JOURNAL TOPIC: [today's tunes: "Searching" by Erykah Badu; "Still Searching" by The Kinks; "The Cave" by Mumford & Sons]
Russell wrote, “Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have
governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and
unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind.” Today we're focusing on
Russell's second passion. What is your experience in searching for
knowledge? Have you ever wandered into a library/store/search
engine/community just for the sake of answering a question? If you
have, describe the experience: What did you expect to find? How did you
unearth information? Where did the process lead you? If you haven't
done something like this, visualize a question that intrigues you and
imagine how you might go about answering it.
2. Vocab quiz
3. Brain 2.0
4. Plato's "Allegory of the Cave"
1. Brain 2.0
2. Read Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" (click the link or see below)
3. Answer these study questions in a post to your blog entitled "Plato's Allegory of the Cave"
(adopted with gratitude from: http://classics.mit.edu/Plato/republic.8.vii.html)
Written 360 B.C.E
Translated by Benjamin Jowett
Table of Contents
Socrates - GLAUCON
now, I said, let me show in a figure how far our nature is enlightened
or unenlightened: --Behold! human beings living in a underground den,
which has a mouth open towards the light and reaching all along the den;
here they have been from their childhood, and have their legs and necks chained so that they cannot move, and can only see before them, being
prevented by the chains from
turning round their heads. Above and behind
them a fire is blazing at a distance, and between the fire and the
prisoners there is a raised way; and you will see, if you look, a low
wall built along the way, like the screen which marionette players have
in front of them, over which they show the puppets.
do you see, I said, men passing along the wall carrying all sorts of
vessels, and statues and figures of animals made of wood and stone and
various materials, which appear over the wall? Some of them are talking,
You have shown me a strange image, and they are strange prisoners.
ourselves, I replied; and they see only their own shadows, or the
shadows of one another, which the fire throws on the opposite wall of
True, he said; how could they see anything but the shadows if they were never allowed to move their heads?
And of the objects which are being carried in like manner they would only see the shadows?
Yes, he said.
And if they were able to converse with one another, would they not suppose that they were naming what was actually before them?
suppose further that the prison had an echo which came from the other
side, would they not be sure to fancy when one of the passers-by spoke
that the voice which they heard came from the passing shadow?
No question, he replied.
To them, I said, the truth would be literally nothing but the shadows of the images.
That is certain.
now look again, and see what will naturally follow it' the prisoners
are released and disabused of their error. At first, when any of them is
liberated and compelled suddenly to stand up and turn his neck round
and walk and look towards the light, he will suffer sharp pains; the
glare will distress him, and he will be unable to see the realities of
which in his former state he had seen the shadows; and then conceive
some one saying to him, that what he saw before was an illusion, but
that now, when he is approaching nearer to being and his eye is turned
towards more real existence, he has a clearer vision, -what will be his
reply? And you may further imagine that his instructor is pointing to
the objects as they pass and requiring him to name them, -will he not be
perplexed? Will he not fancy that the shadows which he formerly saw are
truer than the objects which are now shown to him?
if he is compelled to look straight at the light, will he not have a
pain in his eyes which will make him turn away to take and take in the
objects of vision which he can see, and which he will conceive to be in
reality clearer than the things which are now being shown to him?
True, he now
suppose once more, that he is reluctantly dragged up a steep and rugged
ascent, and held fast until he 's forced into the presence of the sun
himself, is he not likely to be pained and irritated? When he approaches
the light his eyes will be dazzled, and he will not be able to see
anything at all of what are now called realities.
Not all in a moment, he said.
will require to grow accustomed to the sight of the upper world. And
first he will see the shadows best, next the reflections of men and
other objects in the water, and then the objects themselves; then he
will gaze upon the light of the moon and the stars and the spangled
heaven; and he will see the sky and the stars by night better than the
sun or the light of the sun by day?
of he will be able to see the sun, and not mere reflections of him in
the water, but he will see him in his own proper place, and not in
another; and he will contemplate him as he is.
will then proceed to argue that this is he who gives the season and the
years, and is the guardian of all that is in the visible world, and in a
certain way the cause of all things which he and his fellows have been
accustomed to behold?
Clearly, he said, he would first see the sun and then reason about him.
when he remembered his old habitation, and the wisdom of the den and
his fellow-prisoners, do you not suppose that he would felicitate
himself on the change, and pity them?
Certainly, he would.
if they were in the habit of conferring honours among themselves on
those who were quickest to observe the passing shadows and to remark
which of them went before, and which followed after, and which were
together; and who were therefore best able to draw conclusions as to the
future, do you think that he would care for such honours and glories,
or envy the possessors of them? Would he not say with Homer,
to be the poor servant of a poor master, and to endure anything, rather
than think as they do and live after their manner?
he said, I think that he would rather suffer anything than entertain
these false notions and live in this miserable manner.
once more, I said, such an one coming suddenly out of the sun to be
replaced in his old situation; would he not be certain to have his eyes
full of darkness?
To be sure, he said.
there were a contest, and he had to compete in measuring the shadows
with the prisoners who had never moved out of the den, while his sight
was still weak, and before his eyes had become steady (and the time
which would be needed to acquire this new habit of sight might be very
considerable) would he not be ridiculous? Men would say of him that up
he went and down he came without his eyes; and that it was better not
even to think of ascending; and if any one tried to loose another and
lead him up to the light, let them only catch the offender, and they
would put him to death.
No question, he said.
entire allegory, I said, you may now append, dear Glaucon, to the
previous argument; the prison-house is the world of sight, the light of
the fire is the sun, and you will not misapprehend me if you interpret
the journey upwards to be the ascent of the soul into the intellectual
world according to my poor belief, which, at your desire, I have
expressed whether rightly or wrongly God knows. But, whether true or
false, my opinion is that in the world of knowledge the idea of good
appears last of all, and is seen only with an effort; and, when seen, is
also inferred to be the universal author of all things beautiful and
right, parent of light and of the lord of light in this visible world,
and the immediate source of reason and truth in the intellectual; and
that this is the power upon which he who would act rationally, either in
public or private life must have his eye fixed.
I agree, he said, as far as I am able to understand you.
I said, you must not wonder that those who attain to this beatific
vision are unwilling to descend to human affairs; for their souls are
ever hastening into the upper world where they desire to dwell; which
desire of theirs is very natural, if our allegory may be trusted.
Yes, very natural.
is there anything surprising in one who passes from divine
contemplations to the evil state of man, misbehaving himself in a
ridiculous manner; if, while his eyes are blinking and before he has
become accustomed to the surrounding darkness, he is compelled to fight
in courts of law, or in other places, about the images or the shadows of
images of justice, and is endeavouring to meet the conceptions of those
who have never yet seen absolute justice?
Anything but surprising, he replied.
one who has common sense will remember that the bewilderments of the
eyes are of two kinds, and arise from two causes, either from coming out
of the light or from going into the light, which is true of the mind's
eye, quite as much as of the bodily eye; and he who remembers this when
he sees any one whose vision is perplexed and weak, will not be too
ready to laugh; he will first ask whether that soul of man has come out
of the brighter light, and is unable to see because unaccustomed to the
dark, or having turned from darkness to the day is dazzled by excess of
light. And he will count the one happy in his condition and state of
being, and he will pity the other; or, if he have a mind to laugh at the
soul which comes from below into the light, there will be more reason
in this than in the laugh which greets him who returns from above out of
the light into the den.
That, he said, is a very just distinction.
then, if I am right, certain professors of education must be wrong when
they say that they can put a knowledge into the soul which was not
there before, like sight into blind eyes.
They undoubtedly say this, he replied.
our argument shows that the power and capacity of learning exists in
the soul already; and that just as the eye was unable to turn from
darkness to light without the whole body, so too the instrument of
knowledge can only by the movement of the whole soul be turned from the
world of becoming into that of being, and learn by degrees to endure the
sight of being, and of the brightest and best of being, or in other
words, of the good.
And must there
not be some art which will effect conversion in the easiest and quickest
manner; not implanting the faculty of sight, for that exists already,
but has been turned in the wrong direction, and is looking away from the
Yes, he said, such an art may be presumed.
whereas the other so-called virtues of the soul seem to be akin to
bodily qualities, for even when they are not originally innate they can
be implanted later by habit and exercise, the of wisdom more than
anything else contains a divine element which always remains, and by
this conversion is rendered useful and profitable; or, on the other
hand, hurtful and useless. Did you never observe the narrow intelligence
flashing from the keen eye of a clever rogue --how eager he is, how
clearly his paltry soul sees the way to his end; he is the reverse of
blind, but his keen eyesight is forced into the service of evil, and he
is mischievous in proportion to his cleverness.
Very true, he said.
what if there had been a circumcision of such natures in the days of
their youth; and they had been severed from those sensual pleasures,
such as eating and drinking, which, like leaden weights, were attached
to them at their birth, and which drag them down and turn the vision of
their souls upon the things that are below --if, I say, they had been
released from these impediments and turned in the opposite direction,
the very same faculty in them would have seen the truth as keenly as
they see what their eyes are turned to now.
I said; and there is another thing which is likely. or rather a
necessary inference from what has preceded, that neither the uneducated
and uninformed of the truth, nor yet those who never make an end of
their education, will be able ministers of State; not the former,
because they have no single aim of duty which is the rule of all their
actions, private as well as public; nor the latter, because they will
not act at all except upon compulsion, fancying that they are already
dwelling apart in the islands of the blest.
Very true, he replied.
I said, the business of us who are the founders of the State will be to
compel the best minds to attain that knowledge which we have already
shown to be the greatest of all-they must continue to ascend until they
arrive at the good; but when they have ascended and seen enough we must
not allow them to do as they do now.
What do you mean?
mean that they remain in the upper world: but this must not be allowed;
they must be made to descend again among the prisoners in the den, and
partake of their labours and honours, whether they are worth having or
But is not this unjust? he said; ought we to give them a worse life, when they might have a better?
have again forgotten, my friend, I said, the intention of the
legislator, who did not aim at making any one class in the State happy
above the rest; the happiness was to be in the whole State, and he held
the citizens together by persuasion and necessity, making them
benefactors of the State, and therefore benefactors of one another; to
this end he created them, not to please themselves, but to be his
instruments in binding up the State.
True, he said, I had forgotten.
Glaucon, that there will be no injustice in compelling our philosophers
to have a care and providence of others; we shall explain to them that
in other States, men of their class are not obliged to share in the
toils of politics: and this is reasonable, for they grow up at their own
sweet will, and the government would rather not have them. Being
self-taught, they cannot be expected to show any gratitude for a culture
which they have never received. But we have brought you into the world
to be rulers of the hive, kings of yourselves and of the other citizens,
and have educated you far better and more perfectly than they have been
educated, and you are better able to share in the double duty.
Wherefore each of you, when his turn comes, must go down to the general
underground abode, and get the habit of seeing in the dark. When you
have acquired the habit, you will see ten thousand times better than the
inhabitants of the den, and you will know what the several images are,
and what they represent, because you have seen the beautiful and just
and good in their truth. And thus our State which is also yours will be a
reality, and not a dream only, and will be administered in a spirit
unlike that of other States, in which men fight with one another about
shadows only and are distracted in the struggle for power, which in
their eyes is a great good. Whereas the truth is that the State in which
the rulers are most reluctant to govern is always the best and most
quietly governed, and the State in which they are most eager, the worst.
Quite true, he replied.
And will our pupils,
when they hear this, refuse to take their turn at the toils of State,
when they are allowed to spend the greater part of their time with one
another in the heavenly light?
answered; for they are just men, and the commands which we impose upon
them are just; there can be no doubt that every one of them will take
office as a stern necessity, and not after the fashion of our present
rulers of State.
Yes, my friend, I said; and there
lies the point. You must contrive for your future rulers another and a
better life than that of a ruler, and then you may have a well-ordered
State; for only in the State which offers this, will they rule who are
truly rich, not in silver and gold, but in virtue and wisdom, which are
the true blessings of life. Whereas if they go to the administration of
public affairs, poor and hungering after the' own private advantage,
thinking that hence they are to snatch the chief good, order there can
never be; for they will be fighting about office, and the civil and
domestic broils which thus arise will be the ruin of the rulers
themselves and of the whole State.
Most true, he replied.
And the only life which looks down upon the life of political ambition is that of true philosophy. Do you know of any other?
Indeed, I do not, he said.
And those who govern ought not to be lovers of the task? For, if they are, there will be rival lovers, and they will fight.
then are those whom we shall compel to be guardians? Surely they will
be the men who are wisest about affairs of State, and by whom the State
is best administered, and who at the same time have other honours and
another and a better life than that of politics?
They are the men, and I will choose them, he replied.
now shall we consider in what way such guardians will be produced, and
how they are to be brought from darkness to light, --as some are said to
have ascended from the world below to the gods?
By all means, he replied.
process, I said, is not the turning over of an oyster-shell, but the
turning round of a soul passing from a day which is little better than
night to the true day of being, that is, the ascent from below, which we
affirm to be true philosophy?
And should we not enquire what sort of knowledge has the power of effecting such a change?
sort of knowledge is there which would draw the soul from becoming to
being? And another consideration has just occurred to me: You will
remember that our young men are to be warrior athletes
Yes, that was said.
Then this new kind of knowledge must have an additional quality?
Usefulness in war.
Yes, if possible.
There were two parts in our former scheme of education, were there not?
was gymnastic which presided over the growth and decay of the body, and
may therefore be regarded as having to do with generation and
Then that is not the knowledge which we are seeking to discover? No.
But what do you say of music, which also entered to a certain extent into our former scheme?
he said, as you will remember, was the counterpart of gymnastic, and
trained the guardians by the influences of habit, by harmony making them
harmonious, by rhythm rhythmical, but not giving them science; and the
words, whether fabulous or possibly true, had kindred elements of rhythm
and harmony in them. But in music there was nothing which tended to
that good which you are now seeking.
You are most
accurate, I said, in your recollection; in music there certainly was
nothing of the kind. But what branch of knowledge is there, my dear
Glaucon, which is of the desired nature; since all the useful arts were
reckoned mean by us?
Undoubtedly; and yet if music and gymnastic are excluded, and the arts are also excluded, what remains?
I said, there may be nothing left of our special subjects; and then we
shall have to take something which is not special, but of universal
What may that be?
which all arts and sciences and intelligences use in common, and which
every one first has to learn among the elements of education.
What is that?
little matter of distinguishing one, two, and three --in a word, number
and calculation: --do not all arts and sciences necessarily partake of
Then the art of war partakes of them?
To the sure.
Palamedes, whenever he appears in tragedy, proves Agamemnon
ridiculously unfit to be a general. Did you never remark how he declares
that he had invented number, and had numbered the ships and set in
array the ranks of the army at Troy; which implies that they had never
been numbered before, and Agamemnon must be supposed literally to have
been incapable of counting his own feet --how could he if he was
ignorant of number? And if that is true, what sort of general must he
I should say a very strange one, if this was as you say.
Can we deny that a warrior should have a knowledge of arithmetic?
he should, if he is to have the smallest understanding of military
tactics, or indeed, I should rather say, if he is to be a man at all.
I should like to know whether you have the same notion which I have of this study?
What is your notion?
appears to me to be a study of the kind which we are seeking, and which
leads naturally to reflection, but never to have been rightly used; for
the true use of it is simply to draw the soul towards being.
Will you explain your meaning? he said.
will try, I said; and I wish you would share the enquiry with me, and
say 'yes' or 'no' when I attempt to distinguish in my own mind what
branches of knowledge have this attracting power, in order that we may
have clearer proof that arithmetic is, as I suspect, one of them.
Explain, he said.
mean to say that objects of sense are of two kinds; some of them do not
invite thought because the sense is an adequate judge of them; while in
the case of other objects sense is so untrustworthy that further
enquiry is imperatively demanded.
You are clearly
referring, he said, to the manner in which the senses are imposed upon
by distance, and by painting in light and shade.
No, I said, that is not at all my meaning.
Then what is your meaning?
speaking of uninviting objects, I mean those which do not pass from one
sensation to the opposite; inviting objects are those which do; in this
latter case the sense coming upon the object, whether at a distance or
near, gives no more vivid idea of anything in particular than of its
opposite. An illustration will make my meaning clearer: --here are three
fingers --a little finger, a second finger, and a middle finger.
You may suppose that they are seen quite close: And here comes the point.
What is it?
of them equally appears a finger, whether seen in the middle or at the
extremity, whether white or black, or thick or thin --it makes no
difference; a finger is a finger all the same. In these cases a man is
not compelled to ask of thought the question, what is a finger? for the
sight never intimates to the mind that a finger is other than a finger.
And therefore, I said, as we might expect, there is nothing here which invites or excites intelligence.
There is not, he said.
is this equally true of the greatness and smallness of the fingers? Can
sight adequately perceive them? and is no difference made by the
circumstance that one of the fingers is in the middle and another at the
extremity? And in like manner does the touch adequately perceive the
qualities of thickness or thinness, or softness or hardness? And so of
the other senses; do they give perfect intimations of such matters? Is
not their mode of operation on this wise --the sense which is concerned
with the quality of hardness is necessarily concerned also with the
quality of softness, and only intimates to the soul that the same thing
is felt to be both hard and soft?
You are quite right, he said.
must not the soul be perplexed at this intimation which the sense gives
of a hard which is also soft? What, again, is the meaning of light and
heavy, if that which is light is also heavy, and that which is heavy,
Yes, he said, these intimations which the soul receives are very curious and require to be explained.
I said, and in these perplexities the soul naturally summons to her aid
calculation and intelligence, that she may see whether the several
objects announced to her are one or two.
And if they turn out to be two, is not each of them one and different?
if each is one, and both are two, she will conceive the two as in a
state of division, for if there were undivided they could only be
conceived of as one?
The eye certainly did see both small and great, but only in a confused manner; they were not distinguished.
the thinking mind, intending to light up the chaos, was compelled to
reverse the process, and look at small and great as separate and not
Was not this the beginning of the enquiry 'What is great?' and 'What is small?'
And thus arose the distinction of the visible and the intelligible.
was what I meant when I spoke of impressions which invited the
intellect, or the reverse --those which are simultaneous with opposite
impressions, invite thought; those which are not simultaneous do not.
I understand, he said, and agree with you.
And to which class do unity and number belong?
I do not know, he replied.
a little and you will see that what has preceded will supply the
answer; for if simple unity could be adequately perceived by the sight
or by any other sense, then, as we were saying in the case of the
finger, there would be nothing to attract towards being; but when there
is some contradiction always present, and one is the reverse of one and
involves the conception of plurality, then thought begins to be aroused
within us, and the soul perplexed and wanting to arrive at a decision
asks 'What is absolute unity?' This is the way in which the study of the
one has a power of drawing and converting the mind to the contemplation
of true being.
And surely, he said, this occurs
notably in the case of one; for we see the same thing to be both one and
infinite in multitude?
Yes, I said; and this being true of one must be equally true of all number?
And all arithmetic and calculation have to do with number?
And they appear to lead the mind towards truth?
Yes, in a very remarkable manner.
this is knowledge of the kind for which we are seeking, having a double
use, military and philosophical; for the man of war must learn the art
of number or he will not know how to array his troops, and the
philosopher also, because he has to rise out of the sea of change and
lay hold of true being, and therefore he must be an arithmetician.
That is true.
And our guardian is both warrior and philosopher?
this is a kind of knowledge which legislation may fitly prescribe; and
we must endeavour to persuade those who are prescribe to be the
principal men of our State to go and learn arithmetic, not as amateurs,
but they must carry on the study until they see the nature of numbers
with the mind only; nor again, like merchants or retail-traders, with a
view to buying or selling, but for the sake of their military use, and
of the soul herself; and because this will be the easiest way for her to
pass from becoming to truth and being.
That is excellent, he said.
I said, and now having spoken of it, I must add how charming the
science is! and in how many ways it conduces to our desired end, if
pursued in the spirit of a philosopher, and not of a shopkeeper!
How do you mean?
mean, as I was saying, that arithmetic has a very great and elevating
effect, compelling the soul to reason about abstract number, and
rebelling against the introduction of visible or tangible objects into
the argument. You know how steadily the masters of the art repel and
ridicule any one who attempts to divide absolute unity when he is
calculating, and if you divide, they multiply, taking care that one
shall continue one and not become lost in fractions.
That is very true.
suppose a person were to say to them: O my friends, what are these
wonderful numbers about which you are reasoning, in which, as you say,
there is a unity such as you demand, and each unit is equal, invariable,
indivisible, --what would they answer?
They would answer, as I should conceive, that they were speaking of those numbers which can only be realised in thought.
you see that this knowledge may be truly called necessary,
necessitating as it clearly does the use of the pure intelligence in the
attainment of pure truth?
Yes; that is a marked characteristic of it.
have you further observed, that those who have a natural talent for
calculation are generally quick at every other kind of knowledge; and
even the dull if they have had an arithmetical training, although they
may derive no other advantage from it, always become much quicker than
they would otherwise have been.
Very true, he said.
And indeed, you will not easily find a more difficult study, and not many as difficult.
You will not.
for all these reasons, arithmetic is a kind of knowledge in which the
best natures should be trained, and which must not be given up.
this then be made one of our subjects of education. And next, shall we
enquire whether the kindred science also concerns us?
You mean geometry?
he said, we are concerned with that part of geometry which relates to
war; for in pitching a camp, or taking up a position, or closing or
extending the lines of an army, or any other military manoeuvre, whether
in actual battle or on a march, it will make all the difference whether
a general is or is not a geometrician.
Yes, I said,
but for that purpose a very little of either geometry or calculation
will be enough; the question relates rather to the greater and more
advanced part of geometry --whether that tends in any degree to make
more easy the vision of the idea of good; and thither, as I was saying,
all things tend which compel the soul to turn her gaze towards that
place, where is the full perfection of being, which she ought, by all
means, to behold.
True, he said.
Then if geometry compels us to view being, it concerns us; if becoming only, it does not concern us?
Yes, that is what we assert.
anybody who has the least acquaintance with geometry will not deny that
such a conception of the science is in flat contradiction to the
ordinary language of geometricians.
have in view practice only, and are always speaking? in a narrow and
ridiculous manner, of squaring and extending and applying and the like
--they confuse the necessities of geometry with those of daily life;
whereas knowledge is the real object of the whole science.
Certainly, he said.
Then must not a further admission be made?
That the knowledge at which geometry aims is knowledge of the eternal, and not of aught perishing and transient.
That, he replied, may be readily allowed, and is true.
my noble friend, geometry will draw the soul towards truth, and create
the spirit of philosophy, and raise up that which is now unhappily
allowed to fall down.
Nothing will be more likely to have such an effect.
nothing should be more sternly laid down than that the inhabitants of
your fair city should by all means learn geometry. Moreover the science
has indirect effects, which are not small.
Of what kind? he said.
are the military advantages of which you spoke, I said; and in all
departments of knowledge, as experience proves, any one who has studied
geometry is infinitely quicker of apprehension than one who has not.
Yes indeed, he said, there is an infinite difference between them.
Then shall we propose this as a second branch of knowledge which our youth will study?
Let us do so, he replied.
And suppose we make astronomy the third --what do you say?
am strongly inclined to it, he said; the observation of the seasons and
of months and years is as essential to the general as it is to the
farmer or sailor.
I am amused, I said, at your fear of
the world, which makes you guard against the appearance of insisting
upon useless studies; and I quite admit the difficulty of believing that
in every man there is an eye of the soul which, when by other pursuits
lost and dimmed, is by these purified and re-illumined; and is more
precious far than ten thousand bodily eyes, for by it alone is truth
seen. Now there are two classes of persons: one class of those who will
agree with you and will take your words as a revelation; another class
to whom they will be utterly unmeaning, and who will naturally deem them
to be idle tales, for they see no sort of profit which is to be
obtained from them. And therefore you had better decide at once with
which of the two you are proposing to argue. You will very likely say
with neither, and that your chief aim in carrying on the argument is
your own improvement; at the same time you do not grudge to others any
benefit which they may receive.
I think that I should prefer to carry on the argument mainly on my own behalf.
Then take a step backward, for we have gone wrong in the order of the sciences.
What was the mistake? he said.
plane geometry, I said, we proceeded at once to solids in revolution,
instead of taking solids in themselves; whereas after the second
dimension the third, which is concerned with cubes and dimensions of
depth, ought to have followed.
That is true, Socrates; but so little seems to be known as yet about these subjects.
yes, I said, and for two reasons: --in the first place, no government
patronises them; this leads to a want of energy in the pursuit of them,
and they are difficult; in the second place, students cannot learn them
unless they have a director. But then a director can hardly be found,
and even if he could, as matters now stand, the students, who are very
conceited, would not attend to him. That, however, would be otherwise if
the whole State became the director of these studies and gave honour to
them; then disciples would want to come, and there would be continuous
and earnest search, and discoveries would be made; since even now,
disregarded as they are by the world, and maimed of their fair
proportions, and although none of their votaries can tell the use of
them, still these studies force their way by their natural charm, and
very likely, if they had the help of the State, they would some day
emerge into light.
Yes, he said, there is a remarkable
charm in them. But I do not clearly understand the change in the order.
First you began with a geometry of plane surfaces?
Yes, I said.
And you placed astronomy next, and then you made a step backward?
and I have delayed you by my hurry; the ludicrous state of solid
geometry, which, in natural order, should have followed, made me pass
over this branch and go on to astronomy, or motion of solids.
True, he said.
assuming that the science now omitted would come into existence if
encouraged by the State, let us go on to astronomy, which will be
The right order, he replied. And now,
Socrates, as you rebuked the vulgar manner in which I praised astronomy
before, my praise shall be given in your own spirit. For every one, as I
think, must see that astronomy compels the soul to look upwards and
leads us from this world to another.
Every one but myself, I said; to every one else this may be clear, but not to me.
And what then would you say?
I should rather say that those who elevate astronomy into philosophy appear to me to make us look downwards and not upwards.
What do you mean? he asked.
I replied, have in your mind a truly sublime conception of our
knowledge of the things above. And I dare say that if a person were to
throw his head back and study the fretted ceiling, you would still think
that his mind was the percipient, and not his eyes. And you are very
likely right, and I may be a simpleton: but, in my opinion, that
knowledge only which is of being and of the unseen can make the soul
look upwards, and whether a man gapes at the heavens or blinks on the
ground, seeking to learn some particular of sense, I would deny that he
can learn, for nothing of that sort is matter of science; his soul is
looking downwards, not upwards, whether his way to knowledge is by water
or by land, whether he floats, or only lies on his back.
acknowledge, he said, the justice of your rebuke. Still, I should like
to ascertain how astronomy can be learned in any manner more conducive
to that knowledge of which we are speaking?
tell you, I said: The starry heaven which we behold is wrought upon a
visible ground, and therefore, although the fairest and most perfect of
visible things, must necessarily be deemed inferior far to the true
motions of absolute swiftness and absolute slowness, which are relative
to each other, and carry with them that which is contained in them, in
the true number and in every true figure. Now, these are to be
apprehended by reason and intelligence, but not by sight.
True, he replied.
spangled heavens should be used as a pattern and with a view to that
higher knowledge; their beauty is like the beauty of figures or pictures
excellently wrought by the hand of Daedalus, or some other great
artist, which we may chance to behold; any geometrician who saw them
would appreciate the exquisiteness of their workmanship, but he would
never dream of thinking that in them he could find the true equal or the
true double, or the truth of any other proportion.
No, he replied, such an idea would be ridiculous.
will not a true astronomer have the same feeling when he looks at the
movements of the stars? Will he not think that heaven and the things in
heaven are framed by the Creator of them in the most perfect manner? But
he will never imagine that the proportions of night and day, or of both
to the month, or of the month to the year, or of the stars to these and
to one another, and any other things that are material and visible can
also be eternal and subject to no deviation --that would be absurd; and
it is equally absurd to take so much pains in investigating their exact
I quite agree, though I never thought of this before.
I said, in astronomy, as in geometry, we should employ problems, and
let the heavens alone if we would approach the subject in the right way
and so make the natural gift of reason to be of any real use.
That, he said, is a work infinitely beyond our present astronomers.
I said; and there are many other things which must also have a similar
extension given to them, if our legislation is to be of any value. But
can you tell me of any other suitable study?
No, he said, not without thinking.
I said, has many forms, and not one only; two of them are obvious
enough even to wits no better than ours; and there are others, as I
imagine, which may be left to wiser persons.
But where are the two?
There is a second, I said, which is the counterpart of the one already named.
And what may that be?
second, I said, would seem relatively to the ears to be what the first
is to the eyes; for I conceive that as the eyes are designed to look up
at the stars, so are the ears to hear harmonious motions; and these are
sister sciences --as the Pythagoreans say, and we, Glaucon, agree with
Yes, he replied.
But this, I said, is a
laborious study, and therefore we had better go and learn of them; and
they will tell us whether there are any other applications of these
sciences. At the same time, we must not lose sight of our own higher
What is that?
There is a perfection
which all knowledge ought to reach, and which our pupils ought also to
attain, and not to fall short of, as I was saying that they did in
astronomy. For in the science of harmony, as you probably know, the same
thing happens. The teachers of harmony compare the sounds and
consonances which are heard only, and their labour, like that of the
astronomers, is in vain.
Yes, by heaven! he said; and
'tis as good as a play to hear them talking about their condensed notes,
as they call them; they put their ears close alongside of the strings
like persons catching a sound from their neighbour's wall --one set of
them declaring that they distinguish an intermediate note and have found
the least interval which should be the unit of measurement; the others
insisting that the two sounds have passed into the same --either party
setting their ears before their understanding.
mean, I said, those gentlemen who tease and torture the strings and rack
them on the pegs of the instrument: might carry on the metaphor and
speak after their manner of the blows which the plectrum gives, and make
accusations against the strings, both of backwardness and forwardness
to sound; but this would be tedious, and therefore I will only say that
these are not the men, and that I am referring to the Pythagoreans, of
whom I was just now proposing to enquire about harmony. For they too are
in error, like the astronomers; they investigate the numbers of the
harmonies which are heard, but they never attain to problems-that is to
say, they never reach the natural harmonies of number, or reflect why
some numbers are harmonious and others not.
That, he said, is a thing of more than mortal knowledge.
thing, I replied, which I would rather call useful; that is, if sought
after with a view to the beautiful and good; but if pursued in any other
spirit, useless. Very true, he said.
Now, when all
these studies reach the point of inter-communion and connection with one
another, and come to be considered in their mutual affinities, then, I
think, but not till then, will the pursuit of them have a value for our
objects; otherwise there is no profit in them.
I suspect so; but you are speaking, Socrates, of a vast work.
do you mean? I said; the prelude or what? Do you not know that all this
is but the prelude to the actual strain which we have to learn? For you
surely would not regard the skilled mathematician as a dialectician?
Assuredly not, he said; I have hardly ever known a mathematician who was capable of reasoning.
But do you imagine that men who are unable to give and take a reason will have the knowledge which we require of them?
Neither can this be supposed.
so, Glaucon, I said, we have at last arrived at the hymn of dialectic.
This is that strain which is of the intellect only, but which the
faculty of sight will nevertheless be found to imitate; for sight, as
you may remember, was imagined by us after a while to behold the real
animals and stars, and last of all the sun himself. And so with
dialectic; when a person starts on the discovery of the absolute by the
light of reason only, and without any assistance of sense, and
perseveres until by pure intelligence he arrives at the perception of
the absolute good, he at last finds himself at the end of the
intellectual world, as in the case of sight at the end of the visible.
Exactly, he said.
Then this is the progress which you call dialectic?
the release of the prisoners from chains, and their translation from
the shadows to the images and to the light, and the ascent from the
underground den to the sun, while in his presence they are vainly trying
to look on animals and plants and the light of the sun, but are able to
perceive even with their weak eyes the images in the water (which are
divine), and are the shadows of true existence (not shadows of images
cast by a light of fire, which compared with the sun is only an image)
--this power of elevating the highest principle in the soul to the
contemplation of that which is best in existence, with which we may
compare the raising of that faculty which is the very light of the body
to the sight of that which is brightest in the material and visible
world --this power is given, as I was saying, by all that study and
pursuit of the arts which has been described.
in what you are saying, he replied, which may be hard to believe, yet,
from another point of view, is harder still to deny. This, however, is
not a theme to be treated of in passing only, but will have to be
discussed again and again. And so, whether our conclusion be true or
false, let us assume all this, and proceed at once from the prelude or
preamble to the chief strain, and describe that in like manner. Say,
then, what is the nature and what are the divisions of dialectic, and
what are the paths which lead thither; for these paths will also lead to
our final rest?
Dear Glaucon, I said, you will not be
able to follow me here, though I would do my best, and you should
behold not an image only but the absolute truth, according to my notion.
Whether what I told you would or would not have been a reality I cannot
venture to say; but you would have seen something like reality; of that
I am confident.
Doubtless, he replied.
must also remind you, that the power of dialectic alone can reveal this,
and only to one who is a disciple of the previous sciences.
Of that assertion you may be as confident as of the last.
assuredly no one will argue that there is any other method of
comprehending by any regular process all true existence or of
ascertaining what each thing is in its own nature; for the arts in
general are concerned with the desires or opinions of men, or are
cultivated with a view to production and construction, or for the
preservation of such productions and constructions; and as to the
mathematical sciences which, as we were saying, have some apprehension
of true being --geometry and the like --they only dream about being, but
never can they behold the waking reality so long as they leave the
hypotheses which they use unexamined, and are unable to give an account
of them. For when a man knows not his own first principle, and when the
conclusion and intermediate steps are also constructed out of he knows
not what, how can he imagine that such a fabric of convention can ever
Impossible, he said.
dialectic, and dialectic alone, goes directly to the first principle and
is the only science which does away with hypotheses in order to make
her ground secure; the eye of the soul, which is literally buried in an
outlandish slough, is by her gentle aid lifted upwards; and she uses as
handmaids and helpers in the work of conversion, the sciences which we
have been discussing. Custom terms them sciences, but they ought to have
some other name, implying greater clearness than opinion and less
clearness than science: and this, in our previous sketch, was called
understanding. But why should we dispute about names when we have
realities of such importance to consider?
Why indeed, he said, when any name will do which expresses the thought of the mind with clearness?
any rate, we are satisfied, as before, to have four divisions; two for
intellect and two for opinion, and to call the first division science,
the second understanding, the third belief, and the fourth perception of
shadows, opinion being concerned with becoming, and intellect with
being; and so to make a proportion: --
As being is to becoming, so is pure intellect to opinion.
as intellect is to opinion, so is science to belief, and understanding
to the perception of shadows. But let us defer the further correlation
and subdivision of the subjects of opinion and of intellect, for it will
be a long enquiry, many times longer than this has been.
As far as I understand, he said, I agree.
do you also agree, I said, in describing the dialectician as one who
attains a conception of the essence of each thing? And he who does not
possess and is therefore unable to impart this conception, in whatever
degree he fails, may in that degree also be said to fail in
intelligence? Will you admit so much?
Yes, he said; how can I deny it?
And you would say the same of the conception of the good?
the person is able to abstract and define rationally the idea of good,
and unless he can run the gauntlet of all objections, and is ready to
disprove them, not by appeals to opinion, but to absolute truth, never
faltering at any step of the argument --unless he can do all this, you
would say that he knows neither the idea of good nor any other good; he
apprehends only a shadow, if anything at all, which is given by opinion
and not by science; --dreaming and slumbering in this life, before he is
well awake here, he arrives at the world below, and has his final
In all that I should most certainly agree with you.
surely you would not have the children of your ideal State, whom you
are nurturing and educating --if the ideal ever becomes a reality --you
would not allow the future rulers to be like posts, having no reason in
them, and yet to be set in authority over the highest matters?
you will make a law that they shall have such an education as will
enable them to attain the greatest skill in asking and answering
Yes, he said, you and I together will make it.
then, as you will agree, is the coping-stone of the sciences, and is
set over them; no other science can be placed higher --the nature of
knowledge can no further go?
I agree, he said.
to whom we are to assign these studies, and in what way they are to be
assigned, are questions which remain to be considered?
You remember, I said, how the rulers were chosen before?
Certainly, he said.
same natures must still be chosen, and the preference again given to
the surest and the bravest, and, if possible, to the fairest; and,
having noble and generous tempers, they should also have the natural
gifts which will facilitate their education.
And what are these?
gifts as keenness and ready powers of acquisition; for the mind more
often faints from the severity of study than from the severity of
gymnastics: the toil is more entirely the mind's own, and is not shared
with the body.
Very true, he replied.
he of whom we are in search should have a good memory, and be an
unwearied solid man who is a lover of labour in any line; or he will
never be able to endure the great amount of bodily exercise and to go
through all the intellectual discipline and study which we require of
Certainly, he said; he must have natural gifts.
mistake at present is, that those who study philosophy have no
vocation, and this, as I was before saying, is the reason why she has
fallen into disrepute: her true sons should take her by the hand and not
What do you mean?
In the first
place, her votary should not have a lame or halting industry --I mean,
that he should not be half industrious and half idle: as, for example,
when a man is a lover of gymnastic and hunting, and all other bodily
exercises, but a hater rather than a lover of the labour of learning or
listening or enquiring. Or the occupation to which he devotes himself
may be of an opposite kind, and he may have the other sort of lameness.
Certainly, he said.
as to truth, I said, is not a soul equally to be deemed halt and lame
which hates voluntary falsehood and is extremely indignant at herself
and others when they tell lies, but is patient of involuntary falsehood,
and does not mind wallowing like a swinish beast in the mire of
ignorance, and has no shame at being detected?
To be sure.
again, in respect of temperance, courage, magnificence, and every other
virtue, should we not carefully distinguish between the true son and
the bastard? for where there is no discernment of such qualities States
and individuals unconsciously err and the State makes a ruler, and the
individual a friend, of one who, being defective in some part of virtue,
is in a figure lame or a bastard.
That is very true, he said.
these things, then, will have to be carefully considered by us; and if
only those whom we introduce to this vast system of education and
training are sound in body and mind, justice herself will have nothing
to say against us, and we shall be the saviours of the constitution and
of the State; but, if our pupils are men of another stamp, the reverse
will happen, and we shall pour a still greater flood of ridicule on
philosophy than she has to endure at present.
That would not be creditable.
Certainly not, I said; and yet perhaps, in thus turning jest into earnest I am equally ridiculous.
In what respect?
had forgotten, I said, that we were not serious, and spoke with too
much excitement. For when I saw philosophy so undeservedly trampled
under foot of men I could not help feeling a sort of indignation at the
authors of her disgrace: and my anger made me too vehement.
Indeed! I was listening, and did not think so.
I, who am the speaker, felt that I was. And now let me remind you that,
although in our former selection we chose old men, we must not do so in
this. Solon was under a delusion when he said that a man when he grows
old may learn many things --for he can no more learn much than he can
run much; youth is the time for any extraordinary toil.
therefore, calculation and geometry and all the other elements of
instruction, which are a preparation for dialectic, should be presented
to the mind in childhood; not, however, under any notion of forcing our
system of education.
Because a freeman
ought not to be a slave in the acquisition of knowledge of any kind.
Bodily exercise, when compulsory, does no harm to the body; but
knowledge which is acquired under compulsion obtains no hold on the
Then, my good friend, I said,
do not use compulsion, but let early education be a sort of amusement;
you will then be better able to find out the natural bent.
That is a very rational notion, he said.
you remember that the children, too, were to be taken to see the battle
on horseback; and that if there were no danger they were to be brought
close up and, like young hounds, have a taste of blood given them?
Yes, I remember.
same practice may be followed, I said, in all these things --labours,
lessons, dangers --and he who is most at home in all of them ought to be
enrolled in a select number.
At what age?
the age when the necessary gymnastics are over: the period whether of
two or three years which passes in this sort of training is useless for
any other purpose; for sleep and exercise are unpropitious to learning;
and the trial of who is first in gymnastic exercises is one of the most
important tests to which our youth are subjected.
Certainly, he replied.
that time those who are selected from the class of twenty years old
will be promoted to higher honour, and the sciences which they learned
without any order in their early education will now be brought together,
and they will be able to see the natural relationship of them to one
another and to true being.
Yes, he said, that is the only kind of knowledge which takes lasting root.
I said; and the capacity for such knowledge is the great criterion of
dialectical talent: the comprehensive mind is always the dialectical.
I agree with you, he said.
I said, are the points which you must consider; and those who have most
of this comprehension, and who are more steadfast in their learning,
and in their military and other appointed duties, when they have arrived
at the age of thirty have to be chosen by you out of the select class,
and elevated to higher honour; and you will have to prove them by the
help of dialectic, in order to learn which of them is able to give up
the use of sight and the other senses, and in company with truth to
attain absolute being: And here, my friend, great caution is required.
Why great caution?
Do you not remark, I said, how great is the evil which dialectic has introduced?
What evil? he said.
The students of the art are filled with lawlessness.
Quite true, he said.
Do you think that there is anything so very unnatural or inexcusable in their case? or will you make allowance for them?
In what way make allowance?
want you, I said, by way of parallel, to imagine a supposititious son
who is brought up in great wealth; he is one of a great and numerous
family, and has many flatterers. When he grows up to manhood, he learns
that his alleged are not his real parents; but who the real are he is
unable to discover. Can you guess how he will be likely to behave
towards his flatterers and his supposed parents, first of all during the
period when he is ignorant of the false relation, and then again when
he knows? Or shall I guess for you?
If you please.
I should say, that while he is ignorant of the truth he will be likely
to honour his father and his mother and his supposed relations more than
the flatterers; he will be less inclined to neglect them when in need,
or to do or say anything against them; and he will be less willing to
disobey them in any important matter.
when he has made the discovery, I should imagine that he would diminish
his honour and regard for them, and would become more devoted to the
flatterers; their influence over him would greatly increase; he would
now live after their ways, and openly associate with them, and, unless
he were of an unusually good disposition, he would trouble himself no
more about his supposed parents or other relations.
Well, all that is very probable. But how is the image applicable to the disciples of philosophy?
this way: you know that there are certain principles about justice and
honour, which were taught us in childhood, and under their parental
authority we have been brought up, obeying and honouring them.
That is true.
are also opposite maxims and habits of pleasure which flatter and
attract the soul, but do not influence those of us who have any sense of
right, and they continue to obey and honour the maxims of their
Now, when a man is in this
state, and the questioning spirit asks what is fair or honourable, and
he answers as the legislator has taught him, and then arguments many and
diverse refute his words, until he is driven into believing that
nothing is honourable any more than dishonourable, or just and good any
more than the reverse, and so of all the notions which he most valued,
do you think that he will still honour and obey them as before?
when he ceases to think them honourable and natural as heretofore, and
he fails to discover the true, can he be expected to pursue any life
other than that which flatters his desires?
And from being a keeper of the law he is converted into a breaker of it?
all this is very natural in students of philosophy such as I have
described, and also, as I was just now saying, most excusable.
Yes, he said; and, I may add, pitiable.
that your feelings may not be moved to pity about our citizens who are
now thirty years of age, every care must be taken in introducing them to
There is a danger lest
they should taste the dear delight too early; for youngsters, as you may
have observed, when they first get the taste in their mouths, argue for
amusement, and are always contradicting and refuting others in
imitation of those who refute them; like puppy-dogs, they rejoice in
pulling and tearing at all who come near them.
Yes, he said, there is nothing which they like better.
when they have made many conquests and received defeats at the hands of
many, they violently and speedily get into a way of not believing
anything which they believed before, and hence, not only they, but
philosophy and all that relates to it is apt to have a bad name with the
rest of the world.
Too true, he said.
a man begins to get older, he will no longer be guilty of such
insanity; he will imitate the dialectician who is seeking for truth, and
not the eristic, who is contradicting for the sake of amusement; and
the greater moderation of his character will increase instead of
diminishing the honour of the pursuit.
Very true, he said.
did we not make special provision for this, when we said that the
disciples of philosophy were to be orderly and steadfast, not, as now,
any chance aspirant or intruder?
I said, the study of philosophy to take the place of gymnastics and to
be continued diligently and earnestly and exclusively for twice the
number of years which were passed in bodily exercise --will that be
Would you say six or four years? he asked.
five years, I replied; at the end of the time they must be sent down
again into the den and compelled to hold any military or other office
which young men are qualified to hold: in this way they will get their
experience of life, and there will be an opportunity of trying whether,
when they are drawn all manner of ways by temptation, they will stand
firm or flinch.
And how long is this stage of their lives to last?
years, I answered; and when they have reached fifty years of age, then
let those who still survive and have distinguished themselves in every
action of their lives and in every branch of knowledge come at last to
their consummation; the time has now arrived at which they must raise
the eye of the soul to the universal light which lightens all things,
and behold the absolute good; for that is the, pattern according to
which they are to order the State and the lives of individuals, and the
remainder of their own lives also; making philosophy their chief
pursuit, but, when their turn comes, toiling also at politics and ruling
for the public good, not as though they were performing some heroic
action, but simply as a matter of duty; and when they have brought up in
each generation others like themselves and left them in their place to
be governors of the State, then they will depart to the Islands of the
Blest and dwell there; and the city will give them public memorials and
sacrifices and honour them, if the Pythian oracle consent, as demi-gods,
but if not, as in any case blessed and divine.
You are a sculptor, Socrates, and have made statues of our governors faultless in beauty.
I said, Glaucon, and of our governesses too; for you must not suppose
that what I have been saying applies to men only and not to women as far
as their natures can go.
There you are right, he said, since we have made them to share in all things like the men.
I said, and you would agree (would you not?) that what has been said
about the State and the government is not a mere dream, and although
difficult not impossible, but only possible in the way which has been
supposed; that is to say, when the true philosopher kings are born in a
State, one or more of them, despising the honours of this present world
which they deem mean and worthless, esteeming above all things right and
the honour that springs from right, and regarding justice as the
greatest and most necessary of all things, whose ministers they are, and
whose principles will be exalted by them when they set in order their
How will they proceed?
begin by sending out into the country all the inhabitants of the city
who are more than ten years old, and will take possession of their
children, who will be unaffected by the habits of their parents; these
they will train in their own habits and laws, I mean in the laws which
we have given them: and in this way the State and constitution of which
we were speaking will soonest and most easily attain happiness, and the
nation which has such a constitution will gain most.
that will be the best way. And I think, Socrates, that you have very
well described how, if ever, such a constitution might come into being.
then of the perfect State, and of the man who bears its image --there
is no difficulty in seeing how we shall describe him.
There is no difficulty, he replied; and I agree with you in thinking that nothing more need be said.