Page images

(Socrates produces some more eristie puzzles.]


So. I put now the most startling question. To this effect, I think. Is it possible for the same man knowing a

I .
thing not to know what he knows?

Theo. What answer shall we give, Theaetetus?
Theae. Impossible, in my opinion.

So. Not if you lay it down that seeing is knowing. For how will you deal with that inevitable question, when, as they say, you are caught in a well, and an unabashed 'man claps his hand to one of your eyes and asks, whether with the closed eye you see your cloak. Theae. Not with that one, I


I shall say, but with the other.

So. Then you see and do not see the same thing at the same time?

Theae. In a sort of way.

So. I do not, he will say, define anything, nor did I ask how, but only whether you know that which you do not know. And now you are shown to see what you do not see; and you have admitted that seeing is knowing and not seeing not knowing. Consider the inference from these premises.

Theae. I consider that it directly contradicts my former assertion.

So. Probably, my fine gentleman, you would have had more such experiences, if somebody had further asked you whether it is possible to know keenly or to know bluntly, and to know near and not at a distance, and to know the same thing intensely or moderately, and other questions, countless in number, which a light-armed mercenary ambushed in the arguments might have asked, when you laid

it down that knowledge and perception are the same; and attacking your senses of hearing and smelling and the like he might have worried you with incessant confutation, until, admiring his accursed wisdom, you were entangled by him so far, that after mastering and binding you tight he might then have ransomed you for what sum you and he agreed on. Now what argument, perhaps you may say, will Protagoras advance in aid of his doctrine? Must we not try to state it?

Theae. Certainly we must.


20 [Socrates, having obtained from Theaetetus an admission that Protagoras

ought to be heard in his wn defence, undertakes to plead his cause, and does so in the assumed person of Protagoras himself.]

So. Besides all this that we urge in his defence, he will also, methinks, come to close quarters, contemning us, and saying: Here's this good creature Socrates, who—when a lad got frightened on being asked whether it is possible for the same person at once to remember some particular thing and not know it, and in his fright said 'no,' because he could not see before him,--made a laughing-stock of me in the course of his arguments. But the fact, my easy-going Socrates, stands thus: when you examine any of my doctrines by the method of interrogation, if the person questioned give such answers as I should, and be defeated, I am confuted; but if they differ from mine, then the person questioned is confuted. For instance, if mutual word-catching is the thing to guard against, do you think anybody will concede to you that the memory of a past feeling is anything like what the feeling itself was at the time when it was experienced? Far from it. Or again, that he will shrink from admitting that it is possible for

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

the same person to know and not to know the same thing ? Or, if he dread this—that he will grant an altered person to be the same he was before he was altered? Or ratherthat anybody can be called 'one' and not 'many'—infinitely multiplied, if alteration goes on. But, O my good sir, he will say, encounter my main doctrine more generously, if you can, and prove against it that individual perceptions do not come-to-be' to each of us, or that, supposing they do, it does not follow that the appearance will come-to-be' (or 'be,' if that is the proper term) to that person alone, unto whom it appears. When you talk of swine and dogheaded baboons, you are not merely swinish yourself, but you likewise induce your hearers to act as such towards my treatises without any decency. For I say that the Truth is as I have written; that each of us is a measure of things that are and are not: but that, nevertheless, one man differs vastly from another in this very respect, that to one man some things are and appear, to another other things. And I am far from denying that wisdom and a wise man exist, but the man I call wise is he who, by working changes, makes things to appear and to be good to any one of us, to whom they appear and are evil. And again, do not press my argument literally; but understand from the following explanation more clearly what I mean. Recollect how it was formerly said, that to a sick man his food appears to be and is bitter, but to a man in health the opposite is the fact and appears so.

Neither of these persons ought we to make wiser than the other; that is impossible: nor may we declare that the sick man is ignorant for holding such an opinion, or the man in health is wise for holding another. We must effect a change to the opposite state: for the one habit is better than the other. So also in education we must cause a change from K. P.


the one habit to the better. Now the physician changes by medicines; the wise teacher by arguments. Never indeed did anybody make one who had false opinions afterwards to hold true ones. For it is not possible either to think what is not, or anything but what one feels; and this is always true. But, I suppose, when through a bad habit of mind a man has corresponding opinions, a good habit makes him hold opinions resembling it; phantasms which some persons from inexperience call true: but I call some better than others, not truer. And wise men, dear Socrates, I am far from calling frogs : but in relation to bodies I call them physicians, in relation to plants husbandmen. For I say that these last also produce in plants, instead of evil sensations when any of them are sickly, good and healthy sensations and truths, while wise and good rhetoricians make good things instead of evil seem just to states. Since whatever things seem just and good to each state, are such to it, as long as it deems them lawful; but the wise man, in the place of those things which are severally evil to each, makes the good both to be and to seem right. And on the same principle the sophist also, who is able to instruct his pupils thus, is both wise and worthy of high fees at their hands. And thus some are wiser than others, and nobody thinks falsities : and you, whether you will or not, must submit to be a measure. For on these grounds this doctrine is maintained. And, if you wish to revive your dispute with it, dispute by counter-arguing at full; or if you prefer the method of questioning, adopt it; for no person of sense will avoid this method, but will pursue it most willingly. Mind this however; you must not question unfairly. For it is most unreasonable in one who professes esteem for virtue to be constantly pursuing an unfair method of argument. Now unfairness is shown, when a man fails to conduct his arguments diversely; in one way as a combatant, in another as a dialectician: in the former case rallying and tripping up as much as he can, in the latter being serious, and correcting his respondent, showing him only those errors into which he was led by his own fault or in consequence of former discussions. If you act thus, your fellow-debaters will impute to themselves the fault of their own confusion and perplexity, not to you; and they will follow and love you, and fly from themselves to philosophy, that they may become different, and get rid of their former selves. But if you take the contrary course, as most do, you will find an opposite result, and your pupils instead of philosophers will turn out haters of philosophy, when they grow older. If then you will follow my advice, as was before said, you will, in no hostile or contentious spirit, but with a really mild and condescending temper, consider what we mean, when we declare that all things are in motion, and that what seems ‘is' also to each, individual as well as state. From these considerations you will discern whether knowledge and perception are the same: but not, as you lately sought, from the use of words and names, which most people pervert in every sort of way, causing each other all kinds of perplexity. Such, Theodorus, is the slight assistance which, from slight resources, I have supplied, as I best could, to your old friend. Had he been alive, he would have helped his own cause in grander language.

[Protagoras had been made in the pleading of Socrates to complain that 21

admissions hostile to his doctrine had been wrung from the mouth of a terrified lad. Socrates now constrains Theodorus to submit, very reluctantly, to a dialectic argument on the general question at issue.]

« PreviousContinue »