republic (books 6 - 10)
You mean, I said, those gentlemen who tease and torture the
strings and rack them on the pegs of the instrument: I might
carry on the metaphor and speak after their manner of the
blows which the plectrum gives, and make accusations against
the strings, both of backwardness and forwardness to sound;
but this would be tedious, and therefore I will only say that
these are not the men, and that I am referring to the Pytha-
goreans, of whom I was just now proposing to inquire about
harmony. For they too are in error, like the astronomers; they
investigate the numbers of the harmonies which are heard, but
they never attain to problems--that is to say, they never reach
the natural harmonies of number, or reflect why some numbers
are harmonious and others not.
That, he said, is a thing of more than mortal knowledge.
A thing, I replied, which I would rather call useful; that is,
if sought after with a view to the beautiful and good; but if
pursued in any other spirit, useless.
Very true, he said.
Now, when all these studies reach the point of intercommun-
ion and connection with one another, and come to be considered
in their mutual affinities, then, I think, but not till then, will the
pursuit of them have a value for our objects; otherwise there
is no profit in them.
I suspect so; but you are speaking, Socrates, of a vast work.
What do you mean? I said; the prelude, or what? Do you
not know that all this is but the prelude to the actual strain
which we have to learn? For you surely would not regard
the skilled mathematician as a dialectician?
Assuredly not, he said; I have hardly ever known a mathe-
matician who was capable of reasoning.
But do you imagine that men who are unable to give and
take a reason will have the knowledge which we require of
Neither can this be supposed.
And so, Glaucon, I said, we have at last arrived at the hymn
of dialectic. This is that strain which is of the intellect only,
but which the faculty of sight will nevertheless be found to im-
itate; for sight, as you may remember, was imagined by us
after a while to behold the real animals and stars, and last of all
the sun himself. And so with dialectic; when a person starts
on the discovery of the absolute by the light of reason only, and
without any assistance of sense, and perseveres until by pure
intelligence he arrives at the perception of the absolute good,
he at last finds himself at the end of the intellectual world, as
in the case of sight at the end of the visible.
Exactly, he said.
Then this is the progress which you call dialectic?
But the release of the prisoners from chains, and their trans-