Socrates: But at what other time do we lose it? Do we lose it at the very time we acquire it, or can you mention any other time? If those realities which my friends and I were always talking about exist (and we know with certainty here in the afterlife that they do), the Beautiful and the Good and all that kind of reality, and we referred all the things we perceived in the body to that reality, so the soul must exist before we are born.
Spoonus: But what if we do not forget our knowledge in the first place? Let us consider those things which are absolutely knowable: Justice, Beauty, Goodness, and the like. When does a person recollect what Justice is? When he is mature? Or does not even a child know? If children did not know what Justice was, would they be forever tattling on each other? And are not children drawn to that which we call Beautiful, and attempt to exemplify beauty in their artwork? And do not even infants know what is Good? Immediately after birth, a baby knows that his mother’s milk is good.
Socrates: What you say might be true, but can an infant demonstrate any knowledge of mathematics? Of course he cannot, because he has forgotten it, and has furthermore forgotten how to speak!
Spoonus: He might not know anything about the higher orders of mathematics, but he certainly knows what “more” and “less” are when he is fed. The difference between his knowledge and that of Pythagoras is in his ability to articulate his knowledge, or perhaps in the extent of the potential of his knowledge. By potential, I mean that which can come about, but which has not yet.
Socrates: Which is it? According to you, either he has full knowledge, and cannot articulate it, or he has potential knowledge, which seems to be no knowledge at all, but I am not sure which you mean.
Spoonus: I say it is both. I hope you are not weary of hearing about Meno’s servant, because I would like to refer to him once more. I submit to you that he, being given the knowledge at birth, was given full potential knowledge, contained somewhat like a full oak is contained in an acorn. However, he could not articulate it. As he grew up, he acquired the means of articulation. When you questioned him, the potential knowledge was realized in his mind, and became actual, verifiable knowledge which he articulated in response to your inquiries. So he had not forgotten it; it had merely not been actualized. Therefore, the articulation of his knowledge does not prove that he knew anything before birth, only that he had knowledge at birth. Therefore, one cannot prove that the soul is eternal.
Socrates: On the contrary, in this case you have only argued that the soul does not exist before birth, and have said nothing about the state of the soul after death. Have you read my other excellent proofs of the existence of the soul after death, such as the Argument from Opposites or the Argument of the Form? Look at it another way: if the soul does not exist after death as you have stated, how then is it that you are here in Elysium talking to me?
Spoonus: By Zeus, I don’t know! However, I have read your proofs, and it seems that since our souls will never perish, we should have adequate time to discuss them. We must also inquire as to how something could have a beginning, but no end, and furthermore, if the soul is given knowledge at its beginning, what or who gives that knowledge. What is rent like at the