Charmides, or Temperance - 8
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But is knowledge or want of knowledge of health the same as
knowledge or want of knowledge of justice?
The one is medicine, and the other is politics; whereas that of
which we are speaking is knowledge pure and simple.
And if a man knows only, and has only knowledge of knowledge, and
has no further knowledge of health and justice, the probability is
that he will only know that he knows something, and has a certain
knowledge, whether concerning himself or other men.
Then how will this knowledge or science teach him to know what he
knows? Say that he knows health;-not wisdom or temperance, but the art
of medicine has taught it to him; and he has learned harmony from
the art of music, and building from the art of building, neither, from
wisdom or temperance: and the same of other things.
That is evident.
How will wisdom, regarded only as a knowledge of knowledge or
science of science, ever teach him that he knows health, or that he
It is impossible.
Then he who is ignorant of these things will only know that he
knows, but not what he knows?
Then wisdom or being wise appears to be not the knowledge of the
things which we do or do not know, but only the knowledge that we know
or do not know?
That is the inference.
Then he who has this knowledge will not be able to examine whether a
pretender knows or does not know that which he says that he knows:
he will only know that he has a knowledge of some kind; but wisdom
will not show him of what the knowledge is?
Neither will he be able to distinguish the pretender in medicine
from the true physician, nor between any other true and false
professor of knowledge. Let us consider the matter in this way: If the
wise man or any other man wants to distinguish the true physician from
the false, how will he proceed? He will not talk to him about
medicine; and that, as we were saying, is the only thing which the
And, on the other hand, the physician knows nothing of science,
for this has been assumed to be the province of wisdom.
And further, since medicine is science, we must infer that he does
not know anything of medicine.
Then the wise man may indeed know that the physician has some kind
of science or knowledge; but when he wants to discover the nature of
this he will ask, What is the subject-matter? For the several sciences
are distinguished not by the mere fact that they are sciences, but
by the nature of their subjects. Is not that true?
And medicine is distinguished from other sciences as having the
subject-matter of health and disease?
And he who would enquire into the nature of medicine must pursue the
enquiry into health and disease, and not into what is extraneous?
And he who judges rightly will judge of the physician as a physician
in what relates to these?
He will consider whether what he says is true, and whether what he
does is right, in relation to health and disease?
But can any one attain the knowledge of either unless he have a of
No one at all, it would seem, except the physician can have this
knowledge; and therefore not the wise man; he would have to be a
physician as well as a wise man.
Then, assuredly, wisdom or temperance, if only a science of science,
and of the absence of science or knowledge, will not be able to
distinguish the physician who knows from one who does not know but
pretends or thinks that he knows, or any other professor of anything
at all; like any other artist, he will only know his fellow in art
or wisdom, and no one else.
That is evident, he said.
But then what profit, Critias, I said, is there any longer in wisdom
or temperance which yet remains, if this is wisdom? If, indeed, as
we were supposing at first, the wise man had been able to
distinguish what he knew and did not know, and that he knew the one
and did not know the other, and to recognize a similar faculty of
discernment in others, there would certainly have been a great
advantage in being wise; for then we should never have made a mistake,
but have passed through life the unerring guides of ourselves and of
those who are under us; and we should not have attempted to do what we
did not know, but we should have found out those who knew, and have
handed the business over to them and trusted in them; nor should we
have allowed those who were under us to do anything which they were
not likely to do well and they would be likely to do well just that of
which they had knowledge; and the house or state which was ordered
or administered under the guidance of wisdom, and everything else of
which wisdom was the lord, would have been well ordered; for truth
guiding, and error having been eliminated, in all their doings, men
would have done well, and would have been happy. Was not this,
Critias, what we spoke of as the great advantage of wisdom to know
what is known and what is unknown to us?
Very true, he said.
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