Str. In the political art error is not called disease, but evil,
or disgrace, or injustice.
Y. Soc. Quite true.
Str. And when the citizen, contrary to law and custom, is
compelled to do what is juster and better and nobler than he did
before, the last and most absurd thing which he could say about such
violence is that he has incurred disgrace or evil or injustice at
the hands of those who compelled him.
Y. Soc. Very true.
Str. And shall we say that the violence, if exercised by a
is just, and if by a poor man, unjust? May not any man, rich or
poor, with or without laws, with the will of the citizens or against
the will of the citizens, do what is for their interest? Is not this
the true principle of government, according to which the
wise and good
man will order the affairs of his subjects? As the pilot, by
watching continually over the interests of the ship and of the
crew-not by laying down rules, but by making his art a law-preserves
the lives of his fellow-sailors, even and in the self-same way, may
there not be a true form of polity created by those who are able to
govern in a similar spirit, and who show a strength of art which is
superior to the law? Nor can wise rulers ever err while they,
observing the one great rule of distributing justice to the citizens
with intelligence and skill, are able to preserve them, and,
as far as
may be, to make them better from being worse.
Y. Soc. No one can deny what has been now said.
Str. Neither, if you consider, can any one deny the other
Y. Soc. What was it?
Str. We said that no great number of persons, whoever they may be,
can attain political knowledge, or order a State wisely, but that
the true government is to be found in a small body, or in an
individual, and that other States are but imitations of this, as we
said a little while ago, some for the better and some for the worse.
Y. Soc. What do you mean? I cannot have understood your previous
remark about imitations.
Str. And yet the mere suggestion which I hastily threw out
important, even if we leave the question where it is, and do not
seek by the discussion of it to expose the error which prevails in
Y. Soc. What do you mean?
Str. The idea which has to be grasped by us is not easy or
but we may attempt to express it thus:-Supposing the government of
which I have been speaking to be the only true model, then the
others must use the written laws of this-in no other can they be
saved; they will have to do what is now generally approved, although
not the best thing in the world.
Y. Soc. What is this?
Str. No citizen should do anything contrary to the laws, and any
infringement of them should be punished with death and the most
extreme penalties; and this is very right and good when regarded as
the second best thing, if you set aside the first, of which
I was just
now speaking. Shall I explain the nature of what call the
Y. Soc. By all means.
Str. I must again have recourse to my favourite images; through
them, and them alone, can I describe kings and rulers.
Y. Soc. What images?
Str. The noble pilot and the wise physician, who "is worth many