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vi> ro I 

<OU_1 60602 >m 




by K. R. POPPER 

Volume I 




First published 
Reprinted 1947 

It will be seen . . , that the Erewhonians 
are a meek and long-suffering people, easily led 
by the nose, and quick to offer up common 
sense . . . when a philosopher arises among 
them . . . SAMUEL BUTLER. 


tinted in Great Britain by Butler & Tanner Ltd., Frome and London 


If in this book harsh words are spoken about some of the 
greatest among the intellectual leaders of mankind, my motive 
is not, I hope, the wish to belittle them. It springs rather from 
my conviction that if we wish our civilization to survive we must 
break with the habit of deference to great men. Great men 
may make great mistakes ; and as the book tries to show, some 
of the greatest leaders of the past supported the perennial attack 
on freedom and reason. Their influence, too rarely challenged, 
continues to mislead those on whose defence civilization depends, 
and to divide them. The responsibility for this tragic and 
possibly fatal division becomes ours if we hesitate to be outspoken 
in our criticism of what admittedly is part of our intellectual 
heritage. By our reluctance to criticize a part of it, we may 
help to destroy it all. 

The book is a critical introduction to the philosophy of 
politics and of history, and an examination of some of the 
principles of social reconstruction. Its aim and the line of 
approach are indicated in the Introduction. Even where it looks 
back into the past, its problems are the problems of our own 
time ; and I have tried hard to make it as simple as possible, 
hoping to clarify matters which concern us all. 

Although the book presupposes nothing but open-mindedness 
in the reader, its object is not so much to popularize the questions 
treated as to solve them. In order to serve this double purpose, 
all matters of more specialized interest have been confined to 
the notes collected at the end of the book. 


I wish to express my gratitude to all my friends who have 
made it possible for me to write this book. Mr. C. G. F. Simkin 
has not only helped me with an earlier version, but has given 
me the opportunity of clarifying many problems in detailed 
discussions over a period of nearly four years. Miss Margaret 
Dalziel has assisted me in the preparation of various drafts and 
of the final manuscript. Her untiring help has been invaluable. 
Mr. H. Larsen's interest in the problem of historicism was a 
great encouragement. Mr. T. K. Ewer has read the manuscript 
and has made many suggestions for its improvement. Miss 
Helen Hervey has put a great deal of work into the compilation 
of the Index. 

I am deeply indebted to Professor F. A. von Hayek. Without 
his interest and support the book would not have been published. 
Dr. E. Gombrich has undertaken to see the book through the 
press, a burden to which was added the strain of an exacting 
correspondence between England and New Zealand. He has 
been so helpful that I can hardly say how much I owe to him. 

K. R. P. 
April 1944. 




PREFACE ........... v 


INTRODUCTION .......... i 

THE SPELL OF PLATO ... ...... 5 


Chapter i. Historicism and the Myth of Destiny ... 5 

Chapter 2. Heraclitus ........ 9 

Chapter 3. Plato's Theory of Ideas 15 


Chapter 4. Change and Rest . . . . . . -29 

Chapter 5. Nature and Convention ...... 49 


Chapter 6. Totalitarian Justice ....... 74 

Chapter 7. The Principle of Leadership . . . . .106 

Chapter 8. The Philosopher King 121 

Chapter 9. ^Estheticism, Radicalism, Utopianism . . .138 

PLATO ATTACKS .......... 149 

Chapter 10. The Open Society and its Enemies . . . . 149 

NOTES 178 


Concerning metaphysics . . , I admit that my 
formulations may here or there have been insuffi- 
ciently conditional and cautious. Yet I do not 
wish to hide the fact that I can only look with 
repugnance . . upon the puffed-up pretentious- 
ness of all these volumes filled with wisdom, such 
as are fashionable nowadays. For I am fully 
satisfied that . . the accepted methods must end- 
lessly increase these follies and blunders, and 
that even the complete annihilation of all these 
fanciful achievements could not possibly be as 
harmful as this fictitious science with its accursed 


This book raises a number of issues which may not be apparent 
from the table of contents. 

It sketches some of the difficulties faced by a civilization 
which aims at humaneness and reasonableness, at. equality and 
freedom ; a civilization which is still in its infancy, and which 
continues to grow in spite of the fact that it has been betrayed 
by so many of the intellectual leaders of mankind. It attempts | 
to show that this civilization has not yet fully recovered from 
the shock of its birth, the transition from the tribal or * closedl 
society ', with its submission to magical forces, to the * open 
society ' which sets free the critical powers of man. It attempts 
to show that the shock of this transition is one of the factors that 
have made possible the rise of those reactionary movements 
which have tried, and still try, to overthrow civilization and to 
return to tribalism. And it suggests that what we call nowadays 
totalitarianism belongs to these movements, which are just as 
old or just as young as our civilization itself. 

It tries thereby to contribute to our understanding of totali- 
tarianism, andofthe significance of the perennial Jjght againstjt. 

It furthertries to examine the application of the critical and 
rational methods of science to the problems of the open society. 
It analyses the principles of democratic social reconstruction, the 
principles of what I may term * piecemen.1 Social engineering * in 
opposition to c Utopian social engineering ' (as explained in 
Chapter g). t And it tries to clear away some of the obstacles 



impeding a rational approach to the problems of social recon- 
struction. It does so by criticizing those social philosophies which 
are responsible for the widespread prejudice against the pos- 
sibilities jrf democratic reform. The most powerful of these 
reactionary philosophies Ts~ one whicR I have called historicism. 
The story of the rise and influence of some important forms of 
historicism is one of the main topics of the book, which might 
even be described as a collection of marginal notes on the develop- 
ment of certain historicist philosophies. A few remarks on the 
origin of the book will indicate what is meant by historicism and 
how it is connected with the other issues mentioned. 

Although my main interests are the methods of physics (and 
consequently certain technical problems which are far removed 
from those treated in this book), I have also been interested for 
many years in the problem of the backwardness of the social 
sciences. This is, of course, nothing but the problem of their 
method. My interest in this problem was greatly stimulated by 
the rise of totalitarianism, and by the failure of the various social 
sciences and social philosophies to make sense of it. 

In this connection, one point appeared to me particularly urgent. 

Too often we hear it suggested that some form or other of 
totalitarianism is inevitable. Many who because of their ii^elli;- 
gence^ and[ traimng _shoulc^ be held responsible for what they 
say, announce that there is no escape from it. They ask us 
whether we are really naive enough to believe that democracy 
can be permanent ; whether we do not see that it is just one of 
the many forms of government that come and go in the course 
of history. They argue that democracy, in order to fight 
totalitarianism, is forced to copy its methods and thus to become 
totalitarian itself. Or they assert that our industrial system 
cannot continue to function without adopting the methods of 
collectivist planning, and they infer from the inevitability of a 
collectivist economic system that the adoption of totalitarian 
forms of social life is also inevitable. 

Such arguments may sound plausible enough. But plausi- 
bility is not a reliable guide in such matters. In fact, one should 
not enter into a discussion of these specious arguments before! 
having considered the following question of method : Is it within 
the power of any social science to make such sweeping historical 
prophecies ? Can we texpect to get more than the irresponsible! 
reply of the soothsayer if we ask a man what the future has in 
store for mankind ? 


This is a question of the method of the social sciences. It is 
clearly more fundamental than any debate on any particular 
argument offered in support of any historical prophecy. 

A careful examination of this question has led me to the 
conviction that such sweeping historical prophecies are entirely 
beyond the scope of scientific method. The future depends on 
ourselves, and we do not depend on any historical necessity. 
There are, however, influential social philosophies which hold 
the opposite view. They claim that everybody tries to use his 
brains to predict impending events ; that it is certainly legitimate 
for a strategist to try to foresee the outcome of a battle ; and 
that the boundaries between such a prediction and more sweeping 
historical prophecies are fluid. They maintain that it is the 
task of science in general to make predictions, or rather, to 
improve .upon our everyday predictions, and to put them upon a 
more secure basis ; and that it is the task of the social sciences 
in particular to furnish us with long-term historical prophecies. 
They also believe that they have discovered laws of history which 
enable them to prophesy the course of historical events. The 
various social philosophies which raise claims of this kind, I have 
grouped together under the name historicism. Elsewhere, in 
The Poverty of Historicism (Economic^ 1944/45), I have tried to 
argue against these claims, and to show that in spite of their 
glausibilitY^thgy^ arc ^based^-jpnu-^L gross j^jsirnJgr f stanH^ng. jrf 
scientific^ method. While engaged in the systematic analysis 
ancTcriticism of thejiain^ I tried as well to 

collect some material to illustrate its development. The notes 
collected for that purpose constitute the main part of this book. 

The systematic analysis of historicism aims at something like 
scientific status. This book does not. Many of the opinions 
expressed are personal. What it owes to scientific method is 
largely the awareness of its limitations : it does not offer proofs 
where nothing can be proved, nor does it pretend to be scientific 
where it cannot give more than a personal point of view. It does 
not tryjaj-eplace the old systems of philosophy by a new system. 
iTdoes not try to add to all these volumes^fille^T with wisdom, 
to the metaphysics of history and destiny, such as are fashion- 
able nowadays. It rather tries tojhow that this propheticjmsdom 
is harmful, that the rr^et^hysi^^histgrjr impede the applica- 
tion~ot the "piecein<[alj^ sojcjal 

reformr^ Xn3T It furtheFlnes to show how we may become the 
niaEers of our fate when we have ceased To pose asTtsTprophets. 


In tracing the development of historicism, I found that the 
dangerous liabit^of hutorical prophecy, so widespread among our 
intellectual leaders, has various^ functions. It is always flattering 
to belong to the inner circle of the initiated, and to possess the 
unusual power of predicting the course of history. Besides, there 
is a tradition that intellectual leaders are giftejd with such powers, 
and not to possess them may~Ieadjto lpss.x>f_a&te. The danger, 
on the other hahd7 of their being unmasked as charlatans is very 
small, since they can always point out that it is certainly per- 
missible to make less sweeping predictions ; and the boundaries 
between these and augury are fluid. 

But there are sometimes further motives for holding historicist 
beliefs. The prophets who announce that certain events are 
bound to happen make propaganda for them, and help to bring 
them about. Their stcu^^a^emocracy^ is nqtjq last for ever 
is as Jtrue, and as little to the point, as the assertion that human 
reason Is not to last for ever, since only democracy provides an 
institutional framework that permits reform without violence, 
and so the use of reason in political matters. But their story 
te^ids_tc^discpurage those^who fight totalitarianism ; its motive 
is to support the revolt^against ^ivilizatibn. A further motive, 
it seems, can~6e found if we consider that historicist metaphysics 
are apt to relieve men from the strain of their responsibilities. 
If you know that things are bbund to happen whatever you do, 
then you may feel free to give up the fight against them. Th 
tendency of historicism to support the revolt against civilization 
may be due to the fact that it is itself largely a reaction against 
the strain of our civilization, and its demand for personal 

These last allusions are somewhat vague, but they must suffice 
for an introduction. They will later be substantiated by historical 
material, especially in the chapter ' The Open Society and Its 
Enemies '. I was tempted to place this chapter at the beginning 
of the book ; with its topicaj interest, it would certainly have 
made a more inviting introduction. But I found that the full 
weight of this historical interpretation cannot be felt unless 
it is preceded by the material discussed earlier in the book. It 
seems that one has first to be disturbed by the identity of the 
Platonic theory of justice with the theory, and j^rajctice of .modern 
totaHtar^ how urgent it is to interpret 

these matters. 



For the Open Society (about 430 B.C.) : 

Although only a few may originate a policy, 
we are all able to judge it. 


Against the Open Society (about 80 years later) : 

The greatest principle of all is that nobody, 
whether male or female, should be without 
a leader. Nor should the mind of anybody 
be habituated to letting him do anything at 
all on his own initiative ; neither out of zeal, 
nor even playfully. But in war as well as in 
the midst of peace to his leader he shall 
direct his eye and follow him faithfully. And 
even in the smallest matter he should stand 
under leadership. For example, he should 
get up, or move, or wash, or take his meals 
. . only if he has been told to do so . . In 
a word, he should teach his soul, by long 
habit, never to dream of acting independently, 
and in fact, to become utterly incapable of it. 




It is widely believed that a truly scientific and philosophical 
attitude towards politics, and a deeper understanding of social 
life in general, must be based upon a contemplation and intei 
pretation of human history. While the ordinary man takes the 
setting of his life and the importance of hi$ personal experiences 
and struggles for granted, it is said that the social scientist or 
philosopher has to survey things from a higher plane. He sees 
the individual as a pawn, as a rather insignificant instrument in 


the general development of mankind. And the really important! 
actors on the Stage of History he may find, perhaps, in th< 
Great Nations and their Great Leaders, or perhaps in the Grea 
Classes, or in the Great Ideas. However this may be, he will ti 
to understand the meaning of the play which is performed on 
that Stage ; he will try to understand the laws of historical 
development. If he succeeds in this, he will, of course, be able 
to predict future developments. He might then put politics upon 
a solid basis, and give us practical advice by telling us which 
political actions are likely to succeed or likely to fail. 

This is a brief description of an attitude which I call historicism. 
It is an old idea, or rather, a connected set of ideas which 
unfortunately have become so much a part of our spiritual 
atmosphere that they are usually taken for granted, and hardly, 
ever questioned. I have tried elsewhere to show that. JJie 
historicist approach to the social sciences gives gopr results. I 
have also tried to outline a method which, I believe, would yield 
better results. 

But if historicism is a faulty method that produces worthless 
results, then it may be useful to see how it originated, and how 
^succeeded in entrenching itself so successfully. A historical 
sketch undertaken with this aim can, at the same time, serve to 
analyse the variety of ideas which have gradually accumulated 
around the central historicist doctrine that history is controlled 
by developmental laws whose discovery would enable us to 
prophesy the destiny of man. 

Hjstoricism, which I have so far characterized only in a 
rather abstract way, can be well illustrated by one of the simplest 
and oldest of its forms, the doctrine of the chosen people. This 
doctrine is one of the attempts to make history understandable 
by a theistic interpretation, i.e. by recognizing God as the author 
of the play performed on the Historical Stage. The theory of 
the chosen people, more specifically, assumes that God has 
selected one people to function as the instrument of His will, 
and that this people will inherit the earth. 

In this doctrine, the law of historical development is laid 
down by the Will of God. This is the specific difference which 
distinguishes the theistic form from other forms of historicism. 
A naturalistic historicism, for instance, might treat the develop- 
mentaHaw as aJaw of nature ; a spiritual historicism would treat 
it as a law of spiritual development ; an ec 
aerain. as a law of economic development. 


shares with these other forms the doctrine that there is a develop- 
mental law which can be discovered, and upon which predictions 
regarding the future of mankind can be based. 

There is no doubt that the doctrine of the chosen people grew 
out of the tribal form of social life. Tribalism, i.e. the emphasis 
on the supreme importance of the tribe without which the 
individual is nothing at all, is an element which we shall find 
in many forms of historicist theories. Other forms which are 
not tribalist may still retain the element of collectivism l : they 
may still emphasize the significance of some collective or group 
without which the individual is nothing at all. Another aspect 
of the doctrine of the chosen people is the remoteness of what it 
proffers as the end of history. For although it may describe 
this end with some degree of definiteness, we have to go a long 
way before we reach it. And the way is not only long, but 
winding, leading up and down, right and left. Accordingly, it 
will be possible to bring every conceivable historical event well 
within the scheme of the interpretation. Nothing can contradict 
it. 2 But to those who believe in it, it gives certainty regarding 
the ultimate outcome of human history. 

A criticism of the theistic interpretation of history will be 
attempted in the last chapter of this book, where it will also be 
shown that some of the greatest Christian thinkers have repudiated 
it as idolatry. An attack upon this form of historicism should 
therefore not be interpreted as an attack upon religion. In the 
present chapter, the doctrine of the chosen people serves only as 
an illustration. Its value as such can be seen from the fact 
that its chief characteristics 3 are shared by the two most important 
modern versionsjDf Ws^oricism whose analysis will form the major 
part of this book the histoxical^^iilosophy of racialism or 
fascisnTon the one (the right) hand ancTtne Marxian historical 
philosophy on the other (the left). For the chosen people 
racialism substitutes the chosen race (of Gobineau's choice), se- 
lected as the instrument of destin^, ultimately to inherit the earth. 
Marx's historical philosophy substitutes for it the chosen class, 
the instrument for the creation of the classless society, and at the 
same time, the class destined to inherit the earth. Both theories 
base their historical forecasts on an interpretation of history 
which leads to the discovery of a law of its development. In 
the case of racialism, this is thought of*as a kind of natural law. 
The biological superiority of the blood of the chosen race explains 
the course* of history, past, present, aijd future ; it is nothing 


but the struggle of races for mastery. In the case of Marx's 
philosophy of history, the law is economic ; all history has to be 
interpreted as a struggle of classes for economic supremacy. 

The historicist character of these two movements makes our 
investigation topical. We shall return to them in later parts of 
this book. Each of them goes back directly to the philosophy of 
Hegel. We must, therefore, deal with that philosophy as well. 
And since Hegel in the main follows certain ancient philosophers, 
it will be necessary to discuss the theories of Heraclitus, Plato 
and Aristotle, before returning to the more modern forms of 


It is not until Heraclitus, that we find in Greece theories 
which could be compared in their historicist character with the 
doctrine of the chosen people. In Homer's theistic interpreta- 
tion, history is the product of divine will. But the Homeric 

$ lay down no general laws for its development. What 
omer tries to stress and to explain is not the unity of history, 
but rather its lack of unity. The author of the play on the 
Stage of History is not one God ; a whole variety of gods dabble 
in it. What the Homeric interpretation shares with the Jewish 
is a certain vague feeling of destiny, and the idea of powers 
behind the scene. But the ultimate destiny, according to 
Homer, is not disclosed to men. Unlike the Jewish, it remains 

The first Greek to introduce a more markedly historicist 
element was Hesiod, when he made use of the idea of a general 
trend or tendency in historical development. His interpretation 
of history is pessimistic. He believes that mankind, in their 
development down from the golden age, are destined to degenerate, 
both physically and morally. The culmination of the various 
historicist ideas proffered by the early Greek philosophers came 
with Plato, who elaborated his theory in an attempt to interpret 
the history and social life of the Greek tribes, and especially of 
the Athenians. In his historicism he was strongly influenced 
by various forerunners, especially by Hesiod. But the most 
important influence came from Heraclitus. 

Heraclitus was the philosopher who discovered the idea of 
change. Down to his time, philosophers viewed the world as the 
totality of things, or as a huge edifice built up of these things. 
The questions they asked themselves were such as these : * What 
does the world consist of ? J or How is it constructed, what is 
its true ground-plan ? ' l . They considered philosophy, or 
physics (the two were indistinguishable for a long time) as the 
investigation of * nature ', i.e. of the original material out of 
which this edifice, the world, had been built. As far as any 
processes were considered, they were thought of either as going 
on within the edifice, or else as constricting or maintaining it, 
disturbing and restoring the stability or balance of a structure 
which wa$ considered to be fundamentally static. This very 


natural approach, natural even to many of us to-day, was super- 
seded by the genius of Heraclitus. The view he introduced was 
that there was no such edifice ; that the world was not a more 
or less stable structure, but rather one colossal process ; that it 
was not the sum-total of all things, but rather the totality of all 
events, or changes, or facts. c Everything is in flux and nothing 
is at rest', is the motto of his philosophy. 2 

Heraclitus' discovery influenced the development of Greek 
philosophy for a long time. The philosophies of Parmenides, 
Democritus, Plato, and Aristotle, can all be appropriately 
described as attempts to solve the problems of that changing 
world which Heraclitus had discovered. The greatness of this 
discovery can hardly be overrated. It has been described as a 
terrifying one, and its effect has been compared with that of * an 
earthquake, in which everything . . seems to sway ' 3 . And 
I do not doubt that this discovery was impressed upon Heraclitus 
by terrifying personal experiences suffered as a result of the 
social and political disturbances of his day. Heraclitus, the first 
philosopher to deal not only with ' nature ' but even more with 
ethico-political problems, lived in an age of social revolution. 
It was iri his time that the Greek tribal aristocracies were beginning 
to yield to the new force of democracy. 

In order to understand the effect of this revolution, we must 
remember the stability and rigidity of social life in a tribal 
aristocracy. Social life is determined by social and religious 
taboos ; everybody has his assigned place within the whole of 
the social structure ; everyone feels that his place is the proper, 
the c natural ' place, assigned to him by the forces which rule the 
world ; everyone ' knows his place '. 

Heraclitus 5 own place was that of heir to the royal family of 
priest kings of Ephesus, but he resigned in favour of his brother. 
In spite of his proud refusal to mix himself up with the political 
life of his city, he supported the cause of the aristocrats who 
tried in vain to stem the risihg tide of the new revolutionary 
forces. These experiences in the social or political field are 
reflected in the remaining fragments of his work. 4 * The 
Ephesians ought to hang themselves man by man, all the adults, 
and leave the city to be ruled by infants . . .', is one of his 
outbursts, occasioned, by the people's decision to expatriate 
Hermodorus, an aristocratic friend of Heraclitus'. His interpreta- 
tion of the people's motives is most interesting, for it shows that 
the stock-in-trade of anti-democratic argument has not changed 


since the earliest days of democracy. * They held : we do not 
like anyone to excel among us ; and if someone is outstanding, 
then let him be so elsewhere, and among others.' This hostility 
towards democracy breaks through everywhere in the fragments : 
c . . the mob fill their bellies like the beasts. . . They take the 
bards and popular belief as their guides, unaware that the many 
are mean and that only the few are noble. . . In Priene live.d 
Bias, son of Tenthamas, whose opinion counts more than most. 
He said : " Most men are wicked "... The mob does not 
care, not even about the things they stumble upon ; nor can 
they grasp a lesson though they think they do.' In the same 
vein he says : * The law can demand, too, that the will of One 
Man must be obeyed.' Another expression of Heraclitus' con- 
servative and anti-democratic outlook is, incidentally, quite 
acceptable to democrats in its wording, though not in its intention : 
4 A people ought to fight for the laws of the city as if they were 
its walls.' 

But Heraclitus' fight for the ancient laws of his city was in 
vain, and the transitoriness of all things impressed itself strongly 
upon him. His theory of change gives expression to this feeling 5 : 
c Everything is in flux ', he said ; and ' You cannot step twice 
into the same river.' Disillusioned, he argued against the belief 
that the existing social order would remain for ever : c One must 
not act and talk like those reared with the narrow outlook " As 
it has been handed down to us ".' 

This emphasis on change, arid especially on change in social 
life, is a noteworthy characteristic not only of Heraclitus' phil- 
osophy but of historicism in general. That things, and even 
kings, change, is a truth which needs to be impressed especially 
upon those who take their social environment too much for 
granted. So much is to be admitted. But in the Heraclitean 
philosophy one of the less commendable characteristics of 
historicism manifests itself, namely, an over-emphasis upon 
change, combined with the complementary belief in an inexorable 
law of destiny. Every process in the world develops according 
to a definite law, its c measure ' 6 . Heraclitus visualizes this law 
of destiny in an interesting way. It is inexorable and irresistible, 
and to this extent it resembles our modern conception of natural 
law as well as the conception of developmental laws of modern 
historicists. But it differs from these conceptions in so far as it 
is enforced by punishments, just as laws imposed by the state. 

This failure! to distinguish between legal laws or norms on the 


one hand and natural laws or regularities on the other is character- 
istic of tribal tabooism : both kinds of law alike are treated as 
magical, which makes a rational criticism of the man-made 
taboos as inconceivable as an attempt to improve upon the 
regularities of the natural world : 7 * All events proceed with 
the necessity of fate. . . The sun will not outstep the measure 
of his path ; but if he does, then the goddesses of Fate, the 
handmaids of Justice, will know how to find him. . . The order 
of the world, which is the same for all things, has not been made, 
neither by a god nor by a man. It always was, is, and will be, 
an eternally living fire, with a law that measures its flaring up 
and a law that measures its dying down. . . In its advance, 
the Fire will judge and convict everything.' 

Combined with the historicist idea of a relentless destiny we 
frequently find an element of mysticism. A critical analysis of 
mysticism will be given in chapter 24. Here I wish only to 
show the role of anti-rationalism and mysticism in Heraclitus' 
philosophy 8 : ' Nature loves to hide ', he writes, and ' The 
Lord who owns the oracle of Delphi neither reveals nor conceals, 
but he shows his meaning through signs '. Heraclitus' contempt 
of the more empirically minded scientists is typical of those who 
adopt this attitude : 6 Who knows many things need not have 
many brains ; for otherwise Hesiod and Pythagoras would have 
had more, and also Xenophanes. . .' Along with this scorn of 
scientists goes the mystical theory of an intuitive understanding 
which is given to the chosen, to those who are awake, who have 
the power to see, hear, and speak : c One must not act and talk 
as if asleep. . . Those who are awake have One common world ; 
those who are asleep, turn to their private worlds. . . They 
are incapable both of listening and of talking. . . Even if they 
do hear they are like the deaf. The saying applies to them : 
They are present yet they are not present. . . One thing alone 
is wisdom : to understand the thought which steers everything 
through everything.' The world experienced in common by 
those who are awake is the mystical unity, the oneness of all 
things : * One must follow what is common to all. . . The 
thought is common to all. . . All becomes One and One 
becomes All. . . The One which alone is wisdom wishes and 
does not wish to be called by the name of 2eus. . . It is the 
thunderbolt which steer^ everything through everything.' 

So much for the more general features of the Heraclitean 
philosophy of universal change and hidden destiny.* From it 


springs a theory of the driving force behind all change ; a theory 
which exhibits its historicist character, by its emphasis upon the 
importance of a c social dynamics ' as opposed to a * social 
statics '. Heraclitus' dynamics of nature in general and especially 
of social life confirms the view that his philosophy was inspired 
by the social and political disturbances he had experienced. For 
he declares that strife or war is the dynamic as well as the creative 
principle of all change, and especially of all differences between 
men. And being a typical historicist, he accepts the judgement 
of history as a moral one 9 , holding that the outcome of war is 
always just 10 : * War is the father and king of all things. It 
proves some to be gods and others to be mere men, by turning 
the latter into slaves and the former into masters, . . One must 
know that strife is common to everything, and that war is justice, 
and that all things develop through strife and by necessity/ 

But if war is just, if c the goddesses of Fate ' are at the same 
time c the handmaids of Justice ', if history, or more precisely, if 
success, i.e. success in war, is the criterion of merit, then the 
standard of merit must itself be c in flux '. Heraclitus meets this 
problem by his relativism, and by his doctrine of the identity of 
opposites. This springs from his theory of change. A changing 
thing must give up some property and acquire the opposite 
property. It is not so much a thing as a process of transition 
from one state to an opposite state, and thereby a unification of 
the opposite states ll : ' Cold things become warm and warm 
things become cold ; what is moist becomes dry and what is dry 
becomes moist. . . Disease enables us to appreciate health. . . 
Life and death, being awake and being asleep, youth and old 
age, all this is identical ; for the one turns into the other and 
the latter returns into the former. . . The path that leads up 
and the path that leads down are identical. . . The divergent 
agrees with itself : it is a harmony resulting from opposite tensions, 
as in the bow, or in the lyre. . . The opposites belong to each 
other, the best harmony results^ from discord, and everything 
develops by strife. . . Good and bad are identical.' 

But the ethical relativism expressed in the last fragment does 
not prevent Heraclitus from developing upon the background 
of his theory of the justice of war and the verdict of history a 
tribalist and romantic ethic of Fame, Fate, and the superiority 
of the Great Man, all strangely similar* to some very modern 
ideas ia : ' Who falls fighting will be glorified by gods and by 
men. . . ,The greater the fall the more glorious the fate. . . 


The best seek one thing above all others : eternal fame. . . One 
man is worth more than ten thousand, if he is Great.' 

It is surprising to find in these early fragments, dating from 
about 500 B.C., so much that is characteristic of modern anti- 
democratic and historicist tendencies. But apart from the fact 
that many of these ideas have, through the medium of Plato, 
become part of the main body of philosophic tradition, the 
similarity of doctrine can perhaps be to some extent explained 
by the similarity of social conditions at the different periods 
during which it arises. It seems as if historicist ideas easily 
become prominent in times of great social change. They 
appeared when Greek tribal life broke up, as well as when that 
of the Jews was shattered by the impact of the Babylonian 
conquest 1S . There can be little doubt, I believe, that Heraclitus 5 
philosophy is an expression of a feeling of drift ; a feeling which 
seems to be a typical reaction to the dissolution of the ancient 
tribal forms of social life. In modern Europe, historicist Ideas 
were revived during the industrial revolution, and especially 
through the impact of the political revolutions in America and 
France 14 . It appears to be more than a mere coincidence that 
Hegel, who adopted so much of Heraclitus' thought and passed 
it on to all modern historicist movements, was a mouthpiece of 
the reaction against the French Revolution. 


Plato lived in a period of wars and of political strife which 
was, for all we know, even more severe than that which had 
troubled Heraclitus. Before his time, the breakdown of the 
tribal life of the Greeks had led in Athens, his native city, to a 
period of tyranny, and later to the establishment of a democracy 
which tried jealously to guard itself against any attempts to 
reintroduce either a tyranny or an oligarchy, i.e. a rule of the 
leading aristocratic families l . During Plato's youth, democratic 
Athens was involved in a deadly war against Sparta, the leading 
city-state of the Peloponnese, which had preserved many of the 
laws and customs of the ancient tribal aristocracy. The 
Peloponnesian war lasted, with an interruption, for twenty-eight 
years. (In chapter 10, where the historical background is 
reviewed in more detail, it will be shown that the war did not 
end with the fall of Athens in 404 B.C., as is sometimes asserted 2 .) 
Plato was born during the war, and he was about twenty-four 
when it ended. It brought terrible epidemics, and, in its last 
year, famine, the fall of the city of Athens, civil war, and a rule 
of terror, usually called the rule of the Thirty Tyrants ; these 
were led by two of Plato's uncles, who both lost their lives in the 
course of the civil war. Even the peace and the re-establishment 
of the democracy meant no respite for Plato. His beloved teacher 
Socrates, whom he later made the main speaker of most of his 
dialogues, was tried and executed. Plato himself seems to have 
been in danger ; together with other companions of Socrates, 
he left Athens. 

Later, on a visit to Sicily, Plato became entangled in the 
political intrigues which were spun at the court of Dionysius I, 
tyrant of Syracuse, and even after his return to Athens and the 
foundation of the Academy, Plato continued along with some 
of his pupils to take an active part in the conspiracies and 
revolutions 3 that constituted Syracusan politics. 

This brief outline of political events may help to explain why, 
Plato, like Heraclitus, suffered deeply from the instability and] 
the lack of security in the political life of his time. Like 
Heraclitus, Plato was of royal blood ; at> least, the tradition 
claims that his father's family traced itf descent from Codrus, 
the last of the tribal kings of Attica 4 . Plato was very proud of 



his mother's family which, as he explains in one of his last 
dialogues, the Timaeus, was related to that of Solon, the lawgiver 
of Athens. To it belonged also his uncles, Critias and Charmides^ 
the leading men of the Thirty Tyrants. With such a family 
tradition, Plato could be expected to take a deep interest in 
public affairs ; and indeed, most of his works 5 confirm this 
expectation. He himself relates that he was * from the beginning 
most anxious for political activity ', but that he was deterred by 
the stirring experiences of his youth. ' Seeing that everything 
swayed and shifted without plan, I became desperate/ From 
the feeling that society, and indeed c everything ', was in flux, 
arose the fundamental impulse of his philosophy as well as of 
the philosophy of Heraclitus ; and as his historicist predecessor 
had done, so Plato summed up his social experience by proffering 
a law of historical development. According to this law, which 
will be more fully discussed in the next chapter, social change 
was degeneration. Even though in some of Plato's works there is a 
suggestion of a cyclic development, leading up again after the 
lowest point of extreme evil was passed, the main trend is one of 
decay. Our own cosmic period, more particularly, is for a long 
time to come (its length is 18,000 years) a period of deterioration, 
and this period is the only one that plays any role in Plato's 
philosophy of history. The other part of the cycle, the period 
of the rise, is nowhere clearly referred to, and the few vague 
hints given are not sufficient to show whether Plato really believed 
in it. In what follows, I shall therefore confine my analysis to 
the main doctrine of Plato's historicism, namely, to the doctrine 
that the law of historical development is one of degeneration or 
decay 6 . 

So far we have seen only similarities between Plato and 
Heraclitus. But there is an important difference. Plato believed 
in the possibility of breaking through this fatal circle, and of 
putting an end to the process of decay. He believed in the 
possibility of arresting all political change. Accordingly, this 
becomes the aim he strives for *. He tries to realize it by 
establishing a state which is free from the evils of all other states, 
because it does not change. It is the best, the arrested state. 

Important as this difference is, it gives rise to a further point 
of similarity between Plato and Heraclitus. Heraclitus had 
generalized his experience of social flux by extending it to the 
world of * all things ', and Plato, I have hinted, did the same. 
But Plato also extended his belief in a perfect state tlytt does not 


decay to the realm of * all things '. He believed that to every 
kind of ordinary or decaying things, there corresponds also a 
perfect thing that does not decay. This belief in perfect and 
unchanging things, usually called the Theory of Forms or Ideas 8 , 
became the central doctrine of his philosophy. 

Plato's belief that it is possible for us to break the iron law 
of destiny and to avoid decay by arresting all change, shows that 
his historicist tendencies had definite limitations. A radical and 
fully developed historicism does not admit that man, by any 
effort, can alter the laws of historical destiny even after he has 
discovered them. He cannot work against them, since all his 
plans and actions are means by which the inexorable laws of 
development realize his historical destiny, just as Oedipus met 
his fate because of the prophecy and the measures taken by his 
father for avoiding it, and not in spite of them. In order to gain 
a better understanding of this radical historicist attitude, and to 
analyse the opposite tendency inherent in Plato's belief that he 
could influence fate, I shall contrast historicism with a diametric- 
ally opposite approach which may be called the attitude of social 
engineering 9 . 

The social engineer does not ask any questions about historical 
tendencies or the destiny of man. He believes that man is the 
master of his own destiny, and that in accordance with our aims, 
we can influence or change the history of man just as we have 
changed the face of the earth. He does not believe that these 
ends are imposed upon us by our historical background or by 
the trends of history, but rather that they are freely created by 
ourselves, just as we create new thoughts or new works of art or 
new houses or new machinery. As opposed to the historicist who 
believes that intelligent political action is possible only if the 
future course of history is first determined, the social engineer! 
believes that the scientific basis of politics would be very different ; 
it would be the factual information necessary for the construction 
or alteration of social institutions, in accordance with our wishes 
and aims. Such a science would have to tell us what steps we 
must take if we wish, for instance, to avoid depressions, or else 
to produce depressions ; or if we wish to make the distribution 
of wealth more even, or less even. In other words, the social 
engineer conceives as the scientific basis of politics something 
like a social technology (Plato, as we shall see, compares it with 
the scientific background of medicine), as opposed to the historicist 
who understands it as a science of immutable historical tendencies. 


From what I have said about the attitude of the social 
engineer, it must not be inferred that there are no important 
differences within the camp of the social engineers. One such 
difference between what I call ' piecemeal social engineering ' 
and c Utopian social engineering ', will be the main theme of 
chapter 9, where I shall give my reasons 10 for advocating the 
former and rejecting the latter. But for the time being, I am 
concerned only with the opposition between historicism and 
social engineering. This opposition can perhaps be further 
clarified if we consider the attitudes taken up by the historicist 
and by the social engineer towards social institutions. 

The historicist is inclined to look upon social institutions 
mainly from the point of view of their history, i.e. their origin,! 
their development, and their present and future significance.! 
He may perhaps insist that their origin is due to a definite plan 
or design and to the pursuit of definite ends, either human or 
divine ; or he may assert that they are not designed to serve any 
clearly conceived ends, but are rather the immediate expression 
of certain instincts and passions ; or he may assert that they 
have once served as means to definite ends, but that they have 
lost this character. The social engineer and technologist, on 
the other hand, will hardly take much interest in the origin of 
institutions, or in the original intentions of their founders. 
Rather, he will put his problem like this. If such and such are 
our aims, is this institution well designed and organized to serve 
them ? As an example we may consider the institution of 
insurance. The social engineer or technologist will not worry 
much about the question whether insurance originated as a 
profit-seeking business ; or whether its historical mission is to 
serve the common weal. But he may offer a criticism of certain 
institutions of insurances, showing, perhaps, how to increase their 
profits, or, which is a very different thing, how to increase the 
benefit they render to the public ; and he will suggest ways in 
which they could be made more efficient in serving the one end 
or the other. As another example of a social institution, we 
may consider a police force. Some historicists may describe it 
as an instrument for the protection of freedom and security, 
others as an instrument of class rule and oppression. The social 
engineer or technologist, however, would perhaps suggest 
measures that would irfoke it a suitable instrument for the protec- 
tion of freedom and security, and he might also devise measures 
by which it could be turned into a powerful weapon for class 


rule. (In his function as a citizen who has certain ends in 
which he believes, he may demand that these ends, and the 
appropriate measures, should be adopted. But as a technologist, 
he would carefully distinguish between the question of the ends 
and their choice and questions concerning the facts, i.e. the 
social effects of any measure which might be taken n .) 

Speaking more generally, we can say that the engineer or the 
technologist approaches institutions rationally as means that servd 
certain ends, and that as a technologist he judges them wholly 
according to their appropriateness, efficiency, simplicity, etc. 
The historicist, on the other hand, would rather attempt to find 
out the * true role ' played by these institutions in the develop- 
ment of history, evaluating them, for instance, as * willed by 
God ', or c willed by Fate ', or c serving important historical 
trends ', etc. 

The two attitudes, historicism and social engineering, occur 
sometimes in rather typical combinations. The earliest and 
probably the most influential example of these is the social and 
political philosophy of Plato. It combines, as it were, some 
fairly obvious technological elements in the foregrojund^with ^ 
background dbminatccl by an ^labo^e^display of_jypk:ally 
InstoricistT features; The""C"ofnBmation is representative oTquife 
a number of socTal and political philosophers who produced what 
have been later described as Utopian systems. All these systems 
recommend some kind of social engineering, since they demand 
the adoption of certain institutional means, though not always 
very realistic ones, for the achievement of their ends. But when 
we proceed to a consideration of these ends, then we frequently 
find that they are determined by historicism. Plato's political 
ends, especially, depend to a considerable extent on his historicist 
doctrines. First, it is his aim to escape the Heraclitean flux, 
manifested in social revolution and historical decay. Secondly, 
he believes that this can be done by establishing a state which 
is so perfect that it does not participate in the general trend of 
historical development. Thirdly, he believes that the model or 
original of his perfect state can be found in the distant past, in 
the dawn of history ; for if the world decays in time, then we 
must find increasing perfection the further we go back into 
the past. The perfect state is something like the first ancestor, 
the primogenitor, of the later states, which are, as it were^ the 
degenerate offspring of this perfect, or best, or c ideal ' state ia ; an 
ideal state which is not a mere phantasm, nor a dream, but 


which is in its stability more real indeed than all those decaying 
societies which are in flux, and liable to pass away at any moment. 

Thus even Plato's political end, the best state, is largely 
dependent on his historicism ; and what is true of his philosophy 
of the state can be extended, as already indicated, to his general 
philosophy of * all things '. 

The things in flux, the degenerate and decaying things, are 
(like the state) the offspring, the children, as it were, of perfect 
things. And like children, they are copies of their original 
primogenitors. The father or original of a thing in flux is what 
Plato calls its ' Form ' or its ' Pattern ' or its c Idea '. As before, 
we must insist that the Form or Idea, in spite of its name, is no 

* idea in our mind * ; it is not a phantasm, nor a dream, but a 
real thing. It is, indeed, more real than all the ordinary things 
which are in flux, and which, in spite of their apparent solidity, 
are doomed to decay ; for the Form or Idea is a thing that is 
perfect, and does not perish. 

The Forms or Ideas must not be thought to dwell, like 
perishable things, in space and time. They are outside space, 
and also outside time (because they are eternal). But they are 
in contact with space and time ; for since they are the primo- 
genitors of the things which develop and decay in space and time, 
they must have been in contact with space, at the beginning of 
time. Since they are not with us in our space and time, they 
cannot be perceived by our senses, as can the ordinary changing 
things which interact with our senses and are therefore called 

* sensible things *. Those sensible things which are copies or 
children of the same original, resemble not only this originalj 
their Form or Idea, but also one another, as do children of the 
same family ; and as children are called by the name of their 
father, so are the sensible things, which bear the name of their 
Forms or Ideas ; ' They are all called after them ', as Aristotle 
says 1S . 

This comparison between the Form or Idea of a class of 
sensible things and the father of a family of children i$ developed 
by Plato in the Timaeus, one of his latest dialogues. It is in 
close agreement 14 with much of his earlier writing J on which it 
throws considerable light. But in the Timaeus, Plato goes one 
step beyond his earlier teaching when he represents the contact 
of the Form or Idea With the world of space and time by an 
extension of his simile. He describes the abstract * space ' in 
which the sensible things move (originally the space or gap 


between heaven and earth) as a receptacle, and compares it with 
the mother of things, in which at the beginning of time the 
sensible things are created by the Forms which stamp or impress 
themselves upon pure space, and thereby give the offspring their 
shape. c We must conceive ', writes Plato, c three kinds of 
things : first, those which undergo generation ; secondly, that 
in which generation takes place, and thirdly, the model in whose 
likeness the generated things are born. And we may compare 
the receiving principle to a mother, and the model to a father, 
and their product to a child/ And he goes on to describe first 
the fathers, the unchanging Forms or Ideas : * There is first the 
unchanging Form, uncreated and indestructible, . . invisible and 
imperceptible by any sense, and which can be contemplated only 
by pure thought.' To any single one of these Forms or Ideas 
belongs its offspring or race of sensible things, ' another kind of 
things, bearing the name of their Form and resembling it, but 
perceptible to sense, created, always in flux, generated in a place 
and again vanishing from that place, and apprehended by opinion 
based upon perception '. And the abstract space which is 
likened to the mother, is described thus : * There is a third kind, 
which is space, and is eternal, and cannot be destroyed, arid 
which provides a home for all generated things. . .' 15 

It may contribute to the understanding of Plato's theory of 
Forms or Ideas if we compare it with certain Greek religious 
beliefs. As in many primitive religions, some at least of the 
Greek gods are nothing but idealized tribal primogenitors and 
heroes. Accordingly, certain tribes and families traced their 
ancestry to one or other of the gods. (Plato's own family is 
reported to have traced its descent from the god Poseidon ie .) 
We have only to consider that these gods are immortal or eternal, 
and perfect (or very nearly so) while men are involved in the 
flux of all things, and subject to decay (which indeed is the 
ultimate destiny of every human individual), in order to see that 
these gods are related to men in tfie same way as Plato's Forms 
or Ideas are related to those sensible things which are their 
copies 17 (or his perfect state to the various states now existing). 
There is, however, an important difference between Greek 
mythology and Plato's Theory of Forms or Ideas. While the 
Greek venerated many gods as the ancestors of various tribes or 
families, the Theory of Ideas demands tfiae there should be only 
one Form or Idea of man (or perhaps one Form or Idea of the 
Greek man, and one each of the various Barbarian races 18 ) ; 


for it is one of the central doctrines of the Theory of Forms that 
there is only one Form of every * race ' or c kind ' of things. The 
uniqueness of the Form which corresponds to the uniqueness of 
the primogenitor is demanded if the theory is to perform one of 
its most important functions, namely, to explain the similarity 
of sensible things, by proposing that the similar things are copies 
or imprints of one Form. Thus if there were two equal or similar 
Forms, their similarity would force us to assume that they are 
both copies of a third original, which therefore would be the only 
true and single Form. Or, as Plato puts it in the Timaeus : 
c The resemblance would thus be explained, more precisely, not 
as one between these two things, but in reference to that superior 
thing which is their prototype.' 10 In the Republic, which is 
earlier than the Timaeus, Plato had explained his point even 
more clearly, using as his example the j essential bed ', i.e. the 
Form or Idea of a bed : c God . . has made one essential bed, 
and only one ; two or more he did not produce, and never will. . . 
For . . even if God were to make two, and no more, then another 
would be brought to light, namely the Form exhibited by those 
two ; this, and not those two, would then be the essential bed/ 20 

This argument shows that the Forms or Ideas provide Plato 
not only with an origin or starting point for all developments in 
space and time (and especially for human history) but also with 
an explanation of the similarities between sensible things of the 
same kind. If things are similar because of some property 
which they share, for instance, r whiteness, or hardness, or goodness, 
then this property must be one and the same in all of them ; 
otherwise it would not make them similar. According to Plato, 
they all participate in the one Form or Idea of whiteness, if they 
are white ; of hardness, if they are hard. They participate in 
the sense in which children participate in their father's possessions 
and gifts ; just as the many particular reproductions of an etching 
which are all impressions from one and the same plate, and 
hence similar to one another^ may participate in the beauty of 
the original. 

The fact that this theory is designed to explain the similarities 
in sensible things does not seem at first sight to be in any way 
connected with historicism. But it is ; and as Aristotle tells us, 
it was just this connection which induced Plato to develop the 
Theory of Ideas. I* stall attempt to give an outline of this 
development, using Aristotle's account together with some 
indications in Plato's own writings. 


If all things are in continuous flux, then it is impossible to 
say anything definite about them. We can have no real know- 
ledge of them, but, at the best, vague and delusive ' opinions '. 
This point, as we know from Plato and Aristotle 21 , worried 
many followers of Heraclitus. Parmenides, one of Plato's 
predecessors who influenced him greatly, had taught that the 
pure knowledge of reason, as opposed to the delusive opinion of 
experience, could have as its object only a world which did not 
change, and that the pure knowledge of reason did in fact reveal 
such a world. But the unchanging and undivided reality which 
Parmenides thought he had discovered behind the world of 
perishable things 22 , was entirely unrelated to this world in which 
we live and die. It was therefore incapable of explaining it. 

With this, Plato could not be satisfied. Much as he disliked 
and despised this empirical world of flux, he was, at bottom, most 
deeply interested in it. He wanted to unveil the secret of its 
decay, of its violent changes, and of its unhappiness. He hoped 
to discover the means of its salvation. He was interested in 
Parmenides' doctrine of an unchanging, real, and perfect world 
behind this ghostly world in which he suffered, but it did not 
solve his problems as long as it remained unrelated to the world 
of sensible things. What he was looking for was knowledge, not 
opinion ; the pure rational knowledge of a world that does not 
change ; but, at the same time, knowledge that could be used to 
investigate this changing world, and especially, this changing 
society, political change, with its strange historical laws. Plato 
aimed at discovering the secret of the royal knowledge of politics, 
of the art of ruling men. 

But an exact science of politics seemed as impossible as any 
exact knowledge of a world in flux ; there were no fixed objects 
in the political field. How could one discuss any political 
questions when the meaning of words like ' government ' or 
c state ' or * city ' changed with every new phase in the historical 
development ? Political theory must have seemed to Plato in 
his Heraclitean period to be just as elusive, fluctuating, and 
unfathomable as political practice. 

In this situation Plato obtained, as Aristotle tells us, a most 
important hint from Socrates. Socrates was interested in ethical 
matters ; he was an ethical reformer, a moralist who pestered all 
kinds of people, forcing them to think, to explain, and to account 
for the principles of their actions. He used to question them and 
was not easily satisfied by their answers. The typical reply, we 


act so, because it is ' wise ' to act in this, way (or ' efficient ', or 
* just ', or c pious *, etc.) only incited him to continue his questions 
by asking what is wisdom ; or efficiency ; or justice ; or piety. 
So he discussed, for instance, the wisdom displayed in various 
trades and professions, in order to find out what is common to 
all these various and changing c wise ' ways of behaviour, and so 
to find out what * wisdom ' really means, or (using Aristotle's 
way of putting it) what its essence is. * It was natural ', says 
Aristotle, * that Socrates should search for the essence ' 23 , i.e. 
for the real, the unchanging or essential meaning of the terms. 
' In this connection he became the first to raise the problem of 
universal definitions. 3 

These attempts of Socrates to discuss ethical terms like 
'justice ' or * modesty ' or * piety ' have been rightly compared 
with modern discussions on Liberty (by Mill 24 , for instance), or 
on Authority, or on the Individual and Society (by Catlin, for 
instance). There is no need to assume that Socrates, in his 
search for the unchanging or essential meaning of such terms, 
personified them, or that he treated them like things. Aristotle's 
report at least suggests that he did not, and that it was Plato 
who developed Socrates' method of searching for the meaning 
or essence into a method of determining the real nature, the 
Form or Idea of a thing. Plato retained ' the Heraclitean 
doctrines that all sensible things are ever in a state of flux, and 
that there is no knowledge about them ', but found in Socrates' 
method a way out of these difficulties. Though there * could be 
no definition of any sensible thing, as they were always changing ', 
there could be definitions and true knowledge of things of a 
different kind. ' If knowledge or thought were to have an object, 
there would have to be some different, some unchanging entities, 
apart from those which are sensible ', says Aristotle 25 , and he 
reports of Plato that ' things of this other sort, then, he called 
Forms or Ideas, and the sensible things, he said, were distinct 
from them, and all called ^ifter them. And the many things 
which have the same name as a certain Form or Idea exist by 
participating in it/ 

This account of Aristotle's corresponds exactly to Plato's own 
arguments proffered in the Timaeus * 8 , and it shows that Plato's 
fundamental problem was to find a scientific method of dealing 
with sensible things. He wanted to obtain purely rational 
knowledge, and not merely opinion ; and since pure knowledge 
of sensible things could not be obtained, he insisted, as mentioned 


before, on obtaining at least such pure knowledge as was in some 
way related, and applicable, to sensible things. Knowledge of 
the Forms or Ideas fulfilled this demand, since the Form was 
related to its sensible things like a father to his children who are 
under age. The Form was the accountable representative of the 
sensible things, and could therefore be consulted in important 
questions concerning the world of flux. 

According to our analysis, the theory of Forms or Ideas has 
at least three different functions in Plato's philosophy, (i) It 
is an important methodological device, for it makes possible pure 
scientific knowledge, and even knowledge which could be applied 
to the world of changing things of which we cannot immediately 
obtain any knowledge, but only opinion. Thus it becomes 
possible to enquire into the problems of a changing society, and 
to build up a political science. (2) It provides the clue to a 
theory of change and decay, to a theory of generation and de- 
generation, and especially, the clue to history. (3) It opens a 
way, in the social realm, towards some kind of social engineering ; 
and it makes possible the forging of instruments for arresting 
social change, since it suggests designing a ' best state ' which so 
closely resembles the Form or Idea of a state that it cannot decay. 

Problem (2), the theory of change and of history, will be 
dealt with in the next two chapters, 4 and 5, where Plato's 
descriptive sociology is treated, i.e. his description and explana- 
tion of the changing social world in which he lived. Problem 
(3), the arresting of social change, will be dealt with in chapters 
6 to 9, treating Plato's political programme. Problem (i), that 
of Plato's methodology, has with the help of Aristotle's account 
of the history of Plato's theory been briefly outlined in the present 
chapter. To this discussion, I wish to add here a few more 

I use the name methodological essentiaUsm to characterize the 
view, held by Plato and many of Tns followers, that it is the task 
of pure knowledge or science to discover and to describe the 
true nature of things, i.e. their hidden reality or essence. It 
was Plato's peculiar belief that the essence of sensible things can 
be found in their primogenitors or Forms. But many of the 
later methodological essentialists, for instance, Aristotle, did not 
altogether follow him in this, although they all agreed with him 
in determining the task of pure knowledge 'as the discovery of 
the hidden nature or Form or essence of things. All these 
methodological essentialists also agreed with Plato in maintaining 
O.S.I.E. VOL. i B 


that these essences may be discovered and discerned with the 
help of intellectual intuition ; that every essence has a name 
proper to it, the name after which the sensible things are 
called ; and that it may be described in words. And a descrip- 
tion of the essence of a thing they all called a definition. Accord- 
ing to methodological essentialism, there can be three ways of 
knowing a thing : * I mean that we can know its unchanging 
reality or essence ; and that we can know the definition of the 
essence ; and that we can know its name. Accordingly, two 
questions may be formulated about any real thing. . . : A person 
may give the name and ask for the definition ; or he may give 
the definition and ask for the name.' As an example of this 
method, Plato uses the essence of c even ' (as opposed to c odd ') : 
' Number . . may be a thing capable of division into equal 
parts. If it is so divisible, number is named " even " ; and the 
definition of the name " even " is "a number divisible into 
equal parts "... And when we are given the name and asked 
about the definition, . or when we are given the definition and 
asked about the name, we speak, in both cases, of one and the 
same essence, whether we call it now " even " or "a number 
divisible into equal parts 5 V After this example, Plato proceeds 
to apply this method to a ' proof concerning the real nature of 
the soul, about which we shall hear more later 27 . 

Methodological essentialism, i.e. the theory that it is the aim 
of science to reveal essences and to describe them by means of 
definitions, can be better understood when contrasted with its 
opposite, methodological nominalism. Instead of aiming at finding 
out what a thing really is, and at defining its true nature, methodo- 
logical nominalism aims at describing how a thing behaves, and 
especially, whether there are any regularities in its behaviour. 
In other words, methodological nominalism sees the aim of science 
in the description of the things and events of our experience, 
and in an * explanation ' of these events, i.e. their description 
with the help of universal laws 28 . And it sees in our language, 
and especially in the rules which distinguish properly constructed 
sentences and inferences from a mere heap of words, the great 
instrument of scientific description 29 ; words it considers rather 
as subsidiary tools for this task, and not as names of essences. 
The methodological nominalist will never think that a 'question 
like ' What is energy ?, ' or * What is movement ? ' or * What is 
an atom ? ' is an important question for physics ; but he will 
consider important a question like : ' How can the energy of 


the sun be made useful ? ' or c How does a planet move ? ' or 
c Under what condition does an atom radiate light ? ' And to 
those philosophers who tell him that before having answered 
the c what ' question he cannot hope to give exact answers to 
any of the c how ' questions, he will reply, if at all, by pointing 
out that he much prefers that modest degree of exactness which 
he can achieve by his methods to the pretentious muddle which 
they have achieved by theirs. 

As indicated by our example, methodological nominalism is 
nowadays fairly generally accepted in the natural sciences. The 
problems of the social sciences, on the other hand, are still for 
the most part treated by essentialist methods. This is, in my 
opinion, one of the main reasons for their backwardness. But 
many who have noticed this situation 30 judge it differently. 
They believe that the difference in method is necessary, and that 
it reflects an 6 essential ' difference between the * natures ' of these 
two fields of research. 

The arguments usually offered in support of this view 
emphasize the importance of change in society, and exhibit other 
features of historicism. The physicist, so runs a typical argument, 
deals with objects like energy or atoms which, though changing, 
retain a certain degree of constancy. He can describe the 
changes encountered by these relatively unchanging entities, and 
does not have to construct or detect essences or Forms or similar 
unchanging entities in order to obtain something permanent of 
which he can make definite pronouncements. The social 
scientist, however, is in a very different position. His whole 
field of interest is changing. There are no permanent entities in 
the social realm where everything is under the sway of historical 
flux. How, for instance, can we study government ? How could 
we identify it in the diversity of governmental institutions, found 
in different states at different historical periods, without assuming 
that they have something essentially in common ? We call an 
institution a government if we think that it is essentially a govern- 
ment, i.e. if it complies with the intuition of what a government 
is, an intuition which we can formulate in a definition. The 
same would hold good for other sociological entities, such as 
* civilization '. We have to grasp their essence, and to lay it 
down in the form of a definition. 

These modern arguments are, I think, very similar to those 
Deported above which, according to Aristotle, led Plato to his 
doctrine of Forms or Ideas. The only difference is that Plato 


(who did not accept the atomic theory and knew nothing about 
energy) applied his doctrine to the realm of physics also, and 
thus to the world as a whole. We have here an indication of the 
fact that in the social sciences, a discussion of Plato's methods 
may be topical even to-day. 

Before proceeding to Plato's sociology and to the use he made 
of his methodological essentialism in that field, I wish to make it 
quite clear that I am confining my treatment of Plato to his 
historicism, and to his * best state '. I must therefore warn the 
reader not to expect a representation of the whole of Plato's 
philosophy, or what may be called a c fair and just ' treatment 
of Platonism. My attitude towards historicism is one of frank 
hostility, based upon the conviction that historicism is futile, and 
worse than that. My survey of the historicist features in 
Platonism is therefore strongly critical. Although I admire much 
in Plato, especially those parts which I believe to be Socratic, 
I do not think it my task to add to the countless tributes to his 
genius. I am, rather, bent on destroying what is in my opinion 
most mischievous in this philosophy. This is Plato's political 
totalitarianism, the criticism of which is here, I believe, carried 
considerably further than by those other recent critics 31 who 
first pointed out the distinctly fascist flavour of Plato's politics. 


Plato was one of the first social scientists and undoubtedly 
by far the most influential. In the sense in which the term 
e sociology ' was understood by Comte, Mill, and Spencer, he 
was a sociologist ; that is to say, he successfully applied his 
ideaJisLjnethod to an Analysis of the social life ot man, andT of 
the laws oTits development as well as the laws and conditions 
of its stability. In spite of Plato's great influence, this side of 
his teaching has been little noticed. This seems to be due to 
two factors. First of all, much of Plato's sociology is presented 
by him in such close connection with his ethical and political 
demands that the descriptive elements have been largely over- 
looked. Secondly, many of his thoughts were so far taken for 
granted that they were simply absorbed unconsciously and 
therefore uncritically. It is mainly in this way that his 
sociological theories became so influential. 

Plato's sociology is an ingenious blend of speculation with 
acute observation of facts. Its speculative setting is, of course, 
the theory of Forms and of universal flux and decay, of generation 
and degeneration. But on this idealist foundation Plato con- 
structs an astonishingly realistic theory of society, capable of 
explaining the main trends in the historical development of the 
Greek city-states as well as the social and political forces at 
work in his own day. 

The speculative or metaphysical setting of Plato's theory of 
social change has already been sketched. It is the w&rld of 
unchanging Forms or Ideas, of which the world of changing 
things in space and time is the offspring. The Forms or Ideas 
are not only unchanging, indestructible, and incorruptible, but 
also perfect, true, real, and good ; in fact, e good 3 is once, in 
the Republic 1 , explained as c everything that preserves ', and 
' evil ' as * everything that destroys or corrupts '. The perfect 
and good Forms or Ideas are prior to the copies, the sensible 
things, and they are something like primogenitors or starting 
points 2 of all the changes in the world of flux. This view is 
used for evaluating the general trend and main direction of all 



changes in the world of sensible things. For if the starting 
point of all change is perfect and good, then change can only 
be a movement that leads away from the perfect and good ; 
it must be directed towards the imperfect and the evil, towards 

This theory can be developed in detail. The more closely 
a sensible thing resembles its Form or Idea, the less corruptible 
it must be, since the Forms themselves are incorruptible. But 
sensible things are not perfect copies ; indeed, no copy can be 
perfect, since it is only an imitation of the true reality, only 
appearance and illusion, not the truth. Accordingly, no sensible 
things resemble their Forms sufficiently closely to be unchange- 
able. * Only the most divine things remain unchanged ' 3 , 
says Plato. A sensible thing, if it is a good copy, may change 
only very little at first. But every change, however small, must 
make it different from what it has been before, and must thus 
make it less perfect by reducing its resemblance to its Form. 
In this way, the thing becomes more changeable with every 
change, and more corruptible, since it becomes further removed 
from its Form, which is its * cause of immobility and of being 
at rest ', as Aristotle says. Thus we can understand why Plato 
teaches in the Laws, the last of his great dialogues, that c any 
change whatever, with the possible exception of the change of 
an evil thing, is the most terrible danger that can be imagined ', 
adding for the sake of emphasis : ' And this is true of all things, 
except the evil ones, as mentioned before.' In brief, Plato 
teaches that change is evil, and rest divine. 

We see now that Plato's theory of Forms or Ideas implies 
a certain trend in the development of the world in flux. It 
leads to the law that the corruptibility of all things in that world 
must continually increase. It is not so much a rigid law of 
universally increasing corruption, but rather a law of increasing 
corruptibility ; that is to say, the danger or the likelihood of 
corruption increases, but exceptional developments in the other 
direction are not excluded. Thus it is possible, as the last 
quotation indicates, that very evil things, for instance a very 
evil city, may be improved by change. (In order that such 
an improvement should be of any value, we would have to 
try to make it permanent, i.e. to arrest all further change.) 

In full accordance with this general theory is Plato's story, 
in the Timaeus, of the origin of species. According to this story, 
man, the highest of animals, is generated by the god^ ; the other 


species originate from him by a process of corruption and 
degeneration. First, certain men degenerate into women. 
Later, step by step, they degenerate into the lower animals. 
Birds, we hear, came into being through the transformation of 
harmless but too easy-going people who would trust their senses 
too much ; ' land animals came from' men who had no interest 
in philosophy ' ; and fishes, including shell-fish, c degenerated 
from the most foolish, stupid, and . . unworthy ' of all men 4 . 

It is clear that this theory can be applied to human society, 
and to its history. It then explains Hesiod's 5 pessimistic 
developmental law, the law of historical decay. If we are to 
believe Aristotle's report outlined in the last chapter, then the 
theory of Forms or Ideas was originally introduced in order to 
meet a methodological demand, the demand for pure or rational 
knowledge which is impossible in the case of sensible things in 
flux. We now see that the theory does more than that. Over 
and above meeting these methodological demands, it explains 
the general direction of the flux of all sensible things, and 
thereby the historical tendency to degenerate shown by man 
and human society. (And it docs still more ; as we shall see 
in chapter 6, the theory of Forms determines the trend of Plato's 
political demands also, and even the means for their realization.) 
If, as I believe, the philosophies of Plato as well as Heraclitus 
sprang from their social experience, especially from the experi- 
ence of class war and from the abject feeling that their social 
world was going to pieces, then we can understand why the 
theory of Forms came to play such an important part in Plato's 
philosophy when he found that it was capable of explaining 
the trend towards degeneration. He must have welcomed it as 
the solution of a most mystifying riddle. While Heraclitus had 
been unable to pass a direct ethical condemnation upon the 
trend of the political development, Plato found, in his theory 
of Forms, the theoretical basis for a pessimistic judgement in 
Hesiod's vein. 

But Plato's greatness as a sociologist does not lie in his general 
and abstract speculations about the law of social decay. It 
lies rather in the wealth and detail of his observations, and in 
the amazing acuteness of his sociological, intuition. He saw 
things which not only had not been seen before him, but which 
were rediscovered only in our own tinte. As an example I 
may mention his theory of the primitive beginnings of society, 
of tribal patriarchy, and, in general, his attempt to outline the 


typical periods in the development of social life. Another 
example is Plato's sociological and economic historicism, his 
emphasis on the economic background of political life and 
historical developments ; a theory revived by Marx under the 
name ' historical materialism '. A third example is Plato's 
m6st interesting law of political revolutions, according to which 
all revolutions presuppose a disunited ruling class ; a law which 
forms the basis of his analysis of the means of arresting political 
change and creating social equilibrium, and which has been 
recently rediscovered by the theoreticians of totalitarianism, 
especially by Pareto. 

I shall now proceed to a more detailed discussion of these 
points, especially the third, the theory of revolution and of 

The dialogues in which Plato discusses these questions are, 
in chronological order, the Republic, a dialogue of much later 
date called the Statesman (or the Politicus), and the Laws, the 
latest and longest of his works. In spite of certain minor 
differences, there is much agreement between these dialogues, 
which are in some respects parallel, in others complementary 
to one another. The Laws 6 , for instance, present the story of 
the decline and fall of human society as an account of Greek 
pre-history merging without any break into history ; while the 
parallel passages of the Republic give, in a more abstract way, 
a systematic outline of the development of government ; the 
Statesman, still more abstract, gives a logical classification of 
types of government, with only a few allusions to historical 
events. Similarly, the Laws formulate the historicist aspect of 
the investigation more clearly than any of the other dialogue^ 
' What is the archetype or origin of a state ? ' asks Plato there, 
linking this question with the other : * Can the evolution of a 
state change in both directions, towards the good as well as 
towards the evil ? ' But within the sociological doctrines, the 
only major difference appears to be due to a purely speculative 
difficulty which seems to have worried Plato. Assuming as the 
starting point of the development a perfect and therefore incor- 
ruptible state, he found it difficult to explain the first change, 
the Fall of Man, as it were, which sets everything going 7 . We 
shall hear, in the next chapter, of Plato's attempt to solve this 
problem ; but first I $hall give a general survey of his theory 
of social development. 

According to the Republic, the original or primitive form of 


society, and at the same time, the one that resembles the Form 
or Idea of a state most closely, the ' best state ', is a kingship 
of the wisest and most godlike of men. This ideal state is so 
near perfection that it is hard to understand how it can ever 
change. Still, a change does take place ; and with it enters 
Heraclitus' strife, the driving force of all movement. According 
to Plato, internal strife, class war, fomented by self-interest andi 
especially material or economic self-interest, is the main forcqf 
of ' social dynamics '. The Marxian formula * The history of 
all hitherto existing societies is a history of class struggle 9 8 , fits 
Plato's historicism nearly as well as that of Marx. The four 
most conspicuous periods or ' landmarks in the history of political 
degeneration ', and, at the same time, ' the most important . . 
varieties of existing states ' 9 , are described by Plato in the 
following order. First after the perfect state comes * timarchy ' 
or * timocracy ', the rule of the noble who seek honour and 
fame ; secondly, oligarchy, the rule of the rich families ; ' next 
in order, democracy is born ', the rule of liberty which means 
lawlessness, and last comes e tyranny . . the fourth and final 
sickness of the city ' 10 . 

As can be seen from the last remark, Plato looks upon history, 
which to him is a history of social decay, as if it were the history 
of an illness ; the patient is society ; and, as we shall see later, 
the statesman ought to be a physician (and vice versa). Just 
as the description of the typical course of an illness is not always 
applicable to every individual patient, so is Plato's historical 
theory of social decay not intended to apply to the development 
of every individual city. But it is intended to describe both the 
original course of development by which the main forms of 
constitutional decay were first generated, and the typical course 
of social change 11 . We see that Plato aimed at setting out a 
system of historical periods governed by developmental law, 
i.e. at a historicist theory of society ; an attempt which was 
revived by Rousseau, and was made fashionable by Comte and 
Mill, and by Hegel and Marx. And considering the historical 
evidence then available, Plato's system of historical periods was 
just as good as that of any of these modern historicists. (The 
main difference lies in the evaluation of the course taken by 
history. While the aristocrat Plato hated the development he 
described, these modern authors loved it,*bfelieving as they did 
in a law of historical progress.) 

Before discussing Plato's perfect state in any detail, I shall 


give a brief sketch of the role played by economic motives and 
the class struggle in the process of transition between the four 
decaying forms of the state. The first form into which the 
perfect state degenerates, timocracy, the rule of the ambitious 
noblemen, is said to be in nearly all respects similar to the 
perfect state itself. It is important to note that Plato identifies 
this best and oldest among the existing states with the Dorian 
constitution of Sparta and Crete, and that these two tribal 
aristocracies did indeed represent the oldest existing form of 
political life within Greece. Most of Plato's excellent description 
of their institutions is given in his description of the best or 
perfect state, to which timocracy is so similar. The main 
difference is that the latter contains an element of instability ; 
the once united patriarchal ruling class is now disunited, and 
it is this disunity which leads to the next step, to its degeneration 
into oligarchy. Disunion is brought about by ambition. ' First ', 
says Plato, speaking of the young timocrat, ' he hears his mother 
complaining that her husband is not one of the rulers . .' 12 
Thus he becomes ambitious and longs for distinction. But 
decisive in bringing about the next change are competitive and 
acquisitive social tendencies. * We must describe ', says Plato, 
* how timocracy changes into oligarchy . . Even a blind man 
must see how it changes . . It is the treasure house that ruins 
this constitution* They ' (the timocrats) ' begin by creating 
opportunities for showing off and spending money, and to this 
end they twist the laws, and they and their wives disobey 
them . . ; and they try to outrival one another.' In this Way 
arises the first class conflict ; that between virtue and money, 
or between the old-established ways of feudal simplicity and the 
new ways of wealth. The transition to oligarchy is completed 
when the rich establish a law that c disqualifies from public 
office all those whose means do not reach the stipulated amount. 
This change is imposed by force of arms, should threats and 
blackmail not succeed . .' 9 

With the establishment of the oligarchy, a state of potential 
civil war between the oligarchs and the poorer classes is reached : 
'just as a sick body . . is sometimes at strife with itself . . , so 
is this sick city. It falls ill and makes war on itself on the 
slightest pretext, whenever the one party or the other manages 
to obtain help from qutside, the one from an oligarchic city, 
or the other from a democracy. And does not this sick state 
sometimes break into civil war even without any such help from 


outside ? ' 13 This civil war begets democracy : ' Democracy 
is^ born . . when the poor win the day, killing some . . , 
banishing others, and sharing with the rest the rights of citizen- 
ship and of public offices, on terms of equality . .' 

Plato's description of democracy is a vivid but intensely 
hostile and unjust parody of the political life of Athens, and of 
the democratic creed which Pericles had formulated in a manner 
which has never been surpassed, about three years before Plato 
was born. (Pericles' programme is discussed in chapter 10, 
below 14 .) Plato's description is a brilliant piece of political 
propaganda, and we can appreciate what harm it must have 
done if we consider, for instance, that a man like Adam, an 
excellent scholar and editor of the Republic, is unable to resist 
the rhetoric of Plato's denunciation of his native city. 6 Plato's 
description of the genesis of the democratic man ', Adam 16 
writes, * is one of the most royal and magnificent pieces of 
writing in the whole range of literature, whether ancient or 
modern.' And when the same writer continues : ' the descrip 
tion of the democratic man as the chameleon of the humar 
society paints him for all time ', then we see that Plato has succeedec 
in turning one man at least against democracy, and we may 
wonder how much damage his poisonous writing has done 
when presented, unopposed, to lesser minds. . . 

As usual when Plato's style, to use a phrase of Adan^'s 16 ,' 
becomes a ' full tide of lofty thoughts and images and words ', 
it does so because he urgently needs a cloak to cover the intel- 
lectual nakedness of his arguments, or rather, the total absence 
of any rational thought whatever. He uses invective instead, 
identifying liberty with lawlessness, freedom with licence, and 
equality before the law with disorder. Democrats are described 
as profligate and niggardly, as insolent, lawless, and shameless, 
as fierce and as terrible beasts of prey, as gratifying every whim, 
as living solely for pleasure, and for unnecessary and unclean 
desires. ( c They fill their bellies like'the beasts ', was Heraclitus' 
way of putting it.) They are accused of calling c reverence a 
folly . . ; temperance they call cowardice . . ; moderation 
and orderly expenditure they call meanness and boorishness ' 17 , 
etc. c And there are more trifles of this kind ', says Plato, when 
the flood of his rhetorical abuse begins to abate, ' the school- 
master fears and flatters his pupils . . , and old men condescend 
to the young . . in order to avoid the appearance of being 
sour and despotic.' (It is Plato the Masjer of the Academy 


who puts this into the mouth of Socrates, forgetting that the 
latter had never been a schoolmaster, and that even as an old 
man he had never appeared to be sour or despotic. He had 
always loved, not to * condescend ' to the young, but to treat 
them, for instance the young Plato, as his comrades.) c But 
the height of all this abundance of freedom . . is reached ', 
Plato continues, c when slaves, male as well as female, who have 
been bought on the market, are every whit as free as those 
whose property they are. . . And what is the cumulative 
effect of all this ? That the citizens' hearts become so very 
tender that they are irritated at the mere sight of slavery and 
do not suffer anybody to submit to it, not even in its mildest 
forms/ Here, after all, Plato pays homage to his native city, 
even though he does it unwittingly. It will for ever remain 
one of the greatest triumphs of Athenian democracy that it 
treated slaves humanely, and that in spite of the inhuman 
propaganda of philosophers like Plato himself and Aristotle it 
came, as he witnesses, very close to abolishing slavery. 18 

Of much greater merit, though it too is inspired by hatred, 
is Plato's description of tyranny and especially of the transition 
to it. He insists that he describes things which he has seen 
himself 19 ; no doubt, the allusion is to his experiences at the 
court of Dionysius I, tyrant of Syracuse. The transition from 
democracy to tyranny, Plato says, is most easily brought about 
by a popular leader who knows how to exploit the class 
antagonism between the rich and the poor within the democratic 
state, and who succeeds in building up a bodyguard or a private 
army of his own. The people who have hailed him first as the 
champion of freedom are soon enslaved ; and then they must 
fight for him, in ' one war after another which he must stir 
up . . in order to make people feel the need of a general ' 20 . 
With tyranny, the most abject state is reached. 

A very similar survey of the various forms of government 
can be found in the Statesrtian, where Plato discusses ' the origin 
of the tyrant and king, of oligarchies and aristocracies, and of 
democracies ' 21 . Again we find that the various forms of 
existing governments are explained as debased copies of the 
true model or Form of the state, of the perfect state, the standard 
of all imitations, >vhich is said to have existed in the ancient 
times of Cronos, fa&er of Zeus. One difference is that Plato 
here distinguishes six types of debased states ; but this difference 
is unimportant, especially if we remember that Plato savs in 


the Republic 22 that the four types discussed are not exhaustive, 
and that there are some intermediate stages. The six types 
are arrived at, in the Statesman, by first distinguishing between 
three forms of government, the rule of one man, of a few, and 
of the many. Each of these is then subdivided into two types, 
of which one is comparatively good and the other bad, according 
to whether or not they imitate * the only true original ' by copying 
and preserving its ancient laws 23 . In this way, three con- 
servative or lawful and three utterly depraved or lawless form; 
are distinguished ; monarchy, aristocracy, and a conservative 
form of democracy, are the lawful imitations, in order of merit. 
But democracy changes into its lawless form, and deteriorates 
further, through oligarchy, the lawless rule of the few, into a 
lawless rule of the one, tyranny, which, just as Plato has said 
in the Republic, is the worst of all. " v 

That tyranny, the most evil statej need not be the end of 
the development is indicated in a passage in the Laws which 
partly repeats, and partly 24 connects with, the story of the 
Statesman. ' Give me a state governed by a young tyrant ', 
exclaims Plato there, c . . who has the good fortune to be the 
contemporary of a great legislator, and to meet him by some 
happy accident. What more could a^od do for a city which 
he wants to make happy ? ' Tyranny, the most evil state, ma} 
be reformed in this way. (This agrees with the remark in the 
Laws, quoted above, that all change is evil, ' with the possible 
exception of the change of an evil thing '. There is no doubt 
that Plato, when speaking of the great lawgiver and the young 
tyrant, must have been thinking of himself and his various ill- 
fated experiments with young tyrants which will be dealt with 
later, and especially of his attempts at reforming the younger 
Dionysius' tyranny over Syracuse.) 

One of the main objects of Plato's analysis of political develop- 
ments is to ascertain the driving force of all historical change. 
In the Laws, the historical survey is explicitly undertaken with 
this aim in view : * Have not uncounted thousands of cities 
been born during this time . . and has not each of them been 
under a! kinds of government ? . . Let us, if we can, get hold 
of the cause of so much change. I hope that we may thus 
reveal the secret both of the birth of constitutions, and also of 
their changes or revolutions.' 25 As the /esult of these investi- 
gations he discovers the sociological law that internal disunion, 
class war fomented by the antagonism of economic class interests, 


is the driving force of all political revolutions. But Plato's 
formulation of this fundamental law goes even further. He 
insists that only internal sedition within the ruling class itself 
can weaken it so much that its rule can be overthrown. 
' Changes in any constitution originate, without exception, 
within the ruling class itself, and only when this class becomes 
the seat of disunion ' 26 , is his formula in the Republic ; and in 
the Laws he says (possibly referring to this passage of the 
Republic) : ' How can a kingship, or any other form of govern- 
ment, ever be destroyed by anybody but the rulers themselves ? 
Have we forgotten what we said a while ago, when dealing with 
this subject, as we did the other day ? ' This sociological law, 
together with the observation that economic interests are the 
most likely causes of disunion, is Plato's clue to history. But 
it is more. It is also the clue to his analysis of the conditions 
necessary for the establishment of political equilibrium, i.e. for 
arresting political change. He assumes that these conditions 
were realized in the best or perfect state of ancient times. 

Plato's description of the perfect or best state has usually 
been interpreted as the Utopian programme of a progressivist. 
In spite of his repeated assertions, in the Republic, Timaeus, and 
Critias, that he is describing the distant past, and in spite of the 
parallel passages in the Laws whose historical intention is obvious, 
it is assumed that it was his whole intention to give a veiled 
description of the future. But I think that Plato meant what 
he said, and that many characteristics of his best state, especially 
as described in Books Two to Four of the Republic, are intended 
(like his accounts of primitive society in the Statesman and the 
Laws) to be historical 27 , or perhaps pre-historical. It is different 
with some other features, especially with the kingship of the 
philosophers (described in Books Five to Seven of the Republic) ; 
features of which Plato himself says that they may belong only 
to the timeless world of Forms or Ideas, to the * City in Heaven '. 
These intentionally unhistorical features will be discussed later, 
together with Plato's ethico-political demands. It must, of 
course, be admitted that he did not intend even in his descrip- 
tion of the primitive or ancient constitutions to give an exact 
historical account ; he certainly knew that he did not possess 
the necessary data for achieving anything like that. But I 
believe that he made a t serious attempt to reconstruct the ancient 
tribal forms of social life as well as he could. There is no reason 
to doubt this, especially since the attempt was, in a good number 


of its details, very successful. It could hardly be otherwise, 
since Plato arrived at his picture by an idealized description of 
the ancient Cretan and Spartan tribal aristocracies. With his 
acute sociological intuition he had seen that these forms were 
not only old, but petrified, arrested ; that they were relics of 
a still older form. And he concluded that this still older form 
had been even more stable, more securely arrested. This very 
ancient and accordingly very good and very stable state he 
tried to reconstruct in such a way as to make clear how it had 
been kept free from disunion ; how class war had been avoided, 
and how economic interests had been reduced to a minimum, 
and kept well under control. These are the main problems of 
Plato's reconstruction of the best state. 

How does Plato solve the problem of avoiding class war ? 
Had he been a progressivist, he might have hit at the idea of 
a classless, equalitarian society ; for, as we can see for instance 
from his own parody of Athenian democracy, there were strong 
equalitarian tendencies at work in Athens. But he was not out 
to construct a state that might come, but a state that had 
been the father of the Spartan state, which was certainly not 
a classless society. It was a slave state and accordingly, Plato's 
best state is based on the most rigid class distinctions. It is a 
caste state. The problem of avoiding class war is solved, not 
by abolishing classes, but by giving the ruling class a superiority 
which is unchallenged, and which cannot be challenged. For, 
as in Sparta, the ruling class alone is permitted to carry arms, 1 
it alone has any political or other rights, and it alone receives 
education, i.e. a specialized training in the art of keeping down 
its human sheep or its human cattle. (In fact, its overwhelming 
superiority disturbs Plato a little ; he fears that ' they may 
worry the sheep ', instead of merely shearing them, and c act as 
wolves rather than dogs ' 28 . This problem is considered later 
in the chapter.) As long as the ruling class is united, there 
can be no challenge of their authority, and consequently no 
class war. 

Plato distinguishes three classes in his best state, the guardians,^, 
their armed auxiliaries or warriors, and the working class. But* 
actually there are only two castes, the armed and trained rulers 
and the unarmed and uneducated ruled, for the guardians are 
old and wise warriors who have been promoted from the ranks 
of auxiliaries. That Plato divides his ruling caste into two 
classes, the guardians and the auxiliaries, without elaborating 


similar subdivisions within the working class, is largely due to 
the fact that he is interested only in the rulers. The workers 
do not interest him at all, they are only human cattle whose 
sole function is to provide for the material needs of the ruling 
class ; and Plato even forbids his rulers to legislate for them 
and their petty problems. For this reason, our information 
about the workers is extremely scanty ; but Plato's silence is 
not wholly uninterrupted. ' Are there not drudges ', he asks 
once, c who possess not a spark of intelligence and are unworthy 
to be admitted into the community, but who have strong bodies 
for hard labour ? ' 29 Since this nasty remark has given rise to 
the comforting comment that Plato does not admit slaves into 
his city, I may here point out that this view is mistaken. It 
is true that Plato does not state explicitly that there are slaves 
in his best city. But in his description of timocracy, the second 
best state, and the one directly following the best, he says of 
the timocratic man : c He will be inclined to treat slaves cruelly, 
for he does not despise them as much as a well-educated man 
would.' But since only in the best city can education be found 
which is superior to that of timocracy, we are bound to conclude 
that there are slaves in Plato's best city, and that they are properly 
despised. Plato's righteous contempt for them is probably the 
reason why he does not elaborate the point. This conclusion 
is fully corroborated by the Laws, and the most inhuman attitude 
towards slaves adopted there. 

Since the ruling class alone has political power, including 
the power of keeping the number of the human cattle within 
such limits as to prevent them from becoming a danger, the 
whole problem of preserving the state is reduced to that of 
preserving the internal unity of the master class. How is this 
unity of the rulers preserved ? By training and other psycho- 
logical influences, but otherwise mainly by the elimination of 
economic interests which may lead to disunion. This economic 
abstinence is achieved and t controlled by the introduction of 
communism, i.e. by the abolition of private property, especially 
in precious metals, which were forbidden in Sparta too. (This 
communism is confined to the ruling class, which alone must 
be kept free from disunion ; quarrels among the ruled are not 
worthy of consideration.) Since all property is common 
property, there must also be a common ownership of women 
and children. No member of the ruling class must be able to 
identify his children, or his parents. The family must be 


destroyed, or rather, extended to cover the whole warrior class. 
Family loyalties might otherwise become a possible source of 
disunion ; therefore ' each should look upon all as if belonging 
to one family 9 30 . (That this suggestion was neither so novel 
nor so revolutionary as it sounds is clear if we consider, Vfor 
instance, the Spartan restrictions on the privacy of family life, 
such as common meals, etc., constantly referred to by Platp.) 
But even this common ownership of women and children is riot 
quite sufficient to guard the ruling class from all economic 
dangers. It is important to avoid prosperity as well as poverty. 
Both are dangers to unity ; poverty, because it drives people 
to adopt desperate means to satisfy their needs ; prosperity, 
because most change has arisen from abundance, from an 
accumulation of wealth which makes dangerous experiments 
possible. Only a communist system which has room neither 
for great want nor for great wealth can reduce economic interests 
to a minimum, and guarantee the unity of the ruling class. 

The communism of the ruling caste can thus be derived 
from Plato's fundamental sociological law of change ; it is a 
necessary condition of the political stability of his class state. 
But although an important condition, it is not a sufficient one. 
In order that the ruling class may feel really united, that it 
should feel like one tribe, i.e. like one big family, pressure from 
without the class is as necessary as are the ties between the 
members of the class. This pressure can be secured by empha- 
sizing and widening the gulf between the rulers and the ruled. 
/The stronger the feeling that the ruled are a different and an 
altogether inferior race, the stronger will be the sense of unity 
among the rulers. We arrive in this way at the fundamental 
principle, announced only after some hesitation, that there must 
be no mingling between the classes 31 : * Any meddling or 
changing over from one class to another *, says Plato, c is a great 
crime against the city and may rightly be denounced as the 
basest wickedness.' But such a rigid division of the classes 
must be justified, and an attempt to justify it can only be based 
on the claim that the rulers are much superior to the ruled. 
Accordingly, Plato tries to justify his class division by the three- 
fold claim that the rulers are vastly superior in three respects 
in race, in education, and in their scale of values. Plato's 
moral valuations, which are, of course, identical with those of 
the rulers of his best state, will be discussed in chapters 6 to 8 ; 
I may therefore confine myself here to describing some of his 


ideas concerning the origin, the breeding, and the education of 
his ruling class. (Before proceeding to this description, I wish 
to express my antagonism to the opinion that any kind of 
superiority, whether racial or educational or moral, would 
establish a claim to political prerogatives, even if such superiority 
could be ascertained. Most people in civilized countries nowa- 
days admit racial superiority to be a myth ; but even if it were 
an established fact, it should not create special political rights, 
though it might create special moVal responsibilities for the 
superior persons. Analogous demands should be made of those 
who are educationally and morally superior ; and I think that 
the opposite claims of certain intellectualists and moralists only 
show how utterly unsuccessful their education has been, since 
it has not even made them aware of their own limitations, and 
of their Pharisaism.) 

If we want to understand Plato's views about the origin, 
breeding, and education, of his ruling class, we must not lose 
sight of the two main points of our analysis. We must keep 
in mind, first of all, that Plato is considering a city of the past, 
although one connected with the present in such a way that 
certain of its features are still discernible in existing states, for 
instance, in Sparta ; and secondly, that he is reconstructing his 
city with special care for the conditions of its stability, and 
that he seeks the guarantees for this stability solely within the 
ruling class itself, and more especially, in its unity and strength.] 

Regarding the origin of the ruling class, it may be mentioned 
that Plato speaks in the Statesman of a time, prior even to that 
of his best state, when e God himself was the shepherd of men, 
ruling over them just as man . . still rules over the beasts. 
There was . . no ownership of women and children ' 32 . This 
is not merely the simile of the good shepherd ; in the light of 
what Plato says in the Laws, it must be interpreted more literally 
than that. For there we are told that this primitive society, 
which is prior even to the fcrst and best city, is one of nomad 
hill shepherds under a patriarch : c Government originated '^ 
says Plato there of the period prior to the first settlement, c . . as^ 
the rule of the eldest who inherits authority from his father or 
mother ; all the others followed him like a flock of birds, thus 
forming one troop ruled by a patriarchal authority, which is 
the most just of all "claims to royal power.' These nomad 
tribes, we hear, settled in the cities of the Peloponnese, especially 
in Sparta, under the name of c Dorians f . How this happened 


is not very clearly explained, but we understand Plato's reluctance 
when we get a hint that the * settlement ' was in fact a violent 
subjugation. Since this is, for all we know, the true story of 
the Dorian settlement in the Peloponnese, we have every reason 
to consider that Plato intended his story as a serious description 
of prehistoric events ; describing not only the origin of the 
Dorian master race but also the origin of their human cattle, 
i.e. the original inhabitants. In a parallel passage in the 
Republic, Plato gives us a mythological yet very pointed descrip- 
tion of the conquest itself, when dealing with the origin of the 
* earthborn ', the ruling class of the best city. (The Myth of 
the Earthborn will be discussed from a different point of view 
in chapter 8.) Their victorious march into the city, previously 
founded by the workers, is described as follows : e After having 
armed and trained the earthborn, let us make them advance, 
under the command of the guardians, till they arrive in the 
city. Then let them look round to find out for their camp the 
spot that is most suitable for keeping down the inhabitants, 
should anyone show unwillingness to obey the law, and for 
holding back external enemies, who may come down like wolves 
on the fold. 5 This short but triumphant tale of the subjugation 
of a sedentary population by a conquering war horde (who are 
identified, in the Statesman, with the nomad hill shepherds of 
the period before the settlement) must be kept in mind when 
we interpret Plato's reiterated insistence that good rulers, whether 
gods or demigods or guardians, are patriarch shepherds of men, 
and that the true political art, the art of ruling, is a kind of 
herdsmanship, i.e. the art of managing and keeping down the 
human cattle. And it is in this light that we must consider his 
description of the breeding and training of c the auxiliaries who 
are subject to the rulers like sheep-dogs to the shepherds of 
the state *. 

The breeding and the education of the auxiliaries, i.e. of the 
ruling class of Plato's best state, is, like their carrying of arms, 
a class symbol and therefore a class prerogative 33 . And like 
arms, breeding and education are not empty symbols, but 
instruments of class rule, and necessary conditions of the stability 
of this rule. They are treated by Plato solely from this point 
of view, i.e. as powerful political weapons, as means for the 
herding of the human cattle as well as foy the unification of the' 
ruling class. 

To this end, it is important that the master class should feel 


as one superior master race. * The race of the guardiansjnast 
be kept pure ' 34 , says Plato (in defence of infanticide), when 
developing the racialist argument that we breed animals with 
great care while neglecting our own race, an argument which 
has been repeated ever since. (Infanticide was not an Athenian 
institution ; Plato, seeing that it was practised at Sparta for 
eugenic reasons, concluded that it must be ancient and there- 
fore good.) He demands that the same principles be applied 
to the breeding of the master race as an experienced breeder 
applies to dogs, horses, or birds. * If you did not breed them 
in this way, don't you think that the race of your birds or dogs 
would quickly degenerate ? 9 argues Plato ; and he draws the 
conclusion that c the same principles apply to the race of men '. 
The racial qualities demanded from the guardian or an auxiliary 
are, more specifically, those of a sheep-dog. * Our warrior- 
athletes . . must be vigilant like watch-dogs \ demands Plato, 
and he asks : ' Is there any difference, so far as their natural 
fitness for keeping guard is concerned, between a gallant youth 
and a well-bred dog ? ' In his enthusiasm and admiration for 
the dog, Plato goes so far as to discern in him a fi genuine 
philosophical nature ' ; for ' is not the love of learning identical 
with the philosophical attitude ? ' 

The main difficulty which besets Plato is that guardians and 
auxiliaries must be endowed with a character that is fierce and 
gentle at the same time. It is clear that they must be bred to 
be fierce, since they must c meet any danger in a fearless and 
unconquerable spirit '. Yet c if their nature is to be like that, 
how are they to be kept from being violent against one another, 
or against the rest of the citizens ? ' 35 Indeed, it would be 
* simply monstrous if the shepherds should keep dogs . . who 
would worry the sheep, behaving like wolves rather than dogs \ 
The problem is important from the point of view of the political 
equilibrium, or rather, of the stability of the state, for Plato 
does not rely on an equilibrium of the forces of the various 
classes, since that would be unstable. A control of the master 
class and its arbitrary powers through the opposing force of the 
ruled is out of question, for the superiority of the master class 
must remain unchallenged. The only admissible control of the 
master class is therefore self-control. Just as the ruling class 
must exercise economic* abstinence, i.e. refrain from an excessive 
economic exploitation of the ruled, so it must also be able to 
refrain from too great fierceness in its dealings with the ruled. 


But this can only be achieved if the fierceness of its nature is 
balanced by its gentleness. Plato finds this a very serious 
problem, since * the fierce nature is the exact opposite of the 
gentle nature '. His speaker, Socrates, reports that he is per- 
plexed, until he remembers the dog again. c Well-bred dogs are 
by nature most gentle to their friends and acquaintances, but 
the very opposite to strangers ', he says. It is therefore proved 
c that the character we try to give our guardians is not contrary 
to nature '. The aim of breeding the master race is thus 
established, and shown to be attainable. It has been derived 
from an analysis of the conditions which are necessary for 
keeping the state stable. 

Plato's educational aim is exactly the same. It is the purely 
political aim of stabilizing the state by blending a fierce and a 
gentle element in the character of the rulers. The two disciplines 
in which children of the Greek upper class were educated, 
gymnastics and music (the latter, in the wider sense of the word, 
included all literary studies), are correlated by Plato with the 
two elements of character, fierceness and gentleness. ' Have you 
not observed ', asks Plato 36 , ' how the character is affected by 
an exclusive training in gymnastics without music, and how it 
is affected by the opposite training ? . . Exclusive preoccupa- 
tion with gymnastics produces men who are fiercer than they 
ought to be, while an analogous preoccupation with music makes 
them too soft . . But we maintain that our guardians must 
combine both of these natures . . This is why I say that some 
god must have given man these two arts, music and gymnastics ; 
and their purpose is not so much to serve soul and body 
respectively, but rather to tune properly the two main strings ', 
i.e. the two elements of the soul, gentleness and fierceness. 
4 These are the outlines of our system of education and training ', 
Plato concludes his analysis. 

In spite of the fact that Plato identifies the gentle element 
of the soul with her philosophic disposition, and in spite of the 
fact that philosophy is going to play such a dominant role in 
the later parts of the Republic, he is not at all biased in favour 
of the gentle element of the soul, or of musical, i.e. literary, 
education. His impartiality in balancing the two elements is 
the more remarkable as it leads him to impose the most severe 
restrictions on literary education, compared with what was cus- 
tomary in the Athens of his day. This, of course, is only part 
of his general tendency to prefer Spartan customs to those of 


Athens. (Crete, his other model, was even more anti-musical 
than Sparta 37 .) Plato's political principles of literary education 
are based upon a simple comparison. Sparta, he saw, treated 
its human cattle just a little too harshly ; this is a symptom or 
even an admission of a feeling of weakness 38 , and therefore a 
symptom of the incipient degeneration of the master class. 
Athens, on the other hand, was altogether too liberal and slack 
in her treatment of slaves. Plato took this as proof that Sparta 
insisted just a little too much on gymnastics, and Athens, of 
course, far too much on music. This simple estimate enabled 
him readily to reconstruct what in his opinion must have been 
the true measure or the true blend of the two elements in the 
education of the best state, and to lay down the principles of 
his educational policy. Judged from the Athenian viewpoint, 
it is nothing but the demand that all literary education be 
strangled 39 by a close adherence to the example of Sparta with 
its strict state control of all literary matters. Not only poetry 
but even music in the ordinary sense of the term are to be con- 
trolled by a rigid censorship and they are to be devoted entirely 
to increasing the stability of the state by making the young 
more conscious of class discipline 40 , and thus more ready to 
serve class interests. Plato even forgets that it is the function 
of music to make the young more gentle, for he demands such 
forms of music as will make them braver, i.e. fiercer. (Con- 
sidering that Plato was an Athenian, his arguments concerning 
music proper appear to me almost intolerable in their reactionary 
and superstitious intolerance, especially if compared with a more 
enlightened contemporary criticism 41 . But even now he has 
many musicians on his side, possibly because they are flattered 
by his high opinion of the importance of music, i.e. of its political 
power. The same is true of educationists, and even more of 
philosophers, since Plato demands that they should rule ; a 
demand which will be discussed in chapter 8.) 

The political principle that determines the education of the 
soul, namely, the preservation of the stability of the state, 
determines also that of the body. The aim is simply that of 
Sparta. While the Athenian citizen was educated to a general 
versatility, Plato demands that the ruling class shall be trained 
as a class of professional warriors, ready to strike against enemies 
from without or from Within the state. Children of both sexes, 
we are told twice, ' must be taken on horseback within the 
sight of actual war ; and provided it can be done safely, they 


must be brought into battle, and made to taste blood ; just as 
one does with young hounds ' 42 . The description of a modern 
writer who characterizes contemporary totalitarian education 
as * an intensified and continual form of mobilization ', fits 
Plato's whole system of education very well indeed. 

This is an outline of Plato's theory of the best or most ancient 
state, in which the human cattle were treated just as a wise 
but hardened shepherd treats his sheep ; not too cruelly, but 
with the proper contempt. . . As an analysis both of Spartan 
social institutions and of the conditions of their stability and 
instability, and as an attempt at reconstructing more rigid and 
primitive forms of tribal life, this description is excellent indeed. 
(Only the descriptive aspect is dealt with in this chapter. The 
ethical aspects will be discussed later.) I believe that much 
in Plato's writings that has been usually considered as mere 
mythological or Utopian speculation can in this way be inter- 
preted as sociological description and analysis. If we look, for 
instance, at his myth of the triumphant war hordes subjugating 
a settled population, then we must admit that from the point 
of view of descriptive sociology it is most successful. In fact, 
it could even claim to be an anticipation of an interesting 
(though possibly too sweeping) modern theory of the origin of 
the state, according to which centralized and organized political 
power generally has its origin in such a conquest 43 . There 
may be more descriptions of this kind in Plato's writings than 
we can at present estimate. 

To sum up. In an attempt to understand and to interpret 
the changing social world as he experienced it, Plato was led 
to develop a systematic historicist sociology in great detail. He 
thought of existing states as decaying copies of an unchanging 
Form or Idea. He tried to reconstruct this Form or Idea of 
a state, or at least to describe a society which resembled it as 
closely as possible. Along with ancient traditions, he used as 
material for his reconstruction thg results of his analysis of 
Spartan and Cretan social institutions, the most ancient forms 
of social life he could find in Greece, which he acutely recognized 
as arrested forms of even older tribal societies. But in order 
to make a proper use of this material, he needed a principle 
for distinguishing between the good or original or ancient 
features of existing institutions, and their, symptoms of decay. 
This principle he found in his law of political revolutions, 
according to which disunion in the ruling class, and their pre* 


occupation with economic affairs, are the origin of all social 
change. His best state was therefore to be reconstructed in 
such a way as to eliminate all the germs and elements of disunion 
and decay as radically as this could be done ; that is to say, 
it was to be constructed out of the Spartan state with an eye 
to the conditions necessary for the unbroken unity of the master 
class, guaranteed by its economic abstinence, its breeding, and 
its training. >J 

Interpreting existing societies as decadent copies of an ideal 
state, Plato furnished Hesiod's somewhat crude views of human 
history at once with a theoretical background and with a wealth 
of practical application. He developed a remarkably realistic 
historicist theory which found the cause of social change in 
Heraclitus' disunion, and in the strife of classes in which he 
recognized the driving as well as the corrupting forces of history. 
He applied these historicist principles to the story of the Decline 
and Fall of the Greek city-states, and especially to a criticism 
of democracy which he described as effeminate and degenerate. 
And we may add that later, in the Laws 44 , he applied them 
also to a story of the Decline and Fall of the Persian Empire, 
thus making the beginning of a long series of Decline-and-Fall 
dramatizations of the histories of empires and civilizations. 
(O. Spengler's notorious Decline of the West is perhaps the worst 
but not the last 45 of them.) All this, I think, can be interpreted 
as an attempt, and a most impressive one, to explain, and to 
rationalize, his experience of the breakdown of the tribal society ; 
an experience analogous to that which had led Heraclitus 'to 
develop the first philosophy of change. 

But our analysis of Plato's descriptive sociology is still incom- 
plete. His stories of the Decline and Fall, and with it nearly 
all the later stories, exhibit at least two features which we have 
not discussed so far. He conceived these declining societies as 
some kind of organism, and the decline as a process similar to 
ageing. And he believed that the decline is well deserved, in 
the sense that moral decay, a fall and decline of the soul, precedes 
that of the social body. This aspect of Plato's sociology plays 
an important role in his theory of the first change, in the Story 
of the Number and of the Fall of Man. This theory, and its 
connection with the doctrine of Forms or Ideas, will be discussed 
in the next chapter. 


Plato was not the first to approach social phenomena in the 
spirit of investigation. The beginning of social science goes 
back at least to the generation of Protagoras, the first of the 
great thinkers who called themselves * Sophists '. It is marked 
by the distinction between two different elements in man's 
environment his natural environment and his social environ- 
ment. This is a distinction which is difficult to make and to 
grasp, as can be inferred from the fact that even now it is not 
clearly established in our minds. It has been questioned ever 
since the time of Protagoras. Most of us, it seems, have a strong 
inclination to accept the peculiarities of our social environment 
as if they were ' natural '. 

It is one of the characteristic features of the magical attitude 
of a primitive tribal or ' closed ' society that it lives in a charmed 
circle x of unchanging taboos, of laws and customs which are 
felt to be as inevitable as the rising of the sun, or the cycle of 
the seasons, or similar obvious regularities of nature. And it 
is only after this magical 6 closed society ' has actually broken 
down that a theoretical understanding of the difference between 
* nature ' and * society ' can develop. An analysis of this 
development presupposes a clear grasp of the distinction between 
(a) natural laws, or laws of nature, or positive laws, such as the 
laws of the apparent motion of the sun, or the law of gravity ; 
and (b) normative laws, or standards, or norms, i.e. rules that 
forbid or demand certain jnodes of conduct, or certain pro- 
cedures ; examples are the laws of the Athenian Constitution, 
or the rules pertaining to the election of Members of Parliament, 
or the Ten Commandments. I believe that the distinction 
between natural and normative laws is fundamental, and I 
think that the various efforts to bridge the gap have been entirely 
unsuccessful. But I am not going to assume this without dis- 
cussion. For instance, I shall later discuss the claim that certain 
norms are c natural ' in some sense or other. But in order to 
discuss such a claim at all, it is necessary first to distinguish as 
clearly as possible between laws in the sense of (a) and laws in 
the sense of (i), and not to confuse the issue 1 by a bad terminology. 
Thus we shall reserve the term ' natural laws * exclusively for 
laws of type (a), and we shall refuse to do as has often been 



done and apply this term to any norms which have been claimed 
to be c natural '. The confusion is quite unnecessary since it is 
easy to speak of c natural rights ' or of c natural norms ' when 
laws of type (V) are meant. 

I believe that it is necessary for the understanding of Plato's 
sociology to consider how the difference between natural and 
normative laws developed. I shall first distinguish the starting 
point and the last step of the development, and later three 
intermediate steps, which all play a part in Plato's theory. 
The starting point can be described as a naive monism. It may 
be said to be characteristic of the ' closed society '. The last 
step, which I describe as critical dualism (or critical conventional- 
ism), is characteristic of the ' open society '. The fact that there 
are still many who try to avoid making this step may be taken 
as an indication that we are still in the midst of the transition 
from the closed to the open society. (With all this, compare 
chapter 10.) 

The starting point which I have called ' naive monism ' is 
the stage at which the distinction between natural and normative 
laws is not yet made. Unpleasant experiences are the means 
by which man learns to adjust himself to his environment. No 
distinction is made between sanctions imposed by other men, 
if a normative taboo is broken, and unpleasant experiences 
suffered in the natural environment. Within this stage, we may 
further distinguish between two possibilities. The one can be 
described as a naive naturalism. At this stage regularities, whether 
natural or conventional, are felt to be beyond the possibility 
of any alteration whatever. But I believe that this stage is only 
an abstract possibility, which we probably never realized. More 
important is a stage which we can describe as a naive conventional- 
ism, at which both natural and normative regularities are 
experienced as expressions of, and as dependent upon, the 
decisions of man-like gods or demons. At this stage even the 
natural laws, under certain exceptional circumstances, seem to 
be open to modifications, an^ with the help of magical practices 
man may sometimes influence them ; and natural regularities 
appear to be upheld by sanctions, as if they were normative. 
This point is well illustrated by Heraclitus' saying : ' The sun 
will not outstep the measure of his path ; but if he does, then 
the goddesses of Fate? the handmaids of Justice, will know how 
to find him.' 2 

The breakdown of magic tribalism is closely connected with 


the realization that taboos are different in various tribes, that 
they are imposed and enforced by man, and that they may be 
broken without unpleasant repercussions if one can only escape 
the sanctions imposed by one's fellow-men. This realization is 
quickened when it is observed that laws are altered and made 
by human lawgivers. I think not only of such lawgivers as 
Solon, but also of the laws which were made and enforced by 
the common people of democratic cities. These experiences 
may lead to a conscious differentiation between the man-enforced 
normative laws or conventions, and the natural regularities 
which are beyond his power. When this differentiation is 
clearly understood, then we can describe the position reached 
as a critical dualism, or critical conventionalism. In the develop- 
ment of Greek philosophy this dualism of facts and norms 
announces itself in terms of the opposition between nature and 
convention. 3 

In spite of the fact that this position was reached a long time 
ago by the Sophist Protagoras, an older contemporary of Socrates, 
it is still so little understood that it seems necessary to explain 
it in some detail. First, we must not think that critical dualism 
implies a theory of the historical origin of norms. It has nothing 
to do with the historical assertion that norms in the first place 
were consciously made or introduced by man, instead of having 
been found by him to be simply there (whenever he was first 
able to find anything of this kind). It therefore has nothing to 
do with the assertion that norms originate with man, and not 
with God, nor does it underrate the importance of normative 
laws. Least of all has it anything to do with the assertion that 
norms, since they are conventional, i.e. man-made, are therefore 
' merely arbitrary '. Critical dualism merely asserts that norms 
and normative laws can be made and changed by man, more 
especially by a decision or convention to observe them or to 
alter them, and that it is therefore man who is morally responsible 
for them ; not perhaps for the nowns which he finds to exist 
in society when he first begins to reflect upon them, but for the 
norms which he is prepared to tolerate once he has found out 
that he can do something to alter them. Norms are man-made 
in the sense that we must blame nobody but ourselves for them ; 
neither nature, nor God. It is our business to improve them 
as much as we can. This last remark implies that by describing 
norms as conventional, I do not mean that they must be 
arbitrary, or that one set of normative laws will do just as well 


as another. By saying that some systems of laws can be improved, 
that some laws may be better than others, I rather imply that 
we can compare the existing normative laws (or social institutions) 
with some standard norms which we have decided are worthy 
to be realized. But even these standards are of our making in 
the sense that our decision in favour of them is our own decision, 
and that we alone carry the responsibility for adopting them. 
The standards are not to be found in nature. Nature consists 
of facts and of regularities, and is in itself neither moral nor 
immoral. It is we who impose our standards upon nature, 
and who introduce in this way morals into the natural world 4 , 
in spite of the fact that we are part of this world. We are 
products of nature, but nature has made us together with our 
power of altering the world, of foreseeing and of planning for 
the future, and of making far-reaching decisions for which we 
are morally responsible. Yet responsibility, decisions, enter the 
world of nature only with us. 

It is important for the understanding of this attitude to 
realize that these decisions can never be derived from facts (or 
statements of facts), although they pertain to facts. The decision, 
for instance, to oppose slavery, does not depend upon the fact 
that all men are born free and equal, and that no man is born 
in chains. For even if all men were born free, some might 
perhaps try to put them in chains. And even if they were 
born in chains, many of us might demand the removal of these 
chains. In this way, practically all facts of social life permit 
many different decisions ; for instance, that we leave things as 
they are, or that we alter them. 

Critical dualism thus emphasizes the impossibility of reducing 
decisions or norms to facts ; it can therefore be described as a 
dualism of facts and decisions. But this dualism seems to be open 
to attack. Decisions are facts, it may be said. If we decide to 
adopt a certain norm, then this decision is itself a psychological 
or sociological fact, and it would be absurd to say that there 
is nothing in common between such facts and other facts. Since 
it cannot be doubted that our decisions about norms, i.e. the 
norms we adopt, clearly depend upon certain psychological 
facts, such as the influence of our upbringing, it seems to be 
absurd to postulate a dualism of facts and decisions, or to say 
that decisions cannot ibe derived from facts. This objection, I 
believe, must be analysed and dispelled before we can say that 
we understand critical dualism. 


We can speak of ' decisions ' in two different senses. In 
order to make these two senses clear, I may point out an analogous 
situation, in the field of descriptive statement. Let us consider 
the statement : ' Napoleon died on St. Helena '. It will be 
useful to distinguish this statement from the fact which it 
describes. Now a historian, say Mr. A, when writing the 
biography of Napoleon, may make the statement mentioned. 
In doing so, he is describing a fact. But there is also a second 
fact, which is very different from that, namely the fact that he 
made the statement ; and another historian, Mr. B, when 
writing the biography of Mr. A, may describe this second fact 
by saying : c Mr. A stated that Napoleon died on St. Helena '. 
The second fact described in this way, happens to be itself a 
description. But it is a description in a sense of the word that 
must be distinguished from the sense in which we called the 
statement * Napoleon died on St. Helena ' a description. The 
making of a description, of a statement, is a sociological or 
psychological fact. But the description made is to be distinguished from 
the fact that it has been made. It cannot even be derived from 
this fact ; for that would mean that we can deduce ' Napoleon 
died on St. Helena ', from * Mr. A stated that Napoleon died 
on St. Helena ', which is obviously not possible. 

In the field of decisions, the situation is analogous. The 
making of a decision, the adoption of a standard, is a fact. But 
the norm which has been adopted, is not. That most people 
agree with the norm * Thou shalt not steal * is a sociological 
fact. But the norm ' Thou shalt not steal ' is not a fact ; and 
it can never be inferred from sentences describing facts. This 
will be seen most clearly when we remember that there are 
always various and even opposite decisions possible with respect 
to a certain relevant fact. For instance, in face of the sociological 
fact that most people adopt the norm * Thou shalt not steal ', 
it is still possible to decide to adopt either this norm, or its 
opposite ; and it is possible to encourage those who have adopted 
the norm to hold fast to it, or to discourage them, and to persuade 
them to adopt another norm. It is impossible to derive a sentence 
stating a norm or a decision from a sentence stating a fact ; this is only 
another way of saying that it is impossible to derive norms or 
decisions from facts. 6 

The statement that norms are man-made (in the sense that 
the responsibility for them is entirely ours) has often been mis- 
understood. Nearly all misunderstandings can be traced back 


to one fundamental misapprehension, namely, to the belief 
that ' convention * implies ' arbitrariness ' ; that if we are free 
to choose any system of norms we like, then one system is just 
as good as any other. It must, of course, be admitted that the 
view that norms are conventional or artificial indicates that there 
will be a certain element of arbitrariness involved, i.e. that there 
may be different systems of norms between which there is not 
much to choose (a fact that has been duly emphasized by Prota- 
goras). But artificiality by no means implies full arbitrariness. 
Mathematical calculi, for instance, or symphonies, or plays, 
are highly artificial, yet it does not follow that one calculus or 
symphony or play is just as good as any other. Man has created 
new worlds of music, of poetry, of science, and the most 
important of these is the world of the moral demands for equality, 
for freedom, and for helping the weak 6 . When comparing the 
field of morals with the field of music or of mathematics, I do 
not wish to imply that these similarities reach very far. There 
is, more especially, a great difference between moral decisions 
and decisions in the field of art. Many moral decisions involve 
the life and death of other men. Decisions in the field of art 
are much less urgent and important. It is therefore most 
misleading to say that a man decides against slavery as he may 
decide against certain forms of music and literature, and that 
moral decisions are purely matters of taste. Nor are they merely 
decisions about how to make the world more beautiful, or about 
other luxuries of this kind ; they are decisions of much greater 
urgency. (With all this, cp. also chapter 9.) Our comparison 
is only intended to show that the view that moral decisions rest 
with us does not imply that they are entirely arbitrary. 

The view that norms are man-made is also, strangely enough, 
contested by some who see in this attitude an attack on religion. 
It must be admitted, of course, that this view is an attack on 
certain forms of religion, namely, on the religion of blind 
authority, on magic and tafyooism. But I do not think that it 
is in any way opposed to a religion built upon the idea of personal 
responsibility and freedom of conscience. I have in mind, of 
course, especially Christianity, at least as it is usually inter- 
preted in democratic countries ; Christianity which, as against 
all tabooism, preaches, ' Ye have heard that it was said by 
them of old time. . . But I say unto you . .' ; opposing in 
every case the voice of conscience to mere formal obedience 
and the fulfilment of the law. 


I would not admit that to think of ethical laws as being 
man-made in this sense is incompatible with the religious view 
that they are given to us by God. Historically, all ethics 
undoubtedly begins with religion ; but I do not now deal with 
historical questions. I do not ask who was the first ethical 
lawgiver. I only maintain that it is we, and we alone, who are 
responsible for adopting or rejecting some suggested moral laws ; 
it is we who must distinguish between the true prophets and 
the false prophets. All kinds of norms have been claimed to 
be God-given. If you accept the c Christian 5 ethics of equality 
and toleration and freedom of conscience only because of its 
claim to rest upon divine authority, then you build on a weak 
basis ; for it has been only too often claimed that inequality is 
willed by God, and that we must not be tolerant with unbelievers. 
If, however, you accept the Christian ethics not because you 
are commanded to do so but because of your conviction that 
it is the right decision to take, then it is you who have decided. 
My insistence that we make the decisions and carry the responsi- 
bility must not be taken to imply that we cannot, or must not, 
be helped by faith, and inspired by tradition, or by great 
examples. Nor does it imply that the creation of moral decisions 
is merely a * natural ' process, i.e. of the order of physico-chemical 
processes. In fact, Protagoras, the first critical dualist, taught 
that nature does not know norms, and that the introduction of 
norms is due to man, and the most important of human achieve- 
ments. He thus c held the institutions and conventions were 
what raised men above the brutes ', as Burnet 7 puts it. But 
in spite of his insistence that man creates norms, that it is man 
who is the measure of all things, he believed that man could 
achieve the creation of norms only with supernatural help. 
Norms, he taught, are superimposed upon the original or natural 
state of affairs by man, but with the help of Zeus. The way 
in which the first clear statement of critical dualism makes 
room for a religious interpretation of our sense of responsibility 
shows how little critical dualism is opposed to a religious attitude. 
A similar approach can be discerned, I believe, in the historical 
Socrates (see chapter 10) who felt compelled, by his conscience 
as well as by his religious beliefs, to question all authority, and 
who searched for the norms in whose justice he could trust. 
The doctrine of the autonomy of ethics i^ independent of the 
problem of religion, but compatible with, or perhaps even 
necessary for, any religion which respects individual conscience. 


So much concerning the dualism of facts and decisions, or 
the doctrine of the autonomy of ethics, first advocated by 
Protagoras and Socrates 8 . It is, I believe, indispensable for a 
reasonable understanding of our social environment. But of 
course this does not mean that all c social laws ', i.e. all regularities 
of our social life, are normative and man imposed. On the 
contrary, there are important natural laws of social life also. 
For these, the term sociological laws seems appropriate. It is 
just the fact that in social life we meet with both kinds of laws, 
natural and normative, which makes it so important to dis- 
tinguish them clearly. 

By speaking of sociological laws or natural laws of social 
life, I do not think so much of the broad developmental laws 
in which historicists, Plato for instance, are interested, although 
if there are any such developmental regularities, their formula- 
tions would certainly fall under the category of sociological laws. 
Nor do I think so much of the laws of * human nature ', i.e. of 
psychological and socio-psychological regularities of human 
behaviour. I have in mind, rather, such laws as are formulated 
by modern economic theories, for instance, the theory of inter- 
national trade, or the theory of the trade cycle. But there are 
other important sociological laws, connected with the functioning 
of social institutions. (Cp. chapters 2 and 9.) These laws play 
a role in our social life corresponding to the role played in 
mechanical engineering by, say, the principle of the lever. 
For institutions, like levers, are needed if we want to achieve 
anything which goes beyond the power of our muscles. Like 
machines, institutions multiply our power for good and evil. 
Like machines, they need intelligent supervision by someone 
who understands their way of functioning and, most of all, 
their purpose, since we cannot build them so that they work 
entirely automatically. Furthermore, their construction needs 
some knowledge of social regularities which impose limitations 
upon what can be achieved by institutions 9 . (These limitations 
are somewhat analogous, for instance, to the law of conservation 
of energy, which amounts to the statement that we cannot 
build a perpetual motion machine.) But fundamentally, insti- 
tutions are always made by establishing the observance of 
certain norms, designed with a certain aim in mind. (Even 
mechanical engines are made, as it were, not only of iron, but 
by combining iron and norms ; i.e. by transforming physical 
things, but according to certain normative rules, namely their 


plan or design.) In institutions, normative laws and socio- 
logical, i.e. natural laws are closely interwoven, and it is there- 
fore impossible to understand the functioning of institutions 
without being able to distinguish between these two. 

As indicated before, there are many intermediate steps in 
the development from a naive or magical monism to a critical 
dualism which clearly realizes the distinction between norms 
and natural laws. Most of these intermediate positions arise 
from the misapprehension that if a norm is conventional or 
artificial, it must be wholly arbitrary. To understand Plato's 
position, which combines features of them all, it is necessary 
to make a survey of the three most important of these inter- 
mediate positions. They are (i) biological naturalism, (2) ethical 
or juridical positivism, and (3) psychological or spiritual natural- 
ism. It is interesting that each of these positions has been used 
for defending quite opposite ethical views ; more especially, for 
defending the worship of power, and for defending the rights of 
the weak. 

(i) Biological naturalism, or more precisely, the biological 
form of ethical naturalism, is the theory that in spite of the fact 
that morals and the laws of states are arbitrary, there are some 
eternal unchanging laws v of nature from which we can derive 
norms. Food habits, i.e. the number of meals, and the kind of 
food taken, are an example of the arbitrariness of conventions, 
the biological naturalist may argue ; yet there are undoubtedly 
certain natural laws in this field. For instance, a man will die 
if he takes either insufficient or too much food. Thus it seems 
that just as there are realities behind appearances, so behind 
our arbitrary conventions there are some unchanging natural 
laws and especially the laws of biology. 

Biological naturalism has been used to defend equalitarianism 
as well as the anti-equalitarian doctrine of the rule of the strong. 
One of the first to put forward this naturalism was the poet 
Pindar, who used it to support the thfeory that the strong should 
rule. He claimed that it is a law, valid throughout nature, 
that the stronger does with the weaker whatever he likes. Thus 
laws which protect the weak are not merely arbitrary but artificial 
distortions of the true natural law that the strong should be 
free and the weak should be his slave. The view is discussed 
a good deal 10 by Plato ; it is attacked in the Gorgias, a dialogue 
which is still much influenced by Socrates ; in the Republic, it 
is put in the mouth of Thrasymachus, and identified with ethical 
O.S.I.E. VOL. j c 


individualism (see the next chapter) ; in the Laws, Plato is less 
antagonistic to Pindar's view ; but he still contrasts it with the 
rule of the wisest, which, he says, is a better principle, and just 
as much in accordance with nature (see also the quotation later 
in this chapter). 

The first to put forward a humanitarian or equalitarian 
version of biological naturalism was the Sophist Antiphon. To 
him is due also the identification of nature with truth, and of 
convention with opinion (or 'delusive opinion' ll ). Antiphon 
is a radical naturalist. He believes that most norms are not 
merely arbitrary 3 but directly contrary to nature. Norms, he 
says, are imposed from outside, while the rules of nature are 
inevitable. It is disadvantageous and even dangerous to break 
man-imposed norms if the breach is observed by those who 
impose them ; but there is no inner necessity attached to them, 
and nobody need to be ashamed of breaking them ; shame and 
punishment are only sanctions arbitrarily imposed from outside. 
On this criticism of conventional morals, Antiphon bases a 
utilitarian ethics. * Of the actions here mentioned, one would 
find many to be contrary to nature. For they involve more 
suffering where there should be less, and less pleasure where 
there could be more, and injury where it is unnecessary.' 12 At 
the same time, he taught the need for self-control. His equali- 
tarianism he formulates as follows : ' The nobly born we revere 
and adore ; but not the lowly born. These are coarse habits. 
Our natural gifts are the same for all, on all points, whether we 
are now Greeks or barbarians. . . We all breathe the air 
through our mouth and nostrils.' 

A similar equalitarianism was voiced by the Sophist Hippias, 
whom Plato represents as addressing his audience : * Gentlemen, 
I believe that we are all kinsmen and friends and fellow-citizens ; 
if not by conventional law, then by nature. For by nature, 
likeness is an expression of kinship ; but the law, the tyrant of 
mankind, compels us to f do much that is against nature.' 13 
This spirit was bound up with the Athenian movement against 
slavery (mentioned in chapter 4) to which Euripides gave expres- 
sion : * The name alone brings shame upon the slave who can 
be excellent in every way and truly equal to the free born man.' 
Elsewhere, he says : ' Man's law of nature is equality.' And 
Alcidamas, a disciple of Gorgias and a contemporary of Plato, 
wrote : ' God has made all men free ; no man is a slave by 
nature. 5 Similar views are also expressed by Lycophron, another 


member of Gorgias 5 school : ' Nobility of birth is hollow. Its 
prerogatives are unfounded and its splendour is based upon a 

Against this great humanitarian movement, the movement 
of the ' Great Generation ', as I shall call it later (chapter 10), 
Plato, and his disciple Aristotle, advanced the theory of the 
biological and moral inequality of man. Greeks and barbarians 
are unequal by nature ; the opposition between them corre- 
sponds to that between natural masters and natural slaves. The 
natural inequality of men is one of the reasons for their living 
together, for their natural gifts are complementary. Social life 
begins with natural inequality, and it must continue upon that 
foundation. I shall discuss these doctrines later in more detail. 
At present, they may serve to show how biological naturalism 
can be used to support the most divergent ethical doctrines. In 
the light of our previous analysis of the impossibility of basing 
norms upon facts this result is not unexpected. 

Such considerations, however, are perhaps not sufficient to 
defeat a theory as popular as biological naturalism ; I therefore 
proffer two more direct criticisms. First of all, it must be 
admitted that certain forms of behaviour may be described as 
more c natural ' than other forms ; for instance, going naked 
or eating only raw food ; and some people think that this in 
itself justifies the choice of these forms. But in this sense it is 
also most unnatural to be interested in art, or science, or even 
in arguments in favour of naturalism. Thus to choose con- 
formity with ' nature ' as a supreme standard leads ultimately 
to consequences which few will be prepared to face ; it does 
not lead to a more natural form of civilization, but to beastli- 
ness 14 . The second criticism is more important. The biological 
naturalist assumes that he can derive his norms from the natural 
laws which determine the conditions of health, etc., if he does 
not naively believe that we need adopt no norms whatever but 
simply live according to the c laws of nature '. He overlooks 
the fact that he makes a choice, a decision ; that it is possible 
that some other people cherish certain things more than their 
health (for instance, the many who have consciously risked their 
lives, perhaps for medical research). And he is therefore mis- 
taken if he believes that he has not made a conventional decision, 
or has derived his norms from biological l#ws. 

(2) Ethical positivism shares with the biological form of 
ethical naturalism the belief that we must try to reduce norms 


to facts. But the facts are this time sociological facts, namely, 
the actual existing norms. Positivism maintains that there are 
no other norms but the laws which have actually been set up 
(or ' posited ') and which have therefore a positive existence. 
Other standards are considered as unreal imaginations. The 
existing laws are the only possible standards of goodness : what 
is, is good. (Might is right.) According to some forms of this 
theory, it is a gross misunderstanding to believe that the indi- 
vidual can judge the norms of society ; rather, it is society 
which provides the code by which the individual must be 

Historically, ethical (or moral, or juridical) positivism has 
usually been conservative, or even authoritarian ; and it has 
often invoked the authority of God. Its arguments depend, I 
believe, upon the arbitrariness of norms. We must believe in 
existing norms, it claims, because there are no better norms 
which we may find for ourselves. In reply to this it might be 
asked : What about this norm c We must believe etc.' ? If 
this is only an existing norm, then it does not count as an argu- 
ment in favour of these norms ; but if it is an appeal to our 
insight, then it admits that we can, after all, find norms our- 
selves. And if we are told to accept norms on authority because 
we cannot judge them, then neither can we judge whether the 
claims of the authority are justified, or whether we may not 
follow a false prophet. And if it is held that there are no false 
prophets because laws are arbitrary anyhow, so that the main 
thing is to have some laws, then we may ask ourselves why it 
should be so important to have laws at all ; for if there are no 
further standards, why then should we not choose to have no 
laws ? (These remarks may perhaps indicate the reasons for 
my belief that authoritarian or conservative principles are 
usually an expression of ethical nihilism ; that is to say, 
of an extreme scepticism, of a distrust of man, and of his 

While the theory of natural rights has, in the course of 
history, often been proffered in support of equalitarian and 
humanitarian ideas, the positivist school was usually in the 
opposite camp. But this is not much more than an accident ; 
as has been shown, ethical naturalism may be used with very 
different intentions. w (It has recently been used for confusing 
the^ whole issue by advertising certain reactionary, and allegedly 
* natural ' rights as * natural laws '.) Conversely, there are also 


humanitarian and progressive positivists. For if all norms are 
arbitrary, why not be tolerant? This is a typical attempt to 
justify a humanitarian attitude along positivist lines. 

(3) Psychological or spiritual naturalism is in a way a com- 
bination of the two previous views, and it can best be explained 
by means of an argument against the one-sidedness of these 
views. The ethical positivist is right, this argument runs, if he 
emphasizes that all norms are conventional, i.e. a product of 
man, and of human society ; but he overlooks the fact that 
they are therefore an expression of the psychological or spiritual 
nature of man, and of the nature of human society. The 
biological naturalist is right in assuming that there are certain 
natural aims or ends, from which we can derive natural norms ; 
but he overlooks the fact that our natural aims are not neces- 
sarily such, aims as health, pleasure, or food, shelter or propaga- 
tion. Human nature is such that man, or at least some men, 
do not want to live by bread alone, that they seek higher aims, 
spiritual aims. We may thus derive man's true natural aims 
from his own true nature, which is spiritual, and social. And 
we may, further, derive the natural norms of life from his 
natural ends. 

This plausible position was, I believe, first formulated by 
Plato, who was here under the influence of the Socratic doctrine 
of the soul, i.e. of Socrates' teaching, that the spirit matters more 
than the flesh 15 . Its appeal to our sentiments is undoubtedly 
very much stronger than that of the other two positions. It 
can however be combined, like these, with any ethical decision ; 
with a humanitarian attitude as well as with the worship of 
power. For we can, for instance, decide to treat all men as 
participating in this spiritual human nature ; or we can insist, 
like Heraclitus, that the many c fill their bellies like the beasts ', 
and are therefore of an inferior nature, and that only a few 
elect ones are worthy of the spiritual community of men. 
Accordingly, spiritual naturalism Ifas been much used, and 
especially by Plato, to justify the natural prerogatives of the 
' noble ' or ' elect ' or * wise ' or of the ' natural leader '. 
(Plato's attitude is discussed in the following chapters.) On 
the other hand, it has been used by Christian and other 16 
humanitarian forms of ethics, for instance by Paine and by 
Kant, to demand the recognition of the? c natural rights ' of 
every human individual. In fact, it is clear that spiritual 
naturalism can be used to defend anything, and especially any 


* positive ', i.e. existing, norms. For it can always be argued 
that these norms would not be in force if they did not express 
some traits of human nature. In this way, spiritual naturalism 
can, in practical problems, become one with positivism, in spite 
of their traditional opposition. (In fact, this form of naturalism 
is so wide and so vague that it may be used to defend anything. 
There is nothing that has ever occurred to man which could 
not be claimed to be c natural ' ; for if it were not in his nature, 
how could it have occurred to him ?) 

Looking back at this brief survey, we perhaps may discern 
two main tendencies which stand in the way of adopting a 
critical dualism. The first is a general tendency towards 
monism 17 , that is to say, towards the reduction of norms to 
facts. The second lies deeper, and it possibly forms the back- 
ground of the first. It is based upon our fear of admitting to 
ourselves that the responsibility for our ethical decisions is 
entirely ours and can be shifted on to nobody else ; neither to 
God, nor to nature, nor to society, nor to history. All these 
ethical theories attempt to find somebody, or perhaps some 
argument, to take the .burden from us 18 . But we cannot shirk 
this responsibility. Whatever authority we may accept, it is we 
who accept it. We only deceive ourselves if we do not realize 
this simple point. 

We now turn to a more detailed analysis of Plato's naturalism 
and its relation to his historicism. Plato, of course, does not 
always use the term ' nature ' in the same sense. The most 
important meaning which he attaches to it is, I believe, prac- 
tically identical with that which he attaches to the term * essence '. 
This way of using the term c nature ' still survives among essen- 
tialists even in our day ; they still speak, for instance, of the 
nature of mathematics, or of the nature of inductive inference, 
or of the c nature of happiness and misery ' 19 . When used by 
Plato in this way, c nature ' means nearly the same as ' Form J 
or c Idea ' ; for the Form or Idea of a thing, as shown above, 
is also its essence. The main difference between natures and 
Forms or Ideas seems to be this. The Form or Idea of a sensible 
thing is, as we have seen, not in that thing, but separated from 
it ; it is its forefather, its primogenitor ; but this Form or father 
passes something on to the sensible things which are its offspring 
or race, namely, thein nature. The ' nature ' is thus the inborn 
or original quality of a thing, and in so far, its inherent essence ; 
it is the original power or disposition of a thing, and it deter- 


mines those of its properties which are the basis of its resemblance 
to, or of its innate participation in, the Form or Idea. 

' Natural ' is, accordingly, what is innate or original or 
divine in a thing, while * artificial ' is that which has been later 
changed by man or added or imposed by him, through external 
compulsion. Plato frequently insists that all products of human 
* art * at their best are only copies of ' natural ' sensible things. 
But since these in turn are only copies of the divine Forms or 
Ideas, the products of art are only copies of copies, twice removed 
from reality, and therefore less good, less real, and less true 20 
than even the (natural) things in flux . . We see from this 
that Plato agrees with Antiphon 21 in at least one point, namely 
in assuming that the opposition between nature and convention 
or art corresponds to that between truth and falsehood, between 
reality and appearance, between primary or original and 
secondary or man-made things, and to that between the objects 
of rational knowledge and those of delusive opinion. The 
opposition corresponds also, according to Plato, to that between 
' the offspring of divine workmanship ' or 4 the products of 
divine art ', and * what man makes out of them, i.e. the products 
of human art'. 22 All those things whose intrinsic value Plato 
wishes to emphasize he therefore claims to be natural as opposed 
to artificial. Thus he insists in the Laws that the soul has to 
be considered prior to all material things, and that it must 
therefore be said to exist by nature : * Nearly everybody . . is 
ignorant of the power of the soul, and especially of her origin. 
They do not know that she is among the first of things, and 
prior to all bodies. . . In using the word " nature " one wants 
to describe the things that were created first ; but if it turns out 
that it is the soul which is prior to other things (and not, perhaps, 
fire or air), . . then the soul, beyond all others, may be asserted 
to exist by nature, in the truest sense of the word. 5 23 (Plato 
here reaffirms his old theory that the soul is more closely akin 
to the Forms or Ideas than the body ; a theory which is also 
the basis of his doctrine of immortality). 

But Plato not only teaches that the soul is prior to other 
things and therefore exists ' by nature * ; he uses the term 
c nature ', if applied to man, frequently also as a name for 
spiritual powers or gifts or natural talents, so that we can say 
that a man's ' nature ' is much the same* as his ' soul ' ; it is 
the divine principle by which he participates in the Form or 
Idea, in the divine primogenitor of his race. And the term 


c race J , again, is frequently used in a very similar sense. Since 
a * race ' is united by being the offspring of the same primo- 
genitor, it must also be united by a common nature. Thus 
the terms ' nature ' and ' race ' are frequently used by Plato as 
synonyms, for instance, when he speaks of the ' race of philoso- 
phers ' and of those who have ' philosophic natures ' ; so that 
both these terms are closely akin to the terms * essence ' and 
' soul '. 

Plato's theory of ' nature ' opens another approach to his 
historicist methodology. Since it seems to be the task of science 
in general to examine the true nature of its objects, it is the 
task of a social or political science to examine the nature of 
human society, and of the state. But the nature of a thing, 
according to Plato, is its origin ; or at least it is determined 
by its origin. Thus the method of any science will be the 
investigation of the origin of things (of their * causes '). This 
principle, when applied to the science of society and of politics, 
leads to the demand that the origin of society and of the state 
must be examined. History therefore is not studied for its own 
sake but serves as the method of the social sciences. This is the 
historicist methodology. 

What is the nature of human society, of the state ? Accord- 
ing to historicist methods, this fundamental question of sociology 
must be reformulated in this way : what is the origin of society 
and of the state ? The reply given by Plato in the Republic as 
well as in the Laws * 4 , agrees with the position described above 
as spiritual naturalism. The origin of society is a convention, 
a social contract. But it is not only that ; it is, rather, a natural 
convention, i.e. a convention which is based upon human 
nature, and more precisely, upon the social nature of man. 

This social nature of man has its origin in the imperfection 
of the human individual. In opposition to Socrates 25 , Plato 
teaches that the human individual cannot be self-sufficient, 
owing to the limitations inherent in human nature. Although 
Plato insists that there are very different degrees of human 
perfection, it turns out that even the very few comparatively 
perfect men still depend upon others (who are less perfect) ; 
if for nothing else, then for having the dirty work, the manual 
work, done by them 2G . In this way, even the ' rare and 
uncommon natures \ who approach perfection depend upon 
society, upon the state. They can reach perfection only through 
the state and in the state ; the perfect state must offer them the 


proper c social habitat ', without which they must grow corrupt 
and degenerate. The state therefore must be placed higher 
than the individual since only the state can be autarch, self- 
sufficient, perfect, and able to make good the necessary imper- 
fection of the individual. 

Society and the individual are thus interdependent. The 
one owes its existence to the other. Society owes its existence 
to human nature, and especially to its lack of self-sufficiency ; 
and the individual owes his existence to society, since he is not 
self-sufficient. But within this relationship of interdependence, 
the superiority of the state over the individual manifests itself 
in various ways ; for instance, in the fact that the seed of the 
decay and disunion of a perfect state does not spring up in the 
state itself, but rather in its individuals ; it is rooted in the 
imperfection of the human soul, of human nature ; or more 
precisely, in the fact that the race of men is liable to degenerate. 
To this point, the origin of political decay, and its dependence 
upon the degeneration of human nature, I shall return presently ; 
but I wish first to make a few comments on some of the charac- 
teristics of Plato's sociology, especially upon his version of the 
theory of the social contract, and upon his view of the state 
as a super-individual, i.e. his version of the biological or organic 
theory of the state. 

Whether Protagoras proffered a theory that laws originate 
with a social contract, or whether Lycophron (whose theory 
will be discussed in the next chapter) was the first to do so, is 
not certain. In any case, the idea is closely related to Prota- 
goras' conventionalism. The fact that Plato consciously com- 
bined some conventionalist ideas, and even a version of the 
contract theory, with his naturalism, is in itself an indication 
that conventionalism in its original form did not maintain that 
laws are wholly arbitrary ; and Plato's remarks on Protagoras 
confirm this 27 . How conscious Plato was of a conventionalist 
element in his version of naturalism* can be seen from a passage 
in the Laws. Plato there gives a list of the various principles 
upon which political authority might be based, mentioning 
Pindar's biological naturalism (see above), i.e. ' the principle 
that the stronger shall rule and the weaker be ruled ', which 
he describes as a principle ' according to nature, as the Theban 
poet Pindar once stated '. Plato contracts this principle with 
another which he recommends by showing that it combines 
conventionalism with naturalism : c But there is also a . . claim 


which is the greatest principle of all, namely, that the wise shall 
command and lead, and that the ignorant shall follow ; and this, 
O Pindar, wisest of poets, is surely not contrary to nature, but 
according to nature ; for what it demands is not external com- 
pulsion but the truly natural sovereignty of a law which is 
based upon mutual consent.' 28 

In the Republic we find elements of the conventionalist con- 
tract theory in a similar way combined with elements of natural- 
ism. ' The city originates ', we hear there, ' because we are not 
self-sufficient ; . . or is there another origin of settlement in 
cities ? . . Men gather into one settlement many . . helpers, 
since they need many things. . . And when they share their 
goods with one another, the one giving, the other partaking, 
does not every one expect in this way to further his own 
interest ? ' 29 Thus the inhabitants gather in order that each 
may further his own interest ; which is an element of the contract 
theory. But behind this stands the fact that they are not self- 
sufficient, a fact of human nature ; which is an element of 
naturalism. And this element is developed further. * By nature, 
no two of us are exactly alike. Each has his peculiar nature, 
some being fit for one kind of work and some for another. . . 
Is it better that a man should work in many crafts or that he 
should work in one only ? . . Surely, more will be produced 
and better and more easily if each man works in one occupation 
only, according to his natural gifts.' 

In this way, the economic principle of the division of labour 
is introduced (reminding us of the affinity between Plato's 
historicism and the materialist interpretation of history) . But this 
principle is based here upon an element of biological naturalism, 
namely, upon the natural inequality of men. At first, this idea is 
introduced inconspicuously and, as it were, rather innocently. 
But we shall see in the next chapter that it has far-reaching 
consequences ; indeed, the only really important division of 
labour turns out to be that between rulers and ruled, claimed 
to be based upon the natural inequality of masters and slaves, 
of wise and ignorant. 

We have seen that there is a considerable element of con- 
ventionalism as well as of biological naturalism in Plato's posi- 
tion ; an observation which is not surprising when we consider 
that this position is, on the whole, that of spiritual naturalism 
which, because of its vagueness, easily allows for all such com- 
binations. This spiritual version of naturalism is perhaps best 


formulated in the Laws. * Men say ', says Plato, c that the 
greatest and most beautiful things are natural . . and the lesser 
things artificial.' So far he agrees ; but he then attacks the 
materialists who say ' that fire and water, and earth and air, 
all exist by nature . . and that all normative laws are altogether 
unnatural and artificial and based upon superstitions which are 
not true.' Against this view, he shows first, that it is not bodies 
nor elements, but the soul which truly * exists by nature ' 30 
(I have quoted this passage above) ; and from this he concludes 
that order, and law, must also be by nature, since they spring 
from the soul : * If the soul is prior to the body, then things 
dependent upon the soul ' (i.e. spiritual matters) c are also prior 
to those dependent upon body. . . And the soul orders and 
directs all things.' This supplies the theoretical background for 
the doctrine that ' laws and purposeful institutions exist by 
nature, and not by anything lower than nature, since they are 
born of reason and true thought.' This is a clear statement of 
spiritual naturalism ; and it is combined as well with positivist 
beliefs of a conservative kind : c Thoughtful and prudent legisla- 
tion will find a most powerful help because the laws will remain 
unchanged once they have been laid down in writing.' 

From all this it can be seen that arguments derived from 
Plato's spiritual naturalism are quite incapable of helping to 
answer any question which may arise concerning the 'just' or 
* natural ' character of any particular law. Spiritual naturalism 
is much too vague to be applied to any practical problem. It 
cannot do much beyond providing some general arguments in 
favour of conservativism. In practice, everything is left to the 
wisdom of the great lawgiver (a godlike philosopher, whose 
picture, especially in the Laws, is undoubtedly a self-portrait ; 
see also chapter 8). As opposed to his spiritual naturalism, 
however, Plato's theory of the interdependence of society and 
the individual furnishes more concrete results ; and so does 
his anti-equalitarian biological naturalism. 

It has been indicated above that because of its self-sufficiency, 
the ideal state appears to Plato as the perfect individual, and 
the individual citizen, accordingly, as an imperfect copy of the 
state. This view which makes of the state a kind of super- 
organism or Leviathan is the beginning of the so-called organic 
or biological theory of the state. The principle of this theory 
will be criticized later 31 . Here I wish first to draw attention 
to the fact that Plato does not defend the theory, and indeed 


hardly formulates it explicitly. But it is clearly enough implied ; 
in fact, the fundamental analogy between the state and the 
human individual is one of the standard topics of the Republic. 
It is worth mentioning, in this connection, that the analogy 
serves as a help in the analysis of the individual rather than 
of the state. One could perhaps defend the view that Plato 
proffers not so much a biological theory of the state as a political 
theory of the human individual 32 . This view, I think, is in 
full accordance with his doctrine that the individual is lower 
than the state and is a kind of imperfect copy of it. In the 
very place in which Plato introduces his fundamental analogy 
it is used in this way, that is to say, as a method of explaining 
and elucidating the individual. The city, it is said, is greater 
than the individual, and therefore easier to examine. Plato 
gives this as his reason for suggesting that ' we should begin 
our inquiry ' (namely, into the nature of justice) * in the city, 
and continue it afterwards in the individual, always watching 
for points of similarity. . . May we not expect in this way 
more easily to discern what we are looking for ? * 

From this way of introducing it we can see that Plato takes 
the existence of his fundamental analogy for granted. This fact, 
I believe, is an expression of his longing for a unified and har- 
monious, for an * organic ' state, for a society of a more primitive 
kind. (See chapter 10.) The state must be small, he says, 
and may grow only as long as its increase does not endanger 
its unity. The whole city must by its nature become one, and 
not many. 33 Plato thus emphasizes the c oneness ' or individu- 
ality of his city. But he also emphasizes the * manyness ' of 
the human individual. In his analysis of the individual soul, 
and of its division into three parts, reason, energy, and animal 
instincts, corresponding to the three classes of his state, the 
guardians, warriors, and workers (who still continue to ' fill 
their bellies like the beasts ', as Heraclitus had said), Plato goes 
so far as to oppose these parts to one another as if they were 
c distinct and conflicting persons ' 34 . c We are thus told ', says 
Grote, ' that though man is apparently One, he is in reality 
Many . . though the perfect Commonwealth is apparently 
Many, it is in reality One.' It is clear that this corresponds 
to the Ideal character of the state of which the individual is 
a kind of imperfect t ,copy. Such an emphasis upon oneness 
and wholeness of the state may be described as * holism '. 
Plato's holism, I believe, is closely related to the tribal collectivism 


mentioned in earlier chapters. Plato was longing for the lost 
unity of tribal life. A life of change, in the midst of a social 
revolution, appeared to him unreal. Only a stable whole, the 
permanent collective, has reality, not the passing individuals. 
It is * natural ' for the individual to subserve the whole, which 
is no mere assembly of individuals, but a c natural ' unit of a 
higher order. 

Plato gives many excellent sociological descriptions of this 
c natural ', i.e. tribal and collectivist, mode of social life : * The 
law ', he writes in the Republic, * is designed to bring about the 
welfare of the state as a whole, fitting the citizens into one unit, 
by means of both persuasion and force. It makes them share 
mutually in any contribution which each is capable of rendering 
to the community. And it is actually the law which creates in 
the state the right type of men ; not for the purpose of letting 
them loose, so that everybody can go his own way, but in order 
to utilize them all for welding the city together.' 35 That there 
is in this holism an emotional aestheticism, a longing for beauty, 
can be seen, for instance, from a remark in the Laws : ' Every 
artist . . executes the part for the sake of the whole, and not 
the whole for the sake of the part.' At the same place, we also 
find a truly classical formulation of political holism : c You are 
created for the sake of the whole, and not the whole for the 
sake of you.' Within this whole, the different individuals, and 
groups of individuals, with their natural inequalities, must 
render their specific and very unequal services. All this would 
be sufficient for characterizing Plato's theory as a form of the 
organic theory of the state, even if he had not sometimes spoken 
of the state as an organism. But since he did this, there can be 
no doubt left that he must be described as an exponent, or 
rather, as the originator of this theory. His version of this 
theory may be characterized as a personalist or psychological 
one, since he describes the state not in a general way as similar 
to some organism or other, but as analogous to the human 
individual, and more specifically to the human soul. Especially 
the disease of the state, the dissolution of its unity, corresponds 
to the disease of the human soul, of human nature. In fact, 
the disease of the state is not only correlated with, but is directly 
produced by the corruption of human nature, more especially, 
of the members of the ruling class. Ev^ry single one of the 
typical stages in the degeneration of the state is brought about 
by a corresponding stage in the degeneration of the human 


soul, of human nature, of the human race. And since this 
moral degeneration is interpreted as based upon racial degenera- 
tion, we might say that the biological element in Plato's 
naturalism turns out, in the end, to have the most important 
part in the foundation of his historicism. For the history of 
the downfall of the first or perfect state is nothing but the 
history of the biological degeneration of the race of men. 

It was mentioned in the last chapter that the problem of the 
beginning of change and decay is one of the major difficulties 
of Plato's historicist theory of society. The first, the natural 
and perfect city-state cannot be supposed to carry within itself 
the germ of dissolution, * for a city which carries within itself 
the germ of dissolution is for that very reason imperfect ' 36 . 
Plato tries to get over the difficulty by laying the blame on his 
universally valid historical, biological, and perhaps even cosmo- 
logical, developmental law of degeneration, rather than on the 
particular constitution of the first or perfect city 37 : c Every- 
thing that has been generated must decay.' But this general 
theory does not provide a fully satisfactory solution, for it does 
not explain why even a sufficiently perfect state cannot escape 
the law of decay. And indeed, Plato hints that historical decay 
might have been avoided 38 , had the rulers of the first or natural 
state been trained philosophers. But they were not. They were 
not trained (as he demands that the rulers of his heavenly city 
should be) in mathematics and dialectics ; and in order to 
avoid degeneration, they would have needed to be initiated into 
the higher mysteries of eugenics, of the science of ' keeping pure 
the race of the guardians ', and of avoiding the mixture of the 
noble metals in their veins with the base metals of the workers. 
But these higher mysteries are difficult to reveal. Plato dis- 
tinguishes sharply, in the fields of mathematics, acoustics, and 
astronomy, between mere (delusive) opinion which is tainted by 
experience, and which cannot reach exactness, and is altogether 
on a low level, and pure rational knowledge, which is free from 
sensual experience and exact. This distinction he applies also 
to the field of eugenics. A merely empirical art of breeding 
cannot be precise, i.e. it cannot keep the race perfectly pure. 
This explains the downfall of the original city which is so good, 
i.e. so similar to its Form or Idea, that ' a city thus constituted 
can hardly be shaken '. ' But this ', Plato continues, c is the 
way it dissolves ', and he proceeds to outline his theory of 
breeding, of the Number, and of the Fall of Man. 


All plants and animals, he tells us, must be bred according 
to definite periods of time, if barrenness and other forms of 
degeneration are to be avoided. Some knowledge of these 
periods, which are connected with the length of the life of the 
race, will be available to the rulers of the best state, and they 
will apply it to the breeding of the master race. It will not, 
however, be rational, but empirical ; it will be ' calculation 
based on perception ' (cp. the next quotation). But as we know, 
experience can never be exact and reliable, since its objects 
are not the pure Forms or Ideas, but the world of things in 
flux ; and since the guardians have no better knowledge, the 
breed cannot be kept pure, and racial degeneration must creep 
in. This is how Plato explains the matter : * Concerning your 
own race J (i.e. the race of men, as opposed to animals), * the 
rulers of the city whom you have trained may be wise enough ; 
but since they are using only calculation aided by perception, 
they will not hit, accidentally, upon the way of getting either 
good offspring, or none at all. 5 39 Lacking a purely rational 
method, ' they will blunder, and some day they will beget 
children in the wrong manner '. In what follows next, Plato 
hints, rather mysteriously, that there is now a way to avoid 
this through the discovery of a purely rational and mathe- 
matical science which possesses in the form of the mysterious 
c Platonic Number ' (which determines the True Period of the 
human race) the key to the master law of higher eugenics. But 
since the guardians of old times were ignorant of Pythagorean 
number-mysticism, and with it, of this higher knowledge of 
breeding, the otherwise perfect natural state could not escape 
decay. After partially revealing the secret of his Number, 
Plato continues : c This . . number is master over better or 
worse births ; and whenever the guardians, ignorant (you must 
remember) of these matters, unite bride and bridegroom at the 
wrong time 40 , the children will have neither good natures nor 
good luck. Even the best of them . . will prove unworthy 
when succeeding to the power of their fathers ; and as soon as 
they are guardians, they will not listen to us any more ' that 
is, in matters of musical and gymnastic education, and, as 
Plato especially emphasizes, in the supervision of breeding. 
' Hence rulers will be appointed who are altogether unfit for their 
task as guardians ; namely to watch, and to test, the metals 
in the races (which are Hesiod.'s races as well as yours), gold 
and silver and bronze and iron. So iron will mingle with 


silver and bronze with gold and from this mixture, variation 
will be born and absurd irregularity ; and whenever these are 
born they will beget struggle and hostility. And this is how 
we must describe the ancestry or origin of disunion, wherever 
she arises.' 

This is Plato's story of the Number and of the Fall of Man. 
It is the basis of his historicist sociology, especially of his funda- 
mental law of social revolutions discussed in the last chapter 41 . 
For racial degeneration explains the origin of disunion in the 
ruling class, and with it, the origin of all historical development. 
The internal disunion of human nature, the schism of the soul, 
leads to the schism of the ruling class. And as with Heraclitus, 
war, class war, is the father and promoter of all change, and of 
the history of man, which is nothing but the history of the 
breakdown of society. We see that Plato's idealist historicism 
ultimately rests not upon a spiritual, but upon a biological basis ; 
it rests upon a kind of meta-biology 42 of the race of men. 
Plato was not only a naturalist who proffered a biological theory 
of the state, he was also the first to proffer a biological and 
racial theory of social dynamics, of political history. c The 
Platonic Number ', says Adam 43 , * is thus the setting in which 
Plato's " Philosophy of History " is framed.' 

It is, I think, appropriate to conclude this sketch of Plato's 
descriptive sociology with a summary and an evaluation. 

Plato succeeded in giving an amazingly true, though of 
course somewhat idealized, reconstruction of an early Greek 
tribal and collectivist society similar to that of Sparta. An 
analysis of the forces, especially the economic forces, which 
threaten the stability of such a society, enables him to describe 
the general policy as well as the social institutions which are 
necessary for arresting it. And he gives, furthermore, a rational 
reconstruction of the economic and historical development of 
the Greek city-states. 

These achievements are /mpaired by his hatred of the society 
in which he was living, and by his romantic love for the old 
tribal form of social life. It is this attitude which led him to 
formulate an untenable law of historical development, namely, 
the law of universal degeneration or decay. And the same 
attitude is also responsible for the irrational, fantastic, and 
romantic elements of, his otherwise excellent analysis. On the 
other hand, it was just his personal interest and his partiality 
which sharpened his eye and so made his achievements possible. 


He derived his historicist theory from the fantastic philosophical 
doctrine that the changing visible world is only a decaying copy 
of an unchanging invisible world. But this ingenious attempt 
to combine a historicist pessimism with an ontological optimism 
leads, when elaborated, to difficulties. These difficulties forced 
upon him the adoption of a biological naturalism, leading 
(together with c psychologism ' 44 , i.e. the theory that society 
depends on the * human nature ' of its members) to mysticism 
and superstition, culminating in a pseudo-rational mathe- 
matical theory of breeding. They even endangered the impres- 
sive unity of his theoretical edifice. 

Looking back at this edifice, we may briefly consider its 
ground-plan 45 . This ground-plan, conceived by a great archi- 
tect, exhibits a fundamental metaphysical dualism in Plato's 
thought. In the field of logic, this dualism presents itself as the 
opposition: between the universal and the particular. In the 
field of mathematical speculation, it presents itself as the opposi- 
tion between the One and the Many. In the field of epistemology, 
it is the opposition between rational knowledge based on pure 
thought, and opinion based on particular experiences. In the 
field of ontology, it is the opposition between the one, original, 
invariable, and true, reality, and the many, varying, and 
delusive, appearances ; between pure being and becoming, or 
more precisely, changing. In the field of cosmology, it is the 
opposition between that which generates and that which is 
generated, and which must decay. In ethics, it is the opposition 
between the good, i.e. that which preserves, and the evil, i.e. 
that which corrupts. In politics, it is the opposition between 
the one collective, the state, which may attain perfection and 
autarchy, and the many individuals, the particular men who 
must remain imperfect and dependent, and whose particularity 
is to be suppressed for the sake of the unity of the state (see the 
next chapter). And this whole dualist philosophy originated, 
as I believe, in the sociological cjomain, from the contrasts 
between a stable society, and a society in the process of revolution. 



The analysis of Plato's sociology makes it easy to present 
his political programme. His fundamental demands can be 
expressed in either of two formulae, the first corresponding to his 
idealist theory of change and rest, the second to his naturalism. 
The idealist formula is : Arrest all political change ! Change is 
evil, rest divine x . All change can be arrested if the state is made 
an exact copy of its original, i.e. of the Form or Idea of the city. 
Should it be asked how this is practicable, we can reply with the 
naturalist formula : Back to nature ! Back to the original state 
of our forefathers, the primitive state founded in accordance with 
human nature, and therefore stable ; back to the tribal patriarchy 
of the time before the Fall, to the natural class rule of the wise 
few over the ignorant many, 

I believe that practically all the features of Plato's political 
programme can be derived from these demands. They are, in 
turn, based upon his historicism ; and they have to be combined 
with his sociological doctrines concerning the conditions for the 
stability of class rule. The main features I have in mind are : 

(A) The strict division of the classes ; i.e. the ruling class 
consisting of herdsmen and watch-dogs must be strictly separated 
from the human cattle. 

(E) The identification of the fate of the state with that of 
the ruling class ; the exclusive interest in this class, and in its 
unity ; and subservient to this unity, the rigid rules for breeding 
and educating this class, and the strict supervision and collectiviza- 
tion of the interests of its members. 

From these principal features, many other features can be 
derived, for instance : 

(C) The ruling class has a monopoly of things like military 
virtues and training, and of the right to carry arms and to receive 
education of any kind ; but it is excluded from any participation 
in economic activities, and especially from earning money. 

(D) There must be a censorship of all intellectual activities 
of the ruling class, and a continual propaganda aiming at mould- 
ing and unifying their minds. 



silver and bronze with gold and from this mixture, variation 
will be born and absurd irregularity ; and whenever these are 
born they will beget struggle and hostility. And this is how 
we must describe the ancestry or origin of disunion, wherever 
she arises.' 

This is Plato's story of the Number and of the Fall of Man. 
It is the basis of his historicist sociology, especially of his funda- 
mental law of social revolutions discussed in the last chapter 41 . 
For racial degeneration explains the origin of disunion in the 
ruling class, and with it, the origin of all historical development. 
The internal disunion of human nature, the schism of the soul, 
leads to the schism of the ruling class. And as with Heraclitus, 
war, class war, is the father and promoter of all change, and of 
the history of man, which is nothing but the history of the 
breakdown of society. We see that Plato's idealist historicism 
ultimately rests not upon a spiritual, but upon a biological basis ; 
it rests upon a kind of meta-biology 42 of the race of men. 
Plato was not only a naturalist who proffered a biological theory 
of the state, he was also the first to proffer a biological and 
racial theory of social dynamics, of political history. c The 
Platonic Number ', says Adam 43 , * is thus the setting in which 
Plato's " Philosophy of History " is framed.' 

It is, I think, appropriate to conclude this sketch of Plato's 
descriptive sociology with a summary and an evaluation. 

Plato succeeded in giving an amazingly true, though of 
course somewhat idealized, reconstruction of an early Greek 
tribal and collectivist society similar to that of Sparta. An 
analysis of the forces, especially the economic forces, which 
threaten the stability of such a society, enables him to describe 
the general policy as well as the social institutions which are 
necessary for arresting it. And he gives, furthermore, a rational 
reconstruction of the economic and historical development of 
the Greek city-states. 

These achievements are /unpaired by his hatred of the society 
in which he was living, and by his romantic love for the old 
tribal form of social life. It is this attitude which led him to 
formulate an untenable law of historical development, namely, 
the law of universal degeneration or decay. And the same 
attitude is also responsible for the irrational, fantastic, and 
romantic elements of, his otherwise excellent analysis. On the 
other hand, it was just his personal interest and his partiality 
which sharpened his eye and so made his achievements possible. 


persist for such a long time in spite of the fact that Grote and 
Gomperz had pointed out the reactionary character of some 
doctrines of the Republic and the Laws. But even they did not 
see all the implications of these doctrines ; they never doubted 
that Plato was, fundamentally, a humanitarian. And their 
adverse criticism was ignored, or interpreted as a failure to 
understand and to appreciate Plato, who was by Christians 
considered a * Christian before Christ ', and by revolutionaries a 
revolutionary. This kind of complete faith in Plato is undoubtedy 
still dominant, and Field, for instance, finds it necessary to warn 
his readers that * we shall misunderstand Plato entirely if we 
think of him as a revolutionary thinker '. This is, of course, 
very true ; and it would clearly be pointless if the tendency to 
make of Plato a revolutionary thinker, or at least a progressivist, 
were not fairly widespread. But Field himself has the same 
kind of faith in Plato ; for when he goes on to say that Plato 
was * in strong opposition to the new and subversive tendencies ' 
of his time, then surely he accepts too readily Plato's testimony 
for the subversiveness of these tendencies. The enemies of 
freedom have always charged its defenders with subversion. 
And nearly always they have succeeded in persuading the 
guileless and well-meaning. 

The idealization of the great idealist permeates not only the 
interpretations of Plato's writings, but also the translations. 
Drastic remarks of Plato's which do not fit the translator's views 
of what a humanitarian should say are frequently either toned 
down or misunderstood. This tendency begins with the transla- 
tion of the very title of Plato's so-called c Republic '. What 
comes first to our mind when hearing this title is that the author 
must be a liberal, if not a revolutionary. But the title ' Republic ' 
is, quite simply, the English form of the Latin rendering of a 
Greek word that had no associations of this kind, and whose 
proper English translation would be c The Constitution ' or 
' The City State ' or c The State '. The traditional translation 
* Republic ' has undoubtedly contributed to the general convic- 
tion that Plato could not have been a reactionary. 

In view of all that Plato says about Goodness and Justice and 
the other Ideas mentioned, my thesis that his political demands 
are purely totalitarian and anti-humanitarian needs to be 
defended. In order to undertake this defence, I shall, for the 
next four chapters, break off the analysis of historicism, and 
concentrate upon a critical examination of the ethical Ideas 


mentioned; and of their part in Plato's political demands. In 
the present chapter, I shall examine the Idea of Justice ; in 
the three following chapters, the doctrine that the wisest and best 
should rule, and the Ideas of Truth, Wisdom, Goodness, and 

What do we really mean when we speak of c Justice ' ? I do 
not think that verbal problems of this kind are particularly 
important, or that it is possible to give a definite reply to them, 
since such terms are always used in various senses. However, 
I think that most of us, especially those whose general outlook is 
humanitarian, mean something like this : (a) an equal distribu- 
tion of the burden of citizenship, i.e. of those limitations of freedom 
which are necessary in social life 4 ; (b) equal treatment of the 
citizens before the law, provided, of course, that (c) the laws 
themselves neither favour nor disfavour individual citizens or 
groups or classes ; (d) impartiality of the courts of justice ; and 
(e) an equal share in the advantages (and not only in the burden) 
which their membership of the state may offer to the citizen. 
If Plato had meant by ' justice * anything of this kind, then my 
claim that his programme is purely totalitarian would certainly 
be wrong and all those would be right who believe that Plato's 
politics rested upon an acceptable humanitarian basis. But the 
fact is that he meant by 'justice' something entirely different. 

What did Plato mean by 'justice ' ? I maintain that in the 
Republic he used the term ' just ' as a synonym for c that which 
is in the interest of the best state '. And what is the interest of 
this best state ? The arrest of change, by the maintenance of a 
rigid class division and class rule. If I am right in this interpreta- 
tion, then we should have to say that Plato's demand for justice 
leaves his political programme at the level of totalitarianism ; 
and we should have to conclude that we must guard against the 
danger of being impressed by mere words, 
^-'justice is the central topic of the Republic ; in fact, * On 
Justice ' is its traditional sub-title. 1$ his enquiry into the nature 
of justice, Plato makes use of the method mentioned 5 in the last 
chapter ; he first tries to search for this Idea in the state, and 
then attempts to apply the result to the individual. One cannot 
say that Plato's question c What is justice ? ' quickly finds an 
answer, for it is given in the Fourth Book, and then only after 
much hesitation. The considerations which lead up to it will 
be analysed more fully later m this chapter. Briefly, they are 


The city is founded upon human nature, its needs, and its 
limitations 6 . c We have stated, and, you will remember, 
repeated over and over again that each man in our city should 
do one work only ; namely, that work for which his nature is 
naturally best fitted. 5 From this Plato concludes that everyone 
should mind his own business ; that the carpenter should confine 
himself to carpentering, the shoemaker to making shoes. Not 
much harm is done, however, if two workers change their natural 
places. c But should anyone who is by nature a worker (or else 
a member of the money-earning class) . . manage to get into 
the warrior class ; or should a warrior get into the guardians' 
class, without being worthy of it ; . . then this kind of change 
and of underhand plotting would mean the downfall of the city.' 
From this argument, Plato draws his final conclusion that any 
changing or intermeddling within the three classes must be 
injustice, and that the opposite, therefore, is justice : ' When 
each class in the city attends to its own business, the money- 
earning class as well as the auxiliaries and the guardians, then 
this will be justice.' This conclusion is reaffirmed and summed 
up a little later : * The city is just . . if each of its three classes 
attends to its own work. 5 This means that Plato identifies justice 
with the principle of class rule and of class privilege. For the 
principle that every class should attend to its own business means, 
briefly and bluntly, that the state is just if the ruler rules, if the 
worker works, and 7 if the slave slaves. 

It will be seen that Plato's concept of justice is fundamentally 
different from our ordinary view as analysed above. Plato calls 
class privilege c just ', while we usually mean by justice rather the 
disregard of such privilege. But the difference goes further than 
that. We mean by justice some kind of equality in the treatment 
of individuals, while Plato considers justice not as a relationship 
between individuals, but as a property of the whole state, based 
upon a relationship between its classes. The state is just if it is 
healthy, strong, united sfable. 

But was Plato perhaps right ? Does c justice ' perhaps mean 
what he says ? I do not intend to discuss such a question. If 
anyone should maintain that 'justice' means the unchallenged 
rule of one class, then I should simply reply that I am all for 
injustice. In other words, I believe that nothing depends upon 
words, and everything upon our practical demands or decisions. 
Behind Plato's definition of justice stands, fundamentally, his de- 
mand for a totalitarian class rule, and his decision to bring it about. 


But was he not right in a different sense ? Did his idea of 
justice perhaps correspond to the Greek way of using this word ? 
Did the Greeks perhaps mean, by 'justice ', something holistic, 
like the * health of the state ', and is it not utterly unfair and 
unhistorical to expect of Plato an anticipation of our modern 
idea of justice as equality of the citizens before the law? This 
question, indeed, has been answered in the affirmative, and the 
claim has been made that Plato's holistic idea of ' social justice ' 
is characteristic of the traditional Greek outlook, of the ' Greek 
genius ' which * was not, like the Roman, specifically legal ', 
but rather * specifically metaphysical ' 8 . But this claim is 
untenable. As a matter of fact, the Greek way of using the word 
'justice ' was indeed amazingly similar to our own individualistic 
and equalitarian usage. 

In order to show this, I may first quote Aristotle, another 
opponent of equalitarianism, who, under the influence of Plato's 
naturalism, elaborated among other things the theory that some 
men are by nature born to slave 9 . Nobody could be less 
interested in spreading an equalitarian and individualistic 
interpretation of the term 'justice '. But when speaking of the 
judge, whom he describes as c a personification of that which is 
just ', Aristotle maintains that it is the task of the judge to c restore 
equality '. He tells us that ' all men think justice to be a kind 
of equality ', an equality, namely, which * pertains to persons '. 
He even thinks (but here he is wrong) that the Greek word for 
'justice ' is to be derived from a root that means ' equal division '. 
And when discussing the principles of democracy, he says that 
' democratic justice is the application of the principle of numerical 
equality (as distinct from proportionate equality) '. All this is 
certainly not merely his personal impression of the meaning of 
justice, nor is it perhaps only a description of the way in which 
the word was used after Plato ; it is rather the expression of a 
universal and ancient as well as popular use of the word 'justice '. 10 

In view of this evidence, we mui|t say, I think, that Plato's 
holistic and anti-equalitarian interpretation of justice was an 
innovation ; and that Plato attempted to present his totalitarian 
class rule as 'just' while people generally meant by 'justice' 
the exact opposite. 

This result is startling, and opens up a number of questions. 
Why did Plato claim that justice meant inequality if, in general 
usage, it meant equality ? To me the only likely reply seems to 
be that he wanted to make propaganda for his totalitarian state 


by persuading the people that it was the 'just ' state* But was 
such an attempt worth his while, considering that it is not words 
but what we mean by them that matters ? Of course it was 
worth while ; this can be seen from the fact that he fully succeeded 
in persuading his readers, down to our own day, that he was 
candidly advocating justice, i.e. that justice they were striving 
for. And it is a fact that he thereby spread doubt and confusion 
among equalitarians and individualists who, under the influence 
of his authority, began to ask themselves whether his idea of justice 
was not truer and better than theirs. Since the word ' justice ' 
symbolizes to us an aim of such importance, and since so many 
are prepared to endure anything for it, and to do all in their 
power for its realization, the enlistment of these forces, or at 
least, the paralysing of equalitarianism, was certainly an aim 
worth being pursued by a believer in totalitarianism. But was 
Plato aware that justice meant so much to men ? He was ; for 
he writes in the Republic : * When a man has committed an injus- 
tice, . . is it not true that his courage refuses to be stirred ? . . 
But when he believes that he has suffered injustice, does not his 
vigour and his wrath flare up at once ? And is it not equally 
true that when fighting on the side of what he believes to be 
just, he can endure hunger and cold, and any kind of hardship ? 
And does he not hold on until he conquers, persisting in this state 
of exaltation until he has either achieved his aim, or perished ? ' n 

Reading this, we cannot doubt that Plato knew the power of 
faith, and, above all, of a faith in justice. Nor can we doubt 
that the Republic must tend to pervert this faith, and to replace 
it by a directly opposite faith. And in the light of the available 
evidence, it seems to me most probable that Plato knew very 
well what he was doing. Equalitarianism was his arch-enemy, 
and he was out to destroy it ; no doubt, in the sincere belief that 
it was a great evil and a great danger. But his attack upon 
equalitarianism was not an honest attack. Plato did not dare to 
face the enemy openly. 

I proceed to present the evidence in support of this contention. 

The Republic is probably the most elaborate monograph on 
justice ever written. It examines a variety of views about justice, 
and it does this in a way which leads us to believe that Plato 
omitted none of the more important theories known to him. In 
fact, Plato clearly implies 12 that because of his vain attempts to 
track it down among the current views, a new search for justice 
is necessary. Yet in his survey of the current theories, he does not 


even mention the view that justice is equality before the law. 
This omission can be explained only in two ways. Either he 
must have overlooked the equalitarian theory 13 , or he must have 
purposely avoided it. The first possibility at once seems very 
unlikely if we consider the care with which the Republic is com- 
posed, and the necessity for Plato to analyse the theories of his 
opponents if he was to make a forceful presentation of his own. 
But this possibility appears even more improbable if we consider 
the wide popularity of the equalitarian theory. We need not, 
however, rely upon merely probable arguments since it can be 
easily shown that, when writing the Republic, Plato was not only 
acquainted with the equalitarian theory but well aware of its 
importance. We shall see later in this chapter that equali- 
tarianism played a considerable role in the Gorgias, written earlier 
than the Republic ; and in spite of the fact that he does not discuss 
equalitarianism in the Republic, he did not change his mind 
regarding its influence, for the Republic clearly testifies to its 
popularity. It is mentioned as a very popular democratic belief, 
to be treated only with scorn ; and all we hear about it are a 
few sneers and pin-pricking remarks u , well matched with the 
abusive attack upon Athenian democracy. The possibility that 
the equalitarian theory of justice was overlooked by Plato, is 
therefore ruled out, and so is the possibility that he did not see 
that a discussion of an influential theory diametrically opposed 
to his own was most important. The fact that his silence in the 
Republic is broken only by a few jocular remarks (apparently he 
thought them too good to be suppressed 15 ) can be explained only 
as a conscious refusal to discuss it. In view of all that, I do not 
see how Plato's method of impressing upon his readers the belief 
that all important theories have been examined can be reconciled 
with the standards of intellectual honesty ; though we must 
add that his failure is undoubtedly due to his complete devotion 
to a cause in whose goodness he firmly believed. 

In order to appreciate the full implications of Plato's practic- 
ally unbroken silence on this issue, we must first see clearly that 
the equalitarian movement as Plato knew it represented all he 
hated, and that his own theory, in the Republic and in all later 
works, was largely a reply to the powerful challenge of the new 
equalitarianism and humanitarianism. In order to show this, I 
shall now discuss the main principles of the humanitarian move- 
ment, and contrast them with the corresponding principles of 
Platonic totalitarianism. 


The humanitarian theory of justice makes three main demands, 
namely (i) the equalitarian principle proper, i.e. the exclusion of 
* natural ' privileges, (2) the principle of individualism in general, 
and (3) the principle that it is the end of the state to protect the 
freedom of its citizens. To each of these political demands there 
corresponds a directly opposite principle of Platonism, namely 
(i) the principle of natural privilege, (2) the principle of holism 
or collectivism in general, and (3) the principle that it is the end 
of the individual to maintain, and to strengthen, the stability of 
the state. I shall discuss these points in order. 

(i) Equalitarianism proper is the demand that the citizens of 
the state should be treated impartially. It is the demand that 
birth, family connection, or wealth must not influence those who 
administer the law to the citizens. In other words, it does not 
recognize any ' natural ' privileges, although certain privileges 
may be conferred by the citizens upon those they trust. 

This equalitarian principle had been admirably formulated by 
Pericles a few years before Plato's birth, in an oration which has 
been preserved by Thucydides 18 . It will be quoted more fully 
in chapter 10, but two of its sentences may be given here : * Our 
laws ', said Pericles, * afford equal justice to all alike in their 
private disputes, but we do not ignore the claims of excellence. 
When a citizen distinguishes himself, then he is preferred to the 
public service, not as a matter of privilege, but as a reward for 
merit ; and poverty is not a bar. . .' These sentences express 
some of the fundamental aims of the great equalitarian move- 
ment which, as we have seen, did not even shrink from attack- 
ing slavery. In Pericles' own generation, this movement was 
represented by Euripides, Antiphon, and Hippias, who have all 
been quoted in the last chapter, and also by Herodotus 17 . 
In Plato's generation, it was represented by Alcidamas and 
Lycophron, both quoted above ; another supporter was 
Antisthenes, who had been one of Socrates' closest friends. 

Plato's principle of justice was, of course, diametrically 
opposed to all this. He demanded jiatuml_griyikge^<^ the 
natural leaders.. But how did he contest the equalitarian 
principle ? And how did he establish his own demands ? 

It will be remembered from the last chapter that some of 
the best-known formulations of the equalitarian demands were 
couched in the impressive but questionable language of * natural 
rights ', and that some of their representatives argued in favour 
of these demands by pointing out the * natural ', i.e. biological, 


equality of men. We have seen that the argument is rather 
irrelevant ; that men are equal in some important respects, but 
unequal in others ; and that normative demands cannot be 
derived from this fact. It is therefore interesting to note that the 
naturalist argument was not used by all equalitarians, and that 
Pericles, for one, did not even allude to it 18 . 

Plato quickly found that naturalism was a rather weak spot 
within the equalitarian doctrine, and he took the fullest advantage 
of this weakness. To tell men that they are equal has a certain 
sentimental appeal. But this appeal is small compared with 
that made by a propaganda that tells them that they are superior 
to others, and that others are inferior to them. Are you naturally 
equal to your servants, to your slaves, to the manual worker who 
is riot better than an animal ? The very question is ridiculous ! 
Plato seems to have been the first to appreciate the possibilities 
of this reaction, and to oppose contempt, scorn, and ridicule to 
the claim to natural equality. This explains why he was anxious 
to impute the naturalistic argument even to those of his opponents 
who did not use it ; in the Menexenus, a parody of Pericles' 
oration, he therefore insists on linking together the claims to 
equal laws and to natural equality : c The basis of our con- 
stitution is equality of birth ', he says ironically. * We are all 
brethren, and are all children of one mother ; . . and the natural 
equality of birth induces us to strive for equality before the law.' 19 

Later, in the Laws, Plato summarizes his reply to equali- 
tarianism in the formula : c Equal treatment of unequals must 
produce inequity ' 20 ; and this was developed by Aristotle into 
the formula ' Equality for equals, inequality for unequals '. 
This formula indicates what may be termed the standard objection 
to equalitarianism ; the objection that equality would be excellent 
if only men were equal, but that it is manifestly impossible since 
they are not equal, and since they cannot be made equal. This 
apparently very realistic objection is, in fact, most unrealistic, 
for political privileges have never been founded upon natural 
differences of character. And indeed, Plato does not seem to 
have had much confidence in this objection when writing the 
Republic, for it is used there only in one of his sneers at democracy 
when he says that it * distributes equality to equals and unequals 
alike '. 21 Apart from this remark, he prefers not to argue 
against equalitarianism, but to forget it. 

Summing up, it can be said that Plato never underrated the 
significance of the equalitarian theory, supported as it was by a 


man like Pericles, but that, in the Republic, he did not treat it 
at all ; he attacked it, but not squarely and openly. 

But how did he try to establish his own anti-equalitarianism, 
his principle of natural privilege ? In the Republic, he proffered 
three different arguments, though two of them hardly deserve 
the name. The first 22 is the surprising remark that, since all 
other virtues of the state have been examined, the remaining one, 
that of ' minding one's own business ', must be 'justice '. I am 
reluctant to believe that this was meant as an argument ; but 
it must be, for Plato's leading speaker, ' Socrates ', introduces it 
by asking : * Do you know how I deduce this ? ' The second 
argument is more interesting, for it is an attempt to show that 
his anti-equalitarianism can be derived from the ordinary (i.e. 
equalitarian) view that justice is impartiality. I quote the 
passage in full. Remarking that the rulers of the city will also 
be its judges, * Socrates ' says 23 : 6 And will it not be the aim of 
their jurisdiction that no man shall take what belongs to another, 
and shall be deprived of what is his own ? ' c Yes ', is the reply 
of ' Glaucon ', the interlocutor, c that will be their intention.' 
c Because that would be just ? ' ' Yes.' * Accordingly, to keep 
and to practise what belongs to us and is our own will be generally 
agreed upon to be justice.' Thus it is established that ' to keep 
and to practise what is one's own ' is the principle of just jurisdic- 
tion, according to our ordinary ideas of justice. Here the second 
argument ends, giving way to the third (to be analysed below) 
which leads to the conclusion that it is justice to keep to one's 
own station (or to do one's own business), i.e. the station (or the 
business) of one's own class or caste. 

The sole purpose of this second argument is to impress upon 
the reader that * justice ', in the ordinary sense of the word, 
requires us to keep to our stations, since we should always keep 
what belongs to us. That is to say, Plato wishes his readers to 
draw the inference : * It is just to keep and to practise what is 
one's own. My place (or rny business) is my own. Thus it is 
just for me to keep to my place (or to practise my business).' 
This is about as sound as the argument : c It is just to keep and 
to practise what is one's own. This plan of stealing your money 
is my own. Thus it is just for me to keep to my plan, and to 
put it into practise, i.e. to steal your money.' It is clear that the 
inference which Plato wishes us to draw is nothing but a crude 
juggle with the meaning of the term c one's own '. (For the 
problem is whether justice demands that everything which is in 


some sense ' our own ', e.g. ' our own ' class, should therefore be 
treated, not only as our possession, but as our inalienable posses- 
sion.) This crude juggle is Plato's way of establishing what 
Adam calls ' a point of contact between his own view of Justice 
and the popular . . meaning of the word '. This is how the 
greatest philosopher of all times tries to convince us that he has 
discovered the true nature of justice. 

The third and last argument which Plato offers is much more 
serious. It is an appeal to the principle of holism or collectivism, 
and is connected with the principle that it is the end of the 
individual to maintain the stability of the state. It will therefore 
be discussed, in this analysis, under (2) and (3). 

But before proceeding to these points, I wish to draw attention 
to the ' preface ' which Plato places before his description of the 
6 discovery ' which we are here examining. It must be con- 
sidered in the light of the observations we have made so far. 
Viewed in this light, the c lengthy preface ' this is how Plato 
himself describes it appears as an ingenious attempt to prepare 
the reader for the ' discovery of justice ' by making him believe 
that there is an argument going on when in reality he is only 
faced with a display of dramatic devices, designed to soothe his 
critical faculties. 

Having discovered wisdom as the virtue proper to the 
guardians and courage as that proper to the auxiliaries, * Socrates ' 
announces his intention of making a final effort to discover 
justice. * Two things are left ' 24 , he says, 6 which we shall have 
to discover in the city : temperance, and finally that other thing 
which is the main object of all our investigations, namely justice.' 
c Exactly,' says Glaucon. Socrates now suggests that tem- 
perance shall be dropped. But Glaucon protests and Socrates 
gives in, saying that * it would be dishonest if I were to refuse J . 
This little dispute prepares the reader for the re-introduction of 
justice, suggests to him that Socrates possesses the means for its 
' discovery ', and reassures him that Glaucon is carefully watching 
Plato's intellectual honesty in conducting the argument, which 
he, the reader himself, need not therefore watch at all 25 . 

Socrates next proceeds to discuss temperance, which he 
discovers to be the only virtue proper to the workers. (Tem- 
perance, by the way, can be clearly distinguished from justice. 
Justice means to keep one's place ; .temperance means to be 
satisfied with it. What other virtue could be proper to the 
workers who fill their bellies like the beasts ?) When temperance 


has been discovered, Socrates asks : ' And what about the last 
principle ? Obviously it will be justice.' ' Obviously, 5 replies 
Glaucon. * Now, my dear Glaucon ', says Socrates, c we must, 
like hunters, surround her cover and keep a close watch, and we 
must not allow her to escape, and to get away ; for surely, justice 
must be somewhere near this spot. You had better look out and 
search the place. And if you are the first to see her, then give 
me a shout ! ' Glaucon, like the reader, is of course unable to 
do anything of the sort, and implores Socrates to take the lead. 
* Then offer your prayers with me ', says Socrates, ' and follow 
me. 5 But even Socrates finds the ground c hard to traverse, 
since it is covered with underwood ; it is dark, and difficult to 
explore . . But ' , he says, * we must go on with it '. And 
instead of protesting c Go on with what ? With our exploration, 
i.e. with our argument ? But we have not even started. There 
has not been a shimmer of sense in what you have said so far ', 
Glaucon, and the naive reader with him replies meekly : ' Yes, 
we must go on.' Now Socrates reports that he has ' got a 
glimpse ' (we have not), and gets excited. ' Hurray ! Hurray ! * 
he cries, c Glaucon ! There seems to be a track ! I think now 
that the quarry will not escape us ! ' c That is good news ', 
replies Glaucon. ' Upon my word ', says Socrates, c we have 
made utter fools of ourselves. What we were looking for at a 
distance, has been lying at our very feet all this time ! And we 
never saw it ! ' With exclamations and repeated assertions of 
this kind, Socrates continues for a good while, interrupted by 
Glaucon, whose function it is to give expression to the reader's 
feelings, and who asks Socrates what he has found. But when 
Socrates says only ' We have been talking of it all the time, 
without realizing that we were actually describing it ', Glaucon 
expresses the reader's impatience and says : ' This preface gets a 
bit lengthy ; remember that I want to hear what it is all about.' 
And only then does Plato proceed to proffer the two c arguments ' 
which I have outlined. 

As Glaucon's last remark shows, Plato was fully conscious of 
what he was doing in this c lengthy preface '. I cannot interpret 
it as anything but a successful attempt to lull the reader's critical 
faculties, and, by means of a dramatic display of verbal fireworks, 
to divert his attention from the intellectual poverty of this 
masterly piece of dialogue. Plato knew its weakness, and how 
to hide it. 

(2) The problem of individualism and collectivism is closely 


related to that of equality and inequality. Before going on to 
discuss it, a few terminological remarks seem to be necessary. 

The term * individualism ' can be used (according to the 
Oxford Dictionary) in two different ways : (a) in opposition to 
collectivism, and (b) in opposition to altruism. There is no 
other word to express the former meaning, but several synonyms 
for the latter, for example c egoism ' or * selfishness '. This is 
why in what follows I shall use the term ' individualism ' exclusively 
in sense (a), using terms like ' egoism ' or ' selfishness ' if sense 
(b) is intended. A little table may be useful : 

(a) Individualism is opposed to (a'} Collectivism. 

(b) Egoism is opposed to (b'} Altruism 

Now these four terms describe certain attitudes, or demands, 
or decisions, or codes of normative laws. Though necessarily 
vague, they can, I believe, be easily illustrated by examples and 
so be used with a precision sufficient for our present purpose. 
Let us begin with collectivism 26 , since this attitude is already 
familiar to us from our discussion of Plato's holism. His demand 
that the individual should observe the interests of the whole, 
whether this be the city, the tribe, the race, or any other collective 
body, was illustrated in the last chapter by a few passages. To 
quote one of these again, but more fully 27 : ' The part exists for 
the sake of the whole, but the whole does not exist for the sake 
of the part . . You are created for the sake of the whole and 
not the whole for the sake of you.' This quotation not only 
illustrates collectivism, but also conveys its strong emotional 
appeal. The appeal is to various feelings, e.g. the longing to 
belong to a group or a tribe ; and one factor in it is the moral 
appeal for altruism and against selfishness. Plato suggests that 
if you cannot sacrifice your interests for the sake of the whole, 
then you are selfish. V\ 

Now a glance at our little table will show that this is not so. 
Collectivism is not opposed to egoism, nor is it identical with 
altruism or unselfishness. Collective or group egoism, for instance 
class egoism, is a very common thing (Plato knew 28 this very 
well), and this shows clearly enough that collectivism as such is 
not opposed to selfishness. On the other hand, an anti-collectivist, 
i.e. an individualist, can, at the same time, be an altruist ; he 
can be ready to make sacrifices in order to help other individuals. 
One of the best examples of this attitude is perhaps Dickens. It 
would be difficult to say which is the stronger, his passionate 
hatred of selfishness or his passionate interest in individuals with 


all their human weaknesses ; and this attitude is combined with 
a dislike, not only of what we now call collective bodies or 
collectives a9 , but even of a genuinely devoted altruism, if directed 
towards anonymous groups rather than concrete individuals. (I 
remind the reader of Mrs. Jellyby in Bleak House, * a lady devoted 
to public duties '.) These illustrations, I think, explain suffi- 
ciently clearly the meaning of our four terms ; and they show 
that any of the terms in our table can be combined with either 
of the two terms that stand in the other line (which gives four 
possible combinations). 

Now it is interesting that for Plato, and for most Platonists, 
an altruistic individualism (as for instance that of Dickens) cannot 
exist. According to Plato, the only alternative to collectivism 
is egoism ; he simply identifies all altruism with collectivism, 
and all individualism with egoism. This is not a matter of 
terminology, of mere words, for instead of four possibilities, 
Plato recognized only two. This has created considerable 
confusion in speculation on ethical matters, even down to our 
own day. 

Plato's identification of individualism with egoism furnishes 
him with a powerful weapon for his defence of collectivism as 
well as for his attack upon individualism. In defending 
collectivism, he can appeal to our humanitarian feeling of 
unselfishness ; in his attack, he can brand all individualists as 
selfish, as incapable of devotion to anything but themselves. 
This attack, although aimed by Plato against individualism in 
our sense, i.e. against the rights of human individuals, reaches of 
course only a very different target, egoism. But this difference 
is constantly ignored by Plato and the Platonists. 

Why did Plato try to attack individualism ? I think he knew 
very well what he was doing when he trained his guns upon this 
position, for individualism, perhaps even more than equali- 
tarianism, was a strong point in the defences of the new humani- 
tarian creed. The emancipation of the individual was indeed 
the great spiritual revolution which had led to the breakdown 
of tribalism and to the rise of democracy. Plato's uncanny 
sociological intuition shows itself by the way in which he invariably 
discerned the enemy wherever he met him. 

Individualism was part of the old intuitive idea of justice. 
That justice is not, as Plato would have it, the health and harmony 
of the state, but rather a certain way of treating individuals, is 
emphasized by Aristotle, when he says 'justice is something that 


pertains to persons ' 30 . This individualistic element had been 
emphasized by the generation of Pericles. Pericles himself 
made it clear that the laws must guarantee equal justice ' to 
all alike in their private disputes ' ; but he went further. 

* We do not feel called upon ', he said, ' to nag at our 
neighbour if he chooses to go his own way. 1 (Compare this 
with Plato's remark 31 that the state does not produce men e for 
the purpose of letting them loose, each to go his own way . . '.) 
Pericles insists that this individualism must be linked with 
altruism : * We are taught . . never to forget that we must 
protect the injured ' ; and his speech culminates in a description 
of the young Athenian who grows up ' to a happy versatility, and 
to self-reliance. 5 

This individualism, united with altruism, has become the 
basis of our western civilization. It is the central doctrine of 
Christianity (' love your neighbour ', says Christianity, not ' love 
your tribe ') ; and it is the core of all ethical doctrines which 
have grown from our civilization and stimulated it. It is also, 
for instance, Kant's central practical doctrine (* always recognize 
that human individuals are ends, and do not use them as mere 
means to your ends'). There is no other thought which has 
been so powerful in the moral development of man. 

Thus Plato was right when he saw in this doctrine the enemy 
of his caste state ; and he hated it more than any other of the 

* subversive ' doctrines of his time. In order to show this even 
more clearly, I shall quote two passages from the Laws 32 whose 
truly astonishing hostility towards the individual is, I think, too 
little appreciated. The first of them is famous as a reference to 
the Republic, whose c community of women and children and 
property ' it discusses. Plato describes here the constitution of 
the Republic as c the highest form of the state ' ; and in this 
highest state, he tells us, * everything possible has been achieved 
in the direction of utterly eradicating everything frpm our life 
that is private and individual '. 'And he continues to outline the 
principles of such a state : ' So far as it can be done, even those 
things which nature herself has made private and individual 
should somehow become the common property of all. Our very 
eyes and ears and hands should see, hear, and act, as if they 
belonged not to individuals but to the community. All men 
should be moulded to praise and to blame the same things, and 
at the same time. And all the laws of such a state must be 
designed for unifying the city to the utmost.' Plato goes on to 

O.S.I.E. VOL. i ' D 


say that 6 no man can find a better criterion of the highest 
excellence of a state ' than the principles just expounded ; and he 
describes such a state as c divine ', and as the ' model * or ' pattern ' 
or * original ' of the state, i.e. as its Form or Idea. This is Plato's 
own view of the Republic, expressed at a time when he had given 
up hope of realizing his political ideal in all its glory. 

The second passage, also from the Laws, is, if possible, even 
more outspoken. It must be admitted that it deals mainly with 
military discipline, but Plato leaves no doubt that these same 
militarist principles should be adhered to in peace as well as in 
war, and that he aimed at a permanent and total mobilization 83 
of all members of his state : ' The greatest principle is that 
nobody, whether male or female, should ever be without a leader. 
Nor should the mind of anybody be habituated to letting him 
do anything at all on his own initiative, neither out of zeal, nor 
even playfully. But in war as well as in the midst of peace 
to his leader he shall direct his eye, and follow him faithfully. 
And even in the smallest matters he should stand under leader- 
ship. For example, he should get up, or move, or wash, or take 
his meals 34 . . only if he has been told to do so. . . In a 
word, he should teach his soul, by long habit, never to dream of 
acting independently, and in fact to become utterly incapable 
of it. 9 

These are strong words. Never was a man more in earnest 
in his hostility towards the individual. And this hatred is deeply 
rooted in the fundamental dualism of Plato's philosophy ; he 
hated the individual and his freedom just as he hated the varying 
particular experiences, the variety of the changing world of 
sensible things. In the field of politics, the individual is to 
Plato the Evil One himself. 

It is amazing that this attitude, anti-humanitarian and 
anti-Christian as it is, has been consistently idealized. It has 
been interpreted as humane, as unselfish, as altruistic, and as 
Christian. E. B. England, for instance, calls 35 the first of these 
two passages from the Laws c a vigorous denunciation of selfish- 
ness '. Similar words are used by Barker, when discussing Plato's 
theory of justice. He says that Plato's aim was * to replace 
selfishness and civil discord by harmony ', and that * the old 
harmony of the interests of the State and the individual . . is thus 
restored in the teachings of Plato ; but restored on a new and 
higher level, because it has been elevated into a conscious sense 
of harmony ', Such statements and countless similar ones can 


be easily explained if we remember Plato's identification of 
individualism with egoism ; for all these Platonists believe that 
anti-individualism is the same as selflessness. This illustrates my 
contention that this identification had the effect of a successful 
piece of anti-humanitarian propaganda, and that it has confused 
speculation on ethical matters down to our own time. But we 
must also realize that those who, deceived by the identification 
and by high-sounding words, exalt Plato's reputation as a teacher 
of morals and announce to the world that his ethics is the nearest 
approach to Christianity before Christ, are preparing the way for 
totalitarianism and especially for a totalitarian, anti-Christian 
interpretation of Christianity. And this is a dangerous thing, 
for there have been times when Christianity was dominated by 
totalitarian ideas. There was an inquisition ; and, in another 
form, it may come again. 

It may therefore be worth while to mention some further 
reasons why guileless people have persuaded themselves of the 
humaneness of Plato's intentions. One is that when preparing 
the ground for his collectivist doctrines, Plato usually begins by 
quoting a Greek proverb : c Friends should share whatever they 
possess.' 36 This is, undoubtedly, an unselfish, high-minded and 
excellent sentiment. Who could suspect that an argument 
starting from such a commendable assumption would arrive at a 
wholly anti-humanitarian conclusion ? Another and important 
point is that there are many genuinely humanitarian sentiments 
expressed in Plato's dialogues, particularly in those written before 
the Republic when he was still under the influence of Socrates. I 
mention especially Socrates' doctrine in the Gorgias, that it is 
worse to do injustice than to suffer it. This doctrine is not only 
altruistic, but certainly also individualistic ; for in a collectivist 
theory of justice like that of the Republic, injustice is an act against 
the state, not against a particular man, and though a man may 
commit an act of injustice, only the collective can suffer from it. 
But in the Gorgias we find nothing of the kind. The theory of 
justice is a perfectly normal one, and the examples of injustice 
given by * Socrates ' (who has here probably a good deal of the 
real Socrates in him) are such as boxing a man's ears, injuring, or 
killing him. Socrates' teaching that it is better to suffer such 
acts than to do them is indeed very similar to Christian teaching, 
and his doctrine of justice fits in excellently with the spirit of 
Pericles. (An attempt to interpret this will be made in 
chapter 10.) 


Now the Republic develops a new doctrine of justice which is 
not only incompatible with such an individualism, but utterly 
hostile towards it. But the reader easily believes that Plato is 
still holding fast to the doctrine of the Gorgias. For in the 
Republic, Plato frequently alludes to the doctrine that it is better 
to suffer than to commit injustice, in spite of the fact that this is 
simply nonsense from the point of view of the collectivist theory 
of justice proffered in this work. Furthermore, we hear in the 
Republic the opponents of c Socrates ' giving voice to the opposite 
theory, that it is good and pleasant to inflict injustice, and bad to 
suffer it. Of course, every humanitarian is repelled by such 
cynicism, and when Plato formulates his aims through the mouth 
of Socrates : ' I fear to commit a sin if I permit such evil talk 
about justice in my presence, without doing my utmost to defend 
her ' 37 , then the trusting reader is convinced of Plato's good 
intentions, and ready to follow him wherever he goes. 

The effect of this assurance of Plato's is much enhanced by 
the fact that it follows, and is contrasted with, the cynical and 
selfish speeches 38 of Thrasymachus, who is depicted as a political 
desperado of the worst kind. At the same time, the reader is 
led to identify individualism with the views of Thrasymachus, and 
to think that Plato, in his fight against it, is fighting against all 
the subversive and nihilistic tendencies of his time. But we 
should not allow ourselves to be frightened by such bogies as 
Thrasymachus (there is a great similarity between his portrait 
and the modern bogy of ' bolshevism ') into accepting another 
more real and more dangerous because less obvious form of 
barbarism. For Plato replaces Thrasymachus 5 doctrine that the 
individual's might is right by the not less barbaric doctrine that 
right is everything that furthers the might of the state. 

To sum up, because of his radical collectivism Plato is not 
even interested in those problems which men usually call the 
problems of justice, in the impartial weighing of the contesting 
claims of individuals. Nor is he interested in adjusting the 
individual's claims to those of the state. For the individual is 
altogether inferior. * I legislate with a view to the whole ', 
says Plato, * . . for I rightly hold the individual's feelings to be 
on an altogether inferior level of value*!. 39 He is interested solely 
in the collective whole as such, and justice, to him, is nothing but, 
the health, unity, and stability of the collective body. 

(3) So far, we have seen that humanitarian ethics demands an 
equalitarian and individualistic interpretation of justice ; but we 


have not yet outlined the humanitarian view of the state as such. 
On the other hand, we have seen that Plato's theory of the state 
is totalitarian ; but we have not yet explained the application 
of this theory to the ethics of the individual. Both these tasks 
will be undertaken now, the second first ; and I shall begin by 
analysing the third of Plato's arguments in his ' discovery ' of 
justice, an argument which has so far been sketched only very 
roughly. Here is Plato's third argument 40 : 

* Now see whether you agree with me,' says Socrates. * Do 
you think it would do much harm to the city if a carpenter 
started making shoes and a shoemaker carpentering ? ' ' Not 
very much.' ' But should one who is by nature a worker, or a 
member of the money-earning class . . manage to get into the 
warrior class ; or should a warrior get into the guardians' class 
without being worthy of it ; then this kind of change and of 
underhand plotting would mean the downfall of the city ? ' 
c Most definitely it would.' ' We have three classes in our city, 
and I take it that any such plotting or changing from one class 
to another is a great crime against the city, and may rightly be 
denounced as the utmost wickedness ? ' ' Assuredly.' c But you 
will certainly declare that utmost wickedness towards one's own 
city is injustice ? ' * Certainly.' c Then this is injustice. And 
conversely, we shall say that when each class in the city attends to 
its own business, the money-earning class as well as the auxiliaries 
and the guardians, then this will be justice.' 

Now if we look at this argument, we find (a) the sociological 
assumption that any relaxing of the rigid caste system must lead 
to the downfall of the city ; (b) the constant reiteration of the 
one argument that what harms the city is injustice ; and (c) the 
inference that the opposite is justice. Now we may grant here 
the sociological assumption (a) since it is Plato's ideal to arrest 
social change, and since he means by c harm ' anything that may 
lead to change ; and it is probably quite true that the arresting 
of all social change can only be achieved by the most rigid caste 
system. And we may further grant the inference (c) that the 
opposite of injustice is justice. Of greater interest, however, is 
(b) ; a glance at Plato's argument will show that his whole trend 
of thought is dominated by the question : does this thing harm 
the city ? Does it do much harm or little harm ? He constantly 
reiterates that what threatens to harm the city is morally wicked 
and unjust. 

We see here that Plato recognizes only one ultimate standard, 


the interest of the state. Everything that furthers it is good and 
virtuous and just ; everything that threatens it is bad and wicked 
and unjust. Actions that serve it are moral ; actions that 
endanger it, immoral. In other words, Plato's moral code is 
strictly utilitarian ; it is a code of collectivist or political utilitari- 
anism. The criterion of morality is the interest of the state. Morality 
is nothing but political hygiene. 

This is the collectivist, the tribal, the totalitarian theory of 
morality : c Good is what is in the interest of my group ; or my 
tribe ; or my state.' It is easy to see what this morality implied 
for international relations : that the state itself can never be 
wrong in any of its actions, as long as it is strong ; that the state 
has the right, not only to do violence to its citizens, should that 
lead to an increase of strength, but also to attack other states, 
provided it does so without weakening itself. (This inference, 
the explicit recognition of the amorality of the state, and con- 
sequently the defence of moral nihilism in international relations, 
was drawn by Hegel.) 

From the point of view of totalitarian ethics, from the point of 
view of collective utility, Plato's theory of justice is perfectly 
correct. To keep one's place is a virtue. It is that civil virtue 
which corresponds exactly to the military virtue of discipline. 
And this virtue plays exactly that role which 'justice ' plays in 
Plato's system of virtues. For the cogs in the great clockwork 
of the state can show virtue in two ways. First, they must be fit 
for their task, by being of the right size, shape, strength, etc. ; 
and secondly, they must be fitted each into its right place and must 
retain that place. The first type of virtues, fitness for a specific 
task, will lead to a differentiation, in accordance with the specific 
task of the cog. Certain cogs will be virtuous, i.e. fit, only if they 
are large ; others if they are strong ; and others if they are 
smooth. But the virtue of keeping to one's place will be common 
to all of them ; and it will at the same time be a virtue of the 
whole : that of being properly fitted together of being in 
harmony. To this universal virtue Plato gives the name ' justice '. 
This procedure is perfectly consistent and it is fully justified from 
the point of view of totalitarian morality. If the individual is 
nothing but a cog, then ethics is nothing but the study of how 
to fit him into the whole. 

I wish to make it clear that I believe in the sincerity of Plato's 
totalitarianism. His demand for the unchallenged domination of 
one class over the rest was uncompromising, but his ideal was not 


the maximum exploitation of the working classes by the upper 
class ; it was the stability of the whole. But the reason he gives 
for the necessity of keeping the exploitation within limits, is 
again purely utilitarian. It is the interest of stabilizing the class 
rule. Should the guardians try to get too much, he argues, then 
they will in the end have nothing at all. c If they are not satisfied 
with a life of stability and security, . . and are tempted, by their 
power, to appropriate for themselves all the wealth of the city, 
then surely they are bound to find out how wise Hesiod was 
when he said, " the half is more than the whole ".' 41 But we 
must realize that even this tendency to restrict the exploitation of 
class privileges is a typical feature of totalitarianism. Totali- 
tarianism is not simply amoral. It is the morality of the group, 
or the tribe ; it is not individual but collective selfishness. ^ 

Considering that Plato's third argument is straightforward 
and consistent, the question may be asked why he needed the 
* lengthy preface ' as well as the two preceding arguments ? 
Why all this uneasiness ? (Platonists will of course reply that this 
uneasiness exists only in my imagination. That may be so. But 
the irrational character of the passages can hardly be explained 
away.) The answer to this question is, I believe, that Plato's 
collective clockwork would hardly have appealed to his readers 
if it had been presented to them in all its barrenness and meaning- 
lessness. Plato was uneasy because he knew and feared the) 
strength and the moral appeal of the forces he tried to break.! 
He did not dare to challenge them, but tried to win them over 
for his own purposes. Whether we witness in Plato's writings 
a cynical and conscious attempt to employ the moral sentiments 
of the new humanitarianism for his own purposes, or whether we 
witness rather a tragic attempt to persuade his own better 
conscience of the evils of individualism, we shall never know. 
My personal impression is that the latter is the case, and that this 
inner conflict is the main secret of Plato's fascination. I think 
that Plato was moved to the depths of his soul by the new ideas, 
and especially by the great individualist Socrates and his 
martyrdom. And I think that he fought against this influence 
upon himself as well as upon others with all the might of his 
unequalled intelligence, though not always openly. This explains 
also why from time to time, amid all his totalitarianism, we find 
some humanitarian ideas. And it explains why it was possible 
for philosophers to represent Plato as a humanitarian. 

A strong argument in support of this interpretation is the way 


in which Plato treated, or rather, maltreated, the humanitarian 
and rational theory of the state, a theory which had been 
developed for the first time in his generation. 

In a clear presentation of this theory, the language of political 
demands should be used ; that is to say, we should not try to 
answer the essentialist question : What is the state, what is its 
true nature, its real meaning ? Nor should we try to answer the 
historicist question : How did the state originate, and what is 
the origin of political obligation ? We should rather put our 
question in this way : What do we demand from a state ? And in 
order to find out our fundamental demands, we can ask : Why 
do we prefer living in a well-ordered state to living without a 
state, i.e. in anarchy ? This way of asking our question is the 
only rational one. It is the question which a technologist must 
put before he can proceed to the construction or reconstruction 
of any political institution. For only if he knows what he wants 
can he decide whether a certain institution is or is not well 
adapted to its function. 

Now if we ask our question in this way, the reply of the 
humanitarian will be : What I demand from the state is protec- 
tion ; not only for myself, but for others too. I demand 
protection for my own freedom and for other people's. I do 
not wish to live at the mercy of anybody who has the larger fists 
or the bigger guns. In other words, I wish to be protected 
against aggression from other men. I want the difference 
between aggression and defence to be recognized, and defence to 
be supported by the organized power of the state. I am perfectly 
ready to see my own freedom of action somewhat curtailed by 
the state if I can obtain protection of what remains, since I know 
that some limitations of my freedom are necessary ; for instance, 
I must give up my ' freedom ' to attack, if I want the state to 
support defence against any attack. But I demand that the 
fundamental purpose of the state should not be lost sight of ; I 
mean, the protection of that freedom which does not harm other 
citizens. Thus I demand that the state must limit the freedom 
of the citizens as equally as possible, and not beyond necessity. 

Something like this will be the demand of the humanitarian, 
of the equalitarian, of the individualist. It is a demand which 
permits the social technologist to approach political problems 
rationally, i.e. from the point of view of a fairly clear and definite 

Against the claim that an aim like this can be formulated 


sufficiently clearly and definitely, many objections have been 
raised. It has been said that once it is recognized that freedom 
must be limited, the whole principle of freedom breaks down, 
and the question what limitations are necessary and what are 
wanton cannot be decided rationally, but only by authority. 
But this objection is due to a muddle. It mixes up the funda- 
mental question of what we want from a state with certain 
important technological difficulties in the way of the realization 
of our aims. It is certainly difficult to determine exactly the 
degree of freedom that can be left to the citizens without endanger- 
ing that freedom whose protection is the task of the state. But 
that something like an approximate determination of that degree 
is possible, is proved by experience, i.e. by the existence of 
democratic states. In fact, this process of approximate determina- 
tion is one of the main tasks of legislation in democracies. It 
is a difficult process, but its difficulties are certainly not such as to 
force upon us a change in our fundamental demands. They are 
stated briefly, that the state should be considered as a society 
for the prevention of crime, i.e. aggression. And the whole 
objection that it is hard to know where freedom ends and crime 
begins is answered, in principle, by the famous story of the 
hooligan who protested that, being a free citizen, he could move 
his fist in any direction he liked ; whereupon the judge wisely 
replied : * The freedom of the movement of your fists is limited 
by the position of your neighbour's nose.' 

The view of the state which I have sketched here may be 
called ' jjrotectioni^gi/ . The term ' protectionism ' has often 
been used to describe tendencies which are opposed to freedom. 
Thus the economist means by protectionism the policy of protect- 
ing certain industrial interests against competition ; and the 
moralist means by it the demand that officers of the state shall 
establish a moral tutelage over the population. Although the 
political theory which I call protectionism is not connected with 
any of these tendencies, and although it is fundamentally a 
liberal theory, I think that the name may be used to indicate 
that, though liberal, it has nothing to do with the policy of 
laissez faire. Liberalism and state-interference are not opposed 
to each other. On the contrary, any kind of freedom is clearly 
impossible unless it is guaranteed by the state. A certain amount 
of state control in education 42 , for instance, is necessary, if the 
young are to be protected from a neglect which would make 
them unable to defend their freedom, and the state should see 


that all educational facilities are available to everybody. But too 
much state control in educational matters is a fatal danger to 
freedom, since it must lead to indoctrination. As already 
indicated, the important and difficult question of the limitations 
of freedom cannot be solved by a cut and dried formula. And 
the fact that there will always be borderline cases must be 
welcomed, for without the stimulus of political struggles of this 
kind, the citizens' readiness to fight for their freedom would soon 
disappear, and with it, their freedom. (Viewed in this light, the 
alleged clash between freedom and security, that is, a security 
guaranteed by the state, turns out to be a chimera. For there is 
no freedom if it is not secured by the state ; and conversely, 
only a state which is controlled by free citizens can offer them 
any reasonable security at all.) 

Stated in this way, the protectionist theory of the state is free 
from any elements of historicism or esscntialism. It does not 
Dimply that the state originated as an association of individuals 
with a protectionist aim ; nor does it imply that any actual 
state in history was ever consciously ruled in accordance with this 
aim. It says nothing about the true nature of the state, nor 
about the natural right to freedom. Nor does it maintain 
anything about the way in which states actually function. It 
formulates a political demand. I suspect, however, that many 
conventionalists who have described the state as originated from 
an association for the protection of its members, intended to 
express this very demand, though they did it in a clumsy and 
misleading way. A similar misleading way of expressing this 
demand is to assert that it is essentially the function of the state 
to protect its members ; or to assert that the state is to be defined 
as an association for mutual protection. All these theories must 
be translated, as it were, into the language of demands for political 
actions before they can be seriously discussed. Otherwise, 
endless discussions of a merely verbal character are unavoidable. 

An example of such a translation may be given. A certain 
typical criticism of what I call protectionism, has been proffered 
by Aristotle 43 , and repeated by Burke, and by many modern 
Platonists. This criticism maintains that protectionism takes too 
mean a view of the tasks of the state which is (using Burke's words) 
* to be looked upon with other reverence, because it is not a 
partnership in things subservient only to the gross animal existence 
of a temporary and perishable nature '. In other words, the 
state is something higher or nobler than an association with 


rational ends ; it is an object of worship. It has higher tasks 
than the protection of human beings and their rights. It has 
moral tasks. c To take care of virtue is the business of a state 
which truly deserves this name ', says Aristotle. If we now try 
to translate this criticism into the language of political demands, 
then we find that these people want two things. First, they 
wish to make the state an object of worship. From our point of 
view, there is nothing to say against this wish. It is a religious 
problem, and the state-worshippers must solve for themselves how 
they can reconcile their creed with the First Commandment. 
The second demand is political. In practice, this demand would 
simply mean that officers of the state should be concerned with 
the morality of the citizens, and that they should use their power 
not so much for the protection of the people as for the control 
of their moral life. In other words, it is the demand that the realm 
of legality, i.e. of state-enforced norms, should be increased at 
the expense of the realm of morality proper, i.e. of norms enforced 
not by the state but by our own moral decisions. But those who 
raise such demands apparently do not see that this would be the 
end of the individual's moral responsibility, and that it would 
not improve but destroy all morality. It would replace personal 
responsibility by tribalistic taboos and by the totalitarian irre- 
sponsibility of the individual. Against this whole attitude, the 
individualist must maintain that the morality of states (if there 
is any such thing) tends to be considerably lower than that of 
the average citizen, so that it is much more desirable that the 
morality of the state should be controlled by the citizens than the 
opposite. What we need and what we want is to moralize 
politics, and not to politicize morajs. * 

It should be mentioned thatlrom the protectionist point of 
view, the existing democratic states, though far from perfect, 
represent a very considerable achievement in social engineering 
of the right kind. Many forms of crime, of attack on the rights 
of human individuals by other individuals, have been practically 
suppressed or very considerably reduced, and courts of law 
administer justice fairly successfully in difficult conflicts of interest. 
There are many who think that the extension of these methods 44 
to international crime and international conflict is only a Utopian 
dream ; but it is not so long since the institution of an effective 
executive for upholding civil peace appeared Utopian to those 
who suffered under the threats of criminals, in countries where 
at present civil peace is quite successfully maintained. And I 


think that the engineering problems of the control of international 
crime are really not so difficult, once they are squarely and 
rationally faced. If the matter is presented clearly, it will not 
be hard to get people to agree that protective institutions are 
necessary, both on a regional and on a world-wide scale. Let 
the state-worshippers continue to worship the state, but demand 
that the institutional technologists be allowed not only to improve 
its internal machinery, but also to build up an organization for 
the prevention of international crime. 

Returning now to the history of these movements, it seems that 
the protectionist theory of the state was first proffered by the 
Sophist Lycophron, a pupil of Gorgias. It has already been 
mentioned that he was (like Alcidamas, also a pupil of Gorgias) 
one of the first to attack the theory of natural privilege. That 
he held the theory I call protectionism is recorded by Aristotle, 
who speaks about him in a manner which makes it very likely 
that he originated it. From the same source we learn that he 
formulated it with a clarity which has hardly been attained by 
any of his successors. 

Aristotle tells us that Lycophron considered the law of the 
state as a * covenant by which men assure one another of justice ' 
(and that it has not the power to make citizens good or just). 
He tells us furthermore 45 that Lycophron looked upon the state 
as an instrument for the protection of its citizens against acts of 
injustice (and for permitting them peaceful intercourse, especially 
exchange), demanding that the state should be a c co-operative 
association for the prevention of crime '. It is interesting that 
there is no indication in Aristotle's account that Lycophron 
expressed his theory in a historicist form, i.e. as a theory concern- 
ing the historical origin of the state in a social contract. On the 
contrary, it emerges clearly from Aristotle's context (for he argues 
that it is rather the essential end of the state to make its citizens 
virtuous) that Lycophron's theory was solely concerned with the 
end of the state. And we see that he interpreted this end 
rationally, from a technological point of view, adopting the 
demands of equalitarianism, individualism,- and protectionism. 

In this form, Lycophron's theory is completely secure from 
the objections to which the traditional historicist theory of the 
social contract is exposed. It has been often maintained, for 
instance by Barker 46 , that the contract theory * has been met by 
modern thinkers point by point '. That may be so ; but a 
survev of Barker's points will show that thev certainly do not 


meet the theory of Lycophron, in whom Barker like myself sees 
the probable founder of the earliest form of a theory which has 
later been called the contract theory. Barker's points can be 
set down as follows : (a) There was, historically, never a contract ; 
(b) the state was, historically, never instituted ; (c) laws are not 
conventional, but arise out of tradition, superior force, perhaps 
instinct, etc. ; they are customs before they become codes ; 
(d) the strength of laws does not lie in the sanctions, in the 
protective power of the state which enforces them, but in the 
individual's readiness to obey them, i.e. in the individual's moral 

It will be seen at once that objections (a), (b), and (^), 
although in themselves quite true, concern the theory only in its 
historicist form and are irrelevant to Lycophron's version. We 
therefore need not consider them at all. Objection (rf), however, 
deserves closer consideration. What can be meant by it ? The 
theory attacked stresses the ' will ', or better the decision of the 
individual, more than any other theory ; in fact, the word 
' contract ' suggests an agreement by c free will '. The only 
explanation of Barker's objection seems to me that he does not 
think the contract to spring from the * moral will ' of the 
individual, but rather from a selfish will ; and this interpretation 
is the more likely as it is in keeping with Plato's criticism. But 
one need not be selfish to be a protectionist. Protection need 
not mean self-protection ; many people insure their lives with the 
aim of protecting others and not themselves, and in the same way 
they may demand state protection mainly for others, and to a 
lesser degree for themselves. The fundamental idea of protec- 
tionism is : protect the weak from being bullied by the strong. 
This demand has been raised not only by the weak, but often 
by the strong also. It is, to say the least of it, misleading to 
suggest that it is a selfish or an immoral demand. 

Lycophron's protectionism is, I think, free of all these objec- 
tions. It is the most fitting expression of the humanitarian and 
equalitarian movement of the Periclean age. And yet, we have 
been robbed of it. It has been handed down to later generations 
only in a distorted form ; as the historicist theory of the origin 
of the state in a social contract ; or as an essentialist theory 
claiming that the true nature of the state is that of a convention ; 
and as a theory of selfishness, based on the assumption of the 
fundamentally immoral nature of man. All this is due to the 
overwhelming influence of Plato's authority. 


There can be little doubt that Plato knew Lycophron's theory 
well, for he was (in all likelihood) Lycophron's younger contem- 
porary. And, indeed, this theory can be easily identified with 
one which is mentioned first in the Gorgias and later in the Republic. 
(In neither place does Plato mention its author ; a procedure 
often adopted by him when his opponent was alive.) In the 
Gorgias, the theory is expounded by Callicles, an ethical nihilist 
like the Thrasymachus of the Republic. In the Republic, it is 
expounded by Glaucon. In neither case does the speaker 
identify himself with the theory he presents. 

The two passages are in many respects parallel. Both present 
the theory in a historicist form, i.e. as a theory of the origin of 

* justice'. Both present it as if its logical premises were neces- 
sarily selfish and even nihilistic ; i.e. as if the protectionist view 
of the state would be maintained only by those who would like 
to inflict injustice, but are too weak to do so, and who therefore 
demand that the strong should not do so either ; a presentation 
which is certainly not fair, since the only necessary premise of the 
theory is the demand that crime, or injustice, should be suppressed. 

So far, the two passages in the Gorgias and in the Republic run 
parallel, a parallelism which has often been commented upon. 
But there is a tremendous difference between them which has, 
so far as I know, been overlooked by commentators. It is this. 
In the Gorgias, the theory is presented by Callicles as one which 
he opposes ; and since he also opposes Socrates, the protec jomst 
theory is, by implication, not attacked but rather defended by 
Plato. And, indeed, a closer view shows that Socrates upholds 
several of its features against the nihilist Callicles. But in the 
Republic, the same theory is presented by Glaucon as an elabora- 
tion and development of the views of Thrasymachus, i.e. of the 
nihilist who takes here the place of Callicles ; in other words, 
the theory is presented as nihilist, and Socrates as the hero who 
victoriously destroys this devilish doctrine of selfishness. 

Thus the passages in which most commentators find a 
similarity between the tendencies of the Gorgias and the Republic 
reveal, in fact, a complete change of front. In spite of Callicles' 
hostile presentation, the tendency of the Gorgias is rather favourable 
to protectionism ; but the Republic is violently against it. 

Here is an extract from Callicles' speech in the Gorgias * 7 : 

* The laws are made by the multitude, which consists of the weak 
men. And they make the laws . . in order to protect them- 
selves and their interests. Thus they deter the stronger men . . 


and generally those who might get the better of them, from doing 
so ; . . and they mean by the word " injustice " the attempt of 
a man to get the better of his neighbours ; and being aware of 
their inferiority, they are, I should say, only too glad if they can 
obtain equality. 5 If we look at this account and eliminate what 
is due to Callicles' open scorn and hostility, then we find all the 
elements of Lycophron's theory : equalitarianism, individualism, 
and protection against injustice. Even the reference to the 
' strong ' and to the ' weak ' who are aware of their inferiority 
fits the protectionist view very well indeed, provided the element 
of caricature is allowed for. It is not at all unlikely that Lyco- 
phron's doctrine explicitly raised the demand that the state 
should protect the weak, a demand which is, of course, anything 
but ignoble. (The hope that this demand will one day be 
fulfilled is expressed by the Christian teaching : e The meek shall 
inherit the earth.') 

Callicles himself does not like protectionism ; he is in favour 
of the ' natural ' rights of the stronger. It is very significant that 
Socrates, in his argument against Callicles, comes to the rescue 
of the protectionist theory, and that he even identifies it with 
liis own theory that it is better to suffer injustice than to inflict 
it. He says, for instance 48 : ' Are not the many of the opinion, 
as you were lately saying, that justice is equality ? And also 
that it is more disgraceful to inflict than to suffer it ? ' And 
later : c Then nature itself, and not only convention, affirms 
that to inflict injustice is more disgraceful than to suffer it, and 
that justice is equality.' (In spite of its individualistic and 
equalitarian and protectionist tendencies, the Gorgias has strongly 
anti-democratic features too. The explanation may be that Plato 
when writing the Gorgias had not yet developed his totalitarian 
theories ; although his sympathies were already anti-democratic, 
he was still under Socrates' influence. How anybody can think 
that the Gorgias and the Republic can be both at the same time 
true accounts of Socrates' opinions, I fail to understand.) 

Let us now turn to the Republic, where Glaucon presents 
protectionism as a logically more stringent but ethically un- 
changed version of Thrasymachus' nihilism. ' My theme ', says 
Glaucon 49 , c is the origin of justice, and what sort of thing it 
really is. According to some, to inflict injustice upon others is 
by nature an excellent thing, and to suffer injustice is bad. But 
the badness of suffering injustice much exceeds the desirability 
of inflicting it. For a time, then, men will inflict injustice on 


one another, and of course suffer it, and they will get a good 
taste of both. But ultimately, those who are not strong enough 
to repel it, or to enjoy inflicting it, decide that it is more profitable 
for them to join in a contract, mutually assuring one another that 
no one should inflict injustice, or suffer it. This is the way in 
which laws were established . . And this is the nature and 
the origin of justice, according to that theory.' 

As far as its rational content goes, this is clearly the same 
theory ; and the way in which it is represented also resembles in 
detail 50 Callicles' speech in the Gorgias. And yet, Plato has made 
a complete change of front. The protectionist theory is now no 
longer defended against the allegation that it is based on cynical 
egoism ; on the contrary. Our humanitarian sentiments, our 
moral indignation, already aroused by Thrasymachus 5 nihilism, 
are utilized for turning us into enemies of protectionism. This 
theory whose humanitarian character has been indicated in the 
Gorgias, is now made by Plato to appear as anti-humanitarian, 
and indeed, as the outcome of the repulsive and unplausible 
doctrine that injustice is a very good thing for those who can 
get away with it. And he does not hesitate to rub this point 
in. In an extensive continuation of the passage quoted, Glaucon 
elaborates in much detail the alleged premises of protectionism, 
showing that it assumes, for instance, that the inflicting of injustice 
is c the best of all things ' 51 ; and that justice is established only 
because many men are too weak to commit crimes, and that to 
the individual citizen, a life of crime would be most profitable. 
And ' Socrates ', i.e. Plato, vouches explicitly 52 for the authen- 
ticity of Glaucon's interpretation of the theory presented. By 
this method, Plato seems to have succeeded in persuading most 
of his readers, and at any rate all Platonists, that the protectionist 
theory here developed is identical with the ruthless and cynical 
selfishness of Thrasymachus 63 ; and, -what is more important, 
that all forms of individualism amount to the same, namely, 
selfishness. But it was not only his admirers he persuaded ; he 
even succeeded in persuading his opponents, and especially all 
the adherents of the contract theory. From Carneades 54 to 
Hobbes, they not only adopted his fatal historicist presentation, 
but also Plato's assurances that the basis of their theory is an 
ethical nihilism. 

Now it must be realized that the elaboration of its allegedly 
selfish basis is the whole of Plato's argument against protectionism ; 
and considering the space taken up by this elaboration, we may 


safely assume that it was not his reticence which made him proffer 
no better argument, but the fact that he had none. Thus 
protectionism had to be dismissed simply as an affront against 
the idea of justice, and against our feelings of decency. 

This is Plato's method of dealing with a theory which was not 
only a dangerous rival of his own doctrine but a representative 
of the new humanitarian and individualistic creed, i.e. the arch- 
enemy of everything that was dear to Plato. The method is 
clever ; its astonishing success proves it. But I should not be 
fair if I did not frankly admit that Plato's method appears to me 
dishonest. For the theory attacked does not need any assumption 
more immoral than that injustice is evil, i.e. that it should be 
avoided, and brought under control. And Plato knew quite well 
that the theory was not based on selfishness, for in the Gorgias he 
had presented it not as identical with the nihilistic theory from 
which it is e derived ' in the Republic, but as opposed to it. 

Summing up, we can say that Plato's theory of justice, as 
presented in the Republic and later works, is a conscious attempt 
to get the better of the equalitarian, individualistic, and pro- 
tectionist tendencies of his time, and to re-establish the claims of 
tribalism by developing a totalitarian moral theory. At the 
same time, he was strongly impressed by the new humanitarian 
morality ; but instead of combating equalitarianism, he avoided 
even discussing it. And he successfully enlisted the humanitarian 
sentiments, whose strength he knew so well, in the cause of the 
totalitarian class rule of a naturally superior master race. 

These class prerogatives, he claimed, are necessary for uphold- 
ing the stability of the state. They constitute therefore the essence 
of justice. Ultimately, this claim is based upon the argument 
that justice is useful to the might, health, and stability of the 
state ; an argument which is only too similar to the modern 
totalitarian definition : right is whatever is useful to the might 
of my nation. 

But this is not yet the whole story. By its emphasis on class 
prerogative, Plato's theory of justice puts the problem ' Who 
should rule ? ' in the centre of political theory. His reply to 
this question was that the wisest, and the best, should rule. Does 
this reply not modify the character of his theory ? 


Certain objections 1 to our interpretation of Plato's political 
programme as purely totalitarian and based on historicism, have 
forced us into an investigation of the part played, within this 
programme, by such moral ideas as Justice, Goodness, Beauty, 
Wisdom, Truth, and Happiness. The present and the next 
chapters are to deal mainly with the political part played by 
these ideas in Plato's philosophy, the present mainly with Wisdom. 

We have seen that Plato's idea of justice demands, funda- 
mentally, that the natural rulers should rule and the natural 
slaves should slave. This is part of the historicist demand that 
the state, in order to arrest all change, should copy its Idea, or 
true * nature '. This theory of justice indicates very clearly that 
Plato saw the fundamental problem of politics in the question : 
Who shall rule the state? 

It is my conviction that by expressing the problem of politics 
in the form c Who should rule ? ' or ' Whose will should be 
supreme ? ', etc., Plato created a lasting confusion in political 
philosophy. It is indeed analogous to the confusion he created 
in the field of moral philosophy by his identification, discussed in 
the last chapter, of collectivism and altruism. It is clear that 
once the question ' Who should rule ? ' is asked, it is hard to 
avoid some such reply as ' the best ' or ' the wisest ' or * the born 
rulers ' (or, perhaps, * The People ' or c The General Will ' or 
* The Master Race ' or * The Industrial Workers '). But such a 
reply, convincing as it may sound for who would advocate the 
rule of ' the worst ' or ' the stupid ' or * the born slave ' ? is, as 
I shall try to show, quite useless. 

First of all, such a reply is liable to persuade us that some 
fundamental problem of political theory has been solved. But 
if we approach political theory from a different angle, then we 
find that far from solving any fundamental problems, we have 
merely skipped over them, by assuming that the question c Who 
should rule ? ' is fundamental. For even those who share this 
assumption of Plato's admit that political rulers are not always 
sufficiently c good ' or * wise ' (we need not worry about the 
precise meaning of these terms), and that it is not at all easy to 
get a government on whose goodness and wisdom one can 
implicitly rely. If that is granted, then we must ask whether 

1 06 


political thought should not face from the beginning the possibility 
of bad government ; whether we should not prepare for the 
worst leaders, and hope for the best. But this leads to a new 
approach to the problem of politics, for it forces us to replace 
the question : Who should rule ? by the new 2 question : How can 
we organize political institutions so that bad or incompetent rulers can be 
prevented from doing too much damage? 

Those who believe that the older question is fundamental, 
tacitly assume that political power is ' essentially ' unchecked. 
They assume that someone has the power either an individual 
or a collective body, such as a class. And they assume that he 
who has the power can, very nearly, do what he wills, and 
especially that he can strengthen his power, and thereby approxi- 
mate it further to an unlimited or unchecked power. They 
assume that political power is, essentially, sovereign. If this 
assumption is made, then, indeed, the question * Who is to be 
the sovereign ? ' is the only important question left. 

I shall call this assumption the theory of sovereignty, using 
this expression not for any particular one of the various theories 
of sovereignty, proffered more especially by such writers as 
Bodin, Rousseau, or Hegel, but for the more general assumption 
that political power is practically unchecked, or for the demand 
that it ought to be so ; together with the implication that the 
main question left is to get this power into the best hands. This 
theory of sovereignty is tacitly assumed in Plato's approach, and 
has played its role ever since. It is also implicitly assumed, for 
instance, by those modern writers who believe that the main 
problem is : Who should dictate ? The capitalists or the workers ? 

Without entering into a detailed criticism, I wish to point out 
that there are serious objections against a rash and implicit 
acceptance of this theory. Whatever its speculative merits may 
appear to be, it is certainly a very unrealistic assumption. No 
political power has ever been unchecked, and as long as men 
remain human (as long as the ' Brave New World ' has not 
materialized), there can be no absolute and unrestrained political 
power. So long as one man cannot accumulate enough physical 
power in his hands to dominate all others, just so long must 
he depend upon his helpers. Even the most powerful tyrant 
depends upon his secret police, his henchmen and his hangmen. 
This dependence means that his power, great as it may be, is 
not unchecked, and that he has to make concessions, playing 
one group off against another. It means that there are other 


political forces, other powers besides his own, and that he can 
exert his rule only Jay utilizing and pacifying them. This shows 
that even the extreme cases of sovereignty are never cases of pure 
sovereignty. They are never cases in which the will or the 
interest of one man (or, if there were such a thing, the will or 
the interest of one group) can achieve his aim directly, without 
giving up some of it in order to enlist powers which he cannot 
conquer. And in an overwhelming number of cases, the limita- 
tions of political power go much further than this. 

I have stressed these empirical points, not because I wish to 
use them as an argument, but merely in order to avoid objections. 
My claim is that every theory of sovereignty omits to face a more 
fundamental question the question, namely, whether we should 
not strive towards institutional control of the rulers by balancing 
their powers against other powers. This balance theory can at 
least claim careful consideration. The only objections to this 
claim, as far as I can see, are (a) that such a control is practically 
impossible, or (b) that it is essentially inconceivable since political 
power is essentially sovereign 3 . These dogmatic objections are, 
I believe, refuted by the facts (and with them, for instance, the 
theory that the only alternative to the dictatorship of one class 
is that of another class). 

In order to raise the question of institutional control of the 
rulers, we need not assume more than that governments are not 
always good or wise. But since I have said something about 
historical facts, I think I should confess that I feel inclined to go a 
little beyond this assumption. I am inclined to think that rulers 
have rarely been above the average, either morally or intel- 
lectually, and often below it. And I think that it is reasonable 
to adopt, in politics, the principle of preparing as well as we can 
for the worst, though we should, of course, at the same time try 
to get the best. It appears to me madness to base all our political 
efforts upon the faint hope that we shall be successful in obtaining 
excellent, or even competent rulers. Strongly as I feel in these 
matters, I must insist, however, that my criticism of the theory 
of sovereignty does not depend on these more personal opinions. 

Apart from these empirical arguments against the general 
theory of sovereignty, there is also a kind of logical argument 
which can be used to show the inconsistency of any of the partic- 
ular forms of the theory of sovereignty ; more precisely, the 
logical argument can be given different but analogous forms to 
combat the theory that the wisest should rule, or else the theories 


that the ruler should be the best, or the law, or the majority, etc. 
One particular form of this logical argument that is directed 
against a too naive version of liberalism, of democracy, and of 
the principle that the majority should rule, is somewhat similar 
to the well-known ' paradox of freedom '. It has been used first, 
and with success, by Plato. In his criticism of democracy, and 
in his story of the rise of the tyrant, Plato raises implicitly the 
following question : What if it is the will of the people that they 
should not rule, but a tyrant instead ? The free man, Plato 
suggests, may exercise his absolute freedom, first by defying the 
laws and ultimately by defying freedom itself, and by clamouring 
for a tyrant 4 . This is not just a far-fetched possibility ; it has 
happened a number of times ; and every time it happens, it 
puts those democrats who adopt the principle of majority rule 
or a similar form of the principle of sovereignty as the ultimate 
basis of their political creed in a hopeless intellectual position. 
On the one hand, their principle induces them to oppose any 
but the majority rule, and therefore the new tyranny ; on the 
other hand, the same principle induces them to accept any 
decision of the majority, and thus the rule of the new tyrant. The 
inconsistency of their theory must, of course, paralyse their 
actions. 6 We democrats who demand the institutional control 
of the rulers by the public, including the right of dismissing the 
government by majority vote, must therefore base these demands 
upon better grounds than a self-contradictory theory of sovereignty. 
(And, indeed, it is not difficult to formulate a consistent theory 
of democratic control.) 

But in an exactly analogous way, it can be shown that any 
other particular form of the theory of sovereignty may also give 
rise to similar inconsistencies. All theories of sovereignty are para- 
doxical. , For instance, we may have selected c the wisest ' or ' the 
best ' as a ruler. But ' the wisest ' may find in his wisdom that 
not he, but ' the best ' should rule, and ' the best ' may perhaps 
decide in his goodness that c the majority ' should rule 6 . It is 
important to notice that even that form of the theory of sovereignty 
which demands the ' Kingship of the Law ' is open to the same 
objection. In fact, this has been seen very early, as Heraclitus' 
remark 7 shows : ' The law can demand, too, that the will of 
One Man must be obeyed.' 

In summing up this brief criticism, one can, I believe, assert 
that the theory of sovereignty is both empirically and logically in 
a rather weak position. The legist that can be demanded is that 


it must not be adopted without careful consideration of other 

Returning to Plato, we find that by his emphasis upon the 
problem * who should rule ', he implicitly assumed the general 
theory of sovereignty. The question of an institutional control 
of the rulers, and of an institutional balancing of their powers, 
is thereby eliminated without ever having been raised. The 
interest is shifted from institutions to questions of personnel, and 
the most urgent problems becomes the selection of natural leaders, 
and their training for leadership. 

In view of this fact some people think that in Plato's theory 
the welfare of the state is ultimately an ethical and spiritual 
matter, depending on persons and personal responsibility rather 
than on the construction of impersonal institutions. I believe 
that this view of Platonism is superficial. All long-term politics is 
institutional. _ There is no escape from that, not even for Plato. 
The principle of leadership does not replace the institutional 
problems by problems of personnel, it only creates new institu- 
tional problems. As we shall see, it even burdens the institutions 
with a task which goes beyond what can be reasonably demanded 
from a mere institution, namely, with the task of selecting the 
future leaders. It would be therefore a mistake to think that the 
opposition between the balance theory and the theory of 
sovereignty corresponds to that between institutionalism and 
personalism. And Plato's principle of leadership is far removed 
from a pure personalism since it involves the working of institu- 
tions. Indeed, it maybe said that a pure personalism is impossible. 
But it must be said that a pure institutionalism is impossible too. 
Not only does the construction of institutions involve important 
moral decisions, but the functioning of even the best institutions 
will always depend, to a considerable degree, on its personnel. 
Institutions are like fortresses. They must be well designed and 

This is often misunderstood by the critics of democracy. 
Democracy provides the institutional framework for the reform 
of political institutions (other than this framework). It makes 
possible the reform of institutions without using violence, and 
thereby the use of reason in the designing of new institutions and 
the adjusting of old ones. It cannot provide reason. The 
question of the intellectual and moral standard of its citizens is 
to a large degree a personal problem. (The idea that this problem 
can be tackled, in turn, by an institutional eugenic and educa- 


tional control is, I believe, mistaken ; some reasons for my 
belief will be given below.) It is quite wrong to blame democracy 
for the political shortcomings of a democratic state. We should 
rather blame ourselves. In a non-democratic state, the only 
way to achieve reasonable reforms is by the violent overthrow 
of the government, and the introduction of a democratic frame- 
work. Those who criticize democracy on any ' moral ' grounds 
fail to distinguish between personal and institutional problems. 
It rests with us to improve matters. The democratic institutions 
cannot improve themselves. The problem of improving them is 
always a problem of persons rather than of institutions. But 
if we want improvements, we must make clear which institutions 
we want to improve. 

There is another distinction within the field of political 
problems , corresponding to that between persons and institutions. 
There is always the problem of the day and the problem of the 
future. While the problems of the day are largely personal, the 
building of the future must necessarily be institutional. If the 
political problem is approached by asking c Who should rule ', 
and if Plato's leader-principle is adopted, that is to say, the 
principle that the best should rule, then the problem of the 
future must take the form of designing institutions for the 
selection of future leaders. 

This is one of the most important problems in Plato's theory 
of education. In approaching it I do not hesitate to say that 
Plato utterly corrupted and confused the theory and practice of 
education by linking it up with his theory of leadership. The 
damage done is, if possible, even greater than that inflicted upon 
ethics by the identification of collectivism with altruism, and upon 
political theory by the introduction of the principle of sovereignty. 
Plato's assumption that it should be the task of education (or 
more precisely, of the educational institutions) to select the future 
leaders, and to train them for leadership, is still largely taken for 
granted. By burdening these institutions with a task which 
must go beyond the scope of any institution, Plato is partly 
responsible for their deplorable state. But before entering into a 
general discussion of his view of the task of education, I wish to 
develop, in more detail, his theory of leadership, the leadership 
of the wise. 

I think it most likely that this theory of Plato's owes a number 
of features to the influence of Socrates. One of the fundamental 
tenets of Socrates was, I believe, his moral intellectualism. By 


this I understand (a) his identification of goodness and wisdom, 
his theory that nobody acts against his better knowledge, and that 
lack of knowledge is responsible for all moral mistakes ; (b) his 
theory that moral excellence can be taught, and that it does not 
presuppose any particular moral faculties, apart from the 
universal human intelligence. Socrates was a moralist and an 
enthusiast. He was the type of man who would criticize any 
form of government for its shortcomings (and indeed, such 
criticism would be necessary and useful for any government, 
although it is possible only under a democracy) but he recognized 
the importance of being loyal to the laws of the state. As it 
happened, he spent his life largely under a democratic form of 
government, and as a good democrat he found it his duty to 
expose the incompetence and windbaggery of some of the 
democratic leaders of his time. At the same time, he opposed 
any form of tyranny ; and if we consider his courageous behaviour 
under the Thirty Tyrants 8 , then we have no reason to assume 
that his criticism of democratic leaders was inspired by anti- 
democratic leanings. He only demanded that the moral level 
both of the citizens and of their leaders should be improved by 
education and enlightenment. It is not unlikely that he also 
demanded (like Plato) that the best should rule, which would 
have meant, in his view, the wisest, or those who knew some- 
thing about justice. But we must remember that by justice he 
meant equalitarian justice (as indicated by the passages from the 
Gorgias quoted in the last chapter), and that he was not only 
an equalitarian but also an individualist perhaps the greatest 
apostle of an individualistic ethics of all times. And we must 
also be clear that if he demanded that the wisest should rule, he 
clearly stressed that he did not mean the learned men ; in fact, 
he was sceptical of all professional learnedness, whether it was 
that of the philosophers of the past or of the learned men of his 
own generation, the Sophists. The wisdom he meant was of a 
different kind. It was simply the realization : how little do I 
know ! Those who do not know this, he taught, know nothing 
at all. (This is the true scientific spirit. Some people still 
think, as Plato did when he had established himself as a learned 
Pythagorean 9 , that Socrates' agnostic attitude must be explained 
by the lack of success of the science of his day. But this only 
shows that they do not understand this spirit, and that they 
are still possessed by the pre-Socratic magical attitude towards 
science, and towards the scientist, whom they consider as a 


somewhat glorified shaman, as wise, learned, initiated. They 
judge him by the amount of knowledge in his possession, instead of 
taking, with Socrates, his awareness of what he does not know 
as a measure of his scientific level as well as of his intellectual 

It is important to see that this Socratic intellectualism is 
decidedly equalitarian. Socrates believed that everyone can be 
taught ; in the Meno, we see him teaching a young slave a 
version 10 of the now so-called theorem of Pythagoras, in an 
attempt to prove that any uneducated slave has the capacity to 
grasp even abstract matters. And his intellectualism is also 
anti-authoritarian. While a technique, for instance rhetoric, 
may perhaps be dogmatically taught by an expert, real know- 
ledge, wisdom, and also virtue, can be taught only by a method 
described by Socrates as a form of midwifery. Those eager to 
learn may be helped to free themselves from their prejudice ; 
thus they may learn self-criticism, and that truth is not easily 
attained. But they may also learn to make up their mind, and 
to rely, critically, on their decisions, and on their insight. In 
view of such teaching, it is clear how much the Socratic demand 
(if he ever raised this demand) that the best, i.e. the intellectually 
honest, should rule, differs from the authoritarian demand that 
the most learned, or from the aristocratic demand that the best, 
i.e. the most noble, should rule. (Socrates' belief that even 
courage is wisdom can, I think, be interpreted as a direct criticism 
of the aristocratic doctrine of the nobly born hero.) 

But this moral intellectualism of Socrates is a two-edged 
sword. It has its equalitarian and democratic aspect, which 
was later developed by Antisthenes. But it has also an aspect 
which may give rise to strongly anti-democratic tendencies. Its 
stress upon the need for enlightenment, for education, might 
easily be misinterpreted as a demand for authoritarianism. This 
is connected with a question which seems to have puzzled 
Socrates a great deal : that those who are not sufficiently 
educated, and thus not wise enough to know their deficiencies, 
are just those who are in the greatest need of education. Readi- 
ness to learn in itself proves the possession of wisdom, in fact all 
the wisdom claimed by Socrates for himself ; for he who is ready 
to learn knows how little he knows. The uneducated seems thus 
to be in need of an authority to wake him up, since he cannot 
be expected to be self-critical. But this one element of authori- 
tarianism was wonderfully balanced in Socrates' teaching by the 


emphasis that the authority must not claim more than that. 
The true teacher can prove himself only by exhibiting that self- 
criticism which the uneducated lacks. ' Whatever authority I 
may have rests solely upon my knowing how little I know 3 : 
this is the way in which Socrates might have justified his mission 
to stir up the people from their dogmatic slumber. This 
educational mission he believed to be also a political mission. 
He felt that the way to improve the political life of the city was 
to educate the citizens to self-criticism. In this sense he claimed 
to be ' the only politician of his day ' 11 > in opposition to those 
others who flatter the people instead of furthering their true 

This Socratic identification of his educational and political 
activity could easily be distorted into the Platonic and Aristotelian 
demand that the state should look after the moral life of its 
citizens. And it can easily be used for a dangerously convincing 
proof that all democratic control is vicious. For how can those 
whose task it is to educate be judged by the uneducated ? How 
can the better be controlled by the less good ? But this argument 
is, of course, entirely un-Socratic. It assumes an authority of 
the wise and learned man, and goes far beyond Socrates' modest 
idea of the teacher's authority as founded solely on his con- 
sciousness of his own limitations. State-authority in these 
matters is liable to achieve, in fact, the exact opposite of Socrates' 
aim. It is liable to produce dogmatic self-satisfaction and 
massive intellectual complacency, instead of critical dissatisfaction 
and eagerness for improvement. I do not think that it is 
unnecessary to stress this danger which is seldom clearly realized. 
Even an author like Grossman, one of the few, I believe, who 
understood the true Socratic spirit, agrees 12 with Plato in what 
he calls Plato's third criticism of Athens : * Education, which should 
be the major responsibility of the State, had been left to individual 
caprice . . Here again was a task which should be entrusted 
only to the man of proven probity. The future of any State 
depends on the younger generation, and it is therefore madness 
to allow the minds of children to be moulded by individual taste 
and force of circumstances. Equally disastrous had been the 
State's laissez faire policy with regard to teachers and school- 
masters and sophist-lecturers.' 13 In reply, I may perhaps 
emphasize, first of all, that, as long as it lasted, the Athenian 
state's laissez faire policy, criticized by Grossman, had the 
invaluable result of enabling certain sophist-lecturers to teach, 


and especially the greatest of them all, Socrates. And when this 
policy was dropped later on, the result was Socrates' death. 
This should be a clear warning that state control in such matters 
is dangerous, and that the cry for the ' man of proven probity ' 
may easily lead to the suppression of the best. (Bertrand Russell's 
recent suppression is a case in point.) But as far as basic 
principles are concerned, we have here an instance of the deeply 
rooted prejudice that the only alternative to laissez faire is full 
state responsibility. I believe it is certainly the responsibility of 
the state to give its citizens an education which enables them to 
cope with the demands of life, and furthermore, to proceed to 
a scientific training (should this be desirable) ; and the state 
should certainly also see (as Grossman rightly stresses) that the 
lack of c the individual's capacity to pay ' should not debar him 
from higher studies. This, I believe, belongs to the state's 
protective functions. To say, however, that ' the future of the 
state depends on the younger generation, and that it is therefore 
madness to allow the minds of children to be moulded by 
individual taste *, appears to me to open wide the door to totali- 
tarianism. State interest must not be lightly invoked to defend 
measures which may endanger the most precious of all forms 
of freedom, namely, intellectual freedom. And although I 
am far from recommending * laissez faire with regard to teachers 
and schoolmasters ', I believe that this policy is infinitely superior 
to an authoritative policy that gives officers of the state full 
powers to mould the minds, and to control the teaching of science, 
thereby backing the dubious authority of the expert by that of 
the state, ruining science by the customary practice of teaching 
it as an authoritative doctrine, and destroying the scientific 
spirit of inquiry, the spirit of the search for truth, as opposed to 

I have tried to show that Socrates' intellectualism is funda- 
mentally equalitarian and individualistic, and that the element 
of authoritarianism which it involved was reduced to a minimum 
by Socrates' intellectual modesty and his scientific attitude. Very 
different from this is the intellectualism of Plato. The Platonic 
* Socrates ' of the Republic 14 is the embodiment of an unmitigated' 
authoritarianism.. (Even his self-deprecating remarks are not 
Based upon awareness of his limitations, but are rather an ironical 
way of asserting his superiority.) His educational aim is not 
the awakening of self-criticism and of critical thought in general. 
It is, rather, indoctrination, the moulding of minds which are 


(to repeat a quotation from the Laws 15 ) * by long habit . . to 
become utterly incapable of doing anything at all independently '. 
And Socrates' great equalitarian and liberating idea that it is 
possible to reason with a slave, and that there is an intellectual 
link between man and man, a medium of universal understanding, 
namely, * reason ', this idea is replaced by a demand for an 
educational monopoly of the ruling class, coupled with the 
strictest censorship, even of oral debates. 

Socrates had stressed that he was not wise ; that he was not 
in the possession of truth or wisdom, but that he was a searcher, 
an inquirer, a lover of truth and wisdom. This, he explained, is 
expressed by the word * philosopher ' as opposed to c Sophist ' 
(i.e. the professionally wise man). Whenever he claimed that 
statesmen should be philosophers, he meant that, burdened with 
an excessive responsibility, they should be searchers for truth, 
conscious of their limitations. 

How did Plato convert this doctrine ? At first sight, it might 
appear that he did not alter it at all, when demanding that the 
sovereignty of the state should be invested in the philosophers ; 
especially since, like Socrates, he defined philosophers as lovers of 
truth. But the change made by Plato is indeed tremendous. 
His lover is no longer the modest pecker, he is the proud possessor 
of truth. A trained dialectician, he is capable of intellectual 
intuition, i.e. of seeing the eternal, the heavenly Forms or Ideas. 
Placed high above all ordinary men, he is c god-like, if not . . 
divine' ie , both in his wisdom and in Tils power. The ideal 
philosopher approaches both to omniscience and to omnipotence. 
He is the Philosopher-King. It is hard, I think, to conceive a 
greater contrast than that between the Socratic and the Platonic 
ideal of a philosopher. It is the contrast between two worlds 
the worlds of the modest, rational individualist and of the 
totalitarian demi-god. 

Plato's demand that the wise man should rule, the possessor 
of truth, the * fully qualified philosopher ' 17 , raises, of course, the 
problem of selecting and educating the rulers. In a purely 
personalist (as^ opposed to an institutional) theory, this problem 
might be solved simply by declaring that the wise ruler will in 
his wisdom be wise enough to determine the best successor. But 
this is not a very satisfactory approach to the problem. Too 
much would depend on uncontrolled circumstances ; an accident 
may destroy the future stability of the state. But the attempt to 
control circumstances, to foresee what might happen and to 


provide for it, must lead here, as everywhere, to the replacement 
of a purely personalist solution by an institutional one. As 
mentioned above, the attempt to plan for the future must always 
lead to institutionalism. 

The institution which according to Plato has to look after 
the future leaders can be described as the educational department 
of the state. It is, from a purely political point of view, by far 
the most important institution within Plato's society. It holds 
the keys to power. For this reason alone it should be clear 
that at least the higher grades of education are to be directly 
controlled by the rulers. But there are some additional reasons 
for this. The most important is that only * the expert and . . the 
man of proven probity ', as Grossman puts it, which in Plato's 
view means only the very wisest adepts, that is to say, the rulers 
themselves, can be entrusted with the final initiation of the 
future sages into the higher mysteries of wisdom. This holds, 
above all, for dialectics, i.e. the art of intellectual intuition, of 
visualizing the divine originals, the Forms or Ideas, of unveiling 
the Great Mystery behind the common man's everyday world of 

What are Plato's institutional demands regarding this highest 
form of education ? They are rather remarkable. He demands 
that only those who are past their prime of life should be admitted. 
' When their bodily strength begins to fail, and when they are 
past the age of public and military duties, then, and only then, 
should they be permitted to enter at will the sacred field. . .' 18 
namely, the field of dialectical studies. Plato's reason for this 
amazing rule is clear enough. He is afraid of the power of 
thought. ' All great things are dangerous ' 19 is the remark by 
which he introduces the confession that he is afraid of the effect 
which philosophic thought may have upon brains which are not 
yet on the verge of old age. (All this he puts into the mouth 
of Socrates, who died in defence of his right of free discussion 
with the young.) But this is exactly what we should expect if 
we remember Plato's fundamental interest, namely the arrestment 
of political change. In their youth, the members of the upper 
class shall fight. When they are too old to think, they shall 
become dogmatic students to be imbued with wisdom and 
authority in order to become sages themselves and to hand on 
their wisdom, the doctrine of collectivism and authoritarianism, 
to future generations. 

It is interesting that in a later and more elaborate passage 


which attempts to paint the rulers in the brightest colours, Plato 
modified his suggestion. Now 20 he allows the future sages to 
begin their dialectical studies at the age of thirty, stressing, of 
course, that c those to whom the use of arguments may be 
permitted must possess disciplined and well-balanced natures ' 21 . 
This alteration certainly helps to brighten the picture, but the 
fundamental tendency is the same. 

It is clear enough that Plato does not wish his leaders to have 
originality or initiative. He hates change and does not want 
to see that re-adjustments may become necessary. But this 
explanation of Plato's attitude does not go deep enough. In 
fact, we are faced here with a fundamental difficulty of the 
leader principle. The very idea of selecting or educating future 
leaders is self-contradictory. You may solve the problem, 
perhaps, to some degree in the field of bodily excellence. Physical 
initiative and bodily courage are perhaps not so hard to ascertain. 
But the secret of intellectual excellence is the spirit of criticism ; 
it is intellectual independence. And this leads to difficulties 
which must prove insurmountable for any kind of authori- 
tarianism. The authoritarian will select in general those who 
obey, who believe, who respond to his influence. But in doing 
so, he selects mediocrities. For he excludes those who revolt, 
who doubt, who dare to resist his influence. Never can an 
authority admit that the intellectually courageous, i.e. those who 
dare to defy his authority, may be the most valuable type. Of 
course, the authorities will always remain convinced of their 
ability to detect initiative. But what they mean by this is only 
a quick grasp of their intentions, and they will remain for ever 
incapable of seeing the difference. (Here we may perhaps 
penetrate the secret of the particular difficulty of selecting capable 
military leaders. The demands of military discipline enhance 
the difficulties discussed, and the methods of military advance- 
ment are such that those who do dare to think for themselves are 
usually eliminated. Nothing is less true, as far as intellectual 
initiative is concerned, than the idea that those who are good 
in obeying will also be good in commanding. Very similar 
difficulties arise in political parties : the c Man Friday ' of the 
party leader is seldom a capable successor.) 

We are led here, I believe, to a result of some importance, 
which can be generalized. Institutions for the selection of the 
outstanding can hardly be devised. Institutional selection may 
work quite well for such purposes as Plato had in mind, namely 


for the arrestment of change 22 . But it will never work well if 
we demand more than that, for it will always tend to eliminate 
initiative and originality. This is not a criticism of political 
institutionalism. It only re-affirms what has been said before, 
that we should always prepare for the worst leaders, although we 
should try, of course, to get the best. But it is a criticism of the 
tendency to burden institutions, especially educational institu- 
tions, with the impossible task of selecting the best. This should 
never be made their task. This tendency transforms our educa- 
tional system into a race-course, and turns the course of studies 
into a hurdle-race. Instead of encouraging the student to devote 
himself to his studies for the sake of studying, instead of encourag- 
ing in him a real love for his subject and for inquiry 23 , the 
student is encouraged to study for the sake of his personal career ; 
he is led to Acquire only such knowledge as is serviceable in getting 
him over the hurdles which he must clear for the sake of his 
advancement. In other words, even in the field of science, our 
methods of selection are based upon an appeal to personal 
ambition. (It is a natural reaction to this appeal if the eager 
student is looked upon with suspicion by his colleagues.) The 
impossible demand for an institutional selection of the intellectual 
leaders endangers the very life not only of science, but of 

It has been said, only too truly, that Plato was the inventor 
of both our secondary schools and our universities. I do not 
know a better argument for an optimistic view of mankind, no 
better proof of their indestructible love for truth and decency, of 
their originality and stubbornness and health, than the fact that 
this devastating system of education has not utterly ruined them. 
In spite of the treachery of so many of their leaders, there are 
quite a number, old as well as young, who are decent, and 
intelligent, and devoted to their task. ' I sometimes wonder how 
it was that the mischief done was not more clearly perceptible, 9 
says Samuel Butler 24 , ' and that the young men and women 
grew up as sensible and goodly as they did, in spite of the attempts 
almost deliberately made to warp and stunt their growth. Some 
doubtless received damage, from which they suffered to their 
life's end ; but many seemed little or none the worse, and some 
almost the better. The reason would seem to be that the natural 
instinct of the lads in most cases so absolutely rebelled against 
their training, that do what the teachers might they could never 
get them to pay serious heed to it.' 


It may be mentioned here that Plato proved a bad selector 
of leaders. I have in mind not so much the disappointing 
outcome of his experiment with Dionysius II, tyrant of Syracuse, 
but rather the participation of Plato's Academy in Dio's successful 
expedition against Dionysius. Plato selected certain members of 
the Academy to support his famous friend Dio. One of those 
selected was Callipus, who became Dio's most trusted comrade. 
Callipus murdered Dio (who had made himself tyrant of Syracuse) 
and usurped the tyranny, which he lost after thirteen months. 
But this event was not the only one of its kind in Plato's career 
as a teacher. Clearchus, one of Plato's (and of Isocrates') 
disciples, made himself tyrant of Heraclea after having posed as a 
democratic leader. He was murdered by his relation, Chion, 
another member of Plato's Academy. (We cannot know how 
Chion, whom some represent as an idealist, would have developed, 
since he too was killed.) These experiences of Plato's 25 throw 
light on the additional difficulties of the selection of men who are 
to be invested with absolute power. There are few whose 
character is not corrupted by it. As Lord Acton says : all 
power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. 

To sum up. Plato's political programme was much more 
institutional than personalist ; he hoped to arrest political change 
by the institutional control of succession in leadership. The 
control was to be educational, based upon an authoritarian view 
of learning, and upon the authority of the learned expert. This 
is what Plato made of Socrates' demand that a responsible 
politician should love truth, and that he should know his 


The contrast between the Platonic and the Socratic creed is 
even greater than I have shown so far. Plato, I have said, 
followed Socrates in his definition of the philosopher. * Whom 
do you call true philosophers ? Those who love truth ', we read 
in the Republic *. But he himself is not truthful when he makes 
this statement. He does not really believe in it, for he declares 
in other places rather bluntly that it is one of the royal privileges, 
of the sovereign to make full use of lies and deceit : ' It is thd 
business of the rulers of the city, if it is anybody's, to tell lies! 
deceiving both its enemies and its own citizens for the benefit 
of the city ; and no one else must touch this privilege. 5 2 

* For the benefit of the city ', says Plato. Again we find that 
the appeal to the principle of collective utility is the ultimate 
ethical consideration. Totalitarian morality overrules every- 
thing, even the definition, the Idea, of the philosopher. It need 
hardly be mentioned that, by the same principle of political 
expediency, the ruled are to be forced to tell the truth. c If the 
ruler catches anyone else in a lie . . then he will punish him for 
introducing a practice which injures and endangers the city. . .' 3 . 
Only in this slightly unexpected sense is Plato's philosopher king 
a lover of truth. 

Plato illustrates this application of his principle of collective 
utility to the problem of truthfulness by the example of the 
physician. The example is well chosen, since Plato likes to 
visualize his political mission as one of healing the sick body of 
society. Apart from this, the role which he assigns to medicine 
throws light upon the totalitarian character of Plato's city where 
state interest dominates the life of the citizen from the mating 
of his parents to his grave. Plato interprets medicine as a form 
of politics or, as he puts it himself, he * regards Aesculapius, the 
god of medicine, as a politician ' *. Medical art, he explains, 
must not consider the prolongation of life as its aim, but only the 
fnterest of the state. c In all properly ruled communities, each 
man has his particular work in the state assigned to him. This 
he must do, and no one has time to spend his life in being ill 
and being cured.' Accordingly, the physician has * no right to 
treat a man who cannot carry out his ordinary duties, for such a 
man is useless to himself and to the state J ; quite apart from the 
O.S.I.E. VOL. i 121 E 


consideration that he might have ' children who would probably 
be as sick' as their father, and become a burden to the state. 
(In his old age, Plato discussed medicine, in spite of his increased 
hatred of individualism, in a much more personal vein. He 
complains of the doctor who treats even free citizens as if they 
were slaves, ' issuing his orders like a tyrant whose will is law, 
and then rushing off to the next slave-patient ' 5 , and he pleads 
for more gentleness and patience in medical treatment, at least 
for those who are not slaves.) Concerning the use of lies and 
deceit, Plato urges that these are c useful only as a medicine ' 6 ; 
but the ruler of the state, Plato insists, must not behave like some 
of those ' ordinary doctors ' who have not the courage to administer 
strong medicines. The philosopher king, a lover of truth as a 
philosopher, must be, as a king, ' a more courageous man ' since 
he must be determined * to administer a great many lies and 
deceptions ' for the benefit of the ruled, Plato hastens to* add. 
Which means, as we already know, and as we learn here again 
from Plato's reference to medicine, for the benefit of the state. 
(Kant remarked once in a very different spirit that the sentence 
' Truthfulness is the best policy ' might indeed be questionable, 
whilst the sentence ' Truthfulness is better than policy ' is beyond 
dispute 7 .) 

What kind of lies has Plato in mind when he exhorts his rulers 
to use strong medicine ? Grossman rightly emphasizes that 
Plato means ' propaganda, the technique of controlling the 
behaviour of . . the bulk of the ruled majority ' 8 . Certainly, 
Plato had these first in his mind ; but when Grossman suggests 
that the propaganda lies were only intended for the consumption 
of the ruled, while the rulers should be a fully enlightened in- 
telligentsia, then I cannot agree. I think, rather, that Plato's 
complete break with anything resembling Socrates' intellectualism 
is nowhere more obvious than in the place where he twice expresses 
his hope that even the rulers themselves, at least after a few genera- 
tions, might be induced to believe his greatest propaganda lie ; 
I mean his racialism, his Myth of Blood and Soil, usually referred 
to as the Myth of the Earthborn. Here we see that Plato's 
utilitarian and totalitarian principles overrule everything, even 
the ruler's privilege of knowing, and of demanding to be told, 
the truth. The motive of Plato's wish that the rulers themselves 
should believe in the propaganda lie is his hope of increasing its 
wholesome effect, i.e. of strengthening the rule of the master race, 
and ultimately, of arresting all political change. 


Plato introduces his Myth of Blood and Soil rather cynically : 
c Well then ', says the Socrates of the Republic, ' could we perhaps 
fabricate one of those very handy lies which indeed we mentioned 
just recently ? With the help of one single inspired white lie 
we may, if we are lucky, persuade even the rulers themselves but 
at any rate the rest of the city.' 9 It is interesting to note the use 
of the term c persuade '. To persuade somebody to believe a 
lie means, more precisely, to mislead or to hoax him ; and it 
would be more in tune with the frank cynicism of the passage 
to translate * we may, if we are lucky, hoax even the rulers 
themselves '. But Plato uses the term * persuasion ' very 
frequently, and its occurrence here throws some light on other 
passages. It may be taken as a warning that in similar passages, 
he may have propaganda lies in his mind ; more especially where 
he advocates that the statesman should rule c by means of both 
persuasion and force ' 10 . 

After announcing his c inspired lie ', Plato, instead of pro- 
ceeding directly to the Myth, first develops a lengthy preface, 
rather similar to the lengthy preface which precedes his discovery 
of justice ; an indication, I think, of his uneasiness. It seems 
that he did not expect the proposal which follows to find much 
favour with his readers. The Myth itself introduces two 
ideas. The first is the defence of the mother country. This is 
certainly not the reason for Plato's hesitation (although the word- 
ing of the dialogue cleverly suggests it). The second idea, 
however, ' the rest of the story ', is the myth of racialism : * God 
. . has put gold into those who are capable of ruling, silver into 
the auxiliaries, and iron and copper into the peasants and the 
other producing classes.' ll These metals are hereditary, they 
are racial characteristics. In this passage, in which Plato, 
hesitatingly, first introduces his racialism, he allows for the possi- 
bility that children may be born with an admixture of another 
metal than those of their parents ; and it must be admitted that 
he here announces the following rule : if in one of the lower 
classes * children are born with an admixture of gold and silver, 
they shall . . be appointed guardians, and . . auxiliaries '. But 
this concession is rescinded in later passages, especially in the 
story of the Fall of Man and of the Number 12 , partially quoted 
in chapter 5 above. From this passage we learn that any 
admixture of a lower metal must be excluded from the higher 
classes. The possibility of admixtures and corresponding changes 
in status means therefore only that the degenerate children from 


the upper classes are to be pushed down, not that those of the 
lower classes may be lifted up. The way in which any mixing 
of metals must lead to destruction, is described in the concluding 
passage of the story of the Fall of Man : 4 Iron will mingle with 
silver and bronze with gold, and from this mixture variation will 
be born and absurd irregularity ; and whenever these are born 
they will beget struggle and hostility. And this is how we must 
describe the origin of disunion. . .' 13 . It is in this light that we 
must consider that the Myth of the Earthborn concludes with 
the cynical fabrication of a prophecy by a fictitious oracle c that 
the city must perish when guarded by iron and copper * 14 . 
Plato's reluctance to proffer his racialism at once in its more 
radical form indicates, I suppose, that he knew how much it was 
against the democratic and humanitarian tendencies of his time. 
If we consider Plato's blunt admission that his Myth of Blood 
and Soil is a propaganda lie, then the attitude of the commentators 
towards the Myth is somewhat puzzling. Adam, for instance, 
writes : c Without it, the present sketch of a state would be 
incomplete. We require some guarantee for the permanence of 
the city . . ; and nothing could be more in keeping with the 
prevailing moral and religious spirit of Plato's . . education than 
that he should find that guarantee in faith rather than in reason.' 16 
I agree (though this is not quite what Adam meant) that nothing 
is more in keeping with Plato's totalitarian morality than his 
advocacy of propaganda lies. But I do not understand how the 
idealistic commentator, by implication, can declare that religion 
and faith are on the level of an opportunist lie. As a matter of 
fact, Adam's comment is reminiscent of Hobbes' conventionalism, 
of the attitude that religion, although not true, is a most expedient 
and indispensable political device. And this consideration shows 
us that Plato, after all, was more of a conventionalist than one 
might think. He does not even stop short of establishing a 
religious faith * by convention ' (we must credit him with the 
frankness of his admission that it is only a fabrication), while 
the conventionalist Protagoras at least believed that the laws, 
which are our making, are made with the help of divine inspira- 
tion. It is hard to understand why those commentators 16 on 
Plato who praise him for fighting against the subversive con- 
ventionalism of the Sophists and for establishing a spiritual 
naturalism ultimately based on religion, fail to censure him for 
making a convention, or rather an invention, the ultimate basis 
of religion. In fact, Plato's attitude towards religion as revealed 


by his c inspired lie ' is practically identical with that of Critias, 
his beloved uncle, the brilliant leader of the Thirty Tyrants who 
established an inglorious blood-regime in Athens after the 
Peloponnesian war. Critias, a poet, was the first to glorify 
propaganda lies whose invention he described in cynical verses 
eulogizing that wise and cunning man who fabricated religion, in 
order to c persuade ' the people, i.e. to threaten them into 
submission : 

c . . Then came, I think, that wise and cunning man, 
Who fabricated myths, and piety. . . 
He knew the ways of daunting heart and soul. . . 
And lawlessness turned into law and order. 3 17 

In Critias 9 view, religion is only the inspired lie of a great 
and clever statesman. Plato's views are strikingly similar, both 
in the cynical introduction of the Myth in the Republic, and in 
the Laws where he says that the installation of rites and of gods 
is c a matter for a great thinker ' 18 . But is this the whole truth 
about Plato's religious attitude ? Was Plato only an opportunist 
in these matters, and was the very different spirit of his earlier 
works merely Socratic ? There is of course no way of deciding 
this question with certainty, though I feel, intuitively, that there 
may sometimes be a more genuine religious feeling expressed 
even in the later works. But I believe that wherever Plato 
considers religious matters in their relation to politics, his political 
opportunism sweeps everything aside. Thus Plato demands, in 
the Larfs, the severest punishment even for honest and honourable 
people 19 if their opinion concerning the gods deviates from those 
held by the state. Their souls are to be treated by a Nocturnal 
Council of inquisitors 20 , and if they do not recant or if they 
repeat the offence, the charge of impiety means death. Has 
he forgotten Socrates who had fallen a victim to that very 
charge ? 

That it is mainly state interest which inspires these demands 
rather than interest in the religious faith as such, can be gauged 
by Plato's central religious doctrine. The gods, he teaches in 
the Laws, punish severely all those on the wrong side in the 
conflict between good and evil, a conflict which is explained as 
that between collectivism and individualism 21 . And the gods, 
he insists, take an active interest in men, they are not merely 
spectators. It is impossible to appease them. Neither through 
prayers nor through sacrifices can they be moved to abstain from 


punishment 22 , The political interest behind this teaching is 
clear, and made even clearer by Plato's demand that the state 
must suppress doubt of any part of this politico-religious dogma, 
and especially of the doctrine that the gods never abstain from 

Plato's opportunism and his theory of lies makes it, of course, 
difficult to interpret what he says. How far did he believe in his 
theory of justice? How far did he believe in the truth of the 
religious doctrines he preached ? Was he perhaps himself an 
atheist, in spite of his demand for the punishment of other (lesser) 
atheists ? Although we cannot hope to answer any of these 
questions definitely, it is, I believe, difficult, and methodologically 
unsound, not to give Plato at least the benefit of the doubt. 
And the fundamental sincerity of his belief in the need for arresting 
change can hardly, I think, be questioned. (I shall return to 
this in chapter 10.) On the other hand, we cannot doubt that 
Plato subjects the Socratic love of truth to the more fundamental 
principle that the rule of the master class must be strengthened. 

It is interesting, however, to note that Plato's theory of truth 
is slightly less radical than his theory of justice. Justice, we have 
seen, is defined, practically, as that which serves the interest of 
his totalitarian state. It would have been possible, of course, to 
define the concept of truth in the same utilitarian fashion. The 
Myth is true, Plato could have said, since anything that serves 
the interest of my state must be believed and therefore must be 
called * true ' ; and there must be no other criterion of truth. 
In theory, an analogous step has actually been taken by the 
pragmatist successors of Hegel ; in practice, it has been taken by 
Hegel himself and his racialist successors. But Plato retained 
enough of the Socratic spirit to admit candidly that he was lying. 
The step taken by the school of Hegel was one that could never 
have occurred, I think, to any companion of Socrates 23 . 

So much for the role played by the Idea of Truth in Plato's 
best state. But apart from Justice and Truth, we have still to 
consider some further Ideas, such as Goodness, Beauty, and 
Happiness, if we wish to remove the objections, raised in chapter 6, 
against our interpretation of Plato's political programme as a 
pure totalitarianism, based on historicism. An approach to the 
discussion of these Ideas, and also to that of Wisdom, which has 
been partly discussed in the last chapter, can be made by con- 
sidering the somewhat negative result reached by our discussion 
of the Idea of Truth. For this result raises a new problem : 


Why does Plato demand that the philosophers should be kings 
or the kings philosophers, if he defines the philosopher as a lover 
of truth, insisting, on the other hand, that the king must be 
/more courageous', and use lies? 

The only reply to this question is, of course, that Plato has, 
in fact, something very different in mind when he uses the term 
* philosopher '. And indeed, we have seen in the last chapter 
thatjiis philosopher is not so much the seeker for, as the possessor 
of^wisdpm. He is a learned man, a sage. What Plato demands, 
therefore, is the rule of learnedness sophocracy, if I may say so. 
In order to understand this demand, we must try to find what 
kind of functions make it desirable that the ruler of Plato's state 
should be a possessor of knowledge, a c fully qualified philosopher ', 
as Plato says. The functions to be considered can be divided into 
two main groups, namely those connected with the foundation of 
the state, and those connected with its preservation. 

The first and the most important function of the philosopher 
kmgjisj that of the city's founder and lawgiver. For this purpose, 
a philosopher is clearly needed. If the state is to be stable, then 
it must be a true copy of the divine Form or Idea of the State. 
But only a philosopher who is fully proficient in the highest of 
sciences, in dialectics, is able to see, and to copy, the heavenly 
Original. This point receives much emphasis in the part of the 
Republic in which Plato develops his arguments for the sovereignty 
of the philosophers 24 . Philosophers c love to sec the truth ', 
and a real lover always loves to see the whole, not merely the 
parts. Thus he does not love, as ordinary people do, sensible 
things and their ' beautiful sounds and colours and shapes ', but 
he wants c to see, and to admire the real nature of beauty ' the 
Form or Idea of Beauty. In this way, Plato gives the term philosopher 
a new meaning, that of a lover and a seer of the divine world of 
Forms or Ideas. As such, the philosopher is the man who may 
become the founder of a virtuous city 25 : c The philosopher who 
has communion with the divine ' may be * overwhelmed by the 
urge to realize . . his heavenly vision ', of the ideal city and of 
its ideal citizens. He is like a draughtsman or a painter who has 
' the divine as his model '. Onlyjrue philosophers can * sketch 
the ground-plan of the city ', for they alone can see the original, 
and can copy it, by * letting their eyes wander to and fro, from the 
model to the picture, and back from the picture to the model '. 

As * a j^nter of constitutions * 2e , the philosopher must J)e 
helped by the light of goodness and of wisdom. A few remarks 


will be added concerning these two ideas, and their significance for 
the philosopher in his function as a founder of the city. 

Plato's Idea of the Good is the highest in the hierarchy of Forms. 
It is the sun of the divine world of Forms or Ideas, which not only 
throws light on all the other members, but is the source of their 
existence 27 . It is also the source or cause of all knowledge and 
all truth 28 . The power of seeing, of appreciating, of knowing 
the Good is thus indispensable 29 to the dialectician. Since it is 
the sun and the source of light in the world of Forms, it enables 
the philosopher-painter to discern his objects. Its function is 
therefore of the greatest importance for the founder of the city. 
But this purely formal information is all we get. Plato's Idea of 
the Good nowhere plays a more direct ethical or political role ; 
never do we hear which deeds are good, or produce good, apart 
from the well-known collectivist moral code whose precepts are 
introduced without recourse to the Idea of Good. Remarks that 
the Good is the aim, that it is desired by every man 30 , do not 
enrich our information. This empty formalism is still more 
marked in the Philebus, where the Good is identified 31 with the 
Idea of * measure ' or ' mean '. And when I read the report 
that Plato, in his famous lecture e On the Good ', disappointed 
an uneducated audience by defining^the Good as * the class of 
the determinate conceived as a unity ', then my sympathy is 
with the audience. In the Republic, Plato says frankly 32 that he 
cannot explain what he means by * the Good '. The only 
practical suggestion we get is that mentioned at the beginning of 
chapter 4 : that Good is that which preserves, which does not 
decay ; it is the unchangeable, the arrested state of a thing. In 
view of all this, the argument that he believed in an Absolute 
Good is, I believe, no valid objection against the interpretation 
of his political theory as totalitarian, and as opportunist. 

The analysis of Plato's Idea of Wisdom leads to equally dis- 
appointing results. Wisdom, as we have seen, does not mean to 
Plato the Socratic insight into one's own limitations ; nor does it 
mean what most of us would expect, a warm interest in, and a 
helpful understanding of, humanity and human affairs. Plato's 
wise men, highly preoccupied with the problems of a superior 
world 33 , ' have no time to look down at the affairs of men . . ; 
they look upon, and hold fast to, the ordered and the measured *. 
It is the right kind of learning that makes a man wise : c Philo- 
sophic natures are lovers of that kind of learning which reveals 
to them a reality which exists for ever and does not drift from 


generation to degeneration.' It does not seem that Plato's 
treatment of wisdom can carry us beyond the ideal of arresting 

Although this analysis of the functions of the city's founder 
has not revealed any new ethical elements in Plato's doctrine, it 
has shown that there is a definite reason why the founder of the 
city must be a philosopher. But this does not fully justify the 
demand for the permanent sovereignty of the philosopher. It 
would only justify the philosopher as the first lawgiver, not as the 
permanent ruler, especially since none of the later rulers must 
introduce any change. For a full justification of the demand 
that the philosophers should rule, we must therefore proceed to 
analyse the tasks connected with the city's preservation. 

We know from Plato's sociological theories that the state, 
once established, will continue to be stable as long as there is 
no split in the unity of the master class. The bringing up of 
that class is, therefore, the great preserving function of the 
sovereign, and a function which must continue as long as the 
state exists. How far does it justify the demand that a philosopher 
must rule? To answer this question, we distinguish again, 
within ;~ this function, between two different activities : the 
supervision of education, and the supervision of breeding. 

Why should the director of education be a philosopher? 
Why is it not sufficient, once the state and its educational system 
are established, to put an experienced general, a soldier-king, in 
charge of it ? The answer that the educational system must 
provide not only soldiers but philosophers, and therefore needs 
philosophers as well as soldiers as supervisors, is obviously 
unsatisfactory ; for if no philosophers were needed as directors of 
education and rulers, then there would be no need for the 
educational system to produce new ones.. The requirements of 
the educational system cannot as such justify the need for 
philosophers in Plato's state, or the postulate that the rulers must 
be philosophers. This would be different, of course, if Plato's 
education had an individualistic aim, apart from its aim to serve 
the interest of the state, namely, the aim to develop philosophical 
faculties for their own sake. But when we see, as we did in the 
last chapters, how frightened Plato was of permitting anything 
like independent thought, then we realize that this cannot be the 
explanation. And this impression is strengthened if we remember 
chapter 4, where we have seen that Plato also demanded restric- 


which Plato attaches to a philosophical education of the rulers 
must be explained by other reasons which are purely political. 

The main reason I can see is the need for increasing to the 
utmost the authority of the rulers. If the education of the 
auxiliaries functions properly, there will be plenty of good 
soldiers. Outstanding military faculties may therefore be insuffi- 
cient to establish an unchallenged and unchallengeable authority. 
This must be based on higher claims. Plato bases it upon the 
claims of supernatural, mystical powers which he develops in his 
leaders. They are not like other men. They belong to another 
world, they communicate with the divine. Thus the philosopher 
king seems to be, partly, a copy of a tribal priest-king, an institu- 
tion which we have mentioned in connection with Heraclitus. 
(The institution of tribal priest-kings or medicine-men or shamans 
seems also to have influenced the old Pythagorean sect, with 
their amazingly naive tribal taboos. Most of these had apparently 
been dropped even before Plato. But the claim to a super- 
natural basis of their authority remained.) Thus Plato's 
philosophical education has a definite political function. Itjrtamps 
the_rulers ? and it establishes a barrier between the rulers and the rulecL 
(This has remained a major function of c higher ' education down 
to our own time.) Platonic wisdom is acquired largely for the 
sake of establishing a permanent political class rule. It can be 
describee! as political * medicine ', giving mystic powers to its 
possessors, the medicine-men.^ 4 . 

But this cannot be the full answer to our question of the 
functions of the philosopher in the state. It means, rather, that 
the question why a philosopher is needed has only been shifted, 
and that we would have now to raise the analogous question of 
the practical political functions of the shaman or the medicine- 
man. Plato must have had some definite aim when he devised 
his specialized philosophic training. We must look for a 
permanent function of the ruler, analogous to the temporary 
function of the lawgiver. The only hope of discovering such a 
function seems to be in the field oF Breeding the master race. 

jRacialmn thus takes up a_more central part in Plato's political 
programmen^iTblie ; would ^expect at first sight. Just as the 
Platonic racial or nuptial number is, as we know, the culmination 
of his descriptive sociology, * the setting in which Plato's Philo- 
sophy of History is framed ' (Adam), so it is the setting of Plato's 
practical demand for the sovereignty of the philosophers. After 
what has been said in chapter 4 about the nomadic background 


of Plato's state, it is perhaps not so unexpected to find that his 
king is a breeder king. But it may perhaps surprise some that 
his philosopher turns out to be a philosophic breeder. The need 
for scientific, tor mathematico-dialectical and philosophical 
breeding is not the least of the arguments behind the claim for 
the sovereignty of the philosophers. . 

It has been shown in chapter 4 how the problem of obtaining 
a pure breed of human watch-dogs is emphasized and elaborated 
in the earlier parts of the Republic. But so far we have not met 
with any reason why only a genuine and fully qualified philo- 
sopher should be a proficient and successful political breeder. 
And yet, as every breeder of dogs or horses or birds knows, 
rational breeding is impossible without a pattern, an aim to guide 
him in his efforts, an ideal which he may try to approach by the 
methods of mating and of selecting. Without such a standard, 
he could never decide which offspring is * good enough ' ; he 
could never speak of the difference between ' good offspring ' 
and * bad offspring '. But this standard corresponds exactly to 
a Platonic Idea of the race which he intends to breed. 

Just as only the true philosopher, the dialectician, can see, 
according to Plato, the divine original of the city, so it is only 
the dialectician who can see that other divine original the Form 
or Idea of Man. Only he is capable of copying this model, of 
calling it down from Heaven to Earth 35 , and of realizing it here. 
It is a kingly Idea, this Idea of Man. It does not, as some have 
thought, represent what is common to all men ; it is not the 
universal concept ' man '. It is, rather, the godlike original of 
man, an unchanging superman ; it is a super-Greek, and a 
super-master. The philosopher must try to realize on earth 
what .Plato describeTas the race of 1 the most constant, the most 
virile, and, within the limits of possibilities, the most beautifully 
formed men . . : nobly born, and of awe-inspiring character ' 36 . 
It is to be a race of men and women who are c godlike if not 
divine . . sculptured in perfect beauty ' 37 a lordly race, 
destined by nature to kingship and mastery. 

We see that the two fundamental functions of the philosopher 
king are analogous : he has to copy the divine original of the city, 
and he has to copy the divine original of man. He is the only 
one who is able, and who has the urge, ' to realize, in the individual 
as well as in the city, his heavenly vision ' 38 . 

Now we can understand why Plato drops his first hint that a 
more than ordinary excellence is needed in his rulers at the same 


place where he first claims that the principles of animal breeding 
must be applied to the race of men. We are, he says, most 
careful in breeding animals. ' If you did not breed them in this 
way, don't you think that the race of your birds or your dogs 
would quickly degenerate ? ' When inferring from this that man 
must be bred in the same careful wa)y/ Socrates ' exclaims : 
c Good heavens ! . . What surpassing excellence we shall have 
to demand from our rulers, if the same principles apply to the 
race of men ! ' z9 This exclamation is significant ; it is one of 
the first hints that the rulers may constitute a class of * surpassing 
excellence ' with status and training of their own ; and it thus 
prepares us for the demand that they ought to be philosophers. 
But the passage is even more significant in so far as it directly 
leads to Plato's demand that it must be the duty of the rulers, 
as doctors of the race of men, to administer lies and deception. 
Lies are necessary, Plato maintains, ' if your herd is to reach 
highest perfection ' ; for this needs ' arrangements that must 
be kept secret from all but the rulers, if we wish to keep the herd 
of guardians really free from disunion '. Indeed, the appeal 
(quoted above) to the rulers for more courage in administering 
lies as a medicine, is made in this connection ; it prepares the 
reader for the next demand, considered by Plato as particularly 
important. He wishes 40 that the rulers should fabricate, for 
the purpose of mating the young auxiliaries, ' an ingenious system 
of balloting, so that the persons who have been disappointed . . 
may blame their bad luck, and not the rulers ', who are, secretly, 
to engineer the ballot. And immediately after this despicable 
advice for dodging the admission of responsibility (by putting 
it into the mouth of Socrates, Plato libels his great teacher), 
' Socrates ' makes a suggestion 41 which is soon taken up and 
elaborated by Glaucon and which we may therefore call the 
Glauconic Edict. I mean the brutal law which imposes on every- 
body of either sex the duty of submitting, for the duration of a 
war, to the wishes of the brave : 4a * As long as the war lasts, . . 
nobody may say " No " to him. Accordingly, if a soldier wishes 
to make love to anybody, whether male or female, this law will 
make him more eager to carry off the price of valour.' The 
state, it is carefully pointed out, will thereby obtain two distinct 
benefits : more heroes, owing to the incitement, and again more 
heroes, owing to the increasing number of children from heroes. 
(The latter benefit, as the most important from the point of view 
of a long-term racial policy, is put into the mouth of * Socrates '.) 


No special philosophical training is required for this kind of 
breeding. Philosophical breeding, however, plays its main part 
in counteracting the dangers of degeneration. In order to fight 
these dangers, a fully qualified philosopher is needed, i.e. one 
who is trained in pure mathematics (including solid geometry), 
pure astronomy, pure harmonics, and, the crowning achievement 
of all, in dialectics. Only he who knows the secrets of mathe- 
matical eugenics, of the Platonic Number, can bring back to 
man, and preserve for him, the happiness enjoyed before the 
Fall 43 . All this should be borne in mind when, after the 
announcement of the Glauconic Edict (and after an interlude 
dealing with the natural distinction between Greeks and 
Barbarians, corresponding, according to Plato, to that between 
masters and slaves), the doctrine is enunciated which Plato 
carefully marks as his central and most sensational political 
demand the sovereignty of the philosopher king. This demand 
alone, he teaches, can put an end to the evils of social life ; to 
the evil rampant in states, i.e. political instability, as well as to its 
more hidden cause, the evil rampant in the members of the race ' 
of men, i.e. racial degeneration. This is the passage : 

c Well ', says Socrates, ' I am now about to dive into that topic 
which I compared before to the greatest wave of all. Yet speak 
out I must, although I foresee that this will bring upon me a 
deluge of laughter. Indeed, I can see it now, this very wave, 
breaking over my head into an uproar of laughter and defama- 
tion . . .' ' Out with the story ! ' says Glaucon. * Unless ', says 
Socrates, c unless, in the cities, philosophers are invested with 
the might of kings, or those now called kings and oligarchs 
become genuine and fully qualified philosophers, and unless these 
two, political might and philosophy, are merged (while the many 
who nowadays follow their natural inclination for one, but only 
for one of these two, are suppressed by force), unless this happens, 
my dear Glaucon, there will be no respite, and evils will not cease 
to be rampant in the cities nor, I believe, in the race of men.' 44 
(To which Kant wisely replied : ' That kings should become 
philosophers, or philosophers kings, is not likely to happen ; 
nor would it be desirable, since the possession of power invari- 
ably debases the free judgement of reason. It is, however, indis- 
pensable that a king, or a kingly, i.e. self-ruling people, should 
not suppress philosophers but leave them the right of public 
utterance.' 45 ) 

The last words of this Platonic passage, which has been quite 


appropriately described as the key to the whole work, ' nor, I 
believe, in the race of men ', are, I think, an afterthought of 
comparatively minor importance in this place. It is, however, 
necessary to comment upon them, since the idealization of Plato 
has led to the interpretation 46 that Plato speaks here about 
* humanity ', extending his promise of salvation from the scope 
of the cities to that of * mankind as a whole '. It must be said, 
in this connection, that the ethical category of * humanity ' as 
something that transcends the distinction of nations, races, and 
classes, is entirely foreign to Plato. In fact, we have sufficient 
evidence of Plato's hostility towards the equalitarian creed, a 
hostility which is seen in his attitude towards Antisthenes 47 , 
an old disciple and friend of Socrates. Antisthenes also belonged 
to the school of Gorgias, like Alcidamas and Lycophron, whose 
equalitarian theories he seems to have extended into the doctrine 
of the brotherhood of all men, and of the universal empire of 
men. 48 This creed is attacked in the Republic by correlating the 
natural inequality of Greeks and Barbarians to that of masters 
and slaves 49 ; and it so happens that this attack is launched 
immediately before the key-passage we are here considering. For 
these and other reasons 50 , it seems safe t8 assume that Plato, 
when speaking of the evils rampant in the race of men, alluded to 
a theory with which his readers would be sufficiently acquainted 
at this place, namely, to his theory that the welfare of the state 
depends, ultimately, upon the ' nature ' of the individual members 
of the ruling class ; and that their nature, and the nature of their 
race, or offspring, is threatened, in turn, by the evils of an indivi-' 
dualistic education, and, more important still, by racial degenera- 
tion. The remark is thus an allusion which foreshadows also 
the story of the Number and the Fall of Man 61 . 

It is very appropriate that Plato should allude to his racialism 
in the enunciation of his most important political demand. For 
without the * genuine and fully qualified philosopher ', trained 
in all those sciences which are prerequisite to eugenics, the state 
is lost. In his story of the Number and the Fall of Man, Plato 
tells us that one of the first and fatal sins of omission committed 
by the degenerate guardians will be their loss of interest in 
eugenics, in watching and testing the purity of the race : c Hence 
rulers will be ordained who are altogether unfit for their task as 
guardians ; namely, to watch, and to test, the metals in the races 
(which are Hesiod's races as well as yours), gold and silver and 
bronze and iron.' 62 


It is ignorance of the mysterious nuptial Number which leads 
to all that. But the Number was undoubtedly Plato's own 
invention. (It presupposes pure harmonics which in turn 
presuppose solid geometry, a new science at the time when the 
Republic was written.) Thus we see that nobody but Plato him- 
self held the key to true guardianship. But this can mean only 
one thing. The philosopher king is Plato himself, and the 
Republic is Plato's own claim for kingly power. 

Once this conclusion has been reached, many things which 
otherwise would remain unrelated become connected and clear. 
It can hardly be doubted, for instance, that Plato's work, full of 
allusions as it is to contemporary problems and characters, was 
meant by its author not so much as a theoretical treatise, but as a 
topical political manifesto. ' We do Plato the gravest of wrongs ', 
says A. E. Taylor, ' if we forget that the Republic is no mere 
collection of theoretical discussions about government . . but a 
serious project of practical reform put forward by an Athenian 
. . , set on fire, like Shelley, with a " passion for reforming the 
world 'V 53 This is undoubtedly true, and we could have 
concluded from this consideration alone that in his portrait of 
the Philosopher King, Plato must have had some contemporary 
in mind. But in the days when the Republic was written, there 
were in Athens only three outstanding men who might have 
claimed to be philosophers : Antisthenes, Isocrates, and Plato 
himself. If we approach the Republic with this in mind, we find 
at once that there is a lengthy passage, in the discussion of the 
characteristics of the philosopher king, which is clearly marked 
out by Plato as containing personal allusions. It begins 54 with 
an unmistakable reference to a popular character, namely 
Alcibiades, and ends by openly mentioning a name (that of 
Theages), and with a reference of ' Socrates ' to himself 55 . Its 
upshot is that only very few can be described as true philosophers, 
eligible for the post of philosopher king. The nobly born 
Alcibiades who was of the right type, deserted philosophy, in 
spite of Socrates' attempts to save him. Deserted and defenceless, 
philosophy was claimed by unworthy suitors. Ultimately, c there 
is left only a handful of men who are worthy of being associated 
with philosophy '. From the point of view we have reached, 
we would have to expect that the e unworthy suitors ' "are 
Antisthenes and Isocrates and their school (and that they are 
the same people whom Plato demands to have ' suppressed by 
force', as he says in the key-passage of the philosopher king). 


And, indeed, there is some independent evidence corroborating 
this expectation 56 . Similarly, we should expect that the c handful 
of men who are worthy ' includes Plato and his friends, and, indeed, 
a continuation of this passage leaves little doubt that Plato 
speaks here of himself : ' Those who belong to this small band . . 
can all see the madness of the many, and the general corruption 
of all political affairs. The philosopher . . is like a man in a 
cage of wild beasts. He will not share the injustice of the many, 
but his power does not suffice for continuing his fight alone, 
surrounded as he is by a world of savages. He would be killed 
before he could do any good, to his city or his friends. . . Having 
duly considered all these points, he will hold his peace, and 
confine his efforts to his own work . .' 57 . The strong resent- 
ment expressed in these sour and most un-Socratic 58 words 
marks them clearly as Plato's own. For a full appreciation, 
however, of this personal confession, it must be compared with 
the following : * It is not in accordance with nature that the 
skilled navigator should beg the unskilled sailors to accept his 
command ; nor, that the wise man should wait at the doors of 
the rich. . . But the true and natural procedure is that the 
sick, whether rich or poor, should hasten to the doctor's door. 
Likewise should those who need to be ruled besiege the door of 
him who can rule ; and never should a ruler beg them to accept 
his rule, if he is any good at all.' 59 Who can miss the sound of 
an immense personal pride in this passage ? Here am I, says 
Plato, your natural ruler, the philosopher king who knows how 
to rule. If you want me, you must come to me, and if you 
insist, I may become your ruler. But I shall not come begging 
to you. 

Did he believe that they would come ? Like many great 
works of literature, the Republic shows traces that its author 
experienced exhilarating and extravagant hopes of success, 
alternating with periods of despair. Sometimes, at least, Plato 
hoped that they would come ; that the success of his work, the 
fame of his wisdom, would bring them along. Then again, he 
felt that they would only be incited to furious attacks ; that all 
he would bring upon himself was c a wave of laughter and 
defamation ' perhaps even death. 

Was he ambitious? He was reaching for the stars for 
god-likeness. I sometimes wonder whether part of the enthusiasm 
for Plato is not due to the fact that he gave expression to many 
secret dreams 80 . Even where he argues against ambition, we 


cannot but feel that he is inspired by it. The philosopher, he 
assures us 61 , is not ambitious ; although c destined to rule, he 
is the least eager for it '. But the reason given is that his status 
is too high. He who has had communion with the divine may 
descend from his heights to the mortals below, sacrificing himself 
for the sake of the interest of the state. But as a natural ruler 
he is ready to come. The poor mortals need him. Without 
him the state must perish, for only he knows the secret of arresting 
degeneration. . . 

I think we must face the fact that behind the sovereignty of 
the philosopher king stands the quest for power. The beautiful 
portrait of the sovereign is a self-portrait. When we have 
recovered from the shock of this revelation, we may look anew 
at the awe-inspiring portrait, and if we can fortify ourselves with 
a small dose of Socrates' irony, then we may cease to find it 
so terrifying. We may begin to discern its human, indeed, its 
only too human features. We may even begin to feel a little 
sorry for Plato who had to be satisfied with establishing the first 
professorship, instead of the first kingship, of philosophy ; who 
could never realize his dream, the kingly Idea which he had 
formed after his own image. Fortified by our dose of irony, we 
may even find, in Plato's story, a melancholy resemblance to 
that innocent little satire on Platonism, the story of the Ugly 
Dachshund, of Tono, the Great Dane, who forms his kingly Idea 
of c Great Dog ' after his own image (but happily finds in the 
end that he is Great Dog himself) 62 . 

What a monument of human smallness is this idea of the 
philosopher king. How far removed it is from the simple 
humaneness of Socrates, from the Socratic demand that the 
responsible statesman should not be dazzled by his own excellence, 
power, or wisdom, but that he should know what matters most : 
that we are all frail human beings. What a distance from this 
world of irony and truthfulness and reason, to Plato's kingdom 
of the sage, whose magical powers raise him high above ordinary 
men ; but not high enough to forgo the use of lies, nor to neglect 
the sorry game of all shamans, the sale of taboos of breeding 
taboos for power over his fellow-men., 


Inherent in Plato's programme there is a certain approach 
towards politics which is, I believe, most dangerous. Its analysis 
is of great practical importance from the point of view of rational 
social engineering. The Platonic approach I have in mind can 
be called Utopian engineering, as opposed to that kind of social 
engineering which alone I consider as rational, and which may 
be described by the name of piecemeal engineering. The Utopian 
approach is the more dangerous as it may seem to be the obvious 
alternative to a radical historicism which implies that we cannot 
alter the course of history ; at the same time, it appears to be a 
necessary complement to a less radical historicism, like that of 
Plato, which permits human interference. 

The Utopian approach may be described as follows. Any 
rational action must have a certain aim. It is rational in the 
same degree as it pursues its aim consciously and consistently, 
and as it determines its means according to this end. To choose 
the end is therefore the first thing we have to do if we wish to act 
rationally ; and we must be careful to determine our real or 
ultimate ends, from which we must distinguish clearly those 
intermediate or partial ends which actually are only means, or 
steps on the way, to the ultimate end. If we neglect this dis- 
tinction, then we must also neglect to ask whether these partial 
ends are likely to promote the ultimate end, and accordingly, 
we must fail to act rationally. These principles, if applied to the 
realm of political activity, demand that we must determine our 
ultimate political aim, or the Ideal State, before taking any 
practical action. Only when this ultimate aim is determined, 
in rough outlines at least, only when we are in the possession of 
something like a blueprint of the society at which we aim, only 
then can we begin to consider the best ways and means of its 
realization, and to draw up a plan for practical action. These 
are the necessary preliminaries of any practical political move 
that can be called rational, and especially of social engineering. 

This is, in brief, the methodological approach which I call 
Utopian engineering 1 . It is convincing and attractive. In fact, 
it is just the kind of methodological approach to attract all those 
who are either unaffected by historicist prejudices or reacting 



against them. This makes it only the more dangerous, and its 
criticism the more imperative. 

Before proceeding to criticize Utopian engineering in detail, I 
wish to outline another approach to social engineering, namely, 
that of piecemeal engineering. It is the approach which I think 
to be methodologically sound. The politician who adopts this 
method may or may not have a blueprint of society before his 
mind, he may or may not hope that mankind will one day 
realize an ideal state, and achieve happiness and perfection on 
earth. But he will be aware that perfection, if at all attainable, 
is far distant, and that every generation of men, and therefore 
also the living, have a claim ; perhaps not so much a claim to be 
made happy, for there are no institutional means of making a 
man happy, but a claim not to be made unhappy, where it can 
be avoided. They have a claim to be given all possible help, if 
they suffer. The piecemeal engineer will, accordingly, adopt 
the method of searching for, and fighting against, the greatest 
and most urgent evils of society, rather than searching for, and 
fighting for, its greatest ultimate good 2 . This difference is far 
from being merely verbal. In fact, it is most important. It is 
the difference between a reasonable method of improving the 
lot of man, and a method which, if really tried, may easily lead to 
an intolerable increase in human suffering. It is the difference 
between a method which can be applied at any moment, and a 
method whose advocacy may easily become a means of continually 
postponing action until a later date, when conditions are more 
favourable. And it is also the difference between the only 
method of improving matters which has so far been really success- 
ful, at any time, and in any place (Russia included, as will be 
seen) and a method which, wherever it has been tried, has led 
only to the use of violence in place of reason, and if not to its 
own abandonment, at any rate to that of its original blueprint. 

In favour of his method, the piecemeal engineer can claim that 
a systematic fight against suffering and injustice and war is more 
likely to be supported by the approval and agreement of a great 
number of people than the fight for the establishment of some 
ideal. The existence of social evils, that is to say, of social 
conditions under which many men were suffering, can be 
comparatively well established. Those who suffer can judge for 
themselves, and the others can hardly deny that they would not 
like to change places. It is infinitely more difficult to reason 
about an ideal society. Social life is so complicated that few 


men, or none at all, could judge a blueprint for social engineering 
on the grand scale ; whether it be practicable ; whether it 
would result in a real improvement ; what kind of suffering it 
may involve ; and what may be the means for its realization. 
As opposed to this, blueprints for piecemeal engineering are 
comparatively simple. They are blueprints for single institutions, 
for health and unemployed insurance, for instance, or arbitration 
courts, or anti-depression budgeting 3 or educational reform. If 
they go wrong, the damage is not very great, and a re-adjustment 
not very difficult. They are less risky, and for this very reason 
less controversial. But if it is easier to reach a reasonable agree- 
ment about existing evils and the means of combating them than 
it is about an ideal good and the means of its realization, then 
there is also more hope that by using the piecemeal method we 
may get over the very greatest practical difficulty of all reasonable 
political reform, namely, the use of reason, instead of passion 
and violence, in executing the programme. There will be a 
possibility of reaching a reasonable compromise and therefore of 
achieving the improvement by democratic methods. ( c Com- 
promise * is an ugly word, but it is important for us to learn its 
proper use. Institutions are inevitably the result of a compromise 
with circumstances, interests, etc., though as persons we should 
resist influences of this kind.) 

As opposed to that, the Utopian attempt to realize an ideal 
state, using a blueprint of society as a whole, is one which demands 
a strong centralized rule of a few, and which therefore is likely 
to lead to a dictatorship 4 . This I consider a criticism of the 
Utopian approach, having shown, in the chapter on the Principle 
of Leadership, that an authoritarian rule is a most objectionable 
form of government. Some points not touched upon in that 
chapter furnish us with even more direct arguments against the 
Utopian approach. One of the difficulties faced by a benevolent 
dictator is to find whether the effects of his measures agree with 
his good intentions. The difficulty arises out of the fact that 
authoritarianism must discourage criticism ; accordingly, the 
benevolent dictator will not easily hear of complaints regarding 
the measures he has taken. But without some such check, he 
can hardly find whether his measures achieve the desired 
benevolent aim. The situation must become even worse for the 
Utopian engineer. The reconstruction of society is a big under- 
taking which must cause considerable inconvenience to many, 
and for a considerable span of time. Accordingly, the Utopian 


engineer will have to be deaf to many complaints ; in fact, it 
will be part of his business to suppress unreasonable objections. 
But with it, he must invariably suppress reasonable criticism also. 
Another difficulty of Utopian engineering is connected with the 
problem of the dictator's successor. In chapter 7 I have 
mentioned certain aspects of this problem. Utopian engineering 
raises a difficulty analogous to but even more serious than that 
which faces the benevolent tyrant who tries to find an equally 
benevolent successor 5 . The very sweep of such a Utopian 
undertaking makes it improbable that it will realize its ends 
during the lifetime of one social engineer, or group of engineers. 
And if the successors do not pursue the same ideal, then all the 
sufferings of the people for the sake of the ideal may be in vain. 

A generalization of this argument leads to a further criticism 
of the Utopian approach. This approach, it is clear, can be of 
practical value only if we assume that the original blueprint, 
perhaps with certain adjustments, remains the basis of the work 
until it is completed. But that will take some time. It will be 
a time of revolutions, both political and spiritual. It is therefore 
to be expected that ideas and ideals will change. What had 
appeared the ideal state to the people who made the original 
blueprint, may not appear so to their successors. If that is 
granted, then the whole approach breaks down. The method of 
first establishing an ultimate political aim and then beginning to 
move towards it is futile if we admit that the aim may be con- 
siderably changed during the process of its realization. It may 
at any moment turn out that the steps so far taken actually lead 
away from the realization of the new aim. And if we change 
our direction according to the new aim, then we expose ourselves 
to the same risk again. In spite of all the sacrifices made, we 
may never get anywhere at all. Those who prefer one step 
towards a distant ideal to the realization of a piecemeal com- 
promise should always remember that if the ideal is very distant, 
it becomes difficult to say whether the step taken was towards 
or away from it. This is especially so if the course should proceed 
by zigzag steps, or, in Hegel's jargon, ' dialectically ', or if it is 
not clearly planned at all. (This bears upon the old and some- 
what childish question of how far the end can justify the means. 
Apart from claiming that no end could ever justify all means, I 
think that a fairly concrete and realizable end may justify 
temporary measures as a more distant ideal never could 8 .) 

We see now that the Utopian approach can be saved only by 


the Platonic belief in one absolute and unchanging ideal, together 
with two further assumptions, namely (a) that there are rational 
methods to determine once and for ever what this ideal is, and 
(b) what the best means of its realization are. Only such far- 
reaching assumptions could prevent us from declaring the 
Utopian methodology to be utterly futile. But even Plato him- 
self and the most ardent Platonists would admit that (a) is certainly 
not true ; that there is no rational method for determining the 
ultimate aim, but, if anything, only some kind of intuition. Any 
difference of opinion between Utopian engineers must therefore 
lead, in the absence of rational methods, to the use of power 
instead of reason, i.e. to violence. If any progress in any definite 
direction is made at all, then it is made in spite of the method 
adopted, not because of it. The success may be due, for instance, 
to the excellence of the leaders ; but we must never forget that 
excellent leaders cannot be produced by rational methods, but 
only by luck. 

It is important to understand this criticism properly ; I do not 
criticize the ideal by claiming that an ideal can never be realized, 
that it must always remain a Utopia. This would not be a valid 
criticism, for many things have been realized which have once 
been dogmatically declared to be unrealizable, for instance, the 
establishment of institutions for securing civil peace, i.e. for the 
prevention of crime within the state ; and I think that, for instance, 
the establishment of corresponding institutions for the prevention 
of international crime, i.e. armed aggression or blackmail, though 
often branded as Utopian, is not even a very difficult problem 7 . 
What I criticize under the name Utopian engineering recommends 
the reconstruction of society as a whole, i.e. very sweeping changes 
whose practical consequences are hard to calculate, owing to 
our limited experiences. It claims to plan rationally for the 
whole of society, although we do not possess anything like the 
factual knowledge which would be necessary to make good such 
an ambitious claim. We cannot possess such knowledge since we 
have insufficient practical experience in this kind of planning, and 
knowledge of facts must be based upon experience. At present, 
the sociological knowledge necessary for large-scale engineering 
is simply non-existent. 

In view of this criticism, the Utopian engineer is likely to 
grant the need for practical experience, and for a social technology 
based upon practical experiences. But he will argue that we 
shall never know more about these matters if we recoil from 


making social experiments which alone can furnish us with the 
practical experience needed. And he might add that Utopian 
engineering is nothing but the application of the experimental 
method to society. Experiments cannot be carried out without 
involving sweeping changes. They must be on a large scale, 
owing to the peculiar character of modern society with its great 
masses of people. An experiment in socialism, for instance, if 
confined to a factory, or to a village, or even to a district, would 
never give us the kind of realistic information most urgently 

Such arguments in favour of Utopian engineering exhibit a 
prejudice which is as widely held as it is untenable, namely, the 
prejudice that social experiments must be on a * large scale ', that 
they must involve the whole of society if they are to be carried 
out under realistic conditions. But piecemeal social experiments 
can be carried out under realistic conditions, in the midst of 
society, in spite of being on a * small scale ', that is to say, without 
revolutionizing the whole of society. In fact, we are making such 
experiments all the time. The introduction of a new kind of 
life-insurance, of a new kind of taxation, of a new penal reform J 
are all social experiments which have their repercussions through 
the whole of society without remodelling society as a whole. 
Even a man who opens a new shop, or who reserves a ticket for the 
theatre, is carrying out a kind of social experiment on a small 
scale ; and all our knowledge of social conditions is based on 
experience gained by making experiments of this kind. The 
Utopian engineer we are combating is right when he stresses that 
an experiment in socialism would be of little value if carried out 
under laboratory conditions, for instance, in an isolated village, 
since what we want to know is how things work out in society 
under normal social conditions. But this very example shows 
where the prejudice of the Utopian engineer lies. He is con- 
vinced that we must recast the whole structure of society, when we 
experiment with it ; and he can therefore conceive a more 
modest experiment only as one that recasts the whole structure of 
a small society. But the kind of experiment from which we can 
learn most is the alteration of one social institution at a time. 
For only in this way can we learn how to fit institutions into the 
framework of other institutions, and how to adjust them so that 
they work according to our intentions. And only in this way 
can we make mistakes, and learn from our mistakes, without 
risking repercussions of a gravity that must endanger the will to 


future reforms. Furthermore, the Utopian method must lead to 
a dangerous dogmatic attachment to a blueprint for which count- 
less sacrifices have been made. Powerful interests must become 
linked up with the success of the experiment. All this does not 
contribute to the rationality, or to the scientific value, of the 
experiment. But the piecemeal method permits repeated experi- 
ments and continuous readjustments. (In fact, it might lead to 
the happy situation where politicians begin to look out for their 
own mistakes instead of trying to explain them away and to 
prove that they have always been right. This would mean the 
introduction of scientific method into politics, since the whole 
secret of scientific method is a readiness to learn from mistakes 8 .) 

These views can be corroborated, I believe, by comparing 
social and, for instance, mechanical engineering. The Utopian 
engineer will of course claim that the mechanical engineer plans 
even very complicated machinery as a whole, and that his blue- 
prints may cover, and plan beforehand, not only a certain kind 
of machinery, but even the whole factory which produces this 
machinery. My reply would be that he can do all this because 
he has sufficient experience, i.e. because he has made all kinds of 
mistakes already. This experience he has gained by applying a 
piecemeal method. His new machinery is the result of a great 
many small improvements. He has had a model first, and only 
after a great number of piecemeal adjustments to its various parts 
did he proceed to a stage where he could draw up his final plans 
for the production. Similarly, his plan for the production of his 
machine incorporates a great number of experiences, namely, of 
piecemeal improvements made in older factories. The whole- 
sale or large-scale method works only where the piecemeal method 
has first furnished us with a great number of detailed experiences, 
and even then only within the realm of these experiences. No 
manufacturer will proceed to the production of a new engine on 
the basis of a blueprint alone, even if it were drawn up by the 
greatest expert, without first making a model and ' developing ' 
it by little adjustments as far as possible. 

It is perhaps useful to contrast this criticism of Platonic 
Idealism in politics with Marx's criticism of what he called 
* Utopianism '. What is common to Marx's criticism and mine 
is that both demand more realism. But there are many 
differences. In arguing against Utopianism, Marx condemns 
all social engineering. He denounces the hope in a rational 
planning of social institutions as altogether unrealistic, since 


society must grow according to the laws of history and not 
according to our rational plans. All we can do, he maintains, 
is to lessen the birthpangs of the historical processes. In other 
words, he opposes a radical historicism to all social engineering. 
But there is one element within Utopianism, characteristic, for 
instance, of Plato's approach, which Marx does not oppose, 
although it is one of the elements which I have attacked as 
unrealistic. This is its sweep, its attempt to deal with society as 
a whole ; for he expects that history will bring us a revolution 
which will completely re-model the whole ' social system '. 

This sweep, this radicalism of the Platonic approach (and of 
the Marxian as well) is, I believe, connected with its aestheticism, 
i.e. with the desire to build a world which is not only a little 
better and more rational than ours, but which is free from all its 
ugliness : not a crazy quilt, an old garment badly patched, but 
an entirely new coat, a really beautiful new world. This 
aestheticism is a very understandable attitude ; in fact, I believe 
most of us suffer from it a little (some reasons why we do so may 
emerge from the next chapter). But this aesthetic enthusiasm 
becomes valuable only if it is bridled by reason, by a feeling of 
responsibility, and by a humanitarian urge to help. Otherwise 
it is a dangerous enthusiasm, liable to develop into a form of 
neurosis or hysteria. 

Nowhere do we find this aestheticism more strongly expressed 
than in Plato. Plato was an artist ; and like many of the best 
artists, he tried to visualize a model, the divine original of his 
work, and to copy it faithfully 9 . A good number of the quotations 
given in the last chapter illustrate this point. What Plato 
describes as dialectics is, in the main, the intellectual intuition of 
the world of pure beauty. His trained philosophers are men 
who * have seen the truth of what is beautiful and just, and 
good ' 10 , and can bring it down from heaven to earth. Politics, 
to Plato, is an art not in a metaphorical sense in which we may 
speak about the art of treating men, or the art of getting things 
done, but in a more literal sense of the word. It is an art of 
composition, like music, painting, or architecture. The Platonic 
politician composes cities, for beauty's sake. 

But here I must protest. I do not bdieve that human lives 
may be made the means for satisfying an artist's desire for self- 
expression. We must demand, rather, that every man should be 
given, if he wishes, the right to model his life himself, as far as 
this does not interfere too much with others. Much as I may 


sympathize with the aesthetic impulse, I suggest that the artist 
might seek expression in another material. Politics, we demand, 
must uphold equalitarian and individualistic principles ; dreams of 
beauty have to submit to the necessity of helping men in distress, 
and men who suffer injustice ; and to the necessity of con- 
structing institutions to serve such purposes ". 

It is interesting to observe the close relationship between 
Plato's radicalism, the demand for sweeping measures, and his 
aestheticism. The following passages are most characteristic. 
Plato, speaking about * the philosopher who has communion with 
the divine ' 12 , mentions first that he will be * overwhelmed by the 
urge . . to realize his heavenly vision in individuals as well as 
in the city ', a city which ' will never know happiness unless its 
draughtsmen arc artists who have the divine as their model '. 
Asked about the details of their draughtsmenship, Plato's 
' Socrates ' gives the following striking reply : c They will take as 
their canvas a city and the characters of men, and they will, first 
of all, make their canvas clean by no means an easy matter. But 
this is just the point, you know, where they will differ from all 
others. They will not start work on a city nor on an individual 
(nor will they draw up laws) unless they are given a clean canvas, 
or have cleaned it themselves.' 

The artist-politician has first to make his canvas clean, to 
destroy existing institutions, to purify, to purge. This is an 
excellent description of all political radicalism, of the sestheticist's 
refusal to compromise. The view that society should be beautiful 
like a work of art leads only too easily to violent measures. And all 
this radicalism and violence is both unrealistic and futile. (This 
has been shown by the example of Russia's development. After 
the economic breakdown to which the canvas cleaning of the so- 
called ' war communism ' had led, Lenin introduced his so-called 
* New Economic Policy ', in fact a kind of piecemeal engineering, 
though without the conscious formulation of its principles or of a 
technology. He started by restoring most of the features of the 
picture which had been eradicated with so much human suffering. 
Money, markets, differentiation of income, and private property 
for a time even private enterprise in production were 
reintroduced, and only after this basis was re-established began a 
new period of reform 13 .) 

In order to criticize the foundations of Plato's aesthetic 
radicalism, we may distinguish two different points. 

(i) A picture painted on a canvas which has to be wiped 


clean before one can paint a new one this is what people have in 
mind nowadays when they speak of our social ' system '. But 
there are some great differences. One of them is that the painter 
and those who co-operate with him as well as the institutions 
which make their life possible, are all part of the social system, 
i.e. of the picture to be wiped out. If they were really to clean 
the canvas, they would have to destroy themselves, and all their 
plans for a new world. (And what follows then would probably 
not be a beautiful copy of a Platonic ideal but chaos.) The 
political artist clamours, like Archimedes, for a place outside the 
social world on which he can take his stand, in order to lever 
it off its hinges. But such a place does not exist ; and the social 
world must continue to function during any reconstruction. This 
is the simple reason why we must reform its institutions little by 
little, until we have more experience in social engineering. 

(2) This leads us to a more important point, to the irration- 
alism which is inherent in radicalism. In all matters, we can 
only learn by trial and error, by making mistakes and improve- 
ments ; we can never rely on inspiration, although inspirations 
may be most valuable as long as they can be checked by experi- 
ence. Accordingly, it is not reasonable to assume that a complete 
reconstruction of our social world would lead at once to a workable system. 
Rather we should expect that, owing to lack of experience, many 
mistakes would be made, which could be only eliminated by a 
long and laborious process of improvement ; in other words, by 
that rational method of piecemeal engineering whose application 
we advocate. But those who dislike this method as insufficiently 
radical would have again to wipe out their freshly constructed 
society, in order to start anew with a clean canvas ; and since 
the new start, for the same reasons, would not lead to perfection 
either, they would have to repeat this process without ever 
reaching anything. Those who admit this and are prepared to 
adopt our more modest method of piecemeal improvements, but 
only after the first canvas cleaning, can hardly escape the criti- 
cism that their first sweeping and violent measures were quite 

Aestheticism and radicalism must lead us to jettison reason, 
and to replace it by 3, desperate hope for political miracles. This 
irrational attitude which springs from an intoxication with 
dreams of a beautiful world is what I call Romanticism 14 . It 
may seek its heavenly city in the past or in the future ; it may 
preach c back to nature ' or c forward to a world of love and 


beauty ' ; but its appeal is always to our emotions rather than to 
reason. Even with the best intentions of realizing heaven on 
earth it only succeeds in realizing hell that hell which man alone 
prepares for his fellows. 



There is still something missing from our analysis. The 
contention that Plato's political programme is purely totalitarian 
and the objections to it raised in chapter 6 have led us to examine 
the role played, within this programme, by such moral ideas as 
Justice, Wisdom, Truth, and Beauty. The result of this examina- 
tion was always the same. We found that the role of these ideas 
is important, but that they do not lead Plato beyond totali- 
tarianism and racialism. But one of these ideas we have still to 
examine : that of Happiness. It may be remembered that we 
quoted Grossman (and Joad) in connection with the belief that 
Plato's political programme is fundamentally a * plan for the 
building of a perfect state in which every citizen is really happy ', 
and that I described this belief as a relic of the tendency to 
idealize Plato. If called upon to justify my opinion, I should 
not have much difficulty in pointing out that Plato's treatment 
of happiness is exactly analogous to his treatment of justice ; and 
especially, that jtjy^ha&ed^up.Qn^ is 

' l^naturc ' divided into classes or castes. (jYue happiness *, 
Plato insists, is achieved only by justice, i.e. by keeping to one's 
place. The ruler must find happiness in ruling, the warrior in 
warring ; and, we may infer, the slave in slaving. Apart from 
that, Plato says frequently that what he is aiming at is neither 
the happiness of individuals nor that of any particular class in 
the state, but only the happiness of the whole, and this, he 
maintains, is nothing but .the outcome of that rule of justice 
which(l have shown to be) totalitarian in character. That only 
this justice can lead to any true happiness is one of the main 
theses of the Republic.) 

In view of all this, it seems to be a consistent and hardly 
refutable interpretation of the material to present Plato as a 
totalitarian party-politician, unsuccessful in his immediate and 
practical undertakings, but in the long run only too successful 2 
in his propaganda for the arrest and overthrow of a civilization 
which he hated. But one has only to formulate this interpretation 
in this blunt fashion in order to feel that there is something amiss 


with it. At any rate, so I felt, when I had formulated it. I felt 
perhaps not so much that it was untrue, but that it was defective. 
I therefore began to search for evidence which would refute this 
interpretation 3 . However, in every point but one, this attempt 
to refute the interpretation was quite unsuccessful. The new 
material made the identity between Platonism and totalitarianism 
only the more manifest. 

The one point in which I felt that my search for a refutation 
had succeeded concerned Plato's hatred of tyranny. Of course, 
there was always the possibility of explaining this away. It 
would have been easy to say that his indictment of tyranny was 
mere propaganda. Totalitarianism always professes a love for 
c true ' freedom, and Plato's praise of freedom as opposed to 
tyranny sounds exactly like this professed love. In spite of this, 
I felt that certain of his observations on tyranny 4 , which will be 
mentioned later in this chapter, were sincere. Of course, the 
fact that * tyranny ' usually meant in Plato's day a form of rule 
based on the support of the masses, would make it possible to 
claim that Plato's hatred was consistent with my original inter- 
pretation. But I felt that this did not remove the need for modify- 
ing the interpretation. I also felt that the mere emphasis on 
Plato's fundamental sincerity was quite insufficient to accomplish 
this modification. No amount of emphasis could offset the 
general impression of the picture. A new picture was needed 
which would hav$ to include Plato's sincere belief in his mission 
as healer of the sick social body, as well as the fact that he had 
seen more clearly than anybody else before or after him what was 
happening to Greek society. Since the attempt to reject the 
identity of Platonism and totalitarianism had not improved the 
picture, I was ultimately forced to modify my interpretation of 
totalitarianism itself. In other words, my attempt to understand 
Plato by analogy with modern totalitarianism led, to my own 
surprise, to a new view of totalitarianism. 

In the light of the interpretation, it appears to me that Plato's 
declaration of his wish to make the state and its citizens happy is 
not merely propaganda. I grant his fundamental benevolence 6 . 
I also grant that he was right, to a limited extent, in the sociological 
analysis on which he based his promise of happiness. To put this 
point more precisely : I believe that Plato, with deep sociological 
insight, found that his contemporaries were suffering under a 
severe strain, and that this strain was due to the social revolution 
which had begun with the rise of democracy and individualism. 


For reasons discussed later in this chapter, I believe that the 
medico-political treatment which he recommended, the arrest of 
change and the return to tribalism, was hopelessly wrong. But 
the recommendation, though not practicable, shows an amazing 
power of diagnosis. Plato knew what was amiss, he understood 
the strain, the unhappiness, under which the people were labour- 
ing, although he erred in his fundamental claim that by leading 
them back to tribalism he could restore their happiness, and 
lessen the strain. 

It is my intention to give in this chapter a brief survey of 
the historical material which induced me to hold such opinions. 
A few remarks on the method adopted, that of historical inter- 
pretation, will be found in the last chapter of the book. It will 
therefore suffice here if I say that I do not claim scientific status 
for this method, since the testing of an interpretation can never 
be as thorough as that of an ordinary hypothesis. The inter- 
pretation is mainly a point of view, whose value lies in its fertility, 
in its power to throw light upon the historical material, to lead 
us to find new material, and to help us to rationalize and to 
unify it. What I am going to say here is therefore not asserted 
dogmatically however boldly I may perhaps sometimes express 
my opinions. 

Our western civilization originated with the Greeks. They 
made jhe step frpijL tribalism Jo humanitarianism. Let us 
consider what that means. 

The early Greek tribal society resembles in many respects 
that of peoples like the Polynesians, the Maoris, for instance. 
Small bands of warriors, usually living in fortified settlements, 
were ruled by tribal chiefs or kings, or by aristocratic families, 
who waged wars against one another on sea as well as on land. 
There were, of course, many differences between the Greek and 
the Polynesian ways of life, for there is, admittedly, no uniformity 
in tribalism. There is no standardized * tribal way of life '. 
It seems to me, however, that there is one distinguishing feature 
which is common to most, if not all, of these tribal societies. 
I mean their magical or irrational attitude towards the customs 
of social life, and the corresponding rigidity of these customs. 

When I speak of the rigidity of tribalism I do not mean that 
no changes can occur in the tribal ways of life. I rather mean 
that the comparatively infrequent changes have the character 


of religious conversions, or of the introduction of new magical 
taboos. They are not based upon a fully rational attempt to 
improve social conditions. Apart from such rare changes, taboos 
rigidly regulate and dominate all aspects of life. They do not 
leave many loop-holes. There are few problems in this form of 
life, and nothing really equivalent to moral problems. I do 
not mean that it does not sometimes need much heroism for a 
member of a tribe to act in accordance with the taboos. What I 
mean is that he will never find himself in the position of doubting 
how he ought to act. The right way is always determined, 
though difficulties must be overcome in following it. It is 
determined by taboos, by magical tribal institutions which can 
never become objects of critical consideration. Not even a 
Heraclitus distinguishes clearly between the institutional laws of 
tribal life and the laws of nature ; both are taken to be of the 
same magical character. Based upon the collective tribal 
tradition, institutions leave no room for personal responsibility. 
The taboos that establish some form of group-responsibility may 
be the forerunner of what we call personal responsibility, but they 
are fundamentally different from it. They are not based upon 
a principle of reasonable accountability, but upon a magical idea 
of appeasing the powers of fate. 

It is well known how much of this still survives. Our own 
ways of life are still beset with taboos, food taboos, taboos of 
politeness, and many others. And yet, there are some important 
differences. In our own way of life there is, between the laws of 
the state on the one hand, and on the other the taboos we habitu- 
ally observe, an ever-widening field of personal decisions, with 
its problems and responsibilities ; and we know the importance 
of this field. Personal decisions may lead to the alteration of 
taboos, and even of political laws which are no longer taboos. 
The great difference is the possibility of rational reflection upon 
these matters. We make rational decisions, that is to say, 
decisions based upon an estimate of their consequences, and upon 
a conscious preference for certain consequences to others. We 
recognize rational personal responsibility. 

In what follows, the magical or tribal or collectivist society 
will also be called the closed society, and the society in which 
individuals are confronted with personal decisions, the open 

The closed society at its best can be justly compared to an 
organism. The so-called organic or biological theory of the 


state is to a certain extent applicable here, since the closed society 
lacks those features of the open society which must defeat every 
attempt to apply this theory. The features I have in mind are 
those connected with the fact that, in the open society, many 
members strive to take the place of other members. This may 
express itself, for instance, in such an important phenomenon as 
class struggle. We cannot find anything like class struggle in an 
organism. The cells or tissues of an organism which are some- 
times said to correspond to the members of a state, may perhaps 
compete for food ; but there is no inherent tendency on the 
part of the legs to become the brain, or of other members of 
the body to become the belly. Since there is nothing in the 
organism to correspond to one of the most important features 
of the open society, competition for status among its members, 
the so-called organic theory of the state is based on a false analogy. 
The closed society, on the other hand, does not know much of such 
tendencies. Its institutions, including its castes, are sacrosanct 
taboo. The organic theory does not fit so badly here. It is 
therefore not surprising to find that most attempts to apply the 
organic theory to our society are veiled forms of propaganda for 
a return to tribalism 7 . 

Thus when we say that our western civilization comes from 
the Greeks, we ought to be clear what that means. It means 
that the Greek began that greatest of all revolutions, a revolution 
which started just yesterday, as it were, for we are still in 
its initial stage the transition from the closed to the open 

Of course, this revolution was not made consciously. The 
breakdown of tribalism may be traced back to the time when 
population growth began to make itself felt among the ruling 
class of landed proprietors. This meant the end of ' organic ' 
tribalism. For it created social tension within the closed society 
of the ruling class. At first, there appeared to be something 
like an ' organic ' solution of this problem, the creation of daughter 
cities. The character of this solution is shown by the magical 
procedure in the sending out of colonists. But this ritual of 
colonization only postponed the breakdown. It even created 
new danger spots wherever it led to cultural contacts ; and 
these, in turn, created the worst danger, commerce, and a new 
class engaged in trade and seafaring. By the sixth century B.C., 
this development had led to the partial dissolution of the old 
ways of life, and even to a series of political revolutions and 
O.S.I.E. VOL. i F 


reactions. And it had led not only to attempts to retain and to 
arrest tribalism by force, as in Sparta, but also to that great 
spiritual revolution, the invention of thought that was free 
from magical obsessions. At the same time we find the first 
symptoms of a new uneasiness. The strain of civilization was 
beginning to be felt. 

This strain, or uneasiness, is a direct consequence of the shock 
due to the breakdown of the closed society ; a shock which I do 
not doubt has not been forgotten even in our day. It is the strain 
of the demand that we should be rational, look after ourselves, 
and take immense responsibilities. It is the price we have to 
pay for being human. 

The strain is most closely related to the problem of the 
tension between the classes which is raised for the first time by 
the breakdown of the closed society. The closed society itself 
does not know this problem. At least to its ruling members, 
slavery, caste, and class rule are * natural ' in the sense of being 
unquestionable. But with the breakdown of the closed society, 
this certainty disappears, and with it all feeling of security. The 
tribal community, the * city ', is the place of security for the 
member of the tribe. Surrounded by enemies and by dangerous 
or even hostile magical forces, he experiences the tribal community 
as a child experiences his family and his home, in which he 
plays his definite part ; a part he knows well, and plays well. 
The breakdown of the closed society and the opening up of 
the problems of class and other problems of status must have the 
same effect upon the citizens as a serious family quarrel and the 
breaking up of the family home must have on children 8 . Of 
course, this kind of strain must be felt by the privileged classes, 
now that they are threatened, more strongly than by those who 
had formerly been suppressed ; but even the latter felt uneasy. 
They also were frightened by the breakdown of their c natural ' 
world. And though they continued to fight their struggle, they 
were often reluctant to exploit their victories over their class 
enemies, who had tradition, the status quo, a higher level of educa- 
tion, and the feeling of natural authority, on their side. 

In this light we must try to understand the history of Sparta 
which had arrested these developments, and of Athens, the leading 

Perhaps the most powerful cause of the breakdown of the 
closed society is the development of sea-communications and 
commerce. Close contact with other tribes is liable to undermine 


the feeling of necessity with which tribal institutions are viewed ; 
and trade, commercial initiative, appears to be one of the few 
forms in which individual initiative 9 and independence can 
assert itself, even in a society in which tribalism still prevails. 
These two, seafaring and commerce, were the outstanding 
features of Athenian imperialism, as it developed in the fifth 
century B.C. And indeed they were recognized as the most 
dangerous developments by the oligarchs, the members of the 
privileged, or of the formerly privileged, classes of Athens. It 
became clear to them that the trade of Athens, its monetary 
commercialism, its naval policy, and its democratic tendencies, 
were a single large movement, and that it was impossible to 
defeat democracy without going the whole way, i.e. destroying the 
naval policy and the empire. But the naval policy of Athens 
was based upon its harbour, the Piraeus ; and strategically, upon 
the walls that fortified Athens, and later, upon the Long Walls 
which linked it to the harbours of the Piraeus and Phalerum. We 
find, accordingly, that for more than a century the empire, the 
fleet, the harbour, and the walls, were hated by the oligarchic 
parties of Athens as the strongpoints and the symbols of the 
Athenian democratic power which they hoped one day to 

Much evidence of this development can be found in Thucydides' 
History of the Peloponnesian War, or rather, of the two great wars of 
431-421 and 419-403 B.C., between Athenian democracy and 
the arrested oligarchic tribalism of Sparta. When reading 
Thucydides we must never forget that his heart was not with 
Athens, his native city. Although he apparently did not belong 
to the extreme wing of the Athenian oligarchic clubs who 
conspired throughout the war with the enemy, he was certainly a 
member of the oligarchic party, and a friend neither of the 
Athenian people, the demos, who had exiled him, nor of its 
imperialist policy. (I do not intend to belittle Thucydides, the 
greatest historian, perhaps, who ever lived. But however 
successful he was in making sure of the facts he records, and in 
spite of his sincere efforts to be impartial, his comments and 
moral judgements represent an interpretation, a point of view ; 
and in this we need not agree with him.) I quote first a passage 
on Themistocles* policy in 482 B.C., half a century before the 
Peloponnesian war : * Themistocles also persuaded the Athenians 
to finish the Piraeus. . . Since the Athenians had now taken 
to the sea 3 he thought that they had a great opportunity for 


building an empire. He was the first who dared to say that they 
should make the sea their domain. . .' 10 Twenty-five years 
later, ' the Athenians began to build their Long Walls to the sea, 
one to the harbour of Phalerum, the other to the Piraeus.' ll 
But this time, twenty-six years before the outbreak of the 
Peloponnesian war, the oligarchic party was fully aware of the 
meaning of these developments. We hear from Thucydides that 
they did not shrink even from the most blatant treachery. As 
sometimes happens with oligarchs, class interest superseded their 
patriotism. An opportunity offered itself in the form of a hostile 
Spartan expeditionary force operating in the north of Athens, 
and they determined to conspire with Sparta against their own 
country. Thucydides writes : * Certain Athenians were privately 
making overtures to them ' (i.e. to the Spartans) ' in the hope that 
they would put an end to the democracy, and to the building of the 
Long Walls. But the other Athenians . . suspected their design 
against democracy. 5 The loyal Athenian citizens therefore went 
out to meet the Spartans, but were defeated. It appears, how- 
ever, that they had weakened the enemy sufficiently to prevent 
him from joining forces with the fifth columnists within their own 
city. Some months later, the Long Walls were completed, 
which meant that the Athenian democracy could enjoy security 
as long as it upheld its naval supremacy. 

This incident throws light on the tenseness of the class 
situation in Athens, even twenty-six years before the outbreak 
of the Peloponnesian war, during which the situation became 
even worse. It also throws light on the methods employed by 
the subversive and pro-Spartan oligarchic party. Thucydides, 
one must note, mentions their treachery only in passing, and he 
does not censure them, although in other places he speaks most 
strongly against class struggle and party spirit. The next passages 
quoted, written as a general reflection on the Gorcyraean Revo- 
lution of 427 B.C., are interesting, first as an excellent picture 
of the class situation ; secondly, as an illustration of the strong 
words Thucydides could find when he wanted to describe 
analogous tendencies on the side of the democrats of Corcyra. 
(In order to judge his apparent impartiality we must remember 
that in the beginning of the war Corcyra had been one of Athens 3 
democratic allies, and that the revolt had been started by the 
oligarchs.) Moreover, the passage is an excellent expression of 
the feeling of a general social breakdown : c Nearly the whole 
Hellenic world ', writes Thucydides, c was in commotion. In 


every city, the leaders of the democratic and of the oligarchic 
parties were trying hard, the one to bring in the Athenians, the 
other the Lacedaemonians. . . The tie of party was stronger 
than the tie of blood. . . The leaders on either side used specious 
names, the one party professing to uphold the constitutional 
equality of the many, the other the wisdom of an aristocracy ; 
in reality they made the public interest their price, professing, 
of course, their devotion to it. They used any conceivable means 
for getting the better of one another, and committed the most 
monstrous crimes. . . This revolution gave birth to every form 
of wickedness in Hellas. . . Everywhere prevailed an attitude 
of perfidious antagonism. There was no word binding enough, 
no oath terrible enough, to reconcile enemies. Each man was 
strong only in the conviction that nothing was secure.' 12 

The full significance of the attempt of the Athenian oligarchs 
to accept the help of Sparta and stop the building of the Long 
Walls can be gauged when we realize that this treacherous 
attitude had not changed when Aristotle wrote his Politics, more 
than a century later. We hear there about an oligarchic oath, 
which, Aristotle said, e is now in vogue '. This is how it runs : 
* I promise to be an enemy of the people, and to do my best to 
give them bad advice ! ' 13 It is clear that we cannot understand 
this period without keeping such hatred in mind. 

I mentioned above that Thucydides himself was an anti- 
democrat. This becomes clear when we consider his description 
of the Athenian empire, and the way it was hated by the various 
Greek states. Athens' rule over its empire, he tells us, was felt 
to be no better than a tyranny, and all the Greek tribes were 
afraid of her. In describing public opinion at the outbreak of 
the Peloponnesian war, he is mildly critical of Sparta and very 
critical of Athenian imperialism. * The general feeling of the 
peoples was strongly on the side of the Lacedaemonians ; for 
they maintained that they were the liberators of Hellas. Cities 
and individuals were eager to assist them . . , and the general 
indignation against the Athenians was intense. Some were 
longing to be liberated from Athens, others fearful of falling under 
its sway.' 14 It is most interesting that this judgement of the 
Athenian empire has become, more or less, the official judgement 
of * History ', i.e.' of most of the historians. Just as the philo- 
sophers find it hard to free themselves from Plato's point of view, 
so are the historians bound to that of Thucydides. As an example 
I may quote Meyer, who simply repeats Thucydides when he 


says : ' The sympathies of the educated world of Greece were . . 
turned away from Athens.' 16 

But such statements are only expressions of the anti-democratic 
point of view. Many facts recorded by Thucydides, for instance, 
the passage quoted on the attitude of the democratic and 
oligarchic party leaders, show that Sparta was c popular ' not 
among the peoples of Greece but only among the oligarchs 
the c educated ', as Meyer puts it so nicely. Even Meyer admits 
that ' the democratically minded masses hoped in many places 
for her victory ' ie , i.e. for the victory of Athens ; and Thucydides' 
narrative contains many instances which prove Athens' popularity 
among the democrats and the suppressed. But who cares for 
the opinion of the uneducated masses ? If Thucydides and the 
' educated ' maintained that Athens was a tyrant, then she was 
a tyrant. 

It is most interesting that the same historians who hail Rome 
for her achievement, the foundation of a universal empire, 
condemn Athens for her attempt to achieve something better. 
The fact that Rome succeeded where Athens failed is not a 
sufficient explanation of this attitude. They do not really censure 
Athens for her failure, since they loathe the very idea that her 
attempt might have been successful. Athens, they believe, was a 
ruthless democracy, a place ruled by the uneducated, who simply 
hated and suppressed the educated, and were hated by them in 
turn. But this is of course pure nonsense, as shown by the 
amazing spiritual productivity of Athens in this particular period. 
Even Meyer must admit this productivity. * What Athens 
produced in this decade ', he says modestly, fi ranks equal with 
one of the mightiest decades of German literature.' 17 Pericles, 
who was the democratic leader of Athens at this time, was more 
than justified when he called her the School of Hellas. 

I am far from defending everything that Athens did in building 
up her empire, and I do not defend wanton attacks (if such have 
occurred), or acts of brutality ; nor do I forget that Athenian 
democracy was still based on slavery 18 . But it is necessary, I 
believe, to see that tribalist exclusiveness and self-sufficiency 
could be superseded only by some form of imperialism. And it 
must be said that certain of the imperialist measures introduced 
by Athens were rather liberal. One very interesting instance is 
the fact that Athens offered, in 405 B.C., to her ally, the Ionian 
island Samos, * that the Samians should be Athenians from now 
on ; and that both cities should be one state ; and that the 


Samians should order their internal affairs as they chose, and 
retain their laws. 5 19 Another instance is Athens' method of 
taxing her empire. Much has been said about these taxes which 
have been described, very unjustly, I believe, as a shameless and 
tyrannical way of exploiting the smaller cities. In an attempt 
to evaluate the significance of these taxes, we must, of course, 
compare them with the volume of the trade protected by the 
Athenian fleet in return. The necessary information is given by 
Thucydides, from whom we learn that the Athenians imposed 
upon their allies, in 4 1 3 B.C., ' instead of a tribute, a duty of 5 per 
cent, on all things imported and exported by sea ; and they 
thought that this would yield more ' 20 . This measure, adopted 
under severe strain of war, compares favourably, I believe, with 
the Roman methods of centralization. The Athenians, by this 
method of taxation, became ' interested in the development of 
allied trade, and so in the initiative and independence of the 
various members of their empire. Originally, the Athenian 
empire had developed out of a league of equals. In spite of the 
temporary domination of Athens, her interest in the development 
of trade might have led, in time, to some kind of federal con- 
stitution. At least, we know nothing of the Roman method of 
' transferring ' the cultural possessions from the empire to the 
dominant city, i.e. of looting. And whatever one might say 
against plutocracy, it is preferable to a rule of looters 21 . 

This favourable view of Athenian imperialism can be 
supported by comparing it with the Spartan methods in foreign 
affairs. These were determined by the ultimate aim of all 
Spartan politics, the arrest of change, the return to tribalism ; 
their principles were : (i) Tribalism and arrestment proper : 
shut out all foreign influences which might endanger the rigidity 
of tribal taboos. (2) Anti-humanitarianism : shut out, more 
especially, all equalitarian, democratic, and individualistic 
ideologies. (3) Autarchy : be independent of trade. (4) Anti- 
universalism or particularism : uphold the differentiation between 
your tribe and all others ; do not mix with inferiors. (5) 
Mastery : dominate and enslave your neighbours. (6) But do 
not become too large : ' The city should grow only as long as it 
can do so without impairing its unity ' 22 , and especially, without 
risking the introduction of universalistic tendencies. If we 
compare these six principal tendencies with those of modern 
totalitarianism, then we see that they agree fundamentally, with 
the sole exception of the last. The difference can be described 


by saying that modern totalitarianism appears to have imperialist 
tendencies. But this imperialism has no element of a tolerant 
universalism, and the world-wide ambitions of the modern 
totalitarians are imposed upon them, as it were, against their 
will. Two factors are responsible for this : a general tendency 
of all tyrannies to justify their existence by saving the state from 
its enemies, and perhaps more important, the difficulties in 
carrying out points (2) and (5) of the above programme in our 
modern world. Humanitarian tendencies have become so 
universal that humanitarianism can be shut out only if it is 
destroyed all over the world. Besides, this world has become so 
small that everybody is now a neighbour, and must therefore be 
enslaved. But in ancient times, nothing could have appeared 
more dangerous to those who adopted a particularism like 
Sparta's, than Athenian imperialism, with its possibility of 
developing iivto a universal empire of man. 

Summing up our analysis so far, we can say that the political 
and spiritual revolution which had begun with the breakdown 
of Greek tribalism reached its climax in the fifth century, with 
the outbreak of the Peloponnesian war. It had developed into 
a violent class war, and, at the same time, into a war between the 
two leading cities of Greece. 

But how can we explain the fact that outstanding Athenians 
like Thucydides stood on the side of reaction ? Class interest may 
play its role here, but it is, I believe, an insufficient explanation. 
The main point seems to be that although the open society was 
already in existence, although it had, in practice, begun to 
develop new values, new equalitarian standards of life, there was 
still something missing especially for the c educated '. The new 
faith of the open society, its only possible faith, humanitarianism, 
was beginning to assert itself, but was not yet formulated. For 
the time being, one could not see much more than class war, the 
democrats' fear of the oligarchic reaction, and the threat of further 
revolutionary developments. The reaction, therefore, had much 
on its side, tradition, the call for defending old virtues, and the 
old religion. These tendencies appealed to the feelings of most 
men, and their popularity gave rise to a movement to which, 
although it was led and used for their own ends by the Spartans 
and their oligarchic friends, many upright men must have 
belonged, even at Athens. From the slogan of the movement, 
* Back to the state of our forefathers ', or * Back to the old paternal 
state ', derives the term ' patriot '. It is hardly necessary to 


insist that the beliefs popular among those who supported this 
' patriotic ' movement were grossly misused by those oligarchs 
who did not shrink from handing over their own city to the 
enemy, in the hope of gaining support against the democrats. 
Thucydides was one of the representative leaders of this move- 
ment for the ' paternal state ' 23 , and though he probably did 
not support the treacherous acts of the extreme anti-democrats, 
he could not disguise his sympathies with their fundamental 
purpose : to arrest change, and to fight the universalistic 
imperialism of the Athenian democracy and the instruments and 
symbols of its power, the navy, the walls, and commerce. (In 
view of Plato's doctrines about commerce, it may be interesting 
to note how great the fear of commercialism was. When after 
his victory over Athens in 404 B.C. the Spartan king, Lysander, 
returned with great booty, the Spartan * patriots ', i.e. the 
members of the movement for the c paternal state ', tried to 
prevent the import of gold ; and though it was ultimately 
admitted, its possession was limited to the state, and capital 
punishment was imposed on any citizen found in possession of 
precious metals. 24 ) 

Although the * patriotic 3 movement was partly the expression 
of the longing to return to more stable forms of life, to religion, 
decency, law and order, it was itself morally rotten. Its ancient 
faith was lost, and was largely replaced by a hypocritical and 
even cynical exploitation of religious sentiments. 25 Nihilism, as 
painted by Plato in the portraits of Calliclcs and Thrasymachus, 
could be found if anywhere among the young ' patriotic ' aristo- 
crats who, if given the opportunity, became leaders of the demo- 
cratic party. The clearest example of this nihilism is perhaps 
the oligarchic leader who helped to deal the death-blow at Athens, 
Plato's uncle Critias, the leader of the Thirty Tyrants. 26 

But at this time, in the same generation to which Thucydides 
belonged, there rose a new faith in reason, freedom and the 
brotherhood of all men the new faith, and, as I believe, the 
only possible faith, of the open society. 

This generation which marks a turning point in the history of 
mankind, I would like to call the Great Generation ; it is the 
generation which lived in Athens during the Peloponnesian war. 
There were great conservatives among them, like Sophocles 27 , 
or Thucydides. There were men among them who represent the 
period of transition ; who were wavering, like Euripides, or 
sceptical, like Aristophanes. But there was also the great 


leader of democracy, Pericles, who formulated the principle of 
equality before the law, and of political individualism, and 
Herodotus, welcomed and hailed in Pericles' city as the author 
of a work that glorified these principles. Protagoras, a native 
of Abdera who became influential in Athens, and his country- 
man Democritus, must also be counted among the Great Gener- 
ation. They formulated the doctrine that human institutions 
of language, custom, and law are not taboos but man-made, not 
natural but conventional, insisting, at the same time, that we 
are responsible for them. Then there was the school of Gorgias 
Alcidamas, Lycophron, and Antisthenes, who developed the 
fundamental tenets of anti-slavery, and of anti-nationalism, i.e. 
the creed of the universal empire of men. And there was, 
perhaps the greatest of all, Socrates, who taught the lesson that 
we must have faith in human reason, but beware of dogmatism ; 
that we must keep away both from misology 28 , the distrust of 
theory and of reason, and from the magical attitude of making 
an idol of wisdom ; who taught, in other words, that the spirit 
of science is criticism. 

Since I have not so far said much about Pericles, and nothing 
at all about Democritus, I may use some of their own words in 
order to illustrate the new faith. First Democritus : * Not out 
of fear but out of a feeling of what is right should we abstain 
from doing wrong. . . Virtue is based, most of all, upon 
respecting the other man. . . Every man is a little world of his 
own. . . We ought to do our utmost to help those who have 
suffered injustice. . . To be good means to do no wrong ; and 
also, not to want to do wrong. . . It is the good deed that 
counts, not the word ! . . . The poverty of a democracy is 
better than the prosperity which allegedly goes with aristocracy 
or monarchy, just as liberty is better than slavery. . . The wise 
man belongs to all countries, for the home of a great soul is the 
whole world. 5 To him is due also that remark of a true scientist : 
;< I would rather find a single causal law than be the king of 
Persia ! ' 29 

In their humanitarian and universalistic emphasis some of 
these fragments of Democritus sound, although they are of earlier 

date, as jf^fyg^sd iSSfli^BSLui.^^^ ' ^ e same impression is 

conveyeofomymuch more strongly, by Pericles' famous funeral 
oration, delivered at least half a century before the Republic was 
written. I have already in chapter 6 quoted two sentences from 
this oration, in connection with equalitarianism 30 , but a few 


passages may be quoted here more fully in order to give a clearer 
impression of its spirit : c Our political system does not compete 
with institutions which are elsewhere in force. We do not copy 
our neighbours, but try to be an example. Our administration 
favours the many instead of the few : this is why it is called a 
democracy. t The laws afford equal justice to all alike in their 
private disputes, but we do not ignore the claims of excellence. 
When a citizen distinguishes himself, then he is preferred to the 
public service, not as a matter of privilege, but as a reward of 
merit ; and poverty is no bar. . . The freedom we enjoy 
extends also to ordinary life ; we are not suspicious of one another, 
and do not feel called upon to nag our neighbour if he chooses 
to go his own way. . . But this freedom does not make us 
lawless. We are taught to respect the magistrates and the laws, 
and never to forget that we must protect the injured. And we 
are also taught to observe those unwritten laws whose sanction 
lies only in the universal feeling of what is right. . . 

' Our city is thrown open to the world ; we never expel a 
foreigner. . . We arc free to live exactly as we please, and yet 
are always ready to face any danger. . . We love beauty 
without becoming extravagant, and we cultivate the intellect 
without lessening our resolution. . . To admit one's poverty is 
no disgrace with us ; but we consider it disgraceful not to make 
an effort to avoid it. An Athenian citizen does not neglect 
public affairs when attending to his private business. . . We 
consider a man who takes no interest in the state not as harmless, 
but as useless ; and although jonly^ a f ew m ^J originate a policy, we 
are all able to judge it. We do not look upon discussion as~ a 
stumbling block in the way of political action, but as an indis- 
pensable preliminary to any wise action at all. . . We believe 
that happiness is the fruit of freedom and freedom of valour, 
and we do not shrink from the danger of war. . . To sum up, 
I claim that Athens is the School of Hellas, and that the individual 
Athenian grows up to a happy versatility and to a readiness for 
varied emergencies to self-reliance.' 31 

These words are not only a eulogy on Athens ; they express 
the true spirit of the Great Generation. They formulate the 
political programme of a great equalitarian individualist, of a 
democrat who well understands that democracy cannot be 
exhausted by the meaningless principle that * the people should 
rule ', but that it must be based on humanitarianism. At the 
same time, they are an expression of true patriotism, of just 


pride in a city which had made it its task to set an example ; 
which became the school, not only of Hellas, but, as we know, 
of mankind, for millennia past and yet to come. 

Pericles* speech is not only a programme. It is also a defence, 
and perhaps even an attack. It reads, as I have already hinted, 
like a direct attack on Plato. I do not doubt that itjwas directed, 
not only against the arrested tribalism of Sparta, but also against 
the totalitarian ring or { link ' at home ; against the movement 
for the paternal state, the Athenian ' Society of the Friends of 
Laconia 9 (as Th. Gomperz called them in 1902 32 ). The speech 
is the earliest 83 and at the same time perhaps the strongest 
statement ever made in opposition to this kind of movement. Its 
importance was felt by Plato, who caricatured Pericles* oration 
half a century later in the passages of the Republic 34 in which he, 
opposes democracy, as well as in another parody, the dialogue 
Menexenus 36 . But the friends of Laconia whom Pericles attacked 
retaliated long before Plato. Only five or six years after Pericles' 
oration, a pamphlet on the Constitution of Athens 36 was published 
by an unknown author, possibly Gritias, who is frequently called 
the c Old Oligarch '. This ingenious pamphlet, the oldest extant 
treatise on political theory, is, at the same time, the oldest 
monument of the desertion of mankind by its intellectual leaders. 
It is a ruthless attack upon Athens, written no doubt by one of 
her best brains. Its central idea, an idea which became an 
article of faith with Thucydides and Plato, is the close connection 
between naval imperialism and democracy ; and it tries to show 
that there can be no compromise in a conflict between two 
worlds 37 , the worlds of democracy and of oligarchy. Only the 
use of ruthless violence, of total measures, including the acquisi- 
tion of allies from outside (the Spartans), can put an end to the 
unholy rule of freedom. This remarkable pamphlet was to 
become the first of a practically infinite series of works on political 
philosophy which were, openly or covertly, to repeat the same 
theme down to our own day. Unwilling and unable to help 
mankind along their difficult path into an unknown future which 
they have to create for themselves, the * educated ' tried to make 
them turn back into the past. Incapable of leading a new way, 
they only could make themselves leaders- of the perennial revolt 
against freedom. And to assert their superiority by fighting against 
equality became the more necessary for them since they were 
unable to prove their superiority by helping the cause of human 
freedom. Harsh as this judgement may sound, it is fair, I 


believe, if it is applied to those intellectual leaders of the revolt 
against freedom who came after the Great Generation, and 
especially after Socrates. We can now try to see them against 
the background of our historical interpretation, 

The invention of philosophy itself can be interpreted, I think, 
as a reaction to the breakdown of the closed society and its 
magical beliefs. It is an attempt to replace the lost magical faith 
by a rational faith. (A significant point is that this attempt 
coincides with the spread of the so-called Orphic sects whose 
members tried to replace the lost feeling of unity by a new 
mystical religion.) The earliest philosophers, the three great 
lonians and Pythagoras, were probably quite unaware of the 
stimulus to which they were reacting!) They were the unconscious 
antagonists as well as the representatives of a social revolution. 
The very fact that they founded schools or sects or orders, i.e. new 
social institutions, modelled largely after those of an idealized 
tribe 38 , proves that they were reformers in the social field, and 
therefore, that they were reacting to certain social needs. That 
they reacted to these needs and to their own sense of drift, not by 
imitating Hesiod in inventing a historicist myth of destiny and 
decay 39 , but by inventing the art of thinking rationally, is one 
of the inexplicable facts which stand at the beginning of our 
civilization. But even these rationalists reacted to the loss of 
the unity of tribalism in a largely emotional way. Their reasoning 
gives expression to their feeling of drift, to the strain of a develop- 
ment which was about to create our individualistic civiliza- 
tion. One of the oldest expressions of this strain is due to 
Anaximander 40 , the second of the Ionian philosophers. Indi- 
vidual existence appeared to him as injustice, as a wrongful act 
of usurpation, for which individuals must suffer, and do penance. 
The first to become conscious of the social revolution and the 
struggle of classes was Heraclitus. How he rationalized his 
feeling of drift by developing the first anti-democratic ideology 
and the first historicist philosophy of change and destiny, has been 
described in the second chapter of this book. Heraclitus was the 
first conscious antagonist of the open society. 

Nearly all these early thinkers were labouring under a tragic 
and desperate strain. 41 The only exception is perhaps the 
monotheist Xenophanes 42 , who carried his burden courageously. 
We cannot blame them for their reactionary tendencies iu the 
same way as we may blame their successors. The new .faith of 
the open society, the faith in man, in equalitarian justice, and 


in human reason, was perhaps beginning to take shape, but it 
was not yet formulated. 

The greatest contribution to this faith was to be made by 
Socrates, who died for it. Socrates was not a leader of Athenian 
democracy, like Pericles, or a theorist of the open society, like 
Protagoras. He was, rather, a critic of Athens and of her 
democratic institutions, and in this he may have borne a super- 
ficial Tresemblance to some of the leaders of the reaction. But 
there is no need for a man who criticizes democracy and demo- 
cratic institutions to be their engmy, although both the democrats 
he criticizes, and the totalitarians who hope to profit from any 
disunion in the democratic camp, are likely to brand him as such. 
{ There is a fundamental difference between a democratic and a 
totalitarian criticism of democracy. Socrates' criticism was a 
democratic one, and indeed of the kind that is the very life of 
democracy. (Democrats who do not see the difference between 
a friendly and a hostile criticism of democracy are themselves 
imbued with the totalitarian spirit. Totalitarianism certainly 
cannot consider any criticism as friendly, since every criticism of 
such an authority must challenge the principle of authority 

I have already mentioned some features of Socrates' teaching ; 
his intellectualism, i.e. his equalilarian theory of human reason 
as a universal medium of communication ; his stress on intel- 
lectual honesty and self-criticism ; his equalitarian theory of 
justice, and his doctrine that it is better to be a victim of injustice 
than to inflict it upon others. I think it is this last doctrine which 
can help us best to understand the core of his teaching, his creed 
of individualism, his belief in the human individual as an end in 

The closed society and with it its creed that the tribe is 
everything and the individual nothing, had broken down. 
Individual initiative and self-assertion had become a fact. 
Interest in the human individual as individual, and not only as 
tribal hero and saviour, had been aroused 43 . But the philosophy 
of man began only with Protagoras ; and the creed that there is 
nothing more important in our life than other individual men, 
the appeal to men to respect one another, and themselves, is 
due to Socrates. 

Burnet has stressed 44 that it was Socrates who created the 
conception of the soul, a conception which had such an immense 
influence upon our civilization. I believe that this view is largely 


right, although I feel that its formulation may be misleading, 
especially the use of the term * soul ' ; for Socrates seems to have 
kept away from metaphysical theories as much as he could. His 
appeal was a moral appeal, and his theory of individuality (or 
of the c soul ', if this word is preferred) is, I think, a moral and 
not a metaphysical doctrine. With this doctrine he fought, as 
always, against self-satisfaction and complacency. He demanded 
that individualism should not be merely the dissolution of 
tribalism, but that the individual should prove worthy of his 
liberation. This is why he insisted that man is not merely a 
piece of flesh a body. There is more in man, a divine spark, 
reason ; and a love of truth, of kindness, humaneness, a love of 
beauty and of goodness. It is these that make a man's life worth 
while. But if I am not merely ' body ', what am I, then ? You 
are, first of all, intelligence, was Socrates' reply. It is your 
reason that makes you human ; that enables you to be more 
than a mere bundle of desires and wishes ; that makes you a 
self-sufficient individual and entitles you to claim that you are 
an end in yourself. Socrates' saying c care for your souls ' is 
largely an appeal for intellectual honesty, just as the saying * know 
thyself is used by him to remind us of our intellectual limitations. 

These, Socrates insisted, are the things that matter. And 
what he criticized in democracy and democratic statesmen was 
their inadequate realization of these things. He criticized them 
rightly for their lack of intellectual honesty, and for their obsession 
with power-politics 4 5 . With his emphasis upon the human side 
of the political problem, he could not take much interest in 
institutional reform. It was the immediate, the personal aspect 
of the open society in which he was interested. He was wrong 
when he considered himself a politician ; he was a teacher. 

But if Socrates was, fundamentally, a protagonist of the open 
society, and a friend of democracy, why, it may be asked, did he 
mix with anti-democrats ? For we know that among his com- 
panions were not only Alcibiades, who for a time went over to 
the side of Sparta, but also two of Plato's uncles, Critias who 
later became the ruthless leader of the Thirty Tyrants, and 
Charmides who became his lieutenant. 

There is more than one reply to this question. First we are 
told by Plato that Socrates' attack upon the democratic politicians 
of his time was carried out partly with the purpose of exposing 
the selfishness and lust for power of the hypocritical flatterers of 
the people, more particularly, of the young aristocrats who posed 


as democrats, but who looked upon the people as mere instruments 
of their lust for power 46 . This activity made him, on the one 
hand, attractive to some at least of the enemies of democracy ; 
on the other hand it brought him into contact with that very 
type of ambitious aristocrat. And here enters a second con- 
sideration. Socrates, the moralist and individualist, would never 
merely attack these men. He would, rather, take a real interest 
in them, and he would hardly give them up without making a 
serious attempt to convert them. There are many allusions to 
such attempts in Plato's dialogues. We have reason, and this 
is a third consideration, to believe that Socrates, the teacher- 
politician, even went out of his way to attract young men and 
to gain influence over them, especially when he considered them 
open to conversion, and thought that some day they might possibly 
hold offices of responsibility in their city. The outstanding 
example is, of course, Alcibiades, singled out from his very 
childhood as the great future leader of the Athenian empire. 
And Critias' brilliancy, ambition and courage, made him one 
of the few likely competitors of Alcibiades, (He co-operated 
with Alcibiades for a time, but later turned against him. It is 
not at all improbable that the temporary co-operation was due 
to Socrates' influence.) From all we know about Plato's own 
early and later political aspirations, it is more than likely that 
his relations with Socrates were of a similar kind 47 . Socrates, 
though one of the leading spirits of the open society, was not a 
party man. He would have worked in any circle where his work 
might have benefited his city. If he took interest in a promising 
youth he was not to be deterred by oligarchic family connections. 

But these connections were to cause his death. When the 
great war was lost, Socrates was accused of having educated the 
men who had betrayed democracy and conspired with the enemy 
to bring about the downfall of Athens. 

The history of the Peloponnesian war and the fall of Athens is 
still often told, under the influence of Thucydides' authority, in 
such a way that the defeat of Athens appears as the ultimate 
proof of the dangerous weaknesses of the democratic system. But 
this view is merely a tendentious distortion, and the well-known 
facts tell a very different story. The main responsibility for the 
lost war rests with the treacherous oligarchs who continuously 
conspired with Sparta. Prominent among these were three 
former disciples of Socrates, Alcibiades, Gritias, and Gharmides. 
After the fall of Athens in 404 B.C. the two latter became the 


leaders of the Thirty Tyrants, who were no more than a puppet 
government under Spartan protection. The fall of Athens, and 
the destruction of the walls, are often presented as the final 
results of the great war which had started in 431 B.C. But in 
this presentation lies the main distortion, for the democrats fought 
on. At first only seventy strong, they prepared under the leader- 
ship of Thrasybulus and Anytus the liberation of Athens, where 
Critias was meanwhile killing scores of citizens ; for during the 
eight months of his reign of terror the death-role contained 
* nearly a greater number of Athenians than the Peloponnesians 
had killed during the last ten years of war ' 48 . But after eight 
months (in 403 B.C.) Critias and the Spartan garrison were 
attacked and defeated by the democracies who established them- 
selves in the Piraeus, and both of Plato's uncles lost their lives 
in the battle. Their oligarchic followers continued for a time 
the reign of terror in the city of Athens itself, but their forces 
were in a state of confusion and dissolution. Having proved 
themselves incapable of ruling, they were ultimately abandoned 
by their Spartan protectors, who concluded a treaty with the 
democrats. The peace re-established the democracy in Athens. 
Thus the democratic form of government had proved its 
superior strength under the most severe trials, arid even its enemies 
began to think it invincible. (Nine years later, after the battle 
of Cnidus, the Athenians could re-erect their walls. The defeat 
of democracy had turned into victory.) 

As soon as the restored democracy had re-established normal 
legal conditions 49 , a case was brought against Socrates. Its 
meaning was clear enough ; he was accused of having educated 
the most pernicious enemies of the state, Alcibiades, Critias, and 
Charmides. Certain difficulties for the prosecution were created 
by an amnesty for all political crimes committed before the 
re-establishment of the democracy. The charge could not 
therefore openly refer to the past. And the prosecutors probably 
sought not so much to punish Socrates for the unfortunate political 
events of the past which, as they knew well, had happened against 
his intentions ; their aim was, rather, to prevent him from 
continuing his teaching, which, in view of its effects, they could 
hardly regard otherwise than as dangerous to the state. For all 
these reasons, the charge was given the vague and rather meaning- 
less form that Socrates was corrupting the youth, that he was 
impious, and that he had attempted to introduce novel religious 
practices into the state. (The latter two charges undoubtedly 


expressed, however clumsily, the correct feeling that in the 
ethico-religious field he was a revolutionary.) Because of the 
amnesty, the t corrupted youth ' could not be more precisely 
named, but everybody knew, of course, who was meant. 50 
In his defence, Socrates insisted that he had no sympathy with 
the policy of the Thirty, and that he had actually risked his life 
by defying their attempt to implicate him in one of their crimes 51 . 

It is now usually recognized that Anytus, the democratic 
leader who backed the prosecution, did not intend to make a 
martyr of Socrates. The aim was to exile him. But this plan 
was defeated by Socrates' refusal to compromise his principles. 
T^hat he wanted to die, or that he enjoyed the role of martyr, I 
do not believe 52 . He simply fought for what he believed to be 
right, and for his life's work. He had never intended to under- 
mine democracy. In fact, he had tried to give it the faith it 
needed. This had been the work of his life. It was, he felt, 
seriously threatened. The betrayal of his former companions 
let his work and himself appear in a light which must have 
disturbed him deeply. He may have welcomed the trial as an 
opportunity to prove that his loyalty to his city was unbounded. 

Socrates explained this attitude most carefully when he was 
given an opportunity to escape. Had he seized it, and become 
an exile, everybody would have thought him an opponent of 
democracy. So he stayed, and stated his reasons. This explana- 
tion, his last will, can be found in Plato's Crito 53 . It is simple. 
If I go, said Socrates, I violate the laws of the state. Such an 
act would put me in opposition to the laws, and prove my 
disloyalty. It would do harm to the state. Only if I stay can 
I put beyond doubt my loyalty to the state, as well as to democracy, 
and prove that I have never been its enemy. There can be no 
better proof of my loyalty than my willingness to die for it. * 

Socrates' death is the ultimate proof of his sincerity. His 
fearlessness, his simplicity, his modesty, his sense of proportion, 
his humour never deserted him. ' I am that gadfly which God 
has attached to the city ', he said in his Apology, ' and all day 
long and in all places I am always fastening upon you, arousing 
and persuading and reproaching you. You would not readily 
find another like me, and therefore I should advise you to spare 
me . . If you strike at me, as Anytus advises you, and rashly 
put me to death, then you will remain asleep for the rest of your 
lives, unless God in his care sends you another gadfly ' 54 . He 
showed that a man could die, not only for fate and fame and other 


grand things of this kind, but also for the freedom of critical 
thought, and for a self-respect which has nothing to do with 
self-importance or sentimentality. 

Socrates had only one worthy successor, his old friend 
Antisthenes, the last of the Great Generation. Plato, his most 
gifted disciple, was soon to prove the least faithful. He betrayed 
Socrates, just as his uncles had done. These, besides betraying 
Socrates, had also tried to implicate him in their terrorist acts, 
but they did not succeed, since he resisted. Plato tried to 
implicate Socrates in his grandiose attempt to construct the theory 
of the arrested society ; and he had no difficulty in succeeding, 
for Socrates was dead. 

I know of course that this judgement will seem outrageously 
harsh, even to those who arc critical of Plato 55 . But if we look 
upon the Apology and the Crito as Socrates' last will, and if we 
compare these testaments of his old age with Plato's testament, 
the Laws, then it is difficult to judge otherwise. Socrates had been 
condemned, but his death was not intended by the initiators of 
the trial. Plato's Laws remedy this lack of intention. Coolly 
and carefully they elaborate the theory of inquisition. Free 
thought, criticism of political institutions, teaching new ideas to 
the young, attempts to introduce new religious practices or even 
opinions, are all pronounced capital crimes. In Plato's state, 
Socrates would never have been given the opportunity of defend- 
ing himself publicly ; he would have been handed over to the 
secret Nocturnal Council for the c treatment ', and finally for the 
punishment, of his diseased soul. 

I cannot doubt the fact of Plato's betrayal, nor that his use 
of Socrates as the main speaker of the Republic was the most 
successful attempt to implicate him. But it is another question 
whether this attempt was conscious. 

In order to understand Plato we must visualize the whole 
contemporary situation. After the Peloponnesian war, the strain 
of civilization was felt as strongly as ever. The old oligarchic 
hopes were still alive, and the defeat of Athens had even tended 
to encourage them. The class struggle continued. Yet Critias' 
attempt to destroy democracy by carrying out the programme of 
the Old Oligarch had failed. It had not failed tiaroughJbck-of 
determinajdon ; the most ruthless use of violence had been 
unsuccessful, in spite of favourable circumstances in the shape 
of powerful support from victorious Sparta. Plato felt that a 
complete reconstruction of the programme was needed. The 


Thirty had been beaten in the realm of power politics largely 
because they had offended the citizens* sense of justice. The 
defeat had been largely a moral defeat. The faith of the Great 
Generation had proved its strength. The Thirty had nothing 
of this kind to offer ; they were moral nihilists. The programme 
of the Old Oligarch, Plato felt, could not be revived without 
basing it upon another faith, upon a persuasion which re-affirmed 
the old values of tribalism, opposing them to the faith of the 
open society. Men must be taught that justice is inequality, and that 
the tribe, the collective, stands higher than the individual. 66 
But since Socrates' faith was too strong to be challenged openly, 
Plato attempted to re-interpret it as a faith in the closed society. 
This was difficult ; but it was not impossible. For had not 
Socrates been killed by the democracy ? Had not democracy 
lost any right to claim him ? And had not Socrates always 
criticized the anonymous multitude as well as its leaders for their 
lack of wisdom ? It was not difficult, moreover, to re-interpret 
Socrates as having recommended the rule of the c educated ', 
the learned philosophers. In this interpretation, Plato was much 
encouraged when he discovered that it was also part of the 
ancient Pythagorean creed ; and most of all, when he found, in 
Archytas of Tarentum, a Pythagorean sage as well as a great 
and successful statesman. Here, he felt, was the solution of the 
riddle. Had not Socrates himself encouraged his disciples tc 
participate in politics ? Did this not mean that he wanted the 
enlightened, the wise, to rule ? What a difference between the 
crudity of the ruling mob of Athens and the dignity of an 
Archytas ! Surely, Socrates who had never stated his solution ol 
the constitutional problem must have had Pythagoreanism in mind, 
In this way Plato may have found that it was possible to give 
by degrees a new meaning to the teaching of the most influential 
member of the Great Generation, and to make use of an opponent 
whose overwhelming strength he would never have dared tc 
attack directly. This, I believe, is the simplest interpretation ol 
the fact that Plato retained Socrates as his main speaker even 
after he had departed so widely from his teaching that he could 
no longer deceive himself about this deviation 57 . But it is not 
the whole story. He felt, I believe, in the depth of his soul, that 
Socrates' teaching was very different indeed from this presenta- 
tion, and that he was betraying Socrates. And I think that 
Plato's continuous efforts to make Socrates re-interpret himseli 
are at the same time Plato's efforts to quiet his own bad con- 


science. By trying again and again to prove that his teaching 
was only the logical development of the true Socratic doctrine, 
he tried to persuade himself that he was not a traitor. 

In reading Plato we are, I feel, witnesses of an inner conflict, 
of a truly titanic struggle in Plato's mind. Even his famous 
6 fastidious reserve, the suppression of his own personality ' 58 , or 
rather, the attempted suppression for it is not at all difficult to 
read between the lines is an expression of this struggle. And 
I believe that Plato's influence can partly be explained by the 
fascination of this conflict between two worlds in one soul, a 
struggle whose powerful repercussions upon Plato can be felt 
under that surface of fastidious reserve. This struggle touches 
our feelings, for it is still going on within ourselves. Plato was 
the child of a time which is still our own. (We must not forget 
that it is, after all, only a century since the abolition of slavery 
in the United States, and even less since the abolition of serfdom 
in Central Europe.) Nowhere does this inner struggle reveal 
itself more clearly than in Plato's theory of the soul. That Plato, 
with his longing for unity and harmony, visualized the structure 
of the human soul as analogous to that of a class-divided society 69 , 
shows how deeply he must have suffered. 

Plato's greatest conflict arises from the deep impression made 
upon him by the example of Socrates, but his own oligarchic 
inclinations strive only too successfully against it. In the field 
of rational argument, the struggle is conducted by using the 
argument of Socrates' humanitarianism against itself. The 
earliest example of this kind can be found in the Euthyphro 80 . I 
am not going to be like Euthyphro, Plato assures himself ; I shall 
never take it upon myself to accuse my own father, my own 
venerated ancestors, of having sinned against a law and a 
humanitarian morality which is only on the level of vulgar piety. 
Even if they took human life, it was, after all, only the lives of 
their own serfs, who are no better than criminals ; and it is not 
my task to judge them. Did not Socrates show how hard it is 
to know what is right and wrong, pious and impious ? And 
was he not himself prosecuted for impiety by these so-called 
humanitarians ? Other traces of Plato's struggle can, I believe, 
be found in nearly every place where he turns against humani- 
tarian ideas, especially in the Republic. His evasiveness and his 
resort to scorn in combating the equalitarian theory of justice, 
his hesitant preface to his defence of lying, to his introduction of 
racialism, and to his definition of justice, have all been mentioned 


in previous chapters. But perhaps the clearest expression of the 
conflict can be found in the Menexenus, that sneering reply to 
Pericles' funeral oration. Here, I feel, Plato gives himself away. 
In spite of his attempt to hide his feelings behind irony and scorn, 
he cannot but show how deeply he was impressed by Pericles' 
sentiments. This is how Plato makes his c Socrates ' maliciously 
describe the impression made upon him by Pericles' oration : 
4 A feeling of exultation stays with me for more than three days ; 
not until the fourth or fifth day, and not without an effort, do 
I come to my senses and realize where I am.' 61 Who can doubt 
that Plato reveals here how seriously he was impressed by the 
creed of the open society, and how hard he had to struggle to 
come to his senses and to realize where he was namely, in the 
camp of its antagonists. 

Plato's strongest argument in this struggle was, I believe, 
sincere : According to the humanitarian creed, he argued, we 
should be ready to help our neighbours. The people need help 
badly, they are unhappy, they labour under a severe strain, a 
sense of drift. There is no certainty, no security 62 in life, when 
everything is in flux. I am ready to help them. But I cannot 
make them happy without going to the root of the evil. 

And he found the root of the evil. It is the c Fall of Man ', 
the breakdown of the closed society. This discovery convinced 
him that the Old Oligarch and his followers had been funda- 
mentally right in favouring Sparta against Athens, and in aping 
the Spartan programme of arresting change. But they had not 
gone far enough ; their analysis had not been carried sufficiently 
deep. They had not been aware of the fact, or had not cared 
for it, that even Sparta showed signs of decay, in spite of its 
heroic effort to arrest all change ; that even Sparta had been 
half-hearted in her attempts at controlling breeding in order to 
eliminate the causes of the Fall, the * variations ' and * irregu- 
larities * in the number as well as the quality of the ruling race. 63 
(Plato saw that population increase was one of the causes of the 
Fall.) Also, the Old Oligarch and his followers had thought, 
in their superficiality, that with the help of a tyranny, such as 
that of the Thirty, they would be able to restore the good old 
days. Plato knew better. The great sociologist saw clearly 
that these tyrannies were entirely based upon, and were them- 
selves kindling, the modern revolutionary spirit ; that they were 
forced to make concessions to the equalitarian cravings of the 
people ; and that they had indeed played an important part in. 


the breakdown of tribalism. Plato hated tyranny. Only hatred 
can see as sharply as he did in his famous description of the tyrant. 
Only a genuine enemy of tyranny could say that tyrants must 
c stir up one war after another in order to make the people feel 
the need of a general ' , of a saviour from extreme danger. 
Tyranny, Plato insisted, was not the solution, nor any of the 
current oligarchies. Although it is imperative to keep the 
people in their place, their suppression is not an end in itself. 
The end must be the complete return to nature, a complete 
cleaning of the canvas. 

The difference between Plato's theory on the one hand, and 
that of the Old Oligarch and the Thirty on the other, is due to 
the influence of the Great Generation. Individualism, equali- 
tarianism, faith in reason and love of freedom were new, powerful, 
and, from the point of view of the antagonists of the open society, 
dangerous sentiments that had to be fought. Plato had himself 
felt their influence, and, within himself, he had fought them. 
His answer to the Great Generation was a truly great effort. 
It was an effort to close the door which had been opened, and 
to arrest society by casting upon it the spell of an alluring 
philosophy, unequalled in depth and richness. In the political 
field he added but little to the old oligarchic programme against 
which Pericles had once argued 64 . But he discovered, per- 
haps unconsciously, the great secret of the revolt against freedom, 
formulated in our own day by Pareto 66 : c To take advantage 
of sentiments, not wasting one's energies in futile efforts to destroy them '. 
Instead of showing his hostility to reason, he captured by his 
brilliance all intellectuals, flattering and thrilling them by 
his demand that the learned should rule. Instead of arguing 
against justice he convinced all righteous men that he was 
fighting for it. Not even to himself did he fully admit that 
he was condemning Socrates and freedom of thought ; and 
by making Socrates his champion he persuaded all others that 
he was fighting for it. Plato thus became the pioneer of the 
many propagandists who developed the technique of appealing 
to moral, humanitarian sentiments, for anti-humanitarian, 
immoral purposes. And he achieved the somewhat surprising 
effect of convincing even great humanitarians of the immorality 
and selfishness of their creed 6e . I do not doubt that he succeeded 
in persuading himself. He transfigured his hatred of individual 
initiative, and his wish to arrest all change, into a love of justice 
and temperance, of a beautiful state in which everybody is satisfied 


and happy and in which the crudity of money-grabbing 67 is 
replaced by laws of generosity and friendship. This dream of 
unity and beauty and perfection, this aestheticism and holism and 
collectivism, is the product as well as the symptom of the lost 
group spirit of tribalism 68 . It is the expression of, and an ardent 
appeal to, the sentiments of those who suffer from the strain of 
civilization. (It is part of the strain that we are becoming more 
and more painfully aware of the gross imperfections in our life, of 
personal as well as of institutional imperfection ; of waste and 
unnecessary ugliness ; and at the same time of the fact that it is 
not impossible for us to do something about all this, but that 
such improvements would be just as hard to achieve as they arc 
important. This awareness increases the strain of personal 
responsibility, of carrying the cross of being human.) 

Socrates had refused to compromise his personal integrity. 
Plato, with all his uncompromising canvas cleaning, was led 
along a path on which he compromised his integrity with every 
step he took. He was forced to combat free thought, and the 
pursuit of truth. He was led to defend lying, political miracles, 
tabooistic superstition, the suppression of truth, and ultimately, 
brutal violence. In spite of Socrates' warning against mis- 
anthropy, he was led to distrust man. In spite of his own hatred 
of tyranny, he was led to look to a tyrant for help, and to defend 
the most tyrannical measures. The internal logic of his anti- 
humanitarian aim, the internal logic of power, led him unawares 
to the same point to which once the Thirty had been led, and 
at which, later, his friend Dio arrived, and his other tyrant- 
disciples 60 . He did not succeed in arresting society. (Only 
much later, in the dark ages, was it arrested by the spell of 
essentialism). Instead, he succeeded in binding himself, by 
his own spell, to powers which once he had hated. 

The lesson which we thus should learn from Plato is the 
exact opposite of what he tries to teach us. It is a lesson which 
must not be forgotten. Excellent as Plato's sociological diagnosis 
was, his own development of it proves that the therapy he 
recommended is worse than the evil he tried to combat. Arresting 
political change is not the remedy ; it cannot bring happiness. 
We can never return to the alleged innocence and beauty of 
the closed society. Our dream of heaven cannot be realized on 
earth. Once we begin to rely upon our reason, and to use our 
powers of criticism, once we feel the call of personal responsibilities, 
and with it, the responsibility of helping to advance knowledge, 


we cannot return to a state of implicit submission to tribal magic. 
For those who have eaten from the tree of knowledge, paradise 
is lost 70 . The more we try to return to tribal heroism, the more 
surely do we arrive at the Inquisition, at the Secret Police, and 
at a romanticized gangsterism. Beginning with the suppression 
of reason and truth, we must end with the most brutal and violent 
destruction of all that is human. There is no return to a harmonious 
state of nature. If we turn back, then we must go the whole way we 
must return to the beasts. 

It is an issue which we must face squarely, hard though it 
may be for us to do so. If we dream of a return to our child- 
hood, if we are tempted to rely on others and so be happy, if 
we turn back from the task of carrying our cross, the cross of 
humaneness, of reason, of responsibility, if we lose courage and 
flinch from the strain, then we must try to fortify ourselves with 
a clear understanding of the simple decision before us. We can 
return to the beasts. But if we wish to remain human, then 
there is only one way, the way into the open society. We must 
go on into the unknown, courageously, using what reason we 
have, to plan for security and freedom. 


GENERAL REMARKS. The text of the book is self-contained and may be 
read without these Notes. However, a considerable amount of material 
which is likely to interest all readers of the book will be found here, as well 
as some references and controversies which may not be of general interest. 
Readers who wish to consult the Notes for the sake of this material may find 
it convenient first to read without interruption through the text of a chapter, 
and then to turn to the Notes. 

I wish to apologize for the perhaps excessive number of cross references 
which have been included for the benefit of those readers who take a special 
interest in one or the other of the side issues touched upon (such as Plato's 
preoccupation with racialism, or the Socratic Problem). Knowing that war 
conditions would make it impossible for me to read the proofs, I decided 
to refer not to pages but to note numbers. Accordingly, references to the 
text have been indicated by notes such as : * cp. text to note 24 to chapter 3 ', 
etc. War conditions also restricted library facilities, making it impossible for 
me to obtain a number of books, some recent and some not, which would 
have been consulted in normal circumstances. 


The terms * open society ' and ' closed society ' were first used, to my know- 
ledge, by Henri Bergson, in Two Sources of Morality and Religion (Engl. cd., 
I 935)- I n spite of a considerable difference (due to a fundamentally 
different approach to nearly every problem of philosophy) between Bergson's 
way of using these terms and mine, there is a certain similarity also, which 
I wish to acknowledge. (Cp. Bergsoii's characterization of the closed society, 
op. cit., p, 229, as * human society fresh from the hands of nature '.) The 
main difference, however, is this. My terms indicate, as it were, an 
intellectualist distinction ; the closed society is characterized by the belief in 
magical taboos, while the open society is one in which men have learned to 
be to some extent critical of taboos, and to base decisions on the authority of 
their own intelligence. Bergson, on the other hand, has a kind of religious 
distinction in mind. This explains why he can look upon his open society as 
the product of a mystical intuition, while I suggest (in chapters 10 and 24) 
that mysticism may be interpreted as an expression of the longing for the lost 
unity of the closed society, and therefore as a reaction against the rationalism 
of the open society. From the way my term c The Open Society ' is used in 
chapter 10, it may be seen that there is some resemblance to Graham Wallas' 
term * The Great Society J ; but my term may cover a ' small society ' too, 
as it were, like that of Peri clean Athens, while it is perhaps conceivable that a 
' Great Society ' may be arrested and thereby closed. There is also, perhaps, 
a similarity between my ' open society ' and the term used by Walter Lipp- 
mann as the title of his most admirable book, The Good Society (1937). See 
also notes 59 (2) to chapter 10 and notes 29, 32, and 58 to chapter 24, and 


1 I use the term ' collectivism ' only for a doctrine which emphasizes the 
significance of some collective or group, for instance, * the state ' (or a certain 
state ; or a nation ; or a class) as against that of the individual. The problem 
collectivism versus individualism is explained more fully in chapter 6, below ; 
see especially notes 26 to 28 to that chapter, and text. Concerning * tribalism,* 


CHAPTER 2/NOTES 1-2 179 

cp. chapter 10, and especially note 38 to that chapter (list of Pythagorean 
tribal taboos). 

2 This means that the interpretation does not convey any empirical 
information, as shown in my Logik der Forschung (1935). 

3 One of the features which the doctrines of the chosen people, the chosen 
race, and the chosen class have in common is that they originated, and became 
important, as reactions against some kind of oppression. The doctrine of the 
chosen people became important at the time of the foundation of the Jewish 
church, i.e. during the Babylonian captivity ; Count Gobineau's theory of 
the Aryan master race was a reaction of the aristocratic emigrant to the 
claim that the French Revolution had successfully expelled the Teutonic 
masters. Marx's prophecy of the victory of the proletariat is the reply to 
one of the most sinister periods of oppression and exploitation in modem 
history. Compare with these matters chapter 10, especially note 39, and 
chapter 17, especially notes 13-15, and text. 


1 The question * What is the world made of is more or less generally 
accepted as the fundamental problem of the early Ionian philosophers. If 
we assume that they viewed the world as an edifice, the question of the 
ground-plan of the world would be complementary to that of its building 
material. And indeed, we hear that Thales was not only interested in the 
stuff the world is made of, but also in descriptive astronomy and geography, 
and that Anaximander was the first to draw up a ground-plan, i.e. a map 
of the earth. Some further remarks on the Ionian school (and especially 
on Anaximander as predecessor of Heraclitus) will be found in chapter i o ; 
cp. notes 38-40 to that chapter, especially note 39. 

2 Cp. Plato, Cralylus, 40 id, 4O2a/b. My interpretation of the teaching 
of Heraclitus is perhaps different from that commonly assumed at present, 
for instance from that of Burnet. Those who may feel doubtful whether it 
is at all tenable, are referred to my notes, especially the present note and 
notes 6, 7, and 1 1 , in which I am dealing with Heraclitus' natural philosophy, 
having confined my text to a presentation of the historicist aspect of Heraclitus' 
teaching and to his social philosophy. I further refer them to the evidence of 
chapters 4 to 9, and especially of chapter 10, in whose light Heraclitus' 
philosophy, as I see it, will appear as a rather typical reaction to the social 
revolution which he witnessed. Cp. also the notes 39 and 59 to that chapter 
(and text), and the general criticism of Burnet's and Taylor's methods in 
note 56. 

As indicated in the text, I hold (with many others, for instance, with 
Zeller and Grote) that the doctrine of universal flux is the central doctrine of 
Heraclitus. As opposed to this, Burnet holds that this ' is hardly the central 
point in the system ' of Heraclitus (cp. Early Greek Philosophy ', 2nd ed., 163). 
But a close inspection of his arguments (158 f.) leaves me quite unconvinced 
that Heraclitus' fundamental discovery was the abstract metaphysical doctrine 
* that wisdom is not the knowledge of many things, but the perception of the 
underlying unity of warring opposites ', as Burnet puts it. The unity of 
opposites is certainly an important part of Heraclitus' teaching, but it can 
be derived (as far as such things can be derived ; cp. note 1 1 to this chapter, 
and the corresponding text) from the more concrete and intuitively under- 
standable theory of flux ; and the same can be said of Heraclitus' doctrine 
of the fire (cp. note 7 to this chapter). 

Those who suggest, with Burnet, that the doctrine of universal flux was 
not new, but anticipated by the earlier lonians, are, I feel, unconscious 
witnesses to Heraclitus' originality ; for they fail now, after 2,400 years, to 

l8o CHAPTER 2 /NOTE 3 

grasp his main point. They do not see the difference between a flux or 
circulation within a vessel or an edifice or a cosmic framework, i.e. within a 
totality of things (part of the Heraclitean theory can indeed be understood in 
this way, but only that part of it which is not very original ; see below), 
and a universal flux which embraces everything, even the vessel, the framework 
itself, and which is described by Heraclitus' denial of the existence of any 
fixed thing whatever. (In a way, Anaximander had made a beginning by 
dissolving the framework, but there was still a long way from this to the theory 
of universal flux. Cp. also note 15 (4) to chapter 3.) 

The doctrine of universal flux forces Heraclitus to attempt an explanation 
of the apparent stability of the things in this world, and of other typical 
regularities. This attempt leads him to the development of subsidiary theories, 
especially to his doctrine of fire (cp. note 7 to this chapter) and of natural 
laws (cp. note 6). It is in this explanation of the apparent stability of the 
world that he makes much use of the theories of his predecessors by developing 
their theory of rarefaction and condensation, together with their doctrine of 
the revolution of the heavens, into a general theory of the circulation of matter, 
and of periodicity. But this part of his teaching, I hold, is not central to it, 
but subsidiary. It is, so to speak, apologetic, for it attempts to reconcile the 
new and revolutionary doctrine of flux with common experience as well as 
with the teaching of his predecessors. I believe, therefore, that he is not a 
mechanical materialist who teaches something like the conservation and 
circulation of matter and of energy ; this view seems to me to be excluded by 
his magical attitude towards laws as well as by his theory of the unity of 
opposites which emphasizes his mysticism. 

My contention that the universal flux is the central theory of Heraclitus 
is, I believe, corroborated by Plato. The overwhelming majority of his 
explicit references to Heraclitus (Crat., 40 id, 4O2a/b, 411, 437 ff., 440 ; Theaet., 
J 53c/d, i6od, i77c, i7gd f., i8aa ff., i83a ff., cp. also Syrnp., 2O7d, Phil., 
43a ; cp. also Aristotle's Metaphysics, 987333, 1010313, 1078^3) witness to 
the tremendous impression made by this central doctrine upon the thinkers 
of that period. These straightforward and clear testimonies are much 
stronger than the admittedly interesting passage which does not mention 
Heraclitus' name (Soph., 242d f., quoted already, in connection with Heraclitus, 
by Ueberweg and Zeller), on which Burnet attempts to base his interpretation. 
(His other witness, Philo Judaeus, cannot count much as against the evidence 
of Plato and Aristotle.) But even this passage agrees entirely with our 
interpretation. (With regard to Burnet's somewhat wavering judgement 
concerning the value of this passage, cp. note 56 (7) to chapter i o.) Heraclitus' 
discovery that the world is not the totality of things but of events or facts is not 
at all trivial ; this can be perhaps gauged by the fact that Wittgenstein has 
found it necessary to reaffirm it quite recently : ' The world is the totality 
of facts, not of things. 9 (Cp. Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, 1921/22, sentence 
i.i ; italics mine.) 

To sum up. I consider the doctrine of universal flux as fundamental, and 
as emerging from the realm of Heraclitus' social experiences. All other 
doctrines of his are in a way subsidiary to it. The doctrine of fire (cp. 
Aristotle's Metaphysics, 98437, io67a2 ; also 98932, 99639, 1001315) I consider 
to be his central doctrine in the field of natural philosophy ; it is an 3ttempt 
to reconcile the doctrine of flux with our experience of stable things, a link 
with the older theories of circulation, and it leads to a theory of laws. And 
the doctrine of the unity of opposites I consider as something less central 
and more abstract, as a forerunner of 3 kind of Iogic3l or methodological 
theory (as such it inspired Aristotle to formulate his law of contradiction), 
and as linked to his mysticism. 

8 W. Nestle, Die Vorsokratiker (1905), 35. 

CHAPTER 2 /NOTES 4-7 l8l 

4 In order to facilitate the identification of the fragments quoted, I give 
the numbers of Bywater's edition (adopted, in his English translation of the 
fragments, by Burnet, Early Greek Philosophy), and also the numbers of Diels' 
edition (Diels, Vorsokratike r ; I am quoting from the 2nd edition). 

Of the eight passages quoted in the present paragraph, (i) and (2) are 
from the fragments B 114 (= By water, and Burnet), D 2 121 ( Diels, . 
2nd edition). The others are from the fragments: (3) B in, D a 29; 
cp. Plato's Republic, 5&*6a/b . . . (4) : B in, D a 104 . . . (5) : B 112, 
D 2 39 . . . (6) : B 5, D a 17 . . . (7) : B no, D 2 33 ... (8) : B 100, 
D 2 44. 

5 The three passages quoted in this paragraph are from the fragments : 
(i) and (2) : cp. B 41, D 2 91 ; for (i) cp. also note 2 to this chapter. (3) : 
D 2 74. 

6 For Heraclitus' ' measures * (or laws, or periods), cp. B 20, 21, 23, 29 ; 
D 2 30, 31, 94. 

This idea of law is correlative to that of change or flux, since only laws or 
regularities within the flux can explain the apparent stability of the world. 
The most typical regularities within the changing world known to man are 
the natural periods : the day, the moon-month, and the year (the seasons). 
Heraclitus' theory of law is, I believe, logically intermediate between the 
comparatively modern views of ' causal laws * (held by Leucippus and 
especially by Democritus) and Anaximander's dark powers of fate. Heraclitus' 
laws are still ' magical ', i.e. he has not yet distinguished between abstract 
causal regularities and laws enforced, like taboos, by sanctions (with this, 
cp. chapter 5, note 2). It appears that his theory of fate was connected with 
a theory of a ' Great Year J or ' Great Cycle * of 18,000 or 36,000 ordinary 
years. (Cp. for instance J. Adam's edition of The Republic of Plato, vol. II, 
303.) I certainly do not think that this theory is an indication that Heraclitus 
did not really believe in a universal flux, but only in various circulations which 
always re-established the stability of the framework ; but I think it possible 
that he had difficulties in conceiving a law of change, and even of fate, other 
than one involving a certain amount of periodicity. (Cp. also note 6 to 
chapter 3.) 

7 The four passages quoted in this paragraph are from the fragments, 
(i) : D a 58, 8. (Cp. Diog. Laert., IX., 7) . . . (2) : B 29, D 2 94 (cp. note 
2 to chapter 5) ... (3) : B 20, D 2 30 ... (4) : B 26, D 2 66. 

Fire plays a central rdle in Heraclitus' philosophy of nature. The flame 
is the obvious symbol of a flux or process which appears in many respects as a thing. 
It thus explains the experience of stable things, and reconciles this experience 
with the doctrine of flux. This idea can be easily extended to living bodies 
which are like flames, only burning more slowly. Heraclitus teaches that all 
things are in flux, all are like fire ; their flux has only different ' measures ' 
or laws of motion. The ' bowl * or ' trough * in which the fire burns will be 
in a much slower flux than the fire, but it will be in flux nevertheless. It 
changes, it has its fate and its laws, it must be burned into by the fire, and 
consumed, even if it takes a longer time before its fate is fulfilled. Thus, 
' in its advance, the fire will judge and convict everything '. 

Accordingly, the fire is the symbol and the explanation of the apparent 
rest of things in spite of their real state of flux. But it is also a symbol of the 
transmutation of matter from one stage (fuel) into another. It thus provides 
the link between Heraclitus' intuitive theory of nature and the theories of 
rarefaction and condensation etc., of his predecessors. But its flaring up and 
dying down, in accordance with the measure of fuel provided, is also an 
instance of a law. If this is combined with some form of periodicity, then it 
can be used to explain the regularities of natural periods, such as days or years. 
(This trend of thought renders it unlikely that Burnet is right in disbelieving 

1 82 CHAPTER 2 /NOTES 8-14 

the traditional reports of Heraclitus' belief in a periodical conflagration, 
which was probably connected with his Great Year.) 

8 The thirteen passages quoted in this paragraph are from the fragments. 

(1) : B 10, D 2 123 ... (2) : B u, D 2 9 3 . . . (3) : B 16, D 2 40 . . . (4) : 
B 94, D 2 73 . . . (5) : B 95, D 2 89 ... with (4) and (5), cp. Plato's Republic, 
47 6c f., and 5 2oc . . . (6) : B 6, D 2 19 . . . (7) : B 3, D 2 34 . . . (8) : 
B 19, D 2 41 ... (9) : B 92, D 2 2 ... (10) : B gia, D 2 113 ... (n) : 
B 59, D 3 10 ... (12) : B 65, D 2 32 ... (13) : B 28, D 2 64. 

9 More consistent than most moral historicists, Heraclitus is also an ethical 
and juridical positivist (for this term, cp. chapter 5) : ' All things are, to God, 
fair and good and right ; men, however, hold that some are wrong and some 
right.' (D 2 1 02, B 61.) That he was the first juridical positivist is attested 
by Plato (TheaeL, lyjc/d). On moral and juridical positivism in general, 
cp. chapter 5 (text to notes 14-18) and chapter 22. 

10 The two passages quoted in this paragraph are : (i) : B 44, D 2 53 . . . 

(2) : B 62, D 2 80. 

11 The seven passages quoted in this paragraph are : (i) : B 39, D 2 
126 ... (2) : B 104, D 2 in ... (3) : B 78, D 2 88 ... (4) : B 69, D 2 
60 ... (5) : B 45, D 2 51 . . . (6) : D 2 8 . . . (7) : B 57, D 2 58. 

Flux or change must be the transition from one stage or property or 
position to another. In so far as flux presupposes something that changes, 
this something must remain identically the same, even though it assumes an 
opposite stage or property or position. This links the theory of flux to that 
of the unity of opposites (cp. Aristotle, Metaphysics, ioo5b25, iO24a24 and 34, 
io62a32, io63a25) as well as the doctrine of the oneness of all things ; they 
are all only different phases or appearances of the one changing something 
(of fire). 

Whether' the path that leads up ' and * the path that leads down ' were 
originally conceived as an ordinary path leading first up a mountain, and 
later down again (or perhaps : leading up from the point of view of the man 
who is down, and down from that of the man who is up), and whether this 
metaphor was only later applied to the processes of circulation, to the path 
that leads up from earth through water (perhaps liquid fuel in a bowl ?) to 
the fire, and clown again from the fire through the water (rain ?) to earth ; 
or whether Heraclitus' path up and down was originally applied by him to 
this process of circulation of matter ; all this can of course not be decided. 
(But I think that the first alternative is more likely in view of the great number 
of similar ideas in Heraclitus' fragments : cp. the text.) 

1 2 The four passages are : (i) : B 102, D 2 24 . . . (2) : Bioi,D 2 25 

(3) : B in, D 2 29 (part of the continuation is quoted above ; see passage 
(3) in note 4) ... (4) : B 113, D 2 49. 

13 It seems very probable (cp. Meyer's Gesch. d. Altertums, esp. vol. I) that 
such characteristic teachings as that of the chosen people originated in this 
period, which produced several other religions of salvation besides the Jewish. 

14 Comte, who in France developed a historicist philosophy not very 
dissimilar from Hegel's Prussian version, tried, like Hegel, to stem the revolu- 
tionary tide. (Cp. F. A. von Hayek, The Counter-Revolution of Science, Economica, 
N.S. vol. VIII, 1941, pp. ngff., 281 ff.) It is interesting to note, in this 
connection, the parallelism between the history of historicist and of evolutionary 
ideas. They originated in Greece with the semi-Heraclitean Empedocles 
(for Plato's version, see note i to chapter n), and they were revived, in 
England as well as in France, in the time of the French Revolution. 

CHAPTER 3/NOTES 1-6 183 


1 With this explanation of the term oligarchy, cp. also the end of notes 
44 and 57 to chapter 8. 

2 Cp. especially note 48 to chapter 10. 

3 Cp. the end of chapter 7, esp. note 25, and chapter 10, esp. note 69. 

4 Concerning Plato's family connections, and especially the alleged descent 
of his father's family from Codrus, ' and even from the God Poseidon ', see 
G. Grote, Plato and other Companions of Socrates (ed. 1875), vol. I, 114. (See, 
however, the similar remark on Critias' family, i.e. on that of Plato's mother, 
in E. Meyer, Geschichte des Altertums, vol. V, 1922, p. 66.) 

5 The two autobiographical quotations which follow in this paragraph are 
from the Seventh Letter (325). Since Plato's authorship of the Letters has been 
questioned by some eminent scholars (probably without sufficient foundation ; 
I think Field's treatment of this problem very convincing ; cp. note 57 to 
chapter 10), I have taken care to base my interpretation of Platonism mainly 
on some of the most famous dialogues ; it is, however, in general agreement 
with the Letters. For the reader's convenience, a list of those Platonic dialogues 
which are frequently mentioned in the text may be given here, in what is 
their probable historical order ; cp. note 56 (8) to ch. 10. Crito Apology 
Eutyphro ; Protagoras Meno Gorgias ; Cratylus Menexenus Phaedo ; Re- 
public Theaetetus ; Sophist Politicus Philebus ; Timaeus Critias ; Laws. 

6 ( i ) That historical developments may have a cyclic character is nowhere 
clearly stated by Plato. It is, however, alluded to in at least three dialogues, 
namely in the Phaedo, in the Republic, and in the Statesman (or Politicus). In all 
these places, Plato's theory may possibly allude to Heraclitus' Great Year 
(cp. note 6 to chapter 2). It may be, however, that the allusion is not to 
Heraclitus directly, but rather to Empedocles, whose theory (cp. also Aristotle, 
Met., 1000325 f.) Plato considered as merely a ' milder ' version of the 
Heraclitean theory of the unity of all flux. He expresses this in a famous 
passage of the Sophist (2426 f.) According to this passage, and to Aristotle 
(De Gen. Corr. 9 B, 6., 334a6) there is a historical cycle embracing a period in 
which love rules, and a period in which Heraclitus' strife rules ; or as Aristotle 
puts it, the present period is according to Empedocles ' a period of Strife, as 
it was formerly one of Love '. This insistence that the flux of our own cosmic 
period is a kind of strife, and therefore bad, is in close accordance both with 
Plato's theories and with his experiences. 

(2) The passage in the Phaedo mentioned under (i) alludes first to the 
Heraclitean theory of change leading from one state to its opposite state, or 
from one opposite to the other : ' that which becomes less must once have 
been greater . . .' (706/71 a). It then proceeds to indicate a cyclic law of 
development : * Are there not two processes which are ever going on, from 
one extreme to its opposite, and back again . . ? ' (loc. cit.}. And a little later 
(72a/b) the argument is put like this : ' If the development were in a straight 
line only, and there were no compensation or cycle in nature, . . then, in 
the end, all things would take on the same properties . . and there would be 
no further development.' It must be said that the general tendency of the 
Phaedo is much more optimistic (and shows much more faith in man and in 
human reason) than the later dialogues, but there are no direct references to 
human historical development. 

(3) Such references are, however, made in the Republic, where in Books 
VIII and IX we find an elaborate description of historical decay (treated 
here in chapter 4). This description is introduced by Plato's Story of the Fall 
of Man and the Number, which will here be discussed more fully in chapters 
5 and 8. J. Adam, in his edition of The Republic of Plato (1902, 1921) rightly 
calls this story * the setting in which Plato's " Philosophy of History " is 

184 CHAPTER 3/NOTES 7-8 

framed ' (vol. II, 210). This story does not contain any explicit statement on 
the cyclic character of history, but it contains a few rather mysterious hints 
which, according to Aristotle's (and Adam's) interesting but uncertain 
interpretation, are possibly allusions to the Heraclitean Great Year, i.e. to 
the cyclic development. (Gp. note 6 to chapter 2, and Adam, op. cit., vol. 
H> 33 > tne remark on Empedocles made there, 303 f., needs correction ; 
see (i) in this note, above). 

(4) There is, furthermore, the myth in the Politicus (2686-2746). Accord- 
ing to this myth, God himself steers the world for half a cycle of the grdat 
world period. When he lets go, then the world, which so far has moved 
forward, begins to roll back again. Thus we have two half-periods or half- 
cycles in the full cycle, a forward movement led by God constituting the good 
period without war or strife, and a backward movement when God abandons 
the world, which is a period of increasing disorganization and strife. It is, 
of course, the period in which we live. At last, things become so bad that 
God takes the wheel again, and reverses the motion, in order to save the world 
from utter destruction. 

This myth shows great resemblances to Empedocles' myth mentioned 
in (i) above, and probably also to Heraclitus* Great Year. Adam (op. cit. 9 
vol. II, 296 f.) also points out the similarities with Hesiod's story. 

(5) When, however, later in the Politicus (3O2b ff.) the six forms of imperfect 
government are ordered according to their degree of imperfection, there is no 
indication any longer to be found of a cyclic theory of history. Rather, the 
six forms, which are all degenerate copies of the perfect or best state (cp. Pol. 
293d /c ; 297C ; 3O3b), appear all as steps in the process of degeneration ; i.e. 
where it comes to more concrete historical problems, Plato confines himself 
to the part of the cycle which is retrogressive or leading to decay. 

(6) Apart from these scanty allusions, there is hardly anything to indicate 
that Plato took the upward or forward part of the cycle seriously. But there 
are many remarks, apart from the elaborate description in the Republic and 
that quoted in (5), which show that he believed very seriously in the downward 
movement, in the decay of history. We must consider, especially, the Timaeus, 
and the Laws. 

(7) In the Timaeus (42b f., goe ff., and especially 9 id f. ; cp. also the Phaedrus, 
248d), Plato describes what may be called the origin of species by degeneration 
(cp. text to note 4 to chapter 4, and note 1 1 to chapter 1 1) : Man degenerates 
into woman, and later into lower animals. 

(8) In Book III of the Laws (cp. also Book IV, 7133 ff. ; see however the 
short allusion to a cycle in 676b/c) we have a rather elaborate theory of 
historical decay, largely analogous to that in the Republic ; see also the next 
chapter, esp. notes 3, 6, 7, 27, 31, and 44. 

7 A similar opinion of Plato's political aims is expressed by G. G. Field, 
Plato and His Contemporaries (1930), p. 91 : ' The chief aim of Plato's philosophy 
may be regarded as the attempt to re-establish standards of thought and 
conduct for a civilization that seemed on the verge of dissolution.' See also 
note 3 to chapter 6, and text. 

8 I follow the majority of the older and a good number of contemporary 
authorities (e.g. G. G. Field, F. M. Cornford, A. K. Rogers) in believing, 
against John Burnet and A. E. Taylor, that the theory of Forms or Ideas is 
nearly entirely Plato's, and not Socrates', in spite of the fact that Plato puts 
it into the mouth of Socrates as his main speaker. Though Plato's dialogues are 
our only first-rate source for Socrates' teaching, it is, I believe, possible to 
distinguish in them between ' Socratic ', i.e. historically true, and ' Platonic ' 
features of Plato's speaker ' Socrates '. The so-called Socratic Problem is 
further discussed in chapters 6, 7, 8, and 10 ; cp. especially note 56 to 
chapter 10. 

CHAPTER 3 /NOTES 9-15 185 

9 For the term ' social engineering ', cp. M. Eastman, Marxism : is it 
Science? (1940). I read Eastman's book after the text of my own book was 
written ; my term * social engineering ' is, accordingly, used without any 
intention of alluding to Eastman's terminology. As far as I can see, he 
advocates the approach which I criticize in chapter 9 under the name * Utopian 
social engineering ' ; cp. note i to that chapter. See also note 18 (3) to 
chapter 5. 

The term ' social technology ' has been suggested to me by G. G. F. 
Simkin. I wish to make it clear that in discussing method, my main emphasis 
is upon gaining practical institutional experience. Gp. chapter 9, esp. text 
to note 8 to that chapter. For a more detailed analysis of the problems of 
method connected with social engineering and social technology, see the 
critical part of my Poverty of Historicism, Economica, 1944/45. 

10 Cp. the last note to this chapter, and note i to chapter 9. 

11 I believe in a dualism of facts and decisions or demands (or of ' is ' 
and ' ought ') ; in other words, I believe in the impossibility of reducing 
decisions or demands to facts, although they can, of course, be treated as 
facts. More on this point will be said in chapters 5 (text to notes 4-5), 22, 
and 24. 

12 Evidence in support of this interpretation of Plato's theory of the best 
state will be supplied in the next three chapters ; I may refer, in the mean- 
while, to Politicus, 293d/e ; 2970 ; Laws, Ji^b/c ; 7390! /e. 

13 Gp. Aristotle's famous report, partly quoted later in this chapter (see 
especially note 25, and the text). 

14 This is shown in Grote's Plato, vol. Ill, note u on p. 267 f. 

15 The quotations are from the Timaeus, 5oc/d and 5ie~52b. The simile 
which describes the Forms or Ideas as the fathers, and Space as the mother, 
of the sensible things, is important and has far-reaching connections. Gp. 
also notes 17 and 19 to this chapter, and note 59 to chapter 10. 

(1) It resembles Hesiod's myth of chaos, the yawning gap (space ; receptacle) 
which corresponds to the mother, and the God Eros, who corresponds to the 
father or to the Ideas. Chaos is the origin, and the question of the causal 
explanation (chaos = cause) remains for a long time one of origin (arche) or 
birth or generation. 

(2) The mother or space corresponds to the indefinite or boundless of 
Anaximander and of the Pythagoreans. The Idea which is male, must 
therefore correspond to the definite (or limited) of the Pythagoreans. For 
the definite, as opposed to the boundless, the male, as opposed to the female, 
the light as opposed to the dark, and the good as opposed to the bad, all 
belong to the same side in the Pythagorean table of opposites. (Gp. Aristotle's 
Metaphysics, 986a22 f.) We also can therefore expect to see the Ideas associated 
with light and goodness. (Gp. end of note 32 to chapter 8.) 

(3) The Ideas are boundaries or limits, they are definite, as opposed to 
indefinite Space, and impress or imprint (cp. note 17 (2) to this chapter) 
themselves like rubber-stamps, or better, like moulds, upon Space (which 
is not only space but at the same time Anaximander's unformed matter 
stuff without property), thus generating sensible things. 

(4) In consequence of the act of generation, Space, i.e. the receptacle, 
begins to labour, so that all things are set in motion, in a Heraclitean or 
Empedoclean flux which is really universal in so far as the movement or flux 
extends even to the framework, i.e. (boundless) space itself. (For the late 
Heraclitean idea of the receptacle, cp. the Cratylus, 4i2d.) 

(5) This description is also reminiscent of Parmenides* * Way of Delusive 
Opinion ', in which the world of experience and of flux is created by the 
mingling of two opposites, the light (or hot or fire) and the dark (or cold or 
earth). It is clear that Plato's Forms or Ideas would correspond to the 

O.s.i.E. VOL. I G 

1 86 CHAPTER 3 /NOTE 15 

former, and space or what is boundless to the latter ; especially if we consider 
that Plato's pure space i also indeterminate matter. 

(6) The opposition between the determinate and indeterminate seems also 
to correspond, especially after the discovery of the irrationality of the square 
root of two, to the opposition between the rational and the irrational. But 
since Parmenides identifies the rational with being, this would lead to an 
interpretation of space or the irrational as non-being. In other words, the 
Pythagorean table of opposites is to be extended to cover rationality, as 
opposed to irrationality, and being, as opposed to non-being. (This would 
explain Aristotle's remark in Metaphysics, g86b27 ; and it would perhaps 
not be necessary to assume, as F. M. Cornford does in his excellent article 
' Parmenides' Two Ways ', Class. Quart., XVII, 1933, p. 108, that Par- 
menides, fr. 8, 53/54, * has been misinterpreted by Aristotle and Theo- 
phrastus ' ; for if we expand the table of opposites in this way, Cornford's 
most convincing interpretation of the crucial passage of fr. 8 becomes com- 
patible with Aristotle's remark.) 

(7) Cornford has explained (op. cit., 100) that there are three ' ways ' in 
Parmenides, the way of Truth, the way of Not-being, and the way of Seeming 
(or, if I may call it so, of delusive opinion). He shows (101) that they cor- 
respond to three regions discussed in the Republic, the perfectly real and rational 
world of the Ideas, the perfectly unreal, and the world of opinion (based on 
the perception of things in flux). He has also shown (102) that in the Sophist, 
Plato modifies his position. To this, some comments may be added from the 
point of view of the passages in the Timaeus to which this note is appended. 

(8) The main difference between the Forms or Ideas of the Republic and 
those of the Timaeus is that in the former, the Forms (and also God ; cp. 
Rep., 38od) are petrified, so to speak, while in the latter, they are deified. In 
the former, they bear a much closer resemblance to the Parmenidean One 
(cp. Adam's note to Rep., 38od28, 31), than in the latter. This development 
leads to the Laws, where the Ideas are largely replaced by souls. The decisive 
difference is that the Ideas become more and more the starting points, or even 
causes, of motion, or as the Timaeus puts it, fathers of the moving things. The 
greatest contrast is perhaps between the Phaedo, 796 : ' The soul is infinitely 
more like the unchangeable ; even the most stupid person would not deny 
that ' (cp. also Rep., 585^ 6oo,b f.) and the Laws, 8956 /8g6a (cp. Phaedrus, 
245C ff.) : ' What is the definition of that which is named " soul " ? Can we 
imagine any other definition than . . " The motion that moves itself" ? ' 
(Cp. also note 7 to chapter 4.) 

(9) In this development of Plato's thought, a development whose driving 
force is to explain the world of flux with the help of the Ideas, i.e. to make 
the break between the world of reason and the world of opinion at least 
understandable, even though it cannot be bridged, the Sophist seems to play 
a decisive role. Apart from making room, as Cornford mentions (op. cit. 9 
102), for the plurality of Ideas, it presents them, in an argument against 
Plato's own earlier position (248a ff.) (a) as active causes, which may interact, 
for example, with mind ; (b) as unchanging in spite of that ; (c) as capable 
of mingling with one another. It further introduces ' Not-being ', identified 
in the Timaeus with Space (cp. Cornford, Plato 9 s Theory of Knowledge, 1935, 
note to 247), and thus makes it possible for the Ideas to mingle with it (cp. 
also Philolaus, fragm. 2, 3, 5, Diels a ), and to produce the world of flux with 
its characteristic intermediate position between the being of Ideas and the 
not-being of Space or matter. 

(10) Ultimately, I wish to defend my contention in the text that the 
Ideas are not only outside space, but also outside time, though they are in 
contact with the world at the beginning of time. This, I believe, makes it 
qasier to understand how they act without being in motion ; for all motion or 

CHAPTER 3 /NOTES 1 6-2 2 187 

flux is in space and time. Plato, I believe, assumes that time has a beginning. 
I think that this is the most direct interpretation of Laws, 72 ic : * the race 
of man is twin-born with all time ', considering the many indications that 
Plato believed man to be created as one of the first creatures. (In this point, 
I disagree slightly with Cornford, Plato 9 s Cosmology, 1937, p. 145, and pp. 
26 f.) 

(n) To sum up, I believe that the passages quoted from the Timaeus are 
a mature formulation of the theory of Ideas, freed from certain difficulties of 
its earlier form (e.g. from the argument of the ' Third Man '), but retaining 
its characteristic features ; the Ideas are earlier and better than their changing 
and decaying copies, and are themselves not in flux. 

16 Gp. note 4 to this chapter. 

17 (i) The role of the gods in the Timaeus is similar to the one described 
in the text. Just as the Ideas stamp out things, so the gods form the bodies 
of men. Only the human soul is created by the Demiurge himself, the creator 
of world, gods, and Ideas. (For another hint that the gods are patriarchs, 
see Laws, 7i3c/d.) Men, the weak, degenerate children of gods, are then 
liable to further degeneration ; cp. note 6 (7) to this chapter, and 37-41 to 
chapter 5. 

(2) In an interesting passage of the Laws (68 ib ; cp. also note 32 (i, a) 
to chapter 4) we find another allusion to the parallelism between the relation 
Idea things and the relation parent children. In this passage, the origin of 
law is explained by the influence of tradition, and more especially, by the 
transmission of a rigid order from the parents to the children ; and the 
following remark is made : ' And they (the parents) would be sure to imprint 
upon their children, and upon their children's children, their own way of 

18 Cp. note 49, especially (3), to chapter 8. 

19 Cp. Timaeus, 31 a. The term which I have freely translated by ' superior 
thing which is their prototype ' is a term often used later by Aristotle with 
the meaning ' universal ' or ' generic term '. It means a ' thing which is 
general ' or ' surpassing ' or * embracing ' ; and I suspect that it originally 
means ' embracing ' or * covering ' in the sense in which a mould embraces 
or covers what it moulds. 

20 Cp. Republic, 597c. See also 596a (and Adam's second note to 596a5) : 
' For we are in the habit, you will remember, of postulating a frorm or Idea 
one for each group of many particular things to which we apply the same 

21 There are innumerable passages in Plato ; I mention only the Phaedo 
(e.g. 79a), the Republic, 544%, the Theaetetus (249b/c), the Timaeus (28b/c, 
29C/d, 5 id, f.). Aristotle mentions it for instance in Metaphysics, 98^32 ; 
999 a 25~999bio ; ioioa6-i5 ; iO78bi5 ; see also notes 23 and 25 to this 

22 Parmenides taught, as Burnet puts it (Early Greek Philosophy 2 , 208) 
that * what is . . is finite, spherical, motionless, corporeal ', i.e. that the world 
is a full globe, a whole without any parts, and that ' there is nothing beyond 
it '. I am quoting Burnet because (a) his description is excellent and (b) it 
destroys his own interpretation (E.G.P., 208-1 1) of what Parmenides calls the 
' Opinion of the Mortals ' (or the Way of Delusive Opinion). For Burnet 
dismisses there all the interpretations of Aristotle, Theophrastus, Simplicius, 
Gomperz, and Meyer, as c anachronisms ' or ' palpable anachronisms ', etc. 
Now the interpretation dismissed by Burnet is practically the same as the one 
proffered here in the text ; namely, that Parmenides believed in a world of 
reality behind this world of appearance. Such a dualism, which would allow 
Parmenides' description of the world of appearance to claim at least some 
kind of adequacy, is dismissed by Burnet as hopelessly anachronistic. I 

l88 CHAPTER 3/NOTES -23-26 

suggest, however, that if Parmenides had believed solely in his unmoving world, 
and not at all in the changing world, then he would have been really mad 
(as Empedocles hints) . But in fact there is an indication of a similar dualism 
already in Xenophanes, fragm. 23-6, if confronted with fragm. 34 (csp. 
' But all may have their fancy opinions '), so that we can hardly speak of 
an anachronism. As indicated in note 1 5 (6-7) , I follow Gornford's interpreta- 
tion of Parmenides. (See also note 41 to chapter 10.) 

23 Cp. Aristotle's Metaphysics, loySbas 5 tne next quotation is : op. cit., 

24 This valuable comparison is due to G. G. Field, Plato and His Contem- 
poraries , 211. 

25 The preceding quotation is from Aristotle, Metaphysics, 1078^5 ; the 
next from op. cit., g87b7. 

28 In Aristotle's analysis (in Metaphysics, g87a3O-bi8) of the arguments 
which led to the theory of Ideas (cp. also note 56 (6) to chapter 10), we can 
distinguish the following steps : (a) Heraclitus' flux, (b) the impossibility of 
true knowledge of things in flux, (c) the influence of Socrates' ethical essences, 

(d) the Ideas as objects of true knowledge, (e) the influence of the Pythagoreans, 
(/) the * mathematical ' as intermediate objects. ((e) and (/) I have not 
mentioned in the text, where I have mentioned instead (g) the Parmenidean 

It may be worth while to show how these steps can be identified in Plato's 
own work, where he expounds his theory ; especially in the Phaedo and in the 
Republic, in the Theactetus and in the Sophist, and in the Timaeus. 

( i ) In the Phaedo, we find indications of all the points up to and including 
(e). In 65a-66a, the steps (d) and (c) are prominent, with an allusion to (b). 
In 706 step (a), Heraclitus' theory appears, combined with an element of 
Pythagoreanism (e). This leads to 743 ff., and to a statement of step (d). 
99-100 is an approach to (d) through (c), etc. For (a) to (d), cp. also the 
Cratylus, 43gc ff. 

In the Republic, it is of course especially Book VI that corresponds closely 
to Aristotle's report, (a) In the beginning of Book VI, 485a/b the Heraclitean 
flux is referred to (and contrasted with the unchanging world of Forms). 
Plato there speaks of ' a reality which exists for ever and does not drift from 
generation to degeneration. 9 (Gp. note 2 (2) to chapter 4 and note 33 to chapter 8, 
and text.) The steps (b), (d) and especially (/) play a rather obvious role in 
the famous Simile of the Line (Rep., 509^5 ne ; cp. Adam's notes, and his 
appendix I to Book VII) ; Socrates' ethical influence, i.e. step (c), is of course 
alluded to throughout the Republic. It plays an important r61e within the 
Simile of the Line and especially immediately before, i.e. in 5o8b ff., where 
the role of the good is emphasized ; see in particular 5o8b/c : ' This is what 
I maintain regarding the offspring of the good. What the good has begotten 
in its own likeness is, in the intelligible world, related to reason (and its objects) 
in the same way as, in the visible world ', that which is the offspring of the sun, 
' is related to sight (and its objects).' Step (e) is implied in (/), but more 
fully developed in Book VII, in the famous Curriculum (cp. esp. 523a~527c), 
which is largely based on the Simile of the Line in Book VI. 

(2) In the Theaetetus, (a) and (b) are treated extensively ; (c) is mentioned 
in i74b and I75C. In the Sophist, all the steps, including (g), are mentioned, 
only (e) and (/) being left out ; see especially 274a (step c) ; 249C (step b) ; 
253d /e (step d). 

(3) In the Timaeus, all the steps mentioned by Aristotle are indicated, 
with the possible exception of (c), which is alluded to only indirectly in the 
introductory recapitulation of the contents of the Republic, and in 2gd. Step 

(e) is, as it were, alluded to throughout, since ' Timaeus ' is a ' western " 
philosopher and strongly influenced by Pythagoreanism. The other steps 

CHAPTER 3/NOTES 27-28 1 89 

occur twice in a form almost completely parellel to Aristotle's account ; first 
briefly in 28a-2gd, and later, with more elaboration, in 486-550. Immediately 
after (a), i.e. a Heraclitean description (4ga If. ; cp. Cornford, Plato's Cosmology, 
178) of the world in flux, the argument (b) is raised (5ic-c) that if we arc right 
in distinguishing between reason (or true knowledge) and mere opinion, we 
must admit the existence of the unchangeable Forms ; these are (in 516 f.) 
introduced next in accordance with step (d). The Heraclitean flux then 
comes again (as labouring space), but this time it is explained, as a consequence 
of the act of generation. And as a next step (/) appears, in 53C. 

(4) It seems that this parallelism between the Timaeus and Aristotle's 
report has not been sufficiently emphasized so far ; at least, it is not used by 
G. C. IJield in his excellent and convincing analysis of Aristotle's report 
(Plato and His Contemporaries, 202 ff.). But it would have strengthened Field's 
arguments (arguments, however, which hardly need strengthening, since they 
are practically conclusive) against Burnet's and Taylor's views that the Theory 
of Ideas is Socratic (cp. note 56 to chapter 10). For in the Timaeus, Plato does 
not put this theory into the mouth of Socrates, a fact which according to 
Burnet's and Taylor's principles should prove that it was not Socrates' theory. 
(They avoid this inference by claiming that * Timaeus ' is a Pythagorean, and 
that he develops not Plato's philosophy but his own. But Aristotle knew 
Plato personally for twenty years and should have been able to judge these 
matters ; and he wrote his Metaphysics at a time when members of the Academy 
could have contradicted his presentation of Platonism.) 

(5) Burnet writes, in Greek Philosophy, I, 155 (cp. also p. xliv of his edition 
of the Phaedo, 1911) : ' the theory of forms in the sense in which it is maintained 
in the Phaedo and Republic is wholly absent from what we may fairly regard the 
most distinctively Platonic of the dialogues, those, namely, in which Socrates 
is no longer the chief speaker. In that sense it is never even mentioned in 
any dialogue later than the Parmenides . . with the single exception of the 
Timaeus (sic), where the speaker is a Pythagorean.' But if it is maintained in 
the Timaeus in the sense in which it is maintained in the Republic, then it is 
certainly so maintained in the Sophist 253d/e ; and in the Politicus, 26gc/d ; 
286a ; 2g7b/c, and c/d ; 301 a and e ; 3026 ; and 3O3b ; and in the Laws, 
yi3b, 73gd/e, g62c, and, most important, g65b/c ; see also the next note. 
(Burnet believes in the genuineness of the Letters, especially the Seventh ; but 
the theory of Ideas is maintained there in 342a ft. ; see also note 56 (5, d) to 
chapter 10.) 

27 Cp. Laws, 8g5d-e. I do not agree with England's note (in his edition 
of the Laws, vol. II, 472) that ' the word " essence " will not help us '. True, 
if we meant by ' essence ' some important sensible part of the sensible thing 
(which might perhaps be purified and produced by some distillation), then 
' essence ' would be misleading. But the word * essential ' is widely used in 
a way which corresponds very well indeed with what we wish to express here : 
something opposed to the accidental or unimportant or changing empirical 
aspect of the thing, whether it is conceived as dwelling in that thing, or in a 
metaphysical world of Ideas. 

I am using the term ' essentialism ' in opposition to * nominalism ', in order 
to avoid, and to replace, the misleading traditional term * realism ', wherever 
it is opposed (not to * idealism ' but) to ' nominalism '. (See also note 26 ff. 
to chapter n, and text, and especially note 38.) 

On Plato's application of his essentialist method, for instance, as mentioned 
in the text, to the theory of the soul, see Laws, 8gse f., quoted in note 15 (8) 
to this chapter, and chapter 5, especially note 23. See also, for instance, 
Meno, 86d/e, and Symposium, iggc/d. 

28 On the theory of causal explanation, cp. my Logik der Forschung, csp. 
chapter 12, pp. 26 ff. 

1 90 CHAPTER 4/NOTES 1-2 

29 The theory of language here indicated is that of Semantics, as developed 
especially by A. Tarski and R. Carnap. Gp. Carnap, Introduction to Semantics, 
1942, and note 23 to chapter 8. 

30 The theory that while the physical sciences are based on a methodological 
nominalism, the social sciences must adopt essentialist (' realistic ') methods, 
has been made clear to me by K. Polanyi (in 1925) ; he pointed out, at that 
time, that a reform of the methodology of the social sciences might conceivably 
be achieved by abandoning this theory. The theory is held, to some extent, 
by most sociologists, esp. by J. S. Mill (for instance, Logic, VI, ch. VI, 2 ; 
see also his historicist formulations, e.g. in VI, ch. X, 2, last paragraph : ' The 
fundamental problem . . of the social science is to find the laws according 
to which any state of society produces the state which succeeds it . .'), K. Marx 
(see below) ; M. Weber (cp., for example, his definitions in the beginning of 
Methodische Grundlagen der Soziologie, in Wirtschqft und Gesellschaft, I, and in 
Ges. Aufsaetze zur Wissenschaftslehre) . G. Simmel, A. Vierkandt, R. M. Maclver, 
and many more. The philosophical expression of all these tendencies is 
E. HusserFs ' Phaenomenology ', a systematic revival of the methodological 
essentialism of Plato and Aristotle. (See also chapter n, esp. note 44.) 

The opposite, the nominalist attitude in sociology, can be developed, I 
think, only as a technological theory of social institutions. 

In this context, I may mention how I came to trace historicism back to 
Plato and Heraclitus. In analysing historicism, I found that it needs what 
I call now methodological essentialism ; i.e. I saw that the typical arguments 
in favour of essentialism are bound up with historicism (cp. my Poverty of 
Historicism). This led me to consider the* history of essentialism. I was struck 
by the parallelism between Aristotle's report and the analysis which I had 
carried out originally without any reference to Platonism. In this way, I 
was reminded of the roles of both Heraclitus and Plato in this development. 

31 I am alluding mainly to R. H. S. Grossman, Plato To-day (1937), the 
first book I have found to contain a political interpretation of Plato which 
is partly similar to my own. See also notes 2-3 to chapter 6, and text. 


1 Cp. Republic, 6o8e. See also note 2 (2) to this chapter. 

2 (i) With the Platonic theory, Aristotle contrasts his own, according to 
which the ' good ' thing is not the starting point, but rather the end or aim of 
change, since ' good ' means a thing aimed at the final cause of change. Thus 
he says of the Platonists, i.e. of* those who believe in Forms ', that they ' do not 
speak as if anything came to pass for the sake of these * (i.e. of things which are 

* good ') * but as if all movement started from them '. And he points out that 

* good ' means therefore to the Platonists not ' a cause qua good ', i.e. an aim, 
but that * it is only incidentally a good '. Cp. Metaphysics, gSSbi and 8 ff. 
(This criticism sounds as if Aristotle had sometimes held views similar to those 
of Speusippus, which is indeed Zeller's opinion ; see note n to chapter 11. 

(2) Concerning the movement towards corruption, mentioned in the text in 
this paragraph, and its general significance in the Platonic philosophy, we 
must keep in mind the general opposition between the world of unchanging 
things or Ideas, and the world of sensible things in flux. Plato often expresses 
this opposition as one between the world of unchanging things and the world 
of corruptible things, or between things that are generated and those that degenerate, 
etc. ; see, for instance, Republic, 485a/b, quoted in note 26 (i) to chapter 3 
and in text to note 33 to chapter 8 ; and Republic, 5463, quoted in text to note 
37 to chapter 5 : * All things that have been generated must degenerate ' 
(or decay). That this problem of the generation and corruption of the world of 
things in flux was an important part of the Platonic School tradition is indicated 


by the fact that Aristotle devoted a separate treatise to this problem. Another 
interesting indication is the way in which Aristotle talked about these matters 
in the introduction to his Politics, contained in the concluding sentences of 
the Nicomachian Ethics (i i8ib/i5) : * We shall try to ... find what it is that 
preserves or corrupts the cities . . .' This passage is significant not only as a 
general formulation of what Aristotle considered the main problem of his 
Politics, but also because of its striking similarity with an important passage 
in the Laws, viz. GyGa, and 676b/c quoted below in text to notes 6 and 25 to 
this chapter. (See also notes i, 3, and 24/25 to this chapter ; see note 32 to 
chapter 8, and :he passage from the Laws quoted in note 59 to chapter 8.) 

8 This quotation is from the Statesman, sGgc/d. (See also note 23 to this 
chapter.) For the theory that perfect things (divine ' natures ' ; cp. the 
next chapter) can only become less perfect when they change, see esp. Republic, 
38ia-c. The quotation from Aristotle is from the Metaphysics, g88b3. 
The last two quotations in this paragraph are from Plato's Laws, 79 7d, f. 
See also note 24 to this chapter, and text. (It is possible to interpret the 
remark about the evil objects as another allusion to a cyclic development, 
as discussed in note 6 to chapter 2, i.e. as an allusion to the belief that the 
trend of the development must reverse, and that things must begin to improve 
once the world has reached the lowest depth of evilness. 

4 Cp. Timaeus, Qid-gab/c. See also note 6 (7) to chapter 3 and note n 
to chapter 11. 

6 See the beginning of chapter 2 above, and note 6 (i) to chapter 3. It 
is not a mere accident that Plato mentions Hesiod's story of ' metals ' when 
discussing his own theory of historical decay (Rep., 546e/547a, esp. notes 39 
and 40 to chapter 5) ; he clearly wishes to indicate how well his theory fits 
in with, and explains, that of Hesiod. 

6 The historical part of the Laws is in Books Three and Four ; the two 
quotations in the text are from the beginning of this part, i.e. Laws, 676a. 
For the parallel passages mentioned, see Republic, 36gb, f. ('The birth of a 
city . . .') and 545d (' How will our city be changed . .'). 

It is often said that the Laws (and the Statesman) are less hostile towards 
democracy than the Republic, and it must be admitted that Plato's general 
tone is in fact less hostile (this is perhaps due to the increasing inner strength 
of democracy ; see chapter 10 and the beginning of chapter 1 1 ). But the only 
practical concession made to democracy in the Laws is that political officers 
are to be elected by the members of the ruling class. But since all important 
changes in the laws of the state are forbidden anyway (cp., for instance, the 
quotations in the text to note 3 of this chapter), this does not mean very much. 
The fundamental tendency remains pro-Spartan, and this tendency was, as 
can be seen from Aristotle's Politics, u, 6, 17 (1265^, compatible with a 
so-called * mixed ' constitution. In fact, Plato in the Laws is, if anything, more 
hostile towards the spirit of democracy, i.e. towards the idea of the freedom of 
the individual, than he is in the Republic ; cp. especially the text to notes 32 
and 33 to chapter 6 (i.e. Laws, 739C, ff., and 9 42 a, f.) and to notes 19-22 to 
chapter 8 (i.e. Laws, gc^c-goga). See also next note. 

7 It seems likely that it was largely this difficulty of explaining the first 
change (or the Fall of Man) that led Plato to transform his theory of Ideas, 
as mentioned in note 15 (8) to chapter 3 ; viz., to transform the Ideas into 
active powers, and thus into something like gods, or even into gods, as opposed 
to the Republic which (cp. 38od) petrifies even the gods into unmoving and 
unmoved Parmenidean beings. (An important turning point is, apparently, 
the Sophist, 2480-249^ The transformation seems to solve at the same time the 
difficulty of the so-called * third man ' ; for if the Forms are, as in the Timaeus, 
fathers, then there is no ' third man * necessary to explain their similarity to 
their offspring.) 


Regarding the relation of the Republic to the Statesman and to the Laws, 
I think that Plato's attempt in the two latter dialogues to trace the origin of 
human society further and further back, is likewise connected with the 
difficulties inherent in the problem of the first change. That it is difficult to 
conceive of a change overtaking a perfect city is clearly stated in Republic, 
5463 ; Plato's attempt in the Republic to solve it, will be discussed in the next 
chapter (cp. text to notes 37-40 to chapter 5). In the Statesman, Plato adopts 
the theory of a cosmic catastrophe which leads to the change from the 
(Empedoclean) half-circle of love to the present period, the half-circle of strife. 
This idea seems to have been dropped in the Timaeus, in order to be replaced 
by a theory (retained in the Laws) of more limited catastrophes, such as floods, 
which may destroy civilizations, but apparently do not affect the course of 
the universe. (It is possible that this solution of the problem was suggested 
to Plato by the fact that in 373-372 B.C., the ancient city of Helice was destroyed 
by earthquake and flood.) The earliest form of society, removed in the 
Republic only by one single step from the still existing Spartan state is thrust 
back to a more and more distant past. Although Plato continues to believe 
that the first settlement must be the best city, he now discusses societies prior 
to the first settlement, i.e. nomad societies, ' hill shepherds '. (Cp. esp. note 
33 to this chapter.) 

8 The quotation is from Marx-Engcls, The Communist Manifesto ; cp. 
A Handbook of Marxism (edited by E. Burns, 1935), 22. 

9 The quotation is from Adam's comments on book VIII of the Republic ; 
see his edition, vol. II, 198, note to 544a3. 

10 Cp. Republic, 5440. 

11 (i) As opposed to my contention that Plato, like many modern 
sociologists since Comte, tries to outline the typical stages of social develop- 
ment, most critics take Plato's story merely as a somewhat dramatic presenta- 
tion of a purely logical classification of constitutions. But this not only 
contradicts what Plato says (cp. Adam's note to Rep., 54409, op. cit., vol. II, 
i99)> but it is also against the whole spirit of Plato's logic, according to which 
the essence of a thing is to be understood by its nature, i.e. by its historical 
origin. And we must not forget that he uses the same word, ' genus ', to 
mean a class in the logical sense and a race in the biological sense. The 
logical * genus ' is still identical with the ' race ', in the sense of ' offspring of 
the same parent '. (With this, cp. notes 15 to 20 to chapter 3, and text, as 
well as notes 23-24 to chapter 5, and text, where the equation nature ~ origin = 
race is discussed.) Accordingly, there is every reason for taking what Plato 
says at its face value ; for even if Adam were right when he says (loc. cit.) that 
Plato intends to give a * logical order ', this order would for him be at the same 
time that of a typical historical development. Adam's remark (loc. cit.) 
that the order ' is primarily determined by psychological and not by historical 
considerations ' turns, I believe, against him. For he himself points out (for 
instance, op. cit., vol. II, 195, note to 5433, ff.) that Plato ' retains throughout 
. . the analogy between the Soul and the City '. According to Plato's 
political theory of the soul (which will be discussed in the next chapter), the 
psychological history must run parallel to the social history, and the alleged 
opposition between psychological and historical considerations disappears, 
turning into another argument in favour of our interpretation. 

(2) Exactly the same reply could be made if somebody should argue 
that Plato's order of the constitution is, fundamentally, not a logical but an 
ethical one ; for the ethical order (and the aesthetic order as well) is, in Plato's 
philosophy, indistinguishable from the historical order. In this connection, 
it may be remarked that this historicist view provides Plato with a theoretical 
background for Socrates' eudemonism, i.e. of the theory that goodness and 
happiness are identical. This theory is developed, in the Republic (cp. especially 

CHAPTER 4/NOTES 1 2- 1 8 193 

58ob), in the form of the doctrine that goodness and happiness, or badness 
and unhappiness, are proportional ; and so they must be, if the degree of 
the goodness as well as of the happiness of a man is to be measured by the 
degree in which he resembles the perfect Idea of man. (The fact that Plato's 
theory leads, in this point, to a theoretical justification of an apparently 
paradoxical Socratic doctrine may well have helped Plato to convince himself 
that he was only expounding the true Socratic creed ; see text to notes 56/57 
to chapter 10. 

(3) Rousseau took over Plato's classification of institutions (Social Contract, 
Book II, ch. VII, Book III, ch. Ill ff., cp. also ch. X). But he was probably 
mainly indirectly influenced by Plato when he revived the Platonic Idea of a 
primitive society (cp., however, notes i to chapter 6 and 14 to chapter 9) ; 
but a direct product of the Platonic Renaissance in Italy was Sanazzaro's 
most influential book Arcadia, with its revival of Plato's idea of a blessed 
primitive society of Greek (Porian) hill shepherds. (For this idea of Plato's, 
cp. text to note 32 to this chapter.) Thus Romanticism (cp. also chapter 9) 
is historically indeed an offspring of Platonism. 

(4) How far the modern historicism of Comte and Mill, and of Hegel and 
Marx, is influenced by the theistic historicism of Giambattista Vico's New 
Science (1725) is very hard to say : Vico himself was undoubtedly influenced 
by Plato, as well as by St. Augustine's De Civitate Dei and Machiavelli's Dis- 
courses on Livy. Like Plato (cp. ch. 5), Vico identified the * nature ' of a 
thing with its ' origin ' (cp., Opere, Ferrari's second ed., 1852-4, vol. V, p. 99) ; 
and he believed that all nations must pass through the same course of develop- 
ment, according to one universal law. His * nations ' (like Hegel's) may thus 
be said to be one of the links between Plato's ' Cities ' and Toynbee's 
' Civilizations '. 

12 Cp. Republic, 549c/d ; the next quotations are op. cit., 55od-e, and later, 
op. cit., 55ia/b. 

13 Cp. op. cit., 5566. (This passage should be compared with Thucydides, 
III, 82-4, quoted in chapter 10, text to note 12.) The next quotation is 
op. cit., 5573. 

14 For Pericles' democratic programme, see text to note 31, chapter 10 ; 
note 17 to chapter 6, and note 34 to chapter 10. 

15 Adam, in his edition of The Republic of Plato, vol. II, 240, note to 55^22. 
(The italics in the second quotation are mine.) Adam admits that * the picture 
is doubtless somewhat exaggerated ' ; but he leaves little doubt that he thinks 
it is, fundamentally, true ' for all time '. 

18 Adam, loc. cit. 

17 This quotation is from Republic, 56od (for this and the next quotation, 
cp. Lindsay's translation) ; the next two quotations are from the same work, 
563 a-b, and d. (See also Adam's note to 563d25.) It is significant that 
Plato, who in general is not a defender of private property, defends this 
institution, when the property bought is a slave, by appealing to the lawful 
right of the buyer. 

Another attack upon democracy is that * it tramples under foot ' the 
educational principle that ' no one can grow up to be a good man unless his 
earliest years were given to noble games '. (Rep., 558b ; see Lindsay's 
translation; cp. note 68 to chapter 10.) See also the attacks upon equali- 
tarianism quoted in note 14 to chapter 6. 

18 Slavery (see ^the last note) and the Athenian movement against it will 
be further discussed in chapters 5 (notes 13 and text), 10, and n ; see also 
note 29 to the present chapter. Like Plato, Aristotle (e.g. in Pol., 1313^1, 
I3i9b20 ; and in his Constitution of Athens, 59, 5), testifies to Athens' liberality 
towards slaves ; and so does the Pseudo-Xenophon (cp. his Const, of Athens* 
I, 10, f.) 


19 Gp. Republic, 577a, f. ; see Adam's notes to 577a5 and bi2 (op. cit., 
vol. II, 332 f.). 

20 Republic, 5666 ; cp. note 63 to chapter 10. 

21 Cp. Statesman (Politicus), 3Oic/d. Although Plato distinguishes six types 
of debased states, he does not introduce any new terms ; the names * monarchy ' 
(or ' kingship ') and ' aristocracy ' are used in the Republic (445d) of the best 
state itself, and not of the relatively best forms of debased states, as in the 

22 Gp. Republic, 544d. 

23 Gp. Statesman, 297c/d : c If the government I have mentioned is the only 
true original, then the others ' (which are ' only copies of this ' ; cp. 2g7b/c) 
' must use its laws, and write them down ; this is the only way in which they 
can be preserved '. (Gp. note 3 to this chapter, and note 18 to chapter 7.) 
' And any violation of the laws should be punished with death, and the most 
severe punishments ; and this is very just and good, although, of course, only 
the second best thing.' (For the origin of the laws, cp. note 32 (i, a) to this 
chapter, and note 17 (2) to chapter 3.) And in 3006/3013, f., we read : 
* The nearest approach of these lower forms of government to the true govern- 
ment . . is to follow these written laws and customs. . . When the rich 
rule and imitate the true Form, then the government is called aristocracy ; 
and when they do not heed the (ancient) laws, oligarchy,' etc. It is important 
to note that not lawfulness or lawlessness in the abstract, but the preservation of 
the ancient institutions of the original or perfect state is the criterion of the 
classification. (This is in contrast to Aristotle's Politics, I2g2a, where the 
main distinction is whether or not ' the law is supreme ', or, for instance, 
the mob.) 

24 The passage, Laws, 7096-7143, contains several allusions to the States- 
man ; for instance, 710 d-e, which introduces, following Herodotus III, 80-82, 
the number of rulers as the principle of classification ; the enumerations of the 
forms of government in 7126 and d ; and 7i3b, flf., i.e. the myth of the perfect 
state in the day of Cronos, ' of which the best of our present states are imita- 
tions '. In view of these allusions, I little doubt that Plato intended his theory 
of the fitness of tyranny for Utopian experiments to be understood as a kind of 
continuation of the story of the Statesman (and thus also of the Republic). The 
quotations in this paragraph are from the Laws, 7096, and 7ioc/d ; the ' re- 
mark from the Laws quoted above ' is 797d, quoted in the text to note 3, in this 
chapter. (I agree with E. B. England's note to this passage, in his edition of 
The Laws of Plato, 1921, vol. II, 258, that it is Plato's principle that ' change is 
detrimental to the power ... of anything ', and therefore also to the power of 
evil ; but I do not agree with him * that change from bad ', viz., to good, is too 
self-evident to be mentioned as an exception ; it is not self-evident from the 
point of view of Plato's doctrine of the evil nature of change. See also next 
note) . 

26 Cp. Laws, 676b/c (cp. 6763, quoted in the text to note 6). In spite 
of Plato's doctrine that ' change is detrimental ' (cp. the end of the last note), 
E. B. England interprets these passages on change and revolution by giving 
them an optimistic or progressive meaning. He suggests that the object of 
Plato's search is what ' we might call " the secret of political vitality ".' 
(Gp. op. cit., vol. I, 344.) And he interprets this passage on the search for 
the true cause of (detrimental) change as dealing with a search for ' the cause 
and nature of the true development of a state, i.e. of its progress towards perfection '. 
(Italics his ; cp. vol. I, 345.) This shows how much the tendency to idealize 
Plato and to represent him as a progressivist blinds even such an excellent 
critic against his own finding, namely, that Plato believed change to be 

86 Gp. Republic, 545d (see also the parallel passage 465^. The next 

CHAPTER 4/NOTE 2? 195 

quotation is from the Laws, 6836. (Adam in his edition of the Republic, 
vol. II, 203, note to 545dai, refers to this passage in the Laws.) England, 
in his edition of the Laws, vol. I, 360 f., note to 68365, mentions Republic, 
6oga, but neither 54 5d nor 4650, and supposes that the reference is ' to a 
previous discussion, or one recorded in a lost dialogue '. I do not see why 
Plato should not be alluding to the Republic, by using the fiction that some of 
its topics have been discussed by the present interlocutors. As Gornford 
says, in Plato's last group of dialogues there is ' no motive to keep up the 
illusion that the conversations had really taken place ' ; and he is also right 
when he says that Plato * was not the slave of his own fictions '. (Cp. Cornford, 
Plato's Cosmology, pp. 5 and 4.) Plato's law of revolutions was rediscovered, 
without reference to Plato, by V. Pareto ; cp. his Treatise on General Sociology, 
2054, 2057, 2058. (At the end of 2055, there is also a theory of arresting 
history.) Rousseau also rediscovered the laws. (Social Contract, Book III, 
ch. X.) 

27 (i) It may be worth noting that the intentionally non-historical features 
of the best state, especially the rule of the philosophers, are not mentioned 
by Plato in the summary at the beginning of the Timaeus, and that in Book 
VIII of the Republic he assumes that the rulers of the best state are not versed 
in Pythagorean number-mysticism ; cp. Republic, 546c/d, where the rulers 
arc said to be ignorant of these matters. (Cp. also the remark, Rep., 543d /544a, 
according to which the best state of Book VIII can still be surpassed, namely, 
as Adam says, by the city of Books V-VII the ideal city in heaven.) 

In his book, Plato's Cosmology, pp. 6 ff., Cornford reconstructs the outlines 
and contents of Plato's unfinished trilogy, Timaeus Critias Hermocrates, and 
shows how they are related to the historical parts of the Laws (Book III). 
This reconstruction is, I think, a valuable corroboration of my theory that 
Plato's view of the world was fundamentally historical, and that his interest 
in * how it generated ' (and how it decays) is linked with his theory of Ideas, 
and indeed based on it. But if that is so, then there is no reason why we 
should assume that the later books of the Republic ' started from the question 
how it ' (i.e. the city) * might be realized in the future and sketched its possible 
decline through lower forms of polities' (Cornford, op.cit., 6 ; italics mine) ; but 
we should, especially in view of the close parallelism between the third book 
of the Laws and the eighth book of the Republic, consider it as a simplified 
historical sketch of the actual decline of the ideal city of the past, and as an 
explanation of the origin of the existing states, analogous to the greater task 
set by Plato for himself in the Timaeus, in the unfinished trilogy, and in the 

(sj) In connection with my remark, later in the paragraph, that Plato 

* certainly knew that he did not possess the necessary data ', see for instance 
Laws, 683d, and England's note to 683d2. 

(3) Tp my remark further on in the paragraph, that Plato recognized 
the Cretan and Spartan societies as petrified or arrested (and to the remark 
in the next paragraph that Plato's best state is not only a class state but a 
caste state) the following may be added. (Cp. also note 20 to this chapter, 
and 24 to chapter 10.) 

In Laws, 79 yd (in the introduction to the ' important pronouncement ', 
as England calls it, quoted in the text to note 3 to this chapter) Plato makes it 
perfectly clear that his Cretan and Spartan interlocutors are aware of the 

* arrested ' character of their social institutions ; Clenias, the Cretan inter- 
locutor, emphasizes that he is anxious to listen to any defence of the archaic 
character of a state. A little later (799a), and in the same context, a direct 
reference is made to the Egyptian method of arresting the development of 
institutions ; surely a clear indication that Plato recognized a tendency in 
Crete and Sparta parallel to that of Egypt, namely, to arrest all social change. 

196 CHAPTER 4/NOTES 28-3! 

In this context, a passage in the Timaeus (see especially 24a-b) seems 
important. In this passage, Plato tries to show (a) that a class division very 
similar to that of the Republic was established in Athens at a very ancient 
period of its pre-historical development, and (b) that these institutions were 
closely akin to the caste system of Egypt (whose arrested caste institutions 
he assumes to have derived from his ancient Athenian state). Thus Plato 
himself acknowledges by implication that the ideal ancient and perfect state 
of the Republic is a caste state. It is interesting that Grantor, first commentator 
on the Timaeus, reports, only two generations after Plato, that Plato had been 
accused of deserting the Athenian tradition, and of becoming a disciple of the 
Egyptians. (Cp. Gomperz, Greek Thinkers, Germ, ed., II, 476.) See also 
Isocrates* Busiris, quoted in note 3 to chapter 13. 

For the problem of the castes in the Republic, see furthermore notes 3 1 and 
32 (i, d) to this chapter, note 40 to chapter 6, and notes 1 1-14 to chapter 8. 
A. E. Taylor, Plato : The Man and His Work, pp. 269 f., forcefully denounces 
the view that Plato favoured a caste state. 

28 Cp. Republic, 4i6a. The problem is considered more fully in this 
chapter, text to note 35. (For the problem of caste, mentioned in the next 
paragraph, see notes 27 (3) and 31 to this chapter.) 

29 Cp. Republic, 37id/e. Adam comments (op. cit., vol. I, 97, note to 
371032) : ' Plato does not admit slave labour in his city, unless perhaps in 
the persons of barbarians.' I agree that Plato in the Republic ^Ggb-c) 
opposed the enslavement of Greek prisoners of war ; but he encouraged that 
of barbarians. (This is also the opinion of Tarn ; cp. note 1 3 (2) to chapter 
15.) And Plato violently attacked the Athenian movement against slavery, 
and insisted on the legal rights of property when the property was a slave 
(cp. text to notes 17 and 18 to this chapter). And as is shown by the next 
quotation (from Rep., 5480 /549a) in the paragraph to which this note is 
appended, he did not abolish slavery in his best city. (See also Rep., 59oc/d, 
where he defends the demand that the workers should be the slaves of the 
best man.) A. E. Taylor is therefore wrong when he maintains twice (in his 
Plato, 1908 and 1914, pp. 197 and 118) that Plato implies * that there is no 
class of slaves in the community '. For similar views in Taylor's Plato : The 
Man and His Work (1926), cp. end of note 27 to this chapter. 

For Plato's treatment of slavery in the Laws, see especially G. &. Morrow, 
' Plato and 'Greek Slavery' (Mind, N.S., vol. 48, 186-201 ; see also p. 402), 
an article which gives an excellent and critical survey of the subject, and 
reaches a very just conclusion, although the author is, in my opinion, still a 
little biased in favour of Plato. (The article does not perhaps sufficiently 
stress the fact that in Plato's day, an anti-slavery movement was well on the 
way ; cp. note 13 to chapter 5.) See also the Statesman, 3093. 

For Plato's advice against legislating for the common people with their 
' vulgar market quarrels ', etc., see Republic, 425c/d~427a ; esp. 425d-e and 
42 7a. These passages, of course, attack Athenian democracy (and all 
' piecemeal ' legislation in the sense of chapter 9). 

30 The quotation is from Plato's summary of the Republic in the Timaeus 
(i8c/d). With the remark concerning the lack of novelty of the suggested 
community of women and children, compare Adam's edition of The Republic 
of Plato, vol. I, p. 292 (note to 457b, ff.) and p. 308 (note to 463^), as well 
as pp. 345-55, esp. 354 ; with the Pythagorean element in Plato's communism, 
cp. op. cit., p. 199, note to 4i6d22. (For the precious metals, cp. note 24 to 
chapter 10.) 

81 The passage quoted is from Republic, 434b/c. In demanding a caste 
state, Plato hesitates for a long time. This is quite apart from the ' lengthy 
preface ' to the passage in question (which will be discussed in chapter 6 ; 
cp. notes 24 and 40 to that chapter) ; for when first speaking about these 

CHAPTER 4/NOTE 32 197 

matters, in 4153, fT., he speaks as though a rise from the lower to the upper 
classes were permissible, provided that in the lower classes * children were 
born with an admixture of gold and silver ' (4i5c), i.e. of upper class blood 
and virtue. But in 434b /c, and, even more clearly, in 547 a, this permission 
is withdrawn ; and in 547a any admixture of the metals is declared an impurity 
which must be fatal to the state. See also text to notes 11-14 to chapter 8 
(and note 27 (3) to the present chapter). 

32 Gp. the Statesman, 2716. The passages in the Laws about the primitive 
nomadic shepherds and their patriarchs are 6776-6806. The passage quoted 
is Laws, 68oe. The passage quoted next is from the Myth of the Earthborn, 
Republic ', 4i5d/e. The concluding quotation of the paragraph is from Republic, 
44od. It may be necessary to add some comments on certain remarks in the 
paragraph to which this note is appended. 

(i) It is stated in the text that it is not very clearly explained how the 
* settlement ' came about. Both in the Laws and in the Republic we first 
hear (see (a) and (c), below) of a kind of agreement or social contract (for the 
social contract, cp. note 29 to chapter 5 and notes 43 to 54 to chapter 6, and 
text), and later (see (b) and (c), below) of a forceful subjugation. 

(a) In the Laws, the various tribes of hill shepherds settle in the plains after 
having joined together to form larger war bands whose laws are arrived at 
by an agreement or contract, made by arbiters vested with royal powers 
(68 1 b and c/d ; for the origin of the laws described in 68 ib, cp. note 17 (2) 
to chapter 3). But now Plato becomes evasive. Instead of describing how 
these bands settle in Greece, and how the Greek cities were founded, Plato 
switches over to Homer's story of the foundation of Troy, and to the Trojan 
war. From there, Plato says, the Achaeans returned under the name of 
Dorians, and ' the rest of the story . . is part of Lacedaemonian history ' 
(682e) ' for we have reached the settlement of Lacedaemon ' (682e/683a). 
So far we have heard nothing about the manner of this settlement, and there 
follows at once a further digression (Plato himself speaks about the * roundabout 
track of the argument ') until we get ultimately (in 683c/d) the * hint ' 
mentioned in the text ; see (b). 

(b) The statement in the text that we get a hint that the Dorian * settle- 
ment ' in the Peloponnese was in fact a violent subjugation, refers to the Laws 
(683c/d), where Plato introduces what are actually his first historical remarks 
on Sparta. He says that he begins at the time when the whole of the Pelopon- 
nese was * practically subjugated ' by the Dorians. In the Menexenus (whose 
genuineness can hardly be doubted ; cp. note 35 to chapter 10) there is in 
245C an allusion to the fact that the Peloponnesians were ' immigrants from 
abroad ' (as Grote puts it : cp. his Plato, III, p. 5). 

(c) In the Republic (369^ the city is founded by workers with a view to 
the advantages of a division of labour and of co-operation, in accordance with 
the contract theory. 

(d) But later (in Rep., 4i5d/e ; see the quotation in the text, to this 
paragraph) we get a description of the triumphant invasion of a warrior class 
of somewhat mysterious origin the ' earthborn '. The decisive passage of 
this description states that the earthborn must look round to find for their 
camp the most suitable spot (literally) ' for keeping down those within ', 
i.e., for keeping down those already living in the city, i.e., for keeping down the 

(e) In the Statesman (2713, f.) these ' earthborn' are identified with the 
very early nomad hill shepherds of the pre-settlement period. 

(/) To sum up it seems that Plato had a fairly clear idea of the Dorian 
conquest, which he preferred, for obvious reasons, to veil in mystery. It also 
seems that there was a tradition that the conquering war hordes were of 
nomad descent. 

198 CHAPTER 4/NOTE 33 

(2) With the remark later in the text in this paragraph regarding Plato's 
' continuous emphasis ' on the fact that ruling is shepherding, cp., for instance, 
the following passages : Republic, 3430, where the idea is introduced ; 345C f., 
where, in form of the simile of the good shepherd, it becomes one of the central 
topics of the investigation ; 375a~376b, 4043, 44od, 4510-6, 45ga~46oc, and 
466c-d (quoted in note 30 to chapter 5), where the auxiliaries are likened to 
sheep-dogs and where their breeding and education is discussed accordingly ; 
4i6a, ff., where the problem of the wolves without and within the state is 
introduced ; cp. furthermore, the Statesman, where the idea is continued over 
many pages, esp. 26id-276d. With regard to the Laws, I may refer to the 
passage (6946), where Plato says of Cyrus that he had acquired for his sons 
' cattle and sheep and many herds of men and other animals '. (Cp. also 
Laws, 735, and Theaet., i74d.) 

(3) With all this, cp. also A. J. Toynbee, A Study of History, esp. vol. Ill, 
pp. 32 (n. i), where A. H. Lybyer, The Government of the Ottoman Empire, etc., is 
quoted, 33 (n. 2), 50-100 ; see more especially his remark on the conquering 
nomads (p. 22) who * deal with . . . men ', and on Plato's human watch- 
dogs' (p. 94, n. 2). I have been much stimulated by Toynbee's brilliant ideas 
and much encouraged by many of his remarks which I take as corroborating 
my interpretations, and which I can value the more highly the more Toynbee's 
and my fundamental assumptions seem to disagree. I also owe to Toynbee a 
number of terms used in my text, especially ' human cattle ', * human herd ' 
and ' human watch-dog '. 

Toynbee's Study of History is, from my point of view, a model of what I 
call historicism ; I need not say much more to express my fundamental 
disagreement with it ; and a number of special points of disagreement will 
be discussed at various places (cp. notes 43 and 45 (2) to this chapter, notes 
7 and 8 to chapter 10, and chapter 24). But it contains a wealth of interesting 
and stimulating ideas. Regarding Plato, Toynbee emphasizes a number of 
points in which I can follow him, especially that Plato's best state is inspired 
by his experience of social revolution and by his wish to arrest all change, 
and that it is a kind of arrested Sparta (which itself was also arrested). 
Toynbee also stresses the ideas of the shepherd of men, of the human sheep-dog, 
and the human cattle. In spite of these points of agreement, there is even 
in the interpretation of Plato a fundamental disagreement between Toynbee's 
views and my own. Toynbee regards Plato's best state as a typical (reac- 
tionary) Utopia, while I interpret its major part, in connection with what I 
consider as Plato's general theory of change, as an attempt to reconstruct a 
primitive form of society. Nor do I think that Toynbee would agree with 
my interpretation of Plato's story of the period prior to the settlement, and of 
the settlement itself, outlined in this note and the text ; for Toynbee says 
(op. cit., vol. Ill, 80) that ' the Spartan society was not of nomadic origin *. 
Toynbee strongly emphasize^ (op. cit., Ill, 50 ff.) the peculiar character of 
Spartan society, which, he says, was arrested in its development owing to a 
superhuman effort to keep down their * human cattle '. But I think that this 
emphasis on the peculiar situation of Sparta makes it difficult to understand 
the similarities between the institutions of Sparta and Crete which Plato found 
so striking (Rep., 544C ; Laws, 683a). These, I believe, can be explained only 
as arrested forms of very ancient tribal institutions, which must be considerably 
older than the effort of the Spartans in the second Messenian war (about 
650-620 B.C. ; cp. Toynbee, op. cit., Ill, 53). Since the conditions of the 
survival of these institutions were so very different in the two localities, their 
similarity is a strong argument in favour of their being primitive and against 
an explanation of their arrestment by a factor which affects only one of them. 

33 The fact that education is in Plato's state a class prerogative has been 
overlooked by some enthusiastic educationists who credit Plato with the idea 

CHAPTER 4/NOTEs 34-39 1 99 

of making education independent of financial means ; they do not see that 
the evil is the class prerogative as such, and that it is comparatively unimportant 
whether this prerogative is based upon the possession of money or upon any 
other criterion by which membership of the ruling class is determined. Cp. 
notes 12 and 13 to chapter 7, and text. 

34 Cp. Republic, 46oc. (See also note 31 to this chapter.) Regarding 
Plato's recommendation of infanticide, see Adam, op. cit., vol. I, p. 299, note 
to 46oci8, and pp. 357 ff. Although Adam rightly insists that Plato was in 
favour of infanticide, and although he rejects as ' irrelevant ' all attempts ' to 
acquit Plato of sanctioning ' such a dreadful practice, he tries to excuse Plato 
by pointing out ' that the practice was widely prevalent in ancient Greece '. 
But it was not so in Athens. Plato chooses throughout to prefer the ancient 
Spartan barbarism and racialism to the enlightenment of Pericles' Athens ; 
and for this choice he must be held responsible. For a hypothesis explaining 
the Spartan practice, see note 7 to chapter 10 (and text) ; see also the cross 
references given there. 

The later quotations in this paragraph which favour applying the principles 
of animal breeding to man are from Republic, 459b (cp. note 39 to chapter 8, 
and text) ; those on the analogy between dogs and warriors, etc., from the 
Republic, 4.043, ; 375a ; 376a/b ; and 376b. 

35 The two quotations before the note-number are both from Republic, 
375b. The next following quotation is from 4i6a (cp. note 28 to this chapter) ; 
the remaining ones arc from 3750-0. The problem of blending opposite 
' natures ' (or even Forms ; cp. notes 18-20, chapter 5, and text and note 39 
to chapter 8) is one of Plato's favourite topics. (With Aristotle, it merges 
into the doctrine of the mean.) 

38 The quotations are from Republic, 4 toe ; 4iod ; 4106 ; 41 16/41 2 a and 

87 In the Laws (68ob, ff.) Plato himself treats Crete with some irony because 
of its barbarous ignorance of literature. This ignorance extends even to 
Homer, whom the Cretan interlocutor does not know, and of whom he says : 
' foreign poets are very little read by Cretans '. (' But they are read in Sparta ', 
rejoins the Spartan interlocutor.) 

88 For Plato's view on Sparta's treatment of the human cattle, see note 
29 to this chapter, Republic, 548e/54ga, where the timocratic man is compared 
with Plato's brother Glaucon : ' He would be harder ' (than Glaucon) ' and 
less musical ' ; the continuation of this passage is quoted in the text to note 29. 
Thucydides reports (IV, 80) the treacherous murder of the 2,000 helots ; 
the best helots were selected for death by a promise of freedom. It is almost 
certain that Plato knew Thucydides well, and we can be sure that he had 
more direct sources of information as well. 

For Plato's views on Athens' slack treatment of slaves, see note 18 to this 

89 Considering the decidedly anti-Athenian and therefore anti-literary 
tendency of the Republic, it is a little difficult to explain why so many educa- 
tionists are so enthusiastic about Plato's educational theories. I can see only 
three likely explanations. Either they do not understand the Republic, in 
spite of its most outspoken hostility towards the then existing Athenian literary 
education ; or they are simply flattered by Plato's rhetorical emphasis upon 
the political power of education, just as so many philosophers are, and even 
some musicians (see text to note 41) ; or both. 

It is also difficult to see how lovers of Greek art and literature can find 
encouragement in Plato, who, especially in the Tenth Book of the Republic, 
launched a most violent attack against all poets and tragedians, and especially 
against Homer (and even Hesiod). See Republic, 6ooa, where Homer is put 
below the level of a good technician or mechanic (who would be generally 


despised by Plato as banausic and depraved ; cp. Rep., 4956 and 5900 and 
note 4 to chapter 1 1 ) ; Republic, 6ooc, where Homer is put below the level 
of the Sophists Protagoras and Prodicus (see also Gomperz, Greek Thinkers, 
German ed., II, 401) ; and Republic, 6o5a/b, where poets are bluntly forbidden 
to enter into any well-governed city. 

These clear expressions of Plato's attitude, however, are usually passed 
over by the commentators who dwell, on the other hand, on remarks like the 
one made by Plato in preparing his attack on Homer (' . . though love and 
admiration for Homer hardly allow me to say what I have to say ' ; Rep., 
595b). Adam comments on this (note to 595bn) by saying that 'Plato 
speaks with real feeling ' ; but I think that Plato's remark only illustrates a 
method fairly generally adopted in the Republic, namely, that of making some 
concession to the reader's sentiments (cp. chapter 10, esp. text to note 65) 
before the main attack upon humanitarian ideas is launched. 

40 On the rigid censorship aimed at class discipline, see Republic, 377e, ff., 
and especially 378c : ' Those who are to be the guardians of our city ought 
to consider it the most pernicious crime to quarrel easily with one another.* 
It is interesting that Plato does not slate this political principle at once, when 
introducing his theory of censorship in 3760,- ff., but that he speaks first only 
of truth, beauty, etc. The censorship is further tightened up in 595a, ff., 
esp. 6o5a/b (see the foregoing note, and notes 18 to 22 to chapter 7, and text). 

On Plato's forgctfulness of his principle (Rep., 4ioc~4i2b, sec note 36 
to this chapter) that music has to strengthen the gentle element in man as 
opposed to the fierce, see especially 3993, f., where modes of music are 
demanded which do not make men soft, but are * fit for men who arc warriors '. 
Cp. also the next note, (2). It must be made clear that Plato has not 
* forgotten ' a previously announced principle, but only that principle to which 
his discussion is going to lead up. * 

41 (i) On Plato's attitude towards music, especially music proper, see, for 
instance, Republic, 397b, ff. ; 3986, ff. ; 4Ood, ff. ; 4iob, 424^ f., 546d. 
Laws, 6576, ff. ; 673a, 7oob, ff., 798d, ff, 8oid, ff, 8o2b, ff., 8i6c. The 
attitude is, fundamentally, that one must ' beware of changing to a new mode 
of music ', since ' Any change in the mode of music is always followed by a 
change in the . . state. So says Damon, and I believe him.' (Rep., 424C.) 
Plato, as usual, follows the Spartan example. Adam (op. cit., vol. I, p. 216, 
note to 424C2O ; italics mine ; cp. also his references) says that * the connection 
between musical and political changes . . was recognized universally 
throughout Greece, and particularly at Sparta, where . . Timotheus had his 
lyre confiscated for adding to it four new strings '. That Sparta's procedure 
inspired Plato cannot be doubted ; its universal recognition throughout 
Greece, and especially in Pcriclean Athens, is most improbable. (Gp. (2) of 
this note.) 

(2) In the text I have called Plato's attitude towards music (cp. esp. 
Rep > 398e, ff.) superstitious and backward if compared with * a more enlightened 
contemporary criticism '. The criticism I have in mind is that of the 
anonymous writer, probably a musician of the fifth (or the early fourth) 
century, the author of what is now known as the thirteenth piece of Grenfell- 
Hunt, The Hibeh Papyri, 1906, p. 45 ff. It seems possible that the writer is 
one of * the various musicians who criticize Socrates ' (i.e. the ' Socrates ' of 
Plato's Republic), mentioned by Aristotle (in his equally reactionary Politics, 
1 342 b) ; but the criticism of the anonymous writer goes much further than 
Aristotle indicates. Plato (and Aristotle) believed that certain musical modes, 
for instance, the ' slack ' Ionian and Lydian modes, made people soft and 
effeminate, while others, especially the Dorian mode, made them brave. 
This view is attacked by the anonymous writer. ' They say ', he writes, * that 
some modes produce temperate and others just men ; others, again, heroes. 


and others cowards.' He proceeds to show that this view is silly, since some 
of the most war-like of the Greek tribes use modes reputed to produce cowards, 
while certain professional (opera) singers habitually sing in the * heroic ' 
mode without ever becoming heroes. This criticism might have been directed 
against the Athenian musician Damos, quoted by Plato as an authority, a 
friend of Pericles (who was liberal enough to tolerate a pro-Spartan attitude 
in the field of artistic criticism). But it might easily have been directed against 
Plato himself. 

(3) In view of the fact that I am attacking a ' reactionary ' attitude 
towards music, I may perhaps remark that my attack is in no way inspired 
by a personal sympathy for ' progress ' in music. In fact, I happen to like 
old music (the older the better) and to dislike modern music intensely (especi- 
ally nearly everything written since the day when Wagner began to write 
music). I am altogether against * futurism ', whether in the field of art or 
of morals (cp. chapter 22). But I am also against imposing one's likes and 
dislikes upon others, and against censorship in such matters. We can love 
and hate, especially in art, without favouring legal measures for suppressing 
what we hate, or for canonizing what we love. 

42 Gp. Republic, 5373 ; and 4666-4676. 

The characterization of modern totalitarian education is due to A. Kolnai, 
The War against the West (1938), p. 318. 

43 Plato's remarkable theory that the state, i.e. centralized and organized 
political power, originates through a conquest (the subjugation of a sedentary 
agricultural population by nomads or hunters) was, as far as I know, first 
re-discovered (if we discount some remarks by Machiavelli) by Hume in his 
criticism of the historical version of the contract theory (cp. his Political Dis- 
courses, 1752, the chapter Of the Original Contract) : ' Almost all the govern- 
ments ', Hume writes, * which exist at present, or of which there remains any 
record in history, have been founded originally on usurpation or conquest, 
or both . . .' The theory was next revived by Renan, in What is a Nation? 
(1882), and by Nietzsche in his Genealogy of Morals (1887) ; sec the third 
German edition of 1894, P- 9& The latter writes of the origin of the * state ' : 
' Some horde of blonde beasts, a conquering master race with a war-like 
organization . . lay their terrifying paws heavily upon a population which 
is perhaps immensely superior in numbers. . . This is the way in which 
the " state " originates upon earth ; I think that the sentimentality which 
lets it originate with a " contract ", is dead.' This theory appeals to Nietzsche 
because he likes these blonde beasts. But it has been also more recently 
proffered by F. Oppenheimer (The State, transl. Gitterman, 1914, p. 68) ; 
by a Marxist, K. Kautsky (in his book on The Materialist Interpretation of 
History] ; and by W. G. Macleod (The Origin and History of Politics, 1931). 
I think it very likely that something of the kind described by Plato, Hume, 
and Nietzsche has happened in many, if not in all, cases. I am speaking only 
about ' states ' in the sense of organized and even centralized political power. 

I may mention that Toynbee has a very different theory. But before 
discussing it, I wish first to make it clear that from the anti-historicist point 
of view, the question is of no great importance. It is perhaps interesting in 
itself to consider how * states ' originated, but it has no bearing whatever upon 
the sociology of states, as I understand it, i.e. upon political technology (see 
chapters 3, 9, and 25). 

Toynbee's theory does not confine itself to ' states ' in the sense of organized 
and centralized political power. He discusses, rather, the ' origin of civiliza- 
tions '. But here begins the difficulty ; for what he calls * civilizations ' are, 
in part, ' states ' (as here described), in part societies like that of the Eskimos, 
which are not states ; and if it is questionable whether ' states ' originate 
according to one single scheme, then it must be even more doubtful when we 

2O2 CHAPTER 4/NOTES 44-45 

consider a class of such diverse social phenomena as the early Egyptian and 
Mesopotamian states and their institutions and technique on the one side, 
and the Eskimo way of living on the other. 

But we may concentrate on Toynbee's description (A Study of History, 
vol. I, 305 ff.) of the origin of the Egyptian and Mesopotamian ' civilizations '. 
His theory is that the challenge of a difficult jungle environment rouses a 
response from ingenious and enterprising leaders ; they lead their followers 
into the valleys which they begin to cultivate, and found states. This 
(Hegelian and Bergsonian) theory of the creative genius as a cultural and 
political leader appears to me most romantic. If we take Egypt, then we 
must look, first of all, for the origin of the caste system. This, I believe, is 
most likely the result of conquests, just as in India where every new wave of 
conquerors imposed a new caste upon the old ones. But there are other 
arguments. Toynbee himself favours a theory which is probably correct, 
namely, that animal breeding and especially animal training is a later, a 
more advanced and a more difficult stage of development than mere agri- 
culture, and that this advanced step is taken by the nomads of the steppe. 
But in Egypt we find both agriculture and animal breeding, and the same 
holds for most of the early * states ' (though not for all the American ones, 
I gather). This seems to be a sign that these states contain a nomadic element ; 
and it seems only natural to venture the hypothesis that this element is due to 
nomad invaders imposing their rule, a caste rule, upon the original agri- 
cultural population. This theory disagrees with Toynbee's contention (op. 
cit. 9 Ill, ^3 f.) that nomad-built states usually wither away very quickly. 
But the fact that many of the early caste states go in for the breeding of animals 
has to be explained somehow. 

The idea that nomads or even hunters constituted the original upper 
class is corroborated by the age-old and still surviving upper-class traditions 
according to which war, hunting, and horses, are the symbols of the leisured 
classes ; a tradition which formed the basis of Aristotle's ethics and politics, 
and is still alive, as Veblen (The Theory of the Leisure Class) and Toynbee 
himself have shown ; and to these traditions we can perhaps add the animal 
breeder's belief in racialism, and especially in the racial superiority of the upper 
class. The latter belief which is so pronounced in caste states and in Plato 
and in Aristotle is held by Toynbee to be * one of the . . sins of our . . 
modern age ' and ' something alien from the Hellenic genius ' (op. cit., Ill, 
93). But although many Greeks may have developed beyond racialism, it 
seems likely that Plato's and Aristotle's theories are based on old traditions ; 
especially in view of the fact that racial ideas played such a role in Sparta. 

44 Cp. Laws, 6943-6983. 

45 (i) Spengler's Decline of the West is not in my opinion to be taken 
seriously. But it is a symptom ; it is the theory of one who believes in an 
upper class which is facing defeat. Like Plato, Spengler tries to show that 
' the world * is to be blamed, with its general law of decline and death. And 
like Plato, he demands (in his sequel, Prussianism and Socialism) a new order, 
a desperate experiment to stem the forces of history, a regeneration of the 
Prussian ruling class by the adoption of a ' socialism ' or communism, and of 
economic abstinence. Concerning Spengler, I largely agree with L. Nelson, 
who published his criticism under a long ironical title whose beginning may 
be translated : ' Witchcraft : Being an Initiation into the Secrets of Oswald 
Spengler's Art of Fortune Telling, and a Most Evident Proof of the Irrefutable 
Truth of His Soothsaying ', etc. I think that this is a just characterization of 
Spengler. Nelson, I may add, was one of the first to oppose what I call 
historicism (following here Kant in his criticism of Herder ; cp. chapter 12, 
note 56). 

(2) My remark that Spengler's is not the last Decline and Fall is meant 


especially as an allusion to Toynbee. Toynbee's work is so superior to 
Spengler's that I hesitate to mention it in the same context ; but the superiority 
is due mainly to Toynbee's wealth of ideas and to his superior knowledge 
(which manifests itself in the fact that he docs not deal, as Spengler does, 
with everything under the sun at the one time). But the aim and method 
of the investigation is similar. It is most decidedly historicist. And it is, 
fundamentally, Hegelian (although I do not see that Toynbee is aware of 
that). His * criterion of the growth of civilizations ' which is * progress 
towards self-determination ' shows this clearly enough ; for Hegel's law of 
progress towards ' self-consciousness ' and * freedom ' can be only too easily 
recognized. (Toynbee's Hegelianism seems to come somehow through 
Bradley, as may be seen, for instance, by his remarks on relations, op. cit., Ill, 
223 : ' The very concept of " relations " between " things " or " beings " 
involves ' a ' logical contradiction. . . How is this contradiction to be 
transcended ? ' (I cannot enter here into a discussion of the problem of 
relations. But I may state dogmatically that all problems concerning relations 
can be reduced, by certain simple methods of modern logic, to problems 
concerning properties, or classes ; in other words, peculiar philosophical difficulties 
concerning relations do not exist. The method mentioned is due to N. Wiener and 
K. Kuratowski ; see Quine, A System of Logistic, 1934, p. 16 ff. 1 ). Now I do 
not believe that to classify a work as belonging to a certain school is to dismiss 
it ; but in the case of Hegelian historicism I think that it is so, for reasons to 
be discussed in the second volume of this book. 

Concerning Toynbee's historicism, I wish to make it especially clear that 
I doubt very much indeed whether civilizations are born, grow, break down, 
and die. I am obliged to stress this point because I myself use two of the 
terms used by Toynbee, in so far as I speak of the c breakdown ' and of the 
* arresting ' of societies. But I wish to make it clear that my term ' break- 
down ' refers not to all kinds of civilizations but to one particular kind : the 
magical or tribal * closed society '. Accordingly, I do not believe, as Toynbee 
does, that Greek society suffered its ' breakdown ' in the period of the Pelopon- 
nesian war ; and I find the symptoms of the breakdown which Toynbee 
describes much earlier. (Gp. with this notes 6 and 8 to chapter 10, and text.) 
And regarding 6 arrested ' societies, I apply this term, exclusively, either to 
societies that cling to their magical forms by closing themselves up, by force, 
against the influence of open societies, or to societies that return to the tribal cage. 

Also I do not think that our Western Givilization is just one member of a 
species. I think that there are many closed societies who may suffer all kinds of 
fates ; but an * open society ' can only go on, or be arrested and forced back 
into the cage, i.e. to the beasts. (Cp. also chapter 10, esp. the last note.) 

(3) Regarding the Decline and Fall stories, I may mention that nearly 
all of them stand under the influence of Heraclitus' remark : * They fill their 
bellies like the beasts ', and of Plato's theory of the low animal instincts. I 
mean to say that they all try to show that the decline is due to an adoption 
(by the ruling class) of these * lower ' standards which are allegedly natural 
to the working classes. In other words, and putting the matter crudely but 
bluntly, the theory is that civilizations, like the Persian and the Roman 
empires, decline owing to overfeeding. (Gp. note 19 to chapter 10.) 


1 The ' charmed circle ' is a quotation from Burnet, Greek Philosophy, I, 
1 06, where similar problems are treated. I do not, however, agree with 
Burnet that * in early days the regularity of human life had been far more 
clearly apprehended than the even course of nature '. This presupposes the 

204 CHAPTER 5/NOTES 2~5 

establishment of a differentiation which, I believe, is characteristic of a later 
period, i.e. the period of the dissolution of the * charmed circle of law and 
custom *. Moreover, natural periods (the seasons, etc. ; cp. note 6 to chapter 
2, and Plato (?), Epinomis, 978d, ff.) must have been apprehended in very 
early days. For the distinction between natural and normative laws, see 
esp. note 18 (4) to this chapter. 

2 Heraclitus, B 29, D 2 94 ; cp. note 7 (2) to chapter 2 ; also note 6 to 
that chapter, and text. See also Burnet, loc. cit. y who gives a different 
interpretation ; he thinks that ' when the regular course of nature began to 
be observed, no better name could be found for it than Right or Justice . . 
which properly meant the unchanging custom that guided human life.' I 
do not believe that the term meant first something social and was then extended, 
but I think that both social and natural regularities (' order ') were originally 
undifferentiated, and interpreted as magical. 

8 The opposition is expressed sometimes as one between ' nature ' and 
* law ' (or ' norm ' or * convention *), sometimes as one between ' nature ' 
and the ' positing ' or ' laying down ' (viz., of normative laws), and sometimes 
as one between ' nature ' and ' art ', or ' natural ' and ' artificial '. 

The antithesis between nature and convention is often said (on the 
authority of Diogenes Laertius 9 II, 16 and 4 ; Doxogr., 564^ to have been 
introduced by Archelaus, who is said to have been the teacher of Socrates. 
But I think that Plato makes it clear enough that he considers * the Theban 
poet Pindar * to be the originator of the antithesis (cp. notes 10 and 28 to this 
chapter). Apart from Pindar's fragments (quoted by Plato ; see also 
Herodotus, III, 38), and some remarks by Herodotus (loc. cit.), one of the 
earliest original sources preserved is the Sophist Antiphon's fragments On 
Truth (see notes 1 1 and 1 2 to this chapter) . According to Plato's Protagoras ', 
the Sophist Hippias seems to have been a pioneer of similar views (see note 1 3 
to this chapter). But the most influential early treatment of the problem 
seems to have been that of Protagoras himself, although he may possibly 
have used a different terminology. (It may be mentioned that Democritus 
dealt with the antithesis which he applied also to such social * institutions ' 
as language ; and Plato did the same in the Cratylus, e.g. 3846.) 

4 A very similar point of view can be found in Russell's * A Free Man's 
Worship ' (in Mysticism and Logic) ; and in the last chapter of Sherrington's 
Man on His Nature. 

6 (i) Positivists will reply, of course, that the reason why norms cannot be 
derived from factual propositions is that norms are meaningless ; but this 
indicates only that (with Wittgenstein's Tractatus) they define ' meaning ' 
arbitrarily in such a way that only factual propositions are called * meaningful '. 
(For this point, see also my Logik der Forschung, pp. 8 ff., and 21.) The followers 
of ' psychologism ', on the other hand, will try to explain norms as habits, 
and standards as points of view. But although the habit not to steal certainly 
is a fact, it is necessary, as explained in the text,' to distinguish this fact from 
the corresponding norm. On the question of norms, I fully agree with most 
of the views expressed by K. Menger. He is the first, I believe, to develop 
the foundations of a logic of norms (in his book, Moral, Wille und Weltgestaltung, 
1935). I may perhaps express here my opinion that the reluctance to admit 
that norms are something important and irreducible is one of the main sources 
of the intellectual and other weaknesses of the more progressive circles in our 
present time. 

(2) Concerning my contention that it is impossible to derive a sentence 
stating a norm or decision from a sentence stating a fact, the following may 
be added. In analysing the relations between sentences and facts, we are 
moving in that field of logical inquiry which A. Tarski has called Semantics 
(cp. note 29 to chapter 3 and note 23 to chapter 8). One of the fundamental 


concepts of semantics is the concept of truth. As shown by Tarski, it is possible 
(within what Carnap calls a semantical system) to derive a descriptive state- 
ment like ' Napoleon died on St. Helena ' from the statement ' Mr. A said that 
Napoleon died on St. Helena ', in conjunction with the further statement that 
what Mr. A said was true. (And if we use the term ' fact ' in such a wide 
sense that we not only speak about the fact described by a sentence but also 
about the fact that this sentence is true, then we could even say that it is possible 
to derive t Napoleon died on St. Helena ' from the two ' facts ' that Mr. A 
said it, and that he spoke the truth.) Now there is no reason why we should 
not proceed in an exactly analogous fashion in the realm of norms. We 
might then introduce, in correspondence to the concept of truth, the concept 
of the validity of a norm. This would mean that a certain norm JV could be 
derived (in a kind of semantic of norms) from a sentence stating that jVis valid. 
(And again, if we use the term ' fact ' in such a wide sense that we speak about 
the fact that a norm is valid, then we could even derive norms from facts. This, 
however, does not impair the correctness of our considerations in the text 
which are concerned solely with the impossibility of deriving norms from 
psychological or sociological or similar, i.e. non-semantic facts.) 

6 Cp. also the last note (70) to chapter 10. 

Although my own position is, I believe, clearly enough implied in the 
text, I may perhaps briefly formulate what seems to me the most important 
principles of humanitarian and equalitarian ethics. 

1 i) Tolerance towards all who are not intolerant and who do not propagate 
intolerance. (For this exception, cp. what is said in notes 4 and 6 to chapter 
7.) This implies, especially, that the moral derisions of others should be 
treated with respect, as long as such decisions do not conflict with the principle 
of tolerance. 

(2) The recognition that all moral urgency has its basis in the urgency 
of suffering or pain. It is, I believe, the greatest mistake of utilitarianism 
(and other forms of hedonism) that it does not recognize that from the moral 
point of view suffering and happiness must not be treated as symmetrical ; 
that is to say, the promotion of happiness is in any case much less urgent 
than the rendering of help to those who suffer, and the attempt to prevent 
suffering. (The latter task has little to do with * matters of taste ', the former 
much.) Cp. also note 2 to chapter 9. 

7 Cp. Burnet, Greek Philosophy, I, 117. Protagoras' doctrine referred to 
in this paragraph is to be found in Plato's dialogue Protagoras, 32 2a, ff. ; cp. 
also the Theaetetus, esp. I72b (see also note 27 to this chapter). 

The difference between Platonism and Protagoreanism can perhaps be 
briefly expressed as follows : 

(Platonism :) There is an inherent ( natural ' order of justice in the 
world, i.e. the original or first order in which nature was created. Thus the 
past is good, and any development leading to new norms is bad. 

(Protagoreanism :) Man is the moral being in this world. Nature is 
neither moral nor immoral. Thus it is possible for man also to improve 
things. It is not unlikely that Protagoras was influenced by Xenophanes, 
one of the first to express the attitude of the open society, and to criticize 
Hesiod's historical pessimism : ' In the beginning, the Gods did not show 
to man all he was wanting ; but in the course of time, he may search for the 
better, and find it.' (Cp. Diels 2 18.) It seems that Plato's nephew and 
successor Speusippus returned to this progressive view (cp. Aristotle's Meta- 
physics, io72b30 and note 11 to chapter 11) and that the Academy adopted 
with him a more liberal attitude in the field of politics also. 

Concerning the i elation of the doctrine of Protagoras to the tenets of religion, 
it may be remarked that he believed God to work through man. I do not 
see how this position can contradict that of Christianity. Compare with 

2O6 CHAPTER 5 /NOTES 8-13 

it for instance K. Barth's statement (Credo, 1936, p. 188) : 'The Bible is 
human document* (i.e. man is God's instrument). 

8 Socrates' advocacy of the autonomy of ethics (closely related with hi: 
insistence that problems of nature do not matter) is expressed especially ir 
his doctrine of the self-sufficiency or autarchy of the * virtuous ' individual 
That this theory contrasts strongly with Plato's views of the individual wil 
be seen later ; cp. especially notes 25 to this chapter and 36 to the next, anc 
text. (Cp. also note 56 to chapter 10.) 

We cannot, for instance, construct institutions which work independently 
of how they are being * manned '. With these problems, cp. chapter 
(text to notes 7-8, 22-23), and especially chapter 9. 

10 For Plato's discussion of Pindar's naturalism, see esp. Gorgias, 484^ 
488b ; Laws, 6gob (quoted below in this chapter ; cp. note 28) ; 7*4e 
Sgoa/b. (See also Adam's note to Rep., 35gc2O.) 

11 Antiphon uses the term which, in connection with Parmenides anc 
Plato, I have translated above by ' delusive opinion ' (cp. note 1 5 to chaptei 
3) ; and he likewise opposes it to ' truth '. Cp. also Barker's translation ir 
Greek Political Theory, I Plato and His Predecessors (1918), 83. 

12 See Antiphon, On Truth ; cp. BarkeV, op. cit., 83-5. See also nexl 
note, (2). 

13 Hippias is quoted in Plato's Protagoras, 33 ye. For the next four quota- 
tions, cp. (i) Euripides Ion, 854 ft'. ; and (2) his Phoenissae, 538 ; cp. alsc 
Gomperz, Greek Thinkers (German ed., I, 325) ; and Barker, op. cit., 75 ; 
cp. also Plato's violent attack upon Euripides in Republic, 568a-d. Further- 
more (3) Alcidamas inSchol. to Aristotle's Rhet., I, 13, I373bi8. (4) Lycophror 
in Aristotle's Fragm., 91 (Rose) ; (cp. also the Pseudo Plutarch, De Nobil., 
18.2). For the Athenian movement against slavery, cp. text to note 18 tc 
chapter 4, and note 29 (with further references) to the same chapter ; alsc 
note 1 8 to chapter 10. 

(1) It is worth noting that most Platonists show little sympathy with 
this equalitarian movement. Barker, for instance, discusses it under the 
heading ' General Iconoclasm ' ; cp. op. cit., 75. (See also the second 
quotation from Field's Plato quoted in text to note 3, chapter 6.) This lacfc 
of sympathy is due, undoubtedly, to Plato's influence. 

(2) For Plato's and Aristotle's anti-equalitarianism mentioned in the 
text, next paragraph, cp. also especially note 49 (and text) to chapter 8, and 
notes 3 to 4 (and text) to chapter n. 

This anti-equalitarianism and its devastating effects has been clearly 
described by W. W. Tarn in his excellent paper ' Alexander the Great and 
the Unity of Mankind' (Proc. of the British Acad., XIX, 1933, p. 123 ff.), 
Tarn recognizes that in the fifth century, there may have been a movemenl 
towards ' something better than the hard-and-fast division of Greeks and 
barbarians ; but *, he says, 4 this had no importance for history, becaust 
anything of the sort was strangled by the idealist philosophies. Plato and Aristotle 
left no doubt about their views. Plato said that all barbarians were enemies 
by nature ; it was proper to wage war upon them, even to the point of enslaving 
. . them. Aristotle said that all barbarians were slaves by nature . .' 
(p. 124, italics mine). I fully agree with Tarn's appraisal of the pernicious 
anti-humanitarian influence of the idealist philosophers, i.e. of Plato and 
Aristotle. I also agree with Tarn's emphasis upon the immense significance 
of equalitarianism, of the idea of the unity of mankind (cp. op. cit., p. 147). 
The only point in which I cannot fully agree is Tarn's estimate of the fifth- 
century equalitarian movement, and of the early cynics. I suppose that he 
is right in holding that the historical influence of these movements was small 
in comparison with that of Alexander. But I believe that he would have 
rated these movements more highly if he had only followed up the parallelism 


between the cosmopolitan and the anti-slavery movement. The parallelism 
between the relations Greeks : barbarians and free men : slaves is clearly enough 
shown by Tarn in the passage here quoted ; and if we consider the unquestion- 
able strength of the movement against slavery (see esp. note 1 8 to chapter 4) 
then the scattered remarks against the distinction between Greeks and 
barbarians gain much in significance. Gp. also Aristotle, Politics, III, 5, 7 
(i278a) ; IV (VI), 4, 16 (isigb) and III, 2, 2 (i275b). See also note 48 to 
chapter 8. 

14 For the theme ' return to the beasts ', cp. chapter 10, note 70, and text. 

15 For Socrates' doctrine of the soul, see text to note 44 to chapter 10. 

16 The term * natural right ' in an equalitarian sense came to Rome 
through the Stoics (there is the influence of Antisthenes to be considered ; 
cp. note 48 to chapter 8) and was popularized by Roman Law (cp. Institu- 
tiones, II, 1,2; I, 2, 2). It is used by Thomas Aquinas, also (Summa, II, 91, 2). 
The confusing use of the term ' natural law ' instead of ' natural right ' by 
modern Thomists is to be regretted, as well as the small emphasis they put 
upon equalitarianism. 

17 The monistic tendency which first led to the attempt to interpret norms 
as natural has recently led to the opposite attempt, namely, to interpret 
natural laws as conventional. This (physical) type of conventionalism has been 
based, by Poincare", on the recognition of the conventional or verbal character 
of definitions. Poincare, and more recently Eddington, point out that we 
define natural entities by the laws they obey. From this the conclusion is 
drawn that these laws, i.e. the laws of nature, are definitions, i.e. verbal 
conventions. Cp. Eddington's letter in Nature 148 (1941), 141 : * The 
elements ' (of physical theory) * . . can only be defined . . by the laws 
they obey ; so that we find ourselves chasing our own tails in a purely formal 
system.' An analysis and a criticism of this form of conventionalism can be 
found in my Logik der Forschung, esp. pp. 40 fF. 

18 (i) The hope of getting some argument or theory to share our 
responsibility is, I believe, one of the basic motives of * scientific ' ethics. 
* Scientific ' ethics is in its absolute barrenness one of the most amazing of 
social phenomena. What does it aim at ? At telling us what we ought to 
do, i.e. at constructing a code of norms upon a scientific basis, so that we 
need only look up the index of the code if we are faced with a difficult moral 
decision ? This would clearly be absurd ; quite apart from the fact that 
if it could be achieved, it would destroy all personal responsibility and therefore 
all ethics. Or would it give scientific criteria of the truth and falsity of moral 
judgements, i.e. of judgements involving such terms as ' good ' or * bad ' ? 
But it is clear that moral judgements arc absolutely irrelevant. Only a scandal- 
monger is interested in judging people or their actions ; ' judge not ' appears 
to some of us one of the fundamental and much too little appreciated laws 
of humanitarian ethics. (We may have to disarm and to imprison a criminal 
in order to prevent him from repeating his crimes, but too much of moral 
judgement and especially of moral indignation is Always a sign of hypocrisy 
and pharisaism.) Thus an ethics of moral judgements would be not only 
irrelevant but indeed an immoral affair. The all-importance of moral 
problems rests, of course, on the fact that we can act with intelligent foresight, 
and that we can ask ourselves what our aims ought to be, i.e. how we ought 
to act. 

Nearly all moral philosophers who have dealt with the problem of how 
we ought to act (with the possible exception of Kant) have tried to answer it 
either by reference to ' human nature ' (as did even Kant, when he referred 
to human reason) or to the nature of * the good '. The first of these ways 
leads nowhere, since all actions possible to us are founded upon ' human 
nature ', so that the problem of ethics could also be put by asking which 

20)8 CHAPTER 5/NOTE 1 8 

elements in human nature I ought to follow and to develop, and which sides 
I ought to suppress or to control. But the second of these ways also leads no- 
where ; for given an analysis of ' the good ' in form of a sentence like : ' The 
good is such and such ' (or ' such and such is good '), we would always have 
to ask : What about it ? Why should this concern me ? Only if the word 
' good * is used in an ethical sense, i.e. only if it is used to mean * that which 
I ought to do ', could I derive from the information ' x is good ' the conclusion 
that I ought to do x. In other words, if the word good is to have any ethical 
significance at all, it must be defined as ' that which I (or we) ought to do 
(or to promote) '. But if it is so defined, then its whole meaning is exhausted 
by the defining phrase, and it can in every context be replaced by this phrase, 
i.e. the introduction of the term * good ' cannot materially contribute to our 
problem. (Cp. also note 49 (3), to chapter 11.) 

All the discussions about the definition of the good, or about the possibility 
of defining it, are therefore quite useless. They only show how far ' scientific ' 
ethics is removed from the urgent problems of moral life. And they thus 
indicate that ' scientific ' ethics is a form of escape, and escape from the 
realities of moral life, i.e. from our moral responsibilities. (In view of these 
considerations it is not surprising to find that the beginning of * scientific ' 
ethics, in the form of ethical naturalism, coincides with what may be called 
the discovery of personal responsibility. Gp. what is said in chapter 10, text 
to notes 27-38 and 55-7, on the open society and the Great Generation.) 

(2) It may be fitting in this connection to refer to a particular form of 
the escape from the responsibility discussed here, as exhibited especially by 
the juridical positivism of the Hegelian school, as well as by a closely allied 
spiritual naturalism. That the problem is still significant may be seen from 
the fact that an author of the excellence of Catlin remains in this important 
point (as in a number of others) dependent upon Hegel ; and my analysis 
will take the form of a criticism of Gatlin's arguments in favour of spiritual 
naturalism, and against the distinction between laws of nature and normative 
laws (cp. G. E. G. Gatlin, A Study of the Principles of Politics, 1930, pp. 96- 

Catlin begins by making a clear distinction between the laws of nature 
and ' laws . . which human legislators make ' ; and he admits that, at first 
sight the phrase * natural law ', if applied to norms, ' appears to be patently 
unscientific, since it seems to fail to make a distinction between that human 
law which requires enforcement and the physical laws which are incapable 
of breach '. But he tries to show that it only appears to be so, and that ' our 
criticism ' of this way of using the term * natural law ' was ' too hasty '. And 
he proceeds to a clear statement of spiritual naturalism, i.e. to a distinction 
between ' sound law ' which is ' according to nature ', and other law : c Sound 
law, then, involves a formulation of human tendencies, or, in brief, is a copy 
of the " natural " law to be " found " by political science. Sound law is 
in this sense emphatically found and not made. It is a copy of natural social 
law ' (i.e. of what I called ' sociological laws ' ; cp. text to note 8 to this 
chapter). And he concludes by insisting that in so far as the legal system 
becomes more rational, its rules * cease to assume the character of arbitrary 
commands and become mere deductions drawn from the primary social laws ' 
(i.e. from what I should call * sociological laws '). 

(3) This is a very strong statement of spiritual naturalism. Its criticism 
is the more important as Gatlin combines his doctrine with a theory of ' social 
engineering ' which may perhaps at first sight appear similar to the one 
advocated here (cp. text to note 9 to chapter 3 and text to notes 1-3 and 8-1 1 
to chapter 9). Before discussing it, I wish to explain why I consider Catlin's 
view to be dependent on Hegel's positivism. Such an explanation is necessary, 
because Gatlin uses his naturalism in order to distinguish between ' sound * 


and other law ; in other words, he uses it in order to distinguish between 
* just ' and ' unjust ' law ; and this distinction certainly does not look like 
positivism, i.e. the recognition of the existing law as the sole standard of justice. 
In spite of all that, I believe that Catlin's views are very close to positivism ; 
my reason being that he believes that only * sound ' law can be effective, and 
in so far ' existent ' in precisely Hegel's sense. For Catlin says that when our 
legal code is not * sound ', i.e. not in accordance with the laws of human 
nature, then ' our statute remains paper '. This statement is purest positivism ; 
for it allows us to deduce from the fact that a certain code is not only c paper ' 
but successfully enforced, that it is * sound ', or in other words, all legislation 
which does not turn out to be merely paper is a copy of human nature and 
therefore just. 

(4) I now proceed to a brief criticism of the argument proffered by Catlin 
against the distinction between (a) laws of nature which cannot be broken, 
and (b) normative laws, which are man-made, i.e. enforced by sanctions ; 
a distinction which he himself makes so very clearly at first. Catlin's argument 
is a twofold one. He shows (a) that laws of nature also are man-made, in 
a certain sense, and that they can, in a sense, be broken ; and (b) that in a 
certain sense normative laws cannot be broken. I begin with (a) ' The 
natural laws of the physicist ', writes Catlin, ' are not brute facts, they are 
rationalizations of the physical world, whether superimposed by man or 
justified because the world is inherently rational and orderly.' And he 
proceeds to show that natural laws l can be nullified ' when * fresh facts ' 
compel us to recast the law. My reply to this argument is this. A statement 
intended as a formulation of a law of nature is certainly man-made. We 
make the hypothesis that there is a certain invariable regularity, i.e. we describe 
the supposed regularity with the help of a statement, the natural law. But 
as scientists, we are prepared to learn, from nature, that we have been wrong ; 
we are prepared to recast the law if fresh facts which contradict our hypothesis 
show that our supposed law was no law, since it has been broken. In other words, 
by accepting nature's nullification, the scientist shows that he accepts a hypo- 
thesis only as long as it has not been falsified ; which is the same as to say 
that he regards a law of nature as a rule which cannot be broken, since he 
accepts the breaking of his rule as proof that his rule did not formulate a law 
of nature. Furthermore : although the hypothesis is man-made, we can 
do nothing to prevent its falsification. This shows that, by making the hypo- 
thesis, we have not created the regularity which it is intended to describe. 
(b) ' It is not true ', says Catlin, * that the criminal " breaks " the law when 
he does the forbidden act . . the statute does not say : " Thou canst not " ; 
it says, " Thou shalt not, or this punishment will be inflicted." As command ', 
Catlin continues, * it may be broken, but as law, in a very real sense, it is only 
broken when the punishment is not inflicted. . . So far as the law is perfected 
and its sanctions executed, . . it approximates to physical law.' The reply 
to this is simple. In whichever sense we speak of ' breaking ' the law, the 
juridical law can be broken ; no verbal adjustment can alter that. Let us 
accept Catlin's view that a criminal cannot ' break ' the law, and that it is 
only ' broken ' if the criminal docs not receive the punishment prescribed by 
the law. But even from this point of view, the law can be broken ; for instance, 
by officers of the state who refuse to punish the criminal. And even in a 
state where all sanctions are, in fact, executed, the officers could, if they chose, 
prevent such execution, and so ' break ' the law in Catlin's sense. (That they 
would thereby ' break ' the law in the ordinary sense also, i.e. that they 
would become criminals, and that they might ultimately perhaps be punished, 
is quite another question.) In other words : A normative law is always 
enforced by men and by their sanctions, and it is therefore fundamentally 
different from a hypothesis. The position is really as simple as it can be. 


Legally, we can enforce the suppression of murder, or of acts of kindness ; 
of falsity, or of truth ; of justice or of injustice. But we cannot force the sun 
to alter its course. No amount of argument can bridge this gap. 

19 The ' nature of happiness and misery ' is referred to in the Theaetetus, 
1 75c. For the close relationship between * nature ' and ' Form ' or * Idea ', 
cp. especially Republic, 597a~d, where Plato first discusses the Form or Idea 
of a bed, and then refers to it as ' the bed which exists by nature, and which 
was made by God ' (597b). In the same place, he proffers the corresponding 
distinction between the * artificial ' (or the ' fabricated ' thing, which is an 
' imitation ') and ' truth '. Cp. also Adam's note to Republic, 597bio (with 
the quotation from Burnet given there) and the notes to 476^13, 5Oibg, 
525CI5 ; furthermore Theaetetus, i74b (and Cornford's note i to p. 85 in his 
Plata's Theory of Knowledge). See also Aristotle's Metaphysics, ioi5ai4. 

20 For Plato's attack upon art, see the last book of the Republic, and especially 
the passages Republic 6ooa-6o5b mentioned in note 39 to chapter 4. 

21 Cp. notes 11,12 and 1 3 to this chapter, and text. My contention that 
Plato agrees at least partly with Antiphon's naturalist theories (although he 
docs not, of course, agree with Antiphon's equalitarianism) will appear 
strange to many, especially to the readers of Barker, op. cit. And it may 
surprise them even more to hear the opinion that the main disagreement was 
not so much a theoretical one, but rather one of moral practice, and that 
Antiphon and not Plato was morally in the right, as far as the practical issue 
of equalitarianism is concerned. (For Plato's agreement with Antiphon's 
principle that nature is true and right, see also text to notes 23 and 28, and 
note 30 to this chapter.) 

22 These quotations are from Sophist, 266b and 2656. But the passage 
also contains (265^ a criticism (similar to Laws, quoted in text to notes 23 
and 30 in this chapter) of what may be described as a materialist interpreta- 
tion of naturalism such as perhaps held by Antiphon's type, namely * the 
belief . . that' nature . . generates without intelligence '. 

23 Cp. Laws, 8923 and c. For the doctrine of the affinity of the soul to 
the Ideas, see also notes 15 (8) and 23 to chapter 3. For the affinity of 
' natures ' and ' souls ', cp. Aristotle's Metaphysics, ioi5ai4 with the passages 
of the Laws quoted, and with 8g6d/e : ' the soul dwells in all things that 
move . .' 

Compare further especially the following passages in which ' natures ' 
and * souls ' are used in a way that is obviously synonymous : Republic, 4853 /b, 
485e/486a and d, 486b (* nature ') ; 486b and d (' soul '), 4906/4913 (both), 
49 1 b (both), and many other places (cp. also Adam's note to 37oa7). The 
affinity is directly stated in 49ob(io). For the affinity between ' nature f and 
* soul ' and * race ', cp. 5016 where the phrase ' philosophic natures ' or ' souls ' 
found in analogous passages is replaced by ' race of philosophers '. 

There is also an affinity between ' soul ' or ' nature ' and the social class 
or caste ; see for instance Republic, 435b. The connection between caste 
and race is fundamental, for from the beginning (4153), caste is identified 
with race. 

24 Cp. the passages quoted in note 32 (i), (a) and (c), to chapter 4. 

25 The Socratic doctrine of autarchy is mentioned in Republic, 387d/c 
(cp. Apology, 4 ic, ff., and Adam's note to Rep., 387d25). This is only one 
of the few scattered passages reminiscent of Socratic teaching ; but it is in 
direct contradiction to the main doctrine of the Republic, as it is expounded 
in the text (see also note 36 to chapter 6, and text) ; this may be seen 
by contrasting the quoted passage with 369^ ff., and very many similar 

26 Cp. for instance the passage quoted in the text to note 29 to chapter 4. 
For the ' rare and uncommon natures ', cp. Republic, ^gia/b, and many other 

CHAPTER 5 /NOTES 27-34 211 

passages, for instance Timaeus, 516 : ' reason is shared by the gods with 
very few men '. For the ' social habitat', see 49 id (cp. also chapter 23). 
While Plato (and Aristotle ; cp. esp. note 4 to chapter 1 1 , and text) 
insisted that manual work is degrading, Socrates seems to have adopted a 
very different attitude. (Cp. Xenophon, Memorabilia, II, 7 ; 7-10 ; 
Xenophon's story is, to some extent, corroborated by Antisthenes* and 
Diogenes' attitude towards manual work ; cp. also note 56 to chapter 10.) 

27 See especially Theaetetus, i72b (cp. also Cornford's comments on this 
passage in Plato 9 s Theory of Knowledge) . Soo also note 7 to this chapter. The 
features of conventionalism in Plato's teaching may perhaps explain why 
the Republic was said, by some who still possessed Protagoras' writings, to 
resemble these. (Gp. Diogenes Laertius, III, 37.) For Lycophron's contract 
theory, see notes 43 to 54 to chapter 6 (esp. note 46) and text. 

28 Cp. Laws, 6gob/c ; see note 10 to this chapter. Plato mentions Pindar's 
naturalism also in Gorgias, 484^ 48Sb ; Laws, 7i4c, Sgoa. For the opposition 
between fc external compulsion ' on the one hand, and (a) * free action ', 
(b) ' nature ', on the other, cp. also Republic, 6o3c and Timaeus, 64d. (Cp. 
also Rep., 466c-d, quoted in note 30 to this chapter.) 

29 Cp. Republic, 36gb-c. This is part of the contract theory. The next 
quotation, which is the first statement of the naturalist principle in the perfect 
state, is 37oa/b-c. (Naturalism is in the Republic first mentioned by Glaucon 
in 3586, ff. ; but this is, of course, not Plato's own doctrine of naturalism. 

For the further development of the naturalistic principle of the division 
of labour and the part played by this principle in Plato's theory of justice, 
cp. especially text to notes 6, 23 and 40 to chapter 6. 

For a modern radical version of the naturalistic principle, see Marx's 
formula of the communist society : ' From each according to his ability : 
to each according to his needs ! ' (Cp. for instance A Handbook of Marxism, 
E. Burns, 1935 ; p. 752 ; and note 8 to chapter 13). Sec also note 3 to 
chapter 13. 

30 See note 23, and text. The quotations in the present paragraph are 
all from the Laws ; (i) 889, a-d (cp. the very similar passage in the Theaetetus, 
I72b). (2)8960-0; (3) 8906/891 a. 

For the next paragraph in the text (i.e. for my contention that Plato's 
naturalism is incapable of solving practical problems) the following may 
serve as an illustration. Many naturalists have contended that men and 
women are ' by nature ' different, both physically and spiritually, and that 
they should therefore fulfil different functions in social life. Plato, however, 
uses the same naturalistic argument to prove the opposite ; for, he argues, 
are not dogs of both sexes useful for watching as well as hunting ? ' Do you 
agree ', he writes (Rep., 466c-d), ' that women . . must participate with men 
in guarding as well as in hunting, as it is with dogs ; . . and that in so doing, 
they will be acting in the most desirable manner, since this will be not contrary 
to nature, but in accordance with the natural relations of the sexes ? ' (See 
also text to note 28 to this chapter ; for the dog as ideal guardian, cp. chapter 4, 
especially note 32 (a), and text.) 

31 For a brief criticism of the biological theory of the state, see note 7 to 
chapter 10, and text. 

32 For some applications of Plato's political theory of the soul, and for the 
inferences drawn from it, see notes 58-9 to chapter 10, and text. For the 
fundamental methodological analogy between city and individual, cp. esp. 
'Republic, 3686, 445^ 577c. 

38 Cp. Republic, 423, b and d. 

84 This Quotation as weir as the next is from G. Grote, Plato and the Other 
Companions of Socrates (1875), vol. Ill, 124. The main passages of the Republic 
are 439C, f. (the story of Leontius) ; 57 ic, f. (the bestial part versus the reason- 


ing part) ; 5880 (the Apocalyptic Monster ; cp. the ' Beast ' which possesses 
a Platonic Number, in the Revelation 13, 17 and 18) ; 6030! and 604!) (man at 
war with himself). See also Laws, 68ga-b, and notes 58-9 to chapter 10. 

36 Cp. Republic, 5196, f. (cp. also note 10 to chapter 8) ; the next two 
quotations are both from the Laws, 9O3C. The first of these is a shorter version 
of Republic, 420! -42 ic ; the second of Republic, 52ob, ff. Further passages on 
holism or collectivism are : Republic, 4242., 449e, 462^ Laws, 7i5b, 739C, 875a, f., 
903bj 9230, 942a, f. (See also notes 31/32 to chapter 6.) For the remark 
in this paragraph that Plato spoke of the state as an organism, cp. Republic, 
4620, and Laws, 9646, where the state is even compared with the human body. 

88 Cp. Adam in his edition of the Republic, vol. II, 303 ; see also note 3 to 
chapter 4, and text. 

37 This point is emphasized by Adam, op. cit., note 546a, b7 and pp. 288 
and 307. The next quotation in this paragraph is Republic, 546a ; cp. Republic, 
485a/b quoted in note 26 (i) to chapter 3 and in text to note 33 to chapter 8. 

38 This is the main point in which I must deviate from Adam's interpreta- 
tion. I believe Plato to indicate that the philosopher king of Books VI VII, 
whose main interest is in the things that are not generated and do not decay 
(Rep., 4-85b ; see the last note and the passages there referred to), obtains 
with his mathematical and dialectical training the knowledge of the Platonic 
Number and with it the means of arresting social degeneration and thereby 
the decay of the state. See especially the text to note 39. 

The quotations that follow in this paragraph are : * keeping pure the 
race of the guardians ' ; cp. Republic, 46oc, and text to note 34 to chapter 4. 
* A city thus constituted, etc.' : 546a. 

The reference to Plato's distinction, in the field of mathematics, acoustics, 
and astronomy, between rational knowledge and delusive opinion based 
upon experience or perception is to Republic, 523a, ff., 525d, ff., 527d, ff., 
53 1 a, ff. (down to 5343 and 537d) ; see also 5O9d~5iie. 

39 In my interpretation of the Story of the Fall and the Number, I have 
carefully avoided the difficult, undecided, and perhaps undecidable problem 
of the computation of the Number itself. (It may be undecidable since 
Plato may not have revealed his secret in full.) I confine my interpretation 
entirely to the passages immediately before and after the one that describes 
the Number itself; these passages are, 1 believe, clear enough. In spite 
of that, my interpretation deviates, as far as I know, frorn previous attempts. 

(i) The crucial statement on which I base my interpretation is (A) that 
the guardians work by ' calculation aided by perception '. Next to this, I am using 
the statements (B) that they will not * accidentally hit upon (the correct way of) 
obtaining good offspring ' ; (C) that they will ' blunder, and beget children 
in the wrong way ' ; (D) that they are ' ignorant ' of such matters (as the 

Regarding (4), it should be clear to every careful reader of Plato that 
such a reference to perception is intended to express a criticism of the method 
in question. This view of the passage under consideration (546a, f.) is 
supported by the fact that it comes so soon after the passages 523a~537d 
(see the end of the last note), in which the opposition between pure rational 
knowledge and opinion based on perception is one of the main themes, and 
in which, more especially, the term ' perception ' (see also 5iic/d) is given a 
definite technical and deprecatory sense. (Cp. also, for instance, Plutarch's 
wording in his discussion of this opposition : in his Life of Marcellus, 306.) 
I am therefore of the opinion, and this opinion is enforced by the context, 
especially by (B), (C), (D), that Plato's remark (A) implies (a) that * calcula- 
tion based upon perception ' is a poor method, and (b) that there are better 
methods, namely the methods of mathematics and dialectics, which yield 
pure rational knowledge ; and this opinion is strengthened by the context, 

CHAPTER 5/NOTE 39 213 

especially by (B), (C), and (D). This point is, indeed, so plain, that I should 
not have emphasized it so much if it were not for the fact that even Adam 
has missed it. In his note to 5463, by, he interprets ' calculation ' as a reference 
to the rulers' task of determining the number of marriages they should permit, 
and ' perception ' as the means by which they * decide what couples should be 
joined, what children be reared, etc.' That is to say, Adam takes Plato's remark 
to be a simple description and not as a polemic against the weakness of the 
empirical method. Accordingly, he relates neither the statement (C) that 
the rulers will * blunder ' nor the remark (D) that they are ' ignorant ' to 
the fact that they use empirical methods. (The remark (B) that they will 
not ' hit ' upon the right method ' by accident ', would simply be left untrans- 
lated, if we follow Adam's suggestion.) 

In interpreting our passage we must keep it in mind that in Book VIII, 
immediately before the passage in question, Plato returns to the question of 
the first city of Books 'II to IV. (See Adam's notes to 4493, ff. and 543a, ff.) 
But the guardians of this city are neither mathematicians nor dialecticians. 
Thus they have no idea of the purely rational methods emphasized so much 
in Book VII, 525-534. In this connection, the import of the remarks on 
perception, i.e. on the poverty of empirical methods, and on the resulting 
ignorance of the guardians, is unmistakable. 

The statement (B) that the rulers will not ' hit accidentally upon ' (the 
correct way of) ' obtaining good offspring, or none at all ', is perfectly clear 
in my interpretation. Since the rulers have merely empirical methods at 
their disposal, it would be only a lucky accident if they did hit upon a method 
whose determination needs mathematical or other rational methods. Adam 
suggests (note to 546a, by) the translation : ' none the more will they by calcula- 
tion together with perception obtain good offspring ' ; and only in brackets, 
he adds : * lit. hit the obtaining of. I think that his failure to make any 
sense of the ' hit ' is a consequence of his failure to see the implications of (A). 

The interpretation here suggested makes (C) and (D) perfectly under- 
standable ; and Plato's remark that his Number is c master over better or 
worse birth ', fits in perfectly. It may be remarked that Adam does not 
comment on (D), i.e. the ignorance, although such a comment would be 
most necessary in view of his theory (note to 54.66.22) that * the number is 
not a nuptial . . number ', and that it has no technical eugenic meaning. 

That the meaning of the Number is indeed technical and eugenic is, I 
think, clear, if we consider that the passage containing the Number is enclosed 
in passages containing references to eugenic knowledge, or rather, lack of 
eugenic knowledge. Immediately before the Number, (A), (B), (C), occur, 
and immediately afterwards, (/)), as well as the story of the bride and bride- 
groom and their degenerate offspring. Besides, (C) before the Number and 
(D) after the Number refer to each other ; for (C), the ' blunder ', is connected 
with a reference to c begetting in the wrong manner ', and (Z>), the ( ignorance ', 
is connected with an exactly analogous reference, viz., ' uniting bride and 
bridegroom in the wrong way '. (See also next note.) 

The last point in which I must defend my interpretation is my contention 
that those who know the Number thereby obtain the power to influence ' better 
or worse birth '. This does not of course follow from Plato's statement that 
the Number itself has such power ; for if Adam's interpretation is right, then 
the Number regulates the births because it determines an unalterable period 
after which degeneration is bound to set in. But I maintain that Plato's 
references to ' perception ', to ' blunder ' and to ' ignorance ' as the immediate 
cause of the eugenic mistakes would be pointless if he did not mean that with 
the knowledge of appropriate mathematical and purely rational methods, 
the guardians would not have blundered. But this makes inevitable the 
inference that the Number has a technical eugenic meaning, and that its 

214 CHAPTER 5/NOTE 39 

knowledge gives power to arrest degeneration. (This inference also seems 
to me the only one compatible with all we know about this type of superstition ; 
all astrology, for instance, includes the apparently somewhat contradictory 
conception that the knowledge of our fate may help us to unfluence this fate.) 
I think that the attempts to explain the Number as anything but a secret 
breeding taboo arise from the reluctance to credit Plato with such crude 
ideas, even though he clearly expresses them. In other words, they arise 
from the tendency to idealize Plato. 

(2) In this connection, I must refer to an article by A. E. Taylor, ' The 
Decline and Fall of The State in Republic, VIII * (Mind, N.S. 48, 1939, pp. 
23 ff.). In this article, Taylor attacks Adam (in my opinion not justly), and 
maintains against him : ' It is true, of course, that the decay of the ideal 
State is expressly said in 546b to begin when the ruling class " beget children 
out of due season "... But this need not mean, and in my opinion does 
not mean, that Plato is concerning himself here with problems of the hygiene 
of reproduction. The main thought is the simple one that if, like everything 
of man's making, the State carries the seeds of its own dissolution within it, 
this must, of course, mean that sooner or later the persons wielding supreme 
power will be inferior to those who preceded them ' (pp. 25 f.). Now this 
interpretation seems to me not only untenable, in view of Plato's fairly definite 
statements, but also a typical example of the attempt to eliminate from Plato's 
writing such embarrassing elements as racialism or superstition. Adam 
began by denying that the Number has technical eugenic importance, and by 
maintaining that it is not a * nuptial number ', but merely a cosmological 
period. Taylor now continues by denying that Plato is here at all interested 
in ' problems of the hygiene of the reproduction '. But Plato's passage is 
thronged with allusions to these problems, and Taylor himself admits two 
pages before (p. 23) that it is ' nowhere suggested ' that the Number ' is a 
determinant of anything but the " better and worse births " '. Besides, not 
only the passage in question but the whole Republic is simply full of emphasis 
upon the ' problems of the hygiene of reproduction '. Taylor's theory that 
Plato, when speaking of the * human creature ' (or, as Taylor puts it, of a 
' thing of human generation '), means the state, and that Plato wishes to allude 
to the fact that the state is the creation of a human lawgiver, seems to me 
without support in Plato's text. The whole passage begins with a reference 
to the things of the sensible world in flux, to the things that are generated and 
that decay (see notes 37 and 38 to this chapter), and more especially, to living 
things, plants as well as animals, and to their racial problems. Besides, a 
thing ' of man's making ' would, if emphasized by Plato in such a context, 
mean an ' artificial ' thing which is inferior because it is ' twice removed ' 
from reality. (Cp. text to notes 20-23 to this chapter, and the whole Tenth 
Book of the Republic down to the end of 6o8b.) Plato would never expect 
anybody to interpret the phrase ' a thing of man's making ' as meaning the 
perfect, the * natural ' state ; rather he would expect them to think of some- 
thing very inferior (like poetry ; cp. note 39 to chapter 4). The phrase 
which Taylor translates ' thing of human generation ' is usually simply 
translated by * human creature ', and this removes all difficulties. 

(3) Assuming that my interpretation of the passage in question is correct, 
a suggestion may be made with the intention of connecting Plato's belief 
in the significance of racial degeneration with his repeated advice that the 
number of the members of the ruling class should be kept constant (advice 
that shows that the sociologist Plato understood the unsettling effect of popu- 
lation increase) . Plato's way of thinking, described at the end of the present 
chapter (cp. text to note 45 ; and note 37 to chapter 8), especially the way 
he opposes The One monarch, The Few timocrats, to The Many who are 
nothing but a mob, may have suggested to him the belief that an increase in 


numbers is equivalent to a decline in quality. If this hypothesis is correct, then he 
may easily have concluded that population increase is interdependent with, or perhaps 
even caused by, racial degeneration. Since population increase was in fact the 
main cause of the instability and dissolution of the early Greek tribal societies 
(cp. notes 6, 7, and 63 to chapter 10, and text), this hypothesis would explain 
why Plato believed that the ' real ' cause was racial degeneration (in keeping 
with his general theories of * nature ', and of * change '). 

40 Adam insists (note to 546ds2) that we must not translate * at the wrong 
time * but ' inopportunely '. I may remark that my interpretation is quite 
independent of this question ; it is fully compatible with ' inopportunely ' 
or ' wrongly ' or * in the wrong way '. (The phrase in question means, 
originally, something like ' contraiy to the proper measure ' ; usually it means 
' at the wrong time '.) 

41 For Plato's law of social revolutions, see esp. note 26 to chapter 4, and 

42 The term meta-biology is used by G. B. Shaw in this sense, i.e. as 
denoting a kind of religion. (Cp. the preface to Back to Methuselah ; see also 
note 66 to chapter 12.) 

43 Cp. Adam's note to Republic, 547a 3. 

44 For a criticism of what I call ' psychologism ' in the method of sociology, 
cp. text to note 19 to chapter 13 and chapter 14, where Mill's still popular 
methodological psychologism is discussed. 

45 It has often been said that Plato's thought must not be squeezed into 
a ' system ' ; accordingly, my attempts in this paragraph (and not only in 
this paragraph) to show the systematic unity of Plato's thought, which is 
obviously based on the Pythagorean table of opposites, will probably arouse 
criticism. But I believe that such a systematization is a necessary test of any 
interpretation. Those who believe that they do not need an interpretation, 
and that they can * know ' a philosopher or his work, and take him just ' as 
he was *, or his work just ' as it was ', are mistaken. They cannot but interpret 
both the man and his work ; but since they are not aware of the fact that they 
interpret (that their view is coloured by tradition, temperament, etc.), their 
interpretation must necessarily be naive and uncritical. (Cp. also chapter 
10 (notes i to 5 and 56), and chapter 25.) A critical interpretation, however, 
must take the form of a rational reconstruction, and must be systematic ; it 
must try to reconstruct the philosopher's thought as a consistent edifice. Cp. 
also what A. C. Ewing says of Kant (A Short Commentary on Kant's Critique of 
Pure Reason, 1938, p. 4) : ' . . we ought to start with the assumption that a 
great philosopher is not likely to be always contradicting himself, and con- 
sequently, wherever there are two interpretations, one of which will make 
Kant consistent and the other inconsistent, prefer the former to the latter, if 
reasonably possible.* This surely applies also to Plato, and even to interpreta- 
tion in general. 


1 Cp. note 3 to chapter 4 and text, especially the end of that paragraph. 
Furthermore, note 2 (2) to that chapter. Concerning the formula Back to 
Nature, I wish to draw attention to the fact that Rousseau was greatly influenced 
by Plato. Indeed, a glance at the Social Contract will reveal a wealth of 
analogies especially with those Platonic passages on naturalism which have 
been commented upon in the last chapter. Cp. especially note 14 to chapter 
9. There is also an interesting similarity between Republic, 591 a, ff. (and 
Gorgias, 472e, ff., where a similar idea occurs in an individualist context) and 
Rousseau's (and Hegel's) famous theory of punishment. (Barker, Greek 

2l6 CHAPTER 6/NOTES 2~6 

Political Theory, I, 388 ff., rightly emphasizes Plato's influence upon Rousseau. 
But he does not see the strong element of romanticism in Plato ; and it is 
not generally appreciated that the rural romanticism which influenced both 
France and Shakespeare's England through the medium of Sanazzaro's 
Arcadia, has its origin in Plato's Dorian shepherds ; cp. notes 1 1 (3), 26, and 
32 to chapter 4, and note 14 to chapter 9.) 

2 Cp. R. H. S. Grossman, Plato To-Day (1937), 132 ; the next quotation is 
from p. in. This interesting book (like the works of Grote and T. Gomperz) 
has greatly encouraged me to develop my rather unorthodox views on Plato, 
and to follow them up to their rather unpleasant conclusions. For the 
quotations from G. E. M. Joad, cp. his Guide to the Philosophy of Morals and 
Politics (1938), 66 1, and 660. I may also refer here to the very interesting 
remarks on Plato's views on justice by G. L. Stevenson, in his article ' Persuasive 
Definitions' (Mind, N.S., vol. 47, 1938, pp. 331 ff.) 

8 Cp. Grossman, op. cit., 132 f. The next two quotations are : Field, 
Plato , etc., 91 ; cp. similar remarks in Barker, Greek Political Theory, etc. (see 
note 13 to chapter 5). 

The idealization of Plato has played a considerable part in the debates 
on the genuineness of the various works transmitted under his name. Many 
of them have been rejected by some of the critics simply because they contained 
passages which did not fit in with an idealized view of Plato. A rather naive 
as well as typical expression of this attitude can be found in Davies' and 
Vaughan's * Introductory Notice ' (cp. the Golden Treasury edition of the 
Republic, p. vi) : ' Mr. Grote, in his zeal to take Plato down from his super- 
human pedestal, may be somewhat too ready to attribute to him the composi- 
tions which have been judged unworthy of so divine a philosopher.' It does 
not seem to occur to the writers that their judgement on Plato should depend 
on what he wrote, and not vice versa ; and that if these compositions are 
genuine as well as unworthy, then Plato was simply not quite so divine a 
philosopher as they assume. 

4 The formulation of (a) emulates one of Kant's who describes a just 
constitution as ' a constitution that achieves the greatest possible freedom of human 
individuals by framing the laws in such a way that the freedom of each can 
co-exist with that of all others '. (Critique of Pure Reason a , 373) ; see also his 
Theory of Right, where he says : * Right (or justice) is the sum total of the 
conditions which are necessary for everybody's free choice to co-exist with 
that of everybody else, in accordance with a general law of liberty.' Kant 
believed that this was the aim pursued by Plato in the Republic ; from which 
we may see that Kant was one of the many philosophers who were either 
deceived by Plato or who idealized him by imputing to him their own humani- 
tarian ideas. I may remark, in this connection, that Kant's ardent liberalism 
is very little appreciated in English and American writings on political 
philosophy (in spite of Hastie's Kant's Principles of Politics). He is only too 
often regarded as a forerunner of Hegel, in spite of the fact that he recognized 
in the romanticism of both Herder and Fichte a doctrine diametrically opposed 
to his own ; he would have strongly resented the claim of the Hegelian school 
that he was a forerunner of Hegel. But the tremendous influence of 
Hegelianism led to a wide acceptance of this view which is, I believe, com- 
pletely mistaken. 

8 Cp. text to notes 32/33 to chapter 5. 

Cp. text to notes 25 to 29, chapter 5. The quotations in the present 
paragraph are : (i) Republic, 4333 ; (2) Republic, 434a/b ; (3) Republic, 44 id. 
For Plato's statement, in the first quotation, ' we have repeated over and 
again *, cp. also esp. Republic, 397e, where the theory of justice is carefully 
prepared, and, of course, Republic, 369b-c, quoted in text to note 29, chapter 5. 
See also notes 23 and 40 to the present chapter. 

CHAPTER 6/NOTES 7-14 217 

7 As pointed out in chapter 4 (note 18 and text, and note 29), Plato does 
not say much about slaves in the Republic, although what he says is significant 
enough ; but he dispels all doubts about his attitude in the Laws (cp. especially 
G. R. Morrow's article in Mind, referred to in note 29 to chapter 4). 

8 The quotations are from Barker, Greek Political Theory, I, p. 180. Barker 
states (p. 176 f.) that * Platonic Justice ' is * social justice ', and correctly 
emphasizes its holistic nature. He mentions (178 f,) the possible criticism 
that this formula does ' not . . touch the essence of what men generally mean 
by justice *, i.e. ' a principle for dealing with the clash of wills ', i.e. justice as 
pertaining to individuals. But he thinks that ' such an objection is beside 
the point *, and that Plato's idea is ' not a matter of law ' but * a conception 
of social morality ' (i 79) ; and he goes on to assert that this treatment of justice 
corresponded, in a way, to the current Greek ideas of justice : " Nor was Plato, 
in conceiving justice in this sense, very far removed from the current ideas 
in Greece '. He does not even mention that there exists some evidence to the 

9 For Aristotle's theory of slavery, see note 3 to chapter 1 1 and text. The 
quotations from Aristotle in this paragraph are : (i) and (2) Nicom. Ethics, 
V, 4, 7, and 8 ; (3) Politics, III, 12, i (i282b ; see also note 30 to this chapter. 
The passage contains a reference to the Nicom. Eth.) ; (4) Nicom. Ethics, V, 4, 9. 
(5) Politics, IV (VI), 2, r (i3i7b). In the Nicom. Ethics, V, 3, 7 (cp. also 
Pol., Ill, 9, i ; I28oa), Aristotle also mentions that the meaning of 'justice ' 
varies in democratic, oligarchic, and aristocratic states, according to their 
different ideas of ' merit '. 

10 The well-known representation of Themis as blindfolded, i.e., dis- 
regarding the suppliant's station, and as carrying scales, i.e., as distributing 
equality or as balancing the claims and interests of the contesting individuals, 
is a symbolic representation of the equalitarian idea of justice. This repre- 
sentation cannot, however, be used here as an argument ; for, as Dr. 
E. Gombrich kindly informs me, it dates from the Renaissance, going 
back to a passage in Plutarch's De hide and Osiride, but not to classical 

11 Republic, 44oc-d. The passage concludes with a characteristic sheep-dog 
metaphor : * Or else, until he has been called back, and calmed down, by 
the voice of his own reason, like a dog by his shepherd ? ' Gp. note 32 (2) 
to chapter 4. 

12 Plato, in fact, implies this when he twice presents Socrates as rather 
doubtful where he should now look out for justice. (Cp. 368b, ff., 432b, ff.) 

13 Adam (under the influence of Plato) obviously overlooks the equalitarian 
theory in his note to Republic, 33 le, ff., where he, probably correctly, says 
that ' the view that Justice consists in doing good to friends and harm to 
enemies, is a faithful reflection of prevalent Greek morality '. But he is wrong 
when he adds that this was ' an all but universal view ' ; for he forgets his own 
evidence (note to 561628), which shows that equality before the laws 
(' isdnomy ') " was the proud claim of democracy '. 

14 A passing reference to equality (similar to that in the Gorgias, 483c/d ; 
see also this note, below, and note 47 to this chapter) is made in Glaucon's 
speech in Republic, 359C ; but the issue is not taken up. (For this passage 
cp. note 50 to this chapter.) 

In Plato's abusive attack upon democracy (see text to notes 14-18, chapter 
4), three scornful jocular references to equalitarianism occur. The first is a 
remark to the effect that democracy * distributes equality to equals and to 
unequajs alike ' (558c ; cp. Adam's note to 558ci6 ; see also note 21 to this 
chapter) ; this is intended as an ironical criticism. (Equality has been con- 
nected with democracy before, viz. in the description of the democratic 
revolution ; cp. Rep., 557a, quoted in the text to note 13, chapter 4.) The 
O.S.I.&. VOL. I H 

2l8 CHAPTER 6/NOTES 15-19 

second characterizes the ' democratic man ' as gratifying all his desires ' equally ,' 
whether they may be good or bad ; he is therefore called an ' equalitarianist * 
(' isonomist '), a punning allusion to the idea of equal laws for all } or ' equality 
before the law ' (' Isonomy ' ; cp. note 17 to this chapter). This pun occurs 
in Republic, 5616. The way for it is well paved, since the word * equal ' has 
already been used three times (Rep., 56 ib and c) to characterize an attitude 
of the man to whom all desires and whims are * equal '. The third of these 
cheap cracks is an appeal to the reader's imagination, typical even nowadays 
of this kind of propaganda : ' I nearly forgot to mention the great r6le played 
by these famous " equal laws ", and by this famous " liberty ", in the inter- 
relations between men and women . .' Rep., 563^) 

Besides the evidence of the importance of equalitarianism mentioned 
here (and in the text to notes 9 to 10 to this chapter), we must consider 
especially Plato's own testimony in (i) the Gorgias, where he writes (4886/4893 ; 
see also notes 47, 48, and 50 to the present chapter) : ' Does not the multitude 
(i.e. here : the majority of the people) believe . . that justice is equality ? * 
(2) The Menexenus (238e-239a ; see note 19 to this chapter, and text). The 
passages in the Laws on equality are later than the Republic, and cannot be 
used as testimony for Plato's awareness of the issue when writing the Republic ; 
but see text to notes 20 and 21 to this chapter. 

16 Plato himself says, in connection with the third remark (^6^b ; cp. the 
last note) : ' Shall we utter whatever rises to our lips ? ; by which he appar- 
ently wishes to indicate that he does not see any reason to suppress the 

18 I believe that Thucydides' (II, 37 ff.) version of Pericles' oration can 
be taken as practically authentic. In all likelihood, he was present when 
Pericles spoke ; and in any case he would have reconstructed it as faithfully 
as possible. There is much reason to believe that in those times it was not 
extraordinary for a man to learn another's oration even by heart (cp. Plato's 
Phaedrus), and a faithful reconstruction of a speech of this kind is indeed not 
as difficult as one might think. Plato knew the oration, taking either 
Thucydides' version or another source, which must have been extremely 
similar to it, as authentic. Cp. also note 31 and 34/35 to chapter 10. (It 
may be mentioned here that early in his career, Pericles had made rather 
dubious concessions to the popular tribal instincts and to the equally popular 
group egoism of the people ; I have in mind the legislation concerning 
citizenship in 451 B.C. But later he revised his attitude towards these matters, 
probably under the influence of such men as Protagoras.) 

17 Cp. Herodotus, III, 80, and especially the eulogy on * isonomy ', i.e., 
equality before the law (III, 80, 6) ; see also note 14 to this chapter. The 
passage from Herodotus, which influenced Plato in other ways also (cp. note 24 
to chapter 4), is one which Plato ridicules in the Republic just as he ridicules 
Pericles' oration ; rp. note 14 to chapter 4 and 34 to chapter 10. 

18 Even the naturalist Aristotle does not always refer to this naturalistic 
version of equalitarianism ; for instance, his formulation of the principles of 
democracy in Politics, i^ijb (cp. note 9 to this chapter, and text) is quite 
independent of it. But it is perhaps even more interesting that in the Gorgias 
in which the opposition of nature and convention plays such an important 
role, Plato presents equalitarianism without burdening it with the dubious 
theory of the natural equality of all men (see 4886 /48ga, quoted in note 14 to 
this chapter, and 483d, 4843, and 5083). 

19 Cp. Menexenus, 238e/23ga. The passage immediately follows a clear 
allusion to Pericles' oration (viz., to the second sentence quoted in the text to 
note 17, in this chapter). It seems not improbable that the reiteration of the 
term ' equal birth ' in that passage is meant as a scornful allusion to the ' low * 
birth of Pericles' and Aspasia's sons, who were recognized as Athenian citizens 


only by special legislation in 429 B.C. (Cp. E. Meyer, Gesch. d. Altertums, 
vol. IV, p. 14, note to No. 392, and p. 323, No. 558.) 

(It has been held (even by Grote ; cp. his Plato, III, p. 1 1) that Plato in 
the Menexenus, ' in his own rhetorical discourse, . . drops the ironical vein ', 
i.e. that the middle part of the Menexenus, from which the quotation in the 
text is taken, is not meant ironically. But in view of the quoted passage 
on equality, and in view of Plato's open scorn in the Republic when he deals 
with this point (cp. note 14 to this chapter), this opinion seems to me untenable. 
And it appears to me equally impossible to doubt the ironical character of 
the passage immediately preceding the one quoted in the text where Plato 
says of Athens (cp. 238c/d) : ' In this time as well as at present . . our govern- 
ment was always an aristocracy . . ; though it is sometimes called a democracy, 
it is really an aristocracy, that is to say, a rule of the best, with the approval 
of the many . .' In view of Plato's hatred of democracy, this description 
needs no further comment. For the genuineness of the Menexenus, cp. also 
note 35 to chapter 10. 

20 Laws, 757a ; cp. the whole passage 7573-0. 

(1) For what I call the standard objection against cqualitarianism, cp. 
also Laws, 744b, ff. 'It would be excellent if everybody could . . have all 
things equal ; but since this is impossible . .', etc. The passage is especially 
interesting in view of the fact that Plato is often described as an enemy of 
plutocracy by many writers who judge him only by the Republic. But in this 
important passage of the Laws (i.e. 744b, ff.) Plato demands that * political 
offices, and contributions, as well as distributions of bounties, should be 
proportional to the value of a citizen's wealth. And they should depend not 
only on his virtue or that of his ancestors or on the size and attractiveness of 
his body, but a4so upon his wealth or his poverty. In this way, a man will 
receive honours and offices as equitably as possible, i.e. in proportion to his 
wealth, although according to a principle of unequal distribution.' The 
basic idea of this attitude, viz. , that it is unjust to treat unequals equally, can 
be found, in a passing remark, as early as the Protagoras (337a) ; but Plato did 
not make much use of the idea before writing the Laws. 

(2) For Aristotle's elaboration of these ideas, cp. esp. his Politics, III, 
9, i, i28oa (see also III, 12-13, 12820-1284^, where he writes : * All men 
cling to justice of some kind, but their conceptions are imperfect, and do not 
embrace the whole Idea. For example, justice is thought (by democrats) to 
be equality ; and so it is, although it is not equality for all, but only for equals. 
And justice is thought (by oligarchs) to be inequality ; and so it is, although 
it is not inequality for all, but only for unequals.' 

(3) Against all this anti-equalitarianism, I maintain, with Kant, that it 
must be the principle of all morality that no man should consider himself 
more valuable than any other person. And I maintain that this principle 
is the only one acceptable, considering the notorious impossibility of judging 
oneself impartially. I am therefore at a loss to understand the following 
remark of an excellent writer like Gatlin (Principles, 314) : * There is some- 
thing profoundly immoral in the morality of Kant which endeavours to roll 
all personalities level . . and which ignores the Aristotelian precept to render 
equals to equals and unequals to unequals. One man has not socially the 
same rights as another . . The present writer would by no means be prepared 
to deny that . . there is something in " blood ".' Now I ask : If there were 
something in * blood ', or in inequality of talents, etc. ; and even if it were 
worth while to waste one's time in assessing these differences ; and even 
if one could assess them ; why, then, should they be made the ground of 
greater rights and not only of heavier duties? (Cp. text to notes 31/32 to 
chapter 4.) I fail to see the profound immorality of Kant's equalitarianism. 
And I fail to see on what Catlin bases his moral judgement, since he considers 

22O CHAPTER 6/NOTES 21-25 

morals to be a matter of taste. Why should Kant's * taste ' be profoundly 
immoral ? (It is also the Christian ' taste '.) The only reply to this question 
that I can think of is that Catlin judges from his positivistic point of view 
(cp. note 1 8 (2) to chapter 5), and that he thinks the Christian and Kantian 
demand immoral because it contradicts the positively enforced moral valuations 
of our contemporary society. 

(4) One of the best answers ever given to all these anti-equalitarianists is 
due to Rousseau. I say this in spite of my opinion that his romanticism 
(cp. note i to this chapter) was one of the most pernicious influences in the 
history of social philosophy. But he was also one pf the few really brilliant 
writers in this field. I quote one of his excellent remarks from the Origin of 
Inequality (see, for instance, the Everyman Edition of the Social Contract) p. 1 74 ; 
the italics are mine) ; and I wish to draw the reader's attention to the dignified 
formulation of the last sentence of this passage. * I conceive that there are 
two kinds of inequality among the human species ; one, which I call natural 
or physical because it is established by nature, and consists in a difference of 
age, health, bodily strength, and the qualities of the mind or of the soul ; 
and another, which may be called moral or political inequality, because it 
depends on a kind of convention, and is established, or at least authorized, 
by the consent of men. This latter consists of the different privileges, which 
some men enjoy . . ; such as that of being more rich, more honoured, or 
more powerful, . . . It is useless to ask what is the source of natural inequality, 
because that question is answered by the simple definition of the word. Again, 
it is still more useless to inquire whether there is any essential connection between the two 
inequalities ; for this would be only asking, in other words, whether those 
who command are necessarily better than those who obey, and whether 
strength of body or of mind, or wisdom, or virtue, are always found . . in 
proportion to the power or wealth of a man ; a question fit perhaps to be discussed 
by slaves in the hearing of their masters, but highly unbecoming to reasonable and free 
men in search of the truth. 9 

21 Republic, 558c ; cp. note 14 to this chapter (the first passage in the attack 
on democracy). 

22 Republic, 433b. Adam who also recognizes that the passage is intended 
as an argument tries to reconstruct the argument (note to 433611) ; but he 
confesses that ' Plato seldom leaves so much to be mentally supplied in his 
reasoning '. 

28 Republic, 4336/4343. For a continuation of the passage, cp. text to 
note 40 to this chapter ; for the preparation for it in earlier parts of the 
Republic, see note 6 to this chapter. Adam comments on the passage which 
I call the ' second argument * as follows (note to 433635) : * Plato is looking 
for a point of contact between his own view of Justice and the popular judicial 
meaning of the word . .' (See the passage quoted in the next paragraph in 
the text.) Adam tries to defend Plato's argument against a critic (Krohn) 
who saw, though not very clearly, that there was something wrong with 

24 The quotations in this paragraph are from Republic, 43od, ff. 

25 This device seems to have been successful even with a keen critic such as 
Gomperz, who, in his brief criticism (Greek Thinkers, RookV, II, 10 ; Germ.ed., 
vol. II, pp. 378/379), fails to mention the weaknesses of the argument ; and 
he even says, commenting upon the first two books (V, II, 5 ; p. 368) : ' An 
exposition follows which might be described as a miracle of clarity, precision, 
and genuine scientific character . .', adding that Plato's interlocutors Glaucon 
and Adeimantus, * driven by their burning enthusiasm . . dismiss and 
forestall all superficial solutions '. 

For my remarks on temperance, in the next paragraph of the text, see 
the following passage from Davies' and Vaughan's * Analysis ' (cp. the Golden 

CHAPTER 6/NOTES 26-33 221 

Treasury edition of the Republic, p. xviii ; italics mine) : * The essence of 
temperance is restraint. The essence of political temperance lies in recognizing 
the right of the governing body to the allegiance and obedience of the governed. 9 This 
may show that my interpretation of Plato's idea of temperance is shared 
(though expressed in a different terminology) by followers of Plato. I may 
add that * temperance ', i.e. being satisfied with one's place, is a virtue in 
which all three classes share, although it is the only virtue in which the workers 
may participate. Thus the virtue attainable by the workers or money-earners 
is temperance ; the virtues attainable by the auxiliaries are temperance and 
courage ; by the guardians, temperance, courage, and wisdom. 

The * lengthy preface ', also quoted in the next paragraph, is from Republic, 
432b, ff. 

26 On the term ' collectivism ', a terminological comment may be made 
here. What H. G. Wells calls * collectivism ' has nothing to do with what 
I call by that name. Wells is an individualist (in my sense of the word), 
as is shown especially by his Rights of Man and his Common Sense of War and 
Peace, which contain very acceptable formulations of the demands of an 
equalitarian individualism. But he also believes, rightly, in the rational 
planning of political institutions, with the aim of furthering the freedom and 
the welfare of individual human beings. This he calls ' collectivism ' ; to 
describe what I believe to be the same thing as his * collectivism ', I should 
use an expression like : ' rational institutional planning for freedom '. This 
expression may be long and clumsy, but it avoids the danger that ' collectivism ' 
may be interpreted in the anti-individualistic sense in which it is often used, 
not only in the present book. 

27 Laws, 903c ; cp. text to note 35, chapter 5. 

28 There are innumerable places in the Republic and in the Laws where 
Plato gives a warning against unbridled group egoism ; cp., for instance, 
Republic, 5196, and the passages referred to in note 41 to this chapter. 

Regarding the identity often alleged to exist between collectivism and 
altruism, I may refer, in this connection, to the very pertinent question of 
Sherrington, who asks in Man On His Nature (p. 388) : * Has the shoal and 
the herd altruism ? ' 

29 For Dickens' mistaken contempt of Parliament, cp. also note 23 to 
chapter 7. 

30 Aristotle's Politics, III, 12, i (i282b) ; cp. text to note 9, to this chapter. 
(Gp. also Aristotle's remark in Pol., Ill, 9, 3, ia8oa, to the effect that justice 
pertains to persons as well as to things.) With the quotation from Pericles 
later in this paragraph, cp. text to note 16 to this chapter, and to note 31 to 
chapter 10. 

31 This remark is from a passage (Rep., 5196, f.) quoted in the text to note 
35 to chapter 5. 

32 The important passages from the Laws quoted (i) in the present and 
(2) in the next paragraph are : 

(1) Laws, 739C, ff. Plato refers here to the Republic, and apparently 
especially to Republic, 4623, ff., 4243, and 4496. (A list of passages on 
collectivism and holism can be found in note 35 to chapter 5.) 

(2) Laws, 942a, f. Both these passages are referred to as anti-individualistic 
by Gomperz (op. cit., vol. II, 406). 

33 Cp note 42, chapter 4, and text. The quotation which follows in the 
present p.aragraph is Laws 9423, f. (see the last note). 

It is interesting that Barker, who hates militarism, believes that Plato 
held similar views. (Greek Political Theory, 298-301). It is true that Plato 
did not eulogize war, and that he even spoke against war. But many militarists 
have talked peace and practised war ; and Plato's state is ruled by the military 

222 CHAPTER 6/NOTES 34-45 

84 Strictest legislation about meals and also about drinking habits plays a 
considerable part in Plato ; cp., for instance, Republic, 4i6e, 458c ; Laws, 
6256, 762b, 780-783, 8o6c. Plato always emphasizes the importance of 
common meals, in accordance with Cretan and Spartan customs. Interesting 
also is the preoccupation of Plato's uncle Gritias with these matters. (Cp. 
Diels 2 , Critias, fr. 33.) 

36 Cp. E. B. England's edition of the Laws, vol. I, p. 514, note to 73gb8 ff. 
The quotations from Barker, op. cit., are : pp. 149 and 148. Countless 
similar passages can be found in the writings of most Platonists. See however 
Sherrington's remark (cp. note 28 to this chapter) that it is hardly correct 
to say that a shoal or a herd is inspired by altruism. Herd instinct and tribal 
egoism, and the appeal to these instincts, should not be mixed up with 

86 Cp. Republic, 424a, 44gc ; Laws, 73pc. (Cp. also Lysis, 2O7c.) 
Regarding the individualistic theory of justice and injustice of the Gorgias, 

cp. for instance the examples given in the Gorgias, 468b, fF., 5o8d/e. These 
passages probably still show Socratic influence (cp. note 56 to chapter 10). 
Socrates* individualism is most clearly expressed in his famous doctrine of the 
self-sufficiency of the good man ; a doctrine which is mentioned by Plato in 
the Republic (387d/e) in spite of the fact that it flatly contradicts one of the 
main theses of the Republic, viz., that the state alone can be self-sufficient. 
(Cp. note 25, and the text to this and to the following notes, to chapter 


87 Republic, 368b/c. ~ 

38 Cp. especially Republic, 344a, fF. 

39 Cp. Laws, 923b. 

40 Republic, 434a-c. (Cp. also text to note 6 and note 23 to this chapter, 
and notes 27 (3) and 31 to chapter 4.) 

41 Republic, 466b/c. Cp. also the Laws, ji$b/c, and many other passages 
against the anti-holistic misuse of class prerogatives. See also note 28 to this 
chapter, and note 25 (4) to chapter 7. 

42 For the problem of state control in education, cp. note 13 to chapter 7. 

43 Cp. Aristotle, Politics, III, 9, 6 fF. (i28oa). Cp. Burke, French Revolu- 
tion (ed. 1815 ; vol. V, 184 ; the passage is aptly quoted by Jowett in his 
notes to the passage of Aristotle's ; see his edition of Aristotle's Politics, vol. II, 

The quotation from Aristotle later in the paragraph is op. cit., Ill, 9, 8, 

Field, for instance, proffers a similar criticism (in his Plato and His Con- 
temporaries, 117): * There is no question of the city and its laws exercising any 
educative effect on the moral character of its citizen.' However, Green has 
clearly shown (in his Lectures on Political Obligation) that it is impossible for the 
state to enforce morality by law. He would certainly have agreed with the 
formula : * We want to moralize politics, and not to politicize morals.' (See 
end of this paragraph in the text.) Green's view is foreshadowed by Spinoza 
(Tract. Theol. Pol., chapter 20) : * He who seeks to regulate everything by law 
is more likely to encourage vice than to smother it.' 

44 I consider the analogy between civil peace and international peace, 
and between ordinary crime and international crime, as fundamental for 
any attempt to get international crime under control. For this analogy 
and its limitations as well as for the poverty of the historicist method in such 
problems, cp. note 7 to chapter 9. 

45 The quotation is from Aristotle's Politics, III, 9, 8, (1280). 

(i) I say in the text 'furthermore* because I believe that the passages 
alluded to in the text, i.e. Politics, III, 9, 6, and III, 9, 12, are likely to 
represent Lycophron's views also. My reasons for believing this are the 

CHAPTER 6/NOTES 46-48 223 

following. From III, 9, 6, to III, 9, 12, Aristotle is engaged in a criticism of 
the doctrine I have called protectionism. In III, 9, 8, quoted in the text, 
he directly attributes to Lycophron a concise and perfectly clear formulation 
of this doctrine. From Aristotle's other references to Lycophron (see (2) in 
this note), it is probable that Lycophron's age was such that he must have 
been, if not the first, at least one of the first to formulate protectionism. Thus 
it seems reasonable to assume (although it is anything but certain) that the 
whole attack upon protectionism, i.e. Ill, 9, 6, to III, 9, 12, is directed against 
Lycophron, and that the various but indeed fully equivalent formulations are 
all his. 

Aristotle's objections are all intended to show that the protectionist theory 
is unable to account for the local as well as the internal unity of the state. 
It overlooks, he holds (III, 9, 6), the fact that the state exists for the sake of 
the good life in which neither slaves nor beasts can have a share (i.e. for the 
good life of the virtuous landed proprietor, for everybody who earns money 
is by his * banausic* occupation prevented from citizenship). It also over- 
looks the tribal unity of the * true * state which is (III, 9, 12) 'a community 
of well-being in families, and an aggregation of "families, for the sake of a complete 
and self-sufficient life . . established among men who live in the same place, 
and who intermarry '. 

(2) For Lycophron's equalitarianism, see note 13 to chapter 5. Jowett 
(in Aristotle *j Politics, II, 126) describes Lycophron as " an obscure rhetorician ' ; 
but Aristotle must have thought otherwise, since in his extant writings he 
mentions Lycophron at least six times. (In Pol., Rhet., Fragm., Atetaph., 
Phyr., Soph. El.) 

It is unlikely that Lycophron was much younger than Alcidamas, his 
colleague in Gorgias' school, since his equalitarianism would hardly have 
attracted so much attention if it had become known after Alcidamas had 
succeeded Gorgias as the head of the school. Lycophron's epistemological 
interests (mentioned by Aristotle in Metaphysics, io45b9, and Physics, i85b27) 
are also a case in point, since they make it probable that he was a pupil of 
Gorgias' earlier period, i.e. before Gorgias confined himself practically 
exclusively to rhetoric. Of course, any opinion on Lycophron must be highly 
speculative, owing to the scanty information we have. 

46 Barker, Greek Political Theory, I, p. 160. Concerning Barker's further 
contention (p. 161) that Plato's justice, as opposed to that of the contract 
theory, is not ' something external ', but rather, internal to the soul, I may 
remind the reader of Plato's frequent recommendations of most severe 
sanctions by which justice may be achieved ; he always recommends the use 
of persuasion and force ' (cp. notes 5, 10 and 18 to chapter 8). On the other 
hand, some modern democratic states have shown that it is possible to be 
liberal and lenient without increasing criminality. 

With my remark that Barker sees in Lycophron (as I do) the originator 
of the contract theory, cp. Barker, op cit., p. 63 : ' Protagoras did not anticipate 
the Sophist Lycophron in founding the doctrine of Contract.' (Cp. with this 
the text to note 27 to chapter 5.) 

47 Cp. Gorgias, 483^ f. 

48 Cp. Gorgias, 4880, ff. 

From the way in which Socrates replies here to Callicles, it seems possible 
that the historical Socrates (cp. note 56 to chapter 10) may have countered the 
arguments in support of a biological naturalism of Pindar's type by arguing 
like this : If it is natural that the stronger should rule, then it is also natural 
that equality should rule, since the multitude which shows its strength by 
the fact that it rules demands equality. In other words, he may have shown 
the empty, ambiguous character of the naturalistic demand. And his success 
might have inspired Plato to proffer his own version of naturalism. 

224 CHAPTER 6/NOTES 49-52 

I do not see any reason why Socrates' later remark (soSa) on ' geometrical 
equality ' should be interpreted as anti-equalitarian, i.e. why it should mean 
the same as the * proportionate equity ' of the Laws, 744:0, ff., and 757a-e 
(cp. note 20 (i) to this chapter). This is what Adam suggests in his second 
note to Republic, 55805. The * geometrical ' equality of the Gorgias, 5o8a, 
seems, however, to indicate Pythagorean influence (cp. note 56 (6) to chapter 
10 ; see also the remarks in that note on the Cratylus). 

49 Republic, 3586. Glaucon disclaims the authorship. In reading this 
passage, the reader's attention is easily distracted by the issue ' nature versus 
convention % which plays a major role in this passage as well as in Gallicles' 
speech in the Gorgias. However, Plato's major concern in the Republic is not 
to defeat conventionalism, but to denounce the rational protectionist approach 
as selfish. (That the conventionalist contract theory was not Plato's main 
enemy emerges from notes 27-28 to chapter 5, and text.) 

60 If we compare Plato's presentation of protectionism in the Republic 
with that in the Gorgias, then we find that it is indeed the same theory, 
although in the Republic much less emphasis is laid on equality. But even 
equality is mentioned, although only in passing, viz., in Republic, 359C : 
' Nature . . , by conventional law, is twisted round and compelled by force 
to honour equality.' This remark increases the similarity with Callicles' 
speech. (See Gorgias, esp. 483c/d.) But as opposed to the Gorgias, Plato 
drops equality at once (or rather, he does not even take the issue up) 
and never returns to it ; which makes it only the more obvious that he was 
at pains to avoid the problem. Instead, Plato revels in the description of the 
cynical egoism which he presents as the only source from which protectionism 
springs. (For Plato's silence on equalitarianism, cp. especially note 14 to 
this chapter, and text.) A. E. Taylor, Plato : The Man and His Work (1926), 
p. 268, contends that while Callicles starts from * nature ', Glaucon starts 
from ' convention '. 

51 Cp. Republic, 35Qa ; my further allusions in the text are to 35Qb, 36od, ff. 
For the ' rubbing in ', cp. 359a~362c, and the elaboration down to 3676. 
Plato's description of the nihilistic tendencies of protectionism fills altogether 
nine pages in the Everyman edition of the Republic ; an indication of the 
significance Plato attached to it. (There is a parallel passage in the Laws, 
Sgoa, f.) 

52 When Glaucon has finished his presentation, Adeimantus takes his 
place (with a very interesting and indeed most pertinent challenge to Socrates 
to criticize utilitarianism), yet not until Socrates has stated that he thinks 
Glaucon's presentation an excellent one (362d). Adeimantus' speech is an 
amendment of Glaucon's, and it reiterates the claim that what I call protec- 
tionism derives from Thrasymachus' nihilism (see especially 3673, ff.) After 
Adeimantus, Socrates himself speaks, full of admiration for Glaucon as well 
as Adeimantus, because their belief in justice is unshaken in spite of the fact 
that they presented the case for injustice so excellently, i.e. the theory that it is good 
to inflict injustice as long as one can ' get away with it '. By emphasizing 
the excellence of the arguments proffered by Glaucon and Adeimantus, 
' Socrates ' (i.e. Plato) implies that these arguments are a fair presentation 
of the views discussed ; and he ultimately states his own theory, not in order 
to show that Glaucon's representation needs emendation, but, as he emphasizes, 
in order to show that, contrary to the opinions of the protectionists, justice is 
good, and injustice evil. (It should not be forgotten cp. note 49 to this 
chapter that Plato's attack is not directed against the contract theory as 
such but solely against protectionism ; for the contract theory is soon (Rep., 
SGgb-c ; cp. text to note 29 to chapter 5) adopted by Plato himself, at least 
partially ; including the theory that people ' gather into settlements ' because 
' every one expects in this way to further his own interests '.) 

CHAPTER 7/NOTES 1-4 225 

It must also be mentioned that the passage culminates with the impressive 
remark of * Socrates ' quoted in the text to note 37 to this chapter. This 
shows, finally, that Plato combats protectionism only by presenting it as an 
immoral and indeed unholy form of egoism. 

Finally, in forming our judgement on Plato's procedure, we must not 
forget that Plato likes to argue against rhetoric and sophistry ; and indeed, 
that he is the man who by his attacks on the * Sophists ' created the bad 
associations connected with that word. I believe that we therefore have 
every reason to censor him when he himself makes use of rhetoric and sophistry 
in place of argument. (Cp. also note 10 to chapter 8.) 

63 We may take Adam and Barker as representative of the Platonists 
mentioned here. Adam says (note to 3586, ff.) of Glaucon that he resuscitates 
Thrasymachus' theory, and he says (note to 3733, ff.) of Thrasymachus that 
his is ' the same theory which is afterwards (in 3586, ff.) represented by 
Glaucon '. Barker says (op. cit., 159) of the theory which I call protectionism 
and which he calls * pragmatism ', that it is c in the same spirit as 
Thrasymachus '. 

64 That the great sceptic Carneadcs believed in Plato's presentation can 
be seen from Cicero (De Republic^ III, 8 ; 13 ; 23), where Glaucon 's version 
is presented, practically without alteration, as the theory adopted by Garneades. 
(See also text to notes 65 and 66 and note 56 to chapter 10.) 

In this connection I may express my opinion, that one can find a great 
deal of comfort in the fact that anti-humanitarians have always found it 
necessary to appeal to our humanitarian sentiments ; and even in the fact 
that they often succeed in persuading us of their sincerity. It shows that they 
are well aware of the fact that these sentiments are deeply rooted in most of 
us, and that the despised ' many ' are rather too good, too candid, and too 
guileless, than too bad ; while they are even ready to be told by their 
unscrupulous leaders that they are unworthy egoists, and that ' they fill their 
bellies like the beasts '. 


1 Cp. text to notes 2/3 to chapter 6. 

2 Similar ideas have been expressed by J. S. Mill ; thus he writes in his 
Logic (ist ed., pp. 557 f.) : ' Although the actions of rulers are by no means 
wholly determined by their selfish interests, it is as security against those 
selfish interests that constitutional checks are required.' Similarly he writes 
in The Subjection of Women (p. 251 of the Everyman edition ; italics mine) 
' Who doubts that there may be great goodness, and great happiness and 
great affection, under the absolute government of a good man ? Mean- 
while laws and institutions require to be adapted, not to good men, but to bad.' Much 
as I agree with the sentence in italics, I disagree with the other part of this 
quotation : / doubt. My reasons for doubting are given below. 

3 Cp. for instance E. Meyer's remark (Gesch. d. Altertums, V, p. 4) that 
power is, in its very essence, indivisible '. 

4 Cp. Republic, 56213-5656. In the text, I am alluding especially to 562C : 
* Does not the excess ' (of liberty) ' bring men to such a state that they badly 
want a tyranny ? ' Cp. furthermore 563d/e : * And in the end, as you know 
well enough, they just do not take any notice of the laws, whether written or 
unwritten, since they want to have no despot of any kind over them. This 
then is the origin out of which tyranny springs.' (For the beginning of this 
passage, see note 19 to chapter 4.) 

Other remarks of Plato's on the paradoxes of freedom and of democracy 
are : Republic, 564% : * Then too much freedom is liable to change into nothing 

226 CHAPTER 7 /NOTES 5-6 

else but too much slavery, in the individual as well as in the state . . Hence 
it is reasonable to assume that tyranny is enthroned by no other form of govern- 
ment than by democracy. Out of what I believe is the greatest possible 
excess of freedom springs what is the hardest and most savage form of slavery.' 
See also Republic, 565C/d : * And are not the common people in the habit 
of making one man their champion or party leader, and of exalting his position 
and making him great ? ' ' This is their habit.' * Then it seems clear that 
whenever a tyranny grows up, this democratic party-leadership is the origin 
from which it springs. 5 

The so-called paradox of freedom is the well-known idea that freedom in 
the sense of absence of any restraining control must lead to very great restraint, 
since it makes the bully free to enslave the meek. This idea is, in a slightly 
different form, and with a very different tendency, clearly expressed by 

Less well known is the paradox of tolerance : Unlimited tolerance must lead 
to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to 
those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society 
against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, 
and tolerance with them. In this formulation, I do not imply, for instance, 
that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies ; as 
long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check 
by public opinion, suppression would certainly be most unwise. But we 
should claim the right even to suppress them, for it may easily turn out that 
they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument, but begin 
by denouncing all argument ; they may forbid their followers to listen to 
anything as deceptive as rational argument, and teach them to answer 
arguments by the use of their fists. We should therefore claim, in the name 
of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant. We should claim that 
any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law, and we 
should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal, exactly 
as we should consider incitement to murder, or to kidnapping ; or as we 
should consider incitement to the revival of the slave trade. Another of the 
less well-known paradoxes is the paradox of democracy, or more precisely, of 
majority rule ; i.e. the possibility that the majority may decide that a tyrant 
should rule. That Plato's criticism of democracy can be interpreted in the 
way sketched here, and that the principle of majority-rule may lead to self- 
contradictions, was first suggested, as far as I know, by Leonard Nelson. I 
do not think, however, that Nelson, who, in spite of his passionate humani- 
tarianism and his ardent fight for freedom, adopted much of Plato's political 
theory, and especially Plato's principle of leadership, was aware of the fact 
that analogous arguments can be raised against any of the different particular 
forms of the theory of sovereignty. 

All these paradoxes can be easily avoided if we frame our political demands 
in some such manner as this. We demand a government that rules according 
to the principles of equalitarianism and protectionism ; that tolerates all 
who are prepared to reciprocate, i.e. who are tolerant ; that is controlled by, 
and accountable to, the public. And we may add that some form of majority 
vote, together with institutions for keeping the public well informed, is the best, 
though not infallible, means of controlling such a government. (No infallible 
means exist.) Cp. also chapter 6, the last four paragraphs in the text prior 
to note 42 ; text to note 20 to chapter 17 ; note 7 (4), to chapter 24 ; and 
note 6 to the present chapter. 

6 Further remarks on this point will be found in chapter 19, below. 

6 The following remarks on the paradox of freedom may possibly appear to 
carry the argument too far ; since, however, the arguments discussed in this 
place are of a somewhat formal character, it may be just as well to make them 


more watertight, even if it involves a bit of hair-splitting. Besides, my 
experience in debates of this kind leads me to expect that the defenders of 
the leader-principle, i.e. of the sovereignty of the best or the wisest, may 
actually offer the following counter-argument : (a) if ' the wisest ' should 
decide that the majority should rule, then he was not really wise. As a 
further consideration they may support this by the assertion (b) that a wise 
man would never establish a principle which might lead to contradictions, 
like that of majority-rule. My reply to (b) would be that we need only to 
alter this decision of the ' wise ' man in such a way that it becomes free from 
contradictions. (For instance, he could decide in favour of a government 
bound to rule according to the principle of equalitarianism and protectionism, 
and controlled by majority vote. This decision of the wise man would give 
up the sovereignty-principle ; and since it would thereby become free from 
contradictions, it may be made by a ' wise ' man. But of course, this would 
not free the principle that the wisest should rule from its contradictions.) 
The other argument, namely (a), is a different matter. It leads dangerously 
close to defining the ' wisdom ' or ' goodness ' of a politician in such a way 
that he is called * wise ' or ' good ' only if he is determined not to give up his 
power. And indeed, the only sovereignty-theory which is free from con- 
tradictions would be the theory which demands that only a man who is 
absolutely determined to cling to his power should rule. Those who believe 
in the leader-principle should frankly face this logical consequence of their 
creed. If freed from contradictions it implies, not the rule of the best or 
wisest, but the rule of the strong rnaii, of the man of power. (Cp. also note 7 
to chapter 24.) 

7 Cp. passage (7) in note 4 to chapter '2. 

8 Cp. Apology, 32c. The Thirty tried to implicate Socrates in their crimes, 
but he resisted. This would have meant death to him if the rule of the 
Thirty had continued a little longer. Cp. also notes 53 and 56 to chapter 10. 

9 Cp. Plato's Phaedo , 96-99. The Phaedo is, I believe, still partly Socratic, 
but very largely Platonic. The story of his philosophical development told 
by the Socrates of the Phaedo has given rise to much discussion. It is, I believe, 
an authentic autobiography neither of Socrates nor of Plato. It is simply 
Plato's interpretation of Socrates' development. Socrates' attitude towards 
science (an attitude which combined the keenest interest in rational argument 
with a kind of modest agnosticism) was incomprehensible to Plato. He tried 
to explain it by referring to the backwardness of Athenian science in Socrates' 
day, as opposed to Pythagoreanism. Plato thus presents this agnostic attitude 
in such a way that it is no longer justified in the light of his newly acquired 
Pythagoreanism. (And he tries to show how much the new metaphysical 
theories of the soul would have appealed to Socrates' burning interest in the 
individual ; cp. notes 44 and 56 to chapter 10, and note 58 to chapter 8.) 

10 It is the version that involves the square root of two, and the problem 
of irrationality ; i.e. it is the very problem that precipitated the dissolution 
of Pythagoreanism. By refuting the Pythagorean arithmetization of geometry, 
it gave rise to the specific deductive-geometrical methods which we know 
from Euclid. The use of this problem in the Meno might be connected with 
the fact that there is a tendency in some parts of this dialogue to * show off ' 
the author's (hardly Socrates') acquaintance with the ' latest ' philosophical 
developments and methods. 

11 Gorgias, 52 id, f. 

12 Cp. Grossman, Plato To-Day, 1 18. ' Faced by these three cardinal errors 
of Athenian Democracy . .* How truly Grossman understands Socrates may 
be seen from op. cit. 9 93 : ' All that is good in our Western culture has sprung 
from this spirit, whether it is found in scientists, or priests, or politicians, or 
quite ordinary men and women who have refused to prefer political falsehoods 

228 CHAPTER 7 /NOTES 13-23 

to simple truth . . in the end, their example is the only force which can break 
the dictatorship of force and greed . . . Socrates showed that philosophy is 
nothing else than conscientious objection to prejudice and unreason.' 

18 Cp. Grossman, op. cit., 117 f. (first group of italics mine). It seems 
that Grossman has for the moment forgotten, that in Plato's state, education 
is a class monopoly. It is true that in the Republic the possession of money 
is not a key to higher education. But this is quite unimportant. The 
important point is that only the members of the ruling class are educated. 
(Cp. note 33 to chapter 4.) Besides, Plato was in his later life anything but 
an opponent of Plutocracy, which he much preferred to a classless or equali- 
tarian society : cp. the passage from the Laws, 744-b ff., quoted in note 20 (i) 
to chapter 6. For the problem of state control in education, cp. also note 42 
to that chapter, and notes 39-41, chapter 4. 

14 Burnet takes (Greek Philosophy, I, 1 78) the Republic to be purely Socratic 
(or even pre-Socratic) . But he does not even seriously attempt to reconcile 
this opinion with an important statement which he quotes from Plato's 
Seventh Letter (326a, cp. Greek Philosophy 1,2 1 8) which he believes to be authentic. 
Cp. note 56 (5, d) to chapter 10. 

15 Laws, 942b, quoted in text to note 33, chapter 6. 
10 Republic, 54oc. 

17 Cp. the quotations from the Republic, 473c-e, quoted in text to note 44, 
chapter 8. 

18 Republic, 4g8b/c. Cp. the Laws, 634d/e, in which Plato praises the 
Dorian law that ' forbids any young man to question which of the laws are 
right and which are wrong, and makes them all unanimous in proclaiming 
that the laws arc all good '. Only an old man may criticize, adds the old 
writer ; and even he may do so only if no young man can hear him. See 
also note 21 to this chapter, and notes 40 and 23 to chapter 4. 

19 Republic, 497d. 

20 Op. cit., 537c-54ob. 

21 Op. cit., 539d. 

Grote, the great democrat, comments on this point (i.e. on the ' brighter * 
passages 537c~54o) very strongly : c The dictum forbidding dialectic debate 
with youth . . is decidedly anti-Socratic. . . It belongs indeed to the case of 
Meletus and Anytus, in their indictment against Socrates. . . It is identical 
with their charge against him, of corrupting the youth. . . . And when we 
find him ( = Plato) forbidding all such discourse at an earlier age than thirty 
years we remark as a singular coincidence that this is the exact prohibition 
which Critias and Charicles actually imposed upon Socrates himself, during 
the short-lived dominion of the Thirty Oligarchs at Athens.' (Grote, Plato 
and the other Companions of Socrates, ed. 1875, v l- HI* 2 39-) 

22 Toynbee has admirably shown how successfully a Platonic system of 
educating rulers may work in an arrested society ; cp. A Study of History, 
III, especially 33 ff. ; cp. notes 32 (3) and 45 (2) to chapter 4. It may be 
remarked that the idea, contested in the text, that those who are good in obeying 
will also be good in commanding, is also Platonic. Cp. Laws, 7626. 

23 Some may perhaps ask how an individualist can demand devotion to 
any cause, and especially to such an abstract cause as scientific inquiry. But 
such a question would only reveal the old mistake (discussed in the last 
chapter), the identification of individualism and egoism. An individualist 
can be unselfish, and he can devote himself not only to the help of individuals, 
but also to the development of the institutional means for helping other 
people. (Apart from that, I do not think that devotion should be demanded, 
but only that it should be encouraged.) I believe that devotion to certain 
institutions, for instance, to those of a democratic state, and even to certain 
traditions, may fall well within the realm of individualism, provided that the 

CHAPTER 7/NOTES 24-25 22Q 

humanitarian aims of these institutions are not lost sight of. Individualism 
must not be identified with an anti- institutional personalism. This is a 
mistake frequently made by individualists. They are right in their hostility 
to collectivism, but they mistake institutions for collectives (which claim to be 
aims in themselves), and therefore become anti-institutional personalists ; 
which leads them dangerously close to the leader-principle. (I believe that 
this partly explains Dickens' hostile attitude towards Parliament.) For my 
terminology (' individualism ' and * collectivism ') see text to notes 26-29 to 
chapter 6. 

24 Cp. Samuel Butler, Erewhon (1872), p. 135, of the Everyman's edition. 

25 Gp. for these events : Meyer, Gesch. d. Altertums, V, pp. 522-525, and 
488 f. ; see also note 69 to chapter 10. The Academy was notorious for 
breeding tyrants. Among Plato's pupils were Ghairon, later tyrant of Pellene, 
and Hermias, later tyrant of Atarneus and Assos. (Cp. Athen., XI, 508.) 

(1) Plato's lack of success as an educator is not very surprising if we look 
at the principles of education and selection developed in the First Book of the 
Laws (from 63 7d and especially 6433 : ' Let me define the nature and meaning 
of education ' to the end of 6sob). For in this long passage he shows that 
there is one great instrument of educating, or rather, of selecting the man one 
can trust. It is wine, drunkenness, which will loose his tongue, and give 
you an idea of what he is really like. ' What is more fitting than to make 
use of wine, first of all to test the character of a man, and secondly, to train 
him ? What is cheaper, and less objectionable ? ' (649d/e) . So far, I have 
not seen the method of drinking discussed by any of the educationists who 
glorify Plato. This is strange, for the method is still in use ; not so much in 
the Platonic secondary schools, but surely in the universities. 

(2) In fairness to the leader-principle, it must be admitted, however, 
that others have been more fortunate than Plato in their selection. Leonard 
Nelson (cp. note 4 to this chapter), for instance, who believed in this principle, 
seems to have had a unique power both of attracting and of selecting a number 
of men and women who have remained in the most trying and tempting 
circumstances true to their cause. But theirs is a better cause than Plato's ; 
it is the humanitarian idea of freedom and equalitarian justice. 

(3) There remains this fundamental weakness in the theory of the 
benevolent dictator, a theory still flourishing even among some democrats. 
I have in mind the theory of the leading personality whose intentions are 
for the best of his people and who can be trusted. Even if that theory were 
in order ; even if we believe that a man can continue, without being controlled 
or checked, in such an attitude : how can we assume that he will detect a 
successor of the same rare excellence ? (Cp. also notes 3 and 4 to chapter 9, 
and note 69 to chapter 10.) 

(4) Concerning the problem of power, mentioned in the text, it is interest- 
ing to compare the Gorgias (5256, f.) with the Republic (6i5d, f.). The two 
passages are closely parallel. But the Gorgias insists that the greatest criminals 
are always ' men who come from the class which possesses power ' ; private 
persons may be bad, it is said, but not incurable. In the Republic, this clear 
warning against the corrupting influence of power is omitted. Most of the 
greatest sinners are still tyrants ; but, it is said, ' there are also some private 
people among them '. (In the Republic, Plato relies on self-interest which, 
he trusts, will prevent the guardians from misusing their power ; cp. Rep., 
466b/c, quoted in text to note 41, chapter 6. It is not quite clear why self- 
interest should have such a beneficial effect on guardians, but not on tyrants.) 



1 Republic, 4756 ; cp. also e.g. 485^ f., 5010. 

2 Op. cit., sSgb, f. 

3 Op. cit., 38gc/d ; cp. also, Laws, 7300, ff. 

4 With this and the three following quotations, cp. Republic, 4076 and 4o6c. 
See also Politicus, 293a, f., 2950-2966, etc. 

5 Cp. Laws, 72oc. It is interesting to note that the passage (7i8c~722b) 
serves to introduce the idea that the statesman should use persuasion, together 
with force (7220) ; and since by ' persuasion ' of the masses, Plato means 
largely lying propaganda cp. notes 9 and i o to this chapter and the quotation 
from Republic, 4i4b/c quoted there in the text it turns out that Plato's thought 
in our passage from the Laws, in spite of this novel gentleness, is still possessed 
by the old associations the doctor-politician administering lies. Later on 
(Laws, 857c/d), Plato complains about an opposite type of doctor : one who 
talks too much philosophy to his patient, instead of concentrating on the cure. 
It seems likely enough that Plato reports here some of his experiences when 
he fell ill while writing the Laws. 

8 Republic, 389^ With the following short quotations cp. Republic, 459C. 

7 Cp. Kant, On Eternal Peace, Appendix. (Werke, ed. Cassirer, 1914, vol. 
VI, 457.) Cp. Campbell's translation (1903), pp. 162 ff. 

8 Cp. Grossman, Plato To-Day (1937), 130 ; cp. also the immediately 
preceding pages. It seems that Crossman still believes that lying propaganda 
was intended only for the consumption of the ruled, and that Plato intended 
to educate the rulers to a full use of their critical faculties ; for I find now 
(in The Listener, vol. 27, p. 750) that he writes : * Plato believed in free speech, 
free discussion only for the select few.' But the fact is that he did not believe 
in it at all. Both in the Republic and in the Laws (cp. the passages quoted in 
notes 1 8-2 1 to chapter 7, and text), he expresses his fear lest anybody who is 
not yet senile should speak freely, and thus endanger the rigidity of the arrested 
doctrine, and therefore the petrifaction of the arrested society. See also the 
next two notes. 

9 Republic, 4i4b/c. In 4i4d, Plato reaffirms his hope of persuading ' the 
rulers themselves and the military class, and then the rest of the city ', of the 
truth of his lie. Later he seems to have regretted his frankness ; for in the 
Statesman, 271 a, f., he speaks as if he believed in the truth of the same Myth 
of the Earthborn which, in the Republic, he had been reluctant (see note 1 1 
to this chapter) to proffer even as an fc inspired lie '. (What I translate as an 
' inspired ' or ' ingenious lie ' is usually translated ' noble lie ' or * noble 
falsehood ' or even * spirited fiction '.) Sec also notes 10 and 18 to this 

10 Cp. Republic, 5196, f, 5 quoted in the text to note 35 to chapter 5 ; on 
persuasion and force, see also Republic, 366d, discussed in the present note, below, 
and the passages referred to in notes 5 and 18 to this chapter. 

The Greek word usually translated by persuasion can mean (a) ' persuasion 
by fair means ' and (b) ' talking over by foul means ' ; i.e. ' make-believe ' 
(see below, sub. (D), i.e. Rep., 4i4c) and sometimes it means even ' persuasion 
by gifts ', i.e. bribery (see below, sub. (D), i.e. Rep., 39oe). Especially in the 
phrase ' persuasion and force ', the term ' persuasion ' is often interpreted in 
sense (a), and the phrase is often (and sometimes appropriately) translated 
* by fair or foul means ' (cp. Davies' and Vaughan's translation ' by fair means 
or foul ', of the passage (C), Rep., sGsd, quoted below). I believe, however, 
that Plato, when recommending * persuasion and force ' as instruments of 
political technique, uses the words in a more literal sense, and that he recom- 
mends the use of rhetorical propaganda together with violence. 

The following passages are significant for Plato's use of the term per- 

CHAPTER 8/NOTES 11-15 231 

suasion in sense (b), and especially in connection with political propaganda. 
(A) Gorgias, 453a to 466a, especially 454b~455a ; Phaedrus, aGob, ft., Theaetetus, 
20 1 a ; Sophocles, 222C ; Philebus, 583. In all these passages, persuasion (the 
' art of persuasion ' as opposed to the ' art of imparting true knowledge ') 
is associated with rhetoric, make-believe, and propaganda. In the Republic, 
364e~365d deserves attention. (B) In 3646 (' they persuade ', i.e. mislead 
into believing, ' not only individuals, but whole cities '), the term is used much 
in the same sense as in 4i4b/c (quoted in the text to note 9, this chapter) the 
passage of the ' inspired lie '. (C) 365d is interesting because it uses a term 
which Lindsay translates very aptly by ' cheating ' as a kind of paraphrase 
for ' persuading '. ('In order not to be caught . . we have the masters of 
persuasion at our disposal ; . . thus by persuasion and force, we shall escape 
punishment. But, it may be objected, one cannot cheat, or force, the gods . .') 
Furthermore (D) in Republic, 3906, f., the term ' persuasion ' is used in the 
sense of bribery. (This must be an old use ; the passage is supposed to be a 
quotation from Hesiod. It is interesting that Plato who so often argues 
against the idea that men can ' persuade ' or bribe the gods, makes some con- 
cession to it in the next passage, 399a/b.) Next we come to 4i4b/c, the 
passage of the ' inspired lie ' ; immediately after this passage, in 4 1 40 (rp. also 
the next note in this chapter), ' Socrates ' makes the cynical remark (E) : 
' It would need much persuading to make anybody believe in this story '. 
Lastly, I may mention (F) Republic, 51 id and 533e, where Plato speaks of 
persuasion or belief or faith (the root of the Greek word for ' persuasion ' is 
the same as that of our faith ') as a lower cognitive faculty of the soul, 
corresponding to the formation of delusive) opinion about things in flux 
(cp. note 21 to chapter 3, and especially the use of persuasion ' in Tim., 5ie), 
as opposed to rational knowledge of the unchanging Forms. For the problem 
of ' moral ' persuasion, see also chapter 6, especially notes 52/54 and text, 
and chapter 10, especially text to notes 56 and 65, and note 69. 

11 Republic, 4i5a. The next quotation is from 4I5C. (See also the 
Cratylus, 398a.) Gp. notes 12-14 to the present chapter and text, and notes 
2 7 (s) 2 9> an d 31 to chapter 4. 

For my remark in the text, earlier in this paragraph, concerning Plato's 
uneasiness, cp. Republic, 4i4c-d, and last note, (E) : ' It would need much 
persuading to make anybody believe in this story,' says Socrates. * You seem 
to be rather reluctant to tell it,' replies Glaucon * You will understand my 
reluctance ', says Socrates, ' when I have told it.' ' Speak and don't be 
frightened ', says Glaucon. This dialogue introduces what I call the first idea 
of the Myth (proffered by Plato in the Statesman as a true story ; cp. note 9 to 
this chapter ; see also Laws, 74oa) . As mentioned in the text, Plato indicates 
that it is this * first idea ' which is the reason for his hesitation, for Glaucon 
replies to this idea : ' Not without reason were you so long ashamed to tell 
your lie.' No similar rhetorical remark is made after Socrates has told ' the 
rest of the story ', i.e., the Myth of Racialism. 

12 The passage is from the Republic, 546a, ff. ; cp. text to notes 36-40 to 
chapter 5. The intermixture of classes is clearly forbidden in 43 5C also ; 
cp. notes 27 (3) and 31 to chapter 4, and note 40 to chapter 6^ 

13 Republic, 547a. (Cp. also text to note 39/40 to chapter 5, and to notes 
43 and 52 to the present chapter.) 

14 Op. cit., 4i5c. 

15 Cp. Adam's note to Republic, 4i4b, ff., italics mine. The great exception 
is Grote (Plato, and the Other Companions of Socrates, London, 1875, III, 240), 
who sums up the spirit of the Republic, and its opposition to that of the Apology : 
6 In the . . Apology, we find Socrates confessing his own ignorance. . . But 
the Republic presents him in a new character. . . He is himself on the 
throne of King Nomos : the infallible authprity, temporal as well as spiritual ^ 

232 CHAPTER 8/NOTES 16-23 

from which all public sentiment emanates, and by whom orthodoxy is 
determined. . . He now expects every individual to fall into the place, and 
contract the opinions, prescribed by authority ; including among these opinions 
deliberate ethical and political fictions, such as about the . . earthborn men. . . 
Neither the Socrates of the Apology, nor his negative Dialectic, could be 
allowed to exist in the Platonic Republic.' (Italics mine ; see also Grote, 
op. cit., p. 1 88.) 

The doctrine that religion is opium for the people, although not in this particular 
formulation, turns out to be one of the tenents of Plato and the Platonists. 
(Cp. also note 17 and text, and especially note 18 to this chapter.) It is, 
apparently, one of the more esoteric doctrines of the school, i.e. it may be 
discussed only by sufficiently elderly members (cp. note 18 to chapter 7) of 
the upper class. But those who let the cat out of the bag are prosecuted for 
atheism by the idealists. 

16 For instance Adam, Barker, Field. 

17 Gp. Diels, Vorsokratiker 2 , Gritias fragm. 25. (I have picked just four 
characteristic lines out of more than forty.) It may be remarked that the 
passage commences with a sketch of the social contract (which even some- 
what resembles Lycophron's equalitarianism ; cp. note 45 to chapter 6). 
On Gritias, cp. especially note 48 to chapter 10. 

18 Cp. the Laws, goge. Gritias' view seems to have been part of the 
Platonic school tradition, as indicated by the following passage from Aristotle's 
Metaphysics (io74b3) which at the same time provides another example of 
the use of the term ' persuasion ' for ' propaganda ' (cp. notes 5 and 10 to 
this chapter) . * The rest . . has been added in the form of a myth, with a 
view to the persuasion of the mob, and to legal and general (political) 
expediency . .' Cp. also Plato's attempt in the Politicus, 2713, , to argue 
in favour of the truth of a myth in which he certainly did not believe. (See 
notes 9 and 15 to this chapter.) 

19 Laws, go8b. 

20 Op. cit., goga. 

21 For the conflict between good and evil, see op. cit., go/j-goG. See 
especially go6a/b (justice versus injustice). Immediately preceding is go3c, 
a passage quoted above in the text to note 35 to chapter 5 and to note 27 to 
chapter 6. See also note 32 to the present chapter. 

22 Op. cit., go5d-go7b. 

23 The paragraph to which this note is appended indicates my adherence 
to an c absolutist ' theory of truth which is in accordance with the common 
idea that a statement is true if (and only if) it agrees with the facts it describes. 
This ' absolute ' or * correspondence theory of truth ' (which goes back to 
Aristotle) was first clearly developed by A. Tarski (Der Wahrheitsbegriff in den 
formalisierten Sprachen, Polish ed. ig33, German translation ig36), and is the 

basis of a theory of logic called by him Semantics (cp. note 2g to chapter 3 
and note 5 (2) to chapter 5) ; see also R. Carnap's Introduction to Semantics, 
ig42, which develops the theory of truth in detail. I am quoting from p 28 : 
* It is especially to be noticed that the concept of truth in the sense just explained 
we may call it the semantical concept of truth is fundamentally different 
from concepts like " believed ", " verified ", " highly confirmed ", etc.' 
A similar, though undeveloped view can be found in my Logik der Forschung, 
ch. 84, on ' Truth ' and c Confirmation ' (pp. 203 ff.) ; this was written before 
I became acquainted with Tarski's Semantics, which is the reason why my 
theory is only rudimentary. The pragmatist theory of truth (which derives 
from Hegelianism) was criticized by Bertrand Russell from the point of view 
of an absolutist theory of truth as early as igo7 ; and recently he has shown 
the connection between a relativist theory of truth and the creed of fascism,. 
See Russell, Let the People Think, pp. 77, 79. 

CHAPTER 8/NOTES 24-32 233 

24 I mean especially Republic, 4740-502(1. The following quotation is 
op. cit., 4756. 

25 For the seven quotations which follow, in this paragraph, see : (i) and 
(2), Republic, 4760 ; (3), (4), (5), op. cit., 5ood~e ; (6) and (7) : op. cit., 
5Oia/b ; with (7), cp. also the parallel passage op. cit., 4840. Sec, furthermore, 
Sophist, 253d/e ; Laws, 964a~966a (esp. 9650/0). 

26 Gp. op. cit., 50 ic. 

27 Cp. especially Republic, 5oga, f. See 5090 : ' The sun induces the 
sensible things to generate ' (although he is not himself involved in the process 
of generation) ; similarly, e you may say of the objects of rational knowledge 
that not only do they owe it to the Good that they can be known, but their 
reality and even their essence flows from it ; although the good is not itself 
an essence but transcends even essences in dignity and power.' (With ^ogb, 
cp. Aristotle, De Gen. et Con., 336a 15, 31, and Phys., ig4b 13.) In 5iob, 
the Good is described as the absolute origin (not merely postulated or assumed), 
and in 51 ib, it is described as 'the first origin of everything '. 

28 Cp. especially Republic, 5o8b, ff.See 5o8b/c : * What the Good has 
begotten in its own likeness ' (viz. truth) ' in the link, in the intelligible world 
between reason and its objects ' (i.e. the Ideas) ' in the same way as, in the 
visible world, that thing ' (viz. light which is the offspring of the sun) ' which 
is the link between sight and its objects ' (i.e. sensible things). 

29 Cp. op. cit., 505a ; 534^ ff. 

30 Cp. op. cit., 505d. 

31 Philebus, 66a. 

32 Republic, 5o6d, fF. , and 509-511. 

The definition of the Good, here quoted, as * the class of the determinate 
(or finite, or limited) conceived as a unity ' is, I believe, not so hard to 
understand, and is in full agreement with other of Plato's remarks. The 
' class of the determinate * is the class of the Forms or Ideas, conceived as male 
principles, or progenitors, as opposed to the female, unlimited or indeterminate 
space (cp. note 15 (2) to chapter 3). These Forms or primogenitors are, of 
course, good, in so far as they are ancient and unchanging originals, and in 
so far as each of them is one as opposed to the many sensible things which it 
generates. If we conceive the class or race of the progenitors as many, then 
they are not absolutely good ; thus the absolute Good can be visualized if we 
conceive them as a unity, as One as the One primogenitor. (Cp. also 
Arist, Met., 988a 10.) 

Plato's Idea of the Good is practically empty. It gives us no indication 
of what is good, in a moral sense, i.e. what we ought to do. As can be seen 
especially from notes 27 and 28 to this chapter, all we hear is that the Good 
is highest in the realm of Form or Ideas, a kind of super-Idea, from which 
the Ideas originate, and receive their existence. All we could possibly derive 
from this is that the Good is unchangeable and prior or primary and therefore 
ancient (cp. note 15 (2) to chapter 3), and One Whole ; and, therefore, that 
those things participate in it which do not change, i.e., the good is what 
preserves (cp. notes 2 and 3 to chapter 4), and what is ancient, especially 
the ancient laws (cp. note 23 to chapter 4, note 7, paragraph on Platonism, 
to chapter 5, and note 18 to chapter 7), and that holism is good (cp. note 21 
to the present chapter) ; i.e., we are again thrown back, in practice, to 
totalitarian morality (cp. text to notes 40/41 to chapter 6). 

If the Seventh Letter is genuine, then we have there (3i4b/c) another 
statement by Plato that his doctrine of the Good cannot be formulated ; for 
he says of this doctrine : ' It is not capable of expression like other branches 
of study.' (Cp. also note 57 to chapter 10.) 

It is again Grote who clearly saw and criticized the emptiness of the 
Platonic Idea or Form of Good. After asking what this Good is, he says 

234 CHAPTER 8/NOTES 33-40 

(Plato, III, 241 f.) : ' This question is put . . But unfortunately it remains 
unanswered. . . In describing the condition of other men's minds that 
they divine a Real Good . . do everything in order to obtain it, but puzzle 
themselves in vain to grasp and determine what it is he ' (Plato) ' has 
unconsciously described the condition of his own.' It is amazing to see how 
few modern writers have taken any notice of Grote's excellent criticism of 

33 For the next quotations compare : (i) : Republic, 5Oob-c ; (2) : op. 
cit., 485a/b. This passage is very interesting. It is, as Adam reaffirms 
(note to 485bg) the first passage in which ' generation ' and ' degeneration ' 
are employed in this half-technical sense. It refers to the flux, and to 
Parmenides' changeless entities. And it introduces the main argument in 
favour of the rule of the philosophers. See also note 26 (i) to chapter 3 
and note 2 (2) to chapter 4. In the Laws 68gc-d, when discussing the 
' degeneration ' (688c) of the Dorian kingdom brought about by the ' worst 
ignorance ' (the ignorance, namely, of not knowing how to obey those who 
arc rulers by nature ; see 68gb), Plato explains what he means by wisdom : 
only such wisdom as aims at the greatest unity or * unisonity ' entitles a man 
to authority. And the term ' unisonity' is explained in the Republic, 59 ib 
and d, as the harmony of the ideas of justice (i.e. of keeping one's place) and 
of temperance (of being satisfied with it). Thus we are again thrown back 
to our starting point. 

34 For the problem of the priest caste, sec the Timaeus, 24a. In a passage 
which clearly alludes to the best or * ancient ' state of the Republic, the priest 
caste takes the place of the ' philosophic rare ' of the Republic. (Gp., however, 
the attacks on priests, and even on Egyptian priests, in the earlier Statesman, 
2god, f.) 

The remark of Adam's, quoted in the text in the paragraph after the 
next, is from his note to Republic, 547a3 (quoted above in text to note 43 to 
chapter 5). 

35 Gp. for instance Republic, 484^ 5000, ff. 

38 Republic, 535a/b. All that Adam says (cp. his note to 535b8) about the 
term which I have translated by ' awe-inspiring ' supports the usual view 
that the term means ' grim ' or ' awful ', especially in the sense of ' inspiring 
terror '. Adam's suggestion that we translate * masculine ' or * virile ' follows 
the general tendency to tone down what Plato says. Lindsay translates : 
* of . . sturdy morals J . 

37 Op. cit., 54oc. It is most interesting to note how Plato transforms the 
Parmenidian One when arguing in favour of an aristocratic hierarchy. The 
opposition one many is not preserved, but gives rise to a system of grades : 
the one Idea the few who come close to it the more who are their helpers 
the many, i.e. the mob (this division is fundamental in the Statesman). As 
opposed to this, Antisthenes' monotheism preserves the original Eleatic 
opposition between the One (God) and the Many (whom he probably 
considered as brothers since equal in their distance from God). Antisthenes 
was influenced by Parmenides through Zeno's influence upon Gorgias. 
Probably there was also the influence of Democritus, who had taught : ' The 
wise man belongs to all countries alike, for the home of a great soul is the 
whole world.' 

38 Republic, sood. 

89 The quotations are from Republic, 459b, and ff. ; Cp. also note 34 to 
chapter 4. Cp. also the three similes of the Statesman, where the ruler is 
compared with (i) the shepherd, (2) the doctor, (3) the weaver whose functions 
are explained as those of a man who blends characters by skilful breeding 
( 3 iob, f.) 

40 Op. cit., 4603. My statement that Plato considers this la,w very important 

CHAPTER 8 /NOTES 41-47 235 

is based on the fact that Plato mentions it in the outline of the Republic in the 
Timaeus, i8d/e. 

41 Op. cit. y 4600. The suggestion is ' soon taken up ', viz. in 4680, cp. the 
next note. 

42 Op. cit., 4680. 

48 For the story of the Number and the Fall, cp. notes 1 3 and 52 to this 
chapter, notes 39/40 to chapter 5, and text. 

44 Republic, 4730-6. Concerning the term which I have translated by 
' oligarchs * cp. the end of note 57, below. It is equivalent to * hereditary 
aristocrats '. 

The phrase which, for stylistic reasons, I have put in brackets, is important, 
for in it Plato demands the suppression of all ' pure ' philosophers (and unphilosophical 
politicians). A more literal translation of the phrase would be this : ' while 
the many ' (who have) ' natures ' (disposed or gifted) * for drifting along, 
nowadays, in one alone of these two, are eliminated by force '. Adam admits 
that the meaning of Plato's phrase is ' that Plato refuses to sanction the exclusive 
pursuit of knowledge ' ; but his suggestion that we soften the meaning of 
the last words of the phrase by translating : ' are forcibly debarred from 
exclusively pursuing either ' (italics his ; cp. note to 473d24, vol. I, 330 of his 
ed. of the Republic) has no foundation in the original, only in his tendency 
to idealize Plato. The same holds for Lindsay's translation (' are forcibly 
debarred from this behaviour'). Whom does Plato wish to suppress? I 
believe that ' the many ' whose limited or incomplete talents or * natures ' 
Plato condemns here, are identical (as far as philosophers are concerned) 
with the ' many whose natures are incomplete ', mentioned in Republic, 495d ; 
and also with the * many ' (philosophers) ' whose wickedness is inevitable ', 
mentioned in 4896 (cp. also 4906 7491 a) ; cp. notes 47, 56, and 59 to this 
chapter (and note 23 to chapter 5). The attack is, therefore, directed on the 
one hand against the * uneducated ' democratic politicians, on the other 
hand most probably mainly against Antisthcnes, the 4 uneducated bastard ', 
the equalitarian philosopher. 

45 Kant, On Eternal Peace, Second Supplement (Werke, ed. Cassirer, 1914, 
vol. VI, 456). Italics mine ; I have also somewhat abbreviated Kant's 
lengthy period ; cp. Campbell's translation (1903), 160. 

46 Cp. for instance Gomperz, Greek Thinkers, V, 12, 2 (German ed., 
vol. II 2 , 382) ; or Lindsay's translation of the Republic. 

47 It must be admitted that Plato's attitude towards Antisthenes raises a 
highly speculative problem ; this is of course connected with the fact that 
very little is known about Antisthenes from first-rate sources. Even the old 
Stoic tradition that the Cynic school or movement can be traced back to 
Antisthenes is at present often questioned (cp., for instance, G. C. Field's 
Plato, 1930, or D. R. Dudley, A History of Cynicism, 1937) although perhaps 
not on quite sufficient grounds (cp. Fritz's review of the last-mentioned book 
in Mind, vol. 47, p. 390). In view of what we know, especially from Aristotle, 
about Antisthenes, it appears to me highly probable that there are many 
allusions to him in Plato's writings ; and even the one fact that Antisthenes 
was, apart from Plato, the only member of Socrates' inner circle who taught 
philosophy at Athens, would be a sufficient justification for searching Plato's 
work for such allusions. Now it seems to me rather probable that a series of 
attacks in Plato's work first pointed out by Duemmler (especially Rep. 495d/e 
mentioned below in note 56 to this chapter ; Rep., 535e, f., Soph., 25 ib) 
represents these allusions. There is a definite resemblance (or so at least it 
appears to me) between these passages and Aristotle's scornful attacks on 
Antisthenes. Aristotle, who mentions Antisthenes' name, speaks of him as of 
a simpleton, and he speaks of ' uneducated people such as the Antistheneans ' 
(cp. note 54 to chapter n). Plato, in the passages mentioned, speaks in a 

236 CHAPTER 8/NOTE 48 

similar way, but rather more sharply. I have in mind, first the passage from 
the Sophist, 25 ib, which corresponds very closely indeed to Aristotle's first 
passage. Regarding the two passages from the Republic, we must remember 
that, according to the tradition, Antisthenes was a ' bastard ' (his mother 
came from barbarian Thrace), and that he taught in the Athenian gymnasium 
reserved for * bastards *. Now we find, in Republic, 5356, f. (cp. end of note 
52 to this chapter) an attack which is so specific that an individual person 
must be intended. Plato speaks of somebody with a * crippled soul " who, 
though he loves truth (as a Socratic would) does not attain it, since he ' wallows 
in ignorance ' (probably because he does not accept the theory of Forms) ; 
and he warns the city not to trust such ' cripples and bastards '. I think 
it likely that Antisthenes is the object of this undoubtedly personal attack ; 
the recognition that the enemy hates lies seems to me an especially strong 
argument, occurring as it does in an attack of extreme violence. But if this 
passage refers to Antisthenes, then it is very likely that a very similar passage 
refers to him also, viz. Republic, 495d/e, where Plato again describes his victim 
as possessing a disfigured or crippled soul as well as body. He insists in this 
passage that the object of his contempt, in spite of aspiring to be a philosopher, 
is so depraved that he is not even ashamed of doing degrading (' banausic ' ; 
cp. note 4 to chapter 1 1 ) manual labour. Now we know of Antisthenes that 
he recommended manual labour which he held in high esteem (for Socrates' 
attitude, cp. Xenophon, Mem., II, 7, 10), and that he practised what he 
taught ; a further strong argument that the man with the crippled soul is 

Now in the same passage, Republic, 495d, there is also a remark about 
* the many whose natures are incomplete ', and who nevertheless aspire to 
philosophy. This seems to refer to the same group (the * Antistheneans ' of 
Aristotle) of ' many natures ' whose suppression is demanded in Republic, 
473c-e, discussed in note 44 to this chapter. Cp. also Republic 4890, mentioned 
in notes 59 and 56 to this chapter. 

48 We know (from Cicero, De Natura Deorum, and Philodemus, De Pietate) 
that Antisthenes was a monotheist ; and the form in which he expressed his 
monotheism (there is only One God * according to nature ', i.e., to truth, 
although there are many ' according to convention ') shows that he had in 
mind the opposition nature convention which, in the mind of a former member 
of the school of Gorgias and contemporary of Alcidamas and Lycophron 
(cp. note 13 to chapter 5) must have been connected with equalitarianism. 

This in itself does not of course establish the conclusion that the half- 
barbarian Antisthenes believed in the brotherhood of Greeks and barbarians. 
Yet it seems to me extremely likely that he did. 

As W. W. Tarn (Alexander the Great and the Unity of Mankind ; cp. note 13 
(2) to chapter 5) has shown, the idea of the unity of mankind can probably 
be traced back at least to Alexander the Great. I think that by a very similar 
line of reasoning, we can trace it farther back ; to Diogenes, Antisthenes, and 
possibly to Socrates and the ' Great Generation ' of the Periclean age (cp. 
note 27 to chapter 10, and text). This seems, even without considering the 
more detailed evidence, likely enough ; for a cosmopolitan idea can be 
expected to occur as a corollary of such imperialist tendencies as those of the 
Periclean age (cp. Rep., 494c/d, mentioned in note 50 (5) to this chapter, 
and the First Alcibiades, 1050, if. ; see also text to notes 9-22, 36 and 47 to 
chapter 10). This is especially likely if other equalitarian tendencies exist. 
I do not intend to belittle the significance of Alexander's deeds, but his ideas 
seem to me, in a way, a renaissance of some of the best ideas of fifth-century 
Athenian imperialism. 

Proceeding now to details, I may first say that there is strong evidence 
that at least in Plato's (and Aristotle's) time, the problem of equalitarianism 

CHAPTER 8/NOTES 49-50 237 

was clearly seen to be concerned with two fully analogous distinctions, that 
between Greeks and barbarians on the one side and that between masters (or 
free men) and slaves on the other ; cp, with this note 1 3 to chapter 5. Now we 
have very strong evidence that the fifth-century Athenian movement against 
slavery was not confined to a few intellectualists like Euripides, Antiphon, 
Hippias, etc., but that it had considerable practical success. This evidence 
is contained in the unanimous reports of the enemies of Athenian democracy 
(esp. the 'Old Oligarch', Plato, Aristotle; cp. notes 17, 18 and 29 to 
chapter 4, and 36 to chapter 10). 

If we now consider the scanty available evidence concerning cosmopolitism, 
it appears, I believe, in a different light. Thus the Old Oligarch (2, 7) attacks 
Athens for an eclective cosmopolitan way of life. Plato's attacks on cosmopolitan 
or similar tendencies, scanty as they are, are especially valuable. (I have 
in mind passages like Rep., 5626/5633, which should be compared with 
the ironical description in Menexenus, 245c-d, in which Plato sarcastically 
eulogizes Athens for its consistent hatred of barbarians ; Rep., 494c/d ; of 
course, the passage Rep., 4690-47 ic, must be considered in this context 
too.) Much as I admire Tarn's analysis, I do not think that he does full 
justice to the various extant statements of this fifth-century movement, for 
instance to Antiphon (cp. p. 149, note 6 of his paper) or Euripides or Hippias, 
or Democritus (cp. note 29 to chapter 10) or to Diogenes (p. 150, note 12) 
and Antisthenes. I do not think that Antiphon wanted only to stress the 
biological kinship between men, for he was undoubtedly a social reformer ; 
and ' by nature ' meant to him * in truth '. It therefore seems to me practically 
certain that he attacked the distinction between Greeks and barbarians as 
being fictitious. Tarn comments on Euripides' fragment which states that a 
noble man can range the world like an eagle the air by remarking that ' he 
knew that an eagle has a permanent home-rock ' ; but this remark does not 
do full justice to the fragment ; for in order to be a cosmopolitan, one need 
not give up one's permanent home. In the light of all this, I do not see why 
Diogenes' meaning was purely * negative ' when he replied to the question 
* where are you from ? ' by saying that he was a cosmopolitan, a citizen of the 
whole world. 

Antisthenes' monotheism also must be considered in the light of this 
evidence. There is no doubt that this monotheism was not of the Jewish, 
i.e. tribal and exclusive type. (Should the story of Diog. Laert., VI, 13, that 
Antisthenes taught in the Gynosarges, the gymnasium for ' bastards ', be true, 
then he must have deliberately emphasized his own mixed and barbarian 
descent.) Tarn is certainly right when he points out (p. 145) that Alexander's 
monotheism was connected with his idea of the unity of mankind. But the 
same should be said of the cynic ideas, which were influenced, as I believe 
(see the last note), by Antisthenes, and in this way by Socrates. (Cp. especially 
the evidence of Epictetus, I, 9, i, with D.L., VI, 2, 63-71 ; also Gorgias, 4926 
with D.L., VI, 105.) 

In view of all this it does not seem very unlikely that Alexander (who was, 
as Tarn hints, not particularly impressed by his teacher Aristotle) may have 
been genuinely inspired, as the tradition reports, by Diogenes' ideas ; and 
what he heard from Diogenes was likely to be in the spirit of the equalitarian 

49 Cp. Republic, 46913-47 ic, especially 47ob~d, and 46gb/c. Here indeed 
we have (cp. the next note) a trace of something like the introduction of a new 
ethical whole, more embracing than the city ; namely the unity of Hellenic 
superiority. As was to be expected (see the next note (i) (b)), Plato elaborates 
the point in some detail. 

60 In this note, further arguments are collected bearing on the interpreta- 
tion of Republic, 4736, and the problem of Plato's humanitarianism. I wish to 

238 CHAPTER 8/NOTE 50 

express my thanks to my colleague, Dr. H. D. Broadhead, whose criticism has 
greatly helped me to complete and clarify my argument. 

(1) One of Plato's standard topics (cp. the methodological remarks, 
Rep., 3686, 445C, 577c and note 32 to chapter 5) is the opposition and com- 
parison between the individual and the whole, i.e. the city. The introduction 
of a new whole, more comprehensive than even the city, viz. mankind, would 
be a most important step for a holist to take ; it would need (a) preparation 
and (b) elaboration, (a) Instead of such a preparation we get the above 
mentioned passage on the opposition between Greeks and barbarians (Rep., 
46Qb~47 1 c) . (b) Instead of an elaboration, we find, if anything, a withdrawal 
of the ambiguous expression ' race of men ', in the six repetitions or variations 
(viz. 4876, 49gb, 50oe, 5010, 536a-b, discussed in note 52 below, and the 
summary 54od/e with the afterthought 54 ib) of the key-passage under 
consideration (i.e., of Rep., 473d/e). In two of them (4876, 5006) the city 
alone is mentioned ; in all the others, Plato's standard opposition city 
individual replaces that of city human race. But even in the immediate continua- 
tion of the passage under consideration, in Republic, 473e, the same standard 
opposition is used in what looks like an explanation or a paraphrase of the 
questionable expression : ' no other constitution can establish happiness 
neither in private affairs nor in those of the city '. Nowhere is there a further 
allusion to the allegedly Platonic idea that sophocracy alone can save, not only 
the suffering cities, but all suffering mankind. In view of all this it seems 
clear that in all these places only his standard opposition lingered in Platb's 
mind (without, however, the wish to give it any prominence in this connection), 
probably in the sense that on sophocracy depends the happiness of any state, 
as well as that of all its individual citizens and their progeny (in which otherwise 
evil must grow). 

(2) Plato uses the term ' man ' or ' human ' regularly in a naturalistic 
or biological sense (in opposition to animals, e.g. to eagles ; or to deities), 
and without any humanitarian implication ; that is to say, nowhere do these 
terms indicate that they are used to express something that transcends the 
distinctions of nation, race, or class. (Fichte's views quoted in chapter 12, 
text to note 79, are a pointed expression of such a use of the terms.) A 
number of Platonic passages indicating this anthropological (as opposed to 
humanitarian) usage are : Phaedo, 8ab ; Republic, 459b/c, faob. Cratylus, 
392b ; Parmenides, 1346 ; Theaetetus, io7b ; Laws, 688d, 737b. Crito, 466 ; 
Protagoras, 344C. Republic, 5i4b ; 522C. Laws, Sgob, is even an example of 
a disparaging use. 

(3) It is of course true that Plato assumes a Form or Idea of Man ; but 
it is a mistake to think that it represents what all men have in common ; 
rather, it is an aristocratic ideal of a proud Super-Greek ; and on this is based 
a belief, not in the brotherhood of men, but in a hierarchy of * natures ', 
aristocratic or slavish, in accordance with their greater or lesser likeness to 
the original, the ancient primogenitor of the human race. (The Greeks are 
more like him than any other race.) Thus ' intelligence is shared by the gods 
with only a very few men ' (Tim., 5ie ; cp. Aristotle, in the text to note 3, 
chapter n). (4) The * City in Heaven' (Rep., 5920) and its citizens are, 
as Adam rightly points out, not Greek ; but this does not imply that they 
belong to ' humanity ' as he thinks (note to 470630, and others) ; they are 
rather super-exclusive, super-Greek (they are ' above ' the Greek city of 
4706, ff.) more remote from the barbarians than ever. (5) Finally, it may be 
mentioned that the passage 499c/d rescinds the distinction between Greeks 
and barbarians no more than that between the past, the present, and the 
future : Plato tries here to give drastic expression to a sweeping generalization 
in regard to time and space ; he wishes to say no more than : * If at any 
time whatever, or if at any place whatever ' (we may add : even in such an 

CHAPTER 8/NOTES 51-53 239 

extremely unlikely place as a barbarian country) ' such a thing did happen, 
then. . .' The remark Republic, 494c/d expresses a similar, though stronger, 
feeling of being faced with something approaching impious absurdity, a feeling 
here aroused by Alcibiades' hopes for a universal empire of Greeks and 
foreigners. (I agree with Field, Plato and His Contemporaries^ 130, note i, and 

Tarn, cp. note 13 (2) to chapter' 5!) 

To sum up, I am unable to find anything but hostility towards the 
humanitarian ideas of a unity of mankind which transcends race and class, 
and I believe that those who find the opposite idealize Plato (cp. note 3 to 
chapter 6, and text) and fail to see the link between his aristocratic and anti- 
humanitarian exclusiveness and his Theory of Ideas. See also this chapter, 
notes 51 and 57, below. 

51 The allusion is, I believe, to two places in the Story of the Number 
where Plato (by speaking of * your race ') refers to the race of men : ' con- 
cerning your own race ' (5463 /b ; cp. note 39 to chapter 5, and text) and 
' testing the metals within your races ' (546d/e, f. ; cp. notes 39 and 40 to 
chapter 5, and the next passage). Cp. also the arguments in note 52 to 
this chapter, concerning a ' bridge ' between the two passages, i.e. the key 
passage of the philosopher king, and the story of the Number. (See also 
next note.) 

52 Republic, 546d/e, f. The passage quoted here is part of the Story of the 
Number and the Fall of Man, 546a~547a, quoted in text to notes 39/40 to 
chapter 5 ; see also notes 13 and 43 to the present chapter. My contention 
(cp. text to the last note) that the remark in the philosopher king passage, 
Republic, 4730 (cp. notes 44 and 50 to this chapter) foreshadows the Story of 
the Number, is strengthened by the observation that there exists a bridge, as 
it were, between the two passages. The Story of the Number is undoubtedly 
foreshadowed by Republic, 5363 /b, a passage which, on the other hand, may 
be described as the converse (and so as a variation) of the philosopher king 
passage ; for it says, generally speaking, that the worst must happen if the 
wrong men are selected as rulers, and it even finishes up with a direct reminis- 
cence of the great wave : ' if we take men of another kind . . then we shall 
bring down upon philosophy another deluge of laughter '. This clear 
reminiscence is, I believe, an indication that Plato was conscious of the 
character of the passage (which proceeds, as it were, from the end of 473c-e 
back to its beginning), which shows what must happen if the advice given in 
the passage of the philosopher king is neglected. Now this ' converse ' 
passage (536a/b) or ' bridge ' contains unambiguous references to racialism, 
foreshadowing the passage on the same subject to which the present note is 
appended. (This may be interpreted as additional evidence that racialism 
was in Plato's mind, and alluded to, when he wrote the passage of the philo- 
sopher king.) I now quote the beginning of the * converse ' passage 536a/b : 
' We must distinguish carefully between the true-born and the bastard. For 
if an individual or a city does not know how to look upon matters such as 
these, they will quite innocently accept the services of the disfigured and the 
bastards in any capacity ; perhaps as friends, or even as rulers.' (Gp. also 
note 47 to this chapter.) 

For something like an explanation of Plato's preoccupation with matters 
of racial degeneration and racial breeding, cp. text to notes 6, 7, and 63 to 
chapter 10, in connection with note 39 (3) to chapter 5. 

63 A. E. Taylor, Plato (1908, 1914), pp. 122 f. I agree with this interesting 
passage as far as it is quoted in the text. I have, however, omitted the word 
4 patriot ' after ' Athenian ' since I do not fully agree with this characterization 
of Plato. For Plato's * patriotism ' cp. text to notes 14-18 to chapter 4. For 
the term ' patriotism ', and the ' paternal state ', cp. notes 23-26 and 45 to 
chapter 10. 

24O CHAPTER 8/NOTES 54-59 

54 Republic, 494-b : * But will not one who is of this type be first in every- 
thing, from childhood on ? ' 

66 Op. cit., 4960 : ' Of my own spiritual sign, I need not speak.' 

58 Cp. what Adam says in his ed. of the Republic, notes to 495d23 and 
495631, and my note 47 to this present chapter. (See also note 59 to this 

67 Republic, 4960-*!. (I do not think that Barker, Greek Political Theory 
I, 107, n. 2, makes a good guess when he says of the passage quoted that ' it 
is possible . . that Plato is thinking of the Cynics '. The passage certainly 
does not refer to Antisthenes, and Diogenes, whom Barker must have in mind, 
was hardly famous when it was written, quite apart from the fact that Plato 
would hardly have referred to him in this way.) 

Earlier in the same passage of the Republic, there is another remark which 
may be a reference to Plato himself. Speaking of the small band of the 
worthy and those who belong to it, he mentions * a nobly-born and well-bred 
character who was saved by flight ' (or * by exile ' ; saved, that is, from the 
fate of Alcibiades who became a victim of flattery and deserted Socratic 
philosophy). Adam thinks (note to 49,6b9) that ' Plato was hardly exiled ', 
but the flight to Megara of Socrates' disciples after the death of their master 
may well stand out in Plato's memory as one of the turning-points in his life. 
That the passage refers to Dio is hardly possible since Dio was well beyond the 
critical youthful age when he was exiled, and there was not (as in Plato's 
case) a parallelism with the Socratic companion Alcibiades (quite apart 
from the fact that Plato had resisted Dio's banishment, and had tried to get 
it rescinded). If we assume that the passage refers to Plato, then we shall 
have to assume the same of 5O2a : * Who will doubt the possibility that kings 
or aristocrats may have a descendant who is a born philosopher ? ' ; for the 
continuation of that passage is so similar to the previous that they seem to 
refer to the same ' nobly-born character '. This interpretation of 5023 is 
probable in itself, for we must remember that Plato, who always showed his 
family pride, for instance, in the eulogy on his father and on his brothers, 
whom he calls * divine ' (Rep., 368a ; I cannot agree with Adam who takes 
the remark as ironical ; cp. also the remark on Plato's alleged ancestor 
Godrus in Symp., 2o8d) claimed descent from Attica's tribal kings. If this 
interpretation is adopted, the reference to sons of aristocratic and kingly 
families in 499b would have to be considered in the same light, i.e. as a 
preparation for 5023. But this would solve another puzzle. I have in mind 
49gb and 5O2a. It is difficult, if not impossible, to interpret these passages 
as attempts to flatter the younger Dionysius, since such an interpretation could 
hardly be reconciled with the unmitigated violence and the admittedly (576a) 
personal background of Plato's attacks (572-580) upon the older Dionysius. 
It is important to note that Plato speaks in all three passages (473d, 499b, 
5O2a) about hereditary kingdoms (which he opposes so strongly to tyrannies) 
and about * dynasties ' ; but we know from Aristotle's Politics, I292b2 (cp. 
Meyer, Gesch. d. Altertums, V, p. 56) and i293ai i, that ' dynasties ' are hereditary 
oligarchic families, and therefore not so much the families of a tyrant like 
Dionysius, but rather what we call now aristocratic families, like that of Plato 
himself. (These arguments are directed against Adam's second note to 
499bi3. Aristotle's statement is supported by Thucydides, IV, 78, and 
Xenophon, Hellenica, V, 4, 46.) 

68 In a famous passage in the Phaedo (8gd) Socrates warns against mis- 
anthropy or hatred of men (with which he compares misology or distrust in 
rational argument). See also note 28 and 56 to chapter 10, and note 9 to 
chapter 7. 

68 Republic, 489b/c. The connection with the previous passages is more 
obvious if the whole of 488 and 489 is considered, and especially the attack in 

CHAPTER g/NOTES 1-2 241 

4896 upon the ' many ' philosophers whose wickedness is inevitable, i.e. the 
same ' many * and * incomplete natures * whose suppression is discussed in 
notes 44 and 47 to this chapter. 

An indication that Plato had once dreamt of becoming the philosopher 
king and saviour of Athens can be found, I believe, in the Laws, 7043-707^ 
where Plato tries to point out the moral dangers of the sea, of seafaring, trade, 
and imperialism. (Cp. Aristotle, Pol., 13260-13273, and my notes g to 22 
and 36 to chapter 10, and text.) 

See especially Laws, 7O4d : ' If the city were to be built on the coast, and 
well supplied with natural harbours . . then it would need a mighty saviour, 
and indeed, a super-human legislator, to make her escape variability and 
degeneration.* Does this not read as if Plato wanted to show that his failure 
in Athens was due to the super-human difficulties created by the geography 
of the place ? (But Plato still believes in the method of winning over a tyrant ; 
cp. Laws, 7ioc/d, quoted in text to note 24 to chapter 4.) 

60 Such dreams have sometimes been even openly confessed. F. Nietzsche, 
The Will to Power (ed. 1911, Book IV, Aphor. 958) writes : * In Plato's Theages 
is written : " Every one of us wants to be the lord of all men, if it were only 
possible and most of all he would like to be the Lord Himself." This is 
the spirit which must come again.' I need not comment upon Nietzsche's 
political views ; but there are other philosophers, Platonists, who have 
naively hinted that if a Platonist were, by some lucky accident, to gain power 
in a modern state, he would move towards the Platonic Ideal, and leave 
things at least nearer perfection than he found them. The argument in the 
next chapter is directed partly against such romantic dreams. 

61 Op. cit., 52oa~52ic, the quotation is from 52od. 

62 Gp. G. B. Stern, The Ugly Dachshund, 1938. 


1 My description of Utopian social engineering seems to coincide with 
that kind of social engineering advocated by M. Eastman in Marxism Is it 
Science ? ; see especially pp. 22 f. I have the impression that Eastman's views 
represent the swing of the pendulum from historicism to Utopian engineering. 
But I may possibly be mistaken, and what Eastman really has in mind may 
be more in the direction of what I call piecemeal engineering ; cp. note 9 to 
chapter 3. See also note 18 (3) to chapter 5. 

2 I believe that there is, from the ethical point of view, no symmetry 
between suffering and happiness, or between pain and pleasure. Both the 
Utilitarians and Kant (* Promote other people's happiness . . .') seem to 
me (at least in their formulations) fundamentally wrong in this point, which is, 
however, not one for rational argument (for the irrational aspect of ethical 
beliefs, see note 1 1 to the present chapter, and chapter 24) . In my opinion 
(cp. note 6 (2) to chapter 5) human suffering makes a direct moral appeal, 
namely, the appeal for help, while there is no similar call to increase the 
happiness of a man who is doing well anyway. (A further criticism of 
Utilitarianism would be that pain cannot be outweighed by pleasure, and 
especially not one man's pain by another man's pleasure. Instead of the 
greatest happiness of the greatest number, one should more modestly demand 
the least amount of suffering for anybody ; and further, that unavoidable 
suffering should be distributed as equally as possible.) I find that there is 
some kind of analogy between this view of ethics and the view of scientific 
methodology which I have advocated in my Logik der Forschung. Just as in 
the field of ethics it is much clearer to formulate our demands negatively, 
i.e., to demand the elimination of suffering rather than the promotion of 


happiness, so it is clearer to formulate the task of scientific method as the 
elimination of false theories (from the various theories tentatively proffered) 
rather than the attainment of established truths. 

3 A very good example of this kind of piecemeal engineering, or perhaps 
of the corresponding piecemeal technology, are G. G. F. Sinkin's two articles 
on * Budgetary Reform ' in the Australian Economic Record (1941, pp. 192 fF., 
and 1942, pp. 1 6 fF.) I am glad to be able to refer to these two articles since 
they make conscious use of the methodological principle which I advocate ; 
they thus show that these principles arc useful in the practice of technological 

I do not suggest that piecemeal engineering cannot be bold, or that it 
must be confined to ' smallish ' problems. But I think that the degree of 
complication which we can tackle is governed by the degree of our experience 
gained in conscious and systematic piecemeal engineering. 

4 This view has recently been emphasized by F. A. von Hayek in various 
interesting papers (cp. for instance his Freedom and the Economic System, Public 
Policy Pamphlets, Chicago 1939). What I call 'Utopian engineering* 
corresponds largely, I believe, to what Hayek would call ' centralized ' or 
' collectivist ' planning. Hayek himself recommends what he calls * planning 
for freedom '. I suppose he would agree that this would take the character 
of ' piecemeal engineering '. One could, I believe, formulate Hayek's 
objections to collectivist planning somewhat like this. If we try to construct 
society according to a blueprint, then we may find that we cannot incorporate 
individual freedom in our blueprint ; or if we do, that we cannot realize it. 
The reason is that centralized economic planning eliminates from economic 
life one of the most important functions of the individual, namely his function 
as a chooser of the product, as a free consumer. In other words, Hayek's 
criticism belongs to the realm of social technology. He points out a certain 
technological impossibility, namely that of drafting a plan for a society which 
is at once economically centralized and individualistic. 

6 Cp. note 25 to chapter 7. 

6 The question whether the end may justify the means seems to arise from 
a kind of intuition of a happy result, reached through suffering. The idea 
seems to be that the question is t largely one of whether the sufferings were 
worth while, i.e. justifiable by the result. But we ought to consider the situa- 
tion altogether differently. The question whether a certain action is justified 
depends upon the sum total of all the results which we can foresee. The 
immediate ' end ' or ' aim ' is usually only one part of these total results, 
and if other parts are undesirable then the question is whether they are 
balanced by the desired ' end '. In other words, we have not to balance 
the past (means) against the future (ends) but some parts of the total results 
against other parts. (The ' total results ' will of course be spread over a 
certain period of time, and the original ' end ' need not be the last of them.) 

7 (i) I believe that the parallelism between the institutional problems of 
civil and of international peace is most important. Any international organiza- 
tion which has legislative, administrative and judicial institutions as well as an 
armed executive which is prepared to act should be as successful in upholding 
international peace as are the analogous institutions within the state. But 
it seems to me important not to expect more. We have been able to reduce 
crime within the states to something comparatively unimportant, but we have 
not been able to stamp it out entirely. .Therefore we shall, for a long time to 
come, need a police force which is ready to strike, and which sometimes 
does strike. Similarly, I believe that we must be prepared for the probability 
that we may not be able to stamp out international crime. If we declare 
that our aim is to make war impossible once and for all, then we may under- 
take too much, with the fatal result that we may not have a force which is 


ready to strike when these hopes are disappointed. (The failure of the League 
of Nations to take action against aggressors was, at least in the case of the 
attack on Manchukuo, due largely to the general feeling that the League had 
been established in order to end all wars and not to wage them. This shows 
that propaganda for ending all wars is self-defeating. We must end inter- 
national anarchy, and be ready to go to war against any international crime. 
(Cp. especially H. Mannheim, War and Crime, 1941 ; and A. D. Lindsay, 
* War to End War ', in Background and Issues, 1940.) 

But it is also important to search for the weak spot in the analogy between 
civil and international peace, that is to say, for the point where the analogy 
breaks down. In the case of civil peace, upheld by the state, there is the 
individual citizen to be protected by the state. The citizen is, as it were, 
a ' natural ' unit or atom (although there is a certain ' conventional ' element 
even in the conditions of citizenship) . On the other hand, the members or 
units or atoms of our international order will be states. But a state can 
never be a ' natural ' unit like the citizen ; there are no natural boundaries to a 
state. The boundaries of a state change, and can be defined only by applying 
the principle of a status quo ; and since every status quo must refer to an arbitrarily 
chosen date, the determination of the boundaries of a state is purely 

The attempt to find some natural ' boundaries for states, and accordingly, 
to look upon the state as a * natural ' unit, leads to the principle of the national 
state and to the romantic fictions of nationalism, racialism, and tribalism. 
But this principle is not ' natural ', and the idea that there exist natural units 
like nations or linguistic or racial groups, is entirely fictitious. Here, if 
anywhere, we should learn from history ; for since the dawn of history, men 
have been continually mixed, unified, broken up, and mixed again ; and this 
cannot be undone, even if it were desirable. 

There is a second point in which the analogy between civil and inter- 
national peace breaks down. The state must protect the individual citizen, 
its units or atoms ; but the international organization also must ultimately 
protect human individuals, and not its units or atoms, i.e. states or nations. 

The complete renunciation of the principle of the national state (a principle 
which owes its popularity solely to the fact that it appeals to tribal instincts 
and that it is the cheapest and surest method by which a politician who has 
nothing better to offer can make his way), and the recognition of the neces- 
sarily conventional demarcation of all states, together with the further insight 
that human individuals and not states or nations must he the ultimate concern even of , 
international organizations, will help us to realize clearly, and to get over, the 
difficulties arising from the breakdown of our fundamental analogy. (Cp. 
also chapter 12, notes 51-64 and text, and note 2 to chapter 13.) 

(2) It seems to me that the remark that human individuals must be 
recognized to be the ultimate concern not only of international organizations, 
but of all politics, international as well as * national ' or parochial, has impor- 
tant applications. We must realize that we can treat individuals fairly, even if 
we decide to break up the power-organization of an aggressive state or ' nation ' to which 
these individuals belong. It is a widely held prejudice that the destruction 
and control of the military, political and even of the economic power of a 
state or ' nation ' implies misery or subjugation for its individual citizens. 
But this prejudice is as unwarranted as it is dangerous. 

It is unwarranted provided that an international organization protects 
the citizens of the so weakened state against exploitation of their political 
and military weakness. The only damage to the individual citizen that can- 
not be avoided is one to his national pride ; and if we assume that he was a 
citizen of an aggressor country, then this is a damage which will be unavoid- 
able in any case, provided the aggression has been warded off. 


The prejudice that we cannot distinguish between the treatment of a 
state and of its individual citizens is also very dangerous, for when it comes 
to the problem of dealing with an aggressor country, it necessarily creates 
two factions in the victorious countries, viz., the faction of those who demand 
harsh treatment and those who demand leniency. As a rule, both overlook 
the possibility of treating a state harshly, and, at the same time, its citizens 

But if this possibility is overlooked, then the following is likely to happen. 
Immediately after the victory the aggressor state and its citizens will be treated 
comparatively harshly. But the state, the power-organization, will probably 
not be treated as harshly as might be reasonable because of a reluctance to 
treat innocent individuals harshly, that is to say, because the influence of 
the faction of leniency will make itself felt somehow. In spite of this reluc- 
tance, it is likely that individuals will suffer beyond what they deserve. After 
a short time, therefore, a reaction is likely to occur in the victorious countries. 
Btjualitarian and humanitarian tendencies are likely to strengthen the faction 
of leniency until the harsh policy is reversed. But this development is not 
only likely to give the aggressor state a chance for a new aggression ; it will 
also provide it with the weapon of the moral indignation of one who has been 
wronged, while the victorious countries are likely to become afflicted with the 
diffidence of those who feel that they may have done wrong. 

This very undesirable development must in the end lead to a new aggres- 
sion. It can be avoided if, and only if, from the start, a clear distinction is 
made between the aggressor state (and those responsible for its acts) on the 
one hand, and its citizens on the other hand. Harshness towards the aggressor 
state and even the radical destruction of its power apparatus, will not produce 
this moral reaction of humanitarian feelings in the victorious countries if it 
is combined with a policy of fairness towards the individual citizens. 

But is it possible to break the political power of a state without injuring 
its citizens indiscriminately? In order to prove that this is possible I shall 
construct an example of a policy which breaks the political and military power 
of an aggressor state without violating the interests of its individual citizens. 

The fringe of the aggressor country, including its sea-coast and its main 
(not all) sources of water power, coal, and steel, could be severed from the 
state, and administered as an international territory, never to be returned. 
Harbours as well as the raw materials could be made accessible to the citizens 
of the state for their legitimate economic activities, without imposing any 
economic disadvantages on them, on the condition that they invite international 
commissions to control the proper use of these facilities. Any use which 
may help to build up a new war potential is forbidden, and if there is reason 
for suspicion that the internationalized facilities and raw materials may be so 
used, their use has at once to be stopped. It then rests with the suspect party 
to invite and to facilitate a thorough investigation and to offer satisfactory 
guarantees for a proper use. 

Such a procedure would not eliminate the possibility of a new attack 
but it would force the aggressor state to make its attack on the internationalized 
territories previous to building up a new war potential. Thus such an attack 
would be hopeless provided the other countries have retained and developed 
their war potential. Faced with this situation the former aggressor state 
would be forced to change its attitude radically, and adopt one of co-operation. 
It would be forced to invite the international control of its industry and to 
facilitate the investigation of the international controlling authority (instead 
of obstructing them) because only such an attitude would guarantee its use 
of the facilities needed by its industries ; and such a development would be 
likely to take place without any further interference with the internal politics 
of the state. 


The danger that the internationalization of these facilities might be mis- 
used for the purpose of exploiting or of humiliating the population of the 
defeated country can be counter-acted by international legal measures that 
provide for courts of appeal, etc. 

This example shows that it is not impossible to treat a state harshly and 
its citizens leniently. 

(3) But is such an engineering approach towards the problem of peace 
scientific ? Many will contend, I am sure, that a truly scientific attitude 
towards the problems of war and peace must be different. They will say 
that we must first study the causes of war. We must study the forces that lead to 
war, and also those that may lead to peace. It has been recently claimed, 
for instance, that * lasting peace ' can come only if we consider fully the ' under- 
lying dynamic forces ' in society that may produce war or peace. In order 
to find out these forces, we must, of course, study history. In other words, 
we must approach the problem of peace by a historicist method, and 
not by a technological method. This, it is claimed, is the only scientific 

The historicist may, with the help of history, show that the causes of war 
can be found in the clash of economic interests ; or in the clash of classes ; 
or of ideologies, for instance, freedom versus tyranny ; or in the clash of races, 
or of nations, or of imperialisms, or of militarist systems ; or in hate ; or in 
fear ; or in envy ; or in the wish to take revenge ; or in all these things 
together, and in countless more. And he will thereby show that the task 
of removing these causes is extremely difficult. And he will show that there 
is no point in constructing an international organization, as long as we have 
not removed the causes of war, for instance the economic causes, etc. 

I think that this important problem may be used to show the poverty of 
historicism, and indeed, its harmfulness. For this apparently unprejudiced 
and convincingly scientific approach, the study of the ' causes of war ' is, in 
fact, not only prejudiced, but also liable to bar the way to a reasonable solution ; 
it is, in fact, pseudo-scientific. 

How far would we get if, instead of introducing laws and a police force, 
we approached the problem of criminality * scientifically ', i.e. by trying to 
find out what precisely are the causes of crime ? I do not imply that we 
cannot here or there discover important factors contributing to crime or to 
war, and that we cannot avert much harm in this way ; but this can well be 
done after we have got crime under control, i.e. after we have introduced our 
police force. On the other hand, the study of economic, psychological, 
hereditary, moral, etc., ' causes ' of crime, and the attempt to remove these 
causes, would hardly have led us to find out that a police force (which does 
not remove the cause) can bring crime under control. Quite apart from the 
vagueness of such phrases as ' the cause of war ', the whole approach is any- 
thing but scientific. It is as if one insisted that it is unscientific to wear an 
overcoat when it is cold ; and that we should rather study the causes of cold 
weather, and remove them. Or, perhaps, that lubricating is unscientific, 
since we should rather find out the causes of friction and remove them. This 
latter example shows, I believe, the absurdity of the apparently scientific 
criticism ; for just as lubrication certainly reduces the * causes ' of friction, so 
an international police force (or another armed body of this kind) may reduce 
an important ' cause ' of war, namely the hope of ' getting away with it '. 

8 I have tried to show this in my Logik der Forschung. I believe, in 
accordance with the methodology outlined, that systematic piecemeal engineer- 
ing will help us to build up an empirical social technology, arrived at by the 
method of trial and error. Only in this way, I believe, can we begin to build 
up an empirical social science. The fact that such a social science hardly 
exists so far, and that the historical method is incapable of furthering it much, 


is one of the strongest arguments against the possibility of large-scale or 
Utopian social engineering. See also my Poverty of Historicism (Economicsa, 

9 J. A. Stewart has treated this aspect of the Theory of Ideas in his book 
Plato 1 s Doctrine of Ideas (1909), 128 ff. I believe, however, that he stresses 
too much the object of pure contemplation (as opposed to that ' pattern ' 
which the artist not only visualizes, but which he labours to reproduce, on 
his canvas). 

10 Republic, 52oc. 

11 It has often been said that ethics is only a part of aesthetics, since ethical 
questions arc ultimately a matter of taste. (Gp. for instance G. E. G. Catiin, 
The Science and Methods of Politics, 315 ff.) If by saying this, no more is meant 
than that ethical problems cannot be solved by scientific methods, I agree. 
But we must not overlook the vast difference between moral ' problems of 
taste *, and problems of taste in aesthetics. If I dislike a novel, a piece of 
music, or perhaps a picture, I need not read it, or listen to it, or look at it. 
Esthetic problems (with the possible exception of architecture) are largely 
of a private character, but ethical problems concern men, and their lives. 
To this extent, there is a fundamental difference between them. 

12 For this and the following quotations, cp. Republic, 5Ood~5Oia (italics 
mine) ; cp. also notes 25, 26, 37, 38 (especially 25 and 38) to chapter 8. 

13 Cp. for this development also chapter 13, especially note 7, and text. 

14 It seems that romanticism, in literature as well as in philosophy, may 
be traced back to Plato. It is well known that Rousseau was directly influenced 
by him (cp. note i to chapter 6). Rousseau also knew Plato's Statesman (cp. 
the Social Contract, Book II, ch. VII, and Book III, ch. VI) with its eulogy 
of the early hill-shepherds. But apart from this direct influence, it is probable 
that Rousseau derived his pastoral romanticism and* love for primitivity 
indirectly from Plato ; for he was certainly influenced by the Italian Renais- 
sance, which had rediscovered Plato, and especially his naturalism and his 
dreams of a perfect society of primitive shepherds (cp. notes 1 1 (3) and 32 
to chapter 4 and note i to chapter 6). It is interesting that Voltaire recognized 
at once the dangers of Rousseau's romantic obscurantism ; just as Kant was 
not prevented by his admiration for Rousseau from recognizing this danger 
when he was faced with it in Herder's * Ideas ' (cp. also note 56 to chapter 
12, and text). 


1 Cp. Republic, 4iga ff., 42 ib, 4650 ff., and 5196. 

2 I am thinking not only of the medieval attempts to arrest society, attempts 
that were based on the Platonic theory that the rulers are responsible for the 
spiritual welfare of the ruled, and on many practical devices developed by 
Plato in the Republic and in the Laws ; I think also of many later developments. 

3 I have tried, in other words, to apply as far as possible the method which 
I have described in my Logik der Forschung. 

4 Cp. especially Republic, 5666 ; see also below, note 63 to this chapter. 

5 In my story there should be ' no villains . . Crime is not interesting . . 
It is what men do at their best, with good intentions . . that really concerns 
us '. I have tried as far as possible to apply this methodological principle to 
my interpretation of Plato. (The formulation of the principle quoted in this 
note I have taken from G. B, Shaw's Preface to Saint Joan ; see the first sentences 
in the section ' Tragedy, not Melodrama '.) 

6 For the terms * closed society ' and ' open society ', and their use in a 
somewhat similar sense by Bergson, see the Note to the Introduction. My 
characterization of the closed society as magical and of the open society as 


rational and critical of course makes it impossible to apply these terms without 
idealizing the society in question. The magical attitude has by no means dis- 
appeared from our life, not even in the most * open ' societies so far realized, and 
I think it unlikely that it can ever completely disappear. In spite of this, it 
seems to be possible to give some useful criterion of the transition from the closed 
society to the open. The transition takes place when social institutions are first 
consciously recognized as man-made, and when their conscious alteration is dis- 
cussed in terms of their suitability for the achievement of human aims or pur- 
poses. Or, putting the matter in a less abstract way, the closed society breaks 
down when the supernatural awe with which the social order is considered 
gives way to active interference, and to the conscious pursuit of personal or 
group interests. It is clear that cultural contact through civilization may 
engender such a breakdown, and even more the development of an impover- 
ished, i.e. landless section of the ruling class. I may mention here that I do not 
like to speak of ' social breakdown ' in a general way. I think that the break- 
down of a closed society, as described here, is a fairly clear affair, but in general 
the term ' social breakdown ' seems to me to convey very little more than that 
the observer does not like the course of the development he describes. I think 
that the term is much misused. But I admit that, with or without reason, the 
member of a certain society might have the feeling that * everything is breaking 
down.' There is little doubt that to the members of the ancient regime or of 
the Russian nobility, the French or the Russian revolution must have appeared 
as a complete social breakdown ; but to the new rulers it appeared very 

Toynbee (cp. A Study of History, V, 23-35 ; 338) describes the appearance 
of schism in the body social ' as a criterion of a society which has broken 
down. Since schism, in the form of class disunion, undoubtedly occurred in 
Greek society long before the Peloponnesian war, it is not quite clear why he 
holds that this war (and not the breakdown of tribalism) marks what he 
describes as the breakdown of Hellenic civilization. (Gp. also notes 45 (2) to 
chapter 4, and note 8 to the present chapter.) 

Concerning the similarity between the Greeks and the Maoris, some 
remarks can be found in Burnet's Eaily Greek Philosophy 2 , especially pp. 2 
and 9. 

7 I owe this criticism of the organic theory of the state, together with 
many other suggestions, to J. Popper-Lynkeus ; he writes (Die allgemeine 
Ndhrpflicht, 2nd ed., 1923, pp. 71 f.) : 'The excellent Menenius Agrippa . . 
persuaded the insurgent plebs to return ' (to Rome) * by telling them his 
simile of the body's members who rebelled against the belly. . . Why did 
not one of them say : " Right, Agrippa ! If there must be a belly, then we, 
the plebs, want to be the belly from now on ; and you . . may play the 
r61e of the members ! " ' (For the simile, cp. Shakespeare's Coriolanus, Act i, 
Scene i.) It is perhaps interesting to note that even a modern and apparently 
progressive movement like ' Mass-Observation ' makes propaganda for the 
organic theory of society (on the cover of its pamphlet, First Tear's Work, 

1 937-38.) 

On the other hand, it must be admitted that the tribal ' closed society ' 
has something like an * organic ' character, just because of the absence of 
social tension. The fact that such a society (as that of the Greeks) is based 
on slavery does not create in itself a social tension, because the slaves are 
no more part of society than the cattle ; their aspirations and problems do 
not create anything that is felt by the rulers as a problem within society. 
Population growth, however, does create such a problem. In Sparta, which 
did not send out colonies, it led first to the subjugation of neighbouring tribes 
for the sake of winning their territory, and then to a conscious effort to arrest 
all change by measures that included the control of population increase by 


the institution of infanticide, birth control, and homosexuality. (Gp. also 
note 34 to chapter 4 ; furthermore 63 to chapter 10, and 39 (3) to chapter 5.) 

8 I suppose that what I call the * strain of civilization ' is similar to the 
phenomenon which Freud had in mind when writing Civilization and its 
Discontents. Toynbee speaks of a Sense of Drift (A Study of History, V, 412 ff.), 
but he confines it to ' ages of disintegration ', while I find my strain very 
clearly expressed in Heraclitus (in fact, traces can be found in Hesiod) long 
before the time at which, according to Toynbee, his ' Hellenic society ' begins 
to ' disintegrate '. When Meyer describes the disappearance of ' The status 
of birth, which had determined every man's place in life, his civil and social 
rights and duties, together with the security of earning his living ' (Geschichte 
des Altertums, III, 542), he gives an apt description of the strain in Greek 
society of the fifth century B.C. 

9 Another profession of this kind which led to comparative intellectual 
independence, was that of a wandering bard. I am thinking here mainly 
of Xenophanes, the progressivist ; cp. note 7, the paragraph on ' Prota- 
goreanism ', to chapter 5. (Homer also may be a case in point.) It is clear 
that this profession was accessible to very few men. 

I happen to have no personal interest in matters of commerce, or in 
commercially minded people. But the influence of commercial initiative 
seems to me rather important. It is hardly an accident that the oldest known 
civilization, that of Sumer, was, as far as we know, a commercial civilization 
with strong democratic features ; and that the arts of writing and arithmetic, 
and the beginnings of science, were closely connected with its commercial 
life. (Gp. also text to note 24 to this chapter.) 

10 Thucydides, I, 93 (I mostly follow Jowett's translation). For the problem 
of Thucydides 5 bias, cp. note 15 (i) to this chapter. 

11 This and the next quotation : op. cit. 9 I, 107. Thucydides' story of the 
treacherous oligarchs can hardly be recognized in Meyer's apologetic version 
(Gesch. d. Altertums, III, 594), in spite of the fact that he has no better sources ; 
it is simply distorted beyond recognition. (For Meyer's partiality, see note 
15 (2) to the present chapter.) For a similar treachery (in 479 B.C., on the 
eve of Plataea) cp. Plutarch's Aristides, 13. 

18 Thucydides , III, 82-84. The following conclusion of the passage is 
characteristic of the element of individualism and humanitarianism present 
in Thucydides, a member of the Great Generation (see below, and note 27 
to this chapter) and, as mentioned above, a moderate : ' When men take 
revenge, they are reckless ; they do not consider the future, and do not 
hesitate to annul those common laws of humanity on which every individual 
must rely for his own deliverance should he ever be overtaken by calamity ; 
they forget that in their own hour of need they will look for them in vain.' 
For a further discussion of Thucydides' bias see note 15 ( i ) to this chapter. 

18 Aristotle, Politics, VIII, (V), 9, 10/11 ; i3ioa. Aristotle does not 
agree with such open hostility ; he thinks it wiser that ' true Oligarchs should 
affect to be advocates of the people's cause ' ; and he is anxious to give them 
good advice : ' They should take, or they should at least pretend to take, the 
opposite line, by including in their oath the pledge : I shall do no harm to 
the people.' 

14 Thucydides, II, 9. 

15 Gp. E. Meyer, Geschichte des Altertums, IV (1915), 368. 

(i) In order to judge Thucydides' apparent impartiality, or rather, his 
involuntary bias, one must compare his treatment of the most important 
affair of Plataea which marked the outbreak of the first part of the Pelopon- 
nesian war (Meyer, following Lysias, calls this part the Archidamian war ; 
cp. Meyer, Gesch. d. Altertums, IV, 307, and V, p. VII) with his treatment of 
the Melian affair, Athens' first aggressive move in the second part (the war 


of Alcibiades) . The Archidamian war broke out with an attack on democratic 
Plataea a lightning attack made without declaration of war by Thebes, a 
partner of totalitarian Sparta, whose Plataean friends, the oligarchic fifth 
column, had by night opened the doors of Plataea to the enemy. Though 
most important as the immediate cause of the war, the incident is comparatively 
briefly related by Thucydides (II, 1-7) ; he does not comment upon the 
moral aspect, apart from calling * the affair of Plataea a glaring violation of 
the thirty years truce ' ; but he censures (II, 5) the democrats of Plataea for 
their harsh treatment of the invaders, and even expresses doubts whether 
they did not break an oath. This method of presentation contrasts strongly 
with the famous and most elaborate, though of course fictitious, Melian 
Dialogue (Thuc., V, 85-113) in which Thucydides tries to brand Athenian 
imperialism. Shocking as the Melian affair seems to have been (Alcibiades 
may have been responsible ; cp. Plutarch, Ale., 16), the Athenians did not 
attack without warning, and tried to negotiate before using force. 

(2) E. Meyer is one of the greatest modern authorities on this period. 
But to appreciate his point of view one must read the following scornful 
remarks on democratic governments (there are a great many passages of this 
kind) : ' Much more important ' (viz., than to arm) * was it to continue the 
entertaining game of party-quarrels, and to secure unlimited freedom, as 
interpreted by everybody according to his particular interests.' (V, 61.) 
But is it more, I ask, than an ' interpretation according to his particular 
interests ' when Meyer writes : ' The wonderful freedom of democracy, and 
of her leaders, have manifestly proved their inefficiency.' (V, 69.) About 
the Athenian democratic leaders who in 403 B.C. refused to surrender to 
Sparta (and whose refusal was later even justified by success although no 
such justification is necessary), Meyer says : * Some of these leaders might 
have been honest fanatics ; . . they might have been so utterly incapable 
of any sound judgement that they really believed ' (what they said, namely :) 
* that Athens must never capitulate.' (IV, 659.) Meyer censures other 
historians in the strongest terms for being biassed. (Cp. e.g. the notes in V, 
89 and 1 02, where he defends the tyrant Dionysius I against allegedly biassed 
attacks, and 113 bottom to 114 top, where he is also exasperated by some 
anti-Dionysian * parroting historians '.) Thus he calls Grote ' an English 
radical leader ', and his work * not a history, but an apology for Athens ', 
and he proudly contrasts himself with such men : ' It will hardly be possible 
to deny that we have become more impartial in questions of politics, and 
that we have arrived thereby at a more correct and more embracing historical 
judgement.' (All this in III, 239.) 

Behind Meyer's point of view stands Hegel. This explains everything 
(as will be clear, I hope, to the readers of chapter 12). Meyer's Hegelianism 
becomes obvious in the following remark, which is an unconscious but nearly 
literal quotation from Hegel ; it is in III, 256, when Meyer speaks of a * flat 
and moralizing evaluation, which judges great political undertakings with 
the yardstick of civil morality ' (Hegel speaks of the litany of private virtues '), 
' ignoring the deeper, the truly moral factors of the state, and of historical 
responsibilities '. (This corresponds exactly to the passages from Hegel 
quoted in chapter 12, below ; cp. note 75 to chapter 12.) I wish to use this 
opportunity once more to make it clear that I do not pretend to be impartial 
in my historical judgement. Of course I do what I can to ascertain the 
relevant facts. But I am aware that my evaluations (as anybody else's) must 
depend entirely on my point of view. This I admit, although I fully believe 
in my point of view, i.e., that my evaluations are right. 

lf Cp. Meyer, op. cit. 9 IV, 367. 

17 Cp. Meyer, op. cit. 9 IV, 464. 

18 It must however be kept in mind that, as the reactionaries complained, 
O.S.I.E. VOL. I i 


slavery was in Athens on the verge of dissolution. Cp. the evidence mentioned 
in notes 17, 1 8 and 29 to chapter 4 ; furthermore, notes 13 to chapter 5, 
48 to chapter 8, and 27-37 to tne present chapter. 

19 Cp. Meyer, op. cit., IV, 659. 

Meyer comments upon this move of the Athenian democrats : * Now when 
it was too late they made a move towards a political constitution which later 
helped Rome . . to lay the foundations of its greatness.' In other words, 
instead of crediting the Athenians with a constitutional invention of the first 
order, he reproaches them ; and the credit goes to Rome, whose conservatism 
is more to Meyer's taste. 

The incident in Roman history to which Meyer alludes is Rome's alliance, 
or federation, with Gabii. But immediately before, and on the very page 
on which Meyer describes this federation (in V, 135) we can read also : 
' All these towns, when incorporated with Rome, lost their existence . . 
without even receiving a political organization of the type of Attica's 
" demes ".' A little later, in V, 147, Gabii is again referred to, and Rome 
in her generous * liberality ' again contrasted with Athens ; but at the end 
of the same page, and at the beginning of the next, Meyer reports without 
criticism Rome's looting and destruction of the great city of Veii. 

The worst of all these Roman destructions is perhaps that of Carthage. 
It took place at a moment when Carthage was no longer a danger to Rome, 
and it robbed Rome, and us, of most valuable contributions which Carthage 
could have made to civilization. I only mention the great treasures of 
geographical information which were destroyed there. (The story of the 
decline of Carthage is not unlike that of the fall of Athens in 404 B.C., discussed 
in this chapter below ; see note 48. The oligarchs of Carthage preferred the 
fall of their city to the victory of democracy.) 

Later, under the influence of Stoicism, derived indirectly from Antisthenes, 
Rome began to develop a very liberal and humanitarian outlook. It reached 
the height of this development in those centuries of peace after Augustus 
(cp. for instance Toynbee, A Study of History, V, 343-346), but it is here that 
some romantic historians see the beginning of her decline. 

Regarding this decline itself, it is, of course, equally romantic and even 
silly to believe, as many still do, that it was due to the degeneration caused 
by long-continued peace, or to demoralization, or to the superiority of the 
younger barbarian peoples, etc. ; in brief, to over-feeding. (Cp. note 45 
(3) to chapter 4.) Apart from the devastating result of violent epidemics 
(cp. H. Zinsser, Rats, Lice, and History, 1937, 131 ff.) the unchecked and 
progressive exhaustion of the soil, and with it a breakdown of the agricultural 
basis of the Roman economic system (cp. V. G. Simkhovitch, * Hay and 
History ', and * Rome's Fall Reconsidered ', in Towards the Understanding of 
Jesus, 1 927) seem to have been one of the main causes. Cp. also W. Hegemann, 
Entlarvte Geschichte (1934). 

20 Thucydides, VII, 28 ; cp. Meyer, op. cit., IV, 535. The remark that 
* this would yield more ', enables us, of course, to fix an upper limit for the 
ratio between the taxes previously imposed and the volume of trade. 

21 This is an allusion to a grim little pun which I owe to P. Milford : 
' A Plutocracy is preferable to a Lootocracy.' 

22 Plato, Republic, 42$b. 

28 Cp. Meyer, Geschichte des Altertums, IV, 577. 

24 Op. cit., V, 27. Cp. also note 9 to this chapter, and text to note 30 to 
chapter 4. 

25 This is admitted by Meyer (op. cit., IV, 433 f.), who in a very interesting 
passage says of the two parties : ' each of them claims that it defends " the 
paternal state " . . , and that the opponent is infected with the modern 
spirit of selfishness and revolutionary violence. In reality, both are in- 


fected. . . The traditional customs and religion are more deeply rooted in 
the democratic party ; its aristocratic enemies who fight under the flag of 
the restoration of the ancient times, are . . entirely modernized.' Cp. also 
op. cit., V, 4 f., 14, and the next note. 

26 From Aristotle's Athenian Constitution, ch. 34, 3, we learn that the 
Thirty Tyrants professed at first what appeared to Aristotle a ' moderate ' 
programme, viz., that of the * paternal state '. For the nihilism and the 
modernity of Gritias, cp. his theory of religion discussed in chapter 8 (see 
especially note 17 to that chapter) and note 48 to the present chapter. 

27 It is most interesting to contrast Sophocles' attitude towards the new 
faith with that of Euripides. Sophocles complains (cp. Meyer, op. cit., IV, 
III) : * It is wrong that . . the lowly born should flourish, while the brave 
and nobly born are unfortunate.' Euripides replies (with Antiphon ; cp. 
note 13 to chapter 5) that the distinction between the nobly and the low 
born (especially slaves) is merely verbal : ' The name alone brings shame 
upon the slave.' For the humanitarian element in Thucydides, cp. the 
quotation in note 12 to this chapter. For the question how far the Great 
Generation was connected with cosmopolitan tendencies, cp. especially note 
48 to chapter 8. 

28 ' Misologists ', i.e. haters of rational argument, are compared by Socrates 
to ' misanthropists ', the haters of men ; cp. the Phaedo, 8gc. In contrast, 
cp. Plato's misanthropical remark in the Republic, 4g6c-d (cp. notes 57 and 
58 to chapter 8). 

29 The quotations in this paragraph are from Democritus' fragments, 
Diels, Vorsokratiker 2 , fragments number 41 ; 179 ; 34 ; 261 ; 62 ; 55 ; 251 ; 
247 (genuineness questioned by Diels and by Tarn, cp. note 48 to chapter 8) ; 

30 Cp. text to note 16, chapter 6. 

31 Cp. Thucydides, II, 37-41. Cp. also the remarks in note 16 to chapter 6. 

32 Cp. T. Gomperz, Greek Thinkers, Book V, ch. 13, 3 (Germ, ed., II, 407). 

33 Herodotus' work with its pro-democratic tendency (cp., for example, 
III, 80) appeared about a year or two after Pericles' oration (cp. Meyer, 
Gesch. d. Altertums, IV, 369). 

34 This has been pointed out for instance by T. Gomperz, Greek Thinkers, 
V, 13, 2 (Germ, ed., II, 406 f.) ; the passages in the Republic to which he 
draws attention are : 557d and 56 ic, ff. The similarity is undoubtedly 
intentional. Gp. also Adam's edition of the Republic, vol. II, 235, note to 
557d26. See also the Laws, Gggd/e, if., and 7O4d~7O7d. For a similar 
observation regarding Herodotus III, 80, see note 17 to chapter 6. 

36 Some hold the Menexenus to be spurious, but I believe that this shows 
only their tendency to idealize Plato. The Menexenus is vouched for by 
Aristotle, who quotes a remark from it as due to the ' Socrates of the Funeral 
Dialogue' (Rhetoric, I, 9, 30 = I367b8 ; and III, 14, u = 14^30). See 
also end of note 35, and note 61 to this chapter, note 19 to chapter 6, and 
note 48 to chapter 8. 

36 The Old Oligarch's (or the Pseudo-Xenophon's) Constitution of Athens 
was published in 424 B.C. (according to Kirchhoff, quoted by Gomperz, 
Greek Thinkers, Germ, cd., I, 477). For its attribution to Critias, cp. J. E. 
Sandys, Aristotle' s Constitution of Athens, Introduction IX, especially note 3. 
See also notes 18 and 48 to this chapter. For its influence upon Thucydides, 
cp. notes 10 and n to this chapter ; upon Plato, cp. especially note 59 to 
chapter 8, and Laws, joq.a-'jQ'jd. (Cp. Aristotle, Politics, I326b-i327a ; 
Cicero De Republica, II, 3 and 4.) 

87 I am alluding to the title of M. Rader's book No Compromise The 
Conflict between Two Worlds (1939), an excellent criticism of the ideology of 


88 Schools (especially Universities) have retained certain features of 
tribalism ever since. Many of them are not bad. But we must not think 
only of their emblems, or of the Old School Tic with all its social implications 
of caste, etc., but also of the patriarchal and authoritarian character of so 
many schools. It is not an accident that Plato, when he failed to re-establish 
tribalism, founded a school instead ; nor is it an accident that schools have 
so often been bastions of reaction, and school teachers dictators in pocket 

As an illustration of the tribalistic character of these early schools, I give 
here a list of some of the taboos of the early Pythagoreans. (The list is from 
Burnet's Early Greek Philosophy 2 , 106, who takes it from Diels, Vorsokratiker a , 
pp. 282 ff. Burnet speaks rightly of genuine taboos of a thoroughly primitive 
type '.) To abstain from beans. Not to pick up what has fallen. Not to 
touch a white cock. Not to break bread. Not to step over a crossbar. Not 
to stir the fire with iron. Not to eat from a whole loaf. Not to pluck a garland. 
Not to sit on a quart measure. Not to eat the heart. Not to walk on 
highways. Not to let the swallows share one's roof. When the pot is taken 
off the fire, not to leave the mark of it in the ashes, but to stir them together. 
Not to look in a mirror beside a light. After rising from the bedclothes, to 
roll them together and to smooth out the impress of the body. 

39 An interesting parallelism to this development is the destruction of 
tribalism through the Persian conquests. This social revolution led, as 
Meyer points out (op. cit., vol. Ill, 167 ff.) to the emergence of a number of 
prophetic, i.e. in our terminology, of historicist, religions of destiny, degenera- 
tion, and salvation, among them that of the * chosen people ', the Jews (cp. 
chapter i). 

Some of these religions were also characterized by the doctrine that the 
creation of the world is not yet concluded, but still going on. This must 
be compared with the early Greek conception of the world as an edifice 
and with the Heraclitean destruction of this conception, described in chapter 2 
(see note i to that chapter). It may be mentioned here that even 
Anaximander felt uneasy about the edifice. His stress upon the boundless or 
infinite character of the building-material expresses also a feeling that the 
building may possess no definite framework, that it may be in flux (cp. next 

The development of the Dionysian and the Orphic mysteries in Greece 
is probably dependent upon the religious development of the east (cp. 
Herodotus, II, 81). Pythagoreanism, as is well known, has much in common 
with Orphic teaching, especially regarding the theory of the soul (see also 
note 44 below). But Pythagoreanism had a definitely ' aristocratic ' flavour, 
as opposed to the Orphic teaching which represented a kind of ' proletarian ' 
version of this movement. Meyer (op. cit., Ill, p. 428, 246) is probably 
right when he describes the beginnings of philosophy as a rational counter- 
current against the movement of the mysteries ; cp. Heraclitus* attitude in 
these matters (fragm. 5, 14, 15 ; and 40, 129, Diels 2 ; 124-129 ; and 16-17, 
By water). He hated the mysteries and Pythagoras ; the Pythagorean Plato 
despised the mysteries (Rep., 3646, f. ; cp. however Adam's Appendix IV to 
Book IX of the Republic, vol. II, 378 ff., of his edition.) 

40 For Anaximander (cp. the preceding note) see Diels 2 , fragm. 9 : ' The 
origin of things is the indeterminate ; from where they are generated, thither 
they must dissolve, by necessity. For they must do penance to one another 
for their injustice, according to the order of time/ That individual existence 
appeared to Anaximander as injustice, has been pointed out by Gomperz 

Greek Thinkers, Germ, ed., vol. I, p. 46). Note the similarity to Plato's theory 
of justice. 

11 Parmenides was the first to seek his salvation from this strain by 


interpreting his dream of the arrested world as a revelation of true reality, 
and the world of flux in which he lived as a dream. ( The real being is 
indivisible. It is always an integrated whole, which never breaks away 
from its order ; it never disperses, and thus need not re-unite.' (D 2 , fragm. 
2.) For Parmenides, cp. also note 22 to chapter 3, and text. 

42 Gp. note 9 to the present chapter (and note 7 to chapter 5). 

48 Cp. Meyer, Geschichte des Altertums, III, 443, and IV, iaof. 

44 J. Burnet, ' The Socratic Doctrine of the Soul ', Proceedings of the British 
Academy, VIII (1915/16), 235 if. I am the more anxious to stress this partial 
agreement since I cannot agree with Burnet in most of his other theories, 
especially those that concern Socrates* relations to Plato ; his opinion in 
particular that Socrates is politically the more reactionary of the two (Greek 
Philosophy, I, 210) appears to me simply untenable. Cp. note 56 to this 

Regarding the Socratic doctrine of the soul, I believe that Burnet is right 
in insisting that the saying ' care for your souls ' is Socratic ; for this saying 
expresses Socrates' moral interests. But I think it highly improbable that 
Socrates held any metaphysical theory of the soul. The theories of the 
Phaedo, the Republic, etc., seem to me undoubtedly Pythagorean. (For the 
Orphic-Pythagorean theory that the body is the tomb of the soul, cp. Adam, 
'Appendix IV to Book IX of the Republic ; see also note 39 to this chapter.) 
And in view of Socrates' clear statement in the Apology, igc, that he had 
' nothing whatever to do with speculations on nature ' (see note 56 (5) to 
this chapter), I strongly disagree with Burnet's opinion that Socrates was a 
Pythagorean ; and also with the opinion that he held any definite meta- 
physical doctrine of the ' nature ' of the soul. 

I believe that Socrates' saying * care for your souls ' is an expression of 
his moral (and intellectual) individualism. Few of his doctrines seem to be 
so well attested as his individualistic theory of the moral self-sufficiency of 
the virtuous man. (See the evidence mentioned in notes 25 to chapter 5 
and 36 to chapter 6.) But this is most closely connected with the idea expressed 
in the sentence ' care for your souls '. In his emphasis on self-sufficiency, 
Socrates wished to say : They can destroy your body, but they cannot destroy 
your moral integrity. If the latter is your main concern, they cannot do any 
really serious harm to you. 

It appears that Plato, when becoming acquainted with the Pythagorean 
metaphysical theory of the soul, felt that Socrates' moral attitude needed a 
metaphysical foundation, especially a theory of survival. He therefore 
substituted for ' they cannot destroy your moral integrity ' the idea of the 
indestructibility of the soul. (Cp. also notes gf to chapter 7.) 

Against my interpretation, it may be contended by both metaphysicians 
and positivists that there can be no such moral and non-metaphysical idea 
of the soul as I ascribe to Socrates, since any way of speaking of the soul must 
be metaphysical. I do not think that I have much hope of convincing 
Platonic metaphysicians ; but I shall attempt to show positivists (or materialists, 
etc.) that they too believe in a * soul ', in a sense very similar to that which I 
attribute to Socrates, and that most of them value that ' soul ' more highly 
than the body. 

First of all, even positivists may admit that we can make a perfectly 
empirical and * meaningful ', although somewhat unprecise, distinction 
between ' physical ' and * psychical * maladies. In fact, this distinction is of 
considerable practical importance for the organization of hospitals, etc. (It 
is quite probable that one day it may be superseded by something more precise, 
but that is a different question.) Now most of us, even positivists, would, if 
we had to choose, prefer a mild physical malady to a mild form of insanity. 
Even positivists would moreover probably prefer a lengthy and in the end 

254 CHAPTER 10/NOTES 45-47 

incurable physical illness (provided it was not too painful, etc.) to an equally 
lengthy period of incurable insanity, and perhaps even to a period of curable 
insanity. In this way, I believe, we can say without using metaphysical 
terms that they care for their ' souls ' more than for their * bodies ' ; and this 
way of speaking would be quite independent of any theory they might have 
concerning the ' soul ' ; even if they should maintain that, in the last analysis, 
it is only part of the body, and all insanity only a physical malady, our con- 
clusion would still hold. (It would come to something like this : that they 
value their brains more highly than other parts of their bodies.) 

We can now proceed to a similar consideration of an idea of the ' soul ' 
which is closer still to the Socratic idea. Many of us are prepared to undergo 
considerable physical hardship for the sake of purely intellectual ends. We 
are, for example, ready to suffer in, order to advance scientific knowledge ; 
and also for the sake of furthering our own intellectual development, i.e. for 
the sake of attaining * wisdom '. (For Socrates' intellectualism, cp. for 
instance the Crito, 44d/c, and 47b.) Similar things could be said of the 
furthering of moral ends, for instance, equalitarian justice, peace, etc. (Gp. 
Crito, 47e/48a, where Socrates explains that he means by ' soul ' that part of 
us which is * improved by justice and depraved by injustice '.) And many 
of us would say, with Socrates, that these things are more important to us than 
things like health, even though we like to be in good health. And many 
may even agree with Socrates that the possibility of adopting such an attitude 
is what makes us proud to be men, and not animals. 

All this, I believe, can be said without any reference to a metaphysical 
theory of the ( nature of the soul '. And I see no reason why we should 
attribute such a theory to Socrates in the face of his clear statement that he 
had nothing to do with speculations of that sort. 

46 In the Gorgias, which is, I believe, Socratic in parts (although the 
Pythagorean elements which Gomperz has noted show, I think, that it is 
largely Platonic ; cp. note 56 to this chapter), Plato puts into the mouth of 
Socrates an attack on ' the ports and ship-yards and walls ' of Athens, and on 
the tributes or taxes imposed upon her Allies. These attacks, as they stand, 
are certainly Plato's, which may explain why they sound very much like 
those of the oligarchs. But I think it quite possible that Socrates may have 
made similar remarks, in his anxiety to stress the things which, in his opinion, 
mattered most. But he would, I believe, have loathed the idea that his 
moral criticism could be turned into treacherous oligarchic propaganda 
against the open society, and especially, against its representative, Athens. 
(For the question of Socrates' loyalty, cp. esp. note 53 to this chapter, 
arid text.) 

46 The typical figures, in Plato's works, are Gallicles and Thrasymachus. 
Historically, the nearest realizations are perhaps Theramenes and Critias ; 
Alcibiades also, whose character and deeds, however, are very hard to judge. 

47 The following remarks are highly speculative and do not bear upon my 

I consider it possible that the basis of the First Alcibiades is Plato's own 
conversion by Socrates, i.e., that Plato may in this dialogue have chosen the 
figure of Alcibiades to hide himself. There might have been a strong induce- 
ment for him to tell the story of his conversion ; for Socrates, when accused 
of being responsible for the misdeeds of Alcibiades, Gritias, and Charmides 
(see below), had referred, in his apology before the court, to Plato as a living 
example, and as a witness, of his true educational influence. It seems not 
unlikely that Plato with his urge to literary testimony felt that he had to tell 
the tale of Socrates' relations with himself, a tale which he could not tell 
in court (cp. Taylor, Socrates, note i to p. 105). By using Alcibiades' name 
and the special circumstances surrounding him (e.g. his ambitious political 


dreams which might well have been similar to those of Plato before his con- 
version) he would attain his apologetic purpose (cp. text to notes 49-50), 
showing that Socrates' moral influence in general and on Alcibiades in 
particular was very different from what his prosecutors maintained it to be. 
I think it not unlikely that the Charmides is also, largely, a self-portrait. (It 
is not without interest to note that Plato himself undertook similar conversions, 
but as far as we can judge, in a different way ; not so much by direct personal 
moral appeal, but rather by an institutional teaching of Pythagorean mathe- 
matics, as a pre-requisite for the dialectical intuition of the Idea of the Good. 
Cp. the stories of his attempted conversion of Dionysius II.) For the First 
Alcibiades and related problems, see also Grote's Plato, I, especially pp. 351-355. 

48 Gp. Meyer, Geschichte des Altertums, V, 38, (and Xenophon's Hellenica, II, 
4, 22). In the same volume, on pp. 19-23 and 36-44 (see especially p. 36) 
can be found all the evidence needed for justifying the interpretation given 
in the text. The Cambridge Ancient History (1927, vol. V ; cp. especially pp. 
369 ff.) gives a very similar interpretation of the events. 

It may be added that the number of full citizens killed by the Thirty 
during the eight months of terror approached probably 1,500, which is, as 
far as we know, not much less than one-tenth (probably about 8 per cent.) 
of the total number of full citizens left after the war, or i per cent, per month 
an achievement hardly surpassed even in our own day. 

Taylor writes, of the Thirty (Socrates, Short Biographies, 1937, p. 100, 
note i ) : ' It is only fair to remember that these men probably " lost their 
heads " under the temptation presented by their situation. Critias had 
previously been known as a man of wide culture whose political leanings 
were decidedly democratic.' I believe that this attempt to minimize the 
responsibility of the puppet government, and especially of Plato's beloved 
uncle, must fail. We know well enough what to think of the shortlived 
democratic sentiments professed in those days at suitable occasions by the 
young aristocrats. Besides, Critias' father (cp. Meyer, vol. IV, p. 579, and 
Lys.y 1 2, 66), and probably Critias himself, had belonged to the oligarchy of the 
Four Hundred ; and Critias 5 extant writings show his treacherous pro-Spartan 
leanings as well as his oligarchic outlook (cp. for instance Diels a , 45) and his 
cynicism (cp. note 17 to chapter 8) and his ambition (cp. Diels a , 15 ; cp. also 
Xenophon's Memorabilia, I, 2, 24 ; and his Hellenica, II, 3, 36 and 47). But 
the decisive point is that he simply tried to give consistent effect to the 
programme of the ' Old Oligarch *, the author of the Pseudo-Xenophontic 
Constitution of Athens (cp. note 36 to the present chapter) : to eradicate 
democracy ; and to make a determined attempt to do so with Spartan help, 
should Athens be defeated. The degree of violence used is the logical result 
of the situation. It does not indicate that Critias lost his head ; rather, that 
he was very well aware of the difficulties, i.e. of the democrats' still formidable 
power of resistance. 

Meyer, whose great sympathy for Dionysius I proves that he is at least 
not prejudiced against tyrants, says about Critias (op. cit., V, p. 17), after a 
sketch of his amazingly opportunistic political career, that ' he was just as 
unscrupulous as Lysander *, the Spartan conqueror, and therefore the 
appropriate head of Lysander's puppet government. 

It seems to me that there is a striking similarity between the characters 
of Critias, the soldier, aesthete, poet, and sceptical companion of Socrates, and 
of Frederick II of Prussia, called ' the Great ', who also was a soldier, an 
aesthete, a poet, and a sceptical disciple of Voltaire, as well as one of the worst 
tyrants and most ruthless oppressors of modern history. (On Frederick, cp. 
W. Hegemann, Entlarvte Geschichte, 1934 ; see especially p. 90 on his attitude 
towards religion, reminiscent of that of Critias.) 
* 49 This point is very well explained by Taylor, Socrates, Short Biographies, 

256 CHAPTER lO/NOTES 50-53 

1937, p. 103, who follows here Burnet's note to Plato's Eutyphro, 40, 4. The 
only point in which I feel inclined to deviate, but only very slightly, from 
Taylor's excellent treatment (op. cit., 103, 120) of Socrates' trial is in the 
interpretation of the tendencies of the charge, especially of the charge concern- 
ing the introduction of ' novel religious practices ' (op. cit., 109 and inf.). 

50 Evidence to show this can be found in Taylor's Socrates, 113-115 ; cp. 
especially 115, note i, where Aeschines I, 173, is quoted : ' You put Socrates 
the Sophist to death because he was shown to have educated Critias.' 

61 It was the policy of the Thirty to implicate as many people in their 
acts of terrorism as they could ; cp. the excellent remarks by Taylor in 
Socrates, 101 f. (especially note 3 to p. 101). 

52 As Grossman and others do ; cp. Grossman, Plato To-Day, 91/92. I 
agree in this point with Taylor, Socrates, 1 1 6 ; see also his notes i and 2 to 
that page. 

That the plan of the prosecution was not to make a martyr of Socrates ; 
that the trial could have been avoided, or managed differently, had Socrates 
been prepared to compromise, i.e., to leave Athens, or even to promise to 
keep quiet, all this seems fairly clear in view of Plato's (or Socrates') allusions 
in the Apology as well as in the Crito. (Cp. Crito, 456 and especially 52b/c, 
where Socrates says that he would have been permitted to emigrate had he 
offered to do so at the trial.) 

63 Cp. especially Crito, 530/0, where Socrates explains that, if he were to 
accept the opportunity for escape, he would confirm his judges in their belief ; 
for he who corrupts the laws is likely to corrupt the young also. 

The Apology and Crito were probably written not long after Socrates' 
death. The Crito (possibly the earlier of the two), was perhaps written upon 
Socrates' request that his motives in declining to escape should be made 
known. Indeed, such a wish may have been the first inspiration of the 
Socratic dialogues. T. Gomperz (Greek Thinkers, V, u, i, Germ, ed., II, 
358) believes the Crito to be of later date and explains its tendency by assuming 
that it was Plato who was anxious to stress his loyalty. ' We do not know ', 
writes Gomperz, ' the immediate situation to which this small dialogue owes 
its existence ; but it is hard to resist the impression that Plato is here most 
interested in defending himself and his group against the suspicion of harbour- 
ing revolutionary views.' Although Gomperz's suggestion would easily fit 
into my general interpretation of Plato's views, I feel that the Crito is much 
more likely to be Socrates' defence than Plato's. But I agree with Gomperz's 
interpretation of its tendency. Socrates had certainly the greatest interest 
in defending himself against a suspicion which endangered his life's work. 
Regarding this interpretation of the contents of the Crito, I again agree fully 
with Taylor (Socrates, 124 f.). But the loyalty of the Crito and its contrast 
to the obvious disloyalty of the Republic which quite openly takes sides with 
Sparta against Athens seems to refute Burnet's and Taylor's view that the 
Republic is Socratic, and that Socrates was more strongly opposed to democracy 
than Plato. (Cp. note 56 to this chapter.) 

Concerning Socrates' affirmation of his loyalty to democracy, cp. especially 
the following passages of the Crito : 5id/e, where the democratic character 
of the laws is stressed, i.e., the possibility that the citizen might change the 
laws without violence, by rational argument (as Socrates puts it, he may try 
to convince the laws) ; 52b, f., where Socrates insists that he has no quarrel 
with the Athenian constitution ; 53c/d, where he describes not only virtue 
and justice but especially institutions and laws (those of Athens) as the best 
things among men ; 54c, where he says that he may be a victim of men, 
but insists that he is not a victim of the laws. 

In view of all these passages (and especially of Apology, 32C ; cp. note 8 to 
chapter 7), we must, I believe, discount the one passage which looks very 

CHAPTER lO/NOTES 54-55 257 

different, viz. 526, where Socrates by implication praises the constitutions 
of Sparta and Crete. Considering especially 52b/c, where Socrates said that 
he was not curious to know other states or their laws, one may be tempted to 
suggest that the remark on Sparta and Crete in 526 is an interpolation, made 
by somebody who attempted to reconcile the Crito with later writings, especially 
with the Republic. Whether that is so or whether the passage is a Platonic 
addition, it seems extremely unlikely that it is Socratic. One need only 
remember Socrates' anxiety not to do anything which might be interpreted 
as pro-Spartan, an anxiety of which we know from Xenophon's Anabasis, III, 
i, 5. There we read that * Socrates feared that he ' (i.e., his friend, the young 
Xenophon another of the young black sheep) ' might be blamed for being 
disloyal ; for Cyrus was known to have assisted the Spartans in the war against 
Athens.' (This passage is certainly much less suspect than the Memorabilia ; 
there is no influence of Plato here, and Xenophon actually accuses himself, 
by implication, of having taken his obligations to his country too lightly, and 
of having deserved his banishment, mentioned in op. cit., V, 3, 7, and VII, 

7, 57-) 

54 Apology, soc/sia. 

65 Platonists, of course, would all agree with Taylor who says in the last 
sentence of his Socrates : ' Socrates had just one *' successor " Plato.' Only 
Grote seems sometimes to have held views similar to those stated in the text ; 
what he says, for instance, in the passage quoted here in note 21 to chapter 7 
(see also note 15 to chapter 8) can be interpreted as at least an expression of 
doubt whether Plato did not betray Socrates. Grote makes it perfectly clear 
that the Republic (not only the Laws) would have furnished the theoretical basis 
for condemning the Socrates of the Apology, and that this Socrates would never 
have been tolerated in Plato's best state. And he even points out that Plato's 
theory agrees with the practical treatment meted out to Socrates by the 

For the remarks on the Laws, made later in this paragraph, cp. especially 
the passages of the Laws referred to in notes 1 9-23 to chapter 8. Even Taylor, 
whose opinions on these questions are diametrically opposed to those presented 
here (see also the next note), admits : ' The person who first proposed to make 
false opinions in theology an offence against the state, was Plato himself, in the 
tenth Book of the Laws. 9 (Taylor, op. cit., 108, note i.) 

In the text, I contrast especially Plato's Apology and Crito with his Laws. 
The reason for this choice is that nearly everybody, even Burnet and Taylor 
(see the next note) would agree that the Apology and the* Crito represent the 
Socratic doctrine, and that the Laws may be described as Platonic. It seems to 
me therefore very difficult to understand how Burnet and Taylor could possibly 
defend their opinion that Socrates' attitude towards democracy was more 
hostile than Plato's. (This opinion is expressed in Burnet's Greek Philosophy, I, 
209 f., and in Taylor's Socrates, 150 f., and 170 f.). I have seen no attempt to 
defend this view of Socrates, who fought for freedom (cp. especially note 53 to 
this chapter) and died for it, and of Plato, who wrote the Laws. 

Burnet and Taylor hold this strange view because they are committed to 
the opinion that the Republic is Socratic and not Platonic ; and because it 
may be said that the Republic is slightly less anti -democratic than the Platonic 
Statesman and the Laws. But the differences between the Republic and the 
Statesman as well as the Laws are very slight indeed, especially if not only the 
first books of the Laws are considered but also the last ; in fact, the agreement 
of doctrine is rather closer than one should expect in two books separated by 
at least one decade, and probably by three or more, and most dissimilar in 
temperament and style (see note 6 to chapter 4, and many other places in 
this book where the similarity, if not identity, between the doctrines of the 
Laws and the Republic is shown.) There is not the slightest internal difficulty 


in assuming that the Republic and the Laws are both Platonic ; but Burnet's and 
Taylor's own admission that their theory leads to the conclusion that Socrates 
was not only an enemy of democracy but even a greater enemy than Plato 
shows the difficulty if not absurdity of their view that not only the Apology 
and the Crito are Socratic but the Republic as well. (For all these questions, 
see also the next note.) 

56 I need hardly say that this sentence is an attempt to sum up my inter- 
pretation of the historical role of Plato's theory of justice (for the moral failure 
of the Thirty, cp. Xenophon's Hellenica, II., 4, 40-42) ; and particularly of 
the main political doctrines of the Republic ; an interpretation which tries 
to explain the contradictions among the early dialogues, especially the Gorgias, 
and the Republic, as arising from the fundamental difference between the views 
of Socrates and those of the later Plato. The cardinal importance of the 
question which is usually called the Socratic Problem may justify my entering 
here into a lengthy and partly methodological debate. 

(1) The older solution of the Socratic Problem assumed that a group of the 
Platonic dialogues, especially the Apology and the Crito, is Socratic (i.e., in the 
main historically correct, and intended as such) while the majority of the 
dialogues are Platonic, including many of those in which Socrates is the main 
speaker, as for instance the Phaedo and the Republic. The older authorities 
justified this opinion often by referring to an ' independent witness ', Xenophon, 
and by pointing out the similarity between the Xenophontic Socrates and the 
Socrates of the * Socratic ' group of dialogues, and the dissimilarities between 
the Xenophontic * Socrates ' and the ' Socrates ' of the Platonic group of 
dialogues. The metaphysical theory of Forms or Ideas, more especially, was 
usually considered Platonic. 

(2) Against this view, an attack was launched by J. Burnet, who is supported 
by A. E. Taylor. Burnet denounced the argument on which the ' older 
solution ' is based as circular and unconvincing. It is not sound, he main- 
tained, to select a group of dialogues solely because the theory of Forms is 
less prominent in them, to call them Socratic, and then to say that the theory 
of Forms was not Socrates' but Plato's invention. And it is not sound to 
claim Xenophon as an independent witness since we have no reason whatever 
to believe in his independence, and good reason to believe that he must have 
known a number of Plato's dialogues when he commenced writing the 
Memorabilia. Burnet suggested proceeding from the assumption that Plato 
really meant what he said, and that, when he made Socrates pronounce a certain 
doctrine, he believed, and wished his readers to believe, that this doctrine 
was characteristic of Socrates' teaching. 

(3) Although Burnet's views on the Socratic Problem appear to me 
untenable, I believe that they have been most valuable and stimulating. A 
bold theory, even if it is false, always means progress ; and Burnet's books 
are full of bold and most unconventional views on his subject. This is the 
more to be appreciated as a historical subject shows always a tendency to 
become stale. But much as I admire Burnet for his brilliant and bold theories, 
and much as I appreciate their salutary effect, I can hardly ever, on considering 
the evidence available to me, convince myself that these theories are tenable. 
Burnet, in his invaluable enthusiasm was, I believe, not always critical enough 
towards his own ideas. This is why others have found it necessary to criticize 
these ideas instead. 

Regarding the Socratic Problem, I believe with many others that the 
view which I have described as the ' older solution ' is fundamentally correct. 
This view has lately been well de^nded, against Burnet and Taylor, especially 
by G. G. Field (fea and His Contemporaries, 10^30) and A. K. Rogers (The 
Socratic Problem, 1933) ; and many other scholars seem to adhere to it. In 
spite of the fact that the arguments so far offered appear to me convincing, 


I may be permitted to add to them, using the results of the present book. 
But before proceeding to criticize Burnet, I may state that it is to Burnet that 
we owe our insight into the following principle of method. Plato's evidence is 
the only first-rate evidence available to us ; all other evidence is secondary. (Burnet 
has applied this principle to Xenophon ; but we must apply it also to 
Aristophanes, whose evidence was rejected by Socrates himself, in the Apology ; 
see under (5), below.) 

(4) Burnet explains that it is his method to assume ' that Plato really 
meant what he said '. According to this methodological principle, Plato's 
' Socrates ' must be intended as a portrait of the historical Socrates. (Cp. Greek 
Philosophy, I, 128, 1212 f., and note on p. 349/50 ; cp. Taylor's Socrates, 14 f., 
32 f., 153.) I admit that Burnet's methodological principle is a sound starting 
point. But I shall try to show, under (5) that the facts are such that they 
soon force everybody to give it up, including Burnet and Taylor. They are 
forced, like all others, to interpret what Plato says. But while others become 
conscious of this fact, and therefore careful and critical in their interpretations, 
it is inevitable that those who cling to the belief that they do not interpret 
Plato but simply accept what he said make it impossible for themselves to 
examine their interpretations critically. 

(5) The facts that make Burnet's methodology inapplicable and force 
him and all others to interpret what Plato said, are, of course, the contradictions 
in Plato's alleged portrait of Socrates. Even if we accept the principle that 
we have no better evidence than Plato's, we are forced by the internal 
contradictions in his writing not to take him at his word, and to give up the 
assumption that he * really meant what he said '. If a witness involves himself 
in contradictions, then we cannot accept his testimony without interpreting 
it, even if he is the best witness available. I give first only two examples of 
such internal contradictions. 

(a) The Socrates of the Apology makes a direct and clear statement that 
he is not interested in natural philosophy (and therefore not a Pythagorean) : 
' The simple truth is, O Athenians, that I have nothing whatever to do with 
speculations about nature.* Socrates asserts that many who are present 
at the trial could testify to the truth of this statement ; they have heard him 
speak, but neither in few nor in many words has anybody ever heard him speak 
about matters of natural philosophy. (Ap., 19, c-d.) On the other hand, 
we have (a') the Phaedo and the Republic. In these dialogues, Socrates appears 
as a Pythagorean philosopher of ' nature ' ; so much so that both Burnet and 
Taylor maintain that he was in fact a leading member of the Pythagorean 
school of thought. 

Now I hold that (a) and (a') flatly contradict each other ; and this 
situation is made worse by the fact that the dramatic date of the Republic is 
earlier and that of the Phaedo later than that of the Apology. This makes it 
impossible to reconcile (a) with (a') by assuming that Socrates either gave up 
Pythagoreanism in the last years of his life, between the Republic and the 
Apology, or that he was converted to Pythagoreanism in the last month of his 

I do not pretend that there is no way of removing this contradiction by 
some assumption or interpretation. Burnet and Taylor may have reasons, 
perhaps even good reasons, for trusting the Phaedo and the Republic rather 
than the Apology. (But they ought to realize that, assuming the correctness 
of Plato's portrait, any doubt of Socrates' veracity in the Apology makes of 
him one who lies for the sake of saving his skin.) Such questions, however, 
do not concern me at the moment. My point is rather that in accepting 
evidence (a') as against (a), Burnet and Taylor are forced to abandon their 
fundamental methodological assumption ' that Plato really meant what he 
said * ; they must interpret. 


But interpretations made unawares must be uncritical ; this can be 
illustrated by the use made by Burnet and Taylor of Aristophanes' evidence. 
They hold that Aristophanes' jests would be pointless if Socrates had not been 
a natural philosopher. But it so happens that Socrates (I always assume, 
with Burnet .and Taylor, that the Apology is historical) foresaw this very 
argument. In his apology, he warned his judges against precisely this very 
interpretation of Aristophanes, insisting most earnestly (Ap., igc, ff. ; see also 
aoc-e) that he had neither little nor much to do with natural philosophy, but 
simply nothing at all. Socrates felt as if he were fighting against shadows 
in this matter, against the shadows of the past (Ap., i8d-e) ; but we now can 
say that he was also fighting the shadows of the future. For when he chal- 
lenged his fellow-citizens to come forward those who believed Aristophanes 
and dared to call Socrates a liar not one came. It was 2,300 years before some 
Platonists made up their minds to answer his challenge. 

(b) In the Apology (4oc, ff.) Socrates takes up an agnostic attitude towards 
the problem of survival ; (b') the Phaedo consists mainly of elaborate proofs 
of the immortality of the soul. This difficulty is discussed by Burnet (in his 
edition of the Phaedo ', 1911, pp. xlviii ff.), in a way which does not convince 
me at all. (Cp. notes 9 to chapter 7, and 44 to the present chapter.) But 
whether he is right or not, his own discussion proves that he is forced to give 
up his methodological principle and to interpret what Plato says. 

(d) Apart from these two flagrant contradictions, I may mention two 
further contradictions which could easily be neglected by those who do not 
believe that the Seventh Letter is genuine, but which seem to me fatal to Burnet 
who maintains that the Seventh Letter is authentic. Burnet's view (untenable 
even if we neglect this letter ; cp. for the whole question note 26 (5) to chapter 
3) that Socrates but not Plato held the theory of Forms, is contradicted in 
342a, ff. of this letter ; and his view that the Republic, more especially, is 
Socratic, in 326a (cp. note 14 to chapter 7). Of course, all these difficulties 
could be removed, but only by interpretation. 

(e) There are a number of similar although at the same time more subtle 
and more important contradictions which have been discussed at some length 
in previous chapters, especially in chapters 6, 7 and 8. I may sum up the 
most important of these. 

(e^ The attitude towards men, especially towards the young, changes 
in Plato's portrait in a way which cannot be Socrates' development. Socrates 
died for the right to talk freely to the young, whom he loved. But in the 
Republic, we find him taking up an attitude of condescension and distrust 
which resembles the disgruntled attitude of the Athenian Stranger (admittedly 
Plato himself) in the Laws and the general distrust of mankind expressed so 
often in this work. (Cp. text to notes 17-18 to chapter 4 ; 18-21 to chapter 
7 ; and 57-58 to chapter 8.) 

(e 2 ) The same sort of thing can be said about Socrates' attitude towards 
truth and free speech. He died for it. But in the Republic, ' Socrates ' 
advocates lying ; in the admittedly Platonic Statesman, a lie is offered as truth, 
and in the Laws, free thought is suppressed by the establishment of an 
Inquisition. (Gp. the same places as before, and furthermore notes 1-23 
and 40-41 to chapter 8 ; and note 55 to the present chapter.) 

(* 3 ) The Socrates of the Apology and some other dialogues is intellectually 
modest ; in the Phaedo, he changes into a man who is assured of the truth of his 
metaphysical speculations. In the Republic, he is a dogmatist, adopting an atti- 
tude not far removed from the petrified authoritarianism of the Statesman and of 
the Laws. (Gp. text to notes 8-14 to chapter 7 ; and 15 and 33 to chapter 8.) 

(* 4 ) The Socrates of the Apology is an individualist ; he believes in the 
self-sufficiency of the human individual. In the Gorgias, he is still an indivi- 
dualist. In the Republic^ he is a radical collectivism very similar to Plato's 


position in the Laws. (Cp. notes 25 and 35 to chapter 5 ; text to notes 26, 
32, 36 and 48-54 to chapter 6 and note 45 to the present chapter.) 

(e 5 ) Again we can say similar things about Socrates' equalitarianism. In 
the Menoy he recognizes that a slave participates in the general intelligence 
of all human beings, and that he can be taught even pure mathematics ; in 
the Gorgias, he defends the equalitarian theory of justice. But in the Republic, 
he despises workers and slaves and is as much opposed to equalitarianism as 
is Plato in the Timaeus and in the Laws. (Cp. the passages mentioned under 
(* 4 ) ; furthermore, notes 18 and 29 to chapter 4 ; note 10 to chapter 7, and 
note 50 (3) to chapter 8, where Timaeus, 510 is quoted.) 

(0 6 ) The Socrates of the Apology and Crito is loyal to Athenian democracy. 
In the Meno and in the Gorgias (cp. note 45 to this chapter) there are suggestions 
of a hostile criticism ; in the Republic (and, I believe, in the Menexenus), he is 
an open enemy of democracy ; and although Plato expresses himself more 
cautiously in the Statesman and in the beginning of the Laws, his political 
tendencies in the later part of the Laws are admittedly (cp. text to note 32 to 
chapter 6) identical with those of the ' Socrates ' of the Republic. (Cp. notes 
53 and 55 to the present chapter and notes 7 and 14-18 to chapter 4.) 

The last point may be further supported by the following. It seems that 
Socrates, in the Apology, is not merely loyal to Athenian democracy, but that 
he appeals directly to the democratic party by pointing out that Chaerephon, 
one of the most ardent of his disciples, belonged to their ranks. Chaerephon 
plays a decisive part in the Apology, since by approaching the Oracle, he is 
instrumental in Socrates' recognition of his mission in life, and thereby ulti- 
mately in Socrates' refusal to compromise with the Demos. Socrates intro- 
duces this important person by emphasizing the fact (Apol. 9 soe/2ia) that 
Chaerephon was not only his friend, but also a friend of the people, whose 
exile he shared, and with whom he returned (presumably, he participated 
in the fight against the Thirty) ; that is to say, Socrates chooses as the main 
witness for his defence an ardent democrat. (There is some independent 
evidence for Chaerephon's sympathies, such as in Aristophanes' Clouds, 104, 
501 ff.) Why does Socrates emphasize his relations with a militant member 
of the democratic party ? We cannot assume that this was merely special 
pleading, intended to move his judges to be more merciful : the whole spirit 
of his apology is against this assumption. The most likely hypothesis is that 
Socrates, by pointing out that he had disciples in the democratic camp, 
intended to deny, by implication, the charge (which also was only implied) 
that he was a follower of the aristocratic party and a teacher of tyrants. The 
spirit of the Apology excludes the assumption that Socrates was pleading 
friendship with a democratic leader without being truly sympathetic with the 
democratic cause. And the same conclusion must be drawn from the passage 
(Apol., 32b~d) in which he emphasizes his faith in democratic legality, and 
denounces the Thirty in no uncertain terms. 

(6) It is simply the internal evidence of the Platonic dialogues which 
forces us to assume that they are not entirely historical. We must therefore 
attempt to interpret this evidence, by proffering theories which can be critically 
compared with the evidence, using the method of trial and error. Now we 
have very strong reason to believe that the Apology is in the main historical, 
for it is the only dialogue which describes a public occurrence of considerable 
importance and well known to a great number of people. On the other hand, 
we know that the Laws are Plato's latest work (apart from the doubtful 
Epinomis), and that they are frankly ' Platonic J . It is, therefore, the simplest 
assumption that the dialogues will be historical or Socratic so far as they 
agree with the tendencies of the Apology, and Platonic where they contradict 
these tendencies. (This assumption brings us practically back to the position 
which I have described above as the * older solution * of the Socratic Problem.) 


If we consider the tendencies mentioned above under (e^) to (* 6 ), we 
find that we can easily order the most important of the dialogues in such a 
way that for any single of these tendencies the similarity with the Socratic 
Apology decreases and that with the Platonic Laws increases. This is the 

Apology and Crito Meno Gorgias Phaedo Republic Statesman Timaeus 

Now the fact that this series orders the dialogues according to all the 
tendencies (e^) to (e 6 ) is in itself a corroboration of the theory that we are 
here faced with a development in Plato's thought. But we can get quite 
independent evidence. ' Stylometric ' investigations show that our series 
agrees with the chronological order in which Plato wrote the dialogues. Lastly, 
the series, at least up to the Timaeus, exhibits also a continually increasing 
interest in Pythagoreanism (and Eleaticism). This must therefore be another 
tendency in the development of Plato's thought. 

A very different argument is this. We know, from Plato's own testimony 
in the Phaedo, that Antisthenes was one of Socrates' most intimate friends ; 
and we also know that Antisthenes claimed to preserve the true Socratic 
creed. It is hard to believe that Antisthenes would have been a friend of the 
Socrates of the Republic. Thus we must find a common point of departure 
for the teaching of Antisthenes and Plato ; and this common point we find 
in the Socrates of the Apology and Crito, and in some of the doctrines put into 
the mouth of the * Socrates ' of the Meno, Gorgias, and Phaedo. 

These arguments are entirely independent of any work of Plato's which 
has ever been seriously doubted (as the Alcibiades I or the Theages or the 
Letters). They are also independent of the testimony of Xenophon. They 
are based solely upon the internal evidence of some of the most famous Platonic 
dialogues. But they agree with this secondary evidence, especially with the 
Seventh Letter, where in a sketch of his own mental development (325 f.), Plato 
even refers, unmistakably, to the key-passage of the Republic as his own central 
discovery : * I had to state . . that . . never will the human race be saved 
from its plight before either the race of the genuine and qualified philosophers 
gains political power, or the kings in the cities become genuine philosophers, 
with the help of God.' ft (3263 ; cp. note 14 to chapter 7, and (d) in this note, 
above.) I cannot see how it is possible with Burnet to accept this letter as 
genuine without admitting that the central doctrine of the Republic is Plato's, 
not Socrates' ; that is to say, without giving up the fiction that Plato's portrait 
of Socrates in the Republic is historical. (For further evidence, cp. for instance 
Aristotle, Sophist. EL, iSsby : ' Socrates raised questions, but gave no answers ; 
for he confessed that he did not know.' This agrees with the Apology, but 
hardly with the Gorgias, and certainly not with the Phaedo or the Republic. See 
furthermore Aristotle's famous report on the history of the theory of Ideas, 
admirably discussed by Field, op. cit. ; cp. also note 26 to chapter 3.) 

(7) Against evidence of this character, the type of evidence used by 
Burnet and Taylor can have little weight. The following is an example. 
As evidence for his opinion, that Plato was politically more moderate than 
Socrates, and that Plato's family was rather ' Whiggish ', Burnet uses the 
argument that a member of Plato's family was named ' Demos '. (Gp. Gorg., 
4816, 5i3b. It is, however, doubtful whether Demos' father Pyrilampes 
there mentioned is really identical with Plato's uncle and stepfather mentioned 
in Charm., 58a, and Parm., i26b, i.e. whether Demos was a relation of Plato's.) 
What weight can this evidence have, I ask, compared with the historical 
record of Plato's two tyrant uncles ; with the extant political fragments of 
Gritias (which remain in the family even if Burnet were right, which he hardly 
is, in attributing them to his grandfather ; cp. Greek Phil., I, 338, note i) ; 
with the fact that Critias' father had belonged to the Oligarchy of the Four 


Hundred (Lys., 12, 66) ; and with Plato's own writings which combine 
family pride with not only anti-democratic but even anti-Athenian tendencies ? 
(Gp. the eulogy, in Timaeus, 2oa, of an enemy of Athens like Hermocrates of 
Sicily, father-in-law of Dionysius I.) The hidden purpose behind this argu- 
ment is, of course, to strengthen the theory that the Republic is Socratic. 
Another example of bad method may be taken from Taylor, who argues 
(Socrates, note 2 on pp. 148 f. ; cp. also p. 162) in favour of the view that the 
Phaedo is Socratic (cp. my note 9 to chapter 7) : * In the Phaedo . . the doctrine 
that " learning is just recognition " is expressly said by Simmias ' (this is a 
slip of Taylor's pen ; the speaker is Gebes) ' speaking to Socrates, to be 
" the doctrine you are so constantly repeating." Unless we are willing to 
regard the Phaedo as a gigantic and unpardonable mystification, this seems 
to me proof that the theory really belongs to Socrates.' (For a similar argu- 
ment, see Burnet's edition of the Phaedo, p. xii, end of chapter II.) On this 
I wish to make the following comments : (a) It is here assumed that Plato 
considered himself when writing this passage as a historian, for otherwise his 
statement would not be ' a gigantic and unpardonable mystification ' ; in 
other words, the most questionable and the most central point of the theory 
is assumed, (b) But even if Plato had considered himself a historian (I do 
not think that he did), the expression " a gigantic . . etc.' seems to be too 
strong. Taylor, not Plato, puts ' you J in italics. Plato might only have 
wished to indicate that he is going to assume that the readers of the dialogue 
are acquainted with this theory. Or he might have intended to refer to the 
Meno, and thus to himself. (This is the explanation which appears to me the 
most acceptable of all.) Or his pen might have slipped for some other reason. 
Such things are bound to occur, even to historians. Burnet, to give an 
example, certainly did consider himself a historian when he wrote in his 
Greek Philosophy, I, 64, of Xenophanes : ' the story that he founded the Eleatic 
school seems to be derived from a playful remark of Plato's which would 
also prove Homer to have been a Heraclitean.' To this, Burnet adds the 
footnote: 'Plato, Soph., 242d. See E. Gr. Ph. 2 , p. 140'. Now I believe 
that this statement of a historian clearly implies three things, (i) that the 
passage of Plato which refers to Xenophanes is playful, i.e. not meant seriously, 

(2) that this playfulness manifests itself in the reference to Homer, that is, 

(3) by remarking that he was a Heraclitean, which would, of course, be a 
very playful remark since Homer lived long before Heraclitus. But none of 
these three implications can be upheld. For we find, (i) that the passage 
in the Sophist (242d) which refers to Xenophanes is not playful, but is especially 
recommended by Burnet himself in the methodological appendix to his 
Early Greek Philosophy as being important and as full of valuable historical 
information ; (2) that it contains no reference at all to Homer, and (3) that 
another passage which does contain this reference (Theaet., 1796) and with 
which Burnet mistakenly identified Sophist 242d in Greek Philosophy, I (the 
mistake is not made in his Early Greek Philosophy 2 ), does not refer to Xenophanes, 
nor to Homer as a Heraclitean ; but it says just the opposite, namely, that 
some of Heraclitus' ideas are as old as Homer (which is, of course, much less 
playful). This heap of misunderstandings, misinterpretations, and mis- 
quotations can be found in one single historical remark of such an outstanding 
professional historian as Burnet. From this we must learn that such things 
do happen, even with the best of historians : all men are fallible. (A more 
serious example of this kind of fallibility is the one discussed in note 26 (5) to 
chapter 3.) But if that is so, can it be right, I ask, to dismiss the possibility 
of a comparatively minor mistake in a statement made by Plato (who perhaps 
had no idea that his dramatic dialogues would ever be considered as historical 
evidence) or to argue that such a mistake would be a * gigantic and unpardon- 
able mystification * ? This kind of special pleading is not sound methodology* 


(8) The chronological order of those Platonic dialogues which play a 
r6le in these arguments is here assumed to be nearly the same as that of the 
stylometric list of Lutoslawski (The Origin and Growth of Plato 9 s Logic, 1897). 
A list of those dialogues which play a role in the text of this book will be 
found in note 5 to chapter 3. It is drawn up in such a way that there is more 
uncertainty of date within each group than between the groups. A minor 
deviation from the stylometric list is the position of the Eutyphro which for 
reasons of its content (discussed in text to note 60 to this chapter) appears to 
me to be probably later than the Crito ; but this point is of little importance. 
(Cp. also note 47 to this chapter.) 

67 There is a famous and rather puzzling passage in the Second Letter 
(314x1) : ' There is no writing of Plato nor will there ever be. What goes 
by his name really belongs to Socrates turned young and handsome.' The 
most likely solution of this puzzle is that the passage, if not the whole letter, 
is spurious. (Gp. Field, Plato and His Contemporaries, 200 f., where he gives 
an admirable summary of the reasons for suspecting the letter, and especially 
the passages ' 3i2d~3i3c and possibly down to 3i4c ' ; concerning 314*:, an 
additional reason is, perhaps, that the forger might have intended to allude 
to, or to give his interpretation of, a somewhat similar remark in the Seventh 
Letter, 341 b/c, quoted in note 32 to chapter 8.) But if for a moment we assume 
with Burnet (Greek Philosophy, I, 212) that the passage is genuine, then the 
remark ' turned young and handsome ' certainly raises a problem, especially 
as it cannot be taken literally since Socrates is presented in all the Platonic 
dialogues as old and ugly (the only exception is the Parmenides, where he is 
hardly handsome, although still young). If genuine, the puzzling remark 
would mean that Plato quite intentionally gave an idealized and not a historical 
account of Socrates ; and it would fit our interpretation quite well to see that 
Plato was indeed conscious of re-interpreting Socrates as a young and handsome 
aristocrat who is, of course, Plato himself. (Gp. also note 1 1 (2) to chapter 4, 
note 20 (i) to chapter 6, and note 50 (3) to chapter 8.) 

58 I am quoting from the first paragraph of Davies and Vaughan's 
Introductory Note to their translation of the Republic. Gp. Grossman, Plato 
To-Day, 96. 

59 (i) The ' division ' or ' split ' in Plato's soul is one of the most outstand- 
ing impressions of the Republic. Only a man who had to struggle hard for 
upholding his self-control or the rule of his reason over his animal instincts, 
could emphasize this point as much as Plato did ; cp. especially the passages 
referred to in note 34 to chapter 5 and note 15 (i)-(4) ; 17 ; and 19, to 
chapter 3, which not only show an amazing similarity with psycho-analytical 
doctrines, but might also be claimed to exhibit strong symptoms of repression. 
(Cp. also the beginning of Book IX.) 

Those Platonists who are not prepared to admit that from Plato's longing 
and clamouring for unity and harmony and unisonity, we may conclude that 
he was' himself disunited and disharmonious, may be reminded that this 
way of arguing was invented by Plato. (Gp. Symposium, 2Ooa, f., where 
Socrates argues that it is a necessary and not a probable inference that he who 
loves or desires does not possess what he loves and desires.) 

What I have called Plato's political theory of the soul (see also text to note 32 
to chapter 5), i.e. the division of the soul according to the class-divided society, 
has long remained the basis of most psychologies. It is the basis of psycho- 
analysis too. According to Freud's theory, what Plato had called the ruling 
part of the soul tries to uphold its tyranny by a ' censorship ', while the 
rebellious proletarian animal-instincts, which correspond to the social under- 
world, really exercise a hidden dictatorship ; for they determine the policy 
of the apparent ruler. Since Heraclitus' ' flux ' and ' war *>Jthe realm of 
social experience has strongly influenced the theories, metaphors, arid symbols' 


by which we interpret the world (and ourselves) to ourselves. I mention 
only Darwin's adoption (under the influence of Malthus) of the theory of 

(2) A remark may be added here on mysticism, its relation to the closed 
and open society and to the strain of civilization. 

As McTaggart has shown, in his excellent study Mysticism (cp. Philosophical 
Studies, edited by S. V. Keeling, 1934, esp. pp. 47 f.), the fundamental ideas of 
mysticism are two : (a) the doctrine of the mystic union, i.e., the assertion that 
there is a greater unity in the world of realities than that which we recognize 
in the world of ordinary experience, and (b) the doctrine of the mystic intuition, 
i.e. the assertion that there is a way of knowing which * brings the known 
into closer and more direct relation with what is known * than is the relation 
between the knowing subject and the known object in ordinary experience. 
McTaggart rightly asserts (p. 48) that ' of these two characteristics the mystic 
unity is the more fundamental ', since the mystic intuition is ' an example 
of the mystic unity \ We may add that a third characteristic, less funda- 
mental still, is (c) the mystic love, which is an example of mystic unity and mystic 

Now it is interesting (and this has not been seen by McTaggart) that in 
the history of Greek Philosophy, the doctrine of the mystic unity was first 
clearly asserted by Parmenides in his holistic doctrine of the one (cp. note 41 
to the present chapter) ; next by Plato, who added an elaborate doctrine of 
mystic intuition and communion with the divine (cp. chapter 8), of which 
doctrine there are just the very first beginnings in Parmenides ; and next 
by the Neo-Platonics who elaborated the doctrine of the mystic love, of which 
only the beginning can be found in Plato (for example, in his doctrine, Rep., 
475 ff., that the philosopher loves truth, which is closely connected with the 
doctrines of holism and the philosopher's communion with the divine truth). 

In view of these facts and of our historical analysis, we are led to interpret 
mysticism as one of the typical reactions to the breakdown of the closed 
society ; a reaction which, in its origin at least, is directed against the open 
society, and which may be described as an escape into the dream of a paradise 
in which the tribal unity reveals itself as the unchanging reality. 

This interpretation is in direct conflict with that of Bergson in his Two 
Sources of Morality and Religion ; for Bergson asserts that it is mysticism which 
makes the leap from the closed to the open society. 

It may be remarked that in the nineteenth century, especially in Hegel 
and Bergson, we find an evolutionary mysticism, which, by extolling change 
seems to stand in direct opposition to Parmenides' and Plato's hatred of 
change. And yet, the underlying expedience of these two forms of mysticism 
seems to be the same, as shown by the fact, that an over-emphasis on change 
is common to both. Both are reactions to the frightening experience of social 
change ; the one combined with the hope that change may be arrested the 
other with a somewhat hysterical (and undoubtedly ambivalent) acceptance 
of change as real, essential and welcome. Gp. also notes 29, 32 and 58 to 
chapter 24. - 

60 The Eutyphro, an early dialogue, is usually interpreted as an unsuccessful 
attempt of Socrates to define piety. Eutyphro himself is the caricature of a 
popular ' pietist ' who knows exactly what the gods wish. To Socrates' 
question ' What is piety and what is impiety ? ' he is made to answer : * Piety 
is acting as I do ! That is to say, prosecuting any one guilty of murder, 
sacrilege, or of any similar crime, whether he be your father or your mother . . ; 
while not to prosecute them is impiety ' (5, d/e.) Eutyphro is presented as 
prosecuting his father for having murdered a serf. (According to the evidence 
quoted by Grote, Plato, I, note to p. 312, every citizen was bound by Attic 
law to prosecute in such cases.) 


81 Menexenus, 23513. Cp. note 35 to this chapter. 

62 The claim that if you want security you must give up liberty has become 
a mainstay of the revolt against freedom. But nothing is less true. There 
is, of course, no absolute security in life. But what security can be attained 
depends on our own watchfulness, enforced by institutions to help us watch 
i.e. by democratic institutions which are devised (using Platonic language) to 
enable the herd to watch, and to judge, their watch-dogs. 

63 With the * variations ' and ' irregularities ', cp. Republic, 547a, quoted 
in the text to notes 39 and 40 to chapter 5. Plato's obsession with the problems 
of propagation and birth control may perhaps be explained in part by the fact 
that he understood the implications of population growth. Indeed (cp. text to 
note 7 to this chapter) the * Fall ', the loss of the tribal paradise, is caused by 
a ' natural ' or ' original ' fault of man, as it were : by a maladjustment in his 
natural rate of breeding. Cp. also notes 39 (3) to ch. 5, and 34 to ch. 4. 
With the next quotation further below in this paragraph, cp. Republic, 5666, 
and text to note 20 to chapter 4. Grossman, whose treatment of the period 
of tyranny in Greek history is excellent (cp. Plato To-Day, 27-30), writes : 
' Thus it was the tyrants who really created the Greek State. They broke 
down the old tribal organization of primitive aristocracy . .' (op. cit., 29). 
This explains why Plato hated tyranny, perhaps even more than freedom : 
cp. Republic, 57 7c. (See, however, note 69 to this chapter.) His passages 
on tyranny, especially 565-568, are a brilliant sociological analysis of a con- 
sistent po\\er-politich. I should like to call it the first attempt towards a 
logic ofpowei. (I chose this term in analogy to F. A. von Hayek's use of the 
term logic of choice for the pure economic theory.) The logic of power is fairly 
simple, and has often been applied in a masterly way. The opposite kind of 
politics is much more difficult ; partly because the logic of anti-power politics, 
i.e. the logic of freedom, is hardly understood yet. 

64 It is well known that most of Plato's political proposals, including 
the proposed communism of women and children, were ' in the air ' in the 
Periclean period. Gp. the excellent summary in Adam's edition of the 
Republic, vol. I, pp. 354 f. 

66 Gp. V. Pareto, Treatise on General Sociology, 1843 (English translation : 
The Mind and Society, 1935, vol. Ill, pp. 1281) ; cp. note i to chapter 13, where 
the passage is quoted more fully. 

86 Cp. the effect which Glaucon's presentation of Lycophron's theory had 
on Carncades (cp. note 54 to chapter 6), and later, on Hobbes. The professed 
' a-morality ' of so many Marxists is also a case in point. Leftists frequently 
believe in their own immorality. (This, although not much to the point, is 
sometimes more modest and more pleasant than the dogmatic self-righteousness 
of many reactionary moralists.) 

67 Money is one of the symbols as well as one of the difficulties of the open 
society. There is no doubt that we have not yet mastered the rational control 
of its use ; its greatest misuse is that it can buy political power. (The most 
direct form of this misuse is the institution of the slave-market ; but just 
this institution is defended in Republic, 56$b ; cp. note 17 to chapter 4 ; and 
in the Laws, Plato is not against money ; cp. note 20 (i) to chapter 6.) From 
the point of view of an individualistic society, money is fairly important. 
It is part of the institution of the (partially) free market, which gives the consumer 
some measure of control over production. Without some such institution, 
the producer may control the market to such a degree that he ceases to produce 
for the sake of consumption, while the consumer consumes largely for the sake 
of production. The sometimes glaring misuse of money has made us rather 
sensitive on this point, and Plato's opposition between money and friendship 
is only the first of many conscious or unconscious attempts to utilize these 
sentiments for the purpose of political propaganda. 

CHAPTER lO/NOTES 68/70 267 

68 The group-spirit of tribalism is, of course, not entirely lost. It manifests 
itself, for instance, in the most valuable experienc es of friendship and comradeship ; 
also, in youthful tribalistic movements like the boy-scouts (or the German 
Youth Movement), and in certain clubs and adult societies, as described, for 
instance, by Sinclair Lewis in Babbitt. The importance of this perhaps most 
universal of all emotional and aesthetic experiences must not be underrated. 
Nearly all social movements, totalitarian as well as humanitarian, are 
influenced by it. It plays an important role in war, and is one of the most 
powerful weapons of the revolt against freedom. A conscious and not unsuc- 
cessful attempt to revive it for the purpose of arresting society and of perpetuat- 
ing a class rule seems to have been the English Public School System. (' No 
one can grow up to be a good man unless his earliest years were given to 
noble games ' is its motto, taken from Republic, 558b.) 

Another product and symptom of the loss of the tribalistic group-spirit 
is, of course, Plato's emphasis upon the analogy between politics and medicine 
(cp. chapter 8, especially note 4), an emphasis which expresses the feeling 
that the body of society is sick, i.e. the feeling of strain, of drift. ' From the 
time of Plato on, the minds of political philosophers seem to have recurred 
to this comparison between medicine and politics,' says G. E. G. Catlin (A 
Study of the Principles of Politics, 1930, note to 458, where Thomas Aquinas, 
G. Santayana, and Dean Inge are quoted to support his statement ; cp. also 
the quotations in op. cit. 9 note to 37, from Mill's Logic}. Gatlin also speaks 
most characteristically (op. cit., 459) of ' harmony ' and of the ' desire for 
protection, whether assured by the mother or by society '. (Gp. also note 
1 8 to chapter 5.) 

69 Gp. chapter 7 (note 24 and text ; see Athen., XI, 508) for the names of 
seven such disciples of Plato (including Dionysius II and Dio). I suppose 
that Plato's repeated insistence upon the use, riot only of force, but of s per- 
suasion and force ' (cp. Laws, 722b, and notes 5, 10, and 18 to chapter 8), was 
meant as a criticism of the tactics of the Thirty, whose propaganda was 
indeed primitive. But this would imply that Plato was well aware of Pareto's 
recipe for utilizing sentiments instead of fighting them. That Plato's friend 
Dio (cp. note 25 to chapter 7) ruled Syracuse as a tyrant is admitted even by 
Meyer in his defence of Dio whose fate he explains, in spite of his admiration 
for Plato as a politician, by pointing out the ' gulf between ' (the Platonic) 
4 theory and practice' (op. cit., V, 999). Meyer says of Dio (he. cit.), 'The 
ideal king had become, externally, inciistinguibhable from the contemptible 
tyrant.' But he believes that, internally as it were, Dio remained an idealist, 
and that he suffered deeply when political necessity forced murder and 
similar measures upon him. I think, however, that Dio acted according to 
Plato's theory ; a theory which, by the logic of power, was driven in the 
Laws to admit even the goodness of tyranny (7096, ff. At the same place, 
there may also be a suggestion that the debacle of the Thirty was due to their 
great number : Gritias alone would have been all right). 

70 The tribal paradise is, of course, a myth (although some primitive 
people, most of all the Eskimos, seem to be happy enough). There may 
have been no sense of drift in the closed society, but there is ample evidence 
of other forms of fear fear of demoniac powers behind nature. The attempt 
to revive this fear, and to use it against the intellectuals, the scientists, etc., 
characterizes many late manifestations of the revolt against freedom. It 
is to the credit of Plato, the disciple of Socrates, that it never occurred to him 
to present his enemies as the offspring of the sinister demons of darkness. 
In this point, he remained enlightened. He had little inclination to idealize 
the evil which was to him simply debased, or degenerate, or impoverished 
goodness. (Only in one passage in the Laws, 8g6e and 8g8c, there is what 
may be a suggestion of an abstract idealization of evil.) 


A note may be added here in connection with my remark on the return 
to the beasts. Since the intrusion of Darwinism into the field of human problems 
(an intrusion for which Darwin should not be blamed) there have been many 
' social zoologists ' who have proved that the human race is bound to degenerate 
physically, because insufficient physical competition, and the possibility of 
protecting the body by the efforts of the mind, prevent natural selection from 
acting upon our bodies. The first to formulate this idea (not that he believed 
in it) was Samuel Butler, who wrote : c The one serious danger which this 
writer ' (an Erewhonian writer) ' apprehended was that the machines ' (and, 
we may add, civilization in general) * would so . . lessen the severity of 
competition, that many persons of inferior physique would escape detection 
and transmit their inferiority to their descendants.' (Erewkon, 1872 ; cp. 
Everyman's edition, p. 161.) The first as far as I know to write a bulky 
volume on this problem was W. Schallmayer, one of the founders of modern 
racialism. In fact, Butler's theory has been continually rediscovered (especi- 
ally by ' biological naturalists ' in the sense of chapter 5, above). According 
to a modern writer (G. H. Eastbrooks, Man : The Mechanical Misfit, 1941), 
man made the decisive mistake when he became civilized, and especially 
when he began to help the weak ; before this, he was an almost perfect man- 
beast ; but civilization, with its artificial methods of protection, must ultimately 
destroy itself. In reply to such arguments, we should, I think, first admit 
that man is likely to disappear one day from this world ; but we should add 
that this is also true of even the most perfect beasts, to say nothing of those 
which are only ' almost perfect '. The theory that the human race might 
have lived a little longer if it had not made the fatal mistake of helping the 
weak is most questionable ; but even if it were true is mere length of survival 
of the race really all we want ? Or is the almost perfect man-beast so eminently 
valuable that we should prefer a prolongation of his existence (he did exist 
for quite a long time, anyway) to our experiment of helping the weak ? 

Mankind, I believe, has not done so badly. In spite of the treason of 
some of its intellectual leaders, in spite of the stupefying effects of Platonic 
methods in education and the devastating results of propaganda, there have 
been some amazing successes. Many of the weak have been helped, and for 
a hundred years, slavery has been practically abolished. Some say it will 
soon be re-introduced. I feel more optimistic ; and after all, it will depend 
on ourselves. But even if all this should be lost again, and even if we had to 
return to the almost perfect man-beast, all this would not alter the fact that 
slavery once, for a short time, disappeared from the face of the earth. This 
fact, I believe, may comfort some of us for all our misfits, mechanical and 
otherwise ; and to some of us it may even atone for the fatal mistake our 
forefathers made when they missed the golden opportunity of arresting all 
change of returning to the cage of the closed society and of establishing, for 
ever and ever, a huge zoo of almost perfect monkeys.