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John Stuart Mill, The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XI - Essays on Philosophy and the Classics [1828]

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John Stuart Mill, 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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Vol. 11 of the 33 vol. Collected Works contains a number of Mill’s essays on philosophy, Plato, Aristotle, and the history of Greece.

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The online edition of the Collected Works is published under licence from the copyright holder, The University of Toronto Press. ©2006 The University of Toronto Press. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced in any form or medium without the permission of The University of Toronto Press.

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This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.

Table of Contents:

Edition: current; Page: [i]
volume xi
Edition: current; Page: [ii]

The Collected Edition of the works of John Stuart Mill has been planned and is being directed by an editorial committee appointed from the Faculty of Arts and Science of the University of Toronto, and from the University of Toronto Press. The primary aim of the edition is to present fully collated texts of those works which exist in a number of versions, both printed and manuscript, and to provide accurate texts of works previously unpublished or which have become relatively inaccessible.

Editorial Committee

j. m. robson, General Editor

v. w. bladen, alexander brady, j. cairns

j. b. conacher, d. p. dryer, francess halpenny

s. hollander, m. jean houston, m. jeanneret

f. r. mcrae, f. e. l. priestley

Edition: current; Page: [iii]
Essays on Philosophy and the Classics
Editor of the Text J. M. ROBSON Professor of English Victoria College, University of Toronto
Introduction by F. E. SPARSHOTT Professor of Philosophy Victoria College, University of Toronto
Edition: current; Page: [iv]

© University of Toronto Press 1978

Toronto Buffalo London

Printed in Canada

London: Routledge & Kegan Paul

ISBN 0-7100-0008-1

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data

Mill, John Stuart, 1806-1873.

Collected works.

Half title; each vol. has special t.p.

Bibliographical footnotes.

contents: v. 2-3.

Principles of political economy. - v. 4-5 Essays on economics and society, 1824-1879. - v. 7-8.

A system of logic ratiocinative and inductive. [etc.]

1. Philosophy - Collected works. 2. Political science - Collected works.

b1602.a2 16 1963 192 63-25976

utp isbn 0-8020-2283-9

This volume has been published with the assistance of a grant from the Canada Council.

Edition: current; Page: [v]


  • introduction, by F. E. Sparshott vii
  • textual introduction, by J. M. Robson lxxvii
  • Whately’s Elements of Logic (1828) 1
  • Notes on Some of the More Popular Dialogues of Plato (1834-35) 37
    • The Progatoras, 39
    • The Phædrus, 62
    • The Gorgias, 97
    • The Apology of Socrates, 151
    • The Charmides, 175
    • The Euthyphron, 187
    • The Laches, 197
    • The Lysis, 210
    • The Parmenides, 222
  • Two Publications on Plato (1840) 239
  • Bailey on Berkeley’s Theory of Vision (1842, 1843) 245
  • Grote’s History of Greece [I] (1846) 271
  • Grote’s History of Greece [II] (1853) 307
  • Bain’s Psychology (1859) 339
  • Grote’s Plato (1866) 375
  • Taine’s De l’Intelligence (1870) 441
  • Berkeley’s Life and Writings (1871) 449
  • Grote’s Aristotle (1873) 473
  • appendix. Bibliographic Index of Persons and
    • Works Cited in the Essays, with Variants and Notes 511
  • index 563
  • facsimiles facing pages 175, 474-5
Edition: current; Page: [vi] Edition: current; Page: [vii]


compilers of collected works must garner the rough with the smooth, and a volume that consists largely of book reviews must be expected to hold much that has turned to no such aureate earth as, buried once, men want dug up again. But Mill did not share this expectation. Such zombies as his massive reviews of Grote were called up to walk the pages of Dissertations and Discussions. The quality of the works reviewed here tends to justify the disinterment: of them all, perhaps only those of William Smith and Gustav Wiggers have quite dropped out of scholarly sight. Grote’s Greece and Plato, Fraser’s Berkeley, and Whately’s Logic hold their places on our shelves, though we leave them there to gather undisturbed their kindred dust.

I propose to introduce this gallimaufry disjointedly, saying a little about the background of each component in turn, though not quite in the chronological order, spanning more than four decades, in which they are printed here. It will be seen that some themes recur; but it seems idle to pretend to impose a systematic order on these mostly occasional pieces.


of all the writings reprinted here, the review of Whately has attracted most attention from commentators, both for its intrinsic interest and as a forerunner of the System of Logic. Alexander Bain called it “a landmark not merely in the history of [Mill’s] own mind, but in the history of logic.”1 Yet Mill himself exempted it from the general resurrection in Dissertations and Discussions. Why? Partly, no doubt, because it was superseded by the System of Logic: of the works in this volume that Mill did reprint, none falls within the scope of a later treatise. Whately was only one of a series of logicians whose work Mill discussed in 1827 with that “Society of Students of Mental Philosophy” which had begun to meet at the Grotes’ in Threadneedle Edition: current; Page: [viii] Street two years before;2 and it was from those discussions that the opening books of the Logic began.3 But the Whately review was not merely superseded; in the one place in the Logic where he cites this earlier work, Mill describes it as “containing some opinions which I no longer entertain,”4 And Kubitz suggests that the main reason for not reprinting the article was that he had recanted its views on the significance of deductive method.5 The scope of this recantation, which went with a reversal in his views on the possibility of an inductive logic, will occupy us shortly. But the decisive factor could have been one that had little to do with any shift in doctrine. For Mill, perhaps more than for most reviewers even in that polemical age, a review was a political act, serving to encourage or chasten the righteous and to dismay the adversary. In 1831 Whately was “one of the fittest men in the country to hold a high station in a national church such as I conceive it should be”;6 but by the time the first two volumes of Dissertations and Discussions were published in 1859, though Bailey, Grote, and Bain were still around to be admonished and cheered, Whately as Archbishop of Dublin had long confined his activities to spheres where reviewers could neither help nor harm.7

Mill’s failure to reprint the Whately review, however explained, must be regretted by his posthumous friends. His reputation as a logician has suffered among the philosophical laity because the doctrine of the syllogism developed in the Logic has been taken for a general theory of Edition: current; Page: [ix] syllogistic logic as such. Mill’s belated care in distinguishing the logic of truth from the logic of consistency, and his insistence that only the former concerns him,8 has not compensated for his failure to provide a coherent exposition of the latter; in fact, he seems to blend an exposition of syllogistic in terms of consistency with a justification in terms of truth. But the Whately review makes it clear that Mill understood the nature and value of formal logic as a study of the form of valid arguments and a device for testing them. In fact, his vindication of this study against its recent neglect is couched in terms rather like those used by careless readers nowadays against his own Logic. But though this vindication saves Mill’s popular credit by giving meaning to the provisos with which the doctrine of the Logic is hedged, it does not explain that doctrine itself. If syllogism is proper to the analysis of proofs, why should it figure at all in an account of discovery? An examination of Whately’s book yields a possible answer.

Mill’s polemic (5-6 below) against those who supposed there could be a separate inductive logic (as opposed to procedural rules for inductions) is a reflection of Whately’s own arguments. Syllogism, he urged, is the unique form of valid argument.9 Therefore induction, in so far as it is a form of argument, must be syllogistic; in so far as it is not syllogistic it cannot be a form of argument at all, but a mere process of inquiry that as such must fall outside the scope of logic.10 An inductive argument is nothing but a syllogism in barbara with the suppressed major premise: “What belongs to the individual or individuals we have examined, belongs to the whole class under which they come.”11 So now we have two syllogisms, an inductive one:

  • Mortality is a property of Socrates and Coriscus
  • All properties of Socrates and Coriscus are properties of all men
  • --------------------
  • Mortality is a property of all men;

and a deductive one:

  • All men are mortal
  • The Iron Duke is a man
  • --------------------
  • The Iron Duke is mortal.
Edition: current; Page: [x]

But the deductive one merely carries out a decision, or exemplifies a commitment, we made in the inductive one—and the decision is the implausibly sweeping one that whatever is true of the men we know is probably true of all men (and hence of Wellington).

The position implied by this move of Whately’s, and apparently endorsed by Mill, is a very strange one. Inductive reasoning is subsumed under the logic of consistency, and the consistency required is that of abiding by the commitment made in the extravagant major premise of the inductive syllogism. But all this syllogistic machinery is quite useless: if in any case we are going to start with Coriscus and his friends, and end up with Arthur Wellesley, there is no point in making a detour through “all men.” Accordingly, Mill was to write in the Logic (CW, VII, 162) that in “Reasoning or Inference properly so called,” “We set out from known truths, to arrive at others really distinct from them.” Small wonder, then, that he did not reprint the Whately review, in which he proclaimed the impossibility of the condition on which the Logic was to be constructed, and excluded from the proper sphere of logic the whole of “Reasoning or Inference properly so called”!

But it was a serious and genuine impasse that confronted Whately and the young Mill alike. Whately observes: “The justly celebrated author of the Philosophy of Rhetoric, and many others, have objected to the syllogism altogether, as necessarily involving a petitio principii; an objection which, of course, he would not have been disposed to bring forward, had he perceived that, whether well or ill-founded, it lies against all arguments whatever.12 Well, perhaps; but the consequence—with which Whately in the ensuing pages vainly grapples—is either to expel reasoning from the province of discovery or to reduce discovery to the rearrangement of terms. It was precisely for freeing logicians from this impasse that the doctrine of the syllogism in Mill’s Logic was to be praised by Whewell.13 Mill’s final solution, in which all real reasoning is from particulars to particulars,14 amounts to saying that the appearance of syllogism in the processes of reasoning is only an appearance. What looks like a major premise (“All men are mortal”) is really no such thing: it is only a sort of aide-mémoire, serving two purposes. It reminds us that a number of objects have been examined and found both human and mortal, and registers a decision to let these examined cases stand as sufficient evidence for the Edition: current; Page: [xi] inference that, when anything else is found to be human, it can be expected to be perishable. If syllogisms are what formal logic studies, this is not syllogism but pseudo-syllogism, for the warrant for an inference is not the same as a premise in an argument. Unfortunately, Mill had not emancipated himself sufficiently from Whately and company to make this distinction clear. William Kneale seems to be right in tracing the difficulties in Mill’s account to his “failure to realize the incompatibility of a good new insight with a bad old tradition in which he had been educated.”15 But Kneale seems not to have attended to quite the relevant parts of the bad tradition—his book does not mention Whately at all—and allows himself to be baffled by Mill’s contention that the major premise of a syllogism can serve two purposes: a contention which, we have seen, becomes intelligible when it is seen as the solution to a problem posed by Whately and his peers.

The story I have now unfolded is not the whole story. Mill had begun studying logic ten years before, at the age of twelve, not with Aldrich and Whately’s other predecessors as text-book writers, but with Aristotle’s Organon, accompanied by the scholastics whom he extols in his review, and followed by Hobbes.16 And it could have been from Aristotle that he learned how different a syllogism in investigation could be from a syllogism in analysis. But he shows no sign of having noted what Aristotle has to say about syllogisms in investigation. To turn from Whately to the Posterior Analytics is to enter a different and saner world, in which the conclusion of a scientific syllogism is not a proposition like “The Duke of Wellington is mortal” but one like “The moon suffers eclipse,” and the inquiry which it concludes does not take the form of discovering classes to which its subject belongs but that of discovering causal relations in which it is involved.17 The “discovery of middle terms” is not the unfolding of a system of class-inclusions (Wellington is a Duke, is a Briton, is a man, is a mammal, is an animal), but a reference to “the failure of light through the earth’s shutting it out,” involving the discovery that the moon is a body shining by reflected light and the means of that light’s occlusion. And the conclusion is not so much “Thus we may infer that the moon will undergo eclipse” as “So that explains why it is that the moon undergoes eclipse.” The eclipse of the moon, whose occurrence is affirmed in the conclusion, is neither datum nor discovery, but problem. Science is conceived not as observing and classifying individuals, but as probing the workings of systems and mechanisms. Edition: current; Page: [xii] Kneale, very reasonably, asks why Mill even ignores the possibility that a major premise might state a connection of attributes rather than record a summary of cases.18 But apparently he does ignore it. This whole side of Aristotle’s logic must have seemed to him meaningless or hopelessly archaic. Why? Part of the reason appears in what he says in the Logic about propositions: “The first glance at a proposition shows that it is formed by putting together two names” (CW, VII, 21). It is true that syllogistic logic relies on the supposed reducibility of any proposition to the copulation of two terms, but that is a far cry from asserting that every proposition is evidently composed of two names. Why “names”? Why two? In what sense “putting together”? This unintelligible assertion harks back to the theory of language attempted by Hobbes; in Mill’s time it must have seemed very antiquated indeed.19 But Mill, like many revolutionaries—the men of Thermidor saw themselves as ancient Romans; Mazzini slept with Tacitus under his pillow—was in some things very old-fashioned, using the far past as a lever to unseat the near past, as his passionate Graecophilia and the defiant championing of the school logic sufficiently attest. After all, what made his father the apostle of progress in psychology was his revival of Hartley against the new-fangled Germanism. To this defiant antiquarianism belongs the Locke-like atomism of the doctrine of propositions, with the analogous reductivism that makes all reasoning go from particulars to particulars and also, in the controversy with Bailey, the inability to come to terms with any treatment of the facts of vision that does not reduce them to the association of simple percepts. A recent book argues persuasively that the whole of Mill’s philosophical activity is designed to subsume all subject matters under a single method, analysing them into components that retain their identity and are linked (like “names” in a proposition) in a merely mechanical unity by relations of addition and subtraction.20 This claim is so far true that, as we shall see later, Mill uses the analogy of chemical combination, in which compounds have properties not derivable from those of their admitted elements, to justify his insistence that such an analysis shall be deemed performable even in cases where it cannot in fact be carried through. If this was indeed his ambition, it seems one more proper to the seventeenth century than to the nineteenth.21

The retention of an appearance of duplication in the logics of truth and of consistency, with what looks like the same syllogistic form prevailing in Edition: current; Page: [xiii] both, is more than merely a hangover from Whately’s theory of induction. Something like it seems to be required by the contention that logic is an art as well as a science. This is a point on which Mill endorses Whately’s position against Hamilton;22 and in Whately it may well reflect the systematic preoccupations of the compilers of the Encyclopædia Metropolitana, who placed his article in Part I among the pure sciences, separated by a great distance from the arts and applied sciences of Part IV among which Whately conceded that his contemporaries might have expected to find it. But of what is logic the art?

Logic . . . may be considered as the Science, and also as the Art, of reasoning. It investigates the principles on which argumentation is conducted, and furnishes rules to secure the mind from error in its deductions. Its most appropriate office, however, is that of instituting an analysis of the process of the mind in Reasoning; and in this point of view it is, as has been stated, strictly a Science: while, considered in reference to the practical rules above mentioned, it may be called the Art of reasoning.23

Mill’s review (8-9) contains the materials for a different account, according to which the science of logic would lie in the analysis of the principles whereby arguments are determined to be valid,24 and the art would lie in the use of these principles to evaluate arguments; but in the end, while repudiating the “commonsense” tradition that would equate logic with a sort of mental hygiene,25 he slips like Whately into making the art of logic the art of reasoning.26 But if that is what logic is, and if true reasoning must lead to new knowledge, and if the rules of an art and the doctrines of the corresponding science differ only in that the art determines the end to which the science establishes the means,27 and yet the syllogism (on which Edition: current; Page: [xiv] the science of logic depends) can never lead to new knowledge, we are landed in an impasse from which only desperate measures could free us. Such a desperate measure might be Mill’s device whereby the logic of truth is constructed on the basis of something that looks like syllogism but really is not.

Syllogistic logic, though not so formulated by its inventor, only works smoothly if stated in terms of class-membership and class-inclusion. It is thus especially suited to Mill’s preferred nominalistic metaphysics of juxtaposed particulars. Whately, who preferred to speak in terms of “essences,” is rightly censured by Mill for the appalling mess he made of the doctrine of predicables. As Mill says (3), he was better talking about logic than expounding logic itself, and posterity has assented to Mill’s later judgment that his distinction lay not in any contribution to logical theory, but in doing “more than any other person to restore this study to the rank from which it had fallen in the estimation of the cultivated class in our own country.”28 His qualities of mind were better shown in training his spaniel to climb a tree before an admiring audience in Christ Church Meadows, and to dive thence into the Cherwell, than in ordering coherently the relations of term, proposition, and argument. In fact, as Mill hints, the offending exposition of the predicables was cribbed word-for-word from the Latin of the wretched Aldrich.29 Mill’s own account of the matter in his review, confessedly a restatement of traditional doctrine in terms of a purified nominalism, is admirably clear, precise, and consistent.

The saving nominalism that brought light to the murk of the predicables is also responsible for the major positive contribution of Mill’s review, his scouting of Whately’s familiar and superficially plausible but ultimately unworkable distinction between nominal and real definitions (27-8). All definitions, he says, define verbal expressions, but some are and some are not accompanied by the claim that the defined term stands for an existent. This laying of an ancient ghost, the only passage retained and quoted in the Logic,30 was historically of decisive importance.31 Even the Archbishop saw the light; by the eighth edition, scarcely a trace of the offending doctrine is allowed to remain. By this time, too, Whately is apologizing for and virtually dissociating himself from the doctrine of predicables, in terms that can be explained only by supposing that he had studied Mill’s animadversions and appreciated their justice.32

Edition: current; Page: [xv]

Whately’s treatment of fallacies departs from his forerunners’ and accords with modern pedagogical practice in seeking to relate logical analysis to the kinds of arguments and subject matters encountered in the world at large. But Mill’s praise of this treatment as abounding with “apt examples and illustrations drawn from almost all the most interesting subjects in the range of human knowledge” (29-30) might mislead a modern reader. As a man of the cloth. Whately takes a third of his examples—43 out of 119, on a rough count—from theological controversy. This may be more than personal predilection. In theology, where observation can do so little, one has to reason a priori, and the place of deduction is assured.33 In the sciences, where reality keeps creeping in, reasoning a posteriori can hardly be resisted; and the total lack of interest in theology, so untypical of his place and time, that Mill avowed in later life34 may go far to explain why he never wrote the handbook on traditional formal logic that at the age of twenty-one he showed himself so well equipped to compile.

Mill’s long and powerful vindication of logical analysis (5-14), with which nothing in the Logic is at variance, is followed by an assertion with which the Logic seems more at odds: “The province of reasoning in the investigation of truth is immense.” For by “reasoning” here he means that strictly deductive argumentation which he was later to stigmatize as mere verbal rearrangement and hence not worthy of the name of reasoning at all.35 This deductive element, described as playing a dominant part in every science but chemistry and physiology (14), is in fact mathematics, which one must admit does not look much like that reasoning based on the dictum de omni et nullo to which Mill’s argument would require its reduction. Alan Ryan ascribes this vindication of deductive reasoning in part to a desire to show the importance of systematic reasoning in economics, in part (following the lead of the Autobiography, 94-7) to a wish to champion his father’s aprioristic Essay on Government against Macaulay’s empiricist critique;36 but probably the main reason why Mill says it is that it is plainly true. But it does pose a problem, to which Mill felt he lacked the solution. Since geometry deduces unexpected conclusions from its axioms and definitions Edition: current; Page: [xvi] (33), deduction must be able to serve as a heuristic device. But how can it be so? What is deduced from premises must be contained in them, so that what one seems to discover must be what one in some sense already knew without knowing it. The 1828 solution to this difficulty, which is that one might have failed to put two and two together, seemed to leave “a mist still hanging over the subject” (Autobiography, 109); it was in 1830-31, the Autobiography tells us, that reflection on Dugald Stewart led him to the realization, expressed in the Logic, that in scientific reasoning it is the general propositions themselves that are the heuristic devices, the nerve of the reasoning lying always in the progression from particular cases to particular cases.37 With this fateful step comes a repudiation of the pure nominalism adumbrated in 1828: class-membership and class-inclusion as the basic relations in syllogism are rejected in favour of the transitive relation of being-a-mark-of,38 and geometry becomes in effect the methodology of engineering. But, of course, the transitivity of being-a-mark-of is useful in investigation only if there are real kinds in nature. As we remarked in discussing the predicables, formal logic must treat classifications as arbitrary; but arbitrary classifications are heuristically null. It follows that a logic of investigation must repudiate formal logic.39 And that is what the Logic does.

If contemporary notions of formal logic are correct, Mill had a juster and clearer view of the matter in 1828 than appears in the Logic. The young whippersnapper was justified in the arrogance he showed in his censure of a rival critic: “A good critic on Whately should have laid down as a standard of comparison, the best existing or the best conceivable exposition of the science, & examined how far Whately’s book possesses the properties which should belong to that.40 Mill clearly implies that his own recently-published review had shown him able to do what George Bentham had failed to do. And he was right. But it is a mistake to think of the Logic as a giant stride in the wrong direction. The Logic had to turn its back on the logic of consistency in order to devote itself to the logic of truth. Even the notorious account of mathematics becomes less scandalous if one sees it as Edition: current; Page: [xvii] sketching a mathematics of truth rather than of consistency.41 The issues remain vexed to this day.42 Jevons’s much-quoted remark that “Mill’s mind was essentially illogical” was at best a half-truth.43 He had the talent but lacked the will. At twenty-one he was already in a position to expound, organize, restore, and clarify the traditional formal logic, and intended to do so.44 A year or two later he decided to do something else instead.

Mill lived to see the beginnings of the great revival of formal logic that has marked so deeply the face of philosophy in the last century. In this revival he took no part, partly for the reasons we have seen and partly no doubt because formal logic is a young man’s game. What is more surprising is that he did not approve of it. It was too complicated. Logic was a necessary art, and therefore should be plain and simple, as Whately’s had been. The elaboration of formal calculi was a distraction from the serious business of the mind.45 But that, after all, is the sort of thing elderly savants usually say about what the bright young men are doing.


mill “was, quite as much as Grote, a Greece-intoxicated man”;46 and, unlike the historian, had twice tasted the intoxicant himself, travelling the country from end to end.47 Two aspects of the Greek past he found especially heady: Athenian democracy and Platonic philosophy. His first public testimony to the latter infatuation was the series of “Notes on Some Edition: current; Page: [xviii] of the More Popular Dialogues of Plato” published in the Monthly Repository in 1834-35. The origin of these notes—ill-named, since they are in fact translations with relatively minor omissions and comments48—is obscure. He tells Carlyle they were written “long ago,” and says in his Autobiography that they were written “several years earlier” than their publication.49 But when and why were they written? The paper on which the unpublished ones were written is almost all watermarked 1828 (a few sheets being 1825), which provides a terminus post quem at least for these copies.50 Richard Garnett, who had access to W. J. Fox’s correspondence as editor of the Repository, seems to date them to 1830, but this appears to be a mistake.51 Packe (136) puts them “probably after his depression of 1826, when he was attempting to rescue Greek humanism and the Socratic method of analysis from the ruins of his father’s teaching,” but this is only a guess, and if they played an important part in his therapy it is strange that a fact so germane to the theme of his Autobiography should not be mentioned there. He says (42) they were made for his own satisfaction; but why? An accomplished Greek scholar, as Mill was, might make a translation to settle the meaning of a text in his own mind; but even those that were never printed are written in a manner that suggests an intended public other than the writer himself. Mill’s complaint (39-40) about the contemporary state of Platonic studies in England would justify the publication of all nine versions in book form, but if that was intended one does not see why it was not done—there was no improvement in the situation to make the need less pressing. But if they were meant neither for the public nor for Mill himself, for whom? Possibly for his siblings, for whose education he maintained a lively concern. The only other likely person who might profit from such reading and evoke the labour of preparing it would be the fascinating and brilliant but imperfectly educated Mrs. Taylor, whom Mill met in 1830, the Edition: current; Page: [xix] date putatively assigned to the translations by Garnett. But Mill says they were already old when she saw them.

Why were these nine dialogues selected for translation? There need be no answer, for Mill may have meant to do more, but he suggests one (adapted from Schleiermacher): they are those dialogues of manageable length in which we observe in action “the service rendered to philosophy by Socrates” in advancing the methodology of the moral sciences (41). Socrates appears in them not as teacher but as debater, or (in the Apology) as champion of his methods in debate, and concerned with political and moral questions rather than with the natural sciences. Such a selection would suit Mill’s lifelong preoccupation, already clearly marked, with the need for a methodical science and philosophy of practice. Like his praise of the unfashionable scholastics in the Whately review, his rescue of the unfashionable sceptic from the fashionable dogmatist and dreamer in Plato52 belongs to a campaign to resurrect the methodical and empirical side of all western thought.53 That this was the basis of selection is confirmed by Mill’s practice of omitting or summarizing those passages in which Plato forsakes the presentation of argument for the description of action, and faithfully rendering all the logic-chopping. If I had begun a series of translations thus motivated I would have begun with the Meno and would have done the Crito before the Laches;54 but omissions mean nothing.

A different ground of selection, however, gives an even closer fit. Mill’s title refers to “Some of the More Popular Dialogues of Plato.” This gives us pause. In what sense can the Parmenides have been “more popular” than, say, the Symposium? The only plausible answer is to be found in Schleiermacher’s attempt to establish both a canon and a systematic order (supposed, with dire effects on the Platonic scholarship of the following decades, to coincide with the order of composition) for Plato’s output.55 Edition: current; Page: [xx] Schleiermacher divided the corpus into three groups, each with an appendix of minor works. With one exception, the dialogues translated by Mill constitute the whole of Schleiermacher’s first, or “elementary” group, plus the Apology, the first dialogue in its appendix. The one exception, the Gorgias, is the first of the second (“preparatory”) group, but its insistence on the distinction between art and mere practice makes it so central to Mill’s concerns as to explain its being taken out of order.56

Whatever its source, Mill’s choice of dialogues was probably not based on a direct study of Schleiermacher’s Introduction. Though Mill claims to have learned German around 1825,57 there is little evidence that he often exercised this skill,58 and he never cites Schleiermacher otherwise than in Thirlwall’s translations.59 The introductory note to the Protagoras attributes to Schleiermacher the view that the value of the Socratic dialogues lies in their method of inquiry, and not in any results that the discussion may reach or (more typically) fail to reach (41; compare the note on the Phædrus, 62). But this note, like the corresponding notes to the other dialogues, must have been added to the original translation at the time of publication.60 For, at the time when they were first written, Mill was oblivious to this methodological possibility. The unpublished versions of the Charmides, Laches, Euthyphro, and Lysis all end with a dismissive remark to the effect that because the dialogue ends with no Q.E.D. it is to be considered as “a mere dialectical exercise” (italics added).

If the translations were made or exhumed with a view to Mrs. Taylor’s Edition: current; Page: [xxi] edification, their appearance in the Monthly Repository needs no further explanation: Mill’s connection with the magazine, to which he began to contribute in 1832, came about through Harriet’s membership in the congregation and intellectual circle of its editor, W. J. Fox.61 Nor is it hard to explain the discontinuation of the series, despite its favourable reception: by the summer of 1835 Fox was losing interest in the Repository,62 and at the same time Mill was becoming more involved with the London Review (the first number appeared in July of that year), the burden of which being made heavier for him by his father’s failing health. In fact, the Plato versions are almost the last things he contributed to the Repository63—soon the boot was on the other foot and he was soliciting Fox for contributions.64 Nor, again, does the order of presentation raise any problem: those left to the last and ultimately excluded are (besides the forbidding Parmenides) those devoted to particular areas of conduct and hence contributing least directly to Mill’s methodological concerns.

Mill’s strictures on the condition of Platonic studies in England at this time have been more often quoted than evaluated, but they appear to be just. Schleiermacher’s translation inaugurated the critical study of Plato, which by this time was in full swing in Germany. Yet the English works mentioned by Mill are virtually all there had been since 1750.65 Nor did matters improve much. Except for Wayte’s Protagoras (1854), there were no serious English contributions to Platonic studies until the sixties, when a stream of editions and commentaries began to flow that has not yet dried up. Grote’s Plato is in fact one of the first fruits of this revival. For the complete Edition: current; Page: [xxii] translation desiderated by Mill the English had to wait for Benjamin Jowett, who finally (in Lewis Campbell’s phrase) “succeeded in making Plato an English classic” in 1871.66 This English Plato was the Plato of the Republic (of which Jowett began to work on his never-to-be-completed edition in 1856), not of the Protagoras; the élitist, not the methodologist. But no doubt this Plato also would have been welcome at India House.67

Among the most striking themes in the introductory notes that Mill provides is the defence of the sophists against the strictures of the “Tory perverters of Grecian history” in the Quarterly Review.68 Mill’s characterization of Plato’s attitude to Protagoras seems eminently just; he is indeed treated as a respectable inquirer with an imperfect technique, not as a disreputable agitator. But the issue is joined on political grounds: the sophists, like the Benthamites, believed in seeking rational solutions to moral and political problems; their conservative opponents believed, like good tory squires, that what was good enough before the war was good enough now, and regarded the sophists as dangerous and subversive meddlers. It is in the latest and longest of Mill’s treatments of this theme, in the Plato review (387-404), that he first fully expounds the contemporary animus behind his defence. The full case the radicals had to meet was that Athenian morals steadily declined from the time of Marathon on; that this decline was a consequence of the rise of democracy and its concomitant, the attempt to ground morals on reason; that the only true source of morality is the intuition of a rustic aristocracy; and that any criticism of the squirearchy is an attempt to make the worse appear the better cause. The student of Greek literature cannot but recognize in this thesis a misreading of Aristophanes’ Clouds (read by Mill at the age of eight) by someone with naïve notions about the methods of comic writers, and it is visibly an apologia for the sort of tory politics Mill had been programmed by Bentham and his father to overthrow.

Mill’s long excursus on the sophists in the Plato review is substantially a Edition: current; Page: [xxiii] rehearsal of Grote’s own account in his History, which Mill extols in his review of that work (328-9). Mill’s estimate of Grote’s achievement seems justified. In his article on Grote in the Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.), J. M. Mitchell remarks that Grote valued the sophists more highly than anyone had before or would again; but that, had it proved true, would still have missed the point. What Grote does is present massive evidence on which his reappraisal rests, and with which any reversal of his verdict must reckon; and those who have disagreed with him have for the most part merely repeated opinions whose untenability Grote had conclusively proved. But the battle still continues: the sophists are still endowed with “every virtue under heaven” by all good liberal democrats seeking ancestry.69 Such historical shadow-boxing has its ironies, however. What to Mill is an imperfect rationalism, valued as a step towards Plato’s profounder analysis and away from the traditionalism that remained the real enemy, is in some modern eyes a praiseworthy empiricism to be pitted against the evil technocratic totalitarianism of Plato.70

Besides the attraction of its presentation of the sophists, Mill is drawn to the Protagoras by finding in Socrates a champion of the principle of utility (61). To those who nowadays call themselves utilitarians, and think of utilitarianism as concerned to promote the good of all, this comes as a shock, since what Socrates advocates against Protagoras is a strictly egoistic hedonism: the possibility that a man might consider anyone else’s welfare is not even mooted. The shock was shared by Grote, since we find Mill writing to him (in what connection we do not know): “[P. S.]—As you truly say the Protagorean Socrates lays down as the standard, the happiness of the agent himself; but his standard is composed of pleasure and pain, which ranges him, upon the whole, on the utilitarian side of the controversy.”71 But in fact Mill seems to be fairly consistent in equating the principle of utility, as he does here, with “the doctrine that all things are good or evil, by virtue solely of the pleasure or the pain which they produce.” An equivalent account is given in “Professor Sedgwick’s Discourse” in 1835,72 and again in the second chapter of Utilitarianism (where, as here, the names of Epicurus and Bentham are conjoined);73 that the Edition: current; Page: [xxiv] happiness sought should be that of the “greatest number” is called for not by the “principle of utility” but by the “Greatest-happiness Principle.”

The notes on the Phædrus afford interesting sidelights on what we found to say about the views on logic and philosophy expressed and implied in the Whately review. Plato’s method of collection and division is subtly revamped to become “decomposition and recomposition,” a method of “philosophical analysis” (93) that is proclaimed as the unique method of philosophy and common to all “systems of logic.” This answers to what Ryan identifies as Mill’s own preference in method; but Plato’s own account, which speaks of a classificatory process of collection followed by one of sorting, seems at least to be of a different kind. In the same connection, Mill writes here as if to claim objective backing for a classificatory scheme were necessarily to ascribe to a class some substantive individuality separate from that of the objects classified (94). It is just this equation that Mill gave up when, as we saw, he abandoned nominalism in his Logic. Meanwhile, it has the interesting consequence that Mill defends something like the “ordinary language” philosophy of the late J. L. Austin: since nothing exists save spatio-temporal particulars, investigations of mental and moral phenomena reduce to the clarification of concepts, and this in turn to the examination of how words are used.74

The notes on the Gorgias reflect the same bias that led Mill to describe his omission of the dramatic portions of the dialogues as regrettable only on aesthetic grounds (42). As in his review of Grote’s Plato (406-7), he assumes that Plato’s concern is with the intellectual structure of knowledge, and that Socrates is a seeker of definitions rather than an examiner of lives. It is in this purely negative dialectic that Plato’s value for the nineteenth century is mainly to be found (382-3). Many years later, the accident of Grote’s order of composition in his uncompleted Aristotle, which gave the Topics a more prominent place than he probably intended, gave Mill his last and best opportunity to sing the praises of abstract debate as an intellectual discipline, whose value he learned in Grote’s house as a young man among the Brangles (508-10). This love of logic-chopping might seem at odds with Mill’s determined empiricism, but is actually of a piece with it. Rigorous inductive procedures, the discovery of which in the moral and mental sciences was Mill’s chief intellectual enterprise, depend on the unremitting endeavour to overthrow one’s own cherished beliefs; and it is Edition: current; Page: [xxv] just this that the lost art of dialectic—so curiously prevalent in the dogmatic middle ages, and abandoned in the sceptical revival of letters—sought to encompass. Meanwhile, however, the assumption that Plato’s interest in the epistemology of morals is confined to the use of argument in the service of moral persuasion leads Mill to make heavy weather of the Gorgias, which he finds to be a tissue of fallacies (149, 395). Plato’s version of the Socratic equation of virtue with knowledge, identified by Mill as the key to his thought on these matters (60), had nothing to do with the kind of understanding that is devoid of personal commitment. Mill says, rightly, that no intellectual demonstration can show that “a life of obedience to duty is preferable, so far as respects the agent himself, to a life of circumspect and cautious selfishness” (149), and that Plato might have furnished Socrates’ interlocutors with rebuttals of his arguments. But what happens in the Gorgias is something else. Socrates discovers internal contradictions, not in abstract hedonism, but in the complex values by which ambitious Polus and proud Callicles believe themselves to live. Their lives are shown to be unintelligible to themselves—a point that is evident only when one considers the dramatic settings of the dialogues, which Mill omits. Even in the reading of the dialectic itself Mill’s strictures show a misunderstanding, in their use of such unplatonic language as “a life of obedience to duty.” Mill presupposes that the moral choice is always one between devotion to self and service to others, idealism and virtue being identified with the latter. It is simply a matter of whose interests shall be served. But the Callicles of the Gorgias is an idealist of a sort, a sort that our twentieth-century relativism makes it easier for us to see pervading Greek culture and that Nietzsche was the first in modern times to detect and extol.

Honesty, as Mill says, is not the best policy, and Socrates in the Gorgias is not arguing that it is. But Mill’s normally cool tone takes on an oddly histrionic pathos as he sings the misfortunes of the virtuous in this wicked world. The tone is that of a man who feels that his own virtue has been unjustly despised and rejected, and whose toil has been without reward. Is this perhaps a memory of those dreadful days of 1826 when Mill first found that the life-work for which he was predestined meant nothing to him? Or can it be only that the world’s reception of his innocent liaison with Mrs. Taylor (as of W. J. Fox’s matrimonial ventures) had shown little comprehension and less generosity?

Among the unpublished translations, that of the Parmenides alone incorporates commentary, and its treatment is in other ways untypical. For the opening section, in which Socrates figures in his habitual manner, Mill follows his usual practice of rendering the argumentative bits and omitting the rest—even, rather misleadingly, the passage where Zeno explains why Edition: current; Page: [xxvi] he has done what he did (128a1-e5).75 But in the notoriously baffling second part of the dialogue, in which Socrates is silent, Mill abandons his usual practice because, as his comments show, he does not take the discussion (and hence the task of translating it) seriously. Reasonably rejecting the would-be profundities of the neoplatonic commentators, for whom it plumbs metaphysical depths,76 he takes the alternative to be that it is a mass of quibbles. Still looking for the results overtly established at the end of a dialogue, rather than at what is effectively achieved in the course of it, he inevitably finds this one futile: that it might contribute vastly though indirectly to the clarification of such concepts as “one,” whose ambiguity reduced the earlier discussion between Socrates and Parmenides to incoherence, does not occur to him.77 The result is that Mill’s abbreviations and omissions reflect no opinion of the purpose of the dialogue and prevent the reader from forming his own. Thus Mill omits a large part (136c5-137c3) of the conversation in which Parmenides clarifies his attitude to the “laborious game” he is to play, and substitutes his own denigration of the proceedings as “verbal quibbles.” Equally unfortunate is his handling of the passage in which Parmenides introduces the concept of an “instant” in time that is not a part of time but has no duration, surely one of the most fruitful suggestions in the history of thought. Mill interrupts his translation here (from 156c1 to 157b5), and substitutes a paraphrase in which he suppresses Parmenides’ assertion that when a thing starts to move there can be no period of time during which it is neither in motion nor at rest, misrepresents the claim that the beginning of movement must be instantaneous as saying that the thing “is for an instant neither in motion nor at rest, but between both,” and then sarcastically refers to his own misrepresentation as “This happy idea” (235).

Mill’s actual omissions in this part of the dialogue seem to be due to mounting fatigue and disgust—and, no doubt, a courteous unwillingness to bore possible readers. As far as 147c1 his translation is only slightly condensed, except that he omits (as F. M. Cornford was later to do) the replies of Parmenides’ respondent, in the hope that they would make no difference.78 At this point he breaks off, with the caustic comment, “It is unnecessary to adduce more than a specimen of this mode of enquiry” Edition: current; Page: [xxvii] (235), and resorts to brief summary. But he starts translating again at 155e2, resorts to summary at 156c1, resumes translation for 157b5 to 159b2, omits a transitional sentence there, gives a slightly shortened version of 159b5 to 160b2—though what he says Parmenides concludes at that point is not what Plato says he concludes!—and from then on merely summarizes what he takes to be the general drift.

Mill’s opening attempt to characterize in general terms the class of theories to which Plato’s theory of “Ideas” belongs is not so much a comment on the purport of the Parmenides as a vain attempt to explain it away. It is not surprising that Mill was baffled. In his day the materials for any sort of comprehension of pre-platonic philosophy were not accessible, as is abundantly shown by his description of Parmenides as “a Pythagorean philosopher” (222) and his supposition that the Way of Truth rested on the assumption that there was a “mysterious virtue in the word one” (223). This is not so much a mistake as a reflection of an ignorance Mill had no ready means of remedying. As for Plato’s dialogue itself, any comprehension of that was virtually precluded by Schleiermacher’s supposition that it was an early work of Plato’s, rather than one intermediate in date between the Republic and the Sophist.

Mill’s final remark, that the second part of the Parmenides is unfit for its purported purpose of “mental gymnastics” because it exploits ambiguities of language rather than removing them, may or may not be true. That judgment probably depends on whether one expects readers to rest content in a mass of mutually contradictory conclusions without seeking to extricate themselves. True or false, the remark leaves one puzzled. Why spend so much time on a work whose upshot one deplores and whose intentions one does not even profess to understand? Why not stop translating at the point where Socrates bows out? But perhaps only the attempt revealed that it was not worth doing.

Whether to expose, to analyse, or to exploit, the second part of the Parmenides is undoubtedly concerned with ambiguities. That fact in itself is a good reason for not translating it, if one is not obliged to, and in any case not translating it without the sort of incidental explication that Mill eschews. For part of the point of the whole affair must be that the initial hypothesis does not mean, as Mill renders it, “Unity exists.” “ Ἑν ἐστι,” unaccented as Plato wrote it, is ambiguous between “One is,” “One exists,” and “It is one,” at least. “Unity exists” would not seem to be a plausible alternative; but if we assume, as Mill assumes, that a mystification of the sort he describes is intended, “Unity exists” would be the appropriately mystifying phrase. Thus do we deceive ourselves.

Our strictures on Mill’s handling of this very odd dialogue imply no criticism of Mill himself. On the contrary. What he did he did for private Edition: current; Page: [xxviii] purposes of his own, and had the good sense not to publish the results. For this abstention he is to be commended. We may deplore the work, but have no right to blame the workman.


george grote, twelve years older than Mill, was one of his closest associates and allies. “ ‘Mill, the elder,’ she [Mrs. Grote] would say, ‘had seized him at the most enthusiastic time of life, and narrowed him, under the idea that he was emancipating him.’ ”79 Scion of a Tory banking family of German extraction, he had been at school with Connop Thirlwall at Charterhouse, and formed there an enthusiasm for classical letters that he never lost. But on leaving school, in the intervals of keeping up the family end of the bank for his squire-playing father, his inquiring mind led him to the study of that modish subject, political economy; and it was in David Ricardo’s house, early in 1819, that he met James Mill. The meeting changed his life by converting him to the radical cause, though it was not until his father’s death in 1830 that he felt able to play an active part in politics.80

Grote’s first and greatest service to the radical cause was to embark on a history of ancient Greece. In the culture of the time, classical civilization was paradigmatic, and the available history was that of Mitford, full of errors and fuller of anti-democratic prejudice. Any reasonably accurate and ample history could be sure to supersede it. But in the meantime, as we have noted, an attack on the sophists was an allegorical attack on philosophical radicals everywhere, and a repetition of Aristophanes’ diatribes against Cleon was a blow against any democrat of the day.81

The polemical intent to write a counterblast against Mitford is avowed in Grote’s Preface to his first volume. But in a way the work is a natural outgrowth of an earlier study of Greek mythology, inspired by the notion Edition: current; Page: [xxix] (not then a usual one) that mythology has historical value as, and only as, a revelation of the self-image of the people who made up and preserved the myths.82 It was some months later that his wife claims to have given him the idea (quite impracticable at the time, in view of his business and family commitments) of writing a history.83 But nagging has its limitations and, despite Harriet’s scheme of priorities,84 the passage of the Reform Bill in 1832 inspired Grote to forsake literature for activism. He presented himself as candidate for the City of London in the radical interest, was elected, and for ten years laid the history aside.85 By 1838 it was plain that the parliamentary radicals were falling apart, and Grote lost interest,86 but did not yet feel ready to resume the history. He filled in the time reading Aristotle.87 In June 1841 he did not stand for re-election and planned to resume work on the “Opus Magnum” in the spring of 1842.88 In 1843 we find him working at it eight hours a day;89 that summer he retired from the family bank, and from that time on the History and its successors poured forth in a majestic, if sluggish, torrent.90

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As an expert and respected businessman, a working politician in troubled times, a polyglot and indefatigable master of contemporary scholarship, and (for the later volumes) an expert on the affairs of Switzerland, whose geographical and political divisions afforded such striking analogies with those of ancient Greece,91 Grote was outstandingly equipped to make realistic sense out of the biased and fragmentary traditions of Greek historiography. His history won immediate acceptance as a standard work. But time was unkind. Within twenty years, Schliemann’s excavations had raised hopes for the reconstruction of early history that Grote hoped he had shown could never be fulfilled;92 and in the decades to come the deciphering, dating, and interpreting of the inscriptions with which the Greeks had loved to deface their environment was to emancipate Greek history for ever from that haggling over written records to which Grote and his coevals had been confined. Grote lacked the sharpness of mind and style that in a like situation saved Gibbon from oblivion,93 and his history ceased to be valuable as soon as it ceased to be indispensable.

Grote awaited the reception of his first two volumes with anxiety. George Cornewall Lewis had offered to review them for the Edinburgh, but it was too late: Mill had asked first, and the books were already in his hands.94 Harriet was disappointed. She had tried to enlist Nassau Senior’s support in ensuring the suitability of the Edinburgh’s reviewer, with a hint that Lewis would be acceptable.95 It is true that Lewis had a special interest Edition: current; Page: [xxxi] in the mythological questions that occupy most of these volumes, and Mill had none; it is also true that Mrs. Grote tended to value people for their social standing, and Lewis was in line for a baronetcy. But in any case a certain coolness had developed between Mill and the Grotes, partly for personal reasons,96 and partly because Mill was struggling to free himself from what he saw as the doctrinaire narrowness of their radical orthodoxy.97 But Mill retained his admiration and affection for Grote as a person and as a hellenist, and his review proved to be “in every sense, a labour of love; love of the subject, love of the author, and admiration of the work.”98 It took Mill four days to write and three to re-write, “but I had to read and think a good deal for it first.”99 This reading included the Iliad and Odyssey for his discussion of the “Homeric question.”100 Mill throws himself into the cultural game of classical philology with adept enthusiasm, and his disagreement with Grote on the Iliad points the contrast between the two men that divided them politically: Grote relies on mechanical criteria of consistency, whereas Mill emphasizes the organic bonds of feeling that unite the whole. This is plainly the Mill who tempered Bentham with Coleridge.

Mill holds the Greek experience to be exemplary not only because our epigonic civilization looks back to it for instances and excuses, but because the Greeks invented what we think of as civilization, raising themselves from barbarism by their own efforts and invention. That is why such a “philosophical history” as Grote was attempting (but Thirlwall was not) was so important. Their secret, if we could find it, might hold the clue of that mental and moral science that should tease out of the smoky squabbles of the nineteenth century the utilitarian millennium of liberty and happiness. Edition: current; Page: [xxxii] Between the lines of Mill’s review we read that Grote had not unveiled that secret.101 It is just on the crucial point of how a merely traditional theology and mythology give way to rationalizing ones that Mill finds Grote wanting. Of course there is a sense in which the Greek myths were arbitrary inventions, but Grote seemed blind to the way in which a story can be both known to be invented and believed to be true, exemplary rather than allegorical, and showing in the character of its narrative a response to a need of the mind, as yet inarticulate, for explanations that should have a certain pattern. It is to this quest for the explanatory character of mythology, which the modern reader finds reminiscent of Lévi-Strauss rather than of Grote, that Mill is presumably alluding when he tells Bain that his review has “introduced no little of the Comtean philosophy of religion.”102

A student of Mill’s ethical theory will note his interest in the institutions of Sparta as illustrating “the wonderful pliability, and amenability to artificial discipline, of the human mind” (302), as well as the limitations of such disciplines as soon as their constraints are removed. This belief is important to the moralist in Mill, concerned with an education that should instil in everyone the artificial motive of “the greatest happiness of the greatest number.” By psychological necessity, men act in such a way as to maximize their pleasures, though the mechanisms of sympathy include among these a delight in the welfare of one’s associates. But this psychological law places no restriction on what may be desired; it only means that men must be effectively trained to take pleasure as they should. The Spartan experience shows what improbable results such training can achieve. But Sparta has a second lesson for us, in the glamour this horrid régime held for Greeks born under happier institutions. How to explain the fascination of evil? Doubtless the admirers of Sparta, second-rate sensitive minds, overlooked its character as a whole and noted only its freedom from those political and social vices from which they suffered in their own cities. Edition: current; Page: [xxxiii] The observation, perhaps a commonplace, seems just, though our contemporaries might trace the admiration for totalitarianism to urges buried deeper; it is also familiar to the hellenist, being precisely the explanation Plato offers in his Republic for the dynamics of political degeneration. Also in the Republic, whatever its Comtian ancestry, is a large part of the argument on how myths are invented, propagated, and believed. In all his moral and political thought, Mill shows himself very deeply a Platonist: not in the foolish modern sense that he “believes in” the “theory of ideas,” but in the way in which the very detail and texture of his thought reflects that of Plato.

Seven years later, Mill had another go at Grote in the Edinburgh. When he saw this second review in print he said it read “slighter & flimsier than I thought it would,” but Grote was pleased:

It seems to me executed in John’s best manner. It is (as you say) essentially and throughout a review of the book; keeping the author, and not the reviewer, constantly in the foreground. It is not, certainly, a review of the eleventh volume; so far “Fish” was right in the remarks which he made on it;103 but I do not think he did anything like justice to its merits, either as a composition or as a review. It is certainly complimentary to me, in a measure which I fear will bring down upon me the hand of the reactionary Nemesis. . . .104

One has the impression that Lewis at least, though not Grote, felt that Johannes Fac-Totum was thrusting himself in again.105 Whatever Grote may say, Mill’s review, for all its compliments and quotations, is a survey of Greek history in relation to Mill’s well-known preoccupations, which could be dressed up as a review only because the political interests of radical author and radical reviewer so largely coincided.106 Among these common concerns we have already noted the vindication of those philosophic radicals, the sophists; in this review we find its counterpart, an exposition of the military, moral and intellectual failings of the pious and plutocratic Nicias that serves to show the rottenness of squirearchies Edition: current; Page: [xxxiv] everywhere—and no doubt, by indirection, of that venerable scandal of the British army, the purchase of commissions.107

Grote had to admit that Mill had not really reviewed the volumes he purported to deal with. The situation in this regard is scarcely changed by Mill’s inclusion in the Dissertations and Discussions version of extracts (amounting to some 30 per cent of the whole) from his reviews of earlier volumes. The reason is that the exemplary function Mill ascribed to the Greeks was fulfilled only by the Athenians at the time of their political and cultural supremacy, with which the present volumes were not concerned.108 Mill’s Athenophilia is shown already by his inclusion of the long quotation from Neibuhr in the otherwise trivial review he printed in 1840 (241-3). The present manifestation of it, with its almost ludicrous encomium on the fun-loving Athenian populace, reveals not only the thrust of Mill’s political programme but the structure of his personal values.109 Genius and joy, personal freedom and intellectual culture flourish only in an atmosphere that exacts public service but ignores idiosyncracies of word and act, an atmosphere that requires political institutions such as only “a succession of eminent men” could devise. In such a society Mill would be praised for his engagement in public affairs and not censured for his private affair with Mrs. Taylor; in such a society such men as Bentham and the Mills secure freedom and joy for their fellows. Mill shows less sign of misgiving now than he had in the 1840 review that the values modern times have added to the Athenian scheme of functional democracy—internationalism, kindness, mildness of manner, bureaucratic efficiency and the techniques of political representation—might be incompatible with the vivid individualism of the Athenians; but this insouciance is consistent with his methodological atomism. Relations of cause and effect, means and ends, are of course recognized in the world of values, so that we see how (for example) a prerequisite of the flourishing of genius is a lack of inhibition; but the positive goods at which society aims are dealt with in the breathtakingly arithmetical fashion familiar to readers of Utilitarianism. Edition: current; Page: [xxxv] The sum of two goods is a good.110 Mill seems not to want to admit that, just as when my interests and yours conflict we must compromise or fight, a society may have to sacrifice parrhesia to mild manners or mild manners to parrhesia.

Within the encomium on Athens, a certain tension may be felt. Its democratic institutions are praised as the work of a “succession of eminent men”; yet the failings of its operations are excused on the ground that its policies did not express the sound heart of the Athenian working stiff,111 since the “conduct of affairs was habitually in the hands of the rich and great” (331). Does this statement mean that eminent men, not popular movements, create democratic institutions; but within such institutions popular movements are good and eminent men are bad? Perhaps it does mean that—and perhaps it is true.112 In any case, the tension is relieved when we infer from the context that the praised eminence is one of ability, the bad greatness merely one of wealth and family. Yet when we reflect on the individuals thus involved in praise and dispraise—Solon, Cleisthenes, Miltiades, Pericles, Nicias, Cleon, Alcibiades—we may think that this review at least takes no clear stand on that most intractable of political issues, the proper relation of outstanding individuals to a democratic constitution.

One feature of Mill’s praise of Athens may strike the modern reader as strange: his readiness to condone Athenian imperialism, on the excuse that force may be necessary to inaugurate the reign of reason. This apologia—considerably toned down, on Harriet’s protest,113 from the version in a Edition: current; Page: [xxxvi] Spectator review114—comes oddly, we may think, from so staunch a champion of the liberties of women and slaves.115 But Mill’s position is necessitated by that belief in Progress whose absence he was to deplore in Aristotle (505).116 His attitude is coloured, at least, by his experience as an official of the East India Company, as appears sufficiently from the reference in his earlier review (290) to Sleeman’s Indian observations as a revelation of primitive mentality;117 but his opinion is articulated more clearly in the remarks on Indian affairs in his personal papers.118 The local “native” régime may be a set of interlopers or usurping tyrants; but an Imperial government, remote from local squabbles, has no other concern than the welfare of all its charges. Besides, in most cases if not in all, the powers of the central government are those ceded to it by the local authorities in the interests of efficiency, economy, or political advantage. Of the ruling notions of modern anti-colonialism, that all cultures are created equal and that no Indian can be an alien anywhere in the subcontinent, Mill shares neither. It is in fact the gravest charge against Nicias that his failure in the unprovoked aggression against Syracuse betrayed the cause of Athenian imperialism:

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If the Athenians had succeeded they would have added to their maritime supremacy all the Greek cities of Sicily & Italy. . . . Even if they had failed & got away safe, Athens could never have been subdued by the Peloponnesians. . . . Perhaps the world would have been now a thousand years further advanced if freedom had thus been kept standing in the only place where it ever was or could then be powerful. I thought & felt this as I approached the town till I could have cried with regret & sympathy.119

Although Grote’s work has been left far behind by the advance of scholarship, the patience and amplitude with which he set out all the evidence he did have and teased out the last shred of its significance gave his work some permanent value as a guide to the historiographical tradition. In fact, he goes far to justify Mill’s strong claim “that there is hardly a fact of importance in Grecian history which was perfectly understood before his re-examination of it” (328). This residual value is a function of his patient prolixity. Writing of Macaulay’s history a few years later, Mill summed up: “What a difference between it & Grote’s Hist. of Greece, which is less brilliant, but far more interesting in its simple veracity & because, instead of striving to astonish he strives to comprehend & explain”120—provided, of course, that we bear in mind that the simple veracity is that of a proselytizing radical.

The review of Grote’s Plato and the Other Companions of Sokrates is, if anything, less of a review than those of his History. The fault, if fault it be, is not all Mill’s. A comprehensive survey of an author’s work can hardly be reviewed otherwise than by measuring it against the standard view of that work, and we have seen that the state of British Platonism was still such that no standard view could be said to exist.121 Mill’s opening description of Grote’s achievement suggests an additional reason. Grote’s picture of Plato, though painstakingly traced, is anything but sharply delineated. Years before, Mill had remarked that Plato was taking Grote “a length of time only to be warranted by using the opportunity to speak out very plainly on the great subjects—a thing I rather wish than expect he will be found to have done. . . . ”122 And if Mill could at last find much in Grote to praise, it was not because these misgivings were unjustified.123 The three Edition: current; Page: [xxxviii] laborious volumes are a remarkable compendium of scholarly opinion and philological lore, full of sagacity, and embodying just such an abstract of the several dialogues as Mill had thought proper to prepare himself.124 But it is hard to believe that even in their day they can have afforded much moral or metaphysical excitement, and only the loyal eye that discerned the genius of Harriet Taylor could have detected in their author one of the leading metaphysicians and psychologists of his age.

As its scale might suggest,125 Mill’s review was long premediated,126 and he warned Grote that he would be using the book as a springboard for his own considered view of Plato’s achievement.127 He re-read the whole of Plato, in Greek, to prepare himself,128 and to good effect: he provides a majestic survey, a truly remarkable synthesis even with Grote before him, revealing once more his gift for the even-handed presentation of a mass of fact. “I have seldom given so much time and pains to a review article,” he told Grote.129 Yet, though steadily enlightened, one is seldom astonished. Mill, now almost sixty, treads the round of his Platonic preoccupations: the merits of the sophists, the value of a negative dialectic, the praise of intellectual independence and a high moral tone, the preference of methods over results and the antipathy to dogma. But he is able to indulge these preferences because Grote shares them. As with the History, Mill thinks Grote’s Plato important as the first systematic treatment of its subject from Edition: current; Page: [xxxix] the point of view of the “experience philosophy”—from which it follows, again as with the History, that since this is the only true philosophy Grote’s treatment is the first that really illuminates its subject. Up to now, Plato’s achievement had been obscured by the orientalizing neoplatonists and German transcendentalists who preferred the obscurantism of his senility to the inquisitiveness of his vigorous youth.130 These two schools of Platonism, the disputatious and the arcane, are with us still; and, in so far as Anglo-American academic orthodoxy is still wedded to one or another form of the “experience philosophy,” the Platonism of Grote and Mill is substantially that still imparted to most anglophone undergraduates. But in one fundamental way all Platonists of that age are sundered from all those of today, by a crippling defect of which Mill is well aware (385-7). They had no way of dating Plato’s dialogues otherwise than by circular inference from a conjectural development in his thought. Just two years after Grote’s first edition, such a method was discovered and published,131 and despite many problems its main results are unchallenged. One of the points agreed on is the first to be established, and suffices to undermine Grote’s whole structure: the Sophist and Statesman must be later than the Republic. This makes it impossible to think of Plato as steadily degenerating from dialectical maturity to dogmatic dotage (or, as the opposing school would have it, wading from shallow scepticism into mystic profundity). At the same time, the discovery that the critique of the “theory of ideas” in the Parmenides is later than the dialogues which argue most unequivocally in favour of that theory has made today’s scholars reluctant to accept the view assumed by Mill and his coevals, that the theory of ideas was a simple-minded doctrine in which Plato basked content.132

The effect of establishing an unexpected order for the composition of the dialogues is not only to rewrite Plato’s intellectual biography. It makes Edition: current; Page: [xl] Plato a much more difficult writer than Mill and Grote took him for: whatever he is up to, it cannot be the straightforward things we used to think, and we have to read him with much greater caution. Mill and Grote acknowledge the difficulty of interpreting the meanings of the dialogues as total compositions, but suspect no difficulty in their parts. It is noteworthy that though Mill affirms broadly that all the arguments of the Gorgias and the Phædo are fallacious he does not specify the fallacies. He does not even analyze the arguments. And the attribution of the “theory of ideas” to an “imperfect conception of the processes of abstraction and generalization” (421) rests on no serious consideration of what the Platonic Socrates says and the reasons he actually gives for saying it. This sort of superficiality, however, was probably inevitable in the then state of Platonic studies, even without the disconcerting results of stylometry: only after the sort of overview established by Grote had become thoroughly familiar would it be feasible for a more penetrating critique to look into the actual fine structure of the arguments. Indeed, much of the work has yet to be done. If classical studies are moribund, they will die in their infancy. Meanwhile Mill and Grote, true apostles of Progress, assume that Plato’s thought belongs to the childhood of the race and that contemporary thought has nothing to learn from him (see 421): he is to be judged by how close he has come to the position reached by nineteenth-century empiricist radicals. For that reason it seemed suitable to make a study of Plato an opportunity for speaking out on the great questions of the day. Mill, just like the transcendentalist interpreters he complains of, will let Plato inspire him but not disquiet him.

Because Mill is not prepared to discover that Plato’s thoughts are other and better than his own, he is apt to say that Plato has “failed to grasp” a point on which they are at odds. Thus he blames Plato for his thinking that techniques of measurement were a sufficient guard against error, and for “overlooking that it is not the act of measurement which rectifies them, but the perceptions of touch which the measuring only ascertains” (420). Plato is not overlooking this belief; he is denying it. The disagreement is radical. Plato’s Socrates is clearly presented as believing that getting one’s sums right can be a significant moral passion, and that it is the moral passion of the just man. The appeal to a method is essential.133 Indeed, it is rather strange that Mill does not recognize here a reliance on calculation akin to Edition: current; Page: [xli] that of a Benthamite legislator. But his remarks on the handling of “justice” in the Republic are full of puzzling things. How can he say that Plato’s ethic allows no place for that paradigm of Athenian justice, Aristides, whose “justice” lay in his unfaltering adherence to the highest convictions of his own place and time? The Republic locates such a man very precisely, as the man of moral courage, in a passage where Plato also affirms another essential point that Mill accuses him of denying, that such tenacity of one’s proposals is a precondition of any “justice” based on independent intellectual comprehension. Again, we wonder how Mill can accuse Plato of ignoring the fact that justice has to do with the rights of other people (419), when the fact that justice is “another’s good” is a key point in the case Socrates is called on to meet. It seems strange that Mill should have missed so much of what is going on, especially as his remarks on the discrepancies between the “mixed modes” of Greek and English thought show him so well aware of the dangers of relying on the customary associations of English terms when discussing Greek philosophy. Part of the explanation may be found in the final chapter of Utilitarianism, where justice figures as a set of entrenched principles and patterns of behaviour exempted from felicific calculation and calling on its own special set of instinctual resources. The whole arrangement of thought is quite alien from Plato’s. Mill is so deeply imbued with the sort of moral psychology inaugurated by Hobbes that he is unable to entertain the very different moral psychology envisaged, on grounds no better and no worse than his, by Plato.

The praise of Athenian democracy in the review of Grote’s History should prepare us for a denunciation of Plato, whose ideal institutions in the Republic seem designed to remove not only what Mill sees as the incidental vices of that polity but, very specifically, each of its merits. It comes as something of a surprise, then, to find Plato praised for recognizing “that the work of government is a Skilled Employment” (436), even though this praise is tempered with censure for having gone too far and denied the unskilled any say in the direction of their affairs. Perhaps the surprise is mitigated when we read in Mill’s diary for 20 March, 1854: “The Reform Bill of the present year and the plan of opening the Civil Service of Government to universal competition, are the most wonderful instances of unsought concession to the democratic principle—the former in its ordinary, the latter in its best, sense—which a reformer had imagined even in his dreams.”134 In a reformer’s dreams, apparently, the institutions of Plato’s Republic are, in the best sense, democratic.

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With Plato finally squared amply away, Grote was free to turn to his beloved Aristotle. It would be an understatement to say that he did not live to complete his task. No lifetime would suffice to write, scarcely to read, a treatise of the majestic proportions implied by the two stout volumes he left for Bain and Robertson to edit. And, as the scale of his writings increased,135 Grote himself was slowing down. He was in his late seventies and, though he secluded himself faithfully in the mornings, Harriet would find him snoozing over his papers. Though the treatment of the logical works is lucid as ever, his discussion of the principle of contradiction as expounded in the Metaphysics, which is the last completed portion of his work, betrays a gently wandering mind.

Grote himself thought the account of Aristotle’s psychology, written independently for the third edition of Bain’s The Senses and the Intellect in 1868, was the best thing he had done;136 but the learned world soon consigned the whole of his Aristotelian studies to a common oblivion. Mill’s review is a most delicate act of piety. He praises the book in general terms, without specifying how Grote has advanced the understanding of his subject. He subtly maintains the pretence that almost all he knows about Aristotle he knows from reading Grote, while in taking issue with his views on Protagoras he implies that the old man’s mind was still worth arguing against. In fact, however, there is more of interest in Mill’s review than in all of Grote’s two volumes.

In his review of the Plato, Mill had urged that Aristotle was easier than Plato for modern readers to understand. But many of his own remarks strike us as showing a lack of comprehension of what Aristotle is up to that is not paralleled in his treatment of Plato. In fact, though he knows Aristotle’s logical works intimately, and has studied his political, ethical, and rhetorical writings at first hand, his remarks on the psychological, physical, and metaphysical writings show only such knowledge as one might derive from an article in an inferior encyclopedia.137 Thus he castigates Aristotle Edition: current; Page: [xliii] for erecting “chance” and “spontaneity” into independent causative principles (482-3), whereas what Aristotle is doing in the relevant passage (Physics, II, which Mill had not read) is analyzing the nature of the error committed by those who make that supposition. For the most part, his misunderstandings are of two kinds. In the first place, he supposes that whenever Aristotle discusses such topics as “matter,” “form,” or “privation,” he is isolating components of the universe, as though he were carrying out the sort of metaphysical analysis that (we have suggested) Mill himself thought proper; whereas one of Aristotle’s avowed aims is to refute the Platonic thesis that such terms as “form” and “soul” denote separate entities.138 In the second place, more generally, he pays little attention to Aristotle’s actual arguments, and hence regularly misconstrues the type of explanation that Aristotle purports to offer. The complaint that analyses in terms of matter and form “give no power of prediction” (503) presupposes that Aristotle’s “First Philosophy” is either an abortive attempt at physical theory or a misguided failure even to make the attempt; but to presuppose that is to debar oneself from considering what Aristotle actually says, hence what he might mean by what he says, and hence again what might be the point of saying it. The diatribe against the German “transcendentalists” in the Plato review shows a similar blind antipathy to every dimension of understanding save one, that expounded in the Logic, and attacks just those qualities in German thought that were already enabling German scholars to take the first significant steps in the re-discovery of Aristotle. When he blames Aristotle and the other Greeks for not believing in Progress, the attack is two-edged. Aristotle’s contemporaries had not opened their minds to that form of understanding that might conduce to an endless series of changes in human arrangements, but Mill’s mind is still closed (as in his unregenerate Benthamite youth) to any form of understanding not so directed. Nothing in Mill is so disconcerting as the combination of his air of massive tolerance, the breadth and judiciousness of his surveys of the intellectual scene, with a crippling dogmatic narrowness in metaphysical method.

Some aspects of Mill’s treatment of the logical issues have been noted already. In this area, too, Mill construes Aristotle as addressing himself with greater or less success to Mill’s concerns, without seriously considering whether Aristotle might not legitimately have different concerns of his own. Mostly on the basis of the Topics, Aristotle is said to have shown a reliance on simple induction that was possible for him only because its failures were not yet apparent—it was the failure of simple induction that Edition: current; Page: [xliv] enabled Bacon to look for something better.139 But the Topics is not concerned with induction. Aristotle is only laying down a rule for debates: generalizations must be allowed to stand unless actual counter-examples can be produced. And in the Analytics there is no place for a logic of induction at all, but only a process in which one leaps to a conclusion about the way things are. Neither Mill nor Grote alludes to that celebrated image of the rallying of a routed army, in which Aristotle shows how very far his concerns in the matter are from theirs.140 But perhaps Mill should be understood to mean only that if Aristotle had had a logic of induction, it could only have been one based on simple induction; and that would probably be true, for “Mill’s Methods” are well named.141

The discussion of the principle of contradiction reveals a more complex disagreement. Grote’s treatment is confused, and it is not clear what he thought Aristotle’s doctrine really was, but Mill finds in Grote himself the doctrine that the principle can be established only by induction from particular instances in which it is conceded to hold. As Mill points out, the question is a vital one for a convinced inductivist. But Mill misses Grote’s point, which is the perfectly reasonable one that this is how the sort of ad hominem refutation that Aristotle relies on would have to proceed. However, Grote himself seems to be mistaken in supposing that Aristotle is speaking of an argument that one could use against someone who denied the principle of contradiction. Aristotle’s position seems rather to be only that anyone who makes a definite statement must in fact rely on the principle, whatever he may say, because the meaningfulness of his statement rests on the denial of the contradictories of the definitions of the words he uses—if a man abjures statement, he cannot of course be refuted, but he cannot be agreed with either: he forswears communication. The position that Mill takes up against Grote, and in effect against Aristotle, is approximately that which a modern logician would adopt, that the principle of contradiction simply embodies the rule for the correct use of negative terms: a proposition and the negation of its negation are the same proposition. But in going on to say, “the axioms in question . . . have their root in a mental fact which makes it impossible to contravene them” (499-500), Mill courts disaster. If he is to maintain his particularism, a mental fact must be a fact about the mind of some individual on some specific occasion. But about whose mind, at what time, is it a fact that the principle of contradiction cannot be contravened? Worse, to write thus is to imply that what is Edition: current; Page: [xlv] impossible is not that a proposition and its contradictory should both be true, but that they should both be believed to be true by the same person at the same time. But, since no mental fact prevents me from changing my mind about something I am saying even while I am saying it, our sole ground for saying that such a combination of beliefs is impossible is that they are logically incompatible. This lapse into an indefensible and misplaced psychologism comes strangely from Mill, who as we shall see had elsewhere insisted that a proposition was not proved true by the impossibility of disbelieving it, and it is interesting to find it in such close proximity with the extensive footnote in which Mill fires the last shot in his long campaign against Grote’s subjectivist reading of Protagoras (500n-501n). Mill’s pretence that in this matter his difference from Grote is merely a verbal one is charitable, but untenable: if Grote was unmoved by Mill’s annihilating argument in the Plato review (426 ff.), he was incorrigible.142 Mill could not reconcile himself to the existence in the world of men, otherwise apparently rational, who believed themselves to believe that whatever a man believes “is true for him.”143

In a letter to Pasquale Villari on 28 February, 1872, Mill wrote: “You judged truly that the loss of Mr. Grote leaves a great blank in my life. He was the oldest & by far the most valued of my few surviving old friends.”144 Four months after his review of the Aristotle appeared, Mill joined the majority.


the review of fraser’s Berkeley has an impressive air of omnicompetence. As the reviewer follows his subject through the realms of Edition: current; Page: [xlvi] metaphysics, mathematics, medicine, and political economy, he never admits or reveals himself to be at a loss. He compliments Berkeley on the early completion of his system with the sympathetic respect of one who, like him, had known everything at an age when his contemporaries had yet to learn that they knew nothing. In Berkeley, as in Plato, Mill finds a kindred spirit. All three men had put their intellects at the service of a moral passion; had disguised the subtleties of their arguments in an easy and eloquent style where cogency and sophistry intertwined; had used a single intellectual method and style to bring a wide range of phenomena within the compass of a single system; had preferred the manner of the debater to that of the expositor, though Mill published no dialogues. Nonetheless, one is surprised when Mill claims that Berkeley excelled all metaphysicians in “philosophic genius,” and bases his claim on a revolution he effected in the state of philosophy.145 Surely Berkeley’s impact was less than Plato’s, who found philosophy brick and left it marble, and no greater than that of the other luminaries Mill enumerates. But one glance at Mill’s list of Berkeley’s major innovations makes all plain. Berkeley made the Mills, father and son, possible, and it is only because this seems a lesser feat to us than it did to Mill that we esteem him less. Bailey wrote shrewdly when he attributed the blind vehemence of Mill’s defence of Berkeley’s theory of vision to filial piety.146 It may even be that Bailey’s taunt opened Mill’s eyes to the relationship, for the Bailey review states reservations about Berkeley’s technical competence that the Fraser review expressly withdraws.147

Fruitful and suggestive as they are, the three theses that Mill singles out as founding “the true analytic method of studying the human mind” seem neither cogent nor clear. The first one states that “the connection between our impressions of sight and the facts they indicate can be discovered only by direct experience” (457). This view seems odd. What could this independent order of indicated facts be? How is it discovered? If we have independent access to it, how do we decide that its status is that of something indicated rather than indicating? Indeed, Berkeley’s point was Edition: current; Page: [xlvii] that there are no such ultimate and privileged facts: all experiences can be related to all other experiences, and the reality to which they are to be referred is nothing but the complex internal structure of the world of experience itself. This point will occupy us later. Meanwhile, the second thesis singled out by Mill is that there can be no abstract general ideas: all ideas are particular, and are ideas of particulars. But what are ideas (Mill speaks here as if they were pictures one stored in one’s head), and how are they to be individuated? Mill takes up this problem in connection with the third thesis, but seems unaware of its urgency in relation to the second. Berkeley, indeed, might think there was no problem. If a man can use the phrase “a horse” with reference to a collectivity of experiences which, though its structure is indescribably complex, is familiar enough to work with, there may be no difficulty in principle in his using the phrase “my idea of a horse” in similar vague reliance on his capacity to find his way around his head. But this is, precisely, not an analytic method. Mill here offers a sketch for an analytic version that relies on his distinction (first expounded in the Whately review, 24) between the denotation and connotation of terms. It is baffling in its brevity. A name is “common to an indefinite multitude of individual objects,” but “is a mark for the properties . . . which belong alike to all these objects” (458). So it seems that only individual substances exist; but properties are identical in all their instantiations, and words are identical on all occasions of their utterance. Plato’s beard, it seems, is far from closely trimmed; and it is not clear just what Mill thinks Berkeley’s denial of general ideas has achieved, or what relation he sees between Berkeley’s contention that every idea must refer to an individual and his own contention that every word must stand for an indefinite number of particulars—a contention which it is easier to harmonize with Wittgenstein’s later notions about following rules than with earlier empiricist theories of reference. But these are tangled issues, and Mill’s own footnote at this point shows that they cannot be effectively broached in so restricted a context as this.

The third thesis is that of immaterialism itself: that the system of appearances is self-sufficient, and that nothing is gained by postulating any unobservable “matter” to sustain it. Mill, like most commentators, thinks Berkeley failed to rise to the height of his own argument when he substituted a divine will and consciousness for the missing material substratum. All we need postulate, says Mill in Heracleitean vein, is the permanent possibility of sensations, “or, to express it in other words, a law of uniformity in nature, by virtue of which similar sensations might and would have recurred, at any intermediate time, under similar conditions” (464). Mill states the fundamental objection to Berkeley’s move with admirable vigour and succinctness, though he recognizes that it was for the sake of this move Edition: current; Page: [xlviii] that the pious undergraduate devised his system: the same argument that shows ideas to be inseparable from minds also shows that each idea is inseparable from the mind that conceives it and from the occasion of its conception; and the “notion” whereby an idea is held to imply the presence of a spiritual force apt to produce it is groundless. But he shows himself rather insensitive to the reasons that support Berkeley’s unfortunate postulate. For we may ask, as many have asked, what could be meant by a “permanent possibility.” Philosophers since Aristotle have agreed that the word “possibility” cannot be understood as standing for any independent reality or state of affairs, but only for the potentialities of some actual system or structure. Nor does one make the idea of a permanent possibility any more plausible by equating it with a law of nature. A law of nature, one might think, could be no more than a description of a sequence of phenomena, unless that sequence itself is a sample of a coherent reality, or a partial manifestation of a coherent will. Mill underrates the stubbornness of this question. But the argument is probably irresoluble, and there will always be four parties to the debate: those, like Berkeley, who boggle at reducing the fabric of nature to a hypothesis about the minute patch of the fabric that someone has perceived or will perceive; those, like Mill, who cannot surmount the impossibility of specifying what such a reality would be otherwise than in terms of what would in certain circumstances be perceived; those who see both parties as victims of obsessive verbal ideologies whose practical consequences must be identical and which accordingly cannot merit allegiance; and those, the happy majority, with neither the will nor the wit to grapple with the issues involved.

In contrast with the special pleading in relation to the three metaphysical theses, the overall assessment of Berkeley’s activity is impressively just and broadly based. The range and keenness of Mill’s mind seldom appear to better advantage. The review of Bailey—written, like the first of the Grote reviews, with astonishing speed148—and the reply to Bailey’s rejoinder have the same air of reasonableness, sympathy, and force. They convince one that the unfortunate autodidact,149 of whom Mill speaks with more sorrow than anger, has met with justice tempered with as much mercy as the case allowed; and Packe, for one, takes his word for it that Bailey Edition: current; Page: [xlix] was demolished.150 Yet an uneasy suspicion may enter. The weight of prejudice is now on the other side, and the informed modern reader finds Berkeley’s theory of vision as incomprehensible as Bailey found it. Could it be that he had seen something that Mill overlooked? After all, Mill’s account of what Bailey said is not very full. A reading of Bailey confirms our suspicions.

Bailey sometimes expresses himself loosely, but builds a formidable argument against the Berkeleian position.151 So far from answering it, Mill seems not to have grasped it; certainly one could not guess from reading Mill what the argument was. The misunderstandings between the two men are far-reaching, and the issues themselves dismayingly complex. I fear that my attempt to clarify the issues will only add new confusions. But an attempt seems necessary.

Since the publication of Berkeley’s Commonplace Book, as Mill recognizes in his 1871 review, it has been clear that the separate publication of the New Theory of Vision was merely a tactical manœuvre. Berkeley was already in possession of the arguments whereby the Principles of Human Knowledge would show that sensations of touch are as certainly “in the mind” as are sensations of vision. But the New Theory of Vision had argued that whereas visual sensations are “in the mind” the sense of touch gives us direct knowledge of an external world, so that by associating our visual sensations with tactile ones we can refer them to the external world that is their cause. This is an absurd position. As Bailey insists, citing Berkeley’s own later works, the five senses are on precisely the same footing in the matter of external reference.152 Yet, as Mill says (453-4), most philosophers had accepted the theory of vision and rejected general immaterialism, as though the arguments for the former would not sustain the latter. How was this logical monstrosity possible? Partly, as we shall soon Edition: current; Page: [l] see, because of the compelling attractiveness of one particular image; partly, according to Bailey, because Berkeley’s supporters confused the issue of how we judge distances with the quite separate issue of how we initially form the notion of an external world;153 but partly, no doubt, because if any of the senses is to have the status of sole testimony to reality, it can only be the sense of touch. But the argument demonstrating the priority of touch is an old Aristotelian one from speculative biology, and rests on taking the initial distinction between self and other for granted: an organism must sustain itself by interaction with its environment, and this interaction takes place at the surface of the body, so that the distance senses must refer in a general way to what might impinge on the skin. But this is a far cry from the epistemological reduction in which tangible properties alone are ascribed to reality, and in which the proper objects of vision are held to be subjective phenomena that have the proper objects of touch as their sole objective referent.

The argument of Bailey’s book rests on a foundation that Mill never mentions. This is the distinction between externality, the fact that we locate the objects of vision in a world outside ourselves, and distance, the fact that we locate them within that world at various distances from ourselves. He urges that the distinction between inner and outer is not one that could be learned from any experience, but must be presumed innate: after all, a newly-hatched turtle immediately makes for the water, which it must therefore perceive as “outside.”154 In any case, the alleged priority of touch over sight in this matter is a myth: “When an object is printed on the retina, the object is seen to be external as directly and immediately as the object is felt to be external.”155 The location of objects at various distances from the observer, on the other hand, is indeed learned in experience, if not actually from experience (Bailey finds the last point hard to determine, because human infants are less fully developed at birth than the young of other species, and hence are slower in the development of all their faculties). But the relevant experience is not exclusively tactile, and need not be tactile at all, for visual space is a self-contained system that is generated by the complex structure of appearances as the eyes change conformation and viewpoint. Nor is it the case, as some Berkeleians supposed, that change of viewpoint is a tactual matter because it depends on the muscular sensations of perambulation: children have the full use of their eyes at an age when Edition: current; Page: [li] they lack effective use of their legs and are carried everywhere by their mothers.156 This visual space is of course correlated with tactile space, but if it were not a space in its own right there could be no correlation. And, again, the initial correlations between the spaces must be intuitive, because they could not be learned.157 Mill counters this last move by citing the experience of people who have recovered their vision by surgery and at first cannot interpret what they see. Unfortunately he relies on the Cheselden case (264),158 which does not support him: it is that of a boy who has to catch his cat and hold her before he can tell she is not his dog. But, as Bailey points out,159 the terms in which Cheselden describes this episode show that the boy could already recognize the feline shape as constant through its various occurrences and transformations, and, apparently, that he could use visual cues to help him catch the cat; what he could not do was correlate this recognized form with a familiar tactile form—in Cheselden’s words, he “often forgot which was the cat, and which the dog.”

Mill’s appeal (262) to the structure of the eye as conclusive evidence for the Berkeleian hypothesis tends to confirm Bailey’s claim that the hypothesis rests essentially on a single argument: that distance must be invisible, because the three-dimensional world projects on the retina a two-dimensional image. This image “painted on our retina,” in the significant phrase used by Mill (253) and unwisely accepted by Bailey, is the true object of vision. It is as though there were a second organ of vision gazing at the retina, which is envisaged as a tiny screen set up inside the head, like a camera obscura.160 And the image on this screen is thought of as like the image of a pinhole camera: flat, simultaneously clear and detailed and sharp in all its parts.161 It is astonishing that this entirely fictitious notion of the facts of vision should have dominated the psychology Edition: current; Page: [lii] of the senses for so long.162 It is plainly derived, in Mill’s give-away phrase, from “as much of optics as is now commonly taught in children’s books” (253), and in particular from a simple diagram showing how light-rays pass in straight lines from solid objects through the pupil to their images “in the fund of the eye”: in these diagrams, distance is indeed represented by what Berkeley so unintelligibly says it is, “a line directed endwise to the eye” and projecting a single point on the retina.163 This is gibberish. Optical diagrams do not represent the processes of vision. Bailey points out that only a material line (a thin wire, or something of the sort) could project anything in the fund of the eye, and then only if it stopped short of the eye itself; and if it did project anything in the fund of the eye it would have to be visible.164 If what Berkeley is talking about is the line we draw in our diagrams when we are explaining the laws of optics, this is not the sort of thing that can either project or fail to project anything. As Bailey says, “The distance of an object from us is not a line presented endwise to the eye: distance is not represented on the retina by a point. These are phrases which describe no real facts.” And to Mill’s unfortunate contention (254)—“the distances of objects from us are represented on our retina in all cases by single points; and all points being equal, all such distances must appear equal, or rather, we are unable to see them in the character of distances at all”—he responds, unanswerably: “If distances are seen, and seen to be equal, and yet not seen in the character of distances at all, will the critic be obliging enough to say in what character they are seen?”165 Mill does not help himself by saying (267) that objects, the spaces between objects, and the distances between objects and the eye, are all projected on the retina in the same way: it only becomes more obvious that he is using a language that is quite inappropriate to the phenomena. Yet Bailey wins only a debating victory. For the reason why Mill is so bewildered by Bailey’s obtuseness in failing to see the obvious is that he is not thinking about the implications of the language he is using: he is simply reminding Bailey of characteristics that the pinhole-camera image and the optical diagram really do have. And Bailey has no right to object, since he himself accepts the language of “painting on the retina” that makes Mill’s remarks seem apposite.

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Bailey seems always about to discover the delusive nature of the optical diagram as a representation of the facts of vision, but never quite succeeds. Because the retinal image is literally inside the head, and because visual imagery is in a sense subjective and in that sense “in the mind,” the Berkeleians wrote as if the visual world were originally seen to be inside the head. Bailey sees that this is absurd: “If an external object can be perceived by sight as such, it must be perceived also to be distant; to stand apart, or occupy a different portion of space from the being which perceives it.”166 But he cites the Berkeleian argument in a way that shows he has missed the essential point, that if there are such things as primordial and uninterpreted data of sensation they must be seen neither “as” inside nor “as” outside, since it is from such data that the concepts of inside and outside must themselves be constructed or derived.167 Similarly, though the retinal image is two-dimensional, our visual data can be neither two-dimensional nor three-dimensional, since those terms derive their meaning from reference to a space within which both solid and flat objects can be distinguished. Bailey recognizes and remarks that within this visual world flat things may be mistaken for solid ones and solid things for flat ones, and that in both cases (whatever Mill may say) the correction is less likely to be supplied by the sense of touch than by a closer look;168 but he quotes Berkeley’s own fundamental observation, that visibilia must in themselves be neither plane nor solid but have figure and shape in another mode, only to reject it as involving a contradiction.169

The crucial consideration, that the clear and distinct retinal image is a fiction, is hidden from Bailey and Mill alike. The closest they come to recognizing it is in their discussion of Wheatstone’s recent (1838) demonstration of the stereoscopic mechanisms of binocular vision. It is amusing to see how the two theorists deal with these facts. Bailey attributes the muscular sensations derived from the accommodation of the two eyes to the sense of sight;170 Mill, for whom only what can be read from the optical diagram can be visual, associates the same sensations with the sense of touch. If Mill’s position seems ridiculous, this is not because Bailey is right, but because this analytical method of dividing labour among the senses and the intellect and other “faculties” cannot be made to work. Bailey claims that the stereoscopic phenomena themselves show that the perception of Edition: current; Page: [liv] “geometrical solidity” does not depend on inference; but Mill has only to reply that he never denied there were distinctive visual phenomena associated with distance, he only said that the fact of their association must be inferred. And after all, he says, Wheatstone’s researches show no more than that we have to do with two retinal images, not one. Neither theorist shows any awareness that because of the indistinctness of peripheral vision, the shallow field of the lens of the eye, and so on, a viewer must be restlessly active in constructing a visual field that would have the characteristics they attributed to the retinal image.171 Seeing is a complex activity, not a passive reception of stimuli. Bailey comes a little way towards realizing this fact; Mill does not even begin.

The issue between Mill and Bailey resists clarification, not merely because they are victims of a common delusion, but because each is involved in a hopeless confusion of terms. What do they mean by “distance”? Mill speaks as if it were a sort of visible object, the ghost of a dimension; Bailey as if it were a homonymous term referring to disparate properties of visual and tactile spaces. What makes their controversy so hard to follow is that they both assume that the term “distance” must function as the name of an object, of which it might make sense to assert or deny that it was visible; whereas in actuality the word functions in a much more various and elusive way, alluding to a complex and pervasive aspect of our experience, and to the mass of heterogeneous procedures that go by the name of “measurement.”172

One aspect of this terminological vagueness and confusion was clear to Mill. He complains of Bailey’s question-begging use of the term “perception,” a term that combines a clear reference to sensory experience with a quite indeterminate claim of some sort of real status for the objects of that experience.173 Bailey makes facile fun of this legitimate and serious complaint by quoting James Mill—an authority, as he maliciously observes, that every Westminster Reviewer is bound to respect—as saying, “I believe that I see distance and form; in other words, perceive it by the eye, as immediately as I perceive the colour.”174 “Who does not see that the word Edition: current; Page: [lv] thus employed has a precise meaning?” he asks, and explains: “When I speak, without any qualifying adjunct, of perceiving an object by sight, I simply mean seeing it; when I speak of perceiving an object by touch, I simply mean feeling it.” But distance, form, and colour, which are what James Mill says he perceives, are not objects at all in what seems to be Bailey’s sense. The whole question turns on what one may properly be said to “see,” and what one should mean when in the context of a psychological discussion one says that a subject “sees” something. And on this subject Bailey complacently wallows in a slough of confusion. Mill, he insists, is wrong to say that when we mistake a plane for a solid “our error consists in inferring that it is solid,” for “The perception of solidity, or, if the phrase be preferred, the undoubting belief that we see a solid object is, in both cases, equally an impression produced at once upon the mind through the eye, without any process of reasoning or suggestion”; it is an affection of the optic nerve that produces “a certain affection of the mind called seeing an object,” so that “the third dimension of space is seen” whether one is looking at a real solid thing or being deceived by a trompe-l’œil—“The only difference is, that, in one case, the solidity is real, in the other illusory.”175 But how can a belief be an impression produced through the eye? And how can “seeing an object,” which presupposes that there is an object to be seen, be called an affection of the mind? Even Bailey sees that this is going too far, and adds a cautionary—but, unfortunately, nonsensical—footnote: “We cannot, of course, in the common acceptation of terms, say that we see what does not really exist. . . . It is scarcely necessary to warn the reader that in this discussion geometrical solidity alone is intended”; and adds on the next page that such illusions cannot be dispelled simply by the information that they are illusions, “although we no longer infer that the appearance before us is attended with the usual accompaniments of solidity.” One sees what is intended—that the discrimination of shapes by the eye is a purely visual skill, learned by exercising the eye,176 and that inference is involved only when we suppose that other sorts of sensory experience would be correlated with the visual data—but Mill is hardly to be blamed if he treats such bumbling with contempt.177 Mill, for his part, Edition: current; Page: [lvi] uses the word “see” in a programmatic way that is consistent both with itself and with his project of analytic reduction: one can be said to “see” only what can be distinguished on the retinal image in the optical diagram that purports to show how the eye works. Everything else is attributed, on principle and without further ado, to the inferential and associative activities of the intellect, even though (as Bailey justly remarks) no inference can be detected, the grounds and conclusion of the alleged inference cannot be isolated, and no known or conceivable process of association could have the results claimed. Never mind. What the retinal image cannot contain must be contributed by the intellect. It is as though Mill were committing an aggravated form of the error he was later to stigmatize in his father’s Analysis, supposing that the word “see” contained a reference to the physical organ of sight as part of its meaning.178

Although Mill is right when he says that Bailey’s use of the word “perception” fogs all the issues, Bailey seems justified in rejoining that to adopt Mill’s vocabulary and speak of “sensation” and “inference” would be “to adopt the theory which I controvert,” since the whole question at issue is whether the alleged distinction can be made.179 And he might have added that the word “sensation” itself is fraught with ambiguities. Berkeley, as quoted by Bailey,180 uses “sensations” to mean “objects purportedly perceived,” for he gives the sun and the stars as examples of sensations; Bailey uses “sensations” rather as some later philosophers have used the phrase “sense data”; Mill uses the word to mean “acts of sensing.” The trouble is not that the wrong words are used, but that there is no consistent use of any set of words to make all the necessary distinctions.

On the main issue, Bailey has much the best of the argument. If “distance is in reality a mere tactual conception,” it seems impossible that this could be “mistaken for a visual perception.”181 Surely “We cannot believe Edition: current; Page: [lvii] we have any particular sensation, unless we either have it or have had it at some prior period.”182 It is absurd to argue, as Mill does (259), that our neglect of the tactile content of our visual percepts is like our failure to attend clearly and distinctly to the meanings of familiar words: for, of course, we can distinctly recall the meaning of any familiar word, if we choose to attend to it,183 but we cannot by any analogous feat of attention recover the alleged tactile content of our visual impressions of distance. Mill admits that our notions of tactile space are much vaguer and less consistent than our notions of visual space.184 This admission in itself gives his contention that three-dimensional space is fundamentally tactile a wildly paradoxical air. Unfortunately, he also accepts that “the mind . . . does not dwell upon the sign,185 . . . but rushes at once from the sign to the thing signified” (257).186 But then, asks Bailey in triumph, “In what state must the mind be when we are looking at external objects? What is it that the understanding is engaged with? A neglected sign and an indistinct idea, between which the mind is thus bandied about, must assuredly produce a very obscure and unsteady discernment, while, in point of fact, nothing can be clearer or firmer than our perception of space in all directions, when we look round the room or out of the window.”187 But Bailey is still using that word “perception” in a way that begs the question at issue. The confusion is hopeless. Mill’s protégé Alexander Bain managed to clarify some of the issues, as we shall now see, but it is doubtful whether Mill fully appreciated his contribution.

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samuel johnson took care, when writing his parliamentary reports, “that the Whig Dogs should not have the best of it.” Mill and his associates took a similarly functional view of the periodical press,188 and the review of Bain is no more a work of dispassionate judgment than the reviews of Grote. Bain supplied Mill with up-to-date scientific data for his Logic, and reviewed it in 1843 in the Westminster, to which he had begun to contribute in 1840.189 In 1846 he was a summer guest of the Grotes at Burnham Beeches;190 Mill recommended him for the Examinership in Logic and Mental Philosophy at the University of London;191 Grote got him appointed to the new chair of English and Logic at Aberdeen,192 and supplied an account of Aristotle’s psychology for the third edition of The Senses and the Intellect as well as a history of ancient psychology and ethics for Bain’s Mental and Moral Science of 1868; Bain and Grote joined Mill in annotating James Mill’s Analysis. Bain wrote a life of one Mill and an appreciation of the other, and edited Grote’s posthumous works. It seems a small world these intellectual radicals came to move in. In the circumstances, Mill’s suggestion (342n) that he only decided to review Bain after carefully weighing the respective merits of his work and Spencer’s seems disingenuous—especially when we learn that Mill had advised Parker to publish Bain’s first volume, and joined Grote in guaranteeing him against loss in publishing the second.193 In the Autobiography, issued posthumously Edition: current; Page: [lix] under Mill’s own name, the pretence of impartiality was dropped.194

Mill’s review makes much of a distinction between a priori and a posteriori schools of psychology. Bain does not mention this distinction, and it is a puzzling one. Psychologists of both persuasions seem equally a posteriori in their methods: they seek to uphold their views by citing facts in approximately the same amounts—though not always the same facts.195 If anything, for reasons that will appear, it is the supposed apriorist who is more ready to appeal to experience, the self-styled aposteriorist who relies on dogma.196 Basically, as Mill insists they must, both follow the same method: that of reducing the complex operations of a living organism to the development in experience, in accordance with regular and predictable processes, of the simplest possible original operations. All and only what cannot be acquired must be assigned to instinct. Where the two schools differ is in what they say when confronted by a complex phenomenon of which neither can demonstrate the analysis. They then dogmatize in different directions. The apriorists, instead of acknowledging a pragmatic limit to analysis, announce the discovery of an ultimate and forever irreducible intuition or instinct; the aposteriorists invent a spurious analysis in terms of whatever entities their method postulates. Mill indeed recognizes (350) the existence of this temptation and the importance of resisting it; but in fact neither he nor Bain shows any scruples in the way they invoke the “principle of association” which Mill claims “extends to everything” (347).197

As an example of the divergent dogmatisms of the two schools we may consider the alleged infinity of time and space. Apriorists, Mill says, claim that the mind’s belief in this infinity is instinctive, on no better ground than Edition: current; Page: [lx] that nothing in our experience can be infinite; but the true explanation is not far to seek. Because we have no experience of a spatial or temporal point without neighbours, whenever we imagine such a point we imagine it (from force of habit) as neighboured; hence, we can imagine no limits to time and space, and therefore find their finitude unthinkable and call them “infinite” (345-7).198 But, we may ask, from what experience does the alleged association proceed? We know places where there are things, and places where there are no things; times when things happen, and times when nothing much happens. But in what sort of experience do moments of time and points of space, as such, form elements? What is supposed to be the difference between a time when time ends and a time after which there is infinite time in which nothing happens? The alleged extrapolation from “experience” seems plausible only if one allows virtually any relation between any sort of real or ideal units to count as a case of “association.”

Bain, though this hardly appears from the review, was not prepared to fudge his psychology as Mill did. His attempt to anchor his associationism to the physiology of the nervous system effectively prevented him from doing so. The “chemical union” which Mill praises Hartley for introducing (347) allows one, as Bailey complained, to use the term “association” of almost any form of explanation that relates an experience to previous experiences or alleged constituents.199 Bain’s speculative account of the processes of the nervous system eschews such vagueness. Knowledge is produced by the accumulation of patterns of electrical discharges, each of which records something known and figures in memory simply by being repeated. The patterns can combine mechanically, but cannot fuse. Bain is thus committed, as Mill was not, to the programme of actually discerning and disentangling the elements whose association is postulated. In the end, this scrupulous atomism makes associationism implausible by multiplying the required number of brain traces beyond credibility;200 but at least we can guess what form an associationist explanation should take, which with Mill remains forever mysterious.

It was because Mill admitted “chemical” unions that he could with a good conscience invoke the “complete Baconian induction” whereby the apparently visual phenomena of distance are shown to be ultimately tactual Edition: current; Page: [lxi] in purport. As early as Leibniz’s Nouveaux Essais apriorists had complained against the aposteriorist assumption that an “innate” faculty must be one manifested in infancy: the point, they said, is not the moment in time at which an ability is first displayed, but whether it admits of being analyzed without remainder into elements previously given in experience. But to say that a “chemical” union has taken place is to admit that such an analysis is in principle impossible; the issue can then be settled, if at all, only by appealing (as Mill does) to the circumstances in which an idea is first manifested.

It is true that Bain, who lacks Mill’s excuse, himself sometimes makes the assumption against which Leibniz complained. But Bain’s logical acumen was rather blunt. In fact, though a man of great learning and industry and a strong sense of fact, he had little gift for philosophical analysis. The pieces of his work are generally sober and well-informed, but are not always consistent among themselves; and this is nowhere more evident than in what he says of visual perception.201 In the Book on “The Senses,” where his account is firmly linked to the physiology of eye and brain, the Berkeleian doctrine of the priority of touch has no place, and colour appears among visibilia as merely one of the means of differentiation of visible objects. But in the Book on “The Intellect” colour is back in its old place as the unique visibile,202 and statements requiring the Berkeleian doctrine are interspersed with others more compatible with the doctrine worked out earlier.

Yet there can be little doubt as to what the overall theory is to which his account tends, and it differs far more widely from Mill’s than Mill is aware, even though the difference is less plainly marked in the first edition than in the later revisions. First, the “retinal image” as the static quasi-object of vision vanishes, and with it vanishes the independent significance of the findings of optics. “The optical sensibility does not give even visible form”;203 the visual presentations at any moment “are but the hint to a mental construction” to which we carelessly attribute the qualities of a static picture;204 in fact, temporal and spatial distinctions are revealed by movements, those involving vision being not parasitic upon but parallel to Edition: current; Page: [lxii] those involving touch.205 The “suggestion of locomotive effort” is at the heart of our sense of real distance;206 but the notion of extension “when full grown is a compound of locomotion, touch, and vision, any one implying and recalling all the others.”207 Thus “extension, or space, as a quality, has no other origin and no other meaning than the association of these different sensitive and motor effects.”208 Here is Berkeley’s Berkeley, restored to intelligibility, with the opticians’ Berkeley relegated to limbo at last; and Bain is able to recognize without embarrassment that our spatial sensibility incorporates such ineluctably visual elements as a sense of expansive compresence.209

Another vast area of confusion vanishes on the very first page. The old controversy had assumed that there was a problem about how we get from subject to object, from inner experience to outer world. But now we read that subject and object, outer and inner, are concepts that can only be acquired in contradistinction from each other;210 and the baffling talk about “inside the mind” and “outside the mind,” as though the mind were the skull, is set aside just as firmly, though rather less clearly.211 This done, we are free to return to the commonsense view that the notion of an external Edition: current; Page: [lxiii] world rests on the experience of resistance to our bodies212—a factor which, Bain noted with mild surprise as soon as it was safe to do so, Mill was “almost singular” in overlooking.213

Mill notes as one of the merits of Bain’s work that it rests on a solid account of neural activity. But his version of the theory of vision, in which he virtually claims that Bain agrees with him despite some over-emphasis on the activity of the eye muscles, shows how far he is from appreciating the difference this makes. For example, Mill still feels able to talk about the retinal image as a picture.214 But, whether Bain was aware of it or not, the ground rules for such discussions had changed. From now on, one had a choice. Either one took account of the central nervous system, in which case the old-fashioned compartmentalization of the senses became irrelevant, or one confined oneself to epistemology and phenomenology, in which case Mill’s style of generic analysis became inappropriate. Psychology could never be the same again.

Mill remarks shrewdly on the different levels on which the different sections of Bain’s work proceed. The Book on “The Emotions,” as he justly observes (361), is no more than a natural history; that on “The Will” is a sustained effort at reductive analysis in the old style of James Mill and the eighteenth century generally. But the Book on “The Senses” belongs to a new age, in which psychology would be turned into a positive science by recognizing that its first task was to establish what is in fact the case. Because of this disparate character of its parts, Bain’s work could be regarded equally as a late production of speculation or an early product of science.215 Mill, naturally enough, can see it only as a continuation of his own work with new aids. Yet we should be careful not to make too much of the differences between the two men. There is one essential point in the theory of vision that is common to both: that visual data are originally “signs” whose interpretation must be learned in experience and whose meaning is to be explicated in terms of experience. This point holds true Edition: current; Page: [lxiv] whether or not new-born animals have inborn tendencies to react to stimuli, of whatever kind.

It is in the Book on “The Will,” as Mill suggests (354), that Bain shows his originality as a psychologist of the old school by trying to reduce all the phenomena of animal action to the terms of a new and very simple model: all skills are acquired by the modification of an original entirely random and generalized activity of the nervous system and hence of the muscles, and the modification is effected by simple reinforcement or inhibition through pleasure or pain. This implausible model seems to rely excessively on the singular helplessness of the neonate human. It is curious to see the enthusiasm with which Mill seizes on the description of the new-born lambs (358-9), a description which is made to support Bain’s case only by the observer’s gratuitous insistence on the randomness of the motions he describes. One wonders how many lambs would survive if their lives depended on such a series of chance contacts as is here supposed, without any initial tropism or IRM’s. And one wishes Bain had indicated how he would have accounted for Bailey’s new-born turtles, trekking to the sea.216 It is precisely in this sort of model-building that Bain is weakest. It is his combination of unimaginativeness and implausibility (together, of course, with the obsoleteness of all old science) that explains why we no longer read him but still read Hobbes, who knew so much less but suggested so much more.

Mill gravely understates (364) the oddness of one aspect of Bain’s account of volition, his version of the development of the moral ideas. This is very different from Mill’s own. Bain thinks of morality as wholly negative, a system of inhibitions built up in the first instance entirely by corporal punishment.217 His dourness seems appropriate to the reputation of the calvinist and granitic city where he spent most of his life. From this point of view Mill’s utilitarianism is not a theory of morals at all, but of something else. The phrase “moral approval” is explicitly called a misnomer, on the grounds that only disapproval can be moral.218

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I have already noted Bain’s account of the origin of our sense of the externality of the world. He ends his work by citing an account of the physical world tantamount to Mill’s notorious formula, “permanent possibility of sensation”—cited, not from Mill, but from the Idéologie of Destutt Tracy. This fits in with the basic principle of Bain’s work, played down in Mill’s review: the principle of relativism, that consciousness can only be consciousness of differences and changes.219 It follows immediately from this principle that the mind can have no knowledge of any “absolute.” This relativism goes naturally with the discovery of the ceaseless activity of the nervous system, and it is plainly hard for Mill to adjust to it. The older philosopher is hampered by the empiricist traditions of atomism and reification, which turn the mind into a warehouse of ideas, and knowledge into an assemblage of separate facts about separate things. Thus he has little to say (beyond a faint protest) about Bain’s doctrine of belief.220 “As, in my view,” says Bain, “Belief is essentially related to the active part of our being, I have reserved the consideration of it to the conclusion of the Treatise on the Will.”221 To believe anything is to act as if it were the case; hence, by extension, to have a propensity to act so; or, in cases where (as in believing that one would have enjoyed living in ancient Rome) no prospect of action arises, to be in a disposition that would have led to action had the occasion arisen. Mill is understandably puzzled to understand how such a position could be consistently developed and defended, and it must be admitted that (like much of Bain’s work) it raises no fewer problems than it purports to solve, but it is at least clear that it forms part of a philosophy of process in which Bain feels so much at home that the details of its statement do not trouble him much. Precisely the same difference in mental set appears in Mill’s later exchange with Bain on the subject of “potential Edition: current; Page: [lxvi] energy.”222 Mill, with impeccable logic, and citing Hamilton for his definitions, points out that what is called “potential energy” is really potential motion. If it is anything at all it is a real force; but it seems to be postulated only as a fiction, to reconcile the observed phenomena with the dogma of the conservation of energy. But working scientists are notoriously insensitive to considerations of this sort.

Mill’s support (365-7) of Bain’s determinism also conceals a difference in approach, though not one that Bain emphasizes. Bain, like Mill, allows no validity to the “consciousness” of freedom, and for the reasons that Mill gives. But what is hidden from consciousness for Bain is not best described, as it is by Mill, as a hidden law obeyed by our volitions. For Bain, mental and neural phenomena run in parallel and do not interact. To every mental state answers a brain state. And the brain is an electrical machine, whose later states are accordingly a function of its earlier states and inputs. In fact, as many later writers were to point out, consciousness in Bain’s theory is fundamentally misleading.223

Mill’s comment on Ruskin’s inadvertent aposteriorism in Modern Painters, apparently a casual aside in his treatment of the classification of emotions, is more important than it looks.224 Aesthetic feelings and artistic practice have been strongholds of apriorists at least since Hutcheson published his Inquiry,225 and perhaps since the neoplatonists and Plato himself: a sense of beauty seems to resist derivation from or analysis into any other mental phenomenon. Bain spends a surprising amount of space on various attempted reductions,226 but he shows little aptitude for these topics, and his later editions rely with relief on the authority of Sully. Ruskin, though some disparage his taste and reasoning power, has never been accused of deficiency in the amount of his aesthetic sensitivity. Perhaps Mill (himself found deficient in such sensibility—by Bain!) is Edition: current; Page: [lxvii] hinting that it is not only philistine Scots who are prepared to reduce the aesthetic sense to a more general form of susceptibility.

What Mill says about the necessarily negative nature of the evidence for apriorism (349) sheds some light on a puzzling argument in Utilitarianism. Mill there argues that questions of ultimate ends do not admit of proof in the strict sense, but that the fact that each man desires his own happiness affords the sole possible proof that the happiness of all men is desirable.227 Apparently, then, Mill is speaking of “proof” in some restricted or metaphorical sense, but it is not clear just what this sense should be. In the present passage, where Mill uses almost the same language,228 the nerve of the argument is exposed: that the failure to disprove a thesis for which there is prima facie empirical evidence, though not proving the thesis true, must be allowed to serve in lieu of demonstration in all cases where it is logically impossible that anything better could be found. That would make good sense in the Utilitarianism passage. The things that ought to be desired must be among those things that can be desired, and the only logically possible way of showing that a thing can be desired is to show that it is in fact desired. “Ought” implies “can,” and possibility is parasitic on actuality. It always remains logically possible that someone should discover an actual, and hence possible, and hence possibly proper, object of desire that is not reducible to a component of happiness; but no one has yet, despite all endeavours, managed to do so.229 Until they do, some form of utilitarianism must hold the field.230 It is not, admittedly, clear that Mill means to argue to this effect in Utilitarianism, but his general aim of making the moral sciences truly scientific would lead us to expect him to follow the same lines in ethics as in psychology generally. And, just as in general psychology his analyses are rendered nugatory by his admission of canons of association according to which anything may be “chemically” analyzed into anything, so in ethics his argument becomes trivial because (as Bain complained) even the most self-abnegatory actions are interpreted as self-seeking through an analogously magical sort of transformation.

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taine was forty-two when Hachette published his grande pâtée philosophique in April, 1870,231 but he had been meditating it for twenty years: a theoretical underpinning for the historical works by which he is better remembered.232 If one can show that all knowledge comes from experience, differences in style should reflect differences in experience: literary, artistic, and social histories should be explicable in terms of cultural traditions that could in turn be ultimately explained by such factors as climate and terrain—Taine had nothing but contempt for George Grote, whose history treated politicians as free agents.233

Like Mill, Taine was something of an outsider in relation to the cultural establishment of his country. But whereas Mill and associates could use the forces of Scottish irredentism and northern nonconformism, not to mention the private empire of India House, and set up University College in Gower Street to be a counterweight to the port-sodden churchmanship of the ancient universities, Taine was up against a more tightly knit and centrally controlled cultural empire. Outside the official establishment there was nothing: one had to choose between taking it over oneself, and finding a niche in which to pursue (as so many French intellectuals have done since) one’s private intellectual aims in the abundant leisure its ample rhythms afforded. As a youth, Taine was denied the prizes and professorships he sought, being thought too flashy in his brilliance and too unstable in his politics: but at thirty-five his growing literary fame won him appointment first as Examiner to Saint-Cyr and later (in succession to Viollet-le-Duc) as professor of aesthetics at the École des Beaux-Arts—though even then an attempt by the military authorities to terminate the controversial appointment had to be circumvented by the interposition of the Emperor himself. Nonetheless, the two men shared a feeling of being in an embattled minority. Thanking Taine for his series of articles on the Logic in the Edition: current; Page: [lxix] Revue des Deux Mondes, Mill says that when he began to publish he was almost alone in his views, and that even now the empiricist philosophers were outnumbered twenty to one;234 while Taine predicted that his own psychological work would find only a hundred readers in France and a hundred in the rest of Europe.235

Both in his review and elsewhere, Mill treats this split in the philosophic community as following national lines, suggesting that both Cousin’s idealism and Hamilton’s apriorism, against which Taine and he were pitting themselves, were Germanic in inspiration. But his letter to Taine repudiates this ascription of national affiliations to schools of thought. The French think of empiricism as peculiarly English, the English as typically French. In reality, intuitionism and empiricism are related dialectically: the dominance of either calls forth the other as its antithesis. Which of them happens to prevail in any particular milieu at any particular time is quite fortuitous; at the time of writing, Germany itself is swinging towards the empiricist pole. And Taine himself at one time spoke of Mill’s philosophy as a re-working of Kant.236

Mill’s review of Taine, like that of Bain, is not the first meeting of the two minds, but an episode in a long relationship. At first, Taine had not been deeply impressed: he found Jowett more progressive. “On vante beaucoup ici,” he wrote in 1860, “la Logique de Stuart Mill et la Psychologie physiologique de Bain. Il y a du mérite, mais ce ne sont pas des génies.”237 But in 1861 he devoted to the Logic a series of articles which he later published as a monograph,238 and in the preface to the latter version he sings to another tune: “En ce moment, la scène est vide en Europe. . . . Dans ce grand silence, et parmi ces comparses monotones, voici un maître qui s’avance et qui parle. On n’a rien vu de semblable depuis Hegel.”239 Mill acknowledged the accuracy of Taine’s account of his views,240 which Edition: current; Page: [lxx] appeared yet again as part of the History of English Literature;241 and much of it was incorporated, sometimes with little change even in the wording, in Taine’s own account of induction in De l’Intelligence. It is therefore not surprising that Mill finds little in this part of the book to quarrel with.

Mill’s review, with its reference to the foundation of knowledge on images, might mislead the uninitiated into thinking that Taine’s background in associationism is the antiquated French ultra-Lockianism of Condillac, rather than the North-British neo-Hartleianism of the Mills and Bain. Taine himself thought otherwise: his original Preface acknowledges a debt to Condillac for one point only, and claims Mill, Bain, and Herbert Spencer as his chief creditors.242 The fourth edition of 1883 supplements this general avowal with three specific acknowledgements: to Condillac, for the theory that all general ideas “se réduisent à des signes”; to Mill, for the theory of induction; and to Bain, for the account of the perception of space.243 A letter of January, 1873, gives the reason for this explicitness: the British had treated his book as a mere re-hash of their own work. He virtually accuses Spencer of plagiarizing his views for the revised edition of Principles of Psychology and falsely claiming that Taine got them from him. He continues:

Il dit dans sa seconde préface que L’Intelligence “a fait connaître en France quelques-unes de ses maîtresses conceptions.” Cela est inexact. Ceux à qui j’ai emprunté sont John Stuart Mill et Bain (Induction, sensation musculaire donnant l’idée de l’étendue), et je les ai cités tout au long. Je n’ai emprunté à Spencer qu’une phrase. . . .

Pardonnez-moi ces revendications; je me suis aperçu en lisant les Revues anglaises que l’on faisait de mon livre une simple imitation, une transcription française des théories anglaises.—M. Stuart Mill, dans un article de juin 1870, a bien voulu que mon travail était entièrement original, et, à mon sens, cela se voit par la méthode employée, par les théories de détail et par les théories d’ensemble.244

The “article of June 1870” is of course the review included in this volume, from which, unlike Taine, I would have gathered that Mill was less impressed by the book’s intrinsic merits than by its significance as portending a possible change in the climate of French opinion. Certainly he specifies no respect in which the book has advanced the study of its subject, Edition: current; Page: [lxxi] treating its chief departure from his own views as a mere abandonment of the book’s own principles.245 But were the abandoned principles Taine’s, or Mill’s? A letter of 1872 suggests that Taine’s intentions were far from empiricist, for one of the chief matters in which he claims originality is his metaphysical reduction of the individual to a mere series of events, “tous les événements de la nature n’étant que des formes diverses de la pensée.”246 And his earlier essay on Mill had strikingly contrasted Mill’s approach with his own: “This theory of science is a theory of English science. . . . The operations, of which he constructs science, are those in which the English excel all others, and those which he excludes from science are precisely those in which the English are deficient more than any other nation. He has described the English mind whilst he thought to describe the human mind.”247

Acknowledging Taine’s thanks for his review, Mill apologizes both for its brevity and for its uninformativeness. “Je sais combien cette notice est insuffisante mais j’ai voulu, au premier moment possible, attirer l’attention des hommes éclairés sur un livre dont la publication en France me paraît destinée à faire époque. Votre livre n’a pas besoin d’être interprété. Il suffit qu’on le lise, car vous possédez parmi tant d’autres qualités, le génie de la clarté.”248 And he goes on to explain more fully where he differs from Taine about the status of axioms. His account of this doctrine had indeed been compressed to the point of unintelligibility, and seems in fact to have been derived from the earlier and cruder version in the monograph on Mill (according to which “abstraction” affords “an intermediate course between intuition and observation, capable of arriving at principles, as it is affirmed that the first is, capable of arriving at truths, as we find that the second is”)249 rather than from the more refined version adumbrated in De l’Intelligence.250 Taine’s mature doctrine seems to be as follows. The empirical concepts and generalizations reached by induction, even when based on Edition: current; Page: [lxxii] intelligible relationships and not merely on observed regularities, can never be extrapolated to remote situations with more than probability (449). But the concepts that figure in the axioms of the exact sciences are not so much abstractions from experience as anticipations of experience, ideals to which experience can never be shown to conform (414). The laws of the exact sciences are disguised analytic statements, depending for their truth on the analyses and reconstructions on which the concepts contained in them ultimately depend (485). The laws of geometry and mechanics therefore have to do not with actual but with possible things. Their axioms depend not, as in Mill’s empiricism, on likenesses recognized through an associative process, but on the identity of formal properties (480-6). In explicit contrast with Mill, Taine opposes the perceived likeness of two geometrical figures to the recognized identity of a geometrical construction. The repetition with which science deals is identical recurrence and not repeated likeness: we can thus be certain that identical causes will have identical effects, and in this sense the principle of induction is proved. But it is for experience to decide whether what we are confronted with is the same cause (540); scientific laws are universally applicable, but it is for observation to decide when they are exemplified (484-6). This position is indeed, as Taine claims, very far from Mill’s. He agrees with Mill against the Germans in going from the particular to the general, instead of starting with a Weltanschauung and hoping that there will be somewhere for the chips to fall;251 but his work cannot be brought within the boundaries of associationism. It seems to foreshadow the more sophisticated empiricism of such theorists as Nagel, for whom a scientific theory has the “necessity” of a mathematical equation but needs to be supplemented by less formal understandings as to how far any real situation may be deemed to conform to its specifications.252 In particular, Mill seems to be wrong in accusing Taine of exploiting the ambiguity of the concept of sameness: on the contrary, his theory rests on contrasting resemblance with identity. But, although Mill may have missed the point of Taine’s main argument, what he says is perfectly true of some of the incidental discussions. In a passage on geometrical proofs, Taine does indeed confuse identity with exact likeness, and derives the mathematical concept of equality from just this ambiguous notion of “the same.”253

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Perhaps from sheer incredulity, Mill disregards Taine’s point that axioms about triangles are always valid and would always be applicable even if nothing came near enough to being triangular for this applicability to be very useful. The difference between Taine’s language and Mill’s is instructive: Mill, in his letter, speaks of the concepts of the exact sciences as idealizations of experience;254 Taine calls them anticipatory constructions. It is this seemingly trivial difference in terminology that enables Mill to say, “if the concept itself is the product of experience, the truth of the properties comes to us from the same source” (446). Taine, like most later thinkers, regards concepts as constructs rather than as products; and, if “product” were indeed the right word for them, whether the consequences alleged by Mill would follow must depend on the manner of their “production.” Here again, however, Taine’s carelessness or inconsistency lays him open to an objection that Mill makes more clearly in his letter than in his review. Even if one admitted the a priori character of such concepts as that of a straight line, he says, so that its properties were revealed to intuition rather than drawn from experience, “on peut dire que cette observation directe ne pourrait nous révéler que les propriétés du produit regardé comme conception mentale, c.à.d. des faits psychologiques, et qu’elle ne nous dit rien sur les lois générales de l’univers.”255 For Taine had written, “The propositions of these sciences are not merely probable but certain beyond our little world; at all events, we believe it to be so, and, moreover, are unable to believe or conceive that it is otherwise” (450). Is this not just that “inconceivability of the opposite” whose adequacy as a test of truth Mill had challenged fourteen years before?256 Not quite, perhaps, for what Taine says we cannot doubt is not that something is true but that its truth is necessary. But what sort of necessity is he really invoking? Logical, or merely psychological? Mill would concede the latter but deny its relevance. A mere habit of expectation has no evidential force, and Taine’s Edition: current; Page: [lxxiv] programme had been to substitute something stronger. Nor is this a momentary lapse of Taine’s pen. Years later we find him affirming that Kant’s question about the possibility of synthetic judgments a priori is a psychological one, to be settled by observation in the manner of Bain and Mill (not to mention himself), and that such observation shows them to be of two sorts. Some are disguised analytic statements: “Les autres ne sont pas valables; ils ne sont que des généralisations ou des anticipations de l’expérience; a priori, ils sont dépourvues [sic] de toute autorité; l’autorité qu’ils ont leur est conférée toute entière a posteriori par les expériences qui les confirment.”257 What sort of psychological test could show whether a statement is a generalization from experience or an axiom in a deductive science one cannot imagine, and Taine’s attempt at a novel solution to Kant’s problem breaks down after all in total confusion. If Taine really did wish to found his epistemology on psychology, Mill was right after all: the claim of unrestricted validity for the axioms is as false to Taine’s principles as it is to Mill’s, though not exactly in the way Mill has in mind.


Scattered and occasional as they have been, our remarks seem to have tended after all towards one general conclusion. Mill prided himself on his open-mindedness,258 and Bain concurred.259 But on the topics covered in this volume this claim seems hardly justified. We saw him missing the main points in Bailey, misrepresenting Bain, using Grote as a peg to hang his own pet notions on, scrutinising Taine merely for possible agreements and disagreements, and professing, at the start of his review of Bain, an impartiality between schools of psychology that the associated correspondence belies. Again, though early a champion of traditional formal logic against the psychologizers, he was so far from seeing the significance of the transformation of logic that began with Boole and was already under way in his middle years that Jevons could see his prestige as the main obstacle to logical reform. This judgment casts no discredit on Mill. A man of his Edition: current; Page: [lxxv] precocity cannot be expected or required to be an innovator in old age, and the head-start of twenty-five years that he claims his father’s forcing methods gave him could end by leaving him with too much to unlearn. Besides, open-mindedness is not soft-headedness. A man, unlike a government, is not called on to condone manifest errors, and all the incidental blindnesses and dogmatisms we have noted stem from his resolute opposition to a doctrine he believed to be fraught with immediate moral and political dangers.260 All the same, a tension remains between the dogmatism he shows and the receptivity he claims. That this claim is so widely conceded is partly to be accounted for by the marvellous, almost hypnotic, breadth and equanimity of his expository style: his unexampled air of unruffled comprehensiveness and imperturbable reasonableness. Bain, a dull writer, completely missed this quality: “The language faculty in him was merely ordinary,” he says.261 But Mill himself knew how much he owed to the discipline of the civil service, which taught him so to cast a controversial minute that its recommendations would seem acceptable and even inevitable to his reluctant masters.262 Alan Donagan has commented on the perfect expressiveness of Mill’s controversial style, in which passion never appears as a fatty layer over the sinew of argument; but in taking this wiry force as index of a sincere heart he fails to note that it may represent a dexterity that distracts the eye from the workings of a devious mind.263 When we consider the great speed at which some of these pieces were written we can only be astonished at the smooth force with which facts and arguments seem to conspire together in a natural order to draw Mill’s conclusions for him. Only an independent reference to the books reviewed and the facts alleged can reveal the strong acids that were needed to blend such heterogeneous nutrients.

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Textual Introduction

Philosophy and the classics were life-long passions of John Stuart Mill. In his time philosophy had not been professionally categorized, and his writings tend to ignore the boundaries of logic, the philosophy of mind, and ethics, and to reflect his training in the classics. His major philosophical work, of course, is to be found in his System of Logic which, with Utilitarianism, On Liberty, and An Examination of Sir William Hamilton’s Philosophy, has more direct interest for philosophers than his other writings. But it is a mistake to ignore such essays as those here gathered, for they give a rich context to the major philosophical works and illuminate central aspects of his non-philosophical writings.

Mill’s only major collection of his essays, Dissertations and Discussions, does not segregate them by subject-matter, but reprints in chronological order (as was customary in the nineteenth century) those he believed to have most abiding interest.1 In this edition we have gathered essays on related issues for the convenience of readers, but the overlap of subjects in his writings, and the exigencies of volume size, make decisions about inclusion and exclusion both necessary and difficult. For example, to exclude the two mainly historical reviews of Grote’s History of Greece would separate them from his reviews of Grote’s Plato and Aristotle, and both Mill and Grote thought of these writings as a coherent corpus;2 the essays on modern philosophy find themselves sharing a volume with those of specific classical interest since neither set alone would be sufficient for a volume. The most unfortunate exclusion is that of Mill’s Preface and notes to his father’s Analysis of the Phenomena of the Human Mind, which could not be accommodated here because of their length. In any case, cross-references among the volumes of the Collected Works is inevitable and desirable.

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The present collection, spanning Mill’s career from 1828 to 1873, the year of his death, has many unifying characteristics. The links are obvious among the essays on Greek history and philosophy, and the interest there manifested in dialectic and logic bears upon the discussion of Whately’s Logic, while the concern for empiricism and utilitarianism is brought out more directly in the reviews of Bailey, Bain, Berkeley, and Taine. The interlocking interests and careers of Grote, Bain, and Mill provide yet another strong connection, which is even more apparent when one looks at Mill’s edition of his father’s Analysis, to which Bain and Grote contributed extensive notes. The title of this volume might cause disappointment for some classicists: Mill commented very little on Roman history and literature;3 for him the classics that spoke most clearly and strongly to the nineteenth century were Greek.

All the items in this volume, except for five of the “Notes on Some of the More Popular Dialogues of Plato,” which are here published for the first time, appeared in periodicals. Four appeared in the Westminster Review (the reviews of Whately, the two publications on Plato, Bailey’s book on Berkeley’s theory of vision, and Bailey’s reply to Mill’s review).4 The other four “Notes on Some of the More Popular Dialogues of Plato” were published in the Monthly Repository. The Edinburgh Review published four reviews (the two of Grote’s History, that of Bain, and that of Grote’s Plato), and the Fortnightly Review three (those of Taine, Berkeley, and Grote’s Aristotle). Of the total, six (the two on Bailey from the Westminster, and the four from the Edinburgh) were republished by Mill in Dissertations and Discussions; the three from the Fortnightly were included by Helen Taylor in the fourth (posthumous) volume of Dissertations and Discussions. Apart from the unpublished Platonic dialogues, there are no known extant manuscripts, except for a fragment of the Taine review and (uniquely) the draft and press-copy manuscripts of the review of Grote’s Aristotle. No proof sheets have survived.

The texts in this edition are those of the last edition which Mill supervised, with variants and corrections established by collation of all versions which appeared in his lifetime; the copy-texts for the final three essays in this volume derive from the periodical versions, but are collated with the text of 1875 to test readings; they have no variants recorded from that reprinting, though the last, “Grote’s Aristotle,” has variants deriving from the collation of its manuscripts.

Reserving mention of specific variants for the discussion of the individual Edition: current; Page: [lxxix] items, one may make a few comments about the changes in the six republished essays. In general, there are more, and more significant, changes in essays written before 1840 (about which time Mill apparently first thought of a collection of them), and, as might be expected, there is a gradual reduction in re-writing as one moves from the earlier essays to those first published in the late 1850s just before the first two volumes of Dissertations and Discussions appeared in the spring of 1859. When he revised those volumes for a second edition in 1867, he introduced few further changes, and revised very lightly the essays published between 1859 and 1866 that were collected in the third volume of Dissertations and Discussions, which was first published in 1867 (with the second edition of Volumes I and II). As the six relevant items (the last two of which appeared in that third volume) have dates of 1842, 1843, 1846, 1853, 1859, and 1866, there are not many substantive variants, and few that reveal more than a desire for semantic or syntactic clarity or elegance.

Accidental variants—basically changes in punctuation, spelling, and initial capitalization—are not here recorded. In general, the frequency of such changes parallels that of the substantives, there being more in the earlier essays, and very few deriving from the second edition of Dissertations and Discussions. In punctuation, the most frequent alteration is the addition of commas, fifty single commas or pairs being added in “Bailey on Berkeley’s Theory of Vision” in Dissertations and Discussions (only one of them for the 1867 version); seventeen were deleted (none in 1867). No other changes appear to permit valid summary, except perhaps the alteration of commas to semi-colons, which is surprisingly frequent in the essays reprinted only in 1867; there is a total of twenty-two instances in the three relevant items, with only one instance of the reverse change. That the printed versions do not tell the full story is brought out in the collation of the manuscripts of “Grote’s Aristotle” with the version in the Fortnightly: for example, 111 commas or pairs were added in the press-copy manuscript, and a further seventy-five in the printed version, and there is considerable evidence of hesitation about the propriety of colons and semi-colons, there being a total of forty-three changes back and forth. (These counts cannot be considered as exact, for some manuscript readings are uncertain and Mill often omits punctuation at the right margin.) In general, initial capitalization is reduced (especially for abstract nouns) as one moves from manuscript through the printed versions, but no inference seems justifiable from the evidence in this volume (except that Mill’s hand must, in some cases—as is evident also in spelling and such substantives as “of,” “or,” and “&”—have given trouble to the printers). Similarly, no valid conclusion seems available from the changes in spelling, many of which, like the punctuation variants, undoubtedly reflect printing-house practice, except Edition: current; Page: [lxxx] that (despite Mill’s inconsistency) the evidence here, and in other cases, suggests that he habitually wrote “chuse” rather than “choose,” “shew” rather than “show,” and in verbals and their cognates favoured “z” over “s” (e.g. “generalize” rather than “generalise”).

The individual essays are fully discussed in Francis E. Sparshott’s Introduction; to that account only a few details need here be added, without apology for the occasional echoing of matters more adequately treated in that Introduction.

The review of Whately, the first published fruit of Mill’s meditations on logic, was not republished by Mill and is not mentioned in his Autobiography, which does however contain reference to Whately’s Logic, an important work in the development of his thought. The existence of the review is signalled in his later works only by the interesting quotation from it found in his System of Logic (Collected Works, VII, 143-4), where he indicates that some of the views therein contained are no longer held by him. (A collation of the quotation reveals the trivial variants recorded on 28.) An examination of the references in the essay supports Mill’s account in the Autobiography of his logical studies in the 1810s and 1820s, with specific allusion to Du Trieu’s Manuductio ad logicam, which he and his friends had reprinted in 1826 for careful study. One correction of a reference may be noted: Mill, probably unconsciously repeating his phrasing at 30 in the footnote on 21, alludes to the Preface to Whately’s Elements of Rhetoric, rather than to page 105n of that work. (References are corrected in this edition, as indicated below.)

The “Notes on Some of the More Popular Dialogues of Plato” fall textually into two groups, though there is no reason to think they were not written at the same time and for the same, presumably pedagogic, purpose. (See the Introduction, xviii-xix above.) The first group of four, those published in the Monthly Repository in 1834 and 1835, does not survive in manuscript and was not republished by Mill.5 These are mentioned in the Autobiography where, commenting that his writings in the years 1832-34, excluding those in newspapers, “amount to a large volume” (indicating that the collection bound together in the Somerville College Library, gold-stamped on the spine, “J.S.M./1832-4,” had probably been put together by the time the Early Draft of the Autobiography was written), he says: “This, however, includes abstracts of several of Plato’s Dialogues, with introductory remarks, which, though not published until 1834, had been written several years earlier; and which I afterwards, on various occasions, found to have been read, and their authorship known, by more people than were Edition: current; Page: [lxxxi] aware of anything else which I had written, up to that time.”6 The earliest extant reference to the dialogues is in a letter of 10 October, 1833, to W. J. Fox, editor of the Monthly Repository, in which Mill, clearly implying a prior discussion, says: “I . . . send three numbers of the Plato for your inspection and judgment. They cannot in any case be used until I return [from Paris] for it is necessary they should be carefully looked over, some passages altered, and some preliminary matter written.”7 And on 22 November, 1833, he asked Fox to return them so that he could “make them fit” for the Monthly Repository. Some general knowledge of them and their authorship may have come from Carlyle, to whom he wrote on 2 March, 1834, saying they were “mostly written long ago,” but “might be of some interest & perhaps use, chiefly because they do not speculate and talk about Plato, but shew to the reader Plato himself.”8

The second group of five dialogues survives only in manuscript. Though these manuscripts have pencilled numbers, presumably Mill’s, on their first folios, it has not proved possible to discern the rationale of the ordering, and so we have printed the first group in the order they appeared in the Monthly Repository, and the second group in alphabetical order of the titles.9 The manuscripts are written on East India Company paper, all folios watermarked 1828 (except the first six of the Lysis, which are 1825). Each was sewn together near the top left corner with green ribbon (now removed). The folios are about 20.7c. by 20c.; Mill folded them lengthwise, and wrote the text on the right half (recto and verso), leaving the left half blank for notes, corrections, and additions, of which there are Edition: current; Page: [lxxxii] several in each manuscript. (See the illustration facing 175.) He did not number the folios, of which there are sixteen in the Charmides (16v blank), thirteen in the Euthyphron, seventeen in the Laches, thirteen in the Lysis, and twenty-six in the Parmenides (26v blank).

As F. E. Sparshott comments above, the title “Notes on Some of the More Popular Dialogues of Plato” is misleading, for the bulk is translation, with some notes and commentary (much of it undoubtedly added, in the first group, for publication in 1834, as the dates of the references in the commentary indicate). The translations are not complete, except for the Apology (as Mill notes, 152), there being considerable summary (sometimes signalled by indirect discourse) and many omissions. In general, passages descriptive of action are omitted, while the dialectic is followed closely.10 The following summary, which gives the major features of Mill’s treatment, will serve as a rough guide for those who wish to compare Mill’s versions with the originals or other translations. It should be noted that the categories are not exact: passages “summarized” (indirect discourse) sometimes include brief direct translations; passages “translated” (direct discourse) similarly may include short summary elements; “condensed” means that while the passage is rendered in direct discourse, some responses and/or questions are omitted or shortened.

Protagoras: 309a to 310a omitted; to 311b (45.4-11) summarized; to 312a (45.24) condensed; to 314b (46.31) translated; to 317c (47.31) summarized; to 318d (48.7) condensed; to 320c (48.32) condensed; to 322d (49.22) summarized; to 323c (49.38) translated; to 328c (51.36) condensed; to 329b (52.7) summarized; to 330a (52.22) translated; to 330c omitted; to 331c (52.28) condensed; to 332a (53.3) translated; to 334c (54.16) summarized; to 338e omitted; to 343b (55.3) condensed; to 343c (55.12) translated; to 346c (55.31) condensed; to 347c omitted; to 349d (56.8) summarized; to 351e (57.15) translated; to 352a omitted; to 353a (57.37) translated; to 353b omitted; to 354d (58.23) translated; to 355a omitted; to 356c (59.5) condensed; to 357b (59.26) condensed; to 358a omitted; to 358d (59.28) summarized; to 360d (60.19) condensed; to 361d (60.30) summarized; to 362a (60.37) translated.

Phædrus: 227a to 227c (62.22-63.7) summarized; to 227d (63.13) translated; to 229c (63.22) summarized; to 230b (64.2) condensed; to 230d (64.7) summarized; to 235b (67.10) translated; to 235c (67.14) summarized; to 235d (67.21) translated; to 235e omitted; to 236b (67.33) translated; to 237c (67.41) summarized; to 241d (70.24) translated; to 241e (70.28) summarized; to 242a (70.36) condensed; to 242c (71.2) summarized; to 243b (71.17) translated; to 243c omitted; to 243e (71.26) translated; to 244a omitted; to 250b (76.25) translated; to 250e omitted; to 252b (77.9) translated; to 252c omitted; to 253b (77.31) translated; to 253d omitted; to 255d (78.20) condensed; to 256b omitted; to 257a (79.8) condensed; to 257c (79.14) summarized; to 259d (80.29) condensed; to 259e omitted; to 260a (80.32) condensed; to 262c (82.30) translated; to 263a (82.40) summarized; to 263e (83.22) translated; to 264b omitted; to 279c (93.3) translated.

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Gorgias: 447a to 447d (98.1-10) summarized; to 451b (100.26) translated; to 451d omitted; to 458b (104.34) translated; to 458e (104.37) summarized; to 471a (113.32) translated; to 471d (113.36) summarized; to 476c (116.41) translated; to 476d (117.2) condensed; to 492e (127.29) translated; to 493d (127.33) condensed; to 501e (133.3) translated; to 502c (133.6) condensed; to 506a (135.17) translated; to 506e (135.35) summarized; to 507e (136.18) condensed; to 508b omitted; to 523a (146.24) translated; to 524b (147.1) summarized; to 526d (148.4) condensed; to 527e (149.3) translated.

Apology: translated throughout.

Charmides: 153a to 156b (175.1-176.3) summarized; to 161b (177.25) condensed; to 161d (177.29) summarized; to 162c (178.10) translated; to 163b omitted; to 163d (178.20) condensed; to 164e (179.10) translated; to 165c (179.17) condensed; to 168e (181.20) translated; to 169a omitted; to 169c (181.31) translated; to 169d (181.34) summarized; to 176c (186.11) translated; to 176d (186.13) summarized.

Euthyphron: 1a to 1b (187.5-8) summarized; to 3e (188.26) translated; to 5a (189.9) condensed; to 6e (190.25) translated; to 7a (190.30) summarized; to 11b (193.15) translated; to 12a (193.20) summarized; to 16a (196.20) translated.

Laches: 178a to 181e (197.4-198.5) summarized; to 182d (198.13) condensed; to 183c (193.37) translated; to 184b omitted; to 184c (199.12) translated; to 184d (199.4) summarized; to 187b (200.36) translated; to 187e (201.5) summarized; to 189c (201.40) translated; to 189d omitted; to 189e (202.3) summarized; to 201c (209.8) translated.

Lysis: 203a to 205d (210.1-18) summarized; to 206b (211.5) translated; to 206d (211.11) summarized; to 207c omitted; to 210e (213.16) translated; to 211b (213.25) summarized; to 211c (213.33) translated; to 211d omitted; to 222e (221.9) translated; to 223a omitted; to 223b (221.12) translated.

Parmenides: 126a to 127d omitted; to 128a (224.4-9) summarized; to 129a omitted; to 130a (225.4-32) translated; to 130b (225.34) condensed; to 133b (228.17) translated; to 133c (228.20) condensed; to 135a (229.19) translated; to 135b omitted; to 136c (230.13) translated; to 137c (230.19) summarized; to 142b (232.36) translated*; to 147c (232.41-235.2) translated*; to 155e (235.16) summarized; to 160b (237.5) translated*; to 166c (238.22) summarized. (In passages marked with an asterisk, Mill—like some other translators—omits Aristoteles’ responses.)

The next item, Mill’s review of two publications on Plato, was not reprinted by him, and it is not mentioned in his Autobiography. The bulk of it, indeed, is quotation. After virtually severing his connection with the Westminster in 1840, Mill decided to contribute mainly to the Edinburgh Review. In writing to Macvey Napier, the editor of the Edinburgh, Mill presumably has this review in mind when he says that he had intended (before writing his review of Bailey on Berkeley—the next item in this volume) to give the Westminster nothing “more than one of the small-print notices which that review usually contains.”11 Though slight, it touches on some of his abiding concerns, such as the value of a classical education and the need for social order. One might also note his use of the word “Philistine” (241).

Edition: current; Page: [lxxxiv]

The next item, following Mill’s practice in Dissertations and Discussions, combines his review of Samuel Bailey’s A Review of Berkeley’s Theory of Vision and his reply to Bailey’s rejoinder to that review, A Letter to a Philosopher, in Reply to some recent attempts to vindicate “Berkeley’s Theory of Vision.” Writing to Sarah Austin (22 August, 1842), Mill says:

. . . I have been writing again for the old Westminster: Bailey of Sheffield has published a book to demolish Berkeley’s theory of vision: & I have answered him, feeling it my special vocation to stand up for the old orthodox faith of that school. I will send the article to Mr Austin for it will have a chance of interesting him, though few people else. It is the first fruits of my partial recovery from a three months illness, or rather out-of-health-ness, & it at least helps to pay my debt to Hickson [the editor of the Westminster] who used to write for the review without pay when I had it.

On 3 October, 1842, Mill mentioned to Macvey Napier his “metaphysical article” in the just-published number of the Westminster, and asked if articles of that sort would suit the Edinburgh. Napier replied, commending the “Bailey,” and Mill responded on 15 October:

I do not know whether your approval of the article in the Westr, especially as to the composition, may not have a bad effect upon me by encouraging me to write hastily as the article was written in three days & was never meant to be a thing of any pretension. I should hardly have thought it worthy of the Ed. but I should probably have given you the refusal of it, if I had not been committed to the Westr. . . .12

Bain recounts in his biography Mill’s telling him of the three-day composition, during a weekend in the country. (Mill was much occupied at this time in making the final revision of his Logic—see the Textual Introduction, CW, VII, lxvii ff.) Mentioning Bailey’s being “much hurt at the time” by some of Mill’s language in the review, Bain goes on to quote the conclusion of Mill’s “Rejoinder” (269 below), where tolerance of the frank expression of intellectual differences is demanded; Bain says that such was Mill’s “principle of composition throughout his polemical career, and he never departed from it. Of Bailey’s reply on this occasion, he [Mill] remarked—‘The tone of it is peevish. But Bailey is, I know, of that temper—or rather I infer it from sundry indications.’ ”13 That the controversy remained in Mill’s mind may be seen by his references to Bailey’s views in his Examination of Sir William Hamilton’s Philosophy (4th ed. London: Longmans, Green, Reader, and Dyer, 1872), 226, 301n, 308n, 323n, and in his edition of his father’s Analysis of the Phenomena of the Human Mind (London: Longmans, Green, Reader, and Dyer, 1869), I, 345n, 441.

Edition: current; Page: [lxxxv]

There are forty-one variants in “Bailey on Berkeley’s Theory of Vision,” thirty-five arising from the revision for the first edition (1859) of Dissertations and Discussions, and six from that for the second edition (1867); there are six in the “Rejoinder to Mr. Bailey’s Reply,” all from 1859. Using a rough classification (which is followed also in the discussion of variants in the other essays, and in the other volumes of this edition), these may be seen as falling into four types, reflecting (1) a change of opinion or correction of fact (including relatively large expansions, deletions, or revisions); (2) the difference in time or provenance between the separate publications; (3) qualifications and minor semantic shifts; and (4) minor verbal, tonal, and syntactic changes. Here all but five may be placed, in almost equal numbers, in the final two categories. Typical of the third category is the change from “his language implies” to “his language seems to imply” (255p-p); compare the change (260c-c) from “restored to sight” to “rendered capable of sight.”14 One of the less interesting of the fourth type of variant may be seen at 249b, where Mill deleted “or,” before “in other words” in 1859; more interesting (and typical of his revisions in the early 1850s of the Principles of Political Economy and the Logic, as well as of those for the first edition of Dissertations and Discussions) is his substitution at 251c-c of “person” for “man.” Changes of the first type are here minor as well as infrequent: see, for example, 257x, where the deletion in 1859 implies a revised interpretation of Bailey’s argument, probably related to the footnote to 255, added in 1859, which calls attention to the time between the versions and so may be placed in the second category. One further variant, that at 267n-n, deserves citation; the change in 1859 from “an eye” to “our eye” (the earlier version probably resulting from the printer’s misreading of Mill’s hand) is indicated in Mill’s copy of the 1843 article in the Somerville College collection.15

The next item is Mill’s review of the first two volumes of Grote’s History of Greece, a review that was, in Bain’s words, “in every sense, a labour of love; love of the subject, love of the author, and admiration of the work.”16 “I hope the first two volumes of the History will soon be out,” Mill wrote to Grote (1 January, 1846); “I long to see them.” Interrupting his writing of the Principles of Political Economy, he wrote a review of the volumes for the Spectator (4 April, 1846, 327-8),17 and contracted for the Edinburgh article Edition: current; Page: [lxxxvi] before April. Mentioning these reviews in a letter to Harriet Grote, he says: “I have taken my extracts from the 2nd vol., which has not yet been quoted, I believe, people not having had time to master it. You will see by the article [in the Spectator] that I like it very much. I was excessively sorry when I got to the end of it, and am impatient for the next volume.” He also expressed regret that he had pre-empted the review in the Edinburgh from George Cornewall Lewis, who he hoped would review it elsewhere. (Lewis, in fact, contributed a review of the next volumes of Grote’s History to the Edinburgh Review, XCI [Jan., 1850], 118-52.) In September he told Bain that he had corrected the proofs of the Edinburgh article; in it, he said, there was “no little of the Comtean philosophy of religion. Altogether I like the thing,” he added, “though I wrote it in exactly four days, and re-wrote it in three more, but I had to read and think a good deal for it first.”18

Because Mill does not directly quote from his Spectator review of Grote’s first volumes, no variants derive from that source; however, the two reviews are organized similarly, many passages are parallel, and the references are frequently duplicated. Of the twenty-three substantive variants in this essay, only two derive from the revision for the second edition of Dissertations and Discussions. Of the twenty-three, four (type [1]) reflect a change of opinion or correction of fact, and three (type [2]) reflect the difference in time or provenance between the versions. Of the first type is 275b, the footnote dealing with Grote’s use of “feminine” and “masculine” in the Preface to his History. Mill presumably deleted the note in 1859 because Grote modified the objectionable passage in his second edition; Grote’s revision, however, would not seem sufficient to remove Mill’s annoyance, for “sentimental” was substituted for “feminine” and “vigorous” added to “masculine.”19 The deletion of the long last paragraph of the 1846 version (see 304-5w), which I have counted as type (1), might well be classed under (2); the change was probably motivated less by a change of mind than by the feeling that the criticism of Grote’s orthography, long after the fact, served no useful purpose. Minor softenings of criticism may also be seen at 293l-l and 294m. Unequivocal instances of the second type of variant may be seen at 275a and 304v, the references to the publication of Thirlwall’s History and Grote’s remaining volumes being outdated in 1859.

Mill’s favourable notice of Grote’s History is continued in the next item, ostensibly a review of Volumes IX, X, and XI, which also was reprinted in Edition: current; Page: [lxxxvii] Dissertations and Discussions. He actually includes in it discussion of material from Volumes III-VIII, especially in sections incorporated in 1859 from the reviews of those volumes that he had written for the Spectator in the years between his two Edinburgh notices.20

Bain comments that in this review Mill “enters with enthusiasm into Grote’s vindication of the Athenians and their democratic constitution,” being, he adds, “quite as much as Grote, a Greece-intoxicated man.”21 Mill had promised to review the ninth and tenth volumes for the Edinburgh, but, feeling that “they hardly afforded sufficient material,” was happy to add the eleventh. “I think with you,” he writes to G. C. Lewis, “that there is now matter enough for an article, though more might have been made of the subject if there had been a greater amount of dissertation and discussion in the volumes.”22 Glad that Lewis did not want the article for the July, 1853 number, Mill had completed and submitted it by 24 August, commenting to Lewis that it “is as much a review of the book generally as of the last three volumes, but it gives a tolerably full account of their contents; and as the history of Athenian greatness is concluded in them, the occasion is a natural one for surveying the whole history.” He goes on to request proofs as soon as possible, as he planned to be away from London in mid-September.23

In spite of the laudatory nature of his review, Mill was not in 1853 as Grote-intoxicated as he was Greece-intoxicated, largely because of his and his wife’s recent animosity towards Harriet Grote which inevitably coloured Mill’s relations with the historian. Harriet Taylor Mill obviously took an interest in this review, and, as she frequently did in these years, suggested changes. Writing to her on the day he sent the review to Lewis, Mill says he had revised it “on all points,” and continues: “I have cut the knot of ‘the grandest passage’ by making it ‘the most celebrated’ & have altered the two ‘greatests’ to greatest commonwealth & most distinguished citizen—in the other. The ‘political education’ place which I said I would try to strengthen in ideas instead of in words, I have done so—I hope the proof will come in time for full consideration. . . .”24 The proof must have Edition: current; Page: [lxxxviii] arrived in time, for he undoubtedly returned it to Lewis with his letter of 19 September, in which he replies to Lewis’s comments:

I am glad that you are so well pleased with the article on Grote. More might certainly have been said about the Sicilian history, & the Anabasis, but as those parts of the history do not illustrate anything very important, I proposed passing rapidly to those which did. I would however have given the quintessence of the chapter on Dion if it had been possible to do it in any moderate space.

You will see what I have done in consequence of your various suggestions. As you say, the tendency of [the] Athenian alliance must have been to favor democracy, but Grote has pointed out several instances in which one is surprised to find important members of the alliance under the government of oligarchies. I have made a little alteration in the paragraph about Greek slavery, but it might look too much like an apology for slavery.25

The coolness to Harriet Grote comes out fully in a later letter to his wife: “Grote is vastly pleased with the article in the Edinburgh—& a propos I found here a letter from Mrs Grote, of complimentation on the article, which though little worthy of the honour of being sent to you I may as well inclose. The impudence of writing to me at all & of writing in such a manner is only matched by the excessive conceit of the letter. Grote alluded to it saying Mrs Grote had written to me after reading the article—I merely answered that I had found a note from her on arriving.” Perhaps this experience lies behind his reaction to the review when it appeared in print; he comments to Harriet that it “reads, to my mind, slighter & flimsier than I thought it would.” Nonetheless, he was pleased to receive £25 for it,26 and seems to have had no hesitation in reprinting it in Dissertations and Discussions in 1859, the year after Harriet Mill’s death.

There are some forty-five variants in this essay, five of them dating from the revision for the second edition of Dissertations and Discussions. The total is high for an essay of this date, artificially high, in fact, for it includes about twenty resulting from the incorporation in 1859 of the passages from Mill’s notices of Grote in the Spectator. These substantially alter the effect of the review,27 which, as mentioned above, did not deal only with the later volumes of Grote, and after 1859 was even less confined to them. Of the other variants, one might notice 328d, where Mill in 1859 deleted, for unknown reasons that tempt speculation, this sentence: “We have chosen our instances according to our own estimate of their importance, rather than according to their fitness to display the merits of the book.” Also enigmatic, though perhaps belatedly reflecting the influence of his late Edition: current; Page: [lxxxix] wife’s objections to his praise of the Greeks, is the deletion at 334w of his characterization of the Athenians as “the greatest people who have yet appeared on this planet.” Several type (2) changes, reflecting time and provenance, are to be found: see 331m, 331o-o, and especially the long passage at 336-7y. One may also mention the note (319n) signalling Mill’s departures from Grote’s translation from Thucydides of Pericles’ Funeral Oration alluded to in the Introduction, xxxiiin above.

The next essay, “Bain’s Psychology,” was reprinted in Volume III of Dissertations and Discussions (1867), having been published first in the Edinburgh Review in October, 1859, during the key period in Mill’s life when, after partially recovering from the devastating shock of his wife’s death at the end of 1858, he strenuously engaged in writing, revision, and publishing. In 1859 appeared On Liberty, Thoughts on Parliamentary Reform, the first two volumes of Dissertations and Discussions, and three important articles, “Recent Writers on Reform,” “A Few Words on Non-Intervention,” and this review of Bain. Of this last, he says in the Autobiography: “In the course of the same summer [of 1859] I fulfilled a duty particularly incumbent upon me, that of helping (by an article in the Edinburgh Review) to make known Mr. Bain’s profound treatise on the Mind, just then completed by the publication of its second volume” (155). He had, in fact, earlier made a more material effort, in conjunction with Grote, to make the work known. Parker was reluctant to publish The Emotions and the Will because The Senses and the Intellect, the first part of Bain’s “treatise on the Mind,” had been selling slowly since its publication in 1855, and Mill “intimated to Parker that Grote and he would take the liability of any loss [up to £50 each] that the immediate publication would incur, after a reasonable time allowed for sale.”28 Parker agreed, but the sales were such that there was no call on Grote and Mill.29

The connections among Bain, Grote, and Mill of course went back further, and were to continue. They read one another’s works in manuscript, and then reviewed them, consulted and collaborated, and, as appropriate, aided one another’s careers.30 In this specific instance, Bain says Edition: current; Page: [xc] that Mill went over the manuscript of The Emotions and the Will “carefully, and made occasional annotations,—which were, of course, valuable. Grote did the same. . . .”31 Mill corresponded with Bain about his review, expressing pleasure at Bain’s approbation of its contents, and at its appearance as the first article in the number of the Edinburgh. “It is a considerable thing,” he says, “to have got the Ed. to say that the experience philosophy & the association psychology are getting up again, & to praise & recommend a book on that side of the question.”32

Textually the review is uncomplicated. Appearing after the publication of the first edition of Dissertations and Discussions, it is typical of those that were republished in Volume III of that work in having few variants (only seven in all), none of them reflecting a change of opinion except perhaps 346a-a (“inseparable association” substituted for “indissoluble association”), which more probably was prompted by a desire for greater precision.

As F. E. Sparshott indicates (xxxviii above), the next item, the review of Grote’s Plato, was long contemplated, Mill having seen the work in manuscript33 and reread the whole of Plato in Greek as preparation. Though beset by proof corrections of his own works, he had read Volume I of the Plato by 11 March, 1865, and continued to read the other volumes as they came off the press.34 He had hoped to finish the review before the end of the year, in time for the January number of the Edinburgh, but 1865 was, as far as publishing is concerned, the busiest year of his later life.35 He also made an unplanned and undesired return from Avignon to take part in his successful election campaign, which caused a hiatus in his work from late June till late August. Henry Reeve, the editor of the Edinburgh, agreed to wait until the April number, and Mill continued his study, rereading Grote, and also the crucial Platonic dialogues. He had not started writing by 10 November but, showing his usual dispatch, had written “a great part” of it by the 26th; it was in Reeve’s hands by 30 January, 1866 (at which time Mill Edition: current; Page: [xci] consulted Grote about the propriety of viewing the Apology as Socrates’ actual defence), and appeared in the Edinburgh in April.36 Forgetting how busy the year had been, he wrote to Grote before the article was finished, in language surely more than polite: “The chief occupation of this year has been with Plato, Sokrates, and you: and there could not have been, to me, a pleasanter one.”37 As he also said to Grote, he had “seldom” (had he ever?) taken “so much time and pains” over a review, but felt it worthwhile if he had “done any tolerable justice to the subject.”38 It is in fact, even by the crude measure of length, one of his most significant articles.39

Given the date of his essay, only one year before the publication of Volume III of Dissertations and Discussions, the number of variants (twenty) is even larger than the length of the review can quite explain. They are, however, almost all of type (4), minor adjustments of syntax and tone such as those seen at 412i-i andj-j. Indeed, given his other preoccupations at the time, and the speed with which the review was written, it may be that these minor changes should be seen as merely the kind that he normally made in manuscript.

The last three items in the volume derive from the final, all too brief, period of Mill’s life from his electoral defeat at the end of 1868 to his death in early May, 1873. While far from lazy, he wrote and published less than in the preceding busy years, and what he did write (apart from “Theism”) has received little attention. His review of Taine, like the two further items in this volume, the reviews of Fraser’s Berkeley and Grote’s Aristotle, is not mentioned in his Autobiography (where Grote’s Plato gets only a passing mention). One must not conclude that he thought them unimportant, for the last section of the Autobiography was written in the winter of 1869-70, before their publication. Bain does not refer to the Taine review (nor, surprisingly, to the two other late reviews) in his John Stuart Mill;40 and there is only one mention in Mill’s extant correspondence.41 Taine and Mill were, however, well aware of and respected one another’s work, as F. E. Sparshott points out, lxix-lxxi above. Textually the article is interesting in that a manuscript fragment has survived. Though it apparently is part of a rough draft, there are no substantive variants (in sixteen places the Edition: current; Page: [xcii] manuscript has initial capitals, usually on abstract nouns, that were reduced in the Fortnightly). Again like the next two items, it was republished by Helen Taylor in the fourth volume of Dissertations and Discussions in 1875, after Mill’s death.

We know similarly little of the composition of Mill’s “Berkeley’s Life and Writings,” which reflects strongly another of his abiding philosophic interests. Aware of Fraser’s work on the edition as early as December, 1864,42 he planned to begin writing a review (already promised to the Fortnightly) after his return to Avignon from a Swiss tour on 21 August, 1871, and was working on it a month later, when he writes to Cairnes that the subject is “very interesting” to him, Berkeley being “one of our greatest names in philosophy.”43 He must have completed it shortly thereafter, for it had to be sent to England and it appeared in the November issue of the Fortnightly. In this essay, there being no manuscript nor reprint in Mill’s lifetime, there are no variants.

His last review, “Grote’s Aristotle,” was also written in Avignon. Mill of course had long known that Grote was writing on Aristotle, and there can be no doubt that he also knew that Bain and Robertson were preparing an edition following Grote’s death. In any event, while reading Brentano’s work (in German) on Aristotle in April, 1872, he was eagerly awaiting the completion of the printing of Grote’s book and mentioned to Brentano that his attention was “in an unusual degree invited to Aristotle.”44 Though on 5 October he had still not received a copy, by 9 December his review was finished and in the printer’s hands. As he then knew that it would be in the Fortnightly for January (as it was), and since the press-copy manuscript has a notation that the proofs should be sent to John Morley, the editor of the Fortnightly who retained the manuscript (see below), it would be reasonable to assume that Mill did not read proof, were it not that some of the changes between the press-copy and the printed version can hardly be editorial.45

This article is unique textually, in that two manuscripts, a draft and the press-copy, have survived. The draft (Houghton Library, Harvard, MS Eng 1105) is bound with other Mill manuscript fragments, the collection having been donated by Professor George Herbert Palmer, who bought it in Avignon at the sale by the bookseller J. Romanille of those of Mill’s books and papers that were not taken back to England when Helen Taylor Edition: current; Page: [xciii] returned in 1905. The manuscript is written recto on unwatermarked light blue sheets (c. 40c. × 25c., folded to make 30 folios, 20c. × 25c.), unfolioed by Mill, with the facing versos used for notes, additions, and corrections. The last two folios are a fair copy, in another hand,46 of the concluding matter, which is not present in draft form. The press-copy (Library of Congress, Andrew Carnegie Papers, Box 259) was given to Carnegie by John Morley. The unwatermarked purple-blue paper (c. 40.6c. × 26.7c., folded to make 34 folios, c. 20.3c. × 26.7c.), is unfolioed by Mill, who again, as was his practice, wrote the text recto, using the facing versos for notes, additions, and corrections. The first folio shows a direction to the printer to set down the quotations (“extracts”), and there are printer’s signatures throughout, indicating the “takes.”

Because there are so few extant complete manuscripts of Mill’s periodical essays, we have included all the substantive variants between the draft manuscript and the press-copy manuscript, and the latter and the text in the Fortnightly, to give a sense of the kind of revision undoubtedly habitual to Mill. (Were there manuscripts of all his essays, a different policy would be appropriate, as some readers will find the notes disturbingly frequent; we trust that those who do not wish to consult the revisions will find it possible to ignore the indicators.) In all, there are over 560 substantive changes, all but thirty-four of them arising from the rewriting of the draft for the press-copy (which is virtually a fair copy, with very few cancellations). By far the largest number (about 60 per cent) are of type (4), minor changes in syntax and tone; a further 34 per cent are of type (3), qualifications and minor semantic shifts. These are not, of course, without interest of various kinds: see, for example, 475m-m, where Mill, in regretting Grote’s death, refers in the draft to his feeling as “a complaint against the general conditions of our earthly existence”; he substitutes in the press-copy “only one among the many inherent imperfections of our existence on earth.” Mill’s hesitant carefulness is typified at 485w-w, where “fairly” was cancelled in the draft, and then restored in the press-copy. Perhaps a hint of his objection to intrusions on personal matters is to be seen in his insertion of “private” with reference to a letter of Grote published by his editors (489n-n). The substition of “valid” for “true” at 495x-x is paralleled elsewhere by other verbal refinements of semantic weight. Further, the lengthy addition at 479z-z is of philosophic interest, as are such additions as that at 505n-n, where Mill broadens the implications of his discussion to include contemporary philosophic issues. And so on—the selection of pertinent instances is best left to individual taste and insight; to adapt Mill’s suppressed sentence concerning his examples from Grote (see lxxxviii Edition: current; Page: [xciv] above), “We have chosen our instances according to our estimate of their importance, rather than according to their fitness to display the merits of Mill’s mind or of our methods.” The main general conclusion, in any case, is that the essay was significantly altered and improved by the detailed revision in manuscript.


as throughout the Collected Works, the copy-text for each item in this volume is that of the final version supervised by Mill.47 Details concerning the provenance of the texts and related matters are given in headnotes to each item.

Method of Indicating Variants. All the substantive variants are governed by the principles enunciated below. “Substantive” here means all changes of text except spelling, initial capitalization, hyphenation, punctuation, typographical errors, and such printing-house concerns as type font, etc. Changes involving the terminal punctuation of sentences are recorded, as are additions or deletions of parentheses and italics (except in titles). The only substantive changes not recorded are changes from “upon” to “on” (four instances, all in “Bailey on Berkeley’s Theory of Vision”); “although” to “though” (two instances), and “a” to “an” before words beginning with an “h” (five instances, all in “Grote’s History of Greece [I]”). The changes are of three kinds: addition of a word or words, substitution of a word or words, deletion of a word or words. The following illustrative examples are drawn from “Bailey on Berkeley’s Theory of Vision.”

Addition of a word or words: see 249a-a. In the text, the passage “colour and outline which” appears as “colour aand outlinea which”; the variant note reads “a-a+59, 67”. Here the plus sign indicates that the words “and outline” were added; the numbers following (“59, 67”) indicate the editions of this particular text in which the addition appears. The editions are always indicated by the last two numbers of the year of publication; here 59=1859 (the 1st ed. of Volumes I and II of Dissertations and Discussions); 67=1867 (the 2nd ed. of these volumes). Information concerning the use of this system of abbreviation is given in each headnote, as required. Any added editorial information is enclosed in square brackets and italicized.

When the example above is placed in context, therefore, the interpretation is that when first published (1842) the reading was “colour which”; in 1859 this was altered to “colour and outline which”, and the altered reading was retained in 1867.

Substitution of a word or words: see 255p-p. In the text the passage Edition: current; Page: [xcv] “language seems to imply that” appears as “language pseems to implyp that”; the variant note reads “p-p42 implies”. Here the word following the edition indicator (“implies”) is that for which “seems to imply” was substituted; when the same rules are applied and the variant is placed in context, the interpretation is that when first published (1842) the reading was “language implies that”; in 1859 this was altered to “language seems to imply that”, and (as is obvious from the text) the altered reading was retained in 1867 (the copy-text).

In this volume there are very few examples of passages that were altered more than once: an example is found at 256u-u. The text reads “will be urecognised asu such”; the variant note reads “u-u42 deemed to be] 59 perceived to be”. Here the different readings, in chronological order, are separated by a square bracket. The interpretation is that the original reading in 1842, “will be deemed to be such”, was altered in 1859 to “will be perceived to be such”, and in 1867 to “will be recognised as such”.

Deletion of a word or words: see 254i. In the text, a single superscripti appears centred between “argument” and “proves”; the variant note reads “42 proves, and”. Here the words following the edition indicator are those deleted; when the same rules are applied and the variant is placed in context, the interpretation is that when first published (1842) the reading was “Berkeley’s argument proves, and proves conclusively”; in 1859 this was altered (by deleting “proves, and”) to “Berkeley’s argument proves conclusively”, and the reading of 1859 was (as is clear in the text) retained in 1867.

Dates of footnotes: see 255n. Here the practice is to place immediately after the footnote indicator, in square brackets, the figure indicating the edition in which the footnote first appeared. In the example cited, “[59]” indicates that the note was added in 1859 (and retained in 1867). If no such figure appears, the note is in all versions.

Punctuation and spelling. In general, these are not normalized, and changes between versions are not recorded. Those changes which occur as part of a substantive variant are included in that variant, and the superscript letters in the text are placed exactly with reference to punctuation. Changes between italic and roman type are treated as substantives, except in foreign phrases and titles of works (which are normalized in italics).

Other textual liberties. Some of the titles of Mill’s essays have been adapted from running titles or otherwise modified for easier identification; full information about the titles is in the headnotes. The dates added are those of first publication. The original footnotes to the titles of the periodical essays, giving bibliographic information, have been incorporated in the headnotes.

Typographical errors and manuscript slips of the pen have been silently Edition: current; Page: [xcvi] corrected in the text; the note below lists them.48 Corrections to conform to sources Mill quotes are made only when the sense supports the change and there is corroborating evidence, or a prima facie likelihood, that the printer Edition: current; Page: [xcvii] misread Mill’s hand. To avoid annoyance, “[sic]” is not used to indicate oddities such as inconsistent spellings. In the headnotes the quotations from Mill’s bibliography, the manuscript of which is a scribal copy, are also Edition: current; Page: [xcviii] silently corrected; again, the note below gives the corrections.49 While the original punctuation and spelling of each item are retained, the style has been made uniform: for example, periods are added, where necessary, after such abbreviations as Mr.; accents on Greek words are normalized; and italic punctuation following italic passages has been made roman.

Also, in accordance with modern practice, all long quotations have been set in reduced type (and occasionally short ones have been set in normal type). In consequence, it has been necessary occasionally to add square brackets; there is little opportunity for confusion, as editorial insertions (except volume and page references) are in italics. Footnote indicators are placed after punctuation throughout, and dashes when coupled with other punctuation before quotations are deleted. Double quotation marks replace single; in the translations of Plato’s dialogues, where necessary, quotation marks appear at the beginning of a paragraph when the speech is continued from the preceding one. Other changes were specially required in the Platonic dialogues for ease of reading and consistency. Because Mill usually omits the names of the speakers, his practice of using a dash to indicate a transition from one speaker to another has been adopted and made uniform (in the first four, which were published, editorial changes for correctness are included as typographical errors in the list above). Quotation marks for direct speech are used throughout (again only those altered to correct an attribution are considered as typographical errors); they are not in the manuscript dialogues. In those dialogues a few punctuation points have been added (or, rarely, modified) for sense; Mill frequently uses the end of the line for punctuation, and some marks are ambiguous. Also, in the few cases where the immediate context suggests a slip of the pen, initial capitals have been added or deleted. The only other changes made are the italicization of “quâ” (220.34), and those listed as slips of the pen in the note above. Other minor individual changes are listed in the note below.50

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Mill’s references to sources have been normalized, and additional editorial references (in square brackets) added. For consistency, his references, when they appear at the beginning of passages, have been moved to the end. Where necessary, his references have been silently corrected; a list of the corrections and alterations is given in the note below.51

Appendix A, the Bibliographic Index, provides a guide to Mill’s citations of individuals, works, and quotations, with notes concerning the separate entries, and a list of substantive variants between his quotations and their sources. Including citations taken from other authors by Mill, there are references to nearly two hundred persons (plus some sixty referred to only in Mill’s translations from Plato) and about two hundred and twenty works (twelve of which are reviewed, and a further sixty-eight quoted from directly or indirectly). In these terms—as in others—Plato is the hero of the volume, there being references (including those to collected works) to thirty-four works; fifteen of Aristotle’s works are mentioned. Indeed, a majority of the references are Classical, with a great preponderance of Greek over Latin. The citations also, when studied in detail, demonstrate the care with which Mill read Grote and Bain, especially the former.

This Appendix serves as an index to persons, works, and statutes (of which, exceptionally, only one is mentioned), so references to them are omitted from the Index proper, which has been prepared by Dr. Bruce L. Kinzer.

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for permission to publish the manuscripts of Mill’s translations of Plato’s Charmides, Euthyphron, Laches, Lysis, and Parmenides we are indebted to the National Provincial Bank (residual legatees of Helen Taylor), and to the Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of the New York Public Library, Astor, Lennox and Tilden Foundations. For the use of manuscript versions of essays, we thank the British Library of Political and Economic Science, the Houghton Library of Harvard University, and the Library of Congress. As always, I am deeply indebted to members of the Mill Committee, and to the staff of the University of Toronto Press, especially Rosemary Shipton, the copy-editor of this volume. A Major Editorial Project Grant from the Canada Council has made it possible for us to produce this volume; I am especially grateful because the grant has enabled me to work with a most congenial and diligent group of research assistants, to whom much of the credit, and none of the discredit, is due: Marion Filipiuk, Bruce L. Kinzer, Martin Kreiswirth, and Rea Wilmshurst. The assessor team and the staff of the Canada Council were also very helpful in discussions of the edition as a whole, and I should like to express my thanks particularly to Meriel Bradford and Marie Cordeau. The librarians and staffs of many institutions have aided in their normal generous way; our special gratitude to those of the British Library, the British Library of Political and Economic Science, Harvard University Library, Knox and Trinity Colleges, Toronto, the Library of Congress, the New York Public Library, Somerville College Library, the University of London Library, the University of Toronto Library, and the Victoria University Library. Major contributions to our work have been made by Judith LeGoff and Francis Sparshott; other individuals who have aided in various ways include Frank Collins, Roland Hall, Patricia Kennedy, Anne McWhir, Richard Mohr, Penelope Nettlefold, Ann Christine, John, and William Robson, Germaine and John Warkentin, and John Yolton. My wife has, as is her wont and my joy, contributed materially to this volume, not least by giving me an understanding of σωϕροσύνη, the quality Mill, not having in Harriet a living exemplar, found such difficulty in translating.

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Westminster Review, IX (Jan., 1828), 137-72, headed: “Art. VII:—1. Elements of Logic. Comprising the Substance of the / Article in the Encyclopædia Metropolitana, with additions, &c. By / Richard Whately, D. D., Principal of St. Alban’s Hall, and late / Fellow of Oriel College, Oxford. London. Mawman. 1826. / 2. The Second Edition of the same. 1827.” Running head: “Whately’s Elements of Logic.” Unsigned. Not republished. Identified in JSM’s bibliography as “A review of Whately’s Elements of Logic, in the 17th number of the Westminister Review” (MacMinn, 9). There is no separate copy of this article in the Somerville College Library.

A significant portion of the text is quoted in JSM’s System of Logic. In the footnoted variants that derive from that quotation, the manuscript of the Logic is indicated by “MS” and its editions by the last two figures of their dates. For comment on the composition of the essay and related matters, see the Introduction and the Textual Introduction, vii-xvii and lxxx above.

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Whately’s Elements of Logic

a very slow progress towards popularity,” says Dr. Whately in his Preface, “is the utmost that can be expected for such a treatise as I have endeavoured to make the present.” [P. xxxvi.] In these times, in which the very thought of writing for posterity seems to be abandoned—in which immediate reputation and immediate profit appear to be the sole ends of authorship, instead of usefulness and permanent fame; this readiness on the part of an author to wait for popularity, is of itself a title to praise.

We believe, however, that even the immediate success of Dr. Whately’s work has exceeded the anticipations which the author, judging from the strong prejudices it had to encounter, deemed himself entitled to form. Nor is this surprising. We have long been convinced, that the time was come when a work containing a clear exposition of the principles of the Syllogistic Logic, and vindicating it against the contemptuous sarcasms of some modern metaphysicians, might make its appearance with almost a certainty of success. The authority of the Scotch philosophers (as Dr. Reid and his followers are termed), whose writings have been for the last fifty years the great stronghold of the enemies of Logic, has been for some time on the decline; and has at last fallen so low, that nothing, save the non-appearance of any worthy antagonist in the field of controversy, enables them to maintain any ground in public estimation. And there are various signs apparent to keen observers, shewing that a reaction has commenced in favour of what is really valuable in the ancient philosophy, and that the time when the whole of it could be dismissed with indiscriminate contempt, is at an end. Logic, as it is by far the most important branch of that philosophy, is accordingly recovering its proper rank the most rapidly; but such a work as that of Dr. Whately was still required, to direct, as well as stimulate, the study of that invaluable science, in the cultivation of which we believe it is very generally felt to have already constituted an æra.

Were we, however, required to state precisely wherein we think that the merit of Dr. Whately more peculiarly consists, we should say of him (what has been said of another writer, and on another subject), that he has rather written excellently concerning logic, than expounded in the best possible manner the science itself. His vindication of the utility of logic is conclusive: his explanation of its distinguishing character and peculiar objects, of Edition: current; Page: [4] the purposes to which it is and is not applicable, and the mode of its application, leave scarcely any thing to be desired: on incidental topics his observations are generally just, and not unfrequently original; but, considering his work as what it professes to be, an exposition of the Elements of Logic, it is impossible not to wish that it had contained a clearer explanation, and a fuller development, of several very important topics. We trust that it may be permitted to us to say thus much, without incurring the imputation of being wanting in deference to an author whom we so highly esteem. The whole tenor of our observations will, we hope, protect us from the suspicion of not setting a sufficiently high value upon this important contribution to philosophy, and will sufficiently distinguish us from those carping critics, who, while they freely allow to an author in generals, all the merit he can claim, shew by their whole tone and manner when they descend to particulars, that the most trifling defect has occupied a larger place in their thoughts than all the excellencies which they have so liberally conceded to him. If we hazard any suggestions for the improvement of the work, they are offered rather to the author himself than to the public. If we make any observations tending to shew what Dr. Whately has failed of doing, they will be such as we cannot expect to be even understood by any who have not gone through all the processes of thought necessary for completely mastering, and perfectly appreciating, the whole of what he has done. If we presume to judge the author’s ideas, we are willing to take him for the judge of ours; and we shall be more than satisfied if he should derive one hundredth part of the instruction from our criticism, which we have received from his work.

Before we enter into a minute examination of Dr. Whately’s book, we shall premise a few remarks on the importance of Logic, and the causes which may account for the little cultivation of that branch of knowledge in modern times. It will be seen, that in these observations we have borrowed largely from our author, although our ideas have not flowed precisely in the same channel with his.

Dr. Whately establishes in his preface the utility of the syllogistic philosophy, by the following argument à priori:

If it were inquired what is to be regarded as the most appropriate intellectual occupation of man, as man, what would be the answer? The statesman is engaged with political affairs; the soldier with military; the mathematician with the properties of numbers and magnitudes; the merchant with commercial concerns, &c.; but in what are all and each of these employed? Evidently in Reasoning. They are all occupied in deducing, well or ill, conclusions from premises, each concerning the subject of his own particular business. If, therefore, it be found that the process going on daily in each of so many different minds is, in any respect, the same, and if the principles on which it is conducted can be reduced to a regular system, and if rules can be deduced from that system for the better conducting of the process, Edition: current; Page: [5] then, it can hardly be denied that such a system and such rules must be especially worthy the attention, not of the members of this or that profession merely, but of every one who is desirous of possessing a cultivated mind. To understand the theory of that which is the appropriate intellectual occupation of man in general, and to learn to do that well, which every one will and must do, whether well or ill, may surely be considered as an essential part of a liberal education.

(Pp. x-xi.)

But, unfortunately for logic, men do not commonly form their opinion of the utility of any branch of knowledge, from such general considerations. They judge of its value chiefly from the need which they find of it, as measured by the disadvantages which they feel themselves to labour under from ignorance of it. But it is a peculiarity of logic, that it is impossible any man should ever discover its utility in this way, since the benefit which it affords consists in being freed from a defect, which no man who possesses it ever knows that he possesses. Every man knows what he loses by being ignorant of astronomy, because he feels his inability to determine a latitude, or foretel an eclipse. Men in general are perfectly well aware that they cannot do these things, and consequently no one ever doubted that there was a science of astronomy; just as no man can possibly doubt the necessity of a rule for extracting the cube-root, because no man can persuade himself that he knows how to extract the cube-root when he does not. But men may easily persuade themselves that they are able to reason although they are not; because the faculty which they want, is that by which alone they could detect the want of it. The proof, à posteriori, of a man’s inability to reason, would be, that he is deceived by inconclusive arguments; and this may be evidence to others that he stands in need of logic, but it can be no evidence to him. Hence it is, that they who are ignorant of logic, never can be made, by any efforts, to comprehend its utility. They either reason correctly without it, or they do not: if they do, they are in no need of it; and as for those who reason incorrectly for want of it, they never find out their deficiency until it is removed.

It is not wonderful, therefore, that the doctrine of the syllogism should number among its detractors all who are ignorant of it. But to these must, we are sorry to say, be added, some who are, and many more who fancy themselves, acquainted with it.

The impugners of the school logic, as they term it, may be divided into two classes. The first class consists of men not untinctured with philosophy, including even some writers of considerable eminence in the science of mind; men who are more or less acquainted with the principles of the system, so far at least as to have a general, though often by no means an accurate, conception of its nature and object. These, being persons of cultivated and inquiring minds, who have known what it is to doubt, and to discover themselves in error, and have learned not to repose an unlimited Edition: current; Page: [6] confidence in the unassisted powers of their own minds, are in general sufficiently impressed with the utility of rules to direct the mind in the investigation of truth. They object to the rules of the syllogistic logic as not effecting that end; they maintain, not that logic is useless, but that the doctrine of the syllogism is not logic; and they talk in high-flown language, not always conveying very precise ideas, of a supposed system of inductive logic, which is to supersede the syllogistic, and really to accomplish still more than the other even attempts.

It is against the objections of these philosophers, that our author’s defence of the Aristotelian logic is mainly directed. We apprehend, however, that they are chiefly formidable, by the countenance which they afford to another and a much larger class of the enemies of the science. This second class consists of those who are entirely ignorant of it, and consequently do not reject it under the idea that the rules which it gives are not the best possible, but that no rules, for any such purpose, are necessary at all. If these persons were to observe carefully, and state candidly, what passes in their minds when they bring in their verdict of inutility against the syllogistic system, their account of their own train of ideas would probably amount to this—that it is impossible a knowledge of logic can be of any use, seeing that they themselves do so well without it; nor could they ever perceive that the men who had studied logic reasoned better than their neighbours:—forgetting, that in the very supposition of the utility of logic it is implied that they themselves, who have not studied it, are not, in all cases, competent judges of good reasoning; forgetting, too, that in nine cases out of ten, the evidence on which they pronounce either a logician or another man guilty of bad reasoning is the nonconformity of his conclusions with theirs; which is, to say the least, just as likely to be the effect of bad reasoning on their side, as on his.

The following excellent passage from Dr. Whately’s preface is addressed particularly to this class of the impugners of logic, and may be read by them with great profit:

Many who allow the use of systematic principles in other things are accustomed to cry up Common-Sense as the sufficient and only safe guide in Reasoning. Now by Common-Sense is meant, I apprehend (when the term is used with any distinct meaning), an exercise of the judgment unaided by any Art or system of rules; such as we must necessarily employ in numberless cases of daily occurrence; in which, having no established principles to guide us, no line of procedure, as it were, distinctly chalked out, we must needs act on the best extemporaneous conjectures we can form. He who is eminently skilful in doing this, is said to possess a superior degree of Common-Sense. But that Common-Sense is only our second-best guide—that the rules of Art, if judiciously framed, are always desirable when they can be had, is an assertion, for the truth of which I may appeal to the testimony of Mankind in general; which is so much the more valuable, inasmuch as it may be Edition: current; Page: [7] accounted the testimony of adversaries. For the generality have a strong predilection in favour of Common-Sense, except in those points in which they respectively possess the knowledge of a system of rules; but in these points they deride any one who trusts to unaided Common-Sense. A sailor, e.g. will perhaps despise the pretensions of medical men, and prefer treating a disease by Common-Sense; but he would ridicule the proposal of navigating a ship by Common-Sense, without regard to the maxims of nautical art. A physician, again, will, perhaps, contemn Systems of Political Economy, of Logic, or Metaphysics, and insist on the superior wisdom of trusting to Common-Sense in such matters; but he never would approve of trusting to Common-Sense in the treatment of diseases. Neither, again, would the architect recommend a reliance on Common-Sense alone in building, nor the musician in music, to the neglect of those systems of rules, which, in their respective arts, have been deduced from scientific reasoning aided by experience. And the Induction might be extended to every department of practice. Since, therefore, each gives the preference to unassisted Common-Sense only in those cases where he himself has nothing else to trust to, and invariably resorts to the rules of art wherever he possesses the knowledge of them, it is plain that mankind universally bear their testimony, though unconsciously and often unwillingly, to the preferableness of systematic knowledge to conjectural judgments.

(Pp. xii-xiv.)

Upon the other and more philosophical class of objectors, Dr. Whately’s attacks are far more frequent; indeed, a running fire is kept up with them through the whole of the work. We shall indulge ourselves with one quotation, which admits of a more easy separation from the context than any of the numerous other passages of a similar tendency. It occurs near the beginning of the work, and abounds in instructive observations with regard to the nature and objects of the science:

Logic has usually been considered by these objectors as professing to furnish a peculiar method of reasoning, instead of a method of analyzing that mental process which must invariably take place in all correct reasoning: and accordingly they have contrasted the ordinary mode of reasoning with the syllogistic, and have brought forward with an air of triumph the argumentative skill of many who never learned the system; a mistake no less gross than if any one should regard Grammar as a peculiar Language, and should contend against its utility, on the ground that many speak correctly who never studied the principles of Grammar. For Logic, which is, as it were, the Grammar of Reasoning, does not bring forward the regular syllogism as a distinct mode of argumentation, designed to be substituted for any other mode; but as the form to which all correct reasoning may be ultimately reduced; and which, consequently, serves the purpose (when we are employing Logic as an art) of a test to try the validity of any argument; in the same manner as by chemical analysis we develope and submit to a distinct examination the elements of which any compound body is composed, and are thus enabled to detect any latent sophistication and impurity.

Complaints have also been made, that logic leaves untouched the greatest difficulties, and those which are the sources of the chief errors in reasoning; viz. the ambiguity, or indistinctness of Terms, and the doubts respecting the degrees of evidence in various Propositions: an objection which is not to be removed by any such attempt as that of Watts, to lay down “rules for forming clear ideas, and for Edition: current; Page: [8] guiding the judgment;”[*] but by replying that no art is to be censured for not teaching more than falls within its province, and indeed more than can be taught by any conceivable art. Such a system of universal knowledge as should instruct us in the full meaning or meanings of every term, and the truth or falsity—certainty or uncertainty—of every proposition, thus superseding all other studies, it is most unphilosophical to expect, or even to imagine. And to find fault with Logic for not performing this, is as if one should object to the science of Optics for not giving sight to the blind; or as if (like the man of whom Warburton tells a story in his Div. Leg.) one should complain of a reading-glass for being of no service to a person who had never learned to read.[†]

In fact, the difficulties and errors above alluded to are not in the process of Reasoning itself (which alone is the appropriate province of logic) but in the subject-matter about which it is employed. This process will have been correctly conducted if it have conformed to the logical rules, which preclude the possibility of any error creeping in between the principles from which we are arguing, and the conclusions we deduce from them. But still that conclusion may be false, if the principles we start from are so. In like manner, no arithmetical skill will secure a correct result to a calculation, unless the data are correct from which we calculate: nor does any one, on that account, undervalue Arithmetic; and yet the objection against logic rests on no better foundation.

There is, in fact, a striking analogy in this respect between the two sciences. All numbers (which are the subject of arithmetic) must be numbers of some things, whether coins, persons, measures, or any thing else; but to introduce into the science any notice of the things respecting which calculations are made, would be evidently irrelevant, and would destroy its scientific character: we proceed therefore with arbitrary signs respecting numbers in the abstract. So, also, does Logic pronounce on the validity of a regularly-constructed argument, equally well, though arbitrary symbols may have been substituted for the terms; and, consequently, without any regard to the things signified by those terms. And the possibility of doing this (though the employment of such arbitrary symbols has been absurdly objected to, even by writers who understood not only Arithmetic but Algebra) is a proof of the strictly scientific character of the system.

(Pp. 11-14.)

In the second paragraph of this passage, otherwise so remarkable both for precision of thought and felicity of illustration, Dr. Whately hardly does justice to the science of which he has constituted himself the defender. He says, with truth, that it is most unreasonable to quarrel with logic for not instructing us in the meaning of every term, and the truth or falsity, certainty or uncertainty, of every proposition which we have occasion to employ in our reasonings, since this is, in each case, the business of the particular science to which the subject-matter of the argument belongs, and is much more than can possibly be effected by any single science. But this remark, though just, scarcely conveys an adequate idea of the extreme Edition: current; Page: [9] futility of the objection, since the fact is, that the syllogistic logic really does all that can be done by any one science, towards the above end; inasmuch as the analysis, to which it subjects every process of reasoning, affords the readiest and the most certain means by which a latent ambiguity in any of the terms employed, or the tacit assumption of any false or doubtful proposition, can be detected. Common observation verifies this fact; since the appellation of an expert logician seems, by the usage of language, peculiarly appropriated to those who are thought to be eminently skilful in the detection of such fallacies; which seems to shew that mankind in general have observed (what indeed is easy enough of observation), that they who have studied logic, and who are familiar with its practical application, are less liable than other men to be imposed upon by an assumption or an ambiguity.

With regard to those who maintain, that to perform the logical analysis of an argument, in the manner pointed out by the doctrine of the syllogism, is not the best means of discovering whether it contain a flaw; it may fairly be demanded of them, first, whether they imagine, that, when an argument is inconclusive, its inconclusiveness is always apparent at the first glance? When they answer, as they must necessarily do, that it is not (because otherwise people could never be deceived by inconclusive arguments), and that the fallacy is often visible only upon a close inspection, it will be proper to ask them, whether they intend that it should be inspected in the lump, or piecemeal;—all at once, or step by step, beginning with the first step, and proceeding onward to the last? We imagine there is no one who would not reply, that this last mode comes nearest to his idea of a close inspection. It seems then that even according to the objectors, an analysis of the argument is requisite, in order to try its validity; but that for the performance of this analysis, common-sense, as they term it, is sufficient. Let us however press these disputants a step further, and ask them in what manner common-sense proceeds to analyse an argument, in order to form a judgment whether it is sound or fallacious. If they had any distinct ideas on the subject, they would probably answer, that it proceeds by first separating the propositions which contribute to the establishment of the conclusion (in common language, those which are essential to the argument) from all irrelevant propositions with which they may happen to be mixed up; next, by stating in words, and explicitly, all propositions, also essential to the argument, which may have been assumed tacitly, instead of being declared verbally; thirdly, (having thus effected the separation and enumeration of the premises of the argument), by arranging all these propositions in that order, which (so strongly does ordinary language corroborate our view of the case) is termed their logical order; that is to say, by bringing every conclusion, and the premises from which it is deduced, close together, and Edition: current; Page: [10] taking care that the step by which the truth of a proposition is established, shall precede all those in which that proposition is made use of as a premiss for the establishment of other propositions: when all this is done, then, they will tell you, a child could judge of the correctness or fallacy of the argument. Possibly so: but what is all this? It is neither more nor less than to perform the logical analysis of the argument. When all is done which has been here supposed, the argument is actually reduced to a series of syllogisms: so that the all-sufficiency of common-sense amounts only to this, that, if the man of common-sense makes use of the same means which logic supplies, he may attain the same end. This is true, certainly; but will he do so? and, if he should attempt it, which of the two is most likely to perform the analysis correctly—the man who does it by rule, or the man who does it by guess; the man who knows the principle of the operation which he is performing, or the man who trusts to extemporaneous sagacity alone?

Had the philosophers who treated with so much contempt the idea of trying the validity of an argument by resolving it into a series of syllogisms, been aware that there is no other way in which its validity can be tried, and that this, and no other, is the process actually performed, so far as is found necessary for the purpose, whenever a fallacy in argument is discovered and pointed out, they would probably have spared some portion of the ridicule which they have heaped upon the syllogistic theory. We do not, of course, mean to assert, that the analysis is always carried to its utmost limit; that every step in a ratiocination is set forth at full length; every implied assertion laid down, which, if it were untrue, would vitiate the argument; every syllogism formally resolved into its two premises and its conclusion: although some of the impugners of logic have supposed, absurdly enough, that all this would be necessary if the syllogistic theory were true: and, indeed, all this would be necessary, were it not that, in practice, the fallacy almost always becomes manifest long before the analysis has been carried to this ultimate point. As near an approximation to the syllogistic form as is employed in mathematics (which scarcely differs more from a complete series of syllogisms than that abridged form of syllogistic argumentation, known to logicians by the name of a Sorites) is commonly sufficient. But whatever portion of the analysis it is found necessary to perform, is performed upon syllogistic principles; and it would be a singular specimen of argumentation, to contend that the rules of logic do not conduce to the correct performance of a part of the operation, because they conduce also to the performance of the whole. Dr. Whately has aptly compared the logical analysis of a fallacious argument to the chemical analysis of an adulterated mixture [p. 31]:—to pursue this illustration somewhat further;—although the substance under an analysis of the latter description is certainly a compound of some of the primary elements, or Edition: current; Page: [11] simple substances, as oxygen, carbon, &c.; and, although its bad qualities are undoubtedly to be ascribed to the presence, either of a wrong element, or of some element in an improper proportion,—it is seldom necessary, for the purpose of detecting the adulteration, to effect the complete separation of all these primary ingredients, because the undue admixture generally becomes manifest, and the adventitious particles are separated at a much earlier stage of the proceeding. And yet, nobody would pretend that a man unacquainted with the properties of simple substances would be perfectly capable of performing such an analysis, or that the knowledge of the ultimate elements of bodies was of no service to the chemist. The same observations apply, mutato nomine, to the logician, and the syllogism.

Had the considerations which we have now adduced, suggested themselves to Mr. Dugald Stewart and others, those writers would scarcely have thought it a sufficient refutation of the syllogistic theory, to say (what indeed is very true), that if we were habitually to employ, in stating an argument, those forms which are only useful when it is to be scrutinized, the complexity of the expression, by lengthening the process, and distracting the attention, would cause more fallacies than it would prevent.[*] As opposite arguments not unfrequently converge to the same conclusion, other men, or the same men at other times, have pronounced the syllogism useless on the contrary ground, viz. because a fallacious argument, exhibited as logicians exhibit it, in the form of a syllogism, is so palpably fallacious as to deceive nobody. This we may admit: the difficulty is over, when the argument is reduced to that form. But how are we taught to bring it into that form? By logic surely: and what higher compliment can be paid to the doctrine of the syllogism, than to say, that the same fallacy, in the form of a syllogism, deceives nobody, which “may deceive half the world if diluted in a quarto volume.”*

Fallacious reasonings, [says Dr. Whately,] may be compared to a perplexed and entangled mass of accounts, which it requires much sagacity and close attention to clear up, and display in a regular and intelligible form; though when this is once accomplished, the whole appears so perfectly simple, that the unthinking are apt to undervalue the skill and pains which have been employed upon it.


We agree with Dr. Whately in ascribing the little esteem, in which the doctrine of the syllogism has been held by modern metaphysicians, to its being confounded with the absurdities of the schoolmen; who certainly dressed up much elaborate trifling in syllogistic forms, and deduced, by Edition: current; Page: [12] reasoning, and consequently by syllogism, from false premises, many very absurd conclusions. Modern philosophers, perceiving this, fancied that it was produced by the employment of the syllogism in lieu of induction; and concluded that, in order to avoid similar errors, it was necessary to discard the syllogism, which they thought was one method of reasoning, and confine ourselves to induction, which they imagined was another. All this while, the truth was, that the schoolmen not only did not neglect induction, but entertained a far more accurate and certainly a more distinct conception of the difference between its function and that of syllogism, than seems to have been entertained by any philosopher who has succeeded them. They saw clearly that the process of philosophizing consisted of two parts; the ascertainment of premises, and the deduction of conclusions. They knew that the rules of the syllogism concerned only the second part of the business (which alone is properly called Reasoning), and could only prevent them from drawing any conclusions which their premises did not warrant, but could not furnish any test of the truth of those original premises, which are not deductions from any prior truths. The evidence of these, which they termed ἀρχαι, principia, was derived from experience, and the process of the mind in attaining to them was termed induction. Τὰς μὲν ἀρχὰς τὰς περὶ ἔκατον, ἐμπειριας ἐτὶ παραϕου̑ναι, are the words of Aristotle himself:* and both his Analytica Priora and Posteriora[*] are full of proofs, that he considered experience, in other words, induction, to be the ultimate foundation of all knowledge: the ἀρχαι or first principles of every science being ascertained by induction, and all other truths being deduced from them.

That this should have been overlooked by those who style themselves the inductive philosophers of modern times, is the more surprising, inasmuch as it did not escape the observation of their prototype and idol, Lord Bacon. That great writer, whom it is now fashionable to style the founder of the inductive philosophy, a title which he himself would have been the foremost to disclaim, imputes the errors of Aristotle and the schoolmen, not to their neglecting induction,—for he had read them—but to their performing it ill. They knew that all knowledge must be ultimately derived from the observation of nature; but they were bad observers, and had even (as was remarked by lord Bacon) fundamentally wrong ideas with respect Edition: current; Page: [13] to the proper mode of directing their observations. They consequently generalized on insufficient evidence, and arrived, by an incorrect induction indeed, but yet by induction, at general principles, which were not true, but which, if they had been true, would have warranted all the conclusions which they deduced from them. The merit, therefore, of Bacon, did not consist in teaching mankind to employ induction instead of syllogism, but in pointing out to them the insufficiency of the mode of induction which they had hitherto relied on, and communicating some useful hints for the formation of a better. Since his time, a more efficacious mode of interrogating nature (to borrow a happy expression of his own)[*] has established, that throughout some of the most extensive departments of natural philosophy, there does not exist that sort of connexion between different truths, which would enable us to deduce one of them from another as the schoolmen attempted to do.* We cannot collect the ductility or specific gravity of a body which we have never seen, from the mere knowledge of its chemical composition, as we can deduce all the other properties of a triangle from that of having three sides. But we are not even now entitled to blame the schoolmen, as Dr. Whately himself has done, for “regarding the syllogism as an engine for the investigation of nature,” in other words, for applying general reasoning to the discovery of physical truth; since this is Edition: current; Page: [14] precisely what we ourselves very properly do, throughout the vast field of astronomy, and of mechanical philosophy. It is unnecessary to remind any one who is acquainted with logic, that since every mathematical demonstration consists of a series of syllogisms, the application of the syllogism must be at least coextensive with that of mathematics. Throughout the extensive sciences just named, modern philosophers have operated (though with more success) in the very same mode which the schoolmen attempted: they have ascertained by induction certain very general facts; the laws of motion, that of gravitation, of the reflection and refraction of light, &c. and have deduced from these, by a series, sometimes a very long series, of syllogisms, innumerable conclusions with respect to past, present, and even future, physical facts. Surely it is time that the practice of reproaching the schoolmen for doing precisely what we do ourselves, should cease. The schoolmen erred, not because they overlooked the necessary limits of that portion of the process of investigating truth, to which the syllogism is subservient, but because they did not perform the other and equally necessary part of that process with the same unrivalled skill, with which, by the aid of logic, they performed that part of it with which alone logic is conversant.

The province of reasoning in the investigation of truth is immense. It comprises the whole of the process of investigating mathematical truths, by far the greater part of the process of investigating the truths of astronomy, and mechanical philosophy in all its branches, a very large part in respect of the truths of morals, politics, and the philosophy of the human mind: to chemistry and physiology alone it has but a limited application. Upon reasoning depends the correctness of our inferences; upon induction, the evidence of those truths from which our inferences are drawn. The philosophers who have spoken in such high terms of the desirableness of an inductive logic, meaning thereby rules for performing induction, have said no more than the truth; but the rules of correct deduction are not less essential, nor is it any objection to the Aristotelian logic that, professing only to give rules for one of these necessary operations, it affords no means of dispensing with the other. An inductive logic would be highly useful as a supplement to the syllogistic logic, not to supersede it. “A plough,” says Dr. Whately, “may be a much more ingenious and valuable instrument than a flail, but it never can be substituted for it” (p. 236). Induction has usually been performed in a manner so empirical, that it is almost surprising that so many useful truths should have been ascertained by means of it; but if our rules of induction were as specific and precise, as all those which we have hitherto possessed are vague and general, they would not contribute, in the slightest degree, to the correctness of our reasoning. The syllogistic logic affords the only rules which can possibly be of any service to that end. It is, Edition: current; Page: [15] to use Dr. Whately’s words, not an art of reasoning, but the art of reasoning; “the logician’s object being, not to lay down principles by which one may reason, but by which all must reason, even though they are not distinctly aware of them:—to furnish rules, not which may be followed with advantage, but which cannot possibly be departed from in sound reasoning” (p. 22). The syllogism is not “a peculiar method of reasoning,” but “a method of unfolding and analyzing our reasoning” (p. 21). Syllogistic reasoning is not a kind of reasoning, for all correct reasoning is syllogistic: and to reason by induction is a recommendation which implies as thorough a misconception of the meaning of the two words, as if the advice were, to observe by syllogism.

We shall now attempt a short summary of the contents of Dr. Whately’s volume, together with such observations as may most effectually display its merits, and at the same time exhibit plainly one or two imperfections which we have already glanced at; and which, though trifling in comparison with the general excellencies of the work, contribute, nevertheless, to render it both a less clear and a less perfect exposition of the syllogistic logic, than it might have been made.

After an Introduction, consisting of a brief history of the science, with some remarks upon its utility, the most interesting portion of which we have already extracted, Dr. Whately prepares the reader for the study of his Compendium of Logic, by what he terms an Analytical Outline of the Science. This appears to us an extremely happy idea. In expounding a science which, like logic, professes to teach what are the parts which go to the composition of any given whole, that may be termed the synthetical mode of teaching, which commences with the separate parts, and, after a sufficient explanation of their nature, proceeds to shew in what manner they must be put together in order to form that whole, which it is the object of the science to analyse: while that method, on the other hand, may properly be termed analytical, which begins at the opposite extreme, examining the whole as it exists in nature, and, by means of observation and experiment, detecting in that whole the several parts; thus teaching the science in the very order in which it must have been originally discovered. The first method, which begins by exhibiting the simple elements, and makes the learner familiar with them in their separate state, before any of their combinations are introduced to his notice, is generally the best adapted for teaching him the science; but the second is better calculated for persuading him to learn: because it commences with what is already familiar to him in actual practice, and, gradually leading him back to first principles, enables him to perceive, at each step in the analysis, the practical tendency and application of that step: whereas in the first mode he is made to go through the whole science before he reaches the point at which Edition: current; Page: [16] it comes into contact with his own practice, and, therefore, often fails of perceiving that it has any practical application at all. We are inclined to ascribe very much of the unpopularity of logic as a science, to the circumstance, that writers on the subject have almost universally employed the synthetical mode of exposition, to the exclusion of the analytical; a practice which can be advantageously adopted, only where there exists, as in the case of geometry, a predisposition in favour of the science proposed to be communicated. So long as the mode in which logic was invariably taught rendered it necessary to have thoroughly mastered the whole science before arriving at the evidence of its practical utility, it was, perhaps, scarcely to be wondered at, that all who did not possess this perfect knowledge of the subject should hold a science to be useless, of the usefulness of which the proof had never reached their minds.

This obstacle to the right appreciation of the importance of logic, Dr. Whately has for ever removed. The masterly sketch which he has given of the whole science, in the analytical form, previously to entering upon a more detailed exposition of it in the synthetical order, constitutes one of the greatest merits of this volume, as an elementary work.

In every instance, [says he,] in which we reason, in the strict sense of the word, i.e. make use of arguments, whether for the sake of refuting an adversary, or of conveying instruction, or of satisfying our own minds on any point, whatever may be the subject we are engaged on, a certain process takes place in the mind, which is one and the same in all cases, provided it be correctly conducted.

(P. 18.)

On this important psychological or metaphysical fact, depends the whole title of logic to be considered as a science; and our author, accordingly, is at great pains to illustrate it, and to refute the error (fostered by the prevailing language on the subject) of supposing that mathematical reasoning, and theological, and metaphysical, and political, and moral, are so many different kinds of reasoning. Whereas, in reality, what is different in these different cases is not the mode of reasoning, but the nature of the premises, or propositions from which we reason; precisely, as in arithmetic, the process of calculation is the same, whether the numbers, upon which the calculation is performed, be numbers of men, of miles, or of pounds.*

In pursuing the supposed investigation, it will be found, that every conclusion is deduced, in reality, from two other propositions (thence called Premises); for though one of these may be, and commonly is, suppressed, it must nevertheless be understood as admitted, as may easily be made evident by supposing the denial of the suppressed premiss, which will at once invalidate the argument.—An argument thus stated regularly and at full length, is called a Syllogism; which, therefore is evidently not a peculiar kind of argument, but only a peculiar form of expression, in which every argument may be stated.

(Pp. 23-4.)
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Having advanced so far in the investigation of the subject, as to ascertain that every conclusion is deduced from two premises, the next step is, to examine, whether the nature of the premises which are required to support a given conclusion is subject to any general law. Pursuing this investigation, Dr. Whately shews, that in one of the premises, something is always affirmed or denied of a class, in which class it is affirmed, in the other premiss, that something else is contained; from which two assertions it is, in every case of correct reasoning, concluded, that what was so affirmed or denied of the class, may be affirmed or denied of that which was stated to be comprehended in the class. As every valid argument may be reduced to this form, the principle upon which the above conclusion is drawn, and which is termed by logicians the dictum de omni et nullo, is the universal principle of all reasoning. It may be stated in the following form, the three propositions of the syllogism being distinguished by figures.

“1. Any thing whatever, predicated of a whole class,

2. Under which class something else is contained,

3. May be predicated of that which is so contained.” (P. 36.)

Every valid argument is a case of this general principle; every fallacy is a case which, while it seems to fall under the principle, really does not.

Having thus analysed every process of reasoning into the propositions of which it is composed, the next step is the analysis of a proposition into its two terms, its subject and predicate. And here, from the inquiry, what predicates are applicable to what subjects, arises the whole theory of classification, and of general and particular names. But having already followed our author sufficiently far in his Analytical Outline, to give an adequate conception of his mode of proceeding, we shall stop here, particularly as we do not think him quite so successful in the latter part of the analysis, as in the earlier.

Having thus analysed the process of ratiocination into its simple and ultimate elements, Dr. Whately commences a fuller exposition of the science in the inverse order; and this, in contradistinction to his Analytical Outline, he terms a Synthetical Compendium.[*]

As every argument consists of propositions, and every proposition of terms, it has been usual with writers on logic, to treat their subject under three heads, namely, Terms, Propositions, and Syllogism. As this principle of distribution arises obviously out of the nature of the subject, Dr. Whately has adopted it; and his Synthetical Compendium consists of three parts. On the third part, which treats of arguments, little need be said, except that it is equal, if not superior, to any other exposition extant, of this branch of the science. The supplementary account of hypothetical arguments deserves Edition: current; Page: [18] higher praise; it is almost entirely new: comparatively little having been done by Aristotle or his followers, either for reducing the theory of that kind of arguments to fixed principles, or for devising rules to ensure correctness in the practice. We do not think by any means so highly of the two introductory parts, on Terms and Propositions. On these important subjects it appears to us that Dr. Whately not only has not improved upon the expositions given in former treatises on logic, but has not even availed himself of all the useful matter which those works afford.

We shall, before we proceed further, endeavour to give a general conception of what was done by the Aristotelian logicians in these two departments of the science.

It is sometimes said, and in a certain sense with truth, that these philosophers considered Propositions and Terms solely with reference to their employment in Reasoning; and treated of them, in their books of logic, no further than was necessary for expounding the doctrine of the Syllogism. But if by this it be meant, that they laid down no doctrines respecting terms and propositions, except what were required to enable them to analyse the process by which conclusions are drawn from premises, and establish rules for performing that process correctly, we believe it will be found that this character applies to a small part only of what is commonly taught in logical treatises under these two heads. For the mere purposes of the syllogism,—for securing that our conclusions shall be such as really follow from our premises,—very little of the theory of terms and propositions is necessary, except the division of terms into General and Individual, of propositions into Universal and Particular, Affirmative and Negative; with the rules which relate to what logicians very inappropriately call the Distribution of Terms;* to which we may, perhaps, add, the Conversion and Æquipollency of propositions. This is all that is strictly necessary by way of introduction to the theory of the syllogism; and it is but just to state that on all these points Dr. Whately’s exposition is completely satisfactory.

But the Aristotelian logicians did not stop here, nor confine within these narrow bounds the dominion of their science. They appear to have included in their idea of logic, not only the principles of reasoning, but all the instructions which philosophy could furnish towards the right employment of words, as an instrument for the investigation of truth. That principles Edition: current; Page: [19] may be laid down and rules devised to that end, sufficient in number and importance to constitute a science, we hold to be indisputable; though we are aware that in this opinion Dr. Whately does not concur. Whether that science should be regarded as a part of logic, is a mere question of nomenclature, and one which common usage has long since decided in the affirmative. But, however we may decide with respect to the names, it is in the first two parts of the treatises of the Aristotelian philosophers on logic, that we find all which they thought it necessary to lay down with reference to the employment of words, generally, as an instrument of thought; and in this there was much, which, however it might conduce to the truth or accurate wording of the premises from which we reason, contributed nothing to the correctness of the ratiocination itself.

The Aristotelians did not carry this department of what they considered as logic, to a degree of perfection approaching to that which the theory of the reasoning process attained in their hands. But they made in it no contemptible proficiency; and notwithstanding all the assistance which might have been derived from the discoveries of Locke and Brown, for the improvement of this branch of philosophy, modern metaphysicians are far from having yet followed out all the important hints, which the so much ridiculed schoolmen afforded. It is true, that their classification of names according to the nature of the things which they signify, has little merit in the outline, though much in some of the details; but their classification of names according to the mode of their signification (of which the doctrine of the Predicables forms a part) when purified from the taint of Realism which adheres to the expression but without infecting the substance, constitutes a prodigious step in the theory of naming; a step which few among their modern successors have known even how to appreciate, far less to surpass. Their classification of the modes of predication, co-ordinate with, and founded on the above classification of terms, and the further division of propositions according to the nature of the evidence on which they rest (for such in reality are the distinctions of essential and accidental, necessary and contingent, propositions) clearly prove them to have seen, not indeed to the bottom of the subject, but deeper into it than the generality of those who have constituted themselves, in modern times, the contemptuous assailants of the school logic. If we add to what has been enumerated, their observations on Definition and Division, which though extremely imperfect, contain the germs of many truths which are still waiting to be developed, we shall have a body of materials, not, indeed, entirely adequate to the purpose contemplated by Watts, and so severely condemned by our author, of laying down “rules for forming clear ideas, and for guiding the judgment,”[*] but containing much which is highly conducive to that end, Edition: current; Page: [20] and which, if expanded, systematized, and in some few points corrected, by a hand competent to the task, would effect nearly all that any body of instructions or system of rules can possibly accomplish, in a direct way, towards the purpose which Watts had in view.

In the Compendium of Aldrich,[*] commonly called the Oxford Logic, the greatest part of this important branch of the Aristotelian philosophy is omitted, and the remainder most lamely, imperfectly, and in some points even incorrectly, given. This Treatise, the whole of which, except the mere technical account of the rules of the syllogism, is utterly contemptible, has been for many years the text book in use at the only academical institution in England at which logic forms any part of the established course of education. The University of Oxford did not always thus confine her alumni to the worse book extant on the science which she still compels them to pretend* to learn; for the very best account which we have ever seen, in a small compass, of the Aristotelian logic (a work written by a Jesuit, Du Trieu, for the use of the college at Douay) was printed at Oxford in 1662. This circumstance, and the degeneracy which it evinces, form an appropriate comment upon the benefits of richly-endowed seminaries of education, and of institutions generally, in which the quantity of service does not regulate the quantity of reward. But what we would particularly observe is, that this treatise of Aldrich is almost the only work, professing to be an exposition of the Aristotelian logic, with which Dr. Whately appears to be acquainted. He admits himself [p. vii] to have taken more from that treatise than from any other; and we are sorry to say, that nearly the whole of his Synthetical Compendium (the supplement and a few passages excepted) is little more than a paraphrase of Aldrich. The exposition of the syllogism in Aldrich is clear and accurate, and that of our author, accordingly, is entitled to the same praise: but in the remainder, though he has corrected some of the minor oversights of his predecessor, he has in general followed him so closely in his worst parts, that it is almost as impossible to gain from the one, as from the other, a single clear idea.

We cannot select any passage from Dr. Whately’s work, which so forcibly illustrates all that we have advanced, as his account of the Predicables. Edition: current; Page: [21] This, as logicians are aware, is an attempt to classify general terms, i. e. names which, by virtue of their signification, are applicable in one and the same sense to an indefinite number of individuals. In the doctrine of the Predicables, these terms are considered as capable of being predicated, which is as much as to say affirmed, of some individual thing or things. The problem is, how many kinds of general names, all of them differing in their mode of signification, may be predicated of, and may therefore be said to be names of, one and the same set of individual objects. Logicians have determined that five different kinds of general names may be so predicated; and have called them Genus, Species, Differentia, Proprium,* and Accidens. These are called Predicables, and our author, after Aldrich, has defined them as follows:

Whatever term can be affirmed of several things, must express either their whole essence, which is called the Species; or a part of their essence (viz. either the material part, which is called the Genus, or the formal and distinguishing part, which is called Differentia, or in common discourse, characteristic) or something joined to the essence; whether necessarily (i. e. to the whole species, or, in other words, universally, to every individual of it), which is called a Property [Proprium]; or contingently (i. e. to some individuals only of the species), which is an Accident.

(P. 62.)

To render this intricate and involved sentence less unintelligible, Dr. Whately subjoins [ibid.] a synoptical table of the Predicables, for which we must refer our readers to the work itself.

If it be the object of a definition to render that clear, which was before obscure, our author can scarcely flatter himself that what he has here given, is entitled to the name. If his readers had any thing approaching to a distinct conception of the predicables before (as they probably had of Genus and Species) such an explanation as this would be almost sufficient to throw back the whole subject into inextricable darkness and confusion.

What is meant by the essence of a thing? What by its whole essence? In Edition: current; Page: [22] what sense can the word man, which is the name of a species, be said to express the whole essence of John and Thomas? Dr. Whately admits elsewhere, that classification is arbitrary; we may therefore constitute our species as we will; have we the same arbitrary power over the essences of things? Supposing the essence understood, what are we to understand by the material part, what by the formal or distinguishing part of the essence? and what is meant by something joined to the essence?* The reader will probably imagine that Dr. Whately cannot have employed so many unusual expressions, without somewhere explaining their meaning; but no explanation is attempted; it is throughout assumed that the reader perfectly understands all these phrases, most of which he probably now hears of for the first time. The only part of this account of the predicables which is intelligible, is incorrect: we mean the distinction drawn between Proprium and Accidens, which conveys ideas totally different from those which logicians have always attached to the terms, nor is it true that they, or, indeed, any other philosophers or writers whatsoever, have used the word necessary as it is here employed, synonymously with universal. That crows are black, is a universal proposition, and a true proposition, but did any person ever before dream of calling it a necessary one? Black, as applied to a crow, is the very word most commonly given by logicians as an example of an inseparable accident; yet our author classes it as a Proprium, without seeming to be aware that he is altering the established classification.

All this while, if Dr. Whately had looked into any of the more celebrated treatises on the Aristotelian logic, he would have there found the doctrine of the predicables placed upon a perfectly distinct and intelligible foundation, and the materials so well prepared for a thoroughly philosophical explanation of general terms, that, with all the aids which modern discoveries afford, and with the power of original thinking which he has elsewhere displayed, he might have had the merit of carrying this important branch of the philosophy of the human mind almost to perfection.

But we are not entitled to find fault with Dr. Whately’s explanation of the Predicables as insufficient, without showing, by an experiment of our own, that a better explanation might be made. We shall therefore make the attempt, giving due notice to those who may think the following dissertation too dry, that if they please they may pass it over.

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With respect to Genus and Species, we shall drop the unmeaning phrases copied by our author from Aldrich,[*] and which do not bear the remotest analogy to any thing in Aristotle, or Porphyry, or any of the more distinguished of their followers, and shall content ourselves with saying that any class, considered as comprehended in a larger class, is a species; and vice versâ, the larger class, considered as comprehending the smaller, is a genus. This we take to be the ordinary and received meaning of the terms, and it accords with the sense in which the Aristotelian logicians used them. There was, indeed, one sort of species which they held to be the species κατ’ ἐξοχὴν, more peculiarly a species than any other, species specialissima as they termed it, and that was, the lowest species in any given classification; a species which they fancied could not be any further subdivided into species, but only into individuals. This notion was evidently a result of the fundamental error of the Aristotelian philosophers, which consisted in not perceiving that classification is arbitrary. They did not consider, that we may erect any set of individual things into a species, which have any quality in common among themselves, distinguishing them from others; they did not see that it depends upon our choice what shall be the lowest species, but fancied, that, when they had proceeded to a certain length in the division, they reached the lowest species, and that there, by the necessity of nature, they were compelled to stop. This was their error; from which it is difficult to suppose, that the inventor of the maxim that the species expresses the whole essence of a thing, could be altogether free.

When this appendage is detached from it, the distinction between Genus and Species is nothing more than the difference between a larger class and a smaller. There is a broader line of distinction between these two predicables and the other three, Differentia, Proprium, and Accidens; between such words as animal, or man, and such words as white, carnivorous, or rational.

All nomenclature is connected with some classification: and in all classification there are two ideas involved, that of the properties or attributes which form the basis of the classification, and that of the things which compose the classes themselves. Thus, when animals are divided into birds, beasts, fishes, and so forth, we are to consider, with regard to the word fish for example, first, the things comprised in the class (which are sharks, lampreys, eels, salmon, &c.), and next, the qualities common to all these things (that of being cold-blooded, breathing by gills, living in the water, &c.), on account of which they are erected into a class, and which are implied in the name of the class, since any animal, or other object, not possessing all these qualities, would not be termed a fish. The Aristotelian Edition: current; Page: [24] logicians did not overlook this important distinction between the two constituent parts which make up the signification of a name, the things which it is imposed upon, and the properties on account of which it is imposed. They called the former the significatum materiale of the term, the latter its significatum formale; and they sometimes said that it denoted the one, and connoted the other. The word man denotes John, Thomas, and all other men; it connotes rationality, the human form, and whatever other may be the qualities which the name imports, and in the absence of which it would be withheld. The word white connotes the property of whiteness; it denotes snow, silver, milk, and all other things which, in consequence of their possessing that property, we term white.

Now, although all names which denote classes of things (and such are all the predicables) signify both the class itself, and the attributes which constitute it a class; or, to speak technically, denote the class, and connote the attributes;—there is this difference, that in the case of Genus and Species the idea of the class itself is the leading idea; in the other three predicables, it is the idea of the attribute. When we hear the word man, our attention is directed, first to the object, and from that to the qualities which are implied in the name, and but for which it would not have received the name; when, on the contrary, we hear the words rational, or white, the quality of rationality or whiteness is the first idea which is suggested to the imagination, and the idea of the white or rational thing is merely secondary. So perfectly is the idea of the quality here the leading idea, that adjectives are frequently described to be the names of qualities, which, in reality, they are not; all names of qualities, as goodness for example, being substantives. Adjectives are names of things, considered as having qualities; but in which, the quality being fixed, and the things variable, the idea of the quality predominates over that of the thing.

It remains to show in what manner the three adjective predicables, Differentia, Proprium, and Accidens, are distinguished from one another; how we are to decide whether any name, in which the idea connoted, that of the attribute, is the principal idea, should be considered as a Differentia, a Proprium, or an Accidens, of a given class. We say a class, because we do not consider the first two of these terms to be applicable to an individual.

Now here, as it appears to us, the definitions of the schoolmen are precise, and their classification perfect. The attributes, according to them, might be either

1. Essential, and then the term connoting it was a Differentia; 2. Accidental, but necessary, and then the term connoting it was a Proprium; or 3. Accidental and not necessary, and then the term connoting it was an Accidens.

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To render this classification intelligible, it is necessary that we should explain what was here meant by essential and accidental, necessary and contingent.

1. By the essence, and the essential properties, of a class, were meant the properties which, as we have already explained, are implied in its name, or, to use the technical expression, connoted by it. The essence of the class man consists, according to this definition, of life, the power of voluntary motion, rationality, and the human form. There are many other properties which are both common to all mankind, and peculiar to them, but they are not essential, because, if a race were discovered destitute of these properties, they would yet, according to the established meaning of the word man, be called men, if they possessed the other attributes which we have named. All this is plainly implied, though not clearly expressed, in the scholastic definition of essence. All properties, says the definition, are of the essence of man, without which man can neither be, nor be conceived to be; that is, without which, an object, whatever may be its other properties, will not be called man.

It is obvious, that, as classification is arbitrary, and nomenclature equally so, the word man might, if we had so chosen, have implied any other properties, instead of these. What should or should not be essential properties of man, depended upon the will of those who framed the class, and imposed the name. But the convenience of framing such a class, and giving it a common name, has been so obvious, that all mankind have concurred in the classification; and so long as we profess to adhere to the established nomenclature, it does not depend upon us what shall be the essential properties of the class, because it does not belong to us, but to the usage of language, to fix what is implied in the name.

Every property which was of the essence of a species, every property implied in the name of a species, might be termed, according to the schoolmen, a Differentia of that species. But there was this further distinction, that, as some of the properties which were common to the species, and implied in its name, might also be common to some larger class or Genus, including the species, and might be implied in the name of that likewise, these properties were said to constitute a Generic Difference, with respect to the species, while the remainder of its essential properties, which were implied in the name of the species but not implied in that of the genus, and which served consequently to distinguish the given species from other species of the same genus, were termed its Specific Difference. Of the four properties above enumerated as essential to the class man,—life, and the power of voluntary motion, are implied, not only in the name of that class, but in the name of the superior genus, animal, and are therefore Edition: current; Page: [26] termed the Differentia Generica of man, while rationality and the human figure, not being implied in the word animal, serve to distinguish the species man from the other species of that genus, and are called its Differentia Specifica.

2. All properties or attributes which were possessed by the thing, but not implied in the name, and were therefore excluded from the rank of essential properties, were called accidental properties of the class, and were said to be predicated of it by accident, κατα συμβεβηκὸς, because it was only by accident that they were true of the whole class, not having been in any degree taken into account when the class was framed, and the objects which were to be comprised in it parcelled out.

Accidental properties were further subdivided into those which were necessary and those which were not necessary; which were, as it is otherwise expressed, contingent. The first kind of property (or rather the name which connotes it) was called Proprium, the second Accidens. We shall endeavour to explain this remaining distinction without reference to our author’s strange misunderstanding of the meaning of the word necessary, as applied to a property or a proposition.

Of the properties of a class, there are some which, as we have before seen, are implied in its name, and these are called its essential properties; but there are some also, which, although not implied in the name of the species, are capable of being demonstratively deduced from those which are: and these were the properties to which the followers of Aristotle applied the name Proprium. Thus the property of being bounded by three straight lines is implied in the name of the class Triangle, and is one of its essential properties: the property of having the sum of its angles equal to two right angles may be shown, by demonstration, to follow from this essential property, but is not itself an essential property, not being implied in the name; for, if we were to discover that Euclid’s demonstration is incorrect, and that the two properties are not co-extensive, the name would certainly follow the former property, not the latter. Being an accidental property, therefore, and yet a necessary property, because the supposition of its being taken away, while the essential properties of a triangle remain, “implicat manifestam contradictionem,”* it is termed a Proprium. All other accidental properties are called simply by the name of Accidens.

All the five Predicables, with their distinguishing characteristics, may be exhibited in a Synoptic Table of the following form:

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PREDICABLES, or GENERAL TERMS capable of being predicated of a Class
1 2 3
The name of the class itself, The name of any larger class which includes it,Any property implied in the name of the class,Any property belonging to the class, but not implied in its name
Species GenusDifferentia
Implied likewise in the name of the larger class. Generic DifferenceImplied in the name of the given class, but not in that of the larger class, Specific Difference 4. 5
Capable of being deduced by demonstration from some property implied in the name of the class, Not capable of being so deduced,
Proprium Accidens.

When thus expressed, the Aristotelian classification of general terms has, at least, the advantage of being intelligible.* It is also evident, that the classification is complete; that it comprehends every thing which can be truly predicated of a class. It does not belong to this place to afford any illustrations or proofs of its vast utility, especially in all questions relating to the original foundation of human knowledge, and the different kinds of evidence on which it rests. But we may have occasion hereafter, in touching upon that more extensive subject, to follow out some of the above observations to their ulterior consequences: and, in the mean time, it may be sufficient, as a protection against the accusation of elaborate trifling, to observe, that to point out, and make plain and intelligible, distinctions which really exist, whether it be attended with immediate practical consequences or not, at least conduces always to the clearness of our ideas.

We shall not here set forth the manner in which the unfortunate confusion, in our author’s mind, between the words necessary and universal, has vitiated a great part of what he has said on the subject of Propositions. But there is one point remaining—a point of very great importance—on which we think that Dr. Whately has profited little by the discoveries of modern metaphysicians; it is the subject of Definition.

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A Nominal Definition, [says he,] (such as are those usually found in a dictionary of one’s own language) explains only the meaning of the term, by giving some equivalent expression, which may happen to be better known. Thus you might define a “Term,” that which forms one of the extremes or boundaries of a proposition; and a “Predicable,” that which may be predicated; “decalogue,” ten commandments; “telescope,” an instrument for viewing distant objects, &c. A Real Definition is one which explains and unfolds the nature of the thing; and each of these kinds of definition is either accidental or essential. An essential Definition assigns (or lays down) the constituent parts of the essence (or nature). An accidental definition (which is commonly called a description) assigns the circumstances belonging to the essence, viz. Properties and Accidents (e.g. causes, effects, &c.) thus, “man” may be described as “an animal that uses fire to dress his food, &c.”

(Pp. 71-2.)

We do not intend to comment upon the obscurity and confusion of the latter part of this passage, occasioned by the unhappy imperfection of our author’s explanation of the predicables; but to observe, thatabtheb distinction between nominal and real definitions, between definitions of words and what are called definitions of things, although conformable to the ideas of most of the Aristotelian logicians, cannot, as it appears to us, be maintained. We apprehend that no definition is ever intended to “explain and unfold the nature ofcthec thing.” It is some confirmation of our opinion, that none of those writers who have thought that there were definitions of things, have ever succeeded in discovering any criterion by which the definition of a thing can be distinguished from any other proposition relating to the thing. The definition, they say, unfolds the nature of the thing: but no definition can unfold its whole nature; and every proposition in which any quality whatever is predicated of the thing, unfolds some part of its nature. The true state of the case we take to be this:—All definitions are of names, and of names only: but, in some definitions, it is clearly apparent, that nothing is intended except to explain the meaning of the word; while, in others, besides explaining the meaning of the word, it is intended to be implied that there exists a thing corresponding to the word. Whether this be or be not implied in any given case, cannot be collected from the mere form of the expression. “A centaur is an animal with the upper parts of a man and the lower parts of a horse;” and “A triangle is a rectilineal figure with three sides,” are, in form, expressions precisely similar; although in the former it is not implied that any thing, conformable to the term, really exists, while in the latter it is; as may be seen by substituting, in both definitions, the word means for is. In the first expression, “a centaur means an animal,” &c., the sense would remain unchanged: in the second, “a triangle means,” &c. the meaning would be altered, since it would be obviously impossible to Edition: current; Page: [29] deduce any of the truths of geometry from a proposition expressive only of the manner in which we intend to employ a particular sign.

There are, therefore, expressions, commonly passing for definitions, which include in themselves more than the mere explanation of the meaning of a term. But it is not correct to call an expression of this sort a peculiar kind of definition. Its difference from the other kind consists in this, that it is not a definition, but a definition and something more. The definition above given of a triangle, obviously comprises, not one, but two propositions, perfectly distinguishable: the one is, “There may exist a figure bounded by three straight lines:” the other, “and this figure may be termed a triangle.” The former of these propositions is not a definition at all; the latter is a mere nominal definition, or explanation of the use and application of a term. The first is susceptible of truth or falsehood, and may therefore be made the foundation of a train of reasoning: the latter can neither be true nor false; the only character it is susceptible of is that of conformity or disconformity to the ordinary usage of language.a

We have much to say, likewise, on Dr. Whately’s Essential and Accidental Definitions, his Separable and Inseparable Accidents, &c. But we have said enough, perhaps more than enough, in the tone of criticism, upon his Synthetical Compendium. In our examination of the remainder of his work, we shall have the less invidious office of displaying merits rather than of detecting faults.

The latter half of the volume consists of a Treatise on Fallacies, and a Dissertation on the Province of Reasoning.

The subject of Fallacies has not been disregarded by logical writers. In most treatises of logic, a chapter has been devoted to the enumeration and classification of them. But logicians have not, hitherto, elicited much that is recondite or valuable on this subject. They seem to have exhausted the whole vigour of their intellects in laying down principles and rules, by the application of which a fallacy, if any exist in an argument, may be detected; and to have expended little philosophy in devising the means of distinguishing what kind of fallacy it was, in what cases such a fallacy was most to be apprehended, and by what previous habits the mind might be, with the greatest probable efficacy, protected against its approach. Perceiving clearly, in this division of the subject, the ineptitude of Aldrich, whose deficiencies, however, in this instance are no greater than those of much abler writers, Dr. Whately has left the beaten track of his predecessors, and applied his own powers of thought to the task of describing, characterizing, and classing, fallacies.

The reader who should expect to find, in this excellent dissertation, a dry catalogue of names or a string of technical definitions, would be most agreeably disappointed in its perusal. It abounds with apt examples and Edition: current; Page: [30] illustrations drawn from almost all the most interesting subjects in the range of human knowledge, and is interspersed with many just and acute observations on the errors of controversialists, the mental habits by which the liability to be deceived by fallacies is heightened or decreased, and the general regulation of the intellectual faculties.

From the examples here given of fallacious arguments, much instruction may be derived of a nature not strictly logical; since the refutation of a sophism, be it in what science it may, is in itself a good, independently of its use as an exercise, to fit the mind for detecting and avoiding others. In the Preface to his Elements of Rhetoric, lately published, Dr. Whately complains [pp. viii-x] that some have blamed him for availing himself of these examples as a vehicle for opinions of his own, in which the persons by whom he is thus criticized do not concur. We know not who are the persons thus alluded to, but the objection, by whomsoever made, is (as it seems to us) extremely unreasonable. If logic be of use for the establishment of any truths, they must be truths which need establishment—truths which there is at least a chance that some of those to whom they are presented may not immediately admit. For the settlement of a dispute, it is a necessary condition that the dispute should exist, or at least be capable of existing. There is little use in trying an argument by logical rules when it is sufficiently clear already whether it be valid: and, in point of fact, we are firmly persuaded, that the extremely familiar and obvious arguments by which logical writers have in general illustrated the doctrine of the syllogism, have contributed not a little to the low estimation in which the science is commonly held by superficial persons, who, finding that from the beginning to the end of a work professing to deliver the Art of Reasoning, that art is never once employed to establish a single truth of which any man could doubt, or refute one sophism by which he could for an instant be deceived, had some colour for representing logic as a mere nomenclature, and applying to it what was wittily said of a sister science, that

  • All a rhetorician’s rules
  • Teach nothing but to name his tools.[*]

In adopting, however, the more judicious course, of illustrating the principles of logic by means of arguments of which the soundness or fallacy could not so readily be perceived without the aid of those principles, the teacher of that science exposes himself to another danger, from which we cannot say that, in our opinion, Dr. Whately has always been quite successful in guarding himself. It has been already remarked, that the most unerring skill in the application of logical rules will not protect the reasoner from Edition: current; Page: [31] false conclusions if his premises are unsound. Now, although his error, when it proceeds from such a cause, is in no wise imputable to logic, its apparent absurdity is not a little heightened by the scientific apparatus with which he has so cautiously protected himself from falling into any conclusion but that to which his false premises legitimately lead. So likewise if, in order to refute opponents, a logician permits himself to fill up a suppressed link of their argument with a proposition which they allow to be false, when one which they affirm to be true would equally have sufficed to support their conclusion, and by this method gains an easy victory over an argument which was never maintained—the adversary, being perhaps ignorant of logic, and thinking himself logically confuted when his reason tells him that he is not substantially so, is likely enough to conclude that the rules of logic afford no criterion whatever of the validity of an argument. Thus Dr. Whately says,

If a man expatiates on the distress of the country, and thence argues that the government is tyrannical, we must suppose him to assume either that “every distressed country is under a tyranny,” which is a manifest falsehood, or merely that “every country under a tyranny is distressed,” which, however true, proves nothing, the middle term being undistributed.

(P. 137.)

With submission, we would observe, that the supposed reasoner need not maintain either the false proposition, or that which does not prove the conclusion: he might assume, not that “every distressed country is under a tyranny,” but that every country which is blessed with a fertile soil, rich mineral productions, a situation highly favourable to commerce, and an orderly, intelligent, and industrious, population, may, if it be distressed, impute its miseries to the tyranny, or, at least, to the vices, of its government. And it might be, that the circumstances of the country in question were in accordance with the above hypothesis. Dr. Whately has therefore, with much ostentation of logic, failed in his attempt to refute this argument: which, indeed, like many other arguments in which the premises only are disputable, and not the justness of the illation, may or may not be a sophism according to circumstances, and consequently does not admit of any general refutation. We are sure that our author cannot justly impute so flagrant an abuse of logical principles to Mr. Bentham, upon whose Book of Fallacies[*] he is somewhat unnecessarily severe (p. 194n). We mention these things merely because we think it right to shew that they have not escaped our observation. We should deserve contempt if such faults as these, in matters only incidental to the main subject, could affect our estimation of the work as a scientific treatise, or even materially alter our feelings Edition: current; Page: [32] towards the author. For the man who labours, whether from superstition or self-interest, to keep back the progress of the human mind, we reckon it no apology that the evil which he does he is besotted enough to mistake for good: but every one who is really and efficiently engaged in enlightening mankind, we regard, howsoever we may dissent from some of his views, as a confederate and brother in arms, a fellow labourer in the same great cause with ourselves. If our advances are not met with equal cordiality, that does not affect our duty; the admirable purpose of this volume, and the immense good which it is effecting, would be a sufficient atonement for twenty times the number of trespasses against candour and the rules of fair and honourable controversy, which can be discovered in it. The number of bigots and knaves in the world is not so small, nor the friends of improvement so numerous, that any portion of the indignation due to the first can, with any justice, be diverted to the second.

The Dissertation on the Province of Reasoning exhibits a greater reach of thought, and power of original investigation, than is shewn in any other part of the volume. It is divided into five chapters. 1st, On Induction. 2nd, On the Discovery of Truth. 3rd, On Inference and Proof. 4th, On Verbal and Real Questions. 5th, On Realism.

In the chapter on Induction, it is the chief object of our author to prove that induction is not, as it seems to be generally considered, a distinct kind of argument from the syllogism.

This mistake, [he observes,] seems chiefly to have arisen from a vagueness in the use of the word induction, which is sometimes employed to designate the process of investigation, and of collecting facts; sometimes the deducing an inference from those facts. The former of these processes (i.e. that of observation and experiment) is undoubtedly distinct from that which takes place in the Syllogism; but then it is not a process of argument; the latter, again, is an argumentative process; but then it is, like all other arguments, capable of being Syllogistically expressed. (P. 208.)

In the process of reasoning, [he continues,] by which we deduce, from our observation of certain known cases, an inference with respect to unknown ones, we are employing a syllogism in Barbara with the major* Premiss suppressed; that being always substantially the same, as it asserts, that “what belongs to the individual or individuals we have examined, belongs to the whole class under which they come;” e.g. from an examination of the history of several tyrannies, and finding that each of them was of short duration, we conclude, that “the same is likely to be the case with all tyrannies;” the suppressed major Premiss being easily Edition: current; Page: [33] supplied by the hearer; viz. “that what belongs to the tyrannies in question is likely to belong to all.”

[Pp. 208-9.]

This is a just, and, so far as we are aware, an original remark; and its consequences are extremely important. Deliberate consideration does not indeed shew it to be so complete an answer as it at first appears, to those writers who set up Induction in opposition to Syllogism; for if this were the only reply that could be made to them, they might with justice allege, that although, in the inductive process, the only part which can be correctly termed reasoning is syllogistic, that part is, however, extremely simple and obvious, the inductive syllogism being one and the same in all cases; and that in a case of vitious induction, it is not in this step of the process that the mistake ever lies. The importance, therefore, of Dr. Whately’s observation consists rather in the more clear conception which it gives of the nature of Induction itself: in confirmation of which, it may be stated, that this one remark would have sufficed to correct the erroneous notion which the ancients had of induction, and to which Lord Bacon justly ascribes the gross errors they committed in the investigation of nature. They in fact mistook altogether the inductive syllogism, completing it by the addition of a minor, instead of a major; as is shown by Dr. Whately in the note to the above passage.

The object of the next chapter, on the Discovery of Truth, is to inquire, how far reasoning, that is, syllogism, affords the means by which any new truths are brought to light. The author was incited to this inquiry by the frequency of the accusation against logic, that it is wholly unserviceable in the investigation of truth: he refutes this imputation most triumphantly, and his ideas on the entire subject are philosophical and just. He says, that it is true, reasoning does not enable us to discover truths which were not implied and contained in any thing previously known; but that many truths, virtually involved in propositions which we have already assented to, might practically, unless elicited by a process of reasoning, have remained for ever as completely unknown, as if they did not result from the knowledge we previously possessed. Of this fact, the whole science of mathematics is a perpetual proof. All geometry is in reality implied in the axioms and definitions, and all mechanics in the three laws of motion, and that of the composition and resolution of forces; but if it had not been for the ratiocinative process by which we compel these elementary truths to bring forth the fruit which is in them, they would have remained for ever barren; mankind would, it is true, in a certain sense, have possessed these magnificent sciences, but no otherwise than as the ore in an undiscovered mine is possessed by the owner of the ground wherein it lies.

Metaphysicians have found it a very difficult problem, to explain on Edition: current; Page: [34] philosophical principles this seeming paradox; to prove that possible, which experience certifies to be true; that mankind may correctly apprehend and fully assent to a general proposition, yet remain for ages ignorant of myriads of truths which are embodied in it, and which, in fact, are but so many particular cases of that which, as a general truth, they have long known. We do not think that our author has advanced much nearer than his predecessors to the solution of the mystery: but he has illustrated the fact itself most elegantly and instructively; and that person must be far advanced in this kind of knowledge, who can read the chapter without deriving from it an important addition to his stock of valuable ideas.

The same remark applies, though in a less degree, to the two succeeding chapters, on “Inference and Proof,” and on “Verbal and Real Questions.” In the first of these, our author points out the distinction between the function of the philosopher, and that of the advocate; of him who combines together premises with no other view than that of arriving by means of them at some new and useful conclusion, and him whose conclusion is given, and who has to seek for premises, by the combination of which, he may be enabled to demonstrate that particular conclusion and no other. In the next chapter, Dr. Whately defines more clearly and in more precise and logical language than former writers, the distinction between what are called Verbal, and Real, questions. His remarks on this subject, when once stated, appear almost too simple to require statement; but the frequency with which differences affecting merely the application of a word, are mistaken for real diversities of opinion respecting matters of fact, and the latter in their turn (for this too is no unfrequent case) stigmatized, from a misapprehension of the point at issue, as merely verbal disputes, renders the clear statement of the distinction, however obvious it may appear, no unimportant service.

Lastly, Dr. Whately enters into an examination of the notion of the Realists, that genera and species are real things, having an independent existence; that to every general name there corresponds an actually existing thing, distinct as well from the individuals contained in the class, as from the qualities belonging to these individuals, which were the occasion of their being formed into a class. Dr. Whately observes, and his experience is borne out by our own, that although few persons, if any, in the present day, avow and maintain this doctrine, those who are not especially on their guard are perpetually sliding into it unawares; and he proceeds with much acuteness to set forth several circumstances not previously noticed, which have contributed in no trifling degree to the prevalence of this error.

We have now brought our critical observations on Dr. Whately’s work to a close. But we cannot dismiss the subject, without expressing a hope that Edition: current; Page: [35] the powers of philosophizing, of which he has afforded an earnest in this work, may not lie idle, nor be diverted to any other subject, until he has accomplished some part of what is still wanting to the elucidation of this. A large portion of the philosophy of General Terms still remains undiscovered; the philosophical analysis of Predication, the explanation of what is the immediate object of belief when we assent to a proposition, is yet to be performed: and though the important assistance rendered by general language, not only in what are termed the exact sciences, but even in the discovery of physical facts, is known and admitted, the nature of the means by which it performs this service is a problem still to a great extent unsolved. Let Dr. Whately carry to the investigation of these subjects, the knowledge he possesses of the science which he has so usefully expounded, together with the acquaintance, which he either possesses or might acquire, with the discoveries of modern metaphysicians in this field of inquiry, and we feel confident that he would produce a work which would contribute even more to the advancement of knowledge, and entitle him to still higher permanent fame, than the excellent Treatise, of which we here close our examination.

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Four of the following nine commentary-translations appeared in the Monthly Repository in instalments from Feb., 1834, to March, 1835, signed “A”; the other five have not previously been published. The published ones are identified in JSM’s bibliography as “Notes on some of the more Popular Dialogues of Plato, published in various numbers of the Monthly Repository: viz.” (MacMinn, 37), followed by the entries given in the Editor’s Notes to the separate items below.

For discussions of these translations see the Introduction and the Textual Introduction, xvii-xxviii and lxxx-lxxxiii above.

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The Protagoras

[Monthly Repository, VIII (Feb., and March, 1834), 89-99, and 203-11. Not republished; signed “A.” Running heads: “Plato’s Dialogues; the Protagoras.” Identified in JSM’s bibliography (after the general heading cited on 38 above) as “No I. The Protagoras: part 1 in the M.R. for Febry 1834 / : part 2 in the M.R. for March 1834” (MacMinn, 37). In the copy in the Somerville College Library, a correction of “Socrates” to “Pythagoras” is indicated, probably not in JSM’s hand, at 43.28; at 44n.6 inked corrections in that copy change ψυχὴαν to ψυχὴν and παρτὰς to παρὰ τὰς.

For comments on this and the other translations, see the Introduction and the Textual Introduction, xvii-xxviii and lxxx-lxxxiii above.]

considering the almost boundless reputation of the writings of Plato, not only among scholars, but (upon their authority) among nearly all who have any tincture of letters, it is a remarkable fact, that of the great writers of antiquity, there is scarcely one who, in this country at least, is not merely so little understood, but so little read. Our two great “seats of learning,” of which no real lover of learning can ever speak but in terms of indignant disgust, bestow attention upon the various branches of classical acquirement in exactly the reverse order to that which would be observed by persons who valued the ancient authors for what is valuable in them: namely, upon the mere niceties of the language first; next, upon a few of the poets; next, (but at a great distance,) some of the historians; next, (but at a still greater interval,) the orators; last of all, and just above nothing, the philosophers. An English bookseller, by the aid of a German scholar, recently produced an excellent edition of Plato;[*] the want of sale for which, by the way, is said to have been one of the causes of his insolvency. But, with the exception of the two dialogues edited by Dr. Routh,[†] we are aware of nothing to facilitate the study of the most gifted of Greek writers, which has ever emanated from either of the impostor-universities of England; Edition: current; Page: [40] and of the young men who have obtained university honours during the last ten years, we are much misinformed if there be six who had even looked into his writings. If such be the neglect of the best parts of classical learning among those whose special vocation and whose positive duty it is to cultivate them, what can be expected from others? Among those who are engaged in the incessant struggle which, in this country, constitutes more and more the business of active life—every man’s time and thoughts being wholly absorbed in the endeavour to rise, or in the endeavour not to fall, in running after riches, or in running away from bankruptcy—the tranquil pursuit not only of classical, but of any literature deserving the name, is almost at an end. The consequence is, that there are, probably, in this kingdom, not so many as a hundred persons who ever have read Plato, and not so many as twenty who ever do.

Among those, again, who, in the present or in former ages, have been more or less acquainted with the productions of the master-mind of antiquity, extremely conflicting and extremely vague notions have been entertained concerning the nature of his opinions, and the scope or purpose of his works. It is, in truth, extremely difficult to ascertain what were, and were not, Plato’s own opinions. We have all heard of Platonists, and the Platonic philosophy; but though, out of detached passages of his writings, philosophic systems have been subsequently manufactured, it is to this day a problem whether Plato had a philosophy: if he had, it certainly was not the philosophy of those who have called themselves Platonists. This uncertainty arises from a variety of causes. In the first place, the author never speaks in his own person, but affects to be the mere narrator of conversations stated to have taken place between other and known individuals. When, too, the dialogue is of a controversial kind, as is almost always the case, the interlocutor to whom the victory is invariably assigned, not only is not the author himself, but is not even a man of straw, who might be supposed to be the author’s representative; but a philosopher of the highest merit and reputation, who had decided and known opinions of his own—the author’s master, Socrates. It can only be conjectured, with more or less probability, whether any part of these conversations actually took place as alleged; and if not, how far they were invented as mere specimens of argumentation and inquiry—how far to illustrate the opinions of Socrates—and how far to inculcate those of Plato himself. The difficulties of arriving at any certain solution, are further complicated by the preference which is shown in most of the dialogues for overthrowing the various doctrines already in vogue, rather than for setting up any others in their room; and the frequent use of that “irony” for which Socrates was celebrated, and which superadds to the doubt whether the entire discourse has Edition: current; Page: [41] any serious purpose, a still further question how much of the particular passage is intended to be taken seriously.

If we might be permitted to mention the hypothesis respecting Plato’s own opinions and purposes, which appears to ourselves the most probable, it is one which has been suggested to us by a little essay of the celebrated Schleiermacher, on the Character of Socrates as a Philosopher; a translation of which, with the addition of some valuable remarks, has recently been put forth by one of the few genuine scholars of whom our country can still boast, the Rev. Connop Thirlwall, in his periodical work, the Philological Museum, published at Cambridge.[*] Dr. Schleiermacher’s view of the nature of the service rendered to philosophy by Socrates, is that it consisted not in the truths which he actually arrived at, but in the improved views which he originated respecting the mode in which truth should be sought: and this appears to us to be, with some modifications, applicable likewise to Plato. No doubt, the disciple pushed his mere inquiries and speculations over a more extended surface, and to a much greater depth below the surface, than there is any reason to believe that his master did. But though he continually starts most original and valuable ideas, it is seldom that these, when they relate to the results of philosophic inquiry, are stated with an air of conviction, or as if they amounted to fixed opinions. But when the topic under consideration is the proper mode of philosophizing—either the moral spirit in which truth should be sought, or the intellectual processes and methods by which it is to be attained; or when the subject matter is not any particular scientific principle, but knowledge in the abstract, the differences between knowledge and ignorance, and between knowledge and mere opinion; then the views inculcated are definite and consistent, are always the same, and are put forward with the appearance of earnest and matured belief. Even in treating of other subjects, and even when the opinions advanced have least the semblance of being seriously entertained, the discourse itself has generally a very strong tendency to illustrate the conception which does seem to be really entertained of the nature of some part or other of the process of philosophizing. The inference we would draw is, that, on the science of the Investigation of Science, the theory of the pursuit of truth, Plato had not only satisfied himself that his predecessors were in error, and how, but had also adopted definite views of his own; while on all or most other subjects, he contented himself with confuting the absurdities of others, pointing out the proper course for inquiry, and the spirit in which it should be conducted, and Edition: current; Page: [42] throwing out a variety of ideas of his own, of the value of which he was not quite certain, and which he left to the appreciation of any subsequent inquirer competent to sit in judgment upon them. With respect to many of his most interesting speculations, that inquirer is yet to come; so far have the penetration and sagacity of the man of genius outstripped the slow and halting march of positive science.

Of a writer of this character it is, of course, impossible to convey any notion by an enumeration of his tenets or a compendium of his philosophy, since he has nothing which can be called, with any assurance, tenets or a philosophy. Unhappily, the only complete translation which exists in our own language[*] is full of faults, and often with difficulty understood even by those who can read the original.* In the absence of the only tolerable substitute for a knowledge of the author himself, some conception, however distant and imperfect, of what he is, may, perhaps, be derived from a very full abstract of some of the more interesting of his dialogues. It is in this hope that the following notes, made originally for the writer’s personal satisfaction in the course of his private studies, shown, after the lapse of years, to one or two friends who were unacquainted with the writings of Plato, and unexpectedly found to be interesting to them, are now laid before a wider circle of readers. In the execution they have no pretension to any other merit than that of fidelity. Of the dramatic excellencies of the dialogues (which the finest specimens of the higher comedy have hardly equalled, and certainly not surpassed) little could be preserved in these sketches compatibly with any degree of abridgement. But the more important and interesting of the argumentative portions of each dialogue are very little curtailed, and in other respects approach as near to literal translations as the writer, consistently with producing such English as could be expected to be understood, knew how to make them.

The dialogue with which it is proposed to commence is the Protagoras; supposed to be one of the earlier productions of the author. There is no work of Plato which more obviously appears to have been intended rather as an exercise in the art of investigating truth, than to inculcate any particular set of philosophical opinions. Many ingenious and some profound thoughts are, indeed, thrown out in the course of the discussion. But even if we had to form our judgment of this dialogue without the light Edition: current; Page: [43] thrown upon it by the other works of Plato, we should be compelled to draw one of two conclusions; either that the author had not yet made up his opinions on the topics treated in the dialogue, or that he did not think this a proper place for unfolding them.

Protagoras, who along with Socrates is the chief interlocutor in the dialogue, was one of the people called Sophists; and seems to have been the first who avowedly took the title. Many of Plato’s writings are directly aimed against the Sophists; and those writings have been the chief cause why, in modern times, a designation, which originally meant “a teacher of wisdom,” has become significative of quibbling and deceit. Certain Church of England writers, in the Quarterly Review and other publications, have, for the base purpose of discrediting free institutions and freedom of inquiry, on the one hand exaggerated grossly the mischievous tendency of what the Sophists taught; and on the other, represented them as enjoying great favour and importance in the free States of Greece, and particularly at Athens; just as the same writers have represented the persons called Sycophants (that is, people who stirred up vexatious prosecutions in the Athenian courts of justice) as especial favourites with the “sovereign multitude,” in the face of the overwhelming evidence which the whole mass of Athenian literature affords, that these persons were as odious to the people as the lowest class of pettifogging attorneys, or even common informers, in our own country. With regard to the Sophists, this very dialogue of Plato affords (as will be seen) strong evidence that when he began to write, they were already in very ill repute; while all that is really known of them tends to throw great doubt upon their having, as a class, really deserved that degree of obloquy. All inquirers into abstract truth, except mathematicians—all who were afterwards called Philosophers, (a term of which Pythagoras[*] is believed to have been the inventor,) had, before his time, been confounded together under that older name: and such are seldom popular with the mass of mankind; witness the House of Commons, and most public assemblies in this country. Among the Sophists were comprised all the earlier inquirers into physical nature, along with all the earliest moralists and metaphysicians; and though there were among the latter, as was inevitable in the infancy of science, as there are in Plato himself, much fallacy and verbal quibbling, there by no means appears to have been a greater proportion of doctrines having a pernicious tendency, than has existed in all ages.

It does not seem to be the object of the present dialogue to expose the errors or false pretensions of the Sophists in general, or of Protagoras in Edition: current; Page: [44] particular; for although Protagoras is confuted, and made to contradict himself again and again, after the usual manner of Plato, and is occasionally made somewhat ridiculous, for being only able to harangue, and not to discuss; (the complaint which Plato never ceases to urge against the Sophists;) yet, when he is suffered to state his sentiments at length, what he utters is by no means either absurd or immoral, but, on the contrary, sound and useful good sense, forcibly expressed, or, at the lowest, an able pleading in favour of the side he espouses, on whatever question the discussion happens for the moment to turn upon; and this, too, although the opinions of Protagoras on the nature, sources, and limits of human knowledge, are, in other places, the subject of Plato’s warm, but not disrespectful, attacks.* If it be possible, therefore, to assign any specific and decided purpose to this dialogue, it would appear to be intended not to hold up the Sophists either to ridicule or obloquy, but to show that it was possible to go much beyond the point which they had attained in moral and political philosophy; that, on the whole, they left the science of mind and of virtue in an extremely unsatisfactory state; that they could not stand the test of the rigorous dialectics which Socrates carried into these inquiries; and that the truth could only be ascertained by that more accurate mode of sifting opinions, which the dialectic method (or that of close discussion between two persons, one of whom interrogates, and the other answers) furnishes, but which speech-making, and the mere delivery of doctrines from master to student (the practice of the Sophists) absolutely preclude.

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A brief abstract of the dialogue will, I think, confirm this notion of its scope and object, by showing that Socrates merely plays with opinions throughout.

A young man, named Hippocrates, having heard, late in the evening, that Protagoras has come to Athens, hurries to Socrates in the morning, before it is light, and presses him to go with him to Protagoras, expressing the most earnest desire to become the scholar of so wise a man, and obtain a participation in his wisdom. Socrates consents; but as it is too early to visit Protagoras at that hour in the morning, they pass the intermediate time in conversation. Socrates then, in order, as he says, to try the strength of Hippocrates, begins to question him as follows: “If you were desirous of receiving the instructions of your namesake Hippocrates of Cos, and were asked in what capacity, and in order to become what, you would answer, In the capacity of a physician, and in order that you might become a physician. If you offered money to Polycleitus or Pheidias, that they might take you under their tuition, and were asked the same question, you would answer, In the capacity of statuaries, and in order that you might become a statuary. Now if any one should ask you in what capacity you are seeking the instructions of Protagoras, what would be your answer?”—“In the capacity of a Sophist.”—“And what do you expect to become through his instructions?” Hippocrates blushed; and answered, “If this be like the two preceding cases, I must expect to become a Sophist.”—“Should you not, then, be ashamed,” said Socrates, “to hold yourself forth as a Sophist to the Greeks?” He confessed that he should. (This is one of the passages from which it may be clearly inferred, that the profession of a Sophist was a disreputable one in Greece before Plato wrote.)

Socrates, however, supplied Hippocrates with a defence, by telling him that he supposed he did not intend going to Protagoras as he would go to a physician or an artist, to learn his profession, but as he would go to a writing-master, a gymnast, or a music-master, not in order to become himself a music-master, &c. &c., but to learn so much of these arts as belonged to a liberal education. Hippocrates assenting, Socrates continued: “Do you know what you are about to do? You are about to give your soul to be trained into the hands of this man, whom you call a Sophist; but what a Sophist is, I should be much surprised if you knew; and yet, if you do not, you must be ignorant whether you are doing a wise act or a foolish one. What do you suppose a Sophist is?”—“As the word implies, a man who knows wisdom.”—“You might say as much of a painter or an architect—he knows wisdom; but if we were asked what wisdom, we should answer, the wisdom which relates to the taking of likenesses, and so forth. What is the wisdom which the Sophist knows? What can he teach you to do?”—“He Edition: current; Page: [46] can teach me to speak well.”—“This may be a true answer, but not a sufficient one. On what subject can he teach you to speak well? for a musician can teach you to speak well on the subject which he knows, viz. music. What can a Sophist teach you to speak well upon? Upon that which he knows?”—“Certainly.”—“And what is it which he knows?”—Hippocrates confessed that he could not tell. “See, then, to what a danger you expose yourself. If you meditated putting your body into the hands of any one, at the risk of its well-being, you would consider for a long time before you made your resolution, and would take counsel with your friends and relations; but what you value much more than your body—your spiritual nature*—on the good or bad condition of which your well or ill-doing entirely depends, you are going to put under the care of a man whom you only know to be a Sophist, not knowing, as it appears, what a Sophist is, and this without taking even an hour’s time for consideration, or asking the advice of anybody. Is not a Sophist a dealer in those wares which the mind subsists upon?”—“And what does the mind subsist upon?”—“Upon instruction. Let us not, then, suffer the Sophist to impose upon us by praising the quality of his wares. Other dealers praise their wares, although they are no judges what is good for the sustenance of the body, nor their customers either, unless such as happen to be physicians or gymnasts. So these men, who hawk their instructions from city to city, praise all they sell, and yet some of these may very likely be quite ignorant whether what they offer is good or bad for the mind, and the purchasers equally so, unless some of them happen to understand the medicine of the mind. If, therefore, you are a judge of good and bad instruction, you may safely buy instruction of Protagoras or any other person; but if not, take care that you do not endanger what is dearest to you. You risk much more in buying instruction than food. Food you may take home in another vessel, and have it examined by qualified persons before you take it into your stomach; but instruction is taken at once into the mind, and the benefit is reaped, or the injury incurred, on the spot.”

After this conversation, they proceed together to the house where Protagoras is living, and find him there with two other Sophists—Prodicus of Ceos, and Hippias of Elis—who are several times introduced as personages in the drama, though not called to participate in the discussion. It may be gathered from what is said of these persons, and by them, in the course of the work, that Hippias taught physics more particularly than morals or politics, and that the science of Prodicus consisted chiefly in drawing frivolous and hair-breadth distinctions between the significations of terms Edition: current; Page: [47] which were commonly considered synonymous. This propensity of Prodicus is displayed in different parts of the dialogue in a very amusing manner, and several touches in his part might be quoted as admirable specimens of the higher comedy.

Socrates opens to Protagoras the object of their visit, by telling him that Hippocrates, a young man of high rank and excellent capacity, desired to become conspicuous in his country, and thought that this would be more easily attainable through the instructions of Protagoras. The Sophist having asked whether Hippocrates would wish to speak with him alone, or before the numerous company there assembled, and Socrates having left it to his option, Protagoras commended Socrates for his discretion, saying, that a stranger, who travels about and draws round him the most promising young men of every state, making them leave their other pursuits and associates, and attach themselves to him for the sake of their own improvement, has need of caution, since such a proceeding must necessarily excite jealousy and ill-will; and, for this reason, all the ancient Sophists—for the profession, he contended, was ancient—had disguised their real pursuit for fear of consequences, and had professed poetry, the science of divine worship, and even music or gymnastics, as a cover. But he himself did not follow their example, thinking that they never effected their purpose: the disguise did not conceal their real object from the leading men in the various cities, for whose eyes alone this veil was intended, since the common people merely repeat what they say; and an unsuccessful attempt at concealment only made the matter worse, by causing hypocrisy to be added to their other imputed offences. Protagoras, therefore, openly avowed himself a Sophist, and thought this a much safer plan than to deny it; and by this and various precautions he had so managed, that, although he had practised the profession for many years, no harm had ever come to him in consequence of it.* He, therefore, preferred that his conversation with Socrates and Hippocrates should take place before the whole company.

“Suspecting,” says Socrates (who is the supposed narrator of the whole) “that he wished to make himself glorious in the eyes of Prodicus and Hippias, from our seeking his society, I proposed inviting them, and those who were conversing with them, to join in our conversation.” Accordingly they all assembled, and Protagoras told Socrates that he might now state his business.

Socrates accordingly repeated what he had already said, that Hippocrates wished to receive the instructions of Protagoras, and was anxious to know of what nature was the benefit which he would derive from them. Edition: current; Page: [48] Protagoras answered, that he would every day improve, and return home better than he was the previous day. “So,” said Socrates, “he would, if he were to attend on the painter Zeuxippus—he would return home improved in painting, and a better painter; or if he were to attend Orthagoras, the flute-player, he would every day return home a better flute-player than the day before. In what respect, if he attends on you, will he every day return home improved?” Protagoras commended the question, and answered, “He will not be treated by me in the same manner as by other Sophists, who spoil young men by putting them back into geometry and astronomy, and the other arts, the very things which they had previously fled from. I teach them what they come to learn, viz., how they may best manage their own families, and how best to speak and act in the affairs of the state.”—“You teach politics then, and profess to make men good citizens.”—“I do so.”—“You possess an admirable art, if you do indeed possess it, which I know not how to disbelieve. But hitherto I had imagined that what you profess to teach is not capable of being taught, or delivered from men to men. For the Athenians, who are a wise people, if in their assembly they are deliberating on ship-building, send for the ship-builders to advise them, and will hear nobody else; if about building a house, they will listen to nobody but architects; and if any one else, however noble or rich, attempt to speak, they scoff and drive him away. But when the discussion is upon anything which concerns the general management of the state, they listen to persons of all ranks and professions without distinction, and never think of reproaching any man for presuming to advise on the subject when he has never studied it, or learned it of a master. It is evident, therefore, that they do not think it capable of being taught; and the best and wisest citizen, as Pericles for example, though he teaches his sons excellently whatever a master can teach, cannot succeed in teaching them the wisdom and virtue in which he himself excels; in this they are no better than ordinary individuals. For these reasons,” says Socrates, “I have hitherto doubted that virtue can be taught; but if Protagoras can prove the possibility, I beseech him to do so.”

Protagoras consents, and asks whether he shall teach by a μυ̑θος, (which I am inclined to translate a legend), like an old man instructing the young,* or by a discourse (λόγος). They give him his choice, and he prefers to tell them a story. If, as this circumstance would indicate, it was a frequent mode with the Sophists to deliver their doctrines in this way, it would account for the μυ̑θοι which are scattered through the writings of Plato, and which, appearing to be related half in jest, half in earnest, it is not very easy otherwise to explain.

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The story is, that when the gods made men and animals, they gave it in charge to Prometheus and Epimetheus to endow them; that Epimetheus solicited the task from his brother, and having obtained it, proceeded to distribute the endowments of strength, swiftness, &c., among the various animals, on the principle of compensation; but when he had exhausted all the endowments which he had to give, he found that man was left unprovided for. Prometheus, to remedy this blunder, stole τὴν ἔντεχνον σοϕίαν (scientific wisdom) from heaven, and with it fire, without which it was of no use, and bestowed these upon man. On this account was it that man, being akin to the gods, alone of all animals acknowledged their existence; and, by means of art, acquired the faculty of speech, made to himself clothes and houses, and procured food. But as there were no towns, and no human society, for want of the art of Polity, the human race were in danger of being extirpated by wild beasts; when Jupiter, in compassion, sent Mercury from heaven to make a present to mankind of Shame and Justice, in order that there might be mutual bonds among men, and that society might be possible. Mercury asked whether he should confer these gifts upon all mankind, or whether, like Medicine and the other arts, they should be given to a few only, for the benefit of all. Jupiter ordered him to give them to all; for if a few only possessed them, political society would be impossible; and bade him establish a law, as from Jupiter, that he who was incapable of shame and justice should, as a disease in the state, be extirpated.

“For this reason,” continued Protagoras, “the Athenians and others, who on architecture or any other manual art will hear only the few who possess it, are ready, when the subject is social virtue, which depends wholly upon justice and prudence, to listen to all advisers; because of this virtue all should be partakers, or states cannot exist.

“And to prove that in reality all men do believe that justice and the other social virtues ought to belong to all, observe this: If a man pretends to be a good musician, and is not so, all men ridicule him, and his friends admonish him as a man out of his senses. But when justice and the social virtues are the matter in question, although they well know that a man is unjust, yet if he tells the truth and publicly avows it, what in the other case they considered to be good sense, is here thought madness; they maintain that all men should profess to be just, whether they are so or not, and that he who does not profess it is a madman, because the man who does not, in some degree, partake of the quality of justice, is unfit to live amongst mankind.

“It seems, then, that mankind in general think all persons qualified to advise concerning these virtues, since all are required to possess them. But further, they think that these virtues are not natural and spontaneous, but the result of study and of teaching. For those evils which are supposed to Edition: current; Page: [50] come upon men by nature or ill fortune, no man ever thinks of reproaching another for: who ever reprimanded, much less punished, another, for being of low stature, weak, or deformed? such evils are regarded as an object only of pity. Men admonish, and censure, and punish one another, for the absence of those good qualities only, which they deem to be acquired by study and art; and for this reason only it is that they so deal with the unjust. Let us but consider what punishment does, and we shall see that, in the opinion of mankind, virtue may be acquired. No man punishes another because he has done wrong; this would be the blind vengeance of the irrational animals. Rational punishment is not on account of the past act, which, having been done, cannot be undone; it is for the sake of the future; it is in order that this offender, and those who witness his punishment, may be warned against offending hereafter. The Athenians, therefore, and others, since they do punish the unjust man, do so with this intent; they do so because they think that virtue may be acquired, and that punishment is a means whereby men are induced to acquire it.

“To the other argument of Socrates, that good men, although they teach to their children other things, fail of teaching them to be good, the following is the answer:—If it be true that there is something which, unless every member of the state possesses, the state cannot exist; and if this something be not architecture or pottery, or any mechanical art, but justice, prudence, holiness, in short, manly virtue; if all men, and women too, and children, whatever else they have, must have this, or be punished until they acquire it, or, if incapable of acquiring it, must be sent out of the country or put to death; and if, nevertheless, good men, teaching their children other things, do not teach them this, they are unworthy the name of good men. For that it can be taught we have clearly shown. Is it credible, then, that men should teach their sons those things, to be ignorant of which carries with it no evil consequences, and not attempt to teach them that, which, if they do not learn, death, banishment, confiscation, destruction of their fortunes and prospects, will fall upon them? Not so. From infancy upwards they instruct their children in these things; they tell them what is just and unjust, honourable and dishonourable, holy and unholy; they bid them practise the one and avoid the other; and if they disregard the admonition, correct them by threats and blows. And in placing them with teachers, they enjoin care of the child’s morals still more earnestly than of his learning; and the teachers make them read and commit to memory those passages of poets and other authors, by preference, which commend virtue and reprove vice. Music also is taught them, chiefly to soften the mind and accustom it to harmony, and order, and proportion; and they are delivered to the gymnast, in order that their bodies, being in good order, may be fitter to obey the commands of a well-ordered mind. When they leave school, the State Edition: current; Page: [51] requires them to learn its laws, and regulate their lives by them, as those who learn to write follow the copy which is set to them by the writing-master; and if they deviate from this rule they are punished; and the very name given to punishment indicates its object—it is termed correction.*

“Nor is it wonderful, notwithstanding this, that good fathers should have sons of no particular merit. If there were any other branch of knowledge, the cultivation of which by every citizen were necessary to the being of the state; if society could not exist unless all could play on the flute, and if all were taught to play, and reproached if they played ill, instead of being envied for playing well—(as at present men are not envied for being just and virtuous, since it is every man’s interest that others should be just and virtuous, for which reason we are all eager to teach justice and virtue to all men)—do you suppose that the sons of good flute-players would be better players than other men? Not so. Whoever had the best natural disposition for music would be the best player: a good player’s son would often play ill—the son of a bad player, well; but all would be competent players, compared with those who knew nothing of music whatever. In like manner all civilized men, even the most unjust, if compared with men among whom there is no training, no tribunals, no laws, with the wild men of whom poets tell us, would appear a perfect master in virtue: and after mixing with such men, you would be delighted to meet with the greatest villains of our own country. But now you are fastidious, and because all are teachers of virtue, you will not allow that any are so: just as if you were to inquire in this city who teaches Greek, you would find nobody; or if you sought somebody competent to teach the son of a mechanic his father’s art, which he had learned in his father’s shop as well as his father could teach it, you might find nobody; but of men who could teach those who were totally ignorant of the art, you would find abundance. It is thus with virtue: all men teach it; and we may think ourselves fortunate if we find one who is a little more capable than others of advancing men towards it. Such a man I profess to be; and I am willing that my scholars should judge of my pretensions. Accordingly, the terms of my contract with them are, that when they have received my instructions, they shall either pay me the amount of my demand, or, if they think this too much, shall pay me according to their own estimate, made in a temple and upon oath, of the value of the instructions.”[*]

Protagoras here ceased speaking: and Socrates, after making many acknowledgments and professing himself almost convinced, said that one little difficulty still remained in his mind, which no doubt Protagoras could Edition: current; Page: [52] easily remove. “For if a man were to apply to Pericles, or any other of the famous orators, he might hear from them as fine a speech as that which Protagoras had made: but if he were to put a question to them, they could no more answer, or ask again, than an inanimate book; but, like brass, which if struck makes a long reverberation unless we lay our hands upon it and stop it, they make answer to a short question by an inordinately long harangue. Protagoras, however, is able not only to make a long speech, but to give a short answer to a short question: I therefore wish to have one difficulty explained. You say that virtue can be taught; and you have several times put together justice, prudence, temperance, and holiness, and called them collectively by the one word virtue. Is virtue then one thing, and are all these parts of it, or are they all names for one and the same thing?” Protagoras answers—“Virtue is one, and all these are parts of it.”—“Are they such parts as the parts of gold, all of them exactly resembling the whole, and one another? or (like the parts of the face, viz. eyes, nose, ears, and mouth) extremely unlike?”—“They are like the parts of the face.”—“May the same man have one of these parts of virtue, and be destitute of the others?”—“Yes: many are courageous, but unjust, and many are just but unwise.”—“Then wisdom and courage are also parts of virtue?”—“Yes.”—“And unlike each other, as you said of the other parts?”—“Yes.”

“Let us consider further of this matter. Is justice a just thing or an unjust one? surely it is a just thing.”—“Undoubtedly.”—“Is holiness a holy or an unholy thing? most assuredly a holy one.”—“Yes.”—“But you say that the different parts of virtue are unlike one another. Then since justice is a just thing, and holiness is not like justice, is holiness an unjust thing? Since holiness is a holy thing, and justice is not like holiness, is justice an unholy thing? I should affirm the contrary; that justice and holiness are either the same, or very nearly alike, and that nothing is so holy as justice, nor so just as holiness.”—“It does not appear to me,” replied Protagoras, “so simple and obvious that justice and holiness are the same thing. There seems to me to be a difference; but let us call them the same thing, if you will.”—“I have no use,” said Socrates, “for ‘if you will.’ I do not desire to examine or confute an ‘if you will,’ or an ‘if you think so,’ but what you think, and what I think, leaving out the ‘if.’ ”—“No doubt,” said Protagoras, “justice and holiness are somewhat alike: all things, even black and white, hard and soft, and all other contraries, are alike in some respects. The parts of the face, which were the comparison we used, are somewhat alike. You might prove, in this way, all things to be alike. We must not call things like or unlike merely because they have some little points of resemblance or of difference.”—“Do you then consider holiness and justice to have only some little points of resemblance?”—“Not exactly so, but yet not as you Edition: current; Page: [53] seem to think.”—“Since this discussion seems to displease you, let us consider another part of what you said.”

Socrates, accordingly, dropping the subject of justice and holiness, but still endeavouring to drive Protagoras to an acknowledgment of the identity of all the virtues, now chooses as his example σωϕροσύνη. This word, which was in very popular use, and which conveyed to the mind of a Greek associations of the highest praise, is untranslatable into English, because we have no single word by which we are accustomed to express the same combination of qualities and of feelings. Names of what Locke calls mixed modes,[*] and especially the names of moral attributes, have very rarely any exact synonymes in another language. There are few things by which so much light would be thrown upon the ideas and feelings of a people, as by collecting from a large induction, and clearing up by an accurate analysis, the niceties of meaning of this important portion of their popular language. We should thus learn what moral and intellectual qualities the people in question were accustomed to think of in conjunction, and as forming part of one and the same character; and what, both in kind and in the degree of strength, were the habitual sentiments, which particular moral or intellectual qualities excited in their minds. How great would be the difficulty of making an ancient Greek understand accurately what the nations of modern Europe mean by honour; a Frenchman, what the English mean by the feelings of a gentleman; any foreigner, what we mean by respectability. It is equally difficult for an Englishman to enter into the conception of σωϕροσύνη, and throw himself into the feelings which that word excited in a Greek mind. Sometimes it seems as if it ought to be translated prudence, sometimes temperance, sometimes decency or decorousness, sometimes more vaguely, considerateness, sometimes good sense. The French word sagesse has nearly the same ambiguities, and expresses nearly the same mixture of moral and intellectual qualities.* The connecting tie among these various attributes seems to be this: The word σωϕροσύνη denoted, in the mind of a Greek, all the qualities or habits which were considered most contrary to licentiousness of morals and manners, in the largest sense of the term. In a state of society in which the control of law was as yet extremely weak, in which the restraints of opinion, even in the democratic states, acted with little force upon any but those who were ambitious of public honours, and in which everywhere (even at Athens, Edition: current; Page: [54] where person and property were far more effectually protected than in the other states of Greece) the unbridled excesses of all sorts committed by the youth of the higher classes, endangered the personal security and comfort of every man, it is not wonderful that self-restraint, and the habits of a thoughtful, regulated life, should be held in peculiarly high esteem.

The great difficulty to an English reader, of following an argumentative discussion which turns chiefly upon the meaning of a word having no synonyme in English, will scarcely in this instance be rewarded by the intrinsic merit of the discussion itself. Socrates forces Protagoras successively to admit, that σωϕροσύνη is the same thing with wisdom, that it is the same thing with justice, or at least inseparable from it, and is pressing him still further, when Protagoras flies off into a long speech, filled with illustrations from the material universe, on a topic very distantly connected with the subject which they were discussing. At the conclusion of this oration he was loudly applauded.

Socrates hereupon observed, that he had a short memory, and if a man made a long speech to him, he always forgot what it was about. As, therefore, if he were deaf, Protagoras would think it necessary to speak to him in a louder than his ordinary voice; so, as he was forgetful, he hoped that Protagoras would shorten his answers, and accommodate their length to his capacity. Protagoras demurred to this, and lost his temper; and there are several pages of excellent comic dialogue, at the end of which the matter is accommodated by the intervention of the bystanders; and it is agreed, at the instance of Socrates, that Protagoras should interrogate and Socrates answer, in order that Socrates might afford a specimen of what he thought the proper mode of answering. It turned out an unhappy specimen, however, for Socrates was led by it to make as long a speech as any in the dialogue.

Protagoras, who appeared anxious to change the subject, said, that he thought criticism on poetry to be one of the most important parts of instruction, and he would interrogate him concerning poetry, keeping, however, on the subject which they were discussing, that of virtue. Simonides, in one of his poems, says, “It is difficult to become a good man.”[*] In the same poem he afterwards expresses his dissent from a saying of Pittacus, Χαλεπὸν ἐσθλὸν ἔμμεναι, (it is difficult to be a good man). Is not this inconsistent with what he had himself affirmed in the previous passage?

Socrates pretends at first to be puzzled by this question, and calls in Prodicus, with his nice distinctions, to help him in finding a difference Edition: current; Page: [55] between γενέσθαι (to become) and εἰ̑ναι (to be), and in finding a double meaning for the word χαλεπὸν. After playing with the subject for some time, he gives his own account of the matter thus:

“The scope and object,” says he, “of the poem of Simonides, is obviously to overthrow the dictum of Pittacus, ‘It is difficult to be a good man.’ The wisdom of the ancients,” continues he, “was couched in these little pithy sentences, like those of the Lacedæmonians in our own day, of whose institutions and mode of education the sages of old were great admirers. This sentence of Pittacus, among others, was much quoted and praised, and Simonides thought that if he could demolish it, he would obtain the same sort of reputation which is obtained by defeating a celebrated athlete.”

Socrates then adduces some philological proofs, that the sense of Simonides was as follows:—It is difficult to be becoming a good man,—to be in progress towards it; but it is not, as Pittacus says, merely difficult to be a good man—it is impossible; the gods alone are capable of actually realizing the conception of goodness. He adduces subsequent passages of the poem in support of this interpretation. They are to this effect: “Every man upon whom an irretrievable misfortune falls, becomes bad. I will not seek for that impossible thing, an entirely blameless man: I praise and love those (willingly) who do not commit any thing evil.” “Here,” says Socrates, “he cannot mean, according to the ordinary collocation, I praise and love those who do not willingly commit any thing evil. Simonides was too wise to suppose that any man willingly commits evil: he knew that they who commit evil commit it involuntarily. He meant, I praise and love willingly those only, who do not commit any thing evil: meaning that a good man sometimes forces himself to praise and love those whom he does not love willingly; as for instance, an ill-doing parent, or his country when ill doing: and the poet accordingly adds,—‘I am satisfied when I find a man not wicked, nor entirely inactive, and well versed in civil justice. I will not blame him: there are enough of fools to blame.’ ”

Socrates having made this commentary upon the poem of Simonides, invites Protagoras to resume the former discussion; saying, that to converse on poems seems to him like the resource of men of vulgar minds, who, at their social meetings, being unable, from ignorance, to converse with their own voices, call in singing women and musical instruments, and use their voices in the room of conversation. But men such as most of us profess to be, do not need the voices of others, nor poets, whom we cannot interrogate about their meaning, and may dispute about it for ever. Let us rather discuss with each other, and make trial of our own powers, and of the possibility of our attaining truth. Having softened Protagoras by some compliments, and by disclaiming any design in conversing with him, except Edition: current; Page: [56] that of facilitating the attainment of truth, by seeking for it in conjunction with the wisest man whom he knows, he at length prevails upon Protagoras to make answer to his interrogations: and again asking Protagoras whether he adheres to his opinion, that wisdom, temperance, courage, justice, and holiness, are different things, he receives this answer,—That four of the five are very closely allied, but that courage is altogether different from the others, since there are many men who are extremely unwise, intemperate, unjust, and unholy, but highly courageous.

“By the courageous,” said Socrates, “you mean the daring?”—“Yes; those who will encounter what others are afraid to face.”—“Virtue is a beautiful thing, is it not?”—“The most beautiful of all things.”—“Is all virtue beautiful, or only some virtue?”—“All, and in the highest degree.”—“Who are they who dive daringly?”—“Divers.”—“Is it because they understand diving?”—“It is.”—“Who fight on horseback daringly? good riders or bad?”—“Good riders. In short,” said Protagoras, “those who know most are the most daring.”—“Are you acquainted with persons who, although they know nothing of all these matters, are yet extremely daring?”—“But too much so.”—“Are these to be deemed courageous?”—“Courage would not be a beautiful thing if they were, since they are out of their senses.”—“Then if those who dare without knowledge are not courageous, but are out of their senses, while the wise are not only daring but courageous, are not wisdom and courage by this account the same thing?”

“You have not,” said Protagoras, “correctly remembered what I said. I affirmed that the courageous were daring, but not that the daring were courageous: had you asked this, I should have answered, Not all of them; and you have not shown me to have been wrong in affirming that the courageous were daring. You conclude that wisdom is the same thing with courage, because those who know are more daring than those who know not: but in this manner you might prove bodily strength to be the same thing with courage; for the strong in body, it cannot be denied, are powerful; and those who know how to wrestle, being undoubtedly more powerful than those who do not, you might infer that they were more muscular. But I do not admit that the powerful are strong in body; only, that the strong in body are powerful. Power is not the same thing with bodily strength; power may proceed from knowledge, from passion, or from insanity; but bodily strength, from nature, and good acquired habits of body. In like manner, I say that daring is not the same thing with courage. Daring may proceed from scientific skill, from passion, or from insanity; courage, from nature, and good acquired habits of mind.”

Here commences the last, and most interesting and most philosophical, of the discussions in this dialogue:—On the true nature of courage; and, incidentally, on the proper test of virtue and of vice.

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“Do not some men,” asks Socrates, “live well, and others ill?”—“Without doubt.”—“Does a man live well if he lives in pain and vexation?”—“No.”—“But if he passes his life pleasantly to its very termination, he lives well?”—“He does so.”—“To live pleasantly then is good, to live unpleasantly is evil?”—“If he lives pleasantly by honest pleasures.”—“You call then some pleasant things evil, and some painful things good, like the generality of mankind?”—“I do.”—“But are not all pleasant things good, in so far as they are pleasant, and all painful things bad, in so far as painful?”—“I am not sure,” answered Protagoras, “whether it can be universally maintained, that all pleasant things are good, and all painful things evil. I think that I should answer in a manner more safe for the present discussion, and more conformable to the tenour of my life, if I were to say that some pleasant things are not good, some painful things not evil, and some are neither good nor evil.”—“Are not pleasant things those which cause, or which partake of, pleasure?”—“Undoubtedly.”—“And is not pleasure a good?”—“Let us inquire, and determine whether the good and the pleasant are identical.”—“Unfold, then, to me another part of your mind, and as we have seen how you are minded on the subject of the good and the pleasant, let us see whether your opinion on the subject of Knowledge is the same with that of the common of mankind. Knowledge, according to the vulgar opinion, is not a controlling and governing principle. Whatever may be a man’s knowledge, it is not that, they think, which governs him, but sometimes he is governed by anger, sometimes by pleasure, sometimes by pain, or love, or fear; and knowledge is dragged about by all these, and used by them as their slave. Is this your opinion; or do you, on the contrary, think that knowledge is a grand and ruling principle, which, wherever it exists, governs; and that he who knows what is good and evil is overmastered by nothing, but does that which his knowledge commands?”—“I think as you now say; and it would be disgraceful to me, if to any one, to maintain that wisdom and knowledge were not the most commanding of all human possessions.”—“You speak nobly and truly. But the common herd do not agree in your opinion; they say that many who know what is best, and have the power to practise it, do not; and if you ask why, the answer is, Being overpowered by pleasure, or by pain, or so forth.”—“Men say this, as they say many other foolish things.”—“Let us then instruct them what that state is, which they style, being overcome by pleasure.

“When you say, my good friends, that a man is overpowered by pleasure, you mean, that, being overpowered by delicious meats and drinks and other delightful objects of sense, knowing that these things are bad, he yet partakes of them?”—“Certainly.”—“Let us then ask them, In what view do you say that these things are bad? Is it because they are pleasant, and afford Edition: current; Page: [58] immediate delight; or because they afterwards occasion diseases and poverty? If they only conferred enjoyment, and produced none of these remote effects, would they be bad merely by causing enjoyment? They would surely answer, that these things are not bad for the immediate pleasure they afford, but for the diseases and want which flow from them in the end.”—“They would.”—“But diseases and want are painful things?”—“They are.”—“It seems then that these things are bad only because they produce pains, and deprive us of other pleasures?”—“It appears so.”—“And when, again, you say that there are good things which are painful, you mean such things as bodily exercises and the toils of military service, the painful operations of surgery, and the like?”—“Certainly.”—“And are these good, on account of the acute suffering with which they are immediately attended, or on account of the health and good habits of body, and the public safety, empire, and wealth, which are their ultimate consequence?”—“On account of the last.”—“They are good, therefore, because they terminate in pleasure, and in the prevention of other pains; and there is nothing on account of which things can be called good, except pleasure and pain.”—“Admitted.”—“Then pleasure is the same thing with good, and pain with evil: and if a pleasure is bad, it is because it prevents a greater pleasure, or causes a pain which exceeds the pleasure: if a pain is good, it is because it prevents a greater pain, or leads to a greater pleasure. For, if this were not so, you could point out some other end, with reference to which, things are good or evil: but you cannot.”—“Granted.”

“But if all this be true, (still addressing the vulgar,) how absurd, we may tell them, was the opinion you expressed, that a man often, although knowing evil to be evil, practises it nevertheless, being overpowered by pleasure? How ridiculous this is, will be plainly seen if we drop some of the terms which we have hitherto used, and since the pleasant and the good are but one thing, call them by one name; as likewise, the painful and the bad. You say, that knowing evil to be evil, a man yet practises it, being overpowered; by what? They cannot now say, by pleasure; since we have now another name for it, viz. good. Being overpowered by good! It is strange, and absurd, if a man practises evil, knowing it to be evil, being overpowered by good. If we ask whether the good is worthy or not worthy to overpower the evil, they must answer, Not worthy; for, otherwise, to be so overpowered would be no fault. How, then, we must answer, can good be unworthy to overpower evil, or evil to overpower good, but by reason of its smaller amount? It is clear, then, that what you call, to be overpowered by pleasure, is to choose a greater evil for the sake of a less good. If we now drop the words good and evil, and resume the words pain and pleasure, we find, in like manner, that he who is said to be overpowered by pleasure, is overpowered by a pleasure which is unworthy to overpower: and a pleasure Edition: current; Page: [59] is unworthy to overpower a pain, only by being less in amount. For, if it be said, The immediately pleasant differs greatly from the ultimately so, I answer, only in the degree of pleasure and pain. If we sum up the pleasure and the pain, and place them in opposite scales, we ought to choose the greater pleasure, or the less pain, whether they are immediate or remote.

“Now, is it not true that magnitudes appear smaller at a distance, greater when close at hand? that sounds appear louder when nearer, fainter when more distant, and the like?”—“Undoubtedly.”—“If, then, our well-doing depended upon our possessing great magnitudes, and avoiding small ones, what would our safety depend upon? Upon the faculty of seeing things merely as they appear, which leads to perpetual errors in the estimation of magnitudes; or upon the art of measurement, which teaches us to detect false appearances, and ascertain the real magnitudes of bodies?”—“Upon the latter.”—“If our safety in life depended upon always choosing the larger number, and eschewing the less, what would be our safeguard? surely knowledge: one of the kinds of knowledge of measurement, since it relates to excess and defect; and (since it relates to numbers), the knowledge of arithmetic?”—“Undoubtedly.”

“Since, then, it is upon the proper choice of pleasures and pains that our well doing in life depends, viz. upon choosing always the greater pleasure, or the smaller pain, what we here stand in need of is likewise measurement, since this also relates to excess and defect. But if it be measurement, it is art, and knowledge. What particular art and knowledge it is, we shall hereafter inquire; but that it is knowledge, we have clearly shown, in opposition to that opinion of the vulgar which we set out with combating.”—Protagoras, and all others who were present, assented, and it was agreed that doing evil always arose from ignorance, and doing well from knowledge.

“Since, then, no one chooses evil, knowing it to be evil, but mistakingly supposing it to be good, no one, who is compelled to choose between two evils, will knowingly choose the greatest.”—“Allowed.”—“But what is fear? Is it not the expectation of some evil?”—“It is.”—“Let Protagoras then defend himself, and show that he did not err, when he said that courage differed greatly from the other virtues. Did he not say, that the courageous were they who will encounter what others are afraid to face?”—“Yes.”—“Who will encounter not merely what the coward will encounter?”—“Certainly not.”—“The coward will encounter only what is safe; the courageous man what is formidable?”—“So men say.”—“They do: but do you say, that the courageous man will encounter what is formidable, knowing it to be formidable?”—“Your previous argument has shown this to be untenable.”—“It has: for, if we have reasoned correctly, no man encounters that which is formidable, knowing it to be so: for to be Edition: current; Page: [60] overpowered, and lose command of himself, we have shown to be a mere case of ignorance.”—“We have.”—“But all, whether brave or cowardly, are ready to encounter what they consider safe.”—“Very true: but the brave man and the coward differ even to contrariety in what they encounter. The brave man will encounter war, the coward will not.”—“War being a noble or an ignoble thing?”—“A noble thing.”—“And, if noble, good?”—“Certainly.”—“And, if noble and good, then, by our admission, pleasant?”—“Granted.”—“Are cowards, then, unwilling to do what they know to be the better and the more pleasant?”—“To admit this would be to contradict our former admissions.”—“But the courageous man; he too does what is better and more pleasant?”—“He does.”—“The courageous man, in short, is neither bold when he ought not, nor fearful when he ought not; cowards are both.”—“Yes.”—“But if cowards are bold, and are fearful, when they ought not, is it not from ignorance?”—“It is.”—“Then men are cowards from not knowing what is formidable?”—“They are.”—“But what makes men cowards, must be cowardice?”—“Agreed.”—“Then cowardice is the ignorance of what is and is not formidable; courage, being the contrary of cowardice, consists merely in the knowledge of what is, and what is not, formidable.”—Protagoras with much difficulty allowed that this consequence followed from what they had previously agreed upon.

Socrates finally remarked what a whimsical turn their discussion had taken. Protagoras and he had changed parts in the course of it. He had begun by denying that virtue could be taught, and yet had engaged himself in a long argument to prove that all virtue consisted in knowledge, and therefore could be taught; while Protagoras, who had begun by asserting that virtue is capable of being taught, had as strenuously laboured to show that it is not knowledge, and therefore not teachable. “Seeing all this,” said Socrates, “I am entirely thrown into confusion, and would be most eager to engage in further discussion, and clear up the question of what virtue is, and whether it can be taught.” Protagoras applauded his wish, and complimenting him on his powers of argument, said, “I consider myself not to be in other respects a bad man, and least of all an envious one. I have already said to many persons that I admire you above all whom I have met, especially above those of your own age; and I should not be surprised if you became one of those who are celebrated for their wisdom. We will pursue the discussion which you suggest another time; but now other business calls me away.” And thus the conversation terminated.

It is the object of these papers not to explain or criticise Plato, but to allow him to speak for himself. It will not, therefore, be attempted to suggest to the reader any judgment concerning the truth or value of any of the opinions which are thrown out in the above dialogue. Some of them are Edition: current; Page: [61] so far from being Plato’s own opinions, that the tendency of his mind seems to be decidedly adverse to them. For instance, the principle of utility,—the doctrine that all things are good or evil, by virtue solely of the pleasure or the pain which they produce,—is as broadly stated, and as emphatically maintained against Protagoras by Socrates, in the dialogue, as it ever was by Epicurus or Bentham. And yet, the general tone of Plato’s speculations seems rather to be favourable to the opinion that certain qualities of mind are good or evil in themselves, independently of all considerations of pleasure or pain. That such was the predominant tendency of his mind is, however, all that can be affirmed; it is doubtful whether he had adopted, on the subject of the original foundation of virtue, any fixed creed.

But we have already remarked, that when the subject-matter of the discussion is the nature and properties of knowledge in the abstract, the opinions of Plato seem never to vary, but to proceed from a mind completely made up. And of this the above dialogue is an exemplification. For, whatever are the particular arguments used as media of proof, there appears throughout the dialogue, as there does in the other works of Plato, a distinct aim towards this one point, the inseparableness, or rather absolute identity, of knowledge and virtue: an attempt to establish, that no evil is ever done (as he expresses it both in this dialogue and elsewhere) voluntarily; but always involuntarily, from want of knowledge, from ignorance of good and evil; that scientific instruction is the source of all that is most desirable for man; that whoever had knowledge to see what was good, would certainly do it; that morals are but a branch of intelligence. It may with some certainty be affirmed that this was Plato’s deliberate and serious creed.

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The Phædrus

[Monthly Repository, VIII (June, and Sept., 1834), 404-20, and 633-46. Not republished; signed “A.” Identified in JSM’s bibliography (after the general heading cited on 38 above) as “No II. The Phædrus: part 1 in the M.R. for June 1834 / : part 2 in the M.R. for Septb. 1834” (MacMinn, 37). In the copy in the Somerville College Library the Greek phrase οὐσία ὄντος οὐ̑σα is indicated in pencil for insertion as a note at 74.8.

For comments on this and the other translations, see the Introduction and Textual Introduction, xvii-xxviii and lxxx-lxxxiii above.]

this is the most miscellaneous of all the longer dialogues of Plato. The subjects on which it touches are very numerous, and are held together by a very slight thread of connexion. It is not a controversial dialogue, part of it being in long discourses, while even in the part which consists of conversations, Socrates does not combat the opinion of Phædrus, but states his own. None of the works of Plato tends more strongly to confirm the opinion, that the design of his speculations was rather to recommend a particular mode of inquiry, than to inculcate particular conclusions. Whatever in this dialogue has reference to methods of philosophizing, (which is the case with a great and the most instructive portion of it,) appears perfectly serious and in earnest, while in the remainder there is an appearance of sportiveness, and sometimes almost of mockery.

The dramatic merits of the Phædrus are very great. It may be pronounced a model of lively and familiar conversation between two intimate acquaintances, Athenian gentlemen in the best sense of the term, accomplished up to the highest standard of their age.

The dialogue derives an additional interest, from its containing, in the form of an allegory, those doctrines, or rather ideas, on the subject of love, which, by giving rise to the vulgar expression “Platonic love,” have made the name of Plato familiar to the ear of thousands, who otherwise might probably never have heard of his existence.

Socrates meets his friend Phædrus, coming from a visit to Lysias, the celebrated orator, and going out to walk. He asks Phædrus, what was the Edition: current; Page: [63] subject of discourse between him and Lysias; and Phædrus promises to give him an account of it if he will accompany him in his walk.

Socrates having complied, Phædrus tells him that Lysias had read to the company a written discourse on the subject of love, πειρώμενόν τινα τω̑ν καλω̑ν, οὐχ ὑπὸ ἐραστου̑ δέ, i. e. a letter, or speech, (whichever we choose to call it,) containing a proposal, of a nature which would commonly be called an amatory one, but without professing to be in love. This last circumstance, continues Phædrus, is the cream of the matter; for he maintains, that one who is not in love ought to be preferred, as to the matter in question, to one who is. “He is a fine fellow,” said Socrates: “I wish he would maintain that a poor man should be preferred to a rich man, an old man to a young, and so on, going through all the qualities which I and most others possess: his discourse would then be of great public utility.” He then presses Phædrus very earnestly to relate the discourse: Phædrus pretends want of memory, and coquets a little, whereupon Socrates rallies him, and says, that he knows he is dying to relate it, and sooner than lose the opportunity would end by compelling him to listen. Phædrus was preparing accordingly to give an account of the discourse, when Socrates asks him to let him see what he has got under his cloak; which turns out to be the very discourse itself. When the mirth and pleasantry excited by this discovery have subsided, they agree to read the manuscript together, as soon as they can find a convenient place for sitting down.

As they are walking along the banks of the Ilissus in quest of such a spot, Phædrus asks Socrates whether this is the place from which Boreas is said to have carried off Oreithya. “No,” replied Socrates, “it is a little lower down.”—“Do you believe this story,” asked Phædrus, “to be true?”—“It would be nothing extraordinary,” said Socrates, “if, like the wise men, I disbelieved it. I might then say, that the north wind blew this girl over the adjoining rocks while she was diverting herself in the meadows, and that for this reason she was said to have been carried off by Boreas. According to my notion, however, all these things are very entertaining, but they would make life exceedingly laborious and troublesome: for one would next have to explain the Centaurs, and then the Chimæra, and a whole crowd of Gorgons and Pegasuses; which if one were to disbelieve, and attempt to bring back to probability, it would be the business of a life. I have not leisure for these things, and I will tell you the reason: I am not yet able, according to the Delphic injunction, to know myself; and it appears to me very ridiculous, while ignorant of myself, to inquire into what I am not concerned in. I therefore leave these things alone, and believe with the vulgar; not searching into such matters, but into myself, and inquiring whether I am a beast, of a more complicated structure and more savage Edition: current; Page: [64] than Typhon, or a tamer and simpler animal, whose nature partakes of divinity.”

Saying these things, they arrive at the spot which Phædrus had selected for sitting down to read the manuscript. Socrates begins to look about him with wonder, and praises the beauty of the place. Phædrus laughs at him, and tells him that he is more like a stranger than a native, and never goes out of the town at all. Socrates begs to be pardoned for the omission; “for,” says he, “I like to learn: the fields and trees cannot teach me any thing, the men in the town can. But you have found a cure for this fault of mine: for, as they lead hungry cattle by carrying a branch of a tree before them, so, by holding a book in your hand, you might make me follow you all over Attica.”

After these preliminaries Phædrus reads the discourse; which is in the form of a love-letter, if that can be called a love-letter which disclaims love. The following is the substance, and almost an exact translation:

“You know how it is with me, and that I think this affair would be advantageous to us: but I claim, not to be rejected because I do not love you. A lover, when his desire ceases, repents of all that he has done for you: the other has no cause for repentance, for the good he does you was not done from irresistible impulse, but from choice, and deliberation. A lover, too, reckons up the benefits he has conferred upon you, the trouble and anxiety he has undergone for your sake, the damage which he has suffered in his private affairs by reason of his love, and thinks that by all this he has long ago made a sufficient return to you for your favours; but he who does not love, can neither pretend to have neglected his own concerns on account of his love, nor to have undergone labour or anxiety, nor to have quarrelled with his relations, so that nothing is left but to be eager and assiduous in doing whatever will give you pleasure. Again, if it is a reason for valuing a lover, that he is more attached to the person whom he loves than to any person else, and is ready both by word and deed to incur the enmity of others, in order to gratify the object of his love, it clearly follows that if he should afterwards love another, he will do as much for that other, and will be willing, for the gratification of the other, to quarrel with his first love. And how can it be reasonable to grant such a favour to one who is under a calamity, which they who know what it is will not even attempt to cure? for the men themselves confess that they are in an unsound state of mind, and know their own folly, but cannot conquer it. How then can they, when they come to their senses, judge that to be well done which they determined upon when in such a state? Further, if you select from among your lovers even the very best, your choice must be made from a small number; but if you choose from among all persons whatever, except lovers, the one who is most suitable to yourself, there is a much greater chance of your finding a person deserving of your attachment.

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“If, moreover, you stand in awe of common opinion, and fear lest if it be known it should be a reproach to you; a lover, expecting to be thought as happy by others as he thinks himself, cannot restrain himself from boasting, and making a display to the world that he has not laboured in vain: but he who is not in love has command of himself, and can choose what is really best, in preference to the mere opinion of men. Many persons must unavoidably see and hear of the lovers who run after you, and if you are even seen talking with them, it is supposed that there either is, or shortly will be, an intrigue between you: but from your associating with a person who is not in love, no such inference will be drawn, because people are aware that you must associate with somebody, either from friendship or for some other pleasure. Further, if you are alarmed by a consideration of the instability of all attachments, and by the reflection that under any other circumstances a quarrel would be an equal misfortune to both, but after you have given away what you most value, it is a most severe calamity to you; then you have reason to be more especially fearful of lovers: for they are most easily offended, and consider the slightest thing an injury to them. For which reason they wish to divert the object of their attachment from all other society; fearing those who have wealth, lest they should outbid them in money; those who have instruction, lest they should outshine them in intellect; and, in short, fearing all who have any desirable possession or quality whatever. Wishing, therefore, to alienate you from all such persons, they leave you without friends; and if you endeavour to make friends, and so provide better for your own interest, you will provoke them. But those who are not in love, but have obtained their wishes on account of their good qualities, are not jealous of those who seek your society, but, on the contrary, dislike those who care not for it, thinking that you are scorned by the latter, but benefited by the former; so that you are more likely to make friends than enemies through their means.

“Lovers, moreover, frequently desire your person before they are acquainted with your manners and character, so that it is uncertain whether they will continue attached to you when their desires are at an end: but those who are not in love, but have obtained your favours in consequence of previous friendship, are not likely to be less your friends in consequence of the favours they have received, but rather to consider those favours as a pledge of future friendship. And, moreover, it is more for your mental improvement to comply with my wishes, than with those of a lover; for lovers praise all you say or do, however unreasonable, partly from fear of your displeasure, and partly because their own judgment is warped by their desire. For such is the effect of love: if unfortunate, it makes that a source of pain which gives no pain to other persons; if fortunate, it makes the lover applaud, in the person he loves, what is really no cause for satisfaction: so Edition: current; Page: [66] that lovers deserve our pity far more than our envy. But if you yield yourself to me, I shall not serve you for present pleasure, but for future good; not over-mastered by love, but retaining command over myself; not vehemently provoked by slight causes, but tardily excited to moderate resentment even by great provocations; pardoning all involuntary offence, and endeavouring to dissuade you from that which is voluntary: these are the signs of what will be a lasting friendship. But if you suppose that there cannot be a strong attachment, save from love, consider that if that were true, we should not love our children, nor our parents, nor possess faithful friends, who have become so from other causes than sexual desire. It may be said that you should confer favours upon those most who need them most. But, if this were true, it would follow that you should select for the objects of your benefits, not the best, but the most destitute; and that in your entertainments you should invite, not your friends, but beggars and the hungry: for they will come the most eagerly, and will be most delighted and most grateful, and will invoke innumerable blessings upon your head.

“But the persons fittest to receive favours are not they who most need them, but they who can make the best return: not lovers only, but all who are worthy; not they who will merely enjoy you during the season of your beauty, but they who when you grow old will continue their benefits; not they who will ostentatiously display their successes to others, but they who will preserve a modest silence; not they who will pay court to you for a short time, but they who will remain your friends during your whole life; not they who when their desires have ceased, will look out for an excuse to quarrel with you, but they whose excellence will then be most perceived, when their pleasures are over. Remember, then, all these things; and consider that lovers are continually remonstrated with by their friends, as giving in to an evil practice, but he who loves not, was never for that reason censured by any friend, as consulting ill for his own affairs. You may perhaps ask me, whether I advise you to gratify all who do not love you? But neither do I think that a lover would bid you comply with the desires of all your lovers, for it would diminish the value of the favour to him who receives it, and would increase the difficulty of concealment. Now, harm ought not to arise to either party from the connexion, but advantage to both.”

Having read this discourse, Phædrus asks Socrates whether he does not admire it exceedingly, both in other respects, and for the excellence of the language? Socrates replies, “Wonderfully so: for I was looking at you all the while, and you seemed so delighted, that I, thinking you know more about these things than I do, was delighted along with you.” Phædrus begged that there might be a truce with jesting, and that Socrates would tell him seriously, whether he thought there was any other man in Greece who Edition: current; Page: [67] could say so much, and all of it so excellent, on the same subject? “What!” said Socrates: “must we praise the discourse for the value of the thoughts, as well as for the language? For my part, I only attended to it as a specimen of composition, for I did not suppose that Lysias himself would imagine that he was equal to the proper treatment of the subject. And, moreover, he seemed to me to repeat the same thing two or three times over, as if he had not a very great deal to say: perhaps he did not mind this, but only desired to show that he could say the very same thing in several ways, and always excellently.”

Phædrus did not like this mode of treating the discourse, and persisted that nothing which was fit to be said had been left out, and that nobody could say any thing more or better on the same subject, after what Lysias had said. This Socrates declared he could not concede; or many old writers, both men and women, would rise up and bear witness against him. “Who?” asked Phædrus.—“I cannot say,” rejoined Socrates, “but I must have read something in Sappho, or Anacreon, or some other writer, for I find myself quite full of matter which I could repeat to you on the subject, nowise inferior to what you have just now read. Knowing my own ignorance, I am certain that I could not have thought of all this by myself, I must therefore have learnt it from somebody else, but from my silliness I have even forgotten from whom.” Phædrus insisted that he should prove his assertion, by speaking as much on the same subject as was in the manuscript, and better in quality. “Do not suppose,” said Socrates, “that I affirm Lysias to have missed the mark altogether, or pretend that it is possible to treat the subject omitting every thing which he has said. How, do you suppose, would it be possible to argue that one who is not in love should be favoured in preference to a lover, abstaining altogether from praising reasonableness and sanity of mind, and from blaming the want of it. This, any one who treats the subject cannot avoid saying, and nothing could be said to the purpose without it. But this kind of things must be taken for granted, and of such we must not praise the invention, but the arrangement; while of those things which, instead of being impossible to miss, are difficult to find, we may praise the invention and the arrangement too.”—Phædrus assents, and says he will allow him to make use of that one principle of Lysias, that a lover is in a less sane state of mind than one who is not in love: but insists that he shall compose a discourse, all the rest of which shall be longer and better than the rest of the discourse of Lysias. Socrates now pretends to have been in jest, and after playfully refusing for some time, which gives rise to some very amusing conversation, he in a mock heroic manner invokes the Muses, and begins to relate the following as a discourse actually held on an occasion of the kind supposed:

“There is but one mode of beginning for those who would deliberate well; Edition: current; Page: [68] viz. to know what the thing, about which they are to deliberate, really is. The vulgar are not aware that they are ignorant of the essence of every thing: conceiving themselves, therefore, to know the inmost nature of the thing which they are about to discuss, they do not come to a mutual explanation respecting it at the commencement of their inquiry, but pass it over, and proceed to employ merely probable arguments. That we may not fall into the error which we condemn in others, let us—who have to inquire whether a lover, or one who is not a lover, should be preferably indulged—begin by ascertaining what love is, and what is its operation; that we may keep this in view, when we subsequently examine whether it produces good or hurt.

“That love is a kind of desire, is clear to all; on the other hand, that persons who are not in love may have physical desire, we know. How then do we distinguish the lover from him who is not in love? We must consider that in each of us there are two principles* which lead and govern us; the one, a natural desire for pleasure; the other, an acquired judgment, which seeks that which is best. These two principles sometimes are in harmony with each other, sometimes in opposition; and in the latter case sometimes one is the stronger, sometimes the other. Now, Judgment, which guides us, by means of reason, to the best, when it is the superior in strength, receives the name of Prudence: Desire, which drags us irrationally to pleasure, when it governs us, is called Incontinence. Incontinence, again, has many names, for there are many species of it; and whichsoever of these predominates, gives its own name, and that an opprobrious one, to the person whom it rules. If the desire of the pleasures of the palate predominates over reason, and over the other desires, it is called gluttony, and the person who is affected by it is termed a glutton: if the desire of intoxication similarly preponderates, we know what name it receives. We now see what that desire is, respecting which we are inquiring. The desire which (being independent of reason, and being victorious over right judgment) tends towards the pleasure of beauty, is called love.”

Here Socrates interrupts himself, and jocularly pretends to be inspired by the deities of the spot; “what I am now speaking,” says he, “is not far removed from dithyrambics.”

“We have now,” continues he, “settled what the thing is, about which we are speaking; and keeping this in view, we can inquire what benefit or hurt Edition: current; Page: [69] arises respectively from a lover, and from one who is not a lover, to the person who complies with their desires. Now, he who is governed by desire, and the slave of pleasure, must of necessity attempt to make the object of his love a source of as much pleasure to him as possible. But, to a person who is in an unsound state, that is pleasant which opposes to him no resistance; that which is his equal or his superior, is disagreeable to him. A lover, therefore, cannot endure that the object of his passion should be either superior or equal to him: he will strive all he can to make it inferior and feebler. Now, the ignorant are feebler than the wise; the cowardly, than the brave; he who is unable to speak, than an orator; a slow person, than a ready one. A lover, therefore, must of necessity rejoice that the object of his love should labour under these disadvantages, and must do all he can to superinduce them if they do not already exist, or else he will be deprived of what gives him immediate pleasure. He must of necessity be jealous; and the object of his love will suffer great evil from him, by being withheld from much useful intercourse; and above all, from that which produces the greatest wisdom—philosophy. From this, a lover must above all things withhold the person whom he loves, lest, in consequence of it, he himself should be despised; and must endeavour all he can to make that person be ignorant of every thing, and by depending for every thing upon the lover, be a source of the greatest amount of pleasure to him, and of evil to the beloved object itself.

“If a man who is in love, is so ill a superintendent and associate in the affairs of the mind, he is not less so in what concerns the body. He who prefers the pleasant to the good, will prefer a habit of body soft and relaxed, bred up, not in the clear sunshine, but in the shade, unused to labour and hardy exercise, accustomed only to delicate and effeminate living; such a state of body, in short, as in all great exigencies would give confidence to an enemy, fear and anxiety to a friend, and to the lover himself.

“Every one, but a lover especially, must see, that he would wish the person he loves to be destitute of all which is most dear, most affectionate, and most divine: to be deprived of father, mother, relations, and friends, lest they should censure and obstruct the intercourse with him; to be destitute of property, those who possess it being neither so easily obtained, nor, when obtained, so easily managed: to be unmarried, childless, and to remain for as long a period as possible undomesticated and without a home, in order to remain as long as possible subservient to his pleasures. Again; there are many other things which are in themselves bad; but in most of them there is an admixture of immediate pleasure: A flatterer is a most dangerous and mischievous animal, but nature has mixed up in him, a pleasure not entirely illiberal; a courtezan, and many other of the most pernicious things, are in daily intercourse the most pleasant; but a lover is Edition: current; Page: [70] not only pernicious, but the most unpleasant of all things in daily intercourse. For it is an old saying, that persons of the same age like one another: equality of age, producing similarity of tastes, causes friendship, by reason of resemblance: but even of their intimacy, there is such a thing as satiety; and moreover, in every thing, and to all persons, what they cannot get rid of, becomes a burthen. Now, both these are inconveniences which are suffered above all from a lover; who is likely to be much superior in age to the object of his love, and, hurried by an irresistible impulse, is so assiduous in running after and engrossing the person whom he loves, that he can in no way be got rid of.

“And not only is he thus disagreeable and detrimental while he loves, but unfaithful when he has ceased to love. He was only endured in the first instance, on account of his many promises and vows of future benefits. When, however, these are to be fulfilled, he is changed, and has recovered his reason. The person whom he loves, not knowing this, reminds him of his past words and deeds: he is ashamed to say that he has changed, and knows not how, when in his senses, to perform the promises which he made and swore to when in a state of temporary madness, lest, acting as he did before, he should again be what he then was. He therefore flies off from his promises, and from the society of the person whom he formerly loved; who has then the ungrateful task of pursuing, and resenting; having been unfortunately ignorant that the attachment of a lover is not a feeling of good will, but an appetite which seeks merely its own gratification, and that the love of a lover is like that of the wolf to the lamb.”

Here Socrates breaks off his discourse: and Phædrus tells him, that as yet he has only done half what he had undertaken; he has only censured the lover, and not pointed out the good which arises from an intimacy with one who is not a lover; why therefore does he stop? Socrates jocularly answers, “Did you not perceive that I had already got beyond dithyrambics, and into heroics, and that too, when vituperating,” (for which purpose the poets generally employed the dithyrambic measure). “What do you suppose would happen if I were to commence a panegyric? I should be in a state of absolute enthusiasm; completely inspired by the nymphs of the place, to whose influence you have premeditatedly exposed me. I will be satisfied with saying in one word, that by reversing all that we have said against the lover, you will find all the good qualities which distinguish the other.”

Having discoursed to the above effect, Socrates pretended to be going away, lest Phædrus, whom he rallies upon his extreme fondness for an argument, should compel him to make another discourse; but presently he affects to perceive what he calls the divine and customary sign, which, he says, is continually stopping him when he is about to undertake any thing; Edition: current; Page: [71] and to hear a voice, which will not allow him to depart, until he has expiated an offence which he has committed against the divinity. “I am a prophet,” he continues; “not a very good one, but (like a man who writes a bad hand-writing) good enough for my own use. The soul is in some sort a prophet; and mine pricked me while I was speaking, and made me even then afraid that I was offending the gods for the sake of honour among men; and I now perceive what my offence is. You have yourself brought, and have made me utter, two most horrible and impious discourses. Is not Love the son of Venus, and one of the gods?”—“So it is said,” replied Phædrus.—“Not by Lysias, however,” rejoins Socrates, “nor by your speech, which you by your incantations contrived to utter through my lips. If Love is, as he is, a god, or something divine, he cannot be anything evil. Both our speeches, however, represented him as such. I therefore must purify myself; and, as Stesichorus, who had been struck blind like Homer for calumniating Helen, recovered his sight by making a recantation, I will make my Palinodia, more wisely, before I have yet suffered anything from the anger of the god whom I have maligned. Do you not think, indeed, that any person of a generous and a civilized disposition, who either loves or has loved, if he were to hear us saying that lovers contract strong enmities from slight causes, and behave jealously and injuriously towards the object of their love, would suppose that we had been bred up at sea, and had never seen any liberal and generous attachment; and would be far indeed from admitting the justice of the censures which we have cast upon Love?”—“Perhaps,” said Phædrus, “he would.”—“For this reason,” said Socrates, “and for fear of the god himself, I will endeavour to efface my reproaches by a panegyric; and I would advise Lysias to make haste and do the same.

“It is a fallacy to maintain that one who loves not, should be favoured in preference to a lover, because the one is in his senses, and the other not. If madness were always and of necessity an evil, this would be very just; but it happens that the very greatest of blessings come to us through madness; madness given, it is true, by the divinity. The prophetesses at Delphi and Dodona, and elsewhere, have rendered to Greece, both individually and publicly, when frantic, the greatest services, but none that I know of when in their sober senses. There would be no end to the enumeration of those who have foretold future events correctly, prophesying by a frenzy inspired from heaven. Those ancients who invented our language, certainly thought madness no disgrace, or they would not have given to the noblest of arts, that of predicting the future, the name of μανική (madness,) which we have ignorantly corrupted into μαντική, (prophesy). In like manner, the inquiry into the future, when conducted by those who are in their senses, by observation of the flight of birds, and other signs, received from the Edition: current; Page: [72] ancients (to indicate that it operated by means of thought and intellect) the name οἰονοϊστικη,* which the moderns have corrupted into οἰωνιστική, (the science of omens). In so much then as the prophetic art excels that of augury and omens, in so much do the ancients testify that the madness which comes from God, excels the wisdom which comes from men. Many again, on whom, by the anger of the gods, great calamities and diseases have fallen, have been cured by the supervention of madness, which operating upon them in a manner similar to divination, indicated to them the proper prayers and adorations of the gods, by which they were purified, and became free from their previous evils. A third kind of madness is that, which, coming from the Muses, awakens the mind, and stirs it up to pour itself forth in odes and other kinds of poetry; and by adorning the deeds of the ancients, instructs their posterity. For he who, without madness inspired by the Muses, knocks at the door of poetry, thinking that he can become an adequate poet by mere art, fails of his purpose, and his poetry is thrown into the shade by that of the inspired madmen.

“Such, and yet more, are the good works which proceed from madness inspired by the gods. Let us not, therefore, be disturbed by any argument which inculcates the preference of a sane above an insane mind. Let us first require proof, that love is not sent by the gods, for the benefit both of the lover and of the person loved. We ourselves will show that, on the contrary, this kind of madness is given by the gods for the greatest possible felicity of mankind. The proof will be very unsatisfactory to merely clever people, but convincing to the really wise. We must, with this view, first institute an inquiry concerning the soul, both of men and of gods; what are its affections, and what its acts.

“All souls are immortal; for that which is always in motion must be immortal. (That which is set in motion by something else, may cease to be moved, and may therefore cease to live. But that which is self-moving, as it never quits itself, never ceases moving, but is the source and beginning of motion to all other things which are moved. But that which is a beginning, is not itself generated: a thing which is generated may be traced up to a beginning, but that beginning would not be the beginning if it could be traced to anything prior. Not being generated, it is not susceptible of destruction; for, if the beginning were destroyed, every thing which is generated from it would be destroyed with it; if that which is self-moving were destroyed, since it is the cause of all other motion, there would be no motion whatever.) Since, therefore, that which is self-moving is immortal, immortality is the essence of life; for, all bodies which require to be moved Edition: current; Page: [73] from without, are termed lifeless; those which are moved from within are said to have life. Life, therefore, is the principle of self-motion, and is consequently ungenerated, and immortal. Life is immortal; or in other words, the soul is immortal.*

“Respecting the immortality of the soul, this is sufficient. About its form, we shall speak as follows. What it is, would be the matter of a long inquiry, and would require divine aid; but to show what it resembles, is in human power, and requires not so long an exposition. We may compare it to a chariot, with a pair of winged horses and a driver. In the souls of the gods, the horses and the driver are entirely good: in other souls, only partially so, one of the horses excellent, the other vicious. The business, therefore, of the driver, is extremely difficult and troublesome.

“Let us now attempt to show how some living beings came to be spoken of as mortal, and others as immortal. All souls are employed in taking care of the things which are inanimate; and travel about the whole of heaven, in various forms. Now, when the soul is perfect, and has wings, it is carried aloft, and helps to administer the entire universe; but the soul which loses its wings, drops down until it catches hold of something solid, in which it takes up its residence; and having a dwelling of clay, which seems to be self-moving on account of the soul which is in it, the two together are called an animal, and mortal. The phrase, immortal animal, arises not from any correct understanding, but from a fiction: never having seen, nor being able to comprehend a deity, men conceived an immortal being, having a body as well as a soul, united together for all eternity. Let these things, then, be as it pleases God; but let us next state from what cause a soul becomes unfledged.

“It is the nature of wings to lift up heavy bodies towards the habitation of the gods; and of all things which belong to the body, wings are that which most partakes of the divine. The divine includes the beautiful, the wise, the good, and every thing of that nature. By these, the wings of the soul are nourished and increased; by the contraries of these, they are destroyed.

“Jupiter, and the other gods, divided into certain bands, travel about in their winged chariots, ordering and attending to all things, each according to his appointed function; and all who will, and who can, follow them. When they go to take their repasts, they journey up hill, towards the summit of the vault of heaven. The chariots of the gods, being in exact equilibrium, and therefore easily guided, perform this journey easily, but all others with difficulty; for one of the two horses, being of inferior nature, Edition: current; Page: [74] when he has not been exceedingly well trained by the driver, weighs down the vehicle, and impels it towards the earth.

“The souls which are called immortal, (viz. the gods,) when they reach the summit, go through, and standing upon the convex outside of heaven, are carried round and round by its revolution, and see the things which lie beyond the heavens. No poet has ever celebrated these super-celestial things, nor ever will celebrate them as they deserve. This region is the seat of Existence itself:* Real Existence, colourless, figureless, and intangible Existence, which is visible only to Mind, the charioteer of the soul, and which forms the subject of Real Knowledge. The minds of the gods, which are fed by pure knowledge, and all other thoroughly well-ordered minds, contemplate for a time this universe of ‘Being’ per se, and are delighted and nourished by the contemplation, until the revolution of the heavens bring them back to the same point. In this circumvolution, they contemplate Justice itself, Temperance itself, and Knowledge, not that knowledge which has a generation or a beginning, not that which exists in a subject which is any of what we term beings, but that Knowledge which exists in Being in general; in that which really Is. After thus contemplating all real existences, and being nourished thereby, these souls again sink into the interior of the heavens, and repose.

“Such is the life of the gods. Of other souls, those which best follow the gods, and most resemble them, barely succeed in lifting the head of the charioteer into the parts beyond the heavens, and being carried round by the circumvolution, are enabled with difficulty to contemplate this universe of Self-Existences. Others, being encumbered by the horses, sometimes rising and sometimes sinking, are enabled to see some Existences only. The remainder only struggle to elevate themselves, and by the unskilfulness of their drivers, coming continually into collision, are lamed, or break their wings, and after much labour go away without accomplishing their purpose, and return to feed upon mere Opinion.

“The motive of this great anxiety to view the super-celestial plain of Truth, is, that the proper food of the soul is derived from thence, and in particular, the wings, by which the soul is made light and carried aloft, are nourished upon it. Now it is an inviolable law that any soul, which, placing itself in the train of the gods, and journeying along with them, obtains a sight of any of these self-existent Realities, remains exempt from all harm until the next circumvolution; and if it can contrive to effect this every time, it is for ever safe and uninjured. But if, being unable to elevate itself to the necessary height, it altogether fails of seeing these Realities, and, being weighed down by vice and oblivion, loses its wings and falls to the earth, it Edition: current; Page: [75] enters into and animates some Body. It never enters, at the first generation, into the body of a brute animal; but that which has seen most, enters into the body of a person who will become a lover of wisdom, or a lover of beauty, or a person addicted to music, or to love: the next in rank, into that of a monarch who reigns according to law, or a warrior, or a man of talents for command: the third, into a person qualified to administer the state, and manage his family affairs, or carry on a gainful occupation: the fourth, into a person fond of hard labour and bodily exercises, or skilled in the prevention and curing of bodily diseases: the fifth, into a prophet, or a teacher of religious ceremonies: the sixth, into a poet, or a person addicted to any other of the imitative arts: the seventh, into a husbandman or an artificer: the eighth, into a sophist, or a courtier of the people: the ninth, into a despot and usurper. And in all these different fortunes they who conduct themselves justly will obtain next time a more eligible lot; they who conduct themselves unjustly, a worse.

“The soul never returns to its pristine state in less than 10,000 years, for its wings do not grow in a shorter time; except only the soul of one who philosophizes with sincerity, or who loves with philosophy. Such souls, after three periods of 1000 years, if they choose thrice in succession this kind of life, recover their wings in the three thousandth year, and depart. The other souls, at the termination of their first life, are judged, and having received their sentence, are either sent for punishment into the places of execution under the earth, or are elevated to a place in heaven, in which they are rewarded according to the life which they led while here. In either case they are called back on the thousandth year, to choose or draw lots for a new life. Then a human soul often passes into the body of a beast, and that of a beast, if it has ever been human, passes again into the body of a man. For a soul which has never seen the Truth at all, cannot enter into the human form, it being necessary that man should be able to apprehend things according to kinds,* which kinds are composed of many perceptions combined by reason into one. Now this mode of apprehending is neither more nor less than the recollecting of those things which the soul formerly saw when it journeyed along with the gods, and, disregarding what we now call beings, applied itself to the apprehension of Real Being. It is for this reason that the soul of the philosopher is re-fledged in a shorter period than others: for it constantly, to the best of its power, occupies itself in trying to recollect those things which the gods contemplated, and by the contemplation of which they are gods; by which means, being lifted out of, and above, Edition: current; Page: [76] human cares and interests, he is, by the vulgar, considered as mad, while in reality he is inspired.

“It will now appear, on consideration, that the fourth kind of madness of which we were before speaking, the madness of one who is a lover of beauty, is the best and most beneficial of all the enthusiasms which are inspired from heaven. For, as we have already said, every human soul has actually seen the Real Existences, or it would not have come into a human shape. But it is not easy for all of them to call to mind what they then saw: those especially, which saw that region for a short time only, and those which, having fallen to the earth, were so unfortunate as to be turned to injustice, and consequent oblivion of the sacred things which were seen by them in their prior state. Few, therefore, remain who are adequate to the recollection of those things. These few, when they see here any image or resemblance of the things which are there, receive a shock like a thunderbolt, and are in a manner taken out of themselves; but from deficiency of comprehension, they know not what it is which so affects them. Now, the likenesses which exist here of Justice and Temperance, and the other things which the soul honours, do not possess any splendour; and a few persons only, with great difficulty, by the aid of dull, blunt, material organs, perceive the terrestrial likenesses of those qualities, and recognise them. But Beauty was not only most splendid when it was seen by us forming part of the heavenly procession or quire, but here also the likeness of it comes to us through the most acute and clear of our senses, that of sight, and with a splendour which no other of the terrestrial images of super-celestial existences possess. They, then, who are not fresh from heaven, or who have been corrupted, are not vehemently impelled towards that Beauty which is aloft, when they see that upon earth which is called by its name; they do not, therefore, venerate and worship it, but give themselves up to physical pleasure, after the manner of a quadruped. But they who are fresh from those divine objects of contemplation, and who have formerly contemplated them much, when they see a godlike countenance or form, in which celestial beauty is imaged and well imitated, are first struck with a holy awe, and then, approaching, venerate this beautiful object as a god, and, if they were not afraid of the reputation of too raving a madness, would erect altars, and perform sacrifices to it. And the warmth and genial influence derived from the atmosphere which beauty generates around itself, entering through the eyes, softens and liquefies the inveterate induration, which coats and covers up the parts in the vicinity of the wings, and prevents them from growing: this being melted, the wings begin to germinate and increase, and this, like the growing of the teeth, produces an itching and irritation which disturbs the whole frame of the soul. When, therefore, by the contemplation of the beautiful object, the induration is Edition: current; Page: [77] softened, and the wings begin to shoot, the soul is relieved from its pain and rejoices; but when that object is absent, the liquefied substance hardens again, and closes up the young shoots of the wings, which consequently boil up and throb, and throw the soul into a state of turbulence and rage, and will neither allow it to sleep nor remain at rest, until it can again see the beautiful object, and be relieved. For this reason it never willingly leaves that object, but for its sake deserts parents and brothers and friends, and neglects its patrimony, and despises all established usages and decorums on which it valued itself before. And this affection is Love.

“Now, those who in their former state followed in the train of Jupiter, can, when seized by love, more patiently bear the burthens occasioned by it; but those who served and followed Mars, when they fall in love, and think themselves wronged by the person whom they love, are ready to resort to violence, and immolate both the loved person and themselves. And every other soul, both in its loves and in all its other pursuits, follows to the best of its power the example and model of the god on whom it formerly attended. But those who attended on Jupiter seek to have for the object of their love one who resembles Jupiter in soul—one who is a philosopher, and fitted by nature to lead; and strive all they can that the object of their love, if not so already, shall become so. And if they themselves have not before applied to study, they do so, and endeavouring to image to their recollection the god to whom they were attached, model their habits and dispositions, as far as is in human power, from him. And ascribing this change in themselves to the object of their love, they become still fonder of that object, and communicate to it a share of what they themselves draw from Jupiter, and make the beloved person resemble as much as possible the god whom they imitate. In like manner, those who had been attendants upon Juno look out for a person of a regal disposition; those of Apollo, and all the other gods, similarly look out for an object of love who is as like their god as possible, and if not so already they endeavour that it shall become so.

“We formerly distinguished the soul into three parts, two of them resembling horses, the third a charioteer. One of these horses we said was good, the other vicious. The better of the two is an upright noble animal, a lover of honour, sensible to shame, and obeying the word of the driver without the lash. The other is crooked, headlong, fiery, insolent, deaf, and with difficulty yielding even to whip and spur.* Now, when the driver is inflamed by love and desire for some beautiful human being, the tractable Edition: current; Page: [78] horse holds himself back, and restrains himself all he can from attempting any sensual enjoyment of the beloved object; but the other, setting whip and rein at defiance, struggles on, and compels his companion and the driver to rush towards the desired object, and consent to unchaste intercourse. When they come into its presence, and the charioteer, beholding it, is reminded of the ideal beauty which he has formerly seen, and sees it with his mind’s eye joined with Continence and Purity in the super-celestial region, he is struck dumb, and falling backward in adoration, draws back the reins so violently, that both horses are forced back upon their haunches, the one willingly and unresisting, the other with a great struggle. After many vain attempts, in which the vicious beast suffers great torture, he is at length subdued and humbled, and when he comes into the presence of the beloved object, is so overcome with fear as to be easily governed.

“The mind of the lover being brought into this state, his constant attendance upon, and as it were worship of, the beloved object, in time inspires the latter with a corresponding affection: and the same stream of beauty and desire which has entered into the soul of the lover through his eyes, rebounds as from a wall when he is full, and enters into the person from whom it at first proceeded, in whom it in like manner melts the induration about the roots of the wings, and enables them to sprout. Thus both partake of love; and if, by orderly habits of life, and by philosophy, the better part of their nature retains the ascendency, they lead a happy and united life, retaining command over themselves, being in strict subjection so far as regards the vicious part of their souls, and in full freedom in respect of the virtuous part. And after their death, being light and winged, and having achieved one of the three great victories, they have accomplished the greatest good which either human wisdom or divine madness can confer upon a human creature. But if their mode of life is more rude, and they are attached to the pursuit of honour rather than of wisdom, perhaps in a moment of forgetfulness the incontinent horse of each of them, finding their souls unguarded, may bring them together, and cause them to accomplish what common persons celebrate as the summit of happiness. And this having been done, they subsequently persevere in the same intercourse, but sparingly, as doing what is not approved by the whole of their minds. These persons, too, are dear to one another, although less so than those of whom we formerly spoke: and both while their love continues and when it has ceased, they consider themselves as having given and received the greatest of pledges, which it would be impious to violate by becoming alienated. When these persons die, they quit the body, without wings indeed, but having them in an incipient state, and they have therefore no trifling reward for their love; for those who have once commenced the journey towards heaven cannot again descend into the subterranean darkness, Edition: current; Page: [79] but live happily together in the clear light, and when they recover their wings, recover them together.

“Such is the attachment of a lover. But that of a person who is not a lover, being a mere compound of mortal prudence, is sparing and no more than mortal in what it dispenses: it produces in the soul of the person who is the object of attachment, nothing but illiberality,* which the vulgar praise as virtue. A soul so affected will be tossed about for 9000 years, on the earth and under it.”

Here Socrates terminates his long discourse, winding it up by a prayer to Love, to whom he offers the discourse as a Palinodia; and whose pardon he implores for having blasphemed against him, and lays the whole blame upon Lysias, whose mind he beseeches the god to turn to philosophy.

Phædrus warmly applauded this discourse, which he allowed to be greatly superior to that of Lysias. “I am afraid,” said he, “that Lysias would appear but poor, even if he attempted to write another speech against it. And, by the way, one of our politicians the other day inveighing against him, reproached him through the whole of his invective with being a λογογράϕος, or speech-writer. Perhaps, therefore, he may, from care of his own estimation, give up the practice.” Socrates laughed, and told Phædrus that he mistook his friend if he thought him so fearful of censure. “So you think,” he added, “that the man who thus reproached him meant what he said?”—“It seemed so,” answered Phædrus, “and you are yourself aware that the men of importance and gravity in a state are ashamed to write speeches, and leave written memorials of themselves behind them, being afraid lest they should hereafter be reputed sophists.” Socrates replied jocularly, that on the contrary none were fonder of leaving written memorials behind them, and of being thought good writers, than politicians: “for when they write any thing, they are so fond of those who applaud it, as always to name them at the very beginning of the writing. Do not their writings always begin, Resolved by the senate, or by the people, or by both, on the proposition of such a one, meaning very gravely the writer himself; and does he not then go on showing off his own wisdom to his applauders, to the end of sometimes a very long paper? And if this be blotted out from the tablet on which it is inscribed, do not the composer and all his friends go away dissatisfied; and if it be thought worthy of being written and permanently recorded, is he not pleased? and if any of these men, either by his Edition: current; Page: [80] ascendency as an orator, or by authority as a king, obtains the power of Lycurgus, or Solon, or Darius, which enables him to become a writer for immortality, does he not appear both to himself, and to posterity who read his writings, almost a god? It is evident, therefore, that such a man, if he reproaches Lysias, does not reproach him for being a writer. To write, therefore, is not disgraceful. To write ill, is so. What then is the manner of writing well or ill? Shall we ask this of Lysias, or any other writer who ever wrote either in poetry or prose?”—“Shall we?” says Phædrus—“what else do we live for, but for such pleasures as these? Not certainly for those pleasures, to the enjoyment of which a previous state of pain is necessary; which is the case with almost all the bodily pleasures; for which reason they are justly called servile.”—“We have leisure,” answered Socrates, “and the cicadæ who are chirping and conversing with one another, in the trees over our heads, would despise us if we, like the vulgar, instead of conversing, were to sleep out the hot part of the day, being lulled by their note through vacancy of mind. They would suppose that we were like cattle, who come down at mid-day to drink at the stream, and fall asleep. But if they see us conversing, and passing them by, like the Syrens, unfascinated, they will be pleased with us, and will, perhaps, confer on us the gift which they have from the gods to bestow upon men.”—“Have they such a gift?” asked Phædrus, “for I never heard of it.”—“A lover of the Muses,” replied Socrates, “ought not to be ignorant of this. It is said that the cicadæ were men, before the Muses existed; but when the Muses were born, and song commenced, some of the men of that time were so engrossed by delight, that they passed their time in singing, and neglected to take food until they died. From them the race of the cidadæ are sprung; and possess the gift from the Muses, not to need food or drink, but to sing continually until they die, and afterwards going to the abodes of the Muses, report to them who among mortals gives them honour.”

Socrates and Phædrus agreed accordingly to continue their conversation, and that the subject should be, what constituted good speaking and writing.[*]

We left Socrates and Phædrus on the point of commencing a new inquiry, viz., “What constitutes Good Speaking and Writing.”

“Is it not necessary,” asked Socrates, “in order to speak well, that the speaker should in his own mind know the truth, in respect to the subject concerning which he is to speak?”

“I have heard it said,” answered Phædrus, “that an orator need not know Edition: current; Page: [81] what is really just, but only what will appear so to the multitude who are to decide; and that he need not know what is really good, or beautiful, but what will appear so: for persuasion is produced by means of the apparent, not the true.

“We must not,” said Socrates, “reject without examination what wise men affirm; we must inquire whether there is anything in it.

“Suppose that I wanted to persuade you to buy a horse in order to go forth and meet the enemy; and that we were both of us entirely ignorant of a horse, but I happened to know of you, that you believed a horse to be the most long-eared of all domestic animals.”—“It would be ridiculous,” answered Phædrus.—“Not yet,” replied Socrates; “but what if I were seriously to set about persuading you, by composing a speech on the ass, calling it a horse, and celebrating it as the finest of animals for domestic use, for military service, for carrying goods, and a hundred other things?”—“It would be highly ridiculous.”—“Is it not better to be ridiculous, than a dangerous and pernicious friend?”—“Certainly.”—“But when an orator, being himself ignorant of good and evil, and finding a people equally so, sets about persuading them, not by a panegyric upon the ass under the name of the horse, but upon Evil under the name of Good; and having studied the opinions of the multitude, succeeds in persuading them to do what is bad instead of what is good, what sort of a harvest do you think that an oratory of this sort will reap?”—“But an indifferent one.”

“Perhaps, however,” resumed Socrates, “we are too severe upon oratory. She may, perhaps, turn upon us, and say, You are trifling, my good friends—I do not compel any one to learn to speak, who is ignorant of the truth—I bid him learn the truth first, and resort to me afterwards—The ground of my pretensions is, that without me, though a man were to know all possible truths, he would be no nearer to possessing the art of persuading.”—“And in saying this, does she not speak truth?”—“Yes, if the arguments which are coming should testify that she is an Art; but I in a manner hear the rustle of several arguments approaching, which assert that she is an impostor, and no Art, but an unartificial Routine.”—“Call these arguments forth, then, and let us interrogate them.”—“Come forth, I beg you, and persuade Phædrus that unless he philosophize sufficiently, he will never be capable of speaking on any subject. Question Phædrus, and he will answer. Is not the art of oratory, taken in a general sense, the influencing of the mind by discourse, not merely in courts of justice and public assemblies, but also in private life, whether on great subjects or on small?”—“Not entirely so. It is generally on the occasion of trials in courts of justice that men speak and write by art; and in deliberative assemblies they speak by art: but otherwise not.”—“Have you then heard tell only of the arts of oratory which were composed by Nestor and Ulysses at Troy, Edition: current; Page: [82] but not those of Palamedes?”—“No, nor of Nestor either, unless you call Gorgias Nestor, and Thrasymachus or Theodorus Ulysses.”—“Tell me, then, what do adversaries in a court of justice do? Do they not debate?”—“Yes.”—“About the just and unjust?”—“Yes.”—“He who does this by art, can make the same thing appear to the same persons, either just or unjust?”—“Yes.”—“And in deliberative assemblies, he can make the same thing appear as he pleases, either good for the state, or the contrary?”—“He can.”—“And do we not know that Palamedes of Elea could speak by art, in such a manner that his hearers should think the same things either like or unlike, one or many, stationary or moved?”—“Yes.”—“The art of debate therefore, is not confined to courts of justice and public assemblies; but if it be an art, there is but one single art which, whatever be the subject of discourse, can make all things appear similar, which are capable of so appearing, and which, if another person does the same thing deceptively, can expose the deception.

“Is deception more likely to happen in those things which differ much, or in those which differ little?”—“In those which differ little.”—“You will more easily get round from a thing to its contrary, by insensible steps than all at once?”—“No doubt.”—“He, then, whose business it is to deceive another, and not to be deceived himself, must know accurately the resemblances and differences of things?”—“He must.”—“Can he, not knowing the real nature of a thing itself, distinguish the degree of resemblance which other things bear to that thing?”—“It is impossible.”—“Since then, those who are deceived, and take up a false opinion, must have been led to it by some sort of resemblance, (verisimilitude or likeness to the truth,) it is clear, that a man cannot bring round another by little and little, through a chain of resemblances, from the truth to its contrary, or avoid being himself dealt with in the same manner, unless he knows the real natures of things; and the man who does not know the truth, but hunts after mere opinion, has got a ridiculous and very unart-like art of speaking.” Phædrus could not deny this; and Socrates proposed that they should look again at the discourse of Lysias, and see whether it contained evidence of art or no. Phædrus assented, saying, that as yet they were somewhat bare, not having a sufficiency of examples. “It is perhaps lucky,” rejoined Socrates, “that these discourses have been spoken, since they afford an example, how he who knows the truth may, in mere sport, mislead his audience by a speech.”

Phædrus now, according to agreement, begins to read the discourse of Lysias from the commencement. Before he has completed the second sentence, Socrates stops him, in order to point out already a proof of want of art.

“Is it not clear that about some things we are all of one mind, about others we differ?”—“I think I understand you, but nevertheless explain yourself Edition: current; Page: [83] more clearly.”—“When we use the words silver, or iron, we all of us mean the same thing by them. But when we speak of what is just, or of what is good, we all go off in different directions, and are at variance both with each other and in ourselves.” Phædrus assented. “In which of these two kinds of things are we most easily deceived, and in which is the power of oratory the greatest?”—“In those in which we wander without fixed principles.”—“He, then, who seeks to acquire an art of oratory, should first be able properly to distinguish and characterize these two kinds of things, those in which the multitude must of necessity wander, and those in which they need not.”—“This would be an admirable discovery.”—“And next, he must be able to distinguish and clearly perceive, without mistake, whether that of which he is about to speak, belongs to the one class or to the other.”—“Granted.”

“Now, should love be considered to be one of these disputable things?”—“Undoubtedly: how else could you have made, as you did, two long speeches, one to show that love is injurious both to the lover and the loved, the other, that it is the greatest of blessings?”—“You say truth; but now tell me (for I, on account of the state of inspiration in which I was, do not recollect,) whether I began by defining love?”—“You did, most accurately.”—“How much more skilled, then, in the oratorical art, must be the Nymphs and Pan, by whom I was inspired, than your friend Lysias! for he obliged us to begin by supposing, and not inquiring, what love is, and then grounded his entire discourse on a mere supposition.

“Does not, too, the discourse appear to you to be thrown together quite at random? Can it be said that what is placed second, for example, or in any other position, is placed there from any peculiar necessity? To me, who know nothing, he seemed to say, most undauntedly, whatever came into his head: but can you point out any oratorical necessity which compelled him to arrange his thoughts into that particular order?”—“You are very good, to suppose that I am capable of so accurately judging what such a man as Lysias composes.”—“But this I think you will allow, that a discourse should be like an organized creature, having a body of its own, neither headless nor footless, but having a middle, and extremities, fitted to one another, and to the whole.”—“Without doubt.”—“But does anything of this kind appear in your friend’s discourse?—look, and you will find it very like the inscription which they ascribe to Midas the Phrygian, which might be read either backwards or forwards without altering the sense.”—“You are now only laughing at the discourse.”—“Let us then, in order not to offend you, let alone this oration, although it seems to me to contain a variety of examples, by the consideration of which one might be improved. Let us pass to the other discourses: for in them too there were some things worth observing to those who are considering Discourse. There were two discourses; the one in disparagement, the other in eulogy of love.”—“There Edition: current; Page: [84] were.”—“We affirmed that love was a sort of madness; did we not?”—“We did.”—“And said that there are two sorts of madness; one coming from human disease, the other from a divine influence. This last we divided into four kinds: viz., prophetic inspiration” [here, for the first time, the very word inspiration, or afflatus (ἐπιπνοία) is used,]—“the origin of which we ascribed to Apollo; mystico-religious, (τελεστική), to Bacchus; poetic, to the Muses; and finally, that of which we are speaking, the inspiration or enthusiasm of Love.”—“We did.”—“Let us now try whether we can catch the manner in which our discourse changed from blame to praise.”—“What do you mean?”—“To me it appears, that all the rest of what was said, was in reality no more than sport; but that if one could obtain by art, the power or capacity of these two kinds of operations, which in this instance we have performed by mere chance, it would be not unpleasant.”—“What things?”—“To collect together a multitude of scattered particulars, and viewing them collectively, bring them all under one single idea,* and thereby be enabled to define, and so make it clear what the thing is which is the subject of our inquiry. As, for instance (in our own case,) what we said (whether it was well said or ill) with a view of defining love: for this was what enabled the subsequent discourse to be clear, and consistent with itself.”—“You have described one of the two operations which you spoke of; what is the other?”—“To be able again to subdivide this idea into species, according to nature, and so as not to break any part of it in the cutting, like a bad cook. Thus, for example, our two discourses agreed in taking for their subject, insanity of mind: but in the same manner as the body has two parts, which are called by the same name in all other respects, but one called the left side and the other the right, so our two discourses, taking insanity as one single idea existing in us, one of them cut down on the left side, and continued subdividing until it came to something sinister which bore the name of Love, and inveighed against it very deservedly; the other taking us to the right side, found another Love, a namesake of the first, but of a divine origin and nature, which it held forth and praised as the cause of our greatest blessings.

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“I, then,” continued Socrates, “being a lover of these compositions and decompositions, in order that I may be able to speak and to think; if I find any one whom I think capable of apprehending things as one and many, I run after him and follow his footsteps as I would those of a god. Those who can do this, whether I call them rightly or not God knows, but at present I call them dialecticians: but what are we to call those who learn from you and Lysias? Is this, of which we have been talking, the same with that Art of Speaking by the aid of which Thrasymachus and the rest have become wise in speaking, and have made others so, who pay tribute to them as to kings?”—“They are kingly people,” said Phædrus, “but they are not acquainted with that of which you spoke. I think that you are right in calling this method dialectics; but it does not seem to me that we have yet found out what oratory is.”—“Indeed!” replied Socrates: “it must be something curious, if, being different from what we have been speaking of, it is nevertheless an art. Let us then see what else oratory consists of.”—“Of a great many things, which we find in the books of rhetoric.”—“I thank you for putting me in mind. You mean such things as these; that the exordium should come first, then the narration and the testimony, then the positive circumstantial proofs, then the probable ones: and next, I believe the Byzantine Theodorus talks of confirmation and super-confirmation, refutation and super-refutation, and how all these things should be managed, both in accusation and in defence. And why should we leave out that excellent person, Euœnus of Paros, who first invented ὑποδήλωσις and παρεπαίνοι.” (The first untranslatable, the second we suppose means incidental praise.) “Some say he also has παραψόγοι,” (incidental vituperation,) “which he has put into verse for the aid of memory; for he is a wise man. Can we omit, moreover; Tisias and Gorgias, who saw that the plausible was to be honoured above the true, and who, by force of speaking, can make great things appear small, and small things great, new things old, and old things new, and who have found out the way to speak either briefly or to an interminable length on all subjects? Prodicus once, when I related this to him, laughed, and said he was the first person who had found out how to speak according to art: for the speech should be neither short nor long, but moderate.”—“Very wise indeed.”—“Neither must we leave out Hippias of Elis, who I should think would be of the same opinion: and Polus, too, who invented διπλασιολογία, and γνωμολογία, and εἰκονολογία, and so forth.”—“And did not Protagoras do something of the same kind?”—“He was skilled in ὀρθοέπεια, and many other fine things. He excelled every body in speeches of the lugubrious kind, about old age and poverty: he was a terrible man for enraging people, and then cooling them, and the first of all men in inveighing and in replying to invective. About the concluding part of a speech they all seem to agree; some of them call it recapitulation, and others give it Edition: current; Page: [86] some other name.”—“You mean, summarily reminding the audience of what you have said.”—“That is what I mean. Have you anything else to relate which forms part of the art of oratory?”—“There is very little else.”—“Let us then leave that very little alone, and examine these things a little more closely, that we may see what power the art has.”—“Very great power indeed in a popular assembly.”—“Let us see.

“If any one were to come to your friend Eryximachus, or to his father, Acumenus, and say, I know how to produce any effect I please upon the body, I can cool it or heat it, give it an emetic or a purge, and I therefore think myself a physician, and capable of making others so, what would they say?”—“They would ask him whether he likewise knows upon whom to produce these different effects, and when, and to what degree.”—“And what if he were to answer—By no means; I insist that he who has learned from me what I before mentioned, will have that other sort of knowledge as a matter of course.”—“They would reply, The man is mad, and because he has accidentally discovered or read of some drug or other, fancies himself a physician, knowing nothing at all of the art.”—“And what if a man should go to Sophocles or Euripides, and say, I know how to make a long speech on a small matter, and a short one about a great matter, and I can make a pathetic speech, or a menacing one, or a fearful one, and being able to teach all this I can enable any man to write a tragedy?”—“They too would laugh at the absurdity of supposing that tragedy consists in any thing but the putting together of these things so as to be suitable to one another and to the whole.”—“And if a musician met with a man who thought himself a harmonist because he could draw from the strings the most acute and the gravest sounds possible, he would not say to him fiercely, You stupid fellow! you are out of your wits; but, as being a musician, and therefore of a softer and less inflammable temperament, he would answer, My good friend, it is necessary for a harmonist to know these things, but a man may know all that you know and be not the least of a harmonist notwithstanding. You possess those acquirements which are preliminary to harmony, but not harmony itself.”—“Very right.”—“Sophocles would say, in like manner, You know the preliminaries to tragedy, but not tragedy itself: and Acumenus would say, You know the preliminaries to medicine, but medicine itself you know not.”—“Most true.”

“What then do you think that the sweet-voiced Adrastus or Pericles would say, if they heard recited these splendid inventions which we were just now talking of, βραχυλογίαι and εἰκονολογίαι and the like? Would they, like us, say something sharp and coarse to those who write and teach these things under the name of oratory? or would they, as being wiser than we, reprove us for our violence, and say, O Phædrus and Socrates, we ought not to be angry, but should excuse, if there be persons who, being unversed Edition: current; Page: [87] in dialectics, are unable to define what oratory is, and therefore, being possessed only of those acquirements which it is necessary should precede the art, fancy that they have found an art of oratory, and, teaching these things to others, think that they have taught them oratory itself; but think nothing of the power of doing each of these things persuasively, and of putting them together into a whole, and hold it unnecessary for their scholars to learn this from their tuition.”

“I am afraid,” observed Phædrus, “that this art of oratory, as they call it, is indeed no better than you represent it. But from whence might one derive the art of the real orator—the power of persuasion?”

“The power,” replied Socrates, “if possessed to the degree which constitutes a perfect orator, is probably, or perhaps necessarily, governed by the same laws as any other power. If you have natural capabilities you may become an eminent orator, by the aid of knowledge and study; if you are wanting in any of these respects, you will be so far imperfect. But so much of it as is Art, appears to me to be acquired by a method not similar to that which Lysias and Thrasymachus use.”—“How then?”—“Pericles is perhaps the most complete orator ever known.”—“What then?”—“All the greater arts require the study of the abstruser parts of nature: from which alone loftiness and potency of intellect are derived: the qualities which, together with great natural aptness, Pericles possessed. He acquired them, as I imagine, by his intercourse with Anaxagoras, by whom he was introduced into the higher parts of knowledge, and penetrated to the nature of the thinking and the unthinking faculties of man, the subject which Anaxagoras chiefly treated of; and from this Pericles drew, for the art of speaking, as much as was applicable to it.”—“How so?”—“The art of oratory resembles that of medicine. In both, it is necessary to distinguish and subdivide the nature of body on the one hand, of mind on the other; if you intend to follow art, and not a mere empirical routine, in giving health and strength to the former by medicine and sustenance, and producing in the latter, by speech and precept, virtue and any persuasion which you desire.”—“This seems reasonable.”—“But is it possible to comprehend well the nature of Mind, except by comprehending the nature of the universe?”—“If Hippocrates is to be believed, even the body can be understood only by that method.”—“He speaks well: but besides Hippocrates, it is proper to interrogate likewise the argument, and discover whether it also will assent. Let us see then. Is not this the proper mode of examining into the nature of any thing—first to consider whether it is simple or manifold: then, if it is simple, to examine into its powers, that is, what affections it is capable of causing in other things, and other things in it: if, on the contrary, it consists of a variety of sorts, to enumerate them, and make the same inquiry with respect to each of the sorts; viz. in what Edition: current; Page: [88] manner it acts upon, and is acted upon by, other things?”—“Undoubtedly.”—“Any other method would be like a blind man’s walk. But it is clear, that he who would teach another the art of speaking, must teach him accurately the nature of that which his speaking is intended to act upon; and this is, the mind.”—“Agreed.”—“It is obvious, therefore, that Thrasymachus, and any other who seriously attempts to teach oratory, must first examine and explain very carefully, whether the mind is one thing, perfectly resembling itself, or like the body, of many different kinds: since this is what we found to be the meaning of what we call unfolding its nature. Next, he must teach in what manner the mind, by its nature, affects, and is affected by, other things: and, thirdly, classing the different kinds of mind, the different modes of speaking, and the various properties of both, he must adapt the one to the other, and show, what sort of mind, is or is not persuaded, by what sort of speech, and why.”—“Most true; and in no other way is it possible either to speak or write according to art.”

“Since, in short, the end of speech is to influence the mind, he who understands oratory as an art, must know what are the different kinds of mind; what are the different modes of speaking; and, that a mind of such and such a sort, is likely to be persuaded by such and such a mode of speaking, but not likely to be persuaded by such and such another mode, and this for such and such a reason. And when he has mastered all this, unless he be also a ready observer of what actually goes on in the world, he will still know nothing but precisely what he has learned. But if he knows what sort of man is persuaded by what sort of speaking, and is able besides to distinguish in real life whether the man whom he is to persuade is that sort of man or not, then he will know what is the proper time for using your figures of rhetoric, your βραχυλογία and ἐλεεινολογία, and δείνωσις, and the rest; and then and not till then will he be a master of the art. Can you think of any other mode?”—“No.”—“Let us strive all we can to find whether there by any shorter and smoother road to the oratorical art, that we may not take a roundabout way when there is a shorter cut. Can you recollect any thing of that sort which you have heard from Lysias?”—“I do not.”—“Shall I tell you then what I have sometimes heard people say? for it is said that even the wolf ought to have a fair hearing?”—“By all means.”

“They say, then, that there is no need to make oratory so various a matter, or go so far back in order to arrive at it. The orator has nothing to do with what is just or good, either in things or men: it is not the true which any one cares for in a court of justice, but the plausible: and probability is all which he who speaks according to art, needs attend to. It is not proper even to assert what actually happened, if the story be not a probable one: and in short the probable, and not the true, should be our aim in accusation or defence, and the art of attaining it is the only art of oratory required.”

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“This,” replied Phædrus, “is what those say who profess to understand the art of speaking.”—“You have read Tisias: does not Tisias understand by the probable, that which accords with the opinion of the multitude?”—“He does.”—“This, then, is his wise invention; that if a feeble but brave man is brought to trial for knocking down and robbing a robust coward, neither of them should speak the truth, but the coward should say, that more than one man attacked him; the other denying this and proving that they were alone, should ask, How could so weak a person as I, think of attacking so strong a man? whereupon the first should not plead his own cowardice, but should invent some other falsehood to confute that of his adversary.”—“A clever and recondite art truly.”—“But did we not before agree that this Probable, which Tisias aims at, is probable (that is, is believed by the multitude) only on account of its similitude to the truth? and that he who knows the truth, is the best judge of degrees of resemblance to it? We shall therefore continue to believe, as we before said, that without understanding the nature of the different sorts of hearers, and being able to distinguish things into their kinds, and again to aggregate a number of particulars into one whole, it is impossible to attain the highest excellence which man is capable of, in the art of speaking. All this, however, cannot be learned without great study; which study a wise man ought to perform, not for the mere sake of speaking and transacting among men, but in order to be able to speak and act agreeably to the gods. Men wiser than we, have said that we ought not to make it our object to please our fellow-servants, except as a work of supererogation: but to please good masters. It is no wonder, therefore, if the course is long and roundabout: for there is a great purpose to be served by making this circuit—a far greater purpose than that which Tisias aims at; though even that is to be attained most effectually by the same means.

“So much then on the subject of the art of speaking. It remains to consider in what consists propriety or impropriety of writing.

“Do you know what mode of dealing with discourse is most agreeable to a divinity?”—“No: do you?”—“I can relate what has been heard from the sages of old. Whether it is true, the gods themselves alone know. But if we could find this, should we, after that, care for the opinions of men?”—“It would be ridiculous: but pray tell us what you say you have heard.”—“I have heard that at Naucratis in Egypt, there resided one of the ancient gods of that country, named Theuth, who first invented numbers, and calculation, and geometry, and astronomy, and dice-playing, and, among other things, writing. Now, Thamos being king in Egypt, who is likewise a god, and whom the Greeks call Ammon, Theuth went to him and expounded to him these arts, and spoke of the great advantage of communicating them to the other Egyptians. The other asked him the use of each art, and praised or Edition: current; Page: [90] blamed it according to the answer he received. Now when the art of writing came under consideration, Theuth said, ‘This art will make the Egyptians wiser, and will aid their memory: for it is a help to memory and to wisdom.’ The other answered, ‘Most sage Theuth, it is one thing to be able to invent an art, and another to judge of its beneficial or hurtful effects: and now you, who are the inventor of writing, have ascribed to it, from partiality, an effect the exact opposite of its real one: this art will produce forgetfulness in those who learn it, by causing them to trust to written memoranda, and neglect their memory. What you have discovered, therefore, is an aid not to memory, but to recollection; and you will give to your scholars the opinion of wisdom, not the reality: for hearing much from you, without really learning it, they will appear men of great acquirements, though really for the most part ignorant and incapable.’ ”

Phædrus here observed, “You very easily invent Egyptian tales, or tales of any country you please.”—“They say,” replied Socrates, “that the first prophecies, those at Dodona, were delivered by an oak. The men of those days, not being so wise as we moderns, were so silly as to be content to listen to an oak or a stone, provided it did but speak the truth: but to you perhaps it is of importance who the speaker is, and from whence he comes: for you do not consider merely whether the fact is or is not so.”—“Your reproof is just.”—“He then who thinks that he can leave behind him an art in a book, and he who learns it out of a book, and thinks he has got something clear and solid, are extremely simple, and do not know the saying of Ammon, or they would not suppose that a written book could do any thing more than remind one who knows already.

“Writing is something like painting: the creatures of the latter art look very like living beings; but, if you ask them a question, they preserve a solemn silence. Written discourses do the same: you would fancy, by what they say, that they had some sense in them; but, if you wish to learn, and therefore interrogate them, they have only their first answer to return to all questions. And when the discourse is once written, it passes from hand to hand, among all sorts of persons,—those who can understand it, and those who cannot. It is not able to tell its story to those only to whom it is suitable; and when it is unjustly criticised, it always needs its author to assist it, for it cannot defend itself.

“There is another sort of discourse, which is far better and more potent than this.”—“What is it?”—“That which is written scientifically in the learner’s mind. This is capable of defending itself; and it can speak itself, or be silent, as it sees fit.”—“You mean the real and living discourse of the person who understands the subject; of which discourse the written one may be called the picture?”—“Precisely. Now, think you that a sensible Edition: current; Page: [91] husbandman would take seed which he valued, and wished to produce a harvest, and would seriously, after the summer had begun, scatter it in the gardens of Adonis,* for the pleasure of seeing it spring up and look green in a week? or, do you not rather think that he might indeed do this for sport and amusement, but, when his purpose was serious, would employ the art of agriculture, and, sowing the seed at the proper time, be content to gather in his harvest in the eighth month?”—“The last, undoubtedly.”—“And do you think that he who possesses the knowledge of what is just, and noble, and good, will deal less prudently with his seeds than the husbandman with his?”—“Certainly not.”—“He will not, then, seriously set about sowing them with a pen and a black liquid; or, (to drop the metaphor,) scattering these truths by means of discourses which cannot defend themselves against attack, and which are incapable of adequately expounding the truth. No doubt, he will, for the sake of sport, occasionally scatter some of the seeds in this manner, and will thus treasure up memoranda for himself, in case he should fall into the forgetfulness of old age, and for all others who follow in the same track; and he will be pleased when he sees the blade growing up green. When others play and amuse themselves in other ways, soaking themselves with wine, and so forth, he will choose this as his amusement.”—“And a far better one than the other.”—“Assuredly; but it is a far better employment still, when any one, employing the dialectical art, and finding a mind which affords a suitable soil, sows and plants therein, with knowledge, discourses which can defend themselves and him who sows them, and which are not barren, but in their turn bear seed, from whence other discourses being reared up in other minds, can make their truths immortal, and can give to those who possess them, as much happiness as man is capable of.

“We have now, then, found what we were seeking for; viz., to be enabled to judge whether it is justly a reproach to Lysias to be a writer of discourses; and what was the difference between discourses according to art, and those which are without art.

“On the subject of art, we have come to the conclusion, that unless a man knows the truth on the subject on which he speaks or writes, and can define the subject itself, and divide it into kinds until he reaches the indivisible; and, unless he understands the nature of Mind, and having found out what kind of discourse is suitable to each kind of mind, adapts his discourse accordingly (giving to minds of complex and diversified structure, discourses of the same kind, and to simple minds, simple discourses)—unless he does all this, he does not possess, in the greatest perfection, the art of Edition: current; Page: [92] discourse, whether his end in discoursing be to instruct, or only to persuade.

“And we can now answer the other question, whether to be a writer of discourses is a reproach. If either Lysias, or any other man, composes a written discourse on political affairs, and fancies that there is much of clearness and solidity in it, this is a reproach to the writer, no doubt; for, not to know what is valuable and what is otherwise, in respect to justice and injustice, good and evil, is a reproach, even though the crowd should be unanimous in their applause of it. But a person who thinks that what is said upon any subject in a written treatise can be no better than sport, and that nothing worthy of very serious attention was ever written or delivered in a speech, and that the best of them are nothing more than memoranda to remind those who already know, and that there is nothing satisfactory or complete, or worthy to be seriously considered, but in the discourses which are really taught and learnt and written in the mind; and that such discourses are the legitimate offspring of ourselves, first the one which is in our own minds, (if we have found one, and planted it there,) and next those brothers or children of it, which have sprung up at the same time in other minds of other persons; this is such a person as you, Phædrus, and I, should wish to be.” Phædrus assented.

“Do you, then, tell Lysias, that we two came down here, to the fountain of the nymphs, and that the nymphs bid us tell him and all other speech writers, Homer and all other poets, Solon and all others who write what they call laws, that if they composed these writings knowing what the truth is, and being able to maintain a discussion on the matters of which they wrote, and to make, by what they speak, what they have written appear insignificant, they ought not to be named from this lighter pursuit, but from their more serious occupation.”—“What name would you give them?”—“Wise appears to me too assuming a name, and fit only for a God; but Seeker of Wisdom” (ϕιλόσοϕος, whence the modern word “philosopher”) “would be a more suitable and decorous appellation.”—“Agreed.”—“He, on the other hand, who has not in himself anything of a higher and more perfect kind than what he puts down in writing, he may be justly called a poet, or a speech-writer, or a law-writer.”—“Allowed.”—“Then tell this to your friend.”

They here end their discourse; but before they quit the spot, Socrates suggests the propriety of addressing a prayer to the deities of the place. His prayer is as follows: “O Pan, and whatever other gods preside over this spot, grant to me to be beautiful inwardly; and let my outside, whatever it is, be suitable to what I have within. The rich man, in my estimation, is the man who is wise; but of gold, let me have so much as can be sufficient to no one save the prudent and temperate.

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“Is there anything else which we are in want of, Phædrus? My wants have been tolerably well cared for in this prayer.”—“Offer up the same prayer for me: friends have all their affairs in common.”—“Let us depart.”

It will have been remarked that Socrates himself treats the whole of this conversation as of no serious moment, (sport, as he terms it,) except the concluding discussion; the object of which is one that is incessantly aimed at in the writings of Plato. This is, in the first place, to enforce the absolute necessity, as the foundation for all safe practice, of a just and unambiguous definition of the subject-matter; and, secondly, to show that this definition can only be arrived at by an operation which we should call a philosophical analysis, and which he describes as a process of composition and decomposition, or rather decomposition and recomposition; first distinguishing a whole into its kinds or parts, and then looking at those kinds or parts attentively, in such a manner as to extract from them the idea of the whole. This two-fold process of analysis and synthesis is the grand instrument of Plato’s method of philosophising. In the comprehension of the general ideas thus obtained, (or, as he expresses it in this dialogue, the apprehension of the same thing as One and as Many,) philosophy, according to him, consisted. And this principle is the corner-stone, not only of his logic, but of his metaphysics.

All who possess the faculty of recognising identity of thought notwithstanding diversity of language, (which, with the converse power of detecting difference of meaning under identity of expression, is the first characteristic of an intellect fit for philosophy,) will perceive that this principle of Plato’s is one on which all systems of logic are substantially in accordance. Bacon, Locke, Condillac, Stewart, and Kant, (we need not prolong the enumeration,) have concurred, both in using and in recommending the method of philosophising which Plato inculcates; though they are distinguished from one another by the different degree of clearness which the Platonic principle had assumed in their own minds, and the diversity of the substructure of metaphysical doctrines (for systems of metaphysics, like some birds’ nests, are built downwards, not upwards) which they have constructed underneath it.

When, for instance, Bacon, in defining the scope of all inquiries into the phenomena of nature, directs the inquirer to collect and compare all the accessible instances in which any phenomenon (say heat or cold, hardness or softness) manifests itself, and thence to deduce the nature, or as he calls it, the form, of Heat in general, Cold in general, Hardness and Softness in general, (forma calidi aut frigidi, &c.)[*] wherein does this view of Edition: current; Page: [94] philosophic method differ from Plato’s? Where, again, a disciple of Locke or Condillac describes philosophy as consisting in abstraction and generalization, in the distribution of the objects of nature into convenient classes, and (by comparison of the different objects composing each class) framing general propositions expressive of the distinguishing properties of the class; this too is identical with Plato’s process of arriving at the knowledge of a thing by apprehending it as Many and as One. To apprehend it as Many, is to survey the various objects comprised in the class, and note their resemblances and differences. To apprehend it as One, is to evolve from this comparison a general definition of the class, omitting none of the properties by which as a class it is characterized.

When, however, these various philosophers, not content with cultivating the field of Logic, (or the science of the investigation of truth,) have dug down into that region of metaphysics which lies under logic, as it does under all the other sciences, and which must be examined before we can be sure that any of them are securely placed; the different explorers have brought up very different reports of what they have found there. While all agree in representing it as at least one of the principal aims of philosophy, to determine with precision the ideas as they are termed by Plato, the essences as others have called them, of those great genera and species under which we necessarily or habitually arrange all the objects of our knowledge; philosophers have differed, even to contrariety, in their notions of the real nature of those genera and species. Some have ascribed to them an objective reality, as things existing in themselves; others, more philosophically, have considered them as merely subjective, the creatures of our own minds. To state the same thing more clearly—some, including the greater number of the philosophers of the last two centuries, consider classification to be conventional, subject to no laws but those which convenience prescribes; while others, including most of the ancients, and the prevailing sect among the Aristotelian schoolmen of the middle ages, thought that genera and species exist by nature; that every individual thing naturally belongs to a certain species, and cannot be subjected to any other classification; and that as there are individual substances, so there are also universal substances, corresponding to our general or class names, and with which the individual substances which we rank under those classes are in a sort of mysterious communion. Thus, there are not only individual men, and individual stars, but there is also Man in general, and Star in general; which do not consist of individual men or stars considered in the aggregate, but are entities existing per se. John, Peter, or Paul are only constituted men by participating, in some strange way, in this universal essence of humanity.

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We have stated this doctrine in its most systematic form and in its extreme extent, as it was conceived by that portion of the schoolmen called the Realists, who, however, had little warrant for it from the oracle in which they implicitly confided, their master Aristotle. To the same school, though in a somewhat qualified sense, the speculations of Plato decidedly assimilate him. His tendencies (for opinions, let us once more repeat, are not on such subjects to be ascribed to him) led him to attribute self-existence to genera and species. In the present dialogue he adverts only to those genera which form the basis of our great moral and emotional (or as the Germans say, æsthetic) classifications. The Just, the Brave, the Holy, the Beautiful (in English we more readily personify these abstractions by the words Justice, Courage, Holiness, Beauty) existed according to him as essences or Ideas, of which all sublunary things which we decorate by these names were but resemblances or copies: a doctrine shadowed forth in the mythos which occupies so conspicuous a place in the present dialogue. But the Ideas or essences of all other things had equally, in his view, an independent existence; and to these pre-existent ideas as his types or exemplars, the Creator fashioned all that he called into existence by his will. This is the doctrine more or less vaguely alluded to by those who speak of the Platonic or as it is sometimes called the Divine Idea.

Views not indeed the same but analogous to these, are professed at this day by most German philosophers, and by their followers in France and England. It is natural that persons holding such opinions, should deem these Ideas (for they have endeavoured to bring back the Platonic word to its Platonic sense) to be the objects of the highest knowledge; the knowledge to which the term Philosophy ought to be confined; and that to apprehend an idea “as One and as Many,” to detect and distinguish it when “immersed in matter” and clothed in innumerable circumstances, should be in their estimation, the triumph and the test of philosophic inquiry.

The more rational metaphysics which prevail among most English and French philosophers, lead to logical results not so different from these as the difference of the premises might lead one to suppose. Though classification be conventional, all science consists in generalization, and our attainments in science may be measured by the number of general truths which we are acquainted with, that is, by the amount of what we are able to predicate of classes. And, as we are at liberty to take any of the properties of an object for principles of classification, we can only know the essences of all possible classes by knowing all that is to be known concerning objects. In this sense, all science may be said, even by a follower of Locke or Condillac, to consist in knowing the essences of classes.

To apprehend with accuracy and distinctness all that is included in the Edition: current; Page: [96] conception of the classes which we have formed for ourselves, or which have been formed for us by our predecessors, does not according to this theory as according to Plato’s, constitute philosophy; but whoever takes this as his object, will scarcely fail of attaining all the other results which philosophy proposes to itself; at least in the field of morals and psychology; where the desideratum is not so much new facts, as a more comprehensive survey of known facts in their various bearings, all which are sure to be successively forced upon the attention by a well-conducted and unbiassed inquiry into the meaning of established terms, or, what is the same thing, into the essences of established classes. And this is the substance of Plato’s analytic method.

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The Gorgias

[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 Edition: current; Page: [98] 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 Edition: current; Page: [99] 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 Edition: current; Page: [100] 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 Edition: current; Page: [101] 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 Edition: current; Page: [102] 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 Edition: current; Page: [103] 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 Edition: current; Page: [104] 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 Edition: current; Page: [105] 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 Edition: current; Page: [106] 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 Edition: current; Page: [107] 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 Edition: current; Page: [108] 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 Edition: current; Page: [109] 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 Edition: current; Page: [110] 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 Edition: current; Page: [111] 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 Edition: current; Page: [112] 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. Edition: current; Page: [113] 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 Edition: current; Page: [114] 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 Edition: current; Page: [115] 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 Edition: current; Page: [116] 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 Edition: current; Page: [117] 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 Edition: current; Page: [118] 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 Edition: current; Page: [119] 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.[*]

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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.”

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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 Edition: current; Page: [122] 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 Edition: current; Page: [123] 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, Edition: current; Page: [124] 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.” Edition: current; Page: [125] 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 Edition: current; Page: [126] 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, Edition: current; Page: [127] 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 Edition: current; Page: [128] 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.” Edition: current; Page: [129] 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 Edition: current; Page: [130] 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 Edition: current; Page: [131] 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 Edition: current; Page: [132] 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 Edition: current; Page: [133] 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 Edition: current; Page: [134] 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 Edition: current; Page: [135] 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 Edition: current; Page: [136] 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 Edition: current; Page: [137] 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 Edition: current; Page: [138] 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 Edition: current; Page: [139] 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 Edition: current; Page: [140] 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 Edition: current; Page: [141] 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 Edition: current; Page: [142] 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 Edition: current; Page: [143] 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 Edition: current; Page: [144] 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 Edition: current; Page: [145] 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 Edition: current; Page: [146] 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 Edition: current; Page: [147] 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. Edition: current; Page: [148] 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 Edition: current; Page: [149] 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 Edition: current; Page: [150] 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.

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The Apology of Socrates

[Monthly Repository, IX (Feb., and March, 1835), 112-21, and 169-78. Not republished; signed “A.” at 152.16, the end of the introductory paragraphs, rather than at the end of the article, presumably to mark what follows as a full translation, instead of an abstract, as are the other dialogues in the Monthly Repository. Identified in JSM’s bibliography (after the general heading cited on 38) as “No IV. The Apology of Socrates: part 1 in the M.R. for Febry 1835 / part 2 in the M.R. for March, 1835” (MacMinn, 37). There are no marks in the Somerville College copy.

For comments on this and the other translations, see the Introduction and the Textual Introduction, xvii-xxviii and lxxx-lxxxiii above.]

we have given several specimens of the philosophy of Socrates, as exhibited, and doubtless improved, by Plato, in those of his works which there is no reason to consider as having any foundation in real incidents, or conversations actually held between the supposed interlocutors. It will now be interesting to the reader to be introduced to Socrates as described by himself, in the work which stands among Plato’s writings under the title of The Apology of Socrates, and in the form of a speech delivered before his judges, on the celebrated trial for blasphemy, which terminated in his capital condemnation. It has been a question among the critics, whether this speech is the work of Socrates himself, or of Plato under his master’s name. But the discerning Schleiermacher, and a scholar and critic not unworthy to be named even with Schleiermacher, the Rev. Connop Thirlwall, have adduced reasons which, in our judgment, leave little doubt that a speech, substantially identical with that which is now about to engage our attention, was actually delivered by Socrates at his trial; and that Plato, in this case, aimed only at being a faithful reporter of what his master had thought fit to say in his own vindication, when prosecuted for his life on the accusation of corrupting the youth, and of being an unbeliever in the gods of his country.*

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An abstract, such as those we gave of the three dialogues which have successively occupied our attention,[*] would entirely fail to give any conception of this singular performance: and after some consideration, we have resolved upon attempting an exact translation. It would, however, require a Plato, so to translate Plato as to render the ideas intelligible to an English reader, in the exact shape in which they were presented by an Athenian speaker to an Athenian audience, preserving, at the same time, all the energy and beauty of the style. We have been obliged to confine ourselves to one or the other object: either to put something like the matter of this discourse into the best English we could command, sacrificing all that is characteristic of the manner of Socrates, and of the notions and feelings of the Athenian public; or else, to retain the very thoughts of Socrates, and his very mode of stating and illustrating those thoughts, but to exchange Plato’s eloquent Greek for an English style at once bald and verbose. We have preferred the latter course, as more conducive to the objects we have in view in these papers.


In what manner, O Athenians, you have been affected by my accusers, I know not; I myself, in listening to them, almost forgot that I was myself, so plausibly did they speak. Although, of what they said, not one word, I may say, was true. Among the many falsehoods which they told you, one in particular excited my astonishment; when they said that you should beware lest you be deceived by me, who am a powerful speaker. For, their not being ashamed to be immediately contradicted by the fact, when I am seen to be not at all a powerful speaker, appeared to me most shameless. Unless, indeed, they call him a powerful speaker who speaks the truth. If so, I admit myself to be an orator of a different kind from them. They, as I affirm, have spoken no truth; from me you will hear all the truth. Not, indeed, O Athenians, a speech like theirs, all tricked out with fine words and phrases: what I say, will be said unstudiedly, in such words as offer themselves. For I am convinced that all which I say is just; none of you need expect any thing else of me. Nor would it become these years, O Athenians, to appear before you spinning phrases like a stripling. And this, O Athenians, I especially solicit of you; that if you hear me make my defence in the very same style of language in which I am accustomed to speak in the streets and public places, where most of you have heard me, and elsewhere, you will neither be surprised nor clamorous. For the fact is this: At the age of seventy and more, I now for the first time appear in a court of justice; I am, Edition: current; Page: [153] therefore, a complete stranger to the ways of speaking in this place. As then, if I were really a stranger, you would have pardoned me for speaking in the language and style in which I was brought up, so I now ask of you this justice, as it appears to me, that you will disregard the manner of my speech—which perhaps may be better, perhaps worse—but consider and attend to this, whether what I say is just or not. For that is the excellence of a judge; an orator’s is to speak the truth.

I have to defend myself first, O Athenians, from the first false accusations against me, and from my first accusers; and afterwards from the more recent ones. For I have had many accusers; who have spoken falsely of me now for many years: whom I fear more than Anytus and his associates, although these also are formidable; but those are still more so, O Athenians, who have begun with most of you from your childhood upwards, and poured into your ears false accusations of me, saying that there is one Socrates, a wise man, who has explored the things which are in the sky and under the earth, and who makes the worse appear the better reason.[*] They, O Athenians, who have spread such a character of me, are my really dangerous accusers; for their hearers believe that those who are addicted to such inquiries do not even believe in gods.* These accusers, too, are numerous; they have now spoken ill of me for a long time, and to many of you in the most credulous time of your lives, when you were children, or mere lads, and with all the advantage of an undefended cause, no one replying to them. And, what is hardest of all, one cannot so much as know the names of any of these people, except, perhaps, a play-writer or so. Neither they who, by calumnies and invidious speaking, have wrought upon you, nor they who, being themselves persuaded, have persuaded others, can be cited to appear in this place. I cannot confute them, but must fight, as it were, with shadows, and refute when there is no one here to answer my questions. Consider, then, that I have to do with two sets of Edition: current; Page: [154] accusers, my present ones, and those ancient ones whom I have mentioned; and observe, that I must reply to the old accusers first, for you heard them first, and during a much longer time than these later ones.

Be it so, then; I must defend myself, and endeavour to expel from your minds, in so short a time, the calumny which has had so long a time to fix itself there. I should be glad (if it be for your good and my own) that this were possible; but I think it is difficult; I do not conceal from myself the weightiness of the task. The event, however, must be as the god pleases. I must obey the law, and make my defence.

Let us go back, then, to the beginning, and see upon what accusation has been founded that prejudice against me, in reliance on which Melitus has brought the present impeachment. What, then, did my assailants allege? for we must consider them as accusers, and read the words of their indictment. “Socrates is guilty of occupying himself with frivolous and criminal pursuits; exploring the things which are under the earth and in the sky; and making the worse appear the better reason; and teaching others to do the same.” Something of this sort is what they impute to me; and you have yourselves seen, in the comedy of Aristophanes, a certain Socrates, who professes to walk the air, with much other trifling, about which I do not understand one jot. And I do not speak in disparagement of such knowledge, if there be any one who is wise in these matters; but I have no concern with them. And I call most of yourselves to witness, and beg you to inform and to ask each other, (those of you who have ever heard me converse,) and there are many of them among you: tell to one another, if any of you has ever heard in my conversation anything, great or small, on such subjects; and by this you will know, that all the other things which are vulgarly said about me are of the same value. Again, if you have heard any one say that I undertake to instruct people, and receive money for it, neither is this true. I think it a fine thing, no doubt, if any one is capable of instructing people, as Gorgias of Leontium does, and Prodicus of Ceos, and Hippias of Elis. Each of these, going to one city after another, is able to draw round him the young men, who, though they are at liberty to converse gratis with whomsoever they please of their own citizens, are persuaded to quit the society of these, and, resorting to the new-comers, converse with them, not only paying them money, but rendering gratitude to them besides. There is now in this very town a wise man from Paros, whose arrival I happened to hear of; for I was accidentally in company with a man who has paid more money to sophists than all other men put together, Callias, the son of Hipponicus. I said to him, (for he has two sons,) “O Callias, if your sons had been colts or steers, we could have found and hired a proper superintendent of their education, who could have formed them to all the good qualities befitting their nature; but now, since they are men, what Edition: current; Page: [155] superintendent have you in view for them? Who is there that is knowing in the good qualities of a man and a citizen? for I suppose that you must have considered the matter, having sons to bring up. Is there such a person,” said I, “or not?” “There is,” he answered. “Who,” asked I, “and of what country, and for what price does he teach?” “Euenus of Paros,” replied he; “and his price is five minæ.” And I felicitated Euenus, if he in reality possesses this art, and is so zealous in the practice of it. I, too, therefore, should be proud, and make much of myself, if I knew these matters; but I do not know them, O Athenians.

Some of you may, perhaps, answer, “But, O Socrates, what, then, is your affair? and whence did these accusations arise? for you would not have been so much heard of or talked about, if you had done nothing strange, or different from other people: tell us, therefore, what it is, that we may not be left to conjecture.” This appears to me a very fair question; and I will try to explain to you what it is which has made me so talked about, and so calumniated. Listen, then: and perhaps some of you may think I am in jest; be well persuaded, however, that I am telling you the whole truth. I, O Athenians, have acquired this reputation, from no other cause than a certain wisdom. What kind of wisdom? That which, perhaps, is the true human wisdom; and the fact seems to be that I possess this wisdom: they whom I have just spoken of have perhaps a wisdom greater than that of man; but I certainly do not possess it, and whoever says so speaks falsely, and wishes to slander me. And do not clamour, O Athenians, even if I seem to speak boastfully; for what I am about to say does not come from myself, but from a source worthy of your attention. I shall produce the Delphic god as a witness to you respecting my wisdom, whether I have any, and of what sort. You knew Chærephon, doubtless. He was my associate from youth, and was also an associate of the Athenian many; he quitted his country with you, and returned with you.* And you know what kind of a man was Chærephon, how energetic in whatsoever he engaged in. He once, going to Delphos, had the boldness to put this question to the oracle; (do not clamour, O Athenians;) he asked whether there existed any person wiser than I? And the oracle answered that there was no person wiser. And to this, since Chærephon himself is dead, his brother will bear witness before you.

Observe now why I mention this; for I am now going to show you how the prejudice against me arose. Hearing the response of the oracle, I considered with myself, What can it mean? what is its hidden significance? for I am not conscious to myself of being wise in any thing, great or small; what, Edition: current; Page: [156] then, can the god mean by calling me the wisest of men? for his words cannot be falsehoods. And for a long time I was puzzled, but at last, with much difficulty, I hit upon a way of examining the matter. I went to one of those who are esteemed wise, thinking that here, if anywhere, I should prove the oracle to be wrong, and be able to say to it, “Here is a man wiser than I.” After examining this man, (I need not mention his name, but he was one of the politicians,) and conversing with him, it was my opinion that this man seemed to many others, and especially to himself, to be wise, but was not so. Thereupon I tried to convince him that he thought himself wise, and was not. By this means I offended him, and many of the bystanders. When I went away I said to myself, “I am wiser than this man: for neither of us, it would seem, knows any thing valuable; but he, not knowing, fancies he does know: I, as I really do not know, so I do not think I know. I seem, therefore, to be, in one small matter, wiser than he, viz. in not thinking that I know what in truth I know not.” After this I went to another, who was esteemed still wiser than he, and came to the same result; and by this I affronted him too, and many others. I went on in the same manner, perceiving, with sorrow and fear, that I was making enemies; but it seemed necessary to postpone all other considerations to the service of the god; and, therefore, to seek for the meaning of the oracle, by going to all who appeared to know any thing. And, O Athenians, (for I must speak the truth,) the impression made on me was this: The persons of most reputation seemed to me to be nearly the most deficient of all; other persons, of much smaller account, seemed much more rational people.

I must relate to you my wanderings, and the labours I underwent, that the truth of the oracle might be fairly tested. When I had done with the politicians, I went to the poets, tragic, dithyrambic, and others, thinking that I should surely find myself less knowing than they. Taking up those of their poems which appeared to me the most laboured, I asked them (that I might at the same time learn something from them) what these poems meant? I am ashamed, O Athenians, to say the truth, but I must say it; there was scarcely a person present who could not have spoken better than they, concerning their own poems. I soon found, that what the poets do, they accomplish, not by wisdom, but by a kind of natural turn, and an enthusiam like that of prophets and those who utter oracles; for these, too, speak many fine things, but do not know one particle of what they speak. The poets seemed to me to be in a similar case. And I perceived, at the same time, that, on account of their poetry, they fancied themselves the wisest of mankind in other things, in which they were not so. I left them, therefore, thinking myself to have the same superiority over them which I had over the politicians. Lastly, I resorted to the artificers; for I was conscious that I myself knew, in a manner, nothing at all, but I was aware that I should find Edition: current; Page: [157] them knowing many valuable things. And in this I was not mistaken; they knew things which I knew not, and were so far wiser than I. But they appeared to me to fall into the same error as the poets; each, because he was skilled in his own art, insisted upon being the wisest man in other and the greatest things; and this mistake of theirs overshadowed what they possessed of wisdom. So that when I asked myself, by way of verifying the oracle, whether I would rather be as I now am, equally without their wisdom and their ignorance, or take the one with the other, I answered that it was better for me to be as I am.

From this search, O Athenians, the consequences to me have been, on the one hand, many enmities, and of the most formidable kind, which have brought upon me many false imputations; but, on the other hand, the name and general repute of a wise man. For the bystanders, on each occasion, imagine that I myself am wise in those things in which I refute the false pretensions of others. The truth, however, O Athenians, is (I suspect) that the god alone is wise, and that his meaning in the oracle, was, that human wisdom is worth little or nothing: the name of Socrates seems to have been introduced, not for commendation, but for a mere example, as if it had been said, He, O men, is the wisest among you, who, like Socrates, knows that all his attainments in wisdom amount in reality to nothing. Meanwhile, I still, for the honour of the god, continue my search, and examine every one, whether a citizen or a stranger, whom I think likely to be a wise man: and when I find that he is not so, I prove that he is not, and so justify the oracle: and by reason of this occupation, I have no leisure to transact any business of moment, either for the state or for my own private benefit, but am in the depth of poverty from having devoted myself to the service of the god.

Besides this, the young men, those who have most leisure, the sons of the rich, take pleasure in following me, liking to hear the men probed and sifted; and they themselves often imitate me, and attempt to examine others; and they find, I imagine, great abundance of persons who fancy themselves knowing, but who really know either very little, or nothing. Those who are thus examined, are angry with me, not with themselves, and say that there is one Socrates, a wicked man, who corrupts the youth. And when any one asks them, by what practices, or by what instructions? they have nothing to say; for they do not know: but, not to seem at a loss, they are ready with the imputations which are always at hand to be cast upon all who philosophize, of studying the sky, and the parts under ground, and not believing in gods, and making the worse appear the better reason. They do not, I fancy, like to say the truth, that they have been convicted of pretending to knowledge without having any. Being, however, jealous of their reputation, and being much in earnest, and many in number, and speaking with premeditation and in a plausible manner about me, they have Edition: current; Page: [158] filled your ears with false notions of me, from an early period. Of these people, Melitus, Anytus, and Lycon, are those who have now set upon me: Melitus to avenge the cause of the poets, Anytus that of the artificers and the politicians, Lycon that of the orators.* So that, as I said at first, I shall wonder if I am able, in so short a time, to expel from your minds a prejudice of such long standing.

This, O Athenians, is the truth; and I have said it, neither dissembling nor disguising any thing, great or small, although I know that to this very freespokenness I owe my enemies; which is a sign that I speak truth, and that the causes of the prejudice against me are those I have mentioned. And if, either now or hereafter, you examine into the matter, so you will find it.

To the accusations, then, which were brought against me by my first accusers, let this be a sufficient reply. I will now attempt to reply to Melitus, the good and patriotic, as he professes himself; and the rest.

These being a new set of accusers, let us look at their charges, as we did at those of the others. “Socrates,” they say, “is guilty of corrupting the youth, and not acknowledging the gods whom the state acknowledges, but other new δαιμόνια,” (divinities, dæmons, or things relating to dæmons,) such is the charge: and of this charge let us examine each separate part. He says, then, that I am guilty of corrupting the youth. But I, O Athenians, say that Melitus is guilty of solemn trifling; bringing men with so much levity before a criminal tribunal, and pretending to be earnestly concerned about things which he never paid the slighest attention to. That this is so, I will endeavour to prove to you.

Come hither, O Melitus, and answer me: You are very anxious that the young may be as good as possible?


I am.


Come then, tell the tribunal, who is it that makes them good? for it is plain that you know, since you are so concerned about them. You have found who it is that corrupts them, you say, and have pointed him out and brought him hither: now point out who makes them better. Do you see, O Melitus, that you are silent and cannot tell? Is not this shameful, and a sufficient proof that, as I say, you have never concerned yourself about the matter? But say, my good friend, who it is that makes them better?


The laws.


That was not what I meant, O most excellent person. I asked what man? a man who in the first place, knows the very thing you mention, the laws.

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These, O Socrates, whom you now see; the judges.


How, O Melitus? Are these people able to educate the young and make them better?


Most certainly.


All of them? or only some?




You say well, by Juno, and there is an ample supply of benefactors.* And the bystanders? Are they also instructors of youth?


They also.


And the senators?


The senators likewise.


And the members of the assembly of the people? they do not corrupt the youth? or do they too, one and all, make them better?


They do.


Then it seems, all the Athenians make the youth good and virtuous except me; I alone corrupt them. Do you assert this?


Most certainly I do.


I am a very unlucky person, according to you. And tell me: do you think this is also the case with horses? Are those who make them better, all mankind; and is there one single person who spoils them? Or is the case quite the reverse; one, or a very few (those who have attended to the subject) capable of making them better; the many, if they try their hand upon horses, spoiling them? Is it not so, O Melitus, both with regard to horses and all other animals? Certainly, whether you and Anytus say so or not. It would be a very happy thing for the youth if there were but one person who spoils them, and all others benefited them. But you have sufficiently shown, O Melitus, that you never bestowed a thought upon the instruction of youth; but have yourself been utterly indifferent to the matters about which you accuse me.

Tell us again, O Melitus; is it better to have good, or wicked people for our fellow-citizens? Answer, friend; the question I ask is not difficult. Are not the wicked always doing some evil to those who are nearest to them, the good always doing some good?




Is there any one who would rather be hurt than benefited by those he associates with? Answer, most excellent person: for the law, too, bids you answer. Does any one wish to be hurt?


No, certainly.


Well, then: do you bring me here on the charge of corrupting the youth, and making them wicked, intentionally, or unintentionally?

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What! are you, O Melitus, at your age, so much wiser than I at mine, that you know the wicked to be always doing some hurt, the good always some good, to those who are nearest to them; but I am so ignorant as not to know that if I make any of those with whom I associate wicked, I am in danger of suffering some evil from them, and, therefore, as you affirm, intentionally do this great evil? I do not believe this, O Melitus, nor, I think, will any other human being. Either I do not corrupt the youth, or if I do, it is unintentionally, and either way you are a calumniator. But if I corrupt them unintentionally, it is not the law to bring men here for such offences when unintentional, but to instruct them and admonish them in private; for it is evident that what I do unintentionally, I shall cease doing if I am taught better. But you avoided conversing with me and instructing me, and have now brought me here, whither the law ordains to bring those who require punishment, not teaching.

What I affirmed, O Athenians, is already evident, that Melitus never gave himself a moment’s concern about these matters. But yet tell us, O Melitus, how you say that I corrupt the youth? In the manner which you mention in the indictment, viz., by teaching them not to acknowledge the gods whom the state acknowledges, but other new δαιμόνια?


Most certainly, I affirm it.


By those gods, O Melitus, who are now in question, I pray you explain yourself more clearly. I cannot make out which of two things you say. Is it that I teach the youth to believe that there are gods, and am myself not altogether an atheist, but believe in gods, though not the same whom the state acknowledges, but others; and is this your charge against me, that I believe in other gods? or do you assert that I do not believe in any gods at all, and that I teach others the same?


That is what I assert; you believe in no gods at all.


Most wonderful Melitus, what is this you say! I do not, then, like the rest of mankind, believe the sun and moon to be gods?


No, by Jupiter, O Athenians: for he says that the sun is of stone, and the moon of earth.


You fancy you are accusing Anaxagoras, most worthy Melitus: and you have such a contempt for these judges, and think them so ignorant of letters, as not to know that the writings of Anaxagoras, of Clazomene, are full of this sort of doctrines. So, then, the youth learn from me, what they may buy sometimes at the theatre* for one drachma, and may then laugh at Edition: current; Page: [161] Socrates if he pretend that they are his, especially being so paradoxical. So you really think that I do not believe in any gods?


In none at all.


You are incredulous, O Melitus; you do not even give credence to your own word. This man, O Athenians, seems to me to be exceedingly self-willed and insolent, and to have brought this prosecution against me from self-will and insolence, and youthful levity. It looks like a trial of ingenuity; as if he had said to himself: Will the wise Socrates find out the inconsistency in what I say, or shall I succeed in cheating him, and the rest of them? For he contradicts himself in the very words of the accusation; saying, in fact, this “Socrates is guilty of not believing in gods, but believing in gods.” This looks like a jest. Attend then, O Athenians, that you may know what I mean: and do you answer, O Melitus. You, O Athenians, as I begged you at first, remember not to be clamorous if I speak in my own usual manner.

Is there any one, O Melitus, who believes that there are human things, but does not believe that there are men? Answer, O Athenians, and do not clamour. Does any one believe that there are things relating to horses, but not believe that there are horses? or that there are things relating to music, but not musicians? Nobody, O best of men; for if you will not answer, I will answer to you and to the judges. But answer the next question. Does any one believe that there are (δαιμόνια) things relating to dæmons, but not believe in dæmons?




How much good you have done, by answering with so much reluctance, and not until the judges obliged you. You say then, that I believe, and teach, that there are things relating to dæmons, no matter whether new or old. I therefore, according to you, believe in things relating to dæmons, and this you have sworn to in the indictment. But if I believe in the existence of things relating to dæmons, I must needs believe in the existence of dæmons: is it not so? It is: for as you will not answer, I consider you as assenting. But do we not regard dæmons as either gods or the offspring of gods? Do we, or not?




Then if I believe in dæmons, as you say; and if dæmons are a kind of gods, this is the riddle I said you were playing off upon us, saying that I, not believing in gods, do nevertheless believe in gods, since I believe in dæmons. But if dæmons are the offspring of the gods, by the nymphs, as they say, or in any other way, what human creature can believe that there exists offspring of gods, but no gods? It would be as absurd as to believe that there exists offspring of horses and asses, namely mules, but that there are no horses or asses. It is impossible, O Melitus, that you can have Edition: current; Page: [162] brought such an accusation for any purpose but to try us, or because you could find nothing true to accuse me of. That you should be able to persuade any person in his senses that the same person can think that there are things belonging to dæmons and gods, and yet no dæmons, nor gods, nor demigods, is impossible.

That I am not guilty, O Athenians, according to the accusation of Melitus, does not seem to need much proof: what I have said is sufficient. But what I have already told you, that I am in much odium, and with many persons, you well know to be true. And this is what will cause my condemnation, if I be condemned: not Melitus nor Anytus, but the prejudice and calumny in the minds of the many: which has been the cause of condemnation to many other and good men, and will continue to be so, and there is no fear that I shall be the last.[*]

Perhaps, now, some one may say, “Art thou not then ashamed, O Socrates, of practising a pursuit from which thou art now in danger of death?” To such a person I may justly make answer, “Thou speakest not well, O friend, if thou thinkest that a man should calculate the chances of living or dying (altogether an unimportant matter); instead of considering this only, when he does anything, whether what he does be just or unjust, the act of a good or of a bad man. For by thy way of thinking, the demigods who perished at Troy are worthy of no admiration; even the son of Thetis, who so despised danger in comparison with any dishonour, that when his mother, a goddess, said to him when eager to slay Hector, ‘My son, if thou avenge thy friend Patroclus, and destroy Hector, thou thyself wilt die,’ he, fearing much more to live unworthy and not avenge his friends, than to die, answered, ‘May I die immediately, after punishing the man who has injured me, that I may not remain the scoff of my countrymen, a burthen to the earth.’ ”[†]

Thus it is, O Athenians: wheresoever our post is,—whether we choose it, thinking it the best, or are placed in it by a superior,—there, as I hold, we ought to remain, and suffer all chances, neither reckoning death nor any other consequence as worse than dishonour. I, therefore, should be greatly in the wrong, O Athenians, if when I was commanded by the superiors whom you set over me, at Potidæa and Amphipolis and Delium,* I remained (like other people) where those superiors posted me, and perilled my life; but when, as I believed, the god commanded me, and bade me pass my life in philosophizing, and examining myself and others, then, fearing Edition: current; Page: [163] either death or anything else, I should abandon my post. Then, indeed, might I with justice be brought before the tribunal, and accused of not believing in gods; if I disobeyed their oracles, and feared death, and thought myself wise, not being so. To be afraid of death, O Athenians, is to fancy ourselves wise, not being so; for it is to fancy that we know what we do not know. No one knows whether death is not the greatest possible good to man. But people fear it, as if they knew it to be the greatest of evils. What is this but the most discreditable ignorance, to think we know what we know not? I, O Athenians, differ perhaps in this from persons in general, (and if I am wiser than any other person it is probably in this,) that not knowing sufficiently about a future state, I do not fancy I know. This, however, I do know; that to do injustice, and to resist the injunctions of one who is better than myself, be he god or man, is evil and disgraceful. I shall not, therefore, fly to the evils which I know to be evils, from fear of that which, for aught I know, may be a good.

If, therefore, you were to acquit me, (in spite of the predictions of Anytus, who said that either I ought not to have been tried, or if tried, it is impossible not to put me to death, since if I escape, all your sons will practise the instructions of Socrates, and be ruined); if, to prevent these consequences, you should say to me, “O Socrates, we will now, in spite of what Anytus said, let you off, but upon condition that you shall no longer persevere in your search, in your philosophizing; if you are again convicted of doing so, you shall be put to death”—If, I say, you should let me off on these conditions, I should say to you,—O Athenians, I love and cherish you, but I will obey the god rather than you; and as long as I breathe, and it is not out of my power, I will not cease to philosophize, and to exhort you to philosophy, and point out the way to whomsoever among you I fall in with; saying, as I am wont, “O most worthy person, art thou, an Athenian, of the greatest city and the most celebrated for wisdom and power, not ashamed that thou studiest to possess as much money as possible, and reputation, and honour, but concernest not thyself even to the smallest degree about Intellect, and Truth, and the well-being of thy mental nature?” And if any of you shall dispute the fact, and say that he does concern himself about these things, I will not let him off, or depart, but will question him, and examine, and confute him; and if he seem to me not to possess virtue, but to assert that he does, I will reproach him for valuing least what is highest worth, and highest what is most worthless. This will I do both to young and old, whomsoever I meet with; to citizen and stranger, but most to my fellow-citizens, as connected with me by a nearer tie. For these, as you well know, are the commands of the god. And to me it appears, that no good can happen to the state greater than my service of the god: for I pass my whole time doing nothing whatever but inciting you, both the young and the old, Edition: current; Page: [164] to care neither for body nor estate in preference to, nor in comparison with, the excellence of the soul; telling you that wealth does not produce virtue, but virtue wealth, and all other good things, to mankind, both collectively and individually. If, then, saying these things, I corrupt the youth, these things must be noxious: for if any one asserts that I say any other things than these, he speaks falsely. I say, therefore, O Athenians, whether you believe Anytus or not, whether you acquit me or not, let it be with the knowledge that I shall do no other things than these—not though I should die many deaths.

Do not clamour, O Athenians, but abide by what I requested of you, not to bawl out against what I say, but to listen to it; and I think you will be the better for hearing it. I have still some other things to say, at which you will, perhaps, cry out; but I exhort you not to do so. Know well, O Athenians, that if you put me to death, being such as I describe myself, you will not hurt me more than you will hurt yourselves. Me Anytus and Melitus will not hurt; they cannot. It is not permitted that a better man should be hurt by a worse. Kill me, or exile me, or deprive me of civic rights, they may. And these, to Melitus, perhaps, and to others as well as him, may appear great evils; but not to me. To do what he is now doing, to attempt to kill another man unjustly, seems to me a far greater evil. Nor am I now, O Athenians, as you may perhaps suppose, pleading for myself,—far from it,—but for you; that you may not, by condemning me, commit a crime against the gift which the god has given to you. For if you kill me, you will not easily find another person like me, who in sober truth (though it may sound ridiculous) am sent by the god to this city, as to a strong and generous horse, who is somewhat sluggish from his size, and requires to be stimulated by a stinging insect. The god, as it seems to me, has given me to you as such an insect, to goad you by persuasions and reproaches, settling upon one of you after another. You will not, O Athenians, easily find another such man: and therefore, if you take my advice, you will spare me. But you, perhaps, being angry, like sleepers awakened, will strike at me, and being persuaded by Anytus, will inconsiderately put me to death; and then pass the remainder of your lives in slumber, unless the god in his care for you should send to you some one else.

That I am such a person as one bestowed on you by the god might be expected to be, you may judge from this: it is not like the ways of mere humanity, to neglect all my own concerns, and let my private affairs be so many years uncared for, devoting myself to your interests; seeking each of you, as if I were his father or his elder brother, and inciting him to the pursuit of virtue. If I gained anything by it, and gave these exhortations for pay or reward, there would be something intelligible in it. But now you yourselves see, that my accusers, shameless as they have shown themselves Edition: current; Page: [165] in all their other accusations, could not carry their shamelessness so far as to affirm, producing testimony, that I ever took or asked reward from any one: for I have truly a good and sufficient witness to my assertion, my poverty.

Perhaps it may appear strange that I go about and busy myself with giving these exhortations in private, but do not venture to come forward in public and advise the people in the public assembly. The cause of this is, what you have often heard me speak of; that I have a divine (or dæmonic) monitor; which Melitus alluded to in the indictment, and ludicrously perverted. This is, a voice, which from my childhood upwards has occasionally visited me, always to dissuade me from something which I was about to do, but never instigating me to any thing. It is this voice which opposes my meddling in public affairs. And rightly, in my opinion, has it done so: for know, Athenians, that if I had long ago attempted to interfere in politics, I should long ago have perished, and done no good either to you or myself. And be not angry with me for saying the truth. It is impossible that any human being should escape destruction, who sincerely opposes himself to you, or to any other multitude, and strives to prevent many injustices and illegalities from being transacted in the state. He who means really to contend for the right, if he would be unharmed for even a short time, must keep to private, and avoid public life.

I will produce to you signal proofs of this; not words, but, what you most honour, deeds. Hear, then, the things which have happened to me; that you may know that I would never, from the fear of death, have succumbed to any one contrary to justice, and not succumbing, would inevitably have been destroyed. What I will tell you, may sound arrogant and presuming; but it is true.

The only office I ever held in the state, O Athenians, was that of a member of the Senate of Five Hundred; and it fell to my tribe (the tribe Antiochis) to preside, when you decided that the ten generals, accused of not taking up the bodies of the slain in the seafight,* should be tried collectively; an illegal decision, as since that time has become the opinion of you all. On that occasion, I alone of the Prytanes resisted your doing any thing contrary to law. The orators cried out to indict me instantly and drag me to prison, and you assented by acclamation; but I preferred to run Edition: current; Page: [166] all risks on the side of justice and the law, rather than to join with you in an unjust resolve from fear of chains or death. This happened while the state was under a democracy. When an oligarchy succeeded, the Thirty sent for me and four others to the Tholus,* and commanded us to proceed to Salamis and bring from thence Leon, the Salaminian, that he might be put to death. They at that time gave such commands to many persons, wishing to compromise the greatest number of persons possible as accomplices in their proceedings. I then, not by word but by deed, proved that I do not care one jot for death, but every thing for avoiding any unjust or impious action. That government, powerful as it was, did not intimidate me into any act of injustice; but when we quitted the Tholus, the other four went to Salamis and brought Leon from thence, but I returned home. Perhaps this would have cost me my life, had not that government soon after been overthrown. To these facts I can produce many witnesses.

Do you think, then, that I could have lived so many years, if I had mingled in public affairs, and, as befits a good man, had always given my aid to the just cause, and made that, as I ought, my grand object? Far from it, O Athenians; neither I nor any other man. But I, throughout my whole life, and in whatever public transaction I may have been engaged in, shall always be found such as I am in private, never tolerating the slightest violation of justice, either in any one else, or in those whom my calumniators assert to be my disciples. But I have never been any one’s teacher; though if any one, whether young or old, desired to stand by and listen to me, speaking and following my own path, I never grudged to allow him. Neither is it my practice to converse with people when they pay me money, and not otherwise; but I permit rich and poor alike to question me, or if they please, to answer my questions, and to hear what I have to say. And whether any of these turn out a good or a bad man, I cannot justly be held accountable, since I never taught nor undertook to teach them anything. If any one affirms that he ever learnt or heard from me in private, any thing but what all other persons have heard, be assured that he speaks falsely.

But why, then, do some persons take pleasure in frequenting my society? You have already heard, O Athenians; I have told you the whole truth; they like to hear those persons exposed, who fancy themselves wise and are not; Edition: current; Page: [167] for it is not unpleasant. But to me, as I affirm, it has been enjoined by the god to do this,—enjoined in oracles, and in dreams, and in every other way in which Divine ordinance commands anything to a human being.

These things, O Athenians, are true; and could easily be disproved, if they were not. For if I corrupt some of the young men, and have already corrupted others, they, if any of them growing older have perceived that I had given them evil counsels when young, ought to appear now, and charge me with it, and punish me; or if they were unwilling, some of their relations, their fathers or brothers, if these people have suffered any evil from me, should remember it now. There are many such persons present, whom I now see; Criton, my contemporary and member of the same ward,* the father of Critobulus, here present; Lysanias, the father of Æschines, who is present; Antiphon, the father of Epigenes; others, again, whose brothers have kept company with me; Nicostratus, the son of Theodotides, brother of Theodotus; (Theodotus himself is dead, and therefore cannot have dissuaded his brother from appearing against me;) Paralus, the son of Demodocus, whose brother Theages was; Adeimantus, the son of Ariston, and brother of Plato here; Æantodorus, brother of this Apollodorus; and many others I could mention. Some one of these, Melitus should have produced as a witness; and if he then forgot, let him produce them now, and I will give place. But you will find the very contrary of this, O judges; they are all eager to assist me—the corrupter and injurer of their relatives, as Melitus and Anytus affirm. Those indeed, who have themselves been corrupted by me, might naturally enough be supposed to take my side: but the uncorrupted, some of them elderly men, the relatives of the others—what reason can they have for aiding me, but the right and just one, their knowledge that Melitus is a calumniator, and that I speak the truth?

These things, O Athenians, and such as these, are what I have to say in my defence. Perhaps some one among you may be displeased with me, when he bethinks himself that in the trial which preceded mine, the accused, though he had less at stake, entreated the judges, with many tears; and brought hither, to excite their pity, his children, and others of his relations and friends; while I shall do nothing of the kind, although the penalty which, as it may seem, I am in danger of, is the severest of all. Some of you, perhaps, thinking of these things, may feel harshly towards me, and may give an angry vote. If any one among you feels thus, which I hope is not the case, I think I may very properly hold the following discourse to him. I too, most worthy person, have relatives: I am not (as Homer says) sprung from an oak tree, or from a rock, but from human beings;[*] and I Edition: current; Page: [168] have not only relations, but three sons, O Athenians; one of them a youth, the two others still children. Nevertheless, I shall not, bringing any of them here, implore you to acquit me. And why? Not from pride, O Athenians, nor from disdain of you; but for this reason: whether I look upon death with courage or with fear is another matter: but with a view to our reputation, both mine and yours, and that of the city itself, it does not seem to me honourable that I should do such things at my age, and with such a name as I have, whether merited or not. Men certainly believe that Socrates is in some way superior to the multitude of mankind. It would be shameful if those among you who are esteemed superior to the rest, whether in wisdom or in courage, or in any other virtue, should conduct themselves like so many others whom I have seen on their trial, and who might have been taken for people of some account, but who moved heaven and earth to be acquitted, as if it were something dreadful to die; as though they expected to be immortal unless you should put them to death. Such persons appear to me to bring discredit on the city; a foreigner might conclude that the most virtuous among the Athenians, they whom the Athenians select from themselves as the worthiest, for public offices and other honours, are in nothing superior to women. Such things, O Athenians, we, who are thought to be of some account, ought neither to do, nor if we did, ought you to suffer us, but, on the contrary, to show that you will much rather condemn those who enact these pathetic dramas, and make the city ridiculous, than those who refrain from them. And besides the discredit, it does not seem to me even just, to supplicate the judge, and escape by supplication, but to instruct and convince him. For the judge does not sit here to make a favour of justice, but impartially to inquire into it; and he has sworn not to gratify whomsoever he pleases, but to judge according to the laws. We, therefore, should not accustom you, nor should you let yourselves be accustomed, to violate your oaths: it would be impiety in both of us. Do not then, O Athenians, demand of me to do such things towards you as I deem to be neither beautiful, nor just, nor holy; especially as I am actually on trial for impiety. If I should work upon you and influence your decision by supplications, when you have sworn to do justice, I should indeed teach that you do not believe in gods, and my defence of myself would be an accusation against myself that I believe not in them. But far is this from the truth. I believe in them, O Athenians, as not one of my accusers does. And I commit to you and to the god to decide concerning me, in whatever way shall be best for you and for me.


Among many things, O Athenians, which prevent me from feeling indignant at your having condemned me, one is, that what has happened was not Edition: current; Page: [169] unexpected by me. Much rather do I wonder at the number of votes in my favour. I did not expect to be condemned by so small a majority, but by a large one: it now, however, appears, that if but thirty of the votes had been given differently, I should have escaped. As far as Melitus is concerned, I have escaped as it is: and it is even clear to every one, that if Anytus and Lycon had not appeared as my accusers, he would have been liable to the penalty of one thousand drachmæ, not having obtained a fifth part of the votes.*

The penalty proposed by my accuser is death. What penalty shall I, on my part, propose? surely that which I deserve. Well, then, what do I deserve to suffer or to pay, because I never relaxed in instructing myself, but neglecting what the many care for, money-getting and household management, and military commands, and civil offices, and speech-making, and all the political clubs and societies in the city; thinking myself, in fact, too honest to follow these pursuits and be safe; I did not go where I could be of no use either to you or to myself, but went to each man individually, to confer on him the greatest of all benefits; attempting to persuade every one of you, to think of none of his own concerns till he had looked to making himself as good and as wise as possible; nor of the city’s concerns till he had looked to making the city so; and to pursue all other things in a similar spirit. What, then, ought to be done to me for such conduct? Some good, O Athenians, if I am really to be treated according to my deserts; and a good of such a kind as beseems me. What, then, beseems a man in poor circumstances, your benefactor, and requiring leisure to prosecute his exhortations? There is nothing, O Athenians, which would be so suitable for such a man to receive, as a maintenance at the public expense. It would befit him much better than any of you who may have carried away the prize of horse or chariot-racing at the Olympic contests. For, such a man makes you only seem happy, but I make you be so: and he does not require a maintenance, but I do. If, therefore, I must estimate myself justly according to my deserts, I rate myself at a maintenance in the Prytaneum.

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Perhaps I seem to you, in saying this, as in what I said about supplication and entreaty, to be influenced by pride. The fact, however, is not so: but rather, as I am now about to tell you. I know that I do not intentionally injure any one; but I am not able to convince you of it; for we have conversed together but a short time: if, indeed, it were the law with you, as in other countries, not to terminate capital trials in one day, but continue them through several, you could then have been convinced; but now, it is not easy, in a short time, to conquer strong prejudices. I, then, being convinced that I wrong no one, cannot consent to wrong myself, by affirming that I am worthy of any evil, and proposing that any evil should be inflicted upon me as a penalty. From what fear should I do so? From the fear lest I should suffer what Melitus proposes? when I affirm that I know not whether it be an evil or a good? Shall I, then, choose something which I well know to be an evil, and propose that as the penalty? Imprisonment, for example? And why should I seek to live in a prison, at the mercy of every successive police officer?* A fine? and imprisonment until I pay it? That would be the same thing; for I have no means of paying it. Shall I propose banishment? for perhaps you might sentence me to that. But I must be very fond of life, O Athenians, if I am so bad a calculator as not to compute that if you, who are my countrymen, have not been able to bear my ways and my sayings, but have found them burthensome and invidious, and now seek to get rid of them, it is not likely that other people will bear them easily. Far from it, O Athenians. It would be an unworthy life for me, exiled at my age, to live in perpetual wanderings and banishments from one city to another. For, I well know, that whithersoever I go, the young men will listen to my discourses as they do here. And if I repel them, they, by their influence with the older people, will drive me from the place: but if I admit them, their fathers and relations will do it for their sake. Perhaps somebody may say, But canst thou not, O Socrates, going into exile, live there in peace and silence? Here it is that I have the hardest task to persuade you; for, if I say that this would be to disobey the god, and that I, therefore, cannot remain silent, you will think it ironical, and disbelieve it. And if, again, I say that the greatest good possible for man is, to discuss daily concerning virtue, and the other matters on which you hear me converse and examine myself and others, and that to live an unexamined life is not endurable, you will still less believe me. The fact, however, is as I say, but it is not easy to make it apparent.

I am not used to pronounce myself deserving of any evil. If I had money, Edition: current; Page: [171] I would estimate my penalty at as much money as I was able to pay, for it would have been no damage to me; but now—I have none; unless you are willing to fix the penalty at what I am able to pay. Perhaps I could pay as much as a silver mina: at this, therefore, I rate the penalty. Plato here, and Criton, and Critobulus, and Apollodorus, O Athenians, bid me rate it at thirty minæ, and they undertake to be my sureties. I do so, therefore, and their security is adequate.


It is for the sake of but a short span, O Athenians, that you have incurred the imputation, from those who wish to speak evil against the city, of having put to death Socrates, a wise man, (for those who are inclined to reproach you, will say that I am wise even if I am not). Had you waited a short time, the thing would have happened without your agency; for you see my years; I am far advanced in life, and near to death. I address this not to all of you, but to those who have voted for the capital sentence. And this too I say to the same persons: Perhaps you think that I have been condemned from want of skill in such modes of working upon your minds, as I might have employed with success if I had thought it right to employ all means in order to escape from condemnation. Far from it. I have been condemned, not for want of things to say, but for want of daring and shamelessness; because I did not choose to say to you the things which would have been pleasantest to you to hear, weeping and lamenting, and doing and saying other things which I affirm to be unworthy of me; as you are accustomed to see others do. But neither did I then think fit, because of my danger, to do anything unworthy of a freeman; nor do I now repent of having thus defended myself; I would far rather have made the one defence and die, than have made the other and live. Neither in a court of justice, nor in war, ought we to make it our object, that, whatever happen, we may escape death. In battle, it is often evident that a man may save his life by throwing away his arms, and imploring mercy of his pursuers; and in all other dangers there are many contrivances by which a person may get off with life, if he dare do or say everything. The difficulty, O Athenians, is not to escape from death, but from guilt; for guilt is swifter than death, and runs faster. And now I, being old, and slow of foot, have been overtaken by death, the slower of the two; but my accusers, who are brisk and vehement, by wickedness, the swifter. We quit this place, I having been sentenced by you to death, but they, having sentence passed upon them by Truth, of guilt and injustice. I submit to my punishment, and they to theirs. These things, perhaps, are as they should be, and for the best.

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But I wish, O men who have condemned me, to prophesy to you what is next to come; for I am in the position in which men are most wont to prophesy, being at the point of death. I say, then, O you who have slain me—that immediately after my death there will come upon you a far severer punishment than that which you have inflicted upon me. For you have done this, thinking by it to escape from being called to account for your lives. But I affirm that the very reverse will happen to you. There will be many to call you to account, whom I have hitherto restrained, and whom you saw not: and being younger they will give you more annoyance, and you will be still more provoked. For if you think, by putting men to death, to deter others from reproaching you with living amiss, you think ill. That mode of protecting yourselves is neither very possible, nor very noble: the noblest and the easiest too, is not to cut off other people, but so to order yourselves, as to obtain the greatest excellence. Having prophesied thus to those who have condemned me, I leave them.

With those who voted for my acquittal, I would gladly, while the officers are busy, and I am not yet going to the place where I am to be put to death, converse a little about this which has happened. Stay with me, my friends, until then; for I would explain to you, as my well wishers, the meaning of what has now happened to me. There has occurred to me, O judges, (for you I may rightly call by that name,) something surprising. My accustomed dæmonic warning has, in all former times, been very frequent, and given on small occasions, if I was about to do any thing not for my good. But now, as you see, those things have happened to me, which are generally esteemed the worst of evils; yet the divine monitor did not warn me, neither when I left my home in the morning, nor when I came up hither to the judgment-seat, nor at any time when I was speaking; though on other occasions I have often, while speaking, experienced the warning, and been checked in what I was about to say. But in neither word nor deed connected with this business, have I been checked by the sign. What do I suppose to be the cause? I will tell you. This which has happened is most likely a good; and those of us who think death an evil are probably in the wrong. For the accustomed warning would certainly have been given to me, if what I was about to do had not been for my good.

We may also, from the following considerations, conclude that there is much hope of its being a good. For death must be one of two things: either the dead are incapable of feeling or perceiving anything; or death is, as we are told, a change of abode, a passage of the soul from this to some other place. Now, if after death there be no sensation, but it be like a sleep in which there are no dreams, death is a mighty gain. For if any one were to choose from his life, a night in which he had slept without dreaming, and Edition: current; Page: [173] comparing with this all the other nights and days of his life, were required to say in how many of them he had lived better and more pleasantly than in that night, I imagine that not a private man merely, but the Great King, would find that such days and nights were soon counted. If then this be death, it is a gain: since all eternity would not thus appear longer than one night. But if death be to quit this place for another, and if it be true as is affirmed, that in that other place is the abode of all the dead; what greater good can there be, O judges, than this? If, arriving in the other world, and leaving these people who call themselves judges, we shall see the real judges, who are said to judge there, Minos and Rhadamanthus and Æacus and Triptolemus, and all other demigods who lived justly while they were alive, would it not be a noble journey? What would not any of you give to converse with Orpheus, and Musæus, and Hesiod, and Homer? I would gladly die many times if this be true; since to me it would be a delightful residence when I had met with Palamedes, and the Telamonian Ajax, and any other of the ancients who perished in consequence of an unjust judgment. To compare my own fate with theirs, would not, I think, be disagreeable: and best of all, to live examining and interrogating the people there, as I have done here, to discover who among them are wise, and who think themselves so, but are not. How much would not one give, O judges, for an opportunity of examining him who led the great expedition to Troy; or Ulysses, or Sysyphus, or ten thousand others whom one could mention, both men and women; with whom to converse and associate there, and to examine them, would be the height of happiness. They do not, there, put one to death for such things; for the people there are happier than the people here, both in other things, and in this, that when once there they are immortal; if what we are told is true.

It behoves you, O judges, to be of good cheer concerning death; and to fix this truth in your minds, that to a good man, whether he die or live, nothing is evil, nor are his affairs neglected by the gods; neither did what has happened to me occur spontaneously, but it is evident to me that to die, and come to an end now, was most for my good. For this reason was it that the sign did not interpose to check me; and I do not much complain of my accusers, nor of those who condemned me. Though they, indeed, accused and condemned me not with any such intention, but purposing to do me harm: and for this it is fit to blame them.

Thus much, however, I beg of them: When my sons grow up, punish them, O Athenians, by tormenting them as I tormented you, if they shall seem to study riches, or any other ends, in preference to virtue. And if they are thought to be something, being really nothing, reproach them as I have reproached you, for not attending to what they ought, and fancying themselves Edition: current; Page: [174] something when they are good for nothing. And if you do this, both I and my sons shall have received what is just at your hands.

It is now time that we depart, I to die, you to live; but which has the better destiny is unknown to all, except the god.

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The first folio of the MS of “Notes on the Charmides of Plato” Berg Collection, New York Public Library

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The Charmides

[Holograph MS, Berg Collection, New York Public Library, entitled “Notes on the Charmides of Plato.” Paper watermarked 1828. Not mentioned in JSM’s bibliography. For details concerning the manuscript and the transcription, see the Textual Introduction, lxxxi-lxxxii above; for a discussion of this and the other translations of Plato, see also the Introduction, xvii-xxviii above.]

the subject of this dialogue is σωϕροσύνη, which includes the two ideas of prudence and temperance, with a sort of etymological reference to thought, and good sense,* and may perhaps in general be best translated by the word considerateness, as when we speak of considerate conduct, and a considerate character or disposition. To the purposes however of the present dialogue, the words good sense seem better adapted.

The interlocutors are Socrates, Critias (afterwards the head of the Thirty Tyrants, though long a disciple of Socrates) and a young man named Charmides, who appears to have been celebrated for his personal beauty, the effect of which upon the bystanders and even upon Socrates himself, that philosopher (who is the narrator of the conversation) describes in terms which to our modern ideas appear singularly high-flown.

Socrates seeing, at the Taurean palæstra, the exceeding beauty of this young man, & being told by his cousin & guardian, Critias, that he was equally excellent in mind, expressed a desire to converse with him. Critias offered to bring this about, & called upon Charmides to approach, pretending to have found a physician who could cure him of a headach which he had complained of. Socrates, being asked whether he was this physician, pretended that he was, and that his remedy was a certain herb, but that its Edition: current; Page: [176] efficacy depended upon its being used together with a particular incantation: the power of which was not confined to the head, but gave health to the whole man. “You must have heard,” he continued, “from good physicians, that if a man comes to them with diseased eyes, they cannot cure the eyes separately, but in order to remedy the complaint of the eyes they must make applications to the whole body. It is the same with respect to this incantation. I was taught it by some Thracian physicians, whose power is said to extend even to conferring immortality. They told me, that the Grecian physicians were right in that maxim of theirs, which I just mentioned, but the Thracian god Zalmoxis had taught, that as the eyes could not be cured without the head nor the head without the body, so neither can the body without the mind, & that the reason why most diseases prove too strong for the Greek physicians, is, that they attempt to treat one part of the human being, being unacquainted with the nature of the whole. All good & all evil come originally from the mind, & that must be in a proper state before the condition of any other part of the system can be rectified. But the appliances which keep the mind in a proper state, are of the nature of incantation, to wit, Doctrine, Discussion, Argument. By these, σωϕροσύνη, or good sense, is generated, & where that exists, it is easy to procure health for the body. This physician, therefore,” added Socrates, “who taught me the remedy for headach, made me swear solemnly never to suffer any one to prevail upon me to apply it to his head unless he will first allow me to apply the incantation to his mind. If therefore you, Charmides, will first place your mind under my care that I may administer the incantation, I will apply the remedy to your head; if not, I can do nothing for you.”

Critias observed, that the headach which Charmides was afflicted with, would be an excellent thing for him if it forced him to improve his mental health also for the sake of the bodily: that however he already excelled his contemporaries not less in this very quality of good sense than in personal beauty. “If so,” said Socrates, “he has no occasion for the incantation, & we may proceed at once to administer the remedy for headach: but if he is still deficient in σωϕροσύνη, we must begin with the incantation.” He therefore asked Charmides whether he deemed himself to possess a sufficiency of this quality or not. Charmides not liking either to say that he did, or to admit that he did not, Socrates proposed a mode of examining him, so as to ascertain the point.

“If,” said he, “you possess good sense, you must have some opinion on the subject of it. For if this quality is in you, it must make its existence perceptible in some manner, from which you must be enabled to form some opinion, what, & what kind of thing it is.”—“Certainly,” answered Charmides.—“Can you then tell what in your opinion it is?”—Charmides, after some hesitation, answered, that he thought it consisted in doing every Edition: current; Page: [177] thing in an orderly and quiet manner, as for instance, walking quietly, & talking quietly, and so forth. In short, it seemed to him he said to be a certain tranquillity. The idea which he seemed to wish to express, was that of a kind of external decency, & personal reserve.

Socrates proceeded to catechize him further, asking him whether he did not consider good sense to be an admirable thing?—“Certainly,” replied he.—“Whether, now, in learning to write, is it more admirable to write copies rapidly, or quietly?”—“Rapidly.”—“And to read, rapidly or slowly?”—“Rapidly.”—“To play on the harp? To box, or wrestle? To run? To learn? To teach? To recollect?” In all these operations, Charmides was forced to admit, that quickness was more meritorious than slowness, or tranquillity; and moreover in thinking, he admitted that sagacity consisted in quickness & sharpness of mind, not slowness and tranquillity: So again in deliberation, that the greater excellence was in him who could deliberate quickest, not him who did it most slowly and quietly. Good sense, therefore, did not consist in tranquillity, and it was necessary that Charmides should consider again & give another answer.

He answered, that good sense made men sensible to shame, & seemed to be much the same thing with modesty. To this Socrates answered, by asking him whether he did not admit that sense was a good quality?—“Yes.”—“And do you not think that Homer is in the right, when he says, that it is not good for a needy man to be ashamed?”[*]—“I do.”—“Then there is good shame and bad shame.”—“Yes.”—“But sense is always good.”—“It is.”—“Then sense is not the same thing with sensibility to shame.”

Charmides assented, & suggested another definition of sense which he had just recollected to have heard, viz. that it consisted in confining oneself to one’s own business.

Socrates compared this definition to a riddle; “for,” said he, “it cannot have been meant in the literal sense of the words. Do you think that a grammarian, or teacher of languages (γραμματιστής) in teaching children to read & write their own or any other tongue, reads and writes nothing but his own name, & taught you when you were a child to read & write nothing but your own name? Did you not write the names of friends & enemies indiscriminately?”—“We did.”—“Did you act contrary to good sense in so doing?”—“No.”—“But you were not confining yourselves to your own business.”—“True.”—“And to give medical attendance, to build, to weave, in short to practise any art, is to transact some business, is it not?”—“Yes.”—“But would a state be well administered if the law were, that each man should weave & dye his own coat, & make his own shoes, Edition: current; Page: [178] &c. and not meddle with other men’s business?”—“No.”—“But if it were sensibly administered it must be well administered.”—“Yes.”—“Then sense does not consist literally in confining oneself to one’s own business.”—“So it seems.”—“Then the person who gave you this definition, meant it, as I said before, as a riddle: or was he some very silly person?”—“No,” answered Charmides, “he was a very wise person.”—“Then it must have been meant as a riddle, because it was difficult to guess what was meant by confining oneself to one’s own business. Can you tell what it is?”—“No,” answered Charmides, “nor perhaps could the author himself,” looking at Critias, & smiling.

Critias, who was evidently the person meant, though he had disclaimed it, interposed in behalf of the definition, and said, that he did not consider these handicraft occupations to be entitled to the name of business. “For Hesiod,” said he, “declares, that business is no disgrace.[*] Do you think he meant that shoemaking & sausageselling* were no disgrace? Work is a different thing from business: Work may be a reproach, but that only is business which is noble and useful. This therefore ought to be considered one’s own business; & all mischievous things, should be considered as foreign to us. In this signification, Hesiod & other wise men thought that the sensible man is he who confines himself to his own business.”

“I thought from the first,” answered Socrates, “that by one’s own, you meant all good things and by business all good works. I have heard Prodicus make a hundred such verbal distinctions. But you may impose names in whatever way you please, only let us know to what thing, each of your names is applied. Let us begin again from the beginning. Sense, you say, is the doing of good things.”—“Yes.”—“He who does evil then is not sensible, you think?”—“And do not you?”—“The question is not what I think, but what you say.”—“I say, that he who does good & avoids evil is sensible, he who does evil & not good, is not sensible, & I am willing to define sense, as the doing of what is good.”—“May be so. But I am surprised if you think that men may be sensible without knowing that they are so.”—“But I do not think so.”—“Do you not think that a physician, in curing a sick man, does what is beneficial both to himself & to the person cured?”—“Yes.”—“Then he does what is right.”—“But he who does what is right, is sensible.”—“Yes.”—“Now, must a physician necessarily know, whether he has done a benefit by curing or not? And in general, must any workman know, as a matter of course, whether the work he has accomplished will or will not turn out beneficial to himself?”—“Perhaps Edition: current; Page: [179] not.”—“Then a physician may sometimes act beneficially or detrimentally, without knowing that he has done so, & may therefore, by your definition, be sensible without knowing it.”

“This,” answered Critias, “is impossible: & if any of my former admissions leads necessarily to this, I had rather retract the admission, than allow that a person may be sensible, not knowing himself. For I think that good sense chiefly consists in self-knowledge, & that the celebrated inscription at Delphi, Know thyself, was intended as a salution from the God, not according to the usual form, Rejoice, but equivalent to this, Be sensible, being a more proper exhortation on meeting, than to rejoice. I will therefore give up all that has been said, in which perhaps you were right, & perhaps I, though neither of us said any thing very clear. But I am now ready to maintain if you deny it that good sense is, to know ourselves.”

Socrates told Critias that he was not to consider him as knowing any thing about the matter, so as either to deny or admit, but that he was ready to join in enquiring into it.

“You say that good sense is to know oneself. Now if it is to know, it is a sort of knowledge.”—“Yes.”—“The knowledge of something.”—“Yes, of oneself.”—“Medicine is the knowledge of what is conducive to health, is it not?”—“Yes.”—“If you were to ask me, what was the use of medicine, or the knowledge of what conduces to health, & what effect it produces, I should answer, It is of great use, for it produces an admirable thing, viz. health.”—“Yes.”—“And if you asked me what is the effect produced by Architecture, or the knowledge of building, I should answer, Edifices; & so forth. Now you ought to be able to tell me, what is the excellent effect produced by good sense, which you say, is the knowledge of oneself.”

“This,” replied Critias, “is not a right question. For good sense is not like other branches of knowledge, nor are they like each other; but you interrogate as if they were. Can you shew any effect produced by arithmetic, or geometry, or many other arts, in the manner in which cloth is produced by weaving, or houses by architecture? You cannot.”—“True. But I can shew you in each of these branches of knowledge, something, different from the knowledge itself, something which is the subject of the knowledge, something which it is the knowledge of. For instance, arithmetic is the knowledge of number, which is not the same thing with arithmetic: Statics, is the knowledge of the specific gravities of bodies, which are a different thing from Statics itself.”—“True.”—“What, then, is Good Sense the knowledge of, different from Good Sense itself?”

“You mistake again,” answered Critias, “in the same way: You have hit upon the very point which distinguishes good sense from all other kinds of knowledge, & you are looking for a resemblance between them. All other kinds of knowledge, are knowledge of other things, but not of themselves: Edition: current; Page: [180] Good Sense, is a knowledge likewise of itself. And you know this well, but you are doing what you just now disclaimed, you are attempting to refute me, not regarding the subject itself.”—“You are wrong,” answered Socrates, “in supposing that even if I do refute you, I do so on any other account than that which would induce me, in a similar case, to enquire into the grounds of my own notions, that I might not fancy that I knew the subject when I did not. And I am now enquiring into this subject, chiefly for my own sake, next perhaps for that of my friends. Do you not think it a common advantage to all men, that the nature of all things should be explained & cleared up?”—“Extremely so.”—“Answer, then, & do not mind whether you or I be refuted, but attend to the argument & see whether that can be refuted & what is the consequence if it be.”—“I will do so, for what you say appears reasonable.”—“Tell me, then, what you say with respect to Good Sense?”

“I say,” answered Critias, “that it alone of all kinds of knowledge, is knowledge of itself & of the other kinds of knowledge.”—“Then if it be a knowledge of knowledge, it is likewise a knowledge of ignorance?”—“Yes.”—“Then, the sensible man alone will know himself, & will be able to distinguish, what he knows & what he does not know; and likewise, he & no other will be able to judge of other men, what they know, & what they fancy they know when they really do not. And Good Sense & self-knowledge consist in knowing what we know & what we are ignorant of. Is this your meaning?”—“Yes.”—“Let us then first enquire, whether it be a possible thing or not, to know what we know & what we are ignorant of: & next, if it be possible, what would be the use of it to us.”—“Certainly.”—“I, then,” said Socrates, “am puzzled. Is this knowledge, of which you are speaking, the knowledge of nothing whatever but of itself & of other kinds of knowledge, & of ignorance?”—“Certainly.”—“This is very paradoxical: for if you make the same supposition in other things, it will appear to you impossible.”—“How?”—“Do you think, that there is a faculty of sight, which is not the sight of any visible object, but of itself & other faculties of sight & of non-sight, & which does not see any colour, but sees itself & other seeing faculties?”—“Certainly not.”—“Or is there any hearing faculty, which hears, not any sound, but only itself & other hearing faculties?”—“No.”—“Or any desire, which desires, not any pleasure, but itself & other pleasures?”—“No.”—“Or any will, which wills, not any good, but itself & other wills?”—“No.”—“Or any love, which loves, not any lovely object, but itself & other loves?”—“No.”—“Or any fear, which fears itself & other fears, but does not fear any danger?”—“No.”—“Or any thinking faculty, which thinks itself & other thinking faculties, but does not think any particular thought?”—“No.”—“But there is a Knowledge which is not the knowledge of any Acquirement, but of itself & other Edition: current; Page: [181] knowledges.”—“There is.”—“Is not this paradoxical? Let us not however for that reason pronounce it untrue, but enquire whether it is true or no.”

“This knowledge is the knowledge of something.”—“Yes.”—“That which is larger, too, must be larger than something.”—“Yes.”—“Than something smaller.”—“Undoubtedly.”—“Then if we could find any larger thing, which is larger than itself & other larger things, but is not larger than those things than which other things are larger, would not this thing if it be larger, be also smaller, than itself?”—“Of necessity.”—“And if there be any thing, which is double of all other doubles & of itself, it must likewise be half of itself: for whatever is double, is the double of a half. And what is more than itself, must be less than itself, what is heavier must be lighter; what is older, must be younger, &c.; in short, whatever is itself the object to which its distinguishing quality is referred, must likewise have in itself the opposite & correlative quality or object. For instance, hearing, is always relative to a voice.”—“It is.”—“Then if hearing hears itself, it hears itself hearing a voice.”—“Yes.”—“And if sight sees itself, sight must have some colour: for that which has no colour cannot be seen.”—“Certainly.”—“In the case of some of the things, therefore, which we have supposed to be their own objects, or correlatives, the supposition is clearly impossible; & in the remainder it appears extremely unlikely. We need, therefore, a man equal to the task of deciding, whether there is nothing which is capable of being the object to which its own distinguishing property is relative; or whether some things are capable & others not; & if some things are capable, whether knowledge is one of them, which, in that case, we have termed Good Sense. I do not esteem myself to be equal to this task. And I can neither affirm there may be a Knowledge of knowledge, nor if there is, can I admit that it is the same thing with Good Sense, until I have examined whether a knowledge of this sort would benefit us or not. For I conceive Good Sense to be something noble & beneficial. Do you therefore shew, first, that there can be a Knowledge of knowledge & of ignorance, next that besides being possible, it is likewise useful.”

Critias being puzzled & talking obscurely to hide his embarrassment, Socrates proposed that they should for the sake of the argument, allow that such a thing as Knowledge of knowledge may exist. “Supposing this to be possible, how would it enable a man the more to know what things he knows and what he is ignorant of? For we said that in this consists Self-knowledge, and good sense.”—“Surely,” answered Critias. “If a man has that knowledge which knows itself, he becomes such as this knowledge, which he has. When a man has swiftness, he is swift; when he has beauty, he is beautiful; when he has knowledge, he is knowing. When therefore he has that knowledge which is knowledge of itself, he comes to know himself.”—“I do not doubt that: When he has that which is self-knowing, Edition: current; Page: [182] he will know himself: But will he therefore know what things he knows & of what he is ignorant?”—“That is the same thing.”—“Perhaps: but I am just as I was before, still puzzled: for I do not understand, that to know what things we know, is the same as to know of what we are ignorant.”—“What do you mean?”—“I mean this. Will the knowledge of knowledge, be capable of any thing more than to distinguish that this is knowledge & that is not knowledge?”—“Nothing else.”—“And is the knowledge & ignorance of the Salubrious, the same as the knowledge & ignorance of the Just?”—“No.”—“The one is Medicine, the other Politics, but we are speaking only of Knowledge. Now we must suppose a person who does not know the Salubrious, nor the Just, but only knows Knowledge. This person will be able to discern, whether or not he knows something, & has some knowledge, and the same of any one else.”—“Yes.”—“But how can he, merely by this knowledge, distinguish what it is which he knows? For the Salubrious is to be known not by good sense, but by Medicine, the Harmonious, not by good sense but by Music; the Architectural, not by good sense but by Architecture.”—“So it seems.”—“If therefore good sense be only the Knowledge of knowledge, how can he by means of it, know that he knows the Salubrious, or the Architectural?”—“Not at all.”—“Then he who is ignorant of these separate sciences will not know what he knows, but only that he knows something.”—“So it appears.”—“Then good sense does not consist in knowing what things he knows & does not know, but only in knowing that he does know or does not know.”—“It would seem so.”—“Neither then will he be able to put to the test any other man who asserts that he knows something, & distinguish whether he really knows what he says he knows, or not: He will only know, that the man has some knowledge, but Good Sense will not enable him to know of what.”—“Allowed.”—“Then he will not be able to distinguish a real from a pretended physician, & so on. This may be seen from the following circumstance. If a sensible man, or any other man, wishes to distinguish a real from a sham physician, what will he do?—He will not enter into conversation with him on the subject of Medicine; for the physician understands only the Salubrious & the Insalubrious: he knows nothing about Knowledge; that we have assigned to good sense alone.”—“We have.”—“But Medicine is Knowledge; therefore the physician knows nothing on the subject of Medicine.”—“True.”—“The sensible man will therefore know, that the physician has some knowledge; but if he wishes to try what knowledge, will he not enquire, What things it is the knowledge of? Do we not after having ascertained that what is in question is some Knowledge, ascertain what knowledge by asking what is it the knowledge of?”—“Yes.”—“Medicine is distinguished from other kinds of knowledge, by its being the knowledge of the Salubrious & the Edition: current; Page: [183] Insalubrious.”—“It is.”—“Then he who wishes to examine Medicine, must examine it in these things, in which it exists, not in those in which it does not exist.”—“True.”—“Then he who wishes to examine the physician, must examine him in the Salubrious and the Insalubrious.”—“So it seems.”—“And he examines him in order to try whether what he says on these subjects is true, & what he does, proper?”—“Certainly.”—“Can he do this, but by means of Medicine?”—“No.”—“Nobody then but the Physician can do it; not the sensible man; for he would need to be a Physician into the bargain.”—“Yes.”—“If, then, Good Sense is the knowledge only of Knowledge and Ignorance, it cannot distinguish a real from a pretended physician, nor the man who really knows any other thing, from a pretender, except those of one’s own art, whom, of course, all artists can distinguish.”—“So it appears.”—“What, then, is the use of good sense, thus defined? For if, as we at first supposed, the sensible man knew that he knows what he really does know, & that he knows not, what he really does not know, it would be a great advantage to be sensible: for we, & all over whom we had influence, would lead an unerring life: we should never attempt what we knew not how to do, but would find out those who knew, & entrust it to them; nor should we ever permit those whom we could influence, to do any thing but what they could do well, i.e., what they had the knowledge of. A family or a state, or any thing else which was governed by this sort of Good Sense, would be well governed, for every thing in it would be well done, & those who do all things well are happy. These were the effects which we expected from Good Sense, when we thought that it was the knowledge of what we know & know not.”—“Yes.”—“But it now appears that no such knowledge exists.”—“It does.”—“Perhaps, the use of this Good Sense, which is the knowledge of Knowledge & of Ignorance, is only, that he who possesses it is enabled to learn every thing else more easily, & that every thing appears more clearly to him, in as much as, besides the particular thing which he learns, he perceives his knowledge of it likewise. And he will be better able to judge of other men’s knowledge of those particular things which he also has learnt, than those who merely know the particular thing without knowing the knowledge. Is this the advantage which is to be derived from good sense, & have we been looking out for some thing greater than is really to be found?”—“Perhaps it may be so.”

“Perhaps it may,” resumed Socrates: “but perhaps we are wrong altogether. I judge by something extremely strange which occurs to me, respecting good sense, if it is what we now affirm it to be. Let us, if you will grant that it is possible to know knowledge, & that the knowledge of knowledge, would enable us as we supposed at first, to know what things we know & do not know. Granting the possibility of all this, let us enquire Edition: current; Page: [184] whether it would be of any utility. For I think that we were wrong in admitting that sense, if it consisted in this, would be a great good.”—“How?”—“It was a rash admission, that mankind would be greatly benefitted if each man were to perform only what he knows, & to resign what he knows not, to others who know it.”—“Is not this right?”—“I think not.”—“This is strange indeed.”—“So it seems to me. But I think, that if good sense consists in this, it is not clear that it does us any good whatever.”—“Let us hear what you have to say.”—“I dare say that I am wrong; but nevertheless if we have any regard for ourselves, we must examine the thoughts which occur to us, & not carelessly pass them by.”—“True.”—“If good sense, such as we have defined it, governed our actions, every thing would be done according to knowledge, & no sham pilot, or physician or general, pretending to know what he did not, would deceive us. Our bodies would be more healthy than now, we should be exposed to fewer dangers at sea & in war, & all our furniture, clothes, & effects would be constructed by good workmen. If you think fit, we will add a prophetic knowledge of the future, and Good Sense shall be supposed to reject all imposters & induce us to give our confidence to genuine soothsayers & prophets. That the human race, thus directed, would live according to knowledge, I allow: for Good Sense, would not suffer Ignorance to intrude itself. But that, acting according to knowledge, we should act well & be happy, I cannot yet understand.”—“But you will not easily find any other characteristic of acting well, except acting according to knowledge.”—“Instruct me then a little farther. According to what knowledge? The knowledge of shoemaking?”—“Certainly not.”—“Of working in brass?”—“No.”—“In wool, or in timber, & so forth?”—“No.”—“Then we give up the doctrine, that he is happy who lives according to knowledge: for it seems that there may be people living according to knowledge whom you do not call happy. Your happy man, it seems, must live according to the knowledge of some particular subject. Perhaps you mean, the man I mentioned before, who knows the future, the prophet. Do you mean him, or somebody else?”—“Both him & somebody else.”—“Whom? Do you mean, him who besides the future, should know all the past & the present, & be ignorant of nothing? You cannot say that there is any person more knowing than he.”—“Certainly not.”—“I desire, then, to know, what branch of knowledge it is, which makes him happy? All equally?”—“Not equally.”—“Which does it most? Of what past, present, & future things is it the knowledge? Of chess-playing?”—“No.”—“Of number?”—“No.”—“Of the Salubrious?”—“More so.”—“And what most of all?”—“Of Good & Evil.”—“See how you have been drawing me round in a circle, disguising from me that what makes us act well & be happy, is not to live according to Knowledge, though it were the knowledge of all other things, but only Edition: current; Page: [185] according to the single knowledge of Good & Evil. For, take this away, & Medicine will still give us health, Shoemaking, shoes, Weaving, garments. Navigation will save us from drowning, & Generalship will protect us in war. But to accomplish these things well & beneficially, will be wanting.”—“True.”—“Good sense, therefore is not what we said it was; it is that which would be beneficial. It is not the knowledge of knowledge & ignorance, but the knowledge of good & evil.”—“But would not the former be beneficial? For, suppose that Good Sense is the knowledge of knowledges: it would thus survey & rule over all other knowledges, & among others the knowledge of good & evil, & would therefore benefit us.”—“Pray would it give us health, or would that be the result only of medicine? Would it produce all those things, which are the result of the other arts? or would that be reserved for those arts themselves? Did we not admit, that Good Sense is the knowledge solely of knowledge & ignorance, not of any thing else?”—“True.”—“Then it would not give us health.”—“No.”—“That belongs to another art.”—“Yes.”—“Neither then, would it give us Good: for that we have assigned to a different art.”—“We have.”—“How then can Sense be useful, since it does not cause us any good?”—“Not at all, it would seem.”

“You see, then,” added Socrates, “that, as I feared, we are quite wrong, or we never should have come to the conclusion that what is acknowledged to be the noblest of all qualities is useless. We are therefore defeated, & cannot discover to what existing thing the name, Good Sense, was given by its inventor. And yet, we have made many admissions, which the argument did not compel us to. We admitted, that there may be a knowledge of knowledge, though the argument made against it; & we admitted that this knowledge would know the things, which are the subjects of the other kinds of knowledge (tho’ the argument would not allow this either) in order that a sensible man might know what things he knows, & of what he is ignorant. This we admitted, not considering the contradiction of supposing, that what a man is ignorant of, he nevertheless in some sort knows, since he knows himself to be ignorant of it. But with all this readiness of concession we could not discover the truth, but continued to give the name of Good Sense to something which turned out to be useless. I do not mind this so much for myself, but I am vexed on account of you, Charmides, if having not only so much beauty but extraordinary good sense, you will be never the better for it, nor will be in any way benefitted by it in your life: And I am vexed on account of the incantation which the Thracian taught me, that I learned with much trouble a thing which is good for nothing. I cannot believe that this is so, but rather conclude, that I am an unskilful enquirer, that Good Sense is in reality a great good, & that if you possess it you are fortunate. But see whether you have it, & do not require the incantation: Edition: current; Page: [186] for if you have it, I would advise you to think me a trifler & unable to investigate any thing, but to think yourself the more sensible you are, by so much the happier.”

Charmides answered, “I do not know whether I have it or not: how can I, since even you two are not able to discover what it is? But for all that, I am not persuaded by you; I think myself to have much need of the incantation, & I have no objection to have it administered by you as often as you please.”—“It will,” said Critias, “be to me a proof of your Good Sense, if you do allow Socrates to administer it, without intermission.”—“It would be very wrong,” answered Charmides, “if I did not obey you, who are my guardian.” And the dialogue ends with some lively conversation between Socrates & the other two, at the conclusion of which Socrates consents to do what they require.

This dialogue, therefore, like the Laches, terminates without any definite result, & can only be considered, like so many other works of Plato, to be a mere dialectical exercise, in which various ideas are thrown out, but no opinion definitely adhered to or maintained.

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The Euthyphron

[Holograph MS, Berg Collection, New York Public Library, entitled “Notes on the Euthyphron of Plato.” Paper watermarked 1828. Not mentioned in JSM’s bibliography. For details concerning the manuscript and the transcription, see the Textual Introduction, lxxxi-lxxxii above; for a discussion of this and the other translations of Plato, see also the Introduction, xvii-xxviii above.]

the subject of this dialogue is Piety. Like the Laches & the Charmides, it belongs to the class to which the epithet πειραστικός has been added; to express that its sole object is to make an adversary expose himself, & to refute false notions, without establishing true ones.

Euthyphron, who seems to have been a prophet, or diviner, & theologian, by profession, meets Socrates returning from one of the courts of justice, and expresses his surprise at finding him in a situation so unusual with him. “Have you a suit before the Archon,” (he asks) “as I have?”—“They do not call it a suit,” replied Socrates, “but an indictment.”—“What! Has any person indicted you? for I am certain that you have not indicted any person.”—Socrates assented.—“Who is your accuser?”—Socrates answered that he was named Melitus: he did not know much about him; he seemed young & obscure; & describing his person, asked Euthyphron if he knew him. Euthyphron said he did not. “But what charge has he brought against you?”—“No mean one,” answered Socrates. “For it is no bad sign of a young man to be conversant with so great a matter. He, it seems, knows in what manner the youth are corrupted, & who they are that corrupt them. And he will prove, no doubt, to be some sage, who, perceiving my errors, by which I corrupt those who are his equals in years, comes & accuses me before the state, as our common mother. And he alone appears to me to commence politics at the right end: for the right way is to look after the young men first, as a good husbandman first takes care of the young plants, & afterwards of the others. And Melitus probably has a mind to begin by clearing away us who destroy the young shoots of society, as he says; after that it is clear that he will take care of the old men, & will be the casue of great good to the state, as may be presumed from so happy a Edition: current; Page: [188] commencement.” Euthyphron answered, that from such a commencement he should rather fear that Melitus would continue all his life to do evil to the state. “But by what means does he say that you corrupt the youth?”—“It is strange to hear. For he says that I am a fabricator of gods, & indicts me for making new gods, & not recognizing the old.”—“I understand; it is because of what you say about your supernatural warnings. He therefore indicts you as innovating in religion, knowing that such charges find a ready belief. And I too, when I speak in the assembly on religious matters, foretelling the future, am laughed at as a madman. And yet all my predictions have come true. But they envy all of us who know these matters. We must not mind them, but pursue our course.”—“It is no great matter,” answered Socrates, “to be laughed at. The Athenians, as it seems to me, do not greatly mind if they think a man clever, provided he does not propagate his wisdom: but those who they think are not only wise themselves but make others so, they are angry with, be it from envy, as you say, or from some other cause.”—“I have no great mind to try what are their sentiments of me in this respect.”—“Perhaps you are thought to hold yourself scarce, & to be unwilling to communicate your wisdom: but I am afraid that I, from philanthropy, am thought by them to say to every body without reserve whatever I have in me, not only without being paid, but being glad even to pay others for hearing me, if it were required. If, now, they were only to laugh at me, as you say they do at you, it would not be unpleasant to pass some time in laughter & fun before the court; but if they are serious, nobody knows what will be the issue, except you, who are prophets.”—“Perhaps, after all, it will come to nothing, & you will come off to your satisfaction, as I think I shall.”—Socrates hereupon asked Euthyphron what was the suit in which he was engaged. Euthyphron explained, that he was prosecuting his own father, for homicide. Socrates expressed surprise, & said, that he supposed the murdered person was a near relation of Euthyphron, since he would not have prosecuted him for the murder of a stranger.—“What difference does it make,” answered Euthryphron, “whether he was a stranger or a relation? The only question is, whether he was justly killed or not, although his slayer should be united to you by the closest ties; for the pollution, if you associate knowingly with such a person, & do not purify yourself & him by bringing him to justice, is just the same. The slain person was a bailiff of mine at Naxos, who in a fit of intoxication killed one of our slaves. My father put him in irons & in a dungeon, & sent hither to enquire of the ἐξηγητής* what he ought to do. In the meantime the man died from the effects of confinement & neglect. Now my father & my relations are indignant because I prosecute my father for Edition: current; Page: [189] the death of this homicide: saying that he did not put him to death, & that if he did it was no justification, for it is impious in a son to indict his father of murder. They do not know correctly the doctrine of religion on the subject of piety and impiety.”—“And do you, Euthyphron, in the name of Jupiter, understand religion, & piety & impiety so well, that in the circumstances you have mentioned, you are not afraid to prosecute your father, lest you should be committing an impious action?”—“I should be nobody, & should have no claim to superiority over other men, if I did not know all these things accurately.”—“It would be for my good, most excellent Euthyphron, to become a disciple of yours, & before my trial comes on, to represent to Melitus, that I have always set a high value on religious knowledge, & now, since he says that I have erred when I promulgated my own notions & attempted to innovate in religion, I have become your pupil. And I will say to him, If you admit that Euthyphron is wise & sound in these matters, think the same of me, & do not prosecute me: but if not, indict my master first, as a corrupter of the old men, viz. me, & his own father, myself by his instructions, his father by admonition & punishment. And if this does not prevail upon him to drop the prosecution or to indict you instead of me, I will say the same thing before my judges.”—“Aye,” said Euthyphron, “if he makes any attempt upon me, I will find out his weak side, & the court shall have more to say about him, than about me.”—“This is the reason,” replied Socrates, “why I wish to become your disciple, knowing that Melitus & others do not seem to take notice of you, but he sees me so clearly that he has indicted me for impiety. Now, then, pray expound to me what you said that you clearly understand: what piety & impiety consist in, both in respect to homicide & to every thing else. Is not piety one & the same thing in all the different acts which receive that name, & impiety, again, the contrary of piety, but in itself always one & the same thing? Is there not one single idea which belongs to every thing which is impious, in so far as it is impious?”*—“Certainly.”—“Tell us then, what you mean by the Pious, & the Impious.”

“The pious,” answered Euthyphron, “is what I am now doing, to prosecute those who are guilty either of homicide, or spoliation of temples, or any thing of that sort; whether the offender be your father or your mother, or any person whatever: And not to prosecute him, is impious. And see what a great proof I will give you that this is the case. It is believed by men that Jupiter, the best & justest of the Gods, put his father Saturn in confinement because he unjustly devoured his children; & that Saturn himself mutilated his own father, for a similar reason. And yet they are Edition: current; Page: [190] angry with me for prosecuting my father when he commits a crime. They are therefore inconsistent with themselves.”

“The very reason,” answered Socrates, “why I am indicted is, because when any one tells me these stories about the Gods, I find it difficult to credit them. But now, if you who know all about these matters, are of this opinion, I must of necessity assent: for what can I say, who myself admit that I know nothing of the matter? But tell me, in the name of friendship: Do you really believe that these things happened?”—“And many things still more surprising, of which the vulgar are ignorant.”—“And you really think that there are wars, & mutual enmities & battles among the Gods, as poets say & painters represent to us?”—“Not only so, but I will relate to you if you please many other things on the subject of religion, which I am sure will astonish you.”—“I should not wonder. But you will tell me all this another time. At present, try to explain more distinctly what I have already asked you. For when I asked, what Piety is, you did not give me an adequate answer, but told me that what you are now doing, prosecuting your father, is pious.”—“And I said truly.”—“Perhaps. But you say, that many other things likewise are pious.”—“True.”—“You remember, then, that I did not ask you to tell me one or two of the numerous things which are pious, but to tell me the single Idea, by which all pious things are pious. For you said, that impious things are impious, & pious things pious, by one common character of piety or impiety.”—“I did.”—“Explain to me, then, this general Idea, in order that, keeping it in mind, & using it as an archetype, I may call those things pious which agree with it & those not pious, which do not agree.”

Euthyphron, being thus pressed, made answer that what is pleasing to the Gods is pious, what is not pleasing to them, impious. Socrates commended this mode of answering, which he said, conformed to his intention in putting the question; & proposed to examine whether the answer was true.

“You say, that the things, & the men, that are pleasing to the Gods, are pious; those that are hateful to them, are impious: the pious, & the impious, not being the same thing, but directly contrary.”—“True.”—“And you said, that the Gods differ & dispute, & are at enmity among themselves.”—“I did.”—“Now, what differences are they which produce enmity & anger? For example: If you & I should differ on the subject of number, which was the greater of two numbers, would this difference make us enemies, and offended with each other? Or should we soon get rid of our difference by coming to a calculation?”—“We should.”—“And if we differed about the comparative size of two objects, we should soon settle our difference by measuring.”—“Yes.”—“And if we differed about the comparative weight of two bodies, we should come to a decision by Edition: current; Page: [191] weighing.”—“Certainly.”—“On what subject differing, & to what decision being unable to come, should we quarrel, & become enemies? Perhaps you cannot at once say. Do you not think, that the Just & Unjust, the Noble & Vile, the Good & Evil, are the subjects on which when men differ, being unable to come to a satisfactory decision of the dispute, they are apt to become enemies?”—“Agreed.”—“If the Gods, then, ever differ, it must be on these subjects.”—“It must.”—“By your account, then, some of the Gods differ from others in what they consider just, and unjust, good & evil, noble & vile: for if they did not differ on these subjects, they would never quarrel.”—“True.”—“But each of them is pleased with what he thinks just, good, & noble, and hates the contrary.”—“Yes.”—“What some of them think just, others think unjust.”—“True.”—“Then, the very same things are both loved & hated by Gods; the same things are at once pleasing to the Gods, & hateful to them.”—“So it seems.”—“By this account, then, the same things are both pious & impious.”—“It would appear so.”—“You did not, therefore, answer my question. And it would not be wonderful if, in acting as you now do, prosecuting your father, you were doing what is pleasing to Jupiter, but hateful to Saturn & Uranus, & pleasing to Vulcan, but hateful to Juno or some other.”

“But,” replied Euthyphron, “I do not think that the Gods differ from each other on this point, that he who slays another unjustly ought to be punished.”—“Did you ever hear any man contending that he who does anything unjustly ought not to be punished?”—“They contend for it incessantly, in the courts of justice & elsewhere: for committing all sorts of injustice, they say & do every thing to escape punishment.”—“Do they confess that they have committed injustice, & nevertheless declare that they ought not to suffer punishment?”—“That, it is true they do not.”—“Then they do not say & do every thing: for, it seems, they do not venture to say, that if they have committed injustice they should not be punished. They say that they have not committed injustice.”—“True.”—“Then they do not dispute whether he who commits injustice ought to be punished, but they perhaps dispute on the point, who the man is who commits injustice, & what injustice consists in.”—“True.”—“Then the Gods, likewise, if they dispute, as you say, about the just & the unjust, & accuse each other of injustice, do not, any of them, venture to affirm, that he who commits injustice ought not to be punished; but they differ & dispute respecting the justice or injustice of some particular act.”—“Certainly.”—“Teach me, then, in order that I may become wiser, by what token you know that all the Gods consider him to have died unjustly, who, being a labourer, & slaying a man, is put in confinement by the master of the murdered man, & dies in consequence of his confinement, before it can be ascertained from the ἐξηγητής what ought to be done with him? & that they think it right for a son Edition: current; Page: [192] to indict his father of murder on such grounds?”—“It would perhaps require no little time; but I could prove it to you very clearly.”—“I perceive that you think me a harder scholar than the judges; since you will of course prove to them, that the act is unjust, & odious to all the Gods.”—“Very clearly, if they will listen to me.”—“But they will listen, if you appear to speak well. It occurs to me, however, that if you were to make it ever so clear to me that all the Gods think the death of this man unjust, I should not have learnt from you the more, what Piety and Impiety are. I should only know, that this act was hateful to the Gods. But this did not appear to us an adequate definition of Impiety, for the same thing, it appeared, was at once pleasing to the Gods, & hateful to the Gods: I excuse you therefore, from this: & if you will, let all the Gods think this unjust, & let all of them abhor it. But shall we correct our definition, & say, that what all the Gods hate, is impious, what they all are pleased with, is pious, what some of them are pleased with & others hate, is neither, or both? Shall this be our definition of the pious, & the impious?”—“Why should it not?”—“I have no objection; but do you consider whether you will be most easily able to teach me what you promised, by this supposition.”—“I should say, that the Pious is that which all the gods are pleased with; & the contrary, that which they all hate, is Impious.”—“Shall we examine, then, whether this is right, or shall we take things upon our own authority or that of others, & believe whatever is asserted?”—“We should examine. But I think that what we have now said is correct.”

“Is the Pious pleasing to the Gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is pleasing to the Gods?”—“I do not understand you.”—“When a thing is carried, is it carried because somebody carries it, or for some other reason?”—“For this reason.”—“When a thing is driven, it is because somebody drives it, & when seen, because somebody sees it.”—“Yes.”—“It is not true that somebody sees it because it is seen; but, on the contrary, it is seen because somebody sees it. Somebody does not carry it because it is carried, but it is carried because somebody carries it. In short, that which becomes any thing, or undergoes any thing, does not become it or undergo it because it is becoming or undergoing, but it is in the state, called becoming or undergoing, because it becomes or undergoes.”—“True.”—“Now, to be loved, is either to become something or to undergo something.”—“It is.”—“Then it is with this as with the other things which we have mentioned. Somebody does not love a thing because it is loved, but it is loved because somebody loves it.”—“Yes.”—“The Pious, you say, is loved by all the Gods.”—“Yes.”—“Do they love it because it is Pious, or for some other reason?”—“For that reason.”—“Then it is not Pious because they love it but they love it because it is Pious.”—“So it seems.”—“What is pleasing to the Gods, however, is pleasing to them because they Edition: current; Page: [193] love it.”—“Certainly.”—“Then Pious, & Pleasing to the Gods, are not the same thing?”—“How?”—“Because we have admitted, that the Gods love the pious, because it is pious; it is not pious because they love it. But they do not love what is Pleasing to them because it is pleasing; on the contrary it is called pleasing to them by reason of their loving it.”—“True.”—“But if Pious, and Pleasing to the Gods, were identical, then, if the Gods loved the Pious because it is Pious, they would have loved what is Pleasing to them because it is Pleasing to them: Or if what is Pleasing to the Gods, were pleasing to them because they love it, the Pious would have been Pious because they loved it. But you see that these two things are entirely different, & oppositely affected: the one is what it is, because it is loved; the other is loved, because it is what it is. And when I asked you what the Pious is, you seem not to have been willing to explain to me its essence, but have told me one of its attributes, which is, to be loved by all the Gods: what it is, you have not told me. But by all means tell me now.”

Euthyphron complained that he could not express what he thought, since whatever they laid down, always ran away from them, & would not remain where they placed it. And after some lively conversation, in the usual Socratic strain of irony, Socrates proposed to shew him in what manner he ought to explain to him the nature of Piety. “Do you not think that whatever is Pious, must necessarily be Just?”—“Yes.”—“And is every thing which is Just, also Pious? Or is the Pious, universally Just, but the Just not universally Pious, but part of it Pious, and part of it something else?”—“I do not follow you.”—“And yet you are younger as well as wiser than I: but you are lazy from abundance of wisdom. But pray exert yourself: for it is not difficult to comprehend what I mean. I mean the contrary of what the poet means, who says, ‘You will not speak of Jove who created all things, for where there is fear, there is awe.’[*] I differ from this Poet. It does not appear to me that where there is fear, there is awe. For many persons fear diseases, & poverty, & various other things, and stand in no awe of the things which they fear. Do you not think so?”—“I do.”—“But where there is awe, there is fear. For when a man is extremely overawed & ashamed, does he not stand in fear of censure?”—“He does.”—“It is not right, then, to say, Where there is fear there is awe; but, Where there is awe, there is fear. For fear is more extensive than awe: Awe is part of fear, as Odd Numbers, of Number in general: It cannot be said where there is Number there is Odd-number, but where there is odd-number there is number.”—“Yes.”—“In the same sense, I asked you, whether, where there is justice there is piety, or whether, where there is piety, there is justice, but where Edition: current; Page: [194] there is justice, there is not always piety, but piety is a part of justice. Is it a part, think you?”—“I think it is.”—“Let us proceed then to the next step. Since the Pious is a part of the Just, we must next enquire, what part. If you asked me, what part Even-number was of Number, I should answer, that which is divisible into two equal parts. Should I not?”—“Yes.”—“Endeavour then to explain to me in a similar manner, what part of the just, the pious composes, that I may bid Melitus not to prosecute me further for impiety, as having sufficiently learned from you what is & is not pious.”

Euthyphron answered, “The Pious seems to me to be that part of the Just, which relates to the service* of the Gods. The remaining part of the Just, is that which regards the service of men.”

“You seem to me to say well,” resumed Socrates. “But I still desire something more: I do not yet understand what service you mean. For you do not mean a service with respect to the Gods, similar to the services which relate to other things. As for example, we say, it is not every one who can serve a horse properly, but only a groom.”—“True.”—“Grooming, then, is the service of horses.”—“Yes.”—“And it is not every one who can serve dogs properly, but only a dog-keeper.”—“True.”—“Dog-training, then, is the service of dogs.”—“It is.”—“And piety, of the Gods?”—“Yes.”—“But all service is for the same end, viz. the good & advantage of that which is served: Horses, for instance, are benefitted, & made better, by grooming.”—“They are.”—“And dogs, by training, & so on. Or do you think that service is for the injury of what is served?”—“Certainly not.”—“But for the benefit.”—“Yes.”—“Is piety, then, which is the service of the Gods, for the benefit of the Gods, & does it make them better? And do you grant, that when you do a pious act, you make one of the Gods better than he was before?”—“Certainly not.”—“Neither did I suppose you did. But what kind of service of the Gods is piety?”—“That which servants render to their masters.”—“I understand. It is a kind of working for them.”—“True.”—“Now can you tell, for the accomplishment of what effect the physician’s kind of work is performed? Is it not for the accomplishment of health?”—“It is.”—“And the shipbuilder’s kind of work, for the accomplishment of what effect is it performed?”—“Of a ship.”—“And the builder’s, of a house?”—“Yes.”—“Tell me then: for the accomplishment of what effect does the kind of work which we called working for the Gods, take place? You must know, since you say that you are of all men the most versed in divine things.”—“And I say true.”—“Tell me then, what is this Edition: current; Page: [195] admirable effect which the Gods accomplish by employing us to work for them?”—“Many & excellent things.”—“So do military commanders: but yet it may all be summed up by saying that they accomplish victory in war. May it not?”—“Yes.”—“And husbandmen, too, accomplish many and excellent things: but nevertheless, the sum total of them is, the raising of food from the earth.”—“True.”—“And what is the sum total of the many & excellent things which the Gods accomplish?”—“I told you before, that it would be a long piece of business to explain all these matters accurately; but I will tell you simply, that if any person knows how to say & do things pleasing to the Gods, by prayer & sacrifice, this is pious, & is the salvation both of families & of states: the contrary is impious, & destroys them.”—“You could have told me what I asked in much fewer words if you had chosen: but you do not wish to instruct me; it is clear: & now you have turned off when you were just at the point: If you had answered perhaps by this time I should have learnt from you what piety is. But now, since the questioner must follow wherever the answerer chuses to lead, What do you define the Pious, & Piety to be? Is it not, the knowledge how to sacrifice & to pray?”—“It is.”—“To sacrifice is to make offerings to the Gods, to pray is to ask something from them.”—“True.”—“Piety, by this account, is the knowledge of Asking from the Gods, & giving to them.”—“You have understood me very well.”—“For I am desirous of your wisdom, & attend to it, so that what you say will not fall to the ground. You say that the service of the Gods, consists in asking of them, & giving to them.”—“I do.”—“To ask of them rightly, is to ask them for what we need from them.”—“Yes.”—“And to give to them rightly, is to give them in return what they need from us. For it would be an unskilful mode of bestowing gifts, to give to any one what he has no occasion for.”—“You say true.”—“Then piety is, as it were, an Art of Traffic between the Gods & men.”—“Of Traffic, if it pleases you so to call it.”—“But it does not please me, if it is not true. Tell me, then, what is the benefit arising to the Gods from the gifts which they receive from us: As respects what they give, the case is clear: for we have nothing good which we do not derive from them. But what benefit do they receive from what we give them? Or have we so much the best of this traffic, that we receive every thing that is good from them & they nothing from us?”—“Do you think, Socrates, that the Gods are benefitted by what we offer to them?”—“What do we offer it for?”—“What do you suppose it is, except marks of honour & reverence, & what I said before, things grateful to them?”—“The Pious, then, is something grateful to the Gods, but not beneficial or pleasing.”—“In the highest degree pleasing, I should think.”—“The Pious, then, is that which is pleasing to the Gods.”—“It is.”—“Are you surprised, if the argument should, as you said before, not stand still, but run away, when you yourself appear to have Edition: current; Page: [196] made it run round in a circle? Do you not see that we have returned again to the same point? Do you not remember that Pious, & Pleasing to the Gods, appeared to us to be not the same, but exceedingly different?”—“I do.”—“And now, you say again, that the Pious, is that which is pleasing to the Gods. Either, therefore, we were wrong before, or if right before, we are wrong now.”—“So it seems.”—“Let us then resume the consideration from the beginning. For I will not voluntarily give it up until I am instructed. And now by all means pay attention & tell me the truth. For if you did not clearly understand the Pious & the Impious, you certainly would not have prosecuted your old father for murder, on account of a labouring man; you would have feared to offend the Gods, & disgrace yourself before men, in case you were wrong. I am sure, therefore, that you perfectly know the Pious and Impious: Tell it to me therefore, & do not disguise it from me.”—“Another time, then: for now I am in a hurry to go away.”—“See what you are doing! You go away, having cast me down from a great hope which I had, of learning from you the nature of Piety, & getting rid of Melitus & his indictment, by convincing him that I had been made wise in divine things by Euthyphron, & that I would not any longer from ignorance promulgate crude ideas & innovate in religious matters, but would hereafter lead a better life.”

Here ends the dialogue; which, if it has any purpose, further than as a specimen of confutation, seems intended chiefly to discredit the most pernicious parts of the Greek mythology, & the corruptions which it had introduced into the moral ideas of the people.

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The Laches

[Holograph MS, Berg Collection, New York Public Library, entitled “Notes on the Laches of Plato.” Paper watermarked 1828. Not mentioned in JSM’s bibliography. For details concerning the manuscript and the transcription, see the Textual Introduction, lxxxi-lxxxii above; for a discussion of this and the other translations of Plato, see also the Introduction, xvii-xxviii above.]

this little dialogue is an expansion of one of the arguments in the Protagoras.

The characters in it are Lysimachus and Melesias, two Athenians of rank; Nicias and Laches, the celebrated captains; & Socrates. The conversation originated in the wish of Lysimachus & Melesias to ask the advice of Nicias and Laches, respecting the education of their sons, who were now adolescent, & to whom they were extremely desirous to give every kind of instruction which could enable them to distinguish themselves. Among other things, it had been suggested by some one, that the exercise of the heavy-armed was a proper and useful branch of education for a young man; & on this subject they consulted Laches and Nicias. Both expressed their readiness to give their best advice; but Laches expressed his surprise, that Lysimachus should have called in Nicias & himself as his advisers in this matter, & should have passed over Socrates, who was present, & whose life was devoted to the consideration, what studies and modes of training were eligible. Lysimachus hereupon observed that Sophroniscus, the father of Socrates, had been an old friend of his, but that as, from his age, he seldom went out, he had not kept up the acquaintance of Socrates himself, & was not aware that he was the same Socrates of whom he frequently heard his son & the other young man speak in commendation. Now however being informed of the reputation of Socrates, & hearing from Laches great praise of the conduct of Socrates in the battle of Delium, & from Nicias, that he had recommended to him as a teacher of music for his son, Damon, a man not only excellent in his art, but in every respect a worthy tutor for a young man, he assured him of his warm friendship & begged him to resume his intimacy with the family for the sake of the two Edition: current; Page: [198] young men, and to join with Nicias and Laches in giving his advice on the point on which their opinion was now requested.

Socrates having expressed a wish first to hear the opinions of the two others who were his seniors, Nicias proceeded to declare his opinion, which was favorable to the study of the heavy-armed exercise: on the ground that to the advantages of the other gymnastic exercises, it added the recommendation of being an exercise in the very operation for which those exercises were intended: to prepare the body, viz. actual warfare: that when the line was broken either in pursuit or in flight, he who had learnt this exercise would be better able to cope with the enemy single-handed; that it is a preparation for, & incitement to, all other martial exercises & studies; that it increases personal courage, & even improves the personal appearance, & renders the aspect of the warrior more formidable.

Laches, being next asked for his opinion, gave it the other way, saying, “It is hard to say of any branch of knowledge that it is not worth learning; for it is good to know every thing. And if this is, as the teachers of it affirm, really a branch of knowledge, it is very fit to learn it: but if they are imposters, & it is not a branch of knowledge, or if it be a branch, but a trifling & insignificant one, what occasion is there to learn it? Now, if it were really good for any thing, it would not have escaped the notice of the Lacedæmonians, who occupy themselves with scarcely any thing in life but the means of obtaining military superiority: And at all events, the teachers of this art are well aware that the Lacedæmonians pay more attention to military affairs, than all the other Greeks, & that a man would be able to gain most money from the other Greeks as a teacher of military exercises if he were in reputation on that account at Lacedæmon; as a tragic poet would, if in reputation at Athens: Accordingly whoever thinks he can compose a good tragedy comes straight to Athens to try his fortune; but these teachers of the heavy-armed exercise seem to regard Lacedæmon as an inaccessible sanctuary, & never go near it, but prefer exhibiting their talents any where else, & particularly in those places of which the inhabitants would themselves admit that the Lacedæmonians were much their superiors in warfare. Besides,” continued Laches, “I have seen some of these men in actual combat: In every thing else, those who obtain the greatest name, are those who have studied & practised the thing in question; but it so happens that not one of the men who have practised this exercise as a profession, ever acquired a name as a warrior. My opinion of the matter is this, that a man otherwise a coward, studying this exercise, will probably have more confidence & therefore obtain more frequent opportunities of exposing himself; and if a brave man practises it, he will be so watched that if he makes even a slight mistake he will be vehemently censured: for the pretension to such knowledge excites jealousies, & a man Edition: current; Page: [199] must be very much the superior of other men in the military virtues, if he would escape ridicule & contempt, professing to have made this his study.”

Lysimachus now called upon Socrates, saying that as the other two had given opposite opinions, it depended upon Socrates to decide.—“What,” answered Socrates: “Will you take whichever side obtains the greatest number of our suffrages?”—“What else can I do?” replied Lysimachus.—“And you, Melesias,” resumed Socrates: “If you were considering what exercises your son should learn, would your decision be governed by the proportionate numbers of our suffrages, or by the opinion of that one among us who had been trained under the best gymnast?”—“By the latter, in preference.”—“You would pay more attention to him, than to all four of us.”—“Perhaps so.”—“For in order to decide rightly, the decision should be governed by knowledge rather than by numbers.”—“Certainly.”—“You ought, then, first to consider, whether there is or is not any one of us who possesses a scientific knowledge of the subject, & if so, to be guided by him, & leave the others alone; if not, to seek another adviser. For you have now at stake, not some trifle, but your greatest possession, for such as your sons are, such will be the whole of your domestic economy.”—“True.”—“How then should we enquire, in order to know which of us has the most scientific knowledge on the subject of exercises? Would not the answer be, he who had learned, & practised, under good teachers?”—“Yes.”—“Teachers of what?”—“What do you mean?”—“It seems to me that we have not yet determined, what is the subject on which we are considering which of us has acquired scientific knowledge, under a master, & which has not.”—“Are we not,” said Nicias, “considering the subject of the heavy-armed exercise, whether a young man should learn it or not?”—“True,” answered Socrates. “But when we are considering respecting any particular ointment for the eyes, whether it should be applied or not, do you think that we are deliberating on the subject of the ointment, or on that of the eyes?”—“On the eyes.”—“And when we consider whether a bridle should be laid upon a horse or not, we are considering on the subject of the horse, not of the bridle.”—“Yes.”—“And in one word, when we are considering of one thing for the sake of another thing, the real subject of our deliberation is the thing for the sake of which we consider, not the thing which we consider for its sake.”—“Certainly.”—“Then we should, in the choice of an adviser, consider whether he has a scientific knowledge of the management of that for the sake of which we are considering.”—“True.”—“But we are considering of a branch of instruction for the sake of the minds of these young men.”—“Yes.”—“Then we must consider, whether any of us has a scientific knowledge of the management of the mind, & can manage it well, & has had good teachers.”—“But,” interrupted Laches, “have you not known men Edition: current; Page: [200] who have attained greater scientific knowledge without teachers, than with them?”—“I have,” replied Socrates: “but if these men said that they were good artists, you would not believe them unless they could shew you well executed works, each in his particular art.”—“True.”—“We then,” said Socrates, addressing Laches & Nicias, “since we have been called in to advise Lysimachus & Melesias with a view to the proper training of the minds of their sons, ought to produce our own teachers, men who have trained many other minds & trained them well before teaching us; & if any of us says that he has had no teacher, he should, if he can, produce his own acts, & shew who among Athenians or foreigners, slaves or freemen, has become a good man by his means: And if we can do neither of these things we should not run the risk of injuring the minds of the sons of our best friends, but should bid them seek other advisers. I, for my own part, say at once, that I have not had any teachers in this matter, although from my earliest youth I have desired to be instructed in it. But I have not money to give to the sophists, who alone professed to be able to make me a good & eminent man: And I have not up to this time been able to discover the art for myself. But I should not wonder if Nicias and Laches had learnt it or discovered it: for they are richer than I, & were therefore able to learn it from others, & older, so that they are more likely to have found it out. And they seem capable of educating a man; for they would not have given their opinion so confidently respecting good & bad modes of instructing youth if they had not confidence in the sufficiency of their own knowledge. I therefore confide in them in other respects, but wonder at their differing from one another. And I exhort you, Lysimachus, to interrogate Nicias & Laches, & say to them, Tell us whether you know the art of educating youth by having learnt it from some one else, or by having discovered it for yourselves, & if by learning it from others, who were your teachers, & what other teachers there are of the same art, that if your attention is engrossed by the affairs of the state, we may go to the teachers, & prevail with them by gifts or prayers to train our sons & yours, & if you have yourselves discovered the art tell us what persons besides you have made good & great men by your training. For if you are only now beginning to practise the art, consider lest you should be making experiments, not upon a worthless material but upon your sons & those of your friends, & learning pottery, as the proverb says, in the pot itself.”*

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Lysimachus, with great simplicity, declared that Socrates was in the right, & requested Nicias & Laches to let Socrates interrogate them, & to make answer as he proposed. Nicias hereupon remarked that it was easy to see that Lysimachus knew Socrates only by his father & not personally, or not since he was a child.—“How so?” answered Lysimachus.—“Because you do not seem to know that whoever gets into conversation with Socrates, is sure, whatever they might be talking about at first, to be twisted round by Socrates until he is forced to give an account of himself, what sort of a life he leads & has heretofore led; & when he has got upon this subject, Socrates never lets him go until all this has been fully examined & soundly criticized. I,” continued Nicias, “am accustomed to him, & know that it is impossible to avoid undergoing all this from him, & that I shall not be able to avoid it now: for I like to converse with the man, & think that there is no harm in being reminded of any thing which we have done, or are doing, improperly, & that a man will be the more careful in his after life if he does not fly from this, but is willing & desirous (as Solon says) to learn as long as he lives, & does not think that age brings good sense along with it as a matter of course. I therefore have no objection to be taken to task by Socrates, & I knew before, that, Socrates being present, the discourse would not turn upon the young men but upon ourselves. Let us hear what Laches says on the subject.”

“My case is very simple,” answered Laches; “or rather not simple but double, for I may sometimes be thought to love discussion & sometimes to hate it. When I hear a man discoursing on the subject of virtue or wisdom, who is a true man, and worthy of the language he holds, I am pleased, seeing that the speaker & what he says are suitable to, & in unison with each other, & that such a man is the best of musicians, having the true harmony not of sounds but of life. I delight so much therefore in the discourses of such a man, that I might seem to any one, fond of discussion: But a man who acts ill, the more excellently he talks, annoys me the more, & makes me appear a hater of discussion. I have not yet tried Socrates in words, but I have tried him in acts, & found him worthy of the finest discourses & the greatest freedom of speech. I therefore should be delighted to be examined by such a man, & to learn from him, for I too am desirous, with Solon, to grow old constantly acquiring knowledge, but on condition, that my teachers shall be worthy men. This therefore must be granted to me: but whether my teacher is younger than myself, or not yet in repute, & so forth, I do not care. Since that day, Socrates, when I made trial of you in peril, & proved your virtue, I am willing that you should instruct me & refute me as much as you please.”

Socrates therefore proposed that instead of enquiring what teachers they had respectively had in this sort of instruction, & what persons they had Edition: current; Page: [202] themselves rendered worthier than before, they should enter into another enquiry which tended to the same end, but commenced higher up, & nearer to first principles.

“If we knew, respecting any thing, that if it were communicated to another thing it made that other thing better than it was before; & if we also had power to cause it to be so communicated; we must evidently know that thing, concerning which we are able to advise, how it might best & most easily be acquired. To explain myself more clearly; if we happen to know that sight, when it is communicated to the eyes, makes them better than they would otherwise be, & if besides, we have the power of communicating sight to the eyes, it is evident that we must know what sight is, or we should be very ill qualified to advise how the eyes might acquire it.”—“True,” answered Laches.—“And we are now asked, in what way the minds of these young men may, by the acquisition of virtue, be made better.”—“Certainly.”—“Is it not, then, necessary that we should know, what virtue is? for if we did not know what it is, how should we be capable of giving advice, how it may best be acquired?”—“Not at all.”—“We profess, then, to know what it is.”—“We do.”—“And if we know, we can tell.”—“Certainly.”

“Let us not, then, consider respecting the whole of virtue at once, but some part of it. It will then be easier to discover, whether we sufficiently understand it.”—“Be it so.”—“What part shall we chuse? That part, probably, to which the exercise of the heavy-armed appears to tend. It is thought by most persons to tend to courage.”—“It is.”—“Let us first then, endeavour to shew, what courage is: next, in what manner young men may acquire it, so far as it is capable of being acquired by study & training. Try, therefore, to say, what courage is.”—“It is not difficult. If a man is willing to remain in his rank and resist the enemy, & does not run away, he is a courageous man.”—“You say well; but probably by my fault, & the indistinctness of what I said, you have not answered what I had in mind, but something else.”—“How?”—“I will tell you. He is courageous who remains in his rank & fights.”—“He is.”—“But what do you say of him who runs away & fights, instead of remaining in his rank?”—“How runs away?”—“Like the Scythians, who are said to fight flying, as well as pursuing; & the horses of Æneas & Æneas himself are praised in Homer, for being good in flight, as well as in pursuit.”[*]—“And very properly, for Homer was speaking of chariots: & what you say of the Scythians relates to cavalry. For their cavalry fight in that manner; but the heavy infantry of the Greeks, in the manner I speak of.”—“Except perhaps the Lacedæmonians, who are said to have won the battle of Platæa in full retreat, & only to have Edition: current; Page: [203] turned round & pursued when the enemy were fairly broken.”—“True.”—“This then is what I meant, in saying that I had caused you to make a wrong answer, by putting a wrong question. I meant to ask you, not only respecting those who are courageous in the heavy infantry, but in the cavalry, & all modes of warfare, & not only in war, but in danger by sea, or in disease, or in endurance of poverty, or in political affairs, & not only those who are courageous with respect to pain or fear, but to desires & pleasures, being able to fight against them. For some are courageous in such things.”—“Extremely so.”—“All these, then, are courageous, but some of them are so in pleasure, others in pain, some in desire, others in fear. And some are cowardly in each of these things.”—“Yes.”—“Let us then enquire what these two qualities are. And first, let us consider, what courage is; being, as it is, one & the same thing in all these matters. Do you understand me?”—“Not exactly.”—“As if I were to ask you, what quickness is; the case being, that we may have quickness in running, in playing the harp, in speaking, in learning, & in many other things: In short, it may exist in the operations of the hands, the legs, the voice, or the mind. Now if I were asked what this is, which is called quickness in all these operations, I should answer, that the power which effects much in a short time is quickness, whether it exists in the voice, in running, or in any thing else.”—“Right.”—“Do you, then, try to say, what power it is, which, being one & the same in pleasure, in pain, & in all the other things which we have mentioned, is called courage.”

“It seems to me,” answered Laches, “that courage, if it is common to all these things, is a certain determination of soul.”*

“You do not,” (replied Socrates,) “I suspect, give to all determination of soul, the name of courage. For I am pretty sure that you consider courage as an admirable thing.”—“One of the most admirable.”—“Then, considerate determination is admirable.”—“It is.”—“But inconsiderate determination? Is not this, on the contrary, hurtful & mischievous?”—“Yes.”—“What is hurtful, you do not call admirable?”—“Certainly not.”—“Then you do not call this sort of determination, courage.”—“No.”—“Considerate determination, then, is what you consider to be courage.”—“So it seems.”—“Considerate, then, upon what? Upon all things, great or small? For example, if any one spends money with determination, in a considerate manner, knowing that it will bring him an ample return, do you call him courageous?”—“Certainly not.”—“If a physician, his son being ill & desiring to eat or drink some thing, refuses it to him with determination, do you call him courageous?”—“Nor him either.”—“If a Edition: current; Page: [204] man fights with determination in battle, reflecting considerately, that he will receive assistance & has superiority of numbers & of ground, do you consider him more courageous than the man in the opposite army, who determinedly resists?”—“The latter is the more courageous.”—“But his courage is more inconsiderate than that of the other.”—“True.”—“And you consider him who fights on horseback with determination, being a skilful rider, or with bows & arrows, being a good archer, or who dives with determination being expert in the art, less courageous than those who do all these things being less skilful?”—“Yes.”—“But all these persons shew determination, & incur danger, more inconsiderately than they who do these things with art.”—“They do.”—“But we decided, that inconsiderate boldness & determination was hurtful, & disgraceful.”—“We did.”—“And that courage was admirable.”—“Yes.”—“But now we say that this disgraceful thing, inconsiderate determination, is courage.”—“So it seems.”—“Are we right, then?”—“Certainly not.”—“We are not, to use your expression, in unison, for our deeds, & our words, are not in harmony with each other. In deed, it seems, you & I might be said to be courageous, but in words, if one were to judge by our present discourse, he would say we were not.”—“True.”—“Shall we then listen to our own discourse?”—“What discourse?”—“That which bids us have determination. Let us proceed in a determined manner with the investigation, lest Courage itself should laugh at us for not seeking for it courageously, if courage be determination.”—“I am ready,” answered Laches, “although unused to such discussions. But a kind of contentiousness has seized me, & I am angry if I am not able to speak according to my own thoughts: I seem to myself to conceive what courage is, but it slipt through my fingers, I know not how, & I could not seize it in words & explain it.”—“A good hunter, then, should persevere, & not relax the pursuit.”—“Certainly.”—“Shall we call in Nicias to aid us in the pursuit, if he have any resource which we have not?”—“Certainly.”—“Come, then, Nicias, assist your friends who are in difficulties. You see that we are at a loss; if you can tell what courage is, you will relieve us from our embarrassment and confirm your own views.”

“I thought all along,” answered Nicias, “that you were not defining courage rightly; because you made no use of something very good which I have often heard you say.”—“What was that?”—“You have often said that each of us is good, in those things wherein he is wise, & bad in those wherein he is ignorant.”—“It is very true.”—“Then if a courageous man is good, he must be wise?”—“Do you hear, Laches?” said Socrates.—“Yes,” answered Laches, “but I do not quite understand him.”—“I think I do,” said Socrates, “& that he affirms courage to be a kind of wisdom.”—“What kind?” rejoined Laches.—Socrates begged Nicias to answer; “what Edition: current; Page: [205] sort of wisdom it is which constitutes courage. Certainly not that which relates to flute-playing.”—“No.”—“Nor to harp-playing.”—“No.”—“What sort of wisdom is it, then? What is it the knowledge of?”—Laches commended this mode of interrogation, & Nicias answered, “The knowledge of what is dangerous, & what is safe, both in war and in other things.”

“How strangely he talks!” said Laches.—“In what respect?” asked Socrates.—“Surely wisdom & courage are very different things.”—“Nicias says not.”—“He does, & therein he talks nonsense.”—“Let us instruct him then, & not abuse him.”—“Laches,” said Nicias, “seems to desire that I too should appear to have nothing to say, because he himself is in that predicament.”—“Yes,” answered Laches, “& I think I can shew it. Do not physicians know what is dangerous in diseases? Or do you say that the courageous men know it? Or, do you say that physicians, & courageous men, are the same thing?”—“Not at all.”—“Nor husbandmen either, I suppose. And yet, they know what is dangerous in husbandry; & all other workmen know what is dangerous & what is safe in their several arts; but they are not the more courageous.”

“What do you think, Nicias,” asked Socrates, “of the remark of Laches? There seems to be something in it.”—“There is something in it, but not the truth.”—“How?”—“Because he fancies that physicians know something more about the sick, than what is productive of health, & what of disease. They, however, know merely this. Whether health is not more dangerous to some people than sickness, do you suppose they know that? Or do you not think that to some it is better not to recover from illness than to recover? Tell me, Laches: Do you affirm that it is better for all to live, or do you not say, that for many it is better to die?”—“It is.”—“Do you think that the same things can be considered dangers, to those for whose benefit it would be to die, and to those for whom it would be good to live?”—“No.”—“Do you give to the physicians the office of discriminating these things? or to any other man of science, except to the man who knows what is & is not dangerous, whom I call courageous?”

“Do you understand, Laches, what he means?” asked Socrates.—“Yes,” replied Laches: “his courageous man is a prophet: for who else can tell whether it is better for a man to die or to live? And pray, Nicias, do you affirm yourself to be a prophet, or admit yourself not to be a brave man?”—“Do you think,” answered Nicias, “that it belongs to a prophet to know what is dangerous & what is safe?”—“To whom else?”—“Much rather to the man I am speaking of. A prophet is only supposed to know the signs of future events; whether a person will die, or be ill, or lose his property, or be victorious or vanquished: but which fate would be most beneficial to any individual, it no more belongs to a prophet to judge, than to any body else.”—“I do not understand him, Socrates,” answered Edition: current; Page: [206] Laches: “The person whom he calls courageous, is neither a physician, nor a prophet, nor any body else whatever, unless he means some God. It appears to me that Nicias is not willing boldly to confess that he has nothing to say, but twists backward and forward to conceal his perplexity. You & I could have twisted in the same manner, if we had wished to avoid apparently contradicting ourselves. If we had been pleading in a court of justice, there might have been some reason in this: but why should a man seek to dignify himself by vain talk in a conversation like this?”—“Certainly,” answered Socrates: “but perhaps Nicias thinks there is something in what he says, & does not say it merely for the sake of talk. Let us therefore question him more particularly about his meaning, that if there be any thing in it, we may agree with him, if not, instruct him.”—“Do you then interrogate him if you will: I have interrogated him enough.”—“I have no objection; & I will interrogate for you & me jointly.

“You say, Nicias, that courage is the knowledge of what is dangerous & what is safe.”—“I do.”—“To know this, does not belong to all men, since neither a physician nor a prophet knows it nor is courageous, unless he acquires this knowledge too.”—“Certainly.”—“Then, as the proverb says, it is not every sow that knows it, & is courageous.”—“No.”—“Then you do not consider even the famous sow of Crommyon to be courageous. I do not speak this in jest; but one who holds your opinion cannot allow any brute animal to be courageous, since it cannot be admitted that any brute, a lion or a panther or a goat, is so wise as to know what few men know, from the difficulty of learning it. A lion & a deer, a bull & a monkey, are absolutely on a level in respect to courage, if it be what you say it is.”—Laches was delighted with this remark, & triumphantly asked Nicias whether he affirmed that these beasts, which all admit to be courageous, are wiser than men, or, contrary to universal opinion, denied them to be courageous?

Nicias answered, “I do not call any thing courageous, but silly, which does not fear what is really dangerous, from mere ignorance. Do you suppose I call every child courageous, which, from ignorance, fears nothing? Fearless, & courageous, are not synonymous. Very few persons in my opinion possess courage & forethought, but many, both men, women, children & brutes, are bold, & daring, & fearless, without forethought. These then, which you & the multitude call courageous, I call bold, but I call those only courageous who have thought.”—“You see, Socrates,” said Laches, “how he as he thinks, dignifies himself by his argument, but those whom all admit to be courageous, he attempts to deprive of that honour.”—“Be of good heart,” answered Nicias; “I say that you, & Lamachus, & many other Athenians, are wise, if you are courageous.”—Hereupon Socrates either in jest or in earnest says to Laches, that he did not seem to be aware that Nicias had learnt this wisdom from Damon, who Edition: current; Page: [207] had conversed much with Prodicus, who was esteemed the cleverest of the sophists in making verbal distinctions.—“These subtleties,” answered Laches, “are more suitable to a sophist than to a man whom the state thinks worthy of presiding in its councils.”—“And yet,” observed Socrates, “he who presides in the greatest things ought to have the greatest wisdom. It seems to me that Nicias deserves to have what he says examined, & his reasons for defining courage as he does, explored.”—They accordingly agree to question Nicias further, which Socrates does, as follows.

“We began the examination of courage, considering it to be a part of virtue.”—“Certainly.”—“If you distinguished this as one part, there must be other parts.”—“There are.”—“Are these other parts what I call them? viz. justice, & temperance, & so on.”—“Certainly.”—“So far we are then agreed. Let us now consider whether we all mean the same thing by Dangerous, & Safe. We call those things dangerous which excite fear, safe which do not. But the things which excite fear, are not past or present evils, but future ones: for fear is the expectation of a future evil. Do you not think so, Laches?”—“Entirely so.”—“We, then, Nicias, mean by dangerous things, future evils; by safe things, future things which are not evil, or which are good. Do you think the same?”—“I do.”—“The knowledge of these things, then, you term courage.”—“I do.”—“Now, Laches & I think, that on any subject on which there is knowledge, there is not one knowledge about the thing when it is past, viz. the knowledge how it did happen, another about it when present, how it is happening & a third, how that which has not yet happened, may best happen; but that all this knowledge is one. For instance, respecting health, one single branch of knowledge, viz. medicine, considers both of what has conduced to health, of what does conduce to it, & what will: The same may be said of husbandry: and of the military art. The art of generalship considers both of past, present, & future, & is not subordinate to the art of prophecy, but uses that art as subordinate to itself, considering itself to know best the future as well as the past, in respect to war. Is this right, Laches?”—“It is.”—“Do you agree with us, Nicias, that the knowledge of the future, of the past & of the present, are all the same?”—“I do.”—“But courage, you say, is the knowledge of the dangerous, & the safe.”—“Yes.”—“The dangerous means, future evil, the safe, future good.”—“Yes.”—“And of the same thing, whether past, present, or future, there is but one & the same knowledge.”—“Yes.”—“Courage, then, is not merely the knowledge of the dangerous & the safe: for it does not only understand respecting future good & evil, but likewise past & present, like all other branches of knowledge.”—“So it seems.”—“Then you only told us one third part of courage, instead of the whole. And now, it seems, courage is not merely the knowledge of the dangerous & the safe, but nearly of all good & evil Edition: current; Page: [208] whatever. Can you say otherwise?”—“I cannot.”—“Then, if a man know how all that is good & all that is evil has been produced, is produced, & will be produced, of what virtue would he be destitute? Do you think that he would need any further justice or piety, he who would be able to provide all that is good and avoid all that is evil both in respect to gods & men?”—“There seems to be some reason in what you say.”—“Courage then at this rate is not a part of virtue, but the whole.”—“So it seems.”—“But we said that it is only a part.”—“We did.”—“Then we have not yet found out what courage is.”—“It appears, we have not.”—“I thought,” said Laches, “that you would find it out, since you despised my answers to Socrates: I had great hopes that by the wisdom you derived from Damon you would discover it.”—“So,” answered Nicias, “you think it nothing that you have been shewn to know nothing about courage, but are satisfied if I appear equally ignorant, & it will make no difference to you now, it seems, that both you & I are utterly ignorant of what a man who thinks anything of himself ought to know. You appear to me to do what is very common, to look not to your own mind, but to the opinion of others: for my part, I think that I have answered very tolerably on this subject, & that if any part of what I have said is not sufficient, I shall be able hereafter to correct it, by discussion both with Damon, whom you pretend to laugh at without ever having seen him, & with other people. And when I have mastered the subject, I will not grudge to instruct you upon it; for you seem to me to have very great occasion to learn.”—“For you yourself are a wise man,” answered Laches. “But for all that, I would advise Lysimachus & Melesias to let you & me alone about the education of their sons, but, as I said at first, not to let go their hold of Socrates: for if my own sons were old enough, I would do the same thing.”—“I agree with you,” said Nicias, “that if Socrates would consent to take charge of the young men no other person needs be sought for: I would most gladly commit my son Niceratus to his care, if he would consent: but whenever I mention the subject he recommends other people to me, but will not himself consent.”—Lysimachus begged Socrates nevertheless to take charge of the two youths & join in making them as excellent as possible.

“It would be shameful,” replied Socrates, “not to be willing to join in making any one as excellent as possible. If therefore in our conversation just now, I had appeared to know & these two to be ignorant, it would have been just to call me in particular to this work: but as we were all equally at a loss, which of us could any one prefer? None of us, as it appears to me. Hear therefore what I would advise: That we should all of us jointly seek out the best teacher for ourselves in the first place, & afterwards for our children; neither sparing money nor any thing else. But to be contented as we are now, I do not advise. And if any one laughs at us for putting Edition: current; Page: [209] ourselves to school at our age, we can quote Homer against him. That poet says, that it is not good for a needy man to be ashamed.[*] Let us therefore, without minding what people may say, attend both to ourselves & to the young men, at once.”—Lysimachus expressed his satisfaction, & said, the older he was, the more ready he would be to learn with the young men; & he invited Socrates to come the next day, that they might resume the deliberation. Socrates consented, and in this manner, without settling any one of the questions which they had been discussing, the dialogue breaks off.

Edition: current; Page: [210]

The Lysis

[Holograph MS, Berg Collection, New York Public Library, entitled “Notes on the Lysis of Plato.” Ff. 1-6 watermarked 1825; the remainder, 1828. Not mentioned in JSM’s bibliography. For details concerning the manuscript and the transcription, see the Textual Introduction, lxxxi-lxxxii above; for a discussion of this and the other translations of Plato, see also the Introduction, xvii-xxviii above.]

the subject of this dialogue is friendship:* and it is one of the numerous dialogues of Plato which are merely tentative, examining and rejecting a variety of opinions without adopting any. One indirect purpose seems to be, to ridicule several of the wise saws of the sophists, & naturalists, Empedocles & others.

Hippothales, a friend of Socrates, was attached to a very young man named Lysis. Ctesippus, another friend of Hippothales, rallied him in the presence of Socrates, on the extraordinary degree in which he was absorbed by the idea of this young man, & the extravagances which he performed in order to recommend himself to him. Socrates enquired what particular mode he took of winning the favour of Lysis: and Ctesippus again laughed at him for finding nothing to say except commonplaces which every child knew, making verses on the divine descent & heroic actions of Lysis’s progenitors & so forth, which all the town had in its mouth. Socrates hereupon asked Hippothales, why he composed an encomium on himself before he had gained the prize. Hippothales not understanding this, Socrates continued, “All these verses of yours tend directly to yourself. For, if you succeed in winning the object of your love, all these encomiums on him will be encomiums on yourself, for having succeeded with so distinguished a person: But if you fail, the more you have puffed the object of your pursuit, the greater good will you be thought to have lost, & will be laughed at accordingly. A person therefore who is wise in love affairs, takes care not to praise the beloved object until he has won it, for fear of what Edition: current; Page: [211] may happen. Besides, if you praise them, they are puffed up with conceit & self-will: & the more self-willed they become, the more difficult it is to gain them. But what sort of a hunter should you think him who made his game wilder & more difficult to catch; or him who by his songs & incantations did not sooth, but stir up? Take care that you do not resemble those persons.”

Hippothales admitted the justice of all this, & begged Socrates to advise him, what words or deeds he thought would most recommend him to the object of his affection. Socrates saying that he could not tell unless he could converse with Lysis himself, Hippothales and Ctesippus obtained for him an opportunity of entering into conversation with Lysis, in company with another young man of the same age, named Menexenus.

Socrates said to Menexenus, “Which of you two is the elder?”—“We doubt.”—“Then you must dispute, which is the more noble.”—Menexenus assented.—“And which is the handsomer.”—They both smiled.—“You will not dispute which is the richer; for you are friends; & friends have all things in common, if what they say of friendship is true, so that there can be no difference between you in this respect.”—They agreed.—Socrates was about to ask them, which of them was the most just & wise, when Menexenus was called away, and Socrates addressed himself to Lysis.

“Do your father & mother love you extremely?”—“They do.”—“Then they wish you to be happy.”—“Certainly.”—“Is a person happy, who is a slave, & allowed to do nothing which he desires?”—“No.”—“Then your parents, I suppose, allow you to do as you please, and never admonish or restrain you.”—“Indeed they do, very often.”—“What! do they wish you to be happy, & not let you do as you like? If you desired to drive one of your father’s chariots at the public contests, would they not permit you?”—“Certainly not.”—“But whom would they permit?”—“My father has a charioteer to whom he pays wages.”—“So they permit a hired servant to do what he pleases with the horses, & will not permit you. And they even pay him money for doing it.”—“What then?”—“But I suppose they allow you to drive the team of mules, & whip them too, if you have a mind.”—“Certainly not.”—“What! Is nobody allowed to whip them?”—“Certainly: the carter.”—“Is he a slave or a freeman?”—“A slave.”—“So it seems they value a slave more than you, their son, & commit their affairs to him rather than to you, & allow him to do as he pleases, but will not allow you. Answer me another question. Do they allow you to govern yourself, or do they not even trust you with that?”—“They do not.”—“Who governs you?”—“My tutor.”—“Is he a slave?”—“Yes, he is one of our slaves.”—“It is a shame that a freeman should be governed by a slave. What does this tutor do to you?”—“He takes me to school.”—“Does the schoolmaster govern you too?”—“Undoubtedly.”—“It seems then, your father voluntarily sets a Edition: current; Page: [212] great number of masters over you. And pray when you come home to your mother, does she let you do as you please with her loom and her web, that you may be happy? Of course, she does not prevent you from meddling with her distaff or spindle & the rest of her spinning apparatus.”—Lysis laughed, & said, he should be punished, if he ventured to touch them.—“Indeed! Pray, have you offended your father or your mother?”—“Not I.”—“What is the reason, then, that they prevent you from being happy, & make you pass your whole time in slavery to some person or other, doing hardly any thing of what you desire? So that it seems you are never the better for all your wealth (for every body has more power over it than you have) nor for your fine person, for even that is placed under the tutelage of another man: you have power over nobody, & nothing.”—“Because I am not yet old enough.”—“That is no hindrance; for there are some things, I suppose, which your father & mother permit you to do, without waiting till you grow older. When they want any body to read or write for them, I dare say you are the first person whom they apply to: and when you take up the lyre, they do not hinder you from striking what chords you please.”—“They do not.”—“What, then, is the reason that in these things they do not prevent you, but in the other things which we were talking about, they do?”—“I suppose it is because I understand these things & do not understand the others.”—“Then it is not age which your father waits for in order to entrust you with his affairs, but sense: & the day he thinks you have more sense than he, he will commit himself & his affairs to your care.”—“I suppose so.”—“And will not your neighbour do the same? Will he not entrust to you the management of his household, as soon as he thinks you understand domestic economy better than himself? And will not the Athenians entrust their affairs to you, when they see that you have sufficient understanding?”—“Yes.”—“And the Great King? Would he rather, think you, permit his own eldest son & heir to the throne, to put what he pleased into the pot where the meat is boiling, or us, if we could convince him that we knew more about cookery than his son?”—“Us.”—“He would not suffer his son to put in any thing; but he would let us empty the salt-box into it, if we thought fit.”—“Certainly.”—“And if his son had sore eyes, would he allow him to touch them himself, if he did not think him skilled in medicine?”—“Certainly not.”—“But us, if he thought us skilful physicians, he would allow even to open the eyes and throw in ashes, if we liked.”—“True.”—“He would entrust us in preference to himself or his son, with every thing in which he considered us as wiser than them.”—“He would.”—“It seems then that all Greeks or foreigners, men or women, will trust us in those things with which we are well acquainted; & we may do what we please in them, nobody will willingly resist us, we shall be ourselves free, & shall govern others, & these things will be ours, for we Edition: current; Page: [213] shall be benefitted by them. But in those things of which we possess no understanding, no one will suffer us to do what we please, but will throw every possible obstacle in our way; not only strangers, but our own father & mother; & in these things we shall be subject to others, & these things will be foreign to us, for we shall derive no benefit from them.”—“Granted.”—“Shall we be loved by any body in those things in which we are useless?”—“Certainly not.”—“Then at present, neither your father loves you, nor does any one love any one, in so far as he is useless.”—“Allowed.”—“If then you become wise, every one will be your friend & every one will be attached to you, for you will be useful & good; but if not, neither any one else, nor even your father & mother & relations, will be attached to you. Do you think, then, that it is possible to think much of oneself, in those things in which one is without thought?”—“It is not.”—“But if you need a schoolmaster, you are as yet without thought.”—“True.”—“Then you do not think much of yourself.”—“I do not think that I do.”

Socrates, who is the narrator of this dialogue, says, that he here thought of Hippothales, & had a mind to say to him, that this was the proper way to address a beloved object, humbling & chastening it rather than exalting & puffing it up.

At this moment Menexenus returned, & Lysis boyishly whispered to Socrates, to say the same things to Menexenus which he had said to him. Socrates bid Lysis himself repeat them to him; which Lysis promised that he would, but begged Socrates to say something else to Menexenus, that he himself might hear. “I must,” replied Socrates, “if you bid me. But mind that you come to my assistance if Menexenus attempts to refute me. Do you not know that he is extremely disputatious?”—“That is the very reason,” rejoined Lysis, “why I wish you to talk to him.”—“That I may make myself ridiculou