Chapter 1 Book 4

Wisdom and Courage

by Socrates Icon

A person might say:

  • that you are making the guardians miserable, and
  • that they are the cause of their own unhappiness,
  • that the city in fact belongs to them, but they are none the better for it,
  • our poor guardians are no better than mercenaries quartered in the city and always at guard, whereas other men:
    • acquire lands,
    • build large and handsome houses,
    • have everything handsome about them,
    • offer sacrifices to the gods on their own account,
    • practise hospitality, and
    • have gold and silver.

Yes, they are only fed but not paid like other men. Therefore, they cannot take a journey of pleasure. They have no money to spend on a mistress or any other luxury which is thought to be happiness. Yet, our guardians will be the happiest of men.

But our aim in founding the State is the greatest happiness of the whole and not the disproportionate happiness of any one class. We will find:

  • justice in a State that aims for the good of the whole,
  • injustice in the ill-ordered State.

Having found both States, we can then decide which of them is happier. We are now fashioning the happy State as a whole and not piecemeal or with a view of making a few citizens happy. Later, we will proceed to view the opposite kind of State.

If we were painting a statue and someone came up to us and said, why don’t you put the most beautiful colours on the most beautiful parts of the body? The eyes should be purple, but you have made them black. We answer: We cannot beautify the eyes to the point that they are no longer eyes. Instead, by giving this and the other features their due proportion, we make the whole beautiful. So do not compel us to give a kind of happiness to the guardians which will make them anything but guardians.


We can clothe our husbandmen in royal apparel. Our potters also might be allowed to feast by the fireside. In this way, we can make every class happy, and then the whole State. But this would actually make the husbandman no longer a husbandman, and the potter no longer a potter. No one will have a distinct class in the State. This will not corrupt society so much if it were confined to cobblers.

But when the guardians of the laws and government become fake guardians, they can turn the State upside-down. They alone can give order and happiness to the State. Our guardians should be true saviours and not the destroyers of the State.

Our opponent is thinking of peasants enjoying a life of revelry, not of citizens who are doing their duty to the State. But, if so, we mean different things. Our opponent is speaking of something which is not a State.


Therefore, in appointing our guardians, we must consider whether we should look at:

  • their greatest happiness individually, or
  • the happiness of the state as a whole.

If this is the truth, then the guardians and auxiliaries must be compelled to do their own work in the best way so that:

  • the whole State will grow up in a noble order, and
  • the several classes will receive their natural proportion of happiness.

Wealth and Poverty Cause the Decline of the Arts


Wealth and Poverty are two causes of the deterioration of the arts. When a potter becomes rich he will:

  • not think of you as much as before,
  • grow more and more indolent and careless, and
  • become a worse potter.

But, on the other hand, if he has no money:

  • He cannot provide himself with tools or instruments.
  • He will not work equally well himself.
  • He will not teach his sons or apprentices to work equally well.

Then, under the influence either of poverty or of wealth, workers can degenerate. Here, then, is a discovery of new evils of wealth and poverty, against which the guardians will have to watch, or they will creep into the city unobserved.

  • Wealth is the parent of luxury and indolence.
  • Poverty is the parent of meanness and viciousness.

Both are parents of discontent.


Adeimantus Very true, but how can our city go to war, especially against a rich and powerful enemy, if deprived of the sinews of war?

It would be difficult to go to war with one such enemy. But there is no difficulty where there are two of them. Our side will be trained warriors fighting against an army of rich men.

An expert boxer would easily be superior against two stout gentlemen who were not boxers. He would run away, then turn and strike at the one who first came up. In this way, he could overturn more than one stout person. Yet rich men probably have a greater superiority in the science and practise of boxing than they have in military qualities. Then we may assume that our athletes will be able to fight with two or three times their own number.

Suppose that, before we go to war with City A, we tell City B that silver or gold is abundant in our city, but lacking in City A. We then tell invite them to come and help us in war and take the spoils of City A. Would City B choose to fight against lean wiry dogs that is City A, instead of teaming up with City A and fighting us who are like fat and tender sheep?

Adeimantus That is not likely. Yet it might be dangerour to the poor State if the wealth of many States were gathered into one.



But how simple of you to apply the term ‘State’ to all cities except our own! You should speak of other States in the plural. Not one of them is a city, but many cities.

Any city, however small, is divided into two:

  • a city of the poor,
  • a city of the rich.

These are at war with one another. There are many smaller divisions in either. You would be wrong if you treated them all as a single State. But you will always have many friends and few enemies if you:

  • deal with them as individual States, and
  • give the wealth or power of the larger State to the individual State.

Your wise State will be the greatest of States, not in reputation or appearance, but in deed and truth, even if she has not more than 1,000 defenders. No single State will be equal to her even if many of them are bigger. The State should increase in size and territory so far as is consistent with unity. That is the proper limit.


Here then is another order that is not very severe for our guardians: Let our city not be large nor small, but united and self-sufficing.

But this order is lighter than the order to downgrade the inferior offsprings of the guardians and upgrade the superior offspring of the lower classes to the rank of guardians. This will make the citizens find their natural purpose so that everyone will do one work instead of many, and focus on his business. In this way, whole city would be one and not many.


These regulations that we are prescribing are all trifles and not great principles, relative to the great thing of education and nurture. If our citizens are well educated they will easily see their way through all these, such as:

  • marriage,
  • the possession of women and
  • the procreation of children.

These will all follow the general principle that friends have all things in common, as the proverb says. The State, if started well, will move with accumulating force like a wheel because good nurture and education implant good constitutions. These good constitutions, rooted in a good education, improve more and more. This improvement affects man just as it does animals.


Our rulers should focus most of all on preserving music and gymnastic in their original form. No innovation must be made in them. Our rulers must do their utmost to maintain them intact. If mankind regards ‘The newest song’ then our rulers will be afraid that the people may be praising a new kind of song, and not new songs.

This new kind should not be praised, nor conceived to be the poet’s intention because any musical innovation is full of danger to the whole State and should be prohibited. I believe Damon telling me that when modes of music change, the fundamental laws of the State always change with them.

Adeimantus Yes, and you may add my suffrage to Damon’s and your own.
Socrates Thus, our guardians must lay the foundations of their fortress in music in the form of amusement. At first sight, amusements appear harmless.
Adeimantus Yes, but this spirit of licence imperceptibly penetrates into manners and customs little by little and finds a home. It then gathers greater force and invades contracts between men. From contracts, it goes on to laws and constitutions, in utter recklessnes. It ends finally, Socrates, by an overthrow of all rights, private as well as public.
Socrates Then our youth should be trained from the start in a stricter system. If amusements become lawless, and the youths themselves become lawless, they can never grow up into virtuous citizens.

When they have started their play properly, and have gained the habit of good order with the help of music, then this habit of order will create a play very different from the lawless one of the others!

We will accompany them in their actions and be a principle of growth to them. They will raise up any fallen places in the State. Thus educated, they will invent for themselves lesser rules which their predecessors have neglected, such as:

  • when the young are to be silent before their elders,
  • how they are to show respect to them by standing and making them sit,
  • what honour is due to parents,
  • what garments or shoes are to be worn,
  • the mode of dressing the hair,
  • the deportment and manners in general.

I think there is a little wisdom in legislating about such matters. But I doubt if it will ever be done. Nor will their precise written enactments likely to last.

Socrates The direction in which education starts a man will determine his future life. Like always attract like. Until a rare and grand result is reached which may be good, then the result is the reverse of good. This is why I shall not attempt to legislate further about them.


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