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[76a] on perceiving a thing by the sight or the hearing or any other sense, to call to mind from that perception another thing which had been forgotten, which was associated with the thing perceived, whether like it or unlike it; so that, as I said, one of two things is true, either we are all born knowing these things and know them all our lives, or afterwards, those who are said to learn merely remember, and learning would then be recollection.”

“That is certainly true, Socrates.”

“Which then do you choose, Simmias? Were we born [76b] with the knowledge, or do we recollect afterwards things of which we had acquired knowledge before our birth?”

“I cannot choose at this moment, Socrates.”

“How about this question? You can choose and you have some opinion about it: When a man knows, can he give an account of what he knows or not?”

“Certainly he can, Socrates.”

“And do you think that everybody can give an account of the matters about which we have just been talking?”

“I wish they might,” said Simmias; “but on the contrary I fear that tomorrow, at this time, there will be no longer any man living who is able to do so properly.” [76c] “Then, Simmias, you do not think all men know these things?”

“By no means.”

“Then they recollect the things they once learned?”


“When did our souls acquire the knowledge of them? Surely not after we were born as human beings.”

“Certainly not.”

“Then previously.”


“Then, Simmias, the souls existed previously, before they were in human form, apart from bodies, and they had intelligence.”

“Unless, Socrates, we acquire these ideas at the moment of birth; for that time [76d] still remains.”

“Very well, my friend. But at what other time do we lose them? For we are surely not born with them, as we just now agreed. Do we lose them at the moment when we receive them, or have you some other time to suggest?”

“None whatever, Socrates. I did not notice that I was talking nonsense.”

“Then, Simmias,” said he, “is this the state of the case? If, as we are always saying, the beautiful exists, and the good, and every essence of that kind, and if we refer all our sensations to these, [76e] which we find existed previously and are now ours, and compare our sensations with these, is it not a necessary inference that just as these abstractions exist, so our souls existed before we were born; and if these abstractions do not exist, our argument is of no force? Is this the case, and is it equally certain that provided these things exist our souls also existed before we were born, and that if these do not exist, neither did our souls?”

“Socrates, it seems to me that there is absolutely the same certainty, and our argument comes to the excellent conclusion that

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