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Statesman by Plato. - HTML preview

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When a pupil at a school is asked the letters which method and sharpening the wits of the auditors.

make up a particular word, is he not asked with a He who censures us, should prove that, if our words view to his knowing the same letters in all words?

had been fewer, they would have been better calcu-And our enquiry about the Statesman in like manlated to make men dialecticians.

ner is intended not only to improve our knowledge And now let us return to our king or statesman, of politics, but our reasoning powers generally. Still and transfer to him the example of weaving. The less would any one analyze the nature of weaving royal art has been separated from that of other herds-for its own sake. There is no difficulty in exhibiting men, but not from the causal and co-operative arts sensible images, but the greatest and noblest truths which exist in states; these do not admit of di-have no outward form adapted to the eye of sense, chotomy, and therefore they must be carved neatly, and are only revealed in thought. And all that we like the limbs of a victim, not into more parts than are now saying is said for the sake of them. I make are necessary. And first (1) we have the large class these remarks, because I want you to get rid of any of instruments, which includes almost everything impression that our discussion about weaving and in the world; from these may be parted off (2) ves-about the reversal of the universe, and the other sels which are framed for the preservation of things, discussion about the Sophist and not-being, were moist or dry, prepared in the fire or out of the fire.

tedious and irrelevant. Please to observe that they The royal or political art has nothing to do with can only be fairly judged when compared with what either of these, any more than with the arts of makis meet; and yet not with what is meet for producing (3) vehicles, or (4) defences, whether dresses, ing pleasure, nor even meet for making discoveries, or arms, or walls, or (5) with the art of making or-but for the great end of developing the dialectical naments, whether pictures or other playthings, as 18


they may be fitly called, for they have no serious science. Nor am I referring to government officials, use. Then (6) there are the arts which furnish gold, such as heralds and scribes, for these are only the silver, wood, bark, and other materials, which should servants of the rulers, and not the rulers themselves.

have been put first; these, again, have no concern I admit that there may be something strange in any with the kingly science; any more than the arts (7) servants pretending to be masters, but I hardly think which provide food and nourishment for the hu-that I could have been wrong in supposing that the man body, and which furnish occupation to the hus-principal claimants to the throne will be of this class.

bandman, huntsman, doctor, cook, and the like, but Let us try once more: There are diviners and priests, not to the king or statesman. Further, there are small who are full of pride and prerogative; these, as the things, such as coins, seals, stamps, which may with law declares, know how to give acceptable gifts to a little violence be comprehended in one of the the gods, and in many parts of Hellas the duty of above-mentioned classes. Thus they will embrace performing solemn sacrifices is assigned to the chief every species of property with the exception of ani-magistrate, as at Athens to the King Archon. At last, mals,—but these have been already included in the then, we have found a trace of those whom we were art of tending herds. There remains only the class seeking. But still they are only servants and minis-of slaves or ministers, among whom I expect that ters.

the real rivals of the king will be discovered. I am And who are these who next come into view in not speaking of the veritable slave bought with various forms of men and animals and other mon-money, nor of the hireling who lets himself out for sters appearing—lions and centaurs and satyrs—who service, nor of the trader or merchant, who at best are these? I did not know them at first, for every can only lay claim to economical and not to royal one looks strange when he is unexpected. But now 19


I recognize the politician and his troop, the chief of fore be the government of one, or of a few. And Sophists, the prince of charlatans, the most accom-they may govern us either with or without law, and plished of wizards, who must be carefully distin-whether they are poor or rich, and however they guished from the true king or statesman. And here govern, provided they govern on some scientific I will interpose a question: What are the true forms principle,—it makes no difference. And as the phy-of government? Are they not three—monarchy, oli-sician may cure us with our will, or against our will, garchy, and democracy? and the distinctions of free-and by any mode of treatment, burning, bleeding, dom and compulsion, law and no law, poverty and lowering, fattening, if he only proceeds scientifically: riches expand these three into six. Monarchy may so the true governor may reduce or fatten or bleed be divided into royalty and tyranny; oligarchy into the body corporate, while he acts according to the aristocracy and plutocracy; and democracy may rules of his art, and with a view to the good of the observe the law or may not observe it. But are any state, whether according to law or without law.

of these governments worthy of the name? Is not

‘I do not like the notion, that there can be good government a science, and are we to suppose that government without law.’

scientific government is secured by the rulers being I must explain: Law-making certainly is the busi-many or few, rich or poor, or by the rule being com-ness of a king; and yet the best thing of all is, not pulsory or voluntary? Can the many attain to sci-that the law should rule, but that the king should ence? In no Hellenic city are there fifty good draught rule, for the varieties of circumstances are endless, players, and certainly there are not as many kings, and no simple or universal rule can suit them all, or for by kings we mean all those who are possessed of last for ever. The law is just an ignorant brute of a the political science. A true government must there-tyrant, who insists always on his commands being 20


fulfilled under all circumstances. ‘Then why have tinuance of such regulations be ridiculous? And if we laws at all?’ I will answer that question by ask-the legislator, or another like him, comes back from ing you whether the training master gives a differ-a far country, is he to be prohibited from altering ent discipline to each of his pupils, or whether he his own laws? The common people say: Let a man has a general rule of diet and exercise which is suited persuade the city first, and then let him impose new to the constitutions of the majority? ‘The latter.’

laws. But is a physician only to cure his patients by The legislator, too, is obliged to lay down general persuasion, and not by force? Is he a worse physi-laws, and cannot enact what is precisely suitable to cian who uses a little gentle violence in effecting each particular case. He cannot be sitting at every the cure? Or shall we say, that the violence is just, if man’s side all his life, and prescribe for him the exercised by a rich man, and unjust, if by a poor minute particulars of his duty, and therefore he is man? May not any man, rich or poor, with or with-compelled to impose on himself and others the re-out law, and whether the citizens like or not, do striction of a written law. Let me suppose now, that what is for their good? The pilot saves the lives of a physician or trainer, having left directions for his the crew, not by laying down rules, but by making patients or pupils, goes into a far country, and comes his art a law, and, like him, the true governor has a back sooner than he intended; owing to some un-strength of art which is superior to the law. This is expected change in the weather, the patient or pu-scientific government, and all others are imitations pil seems to require a different mode of treatment: only. Yet no great number of persons can attain to Would he persist in his old commands, under the this science. And hence follows an important re-idea that all others are noxious and heterodox?

sult. The true political principle is to assert the in-Viewed in the light of science, would not the con-violability of the law, which, though not the best 21


thing possible, is best for the imperfect condition a prating Sophist and a corruptor of youth; and if of man.

he try to persuade others to investigate those sci-I will explain my meaning by an illustration:—

ences in a manner contrary to the law, he shall be Suppose that mankind, indignant at the rogueries punished with the utmost severity. And like rules and caprices of physicians and pilots, call together might be extended to any art or science. But what an assembly, in which all who like may speak, the would be the consequence?

skilled as well as the unskilled, and that in their

‘The arts would utterly perish, and human life, assembly they make decrees for regulating the prac-which is bad enough already, would become intol-tice of navigation and medicine which are to be bind-erable.’

ing on these professions for all time. Suppose that But suppose, once more, that we were to appoint they elect annually by vote or lot those to whom some one as the guardian of the law, who was both authority in either department is to be delegated.

ignorant and interested, and who perverted the law: And let us further imagine, that when the term of would not this be a still worse evil than the other?

their magistracy has expired, the magistrates ap-

‘Certainly.’ For the laws are based on some experi-pointed by them are summoned before an ignorant ence and wisdom. Hence the wiser course is, that and unprofessional court, and may be condemned they should be observed, although this is not the and punished for breaking the regulations. They best thing of all, but only the second best. And even go a step further, and enact, that he who is whoever, having skill, should try to improve them, found enquiring into the truth of navigation and would act in the spirit of the law-giver. But then, as medicine, and is seeking to be wise above what is we have seen, no great number of men, whether written, shall be called not an artist, but a dreamer, poor or rich, can be makers of laws. And so, the 22


nearest approach to true government is, when men like ships foundering, because their pilots are abso-do nothing contrary to their own written laws and lutely ignorant of the science which they profess.

national customs. When the rich preserve their cus-Let us next ask, which of these untrue forms of toms and maintain the law, this is called aristoc-government is the least bad, and which of them is racy, or if they neglect the law, oligarchy. When an the worst? I said at the beginning, that each of the individual rules according to law, whether by the three forms of government, royalty, aristocracy, and help of science or opinion, this is called monarchy; democracy, might be divided into two, so that the and when he has royal science he is a king, whether whole number of them, including the best, will be he be so in fact or not; but when he rules in spite of seven. Under monarchy we have already distin-law, and is blind with ignorance and passion, he is guished royalty and tyranny; of oligarchy there were called a tyrant. These forms of government exist, two kinds, aristocracy and plutocracy; and democ-because men despair of the true king ever appear-racy may also be divided, for there is a democracy ing among them; if he were to appear, they would which observes, and a democracy which neglects, joyfully hand over to him the reins of government.

the laws. The government of one is the best and But, as there is no natural ruler of the hive, they the worst—the government of a few is less bad and meet together and make laws. And do we wonder, less good—the government of the many is the least when the foundation of politics is in the letter only, bad and least good of them all, being the best of all at the miseries of states? Ought we not rather to lawless governments, and the worst of all lawful admire the strength of the political bond? For cities ones. But the rulers of all these states, unless they have endured the worst of evils time out of mind; have knowledge, are maintainers of idols, and them-many cities have been shipwrecked, and some are selves idols—wizards, and also Sophists; for, after 23


many windings, the term ‘Sophist’ comes home to over the rest, is the science of the king or states-them.


And now enough of centaurs and satyrs: the play Once more we will endeavour to view this royal is ended, and they may quit the political stage. Still science by the light of our example. We may com-there remain some other and better elements, which pare the state to a web, and I will show you how adhere to the royal science, and must be drawn off the different threads are drawn into one. You would in the refiner’s fire before the gold can become quite admit—would you not?—that there are parts of vir-pure. The arts of the general, the judge, and the tue (although this position is sometimes assailed orator, will have to be separated from the royal art; by Eristics), and one part of virtue is temperance, when the separation has been made, the nature of and another courage. These are two principles which the king will be unalloyed. Now there are inferior are in a manner antagonistic to one another; and sciences, such as music and others; and there is a they pervade all nature; the whole class of the good superior science, which determines whether music and beautiful is included under them. The beauti-is to be learnt or not, and this is different from them, ful may be subdivided into two lesser classes: one and the governor of them. The science which deter-of these is described by us in terms expressive of mines whether we are to use persuasion, or not, is motion or energy, and the other in terms expressive higher than the art of persuasion; the science which of rest and quietness. We say, how manly! how vig-determines whether we are to go to war, is higher orous! how ready! and we say also, how calm! how than the art of the general. The science which makes temperate! how dignified! This opposition of terms the laws, is higher than that which only adminis-is extended by us to all actions, to the tones of the ters them. And the science which has this authority voice, the notes of music, the workings of the mind, 24


the characters of men. The two classes both have she is to train, punishing with death and extermi-their exaggerations; and the exaggerations of the one nating those who are violently carried away to athe-are termed ‘hardness,’ ‘violence,’ ‘madness;’ of the ism and injustice, and enslaving those who are wal-other ‘cowardliness,’ or ‘sluggishness.’ And if we lowing in the mire of ignorance. The rest of the citi-pursue the enquiry, we find that these opposite char-zens she blends into one, combining the stronger acters are naturally at variance, and can hardly be element of courage, which we may call the warp, reconciled. In lesser matters the antagonism between with the softer element of temperance, which we them is ludicrous, but in the State may be the occa-may imagine to be the woof. These she binds to-sion of grave disorders, and may disturb the whole gether, first taking the eternal elements of the course of human life. For the orderly class are al-honourable, the good, and the just, and fastening ways wanting to be at peace, and hence they pass them with a divine cord in a heaven-born nature, imperceptibly into the condition of slaves; and the and then fastening the animal elements with a hu-courageous sort are always wanting to go to war, man cord. The good legislator can implant by edu-even when the odds are against them, and are soon cation the higher principles; and where they exist destroyed by their enemies. But the true art of gov-there is no difficulty in inserting the lesser human ernment, first preparing the material by education, bonds, by which the State is held together; these weaves the two elements into one, maintaining au-are the laws of intermarriage, and of union for the thority over the carders of the wool, and selecting sake of offspring. Most persons in their marriages the proper subsidiary arts which are necessary for seek after wealth or power; or they are clannish, making the web. The royal science is queen of edu-and choose those who are like themselves,—the tem-cators, and begins by choosing the natures which perate marrying the temperate, and the courageous 25


the courageous. The two classes thrive and flourish

‘Your picture, Stranger, of the king and statesman, at first, but they soon degenerate; the one become no less than of the Sophist, is quite perfect.’

mad, and the other feeble and useless. This would not have been the case, if they had both originally held the same notions about the honourable and the good; for then they never would have allowed the temperate natures to be separated from the cou-THE PRINCIPAL SUBJECTS in the Statesman may be rageous, but they would have bound them together conveniently embraced under six or seven heads:—

by common honours and reputations, by intermar-

(1) the myth; (2) the dialectical interest; (3) the riages, and by the choice of rulers who combine political aspects of the dialogue; (4) the satirical both qualities. The temperate are careful and just, and paradoxical vein; (5) the necessary imperfec-but are wanting in the power of action; the coura-tion of law; (6) the relation of the work to the other geous fall short of them in justice, but in action are writings of Plato; lastly (7), we may briefly con-superior to them: and no state can prosper in which sider the genuineness of the Sophist and States-either of these qualities is wanting. The noblest and man, which can hardly be assumed without proof, best of all webs or states is that which the royal since the two dialogues have been questioned by science weaves, combining the two sorts of natures three such eminent Platonic scholars as Socher, in a single texture, and in this enfolding freeman Schaarschmidt, and Ueberweg.

and slave and every other social element, and pre-I. The hand of the master is clearly visible in the siding over them all.

myth. First in the connection with mythology;—he 26


wins a kind of verisimilitude for this as for his other well as in truth. The gravity and minuteness with myths, by adopting received traditions, of which which some particulars are related also lend an arthe pretends to find an explanation in his own larger ful aid. The profound interest and ready assent of conception (compare Introduction to Critias). The the young Socrates, who is not too old to be amused young Socrates has heard of the sun rising in the

‘with a tale which a child would love to hear,’ are a west and setting in the east, and of the earth-born further assistance. To those who were naturally inmen; but he has never heard the origin of these re-clined to believe that the fortunes of mankind are markable phenomena. Nor is Plato, here or else-influenced by the stars, or who maintained that where, wanting in denunciations of the incredulity some one principle, like the principle of the Same of ‘this latter age,’ on which the lovers of the mar-and the Other in the Timaeus, pervades all things vellous have always delighted to enlarge. And he is in the world, the reversal of the motion of the heav-not without express testimony to the truth of his ens seemed necessarily to produce a reversal of the narrative;—such testimony as, in the Timaeus, the order of human life. The spheres of knowledge, first men gave of the names of the gods (‘They must which to us appear wide asunder as the poles, assurely have known their own ancestors’). For the tronomy and medicine, were naturally connected first generation of the new cycle, who lived near in the minds of early thinkers, because there was the time, are supposed to have preserved a recollec-little or nothing in the space between them. Thus tion of a previous one. He also appeals to internal there is a basis of philosophy, on which the improb-evidence, viz. the perfect coherence of the tale, abilities of the tale may be said to rest. These are though he is very well aware, as he says in the some of the devices by which Plato, like a modern Cratylus, that there may be consistency in error as novelist, seeks to familiarize the marvellous.