PERSONS OF THE DIALOGUE: Callicles, Socrates, Chaerephon, Gorgias,
SCENE: The house of Callicles.
CALLICLES: The wise man, as the proverb says, is late for a fray, but
not for a feast.
SOCRATES: And are we late for a feast?
CALLICLES: Yes, and a delightful feast; for Gorgias has just been
exhibiting to us many fine things.
SOCRATES: It is not my fault, Callicles; our friend Chaerephon is to
blame; for he would keep us loitering in the Agora.
CHAEREPHON: Never mind, Socrates; the misfortune of which I have been
the cause I will also repair; for Gorgias is a friend of mine, and I
will make him give the exhibition again either now, or, if you prefer,
at some other time.
CALLICLES: What is the matter, Chaerephon--does Socrates want to hear
CHAEREPHON: Yes, that was our intention in coming.
CALLICLES: Come into my house, then; for Gorgias is staying with me, and
he shall exhibit to you.
SOCRATES: Very good, Callicles; but will he answer our questions? for
I want to hear from him what is the nature of his art, and what it is
which he professes and teaches; he may, as you (Chaerephon) suggest,
defer the exhibition to some other time.
CALLICLES: There is nothing like asking him, Socrates; and indeed to
answer questions is a part of his exhibition, for he was saying only
just now, that any one in my house might put any question to him, and
that he would answer.
SOCRATES: How fortunate! will you ask him, Chaerephon--?
CHAEREPHON: What shall I ask him?
SOCRATES: Ask him who he is.
CHAEREPHON: What do you mean?
SOCRATES: I mean such a question as would elicit from him, if he
had been a maker of shoes, the answer that he is a cobbler. Do you
CHAEREPHON: I understand, and will ask him: Tell me, Gorgias, is our
friend Callicles right in saying that you undertake to answer any
questions which you are asked?
GORGIAS: Quite right, Chaerephon: I was saying as much only just now;
and I may add, that many years have elapsed since any one has asked me a
CHAEREPHON: Then you must be very ready, Gorgias.
GORGIAS: Of that, Chaerephon, you can make trial.
POLUS: Yes, indeed, and if you like, Chaerephon, you may make trial of
me too, for I think that Gorgias, who has been talking a long time, is
CHAEREPHON: And do you, Polus, think that you can answer better than
POLUS: What does that matter if I answer well enough for you?
CHAEREPHON: Not at all:--and you shall answer if you like.
CHAEREPHON: My question is this: If Gorgias had the skill of his brother
Herodicus, what ought we to call him? Ought he not to have the name
which is given to his brother?
CHAEREPHON: Then we should be right in calling him a physician?
CHAEREPHON: And if he had the skill of Aristophon the son of Aglaophon,
or of his brother Polygnotus, what ought we to call him?
POLUS: Clearly, a painter.
CHAEREPHON: But now what shall we call him--what is the art in which he
POLUS: O Chaerephon, there are many arts among mankind which are
experimental, and have their origin in experience, for experience makes
the days of men to proceed according to art, and inexperience according
to chance, and different persons in different ways are proficient in
different arts, and the best persons in the best arts. And our friend
Gorgias is one of the best, and the art in which he is a proficient is
SOCRATES: Polus has been taught how to make a capital speech, Gorgias;
but he is not fulfilling the promise which he made to Chaerephon.
GORGIAS: What do you mean, Socrates?
SOCRATES: I mean that he has not exactly answered the question which he
GORGIAS: Then why not ask him yourself?
SOCRATES: But I would much rather ask you, if you are disposed to
answer: for I see, from the few words which Polus has uttered, that he
has attended more to the art which is called rhetoric than to dialectic.
POLUS: What makes you say so, Socrates?
SOCRATES: Because, Polus, when Chaerephon asked you what was the art
which Gorgias knows, you praised it as if you were answering some one
who found fault with it, but you never said what the art was.
POLUS: Why, did I not say that it was the noblest of arts?
SOCRATES: Yes, indeed, but that was no answer to the question: nobody
asked what was the quality, but what was the nature, of the art, and by
what name we were to describe Gorgias. And I would still beg you briefly
and clearly, as you answered Chaerephon when he asked you at first,
to say what this art is, and what we ought to call Gorgias: Or rather,
Gorgias, let me turn to you, and ask the same question,--what are we to
call you, and what is the art which you profess?
GORGIAS: Rhetoric, Socrates, is my art.
SOCRATES: Then I am to call you a rhetorician?
GORGIAS: Yes, Socrates, and a good one too, if you would call me that
which, in Homeric language, 'I boast myself to be.'
SOCRATES: I should wish to do so.
GORGIAS: Then pray do.
SOCRATES: And are we to say that you are able to make other men
GORGIAS: Yes, that is exactly what I profess to make them, not only at
Athens, but in all places.
SOCRATES: And will you continue to ask and answer questions, Gorgias,
as we are at present doing, and reserve for another occasion the longer
mode of speech which Polus was attempting? Will you keep your promise,
and answer shortly the questions which are asked of you?
GORGIAS: Some answers, Socrates, are of necessity longer; but I will do
my best to make them as short as possible; for a part of my profession
is that I can be as short as any one.
SOCRATES: That is what is wanted, Gorgias; exhibit the shorter method
now, and the longer one at some other time.
GORGIAS: Well, I will; and you will certainly say, that you never heard
a man use fewer words.
SOCRATES: Very good then; as you profess to be a rhetorician, and a
maker of rhetoricians, let me ask you, with what is rhetoric concerned:
I might ask with what is weaving concerned, and you would reply (would
you not?), with the making of garments?
SOCRATES: And music is concerned with the composition of melodies?
GORGIAS: It is.
SOCRATES: By Here, Gorgias, I admire the surpassing brevity of your
GORGIAS: Yes, Socrates, I do think myself good at that.
SOCRATES: I am glad to hear it; answer me in like manner about rhetoric:
with what is rhetoric concerned?
GORGIAS: With discourse.
SOCRATES: What sort of discourse, Gorgias?--such discourse as would
teach the sick under what treatment they might get well?
SOCRATES: Then rhetoric does not treat of all kinds of discourse?
GORGIAS: Certainly not.
SOCRATES: And yet rhetoric makes men able to speak?
SOCRATES: And to understand that about which they speak?
GORGIAS: Of course.
SOCRATES: But does not the art of medicine, which we were just now
mentioning, also make men able to understand and speak about the sick?
SOCRATES: Then medicine also treats of discourse?
SOCRATES: Of discourse concerning diseases?
GORGIAS: Just so.
SOCRATES: And does not gymnastic also treat of discourse concerning the
good or evil condition of the body?
GORGIAS: Very true.
SOCRATES: And the same, Gorgias, is true of the other arts:--all of them
treat of discourse concerning the subjects with which they severally
have to do.
SOCRATES: Then why, if you call rhetoric the art which treats of
discourse, and all the other arts treat of discourse, do you not call
them arts of rhetoric?
GORGIAS: Because, Socrates, the knowledge of the other arts has only to
do with some sort of external action, as of the hand; but there is no
such action of the hand in rhetoric which works and takes effect only
through the medium of discourse. And therefore I am justified in saying
that rhetoric treats of discourse.
SOCRATES: I am not sure whether I entirely understand you, but I dare
say I shall soon know better; please to answer me a question:--you would
allow that there are arts?
SOCRATES: As to the arts generally, they are for the most part concerned
with doing, and require little or no speaking; in painting, and
statuary, and many other arts, the work may proceed in silence; and
of such arts I suppose you would say that they do not come within the
province of rhetoric.
GORGIAS: You perfectly conceive my meaning, Socrates.
SOCRATES: But there are other arts which work wholly through the medium
of language, and require either no action or very little, as, for
example, the arts of arithmetic, of calculation, of geometry, and of
playing draughts; in some of these speech is pretty nearly co-extensive
with action, but in most of them the verbal element is greater--they
depend wholly on words for their efficacy and power: and I take your
meaning to be that rhetoric is an art of this latter sort?
SOCRATES: And yet I do not believe that you really mean to call any of
these arts rhetoric; although the precise expression which you used was,
that rhetoric is an art which works and takes effect only through the
medium of discourse; and an adversary who wished to be captious might
say, 'And so, Gorgias, you call arithmetic rhetoric.' But I do not think
that you really call arithmetic rhetoric any more than geometry would be
so called by you.
GORGIAS: You are quite right, Socrates, in your apprehension of my
SOCRATES: Well, then, let me now have the rest of my answer:--seeing
that rhetoric is one of those arts which works mainly by the use of
words, and there are other arts which also use words, tell me what is
that quality in words with which rhetoric is concerned:--Suppose that a
person asks me about some of the arts which I was mentioning just now;
he might say, 'Socrates, what is arithmetic?' and I should reply to him,
as you replied to me, that arithmetic is one of those arts which take
effect through words. And then he would proceed to ask: 'Words about
what?' and I should reply, Words about odd and even numbers, and how
many there are of each. And if he asked again: 'What is the art of
calculation?' I should say, That also is one of the arts which is
concerned wholly with words. And if he further said, 'Concerned with
what?' I should say, like the clerks in the assembly, 'as aforesaid' of
arithmetic, but with a difference, the difference being that the art of
calculation considers not only the quantities of odd and even numbers,
but also their numerical relations to themselves and to one another.
And suppose, again, I were to say that astronomy is only words--he would
ask, 'Words about what, Socrates?' and I should answer, that astronomy
tells us about the motions of the stars and sun and moon, and their
GORGIAS: You would be quite right, Socrates.
SOCRATES: And now let us have from you, Gorgias, the truth about
rhetoric: which you would admit (would you not?) to be one of those arts
which act always and fulfil all their ends through the medium of words?
SOCRATES: Words which do what? I should ask. To what class of things do
the words which rhetoric uses relate?
GORGIAS: To the greatest, Socrates, and the best of human things.
SOCRATES: That again, Gorgias is ambiguous; I am still in the dark: for
which are the greatest and best of human things? I dare say that you
have heard men singing at feasts the old drinking song, in which the
singers enumerate the goods of life, first health, beauty next, thirdly,
as the writer of the song says, wealth honestly obtained.
GORGIAS: Yes, I know the song; but what is your drift?
SOCRATES: I mean to say, that the producers of those things which the
author of the song praises, that is to say, the physician, the trainer,
the money-maker, will at once come to you, and first the physician will
say: 'O Socrates, Gorgias is deceiving you, for my art is concerned with
the greatest good of men and not his.' And when I ask, Who are you? he
will reply, 'I am a physician.' What do you mean? I shall say. Do you
mean that your art produces the greatest good? 'Certainly,' he will
answer, 'for is not health the greatest good? What greater good can men
have, Socrates?' And after him the trainer will come and say, 'I too,
Socrates, shall be greatly surprised if Gorgias can show more good of
his art than I can show of mine.' To him again I shall say, Who are
you, honest friend, and what is your business? 'I am a trainer,' he will
reply, 'and my business is to make men beautiful and strong in body.'
When I have done with the trainer, there arrives the money-maker, and
he, as I expect, will utterly despise them all. 'Consider Socrates,' he
will say, 'whether Gorgias or any one else can produce any greater
good than wealth.' Well, you and I say to him, and are you a creator of
wealth? 'Yes,' he replies. And who are you? 'A money-maker.' And do you
consider wealth to be the greatest good of man? 'Of course,' will be his
reply. And we shall rejoin: Yes; but our friend Gorgias contends that
his art produces a greater good than yours. And then he will be sure to
go on and ask, 'What good? Let Gorgias answer.' Now I want you, Gorgias,
to imagine that this question is asked of you by them and by me; What
is that which, as you say, is the greatest good of man, and of which you
are the creator? Answer us.
GORGIAS: That good, Socrates, which is truly the greatest, being that
which gives to men freedom in their own persons, and to individuals the
power of ruling over others in their several states.
SOCRATES: And what would you consider this to be?
GORGIAS: What is there greater than the word which persuades the judges
in the courts, or the senators in the council, or the citizens in the
assembly, or at any other political meeting?--if you have the power
of uttering this word, you will have the physician your slave, and the
trainer your slave, and the money-maker of whom you talk will be found
to gather treasures, not for himself, but for you who are able to speak
and to persuade the multitude.
SOCRATES: Now I think, Gorgias, that you have very accurately explained
what you conceive to be the art of rhetoric; and you mean to say, if I
am not mistaken, that rhetoric is the artificer of persuasion, having
this and no other business, and that this is her crown and end. Do
you know any other effect of rhetoric over and above that of producing
GORGIAS: No: the definition seems to me very fair, Socrates; for
persuasion is the chief end of rhetoric.
SOCRATES: Then hear me, Gorgias, for I am quite sure that if there ever
was a man who entered on the discussion of a matter from a pure love of
knowing the truth, I am such a one, and I should say the same of you.
GORGIAS: What is coming, Socrates?
SOCRATES: I will tell you: I am very well aware that I do not know what,
according to you, is the exact nature, or what are the topics of that
persuasion of which you speak, and which is given by rhetoric; although
I have a suspicion about both the one and the other. And I am going to
ask--what is this power of persuasion which is given by rhetoric, and
about what? But why, if I have a suspicion, do I ask instead of telling
you? Not for your sake, but in order that the argument may proceed in
such a manner as is most likely to set forth the truth. And I would
have you observe, that I am right in asking this further question: If I
asked, 'What sort of a painter is Zeuxis?' and you said, 'The painter
of figures,' should I not be right in asking, 'What kind of figures, and
where do you find them?'
SOCRATES: And the reason for asking this second question would be, that
there are other painters besides, who paint many other figures?
SOCRATES: But if there had been no one but Zeuxis who painted them, then
you would have answered very well?
GORGIAS: Quite so.
SOCRATES: Now I want to know about rhetoric in the same way;--is
rhetoric the only art which brings persuasion, or do other arts have the
same effect? I mean to say--Does he who teaches anything persuade men of
that which he teaches or not?
GORGIAS: He persuades, Socrates,--there can be no mistake about that.
SOCRATES: Again, if we take the arts of which we were just now
speaking:--do not arithmetic and the arithmeticians teach us the
properties of number?
SOCRATES: And therefore persuade us of them?
SOCRATES: Then arithmetic as well as rhetoric is an artificer of
SOCRATES: And if any one asks us what sort of persuasion, and about
what,--we shall answer, persuasion which teaches the quantity of odd and
even; and we shall be able to show that all the other arts of which we
were just now speaking are artificers of persuasion, and of what sort,
and about what.
GORGIAS: Very true.
SOCRATES: Then rhetoric is not the only artificer of persuasion?
SOCRATES: Seeing, then, that not only rhetoric works by persuasion, but
that other arts do the same, as in the case of the painter, a question
has arisen which is a very fair one: Of what persuasion is rhetoric
the artificer, and about what?--is not that a fair way of putting the
GORGIAS: I think so.
SOCRATES: Then, if you approve the question, Gorgias, what is the
GORGIAS: I answer, Socrates, that rhetoric is the art of persuasion in
courts of law and other assemblies, as I was just now saying, and about
the just and unjust.
SOCRATES: And that, Gorgias, was what I was suspecting to be your
notion; yet I would not have you wonder if by-and-by I am found
repeating a seemingly plain question; for I ask not in order to confute
you, but as I was saying that the argument may proceed consecutively,
and that we may not get the habit of anticipating and suspecting the
meaning of one another's words; I would have you develope your own views
in your own way, whatever may be your hypothesis.
GORGIAS: I think that you are quite right, Socrates.
SOCRATES: Then let me raise another question; there is such a thing as
SOCRATES: And there is also 'having believed'?
SOCRATES: And is the 'having learned' the same as 'having believed,' and
are learning and belief the same things?
GORGIAS: In my judgment, Socrates, they are not the same.
SOCRATES: And your judgment is right, as you may ascertain in this
way:--If a person were to say to you, 'Is there, Gorgias, a false belief
as well as a true?'--you would reply, if I am not mistaken, that there
SOCRATES: Well, but is there a false knowledge as well as a true?
SOCRATES: No, indeed; and this again proves that knowledge and belief
GORGIAS: Very true.
SOCRATES: And yet those who have learned as well as those who have
believed are persuaded?
GORGIAS: Just so.
SOCRATES: Shall we then assume two sorts of persuasion,--one which is
the source of belief without knowledge, as the other is of knowledge?
GORGIAS: By all means.
SOCRATES: And which sort of persuasion does rhetoric create in courts
of law and other assemblies about the just and unjust, the sort of
persuasion which gives belief without knowledge, or that which gives
GORGIAS: Clearly, Socrates, that which only gives belief.
SOCRATES: Then rhetoric, as would appear, is the artificer of a
persuasion which creates belief about the just and unjust, but gives no
instruction about them?
SOCRATES: And the rhetorician does not instruct the courts of law or
other assemblies about things just and unjust, but he creates belief
about them; for no one can be supposed to instruct such a vast multitude
about such high matters in a short time?
GORGIAS: Certainly not.
SOCRATES: Come, then, and let us see what we really mean about rhetoric;
for I do not know what my own meaning is as yet. When the assembly meets
to elect a physician or a shipwright or any other craftsman, will the
rhetorician be taken into counsel? Surely not. For at every election he
ought to be chosen who is most skilled; and, again, when walls have to
be built or harbours or docks to be constructed, not the rhetorician but
the master workman will advise; or when generals have to be chosen and
an order of battle arranged, or a position taken, then the military will
advise and not the rhetoricians: what do you say, Gorgias? Since you
profess to be a rhetorician and a maker of rhetoricians, I cannot do
better than learn the nature of your art from you. And here let me
assure you that I have your interest in view as well as my own. For
likely enough some one or other of the young men present might desire to
become your pupil, and in fact I see some, and a good many too, who have
this wish, but they would be too modest to question you. And therefore
when you are interrogated by me, I would have you imagine that you are
interrogated by them. 'What is the use of coming to you, Gorgias?' they
will say--'about what will you teach us to advise the state?--about the
just and unjust only, or about those other things also which Socrates
has just mentioned?' How will you answer them?
GORGIAS: I like your way of leading us on, Socrates, and I will
endeavour to reveal to you the whole nature of rhetoric. You must have
heard, I think, that the docks and the walls of the Athenians and the
plan of the harbour were devised in accordance with the counsels, partly
of Themistocles, and partly of Pericles, and not at the suggestion of
SOCRATES: Such is the tradition, Gorgias, about Themistocles; and I
myself heard the speech of Pericles when he advised us about the middle
GORGIAS: And you will observe, Socrates, that when a decision has to be
given in such matters the rhetoricians are the advisers; they are the
men who win their point.
SOCRATES: I had that in my admiring mind, Gorgias, when I asked what is
the nature of rhetoric, which always appears to me, when I look at the
matter in this way, to be a marvel of greatness.
GORGIAS: A marvel, indeed, Socrates, if you only knew how rhetoric
comprehends and holds under her sway all the inferior arts. Let me offer
you a striking example of this. On several occasions I have been with
my brother Herodicus or some other physician to see one of his patients,
who would not allow the physician to give him medicine, or apply the
knife or hot iron to him; and I have persuaded him to do for me what he
would not do for the physician just by the use of rhetoric. And I say
that if a rhetorician and a physician were to go to any city, and had
there to argue in the Ecclesia or any other assembly as to which of them
should be elected state-physician, the physician would have no chance;
but he who could speak would be chosen if he wished; and in a contest
with a man of any other profession the rhetorician more than any one
would have the power of getting himself chosen, for he can speak more
persuasively to the multitude than any of them, and on any subject.
Such is the nature and power of the art of rhetoric! And yet, Socrates,
rhetoric should be used like any other competitive art, not against
everybody,--the rhetorician ought not to abuse his strength any more
than a pugilist or pancratiast or other master of fence;--because he has
powers which are more than a match either for friend or enemy, he ought
not therefore to strike, stab, or slay his friends. Suppose a man to
have been trained in the palestra and to be a skilful boxer,--he in the
fulness of his strength goes and strikes his father or mother or one
of his familiars or friends; but that is no reason why the trainers
or fencing-masters should be held in detestation or banished from the
city;--surely not. For they taught their art for a good purpose, to be
used against enemies and evil-doers, in self-defence not in aggression,
and others have perverted their instructions, and turned to a bad use
their own strength and skill. But not on this account are the teachers
bad, neither is the art in fault, or bad in itself; I should rather
say that those who make a bad use of the art are to blame. And the same
argument holds good of rhetoric; for the rhetorician can speak against
all men and upon any subject,--in short, he can persuade the multitude
better than any other man of anything which he pleases, but he should
not therefore seek to defraud the physician or any other artist of his
reputation merely because he has the power; he ought to use rhetoric
fairly, as he would also use his athletic powers. And if after having
become a rhetorician he makes a bad use of his strength and skill, his
instructor surely ought not on that account to be held in detestation or
banished. For he was intended by his teacher to make a good use of his
instructions, but he abuses them. And therefore he is the person who
ought to be held in detestation, banished, and put to death, and not his
SOCRATES: You, Gorgias, like myself, have had great experience of
disputations, and you must have observed, I think, that they do not
always terminate in mutual edification, or in the definition by either
party of the subjects which they are discussing; but disagreements
are apt to arise--somebody says that another has not spoken truly or
clearly; and then they get into a passion and begin to quarrel, both
parties conceiving that their opponents are arguing from personal
feeling only and jealousy of themselves, not from any interest in the
question at issue. And sometimes they will go on abusing one another
until the company at last are quite vexed at themselves for ever
listening to such fellows. Why do I say this? Why, because I cannot
help feeling that you are now saying what is not quite consistent or
accordant with what you were saying at first about rhetoric. And I am
afraid to point this out to you, lest you should think that I have some
animosity against you, and that I speak, not for the sake of discovering
the truth, but from jealousy of you. Now if you are one of my sort, I
should like to cross-examine you, but if not I will let you alone. And
what is my sort? you will ask. I am one of those who are very willing
to be refuted if I say anything which is not true, and very willing to
refute any one else who says what is not true, and quite as ready to be
refuted as to refute; for I hold that this is the greater gain of the
two, just as the gain is greater of being cured of a very great evil
than of curing another. For I imagine that there is no evil which a man
can endure so great as an erroneous opinion about the matters of which
we are speaking; and if you claim to be one of my sort, let us have the
discussion out, but if you would rather have done, no matter;--let us
make an end of it.
GORGIAS: I should say, Socrates, that I am quite the man whom you
indicate; but, perhaps, we ought to consider the audience, for, before
you came, I had already given a long exhibition, and if we proceed the
argument may run on to a great length. And therefore I think that we
should consider whether we may not be detaining some part of the company
when they are wanting to do something else.
CHAEREPHON: You hear the audience cheering, Gorgias and Socrates, which
shows their desire to listen to you; and for myself, Heaven forbid
that I should have any business on hand which would take me away from a
discussion so interesting and so ably maintained.
CALLICLES: By the gods, Chaerephon, although I have been present at many
discussions, I doubt whether I was ever so much delighted before,
and therefore if you go on discoursing all day I shall be the better
SOCRATES: I may truly say, Callicles, that I am willing, if Gorgias is.
GORGIAS: After all this, Socrates, I should be disgraced if I refused,
especially as I have promised to answer all comers; in accordance
with the wishes of the company, then, do you begin, and ask of me any
question which you like.
SOCRATES: Let me tell you then, Gorgias, what surprises me in your
words; though I dare say that you may be right, and I may have
misunderstood your meaning. You say that you can make any man, who will
learn of you, a rhetorician?
SOCRATES: Do you mean that you will teach him to gain the ears of the
multitude on any subject, and this not by instruction but by persuasion?
GORGIAS: Quite so.
SOCRATES: You were saying, in fact, that the rhetorician will have
greater powers of persuasion than the physician even in a matter of
GORGIAS: Yes, with the multitude,--that is.
SOCRATES: You mean to say, with the ignorant; for with those who know he
cannot be supposed to have greater powers of persuasion.
GORGIAS: Very true.
SOCRATES: But if he is to have more power of persuasion than the
physician, he will have greater power than he who knows?
SOCRATES: Although he is not a physician:--is he?
SOCRATES: And he who is not a physician must, obviously, be ignorant of
what the physician knows.
SOCRATES: Then, when the rhetorician is more persuasive than the
physician, the ignorant is more persuasive with the ignorant than he who
has knowledge?--is not that the inference?
GORGIAS: In the case supposed:--yes.
SOCRATES: And the same holds of the relation of rhetoric to all the
other arts; the rhetorician need not know the truth about things; he has
only to discover some way of persuading the ignorant that he has more
knowledge than those who know?
GORGIAS: Yes, Socrates, and is not this a great comfort?--not to have
learned the other arts, but the art of rhetoric only, and yet to be in
no way inferior to the professors of them?
SOCRATES: Whether the rhetorician is or not inferior on this account is
a question which we will hereafter examine if the enquiry is likely to
be of any service to us; but I would rather begin by asking, whether he
is or is not as ignorant of the just and unjust, base and honourable,
good and evil, as he is of medicine and the other arts; I mean to
say, does he really know anything of what is good and evil, base or
honourable, just or unjust in them; or has he only a way with the
ignorant of persuading them that he not knowing is to be esteemed to
know more about these things than some one else who knows? Or must
the pupil know these things and come to you knowing them before he can
acquire the art of rhetoric? If he is ignorant, you who are the teacher
of rhetoric will not teach him--it is not your business; but you will
make him seem to the multitude to know them, when he does not know them;
and seem to be a good man, when he is not. Or will you be unable to
teach him rhetoric at all, unless he knows the truth of these things
first? What is to be said about all this? By heavens, Gorgias, I wish
that you would reveal to me the power of rhetoric, as you were saying
that you would.
GORGIAS: Well, Socrates, I suppose that if the pupil does chance not to
know them, he will have to learn of me these things as well.
SOCRATES: Say no more, for there you are right; and so he whom you
make a rhetorician must either know the nature of the just and unjust
already, or he must be taught by you.
SOCRATES: Well, and is not he who has learned carpentering a carpenter?
SOCRATES: And he who has learned music a musician?
SOCRATES: And he who has learned medicine is a physician, in like
manner? He who has learned anything whatever is that which his knowledge
SOCRATES: And in the same way, he who has learned what is just is just?
GORGIAS: To be sure.
SOCRATES: And he who is just may be supposed to do what is just?
SOCRATES: And must not the just man always desire to do what is just?
GORGIAS: That is clearly the inference.
SOCRATES: Surely, then, the just man will never consent to do injustice?
GORGIAS: Certainly not.
SOCRATES: And according to the argument the rhetorician must be a just
SOCRATES: And will therefore never be willing to do injustice?
GORGIAS: Clearly not.
SOCRATES: But do you remember saying just now that the trainer is not
to be accused or banished if the pugilist makes a wrong use of his
pugilistic art; and in like manner, if the rhetorician makes a bad and
unjust use of his rhetoric, that is not to be laid to the charge of his
teacher, who is not to be banished, but the wrong-doer himself who made
a bad use of his rhetoric--he is to be banished--was not that said?
GORGIAS: Yes, it was.
SOCRATES: But now we are affirming that the aforesaid rhetorician will
never have done injustice at all?
SOCRATES: And at the very outset, Gorgias, it was said that rhetoric
treated of discourse, not (like arithmetic) about odd and even, but
about just and unjust? Was not this said?
SOCRATES: I was thinking at the time, when I heard you saying so, that
rhetoric, which is always discoursing about justice, could not possibly
be an unjust thing. But when you added, shortly afterwards, that the
rhetorician might make a bad use of rhetoric I noted with surprise
the inconsistency into which you had fallen; and I said, that if you
thought, as I did, that there was a gain in being refuted, there would
be an advantage in going on with the question, but if not, I would leave
off. And in the course of our investigations, as you will see yourself,
the rhetorician has been acknowledged to be incapable of making an
unjust use of rhetoric, or of willingness to do injustice. By the dog,
Gorgias, there will be a great deal of discussion, before we get at the
truth of all this.
POLUS: And do even you, Socrates, seriously believe what you are now
saying about rhetoric? What! because Gorgias was ashamed to deny that
the rhetorician knew the just and the honourable and the good, and
admitted that to any one who came to him ignorant of them he could teach
them, and then out of this admission there arose a contradiction--the
thing which you dearly love, and to which not he, but you, brought the
argument by your captious questions--(do you seriously believe that
there is any truth in all this?) For will any one ever acknowledge that
he does not know, or cannot teach, the nature of justice? The truth is,
that there is great want of manners in bringing the argument to such a
SOCRATES: Illustrious Polus, the reason why we provide ourselves with
friends and children is, that when we get old and stumble, a younger
generation may be at hand to set us on our legs again in our words and
in our actions: and now, if I and Gorgias are stumbling, here are you
who should raise us up; and I for my part engage to retract any error
into which you may think that I have fallen-upon one condition:
POLUS: What condition?
SOCRATES: That you contract, Polus, the prolixity of speech in which you
indulged at first.
POLUS: What! do you mean that I may not use as many words as I please?
SOCRATES: Only to think, my friend, that having come on a visit to
Athens, which is the most free-spoken state in Hellas, you when you got
there, and you alone, should be deprived of the power of speech--that
would be hard indeed. But then consider my case:--shall not I be very
hardly used, if, when you are making a long oration, and refusing to
answer what you are asked, I am compelled to stay and listen to you,
and may not go away? I say rather, if you have a real interest in the
argument, or, to repeat my former expression, have any desire to set it
on its legs, take back any statement which you please; and in your turn
ask and answer, like myself and Gorgias--refute and be refuted: for I
suppose that you would claim to know what Gorgias knows--would you not?
SOCRATES: And you, like him, invite any one to ask you about anything
which he pleases, and you will know how to answer him?
POLUS: To be sure.
SOCRATES: And now, which will you do, ask or answer?
POLUS: I will ask; and do you answer me, Socrates, the same question
which Gorgias, as you suppose, is unable to answer: What is rhetoric?
SOCRATES: Do you mean what sort of an art?
SOCRATES: To say the truth, Polus, it is not an art at all, in my
POLUS: Then what, in your opinion, is rhetoric?
SOCRATES: A thing which, as I was lately reading in a book of yours, you
say that you have made an art.
POLUS: What thing?
SOCRATES: I should say a sort of experience.
POLUS: Does rhetoric seem to you to be an experience?
SOCRATES: That is my view, but you may be of another mind.
POLUS: An experience in what?
SOCRATES: An experience in producing a sort of delight and
POLUS: And if able to gratify others, must not rhetoric be a fine thing?
SOCRATES: What are you saying, Polus? Why do you ask me whether rhetoric
is a fine thing or not, when I have not as yet told you what rhetoric
POLUS: Did I not hear you say that rhetoric was a sort of experience?
SOCRATES: Will you, who are so desirous to gratify others, afford a
slight gratification to me?
POLUS: I will.
SOCRATES: Will you ask me, what sort of an art is cookery?
POLUS: What sort of an art is cookery?
SOCRATES: Not an art at all, Polus.
POLUS: What then?
SOCRATES: I should say an experience.
POLUS: In what? I wish that you would explain to me.
SOCRATES: An experience in producing a sort of delight and
POLUS: Then are cookery and rhetoric the same?
SOCRATES: No, they are only different parts of the same profession.
POLUS: Of what profession?
SOCRATES: I am afraid that the truth may seem discourteous; and I
hesitate to answer, lest Gorgias should imagine that I am making fun of
his own profession. For whether or no this is that art of rhetoric
which Gorgias practises I really cannot tell:--from what he was just now
saying, nothing appeared of what he thought of his art, but the rhetoric
which I mean is a part of a not very creditable whole.
GORGIAS: A part of what, Socrates? Say what you mean, and never mind me.
SOCRATES: In my opinion then, Gorgias, the whole of which rhetoric is a
part is not an art at all, but the habit of a bold and ready wit,
which knows how to manage mankind: this habit I sum up under the word
'flattery'; and it appears to me to have many other parts, one of which
is cookery, which may seem to be an art, but, as I maintain, is only an
experience or routine and not an art:--another part is rhetoric, and
the art of attiring and sophistry are two others: thus there are four
branches, and four different things answering to them. And Polus may
ask, if he likes, for he has not as yet been informed, what part of
flattery is rhetoric: he did not see that I had not yet answered him
when he proceeded to ask a further question: Whether I do not think
rhetoric a fine thing? But I shall not tell him whether rhetoric is a
fine thing or not, until I have first answered, 'What is rhetoric?' For
that would not be right, Polus; but I shall be happy to answer, if you
will ask me, What part of flattery is rhetoric?
POLUS: I will ask and do you answer? What part of flattery is rhetoric?
SOCRATES: Will you understand my answer? Rhetoric, according to my view,
is the ghost or counterfeit of a part of politics.
POLUS: And noble or ignoble?
SOCRATES: Ignoble, I should say, if I am compelled to answer, for I call
what is bad ignoble: though I doubt whether you understand what I was
GORGIAS: Indeed, Socrates, I cannot say that I understand myself.
SOCRATES: I do not wonder, Gorgias; for I have not as yet explained
myself, and our friend Polus, colt by name and colt by nature, is apt
to run away. (This is an untranslatable play on the name 'Polus,' which
means 'a colt.')
GORGIAS: Never mind him, but explain to me what you mean by saying that
rhetoric is the counterfeit of a part of politics.
SOCRATES: I will try, then, to explain my notion of rhetoric, and if
I am mistaken, my friend Polus shall refute me. We may assume the
existence of bodies and of souls?
GORGIAS: Of course.
SOCRATES: You would further admit that there is a good condition of
either of them?
SOCRATES: Which condition may not be really good, but good only in
appearance? I mean to say, that there are many persons who appear to
be in good health, and whom only a physician or trainer will discern at
first sight not to be in good health.
SOCRATES: And this applies not only to the body, but also to the soul:
in either there may be that which gives the appearance of health and not
GORGIAS: Yes, certainly.
SOCRATES: And now I will endeavour to explain to you more clearly what I
mean: The soul and body being two, have two arts corresponding to them:
there is the art of politics attending on the soul; and another art
attending on the body, of which I know no single name, but which may be
described as having two divisions, one of them gymnastic, and the other
medicine. And in politics there is a legislative part, which answers to
gymnastic, as justice does to medicine; and the two parts run into one
another, justice having to do with the same subject as legislation, and
medicine with the same subject as gymnastic, but with a difference. Now,
seeing that there are these four arts, two attending on the body and two
on the soul for their highest good; flattery knowing, or rather guessing
their natures, has distributed herself into four shams or simulations
of them; she puts on the likeness of some one or other of them, and
pretends to be that which she simulates, and having no regard for men's
highest interests, is ever making pleasure the bait of the unwary, and
deceiving them into the belief that she is of the highest value to them.
Cookery simulates the disguise of medicine, and pretends to know what
food is the best for the body; and if the physician and the cook had to
enter into a competition in which children were the judges, or men who
had no more sense than children, as to which of them best understands
the goodness or badness of food, the physician would be starved to
death. A flattery I deem this to be and of an ignoble sort, Polus, for
to you I am now addressing myself, because it aims at pleasure
without any thought of the best. An art I do not call it, but only an
experience, because it is unable to explain or to give a reason of the
nature of its own applications. And I do not call any irrational thing
an art; but if you dispute my words, I am prepared to argue in defence
Cookery, then, I maintain to be a flattery which takes the form of
medicine; and tiring, in like manner, is a flattery which takes the
form of gymnastic, and is knavish, false, ignoble, illiberal, working
deceitfully by the help of lines, and colours, and enamels, and
garments, and making men affect a spurious beauty to the neglect of the
true beauty which is given by gymnastic.
I would rather not be tedious, and therefore I will only say, after the
manner of the geometricians (for I think that by this time you will be
able to follow)
as tiring: gymnastic:: cookery: medicine;
as tiring: gymnastic:: sophistry: legislation;
as cookery: medicine:: rhetoric: justice.
And this, I say, is the natural difference between the rhetorician and
the sophist, but by reason of their near connection, they are apt to be
jumbled up together; neither do they know what to make of themselves,
nor do other men know what to make of them. For if the body presided
over itself, and were not under the guidance of the soul, and the soul
did not discern and discriminate between cookery and medicine, but the
body was made the judge of them, and the rule of judgment was the bodily
delight which was given by them, then the word of Anaxagoras, that word
with which you, friend Polus, are so well acquainted, would prevail far
and wide: 'Chaos' would come again, and cookery, health, and medicine
would mingle in an indiscriminate mass. And now I have told you my
notion of rhetoric, which is, in relation to the soul, what cookery is
to the body. I may have been inconsistent in making a long speech, when
I would not allow you to discourse at length. But I think that I may be
excused, because you did not understand me, and could make no use of
my answer when I spoke shortly, and therefore I had to enter into an
explanation. And if I show an equal inability to make use of yours, I
hope that you will speak at equal length; but if I am able to understand
you, let me have the benefit of your brevity, as is only fair: And now
you may do what you please with my answer.
POLUS: What do you mean? do you think that rhetoric is flattery?
SOCRATES: Nay, I said a part of flattery; if at your age, Polus, you
cannot remember, what will you do by-and-by, when you get older?
POLUS: And are the good rhetoricians meanly regarded in states, under
the idea that they are flatterers?
SOCRATES: Is that a question or the beginning of a speech?
POLUS: I am asking a question.
SOCRATES: Then my answer is, that they are not regarded at all.
POLUS: How not regarded? Have they not very great power in states?
SOCRATES: Not if you mean to say that power is a good to the possessor.
POLUS: And that is what I do mean to say.
SOCRATES: Then, if so, I think that they have the least power of all the
POLUS: What! are they not like tyrants? They kill and despoil and exile
any one whom they please.
SOCRATES: By the dog, Polus, I cannot make out at each deliverance
of yours, whether you are giving an opinion of your own, or asking a
question of me.
POLUS: I am asking a question of you.
SOCRATES: Yes, my friend, but you ask two questions at once.
POLUS: How two questions?
SOCRATES: Why, did you not say just now that the rhetoricians are like
tyrants, and that they kill and despoil or exile any one whom they
POLUS: I did.
SOCRATES: Well then, I say to you that here are two questions in one,
and I will answer both of them. And I tell you, Polus, that rhetoricians
and tyrants have the least possible power in states, as I was just now
saying; for they do literally nothing which they will, but only what
they think best.
POLUS: And is not that a great power?
SOCRATES: Polus has already said the reverse.
POLUS: Said the reverse! nay, that is what I assert.
SOCRATES: No, by the great--what do you call him?--not you, for you say
that power is a good to him who has the power.
POLUS: I do.
SOCRATES: And would you maintain that if a fool does what he thinks
best, this is a good, and would you call this great power?
POLUS: I should not.
SOCRATES: Then you must prove that the rhetorician is not a fool, and
that rhetoric is an art and not a flattery--and so you will have refuted
me; but if you leave me unrefuted, why, the rhetoricians who do what
they think best in states, and the tyrants, will have nothing upon
which to congratulate themselves, if as you say, power be indeed a good,
admitting at the same time that what is done without sense is an evil.
POLUS: Yes; I admit that.
SOCRATES: How then can the rhetoricians or the tyrants have great power
in states, unless Polus can refute Socrates, and prove to him that they
do as they will?
POLUS: This fellow--
SOCRATES: I say that they do not do as they will;--now refute me.
POLUS: Why, have you not already said that they do as they think best?
SOCRATES: And I say so still.
POLUS: Then surely they do as they will?
SOCRATES: I deny it.
POLUS: But they do what they think best?
POLUS: That, Socrates, is monstrous and absurd.
SOCRATES: Good words, good Polus, as I may say in your own peculiar
style; but if you have any questions to ask of me, either prove that I
am in error or give the answer yourself.
POLUS: Very well, I am willing to answer that I may know what you mean.
SOCRATES: Do men appear to you to will that which they do, or to will
that further end for the sake of which they do a thing? when they take
medicine, for example, at the bidding of a physician, do they will the
drinking of the medicine which is painful, or the health for the sake of
which they drink?
POLUS: Clearly, the health.
SOCRATES: And when men go on a voyage or engage in business, they do not
will that which they are doing at the time; for who would desire to take
the risk of a voyage or the trouble of business?--But they will, to have
the wealth for the sake of which they go on a voyage.
SOCRATES: And is not this universally true? If a man does something for
the sake of something else, he wills not that which he does, but that
for the sake of which he does it.
SOCRATES: And are not all things either good or evil, or intermediate
POLUS: To be sure, Socrates.
SOCRATES: Wisdom and health and wealth and the like you would call
goods, and their opposites evils?
POLUS: I should.
SOCRATES: And the things which are neither good nor evil, and which
partake sometimes of the nature of good and at other times of evil, or
of neither, are such as sitting, walking, running, sailing; or, again,
wood, stones, and the like:--these are the things which you call neither
good nor evil?
POLUS: Exactly so.
SOCRATES: Are these indifferent things done for the sake of the good, or
the good for the sake of the indifferent?
POLUS: Clearly, the indifferent for the sake of the good.
SOCRATES: When we walk we walk for the sake of the good, and under the
idea that it is better to walk, and when we stand we stand equally for
the sake of the good?
SOCRATES: And when we kill a man we kill him or exile him or despoil him
of his goods, because, as we think, it will conduce to our good?
SOCRATES: Men who do any of these things do them for the sake of the
SOCRATES: And did we not admit that in doing something for the sake of
something else, we do not will those things which we do, but that other
thing for the sake of which we do them?
POLUS: Most true.
SOCRATES: Then we do not will simply to kill a man or to exile him or to
despoil him of his goods, but we will to do that which conduces to our
good, and if the act is not conducive to our good we do not will it; for
we will, as you say, that which is our good, but that which is neither
good nor evil, or simply evil, we do not will. Why are you silent,
Polus? Am I not right?
POLUS: You are right.
SOCRATES: Hence we may infer, that if any one, whether he be a tyrant
or a rhetorician, kills another or exiles another or deprives him of
his property, under the idea that the act is for his own interests when
really not for his own interests, he may be said to do what seems best
SOCRATES: But does he do what he wills if he does what is evil? Why do
you not answer?
POLUS: Well, I suppose not.
SOCRATES: Then if great power is a good as you allow, will such a one
have great power in a state?
POLUS: He will not.
SOCRATES: Then I was right in saying that a man may do what seems good
to him in a state, and not have great power, and not do what he wills?
POLUS: As though you, Socrates, would not like to have the power of
doing what seemed good to you in the state, rather than not; you would
not be jealous when you saw any one killing or despoiling or imprisoning
whom he pleased, Oh, no!
SOCRATES: Justly or unjustly, do you mean?
POLUS: In either case is he not equally to be envied?
SOCRATES: Forbear, Polus!
POLUS: Why 'forbear'?
SOCRATES: Because you ought not to envy wretches who are not to be
envied, but only to pity them.
POLUS: And are those of whom I spoke wretches?
SOCRATES: Yes, certainly they are.
POLUS: And so you think that he who slays any one whom he pleases, and
justly slays him, is pitiable and wretched?
SOCRATES: No, I do not say that of him: but neither do I think that he
is to be envied.
POLUS: Were you not saying just now that he is wretched?
SOCRATES: Yes, my friend, if he killed another unjustly, in which case
he is also to be pitied; and he is not to be envied if he killed him
POLUS: At any rate you will allow that he who is unjustly put to death
is wretched, and to be pitied?
SOCRATES: Not so much, Polus, as he who kills him, and not so much as he
who is justly killed.
POLUS: How can that be, Socrates?
SOCRATES: That may very well be, inasmuch as doing injustice is the
greatest of evils.
POLUS: But is it the greatest? Is not suffering injustice a greater
SOCRATES: Certainly not.
POLUS: Then would you rather suffer than do injustice?
SOCRATES: I should not like either, but if I must choose between them, I
would rather suffer than do.
POLUS: Then you would not wish to be a tyrant?
SOCRATES: Not if you mean by tyranny what I mean.
POLUS: I mean, as I said before, the power of doing whatever seems good
to you in a state, killing, banishing, doing in all things as you like.
SOCRATES: Well then, illustrious friend, when I have said my say, do you
reply to me. Suppose that I go into a crowded Agora, and take a dagger
under my arm. Polus, I say to you, I have just acquired rare power, and
become a tyrant; for if I think that any of these men whom you see ought
to be put to death, the man whom I have a mind to kill is as good as
dead; and if I am disposed to break his head or tear his garment, he
will have his head broken or his garment torn in an instant. Such is my
great power in this city. And if you do not believe me, and I show you
the dagger, you would probably reply: Socrates, in that sort of way any
one may have great power--he may burn any house which he pleases, and
the docks and triremes of the Athenians, and all their other vessels,
whether public or private--but can you believe that this mere doing as
you think best is great power?
POLUS: Certainly not such doing as this.
SOCRATES: But can you tell me why you disapprove of such a power?
POLUS: I can.
SOCRATES: Why then?
POLUS: Why, because he who did as you say would be certain to be
SOCRATES: And punishment is an evil?
SOCRATES: And you would admit once more, my good sir, that great power
is a benefit to a man if his actions turn out to his advantage, and that
this is the meaning of great power; and if not, then his power is an
evil and is no power. But let us look at the matter in another way:--do
we not acknowledge that the things of which we were speaking, the
infliction of death, and exile, and the deprivation of property are
sometimes a good and sometimes not a good?
SOCRATES: About that you and I may be supposed to agree?
SOCRATES: Tell me, then, when do you say that they are good and when
that they are evil--what principle do you lay down?
POLUS: I would rather, Socrates, that you should answer as well as ask
SOCRATES: Well, Polus, since you would rather have the answer from me,
I say that they are good when they are just, and evil when they are
POLUS: You are hard of refutation, Socrates, but might not a child
refute that statement?
SOCRATES: Then I shall be very grateful to the child, and equally
grateful to you if you will refute me and deliver me from my
foolishness. And I hope that refute me you will, and not weary of doing
good to a friend.
POLUS: Yes, Socrates, and I need not go far or appeal to antiquity;
events which happened only a few days ago are enough to refute you, and
to prove that many men who do wrong are happy.
SOCRATES: What events?
POLUS: You see, I presume, that Archelaus the son of Perdiccas is now
the ruler of Macedonia?
SOCRATES: At any rate I hear that he is.
POLUS: And do you think that he is happy or miserable?
SOCRATES: I cannot say, Polus, for I have never had any acquaintance
POLUS: And cannot you tell at once, and without having an acquaintance
with him, whether a man is happy?
SOCRATES: Most certainly not.
POLUS: Then clearly, Socrates, you would say that you did not even know
whether the great king was a happy man?
SOCRATES: And I should speak the truth; for I do not know how he stands
in the matter of education and justice.
POLUS: What! and does all happiness consist in this?
SOCRATES: Yes, indeed, Polus, that is my doctrine; the men and women who
are gentle and good are also happy, as I maintain, and the unjust and
evil are miserable.
POLUS: Then, according to your doctrine, the said Archelaus is
SOCRATES: Yes, my friend, if he is wicked.
POLUS: That he is wicked I cannot deny; for he had no title at all to
the throne which he now occupies, he being only the son of a woman who
was the slave of Alcetas the brother of Perdiccas; he himself therefore
in strict right was the slave of Alcetas; and if he had meant to do
rightly he would have remained his slave, and then, according to your
doctrine, he would have been happy. But now he is unspeakably miserable,
for he has been guilty of the greatest crimes: in the first place
he invited his uncle and master, Alcetas, to come to him, under the
pretence that he would restore to him the throne which Perdiccas has
usurped, and after entertaining him and his son Alexander, who was his
own cousin, and nearly of an age with him, and making them drunk, he
threw them into a waggon and carried them off by night, and slew them,
and got both of them out of the way; and when he had done all this
wickedness he never discovered that he was the most miserable of all
men, and was very far from repenting: shall I tell you how he showed his
remorse? he had a younger brother, a child of seven years old, who
was the legitimate son of Perdiccas, and to him of right the kingdom
belonged; Archelaus, however, had no mind to bring him up as he ought
and restore the kingdom to him; that was not his notion of happiness;
but not long afterwards he threw him into a well and drowned him, and
declared to his mother Cleopatra that he had fallen in while running
after a goose, and had been killed. And now as he is the greatest
criminal of all the Macedonians, he may be supposed to be the most
miserable and not the happiest of them, and I dare say that there are
many Athenians, and you would be at the head of them, who would rather
be any other Macedonian than Archelaus!
SOCRATES: I praised you at first, Polus, for being a rhetorician rather
than a reasoner. And this, as I suppose, is the sort of argument with
which you fancy that a child might refute me, and by which I stand
refuted when I say that the unjust man is not happy. But, my good
friend, where is the refutation? I cannot admit a word which you have
POLUS: That is because you will not; for you surely must think as I do.
SOCRATES: Not so, my simple friend, but because you will refute me after
the manner which rhetoricians practise in courts of law. For there the
one party think that they refute the other when they bring forward a
number of witnesses of good repute in proof of their allegations, and
their adversary has only a single one or none at all. But this kind of
proof is of no value where truth is the aim; a man may often be
sworn down by a multitude of false witnesses who have a great air of
respectability. And in this argument nearly every one, Athenian and
stranger alike, would be on your side, if you should bring witnesses in
disproof of my statement;--you may, if you will, summon Nicias the son
of Niceratus, and let his brothers, who gave the row of tripods which
stand in the precincts of Dionysus, come with him; or you may summon
Aristocrates, the son of Scellius, who is the giver of that famous
offering which is at Delphi; summon, if you will, the whole house of
Pericles, or any other great Athenian family whom you choose;--they will
all agree with you: I only am left alone and cannot agree, for you do
not convince me; although you produce many false witnesses against me,
in the hope of depriving me of my inheritance, which is the truth. But
I consider that nothing worth speaking of will have been effected by me
unless I make you the one witness of my words; nor by you, unless you
make me the one witness of yours; no matter about the rest of the world.
For there are two ways of refutation, one which is yours and that of the
world in general; but mine is of another sort--let us compare them,
and see in what they differ. For, indeed, we are at issue about matters
which to know is honourable and not to know disgraceful; to know or
not to know happiness and misery--that is the chief of them. And what
knowledge can be nobler? or what ignorance more disgraceful than this?
And therefore I will begin by asking you whether you do not think that
a man who is unjust and doing injustice can be happy, seeing that you
think Archelaus unjust, and yet happy? May I assume this to be your
SOCRATES: But I say that this is an impossibility--here is one point
about which we are at issue:--very good. And do you mean to say also
that if he meets with retribution and punishment he will still be happy?
POLUS: Certainly not; in that case he will be most miserable.
SOCRATES: On the other hand, if the unjust be not punished, then,
according to you, he will be happy?
SOCRATES: But in my opinion, Polus, the unjust or doer of unjust
actions is miserable in any case,--more miserable, however, if he be not
punished and does not meet with retribution, and less miserable if he be
punished and meets with retribution at the hands of gods and men.
POLUS: You are maintaining a strange doctrine, Socrates.
SOCRATES: I shall try to make you agree with me, O my friend, for as a
friend I regard you. Then these are the points at issue between us--are
they not? I was saying that to do is worse than to suffer injustice?
POLUS: Exactly so.
SOCRATES: And you said the opposite?
SOCRATES: I said also that the wicked are miserable, and you refuted me?
POLUS: By Zeus, I did.
SOCRATES: In your own opinion, Polus.
POLUS: Yes, and I rather suspect that I was in the right.
SOCRATES: You further said that the wrong-doer is happy if he be
SOCRATES: And I affirm that he is most miserable, and that those who are
punished are less miserable--are you going to refute this proposition
POLUS: A proposition which is harder of refutation than the other,
SOCRATES: Say rather, Polus, impossible; for who can refute the truth?
POLUS: What do you mean? If a man is detected in an unjust attempt to
make himself a tyrant, and when detected is racked, mutilated, has
his eyes burned out, and after having had all sorts of great injuries
inflicted on him, and having seen his wife and children suffer the like,
is at last impaled or tarred and burned alive, will he be happier than
if he escape and become a tyrant, and continue all through life
doing what he likes and holding the reins of government, the envy and
admiration both of citizens and strangers? Is that the paradox which, as
you say, cannot be refuted?
SOCRATES: There again, noble Polus, you are raising hobgoblins instead
of refuting me; just now you were calling witnesses against me. But
please to refresh my memory a little; did you say--'in an unjust attempt
to make himself a tyrant'?
POLUS: Yes, I did.
SOCRATES: Then I say that neither of them will be happier than the
other,--neither he who unjustly acquires a tyranny, nor he who suffers
in the attempt, for of two miserables one cannot be the happier, but
that he who escapes and becomes a tyrant is the more miserable of the
two. Do you laugh, Polus? Well, this is a new kind of refutation,--when
any one says anything, instead of refuting him to laugh at him.
POLUS: But do you not think, Socrates, that you have been sufficiently
refuted, when you say that which no human being will allow? Ask the
SOCRATES: O Polus, I am not a public man, and only last year, when my
tribe were serving as Prytanes, and it became my duty as their president
to take the votes, there was a laugh at me, because I was unable to take
them. And as I failed then, you must not ask me to count the suffrages
of the company now; but if, as I was saying, you have no better argument
than numbers, let me have a turn, and do you make trial of the sort of
proof which, as I think, is required; for I shall produce one witness
only of the truth of my words, and he is the person with whom I am
arguing; his suffrage I know how to take; but with the many I have
nothing to do, and do not even address myself to them. May I ask then
whether you will answer in turn and have your words put to the proof?
For I certainly think that I and you and every man do really believe,
that to do is a greater evil than to suffer injustice: and not to be
punished than to be punished.
POLUS: And I should say neither I, nor any man: would you yourself, for
example, suffer rather than do injustice?
SOCRATES: Yes, and you, too; I or any man would.
POLUS: Quite the reverse; neither you, nor I, nor any man.
SOCRATES: But will you answer?
POLUS: To be sure, I will; for I am curious to hear what you can have to
SOCRATES: Tell me, then, and you will know, and let us suppose that I am
beginning at the beginning: which of the two, Polus, in your opinion, is
the worst?--to do injustice or to suffer?
POLUS: I should say that suffering was worst.
SOCRATES: And which is the greater disgrace?--Answer.
POLUS: To do.
SOCRATES: And the greater disgrace is the greater evil?
POLUS: Certainly not.
SOCRATES: I understand you to say, if I am not mistaken, that the
honourable is not the same as the good, or the disgraceful as the evil?
POLUS: Certainly not.
SOCRATES: Let me ask a question of you: When you speak of beautiful
things, such as bodies, colours, figures, sounds, institutions, do
you not call them beautiful in reference to some standard: bodies, for
example, are beautiful in proportion as they are useful, or as the sight
of them gives pleasure to the spectators; can you give any other account
of personal beauty?
POLUS: I cannot.
SOCRATES: And you would say of figures or colours generally that they
were beautiful, either by reason of the pleasure which they give, or of
their use, or of both?
POLUS: Yes, I should.
SOCRATES: And you would call sounds and music beautiful for the same
POLUS: I should.
SOCRATES: Laws and institutions also have no beauty in them except in so
far as they are useful or pleasant or both?
POLUS: I think not.
SOCRATES: And may not the same be said of the beauty of knowledge?
POLUS: To be sure, Socrates; and I very much approve of your measuring
beauty by the standard of pleasure and utility.
SOCRATES: And deformity or disgrace may be equally measured by the
opposite standard of pain and evil?
SOCRATES: Then when of two beautiful things one exceeds in beauty, the
measure of the excess is to be taken in one or both of these; that is to
say, in pleasure or utility or both?
POLUS: Very true.
SOCRATES: And of two deformed things, that which exceeds in deformity or
disgrace, exceeds either in pain or evil--must it not be so?
SOCRATES: But then again, what was the observation which you just now
made, about doing and suffering wrong? Did you not say, that suffering
wrong was more evil, and doing wrong more disgraceful?
POLUS: I did.
SOCRATES: Then, if doing wrong is more disgraceful than suffering, the
more disgraceful must be more painful and must exceed in pain or in evil
or both: does not that also follow?
POLUS: Of course.
SOCRATES: First, then, let us consider whether the doing of injustice
exceeds the suffering in the consequent pain: Do the injurers suffer
more than the injured?
POLUS: No, Socrates; certainly not.
SOCRATES: Then they do not exceed in pain?
SOCRATES: But if not in pain, then not in both?
POLUS: Certainly not.
SOCRATES: Then they can only exceed in the other?
SOCRATES: That is to say, in evil?
SOCRATES: Then doing injustice will have an excess of evil, and will
therefore be a greater evil than suffering injustice?
SOCRATES: But have not you and the world already agreed that to do
injustice is more disgraceful than to suffer?
SOCRATES: And that is now discovered to be more evil?
SOCRATES: And would you prefer a greater evil or a greater dishonour to
a less one? Answer, Polus, and fear not; for you will come to no harm if
you nobly resign yourself into the healing hand of the argument as to a
physician without shrinking, and either say 'Yes' or 'No' to me.
POLUS: I should say 'No.'
SOCRATES: Would any other man prefer a greater to a less evil?
POLUS: No, not according to this way of putting the case, Socrates.
SOCRATES: Then I said truly, Polus, that neither you, nor I, nor any
man, would rather do than suffer injustice; for to do injustice is the
greater evil of the two.
POLUS: That is the conclusion.
SOCRATES: You see, Polus, when you compare the two kinds of refutations,
how unlike they are. All men, with the exception of myself, are of
your way of thinking; but your single assent and witness are enough
for me,--I have no need of any other, I take your suffrage, and am
regardless of the rest. Enough of this, and now let us proceed to the
next question; which is, Whether the greatest of evils to a guilty
man is to suffer punishment, as you supposed, or whether to escape
punishment is not a greater evil, as I supposed. Consider:--You would
say that to suffer punishment is another name for being justly corrected
when you do wrong?
POLUS: I should.
SOCRATES: And would you not allow that all just things are honourable in
so far as they are just? Please to reflect, and tell me your opinion.
POLUS: Yes, Socrates, I think that they are.
SOCRATES: Consider again:--Where there is an agent, must there not also
be a patient?
POLUS: I should say so.
SOCRATES: And will not the patient suffer that which the agent does,
and will not the suffering have the quality of the action? I mean,
for example, that if a man strikes, there must be something which is
SOCRATES: And if the striker strikes violently or quickly, that which is
struck will be struck violently or quickly?
SOCRATES: And the suffering to him who is stricken is of the same nature
as the act of him who strikes?
SOCRATES: And if a man burns, there is something which is burned?
SOCRATES: And if he burns in excess or so as to cause pain, the thing
burned will be burned in the same way?
SOCRATES: And if he cuts, the same argument holds--there will be
SOCRATES: And if the cutting be great or deep or such as will cause
pain, the cut will be of the same nature?
POLUS: That is evident.
SOCRATES: Then you would agree generally to the universal proposition
which I was just now asserting: that the affection of the patient
answers to the affection of the agent?
POLUS: I agree.
SOCRATES: Then, as this is admitted, let me ask whether being punished
is suffering or acting?
POLUS: Suffering, Socrates; there can be no doubt of that.
SOCRATES: And suffering implies an agent?
POLUS: Certainly, Socrates; and he is the punisher.
SOCRATES: And he who punishes rightly, punishes justly?
SOCRATES: And therefore he acts justly?
SOCRATES: Then he who is punished and suffers retribution, suffers
POLUS: That is evident.
SOCRATES: And that which is just has been admitted to be honourable?
SOCRATES: Then the punisher does what is honourable, and the punished
suffers what is honourable?
SOCRATES: And if what is honourable, then what is good, for the
honourable is either pleasant or useful?
SOCRATES: Then he who is punished suffers what is good?
POLUS: That is true.
SOCRATES: Then he is benefited?
SOCRATES: Do I understand you to mean what I mean by the term
'benefited'? I mean, that if he be justly punished his soul is improved.
SOCRATES: Then he who is punished is delivered from the evil of his
SOCRATES: And is he not then delivered from the greatest evil? Look at
the matter in this way:--In respect of a man's estate, do you see any
greater evil than poverty?
POLUS: There is no greater evil.
SOCRATES: Again, in a man's bodily frame, you would say that the evil is
weakness and disease and deformity?
POLUS: I should.
SOCRATES: And do you not imagine that the soul likewise has some evil of
POLUS: Of course.
SOCRATES: And this you would call injustice and ignorance and cowardice,
and the like?
SOCRATES: So then, in mind, body, and estate, which are three, you have
pointed out three corresponding evils--injustice, disease, poverty?
SOCRATES: And which of the evils is the most disgraceful?--Is not the
most disgraceful of them injustice, and in general the evil of the soul?
POLUS: By far the most.
SOCRATES: And if the most disgraceful, then also the worst?
POLUS: What do you mean, Socrates?
SOCRATES: I mean to say, that is most disgraceful has been already
admitted to be most painful or hurtful, or both.
SOCRATES: And now injustice and all evil in the soul has been admitted
by us to be most disgraceful?
POLUS: It has been admitted.
SOCRATES: And most disgraceful either because most painful and causing
excessive pain, or most hurtful, or both?
SOCRATES: And therefore to be unjust and intemperate, and cowardly and
ignorant, is more painful than to be poor and sick?
POLUS: Nay, Socrates; the painfulness does not appear to me to follow
from your premises.
SOCRATES: Then, if, as you would argue, not more painful, the evil
of the soul is of all evils the most disgraceful; and the excess
of disgrace must be caused by some preternatural greatness, or
extraordinary hurtfulness of the evil.
SOCRATES: And that which exceeds most in hurtfulness will be the
greatest of evils?
SOCRATES: Then injustice and intemperance, and in general the depravity
of the soul, are the greatest of evils?
POLUS: That is evident.
SOCRATES: Now, what art is there which delivers us from poverty? Does
not the art of making money?
SOCRATES: And what art frees us from disease? Does not the art of
POLUS: Very true.
SOCRATES: And what from vice and injustice? If you are not able to
answer at once, ask yourself whither we go with the sick, and to whom we
POLUS: To the physicians, Socrates.
SOCRATES: And to whom do we go with the unjust and intemperate?
POLUS: To the judges, you mean.
SOCRATES: --Who are to punish them?
SOCRATES: And do not those who rightly punish others, punish them in
accordance with a certain rule of justice?
SOCRATES: Then the art of money-making frees a man from poverty;
medicine from disease; and justice from intemperance and injustice?
POLUS: That is evident.
SOCRATES: Which, then, is the best of these three?
POLUS: Will you enumerate them?
SOCRATES: Money-making, medicine, and justice.
POLUS: Justice, Socrates, far excels the two others.
SOCRATES: And justice, if the best, gives the greatest pleasure or
advantage or both?
SOCRATES: But is the being healed a pleasant thing, and are those who
are being healed pleased?
POLUS: I think not.
SOCRATES: A useful thing, then?
SOCRATES: Yes, because the patient is delivered from a great evil; and
this is the advantage of enduring the pain--that you get well?
SOCRATES: And would he be the happier man in his bodily condition, who
is healed, or who never was out of health?
POLUS: Clearly he who was never out of health.
SOCRATES: Yes; for happiness surely does not consist in being delivered
from evils, but in never having had them.
SOCRATES: And suppose the case of two persons who have some evil in
their bodies, and that one of them is healed and delivered from evil,
and another is not healed, but retains the evil--which of them is the
POLUS: Clearly he who is not healed.
SOCRATES: And was not punishment said by us to be a deliverance from the
greatest of evils, which is vice?
SOCRATES: And justice punishes us, and makes us more just, and is the
medicine of our vice?
SOCRATES: He, then, has the first place in the scale of happiness
who has never had vice in his soul; for this has been shown to be the
greatest of evils.
SOCRATES: And he has the second place, who is delivered from vice?
SOCRATES: That is to say, he who receives admonition and rebuke and
SOCRATES: Then he lives worst, who, having been unjust, has no
deliverance from injustice?
SOCRATES: That is, he lives worst who commits the greatest crimes,
and who, being the most unjust of men, succeeds in escaping rebuke or
correction or punishment; and this, as you say, has been accomplished
by Archelaus and other tyrants and rhetoricians and potentates? (Compare
SOCRATES: May not their way of proceeding, my friend, be compared to the
conduct of a person who is afflicted with the worst of diseases and yet
contrives not to pay the penalty to the physician for his sins against
his constitution, and will not be cured, because, like a child, he is
afraid of the pain of being burned or cut:--Is not that a parallel case?
POLUS: Yes, truly.
SOCRATES: He would seem as if he did not know the nature of health and
bodily vigour; and if we are right, Polus, in our previous conclusions,
they are in a like case who strive to evade justice, which they see to
be painful, but are blind to the advantage which ensues from it, not
knowing how far more miserable a companion a diseased soul is than
a diseased body; a soul, I say, which is corrupt and unrighteous and
unholy. And hence they do all that they can to avoid punishment and to
avoid being released from the greatest of evils; they provide themselves
with money and friends, and cultivate to the utmost their powers of
persuasion. But if we, Polus, are right, do you see what follows, or
shall we draw out the consequences in form?
POLUS: If you please.
SOCRATES: Is it not a fact that injustice, and the doing of injustice,
is the greatest of evils?
POLUS: That is quite clear.
SOCRATES: And further, that to suffer punishment is the way to be
released from this evil?
SOCRATES: And not to suffer, is to perpetuate the evil?
SOCRATES: To do wrong, then, is second only in the scale of evils; but
to do wrong and not to be punished, is first and greatest of all?
POLUS: That is true.
SOCRATES: Well, and was not this the point in dispute, my friend?
You deemed Archelaus happy, because he was a very great criminal and
unpunished: I, on the other hand, maintained that he or any other who
like him has done wrong and has not been punished, is, and ought to be,
the most miserable of all men; and that the doer of injustice is
more miserable than the sufferer; and he who escapes punishment, more
miserable than he who suffers.--Was not that what I said?
SOCRATES: And it has been proved to be true?
SOCRATES: Well, Polus, but if this is true, where is the great use of
rhetoric? If we admit what has been just now said, every man ought in
every way to guard himself against doing wrong, for he will thereby
suffer great evil?
SOCRATES: And if he, or any one about whom he cares, does wrong, he
ought of his own accord to go where he will be immediately punished; he
will run to the judge, as he would to the physician, in order that
the disease of injustice may not be rendered chronic and become the
incurable cancer of the soul; must we not allow this consequence,
Polus, if our former admissions are to stand:--is any other inference
consistent with them?
POLUS: To that, Socrates, there can be but one answer.
SOCRATES: Then rhetoric is of no use to us, Polus, in helping a man to
excuse his own injustice, that of his parents or friends, or children or
country; but may be of use to any one who holds that instead of excusing
he ought to accuse--himself above all, and in the next degree his family
or any of his friends who may be doing wrong; he should bring to light
the iniquity and not conceal it, that so the wrong-doer may suffer
and be made whole; and he should even force himself and others not to
shrink, but with closed eyes like brave men to let the physician operate
with knife or searing iron, not regarding the pain, in the hope of
attaining the good and the honourable; let him who has done things
worthy of stripes, allow himself to be scourged, if of bonds, to be
bound, if of a fine, to be fined, if of exile, to be exiled, if of
death, to die, himself being the first to accuse himself and his own
relations, and using rhetoric to this end, that his and their unjust
actions may be made manifest, and that they themselves may be delivered
from injustice, which is the greatest evil. Then, Polus, rhetoric would
indeed be useful. Do you say 'Yes' or 'No' to that?
POLUS: To me, Socrates, what you are saying appears very strange, though
probably in agreement with your premises.
SOCRATES: Is not this the conclusion, if the premises are not disproven?
POLUS: Yes; it certainly is.
SOCRATES: And from the opposite point of view, if indeed it be our
duty to harm another, whether an enemy or not--I except the case of
self-defence--then I have to be upon my guard--but if my enemy injures
a third person, then in every sort of way, by word as well as deed, I
should try to prevent his being punished, or appearing before the judge;
and if he appears, I should contrive that he should escape, and not
suffer punishment: if he has stolen a sum of money, let him keep what
he has stolen and spend it on him and his, regardless of religion and
justice; and if he have done things worthy of death, let him not die,
but rather be immortal in his wickedness; or, if this is not possible,
let him at any rate be allowed to live as long as he can. For such
purposes, Polus, rhetoric may be useful, but is of small if of any use
to him who is not intending to commit injustice; at least, there was no
such use discovered by us in the previous discussion.
CALLICLES: Tell me, Chaerephon, is Socrates in earnest, or is he joking?
CHAEREPHON: I should say, Callicles, that he is in most profound
earnest; but you may well ask him.
CALLICLES: By the gods, and I will. Tell me, Socrates, are you in
earnest, or only in jest? For if you are in earnest, and what you say is
true, is not the whole of human life turned upside down; and are we not
doing, as would appear, in everything the opposite of what we ought to
SOCRATES: O Callicles, if there were not some community of feelings
among mankind, however varying in different persons--I mean to say, if
every man's feelings were peculiar to himself and were not shared by
the rest of his species--I do not see how we could ever communicate our
impressions to one another. I make this remark because I perceive that
you and I have a common feeling. For we are lovers both, and both of
us have two loves apiece:--I am the lover of Alcibiades, the son of
Cleinias, and of philosophy; and you of the Athenian Demus, and of
Demus the son of Pyrilampes. Now, I observe that you, with all your
cleverness, do not venture to contradict your favourite in any word or
opinion of his; but as he changes you change, backwards and forwards.
When the Athenian Demus denies anything that you are saying in the
assembly, you go over to his opinion; and you do the same with Demus,
the fair young son of Pyrilampes. For you have not the power to resist
the words and ideas of your loves; and if a person were to express
surprise at the strangeness of what you say from time to time when under
their influence, you would probably reply to him, if you were honest,
that you cannot help saying what your loves say unless they are
prevented; and that you can only be silent when they are. Now you must
understand that my words are an echo too, and therefore you need not
wonder at me; but if you want to silence me, silence philosophy, who
is my love, for she is always telling me what I am now telling you, my
friend; neither is she capricious like my other love, for the son
of Cleinias says one thing to-day and another thing to-morrow, but
philosophy is always true. She is the teacher at whose words you are
now wondering, and you have heard her yourself. Her you must refute,
and either show, as I was saying, that to do injustice and to escape
punishment is not the worst of all evils; or, if you leave her word
unrefuted, by the dog the god of Egypt, I declare, O Callicles, that
Callicles will never be at one with himself, but that his whole life
will be a discord. And yet, my friend, I would rather that my lyre
should be inharmonious, and that there should be no music in the chorus
which I provided; aye, or that the whole world should be at odds with
me, and oppose me, rather than that I myself should be at odds with
myself, and contradict myself.
CALLICLES: O Socrates, you are a regular declaimer, and seem to be
running riot in the argument. And now you are declaiming in this way
because Polus has fallen into the same error himself of which he accused
Gorgias:--for he said that when Gorgias was asked by you, whether, if
some one came to him who wanted to learn rhetoric, and did not know
justice, he would teach him justice, Gorgias in his modesty replied that
he would, because he thought that mankind in general would be displeased
if he answered 'No'; and then in consequence of this admission, Gorgias
was compelled to contradict himself, that being just the sort of thing
in which you delight. Whereupon Polus laughed at you deservedly, as I
think; but now he has himself fallen into the same trap. I cannot
say very much for his wit when he conceded to you that to do is more
dishonourable than to suffer injustice, for this was the admission which
led to his being entangled by you; and because he was too modest to say
what he thought, he had his mouth stopped. For the truth is, Socrates,
that you, who pretend to be engaged in the pursuit of truth, are
appealing now to the popular and vulgar notions of right, which are not
natural, but only conventional. Convention and nature are generally at
variance with one another: and hence, if a person is too modest to say
what he thinks, he is compelled to contradict himself; and you, in your
ingenuity perceiving the advantage to be thereby gained, slyly ask of
him who is arguing conventionally a question which is to be determined
by the rule of nature; and if he is talking of the rule of nature, you
slip away to custom: as, for instance, you did in this very discussion
about doing and suffering injustice. When Polus was speaking of the
conventionally dishonourable, you assailed him from the point of view
of nature; for by the rule of nature, to suffer injustice is the greater
disgrace because the greater evil; but conventionally, to do evil is the
more disgraceful. For the suffering of injustice is not the part of a
man, but of a slave, who indeed had better die than live; since when he
is wronged and trampled upon, he is unable to help himself, or any other
about whom he cares. The reason, as I conceive, is that the makers of
laws are the majority who are weak; and they make laws and distribute
praises and censures with a view to themselves and to their own
interests; and they terrify the stronger sort of men, and those who
are able to get the better of them, in order that they may not get the
better of them; and they say, that dishonesty is shameful and unjust;
meaning, by the word injustice, the desire of a man to have more than
his neighbours; for knowing their own inferiority, I suspect that they
are too glad of equality. And therefore the endeavour to have more
than the many, is conventionally said to be shameful and unjust, and is
called injustice (compare Republic), whereas nature herself intimates
that it is just for the better to have more than the worse, the more
powerful than the weaker; and in many ways she shows, among men as well
as among animals, and indeed among whole cities and races, that justice
consists in the superior ruling over and having more than the inferior.
For on what principle of justice did Xerxes invade Hellas, or his father
the Scythians? (not to speak of numberless other examples). Nay, but
these are the men who act according to nature; yes, by Heaven, and
according to the law of nature: not, perhaps, according to that
artificial law, which we invent and impose upon our fellows, of whom we
take the best and strongest from their youth upwards, and tame them like
young lions,--charming them with the sound of the voice, and saying to
them, that with equality they must be content, and that the equal is
the honourable and the just. But if there were a man who had sufficient
force, he would shake off and break through, and escape from all this;
he would trample under foot all our formulas and spells and charms, and
all our laws which are against nature: the slave would rise in rebellion
and be lord over us, and the light of natural justice would shine forth.
And this I take to be the sentiment of Pindar, when he says in his poem,
'Law is the king of all, of mortals as well as of immortals;'
this, as he says,
'Makes might to be right, doing violence with highest hand; as I infer
from the deeds of Heracles, for without buying them--' (Fragm. Incert.
151 (Bockh).) --I do not remember the exact words, but the meaning
is, that without buying them, and without their being given to him, he
carried off the oxen of Geryon, according to the law of natural right,
and that the oxen and other possessions of the weaker and inferior
properly belong to the stronger and superior. And this is true, as you
may ascertain, if you will leave philosophy and go on to higher things:
for philosophy, Socrates, if pursued in moderation and at the proper
age, is an elegant accomplishment, but too much philosophy is the
ruin of human life. Even if a man has good parts, still, if he carries
philosophy into later life, he is necessarily ignorant of all those
things which a gentleman and a person of honour ought to know; he is
inexperienced in the laws of the State, and in the language which ought
to be used in the dealings of man with man, whether private or public,
and utterly ignorant of the pleasures and desires of mankind and of
human character in general. And people of this sort, when they betake
themselves to politics or business, are as ridiculous as I imagine
the politicians to be, when they make their appearance in the arena of
philosophy. For, as Euripides says,
'Every man shines in that and pursues that, and devotes the greatest
portion of the day to that in which he most excels,' (Antiope, fragm. 20
but anything in which he is inferior, he avoids and depreciates, and
praises the opposite from partiality to himself, and because he thinks
that he will thus praise himself. The true principle is to unite them.
Philosophy, as a part of education, is an excellent thing, and there
is no disgrace to a man while he is young in pursuing such a study; but
when he is more advanced in years, the thing becomes ridiculous, and
I feel towards philosophers as I do towards those who lisp and imitate
children. For I love to see a little child, who is not of an age to
speak plainly, lisping at his play; there is an appearance of grace and
freedom in his utterance, which is natural to his childish years. But
when I hear some small creature carefully articulating its words, I am
offended; the sound is disagreeable, and has to my ears the twang of
slavery. So when I hear a man lisping, or see him playing like a
child, his behaviour appears to me ridiculous and unmanly and worthy of
stripes. And I have the same feeling about students of philosophy; when
I see a youth thus engaged,--the study appears to me to be in character,
and becoming a man of liberal education, and him who neglects philosophy
I regard as an inferior man, who will never aspire to anything great
or noble. But if I see him continuing the study in later life, and not
leaving off, I should like to beat him, Socrates; for, as I was saying,
such a one, even though he have good natural parts, becomes effeminate.
He flies from the busy centre and the market-place, in which, as the
poet says, men become distinguished; he creeps into a corner for the
rest of his life, and talks in a whisper with three or four admiring
youths, but never speaks out like a freeman in a satisfactory manner.
Now I, Socrates, am very well inclined towards you, and my feeling
may be compared with that of Zethus towards Amphion, in the play of
Euripides, whom I was mentioning just now: for I am disposed to say
to you much what Zethus said to his brother, that you, Socrates, are
careless about the things of which you ought to be careful; and that you
'Who have a soul so noble, are remarkable for a puerile exterior;
Neither in a court of justice could you state a case, or give any reason
or proof, Or offer valiant counsel on another's behalf.'
And you must not be offended, my dear Socrates, for I am speaking out
of good-will towards you, if I ask whether you are not ashamed of being
thus defenceless; which I affirm to be the condition not of you only but
of all those who will carry the study of philosophy too far. For suppose
that some one were to take you, or any one of your sort, off to prison,
declaring that you had done wrong when you had done no wrong, you must
allow that you would not know what to do:--there you would stand giddy
and gaping, and not having a word to say; and when you went up before
the Court, even if the accuser were a poor creature and not good for
much, you would die if he were disposed to claim the penalty of death.
And yet, Socrates, what is the value of
'An art which converts a man of sense into a fool,'
who is helpless, and has no power to save either himself or others, when
he is in the greatest danger and is going to be despoiled by his enemies
of all his goods, and has to live, simply deprived of his rights of
citizenship?--he being a man who, if I may use the expression, may be
boxed on the ears with impunity. Then, my good friend, take my advice,
and refute no more:
'Learn the philosophy of business, and acquire the reputation of wisdom.
But leave to others these niceties,'
whether they are to be described as follies or absurdities:
'For they will only Give you poverty for the inmate of your dwelling.'
Cease, then, emulating these paltry splitters of words, and emulate only
the man of substance and honour, who is well to do.
SOCRATES: If my soul, Callicles, were made of gold, should I not rejoice
to discover one of those stones with which they test gold, and the very
best possible one to which I might bring my soul; and if the stone and I
agreed in approving of her training, then I should know that I was in a
satisfactory state, and that no other test was needed by me.
CALLICLES: What is your meaning, Socrates?
SOCRATES: I will tell you; I think that I have found in you the desired
SOCRATES: Because I am sure that if you agree with me in any of the
opinions which my soul forms, I have at last found the truth indeed. For
I consider that if a man is to make a complete trial of the good or evil
of the soul, he ought to have three qualities--knowledge, good-will,
outspokenness, which are all possessed by you. Many whom I meet are
unable to make trial of me, because they are not wise as you are; others
are wise, but they will not tell me the truth, because they have not the
same interest in me which you have; and these two strangers, Gorgias and
Polus, are undoubtedly wise men and my very good friends, but they are
not outspoken enough, and they are too modest. Why, their modesty is so
great that they are driven to contradict themselves, first one and then
the other of them, in the face of a large company, on matters of the
highest moment. But you have all the qualities in which these others
are deficient, having received an excellent education; to this many
Athenians can testify. And you are my friend. Shall I tell you why I
think so? I know that you, Callicles, and Tisander of Aphidnae, and
Andron the son of Androtion, and Nausicydes of the deme of Cholarges,
studied together: there were four of you, and I once heard you advising
with one another as to the extent to which the pursuit of philosophy
should be carried, and, as I know, you came to the conclusion that the
study should not be pushed too much into detail. You were cautioning one
another not to be overwise; you were afraid that too much wisdom might
unconsciously to yourselves be the ruin of you. And now when I hear you
giving the same advice to me which you then gave to your most intimate
friends, I have a sufficient evidence of your real good-will to me. And
of the frankness of your nature and freedom from modesty I am assured by
yourself, and the assurance is confirmed by your last speech. Well then,
the inference in the present case clearly is, that if you agree with me
in an argument about any point, that point will have been sufficiently
tested by us, and will not require to be submitted to any further test.
For you could not have agreed with me, either from lack of knowledge or
from superfluity of modesty, nor yet from a desire to deceive me, for
you are my friend, as you tell me yourself. And therefore when you and
I are agreed, the result will be the attainment of perfect truth. Now
there is no nobler enquiry, Callicles, than that which you censure
me for making,--What ought the character of a man to be, and what his
pursuits, and how far is he to go, both in maturer years and in
youth? For be assured that if I err in my own conduct I do not err
intentionally, but from ignorance. Do not then desist from advising me,
now that you have begun, until I have learned clearly what this is which
I am to practise, and how I may acquire it. And if you find me assenting
to your words, and hereafter not doing that to which I assented, call
me 'dolt,' and deem me unworthy of receiving further instruction. Once
more, then, tell me what you and Pindar mean by natural justice: Do you
not mean that the superior should take the property of the inferior by
force; that the better should rule the worse, the noble have more than
the mean? Am I not right in my recollection?
CALLICLES: Yes; that is what I was saying, and so I still aver.
SOCRATES: And do you mean by the better the same as the superior? for I
could not make out what you were saying at the time--whether you
meant by the superior the stronger, and that the weaker must obey the
stronger, as you seemed to imply when you said that great cities attack
small ones in accordance with natural right, because they are superior
and stronger, as though the superior and stronger and better were the
same; or whether the better may be also the inferior and weaker, and the
superior the worse, or whether better is to be defined in the same way
as superior:--this is the point which I want to have cleared up. Are the
superior and better and stronger the same or different?
CALLICLES: I say unequivocally that they are the same.
SOCRATES: Then the many are by nature superior to the one, against whom,
as you were saying, they make the laws?
SOCRATES: Then the laws of the many are the laws of the superior?
CALLICLES: Very true.
SOCRATES: Then they are the laws of the better; for the superior class
are far better, as you were saying?
SOCRATES: And since they are superior, the laws which are made by them
are by nature good?
SOCRATES: And are not the many of opinion, as you were lately saying,
that justice is equality, and that to do is more disgraceful than to
suffer injustice?--is that so or not? Answer, Callicles, and let no
modesty be found to come in the way; do the many think, or do they not
think thus?--I must beg of you to answer, in order that if you agree
with me I may fortify myself by the assent of so competent an authority.
CALLICLES: Yes; the opinion of the many is what you say.
SOCRATES: Then not only custom but nature also affirms that to do is
more disgraceful than to suffer injustice, and that justice is equality;
so that you seem to have been wrong in your former assertion, when
accusing me you said that nature and custom are opposed, and that I,
knowing this, was dishonestly playing between them, appealing to custom
when the argument is about nature, and to nature when the argument is
CALLICLES: This man will never cease talking nonsense. At your age,
Socrates, are you not ashamed to be catching at words and chuckling over
some verbal slip? do you not see--have I not told you already, that by
superior I mean better: do you imagine me to say, that if a rabble of
slaves and nondescripts, who are of no use except perhaps for their
physical strength, get together, their ipsissima verba are laws?
SOCRATES: Ho! my philosopher, is that your line?
SOCRATES: I was thinking, Callicles, that something of the kind must
have been in your mind, and that is why I repeated the question,--What
is the superior? I wanted to know clearly what you meant; for you surely
do not think that two men are better than one, or that your slaves are
better than you because they are stronger? Then please to begin again,
and tell me who the better are, if they are not the stronger; and I will
ask you, great Sir, to be a little milder in your instructions, or I
shall have to run away from you.
CALLICLES: You are ironical.
SOCRATES: No, by the hero Zethus, Callicles, by whose aid you were just
now saying many ironical things against me, I am not:--tell me, then,
whom you mean, by the better?
CALLICLES: I mean the more excellent.
SOCRATES: Do you not see that you are yourself using words which have no
meaning and that you are explaining nothing?--will you tell me whether
you mean by the better and superior the wiser, or if not, whom?
CALLICLES: Most assuredly, I do mean the wiser.
SOCRATES: Then according to you, one wise man may often be superior to
ten thousand fools, and he ought to rule them, and they ought to be his
subjects, and he ought to have more than they should. This is what
I believe that you mean (and you must not suppose that I am
word-catching), if you allow that the one is superior to the ten
CALLICLES: Yes; that is what I mean, and that is what I conceive to be
natural justice--that the better and wiser should rule and have more
than the inferior.
SOCRATES: Stop there, and let me ask you what you would say in this
case: Let us suppose that we are all together as we are now; there are
several of us, and we have a large common store of meats and drinks, and
there are all sorts of persons in our company having various degrees of
strength and weakness, and one of us, being a physician, is wiser in the
matter of food than all the rest, and he is probably stronger than some
and not so strong as others of us--will he not, being wiser, be also
better than we are, and our superior in this matter of food?
SOCRATES: Either, then, he will have a larger share of the meats and
drinks, because he is better, or he will have the distribution of all of
them by reason of his authority, but he will not expend or make use of
a larger share of them on his own person, or if he does, he will be
punished;--his share will exceed that of some, and be less than that of
others, and if he be the weakest of all, he being the best of all will
have the smallest share of all, Callicles:--am I not right, my friend?
CALLICLES: You talk about meats and drinks and physicians and other
nonsense; I am not speaking of them.
SOCRATES: Well, but do you admit that the wiser is the better? Answer
'Yes' or 'No.'
SOCRATES: And ought not the better to have a larger share?
CALLICLES: Not of meats and drinks.
SOCRATES: I understand: then, perhaps, of coats--the skilfullest weaver
ought to have the largest coat, and the greatest number of them, and go
about clothed in the best and finest of them?
CALLICLES: Fudge about coats!
SOCRATES: Then the skilfullest and best in making shoes ought to have
the advantage in shoes; the shoemaker, clearly, should walk about in the
largest shoes, and have the greatest number of them?
CALLICLES: Fudge about shoes! What nonsense are you talking?
SOCRATES: Or, if this is not your meaning, perhaps you would say that
the wise and good and true husbandman should actually have a larger
share of seeds, and have as much seed as possible for his own land?
CALLICLES: How you go on, always talking in the same way, Socrates!
SOCRATES: Yes, Callicles, and also about the same things.
CALLICLES: Yes, by the Gods, you are literally always talking of
cobblers and fullers and cooks and doctors, as if this had to do with
SOCRATES: But why will you not tell me in what a man must be superior
and wiser in order to claim a larger share; will you neither accept a
suggestion, nor offer one?
CALLICLES: I have already told you. In the first place, I mean by
superiors not cobblers or cooks, but wise politicians who understand the
administration of a state, and who are not only wise, but also valiant
and able to carry out their designs, and not the men to faint from want
SOCRATES: See now, most excellent Callicles, how different my charge
against you is from that which you bring against me, for you reproach
me with always saying the same; but I reproach you with never saying the
same about the same things, for at one time you were defining the better
and the superior to be the stronger, then again as the wiser, and now
you bring forward a new notion; the superior and the better are now
declared by you to be the more courageous: I wish, my good friend, that
you would tell me, once for all, whom you affirm to be the better and
superior, and in what they are better?
CALLICLES: I have already told you that I mean those who are wise and
courageous in the administration of a state--they ought to be the rulers
of their states, and justice consists in their having more than their
SOCRATES: But whether rulers or subjects will they or will they not have
more than themselves, my friend?
CALLICLES: What do you mean?
SOCRATES: I mean that every man is his own ruler; but perhaps you think
that there is no necessity for him to rule himself; he is only required
to rule others?
CALLICLES: What do you mean by his 'ruling over himself'?
SOCRATES: A simple thing enough; just what is commonly said, that a
man should be temperate and master of himself, and ruler of his own
pleasures and passions.
CALLICLES: What innocence! you mean those fools,--the temperate?
SOCRATES: Certainly:--any one may know that to be my meaning.
CALLICLES: Quite so, Socrates; and they are really fools, for how can a
man be happy who is the servant of anything? On the contrary, I plainly
assert, that he who would truly live ought to allow his desires to wax
to the uttermost, and not to chastise them; but when they have grown to
their greatest he should have courage and intelligence to minister to
them and to satisfy all his longings. And this I affirm to be natural
justice and nobility. To this however the many cannot attain; and they
blame the strong man because they are ashamed of their own weakness,
which they desire to conceal, and hence they say that intemperance is
base. As I have remarked already, they enslave the nobler natures, and
being unable to satisfy their pleasures, they praise temperance and
justice out of their own cowardice. For if a man had been originally
the son of a king, or had a nature capable of acquiring an empire or
a tyranny or sovereignty, what could be more truly base or evil than
temperance--to a man like him, I say, who might freely be enjoying every
good, and has no one to stand in his way, and yet has admitted custom
and reason and the opinion of other men to be lords over him?--must
not he be in a miserable plight whom the reputation of justice and
temperance hinders from giving more to his friends than to his enemies,
even though he be a ruler in his city? Nay, Socrates, for you profess
to be a votary of the truth, and the truth is this:--that luxury and
intemperance and licence, if they be provided with means, are virtue and
happiness--all the rest is a mere bauble, agreements contrary to nature,
foolish talk of men, nothing worth. (Compare Republic.)
SOCRATES: There is a noble freedom, Callicles, in your way of
approaching the argument; for what you say is what the rest of the world
think, but do not like to say. And I must beg of you to persevere, that
the true rule of human life may become manifest. Tell me, then:--you
say, do you not, that in the rightly-developed man the passions ought
not to be controlled, but that we should let them grow to the utmost and
somehow or other satisfy them, and that this is virtue?
CALLICLES: Yes; I do.
SOCRATES: Then those who want nothing are not truly said to be happy?
CALLICLES: No indeed, for then stones and dead men would be the happiest
SOCRATES: But surely life according to your view is an awful thing; and
indeed I think that Euripides may have been right in saying,
'Who knows if life be not death and death life;'
and that we are very likely dead; I have heard a philosopher say that at
this moment we are actually dead, and that the body (soma) is our tomb
(sema (compare Phaedr.)), and that the part of the soul which is the
seat of the desires is liable to be tossed about by words and blown up
and down; and some ingenious person, probably a Sicilian or an
Italian, playing with the word, invented a tale in which he called the
soul--because of its believing and make-believe nature--a vessel (An
untranslatable pun,--dia to pithanon te kai pistikon onomase pithon.),
and the ignorant he called the uninitiated or leaky, and the place in
the souls of the uninitiated in which the desires are seated, being the
intemperate and incontinent part, he compared to a vessel full of holes,
because it can never be satisfied. He is not of your way of thinking,
Callicles, for he declares, that of all the souls in Hades, meaning the
invisible world (aeides), these uninitiated or leaky persons are the
most miserable, and that they pour water into a vessel which is full of
holes out of a colander which is similarly perforated. The colander, as
my informer assures me, is the soul, and the soul which he compares to
a colander is the soul of the ignorant, which is likewise full of holes,
and therefore incontinent, owing to a bad memory and want of faith.
These notions are strange enough, but they show the principle which, if
I can, I would fain prove to you; that you should change your mind,
and, instead of the intemperate and insatiate life, choose that which
is orderly and sufficient and has a due provision for daily needs. Do I
make any impression on you, and are you coming over to the opinion that
the orderly are happier than the intemperate? Or do I fail to persuade
you, and, however many tales I rehearse to you, do you continue of the
same opinion still?
CALLICLES: The latter, Socrates, is more like the truth.
SOCRATES: Well, I will tell you another image, which comes out of the
same school:--Let me request you to consider how far you would accept
this as an account of the two lives of the temperate and intemperate in
a figure:--There are two men, both of whom have a number of casks; the
one man has his casks sound and full, one of wine, another of honey,
and a third of milk, besides others filled with other liquids, and the
streams which fill them are few and scanty, and he can only obtain them
with a great deal of toil and difficulty; but when his casks are once
filled he has no need to feed them any more, and has no further trouble
with them or care about them. The other, in like manner, can procure
streams, though not without difficulty; but his vessels are leaky and
unsound, and night and day he is compelled to be filling them, and if
he pauses for a moment, he is in an agony of pain. Such are their
respective lives:--And now would you say that the life of the
intemperate is happier than that of the temperate? Do I not convince you
that the opposite is the truth?
CALLICLES: You do not convince me, Socrates, for the one who has filled
himself has no longer any pleasure left; and this, as I was just now
saying, is the life of a stone: he has neither joy nor sorrow after he
is once filled; but the pleasure depends on the superabundance of the
SOCRATES: But the more you pour in, the greater the waste; and the holes
must be large for the liquid to escape.
SOCRATES: The life which you are now depicting is not that of a dead
man, or of a stone, but of a cormorant; you mean that he is to be
hungering and eating?
SOCRATES: And he is to be thirsting and drinking?
CALLICLES: Yes, that is what I mean; he is to have all his desires about
him, and to be able to live happily in the gratification of them.
SOCRATES: Capital, excellent; go on as you have begun, and have no
shame; I, too, must disencumber myself of shame: and first, will you
tell me whether you include itching and scratching, provided you have
enough of them and pass your life in scratching, in your notion of
CALLICLES: What a strange being you are, Socrates! a regular mob-orator.
SOCRATES: That was the reason, Callicles, why I scared Polus and
Gorgias, until they were too modest to say what they thought; but you
will not be too modest and will not be scared, for you are a brave man.
And now, answer my question.
CALLICLES: I answer, that even the scratcher would live pleasantly.
SOCRATES: And if pleasantly, then also happily?
CALLICLES: To be sure.
SOCRATES: But what if the itching is not confined to the head? Shall I
pursue the question? And here, Callicles, I would have you consider how
you would reply if consequences are pressed upon you, especially if in
the last resort you are asked, whether the life of a catamite is not
terrible, foul, miserable? Or would you venture to say, that they too
are happy, if they only get enough of what they want?
CALLICLES: Are you not ashamed, Socrates, of introducing such topics
into the argument?
SOCRATES: Well, my fine friend, but am I the introducer of these topics,
or he who says without any qualification that all who feel pleasure in
whatever manner are happy, and who admits of no distinction between good
and bad pleasures? And I would still ask, whether you say that pleasure
and good are the same, or whether there is some pleasure which is not a
CALLICLES: Well, then, for the sake of consistency, I will say that they
are the same.
SOCRATES: You are breaking the original agreement, Callicles, and will
no longer be a satisfactory companion in the search after truth, if you
say what is contrary to your real opinion.
CALLICLES: Why, that is what you are doing too, Socrates.
SOCRATES: Then we are both doing wrong. Still, my dear friend, I would
ask you to consider whether pleasure, from whatever source derived, is
the good; for, if this be true, then the disagreeable consequences which
have been darkly intimated must follow, and many others.
CALLICLES: That, Socrates, is only your opinion.
SOCRATES: And do you, Callicles, seriously maintain what you are saying?
CALLICLES: Indeed I do.
SOCRATES: Then, as you are in earnest, shall we proceed with the
CALLICLES: By all means. (Or, 'I am in profound earnest.')
SOCRATES: Well, if you are willing to proceed, determine this question
for me:--There is something, I presume, which you would call knowledge?
CALLICLES: There is.
SOCRATES: And were you not saying just now, that some courage implied
CALLICLES: I was.
SOCRATES: And you were speaking of courage and knowledge as two things
different from one another?
CALLICLES: Certainly I was.
SOCRATES: And would you say that pleasure and knowledge are the same, or
not the same?
CALLICLES: Not the same, O man of wisdom.
SOCRATES: And would you say that courage differed from pleasure?
SOCRATES: Well, then, let us remember that Callicles, the Acharnian,
says that pleasure and good are the same; but that knowledge and courage
are not the same, either with one another, or with the good.
CALLICLES: And what does our friend Socrates, of Foxton, say--does he
assent to this, or not?
SOCRATES: He does not assent; neither will Callicles, when he sees
himself truly. You will admit, I suppose, that good and evil fortune are
opposed to each other?
SOCRATES: And if they are opposed to each other, then, like health and
disease, they exclude one another; a man cannot have them both, or be
without them both, at the same time?
CALLICLES: What do you mean?
SOCRATES: Take the case of any bodily affection:--a man may have the
complaint in his eyes which is called ophthalmia?
CALLICLES: To be sure.
SOCRATES: But he surely cannot have the same eyes well and sound at the
CALLICLES: Certainly not.
SOCRATES: And when he has got rid of his ophthalmia, has he got rid of
the health of his eyes too? Is the final result, that he gets rid of
them both together?
CALLICLES: Certainly not.
SOCRATES: That would surely be marvellous and absurd?
SOCRATES: I suppose that he is affected by them, and gets rid of them in
SOCRATES: And he may have strength and weakness in the same way, by
SOCRATES: Or swiftness and slowness?
SOCRATES: And does he have and not have good and happiness, and
their opposites, evil and misery, in a similar alternation? (Compare
CALLICLES: Certainly he has.
SOCRATES: If then there be anything which a man has and has not at the
same time, clearly that cannot be good and evil--do we agree? Please not
to answer without consideration.
CALLICLES: I entirely agree.
SOCRATES: Go back now to our former admissions.--Did you say that to
hunger, I mean the mere state of hunger, was pleasant or painful?
CALLICLES: I said painful, but that to eat when you are hungry is
SOCRATES: I know; but still the actual hunger is painful: am I not
SOCRATES: And thirst, too, is painful?
CALLICLES: Yes, very.
SOCRATES: Need I adduce any more instances, or would you agree that all
wants or desires are painful?
CALLICLES: I agree, and therefore you need not adduce any more
SOCRATES: Very good. And you would admit that to drink, when you are
thirsty, is pleasant?
SOCRATES: And in the sentence which you have just uttered, the word
'thirsty' implies pain?
SOCRATES: And the word 'drinking' is expressive of pleasure, and of the
satisfaction of the want?
SOCRATES: There is pleasure in drinking?
SOCRATES: When you are thirsty?
SOCRATES: And in pain?
SOCRATES: Do you see the inference:--that pleasure and pain are
simultaneous, when you say that being thirsty, you drink? For are they
not simultaneous, and do they not affect at the same time the same part,
whether of the soul or the body?--which of them is affected cannot be
supposed to be of any consequence: Is not this true?
CALLICLES: It is.
SOCRATES: You said also, that no man could have good and evil fortune at
the same time?
CALLICLES: Yes, I did.
SOCRATES: But you admitted, that when in pain a man might also have
SOCRATES: Then pleasure is not the same as good fortune, or pain the
same as evil fortune, and therefore the good is not the same as the
CALLICLES: I wish I knew, Socrates, what your quibbling means.
SOCRATES: You know, Callicles, but you affect not to know.
CALLICLES: Well, get on, and don't keep fooling: then you will know what
a wiseacre you are in your admonition of me.
SOCRATES: Does not a man cease from his thirst and from his pleasure in
drinking at the same time?
CALLICLES: I do not understand what you are saying.
GORGIAS: Nay, Callicles, answer, if only for our sakes;--we should like
to hear the argument out.
CALLICLES: Yes, Gorgias, but I must complain of the habitual trifling of
Socrates; he is always arguing about little and unworthy questions.
GORGIAS: What matter? Your reputation, Callicles, is not at stake. Let
Socrates argue in his own fashion.
CALLICLES: Well, then, Socrates, you shall ask these little peddling
questions, since Gorgias wishes to have them.
SOCRATES: I envy you, Callicles, for having been initiated into the
great mysteries before you were initiated into the lesser. I thought
that this was not allowable. But to return to our argument:--Does not a
man cease from thirsting and from the pleasure of drinking at the same
SOCRATES: And if he is hungry, or has any other desire, does he not
cease from the desire and the pleasure at the same moment?
CALLICLES: Very true.
SOCRATES: Then he ceases from pain and pleasure at the same moment?
SOCRATES: But he does not cease from good and evil at the same moment,
as you have admitted: do you still adhere to what you said?
CALLICLES: Yes, I do; but what is the inference?
SOCRATES: Why, my friend, the inference is that the good is not the
same as the pleasant, or the evil the same as the painful; there is a
cessation of pleasure and pain at the same moment; but not of good and
evil, for they are different. How then can pleasure be the same as good,
or pain as evil? And I would have you look at the matter in another
light, which could hardly, I think, have been considered by you when you
identified them: Are not the good good because they have good present
with them, as the beautiful are those who have beauty present with them?
SOCRATES: And do you call the fools and cowards good men? For you were
saying just now that the courageous and the wise are the good--would you
not say so?
SOCRATES: And did you never see a foolish child rejoicing?
CALLICLES: Yes, I have.
SOCRATES: And a foolish man too?
CALLICLES: Yes, certainly; but what is your drift?
SOCRATES: Nothing particular, if you will only answer.
CALLICLES: Yes, I have.
SOCRATES: And did you ever see a sensible man rejoicing or sorrowing?
SOCRATES: Which rejoice and sorrow most--the wise or the foolish?
CALLICLES: They are much upon a par, I think, in that respect.
SOCRATES: Enough: And did you ever see a coward in battle?
CALLICLES: To be sure.
SOCRATES: And which rejoiced most at the departure of the enemy, the
coward or the brave?
CALLICLES: I should say 'most' of both; or at any rate, they rejoiced
SOCRATES: No matter; then the cowards, and not only the brave, rejoice?
SOCRATES: And the foolish; so it would seem?
SOCRATES: And are only the cowards pained at the approach of their
enemies, or are the brave also pained?
CALLICLES: Both are pained.
SOCRATES: And are they equally pained?
CALLICLES: I should imagine that the cowards are more pained.
SOCRATES: And are they not better pleased at the enemy's departure?
CALLICLES: I dare say.
SOCRATES: Then are the foolish and the wise and the cowards and the
brave all pleased and pained, as you were saying, in nearly equal
degree; but are the cowards more pleased and pained than the brave?
SOCRATES: But surely the wise and brave are the good, and the foolish
and the cowardly are the bad?
SOCRATES: Then the good and the bad are pleased and pained in a nearly
SOCRATES: Then are the good and bad good and bad in a nearly equal
degree, or have the bad the advantage both in good and evil? (i.e. in
having more pleasure and more pain.)
CALLICLES: I really do not know what you mean.
SOCRATES: Why, do you not remember saying that the good were good
because good was present with them, and the evil because evil; and that
pleasures were goods and pains evils?
CALLICLES: Yes, I remember.
SOCRATES: And are not these pleasures or goods present to those who
rejoice--if they do rejoice?
SOCRATES: Then those who rejoice are good when goods are present with
SOCRATES: And those who are in pain have evil or sorrow present with
SOCRATES: And would you still say that the evil are evil by reason of
the presence of evil?
CALLICLES: I should.
SOCRATES: Then those who rejoice are good, and those who are in pain
SOCRATES: The degrees of good and evil vary with the degrees of pleasure
and of pain?
SOCRATES: Have the wise man and the fool, the brave and the coward, joy
and pain in nearly equal degrees? or would you say that the coward has
CALLICLES: I should say that he has.
SOCRATES: Help me then to draw out the conclusion which follows from our
admissions; for it is good to repeat and review what is good twice and
thrice over, as they say. Both the wise man and the brave man we allow
to be good?
SOCRATES: And the foolish man and the coward to be evil?
SOCRATES: And he who has joy is good?
SOCRATES: And he who is in pain is evil?
SOCRATES: The good and evil both have joy and pain, but, perhaps, the
evil has more of them?
SOCRATES: Then must we not infer, that the bad man is as good and bad
as the good, or, perhaps, even better?--is not this a further inference
which follows equally with the preceding from the assertion that the
good and the pleasant are the same:--can this be denied, Callicles?
CALLICLES: I have been listening and making admissions to you, Socrates;
and I remark that if a person grants you anything in play, you, like a
child, want to keep hold and will not give it back. But do you really
suppose that I or any other human being denies that some pleasures are
good and others bad?
SOCRATES: Alas, Callicles, how unfair you are! you certainly treat me as
if I were a child, sometimes saying one thing, and then another, as if
you were meaning to deceive me. And yet I thought at first that you were
my friend, and would not have deceived me if you could have helped. But
I see that I was mistaken; and now I suppose that I must make the best
of a bad business, as they said of old, and take what I can get out of
you.--Well, then, as I understand you to say, I may assume that some
pleasures are good and others evil?
SOCRATES: The beneficial are good, and the hurtful are evil?
CALLICLES: To be sure.
SOCRATES: And the beneficial are those which do some good, and the
hurtful are those which do some evil?
SOCRATES: Take, for example, the bodily pleasures of eating and
drinking, which we were just now mentioning--you mean to say that those
which promote health, or any other bodily excellence, are good, and
their opposites evil?
SOCRATES: And in the same way there are good pains and there are evil
CALLICLES: To be sure.
SOCRATES: And ought we not to choose and use the good pleasures and
SOCRATES: But not the evil?
SOCRATES: Because, if you remember, Polus and I have agreed that all
our actions are to be done for the sake of the good;--and will you agree
with us in saying, that the good is the end of all our actions, and that
all our actions are to be done for the sake of the good, and not the
good for the sake of them?--will you add a third vote to our two?
CALLICLES: I will.
SOCRATES: Then pleasure, like everything else, is to be sought for the
sake of that which is good, and not that which is good for the sake of
CALLICLES: To be sure.
SOCRATES: But can every man choose what pleasures are good and what are
evil, or must he have art or knowledge of them in detail?
CALLICLES: He must have art.
SOCRATES: Let me now remind you of what I was saying to Gorgias and
Polus; I was saying, as you will not have forgotten, that there were
some processes which aim only at pleasure, and know nothing of a better
and worse, and there are other processes which know good and evil. And
I considered that cookery, which I do not call an art, but only an
experience, was of the former class, which is concerned with pleasure,
and that the art of medicine was of the class which is concerned with
the good. And now, by the god of friendship, I must beg you, Callicles,
not to jest, or to imagine that I am jesting with you; do not answer at
random and contrary to your real opinion--for you will observe that we
are arguing about the way of human life; and to a man who has any sense
at all, what question can be more serious than this?--whether he should
follow after that way of life to which you exhort me, and act what
you call the manly part of speaking in the assembly, and cultivating
rhetoric, and engaging in public affairs, according to the principles
now in vogue; or whether he should pursue the life of philosophy;--and
in what the latter way differs from the former. But perhaps we had
better first try to distinguish them, as I did before, and when we have
come to an agreement that they are distinct, we may proceed to consider
in what they differ from one another, and which of them we should
choose. Perhaps, however, you do not even now understand what I mean?
CALLICLES: No, I do not.
SOCRATES: Then I will explain myself more clearly: seeing that you and I
have agreed that there is such a thing as good, and that there is such
a thing as pleasure, and that pleasure is not the same as good, and that
the pursuit and process of acquisition of the one, that is pleasure,
is different from the pursuit and process of acquisition of the other,
which is good--I wish that you would tell me whether you agree with me
thus far or not--do you agree?
CALLICLES: I do.
SOCRATES: Then I will proceed, and ask whether you also agree with me,
and whether you think that I spoke the truth when I further said to
Gorgias and Polus that cookery in my opinion is only an experience, and
not an art at all; and that whereas medicine is an art, and attends to
the nature and constitution of the patient, and has principles of
action and reason in each case, cookery in attending upon pleasure
never regards either the nature or reason of that pleasure to which she
devotes herself, but goes straight to her end, nor ever considers or
calculates anything, but works by experience and routine, and just
preserves the recollection of what she has usually done when producing
pleasure. And first, I would have you consider whether I have proved
what I was saying, and then whether there are not other similar
processes which have to do with the soul--some of them processes of art,
making a provision for the soul's highest interest--others despising the
interest, and, as in the previous case, considering only the pleasure
of the soul, and how this may be acquired, but not considering what
pleasures are good or bad, and having no other aim but to afford
gratification, whether good or bad. In my opinion, Callicles, there are
such processes, and this is the sort of thing which I term flattery,
whether concerned with the body or the soul, or whenever employed with a
view to pleasure and without any consideration of good and evil. And now
I wish that you would tell me whether you agree with us in this notion,
or whether you differ.
CALLICLES: I do not differ; on the contrary, I agree; for in that way I
shall soonest bring the argument to an end, and shall oblige my friend
SOCRATES: And is this notion true of one soul, or of two or more?
CALLICLES: Equally true of two or more.
SOCRATES: Then a man may delight a whole assembly, and yet have no
regard for their true interests?
SOCRATES: Can you tell me the pursuits which delight mankind--or rather,
if you would prefer, let me ask, and do you answer, which of them belong
to the pleasurable class, and which of them not? In the first place,
what say you of flute-playing? Does not that appear to be an art which
seeks only pleasure, Callicles, and thinks of nothing else?
CALLICLES: I assent.
SOCRATES: And is not the same true of all similar arts, as, for example,
the art of playing the lyre at festivals?
SOCRATES: And what do you say of the choral art and of dithyrambic
poetry?--are not they of the same nature? Do you imagine that Cinesias
the son of Meles cares about what will tend to the moral improvement of
his hearers, or about what will give pleasure to the multitude?
CALLICLES: There can be no mistake about Cinesias, Socrates.
SOCRATES: And what do you say of his father, Meles the harp-player? Did
he perform with any view to the good of his hearers? Could he be said
to regard even their pleasure? For his singing was an infliction to his
audience. And of harp-playing and dithyrambic poetry in general, what
would you say? Have they not been invented wholly for the sake of
CALLICLES: That is my notion of them.
SOCRATES: And as for the Muse of Tragedy, that solemn and august
personage--what are her aspirations? Is all her aim and desire only
to give pleasure to the spectators, or does she fight against them and
refuse to speak of their pleasant vices, and willingly proclaim in word
and song truths welcome and unwelcome?--which in your judgment is her
CALLICLES: There can be no doubt, Socrates, that Tragedy has her face
turned towards pleasure and the gratification of the audience.
SOCRATES: And is not that the sort of thing, Callicles, which we were
just now describing as flattery?
CALLICLES: Quite true.
SOCRATES: Well now, suppose that we strip all poetry of song and rhythm
and metre, there will remain speech? (Compare Republic.)
CALLICLES: To be sure.
SOCRATES: And this speech is addressed to a crowd of people?
SOCRATES: Then poetry is a sort of rhetoric?
SOCRATES: And do not the poets in the theatres seem to you to be
SOCRATES: Then now we have discovered a sort of rhetoric which is
addressed to a crowd of men, women, and children, freemen and slaves.
And this is not much to our taste, for we have described it as having
the nature of flattery.
CALLICLES: Quite true.
SOCRATES: Very good. And what do you say of that other rhetoric which
addresses the Athenian assembly and the assemblies of freemen in other
states? Do the rhetoricians appear to you always to aim at what is best,
and do they seek to improve the citizens by their speeches, or are
they too, like the rest of mankind, bent upon giving them pleasure,
forgetting the public good in the thought of their own interest, playing
with the people as with children, and trying to amuse them, but never
considering whether they are better or worse for this?
CALLICLES: I must distinguish. There are some who have a real care of
the public in what they say, while others are such as you describe.
SOCRATES: I am contented with the admission that rhetoric is of two
sorts; one, which is mere flattery and disgraceful declamation; the
other, which is noble and aims at the training and improvement of the
souls of the citizens, and strives to say what is best, whether welcome
or unwelcome, to the audience; but have you ever known such a rhetoric;
or if you have, and can point out any rhetorician who is of this stamp,
who is he?
CALLICLES: But, indeed, I am afraid that I cannot tell you of any such
among the orators who are at present living.
SOCRATES: Well, then, can you mention any one of a former generation,
who may be said to have improved the Athenians, who found them worse
and made them better, from the day that he began to make speeches? for,
indeed, I do not know of such a man.
CALLICLES: What! did you never hear that Themistocles was a good man,
and Cimon and Miltiades and Pericles, who is just lately dead, and whom
you heard yourself?
SOCRATES: Yes, Callicles, they were good men, if, as you said at first,
true virtue consists only in the satisfaction of our own desires and
those of others; but if not, and if, as we were afterwards compelled to
acknowledge, the satisfaction of some desires makes us better, and of
others, worse, and we ought to gratify the one and not the other, and
there is an art in distinguishing them,--can you tell me of any of these
statesmen who did distinguish them?
CALLICLES: No, indeed, I cannot.
SOCRATES: Yet, surely, Callicles, if you look you will find such a one.
Suppose that we just calmly consider whether any of these was such as I
have described. Will not the good man, who says whatever he says with
a view to the best, speak with a reference to some standard and not at
random; just as all other artists, whether the painter, the builder, the
shipwright, or any other look all of them to their own work, and do
not select and apply at random what they apply, but strive to give
a definite form to it? The artist disposes all things in order, and
compels the one part to harmonize and accord with the other part, until
he has constructed a regular and systematic whole; and this is true of
all artists, and in the same way the trainers and physicians, of whom we
spoke before, give order and regularity to the body: do you deny this?
CALLICLES: No; I am ready to admit it.
SOCRATES: Then the house in which order and regularity prevail is good;
that in which there is disorder, evil?
SOCRATES: And the same is true of a ship?
SOCRATES: And the same may be said of the human body?
SOCRATES: And what would you say of the soul? Will the good soul be that
in which disorder is prevalent, or that in which there is harmony and
CALLICLES: The latter follows from our previous admissions.
SOCRATES: What is the name which is given to the effect of harmony and
order in the body?
CALLICLES: I suppose that you mean health and strength?
SOCRATES: Yes, I do; and what is the name which you would give to the
effect of harmony and order in the soul? Try and discover a name for
this as well as for the other.
CALLICLES: Why not give the name yourself, Socrates?
SOCRATES: Well, if you had rather that I should, I will; and you shall
say whether you agree with me, and if not, you shall refute and answer
me. 'Healthy,' as I conceive, is the name which is given to the
regular order of the body, whence comes health and every other bodily
excellence: is that true or not?
SOCRATES: And 'lawful' and 'law' are the names which are given to the
regular order and action of the soul, and these make men lawful and
orderly:--and so we have temperance and justice: have we not?
SOCRATES: And will not the true rhetorician who is honest and
understands his art have his eye fixed upon these, in all the words
which he addresses to the souls of men, and in all his actions, both in
what he gives and in what he takes away? Will not his aim be to implant
justice in the souls of his citizens and take away injustice, to implant
temperance and take away intemperance, to implant every virtue and take
away every vice? Do you not agree?
CALLICLES: I agree.
SOCRATES: For what use is there, Callicles, in giving to the body of
a sick man who is in a bad state of health a quantity of the most
delightful food or drink or any other pleasant thing, which may be
really as bad for him as if you gave him nothing, or even worse if
rightly estimated. Is not that true?
CALLICLES: I will not say No to it.
SOCRATES: For in my opinion there is no profit in a man's life if his
body is in an evil plight--in that case his life also is evil: am I not
SOCRATES: When a man is in health the physicians will generally allow
him to eat when he is hungry and drink when he is thirsty, and to
satisfy his desires as he likes, but when he is sick they hardly suffer
him to satisfy his desires at all: even you will admit that?
SOCRATES: And does not the same argument hold of the soul, my good sir?
While she is in a bad state and is senseless and intemperate and unjust
and unholy, her desires ought to be controlled, and she ought to
be prevented from doing anything which does not tend to her own
SOCRATES: Such treatment will be better for the soul herself?
CALLICLES: To be sure.
SOCRATES: And to restrain her from her appetites is to chastise her?
SOCRATES: Then restraint or chastisement is better for the soul
than intemperance or the absence of control, which you were just now
CALLICLES: I do not understand you, Socrates, and I wish that you would
ask some one who does.
SOCRATES: Here is a gentleman who cannot endure to be improved or to
subject himself to that very chastisement of which the argument speaks!
CALLICLES: I do not heed a word of what you are saying, and have only
answered hitherto out of civility to Gorgias.
SOCRATES: What are we to do, then? Shall we break off in the middle?
CALLICLES: You shall judge for yourself.
SOCRATES: Well, but people say that 'a tale should have a head and not
break off in the middle,' and I should not like to have the argument
going about without a head (compare Laws); please then to go on a little
longer, and put the head on.
CALLICLES: How tyrannical you are, Socrates! I wish that you and your
argument would rest, or that you would get some one else to argue with
SOCRATES: But who else is willing?--I want to finish the argument.
CALLICLES: Cannot you finish without my help, either talking straight
on, or questioning and answering yourself?
SOCRATES: Must I then say with Epicharmus, 'Two men spoke before, but
now one shall be enough'? I suppose that there is absolutely no help.
And if I am to carry on the enquiry by myself, I will first of all
remark that not only I but all of us should have an ambition to know
what is true and what is false in this matter, for the discovery of the
truth is a common good. And now I will proceed to argue according to my
own notion. But if any of you think that I arrive at conclusions which
are untrue you must interpose and refute me, for I do not speak from
any knowledge of what I am saying; I am an enquirer like yourselves, and
therefore, if my opponent says anything which is of force, I shall be
the first to agree with him. I am speaking on the supposition that the
argument ought to be completed; but if you think otherwise let us leave
off and go our ways.
GORGIAS: I think, Socrates, that we should not go our ways until you
have completed the argument; and this appears to me to be the wish of
the rest of the company; I myself should very much like to hear what
more you have to say.
SOCRATES: I too, Gorgias, should have liked to continue the argument
with Callicles, and then I might have given him an 'Amphion' in return
for his 'Zethus'; but since you, Callicles, are unwilling to continue,
I hope that you will listen, and interrupt me if I seem to you to be in
error. And if you refute me, I shall not be angry with you as you are
with me, but I shall inscribe you as the greatest of benefactors on the
tablets of my soul.
CALLICLES: My good fellow, never mind me, but get on.
SOCRATES: Listen to me, then, while I recapitulate the argument:--Is the
pleasant the same as the good? Not the same. Callicles and I are agreed
about that. And is the pleasant to be pursued for the sake of the good?
or the good for the sake of the pleasant? The pleasant is to be pursued
for the sake of the good. And that is pleasant at the presence of which
we are pleased, and that is good at the presence of which we are good?
To be sure. And we are good, and all good things whatever are good when
some virtue is present in us or them? That, Callicles, is my conviction.
But the virtue of each thing, whether body or soul, instrument or
creature, when given to them in the best way comes to them not by chance
but as the result of the order and truth and art which are imparted to
them: Am I not right? I maintain that I am. And is not the virtue of
each thing dependent on order or arrangement? Yes, I say. And that which
makes a thing good is the proper order inhering in each thing? Such is
my view. And is not the soul which has an order of her own better than
that which has no order? Certainly. And the soul which has order is
orderly? Of course. And that which is orderly is temperate? Assuredly.
And the temperate soul is good? No other answer can I give, Callicles
dear; have you any?
CALLICLES: Go on, my good fellow.
SOCRATES: Then I shall proceed to add, that if the temperate soul is
the good soul, the soul which is in the opposite condition, that is, the
foolish and intemperate, is the bad soul. Very true.
And will not the temperate man do what is proper, both in relation
to the gods and to men;--for he would not be temperate if he did not?
Certainly he will do what is proper. In his relation to other men he
will do what is just; and in his relation to the gods he will do what is
holy; and he who does what is just and holy must be just and holy? Very
true. And must he not be courageous? for the duty of a temperate man is
not to follow or to avoid what he ought not, but what he ought, whether
things or men or pleasures or pains, and patiently to endure when he
ought; and therefore, Callicles, the temperate man, being, as we have
described, also just and courageous and holy, cannot be other than a
perfectly good man, nor can the good man do otherwise than well and
perfectly whatever he does; and he who does well must of necessity be
happy and blessed, and the evil man who does evil, miserable: now
this latter is he whom you were applauding--the intemperate who is
the opposite of the temperate. Such is my position, and these things I
affirm to be true. And if they are true, then I further affirm that he
who desires to be happy must pursue and practise temperance and run
away from intemperance as fast as his legs will carry him: he had better
order his life so as not to need punishment; but if either he or any
of his friends, whether private individual or city, are in need of
punishment, then justice must be done and he must suffer punishment, if
he would be happy. This appears to me to be the aim which a man ought
to have, and towards which he ought to direct all the energies both
of himself and of the state, acting so that he may have temperance and
justice present with him and be happy, not suffering his lusts to be
unrestrained, and in the never-ending desire satisfy them leading a
robber's life. Such a one is the friend neither of God nor man, for he
is incapable of communion, and he who is incapable of communion is
also incapable of friendship. And philosophers tell us, Callicles, that
communion and friendship and orderliness and temperance and justice bind
together heaven and earth and gods and men, and that this universe is
therefore called Cosmos or order, not disorder or misrule, my friend.
But although you are a philosopher you seem to me never to have observed
that geometrical equality is mighty, both among gods and men; you think
that you ought to cultivate inequality or excess, and do not care about
geometry.--Well, then, either the principle that the happy are made
happy by the possession of justice and temperance, and the miserable
miserable by the possession of vice, must be refuted, or, if it is
granted, what will be the consequences? All the consequences which I
drew before, Callicles, and about which you asked me whether I was in
earnest when I said that a man ought to accuse himself and his son and
his friend if he did anything wrong, and that to this end he should
use his rhetoric--all those consequences are true. And that which you
thought that Polus was led to admit out of modesty is true, viz., that,
to do injustice, if more disgraceful than to suffer, is in that degree
worse; and the other position, which, according to Polus, Gorgias
admitted out of modesty, that he who would truly be a rhetorician ought
to be just and have a knowledge of justice, has also turned out to be
And now, these things being as we have said, let us proceed in the next
place to consider whether you are right in throwing in my teeth that
I am unable to help myself or any of my friends or kinsmen, or to save
them in the extremity of danger, and that I am in the power of another
like an outlaw to whom any one may do what he likes,--he may box my
ears, which was a brave saying of yours; or take away my goods or banish
me, or even do his worst and kill me; a condition which, as you say, is
the height of disgrace. My answer to you is one which has been already
often repeated, but may as well be repeated once more. I tell you,
Callicles, that to be boxed on the ears wrongfully is not the worst evil
which can befall a man, nor to have my purse or my body cut open, but
that to smite and slay me and mine wrongfully is far more disgraceful
and more evil; aye, and to despoil and enslave and pillage, or in any
way at all to wrong me and mine, is far more disgraceful and evil to the
doer of the wrong than to me who am the sufferer. These truths, which
have been already set forth as I state them in the previous discussion,
would seem now to have been fixed and riveted by us, if I may use an
expression which is certainly bold, in words which are like bonds of
iron and adamant; and unless you or some other still more enterprising
hero shall break them, there is no possibility of denying what I say.
For my position has always been, that I myself am ignorant how these
things are, but that I have never met any one who could say otherwise,
any more than you can, and not appear ridiculous. This is my position
still, and if what I am saying is true, and injustice is the greatest of
evils to the doer of injustice, and yet there is if possible a greater
than this greatest of evils (compare Republic), in an unjust man not
suffering retribution, what is that defence of which the want will make
a man truly ridiculous? Must not the defence be one which will avert the
greatest of human evils? And will not the worst of all defences be
that with which a man is unable to defend himself or his family or his
friends?--and next will come that which is unable to avert the next
greatest evil; thirdly that which is unable to avert the third greatest
evil; and so of other evils. As is the greatness of evil so is the
honour of being able to avert them in their several degrees, and the
disgrace of not being able to avert them. Am I not right Callicles?
CALLICLES: Yes, quite right.
SOCRATES: Seeing then that there are these two evils, the doing
injustice and the suffering injustice--and we affirm that to do
injustice is a greater, and to suffer injustice a lesser evil--by what
devices can a man succeed in obtaining the two advantages, the one of
not doing and the other of not suffering injustice? must he have the
power, or only the will to obtain them? I mean to ask whether a man
will escape injustice if he has only the will to escape, or must he have
provided himself with the power?
CALLICLES: He must have provided himself with the power; that is clear.
SOCRATES: And what do you say of doing injustice? Is the will only
sufficient, and will that prevent him from doing injustice, or must he
have provided himself with power and art; and if he have not studied
and practised, will he be unjust still? Surely you might say, Callicles,
whether you think that Polus and I were right in admitting the
conclusion that no one does wrong voluntarily, but that all do wrong
against their will?
CALLICLES: Granted, Socrates, if you will only have done.
SOCRATES: Then, as would appear, power and art have to be provided in
order that we may do no injustice?
SOCRATES: And what art will protect us from suffering injustice, if not
wholly, yet as far as possible? I want to know whether you agree with
me; for I think that such an art is the art of one who is either a ruler
or even tyrant himself, or the equal and companion of the ruling power.
CALLICLES: Well said, Socrates; and please to observe how ready I am to
praise you when you talk sense.
SOCRATES: Think and tell me whether you would approve of another view of
mine: To me every man appears to be most the friend of him who is most
like to him--like to like, as ancient sages say: Would you not agree to
CALLICLES: I should.
SOCRATES: But when the tyrant is rude and uneducated, he may be expected
to fear any one who is his superior in virtue, and will never be able to
be perfectly friendly with him.
CALLICLES: That is true.
SOCRATES: Neither will he be the friend of any one who is greatly his
inferior, for the tyrant will despise him, and will never seriously
regard him as a friend.
CALLICLES: That again is true.
SOCRATES: Then the only friend worth mentioning, whom the tyrant can
have, will be one who is of the same character, and has the same
likes and dislikes, and is at the same time willing to be subject and
subservient to him; he is the man who will have power in the state, and
no one will injure him with impunity:--is not that so?
SOCRATES: And if a young man begins to ask how he may become great and
formidable, this would seem to be the way--he will accustom himself,
from his youth upward, to feel sorrow and joy on the same occasions as
his master, and will contrive to be as like him as possible?
SOCRATES: And in this way he will have accomplished, as you and your
friends would say, the end of becoming a great man and not suffering
CALLICLES: Very true.
SOCRATES: But will he also escape from doing injury? Must not the very
opposite be true,--if he is to be like the tyrant in his injustice, and
to have influence with him? Will he not rather contrive to do as much
wrong as possible, and not be punished?
SOCRATES: And by the imitation of his master and by the power which he
thus acquires will not his soul become bad and corrupted, and will not
this be the greatest evil to him?
CALLICLES: You always contrive somehow or other, Socrates, to invert
everything: do you not know that he who imitates the tyrant will, if he
has a mind, kill him who does not imitate him and take away his goods?
SOCRATES: Excellent Callicles, I am not deaf, and I have heard that a
great many times from you and from Polus and from nearly every man in
the city, but I wish that you would hear me too. I dare say that he will
kill him if he has a mind--the bad man will kill the good and true.
CALLICLES: And is not that just the provoking thing?
SOCRATES: Nay, not to a man of sense, as the argument shows: do you
think that all our cares should be directed to prolonging life to the
uttermost, and to the study of those arts which secure us from danger
always; like that art of rhetoric which saves men in courts of law, and
which you advise me to cultivate?
CALLICLES: Yes, truly, and very good advice too.
SOCRATES: Well, my friend, but what do you think of swimming; is that an
art of any great pretensions?
CALLICLES: No, indeed.
SOCRATES: And yet surely swimming saves a man from death, and there
are occasions on which he must know how to swim. And if you despise the
swimmers, I will tell you of another and greater art, the art of the
pilot, who not only saves the souls of men, but also their bodies and
properties from the extremity of danger, just like rhetoric. Yet his art
is modest and unpresuming: it has no airs or pretences of doing anything
extraordinary, and, in return for the same salvation which is given
by the pleader, demands only two obols, if he brings us from Aegina to
Athens, or for the longer voyage from Pontus or Egypt, at the utmost two
drachmae, when he has saved, as I was just now saying, the passenger
and his wife and children and goods, and safely disembarked them at the
Piraeus,--this is the payment which he asks in return for so great a
boon; and he who is the master of the art, and has done all this, gets
out and walks about on the sea-shore by his ship in an unassuming way.
For he is able to reflect and is aware that he cannot tell which of his
fellow-passengers he has benefited, and which of them he has injured in
not allowing them to be drowned. He knows that they are just the same
when he has disembarked them as when they embarked, and not a whit
better either in their bodies or in their souls; and he considers that
if a man who is afflicted by great and incurable bodily diseases is only
to be pitied for having escaped, and is in no way benefited by him
in having been saved from drowning, much less he who has great and
incurable diseases, not of the body, but of the soul, which is the more
valuable part of him; neither is life worth having nor of any profit to
the bad man, whether he be delivered from the sea, or the law-courts, or
any other devourer;--and so he reflects that such a one had better not
live, for he cannot live well. (Compare Republic.)
And this is the reason why the pilot, although he is our saviour, is not
usually conceited, any more than the engineer, who is not at all behind
either the general, or the pilot, or any one else, in his saving power,
for he sometimes saves whole cities. Is there any comparison between him
and the pleader? And if he were to talk, Callicles, in your grandiose
style, he would bury you under a mountain of words, declaring and
insisting that we ought all of us to be engine-makers, and that no
other profession is worth thinking about; he would have plenty to say.
Nevertheless you despise him and his art, and sneeringly call him an
engine-maker, and you will not allow your daughters to marry his son,
or marry your son to his daughters. And yet, on your principle, what
justice or reason is there in your refusal? What right have you to
despise the engine-maker, and the others whom I was just now mentioning?
I know that you will say, 'I am better, and better born.' But if the
better is not what I say, and virtue consists only in a man saving
himself and his, whatever may be his character, then your censure of the
engine-maker, and of the physician, and of the other arts of salvation,
is ridiculous. O my friend! I want you to see that the noble and
the good may possibly be something different from saving and being
saved:--May not he who is truly a man cease to care about living a
certain time?--he knows, as women say, that no man can escape fate,
and therefore he is not fond of life; he leaves all that with God, and
considers in what way he can best spend his appointed term;--whether by
assimilating himself to the constitution under which he lives, as you at
this moment have to consider how you may become as like as possible to
the Athenian people, if you mean to be in their good graces, and to have
power in the state; whereas I want you to think and see whether this is
for the interest of either of us;--I would not have us risk that
which is dearest on the acquisition of this power, like the Thessalian
enchantresses, who, as they say, bring down the moon from heaven at the
risk of their own perdition. But if you suppose that any man will
show you the art of becoming great in the city, and yet not conforming
yourself to the ways of the city, whether for better or worse, then I
can only say that you are mistaken, Callides; for he who would deserve
to be the true natural friend of the Athenian Demus, aye, or of
Pyrilampes' darling who is called after them, must be by nature like
them, and not an imitator only. He, then, who will make you most like
them, will make you as you desire, a statesman and orator: for every
man is pleased when he is spoken to in his own language and spirit, and
dislikes any other. But perhaps you, sweet Callicles, may be of another
mind. What do you say?
CALLICLES: Somehow or other your words, Socrates, always appear to me
to be good words; and yet, like the rest of the world, I am not quite
convinced by them. (Compare Symp.: 1 Alcib.)
SOCRATES: The reason is, Callicles, that the love of Demus which abides
in your soul is an adversary to me; but I dare say that if we recur
to these same matters, and consider them more thoroughly, you may be
convinced for all that. Please, then, to remember that there are two
processes of training all things, including body and soul; in the one,
as we said, we treat them with a view to pleasure, and in the other with
a view to the highest good, and then we do not indulge but resist them:
was not that the distinction which we drew?
CALLICLES: Very true.
SOCRATES: And the one which had pleasure in view was just a vulgar
flattery:--was not that another of our conclusions?
CALLICLES: Be it so, if you will have it.
SOCRATES: And the other had in view the greatest improvement of that
which was ministered to, whether body or soul?
CALLICLES: Quite true.
SOCRATES: And must we not have the same end in view in the treatment
of our city and citizens? Must we not try and make them as good as
possible? For we have already discovered that there is no use in
imparting to them any other good, unless the mind of those who are to
have the good, whether money, or office, or any other sort of power, be
gentle and good. Shall we say that?
CALLICLES: Yes, certainly, if you like.
SOCRATES: Well, then, if you and I, Callicles, were intending to set
about some public business, and were advising one another to undertake
buildings, such as walls, docks or temples of the largest size, ought
we not to examine ourselves, first, as to whether we know or do not know
the art of building, and who taught us?--would not that be necessary,
SOCRATES: In the second place, we should have to consider whether we
had ever constructed any private house, either of our own or for our
friends, and whether this building of ours was a success or not; and if
upon consideration we found that we had had good and eminent masters,
and had been successful in constructing many fine buildings, not only
with their assistance, but without them, by our own unaided skill--in
that case prudence would not dissuade us from proceeding to the
construction of public works. But if we had no master to show, and only
a number of worthless buildings or none at all, then, surely, it would
be ridiculous in us to attempt public works, or to advise one another to
undertake them. Is not this true?
SOCRATES: And does not the same hold in all other cases? If you and I
were physicians, and were advising one another that we were competent to
practise as state-physicians, should I not ask about you, and would
you not ask about me, Well, but how about Socrates himself, has he good
health? and was any one else ever known to be cured by him, whether
slave or freeman? And I should make the same enquiries about you. And if
we arrived at the conclusion that no one, whether citizen or stranger,
man or woman, had ever been any the better for the medical skill of
either of us, then, by Heaven, Callicles, what an absurdity to
think that we or any human being should be so silly as to set up as
state-physicians and advise others like ourselves to do the same,
without having first practised in private, whether successfully or not,
and acquired experience of the art! Is not this, as they say, to begin
with the big jar when you are learning the potter's art; which is a
SOCRATES: And now, my friend, as you are already beginning to be a
public character, and are admonishing and reproaching me for not being
one, suppose that we ask a few questions of one another. Tell me, then,
Callicles, how about making any of the citizens better? Was there ever
a man who was once vicious, or unjust, or intemperate, or foolish, and
became by the help of Callicles good and noble? Was there ever such a
man, whether citizen or stranger, slave or freeman? Tell me, Callicles,
if a person were to ask these questions of you, what would you answer?
Whom would you say that you had improved by your conversation? There may
have been good deeds of this sort which were done by you as a private
person, before you came forward in public. Why will you not answer?
CALLICLES: You are contentious, Socrates.
SOCRATES: Nay, I ask you, not from a love of contention, but because
I really want to know in what way you think that affairs should be
administered among us--whether, when you come to the administration of
them, you have any other aim but the improvement of the citizens? Have
we not already admitted many times over that such is the duty of a
public man? Nay, we have surely said so; for if you will not answer for
yourself I must answer for you. But if this is what the good man ought
to effect for the benefit of his own state, allow me to recall to you
the names of those whom you were just now mentioning, Pericles, and
Cimon, and Miltiades, and Themistocles, and ask whether you still think
that they were good citizens.
CALLICLES: I do.
SOCRATES: But if they were good, then clearly each of them must have
made the citizens better instead of worse?
SOCRATES: And, therefore, when Pericles first began to speak in the
assembly, the Athenians were not so good as when he spoke last?
CALLICLES: Very likely.
SOCRATES: Nay, my friend, 'likely' is not the word; for if he was a good
citizen, the inference is certain.
CALLICLES: And what difference does that make?
SOCRATES: None; only I should like further to know whether the Athenians
are supposed to have been made better by Pericles, or, on the contrary,
to have been corrupted by him; for I hear that he was the first who gave
the people pay, and made them idle and cowardly, and encouraged them in
the love of talk and money.
CALLICLES: You heard that, Socrates, from the laconising set who bruise
SOCRATES: But what I am going to tell you now is not mere hearsay, but
well known both to you and me: that at first, Pericles was glorious
and his character unimpeached by any verdict of the Athenians--this was
during the time when they were not so good--yet afterwards, when they
had been made good and gentle by him, at the very end of his life they
convicted him of theft, and almost put him to death, clearly under the
notion that he was a malefactor.
CALLICLES: Well, but how does that prove Pericles' badness?
SOCRATES: Why, surely you would say that he was a bad manager of asses
or horses or oxen, who had received them originally neither kicking nor
butting nor biting him, and implanted in them all these savage tricks?
Would he not be a bad manager of any animals who received them gentle,
and made them fiercer than they were when he received them? What do you
CALLICLES: I will do you the favour of saying 'yes.'
SOCRATES: And will you also do me the favour of saying whether man is an
CALLICLES: Certainly he is.
SOCRATES: And was not Pericles a shepherd of men?
SOCRATES: And if he was a good political shepherd, ought not the animals
who were his subjects, as we were just now acknowledging, to have become
more just, and not more unjust?
CALLICLES: Quite true.
SOCRATES: And are not just men gentle, as Homer says?--or are you of
CALLICLES: I agree.
SOCRATES: And yet he really did make them more savage than he received
them, and their savageness was shown towards himself; which he must have
been very far from desiring.
CALLICLES: Do you want me to agree with you?
SOCRATES: Yes, if I seem to you to speak the truth.
CALLICLES: Granted then.
SOCRATES: And if they were more savage, must they not have been more
unjust and inferior?
CALLICLES: Granted again.
SOCRATES: Then upon this view, Pericles was not a good statesman?
CALLICLES: That is, upon your view.
SOCRATES: Nay, the view is yours, after what you have admitted. Take
the case of Cimon again. Did not the very persons whom he was serving
ostracize him, in order that they might not hear his voice for ten
years? and they did just the same to Themistocles, adding the penalty
of exile; and they voted that Miltiades, the hero of Marathon, should be
thrown into the pit of death, and he was only saved by the Prytanis. And
yet, if they had been really good men, as you say, these things would
never have happened to them. For the good charioteers are not those
who at first keep their place, and then, when they have broken-in their
horses, and themselves become better charioteers, are thrown out--that
is not the way either in charioteering or in any profession.--What do
CALLICLES: I should think not.
SOCRATES: Well, but if so, the truth is as I have said already, that
in the Athenian State no one has ever shown himself to be a good
statesman--you admitted that this was true of our present statesmen, but
not true of former ones, and you preferred them to the others; yet they
have turned out to be no better than our present ones; and therefore, if
they were rhetoricians, they did not use the true art of rhetoric or of
flattery, or they would not have fallen out of favour.
CALLICLES: But surely, Socrates, no living man ever came near any one of
them in his performances.
SOCRATES: O, my dear friend, I say nothing against them regarded as the
serving-men of the State; and I do think that they were certainly more
serviceable than those who are living now, and better able to gratify
the wishes of the State; but as to transforming those desires and not
allowing them to have their way, and using the powers which they had,
whether of persuasion or of force, in the improvement of their fellow
citizens, which is the prime object of the truly good citizen, I do
not see that in these respects they were a whit superior to our present
statesmen, although I do admit that they were more clever at providing
ships and walls and docks, and all that. You and I have a ridiculous
way, for during the whole time that we are arguing, we are always going
round and round to the same point, and constantly misunderstanding one
another. If I am not mistaken, you have admitted and acknowledged more
than once, that there are two kinds of operations which have to do with
the body, and two which have to do with the soul: one of the two is
ministerial, and if our bodies are hungry provides food for them, and
if they are thirsty gives them drink, or if they are cold supplies them
with garments, blankets, shoes, and all that they crave. I use the same
images as before intentionally, in order that you may understand me the
better. The purveyor of the articles may provide them either wholesale
or retail, or he may be the maker of any of them,--the baker, or the
cook, or the weaver, or the shoemaker, or the currier; and in so doing,
being such as he is, he is naturally supposed by himself and every one
to minister to the body. For none of them know that there is another
art--an art of gymnastic and medicine which is the true minister of the
body, and ought to be the mistress of all the rest, and to use their
results according to the knowledge which she has and they have not, of
the real good or bad effects of meats and drinks on the body. All
other arts which have to do with the body are servile and menial and
illiberal; and gymnastic and medicine are, as they ought to be, their
mistresses. Now, when I say that all this is equally true of the soul,
you seem at first to know and understand and assent to my words, and
then a little while afterwards you come repeating, Has not the State
had good and noble citizens? and when I ask you who they are, you reply,
seemingly quite in earnest, as if I had asked, Who are or have been
good trainers?--and you had replied, Thearion, the baker, Mithoecus,
who wrote the Sicilian cookery-book, Sarambus, the vintner: these are
ministers of the body, first-rate in their art; for the first makes
admirable loaves, the second excellent dishes, and the third capital
wine;--to me these appear to be the exact parallel of the statesmen whom
you mention. Now you would not be altogether pleased if I said to
you, My friend, you know nothing of gymnastics; those of whom you are
speaking to me are only the ministers and purveyors of luxury, who have
no good or noble notions of their art, and may very likely be filling
and fattening men's bodies and gaining their approval, although the
result is that they lose their original flesh in the long run, and
become thinner than they were before; and yet they, in their
simplicity, will not attribute their diseases and loss of flesh to their
entertainers; but when in after years the unhealthy surfeit brings the
attendant penalty of disease, he who happens to be near them at the
time, and offers them advice, is accused and blamed by them, and if they
could they would do him some harm; while they proceed to eulogize the
men who have been the real authors of the mischief. And that, Callicles,
is just what you are now doing. You praise the men who feasted the
citizens and satisfied their desires, and people say that they have made
the city great, not seeing that the swollen and ulcerated condition of
the State is to be attributed to these elder statesmen; for they have
filled the city full of harbours and docks and walls and revenues and
all that, and have left no room for justice and temperance. And when the
crisis of the disorder comes, the people will blame the advisers of the
hour, and applaud Themistocles and Cimon and Pericles, who are the real
authors of their calamities; and if you are not careful they may assail
you and my friend Alcibiades, when they are losing not only their new
acquisitions, but also their original possessions; not that you are
the authors of these misfortunes of theirs, although you may perhaps be
accessories to them. A great piece of work is always being made, as
I see and am told, now as of old; about our statesmen. When the State
treats any of them as malefactors, I observe that there is a great
uproar and indignation at the supposed wrong which is done to them;
'after all their many services to the State, that they should unjustly
perish,'--so the tale runs. But the cry is all a lie; for no statesman
ever could be unjustly put to death by the city of which he is the head.
The case of the professed statesman is, I believe, very much like that
of the professed sophist; for the sophists, although they are wise men,
are nevertheless guilty of a strange piece of folly; professing to be
teachers of virtue, they will often accuse their disciples of wronging
them, and defrauding them of their pay, and showing no gratitude for
their services. Yet what can be more absurd than that men who have
become just and good, and whose injustice has been taken away from them,
and who have had justice implanted in them by their teachers, should act
unjustly by reason of the injustice which is not in them? Can anything
be more irrational, my friends, than this? You, Callicles, compel me to
be a mob-orator, because you will not answer.
CALLICLES: And you are the man who cannot speak unless there is some one
SOCRATES: I suppose that I can; just now, at any rate, the speeches
which I am making are long enough because you refuse to answer me. But
I adjure you by the god of friendship, my good sir, do tell me whether
there does not appear to you to be a great inconsistency in saying that
you have made a man good, and then blaming him for being bad?
CALLICLES: Yes, it appears so to me.
SOCRATES: Do you never hear our professors of education speaking in this
CALLICLES: Yes, but why talk of men who are good for nothing?
SOCRATES: I would rather say, why talk of men who profess to be rulers,
and declare that they are devoted to the improvement of the city, and
nevertheless upon occasion declaim against the utter vileness of the
city:--do you think that there is any difference between one and the
other? My good friend, the sophist and the rhetorician, as I was saying
to Polus, are the same, or nearly the same; but you ignorantly fancy
that rhetoric is a perfect thing, and sophistry a thing to be despised;
whereas the truth is, that sophistry is as much superior to rhetoric
as legislation is to the practice of law, or gymnastic to medicine. The
orators and sophists, as I am inclined to think, are the only class who
cannot complain of the mischief ensuing to themselves from that which
they teach others, without in the same breath accusing themselves of
having done no good to those whom they profess to benefit. Is not this a
CALLICLES: Certainly it is.
SOCRATES: If they were right in saying that they make men better, then
they are the only class who can afford to leave their remuneration
to those who have been benefited by them. Whereas if a man has been
benefited in any other way, if, for example, he has been taught to run
by a trainer, he might possibly defraud him of his pay, if the trainer
left the matter to him, and made no agreement with him that he should
receive money as soon as he had given him the utmost speed; for not
because of any deficiency of speed do men act unjustly, but by reason of
CALLICLES: Very true.
SOCRATES: And he who removes injustice can be in no danger of being
treated unjustly: he alone can safely leave the honorarium to his
pupils, if he be really able to make them good--am I not right? (Compare
SOCRATES: Then we have found the reason why there is no dishonour in a
man receiving pay who is called in to advise about building or any other
CALLICLES: Yes, we have found the reason.
SOCRATES: But when the point is, how a man may become best himself,
and best govern his family and state, then to say that you will give no
advice gratis is held to be dishonourable?
SOCRATES: And why? Because only such benefits call forth a desire to
requite them, and there is evidence that a benefit has been conferred
when the benefactor receives a return; otherwise not. Is this true?
CALLICLES: It is.
SOCRATES: Then to which service of the State do you invite me? determine
for me. Am I to be the physician of the State who will strive and
struggle to make the Athenians as good as possible; or am I to be the
servant and flatterer of the State? Speak out, my good friend, freely
and fairly as you did at first and ought to do again, and tell me your
CALLICLES: I say then that you should be the servant of the State.
SOCRATES: The flatterer? well, sir, that is a noble invitation.
CALLICLES: The Mysian, Socrates, or what you please. For if you refuse,
the consequences will be--
SOCRATES: Do not repeat the old story--that he who likes will kill me
and get my money; for then I shall have to repeat the old answer, that
he will be a bad man and will kill the good, and that the money will
be of no use to him, but that he will wrongly use that which he wrongly
took, and if wrongly, basely, and if basely, hurtfully.
CALLICLES: How confident you are, Socrates, that you will never come to
harm! you seem to think that you are living in another country, and
can never be brought into a court of justice, as you very likely may be
brought by some miserable and mean person.
SOCRATES: Then I must indeed be a fool, Callicles, if I do not know that
in the Athenian State any man may suffer anything. And if I am brought
to trial and incur the dangers of which you speak, he will be a villain
who brings me to trial--of that I am very sure, for no good man would
accuse the innocent. Nor shall I be surprised if I am put to death.
Shall I tell you why I anticipate this?
CALLICLES: By all means.
SOCRATES: I think that I am the only or almost the only Athenian living
who practises the true art of politics; I am the only politician of my
time. Now, seeing that when I speak my words are not uttered with any
view of gaining favour, and that I look to what is best and not to what
is most pleasant, having no mind to use those arts and graces which you
recommend, I shall have nothing to say in the justice court. And you
might argue with me, as I was arguing with Polus:--I shall be tried
just as a physician would be tried in a court of little boys at the
indictment of the cook. What would he reply under such circumstances,
if some one were to accuse him, saying, 'O my boys, many evil things has
this man done to you: he is the death of you, especially of the younger
ones among you, cutting and burning and starving and suffocating you,
until you know not what to do; he gives you the bitterest potions, and
compels you to hunger and thirst. How unlike the variety of meats and
sweets on which I feasted you!' What do you suppose that the physician
would be able to reply when he found himself in such a predicament? If
he told the truth he could only say, 'All these evil things, my boys, I
did for your health,' and then would there not just be a clamour among a
jury like that? How they would cry out!
CALLICLES: I dare say.
SOCRATES: Would he not be utterly at a loss for a reply?
CALLICLES: He certainly would.
SOCRATES: And I too shall be treated in the same way, as I well know,
if I am brought before the court. For I shall not be able to rehearse
to the people the pleasures which I have procured for them, and which,
although I am not disposed to envy either the procurers or enjoyers of
them, are deemed by them to be benefits and advantages. And if any one
says that I corrupt young men, and perplex their minds, or that I speak
evil of old men, and use bitter words towards them, whether in private
or public, it is useless for me to reply, as I truly might:--'All this I
do for the sake of justice, and with a view to your interest, my judges,
and to nothing else.' And therefore there is no saying what may happen
CALLICLES: And do you think, Socrates, that a man who is thus
defenceless is in a good position?
SOCRATES: Yes, Callicles, if he have that defence, which as you have
often acknowledged he should have--if he be his own defence, and have
never said or done anything wrong, either in respect of gods or men;
and this has been repeatedly acknowledged by us to be the best sort of
defence. And if any one could convict me of inability to defend myself
or others after this sort, I should blush for shame, whether I was
convicted before many, or before a few, or by myself alone; and if I
died from want of ability to do so, that would indeed grieve me. But if
I died because I have no powers of flattery or rhetoric, I am very sure
that you would not find me repining at death. For no man who is not an
utter fool and coward is afraid of death itself, but he is afraid of
doing wrong. For to go to the world below having one's soul full of
injustice is the last and worst of all evils. And in proof of what I
say, if you have no objection, I should like to tell you a story.
CALLICLES: Very well, proceed; and then we shall have done.
SOCRATES: Listen, then, as story-tellers say, to a very pretty tale,
which I dare say that you may be disposed to regard as a fable only,
but which, as I believe, is a true tale, for I mean to speak the truth.
Homer tells us (Il.), how Zeus and Poseidon and Pluto divided the empire
which they inherited from their father. Now in the days of Cronos there
existed a law respecting the destiny of man, which has always been, and
still continues to be in Heaven,--that he who has lived all his life in
justice and holiness shall go, when he is dead, to the Islands of the
Blessed, and dwell there in perfect happiness out of the reach of evil;
but that he who has lived unjustly and impiously shall go to the house
of vengeance and punishment, which is called Tartarus. And in the time
of Cronos, and even quite lately in the reign of Zeus, the judgment
was given on the very day on which the men were to die; the judges
were alive, and the men were alive; and the consequence was that the
judgments were not well given. Then Pluto and the authorities from the
Islands of the Blessed came to Zeus, and said that the souls found their
way to the wrong places. Zeus said: 'I shall put a stop to this; the
judgments are not well given, because the persons who are judged have
their clothes on, for they are alive; and there are many who, having
evil souls, are apparelled in fair bodies, or encased in wealth or rank,
and, when the day of judgment arrives, numerous witnesses come forward
and testify on their behalf that they have lived righteously. The judges
are awed by them, and they themselves too have their clothes on when
judging; their eyes and ears and their whole bodies are interposed as a
veil before their own souls. All this is a hindrance to them; there are
the clothes of the judges and the clothes of the judged.--What is to be
done? I will tell you:--In the first place, I will deprive men of the
foreknowledge of death, which they possess at present: this power which
they have Prometheus has already received my orders to take from them:
in the second place, they shall be entirely stripped before they are
judged, for they shall be judged when they are dead; and the judge
too shall be naked, that is to say, dead--he with his naked soul shall
pierce into the other naked souls; and they shall die suddenly and be
deprived of all their kindred, and leave their brave attire strewn upon
the earth--conducted in this manner, the judgment will be just. I knew
all about the matter before any of you, and therefore I have made my
sons judges; two from Asia, Minos and Rhadamanthus, and one from Europe,
Aeacus. And these, when they are dead, shall give judgment in the
meadow at the parting of the ways, whence the two roads lead, one to the
Islands of the Blessed, and the other to Tartarus. Rhadamanthus shall
judge those who come from Asia, and Aeacus those who come from Europe.
And to Minos I shall give the primacy, and he shall hold a court of
appeal, in case either of the two others are in any doubt:--then
the judgment respecting the last journey of men will be as just as
From this tale, Callicles, which I have heard and believe, I draw the
following inferences:--Death, if I am right, is in the first place the
separation from one another of two things, soul and body; nothing else.
And after they are separated they retain their several natures, as in
life; the body keeps the same habit, and the results of treatment or
accident are distinctly visible in it: for example, he who by nature or
training or both, was a tall man while he was alive, will remain as he
was, after he is dead; and the fat man will remain fat; and so on; and
the dead man, who in life had a fancy to have flowing hair, will have
flowing hair. And if he was marked with the whip and had the prints of
the scourge, or of wounds in him when he was alive, you might see the
same in the dead body; and if his limbs were broken or misshapen when
he was alive, the same appearance would be visible in the dead. And in
a word, whatever was the habit of the body during life would be
distinguishable after death, either perfectly, or in a great measure and
for a certain time. And I should imagine that this is equally true of
the soul, Callicles; when a man is stripped of the body, all the natural
or acquired affections of the soul are laid open to view.--And when they
come to the judge, as those from Asia come to Rhadamanthus, he places
them near him and inspects them quite impartially, not knowing whose the
soul is: perhaps he may lay hands on the soul of the great king, or of
some other king or potentate, who has no soundness in him, but his
soul is marked with the whip, and is full of the prints and scars of
perjuries and crimes with which each action has stained him, and he
is all crooked with falsehood and imposture, and has no straightness,
because he has lived without truth. Him Rhadamanthus beholds, full of
all deformity and disproportion, which is caused by licence and luxury
and insolence and incontinence, and despatches him ignominiously to his
prison, and there he undergoes the punishment which he deserves.
Now the proper office of punishment is twofold: he who is rightly
punished ought either to become better and profit by it, or he ought to
be made an example to his fellows, that they may see what he suffers,
and fear and become better. Those who are improved when they are
punished by gods and men, are those whose sins are curable; and they are
improved, as in this world so also in another, by pain and suffering;
for there is no other way in which they can be delivered from their
evil. But they who have been guilty of the worst crimes, and are
incurable by reason of their crimes, are made examples; for, as they are
incurable, the time has passed at which they can receive any benefit.
They get no good themselves, but others get good when they behold them
enduring for ever the most terrible and painful and fearful sufferings
as the penalty of their sins--there they are, hanging up as examples,
in the prison-house of the world below, a spectacle and a warning to
all unrighteous men who come thither. And among them, as I confidently
affirm, will be found Archelaus, if Polus truly reports of him, and
any other tyrant who is like him. Of these fearful examples, most, as
I believe, are taken from the class of tyrants and kings and potentates
and public men, for they are the authors of the greatest and most
impious crimes, because they have the power. And Homer witnesses to
the truth of this; for they are always kings and potentates whom he has
described as suffering everlasting punishment in the world below:
such were Tantalus and Sisyphus and Tityus. But no one ever described
Thersites, or any private person who was a villain, as suffering
everlasting punishment, or as incurable. For to commit the worst crimes,
as I am inclined to think, was not in his power, and he was happier than
those who had the power. No, Callicles, the very bad men come from the
class of those who have power (compare Republic). And yet in that very
class there may arise good men, and worthy of all admiration they are,
for where there is great power to do wrong, to live and to die justly is
a hard thing, and greatly to be praised, and few there are who attain
to this. Such good and true men, however, there have been, and will be
again, at Athens and in other states, who have fulfilled their trust
righteously; and there is one who is quite famous all over Hellas,
Aristeides, the son of Lysimachus. But, in general, great men are also
bad, my friend.
As I was saying, Rhadamanthus, when he gets a soul of the bad kind,
knows nothing about him, neither who he is, nor who his parents are; he
knows only that he has got hold of a villain; and seeing this, he stamps
him as curable or incurable, and sends him away to Tartarus, whither
he goes and receives his proper recompense. Or, again, he looks with
admiration on the soul of some just one who has lived in holiness
and truth; he may have been a private man or not; and I should say,
Callicles, that he is most likely to have been a philosopher who has
done his own work, and not troubled himself with the doings of other men
in his lifetime; him Rhadamanthus sends to the Islands of the Blessed.
Aeacus does the same; and they both have sceptres, and judge; but Minos
alone has a golden sceptre and is seated looking on, as Odysseus in
Homer declares that he saw him:
'Holding a sceptre of gold, and giving laws to the dead.'
Now I, Callicles, am persuaded of the truth of these things, and I
consider how I shall present my soul whole and undefiled before the
judge in that day. Renouncing the honours at which the world aims, I
desire only to know the truth, and to live as well as I can, and, when
I die, to die as well as I can. And, to the utmost of my power, I exhort
all other men to do the same. And, in return for your exhortation of me,
I exhort you also to take part in the great combat, which is the combat
of life, and greater than every other earthly conflict. And I retort
your reproach of me, and say, that you will not be able to help yourself
when the day of trial and judgment, of which I was speaking, comes upon
you; you will go before the judge, the son of Aegina, and, when he has
got you in his grip and is carrying you off, you will gape and your head
will swim round, just as mine would in the courts of this world, and
very likely some one will shamefully box you on the ears, and put upon
you any sort of insult.
Perhaps this may appear to you to be only an old wife's tale, which you
will contemn. And there might be reason in your contemning such tales,
if by searching we could find out anything better or truer: but now
you see that you and Polus and Gorgias, who are the three wisest of the
Greeks of our day, are not able to show that we ought to live any life
which does not profit in another world as well as in this. And of all
that has been said, nothing remains unshaken but the saying, that to do
injustice is more to be avoided than to suffer injustice, and that the
reality and not the appearance of virtue is to be followed above all
things, as well in public as in private life; and that when any one has
been wrong in anything, he is to be chastised, and that the next
best thing to a man being just is that he should become just, and
be chastised and punished; also that he should avoid all flattery of
himself as well as of others, of the few or of the many: and rhetoric
and any other art should be used by him, and all his actions should be
done always, with a view to justice.
Follow me then, and I will lead you where you will be happy in life and
after death, as the argument shows. And never mind if some one despises
you as a fool, and insults you, if he has a mind; let him strike you, by
Zeus, and do you be of good cheer, and do not mind the insulting blow,
for you will never come to any harm in the practice of virtue, if you
are a really good and true man. When we have practised virtue together,
we will apply ourselves to politics, if that seems desirable, or we will
advise about whatever else may seem good to us, for we shall be better
able to judge then. In our present condition we ought not to give
ourselves airs, for even on the most important subjects we are always
changing our minds; so utterly stupid are we! Let us, then, take the
argument as our guide, which has revealed to us that the best way of
life is to practise justice and every virtue in life and death. This way
let us go; and in this exhort all men to follow, not in the way to
which you trust and in which you exhort me to follow you; for that way,
Callicles, is nothing worth.