For I am satisfied [he says] when a man is neither bad nor very stupid ; and when he knows justice (which is the health of states), and is of sound mind, I will find no fault with him, for I am not given to finding fault, and there are innumerable fools (implying that if he delighted in censure he might have abundant opportunity of finding fault).
All things are good with which evil is unmingled. In these latter words he does not mean to say that all things are good which have no evil in them, as you might say “All things are white which have no black in them,” for that would be ridiculous ; but he means to say that he accepts and finds no fault with the moderate or intermediate state. He says :
I do not hope to find a perfectly blameless man among those who partake of the fruits of the broad-bosomed earth (if I find him, I will send you word) ; in this sense I praise no man. But he who is moderately good, and does no evil, is good enough for me, who love and approve every one. (and here observe that he uses a Lesbian word, epainemi [approve], because he is addressing Pittacus,
Who love and approve every one voluntarily, who does no evil : and that the stop should be put after “voluntarily”) ; “but there are some whom I involuntarily praise and love. And you, Pittacus, I would never have blamed, if you had spoken what was moderately good and true ; but I do blame you because, putting on the appearance of truth, you are speaking falsely about the highest matters. And this, I said, Prodicus and Protagoras, I take to be the meaning of Simonides in this poem.
Hippias said : I think, Socrates, that you have given a very good explanation of the poem ; but I have also an excellent interpretation of my own which I will propound to you, if you will allow me.
Nay, Hippias, said Alcibiades ; not now, but at some other time. At present we must abide by the compact which was made between Socrates and Protagoras, to the effect that as long as Protagoras is willing to ask, Socrates should answer ; or that if he would rather answer, then that Socrates should ask.
I said : I wish Protagoras either to ask or answer as he is inclined ; but I would rather have done with poems and odes, if he does not object, and come back to the question about which I was asking you at first, Protagoras, and by your help make an end of that. The talk about the poets seems to me like a commonplace entertainment to which a vulgar company have recourse ; who, because they are not able to converse or amuse one another, while they are drinking, with the sound of their own voices and conversation, by reason of their stupidity, raise the price of flute-girls in the market, hiring for a great sum the voice of a flute instead of their own breath, to be the medium of intercourse among them : but where the company are real gentlemen and men of education, you will see no flute-girls, nor dancing-girls, nor harp-girls ; and they have no nonsense or games, but are contented with one another’s conversation, of which their own voices are the medium, and which they carry on by turns and in an orderly manner, even though they are very liberal in their potations. And a company like this of ours, and men such as we profess to be, do not require the help of another’s voice, or of the poets whom you cannot interrogate about meaning of what they are saying ; people who cite them declaring, some that the poet has meaning, and others that he has another, and the point which is in dispute can never be decided. This sort of entertainment they decline, and prefer to talk with one another, and put one another to the proof in conversation. And these are the models which I desire that you and I should imitate. Leaving the poets, and keeping to ourselves, let us try the mettle of one another and make proof of the truth in conversation. If you have a mind to ask, I am ready to answer ; or if you would rather, do you answer, and give me the opportunity of resuming and completing our unfinished argument.
I made these and some similar observations ; but Protagoras would not distinctly say which he would do. Thereupon Alcibiades turned to Callias, and said : — Do you think, Callias, that Protagoras is fair in refusing to say whether he will or will not answer ? for I certainly think that he is unfair ; he ought either to proceed with the argument, or distinctly refuse to proceed, that we may know his intention ; and then Socrates will be able to discourse with some one else, and the rest of the company will be free to talk with one another.
I think that Protagoras was really made ashamed by these words of Alcibiades and when the prayers of Callias and the company were superadded, he was at last induced to argue, and said that I might ask and he would answer.
So I said : Do not imagine, Protagoras, that I have any other interest in asking questions of you but that of clearing up my own difficulties. For I think that Homer was very right in saying that
When two go together, one sees before the other, for all men who have a companion are readier in deed, word, or thought ; but if a man
Sees a thing when he is alone, he goes about straightway seeking until he finds some one to whom he may show his discoveries, and who may confirm him in them. And I would rather hold discourse with you than with any one, because I think that no man has a better understanding of most things which a good man may be expected to understand, and in particular of virtue. For who is there, but you ? — who not only claim to be a good man and a gentleman, for many are this, and yet have not the power of making others good whereas you are not only good yourself, but also the cause of goodness in others. Moreover such confidence have you in yourself, that although other Sophists conceal their profession, you proclaim in the face of Hellas that you are a Sophist or teacher of virtue and education, and are the first who demanded pay in return. How then can I do otherwise than invite you to the examination of these subjects, and ask questions and consult with you ? I must, indeed. And I should like once more to have my memory refreshed by you about the questions which I was asking you at first, and also to have your help in considering them. If I am not mistaken the question was this : Are wisdom and temperance and courage and justice and holiness five names of the same thing ? or has each of the names a separate underlying essence and corresponding thing having a peculiar function, no one of them being like any other of them ? And you replied that the five names were not the names of the same thing, but that each of them had a separate object, and that all these objects were parts of virtue, not in the same way that the parts of gold are like each other and the whole of which they are parts, but as the parts of the face are unlike the whole of which they are parts and one another, and have each of them a distinct function. I should like to know whether this is still your opinion ; or if not, I will ask you to define your meaning, and I shall not take you to task if you now make a different statement. For I dare say that you may have said what you did only in order to make trial of me.
I answer, Socrates, he said, that all these qualities are parts of virtue, and that four out of the five are to some extent similar, and that the fifth of them, which is courage, is very different from the other four, as I prove in this way : You may observe that many men are utterly unrighteous, unholy, intemperate, ignorant, who are nevertheless remarkable for their courage.
Stop, I said ; I should like to think about that. When you speak of brave men, do you mean the confident, or another sort of nature ?
Yes, he said ; I mean the impetuous, ready to go at that which others are afraid to approach.
In the next place, you would affirm virtue to be a good thing, of which good thing you assert yourself to be a teacher.
Yes, he said ; I should say the best of all things, if I am in my right mind.
And is it partly good and partly bad, I said, or wholly good ?
Wholly good, and in the highest degree.
Tell me then ; who are they who have confidence when diving into a well ?
I should say, the divers.
And the reason of this is that they have knowledge ?
Yes, that is the reason.
And who have confidence when fighting on horseback — the skilled horseman or the unskilled ?
The skilled.
And who when fighting with light shields — the peltasts or the nonpeltasts ?
The peltasts. And that is true of all other things, he said, if that is your point : those who have knowledge are more confident than those who have no knowledge, and they are more confident after they have learned than before.
And have you not seen persons utterly ignorant, I said, of these things, and yet confident about them ?
Yes, he said, I have seen such persons far too confident.
And are not these confident persons also courageous ?
In that case, he replied, courage would be a base thing, for the men of whom we are speaking are surely madmen.
Then who are the courageous ? Are they not the confident ?
Yes, he said ; to that statement I adhere.
And those, I said, who are thus confident without knowledge are really not courageous, but mad ; and in that case the wisest are also the most confident, and being the most confident are also the bravest, and upon that view again wisdom will be courage.
Nay, Socrates, he replied, you are mistaken in your remembrance of what was said by me. When you asked me, I certainly did say that the courageous are the confident ; but I was never asked whether the confident are the courageous ; if you had asked me, I should have answered “Not all of them” : and what I did answer you have not proved to be false, although you proceeded to show that those who have knowledge are more courageous than they were before they had knowledge, and more courageous than others who have no knowledge, and were then led on to think that courage is the same as wisdom. But in this way of arguing you might come to imagine that strength is wisdom. You might begin by asking whether the strong are able, and I should say “Yes” ; and then whether those who know how to wrestle are not more able to wrestle than those who do not know how to wrestle, and more able after than before they had learned, and I should assent. And when I had admitted this, you might use my admissions in such a way as to prove that upon my view wisdom is strength ; whereas in that case I should not have admitted, any more than in the other, that the able are strong, although I have admitted that the strong are able. For there is a difference between ability and strength ; the former is given by knowledge as well as by madness or rage, but strength comes from nature and a healthy state of the body. And in like manner I say of confidence and courage, that they are not the same ; and I argue that the courageous are confident, but not all the confident courageous. For confidence may be given to men by art, and also, like ability, by madness and rage ; but courage comes to them from nature and the healthy state of the soul.
I said : You would admit, Protagoras, that some men live well and others ill ?
He assented.
And do you think that a man lives well who lives in pain and grief ?
He does not.
But if he lives pleasantly to the end of his life, will he not in that case have lived well ?
He will.
Then to live pleasantly is a good, and to live unpleasantly an evil ?
Yes, he said, if the pleasure be good and honourable.
And do you, Protagoras, like the rest of the world, call some pleasant things evil and some painful things good ? — for I am rather disposed to say that things are good in as far as they are pleasant, if they have no consequences of another sort, and in as far as they are painful they are bad.
I do not know, Socrates, he said, whether I can venture to assert in that unqualified manner that the pleasant is the good and the painful the evil. Having regard not only to my present answer, but also to the whole of my life, I shall be safer, if I am not mistaken, in saying that there are some pleasant things which are not good, and that there are some painful things which are good, and some which are not good, and that there are some which are neither good nor evil.
And you would call pleasant, I said, the things which participate in pleasure or create pleasure ?
Certainly, he said.
Then my meaning is, that in as far as they are pleasant they are good ; and my question would imply that pleasure is a good in itself.
According to your favourite mode of speech, Socrates, “Let us reflect about this,” he said ; and if the reflection is to the point, and the result proves that pleasure and good are really the same, then we will agree ; but if not, then we will argue.
And would you wish to begin the enquiry ?
I said ; or shall I begin ?
You ought to take the lead, he said ; for you are the author of the discussion.
May I employ an illustration ? I said. Suppose some one who is enquiring into the health or some other bodily quality of another : — he looks at his face and at the tips of his fingers, and then he says, Uncover your chest and back to me that I may have a better view : — that is the sort of thing which I desire in this speculation. Having seen what your opinion is about good and pleasure, I am minded to say to you : Uncover your mind to me, Protagoras, and reveal your opinion about knowledge, that I may know whether you agree with the rest of the world. Now the rest of the world are of opinion that knowledge is a principle not of strength, or of rule, or of command : their notion is that a man may have knowledge, and yet that the knowledge which is in him may be overmastered by anger, or pleasure, or pain, or love, or perhaps by fear, — just as if knowledge were a slave, and might be dragged about anyhow. Now is that your view ? or do you think that knowledge is a noble and commanding thing, which cannot be overcome, and will not allow a man, if he only knows the difference of good and evil, to do anything which is contrary to knowledge, but that wisdom will have strength to help him ?
I agree with you, Socrates, said Protagoras ; and not only so, but I, above all other men, am bound to say that wisdom and knowledge are the highest of human things.
Good, I said, and true. But are you aware that the majority of the world are of another mind ; and that men are commonly supposed to know the things which are best, and not to do them when they might ? And most persons whom I have asked the reason of this have said that when men act contrary to knowledge they are overcome by pain, or pleasure, or some of those affections which I was just now mentioning.
Yes, Socrates, he replied ; and that is not the only point about which mankind are in error.
Suppose, then, that you and I endeavour to instruct and inform them what is the nature of this affection which they call “being overcome by pleasure,” and which they affirm to be the reason why they do not always do what is best. When we say to them : Friends, you are mistaken, and are saying what is not true, they would probably reply : Socrates and Protagoras, if this affection of the soul is not to be called “being overcome by pleasure,” pray, what is it, and by what name would you describe it ?
But why, Socrates, should we trouble ourselves about the opinion of the many, who just say anything that happens to occur to them ?
I believe, I said, that they may be of use in helping us to discover how courage is related to the other parts of virtue. If you are disposed to abide by our agreement, that I should show the way in which, as I think, our recent difficulty is most likely to be cleared up, do you follow ; but if not, never mind.
You are quite right, he said ; and I would have you proceed as you have begun.
Well then, I said, let me suppose that they repeat their question, What account do you give of that which, in our way of speaking, is termed being overcome by pleasure ? I should answer thus : Listen, and Protagoras and I will endeavour to show you. When men are overcome by eating and drinking and other sensual desires which are pleasant, and they, knowing them to be evil, nevertheless indulge in them, would you not say that they were overcome by pleasure ? They will not deny this. And suppose that you and I were to go on and ask them again : “In what way do you say that they are evil — in that they are pleasant and give pleasure at the moment, or because they cause disease and poverty and other like evils in the future ? Would they still be evil, if they had no attendant evil consequences, simply because they give the consciousness of pleasure of whatever nature ?” — Would they not answer that they are not evil on account of the pleasure which is immediately given by them, but on account of the after consequences-diseases and the like ?
I believe, said Protagoras, that the world in general would answer as you do.
And in causing diseases do they not cause pain ? and in causing poverty do they not cause pain ; — they would agree to that also, if I am not mistaken ?
Protagoras assented.
Then I should say to them, in my name and yours : Do you think them evil for any other reason, except because they end in pain and rob us of other pleasures : — there again they would agree ?
We both of us thought that they would.
And then I should take the question from the opposite point of view, and say : “Friends, when you speak of goods being painful, do you not mean remedial goods, such as gymnastic exercises, and military service, and the physician’s use of burning, cutting, drugging, and starving ? Are these the things which are good but painful ?” — they would assent to me ?
He agreed.