Sunday, October 18, 2009

Two reasons to be a musician

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

[. . .]

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

Clearly.
And the musician, who, keeping to the same track, is content to practise the simple gymnastic, will have nothing to do with medicine unless in some extreme case.
Plato, Republic III: 405-410, s. v. "The vanity of doctors and lawyers".

We all perhaps recall the medieval story of the juggler who could not speak or pray or craft well, but who silently before the altar performed his juggling act. He was more pleasing than the rest to God.
James V. Schall, Another Sort of Learning, 220.

1 comment:

Rachel said...

This is beautiful. Thank you for sharing. Leave it to Plato to justify (so logically) such a transcendent and passionate art.