translated by A.D. Lindsay
(London, David Campbell, Everyman Library, 1992)
If our world and Homers are no longer the same, that is largely because of Plato.
Plato’s paternalistic political authoritarianism, his radical metaphysical distinction between a sensible and an intelligible world, only the latter of which can be known, his conviction that the moral life can guarantee happiness, his exclusion of what we know consider as literature from his ideal state, his conviction that philosophers should be given ultimate political power, his proposal for the common possession of spouses and children among the elite of his city - these are all views which, if they can be contemplated at all, are nothing short of wildly controversial.
Plato realizes that the nature of the good human life cannot be determined independently of the place of human beings within society; that the nature of society depends on the education of its citizens; that proper education requires a view of knowledge and of the nature of the world that can be known; that theories of knowledge presuppose psychological accounts of the individual that are to be educated; that psychology dictates particular attitudes toward the arts.
The Republic is therefore not only a work of philosophy. It is in fact the first work of philosophy ever written. … The Republic inaugurates philosophy as a practice and discipline and establishes what we still consider its nature. … from now on, reason becomes essential in defining what counts as human and in solving both private and public problems. The emphasis on rationality, on the existence of objective truth, and on the unbreakable connection between the search for truth and the attainments of happiness are the features that separate Plato’s world from Homer’s. For the first time, wisdom replaces glory as the true aim of human life.
The Republic praises the most abstract, rigorous and theoretical mods of thought at the expense of the practical, the rhetorical and the literary.
The Republic argues for, but also seduces us into, rationality.
The Republic … attempts .. to paint a picture in which the life of justice is the best and happiest human life.
Anything that has a function has a corresponding aretê which it exhibits when it performs that function well.
Aretê refers to whatever it is that makes something a good instance of its kind.
We might try to understand aretê as the quality which makes something outstanding in its group, as the feature that accounts for its justified notability.
A fruitful way of reading this work is to see it in party as an attempt to rehabilitate Socrates in the eyes of the world.
Socrates was not only unrecognized as a good man; on the contrary, he was executed as a common criminal, charged with impiety and with undermining the faith of the young in the city’s traditional values.
Justice, even totally undetected, brings happiness in its train; injustice, even completely unexposed, makes for a miserable life.
Plato believes that … the just and the moral life guarantee happiness, and therefore people in their right mind will always choose them over any other alternative.
Justice in the city is exactly like justice in the soul writ large’.
We also censor children’s educational material - and we do it on similar grounds.
Poetry, he claimed, inevitably confuses its audience’s ability to discriminate between reality and imitation, between authentic and fake; it is essentially suited for depicting vulgar and repulsive subjects: good characters do not make for good dramatic material; finally, it predisposes its audience, even ‘the best among us’, by enjoying in imagination what it abhors in reality, to life in profoundly harmful ways.
Justice often refers to being satisfied with one’s possessions, to not desiring what others have. No class in the city wants more than what naturally belongs to it, none attempts to usurp the prerogatives of the others. This is for Plato the definition of social justice.
Social justice is not Plato’s ultimate goal. What he wants to show is that the just individual leads the happiest life.
Plato defines justice as the healthy state of the soul.
Self-control, measure, and rationality ensure that one is an outstanding human being. And being outstanding is the most important element in being a happy person, a person who has the right desires and the ability to satisfy them.
The ability to rule oneself is the best qualification for the responsibility of ruling the city. The pursuit of knowledge makes one the best possible human being.
Philosophy for Plato consists essentially in the belief that the world possesses an intelligible nature distinct from the sensible appearances with which we are generally acquainted. The intelligible is more real and more valuable than the sensible, and the object of any knowledge we can ever have.
Knowledge, goodness and happiness re one, thought they can only be achieved by a very few people.
Plato’s identification of knowledge with goodness represents a rationalism of the most extreme sort.
Today we believe in the value of freedom, even if it results in the gravest of errors. He was unwilling to sacrifice happiness, even if it meant renouncing autonomy.
We never appraise skill by the selfishness of the man who exercises it, but by the advantage it confers on those upon or among whom it is exercised.
If we find that society is a natural expression of men’s natures, we may conclude that social justice is the natural expression of the justice and injustice in society.
The soldiers or guardians must be brave and yet gentle. Such a result can only be produced by making them lovers of wisdom, and for that education is necessary.
The aim of early education is not to impart information, but to produce a certain type of character.
Socrates asserts that a love of litigation and a desire for elaborate medical remedies are equally signs of a wrongly educated character.
There are four, and only four, important virtues which we may expect to find in the city - wisdom, courage, temperance, and justice.
The virtues of the state are the virtues of its citizens.
Social justice is simply the social expression of this condition of the soul.
People who recognize only particular things which they can see or touch have no knowledge, but only belief or opinion, and their belief has for its object what is half real and half unreal, the changing unstable world of sense.
A love of truth implies all other virtues. The true philosopher will be inevitably lofty-minded ad gracious, a lover and a kinsman of truth, justice, courage, and temperance.
The name of philosopher is usurped by those unworthy of it, and so philosophy is brought into disrepute.
There is no value in knowing everything in the world unless that helps us to know the good.
Plato represents knowledge as a kind of conversion of the soul from darkness to light.
The state will then have rulers who regard office as a duty forced upon them, not as a prize to quarrel about or an opportunity for plunder.
The character of a state is the result of the character of its inhabitants.
I find that as I lose my taste for bodily pleasures, I grow more eager than ever for discussion, and enjoy it more.
Old age lays but a moderate burden on men who have order and peace within themselves, but ill-governed natures find youth and old age alike irksome.
Those who have made their money are twice as much attached to it as others; for as poets love their poems and fathers their children, just so money-makers value their money, not only for its uses, as other people do, but because it is their own production.
When a man faces the thought that he must die, there come upon him fear and foreboding about things that have not troubled him before.
To harm either his friend or any man is not the function of the just man.
It is never just to injure any man.
It is befitting surely to learn from wisdom.
No science either prescribes or seeks the advantage of the stronger, but the advantage of the weaker over which it rules.
The benefit of each art is confined to that art.
No art of government provides what is for its own benefit, but, as we said long ago, it provides and prescribes what is for the benefit of the subject, seeking the advantage of him who is weaker, not the advantage of the stronger.
A true ruler is in reality one who seeks not his own advantage but the advantage of the subject.
A man is good in the same respects as he is wise, and evil in the same respects as he is unwise.
The just man is like the good man and wise, but the unjust man like the bad and unlearned.
The just man is revealed to us as good and wise, but the unjust man as unlearned and bad.
We had now agreed to rank justice with virtue and wisdom, and injustice with vice and ignorance.
Don’t assent to what you don’t believe.
If this is your desire, follow it, and I shall ask questions.
Injustice and hatred make men quarrel and fight with one another, while justice makes them friendly and of ne mind.
The unjust man … will be the enemy, the just the friend of the gods.
The just are shown to be the wiser, the better, and the more capable in action; the unjust are unable even to act together.
The subject of our argument is no Trifling matter. It is the question of the right manner of life.
The function of each thing is that for which it is the indispensable or the t gest instrument.
Everything which has a function has also a corresponding virtue.
Things perform their own function well by reason of their proper virtue, badly by reason of the corresponding vice.
Justice is a virtue of the soul, and injustice a vice.
Do not be content with proving to us in your argument that justice is stronger than injustice, but show what effect each has in him who possesses it, that makes the one in itself and for itself good, and the other bad.
Do not be content with proving ot us that justice is stronger than injustice, but show what effect they each have on their possessors that makes them in themselves and by themselves, whether or not they be hid from gods and men, the one good and the other bad.
Justice, we say, is the attribute of an individual, but also of a whole city.
The origin of city … is, in my opinion, due to the fact that no one of us is sufficient for himself, but each is in need of many things.
The most important part of every task is the beginning of it. … For even then it can be most easily moulded, and whatever impression any one cares to stamp upon it sinks i.
We must not allow the poet to sat that those who were punished were miserable, and that God made them so. But we must allow them to say that the bad were miserable because they needed punishment, and were benefited by being punished at God’s hand. We must contend with all our might against the assertion that God, who is good, is the author of evil to any man.
Everything that is at its best, either in nature or in art, or both, suffers least change from without.
No one deliberately wishes to lie in the most vital part of him about the most vital matters. Every one fears above all to harbour a lie in that quarter.
God is simple and true in word and deed, he does not change himself; nor does he delude others, either in phantasies or words, or by sending signs, whether in waking moments or in dreams.
When any man indulges in excessive laughter, it is almost always followed by an equally violent reaction.
We must stop such stories lest they breed in our young men a ready disposition to evil.
We must not aim at a variety of rhythms with all kinds of metrical feet, but must discover what are the rhythms of an orderly and brave life. When we have done so, we must make our metre and our melody to suit the words describing such a life, and not make words to site metre and melody.
Good speech and good music, and grave and good rhythm, follow good nature, not that silliness which we call good nature in compliment, but the mind that is really well and nobly constituted in character.
Absence of grace and bad rhythm, and bad harmony are sisters to bad words and bad nature, while their opposites are sisters and copies of the opposite, a wise and good nature.
We must speak to our poets and compel them to impress upon their poems only the image of the good, or not to make poetry in our city.
We must seek out those craftsmen wo have the happy gift of tracing out the nature of the fair and graceful, that our young men may dwell as in a health-giving region where all that surrounds them is beneficent, whencesoever from fair works of art there smite upon their eyes and ears an affluence like a wind bringing health from happy regions, which, though they know it not, leads them from their earliest years into likeness and friendship and harmony with the principle of beauty.
Is not musical education of paramount importance for those reasons, because rhythm and harmony enter most powerfully into the innermost part of the soul and lay forcible hands upon it, bearing grace with them, so making graceful him who is rightly trained, and him who is not, the reverse?
That which is fairest is most to be beloved.
It is not my opinion that a healthy body by its excellence makes the soul good. The opposite is the case. A good soul by its excellence makes the body as good as it can be.
If a man’s mind is to be noble and good, and to judge just deeds in a sound way, he must from early years have been without experience of or part in evil dispositions.
A good judge must not be young, but old, one who has learned late in life the nature of wickedness, not from taking note of the wickedness dwelling in his own heart, but from having learned to understand wickedness in the hearts of others, so that he has knowledge, though not personal experience, of how evil it is.
I call it violence when pain or suffering makes men change their beliefs.
All things that deceive may be said to bewitch.
The first and weightiest command of God to the rulers is this - that more than aught else they be good guardians of and watch zealously over the offspring.
In the first place, no one shall have any private property, unless it is absolutely necessary. Secondly, no one shall have dwelling-place or storehouse which any one who pleases may not freely enter.
Our purpose in founding the city was not to make any one class in it surpassingly happy, but to make the city as a whole as happy as possible.
The city may go on increasing so long as it can grow without losing its unity, but no further.
Citizens as well as the guardians must be set each to the task for which nature has fitted him, one man one task, that so each citizen doing his own particular work may become one man and not many and thus the whole city may grow to be not many cities, but one.
When amusements re lawless the children are the same, and it is impossible that they should grow up law-abiding and good men.
The direction given by education will determine the course of all that follows.
‘Temperance,” I said, “is surely an ordering and a control of certain pleasures and desires, as is declared by the common but mysterious expression that a man is master of himself.’
There is in the man himself, that is, in his soul, a better and a worse, and when the better has by nature control of the worse, then, as we say, the man is master of himself.
The wisdom and the courage which make the city wise and courageous reside each in a particular part, but temperance is spread through the whole alike.
So far as the mere form of justice is concerned, the just man will in no way differ from the just city, but will be the same.
It is obvious that the same thing will not at one and the same time, in the same part of it, and in the same relation, do two opposite things or be in two opposite states.
The soul of him who desires seeks after that which he desires, whatever it may be, or attracts to himself that which he wishes to have.
All men, they say, desire things that are good. Therefore, since thirst is a desire, it will be a desire for something good - drink, or whatever it may be - and similarly with other desires.
Justice, as it appears, is something of this kind. But it does not concern a man’s management of his own external affairs, but his internal management of his soul, his truest self and his truest possessions. The just man does not allow the different principles within him to do other work than their own, nor the distinct classes in his soul to interfere with one another.
Does not just action likewise produce justice, and unjust action injustice?
‘To produce justice,’ I said, ‘is to put the parts of the soul in their natural relations of authority or subservience, while to produce injustice is to disturb this natural relation.
Virtue, seemingly will be a kind of health and beauty and good condition of the soul, vice a disease and ugliness and weakness.
To speak with knowledge of the truth about matters dear to us and of the highest importance among men of understanding who are our friends is a thing that may be done with assurance and safety.
There is not one of those pursuits by which the city is ordered which belongs to women as women, or to men as men; but natural aptitudes are equally distributed in both kinds of creatures. Women naturally participate in all occupations, and so do men; but in all women are weaker than men.
The common saying will ever be the fairest saying, that the useful is beautiful and the harmful ugly.
That these men should be all of them wives in common of all these men, and that no woman should live with any man privately, and that their children too should be common, and the parent should not know his own offspring nor the child its parent.
Both sexes will live together, with common houses and common meals, no one possessing any private property; and associating with one another in the gymnasia and in the rest of their daily life, they will be led, I imagine, by an inherent necessity to form alliances.
Promiscuous unions or anything of that kind would be a profanation in a state of happy citizens, and the guardians will not allow it.
Our rulers will have to administer a great quantity of falsehood and deceit for the benefit of the ruled.
The best of both sexes ought to be brought together as often as possible, the worst as seldom as possible, and that we should rear the offspring of the first, but not the offspring of the second.
To our young men who acquit themselves well in war or other duties we may give, along with other rewards and prizes, a more unrestricted right of cohabitation in order that there may be a colourable excuse for such fathers having as many children as possible.
Taking every precaution to prevent any woman knowing her own child.
The proper time is to begin at twenty years and bear children for the city until she is forty; for a man the proper time to begin is when he has seen “the swiftest prime of his running” go by, and to beget children for the state until fifty-five.
Will not lawsuits and prosecutions almost have disappeared if their own persons are their only private property and everything else is common? Will they not, therefore, be free from all those quarrels that arise among men from the possession of money, or children, or kinsmen?
We shall authorize the elder to rule over and chastise all the younger.
Both sexes will go to war together, and will take with them such of the children as are strong enough, that, like the children of other craftsmen, they may have a sight of what they will have to do when they are grown up. Besides looking on, they will have to give the general help and service required in war, and assist their fathers and mothers.
We must arrange, then, that the children should see war and contrive that they shall do so safely.
Sedition is the name given to the enmity of what is akin; war that given to the enmity of what is alien.
I declare the Greek race to be akin and related to themselves, but foreign and alien to the barbarians.
When Greeks and barbarians fight, we say that they are natural enemies, warring against one another, and this enmity is to be called war; but when Greeks fight with Greeks, we shall declare that naturally they are friends, and that when anything of this kind occurs, Greece is sick and attacked by sedition, and this kind of enmity is to be called sedition.
It is a search after the nature of justice that has brought us to this point.
Only if we discover what justice is like, shall we expect that the just man must in no way differ from this conception, but be in every respect the same as justice is? or shall we be content if he comes very close to it, and partakes of it more than any one else?
Can anything be done as it is spoken, or is it nature that action should lay less hold of truth than speech?
The lover of wisdom or the philosopher has an appetite for wisdom, not for some to the exclusion of other wisdom, but for all.
Is not a man dreaming, whether he is asleep or awake, when he thinks a likeness of anything to be not a likeness, but the reality which it resembles?
Are we sure of this, in however many ways we look at it, that what is completely, is completely knowable, and what in no way is, is in every way unknowable?
Knowledge and belief are not the same.
It is not right to be angry at the truth.
Concerning philosophic natures we may surely agree to this, that they are lovers of whatever learning will reveal to them anything of that reality which always is, and is not driven to and fro by generation and decay.
He who is naturally amorous of anything should look with affection on all that is akin and related to the beloved object.
He that is really a lover of learning must from his earliest years strive with all his heart after all truth.
Let us seek for an understanding endowed also with natural measure and grace, whose innate disposition will bear it easily to the Form of every reality.
The best of the students of philosophy re useless to the world; but bid him blame for this uselessness not the good philosophers, but those who do not use them.
The truth established by nature is that he who is ill, whether he be rich or poor, ought to wait at the doctor’s door, and every man who needs to be ruled at the door of him who can rule.
The greatest and most serious scandal to philosophy arises from its professed followers, whom the accuser of philosophy describes when, as you say, he declares that most of those who woo philosophy are rascally knaves, and the best of them are useless.
All things which are called good destroy and pervert the soul - beauty, riches, strength of body, powerful connections in a city, and all similar things.
Evil is of course more contrary to good than to what is not good.
The best of natures deteriorates more seriously from uncongenial nutriment than an inferior nature.
There is not, and never has been, nor ever will be, a character produce by education whose virtue has prevailed and stood out against the instruction of the many.