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[260a]

Phaedrus
On that point, Socrates, I have heard that one who is to be an orator does not need to know what is really just, but what would seem just to the multitude who are to pass judgment, and not what is really good or noble, but what will seem to be so; for they say that persuasion comes from what seems to be true, not from the truth.

Socrates
Phaedrus, “The word,which the wise speak must not be rejected,
” but we must see if they are right; so we must not pass by this which you just said.

Phaedrus
You are right.

Socrates
Let us then examine it in this way.

Phaedrus
How? [260b]

Socrates
If I should urge you to buy a horse and fight against the invaders, and neither of us knew what a horse was, but I merely knew this about you, that Phaedrus thinks a horse is the one of the tame animals which has the longest ears—

Phaedrus
It would be ridiculous, Socrates.

Socrates
No, not yet; but if I tried to persuade you in all seriousness, composing a speech in praise of the ass, which I called a horse, and saying that the beast was a most valuable possession at home and in war, that you could use him as a mount in battle, and that he was able to carry [260c] baggage and was useful for many other purposes—

Phaedrus
Then it would be supremely ridiculous.

Socrates
But is it not better to be ridiculous than to be clever and an enemy?

Phaedrus
To be sure.

Socrates
Then when the orator who does not know what good and evil are undertakes to persuade a state which is equally ignorant, not by praising the ““shadow of an ass”” under the name of a horse, but by praising evil under the name of good, and having studied the opinions of the multitude persuades them to do evil instead of good, what harvest do you suppose his oratory will reap thereafter [260d] from the seed he has sown?

Phaedrus
No very good harvest.

Socrates
Well, do you think we have reproached the art of speaking too harshly? Perhaps she might say: “Why do you talk such nonsense, you strange men? I do not compel anyone to learn to speak without knowing the truth, but if my advice is of any value, he learns that first and then acquires me. So what I claim is this, that without my help the knowledge of the truth does not give the art of persuasion.”

Phaedrus
And will she be right in saying this? [260e]

Socrates
Yes, if the arguments that are coming against her testify that she is an art. For I seem, as it were, to hear some arguments approaching and protesting that she is lying and is not an art, but a craft devoid of art. A real art of speaking, says the Laconian, which does not seize hold of truth, does not exist and never will.


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