Chapter 3

The Moral Education of Guardians

Socrates Thus, we have found the desired natures. How are they to be reared and educated? This education can prevent injustice from growing in States.

The State Should Censor Immoral and Untruthful Literature and Arts


We shall do this by story-telling, and our story shall be the education of our heroes. The best education is traditional education, which is made up of:

  • Gymnastics for the body, and
  • Music and literature, both true and false, for the soul.

The young should be trained first with the false literature. We begin by telling children fictitious stories which are not wholly destitute of truth. This is done before they are of the age to learn gymnastics. That was my meaning when I said that we must teach music before gymnastics. The beginning is the most important part of any work. This is especially true for our youth because that is the time when:

  • the character is being formed, and
  • the desired impression is more readily taken.

We cannot carelessly allow children to hear any casual tales devised by casual persons. We cannot receive into their minds ideas opposite of those which we should wish them to have when they are grown up. The first thing will be to establish a censorship of the writers of fiction.

Let the censors accept any tale of fiction which is good, and reject the bad.

We want mothers and nurses to tell their children the authorised ones only. Let them fashion the mind with such tales, even more fondly than they mould the body with their hands.

But most of those which are now in use must be discarded. You may find a model of the unacceptable tales in the popular tales, for they are necessarily of the same type. Those tales have the same spirit in both.

Examples of popular tales are those from Homer, Hesiod, and the rest of the great story-tellers.

But which stories do you mean and what is wrong with them?


The most serious fault is the fault of telling a lie, and, what is more, a bad lie.

The fault is committed whenever an erroneous representation is made of the nature of gods and heroes. This is similar to a painter painting a portrait that does not resemble the original. The greatest lie in high places was the one which Hesiod told about Uranus and how Cronus retaliated on him. The doings of Cronus, and the sufferings which in turn his son inflicted on him, should not be lightly told to young and thoughtless persons. They should be be buried in silence.

But if it is absolute necessary to mention them, a chosen few might hear them in a mystery. They should sacrifice not a common (Eleusinian) pig, but some huge and unprocurable victim. Then the number of the hearers will be very few. The young man should not be told that the worst of crimes are not outrageous.


Those stories should not be repeated. Our future guardians should not be told about:

  • the wars in heaven, and
  • the plots and fightings among the gods.

Such stories are not true. We shall never mention the battles of the giants, nor let them be embroidered on garments. We shall be silent about the many quarrels of gods and heroes with their friends and relatives. We would tell them that:

  • quarrelling is unholy, and
  • there has never been any such quarrels between citizens in the past.

This is what old men and women should tell children. The poets should also compose for the more mature youth in a similar spirit. The following tales must not be admitted into our State, whether have allegorical meaning or not:

  • the story of Hephaestus binding his mother Hera,
  • how Zeus sent him flying for taking her part when she was being beaten, and
  • all the battles of the gods in Homer.

A young person cannot judge what is allegorical and what is literal. Anything that he receives into his mind at that age is likely to become indelible and unalterable. Therefore, it is most important that the tales which the young first hear should be models of virtuous thoughts.

First Quality* of God: God Must Be Defined to Be Good If the State is to be Good

*Superphysics Note: This is called Dharma in Hinduism and Buddhism


But where are such models to be found? You, I, and Adeimantus are not poets, but founders of a State. The founders of a State should know:

  • the general forms in which poets should cast their tales, and
  • the limits which must be observed by them

But to make the tales is not the business of the founders.

Adeimantus Very true, but what are these forms of theology that you mean?

The kind wherein God is represented as He truly is. He is not truly good and must not be represented as such. No good thing is hurtful.

  • A thing that is not hurt can do no evil.
  • A thing that does no evil cannot be a cause of evil.

The good is advantageous and the cause of well-being. It follows that the good is the cause of the good only, and not the cause of all things. Then God, if He be good, is not the author of all things, as the many assert. Instead, He is the cause of a few things only.

  • The goods of human life are few and the evils are many.
  • The good is to be attributed to God alone.
  • The origin of evil is to be sought elsewhere, and not in God.

Then we must not listen to Homer or to any other poet who is guilty of saying that:

We shall not approve if anyone asserts=

  • that the violation of oaths and treaties, which was really the work of Pandarus, was brought about by Athene and Zeus, or
  • that the strife between the gods was instigated by Themis and Zeus.

We will not allow our young men to hear the words of Aeschylus:

We must not permit poets to say that the following are the works of God:

  • the sufferings of Niobe, which was the subject of the tragedy in iambic verses,
  • the house of Pelops, and
  • the Trojan war or on any similar theme.

If they are of God, the poet must devise some explanation. He must say that:

  • God did what was just and right.
  • They were the better for being punished.
  • Those who are punished are miserable.

But he must not say that God is the author of their misery. He can say that the wicked are miserable because they require to be punished, and are benefited by receiving punishment from God.

We should strenuously deny that God is the author of evil to anyone. Such a fiction is suicidal, ruinous, impious.

Adeimantus I agree with you, and am ready to give my assent to the law.

Let this be one of our rules and principles on the gods= that God is not the author of all things, but of good only.

We expect our poets and reciters to conform to this rule.

What do you think of a second principle? Is God a magician? Does He appear insidiously in one shape now and in another shape later? Does He sometimes change into many forms, sometimes deceiving us? Or is God one and the same immutably fixed in his own proper image?

A change in anything must be effected either by the thing itself, or by some other thing. Things which are at their best are also the least liable to be altered or discomposed. For example:

  • When healthiest and strongest, the human frame is least liable to be affected by meats and drinks.
  • The plant which is in the fullest vigour also suffers least from winds or the sun’s heat.
  • Likewise, the bravest and wisest soul will not be confused or deranged by any external influence.

The same principle applies to all composite things—furniture, houses, garments, etc. When good and well made, they are least altered by time and circumstances. Then everything which is good, whether made by art or nature, or both, is least liable to suffer change from the outside.

But surely God and the things of God are in every way perfect. Then He can hardly be compelled by external influence to take many shapes. He cannot change and transform himself.

Will he then change himself for the better and fairer, or for the worse and more unsightly?

If He changes at all, He can only change for the worse because we cannot suppose him to be deficient in virtue or beauty.

Adeimantus Very true, but then no one, whether god or man, wants to make himself worse.

Then it is impossible that God should ever be willing to change. Being the fairest and best that is conceivable, every god remains absolutely and forever in his own form.

Then, let none of the poets tell us that= “The gods, taking the disguise of strangers from other lands, walk up and down cities in all sorts of forms.”

Let no one slander Proteus and Thetis. Let no one either in tragedy or in any other kind of poetry, introduce Hera disguised in the likeness of a priestess asking an alms “for the life-giving daughters of Inachus the river of Argos”.

Let us not have mothers under the influence of the poets scaring their children with a bad version of these myths. They say that certain gods “go out at night in the form of so many strangers.” They will make cowards of their children.

The True Lie Is Unacceptable as It Is Pure Falsehood, But White Lies Are a Deception Which Might Be Useful Sometimes


The gods are themselves unchangeable.

They cannot appear in various forms by witchcraft and deception just as no one is willingly deceived in the truest and highest part of himself, or in the truest and highest matters.

Above all, man is most afraid of being possessed by a lie. The soul is the highest part of the people. Being deceived about the highest realities is what mankind utterly detests. This can be called “the true lie”.

The lie in words is only a kind of imitation of a previous affection of the soul. It is not pure unadulterated falsehood. The true lie is hated not only by the gods, but also by men.

Whereas the lie in words is in certain cases useful and not hateful. We tell lies to our enemies. We tell lies when our friends go mad, in order to prevent them from doing harm. We do not know the truth about ancient times, so we turn lies into truth as much as we can.

Second Quality of God: God Does Not Give True Lies*

*Superphysics Note: This is called Satya in Hinduism and Buddhism


But God has no reason or motive to tell any lies. God does not lie from His fear of enemies. God does not lie to senseless friends because a senseless person cannot be a friend of God. Therefore, the superhuman and divine is absolutely incapable of falsehood.

Then God is perfectly simple and true both in word and deed.

  • He does not change.
  • He does not deceive.

This is the second quality of divine things. The gods are not magicians who transform themselves. They do not deceive mankind in any way.

We admire Homer, but we do not admire the lying dream which Zeus sends to Agamemnon. We neither praise the verses of Aeschylus in which Thetis says that:

Such lies arouse our anger. We shall not allow teachers to use them in the instruction of the young. This means that our guardians should be true worshippers of the gods and like them.

Adeimantus I entirely agree in these principles and promise to make them my laws.