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The Gorgias - 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 (Oct., Nov., and Dec., 1834), 691-710, 802-15, and 829-42. Not republished; signed “A.” Identified in JSM’s bibliography (after the general heading cited on 38 above) as “No III. The Gorgias: part 1 in the M.R. for Octob. 1834 / part 2 in the M.R. for Nov. 1834 / part 3 in the M.R. for Decemb. 1834” (MacMinn, 37). In the Somerville College copy, inked corrections at 108n.1 change Καλὸνν to Καλὸν and Αἰσχρὸ to Αἰσχρὸν.
For comment on this and the other translations, see the Introduction and the Textual Introduction, xvii-xxviii and lxxx-lxxxiii above.]
the dialogue on which we are now about to enter is among the most celebrated of Plato’s works, and deserves peculiar attention, as one of those on which his fame as an ethical writer is principally founded. The perusal of it is well fitted to suggest many reflections on the nature of ethical writing in general, and on the principles by which our estimation of a moralist ought to be guided; for some of which reflections we may, perhaps, find room at the conclusion of this notice. We shall now, without further delay, introduce the reader to Plato himself; merely premising as to the tendencies of the dialogue, that its whole drift and scope is to discredit mere worldly-minded men, and the teachers of those arts, or rather pursuits, (for our author uniformly refuses to them the name of arts,) which conduce only to worldly success; and to enforce, by all manner of considerations, the superior dignity and eligibility of a virtuous life, compared with the most successful achievements of a life of mere ambition, in which no moral obligations are recognized, or in which, if recognized, they are not regarded.
As this dialogue is one of the finest specimens both of Plato’s dialectical powers, and of his extraordinary dramatic talent, our abstract of it shall be fuller than usual.
Gorgias, of Leontium, the celebrated rhetorician, and a younger teacher of the same art, named Polus, are sojourning at Athens, in the house of Callicles, a man not otherwise known to us, but who seems to have been what is called a politician, (πολιτικός), a frequenter of, and speaker at, the public assemblies, the great object of whose life was the attainment of influence in public affairs. To this house Socrates, with his friend Chærephon, pays a visit, and finds that Gorgias has just terminated a long exposition, or lecture. Socrates, however, expressed a hope that Gorgias would still consent to expound to him; as he was desirous to hear from himself, what was the power of his art, and what it was he professed to teach: the remainder of his exposition might be postponed to another time. Callicles replied, that there was nothing like asking the man himself; and that he had, in fact, undertaken to answer whatever questions any one thought fit to ask. Socrates therefore requested Chærephon, who was previously acquainted with Gorgias, to ask. “Ask what?” said Chærephon.—“Ask him what he is.”—“How?”—“So that, if he made shoes, he would answer that he is a shoemaker: do you understand me?”—“Yes,” answered Chærephon, and addressed Gorgias thus: “Is it true, O Gorgias, as Callicles tells me, that you offer to answer any sort of questions?”—“It is. I said so just now; and no one, for many years past, has asked me any question which was new to me.”—“Then you must be very ready at answering.”—“You have it in your power to try me.”—“Yes,” (said Polus, interposing in the conversation,) “and me likewise, if you like: for Gorgias seems to me to be tired, having just now spoken at great length.”—“Do you think,” said Chærephon, “that you can answer better than Gorgias?”—“Of what consequence is that, if I can answer well enough for you?”—“Answer then. If Gorgias were skilled in the same art as his brother Herodicus, what ought we to call him?”—“What his brother is; a physician: is it not so?”—“Certainly.”—“If he were acquainted with the same art as Aristophon, what ought we to call him?”—“A painter.”—“But now, since he is skilled in some art, what is the name that we ought to give him?”—“O Chærephon,” answered Polus, “there are among men many arts, skilfully derived from skill. Skill makes our lives pass according to art; want of skill according to chance. Some partake of some of these arts, others of others: the best persons partake of the best arts; of whom Gorgias is one, and partakes of the noblest of arts.”
Socrates now interposes, and addressing Gorgias, observes, that Polus seems to be well provided with words, but that he has not performed what he promised to Chærephon. “What is that?” answered Gorgias.—“He does not answer the question which was put to him.”—“Suppose that you were to question him yourself.”—“If you will permit me, I would much rather question you: for it is clear to me, from what Polus said, that he has bestowed more attention upon what is called rhetoric, than upon the art of discussion,” (or dialectics).—“How so?” asked Polus.—“Because, when Chærephon asked you what was the art which Gorgias taught, you panegyrized the art, as if somebody had censured it, but what it was you did not tell.”—“Did I not say that it was the noblest of arts?”—“Very true: but nobody asked you what was the quality of Gorgias’s art, but what was the nature of it, and what Gorgias ought to be called. As then Chærephon put his first questions well, and you answered well and briefly, so now answer me what is the art of Gorgias, and what he is to be called: or rather, Gorgias, do you yourself tell us what art it is which you practise.”—“Rhetoric,” answered Gorgias.—“You are, then, a rhetorician?”—“A good one, if, as Homer says, you call me that which I boast of being.”[*] —“and you are capable of making others so?”—“I profess to be capable.”
Soc. “Should you, Gorgias, be willing to continue questioning and answering as we have now begun, and to let alone, until another occasion, that length of discourse which Polus began with? If, however, you promise, do not fail to perform, but answer with brevity what is asked.” Gor. “Some answers it is impossible to give, except at considerable length: but I will attempt to do it as briefly as possible: for this, too, is one of the things which I profess; that no one can say the same thing in fewer words than myself.” S. “This is what there is now occasion for: be pleased, therefore, to exemplify your brevity now, and your power of enlarging another time.
“Since rhetoric is the thing you are skilled in, what is the subject-matter which rhetoric relates to? Weaving relates to the making of clothing; does it not?” G. “Yes.” S. “And music is about the making of songs?” G. “Yes.” S. “What, then, is rhetoric about?” G. “About discourse.”
S. “What sort of discourse? that which teaches the sick by what regimen they may get well?” G. “No.” S. “Rhetoric, then, does not relate to all sorts of discourse.” G. “It does not.” S. “But it makes men able to speak.” G. “It does.” S. “And on the matters on which it makes them able to speak, it makes them able likewise to think.” G. “Certainly.” S. “Now, does not the art of medicine enable people to speak and think concerning the sick?” G. “Undoubtedly.” S. “Then medicine likewise relates to discourse; viz., discourse on the subject of diseases.” G. “It does.” S. “And gymnastics* relate to discourse; viz., discourse on the subject of good and bad habits of body.” G. “Without doubt.” S. “And the same thing may be said of all other arts: each of them relates to discourse; viz., discourse respecting the subject with which that particular art is conversant.” G. “It appears so.” S. “Why, then, do you not call the other arts rhetoric, being on the subject of discourse, if you call that which is on the subject of discourse by the name of rhetoric?” G. “Because the other arts relate, in a manner, entirely to manual operations, and such like things: but rhetoric has nothing to do with manual operations; it whole agency and force are by means of discourse.”
S. “Now I partly understand what you mean; but I hope to understand it still better. Are there not two kinds of arts? In the one kind, the greater part of the art lies in action, and these arts have occasion for but little discourse; some of them require none at all, and might be performed in silence, such as painting, sculpture, and so forth. This is the class to which you say that rhetoric does not belong: do you not?” G. “You understand me rightly.” S. “But there is another kind, which perform all by discourse, and require no action, or very little, such as arithmetic and geometry, and many others, some of which have about an equal share of action and of discourse, but the greater part have scarcely anything except discourse, and effect all their purposes by means of it: and I understand you to say that rhetoric is one of these.” G. “True.” S. “But you do not call any of the arts which I have mentioned, rhetoric? although in words you said as much, saying that rhetoric is the art of which the whole power consists in discourse; and if any one wished to cavil, he might ask, Do you, then, call arithmetic rhetoric? But I do not believe that you call either arithmetic or geometry by that name.” G. “You think rightly.” S. “Then finish the answer to my question. Since rhetoric is one of the arts which chiefly employ discourse, and since there are others which do the same, explain to me on what subject it is that rhetoric employs discourse. Thus, if any one asked me, What is arithmetic? I might answer as you did, It is one of the arts whose force consists in discourse. And if he should further inquire, On what subject? I should reply, On the subject of numbers. Since, then, rhetoric is one of the arts which effect their end wholly by means of discourse, what is the subject of the discourse which rhetoric employs?” G. “The greatest and best of the concerns of man.”
“But this answer,” observed Socrates, “is disputable and ambiguous. I suppose you have heard at entertainments the old song, Health is the best of all things, beauty the second best, and the third is to be rich without guilt.” G. “I have: but to what purpose is this?” S. “Because the providers of the three things which are praised in the old song, viz. the physician, the teacher of gymnastics, and the man of business, might start up, and, first, the physician might say, Gorgias deceives you, Socrates: it is not his art, but mine, which relates to the greatest and best concerns of man. And if I asked, Who are you who speak in this manner, he would answer, A physician. And if I rejoined, How do you prove the object of your art to be the greatest good? How can it be otherwise? he would reply: What greater good is there to man than health? In like manner the gymnast, and the man of business, would each set up the claim of his art to be the art which is conversant with the greatest good. I should answer, But Gorgias contends that his art produces a greater good to man than yours. They would then reply, And what is this good? Let Gorgias answer. Consider yourself, then, to be interrogated both by them and by me, and answer, what is this which you consider the greatest good to man, and of which you profess to be the artist?”
“It is,” replied Gorgias, “that which is really the greatest good, and which both enables men to be themselves free, and enables each, in his own state, to govern the rest.” S. “And what is this?” G. “The ability to persuade, by discourse, either judges in a tribunal, or senators in a council-house, or voters in a meeting of the people, and in every other political assembly. If you have this power, you will have the physician for your slave, the gymnast for your slave, and the man of business will transact business for the profit, not of himself, but of you who are able to speak and persuade the multitude.”
“Now,” replied Socrates, “you appear to me to come near to an explanation what art you consider rhetoric to be. If I understand you, rhetoric is that which works persuasion; and its whole agency is summed up and terminates in that. Or can you point out anything which rhetoric can do, more than to produce persuasion in the minds of the hearers?” G. “No: you seem to me to define it adequately.”
“Hear me, then,” said Socrates. “I persuade myself, that if there is any person who converses with another wishing to arrive at a real knowledge of the thing which the discussion relates to, I am such a person: and I wish you to be so.” G. “What then?” S. “I will tell you. What, and on what topics this persuasion is, which you say results from rhetoric, I do not clearly know; and though I certainly suspect, I will nevertheless ask you. Now, why do I, suspecting it myself, question you, and not myself declare it? Not on your account, but for the sake of the discussion, that it may proceed in such a manner as to make that about which we are talking clearest to us. Consider then whether I interrogate you fairly. If I were to ask you, what painter is Zeuxis? and you were to answer, The man who paints animals; might I not fairly ask you, What animals, on what material?” G. “Certainly.” S. “Because there are other painters who paint other animals.” G. “Yes.” S. “But if nobody had ever painted animals except Zeuxis, your answer would have been right.” G. “Certainly.” S. “Now then, on the subject of rhetoric, tell me, whether rhetoric is the only art which produces persuasion? What I mean is this: when a man teaches any thing, does he persuade people of that which he teaches, or not?” G. “He persuades more than any body.” S. “To return to our former examples—does not arithmetic, and does not the arithmetician, teach us the properties of numbers?” G. “Yes.” S. “Then they persuade us.” G. “Yes.” S. “Then arithmetic also works persuasion.” G. “So it seems.” S. “Then if we are asked, What persuasion, and respecting what; we should answer, The persuasion, which instructs us respecting the properties of numbers. And in like manner we can show what persuasion, and on what matter, is wrought by each of the other arts which we mentioned.” G. “Yes.” S. “Then rhetoric is not the only worker of persuasion?” G. “True.” S. “Then we may ask you, what persuasion, and on what matter, is wrought by rhetoric.” G. “The persuasion of courts of justice and other assemblies, and on the subject of the just and the unjust.”
S. “I suspected that you meant this kind of persuasion, and on this subject. But that you may not be surprised if I should hereafter ask you something which, like this, appears obvious, I do so in order that the argument may be carried straight through: not on your account, but that we may not accustom ourselves to anticipate each other’s meaning by guess; and that you may complete your exposition in your own manner.” G. “You do very right.” S. “Let us then consider this. There is such a thing as to learn?” G. “Yes.” S. “And such a thing as to believe?” G. “Yes.” S. “To believe and to learn, are these the same thing, or different things?” G. “Different things, I conceive.” S. “You conceive rightly, as may be known from this: If you were asked whether there are true belief and false belief, you would say, Yes.” G. “I should.” S. “But are there true knowledge and false knowledge?” G. “No.” S. “Then they are not the same thing?” G. “They are not.” S. “But they who have learnt, and they who only believe, are both of them persuaded?” G. “They are.” S. “Shall we say, then, that there are two kinds of persuasion, the one affording belief without knowledge, the other affording knowledge?” G. “Yes.” S. “Which sort of persuasion does rhetoric produce in courts of justice and other assemblies, respecting the just and the unjust? The sort which produces belief without knowledge, or that which produces knowledge?” G. “Evidently that which produces belief.” S. “Rhetoric, then, works the persuasion of belief, not the persuasion of knowledge, respecting the just and the unjust?” G. “Yes.” S. “The orator then does not instruct courts of justice and other assemblies respecting the just and the unjust, but only persuades them: for he could not, in a short time, instruct a large assembly in such great matters?” G. “Certainly not.” S. “Let us see then what we are to think of rhetoric; for I do not know what to say about it. When an assembly is called together for the choice of physicians, or of ship builders, or any other sort of artists, will the rhetorician then not offer his opinion? for it is clear that in every election, whoever is the greatest master of the art ought to be chosen. If the question relate to the building of walls, or the construction of ports or docks, will the advisers be not the rhetoricians, but the engineers? If it relate to the choice of generals, or the operations of warfare, will the men versed in military affairs advise, and the rhetoricians not? or how is it? for since you say that you are a rhetorician, and can make others so, it is right to ask of you what belongs to your art. Consider me to be advancing your own interests also: for there are perhaps some persons here who wish to become your disciples. Imagine that you are asked by them, What shall we get by your instructions? on what subject shall we be able to advise the State? on the just and the unjust only, or on the other matters also, which Socrates just now mentioned?”
“I will endeavour,” answered Gorgias, “to unfold to you clearly the whole power of rhetoric; for you have well led the way. You know that the walls, and docks, and harbours of Athens were constructed by the advice of Themistocles and of Pericles, not by that of the workmen.” S. “They say so of Themistocles; and Pericles I have myself heard.” G. “And when there is a choice to be made on these matters, you see that the orators are those who prevail, and carry the people along with them.” S. “It is the wonder which this excites in me, that makes me so anxious to find out what is the power of rhetoric; for, when considered in this light, it appears a thing of astonishing greatness.” G. “If you knew all, you would see that it comprises and holds subject to itself almost all other powers. I will give you a remarkable proof:—Often have I gone, with my brother and other physicians, to visit a sick man who would not take medicine or undergo an operation; and when the physician could not persuade him, I persuaded him, by no other art than rhetoric. I affirm, that, in any city you please, if a rhetorician and a physician were to contend, by discourse, in an assembly or meeting, as competitors for appointment to any office, the physician would be thought nothing of; the able speaker would be chosen, if he wished it: and if he became the rival of any other artist whatever, he would persuade them to choose him in preference to the other; for there is no subject on which a rhetorician would not speak more persuasively than any other person, to a multitude. Such and so great is the power of the art. It should, however, be used like any other power of subversion and overthrow. Such power ought not, because we possess it, to be therefore used against all persons indiscriminately. It does not follow, because a man has learnt to box, or to wrestle, or to fence, so as to be more than a match for friend or foe, that he should beat, and wound, and slay his friends: neither, if when, by gymnastic exercises, a man has acquired strength and skill, he beats his father, or his mother, or any of his relations or friends, ought we therefore to abhor and expel from the state the teachers of gymnastics and the fencing masters. They communicated the art, that it might be used justly, against the enemy and against wrongdoers, defensively, not for purposes of aggression; but their pupils pervert the faculty, and turn their strength and their art to an improper use. We are not, however, to impute this, and the criminality of it, to the art or to the teachers of the art, but to those who employ it ill. The like is true with rhetoric. An orator is able to speak to all men and on any subject, so as to persuade the multitude; but he ought not to employ this faculty in depriving physicians or artificers of their reputation, merely because he has the power to do so: he should use rhetoric, like any other power, with justice: and if, having become a rhetorician, he employs his power and his art to do wrong, we should not abhor and banish the teacher, who gave the art for a good purpose, but him who employs it for a bad one.”
Socrates thus replied: “I think, Gorgias, that you have had experience of many discussions, and must have perceived this, that men seldom know how jointly to examine and mark out the things about which they attempt to discuss; and having learnt and instructed themselves, so to break off the conversation. But if they dispute on any matter, and one of them charges the other with not speaking rightly, or not clearly, they are angry, and think that it is said in envy, and not in the pursuit of the proposed object of discourse; and they sometimes end by shamefully reproaching one another, and bandying such words as make the bystanders ashamed of themselves for having desired to listen to such men. Why do I say this? Because, what you now say, appears to me not very consistent with what you previously said concerning rhetoric. Now, I am afraid to confute you, lest you should suppose that I do it not from zeal to find the thing which we are in quest of, but in the spirit of contention against you. Now, if you are such a person as I am, I should like to go on interrogating you; if not, I will let it alone. And what sort of a man am I? One, who would gladly be refuted, if I affirm what is not true; and who would gladly refute, when another person does so; but who would just as gladly be refuted as refute; for I think it a greater good, by so much as it is a greater thing, to be ourselves relieved from the greatest of evils, than to relieve another person; and I conceive that there is no human evil so great as false opinion on the subject of which our present discourse treats. If, then, you are a person of the same sort, let us continue; but if you think we had better leave off, we will.”
“I,” said Gorgias, “profess to be such a person as you describe; but perhaps we should consider the wish of those who are present.” They, however, unanimously begged that the argument might proceed; and Gorgias said it would be disgraceful for him, especially after he had undertaken to answer all questions, not to be willing to continue.
“Hear, then,” resumed Socrates, “something in your discourse which surprises me. You say that you can make any person, who receives your instructions, an orator, capable of persuading a multitude; not producing knowledge in their minds, but belief. You said that, on the subject of the healthful or unhealthful, an orator would be more capable of persuading than a physician.” G. “Certainly; in a multitude.” S. “In a multitude, is as much as to say, among those who do not know; for those who do know, will not be persuaded by him better than by a physician.” G. “Certainly.” S. “Then, if he is more persuasive than a physician, he is more persuasive than one who knows?” G. “Undoubtedly.” S. “Not being himself a physician?” G. “No.” S. “And, therefore, being ignorant of those things which the physician knows?” G. “Yes.” S. “When, then, the orator is more persuasive than the physician, one who does not know is more persuasive among those who do not know, than one who does know?” G. “This certainly follows.” S. “So it is, then, in all other arts. The orator and his art need not know how things really are; but they have invented a contrivance of persuasion, by which, among those who do not know, they appear to know more than those who do know.” G. “Is it not, then, a great privilege, not learning any other art, but only this one, to be nowise inferior to the artists themselves?”
“Whether,” replied Socrates, “the orator is inferior or not inferior to other people, we shall examine by-and-bye. At present let me inquire this:—Is the rhetorician situated in the same manner with respect to the just and unjust, the noble and disgraceful, the good and evil, as he is with respect to health, and the other subjects of the different arts; viz., himself, not knowing what is good or evil, just or unjust, but having a contrivance of persuasion, so as to appear, among those who do not know, to be more knowing than those who do? Or is it necessary that he should really know these things, and should have learnt them before he comes to learn rhetoric from you? And pray, will you, the teacher of rhetoric, if you find him ignorant of these things, not teach him them, but only enable him, not knowing them, to seem to the vulgar to know them, and appear a good man without being so? Or, are you not able to teach him rhetoric at all, unless he knows the real nature of these things beforehand? Or how is it? And pray unfold to me, as you just now said, the whole power of the art.” G. “I conceive, that if he happened not to know these things, he would learn these likewise from me.” S. “If, then, you are to make any person a rhetorician, it is necessary that he should know the just and the unjust, either beforehand, or by your instructions?” G. “Yes.”
S. “Now, is not he who has learnt architecture, an architect?” G. “Yes.” S. “He who has learnt music, a musician?” G. “Yes.” S. “He who has learnt medicine, a physician; and, to speak generally, he who has learnt anything, is that which the science he has learnt causes men to be.” G. “Certainly.” S. “Then, by this reasoning, he who has learnt justice is just.” G. “Certainly.” S. “Then a rhetorician must be just.” G. “Yes.” S. “But a just man acts justly.” G. “Yes.” S. “And a just man must necessarily wish to act justly?” G. “So it seems.” S. “Then a just man will never wish to do injustice.” G. “No.” S. “But we said that a rhetorician must be just.” G. “Yes.” S. “Then a rhetorician will never wish to do injustice.” G. “It appears not.”*S. “Do you remember now, that you said a short time ago, that as a gymnast ought not to be blamed nor expelled from the State if a boxer or wrestler makes an ill use of his art, so if an orator uses rhetoric for a bad purpose, we ought not to reproach or banish the teacher of rhetoric, but the person who perverts it to unjust purposes.” G. “I did.” S. “But now it seems that a rhetorician cannot be unjust.” G. “It seems so.” S. “And it was observed before, that the subject of rhetoric is discourse; not discourse on numbers, but discourse on the just and the unjust.” G. “Yes.” S. “When you said this, I imagined that rhetoric could not be an unjust thing, since all its discourse is of justice; but when you afterwards said that an orator might employ rhetoric unjustly, I wondered, and thinking the two assertions inconsistent, I said, that if you, like myself, thought it a benefit to be refuted, it was worth while to continue the argument, but if not, it was better to leave it alone. And now, on further inquiry, we have admitted that a rhetorician cannot possibly use rhetoric unjustly, or wish to do injustice. To discover how this is, would require not a little conversation and discussion.”
Here Polus breaks in; and, as we have seen in the preceding part of the dialogue how Socrates could conduct a respectful and well-bred disputation, we shall now see in what manner he could beat back an overweening and petulant assailant.
“What!” said Polus: “do you really think, on the subject of rhetoric, what you say? Do you not perceive that the advantage you have assumed over Gorgias is only owing to his shamefacedness, because he did not like to confess the truth? He was ashamed not to profess that a rhetorician knows what is really just, and good, and noble, and that he, Gorgias, if any one comes to him ignorant of these things, can teach them. In consequence of this admission, something like a contradiction, perhaps, arose in his discourse; the thing which always delights you. Who do you suppose would not, if asked, affirm that he knows what is just, and can teach it? But it is extremely unfair and ill-bred to drive any one into such a dilemma.”
“Most excellent Polus,” replied Socrates, “the great use of having friends or sons is, that when we grow old and fall into error, you younger men may set us right. If, therefore, Gorgias and I have made any mistake, do you correct it: and if any of our admissions appear to you improper, we will retract it, if you will only guard against one thing.” P. “What thing?” S. “That lengthiness of discourse which you began with.” P. “What! Shall I not be allowed to say as much as I please?” S. “You would be extremely ill used, my good friend, if coming to Athens, where there is greater freedom of speech than in any other city in Greece, you alone should not be suffered to participate in it. But consider this on the other hand: If you make long speeches, and do not choose to answer the question that is put to you, should not I also be very ill used if I were not allowed to go away and not listen to you? If you have a real regard for the discussion which has been commenced, and wish to rectify what was wrong in it, take back any of the concessions that have been made, and by questioning and answering, refute and be refuted; for you profess to know what Gorgias knows, do you not?” P. “I do.” S. “Then you also invite persons to put questions to you, and undertake to answer them?” P. “Certainly.” S. “Then do which you please; interrogate, or answer.”
P. “So I will. Tell me, Socrates, since you think that Gorgias cannot tell what rhetoric is, pray what do you consider it to be?” S. “Do you ask me what art I consider it to be?” P. “I do.” S. “No art at all, to tell you the truth.” P. “What thing, then, do you call it?” S. “A thing which you, in a book which I lately read, profess to erect into an art.” P. “And what is it?” S. “A kind of skill.” P. “Rhetoric, then, according to you, is a kind of skill?” S. “Yes, if you have no objection.” P. “Skill in what?” S. “In gratification, and the production of pleasure.” P. “Is not rhetoric, then, a fine thing, since it is capable of causing gratification?” S. “What, Polus! have I yet told you what I say it is, so that you should already ask me whether I do not think it a fine thing?” P. “Did you not tell me that it was a kind of skill?” S. “Since you set such a value on gratification, will you gratify me a little?” P. “I will.” S. “Ask me, then, what art I consider cookery to be.” P. “I ask you, what art is cookery?” S. “None at all.” P. “What is it then?” S. “A kind of skill.” P. “Skill in what?” S. “In gratification, and the production of pleasure.” P. “Are cookery and rhetoric, then, the same thing?” S. “No; but they are branches of the same pursuit.” P. “What pursuit is that?” S. “I am afraid it would be ill bred to say the truth: I do not like to say it, on Gorgias’s account, lest he should think that I am satirizing his profession. I do not know whether this is the rhetoric which Gorgias professes: for we could not make out clearly in the former discussion what he understands by it: but what I call rhetoric, is a branch of a thing which is not very admirable.” “What thing?” asked Gorgias. “Speak; and do not have any reluctance on my account.”
S. “I think, Gorgias, that it is a pursuit, not governed by art, but belonging to a mind of great tact and boldness, and greatly fitted by nature for intercourse with men: and I call it, in one word, Adulation. Of this pursuit there are many other branches, and cookery is one, which is thought to be an art, but, in my opinion, is no art, but a skill, and a routine. I call rhetoric, and cosmetics, (the toilet,) and the pursuit of the sophist, other species of the same pursuit. There are thus four branches of it, conversant with four different things. If Polus wishes to question me further, let him do so; for I have told him that I consider rhetoric to be a branch of adulation, but not what branch; and he has overlooked that I have not yet answered his first question, though he goes on pressing me with a second, and asks me whether I think rhetoric a fine thing, before I have answered what it is. This is not fair, Polus; if you wish to know, ask me what branch of adulation I affirm rhetoric to be.” P. “I do ask; answer what branch it is?” S. “Do you think you shall understand my answer? Rhetoric, in my view of the matter, is the counterfeit of a branch of politics.” P. “Well then, do you call it a noble or an ignoble thing?”*S. “An ignoble thing; for all bad things I call ignoble: since I must answer you as if you already understood what I have been saying.” “By Jupiter!” said Gorgias, “neither do I myself understand what you mean.” S. “And no wonder, for I have not yet explained myself at all clearly; but Polus is young and sharp.” “Leave him alone,” resumed Gorgias, “and tell me how you consider rhetoric to be the counterfeit of a branch of politics.”
“I will try,” said Socrates, “to explain what rhetoric seems to me to be: and, if it be not so, Polus will refute me. There are such things as body and mind?” Gorgias answered, “There are.” S. “There is such a thing as a good habit of body, or of mind?” G. “There is.” S. “And there is such a thing as an apparently good habit, which is not really so. Many persons seem to be in a good state of body, and no one but a physician or a gymnast could readily perceive that they are not so.” G. “True.” S. “There are things, moreover, which cause the body and the mind to be apparently in a good state, without really improving their condition at all.” G. “There are so.”
S. “Now, then, I can more clearly explain my meaning. These two things, body and mind, form the subjects of two arts. The art which relates to the mind, I call Politics, or the Social Art. The art which relates to the body, I cannot call by any single name; but the culture of the body, being itself one, has two branches, which are, gymnastics and medicine. Politics consists of the art of legislation, which corresponds to gymnastics, and the art of judicature, which corresponds to medicine. Gymnastics and Medicine, as they relate to the same subject, have some things in common with each other, as have likewise Judicature and Legislation; but they nevertheless have some differences. These, then, are four arts, which serve the body and the mind, always having in view their greatest good. Adulation, perceiving this, I do not say knowing, but divining it, separates itself into four branches, and, decking itself in the garb of these four arts, pretends to be that which it counterfeits; not paying any regard to the greatest good, but baiting its hook with the greatest pleasure, so as to deceive the unreflecting, and appear the most valuable of all things. Cookery puts on the semblance of medicine, and pretends to know what kinds of food are best for the body; and if a physician and a cook had to appear before children, or before men who are as unthinking as children, that it might be decided which of them best understood good and bad diet, the physician would starve for want of employment. This I call adulation, and I hold it to be a disgraceful thing, Polus, because it aims at the pleasant only, without regarding the greatest good; and I affirm that it is not an art, but a mere skill, because it cannot give any account of the real nature of the things which it employs, nor, consequently, can it explain the cause of the effects which it produces. I do not give the name of art to that which cannot render a reason for what it enjoins. If you doubt this, I am willing to contest it with you. Cookery, then, counterfeits medicine. In like manner, Cosmetics counterfeits Gymnastics, being a tricky, ignoble, and illiberal practice, which deceives by artificial colour and smoothness and figure and dress; and, by giving factitious beauty, produces neglect of our own natural beauty, which is the result of gymnastics. Not to be lengthy, I will say to you in geometrical language, that, as Cookery is to Medicine, so is Cosmetics to Gymnastics; or, rather, as Cosmetics to Gymnastics, so is the pursuit of the sophist to the art of Legislation; and, as Cookery to Medicine, so is Rhetoric to the art of Judicature. These distinctions, at any rate, are real; although their pursuits, being nearly allied, are not unfrequently blended together, and it is not possible always to distinguish accurately which of them is practised by any particular individual.
“Now, if the body were not governed by the mind, but governed itself; if Cookery and Medicine were not surveyed and discriminated by the mind, but were to be judged by the body, taking its own gratification for the standard; no doubt the things which conduce to health, and those which conduce to the palate, the things which belong to Medicine, and those which belong to Cookery, would be all confounded together. You now therefore know what I assert Rhetoric to be: The counterpart of Cookery. Rhetoric is to the mind what Cookery is to the body.
“Perhaps, now, I have acted unaccountably, inasmuch as I would not let you make a long speech, and I have made one myself. But you ought to excuse me, for when I spoke concisely you did not understand me, nor could make any use of my answer: you needed a long dissertation. If, then, you find that I cannot understand, or make use of your answers, do you also prolong your discourse; but, if I can, permit me to do so, for that is but just. And now, if you can make any thing of my present answer, do so.”
“What!” asked Polus, “Do you affirm rhetoric to be Adulation?” S. “I said, a branch of Adulation.” P. “Do good orators appear to you to be of mean account in a state, as being adulators?” S. “Do you mean this as a question, or is it the beginning of a speech?” P. “As a question.” S. “They do not seem to me to be of any account at all.” P. “How, of no account? Are they not the most powerful persons in a state?” S. “Not if you mean that to be powerful is a good thing for the powerful person.” P. “But I do.” S. “Then orators appear to me to be less powerful in a state than any other persons whatever.” P. “What! Do they not, like despots, put to death whomsoever they desire, and deprive of his property and expel from the state whomsoever they think fit?” S. “I am continually in doubt whether you are giving these things as your own opinion, or asking me for mine.” P. “I am asking you.” S. “Then you are asking me two questions at once.” P. “How so?” S. “Did you not say, that orators, like despots, put to death whomsoever they desire, and deprive of his property and expel from the state whomsoever they think fit?”*P. “I did.” S. “These I call two questions; and I will answer both of them. I say that orators, and despots too, have scarcely any power at all in a state, inasmuch as they accomplish scarcely any of the things which they desire; but they certainly effect what they think fit.” P. “But this surely is to be powerful.” S. “Not on your showing.” P. “Not on my showing? but it is on my showing.” S. “Not so indeed, since you said that to be powerful was a good thing for the powerful person.” P. “I say so still.” S. “Do you think it a good thing for a person to accomplish what he thinks fit, if he is without good sense? and is this what you call being powerful?” P. “Not I.” S. “Then if you would refute him, you must show that orators have good sense, and that rhetoric is an art, not an adulation. But though you should leave me unrefuted, orators and despots who do whatever they think fit in a state, will be never the better for it. Power, you say, is something good. But to effect what we think fit, being without good sense, you yourself allow to be a bad thing.” P. “I do.” S. “How then can orators or despots be powerful in a state, unless you prove against me that they effect what they desire?” P. “What a man!” S. “I say, they do not effect what they desire.” P. “Did you not admit that they effect what they think fit?” S. “I admit it still.” P. “Then they effect what they desire.” S. “I say not.” P. “Although they effect what they think fit?” S. “Yes.” P. “You talk nonsense.” S. “Do not inveigh against me, most worthy Polus: but if you have any questions to put, show that I am wrong; if not, do you yourself answer.” P. “I am willing to answer, that I may know what it is you mean.”
S. “Does it seem to you that people, on each occasion, desire the thing itself which they do, or the thing for the sake of which they do it? For instance, does a person who takes medicine, desire the actual thing which he does, viz. to drink the potion and suffer pain, or the thing for the sake of which he does it, viz. to be in health?” P. “Evidently, to be in health.” S. “And navigators, or other men of business, do not desire the actual thing which they do (for who would desire all sorts of trouble and danger?) but they desire the thing for the sake of which all this is done, viz., to be rich?” P. “Very true.” S. “And the case is the same with every thing, is it not? When we do one thing for the sake of another, what we desire is not the thing which we do, but the thing for the sake of which we do it.” P. “Certainly.” S. “Now are not all things either good or bad, or between the two, neither good nor bad?” P. “Certainly.” S. “Wisdom, health, riches, and so forth, you call good, and their opposites bad.” P. “Undoubtedly.” S. “And the things which are neither good nor bad, are those which sometimes partake of good, sometimes of bad, sometimes of neither; as to sit, or to walk, or to run, or to sail, or as wood and stone, and so forth.” P. “True.” S. “Do we perform these indifferent things for the sake of the good things, or the good things for the sake of the indifferent things?” P. “We perform the indifferent things for the sake of the good things.” S. “Then, when we walk, we do so in pursuit of good, and when we stand, it is for the same reason.” P. “Yes.” S. “And if we kill any one, or banish him, or confiscate his property, it is because we think it better to do so, than not.” P. “Certainly.” S. “Those then who do these things, do them for the sake of good.” P. “Granted.” S. “But we admitted that we desire, not those things which we perform for the sake of other things, but those other things, for the sake of which we perform them.” P. “Most true.” S. “Then we do not desire simply to kill men or banish them, or to deprive them of their property: but we desire to do these things if they be beneficial, and not to do them if they be hurtful. For, as you say, we desire the things which are good, but do not desire those which are indifferent, or bad. Do I say true? Why do you not answer?” P. “It is true.” S. “Then, this being granted, if any one, being an orator or a despot, kills another or takes any of his property or banishes him, thinking it to be a good thing for him to do so, when in reality it is a bad thing, this person does what he thinks fit?” P. “Yes.” S. “But does he do what he desires, if these things are in reality bad? Why do you not answer?” P. “It appears that he does not do what he desires.” S. “Can such a person then be said to be powerful in a state, if to be powerful be, as you say, a good thing?” P. “He cannot.” S. “Then I said truly when I affirmed that it was possible to effect in a state whatever we think fit, and yet not to be powerful, nor effect what we desire.”
P. “So, then, Socrates, you would not like that it should be allowed you to accomplish in the state whatever seems fit to you, nor do you feel envy when you see a man killing, or imprisoning, or depriving of their property whomsoever he pleases.”
“Do you mean,” answered Socrates, “justly or unjustly?” P. “In whichever way it is done, is it not enviable?” S. “It is not proper to envy the unenviable nor the miserable, but to pity them.” P. “What! do you think it is thus with the persons whom I describe?” S. “Undoubtedly.” P. “Does he who kills whomsoever it seems best to him, and kills them justly, appear to you miserable and pitiable?” S. “No, but neither does he appear enviable.” P. “Did you not, just now, call him miserable?” S. “Him who kills unjustly, I called miserable, and pitiable too; him who kills justly, unenviable.” P. “Certainly he who is killed unjustly is pitiable and miserable.” S. “Less so than his slayer, and less so than he who is slain justly.” P. “How so?” S. “Because to do injury is the greatest of evils.” P. “The greatest? Is it not a still greater evil to be injured?” S. “By no means.” P. “Would you prefer to be injured, rather than do an injury?” S. “I should not prefer either, but if one or the other were unavoidable, I should choose rather to be injured than to injure.” P. “Would you not consent to be a despot?” S. “If by being a despot you mean what I mean, I should not.” P. “I mean, as I said before, being allowed to do in the state whatever we think fit; to kill, and banish, and do every thing according to our will.” S. “Most excellent person, listen to me. Suppose that I were to go out into the market-place when it is full, with a poniard under my arm, and to say to you, Polus, I have obtained a splendid despotism; for if it seem good to me that any one of all these men should die, he will die upon the spot; if I will that he should be wounded, he will be wounded; if that his cloak should be torn, it will be torn; so great is my power in this state. And suppose that, you being incredulous, I were to show you my poniard. You would probably answer, that by this account every body must be powerful, for in this way any one might set fire to any house, or to the docks and all the vessels in the harbour, if he thought fit. But to be powerful does not consist in being able to do what we think fit.” P. “Not in this manner, certainly.” S. “Now can you tell what is your objection to this power?” P. “Surely.” S. “What is it?” P. “That a person who acts thus must inevitably be punished.” S. “And to be punished is an evil?” P. “Certainly.” S. “Then it again appears to you, that to be powerful is good, only when, doing what we think fit, we do what is for our benefit; and this is what is meant by being powerful: without this, it is evil, and is not power but impotence.
“Let us consider further in this manner. It is sometimes better to do the thing which we were talking about, to kill, and confiscate, and banish; and sometimes not?” P. “Undoubtedly.” S. “This we are both of us agreed in?” P. “We are.” S. “In what cases do you say it is better, and in what otherwise? Tell me where you draw the line.” P. “Do you, Socrates, answer this question yourself.” S. “If you prefer to be a listener, I say, that when it is done justly it is better, and when unjustly, it is worse.” P. “Could not a child refute what you now assert?” S. “I shall be very thankful to the child, and equally so to you, if you refute me, and free me from error. Do not be tired of doing a service to a friend, but refute.” P. “There is no occasion to go very far back in order to refute you. What happened only the other day is sufficient to prove that many unjust persons are happy.” S. “What are these things?” P. “Do you see Archelaus, the king of Macedonia?” S. “If I do not see him I have heard of him.” P. “Does he appear to you happy or miserable?” S. “I do not know, for I have never conversed with the man.” P. “What! could you know that he was happy by conversing with him, and not otherwise?” S. “Certainly not.” P. “Then you will say that you do not know whether the Great King (of Persia) is happy?” S. “And I shall say truly; for I do not know in what condition he is with respect to mental cultivation and justice.” P. “What! Does all happiness consist in this?” S. “As I say, it does; for I affirm that an excellent man or woman is happy, an unjust and wicked one wretched.” P. “Then Archelaus is wretched, by your account?” S. “If he be unjust.” P. “But how can it be denied that he is unjust?” and here Polus relates a series of crimes by which Archelaus had risen to the throne, intermixing much sarcastic irony on the notion of Socrates that he was unhappy, and ends by saying, “and do you suppose there is so much as a single Athenian, beginning with yourself, who would not rather be Archelaus than any other of the Macedonians?”
Socrates replied, “At the commencement of our conversation I praised you for being well versed in rhetoric, but said that you had neglected discussion. Is this the argument with which a child could confute me? Does this, in your opinion, refute my assertion that an unjust man is not happy? How, pray? for I do not admit a word of what you have said.” P. “Because you will not; for you in reality think as I say.” S. “My good friend, you attempt to refute me rhetorically, in the manner of what is called refutation in the courts of justice. In those courts, one man thinks that he refutes another, if he can produce many witnesses of good reputation in behalf of what he says, while his adversary can produce only one, or none at all. But this sort of refutation is good for nothing as respects truth: for it sometimes happens that a great number of witnesses, and people who are thought to be of some worth, bear false witness. And now, on the subject of which you are speaking, very nearly all the Athenians, and foreigners too, will join in your assertion, and if you wish to produce witnesses in proof that I am wrong, you may have Nicias, if you please, and Aristocrates, and the whole family of Pericles, and, in short, any one you please in this city. But I, who am but one man, do not acknowledge it; for you do not compel me to do so, but attempt to bear me down and deprive me of my substance, of the Truth, by producing false witnesses against me. I, on the contrary, think I have done nothing, unless I can produce you, yourself, who are but one, as a witness on my side. Nor do I think that you have accomplished any thing, unless I, one single person, bear witness in your behalf, without regard to any of the others. Yours is one kind of refutation, as you and many others think; there is another kind, as I think. Let us compare them, and see whether they differ from one another. The things respecting which we are disputing are no trifling things, but are nearly those respecting which it is most honourable to know, and most disgraceful to be ignorant; for it is, in short, to know or not to know, who is and who is not happy. You think, that a person who is unjust, and acts unjustly, may be happy?” P. “I do.” S. “I say that it is not possible. This, then, is one point in dispute. Next, will a person who commits injustice be happy if he be brought to justice and punishment?” P. “By no means; in that case he would be most wretched.” S. “But if he do not suffer punishment, he is happy?” P. “Yes.” S. “In my opinion, he who is unjust and commits injustice, is in any case miserable; but more miserable if he be unjust and escape from punishment, than if he be brought to justice and suffer punishment. You have refuted my first opinion, have you not?” P. “Yes.” S. “Will you refute the second, too?” P. “That, truly, is still more difficult to refute than the first!” S. “Not difficult, but impossible; for the truth cannot be refuted.” P. “How! If a man is detected aiming unjustly at the tyranny, and being detected, is put to the rack and hewed in pieces, and has his eyes burnt out, and after suffering both in himself and in his wife and children the uttermost insult and contumely, is at last impaled or crucified, will he be more happy than if he succeeds in his enterprise, and attaining despotic power, continues master of the state to the end of his days, envied and felicitated both by his countrymen and by foreigners? Is this what you say it is impossible to refute?” S. “You are inveighing now, and not refuting, as a little while ago you were calling witnesses. But pray refresh my memory; are you supposing him to aim unjustly at the tyranny?” P. “Certainly.” S. “Then neither of them, neither he who is punished nor he who escapes, is the more happy; for of two miserable persons it cannot be said that either is the happier; but he who escapes and attains the tyranny, is the more wretched. What is this, Polus; do you laugh? Is this another mode of refutation, when any thing is asserted, to laugh, instead of answering it?” P. “Do you not think yourself answered, when you say what no person in the world would say except yourself? Ask any of the bystanders.”
Socrates replied, “I am no politician, and last year, when it fell to me by lot to be a member of the Council of Five Hundred, and when the turn came for my tribe to preside, and it was my duty to take the votes, I was laughed at for not knowing how to do it. Do not, therefore, bid me take the votes of the bystanders; but if you cannot produce a better refutation of what I asserted than this, let me take my turn, and try to show you what I consider to be a refutation; for I know how to produce one witness in proof of my assertion, viz., the person with whom I am speaking; but the large number I let alone. I know how to take the vote of one person, but with the many I do not converse. Let us see, therefore, whether you are willing, in your turn, to submit yourself to refutation, by answering the questions which are asked of you. For my opinion is, that both you and I, and all men, consider it a greater evil to do an injury than to suffer one, and to be unpunished than to be punished.” P. “And I say that neither I nor any other person is of that opinion. Would you yourself rather be injured than injure?” S. “And you, too, and every one.” P. “No such thing.” S. “Then will you answer?” P. “Yes; for I greatly desire to hear what you will find to say.”
S. “Suffer me then to interrogate you, beginning from the very commencement. Do you think it a greater evil to be injured, or to injure?” P. “To be injured.” S. “Which do you think the more ignoble, to be injured or to injure? answer me.” P. “To injure.” S. “Then if it be more ignoble, it is more evil.” P. “By no means.” S. “I understand: you do not, it seems, consider Noble and Good, Ignoble and Evil, to be the same things?” P. “Certainly not.”
S. “Listen then. When you call any thing noble, as a noble countenance, or air, or figure, or voice, or conduct; what is it that you look to in calling them noble? Do you not, for instance, affirm of a man, that he has a noble person, either on account of some use, to which his person is subservient, or of some pleasure which it produces to those who see it? Can you assign any other reason?” P. “I cannot.” S. “And are not all noble voices, and persons, and so forth, called so, either on account of some pleasure, or some utility, or both?” P. “Yes.” S. “And what is noble in conduct and action, is called noble on no other account, but either because it is useful, or agreeable, or both.” P. “So it appears to me. And you define the noble well, when you define it by the Pleasant and the Good.” S. “Then the ignoble must be defined by the contraries of these, Pain and Evil.” P. “Of necessity.” S. “When, therefore, of two noble things, one is the nobler, it is so because it excels the other in pleasantness, or usefulness, or in both.” P. “Certainly.” S. “And when, of two ignoble things, the one is more ignoble than the other, it is so, by exceeding it either in pain, in evil, or in both.” P. “Yes.”
S. “Let us now call to mind what was said respecting Injuring and Being Injured. Did you not say, that to be injured was more evil, but to injure, more ignoble?” P. “I did.” S. “Then, if to injure be more ignoble than to be injured, it must either be more painful, or more evil, or both.” P. “No doubt.” S. “Let us then consider, in the first place—Is to injure, more painful than to be injured? Does the person who does an injury suffer more pain than he who undergoes it?” P. “Certainly not.” S. “It does not then exceed in painfulness.” P. “No.” S. “If not in painfulness, certainly not in both.” P. “So it seems.” S. “Then it must exceed in evil.” P. “It appears so.” S. “Then to injure is more evil than to be injured.” P. “It is evident.” S. “It was admitted some time ago by you, in behalf of yourself, and of mankind in general, that to injure is more ignoble than to be injured?” P. “Yes.” S. “And now it has appeared to be more evil.” P. “It has.” S. “Would you then prefer that which is more ignoble and more evil, to that which is less so? Do not fear to answer, for you will receive no hurt, but nobly give yourself up to the argument as to a physician, and either admit or deny my proposition.” P. “I would not prefer it.” S. “Would any one?” P. “According to this argument it would appear not.” S. “I spoke truth, then, when I said that neither you, nor I, nor any one, would choose rather to do than to suffer an injury; for it is a greater evil.” P. “It seems so.” S. “You see, then, the difference between this mode of refutation and the other. You had the suffrages of all the world, except me; but I am contented with the suffrage and testimony of you alone, and, having taken your vote, I have nothing to say to the others. So much for this. Let us now consider the other question, Whether to commit injustice, and be punished, is, as you thought, the greatest of evils, or, as I thought, a less evil than impunity. To commit injustice, and be punished, is the same thing as to be punished justly, is it not?” P. “It is.” S. “Can it be denied, that whatever is just is noble, in so far as it is just? Consider and say.” P. “It seems to me that it is so.” S. “And consider this likewise: if any thing acts, is it not necessary that there should be something which is acted upon?” P. “Certainly.” S. “And is not the one acted upon in the same manner in which the other acts? For example, if you strike, there must be something which is struck?” P. “Yes.” S. “And if you strike hard, the thing which is struck is struck hard.” P. “Certainly.” S. “Then that which is acted upon, is affected in the same manner in which the thing which acts affects. Whatever the agent acts, the patient suffers the same.” P. “I admit it.” S. “Now, whether is to suffer punishment, a mode of acting, or of being acted upon?” P. “Of being acted upon.” S. “Of being acted upon, then, by some agent?” P. “Certainly, by the punisher.” S. “But he who punishes rightly, punishes justly.” P. “Yes.” S. “Then he acts justly.” P. “Certainly.” S. “Then he who is punished, is punished justly. But what is just, we have agreed is noble.” P. “We have.” S. “Then the agent who punishes does what is noble, and the patient who is punished suffers what is noble.” P. “Yes.” S. “But, if he suffers what is noble, he suffers what is good, for noble must mean either pleasant or useful.” P. “Of necessity.” S. “Then he who suffers punishment, suffers what is good.” P. “So it seems.” S. “Then he is benefited.” P. “Yes.” S. “In what way? I suppose by becoming in a better state of mind, if he is punished justly.” P. “It is probable.” S. “Then he who suffers punishment gets rid of the vice of the mind.” P. “Yes.” S. “Does he not then get rid of the greatest of all evils? Let us look at it thus:—Is there any possible vice or badness in our pecuniary condition, except poverty?” P. “None.” S. “In our bodily condition is there any possible defect, except weakness, and disease, and deformity, and so forth?” P. “None.” S. “Is there not also a vicious state of the mind?” P. “There is.” S. “And does not this consist of injustice, and ignorance, and cowardice, and so forth?” P. “Yes.” S. “Then you have enumerated the three characteristic vices of the estate, the body and the mind; and these are, poverty, disease, and injustice?” P. “Yes.” S. “And which of these vices is the most ignoble? Is it not injustice, and, generally speaking, the vice of the mind?” P. “By far.” S. “And if it is the most ignoble, it is the worst?” P. “How so?” S. “The most ignoble is either the most painful, the most detrimental, or both; as results from our previous admissions.” P. “Certainly.” S. “But injustice, and, generally, the vice of the mind, have been granted by us to be the most ignoble of all kinds of vice?” P. “Yes.” S. “Then it must be either the most painful, or the most pernicious, or both.” P. “It must.” S. “Now, is injustice, or intemperance, or cowardice, or ignorance more excruciating than poverty or sickness?” P. “I apprehend not.” S. “Then the vice of the mind must surpass the vices of the body and of the estate, to an extraordinary degree in mischievousness, since it does not surpass them in painfulness.” P. “So it seems.” S. “But that which surpasses all things in mischievousness must be the greatest of evils.” P. “Yes.” S. “Then injustice, and intemperance, and, in a word, the vice of the mind, is the greatest of evils.” P. “So it appears.”
S. “What art is it which cures us of poverty? Is it not that of the man of business?” P. “It is.” S. “And what art cures us of disease? Is it not medicine?” P. “Undoubtedly.” S. “And what art cures us of wickedness and injustice? If this be not immediately obvious, let us look at it in another way. To whom do we hand over those whose bodies are disordered?” P. “To the physician.” S. “And to whom do we hand over those who are unjust and lawless?” P. “You mean, to the magistrate.” S. “In order to suffer punishment?” P. “Yes.” S. “And those who punish rightly, do so by the exercise of justice.” P. “They do.” S. “The art of the man of business, then, rids us of poverty, medicine rids us of disease, legal justice rids us of injustice and intemperance?” P. “So it seems.” S. “Which of these three, then, is the most noble?” P. “Justice, by far.” S. “Then it either produces the greatest pleasure, or the greatest benefit, or both?” P. “Yes.” S. “Is it a pleasant thing to be under the hands of the physician?” P. “No.” S. “But it is useful?” P. “Yes.” S. “For it cures us of a great evil; so that it is for our good to suffer the pain, and receive health.” P. “Undoubtedly.” S. “But whether is he most happy who undergoes medical treatment, or he who has not been ill at all?” P. “Certainly the latter. For happiness is not to get rid of an evil, but never to have had it.” S. “But of two persons who have a malady, either of the body or of the mind, which is the most miserable, he who undergoes medical treatment and is cured, or he who undergoes no medical treatment and continues ill?” P. “The last is the most miserable.” S. “But to suffer punishment was, we admitted, to be freed from the worst of evils, viz., wickedness.” P. “It was.” S. “For punishment chastens men, and makes them more just, and is a kind of medicine for the vice of the mind.” P. “Yes.” S. “He then is happiest who has not the vice of the mind: the next happiest is he who is cured of it, viz., he who is reproved, and undergoes punishment. He who is afflicted with injustice, and is not cured, has the worst life of all; and that is, he who commits the greatest crimes, with the greatest success, and escapes all reproof, and all punishment; as you say is the case with Archelaus, and other despots and orators.” P. “So it appears.” S. “For their case is like that of a person afflicted with the worst diseases, who should so manage as never to be punished by physicians for the vicious state of his body, by undergoing medical treatment; being afraid, like a child, of cutting and burning, because it is painful. Do you not think so?” P. “I do.” S. “And being ignorant, it would seem, of the value of health, and the excellence which belongs to the body, those who fly from punishment appear, from our admissions, to be in a similar situation: they see the painfulness of it, but are blind to the utility, and know not how much more wretched it is to be afflicted with an unsound mind, than with an unsound body. They therefore use all means which may aid them in escaping from punishment and from cure, by collecting money, and obtaining friends, and acquiring the power of persuasion. But if our admissions were correct, do you see what follows, or shall we state it particularly?” P. “If you have no objection.” S. “Is not injustice and doing injury the greatest of evils, punishment the cure of it, impunity the permanence of it, to be unjust and be punished the greatest of all evils, except one, to be unjust with impunity the greatest of all?” P. “So it appears.” S. “If this be the case, what, then, is the great use of rhetoric? It appears from our admissions, that it is most of all incumbent upon every one to guard himself against the evil of injustice.” P. “Certainly.” S. “But if he, or any one in whom he takes interest, should commit injustice, he ought voluntarily to court a speedy punishment, and go to the magistrate, as he would to the physician, as fast as he can, in order that the disease may not become inveterate by age, and taint his constitution, and be incurable. Does not this necessarily follow from our former admissions?” P. “What else can we say?” S. “Rhetoric, then, is of no use to us for defending our own injustice, or that of our friends, or our country. We ought, on the contrary, to accuse ourselves in the first instance, and next our relatives and our friends, and not to conceal our transgressions, but bring them to light, that we may suffer punishment, and be restored to health; not caring for the pain, but, if we have merited stripes, giving ourselves up to the stripe; if imprisonment, to the prison; if death, to death; and employing rhetoric for the accusation of ourselves, and of those who are dear to us, that their guilt may be made manifest, and they may be freed from the greatest of evils, that of injustice.—Is it not so?” P. “It appears to me extremely paradoxical, but, from our previous admissions, it cannot perhaps be escaped from.” S. “Then we must either refute our admissions, or grant these conclusions.” P. “Yes.” “On the other hand,” (continued Socrates,) “if we wish to do evil to any one, to an enemy for instance, we ought indeed to avoid being ourselves injured by him; but, if he injure any other person, we ought to exert ourselves in every manner, by word and deed, to save him from being brought to justice; and, if he be indicted, we should contrive that he may escape, and not suffer punishment; but, if he has possessed himself wrongfully of much wealth, may not be compelled to refund it, but may expend it on himself and his connexions unjustly and impiously; and, if he has committed crimes worthy of death, that he may not die: if possible, never, but may be immortal in his wickedness; but, if not, that he may live as long in it as he can. For such purposes rhetoric may be of use; but, for one who is not to commit injustice, I cannot see that it can be of any great utility.”
The dramatic unity of the Gorgias is so perfect, that it must suffer much by being divided, and it is to be regretted that space compels us to postpone a part of our abstract till next month. As a sudden turn takes place in the dialogue at this point, and a new interlocutor is introduced, this seems the most convenient place at which we can for the present terminate.[*]
In the discussion, first with Gorgias, and afterwards with Polus, Socrates had remained the victor, and had forced the latter most reluctantly to acknowledge that to do injustice is a greater evil than to suffer it, and that to do injustice and escape unpunished is a greater evil than to suffer punishment: and Polus seems to have been effectually reduced to silence, for he takes no further part in this dialogue. But Socrates has still to encounter a more daring and less scrupulous antagonist than either of the two former.
Callicles, the host of Gorgias, at whose house the dispute was carried on, could now no longer contain himself. “Tell me,” said he, (addressing Chærephon,) “is Socrates in earnest, or in jest?” “He appears to me,” answered Chærephon, “to be remarkably in earnest: but there is nothing like asking himself.” “By the Gods,” resumed Callicles, “I have a mind to do so. Tell me, Socrates, are we to consider you as serious, or in jest? for if you are serious, and if what you now say is true, all human life is at present topsy-turvy, and we are all doing the very contrary of what we ought.”
“If, O Callicles,” answered Socrates, “men did not resemble one another in their modes of being affected; if one of us had an affection peculiar to himself, he could not very easily make another man comprehend it. I say this, because you and I are affected in the very same manner, being both of us in love, but with different objects; myself with Philosophy, you with the Athenian People. And I perceive that you, clever as you are, never know how to contradict any thing which your mistress affirms, but change backwards and forwards along with its changes. If you say any thing in the assembly, and the Athenian people say otherwise, you give it up, and say what the people desire; for you are unable to resist the will and the words of your mistress. So that if, when you say any of the things which you say for your love’s sake, any person should be surprised at the strangeness of them, you would say to him, if you had a mind to speak the truth, that unless somebody will stop your mistress from saying these things, he will never be able to stop you. Imagine, then, that I am in the same situation with yourself, and do not be surprised that I say these things, but stop my mistress, Philosophy, from saying them: for she still continues to say the things which you are now wondering at; and you yourself were present when they were said. Either, then, confute her, by proving, that to be unjust, and being so, to escape punishment, is not, as I affirm, the worst of evils; or if you leave this unrefuted, Callicles will never agree with you, O Callicles, but will be in contradiction to you all your life. I should think it better that my lyre should be discordant, or that the choral dance led by me should be out of time, or that all mankind should be out of harmony with me, rather than that I myself should be out of tune, and not consonant with myself.”
Callicles replied, “You are a true haranguer, and you have now made this triumphant harangue, merely because Polus has done what he himself charged Gorgias with doing. When you asked Gorgias whether, if a person who wished to learn rhetoric, came to him ignorant of justice, he would teach it to him, Gorgias said Yes, because he was ashamed to say No, on account of the custom of men, because they would be indignant if he said that he would not; and Polus remarked this, and said, that this admonition was what forced Gorgias to contradict himself, and that this is what delights you: and he ridiculed you, at that time, as I thought, very justly. But now the same thing has happened to himself. What I do not admire in Polus is, that he admitted that to injure is more ignoble than to be injured. It was by this admission that he was entangled, and had his mouth shut up, being ashamed to say what he thought. For you, pretending to pursue truth, always drive the argument to an invidious appeal to common prejudices, making it turn upon the things which are not noble by nature, but only by institution. These two things, nature and institution, are, for the most part, contrary to one another: and if a man is ashamed, and does not dare to say what he thinks, he is forced to contradict himself. But the wise invention which enables you to force him to contradict himself is a mere quibble: when a man is speaking of institution, you interpret it of nature, and when of nature, you interpret it of institution. For instance, on this subject of injuring and being injured, Polus spoke of what was more ignoble by institution, and you met him with what was more ignoble by nature. By nature, to be injured is not only worse, but also more ignoble, than to injure: by institution only is it more ignoble to injure. To be injured is not the attribute of a man, but of a slave, fitter to die than to live, who, if he is wronged or insulted, is not capable of protecting himself nor those whom he cares for. But the makers of institutions are the Many, and the weak. They make their laws, and dispense their praise and blame, with a view to themselves, and to their own advantage. Fearing lest the more energetic, who are capable of attaining superiority, should attain it over them, they call it base and unjust to take more than other people, and even affirm that this is precisely what constitutes injustice. For they, being the feebler, are contented with equality. By institution, therefore, to aim at superiority is unjust and ignoble, and is termed, to do injury. But Nature herself shows that it is just for the better to take more than the worse, and the stronger than the weaker. She shows, in the other animals, and in whole nations and races of men, that, for the stronger to govern the weaker, and to take the larger share, is true justice. With what justice did Xerxes make war on Greece, or his father, Darius, on the Scythians? They did what was just by nature, and by the laws of nature, not by those which we devise, catching the best and strongest among us, like lions, when they are young, and enslaving them by fictions and old songs, telling them that nobleness and justice consist in equality. But if a man arises, adequately endowed by nature, he breaks through, and shakes off these fetters, and, trampling upon our statutes and our charmed words, and all institutions contrary to nature, rises up our master, no longer our slave, and the justice of nature shines forth in him. Pindar indicates this, in the ode in which he says that Hercules took away the oxen of Geryon, neither buying them nor receiving them by gift;[*] this being natural justice, and all the possessions of the worse and the weaker, belonging of right to the better and the stronger. This is true; and you will know it, if you abandon philosophy, and apply yourself to greater pursuits. Philosophy is a graceful thing, when it is moderately cultivated, in youth; but if any one occupies himself with it beyond the proper age, it ruins him. For, however great may be his natural capacity, if he philosophizes too long, he must of necessity continue inexperienced in all those things which one who would be a great and eminent man ought to be experienced in. He must be unacquainted with the laws of his country, and with the mode of influencing other men in the intercourse of life, whether private or public, and with the pleasures and passions of men; in short, with human character and manners. And when such men are called upon to act, whether on a public or private occasion, they expose themselves to ridicule, just as politicians do when they come to your conversations, and attempt to cope with you in argument. For every man, as Euripides says, occupies himself with that in which he finds himself superior; that in which he is inferior he avoids, and speaks ill of it, but praises what he excels in, thinking that in doing so he is praising himself.[†] The best thing, in my opinion, is to partake of both. It is good to partake of philosophy, by way of education, and it is not disgraceful in a young man to philosophize. But if he continues to do so when he grows older, he becomes ridiculous, and I feel towards him as I should towards a grown person who lisped, and played at childish plays. When a child does so, in whom it is becoming, I am pleased, and it appears to me graceful, and suitable to his age; and if I hear a child speaking plain, like a grown person, it is disagreeable to me, and has a servile appearance. But if I hear a grown person lisp, or see him at play, I think it unmanly and contemptible. So I think of those who philosophize. When I see a young man philosophizing, I think it commendable and becoming, and consider him as of a liberal mind, and hold that he who does not philosophize at that age, is vulgar-minded, and will never feel himself capable of any thing noble and exalted. But when I see an old man still continuing to philosophize, I think he deserves to be flogged. However great his natural talents, he is under the necessity of avoiding the assembly and public places, where, as the poet says, men become eminent,[*] and to hide himself, and pass his life whispering to two or three striplings in a corner, but never speaking out any thing great and bold and liberal. I, Socrates, feel towards you as your friend, and am inclined to say to you what Zethus says to Amphion in Euripides,[†] that you neglect what you ought to attend to, and waste a mind by nature so powerful, in trifling and child’s play. Do not be angry, for I speak solely from good will towards you. Does it not seem to you a disgraceful thing to be as you are, and as those others are who make philosophy their occupation? If any one should charge you with some crime, which you had not committed, and carry you off to prison, you would gape and stare, and would not know what to say; and when brought to trial, however contemptible and weak your accuser might be, if he chose to indict you capitally, you would perish. Can this be wisdom, which, if it takes hold of a gifted man, destroys the excellence of his nature, rendering him incapable of preserving himself or others from the greatest dangers, enabling his enemies to plunder him of all his property, and reducing him to the situation of those who, by the sentence of a court of justice, have been deprived of their civil rights? so that (though it may sound harshly) a man might even strike him a blow with impunity. Be persuaded by me: give up confutation, leave these clevernesses to others, and do not emulate those who gain these petty victories, but those who have wealth and reputation, and the other blessings of life.”
Socrates replied, “If my soul were golden, do you not think that I should be glad to discover one of those touchstones with which they try the purity of gold, that I might try my soul by it, and if it stood the test, I might know that I am as I should be, and need no further test?” C. “Why do you ask this question?” S. “Because I think that I have found such a treasure in you.” C. “How?” S. “I know that whatever of my opinions you give your assent to, must be true. He who is capable of serving as a touchstone on the subject of right and wrong modes of life, must have three qualities, all of which you possess: knowledge, good will, and frankness. I meet with many persons who are not capable of bringing me to the test, because they are not wise as you are. Others are wise, but are not willing to speak the truth to me, because they do not care for me as you do. Our friends Gorgias and Polus are wise, and well disposed toward me, but deficient in frankness, and more shamefaced than they should be. For how can they be otherwise, they who are so much ashamed, that they are driven by shame to contradict themselves before a numerous company, and on the most important subjects. But you possess all the qualities which others are destitute of. You are adequately instructed, as many of the Athenians would aver. You are well-disposed towards me; and how do I know this? Because I am aware that you and three others, Tisander, Andron, and Nausicydes, carry on your studies in common, and I have heard you discussing together, how far wisdom ought to be pursued; and I know that the opinion which prevailed among you, was, that you should not be too eager to philosophize accurately, and should be on your guard not to be spoilt by becoming more wise than is advisable. When therefore I find you giving me the same advice which you give to your most intimate friends, it is a sufficient proof of your good will towards me. Again, that you are capable of speaking out, boldly and without shame, you yourself say, and the speech you just now made is a proof of it. I am therefore satisfied that if you are brought to agree with me in any thing which I say, it is sufficiently tried, and does not need any further test. For you would not admit it either from deficiency of wisdom, or excess of shame; nor would you concede it with the intent to deceive me; for you are, as you yourself say, my friend. Our agreement, therefore, will be the final establishment of truth. This inquiry, in the course of which I have incurred your animadversions, the inquiry what a human being should be, and with what he should occupy himself in youth and in age, is the noblest of all inquiries. If I, in the regulation of my life, do any thing which I should not do, be assured that I do not err intentionally, but from ignorance. Do not then relax in your admonitions, but persevere, and show me what it is which I ought to practise, and in what manner I may best attain to the practice of it. And if you find me now admitting what you say, but subsequently not acting conformably to what I have admitted, think me spiritless and worthless, and never take the trouble to correct me again.
“Repeat to me, then, from the beginning, what you affirmed to constitute the Justice which is not merely of institution, but of nature. You said, if I remember right, that Natural Justice is, for the better to command the worse, and the more excellent to take more than the more worthless. Said you not so?” C. “I did, and do.” S. “Do you consider the better, and the stronger, to be synonymous? You appeared to indicate something of this sort when you said that great states attack small ones by the justice of nature, because they are the stronger. Is it possible, then, to be the better, but at the same time the weaker; or the stronger, but at the same time the worse? Or, are the stronger and the better, equivalent expressions?” C. “They are equivalent.” S. “And are not many by nature stronger than one? You yourself said that the many give laws to the one.” C. “Certainly.” S. “Then the institutions of the many are those of the stronger.” C. “Yes.” S. “And therefore, by your account, of the better.” C. “Certainly.” S. “Then the institutions of the many are by nature noble, since the many are the stronger.” C. “Granted.” S. “Now, do not the many think, as you before observed, that Equality is just, and that it is more ignoble to injure than to be injured? Do not you, too, suffer yourself to be entrapped by shamefacedness. Do not the many think that justice consists in equality, and not in superiority? and that to injure is more ignoble than to be injured? Do not deny me an answer, in order that, if you agree with me, I may consider my opinion established by the admission of a competent judge.” C. “The many are of this opinion.” S. “To injure, then, is more ignoble than to be injured, not by institution only, but likewise by nature: and you were wrong when you accused me, saying that Institution and Nature are contrary to one another, and that I, knowing this, quibble in argument, interpreting of Institution that which is affirmed of Nature, and of Nature what is affirmed of Institution.”
C. “This man will never have done trifling. Are you not ashamed, Socrates, at your age, to cavil at words, and triumph if any one makes a mistake in a name? Did I not tell you expressly that by the stronger, I meant the better? Do you think I meant that if a crowd be collected, of slaves and all kind of persons having no good quality except perhaps physical force, that whatever they affirm should be right?” S. “This then is your meaning?” C. “It is.” S. “I conjectured before that this was what you meant, and I only question you in order to understand you more clearly. For I do not suppose that you consider two to be better than one, or your slaves better than yourself because they are stronger. But pray begin again at the beginning, and tell me whom you mean by the better, since you do not mean the stronger. And let me intreat you to instruct me in a milder manner, lest I should withdraw from your tuition.” C. “You are pleased to be sarcastic.” S. “I swear by Zethus, in whose name you were so sarcastic upon me, that I am not. But pray tell me whom you mean by the better.” C. “The worthier.” S. “Do you not perceive that you yourself are merely paying us in words, and telling us nothing? Will you not say whether by the better and the stronger, you understand the more intelligent?” C. “Yes, surely.” S. “Then one intelligent person is superior to a thousand who are not intelligent, and ought to rule over them, and to have a larger share than they? Tell me (and I am not cavilling at words) whether this is your meaning?” C. “It is. And this is what I call natural justice; that the better and more intelligent should govern the worse, and be preferred to them.”
S. “Pray explain yourself further. If there were many of us assembled together, possessing in common a great supply of food and drink; and if we were people of all descriptions, some of us strong and others weak, but one of us, being a physician, was more intelligent than the rest on the subject of diet; would not he be better and superior, as compared with the rest of us, so far as these things were concerned?” C. “Certainly.” S. “Ought he, then, as being the better, to have a larger share of food than the rest? or ought he to be intrusted, indeed, with the distribution, but not permitted to take a greater quantity for his own use than any other, on pain of punishment?” C. “You talk of food, and drink, and physicians, and such stuff, but that is not what I mean.” S. “Do you not say that the more intelligent are the better?” C. “I do.” S. “And that the better ought to have the larger share?” C. “Not of food or of drink.” S. “I understand: of clothing, perhaps. The man who understands most of weaving, ought to have the largest coats and the finest, and to walk about with the greatest number of them on his body.” C. “Why will you talk about coats?” S. “It is of shoes then, that the person who is most intelligent respecting them, ought to have the largest share. The shoemaker should wear the largest shoes, and the greatest number of them at once.” C. “What stuff is this about shoes!” S. “Or, perhaps, you mean that he who is intelligent and skilful in agriculture, ought to have the largest quantity of seed, and employ most of it on his own land.” C. “You always say the same thing.” S. “On the same subject, I always do.” C. “You will not cease speaking of tanners and fullers and cooks and physicians, as if that were what we are talking about.” S. “Will you not tell me, then, what is the subject in which those who are most intelligent are justly entitled to superiority? Will you neither tell me, nor suffer me to guess?” C. “I have told you long ago. Those whom I call the superior and the better, are not shoemakers, nor cooks, but those who are intelligent in the affairs of the state, and in the proper mode of administering it; and not only intelligent but courageous, capable of accomplishing what they devise, and not faltering by effeminacy of soul.”
S. “Your complaint of me, and mine of you, are very different. You blame me for always saying the same thing; I, on the contrary, blame you, for never saying the same thing on the same subject. You first defined the better to be the stronger; then, the more intelligent; and now you say that they are the more courageous. Pray tell me, once for all, who they are.” C. “I have told you, that they are the more intelligent in public affairs, and the more courageous. These are the persons who are entitled to govern the state; and it is just that these should have a larger share than the rest, since they command, and the others are commanded.” S. “Do you imply that they should command themselves as well as others? Or is it not necessary for any one to command himself, but only other people?” C. “What do you mean by commanding himself?” S. “Only what the vulgar mean, to be temperate and sober, governing his own pleasures and desires.” C. “How pleasant you are! You describe a simpleton, and call him a sober person. How can a person be happy if he is a slave to any thing? I freely tell you, that what is noble and just by nature, is that he who would live well, should allow his desires to attain the greatest possible strength, and never restrain them; and should be capable, by his courage and talents, of ministering to his desires, and satisfying them, however great they may be. But of this the many are incapable; and therefore do they censure such conduct, to hide their own impotence; and pretend that self-indulgence is a vile thing; and because they are not capable of ministering to their own appetites, they praise temperance and justice from mere unmanliness. For, in reality, to those who are born to a throne, or who are capable, by their natural endowments, of raising themselves to despotic power, what can be more ignoble or more contemptible than self-controul? Should those who have the means of enjoying every pleasure without hinderance from anybody, erect the law of the many, and their praise and blame, into a master over themselves? They would be well off in good truth, by your nobleness, and your justice, and your self-restraint, if they were prevented by it from giving any preference to their friends over their enemies, although possessing absolute power in the state. The truth (which you say is your object) is, that luxury and self-indulgence, if our means be adequate, are real virtue and happiness: and all other virtue and happiness are mere pretence, and human devices and conventions contrary to nature.”
“You keep your promise,” replied Socrates, “to be frank with me; for you plainly speak out, what other people think, but do not like to say. I beg you not to relax, until it is clearly established, according to what rule we ought to live. You say that we ought not to restrain our desires, but allowing them to be as violent as possible, we should provide the means of their gratification; and that this is virtue.” C. “I do.” S. “The common saying then, that those are happy who want nothing, is incorrect.” C. “Stones, and the dead, would by this account be the happiest.” S. “But even on your theory, life is a troublesome thing. Some poet of old compared the soul to a pitcher, and that of a fool to a pitcher which leaks at the bottom, and is unable to hold anything: implying that a continent and contented life is preferable to an insatiable and self-indulgent one. But I suppose you are not very likely to be convinced by an old song.” C. “Your last observation has more truth in it.” S. “I will give you another illustration from the same source. Let us typify the life of the temperate and that of the self-indulgent, by the image of two persons, each of whom has a large number of pitchers. The one has them all sound, and filled with honey, and wine, and milk, and many other things: the streams which supply these different liquids being scanty, and the supply being obtainable only by prodigious labour. The one, having filled his pitchers, has no more trouble, nor any occasion to turn any further streams into his cellar. The other has it in his power, like the first, to obtain the supply, though with great difficulty; but his vessels are leaky and unsound, and he is obliged to employ night and day in filling them, or suffer the most dreadful torture. Such being the lives of the temperate and the intemperate man, do I convince you that the former is more eligible than the latter?” C. “You do not convince me. For the first man, when he has filled his pitchers, has no longer any pleasure, but lives, as I said before, like a stone, inanimate, with neither pleasure nor pain. Pleasure consists in having as great a stream as possible always pouring in.” S. “Then if much is poured in, much must run out, and the leaks must be very large?” C. “Certainly.” S. “This is not the life of a dead man or a stone, but it is the life of a funnel.”*
S. “You say, it is happiness to be hungry, and, being hungry, to eat.” C. “Yes.” S. “To be thirsty, and, being thirsty, to drink.” C. “Yes, and to have all other appetites, and to be able to satisfy them.” S. “I commend you, for you go on as you have begun. Do not be ashamed. Neither ought I, apparently, to be shamefaced. And first tell me, whether to itch constantly, and having the means of scratching, to pass our whole lives in that operation, would be to live happily?” C. “How unfair you are, and how fond of appealing to the vulgar.” S. “And therefore did I embarrass Polus and Gorgias, and make them ashamed; but be not you ashamed, who are a bold man, but answer me.” C. “I answer then, that the scratcher would live agreeably.” S. “But if agreeably, then happily.” C. “Certainly.” S. “See what you will have to answer, if you are pressed with all the questions which would naturally follow these. Is not the life of a catamite vile and miserable? Or will you venture to say, that he too is happy, if all his wants are plentifully supplied?” C. “Are you not ashamed to lead the argument to such things?” S. “Is it I who lead it thither, or you, who affirm sweepingly that all who enjoy themselves, no matter how, are happy; and make no distinction between good pleasures and bad ones? Tell me again, whether Pleasant and Good are the same, or whether there is any thing pleasant which is not good?” C. “That my discourse may not be inconsistent with itself if I say they are different, I will say that they are the same.” S. “You destroy the whole argument, and are no longer fitted for inquiring into truth, if you speak differently from what you think.” C. “It is what you yourself do.” S. “If I do so, I do wrong, and so do you. But consider whether it be not true, that Good is not synonymous with Enjoyment, of whatever kind; for if this were so, the shameful consequences already indicated would follow, and many others besides.” C. “In your opinion.” S. “Do you in reality adhere to this opinion?” C. “I do.” S. “Shall we argue upon the supposition of your being in earnest?” C. “Undoubtedly.”
S. “Tell me then. There is such a thing as knowledge?” C. “Yes.” S. “You spoke just now of courage accompanied with knowledge.” C. “I did.” S. “Courage, then, is something different from knowledge?” C. “Very different.” S. “Are pleasure and knowledge the same thing, or different?” C. “Very different, most wise man.” S. “And courage is different from pleasure?” C. “Yes.” S. “You, then, say that Pleasant and Good are the same thing, but that knowledge and courage are different from each other, and different from good. And I, do I admit this, or not?” C. “You do not.” S. “Nor do you either, when you interpret yourself rightly.
“Is not to be in a good state, the contrary of being in a bad state?” C. “It is.” S. “Then if they are contrary states, they, like health and disease, cannot exist together, neither can they both together cease to exist.” C. “How?” S. “When a man’s eyes are diseased, they are not in health?” C. “No.” S. “And when he gets rid of the disease, he does not at the same time get rid of health; for this would be absurd.” C. “Exceedingly so.” S. “He receives the two things by turns, and gets rid of them by turns.” C. “Yes.” S. “And the like with strength and weakness, swiftness and slowness?” C. “Undoubtedly.” S. “Is this likewise the case with Good and Happiness, and their opposites, Evil and Misery? Are these acquired and lost, not simultaneously, but alternately?” C. “Certainly.” S. “Then if we find two things, both of which we begin to possess together, and both of which we cease to possess together, it is evident that these things cannot be identical with Good and Evil. Consider well before you answer.” C. “I perfectly agree with you.” S. “Let us now return to our first admissions. Is hunger pleasant or painful? I mean, hunger in itself.” C. “Hunger is painful: but to eat when we are hungry is pleasant.” S. “I understand: but to be hungry is in itself painful.” C. “Yes.” S. “And to be thirsty?” C. “Yes.” S. “And is not all want, and all desire, painful?” C. “I acknowledge it.” S. “Good. But to drink when you are thirsty is pleasant.” C. “Yes.” S. “When you are thirsty, is as much as to say, when you are in pain.” C. “Yes.” S. “But to drink, is to satisfy the desire, and therefore to be pleased.” C. “Yes.” S. “Then to drink when you are thirsty, is to be pleased when you are in pain: and both these things may happen at the same time, whether in the body or in the mind.” C. “They may.” S. “But it was not possible, you said, to be at the same time in a good state and in a bad state.” C. “I said so.” S. “Then to be pleased is not the same thing as to be in a good state, nor to be in pain, the same as to be in a bad state, and Pleasant and Good are not the same thing but different things.” C. “I do not understand your sophisms.” S. “You do, but you feign stupidity. Let us go on a little further, that you may see how wise you are, who take me to task. Do we not, when we cease to be thirsty, cease at the same time to receive pleasure from drinking?” C. “I do not know what you are talking about.”
Gorgias here interposed, and begged Callicles, for his sake, and that of the bystanders, not to refuse to answer, in order that the discussion might not be cut short. Callicles replied, that it was always the way with Socrates, to ask these petty and frivolous questions. “Of what consequence is that to you?” replied Gorgias; “the blame is not yours. Pray permit Socrates to carry on the argument as he pleases.” “Ask then those little frivolous questions of yours,” said Callicles to Socrates, “since Gorgias wishes it.” “You are fortunate,” answered Socrates, “in having been initiated into the greater mysteries before the smaller ones: I thought that it was not lawful.* Do not our thirst, and our pleasure in drinking, cease together?” C. “They do.” S. “And so with all our other desires, and the pleasure of their gratification?” C. “Yes.” S. “Then our pain and our pleasure both terminate at the same time?” C. “Yes.” S. “But Good and Evil, you said, do not.” C. “What then?” S. “It follows, that Good and Pleasant cannot be the same thing, nor Evil and Painful.
“Let us put the argument in another way. People are called good, from the presence of good in them, as they are called beautiful from the presence of beauty in them: are they not?” C. “Certainly.” S. “You do not call the foolish and the cowardly, good? You said, I think, that the courageous and intelligent were so.” C. “Undoubtedly.” S. “A foolish child is sometimes pleased?” C. “Yes.” S. “And a foolish man?” C. “I should think so; but what of that?” S. “Nothing, only answer me. And a rational man is sometimes pleased, and is also sometimes vexed.” C. “Yes.” S. “Whether are foolish persons, or rational persons, pleased and vexed in the highest degree?” C. “I do not think there is much difference.” S. “That is enough. You have seen cowards in war?” C. “Certainly.” S. “Whether were the cowards, or the brave men, most pleased at the retreat of the enemy?” C. “Much the same.” S. “It is sufficient. Then cowards and foolish people are sometimes pleased. But when the enemy advance, are the cowards alone vexed, or the brave men also?” C. “Both.” S. “Both equally?” C. “The cowards, perhaps, in the greatest degree.” S. “And on the enemy’s retreat, are not the cowards also the most pleased?” C. “Perhaps.” S. “Then rational people and foolish people, brave men and cowards, are pleased, you say, nearly in the same degree, or cowards more so than brave men.” C. “Yes.” S. “But brave and rational people are good, foolish people and cowards are bad.” C. “Yes.” S. “Then good people and bad people are pleased and vexed alike.” C. “Yes.” S. “Are good people and bad people good and bad alike? or bad people rather more good and bad than good people?” C. “I do not understand you.” S. “Did you not say, that good people are good by the presence of Good in them, and bad people by the presence of Evil, and that Good is Pleasure, and Evil is Pain?” C. “I did.” S. “Then a person who is pleased, has Good present in him, since pleasure is Good.” C. “Certainly.” S. “Then he is a good man.” C. “Yes.” S. “And a person who is vexed, has Evil present in him, since pain is Evil.” C. “Yes.” S. “But men are bad men by the presence of Evil in them. Do you not say so?” C. “I do.” S. “Then good men are those who are pleased, and bad men are those who are vexed.” C. “Certainly.” S. “Those are more good or bad, who are more pleased or vexed; those who are less, less; those who are equally, equally.” C. “Yes.” S. “Did you not say, that rational people and foolish people, brave people and cowards, were pleased and vexed tolerably equally, or cowards even more so than the brave?” C. “I did.” S. “See then what follows. The good man is the rational and brave man, the bad man is the foolish man and the coward. But the good man is also the man who is pleased, the bad man he who is vexed. And the good and the bad man are pleased and vexed equally, or the bad man rather more so than the good man. It follows therefore, that the bad man is equally good and equally bad with the good man, or rather more so. Is not this inevitable, if the Good and the Pleasant are the same?”
“I have listened to you,” answered Callicles, “for a long time, and admitted all that you said, being aware that if one concedes anything to you even in jest, you eagerly seize hold of it like a raw youth. Do you suppose that I, or any body else, do not think that some pleasures are better, and others worse?” “You treat me,” replied Socrates, “like a child, sometimes affirming one thing, sometimes a different thing, and deceiving me. I did not think at first that you, who are my friend, would deceive me intentionally. But now I suppose I must, according to the old saying, make the best of what I can get. You say, then, that some pleasures are good, and others evil.” C. “I do.”
S. “Are the good pleasures those which are beneficial, the bad ones those which are hurtful?” C. “Yes.” S. “By beneficial, you mean those which are causes of some good; by hurtful, those which are causes of evil.” C. “I do.” S. “For instance, as to the bodily pleasures of eating and drinking, if some of these produce in the body health or strength or some other good bodily quality, these are good, but those which produce the contraries of these effects are bad.” C. “Certainly.” S. “Among pains, likewise, there are some good and others bad, in the same manner.” C. “Undoubtedly.” S. “Then we ought to choose the good pleasures and pains, and avoid the bad?” C. “Clearly.” S. “For it was agreed between Polus and me, that Good was the end of all our actions; and that all other things were done for the sake of Good, not Good for the sake of other things. Do you agree in this?” C. “I do.” S. “Then the pleasant ought to be done for the sake of Good, not Good for the sake of the pleasant.” C. “Certainly.” S. “Now, are all of us capable of distinguishing those pleasant things which are good, from those which are bad, or is any art requisite for that purpose?” C. “An art is requisite.” S. “Let us then call to mind what I said to Polus and Gorgias. I said, that there are some pursuits which have only pleasure in view, knowing nothing of good and evil, and others which know what is good and what is evil: cookery (which is a skill, and not an art) I placed in the first class; the art of medicine, in the second. And do not think it allowable to sport with me, and to answer whatever comes into your head, differently from what you think; nor, on the other hand, consider me to be in sport. For we are on a subject which even the most unthinking person would consider as the most serious of all subjects, viz. In what manner we ought to live; whether in the manner to which you exhort me, practising rhetoric, and occupying ourselves with public affairs, or in the opposite manner of life, according to philosophy; and in what respect this mode of life differs from the other.
“It is perhaps best to go on as I began, and attempt to discriminate the two modes of life from each other, and determine whether they are different, and in what respect, and which of them should be adopted. You do not, perhaps, yet know what I mean.” C. “I do not.” S. “I will be more perspicuous. We have agreed, have we not, that Pleasant and Good are not one thing but two things, and that there is a certain method for the acquisition of each.” C. “We have.” S. “Now then tell me whether you agree in what I said to our two friends. I said that cookery is only a kind of skill, but that medicine is an art: because medicine has considered the nature of the thing which it aims at producing, and the causes of the operations which it enjoins, and can render an account of them; but cookery has not considered the nature or the causes of Pleasure, which is its sole end, but goes to work empirically and unscientifically, a mere uncalculating routine, the mere memory of what has often happened. Consider then, first, whether you think that this is true, and that there are also with respect to the mind two methods similar to these; one kind which are arts, and have some forethought of what is best for the mind, another kind which disregard this, and consider only the pleasures of the mind, and the means of producing them, never considering or caring for the difference between a better pleasure and a worse. This, whether it relates to the body, to the mind, or to any thing else, I call adulation, provided it considers only pleasure, without regarding good or evil. Do you concur in this?” C. “I do not, but I will admit it, that your argument may be completed, and that Gorgias may be gratified.” S. “Whether is this true of a single mind only, and not true of two or more?” C. “It is true of two, or of any number.” S. “Then it is possible to gratify a number of minds collected together, without regarding their greatest Good.” C. “True.” S. “What, then, are the pursuits which do this? First of all, let us consider the art of playing the flute. Does it not seem to you to pursue pleasure only, and to care for nothing else?” C. “Yes.” S. “And that grave and magnificent art, tragic poetry, what is its aim? Simply to gratify the spectators? Or, if any things occur to it which are pleasant but bad, does it take care not to say them; and if there be any thing disagreeable but useful, does it make a point of saying or singing this to the spectators, whether they are pleased with it or not?” C. “It is evident that it chiefly aims at pleasure, and the gratification of the spectators.” S. “This, however, we designated as adulation.” C. “We did.” S. “Now, then, if you take away from poetry the rhythm and the metre and the music, is there any thing remaining but discourse?” C. “Nothing.” S. “And this discourse is addressed to the assembled people.” C. “It is.” S. “Then poetry is a kind of oratory.” C. “So it seems.” S. “But rhetoric is oratory. Do not poets appear to you to rhetorize, upon the stage?” C. “Yes.” S. “Now then we have found out a kind of rhetoric, addressed to a popular assembly, composed of men, women, and children, slaves and freemen, which we do not much admire. We call it a kind of adulation.” C. “We do.”
S. “What then shall we say of the rhetoric which is addressed to the assembly of the Athenian people, or the people of any other state, consisting of freemen only? Do the orators seem to you to have in view constantly the greatest good; aiming solely at making the people as good as possible by their discourses? Or do they, too, aim only at gratifying the citizens, neglecting the public interest for the sake of their own private concerns, and treating the people like children, attempting only to gratify them, and not caring whether they are made better or worse by the gratification?” C. “This is not a simple question. There are some who address the people really caring for them; there are others such as you describe.” S. “It is sufficient. If this thing be of two kinds, one of them is adulation, and disgraceful, the other is laudable, contriving always that the minds of the citizens may become as good as possible, and always persisting in saying what is best, whether it be pleasing to the hearers or not. But you do not know any instance of this kind of rhetoric. Can you mention any orator who has acted in this manner?” C. “I cannot mention any orator of the present day.” S. “Can you mention any one of the ancient orators, by whose means the Athenians became better than they were before he began to harangue them? I do not know of any.” C. “What! have you never heard of Themistocles, and Cimon, and Miltiades; and Pericles, whom you yourself have seen? all of whom were good men.” S. “Yes, if Good consists in what you at first called it, the satisfaction of our own desires and those of others: but if, as we afterwards were forced to admit, there be some desires the satisfaction of which makes us better, and others which make us worse, and that the distinguishing of these from each other is an art; can you affirm that any of the men you named, practised that art?” C. “I cannot tell.” S. “But if you consider well, you will see. It is not true, that a good man, who speaks with the greatest Good always in view, will not speak at haphazard, but with reference to some end? All other artists employ their various means, not picking them up at hazard, but looking to the nature of the work which they have to accomplish, and endeavouring that it may assume a certain shape. The painter, the architect, the shipbuilder—each of these, places his materials in a certain order, and contrives that one thing shall be fit and suitable to another, until the whole is completed, a regulated and ordered thing: Is it not so?” C. “It is.” S. “A house which has regulation and order is a good house; a disordered house is a bad one.” C. “Yes.” S. “And a ship?” C. “Yes.” S. “And our own bodies?” C. “Yes.” S. “And our minds?” C. “This must be admitted from the preceding admissions.” S. “What name do we give to that which arises in the body, from order and regulation?” C. “You mean, health and strength.” S. “And what is the name of that which arises in the mind, from order and regulation?” C. “Why do not you yourself answer?” S. “If it pleases you, I will. If you agree with me, say so, if not, refute me. I hold, that the order of the body is termed healthiness, from whence health and all other good qualities of the body proceed; and that the order and regulation of the mind is termed lawfulness, by which men become orderly and obedient to law: and this is as much as to say, justice and self-restraint. Do you assent?” C. “Be it so.” S. “Then a good orator, an orator according to art, in all which he says and all which he does to those to whom he addresses himself, in all which he gives to them and all which he takes away from them, will have constantly in view, in what manner justice may be produced in their minds and injustice removed, self-controul produced and self-indulgence removed, all virtue produced and vice removed.” C. “Granted.” S. “For of what use is it to bestow upon a sick and ill-ordered body abundant and agreeable food or drink, which will do it no good, but often much harm?” C. “Be it so.” S. “For it is not beneficial to man, to live with his body in a bad state; that would be to live badly.” C. “Yes.” S. “Physicians, then, usually permit a person to satisfy his desires, by eating as much as he pleases when he is hungry and drinking when he is thirsty, so long as he is in health; but when he is sick, they do not allow him to enjoy what he desires. Do you grant this?” C. “I do.” S. “And is not the same thing equally true of the mind? While it is in a bad state, while it is silly, and unjust, and impious, and incapable of self-controul, it should be kept from what it desires, and not permitted to do any thing except what will make it better.” C. “Granted.” S. “For this is better for the mind.” C. “Yes.” S. “But to keep it from what it desires, is to punish it?” C. “It is.” S. “Then punishment is better for the mind than impunity.” C. “I do not know what you are talking about. Ask some one else.” S. “This man cannot bear to be benefited, by suffering the very thing we are talking about, punishment.” C. “I do not care for what you say: I have answered you only on Gorgias’s account.” S. “Well: what shall we do? Shall we break off the argument in the middle?” C. “Judge for yourself.” S. “But it is not lawful, they say, to leave even a story half finished, without putting a head to it, that it may not go about headless. I beg you therefore to continue answering, that our argument may have a head put to it.” C. “How obstinate you are. If you will be persuaded by me, you will drop this discussion, or discuss with somebody else.” S. “Will anybody else, then, carry on the discussion?” C. “Cannot you carry it on by yourself, either speaking continuously, or making answer to yourself?” S. “It seems that there is nothing else to be done. But we are all of us alike concerned in pushing the inquiry, what view of this subject is the true one. I shall therefore state the matter according to my own notions: but if any of you should think that I concede to myself what is not correct, he ought to interrupt and refute me. What I say, I do not say from knowledge; I am only inquiring, in common with yourselves; and if my opponent appears to me to say any thing just, I shall be the first to acknowledge it. If then you wish the argument to proceed, I will continue it; if not, let us leave off, and retire.”
Gorgias assured Socrates, both in his own name and in that of the bystanders, that they were all anxious for the discussion to proceed. It did proceed: but the conclusion, the most interesting part of the whole dialogue, we must, though with regret, postpone to the next number.[*]
Callicles having, as we saw in the last number, declined to take any further part in the argument, Socrates requested him, if he would not join in the discussion, at least to listen and stop him if he said any thing incorrect. “If you refute me,” continued Socrates, “I shall not be angry with you, as you are with me, but shall account you my greatest friend.” Socrates then recapitulated the preceding argument, questioning and answering himself. That Pleasant and Good are not synonymous; that the Pleasant is to be pursued for the sake of Good, not Good for the sake of the pleasant: That the Pleasant is that, the presence of which makes us pleased. Good, that, the presence of which makes us good. But we, like all other things that are made good, are made so by the presence of some kind of excellence; and our excellence, like that of all other things, is not brought about by haphazard, but by order, and regulation, and art. “That, therefore, which, when it exists in any thing, makes it good, is some kind of order. An ordered mind, consequently, is better than an unregulated one. But an ordered mind is a considerate* one; a considerate mind therefore is good, and its opposite, a mind which never resists any impulse, is bad. But a considerate mind will always do what is fitting, both towards gods and men; or it would not be considerate. But a mind which does what is fitting towards men, is a just mind; towards gods, a pious one. And courageous likewise: for a considerate person will neither seek nor avoid what he ought not: he will seek, and avoid, and endure, those things, those persons, those pleasures, and those pains, which he ought. A considerate person, or what is the same thing, a person possessed of self-command, is therefore, as we said before, of necessity just, and brave, and pious. And a good man does all things well, and is happy; a bad man does ill, and is miserable; and this is, the man without self-restraint, whom you praised. If all this be true, he who would be happy must practise self-restraint, and fly from self-indulgence; he must endeavour above all things not to require punishment, but if he, or his friends, or his country, be in need of punishment, he must inflict it upon them. Such, it seems to me, is the scope and end of a good life: to produce justice and self-control in him who would be happy; not to let his desires be uncontrolled, and make it the object of his life to satisfy them—an endless ill, the life of a pirate: for such a person cannot be loved by God or man, for he cannot be in any sympathy or communion (κοινωνία) with them.
“Either this argument, which proves that the happy are happy by the possession of justice and self-control, the wretched wretched by the possession of vice, must be refuted; or if this be true, we must consider what are the conclusions from it. The conclusions are, all those which you asked whether I was serious in asserting; that we ought to accuse ourselves and our friends, and bring ourselves to justice, if we commit any injury; and that this is the proper employment of rhetoric. And what you thought that Polus admitted from shamefacedness, was true, viz. that to injure is more ignoble, and consequently a greater evil, than to be injured; and likewise what Polus said that Gorgias admitted from shamefacedness, that he who would be rightly a rhetorician, must be just, and must understand justice.
“This being the case, let us consider whether there was any ground for your reproof of me, when you said that I am not able to protect myself or any of my friends from the greatest dangers; but that, like those who have been deprived of their civil rights by the sentence of a court of justice, I am at the mercy of any one who chooses, as you expressed it, to strike me a blow, or to take away my property, or to banish me from the state, or even to kill me: and that to be thus situated is, of all things, as you said, the most ignoble. But I have said often, and there is no reason against saying it again, that the most ignoble of all things is not to be struck unjustly, or to be robbed or put to death unjustly. To do all these things unjustly, or to injure me in any way whatever, is both a more ignoble and a worse thing to the person who injures, than to me who am injured. This has been established by arguments strong as iron and adamant; which, unless you or some stouter man can refute, it is impossible to speak reasonably, speaking otherwise than I do. For I always say the same thing, viz. that I do not myself know how these things are; that, however, no one, speaking in opposition to what has occurred to me on this subject, is able to avoid absurdity. I therefore lay down these things as true.
“If however they be true; if injustice be the greatest of evils to the unjust man, but impunity in injustice a still greater evil if possible; what kind of protection is it, which, to be unable to render to one’s self or one’s friends, is really contemptible? Is it not that which averts the greatest evil? Is not the nobleness of being able to protect, and the ignobleness of being unable, proportional to the greatness of the evil to be averted?” “Certainly,” replied Callicles. S. “Here then are two evils: to injure, and to be injured: the first a greater evil, the latter a less. What ought we to provide ourselves with, if we mean to protect ourselves against these two evils? Power, or merely will? For example, to escape from being injured, is it sufficient that we should will not to be injured, or is power required for that purpose?” C. “It is evident that power is required.” S. “And to injure:—Is it sufficient to prevent us from doing injustice, that we should will not to do it, or is it necessary for this purpose also, to have provided ourselves with a power, with an art, which if we do not learn, and exercise, we shall do injustice? Did you think that Polus and I were right when we agreed that no one commits injustice willingly, but always unwillingly?” C. “Be it so, that you may complete your argument.” S. “An art, and a power, therefore, are required, in order not to do injustice.” C. “Yes.” S. “What, now, are the means by which a person may contrive that he should be never injured, or as little as possible? To me, it seems that it would be requisite for him either to be a despotic ruler in the state, or to associate himself with the existing government.” “Do you see,” asked Callicles, “how ready I am to praise you if you say any thing good? What you now say appears to me extremely well said.” S. “Consider whether you approve also of what I shall say next. It seems to me, that, as the old sages used to say, each man loves most those who most resemble himself. Do not you think so?” C. “I do.” S. “Then, wherever the government is in the hands of a savage and uncultured despot, if there be any person in the state who is much better than he, the despot will be afraid of him, and will never be able to love him with all his heart.” C. “Agreed.” S. “Neither would he love any one who is much worse than himself; for he would despise him.” C. “This likewise is true.” S. “No one therefore remains to be his friend, except such as, being of a similar disposition to him, praising and blaming the same things which he does, are willing to be his subjects and be governed by him. Any person of this sort will be extremely powerful in the state, and no one will injure him without being the worse for it.” C. “Yes.” S. “If then, in the state in question, any young man would contrive by what means he may become very powerful, and no one may injure him, his best plan is, to accustom himself from his youth upwards to have the same pleasures and pains with his master, and to resemble him as much as possible.” C. “Yes.” S. “By this method he will have attained the one object, of not being injured.” C. “He will.” S. “But will he have attained the other object, not to injure? or the very opposite? having made himself to resemble the ruler, who is unjust, and having attained influence with him? It seems to me that he will have accomplished, on the contrary, the means of doing the greatest possible quantity of injustice, and escaping with impunity.” C. “So it seems.” S. “Then he will be afflicted with the greatest of evils, being evil in mind, and being corrupted by power, and by the imitation of his master.” C. “I do not know how you twist and turn the argument backwards and forwards. Do you not know that this imitator will, if he pleases, be able to destroy the nonimitator, and take his property?” S. “Surely I do, most excellent Callicles, if I am not deaf, having heard it so often from you and Polus, and from nearly every other person in the town. But do you also listen to me, who say that it is true he will kill him if he pleases, but if so, a bad man will kill a good one.” C. “And is not this the very thing which is to be complained of?” S. “Not by any rational person, as the argument has shown. Do you think that a person should make it the object of all his exertions, to live as long as he can, and to study all the arts which can preserve us from dangers, such, for instance, as that rhetoric which you advised me to study, which saves our lives and fortunes in a court of justice?” C. “And very good advice it was.” S. “Pray, does the faculty of swimming appear to you a very grave and dignified one?” C. “No, indeed.” S. “And yet it saves men’s lives, when they are in circumstances in which that faculty is needed. If this should appear to you a trifling instance, I will give you a greater one, the art of navigation; which not only saves our lives but our property from the greatest of dangers, like rhetoric. And yet this art is unassuming and modest, and does not take honour to itself as having effected something splendid, but if it has brought you safe from Ægina hither, it charges two oboli, and if from the distance of Pontus or Egypt, having saved youself, your wife, your children, your fortune, it lands you here and charges two drachmæ; and the man whose art has accomplished all this, goes down to the beach, and walks about his ship with a humble dress and demeanour. For he is aware, I take it, that it is impossible to tell whom among his passengers he has benefited and whom he has harmed by not suffering them to be drowned, knowing that he has landed them no better men than he took them on board, either in body or mind. He considers that if any one, being afflicted with great and incurable bodily diseases, has been saved from shipwreck, he is unfortunate in not having perished, as from having received any benefit: and if any one has many incurable diseases in what is of greater price than the body, his mind, it is no benefit to this man to be saved from death, whether by sea or by the executioner; since it is not good for the bad man to live, for he must live badly. Therefore a pilot is not held in reverence, though he saves our lives. Nor an engineer either, who is sometimes as potent a preserver as either a pilot or a general; for he occasionally saves whole cities. Do you think as highly of him as you do of a rhetorician? And yet, if he were to exalt his profession after your fashion, and call upon all men to become engineers, on account of the exalted excellence of the art, he would have enough to say. But you, in spite of all this, despise him and his art, and would call him an engineer as a term of disdain, and would not give your daughter to his son, or allow your son to marry his daughter. And yet, by your own account of yourself, what ground have you for looking down upon the engineer, and the other people whom I have mentioned? I know you would say, you are better, and of a better sort. But if to be better does not consist in what I said; if all excellence consists in being able to preserve ourselves and what belongs to us, no matter what sort of men we are; then your disdain of the engineer and the physician, and of the other arts which have our preservation in view, is ridiculous. But observe whether nobleness and goodness do not consist in something quite different from saving and being saved: for a true man should not make it his study to live as long as possible, but should commit this to God, and believing what the women say, that no man can escape his destiny, should consider in what manner, so long as he does live, he may live best. Should he assimilate himself to the government under which he lives? and should you now study to resemble the Athenian people, that you may be a favourite with them, and may be powerful in the state? Let us consider well, lest we should purchase this power at the expense of what we most value. For if you think that any one can teach you an art which will make you powerful in this state, being dissimilar to the government of it, whether for better or worse, you are mistaken. You must be, not even an imitator of it, but actually similar to it in your own nature, if you would have any success in courting the favour of the Athenian people. Whoever, therefore, shall make you most like to the Athenian people, will make you such a politician and rhetorician, as you desire to become: for every person is pleased with discourse conformable to his own disposition, and displeased with that which is unconformable to it. Can you say any thing against this?” C. “You seem to me, I do not know why, to speak well: but I am like most people, I am not much persuaded by you.” S. “The passion for the people, with which your soul is filled, resists me. But if we consider the subject better, and frequently, you will perhaps be persuaded.
“Remember, now, that we said there were two methods of ministering either to the body or the mind; the one having in view Pleasure, the other aiming at the greatest Good, whether producing pleasure or pain.” C. “We did.” S. “That which aims at pleasure, is ignoble, and no better than adulation.” C. “Let it be so if you please.” S. “The other aims at what is best for that which it serves, be it the body or the mind.” C. “Yes.” S. “Ought we not then to attach ourselves to the service of our country and our countrymen, with a view to make them as good as we can? For without this, as we have found before, it is of no use to render them any other benefit, since if their minds are not well ordered, it does them no good to obtain either wealth or authority or any other power. Is it not so?” C. “If you will.”
S. “If then we were exhorting one another to apply ourselves to the public works, the building of walls, or temples, or docks, ought we not to examine ourselves, and see, in the first place, whether we understand the art of architecture or not, and under what master we have studied it?” C. “Certainly.” S. “And next, whether we have ever constructed any private edifice, for ourselves or any of our friends, and whether it be a good or a bad one. For if, examining ourselves, we found that we had studied under good and celebrated teachers, and had erected many admirable edifices, first under our masters, and afterwards by ourselves when we had left our masters, we should then act like reasonable beings in undertaking the public works. But if we could not name any person who had been our teacher, nor point to any buildings which we had erected, or to any that were not worthless, it would be senseless in us to take upon ourselves the construction of any public work, and to exhort each other to do so. Is this rightly said or not?” C. “It is.” S. “And so likewise if we were about to practise as physicians, or were inviting one another to do so, you and I ought to consider of one another thus: Pray how is Socrates himself in respect to health? Has any one been ever cured of an illness through his means? And I should ask the same questions respecting you. And if we could not discover that any one, foreigner or citizen, man or woman, had been brought into a better state of body by our means, would it not be ridiculous in us to attempt, as the proverb says, to learn pottery in the pot itself, and endeavour to practise for the public before we had tried in private, failed often and succeeded often, until we have sufficiently exercised ourselves in the art?” C. “It would.” S. “Now, then, since you have recently begun to transact the affairs of the state, and are calling upon me and reproaching me because I do not follow your example, let us examine one another: Pray has Callicles ever made any of the citizens a better man? Is there any person, foreigner or citizen, slave or freeman, who, having been previously unjust and intemperate and thoughtless, has been made a good man by Callicles? If any one were to ask you this question, what would you say? Do you not like to answer whether you have accomplished any achievement of this sort while yet in a private station, before you attempted to practise publicly?” C. “You are reproachful.” S. “I do not ask the question from any wish to reproach you, but from a real wish to know in what way you think that men ought to conduct themselves in public life, and whether you, in your public conduct, will be intent upon anything else, than that we, the citizens, may be as good as possible. Have we not frequently agreed that this is what a politician should do? Have we agreed or not? Answer. We have agreed: I will answer for you.
“If, then, this be what a good man should do for his country, pray look back and tell me, whether Pericles and Cimon, and Miltiades and Themistocles, still appear to you to have been good citizens.” C. “They do.” S. “Then, if they were so, each of them must have made his countrymen better than they were before. Did they, or not?” C. “They did.” S. “Then, when Pericles began to speak in the public assemblies, the Athenians were worse men than they were when he last addressed them?” C. “Perhaps so.” S. “Not perhaps, but they positively must, if he was a good citizen; by our former admissions.” C. “What then?” S. “Nothing: but tell me this, whether the Athenians are said to have been made better by Pericles, or, on the contrary, to have been corrupted by him. For I hear it said that Pericles made the Athenians idlers and cowards, and gossips and covetous, being the first who accustomed them to receive pay.”*C. “Those who told you so are Spartans at heart.” S. “One thing, however, I was not told, but we both of us know it; that Pericles was in high reputation, and never was condemned on any disgraceful charge by the Athenians, at first, when they were comparatively bad men; but after he had made them virtuous men, towards the end of his life, they found him guilty of peculation, and were near passing sentence of death upon him.” C. “What then? Does this prove Pericles a bad statesman?” S. “A superintendent of asses, at least, or of horses or oxen, would be thought a very bad one, if the animals did not kick, and start, and bite, when they were intrusted to him, but did all this when they quitted his charge. Is not that person, in your opinion, a bad guardian of any animal, who sends him forth more savage than he received him?” C. “I will say yes, to please you.” S. “Will you also please me by answering whether man is an animal or not?” C. “Unquestionably.” S. “And Pericles was a superintendent of men.” C. “Yes.” S. “Ought they not then, if he, their superintendent, had been a good politician, to have become more just, not more unjust, under his care?” C. “Yes.” S. “But the just, as Homer says, are gentle. What say you?” C. “The same.” S. “Now, he left them more ferocious than he received them, and that too towards himself, towards whom he least desired it.” C. “Do you wish me to agree with you?” S. “If you think I speak the truth.” C. “Be it so, then.” S. “And if more ferocious, then more unjust, and worse.” C. “Be it so.” S. “Then Pericles was not a good statesman.” C. “So say you.” S. “And you too, from your own admission. And what of Cimon? Did not those whom he served banish him by ostracism, that for ten years they might not hear his voice? And did they not banish Themistocles, and sentence Miltiades to a dungeon? If these had been good statesmen, they would not have been so treated. A good coachman does not at first keep his seat, but after he has trained his horses, and learned to be a better driver, then fall off. This does not happen either in driving or in any thing else: does it, think you?” C. “No.” S. “Then we were right in saying that we knew of no man who had been a good statesman in this nation. You allowed that there was none in our own day, but affirmed that there were such persons formerly, and instanced these men. But these, it appears, are on a level with those of the present day; so that, if they were rhetoricians, they neither possessed the true rhetoric, nor even that which is a kind of adulation, otherwise they would not have been so unsuccessful.” “But,” said Callicles, “no one in the present day has approached to these men in the works which they accomplished.” “Neither do I disparage them,” replied Socrates, “in the character of ministrators to the people’s inclinations; I think that they were much more skilful ministrators than the men of our day, and more capable of providing for the nation what it desired. But in respect of changing its desires, and not giving way to them, but exhorting and impelling the nation to those courses by which the citizens might become better men, they did not differ from our own contemporaries: and this alone is the business of a good citizen. In providing ships, and walls, and docks, and so forth, I grant that these men were abler than ours.
“You and I are acting very ridiculously. All this time we continually return to the same point, and never know each other’s meaning. I think you have often admitted that there are two kinds of pursuits relating to the body and the mind, one of them merely ministrative, which can provide food for our bodies if they are hungry, drink if they are thirsty, clothes if they are cold, and in short whatever the body desires. I purposely repeat the same illustrations constantly, that you may the more easily understand me. It is no wonder that any one who is capable of providing these things, whether he be a dealer or a producer, a cook, or weaver, and so forth, should think himself and be thought by others to be the proper guardian of the body; so long as they do not know that there is, besides all this, an art of gymnastics and medicine, which is the real guardian of the body; and which it is fit should govern all these other arts, and make use of them as instruments, because this art knows what food or drink is good and bad, with reference to the excellence of the body, but the others do not know; for which reason these are all slavish and illiberal, and simply ministerial, and gymnastics and medicine ought in justice to be sovereign over them. You sometimes appear to know, that I assert this to be true likewise of the mind, and you assent, as if you understood my meaning: but you presently turn back, and say that there have been excellent citizens in this state, and when I ask who, you name to me exactly such a kind of politicians, as if, when I asked you what good gymnasts and superintendents of the body there are or have been, you were gravely to answer, Thearion the baker, and Mithæcus the author of the cookery book, and Sarambus the tavern keeper, saying that these were surprisingly good in the care and treatment of the body, by providing excellent bread, and meat, and wine. You would perhaps be angry, if I were to answer, My friend, you know nothing of gymnastics; you tell me of people who can only minister to me and supply my desires, having no sound knowledge respecting them: and who perhaps, after swelling and fattening men’s bodies, and being praised by them, will end by destroying even their original flesh. They, indeed, from inexperience, will not perhaps lay upon these men who crammed them, the blame of their diseases and loss of flesh; but when their former repletion, not being of a healthy kind, shall long after produce diseases, they will reproach and punish those who happen to be attending on them and advising them at that time, but will eulogize the original authors of their ills. You, Callicles, now do precisely the same thing. You eulogize the men who, having feasted the Athenians and crammed them with what they desire, are said to have made them a great nation, because it is not perceived that the commonwealth is tumid and hollow, through those men of antiquity: for, without making us just or temperate, they have crammed us with ports, and docks, and fortifications, and revenues, and such trumpery. When the crisis arrives, the Athenians will lay the blame upon their then advisers; they will eulogize Themistocles, and Cimon, and Pericles, the authors of their calamity; but when they have lost their original possessions as well as those more recently acquired, perhaps they will revenge themselves upon you, if you do not take care, and upon my friend Alcibiades, who were not the original authors of their evils, although perhaps you may have assisted in producing them.
“And by the way, I observe that something which is very usual, is very unreasonable. When the state takes hold of any of its statesmen, and treats them as criminals, they are indignant, and represent themselves as ill used men, who having rendered many great services to the state, are unjustly destroyed by it. This is all imposture. A leading man in a state cannot be unjustly destroyed by the state of which he is the leader. Those who call themselves politicians, resemble those who call themselves sophists. The sophists, in other respects wise men, do one thing which is very absurd: Calling themselves teachers of virtue, they often reproach their disciples for wronging them by not paying their hire, and not showing them gratitude for the good they have done them. What can be more senseless than this, that men who have become virtuous and just, men who have been purified from injustice by their teacher, and imbued with justice, should be unjust? Do you not think this absurd? You have forced me really to harangue, Callicles, not being willing to answer.” C. “Cannot you speak, unless some one will answer you?” S. “It seems I can; for I have been speaking for a long time, since you will not answer. But tell me, in the name of friendship: Do you not think it very absurd, that he who says he has made some one a good man, should blame him, that having been made by him, and still being, a good man, he is nevertheless a bad one?” C. “I think so.” S. “And do you not hear those who profess to instruct men in virtue, speaking in this manner?” C. “I do. But why do you talk about men who are good for nothing?”*S. “And what will you say of those, who, professing to have been at the head of the nation, and to have managed it so that it should become as good as possible, afterwards turn round and reproach it as being wicked? Do you think that such persons are any better than those whom you despise? A sophist, and a rhetorician, are the same thing, or very much alike, as I said to Polus. But you, from ignorance, think the one a fine thing, and despise the other. In reality, the pursuit of the sophist is nobler than that of the rhetorician, as the art of Legislation is nobler than the art of Judicature, and Gymnastics than Medicine. I, for my part, thought that orators and sophists were the only persons who were not entitled to accuse their scholars of behaving ill to them; for in the same breath they would be accusing themselves of having done no good to those whom they undertook to improve. Is it not so?” C. “It is.” S. “And they alone should have it in their power to bestow their particular kind of service without pay. A person who has received any other service, who has, for instance, acquired swiftness by the instructions of a gymnast, might perhaps be ungrateful to the gymnast, unless he previously made a contract with him for the payment of hire. For men are not unjust by slowness, but by injustice.” C. “Yes.” S. “Then if any one frees them from this quality of injustice, there is no danger of their being unjust to him. If he can really make men good, he alone may with safety cast this benefit at random.” C. “He may.” S. “Therefore, it is no disgrace to take money for giving advice on any other subject, as on building, for example.” C. “No.” S. “But on this subject, how one may become most virtuous, and may best administer one’s family or the state, it is considered disgraceful to say that we will not give advice unless we are paid for it.” C. “Yes.” S. “And why? Because of all services, this is the only one which of itself inspires the person benefited with a desire to repay the obligation: so that it is a sign of having performed this service well, if we are requited for it, ill, if we are not. Is not this true?” C. “It is.”
S. “To which, then, of these kinds of service do you exhort me? As a physician, to strive that the Athenians may become as good as possible? Or as a mere ministrative officer, to wait upon their desires? Speak out boldly.” C. “I say, then, as a ministrative officer.” S. “You call upon me, then, to become an adulator.” C. “Had you rather be called a Mysian?* as you certainly will, if you do not follow this advice.” S. “Do not say, as you have said so often, that any one who pleases may put me to death; least I should answer, that if so, a bad man will put to death a good one. Nor that he will deprive me of my substance; lest I should reply, that if he does, he will not be able to use it for his good; but, as he acquired it unjustly, so he will use it unjustly; if unjustly, ignobly; and if ignobly, perniciously to himself.” C. “How confident you seem to be that you are in no danger of these things! as if you could not be brought into danger of your life, even perhaps by a worthless fellow.” S. “I must be very foolish, if I did not know that in this state any one whatever may be so treated. This, however, I well know, that if I should, as you say, be charged with a criminal offence, it will be a bad man who charges me; for no good man would indict a man who does no wrong. And it will be no wonder if I should be put to death. Shall I tell you why I think so?” C. “If you please.” S. “I think that I, with a very few other Athenians, (not to say I alone,) cultivate the true art of politics, and that I alone, among the men of the present day, am a politician in the true sense of the word. Since then I say whatever I do say, not for the gratification of any one, but aiming at what is best, not at what is most agreeable, and not choosing to do those fine things which you recommend, I shall not know what to say in a court of justice. What I said to Polus, would apply to myself. I shall be judged as a physician would, if tried before children, on the accusation of a cook. What could such a person say in his defence? Suppose his accuser to say, See what evils this man has inflicted upon you, cutting and burning and emaciating you, giving you bitter draughts, and forcing you to fast; not like me, who have feasted you with every thing that is delightful. What could the physician say to all this? If he said the truth, ‘I did all these things for your health,’ do you not think that such judges would hoot him down?” C. “Probably.” S. “And I myself, I well know, should be treated in a similar manner, if I were brought before a court of justice. For I shall not be able to remind the judges of any pleasures that I have procured for them, which are what they understand by benefits. But I do not envy either the providers or those for whom they provide. And if any one should say that I corrupt the youth by unsettling their minds, or libel the older men by bitter speeches, either in private or in public, I shall neither be able to say the truth, viz. ‘I say and do all these things justly, and therefore for your good,’ nor shall I have any other defence; so that I must be content to undergo my fate.” C. “Does a man, then, who is thus situated, so unable to protect himself, appear to you to be as he should be?” S. “If that be in him, of which we have so often spoken: if he have protected himself, by never having said or done anything unjust, either towards men or gods. For this is, as we have frequently admitted, the best sort of self-protection. If, therefore, any one should convict me of being incapable of affording this protection to myself or others, I should be ashamed, whether I were convicted in the presence of many, or of one only; and if I were to perish from this kind of incapability, I should be grieved; but if I should die for want of Adulatory Rhetoric, I should bear my death very easily. Death itself no one fears, who is not altogether irrational and unmanly; but to commit injustice is an object of rational fear, for to arrive in the other world with the soul loaded with crimes, is the greatest of evils. I will, if you please, set forth to you in what manner this happens. I will relate to you a history, which you will, as I think, consider a fable, but I shall state it to you as true.”
Socrates then introduces a mythos or legend, of the description so frequent in Plato, and which he never seems to deliver as truth, but as a symbol of some truth. This mythos relates to a future state, and a general judgment of mankind. Formerly (he says) men were judged on the day on which they were destined to die, and were tried by living judges: but Pluto and the guardians of Elysium complained to Jupiter, that people frequently were sent to them who were undeserving; for, being tried while yet alive, they were tried with their mortal garments not stripped off; and many whose souls were evil, had dressed them out in a handsome body, and rank and wealth, and when the trial came on, they produced many witnesses, to assert that they had led a just life: and the judges were imposed upon by these means, more especially as they also were still alive, and gross material organs obstructed the clearness of their mental sight. On this account it was ordered that men should no longer foresee their own death; and that they should be tried naked, that is, not till they were dead, and by judges who were likewise dead and naked. Æacus, Rhadamanthus, and Minos, therefore, judge mankind, at the place where the two roads to Tartarus and to Elysium separate. “Death,” added Socrates, “is merely the separation of the body and the soul: each of them remains the same in its own nature. The body, for some time at least, continues of the same figure and aspect, and with the same marks upon it, as during life; and the soul likewise, when stripped of the body, discloses its natural state, as well as all the artificial impressions which have been made upon it by the habits acquired during life. These judges, therefore, when the souls come to them, know not whose souls they are, but often take hold of the soul of the Great King,* or any other monarch, or powerful man, and finding nothing sound in it, but seeing it branded and imprinted with the stigmas of perjury and injustice, which the practices of the man during his life have left upon it, and finding it crooked and awry from having been nurtured in falsehood and deception, and full of baseness and disorderliness from habits of luxury and insolence and self-indulgence, they dismiss it to the place of torment. All punishment, when properly inflicted, is designed either to benefit the sufferer by making him better, or to be a warning to others, and render them better by the terror of the example. Those whose vices are curable, are benefited by their torments; such benefits can only arise from suffering, either here or in Tartarus; for there are no other means of being cured of injustice. But those whose crimes are of the deepest dye, and who are consequently incurable, are made examples of, and are not benefited by their punishment, being incurable, but serve to benefit the beholders, being hung up as an example to those vicious men who come there. Of these Archelaus will be one, if Polus has told truth respecting him. I apprehend that most of these examples are yielded by despots and powerful statesmen; for they, from the greater license which they possess, commit the greatest crimes. Homer bears witness to this, for he has represented those who suffer eternally in hell as all of them kings, Tantalus, and Sysiphus, and Tityus:[*] he has not placed Thersites, or any other wicked private individual, among those who suffer the great punishments, as being incurable; for it was not in the power of these men to commit the greater crimes: by so much the happier they. It is not, however, absolutely impossible even for statesmen and powerful men, to be virtuous; and they who are so, are highly to be extolled: for it is difficult to live justly with much liberty of committing injustice, and few are they who do so. There have been such men, however, and probably there will be again, both here and elsewhere, whose greatness consists in performing justly that which is intrusted to them: and one very notable instance throughout all Greece, was Aristides. When, on the contrary, the judges behold a soul which has lived in holiness and truth, (usually, as I affirm, that of a philosopher, who has minded his own affairs, and not taken much part in active life,) they commend him, and dismiss him to Elysium.
“I, therefore, make it my study so to act, that I shall appear before my judge with my soul in the soundest possible state. Letting alone the honours which the Many confer, and pursuing the Truth, I endeavour to live well, and when the time shall come, to die well. And to the best of my ability I call upon all men to do the same; and I exhort you, in my turn, to this mode of life, and this struggle, which is worth all the struggles here: and I tell you, that you will not be able to protect yourself, but when Æacus calls you before him, you will gape and stare as much as I should here, and perhaps some one will strike you a blow, and insult you with every kind of contumely.
“Perhaps you may despise all this, and think it an old woman’s tale. And there would be nothing wonderful in despising it, if, by seeking, we could find any thing better and more true. But now you see that you, the three wisest men now living in Greece, you, and Polus, and Gorgias, are not able to show that any other course of life should be pursued, than that which this story pronounces to be for our interest in a future state; but amid so many refutations, this conclusion alone rests undisturbed, that to injure should be more guarded against than to be injured, and that it ought to be our greatest study not to appear good, but to be good, both in private and in public; and that if in any respect we become wicked, we should be punished, and that the next best thing to being just, is to become so by being punished; and that all adulation, whether of ourselves or of others, of a few or of many, should be avoided, and rhetoric, and every thing else, should be employed for the purposes of justice only. Be advised by me, therefore, and follow me thither, where, if you arrive, you will be happy both in life and after death. And suffer any man to despise you as a fool, and to insult you if he will, aye, and to strike you even that disgraceful blow: for you will suffer nothing by it if you are really excellent, and practise virtue. And having thus practised it in common, we will then, if we see fit, apply ourselves to public life, or adopt any course to which our deliberations may lead us, being then fitter for deliberation than we are now. For it is shameful, being as it seems we are, to value ourselves as being somebody; we who never think the same thing on the same subject, and that the greatest of all subjects; so ignorant are we. Let us use, therefore, as our guide, the argument which we have now investigated; which tells us, that the best mode of life, is to live and die in the practice of justice, and of all other virtue. This road let us follow, and to this let us exhort all others; not that to which you exhorted me; for it is good for nothing, O Callicles.”
The reader has now seen the substance of what the greatest moralist of antiquity finds to say in recommendation of a virtuous life. His arguments, like those of moralists in general, are not of a nature to convince many, except those who do not need conviction; there are few of them which Polus and Callicles, had the author endowed them with dialectical skill equal to his own, might not easily have parried. But is not this an inconvenience necessarily attending the attempt to prove the eligibility of virtue by argument? Argument may show what general regulation of the desires, or what particular course of conduct, virtue requires: How to live virtuously, is a question the solution of which belongs to the understanding: but the understanding has no inducements which it can bring to the aid of one who has not yet determined whether he will endeavour to live virtuously or no. It is impossible, by any arguments, to prove that a life of obedience to duty is preferable, so far as respects the agent himself, to a life of circumspect and cautious selfishness. It will be answered, perhaps, that virtue is the road to happiness, and that “honesty is the best policy.” Of this celebrated maxim, may we not venture to say, once for all, without hesitation or reserve, that it is not true? The whole experience of mankind runs counter to it. The life of a good man or woman is full of unpraised and unrequited sacrifices. In the present dialogue, which, though scanty in conclusive arguments, is rich in profound reflections, there is one remark of which the truth is quite universal—that the world loves its like, and refuses its favour to its unlike. To be more honest than the many, is nearly as prejudicial, in a worldly sense, as to be a greater rogue. They, indeed, who have no conception of any higher honesty than is practised by the majority of the society in which they live, are right in considering such honesty as accordant with policy. But how is he indemnified, who scruples to do that which his neighbours do without scruple? Where is the reward, in any worldly sense, for heroism? Civilization, with its laissez-aller and its laissez-faire which it calls tolerance, has, in two thousand years, done thus much for the moral hero, that he now runs little risk of drinking hemlock like Socrates, or like Christ, of dying on the cross. The worst that can well happen to him is to be everywhere ill spoken of, and to fail in all his worldly concerns: and if he be unusually fortunate, he may, perhaps, be so well treated by the rest of mankind, as to be allowed to be honest in peace.
The old monk in Rabelais had a far truer notion of worldly wisdom: “To perform your appointed task indifferently well; never to speak ill of your superiors; and to let the mad world go its own way, for it will go its own way.”*
All valid arguments in favour of virtue, presuppose that we already desire virtue, or desire some of its ends and objects. You may prove to us that virtue tends to the happiness of mankind, or of our country; but that supposes that we already care for mankind or for our country. You may tell us that virtue will gain us the approbation of the wise and good; but this supposes that the wise and good are already more to us than other people are. Those only will go along with Socrates in the preceding dialogue, who already feel that the accordance of their lives and inclinations with some scheme of duty is necessary to their comfort; whose feelings of virtue are already so strong, that if they allow any other consideration to prevail over those feelings, they are really conscious that the health of their souls is gone, and that they are, as Plato affirms, in a state of disease. But no arguments which Plato urges have power to make those love or desire virtue, who do not already: nor is this ever to be effected through the intellect, but through the imagination and the affections.
The love of virtue, and every other noble feeling, is not communicated by reasoning, but caught by inspiration or sympathy from those who already have it; and its nurse and foster-mother is Admiration. We acquire it from those whom we love and reverence, especially from those whom we earliest love and reverence; from our ideal of those, whether in past or in present times, whose lives and characters have been the mirror of all noble qualities; and lastly, from those who, as poets or artists, can clothe those feelings in the most beautiful forms, and breathe them into us through our imagination and our sensations. It is thus that Plato has deserved the title of a great moral writer. Christ did not argue about virtue, but commanded it: Plato, when he argues about it, argues for the most part inconclusively; but he resembles Christ in the love which he inspires for it, and in the stern resolution never to swerve from it, which those who can relish his writings naturally feel when perusing them. And the present writer regrets that his imperfect abstract is so ill fitted to convey any idea of the degree in which this dialogue makes the feelings and course of life which it inculcates commend themselves to our inmost nature, by associating them with our most impressive conceptions of beauty and power.
[[*] ]See Iliad (Greek and English), trans. A. T. Murray, 2 vols. (London: Heinemann; Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1954), Vol. I, p. 276 (VI, 211).
[* ]By the word “Gymnastics,” as will be seen throughout this dialogue, the Greeks understood, not any particular sort of bodily exercises, but the entire art of training the bodily frame of man, for the ends of an active life.
[* ]This, which appears a quibble rather than an argument, is not so according to Plato’s ideas of the nature of virtue. We have seen in the Protagoras, what is continually apparent in the other works of Plato, and nowhere more clearly than in the subsequent part of this dialogue, viz., that he was inclined to the opinion that each of the virtues was a branch of intelligence, and that no one is vicious because he intends to be so, but merely from ignorance of virtue. Philosophical instruction in virtue was, therefore, in his view, the one thing needful for ensuring the practice of it. Under this idea it was no absurdity to say, that he who has learnt justice, ὁ τὰ δίκαια μεμαθηκώς, must be just; because injustice, according to this theory, was only a non-understanding of justice. [The quotation is from Gorgias; see Lysis, Symposium, Gorgias (Greek and English), trans. W.R.M. Lamb (London: Heinemann; Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1953, p. 302 (460b).]
[* ]Καλὸν and Αἰσχρὸν: literally beautiful and ugly; but those words, although as justly applicable to moral as to physical objects, are not, in that application, sufficiently familiar to English ears. I have chosen the words which seemed to me most suitable to the objects of this dialogue. But no terms would answer the purpose exactly, unless, with the same original meaning, they continued the same habitual and familiar associations, as the Greek words.
[* ]Ὁὺς ἂν βούλωνται, whomsoever they desire; ὁὺς ἂν δοκῃ̑ αὐτοι̑ς, whomsoever they think fit. The sequel will show that these two expressions mark, not inappropriately, the distinction which Plato had in view.
[[*] ]The first instalment in the Monthly Repository ends here.
[[*] ]See The Odes of Pindar Including Principal Fragments (Greek and English), trans. John Sandys (London: Heinemann; Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1946), p. 604.
[[†] ]Euripides, Antiope (the drama is not extant).
[[*] ]See Homer, Iliad, trans. Murray, Vol. I, p. 414 (IX, 441).
[[†] ]In Antiope.
[* ]Properly of a χαραδριός, an unknown bird, of a remarkably rapid digestion.
[* ]An allusion to the religious ceremonies in honour of Ceres, held at Eleusis and Athens.
[[*] ]The second instalment in the Monthly Repository ends here.
[* ]Σώϕρων. See the remarks on this word, in our abstract of the Protagoras in a former number, pp. 204-5 [pp. 53-4 in the present edition].
[* ]For attending as jurymen, and at the public assemblies.
[* ]Another incidental proof of the contempt in which the sophists were held by the very persons whom they are said to have corrupted; politicians and men of the world.
[* ]The most despised of all foreign nations. Witness the phrase Μυσω̑ν λεία, the spoil of the Mysians, applied to any people so poor in spirit, that even the unwarlike Mysians could plunder them with impunity.
[* ]The name by which the Greeks denoted the king of Persia.
[[*] ]Odyssey (Greek and English), trans. A. T. Murray, 2 vols. (London: Heinemann; Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1960), Vol. I, pp. 426-8 (XI, 576-600).
[* ]Fungi officio taliter qualiter; nunquam male loqui de superioribus; sinere insanum mundum vadere quò vult; nam vult vadere quò vult. [Mill’s attribution of this passage to Rabelais is in accordance with tradition, but incorrect.]