A gentle nature with a great spirit

It has come to my awares that I am to many, a bitch. To this I say, ‘Anyone who is among the living has hope –even a live dog is better off than a dead lion!’ In an animal sense I have always felt myself to be a giraffe or a wild stallion or a bird. But, after reading Plato’s interpretation of the dog – I see myself there, too. So be it, I am a bitch. And a natural and good guardian, like the dog. 

From Plato’s Republic…

“War is an art, and as no art can be pursued with success unless a man’s whole attention is devoted to it, a solider cannot be allowed to exercise any calling but his own. The warrior’s art requires a long apprenticeship and many natural gifts. – No tools will make a man a skilled workman, or master of defense, nor be of any use to him who has not learned how to handle them. How then will he who takes up a shield or other implement of war become a good fighter all in a day?

Well, and your guardian must be brave if he is to fight well?

Certainly.

And is he likely to be brave who has no spirit, whether horse or dog or any other animal? Have you never observed how invincible and unconquerable is spirit and how the presence of it makes the soul of any creature to be absolutely fearless and indomitable?

But are not these spirited natures apt to be savage with one another, and with everybody else?

A difficulty by no means easy to overcome.

They ought to be dangerous to their enemies, and gentle to their friends; if not, they will destroy themselves without waiting for their enemies to destroy them.

What is to be done then? How shall we find a gentle nature which has also a great spirit, for the one is the contradiction of the other?

True.

He will not be a good guardian who is wanting in either of these two qualities; and yet the combination of them appears to be impossible; and hence we must infer that to be a good guardian is impossible.

There so exist natures gifted with those opposite qualities.

Many animals furnish examples of them; our friend the dog is a very good one: you know that well-bred dogs are perfectly gentle to their familiars and acquaintances, and the reverse to strangers.

Then there is nothing impossible or out of order of nature in our finding a guardian who has a similar combination of qualities.

Would not he who is fitted to be a guardian, besides the spirited nature, need to have the qualities of a philosopher?

Why, a dog, whenever he sees a stranger, is angry; when an acquaintance, he welcomes him, although the one has never done him any harm, nor the other any good.

And surely this instinct of the dog is very charming; – your dog is a true philosopher.

Why?

Why, because he distinguishes the face of a friend and of an enemy only by the criterion of knowing and not knowing. And must not an animal be a lover of learning who determines what he likes and dislikes by the test of knowledge and ignorance?

And is not the love of learning the love of wisdom, which is philosophy?

And may we not say confidently of man also, that he who is likely to be gentle to his friends and acquaintances, must by nature be a lover of wisdom and knowledge?

Then he who is to be a really good and noble guardian of the State will require to unite himself in philosophy and spirit and swiftness and strength.

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