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But my art of midwifery, though it has in other respects the same conditions as theirs, differs in these points, that I attend men, not women, and that I inspect the labour of their souls, not of their bodies. The most important skill in our art is, the being able to test in every way whether the sound man’s mind is bringing forth an idol and an unreality, or a genuine and true progeny. For to me as well as to the midwives belongs the following condition. I am incapable of producing wisdom, and the reproach which many ere now have cast on me, that, while I question others, I myself give no answer about anything, because I have no wisdom in me, is a just reproach. The reason of it is this: the god compels me to act the midwife, but hindered me from engendering. I then am not indeed perfectly wise myself, nor have I brought to birth any discovery of that kind, as the outcome of my own soul. But of those who resort to me, some indeed appear in the outset utterly ignorant, but all, as the intercourse proceeds, and the god gives opportunity, make wonderful progress, in their own opinion and in that of others.  And it is evident that they do so not by any learning they have gained from me, but because they have of themselves discovered many excellent things, which they retain. (113-4)


Plato. Theaetetus.  Trans. Benjamin Hall Kennedy.  Cambridge University Press 1881. 

See Also

Lexicon Entries

Reflective Understanding
Fertility of the Didactic Action
The Red Ink
A Fundamental Quality of an Act
The Trap of Life and Experience 

Works and Days



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