republic (books 6 - 10)
Then if geometry compels us to view being, it concerns us;
if becoming only, it does not concern us?
Yes, that is what we assert.
Yet anybody who has the least acquaintance with geometry
will not deny that such a conception of the science is in flat con-
tradiction to the ordinary language of geometricians.
They have in view practice only, and are always speaking,
in a narrow and ridiculous manner, of squaring and extending
and applying and the like--they confuse the necessities of ge-
ometry with those of daily life; whereas knowledge is the real
object of the whole science.
Certainly, he said.
Then must not a further admission be made?
That the knowledge at which geometry aims is knowledge
of the eternal, and not of aught perishing and transient.
That, he replied, may be readily allowed, and is true.
Then, my noble friend, geometry will draw the soul toward
truth, and create the spirit of philosophy, and raise up that
which is now unhappily allowed to fall down.
Nothing will be more likely to have such an effect.
Then nothing should be more sternly laid down than that the
inhabitants of your fair city should by all means learn geometry.
Moreover, the science has indirect effects, which are not small.
Of what kind? he said.
There are the military advantages of which you spoke, I said;
and in all departments of knowledge, as experience proves, any-
one who has studied geometry is infinitely quicker of apprehen-
sion than one who has not.
Yes, indeed, he said, there is an infinite difference between
Then shall we propose this as a second branch of knowledge
which our youth will study?
Let us do so, he replied.
And suppose we make astronomy the third--what do you
I am strongly inclined to it, he said; the observation of the
seasons and of months and years is as essential to the general
as it is to the farmer or sailor.
I am amused, I said, at your fear of the world, which makes
you guard against the appearance of insisting upon useless
studies; and I quite admit the difficulty of believing that in
every man there is an eye of the soul which, when by other pur-
suits lost and dimmed, is by these purified and reillumined; and