Yes, he said; the science of itself.
Is not medicine, I said, the science of health?
And suppose, I said, that I were asked by you what is the use or
effect of medicine, which is this science of health, I should answer
that medicine is of very great use in producing health, which, as you
will admit, is an excellent effect.
And if you were to ask me, what is the result or effect of
architecture, which is the science of building, I should say houses,
and so of other arts, which all have their different results. Now I
want you, Critias, to answer a similar question about temperance, or
wisdom, which, according to you, is the science of itself. Admitting
this view, I ask of you, what good work, worthy of the name wise, does
temperance or wisdom, which is the science of itself, effect? Answer
That is not the true way of pursuing the enquiry, Socrates, he said;
for wisdom is not like the other sciences, any more than they are like
one another: but you proceed as if they were alike. For tell me, he
said, what result is there of computation or geometry, in the same
sense as a house is the result of building, or a garment of weaving,
or any other work of any other art? Can you show me any such result of
them? You cannot.
That is true, I said; but still each of these sciences has a subject
which is different from the science. I can show you that the art of
computation has to do with odd and even numbers in their numerical
relations to themselves and to each other. Is not that true?
Yes, he said.
And the odd and even numbers are not the same with the art of
They are not.
The art of weighing, again, has to do with lighter and heavier; but
the art of weighing is one thing, and the heavy and the light another.
Do you admit that?
Now, I want to know, what is that which is not wisdom, and of which
wisdom is the science?
You are just falling into the old error, Socrates, he said. You come
asking in what wisdom or temperance differs from the other sciences,
and then you try to discover some respect in which they are alike; but
they are not, for all the other sciences are of something else, and
not of themselves; wisdom alone is a science of other sciences, and of
itself. And of this, as I believe, you are very well aware: and that
you are only doing what you denied that you were doing just now,
trying to refute me, instead of pursuing the argument.
And what if I am? How can you think that I have any other motive in
refuting you but what I should have in examining into myself? which
motive would be just a fear of my unconsciously fancying that I knew
something of which I was ignorant. And at this moment I pursue the
argument chiefly for my own sake, and perhaps in some degree also for
the sake of my other friends. For is not the discovery of things as
they truly are, a good common to all mankind?
Yes, certainly, Socrates, he said.
Then, I said, be cheerful, sweet sir, and give your opinion in answer
to the question which I asked, never minding whether Critias or
Socrates is the person refuted; attend only to the argument, and see
what will come of the refutation.
I think that you are right, he replied; and I will do as you say.
Tell me, then, I said, what you mean to affirm about wisdom.
I mean to say that wisdom is the only science which is the science of
itself as well as of the other sciences.
But the science of science, I said, will also be the science of the
absence of science.
Very true, he said.