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[539a] will he be likely to adopt any other way of life than that which flatters his desires1?” “He will not,” he said. “He will, then, seem to have become a rebel to law and convention instead of the conformer that he was.” “Necessarily.” “And is not this experience of those who take up dialectics in this fashion to be expected and, as I just now said, deserving of much leniency?” “Yes, and of pity too,” he said. “Then that we may not have to pity thus your thirty-year-old disciples, must you not take every precaution when you introduce them to the study of dialectics?” “Yes, indeed,” he said. “And is it not [539b] one chief safeguard not to suffer them to taste of it while young?2 For I fancy you have not failed to observe that lads, when they first get a taste of disputation, misuse it as a form of sport, always employing it contentiously, and, imitating confuters, they themselves confute others.3 They delight like spies in pulling about and tearing with words all who approach them.” “Exceedingly so,” he said. “And when they have themselves confuted many and been confuted by many, [539c] they quickly fall into a violent distrust of all that they formerly held true; and the outcome is that they themselves and the whole business of philosophy are discredited with other men.” “Most true,” he said. “But an older man will not share this craze,4” said I, “but rather choose to imitate the one who consents to examine truth dialectically than the one who makes a jest5 and a sport of mere contradiction, [539d] and so he will himself be more reasonable and moderate, and bring credit rather than discredit upon his pursuit.” “Right,” he said. “And were not all our preceding statements made with a view to this precaution our requirement that those permitted to take part in such discussions must have orderly and stable natures, instead of the present practice6 of admitting to it any chance and unsuitable applicant?” “By all means,” he said.

“Is it enough, then, to devote to the continuous and strenuous study of dialectics undisturbed by anything else, as in the corresponding discipline in bodily exercises, [539e] twice as many years as were allotted to that?” “Do you mean six or four?” he said. “Well,” I said, “set it down as five.7 For after that you will have to send them down into the cave8 again, and compel them to hold commands in war and the other offices suitable to youth, so that they may not fall short of the other type in experience9 either. And in these offices, too, they are to be tested to see whether they will remain steadfast under diverse solicitations

1 Cf. Laws 633 E and 442 A-B. Others render it, “than the life of the flatterers (parasites).” Why not both?

2 See on 498 A-B. Cf. Richard of Bury, Philobiblon(Morley, A Miscellany, pp. 49-50): “But the contemporaries of our age negligently apply a few years of ardent youth, burning by turns with the fire of vice; and when they have attained the acumen of discerning a doubtful truth, they immediately become involved in extraneous business, retire, and say farewell to the schools of philosophy; they sip the frothy must of juvenile wit over the difficulties of philosophy, and pour out the purified old wine with economical care.”

3 Cf. Apol. 23 C, Phileb. 15 E, Xen.Mem. i. 2. 46, Isoc. xii. 26 and x. 6; also Friedländer, Platon, ii. p. 568.

4 But in another mood or from another angle this is the bacchic madness of philosophy which all the company in the Symposium have shared, 218 A-B. Cf. also Phaedr. 245 B-C, 249 C-E, Sophist 216 D, Phileb. 15 D-E, and What Plato Said, p. 493 on Protag. 317 D-E.

5 Cf. Gorg. 500 B-C. Yet the prevailing seriousness of Plato's own thought does not exclude touches of humor and irony, and he vainly warns the modern reader to distinguish between jest and earnest in the drama of disputation in his dialogues. Many misinterpretations of Plato's thought are due to the failure to heed this warning. Cf. e.g .Gorgias 474 A (What Plato Said, p. 504), which Robin, L’Année Philos. xxi. p. 29, and others miss, Rep. 376 B, Symp. 196 C, Protag. 339 f., Theaet. 157 A-B, 160 B,165 B,and passim. Cf. also on 536 C, p. 214, note b.

6 For the idiom μὴ ὡς νῦν etc. Cf. on 410 Bοὐχ ὥσπερ; also 610 D, Gorg. 522 A, Symp. 179 E, 189 C, Epist. vii. 333 A, Aristoph.Knights 784, Eurip.Bacchae 929, Il. xix. 493, Od. xxiv. 199, xxi. 427, Dem. iv. 34, Aristot.De an. 414 A 22.

7 It is very naive of modern commentators to cavil at the precise time allotted to dialectic, and still more so to infer that there was not much to say about the ideas. Dialectic was not exclusively or mainly concerned with the metaphysics of the ideas. It was the development of the reasoning powers by rational discussion.

8 Cf. 519 C ff., pp. 139-145.

9 Xen.Cyrop. i. 2. 13 seems to copy this. Cf. on 484 D. Critics of Plato frequently overlook the fact that he insisted on practical experience in the training of his rulers. Newman, Aristot.Pol. i. p. 5 points out that this experience takes the place of special training in political science.

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