republic (books 6 - 10)
lation from the shadows to the images and to the light, and the
ascent from the underground den to the sun, while in his pres-
ence they are vainly trying to look on animals and plants and
the light of the sun, but are able to perceive even with their
weak eyes the images in the water (which are divine), and
are the shadows of true existence (not shadows of images cast
by a light of fire, which compared with the sun is only an
image)--this power of elevating the highest principle in the
soul to the contemplation of that which is best in existence,
with which we may compare the raising of that faculty which
is the very light of the body to the sight of that which is bright-
est in the material and visible world--this power is given, as
I was saying, by all that study and pursuit of the arts which
have been described.
I agree in what you are saying, he replied, which may be
hard to believe, yet, from another point of view, is harder still
to deny. This, however, is not a theme to be treated of in pass-
ing only, but will have to be discussed again and again. And
so, whether our conclusion be true or false, let us assume all
this, and proceed at once from the prelude or preamble to the
chief strain, and describe that in like manner. Say, then, what
is the nature and what are the divisions of dialectic, and what
are the paths which lead thither; for these paths will also lead
to our final rest.
Dear Glaucon, I said, you will not be able to follow me here,
though I would do my best, and you should behold not an image
only, but the absolute truth, according to my notion. Whether
what I told you would or would not have been a reality I cannot
venture to say; but you would have seen something like reality;
of that I am confident.
Doubtless, he replied.
But I must also remind you that the power of dialectic alone
can reveal this, and only to one who is a disciple of the previous
Of that assertion you may be as confident as of the last.
And assuredly no one will argue that there is any other
method of comprehending by any regular process all true ex-
istence, or of ascertaining what each thing is in its own nature;
for the arts in general are concerned with the desires or opin-
ions of men, or are cultivated with a view to production and
construction, or for the preservation of such productions and
constructions; and as to the mathematical sciences which, as
we were saying, have some apprehension of true being--geom-
etry and the like--they only dream about being, but never can
they behold the waking reality so long as they leave the hy-
potheses which they use unexamined, and are unable to give an
account of them. For when a man knows not his own first
principle, and when the conclusion and intermediate steps are
also constructed out of he knows not what, how can he imagine
that such a fabric of convention can ever become science?
Impossible, he said.
Then dialectic, and dialectic alone, goes directly to the first
principle and is the only science which does away with hy-
potheses in order to make her ground secure; the eye of the
soul, which is literally buried in an outlandish slough, is by her
gentle aid lifted upward; and she uses as handmaids and