Thursday, May 01, 2014

The Statues of Daedelus

In a recent comment, Enbrethiliel happened to mention the statues of Daedelus, which is a wonderful passage in Plato's Meno. This is from the Lamb translation at the Perseus Project:

Socrates How do you mean? Will not he who always has right opinion be always right, so long as he opines rightly?

Meno It appears to me that he must; and therefore I wonder, Socrates, [97d] this being the case, that knowledge should ever be more prized than right opinion, and why they should be two distinct and separate things.

Socrates Well, do you know why it is that you wonder, or shall I tell you?

Meno Please tell me.

Socrates It is because you have not observed with attention the images of Daedalus. But perhaps there are none in your country.

Meno What is the point of your remark?

Socrates That if they are not fastened up they play truant and run away; but, if fastened, they stay where they are. [97e]

Meno Well, what of that?

Socrates To possess one of his works which is let loose does not count for much in value; it will not stay with you any more than a runaway slave: but when fastened up it is worth a great deal, for his productions are very fine things And to what am I referring in all this? To true opinion. For these, so long as they stay with us, are a fine possession, [98a] and effect all that is good; but they do not care to stay for long, and run away out of the human soul, and thus are of no great value until one makes them fast with causal reasoning. And this process, friend Meno, is recollection, as in our previous talk we have agreed. But when once they are fastened, in the first place they turn into knowledge, and in the second, are abiding. And this is why knowledge is more prized than right opinion: the one transcends the other by its trammels.


  1. Enbrethiliel2:39 PM


    One reason I've dragged my feet about reading really ancient texts is that I never know which translator to choose. It turns out that I read Benjamin Jowett's translation of Meno. Going forward, would you recommend that I stick with W.R.M. Lamb?

  2. branemrys6:05 PM

    Translations are always a difficult point! Jowett's translations were quite colloquial and easy to read for their time, but they've been going on for nearly a century and a half now. I'm not a classicist, so my sense of things may not be entirely accurate, but I would guess that Lamb is probably a good balance of accuracy and readability.


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