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theaetetus   


not know it; for they do not know the penalty of injustice, which
above all things they ought to know-not stripes and death, as they
suppose, which evil-doers often escape, but a penalty which cannot
be escaped.
Theod. What is that?
Soc. There are two patterns eternally set before them; the one
blessed and divine, the other godless and wretched: but they do not
see them, or perceive that in their utter folly and infatuation they
are growing like the one and unlike the other, by reason of their evil
deeds; and the penalty is, that they lead a life answering to the
pattern which they are growing like. And if we tell them, that
unless they depart from their cunning, the place of innocence will not
receive them after death; and that here on earth, they will live
ever in the likeness of their own evil selves, and with evil
friends-when they hear this they in their superior cunning will seem
to be listening to the talk of idiots.
Theod. Very true, Socrates.
Soc. Too true, my friend, as I well know; there is, however, one
peculiarity in their case: when they begin to reason in private
about their dislike of philosophy, if they have the courage to hear
the argument out and do not run away, they grow at last strangely
discontented with themselves; their rhetoric fades away, and they
become helpless as children. These however are digressions from
which we must now desist, or they will overflow, and drown the
original argument; to which, if you please, we will now return.
Theod. For my part, Socrates, I would rather have the digressions,
for at my age I find them easier to follow; but if you wish, let us go
back to the argument.
Soc. Had we not reached the point at which the partisans of the
perpetual flux, who say that things are as they seem to each one, were
confidently maintaining that the ordinances which the state
commanded 2nd thought just, were just to the state which imposed them,
while they were in force; this was especially asserted of justice; but
as to the good, no one had any longer the hardihood to contend of
any ordinances which the state thought and enacted to be good that
these, while they were in force, were really good;-he who said so
would be playing with the name "good," and would, not touch the real
question-it would be a mockery, would it not?
Theod. Certainly it would.
Soc. He ought not to speak of the name, but of the thing which is
contemplated under the name.
Theod. Right.
Soc. Whatever be the term used, the good or expedient is the aim
of legislation, and as far as she has an opinion, the state imposes
all laws with a view to the greatest expediency; can legislation
have any other aim?
Theod. Certainly not.
Soc. But is the aim attained always? do not mistakes often happen?
Theod. Yes, I think that there are mistakes.
Soc. The possibility of error will be more distinctly recognized, if
we put the question in reference to the whole class under which the
good or expedient fall That whole class has to do with the future, and
laws are passed under the idea that they will be useful in after-time;
which, in other words, is the future.
Theod. Very true.
Soc. Suppose now, that we ask Protagoras, or one of his disciples, a
question:-O, Protagoras, we will say to him, Man is, as you declare,
the measure of all things-white, heavy, light: of all such things he
is the judge; for he has the criterion of them in himself, and when he
thinks that things are such as he experiences them to be, he thinks
what is and is true to himself. Is it not so?
Theod. Yes.
Soc. And do you extend your doctrine, Protagoras (as we shall
further say), to the future as well as to the present; and has he

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