downloadSocrates: Education is not what the professions of certain men assert it to be. They presumably assert that they put into the soul knowledge that isn’t in it, as though they were putting sight into the blind.

Glaucon: Yes, they do indeed assert that.

Socrates: But the present argument, on the other hand indicates that this power is in the soul of each, and that the instrument with which each learns–just as an eye is not able to turn toward the light from the dark without the whole body–must be turned around from that which is coming into being together with the whole soul until it is able to endure looking at that which is and the brightest part of that which is. And we affirm that this is the good, don’t we?

Glaucon: Yes.

Socrates: There would, therefore, be an art of this turning around, concerned with the way in which this power can most easily and efficiently be turned around, not an art of producing sight in it. Rather, this art takes as given that sight is there, but not rightly turned nor looking at what it ought to look at, and accomplishes this object.

Glaucon: So it seems.

Socrates: Therefore, the other virtues of a soul, as they are called, are probably somewhat close to those of the body. For they are really not there beforehand and are later produced by habits and exercises. while the virtue of exercising prudence is more than anything somehow more divine, it seems; it never loses its power, but according to the way it is turned, it becomes useful and helpful or, again, useless and harmful. Or haven’t you yet reflected about the men who are said to be vicious but wise, how shrewdly their petty soul sees and how sharply it distinguishes those things toward which it is turned, showing that it doesn’t have poor vision although it is compelled to serve vice: so that the sharper it sees, the more evil it accomplishes?

Glaucon: Most certainly.

Socrates: However, if this part of such a nature were trimmed in earliest childhood and its ties of kinship with becoming were cut off–like leaden weights, which eating and such pleasures as well as their refinements naturally attach to the soul and turn its vision downward–if, I say, it were rid of them and turned around toward the true things, this same part of the same human beings would also see them most sharply, just as it does those things toward which it now is turned.

Glaucon: It’s likely.

Socrates: And what about this? Isn’t it likely and necessary, as a consequence of what was said before, that those who are without education and experience of truth would never be adequate stewards of a city, nor would those who have been allowed to spend their time in education continuously to the end–the former because they don’t have any single goal in life at which they mist aim in doing everything they do in private or in public, the latter because they won’t be willing to act, believing they have emigrated to a colony on the Isles of the Blessed while are are still alive?

Glaucon: True. . . .

Socrates: It’s not the concern of the law that any one class in the city fare exceptionally well, but it contrives to bring this about in the city as a whole, harmonizing the citizens by persuasion and compulsion, making them share with one another the benefit that each is able to bring to the commonwealth. And it produces such men in the city not in order to let them turn whichever way each wants, but in order that it may use them in binding the city together.

–Plato, The Republic Book VII, trans. Allan Bloom, pages 197-198