now I shall say nothing myself, but shall endeavour to elicit
something from our young friend.
Theod. Do as you say, Socrates; you are quite right.
Soc. Shall I tell you, Theodorus, what amazes me in your
Theod. What is it?
Soc. I am charmed with his doctrine, that what appears is to each
one, but I wonder that he did not begin his book on Truth with a
declaration that a pig or a dog-faced baboon, or some other yet
stranger monster which has sensation, is the measure of all things;
then he might have shown a magnificent contempt for our opinion of him
by informing us at the outset that while we were reverencing him
like a God for his wisdom he was no better than a tadpole, not to
speak of his fellow-men-would not this have produced an
over-powering effect? For if truth is only sensation, and no man can
discern another's feelings better than he, or has any superior right
to determine whether his opinion is true or false, but each, as we
have several times repeated, is to himself the sole judge, and
everything that he judges is true and right, why, my friend, should
Protagoras be preferred to the place of wisdom and instruction, and
deserve to be well paid, and we poor ignoramuses have to go to him, if
each one is the measure of his own wisdom? Must he not be talking ad
captandum in all this? I say nothing of the ridiculous predicament
in which my own midwifery and the whole art of dialectic is placed;
for the attempt to supervise or refute the notions or opinions of
others would be a tedious and enormous piece of folly, if to each
man his own are right; and this must be the case if Protagoras Truth
is the real truth, and the philosopher is not merely amusing himself
by giving oracles out of the shrine of his book.
Theod. He was a friend of mine, Socrates, as you were saying, and
therefore I cannot have him refuted by my lips, nor can I oppose you
when I agree with you; please, then, to take Theaetetus again; he
seemed to answer very nicely.
Soc. If you were to go into a Lacedaemonian palestra, Theodorus,
would you have a right to look on at the naked wrestlers, some of them
making a poor figure, if you did not strip and give them an
opportunity of judging of your own person?
Theod. Why not, Socrates, if they would allow me, as I think you
will in consideration of my age and stiffness; let some more supple
youth try a fall with you, and do not drag me into the gymnasium.
Soc. Your will is my will, Theodorus, as the proverbial philosophers
say, and therefore I will return to the sage Theaetetus: Tell me,
Theaetetus, in reference to what I was saying, are you not lost in
wonder, like myself, when you find that all of a sudden you are raised
to the level of the wisest of men, or indeed of the gods?-for you
would assume the measure of Protagoras to apply to the gods as well as
Theaet. Certainly I should, and I confess to you that I am lost in
wonder. At first hearing, I was quite satisfied with the doctrine,
that whatever appears is to each one, but now the face of things has
Soc. Why, my dear boy, you are young, and therefore your ear is
quickly caught and your mind influenced by popular arguments.
Protagoras, or some one speaking on his behalf, will doubtless say
in reply, good people, young and old, you meet and harangue, and bring
in the gods, whose existence of non-existence I banish from writing
and speech, or you talk about the reason of man being degraded to
the level of the brutes, which is a telling argument with the
multitude, but not one word of proof or demonstration do you offer.
All is probability with you, and yet surely you and Theodorus had
better reflect whether you are disposed to admit of probability and
figures of speech in matters of such importance. He or any other
mathematician who argued from probabilities and likelihoods in
geometry, would not be worth an ace.