Republic - Plato's Greatest Dialogue, Philosophy - Book V.


By Plato

Circa 360 BCE

Translated by Benjamin Jowett

Republic by Plato - Book 5.


Socrates, who is the narrator; Glaucon; Adeimantus; Polemarchus; Cephalus; Thrasymachus; Cleitophon; And others who are mute auditors. The scene is laid in the house of Cephalus at the Piraeus; and the whole dialogue is narrated by Socrates the day after it actually took place to Timaeus, Hermocrates, Critias, and a nameless person, who are introduced in the Timaeus.

Republic - Plato's Greatest Dialogue, Philosophy - BOOK_5.


Such is the good and true City or State, and the good and man is of the
same pattern; and if this is right every other is wrong; and the evil is
one which affects not only the ordering of the State, but also the
regulation of the individual soul, and is exhibited in four forms.

What are they? he said.

I was proceeding to tell the order in which the four evil forms appeared
to me to succeed one another, when Pole marchus, who was sitting a
little way off, just beyond Adeimantus, began to whisper to him:
stretching forth his hand, he took hold of the upper part of his coat by
the shoulder, and drew him towards him, leaning forward himself so as to
be quite close and saying something in his ear, of which I only caught
the words, "Shall we let him off, or what shall we do?"

Certainly not, said Adeimantus, raising his voice.

Who is it, I said, whom you are refusing to let off?

You, he said.

I repeated, Why am I especially not to be let off?

Why, he said, we think that you are lazy, and mean to cheat us out of a
whole chapter which is a very important part of the story; and you fancy
that we shall not notice your airy way of proceeding; as if it were
self-evident to everybody, that in the matter of women and children
"friends have all things in common."

And was I not right, Adeimantus?

Yes, he said; but what is right in this particular case, like everything
else, requires to be explained; for community may be of many kinds.
Please, therefore, to say what sort of community you mean. We have been
long expecting that you would tell us something about the family life of
your citizens -- how they will bring children into the world, and rear
them when they have arrived, and, in general, what is the nature of this
community of women and children -- for we are of opinion that the right or
wrong management of such matters will have a great and paramount
influence on the State for good or for evil. And now, since the question
is still undetermined, and you are taking in hand another State, we have
resolved, as you heard, not to let you go until you give an account of
all this.

To that resolution, said Glaucon, you may regard me as saying Agreed.

And without more ado, said Thrasymachus, you may consider us all to be
equally agreed.

I said, You know not what you are doing in thus assailing me: What an
argument are you raising about the State! Just as I thought that I had
finished, and was only too glad that I had laid this question to sleep,
and was reflecting how fortunate I was in your acceptance of what I then
said, you ask me to begin again at the very foundation, ignorant of what
a hornet's nest of words you are stirring. Now I foresaw this gathering
trouble, and avoided it.

For what purpose do you conceive that we have come here, said
Thrasymachus, -- to look for gold, or to hear discourse?

Yes, but discourse should have a limit.

Yes, Socrates, said Glaucon, and the whole of life is the only limit
which wise men assign to the hearing of such discourses. But never mind
about us; take heart yourself and answer the question in your own way:
What sort of community of women and children is this which is to prevail
among our guardians? and how shall we manage the period between birth
and education, which seems to require the greatest care? Tell us how
these things will be.

Yes, my simple friend, but the answer is the reverse of easy; many more
doubts arise about this than about our previous conclusions. For the
practicability of what is said may be doubted; and looked at in another
point of view, whether the scheme, if ever so practicable, would be for
the best, is also doubtful. Hence I feel a reluctance to approach the
subject, lest our aspiration, my dear friend, should turn out to be a
dream only.

Fear not, he replied, for your audience will not be hard upon you; they
are not sceptical or hostile.

I said: My good friend, I suppose that you mean to encourage me by these

Yes, he said.

Then let me tell you that you are doing just the reverse; the
encouragement which you offer would have been all very well had I myself
believed that I knew what I was talking about: to declare the truth
about matters of high interest which a man honours and loves among wise
men who love him need occasion no fear or faltering in his mind; but to
carry on an argument when you are yourself only a hesitating enquirer,
which is my condition, is a dangerous and slippery thing; and the danger
is not that I shall be laughed at (of which the fear would be childish),
but that I shall miss the truth where I have most need to be sure of my
footing, and drag my friends after me in my fall. And I pray Nemesis not
to visit upon me the words which I am going to utter. For I do indeed
believe that to be an involuntary homicide is a less crime than to be a
deceiver about beauty or goodness or justice in the matter of laws. And
that is a risk which I would rather run among enemies than among
friends, and therefore you do well to encourage me.

Glaucon laughed and said: Well then, Socrates, in case you and your
argument do us any serious injury you shall be acquitted beforehand of
the and shall not be held to be a deceiver; take courage then and speak.

Well, I said, the law says that when a man is acquitted he is free from
guilt, and what holds at law may hold in argument.

Then why should you mind?

Well, I replied, I suppose that I must retrace my steps and say what I
perhaps ought to have said before in the proper place. The part of the
men has been played out, and now properly enough comes the turn of the
women. Of them I will proceed to speak, and the more readily since I am
invited by you.

For men born and educated like our citizens, the only way, in my
opinion, of arriving at a right conclusion about the possession and use
of women and children is to follow the path on which we originally
started, when we said that the men were to be the guardians and
watchdogs of the herd.


Let us further suppose the birth and education of our women to be
subject to similar or nearly similar regulations; then we shall see
whether the result accords with our design.

What do you mean?

What I mean may be put into the form of a question, I said: Are dogs
divided into hes and shes, or do they both share equally in hunting and
in keeping watch and in the other duties of dogs? or do we entrust to
the males the entire and exclusive care of the flocks, while we leave
the females at home, under the idea that the bearing and suckling their
puppies is labour enough for them?

No, he said, they share alike; the only difference between them is that
the males are stronger and the females weaker.

But can you use different animals for the same purpose, unless they are
bred and fed in the same way?

You cannot.

Then, if women are to have the same duties as men, they must have the
same nurture and education?


The education which was assigned to the men was music and gymnastic.


Then women must be taught music and gymnastic and also the art of war,
which they must practise like the men?

That is the inference, I suppose.

I should rather expect, I said, that several of our proposals, if they
are carried out, being unusual, may appear ridiculous.

No doubt of it.

Yes, and the most ridiculous thing of all will be the sight of women
naked in the palaestra, exercising with the men, especially when they
are no longer young; they certainly will not be a vision of beauty, any
more than the enthusiastic old men who in spite of wrinkles and ugliness
continue to frequent the gymnasia.

Yes, indeed, he said: according to present notions the proposal would be
thought ridiculous.

But then, I said, as we have determined to speak our minds, we must not
fear the jests of the wits which will be directed against this sort of
innovation; how they will talk of women's attainments both in music and
gymnastic, and above all about their wearing armour and riding upon

Very true, he replied.

Yet having begun we must go forward to the rough places of the law; at
the same time begging of these gentlemen for once in their life to be
serious. Not long ago, as we shall remind them, the Hellenes were of the
opinion, which is still generally received among the barbarians, that
the sight of a naked man was ridiculous and improper; and when first the
Cretans and then the Lacedaemonians introduced the custom, the wits of
that day might equally have ridiculed the innovation.

No doubt.

But when experience showed that to let all things be uncovered was far
better than to cover them up, and the ludicrous effect to the outward
eye vanished before the better principle which reason asserted, then the
man was perceived to be a fool who directs the shafts of his ridicule at
any other sight but that of folly and vice, or seriously inclines to
weigh the beautiful by any other standard but that of the good.

Very true, he replied.

First, then, whether the question is to be put in jest or in earnest,
let us come to an understanding about the nature of woman: Is she
capable of sharing either wholly or partially in the actions of men, or
not at all? And is the art of war one of those arts in which she can or
can not share? That will be the best way of commencing the enquiry, and
will probably lead to the fairest conclusion.

That will be much the best way.

Shall we take the other side first and begin by arguing against
ourselves; in this manner the adversary's position will not be

Why not? he said.

Then let us put a speech into the mouths of our opponents. They will
say: "Socrates and Glaucon, no adversary need convict you, for you
yourselves, at the first foundation of the State, admitted the principle
that everybody was to do the one work suited to his own nature." And
certainly, if I am not mistaken, such an admission was made by us. "And
do not the natures of men and women differ very much indeed?" And we
shall reply: Of course they do. Then we shall be asked, "Whether the
tasks assigned to men and to women should not be different, and such as
are agreeable to their different natures?" Certainly they should. "But
if so, have you not fallen into a serious inconsistency in saying that
men and women, whose natures are so entirely different, ought to perform
the same actions?" -- What defence will you make for us, my good Sir,
against any one who offers these objections?

That is not an easy question to answer when asked suddenly; and I shall
and I do beg of you to draw out the case on our side.

These are the objections, Glaucon, and there are many others of a like
kind, which I foresaw long ago; they made me afraid and reluctant to
take in hand any law about the possession and nurture of women and

By Zeus, he said, the problem to be solved is anything but easy.

Why yes, I said, but the fact is that when a man is out of his depth,
whether he has fallen into a little swimming bath or into mid-ocean, he
has to swim all the same.

Very true.

And must not we swim and try to reach the shore: we will hope that
Arion's dolphin or some other miraculous help may save us?

I suppose so, he said.

Well then, let us see if any way of escape can be found. We acknowledged
-- did we not? that different natures ought to have different pursuits,
and that men's and women's natures are different. And now what are we
saying? -- that different natures ought to have the same pursuits, --
this is the inconsistency which is charged upon us.


Verily, Glaucon, I said, glorious is the power of the art of

Why do you say so?

Because I think that many a man falls into the practice against his
will. When he thinks that he is reasoning he is really disputing, just
because he cannot define and divide, and so know that of which he is
speaking; and he will pursue a merely verbal opposition in the spirit of
contention and not of fair discussion.

Yes, he replied, such is very often the case; but what has that to do
with us and our argument?

A great deal; for there is certainly a danger of our getting
unintentionally into a verbal opposition.

In what way?

Why, we valiantly and pugnaciously insist upon the verbal truth, that
different natures ought to have different pursuits, but we never
considered at all what was the meaning of sameness or difference of
nature, or why we distinguished them when we assigned different pursuits
to different natures and the same to the same natures.

Why, no, he said, that was never considered by us.

I said: Suppose that by way of illustration we were to ask the question
whether there is not an opposition in nature between bald men and hairy
men; and if this is admitted by us, then, if bald men are cobblers, we
should forbid the hairy men to be cobblers, and conversely?

That would be a jest, he said.

Yes, I said, a jest; and why? because we never meant when we constructed
the State, that the opposition of natures should extend to every
difference, but only to those differences which affected the pursuit in
which the individual is engaged; we should have argued, for example,
that a physician and one who is in mind a physician may be said to have
the same nature.


Whereas the physician and the carpenter have different natures?


And if, I said, the male and female sex appear to differ in their
fitness for any art or pursuit, we should say that such pursuit or art
ought to be assigned to one or the other of them; but if the difference
consists only in women bearing and men begetting children, this does not
amount to a proof that a woman differs from a man in respect of the sort
of education she should receive; and we shall therefore continue to
maintain that our guardians and their wives ought to have the same

Very true, he said.

Next, we shall ask our opponent how, in reference to any of the pursuits
or arts of civic life, the nature of a woman differs from that of a man?

That will be quite fair.

And perhaps he, like yourself, will reply that to give a sufficient
answer on the instant is not easy; but after a little reflection there
is no difficulty.

Yes, perhaps.

Suppose then that we invite him to accompany us in the argument, and
then we may hope to show him that there is nothing peculiar in the
constitution of women which would affect them in the administration of
the State.

By all means.

Let us say to him: Come now, and we will ask you a question: -- when you
spoke of a nature gifted or not gifted in any respect, did you mean to
say that one man will acquire a thing easily, another with difficulty; a
little learning will lead the one to discover a great deal; whereas the
other, after much study and application, no sooner learns than he
forgets; or again, did you mean, that the one has a body which is a good
servant to his mind, while the body of the other is a hindrance to
him? -- would not these be the sort of differences which distinguish the
man gifted by nature from the one who is ungifted?

No one will deny that.

And can you mention any pursuit of mankind in which the male sex has not
all these gifts and qualities in a higher degree than the female? Need I
waste time in speaking of the art of weaving, and the management of
pancakes and preserves, in which womankind does really appear to be
great, and in which for her to be beaten by a man is of all things the
most absurd?

You are quite right, he replied, in maintaining the general inferiority
of the female sex: although many women are in many things superior to
many men, yet on the whole what you say is true.

And if so, my friend, I said, there is no special faculty of
administration in a state which a woman has because she is a woman, or
which a man has by virtue of his sex, but the gifts of nature are alike
diffused in both; all the pursuits of men are the pursuits of women
also, but in all of them a woman is inferior to a man.

Very true.

Then are we to impose all our enactments on men and none of them on

That will never do.

One woman has a gift of healing, another not; one is a musician, and
another has no music in her nature?

Very true.

And one woman has a turn for gymnastic and military exercises, and
another is unwarlike and hates gymnastics?


And one woman is a philosopher, and another is an enemy of philosophy;
one has spirit, and another is without spirit?

That is also true.

Then one woman will have the temper of a guardian, and another not. Was
not the selection of the male guardians determined by differences of
this sort?


Men and women alike possess the qualities which make a guardian; they
differ only in their comparative strength or weakness.


And those women who have such qualities are to be selected as the
companions and colleagues of men who have similar qualities and whom
they resemble in capacity and in character?

Very true.

And ought not the same natures to have the same pursuits?

They ought.

Then, as we were saying before, there is nothing unnatural in assigning
music and gymnastic to the wives of the guardians -- to that point we
come round again.

Certainly not.

The law which we then enacted was agreeable to nature, and therefore not
an impossibility or mere aspiration; and the contrary practice, which
prevails at present, is in reality a violation of nature.

That appears to be true.

We had to consider, first, whether our proposals were possible, and
secondly whether they were the most beneficial?


And the possibility has been acknowledged?


The very great benefit has next to be established?

Quite so.

You will admit that the same education which makes a man a good guardian
will make a woman a good guardian; for their original nature is the


I should like to ask you a question.

What is it?

Would you say that all men are equal in excellence, or is one man better
than another?

The latter.

And in the commonwealth which we were founding do you conceive the
guardians who have been brought up on our model system to be more
perfect men, or the cobblers whose education has been cobbling?

What a ridiculous question!

You have answered me, I replied: Well, and may we not further say that
our guardians are the best of our citizens?

By far the best.

And will not their wives be the best women?

Yes, by far the best.

And can there be anything better for the interests of the State than
that the men and women of a State should be as good as possible?

There can be nothing better.

And this is what the arts of music and gymnastic, when present in such
manner as we have described, will accomplish?


Then we have made an enactment not only possible but in the highest
degree beneficial to the State?


Then let the wives of our guardians strip, for their virtue will be
their robe, and let them share in the toils of war and the defence of
their country; only in the distribution of labours the lighter are to be
assigned to the women, who are the weaker natures, but in other respects
their duties are to be the same. And as for the man who laughs at naked
women exercising their bodies from the best of motives, in his laughter
he is plucking

A fruit of unripe wisdom,

and he himself is ignorant of what he is laughing at, or what he is
about; -- for that is, and ever will be, the best of sayings, That the
useful is the noble and the hurtful is the base.

Very true.

Here, then, is one difficulty in our law about women, which we may say
that we have now escaped; the wave has not swallowed us up alive for
enacting that the guardians of either sex should have all their pursuits
in common; to the utility and also to the possibility of this
arrangement the consistency of the argument with itself bears witness.

Yes, that was a mighty wave which you have escaped.

Yes, I said, but a greater is coming; you will of this when you see the

Go on; let me see.

The law, I said, which is the sequel of this and of all that has
preceded, is to the following effect, -- "that the wives of our
guardians are to be common, and their children are to be common, and no
parent is to know his own child, nor any child his parent."

Yes, he said, that is a much greater wave than the other; and the
possibility as well as the utility of such a law are far more

I do not think, I said, that there can be any dispute about the very
great utility of having wives and children in common; the possibility is
quite another matter, and will be very much disputed.

I think that a good many doubts may be raised about both.

You imply that the two questions must be combined, I replied. Now I
meant that you should admit the utility; and in this way, as I thought;
I should escape from one of them, and then there would remain only the

But that little attempt is detected, and therefore you will please to
give a defence of both.

Well, I said, I submit to my fate. Yet grant me a little favour: let me
feast my mind with the dream as day dreamers are in the habit of
feasting themselves when they are walking alone; for before they have
discovered any means of effecting their wishes -- that is a matter which
never troubles them -- they would rather not tire themselves by thinking
about possibilities; but assuming that what they desire is already
granted to them, they proceed with their plan, and delight in detailing
what they mean to do when their wish has come true -- that is a way
which they have of not doing much good to a capacity which was never
good for much. Now I myself am beginning to lose heart, and I should
like, with your permission, to pass over the question of possibility at
present. Assuming therefore the possibility of the proposal, I shall now
proceed to enquire how the rulers will carry out these arrangements, and
I shall demonstrate that our plan, if executed, will be of the greatest
benefit to the State and to the guardians. First of all, then, if you
have no objection, I will endeavour with your help to consider the
advantages of the measure; and hereafter the question of possibility.

I have no objection; proceed.

First, I think that if our rulers and their auxiliaries are to be worthy
of the name which they bear, there must be willingness to obey in the
one and the power of command in the other; the guardians must themselves
obey the laws, and they must also imitate the spirit of them in any
details which are entrusted to their care.

That is right, he said.

You, I said, who are their legislator, having selected the men, will now
select the women and give them to them; -- they must be as far as
possible of like natures with them; and they must live in common houses
and meet at common meals, None of them will have anything specially his
or her own; they will be together, and will be brought up together, and
will associate at gymnastic exercises. And so they will be drawn by a
necessity of their natures to have intercourse with each other --
necessity is not too strong a word, I think?

Yes, he said; -- necessity, not geometrical, but another sort of
necessity which lovers know, and which is far more convincing and
constraining to the mass of mankind.

True, I said; and this, Glaucon, like all the rest, must proceed after
an orderly fashion; in a city of the blessed, licentiousness is an
unholy thing which the rulers will forbid.

Yes, he said, and it ought not to be permitted.

Then clearly the next thing will be to make matrimony sacred in the
highest degree, and what is most beneficial will be deemed sacred?


And how can marriages be made most beneficial? -- that is a question
which I put to you, because I see in your house dogs for hunting, and of
the nobler sort of birds not a few. Now, I beseech you, do tell me, have
you ever attended to their pairing and breeding?

In what particulars?

Why, in the first place, although they are all of a good sort, are not
some better than others?


And do you breed from them all indifferently, or do you take care to
breed from the best only?

From the best.

And do you take the oldest or the youngest, or only those of ripe age?

I choose only those of ripe age.

And if care was not taken in the breeding, your dogs and birds would
greatly deteriorate?


And the same of horses and animals in general?


Good heavens! my dear friend, I said, what consummate skill will our
rulers need if the same principle holds of the human species!

Certainly, the same principle holds; but why does this involve any
particular skill?

Because, I said, our rulers will often have to practise upon the body
corporate with medicines. Now you know that when patients do not require
medicines, but have only to be put under a regimen, the inferior sort of
practitioner is deemed to be good enough; but when medicine has to be
given, then the doctor should be more of a man.

That is quite true, he said; but to what are you alluding?

I mean, I replied, that our rulers will find a considerable dose of
falsehood and deceit necessary for the good of their subjects: we were
saying that the use of all these things regarded as medicines might be
of advantage.

And we were very right.

And this lawful use of them seems likely to be often needed in the
regulations of marriages and births.

How so?

Why, I said, the principle has been already laid down that the best of
either sex should be united with the best as often, and the inferior
with the inferior, as seldom as possible; and that they should rear the
offspring of the one sort of union, but not of the other, if the flock
is to be maintained in first-rate condition. Now these goings on must be
a secret which the rulers only know, or there will be a further danger
of our herd, as the guardians may be termed, breaking out into

Very true.

Had we not better appoint certain festivals at which we will bring
together the brides and bridegrooms, and sacrifices will be offered and
suitable hymeneal songs composed by our poets: the number of weddings is
a matter which must be left to the discretion of the rulers, whose aim
will be to preserve the average of population? There are many other
things which they will have to consider, such as the effects of wars and
diseases and any similar agencies, in order as far as this is possible
to prevent the State from becoming either too large or too small.

Certainly, he replied.

We shall have to invent some ingenious kind of lots which the less
worthy may draw on each occasion of our bringing them together, and then
they will accuse their own ill-luck and not the rulers.

To be sure, he said.

And I think that our braver and better youth, besides their other
honours and rewards, might have greater facilities of intercourse with
women given them; their bravery will be a reason, and such fathers ought
to have as many sons as possible.


And the proper officers, whether male or female or both, for offices are
to be held by women as well as by men --

Yes --

The proper officers will take the offspring of the good parents to the
pen or fold, and there they will deposit them with certain nurses who
dwell in a separate quarter; but the offspring of the inferior, or of
the better when they chance to be deformed, will be put away in some
mysterious, unknown place, as they should be.

Yes, he said, that must be done if the breed of the guardians is to be
kept pure.

They will provide for their nurture, and will bring the mothers to the
fold when they are full of milk, taking the greatest possible care that
no mother recognizes her own child; and other wet-nurses may be engaged
if more are required. Care will also be taken that the process of
suckling shall not be protracted too long; and the mothers will have no
getting up at night or other trouble, but will hand over all this sort
of thing to the nurses and attendants.

You suppose the wives of our guardians to have a fine easy time of it
when they are having children.

Why, said I, and so they ought. Let us, however, proceed with our
scheme. We were saying that the parents should be in the prime of life?

Very true.

And what is the prime of life? May it not be defined as a period of
about twenty years in a woman's life, and thirty in a man's?

Which years do you mean to include?

A woman, I said, at twenty years of age may begin to bear children to
the State, and continue to bear them until forty; a man may begin at
five-and-twenty, when he has passed the point at which the pulse of life
beats quickest, and continue to beget children until he be fifty-five.

Certainly, he said, both in men and women those years are the prime of
physical as well as of intellectual vigour.

Any one above or below the prescribed ages who takes part in the public
hymeneals shall be said to have done an unholy and unrighteous thing;
the child of which he is the father, if it steals into life, will have
been conceived under auspices very unlike the sacrifices and prayers,
which at each hymeneal priestesses and priest and the whole city will
offer, that the new generation may be better and more useful than their
good and useful parents, whereas his child will be the offspring of
darkness and strange lust.

Very true, he replied.

And the same law will apply to any one of those within the prescribed
age who forms a connection with any woman in the prime of life without
the sanction of the rulers; for we shall say that he is raising up a
bastard to the State, uncertified and unconsecrated.

Very true, he replied.

This applies, however, only to those who are within the specified age:
after that we allow them to range at will, except that a man may not
marry his daughter or his daughter's daughter, or his mother or his
mother's mother; and women, on the other hand, are prohibited from
marrying their sons or fathers, or son's son or father's father, and so
on in either direction. And we grant all this, accompanying the
permission with strict orders to prevent any embryo which may come into
being from seeing the light; and if any force a way to the birth, the
parents must understand that the offspring of such an union cannot be
maintained, and arrange accordingly.

That also, he said, is a reasonable proposition. But how will they know
who are fathers and daughters, and so on?

They will never know. The way will be this: -- dating from the day of
the hymeneal, the bridegroom who was then married will call all the male
children who are born in the seventh and tenth month afterwards his
sons, and the female children his daughters, and they will call him
father, and he will call their children his grandchildren, and they will
call the elder generation grandfathers and grandmothers. All who were
begotten at the time when their fathers and mothers came together will
be called their brothers and sisters, and these, as I was saying, will
be forbidden to inter-marry. This, however, is not to be understood as
an absolute prohibition of the marriage of brothers and sisters; if the
lot favours them, and they receive the sanction of the Pythian oracle,
the law will allow them.

Quite right, he replied.

Such is the scheme, Glaucon, according to which the guardians of our
State are to have their wives and families in common. And now you would
have the argument show that this community is consistent with the rest
of our polity, and also that nothing can be better -- would you not?

Yes, certainly.

Shall we try to find a common basis by asking of ourselves what ought to
be the chief aim of the legislator in making laws and in the
organization of a State, -- what is the greatest I good, and what is the
greatest evil, and then consider whether our previous description has
the stamp of the good or of the evil?

By all means.

Can there be any greater evil than discord and distraction and plurality
where unity ought to reign? or any greater good than the bond of unity?

There cannot.

And there is unity where there is community of pleasures and pains --
where all the citizens are glad or grieved on the same occasions of joy
and sorrow?

No doubt.

Yes; and where there is no common but only private feeling a State is
disorganized -- when you have one half of the world triumphing and the
other plunged in grief at the same events happening to the city or the


Such differences commonly originate in a disagreement about the use of
the terms "mine" and "not mine," "his" and "not his."

Exactly so.

And is not that the best-ordered State in which the greatest number of
persons apply the terms "mine" and "not mine" in the same way to the
same thing?

Quite true.

Or that again which most nearly approaches to the condition of the
individual -- as in the body, when but a finger of one of us is hurt,
the whole frame, drawn towards the soul as a center and forming one
kingdom under the ruling power therein, feels the hurt and sympathizes
all together with the part affected, and we say that the man has a pain
in his finger; and the same expression is used about any other part of
the body, which has a sensation of pain at suffering or of pleasure at
the alleviation of suffering.

Very true, he replied; and I agree with you that in the best-ordered
State there is the nearest approach to this common feeling which you

Then when any one of the citizens experiences any good or evil, the
whole State will make his case their own, and will either rejoice or
sorrow with him?

Yes, he said, that is what will happen in a well-ordered State.

It will now be time, I said, for us to return to our State and see
whether this or some other form is most in accordance with these
fundamental principles.

Very good.

Our State like every other has rulers and subjects?


All of whom will call one another citizens?

Of course.

But is there not another name which people give to their rulers in other

Generally they call them masters, but in democratic States they simply
call them rulers.

And in our State what other name besides that of citizens do the people
give the rulers?

They are called saviours and helpers, he replied.

And what do the rulers call the people?

Their maintainers and foster-fathers.

And what do they call them in other States?


And what do the rulers call one another in other States?


And what in ours?


Did you ever know an example in any other State of a ruler who would
speak of one of his colleagues as his friend and of another as not being
his friend?

Yes, very often.

And the friend he regards and describes as one in whom he has an
interest, and the other as a stranger in whom he has no interest?


But would any of your guardians think or speak of any other guardian as
a stranger?

Certainly he would not; for every one whom they meet will be regarded by
them either as a brother or sister, or father or mother, or son or
daughter, or as the child or parent of those who are thus connected with

Capital, I said; but let me ask you once more: Shall they be a family in
name only; or shall they in all their actions be true to the name? For
example, in the use of the word "father," would the care of a father be
implied and the filial reverence and duty and obedience to him which the
law commands; and is the violator of these duties to be regarded as an
impious and unrighteous person who is not likely to receive much good
either at the hands of God or of man? Are these to be or not to be the
strains which the children will hear repeated in their ears by all the
citizens about those who are intimated to them to be their parents and
the rest of their kinsfolk?

These, he said, and none other; for what can be more ridiculous than for
them to utter the names of family ties with the lips only and not to act
in the spirit of them?

Then in our city the language of harmony and concord will be more often
beard than in any other. As I was describing before, when any one is
well or ill, the universal word will be with me it is well" or "it is

Most true.

And agreeably to this mode of thinking and speaking, were we not saying
that they will have their pleasures and pains in common?

Yes, and so they will.

And they will have a common interest in the same thing which they will
alike call "my own," and having this common interest they will have a
common feeling of pleasure and pain?

Yes, far more so than in other States.

And the reason of this, over and above the general constitution of the
State, will be that the guardians will have a community of women and

That will be the chief reason.

And this unity of feeling we admitted to be the greatest good, as was
implied in our own comparison of a well-ordered State to the relation of
the body and the members, when affected by pleasure or pain?

That we acknowledged, and very rightly.

Then the community of wives and children among our citizens is clearly
the source of the greatest good to the State?


And this agrees with the other principle which we were affirming, --
that the guardians were not to have houses or lands or any other
property; their pay was to be their food, which they were to receive
from the other citizens, and they were to have no private expenses; for
we intended them to preserve their true character of guardians.

Right, he replied.

Both the community of property and the community of families, as I am
saying, tend to make them more truly guardians; they will not tear the
city in pieces by differing about "mine" and "not mine;" each man
dragging any acquisition which he has made into a separate house of his
own, where he has a separate wife and children and private pleasures and
pains; but all will be affected as far as may be by the same pleasures
and pains because they are all of one opinion about what is near and
dear to them, and therefore they all tend towards a common end.

Certainly, he replied.

And as they have nothing but their persons which they can call their
own, suits and complaints will have no existence among them; they will
be delivered from all those quarrels of which money or children or
relations are the occasion.

Of course they will.

Neither will trials for assault or insult ever be likely to occur among
them. For that equals should defend themselves against equals we shall
maintain to be honourable and right; we shall make the protection of the
person a matter of necessity.

That is good, he said.

Yes; and there is a further good in the law; viz. that if a man has a
quarrel with another he will satisfy his resentment then and there, and
not proceed to more dangerous lengths.


To the elder shall be assigned the duty of ruling and chastising the


Nor can there be a doubt that the younger will not strike or do any
other violence to an elder, unless the magistrates command him; nor will
he slight him in any way. For there are two guardians, shame and fear,
mighty to prevent him: shame, which makes men refrain from laying hands
on those who are to them in the relation of parents; fear, that the
injured one will be succoured by the others who are his brothers, sons,
one wi fathers.

That is true, he replied.

Then in every way the laws will help the citizens to keep the peace with
one another?

Yes, there will be no want of peace.

And as the guardians will never quarrel among themselves there will be
no danger of the rest of the city being divided either against them or
against one another.

None whatever.

I hardly like even to mention the little meannesses of which they will
be rid, for they are beneath notice: such, for example, as the flattery
of the rich by the poor, and all the pains and pangs which men
experience in bringing up a family, and in finding money to buy
necessaries for their household, borrowing and then repudiating, getting
how they can, and giving the money into the hands of women and slaves to
keep -- the many evils of so many kinds which people suffer in this way
are mean enough and obvious enough, and not worth speaking of.

Yes, he said, a man has no need of eyes in order to perceive that.

And from all these evils they will be delivered, and their life will be
blessed as the life of Olympic victors and yet more blessed.

How so?

The Olympic victor, I said, is deemed happy in receiving a part only of
the blessedness which is secured to our citizens, who have won a more
glorious victory and have a more complete maintenance at the public
cost. For the victory which they have won is the salvation of the whole
State; and the crown with which they and their children are crowned is
the fulness of all that life needs; they receive rewards from the hands
of their country while living, and after death have an honourable

Yes, he said, and glorious rewards they are.

Do you remember, I said, how in the course of the previous discussion[1]
some one who shall be nameless accused us of making our guardians
unhappy -- they had nothing and might have possessed all things -- to whom
we replied that, if an occasion offered, we might perhaps hereafter
consider this question, but that, as at present advised, we would make
our guardians truly guardians, and that we were fashioning the State
with a view to the greatest happiness, not of any particular class, but
of the whole?

Yes, I remember.

And what do you say, now that the life of our protectors is made out to
be far better and nobler than that of Olympic victors -- is the life of
shoemakers, or any other artisans, or of husbandmen, to be compared with

Certainly not.

At the same time I ought here to repeat what I have said elsewhere, that
if any of our guardians shall try to be happy in such a manner that he
will cease to be a guardian, and is not content with this safe and
harmonious life, which, in our judgment, is of all lives the best, but
infatuated by some youthful conceit of happiness which gets up into his
head shall seek to appropriate the whole State to himself, then he will
have to learn how wisely Hesiod spoke, when he said, "half is more than
the whole."

If he were to consult me, I should say to him: Stay where you are, when
you have the offer of such a life.

You agree then, I said, that men and women are to have a common way of
life such as we have described -- common education, common children; and
they are to watch over the citizens in common whether abiding in the
city or going out to war; they are to keep watch together, and to hunt
together like dogs; and always and in all things, as far as they are
able, women are to share with the men? And in so doing they will do what
is best, and will not violate, but preserve the natural relation of the

I agree with you, he replied.

The enquiry, I said, has yet to be made, whether such a community be
found possible -- as among other animals, so also among men -- and if
possible, in what way possible?

You have anticipated the question which I was about to suggest.

There is no difficulty, I said, in seeing how war will be carried on by


Why, of course they will go on expeditions together; and will take with
them any of their children who are strong enough, that, after the manner
of the artisan's child, they may look on at the work which they will
have to do when they are grown up; and besides looking on they will have
to help and be of use in war, and to wait upon their fathers and
mothers. Did you never observe in the arts how the potters' boys look on
and help, long before they touch the wheel?

Yes, I have.

And shall potters be more careful in educating their children and in
giving them the opportunity of seeing and practising their duties than
our guardians will be?

The idea is ridiculous, he said.

There is also the effect on the parents, with whom, as with other
animals, the presence of their young ones will be the greatest incentive
to valour.

That is quite true, Socrates; and yet if they are defeated, which may
often happen in war, how great the danger is! the children will be lost
as well as their parents, and the State will never recover.

True, I said; but would you never allow them to run any risk?

I am far from saying that.

Well, but if they are ever to run a risk should they not do so on some
occasion when, if they escape disaster, they will be the better for it?


Whether the future soldiers do or do not see war in the days of their
youth is a very important matter, for the sake of which some risk may
fairly be incurred.

Yes, very important.

This then must be our first step, -- to make our children spectators of
war; but we must also contrive that they shall be secured against
danger; then all will be well.


Their parents may be supposed not to be blind to the risks of war, but
to know, as far as human foresight can, what expeditions are safe and
what dangerous?

That may be assumed.

And they will take them on the safe expeditions and be cautious about
the dangerous ones?


And they will place them under the command of experienced veterans who
will be their leaders and teachers?

Very properly.

Still, the dangers of war cannot be always foreseen; there is a good
deal of chance about them?


Then against such chances the children must be at once furnished with
wings, in order that in the hour of need they may fly away and escape.

What do you mean? he said.

I mean that we must mount them on horses in their earliest youth, and
when they have learnt to ride, take them on horseback to see war: the
horses must be spirited and warlike, but the most tractable and yet the
swiftest that can be had. In this way they will get an excellent view of
what is hereafter to be their own business; and if there is danger they
have only to follow their elder leaders and escape.

I believe that you are right, he said.

Next, as to war; what are to be the relations of your soldiers to one
another and to their enemies? I should be inclined to propose that the
soldier who leaves his rank or throws away his arms, or is guilty of any
other act of cowardice, should be degraded into the rank of a husbandman
or artisan. What do you think?

By all means, I should say.

And he who allows himself to be taken prisoner may as well be made a
present of to his enemies; he is their lawful prey, and let them do what
they like with him.


But the hero who has distinguished himself, what shall be done to him?
In the first place, he shall receive honour in the army from his
youthful comrades; every one of them in succession shall crown him. What
do you say?

I approve.

And what do you say to his receiving the right hand of fellowship?

To that too, I agree.

But you will hardly agree to my next proposal.

What is your proposal?

That he should kiss and be kissed by them.

Most certainly, and I should be disposed to go further, and say: Let no
one whom he has a mind to kiss refuse to be kissed by him while the
expedition lasts. So that if there be a lover in the army, whether his
love be youth or maiden, he may be more eager to win the prize of

Capital, I said. That the brave man is to have more wives than others
has been already determined: and he is to have first choices in such
matters more than others, in order that he may have as many children as


Again, there is another manner in which, according to Homer, brave
youths should be honoured; for he tells how Ajax,[2] after he had
distinguished himself in battle, was rewarded with long chines, which
seems to be a compliment appropriate to a hero in the flower of his age,
being not only a tribute of honour but also a very strengthening thing.

Most true, he said.

Then in this, I said, Homer shall be our teacher; and we too, at
sacrifices and on the like occasions, will honour the brave according to
the measure of their valour, whether men or women, with hymns and those
other distinctions which we were mentioning; also with

seats of precedence, and meats and full cups;[3]

and in honouring them, we shall be at the same time training them.

That, he replied, is excellent.

Yes, I said; and when a man dies gloriously in war shall we not say, in
the first place, that he is of the golden race?

To be sure.

Nay, have we not the authority of Hesiod for affirming that when they
are dead

They are holy angels upon the earth, authors of good, averters of evil,
the guardians of speech-gifted men?

Yes; and we accept his authority.

We must learn of the god how we are to order the sepulture of divine and
heroic personages, and what is to be their special distinction and we
must do as he bids?

By all means.

And in ages to come we will reverence them and knee. before their
sepulchres as at the graves of heroes. And not only they but any who are
deemed pre-eminently good, whether they die from age, or in any other
way, shall be admitted to the same honours.

That is very right, he said.

Next, how shall our soldiers treat their enemies? What about this?

In what respect do you mean?

First of all, in regard to slavery? Do you think it right that Hellenes
should enslave Hellenic States, or allow others to enslave them, if they
can help? Should not their custom be to spare them, considering the
danger which there is that the whole race may one day fall under the
yoke of the barbarians?

To spare them is infinitely better.

Then no Hellene should be owned by them as a slave; that is a rule which
they will observe and advise the other Hellenes to observe.

Certainly, he said; they will in this way be united against the
barbarians and will keep their hands off one another.

Next as to the slain; ought the conquerors, I said, to take anything but
their armour? Does not the practice of despoiling an enemy afford an
excuse for not facing the battle? Cowards skulk about the dead,
pretending that they are fulfilling a duty, and many an army before now
has been lost from this love of plunder.

Very true.

And is there not illiberality and avarice in robbing a corpse, and also
a degree of meanness and womanishness in making an enemy of the dead
body when the real enemy has flown away and left only his fighting gear
behind him, -- is not this rather like a dog who cannot get at his
assailant, quarrelling with the stones which strike him instead?

Very like a dog, he said.

Then we must abstain from spoiling the dead or hindering their burial?

Yes, he replied, we most certainly must.

Neither shall we offer up arms at the temples of the gods, least of all
the arms of Hellenes, if we care to maintain good feeling with other
Hellenes; and, indeed, we have reason to fear that the offering of
spoils taken from kinsmen may be a pollution unless commanded by the god

Very true.

Again, as to the devastation of Hellenic territory or the burning of
houses, what is to be the practice?

May I have the pleasure, he said, of hearing your opinion?

Both should be forbidden, in my judgment; I would take the annual
produce and no more. Shall I tell you why?

Pray do.

Why, you see, there is a difference in the names "discord" and "war,"
and I imagine that there is also a difference in their natures; the one
is expressive of what is internal and domestic, the other of what is
external and foreign; and the first of the two is termed discord, and
only the second, war.

That is a very proper distinction, he replied.

And may I not observe with equal propriety that the Hellenic race is all
united together by ties of blood and friendship, and alien and strange
to the barbarians?

Very good, he said.

And therefore when Hellenes fight with barbarians and barbarians with
Hellenes, they will be described by us as being at war when they fight,
and by nature enemies, and this kind of antagonism should be called war;
but when Hellenes fight with one another we shall say that Hellas is
then in a state of disorder and discord, they being by nature friends
and such enmity is to be called discord.

I agree.

Consider then, I said, when that which we have acknowledged to be
discord occurs, and a city is divided, if both parties destroy the lands
and burn the houses of one another, how wicked does the strife appear!
No true lover of his country would bring himself to tear in pieces his
own nurse and mother: There might be reason in the conqueror depriving
the conquered of their harvest, but still they would have the idea of
peace in their hearts and would not mean to go on fighting for ever.

Yes, he said, that is a better temper than the other.

And will not the city, which you are founding, be an Hellenic city?

It ought to be, he replied.

Then will not the citizens be good and civilized?

Yes, very civilized.

And will they not be lovers of Hellas, and think of Hellas as their own
land, and share in the common temples?

Most certainly.

And any difference which arises among them will be regarded by them as
discord only -- a quarrel among friends, which is not to be called a

Certainly not.

Then they will quarrel as those who intend some day to be reconciled?


They will use friendly correction, but will not enslave or destroy their
opponents; they will be correctors, not enemies?

Just so.

And as they are Hellenes themselves they will not devastate Hellas, nor
will they burn houses, not even suppose that the whole population of a
city -- men, women, and children -- are equally their enemies, for they
know that the guilt of war is always confined to a few persons and that
the many are their friends. And for all these reasons they will be
unwilling to waste their lands and raze their houses; their enmity to
them will only last until the many innocent sufferers have compelled the
guilty few to give satisfaction?

I agree, he said, that our citizens should thus deal with their Hellenic
enemies; and with barbarians as the Hellenes now deal with one another.

Then let us enact this law also for our guardians: -- that they are
neither to devastate the lands of Hellenes nor to burn their houses.

Agreed; and we may agree also in thinking that these, all our previous
enactments, are very good.

But still I must say, Socrates, that if you are allowed to go on in this
way you will entirely forget the other question which at the
commencement of this discussion you thrust aside: -- Is such an order of
things possible, and how, if at all? For I am quite ready to acknowledge
that the plan which you propose, if only feasible, would do all sorts of
good to the State. I will add, what you have omitted, that your citizens
will be the bravest of warriors, and will never leave their ranks, for
they will all know one another, and each will call the other father,
brother, son; and if you suppose the women to join their armies, whether
in the same rank or in the rear, either as a terror to the enemy, or as
auxiliaries in case of need, I know that they will then be absolutely
invincible; and there are many domestic tic advantages which might also
be mentioned and which I also fully acknowledge: but, as I admit all
these advantages and as many more as you please, if only this State of
yours were to come into existence, we need say no more about them;
assuming then the existence of the State, let us now turn to the
question of possibility and ways and means -- the rest may be left.

If I loiter for a moment, you instantly make a raid upon me, I said, and
have no mercy; I have hardly escaped the first and second waves, and you
seem not to be aware that you are now bringing upon me the third, which
is the greatest and heaviest. When you have seen and heard the third
wave, I think you be more considerate and will acknowledge that some
fear and hesitation was natural respecting a proposal so extraordinary
as that which I have now to state and investigate.

The more appeals of this sort which you make, he said, the more
determined are we that you shall tell us how such a State is possible:
speak out and at once.

Let me begin by reminding you that we found our way hither in the search
after justice and injustice.

True, he replied; but what of that?

I was only going to ask whether, if we have discovered them, we are to
require that the just man should in nothing fail of absolute justice; or
may we be satisfied with an approximation, and the attainment in him of
a higher degree of justice than is to be found in other men?

The approximation will be enough.

We are enquiring into the nature of absolute justice and into the
character of the perfectly just, and into injustice and the perfectly
unjust, that we might have an ideal. We were to look at these in order
that we might judge of our own happiness and unhappiness according to
the standard which they exhibited and the degree in which we resembled
them, but not with any view of showing that they could exist in fact.

True, he said.

Would a painter be any the worse because, after having delineated with
consummate art an ideal of a perfectly beautiful man, he was unable to
show that any such man could ever have existed?

He would be none the worse.

Well, and were we not creating an ideal of a perfect State?

To be sure.

And is our theory a worse theory because we are unable to prove the
possibility of a city being ordered in the manner described?

Surely not, he replied.

That is the truth, I said. But if, at your request, I am to try and show
how and under what conditions the possibility is highest, I must ask
you, having this in view, to repeat your former admissions.

What admissions?

I want to know whether ideals are ever fully realised in language? Does
not the word express more than the fact, and must not the actual,
whatever a man may think, always, in the nature of things, fall short of
the truth? What do you say?

I agree.

Then you must not insist on my proving that the actual State will in
every respect coincide with the ideal: if we are only able to discover
how a city may be governed nearly as we proposed, you will admit that we
have discovered the possibility which you demand; and will be contented.
I am sure that I should be contented -- will not you?

Yes, I will.

Let me next endeavour to show what is that fault in States which is the
cause of their present maladministration, and what is the least change
which will enable a State to pass into the truer form; and let the
change, if possible, be of one thing only, or if not, of two; at any
rate, let the changes be as few and slight as possible.

Certainly, he replied.

I think, I said, that there might be a reform of the State if only one
change were made, which is not a slight or easy though still a possible

What is it? he said.

Now then, I said, I go to meet that which I liken to the greatest of the
waves; yet shall the word be spoken, even though the wave break and
drown me in laughter and dishonour; and do you mark my words.


I said: Until philosophers are kings, or the kings and princes of this
world have the spirit and power of philosophy, and political greatness
and wisdom meet in one, and those commoner natures who pursue either to
the exclusion of the other are compelled to stand aside, cities will
never have rest from their evils, -- nor the human race, as I believe,
-- and then only will this our State have a possibility of life and
behold the light of day. Such was the thought, my dear Glaucon, which I
would fain have uttered if it had not seemed too extravagant; for to be
convinced that in no other State can there be happiness private or
public is indeed a hard thing.

Socrates, what do you mean? I would have you consider that the word
which you have uttered is one at which numerous persons, and very
respectable persons too, in a figure pulling off their coats all in a
moment, and seizing any weapon that comes to hand, will run at you might
and main, before you know where you are, intending to do heaven knows
what; and if you don't prepare an answer, and put yourself in motion,
you will be prepared by their fine wits," and no mistake.

You got me into the scrape, I said.

And I was quite right; however, I will do all I can to get you out of
it; but I can only give you good-will and good advice, and, perhaps, I
may be able to fit answers to your questions better than another -- that
is all. And now, having such an auxiliary, you must do your best to show
the unbelievers that you are right.

I ought to try, I said, since you offer me such invaluable assistance.
And I think that, if there is to be a chance of our escaping, we must
explain to them whom we mean when we say that philosophers are to rule
in the State; then we shall be able to defend ourselves: There will be
discovered to be some natures who ought to study philosophy and to be
leaders in the State; and others who are not born to be philosophers,
and are meant to be followers rather than leaders.

Then now for a definition, he said.

Follow me, I said, and I hope that I may in some way or other be able to
give you a satisfactory explanation.


I dare say that you remember, and therefore I need not remind you, that
a lover, if lie is worthy of the name, ought to show his love, not to
some one part of that which he loves, but to the whole.

I really do not understand, and therefore beg of you to assist my

Another person, I said, might fairly reply as you do; but a man of
pleasure like yourself ought to know that all who are in the flower of
youth do somehow or other raise a pang or emotion in a lover's breast,
and are thought by him to be worthy of his affectionate regards. Is not
this a way which you have with the fair: one has a snub nose, and you
praise his charming face; the hook-nose of another has, you say, a royal
look; while he who is neither snub nor hooked has the grace of
regularity: the dark visage is manly, the fair are children of the gods;
and as to the sweet "honey pale," as they are called, what is the very
name but the invention of a lover who talks in diminutives, and is not
adverse to paleness if appearing on the cheek of youth? In a word, there
is no excuse which you will not make, and nothing which you will not
say, in order not to lose a single flower that blooms in the spring-time
of youth.

If you make me an authority in matters of love, for the sake of the
argument, I assent.

And what do you say of lovers of wine? Do you not see them doing the
same? They are glad of any pretext of drinking any wine.

Very good.

And the same is true of ambitious men; if they cannot command an army,
they are willing to command a file; and if they cannot be honoured by
really great and important persons, they are glad to be honoured by
lesser and meaner people, but honour of some kind they must have.


Once more let me ask: Does he who desires any class of goods, desire the
whole class or a part only?

The whole.

And may we not say of the philosopher that he is a lover, not of a part
of wisdom only, but of the whole?

Yes, of the whole.

And he who dislikes learnings, especially in youth, when he has no power
of judging what is good and what is not, such an one we maintain not to
be a philosopher or a lover of knowledge, just as he who refuses his
food is not hungry, and may be said to have a bad appetite and not a
good one?

Very true, he said.

Whereas he who has a taste for every sort of knowledge and who is
curious to learn and is never satisfied, may be justly termed a
philosopher? Am I not right?

Glaucon said: If curiosity makes a philosopher, you will find many a
strange being will have a title to the name. All the lovers of sights
have a delight in learning, and must therefore be included. Musical
amateurs, too, are a folk strangely out of place among philosophers, for
they are the last persons in the world who would come to anything like a
philosophical discussion, if they could help, while they run about at
the Dionysiac festivals as if they had let out their ears to hear every
chorus; whether the performance is in town or country -- that makes no
difference -- they are there. Now are we to maintain that all these and
any who have similar tastes, as well as the professors of quite minor
arts, are philosophers?

Certainly not, I replied; they are only an imitation.

He said: Who then are the true philosophers?

Those, I said, who are lovers of the vision of truth.

That is also good, he said; but I should like to know what you mean?

To another, I replied, I might have a difficulty in explaining; but I am
sure that you will admit a proposition which I am about to make.

What is the proposition?

That since beauty is the opposite of ugliness, they are two?


And inasmuch as they are two, each of them is one?

True again.

And of just and unjust, good and evil, and of every other class, the
same remark holds: taken singly, each of them one; but from the various
combinations of them with actions and things and with one another, they
are seen in all sorts of lights and appear many? Very true.

And this is the distinction which I draw between the sight-loving,
art-loving, practical class and those of whom I am speaking, and who are
alone worthy of the name of philosophers.

How do you distinguish them? he said.

The lovers of sounds and sights, I replied, are, as I conceive, fond of
fine tones and colours and forms and all the artificial products that
are made out of them, but their mind is incapable of seeing or loving
absolute beauty.

True, he replied.

Few are they who are able to attain to the sight of this.

Very true.

And he who, having a sense of beautiful things has no sense of absolute
beauty, or who, if another lead him to a knowledge of that beauty is
unable to follow -- of such an one I ask, Is he awake or in a dream
only? Reflect: is not the dreamer, sleeping or waking, one who likens
dissimilar things, who puts the copy in the place of the real object?

I should certainly say that such an one was dreaming.

But take the case of the other, who recognises the existence of absolute
beauty and is able to distinguish the idea from the objects which
participate in the idea, neither putting the objects in the place of the
idea nor the idea in the place of the objects -- is he a dreamer, or is
he awake?

He is wide awake.

And may we not say that the mind of the one who knows has knowledge, and
that the mind of the other, who opines only, has opinion.


But suppose that the latter should quarrel with us and dispute our
statement, can we administer any soothing cordial or advice to him,
without revealing to him that there is sad disorder in his wits?

We must certainly offer him some good advice, he replied.

Come, then, and let us think of something to say to him. Shall we begin
by assuring him that he is welcome to any knowledge which he may have,
and that we are rejoiced at his having it? But we should like to ask him
a question: Does he who has knowledge know something or nothing? (You
must answer for him.)

I answer that he knows something.

Something that is or is not?

Something that is; for how can that which is not ever be known?

And are we assured, after looking at the matter from many points of
view, that absolute being is or may be absolutely known, but that the
utterly non-existent is utterly unknown?

Nothing can be more certain.

Good. But if there be anything which is of such a nature as to be and
not to be, that will have a place intermediate between pure being and
the absolute negation of being?

Yes, between them.

And, as knowledge corresponded to being and ignorance of necessity to
not-being, for that intermediate between being and not-being there has
to be discovered a corresponding intermediate between ignorance and
knowledge, if there be such?


Do we admit the existence of opinion?


As being the same with knowledge, or another faculty?

Another faculty.

Then opinion and knowledge have to do with different kinds of matter
corresponding to this difference of faculties?


And knowledge is relative to being and knows being. But before I proceed
further I will make a division.

What division?

I will begin by placing faculties in a class by themselves: they are
powers in us, and in all other things, by which we do as we do. Sight
and hearing, for example, I should call faculties. Have I clearly
explained the class which I mean?

Yes, I quite understand.

Then let me tell you my view about them. I do not see them, and
therefore the distinctions of fire, colour, and the like, which enable
me to discern the differences of some things, do not apply to them. In
speaking of a faculty I think only of its sphere and its result; and
that which has the same sphere and the same result I call the same
faculty, but that which has another sphere and another result I call
different. Would that be your way of speaking?


And will you be so very good as to answer one more question? Would you
say that knowledge is a faculty, or in what class would you place it?

Certainly knowledge is a faculty, and the mightiest of all faculties.

And is opinion also a faculty?

Certainly, he said; for opinion is that with which we are able to form
an opinion.

And yet you were acknowledging a little while ago that knowledge is not
the same as opinion?

Why, yes, he said: how can any reasonable being ever identify that which
is infallible with that which errs?

An excellent answer, proving, I said, that we are quite conscious of a
distinction between them.


Then knowledge and opinion having distinct powers have also distinct
spheres or subject-matters?

That is certain.

Being is the sphere or subject-matter of knowledge, and knowledge is to
know the nature of being?


And opinion is to have an opinion?


And do we know what we opine? or is the subject-matter of opinion the
same as the subject-matter of knowledge?

Nay, he replied, that has been already disproven; if difference in
faculty implies difference in the sphere or subject matter, and if, as
we were saying, opinion and knowledge are distinct faculties, then the
sphere of knowledge and of opinion cannot be the same.

Then if being is the subject-matter of knowledge, something else must be
the subject-matter of opinion?

Yes, something else.

Well then, is not-being the subject-matter of opinion? or, rather, how
can there be an opinion at all about not-being? Reflect: when a man has
an opinion, has he not an opinion about something? Can he have an
opinion which is an opinion about nothing?


He who has an opinion has an opinion about some one thing?


And not-being is not one thing but, properly speaking, nothing?


Of not-being, ignorance was assumed to be the necessary correlative; of
being, knowledge?

True, he said.

Then opinion is not concerned either with being or with not-being?

Not with either.

And can therefore neither be ignorance nor knowledge?

That seems to be true.

But is opinion to be sought without and beyond either of them, in a
greater clearness than knowledge, or in a greater darkness than

In neither.

Then I suppose that opinion appears to you to be darker than knowledge,
but lighter than ignorance? 

Both; and in no small degree.

And also to be within and between them?


Then you would infer that opinion is intermediate?

No question.

But were we not saying before, that if anything appeared to be of a sort
which is and is not at the same time, that sort of thing would appear
also to lie in the interval between pure being and absolute not-being;
and that the corresponding faculty is neither knowledge nor ignorance,
but will be found in the interval between them?


And in that interval there has now been discovered something which we
call opinion?

There has.

Then what remains to be discovered is the object which partakes equally
of the nature of being and not-being, and cannot rightly be termed
either, pure and simple; this unknown term, when discovered, we may
truly call the subject of opinion, and assign each to its proper
faculty, -- the extremes to the faculties of the extremes and the mean to
the faculty of the mean. 


This being premised, I would ask the gentleman who is of opinion that
there is no absolute or unchangeable idea of beauty -- in whose opinion
the beautiful is the manifold -- he, I say, your lover of beautiful
sights, who cannot bear to be told that the beautiful is one, and the
just is one, or that anything is one -- to him I would appeal, saying,
Will you be so very kind, sir, as to tell us whether, of all these
beautiful things, there is one which will not be found ugly; or of the
just, which will not be found unjust; or of the holy, which will not
also be unholy?

No, he replied; the beautiful will in some point of view be found ugly;
and the same is true of the rest.

And may not the many which are doubles be also halves? -- doubles, that
is, of one thing, and halves of another?

Quite true.

And things great and small, heavy and light, as they are termed, will
not be denoted by these any more than by the opposite names?

True; both these and the opposite names will always attach to all of

And can any one of those many things which are called by particular
names be said to be this rather than not to be this?

He replied: They are like the punning riddles which are asked at feasts
or the children's puzzle about the eunuch aiming at the bat, with what
he hit him, as they say in the puzzle, and upon what the bat was
sitting. The individual objects of which I am speaking are also a
riddle, and have a double sense: nor can you fix them in your mind,
either as being or not-being, or both, or neither.

Then what will you do with them? I said. Can they have a better place
than between being and not-being? For they are clearly not in greater
darkness or negation than not-being, or more full of light and existence
than being.

That is quite true, he said.

Thus then we seem to have discovered that the many ideas which the
multitude entertain about the beautiful and about all other things are
tossing about in some region which is halfway between pure being and
pure not-being?

We have.

Yes; and we had before agreed that anything of this kind which we might
find was to be described as matter of opinion, and not as matter of
knowledge; being the intermediate flux which is caught and detained by
the intermediate faculty.

Quite true.

Then those who see the many beautiful, and who yet neither see absolute
beauty, nor can follow any guide who points the way thither; who see the
many just, and not absolute justice, and the like, -- such persons may
be said to have opinion but not knowledge?

That is certain.

But those who see the absolute and eternal and immutable may be said to
know, and not to have opinion only?

Neither can that be denied.

The one loves and embraces the subjects of knowledge, the other those of
opinion? The latter are the same, as I dare say will remember, who
listened to sweet sounds and gazed upon fair colours, but would not
tolerate the existence of absolute beauty.

Yes, I remember.

Shall we then be guilty of any impropriety in calling them lovers of
opinion rather than lovers of wisdom, and will they be very angry with
us for thus describing them?

I shall tell them not to be angry; no man should be angry at what is

But those who love the truth in each thing are to be called lovers of
wisdom and not lovers of opinion.



1. Book iv. para. 1, 2 ff.

2. Iliad, vii.

3. Ibid., viii.

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The Republic, a dialogue by Plato, Book 5.