The Dialogues of Plato — Translation by David Horan

Plato’s Republic

Book 9

571A Then, said I, what remains to be considered is the tyrannical man himself, how he develops from the democratic man and what he is like then, and whether his manner of life is wretched or blessed.

Yes, said he, this fellow remains to be considered.

I feel that something is still missing, said I. Do you know what it is?


I don’t think we have adequately distinguished the kind, and number, of the various desires. Indeed if we don’t remedy this deficiency, the search we are engaged in will lack clarity.

571B Wouldn’t this still be a good time to do so, said I?

Yes, certainly. And consider what I wish to see in these desires; it is as follows: among the unnecessary pleasures and desires some, I believe, are lawless. Although these are probably innate in everyone, they can, nevertheless, when restrained by the laws, and by the better desires accompanied by reason, be eliminated completely in some cases, or a few weak ones may be left, but in other cases those that remain may be stronger 571C and more numerous.

Can you say, said he, what these desires are?

Those, said I, that are aroused whenever the rational, gentle part of the soul, the part that rules the other part, is in slumber, and the brutish and wild part, gorged on food or wine, springs to life, refusing to sleep, and sets out to indulge its bad habits. You know that in a situation like this, it dares to do anything at all, as if it had been released from, and was rid of all shame 571D and understanding. Indeed it does not shrink, or so it imagines, from intercourse with mother or with anything else at all, man or god or beast. It murders any one at all, and eats any meat at all, without restraint and, in short, there is no mindless or shameless deed that it leaves undone.

Very true, said he.

And yet, I think, when someone keeps himself healthy and in sound mind, and goes to sleep having aroused the rational part of himself, and feasted it on beautiful words and considerations, he attains concord 571E with himself. He ensures that his appetitive part is neither in want nor fully satisfied, so that it may be lulled to sleep, and not be a source of trouble to the best part 572A of him by being pleased or in pain, but will allow that part, just by itself, to reflect, on its own, and aspire to perceive what it does not know, of the past, the present or the future.

He calms the spirited part too, in the same way, and he will not go to sleep with a troubled heart after being angry with someone. Rather having quietened the other two parts and activated the third, the one in which understanding resides, he then takes his rest. You know that under such circumstances he is most likely to apprehend the truth, and the visions that appear in his dreams are then least likely to be lawless.

572B That’s it, said he, entirely so.

Well, all of this has led us to say more than we needed to, but what we want to recognise is this; that there is, in fact, some fearsome, savage and lawless form of desires present in each of us, even in some people who seem to be extremely moderate, and this becomes evident when we are asleep. So, think about this; am I making any sense and do you agree?

Yes, I agree.

Well, remember the man of the people, and what we said he was like. He presumably became 572C like this by being brought up from his earliest years by a miserly father who only had respect for those desires that make money, and had no respect for the unnecessary ones that exist for the sake of amusement and ostentation. Is this so?


But once he associates with cleverer people who are full of the desires we have just described, he rushes in the direction of total excess, adopts the behaviour of those new found friends, and hates the miserliness of his father. But because he is, by nature, better than his corruptors, 572D he is drawn in both directions and finally takes up a middle position, in between the two tendencies. Managing, so he believes anyway, to enjoy each of them in due measure, he lives a life that is neither devoid of freedom nor utterly lawless; he has been transformed from an oligarchical man, into a man of the people.

Yes, said he, this was, and remains our view of such a person.

Then assume once again, said I; that a man like this has already grown older, and has a young son who has, in turn, been brought up in the habits of his father.

I am assuming this.

Assume too, that the same things that happened to his father also happen to the son. He is drawn to utter lawlessness, 572E which is called total freedom by those who are leading him; his father and other relatives assist those middle desires, while his corruptors, in turn, help the other desires. And when these clever beguilers and tyrant-makers lose hope of controlling the young man by any other means, they contrive to engender a passion in him, as a protector of the idle desires that are keen to spend 573A so freely. And the passion in such people is a huge winged drone, or do you think it is something else?

No, I don’t think it is anything else, said he.

Now, when the other desires are buzzing about the drone, full of incense, perfume, garlands and wine, and all the pleasures that are usually let loose at such gatherings, they feed the drone and make it grow, and engender in it the sting of desire. Then this protector of the soul, with madness as its bodyguard, goes into a frenzy, 573B and if it detects any opinions or desires within itself that are accounted worthy, or still have any shame, it kills them off and pushes them out of itself[1], until it has been cleansed of sound-mindedness and is full of madness brought in from outside.

That, said he, is a comprehensive description of the origin of the tyrannical man.

Isn’t this why Eros has traditionally been called a tyrant, said I?

Quite likely, said he.

And, my friend, said I, doesn’t a man who is drunk have a certain tyrannical 573C frame of mind?

He has.

And indeed, someone who is mad or deranged, endeavours to exercise authority, not only over men but over gods too, and he imagines that he can do so.

Very much so, said he.

And this, dear fellow, is exactly how a man becomes tyrannical; it happens when, by nature, or by his behaviour, or both, he has become drunken, passionate and maniacal.

Entirely so.

That, it seems, is how the man originates and that’s what he is like. How then does he live?

573D You tell me! said he, as people say when they are having fun.

I shall, said I. Indeed, I believe, that after this, they indulge in feasting, carousing, revelry and womanising, and all sorts of things associated with people whose entire soul is governed by an indwelling tyrant passion.

Inevitably, said he.

Now don’t lots of fearsome desires spring up alongside this one, every day and every night, making lots of demands?

Lots of them, indeed.

So any sources of income are quickly spent.

Of course.

573E And after this comes borrowing and the erosion of his estate.


And when all this fails him, mustn’t there be an outcry from that crowd of intense desires that have made their nest there? Mustn’t the men themselves, be goaded on, so to speak, by the stings of the other desires, and especially by the master-passion itself which leads all the others as if they were its bodyguard? Won’t they look about in a frenzy and ask; who has something that can be taken away, by deception or by force?

574A Very much so, said he.

So he needs to plunder from every quarter, or else be gripped by enormous travails and pains.

He must.

Now just as the more recent pleasures in him got more than the old ones, and took away all they possessed, so too would the man himself, in spite of his youth, feel that he deserves to have more than his father and mother and, to take away and appropriate the family’s wealth, once he had spent his own portion.

Yes, indeed, said he.

574B And if they would not turn it over to him would he, initially, attempt to steal from his parents and deceive them?


And if he was unable to do this, would he then seize what he could by force?

I think so, said he.

And then, my friend, if that elderly man or woman resisted him, and put up a fight, would he be careful and spare them from any tyrannical behaviour?

No, said he, I am not at all confident about the fate of the parents of a man like this.

But, by Zeus, Adeimantus, do you think he would rain down blows upon his aged friend, the friend he needs, his own mother, 574C all because of a new found girl friend, a companion he doesn’t need? Would he strike his elderly father, a man in decline, a much needed and most ancient friend, all because of a new found boy friend in his prime, whom he doesn’t really need? And would he let his parents be slaves of these new friends, if he brought them all into the same household?

Yes, he would, by Zeus, said he.

How very blessed it seems to be, said I, to bring forth a tyrannical son.

Entirely so, said he.

574D But what happens to such a person when the resources of his father and mother fail him, while the swarm of pleasures within him is already growing in size? Won’t he, initially, turn his hand to house-breaking or steal the robe of someone who is out late at night, and then go on to plunder a temple? And in all these exploits, the opinions he held, of old, since childhood, about what’s noble and what’s shameful, opinions that are accounted just, will be subject to those opinions, newly released from slavery, that constitute the bodyguard of the ruling passion, and rule alongside it. These were released previously, only in dreams during sleep, 574E when he was still subject to the laws, and to his father, because he was under democratic rule, within. But now that he is under the tyranny of passion, the sort of person he occasionally became whilst dreaming, is the sort of person he has now become, constantly, whilst awake. He will not refrain from any vile murder; there is nothing he will not eat, no action he will not perform. Passion lives within him as a tyrant, 575A in total anarchy and lawlessness, since it is, itself, the sole ruler, and like a tyrant in a city, it will lead anyone in whom it resides, to utter recklessness. From this, it feeds itself and the rabble that surrounds it, part of which has come in from outside from bad company, part of which has come from within because the very same tendencies, his own tendencies in this case, have set it up and set it free. Isn’t this the life that a man like this leads?

That’s it indeed, said he.

575B And if, said I, people of this sort are few in number, while the rest of the population of the city is sound-minded, they leave, and act as bodyguards for some other tyrant, or serve as paid mercenaries, in time of war. But if they develop in time of peace, when things are quiet, they stay in the city and do a lot of bad deeds, on a small scale.

What sort of deeds?

Theft, for instance, house breaking, picking pockets, stealing people’s clothes, robbing from temples, and kidnapping. Sometimes, if they are accomplished speakers, they become informers, give false evidence and take bribes.

Yes, said I, small scale bad deeds indeed, provided such people are few in number.

575C Yes, said I, what’s small is small, relative to what’s large, and none of these evils “come nigh at all”, as they say, to a tyrant in terms of the corruption and degeneracy of a city. For when such people grow in numbers in the city, along with the others who follow their lead, and they realise how numerous they are, these are the ones who, with assistance from the unthinking general populace, bring forth that tyrant; the particular person who has the greatest and most extensive tyrant within his own soul.

575D Yes, quite likely, said he, since he would be the most tyrannical of them all.

That’s what happens if the people yield willingly, but if the city won’t submit to him, then he acts as a he did towards his own father and mother. He will punish his fatherland in the same way that he punished them, if he can, by bringing in his new found companions, and he will hold and maintain his beloved ancient fatherland, or motherland as the Cretans say, in slavery to them. And 575E this would be the culmination of such a man’s desire.

It would, said he, entirely so.

Well then, said I, how do these people behave, as private citizens, even before they have authority? In the first place, won’t they spend their time with people who flatter them when they are together, or who are prepared to do anything to serve them? Or if they want something from someone else, won’t they debase themselves, and try any device, as if they were friends, 576A but turn into strangers once their mission is accomplished?

Yes, very much so.

And so they live their entire lives without ever being friends to anyone; always either someone’s master or someone else’s slave. But the tyrannical nature never gets a taste of true freedom or true friendship.

Entirely so.

Well then, would we be right to refer to such people as unfaithful?

Of course.

And unjust too, to the greatest extent possible, if we were indeed correct in agreeing what we agreed previously 576B about the sort of thing justice is.

Well we were right about that at any rate, said he.

To sum up then, said I, let’s say that the most evil person would presumably, even when awake, be like the sort of person we described in dreams.

Yes, certainly.

And he comes into existence when someone who is, by nature, utterly tyrannical, has sole authority, and the longer he lives the life of a tyrant the more like this he becomes.

He must, said Glaucon, taking up the argument.

So is it the case, said I, that whoever proves to be most evil will also prove to be most wretched? 576C And that whoever is most a tyrant for the most time has, in truth, been most miserable, for the most time? But popular opinion on this is quite varied.

Well, the situation must be as you describe it, said he.

And doesn’t the tyrannical man correspond to the tyrannically governed city, in likeness, and the democratic man to the democratically governed city, and similarly for the others?

Of course.

Now, as city corresponds to city in excellence and blessedness, 576D does one man correspond to another man in this respect too?

Of course.

Now, in terms of excellence, how does the city governed by a tyrant correspond to the first one we described, the one governed by a king?

It is the complete opposite, said he, indeed one is the most excellent of all and the other is the worst.

I shan’t ask, said I, which you are referring to, since it is quite obvious. But would your decision be the same in relation to blessedness and wretchedness or would it be different? And let’s not be dazzled by looking at the tyrant, in person, or a few people in his inner circle; we need to look at the whole city by going into it, 576E delving into every corner and seeing what is there; then and only then may we express our opinion.

You are right to challenge me, said he. Indeed it is obvious to everyone that no city is more wretched than one that is governed by a tyrant, and none is more blessed than one that is governed by a king.

Well, said I, what if I were to issue the very same challenges 577A in relation to the individual men? Would I be right to suggest that the only person who has the right to decide these issues is someone who is able to use his mind to go deep into the character of a man, and see clearly, without being dazzled by the pretence of the tyrannical types, like a child who looks only from the outside; someone who is well able to see through the pretence that tyrants put on for the world at large. Now what if I were to presume that we should all listen to that person, the one who is able to make this decision, and who has lived alongside a tyrant and has witnessed his dealings with his household, and how he behaves towards the various members of his family, where he is best 577B seen, stripped of theatrical trappings, and who has also seen him amidst the perils of public life? Since this person has seen so much, should we call upon him to report where the tyrant stands, relative to the others, in terms of blessedness and wretchedness?

You would, said he, be absolutely right to suggest this.

Would you like us, said I, to pretend to be people who are able to make this decision, and who have already met up with tyrants, so that we may have someone to answer the questions we asked?


Come on then, said I, and consider this, as follows: remembering 577C the similarity of the city and the individual, consider them carefully, each in turn, and describe the characteristics of each.

What sort of characteristics, he asked?

Firstly, said I, to speak of the city, will you say that the one governed by a tyrant is free or enslaved?

Enslaved, said he, to the greatest extent possible.

And yet, you see masters and free men there.

Yes, said he, I see this, and it is a small detail but the whole population there, so to speak, and the very best part, is dishonourably and miserably enslaved.

577D Now if, said I, the individual is like the city, mustn’t the same state of affairs prevail within him, and mustn’t his soul be full of slavishness and deprivation of freedom, its very best parts being enslaved, while a small part, the worst and the maddest, is their master.

It must be so, said he.

In that case, will you maintain that a soul of this sort is enslaved or free?

Enslaved, I presume.

Furthermore, doesn’t the enslaved, tyrannically governed city, do what it wishes to do, to the least possible extent?

Yes, the very least.

So the tyrannically governed soul too will do what it wishes to do to 577E the least possible extent, speaking of the soul as a whole, and being continually impelled by the gadfly of desire it will be full of confusion and regret.


And must the tyrannically governed city be wealthy or poor?


578A So the tyrannical soul too must always be in need, and dissatisfied.

It must, said he.

And mustn’t a city like this and a person like this be full of fear?

That’s quite inevitable.

And do you think you will find more wailing, groaning, lamentation and suffering in any other city than you find in this one?

Not at all.

And do you think this sort of thing is more prevalent in any other individual than it is in this tyrant, mad with desires and passions?


578B Now I imagine you decided that this city, at any rate, is the most wretched of cities, in view of all these considerations and others like them.

Wasn’t I right to do so, he asked?

Very much so, said I. But what do you say, in turn, about the tyrannical individual in the light of these same considerations?

That he is, said he, the most wretched by far; more so than any of the others.

That, said I, is not quite correct.

How so, he asked?

This fellow, said I, is not yet the most wretched.

Then who is?

Someone who will surely seem to you to be more wretched than this fellow.


578C Someone, said I, with a tyrannical nature, who does not live out his life as a private citizen but, by an unfortunate accident, gets the opportunity to become an actual tyrant.

I reckon, said he, from what has already been said, that this is true.

Yes, said I, but we should not merely think about matters of this sort, we should consider them very carefully, using an argument like this, since our inquiry is concerned with the most important issue of all; living a good life or a bad one.

Quite right, said he.

578D Now does what I am saying make any sense? For I think this needs to be considered with the following examples in mind.

What examples?

The example of any of the private citizens in the city who are wealthy and own lots of slaves. For they have this in common with tyrants, they rule over many people; although the tyrant rules over a greater number.

Greater indeed.

And you know, don’t you that these people don’t live in fear, and they are not terrified of their own household slaves?

Yes, what would they be afraid of?

Nothing, said I, but do you recognise the reason why?

Yes, because the entire city is there to assist every single private citizen.

578E That’s right, said I. But what if some god were to take one man, who owned fifty slaves or even more, lift him out of the city, himself, his wife and his children and set him down in an isolated place, along with his other property, and his household slaves, where none of his fellow free men would be in a position to come to his aid? Can you imagine his fear, and how afraid he would be that himself, his children and his wife might be done away with by his own slaves?

I think he’d be in total fear, said he.

579A Wouldn’t he be compelled, at that stage, to ingratiate himself with some of those slaves, make lots of promises, and even set them free when there was no need to? And he himself would turn out to be the flatterer of his own servants.

He’d have to do that, said he, just to survive.

And what if the god, said I, were to settle other people around him; lots of neighbours who won’t put up with it if someone claims the right to enslave anyone else, and who inflict the most severe punishments on someone who acts like this, if they catch him.

I think, said I, that he would be in even more difficulty, in every respect, being watched from all sides by nothing but enemies.

579B So the tyrant is bound fast in a prison house like this, since his nature is as we have described it, filled with a huge variety of fears and passions. Although his soul is full of craving, he is the one person in the city who finds it impossible to travel abroad or to see anything that other free men love to see. Skulking inside his own house most of the time, he lives like a woman, 579C envying the other citizens, if any of them ever travel abroad or see anything good.

Yes, entirely so, said he.

So the man who is ill-governed within, the tyrannical man whom you deemed most wretched, reaps an even greater harvest of such evils once he forsakes his private life, and is compelled by some chance event, to become a tyrant, and attempts to rule others when he can’t even control himself. It’s as if someone with a sick body 579D that can’t control itself was compelled to live his life, not in quiet privacy, but in constant competition and physical combat.

Very true, Socrates, said he, it’s exactly like that.

Now, dear Glaucon, said I, isn’t this an entirely wretched predicament, and doesn’t the actual tyrant live an even harsher life than the person whose life, you decided, was harshest?

Definitely, said he.

So the truth of the matter, even if someone thinks otherwise, is that the actual tyrant is actually a slave to fawning and servitude on a huge scale, and a flatterer 579E of the most vile people of all. Since none of his desires are satisfied, he turns out to be most needy in most respects, and in truth, poor, once someone knows how to look at a soul, as a whole. He is full of fear too, throughout his entire life, beset with convulsions and pains, if he does indeed resemble the disposition of the city he rules over. And he does resemble this, doesn’t he?

Very much so, said he.

580A And in addition to all this, shouldn’t we also ascribe what we spoke of earlier, to this man? Mustn’t he be envious, unfaithful, unjust, friendless and impious; a host and nurturer of every evil. And mustn’t he become even more like this than he previously was, because he is a ruler, and, for all these reasons, be most unhappy in himself and make people around him unhappy too?

No one, said he, with any intelligence, will argue against you.

580B Come on now, said I, act like the overall judge in a competition, and announce who, in your opinion, comes first in terms of blessedness, who comes second, and so on for the other five, in turn; the kingly person, the timocratic, the oligarchic, the democratic or the tyrannical; decide.

The decision is an easy one, said he. I judge them as if I were judging theatrical choruses, and I rank them in terms of evil and blessedness, and the opposite, in the very order in which they made their entrance.

Shall we hire a herald then, I asked, or shall I myself proclaim that the son of Ariston 580C has decided that the best and most just person is also the most blessed, and this is the most kingly person, who exercises kingly rule over himself, and that the worst and most unjust person is also the most wretched, and he, for his part, turns out to be the most tyrannical person, who tyrannises to the greatest possible extent over himself and over the city too?

Consider it done, said he.

And should I declare, in addition, that this is the case whether their dispositions are noticed by men and gods, or not?

Add that declaration, said he.

So be it, said I, and this would be one of our proofs; take a look at a second one, do you think this amounts to anything?

580D What’s the demonstration?

Since the city, said I, is divided into three kinds, and the soul of each individual is threefold in like manner, this, I believe, will afford another proof.

In what way?

As follows: it seems to me that there are three kinds of pleasures corresponding to the three parts of the soul, one pleasure being particular to each particular part, and that the same goes for desires, and for ways of ruling the soul.

What do you mean, he asked?

There is, according to us, one part with which a person learns, and another with which he become spirited. We were unable to provide a particular name for the third, so we named it after its largest and strongest aspect, and called it the appetitive part due to the intensity of its appetite for food, drink and sex and everything associated with these. We called it money-loving too as such appetites are satisfied 581A mainly through money.

And we were right to do so, said he.

Well then, if we were to say that the pleasure and love belonging to this part, was for profit, would that best summarise the argument, so that we could be confident that we are referring to this part of the soul correctly when we refer to it as money-loving or profit-loving?

So it seems to me anyway, said he.

What about this? Don’t we maintain that the spirited part is wholly intent upon power, victory 581B and fame.

Very much so.

Now if we were to refer to it as ambitious and in love with honour, would that seem right?

Right indeed.

But of course it is obvious to everyone that the part by which we learn is always intent upon knowing the truth, as it is, and of the three parts, this one is least interested in money and reputation.

The least by far.

Would it be appropriate then for us to refer to it as having a love of learning and of wisdom?

Yes, of course.

581C Isn’t it the case, said I, that this part rules the soul of some people, while one of the other two rules the souls of others, as the case may be.

Quite so, said he.

For these reasons then, we say that the principal kinds of human being are also three in number; the kind that loves wisdom, the kind that loves winning and the kind that loves profit.


And there are three forms of pleasure, one underlying each of these.

Entirely so.

Now you do realise, don’t you, said I, that if you decided to ask three people of this sort, each in turn, which of these lives is most pleasant, each would praise his own way of life the most? The money maker 581D will maintain that unless he makes some money from them, the pleasures of attaining honour or learning are worthless, in comparison with the pleasure of making profit.

True, said he.

What about the kind that loves honour? said I. Won’t he regard the pleasure that comes from money as vulgar, and the pleasure that comes from learning, for its part, as insubstantial nonsense, unless the learning confers some honour.

That is his position, said he.

And how do we think the lover of wisdom will regard the other pleasures, in comparison with knowing the truth, as it is, and being continually involved in something like 581E this while he is learning? Won’t the other pleasures be far removed from this pleasure, and won’t he refer to them as necessary, in a literal sense, because he would have no need for any of them unless necessity was involved.

This needs to be well understood, said he.

Now, said I, when there is dispute over the pleasures of each kind of person, and over the life itself, not only over which life is more noble or more shameful, which is worse and which is better, but over which life is actually more pleasant and least painful, 582A how are we to know which of them is really speaking the truth?

I just can’t say, he replied.

Well consider this; what should things be judged by if they are going to be properly judged? Isn’t it by experience, intelligence and argument, or could anyone have a better criterion than these?

How could they? said he.

Then consider this; of the three men, who among them has most experience of all the pleasures we mentioned? Does the lover of profit, by understanding truth itself, and what it is like, seem to you to have more experience of the pleasure of knowledge, than the philosopher has of the pleasure that comes from 582B making a profit?

There’s a big difference, said he. Indeed the philosopher, of necessity, tastes the other pleasures from his earliest childhood. But there is no necessity that the lover of profit tastes the pleasure of learning the nature of things that are, and how sweet that pleasure is, or that he have any experience of this, and even if he is eager to do so, it is not easy.

There is a big difference then, said I, between the lover of wisdom and the lover of profit in their experience of both pleasures.

582C Big, indeed.

And how does he compare to the lover of honour? Does the philosopher have less experience of the pleasure of attaining honour than the profit lover has of the pleasure of the intellect?

No, said he, honour accrues to them all, once they achieve whatever they are each intent upon. Indeed the wealthy are honoured by lots of people and so too are the courageous and the wise. So they all have experience of the kind of pleasure that comes from attaining honour. But it is impossible for anyone except the lover of wisdom to have tasted the kind of pleasure that comes from beholding what is.

582D So, in terms of experience, said I, he is a better judge than any of the others.

Much better.

And indeed, he alone will have gained his experience in the company of intelligence.


Then again, the instrument that is needed in order to judge, is not the instrument of the profit lover, or of the lover of honour, but of the lover of wisdom.

What is it?

I think we said that it is necessary to judge by means of arguments. Is this so?


And arguments are the instrument of the philosopher, most of all.

They must be.

Now if whatever is to be judged 582E was best judged by wealth and profit, then the things that the profit lover praised and censured would necessarily be the truest of all, wouldn’t they?

Much the truest.

And if they were judged by victory and courage, wouldn’t whatever is praised by the ambitious lover of honour be truest?


But since they should be judged by experience, intelligence and argument, what follows?

It must be the case, said he, that whatever the lover of wisdom and argument praises is the truest.

583A So of the three pleasures, would the one that belongs to the part of the soul we learn with, be most pleasant, and would the life of the person in whom this part rules, be the most pleasant life of the three?

How could it be otherwise, said he? The man of intelligence is the one who has complete authority to praise his own life.

And what life comes second, said I, and what pleasure comes second, according to the judge?

It is obviously the pleasure of the military type, who loves honour, since this is closer to the philosopher than the pleasure of the profit lover.

Then it seems that the pleasure of the profit lover comes last.

Indeed, said he.

583B These would constitute two arguments, in succession, and two victories for the just over the unjust. Let the third, in Olympic fashion, be dedicated to the Saviour, Olympian Zeus. Consider this carefully; the pleasure of the others, apart from the pleasure of the man of intelligence, is not completely true, nor is it pure; it is a mere shadow-drawing, or so I heard, I believe, from one of the wise. And indeed, this next overthrow of the unjust would be the greatest and most decisive of all.

Very decisive, but what do you mean?

583C I’ll discover this, said I, if you answer questions while I carry out an enquiry.

Ask your questions then, said he.

Then tell me, said I, don’t we maintain that pain is the opposite of pleasure?

Very much so.

And don’t we also say that being neither pleased nor in pain is possible?

It is indeed.

Would you describe this as a middle state, between these two, a repose of the soul from both?

Quite so.

Now do you recall the utterances of sick people, and what they say when they are ill?

What sort of utterances?

That nothing is actually more pleasant than being healthy, but they were unaware, 583D prior to their illness, just how pleasant it is.

I remember, said he.

And don’t you hear people who are gripped by some huge pain saying that nothing is more pleasant than cessation of pain?

I hear that.

And, I believe, in lots of other situations like this, you notice that people in pain, rather than praising enjoyment, praise absence of pain, and repose from this sort of thing, as the greatest pleasure.

Yes, said he, this repose is probably pleasant and enjoyable then.

583E And, said I, when someone’s enjoyment comes to an end, repose from the pleasure will be a source of pain.

Probably, said he.

So repose, which we said just now is in between pleasure and pain, will, on occasion, be both.

So it seems.

Is it possible for something that is neither to become both?

I don’t think so.

And indeed, the pleasure that arises in the soul, and the pain too, are both movements of some sort, aren’t they?


584A And didn’t whatever is neither painful nor pleasant turn out just now to be a repose between these two?

So it did.

Now how could it be right to think that not being in pain is pleasure, and absence of enjoyment is pain?

It couldn’t be.

So this is not the case, said I, but it appears so. Repose, on occasion appears pleasant in comparison with pain, and painful in comparison with pleasure, but there is nothing sound in any of these appearances in relation to the truth about pleasure; they are a sort of enchantment.

Well, said he, that’s what the argument is indicating.

Then, said I, look at the pleasures that do not originate in pains so that 584B you don’t come to believe, in the present case, that this is the natural state of affairs, and that pleasure is indeed the cessation of pain, and pain the cessation of pleasure.

Where shall I look, said he, and what sort of pleasures do you mean?

Well, said I, although there are many other examples, I would like you to pay particular attention to the pleasures associated with smell. For these suddenly become extraordinarily intense, without any preceding pain and, when they cease, they leave no pain at all behind.

Very true, said he.

So, let’s not believe that being quit of pain is pure pleasure, or that being quit of pleasure is pain.

Let’s not.

And yet, said I, the greatest and most numerous of the so called pleasures that extend through the body as far as the soul, are of this form; they are mere releases from pain.

They are, indeed.

And doesn’t the same hold for the anticipatory pleasures and pains that arise from our expectations of these.

The same, indeed.

584D Now, said I, do you know what qualities they have, and what they most resemble?

What, he asked?

Do you think, said I, that there is up, down and middle in nature.

I do.

Now do you think that someone being carried from below towards the middle would think he is being carried upwards? Could he think otherwise? And once he is standing in the middle, looking back to where he had been carried from, wouldn’t he presume, without question that he is above, never having seen the truly above?

By Zeus, said he, I really don’t think a person in such a position could think otherwise.

And if he were carried back again, said I, would he think he was being carried down, and would 584E that be true?

How could it not be?

And wouldn’t all this happen because he has no experience of what is truly above, in the middle, and below?


And would you be at all surprised if people who, in like manner, have no experience of the truth about many other matters, hold unsound opinions? Might they hold a view of pleasure and pain, and the intermediate state whereby, when they move in the direction of pain 585A they think they really are in pain, which is the truth? But when they move from pain to the intermediate state, might they be convinced that they are approaching fulfilment and pleasure, and be deceived by comparing absence of pain, to pain, without any experience of pleasure, as if they were comparing black to grey with no experience of white?

By Zeus, said he, I would not be surprised, no; I’d be much more surprised if this didn’t happen.

Well think about this, said I; aren’t hunger and thirst and the like 585B a sort of deficiency in the state of the body?


And aren’t ignorance and stupidity, in turn, a deficiency in the state of the soul?

Very much so.

And wouldn’t anyone who gets nourishment or who acquires intelligence be filled up?

Of course.

And does the true filling up involve being filled with what is less real or more real?

With what is more real, of course.

And which of the kinds do you think partakes more of pure being? Is it the kind that includes food, drink, relish and every kind of nourishment, or the form that includes true opinion, 585C knowledge, intelligence and, in short, all excellence? You need to decide the following question; does that which holds to the unchanging, to the immortal and to truth, and is like this, itself, and originates in something like this, seem more real to you than what holds to the ever changing, and the mortal, and is like this, itself, and originates in this sort of thing?

Whatever holds to unchanging, said he, far exceeds the other.

Now does the being of the unchanging partake more of being than of knowledge?[i]

Not at all.

Or of truth?

Not of truth either.

And what partakes less of truth, also partakes less of being, does it not?


585D So, in general, don’t the kinds that are concerned with the care of the body partake less of truth and being, than those that are concerned with the care of the soul?

Much less.

And don’t you think the same holds for the body itself, in comparison with the soul?

I do.

So isn’t that which is filled with what is more real, and is itself more real, actually filled to a greater extent than something filled with what is less real, and is, itself, less real?

It must be.

In that case, if being filled with what naturally belongs to us is pleasure, then that which is filled more with things that really are, 585E would make us enjoy true pleasure, more really and more truly. But that which shares in things that are less real would be filled less truly, and less certainly, and would share in a pleasure that is less trustworthy and less true.

This must be so, said he.

586A So those with no experience of wisdom or excellence, who are constantly involved in feasting and the like, are, it seems, moving downwards, and then back to the middle again, and they spend their lives wandering like this. They have never transcended this, and turned their gaze to what is truly above, nor have they ever yet been borne there, nor have they really been filled with what is, or tasted pleasure that is certain and true.

Rather, like cattle, with a constant downward gaze, their heads bowed towards the ground, to their tables, they gorge themselves, feeding then mating, and, out of 586B sheer greed for all this they kick and butt one another with horns and hooves of iron. They slaughter one another with weapons of war because their desire is insatiable, since they are not filling the real part of themselves with things that are, nor are they even filling the part that can contain these.

Socrates, said Glaucon, you are describing most people’s lives, in an utterly prophetic manner.

Now isn’t it inevitable that they live among pleasures that are mixed with pains, mere images and shadow drawings of true pleasure, taking their tone from being placed alongside 586C one another? So they each appear quite intense, and engender raging passions of their own in senseless people, who fight over them just as the heroes at Troy, according to Stesichorus, fought over the image of Helen, in ignorance of the truth.

Yes, said he, something like this is quite inevitable.

What about this; mustn’t similar considerations apply to the spirited part whenever someone satisfies this, either through envy because he loves honour, or through violence because he loves winning, or through spirit because he is bad tempered? Isn’t he then pursuing the satisfaction 586D of honour, victory and spirit, in the absence of reason and intelligence.

This sort of thing, said he, is inevitable too, in that case.

Well then, said I, may we be so bold as to say, that in the case of the ambitious, profit loving part, there are a number of desires that adhere to knowledge and reason, which pursue their pleasures in the company of these, and only adopt the pleasures that intelligence approves of; these desires will adopt the truest pleasures they can attain to, because 586E they are following truth itself and pleasures that belong to themselves, if indeed what is best for each is what most belongs to each?

Most, indeed, said he.

So, when the entire soul follows the lead of the part that loves wisdom, without being rebellious, and each part, as a result, performs its own function in every respect, and is just, then above all does each part reap a rich harvest of pleasures that are its own, 587A the very best pleasures, and the very truest of which it is capable.

Yes, precisely.

But when any of the other parts is in control, it is unable, as a result, to discover its own pleasure, and it compels the others to pursue an untrue pleasure that is alien to them.

Quite so, said he.

And wouldn’t the parts that stand furthest from philosophy and reason be most inclined to bring this about?

Most by far.

And whatever stands furthest from reason is furthest from law and from order?

Of course.

587B And didn’t the passionate and tyrannical desires prove to be the ones that stood at the furthest remove?

Much the furthest.

And the kingly and orderly desires stood closest?


Then, I believe, the tyrant will live the least pleasant life while the king will live the most pleasant one.

This must be so.

Now, said I, do you know how much less pleasantly the tyrant lives in comparison with a king?

I would if you told me, said he.

There are, it seems, three pleasures; one that is genuine, two that are fake. The tyrant has gone beyond the fake pleasures into another realm. Fleeing 587C from law and from reason, he lives with a bodyguard of slavish pleasures, and it is not at all easy to say how much worse off he is, except perhaps as follows.

How, he asked?

The tyrant, I believe, was at a third remove from the oligarchic type, and the man of the people was in between them.


And if what we said previously is true, won’t he live with an image of pleasure that is at a third remove, in terms of truth, from the oligarch’s pleasure?

Quite so.

And yet, the oligarchic type is, again, at a third remove from the kingly type if we designate the aristocratic and kingly types as the same.

Third, indeed.

So, said I, the tyrant is removed from true pleasure by three times three; that is the number.

So it appears.

In that case, said I, the image of pleasure that the tyrant has, numerically, in terms of length, would, it seems, be a square.


And by squaring and cubing, it is obvious what the extent of the interval becomes.

Of course, said he, to a mathematician anyway.

And if someone does this the other way around and tries to say how far the king stands from the tyrant 587E in terms of the truth of their pleasure, he will find, on completing the calculation, that the king lives 729 times more pleasantly, while the tyrant lives more wretchedly by the very same interval.

You have, said he, poured forth a massive stream of calculation of the difference between these two men, 588A the just and the unjust, in relation to pleasure and pain.

Yes, and it is also a true number, appropriate to their lives, if days and nights, months and years are indeed appropriate to these.

But of course they are appropriate, said he.

Now if the good and just man wins out over the bad, unjust man to this extent in terms of pleasure, won’t he win out to an enormously greater extent in the refinement of his life and in terms of beauty and excellence?

Enormously indeed, by Zeus, said he.

588B So be it then, said I. Since we have come to this point in the argument, let’s go back to what was said initially, and the propositions that got us here. It was said, I believe, that acting unjustly is beneficial to the completely unjust man, provided he has a reputation for being just. Isn’t this what was said?

It was indeed.

Then, said I, let’s discuss this now, with its proponent, since we have come to agreement on the power that acting unjustly, and doing what’s just, each possesses.

How, said he?

By fashioning an image of the soul, in words, so that the person proposing this may see for himself what he is talking about.

What sort of image? He asked.

588C An image, said I, like one of those creatures that are referred to in myths of old; Chimaera, Scylla, Cerberus and lots of others that are described, where many forms have grown together and become one.

Yes, so they say, said he.

Then fashion a single form, said I; the form of a complex, many headed beast that has heads of wild and tame beasts, all in a circle, and is able to change all these and make them grow out of itself.

That’s a task for an ingenious craftsman, said he; nevertheless, since it is easier to fashion 588D speech than wax or the like, let it be fashioned like this.

Then fashion one other form, the form of a lion, and then the form of a man, and let the first be the largest by far, and the second, second largest.

These are easier to fashion, said he; it’s done.

Then join these three together, into one, so that still being three, they somehow grow together.

They have been joined, said he.

Now fashion an image of one of them round about them all, on the outside, an image of a human being, 588E so that to anyone who is unable to see what’s inside, and only sees the external shell, it looks like one creature; a human being.

The surrounding shell has been fashioned, said he.

Then let’s say to whoever maintains that acting unjustly is beneficial to this human being, and doing what is just is not advantageous, that he is really claiming that it is beneficial to the person to feed the complex beast well, and make it strong, and the lion too, and its entourage, while he starves his human part 589A and makes it so weak that it is dragged wherever either of the other two may lead it. And it leaves them to themselves to bite, fight with, and devour one another, rather than getting them accustomed to one another or turning them into friends.

Absolutely, said he, that’s just what someone who praises unjust action would be advocating.

Then again, wouldn’t someone who says that what’s just is beneficial, be maintaining that it is necessary to do and to say whatever puts the inner human 589B being most in control of the person; whatever ensures that the human part will attend to the many headed beast, like a husbandman, by nurturing and taming the gentle elements, while preventing the wild ones from growing, making an ally of the lion nature, and caring, in common, for them all, and making them friends to one another and to itself. That’s how it will nurture them.

Yes, that again is exactly what someone who praises justice asserts.

So, someone who praises justice would be speaking 589C the truth, in every respect, while someone who praises what’s unjust would be speaking falsehoods. Indeed from the perspective of pleasure, or reputation, or the benefit it confers, whoever praises justice is speaking the truth, while someone who criticises it is unsound in his criticism and doesn’t even know what he is criticising.

Not at all, in my view, said he.

Well since he is not falling into error deliberately, let’s persuade him gently by asking him: “good man, wouldn’t we say that whatever is regarded as noble or as disgraceful has come to be so for reasons such as these; whatever is noble makes the savage part of our nature subject to the human part, or perhaps to the divine part, and whatever is disgraceful makes the gentle part a slave to the wild part?” Will he, somehow, agree?

He will, if he listens to me, said he.

Now based on this argument, said I, is there anyone who benefits from acquiring gold unjustly if, as a result, he enslaves the very best part of himself to the most base part at the same time as he gets it? 589E If in the process of getting gold he enslaved his own son or daughter to wild and evil men, that would not benefit him no matter how much money he might get for this. But if he enslaves 590A the most divine part of himself to the most godless and corrupt part, and shows no mercy, isn’t he wretched as a result? He is accepting a gift of gold in return for much more terrible ruination than Eriphyle experienced when she took a necklace in return for the soul of her husband.

Much more terrible indeed, said Glaucon; yes, I will answer your question on his behalf.

Don’t you also think that that’s why unrestrained behaviour has long been criticised? Isn’t it because such behaviour lets loose that horror, that huge multiform beast, beyond the proper measure?

Of course, said he.

And wilfulness and discontent are censured, aren’t they, whenever they cause the lion-like, snake-like 590B part to increase and intensify beyond all proportion?

Very much so.

And luxury and softness are censured too, are they not, for loosening and relaxing this same aspect, when they induce cowardice in it?


Flattery and servitude are censured when someone puts this same lion-like aspect in subjection to the unruly beast, and degrades the lion, all for the sake of money to fulfil the beast’s insatiable desires, getting it accustomed, from its earliest years, to being more of an ape than a lion.

Indeed so, said he.

590C And why do you think lowly manual labour is subject to reproach? Or is it simply because it is associated with someone whose very best part is, by nature, weak, so that he is unable to rule the beasts within himself, fosters them instead, and is unable to understand anything else except how to flatter them?

So it seems, said he.

Now, so that such a person may be ruled by something similar to what rules the best person, are we to say that he should be a slave of that best person 590D who is ruled by the divine element, and we should not adopt Thrasymachus’ view, that a slave should be ruled to his own detriment? Don’t we think it best that everyone be subject to divine wisdom, preferably residing within himself, or else established externally, so that we may all be as much alike as possible, and friends too, because we are all governed by the same thing?

And rightly so, said he.

590E And the law, being the ally of everyone in the city, makes it clear that it also intends something of this sort. This is also the purpose of the authority we exercise over children, not allowing them to be free until we have established a system 591A within them, like the system of government in our city, and by caring for their best part, with the best part in us, we install guardians and rulers in them, similar to our own, and then proceed to set our children free.

Yes, that is clear, said he.

In which case, Glaucon, how, and based upon what argument, can we maintain that acting unjustly or without restraint, or doing something shameful, is of benefit to anyone, when he will actually be a worse person as a result, despite having a bit more money and power?

We cannot maintain this at all, said he.

And is acting unjustly, escaping detection and avoiding punishment, beneficial in any way? Or doesn’t 591B someone who escapes detection become even more degenerate, while in the case of someone who doesn’t escape, and is punished, his brutish part is made calm and gentle, and his gentle part is set free; his entire soul is restored to its very best state and attains a more honourable condition, because it has acquired sound-mindedness and justice, accompanied by understanding. Indeed to the extent that soul is more honourable than body, soul attains a more honourable condition than a body that has acquired strength and beauty along with health.

Entirely so, said he.

591C Now won’t any intelligent person live his life with all his resources directed to this end; respecting, first and foremost, the branches of learning that will make his soul like this, and showing no respect for any others?

Of course, said he.

Then, said I, he does not give over the condition of his body, or its nurture, to brutish, irrational pleasure and turn his life in that direction, nor does he look to its health or attach importance to being strong or healthy or noble, unless he is going to become sound-minded as a result. Rather he is always to be found attuning the harmony of his body 591D for the sake of the concord of his soul.

Yes, entirely so, said he, if he is going to be a musician in very truth.

And, said I, won’t he also bring this order and concord to his acquisition of wealth? He will not increase the sheer size of his fortune, beyond all bounds, and his troubles too, because he is in the thrall of popular views on happiness.

No, I don’t think he would, said he.

591E Rather, said I, he will add to or expend his wealth while looking to and guarding the city within himself to the best of his ability. He steers his course in this way in case anything might disturb the elements within him through excess or deficiency of wealth.

Yes, exactly, said he.

592A And when it comes to honours, looking to the same principle, he’ll willingly partake of and taste those that, in his view, will make him better, but he will flee from private or public honours, that undo the proper order.

In that case, said he, if this is his concern, he will not wish to engage in civic affairs.

By the dog, he will, said I, in the city within himself, very much so, but probably not in his own fatherland, unless some divine good fortune intervenes.

I understand, said he; you are referring to the city we have now described, and are founding; the one that is laid out in words, since I don’t think it exists anywhere on earth.

592B But perhaps a pattern is laid up in heaven, said I, for anyone who wishes to behold it, and to found himself based on what he sees. And it makes no difference whether it exists somewhere, or will ever exist, for he would engage in the affairs of that city alone, and of no other.

Quite likely, said he.

End Book 9

[1] See Adam’s note on this passage.

[i]Endnote to Book IX, 585c 8-9, following Burnet and the manuscripts.

  οὖν  ἀεὶ  ὁμοίου  οὐσία  οὐσίας  τι  μᾶλλον    ἐπιστήμης  μετέχει   (mss, Burnet)

“does the being of what is always the same participate more in being than in knowledge” (Grube-Reeve)

  οὖν  ἀνομοίου  οὐσία  οὐσίας  τι  μᾶλλον    ἐπιστήμης  μετέχει   (Hermann apud Shorey)

“does the essence of that which never abides the same partake of real essence any more than of knowledge” (Shorey)

  οὖν  ἀεὶ  <ἀν>ομοίου  οὐσία  οὐσίας  τι  μᾶλλον    <>  ἐπιστήμης  μετέχει     (Adam)

does the οὐσία of that which is always different partake of  οὐσία  more than the  οὐσία  of knowledge

  οὖν  [ἀεὶ  ὁμοίου  οὐσία]  οὐσίας  τι  μᾶλλον    ἐπιστήμης  μετέχει   (Ritter apud Shorey)

does anything have a greater share in  οὐσία  than in knowledge

  οὖν  ἀεὶ  ὁμοίου  σιτία  [οὐσίας  τι]  μᾶλλον    ἐπιστήμη[ς]  μετέχει   (Bury apud Slings)

do σιτία have a greater share in what is always  ὅμοιον  than knowledge has

  οὖν  ἀεὶ  ὁμοίου  [οὐσία]  οὐσίας  τι  μᾶλλον    ἐπιστήμη[ς]  μετέχει     (Ferrari apud Rowe)

“does anything share more in being what is always alike than knowledge does?” (Rowe) ≈  ≈  “does anything have a greater share in the being of what is always the same than knowledge does” (Griffith)

  οὖν  ἀεὶ  ὁμοίου  [οὐσία]  οὐσίας  τι  μᾶλλον  []  ἐπιστήμης  μετέχει     (Ferrari apud Slings)