republic (books 6 - 10)
Then suppose you now take this parable to the gentleman
who is surprised at finding that philosophers have no honor
in their cities; explain it to him and try to convince him that
their having honor would be far more extraordinary.
Say to him, that, in deeming the best votaries of philosophy
to be useless to the rest of the world, he is right; but also tell
him to attribute their uselessness to the fault of those who will
not use them, and not to themselves. The pilot should not
humbly beg the sailors to be commanded by him--that is not
the order of nature; neither are "the wise to go to the doors
of the rich"--the ingenious author of this saying told a lie--
but the truth is, that, when a man is ill, whether he be rich or
poor, to the physician he must go, and he who wants to be gov-
erned, to him who is able to govern. The ruler who is good
for anything ought not to beg his subjects to be ruled by him;
although the present governors of mankind are of a different
stamp; they may be justly compared to the mutinous sailors,
and the true helmsmen to those who are called by them good-
for-nothings and star-gazers.
Precisely so, he said.
For these reasons, and among men like these, philosophy,
the noblest pursuit of all, is not likely to be much esteemed by
those of the opposite faction; not that the greatest and most
lasting injury is done to her by her opponents, but by her own
professing followers, the same of whom you suppose the ac-
cuser to say that the greater number of them are arrant rogues,
and the best are useless; in which opinion I agreed.
And the reason why the good are useless has now been ex-
Then shall we proceed to show that the corruption of the
majority is also unavoidable, and that this is not to be laid to
the charge of philosophy any more than the other?
By all means.
And let us ask and answer in turn, first going back to the
description of the gentle and noble nature. Truth, as you will
remember, was his leader, whom he followed always and in all
things; failing in this, he was an impostor, and had no part or
lot in true philosophy.
Yes, that was said.
Well, and is not this one quality, to mention no others, greatly
at variance with present notions of him?
Certainly, he said.
And have we not a right to say in his defence, that the true
lover of knowledge is always striving after being--that is his
nature; he will not rest in the multiplicity of individuals which
is an appearance only, but will go on--the keen edge will not