Chapter 3 of Book 6

Knowledge Versus Pleasure, Science Versus Dialectics

by Socrates Icon

Good is Not Pleasure


The person who wants to see the soul in its perfect beauty must take a longer route to find such beauty in it.

But beauty is the same as opinion which needs a measure common to all. Indolent people use measures based on their own limited perceptions.

This would be the worst fault in a guardian and of the laws.

The guardian then must be required to take the longer circuit.

  • He must toil at learning and at gymnastics, or else he will never reach the highest knowledge of all.

There is a knowledge still higher than justice and the other virtues.

We must not look at the mere outlines of the virtues. Little things are painstakingly given fine details to show their full beauty and clearness.

Likewise, the highest truths are worthy of attaining the highest accuracy.

Adeimantus But what is this highest knowledge?

The idea of good is the highest knowledge.

All other things become useful and advantageous only by their use of this. The possession of all other things have no value if we do not possess the good.

Most people affirm pleasure to be the good. But the finer sort of wits say it is knowledge.

The finer people cannot explain what they mean by knowledge.

  • They reproach us with our ignorance of the good.
  • They define the good as the knowledge of the good, which is ridiculous.

Those who make pleasure their good are in equal perplexity.

  • They admit that there are bad pleasures as well as good.
  • This makes them acknowledge that bad and good are the same.

There are numerous difficulties in this question. Many are willing to do or to be what is just and honourable without the reality.

But no one is satisfied with the appearance of good. The reality is what they seek.


In the case of the good, appearance is despised by every one. Every soul pursues the reality of good and makes it the end of all his actions. We have a presentiment that there is such an end.

Yet we hesitate because:

  • we do not know the nature of the good, and
  • we do not have the same assurance of the good as of other things.

This principle is so great.

The guardians in our State should never be in the darkness of ignorance. If we have a guardian who has this knowledge, then our State will be perfectly ordered.

Adeimantus Yes, but is good based on knowledge or pleasure?

There is an absolute beauty and an absolute good. This absolute is the essence of each.

  • The many are seen but not known.
  • The ideas are known but not seen.

The sight is for seeing the visible things. Sight is by far the most costly and complex piece of workmanship which the creator of the senses ever contrived.

The ear or voice does not need any third or additional nature for it to hear and for the other to be heard.

The same is true of most, if not all, the other senses. None of them requires such an addition


But without the addition of some other nature, there is no seeing or being seen.

Anyone who wants to see will see colours unless there be a third nature, as light, specially adapted to the purpose. Without this third nature, the eyes will see nothing and the colours will be invisible.

This bond which links together sight and visibility is therefore noble. It is great beyond other bonds by no small difference of nature, for light is their bond, and light is no ignoble thing

The gods in heaven are the lord of this element.


That light which makes the eye see belongs to the sun, but the neither sight nor the eye resides in the sun. Yet of all the sensory organs, the eye is the most like the sun. The power of the eye comes from the sun.

Thus, the sun is not sight, but the author of sight who is recognised by sight.

Likewise, the truth is not a mind, but the author of thoughts which are recognized by the thinking mind. The Truth created the ideas of goodness in Its own likeness.

The eyes are nearly blind when they use the light from the moon and stars only. But they see clearly under the sun.


The soul or mind is like the eye. It perceives and understands things when truth shines on them.

Truth allows the soul to radiate intelligence. But when looking at things withouth truth, the soul has opinion only.

It goes blinking about. It creates one opinion and then another. It seems to have no intelligence. The idea of good is the idea that imparts truth to the known, and the power of knowing to the knower

This is the cause of science.


Both truth and knowledge are beautiful. Light and sight are like the sun, but are not the sun. Likewise, science and truth are like the good, but are not the good. The good has a place of honour yet higher.

What a wonder of beauty that must be which is the author of science and truth, and yet surpasses them in beauty; for you surely cannot mean to say that pleasure is the good?

The sun is not only the author of visibility to all visible things.

It is also the author of generation. nourishment, and growth, even if it itself is not generation. Similarly, the good is not only the author of knowledge to all things known, but of their being and essence.

Yet, the good is not essence, but far exceeds essence in dignity and power.

Glaucon Glaucon (with a ludicrous earnestness): How amazing!

There are two ruling powers*.

  1. One of them is set over the ‘intellectual world’ instead of ‘heaven’
  2. The other over is over the visible

Create these two worlds in your mind.

  • Take a line which has been cut into two unequal parts.
  • Divide each of them again in the same proportion.

Make the two main divisions answer, one to the visible, and the other to the intelligible. Then compare the subdivisions in respect of their clearness and lack of clearness.

*Superphysics Note: This is the foundation of our metaphysical and physical domains


You will find that the first section in the sphere of the visible consists of images. These images are shadows and reflections, like those in water and polished surfaces.

Imagine, now, the other section, of which this is only the resemblance, to include the animals which we see, and everything that grows or is made.

Both the sections of this division have different degrees of truth. The copy is to the original as the sphere of opinion is to the sphere of knowledge.


The intellectual sphere has two subdivisions:

  • In the lower, the soul uses the figures given by the higher division as images. Enquiries here can only be hypothetical. It descends to the lower end*, instead of going upwards to a higher principle.
  • In the higher, the soul passes out of hypotheses and goes up to a principle which is above hypotheses. It uses no images unlike in the former case. Instead, it proceeds through the ideas themselves.

*Superphysics note: An example of the lower subdivision is solving a math problem. An example of the higher subdivision is looking at the nature or root causes of phenomena. This is also the source of our division of Existence and Pre-existence (probability)


Students of geometry, arithmetic, and the kindred sciences assume the qualities of odd and even, and the shapes of angles. These are their hypotheses which everyone is supposed to know.

So they do not give any account of them, either to themselves or others. But they begin with them, and go on until they arrive at their conclusion in a consistent manner.

These students use the visible forms and reason around them. But they are not really thinking of these, but of the ideals which they resemble. They do not think of the shapes that they draw, but of the absolute square and the absolute diameter, and so on.

They convert these ideal forms into images by drawing them. But they are really seeking to behold those ideal things themselves, which can only be seen with the eye of the mind. These are the intelligible things.


The soul is compelled to use hypotheses to look for them. It does not go up to the original principle of the things because it is unable to rise above the region of hypothesis.

Instead, it uses the shadows of the objects to have a hypothesis of those objects which is of higher value than the shadows.

The power of dialectic lets the reason attain that other sort of knowledge using the hypotheses as steps into a world which is above hypotheses, so that she may soar beyond them into the original principle.

Clinging to this hypothesis, she descends by successive steps without the aid of any sensible object*.

She begins with ideas, goes through ideas, and ends in ideas.

*Translator’s note= In data science this is finding patterns in data through repeated interpolation and extrapolation


You are describing a really tremendous task.

You say that the science of dialectic contemplates knowledge and being which are clearer than the notions of the arts which come from hypotheses only.

The arts and cognate sciences are also contemplated by the understanding, and not by the senses

  • Yet, they start from hypotheses and do not ascend to a principle.
  • This is why those who contemplate them appear to you not to exercise the higher reason on them, although when a first principle is added to them, they are cognizable by the higher reason.
  • You call geometry and the cognate sciences as “understanding” and not “reason”, as being between opinion and reason.

Yes. There soul has four faculties:

  1. reason answers to the highest faculty
  2. understanding answers to the second
  3. faith (or conviction) answers to the third, and
  4. perception of shadows to the last

Each of the faculties have scales.

Let us suppose that the several faculties have clearness in the same degree that their objects have truth.


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