Chapter 1

Moral Literature


Fear-based ideas Such as Hell Should Be Removed


Such are our principles of theology. Some tales should be told, others should not be told to our disciples from their youth upwards, if we value friendship and mean them to honour the gods and their parents.

But if they are courageous, they must learn other lessons, like those that will remove the fear of death. A man can be fearless of death if he does not believe that the world below is real and terrible. So we must regulate the narrators of this class of tales. We must beg them simply that their descriptions of the the world below are untrue and will do harm to our future warriors.

We must obliterate many obnoxious passages that tells us how Pluto feared:

"I would rather be a serf on the land of a poor than rule over all the dead." "The gods abhor for the grim mansions to be seen by mortals and immortals. O heavens! In the house of Hades, there is a soul and ghostly form with no mind at all!"
Socrates We must beg Homer and the other poets not to be angry if we remove passages like this verse of Tiresias:
'The soul flying from the limbs had gone to Hades, lamenting her fate. It passed like smoke beneath the earth with a shrilling cry that held together as they moved.'

These have poetical charm but are not for people who are meant to be free from slavery. We must reject the appalling names which describe the world below:

  • Cocytus and Styx,
  • ghosts under the earth,
  • sapless shades,
  • similar words which make anyone shudder upon hearing them.

These horrible stories are not useless. But there is a danger that the nerves of our guardians may become too excitable and effeminate by them. A different and nobler strain must be composed and sung by us. We shall get rid of the weepings and wailings of famous men.

People Should Not Be Afraid of Death


Our principle is that the good man will not consider the death of his good comrade as terrible. Our guardian should not be sad for his departed friend. Such a person is enough for himself and does not need others. This is why the loss of a son or brother, or the deprivation of fortune, is least terrible to our guardian.

Therefore, he will be least likely to lament. He will bear with the greatest equanimity any misfortune of this kind. We will compare the lamentations of famous men to useless women or to men of a baser sort. We will tell our guardians to be the defenders of their country and avoid becoming such men.

We will ask Homer and the other poets not to:

  • depict Achilles lying on his side, then on his back, and then on his face, then sailing in a frenzy.
  • describe Priam, the kinsman of the gods, as praying and beseeching= ‘Rolling in the dirt, calling each man loudly by his name.’
  • introduce the gods lamenting= ‘O heavens! I see a dear friend of mine chased round and round in the city, and my heart is sad. Woe is me that I am fated to have Sarpedon, dearest of men to me, subdued at the hands of Patroclus the son of Menoetius.’

If our youth seriously believed such unworthy representations of the gods, they would feel that the gods are not dishonoured by such pathetic actions. Instead of having shame or self-control, the youth will always whine on slight occasions.

Our guardians should not laugh at it, because excessive laughter almost always produces a violent reaction. Then persons of worth must not be shown as overcome by laughter. They must be less overcome by laughter than the gods.

Homer says:

'Inextinguishable laughter arose among the blessed gods, when they saw Hephaestus bustling about the mansion.'
Socrates We must not allow this.

Rulers Should Be Allowed to Tell White Lies


Truth should be highly valued. If a lie is useless to the gods and useful only as a medicine to men, then the use of such medicines should be restricted to physicians.

Private individuals have no business with lies. Only the rulers of the State should have the privilege of lying. In their dealings either with enemies or with their own citizens, they may be allowed to lie for the public good. But nobody else should lie. The rulers have this privilege because lying to the rulers is a more heinous fault than for:

  • the patient not to speak the truth about his own illnesses to the physician, or
  • a sailor not to tell the captain what is happening with the ship or his fellow sailors.

If the ruler catches anybody beside himself lying, ‘Any of the craftsmen, whether he be priest or physician or carpenter’ will be punished for introducing a practice that is equally subversive and destructive of ship or State.

Tales Should be Respectful and Moral


Our youth must be temperate. The chief elements of temperance are generally:

  • obedience to commanders, and
  • self-control in sensual pleasures.

Then we shall approve such language as that of Diomede in Homer.

‘Friend, sit still and obey my word. The Greeks marched breathing prowess in silent awe of their leaders.’

People should not say to their rulers:

'O heavy with wine, who has the eyes of a dog and the heart of a stag.'
Socrates These can provide some amusement, but do not conduce to temperance. Therefore, they are likely to harm our young men. It is not conducive to the temperance of a young man to hear that it is most glorious to have:
'the tables are full of bread and meat, and the cup-bearer carry round wine which he draws from the bowl and pours into the cups. The saddest of fates is to die from hunger.'
Socrates While other gods and men were asleep, Zeus devised plans but forgot them all in a moment of lust. He was so completely overcome at the sight of Hera that he would not even go into the hut. He wanted to lie with her on the ground, declaring that he had never been in such a state of rapture before, even when they first met one another.
Adeimantus Indeed. I strongly think that they should not hear that sort of thing.
Socrates They should see and hear deeds of endurance done by famous men. For example:
'He smote his breast, and thus reproached his heart, Endure, my heart, far worse hast thou endured!'

Next, we must not let the guardians be receivers of gifts or lovers of money. We must not sing to them of ‘gifts persuading gods and reverend kings.’ Phoenix did not give Achilles, his student, good counsel when he told him to take the gifts of the Greeks and assist them. He should have told Achilles that he should not lay aside his anger without a gift. We cannot believe:

  • that Achilles himself was such a lover of money as to take Agamemnon’s gifts, nor
  • that he would only restore Hector’s dead body for a payment, and would refuse to do it without one.

I love Homer, so I don’t like to say that he is guilty of impiety in attributing these feelings to Achilles. I can believe little of:

  • the narrative of Achilles’ insolence to Apollo, where he says= ‘You have wronged me, O most abominable of deities. I would get revenge with you if only I had the power.’
  • his insubordination to the river-god, or
  • his offering to the dead Patroclus of his own hair which had been previously dedicated to the other river-god Spercheius.,
  • him dragging Hector round the tomb of Patroclus, and
  • slaughtering the captives at the pyre.

Achilles was the pupil of the wise Cheiron, the son of a goddess and of Peleus who was the gentlest of men and third in descent from Zeus. I cannot believe that Achilles would be so disordered in his wits as to be have been the slave of two inconsistent passions:

  • meanness, not untainted by avarice, and
  • overweening contempt of gods and men.

Let us equally refuse to believe:

  • the tale of Theseus son of Poseidon, or of Peirithous son of Zeus, perpetrating a horrid rape, or
  • the tale of any other hero or son of a god daring to do such dreadful things.

We will not let them persuade our youth:

  • that the gods are the authors of evil, and
  • that heroes are no better than men.

These feelings are neither pious nor true, for we have already proven that evil cannot come from the gods. They will have a bad effect on those who hear them. Everybody will begin to excuse his own vices when convinced that similar wickednesses are always being perpetrated by ’the kindred of the gods’, the relatives of Zeus who have ’the blood of deities in their veins.’ Let us put an end to such tales, lest they engender laxity of morals among the young.

We have already laid down how gods, demigods, heroes and the world below should be treated. But what about men?

We cannot answer this question at present because poets and story-tellers are guilty of making the gravest misstatements. They tell us:

  • that wicked men are often happy,
  • that the good miserable,
  • that injustice is profitable when undetected,
  • but that justice is a man’s own loss and another’s gain.

We shall:

  • forbid them to say these things, and
  • command them to say the opposite.

We can discover how men are to be treated after we have discovered what justice is and how naturally advantageous it is to the possessor, whether he seems just or not.

Literary Narration is Not Imitative


Let us now talk about style which includes both matter and manner.

All mythology and poetry is a narration of events, either past, present, or future. Narration may be either simple narration, or imitation, or a union of both.

In the first lines of the Iliad, the poet says that Chryses prayed Agamemnon to release his daughter. Agamemnon flew into a passion with him. Chryses failed of his object and invoked the anger of the God against the Achaeans. The poet is speaking in his own person in the line ‘He prayed all the Greeks, especially the two sons of Atreus, the chiefs of the people.’ He never leads us to suppose that he is anyone else.

But then, he takes the person of Chryses. And then, he makes us believe that the speaker is not Homer, but Chryses. In this double form, he narrated the events at Troy, Ithaca, and throughout the Odyssey.

A narrative uses the poet’s point of view as the intermediate passages between dialogues. But when the poet speaks in another person, he assimilates his style to the person he is speaking to. This assimilation of himself to another, either by the use of voice or gesture, is the imitation of the person whose character he assumes. In this case, the narrative of the poet proceeds by way of imitation. Or if the poet appears everywhere and never conceals himself, then again the imitation is dropped and his poetry becomes simple narration.

Homer’s words would have been a simple narration and not imitation if he had spoken as himself instead of as Chryses. It would be= ‘Chryses came having his daughter’s ransom in his hands, supplicating the Achaeans and the kings.’

The whole passage would have been:

"The priest came and prayed the gods on behalf of the Greeks that they might capture Troy and return home safely. But he begged that they would give him back his daughter, take the ransom which he brought, and respect the God. Thus, he spoke and the other Greeks revered the priest and assented. But Agamemnon was wroth and told him to leave and not return lest the staff of the God should be of no use to him. He said= 'The daughter of Chryses should not be released. She should grow old with him in Argos.'

Then he told him to go away and not to provoke him, if he intended to get home unscathed. The old man went away in fear and silence. When he had left the camp, he called on Apollo reminding him of everything he had done to please him. He prayed that his good deeds might be returned to him, and that the Achaeans might expiate his tears by the arrows of the god.

In this way the whole becomes simple narrative. Or we can do the opposite and omit the intermediate passages and keep only the dialogue.

Poetry and mythology are, in some cases, wholly imitative. This is proven by tragedy and comedy.There is likewise the opposite style where the poet is the only speaker. The dithyramb is the best example of this. The combination of both is found in epic and in several other styles of poetry. We must understand the imitative art so that we can decide whether the poets are to be allowed to imitate.

If yes, do they imitate as a whole or in part? If in part, then what parts? Or should all imitation be prohibited? Should tragedy and comedy be admitted into our State? Should our guardians be imitators? Is this answered by our principle that one man can only focus on one thing at a time? If he attempts many things, will he fail to gain reputation in any?

This is equally true of imitation. A man cannot imitate many things as well as he would imitate one thing. When two kinds of imitation are nearly allied, the same persons cannot succeed in both. For example, those who write of both tragedy and comedy.

Adeimantus You called them imitations just now.

The Guardians Must Be Selective in Imitating


Yes, I did. The same persons cannot succeed in both, any more than they can be rhapsodists and actors at the same time. Neither are comic and tragic actors the same. Yet all these things are but imitations.

Human nature seems to have been coined into yet smaller pieces. This makes us incapable of imitating many things well, and performing well the actions of which the imitations are copies.

Our guardians are to dedicate themselves wholly to maintain freedom in the State. They would make this their craft. They will not engage in any other which does not bring this end. They should not practise or imitate anything else. If they imitate at all, they should only imitate from their youth the characters suitable to their profession= courage, temperance, holiness, freedom, and the like.

They should not depict or be skilful at imitating any kind of illiberality or baseness, lest from imitation they should come to be what they imitate. Imitations in early youth that continue far into life grow into habits and become a second nature affecting body, voice, and mind. We will not allow them to imitate:

  • a woman,
  • slaves, male or female, performing the offices of slaves,
  • bad men.
  • the action or speech of men or women who are mad or bad (Madness, like vice, is to be known but not to be practised or imitated.)
  • smiths or other artificers, or oarsmen, or boatswains, or the like.
Adeimantus How can they, when they are not allowed to apply their minds to the callings of any of these?

They cannot imitate the neighing of horses, the bellowing of bulls, the murmur of rivers, roll of the ocean, and thunder. There is one sort of narrative style which may be employed by a truly good man. There is another sort which will be used by a man of an opposite character and education.

Suppose, that a just and good man X comes on some saying or action of another good man Y.

  • Max X will be most ready to impersonate Man Y when Man Y is acting wisely and not ill or ruled by love or drink.
  • Max X will not study a character unworthy of him. He feels that the employment of such an art, unless in jest, to be beneath him.

Then he will adopt a mode of narration of Homer. His style will be both imitative and narrative, with more narration and very little imitation.

But the bad character will narrate and imitate anything. He will:

  • attempt to represent the roll of thunder, the noise of wind and hail, or the creaking of wheels, and pulleys, and the various sounds of flutes, pipes, trumpets, and other instruments.
  • bark like a dog,
  • bleat like a sheep, or
  • crow like a cock.

His entire art will consist in imitation of voice and gesture. There will be very little narration.

These are the two kinds of styles.

  1. One of them is simple and has but slight changes. If the harmony and rhythm are also chosen for their simplicity, the result is that the speaker is always pretty much the same in style. He will keep within the limits of a single harmony (for the changes are not great) and use nearly the same rhythm.

  2. The other requires all sorts of harmonies and rhythms because the style has all sorts of changes.

The two styles, or the mixture of the two, make up all poetry and every form of expression in words. We speak in one or other of them or in both together.

Shall we receive into our State all the three styles? Or one only of the two unmixed styles? Or would you include the mixed?

Adeimantus I only prefer to admit the pure imitator of virtue.

But the mixed style is also very charming. The pantomimic, which is the opposite of the one chosen by you, is the most popular style with children and the world in general.

It is unsuitable that human nature should make men only have one role in our State, instead of twofold or manifold. This is why in our State, and in our State only, we shall find:

  • a shoemaker to be a pilot also,
  • a husbandman to be a dicast also,
  • a soldier to be a trader also.

These pantomimic gentlemen are so clever that they can imitate anything. When they propose to us to exhibit himself and his poetry, we will fall down and worship him as a holy being. But we must also inform him that in our State, his kind are not permitted to exist. We shall send him away to another city after we have put a garland of wool on his head.

We want to employ, for our souls’ health, the rougher and severer poet or story-teller, who will:

  • imitate the style of the virtuous only, and
  • follow those models which we prescribed when we began the education of our soldiers.

That part of music or literary education which relates to the story or myth may be finished, for the matter and manner have both been discussed. Next will follow melody and song.

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