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[473a] “Is it possible for anything to be realized in deed as it is spoken in word, or is it the nature of things that action should partake of exact truth less than speech, even if some deny it1? Do you admit it or not?” “I do,” he said. “Then don't insist,” said I, “that I must exhibit as realized in action precisely what we expounded in words. But if we can discover how a state might be constituted most nearly answering to our description, you must say that we have discovered that possibility of realization which you demanded. [473b] Will you not be content if you get this?” “I for my part would.” “And I too,” he said.

“Next, it seems, we must try to discover and point out what it is that is now badly managed in our cities, and that prevents them from being so governed, and what is the smallest change that would bring a state to this manner of government, preferably a change in one thing, if not, then in two, and, failing that, the fewest possible in number and the slightest in potency.” [473c] “By all means,” he said. “There is one change, then,” said I, “which I think that we can show would bring about the desired transformation. It is not a slight or an easy thing but it is possible.” “What is that?” said he. “I am on the very verge,” said I, “of what we likened to the greatest wave of paradox. But say it2 I will, even if, to keep the figure, it is likely to wash3 us away on billows of laughter and scorn. Listen.” “I am all attention,” he said. “Unless,” said I, “either philosophers become kings4 [473d] in our states or those whom we now call our kings and rulers take to the pursuit of philosophy seriously and adequately, and there is a conjunction of these two things, political power and philosophic intelligence, while the motley horde of the natures who at present pursue either apart from the other are compulsorily excluded, there can be no cessation of troubles, dear Glaucon, for our states, nor, I fancy, for the human race either. Nor, until this happens, will this constitution which we have been expounding in theory [473e] ever be put into practice within the limits of possibility and see the light of the sun. But this is the thing that has made me so long shrink from speaking out, because I saw that it would be a very paradoxical saying. For it is not easy5 to see that there is no other way of happiness either for private or public life.” Whereupon he, “Socrates,” said he, “after hurling at us such an utterance and statement as that, you must expect to be attacked by a great multitude of our men of light and leading,6 who forthwith will, so to speak, cast off their garments7

1 Plato is contradicting the Greek commonplace which contrasts the word with the deed. Cf. Apology 32 A, Sophist 234 E, Euripides frag.Alcmeneλόγος γὰρ τοὔργον οὐ νικᾷ ποτε, and perhaps Democritus's λόγος ἔργου σκιή. Cf. A.J.P. xiii. p. 64. The word is the expression of the thought. It is more plastic (588 D, Laws 736 B) and, as Goethe says, “von einem Wort lässt sich kein Iota rauben.”

2 εἰρήσεται: so used by the orators to introduce a bold statement. Cf. Aeschines ii. 22, Demosthenes xix. 224, xi. 17, xiv. 24, xxi. 198, etc.

3 More literally “deluge or overwhelm with ridicule.”

4 This is perhaps the most famous sentence in Plato. Cf. for the idea 499 B, 540 D, Laws 711 D, 712 A, 713 E ff. It is paraphrased by the author of the seventh Epistle(324 B, 326 A-B, 328 A-B) who perhaps quotes Plato too frequently to be Plato himself.Epistle ii. 310 E, though sometimes quoted in this connection, is not quite the same thought. It is implied in the Phaedrus 252 Eφιλόσοφος καὶ ἡγεμονικός, and Politicus 293 C, and only seems to be contradicted in Euthydemus 306 B. Aristotle is said to have contradicted it in a lost work (fr. 79, 1489 b 8 ff.). It is paraphrased or parodied by a score of writers from Polybius xii. 28 to Bacon, Hobbes, More, Erasmus, and Bernard Shaw. Boethius transmitted it to the Middle Ages (Cons. Phil. i. 4. 11). It was always on the lips of Marcus Aurelius. Cf. Capitol, Aurelius i. 1 and iv. 27. It was a standardized topic of compliment to princes in Themistius, Julian, the Panegyrici Latini, and many modern imitators. Among the rulers who have been thus compared with Plato's philosophic king are Marcus Aurelius, Constantine, Arcadius, James I., Frederick the Great, and Napoleon. There is a partial history of the commonplace in T. Sinko's Program, Sententiae Platonicae de philophis regnantibus fata quae fuerint, Krakow, 1904, in the supplementary article of Karl Praechter, Byzantinische Zeitschrift, xiv. (1905) pp. 4579-491, and in the dissertation of Emil Wolff, Francis Bacons Verhaltnis zu Platon, Berlin, 1908, pp. 60 ff.

5 Plato's condescension to the ordinary mind that cannot be expected to understand often finds expression in this form. Cf. 366 C, 489 C, Theaetetus 176 C, and Republic 495 Eἀνάγκη.

6 Lit. “many and not slight men.”

7 Cf. Hipponax, fr. 74 (58), Theophrast.Char. 27, Aristophanes Wasps 408.

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