“What do we need to discuss after this?” he said.
“The next issue in due sequence,” I replied. “What else? Since philosophers can apprehend that which is always the same as it is, while those who cannot do so are not philosophers but wander instead amid multiplicity and variety, which of them should actually be rulers in the city?”
“How may we give an adequate response to this question?” he said.
“Whichever sort proves capable of guarding the laws and the proceedings of the city are the ones to appoint as guardians,” I replied.
“Quite right,” he said.
“Well,” I said, “is it obvious whether it is a blind man or a keen-sighted man who should keep watch over something?”
“Of course, it is obvious,” he said.
“Well then, do these people seem any better than blind men? I mean, are these people blind who are in truth deprived of the knowledge of what anything is; who have no evident pattern in their soul, and are unable to look towards perfect truth, as a painter looks at a model, always referring to that realm and contemplating it with the utmost precision; and who cannot establish regulations concerning beauty, justice and goodness in this realm, if they are needed, or act as guardian saviours of what is already in place?”
“No, by Zeus,” he said. “They are not much different from blind men.”
“So, shall we install these men as guardians, in preference to those who know what each thing is, and are not lacking in practical experience compared to the others, or inferior to them in any other aspect of excellence?”
“It would be most strange,” he said, “to choose anyone else if the philosophers, in fact, lacked none of the other qualities. For the particular quality in which they excel is really the most important one of all.”
Plato, Republic Book VI. 384b3-384d10
Translation: David Horan