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