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[208a] with regard to the possessions of knowledge, not merely do some of them grow and others perish in us, so that neither in what we know are we ever the same persons; but a like fate attends each single sort of knowledge. What we call “conning” implies that our knowledge is departing; since forgetfulness is an egress of knowledge, while conning substitutes a fresh one in place of that which departs, and so preserves our knowledge enough to make it seem the same. Every mortal thing is preserved in this way; not by keeping it exactly the same for ever, [208b] like the divine, but by replacing what goes off or is antiquated with something fresh, in the semblance of the original. Through this device, Socrates, a mortal thing partakes of immortality, both in its body and in all other respects; by no other means can it be done. So do not wonder if everything naturally values its own offshoot; since all are beset by this eagerness and this love with a view to immortality.’

“On hearing this argument I wondered, and said: [208c] ‘Really, can this in truth be so, most wise Diotima?’

“Whereat she, like the professors in their glory: ‘Be certain of it, Socrates; only glance at the ambition of the men around you, and you will have to wonder at the unreasonableness of what I have told you, unless you are careful to consider how singularly they are affected with the love of winning a name, “and laying up fame immortal for all time to come.”1 For this, even more than for their children, they are ready to run all risks, [208d] to expend money, perform any kind of task, and sacrifice their lives. Do you suppose,’ she asked, ‘that Alcestis would have died for Admetus, or Achilles have sought death on the corpse of Patroclus, or your own Codrus2 have welcomed it to save the children of his queen, if they had not expected to win “a deathless memory for valor,” which now we keep? Of course not. I hold it is for immortal distinction and [208e] for such illustrious renown as this that they all do all they can, and so much the more in proportion to their excellence. They are in love with what is immortal. Now those who are teeming in body betake them rather to women, and are amorous on this wise: by getting children they acquire an immortality, a memorial, and a state of bliss, which in their imagining they “for all succeeding time procure.”

1 Diotima, like Agathon, breaks into verse of her own composing.

2 A legendary king of Athens who exposed his life because an oracle had said that the Dorian invaders would conquer if they did not slay the Athenian king.

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    • Sir Richard C. Jebb, Commentary on Sophocles: Philoctetes, 1420
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