previous next
[496a] who has fallen into poverty and abandonment?” “There is no difference at all,” he said. “Of what sort will probably be the offspring of such parents?” “Will they not be bastard1 and base?” “Inevitably.” “And so when men unfit for culture approach philosophy and consort with her unworthily, what sort of ideas and opinions shall we say they beget? Will they not produce what may in very deed be fairly called sophisms, and nothing that is genuine or that partakes of true intelligence2?” “Quite so,” he said.

“There is a very small remnant,3 then, Adeimantus,” I said, [496b] “of those who consort worthily with philosophy, some well-born and well-bred nature, it may be, held in check4 by exile,5 and so in the absence of corrupters remaining true to philosophy, as its quality bids, or it may happen that a great soul born in a little town scorns6 and disregards its parochial affairs; and a small group perhaps might by natural affinity be drawn to it from other arts which they justly disdain; and the bridle of our companion Theages7 also might operate as a restraint. For in the case of Theages all other conditions were at hand [496c] for his backsliding from philosophy, but his sickly habit of body keeping him out of politics holds him back. My own case, the divine sign,8 is hardly worth mentioning—for I suppose it has happened to few or none before me. And those who have been of this little company9 and have tasted the sweetness and blessedness of this possession and who have also come to understand the madness of the multitude sufficiently and have seen that there is nothing, if I may say so, sound or right in any present politics,10 and that there is no ally [496d] with whose aid the champion of justice11 could escape destruction, but that he would be as a man who has fallen among wild beasts,12 unwilling to share their misdeeds13 and unable to hold out singly against the savagery of all, and that he would thus, before he could in any way benefit his friends or the state come to an untimely end without doing any good to himself or others,—for all these reasons I say the philosopher remains quiet, minds his own affair, and, as it were, standing aside under shelter of a wall14 in a storm and blast of dust and sleet and seeing others filled full of lawlessness, is content if in any way [496e] he may keep himself free from iniquity and unholy deeds through this life and take his departure with fair hope,15 serene and well content when the end comes.” “Well,” he said, “that is no very slight thing

1 It is probably fanciful to see in this an allusion to the half-Thracian Antisthenes. Cf. also Theaet. 150 C, and Symp. 212 A.

2 Cf. Euthydem. 306 D.

3 Cf. Phaedrus 250 Aὀλίγαι δὴ λείπονται, and 404 A and on 490 E.

4 Perhaps “overtaken.” Cf. Goodwin on Dem.De cor. 107.

5 It is possible but unnecessary to conjecture that Plato may be thinking of Anaxagoras or Xenophon or himself or Dion.

6 Cf. Theaet. 173 B, 540 D.

7 This bridle has become proverbial. Cf. Plut.De san. tuenda 126 B, Aelian, Var. Hist. iv. 15. For Theages cf. also Apol. 33 E and the spurious dialogue bearing is name.

8 The enormous fanciful literature on the daimonion does not concern the interpretation of Plato, who consistently treats it as a kind of spiritual tact checking Socrates from any act opposed to his true moral and intellectual interests. Cf. What Plato Said, pp. 456-457, on Euthyphro 3 B, Jowett and Campbell, p. 285.

9 For τούτων . . . γενόμενοι cf. Aristoph.Clouds 107τούτων γενοῦ μοι.

10 The irremediable degeneracy of existing governments is the starting-point of Plato's political and social speculations. Cf. 597 B, Laws 832 C f., Epist. vii. 326 A; Byron, apudArnold, Essays in Crit. ii. p. 195 “I have simplified my politics into an utter detestation of all existing governments.” This passage, Apol. 31 E ff. and Gorg. 521-522 may be considered Plato's apology for not engaging in politics Cf. J. V. Novak, Platon u. d. Rhetorik, p. 495 (Schleiermacher, Einl. z. Gorg. pp. 15 f.), Wilamowitz, Platon, i. 441-442 “Wer kann hier die Klage über das eigene Los überhören?” There is no probability that, as an eminent scholar has maintained, the Republic itself was intended as a programme of practical politics for Athens, and that its failure to win popular opinion is the chief cause of the disappointed tone of Plato's later writings. Cf. Erwin Wolff in Jaeger's Neue Phil. Untersuchungen,Heft 6, Platos Apologie, pp. 31-33, who argues that abstinence from politics is proclaimed in the Apology before the Gorgias and that the same doctrine in the seventh Epistle absolutely proves that the Apology is Plato's own. Cf. also Theaet. 173 C ff., Hipp. Maj. 281 C, Euthydem. 306 B,Xen.Mem. i. 6. 15.

11 Cf. 368 b, Apol. 32 Eεἰ . . . ἐβοήθουν τοῖς δικαίοις and 32 Aμαχούμενον ὑπὲρ τοῦ δικαίου.

12 Cf. Pindar, Ol. i. 64. For the antithetic juxtaposition cf. also εἷς πᾶσιν below; see too 520 B, 374 A, Menex. 241 B, Phaedr. 243 C, Laws 906 D, etc. More in the UtopiaMorley, Ideal Commonwealths, p. 84) paraphrases loosely from memory what he calls “no ill simile by which Plato set forth the unreasonableness of a philosopher's meddling with government”

13 Cf. Democrates fr. 38, Diels ii.3 p. 73καλὸν μὲν τὸν ἀδικέοντα κωλύειν: εἰ δὲ μή, μὴ ξυναδικεῖν, “it is well to prevent anyone from doing wrong, or else not to join in wrongdoing.”

14 Maximus of Tyre 21. 20 comments, “Show me a safe wall.” See Stallbaum ad loc. for references to this passage in later antiquity. Cf. Heracleit. fr. 44, Diels 3 i. 67, J. Stenzel, Platon der Erzieher, p. 114, Bryce, Studies in History and Jurisprudence, p. 33, Renan, Souvenirs, xvii., P. E. More, Shelburne Essays, iii. pp. 280-281 Cf. also Epist. vii. 331 D, Eurip.Ion 598-601.

15 Cf. Vol. I on 331 A, 621 C-D, Marc. Aurel. xii. 36 and vi. 30in fine. See my article “Hope” in Hasting's Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics.

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)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: