BECK index

by Plato

Translated by Sanderson Beck

To listen to Plato's dialog Alcibiades Part 3 between Socrates and Alcibiades about self-knowledge, click on the play button below.

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16. Against Whom Will Alcibiades Compete?
17. Noble Upbringing of Persian Kings
18. Lacedaimonians and Persians
19. Taking Care to Be Best
20. Ruling Over People
21. Friendship and Oneness
22. Taking Care of Ourselves
23. To Know Oneself
24. The Soul Uses the Body
25. The Soul Is the Person
26. Socrates Loves Alcibiades
27. For the Soul to Know Herself
28. The Ignorant Do Badly
29. The Need for Knowledge and Goodness
30. The Condition of Alcibiades

SO. Well; so what do you understand about yourself?
Which will it be, either as you now have it,
or taking care to do something?

ALC. Counsel in common, Socrates.
Yet I am reflecting during your talking and consent.
For the ones managing the state's affairs
seem to me to be, except for a few, uneducated.

SO. So really what is this?

ALC. If they ever were educated,
it would be necessary for one attempting to compete with them
to be learning and practicing like an athlete;
but now since they have gone into politics as amateurs,
what need is there to practice
and take the trouble of learning?
For I know well that by nature
I shall quite completely surpass them.

SO. Alas, best one, what this is you have said!
How unworthy of your looks and of your other advantages!

ALC. What do you really mean
and why do you say this, Socrates?

SO. I am irritated on your behalf and for my love.

ALC. At what?

SO. At your expecting the competition
to be against the people here.

ALC. But against whom will it be?

SO. Is this worthy also to be asked
by a man thinking himself to be great?

ALC. What do you mean?
Is not my contest against these?

SO. But if you were intending
to pilot a trireme in fighting at sea,
would it be sufficient for you
to be best of the shipmates at piloting,
or thinking these things to be necessary qualifications,
would you regard the ones you fight against,
but not as now the ones you fight with?
Doubtless you must excel such,
so that they would not be worthy to fight against you,
but being looked down upon
to be fighting with you against the enemies,
if you really mean to show off some beautiful action
also worthy of yourself and the state.

ALC. But I do mean to.

SO. Then is it quite worthy of you to be pleased,
if you are better than the soldiers,
but do not look at the ones leading the rivals,
if ever you should become better than those,
considering and practicing against those?

ALC. But of whom are you speaking, Socrates?

SO. Don't you know each time
our state makes war on Lacedaimonians and the great king?

ALC. You speak the truth.

SO. Then if you have in mind to be leader of the state,
would you believe correctly the contest for you to be leading
is against the kings of Lacedaimonia and Persia?

ALC. You may be speaking the truth.

SO. No, joyful one,
but you must look to the quail-striker Meidias
and such others who try to manage the state's affairs,
still slavish, as the women would say,
having three parts in the soul beneath rudeness
and not having looked after it at all,
but still foreign-speaking they have come
flattering the state, but not ruling--
to these you must look, as I say,
to really neglect looking at yourself,
and not learn what has to be learned,
for one intending to compete in such a contest,
nor practice what needs practicing,
and all preparation prepared
thus to enter upon affairs of the state.

ALC. But Socrates, you seem to me to speak the truth,
yet I think the Lacedaimonian generals and the Persian king
are no different than the others.

SO. But best one, consider this thought which you have.

ALC. About what?

SO. First do you think
you would take more care of yourself,
being afraid and thinking they are terrible,
or if you are not?

ALC. Clearly if I should think they are terrible.

SO. So do you think
you will be harmed taking care of yourself?

ALC. Not at all, rather I shall derive great benefit.

SO. Then in this sense your thought is bad.

ALC. You speak the truth.

SO. Then second, that it is also false,
from the likely consideration.

ALC. How so?

SO. Which are likely to be better by nature,
those in noble races or not noble?

ALC. Clearly in the noble.

SO. Then the well born, if they are also well brought up,
thus become perfected in virtue?

ALC. By necessity.

SO. Let us really consider, by comparing ours with theirs,
first whether the Lacedaimonian and Persian kings
seem to be of inferior birth.
Do we not know that the former are descendants of Heracles,
and the latter of Achaemenes,
and the race of Heracles and Achaemenes
goes back to Perseus, son of Zeus?

ALC. For mine does too, Socrates, to Eurysaces,
and that of Eurysaces to Zeus.

SO. For mine does too, noble Alcibiades, to Daedalus,
and Daedalus to Hephaestus, son of Zeus.
But the ones ruling these from themselves are kings
from kings reaching back to Zeus,
either of Argos and Lacedaimonia,
or of Persia always, and often of Asia too, as also now;
but we ourselves are private persons and our fathers.
And if also one should need to show the progenitors
and Salamis, the country of Eurysaces,
or Aegina of the still earlier Aeacus
to Artaxerxes, son of Xerxes,
how much laughter do you think it would deserve?

But look how inferior we are to the men
in pride of birth and in other upbringing.
Or have you not perceived
how great are the advantages of the Lacedaimonian kings,
whose wives are guarded at public expense by the magistrates,
so that it is not possible for the king
to be born from anyone else than from Heracleids?

And the Persian is so far beyond,
that no one has any suspicion
that a king could have been born
from anyone other than from his own;
because of this the king's wife is not guarded
by anything other than by fear.

And when the oldest child is born, as the ruler,
first all the subjects celebrate
in the palace of the king who should rule,
then for the rest of time on that day all of Asia
makes offerings and celebrates the king's birthday;
but at our birth, as the comic poet says,
even the neighbors hardly notice anything, Alcibiades.

After this the child is brought up,
not by a woman nurse of little worth,
but by the eunuchs who seem to be best around the palace;
others are assigned by them to take care of the new-born,
and so that he will be made most beautiful,
reshaping and setting upright the stance of the child;
and doing these things they are held in great honor.

And when the children become seven years old,
they are schooled on the horses and on the lessons of these,
and begin to go on the hunt;
and becoming twice seven years
those whom they name royal tutors take over the children;
and four Persians who seem best in maturity are selected,
the wisest and the most just
and the most discreet and the most courageous.

One teaches magian lore of Zoroaster, son of Horomazus;
and this is service of the gods;
and he also teaches the royal things;
and the most just to speak truth through all his life;
and the most discreet
not to be ruled by even one of the pleasures,
so as to be accustomed to be free and really a king,
ruling first what is in himself, but not being enslaved;
and the most courageous
preparing him to be fearless and secure,
how when one is afraid he is really a slave.

But for you, Alcibiades, the tutor appointed by Pericles
was the one of the household most useless by age,
Zopyrus the Thracian.
And I could describe for you
the other upbringing and education of your competitors,
if it were not much work;
and besides these things are enough to make it clear
and the others follow as much as these.
But of your birth, Alcibiades, and upbringing and education,
or of those of any other Athenians, so to speak,
nobody cares, unless it chances to be some lover of yours.

But again if you should intend to look into wealth
and luxury and robes with flowing trains
and anointments of myrrh and crowds of servants following
and the other delicacies of the Persians,
you would be ashamed at yourself,
perceiving how much you have been left behind by them.

And if again you intended to look into the discretion
and orderliness and dexterity and agility and magnanimity
and discipline and courage and patience and industry
and love of winning and ambition of the Lacedaimonians,
you would believe yourself a child in all these things.

And if again you are devoted to wealth
and think to be something in that,
and let this not be unsaid by us,
if you are to perceive where you are.
For in this if you intend to see
the wealth of the Lacedaimonians,
you should know that much here is left behind there.
For they have so much land of their own and Messenian,
none of ours here could compete in extent nor goodness,
nor again in acquiring captive slaves of the others
and the serfs,
nor of horses, nor how many other cattle graze in Messene;
but let us say goodby to all these things,
and there is not as much gold and silver
in all Greece as in private in Lacedaimonia;
for during many generations it has been going to them
from all of Greece, and often also from the foreigners,
and it goes out to no one,
but just as in the story of Aesop,
where the fox said to the lion,
also of the usage in Lacedaimonia it is clear
the tracks are directed going in there,
but never has anyone seen them coming out;
so that one ought to know well that
both in gold and in silver
the ones there are the wealthiest of the Greeks,
and their wealthiest is the king;
for the greatest and largest of such receipts are the king's,
and besides there is no small royal tribute,
which the Lacedaimonians pay to the king.

And this of the Lacedaimonians
as compared to Greeks is great wealth,
but as compared to the Persians and their king it is nothing;
since once I heard from a trustworthy man
who had gone up to the palace,
who said he went along a very large and good estate,
for nearly a day's journey,
which the inhabitants call the girdle of the king's wife;
and there is also another which again is called a veil,
and many other beautiful and good regions
reserved for the adornment of the wife,
and each region is named after each of the adornments;
so that I think, if someone should say
to the king's mother, and wife of Xerxes, Amestris,
that the son of Deinomache,
whose adornment is perhaps worth fifty minae, if that much,
has it in mind to challenge your son,
and the son whose land at Erchiae
is not even three hundred acres,
she would wonder what this Alcibiades has in mind
to be trusting to contend with Artaxerxes,
and I think she would say that it is not possible
the man attempting this could be trusting to anything else
except to taking care and wisdom;
for these are the only things worthy of a word among Greeks.

Since if she should learn
that this Alcibiades who now attempts this
is first not yet even twenty years old,
next completely uneducated,
and further, when his lover is telling him
that it is useful first learning and taking care of himself
and practicing thus to be contending with a king,
he is not willing, but says he is satisfied also as he is,
I think she would be surprised
and ask, "So on what is the boy to rely?"

So if we should say that on beauty and greatness
and birth and wealth and qualities of soul,
she would believe us, Alcibiades, to be mad
in looking at all such things in comparison to them.
And I think even Lampido, the daughter of Leotychides,
and wife of Archidamus, and mother of Agis,
who all have been kings,
would wonder also the same way
in looking at their advantages in comparison,
if you have in mind to contend with her son,
being so badly led.
Yet does it not seem to be shameful,
if the wives of the enemies
should understand better about ourselves,
what is really useful in taking them on,
than we ourselves understand about ourselves?

But blessed one, be convinced by me
and the inscription at Delphi, "Know yourself,"
that these are the competitors, but not the ones you think;
nor by any other single thing should we overcome them,
unless it be by taking care and by art.
If you are left behind in these,
you will also be left behind
in becoming notable among Greeks and foreigners,
whom you seem to me to love
more than anyone else ever loved anything.

ALC. So then what taking care is useful to do, Socrates?
Can you prescribe?
For more than all what you have said is likely true.

SO. Yes; but counsel in common,
as to the way by which we should become better;
for I do not speak only about your need so to be educated,
and not about mine;
for it is not that I differ from you except in one thing.

ALC. In what?

SO. The trustee who is mine is better and wiser
than Pericles, who is yours.

ALC. Who is he, Socrates?

SO. God, Alcibiades,
who before today has not allowed me to converse with you;
and trusting in it I say that your distinction
will be through no one other than through me.

ALC. You are playing, Socrates.

SO. Perhaps;
yet I speak the truth that we must take care,
as much as all people, we two also very much.

ALC. That I should, you are not lying.

SO. Nor in that I should.

ALC. So what then should we do?

SO. There must be no falling off nor weakening, companion.

ALC. These are really fitting, Socrates.

SO. None, but it must be considered in common.
And tell me: for we say that we really want to be best.
Or do we not?

ALC. Yes.

SO. Best at what?

ALC. Clearly that in which the men are good.

SO. Who are good in what?

ALC. Clearly that is the management of business.

SO. What kind? Then is it equestrian business?

ALC. Of course not.

SO. For we would be beside the horseman?

ALC. Yes.

SO. But do you mean nautical business?

ALC. No.

SO. For we would be beside the sailors?

ALC. Yes.

SO. But what kind? Who manages what?

ALC. What is the beautiful and good of Athenians.

SO. But do you mean the beautiful and good
are the sensible or the foolish?

ALC. The sensible.

SO. Then each is good in this in which he is sensible?

ALC. Yes.

SO. And bad in what he is foolish?

ALC. For how could he not be?

SO. So then is the leather-cutter
sensible in making sandals?

ALC. Certainly.

SO. Then is he good in that?

ALC. Good.

SO. But what?
In the making of clothes is not the leather-cutter foolish?

ALC. Yes.

SO. Then is he bad in this?

ALC. Yes.

SO. Then in this argument the same one is bad and good.

ALC. It appears so.

SO. Or then do you mean the good men are also bad?

ALC. Of course not.

SO. But whatever do you mean by the good?

ALC. I mean the ones able to rule in the state.

SO. Certainly not over horses?

ALC. Of course not.

SO. But over people?

ALC. Yes.

SO. Then when sick?

ALC. No.

SO. But when sailing?

ALC. I say no.

SO. But when harvesting?

ALC. No.

SO. But when doing nothing or when doing something?

ALC. I mean doing.

SO. What? Try and make it clear to me.

ALC. Then when they are meeting together with themselves
and using each other,
just as we live in the state.

SO. Then do you mean ruling over people
who are using people?

ALC. Yes.

SO. Then over commanders who use rowers?

ALC. Of course not.

SO. For this the pilot is best?

ALC. Yes.

SO. But do you mean ruling over flute-playing people,
who lead the people singing and use dancers?

ALC. Of course not.

SO. For again is this chorus-teaching?

ALC. Certainly.

SO. But whatever do you mean by
being able to rule over people who are using people?

ALC. I mean those sharing in the state
and meeting together with each other,
to rule over these in the state.

SO. So what then is this art?
Just as if I should ask you again the things I did just now,
what art makes one know how to rule over fellow sailors?

ALC. Piloting.

SO. And over fellow singers, as I just now said,
what knowledge makes one rule over them?

ALC. That which you just said, chorus-teaching.

SO. But what?
What do you call the knowledge of fellow citizens?

ALC. Good counsel, I call it, Socrates.

SO. But what?
Does the pilot's seem to be lack of counsel?

ALC. Of course not.

SO. But is it good counsel?

ALC. It seems so to me, in the saving of sailors.

SO. You speak well. But what?
In what is the good counsel of which you are speaking?

ALC. In the better managing and maintaining of the state.

SO. And to better manage and maintain it
what is present or absent?
For example, if you should ask me,
"To better manage a body and maintain it
what is present or absent?"
I would say that health is present, and disease absent.
Don't you think so too?

ALC. Yes.

SO. And if again you should ask me,
"And what is present when eyes are better?"
Similarly I would say that sight is present,
and blindness absent.
And also with ears deafness is absent,
and inborn hearing is best and being treated becomes better.

ALC. Correct.

SO. But what then?
What is present and absent when a state is best
and better treated and managed?

ALC. It seems to me, Socrates, when there is friendship
among themselves and toward each other,
and hating and rebelling are absent.

SO. So then by friendship do you mean oneness or discord?

ALC. Oneness.

SO. So through what art
are the states in oneness about numbers?

ALC. Through arithmetic.

SO. And what of the individuals? Is it through the same?

ALC. Yes.

SO. Then also is each the same with himself?

ALC. Yes.

SO. And through what art
is each one himself with himself
about a span and a cubit, which is longer?
Is it through measurement?

ALC. What then?

SO. Then also the individuals with each other
and the states?

ALC. Yes.

SO. But what about weight? Is it not similar?

ALC. I say so.

SO. And what oneness do you mean,
what is it and about what, and what art provides it?
And then is it the same in a state and individually,
with and toward oneself and toward another?

ALC. Most likely.

SO. So what is it?
You should not tire in answering, but be eager to say.

ALC. I think I mean friendship and oneness,
as when a father and mother are one in loving a son,
and brother with brother and wife with husband.

SO. So do you think, Alcibiades, a husband is able
to be one with a wife concerning wool-spinning,
not being knowledgeable next to her being knowledgeable?

ALC. Of course not.

SO. Nor has he any need;
for this is a woman's accomplishment.

ALC. Yes.

SO. But what?
Is a woman able to be one with a man
concerning politics not having learned it?

ALC. Of course not.

SO. For perhaps again you would say this is a man's.

ALC. I would.

SO. Then there are women's and men's accomplishments
according to your argument.

ALC. And how could there not be?
SO. Then in these there is no oneness
between women and men.

ALC. No.

SO. Then no friendship, if friendship is oneness.

ALC. It appears not.

SO. Then the women who are doing their own business
are not loved by the men.

ALC. It seems not.

SO. Nor then the men by the women, in doing theirs.

ALC. No.

SO. Nor then in the same way are the states well managed
when they each are doing their own business?

ALC. I think so, Socrates.

SO. How do you mean it, with friendship not present,
which we say is there to manage well the states,
and otherwise they are not?

ALC. But it seems to me also according to this
friendship arises among them,
because they each do their own business.

SO. It just was not; but now again how do you mean it?
With oneness not arising does friendship arise?
Or can oneness arise which some have known about,
and others have not?

ALC. Impossible.

SO. And are they doing justice or injustice,
when they each are doing their own business?

ALC. Justice; for how could they not be?

SO. So when the citizens are doing the just in the state
does not friendship arise toward each other?

ALC. Again it seems to me to be necessary, Socrates.

SO. So whatever do you mean by the friendship or oneness
about which we need to be wise and well-advised,
in order that we may be good men?
For I am not able to learn either what or in whom it is;
for sometimes it appears to be in them, but other times not,
from your argument.

ALC. But by the gods, Socrates,
I don't know myself what I mean,
but risk also having been long unaware myself
in a most shameful condition.

SO. But one should be confident.
For if you had perceived this condition at age fifty,
it would be hard for you to take care of yourself;
but now you are at the age
at which it is necessary to perceive this.

ALC. So having perceived it what should one do, Socrates?

SO. Answer the questions asked, Alcibiades;
and if you do this, God willing,
if it is necessary for someone to trust also in my prophecy,
you and I both shall become better.

ALC. These things shall be on account of my answering.

SO. Come then, what is "taking care of yourself"---
often we may not be aware
we are not taking care of ourselves,
but thinking we are---
and so when does a person do it?
Is it when one is taking care of one's things,
at that time is one also taking care of oneself?

ALC. It seems so to me at least.

SO. But what? When does a person take care of feet?
Is it when one is taking care of
those things which belong to the feet?

ALC. I don't understand.

SO. What do you call what belongs to a hand?
Does a ring belong to
any other part of a person than a finger?

ALC. Of course not.

SO. Then also a sandal to a foot in the same manner?

ALC. Yes.

SO. So then when we take care of sandals,
at that time do we take care of feet?

ALC. I don't quite understand, Socrates.

SO. But what, Alcibiades? Do you call
something taking care of whatever business correct?

ALC. I do.

SO. So what art makes sandals better?

ALC. Shoemaking.

SO. Then by shoemaking do we take care of sandals?

ALC. Yes.

SO. Also the foot by shoemaking?
Or by that by which we make feet better?

ALC. By that.

SO. And are not feet made better
by that which also the rest of the body is?

ALC. It seems to me.

SO. And is this not gymnastic?

ALC. Especially.

SO. Then by gymnastic do we take care of feet,
and by shoemaking of what belongs to the feet?

ALC. Certainly.

SO. And by gymnastic of the hands,
and by ring-engraving of what belongs to the hand?

ALC. Yes.

SO. And by gymnastic of the body,
and by weaving and the others the things of the body?

ALC. Absolutely so.

SO. Then by one art we take care of each thing itself,
but by another of what belongs to the thing itself.

ALC. It appears so.

SO. Then when you take care of what belongs to yourself,
you are not taking care of yourself.

ALC. Not at all.

SO. For the art is not the same, as likely,
by which someone may take care of oneself
and of one's things.

ALC. It appears not.

SO. Come then,
by what kind can we be taken care of ourselves?

ALC. I have nothing to say.

SO. But has so much at least been admitted,
that it is not the one
by which we would make any of our belongings better,
but by which we would make ourselves better?

ALC. You speak the truth.

SO. So should we ever have known
what art makes a sandal better, not knowing a sandal?

ALC. Impossible.

SO. Nor what art makes rings better,
being ignorant of a ring.

ALC. True.

SO. But what?
Then would we ever know what art makes oneself better
being ignorant of what we are ourselves?

ALC. Impossible.

SO. So then does it really happen to be easy
to know oneself,
and was it some careless person
who inscribed this in the temple at Delphi,
or is it something hard and not for everyone?

ALC. It often seemed to me, Socrates, to be for everyone,
and often quite hard.

SO. But Alcibiades, whether it is easy or not,
nevertheless for us it has to be this way;
knowing this quickly we would know
the taking care of ourselves,
but being ignorant we never would.

ALC. This is so.

SO. But come, in what way is a self itself discovered?
For thus we may quickly discover whatever we are ourselves,
but still being in ignorance of this it would be impossible.

ALC. You speak correctly.

SO. So it holds toward God.
With whom are you conversing now?
What other than with me?

ALC. Yes.

SO. Then also I with you?

ALC. Yes.

SO. Then Socrates is the one conversing?

ALC. Certainly.

SO. And Alcibiades the one listening?

ALC. Yes.

SO. Then Socrates converses with speech?

ALC. Well?

SO. And the conversing and the using speech
you call the same thing.

ALC. Certainly.

SO. And the one using and what is used,
are they not different?

ALC. How do you mean?

SO. For example, a leather-cutter cuts when cutting
with both a knife and with other tools.

ALC. Yes.

SO. Then is the one cutting and using it one thing,
and what is used in cutting another?

ALC. For how could it not be?

SO. So then thus also what the harpist plays
and the harpist himself would be different?

ALC. Yes.

SO. Now this is just what I was asking,
whether the one using and what is being used
always seem to be different.

ALC. It seems so.

SO. So what do we say of the leather-cutter?
Does he cut with tools alone or also with hands?

ALC. Also with hands.

SO. Then does he use these also?

ALC. Yes.

SO. Is the leather-cutter also using his eyes?

ALC. Yes.

SO. And we agree the using and what is used are different?

ALC. Yes.

SO. Then a leather-cutter and harpist are different
from hands and eyes with which they work?

ALC. It is apparent.

SO. Then also is a person using the whole body?

ALC. Certainly.

SO. And the one using and what is being used are different?

ALC. Yes.

SO. Then a person is different from one's own body?

ALC. It is likely.

SO. So whatever is a person?

ALC. I have nothing to say.

SO. So then you do have,
that at least it is the one using the body.

ALC. Yes.

SO. So what else uses it than a soul?

ALC. Nothing else.

SO. Therefore ruling?

ALC. Yes.

SO. And here at least I think
no one would be thinking otherwise.

ALC. What?

SO. One of three things is what the person is.

ALC. What things?

SO. Soul or body or both together, the whole of this.

ALC. What then?

SO. But did we not agree at least
this ruler of the body is the person?

ALC. We agreed.

SO. So then does a body itself rule itself?

ALC. Not at all.

SO. For we said it is ruled itself.

ALC. Yes.

SO. Really this could not be what we are seeking.

ALC. It is not likely.

SO. But then do both together rule the body,
and is this really a person?

ALC. Perhaps it is.

SO. Least of all; for they are not ruling together
when one or the other has no part in both together ruling.

ALC. Correct.

SO. But since neither body nor both together is the person,
it is left to, I think, either this is nothing,
or if it is something,
it turns out the person is nothing else than soul.

ALC. Exactly so.

SO. So what is still needed
for it to be more clearly demonstrated to you,
that the soul is the person?

ALC. By God, but it seems to me it is sufficiently so.

SO. And if not at least exactly but it is moderately,
it satisfies us;
for we shall know exactly at that time,
when we have discovered what now we really passed over
because it involves much consideration.

ALC. What is this?

SO. What was just somehow said,
that first must be considered this self itself;
but now instead of the self itself
we have been considering what each thing is.
And perhaps it will be satisfying;
for we could not say anything is more lord over ourselves
than the soul.

ALC. Of course not.

SO. Then does it hold beautifully to name it thus,
me and you using the arguments to converse with each other
by the soul to the soul?

ALC. Quite so.

SO. Then this was what we also said a little while earlier,
that Socrates is conversing with Alcibiades using argument,
not to your face, as likely,
but making the arguments to Alcibiades;
and this is the soul.

ALC. It seems to me.

SO. Then the one assigning knowing self
orders us to gain knowledge of the soul.

ALC. It is likely.

SO. Then whoever knows what belongs to the body,
has known one's things but not oneself.

ALC. This is so.

SO. Then not one of the physicians knows oneself,
as a physician,
nor any of the trainers, as a trainer.

ALC. It is not likely.

SO. Then the farmers and the other workers
are very far from knowing themselves.
For these don't even know their own things, as likely,
but even more remote than their things
according to the arts which they have;
for they know the things of the body,
with which it is served.

ALC. You speak the truth.

SO. Then if it is sensible to know oneself,
none of these are sensible in respect to the art.

ALC. None, it seems to me.

SO. Because of this also
these arts really seem to be mechanical
and not achievements of a good man.

ALC. Quite so.

SO. Then again whoever serves a body,
serves one's own things but does not serve oneself?

ALC. Could be.

SO. And whoever serves money,
serves neither oneself nor one's own things,
but what is even more remote from one's things?

ALC. It seems to me.

SO. Then the money-maker
does not even do one's own business.

ALC. Correct.

SO. Then if someone has been a lover of Alcibiades' body,
he is not in love with Alcibiades,
but with something belonging to Alcibiades.

ALC. You speak the truth.

SO. But your lover loves the soul?

ALC. It appears necessary from the argument.

SO. Then the one loving your body,
when the bloom ceases, going away is he gone?

ALC. It appears so.

SO. But the one loving the soul does not go away,
as long as it is getting better?

ALC. It is likely.

SO. Then I am the one who is not going away
but is remaining when the bloom of the body is ceasing,
the others having departed.

ALC. You at least are doing well, Socrates;
and you should not go away.

SO. Then be eager to be most beautiful.

ALC. But I shall be eager.

SO. So this is how it is for you;
neither was there, as likely, nor is there
a lover of Alcibiades, the son of Cleinias,
except one alone, and this beloved,
Socrates, the son of Sophroniscus and Phaenarete.

ALC. True.

SO. Then was it said my coming to you
anticipated by a little, before your coming to me,
wanting to inquire why I alone was not going away?

ALC. For that was so.

SO. Then the reason for this was that
I was the only lover of you,
but the others were of what belongs to you;
and the time of your things is ceasing,
but you are beginning to bloom.
And now if you are not corrupted by the Athenian democracy
and become shameful, I shall not forsake you.
For I am especially afraid of this,
that you might be corrupted
by becoming a lover of popularity;
for many good Athenians already have suffered this.
For a good face is the democracy of heroic Erechtheus;
but it is useful to see it stripped;
so beware of the precaution which I mean.

ALC. What?

SO. Exercise first, blessed one,
and learn what achievements are necessary
to enter the business of the state,
and which are not,
so that you might have a remedy
and not suffer anything terrible.

ALC. You seem to me to speak well, Socrates;
but try to explain in what manner
we may be taking care of ourselves.

SO. Then so much has been accomplished by us in advance;
for what we are, is pretty much agreed upon;
and we were afraid tripping on this
we might not notice
we are taking care of something different,
but not ourselves.

ALC. This is so.

SO. And after this really it must be
to take care of the soul and look into this.

ALC. Clearly.

SO. And give over to others
the taking care of bodies and money.

ALC. What then?

SO. So in what way could we know this most distinctly?
Since knowing this, as likely, we shall also know ourselves.
Then speaking well before God are we not comprehending
what we just now remembered of the Delphic inscription?

ALC. What kind of understanding do you mean, Socrates?

SO. I will indicate to you
what I suspect this inscription means and advises us.
For chances are not in many places is there a model of this,
but only in respect to sight.

ALC. How do you mean this?

SO. You consider also.
If to our eye just as to a person in advising
it said, "See yourself,"
how should we take up what it recommends?
Then would it not looking into this,
into what the eye is looking intend to see itself?

ALC. Clearly.

SO. What can we think of, looking into which
we may see at the same time that and ourselves?

ALC. Clearly, Socrates, into mirrors and such things.

SO. You speak correctly.
Then also in the eye by which we see
is there in it some such thing?

ALC. Certainly.

SO. So have you observed that
the face of the one looking into the eye
appears in the opposite eye as in a mirror,
and we call it the pupil,
which is a kind of image of the one looking?

ALC. You speak the truth.

SO. Then an eye seeing an eye,
and looking into this best part of it and by which it sees,
thus may see itself.

ALC. It appears so.

SO. But if it should look into any other part of the person
or at any other thing,
except into that by which this happens to be similar,
it will not see itself.

ALC. You speak the truth.

SO. Then if an eye intends to see itself,
it must look into an eye by itself,
and into that region of the eye,
in which the goodness of an eye is innate;
and is this sight?

ALC. That is so.

SO. So then, dear Alcibiades,
if soul also intends to know herself,
must she look into soul by herself,
and especially into this region of her,
in which the goodness of soul is innate, wisdom,
and into anything else which happens to be similar to this?

ALC. It seems to me, Socrates.

SO. So can we say,
is there anything of the soul more divine than this,
which is concerned with knowing and thinking?

ALC. We cannot.

SO. Then this part of her is like the divine,
and anyone looking into this
also comes to know all the divine,
and thus would especially know oneself.

ALC. It appears so.

SO. And to know oneself we agree is to be sensible?

ALC. Certainly.

SO. So then not knowing ourselves nor being sensible
are we able to know our own belongings bad and good?

ALC. How could this be, Socrates?

SO. For perhaps it appears to you impossible
that not knowing Alcibiades it is possible to know
that Alcibiades' belongings are Alcibiades'.

ALC. Yet it is impossible, by God.

SO. Nor even that our belongings are ours,
if we don't know ourselves?

ALC. For how could that be?

SO. And then if not our belongings,
not the business of our belongings either?

ALC. It appears not.

SO. So then we were not quite correct in just agreeing
there are some, who do not know themselves,
but know their belongings,
while others know the business of their belongings.
For it is likely
all these are to be regarded as one and a single art,
oneself, one's belongings, the business of one's belongings.

ALC. Could be.

SO. And whoever is ignorant of one's own belongings,
would also be ignorant possibly of the business of others
according to this.

ALC. What then?

SO. Then if of the business of others,
one will also be ignorant of the business of the state.

ALC. By necessity.

SO. Then such a man could never become a politician.

ALC. Of course not.

SO. Nor an economist either.

ALC. Of course not.

SO. Nor will one know what one is doing.

ALC. No.

SO. And will not the one not knowing make mistakes?

ALC. Certainly.

SO. And making mistakes will one do badly
in private and in public?

ALC. How could one not?

SO. And doing badly will one not be wretched?

ALC. Very.

SO. And what of those for whom this one is doing so?

ALC. These also.

SO. Then it is impossible,
unless one is sensible and good, to be happy.

ALC. Impossible.

SO. Then the bad people are wretched.

ALC. Very.

SO. Then it is not the one who has become wealthy
who is delivered from being most wretched,
but the one who has become sensible.

ALC. It appears so.

SO. Then it is not walls nor triremes nor shipyards
the states need, Alcibiades,
if they intend to be happy,
nor numbers nor size without goodness.

ALC. Certainly not.

SO. If you really intend to
manage the business of the state correctly and beautifully,
you must impart goodness to the citizens.

ALC. For how could that not be?

SO. And could anyone impart something one does not have?

ALC. And how could one?

SO. Then first you must gain goodness for yourself,
and for anyone else who intends to rule and take care of
oneself and one's belongings not in private only
but also a state and the business of the state.

ALC. You speak the truth.

SO. Then it is not power nor rule
that you must provide for yourself
to do what you want for you and the state,
but justice and discretion.

ALC. It appears so.

SO. For acting justly and sensibly
you and the state will be acting friendly to God.

ALC. It is likely.

SO. And as we said in the previous argument,
you will act looking into the divine and bright.

ALC. It appears so.

SO. But looking at this you will regard and know
both yourselves and your own good.

ALC. Yes.

SO. Then will you act correctly and well?

ALC. Yes.

SO. But acting thus
I am willing to pledge that you will be happy.

ALC. For you are an unfailing pledge.

SO. But acting unjustly,
looking into the godless and the dark,
then it is likely you will do acts similar to these
ignoring yourselves.

ALC. It is likely.

SO. For if, dear Alcibiades,
someone has the power to do what one wants,
but does not have intelligence,
what is likely to result,
for an individual or also for a state?
For example, being sick
and having the power to run where one wants,
not having medical intelligence,
but dictating so that no one would chastise one,
what would be the result?
Would not, as likely, the body be ruined?

ALC. You speak the truth.

SO. And what about in a ship,
if one had the power to do what one thought,
deprived of the intelligence and goodness of navigation,
do you see what would result for him and his shipmates?

ALC. I do, that they all would perish.

SO. Then in the same way in a state
and among all rulers and authorities lacking in goodness
does acting badly follow?

ALC. By necessity.

SO. Then dictatorship is not useful, best Alcibiades,
to be provided neither for oneself nor for the state,
if one intends to be happy, but goodness is.

ALC. You speak the truth.

SO. And until you have goodness,
it is better to be ruled by a better than for a man to rule,
not only for a child.

ALC. It appears so.

SO. Then the better is more beautiful?

ALC. Yes.

SO. And the more beautiful more fitting?

ALC. How could it not be?

SO. Then it is fitting for a bad person to serve;
for it is better.

ALC. Yes.

SO. Then vice fits the servile.

ALC. It appears so.

SO. And goodness fits the free.

ALC. Yes.

SO. Then is it useful to avoid, comrade, the servile?

ALC. Especially, Socrates.

SO. And now do you perceive how you are?
Fit to be free or not?

ALC. I seem to me also to be perceiving it very much.

SO. So do you know how you might escape
this state you are now in?
Let us not put this name on a beautiful man.

ALC. I do.

SO. How?

ALC. If you wish, Socrates.

SO. You don't speak beautifully, Alcibiades.

ALC. But what is useful to say?

SO. That if God wills.

ALC. I really mean it.
And yet beyond this I say that we shall be risking
exchanging characteristics, Socrates, I yours, and you mine;
for there is no way it cannot be
that I shall attend to you from this day on,
and you shall be attended by me.

SO. Noble one, then my love is not unlike a stork's,
if along with you having hatched a winged love
one is again served by this.

ALC. But it holds thus,
and I shall begin from here to take care of justice.

SO. I would like you also to continue;
but I am shuddering, not from any mistrust of your nature,
but from viewing the strength of the state,
lest it prevail over both me and you.

Copyright 1996, 2002 by Sanderson Beck

This has been published in the WISDOM BIBLE as a book. For ordering information, please click here. This text is also available as spoken by Sanderson Beck and Joshua Gomez on CD.

Introduction to Socrates and Plato
CRITO by Plato
PHAEDO by Plato


"Know Yourself"
The Sophists
Prudence and Courage
The Lover
The Banquet
The Good
The Trial
Prison and Death

BECK index