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´╗┐Title: Lesser Hippias
Author: Plato (spurious and doubtful works), 427? BC-347? BC
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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by Plato

(see Appendix I)

Translated by Benjamin Jowett


It seems impossible to separate by any exact line the genuine writings
of Plato from the spurious. The only external evidence to them which is
of much value is that of Aristotle; for the Alexandrian catalogues of
a century later include manifest forgeries. Even the value of the
Aristotelian authority is a good deal impaired by the uncertainty
concerning the date and authorship of the writings which are ascribed to
him. And several of the citations of Aristotle omit the name of Plato,
and some of them omit the name of the dialogue from which they are
taken. Prior, however, to the enquiry about the writings of a particular
author, general considerations which equally affect all evidence to the
genuineness of ancient writings are the following: Shorter works are
more likely to have been forged, or to have received an erroneous
designation, than longer ones; and some kinds of composition, such as
epistles or panegyrical orations, are more liable to suspicion than
others; those, again, which have a taste of sophistry in them, or the
ring of a later age, or the slighter character of a rhetorical exercise,
or in which a motive or some affinity to spurious writings can be
detected, or which seem to have originated in a name or statement really
occurring in some classical author, are also of doubtful credit; while
there is no instance of any ancient writing proved to be a forgery,
which combines excellence with length. A really great and original
writer would have no object in fathering his works on Plato; and to the
forger or imitator, the 'literary hack' of Alexandria and Athens, the
Gods did not grant originality or genius. Further, in attempting to
balance the evidence for and against a Platonic dialogue, we must not
forget that the form of the Platonic writing was common to several of
his contemporaries. Aeschines, Euclid, Phaedo, Antisthenes, and in the
next generation Aristotle, are all said to have composed dialogues; and
mistakes of names are very likely to have occurred. Greek literature in
the third century before Christ was almost as voluminous as our own, and
without the safeguards of regular publication, or printing, or binding,
or even of distinct titles. An unknown writing was naturally attributed
to a known writer whose works bore the same character; and the name once
appended easily obtained authority. A tendency may also be observed to
blend the works and opinions of the master with those of his scholars.
To a later Platonist, the difference between Plato and his imitators was
not so perceptible as to ourselves. The Memorabilia of Xenophon and the
Dialogues of Plato are but a part of a considerable Socratic literature
which has passed away. And we must consider how we should regard the
question of the genuineness of a particular writing, if this lost
literature had been preserved to us.

These considerations lead us to adopt the following criteria of
genuineness: (1) That is most certainly Plato's which Aristotle
attributes to him by name, which (2) is of considerable length, of (3)
great excellence, and also (4) in harmony with the general spirit of
the Platonic writings. But the testimony of Aristotle cannot always
be distinguished from that of a later age (see above); and has various
degrees of importance. Those writings which he cites without mentioning
Plato, under their own names, e.g. the Hippias, the Funeral Oration, the
Phaedo, etc., have an inferior degree of evidence in their favour. They
may have been supposed by him to be the writings of another, although in
the case of really great works, e.g. the Phaedo, this is not credible;
those again which are quoted but not named, are still more defective
in their external credentials. There may be also a possibility that
Aristotle was mistaken, or may have confused the master and his scholars
in the case of a short writing; but this is inconceivable about a more
important work, e.g. the Laws, especially when we remember that he was
living at Athens, and a frequenter of the groves of the Academy, during
the last twenty years of Plato's life. Nor must we forget that in all
his numerous citations from the Platonic writings he never attributes
any passage found in the extant dialogues to any one but Plato. And
lastly, we may remark that one or two great writings, such as the
Parmenides and the Politicus, which are wholly devoid of Aristotelian
(1) credentials may be fairly attributed to Plato, on the ground of (2)
length, (3) excellence, and (4) accordance with the general spirit
of his writings. Indeed the greater part of the evidence for the
genuineness of ancient Greek authors may be summed up under two heads
only: (1) excellence; and (2) uniformity of tradition--a kind of
evidence, which though in many cases sufficient, is of inferior value.

Proceeding upon these principles we appear to arrive at the conclusion
that nineteen-twentieths of all the writings which have ever been
ascribed to Plato, are undoubtedly genuine. There is another portion of
them, including the Epistles, the Epinomis, the dialogues rejected by
the ancients themselves, namely, the Axiochus, De justo, De virtute,
Demodocus, Sisyphus, Eryxias, which on grounds, both of internal and
external evidence, we are able with equal certainty to reject. But there
still remains a small portion of which we are unable to affirm either
that they are genuine or spurious. They may have been written in youth,
or possibly like the works of some painters, may be partly or wholly
the compositions of pupils; or they may have been the writings of some
contemporary transferred by accident to the more celebrated name of
Plato, or of some Platonist in the next generation who aspired to
imitate his master. Not that on grounds either of language or philosophy
we should lightly reject them. Some difference of style, or inferiority
of execution, or inconsistency of thought, can hardly be considered
decisive of their spurious character. For who always does justice to
himself, or who writes with equal care at all times? Certainly not
Plato, who exhibits the greatest differences in dramatic power, in the
formation of sentences, and in the use of words, if his earlier writings
are compared with his later ones, say the Protagoras or Phaedrus with
the Laws. Or who can be expected to think in the same manner during
a period of authorship extending over above fifty years, in an age
of great intellectual activity, as well as of political and literary
transition? Certainly not Plato, whose earlier writings are separated
from his later ones by as wide an interval of philosophical speculation
as that which separates his later writings from Aristotle.

The dialogues which have been translated in the first Appendix, and
which appear to have the next claim to genuineness among the Platonic
writings, are the Lesser Hippias, the Menexenus or Funeral Oration, the
First Alcibiades. Of these, the Lesser Hippias and the Funeral Oration
are cited by Aristotle; the first in the Metaphysics, the latter in the
Rhetoric. Neither of them are expressly attributed to Plato, but in his
citation of both of them he seems to be referring to passages in the
extant dialogues. From the mention of 'Hippias' in the singular by
Aristotle, we may perhaps infer that he was unacquainted with a second
dialogue bearing the same name. Moreover, the mere existence of a
Greater and Lesser Hippias, and of a First and Second Alcibiades, does
to a certain extent throw a doubt upon both of them. Though a very
clever and ingenious work, the Lesser Hippias does not appear to contain
anything beyond the power of an imitator, who was also a careful student
of the earlier Platonic writings, to invent. The motive or leading
thought of the dialogue may be detected in Xen. Mem., and there is
no similar instance of a 'motive' which is taken from Xenophon in an
undoubted dialogue of Plato. On the other hand, the upholders of the
genuineness of the dialogue will find in the Hippias a true Socratic
spirit; they will compare the Ion as being akin both in subject and
treatment; they will urge the authority of Aristotle; and they will
detect in the treatment of the Sophist, in the satirical reasoning
upon Homer, in the reductio ad absurdum of the doctrine that vice is
ignorance, traces of a Platonic authorship. In reference to the last
point we are doubtful, as in some of the other dialogues, whether the
author is asserting or overthrowing the paradox of Socrates, or merely
following the argument 'whither the wind blows.' That no conclusion
is arrived at is also in accordance with the character of the earlier
dialogues. The resemblances or imitations of the Gorgias, Protagoras,
and Euthydemus, which have been observed in the Hippias, cannot with
certainty be adduced on either side of the argument. On the whole, more
may be said in favour of the genuineness of the Hippias than against it.

The Menexenus or Funeral Oration is cited by Aristotle, and is
interesting as supplying an example of the manner in which the orators
praised 'the Athenians among the Athenians,' falsifying persons and
dates, and casting a veil over the gloomier events of Athenian history.
It exhibits an acquaintance with the funeral oration of Thucydides, and
was, perhaps, intended to rival that great work. If genuine, the
proper place of the Menexenus would be at the end of the Phaedrus. The
satirical opening and the concluding words bear a great resemblance to
the earlier dialogues; the oration itself is professedly a mimetic work,
like the speeches in the Phaedrus, and cannot therefore be tested by
a comparison of the other writings of Plato. The funeral oration of
Pericles is expressly mentioned in the Phaedrus, and this may have
suggested the subject, in the same manner that the Cleitophon appears to
be suggested by the slight mention of Cleitophon and his attachment to
Thrasymachus in the Republic; and the Theages by the mention of Theages
in the Apology and Republic; or as the Second Alcibiades seems to be
founded upon the text of Xenophon, Mem. A similar taste for parody
appears not only in the Phaedrus, but in the Protagoras, in the
Symposium, and to a certain extent in the Parmenides.

To these two doubtful writings of Plato I have added the First
Alcibiades, which, of all the disputed dialogues of Plato, has the
greatest merit, and is somewhat longer than any of them, though not
verified by the testimony of Aristotle, and in many respects at variance
with the Symposium in the description of the relations of Socrates
and Alcibiades. Like the Lesser Hippias and the Menexenus, it is to be
compared to the earlier writings of Plato. The motive of the piece may,
perhaps, be found in that passage of the Symposium in which Alcibiades
describes himself as self-convicted by the words of Socrates. For the
disparaging manner in which Schleiermacher has spoken of this dialogue
there seems to be no sufficient foundation. At the same time, the lesson
imparted is simple, and the irony more transparent than in the undoubted
dialogues of Plato. We know, too, that Alcibiades was a favourite
thesis, and that at least five or six dialogues bearing this name passed
current in antiquity, and are attributed to contemporaries of Socrates
and Plato. (1) In the entire absence of real external evidence (for
the catalogues of the Alexandrian librarians cannot be regarded as
trustworthy); and (2) in the absence of the highest marks either of
poetical or philosophical excellence; and (3) considering that we have
express testimony to the existence of contemporary writings bearing
the name of Alcibiades, we are compelled to suspend our judgment on the
genuineness of the extant dialogue.

Neither at this point, nor at any other, do we propose to draw an
absolute line of demarcation between genuine and spurious writings of
Plato. They fade off imperceptibly from one class to another. There may
have been degrees of genuineness in the dialogues themselves, as there
are certainly degrees of evidence by which they are supported. The
traditions of the oral discourses both of Socrates and Plato may have
formed the basis of semi-Platonic writings; some of them may be of the
same mixed character which is apparent in Aristotle and Hippocrates,
although the form of them is different. But the writings of Plato,
unlike the writings of Aristotle, seem never to have been confused with
the writings of his disciples: this was probably due to their definite
form, and to their inimitable excellence. The three dialogues which
we have offered in the Appendix to the criticism of the reader may
be partly spurious and partly genuine; they may be altogether
spurious;--that is an alternative which must be frankly admitted. Nor
can we maintain of some other dialogues, such as the Parmenides, and
the Sophist, and Politicus, that no considerable objection can be urged
against them, though greatly overbalanced by the weight (chiefly)
of internal evidence in their favour. Nor, on the other hand, can
we exclude a bare possibility that some dialogues which are usually
rejected, such as the Greater Hippias and the Cleitophon, may be
genuine. The nature and object of these semi-Platonic writings require
more careful study and more comparison of them with one another, and
with forged writings in general, than they have yet received, before we
can finally decide on their character. We do not consider them all as
genuine until they can be proved to be spurious, as is often maintained
and still more often implied in this and similar discussions; but
should say of some of them, that their genuineness is neither proven nor
disproven until further evidence about them can be adduced. And we are
as confident that the Epistles are spurious, as that the Republic, the
Timaeus, and the Laws are genuine.

On the whole, not a twentieth part of the writings which pass under
the name of Plato, if we exclude the works rejected by the ancients
themselves and two or three other plausible inventions, can be fairly
doubted by those who are willing to allow that a considerable change
and growth may have taken place in his philosophy (see above). That
twentieth debatable portion scarcely in any degree affects our judgment
of Plato, either as a thinker or a writer, and though suggesting some
interesting questions to the scholar and critic, is of little importance
to the general reader.



The Lesser Hippias may be compared with the earlier dialogues of Plato,
in which the contrast of Socrates and the Sophists is most strongly
exhibited. Hippias, like Protagoras and Gorgias, though civil, is vain
and boastful: he knows all things; he can make anything, including his
own clothes; he is a manufacturer of poems and declamations, and also of
seal-rings, shoes, strigils; his girdle, which he has woven himself, is
of a finer than Persian quality. He is a vainer, lighter nature than
the two great Sophists (compare Protag.), but of the same character
with them, and equally impatient of the short cut-and-thrust method of
Socrates, whom he endeavours to draw into a long oration. At last, he
gets tired of being defeated at every point by Socrates, and is with
difficulty induced to proceed (compare Thrasymachus, Protagoras,
Callicles, and others, to whom the same reluctance is ascribed).

Hippias like Protagoras has common sense on his side, when he argues,
citing passages of the Iliad in support of his view, that Homer intended
Achilles to be the bravest, Odysseus the wisest of the Greeks. But he is
easily overthrown by the superior dialectics of Socrates, who pretends
to show that Achilles is not true to his word, and that no similar
inconsistency is to be found in Odysseus. Hippias replies that Achilles
unintentionally, but Odysseus intentionally, speaks falsehood. But is it
better to do wrong intentionally or unintentionally? Socrates, relying
on the analogy of the arts, maintains the former, Hippias the latter
of the two alternatives...All this is quite conceived in the spirit of
Plato, who is very far from making Socrates always argue on the side
of truth. The over-reasoning on Homer, which is of course satirical, is
also in the spirit of Plato. Poetry turned logic is even more ridiculous
than 'rhetoric turned logic,' and equally fallacious. There were
reasoners in ancient as well as in modern times, who could never receive
the natural impression of Homer, or of any other book which they
read. The argument of Socrates, in which he picks out the apparent
inconsistencies and discrepancies in the speech and actions of Achilles,
and the final paradox, 'that he who is true is also false,' remind us
of the interpretation by Socrates of Simonides in the Protagoras, and of
similar reasonings in the first book of the Republic. The discrepancies
which Socrates discovers in the words of Achilles are perhaps as great
as those discovered by some of the modern separatists of the Homeric

At last, Socrates having caught Hippias in the toils of the voluntary
and involuntary, is obliged to confess that he is wandering about in the
same labyrinth; he makes the reflection on himself which others would
make upon him (compare Protagoras). He does not wonder that he should be
in a difficulty, but he wonders at Hippias, and he becomes sensible
of the gravity of the situation, when ordinary men like himself can no
longer go to the wise and be taught by them.

It may be remarked as bearing on the genuineness of this dialogue: (1)
that the manners of the speakers are less subtle and refined than in
the other dialogues of Plato; (2) that the sophistry of Socrates is more
palpable and unblushing, and also more unmeaning; (3) that many turns
of thought and style are found in it which appear also in the other
dialogues:--whether resemblances of this kind tell in favour of or
against the genuineness of an ancient writing, is an important question
which will have to be answered differently in different cases. For that
a writer may repeat himself is as true as that a forger may imitate; and
Plato elsewhere, either of set purpose or from forgetfulness, is full
of repetitions. The parallelisms of the Lesser Hippias, as already
remarked, are not of the kind which necessarily imply that the dialogue
is the work of a forger. The parallelisms of the Greater Hippias with
the other dialogues, and the allusion to the Lesser (where Hippias
sketches the programme of his next lecture, and invites Socrates to
attend and bring any friends with him who may be competent judges), are
more than suspicious:--they are of a very poor sort, such as we cannot
suppose to have been due to Plato himself. The Greater Hippias more
resembles the Euthydemus than any other dialogue; but is immeasurably
inferior to it. The Lesser Hippias seems to have more merit than the
Greater, and to be more Platonic in spirit. The character of Hippias is
the same in both dialogues, but his vanity and boasting are even more
exaggerated in the Greater Hippias. His art of memory is specially
mentioned in both. He is an inferior type of the same species as
Hippodamus of Miletus (Arist. Pol.). Some passages in which the Lesser
Hippias may be advantageously compared with the undoubtedly genuine
dialogues of Plato are the following:--Less. Hipp.: compare Republic
(Socrates' cunning in argument): compare Laches (Socrates' feeling about
arguments): compare Republic (Socrates not unthankful): compare Republic
(Socrates dishonest in argument).

The Lesser Hippias, though inferior to the other dialogues, may be
reasonably believed to have been written by Plato, on the ground (1)
of considerable excellence; (2) of uniform tradition beginning with
Aristotle and his school. That the dialogue falls below the standard of
Plato's other works, or that he has attributed to Socrates an unmeaning
paradox (perhaps with the view of showing that he could beat the
Sophists at their own weapons; or that he could 'make the worse appear
the better cause'; or merely as a dialectical experiment)--are not
sufficient reasons for doubting the genuineness of the work.

PERSONS OF THE DIALOGUE: Eudicus, Socrates, Hippias.

EUDICUS: Why are you silent, Socrates, after the magnificent display
which Hippias has been making? Why do you not either refute his words,
if he seems to you to have been wrong in any point, or join with us in
commending him? There is the more reason why you should speak, because
we are now alone, and the audience is confined to those who may fairly
claim to take part in a philosophical discussion.

SOCRATES: I should greatly like, Eudicus, to ask Hippias the meaning
of what he was saying just now about Homer. I have heard your father,
Apemantus, declare that the Iliad of Homer is a finer poem than the
Odyssey in the same degree that Achilles was a better man than Odysseus;
Odysseus, he would say, is the central figure of the one poem and
Achilles of the other. Now, I should like to know, if Hippias has no
objection to tell me, what he thinks about these two heroes, and which
of them he maintains to be the better; he has already told us in the
course of his exhibition many things of various kinds about Homer and
divers other poets.

EUDICUS: I am sure that Hippias will be delighted to answer anything
which you would like to ask; tell me, Hippias, if Socrates asks you a
question, will you answer him?

HIPPIAS: Indeed, Eudicus, I should be strangely inconsistent if I
refused to answer Socrates, when at each Olympic festival, as I went up
from my house at Elis to the temple of Olympia, where all the Hellenes
were assembled, I continually professed my willingness to perform any of
the exhibitions which I had prepared, and to answer any questions which
any one had to ask.

SOCRATES: Truly, Hippias, you are to be congratulated, if at every
Olympic festival you have such an encouraging opinion of your own wisdom
when you go up to the temple. I doubt whether any muscular hero would be
so fearless and confident in offering his body to the combat at Olympia,
as you are in offering your mind.

HIPPIAS: And with good reason, Socrates; for since the day when I first
entered the lists at Olympia I have never found any man who was my
superior in anything. (Compare Gorgias.)

SOCRATES: What an ornament, Hippias, will the reputation of your wisdom
be to the city of Elis and to your parents! But to return: what say you
of Odysseus and Achilles? Which is the better of the two? and in what
particular does either surpass the other? For when you were exhibiting
and there was company in the room, though I could not follow you, I did
not like to ask what you meant, because a crowd of people were present,
and I was afraid that the question might interrupt your exhibition. But
now that there are not so many of us, and my friend Eudicus bids me ask,
I wish you would tell me what you were saying about these two heroes, so
that I may clearly understand; how did you distinguish them?

HIPPIAS: I shall have much pleasure, Socrates, in explaining to you more
clearly than I could in public my views about these and also about other
heroes. I say that Homer intended Achilles to be the bravest of the men
who went to Troy, Nestor the wisest, and Odysseus the wiliest.

SOCRATES: O rare Hippias, will you be so good as not to laugh, if I find
a difficulty in following you, and repeat my questions several times
over? Please to answer me kindly and gently.

HIPPIAS: I should be greatly ashamed of myself, Socrates, if I, who
teach others and take money of them, could not, when I was asked by you,
answer in a civil and agreeable manner.

SOCRATES: Thank you: the fact is, that I seemed to understand what you
meant when you said that the poet intended Achilles to be the bravest
of men, and also that he intended Nestor to be the wisest; but when you
said that he meant Odysseus to be the wiliest, I must confess that I
could not understand what you were saying. Will you tell me, and then I
shall perhaps understand you better; has not Homer made Achilles wily?

HIPPIAS: Certainly not, Socrates; he is the most straight-forward of
mankind, and when Homer introduces them talking with one another in the
passage called the Prayers, Achilles is supposed by the poet to say to

'Son of Laertes, sprung from heaven, crafty Odysseus, I will speak out
plainly the word which I intend to carry out in act, and which will,
I believe, be accomplished. For I hate him like the gates of death who
thinks one thing and says another. But I will speak that which shall be

Now, in these verses he clearly indicates the character of the two men;
he shows Achilles to be true and simple, and Odysseus to be wily and
false; for he supposes Achilles to be addressing Odysseus in these

SOCRATES: Now, Hippias, I think that I understand your meaning; when you
say that Odysseus is wily, you clearly mean that he is false?

HIPPIAS: Exactly so, Socrates; it is the character of Odysseus, as he is
represented by Homer in many passages both of the Iliad and Odyssey.

SOCRATES: And Homer must be presumed to have meant that the true man is
not the same as the false?

HIPPIAS: Of course, Socrates.

SOCRATES: And is that your own opinion, Hippias?

HIPPIAS: Certainly; how can I have any other?

SOCRATES: Well, then, as there is no possibility of asking Homer what
he meant in these verses of his, let us leave him; but as you show a
willingness to take up his cause, and your opinion agrees with what you
declare to be his, will you answer on behalf of yourself and him?

HIPPIAS: I will; ask shortly anything which you like.

SOCRATES: Do you say that the false, like the sick, have no power to do
things, or that they have the power to do things?

HIPPIAS: I should say that they have power to do many things, and in
particular to deceive mankind.

SOCRATES: Then, according to you, they are both powerful and wily, are
they not?


SOCRATES: And are they wily, and do they deceive by reason of their
simplicity and folly, or by reason of their cunning and a certain sort
of prudence?

HIPPIAS: By reason of their cunning and prudence, most certainly.

SOCRATES: Then they are prudent, I suppose?

HIPPIAS: So they are--very.

SOCRATES: And if they are prudent, do they know or do they not know what
they do?

HIPPIAS: Of course, they know very well; and that is why they do
mischief to others.

SOCRATES: And having this knowledge, are they ignorant, or are they

HIPPIAS: Wise, certainly; at least, in so far as they can deceive.

SOCRATES: Stop, and let us recall to mind what you are saying; are you
not saying that the false are powerful and prudent and knowing and wise
in those things about which they are false?

HIPPIAS: To be sure.

SOCRATES: And the true differ from the false--the true and the false are
the very opposite of each other?

HIPPIAS: That is my view.

SOCRATES: Then, according to your view, it would seem that the false are
to be ranked in the class of the powerful and wise?

HIPPIAS: Assuredly.

SOCRATES: And when you say that the false are powerful and wise in so
far as they are false, do you mean that they have or have not the power
of uttering their falsehoods if they like?

HIPPIAS: I mean to say that they have the power.

SOCRATES: In a word, then, the false are they who are wise and have the
power to speak falsely?


SOCRATES: Then a man who has not the power of speaking falsely and is
ignorant cannot be false?

HIPPIAS: You are right.

SOCRATES: And every man has power who does that which he wishes at the
time when he wishes. I am not speaking of any special case in which he
is prevented by disease or something of that sort, but I am speaking
generally, as I might say of you, that you are able to write my name
when you like. Would you not call a man able who could do that?


SOCRATES: And tell me, Hippias, are you not a skilful calculator and

HIPPIAS: Yes, Socrates, assuredly I am.

SOCRATES: And if some one were to ask you what is the sum of 3
multiplied by 700, you would tell him the true answer in a moment, if
you pleased?

HIPPIAS: certainly I should.

SOCRATES: Is not that because you are the wisest and ablest of men in
these matters?


SOCRATES: And being as you are the wisest and ablest of men in these
matters of calculation, are you not also the best?

HIPPIAS: To be sure, Socrates, I am the best.

SOCRATES: And therefore you would be the most able to tell the truth
about these matters, would you not?

HIPPIAS: Yes, I should.

SOCRATES: And could you speak falsehoods about them equally well? I
must beg, Hippias, that you will answer me with the same frankness and
magnanimity which has hitherto characterized you. If a person were to
ask you what is the sum of 3 multiplied by 700, would not you be the
best and most consistent teller of a falsehood, having always the power
of speaking falsely as you have of speaking truly, about these same
matters, if you wanted to tell a falsehood, and not to answer truly?
Would the ignorant man be better able to tell a falsehood in matters
of calculation than you would be, if you chose? Might he not sometimes
stumble upon the truth, when he wanted to tell a lie, because he did
not know, whereas you who are the wise man, if you wanted to tell a lie
would always and consistently lie?

HIPPIAS: Yes, there you are quite right.

SOCRATES: Does the false man tell lies about other things, but not about
number, or when he is making a calculation?

HIPPIAS: To be sure; he would tell as many lies about number as about
other things.

SOCRATES: Then may we further assume, Hippias, that there are men who
are false about calculation and number?


SOCRATES: Who can they be? For you have already admitted that he who is
false must have the ability to be false: you said, as you will remember,
that he who is unable to be false will not be false?

HIPPIAS: Yes, I remember; it was so said.

SOCRATES: And were you not yourself just now shown to be best able to
speak falsely about calculation?

HIPPIAS: Yes; that was another thing which was said.

SOCRATES: And are you not likewise said to speak truly about

HIPPIAS: Certainly.

SOCRATES: Then the same person is able to speak both falsely and truly
about calculation? And that person is he who is good at calculation--the


SOCRATES: Who, then, Hippias, is discovered to be false at calculation?
Is he not the good man? For the good man is the able man, and he is the
true man.

HIPPIAS: That is evident.

SOCRATES: Do you not see, then, that the same man is false and also true
about the same matters? And the true man is not a whit better than the
false; for indeed he is the same with him and not the very opposite, as
you were just now imagining.

HIPPIAS: Not in that instance, clearly.

SOCRATES: Shall we examine other instances?

HIPPIAS: Certainly, if you are disposed.

SOCRATES: Are you not also skilled in geometry?


SOCRATES: Well, and does not the same hold in that science also? Is
not the same person best able to speak falsely or to speak truly about
diagrams; and he is--the geometrician?


SOCRATES: He and no one else is good at it?

HIPPIAS: Yes, he and no one else.

SOCRATES: Then the good and wise geometer has this double power in the
highest degree; and if there be a man who is false about diagrams the
good man will be he, for he is able to be false; whereas the bad is
unable, and for this reason is not false, as has been admitted.


SOCRATES: Once more--let us examine a third case; that of the
astronomer, in whose art, again, you, Hippias, profess to be a still
greater proficient than in the preceding--do you not?

HIPPIAS: Yes, I am.

SOCRATES: And does not the same hold of astronomy?

HIPPIAS: True, Socrates.

SOCRATES: And in astronomy, too, if any man be able to speak falsely
he will be the good astronomer, but he who is not able will not speak
falsely, for he has no knowledge.

HIPPIAS: Clearly not.

SOCRATES: Then in astronomy also, the same man will be true and false?

HIPPIAS: It would seem so.

SOCRATES: And now, Hippias, consider the question at large about all
the sciences, and see whether the same principle does not always hold.
I know that in most arts you are the wisest of men, as I have heard you
boasting in the agora at the tables of the money-changers, when you were
setting forth the great and enviable stores of your wisdom; and you said
that upon one occasion, when you went to the Olympic games, all that you
had on your person was made by yourself. You began with your ring, which
was of your own workmanship, and you said that you could engrave rings;
and you had another seal which was also of your own workmanship, and
a strigil and an oil flask, which you had made yourself; you said also
that you had made the shoes which you had on your feet, and the cloak
and the short tunic; but what appeared to us all most extraordinary and
a proof of singular art, was the girdle of your tunic, which, you said,
was as fine as the most costly Persian fabric, and of your own weaving;
moreover, you told us that you had brought with you poems, epic, tragic,
and dithyrambic, as well as prose writings of the most various kinds;
and you said that your skill was also pre-eminent in the arts which
I was just now mentioning, and in the true principles of rhythm and
harmony and of orthography; and if I remember rightly, there were a
great many other accomplishments in which you excelled. I have forgotten
to mention your art of memory, which you regard as your special glory,
and I dare say that I have forgotten many other things; but, as I was
saying, only look to your own arts--and there are plenty of them--and to
those of others; and tell me, having regard to the admissions which
you and I have made, whether you discover any department of art or any
description of wisdom or cunning, whichever name you use, in which the
true and false are different and not the same: tell me, if you can, of
any. But you cannot.

HIPPIAS: Not without consideration, Socrates.

SOCRATES: Nor will consideration help you, Hippias, as I believe; but
then if I am right, remember what the consequence will be.

HIPPIAS: I do not know what you mean, Socrates.

SOCRATES: I suppose that you are not using your art of memory, doubtless
because you think that such an accomplishment is not needed on the
present occasion. I will therefore remind you of what you were saying:
were you not saying that Achilles was a true man, and Odysseus false and


SOCRATES: And now do you perceive that the same person has turned out to
be false as well as true? If Odysseus is false he is also true, and if
Achilles is true he is also false, and so the two men are not opposed to
one another, but they are alike.

HIPPIAS: O Socrates, you are always weaving the meshes of an argument,
selecting the most difficult point, and fastening upon details instead
of grappling with the matter in hand as a whole. Come now, and I will
demonstrate to you, if you will allow me, by many satisfactory proofs,
that Homer has made Achilles a better man than Odysseus, and a truthful
man too; and that he has made the other crafty, and a teller of many
untruths, and inferior to Achilles. And then, if you please, you shall
make a speech on the other side, in order to prove that Odysseus is the
better man; and this may be compared to mine, and then the company will
know which of us is the better speaker.

SOCRATES: O Hippias, I do not doubt that you are wiser than I am. But I
have a way, when anybody else says anything, of giving close attention
to him, especially if the speaker appears to me to be a wise man. Having
a desire to understand, I question him, and I examine and analyse and
put together what he says, in order that I may understand; but if the
speaker appears to me to be a poor hand, I do not interrogate him, or
trouble myself about him, and you may know by this who they are whom I
deem to be wise men, for you will see that when I am talking with a wise
man, I am very attentive to what he says; and I ask questions of him,
in order that I may learn, and be improved by him. And I could not help
remarking while you were speaking, that when you recited the verses in
which Achilles, as you argued, attacks Odysseus as a deceiver, that you
must be strangely mistaken, because Odysseus, the man of wiles, is
never found to tell a lie; but Achilles is found to be wily on your own
showing. At any rate he speaks falsely; for first he utters these words,
which you just now repeated,--

'He is hateful to me even as the gates of death who thinks one thing and
says another:'--

And then he says, a little while afterwards, he will not be persuaded by
Odysseus and Agamemnon, neither will he remain at Troy; but, says he,--

'To-morrow, when I have offered sacrifices to Zeus and all the Gods,
having loaded my ships well, I will drag them down into the deep; and
then you shall see, if you have a mind, and if such things are a care
to you, early in the morning my ships sailing over the fishy Hellespont,
and my men eagerly plying the oar; and, if the illustrious shaker of the
earth gives me a good voyage, on the third day I shall reach the fertile

And before that, when he was reviling Agamemnon, he said,--

'And now to Phthia I will go, since to return home in the beaked ships
is far better, nor am I inclined to stay here in dishonour and amass
wealth and riches for you.'

But although on that occasion, in the presence of the whole army, he
spoke after this fashion, and on the other occasion to his companions,
he appears never to have made any preparation or attempt to draw down
the ships, as if he had the least intention of sailing home; so nobly
regardless was he of the truth. Now I, Hippias, originally asked you
the question, because I was in doubt as to which of the two heroes was
intended by the poet to be the best, and because I thought that both of
them were the best, and that it would be difficult to decide which was
the better of them, not only in respect of truth and falsehood, but of
virtue generally, for even in this matter of speaking the truth they are
much upon a par.

HIPPIAS: There you are wrong, Socrates; for in so far as Achilles speaks
falsely, the falsehood is obviously unintentional. He is compelled
against his will to remain and rescue the army in their misfortune. But
when Odysseus speaks falsely he is voluntarily and intentionally false.

SOCRATES: You, sweet Hippias, like Odysseus, are a deceiver yourself.

HIPPIAS: Certainly not, Socrates; what makes you say so?

SOCRATES: Because you say that Achilles does not speak falsely from
design, when he is not only a deceiver, but besides being a braggart,
in Homer's description of him is so cunning, and so far superior to
Odysseus in lying and pretending, that he dares to contradict himself,
and Odysseus does not find him out; at any rate he does not appear to
say anything to him which would imply that he perceived his falsehood.

HIPPIAS: What do you mean, Socrates?

SOCRATES: Did you not observe that afterwards, when he is speaking to
Odysseus, he says that he will sail away with the early dawn; but to
Ajax he tells quite a different story?

HIPPIAS: Where is that?

SOCRATES: Where he says,--

'I will not think about bloody war until the son of warlike Priam,
illustrious Hector, comes to the tents and ships of the Myrmidons,
slaughtering the Argives, and burning the ships with fire; and about
my tent and dark ship, I suspect that Hector, although eager for the
battle, will nevertheless stay his hand.'

Now, do you really think, Hippias, that the son of Thetis, who had been
the pupil of the sage Cheiron, had such a bad memory, or would have
carried the art of lying to such an extent (when he had been assailing
liars in the most violent terms only the instant before) as to say to
Odysseus that he would sail away, and to Ajax that he would remain, and
that he was not rather practising upon the simplicity of Odysseus, whom
he regarded as an ancient, and thinking that he would get the better of
him by his own cunning and falsehood?

HIPPIAS: No, I do not agree with you, Socrates; but I believe that
Achilles is induced to say one thing to Ajax, and another to Odysseus in
the innocence of his heart, whereas Odysseus, whether he speaks falsely
or truly, speaks always with a purpose.

SOCRATES: Then Odysseus would appear after all to be better than

HIPPIAS: Certainly not, Socrates.

SOCRATES: Why, were not the voluntary liars only just now shown to be
better than the involuntary?

HIPPIAS: And how, Socrates, can those who intentionally err, and
voluntarily and designedly commit iniquities, be better than those who
err and do wrong involuntarily? Surely there is a great excuse to be
made for a man telling a falsehood, or doing an injury or any sort of
harm to another in ignorance. And the laws are obviously far more severe
on those who lie or do evil, voluntarily, than on those who do evil

SOCRATES: You see, Hippias, as I have already told you, how pertinacious
I am in asking questions of wise men. And I think that this is the only
good point about me, for I am full of defects, and always getting wrong
in some way or other. My deficiency is proved to me by the fact that
when I meet one of you who are famous for wisdom, and to whose wisdom
all the Hellenes are witnesses, I am found out to know nothing. For
speaking generally, I hardly ever have the same opinion about anything
which you have, and what proof of ignorance can be greater than to
differ from wise men? But I have one singular good quality, which is my
salvation; I am not ashamed to learn, and I ask and enquire, and am very
grateful to those who answer me, and never fail to give them my grateful
thanks; and when I learn a thing I never deny my teacher, or pretend
that the lesson is a discovery of my own; but I praise his wisdom, and
proclaim what I have learned from him. And now I cannot agree in what
you are saying, but I strongly disagree. Well, I know that this is my
own fault, and is a defect in my character, but I will not pretend to
be more than I am; and my opinion, Hippias, is the very contrary of what
you are saying. For I maintain that those who hurt or injure mankind,
and speak falsely and deceive, and err voluntarily, are better far
than those who do wrong involuntarily. Sometimes, however, I am of the
opposite opinion; for I am all abroad in my ideas about this matter, a
condition obviously occasioned by ignorance. And just now I happen to be
in a crisis of my disorder at which those who err voluntarily appear to
me better than those who err involuntarily. My present state of mind
is due to our previous argument, which inclines me to believe that in
general those who do wrong involuntarily are worse than those who do
wrong voluntarily, and therefore I hope that you will be good to me, and
not refuse to heal me; for you will do me a much greater benefit if you
cure my soul of ignorance, than you would if you were to cure my body of
disease. I must, however, tell you beforehand, that if you make a long
oration to me you will not cure me, for I shall not be able to follow
you; but if you will answer me, as you did just now, you will do me a
great deal of good, and I do not think that you will be any the worse
yourself. And I have some claim upon you also, O son of Apemantus, for
you incited me to converse with Hippias; and now, if Hippias will not
answer me, you must entreat him on my behalf.

EUDICUS: But I do not think, Socrates, that Hippias will require any
entreaty of mine; for he has already said that he will refuse to answer
no man.--Did you not say so, Hippias?

HIPPIAS: Yes, I did; but then, Eudicus, Socrates is always troublesome
in an argument, and appears to be dishonest. (Compare Gorgias;

SOCRATES: Excellent Hippias, I do not do so intentionally (if I did,
it would show me to be a wise man and a master of wiles, as you would
argue), but unintentionally, and therefore you must pardon me; for, as
you say, he who is unintentionally dishonest should be pardoned.

EUDICUS: Yes, Hippias, do as he says; and for our sake, and also that
you may not belie your profession, answer whatever Socrates asks you.

HIPPIAS: I will answer, as you request me; and do you ask whatever you

SOCRATES: I am very desirous, Hippias, of examining this question, as to
which are the better--those who err voluntarily or involuntarily? And if
you will answer me, I think that I can put you in the way of approaching
the subject: You would admit, would you not, that there are good


SOCRATES: And there are bad runners?


SOCRATES: And he who runs well is a good runner, and he who runs ill is
a bad runner?

HIPPIAS: Very true.

SOCRATES: And he who runs slowly runs ill, and he who runs quickly runs


SOCRATES: Then in a race, and in running, swiftness is a good, and
slowness is an evil quality?

HIPPIAS: To be sure.

SOCRATES: Which of the two then is a better runner? He who runs slowly
voluntarily, or he who runs slowly involuntarily?

HIPPIAS: He who runs slowly voluntarily.

SOCRATES: And is not running a species of doing?

HIPPIAS: Certainly.

SOCRATES: And if a species of doing, a species of action?


SOCRATES: Then he who runs badly does a bad and dishonourable action in
a race?

HIPPIAS: Yes; a bad action, certainly.

SOCRATES: And he who runs slowly runs badly?


SOCRATES: Then the good runner does this bad and disgraceful action
voluntarily, and the bad involuntarily?

HIPPIAS: That is to be inferred.

SOCRATES: Then he who involuntarily does evil actions, is worse in a
race than he who does them voluntarily?

HIPPIAS: Yes, in a race.

SOCRATES: Well, but at a wrestling match--which is the better wrestler,
he who falls voluntarily or involuntarily?

HIPPIAS: He who falls voluntarily, doubtless.

SOCRATES: And is it worse or more dishonourable at a wrestling match, to
fall, or to throw another?

HIPPIAS: To fall.

SOCRATES: Then, at a wrestling match, he who voluntarily does base
and dishonourable actions is a better wrestler than he who does them

HIPPIAS: That appears to be the truth.

SOCRATES: And what would you say of any other bodily exercise--is not he
who is better made able to do both that which is strong and that which
is weak--that which is fair and that which is foul?--so that when
he does bad actions with the body, he who is better made does them
voluntarily, and he who is worse made does them involuntarily.

HIPPIAS: Yes, that appears to be true about strength.

SOCRATES: And what do you say about grace, Hippias? Is not he who is
better made able to assume evil and disgraceful figures and postures
voluntarily, as he who is worse made assumes them involuntarily?


SOCRATES: Then voluntary ungracefulness comes from excellence of the
bodily frame, and involuntary from the defect of the bodily frame?


SOCRATES: And what would you say of an unmusical voice; would you prefer
the voice which is voluntarily or involuntarily out of tune?

HIPPIAS: That which is voluntarily out of tune.

SOCRATES: The involuntary is the worse of the two?


SOCRATES: And would you choose to possess goods or evils?


SOCRATES: And would you rather have feet which are voluntarily or
involuntarily lame?

HIPPIAS: Feet which are voluntarily lame.

SOCRATES: But is not lameness a defect or deformity?


SOCRATES: And is not blinking a defect in the eyes?


SOCRATES: And would you rather always have eyes with which you might
voluntarily blink and not see, or with which you might involuntarily

HIPPIAS: I would rather have eyes which voluntarily blink.

SOCRATES: Then in your own case you deem that which voluntarily acts
ill, better than that which involuntarily acts ill?

HIPPIAS: Yes, certainly, in cases such as you mention.

SOCRATES: And does not the same hold of ears, nostrils, mouth, and of
all the senses--those which involuntarily act ill are not to be desired,
as being defective; and those which voluntarily act ill are to be
desired as being good?

HIPPIAS: I agree.

SOCRATES: And what would you say of instruments;--which are the better
sort of instruments to have to do with?--those with which a man acts
ill voluntarily or involuntarily? For example, had a man better have a
rudder with which he will steer ill, voluntarily or involuntarily?

HIPPIAS: He had better have a rudder with which he will steer ill

SOCRATES: And does not the same hold of the bow and the lyre, the flute
and all other things?

HIPPIAS: Very true.

SOCRATES: And would you rather have a horse of such a temper that you
may ride him ill voluntarily or involuntarily?

HIPPIAS: I would rather have a horse which I could ride ill voluntarily.

SOCRATES: That would be the better horse?


SOCRATES: Then with a horse of better temper, vicious actions would be
produced voluntarily; and with a horse of bad temper involuntarily?

HIPPIAS: Certainly.

SOCRATES: And that would be true of a dog, or of any other animal?


SOCRATES: And is it better to possess the mind of an archer who
voluntarily or involuntarily misses the mark?

HIPPIAS: Of him who voluntarily misses.

SOCRATES: This would be the better mind for the purposes of archery?


SOCRATES: Then the mind which involuntarily errs is worse than the mind
which errs voluntarily?

HIPPIAS: Yes, certainly, in the use of the bow.

SOCRATES: And what would you say of the art of medicine;--has not the
mind which voluntarily works harm to the body, more of the healing art?


SOCRATES: Then in the art of medicine the voluntary is better than the


SOCRATES: Well, and in lute-playing and in flute-playing, and in all
arts and sciences, is not that mind the better which voluntarily does
what is evil and dishonourable, and goes wrong, and is not the worse
that which does so involuntarily?

HIPPIAS: That is evident.

SOCRATES: And what would you say of the characters of slaves? Should we
not prefer to have those who voluntarily do wrong and make mistakes,
and are they not better in their mistakes than those who commit them


SOCRATES: And should we not desire to have our own minds in the best
state possible?


SOCRATES: And will our minds be better if they do wrong and make
mistakes voluntarily or involuntarily?

HIPPIAS: O, Socrates, it would be a monstrous thing to say that
those who do wrong voluntarily are better than those who do wrong

SOCRATES: And yet that appears to be the only inference.

HIPPIAS: I do not think so.

SOCRATES: But I imagined, Hippias, that you did. Please to answer once
more: Is not justice a power, or knowledge, or both? Must not justice,
at all events, be one of these?


SOCRATES: But if justice is a power of the soul, then the soul which has
the greater power is also the more just; for that which has the greater
power, my good friend, has been proved by us to be the better.

HIPPIAS: Yes, that has been proved.

SOCRATES: And if justice is knowledge, then the wiser will be the juster
soul, and the more ignorant the more unjust?


SOCRATES: But if justice be power as well as knowledge--then will not
the soul which has both knowledge and power be the more just, and that
which is the more ignorant be the more unjust? Must it not be so?

HIPPIAS: Clearly.

SOCRATES: And is not the soul which has the greater power and wisdom
also better, and better able to do both good and evil in every action?

HIPPIAS: Certainly.

SOCRATES: The soul, then, which acts ill, acts voluntarily by power and
art--and these either one or both of them are elements of justice?

HIPPIAS: That seems to be true.

SOCRATES: And to do injustice is to do ill, and not to do injustice is
to do well?


SOCRATES: And will not the better and abler soul when it does wrong, do
wrong voluntarily, and the bad soul involuntarily?

HIPPIAS: Clearly.

SOCRATES: And the good man is he who has the good soul, and the bad man
is he who has the bad?


SOCRATES: Then the good man will voluntarily do wrong, and the bad man
involuntarily, if the good man is he who has the good soul?

HIPPIAS: Which he certainly has.

SOCRATES: Then, Hippias, he who voluntarily does wrong and disgraceful
things, if there be such a man, will be the good man?

HIPPIAS: There I cannot agree with you.

SOCRATES: Nor can I agree with myself, Hippias; and yet that seems to be
the conclusion which, as far as we can see at present, must follow from
our argument. As I was saying before, I am all abroad, and being in
perplexity am always changing my opinion. Now, that I or any ordinary
man should wander in perplexity is not surprising; but if you wise men
also wander, and we cannot come to you and rest from our wandering, the
matter begins to be serious both to us and to you.

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