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[214a] and be guided by the poets; for they are our fathers, as it were, and conductors in wisdom. They, of course, express themselves in no mean sort on the subject of friends, where they happen to be found; even saying that God himself makes them friends by drawing them to each other. The way they put it, I believe, is something like this:“Yea, ever like and like together God doth draw,
Hom. Od. 17.218 [214b] and so brings them acquainted; or have you not come across these verses? Yes, I have, he replied. And you have also come across those writings of eminent sages, which tell us this very thing—that like must needs be always friend to like? I refer, of course, to those who debate or write about nature and the universe.1 Quite so, he said. Well now, I went on, are they right in what they say? Perhaps, he replied. Perhaps in one half of it, I said; perhaps in even the whole; only we do not comprehend it. We suppose that the nearer a wicked man [214c] approaches to a wicked man, and the more he consorts with him, the more hateful he becomes; for he injures him, and we consider it impossible that injurer and injured should be friends. Is it not so? Yes, he answered. On this showing, therefore, half of the saying cannot be true, if the wicked are like one another. Quite so. What I believe they mean is that the good are like one another, and are friends, while the bad—as is also said of them—are never like even their own selves, [214d] being so ill-balanced and unsteady; and when a thing is unlike itself and variable it can hardly become like or friend to anything else. You must surely agree to that? I do, he said. Hence I conclude there is a hidden meaning, dear friend, intended by those who say that like is friend to like, namely that the good alone is friend to the good alone, while the bad never enters into true friendship with either good or bad. Do you agree? He nodded assent. [214e] So now we can tell what friends are; since our argument discloses that they are any persons who may be good. I quite think so, said he.

And I also, said I; and yet there is a point in it that makes me uneasy: so come, in Heaven's name, let us make out what it is that I suspect. like friend to like in so far as he is like, and is such an one useful to his fellow? Let me put it another way: when anything whatever is like anything else, what benefit can it offer, or what harm can it do, to its like, which it could not offer or do to itself? Or what could be done to it that could not be done to it by itself?

1 The attraction of like for like was an important force in the cosmology of Empedocles (c. 475-415 B.C.)

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