into the soul which was not there before, like giving eyes to
Yes, that is what they say, he replied.
Whereas, I said, our argument shows that the power is
already in the soul ; and that as the eye cannot turn from
darkness to light without the whole body, so too, when the
eye of the soul is turned round, the whole soul must be turned
from the world of generation into that of being, and become
able to endure the sight of being, and of the brightest and
best of being — that is to say, of the good.
And this is conversion ; and the art will be how to accom-
plish this as easily and completely as possible ; not implant-
ing eyes, for they exist already, but giving them a right direc-
tion, which they have not.
Yes, he said, that may be assumed.
And hence while the other qualities seem to be akin to the
body, being infused by habit and exercise and not originally
innate, the virtue of wisdom is part of a divine essence, and
has a power which is everlasting, and by this conversion is
rendered useful and profitable, and is also capable of becoming
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
taken into the service of evil, and he is dangerous in propor-
tion to his intelligence ?
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 the
leaden weights, as I may call them, with which they are born
into the world, which hang on to sensual pleasures, such as
324 PLATO THE TEACHER
those of eating and drinking, and drag them down and turn
the vision of their souls about the things that are below, — if,I
say, they had been released from them and turned round to the
truth, the very same faculty in these very same persons would
have seen the other as keenly as they now see that on which
their eye is fixed.
That is very likely.
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 State : not the former, because they have no sin-
gle aim of duty which is the rule of 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 in the
islands of the blest.
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 knowl-
edge which has been already declared by us to be the greatest
of all, — to that eminence they must ascend and arrive at the
good, and 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 labors and
honors, whether they are worth having or not. 1
But is not this unjust ? he said ; ought we to give them an
inferior life, when they might have a superior one ?
You have again forgotten, my friend, I said, the intention
of the legislator ; he 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 that they should please them-
1 On the Mount of Transfiguration (Luke ix. 33) Peter said, " Master, it is
good for us to be here : and let us make three tabernacles," Luke adds the
phrase — " not knowing what he said." Christ made no reply in words, but
presently led them back to work and to die for the saving of the world.
THE REPUBLIC 325
selves, but they were to be his instruments in binding up the
True, he said, I had forgotten that.
Observe then, I said, Glaucon, that there will be no in-
justice 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. Now the wild plant which owes culture to nobody,
has nothing to pay for culture ; but we have brought you into
the world expressly for this end, that you may be rulers of the
hive, kings of yourselves and of the other citizens. And you
have been educated far better and more perfectly than they
have, and are better able to share in the double duty. And
therefore each of you, when his turn comes, must go down to
the general underground abode, and get the habit of seeing in
the dark ; for all is habit ; and when you are accustomed you
will see ten thousand times better than those in the den, and
you will know what the images are, and of what they are im-
ages, because you have seen the beautiful and just and good
in their truth. And thus the order of our State will be a wak-
ing reality, and not a dream, as is commonly the manner of
States ; in most of them men are fighting with one another
about shadows and are distracted in the struggle for power,
which in their eyes is a great good. But the truth is, that the
State in which the rulers are most reluctant to govern is best
and most quietly governed, and that in which they are most
willing, the worst.
Quite true, he replied.
And will our pupils, when they hear this, refuse to share in
turn the toils of State, when they are allowed to spend the
greater part of their time with one another in the heaven of
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 ne-
cessity and not like our present ministers of State.
Yes, my friend, I said ; and that is just the truth of
the case. If you contrive for your future rulers another
and a better life than that of a ruler, then you may have
326 PLATO THE TEACHER
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 good of life, 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?
No, indeed, he said.
And those who govern ought not to be lovers of the task ?
If they are there will be rival lovers, and they will fight.
Whom then would you choose rather than those who are
wisest about affairs of State, and who at the same time have
other honors and another and a better life?
They are the men, and I will choose them, he replied.
Would you like us then to consider in what way such guar-
dians may be called into existence, and how they are to be
brought from darkness to light, — as some are said to have as-
cended from the world below to the gods ?
Certainly I should, he replied.
The process, I said, is not the spinning round of an oyster-
shell, 2 but the conversion of a soul out of night-like day to the
real ascent of true being, which is true philosophy. Now
what sort of knowledge has the power of effecting this ? that
is a question which has to be considered.
Then what sort of knowledge is there which would draw
the soul from becoming to being ? At the same time there is
another thing which occurs 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 another
2 In allusion to " a game in which a shell black on one side and white on
the other was thrown on a line and according as the black or white turned
up one party was obliged to fly and the other pursued." (L. and S.)
THE REPUBLIC 327
What quality ?
Usefulness in war.
Yes, if possible.
There were two parts in our former scheme of education,
were there not ?
There was gymnastic 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, as far as that entered into
our scheme ?
That, he said, as you will remember, was the counterpart
of gymnastic, and trained the guardians by the influences of
habit, giving them, not science, but a sort of harmonical
composition, and a kind of rhythmical movement j and the
words, whether true or false, had kindred elements of rhythm
and harmony in them ; but musical knowledge was not of a
kind which tended to that good which you are now seeking.
You are most accurate, I said, in your recollection ; for
there certainly was nothing of that kind in our previous edu-
cation. But then what branch of knowledge is there, my
dear friend, which is of the desired nature? For the useful
arts were rejected by us as mean.
Undoubtedly ; and yet if music and gymnastic are ex-
cluded, and the arts are also excluded, what remains?
Well, I said, there may be nothing left ; and then we shall
have to take something which is of universal application.
What is that ?
A something which all arts and sciences and intelligences
use in common, and which every one ought to learn among
the elements of education.
What is that ?
The little matter of distinguishing one, two, and three,
which I may sum up under the name of number and calcula-
tion, — of that all arts and sciences are necessarily partakers.
Then the art of war partakes of them ?
328 PLATO THE TEACHER
To be sure.
Then Palamedes, 3 when he appears in the play, proves Aga-
memnon 4 ridiculously unfit to be a general. Did you never
remark how he declares that he had invented number, and had
numbered 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 a general must he
have been ?
I should say a very strange one, certainly.
Must not a warrior then, I said, in addition to his military
skill, have a knowledge of arithmetic ?
Certainly he must, if he is to have the slightest knowledge
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 that ?
I am of opinion that this is a study of the kind which we
are seeking, and which leads naturally to reflection,
5 2 3 = but one which has never been rightly used as simply
conducting towards being.
Will you explain your meaning? he said.
I will try, I said ; and I wish you would consider and help
me, and say " yes" or " no " when I attempt to distinguish
in my own mind what branches of knowledge have this con-
ducting power, in order that we may have clearer proof that
this is one of them.
[Some objects we seem able to know sufficiently with the
senses alone. Others demand further investigation. In mak-
ing this investigation we find it profitable to count and calcu-
late. But besides this practical value, M arithmetic has a very
great and elevating effect, compelling the soul to reason about
abstract number, and if visible or tangible objects are obtrud-
ing upon the argument, refusing to be satisfied."]
That is very true.
Now, suppose a person were to say to the arithmeticians :
* See Apology, note 55. * See Apology, note 21.
THE REPUBLIC 329
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 require, and each unit is equal, invariable, indi- ,
visible, what would they answer ?
They would answer, as I suppose, that they are speaking of
those numbers which are only realized in thought.
Then you see that this knowledge may be truly called neces-
sary, as necessitating the use of the pure intelligence in the
attainment of pure truth ?
Yes ; that is a marked characteristic.
And have you further remarked that those who have a nat-
ural talent for calculation are generally quick at every other
kind of knowledge ; and even the dull, if they have had an
arithmetical training, gain in quickness, if not in any other way?
That is 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 must not be given up ;
and this is a kind of knowledge in which the best natures
should be trained.
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 ?
Certainly, he said ; that part of geometry which relates to
war is clearly our concern j 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, there will be a great difference in a general, according
as he is or is not a geometrician.
Yes, I said, but for that purpose a very little of either geom-
etry or calculation will be enough ; the question is rather of
the higher and greater part of geometry, whether that tends
towards the great end — I mean towards the vision of the idea of
good ; and thither, as I was saying, all things tend which com-
pel the soul to turn her gaze towards that place, where is the
full perfection of being, of which she ought, by all means, to
attain the vision.
330 PLATO THE TEACHER
True, he said.
Then if geometry compels us to view essence, it concerns
us ; if generation only, it does not concern us ?
Yes, that is what we assert.
Yet, at present, I said, the science is in flat contradiction
to the language which geometricians use, as will hardly be
denied by those who have any acquaintance with their
7 study ; for they speak of finding the side of a square,
and applying and adding as though they were doing something
and had a practical end in view; their " necessity" is the
necessity to get a living, which is ridiculous ; whereas knowl-
edge is the real object of the whole science.
Certainly, he said.
Then must not a further admission be made ?
What admission ?
The admission that this knowledge at which geometry aims
is of the eternal, and not of the perishing and transient.
That, he replied, may be readily allowed, and is true.
Then, my noble friend, geometry will draw the soul towards
truth, and create the mind of philosophy, and raise up that
which is now unhappily allowed to fall down.
Nothing will be more effectual.
Then nothing should be more effectually enacted, than that
the inhabitants of your fair city should learn goemetry. More-
over the science has indirect effects, which are not small.
Of what kind are they ? he said.
There are the military advantages of which you spoke, I
said ; and in all departments of study, as experience proves,
any one who has studied geometry is infinitely quicker of ap-
Yes, he said, the difference between a geometrician and one
who is not a geometrician is very great indeed.
Then shall we propose this as a second branch of knowledge
which our youth will study ?
Let us make the proposal, he replied.
And suppose we make astronomy the third, — what do you
I am strongly inclined to that, he said ; the observation of
the seasons and of months and years is quite essential to hus-
bandry and navigation, and not less essential to military tactics.
i am amused, I said, at your fear of the world, which makes
THE REPUBLIC 331
you guard against the appearance of insisting upon useless
studies ; and I quite admit the difficulty of convincing men
that in every soul there is an organ which is purified and il-
lumined by these studies, when by other pursuits lost and
dimmed ; and this eye of the soul is more precious far than
ten thousand bodily ones, for this alone beholds the vision of
truth. Now there are two classes of persons : one class who
will agree in this and will take your words as a revelation ;
another class who have no perception of the thing meant, to
whom they will naturally seem to be idle and unprofit- ~
able tales. And you had better decide at once with
which of the two you are arguing, or whether without regard
to either you would not prefer to carry on the argument chiefly
for your own sake j not that you have any jealousy of others,
who may benefit if they please.
I think that I should prefer to carry on the argument on my
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 took solids in revolution,
instead of taking solids in themselves ; whereas after the sec-
ond dimension the third, which is concerned with cubes and
dimensions of depth, ought to have followed.
That is true, Socrates ; but these subjects seem to be as yet
Why, yes, I said, and for two reasons : in the first place,
no government patronizes them, which leads to a want of en-
ergy in the study of them, and they are difficult ; in the second
place, students cannot learn them unless they have a teacher.
But then a teacher is hardly to be found, and even if one could
be found, as matters now stand, the students of these subjects,
who are very conceited, would not mind him. That, however,
would be otherwise if the whole State patronized and honored
them ; then they would listen, 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 they may emerge into light.
Yes, he said, there is a remarkable charm in them. But I
332 PLATO THE TEACHER
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, I said, the more haste the less speed ; the ludicrous
state of solid geometry made me pass over this branch and go
on to astronomy, or motion of solids.
True, he said.
Then regarding the science now omitted as supplied, if only
encouraged by the State, let us go on to astronomy.
That is the natural order, he said. And now, Socrates, as
you rebuked the vulgar manner in which I praised astronomy
before, my praises shall accord with the method of your
5 2 ^" inquiry. For every one, as I think, must feel that as-
tronomy compels the soul to look upwards, and leads us
from this world to another.
I am an exception then, for I should rather say that those
who elevate astronomy into philosophy make us look down-
wards and not upwards.
Why, how is that ? he asked.
You, I replied, have evidently a sublime conception of the
knowledge of the things above. And I dare say that if a per-
son 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 sim-
pleton : for, in my opinion, only that knowledge which is of
being and 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, not upwards, but downwards, whether his
way to knowledge is by water or by land, and he may float on
his back in either element.
I acknowledge, he said, the justice of your rebuke. Still, I
should like to know how astronomy can be learned in any
other way more conducive to that knowledge of which we
[The true object of astronomy is not the starry heavens,
beautiful as they are to the eyes, but the laws of pure
THE REPUBLIC 333
motion. And astronomy must be pursued as an abstract
science if "it is to become a real part of education, im-
proving the natural use of reason." In like manner the true
science of harmony does not concern itself with sounds and
consonances that appear to the ear, nor even with the numeri-
cal relations between such sounds, but with the " natural har-
monies of number. ' ' Such study seems to some a thing of
" more than mortal knowledge " but it is in the highest de-
gree useful, " if pursued with a view to the beautiful and
good. ' ' Socrates continues : ]
Now, when all these studies reach the point of intercom-
munion 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 they are useless.
That, Socrates, is also my own notion ; but it is a vast work
of which you speak.
[Socrates says: The science for which pure arithmetic,
geometry, astronomy, and harmony prepare the way is dialec-
tic. Those sciences only prepare the way and do not them-
selves attain to the highest truth ; but no one can understand
dialectic who has not been prepared by the proper study of the
preliminary sciences. The bodily eye, according to the story
of the den, rose from seeing shadows to seeing images, and
then objects, and lastly the sun.]
In like manner, when a person begins dialectics, and starts
on the discovery of the absolute by the light of reason only,
and without any assistance of sense, and does not rest until by
pure intelligence he attains pure good, he finds himself at the
end of the intellectual world, as in the other case at the end
of the visible.
[As in Book VI., it is shown that there are four degrees of
knowledge: (i) " The knowledge of shadows ; " (2) "belief,"
or the perception of objects; (3) "understanding," or the
knowledge of the abstract sciences, such as arithmetic, geometry,
etc. j (4) "science," or " reason," which alone, by dialectic,
arrives at the absolute truth. If dialectic is thus the "coping-
334 PLATO THE TEACHER
stone of the sciences," then surely the children of the State
who are to be its future rulers should be led to the acquisition
of this science. Socrates now asks : ]
But to whom are we to assign these studies, and in what
way are they to be assigned ? — that is a question which
535 remains 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 manly tempers, they
should also have the natural gifts which accord with their
And what are they ?
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
labor in any line, or he will never be able to undergo the
double toil and trouble of body and mind.
Certainly, he said j a man must have some natural gifts.
The mistake at present is, I said, that those who study phi-
losophy have no vocation, and this, as I was before saying, is
the reason why she has fallen into disrepute : her true sons
should study her and not bastards.
How do you mean ?
In the first place, her votary should not have a lame or one
legged industry. I mean, that he should not be half industri-
ous 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 labor of learning or hearing or