[Socrates] And now, I said, let me show in a figure how far our
nature is enlightened or unenlightened: Behold! human
beings living in an underground den, which has a
mouth open toward 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.
[Glaucon] I see.
And 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, others silent.
You have shown me a strange image, and they are strange
Like 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 the cave?
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
And 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.
And now look again, and see what will naturally follow if
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 toward 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 someone 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
toward 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?
And 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 refuge 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 said.
And suppose once more, that he is reluctantly dragged up
a steep and rugged ascent, and held fast until he is 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.
He 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
Last of all 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.
He 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
And 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 him?
Certainly, he would.
And 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 there-
fore 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,
"Better to be the poor servant of a poor master,"
and to endure anything, rather than think as they do and live
after their manner?
Yes, he said, I think that he would rather suffer anything
than entertain these false notions and live in this miserable
Imagine once more, I said, such a 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?
[Glaucon] To be sure, he said.
[Socrates] And if there were a contest, and he had to compete in measuring
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 anyone tried to
loose another and lead him up to the light, let them only catch
the offender, and they would put him to death.
[Glaucon] No question, he said.
[Socrates] This 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 upward 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.
[Glaucon] I agree, he said, as far as I am able to understand you.
[Socrates] Moreover, 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.
[Glaucon] Yes, very natural.
[Socrates] And 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.
Anyone 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 anyone
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 life, 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
That, he said, is a very just distinction.
But 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.
Whereas, 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 truth?
Yes, he said, such an art may be presumed.
And 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
virtue 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.
But 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.
Yes, 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 the 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 blessed.
Very true, he replied.
Then, 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?
I 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 not.
But is not this unjust? he said; ought we to give them a worse
life, when they might have a better?
You 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 there-
fore 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.
Observe, 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
Impossible, he 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 their
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
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
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.
Who, 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.
And 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.
The 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 inquire what sort of knowledge has the
power of effecting such a change?
What 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
Usefulness in war.
Yes, if possible.
There were two parts in our former scheme of education,
were there not?
There was gymnastics, which presided over the growth and
decay of the body, and may therefore be regarded as having
to do with generation and corruption?
Then that is not the knowledge which we are seeking to discover?
But what do you say of music, what also entered to a certain
extent into our former scheme?
Music, he said, as you will remember, was the counterpart
of gymnastics, 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 tend-
ed 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 gymnastics are excluded,
and the arts are also excluded, what remains?
Well, 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 the universal application.
What may that be?
A something which all arts and sciences and intelligences
use in common, and which everyone first has to learn among
the elements of education.
What is that?
The little matter of distinguishing one, two, and three - in
a word, number and calculation: do not all arts and sciences
necessarily partake of them?
Then the art of war partakes of them?
To be sure.
Then 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 in-
capable of counting his own fleet - how could he if he was ignorant of
number? And if that is true, what sort of general
must he have been?
I should say a very strange one, if this was as you say.
Can we deny that a warrior should have a knowledge of
Certainly 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?
It 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 toward being.
Will you explain your meaning? he said.
I will try, I said; and I wish you would share the inquiry
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
Explain, he said.
I 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 un-
trustworthy that further inquiry 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?
When 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?
Each 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.
But 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 the other at the extremity? And in like manner
does the touch adequately perceive the qualities of thickness or
thinness, of 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.
And 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, light?
Yes, he said, these intimations which the soul receives are
very curious and require to be explained.
Yes, I said, and in these perplexities the soul naturally sum-
mons 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
And if each is one, and both are two, she will conceive the
two as in a state of division, for if they 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.
Whereas 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 confused.
Was not this the beginning of the inquiry, "What is great?"
and "What is small?"
And thus arose the distinction of the visible and the intelligible.
This 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.
Think 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
toward 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 toward truth?
Yes, in a very remarkable manner.
Then 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?
Then this is a kind of knowledge which legislation may fitly
prescribe; and we must endeavour to persuade those who are 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 mer-
chants 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
That is excellent, he said.
Yes, 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?
I 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 anyone 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.
Now, 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 realized in
Then 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.
And 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
Very true, he said.
And indeed, you will not easily find a more difficult study,
and not many as difficult.
You will not.
And, 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.
Let this then be made one of our subjects of education. And
next, shall we inquire whether the kindred science also concerns us?
You mean geometry?
Clearly, 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 toward that place, where is
the full perfection of being, which she ought, by all means, to
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.
Yet 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.
They 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.
Then, my noble friend, geometry will draw the soul toward 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.
Then 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.
There 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
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
I 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 reillumined; 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.
After 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.
Why, yes, I said, and for two reasons: in the first place, no
government patronizes 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
Yes, and I have delayed you by my hurry; the ludicrous state
of solid geometry, which, in natural order, should have fol-
lowed, made me pass over this branch and go on to astronomy,
or motion of solids.
True, he said.
Then assuming that the science now omitted would come into
existence if encouraged by the State, let us go on to astronomy,
which will be fourth.
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 everyone, as
I think, must see that astronomy compels the soul to look up-
ward and leads us from this world to another.
Everyone but myself, I said; to everyone 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 downward, and not
What do you mean? he asked.
You, 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 upward, 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 downward, not upward, whether his way to knowledge is by water
or by land, whether he floats or only lies on his
I 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
I will 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.
The 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 be-
hold; 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.
And 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 truth.
I quite agree, though I never thought of this before.
Then, I said, in astronomy, as in geometry, we should em-
ploy 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.
Yes, 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
No, he said, not without thinking.
Motion, 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 per-
But where are the two?
There is a second, I said, which is the counterpart of the one
And what may that be?
The 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 them?
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 object.
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 under-
You mean, I said, those gentlemen who tease and torture the
strings and rack them on the pegs of the instrument: I 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 inquire 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.
A 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 intercommunion 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.
What 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
Neither can this be supposed.
And 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?
But 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 bright-
est in the material and visible world - this power is given, as
I was saying, by all that study and pursuit of the arts which
have been described.
I agree 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.
But I must also remind you that the power of dialectic alone
can reveal this, and only to one who is a disciple of the previous
Of that assertion you may be as confident as of the last.
And 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 become science?
Impossible, he said.
Then 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 upward; 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 ex-
presses the thought of the mind with clearness?
At 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.
And 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 inquiry,
many times longer than this has been.
As far as I understand, he said, I agree.
And 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?
Until 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 quietus.
In all that I should most certainly agree with you.
And 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?
Then 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 questions?
Yes, he said, you and I together will make it.
Dialectic, 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.
But 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.
The 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?
Such 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.
Further, 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 him.
Certainly, he said; he must have natural gifts.
The 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 bastards.
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 gymnastics and
hunting, and all other bodily exercises, but a hater
rather than a lover of the labour of learning or listening or inquiring. 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.
And 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
To be sure.
And, 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.
All 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?
I 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.
But 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.
And, 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 mind.
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.
Do 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.
The 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?
At 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.
After 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
Yes, he said, that is the only kind of knowledge which takes
Yes, I said; and the capacity for such knowledge is the great
criterion of dialectical talent: the comprehensive mind is always
I agree with you, he said.
These, I said, are the points which you must consider; and
those who have most of this comprehension, and who are most
steadfast in their learning, and in their military and other appointed
duties, when they have arrived at the age of thirty will
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
Why great caution?
Do you not remark, I said, how great is the evil which dialectic has
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 in-
excusable in their case? or will you make allowance for them?
In what way make allowance?
I 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 toward 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.
Then I should say that while he is ignorant of the truth he
will be likely to honour his father and his mother and his sup-
posed 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.
But 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?
In 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
That is true.
There 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 fathers.
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
And 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
And from being a keeper of the law he is converted into a
breaker of it?
Now all this is very natural in students of philosophy such
as I have described, and also, as I was just now saying, most
Yes, he said; and, I may add, pitiable.
Therefore, 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 dialectic.
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.
And when they have made many conquests and received de-
feats 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.
But when 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.
And 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?
Suppose, 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 enough?
Would you say six or four years? he asked.
Say 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?
Fifteen 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 per-
forming 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 Blessed and
dwell there; and the city will give them public memorials and
sacrifices and honour them, if the Pythian oracle consent, as
demigods, 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.
Yes, 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.
Well, 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 own city?
How will they proceed?
They will begin by sending out into the country all the in-
habitants 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.
Yes, 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.
Enough, then, of the perfect State, and of the man who bears
its image - there is no difficulty in seeing how we shall describe
There is no difficulty, he replied; and I agree with you in
thinking that nothing more need be said.
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