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in one sense, that he always has them because he possesses them, might
we not?
Theaet. Yes.
Soc. And yet, in another sense, he has none of them; but they are in
his power, and he has got them under his hand in an enclosure of his
own, and can take and have them whenever he likes;-he can catch any
which he likes, and let the bird go again, and he may do so as often
as he pleases.
Theaet. True.
Soc. Once more, then, as in what preceded we made a sort of waxen
figment in the mind, so let us now suppose that in the mind of each
man there is an aviary of all sorts of birds-some flocking together
apart from the rest, others in small groups, others solitary, flying
anywhere and everywhere.
Theaet. Let us imagine such an aviary-and what is to follow?
Soc. We may suppose that the birds are kinds of knowledge, and
that when we were children, this receptacle was empty; whenever a
man has gotten and detained in the enclosure a kind of knowledge, he
may be said to have learned or discovered the thing which is the
subject of the knowledge: and this is to know.
Theaet. Granted.
Soc. And further, when any one wishes to catch any of these
knowledges or sciences, and having taken, to hold it, and again to let
them go, how will he express himself?-will he describe the
"catching" of them and the original "possession" in the same words?
I will make my meaning clearer by an example:-You admit that there
is an art of arithmetic?
Theaet. To be sure.
Soc. Conceive this under the form of a hunt after the science of odd
and even in general.
Theaet. I follow.
Soc. Having the use of the art, the arithmetician, if I am not
mistaken, has the conceptions of number under his hand, and can
transmit them to another.
Theaet. Yes.
Soc. And when transmitting them he may be said to teach them, and
when receiving to learn them, and when receiving to learn them, and
when having them in possession in the aforesaid aviary he may be
said to know them.
Theaet. Exactly.
Soc. Attend to what follows: must not the perfect arithmetician know
all numbers, for he has the science of all numbers in his mind?
Theaet. True.
Soc. And he can reckon abstract numbers in his head, or things about
him which are numerable?
Theaet. Of course he can.
Soc. And to reckon is simply to consider how much such and such a
number amounts to?
Theaet. Very true.
Soc. And so he appears to be searching into something which he
knows, as if he did not know it, for we have already admitted that
he knows all numbers;-you have heard these perplexing questions
Theaet. I have.
Soc. May we not pursue the image of the doves, and say that the
chase after knowledge is of two kinds? one kind is prior to possession
and for the sake of possession, and the other for the sake of taking
and holding in the hands that which is possessed already. And thus,
when a man has learned and known something long ago, he may resume and
get hold of the knowledge which he has long possessed, but has not
at hand in his mind.
Theaet. True.
Soc. That was my reason for asking how we ought to speak when an
arithmetician sets about numbering, or a grammarian about reading?

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