republic (books 6 - 10)
he and his fellows have been accustomed to behold?
Clearly, he said, he would first see the sun and then reason
And when he remembered his old habitation, and the wisdom
of the den and his fellow-prisoners, do you not suppose that
he would felicitate himself on the change, and pity him?
Certainly, he would.
And if they were in the habit of conferring honors among
themselves on those who were quickest to observe the passing
shadows and to remark which of them went before, and which
followed after, and which were together; and who were there-
fore best able to draw conclusions as to the future, do you think
that he would care for such honors and glories, or envy the
possessors of them? Would he not say with Homer,
"Better to be the poor servant of a poor master,"
and to endure anything, rather than think as they do and live
after their manner?
Yes, he said, I think that he would rather suffer anything
than entertain these false notions and live in this miserable
Imagine once more, I said, such a one coming suddenly out
of the sun to be replaced in his old situation; would he not be
certain to have his eyes full of darkness?
To be sure, he said.
And if there were a contest, and he had to compete in meas-
uring the shadows with the prisoners who had never moved out
of the den, while his sight was still weak, and before his eyes
had become steady (and the time which would be needed to
acquire this new habit of sight might be very considerable),
would he not be ridiculous? Men would say of him that up
he went and down he came without his eyes; and that it was
better not even to think of ascending; and if anyone tried to
loose another and lead him up to the light, let them only catch
the offender, and they would put him to death.
No question, he said.
This entire allegory, I said, you may now append, dear Glau-
con, to the previous argument; the prison-house is the world of
sight, the light of the fire is the sun, and you will not misap-
prehend me if you interpret the journey upward to be the ascent
of the soul into the intellectual world according to my poor
belief, which, at your desire, I have expressed--whether rightly
or wrongly, God knows. But, whether true or false, my opin-
ion is that in the world of knowledge the idea of good appears
last of all, and is seen only with an effort; and, when seen, is
also inferred to be the universal author of all things beautiful
and right, parent of light and of the lord of light in this visible
world, and the immediate source of reason and truth in the in-
tellectual; and that this is the power upon which he who would
act rationally either in public or private life must have his eye
I agree, he said, as far as I am able to understand you.