Vital Signs

On Inequality: A Platonic Dialogue

Euphron: Why is it, Socrates, that so many of our young, and even we ourselves, know so little, when we are being taught so much?

Socrates: The truth is that most citizens know much more than they are aware of

Euphron: How can that be, when there are prizes for displaying knowledge, which are forfeited time and again? If, as you say, people know more than what the competitions show, then why are they holding back?

Socrates: Because we do not teach them about inequalities.

Euphron: Indeed we do not teach them that! We are bent on showing that equality must be our guiding principle, and that inequality is to be eradicated at all levels. Is it not true that all citizens of Athens are equal?

Socrates: It certainly is. But are five not more than three?

Euphron: Five are more than three.

Socrates: Then that is an inequality. Is it not also true that five are less than eight?

Euphron: It certainly is.

Socrates: And can we then not say that we know with certainty the magnitude of five?

Euphron: We can.

Socrates: Thus by way of using the concept of inequality, recognizing that while we may not know much about an entity, we often know with certainty that it is more...

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