republic (books 6 - 10)
I want you, I said, by way of parallel, to imagine a suppo-
sititious son who is brought up in great wealth; he is one of a
great and numerous family, and has many flatterers. When
he grows up to manhood, he learns that his alleged are not his
real parents; but who the real are he is unable to discover. Can
you guess how he will be likely to behave toward his flatterers
and his supposed parents, first of all during the period when he
is ignorant of the false relation, and then again when he knows?
Or shall I guess for you?
If you please.
Then I should say that while he is ignorant of the truth he
will be likely to honor his father and his mother and his sup-
posed relations more than the flatterers; he will be less inclined
to neglect them when in need, or to do or say anything against
them; and he will be less willing to disobey them in any im-
But when he has made the discovery, I should imagine that
he would diminish his honor and regard for them, and would
become more devoted to the flatterers; their influence over him
would greatly increase; he would now live after their ways, and
openly associate with them, and, unless he were of an unusually
good disposition, he would trouble himself no more about his
supposed parents or other relations.
Well, all that is very probable. But how is the image appli-
cable to the disciples of philosophy?
In this way: you know that there are certain principles about
justice and honor, which were taught us in childhood, and
under their parental authority we have been brought up, obey-
ing and honoring them.
That is true.
There are also opposite maxims and habits of pleasure which
flatter and attract the soul, but do not influence those of us
who have any sense of right, and they continue to obey and
honor the maxims of their fathers.
Now, when a man is in this state, and the questioning spirit
asks what is fair or honorable, and he answers as the legislator
has taught him, and then arguments many and diverse refute
his words, until he is driven into believing that nothing is
honorable any more than dishonorable, or just and good any
more than the reverse, and so of all the notions which he most
valued, do you think that he will still honor and obey them as
And when he ceases to think them honorable and natural
as heretofore, and he fails to discover the true, can he be ex-
pected to pursue any life other than that which flatters his