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[491a] we are to observe those who imitate this nature and usurp its pursuits and see what types of souls they are that thus entering upon a way of life which is too high1 for them and exceeds their powers, by the many discords and disharmonies of their conduct everywhere and among all men bring upon philosophy the repute of which you speak.” “Of what corruptions are you speaking?” “I will try,” I said, “to explain them to you if I can. I think everyone will grant us this point, that a nature such as we just now postulated [491b] for the perfect philosopher is a rare growth among men and is found in only a few. Don't you think so?” “Most emphatically.” “Observe, then, the number and magnitude of the things that operate to destroy these few.” “What are they?” “The most surprising fact of all is that each of the gifts of nature which we praise tends to corrupt the soul of its possessor and divert it from philosophy. I am speaking of bravery, sobriety, and the entire list.2” “That does sound like a paradox,” said he. [491c] “Furthermore,” said I, “all the so-called goods3 corrupt and divert, beauty and wealth and strength of body and powerful family connections in the city and all things akin to them—you get my general meaning?” “I do,” he said, “and I would gladly hear a more precise statement of it.” “Well,” said I, “grasp it rightly as a general proposition and the matter will be clear and the preceding statement will not seem to you so strange.” “How do you bid me proceed?” he said. [491d] “We know it to be universally true of every seed and growth, whether vegetable or animal, that the more vigorous it is the more it falls short of its proper perfection when deprived of the food, the season, the place that suits it. For evil is more opposed to the good than to the not-good.4 “Of course.” “So it is, I take it, natural that the best nature should fare worse5 than the inferior under conditions of nurture unsuited to it.” “It is.” “Then,” said I, “Adeimantus, [491e] shall we not similarly affirm that the best endowed souls become worse than the others under a bad education? Or do you suppose that great crimes and unmixed wickedness spring from a slight nature6 and not from a vigorous one corrupted by its nurture, while a weak nature will never be the cause of anything great, either for good or evil?” “No,” he said, “that is the case.”

1 For the Greek double use of ἄξιος and ἀνάξιος Cf. Laws 943 E, Aesch.Ag. 1527. Cf. “How worthily he died who died unworthily” and Wyatt's line “Disdain me not without desert.”

2 Cf. Burton, Anatomy, i. 1 “This St. Austin acknowledgeth of himself in his humble confessions, promptness of wit, memory, eloquence, they were God's good gifts, but he did not use them to his glory.” Cf. Meno 88 A-C, and Seneca, Ep. v. 7 “multa bona nostra nobis nocent.”

3 Cf. What Plato Said, p. 479 on Charm. 158 A. For “goods” Cf. ibid. p. 629 on Laws 697 B. The minor or earlier dialogues constantly lead up to the point that goods are no good divorced from wisdom, or the art to use them rightly, or the political or royal art, or the art that will make us happy. Cf. What Plato Said, p. 71.

4 This is for Plato's purpose a sufficiently clear statement of the distinction between contradictory and contrary opposition. Plato never drew out an Aristotelian or modern logician's table of the opposition of propositions. But it is a misunderstanding of Greek idiom or of his style to say that he never got clear on the matter. He always understood it. Cf. Symp. 202 A-B, and on 437 A-B, What Plato Said, p. 595 on Soph. 257 B, and ibid. p. 563 on Rep. 436 B ff.

5 “Corruptio optimi pessima.” Cf. 495 A-B, Xen.Mem, i. 2. 24, iv. 1. 3-4. Cf. Livy xxxviii. 17 “generosius in sua quidquid sede gignitur: insitum alienae terrae in id quo alitur, natura vertente se, degenerat,” Pausanias vii. 17. 3.

6 Cf. 495 B; La Rochefoucauld, Max. 130 “Ia faiblesse est le seul défaut qu'on ne saurait corriger” and 467 “Ia faiblesse est plus opposée à Ia vertu que le vice.”

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