Yes; and there is a further good in the law; viz. that if a man has a
quarrel with another he will satisfy his resentment then and there, and not
proceed to more dangerous lengths.
To the elder shall be assigned the duty of ruling and chastising the
Nor can there be a doubt that the younger will not strike or do any other
violence to an elder, unless the magistrates command him; nor will he
slight him in any way. For there are two guardians, shame and fear, mighty
to prevent him: shame, which makes men refrain from laying hands on those
who are to them in the relation of parents; fear, that the injured one will
be succoured by the others who are his brothers, sons, fathers.
That is true, he replied.
Then in every way the laws will help the citizens to keep the peace with
Yes, there will be no want of peace.
And as the guardians will never quarrel among themselves there will be no
danger of the rest of the city being divided either against them or against
I hardly like even to mention the little meannesses of which they will be
rid, for they are beneath notice: such, for example, as the flattery of
the rich by the poor, and all the pains and pangs which men experience in
bringing up a family, and in finding money to buy necessaries for their
household, borrowing and then repudiating, getting how they can, and giving
the money into the hands of women and slaves to keep--the many evils of so
many kinds which people suffer in this way are mean enough and obvious
enough, and not worth speaking of.
Yes, he said, a man has no need of eyes in order to perceive that.
And from all these evils they will be delivered, and their life will be
blessed as the life of Olympic victors and yet more blessed.
The Olympic victor, I said, is deemed happy in receiving a part only of the
blessedness which is secured to our citizens, who have won a more glorious
victory and have a more complete maintenance at the public cost. For the
victory which they have won is the salvation of the whole State; and the
crown with which they and their children are crowned is the fulness of all
that life needs; they receive rewards from the hands of their country while
living, and after death have an honourable burial.
Yes, he said, and glorious rewards they are.
Do you remember, I said, how in the course of the previous discussion some
one who shall be nameless accused us of making our guardians unhappy--they
had nothing and might have possessed all things--to whom we replied that,
if an occasion offered, we might perhaps hereafter consider this question,
but that, as at present advised, we would make our guardians truly
guardians, and that we were fashioning the State with a view to the
greatest happiness, not of any particular class, but of the whole?
Yes, I remember.
And what do you say, now that the life of our protectors is made out to be
far better and nobler than that of Olympic victors--is the life of
shoemakers, or any other artisans, or of husbandmen, to be compared with
At the same time I ought here to repeat what I have said elsewhere, that if
any of our guardians shall try to be happy in such a manner that he will
cease to be a guardian, and is not content with this safe and harmonious
life, which, in our judgment, is of all lives the best, but infatuated by
some youthful conceit of happiness which gets up into his head shall seek
to appropriate the whole state to himself, then he will have to learn how
wisely Hesiod spoke, when he said, 'half is more than the whole.'
If he were to consult me, I should say to him: Stay where you are, when
you have the offer of such a life.
You agree then, I said, that men and women are to have a common way of life
such as we have described--common education, common children; and they are
to watch over the citizens in common whether abiding in the city or going
out to war; they are to keep watch together, and to hunt together like
dogs; and always and in all things, as far as they are able, women are to
share with the men? And in so doing they will do what is best, and will
not violate, but preserve the natural relation of the sexes.
I agree with you, he replied.
The enquiry, I said, has yet to be made, whether such a community be found
possible--as among other animals, so also among men--and if possible, in
what way possible?
You have anticipated the question which I was about to suggest.
There is no difficulty, I said, in seeing how war will be carried on by
Why, of course they will go on expeditions together; and will take with
them any of their children who are strong enough, that, after the manner of
the artisan's child, they may look on at the work which they will have to
do when they are grown up; and besides looking on they will have to help
and be of use in war, and to wait upon their fathers and mothers. Did you
never observe in the arts how the potters' boys look on and help, long
before they touch the wheel?
Yes, I have.
And shall potters be more careful in educating their children and in giving
them the opportunity of seeing and practising their duties than our
guardians will be?
The idea is ridiculous, he said.
There is also the effect on the parents, with whom, as with other animals,
the presence of their young ones will be the greatest incentive to valour.
That is quite true, Socrates; and yet if they are defeated, which may often
happen in war, how great the danger is! the children will be lost as well
as their parents, and the State will never recover.
True, I said; but would you never allow them to run any risk?
I am far from saying that.
Well, but if they are ever to run a risk should they not do so on some
occasion when, if they escape disaster, they will be the better for it?
Whether the future soldiers do or do not see war in the days of their youth
is a very important matter, for the sake of which some risk may fairly be
Yes, very important.
This then must be our first step,--to make our children spectators of war;
but we must also contrive that they shall be secured against danger; then
all will be well.
Their parents may be supposed not to be blind to the risks of war, but to
know, as far as human foresight can, what expeditions are safe and what
That may be assumed.
And they will take them on the safe expeditions and be cautious about the
And they will place them under the command of experienced veterans who will
be their leaders and teachers?
Still, the dangers of war cannot be always foreseen; there is a good deal
of chance about them?
Then against such chances the children must be at once furnished with
wings, in order that in the hour of need they may fly away and escape.
What do you mean? he said.
I mean that we must mount them on horses in their earliest youth, and when
they have learnt to ride, take them on horseback to see war: the horses
must not be spirited and warlike, but the most tractable and yet the
swiftest that can be had. In this way they will get an excellent view of
what is hereafter to be their own business; and if there is danger they
have only to follow their elder leaders and escape.
I believe that you are right, he said.
Next, as to war; what are to be the relations of your soldiers to one
another and to their enemies? I should be inclined to propose that the
soldier who leaves his rank or throws away his arms, or is guilty of any
other act of cowardice, should be degraded into the rank of a husbandman or
artisan. What do you think?
By all means, I should say.
And he who allows himself to be taken prisoner may as well be made a
present of to his enemies; he is their lawful prey, and let them do what
they like with him.
But the hero who has distinguished himself, what shall be done to him? In
the first place, he shall receive honour in the army from his youthful
comrades; every one of them in succession shall crown him. What do you
And what do you say to his receiving the right hand of fellowship?
To that too, I agree.
But you will hardly agree to my next proposal.
What is your proposal?
That he should kiss and be kissed by them.
Most certainly, and I should be disposed to go further, and say: Let no
one whom he has a mind to kiss refuse to be kissed by him while the
expedition lasts. So that if there be a lover in the army, whether his
love be youth or maiden, he may be more eager to win the prize of valour.
Capital, I said. That the brave man is to have more wives than others has
been already determined: and he is to have first choices in such matters
more than others, in order that he may have as many children as possible?
Again, there is another manner in which, according to Homer, brave youths
should be honoured; for he tells how Ajax, after he had distinguished
himself in battle, was rewarded with long chines, which seems to be a
compliment appropriate to a hero in the flower of his age, being not only a
tribute of honour but also a very strengthening thing.
Most true, he said.
Then in this, I said, Homer shall be our teacher; and we too, at sacrifices
and on the like occasions, will honour the brave according to the measure
of their valour, whether men or women, with hymns and those other
distinctions which we were mentioning; also with
'seats of precedence, and meats and full cups;'
and in honouring them, we shall be at the same time training them.
That, he replied, is excellent.
Yes, I said; and when a man dies gloriously in war shall we not say, in the
first place, that he is of the golden race?
To be sure.
Nay, have we not the authority of Hesiod for affirming that when they are
'They are holy angels upon the earth, authors of good, averters of evil,
the guardians of speech-gifted men'?
Yes; and we accept his authority.
We must learn of the god how we are to order the sepulture of divine and
heroic personages, and what is to be their special distinction; and we must
do as he bids?
By all means.
And in ages to come we will reverence them and kneel before their
sepulchres as at the graves of heroes. And not only they but any who are
deemed pre-eminently good, whether they die from age, or in any other way,
shall be admitted to the same honours.
That is very right, he said.
Next, how shall our soldiers treat their enemies? What about this?
In what respect do you mean?
First of all, in regard to slavery? Do you think it right that Hellenes
should enslave Hellenic States, or allow others to enslave them, if they
can help? Should not their custom be to spare them, considering the danger
which there is that the whole race may one day fall under the yoke of the
To spare them is infinitely better.
Then no Hellene should be owned by them as a slave; that is a rule which
they will observe and advise the other Hellenes to observe.
Certainly, he said; they will in this way be united against the barbarians
and will keep their hands off one another.
Next as to the slain; ought the conquerors, I said, to take anything but
their armour? Does not the practice of despoiling an enemy afford an
excuse for not facing the battle? Cowards skulk about the dead, pretending
that they are fulfilling a duty, and many an army before now has been lost
from this love of plunder.
And is there not illiberality and avarice in robbing a corpse, and also a
degree of meanness and womanishness in making an enemy of the dead body
when the real enemy has flown away and left only his fighting gear behind
him,--is not this rather like a dog who cannot get at his assailant,
quarrelling with the stones which strike him instead?
Very like a dog, he said.
Then we must abstain from spoiling the dead or hindering their burial?
Yes, he replied, we most certainly must.
Neither shall we offer up arms at the temples of the gods, least of all the
arms of Hellenes, if we care to maintain good feeling with other Hellenes;
and, indeed, we have reason to fear that the offering of spoils taken from
kinsmen may be a pollution unless commanded by the god himself?
Again, as to the devastation of Hellenic territory or the burning of
houses, what is to be the practice?
May I have the pleasure, he said, of hearing your opinion?
Both should be forbidden, in my judgment; I would take the annual produce
and no more. Shall I tell you why?
Why, you see, there is a difference in the names 'discord' and 'war,' and I
imagine that there is also a difference in their natures; the one is
expressive of what is internal and domestic, the other of what is external
and foreign; and the first of the two is termed discord, and only the
That is a very proper distinction, he replied.
And may I not observe with equal propriety that the Hellenic race is all
united together by ties of blood and friendship, and alien and strange to
Very good, he said.
And therefore when Hellenes fight with barbarians and barbarians with
Hellenes, they will be described by us as being at war when they fight, and
by nature enemies, and this kind of antagonism should be called war; but
when Hellenes fight with one another we shall say that Hellas is then in a
state of disorder and discord, they being by nature friends; and such
enmity is to be called discord.
Consider then, I said, when that which we have acknowledged to be discord
occurs, and a city is divided, if both parties destroy the lands and burn
the houses of one another, how wicked does the strife appear! No true
lover of his country would bring himself to tear in pieces his own nurse
and mother: There might be reason in the conqueror depriving the conquered
of their harvest, but still they would have the idea of peace in their
hearts and would not mean to go on fighting for ever.
Yes, he said, that is a better temper than the other.
And will not the city, which you are founding, be an Hellenic city?
It ought to be, he replied.
Then will not the citizens be good and civilized?
Yes, very civilized.
And will they not be lovers of Hellas, and think of Hellas as their own
land, and share in the common temples?
And any difference which arises among them will be regarded by them as
discord only--a quarrel among friends, which is not to be called a war?
Then they will quarrel as those who intend some day to be reconciled?
They will use friendly correction, but will not enslave or destroy their
opponents; they will be correctors, not enemies?
And as they are Hellenes themselves they will not devastate Hellas, nor
will they burn houses, nor ever suppose that the whole population of a
city--men, women, and children--are equally their enemies, for they know
that the guilt of war is always confined to a few persons and that the many
are their friends. And for all these reasons they will be unwilling to
waste their lands and rase their houses; their enmity to them will only
last until the many innocent sufferers have compelled the guilty few to
I agree, he said, that our citizens should thus deal with their Hellenic
enemies; and with barbarians as the Hellenes now deal with one another.
Then let us enact this law also for our guardians:--that they are neither
to devastate the lands of Hellenes nor to burn their houses.
Agreed; and we may agree also in thinking that these, like all our previous
enactments, are very good.
But still I must say, Socrates, that if you are allowed to go on in this
way you will entirely forget the other question which at the commencement
of this discussion you thrust aside:--Is such an order of things possible,
and how, if at all? For I am quite ready to acknowledge that the plan
which you propose, if only feasible, would do all sorts of good to the
State. I will add, what you have omitted, that your citizens will be the
bravest of warriors, and will never leave their ranks, for they will all
know one another, and each will call the other father, brother, son; and if
you suppose the women to join their armies, whether in the same rank or in
the rear, either as a terror to the enemy, or as auxiliaries in case of
need, I know that they will then be absolutely invincible; and there are
many domestic advantages which might also be mentioned and which I also
fully acknowledge: but, as I admit all these advantages and as many more
as you please, if only this State of yours were to come into existence, we
need say no more about them; assuming then the existence of the State, let
us now turn to the question of possibility and ways and means--the rest may
If I loiter for a moment, you instantly make a raid upon me, I said, and
have no mercy; I have hardly escaped the first and second waves, and you
seem not to be aware that you are now bringing upon me the third, which is
the greatest and heaviest. When you have seen and heard the third wave, I
think you will be more considerate and will acknowledge that some fear and
hesitation was natural respecting a proposal so extraordinary as that which
I have now to state and investigate.
The more appeals of this sort which you make, he said, the more determined
are we that you shall tell us how such a State is possible: speak out and
Let me begin by reminding you that we found our way hither in the search
after justice and injustice.
True, he replied; but what of that?
I was only going to ask whether, if we have discovered them, we are to
require that the just man should in nothing fail of absolute justice; or
may we be satisfied with an approximation, and the attainment in him of a
higher degree of justice than is to be found in other men?
The approximation will be enough.
We were enquiring into the nature of absolute justice and into the
character of the perfectly just, and into injustice and the perfectly
unjust, that we might have an ideal. We were to look at these in order
that we might judge of our own happiness and unhappiness according to the
standard which they exhibited and the degree in which we resembled them,
but not with any view of showing that they could exist in fact.
True, he said.
Would a painter be any the worse because, after having delineated with
consummate art an ideal of a perfectly beautiful man, he was unable to show
that any such man could ever have existed?
He would be none the worse.
Well, and were we not creating an ideal of a perfect State?
To be sure.
And is our theory a worse theory because we are unable to prove the
possibility of a city being ordered in the manner described?
Surely not, he replied.
That is the truth, I said. But if, at your request, I am to try and show
how and under what conditions the possibility is highest, I must ask you,
having this in view, to repeat your former admissions.
I want to know whether ideals are ever fully realized in language? Does
not the word express more than the fact, and must not the actual, whatever
a man may think, always, in the nature of things, fall short of the truth?
What do you say?
Then you must not insist on my proving that the actual State will in every
respect coincide with the ideal: if we are only able to discover how a
city may be governed nearly as we proposed, you will admit that we have
discovered the possibility which you demand; and will be contented. I am
sure that I should be contented--will not you?
Yes, I will.
Let me next endeavour to show what is that fault in States which is the
cause of their present maladministration, and what is the least change
which will enable a State to pass into the truer form; and let the change,
if possible, be of one thing only, or, if not, of two; at any rate, let the
changes be as few and slight as possible.
Certainly, he replied.
I think, I said, that there might be a reform of the State if only one
change were made, which is not a slight or easy though still a possible
What is it? he said.
Now then, I said, I go to meet that which I liken to the greatest of the
waves; yet shall the word be spoken, even though the wave break and drown
me in laughter and dishonour; and do you mark my words.
I said: 'Until philosophers are kings, or the kings and princes of this
world have the spirit and power of philosophy, and political greatness and
wisdom meet in one, and those commoner natures who pursue either to the
exclusion of the other are compelled to stand aside, cities will never have
rest from their evils,--nor the human race, as I believe,--and then only
will this our State have a possibility of life and behold the light of
day.' Such was the thought, my dear Glaucon, which I would fain have
uttered if it had not seemed too extravagant; for to be convinced that in
no other State can there be happiness private or public is indeed a hard
Socrates, what do you mean? I would have you consider that the word which
you have uttered is one at which numerous persons, and very respectable
persons too, in a figure pulling off their coats all in a moment, and
seizing any weapon that comes to hand, will run at you might and main,
before you know where you are, intending to do heaven knows what; and if
you don't prepare an answer, and put yourself in motion, you will be 'pared
by their fine wits,' and no mistake.
You got me into the scrape, I said.
And I was quite right; however, I will do all I can to get you out of it;
but I can only give you good-will and good advice, and, perhaps, I may be
able to fit answers to your questions better than another--that is all.
And now, having such an auxiliary, you must do your best to show the
unbelievers that you are right.
I ought to try, I said, since you offer me such invaluable assistance. And
I think that, if there is to be a chance of our escaping, we must explain
to them whom we mean when we say that philosophers are to rule in the
State; then we shall be able to defend ourselves: There will be discovered
to be some natures who ought to study philosophy and to be leaders in the
State; and others who are not born to be philosophers, and are meant to be
followers rather than leaders.
Then now for a definition, he said.
Follow me, I said, and I hope that I may in some way or other be able to
give you a satisfactory explanation.
I dare say that you remember, and therefore I need not remind you, that a
lover, if he is worthy of the name, ought to show his love, not to some one
part of that which he loves, but to the whole.
I really do not understand, and therefore beg of you to assist my memory.
Another person, I said, might fairly reply as you do; but a man of pleasure
like yourself ought to know that all who are in the flower of youth do
somehow or other raise a pang or emotion in a lover's breast, and are
thought by him to be worthy of his affectionate regards. Is not this a way
which you have with the fair: one has a snub nose, and you praise his
charming face; the hook-nose of another has, you say, a royal look; while
he who is neither snub nor hooked has the grace of regularity: the dark
visage is manly, the fair are children of the gods; and as to the sweet
'honey pale,' as they are called, what is the very name but the invention
of a lover who talks in diminutives, and is not averse to paleness if
appearing on the cheek of youth? In a word, there is no excuse which you
will not make, and nothing which you will not say, in order not to lose a
single flower that blooms in the spring-time of youth.
If you make me an authority in matters of love, for the sake of the
argument, I assent.
And what do you say of lovers of wine? Do you not see them doing the same?
They are glad of any pretext of drinking any wine.
And the same is true of ambitious men; if they cannot command an army, they
are willing to command a file; and if they cannot be honoured by really
great and important persons, they are glad to be honoured by lesser and
meaner people,--but honour of some kind they must have.
Once more let me ask: Does he who desires any class of goods, desire the
whole class or a part only?
And may we not say of the philosopher that he is a lover, not of a part of
wisdom only, but of the whole?
Yes, of the whole.
And he who dislikes learning, especially in youth, when he has no power of
judging what is good and what is not, such an one we maintain not to be a
philosopher or a lover of knowledge, just as he who refuses his food is not
hungry, and may be said to have a bad appetite and not a good one?
Very true, he said.
Whereas he who has a taste for every sort of knowledge and who is curious
to learn and is never satisfied, may be justly termed a philosopher? Am I
Glaucon said: If curiosity makes a philosopher, you will find many a
strange being will have a title to the name. All the lovers of sights have
a delight in learning, and must therefore be included. Musical amateurs,
too, are a folk strangely out of place among philosophers, for they are the
last persons in the world who would come to anything like a philosophical
discussion, if they could help, while they run about at the Dionysiac
festivals as if they had let out their ears to hear every chorus; whether
the performance is in town or country--that makes no difference--they are
there. Now are we to maintain that all these and any who have similar
tastes, as well as the professors of quite minor arts, are philosophers?
Certainly not, I replied; they are only an imitation.
He said: Who then are the true philosophers?
Those, I said, who are lovers of the vision of truth.
That is also good, he said; but I should like to know what you mean?
To another, I replied, I might have a difficulty in explaining; but I am
sure that you will admit a proposition which I am about to make.
What is the proposition?
That since beauty is the opposite of ugliness, they are two?
And inasmuch as they are two, each of them is one?
And of just and unjust, good and evil, and of every other class, the same
remark holds: taken singly, each of them is one; but from the various
combinations of them with actions and things and with one another, they are
seen in all sorts of lights and appear many?
And this is the distinction which I draw between the sight-loving,
art-loving, practical class and those of whom I am speaking, and who are
alone worthy of the name of philosophers.
How do you distinguish them? he said.
The lovers of sounds and sights, I replied, are, as I conceive, fond of
fine tones and colours and forms and all the artificial products that are
made out of them, but their mind is incapable of seeing or loving absolute
True, he replied.
Few are they who are able to attain to the sight of this.
And he who, having a sense of beautiful things has no sense of absolute
beauty, or who, if another lead him to a knowledge of that beauty is unable
to follow--of such an one I ask, Is he awake or in a dream only? Reflect:
is not the dreamer, sleeping or waking, one who likens dissimilar things,
who puts the copy in the place of the real object?
I should certainly say that such an one was dreaming.
But take the case of the other, who recognises the existence of absolute
beauty and is able to distinguish the idea from the objects which
participate in the idea, neither putting the objects in the place of the
idea nor the idea in the place of the objects--is he a dreamer, or is he
He is wide awake.
And may we not say that the mind of the one who knows has knowledge, and
that the mind of the other, who opines only, has opinion?
But suppose that the latter should quarrel with us and dispute our
statement, can we administer any soothing cordial or advice to him, without
revealing to him that there is sad disorder in his wits?
We must certainly offer him some good advice, he replied.
Come, then, and let us think of something to say to him. Shall we begin by
assuring him that he is welcome to any knowledge which he may have, and
that we are rejoiced at his having it? But we should like to ask him a
question: Does he who has knowledge know something or nothing? (You must
answer for him.)
I answer that he knows something.
Something that is or is not?
Something that is; for how can that which is not ever be known?
And are we assured, after looking at the matter from many points of view,
that absolute being is or may be absolutely known, but that the utterly
non-existent is utterly unknown?
Nothing can be more certain.
Good. But if there be anything which is of such a nature as to be and not
to be, that will have a place intermediate between pure being and the
absolute negation of being?
Yes, between them.
And, as knowledge corresponded to being and ignorance of necessity to
not-being, for that intermediate between being and not-being there has to
be discovered a corresponding intermediate between ignorance and knowledge,
if there be such?
Do we admit the existence of opinion?
As being the same with knowledge, or another faculty?
Then opinion and knowledge have to do with different kinds of matter
corresponding to this difference of faculties?
And knowledge is relative to being and knows being. But before I proceed
further I will make a division.
I will begin by placing faculties in a class by themselves: they are
powers in us, and in all other things, by which we do as we do. Sight and
hearing, for example, I should call faculties. Have I clearly explained
the class which I mean?
Yes, I quite understand.
Then let me tell you my view about them. I do not see them, and therefore
the distinctions of figure, colour, and the like, which enable me to
discern the differences of some things, do not apply to them. In speaking
of a faculty I think only of its sphere and its result; and that which has
the same sphere and the same result I call the same faculty, but that which
has another sphere and another result I call different. Would that be your
way of speaking?
And will you be so very good as to answer one more question? Would you say
that knowledge is a faculty, or in what class would you place it?
Certainly knowledge is a faculty, and the mightiest of all faculties.
And is opinion also a faculty?
Certainly, he said; for opinion is that with which we are able to form an
And yet you were acknowledging a little while ago that knowledge is not the
same as opinion?
Why, yes, he said: how can any reasonable being ever identify that which
is infallible with that which errs?
An excellent answer, proving, I said, that we are quite conscious of a
distinction between them.
Then knowledge and opinion having distinct powers have also distinct
spheres or subject-matters?
That is certain.
Being is the sphere or subject-matter of knowledge, and knowledge is to
know the nature of being?
And opinion is to have an opinion?
And do we know what we opine? or is the subject-matter of opinion the same
as the subject-matter of knowledge?
Nay, he replied, that has been already disproven; if difference in faculty
implies difference in the sphere or subject-matter, and if, as we were
saying, opinion and knowledge are distinct faculties, then the sphere of
knowledge and of opinion cannot be the same.
Then if being is the subject-matter of knowledge, something else must be
the subject-matter of opinion?
Yes, something else.
Well then, is not-being the subject-matter of opinion? or, rather, how can
there be an opinion at all about not-being? Reflect: when a man has an
opinion, has he not an opinion about something? Can he have an opinion
which is an opinion about nothing?
He who has an opinion has an opinion about some one thing?
And not-being is not one thing but, properly speaking, nothing?
Of not-being, ignorance was assumed to be the necessary correlative; of
True, he said.
Then opinion is not concerned either with being or with not-being?
Not with either.
And can therefore neither be ignorance nor knowledge?
That seems to be true.
But is opinion to be sought without and beyond either of them, in a greater
clearness than knowledge, or in a greater darkness than ignorance?
Then I suppose that opinion appears to you to be darker than knowledge, but
lighter than ignorance?
Both; and in no small degree.
And also to be within and between them?
Then you would infer that opinion is intermediate?
But were we not saying before, that if anything appeared to be of a sort
which is and is not at the same time, that sort of thing would appear also
to lie in the interval between pure being and absolute not-being; and that
the corresponding faculty is neither knowledge nor ignorance, but will be
found in the interval between them?
And in that interval there has now been discovered something which we call
Then what remains to be discovered is the object which partakes equally of
the nature of being and not-being, and cannot rightly be termed either,
pure and simple; this unknown term, when discovered, we may truly call the
subject of opinion, and assign each to their proper faculty,--the extremes
to the faculties of the extremes and the mean to the faculty of the mean.
This being premised, I would ask the gentleman who is of opinion that there
is no absolute or unchangeable idea of beauty--in whose opinion the
beautiful is the manifold--he, I say, your lover of beautiful sights, who
cannot bear to be told that the beautiful is one, and the just is one, or
that anything is one--to him I would appeal, saying, Will you be so very
kind, sir, as to tell us whether, of all these beautiful things, there is
one which will not be found ugly; or of the just, which will not be found
unjust; or of the holy, which will not also be unholy?
No, he replied; the beautiful will in some point of view be found ugly; and
the same is true of the rest.
And may not the many which are doubles be also halves?--doubles, that is,
of one thing, and halves of another?
And things great and small, heavy and light, as they are termed, will not
be denoted by these any more than by the opposite names?
True; both these and the opposite names will always attach to all of them.
And can any one of those many things which are called by particular names
be said to be this rather than not to be this?
He replied: They are like the punning riddles which are asked at feasts or
the children's puzzle about the eunuch aiming at the bat, with what he hit
him, as they say in the puzzle, and upon what the bat was sitting. The
individual objects of which I am speaking are also a riddle, and have a
double sense: nor can you fix them in your mind, either as being or
not-being, or both, or neither.
Then what will you do with them? I said. Can they have a better place than
between being and not-being? For they are clearly not in greater darkness
or negation than not-being, or more full of light and existence than being.
That is quite true, he said.
Thus then we seem to have discovered that the many ideas which the
multitude entertain about the beautiful and about all other things are
tossing about in some region which is half-way between pure being and pure
Yes; and we had before agreed that anything of this kind which we might
find was to be described as matter of opinion, and not as matter of
knowledge; being the intermediate flux which is caught and detained by the
Then those who see the many beautiful, and who yet neither see absolute
beauty, nor can follow any guide who points the way thither; who see the
many just, and not absolute justice, and the like,--such persons may be
said to have opinion but not knowledge?
That is certain.
But those who see the absolute and eternal and immutable may be said to
know, and not to have opinion only?
Neither can that be denied.
The one love and embrace the subjects of knowledge, the other those of
opinion? The latter are the same, as I dare say you will remember, who
listened to sweet sounds and gazed upon fair colours, but would not
tolerate the existence of absolute beauty.
Yes, I remember.
Shall we then be guilty of any impropriety in calling them lovers of
opinion rather than lovers of wisdom, and will they be very angry with us
for thus describing them?
I shall tell them not to be angry; no man should be angry at what is true.
But those who love the truth in each thing are to be called lovers of
wisdom and not lovers of opinion.
End Book V.