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Translated by Benjamin Jowett
Persons of the Dialogue
The house of Callicles.
Callicles. The wise man, as the proverb says, is late for a fray,
but not for a feast.
Socrates. And are we late for a feast?
Cal. Yes, and a delightful feast; for Gorgias has just been exhibiting
to us many fine things.
Soc. It is not my fault, Callicles; our friend Chaerephon is to blame;
for he would keep us loitering in the Agora.
Chaerephon. Never mind, Socrates; the misfortune of which I have been
the cause I will also repair; for Gorgias is a friend of mine, and
I will make him give the exhibition again either now, or, if you prefer,
at some other time.
Cal. What is the matter, Chaerephon-does Socrates want to hear Gorgias?
Chaer. Yes, that was our intention in coming.
Cal. Come into my house, then; for Gorgias is staying with me, and
he shall exhibit to you.
Soc. Very good, Callicles; but will he answer our questions? for I
want to hear from him what is the nature of his art, and what it is
which he professes and teaches; he may, as you [Chaerephon] suggest,
defer the exhibition to some other time.
Cal. There is nothing like asking him, Socrates; and indeed to answer
questions is a part of his exhibition, for he was saying only just
now, that any one in my house might put any question to him, and that
he would answer.
Soc. How fortunate! will you ask him, Chaerephon-?
Chaer. What shall I ask him?
Soc. Ask him who he is.
Chaer. What do you mean?
Soc. I mean such a question as would elicit from him, if he had been
a maker of shoes, the answer that he is a cobbler. Do you understand?
Chaer. I understand, and will ask him: Tell me, Gorgias, is our friend
Callicles right in saying that you undertake to answer any questions
which you are asked?
Gorgias. Quite right, Chaerephon: I was saying as much only just now;
and I may add, that many years have elapsed since any one has asked
me a new one.
Chaer. Then you must be very ready, Gorgias.
Gor. Of that, Chaerephon, you can make trial.
Polus. Yes, indeed, and if you like, Chaerephon, you may make trial
of me too, for I think that Gorgias, who has been talking a long time,
Chaer. And do you, Polus, think that you can answer better than Gorgias?
Pol. What does that matter if I answer well enough for you?
Chaer. Not at all:-and you shall answer if you like.
Chaer. My question is this: If Gorgias had the skill of his brother
Herodicus, what ought we to call him? Ought he not to have the name
which is given to his brother?
Chaer. Then we should be right in calling him a physician?
Chaer. And if he had the skill of Aristophon the son of Aglaophon,
or of his brother Polygnotus, what ought we to call him?
Pol. Clearly, a painter.
Chaer. But now what shall we call him-what is the art in which he
Pol. O Chaerephon, there are many arts among mankind which are experimental,
and have their origin in experience, for experience makes the days
of men to proceed according to art, and inexperience according to
chance, and different persons in different ways are proficient in
different arts, and the best persons in the best arts. And our friend
Gorgias is one of the best, and the art in which he is a proficient
is the noblest.
Soc. Polus has been taught how to make a capital speech, Gorgias;
but he is not fulfilling the promise which he made to Chaerephon.
Gor. What do you mean, Socrates?
Soc. I mean that he has not exactly answered the question which he
Gor. Then why not ask him yourself?
Soc. But I would much rather ask you, if you are disposed to answer:
for I see, from the few words which Polus has uttered, that he has
attended more to the art which is called rhetoric than to dialectic.
Pol. What makes you say so, Socrates?
Soc. Because, Polus, when Chaerephon asked you what was the art which
Gorgias knows, you praised it as if you were answering some one who
found fault with it, but you never said what the art was.
Pol. Why, did I not say that it was the noblest of arts?
Soc. Yes, indeed, but that was no answer to the question: nobody asked
what was the quality, but what was the nature, of the art, and by
what name we were to describe Gorgias. And I would still beg you briefly
and clearly, as you answered Chaerephon when he asked you at first,
to say what this art is, and what we ought to call Gorgias: Or rather,
Gorgias, let me turn to you, and ask the same question what are we
to call you, and what is the art which you profess?
Gor. Rhetoric, Socrates, is my art.
Soc. Then I am to call you a rhetorician?
Gor. Yes, Socrates, and a good one too, if you would call me that
which, in Homeric language, "I boast myself to be."
Soc. I should wish to do so.
Gor. Then pray do.
Soc. And are we to say that you are able to make other men rhetoricians?
Gor. Yes, that is exactly what I profess to make them, not only at
Athens, but in all places.
Soc. And will you continue to ask and answer questions, Gorgias, as
we are at present doing and reserve for another occasion the longer
mode of speech which Polus was attempting? Will you keep your promise,
and answer shortly the questions which are asked of you?
Gor. Some answers, Socrates, are of necessity longer; but I will do
my best to make them as short as possible; for a part of my profession
is that I can be as short as any one.
Soc. That is what is wanted, Gorgias; exhibit the shorter method now,
and the longer one at some other time.
Gor. Well, I will; and you will certainly say, that you never heard
a man use fewer words.
Soc. Very good then; as you profess to be a rhetorician, and a maker
of rhetoricians, let me ask you, with what is rhetoric concerned:
I might ask with what is weaving concerned, and you would reply (would
you not?), with the making of garments?
Soc. And music is concerned with the composition of melodies?
Gor. It is.
Soc. By Here, Gorgias, I admire the surpassing brevity of your answers.
Gor. Yes, Socrates, I do think myself good at that.
Soc. I am glad to hear it; answer me in like manner about rhetoric:
with what is rhetoric concerned?
Gor. With discourse.
Soc. What sort of discourse, Gorgias?-such discourse as would teach
the sick under what treatment they might get well?
Soc. Then rhetoric does not treat of all kinds of discourse?
Gor. Certainly not.
Soc. And yet rhetoric makes men able to speak?
Soc. And to understand that about which they speak?
Gor. Of course.
Soc. But does not the art of medicine, which we were just now mentioning,
also make men able to understand and speak about the sick?
Soc. Then medicine also treats of discourse?
Soc. Of discourse concerning diseases?
Gor. Just so.
Soc. And does not gymnastic also treat of discourse concerning the
good or evil condition of the body?
Gor. Very true.
Soc. And the same, Gorgias, is true of the other arts:-all of them
treat of discourse concerning the subjects with which they severally
have to do.
Soc. Then why, if you call rhetoric the art which treats of discourse,
and all the other arts treat of discourse, do you not call them arts
Gor. Because, Socrates, the knowledge of the other arts has only to
do with some sort of external action, as of the hand; but there is
no such action of the hand in rhetoric which works and takes effect
only through the medium of discourse. And therefore I am justified
in saying that rhetoric treats of discourse.
Soc. I am not sure whether I entirely understand you, but I dare say
I shall soon know better; please to answer me a question:-you would
allow that there are arts?
Soc. As to the arts generally, they are for the most part concerned
with doing, and require little or no speaking; in painting, and statuary,
and many other arts, the work may proceed in silence; and of such
arts I suppose you would say that they do not come within the province
Gor. You perfectly conceive my meaning, Socrates.
Soc. But there are other arts which work wholly through the medium
of language, and require either no action or very little, as, for
example, the arts of arithmetic, of calculation, of geometry, and
of playing draughts; in some of these speech is pretty nearly co-extensive
with action, but in most of them the verbal element is greater-they
depend wholly on words for their efficacy and power: and I take your
meaning to be that rhetoric is an art of this latter sort?
Soc. And yet I do not believe that you really mean to call any of
these arts rhetoric; although the precise expression which you used
was, that rhetoric is an art which works and takes effect only through
the medium of discourse; and an adversary who wished to be captious
might say, "And so, Gorgias, you call arithmetic rhetoric." But I
do not think that you really call arithmetic rhetoric any more than
geometry would be so called by you.
Gor. You are quite right, Socrates, in your apprehension of my meaning.
Soc. Well, then, let me now have the rest of my answer:-seeing that
rhetoric is one of those arts which works mainly by the use of words,
and there are other arts which also use words, tell me what is that
quality in words with which rhetoric is concerned:-Suppose that a
person asks me about some of the arts which I was mentioning just
now; he might say, "Socrates, what is arithmetic?" and I should reply
to him, as you replied to me, that arithmetic is one of those arts
which take effect through words. And then he would proceed to ask:
"Words about what?" and I should reply, Words about and even numbers,
and how many there are of each. And if he asked again: "What is the
art of calculation?" I should say, That also is one of the arts which
is concerned wholly with words. And if he further said, "Concerned
with what?" I should say, like the clerks in the assembly, "as aforesaid"
of arithmetic, but with a difference, the difference being that the
art of calculation considers not only the quantities of odd and even
numbers, but also their numerical relations to themselves and to one
another. And suppose, again, I were to say that astronomy is only
word-he would ask, "Words about what, Socrates?" and I should answer,
that astronomy tells us about the motions of the stars and sun and
moon, and their relative swiftness.
Gor. You would be quite right, Socrates.
Soc. And now let us have from you, Gorgias, the truth about rhetoric:
which you would admit (would you not?) to be one of those arts which
act always and fulfil all their ends through the medium of words?
Soc. Words which do what? I should ask. To what class of things do
the words which rhetoric uses relate?
Gor. To the greatest, Socrates, and the best of human things.
Soc. That again, Gorgias is ambiguous; I am still in the dark: for
which are the greatest and best of human things? I dare say that you
have heard men singing at feasts the old drinking song, in which the
singers enumerate the goods of life, first health, beauty next, thirdly,
as the writer of the song says, wealth honesty obtained.
Gor. Yes, I know the song; but what is your drift?
Soc. I mean to say, that the producers of those things which the author
of the song praises, that is to say, the physician, the trainer, the
money-maker, will at once come to you, and first the physician will
say: "O Socrates, Gorgias is deceiving you, for my art is concerned
with the greatest good of men and not his." And when I ask, Who are
you? he will reply, "I am a physician." What do you mean? I shall
say. Do you mean that your art produces the greatest good? "Certainly,"
he will answer, "for is not health the greatest good? What greater
good can men have, Socrates?" And after him the trainer will come
and say, "I too, Socrates, shall be greatly surprised if Gorgias can
show more good of his art than I can show of mine." To him again I
shall say, Who are you, honest friend, and what is your business?
"I am a trainer," he will reply, "and my business is to make men beautiful
and strong in body." When I have done with the trainer, there arrives
the money-maker, and he, as I expect, utterly despise them all. "Consider
Socrates," he will say, "whether Gorgias or any one-else can produce
any greater good than wealth." Well, you and I say to him, and are
you a creator of wealth? "Yes," he replies. And who are you? "A money-maker."
And do you consider wealth to be the greatest good of man? "Of course,"
will be his reply. And we shall rejoin: Yes; but our friend Gorgias
contends that his art produces a greater good than yours. And then
he will be sure to go on and ask, "What good? Let Gorgias answer."
Now I want you, Gorgias, to imagine that this question is asked of
you by them and by me; What is that which, as you say, is the greatest
good of man, and of which you are the creator? Answer us.
Gor. That good, Socrates, which is truly the greatest, being that
which gives to men freedom in their own persons, and to individuals
the power of ruling over others in their several states.
Soc. And what would you consider this to be?
Gor. What is there greater than the word which persuades the judges
in the courts, or the senators in the council, or the citizens in
the assembly, or at any other political meeting?-if you have the power
of uttering this word, you will have the physician your slave, and
the trainer your slave, and the money-maker of whom you talk will
be found to gather treasures, not for himself, but for you who are
able to speak and to persuade the multitude.
Soc. Now I think, Gorgias, that you have very accurately explained
what you conceive to be the art of rhetoric; and you mean to say,
if I am not mistaken, that rhetoric is the artificer of persuasion,
having this and no other business, and that this is her crown and
end. Do you know any other effect of rhetoric over and above that
of producing persuasion?
Gor. No: the definition seems to me very fair, Socrates; for persuasion
is the chief end of rhetoric.
Soc. Then hear me, Gorgias, for I am quite sure that if there ever
was a man who-entered on the discussion of a matter from a pure love
of knowing the truth, I am such a one, and I should say the same of
Gor. What is coming, Socrates?
Soc. I will tell you: I am very well aware that do not know what,
according to you, is the exact nature, or what are the topics of that
persuasion of which you speak, and which is given by rhetoric; although
I have a suspicion about both the one and the other. And I am going
to ask-what is this power of persuasion which is given by rhetoric,
and about what? But why, if I have a suspicion, do I ask instead of
telling you? Not for your sake, but in order that the argument may
proceed in such a manner as is most likely to set forth the truth.
And I would have you observe, that I am right in asking this further
question: If I asked, "What sort of a painter is Zeuxis?" and you
said, "The painter of figures," should I not be right in asking, What
kind of figures, and where do you find them?"
Soc. And the reason for asking this second question would be, that
there are other painters besides, who paint many other figures?
Soc. But if there had been no one but Zeuxis who painted them, then
you would have answered very well?
Gor. Quite so.
Soc. Now I was it to know about rhetoric in the same way;-is rhetoric
the only art which brings persuasion, or do other arts have the same
effect? I mean to say-Does he who teaches anything persuade men of
that which he teaches or not?
Gor. He persuades, Socrates,-there can be no mistake about that.
Soc. Again, if we take the arts of which we were just now speaking:-do
not arithmetic and the arithmeticians teach us the properties of number?
Soc. And therefore persuade us of them?
Soc. Then arithmetic as well as rhetoric is an artificer of persuasion?
Soc. And if any one asks us what sort of persuasion, and about what,-we
shall answer, persuasion which teaches the quantity of odd and even;
and we shall be able to show that all the other arts of which we were
just now speaking are artificers of persuasion, and of what sort,
and about what.
Gor. Very true.
Soc. Then rhetoric is not the only artificer of persuasion?
Soc. Seeing, then, that not only rhetoric works by persuasion, but
that other arts do the same, as in the case of the painter, a question
has arisen which is a very fair one: Of what persuasion is rhetoric
the artificer, and about what?-is not that a fair way of putting the
Gor. I think so.
Soc. Then, if you approve the question, Gorgias, what is the answer?
Gor. I answer, Socrates, that rhetoric is the art of persuasion in
courts of law and other assemblies, as I was just now saying, and
about the just and unjust.
Soc. And that, Gorgias, was what I was suspecting to be your notion;
yet I would not have you wonder if by-and-by I am found repeating
a seemingly plain question; for I ask not in order to confute you,
but as I was saying that the argument may proceed consecutively, and
that we may not get the habit of anticipating and suspecting the meaning
of one another's words; I would have you develop your own views in
your own way, whatever may be your hypothesis.
Gor. I think that you are quite right, Socrates.
Soc. Then let me raise another question; there is such a thing as
Soc. And there is also "having believed"?
Soc. And is the "having learned" the same "having believed," and are
learning and belief the same things?
Gor. In my judgment, Socrates, they are not the same.
Soc. And your judgment is right, as you may ascertain in this way:-If
a person were to say to you, "Is there, Gorgias, a false belief as
well as a true?" -you would reply, if I am not mistaken, that there
Soc. Well, but is there a false knowledge as well as a true?
Soc. No, indeed; and this again proves that knowledge and belief differ.
Gor. Very true.
Soc. And yet those who have learned as well as those who have believed
Gor. Just so.
Soc. Shall we then assume two sorts of persuasion,-one which is the
source of belief without knowledge, as the other is of knowledge?
Gor. By all means.
Soc. And which sort of persuasion does rhetoric create in courts of
law and other assemblies about the just and unjust, the sort of persuasion
which gives belief without knowledge, or that which gives knowledge?
Gor. Clearly, Socrates, that which only gives belief.
Soc. Then rhetoric, as would appear, is the artificer of a persuasion
which creates belief about the just and unjust, but gives no instruction
Soc. And the rhetorician does not instruct the courts of law or other
assemblies about things just and unjust, but he creates belief about
them; for no one can be supposed to instruct such a vast multitude
about such high matters in a short time?
Gor. Certainly not.
Soc. Come, then, and let us see what we really mean about rhetoric;
for I do not know what my own meaning is as yet. When the assembly
meets to elect a physician or a shipwright or any other craftsman,
will the rhetorician be taken into counsel? Surely not. For at every
election he ought to be chosen who is most skilled; and, again, when
walls have to be built or harbours or docks to be constructed, not
the rhetorician but the master workman will advise; or when generals
have to be chosen and an order of battle arranged, or a proposition
taken, then the military will advise and not the rhetoricians: what
do you say, Gorgias? Since you profess to be a rhetorician and a maker
of rhetoricians, I cannot do better than learn the nature of your
art from you. And here let me assure you that I have your interest
in view as well as my own. For likely enough some one or other of
the young men present might desire to become your pupil, and in fact
I see some, and a good many too, who have this wish, but they would
be too modest to question you. And therefore when you are interrogated
by me, I would have you imagine that you are interrogated by them.
"What is the use of coming to you, Gorgias? they will say about what
will you teach us to advise the state?-about the just and unjust only,
or about those other things also which Socrates has just mentioned?
How will you answer them?
Gor. I like your way of leading us on, Socrates, and I will endeavour
to reveal to you the whole nature of rhetoric. You must have heard,
I think, that the docks and the walls of the Athenians and the plan
of the harbour were devised in accordance with the counsels, partly
of Themistocles, and partly of Pericles, and not at the suggestion
of the builders.
Soc. Such is the tradition, Gorgias, about Themistocles; and I myself
heard the speech of Pericles when he advised us about the middle wall.
Gor. And you will observe, Socrates, that when a decision has to be
given in such matters the rhetoricians are the advisers; they are
the men who win their point.
Soc. I had that in my admiring mind, Gorgias, when I asked what is
the nature of rhetoric, which always appears to me, when I look at
the matter in this way, to be a marvel of greatness.
Gor. A marvel, indeed, Socrates, if you only knew how rhetoric comprehends
and holds under her sway all the inferior arts. Let me offer you a
striking example of this. On several occasions I have been with my
brother Herodicus or some other physician to see one of his patients,
who would not allow the physician to give him medicine, or apply a
knife or hot iron to him; and I have persuaded him to do for me what
he would not do for the physician just by the use of rhetoric. And
I say that if a rhetorician and a physician were to go to any city,
and had there to argue in the Ecclesia or any other assembly as to
which of them should be elected state-physician, the physician would
have no chance; but he who could speak would be chosen if he wished;
and in a contest with a man of any other profession the rhetorician
more than any one would have the power of getting himself chosen,
for he can speak more persuasively to the multitude than any of them,
and on any subject. Such is the nature and power of the art of rhetoric
And yet, Socrates, rhetoric should be used like any other competitive
art, not against everybody-the rhetorician ought not to abuse his
strength any more than a pugilist or pancratiast or other master of
fence; because he has powers which are more than a match either for
friend or enemy, he ought not therefore to strike, stab, or slay his
friends. Suppose a man to have been trained in the palestra and to
be a skilful boxer-he in the fulness of his strength goes and strikes
his father or mother or one of his familiars or friends; but that
is no reason why the trainers or fencing-masters should be held in
detestation or banished from the city-surely not. For they taught
their art for a good purpose, to be used against enemies and evil-doers,
in self-defence not in aggression, and others have perverted their
instructions, and turned to a bad use their own strength and skill.
But not on this account are the teachers bad, neither is the art in
fault, or bad in itself; I should rather say that those who make a
bad use of the art are to blame. And the same argument holds good
of rhetoric; for the rhetorician can speak against all men and upon
any subject-in short, he can persuade the multitude better than any
other man of anything which he pleases, but he should not therefore
seek to defraud the physician or any other artist of his reputation
merely because he has the power; he ought to use rhetoric fairly,
as he would also use his athletic powers. And if after having become
a rhetorician he makes a bad use of his strength and skill, his instructor
surely ought not on that account to be held in detestation or banished.
For he was intended by his teacher to make a good use of his instructions,
but he abuses them. And therefore he is the person who ought to be
held in detestation, banished, and put to death, and not his instructor.
Soc. You, Gorgias, like myself, have had great experience of disputations,
and you must have observed, I think, that they do not always terminate
in mutual edification, or in the definition by either party of the
subjects which they are discussing; but disagreements are apt to arise-somebody
says that another has not spoken truly or clearly; and then they get
into a passion and begin to quarrel, both parties conceiving that
their opponents are arguing from personal feeling only and jealousy
of themselves, not from any interest in the question at issue. And
sometimes they will go on abusing one another until the company at
last are quite vexed at themselves for ever listening to such fellows.
Why do I say this? Why, because I cannot help feeling that you are
now saying what is not quite consistent or accordant with what you
were saying at first about rhetoric. And I am afraid to point this
out to you, lest you should think that I have some animosity against
you, and that I speak, not for the sake of discovering the truth,
but from jealousy of you. Now if you are one of my sort, I should
like to cross-examine you, but if not I will let you alone. And what
is my sort? you will ask. I am one of those who are very willing to
be refuted if I say anything which is not true, and very willing to
refute any one else who says what is not true, and quite as ready
to be refuted as to refute-I for I hold that this is the greater gain
of the two, just as the gain is greater of being cured of a very great
evil than of curing another. For I imagine that there is no evil which
a man can endure so great as an erroneous opinion about the matters
of which we are speaking and if you claim to be one of my sort, let
us have the discussion out, but if you would rather have done, no
matter-let us make an end of it.
Gor. I should say, Socrates, that I am quite the man whom you indicate;
but, perhaps, we ought to consider the audience, for, before you came,
I had already given a long exhibition, and if we proceed the argument
may run on to a great length. And therefore I think that we should
consider whether we, may not be detaining some part of the company
when they are wanting to do something else.
Chaer. You hear the audience cheering, Gorgias and Socrates, which
shows their desire to listen to you; and for myself, Heaven forbid
that I should have any business on hand which would take me Away from
a discussion so interesting and so ably maintained.
Cal. By the gods, Chaerephon, although I have been present at many
discussions, I doubt whether I was ever so much delighted before,
and therefore if you go on discoursing all day I shall be the better
Soc. I may truly say, Callicles, that I am willing, if Gorgias is.
Gor. After all this, Socrates, I should be disgraced if I refused,
especially as I have promised to answer all comers; in accordance
with the wishes of the company, them, do you begin. and ask of me
any question which you like.
Soc. Let me tell you then, Gorgias, what surprises me in your words;
though I dare say that you may be right, and I may have understood
your meaning. You say that you can make any man, who will learn of
you, a rhetorician?
Soc. Do you mean that you will teach him to gain the ears of the multitude
on any subject, and this not by instruction but by persuasion?
Gor. Quite so.
Soc. You were saying, in fact, that the rhetorician will have, greater
powers of persuasion than the physician even in a matter of health?
Gor. Yes, with the multitude-that is.
Soc. You mean to say, with the ignorant; for with those who know he
cannot be supposed to have greater powers of persuasion.
Gor. Very true.
Soc. But if he is to have more power of persuasion than the physician,
he will have greater power than he who knows?
Soc. Although he is not a physician:-is he?
Soc. And he who is not a physician must, obviously, be ignorant of
what the physician knows.
Soc. Then, when the rhetorician is more persuasive than the physician,
the ignorant is more persuasive with the ignorant than he who has
knowledge?-is not that the inference?
Gor. In the case supposed:-Yes.
Soc. And the same holds of the relation of rhetoric to all the other
arts; the rhetorician need not know the truth about things; he has
only to discover some way of persuading the ignorant that he has more
knowledge than those who know?
Gor. Yes, Socrates, and is not this a great comfort?-not to have learned
the other arts, but the art of rhetoric only, and yet to be in no
way inferior to the professors of them?
Soc. Whether the rhetorician is or not inferior on this account is
a question which we will hereafter examine if the enquiry is likely
to be of any service to us; but I would rather begin by asking, whether
he is as ignorant of the just and unjust, base and honourable, good
and evil, as he is of medicine and the other arts; I mean to say,
does he really know anything of what is good and evil, base or honourable,
just or unjust in them; or has he only a way with the ignorant of
persuading them that he not knowing is to be esteemed to know more
about these things than some. one else who knows? Or must the pupil
know these things and come to you knowing them before he can acquire
the art of rhetoric? If he is ignorant, you who are the teacher of
rhetoric will not teach him-it is not your business; but you will
make him seem to the multitude to know them, when he does not know
them; and seem to be a good man, when he is not. Or will you be unable
to teach him rhetoric at all, unless he knows the truth of these things
first? What is to be said about all this? By heavens, Gorgias, I wish
that you would reveal to me the power of rhetoric, as you were saying
that you would.
Gor. Well, Socrates, I suppose that if the pupil does chance not to
know them, he will have to learn of me these things as well.
Soc. Say no more, for there you are right; and so he whom you make
a rhetorician must either know the nature of the just and unjust already,
or he must be taught by you.
Soc. Well, and is not he who has learned carpentering a carpenter?
Soc. And he who has learned music a musician?
Soc. And he who has learned medicine is a physician, in like manner?
He who has learned anything whatever is that which his knowledge makes
Soc. And in the same way, he who has learned what is just is just?
Gor. To be sure.
Soc. And he who is just may be supposed to do what is just?
Soc. And must not the just man always desire to do what is just?
Gor. That is clearly the inference.
Soc. Surely, then, the just man will never consent to do injustice?
Gor. Certainly not.
Soc. And according to the argument the rhetorician must be a just
Soc. And will therefore never be willing to do injustice?
Gor. Clearly not.
Soc. But do you remember saying just now that the trainer is not to
be accused or banished if the pugilist makes a wrong use of his pugilistic
art; and in like manner, if the rhetorician makes a bad and unjust
use of rhetoric, that is not to be laid to the charge of his teacher,
who is not to be banished, but the wrong-doer himself who made a bad
use of his rhetoric-he is to be banished-was not that said?
Gor. Yes, it was.
Soc. But now we are affirming that the aforesaid rhetorician will
never have done injustice at all?
Soc. And at the very outset, Gorgias, it was said that rhetoric treated
of discourse, not [like arithmetic] about odd and even, but about
just and unjust? Was not this said?
Soc. I was thinking at the time, when I heard you saying so, that
rhetoric, which is always discoursing about justice, could not possibly
be an unjust thing. But when you added, shortly afterwards, that the
rhetorician might make a bad use of rhetoric I noted with surprise
the inconsistency into which you had fallen; and I said, that if you
thought, as I did, that there was a gain in being refuted, there would
be an advantage in going on with the question, but if not, I would
leave off. And in the course of our investigations, as you will see
yourself, the rhetorician has been acknowledged to be incapable of
making an unjust use of rhetoric, or of willingness to do injustice.
By the dog, Gorgias, there will be a great deal of discussion, before
we get at the truth of all this.
Polus. And do even you, Socrates, seriously believe what you are now
saying about rhetoric? What! because Gorgias was ashamed to deny that
the rhetorician knew the just and the honourable and the good, and
admitted that to any one who came to him ignorant of them he could
teach them, and then out of this admission there arose a contradiction-the
thing which you dearly love, and to which not he, but you, brought
the argument by your captious questions-[do you seriously believe
that there is any truth in all this?] For will any one ever acknowledge
that he does not know, or cannot teach, the nature of justice? The
truth is, that there is great want of manners in bringing the argument
to such a pass.
Soc. Illustrious Polus, the reason why we provide ourselves with friends
and children is, that when we get old and stumble, a younger generation
may be at hand to set us on our legs again in our words and in our
actions: and now, if I and Gorgias are stumbling, here are you who
should raise us up; and I for my part engage to retract any error
into which you may think that I have fallen-upon one condition:
Pol. What condition?
Soc. That you contract, Polus, the prolixity of speech in which you
indulged at first.
Pol. What! do you mean that I may not use as many words as I please?
Soc. Only to think, my friend, that having come on a visit to Athens,
which is the most free-spoken state in Hellas, you when you got there,
and you alone, should be deprived of the power of speech-that would
be hard indeed. But then consider my case:-shall not I be very hardly
used, if, when you are making a long oration, and refusing to answer
what you are asked, I am compelled to stay and listen to you, and
may not go away? I say rather, if you have a real interest in the
argument, or, to repeat my former expression, have any desire to set
it on its legs, take back any statement which you please; and in your
turn ask and answer, like myself and Gorgias-refute and be refuted:
for I suppose that you would claim to know what Gorgias knows-would
Soc. And you, like him, invite any one to ask you about anything which
he pleases, and you will know how to answer him?
Pol. To be sure.
Soc. And now, which will you do, ask or answer?
Pol. I will ask; and do you answer me, Socrates, the same question
which Gorgias, as you suppose, is unable to answer: What is rhetoric?
Soc. Do you mean what sort of an art?
Soc. To say the truth, Polus, it is not an art at all, in my opinion.
Pol. Then what, in your opinion, is rhetoric?
Soc. A thing which, as I was lately reading in a book of yours, you
say that you have made an art.
Pol. What thing?
Soc. I should say a sort of experience.
Pol. Does rhetoric seem to you to be an experience?
Soc. That is my view, but you may be of another mind.
Pol. An experience in what?
Soc. An experience in producing a sort of delight and gratification.
Pol. And if able to gratify others, must not rhetoric be a fine thing?
Soc. What are you saying, Polus? Why do you ask me whether rhetoric
is a fine thing or not, when I have not as yet told you what rhetoric
Pol. Did I not hear you say that rhetoric was a sort of experience?
Soc. Will you, who are so desirous to gratify others, afford a slight
gratification to me?
Pol. I will.
Soc. Will you ask me, what sort of an art is cookery?
Pol. What sort of an art is cookery?
Soc. Not an art at all, Polus.
Pol. What then?
Soc. I should say an experience.
Pol. In what? I wish that you would explain to me.
Soc. An experience in producing a sort of delight and gratification,
Pol. Then are cookery and rhetoric the same?
Soc. No, they are only different parts of the same profession.
Pol. Of what profession?
Soc. I am afraid that the truth may seem discourteous; and I hesitate
to answer, lest Gorgias should imagine that I am making fun of his
own profession. For whether or no this is that art of rhetoric which
Gorgias practises I really cannot tell:-from what he was just now
saying, nothing appeared of what he thought of his art, but the rhetoric
which I mean is a part of a not very creditable whole.
Gor. A part of what, Socrates? Say what you mean, and never mind me.
Soc. In my opinion then, Gorgias, the whole of which rhetoric is a
part is not an art at all, but the habit of a bold and ready wit,
which knows how to manage mankind: this habit I sum up under the word
"flattery"; and it appears to me to have many other parts, one of
which is cookery, which may seem to be an art, but, as I maintain,
is only an experience or routine and not an art:-another part is rhetoric,
and the art of attiring and sophistry are two others: thus there are
four branches, and four different things answering to them. And Polus
may ask, if he likes, for he has not as yet been informed, what part
of flattery is rhetoric: he did not see that I had not yet answered
him when he proceeded to ask a further question: Whether I do not
think rhetoric a fine thing? But I shall not tell him whether rhetoric
is a fine thing or not, until I have first answered, "What is rhetoric?"
For that would not be right, Polus; but I shall be happy to answer,
if you will ask me, What part of flattery is rhetoric?
Pol. I will ask and do you answer? What part of flattery is rhetoric?
Soc. Will you understand my answer? Rhetoric, according to my view,
is the ghost or counterfeit of a part of politics.
Pol. And noble or ignoble?
Soc. Ignoble, I should say, if I am compelled to answer, for I call
what is bad ignoble: though I doubt whether you understand what I
was saying before.
Gor. Indeed, Socrates, I cannot say that I understand myself.
Soc. I do not wonder, Gorgias; for I have not as yet explained myself,
and our friend Polus, colt by name and colt by nature, is apt to run
Gor. Never mind him, but explain to me what you mean by saying that
rhetoric is the counterfeit of a part of politics.
Soc. I will try, then, to explain my notion of rhetoric, and if I
am mistaken, my friend Polus shall refute me. We may assume the existence
of bodies and of souls?
Gor. Of course.
Soc. You would further admit that there is a good condition of either
Soc. Which condition may not be really good, but good only in appearance?
I mean to say, that there are many persons who appear to be in good
health, and whom only a physician or trainer will discern at first
sight not to be in good health.
Soc. And this applies not only to the body, but also to the soul:
in either there may be that which gives the appearance of health and
not the reality?
Gor. Yes, certainly.
Soc. And now I will endeavour to explain to you more clearly what
I mean: The soul and body being two, have two arts corresponding to
them: there is the art of politics attending on the soul; and another
art attending on the body, of which I know no single name, but which
may be described as having two divisions, one of them gymnastic, and
the other medicine. And in politics there is a legislative part, which
answers to gymnastic, as justice does to medicine; and the two parts
run into one another, justice having to do with the same subject as
legislation, and medicine with the same subject as gymnastic, but
with a difference. Now, seeing that there are these four arts, two
attending on the body and two on the soul for their highest good;
flattery knowing, or rather guessing their natures, has distributed
herself into four shams or simulations of them; she puts on the likeness
of some one or other of them, and pretends to be that which she simulates,
and having no regard for men's highest interests, is ever making pleasure
the bait of the unwary, and deceiving them into the belief that she
is of the highest value to them. Cookery simulates the disguise of
medicine, and pretends to know what food is the best for the body;
and if the physician and the cook had to enter into a competition
in which children were the judges, or men who had no more sense than
children, as to which of them best understands the goodness or badness
of food, the physician would be starved to death. A flattery I deem
this to be and of an ignoble sort, Polus, for to you I am now addressing
myself, because it aims at pleasure without any thought of the best.
An art I do not call it, but only an experience, because it is unable
to explain or to give a reason of the nature of its own applications.
And I do not call any irrational thing an art; but if you dispute
my words, I am prepared to argue in defence of them.
Cookery, then, I maintain to be a flattery which takes the form of
medicine; and tiring, in like manner, is a flattery which takes the
form of gymnastic, and is knavish, false, ignoble, illiberal, working
deceitfully by the help of lines, and colours, and enamels, and garments,
and making men affect a spurious beauty to the neglect of the true
beauty which is given by gymnastic.
I would rather not be tedious, and therefore I will only say, after
the manner of the geometricians (for I think that by this time you
will be able to follow)
astiring : gymnastic :: cookery : medicine; or rather,
astiring : gymnastic :: sophistry : legislation; and
as cookery : medicine :: rhetoric : justice. And this, I say, is the
natural difference between the rhetorician and the sophist, but by
reason of their near connection, they are apt to be jumbled up together;
neither do they know what to make of themselves, nor do other men
know what to make of them. For if the body presided over itself, and
were not under the guidance of the soul, and the soul did not discern
and discriminate between cookery and medicine, but the body was made
the judge of them, and the rule of judgment was the bodily delight
which was given by them, then the word of Anaxagoras, that word with
which you, friend Polus, are so well acquainted, would prevail far
and wide: "Chaos" would come again, and cookery, health, and medicine
would mingle in an indiscriminate mass. And now I have told you my
notion of rhetoric, which is, in relation to the soul, what cookery
is to the body. I may have been inconsistent in making a long speech,
when I would not allow you to discourse at length. But I think that
I may be excused, because you did not understand me, and could make
no use of my answer when I spoke shortly, and therefore I had to enter
into explanation. And if I show an equal inability to make use of
yours, I hope that you will speak at equal length; but if I am able
to understand you, let me have the benefit of your brevity, as is
only fair: And now you may do what you please with my answer.
Pol. What do you mean? do you think that rhetoric is flattery?
Soc. Nay, I said a part of flattery-if at your age, Polus, you cannot
remember, what will you do by-and-by, when you get older?
Pol. And are the good rhetoricians meanly regarded in states, under
the idea that they are flatterers?
Soc. Is that a question or the beginning of a speech?
Pol. I am asking a question.
Soc. Then my answer is, that they are not regarded at all.
Pol. How not regarded? Have they not very great power in states?
Soc. Not if you mean to say that power is a good to the possessor.
Pol. And that is what I do mean to say.
Soc. Then, if so, I think that they have the least power of all the
Pol. What! Are they not like tyrants? They kill and despoil and exile
any one whom they please.
Soc. By the dog, Polus, I cannot make out at each deliverance of yours,
whether you are giving an opinion of your own, or asking a question
Pol. I am asking a question of you.
Soc. Yes, my friend, but you ask two questions at once.
Pol. How two questions?
Soc. Why, did you not say just now that the rhetoricians are like
tyrants, and that they kill and despoil or exile any one whom they
Pol. I did.
Soc. Well then, I say to you that here are two questions in one, and
I will answer both of them. And I tell you, Polus, that rhetoricians
and tyrants have the least possible power in states, as I was just
now saying; for they do literally nothing which they will, but only
what they think best.
Pol. And is not that a great power?
Soc. Polus has already said the reverse.
Soc. No, by the great-what do you call him?-not you, for you say that
power is a good to him who has the power.
Pol. I do.
Soc. And would you maintain that if a fool does what he think best,
this is a good, and would you call this great power?
Pol. I should not.
Soc. Then you must prove that the rhetorician is not a fool, and that
rhetoric is an art and not a flattery-and so you will have refuted
me; but if you leave me unrefuted, why, the rhetoricians who do what
they think best in states, and the tyrants, will have nothing upon
which to congratulate themselves, if as you say, power be indeed a
good, admitting at the same time that what is done without sense is
Pol. Yes; I admit that.
Soc. How then can the rhetoricians or the tyrants have great power
in states, unless Polus can refute Socrates, and prove to him that
they do as they will?
Pol. This fellow-
Soc. I say that they do not do as they will-now refute me.
Pol. Why, have you not already said that they do as they think best?
Soc. And I say so still.
Pol. Then surely they do as they will?
Soc. I deny it.
Pol. But they do what they think best?
Pol. That, Socrates, is monstrous and absurd.
Soc. Good words, good Polus, as I may say in your own peculiar style;
but if you have any questions to ask of me, either prove that I am
in error or give the answer yourself.
Pol. Very well, I am willing to answer that I may know what you mean.
Soc. Do men appear to you to will that which they do, or to will that
further end for the sake of which they do a thing? when they take
medicine, for example, at the bidding of a physician, do they will
the drinking of the medicine which is painful, or the health for the
sake of which they drink?
Pol. Clearly, the health.
Soc. And when men go on a voyage or engage in business, they do not
will that which they are doing at the time; for who would desire to
take the risk of a voyage or the trouble of business?-But they will,
to have the wealth for the sake of which they go on a voyage.
Soc. And is not this universally true? If a man does something for
the sake of something else, he wills not that which he does, but that
for the sake of which he does it.
Soc. And are not all things either good or evil, or intermediate and
Pol. To be sure, Socrates.
Soc. Wisdom and health and wealth and the like you would call goods,
and their opposites evils?
Pol. I should.
Soc. And the things which are neither good nor evil, and which partake
sometimes of the nature of good and at other times of evil, or of
neither, are such as sitting, walking, running, sailing; or, again,
wood, stones, and the like:-these are the things which you call neither
good nor evil?
Pol. Exactly so.
Soc. Are these indifferent things done for the sake of the good, or
the good for the sake of the indifferent?
Pol. Clearly, the indifferent for the sake of the good.
Soc. When we walk we walk for the sake of the good, and under the
idea that it is better to walk, and when we stand we stand equally
for the sake of the good?
Soc. And when we kill a man we kill him or exile him or despoil him
of his goods, because, as we think, it will conduce to our good?
Soc. Men who do any of these things do them for the sake of the good?
Soc. And did we not admit that in doing something for the sake of
something else, we do not will those things which we do, but that
other thing for the sake of which we do them?
Pol. Most true.
Soc. Then we do not will simply to kill a man or to exile him or to
despoil him of his goods, but we will to do that which conduces to
our good, and if the act is not conducive to our good we do not will
it; for we will, as you say, that which is our good, but that which
is neither good nor evil, or simply evil, we do not will. Why are
you silent, Polus? Am I not right?
Pol. You are right.
Soc. Hence we may infer, that if any one, whether he be a tyrant or
a rhetorician, kills another or exiles another or deprives him of
his property, under the idea that the act is for his own interests
when really not for his own interests, he may be said to do what seems
best to him?
Soc. But does he do what he wills if he does what is evil? Why do
you not answer?
Pol. Well, I suppose not.
Soc. Then if great power is a good as you allow, will such a one have
great power in a state?
Pol. He will not.
Soc. Then I was right in saying that a man may do what seems good
to him in a state, and not have great power, and not do what he wills?
Pol. As though you, Socrates, would not like to have the power of
doing what seemed good to you in the state, rather than not; you would
not be jealous when you saw any one killing or despoiling or imprisoning
whom he pleased, Oh, no!
Soc. Justly or unjustly, do you mean?
Pol. In either case is he not equally to be envied?
Soc. Forbear, Polus!
Pol. Why "forbear"?
Soc. Because you ought not to envy wretches who are not to be envied,
but only to pity them.
Pol. And are those of whom spoke wretches?
Soc. Yes, certainly they are.
Pol. And so you think that he who slays any one whom he pleases, and
justly slays him, is pitiable and wretched?
Soc. No, I do not say that of him: but neither do I think that he
is to be envied.
Pol. Were you not saying just now that he is wretched?
Soc. Yes, my friend, if he killed another unjustly, in which case
he is also to be pitied; and he is not to be envied if he killed him
Pol. At any rate you will allow that he who is unjustly put to death
is wretched, and to be pitied?
Soc. Not so much, Polus, as he who kills him, and not so much as he
who is justly killed.
Pol. How can that be, Socrates?
Soc. That may very well be, inasmuch as doing injustice is the greatest
Pol. But is it the greatest? Is not suffering injustice a greater
Soc. Certainly not.
Pol. Then would you rather suffer than do injustice?
Soc. I should not like either, but if I must choose between them,
I would rather suffer than do.
Pol. Then you would not wish to be a tyrant?
Soc. Not if you mean by tyranny what I mean.
Pol. I mean, as I said before, the power of doing whatever seems good
to you in a state, killing, banishing, doing in all things as you
Soc. Well then, illustrious friend, when I have said my say, do you
reply to me. Suppose that I go into a crowded Agora, and take a dagger
under my arm. Polus, I say to you, I have just acquired rare power,
and become a tyrant; for if I think that any of these men whom you
see ought to be put to death, the man whom I have a mind to kill is
as good as dead; and if I am disposed to break his head or tear his
garment, he will have his head broken or his garment torn in an instant.
Such is my great power in this city. And if you do not believe me,
and I show you the dagger, you would probably reply: Socrates, in
that sort of way any one may have great power-he may burn any house
which he pleases, and the docks and triremes of the Athenians, and
all their other vessels, whether public or private-but can you believe
that this mere doing as you think best is great power?
Pol. Certainly not such doing as this.
Soc. But can you tell me why you disapprove of such a power?
Pol. I can.
Soc. Why then?
Pol. Why, because he who did as you say would be certain to be punished.
Soc. And punishment is an evil?
Soc. And you would admit once more, my good sir, that great power
is a benefit to a man if his actions turn out to his advantage, and
that this is the meaning of great power; and if not, then his power
is an evil and is no power. But let us look at the matter in another
way do we not acknowledge that the things of which we were speaking,
the infliction of death, and exile, and the deprivation of property
are sometimes a good and sometimes not a good?
Soc. About that you and I may be supposed to agree?
Soc. Tell me, then, when do you say that they are good and when that
they are evil-what principle do you lay down?
Pol. I would rather, Socrates, that you should answer as well as ask
Soc. Well, Polus, since you would rather have the answer from me,
I say that they are good when they are just, and evil when they are
Pol. You are hard of refutation, Socrates, but might not a child refute
Soc. Then I shall be very grateful to the child, and equally grateful
to you if you will refute me and deliver me from my foolishness. And
I hope that refute me you will, and not weary of doing good to a friend.
Pol. Yes, Socrates, and I need not go far or appeal to antiquity;
events which happened only a few days ago are enough to refute you,
and to prove that many men who do wrong are happy.
Soc. What events?
Pol. You see, I presume, that Archelaus the son of Perdiccas is now
the ruler of Macedonia?
Soc. At any rate I hear that he is.
Pol. And do you think that he is happy or miserable?
Soc. I cannot say, Polus, for I have never had any acquaintance with
Pol. And cannot you tell at once, and without having an acquaintance
with him, whether a man is happy?
Soc. Most certainly not.
Pol. Then clearly, Socrates, you would say that you did not even know
whether the great king was a happy man?
Soc. And I should speak the truth; for I do not know how he stands
in the matter of education and justice.
Pol. What! and does all happiness consist in this?
Soc. Yes, indeed, Polus, that is my doctrine; the men and women who
are gentle and good are also happy, as I maintain, and the unjust
and evil are miserable.
Pol. Then, according to your doctrine, the said Archelaus is miserable?
Soc. Yes, my friend, if he is wicked.
Pol. That he is wicked I cannot deny; for he had no title at all to
the throne which he now occupies, he being only the son of a woman
who was the slave of Alcetas the brother of Perdiccas; he himself
therefore in strict right was the slave of Alcetas; and if he had
meant to do rightly he would have remained his slave, and then, according
to your doctrine, he would have been happy. But now he is unspeakably
miserable, for he has been guilty of the greatest crimes: in the first
place he invited his uncle and master, Alcetas, to come to him, under
the pretence that he would restore to him the throne which Perdiccas
has usurped, and after entertaining him and his son Alexander, who
was his own cousin, and nearly of an age with him, and making them
drunk, he threw them into a waggon and carried them off by night,
and slew them, and got both of them out of the way; and when he had
done all this wickedness he never discovered that he was the most
miserable of all men, was very far from repenting: shall I tell you
how he showed his remorse? he had a younger brother, a child of seven
years old, who was the legitimate son of Perdiccas, and to him of
right the kingdom belonged; Archelaus, however, had no mind to bring
him up as he ought and restore the kingdom to him; that was not his
notion of happiness; but not long afterwards he threw him into a well
and drowned him, and declared to his mother Cleopatra that he had
fallen in while running after a goose, and had been killed. And now
as he is the greatest criminal of all the Macedonians, he may be supposed
to be the most miserable and not the happiest of them, and I dare
say that there are many Athenians, and you would be at the head of
them, who would rather be any other Macedonian than Archelaus!
Soc. I praised you at first, Polus, for being a rhetorician rather
than a reasoner. And this, as I suppose, is the sort of argument with
which you fancy that a child might refute me, and by which I stand
refuted when I say that the unjust man is not happy. But, my good
friend, where is the refutation? I cannot admit a word which you have
Pol. That is because you will not; for you surely must think as I
Soc. Not so, my simple friend, but because you will refute me after
the manner which rhetoricians practise in courts of law. For there
the one party think that they refute the other when they bring forward
a number of witnesses of good repute in proof of their allegations,
and their adversary has only a single one or none at all. But this
kind of proof is of no value where truth is the aim; a man may often
be sworn down by a multitude of false witnesses who have a great air
of respectability. And in this argument nearly every one, Athenian
and stranger alike, would be on your side, if you should bring witnesses
in disproof of my statement-you may, if you will, summon Nicias the
son of Niceratus, and let his brothers, who gave the row of tripods
which stand in the precincts of Dionysus, come with him; or you may
summon Aristocrates, the son of Scellius, who is the giver of that
famous offering which is at Delphi; summon, if you will, the whole
house of Pericles, or any other great Athenian family whom you choose-they
will all agree with you: I only am left alone and cannot agree, for
you do not convince me; although you produce many false witnesses
against me, in the hope of depriving me of my inheritance, which is
the truth. But I consider that nothing worth speaking of will have
been effected by me unless I make you the one witness of my words;
nor by you, unless you make me the one witness of yours; no matter
about the rest of the world. For there are two ways of refutation,
one which is yours and that of the world in general; but mine is of
another sort-let us compare them, and see in what they differ. For,
indeed, we are at issue about matters which to know is honourable
and not to know disgraceful; to know or not to know happiness and
misery-that is the chief of them. And what knowledge can be nobler?
or what ignorance more disgraceful than this? And therefore I will
begin by asking you whether you do not think that a man who is unjust
and doing injustice can be happy, seeing that you think Archelaus
unjust, and yet happy? May I assume this to be your opinion?
Soc. But I say that this is an impossibility-here is one point about
which we are at issue:-very good. And do you mean to say also that
if he meets with retribution and punishment he will still be happy?
Pol. Certainly not; in that case he will be most miserable.
Soc. On the other hand, if the unjust be not punished, then, according
to you, he will be happy?
Soc. But in my opinion, Polus, the unjust or doer of unjust actions
is miserable in any case,-more miserable, however, if he be not punished
and does not meet with retribution, and less miserable if he be punished
and meets with retribution at the hands of gods and men.
Pol. You are maintaining a strange doctrine, Socrates.
Soc. I shall try to make you agree with me, O my friend, for as a
friend I regard you. Then these are the points at issue between us-are
they not? I was saying that to do is worse than to suffer injustice?
Pol. Exactly so.
Soc. And you said the opposite?
Soc. I said also that the wicked are miserable, and you refuted me?
Pol. By Zeus, I did.
Soc. In your own opinion, Polus.
Pol. Yes, and I rather suspect that I was in the right.
Soc. You further said that the wrong-doer is happy if he be unpunished?
Soc. And I affirm that he is most miserable, and that those who are
punished are less miserable-are you going to refute this proposition
Pol. A proposition which is harder of refutation than the other, Socrates.
Soc. Say rather, Polus, impossible; for who can refute the truth?
Pol. What do you mean? If a man is detected in an unjust attempt to
make himself a tyrant, and when detected is racked, mutilated, has
his eyes burned out, and after having had all sorts of great injuries
inflicted on him, and having seen his wife and children suffer the
like, is at last impaled or tarred and burned alive, will he be happier
than if he escape and become a tyrant, and continue all through life
doing what he likes and holding the reins of government, the envy
and admiration both of citizens and strangers? Is that the paradox
which, as you say, cannot be refuted?
Soc. There again, noble Polus, you are raising hobgoblins instead
of refuting me; just now you were calling witnesses against me. But
please to refresh my memory a little; did you say-"in an unjust attempt
to make himself a tyrant"?
Pol. Yes, I did.
Soc. Then I say that neither of them will be happier than the other-neither
he who unjustly acquires a tyranny, nor he who suffers in the attempt,
for of two miserables one cannot be the happier, but that he who escapes
and becomes a tyrant is the more miserable of the two. Do you laugh,
Polus? Well, this is a new kind of refutation-when any one says anything,
instead of refuting him to laugh at him.
Pol. But do you not think, Socrates, that you have been sufficiently
refuted, when you say that which no human being will allow? Ask the
Soc. O Polus, I am not a public man, and only last year, when my tribe
were serving as Prytanes, and it became my duty as their president
to take the votes, there was a laugh at me, because I was unable to
take them. And as I failed then, you must not ask me to count the
suffrages of the company now; but if, as I was saying, you have no
better argument than numbers, let me have a turn, and do you make
trial of the sort of proof which, as I think, is required; for I shall
produce one witness only of the truth of my words, and he is the person
with whom I am arguing; his suffrage I know how to take; but with
the many I have nothing to do, and do not even address myself to them.
May I ask then whether you will answer in turn and have your words
put to the proof? For I certainly think that I and you and every man
do really believe, that to do is a greater evil than to suffer injustice:
and not to be punished than to be punished.
Pol. And I should say neither I, nor any man: would you yourself,
for example, suffer rather than do injustice?
Soc. Yes, and you, too; I or any man would.
Pol. Quite the reverse; neither you, nor I, nor any man.
Soc. But will you answer?
Pol. To be sure, I will-for I am curious to hear what you can have
Soc. Tell me, then, and you will know, and let us suppose that I am
beginning at the beginning: which of the two, Polus, in your opinion,
is the worst?-to do injustice or to suffer?
Pol. I should say that suffering was worst.
Soc. And which is the greater disgrace?-Answer.
Pol. To do.
Soc. And the greater disgrace is the greater evil?
Pol. Certainly not.
Soc. I understand you to say, if I am not mistaken, that the honourable
is not the same as the good, or the disgraceful as the evil?
Pol. Certainly not.
Soc. Let me ask a question of you: When you speak of beautiful things,
such as bodies, colours, figures, sounds, institutions, do you not
call them beautiful in reference to some standard: bodies, for example,
are beautiful in proportion as they are useful, or as the sight of
them gives pleasure to the spectators; can you give any other account
of personal beauty?
Pol. I cannot.
Soc. And you would say of figures or colours generally that they were
beautiful, either by reason of the pleasure which they give, or of
their use, or both?
Pol. Yes, I should.
Soc. And you would call sounds and music beautiful for the same reason?
Pol. I should.
Soc. Laws and institutions also have no beauty in them except in so
far as they are useful or pleasant or both?
Pol. I think not.
Soc. And may not the same be said of the beauty of knowledge?
Pol. To be sure, Socrates; and I very much approve of your measuring
beauty by the standard of pleasure and utility.
Soc. And deformity or disgrace may be equally measured by the opposite
standard of pain and evil?
Soc. Then when of two beautiful things one exceeds in beauty, the
measure of the excess is to be taken in one or both of these; that
is to say, in pleasure or utility or both?
Pol. Very true.
Soc. And of two deformed things, that which exceeds in deformity or
disgrace, exceeds either in pain or evil-must it not be so?
Soc. But then again, what was the observation which you just now made,
about doing and suffering wrong? Did you not say, that suffering wrong
was more evil, and doing wrong more disgraceful?
Pol. I did.
Soc. Then, if doing wrong is more disgraceful than suffering, the
more disgraceful must be more painful and must exceed in pain or in
evil or both: does not that also follow?
Pol. Of course.
Soc. First, then, let us consider whether the doing of injustice exceeds
the suffering in the consequent pain: Do the injurers suffer more
than the injured?
Pol. No, Socrates; certainly not.
Soc. Then they do not exceed in pain?
Soc. But if not in pain, then not in both?
Pol. Certainly not.
Soc. Then they can only exceed in the other?
Soc. That is to say, in evil?
Soc. Then doing injustice will have an excess of evil, and will therefore
be a greater evil than suffering injustice?
Soc. But have not you and the world already agreed that to do injustice
is more disgraceful than to suffer?
Soc. And that is now discovered to be more evil?
Soc. And would you prefer a greater evil or a greater dishonour to
a less one? Answer, Polus, and fear not; for you will come to no harm
if you nobly resign yourself into the healing hand of the argument
as to a physician without shrinking, and either say "Yes" or "No"
Pol. I should say "No."
Soc. Would any other man prefer a greater to a less evil?
Pol. No, not according to this way of putting the case, Socrates.
Soc. Then I said truly, Polus that neither you, nor I, nor any man,
would rather, do than suffer injustice; for to do injustice is the
greater evil of the two.
Pol. That is the conclusion.
Soc. You see, Polus, when you compare the two kinds of refutations,
how unlike they are. All men, with the exception of myself, are of
your way of thinking; but your single assent and witness are enough
for me-I have no need of any other, I take your suffrage, and am regardless
of the rest. Enough of this, and now let us proceed to the next question;
which is, Whether the greatest of evils to a guilty man is to suffer
punishment, as you supposed, or whether to escape punishment is not
a greater evil, as I supposed. Consider:-You would say that to suffer
punishment is another name for being justly corrected when you do
Pol. I should.
Soc. And would you not allow that all just things are honourable in
so far as they are just? Please to reflect, and, tell me your opinion.
Pol. Yes, Socrates, I think that they are.
Soc. Consider again:-Where there is an agent, must there not also
be a patient?
Pol. I should say so.
Soc. And will not the patient suffer that which the agent does, and
will not the suffering have the quality of the action? I mean, for
example, that if a man strikes, there must be something which is stricken?
Soc. And if the striker strikes violently or quickly, that which is
struck will he struck violently or quickly?
Soc. And the suffering to him who is stricken is of the same nature
as the act of him who strikes?
Soc. And if a man burns, there is something which is burned?
Soc. And if he burns in excess or so as to cause pain, the thing burned
will be burned in the same way?
Soc. And if he cuts, the same argument holds-there will be something
Soc. And if the cutting be great or deep or such as will cause pain,
the cut will be of the same nature?
Pol. That is evident.
Soc. Then you would agree generally to the universal proposition which
I was just now asserting: that the affection of the patient answers
to the affection of the agent?
Pol. I agree.
Soc. Then, as this is admitted, let me ask whether being punished
is suffering or acting?
Pol. Suffering, Socrates; there can be no doubt of that.
Soc. And suffering implies an agent?
Pol. Certainly, Socrates; and he is the punisher.
Soc. And he who punishes rightly, punishes justly?
Soc. And therefore he acts justly?
Soc. Then he who is punished and suffers retribution, suffers justly?
Pol. That is evident.
Soc. And that which is just has been admitted to be honourable?
Soc. Then the punisher does what is honourable, and the punished suffers
what is honourable?
Soc. And if what is honourable, then what is good, for the honourable
is either pleasant or useful?
Soc. Then he who is punished suffers what is good?
Pol. That is true.
Soc. Then he is benefited?
Soc. Do I understand you to mean what I mean by the term "benefited"?
I mean, that if he be justly punished his soul is improved.
Soc. Then he who is punished is delivered from the evil of his soul?
Soc. And is he not then delivered from the greatest evil? Look at
the matter in this way:-In respect of a man's estate, do you see any
greater evil than poverty?
Pol. There is no greater evil.
Soc. Again, in a man's bodily frame, you would say that the evil is
weakness and disease and deformity?
Pol. I should.
Soc. And do you not imagine that the soul likewise has some evil of
Pol. Of course.
Soc. And this you would call injustice and ignorance and cowardice,
and the like?
Soc. So then, in mind, body, and estate, which are three, you have
pointed out three corresponding evils-injustice, disease, poverty?
Soc. And which of the evils is the most disgraceful?-Is not the most
disgraceful of them injustice, and in general the evil of the soul?
Pol. By far the most.
Soc. And if the most disgraceful, then also the worst?
Pol. What do you mean, Socrates?
Soc. I mean to say, that is most disgraceful has been already admitted
to be most painful or hurtful, or both.
Soc. And now injustice and all evil in the soul has been admitted
by to be most disgraceful?
Pol. It has been admitted.
Soc. And most disgraceful either because most painful and causing
excessive pain, or most hurtful, or both?
Soc. And therefore to be unjust and intemperate, and cowardly and
ignorant, is more painful than to be poor and sick?
Pol. Nay, Socrates; the painfulness does not appear to me to follow
from your premises.
Soc. Then, if, as you would argue, not more painful, the evil of the
soul is of all evils the most disgraceful; and the excess of disgrace
must be caused by some preternatural greatness, or extraordinary hurtfulness
of the evil.
Soc. And that which exceeds most in hurtfulness will be the greatest
Soc. Then injustice and intemperance, and in general the depravity
of the soul, are the greatest of evils!
Pol. That is evident.
Soc. Now, what art is there which delivers us from poverty? Does not
the art of making money?
Soc. And what art frees us from disease? Does not the art of medicine?
Pol. Very true.
Soc. And what from vice and injustice? If you are not able to answer
at once, ask yourself whither we go with the sick, and to whom we
Pol. To the physicians, Socrates.
Soc. And to whom do we go with the unjust and intemperate?
Pol. To the judges, you mean.
Soc. -Who are to punish them?
Soc. And do not those who rightly punish others, punish them in accordance
with a certain rule of justice?
Soc. Then the art of money-making frees a man from poverty; medicine
from disease; and justice from intemperance and injustice?
Pol. That is evident.
Soc. Which, then, is the best of these three?
Pol. Will you enumerate them?
Soc. Money-making, medicine, and justice.
Pol. Justice, Socrates, far excels the two others.
Soc. And justice, if the best, gives the greatest pleasure or advantage
Soc. But is the being healed a pleasant thing, and are those who are
being healed pleased?
Pol. I think not.
Soc. A useful thing, then?
Soc. Yes, because the patient is delivered from a great evil; and
this is the advantage of enduring the pain-that you get well?
Soc. And would he be the happier man in his bodily condition, who
is healed, or who never was out of health?
Pol. Clearly he who was never out of health.
Soc. Yes; for happiness surely does not consist in being delivered
from evils, but in never having had them.
Soc. And suppose the case of two persons who have some evil in their
bodies, and that one of them is healed and delivered from evil, and
another is not healed, but retains the evil-which of them is the most
Pol. Clearly he who is not healed.
Soc. And was not punishment said by us to be a deliverance from the
greatest of evils, which is vice?
Soc. And justice punishes us, and makes us more just, and is the medicine
of our vice?
Soc. He, then, has the first place in the scale of happiness who has
never had vice in his soul; for this has been shown to be the greatest
Soc. And he has the second place, who is delivered from vice?
Soc. That is to say, he who receives admonition and rebuke and punishment?
Soc. Then he lives worst, who, having been unjust, has no deliverance
Soc. That is, he lives worst who commits the greatest crimes, and
who, being the most unjust of men, succeeds in escaping rebuke or
correction or punishment; and this, as you say, has been accomplished
by Archelaus and other tyrants and rhetoricians and potentates?
Soc. May not their way of proceeding, my friend, be compared to the
conduct of a person who is afflicted with the worst of diseases and
yet contrives not to pay the penalty to the physician for his sins
against his constitution, and will not be cured, because, like a child,
he is afraid of the pain of being burned or cut:-Is not that a parallel
Pol. Yes, truly.
Soc. He would seem as if he did not know the nature of health and
bodily vigour; and if we are right, Polus, in our previous conclusions,
they are in a like case who strive to evade justice, which they see
to be painful, but are blind to the advantage which ensues from it,
not knowing how far more miserable a companion a diseased soul is
than a diseased body; a soul, I say, which is corrupt and unrighteous
and unholy. And hence they do all that they can to avoid punishment
and to avoid being released from the greatest of evils; they provide
themselves with money and friends, and cultivate to the utmost their
powers of persuasion. But if we, Polus, are right, do you see what
follows, or shall we draw out the consequences in form?
Pol. If you please.
Soc. Is it not a fact that injustice, and the doing of injustice,
is the greatest of evils?
Pol. That is quite clear.
Soc. And further, that to suffer punishment is the way to be released
from this evil?
Soc. And not to suffer, is to perpetuate the evil?
Soc. To do wrong, then, is second only in the scale of evils; but
to do wrong and not to be punished, is first and greatest of all?
Pol. That is true.
Soc. Well, and was not this the point in dispute, my friend? You deemed
Archelaus happy, because he was a very great criminal and unpunished:
I, on the other hand, maintained that he or any other who like him
has done wrong and has not been punished, is, and ought to be, the
most miserable of all men; and that the doer of injustice is more
miserable than the sufferer; and he who escapes punishment, more miserable
than he who suffers.-Was not that what I said?
Soc. And it has been proved to be true?
Soc. Well, Polus, but if this is true, where is the great use of rhetoric?
If we admit what has been just now said, every man ought in every
way to guard himself against doing wrong, for he will thereby suffer
Soc. And if he, or any one about whom he cares, does wrong, he ought
of his own accord to go where he will be immediately punished; he
will run to the judge, as he would to the physician, in order that
the disease of injustice may not be rendered chronic and become the
incurable cancer of the soul; must we not allow this consequence,
Polus, if our former admissions are to stand:-is any other inference
consistent with them?
Pol. To that, Socrates, there can be but one answer.
Soc. Then rhetoric is of no use to us, Polus, in helping a man to
excuse his own injustice, that of his parents or friends, or children
or country; but may be of use to any one who holds that instead of
excusing he ought to accuse-himself above all, and in the next degree
his family or any of his friends who may be doing wrong; he should
bring to light the iniquity and not conceal it, that so the wrong-doer
may suffer and be made whole; and he should even force himself and
others not to shrink, but with closed eyes like brave men to let the
physician operate with knife or searing iron, not regarding the pain,
in the hope of attaining the good and the honourable; let him who
has done things worthy of stripes, allow himself to be scourged, if
of bonds, to be bound, if of a fine, to be fined, if of exile, to
be exiled, if of death, to die, himself being the first to accuse
himself and his relations, and using rhetoric to this end, that his
and their unjust actions may be made manifest, and that they themselves
may be delivered from injustice, which is the greatest evil. Then,
Polus, rhetoric would indeed be useful. Do you say "Yes" or "No" to
Pol. To me, Socrates, what you are saying appears very strange, though
probably in agreement with your premises.
Soc. Is not this the conclusion, if the premises are not disproven?
Pol. Yes; it certainly is.
Soc. And from the opposite point of view, if indeed it be our duty
to harm another, whether an enemy or not-I except the case of self-defence-then
I have to be upon my guard-but if my enemy injures a third person,
then in every sort of way, by word as well as deed, I should try to
prevent his being punished, or appearing before the judge; and if
he appears, I should contrive that he should escape, and not suffer
punishment: if he has stolen a sum of money, let him keep what he
has stolen and spend it on him and his, regardless of religion and
justice; and if he has done things worthy of death, let him not die,
but rather be immortal in his wickedness; or, if this is not possible,
let him at any rate be allowed to live as long as he can. For such
purposes, Polus, rhetoric may be useful, but is of small if of any
use to him who is not intending to commit injustice; at least, there
was no such use discovered by us in the previous discussion.
Cal. Tell me, Chaerephon, is Socrates in earnest, or is he joking?
Chaer. I should say, Callicles, that he is in most profound earnest;
but you may well ask him
Cal. By the gods, and I will. Tell me, Socrates, are you in earnest,
or only in jest? For if you are in earnest, and what you say is true,
is not the whole of human life turned upside down; and are we not
doing, as would appear, in everything the opposite of what we ought
to be doing?
Soc. 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-I 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 is 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
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.
Cal. 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 hot 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,
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- -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, but anything in
which he is inferior, he avoids and depreciates, and praises the opposite
partiality to himself, and because he from 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 you, 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
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, 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 defenceless;
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
Learn the philosophy of business, and acquire the reputation
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.
Soc. 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
Cal. What is your meaning, Socrates?
Soc. I will tell you; I think that I have found in you the desired
Soc. 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 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 goodwill
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 practise, 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?
Cal. Yes; that is what I was saying, and so I still aver.
Soc. 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?
Cal. I say unequivocally that they are the same.
Soc. Then the many are by nature to the one, against whom, as you
were saying, they make the laws?
Soc. Then the laws of the many are the laws of the superior?
Cal. Very true.
Soc. Then they are the laws of the better; for the superior class
are far better, as you were saying?
Soc. And since they are superior, the laws which are made by them
are by nature good?
Soc. 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.
Cal. Yes; the opinion of the many is what you say.
Soc. 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?
Cal. 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 are laws?
Soc. Ho! my philosopher, is that your line?
Soc. 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.
Cal. You are ironical.
Soc. 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?
Cal. I mean the more excellent.
Soc. 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?
Cal. Most assuredly, I do mean the wiser.
Soc. Then according to you, one wise man may often be superior to
ten thousand fools, and he ought 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?
Cal. Yes; that is what I mean, and that is what I conceive to be natural
justice-that the better and wiser should rule have more than the inferior.
Soc. 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 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?
Soc. 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
Cal. You talk about meats and drinks and physicians and other nonsense;
I am not speaking of them.
Soc. Well, but do you admit that the wiser is the better? Answer "Yes"
Soc. And ought not the better to have a larger share?
Cal. Not of meats and drinks.
Soc. I understand: then, perhaps, of coats -the skilfullest weaver
ought to have the largest coat, and the greatest number of them, and
go about clothed i