Home | Texts by category | | Quick Search:   
Works by Plato
Pages of charmides,-or-temperance

Previous | Next


is a good, and if modesty is as much an evil as a good?
All that, Socrates, appears to me to be true; but I should like to
know what you think about another definition of temperance, which I
just now remember to have heard from some one, who said, "That
temperance is doing our own business." Was he right who affirmed that?
You monster! I said; this is what Critias, or some philosopher has
told you.
Some one else, then, said Critias; for certainly I have not.
But what matter, said Charmides, from whom I heard this?
No matter at all, I replied; for the point is not who said the words,
but whether they are true or not.
There you are in the right, Socrates, he replied.
To be sure, I said; yet I doubt whether we shall ever be able to
discover their truth or falsehood; for they are a kind of riddle.
What makes you think so? he said.
Because, I said, he who uttered them seems to me to have meant one
thing, and said another. Is the scribe, for example, to be regarded as
doing nothing when he reads or writes?
I should rather think that he was doing something.
And does the scribe write or read, or teach you boys to write or read,
your own names only, or did you write your enemies' names as well as
your own and your friends'?
As much one as the other.
And was there anything meddling or intemperate in this?
Certainly not.
And yet if reading and writing are the same as doing, you were doing
what was not your own business?
But they are the same as doing.
And the healing art, my friend, and building, and weaving, and doing
anything whatever which is done by art,-these all clearly come under
the head of doing?
And do you think that a state would be well ordered by a law which
compelled every man to weave and wash his own coat, and make his own
shoes, and his own flask and strigil, and other implements, on this
principle of every one doing and performing his own, and abstaining
from what is not his own?
I think not, he said.
But, I said, a temperate state will be a well ordered state.
Of course, he replied.
Then temperance, I said, will not be doing one's own business; not at
least in this way, or doing things of this sort?
Clearly not.
Then, as I was just now saying, he who declared that temperance is a
man doing his own business had another and a hidden meaning; for I do
not think that he could have been such a fool as to mean this. Was he
a fool who told you, Charmides?
Nay, he replied, I certainly thought him a very wise man.
Then I am quite certain that he put forth his definition as a riddle,
thinking that no one would know the meaning of the words "doing his
own business."
I dare say, he replied.
And what is the meaning of a man doing his own business? Can you tell
Indeed, I cannot; and I should not wonder if the man himself who used
this phrase did not understand what he was saying. Whereupon he
laughed slyly, and looked at Critias.
Critias had long been showing uneasiness, for he felt that he had a
reputation to maintain with Charmides and the rest of the company. He
had, however, hitherto managed to restrain himself; but now he could
no longer forbear, and I am convinced of the truth of the suspicion
which I entertained at the time, that Charmides had heard this answer
about temperance from Critias. And Charmides, who did not want to
answer himself, but to make Critias answer, tried to stir him up. He

Previous | Next
Site Search