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[538a] amid many flatterers, who on arriving at manhood should become aware that he is not the child of those who call themselves his parents, and should I not be able to find his true father and mother. Can you divine what would be his feelings towards the flatterers and his supposed parents in the time when he did not know the truth about his adoption, and, again, when he knew it? Or would you like to hear my surmise?” “I would.”

“Well, then, my surmise is,” I said, “that he would be more likely to honor [538b] his reputed father and mother and other kin than the flatterers, and that there would be less likelihood of his allowing them to lack for anything, and that he would be less inclined to do or say to them anything unlawful, and less liable to disobey them in great matters than to disobey the flatterers—during the time when he did not know the truth.” “It is probable,” he said. “But when he found out the truth, I surmise that he would grow more remiss in honor and devotion to them and pay more regard to the flatterers, whom he would heed [538c] more than before1 and would henceforth live by their rule, associating with them openly, while for that former father and his adoptive kin he would not care at all, unless he was naturally of a very good disposition.” “All that you say,” he replied, “would be likely to happen.2 But what is the pertinency of this comparison to the novices of dialectic3?” “It is this. We have, I take it, certain convictions4 from childhood about the just and the honorable, in which, in obedience and honor to them, we have been bred as children under their parents.” [538d] “Yes, we have.” “And are there not other practices going counter to these, that have pleasures attached to them and that flatter and solicit our souls, but do not win over men of any decency; but they continue to hold in honor the teachings of their fathers and obey them?” “It is so” “Well, then,” said I, “when a man of this kind is met by the question,5‘What is the honorable?’ and on his giving the answer which he learned from the lawgiver, the argument confutes him, and by many and various refutations upsets6 his faith [538e] and makes him believe that this thing is no more honorable than it is base,7 and when he has had the same experience about the just and the good and everything that he chiefly held in esteem, how do you suppose that he will conduct himself thereafter in the matter of respect and obedience to this traditional morality?” “It is inevitable,” he said, “that he will not continue to honor and obey as before.” “And then,” said I, “when he ceases to honor these principles and to think that they are binding on him,8 and cannot discover the true principles,

1 διαφερόντως πρότερον: Cf. Phaedo 85 B.

2 οἷά περ ἂν γένοιτο is the phrase Aristotle uses to distinguish the truth of poetry from the facts of history.

3 That is the meaning. Lit. “those who lay hold on discourse.”

4 Plato's warning apples to our day no less than to his own. Like the proponents of ethical nihilism in Plato's Athens, much of our present-day literature and teaching questions all standards of morality and aesthetics, and confuses justice and injustice, beauty and ugliness. Cf. also on 537 D, p. 220, note a.

5 The question is here personified, as the λόγος so often is, e.g. 503 A. Cf. What Plato Said on Protag. 361 A-B.

6 A possible allusion to the καταβάλλοντες λόγοι of the sophist. Cf. Euthydem. 277 D, 288 A, Phaedo 88 C, Phileb. 15 E and What Plato Said, p. 518, on Crito 272 B.

7 This is the oral counterpart of the intellectual skepticism or μισολογία of Phaedo 90 C-D. Cf. What Plato Said, p. 531, on Phaedo 89.

8 For οἰκεῖα Cf. 433 E, 433 D, and Class. Phil. xxiv. (1929) pp. 409-410.

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