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I do not yet understand.

As regards the soul, my comrade, nearly all men appear to be ignorant of its real nature and its potency, and ignorant not only of other facts about it, but of its origin especially,—how that it is one of the first existences, and prior to all bodies, and that it more than anything else is what governs all the changes and modifications of bodies. And if this is really the state of the case, must not things which are akin to soul be necessarily prior in origin to things which belong to body, seeing that soul [892b] is older than body?1


Then opinion and reflection and thought and art and law will be prior to things hard and soft and heavy and light; and further, the works and actions that are great and primary will be those of art, while those that are natural, and nature itself which they wrongly call by this name—will be secondary, and will derive their origin from art and reason. [892c]

How are they wrong?

By “nature” they intend to indicate production of things primary; but if soul shall be shown to have been produced first (not fire or air), but soul first and foremost,—it would most truly be described as a superlatively “natural” existence. Such is the state of the case, provided that one can prove that soul is older than body, but not otherwise.

Most true.

Shall we then, in the next place, address ourselves to the task of proving this? [892d]


Let us guard against a wholly deceitful argument, lest haply it seduce us who are old with its specious youthfulness, and then elude us and make us a laughing-stock, and so we get the reputation of missing even little things while aiming at big things. Consider then. Suppose that we three had to cross a river that was in violent flood, and that I, being the youngest of the party and having often had experience of currents, were to suggest that the proper course [892e] is for me to make an attempt first by myself—leaving you two in safety—to see whether it is possible for you older men also to cross, or how the matter stands, and then, if the river proved to be clearly fordable, I were to call you, and, by my experience, help you across, while if it proved impassable for such as you, in that case the risk should be wholly mine,—such a suggestion on my part would have sounded reasonable. So too in the present instance; the argument now in front of us is too violent, and probably impassable, for such strength as you possess; so, lest it make you faint and dizzy as it rushes past and poses you with questions

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