Since only a philosopher can truly know the Forms, the ideal abstracts of objects and ideas, only the philosopher has true knowledge. All other knowledge is based on the physical and impermanent. For instance, we can see particular beauty in the physical world, but it is subject to change. The ideal Form of Beauty, in the world of Ideas, is abstract and never changes. The philosopher, because he understands the Forms, understands truth and true knowledge. The philosopher-king, since he has knowledge of the Forms, and he understands how to rule, is best suited to lead.
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The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Philosopher-King appears in each section of The Republic. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Below you will find the important quotes in The Republic related to the theme of Philosopher-King.
Book 5 Quotes
And he who, having a sense of beautiful things has no sense of absolute beauty, or who, if another lead him to a knowledge of that beauty is unable to follow—of such an one I ask, Is he awake or in a dream only? Reflect: is not the dreamer, sleeping or waking, one who likens dissimilar things, who puts the copy in the place of the real object?
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Until philosophers are kings, or the kings and princes of this world have the spirit and power of philosophy, and political greatness and wisdom meet in one, and those commoner natures who pursue either to the exclusion of the other are compelled to stand aside, cities will never have rest from their evils—no, nor the human race, as I believe—and then only will this our State have a possibility of life and behold the light of day.
Book 6 Quotes
But that the true pilot must pay attention to the year and seasons and sky and stars and winds, and whatever else be longs to his art, if he intends to be really qualified for the command of a ship, and that he must and will be the steerer, whether other people like or not—the possibility of this union of authority with the steerer’s art has never seriously entered into their thoughts or been made part of their calling. Now in vessels which are in a state of mutiny and by sailors who are mutineers, how will the true pilot be regarded? W ill he not be called by them a prater, a star-gazer, a good-for-nothing?
Book 7 Quotes
But, whether true or false, my opinion is that in the world of knowledge the idea of good appears last of all, and is seen only with an effort; and, when seen, is also inferred to be the universal author of all things beautiful and right, parent of light and of the lord of light in this visible world, and the immediate source of reason and truth in the intellectual; and that this is the power upon which he who would act rationally either in public or private life must have his eye fixed.