And thus, Glaucon, after the argument has gone a weary way, the true and
the false philosophers have at length appeared in view.
I do not think, he said, that the way could have been shortened.
I suppose not, I said; and yet I believe that we might have had a better
view of both of them if the discussion could have been confined to this one
subject and if there were not many other questions awaiting us, which he
who desires to see in what respect the life of the just differs from that
of the unjust must consider.
And what is the next question? he asked.
Surely, I said, the one which follows next in order. Inasmuch as
philosophers only are able to grasp the eternal and unchangeable, and those
who wander in the region of the many and variable are not philosophers, I
must ask you which of the two classes should be the rulers of our State?
And how can we rightly answer that question?
Whichever of the two are best able to guard the laws and institutions of
our State--let them be our guardians.
Neither, I said, can there be any question that the guardian who is to keep
anything should have eyes rather than no eyes?
There can be no question of that.
And are not those who are verily and indeed wanting in the knowledge of the
true being of each thing, and who have in their souls no clear pattern, and
are unable as with a painter's eye to look at the absolute truth and to
that original to repair, and having perfect vision of the other world to
order the laws about beauty, goodness, justice in this, if not already
ordered, and to guard and preserve the order of them--are not such persons,
I ask, simply blind?
Truly, he replied, they are much in that condition.
And shall they be our guardians when there are others who, besides being
their equals in experience and falling short of them in no particular of
virtue, also know the very truth of each thing?
There can be no reason, he said, for rejecting those who have this greatest
of all great qualities; they must always have the first place unless they
fail in some other respect.
Suppose then, I said, that we determine how far they can unite this and the
By all means.
In the first place, as we began by observing, the nature of the philosopher
has to be ascertained. We must come to an understanding about him, and,
when we have done so, then, if I am not mistaken, we shall also acknowledge
that such an union of qualities is possible, and that those in whom they
are united, and those only, should be rulers in the State.
What do you mean?
Let us suppose that philosophical minds always love knowledge of a sort
which shows them the eternal nature not varying from generation and
And further, I said, let us agree that they are lovers of all true being;
there is no part whether greater or less, or more or less honourable, which
they are willing to renounce; as we said before of the lover and the man of
And if they are to be what we were describing, is there not another quality
which they should also possess?
Truthfulness: they will never intentionally receive into their mind
falsehood, which is their detestation, and they will love the truth.
Yes, that may be safely affirmed of them.
'May be,' my friend, I replied, is not the word; say rather 'must be
affirmed:' for he whose nature is amorous of anything cannot help loving
all that belongs or is akin to the object of his affections.
Right, he said.
And is there anything more akin to wisdom than truth?
How can there be?
Can the same nature be a lover of wisdom and a lover of falsehood?
The true lover of learning then must from his earliest youth, as far as in
him lies, desire all truth?
But then again, as we know by experience, he whose desires are strong in
one direction will have them weaker in others; they will be like a stream
which has been drawn off into another channel.
He whose desires are drawn towards knowledge in every form will be absorbed
in the pleasures of the soul, and will hardly feel bodily pleasure--I mean,
if he be a true philosopher and not a sham one.
That is most certain.
Such an one is sure to be temperate and the reverse of covetous; for the
motives which make another man desirous of having and spending, have no
place in his character.
Another criterion of the philosophical nature has also to be considered.
What is that?
There should be no secret corner of illiberality; nothing can be more
antagonistic than meanness to a soul which is ever longing after the whole
of things both divine and human.
Most true, he replied.
Then how can he who has magnificence of mind and is the spectator of all
time and all existence, think much of human life?
Or can such an one account death fearful?
Then the cowardly and mean nature has no part in true philosophy?
Or again: can he who is harmoniously constituted, who is not covetous or
mean, or a boaster, or a coward--can he, I say, ever be unjust or hard in
Then you will soon observe whether a man is just and gentle, or rude and
unsociable; these are the signs which distinguish even in youth the
philosophical nature from the unphilosophical.
There is another point which should be remarked.
Whether he has or has not a pleasure in learning; for no one will love that
which gives him pain, and in which after much toil he makes little
And again, if he is forgetful and retains nothing of what he learns, will
he not be an empty vessel?
That is certain.
Labouring in vain, he must end in hating himself and his fruitless
Then a soul which forgets cannot be ranked among genuine philosophic
natures; we must insist that the philosopher should have a good memory?
And once more, the inharmonious and unseemly nature can only tend to
And do you consider truth to be akin to proportion or to disproportion?
Then, besides other qualities, we must try to find a naturally
well-proportioned and gracious mind, which will move spontaneously towards
the true being of everything.
Well, and do not all these qualities, which we have been enumerating, go
together, and are they not, in a manner, necessary to a soul, which is to
have a full and perfect participation of being?
They are absolutely necessary, he replied.
And must not that be a blameless study which he only can pursue who has the
gift of a good memory, and is quick to learn,--noble, gracious, the friend
of truth, justice, courage, temperance, who are his kindred?
The god of jealousy himself, he said, could find no fault with such a
And to men like him, I said, when perfected by years and education, and to
these only you will entrust the State.
Here Adeimantus interposed and said: To these statements, Socrates, no one
can offer a reply; but when you talk in this way, a strange feeling passes
over the minds of your hearers: They fancy that they are led astray a
little at each step in the argument, owing to their own want of skill in
asking and answering questions; these littles accumulate, and at the end of
the discussion they are found to have sustained a mighty overthrow and all
their former notions appear to be turned upside down. And as unskilful
players of draughts are at last shut up by their more skilful adversaries
and have no piece to move, so they too find themselves shut up at last; for
they have nothing to say in this new game of which words are the counters;
and yet all the time they are in the right. The observation is suggested
to me by what is now occurring. For any one of us might say, that although
in words he is not able to meet you at each step of the argument, he sees
as a fact that the votaries of philosophy, when they carry on the study,
not only in youth as a part of education, but as the pursuit of their
maturer years, most of them become strange monsters, not to say utter
rogues, and that those who may be considered the best of them are made
useless to the world by the very study which you extol.
Well, and do you think that those who say so are wrong?
I cannot tell, he replied; but I should like to know what is your opinion.
Hear my answer; I am of opinion that they are quite right.
Then how can you be justified in saying that cities will not cease from
evil until philosophers rule in them, when philosophers are acknowledged by
us to be of no use to them?
You ask a question, I said, to which a reply can only be given in a
Yes, Socrates; and that is a way of speaking to which you are not at all
accustomed, I suppose.
I perceive, I said, that you are vastly amused at having plunged me into
such a hopeless discussion; but now hear the parable, and then you will be
still more amused at the meagreness of my imagination: for the manner in
which the best men are treated in their own States is so grievous that no
single thing on earth is comparable to it; and therefore, if I am to plead
their cause, I must have recourse to fiction, and put together a figure
made up of many things, like the fabulous unions of goats and stags which
are found in pictures. Imagine then a fleet or a ship in which there is a
captain who is taller and stronger than any of the crew, but he is a little
deaf and has a similar infirmity in sight, and his knowledge of navigation
is not much better. The sailors are quarrelling with one another about the
steering--every one is of opinion that he has a right to steer, though he
has never learned the art of navigation and cannot tell who taught him or
when he learned, and will further assert that it cannot be taught, and they
are ready to cut in pieces any one who says the contrary. They throng
about the captain, begging and praying him to commit the helm to them; and
if at any time they do not prevail, but others are preferred to them, they
kill the others or throw them overboard, and having first chained up the
noble captain's senses with drink or some narcotic drug, they mutiny and
take possession of the ship and make free with the stores; thus, eating and
drinking, they proceed on their voyage in such manner as might be expected
of them. Him who is their partisan and cleverly aids them in their plot
for getting the ship out of the captain's hands into their own whether by
force or persuasion, they compliment with the name of sailor, pilot, able
seaman, and abuse the other sort of man, whom they call a good-for-nothing;
but that the true pilot must pay attention to the year and seasons and sky
and stars and winds, and whatever else belongs to his art, if he intends to
be really qualified for the command of a ship, and that he must and will be
the steerer, whether other people like or not--the possibility of this
union of authority with the steerer's art has never seriously entered into
their thoughts or been made part of their calling. Now in vessels which
are in a state of mutiny and by sailors who are mutineers, how will the
true pilot be regarded? Will he not be called by them a prater, a
star-gazer, a good-for-nothing?
Of course, said Adeimantus.
Then you will hardly need, I said, to hear the interpretation of the
figure, which describes the true philosopher in his relation to the State;
for you understand already.
Then suppose you now take this parable to the gentleman who is surprised at
finding that philosophers have no honour in their cities; explain it to him
and try to convince him that their having honour would be far more
Say to him, that, in deeming the best votaries of philosophy to be useless
to the rest of the world, he is right; but also tell him to attribute their
uselessness to the fault of those who will not use them, and not to
themselves. The pilot should not humbly beg the sailors to be commanded by
him--that is not the order of nature; neither are 'the wise to go to the
doors of the rich'--the ingenious author of this saying told a lie--but the
truth is, that, when a man is ill, whether he be rich or poor, to the
physician he must go, and he who wants to be governed, to him who is able
to govern. The ruler who is good for anything ought not to beg his
subjects to be ruled by him; although the present governors of mankind are
of a different stamp; they may be justly compared to the mutinous sailors,
and the true helmsmen to those who are called by them good-for-nothings and
Precisely so, he said.
For these reasons, and among men like these, philosophy, the noblest
pursuit of all, is not likely to be much esteemed by those of the opposite
faction; not that the greatest and most lasting injury is done to her by
her opponents, but by her own professing followers, the same of whom you
suppose the accuser to say, that the greater number of them are arrant
rogues, and the best are useless; in which opinion I agreed.
And the reason why the good are useless has now been explained?
Then shall we proceed to show that the corruption of the majority is also
unavoidable, and that this is not to be laid to the charge of philosophy
any more than the other?
By all means.
And let us ask and answer in turn, first going back to the description of
the gentle and noble nature. Truth, as you will remember, was his leader,
whom he followed always and in all things; failing in this, he was an
impostor, and had no part or lot in true philosophy.
Yes, that was said.
Well, and is not this one quality, to mention no others, greatly at
variance with present notions of him?
Certainly, he said.
And have we not a right to say in his defence, that the true lover of
knowledge is always striving after being--that is his nature; he will not
rest in the multiplicity of individuals which is an appearance only, but
will go on--the keen edge will not be blunted, nor the force of his desire
abate until he have attained the knowledge of the true nature of every
essence by a sympathetic and kindred power in the soul, and by that power
drawing near and mingling and becoming incorporate with very being, having
begotten mind and truth, he will have knowledge and will live and grow
truly, and then, and not till then, will he cease from his travail.
Nothing, he said, can be more just than such a description of him.
And will the love of a lie be any part of a philosopher's nature? Will he
not utterly hate a lie?
And when truth is the captain, we cannot suspect any evil of the band which
Justice and health of mind will be of the company, and temperance will
True, he replied.
Neither is there any reason why I should again set in array the
philosopher's virtues, as you will doubtless remember that courage,
magnificence, apprehension, memory, were his natural gifts. And you
objected that, although no one could deny what I then said, still, if you
leave words and look at facts, the persons who are thus described are some
of them manifestly useless, and the greater number utterly depraved; we
were then led to enquire into the grounds of these accusations, and have
now arrived at the point of asking why are the majority bad, which question
of necessity brought us back to the examination and definition of the true
And we have next to consider the corruptions of the philosophic nature, why
so many are spoiled and so few escape spoiling--I am speaking of those who
were said to be useless but not wicked--and, when we have done with them,
we will speak of the imitators of philosophy, what manner of men are they
who aspire after a profession which is above them and of which they are
unworthy, and then, by their manifold inconsistencies, bring upon
philosophy, and upon all philosophers, that universal reprobation of which
What are these corruptions? he said.
I will see if I can explain them to you. Every one will admit that a
nature having in perfection all the qualities which we required in a
philosopher, is a rare plant which is seldom seen among men.
And what numberless and powerful causes tend to destroy these rare natures!
In the first place there are their own virtues, their courage, temperance,
and the rest of them, every one of which praiseworthy qualities (and this
is a most singular circumstance) destroys and distracts from philosophy the
soul which is the possessor of them.
That is very singular, he replied.
Then there are all the ordinary goods of life--beauty, wealth, strength,
rank, and great connections in the State--you understand the sort of
things--these also have a corrupting and distracting effect.
I understand; but I should like to know more precisely what you mean about
Grasp the truth as a whole, I said, and in the right way; you will then
have no difficulty in apprehending the preceding remarks, and they will no
longer appear strange to you.
And how am I to do so? he asked.
Why, I said, we know that all germs or seeds, whether vegetable or animal,
when they fail to meet with proper nutriment or climate or soil, in
proportion to their vigour, are all the more sensitive to the want of a
suitable environment, for evil is a greater enemy to what is good than to
what is not.
There is reason in supposing that the finest natures, when under alien
conditions, receive more injury than the inferior, because the contrast is
And may we not say, Adeimantus, that the most gifted minds, when they are
ill-educated, become pre-eminently bad? Do not great crimes and the spirit
of pure evil spring out of a fulness of nature ruined by education rather
than from any inferiority, whereas weak natures are scarcely capable of any
very great good or very great evil?
There I think that you are right.
And our philosopher follows the same analogy--he is like a plant which,
having proper nurture, must necessarily grow and mature into all virtue,
but, if sown and planted in an alien soil, becomes the most noxious of all
weeds, unless he be preserved by some divine power. Do you really think,
as people so often say, that our youth are corrupted by Sophists, or that
private teachers of the art corrupt them in any degree worth speaking of?
Are not the public who say these things the greatest of all Sophists? And
do they not educate to perfection young and old, men and women alike, and
fashion them after their own hearts?
When is this accomplished? he said.
When they meet together, and the world sits down at an assembly, or in a
court of law, or a theatre, or a camp, or in any other popular resort, and
there is a great uproar, and they praise some things which are being said
or done, and blame other things, equally exaggerating both, shouting and
clapping their hands, and the echo of the rocks and the place in which they
are assembled redoubles the sound of the praise or blame--at such a time
will not a young man's heart, as they say, leap within him? Will any
private training enable him to stand firm against the overwhelming flood of
popular opinion? or will he be carried away by the stream? Will he not
have the notions of good and evil which the public in general have--he will
do as they do, and as they are, such will he be?
Yes, Socrates; necessity will compel him.
And yet, I said, there is a still greater necessity, which has not been
What is that?
The gentle force of attainder or confiscation or death, which, as you are
aware, these new Sophists and educators, who are the public, apply when
their words are powerless.
Indeed they do; and in right good earnest.
Now what opinion of any other Sophist, or of any private person, can be
expected to overcome in such an unequal contest?
None, he replied.
No, indeed, I said, even to make the attempt is a great piece of folly;
there neither is, nor has been, nor is ever likely to be, any different
type of character which has had no other training in virtue but that which
is supplied by public opinion--I speak, my friend, of human virtue only;
what is more than human, as the proverb says, is not included: for I would
not have you ignorant that, in the present evil state of governments,
whatever is saved and comes to good is saved by the power of God, as we may
I quite assent, he replied.
Then let me crave your assent also to a further observation.
What are you going to say?
Why, that all those mercenary individuals, whom the many call Sophists and
whom they deem to be their adversaries, do, in fact, teach nothing but the
opinion of the many, that is to say, the opinions of their assemblies; and
this is their wisdom. I might compare them to a man who should study the
tempers and desires of a mighty strong beast who is fed by him--he would
learn how to approach and handle him, also at what times and from what
causes he is dangerous or the reverse, and what is the meaning of his
several cries, and by what sounds, when another utters them, he is soothed
or infuriated; and you may suppose further, that when, by continually
attending upon him, he has become perfect in all this, he calls his
knowledge wisdom, and makes of it a system or art, which he proceeds to
teach, although he has no real notion of what he means by the principles or
passions of which he is speaking, but calls this honourable and that
dishonourable, or good or evil, or just or unjust, all in accordance with
the tastes and tempers of the great brute. Good he pronounces to be that
in which the beast delights and evil to be that which he dislikes; and he
can give no other account of them except that the just and noble are the
necessary, having never himself seen, and having no power of explaining to
others the nature of either, or the difference between them, which is
immense. By heaven, would not such an one be a rare educator?
Indeed he would.
And in what way does he who thinks that wisdom is the discernment of the
tempers and tastes of the motley multitude, whether in painting or music,
or, finally, in politics, differ from him whom I have been describing? For
when a man consorts with the many, and exhibits to them his poem or other
work of art or the service which he has done the State, making them his
judges when he is not obliged, the so-called necessity of Diomede will
oblige him to produce whatever they praise. And yet the reasons are
utterly ludicrous which they give in confirmation of their own notions
about the honourable and good. Did you ever hear any of them which were
No, nor am I likely to hear.
You recognise the truth of what I have been saying? Then let me ask you to
consider further whether the world will ever be induced to believe in the
existence of absolute beauty rather than of the many beautiful, or of the
absolute in each kind rather than of the many in each kind?
Then the world cannot possibly be a philosopher?
And therefore philosophers must inevitably fall under the censure of the
And of individuals who consort with the mob and seek to please them?
That is evident.
Then, do you see any way in which the philosopher can be preserved in his
calling to the end? and remember what we were saying of him, that he was to
have quickness and memory and courage and magnificence--these were admitted
by us to be the true philosopher's gifts.
Will not such an one from his early childhood be in all things first among
all, especially if his bodily endowments are like his mental ones?
Certainly, he said.
And his friends and fellow-citizens will want to use him as he gets older
for their own purposes?
Falling at his feet, they will make requests to him and do him honour and
flatter him, because they want to get into their hands now, the power which
he will one day possess.
That often happens, he said.
And what will a man such as he is be likely to do under such circumstances,
especially if he be a citizen of a great city, rich and noble, and a tall
proper youth? Will he not be full of boundless aspirations, and fancy
himself able to manage the affairs of Hellenes and of barbarians, and
having got such notions into his head will he not dilate and elevate
himself in the fulness of vain pomp and senseless pride?
To be sure he will.
Now, when he is in this state of mind, if some one gently comes to him and
tells him that he is a fool and must get understanding, which can only be
got by slaving for it, do you think that, under such adverse circumstances,
he will be easily induced to listen?
And even if there be some one who through inherent goodness or natural
reasonableness has had his eyes opened a little and is humbled and taken
captive by philosophy, how will his friends behave when they think that
they are likely to lose the advantage which they were hoping to reap from
his companionship? Will they not do and say anything to prevent him from
yielding to his better nature and to render his teacher powerless, using to
this end private intrigues as well as public prosecutions?
There can be no doubt of it.
And how can one who is thus circumstanced ever become a philosopher?
Then were we not right in saying that even the very qualities which make a
man a philosopher may, if he be ill-educated, divert him from philosophy,
no less than riches and their accompaniments and the other so-called goods
We were quite right.
Thus, my excellent friend, is brought about all that ruin and failure which
I have been describing of the natures best adapted to the best of all
pursuits; they are natures which we maintain to be rare at any time; this
being the class out of which come the men who are the authors of the
greatest evil to States and individuals; and also of the greatest good when
the tide carries them in that direction; but a small man never was the doer
of any great thing either to individuals or to States.
That is most true, he said.
And so philosophy is left desolate, with her marriage rite incomplete: for
her own have fallen away and forsaken her, and while they are leading a
false and unbecoming life, other unworthy persons, seeing that she has no
kinsmen to be her protectors, enter in and dishonour her; and fasten upon
her the reproaches which, as you say, her reprovers utter, who affirm of
her votaries that some are good for nothing, and that the greater number
deserve the severest punishment.
That is certainly what people say.
Yes; and what else would you expect, I said, when you think of the puny
creatures who, seeing this land open to them--a land well stocked with fair
names and showy titles--like prisoners running out of prison into a
sanctuary, take a leap out of their trades into philosophy; those who do so
being probably the cleverest hands at their own miserable crafts? For,
although philosophy be in this evil case, still there remains a dignity
about her which is not to be found in the arts. And many are thus
attracted by her whose natures are imperfect and whose souls are maimed and
disfigured by their meannesses, as their bodies are by their trades and
crafts. Is not this unavoidable?
Are they not exactly like a bald little tinker who has just got out of
durance and come into a fortune; he takes a bath and puts on a new coat,
and is decked out as a bridegroom going to marry his master's daughter, who
is left poor and desolate?
A most exact parallel.
What will be the issue of such marriages? Will they not be vile and
There can be no question of it.
And when persons who are unworthy of education approach philosophy and make
an alliance with her who is in a rank above them what sort of ideas and
opinions are likely to be generated? Will they not be sophisms captivating
to the ear, having nothing in them genuine, or worthy of or akin to true
No doubt, he said.
Then, Adeimantus, I said, the worthy disciples of philosophy will be but a
small remnant: perchance some noble and well-educated person, detained by
exile in her service, who in the absence of corrupting influences remains
devoted to her; or some lofty soul born in a mean city, the politics of
which he contemns and neglects; and there may be a gifted few who leave the
arts, which they justly despise, and come to her;--or peradventure there
are some who are restrained by our friend Theages' bridle; for everything
in the life of Theages conspired to divert him from philosophy; but
ill-health kept him away from politics. My own case of the internal sign
is hardly worth mentioning, for rarely, if ever, has such a monitor been
given to any other man. Those who belong to this small class have tasted
how sweet and blessed a possession philosophy is, and have also seen enough
of the madness of the multitude; and they know that no politician is
honest, nor is there any champion of justice at whose side they may fight
and be saved. Such an one may be compared to a man who has fallen among
wild beasts--he will not join in the wickedness of his fellows, but neither
is he able singly to resist all their fierce natures, and therefore seeing
that he would be of no use to the State or to his friends, and reflecting
that he would have to throw away his life without doing any good either to
himself or others, he holds his peace, and goes his own way. He is like
one who, in the storm of dust and sleet which the driving wind hurries
along, retires under the shelter of a wall; and seeing the rest of mankind
full of wickedness, he is content, if only he can live his own life and be
pure from evil or unrighteousness, and depart in peace and good-will, with
Yes, he said, and he will have done a great work before he departs.
A great work--yes; but not the greatest, unless he find a State suitable to
him; for in a State which is suitable to him, he will have a larger growth
and be the saviour of his country, as well as of himself.
The causes why philosophy is in such an evil name have now been
sufficiently explained: the injustice of the charges against her has been
shown--is there anything more which you wish to say?
Nothing more on that subject, he replied; but I should like to know which
of the governments now existing is in your opinion the one adapted to her.
Not any of them, I said; and that is precisely the accusation which I bring
against them--not one of them is worthy of the philosophic nature, and
hence that nature is warped and estranged;--as the exotic seed which is
sown in a foreign land becomes denaturalized, and is wont to be overpowered
and to lose itself in the new soil, even so this growth of philosophy,
instead of persisting, degenerates and receives another character. But if
philosophy ever finds in the State that perfection which she herself is,
then will be seen that she is in truth divine, and that all other things,
whether natures of men or institutions, are but human;--and now, I know,
that you are going to ask, What that State is:
No, he said; there you are wrong, for I was going to ask another question--
whether it is the State of which we are the founders and inventors, or some
Yes, I replied, ours in most respects; but you may remember my saying
before, that some living authority would always be required in the State
having the same idea of the constitution which guided you when as
legislator you were laying down the laws.
That was said, he replied.
Yes, but not in a satisfactory manner; you frightened us by interposing
objections, which certainly showed that the discussion would be long and
difficult; and what still remains is the reverse of easy.
What is there remaining?
The question how the study of philosophy may be so ordered as not to be the
ruin of the State: All great attempts are attended with risk; 'hard is the
good,' as men say.
Still, he said, let the point be cleared up, and the enquiry will then be
I shall not be hindered, I said, by any want of will, but, if at all, by a
want of power: my zeal you may see for yourselves; and please to remark in
what I am about to say how boldly and unhesitatingly I declare that States
should pursue philosophy, not as they do now, but in a different spirit.
In what manner?