Superphysics Superphysics
Chapter 4 of Book 7

Dialectics as an Essential Study

by Socrates Icon
16 minutes  • 3231 words
Table of contents

Motion has many forms. Two of them are obvious to ordinary people.

There are others which may be left to wiser persons.

These two are the study of motions from sight and sound*. The eyes are designed to look up at the stars, just as the ears are designed to hear harmonious motions.

These are sister sciences, as the Pythagoreans say.

*Superphysics Note: The study of visible motion deals with particles, the study of audible motion deals with waves.


This second study of harmonics, or the science of harmony, is a laborious study and this is why we should learn it. It will tell us whether there are any other applications of these sciences. At the same time, we must not lose sight of our own higher object.

There is a perfection:

  • which all knowledge should reach, and
  • which our pupils should also attain and not fall short of.

The same thing happens in the science of harmony. The teachers of harmony compare the sounds and consonances which are heard only. Their labour, like that of the astronomers, is in vain.


Yes, they talk about their “condensed notes” as if it were a play. They put their ears near the strings like persons catching a sound from their neighbour’s wall.

One group of them:

  • declares that they distinguish an intermediate note, and
  • have found the least interval which should be the unit of measurement.

The other group insists that the two sounds have passed into the same sound. Either party believes their ears before their understanding.


Those gentlemen tease and torture the strings and rack them on the pegs of the instrument. But they are not the men that I am referring to. I am referring to the Pythagoreans who have enquired about harmony. They are wrong as the astronomers.

They investigate the numbers of the harmonies which are heard. But they never apply them to problems. They never reach the natural harmonies of number, or reflect why some numbers are harmonious and others not.

That is beyond the knowledge of mortals.

But it is useful if sought with a view to the beautiful and good. But it is useless if pursued in any other spirit. Their pursuit will be valuable for our objects if all these studies reach the point of inter-communion and connection with one another and become considered in their mutual affinities*.

Until then, there is no profit in pursuing them.

*Superphysics Note: The theory of gravitational signatures leads to the study of gravitational affinity.

But Socrates, you are speaking of a vast work.

Do you not know that all this is but the prelude to the actual strain that we have to learn?

Surely the skilled mathematician is not a dialectician.

Surely no, I do not know any mathematician capable of reasoning.

Men who are unable to give and take a reason will not have the knowledge which we require of them. Dialectic is that strain which is of the intellect only.

Nevertheless, it is imitated by the sight [observable empirical data].

The sight sees things through the light of the sun. A person will find himself at the end of the intellectual world when he:

  • tries to discover the absolute by the light of reason only, without the help of the senses, and
  • perseveres by pure intelligence until perceives the absolute good.

This is the same as the sight that has seen the visible.

This progress is called dialectic.

Dialectic grants the power of elevating the highest principle in the soul to contemplate the best in existence.

The raising of this faculty serves as the light which provides sight. This power is akin to:

  • the release of the prisoners from chains
  • their translation from the shadows to the images and to the light, and
  • the ascent from the underground den to the sun.

What you are saying might be hard to believe, but it is harder to deny.

It must be discussed again and again.

And so, whether our conclusion be true or false, let us proceed from the prelude and go into the chief strain.

  • What is the nature and the divisions of dialectic?
  • What are the paths which lead to it?
  • These paths will also lead to our final rest.

The power of dialectic alone can reveal reality to a disciple of arithmetic, geometry, and astronomy. There is no other method of comprehending all true existence or revealing the nature of each thing through a regular process. The arts in general:

  • are concerned with the desires or opinions of men
  • are cultivated for production and construction, or the preservation of such productions.

Math and geometry only dream about being. They never can behold the waking reality so long as they leave the hypotheses which they use unexamined, and are unable to give an account of them.

A man cannot imagine that such a convention can ever become science:

  • if he does not know his own first principle, and
  • if the conclusion and intermediate steps are also constructed out of something that he does not know.

Then dialectic, and dialectic alone, goes directly to the first principle.

It is the only science which does away with hypotheses in order to make her ground secure. By her gentle aid, she lifts up the eye of the soul which is literally buried in an outlandish slough. She uses the sciences as handmaids and helpers in the work of conversion.

Custom calls them sciences. But they should have some other name implying more clarity than opinion and less clarity than science. We called this understanding*.

But why should we dispute about names when we have realities of such importance to consider?

*Superphysics Note: We can call Science as Physics, Opinion as Metaphysics, and their middle ground of Understanding as “Superphysics”. In this way, Superphysics is clearer than Metaphysics, but less clear than Physics, and serves to connect both.

Any name will do which expresses the thought of the mind with clearness.

We have 4 divisions of knowledge:

  1. Knowledge from the intellect – this is concerned with being:
  • Science [Physics]
  • Understanding [Superphysics]
  1. Knowledge from opinion – this is concerned with becoming:
  • Belief [Metaphysics] – this is the counterpart of science
  • Perception of Shadows [Data science] – this is the counterpart of understanding
But let us defer the correlation and subdivision of opinion and intellect, for it will be a long enquiry. The dialectician is someone who attains a conception of the essence of each thing. A person who fails to see the essence of a thing also fails in intelligence. The same is true for the conception of the good.

A man does not know the idea of good unless:

  • he is able to abstract and define rationally the idea of good, and
  • he can run through all objections and disprove them through absolute truth, never faltering.

If he cannot do this, then he:

  • understands only a shadow given by opinion and not by science, and
  • dreams and slumbers in this life.

We do not want the children of our ideal State or its future rulers to be like posts having no reason in them and yet have authority over the highest matters. You will make a law that they will be educated in the greatest skill in asking and answering questions.

Yes, you and I together will make it.

Dialectic, then is the coping-stone of the sciences.

It is set over them. No other science can be placed higher. The nature of knowledge can go no further.

But to whom are we to assign these studies? How are they to be assigned?

Qualities Required in Dialecticians


The rulers were chosen in a certain way. The same natures must still be chosen.

The preference again given to the surest and the bravest, and, if possible, to the fairest.

They should have:

  • noble and generous tempers, and
  • natural gifts, such as keenness and ready powers of acquisition, which will facilitate their education.

The mind more often faints from the severity of study than from the severity of gymnastics. The toil is more entirely the mind’s own, and is not shared with the body.

Further, he should:

  • have a good memory, and
  • be an unwearied solid man who is a lover of labour in any line.

Otherwise, he will never be able to endure the great amount of bodily exercise and the intellectual discipline and study which we require of him.


The current mistake is that those who study philosophy have no vocation.

This is why she has fallen into disrepute. Her true sons should take her by the hand and not bastards.

First of all, her devotees should not have a lame or halting industry.

  • He should not be half industrious and half idle.
  • An example is:
    • a man who loves gymnastic and hunting but hates learning, listening, or enquiring, or
    • a man whose occupation is opposite of his interest, which then gives him a sort of lameness.

Regarding truth, a soul is lame if:

  • it hates voluntary falsehood and lies, but is patient of involuntary falsehood, and
  • it does not mind wallowing like a swinish beast in the mire of ignorance, with no shame at being detected.

With temperance, courage, magnificence, and every other virtue, we should carefully distinguish between the true son and the bastard. States and individuals unconsciously err if they do not discern such qualities.

  • The state is a lame or a bastard if it turns a person who is defective in virtue into a ruler.
  • A person is a lame or a bastard if he turns a person who is defective in virtue into a friend.

If our educators were sound in body and mind then:

  • justice will agree with us, and
  • we shall be the saviours of the constitution and of the State.

But, if our pupils are men of another stamp, the reverse will happen. We shall pour a still greater flood of ridicule on philosophy than she has to endure at present*.

I saw philosophy so undeservedly trampled. I was disgusted at the authors of her disgrace.

*Superphysics Note: This is seen nowadays in the educated labeling alternative theories as pseudo-science.

The Foundations of Dialectics Should be Taught to the Youth


Previously, we chose old men. But we must not do so in this case. Solon was under a delusion when he said that a man may learn many things as he grows old.

  • In reality, a man can learn as much as he can run.
  • Youth is the time for any extraordinary toil.

Therefore, math and geometry and all the other elements of instruction needed for dialectic, should be presented to the mind in childhood.

  • But, in our system of education, it should not be forced.

A freeman should not be a slave in acquiring knowledge.

Compulsory bodily exercise does no harm to the body.

  • But knowledge which is acquired under compulsion obtains no hold on the mind.

Do not use compulsion. Let early education be a sort of amusement. You will then be better able to find out the natural bent.


The children of guardians are to be taken to see the battle on horseback.

If there were no danger, they should be brought close up have a taste of blood like young hounds. The same practice may be followed in all these things—labours, lessons, and dangers.

A person most at home in all of them should be enrolled in it, at the age when the necessary gymnastics are over. Two or three years in gymnastic training is useless for any other purpose. This because sleep and exercise are not favorable to learning.


The test of who is best in gymnastic exercises is one of the most important tests for our youth.

  • Those who are selected from 20 year-olds will be promoted to higher honour.
  • The sciences which they learned without any order in their early education will now be brought together.
  • They will be able to see the natural relationship of them to one another and to true being.
Yes, that is the only kind of knowledge which takes lasting root.

Yes, the capacity for such knowledge is the great criterion of dialectical talent.

The comprehensive mind is always the dialectical.

You will elevate those guardians who reach 30 years old and who:

  • have most of this comprehension,
  • are most steadfast in their learning, and in their military and other appointed duties,

You will have to prove them by the help of dialectic, in order to learn which of them is able to:

  • give up the use of sight and the other senses, and
  • attain absolute being in company with truth.

Here great caution is required because dialectic will introduce a great evil.

Imagine a rich son brought up in great wealth.

  • He is from a big family and has many flatterers.
  • When he grows up to manhood, he learns that his parents are not his real parents.

How will he behave towards his flatterers and his supposed parents?

  • While he is ignorant of the truth, he will likely honour his father, mother, and his supposed relations more than the flatterers.
  • But after he discovers the truth, he would reduce his honour and regard for them, and would become more devoted to the flatterers.
  • Their influence over him would greatly increase.
  • He will neglect them less when in need, or do or say anything against them.
  • He will be less willing to disobey them in any important matter.
  • He would now live after their ways and openly associate with them.
  • He would trouble himself no more about his supposed parents or other relations.

But how is the image applicable to the disciples of philosophy?

Justice and honour have certain principles which were taught to us in childhood by our parents.

There are also opposite maxims and habits of pleasure which flatter and attract the soul.

  • But these do not influence those of us who have any sense of right.

We continue to honor the principles of our parents.


When a man is in this state of pleasure, the questioning part of him asks what is fair or honourable.

  • He answers himself as the legislator has taught him.
  • He argues and refutes his own words, until he believes that nothing is honourable any more than dishonourable, or that just and good is the same as unjust and evil.
  • And so he will not honour and obey his first notions.
  • When he ceases to think them honourable and natural and fails to discover the true, he begins to live to flatter his own desires.

From being a keeper of the law, he becomes a breaker of it.

  • All of this is very natural in students of philosophy and is most excusable.
Yes, it is pitiable too.

In order for you not to pity them, every care must be taken in introducing our citizens who are now 30 years old to dialectic.

There is a danger lest they should taste the dear delight too early. When youngsters first get the taste in their mouths, they argue for amusement. They are always contradicting and refuting others in imitation of those who refute them. Like puppy-dogs, they rejoice in pulling and tearing at all who come near them.

When they have made many conquests and received many defeats, they violently and speedily disbelieve anything that they believed before.

Thus, they, philosophy, and all that relates to it tends to have a bad name with the rest of the world.


But when a man gets older, he will no longer be guilty of such insanity.

He will imitate the dialectician who is seeking for truth, and not the eristic, who is contradicting for the sake of amusement. The greater moderation of his character will increase instead of reduce the honour of the pursuit. We made a special provision for this, when we said that the disciples of philosophy were to be orderly and steadfast. They are not chance aspirants or intruders like the philosophers of today.

The study of philosophy could replace gymnastics. It could be diligently and exclusively for five years.

Afterwards, they must be sent down again into the cave and compelled to hold any military or other office for young men. In this way, they will get their experience of life. They can then be tested whether they will stand firm or flinch when they are drawn in all manner of ways by temptation.

How long is this stage of their lives to last?

Fifteen years. When they have reached 50 years of age, those who still survive and have distinguished themselves in action and knowledge come at last to their consummation.

This is the time when they must raise the eye of the soul to the universal light which lightens all things, and behold the absolute good.

The absolute good is the pattern to which they will order the State and its individuals. They will make philosophy their chief pursuit. They will toil at politics and rule for the public good, not as though they were performing some heroic action, but simply as a matter of duty.

When they have brought up others like themselves and left them in their place to be governors of the State, then they will depart to the Islands of the Blest and dwell there. The city will give them public memorials and sacrifices. It will honour them as demigods if Pythian oracle consents, but not as divine.

You are a sculptor, Socrates, and have made statues of our governors faultless in beauty.

Yes, and of our governesses too.

What I say applies to both men and women and not to men only, as far as their natures can go.

There you are right, since we have made them to share in all things like the men.

The ideal State is not a mere dream. It is difficult but not impossible. It is only possible when the true philosopher kings are born in a State.

They would:

  • despise the honours of this present world which they deem mean and worthless,
  • instead esteem right and the honour that springs from right, and
  • regard justice as the greatest and most necessary of all things.

They would be ministers of justice.


Their principles will be exalted by the citizens when they set in order their own city. They will begin by sending out into the country all the inhabitants of the city who are over 10 years old

They will take possession of their children, who will be unaffected by the habits of their parents. These they will train in their own habits and the laws which we have given.

In this way, the State and constitution of which we were speaking will soonest and most easily attain happiness. The nation which has such a constitution will gain most.

Yes, that will be the best way. You very well described how, if ever, such a constitution might come into being.
Enough then of the perfect State, and of the man who bears its image—there is no difficulty in describing him.
Yes, there is no difficulty and nothing more needs to be said.

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