Welcome
   Home | Texts by category | | Quick Search:   
Authors
Works by Plato
Pages of theaetetus



Previous | Next
                  

theaetetus   


and ten thousands of progenitors, and among them have been rich and
poor, kings and slaves, Hellenes and barbarians, innumerable. And when
people pride themselves on having a pedigree of twenty-five ancestors,
which goes back to Heracles, the son of Amphitryon, he cannot
understand their poverty of ideas. Why are they unable to calculate
that Amphitryon had a twenty-fifth ancestor, who might have been
anybody, and was such as fortune made him and he had a fiftieth, and
so on? He amuses himself with the notion that they cannot count, and
thinks that a little arithmetic would have got rid of their
senseless vanity. Now, in all these cases our philosopher is derided
by the vulgar, partly because he is thought to despise them, and
also because he is ignorant of what is before him, and always at a
loss.
Theod. That is very true, Socrates.
Soc. But, O my friend, when he draws the other into upper air, and
gets him out of his pleas and rejoinders into the contemplation of
justice and injustice in their own nature and in their difference from
one another and from all other things; or from the commonplaces
about the happiness of a king or of a rich man to the consideration of
government, and of human happiness and misery in general-what they
are, and how a man is to attain the one and avoid the other-when
that narrow, keen, little legal mind is called to account about all
this, he gives the philosopher his revenge; for dizzied by the
height at which he is hanging, whence he looks down into space,
which is a strange experience to him, he being dismayed, and lost, and
stammering broken words, is laughed at, not by Thracian handmaidens or
any other uneducated persons, for they have no eye for the
situation, but by every man who has not been brought up a slave.
Such are the two characters, Theodorus: the one of the freeman, who
has becomes trained in liberty and leisure, whom you call the
philosopher-him we cannot blame because he appears simple and of no
account when he has to perform some menial task, such as packing up
bed-clothes, or flavouring a sauce or fawning speech; the other
character is that of the man who is able to do all this kind of
service smartly and neatly, but knows not how to wear his cloak like a
gentleman; still less with the music of discourse can he hymn the true
life aright which is lived by immortals or men blessed of heaven.
Theod. If you could only persuade everybody, Socrates, as you do me,
of the truth of your words, there would be more peace and fewer
evils among men.
Soc. Evils, Theodorus, can never pass away; for there must always
remain something which is antagonistic to good. Having no place
among the gods in heaven, of necessity they hover around the mortal
nature, and this earthly sphere. Wherefore we ought to fly away from
earth to heaven as quickly as we can; and to fly away is to become
like God, as far as this is possible; and to become like him, is to
become holy, just, and wise. But, O my friend, you cannot easily
convince mankind that they should pursue virtue or avoid vice, not
merely in order that a man may seem to be good, which is the reason
given by the world, and in my judgment is only a repetition of an
old wives fable. Whereas, the truth is that God is never in any way
unrighteous-he is perfect righteousness; and he of us who is the
most righteous is most like him. Herein is seen the true cleverness of
a man, and also his nothingness and want of manhood. For to know
this is true wisdom and virtue, and ignorance of this is manifest
folly and vice. All other kinds of wisdom or cleverness, which seem
only, such as the wisdom of politicians, or the wisdom of the arts,
are coarse and vulgar. The unrighteous man, or the sayer and doer of
unholy things, had far better not be encouraged in the illusion that
his roguery is clever; for men glory in their shame -they fancy that
they hear others saying of them, "These are not mere good-for
nothing persons, mere burdens of the earth, but such as men should
be who mean to dwell safely in a state." Let us tell them that they
are all the more truly what they do not think they are because they do

Previous | Next
Site Search