ingenious notions about such matters, he is not to be called a pilot
or physician, but a cloudy prating sophist;-further, on the ground
that he is a corrupter of the young, who would persuade them. to
follow the art of medicine or piloting in an unlawful manner, and to
exercise an arbitrary rule over their patients or ships, any one who
is qualified by law may inform against him, and indict him in some
court, and then if he is found to be persuading any, whether young
or old, to act contrary to the written law, he is to be punished
with the utmost rigour; for no one should presume to be
wiser than the
laws; and as touching healing and health and piloting and
navigation, the nature of them is known to all, for anybody may
learn the written laws and the national customs. If such
were the mode
of procedure, Socrates, about these sciences and about generalship,
and any branch of hunting, or about painting or imitation in
general, or carpentry, or any sort of handicraft, or husbandry, or
planting, or if we were to see an art of rearing horses, or tending
herds, or divination, or any ministerial service, or
draught-playing, or any science conversant with number,
or square or cube, or comprising motion-I say, if all these things
were done in this way according to written regulations, and not
according to art, what would be the result?
Y. Soc. All the arts would utterly perish, and could never be
recovered, because enquiry would be unlawful. And human
life, which is
bad enough already, would then become utterly unendurable.
Str. But what, if while compelling all these operations to be
regulated by written law, we were to appoint as the guardian of the
laws some one elected by a show of hands, or by lot, and he caring
nothing about the laws, were to act contrary to them from motives of
interest or favour, and without knowledge-would not this be a still
worse evil than the former?
Y. Soc. Very true.
Str. To go against the laws, which are based upon long experience,
and the wisdom of counsellors who have graciously
recommended them and
persuaded the multitude to pass them, would be a far greater and
more ruinous error than any adherence to written law?
Y. Soc. Certainly.
Str. Therefore, as there is a danger of this, the next
best thing in
legislating is not to allow either the individual or the multitude
to break the law in any respect whatever.
Y. Soc. True.
Str. The laws would be copies of the true particulars of action as
far as they admit of being written down from the lips of those who
Y. Soc. Certainly they would.
Str. And, as we were saying, he who has knowledge and is a true
Statesman, will do many things within his own sphere of action by
his art without regard to the laws, when he is of opinion that
something other than that which he has written down and
enjoined to be
observed during his absence would be better.
Y. Soc. Yes, we said so.
Str. And any individual or any number of men, having fixed laws,
in acting contrary to them with a view to something better,
be acting, as far as they are able, like the true Statesman?
Y. Soc. Certainly.
Str. If they had no knowledge of what they were doing, they would
imitate the truth, and they would always imitate ill; but if they