Plato's Republic (Complete) (Agora Publications)

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Socrates' discussion of how to live the best possible life.

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Overview

Socrates' discussion of how to live the best possible life.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781887250269
  • Publisher: Agora Publishing Consortium
  • Publication date: 8/30/2001
  • Series: Theater of the Mind Series
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: 12.5 hours
  • Pages: 369

First Chapter

[484] Socrates Glaucon, our dialogue has gone a long and tiring way, but it has finally shed light on who are and who are not lovers of wisdom.

Glaucon That’s true, Socrates, but I don’t think we could have found an easier path.

Socrates I suppose not, but I think this matter could be made even clearer if there were not so much ground still to cover as we try to understand the difference between a just and an unjust life.

Glaucon Then where do we go now?

Socrates To the next destination. Philosophers are able to grasp what is eternal and unchanging, but those who wander among what is changing and fluctuating are not philosophers. Therefore it is natural to ask next which of these two should rule in the republic.

Glaucon What would be the most appropriate way to answer that question?

Socrates We should determine which kind is better able to protect the laws and practices of the republic. They should be our guards.

Glaucon That sounds right.

Socrates Can there be any doubt that someone assigned to keep guard ought to have keen eyesight rather than be blind?

Glaucon No doubt at all.

Socrates Glaucon, how do blind people differ from those who do not know reality? Are people not blind who lack a paradigm of beauty, goodness, and justice in their mind to which they can look and, like painters, cherish and preserve that order here and now?

Glaucon They are alike; both are missing something important.

Socrates Should we select them to be our guards if there are others who not only equal them in experience and the various forms of goodness but who also know reality?

Glaucon Assuming they are equal in other respects, it would be absurd to choose the ones who do not know rather than the ones who do. That’s the most important factor. [485]

Socrates Then I suppose we should determine whether it is possible for people to combine knowledge with these other qualities.

Glaucon Definitely.

Socrates We should begin, as we said before, by determining their basic nature. Once we agree about that, then if I am right, we can agree that this combination of qualities is possible. Only those people should rule the republic. Do you agree that by nature philosophers love to know what endures, the essence of things, rather than wandering between what comes into existence and passes away?

Glaucon Yes, I agree about that.

Socrates Then can we also agree that they love all of reality and that they are unwilling to relinquish any part of it, whether great or small or more or less important? We have already illustrated this point with examples of various kinds of lovers.

Glaucon They will not settle for only a part.

Socrates Then let’s consider another quality that must be part of their nature.

Glaucon What quality?

Socrates Truthfulness. They love truth and hate falsehood, which they refuse to accept.

Glaucon Yes, we may add that quality.

Socrates My friend, I think you should say “must” rather than “may,” because anyone who is amorous by nature cannot help loving everything that belongs to or is related to the object of that love.

Glaucon You are right, Socrates.

Socrates Is anything more closely related to wisdom than truth?

Glaucon Nothing.

Socrates Can the same person naturally love wisdom and naturally love lies?

Glaucon That is impossible.

Socrates Then a lover of learning, from childhood on, yearns for the whole truth.

Glaucon Certainly.

Socrates But a person whose desires lead firmly in one direction tends to be weaker in others—like a stream that has been diverted into a different channel.

Glaucon True.

Socrates Those people whose desire flows toward various forms of learning will be fully occupied with the pleasures of the mind and will pay little attention to bodily pleasure. I’m talking about true lovers of wisdom, not those who pretend to be philosophers.

Glaucon That’s how it happens.

Socrates Such people are moderate and never greedy. The incentives that have other people grubbing for money are lacking in them.

Glaucon That’s right. [486]

Socrates There is another quality we should consider in identifying the nature of a genuine philosopher.

Glaucon What do you have in mind?

Socrates Small-mindedness. It has no place in the soul of a person who is yearning for the whole of human and divine reality.

Glaucon That’s for sure.

Socrates Then do you think that a mind accustomed to thinking about being and about what endures throughout time is preoccupied with human life?

Glaucon Impossible.

Socrates Would such a person be frightened by death?

Glaucon Of course not.

Socrates Can cowardly and small-minded natures take part in true philosophy?

Glaucon Not at all.

Socrates Can a harmonious soul that is not in love with money, not petty, not boastful, and not a coward ever be unjust or ruthless in making deals?

Glaucon No.

Socrates In identifying lovers of wisdom even when they are young, you should notice whether they are civilized and gentle or antisocial and savage.

Glaucon True.

Socrates There are other signs.

Glaucon What are they?

Socrates Is a person quick or slow to learn? You would not expect people to be fond of an activity that produces great pain or one in which they make little progress even after a lot of effort.

Glaucon That would be unlikely.

Socrates Do they retain or quickly forget what they have learned? If they cannot hold on to knowledge, how can they avoid being empty-headed?

Glaucon They cannot.

Socrates And by laboring in vain, will they not wind up hating both this fruitless activity and themselves?

Glaucon No doubt.

Socrates Then we will not include forgetful souls among lovers of wisdom. A philosopher must have a good memory.

Glaucon Definitely.

Socrates Can we say that a person who is a stranger to the arts and who is naturally clumsy lacks harmony and gracefulness?

Glaucon Yes, we can say that.

Socrates Do you think truth is closer to harmony or to excess?

Glaucon To harmony and right proportion.

Socrates Then we should also look for a harmonious and graceful mind that by nature is easily led to the essential form of everything that exists.

Glaucon Certainly.

Socrates Then can we affirm that all these qualities go together and that they are necessary for a soul that seeks to participate fully and completely in reality?

Glaucon They are absolutely necessary. [487]

Socrates Can you find any flaw in a study that can be pursued only by someone who has a good memory, learns quickly, is noble, gracious, and a friend and companion of truth, justice, courage, and moderation?

Glaucon Not even Momus, the god of censure and blame, could find fault with such a study!

Socrates Then only those people, when they are mature and educated, should be trusted to lead the republic.

Adeimantus Socrates, nobody can refute you, but the people who hear you talk this way have a strong feeling that they are being led astray bit by bit at each stage of the argument. They lack skill in asking and answering questions, and these small concessions accumulate so that by the end of the discussion they find that they have turned around completely and contradict what they said at first. They are like novices playing checkers against an expert, eventually outmaneuvered by their opponent with no place to move. In the present game, where words are the pieces, they are eventually silenced and have nothing to say. But that does not mean they are wrong. I say this because of what we have just heard. At this point, we might say that even though we cannot contradict you at each step of the argument, the fact is that people who devote themselves to philosophy are a strange breed, if not downright evil. I’m not talking about the ones who amuse themselves with it while young and then give it up when they mature, but the ones who cling to it too long. The result is that even the best of them are rendered useless to society by the very kind of study you propose.

Socrates Well, Adeimantus, do you think you would be wrong in saying that?

Adeimantus I don’t know, but I would like to hear your opinion.

Socrates I think the objection is justified.

Adeimantus But how can you say that corruption and evil in republics will never cease until philosophers rule and also admit that philosophers are useless?

Socrates That question can only be answered indirectly by using an analogy.

Adeimantus But of course you are not in the habit of speaking indirectly and never use analogies!

Socrates First you get me to take on an impossible proof and then you make fun of me! Now you are going to hear an analogy that will show the weakness of my imagination. [488] The way society treats the best people is so atrocious that it is impossible to compare it with a single thing, so in order to defend them I must create an image out of many things, the way painters do when they combine goats and stags into one picture. Imagine a fleet of ships or even a single one with a captain who is taller and stronger than any of the crew but who is a bit deaf, near-sighted, and has knowledge of navigation comparable to his sight and hearing. The sailors are quarreling with each other about who should steer the ship. They all insist on taking the helm in spite of being unable to indicate when they learned how to navigate or name their teacher. They even claim that the art of navigation cannot be taught, and they are ready to cut to pieces anyone who says it can. They crowd around the captain and do everything possible to gain control of the helm. If they fail and others succeed, they kill them and throw them overboard. Then they disable the noble captain with drugs or strong drink and take command of the ship, consume the ship’s supplies by eating and drinking whatever they wish, and continue the voyage in the way you would expect from such a crew. The person who was most successful in helping them gain control of the ship, whether by persuasion or by force, they honor with titles such as “skillful navigator,” “pilot,” and “master mariner.” They denounce anyone who lacks such skill as being useless. They have no idea that a true pilot in order to qualify for commanding a ship must pay attention to the time of the year and the different seasons, the sky and the stars, the winds, and whatever else belongs to the art of navigation. The true pilot does not believe that there is an art related to grabbing control either by force or persuasion and thinks it is impossible to combine such a practice with the art of navigation. How would such sailors regard the true pilot on such a ship? Would they not use terms such as “stargazer,” “useless idler,” and “babbler”? [489]

Adeimantus They would use those terms and even worse ones.

Socrates I assume that you understand this analogy, so I do not need to explain how it relates to the plight of the true lover of wisdom in society.

Adeimantus The meaning is clear.

Socrates Then you should use it to instruct anyone who is surprised at finding philosophers without honor in society. Please explain that it would be much more remarkable if they were honored.

Adeimantus I will do that.

Socrates Tell them it is true that the best philosophers are useless to the multitude. However, this is not because there is something wrong with those who love wisdom but because people do not know what to do with them. It would be unnatural for the captain to plead with the sailors to be put in command or for wise people to beg at the doors of the rich—whoever came up with that saying has it wrong. The truth is that sick people, whether they are rich or poor, must go to the doctor rather than expect the doctor to come to them, just as those who need a leader must seek out the person who knows how to lead. If rulers are to be genuinely useful, they cannot go around asking to be put in charge. They are not at all like our current politicians, who resemble the mutinous sailors in our analogy and who call the true pilots useless stargazers.

Adeimantus That’s right.

Socrates Adeimantus, under these conditions it is easy to understand why those who choose the opposite way of life have no respect for the noblest pursuit. But the greatest and most severe attack on philosophy comes from the very people who pretend to practice it. I’m talking about the ones the critic of philosophy had in mind in saying that the majority of them are downright evil and the best of them are useless. Perhaps you recall that I agreed with them.

Adeimantus Yes, I remember.

Socrates Have we adequately explained why the best ones are considered useless?

Adeimantus We have.

Socrates Should we also explain what leads the majority of them to go bad and show why we should not blame the love of wisdom for this any more than for its uselessness?

Adeimantus Definitely.

Socrates Then we should ask and answer in our usual way, beginning with the good and noble nature of the person who always follows the truth in all matters. Anyone who does not follow that guide or boasts about the truth is an imposter and has nothing to do with the genuine love of wisdom. [490]

Adeimantus That is what we said.

Socrates But isn’t this a long way from the popular opinion about philosophers?

Adeimantus Yes it is.

Socrates We should begin our defense by saying that it is natural for true lovers of knowledge to pursue reality, never being satisfied by a multitude of personal beliefs. They will never be satisfied, diluted, or lose the passion for knowing until their love of wisdom has grasped every essence with a kindred power in their soul. Through that power they approach and have intercourse with being itself, generating mind and truth and in that way genuinely knowing, living, and growing. Only then will their labor pains come to an end.

Adeimantus I can think of no better plea on behalf of lovers of wisdom.

Socrates Will such people love lies or hate them?

Adeimantus They will hate them.

Socrates And when truth leads the chorus, should we expect evil to follow?

Adeimantus How could we!

Socrates But we might expect to find a just and sound character, tempered by moderation.

Adeimantus That’s right.

Socrates Adeimantus, I assume there is no reason for me to enumerate the other members of the philosophical chorus. You will surely recall that courage, generosity, quickness to learn, and good memory are part of the ensemble. But then you raised an objection. You said that nobody could refute my words but that in fact some of the people described by those words are useless and most are downright evil. This led us to examine the reason why so many of them are bad, and that, in turn, brought us to examine and define the nature of true lovers of wisdom.

Adeimantus Exactly.

Socrates Now we must consider the reasons why this nature is corrupted, why so many go bad, and so few escape being spoiled—I mean the ones you call useless rather than evil. [491] After that, we will consider the nature of those souls who imitate a pursuit that is too much for them and for which they are not well suited. As you said, those people produce many false notes and create a disharmony that damages the reputation of all philosophers.

Adeimantus Socrates, what is the source of their corruption?

Socrates I will try to explain it to you. Don’t you think everyone would agree that a true philosophical nature of the sort we described seldom comes into existence and will be found in only a few people?

Adeimantus I definitely think such people are rare.

Socrates And think of the many forces that tend to destroy those rare few.

Adeimantus Which forces?

Socrates The strange thing is that the very qualities of their nature we have been praising—courage, moderation, and all the rest—tend to corrupt the soul and lure it away from philosophy.

Adeimantus That is strange.

Socrates Equally strange is that what are supposed to be good things can also destroy and distract—beauty, wealth, bodily strength, and influential family connections. I suppose I need not dwell on them in detail.

Adeimantus I know the goods you mean; but what do you want to say about them?

Socrates If you grasp the truth as a whole and in the right way, you will have no trouble understanding my meaning, and it will not seem so strange.

Adeimantus How should I do that?

Socrates Think about any seed or living being, whether animal or vegetable. When it lacks proper food, a favorable environment, or good soil, then the more vigorous it is the more it suffers, because what is bad is more opposed to what is good than to what is not so good.

Adeimantus That’s right.

Socrates So people with the best nature will be damaged more by hostile conditions than those with an inferior nature, because the contrast is greater.

Adeimantus Yes.

Socrates Then, Adeimantus, may we say that the most gifted minds, when they are badly educated, become the worst? Is it not true that great crimes and pure evil spring out of a vigorous nature ruined by bad education, rather than from deficiency? Can people with weak natures bring about either the greatest good or the greatest evil?

Adeimantus Socrates, you are right about that. [492]

Socrates The same would be true of the philosophical nature. Like a plant that is properly nurtured, it will grow and achieve excellence; but if it is sown or planted in hostile soil, it becomes the most obnoxious of all weeds—unless some god rescues it. Or do you agree with those people who say that young people are corrupted by sophists? Do you really think that individual sophists who teach privately can do that much harm? Is it not the people who say such things that are the worst sophists, the ones who indoctrinate all alike—whether young or old, male or female—and mold them in their own image through popular opinion?

Adeimantus When do they do that?

Socrates When they sit crowded together in a legislature, a law court, a theater, a military camp, or any other large gathering where they approve or disapprove of what is said or done with a loud uproar. They exaggerate their praise or blame by shouting and clapping, augmented by the echo from the rocks or the acoustics of any place where they are gathered. Will this not cause young people’s hearts to leap within them? How can even the best individual education withstand the flood of applause or condemnation and not be swept away by the current? Will this not instill in them the same opinions as the general public about what is good and what is bad, leading them to do what the crowd does and be like the others in every respect?

Adeimantus Yes, Socrates, necessity will compel them.

Socrates And there is an even greater necessity to be mentioned.

Adeimantus What is that?

Socrates The actions these new sophists use when their words fail to persuade. Are you familiar with the kind of public educators who levy fines, take away civil rights, and impose the death penalty?

Adeimantus I know them all too well.

Socrates So what words spoken in private by any other sophist could prevail against them?

Adeimantus None.

Socrates And it would be foolish even to try, because there is not, has never been, and can never be another kind of character or excellence brought into existence by training opposed to them. Of course, I am talking only about human beings. As the proverb says, conventional rules never apply when we are speaking of the divine. You would not be far off in saying that whatever is saved and turns out to be good in the midst of the rotten governments that now prevail is saved by divine intervention. [493]

Adeimantus I cannot disagree.

Socrates Then there is another point on which I would like your agreement.

Adeimantus What is it?

Socrates That every one of those hired teachers which current rulers call sophists and consider to be their rivals only teaches the common opinions of the majority as they are expressed in public meetings. This is what they call wisdom. You might compare them with someone raising a mighty beast studying its moods and desires, learning how to approach it, handle it, and determining when and how it is hostile or friendly. They must discover the meaning of the various noises it makes and discern what sounds soothe or infuriate it when made by someone else. By constantly living with the beast, they acquire this lore, which they call wisdom. Then they organize it into a system and turn it into a craft that they teach to others. They have no idea of what they are teaching or whether the desires and decrees of the huge brute are good or bad, just or unjust, fair or foul, so they call whatever delights the beast good and whatever annoys it bad. Having never observed what is truly just and beautiful, they have no way to judge or explain their nature or the vast difference between what is good and what is necessary. Don’t you think these people are strange educators?

Adeimantus Strange indeed!

Socrates Adeimantus, do you think there is any difference between them and the people who believe that wisdom consists of discovering the passions and delights of the capricious multitude, whether in painting, music, or in politics? Will you agree that those who consort with the crowd and exhibit for its judgment a poem or some other work of art or an act of political service will also experience the fatal necessity of producing whatever it praises? But if they try to explain why such preferences really are beautiful or good, have you ever heard anything but nonsense?

Adeimantus No, and I doubt that I ever will.

Socrates With that in mind, consider whether the multitude will ever embrace the existence of beauty itself rather than many beautiful things or accept anything itself rather than the various instances of it? [494]

Adeimantus Never.

Socrates Then can the multitude ever be a lover of wisdom?

Adeimantus That is impossible.

Socrates Then it is inevitable that the multitude will scorn those who pursue the love of wisdom.

Adeimantus There is no way to avoid it.

Socrates And will those individuals who follow the crowd and try to please it also scoff at philosophers?

Adeimantus Of course they will.

Socrates Is there any way that a philosophical nature can be preserved and the love of wisdom sustained over the course of a lifetime? Do you recall that we said it is natural for such people to be courageous, learn easily, have a good memory, and be generous?

Adeimantus I remember.

Socrates Won’t such people, even when they are young, be first in all things, especially if their body resembles their mind?

Adeimantus Yes.

Socrates But as they get older won’t their relatives and fellow citizens want to use them for their own purposes?

Adeimantus No doubt.

Socrates The others will flatter and praise and honor them to get their hands on the power that will one day be theirs.

Adeimantus That’s often how it happens.

Socrates What will they do under such circumstances, especially if they are citizens of a great republic and are rich, noble, tall, and attractive? Will they not be full of lofty aspirations, thinking that they are capable of managing the affairs of Greeks and barbarians alike? And isn’t this likely to fill them with false pride, vanity, and empty arrogance?

Adeimantus It would be easy to give you some examples.

Socrates Now, what if someone quietly approaches and frankly points out this person’s lack of the good sense needed for a decent life, claiming that it cannot be obtained without working like a slave. Do you think someone in that frame of mind and under such bad influences would be inclined to listen to such talk?

Adeimantus That’s not likely.

Socrates But let’s suppose that there are a few who are naturally receptive to such words and attracted to the love of wisdom. What happens when their friends and relatives think they are going to lose the benefits they were expecting to reap? To stop the influence of such teaching, won’t they say and do anything, including secret plans and public prosecutions?

Adeimantus They would use any means necessary. [495]

Socrates Is there any way for a person in such circumstances to pursue the love of wisdom?

Adeimantus That would be impossible.

Socrates Then we were not wrong in saying that the very qualities that comprise the philosophical nature may serve to divert a poorly educated person from pursuing the love of wisdom, as do wealth and the other so-called good things of life that go with it.

Adeimantus We were quite right in saying that.

Socrates Adeimantus, my friend, this is what causes the downfall of the natures best adapted to the noblest of all pursuits. And, as we said, such natures are rare even in the best of times. From this group come the people who cause the greatest harm to republics and individuals, but it is also the source of those who do the greatest good when the tide carries them in that direction. But we should not expect weak characters to do anything great either to individuals or to republics.

Adeimantus How true!

Socrates When those who are best suited for philosophy depart, leaving her unwed and abandoned, they will end up leading a false life that is unworthy of them; and she—like an orphan abandoned by her family—is defiled by unworthy suitors and accused of the faults of her votaries, some being useless and most of them deserving everything bad that happens to them.

Adeimantus Yes, that is what people say.

Socrates Well, what else would you expect when you consider the puny creatures that see this open space and are attracted by the fancy names and impressive titles? They are like escaped prisoners who take sanctuary in a temple. The ones who have been most successful in their trivial pursuits leap into philosophy. Even in this sorry state, philosophy maintains a dignity not found in other occupations and attracts many people with unworthy natures, their souls diminished and weakened by meaningless occupations, just as their bodies are deformed by backbreaking labor. Don’t you think this is inevitable?

Adeimantus I do.

Socrates Do you see any difference between such a person and a balding little metalworker that has been released from jail and come into some money? He has a bath, gets some fancy clothes and dresses like a bridegroom about to marry the boss’s daughter who has been disinherited and left without support.

Adeimantus That’s a good comparison. [496]

Socrates What will come from such a marriage? Will it not be base and vile?

Adeimantus No doubt.

Socrates When people who are not suited for education approach philosophy and form an inappropriate alliance with her, what kind of thoughts and opinions are likely to be generated? Will they not be sophisms that are appealing to the ear but lacking anything true and not even being close to genuine wisdom?

Adeimantus That’s absolutely right, Socrates.

Socrates So, Adeimantus, there is only a small remnant of worthy students of philosophy. Perhaps a person with a noble nature who has been properly brought up under favorable circumstances in the absence of temptation, possibly isolated by exile, remains faithful to philosophy. Or maybe a lofty soul is born in a small town and refuses to be drawn into petty politics. Or there may be a few with a gift for the arts who leave their lesser occupation for the love of wisdom. Some may resemble our friend Theages, who had many reasons to avoid philosophy, but the bridle of ill health kept him out of politics. The case of my own divine sign is probably not worth mentioning, because seldom, if ever, has such a guide been reported by anyone else. Those who belong to this small group have tasted the sweetness of the love of wisdom and know what a sacred possession it is. They have observed the madness of the multitude and they know that present political practice is corrupt, unsound, and unjust. There is nobody who can come to the rescue of those who fight for justice. Anyone who tries would be like a person who has fallen among wild beasts. Unwilling to join in the evil deeds of the others, they would be unable to resist their fierce nature and would be useless to the republic or to their allies. They would throw away their life in vain without doing any good to themselves or to other people. As they reflect on all this, they will keep quiet and mind their own business—like someone who takes shelter under a wall seeking protection against dust and rain driven by the wind. When they see other people overflowing with lawlessness, they are content to live their own life and avoid being unjust or unholy, departing in peace with good will and high hopes.

Adeimantus That would be no small achievement before leaving this life. [497]

Socrates Yes, it would be a great accomplishment, but not the greatest. Better yet would be to find a republic suited to their nature where they could flourish and save both themselves and their community. But I think we have said enough about why philosophy has such a bad name and why it is undeserved. Now, Adeimantus, is there anything else you would like to say?

Adeimantus I have nothing more to say, but I would like to hear which of the existing republics is conducive to philosophy.

Socrates None of them! That is precisely the source of my complaint. Not a single one of them is suitable to a philosophical nature, and so they are twisted and warped. They are like an exotic seed that has been sown in foreign soil, which loses its natural qualities and adapts to the local conditions. Instead of maintaining its character, it becomes something else. But if the philosophic nature ever finds an excellent republic to match its own excellence, then it will be recognized as something divine and all other natures and ways of life as merely human. Now, of course, you are going to ask which form of government that is.

Adeimantus No, Socrates, you are wrong about that. I was going to ask a different question—whether this is the form of government we have described in founding our republic or if you have some other one in mind.

Socrates It is in many respects, but remember we said earlier that there must be someone in the republic who will hold fast to the principles that guided you, the legislator, in formulating the laws.

Adeimantus Yes, we did say that.

Socrates But we did not explain it sufficiently. You frightened us with objections and demands that made it clear that the discussion would be long and difficult. Even now what remains is far from easy.

Adeimantus What do you mean?

Socrates We must determine how a republic should engage in the study of philosophy so it will not be destroyed. Everything great is filled with risk. As the saying goes “hard is the good.”

Adeimantus Even so, please complete the investigation by clearing up that point and answering that question.

Socrates I will not be hindered by a failure of will but perhaps by lack of ability, and you can see my zeal yourself. Notice how bold I am in proclaiming that a republic ought to conduct the study of philosophy in a way totally different from current practice.

Adeimantus What do you have in mind? [498]

Socrates Those who study philosophy now do so while young, in the period before they get involved with making money and managing a household. They barely begin the most difficult part—I mean the study of speaking with rational justification—when they consider themselves to be sufficiently educated and turn their attention to something else. When they grow older, they find it a major achievement if they can listen to a serious discussion conducted by other people, considering philosophy to be a kind of hobby. As the years pass, the light is quenched more completely than Heraclitus’ sun, because the fire is never rekindled.

Adeimantus How should it be done?

Socrates Just the opposite way. When they are children and young adults, their studies should be appropriate to their tender age. They should take proper care of their bodies during the period when they are growing, providing a reliable means for philosophy to do its work. As their intellect matures, they should focus on the soul, and their mental exercise should be more rigorous and more challenging. Finally, when their strength wanes and their military and civic duties are completed, then they should be allowed to roam freely as they pursue the love of wisdom without any other serious demands. That way they can live the best possible life here and attend to their future destiny.

Adeimantus Socrates, you really do seem to be quite zealous about this, but I suspect that your listeners will be even more earnest in opposing you and will never be convinced—least of all Thrasymachus.

Socrates Don’t try to stir up a quarrel between Thrasymachus and me now that we have become friends—though we were never enemies. I will make every effort until I either convince him and the others or at least help prepare them for the day when we converse in this way again in a future life.

Adeimantus Clearly you are not thinking about the short term!

Socrates It’s really quite brief when you compare it with eternity. But it is no wonder that the multitude is unconvinced by what I have said because they have never seen anything like it. All they have experienced is artificially crafted and constructed words, quite unlike these that spontaneously come together of their own accord. Nor have they ever seen a human being who is perfectly formed in word and deed to manifest goodness and to lead a republic that is also good. Or do you disagree? [499]

Adeimantus No, I agree completely.

Socrates They have seldom heard the beautiful and free words of people whose sole purpose is to seek the truth for the sake of knowledge—keeping their distance and scorning the clever and refined debate that aims only at conflict and contest, whether in lawsuits or in private conversation.

Adeimantus They are strangers to the kind of dialogue you have in mind.

Socrates We anticipated this when truth forced me, in spite of my trepidation, to say that there is no chance that either republics or individuals will be free of corruption until that small group of true lovers of wisdom is charged with taking care of the republic—not the ones who are perverse but the ones who are currently called useless. Or perhaps the people who currently rule, or their children, will be inspired by the true love of wisdom. I do not believe that these alternatives are impossible; if they were, we might be rightly ridiculed for engaging in wishful thinking. Am I right about that?

Adeimantus Quite right.

Socrates Then whenever the most ardent lover of wisdom is compelled to take charge of a republic—whether in the countless ages of the past, in some unknown place at present, or at some time in the distant future—we are ready to insist that something like our republic has existed, exists, or will exist whenever the philosophic Muse takes charge. It is not impossible for that to happen, though we admit that it is difficult.

Adeimantus I agree with you.

Socrates But I suppose you will also say that most people would not agree.

Adeimantus Exactly.

Socrates My dear friend, do not have such a low opinion of people. They will surely change their mind if you approach them gently and try to calm them by redeeming the bad name of the love of learning. If you explain to them that the true nature and vocation of the philosopher is what we just described, then they will understand that you are not talking about the people they have in mind. [500] If they view philosophy in this light, they will surely change their mind. Or do you suppose that most people will respond with hostility and maliciousness to someone who is gentle and without malice? Adeimantus, I will answer for you. There may be a few who are like that, but not the majority.

Adeimantus I can’t disagree with what you say, Socrates.

Socrates And do you also agree about why many people have a bad attitude toward philosophy? It is because of intruders, who force their way in from the outside—like a band of revelers—and proceed to quarrel, abuse the guests, and gossip about everyone else. Is that proper conduct for those who love wisdom?

Adeimantus It is completely inappropriate.

Socrates That’s right, Adeimantus, because those who fix their mind on what is true and real have no time for such petty human affairs. They have no desire to be filled with envy and hatred toward others and to fight with them. Their eyes are directed toward fixed and unchanging principles that neither do nor suffer injustice. Instead, they follow a regular order that moves according to reason, which they emulate and to which they conform as much as possible. Can people help emulating what they admire?

Adeimantus Impossible.

Socrates Lovers of wisdom keep company with the divine and unchanging order and thus become part of it as far as human nature allows. However, hostility is everywhere and hard to avoid.

Adeimantus That’s true.

Socrates And if they are required to form not only themselves but also humankind—as individuals and as republics—into what they see there, do you think that they will lack skill in creating justice, moderation, and the common good?

Adeimantus On the contrary, they will be most skillful in that task.

Socrates And if the majority understands that we are telling the truth about the lover of wisdom, will they be angry with philosophers? Will they refuse to believe us when we tell them that only a republic sketched by artists who make use of this divine pattern can ever be happy? [501]

Adeimantus They will not be angry if they understand. But what do you mean about the artist’s sketch?

Socrates I mean that they will approach both the republic and the human character as a blank slate that they have wiped clean. This is not easy to do, but it is what distinguishes ours from every other legislator. They will not touch either the individual or the republic, and they will make no laws until they have either found or created a clean surface.

Adeimantus That would be the right way to do it.

Socrates Next, they would proceed to make an outline of the constitution. Does that sound right?

Adeimantus It does.

Socrates As they paint their picture, I assume they will constantly look in both directions, first at the nature of justice, beauty, and moderation, and then at the human image they are trying to produce, mixing and blending the various tones to create a true human form. They will create according to the other image which, when it exists in human form, Homer called godlike—the divine form.

Adeimantus That’s a good description.

Socrates And time and again they will paint a feature and erase it and paint over it until they have made the human character as godlike as possible.

Adeimantus That would be the way to make the most beautiful picture.

Socrates Now do you think we are beginning to persuade those people you said would be ready to attack us with full force? Are we convincing them that this painter of constitutions we have been praising should replace the one who infuriated them? Are they growing calmer because of what they hear?

Adeimantus If they have any sense, they will be much calmer.

Socrates On what grounds could they still object? Would they doubt that a philosopher is a lover of truth and reality?

Adeimantus That would be absurd.

Socrates Or that the philosopher’s nature, as I described it, is the best kind?

Adeimantus They cannot doubt that either.

Socrates Then will they say that a nature of that kind, if properly educated, will not be as good and wise as any that ever existed? Or would they prefer the ones we have rejected?

Adeimantus Surely not.

Socrates Will they still be angry when we say that until philosophers rule in republics neither republics nor individuals will ever be free from evil nor will our mythical republic of words ever be realized?

Adeimantus I think they will be less angry.

Socrates Rather than less angry perhaps we can say that they would be quite gentle because they have been convinced and have come around to our side, even if only out of shame? [502]

Adeimantus Of course.

Socrates Then let’s assume that we have won them over. Now will anyone deny that children of kings or other leaders might be born with a philosophical nature?

Adeimantus No one will doubt that it is possible.

Socrates And once they have come into existence, will anyone say that they will necessarily be corrupted? Even we have agreed that it would be difficult; but is it impossible that in the whole course of time one of them might be rescued?

Adeimantus How could they deny that?

Socrates One of them would suffice. If even one republic were to follow such a person, what now seems incredible could be accomplished.

Adeimantus Yes, one would be enough.

Socrates If the ruler sketched such laws and practices, it is possible the citizens might be willing to enact them.

Adeimantus Yes, that would be possible.

Socrates And would it be impossible or miraculous for other people to share our opinion about this?

Adeimantus Not at all.

Socrates Have we adequately shown that all of this is for the best?

Adeimantus Yes, Socrates, I think we have.

Socrates Then we can conclude that the laws, if implemented as we described, would be best; and even if it would be difficult to implement them, it would not be impossible.

Adeimantus I agree.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 20, 2000

    Embarassment, anyone?

    Despite those outstandingly ignorant individuals who are so willingly embarass themselves, Plato's Republic is one of the most significant works produced in our human exsitence. What's even more unique about it is its broad scope and truth that can be revealed even in our lives today. Eveyone should read it. And for those who refuse to be embarassed again, read it one more time.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 26, 2002

    haahahahahhaa

    I honestly did not think someone would be stupid enough to spout off their ignorance with regards to Plato. I mean come on! Do some of you honestly think you understand this book? Do you honestly think you can 'rate' Plato? PhaaaaaHaaa...I am rolling on the floor.

    2 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 6, 2000

    The Worst Book Ever

    This is definately one of the worst books I have ever read. The story doesn't make much sense at all, and each chapter (called books) is about 50 pages, but could be summed up in about 3. It is very boring to read. I would not recommend this book to anyone!

    1 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 10, 2000

    One fantastic book!

    A classic everyone should read.

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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