Plato – Cultivating the soul and the body

Which arts should be cultivated? How do we cultivate the body? How do we cultivate the soul?

Plato makes Socrates say in the Gorgias that there are two substances: the soul and the body. And that these two substances must be cultivated.

They are cultivated by defining several arts.

  • For the soul, it is the. (He gathers them under the name of politics.)
  • For the body, it is the. (He gathers them for the moment under the name of the culture of the body.)

It is by cultivating each of these arts that a man does well.



XIX. – Let us now see if I can explain to you more clearly what I mean. I say that, as there are two substances, there are two arts. One relates to the soul: I call it politics. For the other, which relates to the body, I cannot immediately find a single name for it; but in the cultivation of the body, which forms a single whole, I distinguish two parts, which corresponds to gymnastics and which corresponds to medicine.

As the arts of these two groups are related to the same object, they naturally have relations between them, medicine with gymnastics, justice with legislation, but they also have differences.

There are therefore the four arts I have mentioned, which are concerned with the greater good, some of the bodies, others of the soul. Now flattery, which has realized this, not by reasoned knowledge, but by conjecture, has divided itself into four, and then, slipping under each of the arts, passes itself off as the one under which it has slipped. It has no concern for the good and it never ceases to attract madness by the lure of pleasure; it deceives it and thus obtains great consideration. This is how cooking has crept under medicine and pretends to know what food is most beneficial to the body, so that if the cook and the doctor were to argue in front of children, or in front of men as unreasonable as children, as to who knows better, the doctor or the cook, what food is good and what is bad, the doctor would only have to starve. This, then, is what I call flattery, and I maintain that such a practice is ugly, polo, for it is to you that my statement is addressed, because this practice aims at the pleasant and neglects the good. I add that it is not an art, but a routine, because it cannot explain the true nature of the things it deals with nor tell the cause of each. For me, I do not give the name of art to a thing devoid of reason. If you dispute me on this point, I am ready to support the discussion.

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