Jowett: REP III 403c-410a — Educação do corpo

After music comes gymnastics, in which our youth are next to be trained.

Certainly. Gymnastics as well as music should begin in early years ; the training in it should be careful and should continue through life. Now my belief is — and this is a matter upon which I should like to have your opinion in confirmation of my own, but my own belief is — not that the good body by any bodily excellence improves the soul, but, on the contrary, that the good soul, by her own excellence, improves the body as far as this may be possible. What do you say ?

Yes, I agree.

Then, to the mind when adequately trained, we shall be right in handing over the more particular care of the body ; and in order to avoid prolixity we will now only give the general outlines of the subject.

Very good.

That they must abstain from intoxication has been already remarked by us ; for of all persons a guardian should be the last to get drunk and not know where in the world he is.

Yes, he said ; that a guardian should require another guardian to take care of him is ridiculous indeed.

But next, what shall we say of their food ; for the men are in training for the great contest of all — are they not ?

Yes, he said.

And will the habit of body of our ordinary athletes be suited to them ?

Why not ?

I am afraid, I said, that a habit of body such as they have is but a sleepy sort of thing, and rather perilous to health. Do you not observe that these athletes sleep away their lives, and are liable to most dangerous illnesses if they depart, in ever so slight a degree, from their customary regimen ?

Yes, I do.

Then, I said, a finer sort of training will be required for our warrior athletes, who are to be like wakeful dogs, and to see and hear with the utmost keenness ; amid the many changes of water and also of food, of summer heat and winter cold, which they will have to endure when on a campaign, they must not be liable to break down in health.

That is my view.

The really excellent gymnastics is twin sister of that simple music which we were just now describing.

How so ?

Why, I conceive that there is a gymnastics which, like our music, is simple and good ; and especially the military gymnastics.

What do you mean ?

My meaning may be learned from Homer ; he, you know, feeds his heroes at their feasts, when they are campaigning, on soldiers’ fare ; they have no fish, although they are on the shores of the Hellespont, and they are not allowed boiled meats, but only roast, which is the food most convenient for soldiers, requiring only that they should light a fire, and not involving the trouble of carrying about pots and pans.


And I can hardly be mistaken in saying that sweet sauces are nowhere mentioned in Homer. In proscribing them, however, he is not singular ; all professional athletes are well aware that a man who is to be in good condition should take nothing of the kind.

Yes, he said ; and knowing this, they are quite right in not taking them.

Then you would not approve of Syracusan dinners, and the refinements of Sicilian cookery ?

I think not.

Nor, if a man is to be in condition, would you allow him to have a Corinthian girl as his fair friend ?

Certainly not.

Neither would you approve of the delicacies, as they are thought, of Athenian confectionery ?

Certainly not.

All such feeding and living may be rightly compared by us to melody and song composed in the panharmonic style, and in all the rhythms. Exactly.

There complexity engendered license, and here disease ; whereas simplicity in music was the parent of temperance in the soul ; and simplicity in gymnastics of health in the body.

Most true, he said.

But when intemperance and diseases multiply in a State, halls of justice and medicine are always being opened ; and the arts of the doctor and the lawyer give themselves airs, finding how keen is the interest which not only the slaves but the freemen of a city take about them.

Of course.

And yet what greater proof can there be of a bad and disgraceful state of education than this, that not only artisans and the meaner sort of people need the skill of first-rate physicians and judges, but also those who would profess to have had a liberal education ? Is it not disgraceful, and a great sign of the want of good-breeding, that a man should have to go abroad for his law and physic because he has none of his own at home, and must therefore surrender himself into the hands of other men whom he makes lords and judges over him ?

Of all things, he said, the most disgraceful.

Would you say “most,” I replied, when you consider that there is a further stage of the evil in which a man is not only a life-long litigant, passing all his days in the courts, either as plaintiff or defendant, but is actually led by his bad taste to pride himself on his litigiousness ; he imagines that he is a master in dishonesty ; able to take every crooked turn, and wriggle into and out of every hole, bending like a withy and getting out of the way of justice : and all for what ? — in order to gain small points not worth mentioning, he not knowing that so to order his life as to be able to do without a napping judge is a far higher and nobler sort of thing. Is not that still more disgraceful ?

Yes, he said, that is still more disgraceful.

Well, I said, and to require the help of medicine, not when a wound has to be cured, or on occasion of an epidemic, but just because, by indolence and a habit of life such as we have been describing, men fill themselves with waters and winds, as if their bodies were a marsh, compelling the ingenious sons of Asclepius to find more names for diseases, such as flatulence and catarrh ; is not this, too, a disgrace ?

Yes, he said, they do certainly give very strange and newfangled names to diseases.

Yes, I said, and I do not believe that there were any such diseases in the days of Asclepius ; and this I infer from the circumstance that the hero Eurypylus, after he has been wounded in Homer, drinks a posset of Pramnian wine well besprinkled with barley-meal and grated cheese, which are certainly inflammatory, and yet the sons of Asclepius who were at the Trojan war do not blame the damsel who gives him the drink, or rebuke Patroclus, who is treating his case.

Well, he said, that was surely an extraordinary drink to be given to a person in his condition.

Not so extraordinary, I replied, if you bear in mind that in former days, as is commonly said, before the time of Herodicus, the guild of Asclepius did not practise our present system of medicine, which may be said to educate diseases. But Herodicus, being a trainer, and himself of a sickly constitution, by a combination of training and doctoring found out a way of torturing first and chiefly himself, and secondly the rest of the world.

How was that ? he said.

By the invention of lingering death ; for he had a mortal disease which he perpetually tended, and as recovery was out of the question, he passed his entire life as a valetudinarian ; he could do nothing but attend upon himself, and he was in constant torment whenever he departed in anything from his usual regimen, and so dying hard, by the help of science he struggled on to old age.

A rare reward of his skill !

Yes, I said ; a reward which a man might fairly expect who never understood that, if Asclepius did not instruct his descendants in valetudinarian arts, the omission arose, not from ignorance or inexperience of such a branch of medicine, but because he knew that in all well-ordered States every individual has an occupation to which he must attend, and has therefore no leisure to spend in continually being ill. This we remark in the case of the artisan, but, ludicrously enough, do not apply the same rule to people of the richer sort.

How do you mean ? he said.

I mean this : When a carpenter is ill he asks the physician for a rough and ready cure ; an emetic or a purge or a cautery or the knife — these are his remedies. And if someone prescribes for him a course of dietetics, and tells him that he must swathe and swaddle his head, and all that sort of thing, he replies at once that he has no time to be ill, and that he sees no good in a life which is spent in nursing his disease to the neglect of his customary employment ; and therefore bidding good-by to this sort of physician, he resumes his ordinary habits, and either gets well and lives and does his business, or, if his constitution fails, he dies and has no more trouble.

Yes, he said, and a man in his condition of life ought to use the art of medicine thus far only.

Has he not, I said, an occupation ; and what profit would there be in his life if he were deprived of his occupation ?

Quite true, he said.

But with the rich man this is otherwise ; of him we do not say that he has any specially appointed work which he must perform, if he would live.

He is generally supposed to have nothing to do.

Then you never heard of the saying of Phocylides, that as soon as a man has a livelihood he should practise virtue ?

Nay, he said, I think that he had better begin somewhat sooner.

Let us not have a dispute with him about this, I said ; but rather ask ourselves : Is the practise of virtue obligatory on the rich man, or can he live without it ? And if obligatory on him, then let us raise a further question, whether this dieting of disorders, which is an impediment to the application of the mind in carpentering and the mechanical arts, does not equally stand in the way of the sentiment of Phocylides ?

Of that, he replied, there can be no doubt ; such excessive care of the body, when carried beyond the rules of gymnastics, is most inimical to the practice of virtue.

Yes, indeed, I replied, and equally incompatible with the management of a house, an army, or an office of state ; and, what is most Important of all, irreconcileable with any kind of study or thought or self-reflection — there is a constant suspicion that headache and giddiness are to be ascribed to philosophy, and hence all practising or making trial of virtue in the higher sense is absolutely stopped ; for a man is always fancying that he is being made ill, and is in constant anxiety about the state of his body.

Yes, likely enough.

And therefore our politic Asclepius may be supposed to have exhibited the power of his art only to persons who, being generally of healthy constitution and habits of life, had a definite ailment ; such as these he cured by purges and operations, and bade them live as usual, herein consulting the interests of the State ; but bodies which disease had penetrated through and through he would not have attempted to cure by gradual processes of evacuation and infusion : he did not want to lengthen out good-for-nothing lives, or to have weak fathers begetting weaker sons ; — if a man was not able to live in the ordinary way he had no business to cure him ; for such a cure would have been of no use either to himself, or to the State.

Then, he said, you regard Asclepius as a statesman.

Clearly ; and his character is further illustrated by his sons. Note that they were heroes in the days of old and practised the medicines of which I am speaking at the siege of Troy : You will remember how, when Pandarus wounded Menelaus, they

“Sucked the blood out of the wound, and sprinkled soothing remedies,”

but they never prescribed what the patient was afterward to eat or drink in the case of Menelaus, any more than in the case of Eurypylus ; the remedies, as they conceived, were enough to heal any man who before he was wounded was healthy and regular in his habits ; and even though he did happen to drink a posset of Pramnian wine, he might get well all the same. But they would have nothing to do with unhealthy and intemperate subjects, whose lives were of no use either to themselves or others ; the art of medicine was not designed for their good, and though they were as rich as Midas, the sons of Asclepius would have declined to attend them.

They were very acute persons, those sons of Asclepius.

Naturally so, I replied. Nevertheless, the tragedians and Pindar disobeying our behests, although they acknowledge that Asclepius was the son of Apollo, say also that he was bribed into healing a rich man who was at the point of death, and for this reason he was struck by lightning. But we, in accordance with the principle already affirmed by us, will not believe them when they tell us both ; if he was the son of a god, we maintain that he was not avaricious ; or, if he was avaricious, he was not the son of a god.

All that, Socrates, is excellent ; but I should like to put a question to you : Ought there not to be good physicians in a State, and are not the best those who have treated the greatest number of constitutions, good and bad ? and are not the best judges in like manner those who are acquainted with all sorts of moral natures ?

Yes, I said, I too would have good judges and good physicians. But do you know whom I think good ?

Will you tell me ?

I will, if I can. Let me, however, note that in the same question you join two things which are not the same.

How so ? he asked.

Why, I said, you join physicians and judges. Now the most skilful physicians are those who, from their youth upward, have combined with the knowledge of their art the greatest experience of disease ; they had better not be robust in health, and should have had all manner of diseases in their own persons. For the body, as I conceive, is not the instrument with which they cure the body ; in that case we could not allow them ever to be or to have been sickly ; but they cure the body with the mind, and the mind which has become and is sick can cure nothing.

That is very true, he said.

But with the judge it is otherwise ; since he governs mind by mind ; he ought not therefore to have been trained among vicious minds, and to have associated with them from youth upward, and to have gone through the whole calendar of crime, only in order that he may quickly infer the crimes of others as he might their bodily diseases from his own self-consciousness ; the honorable mind which is to form a healthy judgment should have had no experience or contamination of evil habits when young. And this is the reason why in youth good men often appear to be simple, and are easily practised upon by the dishonest, because they have no examples of what evil is in their own souls.

Yes, he said, they are far too apt to be deceived.

Therefore, I said, the judge should not be young ; he should have learned to know evil, not from his own soul, but from late and long observation of the nature of evil in others : knowledge should be his guide, not personal experience.

Yes, he said, that is the ideal of a judge.

Yes, I replied, and he will be a good man (which is my answer to your question) ; for he is good who has a good soul. But the cunning and suspicious nature of which we spoke — he who has committed many crimes, and fancies himself to be a master in wickedness — when he is among his fellows, is wonderful in the precautions which he takes, because he judges of them by himself : but when he gets into the company of men of virtue, who have the experience of age, he appears to be a fool again, owing to his unseasonable suspicions ; he cannot recognize an honest man, because he has no pattern of honesty in himself ; at the same time, as the bad are more numerous than the good, and he meets with them oftener, he thinks himself, and is by others thought to be, rather wise than foolish.

Most true, he said.

Then the good and wise judge whom we are seeking is not this man, but the other ; for vice cannot know virtue too, but a virtuous nature, educated by time, will acquire a knowledge both of virtue and vice : the virtuous, and not the vicious, man has wisdom — in my opinion.

And in mine also.

This is the sort of medicine, and this is the sort of law, which you will sanction in your State. They will minister to better natures, giving health both of soul and of body ; but those who are diseased in their bodies they will leave to die, and the corrupt and incurable souls they will put an end to themselves.

That is clearly the best thing both for the patients and for the State.

And thus our youth, having been educated only in that simple music which, as we said, inspires temperance, will be reluctant to go to law.