Part 1 out of 3
This etext was prepared by Sue Asscher
Translated by Benjamin Jowett
INTRODUCTION AND ANALYSIS.
In the Phaedrus, the Republic, the Philebus, the Parmenides, and the
Sophist, we may observe the tendency of Plato to combine two or more
subjects or different aspects of the same subject in a single dialogue. In
the Sophist and Statesman especially we note that the discussion is partly
regarded as an illustration of method, and that analogies are brought from
afar which throw light on the main subject. And in his later writings
generally we further remark a decline of style, and of dramatic power; the
characters excite little or no interest, and the digressions are apt to
overlay the main thesis; there is not the 'callida junctura' of an artistic
whole. Both the serious discussions and the jests are sometimes out of
place. The invincible Socrates is withdrawn from view; and new foes begin
to appear under old names. Plato is now chiefly concerned, not with the
original Sophist, but with the sophistry of the schools of philosophy,
which are making reasoning impossible; and is driven by them out of the
regions of transcendental speculation back into the path of common sense.
A logical or psychological phase takes the place of the doctrine of Ideas
in his mind. He is constantly dwelling on the importance of regular
classification, and of not putting words in the place of things. He has
banished the poets, and is beginning to use a technical language. He is
bitter and satirical, and seems to be sadly conscious of the realities of
human life. Yet the ideal glory of the Platonic philosophy is not
extinguished. He is still looking for a city in which kings are either
philosophers or gods (compare Laws).
The Statesman has lost the grace and beauty of the earlier dialogues. The
mind of the writer seems to be so overpowered in the effort of thought as
to impair his style; at least his gift of expression does not keep up with
the increasing difficulty of his theme. The idea of the king or statesman
and the illustration of method are connected, not like the love and
rhetoric of the Phaedrus, by 'little invisible pegs,' but in a confused and
inartistic manner, which fails to produce any impression of a whole on the
mind of the reader. Plato apologizes for his tediousness, and acknowledges
that the improvement of his audience has been his only aim in some of his
digressions. His own image may be used as a motto of his style: like an
inexpert statuary he has made the figure or outline too large, and is
unable to give the proper colours or proportions to his work. He makes
mistakes only to correct them--this seems to be his way of drawing
attention to common dialectical errors. The Eleatic stranger, here, as in
the Sophist, has no appropriate character, and appears only as the
expositor of a political ideal, in the delineation of which he is
frequently interrupted by purely logical illustrations. The younger
Socrates resembles his namesake in nothing but a name. The dramatic
character is so completely forgotten, that a special reference is twice
made to discussions in the Sophist; and this, perhaps, is the strongest
ground which can be urged for doubting the genuineness of the work. But,
when we remember that a similar allusion is made in the Laws to the
Republic, we see that the entire disregard of dramatic propriety is not
always a sufficient reason for doubting the genuineness of a Platonic
The search after the Statesman, which is carried on, like that for the
Sophist, by the method of dichotomy, gives an opportunity for many humorous
and satirical remarks. Several of the jests are mannered and laboured:
for example, the turn of words with which the dialogue opens; or the clumsy
joke about man being an animal, who has a power of two-feet--both which are
suggested by the presence of Theodorus, the geometrician. There is
political as well as logical insight in refusing to admit the division of
mankind into Hellenes and Barbarians: 'if a crane could speak, he would in
like manner oppose men and all other animals to cranes.' The pride of the
Hellene is further humbled, by being compared to a Phrygian or Lydian.
Plato glories in this impartiality of the dialectical method, which places
birds in juxtaposition with men, and the king side by side with the bird-
catcher; king or vermin-destroyer are objects of equal interest to science
(compare Parmen.). There are other passages which show that the irony of
Socrates was a lesson which Plato was not slow in learning--as, for
example, the passing remark, that 'the kings and statesmen of our day are
in their breeding and education very like their subjects;' or the
anticipation that the rivals of the king will be found in the class of
servants; or the imposing attitude of the priests, who are the established
interpreters of the will of heaven, authorized by law. Nothing is more
bitter in all his writings than his comparison of the contemporary
politicians to lions, centaurs, satyrs, and other animals of a feebler
sort, who are ever changing their forms and natures. But, as in the later
dialogues generally, the play of humour and the charm of poetry have
departed, never to return.
Still the Politicus contains a higher and more ideal conception of politics
than any other of Plato's writings. The city of which there is a pattern
in heaven (Republic), is here described as a Paradisiacal state of human
society. In the truest sense of all, the ruler is not man but God; and
such a government existed in a former cycle of human history, and may again
exist when the gods resume their care of mankind. In a secondary sense,
the true form of government is that which has scientific rulers, who are
irresponsible to their subjects. Not power but knowledge is the
characteristic of a king or royal person. And the rule of a man is better
and higher than law, because he is more able to deal with the infinite
complexity of human affairs. But mankind, in despair of finding a true
ruler, are willing to acquiesce in any law or custom which will save them
from the caprice of individuals. They are ready to accept any of the six
forms of government which prevail in the world. To the Greek, nomos was a
sacred word, but the political idealism of Plato soars into a region
beyond; for the laws he would substitute the intelligent will of the
legislator. Education is originally to implant in men's minds a sense of
truth and justice, which is the divine bond of states, and the legislator
is to contrive human bonds, by which dissimilar natures may be united in
marriage and supply the deficiencies of one another. As in the Republic,
the government of philosophers, the causes of the perversion of states, the
regulation of marriages, are still the political problems with which
Plato's mind is occupied. He treats them more slightly, partly because the
dialogue is shorter, and also because the discussion of them is perpetually
crossed by the other interest of dialectic, which has begun to absorb him.
The plan of the Politicus or Statesman may be briefly sketched as follows:
(1) By a process of division and subdivision we discover the true herdsman
or king of men. But before we can rightly distinguish him from his rivals,
we must view him, (2) as he is presented to us in a famous ancient tale:
the tale will also enable us to distinguish the divine from the human
herdsman or shepherd: (3) and besides our fable, we must have an example;
for our example we will select the art of weaving, which will have to be
distinguished from the kindred arts; and then, following this pattern, we
will separate the king from his subordinates or competitors. (4) But are
we not exceeding all due limits; and is there not a measure of all arts and
sciences, to which the art of discourse must conform? There is; but before
we can apply this measure, we must know what is the aim of discourse: and
our discourse only aims at the dialectical improvement of ourselves and
others.--Having made our apology, we return once more to the king or
statesman, and proceed to contrast him with pretenders in the same line
with him, under their various forms of government. (5) His characteristic
is, that he alone has science, which is superior to law and written
enactments; these do but spring out of the necessities of mankind, when
they are in despair of finding the true king. (6) The sciences which are
most akin to the royal are the sciences of the general, the judge, the
orator, which minister to him, but even these are subordinate to him. (7)
Fixed principles are implanted by education, and the king or statesman
completes the political web by marrying together dissimilar natures, the
courageous and the temperate, the bold and the gentle, who are the warp and
the woof of society.
The outline may be filled up as follows:--
SOCRATES: I have reason to thank you, Theodorus, for the acquaintance of
Theaetetus and the Stranger.
THEODORUS: And you will have three times as much reason to thank me when
they have delineated the Statesman and Philosopher, as well as the Sophist.
SOCRATES: Does the great geometrician apply the same measure to all three?
Are they not divided by an interval which no geometrical ratio can express?
THEODORUS: By the god Ammon, Socrates, you are right; and I am glad to see
that you have not forgotten your geometry. But before I retaliate on you,
I must request the Stranger to finish the argument...
The Stranger suggests that Theaetetus shall be allowed to rest, and that
Socrates the younger shall respond in his place; Theodorus agrees to the
suggestion, and Socrates remarks that the name of the one and the face of
the other give him a right to claim relationship with both of them. They
propose to take the Statesman after the Sophist; his path they must
determine, and part off all other ways, stamping upon them a single
negative form (compare Soph.).
The Stranger begins the enquiry by making a division of the arts and
sciences into theoretical and practical--the one kind concerned with
knowledge exclusively, and the other with action; arithmetic and the
mathematical sciences are examples of the former, and carpentering and
handicraft arts of the latter (compare Philebus). Under which of the two
shall we place the Statesman? Or rather, shall we not first ask, whether
the king, statesman, master, householder, practise one art or many? As the
adviser of a physician may be said to have medical science and to be a
physician, so the adviser of a king has royal science and is a king. And
the master of a large household may be compared to the ruler of a small
state. Hence we conclude that the science of the king, statesman, and
householder is one and the same. And this science is akin to knowledge
rather than to action. For a king rules with his mind, and not with his
But theoretical science may be a science either of judging, like
arithmetic, or of ruling and superintending, like that of the architect or
master-builder. And the science of the king is of the latter nature; but
the power which he exercises is underived and uncontrolled,--a
characteristic which distinguishes him from heralds, prophets, and other
inferior officers. He is the wholesale dealer in command, and the herald,
or other officer, retails his commands to others. Again, a ruler is
concerned with the production of some object, and objects may be divided
into living and lifeless, and rulers into the rulers of living and lifeless
objects. And the king is not like the master-builder, concerned with
lifeless matter, but has the task of managing living animals. And the
tending of living animals may be either a tending of individuals, or a
managing of herds. And the Statesman is not a groom, but a herdsman, and
his art may be called either the art of managing a herd, or the art of
collective management:--Which do you prefer? 'No matter.' Very good,
Socrates, and if you are not too particular about words you will be all the
richer some day in true wisdom. But how would you subdivide the herdsman's
art? 'I should say, that there is one management of men, and another of
beasts.' Very good, but you are in too great a hurry to get to man. All
divisions which are rightly made should cut through the middle; if you
attend to this rule, you will be more likely to arrive at classes. 'I do
not understand the nature of my mistake.' Your division was like a
division of the human race into Hellenes and Barbarians, or into Lydians or
Phrygians and all other nations, instead of into male and female; or like a
division of number into ten thousand and all other numbers, instead of into
odd and even. And I should like you to observe further, that though I
maintain a class to be a part, there is no similar necessity for a part to
be a class. But to return to your division, you spoke of men and other
animals as two classes--the second of which you comprehended under the
general name of beasts. This is the sort of division which an intelligent
crane would make: he would put cranes into a class by themselves for their
special glory, and jumble together all others, including man, in the class
of beasts. An error of this kind can only be avoided by a more regular
subdivision. Just now we divided the whole class of animals into
gregarious and non-gregarious, omitting the previous division into tame and
wild. We forgot this in our hurry to arrive at man, and found by
experience, as the proverb says, that 'the more haste the worse speed.'
And now let us begin again at the art of managing herds. You have probably
heard of the fish-preserves in the Nile and in the ponds of the Great King,
and of the nurseries of geese and cranes in Thessaly. These suggest a new
division into the rearing or management of land-herds and of water-herds:--
I need not say with which the king is concerned. And land-herds may be
divided into walking and flying; and every idiot knows that the political
animal is a pedestrian. At this point we may take a longer or a shorter
road, and as we are already near the end, I see no harm in taking the
longer, which is the way of mesotomy, and accords with the principle which
we were laying down. The tame, walking, herding animal, may be divided
into two classes--the horned and the hornless, and the king is concerned
with the hornless; and these again may be subdivided into animals having or
not having cloven feet, or mixing or not mixing the breed; and the king or
statesman has the care of animals which have not cloven feet, and which do
not mix the breed. And now, if we omit dogs, who can hardly be said to
herd, I think that we have only two species left which remain undivided:
and how are we to distinguish them? To geometricians, like you and
Theaetetus, I can have no difficulty in explaining that man is a diameter,
having a power of two feet; and the power of four-legged creatures, being
the double of two feet, is the diameter of our diameter. There is another
excellent jest which I spy in the two remaining species. Men and birds are
both bipeds, and human beings are running a race with the airiest and
freest of creation, in which they are far behind their competitors;--this
is a great joke, and there is a still better in the juxtaposition of the
bird-taker and the king, who may be seen scampering after them. For, as we
remarked in discussing the Sophist, the dialectical method is no respecter
of persons. But we might have proceeded, as I was saying, by another and a
shorter road. In that case we should have begun by dividing land animals
into bipeds and quadrupeds, and bipeds into winged and wingless; we should
than have taken the Statesman and set him over the 'bipes implume,' and put
the reins of government into his hands.
Here let us sum up:--The science of pure knowledge had a part which was the
science of command, and this had a part which was a science of wholesale
command; and this was divided into the management of animals, and was again
parted off into the management of herds of animals, and again of land
animals, and these into hornless, and these into bipeds; and so at last we
arrived at man, and found the political and royal science. And yet we have
not clearly distinguished the political shepherd from his rivals. No one
would think of usurping the prerogatives of the ordinary shepherd, who on
all hands is admitted to be the trainer, matchmaker, doctor, musician of
his flock. But the royal shepherd has numberless competitors, from whom he
must be distinguished; there are merchants, husbandmen, physicians, who
will all dispute his right to manage the flock. I think that we can best
distinguish him by having recourse to a famous old tradition, which may
amuse as well as instruct us; the narrative is perfectly true, although the
scepticism of mankind is prone to doubt the tales of old. You have heard
what happened in the quarrel of Atreus and Thyestes? 'You mean about the
golden lamb?' No, not that; but another part of the story, which tells how
the sun and stars once arose in the west and set in the east, and that the
god reversed their motion, as a witness to the right of Atreus. 'There is
such a story.' And no doubt you have heard of the empire of Cronos, and of
the earthborn men? The origin of these and the like stories is to be found
in the tale which I am about to narrate.
There was a time when God directed the revolutions of the world, but at the
completion of a certain cycle he let go; and the world, by a necessity of
its nature, turned back, and went round the other way. For divine things
alone are unchangeable; but the earth and heavens, although endowed with
many glories, have a body, and are therefore liable to perturbation. In
the case of the world, the perturbation is very slight, and amounts only to
a reversal of motion. For the lord of moving things is alone self-moved;
neither can piety allow that he goes at one time in one direction and at
another time in another; or that God has given the universe opposite
motions; or that there are two gods, one turning it in one direction,
another in another. But the truth is, that there are two cycles of the
world, and in one of them it is governed by an immediate Providence, and
receives life and immortality, and in the other is let go again, and has a
reverse action during infinite ages. This new action is spontaneous, and
is due to exquisite perfection of balance, to the vast size of the
universe, and to the smallness of the pivot upon which it turns. All
changes in the heaven affect the animal world, and this being the greatest
of them, is most destructive to men and animals. At the beginning of the
cycle before our own very few of them had survived; and on these a mighty
change passed. For their life was reversed like the motion of the world,
and first of all coming to a stand then quickly returned to youth and
beauty. The white locks of the aged became black; the cheeks of the
bearded man were restored to their youth and fineness; the young men grew
softer and smaller, and, being reduced to the condition of children in mind
as well as body, began to vanish away; and the bodies of those who had died
by violence, in a few moments underwent a parallel change and disappeared.
In that cycle of existence there was no such thing as the procreation of
animals from one another, but they were born of the earth, and of this our
ancestors, who came into being immediately after the end of the last cycle
and at the beginning of this, have preserved the recollection. Such
traditions are often now unduly discredited, and yet they may be proved by
internal evidence. For observe how consistent the narrative is; as the old
returned to youth, so the dead returned to life; the wheel of their
existence having been reversed, they rose again from the earth: a few only
were reserved by God for another destiny. Such was the origin of the
'And is this cycle, of which you are speaking, the reign of Cronos, or our
present state of existence?' No, Socrates, that blessed and spontaneous
life belongs not to this, but to the previous state, in which God was the
governor of the whole world, and other gods subject to him ruled over parts
of the world, as is still the case in certain places. They were shepherds
of men and animals, each of them sufficing for those of whom he had the
care. And there was no violence among them, or war, or devouring of one
another. Their life was spontaneous, because in those days God ruled over
man; and he was to man what man is now to the animals. Under his
government there were no estates, or private possessions, or families; but
the earth produced a sufficiency of all things, and men were born out of
the earth, having no traditions of the past; and as the temperature of the
seasons was mild, they took no thought for raiment, and had no beds, but
lived and dwelt in the open air.
Such was the age of Cronos, and the age of Zeus is our own. Tell me, which
is the happier of the two? Or rather, shall I tell you that the happiness
of these children of Cronos must have depended on how they used their time?
If having boundless leisure, and the power of discoursing not only with one
another but with the animals, they had employed these advantages with a
view to philosophy, gathering from every nature some addition to their
store of knowledge;--or again, if they had merely eaten and drunk, and told
stories to one another, and to the beasts;--in either case, I say, there
would be no difficulty in answering the question. But as nobody knows
which they did, the question must remain unanswered. And here is the point
of my tale. In the fulness of time, when the earthborn men had all passed
away, the ruler of the universe let go the helm, and became a spectator;
and destiny and natural impulse swayed the world. At the same instant all
the inferior deities gave up their hold; the whole universe rebounded, and
there was a great earthquake, and utter ruin of all manner of animals.
After a while the tumult ceased, and the universal creature settled down in
his accustomed course, having authority over all other creatures, and
following the instructions of his God and Father, at first more precisely,
afterwards with less exactness. The reason of the falling off was the
disengagement of a former chaos; 'a muddy vesture of decay' was a part of
his original nature, out of which he was brought by his Creator, under
whose immediate guidance, while he remained in that former cycle, the evil
was minimized and the good increased to the utmost. And in the beginning
of the new cycle all was well enough, but as time went on, discord entered
in; at length the good was minimized and the evil everywhere diffused, and
there was a danger of universal ruin. Then the Creator, seeing the world
in great straits, and fearing that chaos and infinity would come again, in
his tender care again placed himself at the helm and restored order, and
made the world immortal and imperishable. Once more the cycle of life and
generation was reversed; the infants grew into young men, and the young men
became greyheaded; no longer did the animals spring out of the earth; as
the whole world was now lord of its own progress, so the parts were to be
self-created and self-nourished. At first the case of men was very
helpless and pitiable; for they were alone among the wild beasts, and had
to carry on the struggle for existence without arts or knowledge, and had
no food, and did not know how to get any. That was the time when
Prometheus brought them fire, Hephaestus and Athene taught them arts, and
other gods gave them seeds and plants. Out of these human life was framed;
for mankind were left to themselves, and ordered their own ways, living,
like the universe, in one cycle after one manner, and in another cycle
after another manner.
Enough of the myth, which may show us two errors of which we were guilty in
our account of the king. The first and grand error was in choosing for our
king a god, who belongs to the other cycle, instead of a man from our own;
there was a lesser error also in our failure to define the nature of the
royal functions. The myth gave us only the image of a divine shepherd,
whereas the statesmen and kings of our own day very much resemble their
subjects in education and breeding. On retracing our steps we find that we
gave too narrow a designation to the art which was concerned with command-
for-self over living creatures, when we called it the 'feeding' of animals
in flocks. This would apply to all shepherds, with the exception of the
Statesman; but if we say 'managing' or 'tending' animals, the term would
include him as well. Having remodelled the name, we may subdivide as
before, first separating the human from the divine shepherd or manager.
Then we may subdivide the human art of governing into the government of
willing and unwilling subjects--royalty and tyranny--which are the extreme
opposites of one another, although we in our simplicity have hitherto
And yet the figure of the king is still defective. We have taken up a lump
of fable, and have used more than we needed. Like statuaries, we have made
some of the features out of proportion, and shall lose time in reducing
them. Or our mythus may be compared to a picture, which is well drawn in
outline, but is not yet enlivened by colour. And to intelligent persons
language is, or ought to be, a better instrument of description than any
picture. 'But what, Stranger, is the deficiency of which you speak?' No
higher truth can be made clear without an example; every man seems to know
all things in a dream, and to know nothing when he is awake. And the
nature of example can only be illustrated by an example. Children are
taught to read by being made to compare cases in which they do not know a
certain letter with cases in which they know it, until they learn to
recognize it in all its combinations. Example comes into use when we
identify something unknown with that which is known, and form a common
notion of both of them. Like the child who is learning his letters, the
soul recognizes some of the first elements of things; and then again is at
fault and unable to recognize them when they are translated into the
difficult language of facts. Let us, then, take an example, which will
illustrate the nature of example, and will also assist us in characterizing
the political science, and in separating the true king from his rivals.
I will select the example of weaving, or, more precisely, weaving of wool.
In the first place, all possessions are either productive or preventive; of
the preventive sort are spells and antidotes, divine and human, and also
defences, and defences are either arms or screens, and screens are veils
and also shields against heat and cold, and shields against heat and cold
are shelters and coverings, and coverings are blankets or garments, and
garments are in one piece or have many parts; and of these latter, some are
stitched and others are fastened, and of these again some are made of
fibres of plants and some of hair, and of these some are cemented with
water and earth, and some are fastened with their own material; the latter
are called clothes, and are made by the art of clothing, from which the art
of weaving differs only in name, as the political differs from the royal
science. Thus we have drawn several distinctions, but as yet have not
distinguished the weaving of garments from the kindred and co-operative
arts. For the first process to which the material is subjected is the
opposite of weaving--I mean carding. And the art of carding, and the whole
art of the fuller and the mender, are concerned with the treatment and
production of clothes, as well as the art of weaving. Again, there are the
arts which make the weaver's tools. And if we say that the weaver's art is
the greatest and noblest of those which have to do with woollen garments,--
this, although true, is not sufficiently distinct; because these other arts
require to be first cleared away. Let us proceed, then, by regular steps:
--There are causal or principal, and co-operative or subordinate arts. To
the causal class belong the arts of washing and mending, of carding and
spinning the threads, and the other arts of working in wool; these are
chiefly of two kinds, falling under the two great categories of composition
and division. Carding is of the latter sort. But our concern is chiefly
with that part of the art of wool-working which composes, and of which one
kind twists and the other interlaces the threads, whether the firmer
texture of the warp or the looser texture of the woof. These are adapted
to each other, and the orderly composition of them forms a woollen garment.
And the art which presides over these operations is the art of weaving.
But why did we go through this circuitous process, instead of saying at
once that weaving is the art of entwining the warp and the woof? In order
that our labour may not seem to be lost, I must explain the whole nature of
excess and defect. There are two arts of measuring--one is concerned with
relative size, and the other has reference to a mean or standard of what is
meet. The difference between good and evil is the difference between a
mean or measure and excess or defect. All things require to be compared,
not only with one another, but with the mean, without which there would be
no beauty and no art, whether the art of the statesman or the art of
weaving or any other; for all the arts guard against excess or defect,
which are real evils. This we must endeavour to show, if the arts are to
exist; and the proof of this will be a harder piece of work than the
demonstration of the existence of not-being which we proved in our
discussion about the Sophist. At present I am content with the indirect
proof that the existence of such a standard is necessary to the existence
of the arts. The standard or measure, which we are now only applying to
the arts, may be some day required with a view to the demonstration of
We may now divide this art of measurement into two parts; placing in the
one part all the arts which measure the relative size or number of objects,
and in the other all those which depend upon a mean or standard. Many
accomplished men say that the art of measurement has to do with all things,
but these persons, although in this notion of theirs they may very likely
be right, are apt to fail in seeing the differences of classes--they jumble
together in one the 'more' and the 'too much,' which are very different
things. Whereas the right way is to find the differences of classes, and
to comprehend the things which have any affinity under the same class.
I will make one more observation by the way. When a pupil at a school is
asked the letters which make up a particular word, is he not asked with a
view to his knowing the same letters in all words? And our enquiry about
the Statesman in like manner is intended not only to improve our knowledge
of politics, but our reasoning powers generally. Still less would any one
analyze the nature of weaving for its own sake. There is no difficulty in
exhibiting sensible images, but the greatest and noblest truths have no
outward form adapted to the eye of sense, and are only revealed in thought.
And all that we are now saying is said for the sake of them. I make these
remarks, because I want you to get rid of any impression that our
discussion about weaving and about the reversal of the universe, and the
other discussion about the Sophist and not-being, were tedious and
irrelevant. Please to observe that they can only be fairly judged when
compared with what is meet; and yet not with what is meet for producing
pleasure, nor even meet for making discoveries, but for the great end of
developing the dialectical method and sharpening the wits of the auditors.
He who censures us, should prove that, if our words had been fewer, they
would have been better calculated to make men dialecticians.
And now let us return to our king or statesman, and transfer to him the
example of weaving. The royal art has been separated from that of other
herdsmen, but not from the causal and co-operative arts which exist in
states; these do not admit of dichotomy, and therefore they must be carved
neatly, like the limbs of a victim, not into more parts than are necessary.
And first (1) we have the large class of instruments, which includes almost
everything in the world; from these may be parted off (2) vessels which are
framed for the preservation of things, moist or dry, prepared in the fire
or out of the fire. The royal or political art has nothing to do with
either of these, any more than with the arts of making (3) vehicles, or (4)
defences, whether dresses, or arms, or walls, or (5) with the art of making
ornaments, whether pictures or other playthings, as they may be fitly
called, for they have no serious use. Then (6) there are the arts which
furnish gold, silver, wood, bark, and other materials, which should have
been put first; these, again, have no concern with the kingly science; any
more than the arts (7) which provide food and nourishment for the human
body, and which furnish occupation to the husbandman, huntsman, doctor,
cook, and the like, but not to the king or statesman. Further, there are
small things, such as coins, seals, stamps, which may with a little
violence be comprehended in one of the above-mentioned classes. Thus they
will embrace every species of property with the exception of animals,--but
these have been already included in the art of tending herds. There
remains only the class of slaves or ministers, among whom I expect that the
real rivals of the king will be discovered. I am not speaking of the
veritable slave bought with money, nor of the hireling who lets himself out
for service, nor of the trader or merchant, who at best can only lay claim
to economical and not to royal science. Nor am I referring to government
officials, such as heralds and scribes, for these are only the servants of
the rulers, and not the rulers themselves. I admit that there may be
something strange in any servants pretending to be masters, but I hardly
think that I could have been wrong in supposing that the principal
claimants to the throne will be of this class. Let us try once more:
There are diviners and priests, who are full of pride and prerogative;
these, as the law declares, know how to give acceptable gifts to the gods,
and in many parts of Hellas the duty of performing solemn sacrifices is
assigned to the chief magistrate, as at Athens to the King Archon. At
last, then, we have found a trace of those whom we were seeking. But still
they are only servants and ministers.
And who are these who next come into view in various forms of men and
animals and other monsters appearing--lions and centaurs and satyrs--who
are these? I did not know them at first, for every one looks strange when
he is unexpected. But now I recognize the politician and his troop, the
chief of Sophists, the prince of charlatans, the most accomplished of
wizards, who must be carefully distinguished from the true king or
statesman. And here I will interpose a question: What are the true forms
of government? Are they not three--monarchy, oligarchy, and democracy? and
the distinctions of freedom and compulsion, law and no law, poverty and
riches expand these three into six. Monarchy may be divided into royalty
and tyranny; oligarchy into aristocracy and plutocracy; and democracy may
observe the law or may not observe it. But are any of these governments
worthy of the name? Is not government a science, and are we to suppose
that scientific government is secured by the rulers being many or few, rich
or poor, or by the rule being compulsory or voluntary? Can the many attain
to science? In no Hellenic city are there fifty good draught players, and
certainly there are not as many kings, for by kings we mean all those who
are possessed of the political science. A true government must therefore
be the government of one, or of a few. And they may govern us either with
or without law, and whether they are poor or rich, and however they govern,
provided they govern on some scientific principle,--it makes no difference.
And as the physician may cure us with our will, or against our will, and by
any mode of treatment, burning, bleeding, lowering, fattening, if he only
proceeds scientifically: so the true governor may reduce or fatten or
bleed the body corporate, while he acts according to the rules of his art,
and with a view to the good of the state, whether according to law or
'I do not like the notion, that there can be good government without law.'
I must explain: Law-making certainly is the business of a king; and yet
the best thing of all is, not that the law should rule, but that the king
should rule, for the varieties of circumstances are endless, and no simple
or universal rule can suit them all, or last for ever. The law is just an
ignorant brute of a tyrant, who insists always on his commands being
fulfilled under all circumstances. 'Then why have we laws at all?' I will
answer that question by asking you whether the training master gives a
different discipline to each of his pupils, or whether he has a general
rule of diet and exercise which is suited to the constitutions of the
majority? 'The latter.' The legislator, too, is obliged to lay down
general laws, and cannot enact what is precisely suitable to each
particular case. He cannot be sitting at every man's side all his life,
and prescribe for him the minute particulars of his duty, and therefore he
is compelled to impose on himself and others the restriction of a written
law. Let me suppose now, that a physician or trainer, having left
directions for his patients or pupils, goes into a far country, and comes
back sooner than he intended; owing to some unexpected change in the
weather, the patient or pupil seems to require a different mode of
treatment: Would he persist in his old commands, under the idea that all
others are noxious and heterodox? Viewed in the light of science, would
not the continuance of such regulations be ridiculous? And if the
legislator, or another like him, comes back from a far country, is he to be
prohibited from altering his own laws? The common people say: Let a man
persuade the city first, and then let him impose new laws. But is a
physician only to cure his patients by persuasion, and not by force? Is he
a worse physician who uses a little gentle violence in effecting the cure?
Or shall we say, that the violence is just, if exercised by a rich man, and
unjust, if by a poor man? May not any man, rich or poor, with or without
law, and whether the citizens like or not, do what is for their good? The
pilot saves the lives of the crew, not by laying down rules, but by making
his art a law, and, like him, the true governor has a strength of art which
is superior to the law. This is scientific government, and all others are
imitations only. Yet no great number of persons can attain to this
science. And hence follows an important result. The true political
principle is to assert the inviolability of the law, which, though not the
best thing possible, is best for the imperfect condition of man.
I will explain my meaning by an illustration:--Suppose that mankind,
indignant at the rogueries and caprices of physicians and pilots, call
together an assembly, in which all who like may speak, the skilled as well
as the unskilled, and that in their assembly they make decrees for
regulating the practice of navigation and medicine which are to be binding
on these professions for all time. Suppose that they elect annually by
vote or lot those to whom authority in either department is to be
delegated. And let us further imagine, that when the term of their
magistracy has expired, the magistrates appointed by them are summoned
before an ignorant and unprofessional court, and may be condemned and
punished for breaking the regulations. They even go a step further, and
enact, that he who is found enquiring into the truth of navigation and
medicine, and is seeking to be wise above what is written, shall be called
not an artist, but a dreamer, a prating Sophist and a corruptor of youth;
and if he try to persuade others to investigate those sciences in a manner
contrary to the law, he shall be punished with the utmost severity. And
like rules might be extended to any art or science. But what would be the
'The arts would utterly perish, and human life, which is bad enough
already, would become intolerable.'
But suppose, once more, that we were to appoint some one as the guardian of
the law, who was both ignorant and interested, and who perverted the law:
would not this be a still worse evil than the other? 'Certainly.' For the
laws are based on some experience and wisdom. Hence the wiser course is,
that they should be observed, although this is not the best thing of all,
but only the second best. And whoever, having skill, should try to improve
them, would act in the spirit of the law-giver. But then, as we have seen,
no great number of men, whether poor or rich, can be makers of laws. And
so, the nearest approach to true government is, when men do nothing
contrary to their own written laws and national customs. When the rich
preserve their customs and maintain the law, this is called aristocracy, or
if they neglect the law, oligarchy. When an individual rules according to
law, whether by the help of science or opinion, this is called monarchy;
and when he has royal science he is a king, whether he be so in fact or
not; but when he rules in spite of law, and is blind with ignorance and
passion, he is called a tyrant. These forms of government exist, because
men despair of the true king ever appearing among them; if he were to
appear, they would joyfully hand over to him the reins of government. But,
as there is no natural ruler of the hive, they meet together and make laws.
And do we wonder, when the foundation of politics is in the letter only, at
the miseries of states? Ought we not rather to admire the strength of the
political bond? For cities have endured the worst of evils time out of
mind; many cities have been shipwrecked, and some are like ships
foundering, because their pilots are absolutely ignorant of the science
which they profess.
Let us next ask, which of these untrue forms of government is the least
bad, and which of them is the worst? I said at the beginning, that each of
the three forms of government, royalty, aristocracy, and democracy, might
be divided into two, so that the whole number of them, including the best,
will be seven. Under monarchy we have already distinguished royalty and
tyranny; of oligarchy there were two kinds, aristocracy and plutocracy; and
democracy may also be divided, for there is a democracy which observes, and
a democracy which neglects, the laws. The government of one is the best
and the worst--the government of a few is less bad and less good--the
government of the many is the least bad and least good of them all, being
the best of all lawless governments, and the worst of all lawful ones. But
the rulers of all these states, unless they have knowledge, are maintainers
of idols, and themselves idols--wizards, and also Sophists; for, after many
windings, the term 'Sophist' comes home to them.
And now enough of centaurs and satyrs: the play is ended, and they may
quit the political stage. Still there remain some other and better
elements, which adhere to the royal science, and must be drawn off in the
refiner's fire before the gold can become quite pure. The arts of the
general, the judge, and the orator, will have to be separated from the
royal art; when the separation has been made, the nature of the king will
be unalloyed. Now there are inferior sciences, such as music and others;
and there is a superior science, which determines whether music is to be
learnt or not, and this is different from them, and the governor of them.
The science which determines whether we are to use persuasion, or not, is
higher than the art of persuasion; the science which determines whether we
are to go to war, is higher than the art of the general. The science which
makes the laws, is higher than that which only administers them. And the
science which has this authority over the rest, is the science of the king
Once more we will endeavour to view this royal science by the light of our
example. We may compare the state to a web, and I will show you how the
different threads are drawn into one. You would admit--would you not?--
that there are parts of virtue (although this position is sometimes
assailed by Eristics), and one part of virtue is temperance, and another
courage. These are two principles which are in a manner antagonistic to
one another; and they pervade all nature; the whole class of the good and
beautiful is included under them. The beautiful may be subdivided into two
lesser classes: one of these is described by us in terms expressive of
motion or energy, and the other in terms expressive of rest and quietness.
We say, how manly! how vigorous! how ready! and we say also, how calm! how
temperate! how dignified! This opposition of terms is extended by us to
all actions, to the tones of the voice, the notes of music, the workings of
the mind, the characters of men. The two classes both have their
exaggerations; and the exaggerations of the one are termed 'hardness,'
'violence,' 'madness;' of the other 'cowardliness,' or 'sluggishness.' And
if we pursue the enquiry, we find that these opposite characters are
naturally at variance, and can hardly be reconciled. In lesser matters the
antagonism between them is ludicrous, but in the State may be the occasion
of grave disorders, and may disturb the whole course of human life. For
the orderly class are always wanting to be at peace, and hence they pass
imperceptibly into the condition of slaves; and the courageous sort are
always wanting to go to war, even when the odds are against them, and are
soon destroyed by their enemies. But the true art of government, first
preparing the material by education, weaves the two elements into one,
maintaining authority over the carders of the wool, and selecting the
proper subsidiary arts which are necessary for making the web. The royal
science is queen of educators, and begins by choosing the natures which she
is to train, punishing with death and exterminating those who are violently
carried away to atheism and injustice, and enslaving those who are
wallowing in the mire of ignorance. The rest of the citizens she blends
into one, combining the stronger element of courage, which we may call the
warp, with the softer element of temperance, which we may imagine to be the
woof. These she binds together, first taking the eternal elements of the
honourable, the good, and the just, and fastening them with a divine cord
in a heaven-born nature, and then fastening the animal elements with a
human cord. The good legislator can implant by education the higher
principles; and where they exist there is no difficulty in inserting the
lesser human bonds, by which the State is held together; these are the laws
of intermarriage, and of union for the sake of offspring. Most persons in
their marriages seek after wealth or power; or they are clannish, and
choose those who are like themselves,--the temperate marrying the
temperate, and the courageous the courageous. The two classes thrive and
flourish at first, but they soon degenerate; the one become mad, and the
other feeble and useless. This would not have been the case, if they had
both originally held the same notions about the honourable and the good;
for then they never would have allowed the temperate natures to be
separated from the courageous, but they would have bound them together by
common honours and reputations, by intermarriages, and by the choice of
rulers who combine both qualities. The temperate are careful and just, but
are wanting in the power of action; the courageous fall short of them in
justice, but in action are superior to them: and no state can prosper in
which either of these qualities is wanting. The noblest and best of all
webs or states is that which the royal science weaves, combining the two
sorts of natures in a single texture, and in this enfolding freeman and
slave and every other social element, and presiding over them all.
'Your picture, Stranger, of the king and statesman, no less than of the
Sophist, is quite perfect.'
The principal subjects in the Statesman may be conveniently embraced under
six or seven heads:--(1) the myth; (2) the dialectical interest; (3) the
political aspects of the dialogue; (4) the satirical and paradoxical vein;
(5) the necessary imperfection of law; (6) the relation of the work to the
other writings of Plato; lastly (7), we may briefly consider the
genuineness of the Sophist and Statesman, which can hardly be assumed
without proof, since the two dialogues have been questioned by three such
eminent Platonic scholars as Socher, Schaarschmidt, and Ueberweg.
I. The hand of the master is clearly visible in the myth. First in the
connection with mythology;--he wins a kind of verisimilitude for this as
for his other myths, by adopting received traditions, of which he pretends
to find an explanation in his own larger conception (compare Introduction
to Critias). The young Socrates has heard of the sun rising in the west
and setting in the east, and of the earth-born men; but he has never heard
the origin of these remarkable phenomena. Nor is Plato, here or elsewhere,
wanting in denunciations of the incredulity of 'this latter age,' on which
the lovers of the marvellous have always delighted to enlarge. And he is
not without express testimony to the truth of his narrative;--such
testimony as, in the Timaeus, the first men gave of the names of the gods
('They must surely have known their own ancestors'). For the first
generation of the new cycle, who lived near the time, are supposed to have
preserved a recollection of a previous one. He also appeals to internal
evidence, viz. the perfect coherence of the tale, though he is very well
aware, as he says in the Cratylus, that there may be consistency in error
as well as in truth. The gravity and minuteness with which some
particulars are related also lend an artful aid. The profound interest and
ready assent of the young Socrates, who is not too old to be amused 'with a
tale which a child would love to hear,' are a further assistance. To those
who were naturally inclined to believe that the fortunes of mankind are
influenced by the stars, or who maintained that some one principle, like
the principle of the Same and the Other in the Timaeus, pervades all things
in the world, the reversal of the motion of the heavens seemed necessarily
to produce a reversal of the order of human life. The spheres of
knowledge, which to us appear wide asunder as the poles, astronomy and
medicine, were naturally connected in the minds of early thinkers, because
there was little or nothing in the space between them. Thus there is a
basis of philosophy, on which the improbabilities of the tale may be said
to rest. These are some of the devices by which Plato, like a modern
novelist, seeks to familiarize the marvellous.
The myth, like that of the Timaeus and Critias, is rather historical than
poetical, in this respect corresponding to the general change in the later
writings of Plato, when compared with the earlier ones. It is hardly a
myth in the sense in which the term might be applied to the myth of the
Phaedrus, the Republic, the Phaedo, or the Gorgias, but may be more aptly
compared with the didactic tale in which Protagoras describes the fortunes
of primitive man, or with the description of the gradual rise of a new
society in the Third Book of the Laws. Some discrepancies may be observed
between the mythology of the Statesman and the Timaeus, and between the
Timaeus and the Republic. But there is no reason to expect that all
Plato's visions of a former, any more than of a future, state of existence,
should conform exactly to the same pattern. We do not find perfect
consistency in his philosophy; and still less have we any right to demand
this of him in his use of mythology and figures of speech. And we observe
that while employing all the resources of a writer of fiction to give
credibility to his tales, he is not disposed to insist upon their literal
truth. Rather, as in the Phaedo, he says, 'Something of the kind is true;'
or, as in the Gorgias, 'This you will think to be an old wife's tale, but
you can think of nothing truer;' or, as in the Statesman, he describes his
work as a 'mass of mythology,' which was introduced in order to teach
certain lessons; or, as in the Phaedrus, he secretly laughs at such stories
while refusing to disturb the popular belief in them.
The greater interest of the myth consists in the philosophical lessons
which Plato presents to us in this veiled form. Here, as in the tale of
Er, the son of Armenius, he touches upon the question of freedom and
necessity, both in relation to God and nature. For at first the universe
is governed by the immediate providence of God,--this is the golden age,--
but after a while the wheel is reversed, and man is left to himself. Like
other theologians and philosophers, Plato relegates his explanation of the
problem to a transcendental world; he speaks of what in modern language
might be termed 'impossibilities in the nature of things,' hindering God
from continuing immanent in the world. But there is some inconsistency;
for the 'letting go' is spoken of as a divine act, and is at the same time
attributed to the necessary imperfection of matter; there is also a
numerical necessity for the successive births of souls. At first, man and
the world retain their divine instincts, but gradually degenerate. As in
the Book of Genesis, the first fall of man is succeeded by a second; the
misery and wickedness of the world increase continually. The reason of
this further decline is supposed to be the disorganisation of matter: the
latent seeds of a former chaos are disengaged, and envelope all things.
The condition of man becomes more and more miserable; he is perpetually
waging an unequal warfare with the beasts. At length he obtains such a
measure of education and help as is necessary for his existence. Though
deprived of God's help, he is not left wholly destitute; he has received
from Athene and Hephaestus a knowledge of the arts; other gods give him
seeds and plants; and out of these human life is reconstructed. He now
eats bread in the sweat of his brow, and has dominion over the animals,
subjected to the conditions of his nature, and yet able to cope with them
by divine help. Thus Plato may be said to represent in a figure--(1) the
state of innocence; (2) the fall of man; (3) the still deeper decline into
barbarism; (4) the restoration of man by the partial interference of God,
and the natural growth of the arts and of civilised society. Two lesser
features of this description should not pass unnoticed:--(1) the primitive
men are supposed to be created out of the earth, and not after the ordinary
manner of human generation--half the causes of moral evil are in this way
removed; (2) the arts are attributed to a divine revelation: and so the
greatest difficulty in the history of pre-historic man is solved. Though
no one knew better than Plato that the introduction of the gods is not a
reason, but an excuse for not giving a reason (Cratylus), yet, considering
that more than two thousand years later mankind are still discussing these
problems, we may be satisfied to find in Plato a statement of the
difficulties which arise in conceiving the relation of man to God and
nature, without expecting to obtain from him a solution of them. In such a
tale, as in the Phaedrus, various aspects of the Ideas were doubtless
indicated to Plato's own mind, as the corresponding theological problems
are to us. The immanence of things in the Ideas, or the partial separation
of them, and the self-motion of the supreme Idea, are probably the forms in
which he would have interpreted his own parable.
He touches upon another question of great interest--the consciousness of
evil--what in the Jewish Scriptures is called 'eating of the tree of the
knowledge of good and evil.' At the end of the narrative, the Eleatic asks
his companion whether this life of innocence, or that which men live at
present, is the better of the two. He wants to distinguish between the
mere animal life of innocence, the 'city of pigs,' as it is comically
termed by Glaucon in the Republic, and the higher life of reason and
philosophy. But as no one can determine the state of man in the world
before the Fall, 'the question must remain unanswered.' Similar questions
have occupied the minds of theologians in later ages; but they can hardly
be said to have found an answer. Professor Campbell well observes, that
the general spirit of the myth may be summed up in the words of the Lysis:
'If evil were to perish, should we hunger any more, or thirst any more, or
have any similar sensations? Yet perhaps the question what will or will
not be is a foolish one, for who can tell?' As in the Theaetetus, evil is
supposed to continue,--here, as the consequence of a former state of the
world, a sort of mephitic vapour exhaling from some ancient chaos,--there,
as involved in the possibility of good, and incident to the mixed state of
Once more--and this is the point of connexion with the rest of the
dialogue--the myth is intended to bring out the difference between the
ideal and the actual state of man. In all ages of the world men have
dreamed of a state of perfection, which has been, and is to be, but never
is, and seems to disappear under the necessary conditions of human society.
The uselessness, the danger, the true value of such political ideals have
often been discussed; youth is too ready to believe in them; age to
disparage them. Plato's 'prudens quaestio' respecting the comparative
happiness of men in this and in a former cycle of existence is intended to
elicit this contrast between the golden age and 'the life under Zeus' which
is our own. To confuse the divine and human, or hastily apply one to the
other, is a 'tremendous error.' Of the ideal or divine government of the
world we can form no true or adequate conception; and this our mixed state
of life, in which we are partly left to ourselves, but not wholly deserted
by the gods, may contain some higher elements of good and knowledge than
could have existed in the days of innocence under the rule of Cronos. So
we may venture slightly to enlarge a Platonic thought which admits of a
further application to Christian theology. Here are suggested also the
distinctions between God causing and permitting evil, and between his more
and less immediate government of the world.
II. The dialectical interest of the Statesman seems to contend in Plato's
mind with the political; the dialogue might have been designated by two
equally descriptive titles--either the 'Statesman,' or 'Concerning Method.'
Dialectic, which in the earlier writings of Plato is a revival of the
Socratic question and answer applied to definition, is now occupied with
classification; there is nothing in which he takes greater delight than in
processes of division (compare Phaedr.); he pursues them to a length out of
proportion to his main subject, and appears to value them as a dialectical
exercise, and for their own sake. A poetical vision of some order or
hierarchy of ideas or sciences has already been floating before us in the
Symposium and the Republic. And in the Phaedrus this aspect of dialectic
is further sketched out, and the art of rhetoric is based on the division
of the characters of mankind into their several classes. The same love of
divisions is apparent in the Gorgias. But in a well-known passage of the
Philebus occurs the first criticism on the nature of classification. There
we are exhorted not to fall into the common error of passing from unity to
infinity, but to find the intermediate classes; and we are reminded that in
any process of generalization, there may be more than one class to which
individuals may be referred, and that we must carry on the process of
division until we have arrived at the infima species.
These precepts are not forgotten, either in the Sophist or in the
Statesman. The Sophist contains four examples of division, carried on by
regular steps, until in four different lines of descent we detect the
Sophist. In the Statesman the king or statesman is discovered by a similar
process; and we have a summary, probably made for the first time, of
possessions appropriated by the labour of man, which are distributed into
seven classes. We are warned against preferring the shorter to the longer
method;--if we divide in the middle, we are most likely to light upon
species; at the same time, the important remark is made, that 'a part is
not to be confounded with a class.' Having discovered the genus under
which the king falls, we proceed to distinguish him from the collateral
species. To assist our imagination in making this separation, we require
an example. The higher ideas, of which we have a dreamy knowledge, can
only be represented by images taken from the external world. But, first of
all, the nature of example is explained by an example. The child is taught
to read by comparing the letters in words which he knows with the same
letters in unknown combinations; and this is the sort of process which we
are about to attempt. As a parallel to the king we select the worker in
wool, and compare the art of weaving with the royal science, trying to
separate either of them from the inferior classes to which they are akin.
This has the incidental advantage, that weaving and the web furnish us with
a figure of speech, which we can afterwards transfer to the State.
There are two uses of examples or images--in the first place, they suggest
thoughts--secondly, they give them a distinct form. In the infancy of
philosophy, as in childhood, the language of pictures is natural to man:
truth in the abstract is hardly won, and only by use familiarized to the
mind. Examples are akin to analogies, and have a reflex influence on
thought; they people the vacant mind, and may often originate new
directions of enquiry. Plato seems to be conscious of the suggestiveness
of imagery; the general analogy of the arts is constantly employed by him
as well as the comparison of particular arts--weaving, the refining of
gold, the learning to read, music, statuary, painting, medicine, the art of
the pilot--all of which occur in this dialogue alone: though he is also
aware that 'comparisons are slippery things,' and may often give a false
clearness to ideas. We shall find, in the Philebus, a division of sciences
into practical and speculative, and into more or less speculative: here we
have the idea of master-arts, or sciences which control inferior ones.
Besides the supreme science of dialectic, 'which will forget us, if we
forget her,' another master-science for the first time appears in view--the
science of government, which fixes the limits of all the rest. This
conception of the political or royal science as, from another point of
view, the science of sciences, which holds sway over the rest, is not
originally found in Aristotle, but in Plato.
The doctrine that virtue and art are in a mean, which is familiarized to us
by the study of the Nicomachean Ethics, is also first distinctly asserted
in the Statesman of Plato. The too much and the too little are in restless
motion: they must be fixed by a mean, which is also a standard external to
them. The art of measuring or finding a mean between excess and defect,
like the principle of division in the Phaedrus, receives a particular
application to the art of discourse. The excessive length of a discourse
may be blamed; but who can say what is excess, unless he is furnished with
a measure or standard? Measure is the life of the arts, and may some day
be discovered to be the single ultimate principle in which all the sciences
are contained. Other forms of thought may be noted--the distinction
between causal and co-operative arts, which may be compared with the
distinction between primary and co-operative causes in the Timaeus; or
between cause and condition in the Phaedo; the passing mention of
economical science; the opposition of rest and motion, which is found in
all nature; the general conception of two great arts of composition and
division, in which are contained weaving, politics, dialectic; and in
connexion with the conception of a mean, the two arts of measuring.
In the Theaetetus, Plato remarks that precision in the use of terms, though
sometimes pedantic, is sometimes necessary. Here he makes the opposite
reflection, that there may be a philosophical disregard of words. The evil
of mere verbal oppositions, the requirement of an impossible accuracy in
the use of terms, the error of supposing that philosophy was to be found in
language, the danger of word-catching, have frequently been discussed by
him in the previous dialogues, but nowhere has the spirit of modern
inductive philosophy been more happily indicated than in the words of the
Statesman:--'If you think more about things, and less about words, you will
be richer in wisdom as you grow older.' A similar spirit is discernible in
the remarkable expressions, 'the long and difficult language of facts;' and
'the interrogation of every nature, in order to obtain the particular
contribution of each to the store of knowledge.' Who has described 'the
feeble intelligence of all things; given by metaphysics better than the
Eleatic Stranger in the words--'The higher ideas can hardly be set forth
except through the medium of examples; every man seems to know all things
in a kind of dream, and then again nothing when he is awake?' Or where is
the value of metaphysical pursuits more truly expressed than in the words,
--'The greatest and noblest things have no outward image of themselves
visible to man: therefore we should learn to give a rational account of
III. The political aspects of the dialogue are closely connected with the
dialectical. As in the Cratylus, the legislator has 'the dialectician
standing on his right hand;' so in the Statesman, the king or statesman is
the dialectician, who, although he may be in a private station, is still a
king. Whether he has the power or not, is a mere accident; or rather he
has the power, for what ought to be is ('Was ist vernunftig, das ist
wirklich'); and he ought to be and is the true governor of mankind. There
is a reflection in this idealism of the Socratic 'Virtue is knowledge;'
and, without idealism, we may remark that knowledge is a great part of
power. Plato does not trouble himself to construct a machinery by which
'philosophers shall be made kings,' as in the Republic: he merely holds up
the ideal, and affirms that in some sense science is really supreme over
He is struck by the observation 'quam parva sapientia regitur mundus,' and
is touched with a feeling of the ills which afflict states. The condition
of Megara before and during the Peloponnesian War, of Athens under the
Thirty and afterwards, of Syracuse and the other Sicilian cities in their
alternations of democratic excess and tyranny, might naturally suggest such
reflections. Some states he sees already shipwrecked, others foundering
for want of a pilot; and he wonders not at their destruction, but at their
endurance. For they ought to have perished long ago, if they had depended
on the wisdom of their rulers. The mingled pathos and satire of this
remark is characteristic of Plato's later style.
The king is the personification of political science. And yet he is
something more than this,--the perfectly good and wise tyrant of the Laws,
whose will is better than any law. He is the special providence who is
always interfering with and regulating all things. Such a conception has
sometimes been entertained by modern theologians, and by Plato himself, of
the Supreme Being. But whether applied to Divine or to human governors the
conception is faulty for two reasons, neither of which are noticed by
Plato:--first, because all good government supposes a degree of co-
operation in the ruler and his subjects,--an 'education in politics' as
well as in moral virtue; secondly, because government, whether Divine or
human, implies that the subject has a previous knowledge of the rules under
which he is living. There is a fallacy, too, in comparing unchangeable
laws with a personal governor. For the law need not necessarily be an
'ignorant and brutal tyrant,' but gentle and humane, capable of being
altered in the spirit of the legislator, and of being administered so as to
meet the cases of individuals. Not only in fact, but in idea, both
elements must remain--the fixed law and the living will; the written word
and the spirit; the principles of obligation and of freedom; and their
applications whether made by law or equity in particular cases.
There are two sides from which positive laws may be attacked:--either from
the side of nature, which rises up and rebels against them in the spirit of
Callicles in the Gorgias; or from the side of idealism, which attempts to
soar above them,--and this is the spirit of Plato in the Statesman. But he
soon falls, like Icarus, and is content to walk instead of flying; that is,
to accommodate himself to the actual state of human things. Mankind have
long been in despair of finding the true ruler; and therefore are ready to
acquiesce in any of the five or six received forms of government as better
than none. And the best thing which they can do (though only the second
best in reality), is to reduce the ideal state to the conditions of actual
life. Thus in the Statesman, as in the Laws, we have three forms of
government, which we may venture to term, (1) the ideal, (2) the practical,
(3) the sophistical--what ought to be, what might be, what is. And thus
Plato seems to stumble, almost by accident, on the notion of a
constitutional monarchy, or of a monarchy ruling by laws.
The divine foundations of a State are to be laid deep in education
(Republic), and at the same time some little violence may be used in
exterminating natures which are incapable of education (compare Laws).
Plato is strongly of opinion that the legislator, like the physician, may
do men good against their will (compare Gorgias). The human bonds of
states are formed by the inter-marriage of dispositions adapted to supply
the defects of each other. As in the Republic, Plato has observed that
there are opposite natures in the world, the strong and the gentle, the
courageous and the temperate, which, borrowing an expression derived from
the image of weaving, he calls the warp and the woof of human society. To
interlace these is the crowning achievement of political science. In the
Protagoras, Socrates was maintaining that there was only one virtue, and
not many: now Plato is inclined to think that there are not only parallel,
but opposite virtues, and seems to see a similar opposition pervading all
art and nature. But he is satisfied with laying down the principle, and
does not inform us by what further steps the union of opposites is to be
In the loose framework of a single dialogue Plato has thus combined two
distinct subjects--politics and method. Yet they are not so far apart as
they appear: in his own mind there was a secret link of connexion between
them. For the philosopher or dialectician is also the only true king or
statesman. In the execution of his plan Plato has invented or
distinguished several important forms of thought, and made incidentally
many valuable remarks. Questions of interest both in ancient and modern
politics also arise in the course of the dialogue, which may with advantage
be further considered by us:--
a. The imaginary ruler, whether God or man, is above the law, and is a law
to himself and to others. Among the Greeks as among the Jews, law was a
sacred name, the gift of God, the bond of states. But in the Statesman of
Plato, as in the New Testament, the word has also become the symbol of an
imperfect good, which is almost an evil. The law sacrifices the individual
to the universal, and is the tyranny of the many over the few (compare
Republic). It has fixed rules which are the props of order, and will not
swerve or bend in extreme cases. It is the beginning of political society,
but there is something higher--an intelligent ruler, whether God or man,
who is able to adapt himself to the endless varieties of circumstances.
Plato is fond of picturing the advantages which would result from the union
of the tyrant who has power with the legislator who has wisdom: he regards
this as the best and speediest way of reforming mankind. But institutions
cannot thus be artificially created, nor can the external authority of a
ruler impose laws for which a nation is unprepared. The greatest power,
the highest wisdom, can only proceed one or two steps in advance of public
opinion. In all stages of civilization human nature, after all our
efforts, remains intractable,--not like clay in the hands of the potter, or
marble under the chisel of the sculptor. Great changes occur in the
history of nations, but they are brought about slowly, like the changes in
the frame of nature, upon which the puny arm of man hardly makes an
impression. And, speaking generally, the slowest growths, both in nature
and in politics, are the most permanent.
b. Whether the best form of the ideal is a person or a law may fairly be
doubted. The former is more akin to us: it clothes itself in poetry and
art, and appeals to reason more in the form of feeling: in the latter
there is less danger of allowing ourselves to be deluded by a figure of
speech. The ideal of the Greek state found an expression in the
deification of law: the ancient Stoic spoke of a wise man perfect in
virtue, who was fancifully said to be a king; but neither they nor Plato
had arrived at the conception of a person who was also a law. Nor is it
easy for the Christian to think of God as wisdom, truth, holiness, and also
as the wise, true, and holy one. He is always wanting to break through the
abstraction and interrupt the law, in order that he may present to himself
the more familiar image of a divine friend. While the impersonal has too
slender a hold upon the affections to be made the basis of religion, the
conception of a person on the other hand tends to degenerate into a new
kind of idolatry. Neither criticism nor experience allows us to suppose
that there are interferences with the laws of nature; the idea is
inconceivable to us and at variance with facts. The philosopher or
theologian who could realize to mankind that a person is a law, that the
higher rule has no exception, that goodness, like knowledge, is also power,
would breathe a new religious life into the world.
c. Besides the imaginary rule of a philosopher or a God, the actual forms
of government have to be considered. In the infancy of political science,
men naturally ask whether the rule of the many or of the few is to be
preferred. If by 'the few' we mean 'the good' and by 'the many,' 'the
bad,' there can be but one reply: 'The rule of one good man is better than
the rule of all the rest, if they are bad.' For, as Heracleitus says, 'One
is ten thousand if he be the best.' If, however, we mean by the rule of
the few the rule of a class neither better nor worse than other classes,
not devoid of a feeling of right, but guided mostly by a sense of their own
interests, and by the rule of the many the rule of all classes, similarly
under the influence of mixed motives, no one would hesitate to answer--'The
rule of all rather than one, because all classes are more likely to take
care of all than one of another; and the government has greater power and
stability when resting on a wider basis.' Both in ancient and modern times
the best balanced form of government has been held to be the best; and yet
it should not be so nicely balanced as to make action and movement
The statesman who builds his hope upon the aristocracy, upon the middle
classes, upon the people, will probably, if he have sufficient experience
of them, conclude that all classes are much alike, and that one is as good
as another, and that the liberties of no class are safe in the hands of the
rest. The higher ranks have the advantage in education and manners, the
middle and lower in industry and self-denial; in every class, to a certain
extent, a natural sense of right prevails, sometimes communicated from the
lower to the higher, sometimes from the higher to the lower, which is too
strong for class interests. There have been crises in the history of
nations, as at the time of the Crusades or the Reformation, or the French
Revolution, when the same inspiration has taken hold of whole peoples, and
permanently raised the sense of freedom and justice among mankind.
But even supposing the different classes of a nation, when viewed
impartially, to be on a level with each other in moral virtue, there remain
two considerations of opposite kinds which enter into the problem of
government. Admitting of course that the upper and lower classes are equal
in the eye of God and of the law, yet the one may be by nature fitted to
govern and the other to be governed. A ruling caste does not soon
altogether lose the governing qualities, nor a subject class easily acquire
them. Hence the phenomenon so often observed in the old Greek revolutions,
and not without parallel in modern times, that the leaders of the democracy
have been themselves of aristocratic origin. The people are expecting to
be governed by representatives of their own, but the true man of the people
either never appears, or is quickly altered by circumstances. Their real
wishes hardly make themselves felt, although their lower interests and
prejudices may sometimes be flattered and yielded to for the sake of
ulterior objects by those who have political power. They will often learn
by experience that the democracy has become a plutocracy. The influence of
wealth, though not the enjoyment of it, has become diffused among the poor
as well as among the rich; and society, instead of being safer, is more at
the mercy of the tyrant, who, when things are at the worst, obtains a
guard--that is, an army--and announces himself as the saviour.
The other consideration is of an opposite kind. Admitting that a few wise
men are likely to be better governors than the unwise many, yet it is not
in their power to fashion an entire people according to their behest. When
with the best intentions the benevolent despot begins his regime, he finds
the world hard to move. A succession of good kings has at the end of a
century left the people an inert and unchanged mass. The Roman world was
not permanently improved by the hundred years of Hadrian and the Antonines.
The kings of Spain during the last century were at least equal to any
contemporary sovereigns in virtue and ability. In certain states of the
world the means are wanting to render a benevolent power effectual. These
means are not a mere external organisation of posts or telegraphs, hardly
the introduction of new laws or modes of industry. A change must be made
in the spirit of a people as well as in their externals. The ancient
legislator did not really take a blank tablet and inscribe upon it the
rules which reflection and experience had taught him to be for a nation's
interest; no one would have obeyed him if he had. But he took the customs
which he found already existing in a half-civilised state of society:
these he reduced to form and inscribed on pillars; he defined what had
before been undefined, and gave certainty to what was uncertain. No
legislation ever sprang, like Athene, in full power out of the head either
of God or man.
Plato and Aristotle are sensible of the difficulty of combining the wisdom
of the few with the power of the many. According to Plato, he is a
physician who has the knowledge of a physician, and he is a king who has
the knowledge of a king. But how the king, one or more, is to obtain the
required power, is hardly at all considered by him. He presents the idea
of a perfect government, but except the regulation for mixing different
tempers in marriage, he never makes any provision for the attainment of it.
Aristotle, casting aside ideals, would place the government in a middle
class of citizens, sufficiently numerous for stability, without admitting
the populace; and such appears to have been the constitution which actually
prevailed for a short time at Athens--the rule of the Five Thousand--
characterized by Thucydides as the best government of Athens which he had
known. It may however be doubted how far, either in a Greek or modern
state, such a limitation is practicable or desirable; for those who are
left outside the pale will always be dangerous to those who are within,
while on the other hand the leaven of the mob can hardly affect the
representation of a great country. There is reason for the argument in
favour of a property qualification; there is reason also in the arguments
of those who would include all and so exhaust the political situation.
The true answer to the question is relative to the circumstances of
nations. How can we get the greatest intelligence combined with the
greatest power? The ancient legislator would have found this question more
easy than we do. For he would have required that all persons who had a
share of government should have received their education from the state and
have borne her burdens, and should have served in her fleets and armies.
But though we sometimes hear the cry that we must 'educate the masses, for
they are our masters,' who would listen to a proposal that the franchise
should be confined to the educated or to those who fulfil political duties?
Then again, we know that the masses are not our masters, and that they are
more likely to become so if we educate them. In modern politics so many
interests have to be consulted that we are compelled to do, not what is
best, but what is possible.
d. Law is the first principle of society, but it cannot supply all the
wants of society, and may easily cause more evils than it cures. Plato is
aware of the imperfection of law in failing to meet the varieties of
circumstances: he is also aware that human life would be intolerable if
every detail of it were placed under legal regulation. It may be a great
evil that physicians should kill their patients or captains cast away their
ships, but it would be a far greater evil if each particular in the
practice of medicine or seamanship were regulated by law. Much has been
said in modern times about the duty of leaving men to themselves, which is
supposed to be the best way of taking care of them. The question is often
asked, What are the limits of legislation in relation to morals? And the
answer is to the same effect, that morals must take care of themselves.
There is a one-sided truth in these answers, if they are regarded as
condemnations of the interference with commerce in the last century or of
clerical persecution in the Middle Ages. But 'laissez-faire' is not the
best but only the second best. What the best is, Plato does not attempt to
determine; he only contrasts the imperfection of law with the wisdom of the
Laws should be just, but they must also be certain, and we are obliged to
sacrifice something of their justice to their certainty. Suppose a wise
and good judge, who paying little or no regard to the law, attempted to
decide with perfect justice the cases that were brought before him. To the
uneducated person he would appear to be the ideal of a judge. Such justice
has been often exercised in primitive times, or at the present day among
eastern rulers. But in the first place it depends entirely on the personal
character of the judge. He may be honest, but there is no check upon his
dishonesty, and his opinion can only be overruled, not by any principle of
law, but by the opinion of another judging like himself without law. In
the second place, even if he be ever so honest, his mode of deciding
questions would introduce an element of uncertainty into human life; no one
would know beforehand what would happen to him, or would seek to conform in
his conduct to any rule of law. For the compact which the law makes with
men, that they shall be protected if they observe the law in their dealings
with one another, would have to be substituted another principle of a more
general character, that they shall be protected by the law if they act
rightly in their dealings with one another. The complexity of human
actions and also the uncertainty of their effects would be increased
tenfold. For one of the principal advantages of law is not merely that it
enforces honesty, but that it makes men act in the same way, and requires
them to produce the same evidence of their acts. Too many laws may be the
sign of a corrupt and overcivilized state of society, too few are the sign
of an uncivilized one; as soon as commerce begins to grow, men make
themselves customs which have the validity of laws. Even equity, which is
the exception to the law, conforms to fixed rules and lies for the most
part within the limits of previous decisions.
IV. The bitterness of the Statesman is characteristic of Plato's later
style, in which the thoughts of youth and love have fled away, and we are
no longer tended by the Muses or the Graces. We do not venture to say that
Plato was soured by old age, but certainly the kindliness and courtesy of
the earlier dialogues have disappeared. He sees the world under a harder
and grimmer aspect: he is dealing with the reality of things, not with
visions or pictures of them: he is seeking by the aid of dialectic only,
to arrive at truth. He is deeply impressed with the importance of
classification: in this alone he finds the true measure of human things;
and very often in the process of division curious results are obtained.
For the dialectical art is no respecter of persons: king and vermin-taker
are all alike to the philosopher. There may have been a time when the king
was a god, but he now is pretty much on a level with his subjects in
breeding and education. Man should be well advised that he is only one of
the animals, and the Hellene in particular should be aware that he himself
was the author of the distinction between Hellene and Barbarian, and that
the Phrygian would equally divide mankind into Phrygians and Barbarians,
and that some intelligent animal, like a crane, might go a step further,
and divide the animal world into cranes and all other animals. Plato
cannot help laughing (compare Theaet.) when he thinks of the king running
after his subjects, like the pig-driver or the bird-taker. He would
seriously have him consider how many competitors there are to his throne,
chiefly among the class of serving-men. A good deal of meaning is lurking
in the expression--'There is no art of feeding mankind worthy the name.'
There is a similar depth in the remark,--'The wonder about states is not
that they are short-lived, but that they last so long in spite of the
badness of their rulers.'
V. There is also a paradoxical element in the Statesman which delights in
reversing the accustomed use of words. The law which to the Greek was the
highest object of reverence is an ignorant and brutal tyrant--the tyrant is
converted into a beneficent king. The sophist too is no longer, as in the
earlier dialogues, the rival of the statesman, but assumes his form. Plato
sees that the ideal of the state in his own day is more and more severed
from the actual. From such ideals as he had once formed, he turns away to
contemplate the decline of the Greek cities which were far worse now in his
old age than they had been in his youth, and were to become worse and worse
in the ages which followed. He cannot contain his disgust at the
contemporary statesmen, sophists who had turned politicians, in various
forms of men and animals, appearing, some like lions and centaurs, others
like satyrs and monkeys. In this new disguise the Sophists make their last
appearance on the scene: in the Laws Plato appears to have forgotten them,
or at any rate makes only a slight allusion to them in a single passage
VI. The Statesman is naturally connected with the Sophist. At first sight
we are surprised to find that the Eleatic Stranger discourses to us, not
only concerning the nature of Being and Not-being, but concerning the king
and statesman. We perceive, however, that there is no inappropriateness in
his maintaining the character of chief speaker, when we remember the close
connexion which is assumed by Plato to exist between politics and
dialectic. In both dialogues the Proteus Sophist is exhibited, first, in
the disguise of an Eristic, secondly, of a false statesman. There are
several lesser features which the two dialogues have in common. The styles
and the situations of the speakers are very similar; there is the same love
of division, and in both of them the mind of the writer is greatly occupied
about method, to which he had probably intended to return in the projected
The Statesman stands midway between the Republic and the Laws, and is also
related to the Timaeus. The mythical or cosmical element reminds us of the
Timaeus, the ideal of the Republic. A previous chaos in which the elements
as yet were not, is hinted at both in the Timaeus and Statesman. The same
ingenious arts of giving verisimilitude to a fiction are practised in both
dialogues, and in both, as well as in the myth at the end of the Republic,
Plato touches on the subject of necessity and free-will. The words in
which he describes the miseries of states seem to be an amplification of
the 'Cities will never cease from ill' of the Republic. The point of view
in both is the same; and the differences not really important, e.g. in the
myth, or in the account of the different kinds of states. But the
treatment of the subject in the Statesman is fragmentary, and the shorter
and later work, as might be expected, is less finished, and less worked out
in detail. The idea of measure and the arrangement of the sciences supply
connecting links both with the Republic and the Philebus.
More than any of the preceding dialogues, the Statesman seems to
approximate in thought and language to the Laws. There is the same decline
and tendency to monotony in style, the same self-consciousness,
awkwardness, and over-civility; and in the Laws is contained the pattern of
that second best form of government, which, after all, is admitted to be
the only attainable one in this world. The 'gentle violence,' the marriage
of dissimilar natures, the figure of the warp and the woof, are also found
in the Laws. Both expressly recognize the conception of a first or ideal
state, which has receded into an invisible heaven. Nor does the account of
the origin and growth of society really differ in them, if we make
allowance for the mythic character of the narrative in the Statesman. The
virtuous tyrant is common to both of them; and the Eleatic Stranger takes
up a position similar to that of the Athenian Stranger in the Laws.
VII. There would have been little disposition to doubt the genuineness of
the Sophist and Statesman, if they had been compared with the Laws rather
than with the Republic, and the Laws had been received, as they ought to
be, on the authority of Aristotle and on the ground of their intrinsic
excellence, as an undoubted work of Plato. The detailed consideration of
the genuineness and order of the Platonic dialogues has been reserved for
another place: a few of the reasons for defending the Sophist and
Statesman may be given here.
1. The excellence, importance, and metaphysical originality of the two
dialogues: no works at once so good and of such length are known to have
proceeded from the hands of a forger.
2. The resemblances in them to other dialogues of Plato are such as might
be expected to be found in works of the same author, and not in those of an
imitator, being too subtle and minute to have been invented by another.
The similar passages and turns of thought are generally inferior to the
parallel passages in his earlier writings; and we might a priori have
expected that, if altered, they would have been improved. But the
comparison of the Laws proves that this repetition of his own thoughts and
words in an inferior form is characteristic of Plato's later style.
3. The close connexion of them with the Theaetetus, Parmenides, and
Philebus, involves the fate of these dialogues, as well as of the two
4. The suspicion of them seems mainly to rest on a presumption that in
Plato's writings we may expect to find an uniform type of doctrine and
opinion. But however we arrange the order, or narrow the circle of the
dialogues, we must admit that they exhibit a growth and progress in the
mind of Plato. And the appearance of change or progress is not to be
regarded as impugning the genuineness of any particular writings, but may
be even an argument in their favour. If we suppose the Sophist and
Politicus to stand halfway between the Republic and the Laws, and in near
connexion with the Theaetetus, the Parmenides, the Philebus, the arguments
against them derived from differences of thought and style disappear or may
be said without paradox in some degree to confirm their genuineness. There
is no such interval between the Republic or Phaedrus and the two suspected
dialogues, as that which separates all the earlier writings of Plato from
the Laws. And the Theaetetus, Parmenides, and Philebus, supply links, by
which, however different from them, they may be reunited with the great
body of the Platonic writings.
Translated by Benjamin Jowett
PERSONS OF THE DIALOGUE:
Theodorus, Socrates, The Eleatic Stranger, The Younger Socrates.
SOCRATES: I owe you many thanks, indeed, Theodorus, for the acquaintance
both of Theaetetus and of the Stranger.
THEODORUS: And in a little while, Socrates, you will owe me three times as
many, when they have completed for you the delineation of the Statesman and
of the Philosopher, as well as of the Sophist.
SOCRATES: Sophist, statesman, philosopher! O my dear Theodorus, do my
ears truly witness that this is the estimate formed of them by the great
calculator and geometrician?
THEODORUS: What do you mean, Socrates?
SOCRATES: I mean that you rate them all at the same value, whereas they
are really separated by an interval, which no geometrical ratio can
THEODORUS: By Ammon, the god of Cyrene, Socrates, that is a very fair hit;
and shows that you have not forgotten your geometry. I will retaliate on
you at some other time, but I must now ask the Stranger, who will not, I
hope, tire of his goodness to us, to proceed either with the Statesman or
with the Philosopher, whichever he prefers.
STRANGER: That is my duty, Theodorus; having begun I must go on, and not
leave the work unfinished. But what shall be done with Theaetetus?
THEODORUS: In what respect?
STRANGER: Shall we relieve him, and take his companion, the Young
Socrates, instead of him? What do you advise?
THEODORUS: Yes, give the other a turn, as you propose. The young always
do better when they have intervals of rest.
SOCRATES: I think, Stranger, that both of them may be said to be in some
way related to me; for the one, as you affirm, has the cut of my ugly face
(compare Theaet.), the other is called by my name. And we should always be
on the look-out to recognize a kinsman by the style of his conversation. I
myself was discoursing with Theaetetus yesterday, and I have just been
listening to his answers; my namesake I have not yet examined, but I must.
Another time will do for me; to-day let him answer you.
STRANGER: Very good. Young Socrates, do you hear what the elder Socrates
YOUNG SOCRATES: I do.
STRANGER: And do you agree to his proposal?
YOUNG SOCRATES: Certainly.
STRANGER: As you do not object, still less can I. After the Sophist,
then, I think that the Statesman naturally follows next in the order of
enquiry. And please to say, whether he, too, should be ranked among those
who have science.
YOUNG SOCRATES: Yes.
STRANGER: Then the sciences must be divided as before?
YOUNG SOCRATES: I dare say.
STRANGER: But yet the division will not be the same?
YOUNG SOCRATES: How then?
STRANGER: They will be divided at some other point.
YOUNG SOCRATES: Yes.
STRANGER: Where shall we discover the path of the Statesman? We must find
and separate off, and set our seal upon this, and we will set the mark of
another class upon all diverging paths. Thus the soul will conceive of all
kinds of knowledge under two classes.
YOUNG SOCRATES: To find the path is your business, Stranger, and not mine.
STRANGER: Yes, Socrates, but the discovery, when once made, must be yours
as well as mine.
YOUNG SOCRATES: Very good.
STRANGER: Well, and are not arithmetic and certain other kindred arts,
merely abstract knowledge, wholly separated from action?
YOUNG SOCRATES: True.
STRANGER: But in the art of carpentering and all other handicrafts, the
knowledge of the workman is merged in his work; he not only knows, but he
also makes things which previously did not exist.
YOUNG SOCRATES: Certainly.
STRANGER: Then let us divide sciences in general into those which are
practical and those which are purely intellectual.
YOUNG SOCRATES: Let us assume these two divisions of science, which is one
STRANGER: And are 'statesman,' 'king,' 'master,' or 'householder,' one and
the same; or is there a science or art answering to each of these names?
Or rather, allow me to put the matter in another way.
YOUNG SOCRATES: Let me hear.
STRANGER: If any one who is in a private station has the skill to advise
one of the public physicians, must not he also be called a physician?
YOUNG SOCRATES: Yes.
STRANGER: And if any one who is in a private station is able to advise the
ruler of a country, may not he be said to have the knowledge which the
ruler himself ought to have?
YOUNG SOCRATES: True.
STRANGER: But surely the science of a true king is royal science?
YOUNG SOCRATES: Yes.
STRANGER: And will not he who possesses this knowledge, whether he happens
to be a ruler or a private man, when regarded only in reference to his art,
be truly called 'royal'?
YOUNG SOCRATES: He certainly ought to be.
STRANGER: And the householder and master are the same?
YOUNG SOCRATES: Of course.
STRANGER: Again, a large household may be compared to a small state:--will
they differ at all, as far as government is concerned?
YOUNG SOCRATES: They will not.
STRANGER: Then, returning to the point which we were just now discussing,
do we not clearly see that there is one science of all of them; and this
science may be called either royal or political or economical; we will not
quarrel with any one about the name.
YOUNG SOCRATES: Certainly not.
STRANGER: This too, is evident, that the king cannot do much with his
hands, or with his whole body, towards the maintenance of his empire,
compared with what he does by the intelligence and strength of his mind.
YOUNG SOCRATES: Clearly not.
STRANGER: Then, shall we say that the king has a greater affinity to
knowledge than to manual arts and to practical life in general?
YOUNG SOCRATES: Certainly he has.
STRANGER: Then we may put all together as one and the same--statesmanship
and the statesman--the kingly science and the king.
YOUNG SOCRATES: Clearly.
STRANGER: And now we shall only be proceeding in due order if we go on to
divide the sphere of knowledge?
YOUNG SOCRATES: Very good.
STRANGER: Think whether you can find any joint or parting in knowledge.
YOUNG SOCRATES: Tell me of what sort.
STRANGER: Such as this: You may remember that we made an art of
YOUNG SOCRATES: Yes.
STRANGER: Which was, unmistakeably, one of the arts of knowledge?
YOUNG SOCRATES: Certainly.
STRANGER: And to this art of calculation which discerns the differences of
numbers shall we assign any other function except to pass judgment on their
YOUNG SOCRATES: How could we?
STRANGER: You know that the master-builder does not work himself, but is
the ruler of workmen?
YOUNG SOCRATES: Yes.
STRANGER: He contributes knowledge, not manual labour?
YOUNG SOCRATES: True.
STRANGER: And may therefore be justly said to share in theoretical
YOUNG SOCRATES: Quite true.
STRANGER: But he ought not, like the calculator, to regard his functions
as at an end when he has formed a judgment;--he must assign to the
individual workmen their appropriate task until they have completed the
YOUNG SOCRATES: True.
STRANGER: Are not all such sciences, no less than arithmetic and the like,
subjects of pure knowledge; and is not the difference between the two
classes, that the one sort has the power of judging only, and the other of
ruling as well?
YOUNG SOCRATES: That is evident.
STRANGER: May we not very properly say, that of all knowledge, there are
two divisions--one which rules, and the other which judges?
YOUNG SOCRATES: I should think so.
STRANGER: And when men have anything to do in common, that they should be
of one mind is surely a desirable thing?
YOUNG SOCRATES: Very true.
STRANGER: Then while we are at unity among ourselves, we need not mind
about the fancies of others?
YOUNG SOCRATES: Certainly not.
STRANGER: And now, in which of these divisions shall we place the king?--
Is he a judge and a kind of spectator? Or shall we assign to him the art
of command--for he is a ruler?
YOUNG SOCRATES: The latter, clearly.
STRANGER: Then we must see whether there is any mark of division in the
art of command too. I am inclined to think that there is a distinction
similar to that of manufacturer and retail dealer, which parts off the king
from the herald.
YOUNG SOCRATES: How is this?
STRANGER: Why, does not the retailer receive and sell over again the
productions of others, which have been sold before?
YOUNG SOCRATES: Certainly he does.
STRANGER: And is not the herald under command, and does he not receive
orders, and in his turn give them to others?
YOUNG SOCRATES: Very true.
STRANGER: Then shall we mingle the kingly art in the same class with the
art of the herald, the interpreter, the boatswain, the prophet, and the
numerous kindred arts which exercise command; or, as in the preceding
comparison we spoke of manufacturers, or sellers for themselves, and of
retailers,--seeing, too, that the class of supreme rulers, or rulers for
themselves, is almost nameless--shall we make a word following the same
analogy, and refer kings to a supreme or ruling-for-self science, leaving
the rest to receive a name from some one else? For we are seeking the
ruler; and our enquiry is not concerned with him who is not a ruler.
YOUNG SOCRATES: Very good.
STRANGER: Thus a very fair distinction has been attained between the man
who gives his own commands, and him who gives another's. And now let us
see if the supreme power allows of any further division.
YOUNG SOCRATES: By all means.
STRANGER: I think that it does; and please to assist me in making the
YOUNG SOCRATES: At what point?
STRANGER: May not all rulers be supposed to command for the sake of
YOUNG SOCRATES: Certainly.
STRANGER: Nor is there any difficulty in dividing the things produced into
YOUNG SOCRATES: How would you divide them?
STRANGER: Of the whole class, some have life and some are without life.
YOUNG SOCRATES: True.
STRANGER: And by the help of this distinction we may make, if we please, a
subdivision of the section of knowledge which commands.
YOUNG SOCRATES: At what point?
STRANGER: One part may be set over the production of lifeless, the other
of living objects; and in this way the whole will be divided.
YOUNG SOCRATES: Certainly.
STRANGER: That division, then, is complete; and now we may leave one half,
and take up the other; which may also be divided into two.
YOUNG SOCRATES: Which of the two halves do you mean?
STRANGER: Of course that which exercises command about animals. For,
surely, the royal science is not like that of a master-workman, a science
presiding over lifeless objects;--the king has a nobler function, which is
the management and control of living beings.
YOUNG SOCRATES: True.
STRANGER: And the breeding and tending of living beings may be observed to
be sometimes a tending of the individual; in other cases, a common care of
creatures in flocks?
YOUNG SOCRATES: True.
STRANGER: But the statesman is not a tender of individuals--not like the
driver or groom of a single ox or horse; he is rather to be compared with
the keeper of a drove of horses or oxen.
YOUNG SOCRATES: Yes, I see, thanks to you.
STRANGER: Shall we call this art of tending many animals together, the art
of managing a herd, or the art of collective management?
YOUNG SOCRATES: No matter;--whichever suggests itself to us in the course
STRANGER: Very good, Socrates; and, if you continue to be not too
particular about names, you will be all the richer in wisdom when you are
an old man. And now, as you say, leaving the discussion of the name,--can
you see a way in which a person, by showing the art of herding to be of two
kinds, may cause that which is now sought amongst twice the number of
things, to be then sought amongst half that number?
YOUNG SOCRATES: I will try;--there appears to me to be one management of
men and another of beasts.
STRANGER: You have certainly divided them in a most straightforward and
manly style; but you have fallen into an error which hereafter I think that
we had better avoid.
YOUNG SOCRATES: What is the error?
STRANGER: I think that we had better not cut off a single small portion
which is not a species, from many larger portions; the part should be a
species. To separate off at once the subject of investigation, is a most
excellent plan, if only the separation be rightly made; and you were under
the impression that you were right, because you saw that you would come to
man; and this led you to hasten the steps. But you should not chip off too
small a piece, my friend; the safer way is to cut through the middle; which
is also the more likely way of finding classes. Attention to this
principle makes all the difference in a process of enquiry.
YOUNG SOCRATES: What do you mean, Stranger?
STRANGER: I will endeavour to speak more plainly out of love to your good
parts, Socrates; and, although I cannot at present entirely explain myself,
I will try, as we proceed, to make my meaning a little clearer.
YOUNG SOCRATES: What was the error of which, as you say, we were guilty in
our recent division?
STRANGER: The error was just as if some one who wanted to divide the human
race, were to divide them after the fashion which prevails in this part of
the world; here they cut off the Hellenes as one species, and all the other
species of mankind, which are innumerable, and have no ties or common
language, they include under the single name of 'barbarians,' and because
they have one name they are supposed to be of one species also. Or suppose
that in dividing numbers you were to cut off ten thousand from all the
rest, and make of it one species, comprehending the rest under another
separate name, you might say that here too was a single class, because you
had given it a single name. Whereas you would make a much better and more
equal and logical classification of numbers, if you divided them into odd
and even; or of the human species, if you divided them into male and
female; and only separated off Lydians or Phrygians, or any other tribe,
and arrayed them against the rest of the world, when you could no longer
make a division into parts which were also classes.
YOUNG SOCRATES: Very true; but I wish that this distinction between a part
and a class could still be made somewhat plainer.
STRANGER: O Socrates, best of men, you are imposing upon me a very
difficult task. We have already digressed further from our original
intention than we ought, and you would have us wander still further away.
But we must now return to our subject; and hereafter, when there is a
leisure hour, we will follow up the other track; at the same time, I wish
you to guard against imagining that you ever heard me declare--
YOUNG SOCRATES: What?
STRANGER: That a class and a part are distinct.
YOUNG SOCRATES: What did I hear, then?
STRANGER: That a class is necessarily a part, but there is no similar
necessity that a part should be a class; that is the view which I should
always wish you to attribute to me, Socrates.
YOUNG SOCRATES: So be it.
STRANGER: There is another thing which I should like to know.
YOUNG SOCRATES: What is it?
STRANGER: The point at which we digressed; for, if I am not mistaken, the
exact place was at the question, Where you would divide the management of
herds. To this you appeared rather too ready to answer that there were two
species of animals; man being one, and all brutes making up the other.
YOUNG SOCRATES: True.
STRANGER: I thought that in taking away a part, you imagined that the
remainder formed a class, because you were able to call them by the common
name of brutes.
YOUNG SOCRATES: That again is true.
STRANGER: Suppose now, O most courageous of dialecticians, that some wise
and understanding creature, such as a crane is reputed to be, were, in
imitation of you, to make a similar division, and set up cranes against all
other animals to their own special glorification, at the same time jumbling
together all the others, including man, under the appellation of brutes,--
here would be the sort of error which we must try to avoid.
YOUNG SOCRATES: How can we be safe?
STRANGER: If we do not divide the whole class of animals, we shall be less
likely to fall into that error.
YOUNG SOCRATES: We had better not take the whole?
STRANGER: Yes, there lay the source of error in our former division.
YOUNG SOCRATES: How?
STRANGER: You remember how that part of the art of knowledge which was
concerned with command, had to do with the rearing of living creatures,--I
mean, with animals in herds?
YOUNG SOCRATES: Yes.
STRANGER: In that case, there was already implied a division of all
animals into tame and wild; those whose nature can be tamed are called
tame, and those which cannot be tamed are called wild.
YOUNG SOCRATES: True.
STRANGER: And the political science of which we are in search, is and ever
was concerned with tame animals, and is also confined to gregarious
YOUNG SOCRATES: Yes.
STRANGER: But then we ought not to divide, as we did, taking the whole
class at once. Neither let us be in too great haste to arrive quickly at
the political science; for this mistake has already brought upon us the
misfortune of which the proverb speaks.
YOUNG SOCRATES: What misfortune?
STRANGER: The misfortune of too much haste, which is too little speed.
YOUNG SOCRATES: And all the better, Stranger;--we got what we deserved.
STRANGER: Very well: Let us then begin again, and endeavour to divide the
collective rearing of animals; for probably the completion of the argument
will best show what you are so anxious to know. Tell me, then--
YOUNG SOCRATES: What?
STRANGER: Have you ever heard, as you very likely may--for I do not
suppose that you ever actually visited them--of the preserves of fishes in
the Nile, and in the ponds of the Great King; or you may have seen similar
preserves in wells at home?
YOUNG SOCRATES: Yes, to be sure, I have seen them, and I have often heard
the others described.
STRANGER: And you may have heard also, and may have been assured by
report, although you have not travelled in those regions, of nurseries of
geese and cranes in the plains of Thessaly?
YOUNG SOCRATES: Certainly.
STRANGER: I asked you, because here is a new division of the management of
herds, into the management of land and of water herds.
YOUNG SOCRATES: There is.
STRANGER: And do you agree that we ought to divide the collective rearing
of herds into two corresponding parts, the one the rearing of water, and
the other the rearing of land herds?
YOUNG SOCRATES: Yes.
STRANGER: There is surely no need to ask which of these two contains the
royal art, for it is evident to everybody.
YOUNG SOCRATES: Certainly.
STRANGER: Any one can divide the herds which feed on dry land?
YOUNG SOCRATES: How would you divide them?
STRANGER: I should distinguish between those which fly and those which
YOUNG SOCRATES: Most true.
STRANGER: And where shall we look for the political animal? Might not an
idiot, so to speak, know that he is a pedestrian?
YOUNG SOCRATES: Certainly.
STRANGER: The art of managing the walking animal has to be further
divided, just as you might halve an even number.
YOUNG SOCRATES: Clearly.
STRANGER: Let me note that here appear in view two ways to that part or
class which the argument aims at reaching,--the one a speedier way, which
cuts off a small portion and leaves a large; the other agrees better with
the principle which we were laying down, that as far as we can we should
divide in the middle; but it is longer. We can take either of them,
whichever we please.
YOUNG SOCRATES: Cannot we have both ways?
STRANGER: Together? What a thing to ask! but, if you take them in turn,
you clearly may.
YOUNG SOCRATES: Then I should like to have them in turn.
STRANGER: There will be no difficulty, as we are near the end; if we had
been at the beginning, or in the middle, I should have demurred to your
request; but now, in accordance with your desire, let us begin with the
longer way; while we are fresh, we shall get on better. And now attend to
YOUNG SOCRATES: Let me hear.
STRANGER: The tame walking herding animals are distributed by nature into
YOUNG SOCRATES: Upon what principle?
STRANGER: The one grows horns; and the other is without horns.
YOUNG SOCRATES: Clearly.
STRANGER: Suppose that you divide the science which manages pedestrian
animals into two corresponding parts, and define them; for if you try to
invent names for them, you will find the intricacy too great.
YOUNG SOCRATES: How must I speak of them, then?
STRANGER: In this way: let the science of managing pedestrian animals be
divided into two parts, and one part assigned to the horned herd, and the
other to the herd that has no horns.
YOUNG SOCRATES: All that you say has been abundantly proved, and may
therefore be assumed.
STRANGER: The king is clearly the shepherd of a polled herd, who have no
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