republic (books 6 - 10)
I cannot tell, he replied; but I should like to know what is
Hear my answer; I am of opinion that they are quite right.
Then how can you be justified in saying that cities will not
cease from evil until philosophers rule in them, when philoso-
phers are acknowledged by us to be of no use to them?
You ask a question, I said, to which a reply can only be given
in a parable.
Yes, Socrates; and that is a way of speaking to which you
are not at all accustomed, I suppose.
I perceive, I said, that you are vastly amused at having
plunged me into such a hopeless discussion; but now hear the
parable, and then you will be still more amused at the meagre-
ness of my imagination: for the manner in which the best men
are treated in their own States is so grievous that no single
thing on earth is comparable to it; and therefore, if I am to
plead their cause, I must have recourse to fiction, and put to-
gether a figure made up of many things, like the fabulous
unions of goats and stags which are found in pictures. Imag-
ine then a fleet or a ship in which there is a captain who is taller
and stronger than any of the crew, but he is a little deaf and
has a similar infirmity in sight, and his knowledge of navigation
is not much better. The sailors are quarrelling with one an-
other about the steering--everyone is of opinion that he has a
right to steer, though he has never learned the art of naviga-
tion and cannot tell who taught him or when he learned, and
will further assert that it cannot be taught, and they are ready
to cut in pieces anyone who says the contrary. They throng
about the captain, begging and praying him to commit the helm
to them; and if at any time they do not prevail, but others are
preferred to them, they kill the others or throw them overboard,
and having first chained up the noble captain's senses with
drink or some narcotic drug, they mutiny and take possession
of the ship and make free with the stores; thus, eating and
drinking, they proceed on their voyage in such manner as might
be expected of them. Him who is their partisan and cleverly
aids them in their plot for getting the ship out of the captain's
hands into their own whether by force or persuasion, they com-
pliment with the name of sailor, pilot, able seaman, and abuse
the other sort of man, whom they call a good-for-nothing; but
that the true pilot must pay attention to the year and seasons
and sky and stars and winds, and whatever else belongs to his
art, if he intends to be really qualified for the command of a
ship, and that he must and will be the steerer, whether other
people like or not--the possibility of this union of authority
with the steerer's art has never seriously entered into their
thoughts or been made part of their calling. Now in vessels
which are in a state of mutiny and by sailors who are mutineers,
how will the true pilot be regarded? Will he not be called by
them a prater, a star-gazer, a good-for-nothing?
Of course, said Adeimantus.
Then you will hardly need, I said, to hear the interpretation
of the figure, which describes the true philosopher in his rela-
tion to the State; for you understand already.