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[518a] I said, “would remember that there are two distinct disturbances of the eyes arising from two causes, according as the shift is from light to darkness or from darkness to light,1 and, believing that the same thing happens to the soul too, whenever he saw a soul perturbed and unable to discern something, he would not laugh2 unthinkingly, but would observe whether coming from a brighter life its vision was obscured by the unfamiliar darkness, or [518b] whether the passage from the deeper dark of ignorance into a more luminous world and the greater brightness had dazzled its vision.3 And so4 he would deem the one happy in its experience and way of life and pity the other, and if it pleased him to laugh at it, his laughter would be less laughable than that at the expense of the soul that had come down from the light above.” “That is a very fair statement,” he said.

“Then, if this is true, our view of these matters must be this, that education is not in reality what some people proclaim it to be in their professions.5 [518c] What they aver is that they can put true knowledge into a soul that does not possess it, as if they were inserting6 vision into blind eyes.” “They do indeed,” he said. “But our present argument indicates,” said I, “that the true analogy for this indwelling power in the soul and the instrument whereby each of us apprehends is that of an eye that could not be converted to the light from the darkness except by turning the whole body. Even so this organ of knowledge must be turned around from the world of becoming together with the entire soul, like the scene-shifting periact7 in the theater, until the soul is able to endure the contemplation of essence and the brightest region of being. [518d] And this, we say, is the good,8 do we not?” “Yes.” “Of this very thing, then,” I said, “there might be an art,9 an art of the speediest and most effective shifting or conversion of the soul, not an art of producing vision in it, but on the assumption that it possesses vision but does not rightly direct it and does not look where it should, an art of bringing this about.” “Yes, that seems likely,” he said. “Then the other so-called virtues10 of the soul do seem akin to those of the body. [518e] For it is true that where they do not pre-exist, they are afterwards created by habit11 and practice. But the excellence of thought,12 it seems, is certainly of a more divine quality, a thing that never loses its potency, but, according to the direction of its conversion, becomes useful and beneficent,

1 Aristotle, De an. 422 a 20 f. says the over-bright is ἀόρατον but otherwise than the dark.

2 Cf. Theaet. 175 D-E.

3 Lit. “or whether coming from a deeper ignorance into a more luminous world, it is dazzled by the brilliance of a greater light.”

4 i.e. only after that. For οὕτω δή in this sense cf. 484 D, 429 D, 443 E, Charm. 171 E.

5 ἐπαγγελλόμενοι connotes the boastfulness of their claims. Cf. Protag. 319 A, Gorg. 447 c, Laches 186 C, Euthyd. 273 E, Isoc.Soph. 1, 5, 9, 10, Antid. 193, Xen.Mem. iii. 1. 1, i. 2. 8, Aristot.Rhet. 1402 a 25.

6 Cf. Theognis 429 ff. Stallbaum compares Eurip.Hippol. 917 f. Similarly Anon. Theaet. Comm.(Berlin, 1905), p. 32, 48. 4καὶ δεῖν αὐτῇ οὐκ ἐνθέσεως μαθημάτων, ἀλλὰ ἀναμνήσεως. Cf. also St. Augustine: “Nolite putare quemquam hominem aliquid discere ab homine. Admonere possumus per strepitum vocis nostrae;” and Emerson's “strictly speaking, it is not instruction but provocation that I can receive from another soul.”

7 περιακτέον is probably a reference to the περίακτοι or triangular prisms on each side of the stage. They revolved on an axis and had different scenes painted on their three faces. Many scholars are of the opinion that they were not known in the classical period, as they are mentioned only by late writers; but others do not consider this conclusive evidence, as a number of classical plays seem to have required something of the sort. Cf. O. Navarre in Daremberg-Saglio s.v. Machine, p. 1469.

8 Hard-headed distaste for the unction or seeming mysticism of Plato's language should not blind us to the plain meaning. Unlike Schopenhauer, who affirms the moral will to be unchangeable, Plato says that men may be preached and drilled into ordinary morality, but that the degree of their intelligence is an unalterable endowment of nature. Some teachers will concur.

9 Plato often distinguishes the things that do or do not admit of reduction to an art or science. Cf. on 488 E p. 22, note b. Adam is mistaken in taking it “Education ( παιδεία) would be an art,” etc.

10 This then is Plato's answer (intended from the first) to the question whether virtue can be taught, debated in the Protagoras and Meno. The intellectual virtues (to use Aristotle's term), broadly speaking, cannot be taught; they are a gift. And the highest moral virtue is inseparable from rightly directed intellectual virtue. Ordinary moral virtue is not rightly taught in democratic Athens, but comes by the grace of God. In a reformed state it could be systematically inculcated and “taught.” Cf. What Plato Said, pp. 51-512 on Meno 70 A. but we need not infer that Plato did not believe in mental discipline. cf. Charles Fox, Educational Psychology, p. 164 “The conception of mental discipline is a least as old as Plato, as may be seen from the seventh book of the Republic . . .”

11 Cf. Aristot.Eth. Nic. 1103 a 14-17 δὲ ἠθικὴ ἐξ ἔθους. Plato does not explicitly name “ethical” and “intellectual” virtues. Cf. Fox, op. cit. p. 104 “Plato correctly believed . . . ”

12 Plato uses such synonyms as φρόνησις, σοφία, νοῦς, διάνοια, etc., as suits his purpose and context. He makes no attempt to define and discriminate them with impracticable Aristotelian meticulousness.

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