If Marx was declared dead in 1990-91, he seemed to be resurrected in 2008. As Communist governments fell or were transformed, awkwardly, into pseudo-capitalist ones (as Russia did, and China had previously), capitalism appeared to have taken the day – Francis Fukuyama’s “end of history” had arrived. But in the inventing years, Marx retained his currency in academia because of his theoretical contributions to the critique of capitalism, and because the academic left was not as jubilant for the end of history as was the right. Then Marx was rehabilitated when capitalism’s structural flaws became apparent with the financial crisis.

Karl Marx (1818-1883)

All this is to situate Marx in the real world – I came to know his work during his brief afterlife in the 1990s. I remember first reading The Communist Manifesto at a campsite in Flagstaff Arizona and feeling somewhat subversive in that conservative state. Thus it is with some relish that I dust off (literally) my old copy of The Marx-Engles Reader. Marx was born at Trier, Prussia (later Germany) in 1818, studied at the Universities of Bonn and Berlin, and wrote his best-known work (though not his magnum opus), The Communist Manifesto in 1848 [Hawaiian connection]. He married Jenny von Westphalen, the daughter of a Baron, had several children, and lived in such dire poverty that some of the children died, though spies told of his caring, loving demeanor as a father. He lived in England and collaborated with Friedrich Engles, author of Condition of the Working Class in England.



Marx was one of the “Young Hegelians” who followed in the wake of that philosopher to whom Foucault said “all philosophy is a footnote.” Specifically, he was a “left Hegelian” using Hegel’s idea of the dialectic to show how advanced societies would move, in evolutionary fashion, toward socialism. The dialectic was, like a dialog, a conversation in which each element responds to the last and development occurs this way. This is as opposed to a “teleological,” or internally-driven form of development. According to Kedourie in Hegel and Marx: Introductory Lectures (1995), he saw himself as another Hegel, who, standing on his head, was set right by Marx. While Hegel invoked spirit with his weltgeist (world spirit) and zeitgeist (spirit of the times), Marx was, at root, a materialist; he viewed the material conditions of humanity as the basis of historical development itself – Marx’s “historical materialism.”


In his essay On the Jewish Question, Marx addressed the topic of private property. Specifically, he examined its relation to voting rights in the US. He applauded the state constitutions that had abolished private property as a voting requirement [Hawaiian connection], but questioned whether doing so actually sublimated the role of private property so that the privilege it afforded became invisible.


“A specter is haunting Europe; the specter of communism” (Marx, 1848). This quote and the final line from Marx’s Manifesto, “Workingmen of the world unite!” are seared into the minds of the (at one point) billions of people living under communist regimes. The sheer impact of Marxʻs work, both philosophically and in the real world explains the relevance of his thought and why many still visit his tomb in London.

Along with the posts on RousseauPlatoBaconMachiavelli, Said and Locke, this post, and many to follow, are part of an upcoming project (it’s not all philosophy!) – stay tuned.

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Edward Said

When I was an undergraduate, my Professor – David Dixon, who is the academic who is responsible for my going into political science – read from Edward Said:

“ʻOrientalism [was] a Western style for dominating, restructuring, and having authority over the Orient’ – one sentence like that can get you tenure at Columbia – it’s great!” But the back cover of the book says it most succinctly: “all [Orientalists] have a certain representation or idea of ʻthe Orient’ defined as being other than the ʻOccident’ [the West], mysterious, unchanging and ultimately inferior” (Hourani, 1978).

Foucault’s and Gramsci’s ideas of discourse and hegemony converge in the thought of Edward Said. Said finds it “useful to employ Foucault’s notion of a discourse” (Said, 1978, 3) – the dynamic exchange of ideas, statements, assertions which constitute for Foucault a form of power exchange he calls power/knowledge

Said’s metaphor of a cultural landscape (not insignificantly one that is global with few or no empty spaces) borrows from Gramsci’s application of Marxist thought to cultural space. Said thus relies on Gramsci’s translation and of Marx to make it adhere to an Italian context, i.e., to make it a realistic cultural representation. Said views, utilizing Gramsci, the replacement of “direct political control” with a kind of domination described as “cultural hegemony, ” consisting of “directive” or ruling ideas. (Said, 1993, 249)

Edward Said (1935-2003) was a Palestinian American from a Christian family, who was also a concert-level pianist and music critic. He was one of the founders of Postcolonial studies and professor of English (comparative literature) at Columbia University.

Said acknowledges his debt to Gramsci by explaining his use of an approach to scholarship forwarded in the Prison Notebooks. For Gramsci, History deposits in people traces – through heredity, family or other experiences – which accumulate to constitute a book, but this book contains no inventory. The scholar’s task is to compile this inventory, which is a task of interpretation. The reason for this task is to understand one’s own history in terms of “others’” history. It is a pluralistic project that illustrates Said’s commitment to secular, democratic and inclusive theoretical and political solutions. The goal then is effectively to become someone else, to forge a new identity that includes the inventory of the “other.”

Yet if Said prefers to locate the struggle on this idealistic landscape, it is a battlefield on which the “other” is at a disadvantage. While Said asserts that there is no “Archimedean point beyond the question from which to answer it … no vantage outside the actuality of relationships among cultures,” he engages in confrontation with the “West” from its own nucleus, and using its own language – that of literature. Said further acknowledges and describes a geographicity and a cultural dimension of Gramsci’s take on Marx. And it is in the realm of culture that Said makes his mark.

Despite Foucault’s interest in anti-colonial struggles, Said notes that he (as well as the theorists of the Frankfurt school) do not engage theoretically with imperialism, and retain a focus on Europe. As Said puts it, Foucault’s work is “drawn from what are considered exclusively Western sources … a theoretical oversight that is the norm in Western cultural and scientific disciplines.” (Said, 1993, 41.)

Said hints that what might be called the genealogy of theory is on the side of the oppressed. Using Lyotard’s definition of postmodernism – the “loss of the legitimizing power of Western emancipation and enlightenment,” Said suggests that the power of the Western literary narrative is on the wane, and that any renewed effort in this direction is merely reactionary (Said, 1993, 57)

Said acknowledges his debt to “a certain generation of French writers,” and “of them all … Foucault” whose method he describes in the words of R.P. Blackmur as “a technique of trouble.” (Said, 1975, 283) Said shares and admires Foucault’s view of history as “a succession of functional conditions that give rise to the existence not only of knowledge, but of man himself.” (Said, 1975, 238) Prefiguring his own notion of intertextuality, Said notes Foucault’s “hampered” attempts to “[get] to the bottom” of his Archeology of Knowledge, which “yields only the … assertion that man is a temporary interruption, a figure of thought, of what is already begun.” (Said, 1975) Man is always/already the product of and the creator of his/her narrative/existence. Said here reveals his own departure from Foucault’s hermeneutic (or perhaps post-hermeneutic) approach, to his own genealogical approach, which may owe a debt to Foucault’s later work – Discipline and Punish and The History of Sexuality. Even the notion of “otherness” is ascribed to Foucault.(Said, 1975, 284) which became the theoretical centerpiece of Said’s most noted work.

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Along with the posts on RousseauPlatoBacon, Machiavelli and Locke, this post, and many to follow, are part of an upcoming project – stay tuned.

According to Wheelwright (1951) “Aristotle was born in 384 BC at Stagira, a town in Macedonia, colonized by Grecian emigrants.” Aristotleʻs father, Nichomachus (also the name of his son, for whom the Nichomachean Ethics was written) was a court doctor for the King of Macedonia. Aristotle left and  in a sense overcame the stifling provincialism of his youth and entered Plato‘s Academy at age 18, where he remained until 347 BC (Wheelwright, 1951, xv).

Aristotle (384-322 BC)

Aristotle lived, studied and taught during one of the most eventful periods of Macedonian and Greek history – he was a contemporary and was admired by Macedonian King Phillip, who invited Aristotle to tutor his thirteen-year old son, later known as Alexander the Great.

As with Plato, it is unclear exactly what we are reading when we read Aristotle, but for a different reason. As Wheelwright puts it: “the prose style is unfinished, loose, and choppy; in marked contrast to the conscientious precision with which key words are employed.”  The texts appear to be some sort of notes, and three theories exist as to how these were produced: 1) they were student notes, 2) they were Aristotle’s lecture notes, or 3) “the original Aristotelian writings were lost, recovered in a damaged condition and pieced together by incompetent editors” (Wheelwright, 1951, xviii).

Aristotle’s output was so monumental that it set the tone, in fact the content, little changed for over a thousand years in Europe, with Catholic scholastics synthesizing Aristotelian thought with Biblical scripture (although there is a fair amount of debate over the extent of his influence). His principal work can be grouped in nine basic categories:

1) Logic

2) Natural Science

3) Zoology

4) Psychology

5) Metaphysics (famously only called this because it came after the physics)

6) The Nichomachean Ethics

7) Politics (or, “On Statecraft”)

8) The art of oratory

9) The art of Poetry

It is impossible to summarize this output here, but possible to give a taste of his thought. The Metaphysics begins with questions on the nature of knowledge, and how we know (epistemology):
ALL men by nature desire to know. An indication of this is the delight we take in our senses; for even apart from their usefulness they are loved for themselves; and above all others the sense of sight. For not only with a view to action, but even when we are not going to doanything, we prefer seeing (one might say) to everything else. The reason is that this, most of all the senses, makes us know and brings to lightmany differences between things.

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Along with the posts on RousseauPlato Bacon and Locke, this post, and many to follow, are part of an upcoming project – stay tuned.

James Bryce of the American Political Science Association wrote in 1909:

Political Science assumes the form of a systematic statement of the most important facts belonging to the political department of history, stringing these facts (so to speak) upon the thread of the of the principles which run through them. They are so disposed and arranged as to enable us to more easily to comprehend what we call the laws that govern human nature in political communities, so that we can see these laws as a whole in their permanent action and can apply what we have learned from history to the phenomena of today and tomorrow (emphasis added).

Niccolo Machiavelli

By this definition, it could be argued that Machiavelli was the first political scientist, particularly in terms of his use of a “scientific” method.

 What I seek to understand in this post is the method by which Machiavelli extracts a political philosophy from history [I may post this method in a separate post, "Machiavelli's Method"]. Rather than a “statement” of “important facts,” Machivelli’s method amounts to an extraction of principles from facts.

Some doubt that there is any [strict] method in Machiavelli’s work, but rather only themes or concepts. But if no philosophy or formal methodology are to be found in Machiavelli, certain concepts recur constantly, both explicitly and implicitly binding together his theories into some sort of coherence. They are Necessità, Fortuna and Virtù (53). These themes form a theoretical framework for Machiavelli’s thought.



“Necessity” refers to the law-like consequences that must necessary follow in certain situations. “Necessity” is often used as a justification for [any means] to an end – this is the essence of what is often called a “pragmatic” approach. [find more]. As the title of G.R. Berridge’s book Diplomatic Theory from Machiavelli to Kissinger (Studies in Diplomacy) suggests, Machiavelli is viewed by many as the father of realist theory, a theory that puts necessity as [the forefront] (Berridge, Keens-Soper, Otte (Eds.) New York: Palgrave, 2001)


In The Prince, Machiavelli states that “Fortune, the woman, is ever changeable. Things rarely remain fixed for long. The politician must know this and guard against it.” (Prince, 1970, Ch 25). Fortune is chance, change or the apparent capriciousness of life. It is part of situations that require cunning. See Detienne and Vernant.


When we think of “virtue,” we think of morality. But for Machiavelli and many other writers, virtue has more to do with virtuousity or skill than morality. The Greeks spoke of virtue in this sense, as did other ancient cultures. Consider again the character of metis. Skill and morality were the same things. Being cunning and being “good” were the same concept.

Machiavelli views fortune as the critical element in the success of the Roman republic:

Many (authors), among whom is that most serious writer Plutarch, have had the opinion that the Roman people in acquiring the Empire were favored more by Fortune than by Virtu. And among other reasons which he cites, he says that, by the admission of that people, it can be shown that they ascribed all their victories to Fortune, as they had built more temples to Fortune than to any other God. And it seems that Livius joined in this opinion, for he rarely makes any Roman speak where he recounts (of) Virtu, without adding Fortune. (Machivelli Book 2, Ch. 1)

Anthony Parel (1992, 87) defines virtu as the “stable disposition of an individual or group by which they are enabled to perform acts conducive to the good of the state.” In this ethics the interests of the state are promoted by any means necessary, including cruelty and vice. The strategy is only important in that it achieves honor and glory for the state. In this paradigm, moral virtue of citizens is not important, and is assumed to be absent (Machiavelli, 1952, 89).

Machiavelli puts little faith in citizens: “for it may be said of men that they are ungrateful, voluble, dissemblers, anxious to avoid danger and covetous of gain. (Machiavelli, 1952, 90).” While in The Prince Machiavelli [puts] most responsibility on the prince to maintain stability and prosperity, in The Discourses, he places considerable [importance] on the opinion of a virtuous citizenry … virtu in the Machivellian sense, not the Socratic.

Machiavelli was a supporter of civic republican position/argument. His reason for choosing Rome as an exemplar is: “for if nowhere there is to be found a republic so successful as Rome, this is because there is nowhere to be found a republic so constitutes as to be able to make the conquests Rome made.”

The nature of the multitude, therefore, is not to be blamed any more than that of Princes, for they all err equally when they all are able to err without control.

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Francis Bacon

Sir Francis Bacon (1561- 1626)

Along with the posts on RousseauPlato and Locke, this post, and many to follow, are part of an upcoming project – stay tuned.

As Gordon Haight wrote in 1942, “Francis Bacon’s reputation has suffered from the world’s insistence that a moralist should follow his own advice; having recognized vice and folly, he should avoid them.” Sir Francis Bacon was born in London in 1561, the son of the Sir Nicholas, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal (a position Cromwell later held). The younger Bacon saw wealth and status as key to his true ambition, which was to integrate scientific understandings with classical (mainly Roman) wisdom. Ironically, after a meteoric rise in the court of King James I (under whom the King James bible was published), it was a swift fall that gave him the time to pursue these more cerebral goals.

King James I (1566 – 1625)

Despite having tremendous personal connections, Bacon floundered politically under Queen Elizabeth I, but James seemed to take a liking to him, knighting him and granting him several titles and positions, including his father’s, Attorney General, Viscount St. Albans, and Lord High Counsellor. A bribery scandal, which Bacon admitted to, led to a swift fall and time in the Tower of London, but also to an early retirement in which he followed his literary pursuits. Equally ironic was that Bacon’s utopia, New Atlantis, depicts an official who accepts bribes as “twice paid.”

Bacon’s goal was an Instaratio Magna (Great Restoration), which he hoped would supplant the works of Aristotle, “whose influence, particularly in the natural sciences, was impeding research” (Haight, 1942, xiii). His actual output was series of shrewd essays on the nature of “man,” not as he ought to be, but as “he” was. He intellectual preeminence in the period made him one of the first candidates for the true identity of Shakespeare. Below are pithy excerpts of one of the pithiest pieces of politico-philosophical writing from “one of the world’s greatest thinkers, and … monuments of English literature” (Haight, 1942, xvi):

Of Truth (Essay 1)

What is truth? said jesting Pilate; and would not stay for an answer.

Of Death (Essay 2)

Men fear death as children fear to go in the dark; and as that natural fear in children is increased with tales, so is the other.

Of Riches (Essay 34)

I cannot call riches better than the baggage of virtue; the Roman word is better, impedimenta; for as baggage is to an army, so is riches to virtue; it cannot be spared nor left behind, but it hundredth the march; yea, and the care of it sometimes loseth or disturbeth the victory. Of great riches there is no real use, except it be in the distribution; the rest is conceit.

Of Ambition (Essay 36)

Ambition is like choler [bile; one of four bodily "humors" along with blood, phlegm, and "melancholy" (black bile)], which is a humor that maketh men active, earnest, full of alacrity, and stirring, if it not be stopped and cannot have its way, it becometh adust [fiery], and thereby malign and venomous. So ambitious men, if they find the way open for their rising, and still get forward, they are rather busy than dangerous; but if they be checked in their desires, they become secretly discontent, and look upon men with an evil eye, and are best pleased when things go backward; which is the worst property in a servant of a prince or state.

Of Usury [Money lending with interest] (Essay 41)

… the usurer is the drone that Virgil speakest of:

Drive from their hives the drones, a lazy herd;

[Ignavum fucos pecus a praesibus arcent]

that the usurer breaketh the first law that was made for mankind after the fall, which was, in the sweat of the thy face should thou eat thy bread; not in the sweat of another’s face … I say this only, that usury is a concession to the hardness of men’s hearts; for, since there must be borrowing and lending, and men are so hard of heart as they will not lend freely, usury must be permitted … [however] few have spoken of usury usefully.

Of Vainglory (Essay 54)

They that are glorious must needs be factious [belligerant]; for all bravery stands upon comparisons.

…according to the French proverb, Beaucoup be bruit, pen de fruit;-much bruit [noise], little fruit. 

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Locke and Property

This post, along with the one on Rousseau, Plato and many to follow, are part of an upcoming project – stay tuned.

The United States incorporated a Lockean notion of relation of individual to state, a notion that was “dominant at the time when the [US] Constitution was adopted.” In common parlance, the term property is used as a noun. One is said to own “property,” i.e., a piece of property, an object. Locke’s time used property as a right, as in “I have a property in that land.” This shift occurred sometime in the seventeenth century [see Appleby] in Europe, and was present at the founding of the US, but in Hawaiʻi, it was more visible, occurring in the time period in question, the 1840s and 1850s. So in addressing the question of the transition from property as a right to property as an object, some of the associated trauma can be attributed to the fact that the shift was both later and more rapid in Hawaiʻi than in Europe.

John Locke

Locke expounded his notion of property in his Two Treatises of Government, Second Treatise (1690):

… every Man has a Property in his own Person. This no Body had any Right to but himself. The Labour of his Body, and the Work of his Hands, we may say, are properly his. Whatsoever then he removes out of the State that Nature hath provided, and left it in, he hath mixed his Labour with, and joyned to it something that is his own, and thereby makes it his Property. It being by him removed from the common state Nature placed it in, it hath by this labour something annexed to it, that excludes the common right of other Men. For this Labour being the unquestionable Property of the Labourer, no Man but he can have a right to what that is once joyned to, at least where there is enough, and as good left in common for others.

Sec. 43. . . . . ‘Tis Labour then which puts the greatest part of Value upon Land, without which it would scarcely be worth any thing . . . . For ’tis not barely the Plough-man’s Pains, the Reaper’s and Thresher’s Toil, and the Bakers [sic.] Sweat, is to be counted into the Bread we eat …

Sec. 45. Thus Labour, in the Beginning, gave a Right of Property, where-ever any one was pleased to imploy it, upon what was common, which remained, a long while, the far greater part, and is yet more than Mankind makes use of.

The application of Lockean ideals in Hawaiʻi was premised on a particular psychology subcribed to by missionaries:

In some ways the missionaries … were equipped with a full-fledged theory of the human mind and society … Their psychology started with the empiricist idea od the mind as filled with custom, hence subject to outside influence and change. The follies and whims of the human mind, perpetuated by custom, as Locke and the enlightenment thinkers would say, are a result of insufficient use of the reason due to social circumstances (Mykkänen, 2003, 80).

Responding to Hobbes’ more radical notion that “everyman” has a right to everything, Locke held that it was a “ridiculous trifling to call that power a Right, which should we attempt to exercise, all other Men have an equal Right to obstruct or prevent us” (Tully, 1980, 74). This separation of rights represented a building of consensus over rights in property that the state was being encouraged to protect.

The foundation of the debate rested on the notion of natural rights, on the existence of which there was considerable agreement. The debate centered, instead, on the manifestation of natural rights in the actual world of property ownership. The interpretation of these rights rested, in turn, on the idea of the social contract. Pufendorf held, in response to Hobbes, that “rights of property have no higher sanction than the laws which men consent to in entering political society” (Tully, 1980, 75).

            Ivison, Patton and Sanders summarize the larger picture of interaction between “Western” political thought and Indigenous societies, values and systems of property:

Western political thought has often embodied a series of culturally specific assumptions and judgments about the relative worth of other cultures, ways of life, value systems, social and political institutions, and ways of organizing property. As a result, egalitarian political theory has often ended up justifying inegalitarian institutions and practices” (Ivison, Patton and Sanders, 2).

They contend that “finding appropriate political expression for a just relationship with colonised indigenous peoples is one of the most important issues confronting political theory today” (Ivison, Patton and Sanders, 2).

Defining “rights” as that “securing or protecting fundamental human interests, for example, those to do with property or bodily integrity,” they note that recognition of Indigenous rights will entail a fundamental alteration of those rights. Further, the note the failure of western political theory to enter into dialog with Indigenous peoples over the issue of rights in general, and, I would add, property rights in particular.

Ivison, Patton and Sanders also address the issue of indigenous title, and hold that it is “more about the continual definition and redefinition of relationships rather than the simple vindication of a property right.” This notion suggests the primacy of communal title and further its contrast with individual title. In fact, New Zealand’s Maori Land Court had as its primary task the “individualisation” of Maori title – a practice viewed as facilitating alienation of Maori lands.

Tully (99) notes that, for Locke, “it is never the case that … property is independent of a social function.” He distinguishes between property as a natural right and “political property,” which succeeds it and is only then private property. Locke opposes Filmer, Grotius and Pufendorf on this point. He holds that the natural property rights in the state of nature precede “the systems of property that arise later with the introduction of money and the creation of government.”

This, of course, is subject to critique, as the notion of a state of nature prior to government was what facilitated the doctrine of terra nullius. Thus the notion of a state of nature itself is contingent on one’s ability to see a government – which settlers in Australia claimed not to be able to do. Locke had a similar blind spot when it came to the “new world.” Locke worked as an aide to the Lord Proprietor for the Carolina colonies. His work justified slavery in the Carolinas and he was a shareholder in the Royal African Company, which was involved in the African slave trade. Locke clearly believed in property, but his belief in liberty was more constrained. Farr (2008), however, holds that Locke forwarded a just-war model justifying slavery, but one that did not apply in the Americas, but only in Stuart England.

Between Locke’s Eurocentric notions of property and government and inconsistent position on slavery, the implementation of a Lockean private property regime in Hawai’i was indeed problematic.

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This post, along with the one on Rousseau, and many to follow, are part of an upcoming project – stay tuned.

When we read Plato we can’t be sure whether it is the philosopher himself, or his teacher Socrates. Sometimes this “voice” is called Platosocrates. Socrates called himself a “gadfly,” a kind of hindrance or pest who questions those who are said to have knowledge. I.F. Stone has criticized Socrates for his lack of commitment to a philosophy and says it represents instead a method of doing philosophy.


Socrates was convicted in Athens of corrupting  the youth and was sentenced to death, which traumatized Plato, who seemed to lose faith in Athenian democracy, and dedicated three dialogs to the trial, the most famous of which is The Apologywhich is not much of an apology, but rather an argument that those who claim to know, in fact know nothing, whereas he, knowing he knows nothing is wiser than all of them. Socrates was in a sense trying to prove the oracle of Delphi right – the oracle had proclaimed Socrates the wisest of all men.

Plato is called the philosopher and with Socrates sent philosophy off course after 200 years of its existence by undermining its authority. As Paul Strathern (1996, 7) put it:

Plato was the ruin of philosophy, or so some modern thinker would have us believe. According to both Nietzsche and Heidegger, philosophy never recovered from the attentions of Socrates and Plato in the fifth century BC. Philosophy had been under way for less than two hundred years, and in many ways it had scarcely started . But this is where seemingly it went wrong.

The Republic is perhaps the most famous Book on philosophy of all time. It tells of an ideal Republic led by philosopher kings. It undermines family structures in away reminiscent of Marx. But the most famous passage in this most famous work of Plato is the allegory of the cave, which I contend is an illustration of the nature of knowledge and possibly the way to enlightenment:

THE ALLEGORY OF THE CAVE (360 BCE, Benjamin Jowett translation)

let me show in a figure how far our nature is enlightened or unenlightened: –Behold! human beings living in a underground den, which has a mouth open towards the light and reaching all along the den; here they have been from their childhood, and have their legs and necks chained so that they cannot move, and can only see before them, being prevented by the chains from turning round their heads. Above and behind them a fire is blazing at a distance, and between the fire and the prisoners there is a raised way; and you will see, if you look, a low wall built along the way, like the screen which marionette players have in front of them, over which they show the puppets.

I see.

And do you see, I said, men passing along the wall carrying all sorts of vessels, and statues and figures of animals made of wood and stone and various materials, which appear over the wall? Some of them are talking, others silent.

You have shown me a strange image, and they are strange prisoners.

Like ourselves, I replied; and they see only their own shadows, or the shadows of one another, which the fire throws on the opposite wall of the cave?

True, he said; how could they see anything but the shadows if they were never allowed to move their heads?

And of the objects which are being carried in like manner they would only see the shadows?

Yes, he said.

And if they were able to converse with one another, would they not suppose that they were naming what was actually before them?

Very true.

And suppose further that the prison had an echo which came from the other side, would they not be sure to fancy when one of the passers-by spoke that the voice which they heard came from the passing shadow?

No question, he replied.

To them, I said, the truth would be literally nothing but the shadows of the images.

That is certain.

And now look again, and see what will naturally follow it’ the prisoners are released and disabused of their error. At first, when any of them is liberated and compelled suddenly to stand up and turn his neck round and walk and look towards the light, he will suffer sharp pains; the glare will distress him, and he will be unable to see the realities of which in his former state he had seen the shadows; and then conceive some one saying to him, that what he saw before was an illusion, but that now, when he is approaching nearer to being and his eye is turned towards more real existence, he has a clearer vision, -what will be his reply? And you may further imagine that his instructor is pointing to the objects as they pass and requiring him to name them, -will he not be perplexed? Will he not fancy that the shadows which he formerly saw are truer than the objects which are now shown to him?

Far truer.

And if he is compelled to look straight at the light, will he not have a pain in his eyes which will make him turn away to take and take in the objects of vision which he can see, and which he will conceive to be in reality clearer than the things which are now being shown to him?

True, he now

And suppose once more, that he is reluctantly dragged up a steep and rugged ascent, and held fast until he ‘s forced into the presence of the sun himself, is he not likely to be pained and irritated? When he approaches the light his eyes will be dazzled, and he will not be able to see anything at all of what are now called realities.

Not all in a moment, he said.

He will require to grow accustomed to the sight of the upper world. And first he will see the shadows best, next the reflections of men and other objects in the water, and then the objects themselves; then he will gaze upon the light of the moon and the stars and the spangled heaven; and he will see the sky and the stars by night better than the sun or the light of the sun by day?


Last of he will be able to see the sun, and not mere reflections of him in the water, but he will see him in his own proper place, and not in another; and he will contemplate him as he is.


He will then proceed to argue that this is he who gives the season and the years, and is the guardian of all that is in the visible world, and in a certain way the cause of all things which he and his fellows have been accustomed to behold?

Clearly, he said, he would first see the sun and then reason about him.

And when he remembered his old habitation, and the wisdom of the den and his fellow-prisoners, do you not suppose that he would felicitate himself on the change, and pity them?

Certainly, he would.

And if they were in the habit of conferring honours among themselves on those who were quickest to observe the passing shadows and to remark which of them went before, and which followed after, and which were together; and who were therefore best able to draw conclusions as to the future, do you think that he would care for such honours and glories, or envy the possessors of them? Would he not say with Homer,

Better to be the poor servant of a poor master, and to endure anything, rather than think as they do and live after their manner?

Yes, he said, I think that he would rather suffer anything than entertain these false notions and live in this miserable manner.

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