Soc. And Homer in a better way?
Ion. He is incomparably better.
Soc. And yet surely, my dear friend Ion, in a discussion about
arithmetic, where many people are speaking, and one speaks better than
the rest, there is somebody who can judge which of them is the good
Soc. And he who judges of the good will be the same as he who judges
of the bad speakers?
Ion. The same.
Soc. And he will be the arithmetician?
Soc. Well, and in discussions about the wholesomeness of food, when
many persons are speaking, and one speaks better than the rest, will
he who recognizes the better speaker be a different person from him
who recognizes the worse, or the same?
Ion. Clearly the same.
Soc. And who is he, and what is his name?
Ion. The physician.
Soc. And speaking generally, in all discussions in which the subject
is the same and many men are speaking, will not he who knows the good
know the bad speaker also? For if he does not know the bad, neither
will he know the good when the same topic is being discussed.
Soc. Is not the same person skilful in both?
Soc. And you say that Homer and the other poets, such as Hesiod and
Archilochus, speak of the same things, although not in the same way;
but the one speaks well and the other not so well?
Ion. Yes; and I am right in saying so.
Soc. And if you knew the good speaker, you would also know the
inferior speakers to be inferior?
Ion. That is true.
Soc. Then, my dear friend, can I be mistaken in saying that Ion is
equally skilled in Homer and in other poets, since he himself
acknowledges that the same person will be a good judge of all those
who speak of the same things; and that almost all poets do speak of
the same things?
Ion. Why then, Socrates, do I lose attention and go to sleep and have
absolutely no ideas of the least value, when any one speaks of any
other poet; but when Homer is mentioned, I wake up at once and am all
attention and have plenty to say?
Soc. The reason, my friend, is obvious. No one can fail to see that
you speak of Homer without any art or knowledge. If you were able to
speak of him by rules of art, you would have been able to speak of all
other poets; for poetry is a whole.
Soc. And when any one acquires any other art as a whole, the same may
be said of them. Would you like me to explain my meaning, Ion?
Ion. Yes, indeed, Socrates; I very much wish that you would: for I
love to hear you wise men talk.
Soc. O that we were wise, Ion, and that you could truly call us so;
but you rhapsodes and actors, and the poets whose verses you sing, are
wise; whereas I am a common man, who only speak the truth. For
consider what a very commonplace and trivial thing is this which I
have said- a thing which any man might say: that when a man has
acquired a knowledge of a whole art, the enquiry into good and bad is
one and the same. Let us consider this matter; is not the art of
painting a whole?
Soc. And there are and have been many painters good and bad?
Soc. And did you ever know any one who was skilful in pointing out the
excellences and defects of Polygnotus the son of Aglaophon, but