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[518d] And this, we say, is the good,1 do we not?” “Yes.” “Of this very thing, then,” I said, “there might be an art,2 an art of the speediest and most effective shifting or conversion of the soul, not an art of producing vision in it, but on the assumption that it possesses vision but does not rightly direct it and does not look where it should, an art of bringing this about.” “Yes, that seems likely,” he said. “Then the other so-called virtues3 of the soul do seem akin to those of the body.

1 Hard-headed distaste for the unction or seeming mysticism of Plato's language should not blind us to the plain meaning. Unlike Schopenhauer, who affirms the moral will to be unchangeable, Plato says that men may be preached and drilled into ordinary morality, but that the degree of their intelligence is an unalterable endowment of nature. Some teachers will concur.

2 Plato often distinguishes the things that do or do not admit of reduction to an art or science. Cf. on 488 E p. 22, note b. Adam is mistaken in taking it “Education ( παιδεία) would be an art,” etc.

3 This then is Plato's answer (intended from the first) to the question whether virtue can be taught, debated in the Protagoras and Meno. The intellectual virtues (to use Aristotle's term), broadly speaking, cannot be taught; they are a gift. And the highest moral virtue is inseparable from rightly directed intellectual virtue. Ordinary moral virtue is not rightly taught in democratic Athens, but comes by the grace of God. In a reformed state it could be systematically inculcated and “taught.” Cf. What Plato Said, pp. 51-512 on Meno 70 A. but we need not infer that Plato did not believe in mental discipline. cf. Charles Fox, Educational Psychology, p. 164 “The conception of mental discipline is a least as old as Plato, as may be seen from the seventh book of the Republic . . .”

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