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What kind of ignorance would deserve to be called the “greatest”? Consider whether you will agree with my description; I take it to be ignorance of this kind,—

What kind?

That which we see in the man who hates, instead of loving, what he judges to be noble and good, while he loves and cherishes what he judges to be evil and unjust. That want of accord, on the part of the feelings of pain and pleasure, with the rational judgment is, I maintain, the extreme form of ignorance, and also the “greatest” because it belongs to the main mass of the soul,— [689b] for the part of the soul that feels pain and pleasure corresponds to the mass of the populace in the State.1 So whenever this part opposes what are by nature the ruling principles—knowledge, opinion, or reason,—this condition I call folly, whether it be in a State, when the masses disobey the rulers and the laws, or in an individual, when the noble elements of reason existing in the soul produce no good effect, but quite the contrary. [689c] All these I would count as the most discordant forms of ignorance, whether in the State or the individual, and not the ignorance of the artisan,—if you grasp my meaning, Strangers.

We do, my dear sir, and we agree with it.

Then let it be thus resolved and declared, that no control shall be entrusted to citizens thus ignorant, but that they shall be held in reproach for their ignorance, even though they be expert calculators, and trained in all accomplishments and in everything that fosters agility [689d] of soul, while those whose mental condition is the reverse of this shall be entitled “wise,” even if—as the saying goes—“they spell not neither do they swim”2; and to these latter, as to men of sense, the government shall be entrusted. For without harmony,3 my friends, how could even the smallest fraction of wisdom exist? It is impossible. But the greatest and best of harmonies would most properly be accounted the greatest wisdom; and therein he who lives rationally has a share, whereas he who is devoid thereof [689e] will always prove to be a home-wrecker and anything rather than a saviour of the State, because of his ignorance in these matters. So let this declaration stand, as we recently said, as one of our axioms.

Yes, let it stand.

Our States, I presume, must have rulers and subjects.

Of course.

1 In this comparison between the Soul and the State both are regarded as consisting of two parts or elements, the ruling and the ruled, of which the former is the noblest, but the latter the “greatest” in bulk and extent. The ruling element in the Soul is Reason (νοῦς, λόγος), and in the State it is Law (νόμος) and its exponents: the subject element in the Soul consists of sensations, emotions and desires, which (both in hulk and in irrationality) correspond to the mass of the “volgus” in the State. Plato's usual division of the Soul is into three parts—reason (νοῦς), passion (θυμός), and desire (ἐπιθυμία): cp. Plat. Rep. 435ff.

2 i.e., are ignorant of even the most ordinary accomplishments.

3 Cp. Plat. Rep. 430e; 591d.

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