[Rushtalk] Food for thought?

John Nebel john.nebel at csdco.com
Mon Feb 15 08:03:04 MST 2016

The Republic (Plato) 488a

I shall answer you in a parable which will also let you see how poor a 
hand I am at the invention of allegories. The relation of good men to 
their governments is so peculiar, that in order to defend them I must 
take an illustration from the world of fiction. Conceive the captain of 
a ship, taller by a head and shoulders than any of the crew, yet a 
little deaf, a little blind, and rather ignorant of the seaman's art. 
The sailors want to steer, although they know nothing of the art; and 
they have a theory that it cannot be learned. If the helm is refused 
them, they drug the captain's posset, bind him hand and foot, and take 
possession of the ship. He who joins in the mutiny is termed a good 
pilot and what not; they have no conception that the true pilot must 
observe the winds and the stars, and must be their master, whether they 
like it or not;—such an one would be called by them fool, prater, 
star-gazer. This is my parable; which I will beg you to interpret for me 
to those gentlemen who ask why the philosopher has such an evil name, 
and to explain to them that not he, but those who will not use him, are 
to blame for his uselessness. The philosopher should not beg of mankind 
to be put in authority over them. The wise man should not seek the rich, 
as the proverb bids, but every man, whether rich or poor, must knock at 
the door of the physician when he has need of him. Now the pilot is the 
philosopher—he whom in the parable they call star-gazer, and the 
mutinous sailors are the mob of politicians by whom he is rendered 
useless. Not that these are the worst enemies of philosophy, who is far 
more dishonoured by her own professing sons when they are corrupted by 
the world. Need I recall the original image of the philosopher? Did we 
not say of him just now, that he loved truth and hated falsehood, and 
that he could not rest in the multiplicity of phenomena, but was led by 
a sympathy in his own nature to the contemplation of the absolute? All 
the virtues as well as truth, who is the leader of them, took up their 
abode in his soul. But as you were observing, if we turn aside to view 
the reality, we see that the persons who were thus described, with the 
exception of a small and useless class, are utter rogues.

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