15. “‘Well, well, I won't go on to ask whether anything more is wanting to your man, after you have implanted in him a desire for your prosperity and have made him also careful to see that you achieve it, and have obtained for him, besides, the knowledge needful to ensure that every piece of work done shall add to the profits, and, further, have made him capable of ruling, and when, besides all this, he takes as much delight in producing heavy crops for you in due season as you would take if you did the work yourself. For it seems to me that a man like that would make a very valuable bailiff. Nevertheless, Ischomachus, don't leave a gap in that part of the subject to which we have given the most cursory attention.’“‘Which is it?’ asked Ischomachus.  “‘You said, you know, that the greatest lesson to learn is how things ought to be done; and added that, if a man is ignorant what to do and how to do it, no good can come of his management.’  “Then he said, ‘Socrates, are you insisting now that I should teach the whole art and mystery of agriculture?’“‘Yes,’ said I; ‘for maybe it is just this that makes rich men of those who understand it, and condemns the ignorant to a life of penury, for all their toil.’  “‘Well, Socrates, you shall now hear how kindly a thing is this art. Helpful, pleasant, honourable, dear to gods and men in the highest degree, it is also in the highest degree easy to learn. Noble qualities surely! As you know, we call those creatures noble that are beautiful, great and helpful, and yet gentle towards men.’  “‘Ah, but I think, Ischomachus, that I quite understand your account of these matters—I mean how to teach a bailiff; for I think I follow your statement that you make him loyal to you, and careful and capable of ruling and honest.  But you said that one who is to be successful in the management of a farm must learn what to do and how and when to do it. That is the subject that we have treated, it seems to me, in a rather cursory fashion,  as if you said that anyone who is to be capable of writing from dictation and reading what is written must know the alphabet. For had I been told that, I should have been told, to be sure, that I must know the alphabet, but I don't think that piece of information would help me to know it.  So too now; I am easily convinced that a man who is to manage a farm successfully must understand farming, but that knowledge doesn't help me to understand how to farm.  Were I to decide this very moment to be a farmer, I think I should be like that doctor who goes round visiting the sick, but has no knowledge of the right way to treat them. Therefore, that I may not be like him, you must teach me the actual operations of farming.’  “‘Why, Socrates, farming is not troublesome to learn, like other arts, which the pupil must study till he is worn out before he can earn his keep by his work. Some things you can understand by watching men at work, others by just being told, well enough to teach another if you wish. And I believe that you know a good deal about it yourself, without being aware of the fact.  The truth is that, whereas other artists conceal more or less the most important points in their own art, the farmer who plants best is most pleased when he is being watched, so is he who sows best. Question him about any piece of work well done: and he will tell you exactly how he did it.  So farming, Socrates, more than any other calling, seems to produce a generous disposition in its followers.’  “‘An excellent preamble,’ I cried, ‘and not of a sort to damp the hearer's curiosity. Come, describe it to me, all the more because it is so simple to learn. For it is no disgrace to you to teach elementary lessons, but far more a disgrace to me not to understand them, especially if they are really useful.’”
This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.
An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.