Then the wise man may indeed know that the physician has some kind of
science or knowledge; but when he wants to discover the nature of this
he will ask, What is the subject-matter? For the several sciences are
distinguished not by the mere fact that they are sciences, but by the
nature of their subjects. Is not that true?
And medicine is distinguished from other sciences as having the
subject-matter of health and disease?
And he who would enquire into the nature of medicine must pursue the
enquiry into health and disease, and not into what is extraneous?
And he who judges rightly will judge of the physician as a physician
in what relates to these?
He will consider whether what he says is true, and whether what he
does is right, in relation to health and disease?
But can any one attain the knowledge of either unless he have a of
No one at all, it would seem, except the physician can have this
knowledge; and therefore not the wise man; he would have to be a
physician as well as a wise man.
Then, assuredly, wisdom or temperance, if only a science of science,
and of the absence of science or knowledge, will not be able to
distinguish the physician who knows from one who does not know but
pretends or thinks that he knows, or any other professor of anything
at all; like any other artist, he will only know his fellow in art or
wisdom, and no one else.
That is evident, he said.
But then what profit, Critias, I said, is there any longer in wisdom
or temperance which yet remains, if this is wisdom? If, indeed, as we
were supposing at first, the wise man had been able to distinguish
what he knew and did not know, and that he knew the one and did not
know the other, and to recognize a similar faculty of discernment in
others, there would certainly have been a great advantage in being
wise; for then we should never have made a mistake, but have passed
through life the unerring guides of ourselves and of those who are
under us; and we should not have attempted to do what we did not know,
but we should have found out those who knew, and have handed the
business over to them and trusted in them; nor should we have allowed
those who were under us to do anything which they were not likely to
do well and they would be likely to do well just that of which they
had knowledge; and the house or state which was ordered or
administered under the guidance of wisdom, and everything else of
which wisdom was the lord, would have been well ordered; for truth
guiding, and error having been eliminated, in all their doings, men
would have done well, and would have been happy. Was not this,
Critias, what we spoke of as the great advantage of wisdom to know
what is known and what is unknown to us?
Very true, he said.
And now you perceive, I said, that no such science is to be found
I perceive, he said.
May we assume then, I said, that wisdom, viewed in this new light
merely as a knowledge of knowledge and ignorance, has this
advantage:-that he who possesses such knowledge will more easily learn
anything which he learns; and that everything will be clearer to him,
because, in addition to the knowledge of individuals, he sees the
science, and this also will better enable him to test the knowledge
which others have of what he knows himself; whereas the enquirer who
is without this knowledge may be supposed to have a feebler and weaker