sheepishness; and when others are being praised and glorified, in the
simplicity of his heart he cannot help going into fits of laughter, so that
he seems to be a downright idiot. When he hears a tyrant or king
eulogized, he fancies that he is listening to the praises of some keeper of
cattle--a swineherd, or shepherd, or perhaps a cowherd, who is
congratulated on the quantity of milk which he squeezes from them; and he
remarks that the creature whom they tend, and out of whom they squeeze the
wealth, is of a less tractable and more insidious nature. Then, again, he
observes that the great man is of necessity as ill-mannered and uneducated
as any shepherd--for he has no leisure, and he is surrounded by a wall,
which is his mountain-pen. Hearing of enormous landed proprietors of ten
thousand acres and more, our philosopher deems this to be a trifle, because
he has been accustomed to think of the whole earth; and when they sing the
praises of family, and say that some one is a gentleman because he can show
seven generations of wealthy ancestors, he thinks that their sentiments
only betray a dull and narrow vision in those who utter them, and who are
not educated enough to look at the whole, nor to consider that every man
has had thousands and ten thousands of progenitors, and among them have
been rich and poor, kings and slaves, Hellenes and barbarians, innumerable.
And when people pride themselves on having a pedigree of twenty-five
ancestors, which goes back to Heracles, the son of Amphitryon, he cannot
understand their poverty of ideas. Why are they unable to calculate that
Amphitryon had a twenty-fifth ancestor, who might have been anybody, and
was such as fortune made him, and he had a fiftieth, and so on? He amuses
himself with the notion that they cannot count, and thinks that a little
arithmetic would have got rid of their senseless vanity. Now, in all these
cases our philosopher is derided by the vulgar, partly because he is
thought to despise them, and also because he is ignorant of what is before
him, and always at a loss.
THEODORUS: That is very true, Socrates.
SOCRATES: But, O my friend, when he draws the other into upper air, and
gets him out of his pleas and rejoinders into the contemplation of justice
and injustice in their own nature and in their difference from one another
and from all other things; or from the commonplaces about the happiness of
a king or of a rich man to the consideration of government, and of human
happiness and misery in general--what they are, and how a man is to attain
the one and avoid the other--when that narrow, keen, little legal mind is
called to account about all this, he gives the philosopher his revenge; for
dizzied by the height at which he is hanging, whence he looks down into
space, which is a strange experience to him, he being dismayed, and lost,
and stammering broken words, is laughed at, not by Thracian handmaidens or
any other uneducated persons, for they have no eye for the situation, but
by every man who has not been brought up a slave. Such are the two
characters, Theodorus: the one of the freeman, who has been trained in
liberty and leisure, whom you call the philosopher,--him we cannot blame
because he appears simple and of no account when he has to perform some
menial task, such as packing up bed-clothes, or flavouring a sauce or
fawning speech; the other character is that of the man who is able to do
all this kind of service smartly and neatly, but knows not how to wear his
cloak like a gentleman; still less with the music of discourse can he hymn
the true life aright which is lived by immortals or men blessed of heaven.
THEODORUS: If you could only persuade everybody, Socrates, as you do me,
of the truth of your words, there would be more peace and fewer evils among
SOCRATES: Evils, Theodorus, can never pass away; for there must always
remain something which is antagonistic to good. Having no place among the
gods in heaven, of necessity they hover around the mortal nature, and this
earthly sphere. Wherefore we ought to fly away from earth to heaven as
quickly as we can; and to fly away is to become like God, as far as this is
possible; and to become like him, is to become holy, just, and wise. But,
O my friend, you cannot easily convince mankind that they should pursue
virtue or avoid vice, not merely in order that a man may seem to be good,
which is the reason given by the world, and in my judgment is only a
repetition of an old wives' fable. Whereas, the truth is that God is never
in any way unrighteous--he is perfect righteousness; and he of us who is
the most righteous is most like him. Herein is seen the true cleverness of
a man, and also his nothingness and want of manhood. For to know this is
true wisdom and virtue, and ignorance of this is manifest folly and vice.
All other kinds of wisdom or cleverness, which seem only, such as the
wisdom of politicians, or the wisdom of the arts, are coarse and vulgar.
The unrighteous man, or the sayer and doer of unholy things, had far better
not be encouraged in the illusion that his roguery is clever; for men glory
in their shame--they fancy that they hear others saying of them, 'These are
not mere good-for-nothing persons, mere burdens of the earth, but such as
men should be who mean to dwell safely in a state.' Let us tell them that
they are all the more truly what they do not think they are because they do
not know it; for they do not know the penalty of injustice, which above all
things they ought to know--not stripes and death, as they suppose, which
evil-doers often escape, but a penalty which cannot be escaped.
THEODORUS: What is that?
SOCRATES: There are two patterns eternally set before them; the one
blessed and divine, the other godless and wretched: but they do not see
them, or perceive that in their utter folly and infatuation they are
growing like the one and unlike the other, by reason of their evil deeds;
and the penalty is, that they lead a life answering to the pattern which
they are growing like. And if we tell them, that unless they depart from
their cunning, the place of innocence will not receive them after death;
and that here on earth, they will live ever in the likeness of their own
evil selves, and with evil friends--when they hear this they in their
superior cunning will seem to be listening to the talk of idiots.
THEODORUS: Very true, Socrates.
SOCRATES: Too true, my friend, as I well know; there is, however, one
peculiarity in their case: when they begin to reason in private about
their dislike of philosophy, if they have the courage to hear the argument
out, and do not run away, they grow at last strangely discontented with
themselves; their rhetoric fades away, and they become helpless as
children. These however are digressions from which we must now desist, or
they will overflow, and drown the original argument; to which, if you
please, we will now return.
THEODORUS: For my part, Socrates, I would rather have the digressions, for
at my age I find them easier to follow; but if you wish, let us go back to
SOCRATES: Had we not reached the point at which the partisans of the
perpetual flux, who say that things are as they seem to each one, were
confidently maintaining that the ordinances which the state commanded and
thought just, were just to the state which imposed them, while they were in
force; this was especially asserted of justice; but as to the good, no one
had any longer the hardihood to contend of any ordinances which the state
thought and enacted to be good that these, while they were in force, were
really good;--he who said so would be playing with the name 'good,' and
would not touch the real question--it would be a mockery, would it not?
THEODORUS: Certainly it would.
SOCRATES: He ought not to speak of the name, but of the thing which is
contemplated under the name.
SOCRATES: Whatever be the term used, the good or expedient is the aim of
legislation, and as far as she has an opinion, the state imposes all laws
with a view to the greatest expediency; can legislation have any other aim?
THEODORUS: Certainly not.
SOCRATES: But is the aim attained always? do not mistakes often happen?
THEODORUS: Yes, I think that there are mistakes.
SOCRATES: The possibility of error will be more distinctly recognised, if
we put the question in reference to the whole class under which the good or
expedient falls. That whole class has to do with the future, and laws are
passed under the idea that they will be useful in after-time; which, in
other words, is the future.
THEODORUS: Very true.
SOCRATES: Suppose now, that we ask Protagoras, or one of his disciples, a
question:--O, Protagoras, we will say to him, Man is, as you declare, the
measure of all things--white, heavy, light: of all such things he is the
judge; for he has the criterion of them in himself, and when he thinks that
things are such as he experiences them to be, he thinks what is and is true
to himself. Is it not so?
SOCRATES: And do you extend your doctrine, Protagoras (as we shall further
say), to the future as well as to the present; and has he the criterion not
only of what in his opinion is but of what will be, and do things always
happen to him as he expected? For example, take the case of heat:--When an
ordinary man thinks that he is going to have a fever, and that this kind of
heat is coming on, and another person, who is a physician, thinks the
contrary, whose opinion is likely to prove right? Or are they both right?
--he will have a heat and fever in his own judgment, and not have a fever
in the physician's judgment?
THEODORUS: How ludicrous!
SOCRATES: And the vinegrower, if I am not mistaken, is a better judge of
the sweetness or dryness of the vintage which is not yet gathered than the
SOCRATES: And in musical composition the musician will know better than
the training master what the training master himself will hereafter think
harmonious or the reverse?
THEODORUS: Of course.
SOCRATES: And the cook will be a better judge than the guest, who is not a
cook, of the pleasure to be derived from the dinner which is in
preparation; for of present or past pleasure we are not as yet arguing; but
can we say that every one will be to himself the best judge of the pleasure
which will seem to be and will be to him in the future?--nay, would not
you, Protagoras, better guess which arguments in a court would convince any
one of us than the ordinary man?
THEODORUS: Certainly, Socrates, he used to profess in the strongest manner
that he was the superior of all men in this respect.
SOCRATES: To be sure, friend: who would have paid a large sum for the
privilege of talking to him, if he had really persuaded his visitors that
neither a prophet nor any other man was better able to judge what will be
and seem to be in the future than every one could for himself?
THEODORUS: Who indeed?
SOCRATES: And legislation and expediency are all concerned with the
future; and every one will admit that states, in passing laws, must often
fail of their highest interests?
THEODORUS: Quite true.
SOCRATES: Then we may fairly argue against your master, that he must admit
one man to be wiser than another, and that the wiser is a measure: but I,
who know nothing, am not at all obliged to accept the honour which the
advocate of Protagoras was just now forcing upon me, whether I would or
not, of being a measure of anything.
THEODORUS: That is the best refutation of him, Socrates; although he is
also caught when he ascribes truth to the opinions of others, who give the
lie direct to his own opinion.
SOCRATES: There are many ways, Theodorus, in which the doctrine that every
opinion of every man is true may be refuted; but there is more difficulty
in proving that states of feeling, which are present to a man, and out of
which arise sensations and opinions in accordance with them, are also
untrue. And very likely I have been talking nonsense about them; for they
may be unassailable, and those who say that there is clear evidence of
them, and that they are matters of knowledge, may probably be right; in
which case our friend Theaetetus was not so far from the mark when he
identified perception and knowledge. And therefore let us draw nearer, as
the advocate of Protagoras desires; and give the truth of the universal
flux a ring: is the theory sound or not? at any rate, no small war is
raging about it, and there are combination not a few.
THEODORUS: No small, war, indeed, for in Ionia the sect makes rapid
strides; the disciples of Heracleitus are most energetic upholders of the
SOCRATES: Then we are the more bound, my dear Theodorus, to examine the
question from the foundation as it is set forth by themselves.
THEODORUS: Certainly we are. About these speculations of Heracleitus,
which, as you say, are as old as Homer, or even older still, the Ephesians
themselves, who profess to know them, are downright mad, and you cannot
talk with them on the subject. For, in accordance with their text-books,
they are always in motion; but as for dwelling upon an argument or a
question, and quietly asking and answering in turn, they can no more do so
than they can fly; or rather, the determination of these fellows not to
have a particle of rest in them is more than the utmost powers of negation
can express. If you ask any of them a question, he will produce, as from a
quiver, sayings brief and dark, and shoot them at you; and if you inquire
the reason of what he has said, you will be hit by some other new-fangled
word, and will make no way with any of them, nor they with one another;
their great care is, not to allow of any settled principle either in their
arguments or in their minds, conceiving, as I imagine, that any such
principle would be stationary; for they are at war with the stationary, and
do what they can to drive it out everywhere.
SOCRATES: I suppose, Theodorus, that you have only seen them when they
were fighting, and have never stayed with them in time of peace, for they
are no friends of yours; and their peace doctrines are only communicated by
them at leisure, as I imagine, to those disciples of theirs whom they want
to make like themselves.
THEODORUS: Disciples! my good sir, they have none; men of their sort are
not one another's disciples, but they grow up at their own sweet will, and
get their inspiration anywhere, each of them saying of his neighbour that
he knows nothing. From these men, then, as I was going to remark, you will
never get a reason, whether with their will or without their will; we must
take the question out of their hands, and make the analysis ourselves, as
if we were doing geometrical problem.
SOCRATES: Quite right too; but as touching the aforesaid problem, have we
not heard from the ancients, who concealed their wisdom from the many in
poetical figures, that Oceanus and Tethys, the origin of all things, are
streams, and that nothing is at rest? And now the moderns, in their
superior wisdom, have declared the same openly, that the cobbler too may
hear and learn of them, and no longer foolishly imagine that some things
are at rest and others in motion--having learned that all is motion, he
will duly honour his teachers. I had almost forgotten the opposite
'Alone Being remains unmoved, which is the name for the all.'
This is the language of Parmenides, Melissus, and their followers, who
stoutly maintain that all being is one and self-contained, and has no place
in which to move. What shall we do, friend, with all these people; for,
advancing step by step, we have imperceptibly got between the combatants,
and, unless we can protect our retreat, we shall pay the penalty of our
rashness--like the players in the palaestra who are caught upon the line,
and are dragged different ways by the two parties. Therefore I think that
we had better begin by considering those whom we first accosted, 'the
river-gods,' and, if we find any truth in them, we will help them to pull
us over, and try to get away from the others. But if the partisans of 'the
whole' appear to speak more truly, we will fly off from the party which
would move the immovable, to them. And if I find that neither of them have
anything reasonable to say, we shall be in a ridiculous position, having so
great a conceit of our own poor opinion and rejecting that of ancient and
famous men. O Theodorus, do you think that there is any use in proceeding
when the danger is so great?
THEODORUS: Nay, Socrates, not to examine thoroughly what the two parties
have to say would be quite intolerable.
SOCRATES: Then examine we must, since you, who were so reluctant to begin,
are so eager to proceed. The nature of motion appears to be the question
with which we begin. What do they mean when they say that all things are
in motion? Is there only one kind of motion, or, as I rather incline to
think, two? I should like to have your opinion upon this point in addition
to my own, that I may err, if I must err, in your company; tell me, then,
when a thing changes from one place to another, or goes round in the same
place, is not that what is called motion?
SOCRATES: Here then we have one kind of motion. But when a thing,
remaining on the same spot, grows old, or becomes black from being white,
or hard from being soft, or undergoes any other change, may not this be
properly called motion of another kind?
THEODORUS: I think so.
SOCRATES: Say rather that it must be so. Of motion then there are these
two kinds, 'change,' and 'motion in place.'
THEODORUS: You are right.
SOCRATES: And now, having made this distinction, let us address ourselves
to those who say that all is motion, and ask them whether all things
according to them have the two kinds of motion, and are changed as well as
move in place, or is one thing moved in both ways, and another in one only?
THEODORUS: Indeed, I do not know what to answer; but I think they would
say that all things are moved in both ways.
SOCRATES: Yes, comrade; for, if not, they would have to say that the same
things are in motion and at rest, and there would be no more truth in
saying that all things are in motion, than that all things are at rest.
THEODORUS: To be sure.
SOCRATES: And if they are to be in motion, and nothing is to be devoid of
motion, all things must always have every sort of motion?
THEODORUS: Most true.
SOCRATES: Consider a further point: did we not understand them to explain
the generation of heat, whiteness, or anything else, in some such manner as
the following:--were they not saying that each of them is moving between
the agent and the patient, together with a perception, and that the patient
ceases to be a perceiving power and becomes a percipient, and the agent a
quale instead of a quality? I suspect that quality may appear a strange
and uncouth term to you, and that you do not understand the abstract
expression. Then I will take concrete instances: I mean to say that the
producing power or agent becomes neither heat nor whiteness but hot and
white, and the like of other things. For I must repeat what I said before,
that neither the agent nor patient have any absolute existence, but when
they come together and generate sensations and their objects, the one
becomes a thing of a certain quality, and the other a percipient. You
THEODORUS: Of course.
SOCRATES: We may leave the details of their theory unexamined, but we must
not forget to ask them the only question with which we are concerned: Are
all things in motion and flux?
THEODORUS: Yes, they will reply.
SOCRATES: And they are moved in both those ways which we distinguished,
that is to say, they move in place and are also changed?
THEODORUS: Of course, if the motion is to be perfect.
SOCRATES: If they only moved in place and were not changed, we should be
able to say what is the nature of the things which are in motion and flux?
SOCRATES: But now, since not even white continues to flow white, and
whiteness itself is a flux or change which is passing into another colour,
and is never to be caught standing still, can the name of any colour be
rightly used at all?
THEODORUS: How is that possible, Socrates, either in the case of this or
of any other quality--if while we are using the word the object is escaping
in the flux?
SOCRATES: And what would you say of perceptions, such as sight and
hearing, or any other kind of perception? Is there any stopping in the act
of seeing and hearing?
THEODORUS: Certainly not, if all things are in motion.
SOCRATES: Then we must not speak of seeing any more than of not-seeing,
nor of any other perception more than of any non-perception, if all things
partake of every kind of motion?
THEODORUS: Certainly not.
SOCRATES: Yet perception is knowledge: so at least Theaetetus and I were
THEODORUS: Very true.
SOCRATES: Then when we were asked what is knowledge, we no more answered
what is knowledge than what is not knowledge?
THEODORUS: I suppose not.
SOCRATES: Here, then, is a fine result: we corrected our first answer in
our eagerness to prove that nothing is at rest. But if nothing is at rest,
every answer upon whatever subject is equally right: you may say that a
thing is or is not thus; or, if you prefer, 'becomes' thus; and if we say
'becomes,' we shall not then hamper them with words expressive of rest.
THEODORUS: Quite true.
SOCRATES: Yes, Theodorus, except in saying 'thus' and 'not thus.' But you
ought not to use the word 'thus,' for there is no motion in 'thus' or in
'not thus.' The maintainers of the doctrine have as yet no words in which
to express themselves, and must get a new language. I know of no word that
will suit them, except perhaps 'no how,' which is perfectly indefinite.
THEODORUS: Yes, that is a manner of speaking in which they will be quite
SOCRATES: And so, Theodorus, we have got rid of your friend without
assenting to his doctrine, that every man is the measure of all things--a