republic (books 6 - 10)
of the State and of the laws.
The guardian then, I said, must be required to take the longer
circuit, and toil at learning as well as at gymnastics, or he will
never reach the highest knowledge of all which, as we were
just now saying, is his proper calling.
What, he said, is there a knowledge still higher than this--
higher than justice and the other virtues?
Yes, I said, there is. And of the virtues too we must behold
not the outline merely, as at present--nothing short of the most
finished picture should satisfy us. When little things are elab-
orated with an infinity of pains, in order that they may appear
in their full beauty and utmost clearness, how ridiculous that
we should not think the highest truths worthy of attaining the
A right noble thought; but do you suppose that we shall
refrain from asking you what is this highest knowledge?
Nay, I said, ask if you will; but I am certain that you have
heard the answer many times, and now you either do not under-
stand me or, as I rather think, you are disposed to be trouble-
some; for you have often been told that the idea of good is the
highest knowledge, and that all other things become useful
and advantageous only by their use of this. You can hardly be
ignorant that of this I was about to speak, concerning which,
as you have often heard me say, we know so little; and, without
which, any other knowledge or possession of any kind will
profit us nothing. Do you think that the possession of all
other things is of any value if we do not possess the good? or
the knowledge of all other things if we have no knowledge of
beauty and goodness?
You are further aware that most people affirm pleasure to
be the good, but the finer sort of wits say it is knowledge?
And you are aware too that the latter cannot explain what
they mean by knowledge, but are obliged after all to say knowl-
edge of the good?
Yes, I said, that they should begin by reproaching us with
our ignorance of the good, and then presume our knowledge
of it--for the good they define to be knowledge of the good,
just as if we understood them when they use the term "good"
--this is of course ridiculous.
Most true, he said.
And those who make pleasure their good are in equal per-
plexity; for they are compelled to admit that there are bad
pleasures as well as good.