Soc. Yes, surely ; for if the subject of knowledge were the same, there would be no meaning in saying that the arts were different, — if they both gave the same knowledge. For example, I know that here are five fingers, and you know the same. And if I were to ask whether I and you became acquainted with this fact by the help of the same art of arithmetic, you would acknowledge that we did ?
Soc. Tell me, then, what I was intending to ask you — whether this holds universally ? Must the same art have the same subject of knowledge, and different arts other subjects of knowledge ?
Ion. That is my opinion, Socrates.
Soc. Then he who has no knowledge of a particular art will have no right judgment of the sayings and doings of that art ?
Ion. Very true.
Soc. Then which will be a better judge of the lines which you were reciting from Homer, you or the charioteer ?
Ion. The charioteer.
Soc. Why, yes, because you are a rhapsode and not a charioteer.
Soc. And the art of the rhapsode is different from that of the charioteer ?
Soc. And if a different knowledge, then a knowledge of different matters ?
Soc. You know the passage in which Hecamede, the concubine of Nestor, is described as giving to the wounded Machaon a posset, as he says, Made with Pramnian wine ; and she grated cheese of goat’s milk with a grater of bronze, and at his side placed an onion which gives a relish to drink. Now would you say that the art of the rhapsode or the art of medicine was better able to judge of the propriety of these lines ?
Ion. The art of medicine.
Soc. And when Homer says, And she descended into the deep like a leaden plummet, which, set in the horn of ox that ranges in the fields, rushes along carrying death among the ravenous fishes, — will the art of the fisherman or of the rhapsode be better able to judge whether these lines are rightly expressed or not ?
Ion. Clearly, Socrates, the art of the fisherman.
Soc. Come now, suppose that you were to say to me : “Since you, Socrates, are able to assign different passages in Homer to their corresponding arts, I wish that you would tell me what are the passages of which the excellence ought to be judged by the prophet and prophetic art” ; and you will see how readily and truly I shall answer you. For there are many such passages, particularly in the Odyssey ; as, for example, the passage in which Theoclymenus the prophet of the house of Melampus says to the suitors : — Wretched men ! what is happening to you ? Your heads and your faces and your limbs underneath are shrouded in night ; and the voice of lamentation bursts forth, and your cheeks are wet with tears. And the vestibule is full, and the court is full, of ghosts descending into the darkness of Erebus, and the sun has perished out of heaven, and an evil mist is spread abroad. And there are many such passages in the Iliad also ; as for example in the description of the battle near the rampart, where he says : — As they were eager to pass the ditch, there came to them an omen : a soaring eagle, holding back the people on the left, bore a huge bloody dragon in his talons, still living and panting ; nor had he yet resigned the strife, for he bent back and smote the bird which carried him on the breast by the neck, and he in pain let him fall from him to the ground into the midst of the multitude. And the eagle, with a cry, was borne afar on the wings of the wind. These are the sort of things which I should say that the prophet ought to consider and determine.
Ion. And you are quite right, Socrates, in saying so.
Soc. Yes, Ion, and you are right also. And as I have selected from the Iliad and Odyssey for you passages which describe the office of the prophet and the physician and the fisherman, do you, who know Homer so much better than I do, Ion, select for me passages which relate to the rhapsode and the rhapsode’s art, and which the rhapsode ought to examine and judge of better than other men.
Ion. All passages, I should say, Socrates.
Soc. Not all, Ion, surely. Have you already forgotten what you were saying ? A rhapsode ought to have a better memory.
Ion. Why, what am I forgetting ?
Soc. Do you not remember that you declared the art of the rhapsode to be different from the art of the charioteer ?
Ion. Yes, I remember.
Soc. And you admitted that being different they would have different subjects of knowledge ?
Soc. Then upon your own showing the rhapsode, and the art of the rhapsode, will not know everything ?
Ion. I should exclude certain things, Socrates.
Soc. You mean to say that you would exclude pretty much the subjects of the other arts. As he does not know all of them, which of them will he know ?
Ion. He will know what a man and what a woman ought to say, and what a freeman and what a slave ought to say, and what a ruler and what a subject.
Soc. Do you mean that a rhapsode will know better than the pilot what the ruler of a sea — tossed vessel ought to say ?
Ion. No ; the pilot will know best.
Soc. Or will the rhapsode know better than the physician what the ruler of a sick man ought to say ?
Ion. He will not.
Soc. But he will know what a slave ought to say ?
Soc. Suppose the slave to be a cowherd ; the rhapsode will know better than the cowherd what he ought to say in order to soothe the infuriated cows ?
Ion. No, he will not.
Soc. But he will know what a spinning — woman ought to say about the working of wool ?
Ion by Plato