previous next
[472a] dismissing everything else.” “This is a sudden assault,1 indeed,” said I, “that you have made on my theory, without any regard for my natural hesitation. Perhaps you don't realize that when I have hardly escaped the first two waves, you are now rolling up against me the ‘great third wave2’ of paradox, the worst of all. When you have seen and heard that, you will be very ready to be lenient,3 recognizing that I had good reason after all for shrinking and fearing to enter upon the discussion of so paradoxical a notion.” “The more such excuses you offer,” he said, “the less [472b] you will be released by us from telling in what way the realization of this polity is possible. Speak on, then, and do not put us off.” “The first thing to recall, then,” I said, “is that it was the inquiry into the nature of justice and injustice that brought us to this pass.4” “Yes; but what of it?” he said. “Oh, nothing,5” I replied, “only this: if we do discover what justice is, are we to demand that the just man shall differ from it in no respect, [472c] but shall conform in every way to the ideal? Or will it suffice us if he approximate to it as nearly as possible and partake of it more than others?” “That will content us,” he said. “A pattern, then,” said I, “was what we wanted when we were inquiring into the nature of ideal justice and asking what would be the character of the perfectly just man, supposing him to exist, and, likewise, in regard to injustice and the completely unjust man. We wished to fix our eyes upon them as types and models, so that whatever we discerned in them of happiness or the reverse would necessarily apply to ourselves [472d] in the sense that whosoever is likest them will have the allotment most like to theirs. Our purpose was not to demonstrate the possibility of the realization of these ideals.” “In that,” he said, “you speak truly.” “Do you think, then, that he would be any the less a good painter,6 who, after portraying a pattern of the ideally beautiful man and omitting no touch required for the perfection of the picture, should not be able to prove that it is actually possible for such a man to exist?” “Not I, by Zeus,” he said. “Then were not we, [472e] as we say, trying to create in words the pattern of a good state?” “Certainly.” “Do you think, then, that our words are any the less well spoken if we find ourselves unable to prove that it is possible for a state to be governed in accordance with our words?” “Of course not,” he said. “That, then,” said I, “is the truth7 of the matter. But if, to please you, we must do our best to show how most probably and in what respect these things would be most nearly realized, again, with a view to such a demonstration, grant me the same point.8” “What?”

1 ὥσπερ marks the figurative use as τινα in Aeschines, Tim. 135 τινα καταδρομήν.

2 Cf. Introduction p. xvii. The third wave, sometimes the ninth, was proverbially the greatest. Cf. Euthydemus 293 A, Lucan v. 672 “decimus dictu mirabile fluctus,” and Swineburne: “Who swims in sight of the third wave/ That never a swimmer shall cross or climb.”

3 συγγνώμην: L. and S. wrongly with ὅτι, “to acknowledge that . . .”

4 Cf. Introduction p. xii. and note d. Plato seems to overlook the fact that the search was virtually completed in the fourth book.

5 οὐδέν: idiomatic, like the English of the translation. Cf. Charmides 164 A, Gorgias 498 A, 515 E. The emphatic statement that follows of the value of ideals as ideals is Plato's warning hint that he does not expect the literal realization of his Utopia, though it would be disillusionizing to say so too explicitly. Cf. introduction p. xxxi-xxxii, and my paper on Plato's Laws, Class. Phil. ix. (1914) pp. 351 and 353. This is one of the chief ideas that Cicero derived from Plato. He applies it to his picture of the ideal orator, and the mistaken ingenuity of modern scholarship has deduced from this and attributed to the maleficent influence of Plato the post-Renaissancee and eighteenth-century doctrine of fixed literary kinds. Cf. my note in the New York Nation, vol. ciii. p. 238, Sept. 7, 1916.

6 An ideal in the plastic arts is used to illustrate the thought. Cf. Aristotle Poetics 1461 b 14, Politics 1281 b 10, Cicero, Orator ii. 3, Xenophon Memorabilia iii. 10, Finsler, Platon u. d. aristotelische Poetik, p. 56. Polyb. vi. 47. 7 gives a different turn to the comaprison of the Republic to a statue. Plato is speaking from the point of view of ordinary opinion, and it is uncritical to find here and in 501 an admission that the artist copies the idea, which is denied in Book X. 597 E ff. Apelt, Platonische Aufsätze, p. 67.

7 Cf. 372 E.

8 The point is so important that Plato repeats it more specifically.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Notes (James Adam)
load focus Greek (1903)
hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
New York (New York, United States) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
1916 AD (1)
1914 AD (1)
1461 AD (1)
1281 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: