“Stories Shape the Mind”: Heraclitus, Hesiod and Plato

Heraclitus, Fr. B57
“Hesiod is the teacher of the most; they believe that he knows the most, the one who cannot distinguish day and night. For they are one.”

διδάσκαλος δὲ πλείστων ῾Ησίοδος· τοῦτον ἐπίστανται πλεῖστα εἰδέναι, ὅστις ἡμέρην καὶ εὐφρόνην οὐκ ἐγίνωσκεν· ἔστι γὰρ ἕν.

Cf. fr. 40

“Knowing much doesn’t teach you how to think. For it would have taught Hesiod and Pythagoras, or even Xenophanes and Hekataios.”

πολυμαθίη νόον ἔχειν οὐ διδάσκει· ῾Ησίοδον γὰρ ἂν ἐδίδαξε καὶ Πυθαγόρην αὖτίς τε Ξενοφάνεά τε καὶ ῾Εκαταῖον.

Fr. 109

“Concerning unlucky days, and whether it is right that Heraclitus attacked Hesiod for making some days good and some days bad, since he was ignorant that the nature of every day is one and the same, that is discussed elsewhere.”

[Cf. Seneca, “one day is the same as every other”]

PLUT. Camill. 19 περὶ δ’ ἡμερῶν ἀποφράδων εἴτε χρὴ τίθεσθαί τινας εἴτε ὀρθῶς ῾Ηράκλειτος ἐπέπληξεν ῾Ησιόδωι τὰς μὲν ἀγαθὰς ποιουμένωι, τὰς δὲ φαύλας [Opp. 765ff.], ὡς ἀγνοοῦντι φύσιν ἡμέρας ἁπάσης μίαν οὖσαν, ἑτέρωθι διηπόρηται [vgl. B 40. 57]. SENECA Ep. 12, 7 unus dies par omni est.


Plato, Republic, 377c

“We must begin, it seems, by selecting among the storytellers—they must be judged by what they do well or not. We will authorize those who make the cut for nurses and mothers to tell to children since these stories shape their minds more than they can shape their bodies with their hands. But we must reject most of the stories we tell now,

What kinds of stories?

In the greater stories, we will also find [the nature of] the worse ones. For it is necessary that the greater and the lesser stories have the same shape and do the same thing, don’t you think?

I do. But I don’t know what these greater stories you mention are.

I mean those stories which Hesiod and Homer tell to us along with the other poets. For these poets used to tell and continue to tell people stories made up of lies.

What sort of stories are you criticizing in saying this?

The very thing which ought to be censured first and foremost: apart from everything else, when a lie is told improperly.”

Πρῶτον δὴ ἡμῖν, ὡς ἔοικεν, ἐπιστατητέον τοῖς μυθοποιοῖς, καὶ ὃν μὲν ἂν καλὸν [μῦθον] ποιήσωσιν, ἐγκριτέον, ὃν δ’ ἂν μή, ἀποκριτέον. τοὺς δ’ ἐγκριθέντας πείσομεν τὰς τροφούς τε καὶ μητέρας λέγειν τοῖς παισίν, καὶ πλάττειν τὰς ψυχὰς αὐτῶν τοῖς μύθοις πολὺ μᾶλλον ἢ τὰ σώματα ταῖς χερσίν· ὧν δὲ νῦν λέγουσι τοὺς πολλοὺς ἐκβλητέον.
Ποίους δή; ἔφη.
᾿Εν τοῖς μείζοσιν, ἦν δ’ ἐγώ, μύθοις ὀψόμεθα καὶ τοὺς ἐλάττους. δεῖ γὰρ δὴ τὸν αὐτὸν τύπον εἶναι καὶ ταὐτὸν δύνασθαι τούς τε μείζους καὶ τοὺς ἐλάττους. ἢ οὐκ οἴει;
῎Εγωγ’, ἔφη· ἀλλ’ οὐκ ἐννοῶ οὐδὲ τοὺς μείζους τίνας λέγεις.
Οὓς ῾Ησίοδός τε, εἶπον, καὶ ῞Ομηρος ἡμῖν ἐλεγέτην καὶ οἱ ἄλλοι ποιηταί. οὗτοι γάρ που μύθους τοῖς ἀνθρώποις ψευδεῖς συντιθέντες ἔλεγόν τε καὶ λέγουσι.
Ποίους δή, ἦ δ’ ὅς, καὶ τί αὐτῶν μεμφόμενος λέγεις;
῞Οπερ, ἦν δ’ ἐγώ, χρὴ καὶ πρῶτον καὶ μάλιστα μέμφεσθαι, ἄλλως τε καὶ ἐάν τις μὴ καλῶς ψεύδηται.

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