Inasmuch as philosophers only are able to grasp the eternal and unchangeable, and those
who wander in the region of the many and variable are not philosophers, I must ask you
which of the two classes should be the rulers of our State?
And how can we rightly answer that question?
Whichever of the two are best able to guard the laws and institutions of our
State--let them be our guardians.
Neither, I said, can there be any question that the guardian who is to keep
anything should have eyes rather than no eyes?
There can be no question of that.
And are not those who are verily and indeed wanting in the knowledge of the true
being of each thing, and who have in their souls no clear pattern, and are unable as with
a painter's eye to look at the absolute truth and to that original to repair, and having
perfect vision of the other world to order the laws about beauty, goodness, justice in
this, if not already ordered, and to guard and preserve the order of them--are not such
persons, I ask, simply blind?
Truly, he replied, they are much in that condition.
And shall they be our guardians when there are others who, besides being their
equals in experience and falling short of them in no particular of virtue, also know the
very truth of each thing?
There can be no reason, he said, for rejecting those who have this greatest of
all great qualities; they must always have the first place unless they fail in some other
respect. Suppose, then, I said, that we determine how far they can unite this and the
By all means.
In the first place, as we began by observing, the nature of the philosopher has
to be ascertained. We must come to an understanding about him, and, when we have done so,
then, if I am not mistaken, we shall also acknowledge that such a union of qualities is
possible, and that those in whom they are united, and those only, should be rulers in the
What do you mean?
Let us suppose that philosophical minds always love knowledge of a sort which
shows them the eternal nature not varying from generation and corruption.
And further, I said, let us agree that they are lovers of all true being; there
is no part whether greater or less, or more or less honorable, which they are willing to
renounce; as we said before of the lover and the man of ambition.
And if they are to be what we were describing, is there not another quality
which they should also possess?
Truthfulness: they will never intentionally receive into their minds falsehood,
which is their detestation, and they will love the truth.
Yes, that may be safely affirmed of them.
"May be." my friend, I replied, is not the word; say rather,
"must be affirmed:" for he whose nature is amorous of anything cannot help
loving all that belongs or is akin to the object of his affections.
Right, he said.
And is there anything more akin to wisdom than truth?
How can there be?
Can the same nature be a lover of wisdom and a lover of falsehood?
The true lover of learning then must from his earliest youth, as far as in him
lies, desire all truth?
But then again, as we know by experience, he whose desires are strong in one
direction will have them weaker in others; they will be like a stream which has been drawn
off into another channel.
He whose desires are drawn toward knowledge in every form will be absorbed in
the pleasures of the soul, and will hardly feel bodily pleasure--I mean, if he be a true
philosopher and not a sham one.
That is most certain.
Such a one is sure to be temperate and the reverse of covetous; for the motives
which make another man desirous of having and spending, have no place in his character.
Another criterion of the philosophical nature has also to be considered.
What is that?
There should be no secret corner of illiberality; nothing can be more
antagonistic than meanness to a soul which is ever longing after the whole of things both
divine and human.
Most true, he replied.
Then how can he who has magnificence of mind and is the spectator of all time
and all existence, think much of human life?
Or can such a one account death fearful?
Then the cowardly and mean nature has no part in true philosophy?
Or again: can he who is harmoniously constituted, who is not covetous or mean,
or a boaster, or a coward--can he, I say, ever be unjust or hard in his dealings?
Then you will soon observe whether a man is just and gentle, or rude and
unsociable; these are the signs which distinguish even in youth the philosophical nature
from the unphilosophical.
There is another point which should be remarked.
Whether he has or has not a pleasure in learning; for no one will love that
which gives him pain, and in which after much toil he makes little progress.
And again, if he is forgetful and retains nothing of what he learns, will he not
be an empty vessel?
That is certain.
Laboring in vain, he must end in hating himself and his fruitless occupation?
Then a soul which forgets cannot be ranked among genuine philosophic natures; we
must insist that the philosopher should have a good memory?
And once more, the inharmonious and unseemly nature can only tend to
And do you consider truth to be akin to proportion or to disproportion?
Then, besides other qualities, we must try to find a naturally well-proportioned
and gracious mind, which will move spontaneously toward the true being of everything.
Well, and do not all these qualities, which we have been enumerating, go
together, and are they not, in a manner, necessary to a soul, which is to have a full and
perfect participation of being?
They are absolutely necessary, he replied.
And must not that be a blameless study which he only can pursue who has the gift
of a good memory, and is quick to learn--noble, gracious, the friend of truth, justice,
courage, temperance, who are his kindred?
The god of jealousy himself, he said, could find no fault with such a study.
And to men like him, I said, when perfected by years and education, and to these
only you will intrust the State.