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Produced by Ed Brandon

















[_All rights reserved_]



IN publishing a third edition of the Republic of Plato (originally
included in my edition of Plato's works), I have to acknowledge the
assistance of several friends, especially of my secretary, Mr. Matthew
Knight, now residing for his health at Davôs, and of Mr. Frank Fletcher,
Exhibitioner of Balliol College. To their accuracy and scholarship I am
under great obligations. The excellent index, in which are contained
references to the other dialogues as well as to the Republic, is entirely
the work of Mr. Knight. I am also considerably indebted to Mr. J. W.
Mackail, Fellow of Balliol College, who read over the whole book in the
previous edition, and noted several inaccuracies.

The additions and alterations both in the introduction and in the text,
affect at least a third of the work.

Having regard to the extent of these alterations, and to the annoyance
which is felt by the owner of a book at the possession of it in an
inferior form, and still more keenly by the writer himself, who must
always desire to be read as he is at his best, I have thought that some
persons might like to exchange for the new edition the separate edition of
the Republic published in 1881, to which this present volume is the
successor. I have therefore arranged that those who desire to make this
exchange, on depositing a perfect copy of the former separate edition with
any agent of the Clarendon Press, shall be entitled to receive the new
edition at half-price.

It is my hope to issue a revised edition of the remaining Dialogues in the
course of a year.


[Sidenote: _Republic._ Introduction.]

THE Republic of Plato is the longest of his works with the exception of
the Laws, and is certainly the greatest of them. There are nearer
approaches to modern metaphysics in the Philebus and in the Sophist; the
Politicus or Statesman is more ideal; the form and institutions of the
State are more clearly drawn out in the Laws; as works of art, the
Symposium and the Protagoras are of higher excellence. But no other
Dialogue of Plato has the same largeness of view and the same perfection
of style; no other shows an equal knowledge of the world, or contains more
of those thoughts which are new as well as old, and not of one age only
but of all. Nowhere in Plato is there a deeper irony or a greater wealth
of humour or imagery, or more dramatic power. Nor in any other of his
writings is the attempt made to interweave life and speculation, or to
connect politics with philosophy. The Republic is the centre around which
the other Dialogues may be grouped; here philosophy reaches the highest
point (cp. especially in Books V, VI, VII) to which ancient thinkers ever
attained. Plato among the Greeks, like Bacon among the moderns, was the
first who conceived a method of knowledge, although neither of them always
distinguished the bare outline or form from the substance of truth; and
both of them had to be content with an abstraction of science which was
not yet realized. He was the greatest metaphysical genius whom the world
has seen; and in him, more than in any other ancient thinker, the germs of
future knowledge are contained. The sciences of logic and psychology,
which have supplied so many instruments of thought to after-ages, are
based upon the analyses of Socrates and Plato. The principles of
definition, the law of contradiction, the fallacy of arguing in a circle,
the distinction between the essence and accidents of a thing or notion,
between means and ends, between causes and conditions; also the division
of the mind into the rational, concupiscent, and irascible elements, or of
pleasures and desires into necessary and unnecessary - these {ii} and other
great forms of thought are all of them to be found in the Republic, and
were probably first invented by Plato. The greatest of all logical truths,
and the one of which writers on philosophy are most apt to lose sight, the
difference between words and things, has been most strenuously insisted on
by him (cp. Rep. 454 A; Polit. 261 E; Cratyl. 435, 436 ff.), although he
has not always avoided the confusion of them in his own writings (e.g.
Rep. 463 E). But he does not bind up truth in logical formulae, - logic is
still veiled in metaphysics; and the science which he imagines to
'contemplate all truth and all existence' is very unlike the doctrine of
the syllogism which Aristotle claims to have discovered (Soph. Elenchi 33.

Neither must we forget that the Republic is but the third part of a still
larger design which was to have included an ideal history of Athens, as
well as a political and physical philosophy. The fragment of the Critias
has given birth to a world-famous fiction, second only in importance to
the tale of Troy and the legend of Arthur; and is said as a fact to have
inspired some of the early navigators of the sixteenth century. This
mythical tale, of which the subject was a history of the wars of the
Athenians against the Island of Atlantis, is supposed to be founded upon
an unfinished poem of Solon, to which it would have stood in the same
relation as the writings of the logographers to the poems of Homer. It
would have told of a struggle for Liberty (cp. Tim. 25 C), intended to
represent the conflict of Persia and Hellas. We may judge from the noble
commencement of the Timaeus, from the fragment of the Critias itself, and
from the third book of the Laws, in what manner Plato would have treated
this high argument. We can only guess why the great design was abandoned;
perhaps because Plato became sensible of some incongruity in a fictitious
history, or because he had lost his interest in it, or because advancing
years forbade the completion of it; and we may please ourselves with the
fancy that had this imaginary narrative ever been finished, we should have
found Plato himself sympathising with the struggle for Hellenic
independence (cp. Laws iii. 698 ff.), singing a hymn of triumph over
Marathon and Salamis, perhaps making the reflection of Herodotus where he
contemplates the growth of the Athenian empire - 'How brave a thing is
freedom of speech, {iii} which has made the Athenians so far exceed every
other state of Hellas in greatness!' or, more probably, attributing the
victory to the ancient good order of Athens and to the favour of Apollo
and Athene (cp. Introd. to Critias).

Again, Plato may be regarded as the 'captain' ([Greek: a)rchêgo/s]) or
leader of a goodly band of followers; for in the Republic is to be found
the original of Cicero's De Republica, of St. Augustine's City of God, of
the Utopia of Sir Thomas More, and of the numerous other imaginary States
which are framed upon the same model. The extent to which Aristotle or the
Aristotelian school were indebted to him in the Politics has been little
recognised, and the recognition is the more necessary because it is not
made by Aristotle himself. The two philosophers had more in common than
they were conscious of; and probably some elements of Plato remain still
undetected in Aristotle. In English philosophy too, many affinities may be
traced, not only in the works of the Cambridge Platonists, but in great
original writers like Berkeley or Coleridge, to Plato and his ideas. That
there is a truth higher than experience, of which the mind bears witness
to herself, is a conviction which in our own generation has been
enthusiastically asserted, and is perhaps gaining ground. Of the Greek
authors who at the Renaissance brought a new life into the world Plato has
had the greatest influence. The Republic of Plato is also the first
treatise upon education, of which the writings of Milton and Locke,
Rousseau, Jean Paul, and Goethe are the legitimate descendants. Like Dante
or Bunyan, he has a revelation of another life; like Bacon, he is
profoundly impressed with the unity of knowledge; in the early Church he
exercised a real influence on theology, and at the Revival of Literature
on politics. Even the fragments of his words when 'repeated at
second-hand' (Symp. 215 D) have in all ages ravished the hearts of men,
who have seen reflected in them their own higher nature. He is the father
of idealism in philosophy, in politics, in literature. And many of the
latest conceptions of modern thinkers and statesmen, such as the unity of
knowledge, the reign of law, and the equality of the sexes, have been
anticipated in a dream by him.

* * * * *

The argument of the Republic is the search after Justice, the nature of
which is first hinted at by Cephalus, the just and blameless {iv} old
man - then discussed on the basis of proverbial morality by Socrates and
Polemarchus - then caricatured by Thrasymachus and partially explained by
Socrates - reduced to an abstraction by Glaucon and Adeimantus, and having
become invisible in the individual reappears at length in the ideal State
which is constructed by Socrates. The first care of the rulers is to be
education, of which an outline is drawn after the old Hellenic model,
providing only for an improved religion and morality, and more simplicity
in music and gymnastic, a manlier strain of poetry, and greater harmony of
the individual and the State. We are thus led on to the conception of a
higher State, in which 'no man calls anything his own,' and in which there
is neither 'marrying nor giving in marriage,' and 'kings are philosophers'
and 'philosophers are kings;' and there is another and higher education,
intellectual as well as moral and religious, of science as well as of art,
and not of youth only but of the whole of life. Such a State is hardly to
be realized in this world and quickly degenerates. To the perfect ideal
succeeds the government of the soldier and the lover of honour, this again
declining into democracy, and democracy into tyranny, in an imaginary but
regular order having not much resemblance to the actual facts. When 'the
wheel has come full circle' we do not begin again with a new period of
human life; but we have passed from the best to the worst, and there we
end. The subject is then changed and the old quarrel of poetry and
philosophy which had been more lightly treated in the earlier books of the
Republic is now resumed and fought out to a conclusion. Poetry is
discovered to be an imitation thrice removed from the truth, and Homer, as
well as the dramatic poets, having been condemned as an imitator, is sent
into banishment along with them. And the idea of the State is supplemented
by the revelation of a future life.

The division into books, like all similar divisions,[1] is probably later
than the age of Plato. The natural divisions are five in number; - (1) Book
I and the first half of Book II down to the paragraph beginning, 'I had
always admired the genius of Glaucon and Adeimantus,' which is
introductory; the first book containing a refutation of the popular and
sophistical notions of justice, and concluding, like some of the earlier
Dialogues, without arriving at any definite result. To this is appended a
restatement of the nature of justice {v} according to common opinion, and
an answer is demanded to the question - What is justice, stripped of
appearances? The second division (2) includes the remainder of the second
and the whole of the third and fourth books, which are mainly occupied
with the construction of the first State and the first education. The
third division (3) consists of the fifth, sixth, and seventh books, in
which philosophy rather than justice is the subject of enquiry, and the
second State is constructed on principles of communism and ruled by
philosophers, and the contemplation of the idea of good takes the place of
the social and political virtues. In the eighth and ninth books (4) the
perversions of States and of the individuals who correspond to them are
reviewed in succession; and the nature of pleasure and the principle of
tyranny are further analysed in the individual man. The tenth book (5) is
the conclusion of the whole, in which the relations of philosophy to
poetry are finally determined, and the happiness of the citizens in this
life, which has now been assured, is crowned by the vision of another.

[Footnote 1: Cp. Sir G. C. Lewis in the Classical Museum, vol. ii. p. 1.]

Or a more general division into two parts may be adopted; the first (Books
I-IV) containing the description of a State framed generally in accordance
with Hellenic notions of religion and morality, while in the second (Books
V-X) the Hellenic State is transformed into an ideal kingdom of
philosophy, of which all other governments are the perversions. These two
points of view are really opposed, and the opposition is only veiled by
the genius of Plato. The Republic, like the Phaedrus (see Introduction to
Phaedrus), is an imperfect whole; the higher light of philosophy breaks
through the regularity of the Hellenic temple, which at last fades away
into the heavens (592 B). Whether this imperfection of structure arises
from an enlargement of the plan; or from the imperfect reconcilement in
the writer's own mind of the struggling elements of thought which are now
first brought together by him; or, perhaps, from the composition of the
work at different times - are questions, like the similar question about
the Iliad and the Odyssey, which are worth asking, but which cannot have a
distinct answer. In the age of Plato there was no regular mode of
publication, and an author would have the less scruple in altering or
adding to a work which was known only to a few of his friends. There is no
absurdity in supposing that he may have laid his labours aside for a time,
or turned from one work to {vi} another; and such interruptions would be
more likely to occur in the case of a long than of a short writing. In all
attempts to determine the chronological order of the Platonic writings on
internal evidence, this uncertainty about any single Dialogue being
composed at one time is a disturbing element, which must be admitted to
affect longer works, such as the Republic and the Laws, more than shorter
ones. But, on the other hand, the seeming discrepancies of the Republic
may only arise out of the discordant elements which the philosopher has
attempted to unite in a single whole, perhaps without being himself able
to recognise the inconsistency which is obvious to us. For there is a
judgment of after ages which few great writers have ever been able to
anticipate for themselves. They do not perceive the want of connexion in
their own writings, or the gaps in their systems which are visible enough
to those who come after them. In the beginnings of literature and
philosophy, amid the first efforts of thought and language, more
inconsistencies occur than now, when the paths of speculation are well
worn and the meaning of words precisely defined. For consistency, too, is
the growth of time; and some of the greatest creations of the human mind
have been wanting in unity. Tried by this test, several of the Platonic
Dialogues, according to our modern ideas, appear to be defective, but the
deficiency is no proof that they were composed at different times or by
different hands. And the supposition that the Republic was written
uninterruptedly and by a continuous effort is in some degree confirmed by
the numerous references from one part of the work to another.

The second title, 'Concerning Justice,' is not the one by which the
Republic is quoted, either by Aristotle or generally in antiquity, and,
like the other second titles of the Platonic Dialogues, may therefore be
assumed to be of later date. Morgenstern and others have asked whether the
definition of justice, which is the professed aim, or the construction of
the State is the principal argument of the work. The answer is, that the
two blend in one, and are two faces of the same truth; for justice is the
order of the State, and the State is the visible embodiment of justice
under the conditions of human society. The one is the soul and the other
is the body, and the Greek ideal of the State, as of the individual, is a
fair mind in a fair body. In Hegelian phraseology the state is the reality
of {vii} which justice is the idea. Or, described in Christian language,
the kingdom of God is within, and yet developes into a Church or external
kingdom; 'the house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens,' is
reduced to the proportions of an earthly building. Or, to use a Platonic
image, justice and the State are the warp and the woof which run through
the whole texture. And when the constitution of the State is completed,
the conception of justice is not dismissed, but reappears under the same
or different names throughout the work, both as the inner law of the
individual soul, and finally as the principle of rewards and punishments
in another life. The virtues are based on justice, of which common honesty
in buying and selling is the shadow, and justice is based on the idea of
good, which is the harmony of the world, and is reflected both in the
institutions of states and in motions of the heavenly bodies (cp. Tim.
47). The Timaeus, which takes up the political rather than the ethical
side of the Republic, and is chiefly occupied with hypotheses concerning
the outward world, yet contains many indications that the same law is
supposed to reign over the State, over nature, and over man.

Too much, however, has been made of this question both in ancient and
modern times. There is a stage of criticism in which all works, whether of
nature or of art, are referred to design. Now in ancient writings, and
indeed in literature generally, there remains often a large element which
was not comprehended in the original design. For the plan grows under the
author's hand; new thoughts occur to him in the act of writing; he has not
worked out the argument to the end before he begins. The reader who seeks
to find some one idea under which the whole may be conceived, must
necessarily seize on the vaguest and most general. Thus Stallbaum, who is
dissatisfied with the ordinary explanations of the argument of the
Republic, imagines himself to have found the true argument 'in the
representation of human life in a State perfected by justice, and governed
according to the idea of good.' There may be some use in such general
descriptions, but they can hardly be said to express the design of the
writer. The truth is, that we may as well speak of many designs as of one;
nor need anything be excluded from the plan of a great work to which the
mind is naturally led by the association of ideas, and which does not
interfere with the general purpose. What kind or degree of {viii} unity is
to be sought after in a building, in the plastic arts, in poetry, in
prose, is a problem which has to be determined relatively to the
subject-matter. To Plato himself, the enquiry 'what was the intention of
the writer,' or 'what was the principal argument of the Republic' would
have been hardly intelligible, and therefore had better be at once
dismissed (cp. the Introduction to the Phaedrus, vol. i.).

Is not the Republic the vehicle of three or four great truths which, to
Plato's own mind, are most naturally represented in the form of the State?
Just as in the Jewish prophets the reign of Messiah, or 'the day of the
Lord,' or the suffering Servant or people of God, or the 'Sun of
righteousness with healing in his wings' only convey, to us at least,
their great spiritual ideals, so through the Greek State Plato reveals to
us his own thoughts about divine perfection, which is the idea of
good - like the sun in the visible world; - about human perfection, which is
justice - about education beginning in youth and continuing in later
years - about poets and sophists and tyrants who are the false teachers and
evil rulers of mankind - about 'the world' which is the embodiment of
them - about a kingdom which exists nowhere upon earth but is laid up in
heaven to be the pattern and rule of human life. No such inspired creation
is at unity with itself, any more than the clouds of heaven when the sun
pierces through them. Every shade of light and dark, of truth, and of
fiction which is the veil of truth, is allowable in a work of
philosophical imagination. It is not all on the same plane; it easily
passes from ideas to myths and fancies, from facts to figures of speech.
It is not prose but poetry, at least a great part of it, and ought not to
be judged by the rules of logic or the probabilities of history. The
writer is not fashioning his ideas into an artistic whole; they take
possession of him and are too much for him. We have no need therefore to
discuss whether a State such as Plato has conceived is practicable or not,
or whether the outward form or the inward life came first into the mind of
the writer. For the practicability of his ideas has nothing to do with
their truth (v. 472 D); and the highest thoughts to which he attains may
be truly said to bear the greatest 'marks of design' - justice more than
the external frame-work of the State, the idea of good more than justice.
The great science of dialectic or the organisation of ideas has no real
content; but is only a type of the method or {ix} spirit in which the
higher knowledge is to be pursued by the spectator of all time and all
existence. It is in the fifth, sixth, and seventh books that Plato reaches
the 'summit of speculation,' and these, although they fail to satisfy the
requirements of a modern thinker, may therefore be regarded as the most
important, as they are also the most original, portions of the work.

It is not necessary to discuss at length a minor question which has been
raised by Boeckh, respecting the imaginary date at which the conversation
was held (the year 411 B.C. which is proposed by him will do as well as
any other); for a writer of fiction, and especially a writer who, like
Plato, is notoriously careless of chronology (cp. Rep. i. 336, Symp. 193
A, etc.), only aims at general probability. Whether all the persons
mentioned in the Republic could ever have met at any one time is not a
difficulty which would have occurred to an Athenian reading the work forty
years later, or to Plato himself at the time of writing (any more than to
Shakespeare respecting one of his own dramas); and need not greatly
trouble us now. Yet this may be a question having no answer 'which is
still worth asking,' because the investigation shows that we cannot argue
historically from the dates in Plato; it would be useless therefore to
waste time in inventing far-fetched reconcilements of them in order to
avoid chronological difficulties, such, for example, as the conjecture of
C. F. Hermann, that Glaucon and Adeimantus are not the brothers but the
uncles of Plato (cp. Apol. 34 A), or the fancy of Stallbaum that Plato
intentionally left anachronisms indicating the dates at which some of his
Dialogues were written.

* * * * *

The principal characters in the Republic are Cephalus, Polemarchus,
Thrasymachus, Socrates, Glaucon, and Adeimantus. Cephalus appears in the
introduction only, Polemarchus drops at the end of the first argument, and
Thrasymachus is reduced to silence at the close of the first book. The
main discussion is carried on by Socrates, Glaucon, and Adeimantus. Among
the company are Lysias (the orator) and Euthydemus, the sons of Cephalus
and brothers of Polemarchus, an unknown Charmantides - these are mute
auditors; also there is Cleitophon, who once interrupts (340 A), where, as
in the Dialogue which bears his name, he appears as the friend and ally of

{x} Cephalus, the patriarch of the house, has been appropriately engaged
in offering a sacrifice. He is the pattern of an old man who has almost
done with life, and is at peace with himself and with all mankind. He

Online LibraryPlatoThe republic of Plato → online text (page 1 of 58)