Home | Texts by category | | Quick Search:   
Works by Plato
Pages of theaetetus

Previous | Next


sweet, are only such as they appear; if however difference of
opinion is to be allowed at all, surely we must allow it in respect of
health or disease? for every woman, child, or living creature has
not such a knowledge of what conduces to health as to enable them to
cure themselves.
Theod. I quite agree.
Soc. Or again, in politics, while affirming that just and unjust,
honourable and disgraceful, holy and unholy, are in reality to each
state such as the state thinks and makes lawful, and that in
determining these matters no individual or state is wiser than
another, still the followers of Protagoras will not deny that in
determining what is or is not expedient for the community one state is
wiser and one counsellor better that another-they will scarcely
venture to maintain, that what a city enacts in the belief that it
is expedient will always be really expedient. But in the other case, I
mean when they speak of justice and injustice, piety and impiety, they
are confident that in nature these have no existence or essence of
their own-the truth is that which is agreed on at the time of the
agreement, and as long as the agreement lasts; and this is the
philosophy of many who do not altogether go along with Protagoras.
Here arises a new question, Theodorus, which threatens to be more
serious than the last.
Theod. Well, Socrates, we have plenty of leisure.
Soc. That is true, and your remark recalls to my mind an observation
which I have often made, that those who have passed their days in
the pursuit of philosophy are ridiculously at fault when they have
to appear and speak in court. How natural is this!
Theod. What do you mean?
Soc. I mean to say, that those who have been trained in philosophy
and liberal pursuits are as unlike those who from their youth
upwards have been knocking about in the courts and such places, as a
freeman is in breeding unlike a slave.
Theod. In what is the difference seen?
Soc. In the leisure spoken of by you, which a freeman can always
command: he has his talk, out in peace, and, like ourselves, he
wanders at will from one subject to another, and from a second to a
third,-if the fancy takes him he begins again, as we are doing now,
caring not whether his words are many or few; his only aim is to
attain the truth. But the lawyer is always in a hurry; there is the
water of the clepsydra driving him on, and not allowing him to
expatiate at will: and there is his adversary standing over him,
enforcing his rights; the indictment, which in their phraseology is
termed the affidavit, is recited at the time: and from this he must
not deviate. He is a servant, and is continually disputing about a
fellow servant before his master, who is seated, and has the cause
in his hands; the trial is never about some indifferent matter, but
always concerns himself; and often the race is for his life. The
consequence has been, that he has become keen and shrewd; he has
learned how to flatter his master in word and indulge him in deed; but
his soul is small and unrighteous. His condition, which has been
that of a slave from his youth upwards, has deprived him of growth and
uprightness and independence; dangers and fears, which were too much
for his truth and honesty, came upon him in early years, when the
tenderness of youth was unequal to them, and he has been driven into
crooked ways; from the first he has practised deception and
retaliation, and has become stunted and warped. And so he has passed
out of youth into manhood, having no soundness in him; and is now,
as he thinks, a master in wisdom. Such is the lawyer, Theodorus.
Will you have the companion picture of the philosopher, who is of
our brotherhood; or shall we return to the argument? Do not let us
abuse the freedom of digression which we claim.
Theod. Nay, Socrates, not until we have finished what we are
about; for you truly said that we belong to a brotherhood which is
free, and are not the servants of the argument; but the argument is

Previous | Next
Site Search