The Republic HTML version

Introduction and Analysis. Part III
BOOK VI. Having determined that the many have no knowledge of true being, and have
no clear patterns in their minds of justice, beauty, truth, and that philosophers have such
patterns, we have now to ask whether they or the many shall be rulers in our State. But
who can doubt that philosophers should be chosen, if they have the other qualities which
are required in a ruler? For they are lovers of the knowledge of the eternal and of all
truth; they are haters of falsehood; their meaner desires are absorbed in the interests of
knowledge; they are spectators of all time and all existence; and in the magnificence of
their contemplation the life of man is as nothing to them, nor is death fearful. Also they
are of a social, gracious disposition, equally free from cowardice and arrogance. They
learn and remember easily; they have harmonious, well-regulated minds; truth flows to
them sweetly by nature. Can the god of Jealousy himself find any fault with such an
assemblage of good qualities?
Here Adeimantus interposes:--'No man can answer you, Socrates; but every man feels
that this is owing to his own deficiency in argument. He is driven from one position to
another, until he has nothing more to say, just as an unskilful player at draughts is
reduced to his last move by a more skilled opponent. And yet all the time he may be
right. He may know, in this very instance, that those who make philosophy the business
of their lives, generally turn out rogues if they are bad men, and fools if they are good.
What do you say?' I should say that he is quite right. 'Then how is such an admission
reconcileable with the doctrine that philosophers should be kings?'
I shall answer you in a parable which will also let you see how poor a hand I am at the
invention of allegories. The relation of good men to their governments is so peculiar, that
in order to defend them I must take an illustration from the world of fiction. Conceive the
captain of a ship, taller by a head and shoulders than any of the crew, yet a little deaf, a
little blind, and rather ignorant of the seaman's art. The sailors want to steer, although
they know nothing of the art; and they have a theory that it cannot be learned. If the helm
is refused them, they drug the captain's posset, bind him hand and foot, and take
possession of the ship. He who joins in the mutiny is termed a good pilot and what not;
they have no conception that the true pilot must observe the winds and the stars, and must
be their master, whether they like it or not;--such an one would be called by them fool,
prater, star-gazer. This is my parable; which I will beg you to interpret for me to those
gentlemen who ask why the philosopher has such an evil name, and to explain to them
that not he, but those who will not use him, are to blame for his uselessness. The
philosopher should not beg of mankind to be put in authority over them. The wise man
should not seek the rich, as the proverb bids, but every man, whether rich or poor, must
knock at the door of the physician when he has need of him. Now the pilot is the
philosopher--he whom in the parable they call star-gazer, and the mutinous sailors are the
mob of politicians by whom he is rendered useless. Not that these are the worst enemies
of philosophy, who is far more dishonoured by her own professing sons when they are
corrupted by the world. Need I recall the original image of the philosopher? Did we not
say of him just now, that he loved truth and hated falsehood, and that he could not rest in
the multiplicity of phenomena, but was led by a sympathy in his own nature to the