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´╗┐Title: Protagoras
Author: Plato, 427? BC-347? BC
Language: English
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By Plato

Translated by Benjamin Jowett


The Protagoras, like several of the Dialogues of Plato, is put into the
mouth of Socrates, who describes a conversation which had taken place
between himself and the great Sophist at the house of Callias--'the
man who had spent more upon the Sophists than all the rest of the
world'--and in which the learned Hippias and the grammarian Prodicus had
also shared, as well as Alcibiades and Critias, both of whom said a
few words--in the presence of a distinguished company consisting of
disciples of Protagoras and of leading Athenians belonging to the
Socratic circle. The dialogue commences with a request on the part of
Hippocrates that Socrates would introduce him to the celebrated teacher.
He has come before the dawn had risen--so fervid is his zeal. Socrates
moderates his excitement and advises him to find out 'what Protagoras
will make of him,' before he becomes his pupil.

They go together to the house of Callias; and Socrates, after explaining
the purpose of their visit to Protagoras, asks the question, 'What he
will make of Hippocrates.' Protagoras answers, 'That he will make him
a better and a wiser man.' 'But in what will he be better?'--Socrates
desires to have a more precise answer. Protagoras replies, 'That he will
teach him prudence in affairs private and public; in short, the science
or knowledge of human life.'

This, as Socrates admits, is a noble profession; but he is or rather
would have been doubtful, whether such knowledge can be taught, if
Protagoras had not assured him of the fact, for two reasons: (1) Because
the Athenian people, who recognize in their assemblies the distinction
between the skilled and the unskilled in the arts, do not distinguish
between the trained politician and the untrained; (2) Because the wisest
and best Athenian citizens do not teach their sons political virtue.
Will Protagoras answer these objections?

Protagoras explains his views in the form of an apologue, in which,
after Prometheus had given men the arts, Zeus is represented as sending
Hermes to them, bearing with him Justice and Reverence. These are not,
like the arts, to be imparted to a few only, but all men are to
be partakers of them. Therefore the Athenian people are right in
distinguishing between the skilled and unskilled in the arts, and not
between skilled and unskilled politicians. (1) For all men have the
political virtues to a certain degree, and are obliged to say that
they have them, whether they have them or not. A man would be thought
a madman who professed an art which he did not know; but he would be
equally thought a madman if he did not profess a virtue which he had
not. (2) And that the political virtues can be taught and acquired, in
the opinion of the Athenians, is proved by the fact that they punish
evil-doers, with a view to prevention, of course--mere retribution is
for beasts, and not for men. (3) Again, would parents who teach her sons
lesser matters leave them ignorant of the common duty of citizens? To
the doubt of Socrates the best answer is the fact, that the education
of youth in virtue begins almost as soon as they can speak, and is
continued by the state when they pass out of the parental control. (4)
Nor need we wonder that wise and good fathers sometimes have foolish and
worthless sons. Virtue, as we were saying, is not the private possession
of any man, but is shared by all, only however to the extent of which
each individual is by nature capable. And, as a matter of fact, even the
worst of civilized mankind will appear virtuous and just, if we compare
them with savages. (5) The error of Socrates lies in supposing that
there are no teachers of virtue, whereas all men are teachers in a
degree. Some, like Protagoras, are better than others, and with this
result we ought to be satisfied.

Socrates is highly delighted with the explanation of Protagoras. But he
has still a doubt lingering in his mind. Protagoras has spoken of the
virtues: are they many, or one? are they parts of a whole, or different
names of the same thing? Protagoras replies that they are parts, like
the parts of a face, which have their several functions, and no one part
is like any other part. This admission, which has been somewhat hastily
made, is now taken up and cross-examined by Socrates:--

'Is justice just, and is holiness holy? And are justice and holiness
opposed to one another?'--'Then justice is unholy.' Protagoras would
rather say that justice is different from holiness, and yet in a certain
point of view nearly the same. He does not, however, escape in this way
from the cunning of Socrates, who inveigles him into an admission that
everything has but one opposite. Folly, for example, is opposed
to wisdom; and folly is also opposed to temperance; and therefore
temperance and wisdom are the same. And holiness has been already
admitted to be nearly the same as justice. Temperance, therefore, has
now to be compared with justice.

Protagoras, whose temper begins to get a little ruffled at the process
to which he has been subjected, is aware that he will soon be compelled
by the dialectics of Socrates to admit that the temperate is the just.
He therefore defends himself with his favourite weapon; that is to say,
he makes a long speech not much to the point, which elicits the applause
of the audience.

Here occurs a sort of interlude, which commences with a declaration on
the part of Socrates that he cannot follow a long speech, and therefore
he must beg Protagoras to speak shorter. As Protagoras declines to
accommodate him, he rises to depart, but is detained by Callias, who
thinks him unreasonable in not allowing Protagoras the liberty which he
takes himself of speaking as he likes. But Alcibiades answers that the
two cases are not parallel. For Socrates admits his inability to speak
long; will Protagoras in like manner acknowledge his inability to speak

Counsels of moderation are urged first in a few words by Critias, and
then by Prodicus in balanced and sententious language: and Hippias
proposes an umpire. But who is to be the umpire? rejoins Socrates; he
would rather suggest as a compromise that Protagoras shall ask and he
will answer, and that when Protagoras is tired of asking he himself will
ask and Protagoras shall answer. To this the latter yields a reluctant

Protagoras selects as his thesis a poem of Simonides of Ceos, in which
he professes to find a contradiction. First the poet says,

     'Hard is it to become good,'

and then reproaches Pittacus for having said, 'Hard is it to be good.'
How is this to be reconciled? Socrates, who is familiar with the poem,
is embarrassed at first, and invokes the aid of Prodicus, the countryman
of Simonides, but apparently only with the intention of flattering him
into absurdities. First a distinction is drawn between (Greek) to be,
and (Greek) to become: to become good is difficult; to be good is easy.
Then the word difficult or hard is explained to mean 'evil' in the Cean
dialect. To all this Prodicus assents; but when Protagoras reclaims,
Socrates slily withdraws Prodicus from the fray, under the pretence that
his assent was only intended to test the wits of his adversary. He then
proceeds to give another and more elaborate explanation of the whole
passage. The explanation is as follows:--

The Lacedaemonians are great philosophers (although this is a fact which
is not generally known); and the soul of their philosophy is brevity,
which was also the style of primitive antiquity and of the seven sages.
Now Pittacus had a saying, 'Hard is it to be good:' and Simonides, who
was jealous of the fame of this saying, wrote a poem which was designed
to controvert it. No, says he, Pittacus; not 'hard to be good,' but
'hard to become good.' Socrates proceeds to argue in a highly impressive
manner that the whole composition is intended as an attack upon
Pittacus. This, though manifestly absurd, is accepted by the company,
and meets with the special approval of Hippias, who has however a
favourite interpretation of his own, which he is requested by Alcibiades
to defer.

The argument is now resumed, not without some disdainful remarks of
Socrates on the practice of introducing the poets, who ought not to be
allowed, any more than flute-girls, to come into good society. Men's
own thoughts should supply them with the materials for discussion. A few
soothing flatteries are addressed to Protagoras by Callias and Socrates,
and then the old question is repeated, 'Whether the virtues are one or
many?' To which Protagoras is now disposed to reply, that four out of
the five virtues are in some degree similar; but he still contends that
the fifth, courage, is unlike the rest. Socrates proceeds to undermine
the last stronghold of the adversary, first obtaining from him the
admission that all virtue is in the highest degree good:--

The courageous are the confident; and the confident are those who know
their business or profession: those who have no such knowledge and
are still confident are madmen. This is admitted. Then, says Socrates,
courage is knowledge--an inference which Protagoras evades by drawing a
futile distinction between the courageous and the confident in a fluent

Socrates renews the attack from another side: he would like to
know whether pleasure is not the only good, and pain the only evil?
Protagoras seems to doubt the morality or propriety of assenting to
this; he would rather say that 'some pleasures are good, some pains are
evil,' which is also the opinion of the generality of mankind. What
does he think of knowledge? Does he agree with the common opinion that
knowledge is overcome by passion? or does he hold that knowledge is
power? Protagoras agrees that knowledge is certainly a governing power.

This, however, is not the doctrine of men in general, who maintain that
many who know what is best, act contrary to their knowledge under the
influence of pleasure. But this opposition of good and evil is really
the opposition of a greater or lesser amount of pleasure. Pleasures are
evils because they end in pain, and pains are goods because they end in
pleasures. Thus pleasure is seen to be the only good; and the only evil
is the preference of the lesser pleasure to the greater. But then comes
in the illusion of distance. Some art of mensuration is required in
order to show us pleasures and pains in their true proportion. This art
of mensuration is a kind of knowledge, and knowledge is thus proved
once more to be the governing principle of human life, and ignorance the
origin of all evil: for no one prefers the less pleasure to the greater,
or the greater pain to the less, except from ignorance. The argument
is drawn out in an imaginary 'dialogue within a dialogue,' conducted by
Socrates and Protagoras on the one part, and the rest of the world
on the other. Hippias and Prodicus, as well as Protagoras, admit the
soundness of the conclusion.

Socrates then applies this new conclusion to the case of courage--the
only virtue which still holds out against the assaults of the Socratic
dialectic. No one chooses the evil or refuses the good except through
ignorance. This explains why cowards refuse to go to war:--because they
form a wrong estimate of good, and honour, and pleasure. And why are the
courageous willing to go to war?--because they form a right estimate of
pleasures and pains, of things terrible and not terrible. Courage then
is knowledge, and cowardice is ignorance. And the five virtues, which
were originally maintained to have five different natures, after having
been easily reduced to two only, at last coalesce in one. The assent of
Protagoras to this last position is extracted with great difficulty.

Socrates concludes by professing his disinterested love of the truth,
and remarks on the singular manner in which he and his adversary had
changed sides. Protagoras began by asserting, and Socrates by denying,
the teachableness of virtue, and now the latter ends by affirming that
virtue is knowledge, which is the most teachable of all things, while
Protagoras has been striving to show that virtue is not knowledge, and
this is almost equivalent to saying that virtue cannot be taught. He is
not satisfied with the result, and would like to renew the enquiry with
the help of Protagoras in a different order, asking (1) What virtue is,
and (2) Whether virtue can be taught. Protagoras declines this offer,
but commends Socrates' earnestness and his style of discussion.

The Protagoras is often supposed to be full of difficulties. These
are partly imaginary and partly real. The imaginary ones are (1)
Chronological,--which were pointed out in ancient times by Athenaeus,
and are noticed by Schleiermacher and others, and relate to the
impossibility of all the persons in the Dialogue meeting at any one
time, whether in the year 425 B.C., or in any other. But Plato, like
all writers of fiction, aims only at the probable, and shows in many
Dialogues (e.g. the Symposium and Republic, and already in the Laches)
an extreme disregard of the historical accuracy which is sometimes
demanded of him. (2) The exact place of the Protagoras among the
Dialogues, and the date of composition, have also been much disputed.
But there are no criteria which afford any real grounds for determining
the date of composition; and the affinities of the Dialogues, when they
are not indicated by Plato himself, must always to a great extent remain
uncertain. (3) There is another class of difficulties, which may be
ascribed to preconceived notions of commentators, who imagine that
Protagoras the Sophist ought always to be in the wrong, and his
adversary Socrates in the right; or that in this or that passage--e.g.
in the explanation of good as pleasure--Plato is inconsistent with
himself; or that the Dialogue fails in unity, and has not a proper
beginning, middle, and ending. They seem to forget that Plato is a
dramatic writer who throws his thoughts into both sides of the argument,
and certainly does not aim at any unity which is inconsistent with
freedom, and with a natural or even wild manner of treating his subject;
also that his mode of revealing the truth is by lights and shadows, and
far-off and opposing points of view, and not by dogmatic statements or
definite results.

The real difficulties arise out of the extreme subtlety of the work,
which, as Socrates says of the poem of Simonides, is a most perfect
piece of art. There are dramatic contrasts and interests, threads of
philosophy broken and resumed, satirical reflections on mankind, veils
thrown over truths which are lightly suggested, and all woven together
in a single design, and moving towards one end.

In the introductory scene Plato raises the expectation that a 'great
personage' is about to appear on the stage; perhaps with a further view
of showing that he is destined to be overthrown by a greater still, who
makes no pretensions. Before introducing Hippocrates to him, Socrates
thinks proper to warn the youth against the dangers of 'influence,'
of which the invidious nature is recognized by Protagoras himself.
Hippocrates readily adopts the suggestion of Socrates that he shall
learn of Protagoras only the accomplishments which befit an Athenian
gentleman, and let alone his 'sophistry.' There is nothing however in
the introduction which leads to the inference that Plato intended to
blacken the character of the Sophists; he only makes a little merry at
their expense.

The 'great personage' is somewhat ostentatious, but frank and honest.
He is introduced on a stage which is worthy of him--at the house of the
rich Callias, in which are congregated the noblest and wisest of the
Athenians. He considers openness to be the best policy, and particularly
mentions his own liberal mode of dealing with his pupils, as if in
answer to the favourite accusation of the Sophists that they received
pay. He is remarkable for the good temper which he exhibits throughout
the discussion under the trying and often sophistical cross-examination
of Socrates. Although once or twice ruffled, and reluctant to continue
the discussion, he parts company on perfectly good terms, and appears to
be, as he says of himself, the 'least jealous of mankind.'

Nor is there anything in the sentiments of Protagoras which impairs this
pleasing impression of the grave and weighty old man. His real defect
is that he is inferior to Socrates in dialectics. The opposition between
him and Socrates is not the opposition of good and bad, true and false,
but of the old art of rhetoric and the new science of interrogation and
argument; also of the irony of Socrates and the self-assertion of the
Sophists. There is quite as much truth on the side of Protagoras as
of Socrates; but the truth of Protagoras is based on common sense and
common maxims of morality, while that of Socrates is paradoxical
or transcendental, and though full of meaning and insight, hardly
intelligible to the rest of mankind. Here as elsewhere is the usual
contrast between the Sophists representing average public opinion and
Socrates seeking for increased clearness and unity of ideas. But to a
great extent Protagoras has the best of the argument and represents the
better mind of man.

For example: (1) one of the noblest statements to be found in antiquity
about the preventive nature of punishment is put into his mouth; (2) he
is clearly right also in maintaining that virtue can be taught (which
Socrates himself, at the end of the Dialogue, is disposed to concede);
and also (3) in his explanation of the phenomenon that good fathers have
bad sons; (4) he is right also in observing that the virtues are not
like the arts, gifts or attainments of special individuals, but the
common property of all: this, which in all ages has been the strength
and weakness of ethics and politics, is deeply seated in human nature;
(5) there is a sort of half-truth in the notion that all civilized men
are teachers of virtue; and more than a half-truth (6) in ascribing
to man, who in his outward conditions is more helpless than the other
animals, the power of self-improvement; (7) the religious allegory
should be noticed, in which the arts are said to be given by Prometheus
(who stole them), whereas justice and reverence and the political
virtues could only be imparted by Zeus; (8) in the latter part of the
Dialogue, when Socrates is arguing that 'pleasure is the only good,'
Protagoras deems it more in accordance with his character to maintain
that 'some pleasures only are good;' and admits that 'he, above all
other men, is bound to say "that wisdom and knowledge are the highest of
human things."'

There is no reason to suppose that in all this Plato is depicting an
imaginary Protagoras; he seems to be showing us the teaching of the
Sophists under the milder aspect under which he once regarded them.
Nor is there any reason to doubt that Socrates is equally an historical
character, paradoxical, ironical, tiresome, but seeking for the unity
of virtue and knowledge as for a precious treasure; willing to rest this
even on a calculation of pleasure, and irresistible here, as everywhere
in Plato, in his intellectual superiority.

The aim of Socrates, and of the Dialogue, is to show the unity of
virtue. In the determination of this question the identity of virtue and
knowledge is found to be involved. But if virtue and knowledge are
one, then virtue can be taught; the end of the Dialogue returns to the
beginning. Had Protagoras been allowed by Plato to make the Aristotelian
distinction, and say that virtue is not knowledge, but is accompanied
with knowledge; or to point out with Aristotle that the same quality may
have more than one opposite; or with Plato himself in the Phaedo to deny
that good is a mere exchange of a greater pleasure for a less--the unity
of virtue and the identity of virtue and knowledge would have required
to be proved by other arguments.

The victory of Socrates over Protagoras is in every way complete when
their minds are fairly brought together. Protagoras falls before him
after two or three blows. Socrates partially gains his object in the
first part of the Dialogue, and completely in the second. Nor does
he appear at any disadvantage when subjected to 'the question' by
Protagoras. He succeeds in making his two 'friends,' Prodicus and
Hippias, ludicrous by the way; he also makes a long speech in defence
of the poem of Simonides, after the manner of the Sophists, showing, as
Alcibiades says, that he is only pretending to have a bad memory, and
that he and not Protagoras is really a master in the two styles of
speaking; and that he can undertake, not one side of the argument only,
but both, when Protagoras begins to break down. Against the authority of
the poets with whom Protagoras has ingeniously identified himself at
the commencement of the Dialogue, Socrates sets up the proverbial
philosophers and those masters of brevity the Lacedaemonians. The poets,
the Laconizers, and Protagoras are satirized at the same time.

Not having the whole of this poem before us, it is impossible for us
to answer certainly the question of Protagoras, how the two passages of
Simonides are to be reconciled. We can only follow the indications given
by Plato himself. But it seems likely that the reconcilement offered
by Socrates is a caricature of the methods of interpretation which
were practised by the Sophists--for the following reasons: (1) The
transparent irony of the previous interpretations given by Socrates.
(2) The ludicrous opening of the speech in which the Lacedaemonians are
described as the true philosophers, and Laconic brevity as the true form
of philosophy, evidently with an allusion to Protagoras' long speeches.
(3) The manifest futility and absurdity of the explanation of (Greek),
which is hardly consistent with the rational interpretation of the rest
of the poem. The opposition of (Greek) and (Greek) seems also intended
to express the rival doctrines of Socrates and Protagoras, and is a
facetious commentary on their differences. (4) The general treatment in
Plato both of the Poets and the Sophists, who are their interpreters,
and whom he delights to identify with them. (5) The depreciating
spirit in which Socrates speaks of the introduction of the poets as a
substitute for original conversation, which is intended to contrast
with Protagoras' exaltation of the study of them--this again is hardly
consistent with the serious defence of Simonides. (6) the marked
approval of Hippias, who is supposed at once to catch the familiar
sound, just as in the previous conversation Prodicus is represented as
ready to accept any distinctions of language however absurd. At the same
time Hippias is desirous of substituting a new interpretation of his
own; as if the words might really be made to mean anything, and were
only to be regarded as affording a field for the ingenuity of the

This curious passage is, therefore, to be regarded as Plato's satire on
the tedious and hypercritical arts of interpretation which prevailed in
his own day, and may be compared with his condemnation of the same arts
when applied to mythology in the Phaedrus, and with his other parodies,
e.g. with the two first speeches in the Phaedrus and with the Menexenus.
Several lesser touches of satire may be observed, such as the claim of
philosophy advanced for the Lacedaemonians, which is a parody of
the claims advanced for the Poets by Protagoras; the mistake of the
Laconizing set in supposing that the Lacedaemonians are a great nation
because they bruise their ears; the far-fetched notion, which is 'really
too bad,' that Simonides uses the Lesbian (?) word, (Greek), because he
is addressing a Lesbian. The whole may also be considered as a satire on
those who spin pompous theories out of nothing. As in the arguments
of the Euthydemus and of the Cratylus, the veil of irony is
never withdrawn; and we are left in doubt at last how far in this
interpretation of Simonides Socrates is 'fooling,' how far he is in

All the interests and contrasts of character in a great dramatic work
like the Protagoras are not easily exhausted. The impressiveness of
the scene should not be lost upon us, or the gradual substitution of
Socrates in the second part for Protagoras in the first. The characters
to whom we are introduced at the beginning of the Dialogue all play a
part more or less conspicuous towards the end. There is Alcibiades, who
is compelled by the necessity of his nature to be a partisan, lending
effectual aid to Socrates; there is Critias assuming the tone of
impartiality; Callias, here as always inclining to the Sophists, but
eager for any intellectual repast; Prodicus, who finds an opportunity
for displaying his distinctions of language, which are valueless and
pedantic, because they are not based on dialectic; Hippias, who has
previously exhibited his superficial knowledge of natural philosophy,
to which, as in both the Dialogues called by his name, he now adds the
profession of an interpreter of the Poets. The two latter personages
have been already damaged by the mock heroic description of them in
the introduction. It may be remarked that Protagoras is consistently
presented to us throughout as the teacher of moral and political virtue;
there is no allusion to the theories of sensation which are attributed
to him in the Theaetetus and elsewhere, or to his denial of the
existence of the gods in a well-known fragment ascribed to him; he is
the religious rather than the irreligious teacher in this Dialogue.
Also it may be observed that Socrates shows him as much respect as is
consistent with his own ironical character; he admits that the
dialectic which has overthrown Protagoras has carried himself round to
a conclusion opposed to his first thesis. The force of argument,
therefore, and not Socrates or Protagoras, has won the day.

But is Socrates serious in maintaining (1) that virtue cannot be taught;
(2) that the virtues are one; (3) that virtue is the knowledge of
pleasures and pains present and future? These propositions to us have an
appearance of paradox--they are really moments or aspects of the truth
by the help of which we pass from the old conventional morality to a
higher conception of virtue and knowledge. That virtue cannot be taught
is a paradox of the same sort as the profession of Socrates that he knew
nothing. Plato means to say that virtue is not brought to a man, but
must be drawn out of him; and cannot be taught by rhetorical discourses
or citations from the poets. The second question, whether the virtues
are one or many, though at first sight distinct, is really a part of
the same subject; for if the virtues are to be taught, they must be
reducible to a common principle; and this common principle is found to
be knowledge. Here, as Aristotle remarks, Socrates and Plato outstep the
truth--they make a part of virtue into the whole. Further, the nature
of this knowledge, which is assumed to be a knowledge of pleasures and
pains, appears to us too superficial and at variance with the spirit
of Plato himself. Yet, in this, Plato is only following the historical
Socrates as he is depicted to us in Xenophon's Memorabilia. Like
Socrates, he finds on the surface of human life one common bond by which
the virtues are united,--their tendency to produce happiness,--though
such a principle is afterwards repudiated by him.

It remains to be considered in what relation the Protagoras stands to
the other Dialogues of Plato. That it is one of the earlier or purely
Socratic works--perhaps the last, as it is certainly the greatest of
them--is indicated by the absence of any allusion to the doctrine of
reminiscence; and also by the different attitude assumed towards the
teaching and persons of the Sophists in some of the later Dialogues. The
Charmides, Laches, Lysis, all touch on the question of the relation of
knowledge to virtue, and may be regarded, if not as preliminary studies
or sketches of the more important work, at any rate as closely connected
with it. The Io and the lesser Hippias contain discussions of the Poets,
which offer a parallel to the ironical criticism of Simonides, and are
conceived in a similar spirit. The affinity of the Protagoras to
the Meno is more doubtful. For there, although the same question is
discussed, 'whether virtue can be taught,' and the relation of Meno to
the Sophists is much the same as that of Hippocrates, the answer to the
question is supplied out of the doctrine of ideas; the real Socrates is
already passing into the Platonic one. At a later stage of the Platonic
philosophy we shall find that both the paradox and the solution of it
appear to have been retracted. The Phaedo, the Gorgias, and the Philebus
offer further corrections of the teaching of the Protagoras; in all of
them the doctrine that virtue is pleasure, or that pleasure is the chief
or only good, is distinctly renounced.

Thus after many preparations and oppositions, both of the characters
of men and aspects of the truth, especially of the popular and
philosophical aspect; and after many interruptions and detentions by the
way, which, as Theodorus says in the Theaetetus, are quite as agreeable
as the argument, we arrive at the great Socratic thesis that virtue is
knowledge. This is an aspect of the truth which was lost almost as soon
as it was found; and yet has to be recovered by every one for himself
who would pass the limits of proverbial and popular philosophy. The
moral and intellectual are always dividing, yet they must be reunited,
and in the highest conception of them are inseparable. The thesis of
Socrates is not merely a hasty assumption, but may be also deemed an
anticipation of some 'metaphysic of the future,' in which the divided
elements of human nature are reconciled.


PERSONS OF THE DIALOGUE: Socrates, who is the narrator of the Dialogue
to his Companion. Hippocrates, Alcibiades and Critias. Protagoras,
Hippias and Prodicus (Sophists). Callias, a wealthy Athenian.

SCENE: The House of Callias.

COMPANION: Where do you come from, Socrates? And yet I need hardly
ask the question, for I know that you have been in chase of the fair
Alcibiades. I saw him the day before yesterday; and he had got a beard
like a man,--and he is a man, as I may tell you in your ear. But I
thought that he was still very charming.

SOCRATES: What of his beard? Are you not of Homer's opinion, who says

     'Youth is most charming when the beard first appears'?

And that is now the charm of Alcibiades.

COMPANION: Well, and how do matters proceed? Have you been visiting him,
and was he gracious to you?

SOCRATES: Yes, I thought that he was very gracious; and especially
to-day, for I have just come from him, and he has been helping me in an
argument. But shall I tell you a strange thing? I paid no attention to
him, and several times I quite forgot that he was present.

COMPANION: What is the meaning of this? Has anything happened between
you and him? For surely you cannot have discovered a fairer love than he
is; certainly not in this city of Athens.

SOCRATES: Yes, much fairer.

COMPANION: What do you mean--a citizen or a foreigner?

SOCRATES: A foreigner.

COMPANION: Of what country?

SOCRATES: Of Abdera.

COMPANION: And is this stranger really in your opinion a fairer love
than the son of Cleinias?

SOCRATES: And is not the wiser always the fairer, sweet friend?

COMPANION: But have you really met, Socrates, with some wise one?

SOCRATES: Say rather, with the wisest of all living men, if you are
willing to accord that title to Protagoras.

COMPANION: What! Is Protagoras in Athens?

SOCRATES: Yes; he has been here two days.

COMPANION: And do you just come from an interview with him?

SOCRATES: Yes; and I have heard and said many things.

COMPANION: Then, if you have no engagement, suppose that you sit down
and tell me what passed, and my attendant here shall give up his place
to you.

SOCRATES: To be sure; and I shall be grateful to you for listening.

COMPANION: Thank you, too, for telling us.

SOCRATES: That is thank you twice over. Listen then:--

Last night, or rather very early this morning, Hippocrates, the son of
Apollodorus and the brother of Phason, gave a tremendous thump with his
staff at my door; some one opened to him, and he came rushing in and
bawled out: Socrates, are you awake or asleep?

I knew his voice, and said: Hippocrates, is that you? and do you bring
any news?

Good news, he said; nothing but good.

Delightful, I said; but what is the news? and why have you come hither
at this unearthly hour?

He drew nearer to me and said: Protagoras is come.

Yes, I replied; he came two days ago: have you only just heard of his

Yes, by the gods, he said; but not until yesterday evening.

At the same time he felt for the truckle-bed, and sat down at my feet,
and then he said: Yesterday quite late in the evening, on my return from
Oenoe whither I had gone in pursuit of my runaway slave Satyrus, as
I meant to have told you, if some other matter had not come in the
way;--on my return, when we had done supper and were about to retire to
rest, my brother said to me: Protagoras is come. I was going to you at
once, and then I thought that the night was far spent. But the moment
sleep left me after my fatigue, I got up and came hither direct.

I, who knew the very courageous madness of the man, said: What is the
matter? Has Protagoras robbed you of anything?

He replied, laughing: Yes, indeed he has, Socrates, of the wisdom which
he keeps from me.

But, surely, I said, if you give him money, and make friends with him,
he will make you as wise as he is himself.

Would to heaven, he replied, that this were the case! He might take all
that I have, and all that my friends have, if he pleased. But that is
why I have come to you now, in order that you may speak to him on my
behalf; for I am young, and also I have never seen nor heard him; (when
he visited Athens before I was but a child;) and all men praise him,
Socrates; he is reputed to be the most accomplished of speakers. There
is no reason why we should not go to him at once, and then we shall find
him at home. He lodges, as I hear, with Callias the son of Hipponicus:
let us start.

I replied: Not yet, my good friend; the hour is too early. But let us
rise and take a turn in the court and wait about there until day-break;
when the day breaks, then we will go. For Protagoras is generally at
home, and we shall be sure to find him; never fear.

Upon this we got up and walked about in the court, and I thought that
I would make trial of the strength of his resolution. So I examined him
and put questions to him. Tell me, Hippocrates, I said, as you are going
to Protagoras, and will be paying your money to him, what is he to whom
you are going? and what will he make of you? If, for example, you had
thought of going to Hippocrates of Cos, the Asclepiad, and were about to
give him your money, and some one had said to you: You are paying money
to your namesake Hippocrates, O Hippocrates; tell me, what is he that
you give him money? how would you have answered?

I should say, he replied, that I gave money to him as a physician.

And what will he make of you?

A physician, he said.

And if you were resolved to go to Polycleitus the Argive, or Pheidias
the Athenian, and were intending to give them money, and some one had
asked you: What are Polycleitus and Pheidias? and why do you give them
this money?--how would you have answered?

I should have answered, that they were statuaries.

And what will they make of you?

A statuary, of course.

Well now, I said, you and I are going to Protagoras, and we are ready
to pay him money on your behalf. If our own means are sufficient, and we
can gain him with these, we shall be only too glad; but if not, then we
are to spend the money of your friends as well. Now suppose, that while
we are thus enthusiastically pursuing our object some one were to say to
us: Tell me, Socrates, and you Hippocrates, what is Protagoras, and
why are you going to pay him money,--how should we answer? I know that
Pheidias is a sculptor, and that Homer is a poet; but what appellation
is given to Protagoras? how is he designated?

They call him a Sophist, Socrates, he replied.

Then we are going to pay our money to him in the character of a Sophist?


But suppose a person were to ask this further question: And how about
yourself? What will Protagoras make of you, if you go to see him?

He answered, with a blush upon his face (for the day was just beginning
to dawn, so that I could see him): Unless this differs in some way from
the former instances, I suppose that he will make a Sophist of me.

By the gods, I said, and are you not ashamed at having to appear before
the Hellenes in the character of a Sophist?

Indeed, Socrates, to confess the truth, I am.

But you should not assume, Hippocrates, that the instruction of
Protagoras is of this nature: may you not learn of him in the same way
that you learned the arts of the grammarian, or musician, or trainer,
not with the view of making any of them a profession, but only as a part
of education, and because a private gentleman and freeman ought to know

Just so, he said; and that, in my opinion, is a far truer account of the
teaching of Protagoras.

I said: I wonder whether you know what you are doing?

And what am I doing?

You are going to commit your soul to the care of a man whom you call a
Sophist. And yet I hardly think that you know what a Sophist is; and if
not, then you do not even know to whom you are committing your soul and
whether the thing to which you commit yourself be good or evil.

I certainly think that I do know, he replied.

Then tell me, what do you imagine that he is?

I take him to be one who knows wise things, he replied, as his name

And might you not, I said, affirm this of the painter and of the
carpenter also: Do not they, too, know wise things? But suppose a person
were to ask us: In what are the painters wise? We should answer: In what
relates to the making of likenesses, and similarly of other things. And
if he were further to ask: What is the wisdom of the Sophist, and what
is the manufacture over which he presides?--how should we answer him?

How should we answer him, Socrates? What other answer could there be but
that he presides over the art which makes men eloquent?

Yes, I replied, that is very likely true, but not enough; for in the
answer a further question is involved: Of what does the Sophist make a
man talk eloquently? The player on the lyre may be supposed to make a
man talk eloquently about that which he makes him understand, that is
about playing the lyre. Is not that true?


Then about what does the Sophist make him eloquent? Must not he make him
eloquent in that which he understands?

Yes, that may be assumed.

And what is that which the Sophist knows and makes his disciple know?

Indeed, he said, I cannot tell.

Then I proceeded to say: Well, but are you aware of the danger which you
are incurring? If you were going to commit your body to some one, who
might do good or harm to it, would you not carefully consider and ask
the opinion of your friends and kindred, and deliberate many days as to
whether you should give him the care of your body? But when the soul is
in question, which you hold to be of far more value than the body,
and upon the good or evil of which depends the well-being of your
all,--about this you never consulted either with your father or with
your brother or with any one of us who are your companions. But no
sooner does this foreigner appear, than you instantly commit your soul
to his keeping. In the evening, as you say, you hear of him, and in the
morning you go to him, never deliberating or taking the opinion of any
one as to whether you ought to intrust yourself to him or not;--you
have quite made up your mind that you will at all hazards be a pupil of
Protagoras, and are prepared to expend all the property of yourself
and of your friends in carrying out at any price this determination,
although, as you admit, you do not know him, and have never spoken with
him: and you call him a Sophist, but are manifestly ignorant of what a
Sophist is; and yet you are going to commit yourself to his keeping.

When he heard me say this, he replied: No other inference, Socrates, can
be drawn from your words.

I proceeded: Is not a Sophist, Hippocrates, one who deals wholesale or
retail in the food of the soul? To me that appears to be his nature.

And what, Socrates, is the food of the soul?

Surely, I said, knowledge is the food of the soul; and we must take
care, my friend, that the Sophist does not deceive us when he praises
what he sells, like the dealers wholesale or retail who sell the food
of the body; for they praise indiscriminately all their goods, without
knowing what are really beneficial or hurtful: neither do their
customers know, with the exception of any trainer or physician who may
happen to buy of them. In like manner those who carry about the wares of
knowledge, and make the round of the cities, and sell or retail them
to any customer who is in want of them, praise them all alike; though I
should not wonder, O my friend, if many of them were really ignorant of
their effect upon the soul; and their customers equally ignorant,
unless he who buys of them happens to be a physician of the soul. If,
therefore, you have understanding of what is good and evil, you may
safely buy knowledge of Protagoras or of any one; but if not, then, O
my friend, pause, and do not hazard your dearest interests at a game
of chance. For there is far greater peril in buying knowledge than in
buying meat and drink: the one you purchase of the wholesale or retail
dealer, and carry them away in other vessels, and before you receive
them into the body as food, you may deposit them at home and call in any
experienced friend who knows what is good to be eaten or drunken, and
what not, and how much, and when; and then the danger of purchasing them
is not so great. But you cannot buy the wares of knowledge and carry
them away in another vessel; when you have paid for them you must
receive them into the soul and go your way, either greatly harmed or
greatly benefited; and therefore we should deliberate and take counsel
with our elders; for we are still young--too young to determine such a
matter. And now let us go, as we were intending, and hear Protagoras;
and when we have heard what he has to say, we may take counsel of
others; for not only is Protagoras at the house of Callias, but there
is Hippias of Elis, and, if I am not mistaken, Prodicus of Ceos, and
several other wise men.

To this we agreed, and proceeded on our way until we reached the
vestibule of the house; and there we stopped in order to conclude a
discussion which had arisen between us as we were going along; and we
stood talking in the vestibule until we had finished and come to an
understanding. And I think that the door-keeper, who was a eunuch, and
who was probably annoyed at the great inroad of the Sophists, must
have heard us talking. At any rate, when we knocked at the door, and he
opened and saw us, he grumbled: They are Sophists--he is not at home;
and instantly gave the door a hearty bang with both his hands. Again we
knocked, and he answered without opening: Did you not hear me say that
he is not at home, fellows? But, my friend, I said, you need not be
alarmed; for we are not Sophists, and we are not come to see Callias,
but we want to see Protagoras; and I must request you to announce us. At
last, after a good deal of difficulty, the man was persuaded to open the

When we entered, we found Protagoras taking a walk in the cloister; and
next to him, on one side, were walking Callias, the son of Hipponicus,
and Paralus, the son of Pericles, who, by the mother's side, is his
half-brother, and Charmides, the son of Glaucon. On the other side of
him were Xanthippus, the other son of Pericles, Philippides, the son
of Philomelus; also Antimoerus of Mende, who of all the disciples
of Protagoras is the most famous, and intends to make sophistry his
profession. A train of listeners followed him; the greater part of them
appeared to be foreigners, whom Protagoras had brought with him out of
the various cities visited by him in his journeys, he, like Orpheus,
attracting them his voice, and they following (Compare Rep.). I should
mention also that there were some Athenians in the company. Nothing
delighted me more than the precision of their movements: they never
got into his way at all; but when he and those who were with him turned
back, then the band of listeners parted regularly on either side; he was
always in front, and they wheeled round and took their places behind him
in perfect order.

After him, as Homer says (Od.), 'I lifted up my eyes and saw' Hippias
the Elean sitting in the opposite cloister on a chair of state, and
around him were seated on benches Eryximachus, the son of Acumenus, and
Phaedrus the Myrrhinusian, and Andron the son of Androtion, and there
were strangers whom he had brought with him from his native city of
Elis, and some others: they were putting to Hippias certain physical
and astronomical questions, and he, ex cathedra, was determining their
several questions to them, and discoursing of them.

Also, 'my eyes beheld Tantalus (Od.);' for Prodicus the Cean was at
Athens: he had been lodged in a room which, in the days of Hipponicus,
was a storehouse; but, as the house was full, Callias had cleared this
out and made the room into a guest-chamber. Now Prodicus was still in
bed, wrapped up in sheepskins and bedclothes, of which there seemed
to be a great heap; and there was sitting by him on the couches near,
Pausanias of the deme of Cerameis, and with Pausanias was a youth quite
young, who is certainly remarkable for his good looks, and, if I am not
mistaken, is also of a fair and gentle nature. I thought that I heard
him called Agathon, and my suspicion is that he is the beloved
of Pausanias. There was this youth, and also there were the two
Adeimantuses, one the son of Cepis, and the other of Leucolophides, and
some others. I was very anxious to hear what Prodicus was saying, for
he seems to me to be an all-wise and inspired man; but I was not able to
get into the inner circle, and his fine deep voice made an echo in the
room which rendered his words inaudible.

No sooner had we entered than there followed us Alcibiades the
beautiful, as you say, and I believe you; and also Critias the son of

On entering we stopped a little, in order to look about us, and then
walked up to Protagoras, and I said: Protagoras, my friend Hippocrates
and I have come to see you.

Do you wish, he said, to speak with me alone, or in the presence of the

Whichever you please, I said; you shall determine when you have heard
the purpose of our visit.

And what is your purpose? he said.

I must explain, I said, that my friend Hippocrates is a native Athenian;
he is the son of Apollodorus, and of a great and prosperous house, and
he is himself in natural ability quite a match for anybody of his own
age. I believe that he aspires to political eminence; and this he thinks
that conversation with you is most likely to procure for him. And
now you can determine whether you would wish to speak to him of your
teaching alone or in the presence of the company.

Thank you, Socrates, for your consideration of me. For certainly a
stranger finding his way into great cities, and persuading the flower
of the youth in them to leave company of their kinsmen or any other
acquaintances, old or young, and live with him, under the idea that they
will be improved by his conversation, ought to be very cautious; great
jealousies are aroused by his proceedings, and he is the subject of many
enmities and conspiracies. Now the art of the Sophist is, as I believe,
of great antiquity; but in ancient times those who practised it, fearing
this odium, veiled and disguised themselves under various names,
some under that of poets, as Homer, Hesiod, and Simonides, some,
of hierophants and prophets, as Orpheus and Musaeus, and some, as
I observe, even under the name of gymnastic-masters, like Iccus of
Tarentum, or the more recently celebrated Herodicus, now of Selymbria
and formerly of Megara, who is a first-rate Sophist. Your own Agathocles
pretended to be a musician, but was really an eminent Sophist; also
Pythocleides the Cean; and there were many others; and all of them, as
I was saying, adopted these arts as veils or disguises because they were
afraid of the odium which they would incur. But that is not my way, for
I do not believe that they effected their purpose, which was to deceive
the government, who were not blinded by them; and as to the people, they
have no understanding, and only repeat what their rulers are pleased
to tell them. Now to run away, and to be caught in running away, is the
very height of folly, and also greatly increases the exasperation of
mankind; for they regard him who runs away as a rogue, in addition to
any other objections which they have to him; and therefore I take an
entirely opposite course, and acknowledge myself to be a Sophist and
instructor of mankind; such an open acknowledgement appears to me to
be a better sort of caution than concealment. Nor do I neglect other
precautions, and therefore I hope, as I may say, by the favour of heaven
that no harm will come of the acknowledgment that I am a Sophist. And I
have been now many years in the profession--for all my years when added
up are many: there is no one here present of whom I might not be the
father. Wherefore I should much prefer conversing with you, if you want
to speak with me, in the presence of the company.

As I suspected that he would like to have a little display and
glorification in the presence of Prodicus and Hippias, and would gladly
show us to them in the light of his admirers, I said: But why should we
not summon Prodicus and Hippias and their friends to hear us?

Very good, he said.

Suppose, said Callias, that we hold a council in which you may sit
and discuss.--This was agreed upon, and great delight was felt at the
prospect of hearing wise men talk; we ourselves took the chairs and
benches, and arranged them by Hippias, where the other benches had been
already placed. Meanwhile Callias and Alcibiades got Prodicus out of bed
and brought in him and his companions.

When we were all seated, Protagoras said: Now that the company are
assembled, Socrates, tell me about the young man of whom you were just
now speaking.

I replied: I will begin again at the same point, Protagoras, and tell
you once more the purport of my visit: this is my friend Hippocrates,
who is desirous of making your acquaintance; he would like to know what
will happen to him if he associates with you. I have no more to say.

Protagoras answered: Young man, if you associate with me, on the very
first day you will return home a better man than you came, and better on
the second day than on the first, and better every day than you were on
the day before.

When I heard this, I said: Protagoras, I do not at all wonder at hearing
you say this; even at your age, and with all your wisdom, if any one
were to teach you what you did not know before, you would become better
no doubt: but please to answer in a different way--I will explain how
by an example. Let me suppose that Hippocrates, instead of desiring your
acquaintance, wished to become acquainted with the young man Zeuxippus
of Heraclea, who has lately been in Athens, and he had come to him as
he has come to you, and had heard him say, as he has heard you say, that
every day he would grow and become better if he associated with him: and
then suppose that he were to ask him, 'In what shall I become better,
and in what shall I grow?'--Zeuxippus would answer, 'In painting.' And
suppose that he went to Orthagoras the Theban, and heard him say the
same thing, and asked him, 'In what shall I become better day by day?'
he would reply, 'In flute-playing.' Now I want you to make the same sort
of answer to this young man and to me, who am asking questions on his
account. When you say that on the first day on which he associates with
you he will return home a better man, and on every day will grow in like
manner,--in what, Protagoras, will he be better? and about what?

When Protagoras heard me say this, he replied: You ask questions fairly,
and I like to answer a question which is fairly put. If Hippocrates
comes to me he will not experience the sort of drudgery with which other
Sophists are in the habit of insulting their pupils; who, when they have
just escaped from the arts, are taken and driven back into them by these
teachers, and made to learn calculation, and astronomy, and geometry,
and music (he gave a look at Hippias as he said this); but if he comes
to me, he will learn that which he comes to learn. And this is prudence
in affairs private as well as public; he will learn to order his own
house in the best manner, and he will be able to speak and act for the
best in the affairs of the state.

Do I understand you, I said; and is your meaning that you teach the art
of politics, and that you promise to make men good citizens?

That, Socrates, is exactly the profession which I make.

Then, I said, you do indeed possess a noble art, if there is no mistake
about this; for I will freely confess to you, Protagoras, that I have
a doubt whether this art is capable of being taught, and yet I know not
how to disbelieve your assertion. And I ought to tell you why I am of
opinion that this art cannot be taught or communicated by man to man. I
say that the Athenians are an understanding people, and indeed they are
esteemed to be such by the other Hellenes. Now I observe that when we
are met together in the assembly, and the matter in hand relates to
building, the builders are summoned as advisers; when the question is
one of ship-building, then the ship-wrights; and the like of other arts
which they think capable of being taught and learned. And if some person
offers to give them advice who is not supposed by them to have any skill
in the art, even though he be good-looking, and rich, and noble, they
will not listen to him, but laugh and hoot at him, until either he is
clamoured down and retires of himself; or if he persist, he is dragged
away or put out by the constables at the command of the prytanes. This
is their way of behaving about professors of the arts. But when the
question is an affair of state, then everybody is free to have a
say--carpenter, tinker, cobbler, sailor, passenger; rich and poor, high
and low--any one who likes gets up, and no one reproaches him, as in
the former case, with not having learned, and having no teacher, and yet
giving advice; evidently because they are under the impression that this
sort of knowledge cannot be taught. And not only is this true of the
state, but of individuals; the best and wisest of our citizens are
unable to impart their political wisdom to others: as for example,
Pericles, the father of these young men, who gave them excellent
instruction in all that could be learned from masters, in his own
department of politics neither taught them, nor gave them teachers; but
they were allowed to wander at their own free will in a sort of hope
that they would light upon virtue of their own accord. Or take
another example: there was Cleinias the younger brother of our friend
Alcibiades, of whom this very same Pericles was the guardian; and he
being in fact under the apprehension that Cleinias would be corrupted by
Alcibiades, took him away, and placed him in the house of Ariphron to be
educated; but before six months had elapsed, Ariphron sent him back,
not knowing what to do with him. And I could mention numberless other
instances of persons who were good themselves, and never yet made any
one else good, whether friend or stranger. Now I, Protagoras, having
these examples before me, am inclined to think that virtue cannot be
taught. But then again, when I listen to your words, I waver; and am
disposed to think that there must be something in what you say, because
I know that you have great experience, and learning, and invention. And
I wish that you would, if possible, show me a little more clearly that
virtue can be taught. Will you be so good?

That I will, Socrates, and gladly. But what would you like? Shall I, as
an elder, speak to you as younger men in an apologue or myth, or shall I
argue out the question?

To this several of the company answered that he should choose for

Well, then, he said, I think that the myth will be more interesting.

Once upon a time there were gods only, and no mortal creatures. But when
the time came that these also should be created, the gods fashioned
them out of earth and fire and various mixtures of both elements in the
interior of the earth; and when they were about to bring them into the
light of day, they ordered Prometheus and Epimetheus to equip them, and
to distribute to them severally their proper qualities. Epimetheus said
to Prometheus: 'Let me distribute, and do you inspect.' This was agreed,
and Epimetheus made the distribution. There were some to whom he gave
strength without swiftness, while he equipped the weaker with swiftness;
some he armed, and others he left unarmed; and devised for the latter
some other means of preservation, making some large, and having their
size as a protection, and others small, whose nature was to fly in the
air or burrow in the ground; this was to be their way of escape.
Thus did he compensate them with the view of preventing any race from
becoming extinct. And when he had provided against their destruction by
one another, he contrived also a means of protecting them against
the seasons of heaven; clothing them with close hair and thick skins
sufficient to defend them against the winter cold and able to resist
the summer heat, so that they might have a natural bed of their own when
they wanted to rest; also he furnished them with hoofs and hair and
hard and callous skins under their feet. Then he gave them varieties
of food,--herb of the soil to some, to others fruits of trees, and to
others roots, and to some again he gave other animals as food. And some
he made to have few young ones, while those who were their prey were
very prolific; and in this manner the race was preserved. Thus did
Epimetheus, who, not being very wise, forgot that he had distributed
among the brute animals all the qualities which he had to give,--and
when he came to man, who was still unprovided, he was terribly
perplexed. Now while he was in this perplexity, Prometheus came to
inspect the distribution, and he found that the other animals were
suitably furnished, but that man alone was naked and shoeless, and had
neither bed nor arms of defence. The appointed hour was approaching when
man in his turn was to go forth into the light of day; and Prometheus,
not knowing how he could devise his salvation, stole the mechanical arts
of Hephaestus and Athene, and fire with them (they could neither have
been acquired nor used without fire), and gave them to man. Thus man had
the wisdom necessary to the support of life, but political wisdom he had
not; for that was in the keeping of Zeus, and the power of Prometheus
did not extend to entering into the citadel of heaven, where Zeus dwelt,
who moreover had terrible sentinels; but he did enter by stealth into
the common workshop of Athene and Hephaestus, in which they used to
practise their favourite arts, and carried off Hephaestus' art of
working by fire, and also the art of Athene, and gave them to man. And
in this way man was supplied with the means of life. But Prometheus is
said to have been afterwards prosecuted for theft, owing to the blunder
of Epimetheus.

Now man, having a share of the divine attributes, was at first the
only one of the animals who had any gods, because he alone was of their
kindred; and he would raise altars and images of them. He was not long
in inventing articulate speech and names; and he also constructed houses
and clothes and shoes and beds, and drew sustenance from the earth. Thus
provided, mankind at first lived dispersed, and there were no cities.
But the consequence was that they were destroyed by the wild beasts,
for they were utterly weak in comparison of them, and their art was only
sufficient to provide them with the means of life, and did not enable
them to carry on war against the animals: food they had, but not as yet
the art of government, of which the art of war is a part. After a while
the desire of self-preservation gathered them into cities; but when they
were gathered together, having no art of government, they evil intreated
one another, and were again in process of dispersion and destruction.
Zeus feared that the entire race would be exterminated, and so he
sent Hermes to them, bearing reverence and justice to be the ordering
principles of cities and the bonds of friendship and conciliation.
Hermes asked Zeus how he should impart justice and reverence among
men:--Should he distribute them as the arts are distributed; that is
to say, to a favoured few only, one skilled individual having enough of
medicine or of any other art for many unskilled ones? 'Shall this be the
manner in which I am to distribute justice and reverence among men, or
shall I give them to all?' 'To all,' said Zeus; 'I should like them all
to have a share; for cities cannot exist, if a few only share in the
virtues, as in the arts. And further, make a law by my order, that he
who has no part in reverence and justice shall be put to death, for he
is a plague of the state.'

And this is the reason, Socrates, why the Athenians and mankind
in general, when the question relates to carpentering or any other
mechanical art, allow but a few to share in their deliberations; and
when any one else interferes, then, as you say, they object, if he be
not of the favoured few; which, as I reply, is very natural. But when
they meet to deliberate about political virtue, which proceeds only by
way of justice and wisdom, they are patient enough of any man who speaks
of them, as is also natural, because they think that every man ought to
share in this sort of virtue, and that states could not exist if this
were otherwise. I have explained to you, Socrates, the reason of this

And that you may not suppose yourself to be deceived in thinking that
all men regard every man as having a share of justice or honesty and of
every other political virtue, let me give you a further proof, which is
this. In other cases, as you are aware, if a man says that he is a good
flute-player, or skilful in any other art in which he has no skill,
people either laugh at him or are angry with him, and his relations
think that he is mad and go and admonish him; but when honesty is in
question, or some other political virtue, even if they know that he is
dishonest, yet, if the man comes publicly forward and tells the truth
about his dishonesty, then, what in the other case was held by them to
be good sense, they now deem to be madness. They say that all men ought
to profess honesty whether they are honest or not, and that a man is
out of his mind who says anything else. Their notion is, that a man must
have some degree of honesty; and that if he has none at all he ought not
to be in the world.

I have been showing that they are right in admitting every man as a
counsellor about this sort of virtue, as they are of opinion that every
man is a partaker of it. And I will now endeavour to show further that
they do not conceive this virtue to be given by nature, or to grow
spontaneously, but to be a thing which may be taught; and which comes to
a man by taking pains. No one would instruct, no one would rebuke, or
be angry with those whose calamities they suppose to be due to nature
or chance; they do not try to punish or to prevent them from being what
they are; they do but pity them. Who is so foolish as to chastise
or instruct the ugly, or the diminutive, or the feeble? And for this
reason. Because he knows that good and evil of this kind is the work
of nature and of chance; whereas if a man is wanting in those good
qualities which are attained by study and exercise and teaching, and
has only the contrary evil qualities, other men are angry with him, and
punish and reprove him--of these evil qualities one is impiety, another
injustice, and they may be described generally as the very opposite of
political virtue. In such cases any man will be angry with another, and
reprimand him,--clearly because he thinks that by study and learning,
the virtue in which the other is deficient may be acquired. If you will
think, Socrates, of the nature of punishment, you will see at once that
in the opinion of mankind virtue may be acquired; no one punishes
the evil-doer under the notion, or for the reason, that he has done
wrong,--only the unreasonable fury of a beast acts in that manner. But
he who desires to inflict rational punishment does not retaliate for a
past wrong which cannot be undone; he has regard to the future, and is
desirous that the man who is punished, and he who sees him punished,
may be deterred from doing wrong again. He punishes for the sake of
prevention, thereby clearly implying that virtue is capable of being
taught. This is the notion of all who retaliate upon others either
privately or publicly. And the Athenians, too, your own citizens, like
other men, punish and take vengeance on all whom they regard as evil
doers; and hence, we may infer them to be of the number of those who
think that virtue may be acquired and taught. Thus far, Socrates, I have
shown you clearly enough, if I am not mistaken, that your countrymen are
right in admitting the tinker and the cobbler to advise about politics,
and also that they deem virtue to be capable of being taught and

There yet remains one difficulty which has been raised by you about the
sons of good men. What is the reason why good men teach their sons the
knowledge which is gained from teachers, and make them wise in that,
but do nothing towards improving them in the virtues which distinguish
themselves? And here, Socrates, I will leave the apologue and resume the
argument. Please to consider: Is there or is there not some one quality
of which all the citizens must be partakers, if there is to be a city
at all? In the answer to this question is contained the only solution
of your difficulty; there is no other. For if there be any such quality,
and this quality or unity is not the art of the carpenter, or the smith,
or the potter, but justice and temperance and holiness and, in a word,
manly virtue--if this is the quality of which all men must be partakers,
and which is the very condition of their learning or doing anything
else, and if he who is wanting in this, whether he be a child only or a
grown-up man or woman, must be taught and punished, until by punishment
he becomes better, and he who rebels against instruction and punishment
is either exiled or condemned to death under the idea that he is
incurable--if what I am saying be true, good men have their sons taught
other things and not this, do consider how extraordinary their conduct
would appear to be. For we have shown that they think virtue capable
of being taught and cultivated both in private and public; and,
notwithstanding, they have their sons taught lesser matters, ignorance
of which does not involve the punishment of death: but greater things,
of which the ignorance may cause death and exile to those who have no
training or knowledge of them--aye, and confiscation as well as death,
and, in a word, may be the ruin of families--those things, I say, they
are supposed not to teach them,--not to take the utmost care that they
should learn. How improbable is this, Socrates!

Education and admonition commence in the first years of childhood, and
last to the very end of life. Mother and nurse and father and tutor are
vying with one another about the improvement of the child as soon as
ever he is able to understand what is being said to him: he cannot say
or do anything without their setting forth to him that this is just and
that is unjust; this is honourable, that is dishonourable; this is holy,
that is unholy; do this and abstain from that. And if he obeys, well and
good; if not, he is straightened by threats and blows, like a piece of
bent or warped wood. At a later stage they send him to teachers, and
enjoin them to see to his manners even more than to his reading and
music; and the teachers do as they are desired. And when the boy has
learned his letters and is beginning to understand what is written, as
before he understood only what was spoken, they put into his hands the
works of great poets, which he reads sitting on a bench at school; in
these are contained many admonitions, and many tales, and praises, and
encomia of ancient famous men, which he is required to learn by heart,
in order that he may imitate or emulate them and desire to become like
them. Then, again, the teachers of the lyre take similar care that their
young disciple is temperate and gets into no mischief; and when they
have taught him the use of the lyre, they introduce him to the poems of
other excellent poets, who are the lyric poets; and these they set
to music, and make their harmonies and rhythms quite familiar to the
children's souls, in order that they may learn to be more gentle, and
harmonious, and rhythmical, and so more fitted for speech and action;
for the life of man in every part has need of harmony and rhythm. Then
they send them to the master of gymnastic, in order that their bodies
may better minister to the virtuous mind, and that they may not be
compelled through bodily weakness to play the coward in war or on any
other occasion. This is what is done by those who have the means, and
those who have the means are the rich; their children begin to go to
school soonest and leave off latest. When they have done with masters,
the state again compels them to learn the laws, and live after the
pattern which they furnish, and not after their own fancies; and just as
in learning to write, the writing-master first draws lines with a style
for the use of the young beginner, and gives him the tablet and makes
him follow the lines, so the city draws the laws, which were the
invention of good lawgivers living in the olden time; these are given
to the young man, in order to guide him in his conduct whether he is
commanding or obeying; and he who transgresses them is to be corrected,
or, in other words, called to account, which is a term used not only in
your country, but also in many others, seeing that justice calls men
to account. Now when there is all this care about virtue private and
public, why, Socrates, do you still wonder and doubt whether virtue
can be taught? Cease to wonder, for the opposite would be far more

But why then do the sons of good fathers often turn out ill? There
is nothing very wonderful in this; for, as I have been saying, the
existence of a state implies that virtue is not any man's private
possession. If so--and nothing can be truer--then I will further ask
you to imagine, as an illustration, some other pursuit or branch of
knowledge which may be assumed equally to be the condition of the
existence of a state. Suppose that there could be no state unless we
were all flute-players, as far as each had the capacity, and everybody
was freely teaching everybody the art, both in private and public, and
reproving the bad player as freely and openly as every man now teaches
justice and the laws, not concealing them as he would conceal the other
arts, but imparting them--for all of us have a mutual interest in the
justice and virtue of one another, and this is the reason why every one
is so ready to teach justice and the laws;--suppose, I say, that there
were the same readiness and liberality among us in teaching one
another flute-playing, do you imagine, Socrates, that the sons of good
flute-players would be more likely to be good than the sons of bad
ones? I think not. Would not their sons grow up to be distinguished
or undistinguished according to their own natural capacities as
flute-players, and the son of a good player would often turn out to be a
bad one, and the son of a bad player to be a good one, all flute-players
would be good enough in comparison of those who were ignorant and
unacquainted with the art of flute-playing? In like manner I would have
you consider that he who appears to you to be the worst of those who
have been brought up in laws and humanities, would appear to be a just
man and a master of justice if he were to be compared with men who had
no education, or courts of justice, or laws, or any restraints upon them
which compelled them to practise virtue--with the savages, for example,
whom the poet Pherecrates exhibited on the stage at the last year's
Lenaean festival. If you were living among men such as the man-haters
in his Chorus, you would be only too glad to meet with Eurybates and
Phrynondas, and you would sorrowfully long to revisit the rascality
of this part of the world. You, Socrates, are discontented, and why?
Because all men are teachers of virtue, each one according to his
ability; and you say Where are the teachers? You might as well ask, Who
teaches Greek? For of that too there will not be any teachers found. Or
you might ask, Who is to teach the sons of our artisans this same art
which they have learned of their fathers? He and his fellow-workmen
have taught them to the best of their ability,--but who will carry
them further in their arts? And you would certainly have a difficulty,
Socrates, in finding a teacher of them; but there would be no difficulty
in finding a teacher of those who are wholly ignorant. And this is true
of virtue or of anything else; if a man is better able than we are to
promote virtue ever so little, we must be content with the result. A
teacher of this sort I believe myself to be, and above all other men
to have the knowledge which makes a man noble and good; and I give my
pupils their money's-worth, and even more, as they themselves confess.
And therefore I have introduced the following mode of payment:--When
a man has been my pupil, if he likes he pays my price, but there is no
compulsion; and if he does not like, he has only to go into a temple and
take an oath of the value of the instructions, and he pays no more than
he declares to be their value.

Such is my Apologue, Socrates, and such is the argument by which I
endeavour to show that virtue may be taught, and that this is the
opinion of the Athenians. And I have also attempted to show that you are
not to wonder at good fathers having bad sons, or at good sons having
bad fathers, of which the sons of Polycleitus afford an example, who
are the companions of our friends here, Paralus and Xanthippus, but are
nothing in comparison with their father; and this is true of the sons
of many other artists. As yet I ought not to say the same of Paralus
and Xanthippus themselves, for they are young and there is still hope of

Protagoras ended, and in my ear

'So charming left his voice, that I the while Thought him still
speaking; still stood fixed to hear (Borrowed by Milton, "Paradise

At length, when the truth dawned upon me, that he had really finished,
not without difficulty I began to collect myself, and looking at
Hippocrates, I said to him: O son of Apollodorus, how deeply grateful
I am to you for having brought me hither; I would not have missed the
speech of Protagoras for a great deal. For I used to imagine that no
human care could make men good; but I know better now. Yet I have still
one very small difficulty which I am sure that Protagoras will easily
explain, as he has already explained so much. If a man were to go and
consult Pericles or any of our great speakers about these matters, he
might perhaps hear as fine a discourse; but then when one has a question
to ask of any of them, like books, they can neither answer nor ask;
and if any one challenges the least particular of their speech, they
go ringing on in a long harangue, like brazen pots, which when they
are struck continue to sound unless some one puts his hand upon them;
whereas our friend Protagoras can not only make a good speech, as he has
already shown, but when he is asked a question he can answer briefly;
and when he asks he will wait and hear the answer; and this is a very
rare gift. Now I, Protagoras, want to ask of you a little question,
which if you will only answer, I shall be quite satisfied. You were
saying that virtue can be taught;--that I will take upon your authority,
and there is no one to whom I am more ready to trust. But I marvel at
one thing about which I should like to have my mind set at rest. You
were speaking of Zeus sending justice and reverence to men; and several
times while you were speaking, justice, and temperance, and holiness,
and all these qualities, were described by you as if together they made
up virtue. Now I want you to tell me truly whether virtue is one whole,
of which justice and temperance and holiness are parts; or whether all
these are only the names of one and the same thing: that is the doubt
which still lingers in my mind.

There is no difficulty, Socrates, in answering that the qualities of
which you are speaking are the parts of virtue which is one.

And are they parts, I said, in the same sense in which mouth, nose, and
eyes, and ears, are the parts of a face; or are they like the parts of
gold, which differ from the whole and from one another only in being
larger or smaller?

I should say that they differed, Socrates, in the first way; they are
related to one another as the parts of a face are related to the whole

And do men have some one part and some another part of virtue? Or if a
man has one part, must he also have all the others?

By no means, he said; for many a man is brave and not just, or just and
not wise.

You would not deny, then, that courage and wisdom are also parts of

Most undoubtedly they are, he answered; and wisdom is the noblest of the

And they are all different from one another? I said.


And has each of them a distinct function like the parts of the
face;--the eye, for example, is not like the ear, and has not the same
functions; and the other parts are none of them like one another, either
in their functions, or in any other way? I want to know whether the
comparison holds concerning the parts of virtue. Do they also differ
from one another in themselves and in their functions? For that is
clearly what the simile would imply.

Yes, Socrates, you are right in supposing that they differ.

Then, I said, no other part of virtue is like knowledge, or like
justice, or like courage, or like temperance, or like holiness?

No, he answered.

Well then, I said, suppose that you and I enquire into their natures.
And first, you would agree with me that justice is of the nature of a
thing, would you not? That is my opinion: would it not be yours also?

Mine also, he said.

And suppose that some one were to ask us, saying, 'O Protagoras, and
you, Socrates, what about this thing which you were calling justice, is
it just or unjust?'--and I were to answer, just: would you vote with me
or against me?

With you, he said.

Thereupon I should answer to him who asked me, that justice is of the
nature of the just: would not you?

Yes, he said.

And suppose that he went on to say: 'Well now, is there also such a
thing as holiness?'--we should answer, 'Yes,' if I am not mistaken?

Yes, he said.

Which you would also acknowledge to be a thing--should we not say so?

He assented.

'And is this a sort of thing which is of the nature of the holy, or
of the nature of the unholy?' I should be angry at his putting such a
question, and should say, 'Peace, man; nothing can be holy if holiness
is not holy.' What would you say? Would you not answer in the same way?

Certainly, he said.

And then after this suppose that he came and asked us, 'What were you
saying just now? Perhaps I may not have heard you rightly, but you
seemed to me to be saying that the parts of virtue were not the same as
one another.' I should reply, 'You certainly heard that said, but not,
as you imagine, by me; for I only asked the question; Protagoras gave
the answer.' And suppose that he turned to you and said, 'Is this
true, Protagoras? and do you maintain that one part of virtue is unlike
another, and is this your position?'--how would you answer him?

I could not help acknowledging the truth of what he said, Socrates.

Well then, Protagoras, we will assume this; and now supposing that
he proceeded to say further, 'Then holiness is not of the nature of
justice, nor justice of the nature of holiness, but of the nature of
unholiness; and holiness is of the nature of the not just, and therefore
of the unjust, and the unjust is the unholy': how shall we answer him?
I should certainly answer him on my own behalf that justice is holy,
and that holiness is just; and I would say in like manner on your
behalf also, if you would allow me, that justice is either the same with
holiness, or very nearly the same; and above all I would assert that
justice is like holiness and holiness is like justice; and I wish that
you would tell me whether I may be permitted to give this answer on your
behalf, and whether you would agree with me.

He replied, I cannot simply agree, Socrates, to the proposition that
justice is holy and that holiness is just, for there appears to me to be
a difference between them. But what matter? if you please I please; and
let us assume, if you will I, that justice is holy, and that holiness is

Pardon me, I replied; I do not want this 'if you wish' or 'if you will'
sort of conclusion to be proven, but I want you and me to be proven: I
mean to say that the conclusion will be best proven if there be no 'if.'

Well, he said, I admit that justice bears a resemblance to holiness,
for there is always some point of view in which everything is like every
other thing; white is in a certain way like black, and hard is like
soft, and the most extreme opposites have some qualities in common; even
the parts of the face which, as we were saying before, are distinct and
have different functions, are still in a certain point of view similar,
and one of them is like another of them. And you may prove that they
are like one another on the same principle that all things are like one
another; and yet things which are like in some particular ought not to
be called alike, nor things which are unlike in some particular, however
slight, unlike.

And do you think, I said in a tone of surprise, that justice and
holiness have but a small degree of likeness?

Certainly not; any more than I agree with what I understand to be your

Well, I said, as you appear to have a difficulty about this, let us take
another of the examples which you mentioned instead. Do you admit the
existence of folly?

I do.

And is not wisdom the very opposite of folly?

That is true, he said.

And when men act rightly and advantageously they seem to you to be

Yes, he said.

And temperance makes them temperate?


And they who do not act rightly act foolishly, and in acting thus are
not temperate?

I agree, he said.

Then to act foolishly is the opposite of acting temperately?

He assented.

And foolish actions are done by folly, and temperate actions by

He agreed.

And that is done strongly which is done by strength, and that which is
weakly done, by weakness?

He assented.

And that which is done with swiftness is done swiftly, and that which is
done with slowness, slowly?

He assented again.

And that which is done in the same manner, is done by the same; and that
which is done in an opposite manner by the opposite?

He agreed.

Once more, I said, is there anything beautiful?


To which the only opposite is the ugly?

There is no other.

And is there anything good?

There is.

To which the only opposite is the evil?

There is no other.

And there is the acute in sound?


To which the only opposite is the grave?

There is no other, he said, but that.

Then every opposite has one opposite only and no more?

He assented.

Then now, I said, let us recapitulate our admissions. First of all we
admitted that everything has one opposite and not more than one?

We did so.

And we admitted also that what was done in opposite ways was done by


And that which was done foolishly, as we further admitted, was done in
the opposite way to that which was done temperately?


And that which was done temperately was done by temperance, and that
which was done foolishly by folly?

He agreed.

And that which is done in opposite ways is done by opposites?


And one thing is done by temperance, and quite another thing by folly?


And in opposite ways?


And therefore by opposites:--then folly is the opposite of temperance?


And do you remember that folly has already been acknowledged by us to be
the opposite of wisdom?

He assented.

And we said that everything has only one opposite?


Then, Protagoras, which of the two assertions shall we renounce? One
says that everything has but one opposite; the other that wisdom is
distinct from temperance, and that both of them are parts of virtue; and
that they are not only distinct, but dissimilar, both in themselves
and in their functions, like the parts of a face. Which of these two
assertions shall we renounce? For both of them together are certainly
not in harmony; they do not accord or agree: for how can they be said
to agree if everything is assumed to have only one opposite and not
more than one, and yet folly, which is one, has clearly the two
opposites--wisdom and temperance? Is not that true, Protagoras? What
else would you say?

He assented, but with great reluctance.

Then temperance and wisdom are the same, as before justice and holiness
appeared to us to be nearly the same. And now, Protagoras, I said, we
must finish the enquiry, and not faint. Do you think that an unjust man
can be temperate in his injustice?

I should be ashamed, Socrates, he said, to acknowledge this, which
nevertheless many may be found to assert.

And shall I argue with them or with you? I replied.

I would rather, he said, that you should argue with the many first, if
you will.

Whichever you please, if you will only answer me and say whether you
are of their opinion or not. My object is to test the validity of the
argument; and yet the result may be that I who ask and you who answer
may both be put on our trial.

Protagoras at first made a show of refusing, as he said that the
argument was not encouraging; at length, he consented to answer.

Now then, I said, begin at the beginning and answer me. You think that
some men are temperate, and yet unjust?

Yes, he said; let that be admitted.

And temperance is good sense?


And good sense is good counsel in doing injustice?


If they succeed, I said, or if they do not succeed?

If they succeed.

And you would admit the existence of goods?


And is the good that which is expedient for man?

Yes, indeed, he said: and there are some things which may be
inexpedient, and yet I call them good.

I thought that Protagoras was getting ruffled and excited; he seemed
to be setting himself in an attitude of war. Seeing this, I minded my
business, and gently said:--

When you say, Protagoras, that things inexpedient are good, do you mean
inexpedient for man only, or inexpedient altogether? and do you call the
latter good?

Certainly not the last, he replied; for I know of many things--meats,
drinks, medicines, and ten thousand other things, which are inexpedient
for man, and some which are expedient; and some which are neither
expedient nor inexpedient for man, but only for horses; and some for
oxen only, and some for dogs; and some for no animals, but only for
trees; and some for the roots of trees and not for their branches, as
for example, manure, which is a good thing when laid about the roots
of a tree, but utterly destructive if thrown upon the shoots and young
branches; or I may instance olive oil, which is mischievous to all
plants, and generally most injurious to the hair of every animal with
the exception of man, but beneficial to human hair and to the human body
generally; and even in this application (so various and changeable
is the nature of the benefit), that which is the greatest good to the
outward parts of a man, is a very great evil to his inward parts: and
for this reason physicians always forbid their patients the use of
oil in their food, except in very small quantities, just enough to
extinguish the disagreeable sensation of smell in meats and sauces.

When he had given this answer, the company cheered him. And I said:
Protagoras, I have a wretched memory, and when any one makes a long
speech to me I never remember what he is talking about. As then, if I
had been deaf, and you were going to converse with me, you would have
had to raise your voice; so now, having such a bad memory, I will ask
you to cut your answers shorter, if you would take me with you.

What do you mean? he said: how am I to shorten my answers? shall I make
them too short?

Certainly not, I said.

But short enough?

Yes, I said.

Shall I answer what appears to me to be short enough, or what appears to
you to be short enough?

I have heard, I said, that you can speak and teach others to speak about
the same things at such length that words never seemed to fail, or with
such brevity that no one could use fewer of them. Please therefore, if
you talk with me, to adopt the latter or more compendious method.

Socrates, he replied, many a battle of words have I fought, and if I had
followed the method of disputation which my adversaries desired, as you
want me to do, I should have been no better than another, and the name
of Protagoras would have been nowhere.

I saw that he was not satisfied with his previous answers, and that he
would not play the part of answerer any more if he could help; and I
considered that there was no call upon me to continue the conversation;
so I said: Protagoras, I do not wish to force the conversation upon you
if you had rather not, but when you are willing to argue with me in such
a way that I can follow you, then I will argue with you. Now you, as
is said of you by others and as you say of yourself, are able to have
discussions in shorter forms of speech as well as in longer, for you are
a master of wisdom; but I cannot manage these long speeches: I only wish
that I could. You, on the other hand, who are capable of either, ought
to speak shorter as I beg you, and then we might converse. But I see
that you are disinclined, and as I have an engagement which will prevent
my staying to hear you at greater length (for I have to be in another
place), I will depart; although I should have liked to have heard you.

Thus I spoke, and was rising from my seat, when Callias seized me by the
right hand, and in his left hand caught hold of this old cloak of mine.
He said: We cannot let you go, Socrates, for if you leave us there will
be an end of our discussions: I must therefore beg you to remain, as
there is nothing in the world that I should like better than to hear you
and Protagoras discourse. Do not deny the company this pleasure.

Now I had got up, and was in the act of departure. Son of Hipponicus,
I replied, I have always admired, and do now heartily applaud and love
your philosophical spirit, and I would gladly comply with your request,
if I could. But the truth is that I cannot. And what you ask is as great
an impossibility to me, as if you bade me run a race with Crison of
Himera, when in his prime, or with some one of the long or day course
runners. To such a request I should reply that I would fain ask the same
of my own legs; but they refuse to comply. And therefore if you want
to see Crison and me in the same stadium, you must bid him slacken his
speed to mine, for I cannot run quickly, and he can run slowly. And in
like manner if you want to hear me and Protagoras discoursing, you must
ask him to shorten his answers, and keep to the point, as he did at
first; if not, how can there be any discussion? For discussion is one
thing, and making an oration is quite another, in my humble opinion.

But you see, Socrates, said Callias, that Protagoras may fairly claim to
speak in his own way, just as you claim to speak in yours.

Here Alcibiades interposed, and said: That, Callias, is not a true
statement of the case. For our friend Socrates admits that he cannot
make a speech--in this he yields the palm to Protagoras: but I should
be greatly surprised if he yielded to any living man in the power of
holding and apprehending an argument. Now if Protagoras will make
a similar admission, and confess that he is inferior to Socrates in
argumentative skill, that is enough for Socrates; but if he claims a
superiority in argument as well, let him ask and answer--not, when
a question is asked, slipping away from the point, and instead of
answering, making a speech at such length that most of his hearers
forget the question at issue (not that Socrates is likely to forget--I
will be bound for that, although he may pretend in fun that he has a
bad memory). And Socrates appears to me to be more in the right than
Protagoras; that is my view, and every man ought to say what he thinks.

When Alcibiades had done speaking, some one--Critias, I believe--went on
to say: O Prodicus and Hippias, Callias appears to me to be a partisan
of Protagoras: and this led Alcibiades, who loves opposition, to take
the other side. But we should not be partisans either of Socrates or of
Protagoras; let us rather unite in entreating both of them not to break
up the discussion.

Prodicus added: That, Critias, seems to me to be well said, for those
who are present at such discussions ought to be impartial hearers of
both the speakers; remembering, however, that impartiality is not the
same as equality, for both sides should be impartially heard, and yet
an equal meed should not be assigned to both of them; but to the wiser a
higher meed should be given, and a lower to the less wise. And I as well
as Critias would beg you, Protagoras and Socrates, to grant our request,
which is, that you will argue with one another and not wrangle; for
friends argue with friends out of good-will, but only adversaries and
enemies wrangle. And then our meeting will be delightful; for in this
way you, who are the speakers, will be most likely to win esteem, and
not praise only, among us who are your audience; for esteem is a sincere
conviction of the hearers' souls, but praise is often an insincere
expression of men uttering falsehoods contrary to their conviction.
And thus we who are the hearers will be gratified and not pleased; for
gratification is of the mind when receiving wisdom and knowledge, but
pleasure is of the body when eating or experiencing some other bodily
delight. Thus spoke Prodicus, and many of the company applauded his

Hippias the sage spoke next. He said: All of you who are here present I
reckon to be kinsmen and friends and fellow-citizens, by nature and not
by law; for by nature like is akin to like, whereas law is the tyrant
of mankind, and often compels us to do many things which are against
nature. How great would be the disgrace then, if we, who know the nature
of things, and are the wisest of the Hellenes, and as such are met
together in this city, which is the metropolis of wisdom, and in the
greatest and most glorious house of this city, should have nothing to
show worthy of this height of dignity, but should only quarrel with
one another like the meanest of mankind! I do pray and advise you,
Protagoras, and you, Socrates, to agree upon a compromise. Let us be
your peacemakers. And do not you, Socrates, aim at this precise and
extreme brevity in discourse, if Protagoras objects, but loosen and let
go the reins of speech, that your words may be grander and more becoming
to you. Neither do you, Protagoras, go forth on the gale with every sail
set out of sight of land into an ocean of words, but let there be a mean
observed by both of you. Do as I say. And let me also persuade you to
choose an arbiter or overseer or president; he will keep watch over your
words and will prescribe their proper length.

This proposal was received by the company with universal approval;
Callias said that he would not let me off, and they begged me to choose
an arbiter. But I said that to choose an umpire of discourse would be
unseemly; for if the person chosen was inferior, then the inferior or
worse ought not to preside over the better; or if he was equal, neither
would that be well; for he who is our equal will do as we do, and what
will be the use of choosing him? And if you say, 'Let us have a better
then,'--to that I answer that you cannot have any one who is wiser than
Protagoras. And if you choose another who is not really better, and whom
you only say is better, to put another over him as though he were an
inferior person would be an unworthy reflection on him; not that, as far
as I am concerned, any reflection is of much consequence to me. Let
me tell you then what I will do in order that the conversation and
discussion may go on as you desire. If Protagoras is not disposed to
answer, let him ask and I will answer; and I will endeavour to show at
the same time how, as I maintain, he ought to answer: and when I have
answered as many questions as he likes to ask, let him in like manner
answer me; and if he seems to be not very ready at answering the precise
question asked of him, you and I will unite in entreating him, as you
entreated me, not to spoil the discussion. And this will require no
special arbiter--all of you shall be arbiters.

This was generally approved, and Protagoras, though very much against
his will, was obliged to agree that he would ask questions; and when he
had put a sufficient number of them, that he would answer in his turn
those which he was asked in short replies. He began to put his questions
as follows:--

I am of opinion, Socrates, he said, that skill in poetry is the
principal part of education; and this I conceive to be the power of
knowing what compositions of the poets are correct, and what are not,
and how they are to be distinguished, and of explaining when asked the
reason of the difference. And I propose to transfer the question which
you and I have been discussing to the domain of poetry; we will speak as
before of virtue, but in reference to a passage of a poet. Now Simonides
says to Scopas the son of Creon the Thessalian:

'Hardly on the one hand can a man become truly good, built four-square
in hands and feet and mind, a work without a flaw.'

Do you know the poem? or shall I repeat the whole?

There is no need, I said; for I am perfectly well acquainted with the
ode,--I have made a careful study of it.

Very well, he said. And do you think that the ode is a good composition,
and true?

Yes, I said, both good and true.

But if there is a contradiction, can the composition be good or true?

No, not in that case, I replied.

And is there not a contradiction? he asked. Reflect.

Well, my friend, I have reflected.

And does not the poet proceed to say, 'I do not agree with the word of
Pittacus, albeit the utterance of a wise man: Hardly can a man be good'?
Now you will observe that this is said by the same poet.

I know it.

And do you think, he said, that the two sayings are consistent?

Yes, I said, I think so (at the same time I could not help fearing that
there might be something in what he said). And you think otherwise?

Why, he said, how can he be consistent in both? First of all, premising
as his own thought, 'Hardly can a man become truly good'; and then a
little further on in the poem, forgetting, and blaming Pittacus and
refusing to agree with him, when he says, 'Hardly can a man be good,'
which is the very same thing. And yet when he blames him who says the
same with himself, he blames himself; so that he must be wrong either in
his first or his second assertion.

Many of the audience cheered and applauded this. And I felt at first
giddy and faint, as if I had received a blow from the hand of an expert
boxer, when I heard his words and the sound of the cheering; and to
confess the truth, I wanted to get time to think what the meaning of
the poet really was. So I turned to Prodicus and called him. Prodicus,
I said, Simonides is a countryman of yours, and you ought to come to his
aid. I must appeal to you, like the river Scamander in Homer, who, when
beleaguered by Achilles, summons the Simois to aid him, saying:

'Brother dear, let us both together stay the force of the hero (Il.).'

And I summon you, for I am afraid that Protagoras will make an end of
Simonides. Now is the time to rehabilitate Simonides, by the application
of your philosophy of synonyms, which enables you to distinguish 'will'
and 'wish,' and make other charming distinctions like those which you
drew just now. And I should like to know whether you would agree with
me; for I am of opinion that there is no contradiction in the words of
Simonides. And first of all I wish that you would say whether, in your
opinion, Prodicus, 'being' is the same as 'becoming.'

Not the same, certainly, replied Prodicus.

Did not Simonides first set forth, as his own view, that 'Hardly can a
man become truly good'?

Quite right, said Prodicus.

And then he blames Pittacus, not, as Protagoras imagines, for repeating
that which he says himself, but for saying something different from
himself. Pittacus does not say as Simonides says, that hardly can a man
become good, but hardly can a man be good: and our friend Prodicus would
maintain that being, Protagoras, is not the same as becoming; and if
they are not the same, then Simonides is not inconsistent with himself.
I dare say that Prodicus and many others would say, as Hesiod says,

     'On the one hand, hardly can a man become good,
     For the gods have made virtue the reward of toil,
     But on the other hand, when you have climbed the height,
     Then, to retain virtue, however difficult the acquisition, is easy
     --(Works and Days).'

Prodicus heard and approved; but Protagoras said: Your correction,
Socrates, involves a greater error than is contained in the sentence
which you are correcting.

Alas! I said, Protagoras; then I am a sorry physician, and do but
aggravate a disorder which I am seeking to cure.

Such is the fact, he said.

How so? I asked.

The poet, he replied, could never have made such a mistake as to say
that virtue, which in the opinion of all men is the hardest of all
things, can be easily retained.

Well, I said, and how fortunate are we in having Prodicus among us, at
the right moment; for he has a wisdom, Protagoras, which, as I imagine,
is more than human and of very ancient date, and may be as old as
Simonides or even older. Learned as you are in many things, you appear
to know nothing of this; but I know, for I am a disciple of his.
And now, if I am not mistaken, you do not understand the word 'hard'
(chalepon) in the sense which Simonides intended; and I must correct
you, as Prodicus corrects me when I use the word 'awful' (deinon) as a
term of praise. If I say that Protagoras or any one else is an 'awfully'
wise man, he asks me if I am not ashamed of calling that which is good
'awful'; and then he explains to me that the term 'awful' is always
taken in a bad sense, and that no one speaks of being 'awfully' healthy
or wealthy, or of 'awful' peace, but of 'awful' disease, 'awful' war,
'awful' poverty, meaning by the term 'awful,' evil. And I think that
Simonides and his countrymen the Ceans, when they spoke of 'hard' meant
'evil,' or something which you do not understand. Let us ask Prodicus,
for he ought to be able to answer questions about the dialect of
Simonides. What did he mean, Prodicus, by the term 'hard'?

Evil, said Prodicus.

And therefore, I said, Prodicus, he blames Pittacus for saying, 'Hard is
the good,' just as if that were equivalent to saying, Evil is the good.

Yes, he said, that was certainly his meaning; and he is twitting
Pittacus with ignorance of the use of terms, which in a Lesbian, who has
been accustomed to speak a barbarous language, is natural.

Do you hear, Protagoras, I asked, what our friend Prodicus is saying?
And have you an answer for him?

You are entirely mistaken, Prodicus, said Protagoras; and I know very
well that Simonides in using the word 'hard' meant what all of us mean,
not evil, but that which is not easy--that which takes a great deal of
trouble: of this I am positive.

I said: I also incline to believe, Protagoras, that this was the meaning
of Simonides, of which our friend Prodicus was very well aware, but
he thought that he would make fun, and try if you could maintain your
thesis; for that Simonides could never have meant the other is clearly
proved by the context, in which he says that God only has this gift. Now
he cannot surely mean to say that to be good is evil, when he afterwards
proceeds to say that God only has this gift, and that this is the
attribute of him and of no other. For if this be his meaning, Prodicus
would impute to Simonides a character of recklessness which is very
unlike his countrymen. And I should like to tell you, I said, what I
imagine to be the real meaning of Simonides in this poem, if you will
test what, in your way of speaking, would be called my skill in poetry;
or if you would rather, I will be the listener.

To this proposal Protagoras replied: As you please;--and Hippias,
Prodicus, and the others told me by all means to do as I proposed.

Then now, I said, I will endeavour to explain to you my opinion about
this poem of Simonides. There is a very ancient philosophy which is more
cultivated in Crete and Lacedaemon than in any other part of Hellas, and
there are more philosophers in those countries than anywhere else in
the world. This, however, is a secret which the Lacedaemonians deny; and
they pretend to be ignorant, just because they do not wish to have it
thought that they rule the world by wisdom, like the Sophists of whom
Protagoras was speaking, and not by valour of arms; considering that
if the reason of their superiority were disclosed, all men would be
practising their wisdom. And this secret of theirs has never been
discovered by the imitators of Lacedaemonian fashions in other cities,
who go about with their ears bruised in imitation of them, and have the
caestus bound on their arms, and are always in training, and wear short
cloaks; for they imagine that these are the practices which have
enabled the Lacedaemonians to conquer the other Hellenes. Now when the
Lacedaemonians want to unbend and hold free conversation with their
wise men, and are no longer satisfied with mere secret intercourse, they
drive out all these laconizers, and any other foreigners who may happen
to be in their country, and they hold a philosophical seance unknown
to strangers; and they themselves forbid their young men to go out into
other cities--in this they are like the Cretans--in order that they may
not unlearn the lessons which they have taught them. And in Lacedaemon
and Crete not only men but also women have a pride in their high
cultivation. And hereby you may know that I am right in attributing to
the Lacedaemonians this excellence in philosophy and speculation: If
a man converses with the most ordinary Lacedaemonian, he will find him
seldom good for much in general conversation, but at any point in the
discourse he will be darting out some notable saying, terse and full of
meaning, with unerring aim; and the person with whom he is talking seems
to be like a child in his hands. And many of our own age and of former
ages have noted that the true Lacedaemonian type of character has the
love of philosophy even stronger than the love of gymnastics; they are
conscious that only a perfectly educated man is capable of uttering such
expressions. Such were Thales of Miletus, and Pittacus of Mitylene, and
Bias of Priene, and our own Solon, and Cleobulus the Lindian, and
Myson the Chenian; and seventh in the catalogue of wise men was the
Lacedaemonian Chilo. All these were lovers and emulators and disciples
of the culture of the Lacedaemonians, and any one may perceive that
their wisdom was of this character; consisting of short memorable
sentences, which they severally uttered. And they met together and
dedicated in the temple of Apollo at Delphi, as the first-fruits
of their wisdom, the far-famed inscriptions, which are in all men's
mouths--'Know thyself,' and 'Nothing too much.'

Why do I say all this? I am explaining that this Lacedaemonian brevity
was the style of primitive philosophy. Now there was a saying of
Pittacus which was privately circulated and received the approbation of
the wise, 'Hard is it to be good.' And Simonides, who was ambitious of
the fame of wisdom, was aware that if he could overthrow this saying,
then, as if he had won a victory over some famous athlete, he would
carry off the palm among his contemporaries. And if I am not mistaken,
he composed the entire poem with the secret intention of damaging
Pittacus and his saying.

Let us all unite in examining his words, and see whether I am speaking
the truth. Simonides must have been a lunatic, if, in the very first
words of the poem, wanting to say only that to become good is hard, he
inserted (Greek) 'on the one hand' ('on the one hand to become good is
hard'); there would be no reason for the introduction of (Greek),
unless you suppose him to speak with a hostile reference to the words
of Pittacus. Pittacus is saying 'Hard is it to be good,' and he, in
refutation of this thesis, rejoins that the truly hard thing, Pittacus,
is to become good, not joining 'truly' with 'good,' but with 'hard.'
Not, that the hard thing is to be truly good, as though there were some
truly good men, and there were others who were good but not truly
good (this would be a very simple observation, and quite unworthy of
Simonides); but you must suppose him to make a trajection of the word
'truly' (Greek), construing the saying of Pittacus thus (and let us
imagine Pittacus to be speaking and Simonides answering him): 'O my
friends,' says Pittacus, 'hard is it to be good,' and Simonides answers,
'In that, Pittacus, you are mistaken; the difficulty is not to be good,
but on the one hand, to become good, four-square in hands and feet
and mind, without a flaw--that is hard truly.' This way of reading the
passage accounts for the insertion of (Greek) 'on the one hand,' and for
the position at the end of the clause of the word 'truly,' and all that
follows shows this to be the meaning. A great deal might be said
in praise of the details of the poem, which is a charming piece of
workmanship, and very finished, but such minutiae would be tedious. I
should like, however, to point out the general intention of the poem,
which is certainly designed in every part to be a refutation of the
saying of Pittacus. For he speaks in what follows a little further on
as if he meant to argue that although there is a difficulty in becoming
good, yet this is possible for a time, and only for a time. But having
become good, to remain in a good state and be good, as you, Pittacus,
affirm, is not possible, and is not granted to man; God only has this
blessing; 'but man cannot help being bad when the force of circumstances
overpowers him.' Now whom does the force of circumstance overpower in
the command of a vessel?--not the private individual, for he is always
overpowered; and as one who is already prostrate cannot be overthrown,
and only he who is standing upright but not he who is prostrate can be
laid prostrate, so the force of circumstances can only overpower him
who, at some time or other, has resources, and not him who is at
all times helpless. The descent of a great storm may make the pilot
helpless, or the severity of the season the husbandman or the physician;
for the good may become bad, as another poet witnesses:--

'The good are sometimes good and sometimes bad.'

But the bad does not become bad; he is always bad. So that when the
force of circumstances overpowers the man of resources and skill and
virtue, then he cannot help being bad. And you, Pittacus, are saying,
'Hard is it to be good.' Now there is a difficulty in becoming good; and
yet this is possible: but to be good is an impossibility--

'For he who does well is the good man, and he who does ill is the bad.'

But what sort of doing is good in letters? and what sort of doing makes
a man good in letters? Clearly the knowing of them. And what sort of
well-doing makes a man a good physician? Clearly the knowledge of the
art of healing the sick. 'But he who does ill is the bad.' Now who
becomes a bad physician? Clearly he who is in the first place a
physician, and in the second place a good physician; for he may become a
bad one also: but none of us unskilled individuals can by any amount of
doing ill become physicians, any more than we can become carpenters or
anything of that sort; and he who by doing ill cannot become a physician
at all, clearly cannot become a bad physician. In like manner the good
may become deteriorated by time, or toil, or disease, or other accident
(the only real doing ill is to be deprived of knowledge), but the bad
man will never become bad, for he is always bad; and if he were to
become bad, he must previously have been good. Thus the words of the
poem tend to show that on the one hand a man cannot be continuously
good, but that he may become good and may also become bad; and again

'They are the best for the longest time whom the gods love.'

All this relates to Pittacus, as is further proved by the sequel. For he

'Therefore I will not throw away my span of life to no purpose in
searching after the impossible, hoping in vain to find a perfectly
faultless man among those who partake of the fruit of the broad-bosomed
earth: if I find him, I will send you word.'

(this is the vehement way in which he pursues his attack upon Pittacus
throughout the whole poem):

'But him who does no evil, voluntarily I praise and love;--not even the
gods war against necessity.'

All this has a similar drift, for Simonides was not so ignorant as to
say that he praised those who did no evil voluntarily, as though there
were some who did evil voluntarily. For no wise man, as I believe, will
allow that any human being errs voluntarily, or voluntarily does evil
and dishonourable actions; but they are very well aware that all who do
evil and dishonourable things do them against their will. And Simonides
never says that he praises him who does no evil voluntarily; the word
'voluntarily' applies to himself. For he was under the impression that
a good man might often compel himself to love and praise another, and
to be the friend and approver of another; and that there might be an
involuntary love, such as a man might feel to an unnatural father or
mother, or country, or the like. Now bad men, when their parents or
country have any defects, look on them with malignant joy, and find
fault with them and expose and denounce them to others, under the idea
that the rest of mankind will be less likely to take themselves to task
and accuse them of neglect; and they blame their defects far more than
they deserve, in order that the odium which is necessarily incurred by
them may be increased: but the good man dissembles his feelings, and
constrains himself to praise them; and if they have wronged him and he
is angry, he pacifies his anger and is reconciled, and compels himself
to love and praise his own flesh and blood. And Simonides, as is
probable, considered that he himself had often had to praise and magnify
a tyrant or the like, much against his will, and he also wishes to imply
to Pittacus that he does not censure him because he is censorious.

'For I am satisfied' he says, 'when a man is neither bad nor very
stupid; and when he knows justice (which is the health of states), and
is of sound mind, I will find no fault with him, for I am not given to
finding fault, and there are innumerable fools'

(implying that if he delighted in censure he might have abundant
opportunity of finding fault).

'All things are good with which evil is unmingled.'

In these latter words he does not mean to say that all things are good
which have no evil in them, as you might say 'All things are white which
have no black in them,' for that would be ridiculous; but he means to
say that he accepts and finds no fault with the moderate or intermediate

('I do not hope' he says, 'to find a perfectly blameless man among those
who partake of the fruits of the broad-bosomed earth (if I find him,
I will send you word); in this sense I praise no man. But he who is
moderately good, and does no evil, is good enough for me, who love and
approve every one')

(and here observe that he uses a Lesbian word, epainemi (approve),
because he is addressing Pittacus,

   'Who love and APPROVE every one VOLUNTARILY, who does no evil:'

and that the stop should be put after 'voluntarily'); 'but there are
some whom I involuntarily praise and love. And you, Pittacus, I would
never have blamed, if you had spoken what was moderately good and true;
but I do blame you because, putting on the appearance of truth, you are
speaking falsely about the highest matters.'--And this, I said, Prodicus
and Protagoras, I take to be the meaning of Simonides in this poem.

Hippias said: I think, Socrates, that you have given a very good
explanation of the poem; but I have also an excellent interpretation of
my own which I will propound to you, if you will allow me.

Nay, Hippias, said Alcibiades; not now, but at some other time. At
present we must abide by the compact which was made between Socrates and
Protagoras, to the effect that as long as Protagoras is willing to ask,
Socrates should answer; or that if he would rather answer, then that
Socrates should ask.

I said: I wish Protagoras either to ask or answer as he is inclined; but
I would rather have done with poems and odes, if he does not object,
and come back to the question about which I was asking you at first,
Protagoras, and by your help make an end of that. The talk about the
poets seems to me like a commonplace entertainment to which a vulgar
company have recourse; who, because they are not able to converse or
amuse one another, while they are drinking, with the sound of their own
voices and conversation, by reason of their stupidity, raise the price
of flute-girls in the market, hiring for a great sum the voice of a
flute instead of their own breath, to be the medium of intercourse among
them: but where the company are real gentlemen and men of education,
you will see no flute-girls, nor dancing-girls, nor harp-girls; and
they have no nonsense or games, but are contented with one another's
conversation, of which their own voices are the medium, and which they
carry on by turns and in an orderly manner, even though they are very
liberal in their potations. And a company like this of ours, and men
such as we profess to be, do not require the help of another's voice, or
of the poets whom you cannot interrogate about the meaning of what they
are saying; people who cite them declaring, some that the poet has
one meaning, and others that he has another, and the point which is in
dispute can never be decided. This sort of entertainment they decline,
and prefer to talk with one another, and put one another to the proof
in conversation. And these are the models which I desire that you and I
should imitate. Leaving the poets, and keeping to ourselves, let us try
the mettle of one another and make proof of the truth in conversation.
If you have a mind to ask, I am ready to answer; or if you would rather,
do you answer, and give me the opportunity of resuming and completing
our unfinished argument.

I made these and some similar observations; but Protagoras would
not distinctly say which he would do. Thereupon Alcibiades turned to
Callias, and said:--Do you think, Callias, that Protagoras is fair in
refusing to say whether he will or will not answer? for I certainly
think that he is unfair; he ought either to proceed with the argument,
or distinctly refuse to proceed, that we may know his intention; and
then Socrates will be able to discourse with some one else, and the rest
of the company will be free to talk with one another.

I think that Protagoras was really made ashamed by these words of
Alcibiades, and when the prayers of Callias and the company were
superadded, he was at last induced to argue, and said that I might ask
and he would answer.

So I said: Do not imagine, Protagoras, that I have any other interest in
asking questions of you but that of clearing up my own difficulties. For
I think that Homer was very right in saying that

     'When two go together, one sees before the other (Il.),'

for all men who have a companion are readier in deed, word, or thought;
but if a man

     'Sees a thing when he is alone,'

he goes about straightway seeking until he finds some one to whom he
may show his discoveries, and who may confirm him in them. And I would
rather hold discourse with you than with any one, because I think that
no man has a better understanding of most things which a good man may be
expected to understand, and in particular of virtue. For who is there,
but you?--who not only claim to be a good man and a gentleman, for many
are this, and yet have not the power of making others good--whereas you
are not only good yourself, but also the cause of goodness in others.
Moreover such confidence have you in yourself, that although other
Sophists conceal their profession, you proclaim in the face of Hellas
that you are a Sophist or teacher of virtue and education, and are
the first who demanded pay in return. How then can I do otherwise than
invite you to the examination of these subjects, and ask questions and
consult with you? I must, indeed. And I should like once more to have
my memory refreshed by you about the questions which I was asking you
at first, and also to have your help in considering them. If I am not
mistaken the question was this: Are wisdom and temperance and courage
and justice and holiness five names of the same thing? or has each of
the names a separate underlying essence and corresponding thing having a
peculiar function, no one of them being like any other of them? And you
replied that the five names were not the names of the same thing, but
that each of them had a separate object, and that all these objects were
parts of virtue, not in the same way that the parts of gold are like
each other and the whole of which they are parts, but as the parts of
the face are unlike the whole of which they are parts and one another,
and have each of them a distinct function. I should like to know whether
this is still your opinion; or if not, I will ask you to define your
meaning, and I shall not take you to task if you now make a different
statement. For I dare say that you may have said what you did only in
order to make trial of me.

I answer, Socrates, he said, that all these qualities are parts of
virtue, and that four out of the five are to some extent similar, and
that the fifth of them, which is courage, is very different from the
other four, as I prove in this way: You may observe that many men are
utterly unrighteous, unholy, intemperate, ignorant, who are nevertheless
remarkable for their courage.

Stop, I said; I should like to think about that. When you speak of brave
men, do you mean the confident, or another sort of nature?

Yes, he said; I mean the impetuous, ready to go at that which others are
afraid to approach.

In the next place, you would affirm virtue to be a good thing, of which
good thing you assert yourself to be a teacher.

Yes, he said; I should say the best of all things, if I am in my right

And is it partly good and partly bad, I said, or wholly good?

Wholly good, and in the highest degree.

Tell me then; who are they who have confidence when diving into a well?

I should say, the divers.

And the reason of this is that they have knowledge?

Yes, that is the reason.

And who have confidence when fighting on horseback--the skilled horseman
or the unskilled?

The skilled.

And who when fighting with light shields--the peltasts or the

The peltasts. And that is true of all other things, he said, if that is
your point: those who have knowledge are more confident than those who
have no knowledge, and they are more confident after they have learned
than before.

And have you not seen persons utterly ignorant, I said, of these things,
and yet confident about them?

Yes, he said, I have seen such persons far too confident.

And are not these confident persons also courageous?

In that case, he replied, courage would be a base thing, for the men of
whom we are speaking are surely madmen.

Then who are the courageous? Are they not the confident?

Yes, he said; to that statement I adhere.

And those, I said, who are thus confident without knowledge are really
not courageous, but mad; and in that case the wisest are also the most
confident, and being the most confident are also the bravest, and upon
that view again wisdom will be courage.

Nay, Socrates, he replied, you are mistaken in your remembrance of
what was said by me. When you asked me, I certainly did say that
the courageous are the confident; but I was never asked whether the
confident are the courageous; if you had asked me, I should have
answered 'Not all of them': and what I did answer you have not proved to
be false, although you proceeded to show that those who have knowledge
are more courageous than they were before they had knowledge, and more
courageous than others who have no knowledge, and were then led on to
think that courage is the same as wisdom. But in this way of arguing you
might come to imagine that strength is wisdom. You might begin by asking
whether the strong are able, and I should say 'Yes'; and then whether
those who know how to wrestle are not more able to wrestle than those
who do not know how to wrestle, and more able after than before they had
learned, and I should assent. And when I had admitted this, you might
use my admissions in such a way as to prove that upon my view wisdom is
strength; whereas in that case I should not have admitted, any more than
in the other, that the able are strong, although I have admitted that
the strong are able. For there is a difference between ability and
strength; the former is given by knowledge as well as by madness or
rage, but strength comes from nature and a healthy state of the body.
And in like manner I say of confidence and courage, that they are not
the same; and I argue that the courageous are confident, but not all
the confident courageous. For confidence may be given to men by art, and
also, like ability, by madness and rage; but courage comes to them from
nature and the healthy state of the soul.

I said: You would admit, Protagoras, that some men live well and others

He assented.

And do you think that a man lives well who lives in pain and grief?

He does not.

But if he lives pleasantly to the end of his life, will he not in that
case have lived well?

He will.

Then to live pleasantly is a good, and to live unpleasantly an evil?

Yes, he said, if the pleasure be good and honourable.

And do you, Protagoras, like the rest of the world, call some pleasant
things evil and some painful things good?--for I am rather disposed to
say that things are good in as far as they are pleasant, if they have no
consequences of another sort, and in as far as they are painful they are

I do not know, Socrates, he said, whether I can venture to assert in
that unqualified manner that the pleasant is the good and the painful
the evil. Having regard not only to my present answer, but also to the
whole of my life, I shall be safer, if I am not mistaken, in saying that
there are some pleasant things which are not good, and that there are
some painful things which are good, and some which are not good, and
that there are some which are neither good nor evil.

And you would call pleasant, I said, the things which participate in
pleasure or create pleasure?

Certainly, he said.

Then my meaning is, that in as far as they are pleasant they are good;
and my question would imply that pleasure is a good in itself.

According to your favourite mode of speech, Socrates, 'Let us reflect
about this,' he said; and if the reflection is to the point, and the
result proves that pleasure and good are really the same, then we will
agree; but if not, then we will argue.

And would you wish to begin the enquiry? I said; or shall I begin?

You ought to take the lead, he said; for you are the author of the

May I employ an illustration? I said. Suppose some one who is enquiring
into the health or some other bodily quality of another:--he looks at
his face and at the tips of his fingers, and then he says, Uncover your
chest and back to me that I may have a better view:--that is the sort of
thing which I desire in this speculation. Having seen what your opinion
is about good and pleasure, I am minded to say to you: Uncover your mind
to me, Protagoras, and reveal your opinion about knowledge, that I may
know whether you agree with the rest of the world. Now the rest of the
world are of opinion that knowledge is a principle not of strength, or
of rule, or of command: their notion is that a man may have knowledge,
and yet that the knowledge which is in him may be overmastered by anger,
or pleasure, or pain, or love, or perhaps by fear,--just as if knowledge
were a slave, and might be dragged about anyhow. Now is that your view?
or do you think that knowledge is a noble and commanding thing, which
cannot be overcome, and will not allow a man, if he only knows the
difference of good and evil, to do anything which is contrary to
knowledge, but that wisdom will have strength to help him?

I agree with you, Socrates, said Protagoras; and not only so, but I,
above all other men, am bound to say that wisdom and knowledge are the
highest of human things.

Good, I said, and true. But are you aware that the majority of the world
are of another mind; and that men are commonly supposed to know the
things which are best, and not to do them when they might? And most
persons whom I have asked the reason of this have said that when men act
contrary to knowledge they are overcome by pain, or pleasure, or some of
those affections which I was just now mentioning.

Yes, Socrates, he replied; and that is not the only point about which
mankind are in error.

Suppose, then, that you and I endeavour to instruct and inform them
what is the nature of this affection which they call 'being overcome by
pleasure,' and which they affirm to be the reason why they do not always
do what is best. When we say to them: Friends, you are mistaken, and
are saying what is not true, they would probably reply: Socrates and
Protagoras, if this affection of the soul is not to be called 'being
overcome by pleasure,' pray, what is it, and by what name would you
describe it?

But why, Socrates, should we trouble ourselves about the opinion of the
many, who just say anything that happens to occur to them?

I believe, I said, that they may be of use in helping us to discover how
courage is related to the other parts of virtue. If you are disposed to
abide by our agreement, that I should show the way in which, as I think,
our recent difficulty is most likely to be cleared up, do you follow;
but if not, never mind.

You are quite right, he said; and I would have you proceed as you have

Well then, I said, let me suppose that they repeat their question, What
account do you give of that which, in our way of speaking, is termed
being overcome by pleasure? I should answer thus: Listen, and Protagoras
and I will endeavour to show you. When men are overcome by eating and
drinking and other sensual desires which are pleasant, and they, knowing
them to be evil, nevertheless indulge in them, would you not say that
they were overcome by pleasure? They will not deny this. And suppose
that you and I were to go on and ask them again: 'In what way do you say
that they are evil,--in that they are pleasant and give pleasure at the
moment, or because they cause disease and poverty and other like evils
in the future? Would they still be evil, if they had no attendant evil
consequences, simply because they give the consciousness of pleasure
of whatever nature?'--Would they not answer that they are not evil
on account of the pleasure which is immediately given by them, but on
account of the after consequences--diseases and the like?

I believe, said Protagoras, that the world in general would answer as
you do.

And in causing diseases do they not cause pain? and in causing poverty
do they not cause pain;--they would agree to that also, if I am not

Protagoras assented.

Then I should say to them, in my name and yours: Do you think them evil
for any other reason, except because they end in pain and rob us of
other pleasures:--there again they would agree?

We both of us thought that they would.

And then I should take the question from the opposite point of view, and
say: 'Friends, when you speak of goods being painful, do you not mean
remedial goods, such as gymnastic exercises, and military service, and
the physician's use of burning, cutting, drugging, and starving? Are
these the things which are good but painful?'--they would assent to me?

He agreed.

'And do you call them good because they occasion the greatest immediate
suffering and pain; or because, afterwards, they bring health and
improvement of the bodily condition and the salvation of states
and power over others and wealth?'--they would agree to the latter
alternative, if I am not mistaken?

He assented.

'Are these things good for any other reason except that they end in
pleasure, and get rid of and avert pain? Are you looking to any other
standard but pleasure and pain when you call them good?'--they would
acknowledge that they were not?

I think so, said Protagoras.

'And do you not pursue after pleasure as a good, and avoid pain as an

He assented.

'Then you think that pain is an evil and pleasure is a good: and even
pleasure you deem an evil, when it robs you of greater pleasures than it
gives, or causes pains greater than the pleasure. If, however, you call
pleasure an evil in relation to some other end or standard, you will be
able to show us that standard. But you have none to show.'

I do not think that they have, said Protagoras.

'And have you not a similar way of speaking about pain? You call pain a
good when it takes away greater pains than those which it has, or gives
pleasures greater than the pains: then if you have some standard other
than pleasure and pain to which you refer when you call actual pain a
good, you can show what that is. But you cannot.'

True, said Protagoras.

Suppose again, I said, that the world says to me: 'Why do you spend many
words and speak in many ways on this subject?' Excuse me, friends, I
should reply; but in the first place there is a difficulty in explaining
the meaning of the expression 'overcome by pleasure'; and the whole
argument turns upon this. And even now, if you see any possible way in
which evil can be explained as other than pain, or good as other than
pleasure, you may still retract. Are you satisfied, then, at having
a life of pleasure which is without pain? If you are, and if you are
unable to show any good or evil which does not end in pleasure and pain,
hear the consequences:--If what you say is true, then the argument is
absurd which affirms that a man often does evil knowingly, when he might
abstain, because he is seduced and overpowered by pleasure; or again,
when you say that a man knowingly refuses to do what is good because he
is overcome at the moment by pleasure. And that this is ridiculous will
be evident if only we give up the use of various names, such as pleasant
and painful, and good and evil. As there are two things, let us call
them by two names--first, good and evil, and then pleasant and painful.
Assuming this, let us go on to say that a man does evil knowing that he
does evil. But some one will ask, Why? Because he is overcome, is the
first answer. And by what is he overcome? the enquirer will proceed to
ask. And we shall not be able to reply 'By pleasure,' for the name of
pleasure has been exchanged for that of good. In our answer, then, we
shall only say that he is overcome. 'By what?' he will reiterate. By the
good, we shall have to reply; indeed we shall. Nay, but our questioner
will rejoin with a laugh, if he be one of the swaggering sort, 'That is
too ridiculous, that a man should do what he knows to be evil when he
ought not, because he is overcome by good. Is that, he will ask, because
the good was worthy or not worthy of conquering the evil'? And in answer
to that we shall clearly reply, Because it was not worthy; for if it had
been worthy, then he who, as we say, was overcome by pleasure, would not
have been wrong. 'But how,' he will reply, 'can the good be unworthy
of the evil, or the evil of the good'? Is not the real explanation
that they are out of proportion to one another, either as greater and
smaller, or more and fewer? This we cannot deny. And when you speak of
being overcome--'what do you mean,' he will say, 'but that you choose
the greater evil in exchange for the lesser good?' Admitted. And now
substitute the names of pleasure and pain for good and evil, and say,
not as before, that a man does what is evil knowingly, but that he does
what is painful knowingly, and because he is overcome by pleasure,
which is unworthy to overcome. What measure is there of the relations
of pleasure to pain other than excess and defect, which means that they
become greater and smaller, and more and fewer, and differ in degree?
For if any one says: 'Yes, Socrates, but immediate pleasure differs
widely from future pleasure and pain'--To that I should reply: And do
they differ in anything but in pleasure and pain? There can be no
other measure of them. And do you, like a skilful weigher, put into the
balance the pleasures and the pains, and their nearness and distance,
and weigh them, and then say which outweighs the other. If you weigh
pleasures against pleasures, you of course take the more and greater; or
if you weigh pains against pains, you take the fewer and the less; or if
pleasures against pains, then you choose that course of action in which
the painful is exceeded by the pleasant, whether the distant by the near
or the near by the distant; and you avoid that course of action in
which the pleasant is exceeded by the painful. Would you not admit, my
friends, that this is true? I am confident that they cannot deny this.

He agreed with me.

Well then, I shall say, if you agree so far, be so good as to answer me
a question: Do not the same magnitudes appear larger to your sight when
near, and smaller when at a distance? They will acknowledge that.
And the same holds of thickness and number; also sounds, which are in
themselves equal, are greater when near, and lesser when at a distance.
They will grant that also. Now suppose happiness to consist in doing
or choosing the greater, and in not doing or in avoiding the less,
what would be the saving principle of human life? Would not the art of
measuring be the saving principle; or would the power of appearance? Is
not the latter that deceiving art which makes us wander up and down and
take the things at one time of which we repent at another, both in our
actions and in our choice of things great and small? But the art of
measurement would do away with the effect of appearances, and, showing
the truth, would fain teach the soul at last to find rest in the truth,
and would thus save our life. Would not mankind generally acknowledge
that the art which accomplishes this result is the art of measurement?

Yes, he said, the art of measurement.

Suppose, again, the salvation of human life to depend on the choice of
odd and even, and on the knowledge of when a man ought to choose the
greater or less, either in reference to themselves or to each other, and
whether near or at a distance; what would be the saving principle of our
lives? Would not knowledge?--a knowledge of measuring, when the question
is one of excess and defect, and a knowledge of number, when the
question is of odd and even? The world will assent, will they not?

Protagoras himself thought that they would.

Well then, my friends, I say to them; seeing that the salvation of human
life has been found to consist in the right choice of pleasures and
pains,--in the choice of the more and the fewer, and the greater and
the less, and the nearer and remoter, must not this measuring be a
consideration of their excess and defect and equality in relation to
each other?

This is undeniably true.

And this, as possessing measure, must undeniably also be an art and

They will agree, he said.

The nature of that art or science will be a matter of future
consideration; but the existence of such a science furnishes a
demonstrative answer to the question which you asked of me and
Protagoras. At the time when you asked the question, if you remember,
both of us were agreeing that there was nothing mightier than knowledge,
and that knowledge, in whatever existing, must have the advantage over
pleasure and all other things; and then you said that pleasure often got
the advantage even over a man who has knowledge; and we refused to allow
this, and you rejoined: O Protagoras and Socrates, what is the meaning
of being overcome by pleasure if not this?--tell us what you call such a
state:--if we had immediately and at the time answered 'Ignorance,'
you would have laughed at us. But now, in laughing at us, you will be
laughing at yourselves: for you also admitted that men err in their
choice of pleasures and pains; that is, in their choice of good and
evil, from defect of knowledge; and you admitted further, that they err,
not only from defect of knowledge in general, but of that particular
knowledge which is called measuring. And you are also aware that the
erring act which is done without knowledge is done in ignorance. This,
therefore, is the meaning of being overcome by pleasure;--ignorance, and
that the greatest. And our friends Protagoras and Prodicus and Hippias
declare that they are the physicians of ignorance; but you, who are
under the mistaken impression that ignorance is not the cause, and that
the art of which I am speaking cannot be taught, neither go yourselves,
nor send your children, to the Sophists, who are the teachers of these
things--you take care of your money and give them none; and the result
is, that you are the worse off both in public and private life:--Let us
suppose this to be our answer to the world in general: And now I should
like to ask you, Hippias, and you, Prodicus, as well as Protagoras (for
the argument is to be yours as well as ours), whether you think that I
am speaking the truth or not?

They all thought that what I said was entirely true.

Then you agree, I said, that the pleasant is the good, and the painful
evil. And here I would beg my friend Prodicus not to introduce his
distinction of names, whether he is disposed to say pleasurable,
delightful, joyful. However, by whatever name he prefers to call them,
I will ask you, most excellent Prodicus, to answer in my sense of the

Prodicus laughed and assented, as did the others.

Then, my friends, what do you say to this? Are not all actions
honourable and useful, of which the tendency is to make life painless
and pleasant? The honourable work is also useful and good?

This was admitted.

Then, I said, if the pleasant is the good, nobody does anything under
the idea or conviction that some other thing would be better and is also
attainable, when he might do the better. And this inferiority of a man
to himself is merely ignorance, as the superiority of a man to himself
is wisdom.

They all assented.

And is not ignorance the having a false opinion and being deceived about
important matters?

To this also they unanimously assented.

Then, I said, no man voluntarily pursues evil, or that which he thinks
to be evil. To prefer evil to good is not in human nature; and when
a man is compelled to choose one of two evils, no one will choose the
greater when he may have the less.

All of us agreed to every word of this.

Well, I said, there is a certain thing called fear or terror; and here,
Prodicus, I should particularly like to know whether you would agree
with me in defining this fear or terror as expectation of evil.

Protagoras and Hippias agreed, but Prodicus said that this was fear and
not terror.

Never mind, Prodicus, I said; but let me ask whether, if our former
assertions are true, a man will pursue that which he fears when he is
not compelled? Would not this be in flat contradiction to the admission
which has been already made, that he thinks the things which he fears
to be evil; and no one will pursue or voluntarily accept that which he
thinks to be evil?

That also was universally admitted.

Then, I said, these, Hippias and Prodicus, are our premisses; and I
would beg Protagoras to explain to us how he can be right in what he
said at first. I do not mean in what he said quite at first, for his
first statement, as you may remember, was that whereas there were five
parts of virtue none of them was like any other of them; each of them
had a separate function. To this, however, I am not referring, but to
the assertion which he afterwards made that of the five virtues four
were nearly akin to each other, but that the fifth, which was courage,
differed greatly from the others. And of this he gave me the following
proof. He said: You will find, Socrates, that some of the most impious,
and unrighteous, and intemperate, and ignorant of men are among the most
courageous; which proves that courage is very different from the other
parts of virtue. I was surprised at his saying this at the time, and I
am still more surprised now that I have discussed the matter with you.
So I asked him whether by the brave he meant the confident. Yes, he
replied, and the impetuous or goers. (You may remember, Protagoras, that
this was your answer.)

He assented.

Well then, I said, tell us against what are the courageous ready to
go--against the same dangers as the cowards?

No, he answered.

Then against something different?

Yes, he said.

Then do cowards go where there is safety, and the courageous where there
is danger?

Yes, Socrates, so men say.

Very true, I said. But I want to know against what do you say that
the courageous are ready to go--against dangers, believing them to be
dangers, or not against dangers?

No, said he; the former case has been proved by you in the previous
argument to be impossible.

That, again, I replied, is quite true. And if this has been rightly
proven, then no one goes to meet what he thinks to be dangers, since the
want of self-control, which makes men rush into dangers, has been shown
to be ignorance.

He assented.

And yet the courageous man and the coward alike go to meet that about
which they are confident; so that, in this point of view, the cowardly
and the courageous go to meet the same things.

And yet, Socrates, said Protagoras, that to which the coward goes is the
opposite of that to which the courageous goes; the one, for example, is
ready to go to battle, and the other is not ready.

And is going to battle honourable or disgraceful? I said.

Honourable, he replied.

And if honourable, then already admitted by us to be good; for all
honourable actions we have admitted to be good.

That is true; and to that opinion I shall always adhere.

True, I said. But which of the two are they who, as you say, are
unwilling to go to war, which is a good and honourable thing?

The cowards, he replied.

And what is good and honourable, I said, is also pleasant?

It has certainly been acknowledged to be so, he replied.

And do the cowards knowingly refuse to go to the nobler, and pleasanter,
and better?

The admission of that, he replied, would belie our former admissions.

But does not the courageous man also go to meet the better, and
pleasanter, and nobler?

That must be admitted.

And the courageous man has no base fear or base confidence?

True, he replied.

And if not base, then honourable?

He admitted this.

And if honourable, then good?


But the fear and confidence of the coward or foolhardy or madman, on the
contrary, are base?

He assented.

And these base fears and confidences originate in ignorance and

True, he said.

Then as to the motive from which the cowards act, do you call it
cowardice or courage?

I should say cowardice, he replied.

And have they not been shown to be cowards through their ignorance of

Assuredly, he said.

And because of that ignorance they are cowards?

He assented.

And the reason why they are cowards is admitted by you to be cowardice?

He again assented.

Then the ignorance of what is and is not dangerous is cowardice?

He nodded assent.

But surely courage, I said, is opposed to cowardice?


Then the wisdom which knows what are and are not dangers is opposed to
the ignorance of them?

To that again he nodded assent.

And the ignorance of them is cowardice?

To that he very reluctantly nodded assent.

And the knowledge of that which is and is not dangerous is courage, and
is opposed to the ignorance of these things?

At this point he would no longer nod assent, but was silent.

And why, I said, do you neither assent nor dissent, Protagoras?

Finish the argument by yourself, he said.

I only want to ask one more question, I said. I want to know whether
you still think that there are men who are most ignorant and yet most

You seem to have a great ambition to make me answer, Socrates, and
therefore I will gratify you, and say, that this appears to me to be
impossible consistently with the argument.

My only object, I said, in continuing the discussion, has been the
desire to ascertain the nature and relations of virtue; for if this were
clear, I am very sure that the other controversy which has been carried
on at great length by both of us--you affirming and I denying that
virtue can be taught--would also become clear. The result of our
discussion appears to me to be singular. For if the argument had a human
voice, that voice would be heard laughing at us and saying: 'Protagoras
and Socrates, you are strange beings; there are you, Socrates, who were
saying that virtue cannot be taught, contradicting yourself now by your
attempt to prove that all things are knowledge, including justice, and
temperance, and courage,--which tends to show that virtue can certainly
be taught; for if virtue were other than knowledge, as Protagoras
attempted to prove, then clearly virtue cannot be taught; but if virtue
is entirely knowledge, as you are seeking to show, then I cannot but
suppose that virtue is capable of being taught. Protagoras, on the other
hand, who started by saying that it might be taught, is now eager to
prove it to be anything rather than knowledge; and if this is true, it
must be quite incapable of being taught.' Now I, Protagoras, perceiving
this terrible confusion of our ideas, have a great desire that they
should be cleared up. And I should like to carry on the discussion until
we ascertain what virtue is, whether capable of being taught or not,
lest haply Epimetheus should trip us up and deceive us in the argument,
as he forgot us in the story; I prefer your Prometheus to your
Epimetheus, for of him I make use, whenever I am busy about these
questions, in Promethean care of my own life. And if you have no
objection, as I said at first, I should like to have your help in the

Protagoras replied: Socrates, I am not of a base nature, and I am the
last man in the world to be envious. I cannot but applaud your energy
and your conduct of an argument. As I have often said, I admire you
above all men whom I know, and far above all men of your age; and I
believe that you will become very eminent in philosophy. Let us come
back to the subject at some future time; at present we had better turn
to something else.

By all means, I said, if that is your wish; for I too ought long since
to have kept the engagement of which I spoke before, and only tarried
because I could not refuse the request of the noble Callias. So the
conversation ended, and we went our way.

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ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.