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Translated by Benjamin Jowett
Persons of the Dialogue
SOCRATES, who is the narrator of the Dialogue to his Companion
PROTAGORAS, HIPPIAS, PRODICUS, Sophists
CALLIAS, a wealthy Athenian
The House of Callias.
Com. Where do you come from, Socrates? And yet I need hardly ask the
question, for I know that you have been in chase of the fair Alcibiades.
I saw the day before yesterday; and he had got a beard like a man-and
he is a man, as I may tell you in your ear. But I thought that he
was still very charming.
Soc. What of his beard? Are you not of Homer's opinion, who says
Youth is most charming when the beard first appears? And that is now
the charm of Alcibiades.
Com. Well, and how do matters proceed? Have you been visiting him,
and was he gracious to you?
Soc. Yes, I thought that he was very gracious; and especially to-day,
for I have just come from him, and he has been helping me in an argument.
But shall I tell you a strange thing? I paid no attention to him,
and several times I quite forgot that he was present.
Com. What is the meaning of this? Has anything happened between you
and him? For surely you cannot have discovered a fairer love than
he is; certainly not in this city of Athens.
Soc. Yes, much fairer.
Com. What do you mean-a citizen or a foreigner?
Soc. A foreigner.
Com. Of what country?
Soc. Of Abdera.
Com. And is this stranger really in your opinion a fairer love than
the son of Cleinias?
Soc. And is not the wiser always the fairer, sweet friend?
Com. But have you really met, Socrates, with some wise one?
Soc. Say rather, with the wisest of all living men, if you are willing
to accord that title to Protagoras.
Com. What! Is Protagoras in Athens?
Soc. Yes; he has been here two days.
Com. And do you just come from an interview with him?
Soc. Yes; and I have heard and said many things.
Com. Then, if you have no engagement, suppose that you sit down tell
me what passed, and my attendant here shall give up his place to you.
Soc. To be sure; and I shall be grateful to you for listening.
Com. Thank you, too, for telling us.
Soc. That is thank you twice over. Listen then:-
Last night, or rather very early this morning, Hippocrates, the son
of Apollodorus and the brother of Phason, gave a tremendous thump
with his staff at my door; some one opened to him, and he came rushing
in and bawled out: Socrates, are you awake or asleep?
I knew his voice, and said: Hippocrates, is that you? and do you bring
Good news, he said; nothing but good.
Delightful, I said; but what is the news? and why have you come hither
at this unearthly hour?
He drew nearer to me and said: Protagoras is come.
Yes, I replied; he came two days ago: have you only just heard of
Yes, by the gods, he said; but not until yesterday evening.
At the same time he felt for the truckle-bed, and sat down at my feet,
and then he said: Yesterday quite late in the evening, on my return
from Oenoe whither I had gone in pursuit of my runaway slave Satyrus,
as I meant to have told you, if some other matter had not come in
the way;-on my return, when we had done supper and were about to retire
to rest, my brother said to me: Protagoras is come. I was going to
you at once, and then I thought that the night was far spent. But
the moment sleep left me after my fatigue, I got up and came hither
I, who knew the very courageous madness of the man, said: What is
the matter? Has Protagoras robbed you of anything?
He replied, laughing: Yes, indeed he has, Socrates, of the wisdom
which he keeps from me.
But, surely, I said, if you give him money, and make friends with
him, he will make you as wise as he is himself.
Would to heaven, he replied, that this were the case! He might take
all that I have, and all that my friends have, if he pleased. But
that is why I have come to you now, in order that you may speak to
him on my behalf; for I am young, and also I have never seen nor heard
him; (when he visited Athens before I was but a child) and all men
praise him, Socrates; he is reputed to be the most accomplished of
speakers. There is no reason why we should not go to him at once,
and then we shall find him at home. He lodges, as I hear, with Callias
the son of Hipponicus: let us start.
I replied: Not yet, my good friend; the hour is too early. But let
us rise and take a turn in the court and wait about there until daybreak;
when the day breaks, then we will go. For Protagoras is generally
at home, and we shall be sure to find him; never fear.
Upon this we got up and walked about in the court, and I thought that
I would make trial of the strength of his resolution. So I examined
him and put questions to him. Tell me, Hippocrates, I said, as you
are going to Protagoras, and will be paying your money to him, what
is he to whom you are going? and what will he make of you? If, for
example, you had thought of going to Hippocrates of Cos, the Asclepiad,
and were about to give him your money, and some one had said to you:
You are paying money to your namesake Hippocrates, O Hippocrates;
tell me, what is he that you give him money? how would you have answered?
I should say, he replied, that I gave money to him as a physician.
And what will he make of you?
A physician, he said.
And if you were resolved to go to Polycleitus the Argive, or Pheidias
the Athenian, and were intending to give them money, and some one
had asked you: What are Polycleitus and Pheidias? and why do you give
them this money?-how would you have answered?
I should have answered, that they were statuaries.
And what will they make of you?
A statuary, of course.
Well now, I said, you and I are going to Protagoras, and we are ready
to pay him money on your behalf. If our own means are sufficient,
and we can gain him with these, we shall be only too glad; but if
not, then we are to spend the money of your friends as well. Now suppose,
that while we are thus enthusiastically pursuing our object some one
were to say to us: Tell me, Socrates, and you Hippocrates, what is
Protagoras, and why are you going to pay him money,-how should we
answer? I know that Pheidias is a sculptor, and that Homer is a poet;
but what appellation is given to Protagoras? how is he designated?
They call him a Sophist, Socrates, he replied.
Then we are going to pay our money to him in the character of a Sophist?
But suppose a person were to ask this further question: And how about
yourself? What will Protagoras make of you, if you go to see him?
He answered, with a blush upon his face (for the day was just beginning
to dawn, so that I could see him): Unless this differs in some way
from the former instances, I suppose that he will make a Sophist of
By the gods, I said, and are you not ashamed at having to appear before
the Hellenes in the character of a Sophist?
Indeed, Socrates, to confess the truth, I am.
But you should not assume, Hippocrates, that the instruction of Protagoras
is of this nature: may you not learn of him in the same way that you
learned the arts of the grammarian, musician, or trainer, not with
the view of making any of them a profession, but only as a part of
education, and because a private gentleman and freeman ought to know
Just so, he said; and that, in my opinion, is a far truer account
of the teaching of Protagoras.
I said: I wonder whether you know what you are doing?
And what am I doing?
You are going to commit your soul to the care of a man whom you call
a Sophist. And yet I hardly think that you know what a Sophist is;
and if not, then you do not even know to whom you are committing your
soul and whether the thing to which you commit yourself be good or
I certainly think that I do know, he replied.
Then tell me, what do you imagine that he is?
I take him to be one who knows wise things, he replied, as his name
And might you not, I said, affirm this of the painter and of the carpenter
also: Do not they, too, know wise things? But suppose a person were
to ask us: In what are the painters wise? We should answer: In what
relates to the making of likenesses, and similarly of other things.
And if he were further to ask: What is the wisdom of the Sophist,
and what is the manufacture over which he presides?-how should we
How should we answer him, Socrates? What other answer could there
be but that he presides over the art which makes men eloquent?
Yes, I replied, that is very likely true, but not enough; for in the
answer a further question is involved: Of what does the Sophist make
a man talk eloquently? The player on the lyre may be supposed to make
a man talk eloquently about that which he makes him understand, that
is about playing the lyre. Is not that true?
Then about what does the Sophist make him eloquent? Must not he make
him eloquent in that which he understands?
Yes, that may be assumed.
And what is that which the Sophist knows and makes his disciple know?
Indeed, he said, I cannot tell.
Then I proceeded to say: Well, but are you aware of the danger which
you are incurring? If you were going to commit your body to some one,
who might do good or harm to it, would you not carefully consider
and ask the opinion of your friends and kindred, and deliberate many
days as to whether you should give him the care of your body? But
when the soul is in question, which you hold to be of far more value
than the body, and upon the good or evil of which depends the well-being
of your all,-about this never consulted either with your father or
with your brother or with any one of us who are your companions. But
no sooner does this foreigner appear, than you instantly commit your
soul to his keeping. In the evening, as you say, you hear of him,
and in the morning you go to him, never deliberating or taking the
opinion of any one as to whether you ought to intrust yourself to
him or not;-you have quite made up your mind that you will at all
hazards be a pupil of Protagoras, and are prepared to expend all the
property of yourself and of your friends in carrying out at any price
this determination, although, as you admit, you do not know him, and
have never spoken with him: and you call him a Sophist, but are manifestly
ignorant of what a Sophist is; and yet you are going to commit yourself
to his keeping.
When he heard me say this, he replied: No other inference, Socrates,
can be drawn from your words.
I proceeded: Is not a Sophist, Hippocrates, one who deals wholesale
or retail in the food of the soul? To me that appears to be his nature.
And what, Socrates, is the food of the soul?
Surely, I said, knowledge is the food of the soul; and we must take
care, my friend, that the Sophist does not deceive us when he praises
what he sells, like the dealers wholesale or retail who sell the food
of the body; for they praise indiscriminately all their goods, without
knowing what are really beneficial or hurtful: neither do their customers
know, with the exception of any trainer or physician who may happen
to buy of them. In like manner those who carry about the wares of
knowledge, and make the round of the cities, and sell or retail them
to any customer who is in want of them, praise them all alike; though
I should not wonder, O my friend, if many of them were really ignorant
of their effect upon the soul; and their customers equally ignorant,
unless he who buys of them happens to be a physician of the soul.
If, therefore, you have understanding of what is good and evil, you
may safely buy knowledge of Protagoras or of any one; but if not,
then, O my friend, pause, and do not hazard your dearest interests
at a game of chance. For there is far greater peril in buying knowledge
than in buying meat and drink: the one you purchase of the wholesale
or retail dealer, and carry them away in other vessels, and before
you receive them into the body as food, you may deposit them at home
and call in any experienced friend who knows what is good to be eaten
or drunken, and what not, and how much, and when; and then the danger
of purchasing them is not so great. But you cannot buy the wares of
knowledge and carry them away in another vessel; when you have paid
for them you must receive them into the soul and go your way, either
greatly harmed or greatly benefited; and therefore we should deliberate
and take counsel with our elders; for we are still young-too young
to determine such a matter. And now let us go, as we were intending,
and hear Protagoras; and when we have heard what he has to say, we
may take counsel of others; for not only is Protagoras at the house
of Callias, but there is Hippias of Elis, and, if I am not mistaken,
Prodicus of Ceos, and several other wise men.
To this we agreed, and proceeded on our way until we reached the vestibule
of the house; and there we stopped in order to conclude a discussion
which had arisen between us as we were going along; and we stood talking
in the vestibule until we had finished and come to an understanding.
And I think that the doorkeeper, who was a eunuch, and who was probably
annoyed at the great inroad of the Sophists, must have heard us talking.
At any rate, when we knocked at the door, and he opened and saw us,
he grumbled: They are Sophists -he is not at home; and instantly gave
the door a hearty bang with both his hands. Again we knocked, and
he answered without opening: Did you not hear me say that he is not
at home, fellows? But, my friend, I said, you need not be alarmed;
for we are not Sophists, and we are not come to see Callias, but we
want to see Protagoras; and I must request you to announce us. At
last, after a good deal of difficulty, the man was persuaded to open
When we entered, we found Protagoras taking a walk in the cloister;
and next to him, on one side, were walking Callias, the son of Hipponicus,
and Paralus, the son of Pericles, who, by the mother's side, is his
half-brother, and Charmides, the son of Glaucon. On the other side
of him were Xanthippus, the other son of Pericles, Philippides, the
son of Philomelus; also Antimoerus of Mende, who of all the disciples
of Protagoras is the most famous, and intends to make sophistry his
profession. A train of listeners followed him; the greater part of
them appeared to be foreigners, whom Protagoras had brought with him
out of the various cities visited by him in his journeys, he, like
Orpheus, attracting them his voice, and they following. I should mention
also that there were some Athenians in the company. Nothing delighted
me more than the precision of their movements: they never got into
his way at all; but when he and those who were with him turned back,
then the band of listeners parted regularly on either side; he was
always in front, and they wheeled round and took their places behind
him in perfect order.
After him, as Homer says, "I lifted up my eyes and saw" Hippias the
Elean sitting in the opposite cloister on a chair of state, and around
him were seated on benches Eryximachus, the son of Acumenus, and Phaedrus
the Myrrhinusian, and Andron the son of Androtion, and there were
strangers whom he had brought with him from his native city of Elis,
and some others: they were putting to Hippias certain physical and
astronomical questions, and he, ex cathedra, was determining their
several questions to them, and discoursing of them.
Also, "my eyes beheld Tantalus"; for Prodicus the Cean was at Athens:
he had been lodged in a room which, in the days of Hipponicus, was
a storehouse; but, as the house was full, Callias had cleared this
out and made the room into a guest-chamber. Now Prodicus was still
in bed, wrapped up in sheepskins and bed-clothes, of which there seemed
to be a great heap; and there was sitting by him on the couches near,
Pausanias of the deme of Cerameis, and with Pausanias was a youth
quite young, who is certainly remarkable for his good looks, and,
if I am not mistaken, is also of a fair and gentle nature. I thought
that I heard him called Agathon, and my suspicion is that he is the
beloved of Pausanias. There was this youth, and also there were the
two Adeimantuses, one the son of Cepis, and the other of Leucolophides,
and some others. I was very anxious to hear what Prodicus was saying,
for he seems to me to be an all-wise and inspired man; but I was not
able to get into the inner circle, and his fine deep voice made an
echo in the room which rendered his words inaudible.
No sooner had we entered than there followed us Alcibiades the beautiful,
as you say, and I believe you; and also Critias the son of Callaeschrus.
On entering we stopped a little, in order to look about us, and then
walked up to Protagoras, and I said: Protagoras, my friend Hippocrates
and I have come to see you.
Do you wish, he said, to speak with me alone, or in the presence of
Whichever you please, I said; you shall determine when you have heard
the purpose of our visit.
And what is your purpose? he said.
I must explain, I said, that my friend Hippocrates is a native Athenian;
he is the son of Apollodorus, and of a great and prosperous house,
and he is himself in natural ability quite a match for anybody of
his own age. I believe that he aspires to political eminence; and
this he thinks that conversation with you is most likely to procure
for him. And now you can determine whether you would wish to speak
to him of your teaching alone or in the presence of the company.
Thank you, Socrates, for your consideration of me. For certainly a
stranger finding his way into great cities, and persuading the flower
of the youth in them to leave company of their kinsmen or any other
acquaintances, old or young, and live with him, under the idea that
they will be improved by his conversation, ought to be very cautious;
great jealousies are aroused by his proceedings, and he is the subject
of many enmities and conspiracies. Now the art of the Sophist is,
as I believe, of great antiquity; but in ancient times those who practised
it, fearing this odium, veiled and disguised themselves under various
names, some under that of poets, as Homer, Hesiod, and Simonides,
some, of hierophants and prophets, as Orpheus and Musaeus, and some,
as I observe, even under the name of gymnastic-masters, like Iccus
of Tarentum, or the more recently celebrated Herodicus, now of Selymbria
and formerly of Megara, who is a first-rate Sophist. Your own Agathocles
pretended to be a musician, but was really an eminent Sophist; also
Pythocleides the Cean; and there were many others; and all of them,
as I was saying, adopted these arts as veils or disguises because
they were afraid of the odium which they would incur. But that is
not my way, for I do not believe that they effected their purpose,
which was to deceive the government, who were not blinded by them;
and as to the people, they have no understanding, and only repeat
what their rulers are pleased to tell them. Now to run away, and to
be caught in running away, is the very height of folly, and also greatly
increases the exasperation of mankind; for they regard him who runs
away as a rogue, in addition to any other objections which they have
to him; and therefore I take an entirely opposite course, and acknowledge
myself to be a Sophist and instructor of mankind; such an open acknowledgement
appears to me to be a better sort of caution than concealment. Nor
do I neglect other precautions, and therefore I hope, as I may say,
by the favour of heaven that no harm will come of the acknowledgment
that I am a Sophist. And I have been now many years in the profession-for
all my years when added up are many: there is no one here present
of whom I might not be the father. Wherefore I should much prefer
conversing with you, if you want to speak with me, in the presence
of the company.
As I suspected that he would like to have a little display and glorification
in the presence of Prodicus and Hippias, and would gladly show us
to them in the light of his admirers, I said: But why should we not
summon Prodicus and Hippias and their friends to hear us?
Very good, he said.
Suppose, said Callias, that we hold a council in which you may sit
and discuss.-This was agreed upon, and great delight was felt at the
prospect of hearing wise men talk; we ourselves took the chairs and
benches, and arranged them by Hippias, where the other benches had
been already placed. Meanwhile Callias and Alcibiades got Prodicus
out of bed and brought in him and his companions.
When we were all seated, Protagoras said: Now that the company are
assembled, Socrates, tell me about the youngman of whom you were just
I replied: I will begin again at the same point, Protagoras, and tell
you once more the purport of my visit: this is my friend Hippocrates,
who is desirous of making your acquaintance; he would like to know
what will happen to him if he associates with you. I have no more
Protagoras answered: Young man, if you associate with me, on the very
first day you will return home a better man than you came, and better
on the second day than on the first, and better every day than you
were on the day before.
When I heard this, I said: Protagoras, I do not at all wonder at hearing
you say this; even at your age, and with all your wisdom, if any one
were to teach you what you did not know before, you would become better
no doubt: but please to answer in a different way-I will explain how
by an example. Let me suppose that Hippocrates, instead of desiring
your acquaintance, wished to become acquainted with the young man
Zeuxippus of Heraclea, who has lately been in Athens, and he had come
to him as he has come to you, and had heard him say, as he has heard
you say, that every day he would grow and become better if he associated
with him: and then suppose that he were to ask him, "In what shall
I become better, and in what shall I grow?"-Zeuxippus would answer,
"In painting." And suppose that he went to Orthagoras the Theban,
and heard him say the same thing, and asked him, "In what shall I
become better day by day?" he would reply, "In flute-playing." Now
I want you to make the same sort of answer to this young man and to
me, who am asking questions on his account. When you say that on the
first day on which he associates with you he will return home a better
man, and on every day will grow in like manner,-In what, Protagoras,
will he be better? and about what?
When Protagoras heard me say this, he replied: You ask questions fairly,
and I like to answer a question which is fairly put. If Hippocrates
comes to me he will not experience the sort of drudgery with which
other Sophists are in the habit of insulting their pupils; who, when
they have just escaped from the arts, are taken and driven back into
them by these teachers, and made to learn calculation, and astronomy,
and geometry, and music (he gave a look at Hippias as he said this);
but if he comes to me, he will learn that which he comes to learn.
And this is prudence in affairs private as well as public; he will
learn to order his own house in the best manner, and he will be able
to speak and act for the best in the affairs of the state.
Do I understand you, I said; and is your meaning that you teach the
art of politics, and that you promise to make men good citizens?
That, Socrates, is exactly the profession which I make.
Then, I said, you do indeed possess a noble art, if there is no mistake
about this; for I will freely confess to you, Protagoras, that I have
a doubt whether this art is capable of being taught, and yet I know
not how to disbelieve your assertion. And I ought to tell you why
I am of opinion that this art cannot be taught or communicated by
man to man. I say that the Athenians are an understanding people,
and indeed they are esteemed to be such by the other Hellenes. Now
I observe that when we are met together in the assembly, and the matter
in hand relates to building, the builders are summoned as advisers;
when the question is one of shipbuilding, then the ship-wrights; and
the like of other arts which they think capable of being taught and
learned. And if some person offers to give them advice who is not
supposed by them to have any skill in the art, even though he be good-looking,
and rich, and noble, they will not listen to him, but laugh and hoot
at him, until either he is clamoured down and retires of himself;
or if he persist, he is dragged away or put out by the constables
at the command of the prytanes. This is their way of behaving about
professors of the arts. But when the question is an affair of state,
then everybody is free to have a say-carpenter, tinker, cobbler, sailor,
passenger; rich and poor, high and low-any one who likes gets up,
and no one reproaches him, as in the former case, with not having
learned, and having no teacher, and yet giving advice; evidently because
they are under the impression that this sort of knowledge cannot be
taught. And not only is this true of the state, but of individuals;
the best and wisest of our citizens are unable to impart their political
wisdom to others: as for example, Pericles, the father of these young
men, who gave them excellent instruction in all that could be learned
from masters, in his own department of politics neither taught them,
nor gave them teachers; but they were allowed to wander at their own
free will in a sort of hope that they would light upon virtue of their
own accord. Or take another example: there was Cleinias the younger
brother of our friend Alcibiades, of whom this very same Pericles
was the guardian; and he being in fact under the apprehension that
Cleinias would be corrupted by Alcibiades, took him away, and placed
him in the house of Ariphron to be educated; but before six months
had elapsed, Ariphron sent him back, not knowing what to do with him.
And I could mention numberless other instances of persons who were
good themselves, and never yet made any one else good, whether friend
or stranger. Now I, Protagoras, having these examples before me, am
inclined to think that virtue cannot be taught. But then again, when
I listen to your words, I waver; and am disposed to think that there
must be something in what you say, because I know that you have great
experience, and learning, and invention. And I wish that you would,
if possible, show me a little more clearly that virtue can be taught.
Will you be so good?
That I will, Socrates, and gladly. But what would you like? Shall
I, as an elder, speak to you as younger men in an apologue or myth,
or shall I argue out the question?
To this several of the company answered that he should choose for
Well, then, he said, I think that the myth will be more interesting.
Once upon a time there were gods only, and no mortal creatures. But
when the time came that these also should be created, the gods fashioned
them out of earth and fire and various mixtures of both elements in
the interior of the earth; and when they were about to bring them
into the light of day, they ordered Prometheus and Epimetheus to equip
them, and to distribute to them severally their proper qualities.
Epimetheus said to Prometheus: "Let me distribute, and do you inspect."
This was agreed, and Epimetheus made the distribution. There were
some to whom he gave strength without swiftness, while he equipped
the weaker with swiftness; some he armed, and others he left unarmed;
and devised for the latter some other means of preservation, making
some large, and having their size as a protection, and others small,
whose nature was to fly in the air or burrow in the ground; this was
to be their way of escape. Thus did he compensate them with the view
of preventing any race from becoming extinct. And when he had provided
against their destruction by one another, he contrived also a means
of protecting them against the seasons of heaven; clothing them with
close hair and thick skins sufficient to defend them against the winter
cold and able to resist the summer heat, so that they might have a
natural bed of their own when they wanted to rest; also he furnished
them with hoofs and hair and hard and callous skins under their feet.
Then he gave them varieties of food-herb of the soil to some, to others
fruits of trees, and to others roots, and to some again he gave other
animals as food. And some he made to have few young ones, while those
who were their prey were very prolific; and in this manner the race
was preserved. Thus did Epimetheus, who, not being very wise, forgot
that he had distributed among the brute animals all the qualities
which he had to give-and when he came to man, who was still unprovided,
he was terribly perplexed. Now while he was in this perplexity, Prometheus
came to inspect the distribution, and he found that the other animals
were suitably furnished, but that man alone was naked and shoeless,
and had neither bed nor arms of defence. The appointed hour was approaching
when man in his turn was to go forth into the light of day; and Prometheus,
not knowing how he could devise his salvation, stole the mechanical
arts of Hephaestus and Athene, and fire with them (they could neither
have been acquired nor used without fire), and gave them to man. Thus
man had the wisdom necessary to the support of life, but political
wisdom he had not; for that was in the keeping of Zeus, and the power
of Prometheus did not extend to entering into the citadel of heaven,
where Zeus dwelt, who moreover had terrible sentinels; but he did
enter by stealth into the common workshop of Athene and Hephaestus,
in which they used to practise their favourite arts, and carried off
Hephaestus' art of working by fire, and also the art of Athene, and
gave them to man. And in this way man was supplied with the means
of life. But Prometheus is said to have been afterwards prosecuted
for theft, owing to the blunder of Epimetheus.
Now man, having a share of the divine attributes, was at first the
only one of the animals who had any gods, because he alone was of
their kindred; and he would raise altars and images of them. He was
not long in inventing articulate speech and names; and he also constructed
houses and clothes and shoes and beds, and drew sustenance from the
earth. Thus provided, mankind at first lived dispersed, and there
were no cities. But the consequence was that they were destroyed by
the wild beasts, for they were utterly weak in comparison of them,
and their art was only sufficient to provide them with the means of
life, and did not enable them to carry on war against the animals:
food they had, but not as yet the art of government, of which the
art of war is a part. After a while the desire of self-preservation
gathered them into cities; but when they were gathered together, having
no art of government, they evil intreated one another, and were again
in process of dispersion and destruction. Zeus feared that the entire
race would be exterminated, and so he sent Hermes to them, bearing
reverence and justice to be the ordering principles of cities and
the bonds of friendship and conciliation. Hermes asked Zeus how he
should impart justice and reverence among men:-Should he distribute
them as the arts are distributed; that is to say, to a favoured few
only, one skilled individual having enough of medicine or of any other
art for many unskilled ones? "Shall this be the manner in which I
am to distribute justice and reverence among men, or shall I give
them to all?" "To all," said Zeus; "I should like them all to have
a share; for cities cannot exist, if a few only share in the virtues,
as in the arts. And further, make a law by my order, that he who has
no part in reverence and justice shall be put to death, for he is
a plague of the state."
And this is the reason, Socrates, why the Athenians and mankind in
general, when the question relates to carpentering or any other mechanical
art, allow but a few to share in their deliberations; and when any
one else interferes, then, as you say, they object, if he be not of
the favoured few; which, as I reply, is very natural. But when they
meet to deliberate about political virtue, which proceeds only by
way of justice and wisdom, they are patient enough of any man who
speaks of them, as is also natural, because they think that every
man ought to share in this sort of virtue, and that states could not
exist if this were otherwise. I have explained to you, Socrates, the
reason of this phenomenon.
And that you may not suppose yourself to be deceived in thinking that
all men regard every man as having a share of justice or honesty and
of every other political virtue, let me give you a further proof,
which is this. In other cases, as you are aware, if a man says that
he is a good flute-player, or skilful in any other art in which he
has no skill, people either laugh at him or are angry with him, and
his relations think that he is mad and go and admonish him; but when
honesty is in question, or some other political virtue, even if they
know that he is dishonest, yet, if the man comes publicly forward
and tells the truth about his dishonesty, then, what in the other
case was held by them to be good sense, they now deem to be madness.
They say that all men ought to profess honesty whether they are honest
or not, and that a man is out of his mind who says anything else.
Their notion is, that a man must have some degree of honesty; and
that if he has none at all he ought not to be in the world.
I have been showing that they are right in admitting every man as
a counsellor about this sort of virtue, as they are of opinion that
every man is a partaker of it. And I will now endeavour to show further
that they do not conceive this virtue to be given by nature, or to
grow spontaneously, but to be a thing which may be taught; and which
comes to a man by taking pains. No one would instruct, no one would
rebuke, or be angry with those whose calamities they suppose to be
due to nature or chance; they do not try to punish or to prevent them
from being what they are; they do but pity them. Who is so foolish
as to chastise or instruct the ugly, or the diminutive, or the feeble?
And for this reason. Because he knows that good and evil of this kind
is the work of nature and of chance; whereas if a man is wanting in
those good qualities which are attained by study and exercise and
teaching, and has only the contrary evil qualities, other men are
angry with him, and punish and reprove him-of these evil qualities
one is impiety, another injustice, and they may be described generally
as the very opposite of political virtue. In such cases any man will
be angry with another, and reprimand him,-clearly because he thinks
that by study and learning, the virtue in which the other is deficient
may be acquired. If you will think, Socrates, of the nature of punishment,
you will see at once that in the opinion of mankind virtue may be
acquired; no one punishes the evil-doer under the notion, or for the
reason, that he has done wrong, only the unreasonable fury of a beast
acts in that manner. But he who desires to inflict rational punishment
does not retaliate for a past wrong which cannot be undone; he has
regard to the future, and is desirous that the man who is punished,
and he who sees him punished, may be deterred from doing wrong again.
He punishes for the sake of prevention, thereby clearly implying that
virtue is capable of being taught. This is the notion of all who retaliate
upon others either privately or publicly. And the Athenians, too,
your own citizens, like other men, punish and take vengeance on all
whom they regard as evil doers; and hence, we may infer them to be
of the number of those who think that virtue may be acquired and taught.
Thus far, Socrates, I have shown you clearly enough, if I am not mistaken,
that your countrymen are right in admitting the tinker and the cobbler
to advise about politics, and also that they deem virtue to be capable
of being taught and acquired.
There yet remains one difficulty which has been raised by you about
the sons of good men. What is the reason why good men teach their
sons the knowledge which is gained from teachers, and make them wise
in that, but do nothing towards improving them in the virtues which
distinguish themselves? And here, Socrates, I will leave the apologue
and resume the argument. Please to consider: Is there or is there
not some one quality of which all the citizens must be partakers,
if there is to be a city at all? In the answer to this question is
contained the only solution of your difficulty; there is no other.
For if there be any such quality, and this quality or unity is not
the art of the carpenter, or the smith, or the potter, but justice
and temperance and holiness and, in a word, manly virtue-if this is
the quality of which all men must be partakers, and which is the very
condition of their learning or doing anything else, and if he who
is wanting in this, whether he be a child only or a grown-up man or
woman, must be taught and punished, until by punishment he becomes
better, and he who rebels against instruction and punishment is either
exiled or condemned to death under the idea that he is incurable-if
what I am saying be true, good men have their sons taught other things
and not this, do consider how extraordinary their conduct would appear
to be. For we have shown that they think virtue capable of being taught
and cultivated both in private and public; and, notwithstanding, they
have their sons taught lesser matters, ignorance of which does not
involve the punishment of death: but greater things, of which the
ignorance may cause death and exile to those who have no training
or knowledge of them-aye, and confiscation as well as death, and,
in a word, may be the ruin of families-those things, I say, they are
supposed not to teach them-not to take the utmost care that they should
learn. How improbable is this, Socrates!
Education and admonition commence in the first years of childhood,
and last to the very end of life. Mother and nurse and father and
tutor are vying with one another about the improvement of the child
as soon as ever he is able to understand what is being said to him:
he cannot say or do anything without their setting forth to him that
this is just and that is unjust; this is honourable, that is dishonourable;
this is holy, that is unholy; do this and abstain from that. And if
he obeys, well and good; if not, he is straightened by threats and
blows, like a piece of bent or warped wood. At a later stage they
send him to teachers, and enjoin them to see to his manners even more
than to his reading and music; and the teachers do as they are desired.
And when the boy has learned his letters and is beginning to understand
what is written, as before he understood only what was spoken, they
put into his hands the works of great poets, which he reads sitting
on a bench at school; in these are contained many admonitions, and
many tales, and praises, and encomia of ancient famous men, which
he is required to learn by heart, in order that he may imitate or
emulate them and desire to become like them. Then, again, the teachers
of the lyre take similar care that their young disciple is temperate
and gets into no mischief; and when they have taught him the use of
the lyre, they introduce him to the poems of other excellent poets,
who are the lyric poets; and these they set to music, and make their
harmonies ana rhythms quite familiar to the children's souls, in order
that they may learn to be more gentle, and harmonious, and rhythmical,
and so more fitted for speech and action; for the life of man in every
part has need of harmony and rhythm. Then they send them to the master
of gymnastic, in order that their bodies may better minister to the
virtuous mind, and that they may not be compelled through bodily weakness
to play the coward in war or on any other occasion. This is what is
done by those who have the means, and those who have the means are
the rich; their children begin to go to school soonest and leave off
latest. When they have done with masters, the state again compels
them to learn the laws, and live after the pattern which they furnish,
and not after their own fancies; and just as in learning to write,
the writing-master first draws lines with a style for the use of the
young beginner, and gives him the tablet and makes him follow the
lines, so the city draws the laws, which were the invention of good
lawgivers living in the olden time; these are given to the young man,
in order to guide him in his conduct whether he is commanding or obeying;
and he who transgresses them is to be corrected, or, in other words,
called to account, which is a term used not only in your country,
but also in many others, seeing that justice calls men to account.
Now when there is all this care about virtue private and public, why,
Socrates, do you still wonder and doubt whether virtue can be taught?
Cease to wonder, for the opposite would be far more surprising.
But why then do the sons of good fathers often turn out ill? There
is nothing very wonderful in this; for, as I have been saying, the
existence of a state implies that virtue is not any man's private
possession. If so-and nothing can be truer-then I will further ask
you to imagine, as an illustration, some other pursuit or branch of
knowledge which may be assumed equally to be the condition of the
existence of a state. Suppose that there could be no state unless
we were all flute-players, as far as each had the capacity, and everybody
was freely teaching everybody the art, both in private and public,
and reproving the bad player as freely and openly as every man now
teaches justice and the laws, not concealing them as he would conceal
the other arts, but imparting them-for all of us have a mutual interest
in the justice and virtue of one another, and this is the reason why
every one is so ready to teach justice and the laws;-suppose, I say,
that there were the same readiness and liberality among us in teaching
one another flute-playing, do you imagine, Socrates, that the sons
of good flute players would be more likely to be good than the sons
of bad ones? I think not. Would not their sons grow up to be distinguished
or undistinguished according to their own natural capacities as flute-players,
and the son of a good player would often turn out to be a bad one,
and the son of a bad player to be a good one, all flute-players would
be good enough in comparison of those who were ignorant and unacquainted
with the art of flute-playing? In like manner I would have you consider
that he who appears to you to be the worst of those who have been
brought up in laws and humanities, would appear to be a just man and
a master of justice if he were to be compared with men who had no
education, or courts of justice, or laws, or any restraints upon them
which compelled them to practise virtue-with the savages, for example,
whom the poet Pherecrates exhibited on the stage at the last year's
Lenaean festival. If you were living among men such as the man-haters
in his Chorus, you would be only too glad to meet with Eurybates and
Phrynondas, and you would sorrowfully long to revisit the rascality
of this part of the world. you, Socrates, are discontented, and why?
Because all men are teachers of virtue, each one according to his
ability; and you say, Where are the teachers? You might as well ask,
Who teaches Greek? For of that too there will not be any teachers
found. Or you might ask, Who is to teach the sons of our artisans
this same art which they have learned of their fathers? He and his
fellow-workmen have taught them to the best of their ability,-but
who will carry them further in their arts? And you would certainly
have a difficulty, Socrates, in finding a teacher of them; but there
would be no difficulty in finding a teacher of those who are wholly
ignorant. And this is true of virtue or of anything else; if a man
is better able than we are to promote virtue ever so little, we must
be content with the result. A teacher of this sort I believe myself
to be, and above all other men to have the knowledge which makes a
man noble and good; and I give my pupils their money's-worth, and
even more, as they themselves confess. And therefore I have introduced
the following mode of payment:-When a man has been my pupil, if he
likes he pays my price, but there is no compulsion; and if he does
not like, he has only to go into a temple and take an oath of the
value of the instructions, and he pays no more than he declares to
be their value.
Such is my Apologue, Socrates, and such is the argument by which I
endeavour to show that virtue may be taught, and that this is the
opinion of the Athenians. And I have also attempted to show that you
are not to wonder at good fathers having bad sons, or at good sons
having bad fathers, of which the sons of Polycleitus afford an example,
who are the companions of our friends here, Paralus and Xanthippus,
but are nothing in comparison with their father; and this is true
of the sons of many other artists. As yet I ought not to say the same
of Paralus and Xanthippus themselves, for they are young and there
is still hope of them.
Protagoras ended, and in my ear
So charming left his voice, that I the while
Thought him still speaking; still stood fixed to hear. At length,
when the truth dawned upon me, that he had really finished, not without
difficulty I began to collect myself, and looking at Hippocrates,
I said to him: O son of Apollodorus, how deeply grateful I am to you
for having brought me hither; I would not have missed the speech of
Protagoras for a great deal. For I used to imagine that no human care
could make men good; but I know better now. Yet I have still one very
small difficulty which I am sure that Protagoras will easily explain,
as he has already explained so much. If a man were to go and consult
Pericles or any of our great speakers about these matters, he might
perhaps hear as fine a discourse; but then when one has a question
to ask of any of them, like books, they can neither answer nor ask;
and if any one challenges the least particular of their speech, they
go ringing on in a long harangue, like brazen pots, which when they
are struck continue to sound unless some one puts his hand upon them;
whereas our friend Protagoras can not only make a good speech, as
he has already shown, but when he is asked a question he can answer
briefly; and when he asks he will wait and hear the answer; and this
is a very rare gift. Now I, Protagoras, want to ask of you a little
question, which if you will only answer, I shall be quite satisfied.
You were saying that virtue can be taught;-that I will take upon your
authority, and there is no one to whom I am more ready to trust. But
I marvel at one thing about which I should like to have my mind set
at rest. You were speaking of Zeus sending justice and reverence to
men; and several times while you were speaking, justice, and temperance,
and holiness, and all these qualities, were described by you as if
together they made up virtue. Now I want you to tell me truly whether
virtue is one whole, of which justice and temperance and holiness
are parts; or whether all these are only the names of one and the
same thing: that is the doubt which still lingers in my mind.
There is no difficulty, Socrates, in answering that the qualities
of which you are speaking are the parts of virtue which is one.
And are they parts, I said, in the same sense in which mouth, nose,
and eyes, and ears, are the parts of a face; or are they like the
parts of gold, which differ from the whole and from one another only
in being larger or smaller?
I should say that they differed, Socrates, in the first way; they
are related to one another as the parts of a face are related to the
And do men have some one part and some another part of virtue? Of
if a man has one part, must he also have all the others?
By no means, he said; for many a man is brave and not just, or just
and not wise.
You would not deny, then, that courage and wisdom are also parts of
Most undoubtedly they are, he answered; and wisdom is the noblest
of the parts.
And they are all different from one another? I said.
And has each of them a distinct function like the parts of the face;-the
eye, for example, is not like the ear, and has not the same functions;
and the other parts are none of them like one another, either in their
functions, or in any other way? I want to know whether the comparison
holds concerning the parts of virtue. Do they also differ from one
another in themselves and in their functions? For that is clearly
what the simile would imply.
Yes, Socrates, you are right in supposing that they differ.
Then, I said, no other part of virtue is like knowledge, or like justice,
or like courage, or like temperance, or like holiness?
No, he answered.
Well then, I said, suppose that you and I enquire into their natures.
And first, you would agree with me that justice is of the nature of
a thing, would you not? That is my opinion: would it not be yours
Mine also, he said.
And suppose that some one were to ask us, saying, "O Protagoras, and
you, Socrates, what about this thing which you were calling justice,
is it just or unjust?"-and I were to answer, just: would you vote
with me or against me?
With you, he said.
Thereupon I should answer to him who asked me, that justice is of
the nature of the just: would not you?
Yes, he said.
And suppose that he went on to say: "Well now, is there also such
a thing as holiness? "we should answer, "Yes," if I am not mistaken?
Yes, he said.
Which you would also acknowledge to be a thing-should we not say so?
"And is this a sort of thing which is of the nature of the holy, or
of the nature of the unholy?" I should be angry at his putting such
a question, and should say, "Peace, man; nothing can be holy if holiness
is not holy." What would you say? Would you not answer in the same
Certainly, he said.
And then after this suppose that he came and asked us, "What were
you saying just now? Perhaps I may not have heard you rightly, but
you seemed to me to be saying that the parts of virtue were not the
same as one another." I should reply, "You certainly heard that said,
but not, as you imagine, by me; for I only asked the question; Protagoras
gave the answer." And suppose that he turned to you and said, "Is
this true, Protagoras? and do you maintain that one part of virtue
is unlike another, and is this your position?"-how would you answer
I could not help acknowledging the truth of what he said, Socrates.
Well then, Protagoras, we will assume this; and now supposing that
he proceeded to say further, "Then holiness is not of the nature of
justice, nor justice of the nature of holiness, but of the nature
of unholiness; and holiness is of the nature of the not just, and
therefore of the unjust, and the unjust is the unholy": how shall
we answer him? I should certainly answer him on my own behalf that
justice is holy, and that holiness is just; and I would say in like
manner on your behalf also, if you would allow me, that justice is
either the same with holiness, or very nearly the same; and above
all I would assert that justice is like holiness and holiness is like
justice; and I wish that you would tell me whether I may be permitted
to give this answer on your behalf, and whether you would agree with
He replied, I cannot simply agree, Socrates, to the proposition that
justice is holy and that holiness is just, for there appears to me
to be a difference between them. But what matter? if you please I
please; and let us assume, if you will I, that justice is holy, and
that holiness is just.
Pardon me, I replied; I do not want this "if you wish" or "if you
will" sort of conclusion to be proven, but I want you and me to be
proven: I mean to say that the conclusion will be best proven if there
be no "if."
Well, he said, I admit that justice bears a resemblance to holiness,
for there is always some point of view in which everything is like
every other thing; white is in a certain way like black, and hard
is like soft, and the most extreme opposites have some qualities in
common; even the parts of the face which, as we were saying before,
are distinct and have different functions, are still in a certain
point of view similar, and one of them is like another of them. And
you may prove that they are like one another on the same principle
that all things are like one another; and yet things which are like
in some particular ought not to be called alike, nor things which
are unlike in some particular, however slight, unlike.
And do you think, I said in a tone of surprise, that justice and holiness
have but a small degree of likeness?
Certainly not; any more than I agree with what I understand to be
Well, I said, as you appear to have a difficulty about this, let us
take another of the examples which you mentioned instead. Do you admit
the existence of folly?
And is not wisdom the. very opposite of folly?
That is true, he said.
And when men act rightly and advantageously they seem to you to be
Yes, he said.
And temperance makes them temperate?
And they who do not act rightly act foolishly, and in acting thus
are not temperate?
I agree, he said.
Then to act foolishly is the opposite of acting temperately?
And foolish actions are done by folly, and temperate actions by temperance?
And that is done strongly which is done by strength, and that which
is weakly done, by weakness?
And that which is done with swiftness is done swiftly, and that which
is done with slowness, slowly?
He assented again.
And that which is done in the same manner, is done by the same; and
that which is done in an opposite manner by the opposite?
Once more, I said, is there anything beautiful?
To which the only opposite is the ugly?
There is no other.
And is there anything good?
To which the only opposite is the evil?
There is no other.
And there is the acute in sound?
To which the only opposite is the grave?
There is no other, he said, but that.
Then every opposite has one opposite only and no more?
Then now, I said, let us recapitulate our admissions. First of all
we admitted that everything has one opposite and not more than one?
We did so.
And we admitted also that what was done in opposite ways was done
And that which was done foolishly, as we further admitted, was done
in the opposite way to that which was done temperately?
And that which was done temperately was done by temperance, and that
which was done foolishly by folly?
And that which is done in opposite ways is done by opposites?
And one thing is done by temperance, and quite another thing by folly?
And in opposite ways?
And therefore by opposites:-then folly is the opposite of temperance?
And do you remember that folly has already been acknowledged by us
to be the opposite of wisdom?
And we said that everything has only one opposite?
Then, Protagoras, which of the two assertions shall we renounce? One
says that everything has but one opposite; the other that wisdom is
distinct from temperance, and that both of them are parts of virtue;
and that they are not only distinct, but dissimilar, both in themselves
and in their functions, like the parts of a face. Which of these two
assertions shall we renounce? For both of them together are certainly
not in harmony; they do not accord or agree: for how can they be said
to agree if everything is assumed to have only one opposite and not
more than one, and yet folly, which is one, has clearly the two opposites
wisdom and temperance? Is not that true, Protagoras? What else would
He assented, but with great reluctance.
Then temperance and wisdom are the same, as before justice and holiness
appeared to us to be nearly the same. And now, Protagoras, I said,
we must finish the enquiry, and not faint. Do you think that an unjust
man can be temperate in his injustice?
I should be ashamed, Socrates, he said, to acknowledge this which
nevertheless many may be found to assert.
And shall I argue with them or with you? I replied.
I would rather, he said, that you should argue with the many first,
if you will.
Whichever you please, if you will only answer me and say whether you
are of their opinion or not. My object is to test the validity of
the argument; and yet the result may be that I who ask and you who
answer may both be put on our trial.
Protagoras at first made a show of refusing, as he said that the argument
was not encouraging; at length, he consented to answer.
Now then, I said, begin at the beginning and answer me. You think
that some men are temperate, and yet unjust?
Yes, he said; let that be admitted.
And temperance is good sense?
And good sense is good counsel in doing injustice?
If they succeed, I said, or if they do not succeed?
If they succeed.
And you would admit the existence of goods?
And is the good that which is expedient for man?
Yes, indeed, he said: and there are some things which may be inexpedient,
and yet I call them good.
I thought that Protagoras was getting ruffled and excited; he seemed
to be setting himself in an attitude of war. Seeing this, I minded
my business, and gently said:-
When you say, Protagoras, that things inexpedient are good, do you
mean inexpedient for man only, or inexpedient altogether? and do you
call the latter good?
Certainly not the last, he replied; for I know of many things-meats,
drinks, medicines, and ten thousand other things, which are inexpedient
for man, and some which are expedient; and some which are neither
expedient nor inexpedient for man, but only for horses; and some for
oxen only, and some for dogs; and some for no animals, but only for
trees; and some for the roots of trees and not for their branches,
as for example, manure, which is a good thing when laid about the
roots of a tree, but utterly destructive if thrown upon the shoots
and young branches; or I may instance olive oil, which is mischievous
to all plants, and generally most injurious to the hair of every animal
with the exception of man, but beneficial to human hair and to the
human body generally; and even in this application (so various and
changeable is the nature of the benefit), that which is the greatest
good to the outward parts of a man, is a very great evil to his inward
parts: and for this reason physicians always forbid their patients
the use of oil in their food, except in very small quantities, just
enough to extinguish the disagreeable sensation of smell in meats
When he had given this answer, the company cheered him. And I said:
Protagoras, I have a wretched memory, and when any one makes a long
speech to me I never remember what he is talking about. As then, if
I had been deaf, and you were going to converse with me, you would
have had to raise your voice; so now, having such a bad memory, I
will ask you to cut your answers shorter, if you would take me with
What do you mean? he said: how am I to shorten my answers? shall I
make them too short?
Certainly not, I said.
But short enough?
Yes, I said.
Shall I answer what appears to me to be short enough, or what appears
to you to be short enough?
I have heard, I said, that you can speak and teach others to speak
about the same things at such length that words never seemed to fail,
or with such brevity that no one could use fewer of them. Please therefore,
if you talk with me, to adopt the latter or more compendious method.
Socrates, he replied, many a battle of words have I fought, and if
I had followed the method of disputation which my adversaries desired,
as you want me to do, I should have been no better than another, and
the name of Protagoras would have been nowhere.
I saw that he was not satisfied with his previous answers, and that
he would not play the part of answerer any more if he could help;
and I considered that there was no call upon me to continue the conversation;
so I said: Protagoras, I do not wish to force the conversation upon
you if you had rather not, but when you are willing to argue with
me in such a way that I can follow you, then I will argue with you.
Now you, as is said of you by others and as you say of yourself, are
able to have discussions in shorter forms of speech as well as in
longer, for you are a master of wisdom; but I cannot manage these
long speeches: I only wish that I could. You, on the other hand, who
are capable of either, ought to speak shorter as I beg you, and then
we might converse. But I see that you are disinclined, and as I have
an engagement which will prevent my staying to hear you at greater
length (for I have to be in another place), I will depart; although
I should have liked to have heard you.
Thus I spoke, and was rising from my seat, when Callias seized me
by the right hand, and in his left hand caught hold of this old cloak
of mine. He said: We cannot let you go, Socrates, for if you leave
us there will be an end of our discussions: I must therefore beg you
to remain, as there is nothing in the world that I should like better
than to hear you and Protagoras discourse. Do not deny the company
Now I had got up, and was in the act of departure. Son of Hipponicus,
I replied, I have always admired, and do now heartily applaud and
love your philosophical spirit, and I would gladly comply with your
request, if I could. But the truth is that I cannot. And what you
ask is as great an impossibility to me, as if you bade me run a race
with Crison of Himera, when in his prime, or with some one of the
long or day course runners. To such a request I should reply that
I would fain ask the same of my own legs; but they refuse to comply.
And therefore if you want to see Crison and me in the same stadium,
you must bid him slacken his speed to mine, for I cannot run quickly,
and he can run slowly. And in like manner if you want to hear me and
Protagoras discoursing, you must ask him to shorten his answers, and
keep to the point, as he did at first; if not, how can there be any
discussion? For discussion is one thing, and making an oration is
quite another, in my humble opinion.
But you see, Socrates, said Callias, that Protagoras may fairly claim
to speak in his own way, just as you claim to speak in yours.
Here Alcibiades interposed, and said: That, Callias, is not a true
statement of the case. For our friend Socrates admits that he cannot
make a speech-in this he yields the palm to Protagoras: but I should
be greatly surprised if he yielded to any living man in the power
of holding and apprehending an argument. Now if Protagoras will make
a similar admission, and confess that he is inferior to Socrates in
argumentative skill, that is enough for Socrates; but if he claims
a superiority in argument as well, let him ask and answer-not, when
a question is asked, slipping away from the point, and instead of
answering, making a speech at such length that most of his hearers
forget the question at issue (not that Socrates is likely to forget-I
will be bound for that, although he may pretend in fun that he has
a bad memory). And Socrates appears to me to be more in the right
than Protagoras; that is my view, and every man ought to say what
When Alcibiades had done speaking, some one-Critias, I believe-went
on to say: O Prodicus and Hippias, Callias appears to me to be a partisan
of Protagoras: and this led Alcibiades, who loves opposition, to take
the other side. But we should not be partisans either of Socrates
or of Protagoras; let us rather unite in entreating both of them not
to break up the discussion.
Prodicus added: That, Critias, seems to me to be well said, for those
who are present at such discussions ought to be impartial hearers
of both the speakers; remembering, however, that impartiality is not
the same as equality, for both sides should be impartially heard,
and yet an equal meed should not be assigned to both of them; but
to the wiser a higher meed should be given, and a lower to the less
wise. And I as well as Critias would beg you, Protagoras and Socrates,
to grant our request, which is, that you will argue with one another
and not wrangle; for friends argue with friends out of goodwill, but
only adversaries and enemies wrangle. And then our meeting will be
delightful; for in this way you, who are the speakers, will be most
likely to win esteem, and not praise only, among us who are your audience;
for esteem is a sincere conviction of the hearers' souls, but praise
is often an insincere expression of men uttering falsehoods contrary
to their conviction. And thus we who are the hearers will be gratified
and not pleased; for gratification is of the mind when receiving wisdom
and knowledge, but pleasure is of the body when eating or experiencing
some other bodily delight. Thus spoke Prodicus, and many of the company
applauded his words.
Hippias the sage spoke next. He said: All of you who are here present
I reckon to be kinsmen and friends and fellow-citizens, by nature
and not by law; for by nature like is akin to like, whereas law is
the tyrant of mankind, and often compels us to do many things which
are against nature. How great would be the disgrace then, if we, who
know the nature of things, and are the wisest of the Hellenes, and
as such are met together in this city, which is the metropolis of
wisdom, and in the greatest and most glorious house of this city,
should have nothing to show worthy of this height of dignity, but
should only quarrel with one another like the meanest of mankind I
pray and advise you, Protagoras, and you, Socrates, to agree upon
a compromise. Let us be your peacemakers. And do not you, Socrates,
aim at this precise and extreme brevity in discourse, if Protagoras
objects, but loosen and let go the reins of speech, that your words
may be grander and more becoming to you. Neither do you, Protagoras,
go forth on the gale with every sail set out of sight of land into
an ocean of words, but let there be a mean observed by both of you.
Do as I say. And let me also persuade you to choose an arbiter or
overseer or president; he will keep watch over your words and will
prescribe their proper length.
This proposal was received by the company with universal approval;
Callias said that he would not let me off, and they begged me to choose
an arbiter. But I said that to choose an umpire of discourse would
be unseemly; for if the person chosen was inferior, then the inferior
or worse ought not to preside over the better; or if he was equal,
neither would that be well; for he who is our equal will do as we
do, and what will be the use of choosing him? And if you say, "Let
us have a better then,"-to that I answer that you cannot have any
one who is wiser than Protagoras. And if you choose another who is
not really better, and whom you only say is better, to put another
over him as though he were an inferior person would be an unworthy
reflection on him; not that, as far as I am concerned, any reflection
is of much consequence to me. Let me tell you then what I will do
in order that the conversation and discussion may go on as you desire.
If Protagoras is not disposed to answer, let him ask and I will answer;
and I will endeavour to show at the same time how, as I maintain,
he ought to answer: and when I have answered as many questions as
he likes to ask, let him in like manner answer me; and if he seems
to be not very ready at answering the precise question asked of him,
you and I will unite in entreating him, as you entreated me, not to
spoil the discussion. And this will require no special arbiter-all
of you shall be arbiters.
This was generally approved, and Protagoras, though very much against
his will, was obliged to agree that he would ask questions; and when
he had put a sufficient number of them, that he would answer in his
turn those which he was asked in short replies. He began to put his
questions as follows:-
I am of opinion, Socrates, he said, that skill in poetry is the principal
part of education; and this I conceive to be the power of knowing
what compositions of the poets are correct, and what are not, and
how they are to be distinguished, and of explaining when asked the
reason of the difference. And I propose to transfer the question which
you and I have been discussing to the domain of poetry; we will speak
as before of virtue, but in reference to a passage of a poet. Now
Simonides says to Scopas the son of Creon the Thessalian:
Hardly on the one hand can a man become truly good, built four-square
in hands and feet and mind, a work without a flaw. Do you know the
poem? or shall I repeat the whole?
There is no need, I said; for I am perfectly well acquainted with
the ode-I have made a careful study of it.
Very well, he said. And do you think that the ode is a good composition,
Yes, I said, both good and true.
But if there is a contradiction, can the composition be good or true?
No, not in that case, I replied.
And is there not a contradiction? he asked. Reflect.
Well, my friend, I have reflected.
And does not the poet proceed to say, "I do not agree with the word
of Pittacus, albeit the utterance of a wise man: Hardly can a man
be good"? Now you will observe that this is said by the same poet.
I know it.
And do you think, he said, that the two sayings are consistent?
Yes, I said, I think so (at the same time I could not help fearing
that there might be something in what he said). And you think otherwise?
Why, he said, how can he be consistent in both? First of all, premising
as his own thought, "Hardly can a man become truly good"; and then
a little further on in the poem, forgetting, and blaming Pittacus
and refusing to agree with him, when he says, "Hardly can a man be
good," which is the very same thing. And yet when he blames him who
says the same with himself, he blames himself; so that he must be
wrong either in his first or his second assertion.
Many of the audience cheered and applauded this. And I felt at first
giddy and faint, as if I had received a blow from the hand of an expert
boxer, when I heard his words and the sound of the cheering; and to
confess the truth, I wanted to get time to think what the meaning
of the poet really was. So I turned to Prodicus and called him. Prodicus,
I said, Simonides is a countryman of yours, and you ought to come
to his aid. I must appeal to you, like the river Scamander in Homer,
who, when beleaguered by Achilles, summons the Simois to aid him,
Brother dear, let us both together stay the force of the hero. And
I summon you, for I am afraid that Protagoras will make an end of
Simonides. Now is the time to rehabilitate Simonides, by the application
of your philosophy of synonyms, which enables you to distinguish "will"
and "wish," and make other charming distinctions like those which
you drew just now. And I should like to know whether you would agree
with me; for I am of opinion that there is no contradiction in the
words of Simonides. And first of all I wish that you would say whether,
in your opinion, Prodicus, "being" is the same as "becoming."
Not the same, certainly, replied Prodicus.
Did not Simonides first set forth, as his own view, that "Hardly can
a man become truly good"?
Quite right, said Prodicus.
And then he blames Pittacus, not, as Protagoras imagines, for repeating
that which he says himself, but for saying something different from
himself. Pittacus does not say as Simonides says, that hardly can
a man become good, but hardly can a man be good: and our friend Prodicus
would maintain that being, Protagoras, is not the same as becoming;
and if they are not the same, then Simonides is not inconsistent with
himself. I dare say that Prodicus and many others would say, as Hesiod
On the one hand, hardly can a man become good,
For the gods have made virtue the reward of toil,
But on the other hand, when you have climbed the height,
Then, to retain virtue, however difficult the acquisition, is easy.
Prodicus heard and approved; but Protagoras said: Your correction,
Socrates, involves a greater error than is contained in the sentence
which you are correcting.
Alas! I said, Protagoras; then I am a sorry physician, and do but
aggravate a disorder which I am seeking to cure.
Such is the fact, he said.
How so? I asked.
The poet, he replied, could never have made such a mistake as to say
that virtue, which in the opinion of all men is the hardest of all
things, can be easily retained.
Well, I said, and how fortunate are we in having Prodicus among us,
at the right moment; for he has a wisdom, Protagoras, which, as I
imagine, is more than human and of very ancient date, and may be as
old as Simonides or even older. Learned as you are in many things,
you appear to know nothing of this; but I know, for I am a disciple
of his. And now, if I am not mistaken, you do not understand the word
"hard" (chalepon) in the sense which Simonides intended; and I must
correct you, as Prodicus corrects me when I use the word "awful" (deinon)
as a term of praise. If I say that Protagoras or any one else is an
"awfully" wise man, he asks me if I am not ashamed of calling that
which is good "awful"; and then he explains to me that the term "awful"
is always taken in a bad sense, and that no one speaks of being "awfully"
healthy or wealthy, or "awful" peace, but of "awful" disease, "awful"
war, "awful" poverty, meaning by the term "awful," evil. And I think
that Simonides and his countrymen the Ceans, when they spoke of "hard"
meant "evil," or something which you do not understand. Let us ask
Prodicus, for he ought to be able to answer questions about the dialect
of Simonides. What did he mean, Prodicus, by the term "hard?"
Evil, said Prodicus.
And therefore, I said, Prodicus, he blames Pittacus for saying, "Hard
is the good," just as if that were equivalent to saying, Evil is the
Yes, he said, that was certainly his meaning; and he is twitting Pittacus
with ignorance of the use of terms, which in a Lesbian, who has been
accustomed to speak a barbarous language, is natural.
Do you hear, Protagoras, I asked, what our friend Prodicus is saying?
And have you an answer for him?
You are entirely mistaken, Prodicus, said Protagoras; and I know very
well that Simonides in using the word "hard" meant what all of us
mean, not evil, but that which is not easy-that which takes a great
deal of trouble: of this I am positive.
I said: I also incline to believe, Protagoras, that this was the meaning
of Simonides, of which our friend Prodicus was very well aware, but
he thought that he would make fun, and try if you could maintain your
thesis; for that Simonides could never have meant the other is clearly
proved by the context, in which he says that God only has this gift.
Now he cannot surely mean to say that to be good is evil, when he
afterwards proceeds to say that God only has this gift, and that this
is the attribute of him and of no other. For if this be his meaning,
Prodicus would impute to Simonides a character of recklessness which
is very unlike his countrymen. And I should like to tell you, I said,
what I imagine to be the real meaning of Simonides in this poem, if
you will test what, in your way of speaking, would be called my skill
in poetry; or if you would rather, I will be the listener.
To this proposal Protagoras replied: As you please;-and Hippias, Prodicus,
and the others told me by all means to do as I proposed.
Then now, I said, I will endeavour to explain to you my opinion about
this poem of Simonides. There is a very ancient philosophy which is
more cultivated in Crete and Lacedaemon than in any other part of
Hellas, and there are more philosophers in those countries than anywhere
else in the world. This, however, is a secret which the Lacedaemonians
deny; and they pretend to be ignorant, just because they do not wish
to have it thought that they rule the world by wisdom, like the Sophists
of whom Protagoras was speaking, and not by valour of arms; considering
that if the reason of their superiority were disclosed, all men would
be practising their wisdom. And this secret of theirs has never been
discovered by the imitators of Lacedaemonian fashions in other cities,
who go about with their ears bruised in imitation of them, and have
the caestus bound on their arms, and are always in training, and wear
short cloaks; for they imagine that these are the practices which
have enabled the Lacedaemonians to conquer the other Hellenes. Now
when the Lacedaemonians want to unbend and hold free conversation
with their wise men, and are no longer satisfied with mere secret
intercourse, they drive out all these laconizers, and any other foreigners
who may happen to be in their country, and they hold a philosophical
seance unknown to strangers; and they themselves forbid their young
men to go out into other cities-in this they are like the Cretans-in
order that they may not unlearn the lessons which they have taught
them. And in Lacedaemon and Crete not only men but also women have
a pride in their high cultivation. And hereby you may know that I
am right in attributing to the Lacedaemonians this excellence in philosophy
and speculation: If a man converses with the most ordinary Lacedaemonian,
he will find him seldom good for much in general conversation, but
at any point in the discourse he will be darting out some notable
saying, terse and full of meaning, with unerring aim; and the person
with whom he is talking seems to be like a child in his hands. And
many of our own age and of former ages have noted that the true Lacedaemonian
type of character has the love of philosophy even stronger than the
love of gymnastics; they are conscious that only a perfectly educated
man is capable of uttering such expressions. Such were Thales of Miletus,
and Pittacus of Mitylene, and Bias of Priene, and our own Solon, and
Cleobulus the Lindian, and Myson the Chenian; and seventh in the catalogue
of wise men was the Lacedaemonian Chilo. All these were lovers and
emulators and disciples of the culture of the Lacedaemonians, and
any one may perceive that their wisdom was of this character; consisting
of short memorable sentences, which they severally uttered. And they
met together and dedicated in the temple of Apollo at Delphi, as the
first-fruits of their wisdom, the far-famed inscriptions, which are
in all men's mouths-"Know thyself," and "Nothing too much."
Why do I say all this? I am explaining that this Lacedaemonian brevity
was the style of primitive philosophy. Now there was a saying of Pittacus
which was privately circulated and received the approbation of the
wise, "Hard is it to be good." And Simonides, who was ambitious of
the fame of wisdom, was aware that if he could overthrow this saying,
then, as if he had won a victory over some famous athlete, he would
carry off the palm among his contemporaries. And if I am not mistaken,
he composed the entire poem with the secret intention of damaging
Pittacus and his saying.
Let us all unite in examining his words, and see whether I am speaking
the truth. Simonides must have been a lunatic, if, in the very first
words of the poem, wanting to say only that to become good is hard,
he inserted (men) "on the one hand" ["on the one hand to become good
is hard"]; there would be no reason for the introduction of (men),
unless you suppose him to speak with a hostile reference to the words
of Pittacus. Pittacus is saying "Hard is it to be good," and he, in
refutation of this thesis, rejoins that the truly hard thing, Pittacus,
is to become good, not joining "truly" with "good," but with "hard."
Not, that the hard thing is to be truly good, as though there were
some truly good men, and there were others who were good but not truly
good (this would be a very simple observation, and quite unworthy
of Simonides); but you must suppose him to make a trajection of the
word "truly," construing the saying of Pittacus thus (and let us imagine
Pittacus to be speaking and Simonides answering him): "O my friends,"
says Pittacus, "hard is it to be good," and Simonides answers, "In
that, Pittacus, you are mistaken; the difficulty is not to be good,
but on the one hand, to become good, four-square in hands and feet
and mind, without a flaw-that is hard truly." This way of reading
the passage accounts for the insertion of (men) "on the one hand,"
and for the position at the end of the clause of the word "truly,"
and all that follows shows this to be the meaning. A great deal might
be said in praise of the details of the poem, which is a charming
piece of workmanship, and very finished, but such minutiae would be
tedious. I should like, however, to point out the general intention
of the poem, which is certainly designed in every part to be a refutation
of the saying of Pittacus. For he speaks in what follows a little
further on as if he meant to argue that although there is a difficulty
in becoming good, yet this is possible for a time, and only for a
time. But having become good, to remain in a good state and be good,
as you, Pittacus, affirm, is not possible, and is not granted to man;
God only has this blessing; "but man cannot help being bad when the
force of circumstances overpowers him." Now whom does the force of
circumstance overpower in the command of a vessel?-not the private
individual, for he is always overpowered; and as one who is already
prostrate cannot be overthrown, and only he who is standing upright
but not he who is prostrate can be laid prostrate, so the force of
circumstances can only overpower him who, at some time or other, has
resources, and not him who is at all times helpless. The descent of
a great storm may make the pilot helpless, or the severity of the
season the husbandman or the physician; for the good may become bad,
as another poet witnesses:
The good are sometimes good and sometimes bad. But the bad does not
become bad; he is always bad. So that when the force of circumstances
overpowers the man of resources and skill and virtue, then he cannot
help being bad. And you, Pittacus, are saying, "Hard is it to be good."
Now there is a difficulty in becoming good; and yet this is possible:
but to be good is an impossibility-
For he who does well is the good man, and he who does ill is the bad.
But what sort of doing is good in letters? and what sort of doing
makes a man good in letters? Clearly the knowing of them. And what
sort of well-doing makes a man a good physician? Clearly the knowledge
of the art of healing the sick. "But he who does ill is the bad."
Now who becomes a bad physician? Clearly he who is in the first place
a physician, and in the second place a good physician; for he may
become a bad one also: but none of us unskilled individuals can by
any amount of doing ill become physicians, any more than we can become
carpenters or anything of that sort; and he who by doing ill cannot
become a physician at all, clearly cannot become a bad physician.
In like manner the good may become deteriorated by time, or toil,
or disease, or other accident (the only real doing ill is to be deprived
of knowledge), but the bad man will never become bad, for he is always
bad; and if he were to become bad, he must previously have been good.
Thus the words of the poem tend to show that on the one hand a man
cannot be continuously good, but that he may become good and may also
become bad; and again that
They are the best for the longest time whom the gods love.
All this relates to Pittacus, as is further proved by the sequel.
For he adds:
Therefore I will not throw away my span of life to no purpose in searching
after the impossible, hoping in vain to find a perfectly faultless
man among those who partake of the fruit of the broad-bosomed earth:
if I find him, I will send you word. (this is the vehement way in
which he pursues his attack upon Pittacus throughout the whole poem):
But him who does no evil, voluntarily I praise and love;-not even
the gods war against necessity. All this has a similar drift, for
Simonides was not so ignorant as to say that he praised those who
did no evil voluntarily, as though there were some who did evil voluntarily.
For no wise man, as I believe, will allow that any human being errs
voluntarily, or voluntarily does evil and dishonourable actions; but
they are very well aware that all who do evil and dishonourable things
do them against their will. And Simonides never says that he praises
him who does no evil voluntarily; the word "voluntarily" applies to
himself. For he was under the impression that a good man might often
compel himself to love and praise another, and to be the friend and
approver of another; and that there might be an involuntary love,
such as a man might feel to an unnatural father or mother, or country,
or the like. Now bad men, when their parents or country have any defects,
look on them with malignant joy, and find fault with them and expose
and denounce them to others, under the idea that the rest of mankind
will be less likely to take themselves to task and accuse them of
neglect; and they blame their defects far more than they deserve,
in order that the odium which is necessarily incurred by them may
be increased: but the good man dissembles his feelings, and constrains
himself to praise them; and if they have wronged him and he is angry,
he pacifies his anger and is reconciled, and compels himself to love
and praise his own flesh and blood. And Simonides, as is probable,
considered that he himself had often had to praise and magnify a tyrant
or the like, much against his will, and he also wishes to imply to
Pittacus that he does not censure him because he is censorious.
For I am satisfied [he says] when a man is neither bad nor very stupid;
and when he knows justice (which is the health of states), and is
of sound mind, I will find no fault with him, for I am not given to
finding fault, and there are innumerable fools (implying that if he
delighted in censure he might have abundant opportunity of finding
All things are good with which evil is unmingled. In these latter
words he does not mean to say that all things are good which have
no evil in them, as you might say "All things are white which have
no black in them," for that would be ridiculous; but he means to say
that he accepts and finds no fault with the moderate or intermediate
state. He says:
I do not hope to find a perfectly blameless man among those who partake
of the fruits of the broad-bosomed earth (if I find him, I will send
you word); in this sense I praise no man. But he who is moderately
good, and does no evil, is good enough for me, who love and approve
every one. (and here observe that he uses a Lesbian word, epainemi
[approve], because he is addressing Pittacus,
Who love and approve every one voluntarily, who does no evil: and
that the stop should be put after "voluntarily"); "but there are some
whom I involuntarily praise and love. And you, Pittacus, I would never
have blamed, if you had spoken what was moderately good and true;
but I do blame you because, putting on the appearance of truth, you
are speaking falsely about the highest matters. And this, I said,
Prodicus and Protagoras, I take to be the meaning of Simonides in
Hippias said: I think, Socrates, that you have given a very good explanation
of the poem; but I have also an excellent interpretation of my own
which I will propound to you, if you will allow me.
Nay, Hippias, said Alcibiades; not now, but at some other time. At
present we must abide by the compact which was made between Socrates
and Protagoras, to the effect that as long as Protagoras is willing
to ask, Socrates should answer; or that if he would rather answer,
then that Socrates should ask.
I said: I wish Protagoras either to ask or answer as he is inclined;
but I would rather have done with poems and odes, if he does not object,
and come back to the question about which I was asking you at first,
Protagoras, and by your help make an end of that. The talk about the
poets seems to me like a commonplace entertainment to which a vulgar
company have recourse; who, because they are not able to converse
or amuse one another, while they are drinking, with the sound of their
own voices and conversation, by reason of their stupidity, raise the
price of flute-girls in the market, hiring for a great sum the voice
of a flute instead of their own breath, to be the medium of intercourse
among them: but where the company are real gentlemen and men of education,
you will see no flute-girls, nor dancing-girls, nor harp-girls; and
they have no nonsense or games, but are contented with one another's
conversation, of which their own voices are the medium, and which
they carry on by turns and in an orderly manner, even though they
are very liberal in their potations. And a company like this of ours,
and men such as we profess to be, do not require the help of another's
voice, or of the poets whom you cannot interrogate about meaning of
what they are saying; people who cite them declaring, some that the
poet has meaning, and others that he has another, and the point which
is in dispute can never be decided. This sort of entertainment they
decline, and prefer to talk with one another, and put one another
to the proof in conversation. And these are the models which I desire
that you and I should imitate. Leaving the poets, and keeping to ourselves,
let us try the mettle of one another and make proof of the truth in
conversation. If you have a mind to ask, I am ready to answer; or
if you would rather, do you answer, and give me the opportunity of
resuming and completing our unfinished argument.
I made these and some similar observations; but Protagoras would not
distinctly say which he would do. Thereupon Alcibiades turned to Callias,
and said:-Do you think, Callias, that Protagoras is fair in refusing
to say whether he will or will not answer? for I certainly think that
he is unfair; he ought either to proceed with the argument, or distinctly
refuse to proceed, that we may know his intention; and then Socrates
will be able to discourse with some one else, and the rest of the
company will be free to talk with one another.
I think that Protagoras was really made ashamed by these words of
Alcibiades and when the prayers of Callias and the company were superadded,
he was at last induced to argue, and said that I might ask and he
So I said: Do not imagine, Protagoras, that I have any other interest
in asking questions of you but that of clearing up my own difficulties.
For I think that Homer was very right in saying that
When two go together, one sees before the other, for all men who have
a companion are readier in deed, word, or thought; but if a man
Sees a thing when he is alone, he goes about straightway seeking until
he finds some one to whom he may show his discoveries, and who may
confirm him in them. And I would rather hold discourse with you than
with any one, because I think that no man has a better understanding
of most things which a good man may be expected to understand, and
in particular of virtue. For who is there, but you?-who not only claim
to be a good man and a gentleman, for many are this, and yet have
not the power of making others good whereas you are not only good
yourself, but also the cause of goodness in others. Moreover such
confidence have you in yourself, that although other Sophists conceal
their profession, you proclaim in the face of Hellas that you are
a Sophist or teacher of virtue and education, and are the first who
demanded pay in return. How then can I do otherwise than invite you
to the examination of these subjects, and ask questions and consult
with you? I must, indeed. And I should like once more to have my memory
refreshed by you about the questions which I was asking you at first,
and also to have your help in considering them. If I am not mistaken
the question was this: Are wisdom and temperance and courage and justice
and holiness five names of the same thing? or has each of the names
a separate underlying essence and corresponding thing having a peculiar
function, no one of them being like any other of them? And you replied
that the five names were not the names of the same thing, but that
each of them had a separate object, and that all these objects were
parts of virtue, not in the same way that the parts of gold are like
each other and the whole of which they are parts, but as the parts
of the face are unlike the whole of which they are parts and one another,
and have each of them a distinct function. I should like to know whether
this is still your opinion; or if not, I will ask you to define your
meaning, and I shall not take you to task if you now make a different
statement. For I dare say that you may have said what you did only
in order to make trial of me.
I answer, Socrates, he said, that all these qualities are parts of
virtue, and that four out of the five are to some extent similar,
and that the fifth of them, which is courage, is very different from
the other four, as I prove in this way: You may observe that many
men are utterly unrighteous, unholy, intemperate, ignorant, who are
nevertheless remarkable for their courage.
Stop, I said; I should like to think about that. When you speak of
brave men, do you mean the confident, or another sort of nature?
Yes, he said; I mean the impetuous, ready to go at that which others
are afraid to approach.
In the next place, you would affirm virtue to be a good thing, of
which good thing you assert yourself to be a teacher.
Yes, he said; I should say the best of all things, if I am in my right
And is it partly good and partly bad, I said, or wholly good?
Wholly good, and in the highest degree.
Tell me then; who are they who have confidence when diving into a
I should say, the divers.
And the reason of this is that they have knowledge?
Yes, that is the reason.
And who have confidence when fighting on horseback-the skilled horseman
or the unskilled?
And who when fighting with light shields-the peltasts or the nonpeltasts?
The peltasts. And that is true of all other things, he said, if that
is your point: those who have knowledge are more confident than those
who have no knowledge, and they are more confident after they have
learned than before.
And have you not seen persons utterly ignorant, I said, of these things,
and yet confident about them?
Yes, he said, I have seen such persons far too confident.
And are not these confident persons also courageous?
In that case, he replied, courage would be a base thing, for the men
of whom we are speaking are surely madmen.
Then who are the courageous? Are they not the confident?
Yes, he said; to that statement I adhere.
And those, I said, who are thus confident without knowledge are really
not courageous, but mad; and in that case the wisest are also the
most confident, and being the most confident are also the bravest,
and upon that view again wisdom will be courage.
Nay, Socrates, he replied, you are mistaken in your remembrance of
what was said by me. When you asked me, I certainly did say that the
courageous are the confident; but I was never asked whether the confident
are the courageous; if you had asked me, I should have answered "Not
all of them": and what I did answer you have not proved to be false,
although you proceeded to show that those who have knowledge are more
courageous than they were before they had knowledge, and more courageous
than others who have no knowledge, and were then led on to think that
courage is the same as wisdom. But in this way of arguing you might
come to imagine that strength is wisdom. You might begin by asking
whether the strong are able, and I should say "Yes"; and then whether
those who know how to wrestle are not more able to wrestle than those
who do not know how to wrestle, and more able after than before they
had learned, and I should assent. And when I had admitted this, you
might use my admissions in such a way as to prove that upon my view
wisdom is strength; whereas in that case I should not have admitted,
any more than in the other, that the able are strong, although I have
admitted that the strong are able. For there is a difference between
ability and strength; the former is given by knowledge as well as
by madness or rage, but strength comes from nature and a healthy state
of the body. And in like manner I say of confidence and courage, that
they are not the same; and I argue that the courageous are confident,
but not all the confident courageous. For confidence may be given
to men by art, and also, like ability, by madness and rage; but courage
comes to them from nature and the healthy state of the soul.
I said: You would admit, Protagoras, that some men live well and others
And do you think that a man lives well who lives in pain and grief?
He does not.
But if he lives pleasantly to the end of his life, will he not in
that case have lived well?
Then to live pleasantly is a good, and to live unpleasantly an evil?
Yes, he said, if the pleasure be good and honourable.
And do you, Protagoras, like the rest of the world, call some pleasant
things evil and some painful things good?-for I am rather disposed
to say that things are good in as far as they are pleasant, if they
have no consequences of another sort, and in as far as they are painful
they are bad.
I do not know, Socrates, he said, whether I can venture to assert
in that unqualified manner that the pleasant is the good and the painful
the evil. Having regard not only to my present answer, but also to
the whole of my life, I shall be safer, if I am not mistaken, in saying
that there are some pleasant things which are not good, and that there
are some painful things which are good, and some which are not good,
and that there are some which are neither good nor evil.
And you would call pleasant, I said, the things which participate
in pleasure or create pleasure?
Certainly, he said.
Then my meaning is, that in as far as they are pleasant they are good;
and my question would imply that pleasure is a good in itself.
According to your favourite mode of speech, Socrates, "Let us reflect
about this," he said; and if the reflection is to the point, and the
result proves that pleasure and good are really the same, then we
will agree; but if not, then we will argue.
And would you wish to begin the enquiry?
I said; or shall I begin?
You ought to take the lead, he said; for you are the author of the
May I employ an illustration? I said. Suppose some one who is enquiring
into the health or some other bodily quality of another:-he looks
at his face and at the tips of his fingers, and then he says, Uncover
your chest and back to me that I may have a better view:-that is the
sort of thing which I desire in this speculation. Having seen what
your opinion is about good and pleasure, I am minded to say to you:
Uncover your mind to me, Protagoras, and reveal your opinion about
knowledge, that I may know whether you agree with the rest of the
world. Now the rest of the world are of opinion that knowledge is
a principle not of strength, or of rule, or of command: their notion
is that a man may have knowledge, and yet that the knowledge which
is in him may be overmastered by anger, or pleasure, or pain, or love,
or perhaps by fear,-just as if knowledge were a slave, and might be
dragged about anyhow. Now is that your view? or do you think that
knowledge is a noble and commanding thing, which cannot be overcome,
and will not allow a man, if he only knows the difference of good
and evil, to do anything which is contrary to knowledge, but that
wisdom will have strength to help him?
I agree with you, Socrates, said Protagoras; and not only so, but
I, above all other men, am bound to say that wisdom and knowledge
are the highest of human things.
Good, I said, and true. But are you aware that the majority of the
world are of another mind; and that men are commonly supposed to know
the things which are best, and not to do them when they might? And
most persons whom I have asked the reason of this have said that when
men act contrary to knowledge they are overcome by pain, or pleasure,
or some of those affections which I was just now mentioning.
Yes, Socrates, he replied; and that is not the only point about which
mankind are in error.
Suppose, then, that you and I endeavour to instruct and inform them
what is the nature of this affection which they call "being overcome
by pleasure," and which they affirm to be the reason why they do not
always do what is best. When we say to them: Friends, you are mistaken,
and are saying what is not true, they would probably reply: Socrates
and Protagoras, if this affection of the soul is not to be called
"being overcome by pleasure," pray, what is it, and by what name would
you describe it?
But why, Socrates, should we trouble ourselves about the opinion of
the many, who just say anything that happens to occur to them?
I believe, I said, that they may be of use in helping us to discover
how courage is related to the other parts of virtue. If you are disposed
to abide by our agreement, that I should show the way in which, as
I think, our recent difficulty is most likely to be cleared up, do
you follow; but if not, never mind.
You are quite ri