obey their commanders?” “They should.” “So I guess we would favor the poem that talks about how the troops were in awe of their leaders?” “Yes.” “How about the one where a leader is described as ‘heavy of wine, with the eyes of a dog and a heart a timid as a deer’?” “That one’s not so good.” “Not because they’re not amusing, but because they harm the warrior by reducing his discipline.” “Exactly.” {390} “What do you think about having a wise man say that nothing is more wonderful than a table full of food and cups full of wine? Or the statement that nothing is sadder than dying of hunger? Or the story about how Zeus spent all night making plans, but then forgot the whole thing in an instant when he got an eyefull of his sexy sister Hera, to the point that he wanted to have sex with her right there, on the ground? You think this is conducive to morale and moderation?” “I really don’t think the warrior should hear that sort of thing,” Adam said. “On the other hand, it would be appropriate to tell them stories of endurance and great feats by famous men.” “Of course.” “OK. Let’s continue. How about letting the warrior receive gifts? Or allowing him to love money? Like that story about how Phoenix told Achilles not to help the Achaeans unless they gave him gifts, or the one about how Achilles refused to hand over the corpse of Hector until they paid him for it.” {391} “These stories are not suitable for the warrior.” “Not to backtrack, but some of the things that Homer says about Achilles are really amazing. Imagine Achilles spoiling for a fight with the god Apollo, and with the unnamed god of the river, going back on a vow to the god Spercheius, slaughtering captives; imagine him, son of a goddess, being a money-lover, and so forth! There’s also the story about how the sons of the gods Zeus and Poseidon were rapists. All this stuff goes against the principle we’ve already mentioned, that it is wrong to treat the gods as though they could do evil. This sort of thing is not appropriate for our young men -and, as we’ve already said, everybody will think it’s OK to behave like this if even the gods do it. Clearly, we’ve got to stop the telling of such tales.” {392} “Clearly.” 34

“Now, let’s see. Have we forgotten to cover any important subjects? We’ve talked about gods, life after death, and heroes. But how about ordinary men? We’ve neglected that subject.” “True.” “And yet we can’t get into it right now.” “Why not?” “Because I think that, if we do, we’re going to have to look at the fact that storytellers say all the wrong things about people. They say that wicked men are happy and that good ones aren’t, that crime pays when you don’t get caught, and that you practice justice at your own expense. We’ll have to order the storytellers to stop all this sort of thing.” “We will indeed.” “But before we cross that bridge, we’ve got to make sure we know what justice is. Without that, we can’t reach all those conclusions, because we don’t really know for sure whether injustice is profitable.” “True.” “The approach we should take, at this point, is to switch from the subject of poetry and storytelling, and turn our attention to its style.” “I’m not sure I understand.” “Maybe this will be clearer. You do recognize, do you not, that all stories involve a sequence of past, present, or future events?” “Of course.” “And when a storyteller describes those events, doesn’t he use simple narration, or imitation, or both together?” “Again, I don’t know what you mean.” “I’m a pretty poor teacher, it seems. Let me tackle just a piece of it, and use that as an example of what I’m driving at. You know Homer’s story about how Chryses asked Agamemnon to release his daughter? Agamemnon flew into a rage, and Chryses replied by praying for the wrath of God against Agamemnon’s people. Up to a certain point, Homer is talking in the third person, about these other players. But then he switches perspectives and speaks in the first person, as though he were Chryses. And he carries on in this way, back and forth between first person and third, for some time. You know what I mean?” {393} “Yes.” “He’s switching back and forth, but it doesn’t stop being a story, does it?” “Not at all.” “Of course, when he switches to the first person and speaks as Chryses, he takes on Chryses’ style of speech too.” “Naturally.” “So, since he’s imitating Chryses at those times, we could say that he’s proceeding by way of imitation?” “Fine.” 35

“On the other hand, if he never imitated Chryses, and just did the whole thing in the third person, as an outside observer of events, we’d say that he was using simple narration.” {394} “Right.” “And just as the whole thing could be done in simple narration, so also it could all be done in imitation. If we didn’t have the passages where he talks as an outside observer, all we’d have left would be the parts where he speaks as though he were Chryses.” “Right. Like in a play, whether tragedy or comedy.” “Exactly. As you suggest, plays are one kind of storytelling which is entirely imitative. And poems in which the poet is the only speaker are a form of storytelling that is entirely narrative. And then, as we were just saying, in some forms of storytelling, such as Homer’s epic poems, the two are mixed, with the perspective switching back and forth.” “I understand now.” “Good. Now, as to the other confusing thing I said, that we should now turn our attention from the subject of storytelling to its style: my question was whether we should allow our poets to imitate, rather than being strictly narrative.” “Are you asking whether the city that we are constructing should allow plays?” “Yes, but perhaps more than that. I don’t know yet. It depends on which direction the argument blows.” “And where she blows, we shall go,” Adam said cheerfully. “And so, Adam, let me ask: should the warrior be an imitative storyteller? You remember, we have already agreed that a man who tries to become good at one thing may gain a reputation in it, but he who tries to do many things at the same time is likely not to do well in any of them?” “I remember.” {395} “Doesn’t this rule apply here, too? Do we want our warrior to play one serious part in life, and at the same time to try to imitate many other parts? As we see among playwrights, even those who do well at tragedy may not do well at comedy, and vice versa. You did say, didn’t you, that both of those kinds of plays were imitative?” “I did, and you’re right: it’s not likely that one playwright can succeed in both kinds of plays.” “What’s more, as time goes on, we see that human activity gets divided up into ever smaller specialties, and the same rule continues to apply: if you want to excel at something, you have to concentrate on that. So if you want to do a thing, do it, or if you want to write a story or play a part that imitates it, do that; but don’t try to be a successful doer of the thing and a successful writer or actor in a story about it. A few people might find a way to succeed in both the doing and the imitation, but most won’t.” “Agreed.”


“So then, if the warrior is to be dedicated to the preservation of freedom in our city, he should not be distracted by any other goal. If there is any reason for him to imitate anyone, the people he should imitate, from childhood on, are those whose courage, moderation, or other traits are relevant to his own development. It would be a very bad idea for a warrior-in-training, attempting to prepare a story that imitates his world from the perspective of an outsider, to decide that he should learn to imitate stingy, low-life people. He might well become the thing that he tries to imitate. Or have you never noticed how a person’s youthful imitations, if carried on, become a part of who he is?” “Yes, of course,” Adam said. “Needless to say, we don’t want the proud warrior to be good at imitating a woman -- and especially not one who is fighting with her husband, struggling against the gods, suffering or weeping, experiencing sickness or love of a man, or giving birth.” “No kidding.” {396} “How about imitating slaves, lunatics, cowards, drunkards, or those who verbally attack their fellow man, or in any other way offend their fellow man in word or deed?” “Not a chance.” “Well, but what about imitating someone in a worthy calling, like a smith or oarsman?” “It’s the same thing. It’s still a kind of activity that’s very different from what they’re supposed to focus on.” “Well, but how about if they just imitate sounds? Maybe they can just practice making noises like the neighing of a horse or the sound of thunder?” He said, “If they can’t imitate madmen, then they shouldn’t imitate the sounds that, ordinarily, only a madman would imitate.” “Then I guess you mean that there’s a pretty clear difference between the kind of strictly narrative style that a good man would use and that which a bad man would use.” “Narrative? I thought we were talking about imitation. I don’t follow you.” “Suppose a good man is narrating a story. He gets to a part where he wants to impersonate the words or acts of another good man. Nothing shameful in that, at least if the words or acts are honorable ones. But then he comes to a part that talks about a scoundrel. He’s not going to imitate that guy’s behavior, except maybe if the guy did something decent. Other than that, the honorable man will just narrate the parts of the story that deal with bad people.” “I expect so.” “Most likely, then, when a good man tells a story, there’s going to be a lot of narration and not much imitation.” “Right.” {397} “How does that compare against the performance that you’d get out of an immoral actor who’ll portray anybody as long as it pays? The lower this actor is, the 37

broader the range of imitation he’ll do. He’ll make the roll of thunder and the creaking of wheels, the piping of a flute and the barking of a dog. He won’t have to say, ‘The rooster crowed,’ because he can accomplish the same thing by just imitating the sound of a rooster crowing.” “What can I say? I guess that’s what his style would be.” “So we have two kinds of styles here. The one is simple and doesn’t change much throughout the story. The other can be quite a bit more complicated and varied during the performance.” “Yes.” “And between the two, wouldn’t you say we’ve got just about every possible style of storytelling? All words, or all noises, or a mixture of the two?” “I’d say that pretty much covers it.” “Now, then, which style should we allow in our city?” “I’d prefer to allow only the virtuous one: straight narrative, except where you’re imitating someone or something honorable.” “Ah, but don’t you think that a more mixed style can be entertaining? Did you ever notice how much kids -- and adults -- enjoy the variety that a skilled performer can produce, using the style that you would reject?” “I guess that’s true.” “Perhaps you would suggest that the problem with a mixed style is that it doesn’t fit in our city, where we are trying to match people up precisely with the single thing that they do best, and not with mixed roles where they have to do multiple things.” “Yes. Mixed roles don’t really belong.” {398} “So when a gifted performer comes to town, who can imitate anything and entertain anyone, we’ll be very respectable and decent towards him. We’ll treat him as a good and worthy human being; we’ll practically worship him; and then, when we’re finished, we’ll tell him that our city has no place for his type, and we’ll send him on his way, because what we’d rather have is the storyteller who simply narrates the story, except for occasionally imitating the virtuous man.” “That’s the way I see it.” “So I guess we’ve pretty much taken care of the subject of how to educate our warriors. The literature and poetry part, that is. We’ve talked about both the subject matter that ought to be presented, and the way in which it should be presented.” “I agree,” he said. “To wrap it up, let’s talk about the use of songs in storytelling. Of course, we can use music to help convey a message. But what kind of melody and rhythm are appropriate for our music? If we’re going to be consistent with the other things we’ve already decided, there’s obviously only one possibility.” Grey laughed. ‘Obvious, I guess, to everyone but me.”


I said, “Well, we’ve already talked about the words, whether they’re in a song or just spoken. Do you agree that, if we’re putting a poem to music, then the melody and rhythm will depend, to a large extent, on the words?” “Yes,” Grey said. “And, as I think we already said, we don’t want our warriors listening to the kind of melody that makes a person feel like crying or whining.” “Definitely not.” “How about tunes that make you feel like partying, or enjoying the easy life, or being lazy, or that in some other way encourages a sense of softness? Is there any military use in that kind of music?” “None.” “Then, what kind of melody do we need? You’re the musical one, so you tell me. I’ll say this much: I’d like to have a warlike one, that stirs a brave man to action in time of danger, or that gives him the strength to stand when hope is fading. I’d also like to have one that he can use in times of peace. This one would be the type that might seem appropriate while he is praying, or teaching, or when he has accomplished his military goals and is of an open mind, listening to what people are saying and behaving moderately in response. Between these two kinds of melodies, I think we’ll pretty much cover our needs: pressure versus freedom, pain versus success, fierceness versus moderation.” {399} “I believe the Dorian and Phrygian harmonies would be exactly what you’re looking for,” Grey said. “All right. Now, if we’re using only these two, and if we want to discourage the development of other kinds of music, will we be needing the ability to produce a wide variety of musical notes and chords?” “No.” “That will rid us of the need for complex stringed instruments, like the lute and the harp. And how about flutes? Certainly the flute-players have the habit of making notes more complex than all the stringed instruments put together. Do we want that?” “Definitely not.” “Well, then, looking at the musical instruments that are in normal use nowadays, that leaves us with the lyre and the zither for use in the city, and a simple pipe for shepherds out in the countryside.” “That is the logical conclusion.” “We seem to be preferring the instruments of Apollo, who loved the zither, over those of Marsyas, the flute-playing satyr. Interestingly, Marsyas lost his musical contest with Apollo and got skinned alive as a result. I hope you don’t see any sort of strange parallel there.” “Not at all.” “But now, son of a gun, look at what we’ve been doing. The city that we were building, with so many different kinds of workers, is starting to get pared down. No more harp-makers, for instance.” 39

“Appropriately enough, I might add,” Grey said. “We may just be pruning it down some more. So much for melodies; let’s talk about rhythms. We’ve already decided what we want our music to express -essentially, a brave and peaceful life -- and now it’s just a matter of figuring out which kinds of rhythms are best suited to those purposes. Again, you’re more musical than I, and I’m open to your suggestions.” {400} “Frankly, I don’t know. Based on my own observation, it seems that there are three basic principles of rhythm. But I really have no idea how any of them relate to one kind of life or another.” “Then maybe the music book by Damon would have something to say on which rhythms express good feelings or bad. As I recall, it says something about a heroic rhythm, or maybe a dactylic, or was it trochaic? It may also have said that the beat is as important as the rhythm, or vice versa. I’m not sure. I think we’d better look it up. It’s a complex subject, you know?” “For sure.” “Or maybe we can say, for the time being, that at least you get a sense of gracefulness from a good rhythm, and clumsiness from a bad one.” “Yeah.” “It also seems like good rhythm fits a good style of presentation. I mean, as long as we’re taking the approach that the words come first, and then the harmony and rhythm have to fit the words, it seems kind of obvious that if the words of a poem are laid out well, the listener is going to have a much better sense of rhythm when those words are put to music.” “Right.” “And won’t the choice of words, and the kind of presentation style you use, depend upon the condition of your heart when you’re preparing the music?” “No doubt.” “Well, can you develop a graceful style and a good rhythm if your mind is fogged with distractions?” “No.” “But look at what happens when you begin with your mind clear and orderly -not empty, but organized and ready to concentrate -- and with a noble character. You’re all ready to write good music that works.” “Agreed.” “Wouldn’t you say that this kind of grace and harmony should always be a young person’s goal, as an essential step toward success in his life’s work? I mean, no matter whether we’re talking about music, or painting, or architecture, or manufacturing?” “I would.” {401} “And just as goodness is tied to grace, don’t you agree that there is a link among bad words, bad attitudes, ugliness, and discord?” “Yes.” 40

“Of course, all along we’ve been talking about making sure that the storytellers concentrate on the good and avoid the evil, so as to have the proper influence on the warrior. But don’t the same thoughts apply to others besides storytellers? Surely we would want to prohibit other kinds of artists, too, from presenting lack of self-control and bad behavior to our citizens. Otherwise, the efforts we’ve made to exert a good influence through our storytellers would be quite overcome by the poisonous influences from these other sources. By controlling our artists properly, we might succeed in training our young people in the influence of goodness and beauty from many sources, as though a healthful breeze were blowing in from a better land. In this way, a person raised in our city might learn, from a very early age, the beauty of reason.” “This would be the finest possible training,” Grey said. {402} “And within this training,” I told him, “musical training is the most powerful tool, because of the way in which music gets into a person’s heart and influences it, bringing grace to the person who has been taught well -- and the opposite to the person who has not. He who becomes truly educated, in the core of his being, will then have the skill to detect imperfections in the world and in mankind’s creations; and, beginning at a young age, will grow all the richer from being able to find and enjoy good things while screening out bad ones. Later, when he matures in reason, his intellect will recognize and greet the quality of grace that he has already come to know through the other, earlier aspects of his training.” “I entirely agree that musical training is important for such reasons.” “For example, when we learned to read, we found out how to pick out the letters of the alphabet everywhere, no matter whether they were big or small, or appeared to us straight on or backwards, reflected in a mirror. In the same way, our warriors, and we who educate them, cannot be truly musical until we know such qualities as moderation, courage, generosity, and magnificence, and can pick them out anywhere, and can see how they are all within the scope of our single program of education.” “Absolutely.” “Then, once a person is trained to recognize one of these qualities -- courage, for example, or generosity -- nothing will be more wonderful to him than to see that quality brought to life, and displayed in the real world, in a person whose soul was prepared for that very purpose.” “I could not agree more.” “And do you also agree that this experience, which I’ve described as being wonderful, is an experience that a person would want to have?” “Of course.” “Now, since we’ve described music as something that gets to the very heart of a person, doesn’t it seem safe to say that the musical person will naturally be attracted to people who are beautiful, and not to those who are ugly?” “Yes, if the ugliness is a matter of the heart, and not just some surface defect. A person with beauty in his heart will love and be patient with another who also has beauty in his heart, regardless of the superficial appearances.” 41

“You seem to speak from experience. I agree with you. But let me ask this: does excessive pleasure coexist well with moderation or virtue?” “It can’t. Pleasure overrules a person’s sense of discipline and decency just as much as pain does.” “Well, then, does excessive pleasure coexist well with a wild, undisciplined approach to life?” “It certainly does.” {403} “And of all pleasures, are any more intense than sex?” “None more intense -- nor more crazed.” “On the other hand, would you say that true love seeks a lifestyle very different from what discipline and decency would produce?” “No.” “So we can say that, if you’re experiencing true love, you’re in harmony with what’s moderate, orderly, and beautiful.” “Yes.” “And in that case, you don’t want to be anywhere near craziness or wildness.” “Definitely not.” “So it would be a bad idea to put true lovers anywhere near wild pleasure.” “That’s right.” “Now, then, in the city that we are constructing, it seems that you will want a law preventing lovers from being anything other than the best of friends to one another. If they go beyond that, they are, at the very least, guilty of ugly, inappropriate behavior.” “It does seem that we will need such a law.” “I think that wraps up our analysis on the subject of music, both its form and its content. Let’s turn, now, to physical education. My first question: would you say that the healthy body makes the soul good; or does the good soul produce, to at least some extent, a healthier body?” “The latter.” “So it’s reasonable to entrust the mind with the job of caring for the body. Without getting bogged down in the details, I think we can summarize this by saying that, first of all, a warrior should avoid alcohol. The last thing you need, in a defender of the city, is a man who has no idea where he is.” “Ha. The guardian of the city requires a guardian himself.” “Exactly. How about food? After all, these men are training for the ultimate contest. Can we feed them as we feed an ordinary athlete?” {404} “Sure. Why not?” “You may have noticed that our athletes require a tremendous amount of sleep, and they’re like temperamental racehorses. You take them just the slightest bit out of their ordinary routine, and they get sick.” “That’s true.”


“The warrior, on the other hand, needs to be on constant watch -- again, like a good dog -- and must be ready for action under the worst weather conditions, without always having adequate water or food. I believe the warrior is going to need a superior form of physical education.” “Right.” “Maybe this physical training can be like the musical training we were just discussing.” “How?” “Think, if you will, of Homer. Even when his soldier heroes are feasting, they eat ordinary soldiers’ food. They may be camped next to the sea, but they don’t eat fish for a change of pace. When they’re eating meat, they eat it roasted, not boiled, so they don’t feel the need to lug around a bunch of pots. And, as is the case with ordinary athletes, Homer doesn’t mention any sweet sauces for the soldiers.” “I think any serious athlete knows better than to eat sweets.” “So I guess you wouldn’t approve of fancy recipes?” “Nope.” “How about if the warrior has a girlfriend from Corinth, knowing that she can probably cook up a storm?” “No.” “Desserts from Athens?” “No.” “All this good eating would be complex and diverse, full of variety, like the fancy tunes they would be playing in our city if we didn’t keep our music limited to a few specific instruments and rhythms.” “Precisely.” “Complexity in music produces all sorts of feelings and behavior that goes against the disciplined life. Complexity in food produces disease.” “Right.” {405} “When you have an undisciplined city, full of disease, then lawyers and doctors flourish. They see how much of an interest everyone takes in their professions, and they begin to consider themselves important.” “Yep.” “It seems that the strongest proof of a city’s poor approach to education exists when the people trooping into the doctor’s office are not merely those who work at physically dangerous occupations -- or, for that matter, when the lawyer’s clients are not only the screwed-up low-lifes of the city -- but, instead, the clients of both doctor and lawyer include people with supposedly good educations. It’s also pretty sad that the arts of doctor and lawyer come to be seen as skilled and desirable, so that educated people from other places come to these professionals, in search of someone whom, frankly, they can appoint as lord and master over them.” “It’s the most disgraceful situation I can imagine.”


“Ah, but there’s worse. How about the person who not only spends his life in the courts, suing and being sued, but who actually takes pride in his ability to twist and slime himself around the law, constantly worming his way into minor victories over trivial things, without ever realizing that the real achievement would be to sort out his life so that he doesn’t waste it like this.” “You’re right. That’s even more disgusting.” {406} “Same thing in medicine. People need doctors, not just because of injuries, but because they eat poorly and don’t exercise. They pour crud into themselves as if their bodies were a swamp, and then our doctors -- sons of Asclepius, the god of healing -come up with new names for conditions that didn’t even exist when people took better care of themselves. You notice, for instance, that Homer says Eurypylus was given a big draft of wine, with a lot of barley and grated cheese sprinkled on it; and not only did he not get indigestion, but nobody even seems to have thought this was an odd thing to give a wounded man. In the olden days, from what we hear, doctors treated injuries, not diseases. It all changed with Herodicus, who developed a new way to torment us all.” “How?” “He invented terminal illness in the modern sense, where you don’t just die, and you also don’t recover, but instead you just stretch out your life as long as possible. He was too sick to get better, so instead he endured years in a sort of fascinated self-torture, spending all his time on the effort to treat himself, and suffering severely whenever he failed to adhere strictly to the regimen he set up for himself. Dying was hard, and didn’t come until he reached an old age.” “Some reward for all that effort.” “It wasn’t like that before him. Asclepius had taught his followers the things they needed to know. If he didn’t teach them something, it was because he knew that an organized city requires everyone to pull their own weight. People don’t have the luxury of lying around in perpetual sickness. Our working-class people still follow Asclepius’s approach. They go to the doctor, but if he prescribes a treatment that will interrupt their work, they say, ‘Aw, I’m too busy to be sick,’ and ignore what the doctor says. Then they recover, or if not, they die, and that solves the problem.” “That sounds like an appropriate use of medicine for someone living that sort of life,” Grey agreed. “After all,” I said, “doesn’t he have an occupation? What’s he going to do with his life if he can’t do his work?” {407} “Right.” “But it’s different with the rich man. He doesn’t have to work to stay alive.” “Usually, people assume he has nothing to do.” I said, “According to Phocylides, a man should start practicing virtue as soon as he has a job.” “Or maybe sooner.”


“Raising a good point. Does the rich man have to worry about living the right kind of life? If so, doesn’t this modern medical approach cause problems for him?” “I have no doubt whatsoever,” Grey said, “that such excessive care for the body does not inspire a person to live a life of virtue.” “The working-class guy is not the only one who finds that it interferes with what he wants to accomplish. You can’t manage a house, much less an office or an army, with something like that on your mind, and you sure can’t concentrate on learning or meditation. Indeed, some people complain that philosophy gives them a headache, and since they’re so worried about the state of their health, they use this headache as an excuse to avoid serious thinking. A guy can get to the point where he worries constantly about his health.” “Most likely.” “That’s why Asclepius drew the line. He’d cure a generally healthy person who happened to have a health problem; but if somebody was full of disease, he’d let them go. No point prolonging the agony or filling the world with sick adults who go on to have sick kids. The test for Asclepius was whether the curing would allow the person to return to a normal life. The sons of Asclepius followed the same approach during the Trojan war, and we consider them heroes for it. They didn’t prescribe a certain diet for Menelaus after they healed him, or for Eurypylus either, and that’s why Eurypylus drank that wine with cheese that we were talking about. I guess they figured that a healthy person would live through a drink like that, and if they had succeeded in returning him to health then he would too. But if they had felt that he couldn’t be brought back to complete health, they wouldn’t have bothered with him, no matter how much someone might have offered to pay.” “Asclepius sounds like a statesman, and his sons seem very sensible.” {408} I said, “Of course, the storytellers say that Asclepius was struck by lightning because he did heal a rich man who was on the verge of death; but since he was the son of the god Apollo, we’ve already agreed that we won’t believe that he did something against his principles just for the sake of money -- or else that he wasn’t a son of a god after all.” “OK, Socrates, but I have a question. Don’t we want our doctors -- and, for that matter, our judges -- to have experience with a lot of different kinds of cases, including, as we’re discussing here, the really hard-luck medical cases?” “Ah, but you’re mixing apples and oranges.” “I am?” “Doctors should be trained in medicine and should know a lot of different kinds of diseases. Ideally, they should have been sick, themselves, with a good variety of ailments, so that they have firsthand knowledge of what it’s like. Why not? They don’t cure with their bodies anyway. They cure with their minds. They should have a reminder, in themselves, of the fact that curing is not just a physical thing.” “You are so right,” he said. {409}


“The judge, on the other hand, shouldn’t be trained among vicious minds. Maybe the doctor should be exposed to illness; but the judge should be exposed to goodness. Unlike the doctor, the judge shouldn’t analyze the other person’s situation by comparing it with his own sorry state. We want good kids to learn about evil, not from personal experience, but through observing others. This can take a while. You notice that good people tend to be naive, easily taken advantage of by evil ones. The judge needs to be older, so that he has had time to become knowledgeable about evil.” “Right.” “In this way, a judge will know both good and evil. By contrast, a bad man only knows evil. He prides himself on his cleverness in getting away with crime, when he is among other bad men; but when he is among good men, he seems foolish, because he keeps suspecting that the good man must be trying to get away with something. He’s unable to understand good, and yet he considers himself superior. After all, there are more bad people than good, and he spends most of his time among bad people, who constantly reinforce his belief that his approach to life is the clever one.” “True.” “So in the city we’re constructing, the doctor and the judge will be similar, although for different reasons. The doctor will cure those who are basically in good physical health, and the judge will encourage those whose hearts are good; but the doctor will let the incurable ones die, and the judge will take steps to get rid of bad people.” {410} “That’s the best approach for these people and also for the city.” “All right. Now, if we teach the warrior moderation through the right kind of music, he won’t be appearing before the judge; and if we give him a good physical education, he’ll rarely go to the doctor. The purpose of this physical education is not so much to make him physically stronger; it’s to instill confidence and spirit.” “Uh ...” “This becomes clearer if you think about what happens when you train someone just to be a musician, or just an athlete. The musician -- or, for that matter, the philosopher -- becomes too soft; the athlete too fierce. The goal is to supply some physical education, but to moderate it, so that it produces spirit but not brutality. You still agree, don’t you, as we were saying earlier, that the warrior should have both some fierceness and also some gentleness?” “Definitely.” “Do you also agree that those two qualities should be in harmony with one another, and that if they are, they produce a moderate, courageous soul; but that, if they aren’t, the likely result is either an ignorant rudeness or a weak fearfulness?” {411} “Yes.” “Music, pouring into the ears, can quickly soften the spirit of a man who didn’t have much fierceness to begin with. The softening may make his fierceness more flexible and useful; but if he overdoes it, his spirited energy dissolves and he becomes weak. On the other extreme, the man who has too much fierceness reacts in a very 46

different but equally unproductive way: the music makes him excitable, upset, irritable, and unreasonable.” “True.” “Like music, physical education can have undesirable effects. The athlete who eats well, and who works out with almost violent energy without allowing himself to be distracted by music, can make himself much more than he was before. But if he keeps it up, never allowing time for thought and reflection, never clearing his head with any sort of intellectual distraction, doesn’t he become unable to understand culture, unable to analyze things intelligently, and, in the end, a wild animal, hating intellectual and cultural things and living, as a result, in a dark, unbalanced, graceless condition?” “He does indeed.” {412} “It appears that mankind is both fierce and thoughtful, and that some god gave us, in response, an art of physical education for the one and an art of music for the other. To a certain extent, as we’ve said, the physical art relates to the body, but it has an effect on the soul too; and the musical art has to be tied to the body as well as the soul if it’s not to be overdone. The wish of this god, it seems, is that we should harmonize these two arts, drawing each of them to the proper tightness, as though they were strings of a musical instrument.” “That does seem to be the divine wish.” “If we hope that the city we are constructing will survive, we will need, as our leader, a brilliant harmonist of these two principles: someone who does the best job of mixing music and exercise in tune with the soul.” “That’s right.” “Now, we could go on and talk more about specifics of the way in which people in our city should live -- their dances, hunting, etc. -- but I believe we have already discussed the basic principle of harmony that must govern such activities. So instead of going into those details, let’s talk more about this question of who our leaders will be.” “OK.” “First off, older people should rule the younger ones.” “Right.” “And among the older ones, the king must be the one who is the best leader.” “Definitely.” “But what does that mean? Assuming that they have the skills, the best farmers are, of course, those who are most devoted to farming; and in the same way, when choosing among skilled warriors, the ones we would most like to have, as the leading defenders of our city, are those who care most about that job.” “True.” “Then the best defenders are those who see the city’s welfare as their own. That is, let’s select the best defenders in this way: we’ll look for those whose lives show the strongest desire to do what’s best for the city. We’ll watch them as they grow up, to see if that desire remains strong, and we’ll pay special attention to how they act when they’re tempted to do something that’s not in the city’s best interests.” 47

“I’m not sure exactly how this would work.” {413} “Let me put it like this. You could say that men decide to do things, sometimes enthusiastically, and sometimes almost against their will. For instance, a man might decide to free himself from some lie he’s been telling himself; or he might get himself dragged into some new way of fooling himself.” “I can understand deciding to get free from a lie, but I’m not entirely clear on how a person can get dragged into one.” “OK. Well, first of all, people want good things, and want to get rid of bad things, right?” “Of course.” “The truth is a good thing, isn’t it? And deception is bad?” “Yes. People do tend to want the truth, and, as a general rule, the truth is taken away from them against their will.” “And how is the truth taken away from them? By being deceived, right? Or by force, or by theft?” He said, “I don’t get it. Truth is taken away by theft?” “I guess I’m talking in riddles, like a poet. How do people lose sight of the truth? They can be lied to and talked out of it; or some terrible experience can practically force them to start believing a lie; or maybe time goes by and just sort of steals the truth away, as they forget what they believed or why they believed it.” “Oh. Yeah. OK.” “Now, when you talk someone out of the truth, there are two ways of doing it. You can put them in a situation of fear, where they become willing to believe something else; or you can use clever words and softly manipulate them to see things as you want them to.” “Right.” “So when we’re putting our young warriors to the test, let’s use all these methods to see if we can get them to turn their backs on the city’s welfare. We’ll put them in situations of hard work, pain, and competition; we’ll set them where they can be deceived; we’ll even expose them to great fear and then give them the relief of pleasure. From all this, we’ll see how they do, testing them like you’d test gold in the furnace. What we’re looking for is a well-prepared, consistently noble man, able to take care of himself and to live a life like the music we’ve been discussing, practicing rhythm and harmony in everything. Those young and older men who live up to this standard will guard our city, and we will give them every honor imaginable.” {414} “Agreed.” “To be a little more precise about it, we could divide them into two groups, and allow only the best to serve as our guardians. This elite group would form both the army, to guard against external threats, and the police force, to keep the peace inside the city. The rest, and especially those who are younger, would serve as soldiers in an auxiliary or reserve force.” Grey said, “I agree with that too.” 48

“OK. Now, how about the job of coming up with a lie to test them? We need just one royal lie, but it has to be a good one. It has to fool the city as a whole and, if possible, it must also fool even our elite guardians.” “What did you have in mind?” “Oh, uh ... maybe an old story, that might have been true about some other place, that might ... uh, that could come true again someday, or maybe not ...” “Well, you’re sure having a hard time spitting it out! What’s on your mind that’s so hard to talk about?” “When I tell you, you’ll understand.” “So tell me!” “All right. Pardon me if I don’t exactly look you in the eye as I say this. What I’m thinking of is that we slowly let the word out -- first to the guardians, and then to the rest of the soldiers, and then to the public -- that their youth, and the education and training we gave them, was all just a dream. We tell them that, in reality, they were created in the Earth itself; that the Earth is their mother; and that, when they were complete, the Earth sent them up to the surface. We say this because it gives us a reason to say that the land they defend is, in fact, their mother, and that all of their fellow citizens are their brothers.” “Oh, man. Now I see why you hesitated. I’d be ashamed of that story too.” {415} “Wait. There’s more. We tell them that yes, God created them in the Earth, but he made them all different: some, like gold, were created to be guardians and to have the greatest honor; others, like silver, he created to be auxiliaries; and others, like brass and iron, to be farmers, smiths, and other craftsmen. And now that they’ve been created, they’re going to go ahead with normal human lives, having kids and all. But we’ll say that, unfortunately, sometimes parents from one line will have a kid from another. A gold parent, for instance, might have a silver son. But we’ll tell them that, above all else, God has commanded that the races should be kept pure. So if a gold parent has a son of the iron line, that’s too bad: the kid will have to leave the gold-line world and take a line of work, like farming, that fits with his iron-line nature. The same could work in reverse, too, if an iron-line parent has a gold- or silver-line son. It has to be this way, we’ll tell them, because the prophets have spoken and they say that the city will be destroyed if the rule is not observed. Anyway, this is the lie. If we tell people this, will they believe it?” “Not the adults of the current generation. But if kids are raised with a story like this, they might. After a generation or two, I think they would.” I said, “I know it would be difficult, but you have to admit: if they believed it, they’d care more about the city and about one another. But let’s assume that they did believe it, in this generation or in a later one. So that’s it. We’ve got our guardians. They’re properly raised and trained. They believe they’re children of the Earth. They find themselves a place somewhere, in a spot from which they can move quickly to oppose invaders or, if necessary, to control riots or other disturbances within the city or


in the surrounding territory. I guess they’ll have to set up some kind of shelter for themselves, for summer and winter.” “Houses, you mean.” {416} “Houses, yes, but soldiers’ houses. Different from ordinary people’s houses. First, do you agree that we should make sure that the soldiers in our auxiliary don’t become a large, bored crowd? If they do, isn’t there a risk that they’ll start to become like sheepdogs who harass the sheep -- I mean, do you think they might hassle the public?” “They might.” “The best protection might be a really good education, to civilize and humanize them.” “But we’ve already talked about that. They’re already educated well.” {417} “Perhaps not well enough. We haven’t talked about it so thoroughly that I can be totally confident on this issue. It’s worth worrying about the education, and also, as I was saying, about their houses. We want to make sure that their homes, and everything in them, will encourage good behavior. This means that none of them will have any private property beyond the bare minimum; that their houses won’t be of a private type that would prevent others from entering; that they shouldn’t hoard supplies for their private use beyond the amount that a warrior needs; that they should get a fixed paycheck that’s just enough to let them buy the things they need; and that they will all live and eat together. We’ll tell them that the true gold and silver are within them; that they don’t need to involve themselves with money and with the undesirable activities that money has led lesser men to pursue; and that, unlike all other citizens, they shouldn’t touch, wear, eat from, or even be under the same roof with gold and silver. If they follow these rules, they will indeed be our saviors. But if they ever do start acquiring money and private property, in no time they’ll be leaving the army to start a business or farm the land, and some of them will become enemies and tyrants to the people, more worried about schemes by or against their fellow citizens than about invaders from outside. At that rate, it won’t be long before the city falls. This, Grey, is the thing we’re up against. Don’t you agree that, to prevent this, we need rules of the type I’ve just described?” “I do,” Grey said. Traditional Book Four (Stephanus page number 419) Adam interrupted. “Socrates, what would you say if somebody accused you of making these warriors miserable? It’s their city, but they’re just like mercenaries, constantly standing guard, and never getting to enjoy any of the things that lesser men have, like living in nice homes, accumulating wealth, and having a social life.” {420}


“Yes,” I agreed, “and you might also mention that they don’t even get paid, and therefore can’t take trips, spend money on a mistress, or have any of a hundred other little things that other people have.” “Yeah. OK, so what would you say?” “I would say two things. First, the lack of these things may not make these men miserable. They may, indeed, be much happier in such a simple life. But, second and more important, when we constructed this city, we weren’t trying to make just one group of people happy. We were looking for the greatest happiness of all citizens. If we worried about the happiness of just the one group, the warriors, it would be like a painter who decided to use all the prettiest colors rather than the ones that worked the best. In a portrait, for example, this painter might see that the person’s eye color was black, but might decide that bright purple is a much better color. Result: there would be nice, bright eyeballs, but it wouldn’t be a very good portrait. The way to make the best picture is to give each part its due, rather than let one part upstage all the others. Why make the guardians of the city into something other than guardians? We could put royal robes on our farmers, and tell them that they don’t have to farm if they don’t feel like it. We could do the same thing for craftsmen. Everybody would be happier, right? But there’s a problem: if they’re all royalty and don’t have to work anymore, then there aren’t any real farmers or craftsmen. All that’s left is a bunch of pretenders. Maybe we wouldn’t even care, if it were just a matter of a shoemaker pretending to be something that he’s not; but we’re talking about the people who protect the city. If they, who have the ability to save our city and make it organized, are instead turning it upside down, then our enemies are going to think of us as a gang of fools, partying our lives away. No, what we must bear in mind is that we all have our appointed tasks, including our guardians, and that the goal is the happiness of the whole city, not of each group individually. If each group is forced or persuaded to take care of its own tasks, then each group will have the degree of happiness that nature has intended for it, and the city will grow properly.” {421} “I do agree with that,” Adam said. “Then tell me if you also agree with this: there are two things that cause arts and skills to deteriorate, namely, wealth and poverty.” “How so?” “Suppose the craftsman becomes rich and successful. Do you think he’s going to keep on being as concerned with the quality of his work as he was when he was first starting out, struggling to make a name for himself?” “Probably not.” “How about if he goes to the other extreme, and runs out of money? He can no longer afford to buy supplies or maintain his equipment, or to train his sons or trainees properly, even though he might like to.” “True.” {422}


“In other words, the guardians of our city will have to be aware that wealth and poverty are a threat to the city, producing either a lazy, indifferent attitude or a cheap, vicious one, but either way bringing unhappiness.” “Well, yes, but if we don’t have wealth, how are we going to be able to fight against another city that’s rich and powerful?” “Fighting against one rich city might be a struggle. But fighting against two of them would be pretty easy.” “Huh?” “Look. We’ll have an army of highly trained warriors, fighting an army of rich men. Think, for example, about a fist-fight. Out in the open field, a professional boxer could take on two or three well-built men who weren’t boxers, couldn’t he?” “Not if they all came on him at once.” “Sure he could. He’d just have to turn and run a little ways, making them run after him. They’d be excited, hot on the chase, and most likely one of them would outrun the others in his eagerness to catch up with our man. So the boxer would have to knock down only that one, and then run a bit more and repeat the exercise. If this happens in the summer heat, where he has trained and they haven’t, it shouldn’t be a problem.” “True.” “Well, if that’s how it works in boxing, where a rich man in his 20s or 30s might have gotten a little experience here and there, how’s it going to work in warfare? Not many rich men know much about that. Our warriors should easily be able to beat a much larger army.” “I agree with that.” “Then what if, before the battle, we send a diplomat to one of the two cities that has declared war against us? Our diplomat tells them that we don’t have any wealth, so they’re not going to get much even if they beat us; but that we’d be glad to have their help against the other city, which is rolling in silver and gold. The choice they’d face would be a fight to the death against a pack of dogs, or a slaughter of a flock of fat sheep. There’s not much doubt which choice they’d make.” “That’s true, but what if one rich city gains control over many others, so that we’re facing the armies of just one big, rich city whose territory surrounds us?” {423} “Oh, but I think you’re mistaken in speaking as though there could ever be just one big, rich city. In every city that has existed up to now, there have actually been two cities: the city that the wealthy people see, and the city of the poor. And those two cities are at war with each other. What’s more, within the city of the wealthy -- or, for that matter, the city of the poor -- there are sub-cities, with different groups fighting for power. So even if you had to go up against one big city, you would find that, within that city, there are people who would benefit if you won the fight. As long as you can fight hard, and don’t have much wealth yourself, and are willing to give the spoils of war to those who help you out, you’ll always have a lot more people willing to fight with you than against you. In fact, as long as our city is run in the sensible way we’ve 52

been discussing, it will be the greatest of all cities. Not the most glamorous, maybe, but the best and strongest, even if it has no more than a thousand warriors.” “It makes sense,” Adam said. “We’ve talked about the warriors, but what about the territory they’re supposed to protect? How much land should the city claim as its own and defend against attackers?” “What would you suggest?” “I think the city should not grow so large that it becomes internally divided. The point is not to be small or large, but self-sufficient.” “Nobody will consider that limit unreasonable.” “Of course, as we were saying before, we do want to make sure that children from the lower classes are brought into the ranks of the elite, if they’re qualified for more important things, and children of the elite should be put into the working classes, if they are oriented toward working-class skills, so that everyone can concentrate on the kind of ability that nature has given them. This shouldn’t be very difficult. All it requires is that we make sure to observe one central principle.” “Which is what?” “Upbringing. Proper education and nurture. There’s no substitute for common sense and education. If our people have that, then they’ll find the right solutions to problems, including those that you and I haven’t discussed. An example would be the question of who a woman belongs to, or who’s responsible for making babies. All that our citizens need, to find answers to questions like that, is to apply the principle we’ve already talked about, which says that friends share everything.” {424} “Yes, I think that’s the best approach.” “Once you get the thing rolling, it takes care of itself. Good upbringing produces a sensible, balanced person who keeps on improving as he goes through life, and the improvements get passed on to future generations.” “It seems likely.” “OK. Pulling it all together, what have we said? We want our music and physical education to be constructed properly and never change. Such a change will eventually result in a change in the city’s laws, and the whole thing that we’ve so carefully constructed will start to fall apart.” “I agree. A change for the worse could creep in unnoticed.” “It could,” I said, “starting in entertainment that seems harmless.” “And from there,” he said eagerly, “it could grow stronger, quietly changing people’s attitudes, eventually affecting the way that people deal with one another and, ultimately, the fundamental laws of the whole city, and the rights that depend on them.” “Is that true?” I asked. “Why, sure,” he said.


“All right, then we’d better raise kids strictly, right from the beginning. We don’t want them getting into the kinds of fun things that lead to lawlessness and worse.” {425} “Exactly.” “So we’ll teach them how to play properly, and with the right kind of music they’ll grow up to be good and orderly people. Even without being taught, they’ll be able to figure out basic rules of proper behavior, like being seen but not heard, standing up when an elder enters the room, and dressing appropriately.” “Right.” “In short, Adam, the education determines the person’s future. Good people seek good results, and bad seek bad, until you reach some final result that is either very good or very bad. The important thing is to instill the right attitudes at the start. After that, at some point, it’s up to the child to make his own way. So let’s emphasize the upbringing, and not the laws that we could write about such trivial matters of behavior. Such laws would be quickly outdated, because customs change. They’d also be ineffective, because the final outcome, good or bad, depends mostly on the kind of beginning a person got.” “I agree.” “Let’s turn, instead, to another subject: our city’s legal system, dealing with buying and selling, making and breaking agreements, insulting and injuring people, going to trial, etc. Do we have to write laws about this stuff?” Adam said, “It shouldn’t be necessary. Good men should be able to figure out, for themselves, what minor regulations they need in order to keep things functioning smoothly.” “All they need,” I agreed, “is to keep their eye on the ball, to remember the larger principles that you and I have been discussing.” “If they don’t do that, they’ll always be revising their laws and their own lives, looking for a quick fix,” he observed. {426} “Yeah, and what a life that is! People in that rut are like sick people who can’t keep themselves from following some nasty old habit. They spend all their time adjusting and complicating their lives, trying every new so-called solution that comes along. Meanwhile, the really funny thing is that, if you tell them the truth -- that nothing will cure their problems until they improve their diets and stop partying, womanizing, and goofing off -- they treat you like their worst enemy.” “I wouldn’t say it’s funny, really, to see them get mad at someone who tells them the truth,” Adam said. “You don’t sound overly fond of them.” “Definitely not.” “Then how do you feel when you see a city behaving the same way? After all, in some places they impose the death penalty if you try to change the constitution, but they honor sweet-talking politicians who accept the system as it is and cater to the latest mood of the public, whatever it might be. In terms of the ability to discipline yourself


and get past the craving of the moment, aren’t these cities a lot like the people we were just describing?” “Certainly.” “Still, you’ve got to hand it to the politicians. They can be very good at what they do.” “I appreciate the skill, but I don’t appreciate the fact that some of them actually consider themselves great leaders just because the public, happy for the time being, says they are.” “Oh, but don’t be angry with them. Let’s say you’ve got a guy who can’t use a ruler or a tape measure, and therefore can’t figure out how tall he is. Then let’s say you’ve got a bunch of other people who also can’t measure, but they tell the guy he’s six feet tall. Would you blame him for taking their word for it?” “I guess not.” “You know, these politicians you’re describing are really quite entertaining. They cook up some new law -- for example, one outlawing fraud -- and they believe it will make a difference, even though it doesn’t begin to touch the rot at the core. It’s like cutting off the head of a hydra, not realizing it’ll just grow another one.” {427} “That’s true.” “In either a good city or a bad one, the wise legislator isn’t going to fool with laws like that. In the bad city, he knows they won’t make any real difference, and in the good city, they flow naturally from good basic principles, and they really don’t require his attention.” “Then we don’t need legislators for anything else?” “Not in the ordinary sense, but we do need laws of a slightly different type, and they require the guidance of the god Apollo. I’m talking about the laws of religion: where to put our temples and how to arrange them; what kinds of sacrifices and other things we need if we’re going to give proper honor to our gods; and how to arrange cemeteries and perform funerals. Human reason doesn’t lead us in these things, and we want our city to do them properly. So we’ll depend on the god who sits in the center of it all -- at the navel of the Earth, as it were -- and interprets religion for all mankind.” “Sounds good.”


Part 3 Running a Just City
“Our work is complete. We have founded a perfect city. And now, Adam, tell me: in everything that we’ve created in this marvelous city, where is justice?” “Justice?” “Yes. Justice. That’s what this is all about, remember? So where is it?” “Well … I’m not sure.” “All right, then, you and Grey and Paul, light a candle and search. Get your friends to help. It’s got to be in there somewhere, doesn’t it?” “Wait a minute,” Grey interrupted. “You said you’d help us in this. Right at the beginning, you said it wouldn’t be right if you didn’t speak up to defend justice.” “Fine. I’ll help. And since you’ve asked for my help, here’s how I suggest we begin. Let’s assume that our city is perfect.” “OK.” “Let’s also assume that ‘perfect’ means wise, brave, moderate -- and just. So we can fairly describe the soul of our city by using only those four adjectives. Granted, we may have to define wisdom, bravery, moderation, and justice broadly, to capture everything that’s at the heart of our city, but if you stay with me on this, I think you’ll see that that’s not a problem.” {428} “Fine.” “All right. So if we go look at our city, and get right down to the heart of it, we’ll find evidence of each of those four traits: wisdom, bravery, moderation, and justice. And as long as we’re looking at the very core of it, the things that our city really stands for, then those four traits will account for everything we see.” “Right.” “On the other hand, if we find only three of the four -- for example, if we find only wisdom, bravery, and moderation -- then there’s going to be something left over, something at the very core of the city that we haven’t yet explained. But since we know that justice is a trait of the city, we’ll know that the stuff left over is, in fact, the fourth thing -- justice, in this example.” “I understand,” Grey said. “Then let’s begin. First off, it’s not hard to detect wisdom -- and, along with it, an odd thing about our city.” “Yeah? What’s that?” “We said the city is wise. You can’t have a wise city if its people do stupid things. Let’s talk, for instance, about the carpenters. I guess we’d say that the carpenters in a wise city must be pretty knowledgeable and sensible about carpentry. So is that the thing that makes our city wise?” 56

“No. That’s only enough to give the city a good reputation for carpentry.” “Would you say the same thing if the smiths or farmers are knowledgeable in their areas of expertise?” “Yes. If that’s all we had, then we’d only have a good reputation for toolmaking and farming.” “So all we’ve got, so far, is a bunch of specialties. Is there any kind of knowledge that’s more general -- one that would extend over the whole thing and make the entire city not merely knowledgeable, but also wise?” “Sure. It’s what we’ve been talking about: the wisdom that has been carefully developed in the elite guardians of the city.” “But we were saying that there might be fewer than a thousand of them. We know, of course, that a respectable city would have far more than a thousand smiths or farmers. Indeed, is there likely to be another general class of society that would be smaller than the class of elite guardians?” “Probably not.” “So we’re saying that this smallest class will have the greatest influence on the question of whether the city is wise. They’re the only ones whose knowledge goes beyond mere facts and reaches the level of being true wisdom.” {429} “Yes.” “It seems, then, that we’ve tracked down wisdom, the first of those four basic traits of the city. It will also be pretty easy to find the second one: courage. To put it simply, you wouldn’t call a city cowardly if its defenders fight fiercely, or brave if they turn tail and run.” “True.” “The fundamental principles that we’ve been discussing make clear, to the guardians of the city, which things should and should not be feared. We’ve taught the guardians not to be afraid of death and other things that scare ordinary men, but instead to fear soft, easy things that the ordinary man accepts quite willingly. If the city can maintain a proper perspective on the things that it should fear, under even the worst conditions of pain -- or, for that matter, of excessive pleasure -- then I think we’d say that it is courageous. Courage is the thing that makes them hold tight to what they believe no matter what.” “Oh.” “Maybe this example will help. When dyers want to dye wool, they start with the background. They need the right kind of white material, and they have to prepare it carefully; and if they go to this trouble, why, you can’t even bleach the color out. But if they do a poor job of it, the cloth quickly becomes washed-out and faded.” “Yeah. I’ve seen some pretty poor dye jobs.” {430} “Training our guardians was like that. We needed to use music and phys. ed. to prepare them for the laws we were going to teach. We wanted a good upbringing to make the right ideas permanent in them, so that the bleach of pleasure -- or, for that matter, of grief, fear, or want -- wouldn’t wash the true colors from their souls. Once 57

they got to this point of having a clear, firm grasp of what is really dangerous to a man, they knew what they had to do. And that, I say, is courage -- unless, of course, you disagree.” “Oh, but I don’t. I don’t think you’re talking about sheer ferocity, like that of a wild animal that might not know any better. We’re talking about the behavior of a man who consciously wants to do the right thing.” “Exactly. So we’ve found wisdom and courage. How about moderation and justice?” “Let’s start with moderation.” {431} “As you wish. Moderation, of course, is the ability to control your desires, to be master of yourself, as they say. Of course, since it’s your self, you’re master and servant at the same time, and that’s a bit odd. I think they mean that there are two things at work in man’s heart. One is good, but it can be overwhelmed by the other, which is bad. If you have bad training or hang around the wrong people, the bad force grows powerful and can overwhelm the good. If the good one controls you, that’s moderation; but if the bad one controls, they say you’re a slave to your own desires and that you’re out of control or unprincipled.” “Right.” “So what happens in a city? Does the better part control the worse? Notice, first, that you tend to find most pleasures, pains, and desires -- and especially the most complex ones -- among women, children, and lower-class men. On the other hand, in the few men who are born into higher classes and educated well, you stand a better chance of finding straightforward, balanced, reasonable desires. Of course, the city we have been constructing can accommodate both types of desires, but wouldn’t you agree that what makes the city itself balanced and moderate is that the wilder desires of the mass public are kept under control by the more honorable and pure desires and wisdom of the few?” “Absolutely.” “Since our city, as we have constructed it, is likely to work well, wouldn’t you expect that both the lower classes and the upper classes will agree on the question of who should be in charge?” “Yes.” “In that light, whom would you call moderate: the lower classes, with their wilder passions, or the more balanced upper classes?” “Well, both, in a sense. Whatever else they may be, they are in harmony on the question of political control.” {432} “That’s right. In other words, when a city as a whole is moderate, it is in harmony. We see, here, that moderation is different from wisdom or courage. We look for it, not just in our guardians, but as something that runs throughout the city. Like notes on a musical scale, all classes must be in harmony on the question of political control if the city is to succeed, and all classes will be in harmony in a city like the one we have constructed.” 58

“Yes.” “That leaves one more quality for us to locate: justice. So, Grey, let’s be like hunters in the woods, and surround the place where this animal is hiding. Look out for her, and if you see her, let me know.” “Oh, I’d be glad to, but I think I’m more like a follower than a hunter in this search. I don’t think I’m going to see it unless you point it out.” “Then I’ll be the eyes. Let’s pray for guidance and then go forward.” “OK.” “All right ... there! I think I saw something! Let’s go see ... yes! A footprint. But now I see that we’ve been quite foolish about this hunt.” “We have?” “Yes indeed. Remember when we started this discussion, we were talking about justice as though it were right in our hands? But now we’re treating it like a hidden thing, difficult to detect.” “What’s your point?” {433} “You remember how we said that it’s best if a man focuses his attention on being good at one thing, like farming?” “Yeah.” “And don’t we often say that it’s not right to mind other people’s business rather than your own? Doesn’t justice require a person to set his own house in order before meddling in others?” “Of course.” “Well, now I’m saying that those two principles come together. Justice is a kind of focus. In a sense, it’s like farming. It’s a matter of taking care of your own business. It’s different from concentrating on your farming business, or your carpentry business, but the underlying principle is the same. Do you know why I say that?” “No, but I hope you’ll explain it.” “We agreed, didn’t we, that if we were able to identify the three other traits of the city and couldn’t find the fourth one, then we’d have to accept that whatever was left over would be that fourth trait?” “We did.” “Then, in a little while, I think you’ll see that justice, the fourth trait, is not merely one more trait, but that it is, in fact, the thing that makes the others possible. At the beginning, though, can we pick out just one of the four traits -- wisdom, bravery, moderation, or justice -- and say that it is the most important for our city? Is there just one that makes our rulers wise, and keeps our warriors aware of the difference between what seems to be dangerous and what’s really dangerous, and persuades everyone to agree on political control, and gets us all to mind our own business?” “I don’t think so. I think each of our four traits does one of those four things.” “So if we must decide which of the four is most important, for some reason, we would say that justice is competing with the other three.” “Yes.” 59

“All right. Now, do we agree that the rulers are the ones who are ultimately responsible for setting up and administering our courts?” “Of course.” “And don’t we believe in the right to private property, by which nobody is allowed to take something that belongs to someone else?” “Yes.” “We think that’s a just principle, right?” “Right.” “So it’s just to have your own things, and to do what you want with them, as long as you don’t hurt someone else in the process.” {434} “Yes.” “If a carpenter decides to do a shoemaker’s job, and the two of them swap places, or one of them tries to do the work of both, is the city damaged?” “Not really.” “But what if they try to break out of the working class and join the soldier class, or if soldiers try to join the class of elite guardians and rulers, without the training or ability for it? Don’t you agree that this sort of thing could ruin the arrangements that we have so carefully constructed?” “Absolutely.” “Then we agree that it would be dangerous to the city, and obviously unjust, for someone to try to force their way into a class of work that’s not their own?” “Yes.” “And since this particular kind of injustice would turn the city upside down and shake it to its roots, it is probably one of the greatest injustices that the city could experience.” “It certainly is.” “But when everyone minds their own business and does the work they’re trained for, there’s no meddling or injustice in that.” “Correct.” “I wonder whether this concept of justice holds up when we apply it to the individual? Remember, we started out asking what justice was, and we decided to use the city as a big example, easy to examine, and then use what we learned on the smaller scale of the single person. We built a good city, one in which we could find justice; now let’s see what that tells us about individual persons. If we can apply these concepts to them, then this approach has worked; if not, we’ll have to try again. We can rub the city and the individual together like two stones, and maybe we’ll get a spark of light that will illuminate justice for us.” “Right. That’s the way we said we’d proceed. City first, and then the individual.” “OK. We’ve got the big city and the one little person. Let’s say they’re both just. They may be very different in lots of ways, but in this thing called justice, they must have something in common.” {435} “Of course.” 60

“In fact, justice must be the same kind of thing in both of them. Otherwise, you could have a situation where the person does something that’s just for him but unjust for the city.” “Right.” “So if the thing that makes the city just is that its three classes each mind their own business, and that each class operates in a wise, courageous, and moderate way, couldn’t we reasonably expect to see something similar in the soul of the individual?” “It makes sense.” “Of course, we’re taking some shortcuts here, but I believe we’ll come out at the same place as we would if we went through the whole argument in detail.” “That’s fine,” Grey said. “I’d just as soon get to the meat of it.” “OK. Let’s do the opposite of what we were just doing. Instead of working from the city down to the individual, let’s start with the individual and work up. Don’t we agree that the qualities we see in the city get there because they exist, first, in the individual? Fierceness, for example, like the Thracians and Scythians; or the love of knowledge, like us here in Athens; or of money, like the Phoenicians and Egyptians: you’re not going to describe a city that way unless it’s true of the city’s warriors, scholars, merchants, or whoever you’re thinking of when you say it.” {436} “True.” “But look closer at those three qualities I just mentioned, involving a person’s capacity for fierceness, or knowledge, or greed. Are they all so clearly distinct in the individual? Is there a part of your soul that makes you interested in learning, and other parts that make you fierce or greedy?” “I’m not sure.” “We can begin with the principle that, if you get two similar things together, and do the same thing to both of them, they’ll both react in the same way. That’s the very definition of a similar thing. So if two things do react differently to the same stimulus, we know that, for our purposes, they aren’t similar.” “Right.” “We should make sure we’re clear about this. To use a different kind of example, let’s say you’re standing still, but you’re moving your hand. Are you moving or not? We’d say one part of you is moving, and another isn’t. Same thing if you had a top that was built like a spinning wheel on a fixed axle: the top would be spinning but its peg would stay fixed in one spot.” “Precisely.” {437} “Then let’s proceed. We agree, do we not, that almost any desire you could mention -- hunger, say, or thirst -- is going to have an opposite? Either you’re hungry or you’re not. You could say you’re a little hungry, but again, either you’re a little hungry or not. And so forth.” “We agree on that.” “We could talk about any desire, but since thirst is one of the most obvious ones, let’s talk about that. When you’re thirsty, you want a drink. If it’s hot, you might want a 61

cold drink; if you’re very thirsty, you might want a big drink; but if you get down to the level of survival, all you really care about is getting something to drink, whatever it is.” “In other words,” Grey said, “there’s the simple desire and the simple object of desire, and then there’s the more complex desire and the more complex object of desire.” {438} “Very good. But what if someone disagrees with this, and says that nobody in his right mind wants bad food? The person may say they’re hungry, and that any food will do, but then you give them bad food and watch them reject it, and you know it wasn’t as simple as it seemed.” “That seems like a legitimate argument.” “I’d still say, though, that some desires relate to a quality and that others don’t.” “Huh?” “Let me put it this way. When you say there’s more of one thing and less of another, you’re comparing them to each other, right?” “Right.” “Same thing if there’s a ton of one and hardly any of the other, or if one thing is faster or hotter than the other?” “Yep. Same thing. You’re still comparing.” “OK. How about in science, or in other areas of knowledge? Architecture, for example: don’t we say it’s different from all other areas of knowledge because no other has the same purpose?” “That’s right.” “So let me explain what I meant, when I said that some desires relate to a quality and others don’t. Let’s talk, for instance, about the science of health, or medicine. There’s such a thing as ‘science,’ and it can stand alone if we let it. But there’s also this branch of science that deals with medicine, and as soon as we speak of ‘the science of health,’ we’ve put it into a position where it’s compared against other sciences. We distinguish it from the others. ‘Science’ is an absolute term, but ‘science of health’ is relative.” “That’s clear enough.” {439} “And I guess we’d say that thirst relates --” “-- to drink,” he said. “I get it, already.” “But if all we know is that there’s a thirst, and not how much or what kind of thirst, then we don’t know much about the drink either: how much or what kind the person wants. We know that a thirst and a drink might relate to each other, but we don’t know exactly how.” “Nope.” “Then what if there’s another force at work, but this one pulls a thirsty person away from drinking? This is possible, right?” “Sure. It happens all the time. You don’t -- or can’t -- always get a drink, of the kind you want, every time you want it.”


I said, “Obviously, this other force is not thirst. There must be something else at work in the thirsty person’s soul, and it’s stronger than the desire to drink. We could say that it’s just another desire -- the desire to get somewhere right away, for example -and that it’s stronger than the desire to stop and take a drink. But that merely rephrases the question. Why is the second desire stronger? There must be something else: an ability, at least sometimes, to choose among and steer one’s desires. That larger thing is the person’s ability to reason.” “Yes.” “Then we have two forces at work in the soul. On one hand, there’s a rational force, which pushes toward reason. On the other hand, there’s an irrational force, and this is the thing that makes him love and hate, hunger and thirst, and so forth, all of which push in the direction of pleasure.” “That makes sense.” “That leaves another question. What about spirit, or passion? Is it part of one of these two forces in the soul? Or do you think, instead, that it’s a separate force of its own?” “It seems like passion is connected with a person’s desires.” “All right, then, let me tell you a story. There was a guy named Leontius, walking up the road from the harbor one day, outside the city wall. He walked past where they had just executed some criminals, and, you know, the bodies were still lying there. Leon was a little curious about what they looked like, but at the same time he felt sick to his stomach. He got partway around them, covering his eyes, but then curiosity won out. Hating himself for doing it, he turned and stared at the bodies; and as he did, he muttered to his eyeballs, as though they belonged to someone else, “Yeah, take a good look, you greedy bastards.’” {440} “I know that story,” Grey said. “The point is, sometimes a person gets mad at himself for letting his cravings win out over his better instincts. His anger, or passion, is on the side of reason in these internal struggles. We see this all the time -- but do we ever see the opposite case, where a person becomes angry with himself for doing the reasonable, sensible thing? Someone might wish they found it easier to let their hair down and be a little wild, but obviously their reason is behind that kind of judgment, concluding that this would be the best thing for them. We get mad at ourselves -- that is, our passion comes alive -- when we let desires overcome our reason, but not when we let reason overcome our desires. Think, for example, about cases when reason controls our desire to drink. We don’t get mad at ourselves when our common sense says, ‘Don’t drink that poisoned water!’ or ‘Put down your drink and get out -- the building is on fire!’” “You’re absolutely right.” “Let’s compare the situation of the man who thinks he’s done something wrong to someone else. The more noble he is -- that is, the more his reason controls him -- the more willingly he will accept whatever the injured person might do to him in return. He doesn’t get mad at the prospect of punishment. I mean, even if his passion is fierce, 63

it doesn’t make him seek the more pleasant outcome that his physical desires would prefer. On the other hand, anger does affect the person who has been wronged; but here, too, it proves the same point. The wronged person’s anger may drive him to cope with anything, pleasant or not, in order to obtain justice against the one who wronged him -- until reason, shepherd of his soul, finally tells this angry dog to stop barking.” Grey said, “That’s exactly right. If you apply that example to the city, you could say that the soldiers are like dogs, ready to do what the rulers tell them. The soldiers are passion, and the rulers are the voice of reason.” “You’re right on top of it,” I agreed. “Now, since we’ve agreed that passion works on the side of reason, we should ask whether there’s really any difference between the two. In our city, we had three classes -- traders and craftsmen, soldiers, and rulers -- and maybe our souls also have three parts.” {441} “I think they do.” “Well, let’s look at it. We’ve shown that passion is different from desire. Is it also different from reason?” He said, “Sure it is. Look at young children. They’re spirited and lively from the beginning, and that includes those those who don’t seem to have much ability to reason for themselves.” “For that matter,” I said, “you see passion in animals. Or you might look at that passage in Homer, where he says the guy told himself he was wrong for being angry. That’s reason talking to passion. So you and I, our ship has reached shore, and we’ve got three forces in the soul, just like the three forces in the city.” “Clear enough.” “I think we’ve already agreed that if a city is to be wise, courageous, moderate, or just, it must have citizens who deserve those descriptions. When we call a person wise, we’re talking about a small part of a city. Get enough wise people together, and you’ve got a wise city. So our concept of wisdom, when applied to one person, can’t contradict our concept of wisdom for a city. Same thing with courage, moderation, and justice.” “Right.” {442} “Recall, if you will, that we said that justice in the city requires each of the three classes of people to concentrate on their own specific tasks, and not mix themselves up in the work of another class. Likewise, it seems clear that, if a person would be just, the parts of his soul -- his passions, desires, and reason -- must each do their own work. Reason must rule, and passion must be trained to support it. And, as we’ve said, proper training through music and physical education will encourage the reason with noble thoughts, and civilize the passionate element. Thus, together, reason and passion will control the desires, working together like rulers and soldiers -- even though the desires, like the working population of a city, are by far the largest portion of the soul. But if the desires are allowed to steer, they’ll grow fat, and they’ll yank one’s reason and passion wherever they wish, ultimately turning one’s soul -- indeed, one’s whole life -- upside down. That’s no formula for success, for a person who wants to be just.” 64

“True.” “How about courage? If a person has been properly educated in the things that he should fear, so that he can hold onto that knowledge through all circumstances, won’t he behave bravely under pressure, with his reason telling him what he should do and his passion carrying out the commands? Or wisdom: isn’t that a matter of the whole soul following the orders of that small part which knows what’s best? And isn’t moderation precisely the harmony that arises when the soul’s lower portions -- that is, its desires and passion -- admit that they should be ruled by the reason, and the reason agrees to do so?” “All this is exactly right, and it fits the city as well as the individual.” “And to focus once more on justice, let’s have no doubt that justice in the individual and in the city are the same thing.” “I don’t doubt it,” Grey said. “If there is any doubt, I’d be glad to supply a few examples.” “Like what?” “Like, for instance, what happens when a just man, or a just city, has access to money that belongs to another. Such a city or man would be less likely to steal it, right?” “Right.” {443} “And the just man would never do any other dishonest, sacrilegious, adulturous, deceptive, or dishonorable thing?” “Of course he wouldn’t.” “Then, unless you can think of some other source of this kind of behavior -something that’s not merely justice under a different name -- I would say that we have reached our goal and that our prayers have been answered. We have been led to the very heart of justice.” “Indeed we have.” “If I may, I would point out that we noticed, along the way, a division of labor among carpenters, shoemakers and others. Do you remember?” “Yes.” “That division was a reflection of justice, in the sense that it had everyone attending to their own business rather than to someone else’s. But justice, we have said, does not start out as an external thing like that division of labor. Instead, it stems from the proper workings of the inner man. The just man’s reason lays down an inner law, coordinating his passion and his desires into a harmony of the high, low, and middle notes of his soul. Then, when he must deal with a situation in the external world, he acts in a way that preserves this inner harmony. Actions that grow out of this proper origin are just, and the knowledge that guides them is wisdom; but any action that damages the inner harmony is unjust, and the mental confusion that causes it is ignorance. I’m using words that apply to a man, but of course justice is justice, so we should be able to say similar things about the city as a whole.” {444} “You’re right on target, Socrates. That’s justice.” 65

“Good. Then let’s talk about injustice. It must be some kind of conflict among the three forces of the soul, where a lower part rebels against its masters, like a lower class of society that meddles in the business of its superiors; and the result is the exact opposite of the virtues we were describing before. It’s every type of imperfection: injustice rather than justice, cowardice rather than courage, stupidity rather than wisdom, and an absence of control rather than moderation.” “That’s right.” “So let’s suppose we know what justice and injustice are. In that case, we should be able to decide what it means to act justly or unjustly, right?” “How do you figure?” “Oh, it’s like health and sickness. You can expose someone to things that will make him sick, or to things that will make him well. You start with the cause, and you get the result. If you do things that are just, you get justice; and if you do things that are unjust, you get injustice.” “That’s clear enough,” he said. “If you want to create health, you take actions that fit with the natural workings of the body. If you go against that natural order, you get sickness. In the same way, you can work with the soul’s natural order and get justice, or you can create some other state of affairs and get injustice. The one produces a virtuous soul, and the other gives you a soul full of vice.” “True.” {445} “All right, now, Grey, if you recall, we started this whole discussion with the question of whether justice, in itself, was more profitable than injustice, even if nobody rewards you for your justice or punishes you for your injustice. How does the discussion stack up at this point?” “Frankly, Socrates, my original argument seems ridiculous. Starting with the body, we know that health is the foundation of everything else. No matter how much money or power you might have, you can barely endure life, much less enjoy it, without health. Any way you slice it, if you go against the natural workings of your body, you’re ruined. And if that’s true of the body, how much more so if we’re talking about the soul, which lies at the core of life? If a man made the deal that he could do anything he wanted except be just, his soul would be a wreck, and his life wouldn’t be worth living.” “You’re right. It seems silly to believe otherwise. Still, let us climb this imaginary tower in our argument: let’s look down and note that, while there’s only one form of virtue in the soul -- or, for that matter, in the city as a whole -- there are, in fact, five different forms of vice in each.” “There are?” “Yes. In the city, we commonly refer to the form of virtue as monarchy. That assumes that there’s only one king. But an aristocracy is basically the same thing, except that the city is ruled, not by one superior man, but by a small group of them. Either


way, the point is, things will run properly if these men are trained for the job in the way that we have already described.” “I do believe they will,” Grey replied. Traditional Book Five (Stephanus page number 449) “So there you have it,” I said. “The true city and the true man follow the same pattern. Anything that strays from it will mess up both the city and the individual citizen. There are basically four ways to go wrong. First --” Before I could get into my explanation of how these four ways occur one after the other, I noticed that Paul was whispering into Adam’s ear. All I caught was the last sentence, which was, “Should we tell him about it, or just let it slide?” “Let it slide? No way,” Adam replied. “Let what slide?” I asked. “We think you’re skipping a big piece of the story. What’s this stuff about how friends share everything, when it comes to women and children?” “Adam, you don’t agree with that?” “Maybe, but it’s pretty vague. Paul and I are very interested in matters of community and family life. In fact, we think those matters could make all the difference in the success or failure of the city.” {450} Grey said, “Me too.” “And me too,” said Thrasher, who had been sitting quietly for some time. “Huh,” I said. “Here I was thinking how lucky I was to have your agreement that we had set up the city in good order, and to put the thing to rest; and now you’re stirring up a whole new hornets’ nest.” Thrasher said, “What did you think we came here for -- to make money? We want to hear dialogue.” “Yeah,” I replied, “but we can’t go on forever, covering all the details.” “Not forever,” Grey said. “Just for the rest of our lives, because that’s how long wise men should allow for intelligent discussion about important things. Don’t worry: we’ve got the time to spare for this. Please, take whatever approach you prefer, but do tell us about this community of women and children that will be there with our city’s guardians.” “You know, I’m really hesitant to talk about it. I’m afraid that this lovely vision of a perfect city will turn out to be an impossible dream when we get down to these practical, everyday things. Or, to put it the other way around, it seems like a practical city might not be such a wonderful, perfect place.” Grey said, “No, that’s OK. We’re not going to attack your vision. We really just want to hear what it might all be like.” “I’m sure you mean to encourage me by saying that,” I told him, “but you’re having the opposite effect. There would be no problem if I knew what I was talking 67

about, but the fact is, I’m making it up as I go along. So you say you’ll all sit there and soak up everything I tell you; but that’s exactly what I’m afraid of. I fear I’ll go off the trail and over a cliff, and you’ll be right behind me. That’s manslaughter, spiritually speaking, and if it produces screwy ideas about beauty or justice, then it’s worse than the physical kind. I might get away with it if you were my enemies; but since you’re my friends, I have to fear that Adrasteia, the goddess of the divine payback, will punish me if I mislead you.” {451} Grey started laughing. “Oh, for crying out loud, Socrates. We forgive you in advance. Please, get on with it.” “Well, all right ... we’ve dealt with the men, and now it’s the women’s turn. You’ll recall that we said that our guardians of the city were to be like well-bred watchdogs, keeping an eye on the herd.” “Yes.” “Let me ask, then: do we separate our watchdogs according to their gender? We let only the males do the hunting and guarding, and leave the females at home to raise the pups?” “Not at all. The only difference is that the males are stronger.” “But we can’t use the females unless we raise and train them the same as the males.” “True.” {452} “So what happens if we decide that our women are to have the same duties as our men? Don’t they have to study and practice music, physical education, and warfare, just like the men?” “Yes.” “At present, we’ve got old men who still like physical exercise, and they show up at exercise class every day, right on time, so they can exercise in the nude just like our younger boys do. The old geezers are wrinkled and ugly, but there they are. So now we’ll add girls and women of all ages to the group. Isn’t this a little crazy?” “I have to admit, our society’s ideas of what’s appropriate sure don’t include this.” “People will ridicule this proposal, right along with the idea that women should have achievements in music and sports -- not to mention wearing armor and riding horses. But let’s not listen to them. After all, a lot of the less civilized peoples of the world still think, as our society once did, that it’s silly for a man to work out in the nude. It took a little getting used to, but now we know that it’s superior. Before, we’d laugh at the guy with no clothes; now we ridicule less superficial things, like foolishness and corruption.” “That’s right.” {453} “The question, then, is this: can a woman share in all of men’s activities, or some of them, or none? Let’s imagine what the critics would say of such an idea. ‘Socrates and Grey,’ they’d say, “aren’t you the ones who were saying that each person should concentrate on the kind of work for which he -- or, in this case, she -- is best suited? 68

Don’t we all agree that men and women are very different in many ways? Then if there’s a man who is ideally suited for a task, how can a very different woman also be ideally suited for it?’ That’s what they’ll say, Grey. How do we answer them?” “Uh ... I can’t say, right offhand. I’d have to think about it for a minute.” “Now you see why I didn’t want to get into this.” “Yeah. It’s pretty murky.” “Fine. But now it’s too late. We’re out in the middle of the ocean on this one, and it’s sink or swim. Let’s pray some dolphin comes by, so we can grab his fin and get pulled to safety.” “Indeed.” {454} “Well, let’s make a start of it. First off, let me point out something here. Serious argument is not the same as word play, where you try to trip someone up, fair or not, with something that looks like a contradiction in what they said. In serious argument, you do your best to understand fairly the full thrust of what the other person is saying, and then you try to prove that, no matter which words they use, their basic idea is wrong.” “Of course, but what’s that got to do with this?” “Here, our critics would be arguing that different kinds of people should have different jobs, and that women are not the same as men, and therefore that they should have different jobs. But what’s the meaning of these words ‘same’ and ‘different’? An example: you’ve got a bald man who’s a shoemaker. Then there’s a man with a full head of hair. He’s different from the bald man; but does that mean he can’t be a shoemaker?” “Of course not.” “When we were constructing our city, we weren’t saying that a person has to be different from all other people in every way before we’d assign him to a task. We cared only about the differences that made him best suited for that task. Two men may have little in common, if one’s a doctor and the other’s a carpenter, whereas a man and a woman may have the same natures, if they’re both medically oriented.” “True.” “Granted, men and women have very different roles when it comes to the conception and birth of children. But making babies was not one of the tasks that came up when we were describing the guarding of our city. So, for our purposes, it’s really got nothing to do with the kind of training that the wives of our guardians should receive. If we ask our critics, then, why men and women are different when it comes to guarding and running our city, perhaps they’ll say -- as you just did -- that they can’t tell me offhand, but that they’ll think of an answer if I give them a minute.” {455} “Perhaps.” “Then let’s help them. Let’s ask if they agree that people who are gifted in a particular task -- whether mental or physical -- are likely to learn it much more easily than other people could.” “I’m sure the critics would agree with that.” 69

“And won’t they agree that men are superior to women in most things? Of course, women master the household arts of sewing and cooking and making preserves and so forth; but otherwise don’t men tend to be superior?” “Lots of times, women are superior; but overall, yes, the men have it.” “Then it sounds like we’re saying that women can do the things that men can do, for purposes of being guardians of the city, but not as well as men would do them. So tell me: do all the things that we’ve said about our city apply only to men, and not to women?” “That wouldn’t make sense.” {456} “Definitely not. There are women who can heal, and those who excel at sports, and those who have a musical or philosophical streak in them. The traits may not be as pronounced in women as in men, but they’re still there. Thus, the approach that we took to the selection of male guardians should also work when we choose, from among our women, those who are suitable to be guardians. For instance, the strongest woman may be weaker than the strongest man, but she may still be plenty strong enough to be a member of our elite force.” “That’s true.” “Then if we’re going to test the men and the women in the same way for our city’s various professions, we should train them the same way. So we come back to the starting point: if the male guardians are trained in music and phys. ed., then the female guardians should be too.” “Absolutely.” “This means that our present practice, of treating women in a vastly inferior way, is really an offense against the natural order of things.” “Right.” “We agree, then, that from the individual’s perspective, it would be possible to train women as we do men. But there’s another question: would the city benefit if we did so?” “Good question.” “Let’s say, for starters, that not all men have the same degree of ability. In the city we have constructed, I believe it goes without saying that our guardians are more perfect and well-rounded men than our shoemakers, whose education is limited to shoemaking.” “Of course.” “Wouldn’t we also expect, for the most part, that our male guardians, being wise and balanced, would tend to have wives who are among our city’s most superior women?” “Yes.” “We have described an excellent educational program for the men, one that makes them into the best citizens and defenders of the city. The city benefits from this. Is the situation any different for the educations of the guardians’ wives?” “Not at all.” {457} 70

“So educating them as we educate the men is in the best interests of both the women and the city as a whole. Then let them shed their clothes and exercise naked, clothed only by their virtue, just as the men do; let them share in the armed defense of the city, and let us distribute tasks to them according to their abilities, taking account of whatever strengths and weaknesses they may have, just as we do for the men. Some are going to laugh when they see naked women exercising, but we know that this laughter will reflect those critics’ ignorance of what is best -- indeed, most noble -- for everyone involved.” “Quite right.” “I see that we were able to make this radical proposal about our city’s women without being swallowed up by a tidal wave, sent by the gods to punish us.” “Yeah,” Grey said, smirking, “that sure was some wave, the one that didn’t come.” “Well, if you think that one was big, wait until you see the next wave that doesn’t hit us. As you pointed out, I did suggest that our guardians’ wives and children should be shared by all. This pretty much requires us to arrange things so that parents don’t know which children are theirs, and children don’t know which adults are their parents.” “You’re right. This one is a regular tidal wave. And to tell the truth, I’m not sure it could be done, or that it would be worth doing.” “You may not think it’s possible, but surely you don’t dispute that it would be worthwhile,” I protested. “Surely I do,” he replied. {458} “Ah,” I sighed, “I can see you’re not going to let me get away with anything here. Very well. But indulge me in one thing, if you will. I’d rather not get tied up, just yet, in the question of how it could be done. Instead, I’d like to brainstorm about why it would be good if the city did function this way. I admit, this makes me no better than the daydreamer, who doesn’t let himself be bothered with making his dreams come true. It’s just that the assignment you’re giving me is an overwhelming one. I’m afraid this is all I can do right now, and I hope you don’t mind.” “No, that’s OK,” Grey said. “First, we’ve said that our guardians, to be at their finest as a team, must not collect property of their own, but must instead live, eat, and work together; and we’ve said that the guardians will include both men and women. They will want -- or need, wouldn’t you say -- to have sex sometimes?” “Yes,” he agreed, “it’s a need. It’s not irresistible, like the force that requires you to accept only one conclusion when something has been proved logically, but it is strong nevertheless. And since most people don’t let logic run their lives, they actually consider this need more compelling than logic.” “We’ve seen the benefits of having an orderly city. We certainly don’t want the confusion that would result if our guardians, the cream of the crop, were having liberal sex with a bunch of their fellow guardians. It would be far wiser to make marriage 71

sacred -- and that, in turn, is best done by making sure that marriage produces the best for everyone involved.” “Right.” {459} “Now, I know that you have hunting dogs, and that you’ve also bred some fine birds. When you try to arrange superior breeding, you use the best animals, don’t you?” “Of course.” “You’d get animals of far lower quality if you didn’t make sure to use the best ones, wouldn’t you?” “Definitely.” “Then our city’s rulers are going to need incredible skill if the same rules of breeding work for humans.” “I’m sure they do work for humans,” he said, “but why does that call for any special skill in the rulers? “Do you remember when we agreed that, for the best of the city, the rulers would have to dish out a ton of lies, to persuade our citizens that they came from the Earth and that their fellow citizens were fellow brothers of the Earth, and all that?” “Yes.” “Then let me put it this way. You might let an ordinary therapist help a sick person, if all they need is exercise; but if they’re using prescription drugs, the prescription had better come from someone who knows what he’s doing. Those lies are a medicine, and they’ll have to be used every time there’s a birth or a marriage.” “Why?” “If we’re breeding people as you breed dogs, then the best men and women will be paired up often, and the worst rarely; and we want kids from the best, but not from the worst. But you can’t just tell people that they’re being selectively bred. You’d have rebellions among your guardians, every time one of them got involved with someone who wasn’t high-quality.” “True.” {460} “Then tell me what you think about this. Let’s have wedding festivals, where the rulers control the number of couples getting married each time, based on an estimate of how many pregnant mothers the city will need to keep the total population steady. If there’s a war or an epidemic, there will be more marriages, to replace the people who died. Couples will come together at these festivals and join in the lottery. If their number comes up, they can marry. Of course, we’ll rig the lottery so that poor-quality people never get selected. If we’re really crafty about this, they won’t blame the rulers for stacking the odds against them; instead, they’ll just think they’ve got bad luck.” “That sounds like a plan.” “Something else that will help our best young men produce the most babies will be to allow them to have multiple wives. So in some cases we should allow marriage as a reward for bravery in battle or some other achievement.” “Right.”


“That, by itself, wouldn’t get rid of all the bad babies, so we’ll add another step. When babies are born, we’ll have trusted male or female officers on hand to sort the good from the bad. The offspring of bad breeding -- as well as any deformed ones from good breeding -- will be taken away and put ... oh, I don’t know where, some dark place out of the way. The remaining infants, all of high quality, will be carried to a nursery in a separate building, where they will be cared for. When mothers are full of milk, they will go there and nurse a child. The people tending the nursery will make sure that the mother doesn’t get a chance to figure out which baby is hers. Babies will be weaned away from these mothers as soon as health concerns allow, to minimize the risk of attachment. The nursery personnel will be responsible for calling wet nurses, getting up at night to care for infants, etc.” “You make this sound like a walk in the park for the mothers.” {461} “And it ought to be. But on with the story. These parents should be, of course, in the prime of life, which, let’s say, runs from ages twenty-five to fifty-five for a man and from twenty to forty for a woman. I’m thinking that a young man of twenty may be too full of energy to settle down. At each of our wedding festivals, the ministers will lead us all in prayers expressing hope for the new generation, but the prayers and services will publicly treat children whose parents are too young or too old as the product of perverted lust.” “That’ll send a message,” Grey agreed. “Same thing if a baby is born out of wedlock. We want to make sure the rulers have a tight grip on the production of babies. We’ll be really firm against the idea that people can have bastard children and just expect the city to care for them.” “Absolutely.” “But once a person goes beyond the top limit -- fifty-five for a man or forty for a woman -- we’ll allow them to have sex with anyone they want. The only exception is, a man can’t be with his daughter, or her daughter, nor with his mother nor her mother, and so forth in either direction; and the same principles apply to a woman and her son and father, etc. Unfortunately, if any of these affairs produce a pregnancy, they’ll have to get an abortion; and if they don’t do that, and a baby is born, we’ll expect them to get rid of it somehow, because the city’s not going to raise it.” “Yeah, but if the parents never know who their kids are, how are they going to know if they’re having sex with the wrong person?” “They won’t know exactly which person is their kid, but they’ll know which group their kid is in. As a general rule, we’ll start from the date of the festival when the couple was married, and we’ll figure that every child born between seven and ten months afterwards might have been theirs, and all those kids will be off-limits. This gives us a big pool of potential dads for each kid, and all those kids will consider all their potential dads to be their fathers. They’ll also treat those fathers’ fathers as their grandfathers, and so forth. The crop of kids resulting from that festival will be brothers and sisters to one another; and these, as I was going to say, will be forbidden to intermarry, except when the rulers make a special exception.” 73

“I believe that will work.” {462} “So that’s how our guardians could share their wives and families. Next, you wanted to know how this arrangement would be best for our city. Let me ask: can you think of anything that would be worse for a city than to see its citizens fighting one another instead of working together?” “Nope.” “Well, wouldn’t you say people will feel a sense of oneness if, when something happens, they all agree that it’s a good thing or a bad thing, and they all celebrate or mourn together?” “Sure.” “Of course, fights generally begin with a disagreement as to what is ‘yours’ or ‘mine.’ We’d fight much less if we could figure out how to look at something and say ‘mine’ without also saying ‘not yours.’ And we’d feel much more of a sense of unity if we all hurt and sympathized together when one of us is hurt, just as the whole body, pulled together by the soul, suffers when one little finger is injured.” “True.” “And this is the way it ought to be in a properly organized city.” “I agree.” {463} “Now, the city we’ve constructed has rulers and subjects, like any other. But our rulers do not call the citizens ‘slaves,’ and the citizens do not refer to the rulers as ‘masters.’ Rulers in other cities sometimes like and sometimes hate their fellow rulers, against whom they may have to struggle; but in our city they are friends. Here, they consider the citizens their supporters, and to the citizens, the rulers are their protectors. Indeed, in many cases, these rulers and subjects will be brothers or sisters, fathers or children to one another; and everyone will have a hand in teaching children that fathers must be treated with care and respect.” “So family ties will be something that people take seriously.” “Yes. People’s words will reflect their belief that they are a part of the city. Instead of talking about their own problems, they will share in the problems of all, and if one of them is having difficulty, all will say, “This is a problem that matters to me personally.’ When they all look at something and call it ‘mine’ -- for example, “my street’ -- then they’ll all feel pleasure if it’s good and pain if it’s bad. And the single thing that will do the most to tie everyone together will be the fact that the guardians share their women and children with one another.” “Yes.” {464} “So they won’t be fighting about family matters and relatives. Likewise, since they will have no private homes or property, they won’t have much to fight about, saying that it’s ‘mine’ and ‘not yours.’ Thus, we get rid of the main things that prompt people to sue each other. I’m sure there will still be misunderstandings, but we’ll teach them that the honorable thing is for equals to defend themselves against equals, and to resolve their disagreements right away rather than letting them fester. They may sometimes be angry enough to punch each other, and that’s OK. There’s nothing wrong 74

with putting on the boxing gloves and having a fair fight, if someone’s that angry. It tends to resolve the matter, and besides, it encourages the warrior to stay in shape.” “Very good.” {465} “Also, there’s a place for elders in dispute resolution. The older guardians will guide the younger ones, and we will rely on two powerful forces, shame and fear, to encourage the younger ones to respect their elders. Shame will discourage you from attacking someone who’s old enough to be your parent, and fear will remind you that the elders tend to have friends who will pay you back if you do.” “Right.” “In this way, we’ll resolve our disagreements and insure that the guardians never split up into warring factions, which might divide the city as a whole. The life that we’ve constructed will also free the guardians, obviously, from many social ills, including these: being a poor person who has to flatter a rich one, or a rich person who receives that nonsense; struggling to feed a family; living in a rat-race world filled with efforts to find some sleazy advantage over others; hiring prostitutes; and buying slaves. These guardians will live happier lives than our most successful Olympic athletes.” “You really think so?” “Sure. The Olympic games happen only every four years, and the winners only prove that they’re good at some sporting event. But our guardians will be reminded of their worth every day, and they will achieve the far more important victory of guaranteeing the safety of our city. They may not get rich, but they’ve got everything they need, and they live happy lives. What more could you want?” “It’s true. This would be a great way to earn honor.” {466} “Now, you may recall that, when we were talking a little while ago, someone who shall remain nameless said that we are making our warriors miserable by making them do all this work and live in humble conditions, without ever getting any big financial rewards. All I could say, at that time, was that we can’t be happy about everything in our lives, but that the city we are constructing would at least provide the greatest happiness for the city as a whole.” “I remember that part of the discussion.” “But now we have a more complete answer. Not only does our approach produce the best for the city as a whole, but our guardians are living a life of peace and happiness, surrounded by great honor. I don’t think anyone would say that it would be better to be a shoemaker so that at least you could make some money.” “I agree.” “This doesn’t mean that somebody won’t do it, though. I can imagine one of our guardians becoming fascinated with wealth. A man like that will learn why the poet Hesiod said, “less is more.’ He might get money, but he’ll abandon the life that could have made him happy. You and I agree, don’t we, that it would be better to live, hunt, and work in common with your peers, letting the women share with the men in everything, so that relations between the sexes can be natural and normal?” “We do.” 75

“All right. Then I think we’ve sketched out what it would be like. Now let’s talk about whether we could actually create this whole arrangement.” “OK.” {467} “Warfare is easiest to imagine. Men, women, and strong children will go off on a campaign, and the children will learn by helping out and by watching how it’s done, just like a craftsman’s child does. Besides, parents will ordinarily want to be brave if they know their children are watching.” “Yeah,” Grey said, “but what happens if they’re defeated? Then we lose the next generation’s army along with this one. The whole class of warriors could be wiped out.” “I know, but it’s important for the children to learn about warfare while they’re young. Sometimes you have to take risks. Still, you have a good point. It would be important for the parents to take the children only on those campaigns that seem likely to be safe; and even then, they should leave them in the hands of hardened veterans, who will be best able to protect and teach them. Moreover, let’s teach the kids to ride at a very early age, and when we go to battle let’s put them on stable but fast horses. They’ll be sitting up higher, so that they can see better; and if things go wrong, their elders can lead them to safety.” “Excellent idea.” {468} “Now, then. How do we conduct warfare? In my opinion, a warrior who displays cowardice should be dismissed from the corps and moved into the workingclass sector of society. And one of our warriors surrenders to the enemy, the enemy can have him. On the other hand, the warrior who performs well should be honored, in front of his fellow warriors, with a crown and a handshake.” “Splendid!” “And how about if each of his fellow warriors, male and female, also gives him a kiss?” “During a war campaign, I’d go further,” Grey said, “and let those brave ones kiss any of their fellow warriors, whenever they want. This will give them all another reason to be brave.” “I think I see what you mean. We’ve already said that the brave men get more wives. This will fit right in with that, because it will put them first in line to choose which partners they want to pursue. Another thing: afterwards, when we’re celebrating victory in battle, let’s do what Homer says they did for Ajax: we’ll serve dinner first to the bravest men, and we’ll give them the backbones from the animals we’ve cooked. It will be our way of saying, “This guy has a spine.’ We’ll sing songs about these heroes and give them seats of honor. Thus, we’ll recognize their achievements and give them an incentive to keep up the good work.” “Right.” {469} “And for those who die bravely in battle, the funerals will be an equally great reward. We will accept Hesiod’s belief that such heroes join the chosen few in the afterlife, with godlike power to change events on Earth: encouraging good and


preventing evil. We’ll follow the guidance of our priests in figuring out the best kind of funeral for such heroes, and we’ll record their stories for posterity.” “Perfect.” “Next question: treatment of enemy prisoners, and especially if the enemy is a fellow Greek. It doesn’t seem right to make slaves of them. Greeks don’t deserve that from one another. If we treat one another better, we’re more likely to stand together when the day comes that we’re all threatened by an outside invader. So that’s the approach our city will take, and we’ll make sure the other Greek cities know about it.” “That makes sense.” “And how do we treat an enemy soldier after we’ve killed him? At present, the habit is to plunder the corpse for anything that might be of value. But that’s a cheap, greedy habit; it takes time; and it also provides an excuse for the coward who doesn’t want to fight anymore. Whole armies have been defeated when too many individual soldiers have gotten distracted by this easy, womanish avoidance of conflict. Our warriors shouldn’t find it necessary to take anything more than weapons they can use.” “True.” {470} “So our plundering will be minimal. It won’t interfere with burials, and it won’t irritate our gods -- which is what we might expect when we offer, in sacrifice, things that we have taken from the bodies of our dead Greek kinsmen. It also seems likely that the other Greek cities whom we fight will respect us for taking this approach.” “I agree.” “But how about the practice of plundering houses and other property when we conquer other Greek cities’ lands? That’s not like robbing a corpse.” “I don’t know,” Grey said. “What do you think?” “I think we should tax them, taking that year’s crops, but I don’t think we should destroy their property or strip them of everything valuable. Fighting with Greeks is different from fighting with outsiders. Among the Greeks, it’s not really war. It’s more like a family feud. Destroying their lands -- that just goes too far. If you do that, they won’t want peace.” “You’re right. This sets a much better tone for relations between cities.” “Let me make sure I understand something here,” I said. “The city that you’re constructing is going to be a Greek city, isn’t it? I mean, with Greek culture and religion, and a feeling of being part of Greece?” “Of course. The people will be very cultured, very Greek.” “So when they fight, it really will be more like a family feud than a war, conducted by people who expect to get along again someday.” “Right.” {471} “Then it goes without saying that our warriors won’t burn houses or commit atrocities against civilians. Rather, they’ll know that the decision to make war was in the hands of a few scoundrels, and that most of the opposing city’s citizens are, or could be, their friends. In other words, they want the other city’s people to put pressure on their rulers, so that those rulers will make peace.” 77

“But, Socrates, aren’t you forgetting the question here? Weren’t you going to tell us how it’s possible to have the kind of city we were discussing? I readily grant many other advantages that you haven’t gotten to yet -- for example, that since our warriors will all consider themselves part of the same family, they’ll never abandon one another; and that our enemies might find it unnerving to have to fight against women -- but we’re still talking about the good things that could result from this kind of city. But again I ask: how do we create it?” {472} “Sheesh,” I said, “I slow down for a minute and you’re all over me. I told you these were going to be big waves crashing down on me. You don’t yet understand why I’ve been hesitating, but when I answer your question, I think you will.” “Well, the more you moan about how we demand too much and appreciate too little, the more determined we are to hear you get to the point.” “Oh, all right. If you insist. Let me begin with a few caveats and disclaimers. First, may I point out that our discussion has been a search for what it means to be just?” “Of course it has. So what?” “I only meant to ask whether we’re going to require a man to be perfectly just before we consider him just.” “I guess he doesn’t have to be perfect. I’d be impressed if he just came closer to justice than other men do.” “So that’s what we were doing when we talked about absolute justice. We wanted to understand the ideal situation, so we could compare ourselves against it. Absolute justice might not exist in the real world, but that doesn’t mean we did a poor job of describing it. An artist might paint an imaginary person, but the fact that there is no such person doesn’t make the artist a lousy painter.” “True.” “So maybe I can show that the ideal city is 100% possible, or maybe I can’t. Either way, though, it’s still an ideal city.” “Right.” “You started out by asking me to explain how to achieve an ideal city, but now I wonder if you’d mind repeating what you just admitted.” “What did I just admit?” {473} “Didn’t you agree that, when we talk about absolutes and ideals, words go beyond what exists in everyday life?” “Oh. Yeah.” “You said you’d be impressed by an imperfect man who is more just than others, and I assume you’ll also be pleased if I can explain how we might create a city that, although imperfect, is better than the rest.” “Sure.” “All right. We’re dealing with the real world now, and therefore we’ve got to be practical. Let’s see if we can’t pick out just one thing, or maybe two, that could convert the fouled-up city of today into something better. If you focus on one thing, people 78

might be able to accomplish it. It’s a lot easier than changing everything and turning the whole city upside down.” “Yes, yes. Of course.” “If we go at it that way, I can think of one thing that would dramatically reform the city as we know it. But this time, the tidal wave will come in for sure, and you’ll drown me in your laughter. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.” “Socrates! Say it!” “OK, OK. All we need to do is train our philosophers to be kings, or train our kings to be philosophers. Then our leaders will be both wise and powerful. They’ll take the place of those who are wise but weak, or powerful but ignorant. But until that day, when we’ll have the possibility of light and life, our cities -- indeed, the whole human race -- will continue to be managed in the present dark and evil way.” The room was still. I said, “It’s not easy, living with the belief that we and our city won’t be happy until then, and that our intellectual and political leaders will just be part of the problem. I know it sounds extreme. Now you see why I hesitated.” {474} “Yeah, I do,” Grey murmured. “You just slandered them all. If they hear about it, there’ll be hell to pay. Everyone will grab their weapons of verbal combat and attack you.” “It’s your fault. You made me say what I was thinking.” “I wanted an answer,” he said, “but now you’re going to have to be ready with an explanation if word gets out. I’ll help you as much as I can, but about all I can do is answer your questions while you develop an argument that would convince even the harshest critics.”


Part 4 Training the Just Ruler
“Grey,” I said, “I want to thank you for volunteering to help me make my case. With that, let’s get started. First, I think you’ll recall that we said that a person who loves something should love all of it, and not just part of it?” “That sounds reasonable, but I don’t recall that we talked about it.” “But I would think that, as an authority on romance, you would be the first to admit that a person who loves someone else is always seeing beauty in the little things about that person. How about the nose, for example? Your lover could have a stubby nose, and you’d call it cute; or a hooked nose, and you’d think it was royal; or just an ordinary nose, and you’d consider it pleasantly normal.” {475} He said, “If you want me to pretend I’m an authority on romance, fine. I’ll do that for you.” “Well, it’s the same thing with wine-lovers, isn’t it? They’ve usually got a pleasant description for whatever they happen to be guzzling. Or people who care about authority: no matter whether they’re the king or a security guard, they always seem to think there’s something really important about what they do.” “That’s certainly true.” “There’s a general principle here: if you love a thing, you find an excuse to love almost any part or example of it: the way in which your lover has a nice nose or a pleasant laugh; the taste or bouquet of your wine; and the power of your job and of your boss’s job and of the job you’d like to get. You love each example of wine or power or whatever.” “I can see how that tends to be true.” “Well, the point for our purposes is this: the philosopher loves wisdom as a whole, and is very different from the man who has no appetite for learning.” “Definitely.” “So the person who always wants to learn more is a philosopher.” Grey snorted. “Then the people who read the supermarket tabloids and look around for miracles are philosophers, because they’re always seeking more information about that nonsense; and so are those who always try to hear the latest kind of music, not to mention those who are fascinated with trivia. They all like to learn, but that doesn’t make them philosophers.” “No, they’re only an imitation of the real thing. The true philosopher loves to see the truth.” “Meaning what?” “Meaning ... well, do you agree that there’s such a thing as beauty, and also such a thing as ugliness, and they’re opposites?” {476} 80

“Of course.” “Likewise with good and bad, just and unjust, etc.? When you take them by themselves, each of them is a distinct thing; but when you combine them with a hundred other traits, it seems to get more complex?” “Yes.” “Well, beauty is like that too. The true philosopher understands beauty as a quality in itself. Most people don’t get that far. They see the things that beauty can be: it can be a pleasant sound, for instance, or a pretty color. They operate on a very practical level, not looking beyond the particular sound or color that’s staring them in the face.” “That’s true. Most people do limit their interest to such practical examples of beauty.” “We just said there’s a sharp, black-and-white difference between good and bad. There’s an equally sharp difference between beauty and ugliness. But if you don’t know beauty itself, and can only pick up on examples of it here and there, then you don’t recognize that sharp difference. You’ve got a patchwork of different things that you say are beautiful; but when you put them together, there’s no clear picture. All you’ve got is a muddled aggregation of impressions. Really, it’s like a dream: you imagine connections that don’t exist, and you’re totally distracted by things that your mind is inventing. If you don’t see beauty itself, all you’ve got is your own opinions about what beauty is.” “Indeed.” “Of course, if we say this to someone who doesn’t see beauty, he’ll disagree. We could tell him that he’s mentally defective, but perhaps there’s a more enlightening way of explaining things to him. We could begin by saying that we think it’s great that he knows all about these things, and then we could proceed from there. Here, you pretend to be him, and we’ll work through the way the conversation might go.” “OK.” “Well, I’d say to him ... or, I’ll say to you: you have knowledge, right?” Grey said, “Right.” “And knowledge is knowledge about something, or about nothing?” {477} “It has to be knowledge about something. You can’t have knowledge about things that don’t exist. I mean, they may exist only in your imagination, but at least they exist in that sense. But if they don’t exist anywhere, in any way, then it would be nonsense to say that you know something about them.” I said, “So there’s a clear difference between things that exist and things that don’t, and right alongside it, there’s a difference between the things you can know and the things you can’t? That is, we can know the things that exist, and we can’t know the things that don’t?” “That’s what I said.” “Excellent. And then, if something could be halfway between existing and not existing, then it would also be halfway between being knowable and not being knowable.” 81

“Yes.” “Now, do we not agree that there is such a thing as opinion?” “Of course.” “And it’s not the same as knowledge?” “No, it’s not.” “Allow me, if you will, to take a short detour at this point. Let’s talk about our senses: sight, hearing, etc. We can’t see or hear these senses, so we don’t describe them in the terms that we would use for something that we could see or hear: their color or size, for example. When describing our senses, all we can say is what they do. Do you agree?” “Yes.” “Would you say that knowledge is an inner ability that a person has, like sight? Or is it something else?” “I’d say it’s an inner ability, except that it’s much more powerful than any one of our senses.” “And opinion is also an inner ability?” “Yes.” “We’ve already said, haven’t we, that knowledge and opinion are different?” “Yes,” he said, “if a person really knows something, he’s right in what he says about it; but if he only thinks he knows, then he’s offering a mere opinion, and may be wrong.” “Of course, sight deals with things that a person sees, and is very different from hearing. You can’t see a sound. A sound is something one hears. Similarly, you can’t see something that you know. Seeing and knowing are different inner abilities.” “Right.” {478} “As we said, knowing and opining are different inner abilities too. And it seems that they must relate to each other as seeing and knowing do. I mean, just as the ability of seeing and the ability of knowing don’t deal with the same things, so also the abilities of knowing and opining can’t deal with the same things. You can’t say that I know something if I only have a potentially mistaken opinion, and you also can’t say that I merely have an opinion about it if, in fact, I know the actual truth about it.” “That’s correct.” “Now, we already said that knowledge deals with the things that exist. If it exists, we can know about it; and if it doesn’t exist, we can’t know about it. Could we at least have an opinion about something if it doesn’t exist in reality, or in our imaginations, or anywhere else?” “I don’t see how.” “So our opinions can’t deal with nonexistent things. But they also can’t deal with existing things that we know, because -- as we just observed -- opinion and knowledge can’t deal with the same things. So opinion must deal with existing things that we don’t know. It’s in a grey area between knowledge and ignorance.” “Right.” 82

“Our opinion may relate to something that exists, but it may have the facts somewhat confused. Do you remember how we noticed that knowledge and ignorance corresponded to existence and nonexistence: we could only know about things that existed?” “Yes.” “Then the grey zone between knowledge and ignorance, in which we find opinion, is also a grey zone between existence and nonexistence.” “True.” {479} “But what kind of thing can be halfway between existing and not existing? Let’s try to figure out what kind of thing this is: in other words, what does opinion relate to? For starters, let’s suppose we’re talking with a person who doesn’t think there’s any such thing as beauty, in itself. This person sees many beautiful things, and thinks that beauty exists only when you find some specific thing that is beautiful.” “OK.” “Now, let’s ask this person, “How about that beautiful object over there -- would you say there’s no way that someone could find it ugly?’ You may have to talk about it for a few minutes, and offer a few examples, but eventually this person is going to agree that any beautiful thing has a side to it that people might consider ugly.” “Right.” “Likewise, if you’re talking about justice instead of beauty. In any specific example of justice, you can find a perspective that suggests injustice. The same is true for holiness or any other quality. It works with sizes and weights too: a thing that’s large and heavy from one perspective will seem small and light from another.” “Yeah,” Grey said, “it’s like that children’s riddle: A man who’s not a man Saw but didn’t see a bird that wasn’t a bird Sitting on a branch that wasn’t a branch And hit him but didn’t hit him With a rock that wasn’t a rock. The answer is that a nearsighted eunuch threw one of those lightweight lava stones at a bat sitting on a weed -- and that you can’t hit a bird, if it’s not a bird, by throwing a rock, if it’s not really a rock. In other words, it all depends on how you look at the thing, right? There’s nothing absolute about the size or beauty or any other trait of any specific thing I might talk about.” “That’s exactly the point,” I said. “We’re obviously not talking about firm, solidly known things. When we describe any specific thing as beautiful, we’re not saying that we have absolute knowledge of its beauty. We’re only saying that it’s more beautiful than something else when examined from this particular point of view. Same thing if we were talking about its size or weight, or about its justice or holiness.” “Precisely.”


“So we aren’t reaching the point of talking clearly about the true facts. We’re somewhere between that kind of true knowledge and having no knowledge at all; we’re in the grey zone between the things that are and the things that aren’t.” “Correct.” “But this is how most people talk about most things: in terms of the thing’s relative size, weight, or whatever, as seen from that one person’s point of view at one specific time. It’s all a shifting sea of impressions or, as we’re calling them, opinions.” “Right.” “Then if all you’ve got is a bunch of assorted impressions of beautiful things or just things, you’re not dealing with any reliable truth. It’s just your opinion. That’s very different from the person who can recognize the qualities of beauty and justice in themselves. Those qualities are absolute, eternal, and unchanging, and when you’ve got this kind of insight, you’ve got true knowledge, not just an opinion that might change in a minute.” {480} “I agree.” “Then do you think the person who denies the existence of absolute beauty, and who’s content to look at this or that thing which he considers beautiful, will mind if we call him a lover of opinion rather than a lover of wisdom?” “I’ll tell him not to be upset, because nobody should be upset at the truth.” Traditional Book Six (Stephanus page number 484) “We’ve covered many a long mile in this discussion, but at least we’ve started to see the difference between real and imitation philosophers.” “I think we had to go to all this trouble to reach this kind of understanding,” he said. “Maybe. But we’re not out of the woods yet.” “Then where do we go now?” “To the next question. I believe we’ve shown how there’s a difference between true knowledge and mere opinion; and we’ve said that the difference between a real philosopher and everyone else is that the real McCoy has that true knowledge. So let me ask: Who, do you think, should rule the city?” “Whoever is best able to be a guardian should be the guardian, of course.” “So what do we think about the person who has no clear design in his own soul, and who cannot consult his knowledge of perfection -- perfect beauty, perfect goodness, perfect justice, etc. -- in order to figure out what needs fixing in the everyday world? Wouldn’t you say that such a person has no frame of reference, and that, as a guide, he’s no better than a blind man?” “Indeed.”


“Why have someone like that as a guide and guardian when, instead, you can have someone who has just as much experience and skill, but who also has true knowledge?” {485} “No reason I can think of.” “Well, then, let’s talk about the philosopher -- and by that, I mean the true philosopher -- and see whether he isn’t more suited for the job of ruling the city.” “Fine.” “First off, we’ve described the philosopher as being someone who can -- and, presumably, would prefer to -- see more than the specific thing right in front of his nose, which might be called large or small, heavy or light, beautiful or ugly, depending on one’s perspective. The philosopher, as we’ve described him, wants to see the eternal nature of things.” “Right.” “And as you’ll recall, we said that the person who really loves something -- his lover, for example, or wine, or power -- can usually find a reason to love almost any part or kind of it. In the same way, the philosopher, who loves wisdom, will want to see all of those eternal qualities: not merely beauty, for instance, but also justice. This philosopher’s love of wisdom must involve, of course, a love of truth. If you love something, you love the things that are closely related to it, and nothing is more closely related to wisdom than truthfulness.” “Clearly.” “Now, experience suggests that when you get excited about one thing, you tend to be less focused on others. If the philosopher loves knowledge, he may be able to experience physical pleasures, but they just won’t matter to him as much as the pleasures of the soul. {486} Which means that the philosopher is unlikely to feel much envy when others accumulate assets and live the rich life. By the same token, he won’t tend to be cheap and stingy if he thinks that other things, natural and supernatural, are much more important than money.” “Right.” “For that matter, since the philosopher has a broad mind and great curiosity about all of time and existence, he must recognize that his own life is a very small part of the whole, and that his eventual death will be a minor and perfectly normal thing. The view that one has to stay alive at all costs -- no matter what it takes -- must seem, to him, to be based on cowardice and pettiness. I don’t see this kind of person, with harmony in his soul, as being a braggart or hard ass toward others, or as someone who would think there’s much reason to be unfair.” “Me neither.” “Even among kids, we can tell the difference between the rude and the decent ones, and right there we have an early clue as to which ones have the more philosophical natures. We can also tell those who like to learn, and who remember what they’ve learned. When a person’s not good at something, he tends to dislike it, and gets mad at himself for failing at it.” 85

“Definitely.” {487} “And if you don’t have harmony in your soul, you can’t keep things in perspective and balance, so you’re not likely to be skilled at sorting out the truth. Basically, if a person hopes to understand perfection, he must have the kind of equipment in his soul that will be required for the job. To sum it up, you need to be smart, have a good memory, love the truth, seek justice, have an attitude towards life that gives you courage, and be decent and balanced.” “Right.” “What our city needs, as its ruler, is someone who has started with this kind of equipment and has gone through years of the right kind of education.” Adam interrupted. “Listen, Socrates, each little step you take sounds reasonable, but we’ve seen that the little steps add up to big conclusions. If we were better at asking the right questions, we wouldn’t keep coming to the ends of these discussions where you’ve turned everything we ever believed upside down. What you’re talking about right now is a good example. You’re making philosophers sound like superior beings, but a person could also say this: philosophers are weird, they get in trouble a lot, and philosophy seems to be the thing that turns them into misfits.” “And if a person said that, would he be wrong?” “Well, I’d like to hear your opinion on it.” I said, “In my opinion, you’re right on target.” “So then why do you want cities to be ruled by philosophers?” “I can answer that only by telling you a story.” “And I don’t suppose you’re comfortable with that,” he said, smiling. {488} “You’re laughing at me, but you’ll laugh even more when you hear the story. I’m making it up, and, I admit, it’s not a very good one. The fact is, I can’t think of anything that’s as awful as the way that cities treat their best people, so I have to resort to makebelieve to convey the message. All right. Let’s suppose there’s a ship at sea, with a captain and crew. The captain can’t see or hear too well and he doesn’t know how to navigate, so he lets the sailors steer the ship. They all want to steer, so he has to choose someone for the job. He picks Jones, and this causes a division between those who like Jones and those who don’t. There’s a mutiny, and the ones who oppose Jones win. They throw the captain overboard, along with Jones and his buddies, and then they assign each other to handle various duties around the ship, based on popularity and individual interest rather than on actual skill. They appoint a helmsman who doesn’t know anything about navigation; but don’t you think they’ll keep saying good things about him and bad things about Jones as long as they don’t realize the fix they’re in?” {489} “Of course,” Adam said. “I think you get the point. When you hear someone say what you just said, tell him that the amazing thing is not that philosophers are misfits. The amazing thing would be if they weren’t. You can’t blame philosophers if the rest of the world is determined not to listen to them. Are they supposed to go out and beg the people of the 86

city to follow them? A politician might do that, but a true leader wouldn’t. No, the natural sequence of events -- for the public, as much as for an individual -- is this: you get sick, you realize you’re sick, and then you go to the doctor.” “Exactly.” “Even so, I wouldn’t say that the greatest damage to the reputation of philosophy is done by those who criticize it. The greatest damage comes from those socalled philosophers who, as you point out, are just troublemakers. But do you see now why even the truly good philosophers are useless to society, as long as society doesn’t want them?” “Yes.” “Then let’s ask why the majority of citizens get confused and reach a place of not wanting philosophers to lead them. First, we said that the true philosopher always seeks truth. That’s not what most people think about philosophers nowadays, is it?” “No.” {490} “But in defense of the true philosopher, let’s recall that he’s on an unusual mission. He’s looking for true beauty, goodness, justice, and so forth, and not just for the superficial appearance of things. He wants to connect true beauty, for example, with the part of his soul that’s been prepared to recognize beauty. Only in this way can he hope to feel and experience, in his heart, the full power of beauty. This is how you get the truth about beauty -- how you learn what it really is. Same thing for goodness and justice and all the other traits of perfection. There’s a lot to learn, and he won’t rest until he has it all. Needless to say, a lie is exactly the kind of thing that he doesn’t want any part of. It goes totally in the wrong direction for him.” “Right.” “So if the true philosopher loves truth and justice, has a healthy mind and lives a moderate life, and has courage, memory, and all those other abilities, how come so many of today’s philosophers are such screwups?” “Good question.” “I think you were saying that our own present-day philosophers tend to be useless. Maybe they aren’t really philosophers. They want to be philosophers, but they don’t quite have what it takes. I think we can agree that it’s very rare to find someone who has all of the great qualities that we said you’d find in a true philosopher.” “Very rare indeed.” {491} “Meanwhile, there are forces at work that can ruin those great qualities. First of all, paradoxically, the very qualities necessary for a good philosopher -- courage and moderation and all the rest -- can actually destroy a person’s ability to be a good philosopher. Secondly, of course, the pleasures of life can distract you from philosophy.” Adam said, “I understand the second point clearly enough, but not the first one.” {492} “Compare wheat and weeds, if you will. The wheat is good, but sensitive. The weeds will survive long after the wheat has died for lack of water or nutrients. In other 87

words, bad experiences do more harm to the good person than to the evil one. With the wrong kind of education, a person who could have been one of the city’s best can become one of the worst. It’s common, nowadays, to hear people complain about how the leaders of cults, like the Sophists, are corrupting our young, leading them astray; but the members of the public who say these things are, in fact, the greatest of all cult leaders.” “They are?” “Sure they are. Think of what happens when groups of people meet to talk about how wonderful their point of view is. It happens everywhere -- in conventions, courtrooms, army camps, and even in Congress. There’s a lot of noise, and a lot of people running around, exaggerating the good of their own point of view and the evil of the other side, and making it seem like you just have to agree with them. For a young person who’s there in person, this kind of thing is very impressive. It’s really tough to stick with your principles when everyone seems so sincere, and they’re all pressuring you to see things their way and join their cause. Don’t you think that most young people will find this kind of foolishness overwhelming?” “Definitely.” “The even worse thing is that the public has the force of the government behind them. If your principles lead in a direction they don’t like, they can convict you, confiscate your stuff, maybe even sentence you to death. This does happen in our world, you know.” {493} “Oh, I’m quite aware that it does.” “It takes divine power to stand against that kind of force. And you won’t find it in the Sophists or the other cult leaders. They may seem to have a special wisdom, judging by their followers’ enthusiasm for what they preach about such subjects as goodness and honor; but the fact is that these preachers are simply good at what they do. Like the person who feeds a wild beast every day, and becomes familiar with its various noises and actions, they know how to recognize what the crowd will like, and they cater to that, without much clear idea of what goodness and honor actually are. A teacher who actually knew those things would be rare, eh?” “No question about it.” “You see it everywhere, this ability to know what the crowd will like: in painting, music, and politics. But it’s a weird, good-news-bad-news kind of situation, like that story about Diomede, who killed strangers after forcing them to have sex with his prostitute daughters? Yes, you get to become a famous painter, but to do it you have to turn out the kind of junk that the public will love. Sometimes these famous leaders in various arts or politics have to explain how their work connects to goodness and honor, and at those times, you can tell from what they say that they don’t have a clue.” “True.” “And that’s how the public’s tastes work. They see something, they like it, and they want it, and nobody really knows why. In that light, tell me: how about persuading them that the thing they consider beautiful is not really the same as absolute 88

beauty, but is only a passing and imperfect imitation of it? Do you think the world, as a whole, will ever be interested in the kind of insight that could make everyone a philosopher?” {494} “Not a chance,” Adam said. “So when the philosopher tries to talk about absolute beauty, he’s really on a different wavelength -- and of course the leaders, who are especially good at knowing what will please the mob, will be the first to recognize that the philosopher is different. This could mean that they’ll pick on him; or, if he’s tall, good-looking, and smart, gifted physically and mentally in all the ways that we’ve described, they might realize that he could be useful. If he looks like the kind who could one day be a leader, then the kingmakers among us will be falling all over themselves to flatter him and get little favors from him, in hopes that they’ll get some benefits from his growing power. He, at the same time, will have a hard time staying humble. More likely, his ego will become huge. He’ll be in this glorious position -- and then, imagine, someone comes along and tells him that he is foolish and can become wise only by working hard at it. You think that a proud, powerful person will listen to someone who tells him this?” “No way.” {495} “Even if he did, imagine how his supporters would react. They benefit from a proud, powerful leader, who will reach out his hand and do the things they want. A humble leader is no use to them. The leader surrounded himself with such supporters because they said things he liked to hear; but now that will backfire, because they’ll plot and scheme to get rid of anyone who tries to turn him to a better direction. In short, as we were saying, the person who has all of the abilities that would be necessary to become a great philosopher, but who lacks a good education, will find that those very abilities have created circumstances that work against philosophy.” “Right.” “Small men don’t do great things. Great men do, but great men are rare; and as we see, they do great evil as well as great good. Thus philosophy, like a bride left standing at the altar, doesn’t wind up with the intended groom. He’s out partying. Instead, as time passes, impostors come along and have their way with her. These phony philosophers only bring shame on her name because, as we’ve noted, the best you can say about them is that they’re worthless.” “Well, yeah, that is the reputation philosophy has.” “Then look at what happens next. People aren’t stupid. You’ve got blacksmiths and farmers and all kinds of other people, scarred and maimed by their miserable work, and some of them are clever. Like prisoners who become priests, these craftsmen take a look and realize that philosophy might be something they could make an easier living at. They can probably find some way of making a go of it, as teachers or cult leaders or assistants, for example. And, let’s face it, even though the name of philosophy may be stained, it remains above the other arts: there’s still this sense that you’re dealing with the ultimate issues of life. It makes me think of the bald little factory worker who


inherits a fortune, takes a bath, puts on a suit, and proposes to the boss’s daughter. She’s way above him, but if the factory is hurting, they may need the money.” {496} “That’s exactly what it’s like.” “We can’t expect anything wonderful from that kind of union. These phony philosophers may say things that seem clever, but there’s nothing really wise in them.” “I agree.” “Then, Adam, true philosophers will be a rare breed. You might find one here and there, remaining noble because circumstances keep them insulated from politics and other bad influences: because they’re in exile, for instance, or because they’re disgusted enough to avoid politics or, like our friend Theages, are harnessed to the good because they’re too sick to do much evil. There may also be a very few who have genuinely outgrown some other position and have risen to the level of philosophy; and finally, although I probably shouldn’t even mention myself, there’s the special case -found in perhaps no one else -- of a supernatural sign inside me that keeps me following philosophy. These true philosophers know how sweet and blessed philosophy is. They also know that the public is a bit nuts, and that there’s no such thing as an honest politician or a public defender of justice. Why should there be? Anyone who really cares about justice can also see that they’d be torn apart by the public and the other politicians long before they accomplished anything. Under the circumstances, the best a man can hope to do is to survive the fierce wind by hiding behind a wall; to live a life of goodness and then depart gracefully and cheerfully.” {497} Adam said, “The man who can do that much will accomplish a great thing.” “Ah, but not the greatest thing. That would be possible only in a city that understood and accepted him. In such a city, he could save not only himself, but also the public. But now I think you see why philosophy is unjustly accused.” “I do. But I have another question. Of all the kinds of government you see in the world today, which kind is best, if you want philosophy to have its proper place in the life of the city?” “None of them. They’re all unworthy. They only distort philosophy. Seeds require the right soil to grow. Philosophy is perfection; she is divine truth; she is the only thing in the city that is not a mere human creation; but this will become plain to people only when their government is perfect and can let philosophy grow properly. Of course, you want to know which kind of government that is.” “No, actually, I was going to ask whether you’re describing the city that we’ve been constructing all along.” “Oh. Yes, almost. The thing is, if you recall, we said that there would always have to be someone in the city who would understand the city’s constitution just like we understood it when we were setting things up.” “I remember.” “Unfortunately, you raised some objections that leave us with a lot of work yet to do.” 90

“Like what?” “Like, how do we arrange the study of philosophy so that it doesn’t bring about the city’s downfall -- recognizing, of course, that there are always some risks.” “Right. Let’s clear that up.” “You can see that I want to finish this, but I don’t know that I can. The problem is, there’s a lot involved. Cities are going to have to approach philosophy very differently.” “How?” {498} “Nowadays, people start studying philosophy in their teens; it’s mostly a hobby that they pursue when they’re not working or taking care of things at home; and when they see that it can be tough, most of them tend to back away from it. Then, when they become middle-aged, they consider it something outside their orbit. At most, they’ll go listen to someone speak on some philosophical subject. Finally, in old age, they aren’t like the sun, which -- according to that goofball Heracleitus -- shuts down each night and turns back on each morning. There’s no relighting them.” “What else could people do?” “It’s all backwards. The time to be treated like a philosophical weakling is when you’re a kid: the focus at that age should be on your physical development, and the philosophy you study should be adapted to your small but growing abilities. The philosophical heavy lifting is more suited for the mature person, and such a person should indeed participate in phys. ed. for the soul. Then, when you’re too old to carry your share of your civic duties, you can roam freely intellectually too, living happily and setting a proper stage for life after death.” “Wow. You’re serious, aren’t you? But you have to realize that most people will oppose you. Certainly Thrasher would.” “Don’t make him and me enemies again,” I told him, “although, of course, we never were enemies anyway. If necessary, though, I will keep on trying to persuade him, even if the only thing I accomplish is to give him some insights that may help when he is born again and sees what I’m saying, and finds himself trying to defend these principles that he now opposes.” “Don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen,” Adam said. {499} “We have all of eternity ahead of us. Of course, I don’t expect him, or anyone from the multitude, to find these things obvious. After all, the only thing they know about philosophy is what they’ve seen, and it hasn’t been pretty. There’s been no such thing as a person, shaped in the very image of goodness, ruling a city that is the perfect picture of virtue. People have yet to see a place in which citizens are too busy seeking truth to be distracted by the kind of petty bickering that you see in courts and in cliques.” “You’re right there. What you’re describing is quite foreign to most people.” “That’s why we said that cities and citizens won’t attain perfection until the day when, perhaps by divine intervention, the true philosophers are driven to take charge of the city, possibly even against their wills, and the city is driven to listen to them; or until 91

kings or princes fall in love with philosophy. I admit, it’s difficult to imagine; but let’s not say it could never happen. It might have happened long ago, or it might be happening now in some faraway place; and if there is any such city, we will fight if necessary to defend the belief that the goddess Philosophy rules it.” “I agree with you.” “But you think the public won’t?” “Right.” {500} “Oh, let’s not be too hard on the public. They have their reasons for disliking over-education, and attacking them isn’t going to change their minds. But if you talk to them gently, soothe their concerns, and explain what a true philosopher is, they’ll come around to a different point of view. Maybe a few will be hardnosed about it, but most people can tell if you’re kindhearted, and they won’t be nasty to you. They just got off on the wrong foot because they’ve had to deal with all those hokey so-called philosophers. Everybody’s sick of their fault-finding and their ad hominem arguments, based on people’s personality flaws. In genuine philosophy, you deal with real-world problems and leave the personalities out of it.” “That’s right.” “The true philosopher doesn’t look down, from his vantage point, and concern himself with this earthly trivia. There’s no time to waste on anger and envy. Instead, he concentrates on reason, by which the universe functions, and sees that the unchanging principles of existence do not struggle against one another, but instead operate in an orderly way with one another. Those principles inspire awe in him; and he cannot help wanting to make himself more like them. To the extent he can do so, he becomes divine himself. Of course, he will fail sometimes too.” “Of course.” “But if he must, do think he can do a respectable job of changing the hearts of people, not just himself, to make them more like perfection?” “Sure.” “And if the public understands the big picture, and sees that it must be painted according to the divine design, and that the city won’t be happy until then, do you think they’ll go along with it?” “I believe they will. But how do the artists develop that design for the public to see?” {501} “They begin with a clean canvas. Ordinarily, legislators start piling laws up right away; but these designers will first eliminate everything. Then they’ll sketch out the city’s constitution. Do you agree?” “Definitely.” “Just like artists, they’ll go back and forth, looking first at the divine image of perfection and then at their canvas, combining true justice, true beauty, and true moderation into a human copy of God. They’ll tinker and modify, adjusting things until they’ve produced rules for mankind that are as close as possible to God’s image.” “No other method would produce a better idea of what needs to be done.” 92

“And once people hear that this is the approach we are taking, do you think they’ll calm down at the idea that we’ve placed the future of the city in the hands of this skilled artist? Will they believe that the philosopher loves truth, that he is an excellent human being, and that, under the proper conditions, he is perfectly wise?” “They certainly should.” {502} “Earlier, I said that cities will be unhappy until philosophers are kings, or kings are philosophers. Back then, that sounded very strange to the average person. Perhaps it won’t sound so strange now. Maybe, out of embarrassment at their own overreaction, people will be more willing to consider what we have suggested. Granted, it’s very unlikely that a king with a philosophical nature could survive in this world, and that laws like the ones we’ve discussed could be enacted, but it could happen someday; and if it does, suddenly the city that we’ve been talking about will be a reality for everyone to see, and not merely something we speculate about.” “It certainly could.” {503} “We’ve done much work already, but there’s more to do. I thought maybe I could get by without being burdened with the whole thing of women and children, but of course we’ve seen that I had to deal with all that anyway; and now I’ve got to go back to the start for another basic question: how do we train the rulers of the city? You’ll recall that we said they have to love their country, be tested like gold in the fire, and so forth; but then we got distracted, and now we have to complete that thought.” “I remember what we were saying,” Adam said. “I don’t know that we said it in so many words,” I replied, “but the gist of it is, the guardians of the city must be philosophers.” “It seems unavoidable.” “Problem is, there won’t be many of them, if we expect to see all of those wonderful characteristics in one person. Realistically, if you find a person who’s quickwitted and sharp -- which is rare enough, by itself -- and if that person is also full of fire and flamboyantly generous, he’s not likely to be the calm, reliable type. On the other hand, there are those who stand like a rock -- and, unfortunately, do so not only in the middle of battle, but also when it’s time to wake up and catch onto something new. In other words, wouldn’t you say that it’s going to be very hard to find a person who has all of these wonderful traits at the same time?” “Hard indeed.” “So when we test our guardians, we have to be on the lookout, not only for the things we talked about earlier, but also for their ability to study and learn many different kinds of things, including the most important of all.” {504} “Which is what?” “Remember when we were talking about the soul’s traits: justice, moderation, courage, and wisdom?” “Of course.”


“And do you remember how, before that, we said that those traits are best understood by a long and roundabout approach, but you said that it would be enough if we just took a shorter look at them?” Adam said, “Yes, but I actually thought that you gave us a pretty good analysis, even if you did think it was the short answer.” “Ah, but short truth is not truth, even though people may think they’ve heard enough.” “People can be lazy that way.” “Of course, we would not want our guardians to be lazy.” “True.” “So let us look at the hard work of learning that the guardian must do. There is a kind of learning even higher than justice and those other traits; and of all these things we need the most precise understanding. After all, we’re willing to go to great lengths to get even the most minor facts straight. It’s not too much to ask that we should go to some trouble when dealing with the most important truths of all.” “Agreed. Were you going to tell us what those most important truths might be?” {505} “Oh, I’ll tell you, but now I’m wondering if you’re just giving me a hard time, or if you really don’t understand what I’ve already told you so often. To say it one more time, the greatest knowledge we can have is the knowledge of goodness.” “Goodness. Right. How to be a good person.” “Not exactly. Goodness, as in, ‘the thing that is good.’ You know how we’ve been talking about absolute beauty and absolute justice and so forth? Now I’m talking about absolute good. And what I’m saying is that there is no greater knowledge than the knowledge of absolute good. Not just a bit of goodness here and there, but the very idea of good.” “OK.” “In other words, the purpose of life. What is really good and right and worth living for? Knowing other things makes no difference if you don’t have this. You can know everything, or own everything, and it’s all useless if you don’t know what is finally, absolutely good. But what is this ‘absolute good’? As you know, most people say it’s pleasure, but intellectuals say that knowledge is the ultimate good.” “Right.” “Of course, the intellectuals’ answer is silly. The goal is to know absolute good, and they define ‘absolute good’ as knowledge, so they’re saying that the greatest thing is to know knowledge. Now just what the heck does that mean?” “Yeah. It makes no sense.” “Then again, everybody else’s answer isn’t much better. They say that the greatest good is pleasure. But we know there are pleasant things that are also bad. If pleasure were absolute good, then pure, absolute good would include bad pleasures. So then bad is good? This can’t be right.” “Nope.” 94

“So we see that goodness is not an easy subject. And yet it’s the most important of all. We might put up with an imitation of justice or honor, as long as those who are putting on the show do a good job of faking it; but when you get right down to the purpose of life, people want to know the real thing.” “They do indeed.” “People believe that there’s an absolute good, a purpose to life, and they’re always looking for it. But they don’t see proof of it, and -- as we’ve just seen -- they don’t find it easy to know exactly what the ultimate good might be. Without that, they don’t even know how to make the most of life’s little everyday bits of goodness. Would we want this kind of confusion for the leaders of our city?” {506} “Definitely not.” “A leader can’t guard justice and beauty, either, if he doesn’t understand how they connect with absolute good.” “True, Socrates. But if absolute good isn’t knowledge or pleasure, then what is it? You’ve told us what the intellectuals and others think, but you’ve spent a lifetime studying philosophy. Surely you have your own opinion on the subject.” “An opinion, maybe, but do you think it’s right for me to say it if I’m not totally certain of it?” “Sure, as long as you don’t pretend you are certain.” “Ah, but don’t you agree that even the best opinion is blind? Why would you want an opinion from me, knowing that opinions are confused and misleading, when you could get a glorious earful from some other expert on the subject?” Grey said, “Whatever. I’m just asking you to stay with the discussion for us. If you can just explain goodness like you explained beauty and all those other things, that’ll be good enough.” “Believe me, if I could do that I’d be satisfied too. Unfortunately, I’m afraid I won’t be able to do it, and if I tried I’d just make a fool of myself. Reaching for the good is a bit beyond me right now. But I might be able, at least, to reach a child of that parent, something that comes from absolute good and is very much like it.” “OK. That’ll work.” {507} “The only thing is, I want you to be sure that I don’t get it wrong. I don’t want to mislead you.” “Fine. We’ll be on our toes. Please get on with it.” “All right. But before I do, I need to remind you again of something I’ve often said before.” “What’s that?” “Well, you know how we say that there are beautiful things and good things? And we say there are many beautiful things, and many good things?” “Of course.” “This many is different from one. Many beautiful things, but only one absolute beauty. We see the many beautiful things, but we don’t see absolute beauty. Or, coming at it from the other direction, our minds start out with the idea of beauty, and then we 95

look at individual things and say to ourselves, ‘Yeah, I can see how that thing has a bit of beauty in it.’ The eye sees the many things, but the mind depends upon the one idea.” “Right.” “Funny thing about the eye, though. Did you ever think about how complicated eyesight is, compared to the other senses?” “Not really.” {508} “Well, it’s not like the others. Unlike them, it requires assistance from an outside source. You can have eyes that are willing to see, and a thing right there in front of you, waiting to be seen, but if you don’t have light, the eyes won’t see the thing. Light is the bond between the eyes and the thing.” “So?” “What do you mean, so? Do you think light is trivial?” “Not at all.” “Well, then, if you’re standing there in the light of the sun, which is practically like a god to us, and you’re looking at a thing, then you’re experiencing something like what we experience when we talk about absolute good. I said I’d tell you about something that was as closely related to goodness as the child is to the parent, and I did: I told you about the sun.” “OK, but I don’t get it.” “It’s like this. When you look at something in the sunlight, you see it clearly. But when all you’ve got is moonlight, you feel like you’re half-blind: you look at something, and you think you can tell what it is, but then it turns out you were wrong. In the same way, when the soul comes into contact with something that’s all lit up by truth, the soul glows with understanding, just as the eye is brightened by the sun’s light. At those times, the soul comprehends an eternal, unchanging reality. But when the soul must deal with the poorly lit world of things that come into existence, change, and cease to exist, no eternal truth is involved. All you’ve got, in that moonlit situation, is a bunch of opinions that change along with the things themselves; and when the soul is full of shifting opinions like this, then it really doesn’t seem to know anything for sure.” “Ah. Right.” “The eye has eyesight, and the soul has knowledge. Eyesight requires light to see objects, and knowledge requires truth, like sunlight, to show us reality. But that makes me ask: where does this sunlight for the soul come from? How does truth illuminate the thing that the soul’s eye is trying to understand? Just as eyesight and light come from the sun, but aren’t equal to it, so also knowledge and truth -- which are pretty wonderful in themselves -- must come from something even greater and far more beautiful. I can hardly think of a better term for this wonderful thing than ‘absolute good.’” {509} “Wow,” Grey said. “As you say, knowledge and truth are really beautiful. It’s hard to imagine something, like a sun in the world of the soul, that’s so much more


beautiful. But if it has beauty, doesn’t that mean it causes pleasure? So are you saying that absolute good really is pleasure, after all?” “Not a chance. Let me put it this way. I’ve been talking about how the sun makes things visible. But the sun also makes things grow, right? The sun itself is not growth. But it has that effect on plants.” “Right.” “I’ve been describing absolute good as a source of light to the soul. But let’s talk about it, instead, as the source of everything that the soul might see. Your eyes look at a plant, and why does that plant exist? Because of the sun, which is greater than the plant. In the same way, your soul looks at something, and how did that thing get there? Through absolute good, which is greater than this thing that your soul sees.” “What an incredible notion!” “Well, you made me speculate about it,” I replied. “Don’t stop now. We want to hear more about this comparison to the sun.” “There’s a lot more to tell.” “That’s fine. Tell it all.” “I’m afraid I’ll have to cut out some of it,” I said. “Don’t unless you have to.” “I’ll do my best. We agree that there’s a big difference between things that the soul knows and things that the eye sees, don’t we?” “We do.” “All right. Then let’s suppose you draw a long line and cut it into two parts. On the first part, let’s write the words, ‘What the Eye Sees,’ and on the second part, let’s write, ‘What the Soul Knows.’ Then, under each of those two main headings, let’s have two subheadings. The first subheading under each main heading will be the words ‘Not Clearly,’ and the second subheading will be, ‘Clearly.’ So now we’ve got spaces for what the eye sees clearly or not, and what the soul knows clearly or not.” {510} “OK.” “Then let’s talk about the eye first. The eye picks up a bright patch, for example, or a poor reflection in a shiny thing. The eye does see something, but perhaps it can’t make out what it is. There’s not a lot of clarity in that. These rough images belong in the first category. In the second category, by contrast, we put things that the eye can identify: animals, plants, and other objects. And that takes care of the two subheadings under ‘What the Eye Sees.’” “Fine.” “Then how about the soul? The difference in the eye, between rough image and clear object, is a lot like the difference in the soul, between mere opinion and genuine knowledge. In fact, there’s a link between those corresponding parts. If the soul has nothing but images to rely on, then it will have only opinions. But if the soul uses absolute ideas, it will have true knowledge.” “You’re getting a bit too abstract for me.”


“Well, then, let’s try this. When you study math, you start out with the assumption that everybody knows the difference between odd and even numbers. You don’t try to learn why there are odd numbers; you just accept it and go on from there. Right?” “Right.” “Or in geometry, when somebody draws a four-sided shape on a piece of paper and calls it a square, you don’t actually measure its sides to make sure he drew them all exactly the same length. You can take his word for it that he meant to draw a perfect square, and you’re able to understand what that means because you can imagine a perfect square, even if the image on the paper isn’t perfect.” “Understood.” “In other words, the process works like this, on the level of images and opinions. The eyes provide the images, and the soul makes an assumption about them. Once that’s done, the soul can start working towards a conclusion. For instance, we see the pattern of 1, 2, 3, 4 ... and we assume that it must go on forever; or we see the imperfect squares that people draw and assume that there’s such a thing as a perfect square. With assumptions like these, we can talk abstractly about odd numbers and squares -- for example, we can say that odd numbers aren’t evenly divisible by 2, or that each corner of a square is a ninety-degree angle -- without having to say exactly which number or square we’re talking about.” “Right. That’s how it works in geometry and math.” {511} “Thing is, the soul doesn’t get to any higher level this way. You never find the very first principle of reality, because right away you make an assumption, and then you’re off and running. You can’t find reality by piling up a bunch of opinions. To get back to the fundamental starting point, you’ve got to use logic, not assumptions. Oh, sure, when you begin to apply logic, you may use somebody’s theory as a convenient way to start your thought process; but then, in the world of logic, the soul will fly high above all that. Finally, once you’ve found the true starting point up there, logic will lead you back down, by a series of steps, from one idea to another.” Grey said, “I think I know what you mean, although I must say that the idea of discovering a fundamental principle and working my way back from there sounds like a huge job. Basically, you’re saying that the things discovered by logic -- including logical dialogue, like we’re having here -- are clearer than those that come from math, science, etc. Logic deals with reality, while math deals with assumptions. Logic can work with assumptions, if need be, but not vice-versa: assumptions can’t find a fundamental principle. On the other hand, math involves more than mere opinions from the things that a person sees and feels, so it doesn’t fit under either of the subheadings that we created for the visible world. I guess we could say that ‘understanding,’ like you get from math, is between mere opinion and true knowledge.” “Exactly. We’ve said there are two main headings: What the Eye Sees, and What the Soul Knows. Then, under each of those headings, we had two subheadings: ‘Not 98

Clearly’ and ‘Clearly.’ Now we’ve got something to assign to each of those subheadings, and a corresponding ability in the soul. First, at the bottom end, when the eye sees a rough, unclear image, the soul has nothing more than an awareness. Second, when the eye sees clearly, the soul has faith that it knows what the eye is seeing; for example, the soul trusts that the cow in the distance is not actually a horse. That takes care of the eye, and our corresponding opinions about it. Then, third, when we look at the soul itself, we have those unclear things that we struggle with in math and geometry, where, as you say, the soul’s ability rises to the level of understanding. And fourth, at the highest and clearest level, is the ability to reason.” “I understand what you’re saying, then,” Grey said, “and I agree with it.” Traditional Book Seven (Stephanus page number 514) “Now,” I said, “let me show you something about our sophistication. Imagine a cave, if you will. You go inside, and you see a fire. You go further, and there’s a walkway running across the cave, a few feet off the floor, and people are walking back and forth on it. Some are carrying things, others not; some are silent, and others speak. Because of the fire, these people cast all sorts of shadows on the back wall of the cave, which lies a little way beyond the walkway. Near the back wall, prisoners have been chained to the floor, in the dark, with their heads facing the back wall. They can’t turn to see anything else, and they’ve been in that position since childhood.” {515} “A strange picture,” Grey said, “and strange prisoners.” “Like us,” I replied. “Since the prisoners see only the back wall, they can’t see the people on the walkway, or themselves, or their fellow prisoners. But because of the fire at the entrance, they can see the weird shadows cast by the people on the walkway, and by the things they carry. Those shadows form a moving tangle of bodies and objects. Now, if the prisoners can talk to one another, don’t you suppose they’ll invent names for the different kinds of bizarre shadows they see, and will believe that the things they are naming are real?” “With nothing else to do, I’m sure they will.” “Also, let’s suppose there’s an echo. A person on the walkway may speak, but by the time the sound echoes back to the prisoners, someone else may be on the walkway. In short, the prisoners must have a very confused idea of what they are seeing and hearing, with their only knowledge based on shadows and echoes.” “They certainly must.” “Then what happens if, after years of this, a prisoner is set free? They turn him around towards the fire, but its light hurts his eyes. He can’t see at all; and then, when he does see, he doesn’t recognize anything, and he has no words for many of the things he sees. To explain himself, he keeps wanting to turn back to the wall, to point to the shadows there. Do you agree that those shadows, and the dimness, will be far more comfortable and meaningful to him than that strange world out there in the light?” 99

“Definitely.” {516} “Finally, suppose they drag him out into the sunlight. This really will blind him, and there won’t be any of his familiar shadows anywhere. After a while, at least he’ll be able to see the different shadows out there, and then his eyes will start to accept images, like the ones we talked about before: shapes and patches of color. It might take hours, or perhaps even days, but eventually he’ll see objects themselves, rather than merely their images or shadows, and he’ll see the stars in the sky -- although, of course, even now he’ll be more comfortable with evening than with bright daylight.” “Yes.” “But in the end, he will see the sun as plainly as anyone else, and will readily say that this is where we get our timekeeping, seasons, light, and warmth, and that, in a way, the sun is the cause of everything else we see.” “Of course. When he sees the sun, he’ll begin to think about it.” “And what about his old place, chained back there in the cave? Can there be any doubt that he will be glad he’s not there anymore, and will pity those who are? Suppose he and his fellow prisoners had been in the habit of awarding titles to the prisoner who was best at naming the different shadows, or at remembering which ones had gone before, or at guessing which ones might come next -- do you think he’d be interested anymore in receiving such honors? Wouldn’t he agree with Homer’s comment that it would be ‘better to be dirt-poor, slave to a poor master,’ or to put up with anything else in the world, rather than having to go back to his old spot in the back of that cave?” “Absolutely.” {517} “Then what would happen if, after all, he did have to go back there? His eyes might take quite a while to adjust fully to the darkness, and until then, wouldn’t he find it much harder to see the shadows as clearly as he had before? If he and the other prisoners had a contest to see who could pick out the shadows most precisely, wouldn’t he be the loser? He might try to tell the others that he had been outside and had seen the world for what it really was, but nothing he said would make sense to them. They’d have the same reaction that he’d had, when he was first freed, and couldn’t describe or understand what he was seeing. They’d say he was ruined, that what had happened to him was a shame, and that if they had the power, they’d kill anyone who tried to take any other prisoner away from his place there at the back of the cave.” “No doubt about it,” Grey said. “As you may have guessed, this little story is an allegory, comparing our lives to the cave. We’re trapped in this world of eyesight, with the sun as our only source of illumination, like the fire in the cave. It does throw some light, but we have to do a lot of guessing about what it shows us. The soul cannot see things for what they really are until it gets out of the dark cave and comes into the world of the intellect, lit up by logic. Of course, this is just my humble opinion, which you insisted on hearing. God only knows if I’ve got it right. You wanted to hear about absolute good, and as far as I can tell it’s like the sun beating down on that freed prisoner: it’s the last thing he’s able to


see, but it’s also the source or protector of everything else around him. Absolute good is the source of reason and truth, and is essential for intelligent action in life.” “I think I got most of that, and what I understand, I agree with.” “Well, at the very least, we shouldn’t be surprised that those who have stood in that sort of light are reluctant to come back into the darkness of everyday human life. For example, someone whose mind has been exposed to the concept of absolute justice, and who is then yanked back and forced to defend himself in the dark of our courthouses or elsewhere, must seem ridiculous to those who are used to such places and who are experienced in the art of describing the shadows they see there.” “True.” {518} “There are two reasons for not being able to see. You might be coming out of darkness into light, or going from light back into darkness. Before you laugh at someone who’s half-blind, you should find out whether they’re a pitiable wretch who’s only now coming into the light, or whether, instead, they’re trying to cope with a miserable situation that seems perfectly normal to you.” “That’s right.” “Another thing about this allegory. We’re comparing eyesight to the ability to learn. But you can’t put sight into blind eyes, and if the comparison holds up, then a cocky professor shouldn’t claim that he can put knowledge into a soul, as some do claim. The more accurate statement is this: the ability to see, or to learn, must already be there, and all we can do is make the most of it. You have to turn the whole head before the eye can see something different, and you have to turn the whole soul before it can shift its attention away from the everyday world -- where things are always coming into existence, changing, and ceasing to exist -- and refocus instead on the world of absolute, eternal ideas. Only then will the soul begin to adjust to the bright sunshine of absolute good.” “Yes.” “Maybe other traits of the soul can be instilled from outside, through the proper training. But the ability to be wise is a divine thing that we can’t create. All we can do is turn it toward good or evil. And make no mistake: it exists in evil people as well as in the good. Haven’t you noticed how much cleverness there is in the eyes of a shrewd swindler? Within his narrow little world, he knows exactly where he’s going.” {519} “He does indeed.” “Children are tied, from birth, to physical pleasures. They learn to be preoccupied with eating, drinking, and other such things, and that’s where their attention goes when they grow up. If they weren’t carrying that weight around with them, they would be free to see the truth as clearly as they now see the pleasures they’re chasing.” “Right.” “Education in the truth is an important part of the training of a leader. Those who lack it won’t know how to follow one guiding principle in everything they do. On the other hand, a professional student isn’t going to make a good leader either, because 101

he’s obviously not very interested in getting out of his ivory tower and making things happen. In the perfect city that you and I were constructing, we want our best and brightest to rise into the world of logic and discover absolute good; but then we want them to come back down -- into the cave, as it were -- and take part, once again, in the work of everyday life. They should participate in the things that other people consider important, even if those things no longer matter to them personally.” “But wait -- you’re making them return to misery when they could be free from it.” “Ah, but at the beginning, you and I agreed that the person who constructs the laws of the perfect city should not try to make one class of citizens happier than another. This legislator has to hold the city together by force and persuasion, so that the whole place is happy. For that purpose, he doesn’t allow the citizens to do whatever makes them happy individually; he uses them to make the whole thing work right.” {520} “Oh. Yeah.” “And in the end, I don’t think our philosophers will really mind if we require them to provide practical service to the city. Philosophers in other cities don’t have to do that sort of thing -- more accurately, their governments don’t want them to have the power to implement all sorts of new ideas. It shouldn’t be surprising that philosophers in other cities, being treated like outcasts, don’t feel much gratitude toward the city as a whole. But our philosophers will fit right in, and they’ll know how to be of service, because we’ll train them to be kings who are comfortable with taking charge of practical matters. Our philosophers will indeed go back into the darkness of the cave, but they’ll take along their experience with absolute beauty, justice, and good. Their knowledge will be ten thousand times greater than that of their fellow prisoners; and since they’ll know what the shadows on the wall really are, they’ll be able to keep our citizens from the confusion and bickering that those shadows can cause. Besides, as we’ve already noted, it’s not surprising if those who are best suited to govern are sometimes a little reluctant to come out into public view. That kind of shyness can be a sign that things are healthy and that the city can be managed quietly. You don’t see much of it in a bad city, where any number of scoundrels are clamoring to be elected.” “Indeed.” “Do you think there’s any doubt that our philosophers will refuse to share in the work of running the city, if they’re still free to spend most of their time with each other in the divine light of pure reason?” “No way. They’re honorable men. Unlike our present rulers, they’ll heed the call for the sake of the public interest.” {521} “That’s exactly the point. If you come to public office out of a sense of duty, rather than seeking the job because you love it, then you won’t be trying to build it up into something that gives you wealth and power. The difference is between those who think that the best things in life are goodness and wisdom, as compared to those who


will cause fights and turmoil, wrecking their own lives and the whole city in the effort to get what they want.” “I see that clearly,” Grey said. “It’s like this: can you think of anyone, other than a true philosopher, who would consider the struggle for personal gain to be a waste of time?” “No, I can’t.” “If the philosopher loved the job of running the city, then he’d come up against other people who loved it too, and they’d fight. There’s no benefit to the city in that.” “I agree.” “Then I believe we need to think, again, about the process by which we train people to rule the city, so that they will be good managers, wise about civic affairs, and will want more from life than mere politics. We dare not look on the educational process as a simple one, flipping their souls from darkness to light as easily as you might flip a coin or toss an oyster shell to decide who’s ‘it’ for a game of tag.” “Definitely not.” “This change in focus from the world of ‘becoming’ -- where things keep coming into existence, changing, and going out of existence -- to the world of ‘being’ -- where you concentrate on absolute, eternal ideas -- is not an easy one. But it’s what true philosophy is all about. We just need to figure out what kind of knowledge will make that change in them.” “Exactly.” “Come to think of it, didn’t we say that we wanted our young men to be both warriors and athletes?” “We did.” “So if we want them to be interested in the kind of knowledge that we’re looking for now, we’d better make sure it’s something that a warrior would consider useful. Let’s think about the two categories of education we discussed earlier. First, there’s physical education. It deals with the body’s natural process of growth and decay. This doesn’t sound like the place to begin, if we’re seeking a kind of knowledge that goes beyond the world of change -- of ‘becoming.’” “Nope.” {522} “Well, that leaves music. What do you think?” Grey said, “If you remember, we said that music trains the warrior by inspiring a sense of harmony and rhythm. But we didn’t treat the music, including the words, as though a person would get a lot of knowledge from it.” “True. But then what else is there? We agreed that a craftsman’s skills weren’t appropriate for the education of the young warrior. If we limit our search to the various specialties, I’m afraid we’re out of options. So perhaps what we need is something general, something that applies everywhere, that people have to use in all kinds of education.” “Namely?”


“Namely, math. It may seem like a little thing, but do you agree that every other skill relies on it, including the art of war?” “Of course. Military tactics -- indeed, even the basic ability to be a man -depends upon the ability to count.” “So then what do you make of General Agamemnon, who led us in the Trojan war? The poet Homer implies that he didn’t know how to count the ships and soldiers serving in his army, and that ultimately it was Palamedes who did the counting. It really sounds like Agamemnon couldn’t even count his own two feet. Now, tell me, what kind of general is that?” “I don’t know the part of the story you’re talking about, but if it’s as you say, then he couldn’t have been a good general.” {523} “Do you think it’s fair to say that math has the ability, which we’re seeking, to lead the soul to contemplate higher matters, but that maybe it has just never been used properly? I’d like to figure out if it does indeed have that ability. If you’ll humor me, and say yes or no as I list the various kinds of knowledge, maybe we’ll be able to see if math is one of those that can pull the soul toward the world of reason -- of ‘being.’” “I’m not sure what you want here.” “Oh. Well, what I’m asking is this: when we’re looking at an object, or hearing or tasting it or applying one of our other senses to it, is it the kind of object that our senses can adequately judge, or does it require some additional examination beyond what the senses can provide?” “Are you talking about objects that are too far away to see or hear properly?” “No. Here: look at these three fingers I’m holding up in front of you. You’ve got my little finger, my ring finger, and my middle finger. Each one is clearly a finger. It wouldn’t matter which of the three you were looking at, or if it was soft or hard, or thick or thin. A finger is a finger. Therefore, I don’t see much reason to sit and ponder the question, ‘What is a finger,’ do you?” “No.” “But what about the qualities I just used to describe them: do we have an absolutely clear idea of what ‘thickness’ or ‘softness’ is, when applied to a finger? Won’t the sense of sight say that the finger is thickter than some things and thinner than others? Likewise, if you touch my finger, won’t your sense of touch conclude that it’s harder than some things and softer than others?” “Yes.” {524} “So the soul gets one of two things. It might get a distinct impression, like you got when you saw one finger as different from another; or it might get a mixed-up impression, like when your senses told you that the finger was simultaneously white and not white, or thick and not thick. In the latter case, the soul applies calculation and thought to find the difference between thickness and thinness, so as to resolve the confusion that the senses produced.” “Right.”


“And that’s why we set up separate headings, earlier, for ‘What the Eye Sees’ and ‘What the Soul Knows.’ Math, as we said, belongs in the latter category, and this example of the finger shows why. Math includes counting, and counting requires a person to know the difference between ‘one’ and ‘many.’ We’ve got one finger, but the senses say that it’s two opposite things at the same time: thick and not thick. That’s not good arithmetic. To find an answer, the soul has to step in. The soul, unlike the senses of sight or touch, knows that a thing cannot be two opposite things simultaneously. The soul has this concept of oneness, or unity -- of knowing that one thing cannot be two separate things -- because it can enter the world of ideas and draw upon the idea of absolute unity. Unlike the eye, the soul makes a bunch of comparisons and reaches a qualified answer. It’s as though the soul said, ‘Under present circumstances, it makes sense to compare this finger against X, Y, and Z; this finger is thicker than X, Y, and Z; and therefore, for present purposes, I must consider this finger thick.’” “I understand.” “As this example illustrates, the use of math naturally draws the soul toward the contemplation of absolute ideas like unity. Of course, oneness is not the only mathematical concept that comes from the realm of absolute ideas. There are similar concepts for any number you could name. For example, the senses are never going to give you a grasp of infinity, but with the proper training, the soul can treat infinity as a number, and can work with it quite easily in mathematical formulas, because there exists an absolute idea of it that the soul can use. And the same is true for any number between one and infinity. Do you understand, then, how the study and use of math thus tends to draw the mind toward contemplation of absolute ideas?” {525} “I certainly do. It’s quite interesting.” “We already saw that the warrior must know how to count his ships and troops, and now we see that, for the would-be philosopher, math provides a direct and important path from the ever-changing world of ‘becoming’ to the absolute world of ‘being.’ Thus, the laws of our city should require our guardians to study numbers, not as an amateur or a shopkeeper would, but as a person who seeks to become comfortable with their very nature.” “That’s a very good suggestion.” {526} “I might point out, by the way, that math provides excellent mental training, if you approach it in this philosophical way rather than as a business student. It requires you to deal with general principles and abstractions, which apply to all numbers of the same type. For instance, you can’t just say, ‘If you add three to a number, you get seven,’ because that works only for one number. When you study math from a philosophical perspective, you learn not to get tied down to specific examples. Suppose, for instance, that you tried to tell a mathematician that there’s no such thing as the concept of absolute unity because, after all, you can divide one pie into six pieces. I suspect he’d just laugh and say, ‘Yeah, now you have six pieces, and each of them is absolutely one piece.’ I doubt that your little demonstration would make him fear that there’s any such thing as oneness; but even if it did, that would be OK too. You and he 105

could sit down and begin to explore the concept of absolute unity, and that’s exactly the kind of mental exercise I’m describing here.” “True.” “The remarkable thing about math, and the thing that makes it so important in a philosopher’s education, is that it can roam entirely free from the world of the senses. It lets you use pure intelligence in search of pure truth. It also has a side benefit: it makes people sharp in other, non-mathematical things, as you’ve probably observed in those who are naturally good at math, and even in those slower students who seem to learn more quickly once they’ve been exposed to it. Not to mention that math is one of the most difficult subjects, which means that its students have to stretch their mental muscles to understand it. In short, for a number of reasons, our best young people should definitely be required to study math.” “Agreed.” “How about geometry?” I asked. “You mean, because a warrior has to know geometry to pitch a tent properly, or figure out how to set up the lines of battle, or do other maneuvers?” “Oh, sure, but that stuff wouldn’t require much geometry. I was more curious about the possibility that geometry, like math, might help train the soul to focus its attention on the perfect world of ideas, or whether, instead, geometry deals merely with the everyday world. Is it the study of being, or merely of becoming?” “I see. Yes, that is the question.” {527} “I must say that geometricians certainly treat their subject as though it dealt only with the here and now. They use geometry only to figure out the solutions to practical problems. This seems very small-minded and ridiculous. But surely geometry extends beyond everyday life, and its most important value is, like math, to increase our knowledge of eternal, absolute ideas. Can there be any doubt that geometry has this ability?” “None.” “Besides, as you point out, geometry has military advantages; and, like math, the study of it makes people sharper in ways that they’d never be without it. I don’t think there is any question but that the young people of our city should study it.” “I agree.” “Then, for a third area of study, how about astronomy?” Grey said, “I sure think so. The general, like the farmer, should know about seasons, and about different months and years.” “You’re funny,” I said. “You’ve got an excuse for each subject, to make sure that no one will consider it impractical. I admit, that seems like the safest approach, politically speaking, because it’s not going to be easy to persuade people that the reason for our studies is to re-light an eye that exists in the soul. Nor will everyone believe that the eye of the soul must be clear before a person can see truth, and that, for this reason, it’s more valuable than ten thousand physical eyes. If you go out and talk to people about this, some will treat you like a genius, but others will think you’re nuts. So is that 106

why you’re discussing this with me -- you want to know how to explain these things to others? Or are you mainly just trying to learn more for your own self-improvement, to improve your idea of the perfect city?” {528} “The latter.” “Then we need to back up a step, and I’m sorry that, by trying to take a short cut, I’ve actually made the discussion longer. Before talking about astronomy, let’s look at geometry a bit more closely. There are three dimensions, which we might symbolize by one-dimensional lines, two-dimensional flat planes, and three-dimensional cubes. Geometry can deal with all three of them. But the examples we mentioned, in our brief discussion, seem to have concentrated on one- and two-dimensional problems. I want to point out that three-dimensional geometry, dealing with solid objects, is important too.” “Well, maybe, but not much is known about solid geometry yet.” “Yes, and there’s a reason for that. Governments today don’t support that sort of study; which means that it’s hard to find anyone who knows enough about it to teach it well. Even if you could find the right instructor, he wouldn’t get much respect from the students, who now consider it an unimportant subject, not worthy of their attention. It would all be very different if the government supported this study and made clear that it was important. Even when it’s neglected, as it is these days, solid geometry has a way of coming up with some impressive discoveries; it would be much more impressive if it got some support. So I’m suggesting that, on the list of subjects studied in the perfect city, there should be math, plane geometry, and solid geometry. Then, how about astronomy?” {529} Grey said, “Well, you didn’t like the way that I looked for a practical excuse to study it, so I’ll follow your example and praise astronomy for its ability to turn the soul upwards, from the practical world to the world of absolute ideas.” “Maybe that’s what some people would say about it, but I wouldn’t.” “Well, geez. Why not?” “I think astronomy makes us look down, not up.” “How come?” “You have this marvelous idea that throwing one’s head back and staring up at the sky -- or, for that matter, at the ceiling -- is an action that puts the mind to work. I’m sure you’re right, and that I’m just an old fool; but to me it seems like the soul is looking for knowledge of the invisible world of absolutes, of being, and that you don’t learn any more about that by looking into the sky than you would if you were staring at the ground. Whether you learn by lying on the ground or floating on the water, what matters is where your soul is looking.” “You’re right. I was on the wrong track. But isn’t there a way of learning astronomy that will help the soul in its search, as math and geometry do?” “The starry sky is marvelous, and it speaks to us of vast quantities of time. But even the sky’s hints of speed and slowness are nothing compared to the ideas of absolute speed and slowness that the mind can grasp. One who loves beauty must 107

consider the sky a great work of art, but it is only a pattern that inspires us to contemplate absolute beauty. A mathematician or geometrician may admire the workings of the stars, but must seriously doubt that those workings can prove even a single principle of math or geometry. And a true astronomer may think the heavens were created perfectly, but he can’t imagine that there’s anything eternal and unchanging up there. Any way you slice it, astronomy looks into things that have to do with the physical world of change, and for that reason it seems foolish to spend so much effort keeping track of various details about the stars.” “I never thought of it quite that way before.” {530} “The best way to proceed in astronomy, using reason to focus the soul upon the world of absolute ideas, is to do the same thing as we did in geometry. We must apply the mind to the abstract principles that affect the stars. I’m thinking of motion in particular.” “That’s a far cry from what our astronomers now do, or are even capable of doing.” “Well, astronomy isn’t the only area in which we’ll have to make this sort of change in the curriculum, if we want our studies to point in the right direction. But can you think of any other approach that would be better for our perfect city?” “Not without thinking about it further.” “Brighter minds may detect many interesting examples of motion, but I’d better limit myself to these two: the interactions among the stars, as seen by the eyes, and the harmonious interweaving of sounds in music, as heard by the ears. Indeed, the students of Pythagoras, the great mathematician and geometrician, say that astronomy and harmony are sister sciences. At some point, we might ask the Pythagoreans to tell us more about the relationship between the two. But before doing that, we should make sure we don’t lose track of the larger goal.” “And what’s that?” {531} “Knowledge should be directed towards perfection. And yet, in harmony as in astronomy, there’s much attention to useless detail.” “You’re not kidding! Experts in harmony are forever listening carefully to the strings of their musical instruments, trying to find a new note lying between two notes that have already been discovered; and if they say they’ve found a new note, others argue that no, it’s not a new note, it’s merely one of the two that were previously known. Watching these characters in action is like watching a comedy.” “Ha!” I said. “They twist their strings tighter, as though they were on a torture rack. I could stretch the metaphor and say that they also beat on the strings and accuse them of saying things they didn’t say. But I won’t bore you with all that. Instead, to get to the point, I’ll simply say that no, what you’re describing is not what I was talking about. To me, the problem does not lie with the musicians who are trying to coax new notes out of their instruments. Rather, the problem is with the so-called science of the Pythagoreans, who, like the astronomers, never get past the details. They can talk about


individual harmonies, but they don’t operate on the level of principles. If they did, they might think about the why rather than merely the what.” “But what you’re describing seems like an almost supernatural kind of knowledge,” Grey said. “Well, it could be very useful, if you’re looking for absolute good and beauty, but I suppose it would be useless otherwise. And even in the search for higher truth, all this effort is useful only when you reach the point where you can connect all of the different principles -- from math, geometry, harmony, and so forth -- to one another.” “That sounds like a really tremendous task.” {532} “And yet this is only the prelude. We’ve got to do all this before the real song even begins. If you’ll recall, we said that math falls under the heading, ‘What the Soul Knows,’ but that it doesn’t belong in the highest category because it begins with assumptions and works to conclusions, rather than shedding itself of baggage and working back towards a first principle. A person might be good at math and yet might not do very well at the kind of higher reasoning we’ve been describing. Sight begins with rough images, and in the same way reasoning begins the mental process by using math and other areas of study that encourage abstract thought, linked to no physical experience. But sight must go well beyond that, and so must reasoning. Sight progresses until it produces clear vision, and likewise the song of logic leads the soul, in the end, to the point of being able to recognize absolute good as the first principle of everything else.” “Exactly.” “Eyesight is the light of the body, and knowledge is the light of the soul. Just as the prisoner’s eyes can see only rough images when he first comes out of the cave, and can see the sun itself only later, so also the soul has to begin with the study of the arts, before it can make its way to the contemplation of absolute good.” He replied, “What you’re saying is hard to believe, but it’s even harder not to believe. And yet I know we’ll have to come back to it repeatedly before it’s all clear and certain to me. Instead of beating it to death right now, though, I’d prefer to assume you’re right in all this, and move ahead to the rest of the story. In particular, I’m pretty foggy on what kind of ‘logic’ you’ve been talking about. Show me the path to that, because it leads on to the ultimate end as well.” {533} “As far as the ultimate end is concerned, there’s no way I could lead you there now. I like to think that I could give you at least a glimpse of absolute truth, but, as you recognize, only the skilled application of logic can reveal it clearly. And, unfortunately, as I’ve been saying, that logic comes easily only to those who study, from a philosopher’s perspective, the various sciences we’ve been talking about.” “I understood your views on that.” “Let me be very clear about it: most arts and sciences deal with mundane things, including people’s opinions and the making or preserving of various objects. Math and geometry, as we said, are on a different level, serving as assistants, lifting the soul’s eye out of the muck. They stimulate the soul to turn its attention toward ‘being’ -- that is, 109

the world of ideas. But since they depend on assumptions, they give the soul only a dreamlike awareness of that world’s realities. You can’t really know what you’re talking about until you use logic to get behind all the assumptions of math and geometry, and discover the solid, eternal first principle, upon which you can then base a true science. As you pointed out before, math and geometry do give us something that we called ‘understanding,’ carrying the soul above the level of mere opinion but not to the heights of true science. But why quibble about words when we’ve got so many more important things to think about?” “No reason I can think of.” {534} “Then let’s review: the eye sees images and objects, but on both counts it’s limited to opinion, and gets no further than the ever-changing world of ‘becoming.’ When it sees only a rough image, then there’s only an awareness; and when it sees an object clearly, there’s the faith that it knows what it’s seeing. By contrast, to approach the eternal, unchanging world of ‘being,’ the soul has a lower level -- thanks to math and geometry -- and we call this level ‘understanding’; but it also has a higher level, which we’ve just called ‘true science.’” “I guess that’s about as clear as it can be right now.” “And to further review: ‘being’ is related to ‘becoming’ in the same way as the soul’s reasonings -- whether by math or by logic -- are related to the eye’s opinions. And the subheadings are related too: the eye’s ‘rough image’ and the soul’s ‘understanding’ are lower, respectively, than the eye’s ‘clear object’ and the soul’s ‘true science.’ We could go into more detail on each of these headings, and on their relationships to one another, but that could take a very long time, and, as you say, we should move on.” “Right.” “OK. Let’s start off on familiar ground. We’ve already talked about how the beauty in a specific object, seen by the eye, is only a faint reflection of absolute beauty. Most of human science is based on mere opinions about objects, and does not reach the level of absolute ideas like beauty; by contrast, true science deals in the absolute ideas. The soul can discover true science by using logic to find the first principle upon which such a science is based. And now you’ve asked what I mean by ‘logic.’” “Correct.” “Well, tell me if you agree with this. In the structure of things as we’ve described it, wouldn’t it be safe to say that the logician who succeeds in his search is going to understand, not merely the appearance of a thing, but its very essence?” “It seems like that’s what we’ve been saying.” “The logician’s search depends entirely on his ability to practice the kind of pure reasoning that we’ve been talking about. If a person tries to find the essence of a thing, and succeeds, that proves he has that pure reasoning ability. The only reason why he could fail, if he gives it a good try, would be that he lacks that ability.” “Right.” “So if a person is trying to find the essence of absolute good, we’ll know he has succeeded if he can summarize and define it to others, and answer all their objections 110

by relying on absolute truth to prove what he says. But if he fails, we’d have to conclude that he doesn’t really understand the essence of goodness, but is only offering his opinion on shadowy things. He’s dreaming his way through life, and he may not really awaken until the afterlife, where he’ll finally be silenced.” “I agree one hundred percent.” “Of course, you wouldn’t want the rulers of your perfect city to take charge of public affairs unless they were capable of reasoning clearly and explaining themselves to others, so I assume you’d require them to obtain an education that gives them great skill in asking and answering questions.” “Yes. That’s what you and I should require.” “And we can safely agree that there is no form of knowledge higher than logic, which is the essential capstone to any other science.” {535} “Yes.” “So training in logic is important in our rulers. And as we noted before, we would want to concentrate this training upon those who are most steady, hardworking, brave, and noble and, if possible, those who are the best-looking -- and of course they should be intelligent, able to learn quickly, and have a good memory. People are more apt to be dazed by hard study, which the mind must bear by itself, than by physical education, which the mind can share with the body -- and anyway, there will be plenty of physical exertion in our educational program, so the students will need both mental and physical stamina.” “Absolutely.” “That’s where people who study philosophy go wrong nowadays. Our true philosophers won’t be eggheads with no athletic ability, who live as though they were physically handicapped, as today’s bastard sons of philosophy do. They also won’t tolerate the sort of lameness of soul that draws a distinction between the intentional lie and the unintentional one. Rather, they’ll see that the result is the same, whether a person utters a falsehood deliberately or ignorantly, and they’ll know that both are shameful. Our true philosophers will insist on getting it right, when it comes to the practice of moderation, courage, and every other virtue, so that neither the person nor the city will go wrong and be, as it were, a bastard or cripple.” {536} “Indeed.” “It’s important that we choose the right trainees. We’ve got this big educational system in our perfect city, and what will make or break it is the quality of the students. If it all works well, the city will hail us as saviors; but if it goes wrong, we’ll make philosophy look more ridiculous than ever.” “We don’t want that.” “Certainly not. But now that I hear myself talking, I think maybe I’ve overstated the point.” “Really? How?” “Oh, as I was thinking about philosophy being treated like garbage, and about the phony philosophers who are to blame for that, I got madder than I should have.” 111

“Huh. I was watching, and I wouldn’t say you were out of control or anything.” “Maybe I didn’t show it, but I think I was. As I think about it, I want to correct something we said earlier. We said that old men should be the rulers, but I don’t think they’re appropriate for the sort of training we’ve been talking about here. Younger men are much better suited for the kind of exertion we’re discussing here. A hundred and fifty years ago, Solon said that the older man can learn more, but in this case I think Solon was wrong.” “Well, that makes sense.” “To lay the proper groundwork for the young people whom we’ll be training, I believe we should start, in childhood, to teach them in math and geometry and the other subjects. But we can’t make it something that we’re forcing on the kids, if we want them to be interested and to learn it well. There’s no harm in making them do physical exercise, but when it comes to the mental training, we should make it entertaining, and watch for those children who are best suited for it.” “Good idea.” {537} “We should also do what we were talking about before, when we said that the children should go to battle on horseback: give them a taste of blood, like hunting dogs, and see if they like it. To prepare them for the more advanced stages of education, we should expose them to some of it at an early age; and here, too, we should watch out for those who seem most comfortable with it.” “Right.” “We can’t expect too much from them when they’re really young, and we also can’t expect them to be the best students when they’re going through two or three years of serious athletics in their late teens, because all that exercise and sleep aren’t going to put them in a learning state of mind. But let’s watch for the best athletes during those years, and then, at the age of twenty, let’s select those who are physically and mentally right for the kind of education we’ve been discussing. Then we’ll begin the process of pulling together, in an organized way, the scattered bits of science they learned in their youth, so that they can begin to learn how those sciences relate to one another and to the world of ideas.” “Only at this stage,” Grey said, “will they finally obtain the kind of organized knowledge that can take root and stay with them.” “That’s right. We’ll be especially interested in selecting those who have the ability to pull that knowledge together, because if they lack that ability, they’ll never make it when we get to the advanced study of logic. The next step comes at the age of thirty. From those who have studied throughout their twenties, we’ll select those who have most diligently and intelligently pursued their duties in study, in the military, and otherwise. We will raise these select people to a position of still higher honor. The big question for the members of this select group is: do they have such a firm grip on logic that they can stop relying on their senses and can begin to use pure reason to enter the world of ideas?” “Exactly.” 112

“But at this point, we have to be very careful. As we know, those who study logic often wind up questioning and challenging the laws of the city. If that happens to any of our select students, how should we react? Do we treat them as though logic should not have that effect upon them, or do we instead give them some leeway?” “What kind of leeway?” {538} “Let me use an illustration. Suppose a boy grows up with a wealthy father and mother and with lots of brothers and sisters. As it turns out, however, the father and mother are not his own biological parents, but he assumes they are. He’s surrounded, as wealthy people often are, by a lot of flatterers. And then, when he grows up, he discovers that ‘mom’ and ‘dad’ are not his real parents. How do you think his behavior will change?” “You tell me.” “I’d say that, until he knows the truth, he’ll treat the members of the household well, and won’t have much use for the flatterers; but when he finds out the truth, the situation will reverse itself. He won’t have so much respect for ‘mom’ and ‘dad,’ or for those whom he considered brothers and sisters; and he’ll be more inclined to consider the flatterers his friends and to behave as they do.” {539} “OK. So what does that have to do with the study of logic?” “If we’re raised well, to believe in justice and honor, then our souls tend to resist the flattery of pleasure and to stay with what we’ve been taught. But if you study logic and you start asking ‘what is justice?’ and ‘what is honor?’, you might find that everything you relied on is open to question, and may start to think that there’s no real difference between justice and injustice, or honor and dishonor. At that point, are you going to be able to cling blindly to what you were taught, and just stop questioning it?” “It’s not likely.” “So then these ‘mom’ and ‘dad’ principles won’t guide you anymore, and you’ll probably stop struggling against the temptation of pleasure. Instead of blindly and rigidly following the law, you’ll do whatever seems to work best, and in the end your study of logic will make you a lawbreaker. I think you’ll agree that this would be quite understandable, even in the students whom we have so carefully selected.” “Understandable, but sad.” “Then I think you’ll agree that, if we wish to avoid this sad outcome, we must be very careful when we instroduce our students to logic.” “Absolutely.” “As we’ve seen, kids discover logic from those who use it on them, and they in turn go around arguing with everyone, disproving and contradicting all kinds of things, imitating their elders. They win some arguments, and they lose others, but it all tends to produce the attitude, in them, that anything is open to question and nothing can be believed with certainty. From there, it’s not too far to the place at which philosophy begins to get a bad name.” “True.”


“An older person, by contrast, is less likely to make arguments for the fun of it, and more likely to apply logic to the pursuit of truth. And when people realize that this is the goal of the mature logician, then both philosophy and its practitioners will get more respect. That’s why we said that, for training in logic, we would select only those students who were steady and diligent.” “That makes great sense.” “All right. Then let’s suppose we take these selected thirty-year-olds and put them to work studying logic for, say, twice as long as they practiced athletics.” “That would be either four years or six.” {540} “Let’s say five. After those five years, we send them back into the cave and require them to take positions, in the army or otherwise, that are suitable for young men. For the next fifteen years, we watch them and see whether they resist the many temptations that life will throw at them. Then, at age 50, we select those who have excelled in everything they’ve done. We bring them back out of the darkness and tell them that the time has come to turn their souls toward the universal light of absolute good, so that they can spend most of their remaining years pursuing philosophy, but also taking their turn in the management of the city when duty requires. Their duty will include the training of the next generations of future leaders. And in the end, they will die and go to heaven, on the Blessed Isles, and their memories will receive great honor from the city -- even to the point of being treated as saints and half-gods, if the priests approve.” “Socrates, you have carved out a flawlessly beautiful sculpture.” “And let us not forget that, although I have been speaking of men, the same should apply to women too, at each step along the way.” “That’s the only way it could be, since our men and women are sharing everything equally.” “Exactly. And tell me, Grey, do you agree that this is not an impossible dream? If we had philosopher kings, who had no interest in worldly rewards and who valued justice above all else, couldn’t such kings hope, with much effort, to create the kind of city we have described?” “Yes. But where would that effort begin?” {541} “Before anything else, a philosopher king would send every person over ten years old out of the city, into the countryside. The children who were left would be young enough to learn ways that are different from those of their parents. The king would train these kids in laws like the ones we’ve discussed, and in this way the city would soonest develop the proper kind of constitution and become happy.” “I do agree that this is probably what will have to happen, before there is ever that kind of constitution.” “Then I think we’ve pretty much completed the subject of the perfect city, and of the philosopher king who carries its image in himself.” Grey said, “We have indeed.”



Part 5 The Descent to Injustice, in Cities and in Hearts
Traditional Book Eight (Stephanus page number 543) “All right, Grey,” I said, “let’s summarize some of the things we were saying earlier. We said that, in the perfect city, we’ll share wives, children, and our pursuit of war and peace; we’ll choose our kings from among our best philosophers and warriors; our warriors will live in common houses and will have no private property, the city will provide for their needs, and they will take care of the city in return.” {544} He said, “I would point out, too, that you said you have finished our description of the perfect city, and that it, and the philosopher-king who carries the idea of the perfect city within him, are very good. Also, you said that, in contrast to this perfect city, there were four main kinds of imperfect cities. We were going to look more closely at the kinds of people who live in those kinds of cities, and decide whether the best of them were the happiest and the worst were the most unhappy. I had just asked you what those four kinds of imperfect government were, and then Paul and Adam interrupted, and that started you on the other discussion that we’ve just finished.” “You remember exactly,” I said. “Then humor me, if you will, and be like the wrestler who was in a certain position when the whistle blew, and who must now return to that position when the contest starts again. Let me ask the questions I was going to ask, and give me the answers you would have given at that point, and let’s go on from there.” “I’ll try. Can we start with a list of those four different kinds of government?” “That’s easy enough. The perfect city that we have been describing is known as an aristocracy, and the other four are timocracy, oligarchy, democracy, and tyranny. Of course, there are assorted intermediate kinds -- indeed, governments are made of people, not of wood and stone, and therefore can’t help being as varied as the attitudes of the people who create them -- but I believe these four categories describe the four general types of government that a city can have, and also the attitudes of those cities’ citizens. I’ve listed them in this order because the one tends to produce the next. For example, aristocracy leads to timocracy. Tyranny is famous; it comes last because it represents the final degeneration of government.” {545} “OK.” “Then let’s look, in more detail, at the degree of justice or injustice in each of these four, and see how justice corresponds to happiness, in the cities and also in the 116

individuals. Then we’ll know whether Thrasher is right in telling us to pursue injustice.” “That’s exactly the right approach to the problem.” “Timocracy first, then. Of course, ‘timo,’ comes from our word for ‘honor.’ This is the form of government where people rule for the sake of receiving honor from the citizens. It exists in Crete and Sparta, and people generally speak well of it. But how does an aristocracy, like the one in our perfect city, change to become a less-than-perfect timocracy? As long as a government is united, it can stand against anything. A change, like this change from aristocracy to timocracy, can happen only if that unity is shattered somehow.” “True.” “But how? Should we follow the example of Homer, the poet, and pray to the Muses, daughters of Zeus, asking them to show us where the fighting began? And if we did, what would they tell us? They’d laugh at us as if we were children; but should we try to imagine what they would say, if they pretended to be worried about such things and spoke to us in an oh-so-serious tone of voice?” “Sure. What would they say?” {546} “They’d say this: Nothing, not even a perfect city’s constitution, can last forever. The city began to fall apart when the leaders of the city allowed people to have children that they shouldn’t have had. There’s a right time and a wrong time for each species to produce offspring. For humans, the calculation of the number of years in the cycle involves the Pythagorean theorem -- you know, the rule that lets you calculate the length of one side of a right triangle if you know the lengths of the other two sides -- but the leaders didn’t realize that. They just kept right on bringing couples together in the marriage ceremonies, and the babies kept right on coming; and eventually there was a generation of youths that was inferior to those that came before. Granted, the leaders selected only the best of these; but even the best weren’t good enough for the city to depend upon. Before long, these inferior chidren offended us, musical daughters of Zeus, by failing to pay proper attention to music. Then they neglected athletics. As a result, the next generations got inferior educations, and eventually the city had rulers who didn’t have the training to tell which young people were best suited to be future rulers, or auxiliaries, or workers. So they wound up putting less-competent people in higher classes, and very clever people in the lowest one. This led to all kinds of inequality and friction. People in the lowest class got the idea that government was incompetent and that they were better off just making money for themselves, and eventually there was class warfare. They finally agreed that the citizens would each have their own homes and property, and of course the cleverest ones of all classes got the most. Naturally, they wanted to protect their property against those who didn’t have as much and might want more. As a result, many of the people who used to be protectors of the lowest class became, instead, their overlords, treating them like servants and always keeping an eye on them. {547} That’s what the Muses would say, to explain why the aristocracy became a timocracy.” “I think that’s a very good explanation of it,” Grey said.


“This kind of city mixes characteristics from aristocracy, which it used to be, and oligarchy, which it will eventually deteriorate into. From the aristocracy, it will continue -- and, to some extent, may even restore -- the habits of giving honor to rulers, keeping the warriors separate from working-class activities, keeping common meals, and emphasizing athletics and military training. In that sense, there will be, as we say, a certain cult of honor in this kind of city. But there won’t be any more philosopher kings, partly because the philosophers won’t be what they used to be, and partly because the city will have learned to value the kind of simpler, more ambitious and intense leader -frankly, the kind who’s more suited for war than peace. And war there will be, because the city’s leaders will have learned to love wealth, as the leaders of an oligarchy do. They’ll accumulate it secretly, by hook or by crook, and blow a lot of it on their families and friends, but they won’t give much to charity. They’ll respect fighting and force more than law, because their training will bring out the fierceness in them, overemphasizing athletics and neglecting the balance that music could have provided. This is the kind of place that places a lot of value on the ability to fight for what you want and to be victorious.” “A government like this will contain a mix of good and bad.” {548} “Of course, that’s just a sketch. I don’t think we need to paint the picture in great detail. I’ve just given you the best and the worst of it. Now, as you’ll recall, we were going to find the parallels between types of government and the citizens in them. So let me ask: what kind of person would serve as a one-man display of the values that we see in a timocratic government? I’m not asking for the definition of the average citizen; I’m looking for a character sketch, expressed in terms of a single individual, that will give us a flavor for what the whole city is like.” Adam spoke up. “It sounds like a feisty place. Maybe our good friend Grey, here, with his love of argument, is like the timocratic city.” “Oh, I wouldn’t say Grey and that kind of city have much in common,” I replied. “Really? How would you expect a good, solid representative of the city to be different?” {549} “With such a strong background in warfare and athletics, that person will probably be less cultured, although he might still enjoy the arts to some extent. He’ll be more assertive in one-on-one situations, and his military experience will probably persuade him that he’s a ruler and an important person, deserving honor. At the same time, the military training will also give him a strong sense of respect for authority and will make him ready to take orders from his superiors. He’ll be good at listening to public speaking, but won’t have the education necessary to be good at it himself. He’ll treat his fellow citizens decently enough, but the fierce element in him will probably take him far past the ordinary custom of looking down on slaves; chances are, he’ll be brutal to them. He’ll love hunting and other sporting events. When he’s young, he’ll consider honor and achievement much more important than money; but as he ages, he’ll become greedier, because he will no longer have the thing that would have been his best protection.” 118

“What’s that?” Adam asked. “Philosophy, and the musical balance that, as we’ve seen, is part of the proper training in philosophy.” “Good answer,” he said. “Let’s look at this man’s origins. His father might have decided that the best way to deal with life in his poorly managed city was to keep quiet and stay out of trouble. Perhaps the father’s bravery, earlier in life, gave him the opportunity to become a public figure; perhaps the father had a chance to make a fair amount of money and restore his good name by filing lawsuits against various people who wronged him over the years; but instead he just decided to live a quieter, more private life. But the mother resented this, because it meant she was a nobody instead of being socially prominent, and she didn’t have the money that she would have had if the father had enforced his rights. So over the years she constantly complained to her son that the old man was a weakling, selfish, only half a man, and so forth, with all the other petty gripes that women like to prattle on about.” “You’ve got that right,” Adam said. “And the complaints often tell a lot about the personalities.” {550} “Of course, the household servants shared the mother’s opinions, and they joined her in telling the son how things were supposed to be. Every time they felt that someone was taking advantage of the father, or saw some other excuse for a lawsuit, they pointed it out to the son and told him that he must grow up to be more of a man, one who would defend his rights. And when the son went out into the city, he saw the same thing. People who tried to live a quiet life kept getting run over, but nobody wanted to mess with the busybodies who stayed on top of the game and who knew all about everyone else’s business. To be sure, the young man also knew his father well, and learned a sense of respect for his dad’s sense of reason and balance. In the end, he didn’t become as bad as some of those who influenced him most, but neither did he manage to keep control of the kingdom of his soul. In short, the door was open for fierceness to take over.” “That’s a very believable picture.” “Then let’s turn to oligarchy. In this form of government, power rests on wealth rather than on honor. Here, the rich have control.” “Right.” “The transition from timocracy to oligarchy is pretty straightforward. Once people have an opportunity and desire to accumulate wealth, as they do in a timocracy, it won’t take all that long until some people have a lot more of it than others, and use it to get around the law whenever they please. Rich men compete to become richer than one another, and in that sort of competition, virtue always takes a back seat. People get the message that virtue doesn’t really count for much, and it begins to seem obvious that learning how to get money is a lot more important. Wealth becomes a sign of power and of the qualities needed in a ruler, and poverty becomes a mark of failure. Finally, the rich people will decide that only those with a certain net worth deserve to 119

have a say in the city’s government, and by fear or by force, everyone will have to agree to that. And then you have an oligarchy.” {551} “All right,” Adam said. “Now, what is it like to have this kind of government?” “Well, I think we can see, right away, what happens to the quality of management, if you choose your rulers according to wealth. Imagine if we did that when we decide who gets to steer our ships! And then there’s the problem that the place is hopelessly divided, with poor versus rich and with all of the rich people jockeying for position against one another. What are they going to do when they have to go to war? The options are pretty dismal: either arm the population of the city, and risk that they’ll overthrow you, or else keep the weapons to yourself and send only the members of the ruling familes off to battle. Not to mention the problem of taxes: the more the rich people succeed in hoarding the city’s wealth to themselves, the more necessary it becomes for them to impose taxes on themselves to keep the place running, and nobody is going to be eager to do that. Also, as the rich people gain control of more of the city’s businesses, you’ll see them trying to figure out how to do a good job in a variety of trades, rather than concentrating on the one they know best, and we’ve already agreed that quality and production are likely to suffer when that happens.” “You’re right. It’s not a pretty picture.” {552} “Even so, I’ve left out the worst problem of all. Let’s suppose a rich person sells everything he owns. He’s no longer a landowner, and therefore won’t meet the requirement that he must be a landowner of a certain level of wealth before he can participate in the government. So he stops playing an active part in the city’s affairs, and instead just fritters his money away on the high life. He may have a fun life, but what good is he? In an aristocracy or timocracy, people tend to think it’s important to play a role in public affairs, so this doesn’t usually occur there. But in an oligarchy, where money’s the key, people are less concerned with public involvement.” “Yes. That kind of detachment begins in the oligarchy.” “Well, that form of government certainly doesn’t prevent it. People get used to seeing extremes of wealth and poverty. So what happens to this useless creature who no longer plays a role in active affairs? As long as he still has money, you could say that his spending contributes to the economy, but that’s not saying anything special: he’d accomplish that much even if he died and left all his money to someone else to spend. He’s a mere hanger-on: using up the city’s resources, not producing more. Unfortunately for him, money has a way of disappearing when you start spending it, and there’s a good chance that he’ll run out at some point. Then we’ll see which kind of drone bee this hanger-on is: is he the kind that has a stinger, and joins the city’s permanent criminal class? Or is he stingerless, in which case he’ll be just one more pauper?” “In oligarchies, it’s a pretty sharp distinction,” he agreed. “A lot of the rich are criminals; and if you’re not rich, you tend to be poor.” “That’s right. The same thing that makes the paupers makes the criminals; so if you see the one kind, chances are that the other kind isn’t too far away -- and there will 120

also be plenty of police, trying to control them. Blame the whole mess on lousy education, poor upbringing, and a failed political system.” “Clearly.” {553} “There’s more I could say about oligarchy as a political system, but let’s turn, again, to the search for a kind of person who would fit right in, in this sort of place. Let’s think about how the timocratic type might give way to the oligarchic type.” “OK.” “If you recall, our timocratic man was the macho sort. He joined the army, indulged his fierce nature, and made a name for himself. But the day comes when he irritates the wrong people, and they bring him to trial. He’s executed, or perhaps exiled or stripped of his possessions and his rank. He’s got a family, though, and his son sees all this happen, and during his formative years, growing up in poverty, he concludes that it’s too risky to be an ambitious and arrogant public figure like his father. Instead, he decides that the safer approach is to set up shop somewhere, scrimp and save, and slowly build up a business. The king of his soul, wearing crown and sword, is the longdeveloped habit of wanting things and getting them. Reason may have ruled in the aristocracy, and fierceness in the timocracy, but in the oligarchy he puts them in the service of this new king: reason is taught to figure out how to get more, and fierceness is focused upon the art of taking.” “The fastest transition you can imagine,” he said, “is the very easy change from ambition to greed.” “And greed, you think, corresponds to the oligarchy.” “Yes.” {554} “Then let’s see whether the greedy son does indeed match the oligarchic city. There’s a lot in common: the great emphasis on wealth, the stinginess, and the willingness to control one’s desires for the sake of saving money, cutting corners and pinching pennies -- and being considered clever for it, in the eyes of others who are just as low-class as he is. Culture is an unnecessary luxury to him, don’t you think?” “It seems likely,” he agreed. “There’s good reason why some people call it a ‘plutocracy’ -- a system based upon the shameless pursuit of money, named after the blind god Plutus.” “Good point. And how about the temptation to abuse the city and the public trust, to become a drone and a burden rather than a contributor? This man’s controlled lifestyle may suppress that urge, telling him that he dare not put his wealth at risk by letting his true nature show; but there’s no internal wisdom at work, consistently steering him away from his bad side. As a result, the temptation comes alive when he sees an opportunity to take advantage of someone and get away with it. In ordinary life, people think he’s honest because he lives so close to the bone; but make him the undisputed guardian of a rich orphan’s trust fund, and watch what happens! With a pocketful of someone else’s money, he’ll be glad to spend it. He’s exactly like the drone we were discussing before, lacking the least sense that he has a civic duty to take an active part in the improvement of the city. Throughout his life, he’s divided between 121

this irresponsible side and the controlled nature we were just discussing. Fortunately, he’ll have few opportunities to run wild, and as a result he’ll generally be controlled and respectable.” “Right.” {555} “Sadly, his internal division will prevent him from experiencing harmony in his soul, as he might if he had the mindset of an aristocrat, and his fear of his more adventurous side will usually keep him from working up the ambition to succeed in contests for public acclaim. No guts, no glory: rather than plunge in, get excited, and pour money into the effort to succeed at something that commands public admiration, he’ll behave like the oligarchic city itself does, daring to commit only a fraction of its reserves to battle. The net result will be that he’ll spend little money and win few prizes. This is the man who personifies oligarchy.” “True.” “That brings us to democracy. Again, we want to begin with the transition from the previous form of government, oligarchy, to this new form. That transition starts with the oligarchy’s never-ending urge to become richer and richer. Specifically, the people in charge of an oligarchy are glad to let the younger generations spend their money, like the drone we were talking about a minute ago, because the more the young people spend, the more they borrow, and the more the big boys make from interest; and then, when the young people go broke, their homes go on sale at a bargain price, and the rich ones snap them up.” “I can see how that works.” “In general, if the citizens of a city love wealth, they won’t love moderation, and vice versa. The love of money makes you want more, and you’ll tend to go to some extremes to get it -- which you wouldn’t do if moderation were your guiding principle.” “That seems fairly clear.” “Through the process I just mentioned, kids from good families can wind up begging on the streets in an oligarchy. They might be stripped of the rights of citizenship because they don’t have enough wealth to qualify anymore, or they might be in debt, or both. They’ll resent the rich, including especially those who took advantage of them, and they’d be glad to see a revolution. They’re drones, all right, but they have a stinger: they’re armed and dangerous, and just waiting for something to set them off.” “Right.” “Meanwhile, the city’s businesspeople walk along with their eyes down, pretending that they can’t even see these beggars. These, too, have stingers: not weapons, but the silver stingers of money. They continue using their wealth to make more, at the expense of those who aren’t constantly on their guard, and they leave a trail of paupers behind them on their way to the bank.” {556} “There certainly are a lot of poor people in this kind of city.” “The leaders could put out this growing fire if they passed a law preventing these young people from doing whatever they want with their own property, or if the 122

law gave them a way out of contracts that might otherwise ruin them. But that doesn’t happen, so you have a city in which the powerful players treat the citizens poorly and in which the young people -- especially the rich ones -- lie around in luxury, wasting their lives and becoming sluggish and weak, unable to cope well with either pleasure or pain, and having no interest in virtue.” “Exactly.” “Now, what happens when the rich man and the poor man meet up with one another, which they will often do? To take an especially clear example, what happens if they wind up fighting side by side in battle? In that kind of place, you don’t tend to care as much how wealthy someone is. They feel more like equals out there. In fact, the rich man might well be fat and out of shape, cooking in the hot sun and scared out of his mind, while the poor man is calm, ready to fight, tanned and strong, used to heat and hardship from his years of hard work. The poor ones look at the rich and say to themselves, ‘These rich guys are weak. We could beat them if we wanted to.’” “That is exactly how the poor feel about the rich.” “Like an ailing body, a city that’s not in proper health may be made sick by an external condition or an internal problem that wouldn’t faze a healthy one. Some little ruckus can trigger a larger struggle, and at some point you’ll see the battle lines drawn in the city. The rich will call in their allies from other cities, and the poor will have theirs too. The poor might not win every time, but when they do, they’ll kill some of the rich, banish others, and make some into fellow citizens with themselves. Then people will vote and choose their leaders.” {557} “Right,” Adam said. There may be an actual battle, or maybe the rich will just see the shape of things and give up without a fight, but either way, that’s how democracy comes about.” “And what kind of city does this produce? First of all, people are free to say and do what they want. They can arrange their lives as they wish, without answering to someone else; and as a result, there’s a tremendous development of individual personalities, like a coat of many colors. Women and children find that sort of garment attractive, and in the same way many people will think that this tutti-frutti city’s pretty.” “Indeed they will.” “There is, in fact, no better place to go looking for the kind of government you prefer, because in the freedom of a democracy, people follow all sorts of different political philosophies, and you can shop among them as though you were at the marketplace. You don’t have a duty to serve as a leader in public office, even if you’d make a great one, unless you feel like it; you don’t have to join the army during war, or be at peace when others are; if some law says you can’t be a ruler or a judge, you can probably find a way to do it anyway if you’d like; there’s a charming degree of humanity toward criminals, to the point that people who’ve been condemned to death are allowed to go on about their business, and nobody pays much attention; there’s generally a forgiving attitude, a feeling that a person shouldn’t get hung up on the 123

details, and a sense that all the principles we were talking about earlier, when we were designing the perfect city, are not so important after all.” {558} “Yes, democracy is really something.” “In particular, there’s no special concern about the proper upbringing of a future ruler. The idea that he should be raised among beautiful things, and should make them the center of his thoughts and study, is totally trampled underfoot; instead, the democracy chooses, as its leader, anybody who says he cares about the people. It’s a remarkable kind of government, chaotic and diverse, handing out equality -- sort of -- to everyone, whether they’re really equal or not.” “We’ve seen exactly what you’re talking about.” “And what kind of individual personifies the democracy? Here, we’re talking about the kind of person who learns, from his father in the oligarchic city, to scrimp and save, and to avoid unnecessary pleasures because they cost money. By the way, shouldn’t we take a moment and figure out which pleasures are necessary and which aren’t?” “Sure.” “A pleasure is necessary, don’t you agree, if it’s the kind of thing that a human being is built to enjoy and can’t avoid and that, when indulged, is good for us and makes us more productive; whereas an unnecessary pleasure is one that you can train yourself to do without, especially if you start when you’re young, and in many cases is also not good for you, not only physically but perhaps also in other ways. For instance, eating basic food is a necessary pleasure, but indulging in condiments and delicacies is unnecessary. It’s a lot like spending money: why insist on the more luxurious thing when you can do quite well without it? And what we’re saying here about food holds true as well for sex and any other pleasure.” {559} “Of course.” “We talked about two different kinds of behavior in the oligarchy. When we talked about a drone or hanger-on, we were describing someone who’s enslaved by his own desires for luxurious things; but when we talked about the person who pinched his pennies, we realized that he could behave like the drone but that, with very few exceptions, he was able to restrict himself only to the necessary pleasures.” “Right.” “So then how does this oligarchic personality produce a democratic one? We can imagine a young man being raised in an uncultured, tightfisted household, but then getting a taste of the honey from the hive, which the unproductive drone bees have been enjoying all along. What a contrast! Suddenly the young man realizes that there is a way of living that must seem, to him, far more lavish and pleasant than anything he’s ever known. He’ll make friends among those who pursue luxury, and maybe he’ll pick up some of the harsh, shrewd tricks that they use to help them to continue to afford that lifestyle. Naturally, just as the poor people in the city tended to band together with others of their own kind before mounting the revolution, so also the desire within the individual for one kind of luxury quickly finds allies with other luxurious desires, and 124

soon the young man finds his soul torn in two by the war between the overly cheap attitudes taught to him by his father and the overly liberal ones inspired by his friends.” “It seems unavoidable.” {560} “Well, as in the city itself, the battle can go either way. Sometimes, the conservative forces prevail, some of the liberal desires are put to death, and the young man’s soul returns to the orderly ways of his father. But those ways continue to be oppressive, and therefore other desires will spring up, like a fresh new horde coming to fight again; these will be fiercer than before, less interested in giving way to whatever it was that stopped the tide last time. The young man will be back in touch with his highliving friends; the desires in him will breed like rabbits, becoming very numerous -- and confident, too, because they’ll see that the castle is not guarded by the kinds of truths and achievements that protect the minds of spiritual men; and one day those desires will seize the castle and take charge of his soul.” “Exactly right.” “And now the castle, which might have housed honorable ideas, will be ruled by phony, bragging opinions, and the young man will live like his friends, lying around in a daydream, as though they were under the influence of the lotus plant in the legendary land of the lotus-eaters. If his relatives try to get through and help him remember the kind of self-control that he learned from his father, the gates of the castle will slam shut. Meanwhile, there will be a house-cleaning inside, and the new rulers of the castle will grab hold of modesty, accuse it of being nothing more than silliness, and throw it out; likewise, moderation will be shoved into the mud and then evicted, with the statement that no real man would live in such a low-class, tightfisted way. The new rulers of the soul will hound the soul’s former attitudes right out of town.” “With a vengeance.” {561} “And now that there’s room, the young man’s soul will be introduced to things that he’ll consider terribly impressive: arrogance, wastefulness, anarchy, and shamelessness, and many others along with them, all decked out in fine clothes and treating each other like royalty. Arrogance will be referred to as ‘fine breeding,’ wastefulness will be called ‘magnificence’; to them, anarchy is really ‘freedom’ and shamelessness is ‘courage.’ The pursuit of unnecessary pleasures will take control, and he’ll spend all of his spare time, money, and effort on them.” “Yes.” “Still, if this lifestyle hasn’t ruined him, he may find, years later, that it grows a bit tiresome, and perhaps he’ll let some of the old virtues back in and put himself into a slightly more balanced situation, sometimes living the liberal life and sometimes the conservative one, as the mood strikes him. In that case, for a while, he’ll be a lush, lying around getting fat; then he’ll decide to dry out, exercise, and lose weight. He might live like a philosopher; but then he’ll grow tired of that and jump into politics, speaking out and making a fool of himself, or maybe he’ll see a businessman or warrior he admires, and again he’s off and running. There’s no rhyme or reason to it, but he thinks he’s happy and free. And since he lives a variety of lifestyles himself, he’s not going to be 125

very receptive if anyone tries to offer sensible advice, telling him that some pleasures are unnecessary and bad. He’ll shake his head and say, ‘No, they’ve all got their place.’” “Why, he’s the very soul of liberty and equality,” Adam said. {562} “He’s a one-man equivalent of the many-colored democratic city. For both the individual and the city, many others will see this and say, ‘It looks great,’ and they’ll copy it. But democracy leads to tyranny, most fatally beautiful of them all, and now we have to see how that change occurs.” “OK.” “To some extent, the transition is the same as the one from oligarchy to democracy. In oligarchy, they worship money, and in their pursuit of it they forget about all the other things they should be taking care of; likewise, in democracy, they worship one principle above all others, and it ruins them in the end.” “Which principle?” “Freedom. They like to say that only a democracy can provide natural freedom. But notice what happens when the citizens, drinking the strong wine of freedom as though they were at a feast, start to get drunk on it. They want more and more, and if their leaders try to control them, the people accuse them of being dictators, like in the bad old days of the oligarchy. Of course, when this happens, the people who aren’t complaining start to look like fools, as though they were willing to be slaves to these dictators. In short, the leaders in a democracy are under great pressure to act as though they were the ones taking the orders, and the citizens are in charge. There’s no limit to the amount of freedom that citizens in a democracy will demand, once they start to get their way.” “Right.” {563} “The chaos of unlimited freedom spreads to people’s homes. Parents start to believe that they’re on the same level as the kids, and vice versa; and instead of respect, the children have freedom. Foreigners living in the city have the same rights as citizens. Teachers try to be pals with their students, and the students despise them. Old people act like young ones, preferring to be pleasant and lighthearted and fearing that someone might consider them stodgy and controlling; and instead of respecting their elders, the young compete with them. In the end, the slaves are as free as their former masters, and -- oh, let me not forget to mention absolute equality of the sexes. Frankly, even the animals may as well be citizens: dogs are treated as though they were people, and horses and donkeys may have the right-of-way over a human being. People become very sensitive about their freedoms, and they tend to dislike the idea that laws, or any legal authorities, have power to control them. The whole place is just brim-full of freedom.” “What you say about the animals -- I see that kind of thing all the time when I go for a walk out in the countryside.” {564} “This is the wonderful start from which tyranny grows. In the oligarchy, we saw that the excessive pursuit of wealth guaranteed, at some point, that people would rebel. Something similar happens in the democracy. No matter whether you’re talking about 126

seasons, plant and animal populations, or governments, too much of anything eventually produces an opposite reaction. Obviously, the opposite of freedom is slavery; and the more extreme the freedom was, the more extreme the slavery will be. But I guess you were probably curious about how the transition takes place.” “I was indeed.” “You recall we said that the oligarchy tends to develop a whole social class of drones -- unproductive lovers of luxury -- and that the drones themselves were divided into those who have stingers and those who don’t. The stingers, we said, were those who will do evil if necessary to continue their lifestyles, and the stingless ones were those who would not do so, but would instead wind their ways down into poverty when their money ran out.” “I remember.” “Well, I guess the body produces ugly things sometimes, like bile from the liver and those wads of phlegm that a sick person hacks and then spits out. That’s what these classes of drones are to the city. They’re like a cancer, which the good doctor caring for the city should prevent in every way possible. Or, if they do work their way in, he should promptly cut out every last cell of them.” “Absolutely.” “Democracy does nothing to get rid of these drones. If anything, freedom produces more of them. We described them, in the oligarchy, as people who weren’t allowed to be active in controlling the city because they would have sold their lands and therefore wouldn’t qualify to share in power. But in the democracy, these people can organize politically, and after a while there are so many of them that they gather quite a bit of political strength. In the legislature, the sharper ones become recognized leaders, and the rest of them swarm around and do everything they can to prevent other points of view from being heard. They’ve got their finger on the pulse of the city. Unlike the old-timers who are living in the past, thinking that power comes from one’s wisdom or honor or even one’s wealth, the drones know how the political game really works in the democracy, and before long they’re controlling things.” “That’s true.” “In a democracy, there are three main classes of people. First, there are the drones. Second, there are those who live and work in an orderly way, and who, as a result, tend to succeed in business. Since the economy is based on business, this will be the richest class, and the drones will often squeeze it for more honey.” Adam said, “They may seem rich, but in fact the squeezing may not produce much.” {565} “Still, that’s what the drones try to do. And then, third, is the class of the people, most of whom are workers. The masses have the most power in a democracy, of course, but they have very little money.” “Yeah, and the only time they’re likely to work together as a political force is if they see that there’s something in it for them.”


“And that’s exactly what happens. The drones soak the rich and share the wealth, keeping a good chunk of it for themselves. If the rich don’t like it, they are certainly welcome to stand up and make a case in their defense, if they can find anyone to listen. A note of caution, however: if they try this, there’s a real risk that the public will consider them dinosaurs, representatives of a bygone era when a rich man could own a town, pay off the police, and do pretty much whatever he pleased. That’s not a popular image in a democracy. Maybe they were just trying to get the taxman off their back, but if they do speak up, they may find that the public hates them for trying to bring back the bad ways of the past.” “True.” “So the rich face a choice. They can stand by and watch everything they worked for get taken away; or they can do something about it. I guarantee that the sting of the drones will motivate them. Really, what’s their alternative? So the rich will learn how to play the political game too. Simple self-defense didn’t work so well for them; but they’ll soon find that a more aggressive, offensive approach works wonders. In other words, the rich will discover that they have the ability to begin a new revolution. They may not be able to unite the masses against the drones or some outside threat, but that’s OK: instead, they can divide and fascinate the people through political impeachments, public controversies, and sensational trials. The almost unnoticed fact, at this point, is that the rich will be back in the driver’s seat. They may have started out believing in democracy as much as the next person, but by now they will be firmly convinced that oligarchy is necessary, with people like themselves running the show -- even if it still looks like a democracy. This time, however, the oligarchy is very temporary. The trials and scandals will help to reduce the number of rich people who are still competing for power; and in the end, everyone will be relieved to see a leader emerge who looks like he can take charge and put things in order; and he’ll be glad to oblige them.” “That’s precisely what the masses tend to prefer.” “And how does the root in democracy, the sapling that seems to be a protector of the people, grow into a tyrant? If I may, I’d like to draw from the legend of Lycaon.” “What legend?” “They say that Lycaon, in Arcadia, made the bad mistake of sacrificing a child to the gods and, as punishment, was turned into a wolf. At a typical sacrifice, of course, you take at least a taste of the meat of the sacrificed animal. Ever since Lycaon, legend has said that if you taste human intestines mixed in with the meat of animals, you’ll turn into a wolf. Haven’t you ever heard that story?” “Oh, yeah, I have.” {566} “In the same way, the first taste of a competitor’s blood will already have started the new leader down the path toward becoming a wolf. Once he has gotten himself firmly established in power as a strong leader, with all the police and other instruments of control in his hands, he’ll begin to show that he rather enjoys the taste of human flesh, figuratively speaking. The competition for power will have trained him to become highly skilled in political spin control. That is, he’ll have beaten his competitors by 128

relying, in part, upon the manipulation of public opinion, using deceptive statements, false accusations, etc. He’ll figure, ‘Hey, it’s worked well so far -- why stop now?’ So now that he’s got the power, whenever he sees or imagines an enemy in the city, he’ll have the authorities drag him into the courts, make out a seemingly solid case against him, and then banish or execute him. Meanwhile, using the old carrot-and-stick approach, he’ll do his best to show the public that he’s a good guy. For instance, he might talk publicly about how he’s considering a law that will forgive everyone’s debts, or that will give everyone a piece of land in the countryside. Doesn’t it seem that a leader like this must either be killed by his enemies or become a tyrant?” “It’s unavoidable.” “He starts as one of the rich, but he becomes their enemy. As soon as the rich figure out what he’s up to, before he’s fully established, they might gang up against him and get him thrown out; or they might try to get him convicted for some reason. But as we see, sometimes people like this are able to make a comeback, even stronger and more popular than before. If the public is glad to see him return, his enemies might become desperate and try to get him killed. This is perfect, for his purposes, because it produces a flood of public sympathy and gives him an excuse to hire a squad of bodyguards. ‘After all,’ his representative will say, ‘we don’t want the people to lose their friend.’ This is about the time when the future tyrant’s enemies, who are probably unpopular both for being rich and for opposing the city’s favorite leader, will start to get really nervous. As Herodotus said, the priestess told Croesus that there are times when a man runs for his life, not too proud to be scared.” “No kidding.” “After this kind of struggle, the budding tyrant is not going to kick back and rest on his laurels once he’s in charge. He’ll be standing in the chariot of power, holding the reins, wielding absolute control in whatever way he pleases.” “That’s right.” “I’ve described the extremes he’s capable of, but let’s not think that a man is going to become the people’s favorite by acting crazy. The fact is, when he first becomes the city’s leader, he’ll be friendly and respectful to everyone he meets. He’ll make lots of promises, public and private, and he’ll convince almost everyone that he wants nothing more than to rule in kindness and decency. Those ‘carrots’ I mentioned a moment ago -debt relief, land reform, etc. -- won’t be strange; they’ll be exactly the kind of thing that people believe this good man would like to do.” “Right.” {567} “Meanwhile, to keep the people united behind him, he’ll make sure that the city is always threatened in war by one foreign enemy or another. The cost of defense, and other governmental spending, will give him an excuse for high taxes, which in turn will keep people too busy worrying about where their next meal is coming from to spend a lot of time fooling with politics. And if anyone does get the idea that they should start a reform movement, he’ll be able to think of some way to get rid of them -- drafting them and putting them in the front lines of battle, for instance.” 129

“That’ll work.” “Unfortunately for him, you can’t do all this and remain popular forever. Sooner or later, some people are going to think that the time has come to speak out. It might even be people from his own regime, who have gotten powerful government positions as a reward for helping to put him in power. The tyrant has nothing to fear from bureaucrats who are incompetent, but he can’t rest as long as there’s anyone, friend or enemy, who is rich, wise, brave, or principled, because this is exactly the kind of person who could threaten his grip on power. Even if he really hates to do it, he knows he must wash away all such people.” “It’s an odd kind of purge.” “Yes. It leaves the worst and cleans out the best. It poses a miserable choice to him: either get rid of the good and live with the bad, who hate you but can’t get rid of you, or else keep them all and count the days until the best ones lead the rest in a struggle to kill you. In any case, of course, as people learn to hate him, he’ll need more and more bodyguards for protection.” “Of course.” “And where will he find these devoted servants?” “Oh, if he pays enough, he’ll have as many as he wants.” “Amazing! More drones, living but not producing! And this time, they’re flooding in from foreign lands, looking for these jobs. Of course, he can get bodyguards immediately, if he’s willing to take another man’s slaves, set them free, and appoint them as his personal guards.” “Yes,” Adam agreed, “and if he does that, he’ll probably find that these are the most grateful and devoted companions of all.” “What a life: get rid of your real friends, and have ignorant ex-slaves to replace them.” “Why not? They’re just like him.” {568} “Indeed they are. Much more so, anyway, than the good people, who must hate him -- assuming there are any good people left in the city. I guess I see, now, why the writing of tragic poetry is considered such a wise thing.” “Why’s that?” “Because, according to Euripides and the other tragic poets, tyrants have wisdom, and they get it by choosing wise men as their companions, and listening to their advice. To which wise men do tyrants listen, you might ask? Why, to the tragic poets, of course. And what do these wise poets tell the tyrants?” “They say that tyranny is godlike, and a lot of other things like that.” “Right. So I hope these poets, being wise, will understand why we’re not going to be reading their works in our perfect city. Nevertheless, we know quite well that they’ll continue roaming from city to city, getting good actors to perform their works, and thereby persuading people to embrace tyranny, or at least democracy. Of course, tyrannies and democracies are glad to see them, and they reward them for their trouble; but as the tragic poets rise out of that gully and start to climb back towards the perfect 130

city, they aren’t welcomed so eagerly and, in fact, they seem to run a bit short of breath.” “True.” “Ah, but we’re getting off track. Back to the subject. The tyrant’s going to hire lots of bodyguards, we were saying -- in fact, a small army of palace guards. Because of his paranoia, there will be a lot of, shall we say, turnover among the guards. How can he afford to keep hiring, training, and replacing them?” “He’ll have to loot the city’s treasury and confiscate what he can from the wealthy, so as to keep the taxes on the mass public at a level that they can stand. And when that runs out, he’ll resort to something that we would consider the last straw: he’ll drain his own parents in order to support himself and his guards.” “No!” {569} “Yes. Of course, people will find this outrageous, and they won’t be able to help speaking out and saying that no father should be tapped to support a grown son, and that, rather, it should be the other way around, and the son should actually be helping the father get free from the ruinous demands of this government. Certainly the father didn’t plan to become the servant of the son and his rabble. If push comes to shove, the father will tell the son to get lost and leave him alone.” “Perhaps,” Adam said, “but then the father will find out what a monster he has raised, and will see how much stronger the son is.” “You’re not suggesting that the son will beat his father?” “I certainly am.” “Then everyone will see that this is tyranny indeed, and a very cruel result. It’s almost enough to kill an elderly parent, not only literally, but also figuratively, as we speak about the city as a whole. The people who tried to avoid the smoke of democracy, in which freedom got out of control and made them almost like slaves to the rights demanded by their fellow men, have now landed in the fire, where they are slaves indeed, in the worst slavery of all, serving masters who themselves were once slaves. And at this point, I think you’ll agree, we have adequately covered this last transition, from democracy to tyranny.” “I do agree,” Adam said. Traditional Book Nine (Stephanus page number 571) I said, “We have yet to talk about the man who personifies tyranny. How do his attitudes form in the democratic city, and what is his life like in the tyrannical city?” “Yes. We still need to talk about that.” “Before we do, though, I think it will be helpful if we take a few minutes to look more closely at ‘desires,’ which we’ve mentioned often enough but have not yet defined in any clear way. What are the desires of mankind?” “It’s certainly not too late to think about that,” he said. 131

“Then let’s do so. We’ve said that there are unnecessary pleasures; let’s recognize, now, that some of our desires can make us behave unreasonably and even criminally. Probably everyone feels those urges, but for some reason they’re much stronger, or much less controlled, in some people than in others.” “Which desires have that kind of power over us?” “You can tell the bad ones, because they come to life in your dreams, when your normal reasonableness and self-control are asleep. At those times, and especially if you go to bed on a full stomach or if you’ve drunk too much, the wild animal within us comes to life, and will do absolutely anything that comes to mind -- including incest and every other form of sexual perversion; eating things that are utterly forbidden by religious laws; and even murdering one’s own parents. I use this example of dreams because I want to make the point that we do have that kind of wild animal inside.” “True.” {572} “By contrast, nightmares are not a problem if your reason is in charge when you go to sleep. You won’t have starved or overfed your physical desires, and therefore won’t be bothered by them, and your passions will be in their proper place. Meanwhile, having put those two to rest, you awaken the third, turning on your powers of pure reason. That way, as you sleep, your soul will roam free in the realm of pure ideas, trying to understand things from the past, present, and future, seeking truth and not suffering from bizarre visions.” “Agreed.” “All right. Then as long as we agree that there is that wild animal within each of us, let’s return to the subject. The democratic man, as we described him, grew up under a tightfisted father, who emphasized saving and discouraged the young man from spending on unnecessary things. Then the young man made friends whose tastes were more cultured and also more extravagant. And after living that way for quite a while, he tried to return to a middle ground, indulging some of those richer tastes in a way that he considered moderate. And now this democrat has a son, and again the father raises the son according to his own views.” “OK.” “Naturally, since the son has been raised to believe that it’s normal to try a lot of different things, he does. Pleasures being what they are, his first experiences in the big wide world are a lot like his father’s -- that is, he runs with some bad characters, and even though the laws may not be as strict as in the old days, he still manages to break some, all in the name of what he and these other characters consider ‘freedom.’ Still, while this is going on, the father believes that the son will find his way back to a middle ground, and he encourages him in that direction. So, for that matter, do many of the son’s best friends and relatives.” “True.” “The people who are leading him off in another direction have their own ideas about what’s best for him, however, and they want him to follow them. He’s fond of various pleasures, and while those pleasures aren’t necessarily going to make him more 132

extreme than his father, they’ll get him in the habit of doing whatever seems pleasant, rather than what’s right. Also, the pursuit of pleasure won’t give him much internal strength to resist, if these bad influences can come up with a more powerful force to reel him in.” “Right.” “And the bad person, or people, just might be able to do that. All they need is to stimulate one overwhelming desire in him. We see it all the time. A person falls in love, and then they’re willing to do almost anything rather than endure the loss of their lover. The same is true for drunks, addicts, lunatics -- for many different reasons, people will go to any extreme, once they become blindly devoted to something.” “It’s true.” {573} “The bad players want to sign this young man up, literally or figuratively. So they expose him to things that remind him of his favorite weakness. If it’s love, for example, then maybe wine and perfume will help. Whatever it is, he’s there, feeling the attraction of this very tempting path, and it becomes hard for him to imagine why he shouldn’t pursue it further. Ultimately, he becomes intoxicated by it, seduced by it, passionate about it. No longer does he believe that his father’s idea of moving back to a moderate lifestyle makes any sense. Rather, he feels that he must commit himself permanently to the thing that moves his heart. He is now convinced that it would be a mistake to listen, if anything inside tries to tell him that he should be moderate or that what he’s doing is wrong. He tears out every internal opinion that contradicts the passion that has taken control of him, and in a sense he becomes a monster.” “That’s a good word for it.” “This kind of intense passion is the beginning of the tyrannical mentality. The thing that brings him to this may be the human nature he was born with, or it may be the habits he has learned; either way, he’s stuck. He’ll devote everything he’s got to his goal, and will believe that nobody, not even the gods, can stop him. But what kind of life does this lead to?” “Perhaps you’ll tell me.” {574} “He’ll start by indulging the pleasures that come along with the territory. There might be feasts and parties; there might be orgies and prostitutes; but whatever his passion is, it will awaken all kinds of desires in him, and he’ll find it a very expensive thing indeed. It can easily use up his income and force him to sell his assets. Then, when he’s broke, those desires will squawk all the louder, like baby birds in the nest, and he’ll have to find some other way to feed them. They’re too painful to ignore; so it’s not at all surprising if he begins to ‘borrow’ from others to support his habit. He’ll raid his parents, using deception and, if necessary, force to take what he wants from them. And there you have it: if romance is the thing that has taken control of him, then, for the sake of a love affair with a whore, he’ll hit his mother, who brought him into the world and has been his friend from the beginning, or will force her to play second fiddle in her own home to make the whore comfortable; or will do the same to his elderly father, for the sake of some new gay lover who has stolen his heart.” 133

“I do believe that’s what would happen,” Adam said. “This kid is a real delight to his parents. But that’s not the end of the story. He may break into houses, rob strangers in the dark, plunder temples, murder people, and do any other terrible thing that seems necessary to him. His other desires serve as a bodyguard to his core passion, and he becomes something that, until now, he saw only in his nightmares. In a man like this, love -- if you can call it that -- can become the tyrant over everything else.” {575} “It’s not a pretty picture.” “Now, if the city had only a few characters like this, they’d probably wind up in the kinds of jobs that fit a person who is so intense. If there’s a war somewhere, they might get hired as mercenaries, or as bodyguards to some foreign tyrant; otherwise, they might just lurk around the city, committing relatively minor crimes against their fellow citizens: robbing, purse-snatching, perjury for a price, taking bribes, maybe even kidnapping. These aren’t insignificant crimes, but they aren’t nearly as bad as the damage that a tyrant can do; and a tyrant is what the city will get when these bad guys form gangs and begin to support the most clever, savage criminal of them all as their political leader.” “That’s the one best suited to lead them.” {576} “Of course, the other people of the city may want him as their leader, or they may not. If they don’t, he’ll attack them just as he started by attacking his own parents, and will put his young assistants in positions of power over his fatherland or motherland, as they call it in Crete. The criminals we’re talking about here are the kind who know how to treat others like dear friends, when they want something from them; but then, when they have it, they forget all about them. They control others, or serve others; they’re always watching out for personal gain, but they’re never equals with others. Hence, no tyrant knows what friendship or real freedom are. They’re treacherous and unjust, and from a beginning like this, the one who becomes their leader can only become more of a tyrant as time passes. Most people may think he’s got a great life, but in fact he must be the most miserable of all.” I had been talking mostly to Adam, but now Grey spoke up and said, “You’re quite right, Socrates.” “All right, then, Grey. We’ve reached some conclusions about each city, and about the kind of man who typifies it. Let’s compare those conclusions. First, how would you compare the perfect city to the tyrannical city?” “That’s easy. It’s a comparison of the best to the worst.” “OK. How about the happiness of each city? Before answering, let’s not be immediately swayed by the badness of the tyrant who, after all, is only one man with a few bodyguards. The tyrannical city consists of much more than him.” “Still, I’d say that the kingdom we described is happiest, and the tyranny is most miserable.” {577} “How about the citizens of each: let’s judge in terms of what goes on inside people’s minds, and not be amazed by the self-important attitude you’d probably see in 134

people of tyrannical mindset, who believe so firmly in the passions that have controlled them. Let’s suppose that we’ve spent a lot of time with these people: we’ve seen them in their daily lives, in family settings, and in crisis situations. First, let’s look at the city. Would you say that a tyrannical city is free?” “Of course not. It is the most completely enslaved of all.” “Even though there are some free people in it?” “Yes. Most people, and certainly the best of them, are in miserable bondage.” “Then if we’ve been correct in saying that the man is a miniature version of the city, the soul of a person who lives under the control of a tyrannical passion must, likewise, be petty and nasty. The best part of him is in chains; the worst and craziest part is in control. He has the soul of a slave: just as the city controlled by a tyrant cannot act by its own decision, so also this soul can do only those things that the controlling passion prods it to do. Such a soul, like the tyrannical city, is poor, hungry, afraid, griefstricken, and in pain, more so than any other.” {578} “Quite right.” “In other words, that soul is most miserable of all?” “Yes.” “I’m not so sure.” “Why? Who could be more miserable?” “The one who is not only tyrannized by a passion within his own soul, but who is doubly cursed by having to be the tyrant who rules a city.” “Yeah, you’re probably right.” “But let’s remove the ‘probably.’ This is an important point on the subject of good and evil. Let’s spend another moment on it and be sure.” “OK.” “Let’s suppose there’s a man who owns fifty slaves. They greatly outnumber him; but he’s not nervous, because the whole city is set up to defend and protect slaveowners. The slaves could never get away with a rebellion on their own. But now suppose that some god picks him up and takes him, his family, and his slaves, and dumps them all at a place out in the wilderness. Now he’s nervous. He hates to do it, but he knows he’s got to flatter and plead with those fifty slaves, promising freedom and all sorts of good things when they get back to town, if he wants to save his neck. That’s how the tyrant is. People may think he’s the boss, but he’s the one’s who’s really enslaved. He has to flatter everybody, no matter how low they are.” {579} “I see the comparison.” “Or suppose that this god dropped the slave-owner off in a city where they execute anyone who’s ever been guilty of owning slaves. He’s got to hide, and not come out, for fear that someone will catch him and kill him. Same for the tyrant. It’s as though he lives in a prison. He’s on top because his desires are greater than anyone else’s, and he can satisfy some of them, but there are so many others that are beyond his ability. He wants to go places, do things, take a vacation, etc., but like a woman stuck at home, he can’t go out. He knows his life is in danger every time he leaves his hole.” 135

“True.” “The worst part, for him, is that he has to live a public life. Unlike the other tyrannical souls, he’s not even free, there in his prison, to pursue his private desires. Instead, he has to get involved in all kinds of other things, and fight to stay in power, like a sick old man struggling to survive instead of enjoying a quiet retirement. He spends his years in distraction and paranoia, just like the city he rules. And as the time passes, he gets worse: more paranoid, lonely, unjust, untrustworthy, power-mad, and jealous. He makes himself, and everyone else, totally miserable.” {580} “No reasonable person would disagree with you.” “All right. Then please be the judge of these five little skits I’ve put on for your entertainment, if you would, and tell me the ranking of happiness among these five kinds of cities: aristocratic or royal, timocratic, oligarchic, democratic, and tyrannic.” “No problem,” Grey said. “I say that the first one was the happiest and most virtuous, and they went downhill from there.” “Excellent. If you’d like, we could hire an announcer to broadcast the news that Grey, son of Ariston, which means ‘the best,’ has decided that the aristocratic city and man are happiest -- which, in his view, means best and most just -- and the tyrannical are the most miserable.” “We don’t need an announcer. You can announce it.” “And let’s just be sure to mention that it doesn’t matter whether people recognize the type of government or personality for what it really is.” “Clear enough,” he said.


Part 6 Justice Is Its Own Reward
“It seems like we’ve pretty much solved the problem we were trying to figure out,” I said. “But just in case anyone wants more proof, we could offer another argument.” “And what would that be?” Grey asked.{581} “When we talked about what a person needs to do to sleep well without nightmares, we noticed that the soul has three ruling principles: desires, especially physical ones; emotions or passions; and intellect. These same principles rule cities too. First, desires: they’re easier to satisfy if you have money, so it seems reasonable to say that, if you’re preoccupied with desires, you’ll probably love money. Second, emotions: they can produce ambition. They’re responsible for making a person want to be in charge, get attention, and win battles. Finally, intellect: it’s the thinking part of a person; it seeks truth and can make him a lover of wisdom or of knowledge.” “Right.” “Do you agree that it’s tough to love money, fame, and knowledge all at the same time? When it comes to a pinch, doesn’t a person tend to show his true colors by leaning towards one or the other?” “Yes.” “Of course, those who love one will tend to believe that’s the right way to go, and they’ll think that people of a different mindset must not understand life very well. To the lover of money, fame and knowledge simply don’t pay. To the lover of fame and honor, money-grubbing seems low-class, and intellectual things seem like a lot of bull. And to the philosopher, nothing else can compare to knowing the truth. To him, it’s the next thing to heaven, and the only reason he has any interest in other pleasures is that some of them are necessary.” “No doubt.” {582} “Each of these three tends to judge the other. But are their judgments right? What tools should we use to decide?” “I don’t know.” “Then I’d suggest we rely on our own experience and knowledge. One obvious question: do they all know what they’re talking about? For instance, does the lover of money know what it would be like to be a lover of honor or of knowledge?” Grey said, “The philosopher clearly has the edge there. Ever since childhood, he’s had to know what the other two are all about. By contrast, it’s very unlikely that the lover of money was ever even willing, much less able, to enjoy the pleasure of discovering absolute truth.” “And how about the lover of honor?” 137

“Well, each of these three types of people have their admirers. Whether you succeed in money or honor or wisdom, there will be others who give you attention. So that’s something that the philosopher can get on the way to another destination, but it’s all that the lover of honor has.” “So you’re saying that the philosopher is in the best position to judge the pleasures of these three different lifestyles.” “Correct.” “Besides, if the philosopher is a pursuer of wisdom, then that’s another reason why he’s in the best position to know which kind of lifestyle is best. A person who’s motivated by passion is hardly going to make a steady, reliable judgment that holds true for people generally, and the same is true for the person whose decisions are based on the greedy acquisition of things that he personally wants.” {583} “OK, OK,” Grey said. “Clearly, the philosopher is the one to make the best decision as to which pleasures are best, and we can see that he chooses the pleasures of wisdom and thought. So if he believes that he has chosen the best path, he’s probably right.” “How about the other two? In which order would the philosopher rank them?” “He’d say that the pursuit of honor is better than the pursuit of money.” I said, “All right, that gives us two different ways of reaching the conclusion that the pursuit of wisdom and justice is best. Third time’s a charm, as they say at our wrestling matches. We’ll give it one more try, and we’ll dedicate this one to Zeus, who saves us. If we score on this one, we’ll have three in a row, and the match will be a clean sweep. My question to you: according to a little old wise man whispering in my ear, the pleasures of the philosopher are the only real pleasures, and the others are bogus. What do you think?” “I’m not sure. What do you mean?” “Let’s do it by question and answer. Pleasure and pain are opposite, right?” “Right.” “There’s something in between pleasure and pain?” “Yes.” “When people are extremely ill, they say that nothing is better than health -- but they didn’t realize it until they got sick.” “Right.” “Merely being free from pain, not some positive pleasure, is the most wonderful thing they can imagine?” “Yes.” “Isn’t it the same from the other direction: when a person gets used to feeling pleasure, then it feels painful when the pleasure stops?” “Yes.” {584) “I guess you could say that there’s a contrast between the motion of the soul, at times of pleasure or pain, and the stillness of the soul, in this middle place.” “So it seems.” 138

“Then this place in between pleasure and pain, when you’re not feeling either of them, can be a pleasant experience to the person who was feeling pain, but it can also be a painful experience to the person who was feeling pleasure.” “Right.” “But this middle place -- what is it? If you can feel pleasure or pain in it, then it’s not really a middle place in between pleasure and pain; or if it is a middle place, separate from pleasure and pain, then obviously you can’t feel pleasure and pain in it. It must be that the absence of pain feels pleasant, and the absence of pleasure feels painful, but you’re not really experiencing either pleasure or pain when you’re in that middle place.” “That seems right.” “It becomes clearer when you compare these feelings to genuine pleasure or pain. Take, for example, the pleasure of a fragrant smell. There’s no pain before, and no pain after; just the experience of a genuine pleasure by itself.” “True.” “Still, we have to admit that the pseudo-pleasure that comes from the relief of pain can be pleasant indeed, especially when the pain was great. You also get something like that when you’re looking ahead, to a pleasure or pain you expect in the future. It’s sort of like top, middle, and bottom.” “Huh?” {585} “Oh, you know, when a person is at the bottom of something and goes to the middle, he knows he’s going up; and if he doesn’t know there’s a higher place, he’ll think that this middle place is the top. In other words, people who don’t know truth are confused about a lot of things, including pleasure and pain. The mere act of moving away from pain feels like real pleasure to them. Grey can look white, if you’re used to seeing black.” “That’s true.” “It’s like this. Hunger can drain the body, and ignorance can drain the soul. To get yourself back to normal, you need food for the body and knowledge for the soul. Both kinds of refreshment are pleasant, but our question is, which is more pleasant? It’s not easy to compare them directly, because they’re so different from each other; but one thing you can do is to look at the difference between what you get from the one and the other.” “OK.” “Obviously, food doesn’t operate in the realm of truth. It just keeps you alive. That’s fine, and you need it, but it doesn’t really take you anywhere. If that’s all you’ve got, you haven’t got much. Besides, eating is a pleasure that operates in the changing world of ‘becoming,’ in which things are always coming into existence and vanishing again. That means it’s not reliable. You’ll go through spells: sometimes you love to eat, and other times it’s more like a chore. Even the same food will taste better some times than others.” “Definitely.” 139

“Well, compare that to the kind of pleasure you get when you turn your attention to things that never change. When you move from ‘becoming’ to eternal ‘being,’ you’re in a world that makes sense. It’s the realm of pure mind: of absolute truth, justice, and beauty. After the screwiness of the day-to-day world, it’s like a breath of fresh air. Funny thing about these two realms, the world that doesn’t make sense versus the one that does: you notice that people get tired of the one a lot faster than the other. I don’t think there’s any question as to which is purer.” “Nope.” “If you want to get to absolute truth, and to the world of unchanging ideas, you sure won’t make it by relying on things that change all the time. It’s not what you’d expect, that the visible world, right in front of your eyes, doesn’t take you to truth; but when you’ve been yanked around enough by the workings of that world, you’ll start to believe it. If we look, not just at eating, but at all the pleasures of the visible world, and compare them to everything that we get, or could get, from the world of pure reason, then we start to see how much less satisfying the purely physical pleasures are.” “No doubt about it.” {586} “So if all you know is physical pleasure, you’re like the guy who moves up from the bottom to the middle and says, ‘It doesn’t get any better than this.’ If that’s all you expect out of life, and you don’t go looking for anything more, then maybe that’s all you’ll get. People of that type are like cows: the head goes down to the trough, and it goes up to the point of looking straight ahead, but that’s it. This is good for breeding and getting fat; you may even think it’s all so lovely that it’s worth butting and kicking for; but it’s not going to fill up the most real part of you.” “Oh, man. What a great description. These are like words from the gods.” “I’m just telling it like it is. Moving away from pain can feel like real pleasure, even if you’re only in that middle zone where pseudo-pleasure and pseudo-pain get mixed up. If you don’t know the true pleasure of higher things, then these shadows of real pleasure will look pretty good to you -- good enough, anyway, to fight over, like the cows, or like the story that Stesichorus tells, about how the Greeks fought over the shadow of Helen of Troy, thinking it was actually her. It’s what you’ll do when you get excited about the physical stuff and don’t realize that there’s much more to life than that.” “No way around it.” “Anyway, there’s not much doubt about the choice between physical and philosophical pleasures. But then there was the third kind of pleasure, the emotional kind. How does this one compare to philosophical pleasure? No doubt it feels good to respond to pain by taking action: fighting, arguing, complaining, or trying to win, to get even, or to get recognition from others. But doesn’t this lead to the same place, where you’ve gotten away from the pain but haven’t really discovered true pleasure? Does this approach move you from the changing world of the here and now to any timeless wisdom? Surely this is no better than the other approach.” “Definitely not.” 140

“In short, if either the desires or the passions take control of the soul, they’ll not only fail to get what they want, but will also twist the other energies of the soul to help pursue their preferred pleasures, and will waste them in the process. Instead of finding fulfillment and true pleasure for each of the soul’s three principles -- desires, passions, and intellect -- you’ll just wind up in that middle zone, with mere shadows of real pleasure. Only a search for absolute truth will get you beyond that. In other words, there’s a direct link between the pursuit of philosophy and the ability to find true pleasure. If the soul seeks wisdom, the desires and passions will each be harmonized to do the kind of thing that fits them, and will enjoy the pleasures that belong to them; but if the soul moves away from philosophy [literally, ‘love of wisdom’ in Greek] then the pleasures become more shadowy and confused.” {587} “Precisely.” “Of course, a path that lies far away from truth and wisdom is also likely to be far from lawful and orderly behavior. We saw that the tyrannical mindset is exactly that: it’s the pursuit of a controlling passion, no matter what upset or pain might follow. Thus we see the tyrant as the opposite of the king who ruled our perfect city; and we know that the king is happy and at peace, while the tyrant is miserable. Do you know how great the difference between them is?” “No, but I’d like to hear.” “An interesting way -- and maybe the best way -- of expressing it is to put it into numbers, or into a geometric form. Remember how we started with the kingdom and went to the timocracy and then the oligarchy? If you give each one a number, then the king will be one, the timocrat will be two, and the oligarch will be three. There are three dimensions in a cube -- length, width, and height -- and that’s how much different the oligarch is from the king. It’s as though you put the king on the top plane of a cube, the timocrat on a side plane, and the oligarch on the bottom plane. In fact, you’d have a fair picture if you put the king at one top corner of a cube and put the oligarch at the diagonally opposite bottom corner. If oligarchy was as bad as a city can be, then there wouldn’t be any greater contrast between the greatness of a philosopher-king and the ugliness of an oligarch.” “Right.” “But a city can get worse -- a lot worse. We can’t visualize more than three dimensions, so let’s start another cube, this time with the oligarch at the top corner. Count ‘em down: the oligarch is one, the democrat is two, and the tyrant is three. Now the tyrant’s at the opposite bottom corner, and there’s as much difference between him and the oligarch in this cube as there was between the oligarch and the king in the other one.” “I follow you.” “If you wanted to visualize both cubes combined into one, with five different kinds of cities, you’d need five dimensions, not three. But we can convey roughly the same idea if we stay in three dimensions and just make it a much bigger cube, with the tyrant at the bottom corner and the king very far away from him, at the opposite top 141

corner, and the three intermediate guys -- timocrat, oligarch, and democrat -- scattered in between somewhere.” “OK.” “Now let’s try to figure out how much bigger this cube has to be to express the amount of space that lies between the king’s top corner and the tyrant’s opposite bottom corner. Remember, it’s not just a simple matter of adding together the amounts of space in the two smaller cubes. That solution would work in three dimensions. But we said that we needed five dimensions because the tyrant is as many dimensions away from the oligarch as the oligarch was from the king, and we can’t visualize five dimensions.” “Yes.” “To combine those five dimensions into three, we can do a little calculation. First, let’s review. We said that there are three kinds of pleasure, pertaining to the intellect, the emotions, and the desires. In theory, each of these five different kinds of people -king, timocrat, oligarch, democrat, and tyrant -- can experience one, two, or three of those pleasures. Of course, as we’ve observed, the king fully experiences them all, and the others tend to experience less and less, until you get to the tyrant, who experiences none of them.” “Right.” “And let’s say we were measuring our little cubes in terms of inches. Then to express the possible degrees of pleasure, each dimension would measure three inches: one inch for each kind of pleasure. Then each side of the cube would be three inches long, and the king’s plane would be 3 inches square. Same for the timocrat’s and all the others. So the amount of space from king to timocrat to oligarch would be 3 x 3 x 3, or 27 cubic inches. That would be the size of the first little cube.” “I understand the image.” “Likewise for the second little cube: the space from oligarch to democrat to tyrant would be 27 cubic inches. And, as we noted, you wouldn’t just add these two cubes to express the amount of space between king and tyrant, because that would be a three-dimensional solution. Rather, you’d multiply 27 x 27 = 729. That’s how much greater the king’s position is than the tyrant’s.” {588} “That’s a really interesting calculation! It does give a flavor of how the distances multiply when you convert those five dimensions into three and try to locate each of the different kinds of people in the bigger cube.” “There’s something else interesting about it. Philolaus, pupil of Pythagoras, says there are 364.5 days in each year, and the same number of nights. Add them together, and you get 729. From this, he also defines something that he calls a ‘great year,’ in which there are 729 months; and that, you notice, is just over 60 years, which is not far off from the human life span. Not to make too much of it, but this number 729 is an interesting one indeed, for purposes of measuring human time and pleasure. The real point, in any case, is that there’s a tremendous difference in the pleasure experienced by the good man as compared to the bad one; and if that’s true of mere pleasure, just think 142

how much greater the difference must be when you go to higher, eternal things, like absolute beauty. The good man’s life is infinitely better than the bad one’s.” “Yes. It’s a stunning contrast.” “I think we’re finally in a place where we can return to the notion, which someone expressed at the beginning of this whole discussion, that the best approach is to be perfectly unjust, while pretending to be just, because injustice pays off. To the person who says that, let’s display a clay sculpture of the soul. Let’s work from the examples of mythical creatures like Chimera, Scylla, or Cerberus. Chimera was a combination of lion’s front, a she-goat’s middle, and a dragon’s rear. Scylla was a woman’s face and breasts, with six dogs’ heads, hair made of snakes, and a dragon’s tail. Cerberus was a three-headed dog. You get the idea. Basically, we’re imagining a creature with a ring of heads, with each head being able to change into some other kind of head.” “It’s going to be some sculptor who can work the clay easily enough to keep up, but let’s just suppose that he can.” “Right. Also, let’s have the sculptor make a second thing -- a lion -- that’s smaller than this first bizarre creature we were just imagining. And then a third thing -- a little man -- that’s smaller than the second. The monster stands for the desires, the lion stands for the heart -- the passions -- and the little man stands for the intellect. Then let’s imagine that all three get put inside of one creature, which takes on a human shape and looks perfectly normal.” “OK.” {589} “Now, if the payoff comes from being unjust, then here’s what should happen inside this thing that looks like a man. The food should go to the monster and the lion, because they are the fiercest, and the little guy inside there will go hungry. Instead of playing peacemaker between the monster and the lion, the little man will get dragged around as they fight one another.” “Right.” “That’s very different from what would happen if we encouraged justice, because then you’d give that little man control over the other two, so that he can train the monster to change its heads into good ones rather than nasty ones, and can bring the lion around to cooperate with him -- sort of like a farmer who trains his animals to behave. If justice is the guiding principle, then you wind up with these three creatures cooperating.” “Exactly.” “It’s better for them all to cooperate. Earlier, when we were dealing with those cubes, we decided that the just king has vastly more pleasure than the unjust tyrant; and now we’re saying that justice also produces a nobler, more productive outcome than the constant fighting that you get when you encourage injustice. Any way you look at it, justice seems better.” “It really does.”


“Some people think injustice is the way to go, but not because they’re deliberately evil. They just don’t know any better. If we ask someone like that whether it’s more decent to make a man serve an animal, or to make an animal serve a man, he’s going to say that of course the latter is more decent. Then we can ask him how he feels about the idea of giving up the best part of your soul to serve the worst, in exchange for money: isn’t it really the same thing? You can sell your son or daughter to horrible men, but there’s no way you come out a winner in that transaction, and that’s what it’s like when you sell your divine soul to some primitive force. It’s far worse than the story about Eriphyle, who took a pretty necklace from Polynices in exchange for persuading her husband to go on a military mission that killed him.” {590} “Much worse,” Grey said. “The many-headed monster of desire is a problem. For centuries, people have known that if you don’t practice moderation, this beast will get out of control.” “Right.” “The lion within us is a potential problem too. On one hand, if you let it get too strong, then you’ve got the problem of being arrogant and bad-tempered. On the other hand, if you tame it with the desires rather than with the intellect, letting luxury and weakness get the best of you, then pretty soon you’ll be letting money turn you into a sweet-talking low-life, and the lion in you will become a detestable little monkey. For example, the real reason why people will look down on you, if you take a job that’s beneath your true abilities, is that it suggests that the man within you serves the animals, doing what they please.” “True.” “A person who can’t let the best part of him rule himself, therefore, is going to be happier if he is ruled by someone who can let reason govern his life. Contrary to what Thrasher said, it is for his own benefit that a person who cannot properly rule his own life is ruled, at least, by some other wise, godlike person. That way, people can get along with one another as friends and equals.” “Agreed.” {591} “We control our children, and don’t let them run free until we’ve set up a ruler in their hearts like the one in our own. A child is a one-person version of a city’s constitution and laws, which should be for the benefit of everyone.” “Yeah. That’s clearly the purpose of the law.” “So then how can anybody say that misbehavior -- injustice or wild living or whatever -- is good for you? Even if you gain money or power by it, you’re still a worse person than you were before. It may seem like the best thing is to get away with doing wrong, but that’s actually the worst, because then there’s nothing to stop you from going further astray. If you get caught, the better part of you has a chance to grow in wisdom, justice, and moderation. No matter how much good you try to do for your body, it’s never as good as doing good for your soul, simply because the soul is a greater thing.” “It sure is.” 144

“Improving the soul is what the wise man will do. The most important thing: the right kind of studies. Next: physical self-control. The point is to learn moderation and keep the soul in balance, not necessarily to worry too much about being in great shape.” “That’s how he’ll see it, if his soul contains true music.” “Harmony is also necessary to maintain the proper perspective on moneymaking. Even if everybody else thinks that money is wonderful, there’s no point in piling up riches and causing yourself endless trouble. When you manage the city of your soul, you want to keep it orderly by making sure it doesn’t have too much or too little. Similarly, if they want to give you some kind of special recognition, that’s great if it makes you a better person, but otherwise you’re better off avoiding it.” “But the person who does that will never be a public leader.” {592} “I swear on the dog of Egypt -- I say he will! Not in his own land, maybe, but in the perfect city; and anyone who wants to look to the never-changing world of ideas can see the ‘city plan’ that heaven is holding in store for him, and can create it for himself and live his life there. It’s not important that there be a physical city of that kind; the important thing is that the person who sees this pattern and copies it in his own life can spend the rest of his life living as they do in that perfect city, and never living anywhere else.” “Excellent,” he replied. Traditional Book Ten (Stephanus page number 595) “I don’t want to rehash what we’ve already discussed,” I said, “but I have to tell you that nothing in the perfect city pleases me more than our rule about imitative poetry. I’m not talking about little rhymes, but about big story-telling poems, like Homer’s, and plays. I’m really glad we agreed to get rid of that sort of thing.” “How come?” “Well, don’t tell the poets and playwrights, but just between you and me, I think all those poetic imitations of reality can really screw up a person’s understanding of reality, and that the only cure is to know the real nature of your own soul.” “I don’t understand.” “I’ve always thought Homer was tremendous, the leader of the pack, and even now I hesitate to criticize him. But I can’t let that keep me from telling the truth about it. So let me tell you -- no, let me ask you: what, exactly, is this thing that we call imitation?” “Hey, if you don’t know, I’m certainly no expert.” “Maybe not, but sometimes the person with fuzzy vision finds it easier to skip the details and get the big picture.” {596} He said, “Even if I knew, I’d be shy about piping up to your face. Come on, tell me what this is all about.”


“All right. Let’s start with a general statement, as we usually do. Do you agree with this: when we have a bunch of similar items -- beds, for instance, or tables -- we assume that there must be something they share in common, a basic idea of what they are? You can have a lot of different kinds of beds, but the thing that ties them all together is that they all fit with that one idea of what it is to be a “bed.” And don’t we know that there is such an idea, because otherwise we’d look at something and you’d call it a bed and I might call it a tree?” “Yes.” “A woodworker who makes beds doesn’t create the idea of a bed; he just uses it. And if that’s all it takes, then can’t we imagine a person who was able to make anything that anyone else can make? I mean, he could make not just beds and tables, but plants and animals, heaven and earth, hell and himself and even the gods. Quite a guy, right?” “I’d say.” “But what if I told you that you, yourself, could do that? Here’s an example of how you might do it: you take a mirror, point it at things, and presto! There you are. Anything that you can see, you can make a copy of.” “Oh, not a real-life copy. Just an image of it.” {597} “Yeah, and that’s the point. When you paint a picture of a bed, or get an image of it in your mirror, you’re like the woodworker who doesn’t create the idea that applies to all beds, but just copies it to make one single bed. This copy is a reflection, probably imperfect, of the real thing. We’re used to talking about beds and tables as though they were the most real, ultimate reality; but the fact is that they’re just images of the greater, unchanging reality in the world of ideas.” “Right.” “So let’s suppose you’ve got three beds. God makes one, the woodworker makes one, and the artist makes one. In fact, God makes only one. If he made two beds, both would have in common the idea of ‘bed,’ which would mean that there would have to be another idea of ‘bed’ behind them. The bed created by God applies to all existence everywhere; the one created by the woodworker is merely one single imitation of it; and the one in the painter’s picture is an imitation of that imitation. God wanted to make the only perfect kind of bed, not just some particular bed here or there -- just as he is the natural maker of everything else.” “I understand.” “You could say that both God and the woodworker make a bed, although on different levels; but the painter doesn’t actually make anything and, worse, the thing he imitates is the carpenter’s bed, which itself is only an imitation of the true idea of ‘bed.’ He’s third in line away from reality or true nature. Same thing with tragic poets: they’re not the king, or the truth; and they’re not the others who are actually doing what they think the king wants, or what they think the truth is; they’re just imitators of what those people are doing and thinking.” “Correct.” {598}


“You can’t paint a picture of a whole bed. You can only paint the sides of it that are facing you. And if you change your position, the whole thing looks different, even though nothing has changed about the particular bed you’re looking at -- to say nothing of the true, unchanging idea of ‘bed’ created by God. In other words, the painting is only an imitation of the appearance of reality. The painter can paint anything he wants because he’s barely touching one part of the mere image of the truth.” “Indeed.” “A good painter can paint a picture of a person, so that, from a distance, it looks like a real person. It’s not really, of course, and the people most apt to be fooled are kids and dimwits. Likewise, a man who says he has found a person who knows everything is, I believe, a man whom we will consider an easily fooled simpleton, who must have met up with a good bullshitter.” “No kidding.” “So how are we supposed to react when we hear someone say that Homer and other storytellers must understand mankind and the gods exceedingly well, since otherwise they’d never be able to do such a good job of describing their subjects?” “Good question.” {599} “Certainly we must consider the possibility that they, too, have met a good imitator, or that they weren’t really asking themselves, ‘Does this guy know what he’s talking about?’ They may have been persuaded to go with the flow because it was such a fine story. Think about it: if a person had the ability to create the reality, would he waste his time on imitations? A person who had not only a strong creative drive, but also the ability to accomplish something meaningful, wouldn’t be fooling around with imitations. He’d be out there in the world, actually doing the great, creative works. They’d be writing about him, instead of the other way around.” “Very good point.” “So let’s ask Homer a question. Let’s not ask whether he has actually practiced medicine and cured people, instead of just talking about it, and let’s not ask about any of the other things he happens to mention along the way while telling his great stories. Instead, let’s get right to the heart of it, and ask about the military, political, and educational topics that are at the core of his writings. ‘Homer, good buddy,’ we’ll ask, ‘if you’re so smart about these things, show us a single city that you have actually helped to govern. Show us that you’ve got hands-on experience, like Lycurgus in Lacedaemon, or like Charondas in Italy and Sicily, or like we used to have when Solon was alive.’ Tell me: what city is Homer going to name?” “None. Not even his pupils considered him a skilled legislator.” {600} “Oh, well, then there must be some war in which he played an important part, or he must have invented some great things, like Thales and Anacharsis did.” “Nothing I can think of.” “Perhaps in private life, then. He must have been a famous teacher, or the kind of person who showed us a different way to live and who, like Pythagoras, still has a cult of people who follow him as a great guide.” 147

“Not at all, Socrates. We laugh at the name of Creophylus -- it means ‘belonging to the meat tribe’ -- but we’d laugh even more at his stupidity if he, Homer’s companion, was too dumb to realize how great Homer was. But evidently he wasn’t dumb. What we hear is that few people who knew Homer paid much attention to him.” “Yeah, and isn’t that odd for someone whom we now consider this historical genius? Nowadays, advisors like Protagoras and Prodicus need only suggest that their help is essential for any good educational program, and bingo! they’re hired, and people practically carry them around on their shoulders. If these characters, far less famous than Homer, are able to get that much respect, you have to believe that people would have been falling all over themselves to hear Homer’s advice, if they had thought it was worth anything. They’d have insisted that he stay in their homes so that they could be near him; if necessary, they would have become his disciples, following him around to learn more of his wisdom.” “Clearly they would have.” {601} “The fact is, you can paint a picture of a shoemaker without knowing anything about shoemaking, and that’s what Homer has accomplished in his military stories and all the rest. Likewise for the storytellers that have followed him. Of course, we can’t prevent people who know nothing about the subject from reading this stuff and thinking, ‘Gee, he must really know a lot about it,’ especially if it’s expressed in lovely words and music. It’s not always so attractive when it’s presented without the music, as dismal prose; in that case it reminds you of a face that never was very pretty and is now well past that.” “Exactly.” “You could say there are three different kinds of skilled people: those who describe a thing, those who make it, and those who actually use it. Like a horse’s bridle: there’s the horseman who uses the reins and bit, the craftsman who makes them, and the painter who takes a look and imitates them. Whether we’re talking about horsemen or flute-players -- whatever mankind does, there are these three levels of understanding of the subject. The end-user is, of course, the one with the most experience in the actual purpose of the thing, and the one who generally makes requests and suggestions for improvements; the maker can learn a lot about what is needed by watching and listening to the user, and may have some ideas of his own; but the imitator cannot tell, from his mere imitation, whether what he has drawn will work. He might be useful if he can find a way of helping the maker or user in their work, but to the extent that he pursues his own vocation, he’s only drawing what people want to see, or what he wants to draw. Ordinarily, in terms of product improvement, he’s superfluous.” {602} “Yep.” “Imitation is more play than work, based on no knowledge to speak of, and the tragic poets are as imitative as you can get. So tell me: which part of the human body does imitation affect?” “Beg your pardon?”


“Well. When you look at something, it looks big if it’s close and small if it’s far away, crooked in the water but straight otherwise, curved the wrong way in the case of an optical illusion, and so on. Magicians know full well that, when it comes to eyesight, you can take advantage of certain mental weaknesses. To counter those weaknesses, we use tools, such as measures, scales, and numbers.” “True.” {603} “In other words, the rational part of the soul looks for ways to correct the mistakes of eyesight. We recognize that you won’t get good results if you use bad tools. The calculations sometimes contradict one’s mere opinions, and in those cases the measurements and calculations win. Doesn’t this tell us that painting, which is based on eyesight, must be an inferior way of finding truth as compared to reasoning? And -thinking of poetry in particular, which is based on hearing -- won’t the same be true of any other activity that relies on senses rather than reason?” “Probably.” “Probably? Let’s be sure. In real life, people do things -- voluntarily or not -- and then they believe that they’ve done well, or poorly, and they feel good or bad about what they’ve done. Am I right so far?” “You’re right.” “I think we’ve already noted that the soul is full of ten thousand differing opinions, contradicting one another about such things. When we were talking about that, though, we left out something. It goes like this. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think a good man who loses his son or suffers some other tragedy will accept it more easily than a bad man. It’s not that the good man doesn’t feel the pain; he just won’t take it as bitterly. He’ll try to keep it in perspective, and he’ll act like he’s going to pick up and move ahead with life -- especially when he thinks others are watching him. When he’s by himself, he’ll show his grief to an extent that he wouldn’t want others to see.” {604} “That’s right.” “So he’s torn between the reasonable and the unreasonable, between moderating and indulging his feelings. Of course, as we noted quite a while ago, the same thing can’t do two opposite things at the same time, so there must be two separate principles at work in him. On one hand, he believes you’re supposed to endure hardship patiently, because it doesn’t help to get frustrated and, for all he knows, there might be a bigger good result from this one bad event. He also knows that no human thing is really significant, and that he shouldn’t let his feelings keep him from accepting the roll of the dice and deciding what needs to be done next. Rather than act like a little kid who just fell down and is now bawling and holding onto the hurt part, he believes he should always discipline himself to accept the situation and make the best of it, like a person who patches up that little kid’s scrape.” “Yeah. That’s the right way to respond to bad luck.” “On the other hand, he’s tempted to avoid what reason tells him to do. A big part of him -- an irrational, fearful, rebellious, passionate, useless part -- urges him to go on 149

and on with complaints and memories about all his bad luck. And for some reason, actors and plays that imitate the reasonable principle are never as good at conveying that principle, or at stoking our interest in it, as they are when they imitate the rebellious principle. The latter gives the poets lots of raw material, and they make the most of it. I guess it’s not surprising, especially when the plays are performed at a festival before a rowdy crowd, for whom the reasonable principle is alien.” “Indeed.” {605} “Poets are not stupid. They know which way the wind blows. If the public reacts more strongly to imitations of the rebellious principle, then that’s what the poet will address. This makes him like the painter: both work with opinions rather than knowledge, and as a result they both convey half-truths at best. These are not the kind of characters we want in a perfect city: they encourage the passions and discourage reasoning. Giving them the power to affect a soul is like putting bad people in charge of a city: it encourages a reliance on images that are very far from the truth.” “Definitely.” “The worst thing about poetry is that it harms almost everyone, including the good people, because almost anyone is going to react emotionally when they hear Homer describe the pain of a fallen hero who’s telling his sad tale or quietly weeping. When we experience our own tragedies, the best part of us tells us to ‘take it like a man,’ but Homer wants us to sob like a woman. I ask you: does it make sense to admire Homer’s hero for acting in a way that we, personally, would be ashamed of?” “Nope.” “Are you sure?” {606} “Well ... why would it?” “You might say that we know we’re not supposed to cry and carry on for ourselves, but we’re not so well trained that we’ll refrain from showing sympathy when someone else is in misery. The audience believes that it’s OK to lend an ear to someone who comes along, moaning about how he’s such a good man and has had such rotten luck, and that it would be really cold and unnecessary to lose this chance to hear such a good story and experience such a sensitive feeling. People just don’t stop to realize that sometimes the listener’s own behavior is affected by the bad traits of others, such as this complaining ‘hero.’ For example, the next time something goes wrong for you, you find it harder to resist feeling sorry for yourself like he did.” “That certainly happens.” “That’s an example from tragedy, but the same happens with comedy. You watch enough goofy or crude stuff on the stage, and you’ll start to act that way yourself -- even if you started out with the attitude that you’d be ashamed to behave, in your own life, in the foolish way that the actors do during the performance. If reason does not prevent you from laughing at fools in the theater, you’ll eventually learn to act like a clown at home.” “Definitely.”


“Same thing with any other feeling: anger, sexual desire, or whatever. You can’t separate the feelings from actions. Poetry feeds them all, emphasizing the bad ones as we’ve said, and it lets them run loose, which is exactly the opposite of what you need for a city ruled by happiness and virtue. So when you hear someone praising Homer as the teacher of all Greece, saying that he gave us all this wonderful education in the management of our lives and that you should read him more often -- when you hear that, you can certainly agree that Homer is the greatest of the poets and playwrights, and you can love the person talking to you and can realize that he probably means well, but you’ve got to remember that the sweet-tongued deception of poetry will lead to government by pleasure and pain, not by law and reason, and that there’s no place for this in the perfect city.” {607} “Absolutely.” “This might seem rude or harsh, but let’s point out that there has been a conflict between philosophy and poetry for centuries. That’s why we have so many sayings in which the one side ridicules the other -- for example, calling one another “skilled in the useless phrases of idiots” or “deep thinkers who happen to beg for a living.” Still, to make sure we’ve reached a fair conclusion, let’s allow the skills of the imitators to enter our perfect city, if they can just prove that they belong there. After all, we were raised to love their works; and if I’m not mistaken, Grey, you like Homer as much as I do.” “I do indeed.” “Well, if the poets can write a persuasive poem, and if their supporters can give us convincing arguments in prose, we certainly wouldn’t want to make the mistake of excluding something that would benefit us all. We’ll listen fairly and put the best construction on what we hear. But if there’s no such benefit, we know that we’ll have to restrain ourselves and stick with the view we know to be best, chanting it to ourselves -even if we struggle against the loss that it requires, like lovers who must part. On the other hand, even if we do allow poetry into our city, we’ll know that we can’t treat it as truth, and we’ll have to be on our guard when we listen to it.” “Yes.” {608} “It’s important to get this right. Poetry seems innocent, but it has the power to affect whether a person becomes good or bad. A man gains nothing by letting himself be led away from justice and virtue by money, power, or honor -- or by the thrill of poetry.” Grey said, “I think anyone would have to agree.” “You say that, but we haven’t even really talked, yet, about the entire list of rewards that a person gets for concentrating on virtue.” “You mean there are more than you’ve already said?” “Everything we’ve said has to do with the seventy-year period of human life. How does that compare against eternity?” “Obviously, it’s only a speck.” “If a creature lives forever, would you advise it to make its decisions according to what’s best for such a tiny portion of its existence?” 151

“Of course not.” “Well, you do know that the human soul lives forever, don’t you?” He was stunned. “You’re kidding. Do you seriously believe that?” “I do, and you should too. It’s not hard to prove.” “That would surprise me. Please, share this argument that seems so clear to you.” “All right, then listen to what I have to say.” “I’m listening.” “Do we agree that there’s good and evil, and that good protects and improves things while evil wears it down and destroys it?” “Sure.” “And do we agree that there seems to be some form of evil for almost anything you can name? For example, the eye can get infected or hurt, wood can burn or rot, etc.” {609} “Yes.” “But if you don’t have any such evil, then the thing continues along just fine.” “Right.” “If something does become affected by an evil, the thing itself is no longer good, and may be on its way to ruin. For instance, if the human body becomes diseased, it can wear down and eventually die. But we see, in each case, that the cause of ruin is an internal weakness of the thing itself. A person’s body can be destroyed by bad food, not because the food was bad, but because the bad food provoked the body to become bad too. If the body didn’t respond that way, the bad food would have no effect.” {610} “Correct.” “On the other hand, if you could find something that no evil could destroy, then of course it would last forever.” “Obviously.” “The soul, we’ve said, does have corresponding evils that can ruin it.” “Sure: injustice, lack of moderation, cowardice, and ignorance.” “And yet we see that souls with these evils still live. Now, if we haven’t identified an evil that can wipe out the soul while the body is alive, then why should we think that there must be an evil that can destroy the soul after the body dies? The body and the soul are clearly not the same -- after all, the body may be injured or improved without any corresponding effect on the soul. So what happens to evil souls after the body dies?” Grey said, “Well, nobody is ever going to be able to prove that they become more unjust and eventually dissolve, if that’s what you mean.” “But I guess that someone who doesn’t believe the soul lives forever could say that the evil in it follows the same path as evil in anything else, which is to become steadily worse until the thing is destroyed. In response, we’d have to say that injustice in evil people must be something that grows until it kills them, body and soul -quickly, if they get a big dose of it. But where do we see anything like that happening? 152

It’s clearly not the same as the death that results from being condemned and executed, by other men, as a penalty for evil.” “And the death caused by the growth of evil within the soul could actually be a relief, killing the evil person before he has a chance to be executed. But as you say, it doesn’t seem to work this way. I don’t see evil wearing bad people down. On the contrary, the kind of injustice that causes one man to murder others also causes him to become more keenly awake and focused on his own survival. It’s a long way from there to death’s door.” “You’re right,” I said. “There’s no sign that the soul’s own innate evil destroys it. So we don’t find anything, either internal or external, that destroys souls. It sure looks like souls live forever.” {611} “It does indeed.” “In which case, we also have to conclude that the number of souls never decreases, since none of them ever dies. Also, we can’t really believe that the physical birth of a mortal body is somehow able to create an immortal soul. The more likely thing is that the soul exists before physical birth, and that the total number of souls existing now, in physical bodies or otherwise, is the same as the total number that ever has existed or ever will.” “That does seem more likely.” “Then again, I don’t think so. It’s really no easier to believe this than it is to believe that the soul, in its core, is many different things, or is full of disagreement with itself.” “Huh?” “Grey, we’ve already shown that the soul must be immortal, and if the argument we gave hadn’t been good enough to prove that, we could have given others. But what is this immortal soul all about? At present, we see it all fouled up from its contact with the body and other assorted woes. But if we look at it through the eye of reason, we may still be able to see some of its original purity, and to look at its beauty, its different kinds of justice and injustice, and all the other traits we’ve talked about. We’ve described those traits as they appear to us now, but we’re not seeing them any more clearly than we could see the original image of Glaucus, the man who threw himself into the sea and became a god, and whose original shape has been ruined by the waves and has been plastered over with shells, stones, and seaweed, to the point that he looks like a monster.” “True.” “If we want to catch a glimpse of what the soul once was, and what it could become, we have to look at its love of wisdom. The love of wisdom is very closely related to the soul’s eternal and godlike nature. If the soul followed that love, it would be carried up out of the ocean, freed from all those stones and shells of human life as we now live it -- or, if you prefer, it would be lifted up from the dirt and overgrowth covering it on dry land -- and we would be able to see it for what it really is, as one thing rather than as many, with no disagreement in itself. Seeing this, it would seem 153

unnecessary to say any more about the kind of broken, overgrown soul that we see in ordinary human life.” “I agree.” {612} “So we’ve done what we set out to do at the beginning. Far from praising justice in terms of its outward rewards, as Homer and Hesiod do, we’ve found that justice is best for the soul, in and of itself, regardless of whether everyone else praises it or not. Even if the soul is made invisible because it wears the ring of Gyges, or doubly invisible by wearing the helmet of Hades as well, it should still be just.” “Absolutely.” “Then let’s spare a moment to talk about the great benefits that the soul receives from the gods and from men, in this life and after death, as a reward for practicing justice and the other virtues.” “Sure.” “Before we do, though, I wonder if you’d mind returning the thing that you borrowed from me while we were talking earlier.” “I borrowed something from you?” “Yes. You asked me to concede that the just man we were describing would have to appear to be unjust, so that we would know he was motivated by the desire for justice itself, and not merely the desire for everyone’s approval. Now I want that concession back. I must insist that justice deals with reality, and that there can’t be any deception about it. If the man is just, then let him stand forth as a just man, and let him receive his due from the gods and from men.” “Oh. Yeah, fine.” “All right. Now, if the gods are able to tell who’s just and who isn’t, and if the two of them are totally opposite as far as the gods are concerned, then one of them must be the friend of the gods and one must be their enemy, right?” “Right.” “The one who’s their friend will ordinarily receive only good things from them, of course, except maybe in rare cases when something he did wrong in the past comes back to haunt him.” {613} “Yes.” “We noted that the just man, pursuing virtue, seeks to move closer to the divine, and we must assume that the gods would prefer a person of that orientation to someone who seeks just the opposite. It seems likely, then, that no matter what happens to the just man, it will all work out to produce some good, in his life or perhaps even in his death; but that the unjust man will get the opposite.” “I believe it.” “That’s what the gods give the just man. What do his fellow men give him? Imagine a footrace in which everyone must go from the starting line to the far end of the course, and then turn around and come back. The unjust man goes racing off from the start, and for a while it looks like he’s way ahead of the others. But by the time the race is over, the just man tends to be the one who has kept up the best pace, while the unjust 154

man comes dragging back to the finish line, like a discouraged animal whose ears are drooping down on his shoulders. When life pits justice against injustice, justice tends to come out ahead, and the just man gets the respect and, often, the prize.” “That’s right.” “So the things you started out saying about the unjust turn out, instead, to be true of the just. Just people have opportunities to become rulers, to marry and to give in marriage, and to do all the other things you said were the rewards of injustice. What really happens to the unjust people is not this good stuff; rather, they may get away with things when they’re young, but they usually get caught and publicly embarrassed eventually, and in their old age they may well be treated like scum. And all along the way, their path brings them the risk of being beaten and tortured for their deeds. You gave a long list of what could happen to them, and instead of repeating that list, which doesn’t make for pleasant conversation, I’d rather you just agree that the things on your list are, in fact, more likely to apply to the unjust than to the just.” “I do agree with that.” “So we’ve said that justice has its own rewards, and that, in addition, gods and men treat the just man well.” {614} “His rewards are lovely and long-lasting indeed.” “And yet they’re nothing compared with his rewards after death; and once we’ve completed that tale, we will have given both just and unjust men what they have deserved from us, in our attempt to describe them properly.” “Then please go on with it. I can’t think of many things I’d be more eager to hear.” “Homer tells a long, drawn-out story about a trip down to Hell. They call it the story of Alcinous. Everybody says the story is too long, so I won’t bore you with it. Instead, I’ll tell you a different story, almost as long, about a strong man with a weak mind. His name was Er, and he was the son of Armenius, and had been born in Pamphylia. He died in battle, and his body laid there on the battlefield for ten days before they got around to picking it up for burial. But unlike the other corpses, rotting around him, Er’s body had not decayed at all. Instead, just before the funeral, two days later, he came back to life and started talking. “Er said that, after death, he found himself traveling with a large number of others. They came to a strange place where there were four openings. Two went down into the earth -- one on the right and one on the left -- and the other two went up into the sky. At that place, judges were passing sentence on each soul. They put signs on the backs of the unjust, indicating what they had done wrong, and then told them to go into the left-hand opening downwards. The judges also put signs on the front sides of the just souls, saying what they had done right, and then told them to go into the righthand opening upwards. When Er’s turn came, they told him he was a messenger, and said that he would be coming back to life to tell everybody what he had seen. “So he watched, and he saw the other two openings being used by souls that were coming back down from Heaven or up from Hell. The ones from above were clean 155

and sparkling, while the ones from below were dusty and tired from their trip. All these returning souls got together in a big field there, spread out as though they were at a big picnic, hugging and feeling really glad to see their friends again. {615} Then they started comparing notes with one another, telling what it was like down below or up above. It turns out that they had been in Heaven or Hell for a thousand years at that point, so they had a lot to tell. The ones from Hell were crying just to think of what they had gone through, while the ones from Heaven were trying to describe things so beautiful that you couldn’t even imagine them, let alone explain them. “The gist of it was that all their rewards -- whether in Heaven or Hell -- were ten times what they had done during their lives. For instance, if they had betrayed one person’s life, they’d be punished during ten lifetimes in Hell. A lifetime was calculated at a hundred years, so now, after a thousand years, they had received their ten punishments. The punishments he described for disrespect to gods and to one’s parents, and for murder, were really horrendous. On a more positive note, the good things that the just souls had done were also be rewarded every hundred years. You can imagine for yourself what he said about infants who died shortly after birth. “Anyway, he said that one of the souls had asked another, ‘Where is Ardiaeus the Great?’ Ardiaeus was a horrible tyrant, murderer of his own father and older brother, who had finished his first thousand years in Hell. The other one said, ‘He’ll never come here. We were just about to step into the tunnel and come back up here for this reunion, when we saw him and some other great criminals. They figured that their thousand years were done and that they’d be coming along up here with us, but whenever they or anyone else who had not been punished enough tried to enter the tunnel, it roared at them, and on that signal these terrible guys who looked like fire came running up, grabbed Ardiaeus and the others, carried them off, tied them up, whipped them, dragged them along the road and through the thorns, and announced that they were being hauled away to eternal punishment.’ {616} This soul said that, of all the things they had seen, nothing scared them like the fear that the same thing would happen to them when they tried to enter that tunnel; and they were incredibly happy when it didn’t, so that they could come up to this reunion. “After spending a week at the reunion, the souls all had to march. They marched for four days, and then they saw a tremendous rainbow, with utterly pure colors, coming straight down from Heaven. It took another day’s march to reach the thing, and at that point they could see it more clearly. It was the light that holds the universe together in a circle. Coming out of the light, he saw a shaft made of something as hard as steel. The shaft pierced eight orbits that nest into one another, sort of like stacking bowls: they’re all separate, and yet they’re all part of one circle. Rim number one, farthest out, is broadest because it contains all the different-colored stars. The sun, number seven and brightest, lights the moon, number eight. {617} Jupiter, number six, is almost as white as Venus, number three. Saturn, number two, is yellow, like Mercury, number five. Mars, number four, is red. As I say, the stars form the broadest rim, and then the next broadest is Jupiter, then Mars, moon, sun, Mercury, Venus, and finally 156

Saturn is the narrowest. The shaft rotates in one direction, and all these slowly go the other direction. The one with the fastest rotation is the moon. Next fastest are the sun, Jupiter, and Mercury, which all move at the same speed. Mars is next, followed by Venus, then Saturn. “The god of the Inevitable holds the shaft in his lap. Just above each of the eight rims, there’s a singing sea nymph, like the Sirens who, according to legend, lured sailors to turn their boats toward the rocks. These go around, but they don’t sing songs. They just sing one note. Combine all eight of them, and you’ve got a harmonious sound. Outside the eight circles, the three daughters of Inevitability sit on thrones, wearing white, with wreaths on their heads. Their names are Lachesis, who sings about the past and whose name means “the one who hands out good and bad possibilities”; Clotho, the spinner, who sings about the present and turns the shaft; and Atropos, “inevitable,” who sings about the future. With the Sirens providing the harmony, these three goddesses sing about what has been, is, or will be. Atropos spins the inner rims with her left hand; Clotho twirls the outer ones with her right; and Lachesis pitches in here and there. “Anyway, these souls all arrived at this scene, and they had to go directly to Lachesis. A spokesman of the goddesses stopped them and lined them up, and then got up on a stage and said, ‘Lachesis, distributor of fates, has given me some numbers to hand out at random. You’re all going to get a new go-round of life. Whoever gets number one gets to choose first, number two comes next, and so on. When it’s your turn, you choose from among the different kinds of lives we can offer you, and what you choose is going to be your fate. Some are going to choose a life of virtue, and I say good for them; but it’s up to each of you individually what you decide. Nobody’s going to blame the outcome on God.’ So then the spokesman scattered numbers among the crowd. Er wasn’t allowed to take one, but everybody else did. {618} The spokesman put out a big display of the lives that were available, and there were all kinds: animals and humans of every sort, a lot more choices than there were souls to choose them. Among the choices available to the men, some were tyrants who ruled for their whole lives, while others were tyrants whose rule did not last long; some were winners in assorted ways because of their great qualities and abilities, and some were losers. The women had a similar variety of choices. Of course, these new lives weren’t yet fully arranged to match the souls who could choose them, because the soul tends to be changed, one way or another, depending on the kind of life it experiences. “And that, Grey, is the point. Each of us is in great danger. Being human sets you free to go down many different roads, but the soul is going to be seriously influenced by the circumstances of the life it lives. The only wise course is to ignore the many irrelevant kinds of knowledge you might pursue, and to concentrate on the one thing that matters: the difference between good and evil. If you can find someone to teach you that, then you’ll know how to steer yourself toward the better choice and away from the worse one, each time your life puts you in a place of having to make a decision. And there’s a lot to the process of getting that knowledge. It includes all the 157

stuff we’ve been talking about. You’ve got to know what beauty can do to the soul of a poor person or a rich one; you’ve got to think about the good and bad things that come from being high-class or low-class, publicly recognized or not, strong or weak, smart or stupid, and all the other abilities and achievements that a soul can acquire. “If you know your way around these things, you’ll recognize that the life that makes you unjust is the evil life, and the one that makes you just is the good life. You’ll disregard anything that doesn’t lead toward the good because you’ll know how it pays off in life and after death. {619} You want to die with a solid commitment to good, so that when your choice comes as to your fate, like the souls that Er found himself with, you’ll choose wisely. You definitely don’t want to be tempted to become a tyrant, causing great pain to others and yourself. Going to extremes can take you off the deep end; but if you can find the good, wise, middle course, you’ll be happy. “According to Er, that’s what the spokesman said. ‘There are plenty of good choices to go around,’ he said. ‘Even if you’re way down on the list, you can still find a happy life if you choose well and you’re willing to work at it. And even if you’re first, you can still screw up big-time.’ After the spokesman said that, the souls started choosing. The first soul came up and, with a mind full of stupidity and desire, immediately grabbed the most powerful, tempting, tyrannical life of all. It took a few minutes for him to think about it, but when the glitter faded, he started to see that he was doomed to do the most horrible things you could imagine, right down to a crazed feast at which he would eat his own children. When he saw what was in store for him, he yelled and bawled and accused the gods of ruining him, but as the spokesman had said, he had no one to blame but himself. “The funny thing about that particular guy was that he had just come down from spending a thousand years in heaven. You’d think he would have known better. But what got him into heaven was that he came from a decent city, and had lived a pretty decent life as a matter of habit rather than as something he was really committed to. He wasn’t the only one, either. Others from heaven made similar mistakes; meanwhile, those who had been through pain, and had paid some attention to philosophical things, took their time and tried to choose more carefully. {620} “All in all, there were some pretty surprising reversals of good for bad, and vice versa, and some strange choices of destiny. For example, the soul that had been Orpheus, murdered by women and hating them forever, chose to be a swan rather than be born to a female human; birds that sang musically wanted to have human musical abilities, and other animals became different kinds of humans, some good, some bad; Thamyras, the singer whom the jealous singing goddesses stripped of his voice, decided to become a nightingale; Ajax and Agamemnon, who hated humanity, decided to be a lion and an eagle, respectively; Atalanta, who lost the footrace to Hippomenes and was therefore forced to marry him, decided to become a male athlete; Thersites, the joker, became a monkey; and last but not least, the famous Odysseus, sick of the ambitious life, went looking for a quiet, carefree life. It took a minute to find, because it was lying


off in a corner unnoticed, and he admitted that he’d have neglected it too if he’d gotten the first number instead of the last, but that he was very glad to have found it. “As soon as a soul chose a future life, it went to Lachesis, and she teamed that person or animal up with a guiding spirit -- a guardian angel, or a demon, or whatever you want to call it -- who would see to it that they got the kind of life they chose. These spirits led their assigned souls over to Clotho to confirm that they had received their destinies, and then to Atropos, who made it official and sent them down from this throne of Inevitability. {621} They went on to the barren plain of Forgetfulness. At day’s end, everyone except Er drank water from the river of Ignorance -- the foolish ones drinking more than they needed -- and by the time they were done, they ceased to remember any of these things that had happened to them. They went to sleep, but in the middle of the night a thunderstorm and an earthquake struck at the same time, and suddenly they were fired upwards, like shooting stars, to their births. Er couldn’t say exactly what happened to him, but the next thing he remembers is that he was lying there, ready for his own for his funeral. “And that, Grey, is how we have come to hear the tale. If we pay attention to what it says, it will save us. We’ll safely cross the river of Forgetfulness and remember the truth, and our immortal souls -- which survive any good or evil -- will stay pure. My advice is, let’s stay with the heavenly way and practice justice and virtue, living in a way that pleases the gods, so that in this life and also after death, after our thousandyear journey, we may fare well.”


provided by the editor The discussion occurring in the Republic probably took place around 411 B.C. For some years thereafter, Thrasher (Thrasymachus) enjoyed considerable popularity as a Sophist teacher in Athens. The life stories of Adam (Adeimantus) and Grey (Glaucon) are not known. Seven years after this discussion, during the reign of terror in Athens in 404 B.C., Paul (Polemarchus), disciple of Socrates, was executed. Five years later, Socrates was found guilty of corrupting the youth of Athens and introducing new gods, and was executed. The Academy founded by Plato, Socrates’ most famous pupil, flourished for nine hundred years.