Source: Intelligence and How to Get It: Why Schools and Cultures Count (2009). p. 49.

  Second, the Confucian tradition, of which Japan and Korea are a part, has little use for the idea that knowledge is valuable for its own sake. This starkly contrasts with the ancient Greek philosophical tradition, which prized such knowledge above all other kinds. (I emphasize the term philosophical tradition in the preceding sentence. There is an amusing passage in The Republic where an Athenian businessman castigates Socrates for his pursuit of abstract knowledge, telling him that although it is admittedly attractive in the young, it is disgusting in a grown man. [Emboldening mine])

Where in the Republic does an Athenian businessman castigate "Socrates for his pursuit of abstract knowledge"?

2 Answers 2


In Book III there is a passage somewhat like yours:

The subjects of poetry have been sufficiently treated; next follows style. Now all poetry is a narrative of events past, present, or to come; and narrative is of three kinds, the simple, the imitative, and a composition of the two. ... Poets and musicians use either, or a compound of both, and this compound is very attractive to youth and their teachers as well as to the vulgar. But our State in which one man plays one part only is not adapted for complexity. And when one of these polyphonous pantomimic gentlemen offers to exhibit himself and his poetry we will show him every observance of respect, but at the same time tell him that there is no room for his kind in our State; we prefer the rough, honest poet, and will not depart from our original models.

But the contrast is not between abstract and useful knowledge, but between elaborate and simple literary styles.


He may be referring to a passage by the businessman Callicles in Plato's Gorgias.

Philosophy, as a part of education, is an excellent thing, and there is no disgrace to a man while he is young in pursuing such a study; but when he is more advanced in years, the thing becomes ridiculous, and I feel towards philosophers as I do towards those who lisp and imitate children. For I love to see a little child, who is not of an age to speak plainly, lisping at his play; there is an appearance of grace and freedom in his utterance, which is natural to his childish years. But when I hear some small creature carefully articulating its words, I am offended; the sound is disagreeable, and has to my ears the twang of slavery. So when I hear a man lisping, or see him playing like a child, his behaviour appears to me ridiculous and unmanly and worthy of stripes. And I have the same feeling about students of philosophy; when I see a youth thus engaged,—the study appears to me to be in character, and becoming a man of liberal education, and him who neglects philosophy I regard as an inferior man, who will never aspire to anything great or noble. But if I see him continuing the study in later life, and not leaving off, I should like to beat him, Socrates; for, as I was saying, such a one, even though he have good natural parts, becomes effeminate. He flies from the busy centre and the market-place, in which, as the poet says, men become distinguished; he creeps into a corner for the rest of his life, and talks in a whisper with three or four admiring youths, but never speaks out like a freeman in a satisfactory manner.

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