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Do I need to read a lot of books - or even one?

Plato: Books can be your worst enemies

From: Plato, Phaedrus, translated by Benjamin Jowett  * Plato Home Page

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Scene: Phaedrus and Socrates under a plane-tree, by the banks of the Ilissus


Knowing the things as products of actions

Soc. (...) Ought we not to consider first whether that which we wish to learn and to teach is a simple or multiform thing, and if simple, then to enquire what power it has of acting or being acted upon in relation to other things, and if multiform, then to number the forms; and see first in the case of one of them, and then in the case of all of them, what is that power of acting or being acted upon which makes each and all of them to be what they are?

Phaedr. You may very likely be right, Socrates.
Soc. The method which proceeds without analysis is like the groping of a blind man. Yet, surely, he who is an artist ought not to admit of a comparison with the blind, or deaf. The rhetorician, who teaches his pupil to speak scientifically, will particularly set forth the nature of that being to which he addresses his speeches; and this, I conceive, to be the soul.
Phaedr. Certainly.
Soc. His whole effort is directed to the soul; for in that he seeks to produce conviction.
Phaedr. Yes.
Soc. Then clearly, Thrasymachus or any one else who teaches rhetoric in earnest will give an exact description of the nature of the soul; which will enable us to see whether she be single and same, or, like the body, multiform. That is what we should call showing the nature of the soul.
Phaedr. Exactly.
Soc. He will explain, secondly, the mode in which she acts or is acted upon.
Phaedr. True.

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Cf.  Rilke, Letter to a Young Poet | Kierkegaard, My work as an author
Emerson, Self-knowledge | Gibson - McRury, Discovering one's face | Emerson, We differ in art, not in wisdom

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