But to whom we are to assign these studies, and in what way they are to be assigned, are questions which remain to be considered.
You remember, I said, how the rulers were chosen before ?
Certainly, he said.
The same natures must still be chosen, and the preference again given to the surest and the bravest, and, if possible, to the fairest ; and, having noble and generous tempers, they should also have the natural gifts which will facilitate their education.
And what are these ?
Such gifts as keenness and ready powers of acquisition ; for the mind more often faints from the severity of study than from the severity of gymnastics : the toil is more entirely the mind’s own, and is not shared with the body.
Very true, he replied.
Further, he of whom we are in search should have a good memory, and be an unwearied solid man who is a lover of labor in any line ; or he will never be able to endure the great amount of bodily exercise and to go through all the intellectual discipline and study which we require of him.
Certainly, he said ; he must have natural gifts.
The mistake at present is that those who study philosophy have no vocation, and this, as I was before saying, is the reason why she has fallen into disrepute : her true sons should take her by the hand, and not bastards.
What do you mean ?
In the first place, her votary should not have a lame or halting industry — I mean, that he should not be half industrious and half idle : as, for example, when a man is a lover of gymnastics and hunting, and all other bodily exercises, but a hater rather than a lover of the labor of learning or listening or inquiring. Or the occupation to which he devotes himself may be of an opposite kind, and he may have the other sort of lameness.
Certainly, he said.
And as to truth, I said, is not a soul equally to be deemed halt and lame which hates voluntary falsehood and is extremely indignant at herself and others when they tell lies, but is patient of involuntary falsehood, and does not mind wallowing like a swinish beast in the mire of ignorance, and has no shame at being detected ?
To be sure.
And, again, in respect of temperance, courage, magnificence, and every other virtue, should we not carefully distinguish between the true son and the bastard ? for where there is no discernment of such qualities, States and individuals unconsciously err ; and the State makes a ruler, and the individual a friend, of one who, being defective in some part of virtue, is in a figure lame or a bastard.
That is very true, he said.
All these things, then, will have to be carefully considered by us ; and if only those whom we introduce to this vast system of education and training are sound in body and mind, justice herself will have nothing to say against us, and we shall be the saviours of the constitution and of the State ; but, if our pupils are men of another stamp, the reverse will happen, and we shall pour a still greater flood of ridicule on philosophy than she has to endure at present.
That would not be creditable.
Certainly not, I said ; and yet perhaps, in thus turning jest into earnest I am equally ridiculous.
In what respect ?
I had forgotten, I said, that we were not serious, and spoke with too much excitement. For when I saw philosophy so undeservedly trampled under foot of men I could not help feeling a sort of indignation at the authors of her disgrace : and my anger made me too vehement.
Indeed ! I was listening, and did not think so.
But I, who am the speaker, felt that I was. And now let me remind you that, although in our former selection we chose old men, we must not do so in this. Solon was under a delusion when he said that a man when he grows old may learn many things — for he can no more learn much than he can run much ; youth is the time for any extraordinary toil.
And, therefore, calculation and geometry and all the other elements of instruction, which are a preparation for dialectic, should be presented to the mind in childhood ; not, however, under any notion of forcing our system of education.
Why not ?
Because a freeman ought not to be a slave in the acquisition of knowledge of any kind. Bodily exercise, when compulsory, does no harm to the body ; but knowledge which is acquired under compulsion obtains no hold on the mind.
Then, my good friend, I said, do not use compulsion, but let early education be a sort of amusement ; you will then be better able to find out the natural bent.
That is a very rational notion, he said.
Do you remember that the children, too, were to be taken to see the battle on horseback ; and that if there were no danger they were to be brought close up and, like young hounds, have a taste of blood given them ?
Yes, I remember.
The same practice may be followed, I said, in all these things — labors, lessons, dangers — and he who is most at home in all of them ought to be enrolled in a select number.
At what age ?
At the age when the necessary gymnastics are over : the period, whether of two or three years, which passes in this sort of training is useless for any other purpose ; for sleep and exercise are unpropitious to learning ; and the trial of who is first in gymnastic exercises is one of the most important tests to which our youth are subjected.
Certainly, he replied.
After that time those who are selected from the class of twenty years old will be promoted to higher honor, and the sciences which they learned without any order in their early education will now be brought together, and they will be able to see the natural relationship of them to one another and to true being.
Yes, he said, that is the only kind of knowledge which takes lasting root.
Yes, I said ; and the capacity for such knowledge is the great criterion of dialectical talent : the comprehensive mind is always the dialectical.
I agree with you, he said.
These, I said, are the points which you must consider ; and those who have most of this comprehension, and who are most steadfast in their learning, and in their military and other appointed duties, when they have arrived at the age of thirty will have to be chosen by you out of the select class, and elevated to higher honor ; and you will have to prove them by the help of dialectic, in order to learn which of them is able to give up the use of sight and the other senses, and in company with truth to attain absolute being : And here, my friend, great caution is required.
Why great caution ?
Do you not remark, I said, how great is the evil which dialectic has introduced ?
What evil ? he said.
The students of the art are filled with lawlessness.
Quite true, he said.
Do you think that there is anything so very unnatural or inexcusable in their case ? or will you make allowance for them ?
In what way make allowance ?
I want you, I said, by way of parallel, to imagine a supposititious son who is brought up in great wealth ; he is one of a great and numerous family, and has many flatterers. When he grows up to manhood, he learns that his alleged are not his real parents ; but who the real are he is unable to discover. Can you guess how he will be likely to behave toward his flatterers and his supposed parents, first of all during the period when he is ignorant of the false relation, and then again when he knows ? Or shall I guess for you ?
If you please.
Then I should say that while he is ignorant of the truth he will be likely to honor his father and his mother and his supposed relations more than the flatterers ; he will be less inclined to neglect them when in need, or to do or say anything against them ; and he will be less willing to disobey them in any important matter.
But when he has made the discovery, I should imagine that he would diminish his honor and regard for them, and would become more devoted to the flatterers ; their influence over him would greatly increase ; he would now live after their ways, and openly associate with them, and, unless he were of an unusually good disposition, he would trouble himself no more about his supposed parents or other relations.
Well, all that is very probable. But how is the image applicable to the disciples of philosophy ?
In this way : you know that there are certain principles about justice and honor, which were taught us in childhood, and under their parental authority we have been brought up, obeying and honoring them.
That is true.
There are also opposite maxims and habits of pleasure which flatter and attract the soul, but do not influence those of us who have any sense of right, and they continue to obey and honor the maxims of their fathers.
Now, when a man is in this state, and the questioning spirit asks what is fair or honorable, and he answers as the legislator has taught him, and then arguments many and diverse refute his words, until he is driven into believing that nothing is honorable any more than dishonorable, or just and good any more than the reverse, and so of all the notions which he most valued, do you think that he will still honor and obey them as before ?
And when he ceases to think them honorable and natural as heretofore, and he fails to discover the true, can he be expected to pursue any life other than that which flatters his desires ?
And from being a keeper of the law he is converted into a breaker of it ?
Now all this is very natural in students of philosophy such as I have described, and also, as I was just now saying, most excusable.
Yes, he said ; and, I may add, pitiable.
Therefore, that your feelings may not be moved to pity about our citizens who are now thirty years of age, every care must be taken in introducing them to dialectic.
There is a danger lest they should taste the dear delight too early ; for youngsters, as you may have observed, when they first get the taste in their mouths, argue for amusement, and are always contradicting and refuting others in imitation of those who refute them ; like puppy-dogs, they rejoice in pulling and tearing at all who come near them.
Yes, he said, there is nothing which they like better.
And when they have made many conquests and received defeats at the hands of many, they violently and speedily get into a way of not believing anything which they believed before, and hence, not only they, but philosophy and all that relates to it is apt to have a bad name with the rest of the world.
Too true, he said.
But when a man begins to get older, he will no longer be guilty of such insanity ; he will imitate the dialectician who is seeking for truth, and not the eristic, who is contradicting for the sake of amusement ; and the greater moderation of his character will increase instead of diminishing the honor of the pursuit.
Very true, he said.
And did we not make special provision for this, when we said that the disciples of philosophy were to be orderly and steadfast, not, as now, any chance aspirant or intruder ?
Suppose, I said, the study of philosophy to take the place of gymnastics and to be continued diligently and earnestly and exclusively for twice the number of years which were passed in bodily exercise — will that be enough ?
Would you say six or four years ? he asked.
Say five years, I replied ; at the end of the time they must be sent down again into the den and compelled to hold any military or other office which young men are qualified to hold : in this way they will get their experience of life, and there will be an opportunity of trying whether, when they are drawn all manner of ways by temptation, they will stand firm or flinch.
And how long is this stage of their lives to last ?
Fifteen years, I answered ; and when they have reached fifty years of age, then let those who still survive and have distinguished themselves in every action of their lives, and in every branch of knowledge, come at last to their consummation : the time has now arrived at which they must raise the eye of the soul to the universal light which lightens all things, and behold the absolute good ; for that is the pattern according to which they are to order the State and the lives of individuals, and the remainder of their own lives also ; making philosophy their chief pursuit, but, when their turn comes, toiling also at politics and ruling for the public good, not as though they were performing some heroic action, but simply as a matter of duty ; and when they have brought up in each generation others like themselves and left them in their place to be governors of the State, then they will depart to the Islands of the Blessed and dwell there ; and the city will give them public memorials and sacrifices and honor them, if the Pythian oracle consent, as demigods, but if not, as in any case blessed and divine.
You are a sculptor, Socrates, and have made statues of our governors faultless in beauty.
Yes, I said, Glaucon, and of our governesses too ; for you must not suppose that what I have been saying applies to men only and not to women as far as their natures can go.
There you are right, he said, since we have made them to share in all things like the men.
Well, I said, and you would agree (would you not ?) that what has been said about the State and the government is not a mere dream, and although difficult, not impossible, but only possible in the way which has been supposed ; that is to say, when the true philosopher-kings are born in a State, one or more of them, despising the honors of this present world which they deem mean and worthless, esteeming above all things right and the honor that springs from right, and regarding justice as the greatest and most necessary of all things, whose ministers they are, and whose principles will be exalted by them when they set in order their own city ?
How will they proceed ?
They will begin by sending out into the country all the inhabitants of the city who are more than ten years old, and will take possession of their children, who will be unaffected by the habits of their parents ; these they will train in their own habits and laws, I mean in the laws which we have given them : and in this way the State and constitution of which we were speaking will soonest and most easily attain happiness, and the nation which has such a constitution will gain most.
Yes, that will be the best way. And I think, Socrates, that you have very well described how, if ever, such a constitution might come into being. Enough, then, of the perfect State, and of the man who bears its image — there is no difficulty in seeing how we shall describe him.
There is no difficulty, he replied ; and I agree with you in thinking that nothing more need be said.