Socrates vs. Callicles
When at the end of the previous discussion Polus agrees, he is reluctant: "It
seems quite absurd to me, Socrates, but I suppose that it is consistent with
our previous discussion." Socrates pretends that Polus' own words have
committed him to this conclusion and that he has deduced it from Polus' own
claims and admissions. The most crucial of these was that it is baser to do
wrong than to suffer it. You, Callicles, a wealthy Athenian gentleman,
forward to an important career in politics and viewing the philosophic
an amused pity, make this point when you enter the discussion. You point
out that Polus should not have agreed that doing wrong is the baser
he could and should have denied it in consistency with the line he had
It is only laws and conventions which assert the contrary; and they do so
because they were created by the weak to protect themselves from the strong,
and thus seek to impose a slave-morality upon all. When he speaks of
the better people or of the superior class, you agree that he simply
to the stronger. On this basis Socrates offers a dialectical proof that
committing wrong is worse or uglier than suffering it.
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?
I say unequivocally that they are the same.
That's not such a simple question as it may first
Then the many are by nature to the one, against whom, as you were saying, they make the laws?
Then the laws of the many are the laws of the superior?
Then they are the laws of the better; for the superior class are far better, as you were saying?
And since they are superior, the laws which are made by them are by nature good?
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.
Yes; the opinion of the many is what you say.
No, let me clarify that.
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 as
sertion, 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 about custom?
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?
No, Socrates, you misrepresent me.
Ho! my philosopher, is that your line?
No, no, no.
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 b
e a little milder in your instructions, or I shall have to run away from you.
You are ironical.
All right, I shall begin again.
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?
I mean the more excellent.
One cannot judge so easliy the "better," without further explanation.
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
Most assuredly, I do mean the wiser.
What do you mean, my words have no meaning?
Then according to you, one wise man may often be superior to ten thousand fools, and he ought them, and they ought to be his subjects, and he ought to have more than they should. This i
s 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 thousand?
Yes; that is what I mean, and that is what I conceive to be natural justice-that the better and wiser should rule have more than the inferior.
Perhaps I should clarify my meaning, for you still misunderstand my point.
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 physician, is wiser in the matter of food than all the rest, and he is probably stronger than some and not so strong as ot
hers of us-will he not, being wiser, be also better than we are, and our superior in this matter of food?
No, not exactly.
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 expe
nd 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 a
ll, Callicles:-am I not right, my friend?
You talk about meats and drinks and physicians and other nonsense; I am not speaking of them.
No, you are not right, my friend.
Well, but do you admit that the wiser is the better? Answer "Yes" or "No."
And ought not the better to have a larger share?
Not of meats and drinks.
Well, let me examine that point.
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?
Fudge about coats!
Why do you speak here of coats?
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?
Fudge about shoes! What nonsense are you talking?
Socrates, you persist in dodging the issue at hand.
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
How you go on, always talking in the same way, Socrates!
That is not rational, 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?
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 onl
y wise, but also valiant and able to carry. out their designs, and not the men to faint from want of soul.
But consider here another point.
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 m
ore 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?
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 th
eir having more than their subjects.
I cannot, and I'll explain why.
But whether rulers or subjects will they or will they not have more than themselves, my friend?
What do you mean?
Let me explain.
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?
What do you mean by his "ruling over himself"?
Well, I'll tell you what I mean.
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.
What innocence! you mean those fools-the temperate?
That is not necessarily so.
Certainly:-any one may know that to be my meaning.
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 ough
t 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 n
obility. 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 l
uxury 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.
Oh, Socrates, let me here explain myself again.
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 pers
evere, 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, a
nd that this is virtue?
Yes; I do.
No, not exactly.
Then those who want nothing are not truly said to be happy?
No indeed, for then stones and dead men would be the happiest of all.
Yes, in a way.
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), and that the part of the soul wh
ich 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, 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 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 an
d 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 yo
u continue of the same opinion still?
The latter, Socrates, is more like the truth.
Perhaps, although I have a point or two to make about that.
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 f
ew 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 need to feed them anymore, and has no further trouble with them or care about them. The other, in like manner, can procure strea
ms, 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?
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 neith
er joy nor sorrow after he is once filled; but the pleasure depends on the superabundance of the influx.
Let me examine this statement more closely before I commit to a reply, Socrates.
But the more you pour in, the greater the waste; and the holes must be large for the liquid to escape.
That is not necessarily so.
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?
And he is to be thirsting and drinking?
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.
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, provide
d you have enough of them and pass your life in scratching, in your notion of happiness?
What a strange being you are, Socrates! a regular mob-orator.
So I shall continue.
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.
I answer, that even the scratcher would live pleasantly.
Ok, I will answer your question.
And if pleasantly, then also happily?
To be sure.
That is not necessarily so.
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?
Are you not ashamed, Socrates, of introducing such topics into the argument?
My opinion of this is as follows.
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 dis
tinction 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 good?
Well, then, for the sake of consistency, I will say that they are the same.
Of course there is some pleasure which is not a good.
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.
Why, that is what you are doing too, Socrates.
All right, then, let me change my answer.
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.
That, Socrates, is only your opinion.
I beg to differ with you.
And do you, Callicles, seriously maintain what you are saying?
Indeed I do.
Do you doubt that I do? Let me explain myself.
Then, as you are in earnest, shall we proceed with the argument?
By all means.
No, give pause. I have something to say.
Well, if you are willing to proceed, determine this question for me:-There is something, I presume, which you would call knowledge?
No, not necessarily.
And were you not saying just now, that some courage implied knowledge?
No, you misunderstood.
And you were speaking of courage and knowledge as two things different from one another?
Certainly I was.
No, not exactly.
And would you say that pleasure and knowledge are the same, or not the same?
Not the same, O man of wisdom.
Perhaps, but perhaps not.
And would you say that courage differed from pleasure?
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 th
And what does our friend Socrates, of Foxton, say -does he assent to this, or not?
I have something to say regarding that.
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?
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?
What do you mean?
Take the case of any bodily affection:-a man may have the complaint in his eyes which is called ophthalmia?
To be sure.
I do not understand your point here.
But he surely cannot have the same eyes well and sound at the same time?
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?
That would surely be marvellous and absurd?
Not necessarily. Take the following example.
I suppose that he is affected by them, and gets rid of them in turns?
And he may have strength and weakness in the same way, by fits?
Or swiftness and slowness?
And does he have and not have good and happiness, and their opposites, evil and misery, in a similar alternation?
Certainly he has.
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.
I entirely agree.
No, we do not agree on this point.
Go back now to our former admissions.-Did you say that to hunger, I mean the mere state of hunger, was pleasant or painful?
I said painful, but that to eat when you are hungry is pleasant.
Let me tell you what I said, and what I meant by that.
I know; but still the actual hunger is painful: am I not right?
And thirst, too, is painful?
Need I adduce any more instances, or would you agree that all wants or desires are painful?
I agree, and therefore you need not adduce any more instances.
I do not agree.
Very good. And you would admit that to drink, when you are thirsty, is pleasant?
And in the sentence which you have just uttered, the word "thirsty" implies pain?
And the word "drinking" is expressive of pleasure, and of the satisfaction of the want?
There is pleasure in drinking?
When you are thirsty? And in pain?
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?
You said also, that no man could have good and evil fortune at the same time?
Yes, I did.
Let me clarify what I meant.
But, you admitted that when in pain a man might also have pleasure?
I admitted no such thing.
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 pleasant?
I wish I knew, Socrates, what your quibbling means.
You are manipulating my words.
You know, Callicles, but you affect not to know.
Well, get on, and don't keep fooling: then you will know what a wiseacre you are in your admonition of me.
Well, Socrates, let me tell you what I do know.
Does not a man cease from his thirst and from his pleasure in drinking at the same time?
I do not understand what you are saying.
No, I don't think that is a valid statement.
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 pleasure of drinking at the same moment?
And if he is hungry, or has any other desire, does he not cease from the desire and the pleasure at the same moment?
No, not necessarily.
Then he ceases from pain and pleasure at the same moment?
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?
Yes, I do; but what is the inference?
Well, let me explain again what I was getting at.
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 no
t 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 identified them: Are not the good th
ey have good present with them, as the beautiful are those who have beauty present with them?
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?
And did you never see a foolish child rejoicing?
Yes, I have.
No, for I must take issue with your choice of words.
And a foolish man too?
Yes, certainly; but what is your drift?
No, again your words are misleading.
Nothing particular, if you will only answer.
Yes, I have.
Here is my answer, Socrates. Listen carefully.
And did you ever see a sensible man rejoicing or sorrowing?
Which rejoice and sorrow most-the wise or the foolish?
They are much upon a par, I think, in that respect.
I think that is quite a loaded question, Socrates.
Enough: And did you ever see a coward in battle?
To be sure.
And which rejoiced most at the departure of the enemy, the coward or the brave?
I should say "most" of both; or at any rate, they rejoiced about equally.
It is difficult to say.
No matter; then the cowards, and not only the brave, rejoice?
No, not necessarily.
And the foolish; so it would seem?
Perhaps, but perhaps not.
And are only the cowards pained at the approach of their enemies, or are the brave also pained?
Both are pained.
Let me take a moment to answer that question.
And are they equally pained?
I should imagine that the cowards are more pained.
And are they better pleased at the enemy's departure?
I dare say.
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
But surely the wise and brave are the good, and the foolish and the cowardly are the bad?
Then the good and the bad are pleased and pained in a nearly equal degree?
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.]
I really do not know what you mean.
Let me take a moment to answer that.
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?
Yes, I remember.
No, you misunderstood me.
And are not these pleasures or goods present to those who rejoice-if they do rejoice?
Then those who rejoice are good when goods are present with them?
And those who are in pain have evil or sorrow present with them?
And would you still say that the evil are evil by reason of the presence of evil?
No, I would not.
Then those who rejoice are good, and those who are in pain evil?
The degrees of good and evil vary with the degrees of pleasure and of pain?
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 more?
I should say that he has.
The terms you use here a misleading, Socrates. Let me tell you what I think.
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?
And the foolish man and the coward to be evil?
And he who has joy is good?
And he who is in pain is evil?
The good and evil both have joy and pain, but, perhaps, the evil has more of them?
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 asse
rtion that the good and the pleasant are the same:-can this be denied, 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 giv
e it back. But do you really suppose that I or any other human being denies that some pleasures are good and others bad?
Perhaps. Let me explain.
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 a
t 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?
The beneficial are good, and the hurtful are evil?
To be sure.
And the beneficial are those which do some good, and the hurtful are those which do some evil?
Take, for example, the bodily pleasures of eating and drinking, which were just now mentioning-you mean to say that those which promote health, or any other bodily excellence, are good,
and their opposites evil?
And in the same way there are good pains and there are evil pains?
To be sure.
And ought we not to choose and use the good pleasures and pains?
But not the evil?
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 g
ood, and not the good, for of them?-will you add a third vote to our two?
No, and I will tell you why not.
Soc. 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 pleasure?
To be sure.
But can every man choose what pleasures are good and what are evil, or must he have art or knowledge of them in detail?
He must have art.
That is a good question. Let me now answer it carefully.
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 nothin
g 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 assem
bly, 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 distingu
ish 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?
No, I do not.
I think I do, and I would like to respond to that.
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 s
ame 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
I do not.
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. A
nd 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 des
pising 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 th
at you would tell me whether you agree with us in this notion, or whether you differ.
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 Gorgias.
I do not agree, and I will tell you why.
And is this notion true of one soul, or of two or more?
Equally true of two or more.
There is not a simple answer to this.
Then a man may delight a whole assembly, and yet have no regard for their true interests?
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? I
n 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?
No, not necessarily.
And is not the same true of all similar arts, as, for example, the art of playing the lyre at festivals?
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 i
mprovement of his hearers, or about what will give pleasure to the multitude?
There can be no mistake about Cinesias, Socrates.
I do not follow your logic, 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 pleasure?
That is my notion of them.
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 t
hem 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 character?
There can be no doubt, Socrates, that Tragedy has her face turned towards pleasure and the gratification of the audience.
Let me explain my response.
And is not that the sort of thing, Callicles, which we were just now describing as flattery?
No, I think that is a bit misleading.
Well now, suppose that we strip all poetry of song and rhythm and metre, there will remain speech?
To be sure.
No, I disagree with that statement.
And this speech is addressed to a crowd of people?
Then, poetry is a sort of rhetoric?
And do not the poets in the theatres seem to you to be rhetoricians?
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.
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 ai
m 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 chil
dren, and trying to amuse them, but never considering whether they are better or worse for this?
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.
Let me take care to give a reasonable response to this statement.
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 improvem
ent 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?
But, indeed, I am afraid that I cannot tell you of any such among the orators who are at present living.
Surely I can.
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.
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?
I'm not sure where you are going with these questions, 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 afterw
ards 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 distingu
No, indeed, I cannot.
Yes, perhaps I can.
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 wha
tever 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 a
ll 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?
No; I am ready to admit it.
Yes, and I will explain why.
Then the house in which order and regularity prevail is good, that in which there is disorder, evil?
same is true of a ship?
And the same may be said of the human body?
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 order?
The latter follows from our previous admissions.
There is no definite answer here.
What is the name which is given to the effect of harmony and order in the body?
I suppose that you mean health and strength?
I am unsure.
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.
Why not give the name yourself, Socrates?
It is a name you want? I have a reply to that.
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 w
hich is given to the regular order of the body, whence comes health and every other bodily excellence: is that true or not?
No, it is not.
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 an
d justice: have we not?
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, b
oth in what he gives and in what he takes away? Will not his aim be to implant justice in the souls of his citizens mind take away injustice, to implant temperance and take away intemperance, to implant every virtue and take away every vice? Do you not ag
No, I do not agree.
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?
I will not say No to it.
No, it is not necessarily true.
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 right?
No, you are not entirely right.
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 h
ardly suffer him to satisfy his desires at all: even you will admit that?
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 improvement.
Such treatment will be better for the soul herself?
To be sure.
And to restrain her from her appetites is to chastise her?
Then restraint or chastisement is better for the soul than intemperance or the-absence of control, which you were just now preferring?
I do not understand you, Socrates, and I wish that you would ask some one who does.
No, you are trying to mainupulate me once again.
Here is a gentleman who cannot endure to be improved or: to subject himself to that very chastisement of which the argument speaks!
I do not heed a word of what you are saying, and have only answered hitherto out of civility to Gorgias.
Socrates, you outrage me!
What are we to do, then? Shall we break off in the middle?
You shall judge for yourself.
Socrates, let me tell you a thing or two.
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; please then to go
on a little longer, and put the head on.
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 you.
Well, then, let me think a moment and I will give this argument a head.
But who else is willing?-I want to finish the argument.
Cannot you finish without my help, either talking straight: on, or questioning and answering yourself?
Then finish it we shall. Here are my final thoughts on the matter.
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, 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 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 shal
l 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.
My good fellow, never mind me, but get on.
Perhaps, but let me just say this first.
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 t
he 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-
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 c
hance 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 ord
er 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 te
mperate soul is good? No other answer can I give, Callicles dear; have you any?
Go on, my good fellow.
Yes, in fact, I do.
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; See
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 ou
ght, 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 go
od 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 ha
d 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, a
nd in the never-ending desire satisfy them leading a robber's life. Such; 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 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 mod
esty 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 true.
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 extremi
ty of danger, and that I am in the power of another like an outlaw to whom anyone 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 s
ay, 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 m
y 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 t
he 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 ar
e 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 n
ever 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, 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 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 gr
eatness 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?
Yes, quite right.
No, you have missed the point, 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 wha
t 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?
He must have provided himself with the power; that is clear.
I will answer these questions carefully.
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 has n
ot 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?
Granted, Socrates, if you will only have done.
That is not necessarily so.
Then, as would appear, power and art have to be provided in order that we may do no injustice?
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 wh
o is either a ruler or even tyrant himself, or the equal and companion of the ruling power.
Well said, Socrates; and please to observe how ready I am to praise you when you talk sense.
I do not yet agree with you. Let me explain.
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: Wou
ld you not agree to this?
No, I do not agree.
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.
That is true.
Neither will he be the friend of any one who greatly his inferior, for the tyrant will despise him, and will never seriously regard him as a friend.
That again is true.
I'm not so sure of that.
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 su
bject 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?
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 s
ame occasions as his master, and will contrive to be as like him as possible?
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 injury?
No, I do not agree.
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 contr
ive to do as much wrong as possible, and not be punished?
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?
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?
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 dar
e say that he will kill him if he has a mind-the bad man will kill the good and true.
And is not that just the provoking thing?
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 u
s from danger always; like that art of rhetoric which saves men in courts of law, and which you advise me to cultivate?
Yes, truly, and very good advice too.
No, let me explain my position on that statement.
Well, my friend, but what do you think of swimming; is that an art of any great pretensions?
And yet surely swimming saves a man from death, 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 retur
n 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 an
d 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 sh
ip 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 dise
mbarked 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.
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 someti
mes 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. A
nd 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, better born." But if the better i
s 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 Athenia
n 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 th
e 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?
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.
Let me give you my answer, for I do not agree with you completely.
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 thorough
ly, 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?
No, you miss the point.
And the one which had pleasure in view was just a vulgar flattery:-was not that another of our conclusions?
Be it so, if you will have it.
No, I don't believe so.
And the other had in view the greatest improvement of that which was ministered to, whether body or soul?
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?
Yes, certainly, if you like.
No, I don't believe we should.
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 larg
est 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, Callicles?
That is not necessarily true.
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 d
issuade 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 under
take them. Is not this true?
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 abou
t 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 conclus
ion 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-phys
icians 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 foolish thing?
No, I don't agree.
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 str
anger, 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 priv
ate person, before you came forward in public. Why will you not answer?
You are contentious, Socrates.
I am thinking, Socrates. Let me share with you my thoughts.
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 admini
stration 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. B
ut 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 th
ey were good citizens.
That is not a simple question, and thus requires a complex answer.
But if they were good, then clearly each of them must have made the citizens better instead of worse?
And, therefore, when Pericles first began to speak in the assembly, the Athenians were not so good as when he spoke last?
I am not certain of that.
Nay, my friend, "likely" is not the word; for if he was a good citizen, the inference is certain.
And what difference does that make?
You take issue with my terminology? Let's discuss this.
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.
You heard that, Socrates, from the laconising set who bruise their ears.
Let me give you my thoughts on this matter, 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 Ath
enians-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 malefac
Well, but how does that prove Pericles' badness?
I will give you my interpretation of these facts.
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 t
hese 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 say?
I will do you the favour of saying "yes."
No, I do not believe so.
And will you also do me the favour of saying whether man is an animal?
Certainly he is.
No, not necessarily.
And was not Pericles a shepherd of men?
No, not necessarily.
Soc. 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?
No, I do not necessarily agree.
And are not just men gentle, as Homer says?-or are you of another mind?
I suppose, then, I am of another mind, for I do not necessarily agree.
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.
Do you want me to agree with you?
I have a few thoughts regarding this matter.
Yes, if I seem to you to speak the truth.
No, I am not certain that you do.
And if they were more savage, must they not have been more unjust and inferior?
Then upon this view, Pericles was not a good statesman?
That is, upon your view.
That depends on several things.
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 vo
ice 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 reall
y 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 you think?
I should think not.
I will tell you what I think.
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 sta
tesmen, 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 no
t have fallen out of favour.
But surely, Socrates, no living man ever came near any one of them in his performances.
Your logic, Socrates, is false.
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 bett
er 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 pri
me 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 w
ay, 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 ope
rations 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 b
aker, 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 me
dicine 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 ar
ts 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 gai
ning 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 wh
en 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 eulogi
ze 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 o
f 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 acquisiti
ons, 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. W
hen 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 abs
urd 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 irr
ational, my friends, than this? You, Callicles, compel me to be a mob-orator, because you will not answer.
And you are the man who cannot speak unless there is some one to answer?
Socrates, you bring up many issues, that demand careful consideration.
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?
Yes, it appears so to me.
Do you never hear our professors of education speaking in this inconsistent manner?
Yes, but why talk of men who are good for nothing?
Your point is not clear.
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 th
ing, 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 can
not 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 fact?
Certainly it is.
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 m
an 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 injustice.
I am not so sure I agree.
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 righ
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 art?
Yes, we have found the reason.
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?
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. I
s this true?
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 entire mind.
I say then that you should be the servant of the State.
My entire mind is as follows.
The flatterer? well, sir, that is a noble invitation.
The Mysian, Socrates, or what you please. For if you refuse, the consequences will be-
Yes, and there is more.
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.
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 justic
e, as you very likely may be brought by some miserable and mean person.
Socrates, you have interrupted me.
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?
By all means.
Yes, but first let me offer some more thoughts on the matter.
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 no
t 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 thing
s 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. Ho
w 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!
I dare say.
I am not sure about the point you have just made.
Would he not be utterly at a loss for a reply?
He certainly would.
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 sayin
g what may happen to me.
And do you think, Socrates, that a man who is thus defenceless is in a good position?
Let me offer you some advice on this 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 anyone 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 y
ou a story.
Very well, proceed; and then we shall have done.
Ah, but wait a moment while I share with you my thoughts.
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 s
peak the truth. Homer tells us, 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 Hea
ven-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 conse
quence 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 co
me 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 well before their own souls. A
ll 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 th
ey 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 h
is 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 be
fore 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 t
he 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 ar
e in any doubt:-then the judgment respecting the last journey of men will be as just as possible."
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 rema
in 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 w
hen 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 distinguishabl
e 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 v
iew. 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 pot
entate, 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, bec
ause 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 be
tter. 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 e
vil. 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 potentat
es 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. 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 in his lifetime; him Rhadamanthus sends to the Islands of the Blessed. Aeacus does the same; and they both have scept
res, 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 honou
rs 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 wa
s 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 on
e 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 an
d 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 ch
eer, and do not mind the insulting blow, for you will never come to any harm in the practise 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! L
et 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 w
hich you exhort me to follow you; for that way, Callicles, is nothing worth.