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But we, my good Sir, when we take arms in our hands, put all these people to rout.

Say not so, my dear Sir; for there have been, in fact, in the past and there will be in the future many a flight and many a pursuit which are past explaining, so that victory or defeat in battle could never be called a decisive, but rather a questionable, test of the goodness or badness of an institution. Larger States, for example, are victorious in battle over smaller States, [638b] and we find the Syracusans subjugating the Locrians, who are reputed to have been the best-governed of the peoples in that part of the world: and the Athenians the Ceians,—and we could find countless other instances of the same kind. So let us leave victories and defeats out of account for the present, and discuss each several institution on its own merits in the endeavor to convince ourselves, and explain in what way one kind is good and another had. And to begin with, listen to my account of the right method of inquiring into the merits and demerits of institutions. [638c]

What is your account of it?

In my opinion all those who take up an institution for discussion and propose, at its first mention, to censure it or commend it, are proceeding in quite the wrong way. Their action is like that of a man who, when he hears somebody praising cheese as a good food, at once starts to disparage it, without having learnt either its effects or its mode of administration—in what form it should be administered and by whom and with what accompaniments, and in what condition and to people in what condition. [638d] This, as it seems to me, is exactly what we are now doing in our discourse. At the first mention of the mere name of drunkenness, straightway we fall, some of us to blaming it, others to praising it; which is most absurd. Each party relies on the aid of witnesses, and while the one party claims that its statement is convincing on the ground of the large number of witnesses produced, the other does so on the ground that those who abstain from wine are seen to be victorious in battle; and then this point also gives rise to a dispute. Now it would not be at all to my taste to go through all the rest of the legal arrangements in this fashion; [638e] and about our present subject, drunkenness, I desire to speak in quite another fashion (in my opinion, the right fashion), and I shall endeavor, if possible, to exhibit the correct method for dealing with all such subjects for indeed the view of them adopted by your two States would be assailed and controverted by thousands upon thousands of nations.

Assuredly, if we know of a right method of investigating these matters,

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