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The Protagoras - John Stuart Mill, The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XI - Essays on Philosophy and the Classics 
The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XI - Essays on Philosophy and the Classics, ed. John M. Robson, Introduction by F.E. Sparshott (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1978).
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[Monthly Repository, VIII (Feb., and March, 1834), 89-99, and 203-11. Not republished; signed “A.” Running heads: “Plato’s Dialogues; the Protagoras.” Identified in JSM’s bibliography (after the general heading cited on 38 above) as “No I. The Protagoras: part 1 in the M.R. for Febry 1834 / : part 2 in the M.R. for March 1834” (MacMinn, 37). In the copy in the Somerville College Library, a correction of “Socrates” to “Pythagoras” is indicated, probably not in JSM’s hand, at 43.28; at 44n.6 inked corrections in that copy change ψυχὴαν to ψυχὴν and παρτὰς to παρὰ τὰς.
For comments on this and the other translations, see the Introduction and the Textual Introduction, xvii-xxviii and lxxx-lxxxiii above.]
considering the almost boundless reputation of the writings of Plato, not only among scholars, but (upon their authority) among nearly all who have any tincture of letters, it is a remarkable fact, that of the great writers of antiquity, there is scarcely one who, in this country at least, is not merely so little understood, but so little read. Our two great “seats of learning,” of which no real lover of learning can ever speak but in terms of indignant disgust, bestow attention upon the various branches of classical acquirement in exactly the reverse order to that which would be observed by persons who valued the ancient authors for what is valuable in them: namely, upon the mere niceties of the language first; next, upon a few of the poets; next, (but at a great distance,) some of the historians; next, (but at a still greater interval,) the orators; last of all, and just above nothing, the philosophers. An English bookseller, by the aid of a German scholar, recently produced an excellent edition of Plato;[*] the want of sale for which, by the way, is said to have been one of the causes of his insolvency. But, with the exception of the two dialogues edited by Dr. Routh,[†] we are aware of nothing to facilitate the study of the most gifted of Greek writers, which has ever emanated from either of the impostor-universities of England; and of the young men who have obtained university honours during the last ten years, we are much misinformed if there be six who had even looked into his writings. If such be the neglect of the best parts of classical learning among those whose special vocation and whose positive duty it is to cultivate them, what can be expected from others? Among those who are engaged in the incessant struggle which, in this country, constitutes more and more the business of active life—every man’s time and thoughts being wholly absorbed in the endeavour to rise, or in the endeavour not to fall, in running after riches, or in running away from bankruptcy—the tranquil pursuit not only of classical, but of any literature deserving the name, is almost at an end. The consequence is, that there are, probably, in this kingdom, not so many as a hundred persons who ever have read Plato, and not so many as twenty who ever do.
Among those, again, who, in the present or in former ages, have been more or less acquainted with the productions of the master-mind of antiquity, extremely conflicting and extremely vague notions have been entertained concerning the nature of his opinions, and the scope or purpose of his works. It is, in truth, extremely difficult to ascertain what were, and were not, Plato’s own opinions. We have all heard of Platonists, and the Platonic philosophy; but though, out of detached passages of his writings, philosophic systems have been subsequently manufactured, it is to this day a problem whether Plato had a philosophy: if he had, it certainly was not the philosophy of those who have called themselves Platonists. This uncertainty arises from a variety of causes. In the first place, the author never speaks in his own person, but affects to be the mere narrator of conversations stated to have taken place between other and known individuals. When, too, the dialogue is of a controversial kind, as is almost always the case, the interlocutor to whom the victory is invariably assigned, not only is not the author himself, but is not even a man of straw, who might be supposed to be the author’s representative; but a philosopher of the highest merit and reputation, who had decided and known opinions of his own—the author’s master, Socrates. It can only be conjectured, with more or less probability, whether any part of these conversations actually took place as alleged; and if not, how far they were invented as mere specimens of argumentation and inquiry—how far to illustrate the opinions of Socrates—and how far to inculcate those of Plato himself. The difficulties of arriving at any certain solution, are further complicated by the preference which is shown in most of the dialogues for overthrowing the various doctrines already in vogue, rather than for setting up any others in their room; and the frequent use of that “irony” for which Socrates was celebrated, and which superadds to the doubt whether the entire discourse has any serious purpose, a still further question how much of the particular passage is intended to be taken seriously.
If we might be permitted to mention the hypothesis respecting Plato’s own opinions and purposes, which appears to ourselves the most probable, it is one which has been suggested to us by a little essay of the celebrated Schleiermacher, on the Character of Socrates as a Philosopher; a translation of which, with the addition of some valuable remarks, has recently been put forth by one of the few genuine scholars of whom our country can still boast, the Rev. Connop Thirlwall, in his periodical work, the Philological Museum, published at Cambridge.[*] Dr. Schleiermacher’s view of the nature of the service rendered to philosophy by Socrates, is that it consisted not in the truths which he actually arrived at, but in the improved views which he originated respecting the mode in which truth should be sought: and this appears to us to be, with some modifications, applicable likewise to Plato. No doubt, the disciple pushed his mere inquiries and speculations over a more extended surface, and to a much greater depth below the surface, than there is any reason to believe that his master did. But though he continually starts most original and valuable ideas, it is seldom that these, when they relate to the results of philosophic inquiry, are stated with an air of conviction, or as if they amounted to fixed opinions. But when the topic under consideration is the proper mode of philosophizing—either the moral spirit in which truth should be sought, or the intellectual processes and methods by which it is to be attained; or when the subject matter is not any particular scientific principle, but knowledge in the abstract, the differences between knowledge and ignorance, and between knowledge and mere opinion; then the views inculcated are definite and consistent, are always the same, and are put forward with the appearance of earnest and matured belief. Even in treating of other subjects, and even when the opinions advanced have least the semblance of being seriously entertained, the discourse itself has generally a very strong tendency to illustrate the conception which does seem to be really entertained of the nature of some part or other of the process of philosophizing. The inference we would draw is, that, on the science of the Investigation of Science, the theory of the pursuit of truth, Plato had not only satisfied himself that his predecessors were in error, and how, but had also adopted definite views of his own; while on all or most other subjects, he contented himself with confuting the absurdities of others, pointing out the proper course for inquiry, and the spirit in which it should be conducted, and throwing out a variety of ideas of his own, of the value of which he was not quite certain, and which he left to the appreciation of any subsequent inquirer competent to sit in judgment upon them. With respect to many of his most interesting speculations, that inquirer is yet to come; so far have the penetration and sagacity of the man of genius outstripped the slow and halting march of positive science.
Of a writer of this character it is, of course, impossible to convey any notion by an enumeration of his tenets or a compendium of his philosophy, since he has nothing which can be called, with any assurance, tenets or a philosophy. Unhappily, the only complete translation which exists in our own language[*] is full of faults, and often with difficulty understood even by those who can read the original.* In the absence of the only tolerable substitute for a knowledge of the author himself, some conception, however distant and imperfect, of what he is, may, perhaps, be derived from a very full abstract of some of the more interesting of his dialogues. It is in this hope that the following notes, made originally for the writer’s personal satisfaction in the course of his private studies, shown, after the lapse of years, to one or two friends who were unacquainted with the writings of Plato, and unexpectedly found to be interesting to them, are now laid before a wider circle of readers. In the execution they have no pretension to any other merit than that of fidelity. Of the dramatic excellencies of the dialogues (which the finest specimens of the higher comedy have hardly equalled, and certainly not surpassed) little could be preserved in these sketches compatibly with any degree of abridgement. But the more important and interesting of the argumentative portions of each dialogue are very little curtailed, and in other respects approach as near to literal translations as the writer, consistently with producing such English as could be expected to be understood, knew how to make them.
The dialogue with which it is proposed to commence is the Protagoras; supposed to be one of the earlier productions of the author. There is no work of Plato which more obviously appears to have been intended rather as an exercise in the art of investigating truth, than to inculcate any particular set of philosophical opinions. Many ingenious and some profound thoughts are, indeed, thrown out in the course of the discussion. But even if we had to form our judgment of this dialogue without the light thrown upon it by the other works of Plato, we should be compelled to draw one of two conclusions; either that the author had not yet made up his opinions on the topics treated in the dialogue, or that he did not think this a proper place for unfolding them.
Protagoras, who along with Socrates is the chief interlocutor in the dialogue, was one of the people called Sophists; and seems to have been the first who avowedly took the title. Many of Plato’s writings are directly aimed against the Sophists; and those writings have been the chief cause why, in modern times, a designation, which originally meant “a teacher of wisdom,” has become significative of quibbling and deceit. Certain Church of England writers, in the Quarterly Review and other publications, have, for the base purpose of discrediting free institutions and freedom of inquiry, on the one hand exaggerated grossly the mischievous tendency of what the Sophists taught; and on the other, represented them as enjoying great favour and importance in the free States of Greece, and particularly at Athens; just as the same writers have represented the persons called Sycophants (that is, people who stirred up vexatious prosecutions in the Athenian courts of justice) as especial favourites with the “sovereign multitude,” in the face of the overwhelming evidence which the whole mass of Athenian literature affords, that these persons were as odious to the people as the lowest class of pettifogging attorneys, or even common informers, in our own country. With regard to the Sophists, this very dialogue of Plato affords (as will be seen) strong evidence that when he began to write, they were already in very ill repute; while all that is really known of them tends to throw great doubt upon their having, as a class, really deserved that degree of obloquy. All inquirers into abstract truth, except mathematicians—all who were afterwards called Philosophers, (a term of which Pythagoras[*] is believed to have been the inventor,) had, before his time, been confounded together under that older name: and such are seldom popular with the mass of mankind; witness the House of Commons, and most public assemblies in this country. Among the Sophists were comprised all the earlier inquirers into physical nature, along with all the earliest moralists and metaphysicians; and though there were among the latter, as was inevitable in the infancy of science, as there are in Plato himself, much fallacy and verbal quibbling, there by no means appears to have been a greater proportion of doctrines having a pernicious tendency, than has existed in all ages.
It does not seem to be the object of the present dialogue to expose the errors or false pretensions of the Sophists in general, or of Protagoras in particular; for although Protagoras is confuted, and made to contradict himself again and again, after the usual manner of Plato, and is occasionally made somewhat ridiculous, for being only able to harangue, and not to discuss; (the complaint which Plato never ceases to urge against the Sophists;) yet, when he is suffered to state his sentiments at length, what he utters is by no means either absurd or immoral, but, on the contrary, sound and useful good sense, forcibly expressed, or, at the lowest, an able pleading in favour of the side he espouses, on whatever question the discussion happens for the moment to turn upon; and this, too, although the opinions of Protagoras on the nature, sources, and limits of human knowledge, are, in other places, the subject of Plato’s warm, but not disrespectful, attacks.* If it be possible, therefore, to assign any specific and decided purpose to this dialogue, it would appear to be intended not to hold up the Sophists either to ridicule or obloquy, but to show that it was possible to go much beyond the point which they had attained in moral and political philosophy; that, on the whole, they left the science of mind and of virtue in an extremely unsatisfactory state; that they could not stand the test of the rigorous dialectics which Socrates carried into these inquiries; and that the truth could only be ascertained by that more accurate mode of sifting opinions, which the dialectic method (or that of close discussion between two persons, one of whom interrogates, and the other answers) furnishes, but which speech-making, and the mere delivery of doctrines from master to student (the practice of the Sophists) absolutely preclude.
A brief abstract of the dialogue will, I think, confirm this notion of its scope and object, by showing that Socrates merely plays with opinions throughout.
A young man, named Hippocrates, having heard, late in the evening, that Protagoras has come to Athens, hurries to Socrates in the morning, before it is light, and presses him to go with him to Protagoras, expressing the most earnest desire to become the scholar of so wise a man, and obtain a participation in his wisdom. Socrates consents; but as it is too early to visit Protagoras at that hour in the morning, they pass the intermediate time in conversation. Socrates then, in order, as he says, to try the strength of Hippocrates, begins to question him as follows: “If you were desirous of receiving the instructions of your namesake Hippocrates of Cos, and were asked in what capacity, and in order to become what, you would answer, In the capacity of a physician, and in order that you might become a physician. If you offered money to Polycleitus or Pheidias, that they might take you under their tuition, and were asked the same question, you would answer, In the capacity of statuaries, and in order that you might become a statuary. Now if any one should ask you in what capacity you are seeking the instructions of Protagoras, what would be your answer?”—“In the capacity of a Sophist.”—“And what do you expect to become through his instructions?” Hippocrates blushed; and answered, “If this be like the two preceding cases, I must expect to become a Sophist.”—“Should you not, then, be ashamed,” said Socrates, “to hold yourself forth as a Sophist to the Greeks?” He confessed that he should. (This is one of the passages from which it may be clearly inferred, that the profession of a Sophist was a disreputable one in Greece before Plato wrote.)
Socrates, however, supplied Hippocrates with a defence, by telling him that he supposed he did not intend going to Protagoras as he would go to a physician or an artist, to learn his profession, but as he would go to a writing-master, a gymnast, or a music-master, not in order to become himself a music-master, &c. &c., but to learn so much of these arts as belonged to a liberal education. Hippocrates assenting, Socrates continued: “Do you know what you are about to do? You are about to give your soul to be trained into the hands of this man, whom you call a Sophist; but what a Sophist is, I should be much surprised if you knew; and yet, if you do not, you must be ignorant whether you are doing a wise act or a foolish one. What do you suppose a Sophist is?”—“As the word implies, a man who knows wisdom.”—“You might say as much of a painter or an architect—he knows wisdom; but if we were asked what wisdom, we should answer, the wisdom which relates to the taking of likenesses, and so forth. What is the wisdom which the Sophist knows? What can he teach you to do?”—“He can teach me to speak well.”—“This may be a true answer, but not a sufficient one. On what subject can he teach you to speak well? for a musician can teach you to speak well on the subject which he knows, viz. music. What can a Sophist teach you to speak well upon? Upon that which he knows?”—“Certainly.”—“And what is it which he knows?”—Hippocrates confessed that he could not tell. “See, then, to what a danger you expose yourself. If you meditated putting your body into the hands of any one, at the risk of its well-being, you would consider for a long time before you made your resolution, and would take counsel with your friends and relations; but what you value much more than your body—your spiritual nature* —on the good or bad condition of which your well or ill-doing entirely depends, you are going to put under the care of a man whom you only know to be a Sophist, not knowing, as it appears, what a Sophist is, and this without taking even an hour’s time for consideration, or asking the advice of anybody. Is not a Sophist a dealer in those wares which the mind subsists upon?”—“And what does the mind subsist upon?”—“Upon instruction. Let us not, then, suffer the Sophist to impose upon us by praising the quality of his wares. Other dealers praise their wares, although they are no judges what is good for the sustenance of the body, nor their customers either, unless such as happen to be physicians or gymnasts. So these men, who hawk their instructions from city to city, praise all they sell, and yet some of these may very likely be quite ignorant whether what they offer is good or bad for the mind, and the purchasers equally so, unless some of them happen to understand the medicine of the mind. If, therefore, you are a judge of good and bad instruction, you may safely buy instruction of Protagoras or any other person; but if not, take care that you do not endanger what is dearest to you. You risk much more in buying instruction than food. Food you may take home in another vessel, and have it examined by qualified persons before you take it into your stomach; but instruction is taken at once into the mind, and the benefit is reaped, or the injury incurred, on the spot.”
After this conversation, they proceed together to the house where Protagoras is living, and find him there with two other Sophists—Prodicus of Ceos, and Hippias of Elis—who are several times introduced as personages in the drama, though not called to participate in the discussion. It may be gathered from what is said of these persons, and by them, in the course of the work, that Hippias taught physics more particularly than morals or politics, and that the science of Prodicus consisted chiefly in drawing frivolous and hair-breadth distinctions between the significations of terms which were commonly considered synonymous. This propensity of Prodicus is displayed in different parts of the dialogue in a very amusing manner, and several touches in his part might be quoted as admirable specimens of the higher comedy.
Socrates opens to Protagoras the object of their visit, by telling him that Hippocrates, a young man of high rank and excellent capacity, desired to become conspicuous in his country, and thought that this would be more easily attainable through the instructions of Protagoras. The Sophist having asked whether Hippocrates would wish to speak with him alone, or before the numerous company there assembled, and Socrates having left it to his option, Protagoras commended Socrates for his discretion, saying, that a stranger, who travels about and draws round him the most promising young men of every state, making them leave their other pursuits and associates, and attach themselves to him for the sake of their own improvement, has need of caution, since such a proceeding must necessarily excite jealousy and ill-will; and, for this reason, all the ancient Sophists—for the profession, he contended, was ancient—had disguised their real pursuit for fear of consequences, and had professed poetry, the science of divine worship, and even music or gymnastics, as a cover. But he himself did not follow their example, thinking that they never effected their purpose: the disguise did not conceal their real object from the leading men in the various cities, for whose eyes alone this veil was intended, since the common people merely repeat what they say; and an unsuccessful attempt at concealment only made the matter worse, by causing hypocrisy to be added to their other imputed offences. Protagoras, therefore, openly avowed himself a Sophist, and thought this a much safer plan than to deny it; and by this and various precautions he had so managed, that, although he had practised the profession for many years, no harm had ever come to him in consequence of it.* He, therefore, preferred that his conversation with Socrates and Hippocrates should take place before the whole company.
“Suspecting,” says Socrates (who is the supposed narrator of the whole) “that he wished to make himself glorious in the eyes of Prodicus and Hippias, from our seeking his society, I proposed inviting them, and those who were conversing with them, to join in our conversation.” Accordingly they all assembled, and Protagoras told Socrates that he might now state his business.
Socrates accordingly repeated what he had already said, that Hippocrates wished to receive the instructions of Protagoras, and was anxious to know of what nature was the benefit which he would derive from them. Protagoras answered, that he would every day improve, and return home better than he was the previous day. “So,” said Socrates, “he would, if he were to attend on the painter Zeuxippus—he would return home improved in painting, and a better painter; or if he were to attend Orthagoras, the flute-player, he would every day return home a better flute-player than the day before. In what respect, if he attends on you, will he every day return home improved?” Protagoras commended the question, and answered, “He will not be treated by me in the same manner as by other Sophists, who spoil young men by putting them back into geometry and astronomy, and the other arts, the very things which they had previously fled from. I teach them what they come to learn, viz., how they may best manage their own families, and how best to speak and act in the affairs of the state.”—“You teach politics then, and profess to make men good citizens.”—“I do so.”—“You possess an admirable art, if you do indeed possess it, which I know not how to disbelieve. But hitherto I had imagined that what you profess to teach is not capable of being taught, or delivered from men to men. For the Athenians, who are a wise people, if in their assembly they are deliberating on ship-building, send for the ship-builders to advise them, and will hear nobody else; if about building a house, they will listen to nobody but architects; and if any one else, however noble or rich, attempt to speak, they scoff and drive him away. But when the discussion is upon anything which concerns the general management of the state, they listen to persons of all ranks and professions without distinction, and never think of reproaching any man for presuming to advise on the subject when he has never studied it, or learned it of a master. It is evident, therefore, that they do not think it capable of being taught; and the best and wisest citizen, as Pericles for example, though he teaches his sons excellently whatever a master can teach, cannot succeed in teaching them the wisdom and virtue in which he himself excels; in this they are no better than ordinary individuals. For these reasons,” says Socrates, “I have hitherto doubted that virtue can be taught; but if Protagoras can prove the possibility, I beseech him to do so.”
Protagoras consents, and asks whether he shall teach by a μυ̑θος, (which I am inclined to translate a legend), like an old man instructing the young,* or by a discourse (λόγος). They give him his choice, and he prefers to tell them a story. If, as this circumstance would indicate, it was a frequent mode with the Sophists to deliver their doctrines in this way, it would account for the μυ̑θοι which are scattered through the writings of Plato, and which, appearing to be related half in jest, half in earnest, it is not very easy otherwise to explain.
The story is, that when the gods made men and animals, they gave it in charge to Prometheus and Epimetheus to endow them; that Epimetheus solicited the task from his brother, and having obtained it, proceeded to distribute the endowments of strength, swiftness, &c., among the various animals, on the principle of compensation; but when he had exhausted all the endowments which he had to give, he found that man was left unprovided for. Prometheus, to remedy this blunder, stole τὴν ἔντεχνον σοϕίαν (scientific wisdom) from heaven, and with it fire, without which it was of no use, and bestowed these upon man. On this account was it that man, being akin to the gods, alone of all animals acknowledged their existence; and, by means of art, acquired the faculty of speech, made to himself clothes and houses, and procured food. But as there were no towns, and no human society, for want of the art of Polity, the human race were in danger of being extirpated by wild beasts; when Jupiter, in compassion, sent Mercury from heaven to make a present to mankind of Shame and Justice, in order that there might be mutual bonds among men, and that society might be possible. Mercury asked whether he should confer these gifts upon all mankind, or whether, like Medicine and the other arts, they should be given to a few only, for the benefit of all. Jupiter ordered him to give them to all; for if a few only possessed them, political society would be impossible; and bade him establish a law, as from Jupiter, that he who was incapable of shame and justice should, as a disease in the state, be extirpated.
“For this reason,” continued Protagoras, “the Athenians and others, who on architecture or any other manual art will hear only the few who possess it, are ready, when the subject is social virtue, which depends wholly upon justice and prudence, to listen to all advisers; because of this virtue all should be partakers, or states cannot exist.
“And to prove that in reality all men do believe that justice and the other social virtues ought to belong to all, observe this: If a man pretends to be a good musician, and is not so, all men ridicule him, and his friends admonish him as a man out of his senses. But when justice and the social virtues are the matter in question, although they well know that a man is unjust, yet if he tells the truth and publicly avows it, what in the other case they considered to be good sense, is here thought madness; they maintain that all men should profess to be just, whether they are so or not, and that he who does not profess it is a madman, because the man who does not, in some degree, partake of the quality of justice, is unfit to live amongst mankind.
“It seems, then, that mankind in general think all persons qualified to advise concerning these virtues, since all are required to possess them. But further, they think that these virtues are not natural and spontaneous, but the result of study and of teaching. For those evils which are supposed to come upon men by nature or ill fortune, no man ever thinks of reproaching another for: who ever reprimanded, much less punished, another, for being of low stature, weak, or deformed? such evils are regarded as an object only of pity. Men admonish, and censure, and punish one another, for the absence of those good qualities only, which they deem to be acquired by study and art; and for this reason only it is that they so deal with the unjust. Let us but consider what punishment does, and we shall see that, in the opinion of mankind, virtue may be acquired. No man punishes another because he has done wrong; this would be the blind vengeance of the irrational animals. Rational punishment is not on account of the past act, which, having been done, cannot be undone; it is for the sake of the future; it is in order that this offender, and those who witness his punishment, may be warned against offending hereafter. The Athenians, therefore, and others, since they do punish the unjust man, do so with this intent; they do so because they think that virtue may be acquired, and that punishment is a means whereby men are induced to acquire it.
“To the other argument of Socrates, that good men, although they teach to their children other things, fail of teaching them to be good, the following is the answer:—If it be true that there is something which, unless every member of the state possesses, the state cannot exist; and if this something be not architecture or pottery, or any mechanical art, but justice, prudence, holiness, in short, manly virtue; if all men, and women too, and children, whatever else they have, must have this, or be punished until they acquire it, or, if incapable of acquiring it, must be sent out of the country or put to death; and if, nevertheless, good men, teaching their children other things, do not teach them this, they are unworthy the name of good men. For that it can be taught we have clearly shown. Is it credible, then, that men should teach their sons those things, to be ignorant of which carries with it no evil consequences, and not attempt to teach them that, which, if they do not learn, death, banishment, confiscation, destruction of their fortunes and prospects, will fall upon them? Not so. From infancy upwards they instruct their children in these things; they tell them what is just and unjust, honourable and dishonourable, holy and unholy; they bid them practise the one and avoid the other; and if they disregard the admonition, correct them by threats and blows. And in placing them with teachers, they enjoin care of the child’s morals still more earnestly than of his learning; and the teachers make them read and commit to memory those passages of poets and other authors, by preference, which commend virtue and reprove vice. Music also is taught them, chiefly to soften the mind and accustom it to harmony, and order, and proportion; and they are delivered to the gymnast, in order that their bodies, being in good order, may be fitter to obey the commands of a well-ordered mind. When they leave school, the State requires them to learn its laws, and regulate their lives by them, as those who learn to write follow the copy which is set to them by the writing-master; and if they deviate from this rule they are punished; and the very name given to punishment indicates its object—it is termed correction.*
“Nor is it wonderful, notwithstanding this, that good fathers should have sons of no particular merit. If there were any other branch of knowledge, the cultivation of which by every citizen were necessary to the being of the state; if society could not exist unless all could play on the flute, and if all were taught to play, and reproached if they played ill, instead of being envied for playing well—(as at present men are not envied for being just and virtuous, since it is every man’s interest that others should be just and virtuous, for which reason we are all eager to teach justice and virtue to all men)—do you suppose that the sons of good flute-players would be better players than other men? Not so. Whoever had the best natural disposition for music would be the best player: a good player’s son would often play ill—the son of a bad player, well; but all would be competent players, compared with those who knew nothing of music whatever. In like manner all civilized men, even the most unjust, if compared with men among whom there is no training, no tribunals, no laws, with the wild men of whom poets tell us, would appear a perfect master in virtue: and after mixing with such men, you would be delighted to meet with the greatest villains of our own country. But now you are fastidious, and because all are teachers of virtue, you will not allow that any are so: just as if you were to inquire in this city who teaches Greek, you would find nobody; or if you sought somebody competent to teach the son of a mechanic his father’s art, which he had learned in his father’s shop as well as his father could teach it, you might find nobody; but of men who could teach those who were totally ignorant of the art, you would find abundance. It is thus with virtue: all men teach it; and we may think ourselves fortunate if we find one who is a little more capable than others of advancing men towards it. Such a man I profess to be; and I am willing that my scholars should judge of my pretensions. Accordingly, the terms of my contract with them are, that when they have received my instructions, they shall either pay me the amount of my demand, or, if they think this too much, shall pay me according to their own estimate, made in a temple and upon oath, of the value of the instructions.”[*]
Protagoras here ceased speaking: and Socrates, after making many acknowledgments and professing himself almost convinced, said that one little difficulty still remained in his mind, which no doubt Protagoras could easily remove. “For if a man were to apply to Pericles, or any other of the famous orators, he might hear from them as fine a speech as that which Protagoras had made: but if he were to put a question to them, they could no more answer, or ask again, than an inanimate book; but, like brass, which if struck makes a long reverberation unless we lay our hands upon it and stop it, they make answer to a short question by an inordinately long harangue. Protagoras, however, is able not only to make a long speech, but to give a short answer to a short question: I therefore wish to have one difficulty explained. You say that virtue can be taught; and you have several times put together justice, prudence, temperance, and holiness, and called them collectively by the one word virtue. Is virtue then one thing, and are all these parts of it, or are they all names for one and the same thing?” Protagoras answers—“Virtue is one, and all these are parts of it.”—“Are they such parts as the parts of gold, all of them exactly resembling the whole, and one another? or (like the parts of the face, viz. eyes, nose, ears, and mouth) extremely unlike?”—“They are like the parts of the face.”—“May the same man have one of these parts of virtue, and be destitute of the others?”—“Yes: many are courageous, but unjust, and many are just but unwise.”—“Then wisdom and courage are also parts of virtue?”—“Yes.”—“And unlike each other, as you said of the other parts?”—“Yes.”
“Let us consider further of this matter. Is justice a just thing or an unjust one? surely it is a just thing.”—“Undoubtedly.”—“Is holiness a holy or an unholy thing? most assuredly a holy one.”—“Yes.”—“But you say that the different parts of virtue are unlike one another. Then since justice is a just thing, and holiness is not like justice, is holiness an unjust thing? Since holiness is a holy thing, and justice is not like holiness, is justice an unholy thing? I should affirm the contrary; that justice and holiness are either the same, or very nearly alike, and that nothing is so holy as justice, nor so just as holiness.”—“It does not appear to me,” replied Protagoras, “so simple and obvious that justice and holiness are the same thing. There seems to me to be a difference; but let us call them the same thing, if you will.”—“I have no use,” said Socrates, “for ‘if you will.’ I do not desire to examine or confute an ‘if you will,’ or an ‘if you think so,’ but what you think, and what I think, leaving out the ‘if.’ ”—“No doubt,” said Protagoras, “justice and holiness are somewhat alike: all things, even black and white, hard and soft, and all other contraries, are alike in some respects. The parts of the face, which were the comparison we used, are somewhat alike. You might prove, in this way, all things to be alike. We must not call things like or unlike merely because they have some little points of resemblance or of difference.”—“Do you then consider holiness and justice to have only some little points of resemblance?”—“Not exactly so, but yet not as you seem to think.”—“Since this discussion seems to displease you, let us consider another part of what you said.”
Socrates, accordingly, dropping the subject of justice and holiness, but still endeavouring to drive Protagoras to an acknowledgment of the identity of all the virtues, now chooses as his example σωϕροσύνη. This word, which was in very popular use, and which conveyed to the mind of a Greek associations of the highest praise, is untranslatable into English, because we have no single word by which we are accustomed to express the same combination of qualities and of feelings. Names of what Locke calls mixed modes,[*] and especially the names of moral attributes, have very rarely any exact synonymes in another language. There are few things by which so much light would be thrown upon the ideas and feelings of a people, as by collecting from a large induction, and clearing up by an accurate analysis, the niceties of meaning of this important portion of their popular language. We should thus learn what moral and intellectual qualities the people in question were accustomed to think of in conjunction, and as forming part of one and the same character; and what, both in kind and in the degree of strength, were the habitual sentiments, which particular moral or intellectual qualities excited in their minds. How great would be the difficulty of making an ancient Greek understand accurately what the nations of modern Europe mean by honour; a Frenchman, what the English mean by the feelings of a gentleman; any foreigner, what we mean by respectability. It is equally difficult for an Englishman to enter into the conception of σωϕροσύνη, and throw himself into the feelings which that word excited in a Greek mind. Sometimes it seems as if it ought to be translated prudence, sometimes temperance, sometimes decency or decorousness, sometimes more vaguely, considerateness, sometimes good sense. The French word sagesse has nearly the same ambiguities, and expresses nearly the same mixture of moral and intellectual qualities.* The connecting tie among these various attributes seems to be this: The word σωϕροσύνη denoted, in the mind of a Greek, all the qualities or habits which were considered most contrary to licentiousness of morals and manners, in the largest sense of the term. In a state of society in which the control of law was as yet extremely weak, in which the restraints of opinion, even in the democratic states, acted with little force upon any but those who were ambitious of public honours, and in which everywhere (even at Athens, where person and property were far more effectually protected than in the other states of Greece) the unbridled excesses of all sorts committed by the youth of the higher classes, endangered the personal security and comfort of every man, it is not wonderful that self-restraint, and the habits of a thoughtful, regulated life, should be held in peculiarly high esteem.
The great difficulty to an English reader, of following an argumentative discussion which turns chiefly upon the meaning of a word having no synonyme in English, will scarcely in this instance be rewarded by the intrinsic merit of the discussion itself. Socrates forces Protagoras successively to admit, that σωϕροσύνη is the same thing with wisdom, that it is the same thing with justice, or at least inseparable from it, and is pressing him still further, when Protagoras flies off into a long speech, filled with illustrations from the material universe, on a topic very distantly connected with the subject which they were discussing. At the conclusion of this oration he was loudly applauded.
Socrates hereupon observed, that he had a short memory, and if a man made a long speech to him, he always forgot what it was about. As, therefore, if he were deaf, Protagoras would think it necessary to speak to him in a louder than his ordinary voice; so, as he was forgetful, he hoped that Protagoras would shorten his answers, and accommodate their length to his capacity. Protagoras demurred to this, and lost his temper; and there are several pages of excellent comic dialogue, at the end of which the matter is accommodated by the intervention of the bystanders; and it is agreed, at the instance of Socrates, that Protagoras should interrogate and Socrates answer, in order that Socrates might afford a specimen of what he thought the proper mode of answering. It turned out an unhappy specimen, however, for Socrates was led by it to make as long a speech as any in the dialogue.
Protagoras, who appeared anxious to change the subject, said, that he thought criticism on poetry to be one of the most important parts of instruction, and he would interrogate him concerning poetry, keeping, however, on the subject which they were discussing, that of virtue. Simonides, in one of his poems, says, “It is difficult to become a good man.”[*] In the same poem he afterwards expresses his dissent from a saying of Pittacus, Χαλεπὸν ἐσθλὸν ἔμμεναι, (it is difficult to be a good man). Is not this inconsistent with what he had himself affirmed in the previous passage?
Socrates pretends at first to be puzzled by this question, and calls in Prodicus, with his nice distinctions, to help him in finding a difference between γενέσθαι (to become) and εἰ̑ναι (to be), and in finding a double meaning for the word χαλεπὸν. After playing with the subject for some time, he gives his own account of the matter thus:
“The scope and object,” says he, “of the poem of Simonides, is obviously to overthrow the dictum of Pittacus, ‘It is difficult to be a good man.’ The wisdom of the ancients,” continues he, “was couched in these little pithy sentences, like those of the Lacedæmonians in our own day, of whose institutions and mode of education the sages of old were great admirers. This sentence of Pittacus, among others, was much quoted and praised, and Simonides thought that if he could demolish it, he would obtain the same sort of reputation which is obtained by defeating a celebrated athlete.”
Socrates then adduces some philological proofs, that the sense of Simonides was as follows:—It is difficult to be becoming a good man,—to be in progress towards it; but it is not, as Pittacus says, merely difficult to be a good man—it is impossible; the gods alone are capable of actually realizing the conception of goodness. He adduces subsequent passages of the poem in support of this interpretation. They are to this effect: “Every man upon whom an irretrievable misfortune falls, becomes bad. I will not seek for that impossible thing, an entirely blameless man: I praise and love those (willingly) who do not commit any thing evil.” “Here,” says Socrates, “he cannot mean, according to the ordinary collocation, I praise and love those who do not willingly commit any thing evil. Simonides was too wise to suppose that any man willingly commits evil: he knew that they who commit evil commit it involuntarily. He meant, I praise and love willingly those only, who do not commit any thing evil: meaning that a good man sometimes forces himself to praise and love those whom he does not love willingly; as for instance, an ill-doing parent, or his country when ill doing: and the poet accordingly adds,—‘I am satisfied when I find a man not wicked, nor entirely inactive, and well versed in civil justice. I will not blame him: there are enough of fools to blame.’ ”
Socrates having made this commentary upon the poem of Simonides, invites Protagoras to resume the former discussion; saying, that to converse on poems seems to him like the resource of men of vulgar minds, who, at their social meetings, being unable, from ignorance, to converse with their own voices, call in singing women and musical instruments, and use their voices in the room of conversation. But men such as most of us profess to be, do not need the voices of others, nor poets, whom we cannot interrogate about their meaning, and may dispute about it for ever. Let us rather discuss with each other, and make trial of our own powers, and of the possibility of our attaining truth. Having softened Protagoras by some compliments, and by disclaiming any design in conversing with him, except that of facilitating the attainment of truth, by seeking for it in conjunction with the wisest man whom he knows, he at length prevails upon Protagoras to make answer to his interrogations: and again asking Protagoras whether he adheres to his opinion, that wisdom, temperance, courage, justice, and holiness, are different things, he receives this answer,—That four of the five are very closely allied, but that courage is altogether different from the others, since there are many men who are extremely unwise, intemperate, unjust, and unholy, but highly courageous.
“By the courageous,” said Socrates, “you mean the daring?”—“Yes; those who will encounter what others are afraid to face.”—“Virtue is a beautiful thing, is it not?”—“The most beautiful of all things.”—“Is all virtue beautiful, or only some virtue?”—“All, and in the highest degree.”—“Who are they who dive daringly?”—“Divers.”—“Is it because they understand diving?”—“It is.”—“Who fight on horseback daringly? good riders or bad?”—“Good riders. In short,” said Protagoras, “those who know most are the most daring.”—“Are you acquainted with persons who, although they know nothing of all these matters, are yet extremely daring?”—“But too much so.”—“Are these to be deemed courageous?”—“Courage would not be a beautiful thing if they were, since they are out of their senses.”—“Then if those who dare without knowledge are not courageous, but are out of their senses, while the wise are not only daring but courageous, are not wisdom and courage by this account the same thing?”
“You have not,” said Protagoras, “correctly remembered what I said. I affirmed that the courageous were daring, but not that the daring were courageous: had you asked this, I should have answered, Not all of them; and you have not shown me to have been wrong in affirming that the courageous were daring. You conclude that wisdom is the same thing with courage, because those who know are more daring than those who know not: but in this manner you might prove bodily strength to be the same thing with courage; for the strong in body, it cannot be denied, are powerful; and those who know how to wrestle, being undoubtedly more powerful than those who do not, you might infer that they were more muscular. But I do not admit that the powerful are strong in body; only, that the strong in body are powerful. Power is not the same thing with bodily strength; power may proceed from knowledge, from passion, or from insanity; but bodily strength, from nature, and good acquired habits of body. In like manner, I say that daring is not the same thing with courage. Daring may proceed from scientific skill, from passion, or from insanity; courage, from nature, and good acquired habits of mind.”
Here commences the last, and most interesting and most philosophical, of the discussions in this dialogue:—On the true nature of courage; and, incidentally, on the proper test of virtue and of vice.
“Do not some men,” asks Socrates, “live well, and others ill?”—“Without doubt.”—“Does a man live well if he lives in pain and vexation?”—“No.”—“But if he passes his life pleasantly to its very termination, he lives well?”—“He does so.”—“To live pleasantly then is good, to live unpleasantly is evil?”—“If he lives pleasantly by honest pleasures.”—“You call then some pleasant things evil, and some painful things good, like the generality of mankind?”—“I do.”—“But are not all pleasant things good, in so far as they are pleasant, and all painful things bad, in so far as painful?”—“I am not sure,” answered Protagoras, “whether it can be universally maintained, that all pleasant things are good, and all painful things evil. I think that I should answer in a manner more safe for the present discussion, and more conformable to the tenour of my life, if I were to say that some pleasant things are not good, some painful things not evil, and some are neither good nor evil.”—“Are not pleasant things those which cause, or which partake of, pleasure?”—“Undoubtedly.”—“And is not pleasure a good?”—“Let us inquire, and determine whether the good and the pleasant are identical.”—“Unfold, then, to me another part of your mind, and as we have seen how you are minded on the subject of the good and the pleasant, let us see whether your opinion on the subject of Knowledge is the same with that of the common of mankind. Knowledge, according to the vulgar opinion, is not a controlling and governing principle. Whatever may be a man’s knowledge, it is not that, they think, which governs him, but sometimes he is governed by anger, sometimes by pleasure, sometimes by pain, or love, or fear; and knowledge is dragged about by all these, and used by them as their slave. Is this your opinion; or do you, on the contrary, think that knowledge is a grand and ruling principle, which, wherever it exists, governs; and that he who knows what is good and evil is overmastered by nothing, but does that which his knowledge commands?”—“I think as you now say; and it would be disgraceful to me, if to any one, to maintain that wisdom and knowledge were not the most commanding of all human possessions.”—“You speak nobly and truly. But the common herd do not agree in your opinion; they say that many who know what is best, and have the power to practise it, do not; and if you ask why, the answer is, Being overpowered by pleasure, or by pain, or so forth.”—“Men say this, as they say many other foolish things.”—“Let us then instruct them what that state is, which they style, being overcome by pleasure.
“When you say, my good friends, that a man is overpowered by pleasure, you mean, that, being overpowered by delicious meats and drinks and other delightful objects of sense, knowing that these things are bad, he yet partakes of them?”—“Certainly.”—“Let us then ask them, In what view do you say that these things are bad? Is it because they are pleasant, and afford immediate delight; or because they afterwards occasion diseases and poverty? If they only conferred enjoyment, and produced none of these remote effects, would they be bad merely by causing enjoyment? They would surely answer, that these things are not bad for the immediate pleasure they afford, but for the diseases and want which flow from them in the end.”—“They would.”—“But diseases and want are painful things?”—“They are.”—“It seems then that these things are bad only because they produce pains, and deprive us of other pleasures?”—“It appears so.”—“And when, again, you say that there are good things which are painful, you mean such things as bodily exercises and the toils of military service, the painful operations of surgery, and the like?”—“Certainly.”—“And are these good, on account of the acute suffering with which they are immediately attended, or on account of the health and good habits of body, and the public safety, empire, and wealth, which are their ultimate consequence?”—“On account of the last.”—“They are good, therefore, because they terminate in pleasure, and in the prevention of other pains; and there is nothing on account of which things can be called good, except pleasure and pain.”—“Admitted.”—“Then pleasure is the same thing with good, and pain with evil: and if a pleasure is bad, it is because it prevents a greater pleasure, or causes a pain which exceeds the pleasure: if a pain is good, it is because it prevents a greater pain, or leads to a greater pleasure. For, if this were not so, you could point out some other end, with reference to which, things are good or evil: but you cannot.”—“Granted.”
“But if all this be true, (still addressing the vulgar,) how absurd, we may tell them, was the opinion you expressed, that a man often, although knowing evil to be evil, practises it nevertheless, being overpowered by pleasure? How ridiculous this is, will be plainly seen if we drop some of the terms which we have hitherto used, and since the pleasant and the good are but one thing, call them by one name; as likewise, the painful and the bad. You say, that knowing evil to be evil, a man yet practises it, being overpowered; by what? They cannot now say, by pleasure; since we have now another name for it, viz. good. Being overpowered by good! It is strange, and absurd, if a man practises evil, knowing it to be evil, being overpowered by good. If we ask whether the good is worthy or not worthy to overpower the evil, they must answer, Not worthy; for, otherwise, to be so overpowered would be no fault. How, then, we must answer, can good be unworthy to overpower evil, or evil to overpower good, but by reason of its smaller amount? It is clear, then, that what you call, to be overpowered by pleasure, is to choose a greater evil for the sake of a less good. If we now drop the words good and evil, and resume the words pain and pleasure, we find, in like manner, that he who is said to be overpowered by pleasure, is overpowered by a pleasure which is unworthy to overpower: and a pleasure is unworthy to overpower a pain, only by being less in amount. For, if it be said, The immediately pleasant differs greatly from the ultimately so, I answer, only in the degree of pleasure and pain. If we sum up the pleasure and the pain, and place them in opposite scales, we ought to choose the greater pleasure, or the less pain, whether they are immediate or remote.
“Now, is it not true that magnitudes appear smaller at a distance, greater when close at hand? that sounds appear louder when nearer, fainter when more distant, and the like?”—“Undoubtedly.”—“If, then, our well-doing depended upon our possessing great magnitudes, and avoiding small ones, what would our safety depend upon? Upon the faculty of seeing things merely as they appear, which leads to perpetual errors in the estimation of magnitudes; or upon the art of measurement, which teaches us to detect false appearances, and ascertain the real magnitudes of bodies?”—“Upon the latter.”—“If our safety in life depended upon always choosing the larger number, and eschewing the less, what would be our safeguard? surely knowledge: one of the kinds of knowledge of measurement, since it relates to excess and defect; and (since it relates to numbers), the knowledge of arithmetic?”—“Undoubtedly.”
“Since, then, it is upon the proper choice of pleasures and pains that our well doing in life depends, viz. upon choosing always the greater pleasure, or the smaller pain, what we here stand in need of is likewise measurement, since this also relates to excess and defect. But if it be measurement, it is art, and knowledge. What particular art and knowledge it is, we shall hereafter inquire; but that it is knowledge, we have clearly shown, in opposition to that opinion of the vulgar which we set out with combating.”—Protagoras, and all others who were present, assented, and it was agreed that doing evil always arose from ignorance, and doing well from knowledge.
“Since, then, no one chooses evil, knowing it to be evil, but mistakingly supposing it to be good, no one, who is compelled to choose between two evils, will knowingly choose the greatest.”—“Allowed.”—“But what is fear? Is it not the expectation of some evil?”—“It is.”—“Let Protagoras then defend himself, and show that he did not err, when he said that courage differed greatly from the other virtues. Did he not say, that the courageous were they who will encounter what others are afraid to face?”—“Yes.”—“Who will encounter not merely what the coward will encounter?”—“Certainly not.”—“The coward will encounter only what is safe; the courageous man what is formidable?”—“So men say.”—“They do: but do you say, that the courageous man will encounter what is formidable, knowing it to be formidable?”—“Your previous argument has shown this to be untenable.”—“It has: for, if we have reasoned correctly, no man encounters that which is formidable, knowing it to be so: for to be overpowered, and lose command of himself, we have shown to be a mere case of ignorance.”—“We have.”—“But all, whether brave or cowardly, are ready to encounter what they consider safe.”—“Very true: but the brave man and the coward differ even to contrariety in what they encounter. The brave man will encounter war, the coward will not.”—“War being a noble or an ignoble thing?”—“A noble thing.”—“And, if noble, good?”—“Certainly.”—“And, if noble and good, then, by our admission, pleasant?”—“Granted.”—“Are cowards, then, unwilling to do what they know to be the better and the more pleasant?”—“To admit this would be to contradict our former admissions.”—“But the courageous man; he too does what is better and more pleasant?”—“He does.”—“The courageous man, in short, is neither bold when he ought not, nor fearful when he ought not; cowards are both.”—“Yes.”—“But if cowards are bold, and are fearful, when they ought not, is it not from ignorance?”—“It is.”—“Then men are cowards from not knowing what is formidable?”—“They are.”—“But what makes men cowards, must be cowardice?”—“Agreed.”—“Then cowardice is the ignorance of what is and is not formidable; courage, being the contrary of cowardice, consists merely in the knowledge of what is, and what is not, formidable.”—Protagoras with much difficulty allowed that this consequence followed from what they had previously agreed upon.
Socrates finally remarked what a whimsical turn their discussion had taken. Protagoras and he had changed parts in the course of it. He had begun by denying that virtue could be taught, and yet had engaged himself in a long argument to prove that all virtue consisted in knowledge, and therefore could be taught; while Protagoras, who had begun by asserting that virtue is capable of being taught, had as strenuously laboured to show that it is not knowledge, and therefore not teachable. “Seeing all this,” said Socrates, “I am entirely thrown into confusion, and would be most eager to engage in further discussion, and clear up the question of what virtue is, and whether it can be taught.” Protagoras applauded his wish, and complimenting him on his powers of argument, said, “I consider myself not to be in other respects a bad man, and least of all an envious one. I have already said to many persons that I admire you above all whom I have met, especially above those of your own age; and I should not be surprised if you became one of those who are celebrated for their wisdom. We will pursue the discussion which you suggest another time; but now other business calls me away.” And thus the conversation terminated.
It is the object of these papers not to explain or criticise Plato, but to allow him to speak for himself. It will not, therefore, be attempted to suggest to the reader any judgment concerning the truth or value of any of the opinions which are thrown out in the above dialogue. Some of them are so far from being Plato’s own opinions, that the tendency of his mind seems to be decidedly adverse to them. For instance, the principle of utility,—the doctrine that all things are good or evil, by virtue solely of the pleasure or the pain which they produce,—is as broadly stated, and as emphatically maintained against Protagoras by Socrates, in the dialogue, as it ever was by Epicurus or Bentham. And yet, the general tone of Plato’s speculations seems rather to be favourable to the opinion that certain qualities of mind are good or evil in themselves, independently of all considerations of pleasure or pain. That such was the predominant tendency of his mind is, however, all that can be affirmed; it is doubtful whether he had adopted, on the subject of the original foundation of virtue, any fixed creed.
But we have already remarked, that when the subject-matter of the discussion is the nature and properties of knowledge in the abstract, the opinions of Plato seem never to vary, but to proceed from a mind completely made up. And of this the above dialogue is an exemplification. For, whatever are the particular arguments used as media of proof, there appears throughout the dialogue, as there does in the other works of Plato, a distinct aim towards this one point, the inseparableness, or rather absolute identity, of knowledge and virtue: an attempt to establish, that no evil is ever done (as he expresses it both in this dialogue and elsewhere) voluntarily; but always involuntarily, from want of knowledge, from ignorance of good and evil; that scientific instruction is the source of all that is most desirable for man; that whoever had knowledge to see what was good, would certainly do it; that morals are but a branch of intelligence. It may with some certainty be affirmed that this was Plato’s deliberate and serious creed.
[[*] ]Platonis et quæ vel Platonis esse feruntur vel Platonica solent comitari scripta Græce omnia, with notes by Immanuel Bekker, 11 vols. (London: Priestley, 1826).
[[†] ]Platonis Euthydemus et Gorgias (Greek and English), ed. Martin Joseph Routh (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1784).
[[*] ]Friedrich Daniel Ernst Schleiermacher, “On the Worth of Socrates as a Philosopher,” trans. Connop Thirlwall, Philological Museum, II (1833), 538-55.
[[*] ]The Works of Plato, trans. F. Sydenham and Thomas Taylor, 5 vols. (London: Taylor, 1804).
[* ]The admirable translation by M. Cousin will, when completed, answer the purpose for all to whom the French language is sufficiently familiar. The reader, however, must be mindful to judge of Plato by M. Cousin’s translations of the dialogues, and not by M. Cousin’s prefaces to them. [See Œuvres de Platon, trans. Victor Cousin, 13 vols. (Paris: Bossange, 1822-40).]
[[*] ]The original reads Socrates; there is a marginal correction to Pythagoras in the copy in Mill’s library, Somerville College, Oxford.
[* ]The metaphysical doctrines of Protagoras seem to have been, in their fundamental points, not very remote from those of David Hume. Diogenes Laertius enumerates his principal tenets thus: “That man is the measure of all truth; (or, in other words, that all things are only what they appear to the percipient mind;) and that the mind itself is nothing but a series of sensations.” (ἔλεγέ τε μηδὲν εἰ̑ναι ψυχὴν παρὰ τὰς αἰσθήσεις.) One of his works commenced thus: “Concerning the gods, I am unable to know whether they exist or do not exist; for there are many hinderances to such knowledge—the obscurity of the subject, and the shortness of human life.” (περὶ μὲν θεω̑ν οὐκ ἔχω εἰδέναι, εἴθ’ ὡς εἰσὶν, εἵθ’ ὡς οὐκ εἰσίν. πολλὰ γὰρ τὰ κωλύοντα εἰδέναι, ἠ τε ἀδηλότης, καὶ βραχὺς ὤν ὁ βίος του̑ ανθρώπου.) For these sceptical doctrines the biographer adds that Protagoras was, at an advanced age, banished from Athens, and his writings collected from all who possessed them, and burnt in the public market-place; an instance, among many others, that prosecutions for blasphemy are not of modern invention.
[* ]ψυχὴ, mind, not in the sense of intellect, but in the largest sense—all which is not body.
[* ]Another of the passages which overthrow article upon article of the Quarterly Review.
[* ]ὡς πρεσβύτερος νεωτέροις.
[* ]ὡς εὐθυνούσης τη̑ς δίκης, εὐθυ̑ναι.
[[*] ]The first instalment in the Monthly Repository ends here.
[[*] ]See John Locke, Essay Concerning Human Understanding, in Works, New Ed., 10 vols. (London: Tegg, Sharpe, Offor, Robinson, and Evans, 1823), Vol. I, pp. 293-301 (Bk. II, Chap. xxii), and Vol. II, pp. 195-207 (Bk. III, Chap. v).
[* ]The interesting dialogue of Plato, called the Charmides [see below, pp. 175-86], of which the quality of σωϕροσύνη is expressly the subject, affords ample illustration of all the varieties and shades of association connected with that word.
[[*] ]See Simonides, “Human Imperfection,” in Anthologia Lyrica Graeca, ed. Ernestus Diehl, 2 vols. (Leipzig: Teubneri, 1925), Vol. II, pp. 62-3 (Frag. 4).