Socrates vs. Gorgias
You, Polus, young and impatient, now take over the discussion with
Socrates. You complain that Socrates has trapped Gorgias into a false
admission by playing on his shame. You then ask Socrates what he himself
thinks rhetoric is. It takes some time before you settle down enough for
Socrates to define rhetoric, and even the full exposition requires
intervene and briefly carry on again as interlocutor. Gorgias
the guidelines Socrates laid down in their conversation; Socrates
the dialogic situation his characterization of rhetoric. Socrates
rhetoric is an art and says it is an experienced way of producing a
favor and pleasure; You want to know whether he thinks it is a
thing to be able to favor or gratify human beings. Socrates then
says that it
is a kind of empirical knack, like cookery, and does not require
expertise as such. Moreover, both rhetoric and cookery are aspects
flattery, which is to say they aim only to give pleasure, rather than
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 of them.
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)
astiring : gymnastic :: cookery : medicine; or rather,
astiring : gymnastic :: sophistry : legislation; and
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 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.
What do you mean? do you think that rhetoric is flattery?
I agree, what you say is obvious.
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?
And are the good rhetoricians meanly regarded in states, under the idea that they are flatterers?
Is not age regarded with respect in our society?
Is that a question or the beginning of a speech?
I am asking a question.
No, merely an observation.
Then my answer is, that they are not regarded at all.
How not regarded? Have they not very great power in states?
What do you mean? are you saying that they are powerless?
Not if you mean to say that power is a good to the possessor.
And that is what I do mean to say.
No, I do not mean that at all.
Then, if so, I think that they have the least power of all the citizens.
What! Are they not like tyrants? They kill and despoil and exile any one whom they please.
Socrates, how are you defining power? We should be grateful that we live in a stable society.
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.
I am asking a question of you.
I am only giving you opinions.
Yes, my friend, but you ask two questions at once.
How two questions?
Are you not capable of answering two questions?
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 please?
I did not say such a thing.
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.
And is not that a great power?
Do they have no power?
Polus has already said the reverse.
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.
I do not.
And would you maintain that if a fool does what he think best, this is a good, and would you call this great power?
I should not.
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.
Yes; I admit that.
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?
But they do.
I say that they do not do as they will-now refute me.
Why, have you not already said that they do as they think best?
I can not. Do not people do what is best for society?
And I say so still.
Then surely they do as they will?
Surely they will not act in such a way.
I deny it.
But they do what they think best?
They do not always do what
they think is best.
That, Socrates, is monstrous and absurd.
You are correct.
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.
Very well, I am willing to answer that I may know what you mean.
I do not know what you mean.
Polus, Socrates is going
to take you for a ride! All he is going to do
is take your idea qua GENUS and devalue it to the level of a
SPECIES. By doing this, he can subsequently set up a new
genus by which to redescribe any notion you might have thought
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?
Clearly, the health.
Some for the medicine.
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.
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.
And are not all things either good or evil, or intermediate and indifferent?
To be sure, Socrates.
Not at all.
Wisdom and health and wealth and the like you would call goods, and their opposites evils?
I should not.
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?
No, you are reading too much into my statement.
Are these indifferent things done for the sake of the good, or the good for the sake of the indifferent?
Clearly, the indifferent for the sake of the good.
For the good of the indifferent.
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?
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?
Men who do any of these things do them for the sake of the good?
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?
Never, how can you make such a claim?
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?
You are right.
I am silent because I can not believe you. I would never agree with such a statement.
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 to him?
But does he do what he wills if
he does what is evil? Why do you not answer?
Well, I suppose not.
You never cease to amaze
me. What is evil is obvious.
Then if great power is a good as you allow, will such a one have great power in a state?
He will not.
Of course, great power is attainable by all and must be for the good of the state.
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?
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!
Men always do what they think is in their best interest.
Justly or unjustly, do you mean?
In either case is he not equally to be envied?
What is the problem?
Because you ought not to envy wretches who are not to be envied, but only to pity them.
And are those of whom spoke wretches?
We must pity those who need pity.
Yes, certainly they are.
And so you think that he who slays any one whom he pleases, and justly slays him, is pitiable and wretched?
you agreeing with me or are you pitying me?
No, I do not say that of him: but neither do I think that he is to be envied.
Were you not saying just now that he is wretched?
Yes, Socrates I gree with you completely.
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 justly.
any rate you will allow that he who is unjustly put to death is wretched, and to be pitied?
Who should we pity?
Not so much, Polus, as he who kills him, and not so much as he who is justly killed.
How can that be, Socrates?
Do not get so esoterical Socrates.
That may very well be, inasmuch as doing injustice is the greatest of evils.
But is it the greatest? Is not suffering injustice a greater evil?
what is injustice? Can you define it?
Then would you rather suffer than do injustice?
Then how can you make such claims?
I should not like either, but if I must choose between them, I would rather suffer than do.
Then you would not wish to be a tyrant?
Do you want to be a tyrant?
Not if you mean by tyranny what I mean.
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.
You are well are of my definition of tyrant.
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?
Certainly not such doing as this.
But can you tell me why you disapprove of such a power?
Why, because he who did as you say would be certain to be punished.
Because we must do what is best for the state. Do all tyrants
And punishment is an evil?
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?
About that you and I may be supposed to agree?
Tell me, then, when do you say that they are good and when that they are evil-what principle do you lay down?
I would rather, Socrates, that you should answer as well as ask that question.
Why do you refuse to answer my question?
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 unjust.
You are hard of refutation, Socrates, but might not a child refute that statement?
Must good be just and evil unjust? What about the child that is not good is that child evil and unjust?
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.
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.
I will but you must police yourself Socrates.
What events? Missing text
You see, I presume, that Archelaus the son of Perdiccas is now the ruler of Macedonia?
There are many.
At any rate I hear that he is.
And do you think that he is happy or miserable?
He is do you know him?
I cannot say, Polus, for I have never had any acquaintance with him.
And cannot you tell at once, and without having an acquaintance
with him, whether a man is happy?
Is he a just ruler?
Most certainly not.
Then clearly, Socrates, you would say that you did not even know whether the great king was a happy man?
So you can not say whether he is evil or just?
And I should speak the truth; for I do not know how he stands in the matter of education and justice.
What! and does all happiness consist in this?
Why do you know mention education? Must one be educated to be just?
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.
Then, according to your doctrine, the said Archelaus is miserable?
And what does that make Archelaus?
Yes, my friend, if he is wicked.
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, 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!
And what if he
is not wicked?
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 been saying.
That is because you will not; for you surely must think as I do.
Does that mean that a child is more of a rheotorician than you my friend?
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 opinion?
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?
Certainly not; in that case he will be most miserable.
On the other hand, if the unjust be not punished, then, according to you, he will be happy?
No, you are being too literal.
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 go
ds and men.
You are maintaining a strange doctrine, Socrates.
I agree with most of your statement but I can not agree with them all.
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?
And you said the opposite?
No, you misunderstood me.
I said also that the wicked are miserable, and you refuted me?
By Zeus, I did.
By Zues, you are taking my words and giving them a different meaning.
In your own opinion, Polus.
Yes, and I rather suspect that I was in the right.
Maybe so, but it is still my opinion.
You further said that the wrong-doer is happy if he be unpunished?
And I affirm that he is most miserable, and that
those who are punished are less miserable-are you going to refute this proposition also?
A proposition which is harder of refutation than the other, Socrates.
No, because you have stated the obvious.
Say rather, Polus, impossible; for who can refute the truth?
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?
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"?
Yes, I did.
No, I did not.
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.
But do you not think, Socrates, that you have been sufficiently refuted, when you say that which no human being will allow? Ask the company.
But that is what I have been saying and you are not refuting anything but you are agreeing with me.
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.
And I should say neither I, nor any man: would you yourself, for example, suffer rather than do injustice?
Would you say that all men have the ability to be good and just?
Yes, and you, too; I or any man would.
Quite the reverse; neither you, nor I, nor any man.
All men would have to argree if they were good citizens.
But will you answer?
sure, I will-for I am curious to hear what you can have to say.
I can not because you have not made your question clear.
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?
I should say that suffering was worst.
Certainly injustice is worse.
And which is the greater disgrace?-Answer.
To do nothing.
And the greater disgrace is the greater evil?
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?
That is correct.
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?
Of course, but we each create our own reference. What is beautiful to one man may be ugly to another.
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 both?
Yes, I should.
And you would call sounds and music beautiful for the same reason?
I should not.
Laws and institutions also have no beauty in them except in so far as they are useful or pleasant or both?
I think not.
to maintain the beauty of the city.
And may not the same be said of the beauty of knowledge?
To be sure, Socrates; and I very much approve of your measuring beauty by the standard of pleasure and utility.
To see beauty one must be able to appreciate beauty, not quantify beauty.
And deformity or disgrace may be equally measured by the opposite standard of pain and evil?
Beaty is subjective and not objective.
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?
And of two deformed things, that which exceeds in deformity or disgrace, exceeds either in pain or evil-must it not be so?
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?
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?
Of course not.
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?
No, Socrates; certainly not.
Then they do not exceed in pain?
But if not in pain, then not in both?
Then they can only exceed in the other?
That is to say, in evil?
Then doing injustice will
have an excess of evil, and will therefore be a greater evil than suffering injustice?
But have not you and the world already agreed that to do injustice is more disgraceful than to suffer?
And that is now discovered to be more evil?
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.
I should say "No."
Would any other man prefer a greater to a less evil?
No, not according to this way of putting the case, 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.
That is the conclusion.
You could say that,; however, I would have to disagree.
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?
I should not.
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.
Yes, Socrates, I think that they are.
Consider again:-Where there is an agent, must there not also be a patient?
I should say so.
I should say not.
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 stricken?
And if the striker strikes violently or quickly, that which is struck will he struck violently or quickly?
And the suffering to him who is stricken is of the same nature as the act of him who strikes?
And if a man burns, there is something which is burned?
And if he burns in excess or so as to cause pain, the thing burned will be burned in the same way?
And if he cuts, the same argument holds-there will be something cut?
And if the cutting be great or deep or such as will cause pain, the cut will be of the
That is evident.
That can not be so.
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?
Then, as this is admitted, let me ask whether being punished is suffering or acting?
Suffering, Socrates; there can be no doubt of that.
And suffering implies an agent?
Certainly, Socrates; and he is the punisher.
And he who punishes rightly, punishes justly?
And therefore he acts justly?
Then he who is punished and suffers retribution, suffers justly?
That is evident.
And that which is just has been admitted to be honourable?
Why do you think that? I do not follow your logic.
Then the punisher does what is honourable, and the punished suffers what is honourable?
And if what is honourable, then what is good, for the honourable is either pleasant or useful?
Then he who is punished suffers what is good?
That is true.
Then he is benefited?
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.
Then he who is punished is delivered from the evil of his soul?
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?
There is no greater evil.
There are many other things that are much worse.
Again, in a man's bodily frame, you would say that the evil is weakness and disease and deformity?
And do you not imagine that the soul likewise has some evil of her own?
No, of course not.
And this you would call injustice and ignorance and cowardice, and the like?
So then, in mind, body, and estate, which are three, you have pointed out three corresponding evils-injustice, disease, poverty?
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?
By far the most.
Evil of the soul is far worse.
And if the most disgraceful, then also the worst?
What do you mean, Socrates?
It might be, but I would need more information to say yes or no.
I mean to say, that is most disgraceful has been already admitted to be most painful or hurtful, or both.
And now injustice and all evil in the soul has been admitted by to be most disgraceful?
It has been admitted.
And most disgraceful either because most painful and causing excessive pain, or most hurtful, or both?
And therefore to be unjust and intemperate, and cowardly and ignorant, is
more painful than to be poor and sick?
Nay, Socrates; the painfulness does not appear to me to follow from your premises.
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.
And that which exceeds most in hurtfulness will be the greatest of evils?
Then injustice and intemperance, and in general the depravity of the soul, are the greatest of evils!
That is evident.
Why do you think that?
Now, what art is there which delivers us from poverty? Does not the art of making money?
And what art frees us from disease? Does not the art of medicine?
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 take them.
To the physicians, Socrates.
Who ever would make us feel better.
And to whom do we go with the unjust and intemperate?
To the judges, you mean.
One could deal with the situation individually.
Who are to punish them?
And do not those who rightly punish others, punish them in accordance with a certain rule of justice?
Then the art of money-making frees a man from poverty; medicine from disease; and justice from intemperance and injustice?
That is evident.
Which, then, is the best of these three?
Will you enumerate them?
Does one have to be better than the others?
Money-making, medicine, and justice.
Justice, Socrates, far excels the two others.
And justice, if the best, gives the greatest pleasure or advantage or both?
But is the being healed a pleasant thing, and are those who are being healed pleased?
I think not.
I think so.
A useful thing, then?
Yes, because the patient is delivered from a great evil; and this is the advant
age of enduring the pain-that you get well?
And would he be the happier man in his bodily condition, who is healed, or who never was out of health?
who was never out of health.
If you are healthy surely you would be happy.
Yes; for happiness
surely does not consist in being delivered from evils, but in never having had them.
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 most miserable?
Clearly he who is not healed.
Clearly, he who is
And was not punishment said by us to be a deliverance from the greatest of evils, which is vice?
And justice punishes us, and makes us more just, and is the medicine of our vice?
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.
And he has the second place, who is delivered from vice?
I can not agree with that.
That is to say, he who receives admonition and rebuke and punishment?
Then he lives worst, who, having been unjust, has no deliverance from injustice?
I don't think so.
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?
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?
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?
If you please.
Why would you draw out the consequences?
Is it not a fact that injustice, and the doing of injustice, is the greatest of evils?
That is quite clear.
And further, that to suffer punishment is the way to be released from this evil?
And not to suffer, is to
perpetuate the evil?
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?
That is true.
I don't think that is correct.
Well, and was not this the point in dispute, my friend? You deemed Archela
us 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?
And it has been proved to be true?
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?
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?
To that, Socrates, there can be but one answer.
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 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?
To me, Socrates, what you are saying appears very strange, though probably in agreement with your premises.
I can not agree with you on that issue.
Is not this the conclusion, if the premises are not disproven?
Yes; it certainly is.
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 has 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.