Socrates (470-399 BCE) represents a new beginning in ancient philosophy. He focused intellectual attention on issues connected to living a good life. What we know about Socrates is based mostly on Plato's early dialogues. (Plato's dialogues have survived in their entirety. This is true of the work of no other philosopher in the first two periods of ancient philosophy.)
Plato and Socrates
Plato is the primary witness for Socrates.
Others wrote about Socrates, but Plato's early dialogues are traditionally thought to provide the most authoritative account. Keep in mind, though, that since Socrates himself wrote nothing, there is no straightforward way to determine how much the character Socrates (who appears in the Platonic dialogues) resembles the historical figure (who lived and died). There must be some resemblance. Otherwise there would be no reason for the name, but the inference from what the character says to what the historical figure thought is indirect.
To clarify the nature of this inference, it is useful to
state and contrast two models for understanding the
relationship between Plato and Socrates.
The apprenticeship model has its basis in the fact that Plato's dialogues look to many modern readers like records of historical conversations. This can encourage the reader to think that Plato is imitating Socrates' conversations in the way an apprentice imitates his master by creating an imitation of a product the master created previously. Another model is the assessment model. This model has its basis in the view that Socrates was charismatic but also extremely perplexing. On the assessment model, Plato is not first and foremost imitating Socrates. Instead, he is trying to work out what Socrates was trying to say but never succeeded in saying clearly. This is true even in the Apology, which is often thought to provide the strongest evidence for what the historical Socrates thought.
I favor the assessment model. Plato did not write to imitate historical conversations. His aim is to understand Socrates and show he was onto something important.
The Sources and Language of the Platonic Dialogues
The oldest sources for the text of Plato are the papyri from
the second and third century CE, but they contain
only fragments of the text. (Sheets of papyrus were made from the pith of the papyrus plant and
used for writing. The English 'papyrus' transliterates the Greek
The main sources for the text are the Byzantine manuscripts from the ninth
century CE in Greek-speaking areas ruled from Constantinople.
(Between 324 and 330, the Roman emperor Constantine I transferred
the main capital from Rome to Byzantium, later known as Constantinople, the
"City of Constantine.")
Knowledge of Plato spread from the Byzantine Empire
to Italy and the rest of western Europe during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.
The language of Plato's dialogues is Attic Greek. This is one of the four dialects occur in the earliest records: Attic-Ionic, Aeolic, Arcadian, and Doric. Attic Greek (which is a subdivision of Attic-Ionic) was spoken in Athens, the home of Socrates and Plato. Attic Greek came to be recognized as the literary language, since the great literary figures of ancient Greece (including Plato) were Athenian and wrote in the Attic dialectic. This dialectic became the basis for a common Greek language, called koine (κοινή, from κοινός "common"), which, by the Christian era, was spoken over much the Mediterranean world. It is the language of the New Testament. Through its use in Constantinople, the eastern capitol of the Roman empire, it formed the basis of the language of Byzantine literature. Koine was gradually replaced by other languages of the Mediterranean, primarily Latin in the west and Arabic in the east. Today the Greek spoken in modern Athens is the sole surviving form of the ancient language.
The numbers in translations of Plato are Stephanus numbers. They refer to an edition published in 1578 by Henri Estienne, whose last name in Latin is Stephanus. Each page is split into two columns. The inner one is the Greek text. The outer one is a Latin translation. The letters (A to E) between the two divide the text into five sections. In the image, the book is open to 32 and 33 of the Timaeus. In these pages, Timaeus describes the construction of the "cosmos" (κοσμος).
The modern edition of the Platonic corpus is John Burnet's Oxford Classical Text.
Translations of the Platonic Dialogues into English
The standard collection of English translations of Plato is Plato. Complete Works edited by John M. Cooper and D. S. Hutchinson (Hackett Publishing Company, 1997). However, it should not be thought automatically that these translations are the best translations available. Translation is not easy, especially for philosophical texts. Translators almost inevitably write some of their interpretation of the philosophy into the text of the translation. For this reason, it is often helpful to look at more than one translation and also to look at some of the older translations.
In this course, we use the (freely available)
translations in the
Library. These translations have some problems, but
they are more than good enough for this part of the
course. Further, the English is matched with the Greek text that is itself linked
to the LSJ Greek-English Lexicon. This allows us to check the translations.
(The first editor of the LSJ, Henry George Liddell (1811-1898), was Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, and the father of Alice Liddell, the eponymous Alice of the writings of Lewis Carroll.)
Selected Passages from the Early Platonic Dialogues
In general, it is not feasible for students to read these dialogues in their entirety in the short time allotted in a semester course. This is unfortunate. Many of Plato's dialogues are not only important in the history of philosophy, but are wonderful pieces of literature in their own right. They are smart and exhibit a sophisticated sense of humor.
The list below is a selection of the passages that constitute the focus in this unit of the course. It is helpful to read the context in which these passages occur in the dialogues.
1. Love of Wisdom
Apology 29d-30c. I shall never give up "philosophy" (φιλοσοφία).
• Socrates is a "lover of wisdom" (φιλόσοφος).
• The Greek word φιλόσοφος is a compound that applies to a person who arranges his life around "wisdom" (σοφία). It is rare in the extant literature until Plato's dialogues.
• The "love of wisdom" (φιλοσοφία) involves a certain asking and answering of questions.
• The point of asking and answering these questions is to ensure that the "soul" (ψυχή) has "virtue" (ἀρετή).
"[I]f you should say to me in reply to this: 'Socrates, this time we will not do as Anytus says, but we will let you go, on this condition, however, that you no longer spend your time in this investigation or in philosophy, and if you are caught doing so again you shall die'; if you should let me go on this condition which I have mentioned, I should say to you, 'Men of Athens, I respect and love you, but I shall obey the god rather than you, and while I live and am able to continue, I shall never give up philosophy (φιλοσοφῶν) or stop exhorting you and pointing out the truth to any one of you whom I may meet, saying in my accustomed way: 'Most excellent man, are you who are a citizen of Athens, the greatest of cities and the most famous for wisdom and power, not ashamed to care for the acquisition of wealth and for reputation and honor, when you neither care nor take thought for wisdom and truth and the perfection of your soul (ψυχῆς)?' And if any of you argues the point, and says he does care, I shall not let him go at once, nor shall I go away, but I shall question and examine and cross-examine him, and if I find that he does not possess virtue (ἀρετήν), but says he does, I shall rebuke him for scorning the things that are of most importance and caring more for what is of less worth. This I shall do to whomever I meet, young and old, foreigner and citizen, but most to the citizens, inasmuch as you are more nearly related to me. For know that the god commands me to do this, and I believe that no greater good ever came to pass in the city than my service to the god. For I go about doing nothing else than urging you, young and old, not to care for your persons or your property more than for the perfection of your souls, or even so much; and I tell you that virtue does not come from money, but from virtue comes money and all other good things to man, both to the individual and to the state. If by saying these things I corrupt the youth, these things must be injurious; but if anyone asserts that I say other things than these, he says what is untrue. Therefore I say to you, men of Athens, either do as Anytus tells you, or not, and either acquit me, or not, knowing that I shall not change my conduct even if I am to die many times over."
Euthydemus 281d-282a. We should care about "wisdom" (σοφία) most of all.
"To sum up then, Cleinias, it seems that, as regards the whole lot of things which at first we termed goods, the discussion they demand is not on the question of how they are in themselves and by nature goods, but rather, I conceive, as follows: if they are guided by ignorance, they are greater evils than their opposites, according as they are more capable of ministering to their evil guide; whereas if understanding and wisdom (φρόνησίς τε καὶ σοφία) guide them, they are greater goods; but in themselves neither sort is of any worth.
I think the case appears to be as you suggest, Socrates.
Now what result do we get from our statements? Is it not precisely that, of all the other things, not one is either good or bad, but of these two, wisdom is good and ignorance bad?
Let us consider then, the further conclusion that lies before us. Since we are all eager to be happy (εὐδαίμονες), and since we were found to become so by not only using things but using them aright, while knowledge (ἐπιστήμη), we saw, was that which provided the rightness and good fortune, it seems that every man must prepare himself by all available means so that he may be as wise as possible. Is it not so?
Yes, he said."
Laches 194d. Socrates insists on the importance of "wisdom" (σοφία) often.
"I have often heard you say, Socrates, that every man is good (ἀγαθὸς) in that wherein he is wise (σοφός), and bad in that wherein he is unlearned.
Well, that is true, Nicias, I must say."
Meno 88b-89a. "Virtue" (ἀρετή) is either wholly or partly "wisdom" (σοφία).
"Now tell me, Meno; such of these as you think are not knowledge, but different from knowledge--do they not sometimes harm us, and sometimes profit us? For example, courage, if it is courage apart from prudence, and only a sort of boldness: when a man is bold without sense, he is harmed; but when he has sense at the same time, he is profited, is he not?
And the same holds of temperance and intelligence: things learnt and coordinated with the aid of sense are profitable, but without sense they are harmful?
And in brief, all the undertakings and endurances of the soul, when guided by wisdom, end in happiness, but when folly guides, in the opposite?
So it seems.
Then if virtue is something that is in the soul, and must needs be profitable, it ought to be wisdom, seeing that all the properties of the soul are in themselves neither profitable nor harmful, but are made either one or the other by the addition of wisdom or folly; and hence, by this argument, virtue being profitable must be a sort of wisdom.
Then as to the other things, wealth and the like, that we mentioned just now as being sometimes good and sometimes harmful--are not these also made profitable or harmful by the soul according as she uses and guides them rightly or wrongly: just as, in the case of the soul generally, we found that the guidance of wisdom makes profitable the properties of the soul, while that of folly makes them harmful?
And the wise soul guides rightly, and the foolish erroneously?
That is so.
Then may we assert this as a universal rule, that in man all other things depend upon the soul, while the things of the soul herself depend upon wisdom, if they are to be good; and so by this account the profitable will be wisdom, and virtue, we say, is profitable?
Hence we conclude that virtue is either wholly or partly wisdom?
It seems to me that your statement, Socrates, is excellent."
Questions about the "love of wisdom" (φιλοσοφία)
• It seems clear that Socrates thought of himself as a "lover of wisdom"(φιλόσοφος), but it is much less clear what this is.
• What are the questions about?
• How does asking and answering questions instill "virtue" in the "soul"?
• What is the soul?
• What is it for the soul to have virtue?
• Why does the goodness of one's life depend on whether the soul has virtue?
2. The Search for Definitions ("...I shall question and examine and cross-examine him...")
• The questions are about "ethical" (ἠθικός) matters.
Euthyphro 4a-b, Euthyphro 4e-5c. Euthyphro thinks he has exact knowledge.
"Surely, Euthyphro, most people do not know where the right lies; for I fancy it is not everyone who can rightly do what you are doing, but only one who is already very far advanced in wisdom (σοφίας)."
"But, in the name of Zeus, Euthyphro, do you think your knowledge (ἐπίστασθαι) about divine laws and holiness and unholiness (ὁσίων τε καὶ ἀνοσίων) is so exact that, when the facts are as you say, you are not afraid of doing something unholy yourself in prosecuting your father for murder?
I should be of no use, Socrates, and Euthyphro would be in no way different from other men, if I did not have exact (ἀκριβῶς) knowledge about all such things.
Then the best thing for me, my admirable Euthyphro, is to become your pupil and, before the suit with Meletus comes on, to challenge him and say that I always thought it very important before to know about divine matters and that now, since he says I am doing wrong by acting carelessly and making innovations in matters of religion, I have become your pupil. And 'Meletus,' I should say, 'if you acknowledge that Euthyphro is wise in such matters, then believe that I also hold correct opinions, and do not bring me to trial; and if you do not acknowledge that, then bring a suit against him, my teacher, rather than against me, and charge him with corrupting the old, namely, his father and me, which he does by teaching me and by correcting and punishing his father.' And if he does not do as I ask and does not release me from the indictment or bring it against you in my stead, I could say in the court the same things I said in my challenge to him, could I not?
By Zeus, Socrates, if he should undertake to indict me, I fancy I should find his weak spot, and it would be much more a question about him in court than about me."
Euthyphro 5c-d. Tell me, then, Euthyphro, since you must know, what is piety?
"And I, my dear friend, perceiving this, wish to become your pupil; for I know that neither this fellow Meletus, nor anyone else, seems to notice you at all, but he has seen through me so sharply and so easily that he has indicted me for impiety (ἀσεβείας). Now in the name of Zeus, Euthyphro, tell me what you just now asserted that you knew so well. What do you say is the nature (ποῖόν) of piety (εὐσεβὲς) and impiety (ἀσεβὲς), both in relation to murder and to other things? Is not holiness (ὅσιον) always the same with itself in every action and, on the other hand, is not unholiness the opposite of all holiness, always the same with itself and whatever is to be unholy possessing some one characteristic (ἰδέαν) quality?
Tell me then, what do you say holiness is, and what unholiness?"
Euthyphro 6d-e. Tell me what the "form" (εἶδος) is so that I can look to it as a "model" (παράδειγμα).
"Now call to mind that this is not what I asked you, to tell me one or two of the many holy (ὁσίων) acts, but to tell the essential aspect (εἶδος), by which all holy acts are holy; for you said that all unholy acts were unholy and all holy ones holy by one aspect. Or don't you remember? I remember, Socrates. Tell me then what this aspect (ἰδέαν) is, that I may keep my eye fixed upon it and employ it as a model (παραδείγματι) and, if anything you or anyone else does agrees with it, may say that the act is holy, and if not, that it is unholy."
• Piety, justice, wisdom, and the other things Socrates talks and asks about are real.
Hippias Major 287c-d. What is "beauty" (καλόν)?
"[H]e would say, 'Stranger from Elis, is it not by justice that the just are just?' So answer, Hippias, as though he were asking the question.
I shall answer that it is by justice.
'Then this--I mean justice--is something?'
'Then, too, by wisdom the wise are wise and by the good all things are good, are they not?'
'And justice, wisdom, and so forth are something; for the just, wise, and so forth would not be such by them, if they were not something.'
To be sure, they are something.
'Then are not all beautiful things beautiful by the beautiful?'
Yes, by the beautiful.
By the beautiful, which is something?'
Yes, for what alternative is there?
'Tell me, then, stranger,' he will say, 'what is this, the beautiful?'"
• Meno has trouble telling Socrates what virtue is. He has trouble thinking that there is one thing that makes a human being good.
Meno 71e-73c. A whole swarm of virtues.
"Why, there is no difficulty, Socrates, in telling [you what virtue is]. First of all, if you take the virtue (ἀρετήν) of a man, it is easily stated that a man's virtue is this--that he be competent to manage the affairs of his city, and to manage them so as to benefit his friends and harm his enemies, and to take care to avoid suffering harm himself. Or take a woman's virtue: there is no difficulty in describing it as the duty of ordering the house well, looking after the property indoors, and obeying her husband. And the child has another virtue--one for the female, and one for the male; and there is another for elderly men--one, if you like, for freemen, and yet another for slaves. And there are very many other virtues besides, so that one cannot be at a loss to explain what virtue is; for it is according to each activity and age that every one of us, in whatever we do, has his virtue; and the same, I take it, Socrates, will hold also of vice.
I seem to be in a most lucky way, Meno; for in seeking one virtue I have discovered a whole swarm of virtues there in your keeping. Now, Meno, to follow this figure of a swarm, suppose I should ask you what is the real nature of the bee, and you replied that there are many different kinds of bees, and I rejoined: Do you say it is by being bees that they are of many and various kinds and differ from each other, or does their difference lie not in that, but in something else--for example, in their beauty or size or some other quality? Tell me, what would be your answer to this question?
Why, this--that they do not differ, as bees, the one from the other.
And if I went on to say: Well now, there is this that I want you to tell me, Meno: what do you call the quality by which they do not differ, but are all alike? You could find me an answer, I presume?
And likewise also with the virtues, however many and various they may be, they all have one common character whereby they are virtues, and on which one would of course be wise to keep an eye when one is giving a definitive answer to the question of what virtue really is. You take my meaning, do you not?
My impression is that I do; but still I do not yet grasp the meaning of the question as I could wish.
Is it only in the case of virtue, do you think, Meno, that one can say there is one kind belonging to a man, another to a woman, and so on with the rest, or is it just the same, too, in the case of health and size and strength? Do you consider that there is one health for a man, and another for a woman? Or, wherever we find health, is it of the same character universally, in a man or in anyone else?
I think that health is the same, both in man and in woman.
Then is it not so with size and strength also? If a woman is strong, she will be strong by reason of the same form and the same strength; by 'the same' I mean that strength does not differ as strength, whether it be in a man or in a woman. Or do you think there is any difference?
I do not.
And will virtue, as virtue, differ at all whether it be in a child or in an elderly person, in a woman or in a man?
I feel somehow, Socrates, that here we cease to be on the same ground as in those other cases.
Why? Were you not saying that a man's virtue is to manage a state well, and a woman's a house?
And is it possible to manage a state well, or a house, or anything at all, if you do not manage it temperately and justly (σωφρόνως καὶ δικαίως)?
Then whoever manages temperately and justly will manage with temperance and justice?
That must be.
Then both the woman and the man require the same qualities of justice and temperance, if they are to be good (ἀγαθοὶ).
And what of a child or an old man? Can they ever hope to be good if they are intemperate and unjust?
Only if they are temperate and just?
So all mankind are good in the same way; for they become good when they acquire the same qualities.
So it seems.
And I presume, if they had not the same virtue, they would not be good in the same way.
Republic I.336d. "[D]o you yourself answer, Socrates, and tell us what you say the just is. And don't you be telling me that it is that which ought to be, or the beneficial or the profitable or the gainful or the advantageous, but express clearly and precisely whatever you say. For I won't take from you any such drivel as that."
3. Theory of the Soul (Socratic Intellectualism)
• Socratic Intellectualism is the view that
all desire in the soul either is or stems from beliefs about what is good or what is bad. This
conception of desire is a form of "intellectualism" about desire because it understands desires in terms of beliefs. It is
"Socratic" because the
character Socrates seems to have this understanding of desire in the Protagoras.
• What human beings do is a matter of the states and processes in their "souls" (ψυχαί). In this way, human beings are psychological beings.
• Desire and belief are psychological states.
• Human beings control their actions by controlling their desires, and they control their desires by controlling their beliefs.
• In the soul, all desire is or stems from a belief about what is good and what is bad.
Republic I.353d-e. The soul has a "function" (ἔργον).
"Then next consider this. The soul, has it a work which you couldn't accomplish with anything else in the world, as for example, management (ἐπιμελεῖσθαι), rule (ἄρχειν), deliberation (βουλεύεσθαι), and the like, is there anything else than soul to which you could rightly assign these and say that they were its peculiar work?
Nothing else, Socrates.
And again life? Shall we say that too is the function (ἔργον) of the soul?
And do we not also say that there is a virtue (ἀρετήν) of the soul?
Will the soul ever accomplish its own work well if deprived of its own virtue, or is this impossible?
It is impossible.
Of necessity, then, a bad soul will govern and manage things badly while the good soul will in all these things do well.
Protagoras 352a-c. Knowledge is a ruler. It is not dragged around like a slave.
"Come, my good Protagoras, uncover some more of your thoughts: how are you in regard to knowledge (ἐπιστήμην)? Do you share the view that most people take of this, or have you some other? The opinion generally held of knowledge is something of this sort--that it is no strong or guiding or governing thing; it is not regarded as anything of that kind, but people think that, while a man often has knowledge in him, he is not governed by it, but by something else--now by passion (θυμόν), now by pleasure (ἡδονήν), now by pain, at times by love, and often by fear; their feeling about knowledge is just what they have about a slave, that it may be dragged about by any other force. Now do you agree with this view of it, or do you consider that knowledge is something noble and able to govern man, and that whoever learns what is good and what is bad will never be swayed by anything to act otherwise than as knowledge bids, and that intelligence (φρόνησιν) is a sufficient succor for mankind?"
Protagoras 358b-d. Human beings act on the basis of belief about what is good.
"[N]o one who has knowledge or thought of other actions as better than those he is doing, and as possible, will do as he proposes if he is free to do the better ones; and this yielding to oneself is nothing but ignorance, and mastery of oneself is as certainly wisdom (σοφία).
They all agreed.
Well then, by ignorance do you mean having a false opinion and being deceived about matters of importance (τὸ ψευδῆ ἔχειν δόξαν καὶ ἐψεῦσθαι περὶ τῶν πραγμάτων τῶν πολλοῦ ἀξίων)?
They all agreed to this also.
Then surely, no one willingly (ἑκὼν) goes after evil or what he thinks to be evil; it is not in human nature (ἐν ἀνθρώπου φύσει), apparently, to do so--to wish to go after what one thinks to be evil in preference to the good; and when compelled to choose one of two evils, nobody will choose the greater when he may the lesser.
All this met with the assent of everyone."
Protagoras 356c-e. The art of measurement versus the power of appearances.
"[P]lease answer me this: Does not the same size appear larger to your sight when near, and smaller when distant? And it is the same with thickness and number? And sounds of equal strength are greater when near, and smaller when distant? Now if our welfare consisted in doing and choosing things of large dimensions, and avoiding and not doing those of small, what would be our salvation in life? Would it be the art of measurement (ἡ μετρητικὴ τέχνη), or the power of appearance (ἡ τοῦ φαινομένου δύναμις)? Is it not the latter that leads us astray, as we saw, and many a time causes us to take things topsy-turvy and to have to change our minds both in our conduct and in our choice of great or small? Whereas the art of measurement would have made this appearance ineffective, and by showing us the truth would have brought our soul into the repose of abiding by the truth, and so would have saved our life. Would men acknowledge, in view of all this, that the art which saves our life is measurement, or some other?
It is measurement."
4. More passages on belief and desire
• Socrates does not always seem to say the same thing about belief and desire. Further,
by the time of the Republic (which is traditionally a middle dialogue), Plato has Socrates argue for
what is known as the Tripartite Theory of the Soul. The view of desire in this theory is inconsistent with
the Socratic Intellectualism the character seems to hold in the Protagoras.
Gorgias 466d-467a, 467c-468c. Doing what seems best without intelligence.
"For I say, Polus, that the orators and the despots alike have the least power in their cities, as I stated just now; since they do nothing that they wish (βούλονται) to do, practically speaking, though they do whatever they think to be best (δόξῃ βέλτιστον εἶναι). ... For do you, Polus, regard it as a good, when a man does what he thinks to be best, without having intelligence (νοῦν)? Is that what you call having a great power?
No, I do not.
Then will you prove that the orators have intelligence, and that rhetoric is an art (τέχνην), not a flattery, and so refute me? Else, if you are going to leave me unrefuted, the orators who do what they think to be best in their cities, and the despots, will find they have got no good in doing that, if indeed power is, as you say, a good, but doing what one thinks without intelligence is--as you yourself admit, do you not?--an evil."
"Is it your view, Polus, that people wish merely that which they do each time, or that which is the object of their doing what they do? For instance, do those who take medicine by doctor's orders wish, in your opinion, merely what they do,--to take the medicine and suffer the pain of it,--or rather to be healthy, which is the object of their taking it?
To be healthy, without a doubt.
And so with seafarers and such as pursue profit generally in trade; what they wish is not what they are doing at each moment--for who wishes to go on a voyage, and incur all its danger and trouble? It is rather, I conceive, the object of their voyage--to get wealth; since it is for wealth that they go on it.
And is it not just the same in every case? If a man does something for an object (ἕνεκά του), he does not wish (βούλεται) the thing that he does, but the thing for which (οὗ ἕνεκα) he does it.
Now is there any existent thing that is not either good or bad or between these--neither good nor bad?
Most assuredly nothing, Socrates.
Well, do you call wisdom and health and wealth and everything else of that kind good, and their opposites bad?
And by things neither good nor bad do you mean such things sometimes partake of the good, sometimes of the bad, and sometimes of neither--for example, sitting, walking, running, and sailing, or again, stones and sticks and anything else of that sort? These are what you mean, are they not? Or are there other things that you describe as neither good nor bad?
No, these are what I mean.
Then do people do these intermediate things, when they do them, for the sake of the good things, or the good things for the intermediate?
The intermediate, I presume, for the good.
Thus it is in pursuit of the good that we walk, when we walk, conceiving it to be better; or on the contrary, stand, when we stand, for the sake of the same thing, the good: is it not so?
And so we put a man to death, if we do put him to death, or expel him or deprive him of his property, because we think it better for us to do this than not?
So it is for the sake of the good that the doers of all these things do them?
And we have admitted that when we do things for an object, we do not wish those things, but the object for which we do them?
Then we do not wish to slaughter people or expel them from our cities or deprive them of their property as an act in itself, but if these things are beneficial we wish to do them, while if they are harmful, we do not wish them. For we wish what is good (τὰ γὰρ ἀγαθὰ βουλόμεθα), as you say; but what is neither good nor bad we do not wish, nor what is bad either, do we? Is what I say true in your opinion, Polus, or not? Why do you not answer?"
Meno 77b-78b. Everyone wishes for the good.
"Well, in my view, Socrates, virtue is, in the poet's words, 'to rejoice in things honorable and be able for them'; and that, I say, is virtue-- to desire (ἐπιθυμοῦντα) what is honorable and be able to procure it.
Do you say that he who desires the honorable is desirous of the good?
Implying that there are some who desire the bad, and others the good? Do not all men, in your opinion, my dear sir, desire the good?
I think not.
There are some who desire the bad?
Thinking the bad to be good, do you mean, or actually recognizing it to be bad, and desiring it nevertheless?
Both, I believe.
Do you really believe, Meno, that a man knows the bad to be bad, and still desires it?
What do you mean by 'desires'? Desires the possession of it?
Yes; what else could it be?
And does he think the bad benefits him who gets it, or does he know that it harms him who has it?
There are some who think the bad is a benefit, and others who know that it does harm.
And, in your opinion, do those who think the bad a benefit know that it is bad?
I do not think that at all.
Obviously those who are ignorant of the bad do not desire it, but only what they supposed to be good, though it is really bad; so that those who are ignorant of it and think it good are really desiring the good. Is not that so?
It would seem to be so in their case.
Well now, I presume those who, as you say, desire the bad, and consider that the bad harms him who gets it, know that they will be harmed by it?
They needs must.
But do they not hold that those who are harmed are miserable in proportion to the harm they suffer? That too must be.
And are not the miserable ill-starred (κακοδαίμων)?
I think so.
Then is there anyone who wishes (βούλεται) to be miserable and ill-starred?
I do not suppose there is, Socrates.
No one, then, Meno, wishes bad (οὐκ ἄρα βούλεται, ὦ Μένων, τὰ κακὰ οὐδείς), if no one wishes to be such an one: for what is being miserable but desiring bad and obtaining it?
It seems that what you say is true, Socrates, and that nobody wishes bad.
Well now, you were saying a moment ago that virtue is the wish and ability for good (ἡ ἀρετὴ βούλεσθαί τε τἀγαθὰ καὶ δύνασθαι;)?
Yes, I was.
One part of the statement--he wish--belongs to our common nature, and in this respect one man is no better than another (οὐκοῦν τοῦ λεχθέντος τὸ μὲν βούλεσθαι πᾶσιν ὑπάρχει, καὶ ταύτῃ γε οὐδὲν ὁ ἕτερος τοῦ ἑτέρου βελτίων;)?
5. More passages from the early dialogues
Euthyphro 14a-c. The "hint"--piety is what is appropriate with respect to the gods.
"I told you a while ago, Socrates, that it is a long task to learn accurately all about these things. However, I say simply that when one knows how to say and do what is gratifying to the gods, in praying and sacrificing, that is holiness, and such things bring salvation to individual families and to states; and the opposite of what is gratifying to the gods is impious, and that overturns and destroys everything.
You might, if you wished, Euthyphro, have answered much more briefly the chief part of my question. But it is plain that you do not care to instruct me. For now, when you were close upon it you turned aside; and if you had answered it, I should already have obtained from you all the instruction I need about holiness. But, as things are, the questioner must follow the one questioned wherever he leads. What do you say the holy, or holiness, is? Do you not say that it is a kind of science (ἐπιστήμην) of sacrificing and praying?
Euthyphro 15c-16a. We must ask again from the beginning.
"Then we must begin again at the beginning and ask what holiness is. Since I shall not willingly give up until I learn. And do not scorn me, but by all means apply your mind now to the utmost and tell me the truth; for you know, if anyone does, and like Proteus [= mythical figure who could answer all questions but changed shapes to escape from answering], you must be held until you speak. For if you had not clear knowledge of holiness and unholiness, you would surely not have undertaken to prosecute your aged father for murder for the sake of a servant. You would have been afraid to risk the anger of the gods, in case your conduct should be wrong, and would have been ashamed in the sight of men. But now I am sure you think you know what is holy and what is not. So tell me, most excellent Euthyphro, and do not conceal your thought.
Some other time, Socrates. Now I am in a hurry and it is time for me to go.
Oh my friend, what are you doing? You go away and leave me cast down from the high hope I had that I should learn from you what is holy, and what is not, and should get rid of Meletus's indictment by showing him that I have been made wise (σοφὸς) by Euthyphro about divine matters and am no longer through ignorance acting carelessly and making innovations in respect to them, and that I shall live a better life henceforth."
Republic I.354a-c. We must get straight on what justice is.
"I have not dined well, however--by my own fault, not yours, Thrasymachus. But just as gluttons snatch at every dish that is handed along and taste it before they have properly enjoyed the preceding, so I, methinks, before finding the first object of our inquiry--what justice (δίκαιον) is--let go of that and set out to consider something about it, namely whether it is vice and ignorance (κακία ἐστὶν καὶ ἀμαθία) or wisdom and virtue (σοφία καὶ ἀρετή); and again, when later the view was sprung upon us that injustice is more profitable (λυσιτελέστερον) than justice I could not refrain from turning to that from the other topic. So that for me the present outcome of the discussion is that I know nothing. For if I don't know what the just is, I shall hardly know whether it is a virtue or not, and whether its possessor is or is not happy (εὐδαίμων)."
Laches 179a-b. How can we make our children better?
"[W]e have resolved to give them our most constant care, and not--as most fathers do when their boys begin to be young men--let them run loose as their fancy leads them, but begin forthwith taking every possible care of them. Now, knowing that you too have sons, we thought that you above all men must have concerned yourselves with the question of the kind of upbringing that would make the best of them; and if by any chance you have not given your attention to the subject, we would remind you that it ought not to be neglected, and we invite you, Nicias and Laches, to join us in arranging some way of taking care of our sons."
Laches 184e. There is a right or wrong answer to this question.
"Suppose you had a consultation as to what your son's exercise should be for a coming contest, would you be guided by the majority of us, or by the one who happened to have trained and exercised under a good master?
By the latter, naturally, Socrates.
Would you be guided by him alone rather than the four of us?
Yes, for a question must be decided by knowledge (ἐπιστήμῃ), and not by numbers, if it is to have a right decision.
To be sure, Socrates."
Laches 190b-e. The question is about "virtue" (ἀρετή) and the "soul" (ψυχή).
"And you know, Laches, at this moment our two friends are inviting us to a
consultation as to the way in which virtue (ἀρετὴ) may be joined to their sons' souls,
and so make them better?
Then our first requisite is to know what virtue is? For surely, if we had no idea at all what virtue actually is, we could not possibly consult with anyone as to how he might best acquire it?
I certainly think not, Socrates.
Then we say, Laches, that we know what it is.
I suppose we must.
And of that which we know, I presume, we can also say what it is.
To be sure.
Let us not, therefore, my good friend, inquire forthwith about the whole of virtue, since that may well be too much for us; but let us first see if we are sufficiently provided with knowledge about some part of it. In all likelihood this will make our inquiry easier.
Yes, let us do as you propose, Socrates.
Then which of the parts of virtue shall we choose? Clearly, I think, that which the art of fighting in armor is supposed to promote; and that, of course, is generally supposed to be courage, is it not?
Yes, it generally is, to be sure.
Then let our first endeavor be, Laches, to say what courage (ἀνδρεία) is. After that we can proceed to inquire in what way our young men may obtain it, in so far as it is to be obtained by means of pursuits and studies. Come, try and tell me, as I suggest, what is courage."
6. Virtue in the soul and the traditional virtues
Is virtue one or many?
• What is the relation between virtue in the soul and justice and the other traditional virtues?
"And now, Protagoras, there is one little thing wanting to the completeness of what I have got, so please answer me this. You say that virtue (ἀρετὴν) may be taught, and if there is anybody in the world who could convince me, you are the man: but there was a point in your speech at which I wondered, and on which my spirit would fain be satisfied. You said that Zeus had sent justice (δικαιοσύνην) and shame (αἰδῶ) to mankind, and furthermore it was frequently stated in your discourse that justice, temperance, holiness and the rest were all but one single thing, virtue: pray, now proceed to deal with these in more precise exposition, stating whether virtue is a single thing, of which justice and temperance and holiness are parts, or whether the qualities I have just mentioned are all names of the same single thing. This is what I am still hankering after."
7. Socrates versus the Sophists
Hippias Major 282b-e. There is money in teaching rhetoric.
"Hippias, I can bear you witness that you speak the truth, and that your art (τέχνη) really has progressed in the direction of ability to carry on public together with private affairs. For this man Gorgias, the sophist from Leontini, came here from home in the public capacity of envoy, as being best able of all the citizens of Leontini to attend to the interests of the community, and it was the general opinion that he spoke excellently in the public assembly, and in his private capacity, by giving exhibitions and associating with the young, he earned and received a great deal of money from this city. Or, if you like, our friend here, Prodicus, often went to other places in a public capacity, and the last time, just lately, when he came here in a public capacity from Ceos, he gained great reputation by his speaking before the Council, and in his private capacity, by giving exhibitions and associating with the young, he received a marvelous sum of money. None of the ancients ever thought fit and right to exact the money as payment for his wisdom (σοφίας) or to give exhibitions among people of various places; so simple-minded were they, and so unconscious of the fact that money is of the greatest value. But either of these two has earned more money from his wisdom than any artisan from his art. And even before these Protagoras did the same.
Why, Socrates, you know nothing of the beauties of this. For if you were to know how much money I have made, you would be amazed. I won't mention the rest, but once, when I went to Sicily, although Protagoras was staying there and had a great reputation and was the older, I, who was much younger, made in a very short time more than one hundred and fifty minas [= about what an unskilled worker could make in a lifetime], and in one very small place, Inycus [in southwest Sicily], more than twenty minas; and when I came home, I took this and gave it to my father, so that he and the other citizens were overwhelmed with amazement. And I pretty well think I have made more money than any other two sophists together."
Protagoras 313c-e. The Sophists sell "teachings" for the soul.
"Then can it be, Hippocrates, that the sophist is really a sort of merchant or dealer in provisions on which a soul is nourished? For such is the view I take of him.
With what, Socrates, is a soul nourished?
With doctrines, presumably. And we must take care, my good friend, that the sophist, in commending his wares, does not deceive us, as both merchant and dealer do in the case of our bodily food. For among the provisions, you know, in which these men deal, not only are they themselves ignorant what is good or bad for the body, since in selling they commend them all, but the people who buy from them are so too, unless one happens to be a trainer or a doctor. And in the same way, those who take their doctrines the round of our cities, hawking them about to any odd purchaser who desires them, commend everything that they sell, and there may well be some of these too, my good sir, who are ignorant which of their wares is good or bad for the soul; and in just the same case are the people who buy from them, unless one happens to have a doctor's knowledge here also, but of the soul. So then, if you are well informed as to what is good or bad among these wares, it will be safe for you to buy doctrines from Protagoras or from anyone else you please: but if not, take care, my dear fellow, that you do not risk your greatest treasure on a toss of the dice."
Protagoras 318d-319a. Protagoras teaches "good judgment" (εὐβουλία) in private and public matters.
"[T]ell us for what, Protagoras, and in what connexion my friend Hippocrates, on any day of attendance at the classes of Protagoras, will go away a better man, and on each of the succeeding days will make a like advance.
You do right to ask that, while I am only too glad to answer those who ask the right question. For Hippocrates, if he comes to me, will not be treated as he would have been if he had joined the classes of an ordinary sophist. The generality of them maltreat the young; for when they have escaped from the arts they bring them back against their will and force them into arts, teaching them arithmetic and astronomy and geometry and music; whereas, if he applies to me, he will learn precisely and solely that for which he has come. That learning consists of good judgement in his own affairs, showing how best to order his own home; and in the affairs of his city, showing how he may have most influence on public affairs both in speech and in action."
Republic VI.493a-c. Those private teachers.
"Each of these private teachers who work for pay, whom the politicians call sophists (σοφιστὰς) and regard as their rivals, inculcates nothing else than these opinions (δόγματα) of the multitude which they opine when they are assembled and calls this knowledge wisdom. It is as if a man were acquiring the knowledge of the humors and desires of a great strong beast which he had in his keeping, how it is to be approached and touched, and when and by what things it is made most savage or gentle, yes, and the several sounds it is wont to utter on the occasion of each, and again what sounds uttered by another make it tame or fierce, and after mastering this knowledge by living with the creature and by lapse of time should call it wisdom, and should construct thereof a system and art and turn to the teaching of it, knowing nothing in reality about which of these opinions and desires is honorable or base, good or evil, just or unjust, but should apply all these terms to the judgments of the great beast, calling the things that pleased it good, and the things that vexed it bad, having no other account to render of them...."
8. Excerpts from Protagoras' "great speech"
Protagoras 320c-323a, 325c-326e.
• Zeus saves humankind from destruction.
"Thus far provided, men dwelt separately in the beginning, and cities there were none; so that they were being destroyed by the wild beasts, since these were in all ways stronger than they; and although their skill in handiwork was a sufficient aid in respect of food, in their warfare with the beasts it was defective; for as yet they had no civic (πολιτικὴν) art, which includes the art of war. So they sought to band themselves together and secure their lives by founding cities. Now as often as they were banded together they did wrong to one another through the lack of civic art, and thus they began to be scattered again and to perish. So Zeus, fearing that our race was in danger of utter destruction, sent Hermes to bring respect and right (αἰδῶ τε καὶ δίκην) among men, to the end that there should be regulation of cities and friendly ties to draw them together. Then Hermes asked Zeus in what manner then was he to give men right and respect: 'Am I to deal them out as the arts have been dealt? That dealing was done in such wise that one man possessing medical art is able to treat many ordinary men, and so with the other craftsmen. Am I to place among men right and respect in this way also, or deal them out to all?' 'To all,' replied Zeus; 'let all have their share: for cities cannot be formed if only a few have a share of these as of other arts. And make thereto a law of my ordaining, that he who cannot partake of respect and right shall die the death as a public pest.' Hence it comes about, Socrates, that people in cities, and especially in Athens, consider it the concern of a few to advise on cases of artistic excellence or good craftsmanship, and if anyone outside the few gives advice they disallow it, as you say, and not without reason, as I think: but when they meet for a consultation on civic art, where they should be guided throughout by justice (δικαιοσύνης) and good sense (σωφροσύνης), they naturally allow advice from everybody, since it is held that everyone should partake of this excellence (ἀρετῆς), or else that states cannot be."
• Manipulating the sense of "respect and right."
"As soon as one of them grasps what is said to him, the nurse, the mother, the tutor, and the father himself strive hard that the child may excel, and as each act and word occurs they teach and impress upon him that this is just, and that unjust, one thing noble, another base, one holy, another unholy (τὸ μὲν δίκαιον, τὸ δὲ ἄδικον, καὶ τόδε μὲν καλόν, τόδε δὲ αἰσχρόν, καὶ τόδε μὲν ὅσιον, τόδε δὲ ἀνόσιον), and that he is to do this, and not do that. If he readily obeys,--so; but if not, they treat him as a bent and twisted piece of wood and straighten him with threats and blows. After this they send them to school and charge the master to take far more pains over their children's good behavior than over their letters and harp-playing. The masters take pains accordingly, and the children, when they have learnt their letters and are getting to understand the written word as before they did only the spoken, are furnished with works of good poets to read as they sit in class, and are made to learn them off by heart: here they meet with many admonitions, many descriptions and praises and eulogies of good men in times past, that the boy in envy may imitate them and yearn to become even as they. Then also the music-masters, in a similar sort, take pains for their self-restraint, and see that their young charges do not go wrong: moreover, when they learn to play the harp, they are taught the works of another set of good poets, the song-makers, while the master accompanies them on the harp; and they insist on familiarizing the boys' souls (ψυχαῖς) with the rhythms and scales, that they may gain in gentleness, and by advancing in rhythmic and harmonic grace may be efficient in speech and action; for the whole of man's life requires the graces of rhythm and harmony. Again, over and above all this, people send their sons to a trainer, that having improved their bodies they may perform the orders of their minds, which are now in fit condition, and that they may not be forced by bodily faults to play the coward in wars and other duties. This is what people do, who are most able; and the most able are the wealthiest. Their sons begin school at the earliest age, and are freed from it at the latest. And when they are released from their schooling the city next compels them to learn the laws and to live according to them as after a pattern, that their conduct may not be swayed by their own light fancies, but just as writing-masters first draw letters in faint outline with the pen for their less advanced pupils, and then give them the copy-book and make them write according to the guidance of their lines, so the city sketches out for them the laws devised by good lawgivers of yore, and constrains them to govern and be governed according to these. She punishes anyone who steps outside these borders, and this punishment among you and in many other cities, from the corrective purpose of the prosecution, is called a Correction. Seeing then that so much care is taken in the matter of both private and public virtue, do you wonder, Socrates, and make it a great difficulty, that virtue may be taught? Surely there is no reason to wonder at that: you would have far greater reason, if it were not so."
"All the Athenians, then, as it seems, make them excellent, except myself, and I alone corrupt them. Is this what you mean, Meletus?
Very decidedly, that is what I mean, Socrates.
You have condemned me to great unhappiness! But answer me; does it seem to you to be so in the case of horses, that those who make them better are all mankind, and he who injures them some one person? Or, quite the opposite of this, that he who is able to make them better is some one person, or very few, the horse-trainers, whereas most people, if they have to do with and use horses, injure them? Is it not so, Meletus, both in the case of horses and in that of all other animals? Certainly it is, whether you and Anytus deny it or agree; for it would be a great state of blessedness in the case of the youth if one alone corrupts them, and the others do them good" (Apology 25a-25b).
9. Reason versus Experience
• In the Gorgias, unlike his practice in earlier dialogues, Socrates no longer just asks
questions. Now he advances his own views. He says that rhetoric is not an "art" but is
an ability that has its basis in "experience" (ἐμπειρία). Further,
he suggests that "wisdom" (σοφία) has its basis not in "experience" but in "reason."
Gorgias 545d-455a. Rhetoric provides belief without knowledge.
"Then do you think that having learnt and having believed, or learning and belief, are the same thing, or different?
In my opinion, Socrates, they are different.
And your opinion is right, as you can prove in this way: if some one asked you--Is there, Gorgias, a false and a true belief?--you would say, Yes, I imagine.
But now, is there a false and a true knowledge?
So it is evident again that knowledge and belief are not the same.
You are right.
But yet those who have learnt have been persuaded, as well as those who have believed.
That is so.
Then would you have us assume two forms of persuasion--one providing belief without knowledge, and the other sure knowledge?
Now which kind of persuasion is it that rhetoric creates in law courts or any public meeting on matters of right and wrong? The kind from which we get belief without knowledge, or that from which we get knowledge?
Obviously, I presume, Socrates, that from which we get belief.
Thus rhetoric, it seems, is a producer of persuasion for belief, not for instruction in the matter of right and wrong.
Gorgias 462b-c. Rhetoric, expertise, and experience.
"So answer me this, Socrates: since you think that Gorgias is at a loss about rhetoric (ῥητορικῆς), what is your own account of it?
Polus, are you asking what art (τέχνην) I call it?
None at all, I consider, Polus, if you would have the honest truth.
But what do you consider rhetoric to be?
A thing which you say--in the treatise which I read of late--'made art.'
What thing do you mean?
I mean a certain habitude (ἐμπειρίαν).
Then do you take rhetoric to be a habitude?
I do, if you have no other suggestion.
Habitude of what?
Of producing a kind of gratification and pleasure."
Gorgias 499e-500c. It takes an expert.
"And similarly, Callicles, in the case of pains, are some worthy and some base?
So it is the worthy pleasures and pains that we ought to choose in all our doings?
And the base ones not?
Because, you know, Polus and I, if you recollect, decided that everything we do should be for the sake of what is good. Do you agree with us in this view--that the good is the end of all our actions (τέλος εἶναι ἁπασῶν τῶν πράξεων τὸ ἀγαθόν), and it is for its sake that all other things should be done, and not it for theirs? Do you add your vote to ours, and make a third?
Then it is for the sake of what is good that we should do everything, including what is pleasant, not the good for the sake of the pleasant.
Now is it in every man's power to pick out which sort of pleasant things are good and which bad, or is professional skill (τεχνικοῦ) required in each case?
Then let us recall those former points I was putting to Polus and Gorgias. I said, if you remember, that there were certain industries, some of which extend only to pleasure, procuring that and no more, and ignorant of better and worse; while others know what is good and what bad. And I placed among those that are concerned with pleasure the habitude (ἐμπειρίαν), not art, of cookery, and among those concerned with good the art of medicine. Now by the sanctity of friendship, Callicles, do not on your part indulge in jesting with me, or give me random answers against your conviction, or again, take what I say as though I were jesting. For you see that our debate is upon a question which has the highest conceivable claims to the serious interest even of a person who has but little intelligence (νοῦν)--namely, what course of life is best; whether it should be that to which you invite me, with all those manly pursuits of speaking in Assembly and practicing rhetoric (ῥητορικὴν) and going in for politics after the fashion of you modern politicians, or this life of philosophy (φιλοσοφίᾳ)...."
Gorgias 500e-501c. Experience is not enough.
"Then try and come to a definite agreement with me on what I was saying to our friends here, and see if you now find that what I then said was true. I was saying, I think, that cookery seems to me not an art (τέχνη) but a habitude (ἐμπειρία), unlike medicine, which, I argued, has investigated the nature of the person whom she treats and the cause of her proceedings, and has some account to give of each of these things; so much for medicine: whereas the other, in respect of the pleasure to which her whole ministration is given, goes to work there in an utterly inartistic manner (ἀτέχνως), without having investigated at all either the nature or the cause of pleasure, and altogether irrationally (ἀλόγως)--with no thought, one may say, of differentiation, relying on routine and habitude (τριβῇ καὶ ἐμπειρίᾳ) for merely preserving a memory of what is wont to result; and that is how she is enabled to provide her pleasures."
"Now consider first whether you think that this account is satisfactory, and that there are certain other such occupations likewise, having to do with the soul; some artistic, with forethought for what is to the soul's best advantage, and others making light of this, but again, as in the former case, considering merely the soul's pleasure and how it may be contrived for her, neither inquiring which of the pleasures is a better or a worse one, nor caring for aught but mere gratification, whether for better or worse. For I, Callicles, hold that there are such, and for my part I call this sort of thing flattery, whether in relation to the body or to the soul or to anything else, whenever anyone ministers to its pleasure without regard for the better and the worse; and you now, do you support us with the same opinion on this matter, or do you gainsay us?"
10. The love of wisdom, justice, happiness, and the good life
Gorgias 470d-470e. Archelaus, the Great King,
happiness and justice.
"I suppose you see that Archelaus, son of Perdiccas, is ruler of Macedonia?
Well, if I do not, at any rate I hear it.
Do you consider him happy (εὐδαίμων) or wretched?
I do not know, Polus; I have never met the man.
What? Could you find out by meeting him, and cannot otherwise tell, straight off, that he is happy?
No, indeed, upon my word.
Then doubtless you will say, Socrates, that you do not know that even the Great King is happy.
Yes, and I shall be speaking the truth; for I do not know how he stands in point of education and justice (δικαιοσύνης).
Why, does happiness (εὐδαιμονία) entirely consist in that?
Yes, by my account, Polus; for a good and honorable man or woman (καλὸν καὶ ἀγαθὸν ἄνδρα καὶ γυναῖκα), I say, is happy, and an unjust and wicked one is wretched."
Gorgias 472c. Who is happy and who is not.
"For indeed the points which we have at issue are by no means of slight importance: rather, one might say, they are matters on which it is most honorable to have knowledge, and most disgraceful to lack it; for in sum they involve our knowing or not knowing who is happy (εὐδαίμων) and who is not."
Gorgias 482e-483d. Custom versus nature.
"For the most part, Socrates, these two--nature (φύσις) and convention (νόμος)--are opposed to each other.... By nature everything is fouler that is more evil, such as suffering wrong: doing it is fouler only by convention. Indeed this endurance of wrong done is not a man's part at all, but a poor slave's, for whom it is better to be dead than alive, as it is for anybody who, when wronged or insulted, is unable to protect himself or anyone else for whom he cares. But I suppose the makers of the laws are the weaker sort of men, and the more numerous. So it is with a view to themselves and their own interest that they make their laws and distribute their praises and censures; and to terrorize the stronger sort of folk who are able to get an advantage, and to prevent them from getting one over them, they tell them, that such aggrandizement is foul and unjust, and that wrongdoing is just this endeavor to get the advantage of one's neighbors: for I expect they are well content to see themselves on an equality, when they are so inferior. So this is why by convention it is termed unjust and foul to aim at an advantage over the majority, and why they call it wrongdoing: but nature, in my opinion, herself proclaims the fact that it is right for the better to have advantage of the worse, and the abler of the feebler."
Gorgias 500c. Which live is better?
"For you see, Callicles, our discussion is about this, and there is nothing even a man of little intelligence (νοῦν) would take more seriously: the issue of how to live one's life. The life you are recommending involves the manly activities of addressing the assembled people, rhetorical training (ῥητορικὴν), and the kind of political involvement you and your sort are engaged in. But the question is whether this is the correct way to live, or whether my life in the love of wisdom (φιλοσοφίᾳ) is better."
Gorgias 506c-507c. Virtue and happiness.
"I will resume our argument from the beginning. Are the pleasant and the good the same thing? Not the same, as Callicles and I agreed. Is the pleasant thing to be done for the sake of the good, or the good for the sake of the pleasant? The pleasant for the sake of the good. And is that thing pleasant by whose advent we are pleased, and that thing good by whose presence we are good? Certainly. But further, both we and everything else that is good, are good by the advent of some virtue? In my view this must be so, Callicles. But surely the virtue (ἀρετὴ) of each thing, whether of an implement or of a body, or again of a soul or any live creature, does not arrive most properly by accident, but by an order or rightness or art that is apportioned to each. Is that so? I certainly agree. Then the virtue of each thing is a matter of regular and orderly arrangement? I at least should say so. Hence it is a certain order (κόσμος) proper to each existent thing that by its advent in each makes it good? That is my view. So then a soul which has its own proper order is better than one which is unordered? Necessarily. But further, one that has order is orderly? Of course it will be. And the orderly one is temperate? Most necessarily. So the temperate soul is good. For my part, I can find nothing to say in objection to this, my dear Callicles; but if you can, do instruct me.
Proceed, good sir.
I say, then, that if the temperate (σώφρων) soul is good, one that is in the opposite state to this sensible one is bad; and that was the senseless and dissolute one. Certainly. And further, the sensible man will do what is fitting as regards both gods and men; for he could not be sensible if he did what was unfitting. That must needs be so. And again, when he does what is fitting (προσήκοντα) as regards men, his actions will be just (δίκαι᾽), and as regards the gods, pious (ὅσια); and he who does what is just and pious must needs be a just and pious man. That is so. And surely he must be brave also: for you know a sound or temperate mind is shown, not by pursuing and shunning what one ought not, but by shunning and pursuing what one ought, whether they be things or people or pleasures or pains, and by steadfastly persevering in one's duty; so that it follows of strict necessity, Callicles, that the temperate man, as shown in our exposition, being just and brave and pious, is the perfection of a good man; and that the good man does well and fairly whatever he does and that he who does well is blessed and happy (μακάριόν τε καὶ εὐδαίμονα), while the wicked man or evil-doer is wretched. And this must be the man who is in an opposite case to the temperate,--the licentious man whom you were commending."
Gorgias 512d. Like a doctor tried by children.
"I think I am one of few, not to say the only one, in Athens who attempts the true art of statesmanship (ἀληθῶς πολιτικῇ τέχνῃ), and the only man of the present time who manages affairs of state: hence, as the speeches that I make from time to time are not aimed at gratification, but at what is best instead of what is most pleasant, and as I do not care to deal in 'these pretty toys' that you recommend, I shall have not a word to say at the bar. The same case that I made out to Polus will apply to me; for I shall be like a doctor tried by a bench of children on a charge brought by a cook. Just consider what defence a person like that would make at such a pass, if the prosecutor should speak against him thus: 'Children, this fellow has done you all a great deal of personal mischief, and he destroys even the youngest of you by cutting and burning, and starves and chokes you to distraction, giving you nasty bitter draughts and forcing you to fast and thirst; not like me, who used to gorge you with abundance of nice things of every sort.' What do you suppose a doctor brought to this sad pass could say for himself? Or if he spoke the truth--'All this I did, my boys, for your health'--how great, think you, would be the outcry from such a bench as that? A loud one, would it not?"