[Plato. Plato in Twelve Volumes. Vol. 9 translated by W. R. M. Lamb. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1925. Posted on Perseus Digital Library. Editor-in-Chief Gregory R. Crane. Tufts University. Accessed 21 November 2012. Used with permission of Perseus Digital Library under its Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.
* Website editor’s note: Although many doubt that Plato wrote the Minos, Professor Lewis, the author of this site’s essay on Plato, believes that the dialogue is indeed authentic.
Tell me, what is law?
To what kind of law does your question refer?
What! Is there any difference between law and law, in this particular point of being law? For just consider what is the actual question I am putting to you. It is as though I had asked, what is gold: if you had asked me in the same manner, to what kind of gold I refer, I think your question would have been incorrect. For I presume there is no difference between gold and gold, [313b] or between stone and stone, in point of being gold or stone; and so neither does law differ at all from law, I suppose, but they are all the same thing. For each of them is law alike, not one more so, and another less. That is the particular point of my question—what is law as a whole? So if you are ready, tell me.
Well, what else should law be, Socrates, but things loyally accepted?
And so speech, you think, is the things that are spoken, or sight the things seen, or hearing the things heard? Or is speech [313c] something distinct from the things spoken, sight something distinct from the things seen, and hearing something distinct from the things heard; and so law is something distinct from things loyally accepted? Is this so, or what is your view?
I find it now to be something distinct.
Then law is not things loyally accepted.
I think not.
Now what can law be? Let us consider it in this way. Suppose someone had asked us about what was stated just now:
[314a] Since you say it is by sight that things seen are seen, what is this sight whereby they are seen? Our answer to him would have been: That sensation which shows objects by means of the eyes. And if he had asked us again: Well then, since it is by hearing that things heard are heard, what is hearing? Our answer to him would have been: That sensation which shows us sounds by means of the ears. In the same way then, suppose he should also ask us: Since it is by law that loyally accepted things are so accepted, what is this law whereby they are so accepted? [314b] Is it some sensation or showing, as when things learnt are learnt by knowledge showing them, or some discovery, as when things discovered are discovered—for instance, the causes of health and sickness by medicine, or the designs of the gods, as the prophets say, by prophecy; for art is surely our discovery of things, is it not?
Then what thing especially of this sort shall we surmise law to be?
Our resolutions and decrees, I imagine: for how else can one describe law? [314c] So that apparently the whole thing, law, as you put it in your question, is a city’s resolution.
State opinion, it seems, is what you call law.
And perhaps you are right: but I fancy we shall get a better knowledge in this way. You call some men wise?
And the wise are wise by wisdom?
And again, the just are just by justice?
And so the law-abiding are law-abiding by law? [314d]
And the lawless are lawless by lawlessness?
And the law-abiding are just?
And the lawless are unjust?
And justice and law are most noble?
That is so.
And injustice and lawlessness most base?
And the former preserve cities and everything else, while the latter destroy and overturn them?
Hence we must regard law as something noble, and seek after it as a good.
And we said that law is a city’s resolution? [314e]
So we did.
Well now, are not some resolutions good, and others evil?
Yes, to be sure.
And, you know, law was not evil.
So it is not right to reply, in that simple fashion, that law is a city’s resolution.
I agree that it is not.
An evil resolution, you see, cannot properly be a law.
No, to be sure.
But still, I am quite clear myself that law is some sort of opinion; and since it is not evil opinion, is it not manifest by this time that it is good opinion, granting that law is opinion?
But what is good opinion? Is it not true opinion?
And true opinion is discovery of reality?
Yes, it is.
So law tends to be discovery of reality.
Then how is it, Socrates, if law is discovery of reality, that we do not use always the same laws on the same matters, if we have thus got realities discovered?
Law tends none the less to be discovery of reality: but men, who do not use [315b] always the same laws, as we observe, are not always able to discover what the law is intent on—reality. For come now, let us see if from this point onward we can get it clear whether we use always the same laws or different ones at different times, and whether we all use the same, or some of us use some, and others others.
Why, that, Socrates, is no difficult matter to determine—that the same men do not use always the same laws, and also that different men use different ones. With us, for instance, human sacrifice is not legal, but unholy, [315c] whereas the Carthaginians perform it as a thing they account holy and legal, and that too when some of them sacrifice even their own sons to Cronos, as I daresay you yourself have heard. And not merely is it foreign peoples who use different laws from ours, but our neighbors in Lycaea and the descendants of Athamas—you know their sacrifices, Greeks though they be. And as to ourselves too, you know, of course, from what you have heard yourself, the kind of laws we formerly used in regard to our dead, when we slaughtered sacred victims before [315d] the funeral procession, and engaged urn-women to collect the bones from the ashes. Then again, a yet earlier generation used to bury the dead where they were, in the house: but we do none of these things. One might give thousands of other instances; for there is ample means of proving that neither we copy ourselves nor mankind each other always in laws and customs.
And it is no wonder, my excellent friend, if what you say is correct, and I have overlooked it. But if you continue to express your views after your own fashion in lengthy speeches, [315e] and I speak likewise, we shall never come to any agreement, in my opinion: but if we study the matter jointly, we may perhaps concur. Well now, if you like, hold a joint inquiry with me by asking me questions; or if you prefer, by answering them.
Why, I am willing, Socrates, to answer anything you like.
Come then, do you consider just things to be unjust and unjust things just, or just things to be just and unjust things unjust?
I consider just things to be just, and unjust things unjust.
And are they so considered among all men elsewhere as they are here?
And among the Persians also?
Among the Persians also.
Always, I presume?
Are things that weigh more considered heavier here, and things that weigh less lighter, or the contrary?
No, those that weigh more are considered heavier, and those that weigh less lighter.
And is it so in Carthage also, and in Lycaea?
Noble things, it would seem, are everywhere considered noble, [316b] and base things base; not base things noble or noble things base.
That is so.
And thus, as a universal rule, realities, and not unrealities, are accepted as real, both among us and among all other men.
Then whoever fails to attain reality, fails to attain accepted law.
In your present way of putting it, Socrates, the same things appear to be accepted as lawful both by us and by the rest of the world, always: [316c] but when I reflect that we are continually changing our laws in all sorts of ways, I cannot bring myself to assent.
Perhaps it is because you do not reflect that when we change our pieces at draughts they are the same pieces. But look at it, as I do, in this way. Have you in your time come across a treatise on healing the sick?
Then do you know to what art such a treatise belongs?
I do: medicine.
And you give the name of doctors to those who have knowledge of these matters?
Then do those who have knowledge accept the same views on the same things, or do they accept different views?
The same, in my opinion.
Do Greeks only accept the same views as Greeks on what they know, or do foreigners also agree on these matters, both among themselves and with Greeks?
It is quite inevitable, I should say, that those who know should agree in accepting the same views, whether Greeks or foreigners.
Well answered. And do they so always?
Yes, it is so always.
And do doctors on their part, in their treatises on health, [316e] write what they accept as real?
Then these treatises of the doctors are medical, and medical laws.
Medical, to be sure.
And are agricultural treatises likewise agricultural laws?
And whose are the treatises and accepted rules about garden-work?
So these are our gardening laws.
Of people who know how to control gardens?
And it is the gardeners who know.
And whose are the treatises and accepted rules about the confection of tasty dishes?
Then there are laws of cookery?
Of people who know, it would seem, how to control the confection of tasty dishes?
And it is the cooks, they say, who know?
Yes, it is they who know.
Very well; and now, whose are the treatises and accepted rules about the government of a state? Of the people who know how to control states, are they not?
And is it anyone else than statesmen and royal persons who know?
It is they, to be sure.
Then what people call “laws” are treatises of state—[317b] writings of kings and good men.
That is true.
And must it not be that those who know will not write differently at different times on the same matters?
They will not.
Nor will they ever change one set of accepted rules for another in respect of the same matters.
So if we see some persons anywhere doing this, shall we say that those who do so have knowledge, or have none?
That they have no knowledge.
And again, whatever is right, we shall say is lawful for each person, whether in medicine or in cookery or in gardening?
And whatever is not right we shall decline to call lawful?
We shall decline.
Then it becomes unlawful.
And again, in writings about what is just and unjust, and generally about the government of a state and the proper way of governing it, that which is right is the king’s law, but not so that which is not right, though it seems to be law to those who do not know; for it is unlawful.
Then we rightly admitted that law is discovery of reality.
So it appears.
Now let us observe this further point about it. Who has knowledge of distributing seed over land?
And does he distribute the suitable seed to each sort of land?
Then the farmer is a good apportioner of it, and his laws and distributions are right in this matter?
And who is a good apportioner of notes struck for a tune, skilled in distributing suitable notes, and who is it whose laws are right here? [317e]
The flute-player and the harp-player.
Then he who is the best lawyer in these matters is the best flute-player.
And who is most skilled in distributing food to human bodies? Is it not he who assigns suitable food?
Then his distributions and laws are best, and whoever is the best lawyer in this matter is also the best apportioner.
Who is he?
And who is the best man to pasture a flock of sheep? What is his name?
Then the shepherd’s laws are best for sheep.
And the herdsman’s for oxen.
And whose laws are best for the souls of men? The king’s, are they not? Say if you agree.
I do. [318b]
Then you are quite right. Now can you tell me who, in former times, has proved himself a good lawgiver in regard to the laws of flute-playing? Perhaps you cannot think of him: would you like me to remind you?
Do by all means.
Then is it Marsyas, by tradition, and his beloved Olympus, the Phrygian?
That is true.
And their flute-tunes also are most divine, and alone stir and make manifest those who are in need of the gods; and to this day they only remain, as being divine. [318c]
That is so.
And who by tradition has shown himself a good lawgiver among the ancient kings, so that to this day his ordinances remain, as being divine?
I cannot think.
Do you not know which of the Greeks use the most ancient laws?
Do you mean the Spartans, and Lycurgus the lawgiver?
Why, that is a matter, I daresay, of less than three hundred years ago, or but a little more. But whence is it that [318d] the best of those ordinances come? Do you know?
From Crete, so they say.
Then the people there use the most ancient laws in Greece?
Then do you know who were their good kings? Minos and Rhadamanthus, the sons of Zeus and Europa; those laws were theirs.
Rhadamanthus, they do say, Socrates, was a just man; but Minos was a savage sort of person, harsh and unjust.
Your tale, my excellent friend, is a fiction of Attic tragedy. [318e]
What! Is not this the tradition about Minos?
Not in Homer and Hesiod; and yet they are more to be believed than all the tragedians together, from whom you heard your tale.
Well, and what, pray, is their tale about Minos?
I will tell you, in order that you may not share the impiety of the multitude: for there cannot conceivably be anything more impious or more to be guarded against than being mistaken in word and deed with regard to the gods, and after them, with regard to divine men; you must take very great precaution, whenever you are about to [319a] blame or praise a man, so as not to speak incorrectly. For this reason you must learn to distinguish honest and dishonest men: for God feels resentment when one blames a man who is like himself, or praises a man who is the opposite; and the former is the good man. For you must not suppose that while stocks and stones and birds and snakes are sacred, men are not; nay, the good man is the most sacred of all these things, and the wicked man is the most defiled.
So if I now proceed to relate how Minos is eulogized by Homer [319b] and Hesiod, my purpose is to prevent you, a man sprung from a man, from making a mistake in regard to a hero who was the son of Zeus. For Homer, in telling of Crete that there were in it many men and “ninety cities,” says:“And amongst them is the mighty city of Cnossos, where Minos was king, having colloquy with mighty Zeus in the ninth year.” (Homer, Odyssey, 19.179) [319c] Now here in Homer we have a eulogy of Minos, briefly expressed, such as the poet never composed for a single one of the heroes. For that Zeus is a sophist, and that sophistry is a highly honorable art, he makes plain in many other places, and particularly here. For he says that Minos consorted and discoursed with Zeus in the ninth year, and went regularly to be educated by Zeus as though he were a sophist. And the fact that Homer assigned this privilege of having been educated by Zeus to no one among the heroes but Minos makes this a marvellous piece of praise. [319d] And in the Ghost-raising in the Odyssey he has described Minos as judging with a golden scepter in his hand, but not Rhadamanthus: Rhadamanthus he has neither described here as judging nor anywhere as consorting with Zeus; wherefore I say that Minos above all persons has been eulogized by Homer. For to have been the son of Zeus, and to have been the only one who was educated by Zeus, is praise unsurpassable.
For the meaning of the verse—“he was king having colloquy with mighty Zeus in the ninth year”—(Homer, Odyssey, 19.179) [319e] is that Minos was a disciple of Zeus. For colloquies are discourses, and he who has colloquy is a disciple by means of discourse. So every ninth year Minos repaired to the cave of Zeus, to learn some things, and to show his knowledge of others that he had learnt from Zeus in the preceding nine years. Some there are who suppose that he who has colloquy is a cup-companion and fellow-jester of Zeus: but one may take the following as a proof that [320a] they who suppose so are babblers. For of all the many nations of men, both Greek and foreign, the only people who refrain from drinking-bouts and the jesting that occurs where there is wine, are the Cretans, and after them the Spartans, who learnt it from the Cretans. In Crete it is one of their laws which Minos ordained that they are not to drink with each other to intoxication. And yet it is evident that the things he thought honorable were what he ordained as lawful for his people as well. For surely Minos did not, like an inferior person, [320b] think one thing and do another, different from what he thought: no, this intercourse, as I say, was held by means of discussion for education in virtue. Wherefore he ordained for his people these very laws, which have made Crete happy through the length of time, and Sparta happy also, since she began to use them; for they are divine.
Rhadamanthus was a good man indeed, for he had been educated by Minos; he had, however, been educated, [320c] not in the whole of the kingly art, but in one subsidiary to the kingly, enough for presiding in law courts; so that he was spoken of as a good judge. For Minos used him as guardian of the law in the city, and Talos as the same for the rest of Crete. For Talos thrice a year made a round of the villages, guarding the laws in them, by holding their laws inscribed on brazen tablets, which gave him his name of “brazen.” And what Hesiod also has said [320d] of Minos is akin to this. For after mentioning him by name he remarks—“Who was most kingly of mortal kings, and lorded it over more neighboring folk than any, holding the scepter of Zeus: therewith it was that he ruled the cities as king.” (Hesiod. Fragment 144) And by the scepter of Zeus he means nothing else than the education that he had of Zeus, whereby he directed Crete.
Then how has it ever come about, Socrates, that this report is spread abroad of Minos, as an uneducated [320e] and harsh-tempered person?
Because of something that will make both you, if you are wise, my excellent friend, and everybody else who cares to have a good reputation, beware of ever quarreling with any man of a poetic turn. For poets have great influence over opinion, according as they create it in the minds of men by either commending or vilifying. And this was the mistake that Minos made, in waging war on this city of ours, which besides all its various culture has poets of every kind, and especially those who write tragedy.
[321a] Now tragedy is a thing of ancient standing here; it did not begin, as people suppose, from Thespis or from Phrynicus, but if you will reflect, you will find it is a very ancient invention of our city. Tragedy is the most popularly delightful and soul-enthralling branch of poetry: in it, accordingly, we get Minos on the rack of verse, and thus avenge ourselves for that tribute which he compelled us to pay This, then, was the mistake that Minos made—his quarrel with us—and hence it is that, as you said in your question, he has fallen more and more into evil repute. For that he was a good [321b] and law-abiding person, as we stated in what went before—a good apportioner—is most convincingly shown by the fact the his laws are unshaken, since they were made by one who discovered aright the truth of reality in regard to the management of a state.
In my opinion, Socrates, your statement is a probable one.
Then if what I say is true, do you consider that the Cretan people of Minos and Rhadamanthus use the most ancient laws?
So these have shown themselves the best lawgivers among men of ancient times—[321c] apportioners and shepherds of men; just as Homer called the good general a “shepherd of the folk.”
Quite so, indeed.
Come then, in good friendship’s name: if someone should ask us what it is that the good lawgiver and apportioner for the body distributes to it when he makes it better, we should say, if we were to make a correct and brief answer, that it was food and labor; the former to strengthen, and the latter to exercise and brace it.
And we should be right. [321d]
And if he then proceeded to ask us—And what might that be which the good lawgiver and apportioner distributes to the soul to make it better?—what would be our answer if we would avoid being ashamed of ourselves and our years?
This time I am unable to say.
But indeed it is shameful for the soul of either of us to be found ignorant of those things within it on which its good and abject states depend, while it has studied those that pertain to the body and rest.
 νομιζόμενα in ordinary speech meant “accepted by custom”: “loyally” here attempts to preserve the connection with νόμος (“law” in this context, though sometimes “custom,” as below, 315 D).
 Or Lycoa, a town in the Arcadian district Maenalia.
 Cf. Herodotus, 7.197. At Alus in Achaea Xerxes was told of human sacrifices offered to purge the guilt of Athamas in plotting the death of his son Phrixus.
 The word νομίζειν here and in what follows is intended to retain some of the sense of νόμος as “accepted” law and custom which it had in what precedes; see note, 313 B.
 Cf. Euthydemus 291 C, Politicus 266–7, where Plato identifies the statesman’s and the king’s art.
 The words διανέμειν and νομεύς in this passage introduce the primitive meaning of νόμος — “distribution” or “apportionment” of each person’s status, property, rights, etc.
 Here νόμος is connected with a special use of νέμειν — “find appropriate pasture for” —derived from its original meaning of “apportion.”
 The awkward imagery of this sentence obviously cannot have come from Plato’s mind or hand.
 Cf. Symposium 215C (from which this allusion to Marsyas is feebly imitated) δηλοῖ τοὺς τῶν θεῶν τε καὶ τελετῶν δεομένους, where “in need of the gods” seems to be a mystic phrase for “ready for divine possession” (ἐνθουσιασμός).
 Minos and Rhadamanthus were sons of Zeus and Europa.
 ὀαριστής means “one who has familiar converse” (ὄαρος).
 Homer, Odyssey, 11.569
 Talos, the brazen man who was given to Minos by Zeus, is described by Apollonius of Rhodes 4.1639ff., and Apollodorus 1.9.26 (where see J. G. Frazer’s note in this series).
 The passage quoted does not occur in our text of Hesiod, nor is it quoted by any other writer. The meter of the first line would be improved if we could read βασιλευτότατος, from the βασιλευτός used by Aristotle, Politics 3.17.1.
 This is the meaning most probably intended, from an imperfect understanding of ἐντείνειν (“put some story into verse, or accompany it with music”) in Plato, Phaedo 60 D; Protagoras 326 B. Minos was represented as a harsh despot in Euripides’ Cretans, and probably in other lost plays.
 The legend was that Minos defeated the Athenians in war and compelled them to send a regular tribute of seven youths and seven maidens to be devoured by the Minotaur in the Cretan labyrinth.
by Plato (380 B.C.)
[Plato. Gorgias. Translated by Benjamin Jowett. Project Gutenberg. 5 October 2008. 481b–508c. http://www.gutenberg.org/files/1672/1672-h/1672-h.htm (Accessed 8 June 2010). In the Public Domain.]
SOCRATES: O Callicles, if there were not some community of feelings among mankind, however varying in different persons—I mean to say, if every man’s feelings were peculiar to himself and were not shared by the rest of his species—I do not see how we could ever communicate our impressions to one another. I make this remark because I perceive that you and I have a common feeling. For we are lovers both, and both of us have two loves apiece:—I am the lover of Alcibiades, the son of Cleinias, and of philosophy; and you of the Athenian Demus, and of Demus the son of Pyrilampes. Now, I observe that you, with all your cleverness, do not venture to contradict your favourite in any word or opinion of his; but as he changes you change, backwards and forwards. When the Athenian Demus denies anything that you are saying in the assembly, you go over to his opinion; and you do the same with Demus, the fair young son of Pyrilampes. For you have not the power to resist the words and ideas of your loves; and if a person were to express surprise at the strangeness of what you say from time to time when under their influence, you would probably reply to him, if you were honest, that you cannot help saying what your loves say unless they are prevented; and that you can only be silent when they are. Now you must understand that my words are an echo too, and therefore you need not wonder at me; but if you want to silence me, silence philosophy, who is my love, for she is always telling me what I am now telling you, my friend; neither is she capricious like my other love, for the son of Cleinias says one thing to-day and another thing to-morrow, but philosophy is always true. She is the teacher at whose words you are now wondering, and you have heard her yourself. Her you must refute, and either show, as I was saying, that to do injustice and to escape punishment is not the worst of all evils; or, if you leave her word unrefuted, by the dog the god of Egypt, I declare, O Callicles, that Callicles will never be at one with himself, but that his whole life will be a discord. And yet, my friend, I would rather that my lyre should be inharmonious, and that there should be no music in the chorus which I provided; aye, or that the whole world should be at odds with me, and oppose me, rather than that I myself should be at odds with myself, and contradict myself.
CALLICLES: O Socrates, you are a regular declaimer, and seem to be running riot in the argument. And now you are declaiming in this way because Polus has fallen into the same error himself of which he accused Gorgias:—for he said that when Gorgias was asked by you, whether, if some one came to him who wanted to learn rhetoric, and did not know justice, he would teach him justice, Gorgias in his modesty replied that he would, because he thought that mankind in general would be displeased if he answered “No”; and then in consequence of this admission, Gorgias was compelled to contradict himself, that being just the sort of thing in which you delight. Whereupon Polus laughed at you deservedly, as I think; but now he has himself fallen into the same trap. I cannot say very much for his wit when he conceded to you that to do is more dishonourable than to suffer injustice, for this was the admission which led to his being entangled by you; and because he was too modest to say what he thought, he had his mouth stopped. For the truth is, Socrates, that you, who pretend to be engaged in the pursuit of truth, are appealing now to the popular and vulgar notions of right, which are not natural, but only conventional. Convention and nature are generally at variance with one another: and hence, if a person is too modest to say what he thinks, he is compelled to contradict himself; and you, in your ingenuity perceiving the advantage to be thereby gained, slyly ask of him who is arguing conventionally a question which is to be determined by the rule of nature; and if he is talking of the rule of nature, you slip away to custom: as, for instance, you did in this very discussion about doing and suffering injustice. When Polus was speaking of the conventionally dishonourable, you assailed him from the point of view of nature; for by the rule of nature, to suffer injustice is the greater disgrace because the greater evil; but conventionally, to do evil is the more disgraceful. For the suffering of injustice is not the part of a man, but of a slave, who indeed had better die than live; since when he is wronged and trampled upon, he is unable to help himself, or any other about whom he cares. The reason, as I conceive, is that the makers of laws are the majority who are weak; and they make laws and distribute praises and censures with a view to themselves and to their own interests; and they terrify the stronger sort of men, and those who are able to get the better of them, in order that they may not get the better of them; and they say, that dishonesty is shameful and unjust; meaning, by the word injustice, the desire of a man to have more than his neighbours; for knowing their own inferiority, I suspect that they are too glad of equality. And therefore the endeavour to have more than the many, is conventionally said to be shameful and unjust, and is called injustice (compare Republic), whereas nature herself intimates that it is just for the better to have more than the worse, the more powerful than the weaker; and in many ways she shows, among men as well as among animals, and indeed among whole cities and races, that justice consists in the superior ruling over and having more than the inferior. For on what principle of justice did Xerxes invade Hellas, or his father the Scythians? (not to speak of numberless other examples). Nay, but these are the men who act according to nature; yes, by Heaven, and according to the law of nature: not, perhaps, according to that artificial law, which we invent and impose upon our fellows, of whom we take the best and strongest from their youth upwards, and tame them like young lions,—charming them with the sound of the voice, and saying to them, that with equality they must be content, and that the equal is the honourable and the just. But if there were a man who had sufficient force, he would shake off and break through, and escape from all this; he would trample under foot all our formulas and spells and charms, and all our laws which are against nature: the slave would rise in rebellion and be lord over us, and the light of natural justice would shine forth. And this I take to be the sentiment of Pindar, when he says in his poem, that
“Law is the king of all, of mortals as well as of immortals;”
this, as he says,
“Makes might to be right, doing violence with highest hand; as I infer from the deeds of Heracles, for without buying them—” (Pindar, Fragmenta Incerta 151 (Bockh).)
I do not remember the exact words, but the meaning is, that without buying them, and without their being given to him, he carried off the oxen of Geryon, according to the law of natural right, and that the oxen and other possessions of the weaker and inferior properly belong to the stronger and superior. And this is true, as you may ascertain, if you will leave philosophy and go on to higher things: for philosophy, Socrates, if pursued in moderation and at the proper age, is an elegant accomplishment, but too much philosophy is the ruin of human life. Even if a man has good parts, still, if he carries philosophy into later life, he is necessarily ignorant of all those things which a gentleman and a person of honour ought to know; he is inexperienced in the laws of the State, and in the language which ought to be used in the dealings of man with man, whether private or public, and utterly ignorant of the pleasures and desires of mankind and of human character in general. And people of this sort, when they betake themselves to politics or business, are as ridiculous as I imagine the politicians to be, when they make their appearance in the arena of philosophy. For, as Euripides says,
“Every man shines in that and pursues that, and devotes the greatest portion of the day to that in which he most excels,” (Antiope, fragment 20 (Dindorf).)
but anything in which he is inferior, he avoids and depreciates, and praises the opposite from partiality to himself, and because he thinks that he will thus praise himself. The true principle is to unite them. 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. Now I, Socrates, am very well inclined towards you, and my feeling may be compared with that of Zethus towards Amphion, in the play of Euripides, whom I was mentioning just now: for I am disposed to say to you much what Zethus said to his brother, that you, Socrates, are careless about the things of which you ought to be careful; and that you
“Who have a soul so noble, are remarkable for a puerile exterior; Neither in a court of justice could you state a case, or give any reason or proof, Or offer valiant counsel on another’s behalf.”
And you must not be offended, my dear Socrates, for I am speaking out of good-will towards you, if I ask whether you are not ashamed of being thus defenseless; which I affirm to be the condition not of you only but of all those who will carry the study of philosophy too far. For suppose that some one were to take you, or any one of your sort, off to prison, declaring that you had done wrong when you had done no wrong, you must allow that you would not know what to do:—there you would stand giddy and gaping, and not having a word to say; and when you went up before the Court, even if the accuser were a poor creature and not good for much, you would die if he were disposed to claim the penalty of death. And yet, Socrates, what is the value of
“An art which converts a man of sense into a fool,”
who is helpless, and has no power to save either himself or others, when he is in the greatest danger and is going to be despoiled by his enemies of all his goods, and has to live, simply deprived of his rights of citizenship?—he being a man who, if I may use the expression, may be boxed on the ears with impunity. Then, my good friend, take my advice, and refute no more:
“Learn the philosophy of business, and acquire the reputation of wisdom. But leave to others these niceties,”
whether they are to be described as follies or absurdities:
“For they will only Give you poverty for the inmate of your dwelling.”
Cease, then, emulating these paltry splitters of words, and emulate only the man of substance and honour, who is well to do.
SOCRATES: If my soul, Callicles, were made of gold, should I not rejoice to discover one of those stones with which they test gold, and the very best possible one to which I might bring my soul; and if the stone and I agreed in approving of her training, then I should know that I was in a satisfactory state, and that no other test was needed by me.
CALLICLES: What is your meaning, Socrates?
SOCRATES: I will tell you; I think that I have found in you the desired touchstone.
SOCRATES: Because I am sure that if you agree with me in any of the opinions which my soul forms, I have at last found the truth indeed. For I consider that if a man is to make a complete trial of the good or evil of the soul, he ought to have three qualities—knowledge, good-will, outspokenness, which are all possessed by you. Many whom I meet are unable to make trial of me, because they are not wise as you are; others are wise, but they will not tell me the truth, because they have not the same interest in me which you have; and these two strangers, Gorgias and Polus, are undoubtedly wise men and my very good friends, but they are not outspoken enough, and they are too modest. Why, their modesty is so great that they are driven to contradict themselves, first one and then the other of them, in the face of a large company, on matters of the highest moment. But you have all the qualities in which these others are deficient, having received an excellent education; to this many Athenians can testify. And you are my friend. Shall I tell you why I think so? I know that you, Callicles, and Tisander of Aphidnae, and Andron the son of Androtion, and Nausicydes of the deme of Cholarges, studied together: there were four of you, and I once heard you advising with one another as to the extent to which the pursuit of philosophy should be carried, and, as I know, you came to the conclusion that the study should not be pushed too much into detail. You were cautioning one another not to be overwise; you were afraid that too much wisdom might unconsciously to yourselves be the ruin of you. And now when I hear you giving the same advice to me which you then gave to your most intimate friends, I have a sufficient evidence of your real good-will to me. And of the frankness of your nature and freedom from modesty I am assured by yourself, and the assurance is confirmed by your last speech. Well then, the inference in the present case clearly is, that if you agree with me in an argument about any point, that point will have been sufficiently tested by us, and will not require to be submitted to any further test. For you could not have agreed with me, either from lack of knowledge or from superfluity of modesty, nor yet from a desire to deceive me, for you are my friend, as you tell me yourself. And therefore when you and I are agreed, the result will be the attainment of perfect truth. Now there is no nobler enquiry, Callicles, than that which you censure me for making,—What ought the character of a man to be, and what his pursuits, and how far is he to go, both in maturer years and in youth? For be assured that if I err in my own conduct I do not err intentionally, but from ignorance. Do not then desist from advising me, now that you have begun, until I have learned clearly what this is which I am to practice, and how I may acquire it. And if you find me assenting to your words, and hereafter not doing that to which I assented, call me “dolt,” and deem me unworthy of receiving further instruction. Once more, then, tell me what you and Pindar mean by natural justice: Do you not mean that the superior should take the property of the inferior by force; that the better should rule the worse, the noble have more than the mean? Am I not right in my recollection?
CALLICLES: Yes; that is what I was saying, and so I still aver.
SOCRATES: And do you mean by the better the same as the superior? for I could not make out what you were saying at the time—whether you meant by the superior the stronger, and that the weaker must obey the stronger, as you seemed to imply when you said that great cities attack small ones in accordance with natural right, because they are superior and stronger, as though the superior and stronger and better were the same; or whether the better may be also the inferior and weaker, and the superior the worse, or whether better is to be defined in the same way as superior:—this is the point which I want to have cleared up. Are the superior and better and stronger the same or different?
CALLICLES: I say unequivocally that they are the same.
SOCRATES: Then the many are by nature superior to the one, against whom, as you were saying, they make the laws?
SOCRATES: Then the laws of the many are the laws of the superior?
CALLICLES: Very true.
SOCRATES: Then they are the laws of the better; for the superior class are far better, as you were saying?
SOCRATES: And since they are superior, the laws which are made by them are by nature good?
SOCRATES: And are not the many of opinion, as you were lately saying, that justice is equality, and that to do is more disgraceful than to suffer injustice?—is that so or not? Answer, Callicles, and let no modesty be found to come in the way; do the many think, or do they not think thus?—I must beg of you to answer, in order that if you agree with me I may fortify myself by the assent of so competent an authority.
CALLICLES: Yes; the opinion of the many is what you say.
SOCRATES: Then not only custom but nature also affirms that to do is more disgraceful than to suffer injustice, and that justice is equality; so that you seem to have been wrong in your former assertion, when accusing me you said that nature and custom are opposed, and that I, knowing this, was dishonestly playing between them, appealing to custom when the argument is about nature, and to nature when the argument is about custom?
CALLICLES: This man will never cease talking nonsense. At your age, Socrates, are you not ashamed to be catching at words and chuckling over some verbal slip? do you not see—have I not told you already, that by superior I mean better: do you imagine me to say, that if a rabble of slaves and nondescripts, who are of no use except perhaps for their physical strength, get together, their ipsissima verba (“very words”) are laws?
SOCRATES: Ho! my philosopher, is that your line?
SOCRATES: I was thinking, Callicles, that something of the kind must have been in your mind, and that is why I repeated the question,—What is the superior? I wanted to know clearly what you meant; for you surely do not think that two men are better than one, or that your slaves are better than you because they are stronger? Then please to begin again, and tell me who the better are, if they are not the stronger; and I will ask you, great Sir, to be a little milder in your instructions, or I shall have to run away from you.
CALLICLES: You are ironical.
SOCRATES: No, by the hero Zethus, Callicles, by whose aid you were just now saying many ironical things against me, I am not:—tell me, then, whom you mean, by the better?
CALLICLES: I mean the more excellent.
SOCRATES: Do you not see that you are yourself using words which have no meaning and that you are explaining nothing?—will you tell me whether you mean by the better and superior the wiser, or if not, whom?
CALLICLES: Most assuredly, I do mean the wiser.
SOCRATES: Then according to you, one wise man may often be superior to ten thousand fools, and he ought to rule them, and they ought to be his subjects, and he ought to have more than they should. This is what I believe that you mean (and you must not suppose that I am word-catching), if you allow that the one is superior to the ten thousand?
CALLICLES: Yes; that is what I mean, and that is what I conceive to be natural justice—that the better and wiser should rule and have more than the inferior.
SOCRATES: Stop there, and let me ask you what you would say in this case: Let us suppose that we are all together as we are now; there are several of us, and we have a large common store of meats and drinks, and there are all sorts of persons in our company having various degrees of strength and weakness, and one of us, being a physician, is wiser in the matter of food than all the rest, and he is probably stronger than some and not so strong as others of us—will he not, being wiser, be also better than we are, and our superior in this matter of food?
SOCRATES: Either, then, he will have a larger share of the meats and drinks, because he is better, or he will have the distribution of all of them by reason of his authority, but he will not expend or make use of a larger share of them on his own person, or if he does, he will be punished;—his share will exceed that of some, and be less than that of others, and if he be the weakest of all, he being the best of all will have the smallest share of all, Callicles:—am I not right, my friend?
CALLICLES: You talk about meats and drinks and physicians and other nonsense; I am not speaking of them.
SOCRATES: Well, but do you admit that the wiser is the better? Answer “Yes” or “No.”
SOCRATES: And ought not the better to have a larger share?
CALLICLES: Not of meats and drinks.
SOCRATES: I understand: then, perhaps, of coats—the most skillful weaver ought to have the largest coat, and the greatest number of them, and go about clothed in the best and finest of them?
CALLICLES: Fudge about coats!
SOCRATES: Then the most skillful and best in making shoes ought to have the advantage in shoes; the shoemaker, clearly, should walk about in the largest shoes, and have the greatest number of them?
CALLICLES: Fudge about shoes! What nonsense are you talking?
SOCRATES: Or, if this is not your meaning, perhaps you would say that the wise and good and true husbandman should actually have a larger share of seeds, and have as much seed as possible for his own land?
CALLICLES: How you go on, always talking in the same way, Socrates!
SOCRATES: Yes, Callicles, and also about the same things.
CALLICLES: Yes, by the Gods, you are literally always talking of cobblers and fullers and cooks and doctors, as if this had to do with our argument.
SOCRATES: But why will you not tell me in what a man must be superior and wiser in order to claim a larger share; will you neither accept a suggestion, nor offer one?
CALLICLES: I have already told you. In the first place, I mean by superiors not cobblers or cooks, but wise politicians who understand the administration of a state, and who are not only wise, but also valiant and able to carry out their designs, and not the men to faint from want of soul.
SOCRATES: See now, most excellent Callicles, how different my charge against you is from that which you bring against me, for you reproach me with always saying the same; but I reproach you with never saying the same about the same things, for at one time you were defining the better and the superior to be the stronger, then again as the wiser, and now you bring forward a new notion; the superior and the better are now declared by you to be the more courageous: I wish, my good friend, that you would tell me, once for all, whom you affirm to be the better and superior, and in what they are better?
CALLICLES: I have already told you that I mean those who are wise and courageous in the administration of a state—they ought to be the rulers of their states, and justice consists in their having more than their subjects.
SOCRATES: But whether rulers or subjects will they or will they not have more than themselves, my friend?
CALLICLES: What do you mean?
SOCRATES: I mean that every man is his own ruler; but perhaps you think that there is no necessity for him to rule himself; he is only required to rule others?
CALLICLES: What do you mean by his “ruling over himself”?
SOCRATES: A simple thing enough; just what is commonly said, that a man should be temperate and master of himself, and ruler of his own pleasures and passions.
CALLICLES: What innocence! you mean those fools,—the temperate?
SOCRATES: Certainly:—any one may know that to be my meaning.
CALLICLES: Quite so, Socrates; and they are really fools, for how can a man be happy who is the servant of anything? On the contrary, I plainly assert, that he who would truly live ought to allow his desires to wax to the uttermost, and not to chastise them; but when they have grown to their greatest he should have courage and intelligence to minister to them and to satisfy all his longings. And this I affirm to be natural justice and nobility. To this however the many cannot attain; and they blame the strong man because they are ashamed of their own weakness, which they desire to conceal, and hence they say that intemperance is base. As I have remarked already, they enslave the nobler natures, and being unable to satisfy their pleasures, they praise temperance and justice out of their own cowardice. For if a man had been originally the son of a king, or had a nature capable of acquiring an empire or a tyranny or sovereignty, what could be more truly base or evil than temperance—to a man like him, I say, who might freely be enjoying every good, and has no one to stand in his way, and yet has admitted custom and reason and the opinion of other men to be lords over him?—must not he be in a miserable plight whom the reputation of justice and temperance hinders from giving more to his friends than to his enemies, even though he be a ruler in his city? Nay, Socrates, for you profess to be a votary of the truth, and the truth is this:—that luxury and intemperance and licence, if they be provided with means, are virtue and happiness—all the rest is a mere bauble, agreements contrary to nature, foolish talk of men, nothing worth. (Compare Republic.)
SOCRATES: There is a noble freedom, Callicles, in your way of approaching the argument; for what you say is what the rest of the world think, but do not like to say. And I must beg of you to persevere, that the true rule of human life may become manifest. Tell me, then:—you say, do you not, that in the rightly-developed man the passions ought not to be controlled, but that we should let them grow to the utmost and somehow or other satisfy them, and that this is virtue?
CALLICLES: Yes; I do.
SOCRATES: Then those who want nothing are not truly said to be happy?
CALLICLES: No indeed, for then stones and dead men would be the happiest of all.
SOCRATES: But surely life according to your view is an awful thing; and indeed I think that Euripides may have been right in saying,
“Who knows if life be not death and death life;”
and that we are very likely dead; I have heard a philosopher say that at this moment we are actually dead, and that the body (soma) is our tomb (sema (compare Phaedr.)), and that the part of the soul which is the seat of the desires is liable to be tossed about by words and blown up and down; and some ingenious person, probably a Sicilian or an Italian, playing with the word, invented a tale in which he called the soul—because of its believing and make-believe nature—a vessel (An untranslatable pun,—dia to pithanon te kai pistikon onomase pithon.), and the ignorant he called the uninitiated or leaky, and the place in the souls of the uninitiated in which the desires are seated, being the intemperate and incontinent part, he compared to a vessel full of holes, because it can never be satisfied. He is not of your way of thinking, Callicles, for he declares, that of all the souls in Hades, meaning the invisible world (aeides), these uninitiated or leaky persons are the most miserable, and that they pour water into a vessel which is full of holes out of a colander which is similarly perforated. The colander, as my informer assures me, is the soul, and the soul which he compares to a colander is the soul of the ignorant, which is likewise full of holes, and therefore incontinent, owing to a bad memory and want of faith. These notions are strange enough, but they show the principle which, if I can, I would fain prove to you; that you should change your mind, and, instead of the intemperate and insatiate life, choose that which is orderly and sufficient and has a due provision for daily needs. Do I make any impression on you, and are you coming over to the opinion that the orderly are happier than the intemperate? Or do I fail to persuade you, and, however many tales I rehearse to you, do you continue of the same opinion still?
CALLICLES: The latter, Socrates, is more like the truth.
SOCRATES: Well, I will tell you another image, which comes out of the same school:—Let me request you to consider how far you would accept this as an account of the two lives of the temperate and intemperate in a figure:—There are two men, both of whom have a number of casks; the one man has his casks sound and full, one of wine, another of honey, and a third of milk, besides others filled with other liquids, and the streams which fill them are few and scanty, and he can only obtain them with a great deal of toil and difficulty; but when his casks are once filled he has no need to feed them any more, and has no further trouble with them or care about them. The other, in like manner, can procure streams, though not without difficulty; but his vessels are leaky and unsound, and night and day he is compelled to be filling them, and if he pauses for a moment, he is in an agony of pain. Such are their respective lives:—And now would you say that the life of the intemperate is happier than that of the temperate? Do I not convince you that the opposite is the truth?
CALLICLES: You do not convince me, Socrates, for the one who has filled himself has no longer any pleasure left; and this, as I was just now saying, is the life of a stone: he has neither joy nor sorrow after he is once filled; but the pleasure depends on the superabundance of the influx.
SOCRATES: But the more you pour in, the greater the waste; and the holes must be large for the liquid to escape.
SOCRATES: The life which you are now depicting is not that of a dead man, or of a stone, but of a cormorant; you mean that he is to be hungering and eating?
SOCRATES: And he is to be thirsting and drinking?
CALLICLES: Yes, that is what I mean; he is to have all his desires about him, and to be able to live happily in the gratification of them.
SOCRATES: Capital, excellent; go on as you have begun, and have no shame; I, too, must disencumber myself of shame: and first, will you tell me whether you include itching and scratching, provided you have enough of them and pass your life in scratching, in your notion of happiness?
CALLICLES: What a strange being you are, Socrates! a regular mob-orator.
SOCRATES: That was the reason, Callicles, why I scared Polus and Gorgias, until they were too modest to say what they thought; but you will not be too modest and will not be scared, for you are a brave man. And now, answer my question.
CALLICLES: I answer, that even the scratcher would live pleasantly.
SOCRATES: And if pleasantly, then also happily?
CALLICLES: To be sure.
SOCRATES: But what if the itching is not confined to the head? Shall I pursue the question? And here, Callicles, I would have you consider how you would reply if consequences are pressed upon you, especially if in the last resort you are asked, whether the life of a catamite is not terrible, foul, miserable? Or would you venture to say, that they too are happy, if they only get enough of what they want?
CALLICLES: Are you not ashamed, Socrates, of introducing such topics into the argument?
SOCRATES: Well, my fine friend, but am I the introducer of these topics, or he who says without any qualification that all who feel pleasure in whatever manner are happy, and who admits of no distinction between good and bad pleasures? And I would still ask, whether you say that pleasure and good are the same, or whether there is some pleasure which is not a good?
CALLICLES: Well, then, for the sake of consistency, I will say that they are the same.
SOCRATES: You are breaking the original agreement, Callicles, and will no longer be a satisfactory companion in the search after truth, if you say what is contrary to your real opinion.
CALLICLES: Why, that is what you are doing too, Socrates.
SOCRATES: Then we are both doing wrong. Still, my dear friend, I would ask you to consider whether pleasure, from whatever source derived, is the good; for, if this be true, then the disagreeable consequences which have been darkly intimated must follow, and many others.
CALLICLES: That, Socrates, is only your opinion.
SOCRATES: And do you, Callicles, seriously maintain what you are saying?
CALLICLES: Indeed I do.
SOCRATES: Then, as you are in earnest, shall we proceed with the argument?
CALLICLES: By all means. (Or, “I am in profound earnest.”)
SOCRATES: Well, if you are willing to proceed, determine this question for me:—There is something, I presume, which you would call knowledge?
CALLICLES: There is.
SOCRATES: And were you not saying just now, that some courage implied knowledge?
CALLICLES: I was.
SOCRATES: And you were speaking of courage and knowledge as two things different from one another?
CALLICLES: Certainly I was.
SOCRATES: And would you say that pleasure and knowledge are the same, or not the same?
CALLICLES: Not the same, O man of wisdom.
SOCRATES: And would you say that courage differed from pleasure?
SOCRATES: Well, then, let us remember that Callicles, the Acharnian, says that pleasure and good are the same; but that knowledge and courage are not the same, either with one another, or with the good.
CALLICLES: And what does our friend Socrates, of Foxton, say—does he assent to this, or not?
SOCRATES: He does not assent; neither will Callicles, when he sees himself truly. You will admit, I suppose, that good and evil fortune are opposed to each other?
SOCRATES: And if they are opposed to each other, then, like health and disease, they exclude one another; a man cannot have them both, or be without them both, at the same time?
CALLICLES: What do you mean?
SOCRATES: Take the case of any bodily affection:—a man may have the complaint in his eyes which is called ophthalmia?
CALLICLES: To be sure.
SOCRATES: But he surely cannot have the same eyes well and sound at the same time?
CALLICLES: Certainly not.
SOCRATES: And when he has got rid of his ophthalmia, has he got rid of the health of his eyes too? Is the final result, that he gets rid of them both together?
CALLICLES: Certainly not.
SOCRATES: That would surely be marvelous and absurd?
SOCRATES: I suppose that he is affected by them, and gets rid of them in turns?
SOCRATES: And he may have strength and weakness in the same way, by fits?
SOCRATES: Or swiftness and slowness?
SOCRATES: And does he have and not have good and happiness, and their opposites, evil and misery, in a similar alternation? (Compare Republic.)
CALLICLES: Certainly he has.
SOCRATES: If then there be anything which a man has and has not at the same time, clearly that cannot be good and evil—do we agree? Please not to answer without consideration.
CALLICLES: I entirely agree.
SOCRATES: Go back now to our former admissions.—Did you say that to hunger, I mean the mere state of hunger, was pleasant or painful?
CALLICLES: I said painful, but that to eat when you are hungry is pleasant.
SOCRATES: I know; but still the actual hunger is painful: am I not right?
SOCRATES: And thirst, too, is painful?
CALLICLES: Yes, very.
SOCRATES: Need I adduce any more instances, or would you agree that all wants or desires are painful?
CALLICLES: I agree, and therefore you need not adduce any more instances.
SOCRATES: Very good. And you would admit that to drink, when you are thirsty, is pleasant?
SOCRATES: And in the sentence which you have just uttered, the word “thirsty” implies pain?
SOCRATES: And the word “drinking” is expressive of pleasure, and of the satisfaction of the want?
SOCRATES: There is pleasure in drinking?
SOCRATES: When you are thirsty?
SOCRATES: And in pain?
SOCRATES: Do you see the inference:—that pleasure and pain are simultaneous, when you say that being thirsty, you drink? For are they not simultaneous, and do they not affect at the same time the same part, whether of the soul or the body?—which of them is affected cannot be supposed to be of any consequence: Is not this true?
CALLICLES: It is.
SOCRATES: You said also, that no man could have good and evil fortune at the same time?
CALLICLES: Yes, I did.
SOCRATES: But you admitted, that when in pain a man might also have pleasure?
SOCRATES: Then pleasure is not the same as good fortune, or pain the same as evil fortune, and therefore the good is not the same as the pleasant?
CALLICLES: I wish I knew, Socrates, what your quibbling means.
SOCRATES: You know, Callicles, but you affect not to know.
CALLICLES: Well, get on, and don’t keep fooling: then you will know what a wiseacre you are in your admonition of me.
SOCRATES: Does not a man cease from his thirst and from his pleasure in drinking at the same time?
CALLICLES: I do not understand what you are saying.
GORGIAS: Nay, Callicles, answer, if only for our sakes;—we should like to hear the argument out.
CALLICLES: Yes, Gorgias, but I must complain of the habitual trifling of Socrates; he is always arguing about little and unworthy questions.
GORGIAS: What matter? Your reputation, Callicles, is not at stake. Let Socrates argue in his own fashion.
CALLICLES: Well, then, Socrates, you shall ask these little peddling questions, since Gorgias wishes to have them.
SOCRATES: I envy you, Callicles, for having been initiated into the great mysteries before you were initiated into the lesser. I thought that this was not allowable. But to return to our argument:—Does not a man cease from thirsting and from the pleasure of drinking at the same moment?
SOCRATES: And if he is hungry, or has any other desire, does he not cease from the desire and the pleasure at the same moment?
CALLICLES: Very true.
SOCRATES: Then he ceases from pain and pleasure at the same moment?
SOCRATES: But he does not cease from good and evil at the same moment, as you have admitted: do you still adhere to what you said?
CALLICLES: Yes, I do; but what is the inference?
SOCRATES: Why, my friend, the inference is that the good is not the same as the pleasant, or the evil the same as the painful; there is a cessation of pleasure and pain at the same moment; but not of good and evil, for they are different. How then can pleasure be the same as good, or pain as evil? And I would have you look at the matter in another light, which could hardly, I think, have been considered by you when you identified them: Are not the good good because they have good present with them, as the beautiful are those who have beauty present with them?
SOCRATES: And do you call the fools and cowards good men? For you were saying just now that the courageous and the wise are the good—would you not say so?
SOCRATES: And did you never see a foolish child rejoicing?
CALLICLES: Yes, I have.
SOCRATES: And a foolish man too?
CALLICLES: Yes, certainly; but what is your drift?
SOCRATES: Nothing particular, if you will only answer.
CALLICLES: Yes, I have.
SOCRATES: And did you ever see a sensible man rejoicing or sorrowing?
SOCRATES: Which rejoice and sorrow most—the wise or the foolish?
CALLICLES: They are much upon a par, I think, in that respect.
SOCRATES: Enough: And did you ever see a coward in battle?
CALLICLES: To be sure.
SOCRATES: And which rejoiced most at the departure of the enemy, the coward or the brave?
CALLICLES: I should say “most” of both; or at any rate, they rejoiced about equally.
SOCRATES: No matter; then the cowards, and not only the brave, rejoice?
SOCRATES: And the foolish; so it would seem?
SOCRATES: And are only the cowards pained at the approach of their enemies, or are the brave also pained?
CALLICLES: Both are pained.
SOCRATES: And are they equally pained?
CALLICLES: I should imagine that the cowards are more pained.
SOCRATES: And are they not better pleased at the enemy’s departure?
CALLICLES: I dare say.
SOCRATES: Then are the foolish and the wise and the cowards and the brave all pleased and pained, as you were saying, in nearly equal degree; but are the cowards more pleased and pained than the brave?
SOCRATES: But surely the wise and brave are the good, and the foolish and the cowardly are the bad?
SOCRATES: Then the good and the bad are pleased and pained in a nearly equal degree?
SOCRATES: Then are the good and bad good and bad in a nearly equal degree, or have the bad the advantage both in good and evil? (i.e. in having more pleasure and more pain.)
CALLICLES: I really do not know what you mean.
SOCRATES: Why, do you not remember saying that the good were good because good was present with them, and the evil because evil; and that pleasures were goods and pains evils?
CALLICLES: Yes, I remember.
SOCRATES: And are not these pleasures or goods present to those who rejoice—if they do rejoice?
SOCRATES: Then those who rejoice are good when goods are present with them?
SOCRATES: And those who are in pain have evil or sorrow present with them?
SOCRATES: And would you still say that the evil are evil by reason of the presence of evil?
CALLICLES: I should.
SOCRATES: Then those who rejoice are good, and those who are in pain evil?
SOCRATES: The degrees of good and evil vary with the degrees of pleasure and of pain?
SOCRATES: Have the wise man and the fool, the brave and the coward, joy and pain in nearly equal degrees? or would you say that the coward has more?
CALLICLES: I should say that he has.
SOCRATES: Help me then to draw out the conclusion which follows from our admissions; for it is good to repeat and review what is good twice and thrice over, as they say. Both the wise man and the brave man we allow to be good?
SOCRATES: And the foolish man and the coward to be evil?
SOCRATES: And he who has joy is good?
SOCRATES: And he who is in pain is evil?
SOCRATES: The good and evil both have joy and pain, but, perhaps, the evil has more of them?
SOCRATES: Then must we not infer, that the bad man is as good and bad as the good, or, perhaps, even better?—is not this a further inference which follows equally with the preceding from the assertion that the good and the pleasant are the same:—can this be denied, Callicles?
CALLICLES: I have been listening and making admissions to you, Socrates; and I remark that if a person grants you anything in play, you, like a child, want to keep hold and will not give it back. But do you really suppose that I or any other human being denies that some pleasures are good and others bad?
SOCRATES: Alas, Callicles, how unfair you are! you certainly treat me as if I were a child, sometimes saying one thing, and then another, as if you were meaning to deceive me. And yet I thought at first that you were my friend, and would not have deceived me if you could have helped. But I see that I was mistaken; and now I suppose that I must make the best of a bad business, as they said of old, and take what I can get out of you.—Well, then, as I understand you to say, I may assume that some pleasures are good and others evil?
SOCRATES: The beneficial are good, and the hurtful are evil?
CALLICLES: To be sure.
SOCRATES: And the beneficial are those which do some good, and the hurtful are those which do some evil?
SOCRATES: Take, for example, the bodily pleasures of eating and drinking, which we were just now mentioning—you mean to say that those which promote health, or any other bodily excellence, are good, and their opposites evil?
SOCRATES: And in the same way there are good pains and there are evil pains?
CALLICLES: To be sure.
SOCRATES: And ought we not to choose and use the good pleasures and pains?
SOCRATES: But not the evil?
SOCRATES: Because, if you remember, Polus and I have agreed that all our actions are to be done for the sake of the good;—and will you agree with us in saying, that the good is the end of all our actions, and that all our actions are to be done for the sake of the good, and not the good for the sake of them?—will you add a third vote to our two?
CALLICLES: I will.
SOCRATES: Then pleasure, like everything else, is to be sought for the sake of that which is good, and not that which is good for the sake of pleasure?
CALLICLES: To be sure.
SOCRATES: But can every man choose what pleasures are good and what are evil, or must he have art or knowledge of them in detail?
CALLICLES: He must have art.
SOCRATES: Let me now remind you of what I was saying to Gorgias and Polus; I was saying, as you will not have forgotten, that there were some processes which aim only at pleasure, and know nothing of a better and worse, and there are other processes which know good and evil. And I considered that cookery, which I do not call an art, but only an experience, was of the former class, which is concerned with pleasure, and that the art of medicine was of the class which is concerned with the good. And now, by the god of friendship, I must beg you, Callicles, not to jest, or to imagine that I am jesting with you; do not answer at random and contrary to your real opinion—for you will observe that we are arguing about the way of human life; and to a man who has any sense at all, what question can be more serious than this?—whether he should follow after that way of life to which you exhort me, and act what you call the manly part of speaking in the assembly, and cultivating rhetoric, and engaging in public affairs, according to the principles now in vogue; or whether he should pursue the life of philosophy;—and in what the latter way differs from the former. But perhaps we had better first try to distinguish them, as I did before, and when we have come to an agreement that they are distinct, we may proceed to consider in what they differ from one another, and which of them we should choose. Perhaps, however, you do not even now understand what I mean?
CALLICLES: No, I do not.
SOCRATES: Then I will explain myself more clearly: seeing that you and I have agreed that there is such a thing as good, and that there is such a thing as pleasure, and that pleasure is not the same as good, and that the pursuit and process of acquisition of the one, that is pleasure, is different from the pursuit and process of acquisition of the other, which is good—I wish that you would tell me whether you agree with me thus far or not—do you agree?
CALLICLES: I do.
SOCRATES: Then I will proceed, and ask whether you also agree with me, and whether you think that I spoke the truth when I further said to Gorgias and Polus that cookery in my opinion is only an experience, and not an art at all; and that whereas medicine is an art, and attends to the nature and constitution of the patient, and has principles of action and reason in each case, cookery in attending upon pleasure never regards either the nature or reason of that pleasure to which she devotes herself, but goes straight to her end, nor ever considers or calculates anything, but works by experience and routine, and just preserves the recollection of what she has usually done when producing pleasure. And first, I would have you consider whether I have proved what I was saying, and then whether there are not other similar processes which have to do with the soul—some of them processes of art, making a provision for the soul’s highest interest—others despising the interest, and, as in the previous case, considering only the pleasure of the soul, and how this may be acquired, but not considering what pleasures are good or bad, and having no other aim but to afford gratification, whether good or bad. In my opinion, Callicles, there are such processes, and this is the sort of thing which I term flattery, whether concerned with the body or the soul, or whenever employed with a view to pleasure and without any consideration of good and evil. And now I wish that you would tell me whether you agree with us in this notion, or whether you differ.
CALLICLES: I do not differ; on the contrary, I agree; for in that way I shall soonest bring the argument to an end, and shall oblige my friend Gorgias.
SOCRATES: And is this notion true of one soul, or of two or more?
CALLICLES: Equally true of two or more.
SOCRATES: Then a man may delight a whole assembly, and yet have no regard for their true interests?
SOCRATES: Can you tell me the pursuits which delight mankind—or rather, if you would prefer, let me ask, and do you answer, which of them belong to the pleasurable class, and which of them not? In the first place, what say you of flute-playing? Does not that appear to be an art which seeks only pleasure, Callicles, and thinks of nothing else?
CALLICLES: I assent.
SOCRATES: And is not the same true of all similar arts, as, for example, the art of playing the lyre at festivals?
SOCRATES: And what do you say of the choral art and of dithyrambic poetry?—are not they of the same nature? Do you imagine that Cinesias the son of Meles cares about what will tend to the moral improvement of his hearers, or about what will give pleasure to the multitude?
CALLICLES: There can be no mistake about Cinesias, Socrates.
SOCRATES: And what do you say of his father, Meles the harp-player? Did he perform with any view to the good of his hearers? Could he be said to regard even their pleasure? For his singing was an infliction to his audience. And of harp-playing and dithyrambic poetry in general, what would you say? Have they not been invented wholly for the sake of pleasure?
CALLICLES: That is my notion of them.
SOCRATES: And as for the Muse of Tragedy, that solemn and august personage—what are her aspirations? Is all her aim and desire only to give pleasure to the spectators, or does she fight against them and refuse to speak of their pleasant vices, and willingly proclaim in word and song truths welcome and unwelcome?—which in your judgment is her character?
CALLICLES: There can be no doubt, Socrates, that Tragedy has her face turned towards pleasure and the gratification of the audience.
SOCRATES: And is not that the sort of thing, Callicles, which we were just now describing as flattery?
CALLICLES: Quite true.
SOCRATES: Well now, suppose that we strip all poetry of song and rhythm and metre, there will remain speech? (Compare Republic.)
CALLICLES: To be sure.
SOCRATES: And this speech is addressed to a crowd of people?
SOCRATES: Then poetry is a sort of rhetoric?
SOCRATES: And do not the poets in the theatres seem to you to be rhetoricians?
SOCRATES: Then now we have discovered a sort of rhetoric which is addressed to a crowd of men, women, and children, freemen and slaves. And this is not much to our taste, for we have described it as having the nature of flattery.
CALLICLES: Quite true.
SOCRATES: Very good. And what do you say of that other rhetoric which addresses the Athenian assembly and the assemblies of freemen in other states? Do the rhetoricians appear to you always to aim at what is best, and do they seek to improve the citizens by their speeches, or are they too, like the rest of mankind, bent upon giving them pleasure, forgetting the public good in the thought of their own interest, playing with the people as with children, and trying to amuse them, but never considering whether they are better or worse for this?
CALLICLES: I must distinguish. There are some who have a real care of the public in what they say, while others are such as you describe.
SOCRATES: I am contented with the admission that rhetoric is of two sorts; one, which is mere flattery and disgraceful declamation; the other, which is noble and aims at the training and improvement of the souls of the citizens, and strives to say what is best, whether welcome or unwelcome, to the audience; but have you ever known such a rhetoric; or if you have, and can point out any rhetorician who is of this stamp, who is he?
CALLICLES: But, indeed, I am afraid that I cannot tell you of any such among the orators who are at present living.
SOCRATES: Well, then, can you mention any one of a former generation, who may be said to have improved the Athenians, who found them worse and made them better, from the day that he began to make speeches? for, indeed, I do not know of such a man.
CALLICLES: What! did you never hear that Themistocles was a good man, and Cimon and Miltiades and Pericles, who is just lately dead, and whom you heard yourself?
SOCRATES: Yes, Callicles, they were good men, if, as you said at first, true virtue consists only in the satisfaction of our own desires and those of others; but if not, and if, as we were afterwards compelled to acknowledge, the satisfaction of some desires makes us better, and of others, worse, and we ought to gratify the one and not the other, and there is an art in distinguishing them,—can you tell me of any of these statesmen who did distinguish them?
CALLICLES: No, indeed, I cannot.
SOCRATES: Yet, surely, Callicles, if you look you will find such a one. Suppose that we just calmly consider whether any of these was such as I have described. Will not the good man, who says whatever he says with a view to the best, speak with a reference to some standard and not at random; just as all other artists, whether the painter, the builder, the shipwright, or any other look all of them to their own work, and do not select and apply at random what they apply, but strive to give a definite form to it? The artist disposes all things in order, and compels the one part to harmonize and accord with the other part, until he has constructed a regular and systematic whole; and this is true of all artists, and in the same way the trainers and physicians, of whom we spoke before, give order and regularity to the body: do you deny this?
CALLICLES: No; I am ready to admit it.
SOCRATES: Then the house in which order and regularity prevail is good; that in which there is disorder, evil?
SOCRATES: And the same is true of a ship?
SOCRATES: And the same may be said of the human body?
SOCRATES: And what would you say of the soul? Will the good soul be that in which disorder is prevalent, or that in which there is harmony and order?
CALLICLES: The latter follows from our previous admissions.
SOCRATES: What is the name which is given to the effect of harmony and order in the body?
CALLICLES: I suppose that you mean health and strength?
SOCRATES: Yes, I do; and what is the name which you would give to the effect of harmony and order in the soul? Try and discover a name for this as well as for the other.
CALLICLES: Why not give the name yourself, Socrates?
SOCRATES: Well, if you had rather that I should, I will; and you shall say whether you agree with me, and if not, you shall refute and answer me. “Healthy,” as I conceive, is the name which is given to the regular order of the body, whence comes health and every other bodily excellence: is that true or not?
SOCRATES: And “lawful” and “law” are the names which are given to the regular order and action of the soul, and these make men lawful and orderly:—and so we have temperance and justice: have we not?
SOCRATES: And will not the true rhetorician who is honest and understands his art have his eye fixed upon these, in all the words which he addresses to the souls of men, and in all his actions, both in what he gives and in what he takes away? Will not his aim be to implant justice in the souls of his citizens and take away injustice, to implant temperance and take away intemperance, to implant every virtue and take away every vice? Do you not agree?
CALLICLES: I agree.
SOCRATES: For what use is there, Callicles, in giving to the body of a sick man who is in a bad state of health a quantity of the most delightful food or drink or any other pleasant thing, which may be really as bad for him as if you gave him nothing, or even worse if rightly estimated. Is not that true?
CALLICLES: I will not say No to it.
SOCRATES: For in my opinion there is no profit in a man’s life if his body is in an evil plight—in that case his life also is evil: am I not right?
SOCRATES: When a man is in health the physicians will generally allow him to eat when he is hungry and drink when he is thirsty, and to satisfy his desires as he likes, but when he is sick they hardly suffer him to satisfy his desires at all: even you will admit that?
SOCRATES: And does not the same argument hold of the soul, my good sir? While she is in a bad state and is senseless and intemperate and unjust and unholy, her desires ought to be controlled, and she ought to be prevented from doing anything which does not tend to her own improvement.
SOCRATES: Such treatment will be better for the soul herself?
CALLICLES: To be sure.
SOCRATES: And to restrain her from her appetites is to chastise her?
SOCRATES: Then restraint or chastisement is better for the soul than intemperance or the absence of control, which you were just now preferring?
CALLICLES: I do not understand you, Socrates, and I wish that you would ask some one who does.
SOCRATES: Here is a gentleman who cannot endure to be improved or to subject himself to that very chastisement of which the argument speaks!
CALLICLES: I do not heed a word of what you are saying, and have only answered hitherto out of civility to Gorgias.
SOCRATES: What are we to do, then? Shall we break off in the middle?
CALLICLES: You shall judge for yourself.
SOCRATES: Well, but people say that “a tale should have a head and not break off in the middle,” and I should not like to have the argument going about without a head (compare Laws); please then to go on a little longer, and put the head on.
CALLICLES: How tyrannical you are, Socrates! I wish that you and your argument would rest, or that you would get some one else to argue with you.
SOCRATES: But who else is willing?—I want to finish the argument.
CALLICLES: Cannot you finish without my help, either talking straight on, or questioning and answering yourself?
SOCRATES: Must I then say with Epicharmus, “Two men spoke before, but now one shall be enough”? I suppose that there is absolutely no help. And if I am to carry on the enquiry by myself, I will first of all remark that not only I but all of us should have an ambition to know what is true and what is false in this matter, for the discovery of the truth is a common good. And now I will proceed to argue according to my own notion. But if any of you think that I arrive at conclusions which are untrue you must interpose and refute me, for I do not speak from any knowledge of what I am saying; I am an enquirer like yourselves, and therefore, if my opponent says anything which is of force, I shall be the first to agree with him. I am speaking on the supposition that the argument ought to be completed; but if you think otherwise let us leave off and go our ways.
GORGIAS: I think, Socrates, that we should not go our ways until you have completed the argument; and this appears to me to be the wish of the rest of the company; I myself should very much like to hear what more you have to say.
SOCRATES: I too, Gorgias, should have liked to continue the argument with Callicles, and then I might have given him an “Amphion” in return for his “Zethus”; but since you, Callicles, are unwilling to continue, I hope that you will listen, and interrupt me if I seem to you to be in error. And if you refute me, I shall not be angry with you as you are with me, but I shall inscribe you as the greatest of benefactors on the tablets of my soul.
CALLICLES: My good fellow, never mind me, but get on.
SOCRATES: Listen to me, then, while I recapitulate the argument:—Is the pleasant the same as the good? Not the same. Callicles and I are agreed about that. And is the pleasant to be pursued for the sake of the good? or the good for the sake of the pleasant? The pleasant is to be pursued for the sake of the good. And that is pleasant at the presence of which we are pleased, and that is good at the presence of which we are good? To be sure. And we are good, and all good things whatever are good when some virtue is present in us or them? That, Callicles, is my conviction. But the virtue of each thing, whether body or soul, instrument or creature, when given to them in the best way comes to them not by chance but as the result of the order and truth and art which are imparted to them: Am I not right? I maintain that I am. And is not the virtue of each thing dependent on order or arrangement? Yes, I say. And that which makes a thing good is the proper order inhering in each thing? Such is my view. And is not the soul which has an order of her own better than that which has no order? Certainly. And the soul which has order is orderly? Of course. And that which is orderly is temperate? Assuredly. And the temperate soul is good? No other answer can I give, Callicles dear; have you any?
CALLICLES: Go on, my good fellow.
SOCRATES: Then I shall proceed to add, that if the temperate soul is the good soul, the soul which is in the opposite condition, that is, the foolish and intemperate, is the bad soul. Very true.
And will not the temperate man do what is proper, both in relation to the gods and to men;—for he would not be temperate if he did not? Certainly he will do what is proper. In his relation to other men he will do what is just; and in his relation to the gods he will do what is holy; and he who does what is just and holy must be just and holy? Very true. And must he not be courageous? for the duty of a temperate man is not to follow or to avoid what he ought not, but what he ought, whether things or men or pleasures or pains, and patiently to endure when he ought; and therefore, Callicles, the temperate man, being, as we have described, also just and courageous and holy, cannot be other than a perfectly good man, nor can the good man do otherwise than well and perfectly whatever he does; and he who does well must of necessity be happy and blessed, and the evil man who does evil, miserable: now this latter is he whom you were applauding—the intemperate who is the opposite of the temperate. Such is my position, and these things I affirm to be true. And if they are true, then I further affirm that he who desires to be happy must pursue and practice temperance and run away from intemperance as fast as his legs will carry him: he had better order his life so as not to need punishment; but if either he or any of his friends, whether private individual or city, are in need of punishment, then justice must be done and he must suffer punishment, if he would be happy. This appears to me to be the aim which a man ought to have, and towards which he ought to direct all the energies both of himself and of the state, acting so that he may have temperance and justice present with him and be happy, not suffering his lusts to be unrestrained, and in the never-ending desire satisfy them leading a robber’s life. Such a one is the friend neither of God nor man, for he is incapable of communion, and he who is incapable of communion is also incapable of friendship. And philosophers tell us, Callicles, that communion and friendship and orderliness and temperance and justice bind together heaven and earth and gods and men, and that this universe is therefore called Cosmos or order, not disorder or misrule, my friend. But although you are a philosopher you seem to me never to have observed that geometrical equality is mighty, both among gods and men; you think that you ought to cultivate inequality or excess, and do not care about geometry.—Well, then, either the principle that the happy are made happy by the possession of justice and temperance, and the miserable miserable by the possession of vice, must be refuted, or, if it is granted, what will be the consequences? All the consequences which I drew before, Callicles, and about which you asked me whether I was in earnest when I said that a man ought to accuse himself and his son and his friend if he did anything wrong, and that to this end he should use his rhetoric—all those consequences are true. And that which you thought that Polus was led to admit out of modesty is true, viz., that, to do injustice, if more disgraceful than to suffer, is in that degree worse; and the other position, which, according to Polus, Gorgias admitted out of modesty, that he who would truly be a rhetorician ought to be just and have a knowledge of justice, has also turned out to be true.
by Plato (381 B.C.)
[Plato. Laws. Translated by Benjamin Jowett. Project Gutenberg. 29 October 2008. Book 1, 624a–632c; Book 10, 884c–899d. http://www.gutenberg.org/files/1750/1750-h/1750-h.htm (Accessed 8 June 2010). In the Public Domain.]
BOOK I. (Excerpt)
PERSONS OF THE DIALOGUE: An Athenian Stranger, Cleinias (a Cretan), Megillus (a Lacedaemonian).
ATHENIAN: Tell me, Strangers, is a God or some man supposed to be the author of your laws?
CLEINIAS: A God, Stranger; in very truth a God: among us Cretans he is said to have been Zeus, but in Lacedaemon, whence our friend here comes, I believe they would say that Apollo is their lawgiver: would they not, Megillus?
ATHENIAN: And do you, Cleinias, believe, as Homer tells, that every ninth year Minos went to converse with his Olympian sire, and was inspired by him to make laws for your cities?
CLEINIAS: Yes, that is our tradition; and there was Rhadamanthus, a brother of his, with whose name you are familiar; he is reputed to have been the justest of men, and we Cretans are of opinion that he earned this reputation from his righteous administration of justice when he was alive.
ATHENIAN: Yes, and a noble reputation it was, worthy of a son of Zeus. As you and Megillus have been trained in these institutions, I dare say that you will not be unwilling to give an account of your government and laws; on our way we can pass the time pleasantly in talking about them, for I am told that the distance from Cnosus to the cave and temple of Zeus is considerable; and doubtless there are shady places under the lofty trees, which will protect us from this scorching sun. Being no longer young, we may often stop to rest beneath them, and get over the whole journey without difficulty, beguiling the time by conversation.
CLEINIAS: Yes, Stranger, and if we proceed onward we shall come to groves of cypresses, which are of rare height and beauty, and there are green meadows, in which we may repose and converse.
ATHENIAN: Very good.
CLEINIAS: Very good, indeed; and still better when we see them; let us move on cheerily.
ATHENIAN: I am willing—And first, I want to know why the law has ordained that you shall have common meals and gymnastic exercises, and wear arms.
CLEINIAS: I think, Stranger, that the aim of our institutions is easily intelligible to any one. Look at the character of our country: Crete is not like Thessaly, a large plain; and for this reason they have horsemen in Thessaly, and we have runners—the inequality of the ground in our country is more adapted to locomotion on foot; but then, if you have runners you must have light arms—no one can carry a heavy weight when running, and bows and arrows are convenient because they are light. Now all these regulations have been made with a view to war, and the legislator appears to me to have looked to this in all his arrangements:—the common meals, if I am not mistaken, were instituted by him for a similar reason, because he saw that while they are in the field the citizens are by the nature of the case compelled to take their meals together for the sake of mutual protection. He seems to me to have thought the world foolish in not understanding that all men are always at war with one another; and if in war there ought to be common meals and certain persons regularly appointed under others to protect an army, they should be continued in peace. For what men in general term peace would be said by him to be only a name; in reality every city is in a natural state of war with every other, not indeed proclaimed by heralds, but everlasting. And if you look closely, you will find that this was the intention of the Cretan legislator; all institutions, private as well as public, were arranged by him with a view to war; in giving them he was under the impression that no possessions or institutions are of any value to him who is defeated in battle; for all the good things of the conquered pass into the hands of the conquerors.
ATHENIAN: You appear to me, Stranger, to have been thoroughly trained in the Cretan institutions, and to be well informed about them; will you tell me a little more explicitly what is the principle of government which you would lay down? You seem to imagine that a well-governed state ought to be so ordered as to conquer all other states in war: am I right in supposing this to be your meaning?
CLEINIAS: Certainly; and our Lacedaemonian friend, if I am not mistaken, will agree with me.
MEGILLUS: Why, my good friend, how could any Lacedaemonian say anything else?
ATHENIAN: And is what you say applicable only to states, or also to villages?
CLEINIAS: To both alike.
ATHENIAN: The case is the same?
ATHENIAN: And in the village will there be the same war of family against family, and of individual against individual?
CLEINIAS: The same.
ATHENIAN: And should each man conceive himself to be his own enemy:—what shall we say?
CLEINIAS: O Athenian Stranger—inhabitant of Attica I will not call you, for you seem to deserve rather to be named after the goddess herself, because you go back to first principles,—you have thrown a light upon the argument, and will now be better able to understand what I was just saying,—that all men are publicly one another’s enemies, and each man privately his own.
(ATHENIAN: My good sir, what do you mean?)—
CLEINIAS:...Moreover, there is a victory and defeat—the first and best of victories, the lowest and worst of defeats—which each man gains or sustains at the hands, not of another, but of himself; this shows that there is a war against ourselves going on within every one of us.
ATHENIAN: Let us now reverse the order of the argument: Seeing that every individual is either his own superior or his own inferior, may we say that there is the same principle in the house, the village, and the state?
CLEINIAS: You mean that in each of them there is a principle of superiority or inferiority to self?
CLEINIAS: You are quite right in asking the question, for there certainly is such a principle, and above all in states; and the state in which the better citizens win a victory over the mob and over the inferior classes may be truly said to be better than itself, and may be justly praised, where such a victory is gained, or censured in the opposite case.
ATHENIAN: Whether the better is ever really conquered by the worse, is a question which requires more discussion, and may be therefore left for the present. But I now quite understand your meaning when you say that citizens who are of the same race and live in the same cities may unjustly conspire, and having the superiority in numbers may overcome and enslave the few just; and when they prevail, the state may be truly called its own inferior and therefore bad; and when they are defeated, its own superior and therefore good.
CLEINIAS: Your remark, Stranger, is a paradox, and yet we cannot possibly deny it.
ATHENIAN: Here is another case for consideration;—in a family there may be several brothers, who are the offspring of a single pair; very possibly the majority of them may be unjust, and the just may be in a minority.
CLEINIAS: Very possibly.
ATHENIAN: And you and I ought not to raise a question of words as to whether this family and household are rightly said to be superior when they conquer, and inferior when they are conquered; for we are not now considering what may or may not be the proper or customary way of speaking, but we are considering the natural principles of right and wrong in laws.
CLEINIAS: What you say, Stranger, is most true.
MEGILLUS: Quite excellent, in my opinion, as far as we have gone.
ATHENIAN: Again; might there not be a judge over these brethren, of whom we were speaking?
ATHENIAN: Now, which would be the better judge—one who destroyed the bad and appointed the good to govern themselves; or one who, while allowing the good to govern, let the bad live, and made them voluntarily submit? Or third, I suppose, in the scale of excellence might be placed a judge, who, finding the family distracted, not only did not destroy any one, but reconciled them to one another for ever after, and gave them laws which they mutually observed, and was able to keep them friends.
CLEINIAS: The last would be by far the best sort of judge and legislator.
ATHENIAN: And yet the aim of all the laws which he gave would be the reverse of war.
CLEINIAS: Very true.
ATHENIAN: And will he who constitutes the state and orders the life of man have in view external war, or that kind of intestine war called civil, which no one, if he could prevent, would like to have occurring in his own state; and when occurring, every one would wish to be quit of as soon as possible?
CLEINIAS: He would have the latter chiefly in view.
ATHENIAN: And would he prefer that this civil war should be terminated by the destruction of one of the parties, and by the victory of the other, or that peace and friendship should be re-established, and that, being reconciled, they should give their attention to foreign enemies?
CLEINIAS: Every one would desire the latter in the case of his own state.
ATHENIAN: And would not that also be the desire of the legislator?
ATHENIAN: And would not every one always make laws for the sake of the best?
CLEINIAS: To be sure.
ATHENIAN: But war, whether external or civil, is not the best, and the need of either is to be deprecated; but peace with one another, and good will, are best. Nor is the victory of the state over itself to be regarded as a really good thing, but as a necessity; a man might as well say that the body was in the best state when sick and purged by medicine, forgetting that there is also a state of the body which needs no purge. And in like manner no one can be a true statesman, whether he aims at the happiness of the individual or state, who looks only, or first of all, to external warfare; nor will he ever be a sound legislator who orders peace for the sake of war, and not war for the sake of peace.
CLEINIAS: I suppose that there is truth, Stranger, in that remark of yours; and yet I am greatly mistaken if war is not the entire aim and object of our own institutions, and also of the Lacedaemonian.
ATHENIAN: I dare say; but there is no reason why we should rudely quarrel with one another about your legislators, instead of gently questioning them, seeing that both we and they are equally in earnest. Please follow me and the argument closely:—And first I will put forward Tyrtaeus, an Athenian by birth, but also a Spartan citizen, who of all men was most eager about war: Well, he says,
“I sing not, I care not, about any man,”
even if he were the richest of men, and possessed every good (and then he gives a whole list of them), if he be not at all times a brave warrior.” I imagine that you, too, must have heard his poems; our Lacedaemonian friend has probably heard more than enough of them.
MEGILLUS: Very true.
CLEINIAS: And they have found their way from Lacedaemon to Crete.
ATHENIAN: Come now and let us all join in asking this question of Tyrtaeus: O most divine poet, we will say to him, the excellent praise which you have bestowed on those who excel in war sufficiently proves that you are wise and good, and I and Megillus and Cleinias of Cnosus do, as I believe, entirely agree with you. But we should like to be quite sure that we are speaking of the same men; tell us, then, do you agree with us in thinking that there are two kinds of war; or what would you say? A far inferior man to Tyrtaeus would have no difficulty in replying quite truly, that war is of two kinds,—one which is universally called civil war, and is, as we were just now saying, of all wars the worst; the other, as we should all admit, in which we fall out with other nations who are of a different race, is a far milder form of warfare.
CLEINIAS: Certainly, far milder.
ATHENIAN: Well, now, when you praise and blame war in this high-flown strain, whom are you praising or blaming, and to which kind of war are you referring? I suppose that you must mean foreign war, if I am to judge from expressions of yours in which you say that you abominate those
“Who refuse to look upon fields of blood, and will not draw near and strike at their enemies.”
And we shall naturally go on to say to him,—You, Tyrtaeus, as it seems, praise those who distinguish themselves in external and foreign war; and he must admit this.
ATHENIAN: They are good; but we say that there are still better men whose virtue is displayed in the greatest of all battles. And we too have a poet whom we summon as a witness, Theognis, citizen of Megara in Sicily:
“Cyrnus,” he says, “he who is faithful in a civil broil is worth his weight in gold and silver.”
And such an one is far better, as we affirm, than the other in a more difficult kind of war, much in the same degree as justice and temperance and wisdom, when united with courage, are better than courage only; for a man cannot be faithful and good in civil strife without having all virtue. But in the war of which Tyrtaeus speaks, many a mercenary soldier will take his stand and be ready to die at his post, and yet they are generally and almost without exception insolent, unjust, violent men, and the most senseless of human beings. You will ask what the conclusion is, and what I am seeking to prove: I maintain that the divine legislator of Crete, like any other who is worthy of consideration, will always and above all things in making laws have regard to the greatest virtue; which, according to Theognis, is loyalty in the hour of danger, and may be truly called perfect justice. Whereas, that virtue which Tyrtaeus highly praises is well enough, and was praised by the poet at the right time, yet in place and dignity may be said to be only fourth rate (i.e., it ranks after justice, temperance, and wisdom.).
CLEINIAS: Stranger, we are degrading our inspired lawgiver to a rank which is far beneath him.
ATHENIAN: Nay, I think that we degrade not him but ourselves, if we imagine that Lycurgus and Minos laid down laws both in Lacedaemon and Crete mainly with a view to war.
CLEINIAS: What ought we to say then?
ATHENIAN: What truth and what justice require of us, if I am not mistaken, when speaking in behalf of divine excellence;—that the legislator when making his laws had in view not a part only, and this the lowest part of virtue, but all virtue, and that he devised classes of laws answering to the kinds of virtue; not in the way in which modern inventors of laws make the classes, for they only investigate and offer laws whenever a want is felt, and one man has a class of laws about allotments and heiresses, another about assaults; others about ten thousand other such matters. But we maintain that the right way of examining into laws is to proceed as we have now done, and I admired the spirit of your exposition; for you were quite right in beginning with virtue, and saying that this was the aim of the giver of the law, but I thought that you went wrong when you added that all his legislation had a view only to a part, and the least part of virtue, and this called forth my subsequent remarks. Will you allow me then to explain how I should have liked to have heard you expound the matter?
CLEINIAS: By all means.
ATHENIAN: You ought to have said, Stranger—The Cretan laws are with reason famous among the Hellenes; for they fulfill the object of laws, which is to make those who use them happy; and they confer every sort of good. Now goods are of two kinds: there are human and there are divine goods, and the human hang upon the divine; and the state which attains the greater, at the same time acquires the less, or, not having the greater, has neither. Of the lesser goods the first is health, the second beauty, the third strength, including swiftness in running and bodily agility generally, and the fourth is wealth, not the blind god (Pluto), but one who is keen of sight, if only he has wisdom for his companion. For wisdom is chief and leader of the divine class of goods, and next follows temperance; and from the union of these two with courage springs justice, and fourth in the scale of virtue is courage. All these naturally take precedence of the other goods, and this is the order in which the legislator must place them, and after them he will enjoin the rest of his ordinances on the citizens with a view to these, the human looking to the divine, and the divine looking to their leader mind. Some of his ordinances will relate to contracts of marriage which they make one with another, and then to the procreation and education of children, both male and female; the duty of the lawgiver will be to take charge of his citizens, in youth and age, and at every time of life, and to give them punishments and rewards; and in reference to all their intercourse with one another, he ought to consider their pains and pleasures and desires, and the vehemence of all their passions; he should keep a watch over them, and blame and praise them rightly by the mouth of the laws themselves. Also with regard to anger and terror, and the other perturbations of the soul, which arise out of misfortune, and the deliverances from them which prosperity brings, and the experiences which come to men in diseases, or in war, or poverty, or the opposite of these; in all these states he should determine and teach what is the good and evil of the condition of each. In the next place, the legislator has to be careful how the citizens make their money and in what way they spend it, and to have an eye to their mutual contracts and dissolutions of contracts, whether voluntary or involuntary: he should see how they order all this, and consider where justice as well as injustice is found or is wanting in their several dealings with one another; and honour those who obey the law, and impose fixed penalties on those who disobey, until the round of civil life is ended, and the time has come for the consideration of the proper funeral rites and honours of the dead. And the lawgiver reviewing his work, will appoint guardians to preside over these things,—some who walk by intelligence, others by true opinion only, and then mind will bind together all his ordinances and show them to be in harmony with temperance and justice, and not with wealth or ambition. This is the spirit, Stranger, in which I was and am desirous that you should pursue the subject. And I want to know the nature of all these things, and how they are arranged in the laws of Zeus, as they are termed, and in those of the Pythian Apollo, which Minos and Lycurgus gave; and how the order of them is discovered to his eyes, who has experience in laws gained either by study or habit, although they are far from being self-evident to the rest of mankind like ourselves.
CLEINIAS: How shall we proceed, Stranger?
ATHENIAN: I think that we must begin again as before, and first consider the habit of courage; and then we will go on and discuss another and then another form of virtue, if you please. In this way we shall have a model of the whole; and with these and similar discourses we will beguile the way. And when we have gone through all the virtues, we will show, by the grace of God, that the institutions of which I was speaking look to virtue.
BOOK X. (Excerpt)
And now having spoken of assaults, let us sum up all acts of violence under a single law, which shall be as follows: No one shall take or carry away any of his neighbour’s goods, neither shall he use anything which is his neighbour’s without the consent of the owner; for these are the offences which are and have been, and will ever be, the source of all the aforesaid evils. The greatest of them are excesses and insolences of youth, and are offences against the greatest when they are done against religion; and especially great when in violation of public and holy rites, or of the partly-common rites in which tribes and phratries share; and in the second degree great when they are committed against private rites and sepulchers, and in the third degree (not to repeat the acts formerly mentioned), when insults are offered to parents; the fourth kind of violence is when any one, regardless of the authority of the rulers, takes or carries away or makes use of anything which belongs to them, not having their consent; and the fifth kind is when the violation of the civil rights of an individual demands reparation. There should be a common law embracing all these cases. For we have already said in general terms what shall be the punishment of sacrilege, whether fraudulent or violent, and now we have to determine what is to be the punishment of those who speak or act insolently toward the Gods. But first we must give them an admonition which may be in the following terms: No one who in obedience to the laws believed that there were Gods, ever intentionally did any unholy act, or uttered any unlawful word; but he who did must have supposed one of three things—either that they did not exist—which is the first possibility, or secondly, that, if they did, they took no care of man, or thirdly, that they were easily appeased and turned aside from their purpose by sacrifices and prayers.
CLEINIAS: What shall we say or do to these persons?
ATHENIAN: My good friend, let us first hear the jests which I suspect that they in their superiority will utter against us.
CLEINIAS: What jests?
ATHENIAN: They will make some irreverent speech of this sort: “O inhabitants of Athens, and Sparta, and Cnosus,” they will reply, “in that you speak truly; for some of us deny the very existence of the Gods, while others, as you say, are of opinion that they do not care about us; and others that they are turned from their course by gifts. Now we have a right to claim, as you yourself allowed, in the matter of laws, that before you are hard upon us and threaten us, you should argue with us and convince us—you should first attempt to teach and persuade us that there are Gods by reasonable evidences, and also that they are too good to be unrighteous, or to be propitiated, or turned from their course by gifts. For when we hear such things said of them by those who are esteemed to be the best of poets, and orators, and prophets, and priests, and by innumerable others, the thoughts of most of us are not set upon abstaining from unrighteous acts, but upon doing them and atoning for them. When lawgivers profess that they are gentle and not stern, we think that they should first of all use persuasion to us, and show us the existence of Gods, if not in a better manner than other men, at any rate in a truer; and who knows but that we shall hearken to you? If then our request is a fair one, please to accept our challenge.
CLEINIAS: But is there any difficulty in proving the existence of the Gods?
ATHENIAN: How would you prove it?
CLEINIAS: How? In the first place, the earth and the sun, and the stars and the universe, and the fair order of the seasons, and the division of them into years and months, furnish proofs of their existence, and also there is the fact that all Hellenes and barbarians believe in them.
ATHENIAN: I fear, my sweet friend, though I will not say that I much regard, the contempt with which the profane will be likely to assail us. For you do not understand the nature of their complaint, and you fancy that they rush into impiety only from a love of sensual pleasure.
CLEINIAS: Why, Stranger, what other reason is there?
ATHENIAN: One which you who live in a different atmosphere would never guess.
CLEINIAS: What is it?
ATHENIAN: A very grievous sort of ignorance which is imagined to be the greatest wisdom.
CLEINIAS: What do you mean?
ATHENIAN: At Athens there are tales preserved in writing which the virtue of your state, as I am informed, refuses to admit. They speak of the Gods in prose as well as verse, and the oldest of them tell of the origin of the heavens and of the world, and not far from the beginning of their story they proceed to narrate the birth of the Gods, and how after they were born they behaved to one another. Whether these stories have in other ways a good or a bad influence, I should not like to be severe upon them, because they are ancient; but, looking at them with reference to the duties of children to their parents, I cannot praise them, or think that they are useful, or at all true. Of the words of the ancients I have nothing more to say; and I should wish to say of them only what is pleasing to the Gods. But as to our younger generation and their wisdom, I cannot let them off when they do mischief. For do but mark the effect of their words: when you and I argue for the existence of the Gods, and produce the sun, moon, stars, and earth, claiming for them a divine being, if we would listen to the aforesaid philosophers we should say that they are earth and stones only, which can have no care at all of human affairs, and that all religion is a cooking up of words and a make-believe.
CLEINIAS: One such teacher, O stranger, would be bad enough, and you imply that there are many of them, which is worse.
ATHENIAN: Well, then; what shall we say or do? Shall we assume that some one is accusing us among unholy men, who are trying to escape from the effect of our legislation; and that they say of us—How dreadful that you should legislate on the supposition that there are Gods! Shall we make a defence of ourselves? or shall we leave them and return to our laws, lest the prelude should become longer than the law? For the discourse will certainly extend to great length, if we are to treat the impiously disposed as they desire, partly demonstrating to them at some length the things of which they demand an explanation, partly making them afraid or dissatisfied, and then proceed to the requisite enactments.
CLEINIAS: Yes, Stranger; but then how often have we repeated already that on the present occasion there is no reason why brevity should be preferred to length; for who is “at our heels?” as the saying goes, and it would be paltry and ridiculous to prefer the shorter to the better. It is a matter of no small consequence, in some way or other to prove that there are Gods, and that they are good, and regard justice more than men do. The demonstration of this would be the best and noblest prelude of all our laws. And therefore, without impatience, and without hurry, let us unreservedly consider the whole matter, summoning up all the power of persuasion which we possess.
ATHENIAN: Seeing you thus in earnest, I would fain offer up a prayer that I may succeed: but I must proceed at once. Who can be calm when he is called upon to prove the existence of the Gods? Who can avoid hating and abhorring the men who are and have been the cause of this argument; I speak of those who will not believe the tales which they have heard as babes and sucklings from their mothers and nurses, repeated by them both in jest and earnest, like charms, who have also heard them in the sacrificial prayers, and seen sights accompanying them—sights and sounds delightful to children—and their parents during the sacrifices showing an intense earnestness on behalf of their children and of themselves, and with eager interest talking to the Gods, and beseeching them, as though they were firmly convinced of their existence; who likewise see and hear the prostrations and invocations which are made by Hellenes and barbarians at the rising and setting of the sun and moon, in all the vicissitudes of life, not as if they thought that there were no Gods, but as if there could be no doubt of their existence, and no suspicion of their non-existence; when men, knowing all these things, despise them on no real grounds, as would be admitted by all who have any particle of intelligence, and when they force us to say what we are now saying, how can any one in gentle terms remonstrate with the like of them, when he has to begin by proving to them the very existence of the Gods? Yet the attempt must be made; for it would be unseemly that one half of mankind should go mad in their lust of pleasure, and the other half in their indignation at such persons. Our address to these lost and perverted natures should not be spoken in passion; let us suppose ourselves to select some one of them, and gently reason with him, smothering our anger: O my son, we will say to him, you are young, and the advance of time will make you reverse many of the opinions which you now hold. Wait awhile, and do not attempt to judge at present of the highest things; and that is the highest of which you now think nothing—to know the Gods rightly and to live accordingly. And in the first place let me indicate to you one point which is of great importance, and about which I cannot be deceived: You and your friends are not the first who have held this opinion about the Gods. There have always been persons more or less numerous who have had the same disorder. I have known many of them, and can tell you, that no one who had taken up in youth this opinion, that the Gods do not exist, ever continued in the same until he was old; the two other notions certainly do continue in some cases, but not in many; the notion, I mean, that the Gods exist, but take no heed of human things, and the other notion that they do take heed of them, but are easily propitiated with sacrifices and prayers. As to the opinion about the Gods which may some day become clear to you, I advise you to wait and consider if it be true or not; ask of others, and above all of the legislator. In the meantime take care that you do not offend against the Gods. For the duty of the legislator is and always will be to teach you the truth of these matters.
CLEINIAS: Our address, Stranger, thus far, is excellent.
ATHENIAN: Quite true, Megillus and Cleinias, but I am afraid that we have unconsciously lighted on a strange doctrine.
CLEINIAS: What doctrine do you mean?
ATHENIAN: The wisest of all doctrines, in the opinion of many.
CLEINIAS: I wish that you would speak plainer.
ATHENIAN: The doctrine that all things do become, have become, and will become, some by nature, some by art, and some by chance.
CLEINIAS: Is not that true?
ATHENIAN: Well, philosophers are probably right; at any rate we may as well follow in their track, and examine what is the meaning of them and their disciples.
CLEINIAS: By all means.
ATHENIAN: They say that the greatest and fairest things are the work of nature and of chance, the lesser of art, which, receiving from nature the greater and primeval creations, moulds and fashions all those lesser works which are generally termed artificial.
CLEINIAS: How is that?
ATHENIAN: I will explain my meaning still more clearly. They say that fire and water, and earth and air, all exist by nature and chance, and none of them by art, and that as to the bodies which come next in order—earth, and sun, and moon, and stars—they have been created by means of these absolutely inanimate existences. The elements are severally moved by chance and some inherent force according to certain affinities among them—of hot with cold, or of dry with moist, or of soft with hard, and according to all the other accidental admixtures of opposites which have been formed by necessity. After this fashion and in this manner the whole heaven has been created, and all that is in the heaven, as well as animals and all plants, and all the seasons come from these elements, not by the action of mind, as they say, or of any God, or from art, but as I was saying, by nature and chance only. Art sprang up afterwards and out of these, mortal and of mortal birth, and produced in play certain images and very partial imitations of the truth, having an affinity to one another, such as music and painting create and their companion arts. And there are other arts which have a serious purpose, and these co-operate with nature, such, for example, as medicine, and husbandry, and gymnastic. And they say that politics co-operate with nature, but in a less degree, and have more of art; also that legislation is entirely a work of art, and is based on assumptions which are not true.
CLEINIAS: How do you mean?
ATHENIAN: In the first place, my dear friend, these people would say that the Gods exist not by nature, but by art, and by the laws of states, which are different in different places, according to the agreement of those who make them; and that the honourable is one thing by nature and another thing by law, and that the principles of justice have no existence at all in nature, but that mankind are always disputing about them and altering them; and that the alterations which are made by art and by law have no basis in nature, but are of authority for the moment and at the time at which they are made. These, my friends, are the sayings of wise men, poets and prose writers, which find a way into the minds of youth. They are told by them that the highest right is might, and in this way the young fall into impieties, under the idea that the Gods are not such as the law bids them imagine; and hence arise factions, these philosophers inviting them to lead a true life according to nature, that is, to live in real dominion over others, and not in legal subjection to them.
CLEINIAS: What a dreadful picture, Stranger, have you given, and how great is the injury which is thus inflicted on young men to the ruin both of states and families!
ATHENIAN: True, Cleinias; but then what should the lawgiver do when this evil is of long standing? should he only rise up in the state and threaten all mankind, proclaiming that if they will not say and think that the Gods are such as the law ordains (and this may be extended generally to the honourable, the just, and to all the highest things, and to all that relates to virtue and vice), and if they will not make their actions conform to the copy which the law gives them, then he who refuses to obey the law shall die, or suffer stripes and bonds, or privation of citizenship, or in some cases be punished by loss of property and exile? Should he not rather, when he is making laws for men, at the same time infuse the spirit of persuasion into his words, and mitigate the severity of them as far as he can?
CLEINIAS: Why, Stranger, if such persuasion be at all possible, then a legislator who has anything in him ought never to weary of persuading men; he ought to leave nothing unsaid in support of the ancient opinion that there are Gods, and of all those other truths which you were just now mentioning; he ought to support the law and also art, and acknowledge that both alike exist by nature, and no less than nature, if they are the creations of mind in accordance with right reason, as you appear to me to maintain, and I am disposed to agree with you in thinking.
ATHENIAN: Yes, my enthusiastic Cleinias; but are not these things when spoken to a multitude hard to be understood, not to mention that they take up a dismal length of time?
CLEINIAS: Why, Stranger, shall we, whose patience failed not when drinking or music were the themes of discourse, weary now of discoursing about the Gods, and about divine things? And the greatest help to rational legislation is that the laws when once written down are always at rest; they can be put to the test at any future time, and therefore, if on first hearing they seem difficult, there is no reason for apprehension about them, because any man however dull can go over them and consider them again and again; nor if they are tedious but useful, is there any reason or religion, as it seems to me, in any man refusing to maintain the principles of them to the utmost of his power.
MEGILLUS: Stranger, I like what Cleinias is saying.
ATHENIAN: Yes, Megillus, and we should do as he proposes; for if impious discourses were not scattered, as I may say, throughout the world, there would have been no need for any vindication of the existence of the Gods—but seeing that they are spread far and wide, such arguments are needed; and who should come to the rescue of the greatest laws, when they are being undermined by bad men, but the legislator himself?
MEGILLUS: There is no more proper champion of them.
ATHENIAN: Well, then, tell me, Cleinias—for I must ask you to be my partner—does not he who talks in this way conceive fire and water and earth and air to be the first elements of all things? these he calls nature, and out of these he supposes the soul to be formed afterwards; and this is not a mere conjecture of ours about his meaning, but is what he really means.
CLEINIAS: Very true.
ATHENIAN: Then, by Heaven, we have discovered the source of this vain opinion of all those physical investigators; and I would have you examine their arguments with the utmost care, for their impiety is a very serious matter; they not only make a bad and mistaken use of argument, but they lead away the minds of others: that is my opinion of them.
CLEINIAS: You are right; but I should like to know how this happens.
ATHENIAN: I fear that the argument may seem singular.
CLEINIAS: Do not hesitate, Stranger; I see that you are afraid of such a discussion carrying you beyond the limits of legislation. But if there be no other way of showing our agreement in the belief that there are Gods, of whom the law is said now to approve, let us take this way, my good sir.
ATHENIAN: Then I suppose that I must repeat the singular argument of those who manufacture the soul according to their own impious notions; they affirm that which is the first cause of the generation and destruction of all things, to be not first, but last, and that which is last to be first, and hence they have fallen into error about the true nature of the Gods.
CLEINIAS: Still I do not understand you.
ATHENIAN: Nearly all of them, my friends, seem to be ignorant of the nature and power of the soul, especially in what relates to her origin: they do not know that she is among the first of things, and before all bodies, and is the chief author of their changes and transpositions. And if this is true, and if the soul is older than the body, must not the things which are of the soul’s kindred be of necessity prior to those which appertain to the body?
ATHENIAN: Then thought and attention and mind and art and law will be prior to that which is hard and soft and heavy and light; and the great and primitive works and actions will be works of art; they will be the first, and after them will come nature and works of nature, which however is a wrong term for men to apply to them; these will follow, and will be under the government of art and mind.
CLEINIAS: But why is the word “nature” wrong?
ATHENIAN: Because those who use the term mean to say that nature is the first creative power; but if the soul turn out to be the primeval element, and not fire or air, then in the truest sense and beyond other things the soul may be said to exist by nature; and this would be true if you proved that the soul is older than the body, but not otherwise.
CLEINIAS: You are quite right.
ATHENIAN: Shall we, then, take this as the next point to which our attention should be directed?
CLEINIAS: By all means.
ATHENIAN: Let us be on our guard lest this most deceptive argument with its youthful looks, beguiling us old men, give us the slip and make a laughing-stock of us. Who knows but we may be aiming at the greater, and fail of attaining the lesser? Suppose that we three have to pass a rapid river, and I, being the youngest of the three and experienced in rivers, take upon me the duty of making the attempt first by myself; leaving you in safety on the bank, I am to examine whether the river is passable by older men like yourselves, and if such appears to be the case then I shall invite you to follow, and my experience will help to convey you across; but if the river is impassable by you, then there will have been no danger to anybody but myself—would not that seem to be a very fair proposal? I mean to say that the argument in prospect is likely to be too much for you, out of your depth and beyond your strength, and I should be afraid that the stream of my questions might create in you who are not in the habit of answering, giddiness and confusion of mind, and hence a feeling of unpleasantness and unsuitableness might arise. I think therefore that I had better first ask the questions and then answer them myself while you listen in safety; in that way I can carry on the argument until I have completed the proof that the soul is prior to the body.
CLEINIAS: Excellent, Stranger, and I hope that you will do as you propose.
ATHENIAN: Come, then, and if ever we are to call upon the Gods, let us call upon them now in all seriousness to come to the demonstration of their own existence. And so holding fast to the rope we will venture upon the depths of the argument. When questions of this sort are asked of me, my safest answer would appear to be as follows: Some one says to me, “O Stranger, are all things at rest and nothing in motion, or is the exact opposite of this true, or are some things in motion and others at rest?” To this I shall reply that some things are in motion and others at rest. “And do not things which move move in a place, and are not the things which are at rest at rest in a place?” Certainly. “And some move or rest in one place and some in more places than one?” You mean to say, we shall rejoin, that those things which rest at the centre move in one place, just as the circumference goes round of globes which are said to be at rest? “Yes.” And we observe that, in the revolution, the motion which carries round the larger and the lesser circle at the same time is proportionally distributed to greater and smaller, and is greater and smaller in a certain proportion. Here is a wonder which might be thought an impossibility, that the same motion should impart swiftness and slowness in due proportion to larger and lesser circles. “Very true.” And when you speak of bodies moving in many places, you seem to me to mean those which move from one place to another, and sometimes have one centre of motion and sometimes more than one because they turn upon their axis; and whenever they meet anything, if it be stationary, they are divided by it; but if they get in the midst between bodies which are approaching and moving towards the same spot from opposite directions, they unite with them. “I admit the truth of what you are saying.” Also when they unite they grow, and when they are divided they waste away—that is, supposing the constitution of each to remain, or if that fails, then there is a second reason of their dissolution. “And when are all things created and how?” Clearly, they are created when the first principle receives increase and attains to the second dimension, and from this arrives at the one which is neighbour to this, and after reaching the third becomes perceptible to sense. Everything which is thus changing and moving is in process of generation; only when at rest has it real existence, but when passing into another state it is destroyed utterly. Have we not mentioned all motions that there are, and comprehended them under their kinds and numbered them with the exception, my friends, of two?
CLEINIAS: Which are they?
ATHENIAN: Just the two, with which our present enquiry is concerned.
CLEINIAS: Speak plainer.
ATHENIAN: I suppose that our enquiry has reference to the soul?
CLEINIAS: Very true.
ATHENIAN: Let us assume that there is a motion able to move other things, but not to move itself; that is one kind; and there is another kind which can move itself as well as other things, working in composition and decomposition, by increase and diminution and generation and destruction—that is also one of the many kinds of motion.
ATHENIAN: And we will assume that which moves other, and is changed by other, to be the ninth, and that which changes itself and others, and is coincident with every action and every passion, and is the true principle of change and motion in all that is—that we shall be inclined to call the tenth.
ATHENIAN: And which of these ten motions ought we to prefer as being the mightiest and most efficient?
CLEINIAS: I must say that the motion which is able to move itself is ten thousand times superior to all the others.
ATHENIAN: Very good; but may I make one or two corrections in what I have been saying?
CLEINIAS: What are they?
ATHENIAN: When I spoke of the tenth sort of motion, that was not quite correct.
CLEINIAS: What was the error?
ATHENIAN: According to the true order, the tenth was really the first in generation and power; then follows the second, which was strangely enough termed the ninth by us.
CLEINIAS: What do you mean?
ATHENIAN: I mean this: when one thing changes another, and that another, of such will there be any primary changing element? How can a thing which is moved by another ever be the beginning of change? Impossible. But when the self-moved changes other, and that again other, and thus thousands upon tens of thousands of bodies are set in motion, must not the beginning of all this motion be the change of the self-moving principle?
CLEINIAS: Very true, and I quite agree.
ATHENIAN: Or, to put the question in another way, making answer to ourselves: If, as most of these philosophers have the audacity to affirm, all things were at rest in one mass, which of the above-mentioned principles of motion would first spring up among them?
CLEINIAS: Clearly the self-moving; for there could be no change in them arising out of any external cause; the change must first take place in themselves.
ATHENIAN: Then we must say that self-motion being the origin of all motions, and the first which arises among things at rest as well as among things in motion, is the eldest and mightiest principle of change, and that which is changed by another and yet moves other is second.
CLEINIAS: Quite true.
ATHENIAN: At this stage of the argument let us put a question.
CLEINIAS: What question?
ATHENIAN: If we were to see this power existing in any earthy, watery, or fiery substance, simple or compound—how should we describe it?
CLEINIAS: You mean to ask whether we should call such a self-moving power life?
ATHENIAN: I do.
CLEINIAS: Certainly we should.
ATHENIAN: And when we see soul in anything, must we not do the same—must we not admit that this is life?
CLEINIAS: We must.
ATHENIAN: And now, I beseech you, reflect—you would admit that we have a threefold knowledge of things?
CLEINIAS: What do you mean?
ATHENIAN: I mean that we know the essence, and that we know the definition of the essence, and the name—these are the three; and there are two questions which may be raised about anything.
CLEINIAS: How two?
ATHENIAN: Sometimes a person may give the name and ask the definition; or he may give the definition and ask the name. I may illustrate what I mean in this way.
ATHENIAN: Number like some other things is capable of being divided into equal parts; when thus divided, number is named “even,” and the definition of the name “even” is “number divisible into two equal parts”?
ATHENIAN: I mean, that when we are asked about the definition and give the name, or when we are asked about the name and give the definition—in either case, whether we give name or definition, we speak of the same thing, calling “even” the number which is divided into two equal parts.
CLEINIAS: Quite true.
ATHENIAN: And what is the definition of that which is named “soul”? Can we conceive of any other than that which has been already given—the motion which can move itself?
CLEINIAS: You mean to say that the essence which is defined as the self-moved is the same with that which has the name soul?
ATHENIAN: Yes; and if this is true, do we still maintain that there is anything wanting in the proof that the soul is the first origin and moving power of all that is, or has become, or will be, and their contraries, when she has been clearly shown to be the source of change and motion in all things?
CLEINIAS: Certainly not; the soul as being the source of motion, has been most satisfactorily shown to be the oldest of all things.
ATHENIAN: And is not that motion which is produced in another, by reason of another, but never has any self-moving power at all, being in truth the change of an inanimate body, to be reckoned second, or by any lower number which you may prefer?
ATHENIAN: Then we are right, and speak the most perfect and absolute truth, when we say that the soul is prior to the body, and that the body is second and comes afterwards, and is born to obey the soul, which is the ruler?
CLEINIAS: Nothing can be more true.
ATHENIAN: Do you remember our old admission, that if the soul was prior to the body the things of the soul were also prior to those of the body?
ATHENIAN: Then characters and manners, and wishes and reasonings, and true opinions, and reflections, and recollections are prior to length and breadth and depth and strength of bodies, if the soul is prior to the body.
CLEINIAS: To be sure.
ATHENIAN: In the next place, we must not of necessity admit that the soul is the cause of good and evil, base and honourable, just and unjust, and of all other opposites, if we suppose her to be the cause of all things?
CLEINIAS: We must.
ATHENIAN: And as the soul orders and inhabits all things that move, however moving, must we not say that she orders also the heavens?
CLEINIAS: Of course.
ATHENIAN: One soul or more? More than one—I will answer for you; at any rate, we must not suppose that there are less than two—one the author of good, and the other of evil.
CLEINIAS: Very true.
ATHENIAN: Yes, very true; the soul then directs all things in heaven, and earth, and sea by her movements, and these are described by the terms—will, consideration, attention, deliberation, opinion true and false, joy and sorrow, confidence, fear, hatred, love, and other primary motions akin to these; which again receive the secondary motions of corporeal substances, and guide all things to growth and decay, to composition and decomposition, and to the qualities which accompany them, such as heat and cold, heaviness and lightness, hardness and softness, blackness and whiteness, bitterness and sweetness, and all those other qualities which the soul uses, herself a goddess, when truly receiving the divine mind she disciplines all things rightly to their happiness; but when she is the companion of folly, she does the very contrary of all this. Shall we assume so much, or do we still entertain doubts?
CLEINIAS: There is no room at all for doubt.
ATHENIAN: Shall we say then that it is the soul which controls heaven and earth, and the whole world? that it is a principle of wisdom and virtue, or a principle which has neither wisdom nor virtue? Suppose that we make answer as follows:
CLEINIAS: How would you answer?
ATHENIAN: If, my friend, we say that the whole path and movement of heaven, and of all that is therein, is by nature akin to the movement and revolution and calculation of mind, and proceeds by kindred laws, then, as is plain, we must say that the best soul takes care of the world and guides it along the good path.
ATHENIAN: But if the world moves wildly and irregularly, then the evil soul guides it.
CLEINIAS: True again.
ATHENIAN: Of what nature is the movement of mind? To this question it is not easy to give an intelligent answer; and therefore I ought to assist you in framing one.
CLEINIAS: Very good.
ATHENIAN: Then let us not answer as if we would look straight at the sun, making ourselves darkness at midday—I mean as if we were under the impression that we could see with mortal eyes, or know adequately the nature of mind—it will be safer to look at the image only.
CLEINIAS: What do you mean?
ATHENIAN: Let us select of the ten motions the one which mind chiefly resembles; this I will bring to your recollection, and will then make the answer on behalf of us all.
CLEINIAS: That will be excellent.
ATHENIAN: You will surely remember our saying that all things were either at rest or in motion?
CLEINIAS: I do.
ATHENIAN: And that of things in motion some were moving in one place, and others in more than one?
ATHENIAN: Of these two kinds of motion, that which moves in one place must move about a centre like globes made in a lathe, and is most entirely akin and similar to the circular movement of mind.
CLEINIAS: What do you mean?
ATHENIAN: In saying that both mind and the motion which is in one place move in the same and like manner, in and about the same, and in relation to the same, and according to one proportion and order, and are like the motion of a globe, we invented a fair image, which does no discredit to our ingenuity.
CLEINIAS: It does us great credit.
ATHENIAN: And the motion of the other sort which is not after the same manner, nor in the same, nor about the same, nor in relation to the same, nor in one place, nor in order, nor according to any rule or proportion, may be said to be akin to senselessness and folly?
CLEINIAS: That is most true.
ATHENIAN: Then, after what has been said, there is no difficulty in distinctly stating, that since soul carries all things round, either the best soul or the contrary must of necessity carry round and order and arrange the revolution of the heaven.
CLEINIAS: And judging from what has been said, Stranger, there would be impiety in asserting that any but the most perfect soul or souls carries round the heavens.
ATHENIAN: You have understood my meaning right well, Cleinias, and now let me ask you another question.
CLEINIAS: What are you going to ask?
ATHENIAN: If the soul carries round the sun and moon, and the other stars, does she not carry round each individual of them?
ATHENIAN: Then of one of them let us speak, and the same argument will apply to all.
CLEINIAS: Which will you take?
ATHENIAN: Every one sees the body of the sun, but no one sees his soul, nor the soul of any other body living or dead; and yet there is great reason to believe that this nature, unperceived by any of our senses, is circumfused around them all, but is perceived by mind; and therefore by mind and reflection only let us apprehend the following point.
CLEINIAS: What is that?
ATHENIAN: If the soul carries round the sun, we shall not be far wrong in supposing one of three alternatives.
CLEINIAS: What are they?
ATHENIAN: Either the soul which moves the sun this way and that, resides within the circular and visible body, like the soul which carries us about every way; or the soul provides herself with an external body of fire or air, as some affirm, and violently propels body by body; or thirdly, she is without such a body, but guides the sun by some extraordinary and wonderful power.
CLEINIAS: Yes, certainly; the soul can only order all things in one of these three ways.
ATHENIAN: And this soul of the sun, which is therefore better than the sun, whether taking the sun about in a chariot to give light to men, or acting from without, or in whatever way, ought by every man to be deemed a God.
CLEINIAS: Yes, by every man who has the least particle of sense.
ATHENIAN: And of the stars too, and of the moon, and of the years and months and seasons, must we not say in like manner, that since a soul or souls having every sort of excellence are the causes of all of them, those souls are Gods, whether they are living beings and reside in bodies, and in this way order the whole heaven, or whatever be the place and mode of their existence—and will any one who admits all this venture to deny that all things are full of Gods?
CLEINIAS: No one, Stranger, would be such a madman.
ATHENIAN: And now, Megillus and Cleinias, let us offer terms to him who has hitherto denied the existence of the Gods, and leave him.
CLEINIAS: What terms?
ATHENIAN: Either he shall teach us that we were wrong in saying that the soul is the original of all things, and arguing accordingly; or, if he be not able to say anything better, then he must yield to us and live for the remainder of his life in the belief that there are Gods. Let us see, then, whether we have said enough or not enough to those who deny that there are Gods.
CLEINIAS: Certainly, quite enough, Stranger.
ATHENIAN: Then to them we will say no more. And now we are to address him who, believing that there are Gods, believes also that they take no heed of human affairs: To him we say—O thou best of men, in believing that there are Gods you are led by some affinity to them, which attracts you towards your kindred and makes you honour and believe in them. But the fortunes of evil and unrighteous men in private as well as public life, which, though not really happy, are wrongly counted happy in the judgment of men, and are celebrated both by poets and prose writers—these draw you aside from your natural piety. Perhaps you have seen impious men growing old and leaving their children’s children in high offices, and their prosperity shakes your faith—you have known or heard or been yourself an eyewitness of many monstrous impieties, and have beheld men by such criminal means from small beginnings attaining to sovereignty and the pinnacle of greatness; and considering all these things you do not like to accuse the Gods of them, because they are your relatives; and so from some want of reasoning power, and also from an unwillingness to find fault with them, you have come to believe that they exist indeed, but have no thought or care of human things. Now, that your present evil opinion may not grow to still greater impiety, and that we may if possible use arguments which may conjure away the evil before it arrives, we will add another argument to that originally addressed to him who utterly denied the existence of the Gods. And do you, Megillus and Cleinias, answer for the young man as you did before; and if any impediment comes in our way, I will take the word out of your mouths, and carry you over the river as I did just now.