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οὔτε γὰρ κτλ. Plato has just declared that it would be the height of folly in a teacher even to attempt to make a young man run counter to public opinion. The present sentence explains why. There is not, never has been, and never will be produced a character different (from the Many) in respect of virtue, by having been educated on principles opposed to the education which the Many provide (the force of public sentiment, expressed in assemblies etc.). Consequently every attempt to produce such a character by means of education in the teeth of public opinion is foredoomed to failure. The statement appears at first sight extraordinary; but from Plato's point of view it is, with the limitations which he makes, strictly correct. Cities are either actual or ideal. In the ideal city, education does not produce a type of character which conflicts with public opinion, because public opinion is itself formed by education. In actual cities, education must conform to the same standard if it is to exist at all: for τὸν μὴ πειθόμενον ἀτιμίαις τε καὶ χρήμασι καὶ θανάτοις κολάζουσι (492 D). How then are we to explain the presence of great and good men in existing cities? They are θεῖοι ἄνδρες, saved from corruption by grace of God: see on 493 A. In these circumstances, what is the political reformer to do? He must break with all existing cities (497 B), and found—as Plato now wishes to do—a new commonwealth in which sound education and public opinion no longer differ, but agree. In other words, his policy must be to make the Philosopher King. For other views of this passage see App. II.

ἀνθρώπειον: sc. <*>θος: ‘a merely human character.’ Plato makes an exception in favour of a θεῖον ἦθος, playing on the proverb τὸ θεῖον ἐξαιρῶ λόγου, for which cf. Symp. 176 C Σωκράτη δ ἐξαιρῶ λόγου, Phaedr. 242 B Σιμμίαν Θηβαῖον ἐξαιρῶ λόγου (a delicate way of hinting that Socrates and Simmias are θεῖοι ἄνδρες), and Theaet. 162 D. Any ἦθος which in existing cities conspicuously transcends the public standard of morality (and is thus ἀλλοῖον πρὸς ἀρετήν) is θεῖον, and for that very reason sporadic and exceptional (see next note).

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hide References (3 total)
  • Commentary references from this page (3):
    • Plato, Theaetetus, 162d
    • Plato, Phaedrus, 242b
    • Plato, Symposium, 176c
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