A Plutarch Quote

Pocket Quintilian

The title of Greg Ashman’s blog, “Filling the Pail”, is a reference to a quote from the Greek author Plutarch which is often misattributed to W.B. Yeats (or Socrates). In his book, Greg goes into some detail about the origin of the quote, and as we shall see, things are even more interesting than they appear.

Plutarch, to be honest, is not my favourite classical writer. I find him tedious, sententious, and prone to catalogues of banal anecdotes in place of proper argument. Yet there are some solid grains of sense in his work Περὶ τοῦ ἀκούειν, “On Listening”, from which the famous quote is drawn. It is, as Greg says, a tract which emphasises the importance of listening carefully rather than diving straight into argument from a position of ignorance. (The essay also features possibly the earliest surviving appearance of the “two ears, one tongue” admonition…

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