All the wisdom of the ancient world was powerless against the sceptics. Faith in truth was extinct; faith in human nature was gone; philosophy was impossible. And, though the influence of Socrates continued to be felt in the field of ethics, the ethics of the Greeks were at best narrow and egotistical. What a light was poured upon all questions of morality by that one divine axiom, "Love your enemy." No Greek ever attained the sublimity of such a point of view. Still, the progress made by the Greeks was immense, and they must ever occupy in the history of humanity an honourable place.
III.—Philosophy and Science
Francis Bacon is the father of experimental philosophy. He owes his title to his method. Many philosophers, ancient and modern, had cursorily referred to observation and experiment as furnishing the materials of physical knowledge; but no one before him had attempted to systematise the true method of discovery.
He begins his great work by examining into the permanent causes of error, as these were likely to be operative even after the reformation of science. For this reason he calls them idols, or false appearances (from the Greek, eidolon), and he divides them into four classes: the idols of the tribe, or the causes of error due to the general defects of the human mind; the idols of the den, which spring from weaknesses peculiar to the character of the individual student; the idols of the forum, which arise out of the intercourse of society and the power that words sometimes have of governing thought; and, finally, the idols of the theatre, which men of great learning pursue when they follow the systems of famous but mistaken thinkers.
After this preliminary discussion, Bacon goes on to describe the methods of inductive science. The first step consists in preparing a history of the phenomena to be explained in all their modifications and varieties. This history must include not merely such facts as spontaneously offer themselves, but all experiments instituted for the sake of discovery. It must be composed with great care; the facts should be accurately related and distinctly arranged, and their authenticity diligently examined; those that rest on doubtful evidence should not be rejected, but noted as uncertain, with the grounds of the judgment so formed. This last part of the method, says Bacon, is very necessary, for facts often appear incredible only because we are ill-informed, and they cease to seem marvellous when our knowledge is further extended.
When this record of facts, this "natural history," is completed, an attempt may then be made to discover, by a comparison of the various facts, the cause of the phenomena. Here it is of the utmost importance to bear in mind that all facts have not the same value. There are, as Bacon points out, twenty-seven species of facts, and he concludes that in any science where facts cannot be tested by experiment there can be no conclusive evidence.
Thus it will be seen that Bacon's method was a system of specific rules. He did not merely tell men to make observations and experiments; he taught them how observations and experiments ought to be made.
As Bacon was the father of modern science, so Rene Descartes was the father of modern philosophy. Born in 1596, and perplexed by the movement of scepticism produced by the Renaissance, the French thinker endeavoured to find some ground of certainty in the fact that he at least knew of his own existence. Hence his famous saying: Cogito, ergo sum—"I think, therefore I exist." Consciousness, said he, is the basis of all knowledge. The process then is simple: examine your consciousness, and its clear replies will be science. Hence the vital portion of his system lies in this axiom: "All clear ideas are true."
The fallacy in his system can be briefly exposed. Consciousness is, no doubt, the ultimate ground of certainty of existence for me. But though I am conscious of all that passes within myself, I am not conscious of what passes in anything not myself. All that I can possibly know of anything not myself lies in its effects upon me. Any other ideas I may have in regard to the outside world are founded only on inferences, and directly I leave the ground of consciousness for the region of inference my knowledge becomes questionable.
It was this defect in Cartesianism which Baruch Spinoza, the great Jewish thinker of Amsterdam, set out to rectify. Spinoza asked himself: What was the reality which lies beneath all appearance? We see everywhere transformations perishable and perishing, yet there must be something beneath which is imperishable and immutable. What is it? In Spinoza's view, the absolute existence is God. All that exists, exists in and by God. Taking the words of St. Paul, "In Him we live and move and have our being," as his motto, he undertook to trace the relations of the world to God and to man, and those of man to society.
To John Locke, born at Wrington, in Somerset, in 1632, the problem presented itself in another way. Instead of accepting the validity of clear ideas, as Descartes and Spinoza did, he adopted the Baconian method, and opened the inquiry into the origin and formation of ideas. Separating himself from the philosophers who held that the mind was capable of arriving at knowledge independent of experience, and from the sceptics who maintained that the senses were the only channels of information, he showed that ideas were derived from two sources—sensation and reflection.
He was succeeded by George Berkeley, Bishop of Cloyne, born at Kilcrin in Kilkenny, in 1684. He defeated the sceptics on their own ground. There is nothing in the world, he says, except our own sensations and ideas. In order to exist for us, things have to be perceived by the mind; therefore, everything, in order to exist, must exist in the mind of God. But when Berkeley had proved that matter was figment, David Hume, born in 1711, came forward and showed that mind was also an illusion. You know nothing of matter, said Berkeley; you have only perceptions and the ideas based thereon. You know nothing of mind, replied Hume; you have only a succession of sensations and ideas.
Against Hume rose up in Germany a famous school of philosophers beginning with Immanuel Kant, who was born in Prussia in 1724. Kant attempted to prove that the human reason was not untrustworthy, as Hume assumed, but limited, and that, within certain bounds, it was capable of arriving at practical truths. Kant's disciples, however, were not content with this modest restatement. Taking it too readily for granted that Hume's objections had been overcome, they proceeded to revive that unbounded faith in mere speculation which had been the distemper of the Greek mind. Fichte and Schelling were the first thinkers of note to attempt again to solve by logic the mystery of the universe.
But their works are now obscured by the achievement of Hegel, who began to teach at Berlin in 1818. Hegel holds that the real universe is a universe of ideas to which his philosophy is the key, but, as ideas realise themselves in space and time, they come within the scope of the man of science. It is said that all bad German systems of philosophy when they die come to England. Hegelianism has certainly been very fashionable in this country, and its influence is still observable in academic circles.
Auguste Comte is the Bacon of the nineteenth century. It has been his object to construct a positive philosophy; that is to say, a doctrine capable of embracing all the sciences, and, with them, all the problems of social life. He holds that every branch of knowledge passes through three stages: the supernatural, or fictitious; the metaphysical or abstract; the positive or scientific. When the positive method is adopted, then shall we again have one general doctrine, powerful because general.
The metaphysicians have failed to penetrate to the causes of things, but the men of science are succeeding in the humbler but far more useful work of tracing some of the laws that govern the phenomena of nature, and foreseeing their operations. It is only where the philosophers started matters capable of positive treatment that any advance has been made in metaphysics. For the rest, philosophy leaves us in the nineteenth century at precisely the same point at which we were in the fifth. Thus is the circle completed.
Concerning the Human Understanding
John Locke was born at Wrington, Somersetshire, England, Aug. 29, 1632. He was educated at Westminster and at Christ Church, Oxford; but his temperament rebelled against the system of education still in vogue and the public disputations of the schools, which he thought "invented for wrangling and ostentation rather than to discover truth." It was his study of Descartes that first "gave him a relish of philosophical things." From 1683 to 1689 he found it prudent to sojourn in Holland. In the latter year he returned to England, bringing with him the manuscript of the "Essay Concerning Human Understanding," which appeared in the spring of 1690. Few works of philosophy have made their way more rapidly than the "Essay." Twenty editions appeared before 1700. The design of the book, Locke explains in the introduction, is to inquire "into the origin, certainty, and extent of human knowledge, together with the grounds and degrees of belief, opinion, and assent." Locke died on October 28, 1704.
I.—The Nature of Simple Ideas
"Idea" being that term which, I think, serves best to stand for whatsoever is the object of the understanding. I have used it to express whatever is meant by phantasm, notion, species, or whatever it is the mind can be employed about in thinking. Let us, then, suppose the mind to be, as we say, white paper void of all characters—without any ideas. Whence comes it by that vast store which the busy and boundless fancy of man has painted on it with an almost endless variety? To this, I answer in one word—Experience; in that all our knowledge is founded, and from that it ultimately derives itself.
Let anyone examine his own thoughts and thoroughly search his understanding, and then let him tell me whether of all the original ideas he has there are any other than of the objects of his senses, or of the observations of his mind considered as objects of his reflection. Though the qualities that affect our senses are, in the things themselves, so united and blended that there is no separation, no distance between them, yet it is plain the ideas they produce in the mind enter by the senses simple and unmixed. For, though the sight and touch often take in from the same object at the same time different ideas, yet the simple ideas thus united in the same subject are as perfectly distinct as those that come in by different senses; the coldness and hardness which a man feels in a piece of ice being as distinct ideas in the mind as the smell and whiteness of a lily, and each of them being in itself uncompounded, contains nothing but one uniform appearance, or conception, in the mind, and is not distinguishable into different ideas.
When the understanding is once stored with these simple ideas, it has the power to repeat, compare, and unite them even to an almost infinite variety, and so can make at will new complex ideas. But it is not in the power of any most exalted wit or enlarged understanding, by any quickness or variety of thought, to invent or frame one new simple idea in the mind, nor to destroy those that are there. I would have anyone try to fancy any taste which had never affected his palate, or frame the idea of a scent he had never smelt; and when he can do this, I will also conclude that a blind man hath ideas of colours and a deaf man true, distinct notions of sound.
There are some ideas which have admittance only through one sense which is peculiarly adapted to receive them. Thus, light and colours come in only by the eye, all kinds of noises by the ear, the tastes and smells by the nose and palate. The most considerable of those belonging to the touch are heat, cold, and solidity—which is the idea that belongs to the body, whereby we conceive it to fill space.
Simple ideas of divers senses are the ideas of space or extension, figure, rest, and motion, for these make perceivable impressions both on the eyes and touch, and we can receive and convey into our minds the ideas of the extension, figure, motion, and rest of bodies both by seeing and feeling.
The mind, receiving the ideas mentioned in the foregoing from without, when it turns its view inward upon itself and observes its own actions about those ideas it has, takes from thence other ideas which are as capable to be the objects of its contemplation as any of those it received from foreign things. The two great and principal actions of the mind which are most frequently considered, and which are so frequent that everyone that pleases may take notice of them in himself, are these two—Perception or Thinking, and Volition or Will. The power of thinking is called the Understanding, and the power of volition is called the Will. And these two powers, or abilities, in the mind are denominated Faculties. Some of the modes of these simple ideas of reflection are remembrance, discerning, reasoning, judging, knowledge, faith.
It has, further, pleased our wise Creator to annex to several objects and to the ideas which we receive from them, as also to several of our thoughts, a concomitant pleasure, and that in several objects to several degrees, that those faculties which He has endowed us with might not remain wholly idle and unemployed by us. Pain has the same efficacy and use to set us on work that pleasure has, we being as ready to employ our faculties to avoid that as to pursue this.
Existence and unity are two other ideas that are suggested to the understanding by every object without and every idea within. Power, also, is another of those simple ideas which we receive from sensation and reflection; and, besides these, there is succession.
Nor let anyone think these too narrow bounds for the capacious mind of man to expatiate in, which takes its flight farther than the stars and cannot be confined by the limits of the world, that extends its thoughts often even beyond the utmost expansion of matter and makes excursions into that incomprehensible inane. Nor will it be so strange to think these few simple ideas sufficient to employ the quickest thought or largest capacity if we consider how many words may be made out of the various composition of twenty-four letters; or if, going one step farther, we will but reflect on the variety of combinations that may be made with barely one of the above-mentioned ideas, viz., number, whose stock is inexhaustible. And what a large and immense field doth extension alone afford the mathematicians!
II.—Of Idea-Producing Qualities
The power to produce any idea in our mind I call Quality of the subject wherein that power is. Qualities are, first, such as are utterly inseparable from the body in what state soever it be. These I call original or primary qualities, which I think we may observe to produce simple ideas in us, viz., solidity, extension, figure, motion or rest, and number.
Secondly, such qualities which in truth are nothing in the objects themselves, but powers to produce various sensations in us by their primary qualities, i.e., by the bulk, figure, texture, and motion of their insensible parts. These secondary qualities are colours, sounds, tastes, etc. From whence I think it is easy to draw this observation: that the ideas of primary qualities of bodies are resemblances of them, but the ideas produced in us by the secondary qualities have no resemblance in them at all.
If anyone will consider that the same fire that at one distance produces in us the sensation of warmth does, at a nearer approach, produce in us the far different sensation of pain, let him bethink himself what reason he has to say that his idea of warmth, which was produced in him by fire, is actually in the fire; and his idea of pain which the same fire produced in him in the same way, is not in the fire. The particular bulk, number, figure, and motion of the parts of fire or snow are really in them, whether anyone's senses perceive them or not; and, therefore, they may be called real qualities, because they really exist in those bodies. But light, heat, whiteness, or coldness are no more really in them than sickness or pain is in manna. Take away the sensation of them; let not the eyes see light or colours, nor the ears hear sounds; let the palate not taste, nor the nose smell; and all colours, tastes, odours, and sounds, as they are such particular ideas, vanish and cease, and are reduced to their causes, i.e., bulk, figure, and motion of parts.
III.—Various Faculties of the Mind
What perception is everyone will know better by reflecting on what he does himself when he sees, hears, feels, etc., or thinks, than by any discourse of mine. This is certain, that whatever alterations are made in the body, if they reach not the mind, whatever impressions are made on the outward parts, if they are not taken notice of within, there is no perception.
We ought further to consider concerning perception, that the ideas we receive by sensation are often in grown people altered by the judgment without our taking any notice of it. When we set before our eyes a round globe of any uniform colour—e.g., gold, alabaster, or jet—it is certain that the idea thereby imprinted in our mind is of a flat circle variously shadowed with several degrees of light and brightness coming to our eyes. But we having by use been accustomed to perceive what kind of appearances convex bodies are wont to make in us, what alterations are made in the reflections of light by the difference of the sensible figures of bodies, the judgment presently, by an habitual custom, alters the appearances into their causes; so that from that which is truly a variety of shadow or colour collecting the figure, it makes it pass for a mark of figure, and frames to itself the perception of a convex figure and a uniform colour, when the idea we receive from thence is only a plane variously coloured, as is evident in painting. Perception, then, is the first operation of our intellectual faculties, and the inlet of all knowledge into our minds.
The next faculty of the mind whereby it makes a further progress towards knowledge is that which I call Retention, or the keeping of those simple ideas which from sensation or reflection it hath received. This is done, first, by keeping the idea which is brought into it for some time actually in view, which is called Contemplation. The other way of retention is the power to revive again in our minds those ideas which after imprinting have disappeared, or have been, as it were, laid aside out of sight; and thus we do when we conceive heat or light, yellow or sweet, the object being removed. This is memory, which is, as it were, the storehouse of our ideas.
Another faculty we may take notice of in our minds is that of Discerning, and distinguishing between the several ideas it has. It is not enough to have a confused perception of something in general. Unless the mind had a distinct perception of different objects and their qualities, it would be capable of very little knowledge, though the bodies that affect us were as busy about us as they are now, and the mind were continually employed in thinking. On this faculty of distinguishing one thing from another depends the evidence and certainty of several even very general propositions which have passed for innate truths, because men, overlooking the true cause why those propositions find universal assent, impute it wholly to native uniform impressions; whereas it, in truth, depends upon this clear discerning faculty of the mind, whereby it perceives two ideas to be the same or different.
The comparing of ideas one with another is the operation of the mind upon which depends all that large tribe of ideas comprehended under relations. The next operation is composition, whereby the mind puts together several simple ideas and combines them into complex ones.
The use of words being to stand as outward marks of our internal ideas, and those ideas being taken from particular things, if every particular idea that we take in should have a distinct name, names must be endless. To prevent this, the mind makes the particular ideas received from particular objects to become general, which is done by considering them as they are in the mind, and such appearances separate from all other existences, and from the circumstances of real existence, as time, place, or any other concomitant ideas. This is called Abstraction, whereby ideas taken from particular being become general representatives of all of the same kind. Thus, the same colour being observed to-day in chalk or snow which the mind yesterday received from milk, it considers that that appearance alone makes it a representative of all of that kind; and having given it the name "whiteness," it by that sound signifies the same quality wheresoever imagined or met with; and thus universals, whether ideas or terms, are made.
As the mind is wholly passive in the reception of all its simple ideas, so it exerts several acts of its own, whereby, out of its simple ideas, as the materials and foundations of the rest the others are framed. And I believe we shall find, if we observe the originals of our notions, that even the most abstruse ideas, how remote soever they may seem from sense, or from any operation of our minds, are yet only such as the understanding frames to itself, by repeating and joining together ideas that it had either from objects of sense or from its own operations about them; so that even those large and abstract ideas are derived from sensation or reflection, being no other than what the mind may and does attain by the ordinary use of its own faculties.
IV.—Knowledge of the Existence of Other Things
It is the actual receiving of ideas from without that gives us notice of the existence of other things, and makes us know that something does exist at that time without us which causes that idea in us, though perhaps we neither know nor consider how it does it. And this, though not so certain as our own intuitive knowledge, or as the deductions of our reason employed about the clear abstract ideas of our own minds, yet deserves the name of knowledge.
It is plain that those perceptions are produced by exterior causes affecting our senses for the following reasons.
Because those that want the organs of any sense never can have the ideas belonging to that sense produced in their minds.
Because sometimes I find I cannot avoid having those ideas produced in my mind; for as when my eyes are shut, or the windows fast, I can at pleasure recall to my mind the ideas of light or the sun which former sensations have lodged in my memory; so I can at pleasure lay by that idea and take into my view that of a rose or taste of sugar. But if I turn my eyes at noon towards the sun, I cannot avoid the ideas which the light or sun produces in me. There is nobody who does not perceive the difference in himself contemplating the sun as he has an idea of it in his memory and actually looking upon it; and, therefore, he has certain knowledge that they are not both memory or the actions of his mind and fancies only within him, but that actual seeing has a cause without.
Add to this that many of those ideas are produced with pain, which afterwards we remember without the least offence.
Lastly, our senses bear witness to the truth of each other's report concerning the existence of sensible things without us.
Michel Eyquem, Seigneur de Montaigne, one of the greatest masters of the essay in all literature, was born at his family's ancestral chateau near Bordeaux, in France, Feb. 28, 1533, and died on September 13, 1592. His life was one of much suffering from hereditary disease, which, however, he endured so philosophically that little trace of his trials is apparent in his writings. His father, who is said to have been of English descent, took special pains with his early education, having had him taught Latin by a German tutor before he learnt French, so that before he "left his nurse's arms" he was a master of the ancient tongue and knew not a word of his own. The first two of the three books of his celebrated "Essays" were published in 1581 and the third in 1588. In 1582 he visited Italy and was made a Roman citizen, and the next year he was chosen Mayor of Bordeaux. Always a lover of books and a student of men, his writings are a rich mine of scholarly wit and worldly wisdom, consummate in the naturalness that conceals literary art. Like most works of the time, they contain passages which modern taste does not approve, but, taken as a whole, they are among the most interesting of books of the kind.
I.—Of Death, and How It Findeth a Man
I was born between eleven of the clock and noon, the last of February, 1533, according to our computation, the year beginning on January 1. It is but a fortnight since I was thirty-nine years old. I want at least as much more of life. If in the meantime I should trouble my thoughts with a matter so far from me as death, it were but folly. Of those renowned in life I will lay a wager I will find more that have died before they came to five-and-thirty years than after.
How many means and ways has death to surprise us! Who would ever have imagined that a Duke of Brittany should have become stifled to death in a throng of people, as whilom was a neighbour of mine at Lyons when Pope Clement made his entrance there? Hast thou not seen one of our late kings slain in the midst of his sports? and one of his ancestors die miserably by the throw of a hog? AEschylus, fore-threatened by the fall of a house, when he was most on his guard, was struck dead by the fall of a tortoise-shell from the talons of a flying eagle. Another was choked by a grape-pip. An emperor died from the scratch of a comb, AEmilius Lepidus from hitting his foot against a door-sill, Anfidius from stumbling against the door as he was entering the council chamber. Caius Julius, a physician, while anointing a patient's eyes had his own closed by death. And if among these examples I may add one of a brother of mine, Captain St. Martin, playing at tennis, received a blow with a ball a little above the right ear, and without any appearance of bruise or hurt, never sitting or resting, died within six hours afterwards of an apoplexy. These so frequent and ordinary examples being ever before our eyes, why should it not continually seem to us that death is ever at hand ready to take us by the throat?
What matter is it, will you say unto me, how and in what manner it is, so long as a man do not trouble and vex himself therewith? It sufficeth me to live at my ease, and the best recreation I can have that do I ever take. It is uncertain where death looks for us: let us look for her everywhere. The premeditation of death is a fore-thinking of liberty. He who has learned to die has unlearned to serve. There is no evil in life for him who has well conceived that the privation of life is no evil. I am now, by the mercy of God, in such a taking that, without regret or grieving at any worldly matter, I am prepared to dislodge whensoever He shall please to call me. No man did ever prepare himself to quit the world more simply and fully. The deadest deaths are the best.
* * * * *
Were I a composer of books I would keep a register of divers deaths, which, in teaching me to die, should afterwards teach them to live.
My father in his household order had this, which I can commend, though I in no way follow. Besides the day-book of household affairs, wherein are registered at least expenses, payments, gifts, bargains, and sales that require not a notary's hand to them—of which book a receiver had the keeping—he appointed another journal-book to one of his servants, who was his clerk, wherein he should orderly set down all occurences worthy of the noting, and day by day register the memories of the history of his house—a thing very pleasant to read when time began to wear out the remembrance of them, and fit for us to pass the time withal, and to resolve some doubts: when such and such a work was begun, when ended; what way or course was taken, what accidents happened, how long it continued; all our voyages and journeys, where, and how long we were away from home; our marriages; who died, and when; the receiving of good or bad tidings; who came, who went; changing or removing of household officers, taking of new or discharging of old servants, and such matters. An ancient custom, and a sound one, which I would have all men use and bring into fashion again.
II.—In My Library
Intercourse with books comforts me in age and solaces me in solitariness, eases me of weariness and rids me of tedious company. To divert importunate thoughts there is no better way than recourse to books. And though they perceive I on occasion forsake them, they never mutiny or murmur, but welcome me always with the self-same visage.
I never travel, whether in peace or in war, without books. It is wonderful what repose I find in the knowledge that they are at my elbow to delight me when time shall serve. In this human peregrination this is the best munition I have found.
At home I betake me somewhat oftener to my library. It is in the chief approach to my house, so that under my eyes are my garden, my base-court, my yard, and even the best rooms of my house. There, without order or method, I can turn over and ransack now one book and now another. Sometimes I muse, sometimes save; and walking up and down I indite and register these my humours, these my conceits. It is placed in a third storey of a tower. The lowermost is my chapel, the second a chamber, where I often lie when I would be alone. Above is a clothes-room. In this library, formerly the least useful room in all my house, I pass the greatest part of my life's days, and most hours of the day—I am never there of nights. Next it is a handsome, neat study, large enough to have a fire in winter, and very pleasantly windowed.
If I feared not trouble more than cost I might easily join a convenient gallery of a hundred paces long and twelve broad on each side of this room, and upon the same floor, the walls being already of a convenient height. Each retired place requireth a walk. If I sit long my thoughts are prone to sleep. My mind goes not alone as if legs moved it. Those who study without books are all in the same case.
My library is circular in shape, with no flat side save that in which stand my table and chair. Thus around me at one look it offers the full sight of all my books, set round about upon shelves, five ranks, one above another. It has three bay windows, of a far-extending, rich, and unobstructed prospect. The room is sixteen paces across.
In winter I am less constantly there, for my house being on a hill, no part is more subject to all weathers than this. But this pleases me only the more, both for the benefit of the exercise—which is a matter to be taken into account—and because, being remote and of troublesome access, it enables me the better to seclude myself from company that would encroach upon my time. There is my seat, that is my throne.
My rule therein I endeavour to make absolute, that I may sequester that only corner from all, whether wife, children, or acquaintances. For elsewhere I have but a verbal and qualified authority, and miserable to my mind is he who in his own home has nowhere to be to himself.
Plutarch somewhere says that he finds no such great difference between beast and beast as between man and man. He speaks of the mind and internal qualities. I could find in my heart to say there is more difference between one man and another than between such a man and such a beast; and that there are as many degrees of spirits as steps between earth and heaven.
But concerning the estimation of men, it is marvellous that we ourselves are the only things not esteemed for their proper qualities. We commend a horse for his strength and speed, not for his trappings; a greyhound for his swiftness, not his collar; a hawk for her wing, not for her bells. Why do we not likewise esteem a man for that which is his own? He has a goodly train of followers, a stately palace, so much rent coming in, so much credit among men. Alas, all that is about him, not in him. If you buy a horse you see him bare of saddle and cloths. When you judge of a man, why consider his wrappings only? In a sword it is the quality of the blade, not the value of the scabbard, to which you give heed. A man should be judged by what he is himself, not by his appurtenances.
Let him lay aside his riches and external honours and show himself in his shirt. Has he a sound body? What mind has he? Is it fair, capable, and unpolluted, and happily equipped in all its parts? Is it a mind to be settled, equable, contented, and courageous in any circumstances? Is he—
A wise man, of himself commander high, Whom want, nor death, nor bands can terrify, Resolved t'affront desires, honours to scorn, All in himself, close, round, and neatly borne, Against whose front externals idly play, And even fortune makes a lame essay?
Such a man is five hundred degrees beyond kingdoms and principalities; himself is a kingdom unto himself. Compare with him the vulgar troop—stupid, base, servile, warring, floating on the sea of passions, depending wholly on others. There is more difference than between heaven and earth, yet in a blindness of custom we take little or no account of it. Whereas, if we consider a cottage and a king, a noble and a workman, a rich man and a poor, we at once recognise disparity, although, as one might say, they differ in nothing but their clothes.
An emperor, whose pomp so dazzles us in public, view him behind the curtain is but an ordinary man, and peradventure viler and sillier than the least of his subjects! Cowardice, irresolution, ambition, spite, anger, envy, move and work in him as in another man. Fear, care, and suspicion haunt him even in the midst of his armed troops. Does the ague, the headache, or the gout spare him more than us? When age seizes on his shoulders, can the tall yeoman of his guard rid him of it? His bedstead encased with gold and pearls cannot allay the pinching pangs of colic!
The flatterers of Alexander the Great assured him he was the son of Jupiter, but being hurt one day, and the blood gushing from the wound, "What think you of this?" said he to them. "Is not this blood of a lively red hue, and merely human?" If a king have the ague or the gout what avail his titles of majesty? But if he be a man of worth, royalty and glorious titles will add but little to good fortune.
Truly, to see our princes all alone, sitting at their meat, though beleaguered with talkers, whisperers, and gazing beholders, I have often rather pitied than envied them. The honour we receive from those who fear and stand in awe of us is no true honour. "Service holds few, though many hold service."
Every man's manners and his mind His fortune for him frame and find.
IV.—Of the Use of Apparel
I was devising in this chill-cold season whether the fashion of these late-discovered nations to go naked be a custom forced by the hot temperature of the air, as we say of the Indians and Moors, or whether it be an original manner of mankind. My opinion is, that even as all plants, trees, living creatures, are naturally furnished with protection against all weathers, even so were we. But like those who by artificial light quench the brightness of day, so we have spoilt our proper covering by what we have borrowed. Nations under the same heaven and climate as our own, or even colder, have no knowledge of clothes. Moreover, the tenderest parts of us are ever bare and naked—our eyes, face, mouth, nose, ears; and our country swains, like their forefathers, go bare-breasted to their middles.
Had we been born needing petticoats and breeches nature would have armed that which she has left to the battery of the seasons with some thicker skin or hide, as she has our finger ends and the soles of our feet.
"How many men in Turkey go naked for devotion's sake?" a certain man demanded of one of our loitering rogues whom in the depth of winter he saw wandering up and down with nothing but his shirt about him, yet as blithe and lusty as another that keeps himself muffled up to the ears in furs. "And have not you, good sir," answered he, "your fate all bare? Imagine I am all face."
The Italians say that when the Duke of Florence asked his fool how, being so ill-clad, he could endure the cold, he replied, "Master, use but my receipt, and put all the clothes you have on you, as I do all mine, and you shall feel no more cold than I do."
King Massinissa, were it never so sharp weather, always went bareheaded. So did the Emperor Severus. In the battle of the Egyptians and Persians, Herodotus noticed that of those slain the Egyptians had skulls much harder than the Persians, by reason that these go ever with their heads covered with coifs and turbans, while those are from infancy shaven and bareheaded. King Agesilaus wore his clothes alike winter and summer. Suetonius says Caesar always marched at the head of his troops, and most commonly bareheaded and on foot, whether the sun shone or whether it rained. The like is reported of Hannibal.
Plato, for the better health and comfort of the body, earnestly persuades that no man should ever give feet or head other cover than nature had allotted them.
We Frenchmen are accustomed to array ourselves strangely in parti-coloured suits (not I, for I seldom wear any but black and white, like my father) to protect ourselves against the cold, but what should we do in cold like that Captain Martyn du Bellay describes—frosts so hard that the wine had to be chopped up with axes and shared to the soldiers by weight?
Let us leave apart the outworn comparison between a solitary and an active life, and ask those who engage themselves "for the public good" whether what they seek in these public charges is not, after all, private commodity? Public or private, as I suppose, the end is the same, to live better at ease. But a man does not always seek the best way to come at it, and often supposes himself to have quit cares when he has but changed them.
There is not much less vexation in the government of a private family than in managing a state. Wheresoever the mind is buried, there lies all. And though domestic occupations may be less important, they are not less importunate.
Moreover, though we have freed ourselves from court or from market, we have still the torments of ambition, avarice, irresolution, fear, and unsatisfied desires. These follow us even into cloisters and schools of philosophy. When Socrates was told that a certain man was none the better for his travels, "I believe it well," said he, "for he took himself with him."
If a man do not first get rid of what burthens his mind, moving from place to place will not help him. It is not enough for a man to sequester himself from people; he must seclude himself from himself. We carry our fetters with us. Our evil is rooted in our mind, and the mind cannot escape from itself. Therefore must it be reduced and brought into itself, and that is the true solitariness, which may be enjoyed even in the throng of peopled cities or kings' courts.
A man may, if he can, have wife, children, goods, health, but not so tie himself to them that his felicity depends on them. We should reserve for ourselves some place where we may, as it were, hoard up our true liberty. Virtue is contented with itself, without discipline, words, or deeds. Shake we off these violent holdfasts which engage us and estrange us from ourselves. The greatest thing is for a man to know how to be his own.
I esteem not Arcesilaus, the philosopher, less reformed because I know him to have used household utensils of gold and silver, as the condition of his fortune permitted. And knowing what slender hold accessory comforts have, I omit not, in enjoying them, humbly to beseech God of His mercy to make me content with myself and the goods I have in myself. The wiser sort of men, having a strong and vigorous mind, may frame for themselves an altogether spiritual life. But mine being common, I must help to uphold myself by corporal comforts. And age having despoiled me of some of these, I sharpen my appetite for those remaining. Glory, which Pliny and Cicero propose to us, is far from my thoughts. "Glory and rest are things that cannot squat on the same bench." Stay your mind in assured and limited cogitations, wherein it best may please itself, and having gained knowledge of true felicities, enjoy them, and rest satisfied without wishing a further continuance either of life or of name.
VI.—Opinion in Good and Evil
Men, saith an ancient Greek, are tormented by the opinion they have of things, and not by things themselves. It were a great conquest of our miserable human condition if any man could establish everywhere this true proposition. For if evils lie only in our judgment, it is in our power to condemn them or to turn them to good.
In death, what we principally fear is pain; as also poverty has nothing to be feared for but what she casts upon us through hunger, thirst, cold, and other miseries. I will willingly grant that pain is the worst accident of our being; I hate and shun it as much as possible. But it is in our power, if not to annul, at least to diminish it, with patience, and though the body should be moved, yet to keep mind and reason in good temper.
If it were not so, what has brought virtue, valour, magnanimity, fortitude, into credit? If a man is not to lie on the hard ground, to endure the heat of the scorching sun, to feed hungrily on a horse or an ass, to see himself mangled and cut in pieces, to have a bullet plucked out of his bones, to suffer incisions, his flesh to be stitched up, cauterised, and searched—all incident to a martial man—how shall we purchase the advantage and pre-eminence we so greedily seek over the vulgar sort?
Moreover, this ought to comfort us, that naturally, if pain be violent it is also short; if long, it is easier. Thou shall not feel it over-long; if thou feel it over-much, it will either end itself or end thee. Even as an enemy becomes more furious when we fly from him, so does pain grow prouder if we tremble under it. It will stoop and yield on better terms to him who makes head against it. In recoiling we draw on the enemy. As the body is steadier and stronger to a charge if it stand stiffly, so is the soul.
Weak-backed men, such as I am, feel a dash of a barber's razor more than ten blows with a sword in the heat of fight. The painful throes of childbearing, deemed by physicians and the word of God to be very great, some nations make no account of. I omit to speak of the Lacedaemonian women; come we to the Switzers of our infantry. Trudging and trotting after their husbands, to-day you see them carry the child around their neck which but yesterday they brought into the world.
How many examples have we not of contempt of pain and smart by that sex! What can they not do, what will they not do, what fear they to do, so they may but hope for some amendment of their beauty? To become slender in waist, and to have a straight spagnolised body, what pinching, what girding, what cingling will they not endure! Yea, sometimes with iron plates, with whalebones, and other such trashy implements, that their very skin and quick flesh is eaten in and consumed to the bones, whereby they sometimes work their own death.
There is a certain effeminate and light opinion, and that no more in sorrow than it is in pleasure, whereby we are so dainty tender that we cannot abide to be stung of a bee, but must roar and cry out. This is the total sum of all, that you be master of yourself.
The Apology, or Defence of Socrates
Aristocles, the son of Ariston, whose birth name is almost forgotten because the whole world knows him as Plato, was born at Athens about the year 427 B.C. As he grew up he became a devoted disciple of Socrates, and when the Athenian people had put the master to death, the disciple gave up his life to expounding the wisdom of his teacher. How much of that teaching was really implicitly contained in the doctrines of Socrates, it is difficult to say, since very definite developments evidently took place in Plato's own views. Plato himself lived to the age of eighty, and died, as he had for the most part lived, at Athens, in 347. When Socrates was indicted for "corrupting the youth" of Athens and on other corresponding charges, Plato was himself present at the trial. We may believe that the "Apology" is substantially a reproduction of the actual defence made by Socrates. The "judges" in the Athenian court were practically the assembled body of free Athenian citizens. When an adverse verdict was given, the accused could propose a penalty as an alternative to that which had been named by the accuser, and the court could choose between the two penalties. Socrates was found guilty by a small majority of votes, and sentence of death was passed, as set forth in the last section of the "Apology."
I.—The Official Indictment, and the Real Charges
What my accusers have said, Athenians, has been most specious, but none of it is true. The falsehood which most astonished me was that you must beware of being beguiled by my consummate eloquence; for I am not eloquent at all, unless speaking pure truth be eloquence. You will hear me speak with adornments and without premeditation in my everyday language, which many of you have heard. I am seventy years old, yet this is my first appearance in the courts, and I have no experience of forensic arts. All I ask is that you will take heed whether what I say be just.
It is just that I should begin by defending myself against my accusers from of old, in priority to Anytus and these other latter-day accusers. For, skilful as these are, I fear those more—those who from your youth have been untruthfully warning you against one Socrates, a wise man, who speculates about everything in heaven and under the earth, and tries to make the worse cause the better. Their charge is the craftier, because you think that a man who does as they say has no thought for the gods. I cannot name these gentlemen precisely, beyond indicating that one is a writer of comedies; I cannot meet and refute them individually. However, I must try to enter a brief defence. I think I know where my difficulty will lie; but the issue will be as the gods choose.
Now, what is the basis of this charge, on which Meletus also relies? "Socrates is an evil doer, a busybody, who pries into things in heaven and under the earth, and teaches these same things to others." You all saw the Socrates in the comedy of Aristophanes engaged in these pursuits. I have nothing to say against such inquiries; but do not let Meletus charge me with them, for I have no part nor lot in them. Many of you have heard me talk, but never one on these subjects. Witness you yourselves. From this you should be able to gauge the other things that are said against me.
Equally untrue is the charge that I make a paid business of teaching my neighbours. It is a fine thing to be able to impart knowledge, like Gorgias, and Prodicus, and Hippias, who can go from city to city and draw to converse with them young men who pay for the privilege instead of enjoying their companions' society for nothing. I am told there is one Evenus, a Parian, practising now, whose fee is five minas. It must be delightful to possess such valuable knowledge and to impart it—if they do possess it. I should like to do it myself, but I do not possess the knowledge.
"Whence, then, comes the trouble, Socrates?" you will say; "if you have been doing nothing unusual, how have these rumours and slanders arisen?" I will tell you what I take to be the explanation. It is due to a certain wisdom with which I seem to be endowed—not superhuman at all like that of these gentlemen. I speak not arrogantly, but on the evidence of the Oracle of Delphi, who told Chaerephon, a man known to you, that there was no wiser man than Socrates. Now, I am not conscious of possessing wisdom; but the God cannot lie. What did he mean?
Well, I tried to find out, by going to a man reputed wise, thinking to prove that there were wiser men. But I found him not wise at all, though he fancied himself so. I sought to show him this, but he was only very much annoyed. I concluded that, after all, I was wiser than he in one particular, because I was under no delusion that I possessed knowledge, as he was. I tried all the men reputed wise, one after the other, and made myself very unpopular, for the result was always the same. It was the same with the poets as with the politicians, and with the craftsmen as with the poets. The last did know something about their own particular art, and therefore imagined that they knew all about everything.
I went on, taking every opportunity of finding out whether people reputed wise, and thinking themselves so, were wise in reality, and pointing out that they were not. And because of my exposing the ignorance of others, I have got this groundless reputation of having knowledge myself, and have been made the object of many other calumnies. And young gentlemen of position who have heard me follow my example, and annoy people by exposing their ignorance; and this is all visited on me; and I am called an ill-conditioned person who corrupts youth. To prove which my calumniators have to fall back on charging me with prying into all things in heaven and under the earth, and the rest of it.
II.—The Cross-Examining of Meletus
Such is my answer to the charges which have been poured into your ears for a long time. Now let me defend myself against these later accusations of Meletus and the rest—the virtuous patriot Meletus. I am an evil-doer, a corrupter of youth, who pays no reverence to the gods who the city reveres, but to strange daemons. Not I, but Meletus is the evil-doer, who rashly makes accusations so frivolous, pretending much concern for matters about which he has never troubled himself. Answer me, Meletus. You think it of the utmost importance that our youth should be made as excellent as possible.
SOCRATES: Tell us, then, who is it that makes them better; for of course, you know. You are silent. The laws, you say? The question was, "Who?"
MELETUS: The judges; all the judges.
SOCRATES: In other words, all the Athenian people—everyone but me? And I alone corrupt them? Truly, I am in an ill plight! But in the case of all other animals, horses, for instance, there are only a few people who are able to improve them. Your answer shows that you have never bestowed attention on the care of young people. Next, tell me is it better for a man to dwell among good citizens or bad? The good, since the bad will injure him. I cannot, then, set about making bad citizens designedly. My friend, no man designedly brings injury upon himself. If I corrupt them, it must be undesignedly—reason good for admonishing and instructing me, which you have not done; but not for bringing me into court, which you have done! However, I corrupt them by teaching them not to believe in the gods in whom the city believes, but in strange deities? Do I teach that there are some gods, or that there are no gods at all?
MELETUS: I say that you believe in no gods. You say the sun is a stone, and the moon earth.
SOCRATES: Most excellent Meletus, everyone knows that Anaxagoras says so; you can buy that information for a drachma! Do I really appear to you to revere no gods?
MELETUS: No, no gods at all.
SOCRATES: Now, that is incredible! You must have manufactured this riddle out of sheer wantonness, for in the indictment you charge me with reverencing gods! Can anyone believe that there are human affairs, or equine affairs, or instrumental affairs without believing that there are men, or horses, or instruments? You say expressly that I believe in daemonic affairs, therefore in daemons; but daemons are a sort of gods or the offspring of gods. Therefore, you cannot possibly believe that I do not believe in gods. Really, I have sufficiently answered the indictment. If I am condemned, it will not be on the indictment of Meletus, but on popular calumnies; which have condemned good men before me, and assuredly I shall not be the last.
It may be suggested that I ought to be ashamed of practices which have brought you in danger of death. Risk of death is not to be taken into account in any action which really matters at all. If it ought to be, the heroes before Troy were bad characters! Every man should stand to his post, come life, come death. Should I have stood to my post and faced death when on service at Potidaca, but have failed through fear of death when the deity imposed on me a certain course of action? Whether to die be evil or good, I know not, though many think they know it to be evil. But to disobey authority, human or divine, I know to be evil; and I will not do what I know to be evil to avoid what may in fact be a good. Insomuch that if you now offer to set me free on condition that I should cease from these pursuits on pain of death, I should reply: "Men of Athens, I love and honour you, but I will obey the god rather than you; and while I breathe and have the power I will not cease from the pursuit of philosophy, or from exhorting and warning you as I have done hitherto, against caring much for riches and nothing for the perfecting of your souls. This is the bidding of the god. If to speak thus be to corrupt youth, then I corrupt youth. But he who says I speak other things than this talks vanity; and this I will do, though the penalty were many deaths."
Do not murmur, but listen, for you will profit. If you put me to death, you will harm yourselves more than me, for it is worse to do wrong than to suffer it. You will not easily find another to serve as the gadfly which rouses a noble horse—as I have done, being commissioned thereto by the god. For that I have made no profit for myself from this course, my poverty proves. If it seems absurd that I should meddle thus with each man privately, but take no part in public affairs, that is because of the divine or daemonic influence of which I have spoken, named also in mockery by Meletus in the indictment. This is a voice which checks but never urges me on. Indeed, had I meddled with politics, I should have been dead long ago.
That I will prove by facts. When you chose to condemn the ten generals, my phyle supplied the Prytanes, and I alone stood out against you. And in the time of the thirty, I was ordered with four others to bring Leon from Salamis to be executed, and I alone would not; and it may be that my own life was saved only because that government was broken up. Judge, then, if my life would not have been shorter, had I taken part in public life.
But I have never posed as an instructor or taken money for giving instruction. Anyone who chooses can question me and hear what I have to say. People take pleasure in my society, because they like to hear those exposed who deem themselves wise but are not. This duty the god has laid on me by oracles and dreams and every mode of divine authority. If I am corrupting or have corrupted youth, why do none of them bear witness against me, or their fathers or brothers or other kinsmen? Many I see around me who should do so if this charge were true; yet all are ready to assist me.
This, and the like, is what I have to say in my defence. Perhaps some of you, thinking how, in a like case with mine but less exigent, he has sought the compassion of the court with tears and pleadings of his children and kinsfolk, will be indignant that I do none of these things, though I have three boys of my own. That is not out of disrespect to you, but because I think it would be unbeseeming to me. Such displays, as though death were something altogether terrifying, are to me astonishing and degrading to our city in the sight of strangers, for persons reputed to excel in anything, as in some respects I am held to excel the generality.
But apart from credit, I count that we ought to inform and convince our judges, not seek to sway them by entreaties; that they may judge rightly according to the laws, and not by favor. For you are sworn. And how should I persuade you to break your oath, who am charged by Meletus with impiety. For by so doing, I should be persuading you to disbelief in the gods, and making that very charge against myself. To you and to the god I leave it, that I may be judged as shall be best for you and for me.
IV.—After the Verdict
Your condemnation does not grieve me for various reasons, one of which is that I fully expected it. What surprises me is the small majority by which it was carried. Evidently Meletus, if left to himself, would have failed to win the few votes needed to save him from the fine. Well, the sentence he fixes is death, and I have to propose an alternative—presumably, the sentence I deserve. I have neglected all the ordinary pursuits and ambitions of men—which would have been no good either to me or to you—that I might benefit each man privately, by persuading him to give attention to himself first—how to attain his own best and wisest—and his mere affairs afterwards, and the city in like manner. The proper reward is that I should be maintained in the Prytaneum as a public benefactor.
You may think this merely a piece of insolence, but it is not so. I am not conscious of having wronged any man. Time does not permit me to prove my case, and I will not admit guilt by owning that I deserve punishment by a fine. What have I to fear? The penalty fixed by Meletus, as to which I do not know whether it is good or bad? Shall I, to escape this, choose something which is certainly bad? Imprisonment, to be the slave of the Eleven? A fine, to be a prisoner till I pay it?—which comes to the same thing, as I cannot pay. Exile? If my fellow-citizens cannot put up with me, how can I expect strangers to do so? The young men will come to listen to me. If I repulse them, they will drive me out; and if I do not their elders will drive me out, and I shall live wandering from city to city.
Why cannot I go and hold my tongue, you may ask. That is the one thing which I cannot do. That would be to disobey the god, and the life would not be worth living, though you do not believe me. I might undertake to pay a mina. However, as Plato and Crito and Apollodorus urge me to name thirty minae, for which they will be security, I propose thirty minae.
* * * * *
Your enemies will reproach you, Athenians, for having put to death that wise man Socrates. Yet you would have had but a short time to wait, for I am old. I speak to those of you who have condemned me. I am condemned, not for lack of argument, but because I have not chosen to plead after the methods that would have been pleasant and flattering to you, but degrading to me. There are things we may not do to escape death, for baseness is worse than death, and swifter. Death has overtaken me, who am old, but baseness my accusers, who are strong. Truth condemns them, as you have condemned me, and each of us abides sentence, And for you who have condemned me there will be a penalty swift and sure, and so I take my leave of you.
But to you, my true judges, who voted for my acquittal, I would speak while yet we may. I have to tell you that my warning daemon has in no way withstood the course I have taken, and the reason, assuredly, is that I have done what is best, gaining blessing, death being no evil at all. For death is either only to cease from sensations altogether as in a dreamless sleep, and that is no loss; or else it is a passing to another place where all the dead are—the heroes, the poets, the wise men of old. How priceless were it to hold converse with them and question them! And surely the judges there pass no death-sentences!
But be you hopeful with regard to death, for to the good man, neither in life nor in death is there anything that can harm him. And for me, I am confident that it is better to die than to live. Therefore the daemon did not check me, and I have no resentment against those who have caused my death. And now we go, I to death and you to life; but which of us to the better state, God knoweth alone.
The wonderful series of dialogues in which Socrates takes the leading part are at once the foundation and the crown of all idealistic philosophy, and as literary masterpieces remain unmatched. Certain of Plato's disciples would claim that his highest achievement is "The Timaeus"; there are some who set their affections on "The Phaedo"; but a general vote of all Platonists would probably give the first position to "The Republic," and this is undoubtedly the work which has had the widest general influence. In "The Republic" itself Socrates is, professedly engaged in a disputation, of which the object is to discover what Justice means; and this leads to the description of the building up of that ideal state or commonwealth from which the dialogue derives its title of "The Republic."
I.—How the Argument Arose
I had gone with Glaucon to attend the celebration of the festival of Bendis—the Thracian Artemis—a picturesque affair, and we were just leaving, when Polemarchus insisted on carrying us off by main force to the house of his father, Cephalus. There we found a small company assembled. The old gentleman received us with hearty geniality; he is ageing, but would not see any hardship in that, if you take age good-humouredly. Of course, he owned that being wealthy makes a difference, but not all the difference. The best of wealth is that you need not do things which anger the gods and entail punishment in the hereafter; you need not lie, or be in debt to gods or men. And this consciousness of your own justice is a great consolation.
"But," said I, "what is justice? Is it always to speak the truth, and always to let a man have his property? There are circumstances——"
"I must go," said he. "Polemarchus shall do the arguing."
This set us discussing the nature of justice. Glaucon took up the cudgels, after a preliminary skirmish with Thrasymachus.
Assuming justice to be desirable—is it so for itself and by itself, or only for its results; or both? The world at large puts it in the second category as an inconvenient necessity. To suffer injustice is an evil, and to protect themselves from that the weak combine to prevent injustice from being done. But if anyone had the ring of Gyges, which made him invisible, so that he could go his own way without let or hindrance, he would get all the pleasures he could out of life without troubling about the justice of it. Again, imagine on the one hand your really consummate rogue who gets credit for all the virtues and is surrounded by all the material factors of happiness; and, on the other hand, a man of utter rectitude, on whom circumstances combine to fix the stigma of iniquity. He will be rejected, scourged, crucified; while the other is enjoying wealth, honour, everything, and can afford to make his peace with the gods into the bargain.
Then Adeimantus took the field in support of his brother. "The poets," he said, "hold forth about the rewards of virtue here and hereafter. But we see the unrighteous prospering mightily; and the religious mendicants come to rich folks and offer to sell them indulgences on easy terms. A keen-witted lad is bound to argue that it is only the appearance of justice that is needed for prosperity; while the gods can be reconciled cheaply. This dwelling on the temporal rewards of justice is fatal. What we expect of you is to show us the inherent value of justice—justice itself, not the appearance of it."
"Well argued," said I, "especially as you reject your own conclusion. I can but try, though the task be hard. But my weak sight may enable me to read large characters better than small. Justice is the virtue of the state as well as of the individual; finding it in the state, the greater, may help us to find it in the individual, the less."
II.—The Socratic Utopia
Society arises because different people are the better skilled to supply different wants, and the wants of each are supplied by mutual arrangement and division of labour. Wants multiply; the community grows; it exchanges its own foreign products; merchants and markets are added to the producers; and when folk begin to hire servants you have a complete city or state living a life of simplicity. "A city of pigs," said Glaucon, "with no refinements." We will go on and develop every luxury of civilisation. But then our city and its neighbours will be wanting each other's lands. We must have soldiers. Our best guardians will be a select band, those who are of the right temper and thoroughly trained; fierce to foes but gentle to friends, like that true philosopher, the dog, to whom knowledge is the test. The known are friends, the unknown foes—knowledge begets gentleness.
So our guardians must be trained to knowledge; we must educate them. Music and gymnastic, our national intellectual and physical training, must be taught. Literature comes first, and really we teach things that are not true before we teach things that are true—fables before facts. But over these we must exercise a rigid censorship, excluding what is essentially false.
We must have no stories which attribute harmful doings to the gods. God must be represented as He is—the author of good always, of evil never; also as having in him no variableness, neither shadow of turning. God has no need of disguises. The lie in the soul—essential falsehood—is to Him abhorrent, and He has no need of such deceptions as may be innocent or even laudable for men. God must be shown always as utterly true.
Similarly, we must not have stories which inspire dread of death; no Achilles saying in the under-world that it were better to be a slave in the flesh than Lord of the Shades. And again, no heroes—and gods still less—giving way to frantic lamentations and uncontrolled emotions, even uncontrolled laughter. Truth must be inculcated; medicinal untruths, so to speak, are the prerogative of our rulers alone, and must be permitted to no one else. Temperance, which means self-control and obedience to authority, is essential, and is not always characteristic of Homer's gods and heroes! We must exclude a long list of most unedifying passages on this score. As for pictures of the afflictions of the righteous and the prosperity of the unjust, we must wait, as we have not yet defined justice. We turn to the poetical forms in which the stories should be embodied.
The possible forms are the simply descriptive, the imitative, and the mixture of the two: narrative drama, and narrative mixed with dialogue. Our guardians ought to eschew imitation altogether, or at least to imitate only the good and noble. The act of imitating an evil character is demoralising, just as no self-respecting person will imitate the lower animals, and so on. Imitation must be restricted within the narrowest practicable limits.
But who are to be our actual rulers? The best of the elders, whose firmness and consistency have stood the test of temptation. To them we transfer the title of guardians, calling the younger men auxiliaries. And we must try to induce everyone—guardians, soldiers, citizens—to believe in one quite magnificent lie: that they were like the men in the Cadmus myth, fashioned in the ground, their common mother.
"I don't wonder at your blushing," said Glaucon.
That they are brothers and sisters, but of different metals—gold, silver, brass, iron; not necessarily of the same metal as their parents in the flesh; and must take rank according to the metal whereof they are made. No doubt it will take a generation or two to get them to believe it.
And now our soldiers must pitch their camp for the defence of the city. Soldiering is their business, not money-making. They must live in common, supported efficiently by the state, having no private property. The gold and silver in their souls is of God. For them, though not for the other citizens, the earthly dross called gold is the accursed thing. Once let them possess it, and they will cease to be guardians, and become oppressors and tyrants.
III.—Of Justice and Communism
But now we have to look for justice. Find the other three cardinal virtues first, and then justice will be distinguishable. Wisdom is in the guardians; if they be wise, the whole state will be wise. Courage we find in the soldiers; courage is the true estimate of danger, and that has been ingrained in them by their education. Temperance, called mastery of self, is really the mastery of the better over the baser qualities; as in our state the better class controls the inferior. Temperance would seem to lie in the harmonious inter-relation of the different classes. Obviously, the remaining virtue of the state is the constant performance of his own particular function in the state, and not his neighbour's, by each member of the state. Let us see how that works out in the individual.
Shall we not find that there are three several qualities in the individual, each of which must in like manner do its own business, the intellectual, the passionate or spirited, and the lustful? They must be separate, because one part of a thing cannot be doing contradictory things at the same time; your lusts bid you do what your intelligence forbids; and the emotional quality is distinct from both desire and reason, though in alliance with reason. Well, here you have wisdom and courage in the intellectual and spiritual parts, temperance in their mastery over desire; and justice is the virtue of the soul as a whole; of each part never failing to perform its own function and that alone. To ask, now, whether justice or injustice is the more profitable becomes ridiculous.
Now we shall find that virtue is one, but that vice has several forms; as there is but one form of perfect state—ours—whether it happens to be called a monarchy if there be but one guardian, or an aristocracy if there be more; and, as it has four principal imperfect forms, so there are four main vices.
Here Glaucon and Adeimantus refused to let me go on; I had shirked a serious difficulty. What about women and children? My saying that the soldiers were to live in common might mean anything. What kind of communism was I demanding? Well, there are two different questions: What is desirable? And, What is possible? First, then, our defenders are our watch-dogs. Glaucon knows all about dogs; we don't differentiate in the case of males and females; the latter hunt with the pack. If women are similarly to have the same employments as men, they must have the same education in music and gymnastic. We must not mind ribald comments. But should they share masculine employments? Do they differ from men in such a way that they should not? Women bear children, and men beget them; but apart from that the differences are really only in degrees of capacity, not essential distinctions of quality; even as men differ among themselves. The natures being the same, the education must be the same, and the same careers must be open.
But a second and more alarming wave threatens us: Community of wives and children. "You must prove both the possibility and desirability of that." Men and women must be trained together and live together, but not in licentiousness. They must be mated with the utmost care for procreation, the best being paired at due seasons, nominally by lot, and for the occasion. The offspring of the selected will have a common nursery; the mothers will not know which were their own children. Parentage will be permissible only between twenty-five and fifty-five, and between twenty and forty. The children begotten in the same batch of espousals will be brothers and sisters.
The absence of "mine" and "thine" will ensure unity, because it abolishes the primary cause of discord; common maintenance by the state removes all temptation either to meanness or cringing. Our guardians will be uncommonly happy. As to practicability: communism is suitable for war. The youngsters will be taken to watch any fighting; cowards will be degraded; valour will be honoured, and death on the field, with other supreme services to the state, will rank the hero among demigods. Against Greeks war must be conducted as against our own kith and kin. But as to the possibility of all this—this third threatening wave is the most terrific of all.
IV.—Of Philosophy in Rulers
It will be possible then, and only then, when kings are philosophers or philosophers kings. "You will be mobbed and pelted for such a proposition." Still, it is the fact. The philosopher desires all knowledge. You know that justice, beauty, good, and so on, are single, though their presentation is multiplex and variable. Curiosity about the multiplex particulars is not desire of knowledge, which is of the one constant idea—of that which is, as ignorance is of that which is not. What neither is nor is not, that which fluctuates and changes, is the subject matter of opinion, a state between knowledge and ignorance. Beauty is beauty always and everywhere; the things that look beautiful may be ugly from another point of view. Experience of beautiful things, curiosity about them, must be distinguished from knowledge of beauty; the philosopher is not to be confounded with the connoisseur, not knowledge with opinion. The philosopher is he who has in his mind the perfect pattern of justice, beauty, truth; his is the knowledge of the eternal; he contemplates all time and all existence; no praises are too high for his character. "No doubt; still, if that is so, why do professed philosophers always show themselves either fools or knaves in ordinary affairs?" A ship's crew which does not understand that the art of navigation demands a knowledge of the stars, will stigmatise a properly qualified pilot as a star-gazing idiot, and will prevent him from navigating. The world assumes that the philosopher's abstractions are folly, and rejects his guidance. The philosopher is the best kind of man; the corrupted philosopher is the worst; and the corrupted influences brought to bear are irresistible to all but the very strongest natures. The professional teachers of philosophy live not by leading popular opinion, but by pandering to it; a bastard brood trick themselves out as philosophers, while the true philosopher withdraws himself from so gross a world. Small wonder that philosophy gets discredited! Not in the soil of any existing state can philosophy grow naturally; planted in a suitable state, her divinity will be apparent.
I need no longer hesitate to say that we must make our guardians philosophers. The necessary combination of qualities is extremely rare. Our test must be thorough, for the soul must be trained up by the pursuit of all kinds of knowledge to the capacity for the pursuit of the highest—higher than justice and wisdom—the idea of the good. "But what is the good—pleasure, knowledge?" No. To see and distinguish material things, the faculty of sight requires the medium of light, whose source is the sun. The good is to the intellectual faculty what the sun is to that of vision: it is the source and cause of truth, which is the light whereby we perceive ideas; it is not truth nor the ideas, but above them; their cause, as the sun is the source of light and the cause of growth.
Again, as the material things with which the eye is concerned are in two categories—the copies, reflections or shadows of things, and actual things—correspondingly the things perceived by the intellect are in a secondary region—as the mathematical—where everything is derived from hypotheses which are assumed to be first principles; or in a supreme region, in which hypotheses are orly the steps by which we ascend to the real ultimate first principles themselves. And it will follow further that the mind has four faculties appropriate to these four divisions, which we call respectively pure reason (the highest), understanding, conviction, and perception of shadows; the first pair being concerned with being, the field of the intellect; the second pair with becoming, the field of opinion.
V.—Of Shadows and Realities
Let me speak a parable. Humanity—ourselves—are as people dwelling ever bound and fettered in a twilit cave, with our backs to the light. Behind us is a parapet, and beyond the parapet a fire; all that we see is the shadows thrown on the wall that faces us by figures passing along the parapet behind us; all we hear is the echo of their voices. Now, if some of us are turned round to face the light and look on the real figures, they will be dazzled at first, and much more if they are taken out into the light, and up to face the sun himself; but presently they will see perfectly, and have all the joy thereof. Now send them back into the cave, and they will be apparently much blinder than the folk who have been there all the time, and their talk of what they have seen will be taken for the babbling of fools, or worse. Small wonder that those who have beheld the light have but little mind to return to the twilight cave which is the common world. But remember—everyone in the cave possesses the faculty of sight if only his eyes be turned to the light. Loose the fetters of carnal desires which hold him with his back to the light, and every man may be converted and live. So we must select those who are most capable of facing the light, and see to it that they return to the cave, to give the cave-dwellers the benefit of their knowledge. And if this be for them a hardship, we must bear in mind as before, that the good of the whole is what matters, not whether one or another may suffer hardship for the sake of the whole.
How, then, shall we train them to the passage from darkness to light? For this, our education in music and gymnastic is wholly inadequate. We must proceed first to the science of numbers, then of geometry, then of astronomy. And after astronomy, there is the sister science of abstract harmonics—not of audible sounds. All of which are but the prelude to the ultimate supreme science of dialectic, which carries the intelligence to the contemplation of the idea of the good, the ultimate goal. And here to attempt further explanation would be vanity. This is the science of the pure reason, the coping-stone of knowledge.
We saw long ago that our rulers must possess every endowment of mind and body, all cultivated to the highest degree. From the select we must again select, at twenty, those who are most fit for the next ten years' course of education; and from them, at thirty, we shall choose those who can, with confidence, be taken to face the light; who have been tested and found absolutely steadfast, not shaken by having got beyond the conventional view of things. We will give them five or six years of philosophy; then fifteen years of responsible office in the state; and at fifty they shall return to philosophy, subject to the call upon them to take up the duties of rulership and of educating their successors.
VI.—Of State Types and Individual Types
Before this digression we were on the point of discussing the four vitiated forms of the state, and the corresponding individual types. The four types of state as we know them in Hellas, are: the Spartan, where personal ambition and honour rule, which we call timocracy; the oligarchical, where wealth rules; the democratic; and the arbitrary rule of the individual, which we call tyranny. The comparison of this last—the supremely unjust—with our own—the supremely just—will show whether justice or injustice be the more desirable.
The perfect state degenerates to timocracy when the state's numerical law of generation [an unsolved riddle] has not been properly observed, and inferior offspring have entered in consequence into the ruling body. The introduction of private property will cause them to assume towards the commonalty the attitude, not of guardians, but of masters, and to be at odds among themselves; also, in their education gymnastic will acquire predominance over music. Ambition and party spirit become the characteristic features. When, in an ill-ordered state a great man withdraws from the corruption of politics into private life, we see the corresponding individual type in the son of such a one, egged on by his mother and flattering companions, to win back for himself at all costs the prestige which his father had resigned; personal ambition becomes his dominant characteristic.
Oligarchy is the next outcome of the introduction of private property; riches outweigh virtue, love of money the love of honour, and the rich procure for themselves the legal monopoly of political power. Here the state becomes divided against itself—there is one state of the rich and another of the poor—and the poor will be divided into the merely incompetent and the actively dangerous or predatory. And your corresponding individual is he whose father had won honours which had not saved him from ultimate ruin; so that the son rejects ambition and makes money his goal, till, for the sake of money, he will compass any baseness, though still only under a cloak of respectability.
In the oligarchy the avaricious encourage and foster extravagance in their neighbours. Men, ruined by money-lenders, turn on their moneyed rulers, overthrow them, and give everyone a share in the government. The result is that the state is not one, nor two, but diverse. Folk say what they like and do what they like, and anyone is a statesman who will wave the national flag. That is democracy. Such is the son of your miserly oligarch; deprived of unnecessary pleasures, he is tempted to wild dissipation. He has no education to help him to distinguish, and the vices of dissipation assume the aspect and titles of virtue. He fluctuates from one point of view to another—is one thing to-day and another to-morrow.
And last we come to tyranny and the tyrannical man. Democratic license develops into sheer anarchy. Jack is as good as his master. The predatory population becomes demagogues; they squeeze the decent citizens, and drive them to adopt oligarchical methods; then the friend of the people appears; the protector, champion, and hero, by a familiar process becomes a military autocrat, who himself battens, as must also his mercenary soldiery, on the citizens; and our unhappy Demos finds that it has jumped out of the reek into the fire. Now our democratical man was swayed by the devices and moods of the moment; his son will be swayed by the most irrational and most bestial of his appetites; be bully and tyrant, while slave of his own lusts. Your thorough blackguard of every species comes of this type, and the worst of all is he who achieves the tyranny of a state. See, then, how, even as the tyrannic state is the most utterly enslaved, so the tyrannic man is of all men the least free; and, beyond all others, the tyrant of a state. He is like a slave-owner, who is at the mercy of his slaves—the passions which he must pamper, or die, yet cannot satisfy. Surely such an one is the veriest slave—yea, the most wretched of men. It follows that he who is the most complete opposite of the tyrant is the happiest—the individual who corresponds to our state. Proclaim it, then, son of Ariston, that the most just of men is he who is master of himself, and is of all men the most miserable, whether gods and men recognise him or no.
VII.—Of the Happiness of the Just
Now for a second proof. Three kinds of pleasure correspond to the three elements of the soul—reason, spirit, desire. In each man one of the three is in the ascendant. One counts knowledge vain in comparison with the advantages of riches, another with those of honour; to the philosopher only truth counts. But he is the only one of them who makes his choice from experience of all three kinds. And he, the only qualified judge, places the satisfaction of the spirit second, and of desire lowest. And yet a third proof: I fancy the only quite real pleasures are those of the philosopher. There is an intermediate state between pleasure and pain. To pass into this from pleasure is painful, and from pain is pleasurable. Now, the pleasures of the body are really nothing more than reliefs from pains of one kind or another. And, next, the pleasures of the soul, being of the eternal order, are necessarily more real than those of the body, which are fleeting—in fact, mere shadows of pleasure.
Much as I love and admire Homer, I think our regulations as to poetry were particularly sound; but we must inquire further into the meaning of imitation. We saw before that all particular things are the presentations of some universal idea. There is one ultimate idea of bed, or chair, or table. What the joiner makes is a copy of that. All ideas are the creation of the master artificer, the demiurge; of his creations all material things are copies. We can all create things in a way by catching reflections of them in a mirror. But these are only copies of particular things from one point of view, partial copies of copies of the idea. Such precisely are the creations of the painter, and in like manner of the poet. What they know and depict is not the realities, but mere appearances. If the poets knew the realities they would have left us something other than imitations of copies. Moreover, what they imitate is not the highest but the lower; not the truth of reason, but emotions of all sorts, which it should be our business not to excite but to control and allay. So we continue to prohibit the poetry which is imitation, however supreme, and allow only hymns to the gods, and praises of great men. We must no more admit the allurements of poesy than the attractions of ambition or of riches.