Lesser Hippias by Plato

Lesser Hippias

by Plato

Translated by: Benjamin Jowett

The Lesser Hippias is an inferior dialogue in which Socrates argues with Hippias the Sophist about voluntary vs involuntary wrongdoing.

Persons of the Dialogue :

EUDICUS ; SOCRATES ; HIPPIAS.

Eudicus : Why, then, are you silent, Socrates, when Hippias has been delivering such a fine display ? Why do you not join us in praising some part of his speech, or else, if he seems to you to have been wrong in any point, refute him — especially now that we who might best claim to have a share in philosophical discussion have been left to ourselves ?

Socrates : Indeed, Eudicus, there are some points in what Hippias was just now saying of Homer, about which I should like to question him. For I used to hear your father Apemantus say that Homer’s Iliad was a finer poem than the Odyssey, and just as much finer as Achilles was finer than Odysseus for he said that one of these poems was made with Odysseus ; the other with Achilles as its subject. So that is a point about which, if it is agreeable to Hippias, I should like to ask — what he thinks about these two men, which of them he says is the better ;  for he has told us in his exhibition many other things of sorts about Homer and other poets.

Eudicus : It is plain enough that Hippias will not object answering if you ask him a question. Oh, Hippias, if Socrates asks you a question, will you answer ? or what will you do ?

Hippias : Why, Eudicus, it would be strange conduct on my part, if I, who always go up to Olympia to the festival of the Greeks from my home at Elis, and entering the sacred precinct, offer to speak on anything that anyone chooses of those subjects which I prepared for exhibition, and to answer any questions that anyone asks — should now avoid being questioned by Socrates.

Socrates : You are in a state of blessedness, Hippias, if at every Olympiad you come to the sanctuary with fair hopes concerning your soul and its wisdom ; and I should be surprised if any of the physical athletes when he goes to that same place to take part in the contests, has such fearless confidence in his body as you have in your intellect.

Hippias : Naturally, Socrates, I am in this state : for since I began to contend at the Olympic games, I never yet met anyone better than myself in anything.

Socrates : That is splendid, Hippias ! Your reputation will be a monument of wisdom for the city of Elis and your parents. But now what do you say about Achilles and Odysseus ? Which do you say is the better and in what respect ? For when there were many of us in the room, and you were making your exhibition, I could not keep up with what you were saying : for I hesitated to ask questions, because there was a great crowd in the room, also for fear of hindering your exhibition by doing so ; but now, since we are fewer and Eudicus here urges me to question you, speak and tell us clearly [364c] what you said about these two men ; how did you distinguish them ?

Hippias : Why I am glad, Socrates, to explain to you still more clearly what I say about these and others also. For I say that Homer made Achilles the bravest man of those who went to Troy, and Nestor the wisest, and Odysseus the wiliest.

Socrates : Oh dear, Hippias ! Would you do me the favour not to laugh at me if I find it hard to understand what you say, and keep asking questions over and over ? [364d]Please try to answer me gently and courteously.

Hippias : Of course ; for it would be a disgrace, Socrates, if I, who teach others good manners and charge them money for it, should not myself, when questioned by you, be considerate and reply gently.

Socrates : That is excellent. For when you said that the poet made Achilles the bravest of men, and Nestor the wisest, I thought I understood what you meant ; [364e] but when you said that he made Odysseus the wiliest, to tell you the truth, I do not in the least know what you mean by that. Now tell me, and perhaps it may result in my understanding better. Has not Homer made Achilles wily ?

Hippias : Not at all, Socrates ; he made him most simple ; for in “The Prayers,” when he depicts them talking with one another, he makes Achilles say to Odysseus :

Zeus-born son of Laertes, wily Odysseus, I must speak out the word without refraining, as I shall act and think will be accomplished [and pray do not mutter in discord sitting here beside me]. For hateful to me as the gates of Hades is he who hides one thing in his heart and says another. But I shall speak that which shall be accomplished.

In these lines he makes plain the character of each of the men, that Achilles is true and simple, and Odysseus wily and false for he represents Achilles as saying these lines to Odysseus.

Socrates : Now at last, Hippias, I think I understand what you mean ; you mean that the wily man is false, apparently.

Hippias : Certainly, Socrates ; for Homer represents Odysseus as that sort of a man in many passages of both Iliad and Odyssey.

Socrates : Homer, then, as it seems, thought that a true man was one man and a false man another, but not the same.

Hippias : Of course he did, Socrates.

Socrates : And do you think so yourself, Hippias ?

Hippias : Most assuredly ; for it would be strange if I did not.

Socrates : Then let us drop Homer, since it is impossible to ask him what he meant when he made those verses ; but since you come forward to take up his cause, and agree in this which you say is his meaning, do you answer for Homer and yourself in common.

Hippias : Very well ; ask briefly whatever you like.

Socrates : Do you say that the false are, like the sick, without power to do anything, or that they have power to do something ?

Hippias : I say that they have great power to do many things, and especially to deceive people.

Socrates : They are, then, powerful, according to you, and wily, are they not ?

Hippias : Yes.

Socrates : But are they wily and deceivers by reason of simplicity and folly, or by reason of shrewdness and a sort of intelligence ?

Hippias : By shrewdness, most assuredly, and intelligence.

Socrates : They are intelligent, then, as it seems.

Hippias : Yes, by Zeus, too much so.

Socrates : And being intelligent, do they know what they are doing, or do they not know ?

Hippias : Yes, they know very well ; that is why they do harm.

Socrates : And knowing these things which they know, are they ignorant, or wise ?

Hippias : Wise, surely, in just this, deception.

Socrates : Stop. Let us recall what you say. You say that the false are powerful and intelligent, and knowing and wise in those things in which they are false ?

Hippias : Yes, I do.

Socrates : And that the true and the false are different and complete opposites of one another ?

Hippias : I do.

Socrates : Well, then, the false are among the powerful and the wise, according to your statement.

Hippias : Certainly.

Socrates : And when you say that the false are powerful and wise for falsehood, do you mean that they have power to utter falsehoods if they like, or that they are powerless in respect to the falsehoods which they utter ?

Hippias : That they have power.

Socrates : In short, then, the false are those who are wise and powerful in uttering falsehoods.

Hippias : Yes.

Socrates : A man, then, who has not the power to utter falsehoods and is ignorant would not be false.

Hippias : That is true.

Socrates : Well, but every man has power who does what he wishes at the time when he wishes ;  I am not speaking of one who is prevented by disease or that sort of thing, but as I might say of you that you have power to write my name when you wish or do you not say that a man has power who is in such a condition ?

Hippias : Yes, I do.

Socrates : Tell me, then, Hippias, are you not skillful in arithmetical calculations ?

Hippias : Most assuredly, Socrates.

Socrates : Then if some one were to ask you what the product of three times seven hundred is, you could, if you wished, tell him the truth about that more quickly and better than anyone else ?

Hippias : Certainly.

Socrates : Because you are the most powerful and wisest of men in these matters ?

Hippias : Yes.

Socrates : Are you, then, merely wisest and most powerful, or are you also best in those matters in which you are most powerful and wisest, namely calculations ?

Hippias : Best also, to be sure, Socrates.

Socrates : Then you would have the greatest power to tell the truth about these things, would you not ?

Hippias : I think so.

Socrates : But what of falsehoods about these same things ? And please answer this with the same splendid frankness as my previous questions, Hippias. If some one were to ask you how much three times seven hundred is, would you have the most power to tell falsehoods and always uniformly to say false things about these matters, if you wished to tell falsehoods and never to reply truly ; or would he who is ignorant of calculations have more power to tell falsehoods than you, if you wished to do so ? Or would the ignorant man often, when he wished to tell falsehoods, involuntarily tell the truth, if it so happened, because he did not know, whereas you, the wise man, if you wished to tell falsehoods, would tell them always and uniformly ?

Hippias : Yes, it is as you say.

Socrates : Is the false man, then, false about other things, but not about number, and would he not tell falsehoods when dealing with number ?

Hippias : He is false about number also, by Zeus.

Socrates : Shall we, then, assume this also, that there is such a person as a man who is false about calculation and number ?

Hippias : Yes.

Socrates : Now who would that man be ? Must he not, as you just now agreed, have power to tell falsehoods, if he is to be false ? For it was said by you, if you recollect, that he who has not the power to tell falsehoods would never be false.

Hippias : Yes, I recollect, that was said.

Socrates : And just now you were found to have most power to tell falsehoods about calculations, were you not ?

Hippias : Yes, that also was said.

Socrates : Have you, then, also most power to tell the truth about calculations ?

Hippias : Certainly.

Socrates : Then the same man has most power to speak both falsehood and truth about calculations ; and this man is the one who is good in respect to them, namely the calculator.

Hippias : Yes.

Socrates : Who, then, becomes false in respect to calculation, Hippias, other than the good man ? For the same man is also powerful and he is also true.

Hippias : So it appears.

Socrates : You see, then, that the same man is both false and true in respect to these matters, and the true is in no wise better than the false ? For he is indeed the same man, and the two are not utter opposites, [367d] as you thought just now.

Hippias : Apparently not, at least in this field.

Socrates : Shall we, then, investigate elsewhere ?

Hippias : If you like.

Socrates : Well, then, are you expert in geometry also ?

Hippias : I am.

Socrates : Well, has not the same man most power to speak falsehood and truth about geometry, namely the geometrician ?

Hippias : Yes.

Socrates : In respect to that, then, is any other good than he ?

Hippias : No, no other.

Socrates : The good and wise geometrician, then, has the most power in both respects, has he not ? And if anyone is false in respect to diagrams, it would be this man, the good geometrician ? For he has the power, and the bad one was powerless, to speak falsehood ; so that he who has no power to speak falsehood would not become false, as has been agreed.

Hippias : That is true.

Socrates : Let us, then, investigate also the third man, the astronomer, whose art you think you know even better than those of the previous ones ; do you not, Hippias ?

Hippias : Yes.

Socrates : Are not the same things true in astronomy also ?

Hippias : Probably, Socrates.

Socrates : Then in astronomy also, if anyone is false, the good astronomer will be false, he who has power to speak falsehood. For he who has not power will not for he is ignorant.

Hippias : So it appears.

Socrates : The same man, then, in astronomy will be true and false.

Hippias : So it seems.

Socrates : Come now, Hippias, consider generally in this way concerning all the sciences,  whether this is the case, or not. Certainly you are the wisest of men in the greatest number of arts, as I once heard you boast, recounting your great and enviable wisdom in the market-place at the tables of the moneychangers. You said that once, when you went to Olympia, everything you had on your person was your own work ; first the ring — for you began with that —  which you had was your own work, showing that you knew how to engrave rings, and another seal was your work, and a strigil and an oil-flask were your works ; then you said that you yourself had made the sandals you had on, and had woven your cloak and tunic ; and, what seemed to every one most unusual and proof of the most wisdom, was when you said that the girdle you wore about your tunic was like the Persian girdles of the costliest kind, and that you had made it yourself. And in addition you said that you brought with you poems, both epics and tragedies and dithyrambs, and many writings of all sorts composed in prose ;  and that you were there excelling all others in knowledge of the arts of which I was speaking just now, and of the correctness of rhythms and harmonies and letters, and many other things besides, as I seem to remember ; and yet I forgot your art of memory, as it seems, in which you think you are most brilliant ;  and I fancy I have forgotten a great many other things. But, as I say, look both at your own arts — and there are plenty of them — and at those of others, and tell me if you find, in accordance with the agreements you and I have reached, any point where one man is true and another false, where they are separate and not the same. Look for this in any branch whatsoever of wisdom or shrewdness or whatever you choose to call it ;  but you will not find it, my friend, for it does not exist ; just tell me.

Hippias : But I cannot, Socrates, at least, not now offhand.

Socrates : And you never will be able to tell me, I fancy ; but if what I say is true, Hippias, you remember what results from our argument.

Hippias : I do not at all understand what you mean, Socrates.

Socrates : No, for perhaps you are not using your art of memory ; for you evidently think it is not necessary ; but I will remind you. Do you remember that you said that Achilles was true and Odysseus was false and wily ?

Hippias : Yes.

Socrates : Do you now, then, perceive that the same man has been found to be false and true, so that if Odysseus was false, he becomes also true, and if Achilles was true, he becomes also false, and the two men are not different from one another, nor opposites, but alike ?

Hippias : Socrates, you are always making intricate arguments of this sort, and, picking out the most difficult part of the argument, you stick to it in detail, and you do not discuss the whole subject with which the argument deals ; for now, if you like, I will prove to you by satisfactory argument based on many pieces of evidence, that Homer made Achilles better than Odysseus and free from falsehood, and Odysseus crafty and a teller of many falsehoods and inferior to Achilles. And, if you like, do you oppose argument to argument, maintaining that the other is better ; and these gentlemen here will determine which of us speaks better.

Socrates : Hippias, I do not doubt that you are wiser than I ; but it is always my custom to pay attention when anyone is speaking, especially when the speaker seems to me to be wise ; and because I desire to learn what he means, I question him thoroughly and examine and compare the things he says, in order that I may learn. But if the speaker seems to me to be worthless, I neither ask questions nor care what he says. And by this you will recognize whom I regard as wise ; for you will find me persistently asking such a man questions about what he says, in order that I may profit by learning something. And so now I noticed when you were speaking, that in the lines which you repeated just now to show that Achilles speaks to Odysseus as to a deceiver, it seems to me very strange, if what you say is true, that Odysseus the wily is nowhere found to have spoken falsely, but Achilles is found to be a wily sort of person, according to your argument ; at any rate, he speaks falsely. For he begins by speaking these lines which you just quoted :

For hateful to me as the gates of Hades is he who hides one thing in his heart and says another, and a little later says that he would not be persuaded by Odysseus and Agamemnon and would not stay at Troy at all, but, —

Tomorrow, after sacrificing to Zeus and all the gods, (he says), I will load my ships well and drag them into the sea ; then you shall see, if you like and if it interests you, early in the morning my ships sailing the fishy Hellespont[370c] and my men eagerly rowing in them ; and if the glorious Earthshaker should grant me a fair voyage, on the third day I should come to fertile Phthia.

And even before that, when he was reviling Agamemnon, he said :

And now I shall go to Phthia, since it is far better to go home with my beaked ships, and I do not intend to stay here without honor, and heap up wealth and riches for you.

After he has said these things, at one time in the presence of the whole army and at another before his own comrades, he is nowhere found to have either prepared or attempted to drag down his ships to sail home, but he shows quite superb disregard of truthspeaking. Now I, Hippias, asked my question in the first place because I was perplexed as to which of the two men is represented as better by the poet, and because I thought both were very good, and it was hard to decide which was better, both in regard to falsehood and truth and to virtue in general ; for both are similar in this matter.

Hippias : That is because you do not look at it aright, Socrates. For the falsehoods that Achilles utters, he utters evidently not by design, but against his will, since he is forced by the misfortune of the army to remain and give assistance ; but Odysseus utters his falsehoods voluntarily and by design.

Socrates : You are deceiving me, beloved Hippias, and are yourself imitating Odysseus.

Hippias : Not at all, Socrates. What do you mean and to what do you refer ?

Socrates : That you say Achilles did not speak falsely by design, he who was not only a deceiver, but was also such a cheat and plotter, as Homer has represented him, that he is seen to be so much more clever than Odysseus in deceiving him unnoticed without difficulty, that he dared to contradict himself in his presence, and Odysseus did not notice it ; at any rate Odysseus does not appear to have said anything to him which indicates that he noticed his falsehood.

Hippias : What is this that you say, Socrates ?

Socrates : Don’t you know that after he said to Odysseus that he was going to sail away at daybreak, in speaking to Ajax he does not repeat that he is going to sail away, but says something different ?

Hippias : Where, pray ?

Socrates : Where he says :

For I shall not be mindful of bloody war until warlike Priam’s son, the glorious Hector, shall reach the tents and ships of the Myrmidons through slaughter of Argives and shall burn the ships with fire. But at my tent and my black ship I think Hector, though eager for battle, will come to a halt.

Now, Hippias, do you think the son of Thetis and pupil of the most wise Cheiron was so forgetful, that, although a little earlier he had reviled deceivers in the most extreme terms, he himself immediately said to Odysseus that he was going to sail away and to Ajax that he was going to stay, and was not acting by design and in the belief that Odysseus was behind the times and that he himself would get the better of him in just this matter of contrivance and falsehood ?

Hippias : No, I do not agree, Socrates ; but in this case also Achilles was induced by the goodness of his heart to say to Ajax something different from what he had said to Odysseus ; whereas Odysseus, when he speaks the truth always speaks with design, and when he speaks falsehood likewise.

Socrates : Then Odysseus, as it seems, is better than Achilles.

Hippias : Not in the least, Socrates.

Socrates : How is that ? Were not those who utter falsehoods voluntarily found to be better than those who do so involuntarily ?

Hippias : And how, Socrates, could those who voluntarily do wrong and voluntarily and designedly do harm be better than those who do so involuntarily ? And there seems to be good reason to forgive a man who unwittingly does wrong or speaks falsehood or does any other evil. And the laws surely are much more severe towards those who do evil and tell falsehoods voluntarily, than towards those who do so involuntarily.

Socrates : Do you see, Hippias, that I speak the truth when I say that I am persistent in questioning wise men ? And this is probably the only good thing about me, as I am otherwise quite worthless ; for I am all wrong about facts, and do not know the truth about them. And it is to me sufficient proof of the truth of this, that when I come into contact with one of you who are famous for wisdom, and to whose wisdom all the Greeks bear witness, I am found to know nothing ;  for there is hardly a single thing about which you and I have the same opinion ; and yet what greater proof of ignorance is there than when one disagrees with a wise man ? But I have this one remarkable good quality, which is my salvation ; for I am not afraid to learn, but I inquire and ask questions and am very grateful to him who answers, and I never failed in gratitude to anyone ; for when I have learned anything I have never denied it, pretending that the information was a discovery of my own ; but I praise the wisdom of him who instructed me and proclaim what I learned from him. And so now I do not agree with what you say, but disagree very strongly ; and I know very well that this is my own fault, because I am the sort of man I am — not to give myself any greater title. For my opinion, Hippias, is the exact opposite of what you say ; I think that those who injure people and do wrong and speak falsehood and cheat and err voluntarily, not involuntarily, are better than those who do so involuntarily. Sometimes, however, the opposite of this seems to me to be the case, and I am all astray about these matters, evidently because I am ignorant ; but now at the present moment a sort of paroxysm of my disease has come upon me, and those who err in respect to anything voluntarily appear to me better than those who err involuntarily. And I lay the blame for my present condition upon our previous argument, which causes those who do any of these things involuntarily to appear to me at this moment worse than those who do them voluntarily. So please do me a favour and do not refuse to cure my soul ; for you will be doing me much more good if you cure my soul of ignorance, than if you were to cure my body of disease. Now if you choose to deliver a long speech, I tell you beforehand that you would not cure me — for I could not follow you — but if you are willing to answer me, as you did just now, you will do me a great deal of good, and I think you yourself will not be injured, either. And I might fairly call upon you also, son of Apemantus, for help ; for you stirred me up to converse with Hippias ; so now, if Hippias is unwilling to answer me, ask him in my behalf to do so.

Eudicus : Well, Socrates, I imagine Hippias will need no asking from us ;  for that is not what he announced ; he announced that he would not avoid the questioning of any man. How is that, Hippias ? Is not that what you said ?

Hippias : Yes, I did ; but Socrates, Eudicus, always makes confusion in arguments, and seems to want to make trouble.

Socrates : Most excellent Hippias, I do not do these voluntarily at all — for then I should be wise and clever, according to you — but involuntarily, so forgive me ; for you say, too, that he who does evil involuntarily ought to be forgiven.

Eudicus : And do not refuse, Hippias ; but for our sake, and also because of your previous announcements, answer any questions Socrates asks you.

Hippias : Well, I will answer since you request it. Ask whatever questions you like.

Socrates : I certainly have a great desire, Hippias, to investigate what we are just at present talking about, namely which are better, those who err voluntarily or those who err involuntarily. Now I think the best way to go at the investigation is this. Just answer. Do you call some one a good runner ?

Hippias : I do.

Socrates : And a bad one ?

Hippias : Yes.

Socrates : Now, he who runs well is a good runner, and he who runs badly a bad one ; is it not so ?

Hippias : Yes.

Socrates : Then does not he who runs slowly run badly, and he who runs fast run well ?

Hippias : Yes.

Socrates : In a race, then, and in running, rapidity is a good thing, and slowness an evil.

Hippias : Why, of course.

Socrates : Which, then, is the better runner, he who runs slowly voluntarily or he who does so involuntarily ?

Hippias : He who does it voluntarily.

Socrates : Well, then, is not running doing something ?

Hippias : Yes, it is doing.

Socrates : And if doing, is it not also performing some act ?

Hippias : Yes.

Socrates : Then he who runs badly performs a bad and disgraceful act in a race ?

Hippias : Yes, a bad act of course.

Socrates : But he runs badly who runs slowly ?

Hippias : Yes.

Socrates : Then the good runner performs this bad and disgraceful act voluntarily, and the bad runner involuntarily ?

Hippias : So it seems.

Socrates : In running, then, he who does bad acts involuntarily is worse than he who does them voluntarily ?

Hippias : Yes, in running.

Socrates : And how is it in wrestling ? Which is the better wrestler, he who is thrown voluntarily, or involuntarily ?

Hippias : He who is thrown voluntarily, as it seems.

Socrates : But is it worse and more disgraceful in a wrestling match to be thrown or to throw one’s opponent ?

Hippias : To be thrown.

Socrates : In wrestling also, then, he who performs bad and disgraceful acts voluntarily is a better wrestler than he who performs them involuntarily.

Hippias : So it seems.

Socrates : And how is it in every other bodily exercise ? Is not he who is the better man in respect to his body able to perform both kinds of acts, the strong and the weak, the disgraceful and the fine,  so that whenever he performs bad acts of a bodily kind, he who is the better man in respect to his body does them voluntarily, but he who is worse does them involuntarily ?

Hippias : That seems to be the case in matters of strength also.

Socrates : And how about grace, Hippias ? Does not the better body take ugly and bad postures voluntarily, and the worse body involuntarily ? Or what is your opinion ?

Hippias : That is my opinion.

Socrates : Then ungracefulness when voluntary is associated with excellence of the body, but when involuntary with faultiness.

Hippias : Apparently.

Socrates : And what do you say about the voice ? Which do you say is the better ? That which sings out of tune voluntarily, or involuntarily ?

Hippias : That which does it voluntarily.

Socrates : And that which does it involuntarily is the worse ?

Hippias : Yes.

Socrates : Would you choose to possess good or bad things ?

Hippias : Good ones.

Socrates : Would you, then, choose to possess feet that limp voluntarily, or involuntarily ?

Hippias : Voluntarily.

Socrates : But is not a limp faultiness and ungracefulness of the feet ?

Hippias : Yes.

Socrates : Well, is not dimness of sight faultiness of the eyes ?

Hippias : Yes.

Socrates : Which eyes, then, would you choose to possess and live with ? Those with which one would see dimly and incorrectly voluntarily, or involuntarily ?

Hippias : Those with which one would do so voluntarily.

Socrates : Those parts, then, of yourself which voluntarily act badly you consider better than those which do so involuntarily ?

Hippias : Yes ; that is, in matters of that sort.

Socrates : Well, then, one statement embraces all alike, such as ears and nose and mouth and all the senses — that those which act badly involuntarily are undesirable because they are bad, and those which do so voluntarily are desirable because they are good.

Hippias : I think so.

Socrates : Well now, which instruments are better to have to do with, those with which a man does bad work voluntarily, or involuntarily ? For instance, is a rudder better with which a man will involuntarily steer badly, or one with which he will do so voluntarily ?

Hippias : One with which he will do so voluntarily.

Socrates : And is not the same true of a bow and a lyre and flutes and all the rest ?

Hippias : Quite true.

Socrates : Well now, would you choose to possess a horse of such spirit that you would ride him badly voluntarily, or involuntarily ?

Hippias : Voluntarily.

Socrates : Then that spirit is better.

Hippias : Yes.

Socrates : Then with the horse of better spirit one would do voluntarily the bad acts of that spirit, but with the one of worse spirit involuntarily ?

Hippias : Certainly.

Socrates : And is not that true of a dog, and all other animals ?

Hippias : Yes.

Socrates : Well now, then, in the case of an archer is it better to possess the mind which voluntarily misses the mark, or that which does so involuntarily ?

Hippias : That which does so voluntarily.

Socrates : Then that is the better mind for the purpose of archery ?

Hippias : Yes.

Socrates : Is, then, the mind also which errs involuntarily worse than that which errs voluntarily ?

Hippias : Yes, in the case of archery.

Socrates : And how is it in the art of medicine ? Is not the mind which does harm to the patients’ bodies voluntarily the more scientific ?

Hippias : Yes.

Socrates : In this art, then, this mind is better than the other.

Hippias : It is better.

Socrates : Well now, the more musical, whether with lyre or with flute,  and in everything else that concerns all the other arts and sciences — is not that mind better which voluntarily does bad and disgraceful things and commits errors, whereas that which does so involuntarily is worse ?

Hippias : Apparently.

Socrates : And surely we should prefer to possess slaves of such minds that they voluntarily commit errors and do mischief, rather than such as do so involuntarily ; we should think them better fitted for their duties.

Hippias : Yes.

Socrates : Well now, should we not wish to possess our own mind in the best possible condition ?

Hippias : Yes.

Socrates : Will it, then, be better if it does evil and errs voluntarily, or involuntarily ?

Hippias : But it would be a terrible thing, Socrates, if those who do wrong voluntarily are to be better than those who do so involuntarily.

Socrates : But surely they appear, at least, to be so, from what has been said.

Hippias : Not to me.

Socrates : I thought, Hippias, they appeared to be so to you also. But now once more answer me : Is not justice either a sort of power or knowledge, or both ? Or must not justice inevitably be one or other of these ?

Hippias : Yes.

Socrates : Then injustice is a power of the soul, the more powerful soul is the more just, is it not ? For we found, my friend, that such a soul was better.

Hippias : Yes, we did.

Socrates : And what if it be knowledge ? Is not the wiser soul more just, and the more ignorant more unjust ?

Hippias : Yes.

Socrates : And what if it be both ? Is not the soul which has both, power and knowledge, more just, and the more ignorant more unjust ? Is that not inevitably the case ?

Hippias : It appears to be.

Socrates : This more powerful and wiser soul, then, was found to be better and to have more power to do both good and disgraceful acts in every kind of action was it not ?

Hippias : Yes.

Socrates : Whenever, then, it does disgraceful acts, it does them voluntarily, by reason of power and art ; and these, either one or both of them, are attributes of justice.

Hippias : So it seems.

Socrates : And doing injustice is doing evil acts, and not doing injustice is doing good acts.

Hippias : Yes.

Socrates : Will not, then, the more powerful and better soul, when it does injustice, do it voluntarily, and the bad soul involuntarily ?

Hippias : Apparently.

Socrates : Is not, then, a good man he who has a good soul, and a bad man he who has a bad one ?

Hippias : Yes.

Socrates : It is, then, in the nature of the good man to do injustice voluntarily, and of the bad man to do it involuntarily, that is, if the good man has a good soul.

Hippias : But surely he has.

Socrates : Then he who voluntarily errs and does disgraceful and unjust acts, Hippias, if there be such a man, would be no other than the good man.

Hippias : I cannot agree with you, Socrates, in that.

Socrates : Nor I with myself, Hippias ; but that appears at the moment to be the inevitable result of our argument ; however, as I was saying all along, in respect to these matters I go astray, up and down, and never hold the same opinion ; and that I, or any other ordinary man, go astray is not surprising ; but if you wise men likewise go astray, that is a terrible thing for us also, if even when we have come to you we are not to cease from our straying.