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[818a] All these sciences should not be studied with minute accuracy by the majority of pupils, but only by a select few—and who these are we shall say when we have come near the end,—since that will be the proper place:1 but for the bulk of the pupils, while it would be shameful for most of them not to understand all those parts of them that are most truly termed “necessary,” yet it is not easy nor even at all possible for every student to go into them minutely. The necessary part of them it is impossible to reject, and probably this is what was in the mind [818b] of the original author of the proverb,2 “Not even God will ever be seen fighting against Necessity,”—meaning by this, I suppose, all kinds of necessity that are divine, since in relation to human necessities (to which most people apply the saying when they quote it) it is of all sayings far and away the most fatuous.

Clinias
What necessities then, Stranger, belong to these sciences, that are not of this sort, but divine?

Athenian
Those, as I believe, which must be practiced and [818c] learned by every god, daemon, and hero, if he is to be competent seriously to supervise mankind: a man certainly would be far from becoming godlike if he were incapable of learning the nature of one and of two, and of even and odd numbers in general, and if he knew nothing at all about counting, and could not count even day and night as distinct objects, and if he were ignorant of the circuit of the sun and moon and all the other stars. [818d] To suppose, then, that all these studies3 are not “necessary” for a man who means to understand almost any single one of the fairest sciences, is a most foolish supposition. The first thing we must grasp correctly is this—which of these branches of study must be learnt, and how many, and at what periods, and which of them in conjunction with which, and which by themselves apart from all others, and the method of combining them; this done, and with these studies as introductory, we may proceed to the learning of the rest. For such is the natural order of procedure as determined by Necessity, [818e] against whom, as we declare, no god fights now, nor ever will fight.

Clinias
Yes, Stranger, this account of yours does seem to be in accord with nature, and true.

Athenian
That is indeed the truth of the matter, Clinias; but to give legal enactment to this program of ours is difficult. We will, if you agree, enact this more precisely on a later occasion.

Clinias
You appear to us, Stranger, to be scared by the neglect of such studies which is the habit in our countries; but you are wrong to be scared. Do not be deterred on that account, but try to proceed with your statement.

1 Cp. Plat. Laws 962c, Plat. Laws 965a.

2 Cp. Plat. Laws 741a.

3 i.e. arithmetic, geometry, and astronomy: some elementary (“necessary”) knowledge of all three is indispensable for a through study of one branch of science.

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