. 7
( 9)


which actions are truly virtuous.
ch a p t er 7

Early education and non-philosophers
in the Republic

7.1 ove rv iew
When Glaucon and Adeimantus demand that Socrates demonstrate that
the just person is happier than the unjust, they are demanding that he show
that justice is a good for the soul. Relying on ordinary, common, beliefs,
they argue that the consequences of acting unjustly without a reputation for
injustice are clearly advantageous. The just person without a just reputa-
tion ends up entirely bereft of material possessions, tortured, and ¬nally
killed “ that is, deprived of absolutely all “external goods.” By contrast,
the unjust person who maintains a reputation for justice receives all of
the good consequences of that reputation, namely, safety and security for
himself and his material possessions, as well as the abundance of material
possessions acquired through his unjust behavior, which can then be used
to guarantee that one does not suffer any bad consequences in the afterlife
by bribing the gods. On “the many™s” account justice™s and injustice™s only
value for the soul consists in desire satisfaction or frustration. On this score
justice in itself is “painful” (–p©ponon) and “harsh” (calep»n), since it
thwarts a person™s allegedly natural desire for pleonexia. Such a sacri¬ce of
immediate desire may be worth it in circumstances where a person is too
weak to ensure that he will not suffer injustice in turn. But since the good
consequences of justice can be obtained equally well by successfully seeming
to be just, such desire frustration, given propitious circumstances, might
not be necessary. A person with Gyges™ ring, for example, would be able
to do whatever “he would want” (‹n bo…lhtai), thereby gaining the good
in itself of the desire satisfaction involved in unjust action, in addition to
the material and health bene¬ts of unjust action (wealth, the best food, and
so on). He also retains the bene¬ts of the reputation of acting justly, which,
as we saw, are identical to the bene¬ts of actually being just. Thus an unjust
person under these conditions has all of the goods. The only room left for

Early education and non-philosophers in the Republic 213
some value for acting justly lies in its having some hitherto unnoticed effect
on the soul itself.
The argument in the Republic until 612b is explicitly supposed to be
about the value of justice for the soul. If the argument of the previous
chapter is correct, then we should expect that a complete and thorough
reply by Socrates would defend four claims: (1) that there is a hitherto
unnoticed good for the soul that is generated by just action; (2) that there
is a corresponding bad for the soul generated by unjust action; (3) that
the alleged goodness in itself of acting unjustly (desire satisfaction) is in
fact not what it seems; and (4) that the alleged badness in itself of acting
justly (desire frustration) is not what it seems. In this chapter and the
next, I shall show that this is exactly what Socrates does. Relying on the
habituation principle he argues that acting justly has a valuable effect on
the soul: namely the achievement of a healthy, harmonious state of soul.
Socrates then, beginning in Book 4 and continuing into Books 8 and 9,
shows how the unjust person, to different degrees, lacks the healthy state
of soul and possesses instead a disharmonious, unhealthy soul. Finally, in
the arguments about pleasure at the end of Book 9, Socrates explains that
in fact there are different types of desires to be satis¬ed and that only the
virtuous person satis¬es the greatest and most valuable types of desire, and
thereby achieves the greatest and most valuable type of pleasure. Pleasure is
important in the Republic, as it was in the Gorgias, because it is an example
of a good in itself: that is, something that is good for the soul. Thus Socrates
will show that, although it appears that the tyrant has desire satisfaction, in
reality it provides him with no goods for the soul after all, since his desires
are in truth the result of a sick and corrupt soul.
These arguments aim solely at establishing the aiming principle SV. A
person should aim at doing the just/right action above all because this has
the effect of making her just. And one should aim at being just because it is
the healthy way to be, and also provides the desire satisfaction for the best
and greatest desires. But none of this argument affects, nor is it intended to
help with, what remains a central and pressing determining question: which
actions are the just ones, and how can we determine them? I have argued
earlier, and will elaborate here, that we cannot explain Plato™s account by
saying that he shifts focus from virtuous actions to virtuous persons. The
description of the virtuous person provides the reasons why one ought to
aim to be virtuous. But Cleitophon™s puzzle still remains: which actions
are virtuous/just? An answer to that is supplied by the middle books of the
Republic. Truly just actions are just because of their participation in the
214 Aiming at Virtue in Plato
Form of Justice. The content of justice and of the good is unknowable (in
Plato™s sense) without knowledge of the Forms, the exclusive province of
philosophers, which explains their capacity to rule properly and justi¬es
their position as rulers.
I interpret the body of the Republic as an elaboration of a situation we are
already familiar with from the “earlier” dialogues. As we have seen, Socrates
distinguishes between the aiming principle SV and answering determining
questions about what virtue is. He also claims to know SV, while disavowing
knowledge of what virtue is. While his con¬dent assertion of SV is plain,
his argument for its truth has been brief and, in the Crito and Gorgias, based
on the effect of virtuous actions on the soul. To act wrongly is to corrupt
the most important part of oneself, one™s soul. In order for Socrates to put
his commitment to SV into action, we have seen that he needs to make a
determination about what action is virtuous (or not contrary to virtue). It
is central to the interpretation of the early dialogues that Socrates, lacking
knowledge of what virtue is, cannot know that he is, in fact, doing the right
thing, although he can know that he has always aimed at doing the right
thing (as chapter one claims he argues in the Apology). His only way around
this problem is the intervention of his divine sign, which is conceived of
as an infallible source for answering the determining question in the here
and now. We saw further (1.5) that Socrates does not criticize his fellow
Athenians for lacking knowledge of virtue (which was his own situation
and perhaps part of the human condition) but for not being committed to
SV and/or for thinking that they knew what virtue was when they did not.
The latter is illustrated vividly by the case of Euthyphro (4.3).
My contention is that these same themes and basic positions are elab-
orated and articulated more fully in the rest of the Republic. In brief the
reading is as follows. In the Kallipolis, all of the citizens will be commit-
ted to SV, as Socrates is. Furthermore all of the citizens, except for the
philosopher-kings, will be in a condition of Socratic wisdom: they will be
aware that they do not know what virtue is. But they will also have the true
belief that the philosophers know what virtue is. So the philosopher-kings
in the Kallipolis play a role akin to that which Socrates™ divine sign plays in
the early dialogues. The citizens of the two lower classes of the Kallipolis
do not know what virtue is, but neither do they think they know. They are
ruled, however, by being properly convinced that the philosophers do know
and that this is what entitles the philosophers to rule. The philosopher-
kings then answer the outstanding determining questions for the citizens
by using their knowledge of the Forms. The mass of citizens know that
they ought to do the right thing above all, which is to do “their own,” and
Early education and non-philosophers in the Republic 215
that this is the only way for them to have healthy, beautiful souls and to
live in a healthy and beautiful polis, but they also are aware that they do
not have knowledge for themselves of what the right thing to do is; for this,
they rely on the philosopher-kings.

7 .2 th e s ignific a nc e of e a rly educat i on
Not far into Socrates™ search for justice in the city-state, Glaucon urges
that they move beyond description of a mere “city for pigs” (372d). With
little resistance Socrates agrees that it might not be a bad idea to con-
sider a city “with a fever.” The topic then quickly turns to the nature and
proper education of the guards that such a city will require.1 “A person who
intends to be a ¬ne and good guard of the city” (¾ m”llwn kal»v kˆgaq¼v
›sesqai f…lax p»lewv) must be a lover of wisdom, spirited, and quick
and strong (376c4“5). The emphasis is importantly on the future: these
are the qualities a person must have who aims at being “¬ne and good”
down the road. Thus they are necessary but not suf¬cient conditions for
acquiring excellence; no one is simply born ¬ne and good. It will be the task
of a proper education and upbringing, a topic that occupies a signi¬cant
portion of the Republic, to instill such excellence in individuals with the
appropriate nature. The discussion of the proper education in Books 2 and
3 is not typically treated by those interested in the argument about justice.
Scholars looking at this portion of the text in detail are usually concerned
with Plato™s relationship to poetry, and the political implications of his sup-
port for strong censorship in the state.2 But I shall show that this section of
the Republic articulates and establishes the critically important habituation
principle, and also raises a puzzle for the overall argument of the Republic
that relies on the aiming/determining distinction.
Proper education is the result of proper training, which consists in engag-
ing in the proper activities. The noun –pitždeuma, “practice” or “pursuit,”
and its cognates are used throughout these discussions.3 To engage in a prac-
tice is to perform a particular type of action repeatedly.4 One can practice
the speci¬c virtues or vices. Socrates makes clear that it is the practicing
of different sorts of activities that makes people into whatever they are,

I follow Burnyeat (1999), 257, n. 3 in translating f…lakev as “guards” rather than the more traditional
translation “guardian.”
2 3 Forty times in Books 2“10.
See, e.g., Annas (1981), 79“108 and refs. below, n. 7.
4 At Ap. 28b3“5, discussed in chapters one and three, Socrates™ imagined questioner asks him whether
he is not ashamed to have “pursued such a pursuit” (toio“ton –pitždeuma –pithde…sav) that now
puts his life at risk.
216 Aiming at Virtue in Plato
whether cobbler, farmer, soldier, artist, or athlete (374b ff.). Engaging in
the right activities, which is identical with having the right education, is
most important for the young, since they are easily impressionable and will
take on whatever stamp (t…pov) is impressed upon them (377a11“b2). It is
critical to emphasize that it is the doing of particular actions that impresses
the stamp on the souls of the young; activities affect both one™s body and
one™s soul, and engaging in activities of a certain sort generates a person of
a corresponding sort. Socrates says that the future guard must neither “do
nor imitate” (pr†ttein oÉd• mime±sqai, 395c3; cf. also c6) base characters
or actions, thereby describing the danger of imitating bad actions as parallel
to that of doing bad actions.5 What makes “doing” and “imitating” prob-
lematic is that such conduct “settles into both habits and nature (e«v ›qh
te kaª f…sin), in body, speech, and thought” (395d2). This explains Plato™s
concern with “musical education”6 in general, and imitation in particular,
since he believes that both affect and effect a person™s character. The habit-
uation principle applies not only to ordinary actions but to the “acting”
done in the course of musical education, and especially imitation.7 Thus
the habituation principle is an explicit part of the argument here in the
Republic.8 As Socrates emphasizes in the Gorgias (see 464a, 524d ff.), acting
virtuously is so important because how we act leads either to the health

5 Ferrari (1989), 116 emphasizes that the guards-to-be perform the poetry. Halliwell (2002), 52 too
argues that imitation here involves the audience (i.e. the child undergoing the musical education) as
a kind of performer and so it is something the young person does, not simply something he or she
passively witnesses. This is brought out by the frequent use of –pithde…ein and cognates. What this
means is that “imitating” will be subject to the habituation principle just as much as acting, which
explains why Plato is so concerned with it: it shapes our characters as much as what we “really” do.
Cf. also Rep. 10, 603c5“9.
“Musical education,” the translation of mousikž, is a considerably broader idea than our “music.” It
consists not only in playing music and singing but in the study of poetry, and even, as we shall see,
acting out parts in skits (see the prohibition on mimˆsis, 392d ff.). To be mousik»v is to be cultured,
well-read, and re¬ned, not to be a musician in the contemporary sense (see 398e1). It is one of the
three traditional parts of an Athenian education, along with “physical exercise” (gumnastikž) and
“letters” (grammatikž). As above, musical education in this sense is not simply something a child
passively listens to: he sings, acts, and learns to recite poetry. Despite the passive, “being educated”
consists in an active engagement in certain sorts of activities.
7 In English we say that ¬lm or theater actors “act” as do ordinary agents. Plato argues that both affect
a person similarly; see Rep. 10, 606a“c. For discussion of the effects of poetry and imitation see
especially Burnyeat (1999), Ferrari (1989), Halliwell (2002), and Nehamas (1982), (1988).
8 Lear (1992/1998) argues persuasively that the psychology of the Republic involves processes of both
“internalization” and “externalization.” Internalization involves the effect of “cultural in¬‚uences” on
an individual™s psyche. A person™s education of course involves internalization. Lear does not discuss,
however, what makes internalization possible, and how it is effected: the answer is the habituation
principle. Culture or, in more Platonic terms, “the state” in¬‚uences us because it makes possible and
encourages certain types of activities and discourages and/or prevents others and, by the habituation
principle, it is the engaging in particular types of actions that makes us particular types of people.
For criticism of Lear™s view see Ferrari (2003), esp. chs. 2 and 4.
Early education and non-philosophers in the Republic 217
or illness of one™s soul, to its excellent condition or its corruption, and the
condition of one™s soul is of paramount importance.
We ¬nd the same account expressed more succinctly and stridently in
the cross-examination of Homer in Book 10. Homer and the poets are
accused of being mere “imitators” at “three removes” from reality (counting
inclusively in Greek fashion, [1] Forms, [2] sensibles, [3] images) (597e).
Socrates then says that he will not go through the individual crafts to
see whether Homer is truly an expert at each of them, but skip straight
to the “greatest and ¬nest things” (meg©stwn te kaª kall©stwn, 599c6“
7), which are “concerning wars and generalship and managing cities, and
about the education of human beings” (pol”mwn te p”ri kaª strathgi¤n
kaª dioikžsewn p»lewn, kaª paide©av p”ri ˆnqrÛpou, 599c7“d2). Then
Socrates turns to address Homer “directly,” challenging him to rebut the
claim that he is at “the third remove from truth about virtue” (tr©tov ˆp¼
t¦v ˆlhqe©av e² ˆret¦v p”ri, 599d3“4). We should note that the list of
topics, including education, which is emphasized by being positioned at
the end of the list and by repeating the preposition per©, is summed up by
Socrates as “about virtue.” So the real question Socrates is asking Homer
is whether he is truly an expert at virtue, and thus would know how to
educate people and make them virtuous (see 600c3“6, d6).9 In the next
line we learn that this would involve knowing “what pursuits make human
beings better or worse in private and in public” (po±a –pithde…mata
belt©ouv £ ce©rouv ˆnqrÛpouv poie± «d©aƒ kaª dhmos©aƒ, 599d5“6).10 Now
this is the very question that Socrates and Glaucon are trying to answer
in Books 2“3. By the time we reach Book 10 we will have learned about
the Forms, and come to see the “real,” i.e. sensible, world as a world at a
“second” remove from reality. Nevertheless the criticism of Homer in Book
10 supports the reading of musical education defended here. In order to
truly educate someone in virtue one must be able to determine which are
the activities that lead a person to virtue. One cannot compose poetry that
truly depicts virtuous actions and speci¬es virtuous pursuits without being
able to answer the determining question about what a virtuous action is.11

9 See Meno 99b7“9 for the same criticism: “Thus [men like Themistocles and Anytus who lack
knowledge] are not able to make others be like themselves inasmuch as they are not such people on
account of knowledge.” Cf. Meno 100a1“2, 6“7.
10 This idea is frequently centered around concern with the youth and focuses on what sort of “pursuits”
(–pithde…mata) and “lessons” (maqžmata) they ought to engage in towards the proper shaping of
their souls. See, e.g., Euthyd. 275a6, 275b3; La. 179d7, 180a4, 180c4, 182c2, 185e1, 186c5“d3; Phdr.
252e5, 253a4, 253b6; Pr. 327a3“4.
11 As we shall see below, this will be done in a knowledgeable way by the philosopher-kings, who have
come to know the Forms.
218 Aiming at Virtue in Plato
Book 10 rejects Homer because he is deemed not to know which pursuits
make people better or worse. But do Socrates and Glaucon?
The whole point of constructing a city “in theory” is, ostensibly, to see
whether the nature of justice might be discovered more easily by looking
¬rst at the nature and origin of justice in this “bigger” object (see 368d“
369a). Socrates and Glaucon then move from describing the types of people
in a city to describing how to make the most important members of the city,
the guards, excellent. In discussing what sort of education would make the
guards as excellent as possible, they must rely on some idea of how virtue
arises in individuals. In general terms the answer is by engaging in the right
(virtuous) activities, listening to and imitating the right stories, and so
on. Over the course of Books 2“3 Glaucon and Socrates discuss the proper
content of stories, their proper style, appropriate rhythms, and proper types
of painting, weaving, and architecture. Exposure to and engagement with
excellent types of these stories and artworks yield excellent, graceful, and
well-ordered souls.
But there is a complication: how do we determine which types are the
excellent ones? This arises in particular with respect to the issue of the
content of poetry, on which Socrates spends the most time (378e“392c). By
listening to, repeating, and actively performing the activities of a proper
musical education one develops a state of soul of the corresponding type.
In order for poetry to achieve this goal, it must also depict virtuous people,
and to do this, it must depict virtuous actions and show people acting in
excellent ways and not depict people acting contrary to virtue. Stories and
songs contribute to the formation of virtuous characters because they truly
depict virtuous actions, and it is this latter feature that makes the stories
virtuous and therefore appropriate to be told. Similarly, stories or scenes
depicting non-virtuous behavior must be excised or banished from the city.
It is only then that stories are able to have the desired educative effect.12
The question of determining which actions are virtuous and which are
not (to be depicted or not in virtue-engendering music and poetry) is thus
central to and problematic for any account of a proper education. Socrates
and company are concerned to ¬nd, and will ¬nd by the end of Book 4,
what it is to be a just person “ a task that will allegedly be made easier by
12 Why couldn™t a story contribute to the formation of a virtuous character by depicting vicious actions,
which then cause people by revulsion to be virtuous? We must remember that for Plato participating
in mousikˆ is a matter of mimˆsis, which, as we saw above, involves a person actively participating
e e
(by singing, dancing, acting) in the work. So depicting vicious actions would involve some young
person in acting out a vicious part, thereby harming his or her character (see 395e“396e). Apparently
Plato thinks something similar is true even for less participatory forms of art, such as painting and
architecture (401b3“d2).
Early education and non-philosophers in the Republic 219
¬rst ¬nding justice in the state. But now we see that, in searching for justice
in the state, they ¬rst need to discuss how to generate virtues in individuals,
and this leads us, via the habituation principle, to a question about which
pursuits and actions are the right ones, since it is by engaging in those
actions, or more relevantly in this context by watching, performing, and
imitating such actions, that people become virtuous in the ¬rst place.13

7.3 a t ens ion in th e account of e a rly educati on
I shall argue in what follows that there is a concern, explicit in the text, about
begging both aiming and determining questions. When Socrates, Glaucon,
and Adeimantus assume that the guards ought to be virtuous and that virtue
consists in the ordinary, traditional, virtues “ piety, courage, temperance,
etc. “ they beg the question whether one ought to aim to instill these.
When they attempt to describe the content, style, musical rhythms, etc.
of the stories that will instill these virtues, they beg determining questions
about content. We shall see that Socrates carefully quali¬es the account of
education, and that it looks forward not only to the tripartite division of the
soul in Book 4, which will begin to answer the outstanding aiming question,
but also to Books 5“7, which will resolve the determining question “ or at
least tell us how such questions could be resolved.
The text signals this tension. Since musical education is about the proper
molding of the soul (376e4, 377c3“5), what is critical is not that the story
be true, but that it be “¬ne” (kal»n, 377c1). Fine stories yield ¬ne souls.
Socrates proceeds to describe the proper types of stories to tell about the
gods. Some stories, like the punishing of fathers by their sons, should not
be told “ are not ¬ne “ even if they are true. Others should not be told,
and are false: namely, stories about the gods ¬ghting one another. The ¬rst
stories a child hears must be as ¬ne as possible to lead him “to/towards
virtue” (pr¼v ˆretžn) (378e1“3). Adeimantus then wants to know what
these stories are (378e5“6). He is calling for a determination to be made.
But, from the perspective of the outer frame, if Socrates knows what the
¬nest stories are “ i.e., those that lead a child to virtue “ then he must
know what virtue is. So we are faced with a familiar problem. There is
13 Readers may be concerned that the education described here will later be denigrated as effecting
only a “political” (see 430a“c) or “habitual” virtue (see 522a), and not the true virtue that will be
the possession of philosophers alone. I shall nevertheless persist in saying that this early education
inculcates virtue, since that is how Socrates discusses this as well (see the discussion above about the
argument with Homer in Book 10 and the passages cited in the following section). I shall address
the difference between the virtue generated by this early education and the virtue of the rare persons
who complete the philosophical education in 8.2 and 8.3.
220 Aiming at Virtue in Plato
agreement with the idea that the aim of education is to make the children
as excellent as possible (this follows from SV), but there is then a need to
determine what education, consisting of what sorts of stories and activities,
makes them so. A careful reader ought to be puzzled by the direction the
argument is taking. Overall, the discussion is supposed to discover what a
particular virtue is, namely justice, but here Socrates is providing an outline
of what sort of stories and practices are in fact the excellent ones.
He makes this determination by claiming certain truths about the gods.
The gods adhere unerringly to SV, and since they are gods, they are perfect
and never err or do wrong. The gods are responsible for absolutely no bad
things, only good ones (379b ff.). Socrates™ account relies on the distinc-
tion between aiming and determining questions. Criticizing poetry that
attributes bad actions to the gods, he maintains that, since bad things are
not caused by the gods, poetry should not say that they are. He explains,
however, that if and when destructive actions are the work of gods, it must
be because the destructive actions of the gods are really “good and just”
(d©kai† te kaª ˆgaq†, 380b1). Those suffering divine punishment are not
made “wretched” but bene¬t; to say that the gods do bad things, and not
simply destructive things, which are in fact truly good and just, is to speak
impiously (380c). How does Socrates know this? When he claims that such
a story would be impious, is he saying something inconsistent with his posi-
tion in the Euthyphro, when he denied that he knew what was pious and
what was impious? He does not say that he has some way of determining in
all cases what is pious and what impious. As we saw in chapter one, how-
ever, Socrates does claim to know SV. His conclusion about perfect divine
behavior follows from that. Since the gods are perfectly good ex hypothesi,
they know what virtue is and never act contrary to it. Thus Socrates can
know that a story that attributes bad actions to gods is false simply from
his knowledge of SV. But he is careful here, as he was in the Crito, not to
conclude from this that the gods never act, for example, destructively. All
he can know, consistently with the other dialogues, is that, if a god acts
destructively, it is because that is the virtuous thing to do. We must be
careful not to moralize: just because an act is destructive of something or
someone does not make that act ipso facto wrong.
Having provided the outline for the proper stories about the gods, at the
start of Book 3 Socrates concludes, relying on the habituation principle, that
children who are educated by poetry in accord with his guidelines will be
pious: they will honor the gods, their parents, and the relations between one
another (386a). Socrates then moves on to courage (386a“388e), decency and
honesty (388e“389d), and temperance (389d“392a). Without going through
Early education and non-philosophers in the Republic 221
each of these accounts in detail, we should recognize that they focus on
instilling a virtue in a person through his repeating, learning, and imitating
virtuous actions as depicted in song. In the case of courage the poetry must
work to prevent a person from thinking of death as a horrible thing that
requires excessive mourning. Why? Because then one would be tempted to
aim above all to avoid death for oneself and one™s friends, rather than to
aim at what is excellent; the very temptation Socrates (boastfully and rather
vulgarly, as he himself admits) says he couldn™t care less about compared
with virtue in the Apology (32d). The same holds later for poetry which
describes food, drink, sex, or money in glowing terms (390a ff.).
Throughout this discussion Glaucon offers no resistance to these ideas.
Of course, he agrees that the guards must be virtuous and Socrates is
merely proceeding through the virtues in order, and describing what sort
of musical education is best at instilling them in the guards-to-be. But is
everything in fact as innocent as it seems to Glaucon? Socrates is supposed
to be looking for justice in the city, so that he can determine what justice
is in an individual. But now he is simply helping himself to a traditional
list of virtues, assuming that they ought to be instilled, and describing the
types of stories that will instill those virtues in individuals. Commentators
concerned with the defense of justice typically skip forward to the account
of the virtues later in Book 4 (442b ff.), which explains where the virtues
are located and how they operate in the tripartite soul. But the preceding
extended description of education from the later parts of Book 2 into
Book 3 shows the importance of engaging in the right activities in order
to establish the very psychic relations that will later be described. As in
other dialogues, Socrates helps himself to ordinary examples of virtuous
behavior without providing any account of how what is really virtuous is
to be determined. But at the same time as this question is passed over in
the discussion, its importance is highlighted, for a virtuous character is
established by engaging in virtuous activity. We must then have a way of
determining which activities and stories are virtuous (and which are not) if
we want to make the guards, or anyone else for that matter, virtuous. Since
the problem of the content of virtuous actions and stories looms as large
as ever, we are far from replacing an act-centered account with an agent-
centered one. How does Socrates know which precise stories are going to
be the right ones, the ones that will truly instill courage, temperance, and,
in a word, virtue, without knowing what virtue is?
Glaucon and Adeimantus go along without a peep perhaps because, as
they said at least ¬ve times in Book 2, they are already convinced of the
value of justice and virtue (358c6, 360c5, 360d2, 361e2, 367a7“8); they do not
222 Aiming at Virtue in Plato
defend the Thrasymachean position in propria persona. But the text signals
that they should not be so compliant. Enthusiastically following along,
Glaucon and Adeimantus are perfectly ready to continue on to justice,
when Socrates pulls them up short:

What then is the kind [e²dov] of stories we have left, I [Socrates] said, about which
we still need to determine the ones that ought to be told and the ones that ought
not? For what ought to be told about the gods has been said, and also about
daimons and heroes and matters in Hades.
Very much so, [said Adeimantus].
Is what is left, therefore, [what sorts of stories ought to be told] about people
[perª ˆnqrÛpwn]?
Clearly. (392a3“9)

This is only a partly accurate account of what has been going on since
the late parts of Book 2 (377a ff.). There have indeed been quotations from
poetry about gods, daimons, heroes, and the underworld. The passage
suggests, however, that the point of Socrates™ discussion all along has been
to proceed through appropriate stories distinguished by whom the stories
were about, and that the remaining subject requiring treatment is human
beings. It is true that at the beginning (379a5“6) Socrates discusses what sort
of stories ought to be told about the gods. The point of this, however, was to
provide an outline for the “most ¬ne” type of poetry that would instill virtue
in the guards who practiced it (378e). At the opening of Book 3, it can sound
as though Socrates has completed the task of discussing appropriate stories
about the gods: “about the gods, these are the sorts of things, as it seems,
that one ought to hear and ought not to, from childhood on” (386a1“2). But
these stories are not only or most importantly about the gods. They are also
stories whose aim is to instill piety, which involves the proper relationships
to gods, parents, and even to one another, as Socrates himself says at that
point (386a). He then moves on to stories that involve the underworld,
and heroes, but this again is explicitly in the service of describing the types
of tales that will, and the types that will not, instill courage “ indeed, the
argument begins by Socrates asking, “What then if they [the future guards]
are to be courageous?” (386a6). There is no mention then of moving from
a discussion about gods to one about heroes. As he turns to the category of
proper behavior (not laughing excessively and truth-telling), he criticizes
any poet who represents “worthwhile people” (ˆnqrÛpouv ˆx©ouv, 388e9)
as engaging in uncontrolled laughter. He then also quotes lines about gods
(388e“389a). Socrates thus does what he says he hasn™t done in the above
passage: he discusses an appropriate story about people, not just about gods,
Early education and non-philosophers in the Republic 223
heroes, and so forth.14 The overall point is clearly that whoever is going to
serve as an example in the stories and poems “ whether it is a god, man,
woman, hero, demi-god or whoever “ he or she must act virtuously. Beings
that are admirable should not be depicted acting less than excellently. What
distinguishes the discussion of the content of different types of poems is
not so much whether they are about gods, heroes, or men, but whether the
content instills the virtue in question: from piety to courage, to decency
and honesty, to moderation.
If stories about the gods and heroes can exemplify pious, courageous,
and temperate actions, couldn™t they offer examples of just actions with
equal perspicuity? It is true that stories about justice are thought of as
stories about human beings as opposed to gods.15 But, just as the traditional
stories about gods have them engaged in excessive sexual lust and so should
be excised (390b“c), there are also clear examples of traditional stories of
divine injustice. Indeed some of the stories that are actually referred to could
easily be taken to illustrate examples of justice or injustice. The quote from
Aeschylus that ends Book 2 (383b) is plausibly considered to be more about
injustice and betrayal than about uttering a falsehood; it is one thing for
Apollo to have said falsely that Achilles would live a long life (the point
Socrates refers to in the middle of the quote [383b5]), it is quite another for
he himself to kill Achilles. It would be simple to use this as an illustration
of Apollo acting unjustly towards Thetis.16
From the perspective of the outer frame, an attentive reader ought to
grasp that the issue of the content of virtue, of its determination, is still
outstanding. Socrates, Glaucon, and Adeimantus are happily on the way
to describing the sort of stories that would, and those that would not,
cause the guards to be just. But, as though caught unawares, Socrates must
interrupt the ¬‚ow of argument to remind the brothers that they cannot
simply proceed next to discuss the stories that would instill justice (392a“c) “
a discussion that would naturally follow the accounts of which stories instill
piety, courage, decency and honesty, and temperance. First however he goes
so far as to describe the types of stories that they would censor in order to
make the guards just: about unjust men who are happy and just men who
14 See 387d1“2, where Socrates discusses the omission of lamentations of “men of repute” (t¤n
eÉlog©mwn ˆndr¤n); cf. also 390d2, d7. It is possible that these expressions refer to “heroes” and not
“people,” but 390d7“e1 refers to toÆv Šndrav. Furthermore, while the beginning of Book 3 paid lip
service to being done with stories “about the gods” (the task begun at 379a), repeated mention is
made after that of other appropriate stories about the gods (388b“d, 389a, 390e, 390b“c) until 392a.
15 See Eu. 12e5“8, Gor. 507a“b, and McPherran (1996), 48“51.
16 See the poem “APISTIA” by C. Cavafy, who quotes this passage from the Republic, in Keeley and
Sherrard (1975), 28.
224 Aiming at Virtue in Plato
are wretched, and any that claim that undetected injustice is pro¬table or
that justice is the good of another “ that is, they would help themselves to
the Socratic conception of justice. When Socrates asks whether this is what
they would say, Adeimantus replies, “I know well it is” (392b7). Glaucon
and Adeimantus seem already to have forgotten their movingly eloquent
but avowedly ad hominem defense of injustice. Socrates responds that if
they in fact said such things about what just stories were like, they would
then beg the question of their entire investigation into justice (392b8“9).
He then concludes:
Therefore we will agree about what sort of stories ought to be told about human
beings at that time when we have found what sort of thing justice is and how it by
nature pro¬ts the one having it, whether he seems to be just or not. (392c1“4)
This is quite surprising and should make the reader rethink what has been
going on up to this point. Why is justice so special and problematic? Indeed,
Socrates has just described what they would say about the appropriate
stories for instilling justice, and Adeimantus has agreed.17 In the earlier
dialogues Socrates has problems determining what any of the virtues is, not
only justice. Here in the Republic he addresses both why we should aim
at being virtuous/just and how we can determine its content. I think that
Plato means the reader to see that the problem raised about the content
of stories that would instill justice should, by parity of reasoning, taint all
of the previous discussions about how to instill the other virtues as well.
For why would one necessarily want to instill them, and what would be
the content of the stories that would instill them? Does either Socrates
or Adeimantus (or Glaucon) have knowledge of those virtues so that they
could accurately say which sort of activities and stories are the correct ones?
Callicles would certainly not think that stories instilling temperance, as
ordinarily conceived, should be told; neither is it plausible that Glaucon™s
and Adeimantus™ person with Gyges™ ring would engage in temperate or
pious (as opposed to pious-seeming) behavior.
In the treatment of meter and harmony that follows once they leave
the content and style of poetry behind, there is discussion of the types
17 Someone might object that the point here is to see that justice is in some important way different
from virtues like moderation, courage, piety, decency, and the other qualities that are instilled via this
early musical education. But later on, in a notorious passage from Book 4 (442d“443b), Socrates
proceeds to describe the actions that a just person would refrain from, and they include many
actions that have already been excised from permissible poetry, appearing to fall under the general
category of “wrongdoing”: embezzling, committing sacrilege, stealing, betraying, being unfaithful,
committing adultery, neglecting parents or gods. It is striking that this list includes actions that are
described as impious and contrary to the quality of truth-telling in Books 2“3. Piety is not a virtue
mentioned separately in the Book 4 list together with courage, wisdom, moderation, and justice.
Early education and non-philosophers in the Republic 225
of music that will again yield ordered, courageous, and ¬ne characters,
but justice is always conspicuously absent.18 When Socrates and his inter-
locutors try to specify what sorts of rhythms correspond to what sorts of
characters, the technical details get quite complex. They decide to leave
the determination to Damon, the expert, but one issue is beyond dispute:
gracefulness (eÉschmos…nh) is generated from good rhythms and the lack
of grace from bad (400c8“10). In other words, the habituation principle
holds, as of course does their commitment to goodness and virtue. But
to determine what is in fact a truly good rhythm, which generates a truly
good character, requires an expert in music and also, the text suggests,
an expert at what sort of person one ought to be “ that is, an expert at
Before Socrates turns to the proper training of the body (gumnastikž),
he summarizes why proper musical education as a whole is so important:
Then Glaucon, I said, isn™t it for these reasons [to…twn ™neka] that education
in “music” is supremely authoritative [kuriwt†t¦]: because both rhythm and
harmony most of all sink down into the inside of the soul and, carrying to it
[aÉt¦v] [i.e., the soul] gracefulness [eÉschmos…nhn], take hold most vigorously
and make [the person] graceful [poie± eÉscžmona], if someone educates [him]
correctly [–†n tiv ½rq¤v traf¦] “ but if not, then the opposite [happens]; and
moreover, the one having been educated there [¾ –ke± trafe©v]20 as he ought to
have been would perceive most acutely the things that fall short, things that are not
¬nely made or not ¬nely grown, and, correctly [½rq¤v] feeling distaste [for them],
he would, on the one hand, praise and be pleased at ¬ne things and, accepting them
into his soul, he would be nourished [tr”foit¬ Šn] by them and would become
¬ne and good [kal»v te kˆgaq»v]. And, on the other hand, shameful things he

18 See 399b8, 399 c3, 400a1, 401a7“8.
19 Shorey (1930), ad loc., thinks that there is some joking around here. Be that as it may, the important
point for me is that they are appealing to an expert who has knowledge of these matters, even if they
might be mocking Damon as the real expert. Further, in addition to the reasons Shorey mentions,
it seems plausible that some mockery is involved insofar as the requisite knowledge will not only be
technical knowledge of music, but knowledge of the character one ought to have.
20 I do not think “there” refers to “in music,” as commentators and translators take it, but to “in one™s
soul.” See Adam (1902), 167. Shorey (1930) and Grube/Reeve in Cooper (1997) follow. I can ¬nd
no parallel passage in the Republic where “there” is used to refer to something like a subject matter;
but cf. Laws 643c7. Its ¬rst appearances in the Republic (330d8, e3) is in Cephalus™ speech in Book 1,
where he uses it in the standard Greek metaphorical sense to refer to Hades. Plato then extends
its metaphorical reach to some other oppositions: city/person (e.g., 434d4, d7, e3), soul/body (e.g.,
404e3, 591e2), intelligible/sensible realms (e.g., 500d4, 611d7), here/now in the text/conversation as
opposed to above/earlier (e.g., 441b4, 509a1). In this passage the reference of –ke± is better understood
as “in his soul,” as it is just further on in the text (404e3), picking up on the point at the beginning
of the passage that rhythm and harmony sink down in the soul, thereby making the person graceful.
With hindsight we might think of Plato™s expansion on the great metaphorical “there” of Greek
culture “ Hades “ by using it to refer to the intelligible realm of Forms in Books 5“7 and in the
Myth of Er (see, e.g., 614b7, d2, e5).
226 Aiming at Virtue in Plato
would correctly [½rq¤v] castigate and hate while still young, before he was able
to grasp the account [l»gon],21 but when the account comes along, the one who
has been educated in this way [¾ oÌtw trafe©v] would welcome it most of all,
recognizing it on account of kinship. (401d4“402a4)
I believe that this passage, along with the one quoted below (402b9“c8),
foreshadows later parts of the Republic on which they rely in order to be
more fully comprehensible. The person properly educated in his soul by
mousike will be able to perceive both artifacts and natural things that fall
short of being ¬ne. The idea that a thing falls short of an ideal, falls short
of what is truly ¬ne, will of course be important in the account of Forms.
Being able to identify things as “falling short” of the way they should be is
the province of the philosopher, who knows the difference between Forms
and sensibles as described in Books 5“7 and in the Phaedo (see 74b“75d).
The philosopher understands how and to what extent the sensible world
falls short of the ideal, intelligible, realm.
Furthermore the upshot of this education is to prepare the young person
for delighting in the “reason when it comes along,” although at this point
he or she is not yet able to get it “ a rather cryptic idea that seems to come
out of nowhere and not be explicable in terms of what the reader knows
thus far. With hindsight, however, the remark becomes more intelligible.
At 522a, as Socrates is about to describe the educational program for those
who are able to attempt to become philosopher-kings, he refers back to his
and Glaucon™s earlier descriptions of education in “music” and “physical
exercise,” and wonders whether these will be suf¬cient for achieving the
knowledge of the Forms, which they have just ¬nished describing via the
image of the Cave. Glaucon there says that musical education instructed
the guards by “habits” (›qesi, 522a4“5), but not by giving them knowledge.
This later passage seems to refer back to the earlier one, where the “young”
person has been habituated to delight in what is ¬ne, but does not have
the “reason” yet.22 What is the logos that is supposed to “come along” later?
Clearly the Forms. Musical education by itself, lacking the accounts, that
is, lacking knowledge of the Forms, only develops habits and provides for
“grace” not “knowledge.” In Book 6, Socrates criticizes the current practice
of studying philosophy as stopping short of the most dif¬cult part: “the
part concerning accounts” (t¼ perª toÆv l»gouv, 498a4). We learn ¬nally

21 As Brown (2004), 286 notices, this line appears to anticipate Aristotle™s claim that the well-brought
up student either already has or “can easily get” ¬rst principles in ethics (NE 1.4 1095b3“8), which
provide “the because.”
22 Cf. also Rep. 10, 606a5, for the idea that being educated by habits is not the same as being educated
by logos.
Early education and non-philosophers in the Republic 227
in Book 7 that what provides the “account” is dialectic, and this is what
yields understanding (no“v):23
Do you not call the person dialectical who can get the account of the being of
each thing [t¼n l»gon —k†stou lamb†nonta t¦v oÉs©av]? And the one who does
not have it, insofar as he is not able to give an account (l»gon) to himself or to
someone else, to that extent won™t you say that he does not have understanding
(no“n) of it? (534b3“6)
This passage makes intelligible the above phrase, “when the account comes
along.” Of course it will not come along to all, or even most, of the guards.
My point is that here we have a foreshadowing of the later education of the
philosopher-kings, that specially quali¬ed subset of the guards. It suggests
that it is only once the philosopher-kings have their knowledge that we
can say de¬nitively which actions and activities the education described in
Books 2“3 actually should include. And, to anticipate, this will be because
it is knowledge of the Forms that provides the philosopher-kings with the
ability to answer at last the outstanding determining questions.
Although Glaucon readily agrees that Socrates is right about the impor-
tance of musical education, Socrates then explains how their entire account
of education since 378 in Book 2 must nevertheless be quali¬ed. He draws
an analogy by appealing to the necessity of knowing individual letters for
knowing how to read. He then says that the same is true for images (e«k»nev)
of the letters as well: we will not be able to identify them if we do not know
the letters themselves. Notice that this focuses on the determining question:
in order to determine what the images of the letters are, we must know the
letters themselves. This is not about being persuaded of the importance or
value of learning one™s letters in the ¬rst place.
An apparent allusion to the distinction between Forms and sensibles
seems to develop in the controversial speech that follows:
Then, by the gods, am I [Socrates] not right in saying that in this way too [as in
the previous example of letters] we shall never be true “musicians” “ neither we
ourselves nor the guards whom we say we must educate [oÎte aÉtoª oÎte oÌv
famen ¡m±n paideut”on e²nai toÆv f…lakav] “ until we recognize [gnwr©zomen]
the forms of temperance, courage, freedom of spirit, and magni¬cence and as many
kindred of these as there are, and their opposites as well that circulate around

23 Even though the de¬nition of knowledge as true belief plus an account (see Meno 98a) is not explicitly
in the Republic, it ¬ts quite well. The person educated by music will have true beliefs about what
is ¬ne and good, but he will not have knowledge of it until he gets the accounts, which turn out
to be the Forms. Of course, as I shall discuss below, only a small subset of those given the general
education of the guards will be able to ascend all the way through the course in dialectic, which
yields knowledge of the Forms.
228 Aiming at Virtue in Plato
everywhere [pantaco“ perifer»mena], and until we perceive [a«sqanÛmeqa]
them in the things in which they are, both themselves and their images, and we
disregard [ˆtim†zwmen] them neither in small matters nor in great, but we believe
[o«Ûmeqa] that [grasp of them] is part of the same skill and discipline?
The conclusion is inevitable, he [Glaucon] said. (402b9“c8)
This is a dif¬cult and surprising passage, which has caused consternation
among scholars insofar as it initially appears to refer to transcendent Forms24
and their images almost seventy-¬ve Stephanus pages before the passage in
which they are typically understood to be ¬rst introduced (476a).25 Indeed
there are good reasons for denying that the forms referred to here are the
transcendent Forms of the middle books, aside from the question-begging
explanation that they have yet to be “introduced”: (1) they are many, not
one;26 (2) they are “in” sensibles, rather than separate from them;27 (3) they
are in motion and perceivable.28 These reasons all focus on the description
of the metaphysical nature of the entities in question, and I agree that they
are conclusive.29 We should nevertheless appreciate how intimately these
immanent, moving, forms are connected to the more familiar transcendent
ones.30 At 476a, when we are unquestionably introduced to the unique
transcendent Forms, the language seems to pick right up from our present
The same account [¾ aÉt¼v l»gov] holds about the just and unjust and good and
bad and about all of the Forms: on the one hand, each itself is one, but, on the
other, because of its association with actions [pr†xewn], bodies, and one another
everywhere each [of the Forms] manifests itself in many appearances [pantaco“
fantaz»mena poll‡ fa©nesqai ™kaston].31 (476a5“8)
24 I shall continue the practice of capitalizing the initial “f” in “Form” to indicate the transcendent,
unique, Forms, and leave a lower-case “f” when e²dov does not refer to those entities or when it is
25 Contrast Zeller (1922), 560, n., who cites this passage as support for the “unwidersprechlich” claim
that Plato has his doctrine of Forms in mind from the beginning. Since I am arguing that Forms
are going to be critical to the ¬nal solution of the puzzles raised about education in Books 2 and
3, I am in agreement that Plato has Forms in mind from the beginning of the Republic, although I
would not go so far as to say that this passage by itself makes this indisputable.
26 27 Adam (1902): i, 168; Nehamas (1982), 260.
Nehamas (1982), 276, n. 61; Reeve (1988), 52.
28 Morrison (1977), 217; Reeve (1988), 52. Cf. also Malcolm (1981).
29 Reeve (1988), 52“3 maintains that they are properties, however, which also must have images that are
distinct from them. He proceeds to call the images of these properties “qualities,” and the properties
themselves “modes.” Furthermore, both of these, Reeve believes, are distinct from the transcendent
Forms. He argues for attributing this complex ontology to Plato in ch. 2.
30 Morrison (1977) too sees that the passage is important for understanding Plato™s metaphysics and
ontology. As far as I know, only Ferrari (1989), 121 attempts to say something about the implications
of the connection to Forms here for larger ethical and political issues. I understand the broader
signi¬cance of the passage rather differently. See below.
31 Perhaps this weakens Reeve™s (1988), 52“3 claim that the earlier passage is not at all about Forms;
Reeve never considers this passage.
Early education and non-philosophers in the Republic 229
Now that the object of the philosopher™s knowledge is being introduced we
learn that it has two aspects: on the one hand it is itself one thing, but on the
other, as in 402b“c, it appears in many things, being “everywhere.” What-
ever their precise metaphysical status is, it seems clear that the nature of the
plural forms at 402b“c stems in turn from their relation to the transcen-
dent Forms ¬rst mentioned here. It is because of the Forms™ association
with actions, bodies, and one another that we have these moving forms
everywhere. So the ultimate explanation of the forms that are necessary
for being truly “musical” requires reference to transcendent Forms, even
granting that they are not explicitly mentioned in the earlier passage, for
they are the real source of each of the immanent forms being the form that
it is.
Nevertheless, there are two apparent problems with thinking that tran-
scendent Forms are in play at 402b“c, even at one remove, which do not
concern the differing metaphysical nature of transcendent and immanent
forms. The ¬rst is that the passage concerns musical, not philosophical, edu-
cation. The transcendent Forms, however, are only part of the latter; the
former is a “fairly low-level achievement, far removed from a philosophical
understanding of the Forms; that only comes years later, to a select few.”32
The second worry is that, if the forms here are the Forms, then it seems
that artists would be imitating the Forms directly, thereby contradicting
the account in Book 10 (see 597e3“4) which claims that the poet/painter
operates at the “third” remove from reality by imitating objects in the world
which are themselves images of Forms.33 I shall deal with these two objec-
tions separately, although we shall see that they are related in important
and interesting ways.
To understand 402b“c we need to pay attention to the repeated use of the
¬rst-person plural and the passage™s marked distinction between the “we”
(most narrowly, Socrates and Glaucon) and “those we must educate” (the
future guards). While it is of course correct that musical education itself
will not include knowing the transcendent Forms, someone must know
the transcendent Forms if the musical education that will be given to the
guards is going to be truly correct. As the passage says, neither Socrates
and Glaucon, nor those they are to educate, will be truly “musical” until
“we” recognize the forms.34 Although the guards do not have to know the

32 33 See Adam (1902): i, 168.
Burnyeat (1999), 283, n. 51. See also Morrison (1977), 217.
34 This passage arises again in the context of curbing Glaucon™s tendency to assume things that are not
yet established. At 398e1, when Socrates is inquiring into the effects of different sorts of harmonies
and rhythms, he asks Glaucon for input, “for you are musical” (mousik»v). Here we see the play
between a narrow notion of musical, which applies to what we would call “music,” and the broader
230 Aiming at Virtue in Plato
forms, knowledge of them is necessary for establishing de¬nitively a truly
correct musical education for the guards to undergo. But who exactly is
this “we”?35 Although it is clearly Socrates and Glaucon at present, it will
be the philosopher-kings who will have to know the Forms so that they
can set up the correct actions and activities that will constitute true musical
education, with poetry that is properly excised, with the right rhythms and
harmonies, and so on. We shall see below that Socrates strongly quali¬es
the status of the musical education as they have just outlined it.
The second problem is dealt with similarly, once we see that the passage
is not saying that guards or poets themselves must know the Forms “ just that
someone must. In the Kallipolis, properly set up by the philosopher-kings in
accordance with the Forms, poets will write their poetry in imitation of the
just and good city which has been established by the rulers and in accordance
with the correct guidelines for poetry. For this city to come into being
someone must look to the Forms, but it will not be the painters but, in the
image we will see below, the philosopher-kings who are going to “paint” the
city in the image of the Forms. Thus there is a kind of double-founding of
the city at work, which enables the necessary bootstrapping. The “founders”
(Socrates and Glaucon) will, they hope, create an educational program that
will enable appropriately gifted students to ascend to knowledge of the
Form of the Good (which they themselves do not have), and then these
students, as we shall see, will actually found the Kallipolis by making the
city and its institutions in the image of the Forms, and thus establish

idea of a person being “musical” in the sense of being cultured and, as we would say, “well-read” or
“well-educated.” To call Glaucon “unmusical” (Šmousov) would be an insult. At 402b“c, however,
he explains that being “musical” is more complex than it ¬rst appears and that in fact he and Glaucon
are not really in a position to know that Glaucon or anyone else is truly “musical” insofar as they do
not know what a truly musical education is. This is a shockingly revisionary idea in that everyone
in the audience of the inner frame (and most probably of the outer frame) would consider himself
obviously “cultured.”
35 Re¬‚ecting on this question goes quite deeply into the structure of the Republic and into the interpre-
tation of it presented here. Throughout the work there is an element of “boot-strapping” involved
in the position of, especially, Socrates and Glaucon, and the issue of whether and how the Kallipolis
could ever come into being. Plato uses the words “founders” (o«kista©) three times: twice at 379a1,
and once at 519c8. In the ¬rst passage, Socrates says that as “founders” their job is not to actually
compose poems (the task of the poets) but to know the “outlines” (t…pouv) in accordance with
which poetry ought to be composed. (The signi¬cance of this claim is augmented when we recall
that just before (377b2) Socrates has explained that it is a type or stamp (t…pov) that is impressed
into the souls of the young.) In the second passage from Book 7, Socrates says that it is the task of
“us founders” to compel those who are able to ascend to knowledge of the Form of the Good, and
then to make sure that they do not remain there, but return to the “Cave.” I shall say more about
this passage later in the chapter, but what is important is that Socrates is not including himself
and Glaucon as philosopher-kings “ he has already disavowed knowledge of the Form of the Good
(505a). See below.
Early education and non-philosophers in the Republic 231
de¬nitively the education and institutions which Socrates and Glaucon are
only in a position to establish tentatively.36 Thus the allusion to Forms
here “ even at one remove “ does not in any way con¬‚ict with Book 10™s
claim that the painter and poet operate at the “third remove” from reality.
I am arguing then that in the present passage Socrates says that we
cannot know that this sketch of musical education, which is supposed to
instill at least habituated virtue in the guards, is the right one until we
know the forms (and ultimately the transcendent Forms) of those virtues.
Without such knowledge, which Socrates consistently disavows throughout
the Republic just as he has in the “earlier” dialogues, they cannot know
that the details of the education they have outlined “ which rhythms to
follow, which lines of poetry to excise “ are correct. Socrates has outlined
a program of education that he thinks might lead to the acquisition of
excellence, relying on common beliefs about what its content is. But he
consistently denies that he knows that content, and now refers to a special
metaphysical content, vague though its nature is, that is necessary in order
to know what virtue is.
We ¬nd further support for this interpretation at the end of Book 3.
Glaucon remains too quick to believe that they have established more than
they have, just as he was ready earlier to proceed to the stories that would
instill justice:37
[Socrates:] And would they [the future guards] not have been provided with the
greatest safeguard if they have been in reality [t¤€ Ànti] ¬nely [kal¤v] educated?
But indeed they surely have been, he [Glaucon] said.
And I said, it is not right [oÉk Šxion] [for us] to af¬rm this con¬dently, dear
Glaucon. But what we were just now saying it is right [for us to af¬rm con¬dently]:
that they must have the right education, whatever it is.38 (416b5“c1)
We see once again that Socrates curbs Glaucon™s attempt to claim knowl-
edge about the correct content of the educational program, reiterating the
caution emphasized in the previous passage (402b“c). An education that is
“in reality” ¬ne will yield truly ¬ne characters. But they cannot af¬rm that
they have discovered that. Why not? As I shall argue further below, because
36 Scott (2000) develops a related but quite different idea of “revisitation.”
37 He will do this yet again at the end of Book 4 (445a“b) when he believes that, once they have
described the state of the just person™s soul, they have completed the reply to the Thrasymachean
38 Shorey (1930), 309, n. d comments: “This is not so much a reservation in reference to higher
education as a characteristic refusal of Plato to dogmatize.” I argue that there is something more
speci¬c happening here. There is a reservation about the correct content of this education, which, we
will eventually learn, must await the knowledge of the philosopher-king in order to be conclusively
232 Aiming at Virtue in Plato
it requires knowledge of the Forms to answer the outstanding determining
questions about what will constitute the activities and actions of a truly
proper education that will truly instill the true virtues.39
Socrates™ role with Glaucon is a familiar one: he is trying to generate in
him some “Socratic wisdom” by making him aware of his own ignorance.
Socratic wisdom will be an important part of the interpretation of the
middle books. The Republic as a whole ought to yield some Socratic wisdom
in the audience of both its inner and outer frames. In fact I shall argue below
that the Kallipolis requires all (or almost all) of its citizens to have Socratic
wisdom: they need to be aware that they are ignorant of the Forms so that
they will be persuaded to accept the rule of the philosophers. Moreover,
although readers may ¬nd this surprising, I shall argue that in fact all the
citizens of the Kallipolis will be led, in a way, by reason.
This sets the stage too for how I want to understand the argument of
Book 4 in chapter eight. When Socrates turns to the “de¬nitions” of the
virtues in the city and in the individual, the question of how to determine
substantively which activities and subjects generate virtue is still outstand-
ing. When Socrates turns to the “de¬nition” and “defense” of justice in
Book 4, he is not concerned with this determining question. He offers a
new and complex account of the state of the soul of the just person, which is
part of the elaborate defense of the aiming principle SV. But as we shall see,
it cannot help with the outstanding determining questions about actions
and activities, nor was that ever its point. We will know which actions are
the virtuous ones once a person, a philosopher, knows the Forms. We have
seen that the seeds for this have already been planted for an attentive reader
in Books 2 and 3. The connection between the Republic and the earlier dia-
logues, as well as its internal unity, is illuminated by the aiming/determining

7.4 ph ilosoph ers a n d non- ph i los oph ers
in t he r e p u b l i c
In chapter ¬ve I argued that the distinction between aiming and deter-
mining questions helps to make sense of the course of the arguments
in Book 1. In the present chapter I have shown so far that resolving
determining questions is a standing concern throughout the account of
early education. Before turning to the account of justice in Book 4, I
need to explain some of the differences between the philosophers and the
39 Again, on the extent to which the virtue instilled by early education is less than “full” virtue, see
Early education and non-philosophers in the Republic 233
non-philosophers of the Kallipolis in order to understand the difference
between the virtue of philosophers and non-philosophers. The much-
debated question of whether anyone besides philosophers can be virtuous
is complicated by the aiming/determining distinction. For we have seen in
the earlier dialogues that Socrates himself distinguishes between being com-
mitted to SV and having the knowledge of what virtue is (see chapters one
and four). If one is unwaveringly committed to SV, then one is motivated
to do the right thing above all (and to never do the wrong thing). If one
is unwaveringly committed to SV (as Socrates claims he always has been),
then acting contrary to virtue can only be a matter of ignorance about
what the virtuous action is. Being perfectly virtuous, then, consists in two
things: commitment to SV and knowledge of what virtue is. Although only
philosophers will have both of these, the lower two classes will have the
former, just as we have seen that some of Socrates™ interlocutors, such as
Gorgias, Protagoras, and Euthyphro, do in the earlier dialogues. Unlike
Gorgias, Protagoras, and Euthyphro, however, the citizens of the Kallipolis
will not think that they know what they don™t know, but will be aware of
their ignorance of the nature of the good, the just, and so on.
This reading of the Republic requires some optimism about the capacities
of the mass of citizens of the Kallipolis. There is controversy about the nature
and extent of the education of the producer class.40 While it is true that
Plato is not so interested in the producers and takes their education and
behavior to be less important for the welfare of the polis than that of the
other two classes (see 434a“b), I believe that all of the citizens, including
the members of the lowest class, are deeply affected by being brought up
and living in the ideal city. In general, I think that most scholars have been
too pessimistic about the natures and abilities of non-philosophers in the
40 For quite pessimistic assessments see Hourani (1949) and Reeve (1988), 186“91.
41 Bobonich (2002) is an example of a scholar who argues that there is an enormous difference between
philosophers and non-philosophers in the Republic, such that non-philosophers can in no way be
virtuous or have anything like proper motivations since they are cut off from knowledge of Forms.
Vlastos (1971c/1981b) argues that the members of the Kallipolis would all, or almost all, be just.
Cooper (1977/1999), 139“41 attacks Vlastos™ view; Vlastos (1971c/1981b) responds, 425“6. See also
Vlastos (1991), 88“90. Irwin (1995), 229“35 also argues that knowledge is necessary for virtue and
that, since only philosophers have knowledge, only they can be virtuous. Irwin denies, however, 384
n.16, that the auxiliaries have “slavish” virtue (see Phd. 68c“69c, Rep. 4, 430b) simply because they
do not have knowledge. Kamtekar (1998) argues that the auxiliaries do have a type of “imperfect”
virtue. More recently, Brown (2004) and Kamtekar (2004) further argue in different ways that
the motivations and ends of non-philosophers approximate those of philosophers in the Kallipolis.
While I will register some disagreements with aspects of their positions below, in general I found
their papers very helpful and in¬‚uential in my thinking about the topics that follow in this chapter
and the next.
234 Aiming at Virtue in Plato

7.4.1 The effects of living in the Kallipolis
Even though the education in mousikˆ described in Books 2“3 is initially
explicitly aimed at the guards of the city42 (376e), many of the strictures
on cultural products that Socrates describes apply to the whole city. When
Socrates talks about excising lines of poetry in Books 2“3 or banishing
Homer entirely in Book 10, he is talking about banishing him from the
whole Kallipolis, not just from the area where the guards live. For exam-
ple, the story of Cronus eating his children should not be told “in our
city” (378b1“2; cf. 378d5, 386a1“4). A person who can imitate anything,
a practitioner of a “mixed style,” will not be permitted to perform his
poetry and will be escorted out of the city (398a1“6). When it comes to
music, multi-stringed and polyharmonic instruments (and the craftsmen
who make them) will be banned from the city and only the lyre and cithara
will be left, as well as a sort of pipe for shepherds in the country (399d“
e). Craftsmen too are to build only graceful buildings and statues (401b).
These regulations affect what all of the citizens will be exposed to during
their lives, not just the upper two classes. The Kallipolis will be constructed
according to plans and contain only such poetry, music, and art as have
been approved by the rulers and that adhere to their guidelines. As we saw
earlier in this chapter, exposure to such properly formed cultural artifacts
will foster graceful, temperate, well-brought up characters. Thus even if
the producers are given little or no formal education besides education in
their craft (456d), they will be surrounded by a culture which conforms to
the strictures of the philosopher-rulers. It would be wrong to think that
someone who is a cobbler could go to part of the Kallipolis and see an uncut
version of Achilles™ lament, hear about Cronus eating his children, or listen
to some cacophonous punk rock; such cultural artifacts are banished from
the city altogether.43

7.4.2 The attitudes of non-philosophers towards philosophers
In Book 4 Socrates says that temperance will be found in the Kallipolis
in the agreement between rulers and ruled as to who should rule (431d“
432a). At this point in the argument, all that the reader knows is that the
rulers will be selected from among the class of guards (412b“414b). The
42 From which both the true guards (the rulers) and the auxiliaries will stem; see 412a“414b.
43 Kamtekar (2004), 159, n. 49 claims that there would be no reason to censor the stories that the
producers hear, “for how could they harm them?” I think that they harm them the same way bad
stories harm the future guards: by affecting their souls.
Early education and non-philosophers in the Republic 235
only quali¬cations described thus far for being a ruler are that the person
be “wise and capable” (412c13) and pass a battery of tests to make sure
that his or her beliefs, instilled via the education outlined in Books 2“3,
never waver, particularly due to fear or pleasure (413c“414a). In order to
foster harmony between ruled and rulers, so that everyone cooperates and
does the work for which they have a natural aptitude, Socrates invents the
Noble Lie, which is to be told to all of the citizens (414b“415c).44 It says
that they are all born of the earth with different types of metal in their
souls “ gold, silver, or bronze/iron “ that indicate what work they should
do in the Kallipolis. In the terms of the Noble Lie, the rulers will have gold
in their souls.
In Book 4, before philosophers are introduced, it is assumed that the
Noble Lie would be suf¬cient for generating the agreement in all the classes
about who should rule and who should be ruled. But once Socrates conveys
the shocking news that, for the Kallipolis ever to come to be, philosophers
must be rulers or rulers must be philosophers (473c ff.), the idea that ordi-
nary people would accept this becomes implausible. Many commentators
notice that once it is claimed that the rulers must be philosophers, we learn
that the earlier “musical” education is insuf¬cient to produce them. For
example, at 503e Socrates refers back to the tests in “labors, fears, and plea-
sures” that he mentioned in Book 3 (413c“414a), which was initially how
potential rulers would be selected from the larger set of guards, and says
that those tests by themselves are inadequate. Potential rulers, now poten-
tial philosophers, must also engage in “the greatest subjects” (t‡ m”gista
maqžmata, 503e3). The greatest subjects are, of course, the Forms, and
“musical” education alone is inadequate for providing knowledge of them
(522a); mathematics and dialectic will be necessary. It seems to me plausible
that not only does philosophers™ ruling require more of the potential rulers,
but also that it requires more of the rest of the citizens as well. The Noble Lie
is adequate for establishing the belief in the lower classes that some people
have an appropriate nature to rule and that it is necessary for all citizens to
do what they are naturally suited for. But the further idea that the rulers
should be philosophers and that the ability to rule is going to be identical
to the ability to philosophize requires more argument. Glaucon remarks
that “very many” people who are “not base” would take up arms and attack
Socrates, unless he can defend himself with some argument (473e5“474a4);
the simple idea that there would be rulers selected from the larger class of
guards in Book 3, by contrast, provoked no such reaction. Socrates replies:

44 As Brown (2004), 298 n. 44 points out. Kamtekar (2004), 161 recognizes this as well.
236 Aiming at Virtue in Plato
If we intend to escape in some way those whom you mention, then it seems to
me necessary to de¬ne for them who the philosophers are that we™re talking about
and that we dare to say must rule. [We must do this] so that, having made this
clear, we should be able to defend ourselves by showing that, on the one hand, it
belongs by nature to them [i.e. to the philosophers] both to lay hold of [Œptesqai]
philosophy and to rule the city, and, on the other hand, [it belongs by nature] to
the others [i.e. to the non-philosophers] not to lay hold [of philosophy] and to
follow the ruler. (474b4“c3)
This passage is important because it explains how we should understand
the upcoming argument in Book 5 (476e“480a) as well as the continuing
description through Book 6 of the true philosopher. Socrates intends to
de¬ne who a philosopher is and then to show that, given who a philosopher
truly is, she alone is ¬t to do philosophy and to rule the city. Unlike the
Noble Lie, this argument is not explicitly presented as something told to the
citizens in the Kallipolis; rather, it is aimed at persuading non-philosophers
in the audiences of both the inner and outer frames, who are shocked by
the idea that philosophers must be the rulers. I shall argue, however, that
the argument in Book 5 ought also to be understood as a newly necessary
part of achieving the agreement in belief as to who shall rule and who shall
be ruled, which was said to constitute the Kallipolis™ temperance in the
earlier passage from Book 4 (431d“432a).
Before turning to the argument itself, however, it is important to empha-
size the broad range of the audience to whom it is addressed. In the literature
the argument is often referred to as the argument against “the sight-lovers”
or the “lovers of sights and sounds.” When Socrates says that one who takes
to learning easily and voraciously counts as a lover of wisdom and philoso-
pher, Glaucon objects that many people will fall into this category (475d).
Not only will it include the lover of spectacles and those who run to every
Dionysian festival to hear new choruses but also those who pursue “minor
arts” (tecnudr©wn, 475e1). When Socrates describes the group, he includes
the “lovers of crafts [filot”cnouv] and people of action [praktiko…v]”
(476a11).45 This description would clearly ¬t the majority of those in the
lowest class of the Kallipolis: the craftsmen, merchants, and producers.46 It
would also include those guards, described earlier as quick-learning philo-
sophical types (375e), who do not go on to become philosophers, but remain
auxiliaries instead. What this means is that Socrates presents this argument

45 Reeve (1988), 61“2 says that the argument refers to “sightseers and craft-lovers.”
46 As I shall emphasize below (7.4.4), we need to remember that the lowest class in the Kallipolis
includes everyone who is neither a philosopher nor an auxiliary. This is not an unintelligent or
incapable lot: doctors, engineers, architects, and artists will all fall into this category.
Early education and non-philosophers in the Republic 237
as one aimed at persuading not just a narrowly de¬ned particular group,
the “sight-lovers,” that philosophers ought to rule, but the majority of peo-
ple who engage in crafts and are people of action.47 This group would
include most of the audience of the inner frame (for example, Polemarchus
and Cleitophon), as well as most of the readers/hearers of the Republic
(including ourselves). After all, almost everyone is shocked at the idea that
philosophers must rule.
Book 6 con¬rms the idea that the cognitive condition of the sight-lovers
and craft-lovers is the same as that of the majority of the population. At
493e2“494a1 Socrates describes the cognitive condition of “the many” in
terms that are identical to the way he describes the sight-lovers™ (476c, 479a):
as those who do not accept the existence of Forms.48 It is this majority that
blames philosophers and castigates them. Over the next ten Stephanus
pages Socrates tries to explain why most people believe that philosophers
are vicious or at best useless, which is how he says philosophers are gen-
erally perceived in the ordinary world. Overall Socrates thinks that the
majority™s opinion of philosophers is not surprising, given their untutored
grasp of what a philosopher is and the typically sorry condition of actual
philosophers. He places most of the blame for corrupted philosophers on
the inadequate cities they live in, which destroy those who have a philo-
sophical nature (495a“b). The few who are able to be true philosophers
while living in inadequate political situations do so by steering clear of
politics (496a“e).49 When Adeimantus complains that Thrasymachus and
“most of your listeners” will not be convinced (498c5“8), Socrates replies
that this is because (1) most people (unlike those in the Kallipolis) have
never seen true philosophers and witnessed their virtue;50 and (2) they have
never heard arguments that were “¬ne and free” and seeking truth rather
than eristic debates aiming at strife and reputation (498d“499a). Both of
47 I do not deny that the description of “the lovers of sights and sounds” may in fact be supposed to
refer to a speci¬c segment of Athenian society; all I am doing is emphasizing that this is merely
one of the groups that is being addressed. The argument is in fact addressed to everyone in their
cognitive condition (i.e., almost all non-philosophers). This point risks getting lost when one refers
to the argument as the “argument against the sight-lovers.” I thank Wolfgang Mann for help in
clarifying this. I shall refer to the argument itself as the “Book 5 argument.”
48 See below, 7.4.3, for a more detailed description. Socrates says that this is why the majority cannot
be philosophical, but this is not the entire explanation. Acknowledgement of the existence of Forms
is a necessary condition for being a philosopher, but it is clearly far from suf¬cient. Below I shall
maintain that the argument in Book 5 generates acknowledgement of the existence of the Forms,
but that is very different from having, or even being capable of having, knowledge of them.
49 Socrates refers to himself as saved by his divine sign restraining him from entering politics, and he
offers the same explanation here as he did in the Apology (31c“32a); see discussion in 2.2.
50 See Kamtekar (2004), 161 for discussion of the effect of philosophers as models for non-philosophers
in the Kallipolis.
238 Aiming at Virtue in Plato
these replies refer to the potentially different attitude of “the majority” once
they have seen genuine philosophers acting in a Kallipolis and once they
have heard arguments of the proper sort. This implies that the majority is
capable of hearing and being persuaded by arguments of a special sort. It
is plausible to think of the Book 5 argument along with the subsequent
description of true philosophers and what they would do in the Kallipolis
in Book 6 as examples of the sort of “¬ne and free” arguments Socrates
has in mind.51 At 499d“500a, in response to Adeimantus™ continued doubt
about the prospects of persuading most people about philosophers™ rule,
Socrates expresses genuine optimism about the possibility of transforming
the many™s belief:
Do not condemn the many so completely in this way. In truth they will have a
different opinion if, by not indulging in your love of contention [mŸ filonik¤n],
but by encouraging [them] and by destroying their slander of philosophy, you show
them whom you mean by philosophers, and you de¬ne, just as we did even now,
both their nature and practice [tžn te f…sin aÉt¤n kaª tŸn –pitždeusin] so that
they don™t think that you mean the people they suppose. And if they see it this way,
you will then say that they will adopt a different opinion and will answer differently.
Or do you suppose that a person who is gentle and not grudging would be harsh
with someone not harsh or begrudge someone not grudging? I will anticipate you
and say that I believe that only in some few people, not in the majority, is there
such a harsh nature. (499d10“500a7)
The majority of people can learn and change their beliefs about the nature of
the philosopher if they are addressed by gentle types who are not striving for
contention.52 It is only a very few that are not amenable to persuasion.53 The
change that Socrates believes can be effected in the majority is the same
as the change that is to be effected in the sight-lovers, craft-lovers, and
“practical people” via the Book 5 argument. The reference to the discussion
of the nature and practice of philosophers refers back to the beginning
of the defense of the claim that philosophers must rule in Book 5 as well
as looking forward to the description of their education and abilities in
the rest of Books 6“7. What this means is that it includes the argument
of Book 5. Commenting on this passage, Rachana Kamtekar says: “Since

51 See 8.4 for what philosophers will do in the Kallipolis.
52 Katja Vogt suggested to me a possible further implication of the passage. If those who would address
such arguments to the many in the Kallipolis are the philosophers, then, perhaps unlike Adeimantus
in the present discussion, they will be truly virtuous and so truly gentle, unbegrudging and free
from contention.
53 And it is unclear whether such few would remain in the Kallipolis “ particularly if they attempted
to act against the laws of the city. Socrates says that those with unhealthy bodies will be left to die
and those with incurably bad souls will be put to death (410a2“4).
Early education and non-philosophers in the Republic 239
Socrates assumes no special education for the majority whose acceptance of
philosophers™ rule is at issue, it seems safe to say that the producers in the
ideal city could have at least as good reasons for believing that philosophers
ought to rule as do the majority in this passage.”54 This is an important
point. Any reasons available to the uneducated majority in the ordinary
world ought to be equally available to producers in the Kallipolis, who
moreover would have the considerable advantage of growing up in the
ideal city.55 While Kamtekar recognizes that showing the majority what a
philosophical nature and pursuits are “refers back to [Socrates™] account of
philosophers as knowers of Forms and lovers of wisdom (479e“484b),”56
she does not push the implication of this for our understanding of non-
philosophers in the Kallipolis.
Socrates™ appeal to the majority includes moving them from their untu-
tored belief at 493e2“494a1 that there are no such things as Forms, which
matches the initial condition of those who are supposed to be persuaded
by the argument of Book 5, to the realization of what a philosopher is by
nature: namely one who grasps that there are Forms and knows what they
are and, as we shall see below (8.4), who orders herself, the citizens, and the
entire Kallipolis in accord with them. This is con¬rmed shortly after this
passage when Socrates asks whether the majority, having learned the nature
and activities of true philosophers, would in any way doubt that philoso-
phers are lovers “both of what is and of truth” (to“ Àntov te kaª ˆlhqe©av).
Adeimantus says that it would be absurd (501d1“3). To understand this, the
majority must realize that philosophers have knowledge of the Forms but
that they themselves do not (which is, of course, the lesson of the argu-
ment in Book 5). Applying Kamtekar™s point, if the majority of ordinary
people, including the audiences of the inner and outer frames, such as
Polemarchus who is clearly a member of the producing class, can appreci-
ate who real philosophers are and that they are uniquely quali¬ed to rule

54 Kamtekar (2004), 160. In a footnote to this sentence, n. 50, she continues: “I am not supposing that
everything said of the majority applies to the producers “ that, for example, the producers in the ideal
city will have persuasive speeches like this addressed to them. For the purposes of reconstructing
the reasons for agreeing to philosophers™ rule available to the producers, the reasons available to an
uneducated majority set a minimum standard.” The “persuasive speech” Kamtekar is referring to
seems to be 499c“500a, quoted by her on p. 159. But I do not see why a persuasive speech similar
to the argument at the end of Book 5 might not be addressed to them. If Socrates thinks that
it could be persuasive to the majority in the ordinary world, why should it not be persuasive to
non-philosophers in the Kallipolis? The Noble Lie is going to be addressed to all the citizens. And
it seems to me reasonable that a member of the producer class might ask why the rulers of his city
are philosophers. He may “understand,” via the Noble Lie, that some people are naturally suited to
rule, but still wonder why they must be philosophers.
55 56 Kamtekar (2004), 160.
See 7.4.1.
240 Aiming at Virtue in Plato
because they, and they alone, have knowledge of what is and of truth, there
is no reason to deny this to the non-philosophers of the Kallipolis as well.

7.4.3 Instilling Socratic wisdom in non-philosophers
I proceed, then, on the assumption that an argument that can appeal to
the vast majority of people in the ordinary world can certainly appeal to
the non-philosophers of the Kallipolis. In what follows, I shall use “sight-
lovers” as shorthand for “the vast majority of people in the ordinary world”
who share the cognitive condition of the sight-lovers.57 Thus, the Book 5
argument (or something similar to it)58 could be expected to be told to
the citizens of the Kallipolis as part of persuading them that philosophers
ought to rule and thus contributing to the temperance of the city expressed
in the shared belief about who should rule and be ruled.59
Let me now turn brie¬‚y to the argument in Book 5 (476e“480a).60
Fortunately I do not need to enter the debate that has received most of the
attention in the literature about how to construe the verb “to be” in the
claims that “knowledge is set over what is,” “belief is set over what is and
is not,” and “ignorance is set over what is not” (477a).61 My interest lies
in less controversial aspects of the argument itself. According to a widely
held and well-defended reading of the cognitive state of sight-lovers, the
mistake they make is to believe that a quality such as beauty consists in
many varied sensible properties and to deny that there is any single Form of

57 Again, I do not deny that the “lovers of sights and sounds” is most probably a description of a
particular, more narrowly de¬ned, group.
58 It may well be that Glaucon™s answering on behalf of those who deny the existence of Forms enables
the argument to be presented in, for example, a more condensed form. If Socrates had conducted
the argument with Polemarchus, it might have required a more lengthy discussion.
59 Another part of the case, well discussed by Kamtekar (2004), esp. 160“1, and emphasized in Book
6, will be that non-philosophers in the Kallipolis will see true philosophers living and ruling in a
healthy city. Thus the latter will be exemplary models of virtuous, effective leaders, quite unlike the
way philosophers (and those with a philosophical nature) turn out in the ordinary world.
60 Fine (1990), 87 is clear that the argument is aimed at convincing the sight-lovers that philosophers
ought to rule; she refers to the “dialectical requirement” of the argument, which is that it must at
least begin with premises acceptable to the sight-lover. This point was originally made by Gosling
(1968). She then argues, more controversially, that only a veridical reading of the verb “to be” will
satisfy the dialectical requirement. See Gonzalez (1996) for criticism of Fine™s analysis. Bobonich
(2002), 58“66 says that in the Book 5 argument Plato is “facing up” to the task of showing that
the Kallipolis must be ruled by philosophers, but he never addresses the fact that the argument in
Book 5 is aimed explicitly at persuading non-philosophers that philosophers should rule by explaining
to non-philosophers who philosophers really are and how they are by nature suited to rule. Bobonich
mines the argument as a source for information about the difference between philosophers and non-
philosophers, but neglects to see what I argue is important below, that the “sight-lover” is not a
static ¬gure, but one whose cognitive condition must be quite different after the argument than it
is before.
61 See Bobonich (2002), 59“62 for a summary of different positions and references.
Early education and non-philosophers in the Republic 241
Beauty.62 The goal of the argument is to persuade them that there is a Form
of Beauty and that knowing it is a necessary condition for knowing what
beauty is. Further, it will show that without knowledge of the Forms the
most a person can have is belief and not knowledge,63 and that belief, unlike
knowledge, is fallible.64 Since the philosophers alone have knowledge, they
alone will be guaranteed to get things right. That is the special ability that
knowledge of Forms gives them and the reason that they should rule the
Gail Fine claims to offer a reconstruction of the argument that is valid.
While her interpretation of the initial premises as requiring a veridical
interpretation of the verb “to be” is controversial, her reconstruction of
the later parts of the argument (479e“480a) is not. On her account, once
Socrates has established that the sight-lovers have belief, not knowledge,
about the many Fs (479e1“5), he proceeds to argue that Forms must exist by
assuming (questionably) that knowledge is possible and that for knowledge
to be possible there must be non-sensible objects of knowledge, i.e. Forms.65
I am interested in the effect that such an argument is supposed to have on
the understanding of the majority of non-philosophers, on the assumption
that it is successful.
Typically scholars frequently and correctly emphasize the great gap that
the argument implies between philosophers and non-philosophers.66 Just
how great the gap is is further elaborated in Books 6“7 in the images of
the Sun, Line, and Cave, and in the description of the arduous education
that a person must undergo to become a philosopher. Sight-lovers are
described as “asleep” or “in a dream,” whereas the philosopher is “awake”
in her grasp of reality (476c“d). In their confused grasp of the explanations

62 See Irwin (1995), 264“5 for a succinct defense of this reading and further references.
63 At least about the sorts of things for which there are Forms. The argument in Book 5 seems to me
to leave open the possibility that one can know, for example, that this is a rose without knowing
Forms, but one cannot know that the rose is beautiful without knowing the Form of Beauty. As is
well known, the scope of the Forms, particularly in the Republic, is dif¬cult to pin down precisely.
For my purposes this is not important since it is clear that there are Forms of Justice, Goodness,
Beauty, and other moral properties, and it is knowledge of these that is necessary for creating and
ruling a truly just and good city.
64 This is agreed, I think, by all interpreters of the argument, regardless of how they interpret the verb
“to be” in the phrase “knowledge is set over what is.” On the traditional interpretation knowledge
and belief are set over two distinct classes of objects, Forms and sensibles. On some versions of this
reading Plato denies that one can have knowledge of sensibles or beliefs about Forms. For good
reasons why this is an unattractive view to attribute to Plato and for a way of interpreting it so that
this conclusion does not follow see Fine (1990). According to Fine, 86, a reason for denying that
Plato rejects knowledge of sensibles, which is particularly relevant to my reading of the Republic, is
that we would lose the argument for why philosophers are especially suited to rule. If knowledge is
restricted to Forms and one can at best have belief about sensibles, why would the philosopher be in
a superior cognitive condition as compared with ordinary people when it comes to ruling the city?
65 66 Bobonich (2002) is a recent example.
Fine (1990), 93“4.
242 Aiming at Virtue in Plato
of beautiful things, sight-lovers are typically taken to correspond to the
prisoners in the image of the Cave. Socrates says that he and Glaucon
must address the sight-lovers gently, hiding from them if possible that they
“aren™t well” (476d7“e2). It is worth emphasizing that the mistake of these
non-philosophers concerns what is most real and what the true explanation
of the sights and sounds they experience is. The “sight-lover” thinks that
he has knowledge and understanding of things that he does not.
This said, commentators miss the signi¬cance of the difference in the
cognitive state of the sight-lovers after they have heard (and, let us assume,
have been persuaded by) the argument of Book 5. In the lead-up to the
argument proper (476c), Socrates delimits two characters: ¬rst, the hypoth-
esized true philosopher, who knows the Form of Beauty itself by itself and
does not confuse it with things that participate in it; and second, a person
who has no idea that there is a Form of Beauty and who could not follow
someone who leads him to knowledge of it. Despite presenting two ¬gures
at the start, the argument both here and through to the end of Book 7
actually involves three types of people:
(1) People who believe that the beautiful is simply the “many beautifuls”
and who deny that there is any single Form of Beauty. These are the
sight-lovers prior to the Book 5 argument; they also correspond to the
prisoners in the Cave and to the majority of people in the ordinary
world (493e2“494a1).
(2) People who believe that there is a single Form of Beauty, which is one
and which is the explanation of the beauty of all the sensible particulars
that participate in it, but who are aware that they do not know what it
is. These people include the audience of the inner and outer frames of
the Republic, as well as the sight-lovers, after going through the Book
5 argument. The sight-lover, like audiences of the Republic, is strictly
speaking no longer a sight-lover after the argument since he no longer
denies the existence of the Beautiful itself by itself.
(3) A person who actually has knowledge of the Forms of Beauty, Justice,
and so on (the true philosopher in Plato™s sense).
The second category is extremely important but, as far as I know, unap-
preciated. If the sight-lover remains a sight-lover after the argument “ that
is, remains in category 1 “ then the argument has not been effective and
the sight-lover has not been persuaded that the philosopher should rule.
Without realizing that there are Forms, which the philosopher knows, but
he does not, the former sight-lover has no reason to accede to philosophers™
rule and the Book 5 argument would fail to serve its intended purpose.
When Socrates says that a sight-lover is one who is incapable of achieving
knowledge of the Form of Beauty we realize, by the time we have read
Early education and non-philosophers in the Republic 243
through Book 7 anyway, that this description includes almost everyone; for
very few people have the nature or the ability to pass successfully through
the educational program that yields true philosophers by yielding knowl-
edge of the Forms. Clearly this includes the audience of the inner frame,
perhaps even Socrates himself who, as is often noticed, denies that he has
knowledge of the Form of the Good (505a) but claims to have beliefs about
it (506c). While Glaucon seems to have heard of the Forms (thus perhaps
he is especially able to follow Socrates here), there is no reason to think
that Thrasymachus, Polemarchus, Cleitophon, or Lysias ever has. Similarly
the audience of the outer frame, we readers (or ancient hearers) of the dia-
logues, may be persuaded by the Republic or other dialogues that there are
Forms and that they play certain roles (for example as “causes” in some
sense of certain sensible properties), without the dialogues ever providing
us with knowledge of any Form whatsoever. The latter is the sole possession
of philosophers in Plato™s sense.
Being in the second category described above has much in common with
Socratic wisdom from the Apology. The point of the Book 5 argument is
to convince the audience of both the inner and outer frames that there is
something we are ignorant of: the Forms. We are supposed, like Socrates
and Glaucon, to realize that there are Forms without, of course, having
knowledge of them. If we recall the earlier point that the sight-lovers are
part of a diverse group that would include the producers, then we should
see that the point of the Book 5 argument (or an argument like it) is to move
members of the Kallipolis from the original state of sight-lovers, which is
the state the Socrates calls most blameworthy in the Apology (29b): thinking
that one knows what one does not. The sight-lover moves from thinking
that he knows what beauty is to a state of “Socratic wisdom” where he
realizes that there is a Form of Beauty but that he lacks knowledge of
it.67 Thus, although it is true that all non-philosophers will spend their
lives in the Cave, they are not in the condition that the prisoners are in.

67 This interpretation con¬‚icts with Bobonich (2002). He claims, 65, that: “We have seen no reason
to think that the education of non-philosophers in the Republic gives them a belief in the existence
of Forms and their non-identity with sensibles.” But this is precisely what the argument of Book 5
aims to do and, as I have argued above, the sight-lovers include craftspeople and are identi¬ed with
the “majority” whom Socrates addresses in Book 6. If it is an argument that is capable of convincing
them, it ought to be able to convince the non-philosophers of the Kallipolis as well, including the
members of the producing class. Further, if non-philosophers do not have a belief in the existence
of Forms and in the fact that the philosophers know them, why do they consent to having the
philosophers rule? In Bobonich™s discussion of the Book 5 argument (58“66) there is no mention of
the fact that the entire point of the argument is to explain to non-philosophers why philosophers
should rule. In addition, Bobonich™s characterizations of the sight-lover all describe his condition
before he has heard the argument (64). As I explain above, after the argument the sight-lover will no
longer be a sight-lover strictly speaking.
244 Aiming at Virtue in Plato
The prisoners parallel the sight-lovers before they have heard the Book 5
argument.68 Although that argument does not, of course, lead them out of
the Cave, it does give them the true belief that there is an outside of the
Cave and that the things they took to be real are in fact images.69
So while it is true, as all agree, that almost no one will be able to come
to have knowledge of the Forms (only true philosophers), in fact most
people will be able to come to realize that they are ignorant of the Forms,
knowledge of which is crucial for the proper formation and rule of the
Kallipolis, and that, without knowledge of the Forms, they have, at best,
true belief, at least about the range of things for which there are Forms. In
this way the Republic develops and expands on a central aspect of Socrates™
philosophy: that of making people aware of their own ignorance. All non-
philosophers in the Kallipolis will have Socratic wisdom. Thus there will be
no sight-lovers in the Kallipolis because no one will believe that the nature
of beauty consists in the many beautifuls. Non-philosophers will have the
true belief that there is a single Form of Beauty of which, however, they are
ignorant. Whereas in the Apology Socrates wonders whether perhaps it is
only the god that is wise (23a“b), in the Republic only the true philosophers

7.4.4 Is the view I attribute to Plato about the producer
class too optimistic?
I imagine that, despite what I have argued,70 some readers remain skepti-
cal that the members of the producer class could follow an argument like

68 Socrates says the prisoners are “like us” (515a5) “ that is, presumably, like the majority of ordinary
people in the world who have not had the bene¬t of hearing the Republic. The sight-lovers after
the argument of Book 5, and we readers/hearers of the Republic, cannot be in the same position as
the prisoners, for we have been given the presumably true belief that there are Forms and that the
sensibles that we take to be most real are in fact only images of the true realities. The prisoners, by
contrast, are not even aware of their ignorance.
69 As an internalist about justi¬cation, Plato demands that a potential knower must have the “account”
for herself, without which a person can have at best true belief (see Meno 97a ff.). (This has led some
to argue that Plato™s conception of knowledge is more like our conception of understanding: see,
e.g., Benson (2000), 216“21, with references. Of course this depends in part on what we want to
count as “our” concepts of knowledge and understanding; see Fine (2004), esp. 71“4, for a defense of
the claim that Plato is talking about knowledge.) Thus, non-philosophers will have at best true belief
according to Plato. We should note that, on an externalist account of justi¬cation, the members of
the Kallipolis would be right to say that they know that there are Forms and, as we shall see, that by
doing what the philosophers tell them they are doing what is truly just and good. Thus the situation
of the non-philosopher citizens in the Kallipolis relative to the orders of the philosopher-kings is
similar to Socrates™ situation relative to the (albeit limited) commands of his divine sign; see 2.2.
70 In particular in 7.4.2 where I emphasize that Plato is even optimistic about the potential of “the
many” in the ordinary world; and the majority in the Kallipolis will be signi¬cantly better off.
Early education and non-philosophers in the Republic 245
the one at the end of Book 5. I shall simply add here that we should
remember that everyone who is not a philosopher-king or an auxiliary
will be a member of the “third class.” As a trip through the National
Archaeological Museum in Athens or to any number of archaeological sites
should suf¬ce to show, this includes people who have accomplished many
extremely sophisticated and complex technical and artistic achievements.71
The “lowest” class of the Republic is composed very largely of people who are
engineers, doctors, architects, writers, musicians, navigators, and so on “
what we call educated professionals. It is inaccurate to think that most
of the producers are unskilled manual laborers, who would be somehow
incapable of following an argument or being appealed to by reason.72 Any
group of people who construct the Parthenon or build ships to sail the
Mediterranean or solve the many complex, technical, problems that Clas-
sical Greek society evidently did solve are highly intelligent people, even
though virtually none of them could become a philosopher in Plato™s sense.
We should not be distracted by the fact that Plato is primarily concerned
with philosophers and their special knowledge of the Forms. For Plato,
of course, knowledge of the Forms is a vastly superior cognitive achieve-
ment than any artistic or engineering feat could ever be, if for no other
reason than that they all concern the sensible as opposed to the intel-
ligible world.73 We should keep in mind too that, insofar as contem-
porary thinkers would deny the existence of the Forms, to that extent
the specialized, expert, knowledge which belongs to philosophers alone
may become closer in kind to the sorts of knowledge had by ordinary
Finally, near the end of Book 2 Socrates draws the distinction between a
“true falsehood” and a “falsehood in words” (382a“d). He says that all gods
and people hate a true falsehood:
71 Consider, for example, the complexity of the process of producing a bronze statue.
72 Although it is contentious, it may be that the Kallipolis allows for slavery, which would mean that
there may also be a signi¬cant number of non-citizens as a source of unskilled labor.
73 It is also not dif¬cult to see the ideological investment of most professional readers of the Republic
(who are philosophers or, at least, academics) to sustain the idea that they are somehow elite and
superior to those who deal with “practical” rather than “theoretical” issues. The idea that theoretical
issues are somehow loftier or more sophisticated than practical (or political) questions is part of the
intellectual legacy we have inherited from Plato.
74 In addition, as I have mentioned, in the inner frame of the dialogue Socrates is speaking to people at
least several of whom would clearly belong in the third class, such as Polemarchus, Thrasymachus,
Cleitophon, Lysias, and Euthydemus. Even if these are not the primary interlocutors, Plato has
them present because presumably they can follow the argument and potentially bene¬t from it.
Similarly the audience of the outer frame will, overwhelmingly, not be philosophers in Plato™s
sense either, but they too are presumably supposed to be able to follow and bene¬t from the
246 Aiming at Virtue in Plato
I mean everyone [p†ntev] would accept this least and would hate most to be
in such a state: to be false and to be mistaken and ignorant in one™s soul about
the things that are [perª t‡ Ànta], and both to have and to hold there a
falsehood. (382b1“4)
This seems to be a perfectly general claim about all human beings, which
takes on additional meaning when read in light of later books. All human
beings have a rational part of the soul and they all hate to have a falsehood
about “the things that are.”75 The majority is in just such a condition when
they deny that there is any such thing as a Form of Beauty prior to the
argument in Book 5. After the argument, even though they do not have
knowledge of the Beautiful, the Just, and so on, at least they no longer
falsely believe that the Beautiful and Just are many and not one, or that
they know what the Beautiful or the Just is; they no longer have a falsehood
in their soul about the things that are. They have moved from ignorance
and falsehood to having the true beliefs that the Beautiful is one itself by
itself, an object of knowledge, and known by philosophers. According to
this passage, non-philosophers will be happier for the change, since the
ridding of false belief in one™s soul about the things that are is something
that all human beings earnestly desire.

75 See Reeve (1988), 209 for the idea that a true falsehood is a falsehood in the governing, rational, part
of the soul. See too the criticism of his view by Kamtekar (2004), esp. 143“5.
c h ap t e r 8

Aiming at virtue and
determining what it is


. 7
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