The Republic by Plato
Adeimantus - Socrates
Here Adeimantus interposed a question: How would you answer, Socrates, said he, if a person were to say that you are making these people miserable, and that they are the cause of their own unhappiness; the city in fact belongs to them, but they are none the better for it; whereas other men acquire lands, and build large and handsome houses, and have everything handsome about them, offering sacrifices to the gods on their own account, and practising hospitality; moreover, as you were saying just now, they have gold and silver, and all that is usual among the favourites of fortune; but our poor citizens are no better than mercenaries who are quartered in the city and are always mounting guard?
Yes, I said; and you may add that they are only fed, and not paid in addition to their food, like other men; and therefore they cannot, if they would, take a journey of pleasure; they have no money to spend on a mistress or any other luxurious fancy, which, as the world goes, is thought to be happiness; and many other accusations of the same nature might be added.
But, said he, let us suppose all this to be included in the charge.
You mean to ask, I said, what will be our answer?
If we proceed along the old path, my belief, I said, is that we shall find the answer. And our answer will be that, even as they are, our guardians may very likely be the happiest of men; but that our aim in founding the State was not the disproportionate happiness of any one class, but the greatest happiness of the whole; we thought that in a State which is ordered with a view to the good of the whole we should be most likely to find Justice, and in the ill-ordered State injustice: and, having found them, we might then decide which of the two is the happier. At present, I take it, we are fashioning the happy State, not piecemeal, or with a view of making a few happy citizens, but as a whole; and by-and-by we will proceed to view the opposite kind of State. Suppose that we were painting a statue, and some one came up to us and said, Why do you not put the most beautiful colours on the most beautiful parts of the body--the eyes ought to be purple, but you have made them black--to him we might fairly answer, Sir, you would not surely have us beautify the eyes to such a degree that they are no longer eyes; consider rather whether, by giving this and the other features their due proportion, we make the whole beautiful. And so I say to you, do not compel us to assign to the guardians a sort of happiness which will make them anything but guardians; for we too can clothe our husbandmen in royal apparel, and set crowns of gold on their heads, and bid them till the ground as much as they like, and no more. Our potters also might be allowed to repose on couches, and feast by the fireside, passing round the winecup, while their wheel is conveniently at hand, and working at pottery only as much as they like; in this way we might make every class happy-and then, as you imagine, the whole State would be happy. But do not put this idea into our heads; for, if we listen to you, the husbandman will be no longer a husbandman, the potter will cease to be a potter, and no one will have the character of any distinct class in the State. Now this is not of much consequence where the corruption of society, and pretension to be what you are not, is confined to cobblers; but when the guardians of the laws and of the government are only seemingly and not real guardians, then see how they turn the State upside down; and on the other hand they alone have the power of giving order and happiness to the State. We mean our guardians to be true saviours and not the destroyers of the State, whereas our opponent is thinking of peasants at a festival, who are enjoying a life of revelry, not of citizens who are doing their duty to the State. But, if so, we mean different things, and he is speaking of something which is not a State. And therefore we must consider whether in appointing our guardians we would look to their greatest happiness individually, or whether this principle of happiness does not rather reside in the State as a whole. But the latter be the truth, then the guardians and auxillaries, and all others equally with them, must be compelled or induced to do their own work in the best way. And thus the whole State will grow up in a noble order, and the several classes will receive the proportion of happiness which nature assigns to them.
I think that you are quite right.
I wonder whether you will agree with another remark which occurs to me.
What may that be?
There seem to be two causes of the deterioration of the arts.
What are they?
Wealth, I said, and poverty.
How do they act?
The process is as follows: When a potter becomes rich, will he, think you, any longer take the same pains with his art?
He will grow more and more indolent and careless?
And the result will be that he becomes a worse potter?
Yes; he greatly deteriorates.
But, on the other hand, if he has no money, and cannot provide himself tools or instruments, he will not work equally well himself, nor will he teach his sons or apprentices to work equally well.
Then, under the influence either of poverty or of wealth, workmen and their work are equally liable to degenerate?
That is evident.
Here, then, is a discovery of new evils, I said, against which the guardians will have to watch, or they will creep into the city unobserved.
Wealth, I said, and poverty; the one is the parent of luxury and indolence, and the other of meanness and viciousness, and both of discontent.
That is very true, he replied; but still I should like to know, Socrates, how our city will be able to go to war, especially against an enemy who is rich and powerful, if deprived of the sinews of war.
There would certainly be a difficulty, I replied, in going to war with one such enemy; but there is no difficulty where there are two of them.
How so? he asked.
In the first place, I said, if we have to fight, our side will be trained warriors fighting against an army of rich men.
That is true, he said.
And do you not suppose, Adeimantus, that a single boxer who was perfect in his art would easily be a match for two stout and well-to-do gentlemen who were not boxers?
Hardly, if they came upon him at once.
What, not, I said, if he were able to run away and then turn and strike at the one who first came up? And supposing he were to do this several times under the heat of a scorching sun, might he not, being an expert, overturn more than one stout personage?
Certainly, he said, there would be nothing wonderful in that.
And yet rich men probably have a greater superiority in the science and practice of boxing than they have in military qualities.
Then we may assume that our athletes will be able to fight with two or three times their own number?
I agree with you, for I think you right.
And suppose that, before engaging, our citizens send an embassy to one of the two cities, telling them what is the truth: Silver and gold we neither have nor are permitted to have, but you may; do you therefore come and help us in war, of and take the spoils of the other city: Who, on hearing these words, would choose to fight against lean wiry dogs, rather th than, with the dogs on their side, against fat and tender sheep?
That is not likely; and yet there might be a danger to the poor State if the wealth of many States were to be gathered into one.
But how simple of you to use the term State at all of any but our own!
You ought to speak of other States in the plural number; not one of them is a city, but many cities, as they say in the game. For indeed any city, however small, is in fact divided into two, one the city of the poor, the other of the rich; these are at war with one another; and in either there are many smaller divisions, and you would be altogether beside the mark if you treated them all as a single State. But if you deal with them as many, and give the wealth or power or persons of the one to the others, you will always have a great many friends and not many enemies. And your State, while the wise order which has now been prescribed continues to prevail in her, will be the greatest of States, I do not mean to say in reputation or appearance, but in deed and truth, though she number not more than a thousand defenders. A single State which is her equal you will hardly find, either among Hellenes or barbarians, though many that appear to be as great and many times greater.
That is most true, he said.
And what, I said, will be the best limit for our rulers to fix when they are considering the size of the State and the amount of territory which they are to include, and beyond which they will not go?
What limit would you propose?
I would allow the State to increase so far as is consistent with unity; that, I think, is the proper limit.
Very good, he said.
Here then, I said, is another order which will have to be conveyed to our guardians: Let our city be accounted neither large nor small, but one and self-sufficing.
And surely, said he, this is not a very severe order which we impose upon them.
And the other, said I, of which we were speaking before is lighter still, -I mean the duty of degrading the offspring of the guardians when inferior, and of elevating into the rank of guardians the offspring of the lower classes, when naturally superior. The intention was, that, in the case of the citizens generally, each individual should be put to the use for which nature which nature intended him, one to one work, and then every man would do his own business, and be one and not many; and so the whole city would be one and not many.
Yes, he said; that is not so difficult.
The regulations which we are prescribing, my good Adeimantus, are not, as might be supposed, a number of great principles, but trifles all, if care be taken, as the saying is, of the one great thing,-- a thing, however, which I would rather call, not great, but sufficient for our purpose.
What may that be? he asked.
Education, I said, and nurture: If our citizens are well educated, and grow into sensible men, they will easily see their way through all these, as well as other matters which I omit; such, for example, as marriage, the possession of women and the procreation of children, which will all follow the general principle that friends have all things in common, as the proverb says.
That will be the best way of settling them.
Also, I said, the State, if once started well, moves with accumulating force like a wheel. For good nurture and education implant good constitutions, and these good constitutions taking root in a good education improve more and more, and this improvement affects the breed in man as in other animals.
Very possibly, he said.
Then to sum up: This is the point to which, above all, the attention of our rulers should be directed,--that music and gymnastic be preserved in their original form, and no innovation made. They must do their utmost to maintain them intact. And when any one says that mankind most regard
they will be afraid that he may be praising, not new songs, but a new kind of song; and this ought not to be praised, or conceived to be the meaning of the poet; for any musical innovation is full of danger to the whole State, and ought to be prohibited. So Damon tells me, and I can quite believe him;-he says that when modes of music change, of the State always change with them.
Yes, said Adeimantus; and you may add my suffrage to Damon's and your own.
Then, I said, our guardians must lay the foundations of their fortress in music?
Yes, he said; the lawlessness of which you speak too easily steals in.
Yes, I replied, in the form of amusement; and at first sight it appears harmless.
Why, yes, he said, and there is no harm; were it not that little by little this spirit of licence, finding a home, imperceptibly penetrates into manners and customs; whence, issuing with greater force, it invades contracts between man and man, and from contracts goes on to laws and constitutions, in utter recklessness, ending at last, Socrates, by an overthrow of all rights, private as well as public.
Is that true? I said.
That is my belief, he replied.
Then, as I was saying, our youth should be trained from the first in a stricter system, for if amusements become lawless, and the youths themselves become lawless, they can never grow up into well-conducted and virtuous citizens.
Very true, he said.
And when they have made a good beginning in play, and by the help of music have gained the habit of good order, then this habit of order, in a manner how unlike the lawless play of the others! will accompany them in all their actions and be a principle of growth to them, and if there be any fallen places a principle in the State will raise them up again.
Very true, he said.
Thus educated, they will invent for themselves any lesser rules which their predecessors have altogether neglected.
What do you mean?
I mean such things as these:--when the young are to be silent before their elders; how they are to show respect to them by standing and making them sit; what honour is due to parents; what garments or shoes are to be worn; the mode of dressing the hair; deportment and manners in general. You would agree with me?
But there is, I think, small wisdom in legislating about such matters,-- I doubt if it is ever done; nor are any precise written enactments about them likely to be lasting.
It would seem, Adeimantus, that the direction in which education starts a man, will determine his future life. Does not like always attract like?
To be sure.
Until some one rare and grand result is reached which may be good, and may be the reverse of good?
That is not to be denied.
And for this reason, I said, I shall not attempt to legislate further about them.
Naturally enough, he replied.
Well, and about the business of the agora, dealings and the ordinary dealings between man and man, or again about agreements with the commencement with artisans; about insult and injury, of the commencement of actions, and the appointment of juries, what would you say? there may also arise questions about any impositions and extractions of market and harbour dues which may be required, and in general about the regulations of markets, police, harbours, and the like. But, oh heavens! shall we condescend to legislate on any of these particulars?
I think, he said, that there is no need to impose laws about them on good men; what regulations are necessary they will find out soon enough for themselves.
Yes, I said, my friend, if God will only preserve to them the laws which we have given them.
And without divine help, said Adeimantus, they will go on for ever making and mending their laws and their lives in the hope of attaining perfection.
You would compare them, I said, to those invalids who, having no self-restraint, will not leave off their habits of intemperance?
Yes, I said; and what a delightful life they lead! they are always doctoring and increasing and complicating their disorders, and always fancying that they will be cured by any nostrum which anybody advises them to try.
Such cases are very common, he said, with invalids of this sort.
Yes, I replied; and the charming thing is that they deem him their worst enemy who tells them the truth, which is simply that, unless they give up eating and drinking and wenching and idling, neither drug nor cautery nor spell nor amulet nor any other remedy will avail.
Charming! he replied. I see nothing charming in going into a passion with a man who tells you what is right.
These gentlemen, I said, do not seem to be in your good graces.
Nor would you praise the behaviour of States which act like the men whom I was just now describing. For are there not ill-ordered States in which the citizens are forbidden under pain of death to alter the constitution; and yet he who most sweetly courts those who live under this regime and indulges them and fawns upon them and is skilful in anticipating and gratifying their humours is held to be a great and good statesman-- do not these States resemble the persons whom I was describing?
Yes, he said; the States are as bad as the men; and I am very far from praising them.
But do you not admire, I said, the coolness and dexterity of these ready ministers of political corruption?
Yes, he said, I do; but not of all of them, for there are some whom the applause of the multitude has deluded into the belief that they are really statesmen, and these are not much to be admired.
What do you mean? I said; you should have more feeling for them. When a man cannot measure, and a great many others who cannot measure declare that he is four cubits high, can he help believing what they say?
Nay, he said, certainly not in that case.
Well, then, do not be angry with them; for are they not as good as a play, trying their hand at paltry reforms such as I was describing; they are always fancying that by legislation they will make an end of frauds in contracts, and the other rascalities which I was mentioning, not knowing that they are in reality cutting off the heads of a hydra?
Yes, he said; that is just what they are doing.
I conceive, I said, that the true legislator will not trouble himself with this class of enactments whether concerning laws or the constitution either in an ill-ordered or in a well-ordered State; for in the former they are quite useless, and in the latter there will be no difficulty in devising them; and many of them will naturally flow out of our previous regulations.
What, then, he said, is still remaining to us of the work of legislation?
Nothing to us, I replied; but to Apollo, the God of Delphi, there remains the ordering of the greatest and noblest and chiefest things of all.
Which are they? he said.
The institution of temples and sacrifices, and the entire service of gods, demigods, and heroes; also the ordering of the repositories of the dead, and the rites which have to be observed by him who would propitiate the inhabitants of the world below. These are matters of which we are ignorant ourselves, and as founders of a city we should be unwise in trusting them to any interpreter but our ancestral deity. He is the god who sits in the center, on the navel of the earth, and he is the interpreter of religion to all mankind.
You are right, and we will do as you propose.
But where, amid all this, is justice? son of Ariston, tell me where. Now that our city has been made habitable, light a candle and search, and get your brother and Polemarchus and the rest of our friends to help, and let us see where in it we can discover justice and where injustice, and in what they differ from one another, and which of them the man who would be happy should have for his portion, whether seen or unseen by gods and men.