Chapter 4

Lawmakers and Lawyers Must Be Virtuous

Glaucon All that, Socrates, is excellent. But I shouldn’t there be good physicians in a State who will treat the people, both healthy and unhealthy?

The best judges know all sorts of moral natures. The most skilful physicians have the greatest experience with diseases, from their youth upwards. They should have had all manner of diseases in themselves. They cure their body with their mind. The sick mind can cure nothing. But it is otherwise with the judge, since he governs mind by mind.

The judge should not:

  • be trained among vicious minds nor associate with them from youth upwards
  • go through the whole calendar of crime just to be able to infer the crimes of others as the physician might infer bodily diseases to certain habits.

The honourable judge should have had no experience or contamination of evil habits when young. This is why good young men often appear to be simple and easily victimized by the dishonest because they have no idea of what evil is in their own souls.

Therefore, the judge should not be young. He should have learned to know evil, not from his own soul, but from a long observation of the nature of evil in others. Knowledge should be his guide, not personal experience. The ideal judge will have a good soul.

A master criminal is very careful when he is with fellow criminals because he compares them to himself. But when is with men of virtue, he appears to be a fool due to his unseasonable suspicions. He cannot recognise an honest man, because he has no pattern of honesty in himself. The bad are more numerous than the good. He meets bad people more often. This makes him, and others, think that he himself is wise than foolish.


A virtuous nature, educated by time, will acquire a knowledge both of virtue and vice. This is the sort of medicine and law which you will sanction in your state. They will minister to better natures, giving health both of soul and of body. But those who are diseased in their bodies they will leave to die. The corrupt and incurable souls they will put an end to themselves.

Thus our youth, having been educated only in that simple music which inspires temperance, will be reluctant to go to law. The musician, who keeps to the same track, is content to practise the simple gymnastic. He will have nothing to do with medicine unless in some extreme case.

The very exercises and tolls which he undergoes are intended to stimulate the spirited element of his nature, and not to increase his strength. He will not, like common athletes, use exercise and regimen to develop his muscles.

The current art of music is not really designed to train the soul. The curret art of gymnastic is not designed to train the body.

Glaucon What then is their real object?

I believe that the teachers of both aimed for the improvement of the soul. The exclusive devotion to gymnastic or music have opposite effects on the mind. Gymnastic produces a temper of hardness and ferocity. But this ferocity only comes from spirit and leads to courage if rightly educated. If too intensified, it is liable to become hard and brutal.

Music produces softness and effeminacy. The philosopher will have the quality of gentleness which will turn to softness if it is too much indulged.

The guardians should have both these qualities and both should be in harmony. The harmonious soul is both temperate and courageous. The inharmonious is cowardly and boorish.


When a man allows music to play in him and to pour into his soul through the funnel of his ears those sweet and soft and melancholy airs of which we were just now speaking, and his whole life is passed in warbling and the delights of song.

In the first stage of the process, his passion or spirit is tempered like iron. It is made useful, instead of being brittle and useless.

But if he carries on the softening and soothing process, he begins to melt and waste, until he has wasted away his spirit and cut out the sinews of his soul. He becomes a feeble warrior.


If his spirit is naturally weak, the change is competed quickly. But if his spirit is strong, then the weakening power of music makes him excitable. He flames up on the least provocation. Instead of having spirit, he grows irritable.

And so in gymnastics, if a man takes violent exercise and eats a lot, his body fills him with pride and spirit. He becomes twice the man that he was. He will become uncivilized and a hater of philosophy. He will never use the weapon of persuasion.

His intelligence will grow feeble, dull, and blind from having no taste in learning, enquiry, thought or culture. He is like a wild beast, all violence and fierceness, and knows no other way of dealing.


There are 2 principles of human nature:

  • The spirited
  • The philosophical

Some god has given these indirectly for the soul and the body. These two principles can be adjusted, like the strings of an instrument, until they are duly harmonized.

The true musician is one who mingles music with gymnastic in the fairest proportions and best tunes them to the soul. He is far higher than the tuner of the strings. Such a genius will be always required in our State if the government is to last.


Those are the principles of our nurture and education. The details of the rules for our dances, hunting, and gymnastic and equestrian contests follow this general principle. This general principle helps us create those rules.

  • The elder must rule the younger.
  • The best of these must rule.
  • The best husbandmen are those most devoted to husbandry.

We should have the best of guardians for our city. They should be wise, efficient, and have a special care of the State. A man will be most likely to care about:

  • that which he loves,
  • that which he regards as having the same interests with himself,
  • that of which the good or evil fortune is supposed by him at any time most to affect his own.
Glaucon Then there must be a selection.

Let us note who among our guardians show the greatest eagerness to do what is good for their country, and the greatest repugnance to do what is against her interests.

They will have to be watched at every age so that we may see whether they preserve their resolution and never forget their sense of duty to the State. A person can forget his resolution either:

  • willingly, or
    • This happens when he gets rid of a falsehood and learns better.
  • against his will.
    • This happens whenever he is deprived of a truth.
Glaucon I understand the willing loss of a resolution. But I still have to learn the meaning of the unwilling.
Socrates Do you not see that men are unwillingly deprived of good, and willingly deprived of evil? Is not to have lost the truth an evil, and to possess the truth a good? You would agree that to conceive things as they are is to possess the truth?
Glaucon Yes, I agree that people are deprived of the truth against their will.

This is not this involuntary deprivation caused by theft, or force, or enchantment. I mean that some men are changed by persuasion, and that others forget.

Therefore, we must enquire who are the best guardians of their own conviction, so that the interest of the State will be the rule of their lives.

  1. Our first test is to watch them from their youth upwards, and make them perform actions which will make them forget or be deceived. We will select those who remember and are not deceived.

  2. Our second test are the toils, pains, and conflicts prescribed for them.

  3. Our third test is to try them with enchantments.


We must take our youth amid some terrors and then pass them into pleasures. We can then prove them more thoroughly than gold is proved in the furnace. We may discover whether they are:

  • armed against all enchantments,
  • of a noble bearing always,
  • good guardians of themselves and of the music which they have learned, and
  • retaining under all circumstances a rhythmical and harmonious nature, such as will be most serviceable to the individual and to the State.

Those who come out of the trial victorious and pure at every age, from boyhood to adulthood, shall be appointed as ruler and guardian of the State. He shall be honoured in life and death. He shall receive sepulture and other memorials of honour, the greatest that we have to give. But we must reject those who fail.

Perhaps the word ‘guardian’ in the fullest sense should be applied to only this higher class which:

  • preserves us against foreign enemies, and
  • maintains peace among our citizens at home so that they cannot harm us.


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