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What is that?Athenian
We commonly assert that men ought not to enquire concerning the greatest god and about the universe, nor busy themselves in searching out their causes, since it is actually impious to do so; whereas the right course, in all probability, is exactly the opposite.Clinias
My statement sounds paradoxical, and it might be thought to be unbecoming in an old man; but the fact is that, when a man believes that a science is fair and true and beneficial to the State and altogether well-pleasing to God, [821b] he cannot possibly refrain any longer from declaring it.1Clinias
That is reasonable; but what science of this kind shall we find on the subject of stars?Athenian
At present, my good sirs, nearly all we Greeks say what is false about those mighty deities, the Sun and Moon.Clinias
What is the falsehood?Athenian
We assert that they, and some other stars along with them, never travel along the same path; and we call them “planets.”2 [821c] Clinias
Yes, by Zeus, Stranger, that is true; for I, during my life, have often noticed how Phosphorus and Hesperus and other stars never travel on the same course, but “wander” all ways; but as to the Sun and Moon, we all know that they are constantly doing this.Athenian
It is precisely for this reason, Megillus and Clinias, that I now assert that our citizens and our children ought to learn so much concerning all these facts about the gods of Heaven [821d] as to enable them not to blaspheme about them, but always to speak piously both at sacrifices and when they pray reverently at prayers.Clinias
You are right, provided that, in the first place, it is possible to learn the subject you mention; and provided also that learning will make us correct any mistakes we may be making about them now,—then I, too, agree that a subject of such importance should be learned. This being so, do you make every effort to expound the matter, and we will endeavor to follow you and learn. [821e] Athenian
Well, the matter I speak of is not an easy one to learn; nor yet is it altogether difficult and demanding very prolonged study. In proof of this—although I was told of it neither in the days of my youth nor long ago, I may be able to explain it to you in a comparatively short time. Whereas, if it had been a difficult subject, I should never have been able to explain it to you at all—I at my age to you at yours.Clinias
Very true. But what is this science which you describe as marvellous and fitting for the young to learn, and which we are ignorant about?
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