republic (books 6 - 10)
Moreover, I said, you must not wonder that those who attain
to this beatific vision are unwilling to descend to human affairs;
for their souls are ever hastening into the upper world where
they desire to dwell; which desire of theirs is very natural, if
our allegory may be trusted.
Yes, very natural.
And is there anything surprising in one who passes from
divine contemplations to the evil state of man, misbehaving
himself in a ridiculous manner; if, while his eyes are blinking
and before he has become accustomed to the surrounding dark-
ness, he is compelled to fight in courts of law, or in other places,
about the images or the shadows of images of justice, and is
endeavoring to meet the conceptions of those who have never
yet seen absolute justice?
Anything but surprising, he replied.
Anyone who has common-sense will remember that the be-
wilderments of the eyes are of two kinds, and arise from two
causes, either from coming out of the light or from going into
the light, which is true of the mind's eye, quite as much as of
the bodily eye; and he who remembers this when he sees anyone
whose vision is perplexed and weak, will not be too ready to
laugh; he will first ask whether that soul of man has come out
of the brighter life, and is unable to see because unaccustomed
to the dark, or having turned from darkness to the day is daz-
zled by excess of light. And he will count the one happy in his
condition and state of being, and he will pity the other; or, if
he have a mind to laugh at the soul which comes from below
into the light, there will be more reason in this than in the laugh
which greets him who returns from above out of the light into
That, he said, is a very just distinction.
But then, if I am right, certain professors of education must
be wrong when they say that they can put a knowledge into the
soul which was not there before, like sight into blind eyes.
They undoubtedly say this, he replied.
Whereas, our argument shows that the power and capacity
of learning exists in the soul already; and that just as the eye
was unable to turn from darkness to light without the whole
body, so too the instrument of knowledge can only by the move-
ment of the whole soul be turned from the world of becoming
into that of being, and learn by degrees to endure the sight of
being, and of the brightest and best of being, or, in other words,
of the good.
And must there not be some art which will effect conversion
in the easiest and quickest manner; not implanting the faculty
of sight, for that exists already, but has been turned in the
wrong direction, and is looking away from the truth?
Yes, he said, such an art may be presumed.
And whereas the other so-called virtues of the soul seem to
be akin to bodily qualities, for even when they are not originally
innate they can be implanted later by habit and exercise, the