Statesman! (Synopsis – highlights & unredacted quotes lifted from the Socratic dialogue by Plato, Benjamin Jowett translation)

Themes: On what is an ideal State, delineation of a Statesman, the nature of the second-best State, on the notion of good governance without laws/law isn’t the perfection of right, the nature of excess and defect, the nature of the righteous judge, the nature of the Royal Web.

Where shall we discover the path of the Statesman? We must find and separate off, and set our seal upon this, and we will set the mark of another class upon all diverging paths. Thus the soul will conceive of all kinds of knowledge under two classes…. Then let us divide sciences in general into:

  • those which are practical and 
  • those which are purely intellectual (merely abstract knowledge, wholly separated from action). 

But surely the science of a true king is royal science? … And will not he who possesses this knowledge, whether he happens to be a ruler or a private man, when regarded only in reference to his art, be truly called ‘royal’? 

Again, a large household may be compared to a small state: –will they differ at all, as far as government is concerned? 

First attempt of tracing/delineating a Statesman… 

Then, returning to the point which we were just now discussing, do we not clearly see that there is one science of all of them; and this science may be called either royal or political or economical; we will not quarrel with any one about the name. 

This too, is evident, that the king cannot do much with his hands, or with his whole body, towards the maintenance of his empire, compared with what he does by the intelligence and strength of his mind

Then, shall we say that the king has a greater affinity to knowledge than to manual arts and to practical life in general? 

You know that the master-builder does not work himself, but is the ruler of workmen? … He contributes knowledge, not manual labour? … But he ought not, like the calculator, to regard his functions as at an end when he has formed a judgment; –he must assign to the individual workmen their appropriate task until they have completed the work. … Are not all such sciences, no less than arithmetic and the like, subjects of pure knowledge; and is not the difference between the two classes, that the one sort has the power of judging only, and the other of ruling as well

May we not very properly say, that of all knowledge, there are two divisions

  • one which rules, and 
  • the other which judges?

Then we must see whether there is any mark of division in the art of command too. I am inclined to think that there is a distinction similar to that of manufacturer and retail dealer, which parts off the king from the herald.

Then shall we mingle the kingly art in the same class with the art of the herald, the interpreter, the boatswain, the prophet, and the numerous kindred arts which exercise command; or, as in the preceding comparison we spoke of manufacturers, or sellers for themselves, and of retailers,–seeing, too, that the class of supreme rulers, or rulers for themselves, is almost nameless–shall we make a word following the same analogy, and refer kings to a supreme or ruling-for-self science, leaving the rest to receive a name from someone else? For we are seeking the ruler; and our enquiry is not concerned with him who is not a ruler. 

May not all rulers be supposed to command for the sake of producing something? … Of the whole class, some have life and some are without life. … And by the help of this distinction we may make, if we please, a subdivision of the section of knowledge which commands.

  • One part may be set over the production of lifeless
  • the other of living objects; and in this way the whole will be divided

… For, surely, the royal science is not like that of a master-workman, a science presiding over lifeless objects; —the king has a nobler function, which is the management and control of living beings

But the statesman is not a tender of individuals–not like the driver or groom of a single ox or horse; he is rather to be compared with the keeper of a drove of horses or oxen. … Shall we call this art of tending many animals together, the art of managing a herd, or the art of collective management?

Very good, Socrates; and, if you continue to be not too particular about names, you will be all the richer in wisdom when you are an old man. And now, as you say, leaving leaving the discussion of the name, –can you see a way in which a person, by showing the art of herding to be of two kinds, may cause that which is now sought amongst twice the number of things, to be then sought amongst half that number? YOUNG SOCRATES: I will try; —there appears to me to be one management of men and another of beasts.

 You have certainly divided them in a most straightforward and manly style; but you have fallen into an error which hereafter I think that we had better avoid…. I think that we had better not cut off a single small portion which is not a species, from many larger portions; the part should be a species. To separate off at once the subject of investigation, is a most excellent plan, if only the separation be rightly made; and you were under the impression that you were right, because you saw that you would come to man; and this led you to hasten the steps. But you should not chip off too small a piece, my friend; the safer way is to cut through the middle; which is also the more likely way of finding classes. Attention to this principle makes all the difference in a process of enquiry. 

The error was just as if someone who wanted to divide the human race, were to divide them after the fashion which prevails in this part of the world; here they cut off the Hellenes as one species, and all the other species of mankind, which are innumerable, and have no ties or common language, they include under the single name of ‘barbarians,’ and because they have one name they are supposed to be of one species also. Or suppose that in dividing numbers you were to cut off ten thousand from all the rest, and make of it one species, comprehending the rest under another separate name, you might say that here too was a single class, because you had given it a single name. Whereas you would make a much better and more equal and logical classification of numbers, if you divided them into odd and even; or of the human species, if you divided them into male and female; and only separated off Lydians or Phrygians, or any other tribe, and arrayed them against the rest of the world, when you could no longer make a division into parts which were also classes. 

I wish you to guard against imagining that you ever heard me declare that a class and a part are distinct. … a class is necessarily a part, but there is no similar necessity that a part should be a class; that is the view which I should always wish you to attribute to me, Socrates. 

   Knowledge that rules…   
 Production of lifeless objects   Production of living objects 
    Collective managements of tame animals Collective management of beasts

I thought that in taking away a part, you imagined that the remainder formed a class, because you were able to call them by the common name of brutes…. Suppose now, O most courageous of dialecticians, that some wise and understanding creature, such as a crane is reputed to be, were, in imitation of you, to make a similar division, and set up cranes against all other animals to their own special glorification, at the same time jumbling together all the others, including man, under the appellation of brutes,– here would be the sort of error which we must try to avoid.


Second attempt of tracing/delineating a Statesman…

You remember how that part of the art of knowledge which was concerned with command, had to do with the rearing of living creatures, –I mean, with animals in herds? … In that case, there was already implied a division of all animals into tame and wild; those whose nature can be tamed are called tame, and those which cannot be tamed are called wild. 

And do you agree that we ought to divide the collective rearing of herds into two corresponding parts

  • the one the rearing of water, and 
  • the other the rearing of land herds?

Any one can divide the herds which feed on dry land? … I should distinguish between those which fly and those which walk

And where shall we look for the political animal? … Might not an idiot, so to speak, know that he is a pedestrian? … 

The art of managing the walking animal has to be further divided, just as you might halve an even number. … The tame walking herding animals are distributed by nature into two classes. … 

  • The one grows horns
  • and the other is without horns. … 

In this way: let the science of managing pedestrian animals be divided into two parts, and one part assigned to the horned herd, and the other to the herd that has no horns…. The king is clearly the shepherd of a polled herd, who have no horns….  Shall we distinguish them by their having or not having cloven feet, or by their mixing or not mixing the breed? You know what I mean… I mean that horses and asses naturally breed from one another. … of the unmixed race/breed, …. How does man walk, but as a diameter whose power is two feet?… And the power of the remaining kind, being the power of twice two feet, may be said to be the diameter of our diameter…. 

   Knowledge that rules…   
 Production of lifeless objects   Production of living objects 
    Collective rearing of herds Collective rearing of plants (?)…
   Rearing of land herds Rearing of water herds 
  Those that fly Those that walk (pedestrian)  
   Those that grow horns Polled herds (hornless 
    Unmixed race/breed Mixed race/breed, e.g. horses & asses
   Quadrupeds Bipeds (e.g. man & birds) 

Human beings have come out in the same class with the freest and airiest of creation, and have been running a race with them. … And there is a still more ridiculous consequence, that the king is found running about with the herd and in close competition with the bird-catcher, who of all mankind is most of an adept at the airy life…. That the dialectical method is no respecter of persons, and does not set the great above the small, but always arrives in her own way at the truest result. … And now, I will not wait for you to ask the, but will of my own accord take you by the shorter road to the definition of a king

Errors committed in the previous attempts of working out the image of a Statesman… 

  • I say that we should have begun at first by dividing land animals into biped and quadruped; and since the winged herd, and that alone, comes out in the same class with man, we should divide bipeds into those which have feathers and those which have not, and when they have been divided, and the art of the management of mankind is brought to light, the time will have come to produce our Statesman and ruler, and set him like a charioteer in his place, and hand over to him the reins of state, for that too is a vocation which belongs to him. 
  • The science of pure knowledge had, as we said originally, a part which was the science of rule or command, and from this was derived another part, which was called command-for-self, on the analogy of selling-for- self; an important section of this was the management of living animals, and this again was further limited to the management of them in herds; and again in herds of pedestrian animals. The chief division of the latter was the art of managing pedestrian animals which are without horns; this again has a part which can only be comprehended under one term by joining together three names–shepherding pure-bred animals. The only further subdivision is the art of man-herding, –this has to do with bipeds, and is what we were seeking after, and have now found, being at once the royal and political. 
  • STRANGER: Do you think, I mean, that we have really fulfilled our intention? –There has been a sort of discussion, and yet the investigation seems to me not to be perfectly worked out: this is where the enquiry fails. 
  • There were many arts of shepherding, and one of them was the political, which had the charge of one particular herd? … And this the argument defined to be the art of rearing, not horses or other brutes, but the art of rearing man collectively? 
  • I want to ask, whether any one of the other herdsmen has a rival who professes and claims to share with him in the management of the herd? … I mean to say that merchants, husbandmen, providers of food, and also training-masters and physicians, will all contend with the herdsmen of humanity, whom we call Statesmen, declaring that they themselves have the care of rearing or managing mankind, and that they rear not only the common herd, but also the rulers themselves
  • But if this is as you say, can our argument about the king be true and unimpeachable? Were we right in selecting him out of ten thousand other claimants to be the shepherd and rearer of the human flock? 
  • Had we not reason just to now to apprehend, that although we may have described a sort of royal form, we have not as yet accurately worked out the true image of the Statesman? and that we cannot reveal him as he truly is in his own nature, until we have disengaged and separated him from those who hang about him and claim to share in his prerogatives? 
  • There is a time when God himself guides and helps to roll the world in its course; and there is a time, on the completion of a certain cycle, when he lets go, and the world being a living creature, and having originally received intelligence from its author and creator, turns about and by an inherent necessity revolves in the opposite direction. 
  • Why, because only the most divine things of all remain ever unchanged and the same, and body is not included in this class. Heaven and the universe, as we have termed them, although they have been endowed by the Creator with many glories, partake of a bodily nature, and therefore cannot be entirely free from perturbation. But their motion is, as far as possible, single and in the same place, and of the same kind; and is therefore only subject to a reversal, which is the least alteration possible. But their motion is, as far as possible, single and in the same place, and of the same kind; and is therefore only subject to a reversal, which is the least alteration possible. 
  • For the lord of all moving things is alone able to move of himself; and to think that he moves them at one time in one direction and at another time in another is blasphemy. Hence we must not say that the world is either self-moved always, or all made to go round by God in two opposite courses; or that two Gods, having opposite purposes, make it move round. But as I have already said (and this is the only remaining alternative) the world is guided at one time by an external power which is divine and receives fresh life and immortality from the renewing hand of the Creator, and again, when let go, moves spontaneously, being set free at such a time as to have, during infinite cycles of years, a reverse movement: this is due to its perfect balance, to its vast size, and to the fact that it turns on the smallest pivot.
  • In those days God himself was their shepherd, and ruled over them, just as man, who is by comparison a divine being, still rules over the lower animals. Under him there were no forms of government or separate possession of women and children; for all men rose again from the earth, having no memory of the past. And although they had nothing of this sort, the earth gave them fruits in abundance, which grew on trees and shrubs unbidden, and were not planted by the hand of man. And they dwelt naked, and mostly in the open air, for the temperature of their seasons was mild; and they had no beds, but lay on soft couches of grass, which grew plentifully out of the earth. Such was the life of man in the days of Cronos, Socrates; the character of our present life, which is said to be under Zeus, you know from your own experience. Can you, and will you, determine which of them you deem the happier? YOUNG SOCRATES: Impossible. 
  • Suppose that the nurslings of Cronos, having this boundless leisure, and the power of holding intercourse, not only with men, but with the brute creation, had used all these advantages with a view to philosophy, conversing with the brutes as well as with one another, and learning of every nature which was gifted with any special power, and was able to contribute some special experience to the store of wisdom, there would be no difficulty in deciding that they would be a thousand times happier than the men of our own day. Or, again, if they had merely eaten and drunk until they were full, and told stories to one another and to the animals–such stories as are now attributed to them–in this case also, as I should imagine, the answer would be easy. But until some satisfactory witness can be found of the love of that age for knowledge and discussion, we had better let the matter drop, and give the reason why we have unearthed this tale, and then we shall be able to get on. 
  • In the fulness of time, when the change was to take place, and the earth-born race had all perished, and every soul had completed its proper cycle of births and been sown in the earth her appointed number of times, the pilot of the universe let the helm go, and retired to his place of view; and then Fate and innate desire reversed the motion of the world. Then also all the inferior deities who share the rule of the supreme power, being informed of what was happening, let go the parts of the world which were under their control. 
  • While the world was aided by the pilot in nurturing the animals, the evil was small, and great the good which he produced, but after the separation, when the world was let go, at first all proceeded well enough; but, as time went on, there was more and more forgetting, and the old discord again held sway and burst forth in full glory; and at last small was the good, and great was the admixture of evil, and there was a danger of universal ruin to the world, and to the things contained in him
  • Wherefore God, the orderer of all, in his tender care, seeing that the world was in great straits, and fearing that all might be dissolved in the storm and disappear in infinite chaos, again seated himself at the helm; and bringing back the elements which had fallen into dissolution and disorder to the motion which had prevailed under his dispensation, he set them in order and restored them, and made the world imperishable and immortal. 
  • All things changed, imitating and following the condition of the universe, and of necessity agreeing with that in their mode of conception and generation and nurture; for no animal was any longer allowed to come into being in the earth through the agency of other creative beings, but as the world was ordained to be the lord of his own progress, in like manner the parts were ordained to grow and generate and give nourishment, as far as they could, of themselves, impelled by a similar movement. 
  • For all these reasons they were in a great strait; wherefore also the gifts spoken of in the old tradition were imparted to man by the gods, together with so much teaching and education as was indispensable; fire was given to them by Prometheus, the arts by Hephaestus and his fellow-worker, Athene, seeds and plants by others. From these is derived all that has helped to frame human life; since the care of the Gods, as I was saying, had now failed men, and they had to order their course of life for themselves, and were their own masters, just like the universal creature whom they imitate and follow, ever changing, as he changes, and ever living and growing, at one time in one manner, and at another time in another. 
  • Enough of the story, which may be of use in showing us how greatly we erred in the delineation of the king and the statesman in our previous discourse. … There were two; the first a lesser one, the other was an error on a much larger and grander scale. 
  • I mean to say that when we were asked about a king and statesman of the present cycle and generation, we told of a shepherd of a human flock who belonged to the other cycle, and of one who was a god when he ought to have been a man; and this a great error
  • Again, we declared him to be the ruler of the entire State, without explaining how: this was not the whole truth, nor very intelligible; but still it was true, and therefore the second error was not so great as the first. 
  • Before we can expect to have a perfect description of the statesman we must define the nature of his office. … And the myth was introduced in order to show, not only that all others are rivals of the true shepherd who is the object of our search, but in order that we might have a clearer view of him who is alone worthy to receive this appellation, because he alone of shepherds and herdsmen, according to the image which we have employed, has the care of human beings
  • And I cannot help thinking, Socrates, that the form of the divine shepherd is even higher than that of a king; whereas the statesmen who are now on earth seem to be much more like their subjects in character, and much more nearly to partake of their breeding and education

Third attempt of defining the Statesman…

To resume: –Do you remember that we spoke of a command-for-self exercised over animals, not singly but collectively, which we called the art of rearing a herd? …  There, somewhere, lay our error; for we never included or mentioned the Statesman; and we did not observe that he had no place in our nomenclature. 

All other herdsmen ‘rear’ their herds, but this is not a suitable term to apply to the Statesman; we should use a name which is common to them all. … Why, is not ‘care’ of herds applicable to all? For this implies no feeding, or any special duty; if we say either ‘tending’ the herds, or ‘managing’ the herds, or ‘having the care’ of them, the same word will include all, and then we may wrap up the Statesman with the rest, as the argument seems to require. 

If the word had been ‘managing’ herds, instead of feeding or rearing them, no one would have argued that there was no care of men in the case of the politician, although it was justly contended, that there was no human art of feeding them which was worthy of the name, or at least, if there were, many a man had a prior and greater right to share in such an art than any king. … But no other art or science will have a prior or better right than the royal science to care for human society and to rule over men in general. 

Why, supposing we were ever so sure that there is such an art as the art of rearing or feeding bipeds, there was no reason why we should call this the royal or political art, as though there were no more to be said. …  Our first duty, as we were saying, was to remodel the name, so as to have the notion of care rather than of feeding, and then to divide, for there may be still considerable divisions. First, by separating the divine shepherd from the human guardian or manager. And the art of management which is assigned to man would again have to be subdivided. …: On the principle of voluntary and compulsory. … Because, if I am not mistaken, there has been an error here; for our simplicity led us to rank king and tyrant together, whereas they are utterly distinct, like their modes of government.  

Then, now, as I said, let us make the correction and divide human care into two parts, on the principle of voluntary and compulsory. … And if we call the management of violent rulers tyranny, and the voluntary management of herds of voluntary bipeds politics, may we not further assert that he who has this latter art of management is the true king and statesman

   Knowledge that rules…   
 Production of lifeless objects   Production of living objects 
    Collective rearing of herds Collective rearing of plants (?)…
   Rearing of land herds Rearing of water herds 
  Bipeds Quadrupeds  
 Those that have feathers Featherless   
  Care of nonhuman subjects Care of human subjects  
   Management of herds of voluntary bipeds (politics) Management of involuntary bipeds (tyranny) 

YOUNG SOCRATES: I think, Stranger, that we have now completed the account of the Statesman. STRANGER: Would that we had, Socrates, but I have to satisfy myself as well as you; and in my judgment the figure of the king is not yet perfected; like statuaries who, in their too great haste, having overdone the several parts of their work, lose time in cutting them down, so too we, partly out of haste, partly out of a magnanimous desire to expose our former error, and also because we imagined that a king required grand illustrations, have taken up a marvelous lump of fable, and have been obliged to use more than was necessary. 

And our discussion might be compared to a picture of some living being which had been fairly drawn in outline, but had not yet attained the life and clearness which is given by the blending of colours. Now to intelligent persons a living being had better be delineated by language and discourse than by any painting or work of art: to the duller sort by works of art

The higher ideas, my dear friend, can hardly be set forth except through the medium of examples; every man seems to know all things in a dreamy sort of way, and then again to wake up and to know nothing. 

Our experience of knowledge… 

  • I fear that I have been unfortunate in raising a question about our experience of knowledge. … I will proceed, finding, as I do, such a ready listener in you: when children are beginning to know their letters– … That they distinguish the several letters well enough in very short and easy syllables, and are able to tell them correctly. … To refer them first of all to cases in which they judge correctly about the letters in question, and then to compare these with the cases in which they do not as yet know, and to show them that the letters are the same, and have the same character in both combinations, until all cases in which they are right have been placed side by side with all cases in which they are wrong. In this way they have examples, and are made to learn that each letter in every combination is always the same and not another, and is always called by the same name. 
  • Are not examples formed in this manner? We take a thing and compare it with another distinct instance of the same thing, of which we have a right conception, and out of the comparison there arises one true notion, which includes both of them.
  • Can we wonder, then, that the soul has the same uncertainty about the alphabet of things, and sometimes and in some cases is firmly fixed by the truth in each particular, and then, again, in other cases is altogether at sea; having somehow or other a correct notion of combinations; but when the elements are transferred into the long and difficult language (syllables) of facts, is again ignorant of them? 
  • Could anyone, my friend, who began with false opinion ever expect to arrive even at a small portion of truth and to attain wisdom? … Then you and I will not be far wrong in trying to see the nature of example in general in a small and particular instance; afterwards from lesser things we intend to pass to the royal class, which is the highest form of the same nature, and endeavour to discover by rules of art what the management of cities is; and then the dream will become a reality to us. 
  • Then, once more, let us resume the previous argument, and as there were innumerable rivals of the royal race who claim to have the care of states, let us part them all off, and leave him alone; and, as I was saying, a model or example of this process has first to be framed. 

  1. Fourth attempt: introduction and use of the art of weaving of wool… 

What model is there which is small, and yet has any analogy with the political occupation? Suppose, Socrates, that if we have no other example at hand, we choose weaving, or, more precisely, weaving of wool— this will be quite enough, without taking the whole of weaving, to illustrate our meaning? 

All things which we make or acquire are either creative or preventive; of the preventive class are antidotes, divine and human, and also defences; and defences are either military weapons or protections; and protections are veils, and also shields against heat and cold, and shields against heat and cold are shelters and coverings; and coverings are blankets and garments; and garments are some of them in one piece, and others of them are made in several parts; and of these latter some are stitched, others are fastened and not stitched; and of the not stitched, some are made of the sinews of plants, and some of hair; and of these, again, some are cemented with water and earth, and others are fastened together by themselves. And these last defences and coverings which are fastened together by themselves are called clothes, and the art which superintends them we may call, from the nature of the operation, the art of clothing, just as before the art of the Statesman was derived from the State; and may we not say that the art of weaving, at least that largest portion of it which was concerned with the making of clothes, differs only in name from this art of clothing, in the same way that, in the previous case, the royal science differed from the political

  All things (acquired or made) …       
 Some are Creative Others Preventive      
  Antidotes Defenses     
   Military Protection    
    Shields Veils   
   Shelters Coverings    
    Garments Blankets   
   Others made of several parts Some in one piece    
  Some StitchedSome CementedOthers fastened together by themselves (clothes) Here lies the art of clothing     

In the next place, let us make the reflection, that the art of weaving clothes, which an incompetent person might fancy to have been sufficiently described, has been separated off from several others which are of the same family, but not from the co-operative arts.

In the next place, let us make the reflection, that the art of weaving clothes, which an incompetent person might fancy to have been sufficiently described, has been separated off from several others which are of the same family, but not from the co-operative arts. … We just now parted off from the weaving of clothes, the making of blankets, which differ from each other in that one is put under and the other is put around: and these are what I termed kindred arts. 

Yes, my boy, but that is not all; for the first process to which the material is subjected is the opposite of weaving. … Weaving is a sort of uniting? … But the first process is a separation of the clotted and matted fibres? … I mean the work of the carder’s art; for we cannot say that carding is weaving, or that the carder is a weaver

Again, if a person were to say that the art of making the warp and the woof was the art of weaving, he would say what was paradoxical and false. 

Shall we say that the whole art of the fuller or of the mender has nothing to do with the care and treatment of clothes, or are we to regard all these as arts of weaving? … And yet surely all these arts will maintain that they are concerned with the treatment and production of clothes; they will dispute the exclusive prerogative of weaving, and though assigning a larger sphere to that, will still reserve a considerable field for themselves. … Besides these, there are the arts which make tools and instruments of weaving, and which will claim at least to be co-operative causes in every work of the weaver. … Well, then, suppose that we define weaving, or rather that part of it which has been selected by us, to be the greatest and noblest of arts which are concerned with woollen garments–shall we be right? Is not the definition, although true, wanting in clearness and completeness; for do not all those other arts require to be first cleared away? 

Let us consider, in the first place, that there are two kinds of arts entering into everything which we do. … 

  1. The one kind is the conditional or co-operative
  2. the other the principal cause

The arts which do not manufacture the actual thing, but which furnish the necessary tools for the manufacture, without which the several arts could not fulfil their appointed work, are co-operative; but those which make the things themselves are causal

Thus the arts which make spindles, combs, and other instruments of the production of clothes, may be called co-operative, and those which treat and fabricate the things themselves, causal. … The arts of washing and mending, and the other preparatory arts which belong to the causal class, and form a division of the great art of adornment, may be all comprehended under what we call the fuller’s art

Carding and one half of the use of the comb, and the other processes of wool-working which separate the composite, may be classed together as belonging both to the art of wool-working, and also to one of the two great arts which are of universal application–the art of composition and the art of division

Again, let us take some process of wool-working which is also a portion of the art of composition, and, dismissing the elements of division which we found there, make two halves, one on the principle of composition, and the other on the principle of division. … And once more, Socrates, we must divide the part which belongs at once both to wool-working and composition, if we are ever to discover satisfactorily the aforesaid art of weaving. 

Yes, certainly, and let us call one part of the art the art of twisting threads, the other the art of combining them. … Then suppose that you define the warp and the woof, for I think that the definition will be of use to you. … As thus: A piece of carded wool which is drawn out lengthwise and breadthwise is said to be pulled out. … 

And the wool thus prepared, when twisted by the spindle, and made into a firm thread, is called the warp, and the art which regulates these operations the art of spinning the warp

And the threads which are more loosely spun, having a softness proportioned to the intertexture of the warp and to the degree of force used in dressing the cloth, –the threads which are thus spun are called the woof, and the art which is set over them may be called the art of spinning the woof. 

And, now, there can be no mistake about the nature of the part of weaving which we have undertaken to define. For when that part of the art of composition which is employed in the working of wool forms a web by the regular intertexture of warp and woof, the entire woven substance is called by us a woollen garment, and the art which presides over this is the art of weaving

  Two kinds of Arts    
 Conditional/Cooperative Arts Principal/Causal Arts   
  Fuller’s Art Art of Wool-working  
   Art of Composition Art of Division 
  Art of spinning the warp (Art of twisting of wool into a firm thread/warp) Art of loosely spuning soft threads (woof/weft)  
   The art of weaving (the Art of combining/entwining warp and woof/weft)   

But why did we not say at once that weaving is the art of entwining warp and woof, instead of making a long and useless circuit? …

The nature of excess and defect

  • Let us begin by considering the whole nature of excess and defect, and then we shall have a rational ground on which we may praise or blame too much length or too much shortness in discussions of this kind. … Length and shortness, excess and defect; with all of these the art of measurement is conversant. … And the art of measurement has to be divided into two parts, with a view to our present purpose
  • As thus: I would make two parts, one having regard to the relativity of greatness and smallness to each other; and there is another, without which the existence of production would be impossible. … Do you not think that it is only natural for the greater to be called greater with reference to the less alone, and the less less with reference to the greater alone? … Well, but is there not also something exceeding and exceeded by the principle of the mean, both in speech and action, and is not this a reality, and the chief mark of difference between good and bad men?
  • Then we must suppose that the great and small exist and are discerned in both these ways, and not, as we were saying before, only relatively to one another, but there must also be another comparison of them with the mean or ideal standard; would you like to hear the reason why? … If we assume the greater to exist only in relation to the less, there will never be any comparison of either with the mean. … And would not this doctrine be the ruin of all the arts and their creations; would not the art of the Statesman and the aforesaid art of weaving disappear? For all these arts are on the watch against excess and defect, not as unrealities, but as real evils, which occasion a difficulty in action; and the excellence or beauty of every work of art is due to this observance of measure. … Well, then, as in the case of the Sophist we extorted the inference that not-being had an existence, because here was the point at which the argument eluded our grasp, so in this we must endeavour to show that the greater and less are not only to be measured with one another, but also have to do with the production of the mean; for if this is not admitted, neither a statesman nor any other man of action can be an undisputed master of his science. … 
  • That we shall someday require this notion of a mean with a view to the demonstration of absolute truth; meanwhile, the argument that the very existence of the arts must be held to depend on the possibility of measuring more or less, not only with one another, but also with a view to the attainment of the mean, seems to afford a grand support and satisfactory proof of the doctrine which we are maintaining; for if there are arts, there is a standard of measure, and if there is a standard of measure, there are arts; but if either is wanting, there is neither
  • The next step clearly is to divide the art of measurement into two parts, as we have said already, ….
    • to place in the one part all the arts which measure number, length, depth, breadth, swiftness with their opposites; and 
    • to have another part in which they are measured with the mean, and the fit, and the opportune, and the due, and with all those words, in short, which denote a mean or standard removed from the extremes
  • There are many accomplished men, Socrates, who say, believing themselves to speak wisely, that the art of measurement is universal, and has to do with all things. And this means what we are now saying; for all things which come within the province of art do certainly in some sense partake of measureBut these persons, because they are not accustomed to distinguish classes according to real forms, jumble together two widely different things, relation to one another, and to a standard, under the idea that they are the same, and also fall into the converse error of dividing other things not according to their real partsWhereas the right way is, if a man has first seen the unity of things, to go on with the enquiry and not desist until he has found all the differences contained in it which form distinct classes; nor again should he be able to rest contented with the manifold diversities which are seen in a multitude of things until he has comprehended all of them that have any affinity within the bounds of one similarity and embraced them within the reality of a single kind. But we have said enough on this head, and also of excess and defect; we have only to bear in mind that two divisions of the art of measurement have been discovered which are concerned with them, and not forget what they are. 

Still less would any rational man seek to analyze the notion of weaving for its own sake. But people seem to forget that some things have sensible images, which are readily known, and can be easily pointed out when any one desires to answer an enquirer without any trouble or argumentwhereas the greatest and highest truths have no outward image of themselves visible to man, which he who wishes to satisfy the soul of the enquirer can adapt to the eye of sense (compare Phaedr.), and therefore we ought to train ourselves to give and accept a rational account of them; for immaterial things, which are the noblest and greatest, are shown only in thought and idea, and in no other way, and all that we are now saying is said for the sake of themMoreover, there is always less difficulty in fixing the mind on small matters than on great.

I wanted to get rid of any impression of tediousness which we may have experienced in the discussion about weaving, and the reversal of the universe, and in the discussion concerning the Sophist and the being of not-being. I know that they were felt to be too long, and I reproached myself with this, fearing that they might be not only tedious but irrelevant; and all that I have now said is only designed to prevent the recurrence of any such disagreeables for the future. 

Then I would like to observe that you and I, remembering what has been said, should praise or blame the length or shortness of discussions, not by comparing them with one another, but with what is fitting, having regard to the part of measurement, which, as we said, was to be borne in mind

And yet, not everything is to be judged even with a view to what is fitting; for we should only want such a length as is suited to give pleasure, if at all, as a secondary matter; and reason tells us, that we should be contented to make the ease or rapidity of an enquiry, not our first, but our second object; the first and highest of all being to assert the great method of division according to species–whether the discourse be shorter or longer is not to the point. No offence should be taken at length, but the longer and shorter are to be employed indifferently, according as either of them is better calculated to sharpen the wits of the auditors. Reason would also say to him who censures the length of discourses on such occasions and cannot away with their circumlocution, that he should not be in such a hurry to have done with them, when he can only complain that they are tedious, but he should prove that if they had been shorter they would have made those who took part in them better dialecticians, and more capable of expressing the truth of things; about any other praise and blame, he need not trouble himself–he should pretend not to hear them. But we have had enough of this, as you will probably agree with me in thinking. Let us return to our Statesman, and apply to his case the aforesaid example of weaving. 

The art of the king has been separated from the similar arts of shepherds, and, indeed, from all those which have to do with herds at all. There still remain, however, of the causal and co-operative arts those which are immediately concerned with States, and which must first be distinguished from one another. 

So now, and with still more reason, all arts which make any implement in a State, whether great or small, may be regarded by us as co- operative, for without them neither State nor Statesmanship would be possible; and yet we are not inclined to say that any of them is a product of the kingly art. … The task of separating this class from others is not an easy one; for there is plausibility in saying that anything in the world is the instrument of doing something. But there is another class of possessions in a city, of which I have a word to say. 

A class which may be described as not having this power; that is to say, not like an instrument, framed for production, but designed for the preservation of that which is produced. … To the class of vessels, as they are comprehensively termed, which are constructed for the preservation of things moist and dry, of things prepared in the fire or out of the fire; this is a very large class, and has, if I am not mistaken, literally nothing to do with the royal art of which we are in search. 

There is also a third class of possessions to be noted, different from these and very extensive, moving or resting on land or water, honourable and also dishonourable. The whole of this class has one name, because it is intended to be sat upon, being always a seat for something. … A vehicle, which is certainly not the work of the Statesman, but of the carpenter, potter, and coppersmith. 

And is there not a fourth class which is again different, and in which most of the things formerly mentioned are contained, –every kind of dress, most sorts of arms, walls and enclosures, whether of earth or stone, and ten thousand other things? all of which being made for the sake of defence, may be truly called defences, and are for the most part to be regarded as the work of the builder or of the weaver, rather than of the Statesman. 

Shall we add a fifth class, of ornamentation and drawing, and of the imitations produced by drawing and music, which are designed for amusement only, and may be fairly comprehended under one name? … Plaything is the name. … That one name may be fitly predicated of all of them, for none of these things have a serious purpose–amusement is their sole aim

Then there is a class which provides materials for all these, out of which and in which the arts already mentioned fabricate their works; –this manifold class, I say, which is the creation and offspring of many other arts, may I not rank sixth? … I am referring to gold, silver, and other metals, and all that wood-cutting and shearing of every sort provides for the art of carpentry and plaiting; and there is the process of barking and stripping the cuticle of plants, and the currier’s art, which strips off the skins of animals, and other similar arts which manufacture corks and papyri and cords, and provide for the manufacture of composite species out of simple kinds–the whole class may be termed the primitive and simple possession of man, and with this the kingly science has no concern at all. 

The provision of food and of all other things which mingle their particles with the particles of the human body, and minister to the body, will form a seventh class, which may be called by the general term of nourishment, unless you have any better name to offer. This, however, appertains rather to the husbandman, huntsman, trainer, doctor, cook, and is not to be assigned to the Statesman’s art. 

These seven classes include nearly every description of property, with the exception of tame animals. Consider;–there was the original material, which ought to have been placed firstnext come instrumentsvesselsvehiclesdefences, playthingsnourishment; small things, which may be included under one of these–as for example, coins, seals and stamps, are omitted, for they have not in them the character of any larger kind which includes them; but some of them may, with a little forcing, be placed among ornaments, and others may be made to harmonize with the class of implements. The art of herding, which has been already divided into parts, will include all property in tame animals, except slaves. 

The class of slaves and ministers only remains, and I suspect that in this the real aspirants for the throne, who are the rivals of the king in the formation of the political web, will be discovered; just as spinners, carders, and the rest of them, were the rivals of the weaver. All the others, who were termed co-operators, have been got rid of among the occupations already mentioned, and separated from the royal and political science. 

We shall find from our present point of view that the greatest servants are in a case and condition which is the reverse of what we anticipated. … Those who have been purchased, and have so become possessions; these are unmistakably slaves, and certainly do not claim royal science. 

Again, freemen who of their own accord become the servants of the other classes in a State, and who exchange and equalise the products of husbandry and the other arts, some sitting in the market-place, others going from city to city by land or sea, and giving money in exchange for money or for other productions–the money-changer, the merchant, the ship- owner, the retailer, will not put in any claim to statecraft or politics? YOUNG SOCRATES: No; unless, indeed, to the politics of commerce

But surely men whom we see acting as hirelings and serfs, and too happy to turn their hand to anything, will not profess to share in royal science? 

But what would you say of some other serviceable officials? … There are heralds, and scribes perfected by practice, and divers others who have great skill in various sorts of business connected with the government of states–what shall we call them? YOUNG SOCRATES: They are the officials, and servants of the rulers, as you just now called them, but not themselves rulers. 

There may be something strange in any servant pretending to be a ruler, and yet I do not think that I could have been dreaming when I imagined that the principal claimants to political science would be found somewhere in this neighbourhood

Well, let us draw nearer, and try the claims of some who have not yet been tested: in the first place, there are diviners, who have a portion of servile or ministerial science, and are thought to be the interpreters of the gods to men. … There is also the priestly class, who, as the law declares, know how to give the gods gifts from men in the form of sacrifices which are acceptable to them, and to ask on our behalf blessings in return from them. Now both these are branches of the servile or ministerial art. 

And here I think that we seem to be getting on the right track; for the priest and the diviner are swollen with pride and prerogative, and they create an awful impression of themselves by the magnitude of their enterprises; in Egypt, the king himself is not allowed to reign, unless he have priestly powers, and if he should be of another class and has thrust himself in, he must get enrolled in the priesthood. In many parts of Hellas, the duty of offering the most solemn propitiatory sacrifices is assigned to the highest magistracies, and here, at Athens, the most solemn and national of the ancient sacrifices are supposed to be celebrated by him who has been chosen by lot to be the King Archon. 

A minute ago I thought that they were animals of every tribe; for many of them are like lions and centaurs, and many more like satyrs and such weak and shifty creatures; –Protean shapes quickly changing into one another’s forms and natures; and now, Socrates, I begin to see who they are. … Yes; everyone looks strange when you do not know him; and just now I myself fell into this mistake–at first sight, coming suddenly upon him, I did not recognize the politician and his troop. … The chief of Sophists and most accomplished of wizards, who must at any cost be separated from the true king or Statesman, if we are ever to see daylight in the present enquiry. 

Summarily the Art of the King separated from similar arts of shepherds and from the following various classes in a State:The Cooperative Arts – Those which make any implement in a State… 

  • The Class of Vessels – Designed for the preservation of that which is produced (moist or dry) …
  • The Class of Vehicles – Intended to be sat upon, being always a seat for somethings, e.g. carpentry, pottery, etc.… 
  • The Class of Defences – Every kind of dress, most sorts of arms, etc.…. 
  • The Class of Plaything – Of ornamentation and of the imitations produced by drawing and music, designed for amusement… amusement is their sole aim… 
  • The Class that Produces Original Material for use by other Arts – A class which produces original materials for other Arts, e.g. gold, timber etc.…
  • The Class of Nourishments – Provision of food, medicine… trainer, doctor, cook, …
  • The Class of Slaves and Ministers – Those who sell their labor, exchange, equalize the products of husbandry and the other arts… giving money in exchange for money or for other productions… hirelings and serfs who are too happy to turn their hand to anything… 
  • The Class of Diviners/the Priestly Class – Who profess to know how to give gods gifts from men in the form of sacrifices which are acceptable to them, and to ask on our behalf blessings in return from them…
  • The Tribe of Politicians and their Troops – Protean shapes quickly changing into one another’s forms and natures… chief of Sophists, accomplished wizards… etc.…. 

Is not monarchy a recognized form of government? … And, after monarchy, next in order comes the government of the few?  …  Is not the third form of government the rule of the multitude, which is called by the name of democracy?  … And do not these three expand in a manner into five, producing out of themselves two other names? 

There is a criterion of voluntary and involuntary, poverty and riches, law and the absence of law, which men now-a-days apply to them; the two first they subdivide accordingly, and ascribe to monarchy two forms and two corresponding names, royalty and tyranny. … And the government of the few they distinguish by the names of aristocracy andoligarchy. … Democracy alone, whether rigidly observing the laws or not, and whether the multitude rule over the men of property with their consent or against their consent, always in ordinary language has the same name. 

But do you suppose that any form of government which is defined by these characteristics of the one, the few, or the many, of poverty or wealth, of voluntary or compulsory submission, of written law or the absence of law, can be a right one? 

If I am not mistaken, we said that royal power was a science? … And a science of a peculiar kind, which was selected out of the rest as having a character which is at once judicial and authoritative? 

And there was one kind of authority over lifeless things and another other living animals; and so we proceeded in the division step by step up to this point, not losing the idea of science, but unable as yet to determine the nature of the particular science? … Hence we are led to observe that the distinguishing principle of the State cannot be the few or many, the voluntary or involuntary, poverty or riches; but some notion of science must enter into it, if we are to be consistent with what has preceded.

Well, then, in which of these various forms of States may the science of government, which is among the greatest of all sciences and most difficult to acquire, be supposed to reside? That we must discover, and then we shall see who are the false politicians who pretend to be politicians but are not, although they persuade many, and shall separate them from the wise king

Do you think that the multitude in a State can attain political science? YOUNG SOCRATES: Impossible. 

But, perhaps, in a city of a thousand men, there would be a hundred, or say fifty, who could? YOUNG SOCRATES: In that case political science would certainly be the easiest of all sciences; there could not be found in a city of that number as many really first-rate draught-players, if judged by the standard of the rest of Hellas, and there would certainly not be as many kings. For kings we may truly call those who possess royal science, whether they rule or not, as was shown in the previous argument. STRANGER: Thank you for reminding me; and the consequence is that any true form of government can only be supposed to be the government of one, two, or, at any rate, of a few

And these, whether they rule with the will, or against the will, of their subjects, with written laws or without written laws, and whether they are poor or rich, and whatever be the nature of their rule, must be supposed, according to our present view, to rule on some scientific principle; just as the physician, whether he cures us against our will or with our will, and whatever be his mode of treatment,–incision, burning, or the infliction of some other pain,–whether he practises out of a book or not out of a book, and whether he be rich or poor, whether he purges or reduces in some other way, or even fattens his patients, is a physician all the same, so long as he exercises authority over them according to rules of art, if he only does them good and heals and saves them. And this we lay down to be the only proper test of the art of medicine, or of any other art of command. … Then that can be the only true form of government in which the governors are really found to possess science, and are not mere pretenders, whether they rule according to law or without law, over willing or unwilling subjects, and are rich or poor themselves–none of these things can with any propriety be included in the notion of the ruler. … And whether with a view to the public good they purge the State by killing some, or exiling some; whether they reduce the size of the body corporate by sending out from the hive swarms of citizens, or, by introducing persons from without, increase it; while they act according to the rules of wisdom and justice, and use their power with a view to the general security and improvement, the city over which they rule, and which has these characteristics, may be described as the only true State. All other governments are not genuine or real; but only imitations of this, and some of them are better and some of them are worse; the better are said to be well governed, but they are mere imitations like the others.

On the notion or possibility for existence of a good government without laws…

  • There can be no doubt that legislation is in a manner the business of a king, and yet the best thing of all is not that the law should rule, but that a man should rule supposing him to have wisdom and royal power
  • Because the law does not perfectly comprehend what is noblest and most just for all and therefore cannot enforce what is bestThe differences of men and actions, and the endless irregular movements of human things, do not admit of any universal and simple rule. And no art whatsoever can lay down a rule which will last for all time. … But the law is always striving to make one; –like an obstinate and ignorant tyrant, who will not allow anything to be done contrary to his appointment, or any question to be asked–not even in sudden changes of circumstances, when something happens to be better than what he commanded for some one. 
  • A perfectly simple principle can never be applied to a state of things which is the reverse of simple.
  • Then if the law is not the perfection of right, why are we compelled to make laws at all? The reason of this has next to be investigated. 
  • The training-masters do not issue minute rules for individuals, or give every individual what is exactly suited to his constitution; they think that they ought to go more roughly to work, and to prescribe generally the regimen which will benefit the majority. … And therefore they assign equal amounts of exercise to them all; they send them forth together, and let them rest together from their running, wrestling, or whatever the form of bodily exercise may be. 
  • And now observe that the legislator who has to preside over the herd, and to enforce justice in their dealings with one another, will not be able, in enacting for the general good, to provide exactly what is suitable for each particular case. … He will lay down laws in a general form for the majority, roughly meeting the cases of individuals; and some of them he will deliver in writing, and others will be unwritten; and these last will be traditional customs of the country. … Yes, quite right; for how can he sit at every man’s side all through his life, prescribing for him the exact particulars of his duty? Who, Socrates, would be equal to such a task? No one who really had the royal science, if he had been able to do this, would have imposed upon himself the restriction of a written law. 
  • Let us put to ourselves the case of a physician, or trainer, who is about to go into a far country, and is expecting to be a long time away from his patients–thinking that his instructions will not be remembered unless they are written down, he will leave notes of them for the use of his pupils or patients. … But what would you say, if he came back sooner than he had intended, and, owing to an unexpected change of the winds or other celestial influences, something else happened to be better for them,–would he not venture to suggest this new remedy, although not contemplated in his former prescription? Would he persist in observing the original law, neither himself giving any new commandments, nor the patient daring to do otherwise than was prescribed, under the idea that this course only was healthy and medicinal, all others noxious and heterodox? Viewed in the light of science and true art, would not all such enactments be utterly ridiculous? 
  • And if he who gave laws, written or unwritten, determining what was good or bad, honourable or dishonourable, just or unjust, to the tribes of men who flock together in their several cities, and are governed in accordance with them; if, I say, the wise legislator were suddenly to come again, or another like to him, is he to be prohibited from changing them?– would not this prohibition be in reality quite as ridiculous as the other?
  • They say that if any one knows how the ancient laws may be improved, he must first persuade his own State of the improvement, and then he may legislate, but not otherwise. … I dare say. But supposing that he does use some gentle violence for their good, what is this violence to be called? Or rather, before you answer, let me ask the same question in reference to our previous instances. 
  • I dare say. But supposing that he does use some gentle violence for their good, what is this violence to be called? Or rather, before you answer, let me ask the same question in reference to our previous instances. … Suppose that a skillful physician has a patient, of whatever sex or age, whom he compels against his will to do something for his good which is contrary to the written rules; what is this compulsion to be called? Would you ever dream of calling it a violation of the art, or a breach of the laws of health? Nothing could be more unjust than for the patient to whom such violence is applied, to charge the physician who practises the violence with wanting skill or aggravating his disease
  • In the political art error is not called disease, but evil, or disgrace, or injustice
  • And when the citizen, contrary to law and custom, is compelled to do what is juster and better and nobler than he did before, the last and most absurd thing which he could say about such violence is that he has incurred disgrace or evil or injustice at the hands of those who compelled him. 
  • And shall we say that the violence, if exercised by a rich man, is just, and if by a poor man, unjust? May not any man, rich or poor, with or without laws, with the will of the citizens or against the will of the citizens, do what is for their interest? Is not this the true principle of government, according to which the wise and good man will order the affairs of his subjects? As the pilot, by watching continually over the interests of the ship and of the crew,–not by laying down rules, but by making his art a law,–preserves the lives of his fellow-sailors, even so, and in the self-same way, may there not be a true form of polity created by those who are able to govern in a similar spirit, and who show a strength of art which is superior to the law? Nor can wise rulers ever err while they observing the one great rule of distributing justice to the citizens with intelligence and skill, are able to preserve them, and, as far as may be, to make them better from being worse. 
  • We said that no great number of persons, whoever they may be, can attain political knowledge, or order a State wisely, but that the true government is to be found in a small body, or in an individual, and that other States are but imitations of this, as we said a little while ago, some for the better and some for the worse.

Supposing the government of which I have been speaking to be the only true model, then the others must use the written laws of this–in no other way can they be saved; they will have to do what is now generally approved, although not the best thing in the world.


The nature of the second-best State….

  • No citizen should do anything contrary to the laws, and any infringement of them should be punished with death and the most extreme penalties; and this is very right and good when regarded as the second-best thing, if you set aside the first, of which I was just now speaking. Shall I explain the nature of what I call the second best? 
  • The noble pilot and the wise physician, who ‘is worth many another man’–in the similitude of these let us endeavour to discover some image of the king. 
  • Well, such as this:–Every man will reflect that he suffers strange things at the hands of both of them; the physician saves any whom he wishes to save, and any whom he wishes to maltreat he maltreats–cutting or burning them; and at the same time requiring them to bring him payments, which are a sort of tribute, of which little or nothing is spent upon the sick man, and the greater part is consumed by him and his domestics; and the finale is that he receives money from the relations of the sick man or from some enemy of his, and puts him out of the way. And the pilots of ships are guilty of numberless evil deeds of the same kind; they intentionally play false and leave you ashore when the hour of sailing arrives; or they cause mishaps at sea and cast away their freight; and are guilty of other rogueries. Now suppose that we, bearing all this in mind, were to determine, after consideration, that neither of these arts shall any longer be allowed to exercise absolute control either over freemen or over slaves, but that we will summon an assembly either of all the people, or of the rich only, that anybody who likes, whatever may be his calling, or even if he have no calling, may offer an opinion either about seamanship or about diseases–whether as to the manner in which physic or surgical instruments are to be applied to the patient, or again about the vessels and the nautical implements which are required in navigation, and how to meet the dangers of winds and waves which are incidental to the voyage, how to behave when encountering pirates, and what is to be done with the old- fashioned galleys, if they have to fight with others of a similar build– and that, whatever shall be decreed by the multitude on these points, upon the advice of persons skilled or unskilled, shall be written down on triangular tablets and columns, or enacted although unwritten to be national customs; and that in all future time vessels shall be navigated and remedies administered to the patient after this fashion.
  • Suppose further, that the pilots and physicians are appointed annually, either out of the rich, or out of the whole people, and that they are elected by lot; and that after their election they navigate vessels and heal the sick according to the written rules. 
  • But hear what follows:–When the year of office has expired, the pilot or physician has to come before a court of review, in which the judges are either selected from the wealthy classes or chosen by lot out of the whole people; and anybody who pleases may be their accuser, and may lay to their charge, that during the past year they have not navigated their vessels or healed their patients according to the letter of the law and the ancient customs of their ancestors; and if either of them is condemned, some of the judges must fix what he is to suffer or pay. … YOUNG SOCRATES: He who is willing to take a command under such conditions, deserves to suffer any penalty. 
  • Yet once more, we shall have to enact that if anyone is detected enquiring into piloting and navigation, or into health and the true nature of medicine, or about the winds, or other conditions of the atmosphere, contrary to the written rules, and has any ingenious notions about such matters, he is not to be called a pilot or physician, but a cloudy prating sophist;–further, on the ground that he is a corrupter of the young, who would persuade them to follow the art of medicine or piloting in an unlawful manner, and to exercise an arbitrary rule over their patients or ships, anyone who is qualified by law may inform against him, and indict him in some court, and then if he is found to be persuading any, whether young or old, to act contrary to the written law, he is to be punished with the utmost rigour; for no one should presume to be wiser than the laws; and as touching healing and health and piloting and navigation, the nature of them is known to all, for anybody may learn the written laws and the national customs. If such were the mode of procedure, Socrates, about these sciences and about generalship, and any branch of hunting, or about painting or imitation in general, or carpentry, or any sort of handicraft, or husbandry, or planting, or if we were to see an art of rearing horses, or tending herds, or divination, or any ministerial service, or draught-playing, or any science conversant with number, whether simple or square or cube, or comprising motion,–I say, if all these things were done in this way according to written regulations, and not according to art, what would be the result? YOUNG SOCRATES: All the arts would utterly perish, and could never be recovered, because enquiry would be unlawful. And human life, which is bad enough already, would then become utterly unendurable.
  • But what, if while compelling all these operations to be regulated by written law, we were to appoint as the guardian of the laws someone elected by a show of hands, or by lot, and he caring nothing about the laws, were to act contrary to them from motives of interest or favour, and without knowledge, –would not this be a still worse evil than the former? 
  • To go against the laws, which are based upon long experience, and the wisdom of counsellors who have graciously recommended them and persuaded the multitude to pass them, would be a far greater and more ruinous error than any adherence to written law? YOUNG SOCRATES: Certainly. STRANGER: Therefore, as there is a danger of this, the next best thing in legislating is not to allow either the individual or the multitude to break the law in any respect whatever. 
  • The laws would be copies of the true particulars of action as far as they admit of being written down from the lips of those who have knowledge? 

And, as we were saying, he who has knowledge and is a true Statesman, will do many things within his own sphere of action by his art without regard to the laws, when he is of opinion that something other than that which he has written down and enjoined to be observed during his absence would be better. 

And any individual or any number of men, having fixed laws, in acting contrary to them with a view to something better, would only be acting, as far as they are able, like the true Statesman? … If they had no knowledge of what they were doing, they would imitate the truth, and they would always imitate ill; but if they had knowledge, the imitation would be the perfect truth, and an imitation no longer

And the principle that no great number of men are able to acquire a knowledge of any art has been already admitted by us. … Then the royal or political art, if there be such an art, will never be attained either by the wealthy or by the other mob. … Then the nearest approach which these lower forms of government can ever make to the true government of the one scientific ruler, is to do nothing contrary to their own written laws and national customs. 

When the rich imitate the true form, such a government is called aristocracy; and when they are regardless of the lawsoligarchy.

Or again, when an individual rules according to law in imitation of him who knows, we call him a king; and if he rules according to law, we give him the same name, whether he rules with opinion or with knowledge. … And when an individual truly possessing knowledge rules, his name will surely be the same–he will be called a king; and thus the five names of governments, as they are now reckoned, become one. 

And when an individual ruler governs neither by law nor by custom, but following in the steps of the true man of science pretends that he can only act for the best by violating the laws, while in reality appetite and ignorance are the motives of the imitation, may not such an one be called a tyrant?

And this we believe to be the origin of the tyrant and the king, of oligarchies, and aristocracies, and democracies,– because men are offended at the one monarch, and can never be made to believe that any one can be worthy of such authority, or is able and willing in the spirit of virtue and knowledge to act justly and holily to all; they fancy that he will be a despot who will wrong and harm and slay whom he pleases of us; for if there could be such a despot as we describe, they would acknowledge that we ought to be too glad to have him, and that he alone would be the happy ruler of a true and perfect State. 

But then, as the State is not like a beehive, and has no natural head who is at once recognized to be the superior both in body and in mind, mankind are obliged to meet and make laws, and endeavour to approach as nearly as they can to the true form of government.

And when the foundation of politics is in the letter only and in custom, and knowledge is divorced from action, can we wonder, Socrates, at the miseries which there are, and always will be, in States? Any other art, built on such a foundation and thus conducted, would ruin all that it touchedOught we not rather to wonder at the natural strength of the political bond? For States have endured all this, time out of mind, and yet some of them still remain and are not overthrown, though many of them, like ships at sea, founder from time to time, and perish and have perished and will hereafter perish, through the badness of their pilots and crews, who have the worst sort of ignorance of the highest truths–I mean to say, that they are wholly unacquainted with politics, of which, above all other sciences, they believe themselves to have acquired the most perfect knowledge. 

Then the question arises:–which of these untrue forms of government is the least oppressive to their subjects, though they are all oppressive; and which is the worst of them? Here is a consideration which is beside our present purpose, and yet having regard to the whole it seems to influence all our actions: we must examine it. 

I am speaking of the three forms of government, which I mentioned at the beginning of this discussion–monarchythe rule of the few, and the rule of the many

If we divide each of these we shall have six, from which the true one may be distinguished as a seventh. 

Monarchy divides into royalty and tyrannythe rule of the few into aristocracy, which has an auspicious name, and oligarchy; and democracy or the rule of the many, which before was one, must now be divided. YOUNG SOCRATES: On what principle of division? … On the same principle as before, although the name is now discovered to have a twofold meaning. For the distinction of ruling with law or without law, applies to this as well as to the rest. … The division made no difference when we were looking for the perfect State, as we showed before. But now that this has been separated off, and, as we said, the others alone are left for us, the principle of law and the absence of law will bisect them all

Then monarchy, when bound by good prescriptions or laws, is the best of all the six, and when lawless is the most bitter and oppressive to the subject. …The government of the few, which is intermediate between that of the one and many, is also intermediate in good and evil; but the government of the many is in every respect weak and unable to do either any great good or any great evil, when compared with the others, because the offices are too minutely subdivided and too many hold them. And this therefore is the worst of all lawful governments, and the best of all lawless ones. If they are all without the restraints of law, democracy is the form in which to live is best; if they are well ordered, then this is the last which you should choose, as royalty, the first form, is the best, with the exception of the seventh, for that excels them all, and is among States what God is among men. 

 Forms of StatesRule by LawRule without regard to Law 
 Monarchy(The Rule of One).Royalty (Best of these six forms of States)Tyranny (Worst of these six forms of States) 
 The Rule of FewAristocracy (Intermediate in Good)Oligarchy (Intermediate in Evil) 
 The Rule of ManyLawful Democracy (Worst of all the lawful governments)Lawless Democracy (Best of all the lawless States) 

The members of all these States, with the exception of the one which has knowledge, may be set aside as being not Statesmen but partisans, –upholders of the most monstrous idols, and themselves idols; and, being the greatest imitators and magicians, they are also the greatest of Sophists. YOUNG SOCRATES: The name of Sophist after many windings in the argument appears to have been most justly fixed upon the politicians, as they are termed. STRANGER: And so our satyric drama has been played out; and the troop of Centaurs and Satyrs, however unwilling to leave the stage, have at last been separated from the political science. 

There remain, however, natures still more troublesome, because they are more nearly akin to the king, and more difficult to discern; the examination of them may be compared to the process of refining gold. … The workmen begin by sifting away the earth and stones and the like; there remain in a confused mass the valuable elements akin to gold, which can only be separated by fire, –copper, silver, and other precious metal; these are at last refined away by the use of tests, until the gold is left quite pure. 

In like manner, all alien and uncongenial matter has been separated from political science, and what is precious and of a kindred nature has been left; there remain the nobler arts of the general and the judge, and the higher sort of oratory which is an ally of the royal art, and persuades men to do justice, and assists in guiding the helm of States:–How can we best clear away all these, leaving him whom we seek alone and unalloyed? 

And is there any higher art or science, having power to decide which of these arts are and are not to be learned; –what do you say? … And ought the other sciences to be superior to this, or no single science to any other? Or ought this science to be the overseer and governor of all the others? … You mean to say that the science which judges whether we ought to learn or not, must be superior to the science which is learned or which teaches? … And the science which determines whether we ought to persuade or not, must be superior to the science which is able to persuade? … 

Very good; and to what science do we assign the power of persuading a multitude by a pleasing tale and not by teaching? YOUNG SOCRATES: That power, I think, must clearly be assigned to rhetoric. … 

And to what science do we give the power of determining whether we are to employ persuasion or force towards any one, or to refrain altogether? … YOUNG SOCRATES: To that science which governs the arts of speech and persuasion. STRANGER: Which, if I am not mistaken, will be politics? YOUNG SOCRATES: Very good. STRANGER: Rhetoric seems to be quickly distinguished from politics, being a different species, yet ministering to it

The science which has to do with military operations against our enemies–is that to be regarded as a science or not? YOUNG SOCRATES: How can generalship and military tactics be regarded as other than a science? STRANGER: And is the art which is able and knows how to advise when we are to go to war, or to make peace, the same as this or different? … And, considering how great and terrible the whole art of war is, can we imagine any which is superior to it but the truly royal? YOUNG SOCRATES: No other. STRANGER: The art of the general is only ministerial, and therefore not political? 

The nature of the righteous judge

  • Does he do anything but decide the dealings of men with one another to be just or unjust in accordance with the standard which he receives from the king and legislator,–showing his own peculiar virtue only in this, that he is not perverted by gifts, or fears, or pity, or by any sort of favour or enmity, into deciding the suits of men with one another contrary to the appointment of the legislator
  • Then the inference is that the power of the judge is not royal, but only the power of a guardian of the law which ministers to the royal power

The review of all these sciences shows that none of them is political or royal. For the truly royal ought not itself to act, but to rule over those who are able to act; the king ought to know what is and what is not a fitting opportunity for taking the initiative in matters of the greatest importance, whilst others should execute his orders. 

And, therefore, the arts which we have described, as they have no authority over themselves or one another, but are each of them concerned with some special action of their own, have, as they ought to have, special names corresponding to their several actions

And the science which is over them all, and has charge of the laws, and of all matters affecting the State, and truly weaves them all into one, if we would describe under a name characteristic of their common nature, most truly we may call politics

The nature of the Royal Web

Then, now that we have discovered the various classes in a State, shall I analyze politics after the pattern which weaving supplied? … Then I must describe the nature of the royal web, and show how the various threads are woven into one piece. 

To assume that one part of virtue differs in kind from another, is a position easily assailable by contentious disputants, who appeal to popular opinion. … Let me put the matter in another way: I suppose that you would consider courage to be a part of virtue? … And you would think temperance to be different from courage; and likewise to be a part of virtue? … I shall venture to put forward a strange theory about them. … That they are two principles which thoroughly hate one another and are antagonistic throughout a great part of nature. … Yes, very–for all the parts of virtue are commonly said to be friendly to one another

Then let us carefully investigate whether this is universally true, or whether there are not parts of virtue which are at war with their kindred in some respect.

We must extend our enquiry to all those things which we consider beautiful and at the same time place in two opposite classes. 

Acuteness and quickness, whether in body or soul or in the movement of sound, and the imitations of them which painting and music supply, you must have praised yourself before now, or been present when others praised them. 

Well, let us consider these notions with reference to the opposite classes of action under which they fall. When we praise quickness and energy and acuteness, whether of mind or body or sound, we express our praise of the quality which we admire by one word, and that one word is manliness or courage. … We speak of an action as energetic and brave, quick and manly, and vigorous too; and when we apply the name of which I speak as the common attribute of all these natures, we certainly praise them. 

And do we not often praise the quiet strain of action also? 

We exclaim How calm! How temperate! in admiration of the slow and quiet working of the intellect, and of steadiness and gentleness in action, of smoothness and depth of voice, and of all rhythmical movement and of music in general, when these have a proper solemnity. Of all such actions we predicate not courage, but a name indicative of order

But when, on the other hand, either of these is out of place, the names of either are changed into terms of censure. … Too great sharpness or quickness or hardness is termed violence or madness; too great slowness or gentleness is called cowardice or sluggishnessand we may observe, that for the most part these qualities, and the temperance and manliness of the opposite characters, are arrayed as enemies on opposite sides, and do not mingle with one another in their respective actions; and if we pursue the enquiry, we shall find that men who have these different qualities of mind differ from one another. … In respect of all the qualities which I mentioned, and very likely of many others. According to their respective affinities to either class of actions they distribute praise and blame, –praise to the actions which are akin to their own, blame to those of the opposite party–and out of this many quarrels and occasions of quarrel arise among them. 

The difference between the two classes is often a trivial concern; but in a state, and when affecting really important matters, becomes of all disorders the most hateful. … To nothing short of the whole regulation of human life. For the orderly class are always ready to lead a peaceful life, quietly doing their own business; this is their manner of behaving with all men at home, and they are equally ready to find some way of keeping the peace with foreign States. And on account of this fondness of theirs for peace, which is often out of season where their influence prevails, they become by degrees unwarlike, and bring up their young men to be like themselves; they are at the mercy of their enemies; whence in a few years they and their children and the whole city often pass imperceptibly from the condition of freemen into that of slaves. 

And now think of what happens with the more courageous natures. Are they not always inciting their country to go to war, owing to their excessive love of the military life? they raise up enemies against themselves many and mighty, and either utterly ruin their native-land or enslave and subject it to its foes? 

Must we not admit, then, that where these two classes exist, they always feel the greatest antipathy and antagonism towards one another? YOUNG SOCRATES: We cannot deny it. STRANGER: And returning to the enquiry with which we began, have we not found that considerable portions of virtue are at variance with one another, and give rise to a similar opposition in the characters who are endowed with them? 

I want to know, whether any constructive art will make any, even the most trivial thing, out of bad and good materials indifferently, if this can be helped? does not all art rather reject the bad as far as possible, and accept the good and fit materials, and from these elements, whether like or unlike, gathering them all into one, work out some nature or idea? 

Then the true and natural art of statesmanship will never allow any State to be formed by a combination of good and bad men, if this can be avoided; but will begin by testing human natures in play, and after testing them, will entrust them to proper teachers who are the ministers of her purposes–she will herself give orders, and maintain authority; just as the art of weaving continually gives orders and maintains authority over the carders and all the others who prepare the material for the work, commanding the subsidiary arts to execute the works which she deems necessary for making the web

The creation of divine bond for the antagonistic parts of virtues

In like manner, the royal science appears to me to be the mistress of all lawful educators and instructors, and having this queenly power, will not permit them to train men in what will produce characters unsuited to the political constitution which she desires to create, but only in what will produce such as are suitable. Those which have no share of manliness and temperance, or any other virtuous inclination, and, from the necessity of an evil nature, are violently carried away to godlessness and insolence and injustice, she gets rid of by death and exile, and punishes them with the greatest of disgraces. 

But those who are wallowing in ignorance and baseness she bows under the yoke of slavery

The rest of the citizens, out of whom, if they have education, something noble may be made, and who are capable of being united by the statesman, the kingly art blends and weaves togethertaking on the one hand those whose natures tend rather to courage, which is the stronger element and may be regarded as the warp, and on the other hand those which incline to order and gentleness, and which are represented in the figure as spun thick and soft, after the manner of the woof–these, which are naturally opposed, she seeks to bind and weave together in the following manner: First of all, she takes the eternal element of the soul and binds it with a divine cord, to which it is akin, and then the animal nature, and binds that with human cords. The meaning is, that the opinion about the honourable and the just and good and their opposites, which is true and confirmed by reason, is a divine principle, and when implanted in the soul, is implanted, as I maintain, in a nature of heavenly birth. … Only the Statesman and the good legislator, having the inspiration of the royal muse, can implant this opinion, and he, only in the rightly educated, whom we were just now describing. … The courageous soul when attaining this truth becomes civilized, and rendered more capable of partaking of justicebut when not partaking, is inclined to brutality. Is not that true? … And again, the peaceful and orderly nature, if sharing in these opinions, becomes temperate and wise, as far as this may be in a State, but if not, deservedly obtains the ignominious name of silliness. … But in those who were originally of a noble nature, and who have been nurtured in noble ways, and in those only, may we not say that union is implanted by law, and that this is the medicine which art prescribes for them, and of all the bonds which unite the dissimilar and contrary parts of virtue is not this, as I was saying, the divinest? … 

The Human bonds

Where this divine bond exists there is no difficulty in imagining, or when you have imagined, in creating the other bonds, which are human only. … Rights of intermarriage, and ties which are formed between States by giving and taking children in marriage, or between individuals by private betrothals and espousals. For most persons form marriage connexions without due regard to what is best for the procreation of children. … They seek after wealth and power, which in matrimony are objects not worthy even of a serious censure. … More reason is there to consider the practice of those who make family their chief aim, and to indicate their error. … They act on no true principle at all; they seek their ease and receive with open arms those who are like themselves, and hate those who are unlike them, being too much influenced by feelings of dislike. 

The quiet orderly class seek for natures like their own, and as far as they can they marry and give in marriage exclusively in this class, and the courageous do the same; they seek natures like their own, whereas they should both do precisely the opposite. … Because courage, when untempered by the gentler nature during many generations, may at first bloom and strengthen, but at last bursts forth into downright madness. … And then, again, the soul which is over-full of modesty and has no element of courage in many successive generations, is apt to grow too indolent, and at last to become utterly paralyzed and useless

It was of these bonds I said that there would be no difficulty in creating them, if only both classes originally held the same opinion about the honourable and good;–indeed, in this single work, the whole process of royal weaving is comprised–never to allow temperate natures to be separated from the brave, but to weave them together, like the warp and the woof, by common sentiments and honours and reputation, and by the giving of pledges to one another; and out of them forming one smooth and even web, to entrust to them the offices of State

Where one officer only is needed, you must choose a ruler who has both these qualities–when many, you must mingle some of each, for the temperate ruler is very careful and just and safe, but is wanting in thoroughness and go

The character of the courageous, on the other hand, falls short of the former in justice and caution, but has the power of action in a remarkable degree, and where either of these two qualities is wanting, there cities cannot altogether prosper either in their public or private life.

This then we declare to be the completion of the web of political action, which is created by a direct intertexture of the brave and temperate natures, whenever the royal science has drawn the two minds into communion with one another by unanimity and friendship, and having perfected the noblest and best of all the webs which political life admits, and enfolding therein all other inhabitants of cities, whether slaves or freemen, binds them in one fabric and governs and presides over them, and, in so far as to be happy is vouchsafed to a city, in no particular fails to secure their happiness.

YOUNG SOCRATES: Your picture, Stranger, of the king and statesman, no less than of the Sophist, is quite perfect. THE END 

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