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You two, it seems, will give us no ground for complaint on the score of your not being ready to join both in advising and in inquiring. No, but the matter now rests with us, Socrates ; for I venture to count you as one of us. So take my place in inquiring on behalf of the young men ; make out what it is that we want our friends here to tell us, and be our adviser by discussing it with them. For I find that owing to my age I forget the questions I intend to put, and also the answers I receive ; and if the discussion changes in the middle, my memory goes altogether.
Let us do, Nicias and Laches, as Lysimachus and Melesias bid us. Now the questions that we attempted to consider a while ago — " Who have been our teachers in this sort of training? What other persons have we made better? For if we happen to know of such and such a thing that by being joined to another thing it makes this thing better, and further, if we are able to get the one joined to the other, we obviously know the thing itself on which we might be consulting as to how it might be best and most easily acquired.
Now I daresay you do not grasp my meaning. Well, you will grasp it more easily in this way. If we happen to know that sight joined to eyes makes those eyes the better for it, and further if we are able to get it joined to eyes, we obviously know what this faculty of sight is, on which we might be consulting as to how it might be best and most easily acquired.
For if we did not know first of all what sight or hearing is, we should hardly prove ourselves consultants or physicians of credit in the matter of eyes or ears, and the best way of acquiring sight or hearing.
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Truly spoken, Socrates. And you know, Laches, at this moment our two friends are inviting us to a consultation as to the way in which virtue may be joined to their sons' souls, and so make them better? Haw ye. Tlcos yap ov; 2X1. Kai fxdXa ovrco SoKet. Yes, indeed, soc. Then our first requisite is to know what virtue 1 is? For surely, if we had no idea at all what virtue actually is, we could not possibly consult with any- one as to how he might best acquire it? I certainly think not, Socrates. Then we say, Laches, that we know what it is. I suppose we must. And of that which we know, I presume, we can also say what it is.
Let us not. In all likelihood this will make our inquiry easier. Yes, let us do as you propose, Socrates. Then which of the parts of virtue shall we choose? Clearly, I think, that which the art of fighting in armour is supposed to promote ; and that, of course, is generally supposed to be courage, is it not? Yes, it generally is, to be sure.
Then let our first endeavour be, Laches, to say what courage is : after that we can proceed to inquire in what way our young men may obtain it, in so far as it is to be obtained by means of pursuits and studies. Come, try and tell me, as I suggest, what is courage. On my word, Socrates, that is nothing diffi- cult : anyone who is willing to stay at his post and 1 Here, and in what follows, " virtue" embraces the accomplishments and excellences of a good citizen. Socrates pretends to take the hero's epithet "prompter of fright" in the enemy as meaning 46 LACHES face the enemy, and does not run away, you may be sure, is courageous.
Rightly spoken, Laches; but I fear I am to blame, by not putting it clearly, for your having answered not the intention of my question, but something else. What do you mean by that, Socrates? I will explain, so far as I can : let us take that man to be courageous who, as you describe him yourself, stays at his post and fights the enemy. I, for one, agree to that. Yes, and I do too. But what of this other kind of man, who fights the enemy while fleeing, and not staying?
How fleeing? Well, as the Scythians are said to fight, as much fleeing as pursuing ; and as you know Homer says in praise of Aeneas' horses, that they knew " how to pursue and to flee in fright full swiftly this way and that way ; " and he glorifies Aeneas himself for this very knowledge of fright, calling him " prompter of fright. And very properly too, Socrates ; for he was speaking of chariots ; and so are you speaking of the mode of the Scythian horsemen.
That is the way of cavalry fighting ; but with men-at-arms it is as I state it. Except, perhaps, Laches, in the case of the Spartans. For they say that at Plataea. Ilavu ye. Ov rrdvv rt. What you say is true. And so this is what I meant just now by saying that I was to blame for your wrong answer, by putting my question wrongly. For I wanted to have your view not only of brave men-at-arms, but also of courage in cavalry and in the entire warrior class ; and of the courageous not only in war but in the perils of the sea, and all who in disease and poverty, or again in public affairs, are courageous ; and further, all who are not merely courageous against pain or fear, but doughty fighters against desires and pleasures, whether standing their ground or turning back upon the foe — for I take it, Laches, there are courageous people in all these kinds.
Very much so, Socrates. Then all these are courageous, only some have acquired courage in pleasures, some in pains, some in desires and some in fears, while others, I conceive, have acquired cowardice in these same things. What either of them 2 is — that is what I wanted to know.
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So try again, and tell me first what is this thing, courage, which is the same in all of these cases ; or do you still not comprehend my meaning? Not very well. Herod, ix. Yldvv ye. I mean in this way : suppose, for instance, I were asking you what is quickness, as we find it in running and harping, in speaking and learning, and in many other activities, and as possessed by us practically in any action worth mentioning, whether of arms or legs, or mouth or voice, or mind : or do you not use the word so?
Yes, to be sure. Well then, suppose someone asked me : Socrates, what do you mean by this thing which in all cases you term quickness? My reply would be : The faculty that gets a great deal done in a little time is what I call quickness, whether in a voice or in a race or in any of the other instances. Your statement would be quite correct. So now try and tell me on your part, Laches, about courage in the same way : what faculty is it, the same whether in pleasure or in pain or in any of the things in which we said just now it was to be found, that has been singled out by the name of courage?
Well then, I take it to be a certain en- durance of the soul, if I am to speak of the natural quality that appears in them all. Why, of course we must, if we are each to answer the other's actual question. Now it appears to me that by no means all endurance, as I conceive it, can appear to you to be courage. And my grounds for thinking so are these : I am almost certain, Laches, that you rank courage among the nobler qualities.
Ildvv ye. E 2fl. Ma At" ovk eycuye. Nay, among the noblest, you may be quite certain. And endurance joined with wisdom is noble and good? Very much so. But what of it when joined with folly? Is it not, on the contrary, hurtful and mischievous? And can you say that such a thing is noble, when it is both mischievous and hurtful? Not with any justice, Socrates. Then you will not admit that such an en- durance is courage, seeing that it is not noble, whereas courage is a noble quality.
That is true. So, by your account, wise endurance will be courage. Now let us see in what it is wise. In all things, whether great or small? For instance, if a - man endures in spending money wisely, because he knows that by spending he will gain more, would you call him courageous? On my word, not I. Or what do you call it in the case of a doctor who, when his son or anyone else is suffering from inflammation of the lungs and begs ' for something to drink or eat, inflexibly and endur- ingly refuses?
That is no case of it, in any sense, either. Well now, when a man endures in war, and is willing to fight, on a wise calculation whereby he knows that others will come to his aid, and that the forces VOL. Tldvv ye. The man opposed to him, I should say, Socrates. But yet his endurance is more foolish than that of the first man. So you would say that he who in a cavalry fight endures with a knowledge of horsemanship is less courageous than he who endures without it. Yes, I think so. And he who endures with a skill in slinging or shooting or other such art.
And anyone who agrees to descend into a well, and to dive, and to endure in this or other such action, without being an adept in these things, you would say is more courageous than the adepts. Yes, for what else can one say, Socrates? Nothing, provided one thinks so. But I do think it. And you observe, I suppose, Laches, that persons of this sort are more foolish in their risks and endurances than those who do it with proper skill.
Now r , we found before that foolish boldness and endurance are base and hurtful? Quite so. But courage was admitted to be something noble. Yes, it was. Whereas now, on the contrary, we say that this base thing — foolish endurance — is courage. Then do you think our statement is correct?
On my word, Socrates, not I. Hence I presume that, on your showing, you and I, Laches, are not tuned to the Dorian harmony : for our deeds do not accord with our words. By our deeds, most likely, the world might judge us to have our share of courage, but not by our words, I fancy, if they should hear the way we are talking now. That is very true. Well now, does it seem right that we should be in such a condition? Not by any means. Then do you mind if we accept our statement to a certain point?
To what point do you mean, and what statement? That which enjoins endurance. And, if you please, let us too be steadfast and enduring in our inquiry, so as not to be ridiculed by courage herself for failing to be courageous in our search for her, when we might perchance find after all that this very endurance is courage. For my part I am ready, Socrates, to con- tinue without faltering ; and yet I am unaccustomed to discussions of this sort.
But a certain ambitious ardour has got hold of me at hearing what has been said, and I am truly vexed at finding myself unable 57 PLATO olos r elfxl elirelv. Uavra7Taat fiev ovv. For I feel that I conceive in thought what courage is, but somehow or other she has given me the slip for the moment, so that I fail to lay hold of her in speech and state what she is.
Well, my dear sir, the good huntsman must follow the hounds and not give up the chase. Yes, indeed, by all means. Then do you agree to our inviting Nicias here to join. He may be more resourceful than we are. I agree, of course. Come now, Nicias, and use what powers you have to assist your friends, who are caught in a storm of argument and are quite perplexed.
You see the perplexity of our case ; you must now tell us what you think courage is, and so at once set us free from our perplexity and give your own thoughts the stability of speech. Well, for some time I have been thinking, Socrates, that you two are not defining courage in the right way ; for you are not acting upon an admirable remark which I have formerly heard you make. What is that, Nicias? I have often heard you say that every man is good in that wherein he is wise, and bad in that wherein he is unlearned.
Well, that is true, Nicias, I must say. And hence, if the brave man is good, clearly he must be wise.
Do you hear him, Laches? I do, without understanding very well what he says. Ov8e jjLrjv rj KidapicmK'q. Hpos rt tovt emes fiAeipas', oj Adxys; aa. But I think I understand it : our friend appears to me to mean that courage is a kind of wisdom. What kind of wisdom, Socrates?
Well, will you put that question to your friend here? Come now, tell him, Nicias, what kind of wisdom courage may be, by your account. Not that, I presume, of flute-playing. Not at all. Nor yet that of harping. Oh, no. But what is this knowledge then, or of what? I must say you question him quite correctly, Socrates, so let him just tell us what he thinks it is. I say, Laches, that it is this — the knowledge of what is to be dreaded or dared, either in war or in anything else.
How strangely he talks, Socrates! What is it that makes you say that, Laches? What is it? Why, surely wisdom is distinct from courage. Well, Nicias denies that. He does indeed, to be sure : that is where he just babbles. Then let us instruct and not abuse him. No, it seems to me, Socrates, that Laches wants to have it proved that I am talking nonsense, because he was proved a moment ago to be in the same case himself. Quite so, Nicias, and I will try to make it evident. Kat yap Xeyet yd rt, ov ptevrot dXrjOes ye. Tlcbs Stj; Nl. Otfxai eycoye rovro ye. Ovk eycoye. Or do you suppose that the courageous know this?
Or do you call doctors courageous? No, not at all. Nor, I fancy, farmers either. And yet they, I presume, know what is to be dreaded in farming, and every other skilled worker knows what is to be dreaded and dared in his own craft ; but they are none the more courageous for that. What is Laches saying, in your opinion, Nicias? There does seem to be something in it. Yes, there is something, only it is not true. How so? Because he thinks that doctors know some- thing more, in treating sick persons, than how to tell what is healthy and what diseased.
This, I imagine, is all that they know : but to tell whether health itself is to be dreaded by anyone rather than sickness, — do you suppose, Laches, that this is within a doctor's knowledge? Do you not think that for many it is better that they should never arise from their bed of sickness? Pray tell me, do you say that in every case it is better to live? Is it not often preferable to be dead? I do think that is so. And do you think that the same things are to be dreaded by those who were better dead, as by those who had better live? No, I do not. Well, do you attribute the judgement of this matter to doctors or to any other skilled worker except him who has knowledge of what is to be dreaded and what is not — the man whom I call courageous?
Do you comprehend his meaning, Laches? I do : it seems to be the seers whom he calls the courageous : for who else can know for which of us it is better to be alive than dead? And yet, Nicias, do you avow yourself to be a seer, or to be neither a seer nor courageous? Is it now a seer, think you, who has the gift of judging what is to be dreaded and what to be dared? That is my view : who else could it be? Much rather the man of whom I speak, my dear sir : for the seer's business is to judge only the signs of what is yet to come — whether a man is to meet with death or disease or loss of property, or victory or defeat in war or some other contest ; but what is better among these things for a man to suffer or avoid suffering, can surely be no more for a seer to decide than for anyone else in the world.
Well, I fail to follow him, Socrates, or to see what he is driving at ; for he points out that neither a seer nor a doctor nor anybody else is the man he refers to as the courageous, unless perchance he means it is some god. Now it appears to me that Nicias is unwilling to admit honestly that he has no meaning at all, but dodges this way and that in the hope of concealing his own perplexity.
Why, you and I could have dodged in the same way just now, if we wished to avoid the appearance of contra- dicting ourselves. Of course, if we were arguing in a law-court, there would be some reason for so doing ; but here, in a meeting like this of ours, why waste time in adorning oneself with empty words? Haw fxev ovv. Tovro he ov Travros 8r elvat dvopos yvwvai, dirore ye firjre larpog fxrjre fxavris avro yvwaerdt fjurjoe dvopeios earai, edv fir avrrjv ravrrjv rr v emarr fir]v TTpoaXafirj- ovx ovrcos eXeyeg; NI.
Ovra fxev ovv. So let us ask him to explain more clearly what is in his mind ; and if we find that he means something, we will agree with him ; if not, we will instruct him. Then, Socrates, if you would like to ask him, please do so : I daresay I have done enough asking. Well, I see no objection, since the question will be on behalf of us both. Very well, then. Now tell me, Nicias, or rather, tell us — for Laches and I are sharing the argument between us — do you say that courage is knowledge of what is to be dreaded or dared?
And that it is not every man that knows it. This was your statement, was it not? I say this not in jest, but because I conceive it is necessary for him who states this theory to refuse courage to any wild beast, or else to admit that a beast like a lion or a leopard or even a boar is so wise as to know what only a few men know because it is so hard to per- ceive.
Heavens, Socrates, how admirably you argue! Now answer us sincerely, Nicias, and say whether those animals, which we all admit to be courageous, are wiser than we are ; or whether you dare, in contradiction of everyone else, describe them as not even courageous. No, Laches, I do not describe animals, or anything else that from thoughtlessness has no fear of the dreadful, as courageous, but rather as fearless and foolish. Or do you suppose I describe all children as courageous, that have no fear because they are thoughtless? I rather hold that the fearless and the courageous are not the same thing.
In my opinion very few people are endowed with courage and forethought, while rashness, boldness, and fear- lessness, with no forethought to guide it, are found in a great number of men, women, children, and animals. So you see, the acts that you and most people call courageous, I call rash, and it is the prudent acts which I speak of that are courageous.
Mark you, Socrates, how finely, as he fancies, my friend decks himself out with his words! And how he attempts to deprive of the distinction of courage those whom everyone admits to be courageous! I will not say what I could say in answer to that, lest you call me a true son of Aexone. Ucos yap ov; 2ft. No, say nothing, Laches : for in fact you seem to me to have failed to perceive that he has acquired his wisdom from Damon, our good friend ; and Damon constantly associates with Prodicus, who is supposed to be the cleverest of the sophists at distinguishing terms like these.
Yes, for it is more suitable, Socrates, for a sophist to make a show of such refinements than for a man whom the State thinks worthy to govern her. Indeed it is suitable, I presume, my amiable friend, for a man in the highest seat of government to be gifted with the highest degree of wisdom. But it seems to me that Nicias is worthy of further attention, so that we may learn in what connexion he uses this word " courage.
Then attend to him yourself, Socrates. That is what I propose to do, my good sir : still, you are not to think that I will release you from your due share of the argument. No, you must put your mind to it and join in weighing well what is said. Well, so be it, if you think that I ought. Indeed I do. Now, Nicias, please go back to the beginning 1 and answer us : you know we started our discussion by considering courage as a part of virtue?
And you joined in this answer, — that it is a part, there being also other parts, which taken all together have received the name of virtue? Why, of course. Now, do you mean the same as I do by these? Besides courage, I refer to temperance, justice, and other similar qualities. And you also, do you not? Certainly I do. So much for that ; thus far we agree : but let us pass on to what is to be dreaded and what to be dared, and make sure that you and we do not take two different views of these.
Let me tell you our view of them, and if you do not agree with it, you shall instruct us. We hold that the dreadful are things that cause fear, and the safely ventured are those that do not ; and fear is caused not by past or present, but by expected evils : for fear is ex- pectation of coming evil.
You are of the same mind with us in this, are you not, Laches? Yes, entirely so, Socrates. So there you have our view, Nicias, — that coming evils are to be dreaded, and things not evil, or good things, that are to come are to be safely dared. Would you describe them in this way, or in some other r Nic. I would describe them in this way. And the knowledge of these things is what you term courage? There is still a third point on winch we must see if you are in agreement with us. What point is that? I will tell you. It seems to your friend and me that, to take the various subjects of knowledge, there is not one knowledge of how a thing has happened in the past, another of how things are happening in the present, and another of how a thing that has not yet happened might or will happen most favourably in the future, but it is the same knowledge throughout.
IlaVf ye. And in matters of war I am sure you yourselves will bear me out when I say that here generalship makes the best forecasts on the whole, and particularly of future results, and is the mistress rather than the servant of the seer's art. May we say this, Laches?
We may. Well now, do you agree with us, Nicias, that the same knowledge has comprehension of the same things, whether future, present, or past? I do, for that is my own opinion, Socrates. And courage, my good friend, is knowledge of what is to be dreaded and dared, as you say, do you not? And things to be dreaded and things to be dared have been admitted to be either future goods or future evils? And the same knowledge is concerned with the same things, whether in the future or in any particular stage?
That is so. Then courage is knowledge not merely of what is to be dreaded and what dared, for it com- prehends goods and evils not merely in the future, but also in the present and the past and in any stage, like the other kinds of knowledge. Ovk eoiKev. So the answer that you gave us, Nicias, covers only about a third part of courage ; whereas our question was of what courage is as a whole.
And now it appears, on your own showing, that courage is knowledge not merely of what is to be dreaded and what dared, but practically a knowledge con- cerning all goods and evils at every stage ; such is your present account of what courage must be. What do you say to this new version, Nicias? I accept it, Socrates. Now do you think, my excellent friend, there could be anything wanting to the virtue of a man who knew all good things, and all about their pro- duction in the present, the future, and the past, and all about evil things likewise?
Do you suppose that such a man could be lacking in temperance, or justice, and holiness, when he alone has the gift of taking due precaution, in his dealings with gods and men, as regards what is to be dreaded and what is not, and of procuring good things, owing to his knowledge of the right behaviour towards them? I think, Socrates, there is something in what you say. Hence what you now describe, Nicias, will be not a part but the whole of virtue.www.compagnieasphalte.com/images/hagujen/3029.php
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But, you know, we said that courage is one of the parts of virtue. Yes, we did. And what we now describe is seen to be different. Thus we have failed to discover, Nicias, what courage really is. And I, in fact, supposed, my dear Nicias, that you were going to discover it, when you showed such contempt for the answers I made to Socrates : indeed I had very great hopes that the wisdom you derived from Damon would avail you for the dis- covery. That is all very fine, Laches ; you think you can now make light of the fact that you were your- self shown just now to know nothing about courage ; when my turn comes to be shown up in the same light, that is all you care, and now it will not matter to you at all, it seems, if I share your ignorance of things whereof any self-respecting man ought to have know- ledge.
You really strike me, indeed, as following the average man's practice of keeping an eye on others rather than on oneself : but I fancy that for the present I have said as much as could be expected on the subject of our discussion, and that later on I must make good any defects in my statement upon it with the help of Damon — whom I know you choose to ridicule, and that without ever having seen the actual Damon — and with others' help besides. And when I have settled the matter I will enlighten you, in no grudging spirit : for I think you are in very great need of instruction.
You are a man of wisdom, I know, Nicias. But still I advise Lysimachus here and Melesias to dismiss you and me, and to retain our friend Socrates as I said at first, for the education of your boys : were my own sons old enough, I should do the same thing too. Kal rjfxeis ovv 1 Od. For my part I agree ; if Socrates will consent to take charge of these young people. I will seek for no one else. I should be only too glad to entrust him with Niceratus. Just see, Lysimachus, if Socrates will give you a more favourable hearing.
It is only right that he should, Nicias, for indeed I would be willing to do many things for him which I would not do for a great many others. Well, what do you say, Socrates? Will you comply, and lend your endeavours for the highest improve- ment of these boys? Why, how strange it would be, Lysimachus, to refuse to lend one's endeavours for the highest improvement of anybody! Now if in the debates that we have just held I had been found to know what our two friends did not know, it would be right to make a point of inviting me to take up this work : but as it is, we have all got into the same difficulty, so why should one of us be preferred to another?
In my own opinion, none of us should ; and this being so, perhaps you will allow me to give you a piece of advice. I tell you. And if anyone makes fun of us for seeing fit to go to school at our time of life, I think we should appeal to Homer, who said that " shame is no good mate for a needy man. I gladly approve of your suggestion, Socrates ; and as I am the oldest, so I am the most eager to have lessons with the young ones. Now this is what I ask you to do : come to my house to-morrow at daybreak ; be sure not to fail, and then we shall consult on this very matter.
For the present, let us break up our meeting. I will not fail, Lysimachus, to come to you to-morrow, God willing. After an intro- ductory scene, in which the excitement of ardent young spirits over the arrival of a great intellectual personage leads quickly to the setting of the stage for the main business of the plot, we are shown Socrates in respectful but keenly critical contact with the first and most eminent of the itinerant professors of a new culture or enlightenment.
On the other side we see the old and celebrated teacher displaying his various abilities with weight and credit, but with limitations which increasingly suggest that his light is waning before the fresh and more searching flame of Socratic inquiry.
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The drama is philosophic in the fullest sense, not merely owing to this animated controversy and its develop- ment of a great moral theme, — the acquisition of virtue, but because we are made to feel that behind or above the actual human disputants are certain principles and modes of thought, which hold a high and shadowy debate, as it were, of their own in the dimness of what is as yet unexamined and un- explained.
This dialogue is, indeed, a work of profoundly suggestive art, and our first duty is to observe and comprehend as clearly as may be the persons in the play and the interaction of their salient thoughts and feelings. Protagoras was the founder of a popular culture which aimed at presenting the highest lessons of the poets, thinkers, and artists of the preceding age in a convenient form for the needs of the rising generation of Greek statesmen, — a form also that should be marketable, for he invented the trade of the professional educator, and was the first to charge a regular fee for the wisdom or skill that he imparted.
His own chief accomplishment was impressive declamation on moral and political themes : he was prone, as we find in this interview, to a somewhat lengthy style of exposition, and correspondingly loth to undergo the mental strain of being cross-examined by Socrates. No attempt is made here to tease or bait him.
The Sophists (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
It is clear enough, without the express statement made in the Republic x. But he did not stop to think out the bases of his teaching ; and the immediate interest of the dialogue consists largely in watching the succession of strokes by which Socrates, a younger 1 and subtler advocate of the same cause, 1 At the time of this meeting just before the Pelopon- nesian War, in b. Socrates would be 36 years old, and Alcibiades In the stately myth by which Protagoras unfolds his theory of the origin of human society and morals, Plato gives us a carefully wrought imitation of the professor's favourite method and style.
It is an eloquent substantiation of the common -sense view that virtue can be taught; and fidelity in characterization seems to have prompted Plato to attribute to the old sophist some principles which are more than ordinarily enlightened. In particular we may notice his account of the beginning of governments , and his appeal for the curative and preventive use of punishment And later on, while he totters defenceless under the force and acuteness of Socrates' questions, we find him objecting — and it was soon to be Plato's own opinion — that it is rash to regard all pleasure as good Plato, in fact, appears to be more intent on exhibiting the impetuous energy and superior skill with which Socrates could on occasion upset an experienced teacher and famous scholar, than on impressing us with the correctness of this or that theory which the younger man may snatch up and fling at the professor's head in the momentary sport or heat of the contest.
The ex- planation which Socrates propounds of the poem of Simonides is obviously a mocking satire on certain sophistic performances ; but he is no less obviously serious, for the purpose in hand, when he makes his statement on the relation of virtue to pleasure. Among the many minor interests attaching to this vivid picture of the intellectual life of Athens in the latter part of the fifth century, the appropriate style given in each case to the utterances of Prot- agoras, Prodicus, and Hippias deserves attention for the evidence thus afforded of a deliberate cultivation of prose-form at that time.
Plato has left us a less sympathetic but similarly interesting study of Protagoras' manner of speech in his later work, the Tkeaetetus. The following brief outline of the discussion may be useful : — I. Socrates tells his unnamed friend that he and Alcibiades have just been con- versing with Protagoras, and describes how his young friend Hippocrates had announced to him the great sophist's arrival in Athens, and how, after questioning Hippocrates on his design of learning from the sophist, he proceeded with him to the house of Callias, with whom Protagoras was staying.
They found there not only Protagoras but the learned Hippias and Prodicus also, and many followers and disciples who had assembled to hear their discourses. Protagoras explains the purpose of his teaching: he will educate Hippocrates in politics and citizenship. Socrates raises the question whether virtue can be taught.
It illustrates his doctrine that virtue can be taught, both by individuals and by the State. Socrates cross - examines Prot- agoras : 1 Is each of the virtues a part of virtue, or only a different name for the same thing? Socrates makes as if to go : he will only stay if Protagoras will keep to the method of question and answer. At the request of Callias, Alcibiades, Critias, Prodicus and Hippias he agrees to stay and be questioned by Protagoras, after which Protagoras will be questioned by him.
Socrates is cross-examined by Protagoras on the meaning of a poem of Simonides, and tries to save the consistency of the poet, which Protagoras impugns, by distinguishing between " being good " and " becoming good " ; he also sug- gests a peculiar significance of words in Ceos the native place of the poet and of Prodicus, whose verbal learning he satirizes with some pedantic nonsense.
He then gives his own explanation of the poem, which he holds to have been written to refute a saying of Pittacus an Ionian sage of the latter part of the seventh century B. Alcibiades and Callias prevail on Protagoras, rather against his will, to be questioned by Socrates as to whether wisdom, tem- perance, courage, justice and holiness are all the same thing, or different parts of virtue. Protagoras singles out courage as distinct from the rest.
When Socrates argues that it is the same as wisdom, Protagoras objects to his reasoning, and Socrates starts on a new line : Is not pleasure, viewed apart from its consequences, the same as the good? To be overcome by pleasure is merely to choose the less instead of the greater good, through ignorance ; and pleasure being good, every action must be good that has pleasure as its object.
The coward who will not fight when he ought is suffering from an ignorant misconception of what lies before him, so that courage must be knowledge. A good modern edition of the Protagoras is that by J. Adam, Cambridge University Press, Tt ovv to. Where have you been now, Socrates?
Ah, but of course you have been in chase of Alcibiades and his youthful beauty! Well, only the other day, as I looked at him, I thought him still handsome as a man — for a man he is, Socrates, between you and me, and with quite a growth of beard. And what of that? Do you mean to say you do not approve of Homer, 1 who said that youth has highest grace in him whose beard is appearing, as now in the case of Alcibiades?
Then how is the affair at present? Have you been with him just now? And how is the young man treating you? Quite well. I considered, and especially so to- day : for he spoke a good deal on my side, supporting me in a discussion — in fact I have only just left him. However, there is a strange thing I have to tell you : 1 Iliad, xxiv. Kat ttoXv ye. Sep a. Kat aprt dpa eKelva avyyeyovcos rjKeis; 2n. Why, what can have happened between you and him?
Something serious! For surely you did not find anyone else of greater beauty there, — no, not in our city. Yes, of far greater. What do you say? One of our people, or a foreigner? A foreigner. Of what city? And you found this foreigner so beautiful that he appeared to you of greater beauty than the son of Cleinias?
Why, my good sir, must not the wisest appear more beautiful? Do you mean it was some wise man that you met just now? Nay, rather the wisest of our generation, I may tell you, if " wisest " is what you agree to call Protagoras. Ah, what a piece of news! Protagoras come to town! Yes, two days ago.
And it was his company that you left just now? Yes, and a great deal I said to him, and he to me. Then do let us hear your account of the con- versation at once, if you are disengaged : take my boy's place, 1 and sit here. Very good ; indeed, I shall be obliged to you, if you will listen. Kat firjv Kal rjfieis aoL, edv Xeyrjs.
And we also to you, I assure you, if you will tell us. A twofold obligation. Well now, listen. During this night just past, in the small hours, Hippocrates, son of Apollodorus and brother of Phason, knocked violently at my door with his stick, and when they opened to him he came hurrying in at once and calling to me in a loud voice : Socrates, are you awake, or sleeping? Then I, recognizing his voice, said : Hippocrates, hallo! Some news to break to me? Only good news, he replied. Tell it, and welcome, I said : what is it, and what business brings you here at such an hour?
Protagoras has come, he said, standing at my side. Yes, two days ago, I said : have you only just heard? My boy Satyrus, you see, had run away : I meant to let you know I was going in chase of him, but some other matter put it out of my head. On my return, when we had finished dinner and were about to retire, my brother told me, only then, that Protagoras had come. I made an effort, even at that hour, to get to you at once, but came to the conclusion that it was too late at night. But as soon as I had slept off my fatigue I got up at once and made my way straight here.
Then I. Has Protagoras wronged you? At this he laughed and. Yes, by the gods! But, by Zeus! Would to Zeus and all the gods, he exclaimed, only that were needed! I should not spare either my own pocket or those of my friends. But it is on this very account I have come to you now 7 , to see if you will have a talk with him on my behalf : for one thing, I am too young to do it myself ; and for another, I have never yet seen Protagoras nor heard him speak a word — I was but a child when he paid us his previous visit.
You know, Socrates, how everyone praises the man and tells of his mastery of speech : let us step over to him at once, to make sure of finding him in ; he is staying, so I was told, with Callias, son of Hipponicus. Now, let us be going. To this I replied : We had better not go there yet, my good friend, it is so very early : let us rise and turn into the court here, and spend the time strolling there till daylight comes ; after that we can go.
Protagoras, you see, spends most of his time indoors, so have no fear, we shall find him in all right, most likely. So then we got up and strolled in the court ; and I, to test Hippocrates' grit, began examining him with a few questions. Tell me, Hippocrates, I said, in your present design of going to Protagoras and paying him money as a fee for his services to your- self, to whom do you consider you are resorting, and what is it that you are to become? Suppose, for example, you had taken it into your head to call on your namesake Hippocrates of Cos, the Asclepiad, and pay him money as your personal fee, and suppose someone asked you — Tell me, Hippocrates, in pur- posing to pay a fee to Hippocrates, what do you consider him to be?
How would you answer that? A doctor, he replied. And suppose you had a mind to approach Polycleitus the Argive or Pheidias the Athenian and pay them a personal fee, and somebody asked you — What is it that you consider Polycleitus or Pheidias to be, that you are minded to pay them this money?
What would your answer be to that? Sculptors, I would reply. And what would you intend to become? Obviously, a sculptor. Very well then, I said ; you and I will go now to Protagoras, prepared to pay him money as your fee, from our own means if they are adequate for the purpose of prevailing on him, but if not, then drawing on our friends' resources to make up the sum.
Now if anyone, observing our extreme earnestness in the matter, should ask us, — Pray, Socrates and Hippo- crates, what is it that you take Protagoras to be, when you purpose to pay him money? What should we reply to him? At one time we are in the clouds of mythology, at another among the abstractions of mathematics or metaphysics; we pass imperceptibly from one to the other. Reason and fancy are mingled in the same passage. The ideas are sometimes described as many, coextensive with the universals of sense and also with the first principles of ethics; or again they are absorbed into the single idea of good, and subordinated to it.
They are not more certain than facts, but they are equally certain Phaedo A. They are both personal and impersonal. They are abstract terms: they are also the causes of things; and they are even transformed into the demons or spirits by whose help God made the world. And the idea of good Rep. It would be a mistake to try and reconcile these differing modes of thought. They are not to be regarded seriously as having a distinct meaning. They are parables, prophecies, myths, symbols, revelations, aspirations after an unknown world.
They derive their origin from a deep religious and contemplative feeling, and also from an observation of curious mental phenomena. They gather up the elements of the previous philosophies, which they put together in a new form. Their great diversity shows the tentative character of early endeavours to think. They have not yet settled down into a single system. Plato uses them, though he also criticises them; he acknowledges that both he and others are always talking about them, especially about the Idea of Good; and that they are not peculiar to himself Phaedo B; Rep.
But in his later writings he seems to have laid aside the old forms of them. As he proceeds he makes for himself new modes of expression more akin to the Aristotelian logic. Yet amid all these varieties and incongruities, there is a common meaning or spirit which pervades his writings, both those in which he treats of the ideas and those in which he is silent about them. This is the spirit of idealism, which in the history of philosophy has had many names and taken many forms, and has in a measure influenced those who seemed to be most averse to it.
It has often been charged with inconsistency and fancifulness, and yet has had an elevating effect on human nature, and has exercised a wonderful charm and interest over a few spirits who have been lost in the thought of it. It has been banished again and again, but has always returned. It has attempted to leave the earth and soar heavenwards, but soon has found that only in experience could any solid foundation of knowledge be laid.
It has degenerated into pantheism, but has again emerged. No other knowledge has given an equal stimulus to the mind. It is the science of sciences, which are also ideas, and under either aspect require to be defined. They can only be thought of in due proportion when conceived in relation to one another. They are the glasses through which the kingdoms of science are seen, but at a distance. All the greatest minds, except when living in an age of reaction against them, have unconsciously fallen under their power.
The account of the Platonic ideas in the Meno is the simplest and clearest, and we shall best illustrate their nature by giving this first and then comparing the manner in which they are described elsewhere, e. In the Cratylus they dawn upon him with the freshness of a newly-discovered thought The Meno 81 ff. This is a tradition of the olden time, to which priests and poets bear witness. The souls of men returning to earth bring back a latent memory of ideas, which were known to them in a former state.
The recollection is awakened into life and consciousness by the sight of the things which resemble them on earth. The soul evidently possesses such innate ideas before she has had time to acquire them. He must therefore have brought them with him from another. The notion of a previous state of existence is found in the verses of Empedocles and in the fragments of Heracleitus. What is the origin of evil? It found its way into Hellas probably through the medium of Orphic and Pythagorean rites and mysteries. In the Phaedrus ff. There the Gods, and men following in their train, go forth to contemplate the heavens, and are borne round in the revolutions of them.
There they see the divine forms of justice, temperance, and the like, in their unchangeable beauty, but not without an effort more Edition: current; Page: [ 16 ] than human. The soul of man is likened to a charioteer and two steeds, one mortal, the other immortal. The charioteer and the mortal steed are in fierce conflict; at length the animal principle is finally overpowered, though not extinguished, by the combined energies of the passionate and rational elements. This is one of those passages in Plato which, partaking both of a philosophical and poetical character, is necessarily indistinct and inconsistent.
The magnificent figure under which the nature of the soul is described has not much to do with the popular doctrine of the ideas. In the Phaedo, as in the Meno, the origin of ideas is sought for in a previous state of existence. There was no time when they could have been acquired in this life, and therefore they must have been recovered from another. The process of recovery is no other than the ordinary law of association, by which in daily life the sight of one thing or person recalls another to our minds, and by which in scientific enquiry from any part of knowledge we may be led on to infer the whole.
It is also argued that ideas, or rather ideals, must be derived from a previous state of existence because they are more perfect than the sensible forms of them which are given by experience 74 ff. But in the Phaedo the doctrine of ideas is subordinate to the proof of the immortality of the soul. From this class of uncertainties he exempts the difference between truth and appearance, of which he is absolutely convinced 98 B. In the Republic the ideas are spoken of in two ways, which though not contradictory are different. In the tenth book ff. For example, there is the bed which the carpenter makes, the picture of the bed which is drawn by the painter, the bed existing in nature of which God is the author.
Of the latter all visible beds are only the shadows or reflections. On the other hand, in the 6th and 7th books of the Republic we reach the highest and most perfect conception, which Plato is able to attain, of the nature of knowledge. The ideas are now finally seen to be one as well as many, causes as well as ideas, and to have a unity which is the idea of good and the cause of all the rest.
They seem, however, to have lost their first aspect of universals under which individuals are contained, and to have been converted into forms of another kind, which are inconsistently regarded from the one side as images or ideals of justice, temperance, holiness and the like; from the other as hypotheses, or mathematical truths or principles.
Geometrical forms and arithmetical ratios furnish the laws according to which the world is created. But though the conception of the ideas as genera or species is forgotten or laid aside, the distinction of the visible and intellectual is as firmly maintained as ever 30, The idea of good likewise disappears and is superseded by the conception of a personal God, who works according to a final cause or principle of goodness which he himself is.
No doubt is expressed by Plato, either in the Timaeus or in any other dialogue, of the truths which he conceives to be the first and highest. It is not the existence of God or the idea of good which he approaches in a tentative or hesitating manner, but the investigations of physiology. These he regards, not seriously, as a part of philosophy, but as an innocent recreation Tim. Passing on to the Parmenides — , we find in that dialogue not an exposition or defence of the doctrine of ideas, but an assault upon them, which is put into the mouth of the veteran Parmenides, and might be ascribed to Aristotle himself, or to one of his disciples.
The doctrine which is assailed takes two or three forms, but fails in any of them to escape the dialectical difficulties which are urged against it. It is admitted that there are ideas of all things, but the manner in which individuals partake of them, whether of the whole or of the part, and in which they become like them, or how ideas can be either within or without the sphere of human knowledge, or how the human and divine can have any relation to each other, is held to be incapable of explanation.
And yet, if there are no universal ideas, what becomes of philosophy? Parmenides — In the Philebus, probably one of the latest of the Platonic Dialogues, the conception of a personal or semi-personal deity expressed under the figure of mind, the king of all, who is also the cause, is retained. But they are spoken of in a different manner, and are not supposed to be recovered from a former state of existence. The metaphysical conception of truth passes into a psychological one, which is continued in the Laws, and is the final form of the Platonic philosophy, so far as can be gathered from his own writings see especially Laws v.
In the Laws he harps once more on the old string, and returns to general notions:—these he acknowledges to be many, and yet he insists that they are also one. The guardian must be made to recognize the truth, for which he has contended long ago in the Protagoras, that the virtues are four, Edition: current; Page: [ 19 ] but they are also in some sense one Laws xii. Protagoras So various, and if regarded on the surface only, inconsistent, are the statements of Plato respecting the doctrine of ideas.
If we attempted to harmonize or to combine them, we should make out of them, not a system, but the caricature of a system. The terms used in them are in their substance and general meaning the same, although they seem to be different. They pass from the subject to the object, from earth diesseits to heaven jenseits without regard to the gulf which later theology and philosophy have made between them. They are also intended to supplement or explain each other. The stream of ancient philosophy in the Alexandrian and Roman times widens into a lake or sea, and then disappears underground to reappear after many ages in a distant land.
It begins to flow again under new conditions, at first confined between high and narrow banks, but finally spreading over the continent of Europe. It is and is not the same with ancient philosophy. There is a great deal in modern philosophy which is inspired by ancient. To the fathers of modern philosophy, their own thoughts appeared to be new and original, but they carried with them an echo or shadow of the past, coming back by recollection from an elder world. Of this the enquirers of the seventeenth century, who to themselves appeared to be working out independently the enquiry into all truth, were unconscious.
They stood in a new relation to theology and natural philosophy, and for a time maintained towards both an attitude of reserve and separation. Yet the similarities between modern and ancient thought are greater far than the differences. All philosophy, even that part of it which is Edition: current; Page: [ 20 ] said to be based upon experience, is really ideal; and ideas are not only derived from facts, but they are also prior to them and extend far beyond them, just as the mind is prior to the senses.
Early Greek speculation culminates in the ideas of Plato, or rather in the single idea of good. His followers, and perhaps he himself, having arrived at this elevation, instead of going forwards went backwards from philosophy to psychology, from ideas to numbers. But what we perceive to be the real meaning of them, an explanation of the nature and origin of knowledge, will always continue to be one of the first problems of philosophy.
Plato also left behind him a most potent instrument, the forms of logic—arms ready for use, but not yet taken out of their armoury. They were the late birth of the early Greek philosophy, and were the only part of it which has had an uninterrupted hold on the mind of Europe. Philosophies come and go; but the detection of fallacies, the framing of definitions, the invention of methods still continue to be the main elements of the reasoning process.
Modern philosophy, like ancient, begins with very simple conceptions. It is almost wholly a reflection on self. It might be described as a quickening into life of old words and notions latent in the semi-barbarous Latin, and putting a new meaning into them. Unlike ancient philosophy, it has been unaffected by impressions derived from outward nature: it arose within the limits of the mind itself.
From the time of Descartes to Hume and Kant it has had little or nothing to do with facts of science. On the other hand, the ancient and mediaeval logic retained a continuous influence over it, and a form like that of mathematics was easily impressed upon it; the principle of ancient philosophy which is most apparent in it is scepticism; we must doubt nearly every traditional or received notion, that we may hold fast one or two. The being of God in a personal or impersonal form was a mental necessity to the first thinkers of modern times: from this alone all other ideas could be deduced.
The Eleatic notion that being and thought were the same was revived in a new form by Descartes. The mind naked and abstract has no Edition: current; Page: [ 21 ] other certainty but the conviction of its own existence. It has been often remarked that Descartes, having begun by dismissing all presuppositions, introduces several: he passes almost at once from scepticism to dogmatism. It is more important for the illustration of Plato to observe that he, like Plato, insists that God is true and incapable of deception Rep.
A certain influence of mathematics both on the form and substance of their philosophy is discernible in both of them. After making the greatest opposition between thought and extension, Descartes, like Plato, supposes them to be reunited for a time, not in their own nature but by a special divine act cp. Phaedrus C , and he also supposes all the parts of the human body to meet in the pineal gland, that alone affording a principle of unity in the material frame of man. It is characteristic of the first period of modern philosophy, that having begun like the Presocratics with a few general notions, Des Cartes first falls absolutely under their influence, and then quickly discards them.
At the same time he is less able to observe facts, because they are too much magnified by the glasses through which they are seen. Not very different from Descartes in his relation to ancient philosophy is his successor Spinoza, who lived in the following generation. The system of Spinoza is less personal and also less dualistic than that of Descartes. In this respect the difference between them is like that between Xenophanes and Parmenides. The teaching of Spinoza might be described generally as the Jewish religion reduced to an abstraction and taking the form of the Eleatic philosophy.
Like Parmenides, he is overpowered and intoxicated with the idea of Being or God. The greatness of both philosophies consists in the immensity of a thought which Edition: current; Page: [ 22 ] excludes all other thoughts; their weakness is the necessary separation of this thought from actual existence and from practical life. In neither of them is there any clear opposition between the inward and outward world. The substance of Spinoza has two attributes, which alone are cognizable by man, thought and extension; these are in extreme opposition to one another, and also in inseparable identity.
They may be regarded as the two aspects or expressions under which God or substance is unfolded to man. Here a step is made beyond the limits of the Eleatic philosophy. Human beings are included in the number of them. Hence there is no reality in human action and no place for right and wrong. Individuality is accident. The boasted freedom of the will is only a consciousness of necessity.
In the exaltation of the reason or intellect, in the denial of the voluntariness of evil Timaeus 86 C, D; Laws, ix. As Socrates said that virtue is knowledge, so Spinoza would have maintained that knowledge alone is good and what contributes to knowledge useful. Both are equally far from any real experience or observation of nature.
And the same difficulty is found in both when we seek to apply their ideas to life and practice. There is a gulf fixed between the infinite substance and finite objects or individuals of Spinoza, just as there is between the ideas of Plato and the world of sense. Removed from Spinoza by less than a generation is the philosopher Leibnitz, who after deepening and intensifying the opposition between mind and matter, reunites them by his preconcerted harmony cp.
To him all the particles of matter are living beings which reflect on one another, and in the least of them the whole is contained. In Bacon and Locke we have another development in which the mind of man is supposed to receive knowledge by a new method and to work by observation and experience. But we may remark that it is the idea of experience, rather than experience itself, with which the mind is filled. It is a symbol of knowledge rather than the reality which is vouchsafed to us.
The Organon of Bacon is not much nearer to actual facts than the Organon of Aristotle or the Platonic idea of good. Many of the old rags and ribbons which defaced the garment of philosophy have been stripped off, but some of them still adhere. And on the other hand, there are many passages of Plato in which the importance of the investigation of facts is as much insisted upon as by Bacon.
Both are almost equally superior to the illusions of language, and are constantly crying out against them, as against other idols. Locke cannot be truly regarded as the author of sensationalism any more than of idealism. His system is based upon experience, but with him experience includes reflection as well as sense.
For objects of sense he would substitute sensations. He imagines himself to have changed the relation of the human mind towards God and nature; they remain the same as before, though he has drawn the imaginary line by which they are divided at a different point. He has annihilated the outward world, but it instantly reappears governed by the same laws and described under the same names.
A like remark applies to David Hume, of whose philosophy the central principle is the denial of the relation of cause and effect. He would deprive men of a familiar term which they can ill afford to lose; but he seems not to have observed that this alteration is merely verbal and does not in any degree affect the nature of things. Still less did he remark that he was arguing from the necessary imperfection of language against the most certain facts. And here, again, we may find a parallel with the ancients.
He goes beyond facts in his scepticism, as they did in Edition: current; Page: [ 24 ] their idealism. Like the ancient Sophists, he relegates the more important principles of ethics to custom and probability. But crude and unmeaning as this philosophy is, it exercised a great influence on his successors, not unlike that which Locke exercised upon Berkeley and Berkeley upon Hume himself. All three were both sceptical and ideal in almost equal degrees.
Neither they nor their predecessors had any true conception of language or of the history of philosophy. Like some other philosophical paradoxes, it would have been better left to die out. The question which Plato has raised respecting the origin and nature of ideas belongs to the infancy of philosophy; in modern times it would no longer be asked.
Their origin is only their history, so far as we know it; there can be no other. We may attempt to shake them off, but they are always returning, and in every sphere of science and human action are tending to go beyond facts. They are thought to be innate, because they have been familiar to us all our lives, and we can no longer dismiss them from our mind. We are not such free agents in the use of them as we sometimes imagine.
Fixed ideas have taken the most complete possession of some thinkers who have been most determined to renounce them, and have been vehemently affirmed when they could be least explained and were incapable of proof. The world has often been led away by a word to which no distinct meaning could be attached. Few students of theology or philosophy have sufficiently reflected how quickly the bloom of a philosophy passes away; or how hard it is for one age to understand the writings of another; or how nice a judgment is required of those who are seeking to express the philosophy of one age in the terms of another.
In our own day schools or systems of philosophy which have once been famous have died before the founders of them. And we seem to see at a distance the promise of such a method, which can hardly be any other than the method of idealized experience, having roots which strike far down into the history of philosophy. It is a method which does not divorce the present from the past, or the part from the whole, or the abstract from the concrete, or theory from fact, or the divine from the human, or one science from another, but labours to connect them.
Along such a road we have proceeded a few steps, sufficient, perhaps, to make us reflect on the want of method which prevails in our own day. Can you tell me, Socrates, whether virtue is acquired by teaching or by practice; or if neither by teaching nor by practice, then whether it comes to man by nature, or in what other way?
O Meno, there was a time when the Thessalians were famous among the other Hellenes only for their riches and their riding; but now, if I am not mistaken, they are equally famous for their wisdom, especially at Larisa, which is the native city of your friend Aristippus. And he has taught you the habit of answering questions in a grand and bold style, which becomes those who know, and is the style in which he himself answers all comers; and any Jowett 71 Hellene who likes may ask him anything.
How different is our lot! Here at Athens there is a dearth of the commodity, and all wisdom seems to have emigrated from us to you. For I literally do not know what virtue is, and much less whether it is acquired by teaching or not. How, if I knew nothing at all of Meno, could I tell if he was fair, or the opposite of fair; rich and noble, or the reverse of rich and noble? Do you think that I could? No, indeed. But are you in earnest, Socrates, in saying that you do not know what virtue is?
And am I to carry back this report of you to Thessaly? Not only that, my dear boy, but you may say further that I have never known of any one else who did, in my judgment. I have not a good memory, Meno, and therefore I cannot now tell what I thought of him at the time. And I dare say that he did know, and that you know what he said: please, therefore, to remind me of what he said; or, if you would rather, tell me your own view; for I suspect that you and he think much alike. Then as he is not here, never mind him, and do you tell me: By the gods, Meno, be generous, and tell me what you say that virtue is; for I shall be truly delighted to find that I have been mistaken, and that you and Gorgias do really have this knowledge; although I have been just saying that I have never found anybody who had.
There will be no difficulty, Socrates, in answering your question. Let us take first the virtue of a man—he should know how to administer the state, and in the administration of it to benefit his friends and harm his enemies; and he must also be careful not to suffer harm himself.
Every age, every condition of life, young or old, male or female, bond or free, has a different virtue: there are virtues numberless, Jowett 72 and no lack of definitions of them; for virtue is relative Edition: current; Page: [ 29 ] to the actions and ages of each of us in all that we do. And the same may be said of vice, Socrates 1. How fortunate I am, Meno! When I ask you for one virtue, you present me with a swarm of them 2 which are in your keeping. Suppose that I carry on the figure of the swarm, and ask of you, What is the nature of the bee?
How would you answer me? And if I went on to say: That is what I desire to know, Meno; tell me what is the quality in which they do not differ, but are all alike; would you be able to answer? I am beginning to understand; but I do not as yet take hold of the question as I could wish. When you say, Meno, that there is one virtue of a man, another of a woman, another of a child, and so on, does this apply only to virtue, or would you say the same of health, and size, and strength?
Or is the nature of health always the same, whether in man or woman? And is not this true of size and strength? If a woman is strong, she will be strong by reason of the same form and of the same strength subsisting in her which there is in the man. I mean to say that strength, as strength, whether of man or woman, is the same. Is there any difference? And will not virtue, as virtue, be the same, whether Jowett 73 in a child or in a grown-up person, in a woman or in an man?
I cannot help feeling, Socrates, that this case is different from the others. But why? Were you not saying that the virtue of a man was to order a state, and the virtue of a woman was to order a house? And can either house or state or anything be well ordered without temperance and without justice? Then they who order a state or a house temperately or justly order them with temperance and justice? Then both men and women, if they are to be good men and women, must have the same virtues of temperance and justice?
And can either a young man or an elder one be good, if they are intemperate and unjust? Then all men are good in the same way, and by participation in the same virtues? And they surely would not have been good in the same way, unless their virtue had been the same? Then now that the sameness of all virtue has been proven, try and remember what you and Gorgias say that virtue is. If you want to have one definition of them all, I know not what to say, but that virtue is the power of governing mankind.
And does this definition of virtue include all virtue? Edition: current; Page: [ 31 ] Is virtue the same in a child and in a slave, Meno? Can the child govern his father, or the slave his master; and would he who governed be any longer a slave? I think not, Socrates. No, indeed; there would be small reason in that.
Quite right; and that is just what I am saying about virtue—that there are other virtues as well as justice. Jowett 74 What are they? Courage and temperance and wisdom and magnanimity are virtues; and there are many others. Yes, Meno; and again we are in the same case: in searching after one virtue we have found many, though not in the same way as before; but we have been unable to find the common virtue which runs through them all.
Why, Socrates, even now I am not able to follow you in the attempt to get at one common notion of virtue as of other things. No wonder; but I will try to get nearer if I can, for you know that all things have a common notion. Suppose now that some one asked you the question which I asked before: Meno, he would say, what is figure? And if he proceeded to ask, What other figures are there?
And if he similarly asked what colour is, and you answered whiteness, and the questioner rejoined, Would you say that whiteness is colour or a colour? And if he had said, Tell me what they are? And suppose that he were to pursue the matter in my way, he would say: Ever and anon we are landed in particulars, but this is not what I want; tell me then, since you call them by a common name, and say that they are all figures, even when opposed to one another, what is that common nature which you designate as figure—which contains straight as well as round, and is no more one than the other—that would be your mode of speaking?
And in speaking thus, you do not mean to say that the round is round any more than straight, or the straight any more straight than round? You only assert that the round figure is not more a figure than the straight, or the straight than the round? To what then do we give the name of figure? Try and answer.
Could you not answer that question, Meno? I wish that you would try; the attempt will be good practice with a view to the answer about virtue. Well, I will try and explain to you what figure is. What do you say to this answer? Will you be satisfied with it, as I am sure that I should be, if you would let me have a similar definition of virtue? But if a person were to say that he does not know what colour is, any more than what figure is—what sort of answer would you have given him?
I should have told him the truth. And if he were a philosopher of the eristic and antagonistic sort, I should say to him: You have my answer, and if I am wrong, your business is to take up the argument and refute me. And this is the way in which I shall endeavour to approach you. You will acknowledge, will you not, that there is such a thing as an end, or termination, or extremity? Jowett 76 And you would speak of a surface and also of a solid, as for example in geometry. Well then, you are now in a condition to understand Edition: current; Page: [ 34 ] my definition of figure.
I define figure to be that in which the solid ends; or, more concisely, the limit of solid. A man who was blindfolded has only to hear you talking, and he would know that you are a fair creature and have still many lovers. Why, because you always speak in imperatives: like all beauties when they are in their prime, you are tyrannical; and also, as I suspect, you have found out that I have a weakness for the fair, and therefore to humour you I must answer. Would you like me to answer you after the manner of Gorgias, which is familiar to you?
Do not he and you and Empedocles say that there are certain effluences of existence? And some of the effluences fit into the passages, and some of them are too small or too large? Why, yes, because it happens to be one which you have been in the habit of hearing: and your wit will have Edition: current; Page: [ 35 ] discovered, I suspect, that you may explain in the same way the nature of sound and smell, and of many other similar phenomena. The answer, Meno, was in the orthodox solemn vein, and therefore was more acceptable to you than the other answer about figure.
And yet, O son of Alexidemus, I cannot help thinking that the other was the better; and I am sure that you would be of the same opinion, if you would only stay and be initiated, and were not compelled, as you said yesterday, to go away before the mysteries. But I will stay, Socrates if you will give me many Jowett 77 such answers. Well then, for my own sake as well as for yours, I will do my very best; but I am afraid that I shall not be able to give you very many as good: and now, in your turn, you are to fulfil your promise, and tell me what virtue is in the universal; and do not make a singular into a plural, as the facetious say of those who break a thing, but deliver virtue to me whole and sound, and not broken into a number of pieces: I have given you the pattern.
Well then, Socrates, virtue, as I take it, is when he, who desires the honourable, is able to provide it for himself; so the poet says, and I say too—. Then are there some who desire the evil and others who desire the good? Do not all men, my dear sir, desire good? Do you mean that they think the evils which they desire, to be good; or do they know that they are evil and yet desire them?
And do you really imagine, Meno, that a man knows evils to be evils and desires them notwithstanding? And does he think that the evils will do good to him who possesses them, or does he know that they will do him harm? There are some who think that the evils will do them good, and others who know that they will do them harm. And, in your opinion, do those who think that they will do them good know that they are evils? Is it not obvious that those who are ignorant of their nature do not desire them; but they desire what they suppose to be goods although they are really evils; and if they are mistaken and suppose the evils to be goods they really desire goods?
Well, and do those who, as you say, desire evils, and think that evils are hurtful to the possessor of them, know that they will be hurt by them? And must they not suppose that those who are hurt Jowett 78 are miserable in proportion to the hurt which is inflicted upon them? But if there is no one who desires to be miserable, there is no one, Meno, who desires evil; for what is misery but the desire and possession of evil? That appears to be the truth, Socrates, and I admit that nobody desires evil.
And yet, were you not saying just now that virtue is the desire and power of attaining good? But if this be affirmed, then the desire of good is common to all, and one man is no better than another in that respect? And if one man is not better than another in desiring good, he must be better in the power of attaining it? Then, according to your definition, virtue would appear to be the power of attaining good? I entirely approve, Socrates, of the manner in which you now view this matter. Then let us see whether what you say is true from another point of view; for very likely you may be right:—You affirm virtue to be the power of attaining goods?
And the goods which you mean are such as health and wealth and the possession of gold and silver, and having office and honour in the state—those are what you would call goods? Then, according to Meno, who is the hereditary friend of the great king, virtue is the power of getting silver and gold; and would you add that they must be gained piously, justly, or do you deem this to be of no consequence? And is any mode of acquisition, even if unjust or dishonest, equally to be deemed virtue? Then justice or temperance or holiness, or some other part of virtue, as would appear, must accompany the acquisition, and without them the mere acquisition of good will not be virtue.
And the non-acquisition of gold and silver in a dishonest manner for oneself or another, or in other words the want of them, may be equally virtue? Then the acquisition of such goods is no more virtue than the non-acquisition and want of them, but whatever is accompanied by justice or honesty is virtue, and whatever Jowett 79 is devoid of justice is vice. And were we not saying just now that justice, temperance, and the like, were each of them a part of virtue? Why, because I asked you to deliver virtue into my hands whole and unbroken, and I gave you a pattern according to which you were to frame your answer; and you have forgotten already, and tell me that virtue is the power of attaining good justly, or with justice; and justice you acknowledge to be a part of virtue.
Then it follows from your own admissions, that virtue is doing what you do with a part of virtue; for justice and the like are said by you to be parts of virtue. What of that! Why, did not I ask you to tell me the nature of virtue as a whole? And you are very far from telling me this; but declare every action to be virtue which is done with a part of virtue; as though you had told me and I must already know the whole of virtue, and this too when frittered away into little pieces.
And, therefore, my dear Meno, I fear that I must begin again and repeat the same question: What is virtue? Ought I not to ask the question over again; for can any one who does not know virtue know a part of virtue? Do you remember how, in the example of figure, we rejected any answer given in terms which were as yet unexplained or unadmitted?
But then, my friend, do not suppose that we can explain to any one the nature of virtue as a whole through some unexplained portion of virtue, or anything at all in that fashion; we should only have to ask over again the old question, What is virtue? Am I not right? Then begin again, and answer me, What, according to you and your friend Gorgias, is the definition of virtue?
And if I may venture to make a jest upon you, you seem to me both in your appearance and in your power over others to be very like the flat torpedo fish, who torpifies those who come near him and touch him, as you have now torpified me, I think. For my soul and my tongue are really torpid, and I do not know how to answer you; and though I have been delivered of an infinite variety of speeches about virtue before now, and to many persons—and very good ones they were, as I thought—at this moment I cannot even say what virtue is.
And I think that you are very wise in not voyaging and going away from home, for if you did in other places as you do in Athens, you would be cast into prison as a magician. In order that I might make another simile about you. For I know that all pretty young gentlemen like to have pretty similes made about them—as well they may—but I shall not return the compliment. As to my being a torpedo, if the torpedo is torpid as well as the cause of torpidity in others, then indeed I am a torpedo, but not otherwise; for I perplex others, not because I am clear, but because I am utterly perplexed myself.
And now I know not what virtue is, and you seem to be in the same case, although you did once perhaps know before you touched me. However, I have no objection to join with you in the enquiry. And how will you enquire, Socrates, into that which you do not know? What will you put forth as the subject of enquiry? And if you find what you want, how will you ever know that this is the thing which you did not know?
I know, Meno, what you mean; but just see what a tiresome dispute you are introducing. You argue that Edition: current; Page: [ 40 ] a man cannot enquire either about that which he knows, or about that which he does not know; for if he knows, he has no need to enquire; and if not, he cannot; for he does not know the very subject about which he is to enquire 1.
Well, Socrates, and is not the argument sound? Jowett I will tell you why: I have heard from certain wise men and women who spoke of things divine that—. Some of them were priests and priestesses, who had studied how they might be able to give a reason of their profession: there have been poets also, who spoke of these things by inspiration, like Pindar, and many others who were inspired. And they say—mark, now, and see whether their words are true—they say that the soul of man is immortal, and at one time has an end, which is termed dying, and at another time is born again, but is never destroyed.
And the moral is, that a man ought to live always in perfect holiness. And therefore we ought not to listen to this sophistical argument about the impossibility of enquiry: for it will make us idle, and is sweet only to the Edition: current; Page: [ 41 ] sluggard; but the other saying will make us active and inquisitive. In that confiding, I will gladly enquire with you into the nature of virtue.
Yes, Socrates; but what do you mean by saying that we do not learn, and that what we call learning is only a process of recollection? Can you teach me how this is? I told you, Meno, just now that you were a rogue, and now you ask whether I can teach you, when I am saying that Jowett 82 there is no teaching, but only recollection; and thus you imagine that you will involve me in a contradiction. Indeed, Socrates, I protest that I had no such intention. I only asked the question from habit; but if you can prove to me that what you say is true, I wish that you would.
It will be no easy matter, but I will try to please you to the utmost of my power. Suppose that you call one of your numerous attendants, that I may demonstrate on him. Attend now to the questions which I ask him, and observe whether he learns of me or only remembers. And these lines which I have drawn through the middle of the square are also equal? And if one side of the figure be of two feet, and the other side be of two feet, how much will the whole be?
Let me explain: if in one direction the space was of two feet, and in the other direction of one foot, the whole would be of two feet taken once? And might there not be another square twice as large as this, and having like this the lines equal? And now try and tell me the length of the line which forms the side of that double square: this is two feet—what will that be?
Do you observe, Meno, that I am not teaching the boy anything, but only asking him questions; and now he fancies that he knows how long a line is necessary in order to produce a figure of eight square feet; does he not? Observe him while he recalls the steps in regular order.
ELENCHUS IN THE TEACHING OF LITERATURE
To the Boy. Tell me, boy, do you assert that a Jowett 83 double space comes from a double line? Remember that I am not speaking of an oblong, but of a figure equal every way, and twice the size of this—that is to say of eight feet; and I want to know whether you still say that a double square comes from a double line?
Let us describe such a figure: Would you not say that this is the figure of eight feet? And are there not these four divisions in the figure, each of which is equal to the figure of four feet? Therefore the double line, boy, has given a space, not twice, but four times as much. What line would give you a space of eight feet, as this gives one of sixteen feet;—do you see? Good; and is not a space of eight feet twice the size of this, and half the size of the other?
Such a space, then, will be made out of a line greater than this one, and less than that one? Very good; I like to hear you say what you think. And now tell me, is not this a line of two feet and that of four? Then the line which forms the side of eight feet ought to be more than this line of two feet, and less than the other of four feet? Then if we add a half to this line of two, that will be Edition: current; Page: [ 44 ] the line of three.
Here are two and there is one; and on the other side, here are two also and there is one: and that makes the figure of which you speak? But if there are three feet this way and three feet that way, the whole space will be three times three feet? But from what line? Do you see, Meno, what advances he has made in his power of recollection? He did not know at first, and he does not know now, what is the side of a figure of eight feet: but then he thought that he knew, and answered confidently as if he knew, and had no difficulty; now he has a difficulty, and neither knows nor fancies that he knows.
We have certainly, as would seem, assisted him in some degree to the discovery of the truth; and now he will wish to remedy his ignorance, but then he would have been ready to tell all the world again and again that the double space should have a double side. But do you suppose that he would ever have enquired into or learned what he fancied that he knew, though he was really ignorant of it, until he had fallen into perplexity under the idea that he did not know, and had desired to know?
Mark now the farther development. I shall only ask him, and not teach him, and he shall share the enquiry with me: and do you watch and see if you find me telling or explaining anything to him, instead of eliciting his opinion. Tell me, boy, is not this a square of four feet which I have drawn? And how many times larger is this space than this other? And does not this line, reaching from corner to corner, Jowett 85 bisect each of these spaces? That is, from the line which extends from corner to corner of the figure of four feet? And that is the line which the learned call the diagonal.
What do you say of him, Meno? Were not all these answers given out of his own head? Then he who does not know may still have true notions of that which he does not know? And at present these notions have just been stirred up in him, as in a dream; but if he were frequently asked the same questions, in different forms, he would know as well as any one at last? Without any one teaching him he will recover his knowledge for himself, if he is only asked questions?
And this knowledge which he now has must he not either have acquired or always possessed? But if he always possessed this knowledge he would always have known; or if he has acquired the knowledge he could not have acquired it in this life, unless he has been taught geometry; for he may be made to do the same with all geometry and every other branch of knowledge. Now, has any one ever taught him all this? You must know about him, if, as you say, he was born and bred in your house. But if he did not acquire the knowledge in this life, Jowett 86 then he must have had and learned it at some other time?
And if there have been always true thoughts in him, both at the time when he was and was not a man, which only need to be awakened into knowledge by putting questions to him, his soul must have always possessed this knowledge, for he always either was or was not a man? And if the truth of all things always existed in the soul, then the soul is immortal. Wherefore be of good cheer, and try to recollect what you do not know, or rather what you do not remember. And I, Meno, like what I am saying. Some things I have said of which I am not altogether confident.
But that we shall be better and braver and less helpless if we think that we ought to enquire, than we should have been if we indulged in the idle fancy that there was no knowing and no use in seeking to know what we do not know;—that is a theme upon which I am ready to fight, in word and deed, to the utmost of my power.
Then, as we are agreed that a man should enquire about that which he does not know, shall you and I make an effort to enquire together into the nature of virtue? By all means, Socrates. And yet I would much rather return to my original question, Whether in seeking to acquire virtue we should regard it as a thing to be taught, or as a gift of nature, or as coming to men in some other way?
And therefore I have now to enquire into the qualities of a thing of which I do not as yet know the nature. And we too, as we know not the nature and qualities of virtue, must ask, whether virtue is or is not taught, under a hypothesis: as thus, if virtue is of such a class of mental goods, will it be taught or not? Let the first hypothesis be that virtue is or is not knowledge,—in that case will it be taught or not? For there is no use in disputing about the name. But is virtue taught or not?
Then now we have made a quick end of this question: if virtue is of such a nature, it will be taught; and if not, not? The next question is, whether virtue is knowledge or of another species? Do we not say that virtue is a good? Now, if there be any sort of good which is distinct from knowledge, virtue may be that good; but if knowledge embraces all good, then we shall be right in thinking that virtue is knowledge?
And if we are good, then we are profitable; for all good things are profitable? Then now let us see what are the things which severally profit us. Health and strength, and beauty and wealth—these, and the like of these, we call profitable? Jowett 88 And yet these things may also sometimes do us harm: would you not think so? And what is the guiding principle which makes them profitable or the reverse? Are they not profitable when they are rightly used, and hurtful when they are not rightly used?
Next, let us consider the goods of the soul: they are temperance, justice, courage, quickness of apprehension, memory, magnanimity, and the like? And such of these as are not knowledge, but of another sort, are sometimes profitable and sometimes hurtful; as, for example, courage wanting prudence, which is only Edition: current; Page: [ 50 ] a sort of confidence?
When a man has no sense he is harmed by courage, but when he has sense he is profited? And the same may be said of temperance and quickness of apprehension; whatever things are learned or done with sense are profitable, but when done without sense they are hurtful? And in general, all that the soul attempts or endures, when under the guidance of wisdom, ends in happiness; but when she is under the guidance of folly, in the opposite?
If then virtue is a quality of the soul, and is admitted to be profitable, it must be wisdom or prudence, since none of the things of the soul are either profitable or hurtful in themselves, but they are all made profitable or hurtful by the addition of wisdom or of folly; and therefore if virtue is profitable, virtue must be a sort of wisdom or prudence? And the other goods, such as wealth and the like, of which we were just now saying that they are sometimes good and sometimes evil, do not they also become profitable or hurtful, accordingly as the soul guides and uses them rightly or wrongly; just as the things of the soul herself are benefited when under the guidance of wisdom and harmed by folly?
And is not this universally true of human nature? All other things hang upon the soul, and the things of the soul herself hang upon wisdom, if they are to be good; and Jowett 89 so wisdom is inferred to be that which profits—and virtue, as we say, is profitable? And thus we arrive at the conclusion that virtue is either wholly or partly wisdom? If they had been, there would assuredly have been discerners of characters among us who would have known our future great men; and on their showing we should have adopted them, and when we had got them, we should have kept them in the citadel out of the way of harm, and set a stamp upon them far rather than upon a piece of gold, in order that no one might tamper with them; and when they grew up they would have been useful to the state?