Plato: The Republic

From Book 2

(Imagining the creation of a State)

I propose therefore that we inquire into the nature of justice and injustice, first as they appear in the State, and secondly in the individual, proceeding from the greater to the lesser and comparing them.

[Adeimantus] That, he said, is an excellent proposal.

[Socrates] And if we imagine the State in process of creation, we shall see the justice and injustice of the State in process of creation also.

[Adeimantus] I dare say.

[Socrates] When the State is completed there may be a hope that the object of our search will be more easily discovered.

[Adeimantus] Yes, far more easily.

[Socrates] But ought we to attempt to construct one? I said; for to do so, as I am inclined to think, will be a very serious task. Reflect therefore.

[Adeimantus] I have reflected, said Adeimantus, and am anxious that you should proceed.

[Socrates] A State, I said, arises, as I conceive, out of the needs of mankind; no one is self-sufficing, but all of us have many wants. Can any other origin of a State be imagined?

[Adeimantus] There can be no other.

[Socrates] Then, as we have many wants, and many persons are needed to supply them, one takes a helper for one purpose and another for another; and when these partners and helpers are gathered together in one habitation the body of inhabitants is termed a State.

[Adeimantus] True, he said.

[Socrates] And they exchange with one another, and one gives, and another receives, under the idea that the exchange will be for their good.

[Adeimantus] Very true.

[Socrates] Then, I said, let us begin and create in idea a State; and yet the true creator is necessity, who is the mother of our invention.

[Adeimantus] Of course, he replied.

[Socrates] Now the first and greatest of necessities is food, which is the condition of life and existence.

[Adeimantus] Certainly.

[Socrates] The second is a dwelling, and the third clothing and the like.

[Adeimantus] True.

[Socrates] And now let us see how our city will be able to supply this great demand: We may suppose that one man is a husbandman, another a builder, someone else a weaver - shall we add to them a shoemaker, or perhaps some other purveyor to our bodily wants?

[Adeimantus] Quite right.

[Socrates] The barest notion of a State must include four or five men.

[Adeimantus] Clearly.

And how will they proceed? Will each bring the result of his labours into a common stock? - the individual husbandman, for example, producing for four, and labouring four times as long and as much as he need in the provision of food with which he supplies others as well as himself; or will he have nothing to do with others and not be at the trouble of producing for them, but provide for himself alone a fourth of the food in a fourth of the time, and in the remaining three-fourths of his time be employed in making a house or a coat or a pair of shoes, having no partnership with others, but supplying himself all his own wants?

Adeimantus thought that he should aim at producing food only and not at producing everything.

[Socrates] Probably, I replied, that would be the better way; and when I hear you say this, I am myself reminded that we are not all alike; there are diversities of natures among us which are adapted to different occupations.

Very true.

[Socrates] And will you have a work better done when the workman has many occupations, or when he has only one?

When he has only one.

[Socrates] Further, there can be no doubt that a work is spoilt when not done at the right time?

No doubt.

[Socrates] For business is not disposed to wait until the doer of the business is at leisure; but the doer must follow up what he is doing, and make the business his first object.

He must.

[Socrates] And if so, we must infer that all things are produced more plentifully and easily and of a better quality when one man does one thing which is natural to him and does it at the right time, and leaves other things.


[Socrates] Then more than four citizens will be required; for the husbandman will not make his own plough or mattock, or other implements of agriculture, if they are to be good for anything. Neither will the builder make his tools - and he, too, needs many; and in like manner the weaver and shoemaker.


[Socrates] Then carpenters and smiths and many other artisans will be sharers in our little State, which is already beginning to grow?


[Socrates] Yet even if we add neatherds, shepherds, and other herdsmen, in order that our husbandmen may have oxen to plough with, and builders as well as husbandmen may have draught cattle, and curriers and weavers fleeces and hides - still our State will not be very large.

That is true; yet neither will it be a very small State which contains all these.

[Socrates] Then, again, there is the situation of the city - to find a place where nothing need be imported is well-nigh impossible.


[Socrates] Then there must be another class of citizens who will bring the required supply from another city?

There must.

[Socrates] But if the trader goes empty-handed, having nothing which they require who would supply his need, he will come back empty-handed.

That is certain.

[Socrates] And therefore what they produce at home must be not only enough for themselves, but such both in quantity and quality as to accommodate those from whom their wants are supplied.

Very true.

[Socrates] Then more husbandmen and more artisans will be required?

They will.

[Socrates] Not to mention the importers and exporters, who are called merchants?


[Socrates] Then we shall want merchants?

We shall.

[Socrates] And if merchandise is to be carried over the sea, skilful sailors will also be needed, and in considerable numbers?

Yes, in considerable numbers.

[Socrates] Then, again, within the city, how will they exchange their productions? To secure such an exchange was, as you will remember, one of our principal objects when we formed them into a society and constituted a State.

Clearly they will buy and sell.

[Socrates] Then they will need a market-place, and a money-token for purposes of exchange.


[Socrates] Suppose now that a husbandman or an artisan brings some production to market, and he comes at a time when there is no one to exchange with him - is he to leave his calling and sit idle in the market-place?

Not at all; he will find people there who, seeing the want, undertake the office of salesmen. In well-ordered States they are commonly those who are the weakest in bodily strength, and therefore of little use for any other purpose; their duty is to be in the market, and to give money in exchange for goods to those who desire to sell, and to take money from those who desire to buy.

[Socrates] This want, then, creates a class of retail-traders in our State. Is not "retailer" the term which is applied to those who sit in the market-place engaged in buying and selling, while those who wander from one city to another are called merchants?

Yes, he said.

[Socrates] And there is another class of servants, who are intellectually hardly on the level of companionship; still they have plenty of bodily strength for labour, which accordingly they sell, and are called, if I do not mistake, hirelings, "hire" being the name which is given to the price of their labour.


[Socrates] Then hirelings will help to make up our population?


[Socrates] And now, Adeimantus, is our State matured and perfected?

[Adeimantus] I think so.

The sources of justice and injustice: the consequences of luxury

[Socrates] Where, then, is justice, and where is injustice, and in what part of the State did they spring up?

[Adeimantus] Probably in the dealings of these citizens with one another. I cannot imagine that they are more likely to be found anywhere else.

[Socrates] I dare say that you are right in your suggestion, I said; we had better think the matter out, and not shrink from the inquiry.

Let us then consider, first of all, what will be their way of life, now that we have thus established them. Will they not produce corn and wine and clothes and shoes, and build houses for themselves? And when they are housed, they will work, in summer, commonly, stripped and barefoot, but in winter substantially clothed and shod. They will feed on barley-meal and flour of wheat, baking and kneading them, making noble cakes and loaves; these they will serve up on a mat of reeds or on clean leaves, themselves reclining the while upon beds strewn with yew or myrtle. And they and their children will feast, drinking of the wine which they have made, wearing garlands on their heads, and hymning the praises of the gods, in happy converse with one another. And they will take care that their families do not exceed their means; having an eye to poverty or war.

[Glaucon] But, said Glaucon, interposing, you have not given them a relish to their meal.

[Socrates] True, I replied, I had forgotten; of course they must have a relish - salt and olives and cheese - and they will boil roots and herbs such as country people prepare; for a dessert we shall give them figs and peas and beans; and they will roast myrtle-berries and acorns at the fire, drinking in moderation. And with such a diet they may be expected to live in peace and health to a good old age, and bequeath a similar life to their children after them.

[Glaucon] Yes, Socrates, he said, and if you were providing for a city of pigs, how else would you feed the beasts?

[Socrates] But what would you have, Glaucon? I replied.

[Glaucon] Why, he said, you should give them the ordinary conveniences of life. People who are to be comfortable are accustomed to lie on sofas, and dine off tables, and they should have sauces and sweets in the modern style.

[Socrates] Yes, I said, now I understand: the question which you would have me consider is, not only how a State, but how a luxurious State is created; and possibly there is no harm in this, for in such a State we shall be more likely to see how justice and injustice originate. In my opinion the true and healthy constitution of the State is the one which I have described. But if you wish also to see a State at fever-heat, I have no objection. For I suspect that many will not be satisfied with the simpler way of life. They will be for adding sofas and tables and other furniture; also dainties and perfumes and incense and courtesans and cakes, all these not of one sort only, but in every variety. We must go beyond the necessaries of which I was at first speaking, such as houses and clothes and shoes; the arts of the painter and the embroiderer will have to be set in motion, and gold and ivory and all sorts of materials must be procured.

True, he said.

Then we must enlarge our borders; for the original healthy State is no longer sufficient. Now will the city have to fill and swell with a multitude of callings which are not required by any natural want; such as the whole tribe of hunters and actors, of whom one large class have to do with forms and colours; another will be the votaries of music - poets and their attendant train of rhapsodists, players, dancers, contractors; also makers of divers kinds of articles, including women's dresses. And we shall want more servants. Will not tutors be also in request, and nurses wet and dry, tirewomen and barbers, as well as confectioners and cooks; and swineherds, too, who were not needed and therefore had no place in the former edition of our State, but are needed now? They must not be forgotten: and there will be animals of many other kinds, if people eat them.


And living in this way we shall have much greater need of physicians than before?

Much greater.

(How wealth leads to warfare and the need of soldiers)

And the country which was enough to support the original inhabitants will be too small now, and not enough?

Quite true.

[Socrates] Then a slice of our neighbours' land will be wanted by us for pasture and tillage, and they will want a slice of ours, if, like ourselves, they exceed the limit of necessity, and give themselves up to the unlimited accumulation of wealth?

[Glaucon] That, Socrates, will be inevitable.

[Socrates]And so we shall go to war, Glaucon. Shall we not?

[Glaucon] Most certainly, he replied.

[Socrates] Then, without determining as yet whether war does good or harm, thus much we may affirm, that now we have discovered war to be derived from causes which are also the causes of almost all the evils in States, private as well as public.

[Glaucon] Undoubtedly.

[Socrates] And our State must once more enlarge; and this time the enlargement will be nothing short of a whole army, which will have to go out and fight with the invaders for all that we have, as well as for the things and persons whom we were describing above.

[Glaucon] Why? he said; are they not capable of defending themselves?

[Socrates] No, I said; not if we were right in the principle which was acknowledged by all of us when we were framing the State. The principle, as you will remember, was that one man cannot practise many arts with success.

[Glaucon] Very true, he said.

[Socrates] But is not war an art?

[Glaucon] Certainly.

[Socrates] And an art requiring as much attention as shoemaking?

[Glaucon] Quite true.

(Quality needed of the soldier / guardians : philosophy)

[Socrates] And the shoemaker was not allowed by us to be a husbandman, or a weaver, or a builder - in order that we might have our shoes well made; but to him and to every other worker was assigned one work for which he was by nature fitted, and at that he was to continue working all his life long and at no other; he was not to let opportunities slip, and then he would become a good workman. Now nothing can be more important than that the work of a soldier should be well done. But is war an art so easily acquired that a man may be a warrior who is also a husbandman, or shoemaker, or other artisan; although no one in the world would be a good dice or draught player who merely took up the game as a recreation, and had not from his earliest years devoted himself to this and nothing else?

No tools will make a man a skilled workman or master of defence, nor be of any use to him who has not learned how to handle them, and has never bestowed any attention upon them. How, then, will he who takes up a shield or other implement of war become a good fighter all in a day, whether with heavyarmed or any other kind of troops?

[Glaucon] Yes, he said, the tools which would teach men their own use would be beyond price.

[Socrates] And the higher the duties of the guardian, I said, the more time and skill and art and application will be needed by him?

[Glaucon] No doubt, he replied.

[Socrates] Will he not also require natural aptitude for his calling?

[Glaucon] Certainly.

[Socrates] Then it will be our duty to select, if we can, natures which are fitted for the task of guarding the city?

[Glaucon] It will.

[Socrates] And the selection will be no easy matter, I said; but we must be brave and do our best.

[Glaucon] We must.

[Socrates] Is not the noble youth very like a well-bred dog in respect of guarding and watching?

[Glaucon] What do you mean?

I mean that both of them ought to be quick to see, and swift to overtake the enemy when they see him; and strong too if, when they have caught him, they have to fight with him.

[Glaucon] All these qualities, he replied, will certainly be required by them.

[Socrates] Well, and your guardian must be brave if he is to fight well?

[Glaucon] Certainly.

And is he likely to be brave who has no spirit, whether horse or dog or any other animal? Have you never observed how invincible and unconquerable is spirit and how the presence of it makes the soul of any creature to be absolutely fearless and indomitable?

[Glaucon] I have.

Then now we have a clear notion of the bodily qualities which are required in the guardian.

[Glaucon] True.

And also of the mental ones; his soul is to be full of spirit?

[Glaucon] Yes.

But are not these spirited natures apt to be savage with one another, and with everybody else?

[Glaucon] A difficulty by no means easy to overcome, he replied.

Whereas, I said, they ought to be dangerous to their enemies, and gentle to their friends; if not, they will destroy themselves without waiting for their enemies to destroy them.

[Glaucon] True, he said.

What is to be done, then? I said; how shall we find a gentle nature which has also a great spirit, for the one is the contradiction of the other?

[Glaucon] True.

He will not be a good guardian who is wanting in either of these two qualities; and yet the combination of them appears to be impossible; and hence we must infer that to be a good guardian is impossible.

[Glaucon] I am afraid that what you say is true, he replied.

Here feeling perplexed I began to think over what had preceded. My friend, I said, no wonder that we are in a perplexity; for we have lost sight of the image which we had before us.

[Glaucon] What do you mean? he said.

[Socrates] I mean to say that there do exist natures gifted with those opposite qualities.

[Glaucon] And where do you find them?

[Socrates] Many animals, I replied, furnish examples of them; our friend the dog is a very good one: you know that well-bred dogs are perfectly gentle to their familiars and acquaintances, and the reverse to strangers.

[Glaucon] Yes, I know.

[Socrates] Then there is nothing impossible or out of the order of nature in our finding a guardian who has a similar combination of qualities?

[Glaucon] Certainly not.

[Socrates] Would not he who is fitted to be a guardian, besides the spirited nature, need to have the qualities of a philosopher?

[Glaucon] I do not apprehend your meaning.

[Socrates] The trait of which I am speaking, I replied, may be also seen in the dog, and is remarkable in the animal.

[Glaucon] What trait?

[Socrates] Why, a dog, whenever he sees a stranger, is angry; when an acquaintance, he welcomes him, although the one has never done him any harm, nor the other any good. Did this never strike you as curious?

[Glaucon] The matter never struck me before; but I quite recognize the truth of your remark.

[Socrates] And surely this instinct of the dog is very charming; your dog is a true philosopher.

[Glaucon] Why?

[Socrates] Why, because he distinguishes the face of a friend and of an enemy only by the criterion of knowing and not knowing. And must not an animal be a lover of learning who determines what he likes and dislikes by the test of knowledge and ignorance?

[Glaucon] Most assuredly.

[Socrates] And is not the love of learning the love of wisdom, which is philosophy?

[Glaucon] They are the same, he replied.

[Socrates] And may we not say confidently of man also, that he who is likely to be gentle to his friends and acquaintances, must by nature be a lover of wisdom and knowledge?

[Glaucon] That we may safely affirm.

[Socrates] Then he who is to be a really good and noble guardian of the State will require to unite in himself philosophy and spirit and swiftness and strength?

[Glaucon] Undoubtedly.

[Socrates] Then we have found the desired natures; and now that we have found them, how are they to be reared and educated? Is not this an inquiry which may be expected to throw light on the greater inquiry which is our final end - How do justice and injustice grow up in States? for we do not want either to omit what is to the point or to draw out the argument to an inconvenient length.

(On the education of the guardians and the lies of poets: the Good)

You know also that the beginning is the most important part of any work, especially in the case of a young and tender thing; for that is the time at which the character is being formed and the desired impression is more readily taken.

Quite true.

And shall we just carelessly allow children to hear any casual tales which may be devised by casual persons, and to receive into their minds ideas for the most part the very opposite of those which we should wish them to have when they are grown up?

We cannot.

[Socrates] Then the first thing will be to establish a censorship of the writers of fiction, and let the censors receive any tale of fiction which is good, and reject the bad; and we will desire mothers and nurses to tell their children the authorized ones only. Let them fashion the mind with such tales, even more fondly than they mould the body with their hands; but most of those which are now in use must be discarded.

Of what tales are you speaking? he said.

You may find a model of the lesser in the greater, I said; for they are necessarily of the same type, and there is the same spirit in both of them.

Very likely, he replied; but I do not as yet know what you would term the greater.

Those, I said, which are narrated by Homer and Hesiod, and the rest of the poets, who have ever been the great storytellers of mankind.

But which stories do you mean, he said; and what fault do you find with them?

A fault which is most serious, I said; the fault of telling a lie, and, what is more, a bad lie.

But when is this fault committed?

Whenever an erroneous representation is made of the nature of gods and heroes - as when a painter paints a portrait not having the shadow of a likeness to the original.

Yes, he said, that sort of thing is certainly very blamable; but what are the stories which you mean?

First of all, I said, there was that greatest of all lies in high places, which the poet told about Uranus, and which was a bad lie too - I mean what Hesiod says that Uranus did, and how Cronus retaliated on him. The doings of Cronus, and the sufferings which in turn his son inflicted upon him, even if they were true, ought certainly not to be lightly told to young and thoughtless persons; if possible, they had better be buried in silence. But if there is an absolute necessity for their mention, a chosen few might hear them in a mystery, and they should sacrifice not a common [Eleusinian] pig, but some huge and unprocurable victim; and then the number of the hearers will be very few indeed.

Why, yes, said he, those stories are extremely objectionable.

[Socrates] Yes, Adeimantus, they are stories not to be repeated in our State; the young man should not be told that in committing the worst of crimes he is far from doing anything outrageous; and that even if he chastises his father when he does wrong, in whatever manner, he will only be following the example of the first and greatest among the gods.

I entirely agree with you, he said; in my opinion those stories are quite unfit to be repeated.

[Socrates] Neither, if we mean our future guardians to regard the habit of quarrelling among themselves as of all things the basest, should any word be said to them of the wars in heaven, and of the plots and fightings of the gods against one another, for they are not true. No, we shall never mention the battles of the giants, or let them be embroidered on garments; and we shall be silent about the innumerable other quarrels of gods and heroes with their friends and relatives. If they would only believe us we would tell them that quarrelling is unholy, and that never up to this time has there been any quarrel between citizens; this is what old men and old women should begin by telling children; and when they grow up, the poets also should be told to compose them in a similar spirit. But the narrative of Hephaestus binding Hera his mother, or how on another occasion Zeus sent him flying for taking her part when she was being beaten, and all the battles of the gods in Homer - these tales must not be admitted into our State, whether they are supposed to have an allegorical meaning or not. For a young person cannot judge what is allegorical and what is literal; anything that he receives into his mind at that age is likely to become indelible and unalterable; and therefore it is most important that the tales which the young first hear should be models of virtuous thoughts.

There you are right, he replied; but if anyone asks where are such models to be found and of what tales are you speaking - how shall we answer him?

[Socrates] I said to him, You and I, Adeimantus, at this moment are not poets, but founders of a State: now the founders of a State ought to know the general forms in which poets should cast their tales, and the limits which must be observed by them, but to make the tales is not their business.

Very true, he said; but what are these forms of theology which you mean?

[Socrates] Something of this kind, I replied: God is always to be represented as he truly is, whatever be the sort of poetry, epic, lyric, or tragic, in which the representation is given.


[Socrates] And is he not truly good? and must he not be represented as such?


[Socrates] And no good thing is hurtful?

No, indeed.

[Socrates] And that which is not hurtful hurts not?

Certainly not.

[Socrates] And that which hurts not does no evil?


[Socrates] And can that which does no evil be a cause of evil?


[Socrates] And the good is advantageous?


[Socrates] And therefore the cause of well-being?


[Socrates] It follows, therefore, that the good is not the cause of all things, but of the good only?


[Socrates] Then God, if he be good, is not the author of all things, as the many assert, but he is the cause of a few things only, and not of most things that occur to men. For few are the goods of human life, and many are the evils, and the good is to be attributed to God alone; of the evils the causes are to be sought elsewhere, and not in him.

That appears to me to be most true, he said.

[Socrates] Then we must not listen to Homer or to any other poet who is guilty of the folly of saying that two casks

"Lie at the threshold of Zeus, full of lots, one of good, the other of evil lots,"

and that he to whom Zeus gives a mixture of the two

"Sometimes meets with evil fortune, at other times with good;"

but that he to whom is given the cup of unmingled ill,

"Him wild hunger drives o'er the beauteous earth."

And again -

"Zeus, who is the dispenser of good and evil to us."

And if anyone asserts that the violation of oaths and treaties, which was really the work of Pandarus, was brought about by Athene and Zeus, or that the strife and contention of the gods were instigated by Themis and Zeus, he shall not have our approval; neither will we allow our young men to hear the words of Aeschylus, that

"God plants guilt among men when he desires utterly to destroy a house."

And if a poet writes of the sufferings of Niobe - the subject of the tragedy in which these iambic verses occur - or of the house of Pelops, or of the Trojan War or on any similar theme, either we must not permit him to say that these are the works of God, or if they are of God, he must devise some explanation of them such as we are seeking: he must say that God did what was just and right, and they were the better for being punished; but that those who are punished are miserable, and that God is the author of their misery - the poet is not to be permitted to say; though he may say that the wicked are miserable because they require to be punished, and are benefited by receiving punishment from God; but that God being good is the author of evil to anyone is to be strenuously denied, and not to be said or sung or heard in verse or prose by anyone whether old or young in any well-ordered commonwealth. Such a fiction is suicidal, ruinous, impious.

I agree with you, he replied, and am ready to give my assent to the law.

[Socrates] Let this then be one of our rules and principles concerning the gods, to which our poets and reciters will be expected to conform - that God is not the author of all things, but of good only.

That will do, he said.

[Socrates] And what do you think of a second principle? Shall I ask you whether God is a magician, and of a nature to appear insidiously now in one shape, and now in another - sometimes himself changing and passing into many forms, sometimes deceiving us with the semblance of such transformations; or is he one and the same immutably fixed in his own proper image?

I cannot answer you, he said, without more thought.

Well, I said; but if we suppose a change in anything, that change must be effected either by the thing itself or by some other thing?

Most certainly.

And things which are at their best are also least liable to be altered or discomposed; for example, when healthiest and strongest, the human frame is least liable to be affected by meats and drinks, and the plant which is in the fullest vigour also suffers least from winds or the heat of the sun or any similar causes.

Of course.

And will not the bravest and wisest soul be least confused or deranged by any external influence?


And the same principle, as I should suppose, applies to all composite things - furniture, houses, garments: when good and well made, they are least altered by time and circumstances.

Very true.

Then everything which is good, whether made by art or nature, or both, is least liable to suffer change from without?


But surely God and the things of God are in every way perfect?

Of course they are.

Then he can hardly be compelled by external influence to take many shapes?

He cannot.

But may he not change and transform himself?

Clearly, he said, that must be the case if he is changed at all.

And will he then change himself for the better and fairer, or for the worse and more unsightly?

If he change at all he can only change for the worse, for we cannot suppose him to be deficient either in virtue or beauty.

Very true, Adeimantus; but then, would anyone, whether God or man, desire to make himself worse?


Then it is impossible that God should ever be willing to change; being, as is supposed, the fairest and best that is conceivable, every God remains absolutely and forever in his own form.

That necessarily follows, he said, in my judgment.

Then, I said, my dear friend, let none of the poets tell us that

"The gods, taking the disguise of strangers from other lands, walk up and down cities in all sorts of forms;"

and let no one slander Proteus and Thetis, neither let anyone, either in tragedy or in any other kind of poetry, introduce Here disguised in the likeness of a priestess asking an alms

"For the life-giving daughters of Inachus the river of Argos;"

- let us have no more lies of that sort. Neither must we have mothers under the influence of the poets scaring their children with a bad version of these myths - telling how certain gods, as they say, "Go about by night in the likeness of so many strangers and in divers forms;" but let them take heed lest they make cowards of their children, and at the same time speak blasphemy against the gods.

Heaven forbid, he said.

(On the true nature of God)

But although the gods are themselves unchangeable, still by witchcraft and deception they may make us think that they appear in various forms?

Perhaps, he replied.

Well, but can you imagine that God will be willing to lie, whether in word or deed, or to put forth a phantom of himself?

I cannot say, he replied.

Do you not know, I said, that the true lie, if such an expression may be allowed, is hated of gods and men?

What do you mean? he said.

I mean that no one is willingly deceived in that which is the truest and highest part of himself, or about the truest and highest matters; there, above all, he is most afraid of a lie having possession of him.

Still, he said, I do not comprehend you.

The reason is, I replied, that you attribute some profound meaning to my words; but I am only saying that deception, or being deceived or uninformed about the highest realities in the highest part of themselves, which is the soul, and in that part of them to have and to hold the lie, is what mankind least like; - that, I say, is what they utterly detest.

There is nothing more hateful to them.

And, as I was just now remarking, this ignorance in the soul of him who is deceived may be called the true lie; for the lie in words is only a kind of imitation and shadowy image of a previous affection of the soul, not pure unadulterated falsehood. Am I not right?

Perfectly right.

The true lie is hated not only by the gods, but also by men?


[Socrates] Whereas the lie in words is in certain cases useful and not hateful; in dealing with enemies - that would be an instance; or again, when those whom we call our friends in a fit of madness or illusion are going to do some harm, then it is useful and is a sort of medicine or preventive; also in the tales of mythology, of which we were just now speaking - because we do not know the truth about ancient times, we make falsehood as much like truth as we can, and so turn it to account.

[Socrates] Very true, he said.

[Socrates] But can any of these reasons apply to God? Can we suppose that he is ignorant of antiquity, and therefore has recourse to invention?

That would be ridiculous, he said.

[Socrates] Then the lying poet has no place in our idea of God?

I should say not.

[Socrates] Or perhaps he may tell a lie because he is afraid of enemies?

That is inconceivable.

[Socrates] But he may have friends who are senseless or mad?

But no mad or senseless person can be a friend of God.

[Socrates] Then no motive can be imagined why God should lie?

None whatever.

[Socrates] Then the superhuman, and divine, is absolutely incapable of falsehood?


[Socrates] Then is God perfectly simple and true both in word and deed; he changes not; he deceives not, either by sign or word, by dream or waking vision.

Your thoughts, he said, are the reflection of my own.

[Socrates] You agree with me then, I said, that this is the second type or form in which we should write and speak about divine things. The gods are not magicians who transform themselves, neither do they deceive mankind in any way.

I grant that.

[Socrates] Then, although we are admirers of Homer, we do not admire the lying dream which Zeus sends to Agamemnon; neither will we praise the verses of Aeschylus in which Thetis says that Apollo at her nuptials

"was celebrating in song her fair progeny whose days were to be long, and to know no sickness. And when he had spoken of my lot as in all things blessed of heaven, he raised a note of triumph and cheered my soul. And I thought that the word of Phoebus, being divine and full of prophecy, would not fail. And now he himself who uttered the strain, he who was present at the banquet, and who said this - he it is who has slain my son."

These are the kind of sentiments about the gods which will arouse our anger; and he who utters them shall be refused a chorus; neither shall we allow teachers to make use of them in the instruction of the young, meaning, as we do, that our guardians, as far as men can be, should be true worshippers of the gods and like them.

I entirely agree, he said, in these principles, and promise to make them my laws.

From Book 3

(On excluding poets and other corrupting influences)

. . . in our State, and in our State only, we shall find a shoemaker to be a shoemaker and not a pilot also, and a husbandman to be a husbandman and not a dicast also, and a soldier a soldier and not a trader also, and the same throughout?

True, he said.

And therefore when any one of these pantomimic gentlemen, who are so clever that they can imitate anything, comes to us, and makes a proposal to exhibit himself and his poetry, we will fall down and worship him as a sweet and holy and wonderful being; but we must also inform him that in our State such as he are not permitted to exist; the law will not allow them. And so when we have anointed him with myrrh, and set a garland of wool upon his head, we shall send him away to another city. For we mean to employ for our souls' health the rougher and severer poet or story-teller, who will imitate the style of the virtuous only, and will follow those models which we prescribed at first when we began the education of our soldiers.

. . . are the poets only to be required by us to express the image of the good in their works, on pain, if they do anything else, of expulsion from our State? Or is the same control to be extended to other artists, and are they also to be prohibited from exhibiting the opposite forms of vice and intemperance and meanness and indecency in sculpture and building and the other creative arts; and is he who cannot conform to this rule of ours to be prevented from practising his art in our State, lest the taste of our citizens be corrupted by him? We would not have our guardians grow up amid images of moral deformity, as in some noxious pasture, and there browse and feed upon many a baneful herb and flower day by day, little by little, until they silently gather a festering mass of corruption in their own soul. Let our artists rather be those who are gifted to discern the true nature of the beautiful and graceful; then will our youth dwell in a land of health, amid fair sights and sounds, and receive the good in everything; and beauty, the effluence of fair works, shall flow into the eye and ear, like a health-giving breeze from a purer region, and insensibly draw the soul from earliest years into likeness and sympathy with the beauty of reason.

There can be no nobler training than that, he replied.

(On the lifestyle of soldiers and rulers)

And therefore every care must be taken that our auxiliaries, being stronger than our citizens, may not grow to be too much for them and become savage tyrants instead of friends and allies?

Yes, great care should be taken.

And would not a really good education furnish the best safeguard?

But they are well-educated already, he replied.

I cannot be so confident, my dear Glaucon, I said; I am much more certain that they ought to be, and that true education, whatever that may be, will have the greatest tendency to civilize and humanize them in their relations to one another, and to those who are under their protection.

Very true, he replied.

And not only their education, but their habitations, and all that belongs to them, should be such as will neither impair their virtue as guardians, nor tempt them to prey upon the other citizens. Any man of sense must acknowledge that.

He must.

Then now let us consider what will be their way of life, if they are to realize our idea of them. In the first place, none of them should have any property of his own beyond what is absolutely necessary; neither should they have a private house or store closed against anyone who has a mind to enter; their provisions should be only such as are required by trained warriors, who are men of temperance and courage; they should agree to receive from the citizens a fixed rate of pay, enough to meet the expenses of the year and no more; and they will go to mess and live together like soldiers in a camp. Gold and silver we will tell them that they have from God; the diviner metal is within them, and they have therefore no need of the dross which is current among men, and ought not to pollute the divine by any such earthly admixture; for that commoner metal has been the source of many unholy deeds, but their own is undefiled. And they alone of all the citizens may not touch or handle silver or gold, or be under the same roof with them, or wear them, or drink from them. And this will be their salvation, and they will be the saviours of the State. But should they ever acquire homes or lands or moneys of their own, they will become good housekeepers and husbandmen instead of guardians, enemies and tyrants instead of allies of the other citizens; hating and being hated, plotting and being plotted against, they will pass their whole life in much greater terror of internal than of external enemies, and the hour of ruin, both to themselves and to the rest of the State, will be at hand. For all which reasons may we not say that thus shall our State be ordered, and that these shall be the regulations appointed by us for our guardians concerning their houses and all other matters?

Yes, said Glaucon.

The Ring of Gyges

 [Gyges of Lydia was a shepherd in the service of King Candaules of Lydia. After an earthquake, a cave was revealed in a mountainside where Gyges was feeding his flock. Entering the cave, Gyges discovered that it was in fact a tomb with a bronze horse containing a corpse, larger than that of a man, who wore a golden ring, which Gyges pocketed. He discovered that the ring gave him the power to become invisible by adjusting it. Gyges then arranged to be chosen as one of the messengers who reported to the king as to the status of the flocks. Arriving at the palace, Gyges used his new power of invisibility to seduce the queen, and with her help he murdered the king, and became king of Lydia himself. King Croesus, famous for his wealth, was Gyges' descendant.]
Glaucon argues that morality is a social construction, whose source is the desire to maintain one's reputation for virtue and honesty; when that sanction is removed, moral character would evaporate. However, Glaucon does not actually hold this belief; he merely produces this tale so that Socrates' argument for justice can be made stronger:
Suppose now that there were two such magic rings, and the just put on one of them and the unjust the other; no man can be imagined to be of such an iron nature that he would stand fast in justice. No man would keep his hands off what was not his own when he could safely take what he liked out of the market, or go into houses and lie with any one at his pleasure, or kill or release from prison whom he would, and in all respects be like a god among men. Then the actions of the just would be as the actions of the unjust; they would both come at last to the same point. And this we may truly affirm to be a great proof that a man is just, not willingly or because he thinks that justice is any good to him individually, but of necessity, for wherever any one thinks that he can safely be unjust, there he is unjust. For all men believe in their hearts that injustice is far more profitable to the individual than justice, and he who argues as I have been supposing, will say that they are right. If you could imagine any one obtaining this power of becoming invisible, and never doing any wrong or touching what was another's, he would be thought by the lookers-on to be a most wretched idiot, although they would praise him to one another's faces, and keep up appearances with one another from a fear that they too might suffer injustice.
— Plato's Republic, book 2

The Allegory of the Cave

From Book VII of the Republic: The Image of the Cave:

"Imagine mankind as dwelling in an underground cave with a long entrance open to the light across the whole width of the cave; in this they have been from childhood, with necks and legs fettered, so they have to stay where they are.  They cannot move their heads round because of the fetters, and they can only look forward, but light comes to them from fire burning behind them higher up at a distance.  Between the fire and the prisoners is a road above their level, and along it imagine a low wall has been built... Bearers are carrying along this road all sorts of articles which they hold projecting above the wall, statues of men and other living things, made of stone or wood." (... )
"What a remarkable image," he said, "and what remarkable prisoners!  "
"Just like ourselves," I said.  "For, first of all, tell me this: What do you think such people would have seen of themselves and each other except their shadows, which the fire cast on the opposite wall of the cave?"
"I don't see how they could see anything else," said he, "if they were compelled to keep their heads unmoving all their lives!"
"Very well, what of the things being carried along?  Would not this be the same?"
"Of course it would."
'Suppose the prisoners were able to talk together, don't you think that when they named the shadows which they saw passing they would believe they were naming things?"
"Indeed I do."
"If so," said I, "such persons would certainly believe that there were no realities except those shadows of handmade things."
"So it must be," he said.
"Now consider what their release would be like, and their cure from these fetters and their folly; let us imagine... One might be released, and compelled suddenly to stand up and turn round and to walk and look towards the firelight; all this would hurt him, and he would be too dazzled to see distinctly those things whose shadows he had seen before. What do you think he would say, if someone told him that what he saw before was foolery, but now he saw more rightly, being a bit nearer reality and turned towards what was a little more real?  What if he were shown each of the passing things, and compelled by questions to answer what each one was?  Don't you think he would be puzzled, and believe what he saw before was more true than what was shown to him now?"
"Far more."
"Then suppose he were compelled to look towards the real light, it would hurt his eyes, and he would escape by turning them away to the things he was able to look at, and these he would believe to be clearer than what was being shown to him."
"Just so."
"Suppose, now, that someone should drag him up the rough ascent, the steep way up, and never stop until he could drag him out into the light of the sun, would he not be distressed and furious at being drag­ged; and when he came into the light, the brilliance would fill his eyes and he would not be able to see even one of the things now called real?"
"That he would not," he said, "all of a sudden."
"He would have to get used to it, surely, I think, if he is to see the things above.  First he would most easily look at the shadows, after that the images of mankind and the rest in water, lastly the things them­selves.  After this he would find it easier to survey by night the heavens themselves and all that is in them, gazing at the light of the stars and moon, rather than by day the sun and the sun's light... Last of all, I suppose, the sun; he could look on the sun itself by itself in its own place, and see what it was like, not reflections of it in water or as it appears in some alien setting."
"And only after this he might reason about it, how this is he who provides seasons and years, and is set over all there is in the visible region, and he is in a manner the cause of all things which they saw."

The myth of  Er

A legend that concludes Plato's dialogue known as The Republic (10.614-10.621).
The story begins as a man named Er dies in battle. When the bodies of those who died in the battle are collected, ten days after his death, Er remains undecomposed. Two days later he revives when on his funeral-pyre and tells of his journey in the afterlife, including an account of reincarnation and the celestial spheres. The tale introduces the idea that moral people are rewarded and immoral people punished after death.

With many other souls as his companions Er had come across an awesome place with four openings, two into and out of the sky and two into and out of the earth. Judges sat between these openings and ordered the souls which path to follow: the good were guided into the path in the sky, the immoral were directed below. But when Er approached the judges he was told to remain, listening and observing in order to report his experience to humankind.
Meanwhile from the other opening in the sky, clean souls floated down, recounting beautiful sights and wondrous feelings. Others, returning from the earth, appeared dirty, haggard and tired, crying in despair when recounting their awful experience, as each was required to pay a tenfold penalty for all the wicked deeds committed when alive. There were some, however, that could not be released from the underground. Murderers, tyrants and other non-political criminals were doomed to remain by the exit of the underground, unable to escape.
After seven days in the meadow the souls and Er were required to travel further. After four days they reached a place where they could see a rainbow shaft of light brighter than any they had seen before. After another day's travel they reached it. This was the spindle of Necessity. Several women, including Lady Necessity, her daughters and the Sirens were present. The souls were then organized into rows and were each given a lottery token apart from Er.
Then of their lottery tokens, they were required to come forward in order and choose their next life. Er recalled the first to choose a new soul, a man who had not known the terrors of the underground, but had been rewarded in the sky, hastily chose a powerful dictatorship. Upon further inspection he realized that, among other atrocities, he was destined to eat his own children. Er observed that this was often the case of those who had been through the path in the sky, whereas those who had been punished often chose a better life. Many preferred a life different from their previous experience. Animals chose human lives while humans often chose the apparently easier lives of animals.
After this each soul was assigned a deity to help them through their life. They passed under the throne of Lady Necessity, then traveled to the Plain of Oblivion, where the River of Forgetfulness (River Lethe) flowed. Each soul was required to drink some of the water, in varying quantities, apart from Er. As they drank, each soul forgot everything. As they lay down at night to sleep each soul was lifted up into the night in various directions for rebirth, completing their journey. Er remembered nothing of the journey back to his body. He opened his eyes to find himself lying on the funeral pyre, early in the morning, and able to recall his journey through the afterlife.
In the dialogue Socrates introduces the story by explaining to his questioner, Glaucon, that the soul must be immortal. The soul cannot be damaged or destroyed by its defect, immorality, unlike food, which will perish should it become mouldy. Neither can the soul be destroyed by any outer defect, illness for instance. In order to explain his theory that the morally benevolent are rewarded after death, and that the opposite is true of immoral people, Socrates tells Glaucon the "Myth of Er".