republic (books 6 - 10)
is more precious far than ten thousand bodily eyes, for by it
alone is truth seen. Now there are two classes of persons:
one class of those who will agree with you and will take your
words as a revelation; another class to whom they will be ut-
terly unmeaning, and who will naturally deem them to be idle
tales, for they see no sort of profit which is to be obtained from
them. And therefore you had better decide at once with which
of the two you are proposing to argue. You will very likely
say with neither, and that your chief aim in carrying on the
argument is your own improvement; at the same time you do
not grudge to others any benefit which they may receive.
I think that I should prefer to carry on the argument mainly
on my own behalf.
Then take a step backward, for we have gone wrong in the
order of the sciences.
What was the mistake? he said.
After plane geometry, I said, we proceeded at once to solids
in revolution, instead of taking solids in themselves; whereas
after the second dimension, the third, which is concerned with
cubes and dimensions of depth, ought to have followed.
That is true, Socrates; but so little seems to be known as yet
about these subjects.
Why, yes, I said, and for two reasons: in the first place, no
government patronizes them; this leads to a want of energy in
the pursuit of them, and they are difficult; in the second place,
students cannot learn them unless they have a director. But
then a director can hardly be found, and, even if he could, as
matters now stand, the students, who are very conceited, would
not attend to him. That, however, would be otherwise if the
whole State became the director of these studies and gave honor
to them; then disciples would want to come, and there would be
continuous and earnest search, and discoveries would be made;
since even now, disregarded as they are by the world, and
maimed of their fair proportions, and although none of their
votaries can tell the use of them, still these studies force their
way by their natural charm, and very likely, if they had the help
of the State, they would some day emerge into light.
Yes, he said, there is a remarkable charm in them. But I do
not clearly understand the change in the order. First you be-
gan with a geometry of plane surfaces?
Yes, I said.
And you placed astronomy next, and then you made a step
Yes, and I have delayed you by my hurry; the ludicrous state
of solid geometry, which, in natural order, should have fol-
lowed, made me pass over this branch and go on to astronomy,
or motion of solids.
True, he said.
Then assuming that the science now omitted would come into
existence if encouraged by the State, let us go on to astronomy,
which will be fourth.