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[75a] before the time when we first saw equal things and thought, ‘All these things are aiming to be like equality but fall short.’”

“That is true.”

“And we agree, also, that we have not gained knowledge of it, and that it is impossible to gain this knowledge, except by sight or touch or some other of the senses? I consider that all the senses are alike.”

“Yes, Socrates, they are all alike, for the purposes of our argument.”

“Then it is through the senses that we must learn [75b] that all sensible objects strive after absolute equality and fall short of it. Is that our view?”

“Yes.”

“Then before we began to see or hear or use the other senses we must somewhere have gained a knowledge of abstract or absolute equality, if we were to compare with it the equals which we perceive by the senses, and see that all such things yearn to be like abstract equality but fall short of it.”

“That follows necessarily from what we have said before, Socrates.”

“And we saw and heard and had the other senses as soon as we were born?” [75c] “Certainly.”

“But, we say, we must have acquired a knowledge of equality before we had these senses?”

“Yes.

“Then it appears that we must have acquired it before we were born.”

“It does.”

“Now if we had acquired that knowledge before we were born, and were born with it, we knew before we were born and at the moment of birth not only the equal and the greater and the less, but all such abstractions? For our present argument is no more concerned with the equal than with absolute beauty and the absolute good and the just and the holy, and, in short, [75d] with all those things which we stamp with the seal of absolute in our dialectic process of questions and answers; so that we must necessarily have acquired knowledge of all these before our birth.”

“That is true.”

“And if after acquiring it we have not, in each case, forgotten it, we must always be born knowing these things, and must know them throughout our life; for to know is to have acquired knowledge and to have retained it without losing it, and the loss of knowledge is just what we mean when we speak of forgetting, is it not, Simmias?”

“Certainly, [75e] Socrates,” said he.

“But, I suppose, if we acquired knowledge before we were born and lost it at birth, but afterwards by the use of our senses regained the knowledge which we had previously possessed, would not the process which we call learning really be recovering knowledge which is our own? And should we be right in calling this recollection?”

“Assuredly.”

“For we found that it is possible,


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