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[968a] He that is unable to master these sciences, in addition to the popular virtues,1 will never make a competent magistrate of the whole State, but only a minister to other magistrates. And now, O Megillus and Clinias, it is time at last to consider whether, in addition to all the previous laws which we have stated, we shall add this also—that the nocturnal synod of magistrates shall be legally established, and shall participate in all the education we have described, to keep ward over the State, and to secure its salvation; [968b] or what are we to do?

Of course we shall add this law, my excellent sir, if we can possibly do so, even to a small extent.

Then, verily, let us all strive to do so. And herein you will find me a most willing helper, owing to my very long experience and study of this subject; and perhaps I shall discover other helpers also besides myself.

Well, Stranger, we most certainly must proceed on that path along which God too, it would seem, is conducting us. But what is the right method for us to employ,— [968c] that is what we have now got to discover and state.

It is not possible at this stage, Megillus and Clinias, to enact laws for such a body, before it has been duly framed; when it is, its members must themselves ordain what authority they should possess; but it is already plain that what is required in order to form such a body, if it is to be rightly formed, is teaching by means of prolonged conferences.

How so? What now are we to understand by this observation?

Surely we must first draw up a list [968d] of all those who are fitted by age, intellectual capacity, and moral character and habit for the office of warden; but as regards the next point, the subjects they should learn,—these it is neither easy to discover for oneself2 nor is it easy to find another who has made the discovery and learn from him. Moreover, with respect to the limits of time, when and for how long they ought to receive instruction in each subject, it were idle to lay down written regulations;3 [968e] for even the learners themselves could not be sure that they were learning at the opportune time until each of them had acquired within his soul some knowledge of the subject in question. Accordingly, although it would be wrong to term all these matters “indescribable,” they should be termed “imprescribable,” seeing that the prescribing of them beforehand does nothing to elucidate the question under discussion.

What then must we do, Stranger, under these circumstances?

Apparently, my friends, we must “take our chance with the crowd” (as the saying is), and if we are willing to put the whole polity to the hazard and throw (as men say) three sixes or three aces, so it must be done;

1 Cp. Plat. Laws 710a.

2 Cp. Plat. Rep. 528b ff.

3 Cp.Epp. 7. 341 C.

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