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Followers of Euthydemus and Dionysodorus
Followers of Protagoras
Scene: A gymnasium in Athens about 430 BC in the afternoon. SOCRATES and CRITO are seated talking.
Who were those people
you were talking with yesterday
here in the gymnasium, Socrates?
I believe they were strangers.
You mean Euthydemus
and his brother Dionysodorus.
I don't know either of them,
but they must be the new immigration of sophists.
Where are they from?
and what is their wisdom?
I believe they are native Greeks.
They moved from Chios to Thurii,
but fleeing from there
they have been living
for many years in this area.
As to their wisdom, Crito,
they are wonderful;
they are truly all-around athletes,
for they fight not only
with their bodies and weapons,
they are able to fight with their minds too.
Also they can teach these arts, for a fee,
especially how to prepare a speech and speak
so as to win your case in the lawcourts.
They have mastered this art
of fighting with words,
and now no one even dares
to stand up to them,
for they can refute any argument
whether it be true or false.
So I'm thinking of learning
this skill from them.
But Socrates, aren't you too old?
Not at all, Crito;
I have proof to the contrary,
for they are not young
and learned the art themselves
within the last year or two.
However, I'm afraid
I may embarrass the two visitors,
as I did when I took lessons
from Connus, the harper,
for the boys made fun of him
as the elder's teacher.
Perhaps this fear may make them
unwilling to accept me.
So I'm trying to persuade some senior citizens
to come along with me for lessons,
and I'm hoping you'll go with me to school;
also we'll take your sons along,
for I'm sure the attractiveness of the youths
will entice them to include us in their classes.
I have no objection,
if you think it's a good idea.
But first will you describe to me their wisdom,
so that I may know ahead
what we are going to learn.
I can tell you at once
by relating to you what happened yesterday.
As Socrates speaks the scene dissolves to the day before in the same location. Socrates is sitting on a bench and is about to get up, but sits down again. EUTHYDEMUS and DIONYSODORUS enter with
some of their FOLLOWERS and walk about. Soon after, CLEINIAS and CTESIPPUS come in and sit by Socrates.
SOCRATES (voice over)
Well, by providence,
I was sitting alone here yesterday
and was about to leave
when I recognized my divine sign.
So I sat down again, and in a while
Euthydemus and Dionysodorus
came in with several others
whom I believe are their students.
They were walking around when Cleinias entered,
and it is true that he is much improved;
with him was his lover, Ctesippus,
a rather wild youth.
Cleinias saw me and came over and sat by me.
Dionysodorus and Euthydemus kept glancing at us,
for I was focusing my attention on them.
Then Euthydemus came
and sat down by the youth Cleinias,
and his brother then sat on my left,
and the others gathered around us.
I greeted the two brothers,
for it had been a long time since I'd seen them.
Then I said to Cleinias:
Cleinias, these are two wise men,
who know not only small but also great things,
for Euthydemus and Dionysodorus know
all about warfare and the general's art
and how to fight in armor,
and also they know law and can teach people
how to use the weapons of the courts
when one is injured.
EUTHYDEMUS (Laughing contemptuously)
Those matters are no longer our business, Socrates;
they are now secondary pursuits for us.
Your business must be very fine,
if such important matters are secondary for you.
So please tell me,
what is your main business now?
Virtue, Socrates, and we believe
that we can teach it better and faster than anyone.
Where did you have the luck to find that?
I thought the art of fighting was your specialty,
for when you visited our city last time
I recall that was your profession.
Now if you truly have this knowledge
I must ask you to forgive me
as though you are gods,
but be sure this is true,
for the greatness of your promise
gives me some grounds for disbelieving.
You may take our word for it, Socrates.
Then I congratulate you on acquiring something
greater than the treasure of the king of Persia.
Do you intend to demonstrate your wisdom?
That is why we're here, Socrates, to demonstrate,
and also to teach anyone who wants to learn.
I'm sure everyone lacking virtue
will want to learn.
I'll be the first myself,
and there is Cleinias here,
and his friend Ctesippus.
Ctesippus stands up so that he can see Cleinias better.
You see how eager Ctesippus is to learn.
The others who have been following Euthydemus and Dionysodorus also come forward and indicate their willingness.
Please show us.
Let's all learn.
They gather around and sit closer.
Euthydemus and Dionysodorus, would you mind
giving my friends a demonstration of this?
It might be difficult to show the whole thing,
but tell me whether
you can only make a person good
who is already convinced he should learn from you,
or can you also persuade one
who does not yet believe
either that virtue can be learned at all,
or that you are the ones to teach it?
We can do both, Socrates.
Then, Dionysodorus, of all those now living
you and your brother would be best at encouraging
the love of wisdom and the care of virtue?
We think so, Socrates.
Then please demonstrate this for us.
Persuade this young man here
that he should love wisdom
and take care of virtue,
and you will gratify me and all those present.
We're eager for him to improve as much as possible.
His name is Cleinias, and he is Alcibiades' cousin.
We're afraid someone might lead him astray.
So try your stuff on him
and converse with him before us.
There is no problem, Socrates,
as long as the youth is willing to answer questions.
Oh, he is used to that,
for often people come to him
and ask him questions and argue with him.
Cleinias, are the people who learn,
the wise or the unlearned?
Cleinias, unsure of himself, looks at Socrates for help.
Have courage, Cleinias,
and answer bravely whichever you think,
for perhaps he is doing you a great benefit.
DIONYSODORUS (Privately to Socrates)
Whichever he answers, I predict he'll be refuted.
I think that those who learn are the wise ones.
Don't teachers teach those who learn?
And when you went to your grammar teacher
or your music teacher to learn from them,
you didn't already know the things
you were going to learn, did you?
And not knowing, were you wise then?
I guess not.
Then if not wise, were you unlearned?
Then learning what you didn't know,
you were ignorant when you were learning.
Then the unlearned learn,
and not the wise, as you imagine, Cleinias.
The followers of Euthydemus break out in laughter, cheering, and applause.
And Cleinias, when the grammar teacher
dictated anything to you,
was it the wise boys or the unlearned
who learned the dictation?
So the wise are the learners and not the unlearned,
and your last answer to my brother was wrong.
The followers again laugh and cheer.
Do those who learn, learn what they know,
or what they don't know?
DIONYSODORUS (Whispers to Socrates)
That is another of the same kind---no escape.
SOCRATES (To Dionysodorus)
God, but the first one was so fine!
Those who learn, learn what they don't yet know.
Don't you know all the letters?
And when the teacher dictates to you,
doesn't he dictate letters?
Well, if you know all the letters,
he dictates what you know.
Then you don't learn what he dictates,
but only the one who doesn't yet know letters learns.
No, I do learn.
Then you learn what you know,
if you know all the letters,
So your answer was not correct.
Cleinias, Euthydemus is deceiving you.
Isn't learning gaining knowledge of what one learns?
And knowing is having knowledge at the time,
and not knowing is not having knowledge.
And those who don't have something
must gain it in order to have it,
while those who have something
don't need to gain it
since they already have it.
Isn't this correct?
Now since those who don't know
are the ones who don't have knowledge,
then they must gain it by learning, right?
Therefore those who don't know learn,
but not those who know.
Now Cleinias, let me ask you a third question---
Wait a moment, Euthydemus.
Don't be upset, Cleinias,
by the strangeness of their conversation,
for perhaps you don't perceive what they're doing.
They're initiating you into their game of sophistry,
which always begins, as Prodicus says,
with the correct use of terms.
So they have been playing with you
to show the tricks of their trade.
You see, they wish to show you that
the word "learn" has two meanings, and is used,
first, in the sense of gaining knowledge
of some matter you don't yet know,
and the second is to be learned
and review what you already know.
For the latter usually "understanding" is used,
but the word "learning" can be used instead.
These little games can be fun to play,
although I don't think they'll make you truly wise,
but you can become a more skillful player.
This game of tripping people up
over the distinctions of words
is rather like a person
who pulls a stool out from under someone
when one is about to sit down,
and then they laugh and make fun
at the sight of the one overturned on the ground.
Just consider this as a kind of warm-up game.
But I'm sure Euthydemus and Dionysodorus
intend to demonstrate through philosophy
why a person should study wisdom and virtue,
as they have promised us they would.
Let me give an example,
so you'll know what I mean.
Now please don't laugh at me
for being crude and ridiculous as I improvise,
for I do this so that I can hear your wisdom.
Now let me ask you, Cleinias,
doesn't everyone wish to do well?
But this is a ridiculous question,
for who would not want to do well?
No one at all.
Well then, since we wish to do well,
how can we do well?
Will it be if we have many good things?
Or is this question even sillier than the other?
For this too is obvious.
And what do we value as good?
This is not hard for a noble person to solve, is it?
For will not everyone say it is good to have
wealth and health and beauty and other talents?
And a good family and power and honors also?
What about prudence, courage, justice,
and also wisdom, do you consider them good?
Now what have we left out?
I can't think of anything.
As I recall, by God we almost left out
the greatest good of them all.
What is that?
Success, which even fools say is the greatest good.
But as I think about it, we are being fools.
Because in listing success, we've counted it twice.
What do you mean?
Surely wisdom is success; a child understands that.
Cleinias and the others don't know what to make of this.
Aren't flute-players most successful
in playing the flute,
and aren't writers most successful
at reading and writing letters?
On dangerous sea voyages
do you consider any pilots
more successful than the wise ones?
Of course not.
Or in battle would you rather be in the company
of a wise general or an ignorant one?
I'd rather be with a wise one.
And if you had a dangerous illness
would you rather go to a wise physician
or an ignorant one?
A wise one.
Then you think to act with the wise will be
more successful than to act with the ignorant.
Then everywhere wisdom makes people successful,
for wisdom never makes mistakes but acts correctly;
otherwise it would no longer be wisdom.
Now let us review;
we have agreed that
if many goods are present for us
then we shall be happy and do well.
Would we be happy with these good things,
if they didn't benefit us, or if they did?
Only if they benefited us.
And would they benefit us,
if they were present, but we didn't use them?
For example, if we had a lot of food,
but didn't eat it, would it benefit us?
Of course not.
If artists and craftsmen had tools, talent, and skill,
but never used them in art or craftmaking,
would they benefit from having all these things
even if they never worked?
Now if wealthy people got all these goods,
but did not use them,
would they be happy because of possessing them?
Of course not, Socrates.
So to be happy one must not only have good things,
but one must use them as well,
or else there is no benefit gained from having them.
Well, Cleinias, if you have good things and use them,
is that sufficient to grant one happiness?
I think so.
But may a person use them rightly or wrongly?
One must use them in the right way.
Well said, for I would imagine that
the wrong use is worse than no use at all,
since the first is bad,
while no use is neither good nor bad.
Don't you agree?
In working and using wood, does the right use
come from anything but knowledge of carpentry?
Of course not.
And similarly in any craft or art,
knowledge guides the right use.
And with the goods
such as wealth, health, and beauty,
is it knowledge which directs
right use and practice,
or is it something else?
It is knowledge.
So it seems that knowledge provides success
in whatever a person may possess or do.
Then before God,
does one get any benefit from other possessions
without knowledge and wisdom?
And would an ignorant person benefit more
if one possessed many things or a few?
Look at it this way:
would not a person with less
make fewer mistakes and do fewer bad things
and thus be less miserable?
And who would likely do less---
the poor or the wealthy?
The weak or the strong?
The proud or the humble.
The healthy or the ill?
The brave or the cowardly?
And the lazy would do less than the industrious,
the slow less than the quick,
and the dull less than the perceptive?
So in summary all these things we called good,
such as wealth, health, honor, courage, and the rest,
are not good in themselves,
but their degree of good and bad depends on
whether they are guided by wisdom or ignorance.
Misled by ignorance
they're worse than their opposites,
since they're supporting what is wrong;
but guided by wisdom they are greater goods,
and by themselves they are not worth anything.
It appears like that, just as you say.
Then from our conversation
must we not conclude that
all those other things are neither good nor bad,
but wisdom is definitely good,
and ignorance is bad?
Then in addition, since we all want to be happy,
and since we may become so
by using things correctly,
while knowledge provides the correctness and success,
it seems that everyone should prepare themselves
to be as wise as possible; isn't that so?
And the person who thinks one ought to
obtain this treasure, much more than money,
from parents or friends or teachers,
whether by praying or pleading with them
so that they will impart their wisdom,
then we should not blame such a person,
if the goal is to learn and obtain wisdom.
Don't you think so?
Yes, it certainly seems so to me.
Yes, Cleinias, if only wisdom can be taught
and doesn't come to people automatically,
for this is not yet agreed upon by you and me.
it seems to me wisdom can be taught.
Well said, best of men, you have relieved me
of considering whether wisdom is teachable or not.
But since you think it can be taught,
and that only wisdom can make one happy,
do you say it is essential to love wisdom,
and will you do that yourself?
Certainly, Socrates, I'll do my best.
Socrates turns and speaks to Dionysodorus and Euthydemus.
That's my example, Dionysodorus and Euthydemus,
of the kind of exhortation I would like,
a clumsy and rather long philosophical argument
of why a young person should study and learn.
Now I'm most eager to see your work,
and I hope you will improve on what we said,
or take up the argument where I left off
and show the youth which kind of knowledge
he should study in order to become happy and good.
For, as I said earlier, it is important to us
that this young man should become wise and good.
The scene dissolves to the next day with Socrates telling Crito the story of the conversation.
That's what I said, Crito,
and I was very attentive
to see how they would handle the matter
and how they would encourage the youth
to practice wisdom and virtue.
Dionysodorus spoke first,
and everyone concentrated on him,
and for good reason too,
as his argument was quite clever.
The scene dissolves back to the previous day.
Tell me, Socrates,
when you say that you and your friends
want this youth to become wise,
are you playing around with words,
or do you truly and seriously desire it?
I am very serious.
Think again, Socrates,
or you may have to deny your words.
I have thought about it,
and I'll never deny it.
Then you say that
you wish Cleinias to become wise?
But now is Cleinias wise or not?
He says he's not;
he's not a braggart.
Then you wish him to be what he is not,
and no longer be what he is,
which can only mean that
you want to do away with him.
Fine friends they are
who want their favorite to perish!
Ctesippus leaps up angrily to confront Dionysodorus.
Stranger, if it were not impolite,
I would say, "A curse on you!"
How could you lie by saying
that my friends and I could wish,
what is not even holy to say,
that this boy here should perish?
The scene dissolves again to Socrates and Crito.
Well, it was just amazing how suddenly
they could make Ctesippus angry with their words.
Those two men are certainly verbal magicians.
There followed many more of these sophist games,
playing upon the meanings of words,
confounding me and everyone else.
I must admit I'm much too dull-headed
for the smartness of these fellows,
which is why, I guess, I'd like to learn their art,
but I'm not sure what good it would do me.
I have my doubts too, Socrates.
But what did they say next?
Euthydemus quickly took on Ctesippus
and began to show him that
his brother not only didn't tell a lie,
but that it is actually impossible
for anyone to lie about anything.
How did they manage that one?
Let me see if I can recall---
HIPPOCRATES, a young man, comes rushing in, and immediately begins talking to Socrates, interrupting him.
Socrates, I've been looking all over for you.
Why, Hippocrates, what is it?
Protagoras has come to Athens!
Yes, I know, two days ago.
I must see him at once.
Will you go with me?
What's the matter?
Has Protagoras robbed you of anything?
Yes, in fact he has;
he's robbed me of the wisdom he keeps from me.
But surely by God, if you pay him,
he'll be glad to make you wise.
That's exactly why I've come to you, Socrates,
so that you'll speak on my behalf,
for I'm young, and I've never heard him speak.
Everyone praises him for his mastery of speech,
and he is considered the best of the sophists.
And do you want to pay him
so that you can become a sophist too?
Well, no; I'd be ashamed to appear as a sophist.
Then do you seek
to advance your general education
as before when you studied grammar and music?
But are you aware of what you are about to do
in submitting your soul to the treatment of one
who is, as you say, a sophist?
I'd be surprised if you can tell me
what a sophist actually is.
Yet if you are ignorant of this,
you can't know to whom
you are giving your soul,
whether it is for something good or bad.
I think I know.
Then please tell me what you believe a sophist is.
Well, as the name sophist implies,
one who has knowledge of wise things.
It is said of painters and artists
that they have knowledge of wise things;
and if someone asked us what wise things,
then I guess we could say that
painters know about producing images and so on.
But if they asked in what is a sophist wise,
in what kind of art would they have mastery?
Couldn't we say
in making one an ingenious speaker?
Perhaps we'd be telling the truth
but not all of it;
for the answer holds another question
as to the subject about which
the sophist makes one an ingenious speaker.
So what subject does the sophist cover, Hippocrates?
Obviously the same as
the knowledge the sophist gives.
Yes, but about what subject
does the sophist make the student knowledgeable?
By God, I can't tell you.
Isn't wisdom the chief food of the soul?
Yes, and this is what I'm so hungry for.
Then could it be, Hippocrates,
that the sophist is a kind of merchant or trader
in food for the soul?
For that's what they appear to me to be.
But are you aware of the danger
of entrusting your soul to another?
For when you buy food for the body,
you can look it over and examine it
before you eat it;
but when you submit to his teaching you commit
not your body into his keeping as in gymnastics,
but your soul, which is far more valuable;
and the food of wisdom is ingested on the spot.
You see, with food for the body,
you can have a skilled trainer or physician
check it out for you to be sure
it's good for your health;
but those who travel around
and sell knowledge for the soul
may be ignorant of its effect on the soul,
and so may their customers,
unless they happen to be physicians of the soul,
understanding good and evil.
Yes, but if you and Crito here accompany me,
perhaps the two of you can counsel me.
First I must finish my conversation with Crito.
But how about tomorrow morning?
I've heard that Hippias and Prodicus are also
staying with Protagoras at the house of Callias.
That's sounds excellent, Socrates.
Here just as we were talking about sophists,
now three of the greatest are together in our city.
Then we're agreed.
Hippocrates, come by my house at sunrise.
I eagerly anticipate the occasion.
Hippocrates leaves, and Socrates turns to Crito.
Then Euthydemus said ...
The scene dissolves to the next morning at the door to the house of Callias, one of the wealthiest men in the city. Socrates, accompanied by Hippocrates and Crito, knocks.
There are so many sophists in Athens now.
The DOORKEEPER begins to open the door, but when he hears the word "sophists," he closes it again.
Hmph, sophists! He's not available.
Socrates knocks again.
I said he's busy. Go away!
We're not sophists,
and we didn't come to see Callias,
but we want to see Protagoras.
Please tell him Socrates and Crito
and young Hippocrates are here to see him.
After a pause, they are let in. Inside PROTAGORAS is walking back and forth with a train of followers behind him who part in the middle when he reverses direction, serpentining behind him. In the opposite cloister, HIPPIAS is seated on an elegant chair of state, surrounded by a few listeners on benches. In an adjacent room is PRODICUS, still in bed, but also engaged in conversation with ALCIBIADES and CRITIAS. After looking around, Socrates and his companions walk up to Protagoras.
Protagoras, my friend Hippocrates
has a request for you.
What is it?
Can we speak in the presence of our guests or not?
It makes no difference at all to us.
I'll tell you why we came, and then you decide.
What is this request?
Hippocrates has great natural abilities,
and I believe he has political ambitions.
So he thinks that by conversing with you,
he may become wiser and attain his goals.
Now you can decide whether to teach him
in private or in the presence of others.
This is the very art of the sophist,
which I practice: to improve the young.
Often jealousies are aroused in these matters,
and I believe that sophism
is not new as people think;
but it is a very ancient art,
and because of the danger of envy,
the teachers veiled their work
as poets and priests and prophets.
But that is not my way, to deceive and hide,
and I was the first to assert myself
as a sophist, or a teacher of wisdom,
which I've practiced
professionally now for many years.
therefore I prefer open conversation.
Well then, why don't we summon Prodicus
and Hippias and their friends to join us?
CALLIAS steps forward to order his house.
Let's hold a council and sit and discuss.
A circle of benches and chairs is formed, as the three groups all join together.
Now that we are all assembled,
please begin again, Socrates.
Well, quite simply, Hippocrates here
would like to make your acquaintance,
and he wants to know if he joins you,
what will happen to him.
Young man, if you associate with me,
on the very first day you will return home
better than you were when you came,
and better on the second day than the first,
and you will continue to improve every day.
Protagoras, what you say is no surprise
for all teachers claim their pupils will improve,
whether in painting or flute-playing,
but in what will you make Hippocrates better?
It is good that you ask that, Socrates,
and I am happy to answer well-asked questions.
Be assured, Hippocrates,
you won't have to go back into the drudgery
which other sophists use to insult their students
once they've escaped the early studies,
forcing them to go back into the arts,
astronomy, geometry, and music.
Protagoras glances at Hippias, who appears a little embarrassed.
No, with me he'll learn what he came for,
and that is good judgment in managing his house,
and in public business
how to have the most influence
both in speech and action.
Then I take it you mean the art of politics
and making people good citizens.
That is exactly what I mean, Socrates.
That is a beautiful art to acquire,
if it is acquired.
But I must confess I have a doubt
as to whether this art can be taught
or be communicated from person to person.
For I've observed that the Athenian assembly
in deciding on issues will call in experts,
architects to advise us on building,
ship-wrights for shipbuilding, and so on.
And if anyone tries to advise them
who is not taught or trained in the matter,
they laugh at him and refuse to listen.
So this is how they handle technical issues.
But in matters of state there are no experts,
and everyone is free to have their say,
whether a carpenter or a shoemaker or a sailor,
whether rich or poor, high or low.
Evidently they assume
this knowledge can't be taught.
Also I've noticed that
the best and wisest citizens, such as Pericles,
have not been able to teach their wisdom
to their sons or others.
Thus I have this doubt
whether virtue can be taught;
but I know you've had much experience, Protagoras,
learned many things and discovered some yourself.
So if you could show us more clearly
that virtue is teachable,
please do not begrudge us the demonstration.
I would not begrudge you, Socrates,
but shall I show it as a myth
or by a detailed account?
Whichever you like.
You decide, Protagoras.
It seems to me a myth will be more interesting.
Once upon a time
when there were gods but no mortals,
the gods decided to make creatures
out of earth and fire.
When they were about to bring them to light,
they ordered Prometheus and Epimetheus
to equip them and distribute among them
Epimetheus said to Prometheus,
"Let me distribute,
and then you can inspect them."
Having persuaded him, Epimetheus gave out
strength without speed to some,
while he equipped the weaker with speed;
some he armed, and others he made large;
to the small he gave wings for escape
or an underground dwelling where they could hide.
They were all compensated
so that no species would become extinct.
They were protected against the weather
with thick hair and tough hides and a soft bedding.
Under their feet they had hooves,
claws and callous skin.
He provided each with its proper food,
grasses or vegetables or fruits or roots,
while to some he gave other animals to eat,
but the predators were given few young,
and their prey were made prolific,
so they would survive.
Thus did Epimetheus give out all these attributes,
and when he came to humans
he didn't know what to do.
So when Prometheus came to inspect them,
he found that the other creatures were well provided,
but only humans were left naked and unshod,
without even a bed or weapons for defense.
Now the time was coming
when humans like the others
were to come out of the earth into the light.
So in order to devise human salvation,
Prometheus stole the artistic wisdom
of Hephaestus and Athena with fire---
so that they would be able to use them---
and he gave them to humans.
So humans had the wisdom they needed for living,
but not the political, for this belonged to Zeus,
and Prometheus didn't have access to it,
because he was afraid of the guards.
Later Prometheus was prosecuted for his theft.
Now since humans shared in the divine gifts,
they are the only animal
to have gods and offer prayers.
Soon they invented names and speech,
and constructed houses, beds, clothes and shoes,
and they got food from the earth.
At first people lived apart,
and there were no cities;
and they were destroyed
by wild beasts who were stronger.
Although their art was adequate for food,
their battling with beasts went badly,
because they still had no political art.
So they began to band together in cities for safety;
but not having political art they wronged each other.
And again they scattered and were being destroyed.
So Zeus, afraid the race would all be lost,
sent Hermes taking respect and justice to people
to bring them together in civic order and friendship.
Hermes asked Zeus
whether these gifts should be given
to a few people, as with the medical art,
where one skilled doctor can serve many unskilled,
or whether justice and respect should be given to all.
Zeus answered, "To all,
for there might not be cities
if only a few share in these arts.
And make a law that
whoever cannot be respectful and just
shall be killed as a public pest."
This is why, Socrates, the Athenians and others
consider the crafts as specialties with experts,
while the assembly takes advice from all on politics,
which depend on justice and regulation,
for if these were not in all, cities could not exist.
And while people often deny
being skilled in the arts,
such as flute-playing or engineering,
everyone considers oneself to be just,
and only the insane would deny their own justice.
Thus they believe everyone has some virtue
and therefore the right to express their opinion.
Now let me explain why people believe that
virtue can be taught and is not automatic.
No one punishes or lectures anyone
for what is the result of nature or chance,
such as for being ugly or small or weak,
but they do punish and reprimand people
for what results from care
and practice and teaching,
as with injustice or impiety.
Thus they do punish people
in regard to civic virtue,
because it could be acquired by study and learning.
If you would consider punishment, Socrates,
and the power it has over wrongdoers,
you will see that people believe virtue is taught.
Only a beast takes revenge for its own sake.
Rational punishment does not retaliate
for a past wrong which cannot be undone,
but rather it is for prevention in the future,
so that those who are punished,
and whoever sees them,
may be deterred from doing wrong again,
and thus they may learn to be virtuous.
There is one more difficulty you mentioned,
and that is why good people are often unable
to teach their children to be
as virtuous as they are.
Let me argue this without a myth.
Now if virtue is the one quality
that everyone in the city must be taught,
unlike the arts of the carpenter, smith, or potter,
and if instruction and punishment both are used
to make sure that it is learned,
and if those who can't be corrected
even by punishment
may be put to death as incurable,
then why would any good person not emphasize
the teaching of virtue as most important?
In fact moral education begins in early childhood
with the mother and nurse and father and tutor
all attempting to improve the child's character.
As soon as children do anything wrong
they correct them and tell them what is right.
If they obey, fine;
but if they disobey,
they are straightened out by threats and blows.
When they are sent to school
to learn grammar, gymnastics and music,
they are also taught manners
and disciplined in conduct.
The examples of heroes are held up for emulation,
and literature teaches through stories moral lessons.
Even as an adult the learning of virtue never ends,
as the state requires all its citizens to know the laws,
and the punishment of offenders is called correction.
Since so much care is taken
for private and public virtue,
why should you be surprised or doubt,
Socrates, that virtue is taught?
Then why do children of good people
turn out badly?
I think the capacity to learn varies greatly
even among the children of the best class,
just as talent for music
is greater in some than others.
Also, even though everyone may teach virtue,
they can only teach according to their ability;
the virtuous are not always skilled in teaching.
You, Socrates, seem to believe that
since no one teaches virtue perfectly,
there are no teachers of virtue at all.
You might as well ask who teaches Greek.
Now I believe I surpass all others
in assisting people to become fair and good,
and I give my students their money's worth,
as they freely admit.
So I've arranged the following payment plan:
whoever takes my lessons can pay my fee,
or they can go to a temple and take an oath
as to the value they put on the instruction,
and then they can pay
what they declare it is worth.
Such is the myth and the argument, Socrates,
by which I have endeavored to show
that virtue can be taught.
The listeners applaud.
how grateful I am you brought me here
to hear what I have heard from Protagoras!
Before I thought
no human care could make people good,
but now I am persuaded.
Except for one small thing,
which surely Protagoras will easily explain,
since he has already explained so many things.
For many great speakers, like Pericles,
can give you an excellent discourse,
but when you ask them a question,
like a book,
they can neither answer nor ask a question.
If the smallest detail in their speech is challenged,
they go off into a long harangue,
like a brazen pot that is struck and rings on,
unless someone puts a hand on it.
But Protagoras not only can make a good speech,
he can also answer questions briefly;
and when he asks a question,
he'll even listen to the answer.
Is this true, Protagoras,
and may I ask you some questions?
Just now, you were speaking of virtue as one thing,
and yet aren't there many virtues such as
prudence, courage, wisdom, justice and holiness?
That is easy to answer, Socrates;
virtue is one thing, and those are parts of it.
Do you mean parts, like the parts of a face,
such as mouth and nose and eyes and ears,
or parts, like the parts of gold
in which there is no difference among the pieces
except as to the amount?
The former, Socrates, like the parts of a face
make up the whole face.
Then do people have
equal portions of these virtues,
or do they excel in some more than others?
If a person has one virtue,
does one have them all?
Not at all;
many are courageous but unjust,
and others are just but not wise.
Then is each of these virtues
distinct from the others?
Now does each one have its own function?
Just like with the parts of the face,
the eyes are not like the ears,
nor do they function in the same way.
Then is each virtue unlike the others,
both in their nature and their functions?
Is this not clear, if the analogy holds?
Yes, Socrates, that is so.
Then among the parts of virtue no other is
like knowledge or like justice or like courage
or like prudence or like holiness.
I'd say so.
Now suppose someone asked you and me,
Protagoras and Socrates, please tell me this
about the virtues you just named,
"Is justice just?"
I would answer that it is just.
Would your vote be the same as mine or different?
Then suppose he also asked us,
"Is holiness holy?"
I might be perturbed at this question
and would answer, "Hush, man,
how could anything be holy
if holiness itself is not?"
What about you?
Would you answer in this way?
Then suppose he next asked us,
"What about what you said a little while ago?
Did I hear you correctly?
It appeared to me that you two said that
the parts of virtue are not like each other."
Here I would answer, "You heard it correctly,
but you are mistaken in thinking
that I agreed with that statement;
for it was Protagoras who gave the answer;
I only asked the question."
Then if he were to ask you,
"Is this guy telling the truth, Protagoras?
Do you say one part of virtue
is not like another?
Is this your statement?"
What would you answer him?
I would have to agree, Socrates.
What then, Protagoras, what should we answer
after agreeing to that, if he should ask us,
"Then is not holiness just nor justice holy?
Can holiness be unjust and justice unholy?"
What should we answer him?
For I would say for myself both
that justice is holy and that holiness is just.
And if you let me
I'd give the same answer for you,
that justice is the same as holiness
or that it is quite similar.
But see if you want to forbid this answer,
or does it seem so to you too?
I don't think it's that simple, Socrates,
to concede that justice is holy and holiness just.
It seems to me they are different.
But what difference does it make?
If you wish, let's assume that
justice is holy and holiness is just.
No, no, I don't want any of this
"If you wish," in the proof,
but it's you and me together;
and by you and me I mean that the argument
will be best tested if the "if" is taken away.
Well, I suppose justice is something like holiness,
for everything is like any other thing.
The different functions
that we said were not the same,
the parts of the face,
resemble each other somewhat.
You could prove, if you wished, they are alike.
But it is not fair to call things alike,
which may have only one small thing similar,
nor unlike that have one small difference.
Do you hold that the just and the holy
only have one small thing similar to each other?
No, not quite so,
but not as they seem to you either.
Then since you seem to be uncomfortable with this,
let's consider something else you said.
Is there something you call thoughtlessness?
Is this not completely opposite to wisdom?
I think so.
When people behave correctly and beneficially,
then do you think their behavior is prudent?
Then those not behaving correctly
are acting thoughtlessly,
and so their behavior is not prudent.
Is behaving thoughtlessly opposite to prudently?
If thoughtless and prudent behavior are opposites,
then are thoughtlessness and prudence opposites?
Tell me, is there anything beautiful?
Is there any opposite to it but the ugly?
There is not.
Is there anything good?
Is there any opposite to it but the bad?
There is not.
Then for each single opposite is there
only one opposite to it and not many?
Now let's count up the agreements.
We agreed that each thing has only one opposite,
and that thoughtlessness and prudence are opposites.
Now do you remember that earlier we agreed
that thoughtlessness is opposite to wisdom?
Then Protagoras, which statement are we to reject?
the one that each thing has only one opposite,
or the other that wisdom is different from prudence,
and that each is a part of virtue and different,
and that the two are as unlike as the parts of a face?
Which one shall we reject?
For they are not in harmony with each other.
How could they be,
if a function has only one opposite
and yet thoughtlessness is opposite
to both wisdom and prudence,
which you say are different?
Isn't this the case, Protagoras?
Well, I guess I'll have to admit it, Socrates.
Then could prudence and wisdom be one thing?
Apparently justice and holiness
are almost the same.
Come on, Protagoras, let's not give up,
but consider the rest.
Do you think an unjust person
is prudent when unjust?
I'd be ashamed to admit it, Socrates,
although many people say so.
Then should I make the argument with them
or with you?
If you wish, discuss it first with the popular view.
It makes no difference to me,
as long as you answer whether or not you think so.
For I'm examining the argument,
although the result may be that both I the questioner
and the one answering may also be examined.
This argument, Socrates, is really annoying,
but go ahead.
Then answer me out of principle.
Do you think some in being prudent are unjust?
Let's assume so.
By being prudent do you mean being sensible?
Is being sensible good advice when they are unjust?
Let's assume that.
If they are successful in their injustice,
or if they do badly?
So do you say there are good things?
Then are these good things beneficial to people?
Yes, by God; even if they are not beneficial
I call them good.
Protagoras looks very harassed and perturbed.
Do you mean what is not beneficial to people
or what is not beneficial at all?
Can you call such things good?
No, but I know many things
that are not beneficial to people,
such as foods, drinks, drugs, and countless others,
and some that are beneficial.
Some are neither way for people but benefit horses,
some only cattle, and others dogs,
some not for any of those but for trees;
some are good for the roots but bad for the leaves,
such as dung, which is good when applied to roots,
but if put on the branches would ruin the whole tree.
Olive oil is also bad for all plants
and harmful to the hair of animals except for humans,
while it benefits human hair and the human body.
The good is so varied and versatile in this case
that it is good for the outside of the body
but very bad for the inside;
for this reason doctors forbid the sick to take oil,
except in the smallest amount in what one is eating,
only enough to hide the smell in foods.
This speech is applauded by Protagoras' followers.
That was a fine discourse, Protagoras, very fine!
Protagoras, I happen to be a forgetful person,
and when someone talks for a long time
instead of answering the question,
I lose track of the argument.
I hope you will forgive me this shortcoming,
and keep your answers short and to the point.
How short? Shorter than they should be?
Of course not.
Then are my answers to be as short as I think,
or as short as you think they should be?
But you say you can either speak at length
or answer questions briefly.
If you are going to discuss with me,
I ask you to use the latter method and be brief.
Socrates, I've engaged in many verbal battles,
and if I were to argue as my opponent demands,
as you want me to do, I would not have excelled,
and the Protagoras name would not be famous in Greece.
Protagoras, I too am uncomfortable
in discussing with you against your will.
When you agree to argue in a way I can follow,
then we can continue the discussion.
Now as others say and you yourself admit,
you can use either long speeches or the short method;
for you are wise; but I am unable
to handle long speeches, though I wish I could.
Since you can do either,
I was hoping you'd use the shorter for my sake,
but I see that you are reluctant to do that.
So I must leave for an engagement in another place,
although I would have liked to hear you.
Socrates gets up to go, but Callias grabs his hand and his old cloak to prevent him.
We won't let you go, Socrates;
for if you leave, the discussion will deteriorate.
Therefore I beg you to stay with us,
for there is nothing I would rather hear
than a discussion between you and Protagoras.
Callias, I've always liked your love of wisdom,
and I would gladly comply if I could.
But I'm a slow runner
and can't compete with the fast,
unless the sprinter slows his speed to mine,
for he can run both fast and slow.
Now if I am to discuss with Protagoras
he must shorten his responses
and answer the questions,
if there is to be a discussion;
for I think discussion
is different than speechmaking.
But you see, Socrates,
Protagoras only thinks it fair
that he should be able to speak in his way,
just as you wish to speak in yours.
You don't call it fairly, Callias;
for Socrates admits he can't make speeches,
and so in this he yields the victory to Protagoras.
Now if Protagoras will admit that
he is no match for Socrates in argument,
then they would be even.
Otherwise let him answer the questions
and not slide off into speechmaking
until most of the listeners have forgotten the question,
although I hardly think that Socrates will forget
even though he ironically pretends
to have a bad memory.
It seems to me Socrates is right,
for each of us should give their own opinion.
It seems to me that Callias is for Protagoras,
and Alcibiades, who likes conflict,
has taken the side of Socrates,
yet, Prodicus and Hippias, let us not take sides
but remain neutral and urge them both
not to give up the argument.
Well said, Critias,
for listeners of an argument should be impartial,
though not necessarily equal to each side
in recognition of who is wiser.
Please, Protagoras and Socrates, continue to discuss
as friends do with goodwill,
but not quarrel as enemies do,
and may the best one win our esteem
that is better than praise,
which is often empty words,
while esteem comes sincerely
from the listeners' souls.
If you do, we may enjoy the discussion,
which is better than
pleasure from bodily indulgence,
while enjoyment is of the mind and soul
in receiving knowledge and wisdom.
Several of the listeners applaud in approval.
Look, we are all fellow citizens,
and among the wisest of Greeks,
here in a noble house in Athens,
the city of wisdom;
we should maintain our dignity
and not quarrel like the meanest people.
I ask you, Protagoras and Socrates,
to compromise according to our arbitration.
Don't be too precise, Socrates,
in demanding extreme brevity,
but loosen the reins of speech
so that your words may be more eloquent.
Nor should you, Protagoras, on the slightest wind
set sail out of sight of land on an ocean of words.
Come, let's choose an arbiter or umpire
to preside over the discussion
and watch the measure of the speeches.
This proposal is applauded and approved by all.
You see, Socrates, we won't let you off;
so please choose an arbiter.
To choose an umpire would be a disgrace to someone,
for how can one inferior judge those who are superior,
and an equal would do just as much as we would do,
and could we find anyone superior to Protagoras?
And if you chose someone as superior who is not,
this would be a poor reflection on Protagoras,
not that it makes any difference to me.
However, let me suggest the following:
if Protagoras doesn't want to answer,
then let him question me,
and I'll demonstrate the kind of answers I mean.
After he has asked what he wishes,
then I'll ask him questions.
If he doesn't answer the precise question asked,
then we can all plead with him,
as you pleaded with me, not to ruin the discussion.
Thus all of you shall be arbiters.
Everyone appears to be for it, except Protagoras and his followers who reluctantly go along with the consensus.
Very good, Socrates.
Why don't you begin, Protagoras?
All right. I believe, Socrates,
that poetry is a principal part of education.
Let's then shift our discussion of virtue
to a passage in a poem by Simonides where he says,
"For a man to become truly good is hard."
Do you know this poem, or shall I recite it?
You don't need to, for I have studied the ode.
Good. Do you think that it is composed correctly?
Yes, I think it is well composed.
Would you think so
if the poet contradicts himself?
No, not then.
Are you aware that later he criticizes Pittacus,
even though he is wise, for saying,
"To stay in the good is hard."
Isn't this a contradiction?
I don't think so.
Why does it appear so to you?
How can this be considered consistent?
First he says it's hard
for a person to become good,
and then later in the same poem
he criticizes Pittacus for saying the same thing.
So if he criticizes him
for saying what he himself said
he must be criticizing himself too.
The followers of Protagoras applaud and cheer in order to show support for their teacher.
Prodicus, you are from the same city as Simonides.
Let me first ask you, as our expert on semantics,
if the words "becoming" and "staying" mean the same.
They are different, by God.
After saying it is hard to become truly good,
Simonides criticizes Pittacus not for contradicting
that it is hard to become good, as Protagoras thinks,
but for saying that is hard to stay good.
Hesiod expressed the idea well in poetry
that it's difficult to become good when he wrote:
"The gods have placed before a person's through,
difficult work on the way to virtue."
Yet once one has attained it, staying good is easy:
"But though it's hard,
after you've climbed the height,
to stay in virtue then, the task is light."
But now you've fallen into a worse error, Socrates.
Then I have done bad work,
and I'm a ridiculous kind of physician,
if my treatment makes the disease worse.
What have I done wrong, Protagoras?
The poet would be very unlearned
if he says that virtue is something easy,
for everyone agrees that being virtuous
is the hardest thing in the world.
Fortunately Prodicus is here to set us straight,
for he knows the dialect of Simonides.
In that dialect does not the word "hard"
mean not only difficult but also bad
in the sense of having a bad or hard time of it?
Yes, it means bad in that way.
Then isn't Simonides reproaching Pittacus
in the same way you reprimand me,
for I am your student in these matters,
when I say something is
awfully good or terribly good
when these words should mean something bad?
I'd say so.
For Pittacus is saying that to be good
is to be bad and have a hard time.
Simonides would correct this idea,
because it is a falsehood about the greatest thing.
The good is certainly good,
but what becomes good?
Certainly not what is already good.
Therefore it is the bad which becomes good.
And this is why Simonides said that
people who have been bad
have a hard time becoming good,
for it is an uphill climb, as Hesiod wrote.
This is my understanding of the poem, Protagoras.
It seems a correct interpretation to me, Socrates,
and I too have a good exposition I could give.
Some other time, Hippias,
for the agreement is
for Socrates to answer
the questions of Protagoras,
or if Protagoras prefers to answer,
to let Socrates do the questioning.
Yes, and I would rather let poetry alone just now
and return to the question of learning virtue,
for this literary talk is like those
who hire flute-girls for entertainment while drinking,
letting them be their voices and watching them dance,
rather than using their own breath
in intelligent conversation as dignified people do
who don't need these diverting games.
If you wish to ask, Protagoras,
I am ready to answer;
or if you prefer, you answer,
and let me resume the unfinished argument.
Protagoras does not respond.
Callias, do you think this is fair of Protagoras
not to say whether he will ask or answer?
If he doesn't want to go on, then let him say so,
and Socrates can talk with someone else.
What would you like to do, Protagoras?
Oh, all right; let Socrates have his way, and ask.
I hope you realize, Protagoras,
that I only ask you these questions
so that I may clear up my own difficulties.
For I believe in what Homer said,
"When two go together,
one observes before the other."
Somehow it makes all humans more resourceful
in work and word and understanding;
but if one observes something alone
one has to search for someone
to show it off to so that it can be confirmed.
Now I'm glad to converse with you, Protagoras,
because I think no one understands virtue better.
For you are not only good yourself,
but have the ability to make others good also.
And you are so confident of yourself
that you publicize your profession as a sophist
and are the first to require a fee for your work.
So what can I do but call upon you
to examine these issues by asking questions?
Now the issue, I believe,
was whether the five names of
wisdom, prudence, courage, justice, and holiness
or whether each has a different function.
Your answer was that they are all parts of virtue,
and yet each has a distinct function.
Is this what you believe,
or were you testing me?
I do mean, Socrates,
that they are all parts of virtue,
but four of them are similar,
while courage is very different from the others,
for you will find many people who are very
unjust, unholy, undisciplined, and ignorant,
and yet they may be exceptionally courageous.
Stop; let's examine what you mean.
Do you call the courageous confident?
Yes, impetuous and ready to go where others fear.
Do you say that virtue is good.
The best, unless I am mad.
Then is it somewhat bad and good
or completely good?
Completely good, absolutely.
Now the confident who dive into wells
or go into battle on horseback or with shields,
are they confident in doing this
because they have knowledge?
Because they have knowledge,
and they are more confident after they learn
than they were before they learned.
But are some people confident without knowledge?
I have seen some, and very confident too.
Then are these confident ones courageous also?
No, that would make courage something shameful,
for these people are mad.
Then who are the courageous ones?
Aren't they the confident ones?
Then do the ones confident without knowledge
appear not to be courageous but mad?
And since the wisest are the most confident,
being most confident will they be most courageous?
And by this argument will wisdom be courage?
You're not remembering well, Socrates,
what I said.
I said the courageous are confident,
but when you asked
if the confident are courageous,
I should have said, "Not all."
For confidence and courage are not the same,
and though the courageous are confident,
confidence may come to some people
because of skill or anger or madness,
but courage comes from the nature
and nurture of the soul.
Would you agree, Protagoras,
that some people live well and others badly?
And do you think a person who lives well
lives in stress and pain?
If a person lived pleasantly to the end of one's life,
would you say that person lived well?
Then to live pleasantly is good and unpleasantly bad.
It is, if the pleasure is fair and good.
Do you, like most people,
call some pleasant things bad,
and some painful things good?
I think that is the safer answer.
What I want to know is whether pleasant things,
which create pleasure, are good,
and whether the painful things are bad.
Well, Socrates, as you often say, let's consider this.
Would you like to begin the inquiry, or shall I?
You should take the lead, Socrates,
since you are the initiator of the discussion.
Then as physicians when checking physical health
ask people to uncover their bodies,
let me ask you to open your mind
so that we may know the reasons for your opinions.
Do you agree with most people
that to have knowledge of the good
is not necessarily to do the good,
because people often are overcome by
emotion or pleasure or pain or affection or fear,
making their knowledge a slave,
dragged away by force?
Or do you believe knowledge is noble
and able to rule a person
so that when people know what is good and bad,
they may act according to their intelligence?
It seems to be as you say, Socrates,
and I would be ashamed to assert that
wisdom is not the strongest thing of all.
That is well said and true,
but many people say they act contrary to knowledge,
because they are overcome by their emotions.
Yes, Socrates, for people say
many things which are not correct.
Why don't you and I try to instruct them
and show that it is not accurate
to say they are overcome by pleasure,
and see if we can find a clearer explanation?
Please go on as you have begun.
For example, when people are overcome by
eating and drinking and sexual desires,
even though they know they are bad for them,
they would say they are overcome by pleasure.
And if we asked them if they knew why
these things were bad for them,
whether because they are pleasant in the moment,
or because they tend to result in
disease and poverty and problems in the future,
they would answer that they aren't bad
because of the immediate pleasure,
but because of their consequences.
Then don't these consequences
of disease and poverty
cause pain and deprive us of further pleasures?
And in the opposite situation painful goods,
such as gymnastic exercises, service,
or the physician's use of surgery, drugs, or dieting,
may give immediate pain and suffering,
but later bring health, safety, and a better condition.
Aren't these things good,
because they result in pleasure
while eliminating and preventing further pain?
Then we are still using the standard
of pleasure and pain for good and bad,
but would choose the greater pleasure over the lesser,
and avoid the worse of two evils
by accepting a smaller pain to escape a greater.
That is correct.
Now I believe that no one does what is bad
knowingly or voluntarily,
but that it is human nature always to choose
what we think is good for us.
People who choose the immediate pleasure
in spite of its painful consequences choose it,
because they think it is the good thing to do.
But in examining the situation,
we can see that they have chosen
a lesser pleasure and good over a greater one.
Therefore they are unwise
and do not truly know what is the greater good.
For although they may say that immediate pleasure
is different from the distant one,
do they actually differ in anything else
except in the amount of pleasure and pain?
What other measure could there be?
I believe you're right, Socrates.
Well then, tell me about this:
doesn't the size of things appear greater when near
and smaller when at a distance?
So if our doing well depends on the amount of good,
in choosing the larger pleasures
and in rejecting the smaller ones,
which would help us more,
the art of measuring or the power of appearances?
The art of measuring.
Then knowledge of the likely consequences of pleasures
may be a more reliable guide for us in choosing
than our immediate feelings and appetites
which tend to be fooled by momentary appearances.
So is the person who is overcome by these feelings
knowledgeable about the pleasures
or actually ignorant?
Thus if ignorance is the cause of being overcome,
then knowledge, and especially the art of measuring,
will enable one to choose pleasures more wisely,
and it is not correct to say that knowledge is overcome.
Now could anyone be considered prudent
who did not know how to measure pleasures by this art?
I don't think so.
And do the other virtues also depend on wisdom,
such as courage, justice, and holiness?
I have said that they all do except courage,
which I think is quite different,
for someone may be courageous
who is unjust, unholy, undisciplined, and ignorant.
Do you believe that the courageous do what is good,
while the cowardly do what is bad?
Yes, that is true.
But if the cowardly
had the art of measuring actions,
would they do what is actually bad,
and isn't it by knowledge that the courageous
know that it is better to do what is good,
by measuring the dangers
and consequences in this case,
even though to the short-sighted
it may appear dangerous?
Then are only the wise courageous,
and are the cowardly clearly ignorant of the good?
Pause, as Socrates waits for Protagoras to answer.
Why is it, Protagoras,
that you don't say yes or no
to what I'm asking you?
Finish it yourself, Socrates.
I only have one more question for you.
Do you still think, as you did at the beginning,
that there are ignorant people who are courageous?
You seem to like to win, Socrates,
and make me answer;
so I'll say that I can't deny your logic.
I've only asked in considering these issues
in order to understand what virtue is.
Well, the result of this discussion is surprising,
since I began by asking you if virtue can be taught,
while you, Protagoras, resisted the argument
because you believed the virtues are different.
Now we find that wisdom is essential to each virtue,
but since wisdom is knowledge this also means
wisdom can be taught by you sophists,
and therefore virtue can be learned.
If the argument were a person,
it would probably laugh at us
for ending up opposite to our previous opinions.
I think to apply this wisdom in the future
we should avoid the mistake of Epimetheus
and rather emulate the Promethean way
by looking to the results before we decide to act.
Socrates, I approve your energy and skill in argument,
and I'd be the last person on earth to be envious.
I believe you will become eminent in philosophy.
Perhaps we can talk again,
but now let us turn to something else.
for long ago I was to be where I told you,
but I was glad to stay at the request of Callias.
Now I must go.
Socrates, Crito, and Hippocrates get up and leave.
SOCRATES: A Series of Philosophical Plays is now published as a book. For ordering information, please click here.