Plato, Alcibiades 2 (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [lemma count] [Pl. Alc. 2].
<<Pl. Alc. 2 142e Pl. Alc. 2 144e (Greek) >>Pl. Alc. 2 147a

144bbut did not know him, and thought he was somebody else, would you still venture to kill him?

Alcibiades

No, upon my word, I should think not.

Socrates

For your man was, I presume, not anyone you met, but that particular person whom you wished to kill?

Alcibiades

Yes.

Socrates

And although you might make a number of attempts, if you always failed to know Pericles when you were about to commit the act, you would never attack him.

Alcibiades

No, indeed.

Socrates

Well now, do you suppose that Orestes would ever have attacked his mother if he had similarly failed to know her? 144c

Alcibiades

I do not think he would.

Socrates

For presumably he, too, had no intention of killing the first woman he met, or anybody else's mother, but only his own.

Alcibiades

That is so.

Socrates

Then to be ignorant in such matters is better for those who are so disposed and have formed such resolves.

Alcibiades

Apparently.

Socrates

So you see that ignorance of certain things is for certain persons in certain states a good, not an evil, as you supposed just now.

Alcibiades

It seems to be. 144d

Socrates

Then if you care to consider the sequel of this, I daresay it will surprise you.

Alcibiades

What may that be, Socrates?

Socrates

I mean that, generally speaking, it rather looks as though the possession of the sciences as a whole, if it does not include possession of the science of the best, will in a few instances help, but in most will harm, the owner. Consider it this way: must it not be the case, in your opinion, that when we are about to do or say anything, we first suppose that we know, or do really know, the thing 144ewe so confidently intend to say or do?

Alcibiades

I think so.

Socrates

Well, take the orators, for example: they either know, or think they know, how to advise us on various occasions—some about war and peace, and others about building walls or fitting up harbors; 145aand in a word, whatever the city does to another city or within herself, all comes about by the advice of the orators.

Alcibiades

That is true.

Socrates

Then observe the consequence.

Alcibiades

If I am able.

Socrates

Why, surely you call men either wise or unwise?

Alcibiades

I do.

Socrates

And the many unwise, and the few wise?

Alcibiades

Precisely.

Socrates

And in either case you name them in reference to something?

Alcibiades

Yes. 145b

Socrates

Then do you call a man wise who knows how to give advice, without knowing whether and when it is better to act upon it?

Alcibiades

No, indeed.

Socrates

Nor, I conceive, a man who knows what war is in itself, without knowing when or for how long a time it is better to make war?

Alcibiades

Agreed.

Socrates

Nor, again, a man who knows how to kill another, or seize his property, or make him an exile from his native land, without knowing when or to whom it is better so to behave?

Alcibiades

No, to be sure. 145c

Socrates

Then it is a man who knows something of this sort, and is assisted by knowledge of what is best,—and this is surely the same as knowledge of the useful, is it not?

Alcibiades

Yes.

Socrates

And we shall call him wise, and a competent adviser both of the city and of his own self; but a man not so qualified we shall call the opposite of these. How do you think?

Alcibiades

I agree.

Socrates

And what of a man who knows how to ride or shoot, or else to box or wrestle or contend in any other sport, 145dor do anything that we know by rule of art? What do you call him who knows what is better done by rule of that particular art? Do you not say that he who goes by the rules of riding is a good rider?

Alcibiades

I do.

Socrates

And the rules of boxing, I suppose, make a good boxer, and those of flute-playing a good flute-player, and so, on the same lines, note I presume, with the rest; or is there any difference?

Alcibiades

No, it is as you say.

Socrates

Then do you think it inevitable that he who has some knowledge about these things should also be a wise man, 145eor shall we say he comes far short of it?

Alcibiades

Far short of it, I declare.

Socrates

Then what sort of state do you suppose it would be, where the people were good bowmen and flute-players, together with athletes and artists in general, and mingled with these the men whom we have just mentioned as knowing war in itself and slaughter in itself, and orator-windbags too with their political bluster, but all of them lacked this knowledge of the best, and none knew when or upon whom it was better 146ato employ their respective arts?

Alcibiades

A paltry one, I should call it, Socrates.

Socrates

Yes, you would, I expect, when you saw each one of them vying with the other and assigning the largest part in the conduct of the state to that Wherein himself is found most excellent,
Eur. Antiope, Fr. note I mean, what is done best by rule of his particular art—while he is entirely off the track of what is best for the state and for himself, because, I conceive, he has put his trust in opinion apart from intelligence. In these circumstances,



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