The Project Gutenberg eBook, The Memorable Thoughts of Socrates. Transcribed from the 1889 Cassell and Company edition by David Price, email email@example.com
The Memorable Thoughts of Socrates, by Xenophon
Translated by Edward Bysshe
CHAPTER I. THAT PERSONS OF GOOD NATURAL PARTS, AS WELL AS THOSE WHO HAVE PLENTIFUL FORTUNES, OUGHT NOT TO THINK THEMSELVES ABOVE INSTRUCTION. ON THE CONTRARY, THE ONE OUGHT, BY THE AID OF LEARNING, TO IMPROVE THEIR GENIUS; THE OTHER, BY THE ACQUISITION OF KNOWLEDGE, TO RENDER THEMSELVES VALUABLE.
There was always, as we have already remarked, some improvement to be made with Socrates; and it must be owned that his company and conversation were very edifying, since even now, when he is no more among us, it is still of advantage to his friends to call him to their remembrance. And, indeed, whether he spoke to divert himself, or whether he spoke seriously, he always let slip some remarkable instructions for the benefit of all that heard him.
He used often to say he was in love, but it was easy to see it was not with the beauty of one’s person that he was taken, but with the virtues of his mind.
The marks of a good genius, he said, were these—a good judgment, a retentive memory, and an ardent desire of useful knowledge; that is to say, p. 146when a person readily learns what he is taught, and strongly retains what he has learnt, as also when he is curious to know all that is necessary to the good government either of a family or of a republic; in a word, when one desires to obtain a thorough knowledge of mankind and of whatever relates to human affairs. And his opinion was that when these good natural parts are cultivated as they ought, such men are not only happy themselves, and govern their families prudently, but are capable likewise to render others happy, and to make republics flourish.
On the one hand, therefore, whenever he met with any who believed themselves men of parts, and for that reason neglected to be instructed, he proved to them that men of the best natural parts are they who have most need of instruction; and to this purpose he alleged the example of a high-mettled horse, who, having more courage and more strength than others, does us very great service, if he be broke and managed in his youth; but if that be neglected, he grows so vicious and unruly that we know not what to do with him. Thus also dogs of a good breed, and that by nature are the most strong and mettlesome, are excellent for game, if they are well taught; otherwise they are apt to become high rangers and at no command. In like manner among men they who are blessed with the greatest advantages of Nature, to whom she has given the most courage and the greatest strength to enable them to succeed in their undertakings, are likewise the most virtuous, and do more good than others, when they meet with a good education; but if they remain without instruction they fall into an excess of ill, and become most pernicious to themselves and others. Merely for want of knowing their p. 147duty they often engage themselves in very wicked designs; and being imperious and violent, it is very difficult to keep them within bounds and to make them change their resolution, which is the reason they do a great deal of mischief.
On the other hand, when he saw any of those men who pique themselves on their estates, and who believe because they are men of high condition that they are above instruction, or have no need of it, because their riches alone are sufficient to gain them the esteem of the world, and to make them succeed in all their undertakings, he endeavoured to convince them of their error, and to show them that they, too, have need of instruction. He told them that that man is a fool who imagines with himself that he can know the things that are useful from those that are hurtful, without having ever learnt the difference; or who, not discerning between them, fondly thinks that because he has wherewithal to buy whatever he has a mind to, he can therefore do whatever may lend to his advantage; or who, judging himself incapable to do what is useful for himself, thinks, nevertheless, that he is well in the world, and in a safe and happy condition of life. That it is likewise a folly for a man to persuade himself that, being rich and having no merit, he will pass for a man of parts; or that, not having the reputation of being a man of parts, he shall nevertheless be esteemed.
p. 148CHAPTER II. CONFERENCE BETWEEN SOCRATES AND EUTHYDEMUS, IN WHICH HE CONVINCES THAT YOUNG MAN, WHO HAD A GREAT OPINION OF HIMSELF, THAT HE KNEW NOTHING.
When Socrates, on the other hand, found any who soothe themselves up in the belief that they are well instructed, and who boast of their own sufficiency, he never failed to chastise the vanity of such persons. Of his conduct in this particular I will relate the following instance—
He had been told that Euthydemus had bought up several works of the most celebrated poets and sophists, and that this acquisition had so puffed him up with arrogance, that he already esteemed himself the greatest man for learning and parts of any of the age, and pretended to no less than being the first man of the city, either for negotiating or for discoursing in public. Nevertheless, he was still so young that he was not admitted into the assemblies of the people, and if he had any affair to solicit he generally came and placed himself in one of the shops that were near the courts of justice. Socrates, having observed his station, failed not to go thither likewise with two or three of his friends; and there, being fallen into discourse, this question was started: Whether it was by the improving conversation of philosophers or by the strength of his natural parts only, that Themistocles surpassed all his countrymen in wisdom and valour, and advanced himself to such a high rank and to so great esteem, that all the Republic cast their eyes upon him whenever their affairs required the conduct of a man of bravery p. 149and wisdom? Socrates, who had a mind to reflect upon Euthydemus, answered that “a man must be very stupid to believe that mechanic arts (which are comparatively things but of small importance) cannot be learnt without masters; and yet that the art of governing of States, which is a thing of the greatest moment and that requires the greatest effort of human prudence, comes of itself into the mind.” And this was all that passed in this first interview.
After this Socrates, observing that Euthydemus always avoided being in his company, lest he should be taken for one of his admirers, attacked him more openly; and once when he happened to be where he was, addressed himself to the rest of the company in these words:—“Certainly, gentlemen, by what may be conjectured from the studies of this young man, it is very likely that when he shall have attained the age that permits him to be present in the assemblies of the people, if any important affair come to be debated there, he will not fail to give his judgment of it; and in my opinion he would introduce his harangue by a very pleasant exordium, if he should begin with giving them to understand that he had never learnt anything of any man whatsoever; he must address himself to them in words to this purpose:—
“‘Gentlemen, I have never been taught anything, I never frequented the conversation of men of parts, I never gave myself the trouble to look out for a master that was able to instruct me. On the contrary, gentlemen, I have not only had an aversion to learn from others, but I should even have been very sorry to have it believed I had done so; nevertheless, I will venture to tell you what chance shall suggest to me in this present occasion.’ At this rate they who present p. 150themselves to be received physicians might introduce a like discourse as thus:—‘Gentlemen, I have never had any master to teach me this science; for, indeed, I would never learn it, nor even have the repute of having learnt it; nevertheless, admit me a physician, and I will endeavour to become learned in the art by making experiments on your own bodies.’”
All the company fell a-laughing at this pleasant preface, and from that time Euthydemus never avoided Socrates’ company as he had done before; but he never offered to speak, believing that his silence would be an argument of his modesty. Socrates, being desirous to rally him out of that mistaken notion, spoke to him in this manner:—
“I wonder that they who desire to learn to play upon the lute, or to ride well, do not endeavour to learn it alone by themselves; but that they look out for masters, resolved to do everything they bid them, and to believe all they say, there being no other way to arrive at perfection in those arts; and that they who hope one day to govern the Republic, and to declaim before the people, imagine they can become fit to do so of themselves all of a sudden. Nevertheless, it must be owned that these employments are more difficult than the others, since among the great number of persons who push themselves into office so few discharge their duty as they ought. This shows us that more labour and diligence is required in such as would capacitate themselves for those offices than for anything else.”
By these discourses, Socrates having prepared the mind of Euthydemus to hearken to what he intended to say to him, and to enter into conference with him, he came another time by himself into the same shop, p. 151and taking a seat next to this young man—“I have heard,” said he to him, “that you have been curious in buying a great many good books.” “I have,” said Euthydemus, “and continue to do so every day, designing to have as many as I can get.” “I commend you very much,” said Socrates, “for choosing rather to hoard up a treasure of learning and knowledge than of money. For you testify by so doing that you are not of opinion that riches, or silver and gold, can render one more valuable, that is to say, a wiser or a better man; but that it is only the writings and precepts of the philosophers and other fine writers that are the true riches, because they enrich with virtue the minds of those that possess them.” Euthydemus was pleased to hear him say this, believing that he approved his method; and Socrates, perceiving his satisfaction, went on: “But what is your design of making a collection of so many books? Do you intend to be a physician? There are many books in that science.” “That is not my design,” said Euthydemus. “Will you be an architect, then?” said Socrates, “for that art requires a learned man. Or do you study geometry or astrology?” “None of them.” “Do you mean to be a reciter of heroic verses?” continued Socrates, “for I have been told that you have all Homer’s works.” “Not in the least,” answered Euthydemus, “for I have observed that men of that profession know indeed a great many verses by heart, but for anything else they are for the most part very impertinent.” “Perhaps you are in love with that noble science that makes politicians and economists, and that renders men capable to govern, and to be useful to others and to themselves?” “That is what I endeavour to learn,” said Euthydemus, “and what I passionately p. 152desire to know.” “It is a sublime science,” replied Socrates; “it is that we call the royal science, because it truly is the science of kings. But have you weighed this point, whether a man can excel in that science without being an honest man?” “I have,” said the young man, “and am even of opinion that none but honest men can be good citizens.” “And are you an honest man?” said Socrates. “I hope I am,” answered Euthydemus, “as honest a man as another.” “Tell me,” said Socrates, “can we know who are honest men by what they do, as we know what trade a man is of by his work?” “We may.” “Then,” said Socrates, “as architects show us their works, can honest men show us theirs likewise?” “No doubt of it,” replied Euthydemus; “and it is no difficult task to show you which are the works of justice, and which those of injustice, that we so often hear mentioned.” “Shall we,” said Socrates, “make two characters, the one (J) to signify justice, the other (I) to denote injustice; and write under one of them all the works that belong to justice, and under the other all that belong to injustice?” “Do,” said Euthydemus, “if you think fit.”
Socrates, having done what he proposed, continued thus his discourse:—“Do not men tell lies?” “Very often,” answered Euthydemus. “Under which head shall we put lying?” “Under that of injustice,” said Euthydemus. “Do not men sometimes cheat?” “Most certainly.” “Where shall we put cheating?” said Socrates. “Under injustice.” “And doing wrong to one’s neighbour?” “There too.” “And selling of free persons into slavery?” “Still in the same place.” “And shall we write none of all these,” said Socrates, “under the head of justice?” “Not p. 153one of them,” answered Euthydemus; “it would be strange if we did.” “But what,” replied Socrates, “when a general plunders an enemy’s city, and makes slaves of all the inhabitants, shall we say that he commits an injustice?” “By no means.” “Shall we own, then, that he does an act of justice?” “Without doubt.” “And when he circumvents his enemies in the war, does he not do well?” “Very well.” “And when he ravages their land, and takes away their cattle and their corn, does he not do justly?” “It is certain he does,” said Euthydemus; “and when I answered you that all these actions were unjust, I thought you had spoken of them in regard only of friend to friend.” “We must, therefore,” replied Socrates, “put among the actions of justice those very actions we have ascribed to injustice, and we will only establish this distinction, that it is just to behave ourselves so towards our enemies; but that to treat our friends thus is an injustice, because we ought to live with them uprightly, and without any deceit.” “I think so,” said Euthydemus. “But,” continued Socrates, “when a general sees that his troops begin to be disheartened, if he make them believe that a great reinforcement is coming to him, and by that stratagem inspires fresh courage into the soldiers, under what head shall we put this lie?” “Under the head of justice,” answered Euthydemus. “And when a child will not take the physic that he has great need of, and his father makes it be given him in a mess of broth, and by that means the child recovers his health, to which shall we ascribe this deceit?” “To justice likewise.” “And if a man, who sees his friend in despair, and fears he will kill himself, hides his sword from him, or takes it out of his hands by force, what p. 154shall we say of this violence?” “That it is just,” replied Euthydemus. “Observe what you say,” continued Socrates; “for it follows from your answers that we are not always obliged to live with our friends uprightly, and without any deceit, as we agreed we were.” “No; certainly we are not, and if I may be permitted to retract what I said, I change my opinion very freely.” “It is better,” said Socrates, “to change an opinion than to persist in a wrong one. But there is still one point which we must not pass over without inquiry, and this relates to those whose deceits are prejudicial to their friends; for I ask you, which are most unjust, they who with premeditate design cheat their friends, or they who do it through inadvertency?” “Indeed,” said Euthydemus, “I know not what to answer, nor what to believe, for you have so fully refuted what I have said, that what appeared to me before in one light appears to me now in another. Nevertheless, I will venture to say that he is the most unjust who deceives his friend deliberately.” “Do you think,” said Socrates, “that one may learn to be just and honest, as well as we learn to read and write?” “I think we may.” “Which,” added Socrates, “do you take to be the most ignorant, he who reads wrong on purpose, or he who reads wrong because he can read no better?” “The last of them,” answered Euthydemus; “for the other who mistakes for pleasure need not mistake when he pleases.” “Then,” inferred Socrates, “he who reads wrong deliberately knows how to read; but he who reads wrong without design is an ignorant man.” “You say true.” “Tell me likewise,” pursued Socrates, “which knows best what ought to be done, and what belongs to justice, he who lies and cheats with premeditate design, or he who deceives without p. 155intention to deceive?” “It is most plain,” said Euthydemus, “that it is he who deceives with premeditate design.” “But you said,” replied Socrates, “that he who can read is more learned than he who cannot read?” “I did so.” “Therefore he who best knows which are the duties of justice is more just than he that knows them not.” “It seems to be so,” answered Euthydemus, “and I know not well how I came to say what I did.” “Indeed,” said Socrates, “you often change your opinion, and contradict what you say; and what would you yourself think of any man who pretended to tell the truth, and yet never said the same thing; who, in pointing out to you the same road, should show you sometimes east, sometimes west, and who, in telling the same sum, should find more money at one time than another; what would you think of such a man?” “He would make all men think,” answered Euthydemus, “that he knew nothing of what he pretended to know.”
Socrates urged him yet further, and asked him: “Have you ever heard say that some men have abject and servile minds?” “I have.” “Is it said of them because they are learned or because they are ignorant?” “Surely because they are ignorant.” “Perhaps,” said Socrates, “it is because they understand not the trade of a smith?” “Not in the least for that.” “Is it because they know not how to build a house, or to make shoes?” “By no means,” said Euthydemus; “for most who are skilled in such professions have likewise abject and servile minds.” “This character, then,” pursued Socrates, “must be given to those who are ignorant of the noble sciences, and who know not what is just nor what is honourable?” “I believe so.” “We ought, therefore, p. 156Euthydemus, to do all we can to avoid falling into that ignominious ignorance that sinks us down so low.” “Alas, Socrates!” cried he out, “I will not lie for the matter; I thought I knew something in philosophy, and that I had learnt whatever was requisite to be known by a man who desired to make a practice of virtue; but judge how much I am afflicted to see that, after all my labours, I am not able to answer you concerning things which I ought chiefly to know; and yet I am at a loss what method to pursue in order to render myself more capable and knowing in the things I desire to understand.” Upon this, Socrates asked him whether he had ever been at Delphi, and Euthydemus answered that he had been there twice. “Did you not take notice,” said Socrates, “that somewhere on the front of the temple there is this inscription, ‘Know thyself’?” “I remember,” answered he, “I have read it there.” “It is not enough,” replied Socrates, “to have read it. Have you been the better for this admonition? Have you given yourself the trouble to consider what you are?” “I think I know that well enough,” replied the young man, “for I should have found it very difficult to have known any other thing if I had not known myself.” “But for a man to know himself well,” said Socrates, “it is not enough that he knows his own name; for, as a man that buys a horse cannot be certain that he knows what he is before he has ridden him, to see whether he be quiet or restive, whether he be mettlesome or dull, whether he be fleet or heavy—in short, before he has made trial of all that is good and bad in him—in like manner, a man cannot say that he knows himself before he has tried what he is fit for, and what he is able to do.” “It is true,” said Euthydemus, “that whoever knows p. 157not his own strength knows not himself.” “But,” continued Socrates, “who sees not of how great advantage this knowledge is to man, and how dangerous it is to be mistaken in this affair? for he who knows himself knows likewise what is good for himself. He sees what he is able to do, and what he is not able to do; by applying himself to things that he can do, he gets his bread with pleasure, and is happy; and by not attempting to do the things he cannot do, he avoids the danger of falling into errors, and of seeing himself miserable. By knowing himself, he knows likewise how to judge of others, and to make use of their services for his own advantage, either to procure himself some good, or to protect himself from some misfortune; but he who knows not himself, and is mistaken in the opinion he has of his own abilities, mistakes likewise in the knowledge of others, and in the conduct of his own affairs. He is ignorant of what is necessary for him, he knows not what he undertakes, nor comprehends the means he makes use of, and this is the reason that success never attends his enterprises, and that he always falls into misfortunes. But the man who sees clear into his own designs generally obtains the end he proposes to himself, and at the same time gains reputation and honour. For this reason, even his equals are well pleased to follow his advices; and they whose affairs are in disorder implore his assistance, and throw themselves into his hands, depending upon his prudence to retrieve their affairs, and to restore them to their former good condition. But he who undertakes he knows not what, generally makes an ill choice, and succeeds yet worse; and the present damage is not the only punishment he undergoes for his temerity. He is p. 158disgraced for ever; all men laugh at him, all men despise and speak ill of him. Consider likewise what happens to Republics who mistake their own strength, and declare war against States more powerful than themselves; some are utterly ruined, others lose their liberty, and are compelled to receive laws from the conquerors.”
“I am fully satisfied,” said Euthydemus, “that a great deal depends on the knowledge of oneself. I hope you will now tell me by what a man must begin to examine himself.” “You know,” said Socrates, “what things are good and what are bad?” “Indeed,” answered Euthydemus, “if I knew not that, I were the most ignorant of all men.” “Then tell me your thoughts of this matter,” said Socrates. “First,” said Euthydemus, “I hold that health is a good and sickness an evil, and that whatever contributes to either of them partakes of the same qualities. Thus nourishment and the exercises that keep the body in health are very good; and, on the contrary, those that cause diseases are hurtful.” “But would it not be better to say,” replied Socrates, “that health and sickness are both good when they are the causes of any good, and that they are both bad when they are the causes of any ill?” “And when can it ever happen,” said Euthydemus, “that health is the cause of any ill, and sickness the cause of any good?” “This may happen,” answered Socrates, “when troops are raised for any enterprise that proves fatal; when men are embarked who are destined to perish at sea; for men who are in health may be involved in these misfortunes, when they who, by reason of their infirmities, are left at home, will be exempted from the mischiefs in which the others perish.” “You say true,” said Euthydemus, p. 159“but you see, too, that men who are in health are present in fortunate occasions, while they who are confined to their beds cannot be there.” “It must therefore be granted,” said Socrates, “that these things which are sometimes useful and sometimes hurtful are not rather good than bad.” “That is, indeed, the consequence of your argument,” replied Euthydemus; “but it cannot be denied that knowledge is a good thing; for what is there in which a knowing man has not the advantage of an ignorant one?” “And have you not read,” said Socrates, “what happened to Dædalus for his knowing so many excellent arts, and how, being fallen into the hands of Minos, he was detained by force, and saw himself at once banished from his country and stripped of his liberty? To complete his misfortune, flying away with his son, he was the occasion of his being miserably lost, and could not, after all, escape in his own person; for, falling into the hands of barbarians, he was again made a slave. Know you not likewise the adventure of Palamedes, who was so envied by Ulysses for his great capacity, and who perished wretchedly by the calumnious artifices of that rival? How many great men likewise has the King of Persia caused to be seized and carried away because of their admirable parts, and who are now languishing under him in a perpetual slavery?” “But, granting this to be as you say,” added Euthydemus, “you will certainly allow good fortune to be a good?” “I will,” said Socrates, “provided this good fortune consists in things that are undoubtedly good.” “And how can it be that the things which compose good fortune should not be infallibly good?” “They are,” answered Socrates, “unless you reckon among them beauty and strength of body, riches, honours, and other things p. 160of that nature.” “And how can a man be happy without them?” “Rather,” said Socrates, “how can a man be happy with things that are the causes of so many misfortunes? For many are daily corrupted because of their beauty; many who presume too much on their own strength are oppressed under the burden of their undertakings. Among the rich, some are lost in luxury, and others fall into the snares of those that wait for their estates. And lastly, the reputation and honours that are acquired in Republics are often the cause of their ruin who possess them.” “Certainly,” said Euthydemus, “if I am in the wrong to praise good fortune, I know not what we ought to ask of the Deity.” “Perhaps, too,” replied Socrates, “you have never considered it, because you think you know it well enough.
“But,” continued he, changing the subject of their discourse, “seeing you are preparing yourself to enter upon the government of our Republic, where the people are master, without doubt you have reflected on the nature of this State, and know what a democracy is?” “You ought to believe I do.” “And do you think it possible,” said Socrates, “to know what a democracy or popular State is without knowing what the people is?” “I do not think I can.” “And what is the people?” said Socrates. “Under that name,” answered Euthydemus, “I mean the poor citizens.” “You know, then, who are the poor?” “I do,” said Euthydemus. “Do you know, too, who are the rich?” “I know that too.” “Tell me, then, who are the rich and who are the poor?” “I take the poor,” answered Euthydemus, “to be those who have not enough to supply their necessary expenses, and the rich to be they who have more than they have occasion for.” “But have you p. 161observed,” replied Socrates, “that there are certain persons who, though they have very little, have nevertheless enough, and even lay up some small matter out of it; and, on the contrary, there are others who never have enough how great soever their estates and possessions are?” “You put me in mind,” said Euthydemus, “of something very much to the purpose, for I have seen even some princes so necessitous that they have been compelled to take away their subjects’ estates, and to commit many injustices.” “We must, then,” said Socrates, “place such princes in the rank of the poor, and those who have but small estates, yet manage them well, in the number of the rich.” “I must give consent to all you say,” answered Euthydemus, “for I am too ignorant to contradict you; and I think it will be best for me, from henceforward, to hold my peace, for I am almost ready to confess that I know nothing at all.”
Having said this, he withdrew, full of confusion and self-contempt, beginning to be conscious to himself that he was indeed a person of little or no account at all. Nor was he the only person whom Socrates had thus convinced of their ignorance and insufficiency, several of whom never came more to see him, and valued him the less for it. But Euthydemus did not act like them. On the contrary, he believed it impossible for him to improve his parts but by frequently conversing with Socrates, insomuch that he never left him, unless some business of moment called him away, and he even took delight to imitate some of his actions. Socrates, seeing him thus altered from what he was, was tender of saying anything to him that might irritate or discourage him; but took care to speak more freely and plainly to him of the things he ought to know and apply himself to.
p. 162CHAPTER III. PROOFS OF A KIND SUPERINTENDING PROVIDENCE.—WHAT RETURNS OF GRATITUDE AND DUTY MEN OUGHT TO MAKE TO GOD FOR HIS FAVOURS.—AN HONEST AND GOOD LIFE THE BEST SONG OF THANKSGIVING OR THE MOST ACCEPTABLE SACRIFICE TO THE DEITY.
As Socrates considered virtue and piety as the two grand pillars of a State, and was fully persuaded that all other qualifications whatever, without the knowledge and practice of these, would, instead of enabling men to do good, serve, on the contrary, to render them more wicked and more capable of doing mischief. For that reason he never pressed his friends to enter into any public office until he had first instructed them in their duty to God and mankind. But, above all, he endeavoured to instil into their minds pious sentiments of the Deity, frequently displaying before them high and noble descriptions of the Divine power, wisdom, and goodness. But seeing several have already written what they had heard him say in divers occasions upon this subject, I will content myself with relating some things which he said to Euthydemus when I myself was present.
“Have you never reflected, Euthydemus, on the great goodness of the Deity in giving to men whatever they want?” “Indeed, I never have,” answered he. “You see,” replied Socrates, “how very necessary light is for us, and how the gods give it us.” “You say true,” answered Euthydemus, “and without light we should be like the blind.” “But because we have need of repose they have given us the night to rest in; the p. 163night, which, of all times, is the fittest for repose.” “You are in the right,” said Euthydemus, “and we ought to render them many praises for it.” “Moreover,” continued Socrates, “as the sun is a luminous body, and by the brightness of his beams discovers to us all visible things, and shows us the hours of the day; and as, on the contrary, the night is dusky and obscure, they have made the stars to appear, which, during the absence of the day, mark the hours to us, by which means we can do many things we have occasion for. They have likewise made the moon to shine, which not only shows us the hours of the night, but teaches us to know the time of the month.” “All this is true,” said Euthydemus. “Have you not taken notice likewise that having need of nourishment, they supply us with it by the means of the earth? How excellently the seasons are ordered for the fruits of the earth, of which we have such an abundance, and so great a variety, that we find, not only wherewith to supply our real wants but to satisfy even luxury itself.” “This goodness of the gods,” cried Euthydemus, “is an evidence of the great love they bear to men.” “What say you,” continued Socrates, “to their having given us water, which is so necessary for all things? For it is that which assists the earth to produce the fruits, and that contributes, with the influences from above, to bring them to maturity; it helps to nourish us, and by being mingled with what we eat, makes it more easily got ready, more useful, and more delightful; in short, being of so universal an use, is it not an admirable providence that has made it so common? What say you to their having given us fire, which defends us from cold, which lights us when it is dark, which is necessary to us in all trades, and which we p. 164cannot be without in the most excellent and useful inventions of men?” “Without exaggeration,” said Euthydemus, “this goodness is immense.” “What say you, besides,” pursued Socrates, “to see that after the winter the sun comes back to us, and that proportionably as he brings the new fruits to maturity, he withers and dries those whose season is going over; that after having done us this service he retires that his heat may not incommode us; and then, when he is gone back to a certain point, which he cannot transgress, without putting us in danger of dying with cold, he returns again to retake his place in this part of the heavens, where his presence is most advantageous to us? And because we should not be able to support either cold or heat, if we passed in an instant from one extreme to the other, do you not admire that this planet approaches us and withdraws himself from us by so just and slow degrees, that we arrive at the two extremes without almost perceiving the change?” “All these things,” said Euthydemus, “make me doubt whether the gods have anything to do but to serve mankind. One thing puts me to a stand, that the irrational animals participate of all these advantages with us.” “How!” said Socrates, “and do you then doubt whether the animals themselves are in the world for any other end than for the service of man? What other animals do, like us, make use of horses, of oxen, of dogs, of goats, and of the rest? Nay, I am of opinion, that man receives not so much advantage from the earth as from the animals; for the greatest part of mankind live not on the fruits of the earth, but nourish themselves with milk, cheese, and the flesh of beasts; they get the mastery over them, they make them tame, and use them to their great advantage in war and for p. 165the other necessities of life.” “I own it,” said Euthydemus, “for some of them are much stronger than man, and yet are so obedient to him, that he does with them whatever he pleases.”
“Admire yet further the goodness of the gods,” said Socrates, “and consider, that as there is in the world an infinite number of excellent and useful things, but of very different natures, they have given us external senses, which correspond to each of those sensible objects, and by means of which senses we can perceive and enjoy all of them. They have, besides, endued us with reason and understanding, which enableth us to discern between those things that the senses discover to us, to inquire into the different natures of things useful and things hurtful, and so to know by experience which to choose and which to reject. They have likewise given us speech, by means whereof we communicate our thoughts to each other, and instruct one another in the knowledge of whatever is excellent and good; by which also we publish our laws and govern States. In fine, as we cannot always foresee what is to happen to us, nor know what it will be best for us to do, the gods offer us likewise their assistance by the means of the oracles; they discover the future to us when we go to consult them, and teach us how to behave ourselves in the affairs of life.”
Here Euthydemus, interrupting him, said, “And indeed these gods are in this respect more favourable to you than to the rest of mankind, since, without expecting you to consult them, they give you notice of what you ought or ought not to do.” “You will allow, therefore, that I told you true,” said Socrates, “when I told you there were gods, and that they take p. 166great care of men; but expect not that they will appear to you, and present themselves before your eyes. Let it suffice you to behold their works, and to adore them, and be persuaded that this is the way by which they manifest themselves to men, for among all the gods that are so liberal to us there is not one who renders himself visible to confer on us his favours. And that Supreme God, who built the universe, and who supports this great work, whose every part is accomplished in beauty and goodness; He, who is the cause that none of its parts grow old with time, and that they preserve themselves always in an immortal vigour, who is the cause, besides, that they inviolably obey His laws with a readiness that surpasses our imagination; He, I say, is visible enough in the so many wondrous works of which He is author, but our eyes cannot penetrate even into His throne to behold Him in these great occupations, and in that manner it is that He is always invisible. Do but consider that the sun, who seems to be exposed to the sight of all the world, does not suffer us to gaze fixedly upon him, and whoever has the temerity to undertake it is punished with sudden blindness. Besides, whatever the gods make use of is invisible; the thunder is lanced from above, it shatters all it finds in its way, but we see it not fall, we see it not strike, we see it not return. The winds are invisible, though we see the desolations they daily make, and easily feel when they grow boisterous. If there be anything in man that partakes of the divine nature it is his soul, which, beyond all dispute, guides and governs him, and yet we cannot see it. Let all this, therefore, teach you not to neglect or disbelieve the Deity, because He is invisible; learn to know His presence and power from p. 167the visible effects of it in the world around you; be persuaded of the universal care and providence of the all-surrounding Deity from the blessings He showers down upon all His creatures, and be sure to worship and serve this God in a becoming manner.”
“I am sure,” said Euthydemus, “I shall never derogate from the respect due to the gods; and I am even troubled that every man cannot sufficiently acknowledge the benefits he receives from them.” “Be not afflicted at that,” said Socrates, “for you know what answer the Delphian Oracle is wont to return to those who inquire what they ought to do in order to make an acceptable sacrifice. ‘Follow the custom of your country,’ says he to them. Now, it is a custom received in all places for every man to sacrifice to them according to his power; and by consequence there is no better nor more pious a way of honouring the gods than that, since they themselves ordain and approve it. It is indeed a truth that we ought not to spare anything of what we are able to offer, for that would be a manifest contempt. When, therefore, a man has done all that is in his power to do, he ought to fear nothing and hope all; for, from whence can we reasonably hope for more, than from those in whose power it is to do us the greatest good? And by what other way can we more easily obtain it, than by making ourselves acceptable to them? And how can we better make ourselves acceptable to them, than by doing their will?”
This is what Socrates taught, and by this doctrine, which was always accompanied with an exemplary devotion, he greatly advanced his friends in piety.
p. 168CHAPTER IV. INSTANCES OF THE INVIOLABLE INTEGRITY OF SOCRATES.—HIS CONVERSATION WITH HIPPIAS CONCERNING JUSTICE.
Concerning justice, it cannot be said that Socrates concealed his opinion of it, for he plainly revealed his sentiments by his actions, as well in public as in private, making it his business to serve every man, and to obey the magistrates and the laws; insomuch, that as well in the army as in the city, his obedience and uprightness rendered him remarkable above all others. He fully discovered the integrity of his soul, when he presided in the assemblies of the people; he would never pass a decree that was contrary to the laws; he alone defended the cause of justice against the efforts of the multitude, and opposed a violence which no man but himself was able to resist. Again, when the Thirty commanded him anything that was unjust, he did not obey them. Thus, when they forbid him to speak to the young men, he regarded not their inhibition, and when they gave orders to him, as well as to some other citizens, to bring before them a certain man, whom they intended to put to death, he alone would do nothing in it, because that order was unjust. In like manner when he was accused by Melitus, though in such occasions others endeavour to gain their judges by flatteries and ignominious solicitations, which often procure them their pardon, he would not put in practice any of these mean artifices that are repugnant to the laws, and yet he might very easily have got himself acquitted, if he could have prevailed with himself to comply in the least with the custom, but p. 169he chose rather to die in an exact observance of the laws, than to save his life by acting contrary to them, for he utterly abhorred all mean or indirect practices; and this was the answer he gave to several of his friends who advised him to the contrary.
Since I am now illustrating the character of Socrates with regard to justice, I will, at the same time, relate a conversation I remember he had with Hippias of Elis on that subject.
It was a long while that Hippias had not been at Athens; and being arrived there, he happened to come to a place where Socrates was discoursing with some persons, and telling them that if any one had a mind to learn a trade, there wanted not masters to teach him; nay, that if one would have a horse trained up there were persons enough to undertake it; but that if one desired to learn to be a good man, or to have his son, or any of his family taught to be so, it would be difficult to know to whom to apply himself. Hippias rallying him, said:—“What! Socrates, you are still repeating the same things I heard you say so long ago.” “Nay, more,” replied Socrates, “and always upon the same subject; but you, perhaps, being learned as you are, do not always say the same thing upon the same subject.” “Indeed,” said Hippias, “I always endeavour to say something new.” “Is it possible,” replied Socrates? “Pray tell me if you were asked how many letters there are in my name, and which they are, would you answer sometimes in one manner and sometimes in another? Or if you were asked whether twice five be not ten, would you not always say the same thing?” “In subjects like those,” said Hippias, “I should be obliged to say the same thing as well as you; but since we are upon the theme of p. 170justice, I believe I can now say some things of it, against which, neither you nor any man else can make any objection.” “Good God!” cried Socrates, “what a mighty boast is here! Upon my word, Hippias, you have made an admirable discovery! and you have reason to value yourself upon it; for, let me tell you, if you can establish one single opinion of justice, the judges will be no longer divided in their sentiments, there will be no more quarrels, no more suits at law, no more seditions among citizens, no more wars between republics. Indeed, it much troubles me to leave you before you have taught me this secret, which you say you have discovered.” “I give you my word,” answered Hippias, “that I will tell you nothing of it, till you have first declared your own opinion concerning justice; for it is your old way to interrogate others, and then to laugh at them by refuting what they have said; but you never make known your own opinions, that you may not be obliged to give a reason for them.” “Why do you lay this to my charge,” said Socrates, “since I am continually showing to all the world what are the things I believe to be just?” “How do you show it?” said Hippias. “If I explain it not by my words,” answered Socrates, “my actions speak it sufficiently; and do you think that actions deserve not rather to be believed than words?” “Much rather,” said Hippias, “because many may say one thing, and do another; nay, we see that, in fact, many who preach up justice to others are very unjust themselves; but this cannot be said of a man whose every action is good, and that never in his life did an unjust thing.” “Have you known, then,” said Socrates, “that I have accused any man out of malice, that I have sown dissension among friends, that I have raised seditions in the p. 171Republic; in short, that I have committed any other sort of injustice?” “Not in the least,” said he. “Well, then,” added Socrates, “do you not take him to be just who commits no manner of injustice?” “It is plain, now,’” said Hippias, “that you intend to get loose, and that you will not speak your mind freely, nor give us an exact definition of justice. For all this while you have only shown what just men do not, but not what they do.” “I should have thought,” said Socrates, “I had given at once a good definition, and a clear instance of justice, when I called it an aversion from doing injustice. But since you will not allow it to be so, see whether this will satisfy you: I say, then, that justice ‘is nothing but the observance of the laws.’” “You mean,” said Hippias, “that to observe the laws is to be just?” “Yes,” answered Socrates. “I cannot comprehend your thought,” said Hippias. “Do you not know,” pursued Socrates, “what the laws in a State are?” “The laws,” answered Hippias, “are what the citizens have ordained by an universal consent.” “Then,” inferred Socrates, “he who lives conformably to those ordinances observes the laws; and he who acts contrary to them is a transgressor of the laws.” “You say true.” “Is it not likewise true,” continued Socrates, “that he who obeys these ordinances does justly, and that he obeys them not does unjustly?” “Yes.” “But,” said Socrates, “he who acts justly is just, and he who acts unjustly is unjust?” “Without doubt.” “Therefore,” said Socrates, “whosoever observes the laws is just, and whosoever observes them not is unjust.” “But how can it be imagined,” objected Hippias, “that the laws are a good thing, and that it is good to obey them, since even they that made them mend, alter, and repeal them so often?” To this p. 172Socrates answered, “When you blame those who obey the laws, because they are subject to be abrogated, you do the same thing as if you laughed at your enemies for keeping themselves in a good posture of defence during the war, because you might tell them that the peace will one day be made: and thus you would condemn those who generously expose their lives for the service of their country. Do you know,” added he, “that Lycurgus could never have rendered the Republic of Sparta more excellent than other States if he had not made it his chief care to incline the citizens most exactly to observe the laws? This, too, is what all good magistrates aim at, because a Republic that is obedient to the laws is happy in peace, and invincible in war. Moreover, you know that concord is a great happiness in a State. It is daily recommended to the people; and it is an established custom all over Greece to make the citizens swear to live in good understanding with one another, and each of them takes an oath to do so. Now, I do not believe that this unity is exacted of them, only that they might choose the same company of comedians, or of musicians, nor that they might give their approbation to the same poets, or all take delight in the same diversions, but that they may all unanimously obey the laws, because that obedience is the security and the happiness of the State. Concord, therefore, is so necessary, that without it good polity and authority cannot subsist in any State, nor good economy and order in any family.
“In our private capacity, likewise, how advantageous is it to obey the laws? By what means can we more certainly avoid punishments, and deserve rewards? What more prudent conduct can we observe, always to gain our suits at law, and never to be cast! To p. 173whom should we with greater confidence trust our estates or our children, than to him who makes a conscience of observing the laws? Who can deserve more of his country? whom can she more safely entrust with public posts, and on whom can she more justly bestow the highest honours, than on the good and honest man? Who will discharge himself better of his duty towards his father or his mother, towards his relations or his domestics, towards his friends, his fellow-citizens, or his guests? To whom will the enemy rather trust for the observing of a truce, or for the performance of a treaty of peace? With whom would we rather choose to make an alliance? To whom will the allies more readily give the command of their armies, or the government of their towns? From whom can we rather hope for a grateful return of a kindness than from a man who strictly obeys the laws? and, by consequence, to whom will men be more ready to do good turns, than to him of whose gratitude they are certain? With whom will men be better pleased to contract a friendship, and, consequently, against whom will men be less inclined to commit acts of hostility, than against that person who has everybody for his well-wisher and friend, and few or none for his ill-wishers or enemies? These, Hippias, are the advantages of observing the laws. And now, having shown you that the observance of the laws is the same thing with justice, if you are of another opinion, pray let me know it.” “Indeed, Socrates,” answered Hippias, “what you have said of justice agrees exactly with my sentiments of it.” “Have you never heard,” continued Socrates, “of certain laws that are not written?” “You mean the laws,” answered Hippias, “which are received all over the p. 174earth.” “Do you think, then,” added Socrates, “that it was all mankind that made them?” “That is impossible,” said Hippias, “because all men cannot be assembled in the same place, and they speak not all of them the same language.” “Who, then, do you think gave us these laws?” “The gods,” answered Hippias; “for the first command to all men is to adore the gods.” “And is it not likewise commanded everywhere to honour one’s father and mother?” “Yes, certainly,” said Hippias. Socrates went on:—“And that fathers and mothers should not marry with their own children, is not that too a general command?” “No,” answered Hippias, “this last law is not a Divine law, because I see some persons transgress it.” “They observe not the others better,” said Socrates; “but take notice, that no man violates with impunity a law established by the gods. There are unavoidable punishments annexed to this crime; but we easily secure ourselves from the rigour of human laws, after we have transgressed them, either by keeping ourselves hid, or defending ourselves by open force.” “And what is this punishment,” said Hippias, “which it is impossible for fathers, who marry with their own children, to avoid?” “It is very great,” said Socrates; “for what can be more afflicting to men, who desire to have children than to have very bad ones?” “And how do you know,” pursued Hippias, “that they will have bad children? What shall hinder them, if they are virtuous themselves, from having children that are so likewise?” “It is not enough,” answered Socrates, “that the father and the mother be virtuous: they must, besides, be both of them in the vigour and perfection of their age. Now, do you believe, that the seed of persons who are too young, or who are already p. 175in their declining age, is equal to that of persons who are in their full strength?” “It is not likely that it is,” said Hippias. “And which is the best?” pursued Socrates. “Without doubt,” said Hippias, “that of a man in his strength.” “It follows, then,” continued Socrates, “that the seed of persons who are not yet come to their full strength, or who are past it, is not good.” “In all appearance it is not.” “In those ages, then, we ought not to get children?” said Socrates. “I think so.” “Such, therefore, as indulge their lust in such untimely fruition will have very weakly children?” “I grant they will.” “And are not weakly children bad ones?” “They are,” said Hippias.
“Tell me, further,” said Socrates, “is it not an universal law to do good to those who have done good to us?” “Yes,” said Hippias, “but many offend against this law.” “And they are punished for it,” replied Socrates, “seeing their best friends abandon them, and that they are obliged to follow those who have an aversion for them. For are not they the best friends who do kindnesses whenever they are desired? And if he who has received a favour neglect to acknowledge it, or return it ill, does he not incur their hate by his ingratitude? And yet, finding his advantage in preserving their goodwill, is it not to them that he makes his court with most assiduity?” “It is evident,” said Hippias, “that it is the gods who have ordered these things; for, when I consider that each law carries with it the punishment of the transgressor, I confess it to be the work of a more excellent legislator than man.” “And do you think,” said Socrates, “that the gods make laws that are unjust?” “On the contrary,” answered Hippias, “it is very difficult for any but the gods to make laws that are just.” “Therefore, p. 176Hippias,” said Socrates, “according to the gods themselves ‘to obey the laws is to be just.’”
This is what Socrates said on the subject of justice, and his actions being conformable to his words, he from day to day created a greater love of justice in the minds of those who frequented him.
CHAPTER V. OF THE MISCHIEFS OF INTEMPERANCE, AND THE ADVANTAGES OF SOBRIETY.
I will now set down the arguments that Socrates used to bring his friends to the practice of good actions, for being of opinion that temperance is a great advantage to such as desire to do anything that is excellent, he first showed them, by his way of living, that no man was more advanced than himself in the exercise of that virtue; and in his conferences he exhorted his hearers above all things to the practice of it, and his thoughts being continually employed in the means of arriving to be virtuous, he made it likewise the subject of all his discourses.
I remember that talking once with Euthydemus concerning temperance he delivered himself to this effect:—“In your opinion, Euthydemus, is liberty a very valuable thing?” “To be valued above all things,” answered Euthydemus. “Do you believe that a man who is a slave to sensual pleasures, and finds himself incapable of doing good, enjoys his liberty?” “Not in the least.” “You allow, then, that to do good is to be free, and that to be prevented from doing it, by any obstacle whatever, is not to be free?” “I p. 177think so,” said Euthydemus. “You believe, then,” said Socrates, “that debauched persons are not free?” “I do.” “Do you believe likewise,” continued Socrates, “that debauchery does not only hinder from doing good, but compels to do ill?” “I think it does.” “What would you say, then, of a master who should hinder you from applying yourself to what is honest, and force you to undertake some infamous occupation?” “I would say he was a very wicked master,” answered Euthydemus. “And which is the worst of all slaveries?” added Socrates. “To serve ill masters,” said Euthydemus. “Therefore,” inferred Socrates, “the debauched are in a miserable slavery.” “No doubt of it.” “Is it not debauchery, likewise,” said Socrates, “that deprives men of their wisdom, the noblest gift of the gods, and drives them into ignorance and stupidity, and all manner of disorders? It robs them of leisure to apply themselves to things profitable, while it drowns them in sensual pleasures; and it seizes their minds to that degree that, though they often know which is the best way, they are miserably engaged in the worst.” “They are so.” “Nor can we expect to find temperance nor modesty in a debauched person, since the actions of temperance and debauchery are entirely opposite.” “There is no doubt of it,” said Euthydemus. “I do not think neither,” added Socrates, “that it is possible to imagine anything that makes men neglect their duty more than debauchery.” “You say true.” “Is there anything more pernicious to man,” said Socrates, “than that which robs him of his judgment, makes him embrace and cherish things that are hurtful, avoid and neglect what is profitable, and lead a life contrary to that of good men?” “There is nothing,” said Euthydemus. Socrates went on:—“And p. 178may we not ascribe the contrary effects to temperance?” “Without doubt.” “And is it not likely to be true that the cause of the contrary effects is good?” “Most certainly.” “It follows, then, my dear Euthydemus,” said Socrates, “that temperance is a very good thing?” “Undoubtedly it is.” “But have you reflected,” pursued Socrates, “that debauchery, which pretends to lead men to pleasures, cannot conduct them thither, but deceives them, leaving them in disappointment, satiety, and disgust? and have you considered that temperance and sobriety alone give us the true taste of pleasures? For it is the nature of debauchery not to endure hunger nor thirst, nor the fatigue of being long awake, nor the vehement desires of love, which, nevertheless, are the true dispositions to eat and drink with delight, and to find an exquisite pleasure in the soft approaches of sleep, and in the enjoyments of love. This is the reason that the intemperate find less satisfaction in these actions, which are necessary and frequently done. But temperance, which accustoms us to wait for the necessity, is the only thing that makes us feel an extreme pleasure in these occasions.” “You are in the right,” said Euthydemus. “It is this virtue, too,” said Socrates, “that puts men in a condition of bringing to a state of perfection both the mind and the body, of rendering themselves capable of well governing their families, of being serviceable to their friends and their country, and of overcoming their enemies, which is not only very agreeable on account of the advantages, but very desirable likewise for the satisfaction that attends it. But the debauched know none of this, for what share can they pretend to in virtuous actions, they whose minds are wholly taken up in the pursuit of present pleasures?” “According to what you say,” p. 179replied Euthydemus, “a man given to voluptuousness is unfit for any virtue.” “And what difference is there,” said Socrates, “between an irrational animal and a voluptuous man, who has no regard to what is best, but blindly pursues what is most delightful? It belongs to the temperate only to inquire what things are best and what not, and then, after having found out the difference by experience and reasoning, to embrace the good and avoid the bad, which renders them at once most happy, most virtuous, and most prudent.”
This was the sum of this conference with Euthydemus. Now Socrates said that conferences were so called because the custom was to meet and confer together, in order to distinguish things according to their different species, and he advised the frequent holding of these conferences, because it is an exercise that improves and makes men truly great, teaches them to become excellent politicians, and ripens the judgment and understanding.
CHAPTER VI. SOCRATES’ FRIENDS ATTAIN, BY FREQUENTING HIS CONVERSATION, AN EXCELLENT WAY OF REASONING.—THE METHOD HE OBSERVED IN ARGUING SHOWN IN SEVERAL INSTANCES.—OF THE DIFFERENT SORTS OF GOVERNMENT.—HOW SOCRATES DEFENDED HIS OPINIONS.
I will show, in the next place, how Socrates’ friends learnt to reason so well by frequenting his conversation. He held that they who perfectly understand the nature of things can explain themselves very well p. 180concerning them, but that a man who has not that knowledge often deceives himself and others likewise. He therefore perpetually conferred with his friends without ever being weary of that exercise. It would be very difficult to relate how he defined every particular thing. I will therefore mention only what I think sufficient to show what method he observed in reasoning. And, in the first place, let us see how he argues concerning piety.
“Tell me,” said he to Euthydemus, “what piety is?” “It is a very excellent thing,” answered Euthydemus. “And who is a pious man?” said Socrates. “A man who serves the gods.” “Is it lawful,” added Socrates, “to serve the gods in what manner we please?” “By no means,” said Euthydemus; “there are laws made for that purpose, which must be kept.” “He, then, who keeps these laws will know how he ought to serve the gods?” “I think so.” “And is it not true,” continued Socrates, “that he who knows one way of serving the gods believes there is no better a way than his?” “That is certain.” “And will he not be careful how he does otherwise?” “I believe he will.” “He, then, who knows the laws that ought to be observed in the service of the gods, will serve them according to the laws?” “Without doubt.” “But he who serves the gods as the laws direct, serves them as he ought?” “True, he does.” “And he who serves the gods as he ought is pious?” “There can be no doubt of it.” “Thus, then,” said Socrates, “we have the true definition of a pious man: He who knows in what manner he ought to serve the gods?” “I think so,” said Euthydemus.
“Tell me further,” continued Socrates, “is it lawful for men to behave themselves to one another as they p. 181please?” “In nowise,” answered Euthydemus; “there are also certain laws which they ought to observe among themselves.” “And do they,” said Socrates, “who live together according to those laws, live as they ought?” “Yes.” “And do they who live as they ought live well?” “Certainly they do.” “And does he who knows how to live well with men understand well how to govern his affairs?” “It is likely that he may.” “Now, do you believe,” said Socrates, “that some men obey the laws without knowing what the laws command?” “I do not believe it.” “And when a man knows what he ought to do, do you think he believes that he ought not to do it?” “I do not think so.” “And do you know any men who do otherwise than they believe they ought to do?” “None at all.” “They, then, who know the laws that men ought to observe among themselves, do what those laws command?” “I believe so.” “And do they who do what the laws command, do what is just?” “Most surely.” “And they who do what is just are just likewise?” “None but they are so.” “We may, therefore, well conclude,” said Socrates, “that the just are they who know the laws that men ought to observe among themselves?” “I grant it,” said Euthydemus.
“And as for wisdom,” pursued Socrates, “what shall we say it is? Tell me whether are men said to be wise in regard to the things they know, or in regard to those they do not know?” “There can be no doubt,” answered Euthydemus, “but that it is in consideration of what they know; for how can a man be wise in things he knows not?” “Then,” said Socrates, “men are wise on account of their knowledge?” “It cannot be otherwise.” “Is wisdom anything but what p. 182renders us wise?” “No.” “Wisdom therefore is only knowledge?” “I think so.” “And do you believe,” said Socrates, “that it is in the power of a man to know everything?” “Not so much as even the hundredth part.” “It is, then, impossible,” said Socrates, “to find a man who is wise in all things?” “Indeed it is,” said Euthydemus. “It follows, then,” said Socrates, “that every man is wise in what he knows?” “I believe so.”
“But can we, by this same way of comparison, judge of the nature of good?” “As how?” said Euthydemus. “Do you think,” said Socrates, “that the same thing is profitable to all men?” “By no means.” “Do you believe that the same thing may be profitable to one and hurtful to another?” “I think it may.” “Then is it not the good that is profitable?” “Yes, certainly.” “Therefore, ‘what is profitable is a good to him to whom it is profitable.’” “That is true.”
“Is it not the same with what is beautiful? For, can you say that a body or a vessel is beautiful and proper for all the world?” “By no means.” “You will say, then, that it is beautiful in regard to the thing for which it is proper?” “Yes.” “But tell me whether what is reputed beautiful for one thing has the same relation to another as to that to which it is proper?” “No.” “Then ‘whatever is of any use is reputed beautiful in regard to the thing to which that use relates?’” “I think so.”
“And what say you of courage?” added Socrates. “Is it an excellent thing?” “Very excellent,” answered Euthydemus. “But do you believe it to be of use in occasions of little moment?” “Yes; but it is necessary in great affairs.” “Do you think it of great advantage in dangers,” continued Socrates, p. 183“not to perceive the peril we are in?” “I am not of that opinion.” “At that rate,” said Socrates, “they who are not frightened because they see not the danger are in nowise valiant.” “There is no doubt of it,” said Euthydemus, “for otherwise there would be some fools, and even cowards, who must be accounted brave.” “And what are they who fear what is not to be feared?” “They are less brave than the others,” answered Euthydemus. “They therefore,” said Socrates, “who show themselves valiant in dangerous occasions, are they whom you call brave; and they who behave themselves in them unworthily, are they whom you call cowards?” “Very right.” “Do you think,” added Socrates, “that any men are valiant in such occasions except they who know how to behave themselves in them?” “I do not think there are.” “And are not they, who behave themselves unworthily, the same as they who know not how to behave themselves?” “I believe they are.” “And does not every man behave himself as he believes he ought to do?” “Without doubt.” “Shall we say, then, that they who behave themselves ill know how they ought to behave themselves?” “By no means.” “They, therefore, who know how to behave themselves, are they who behave themselves well?” “They and no others.” “Let us conclude, then,” said Socrates, “that they who know how to behave themselves well in dangers and difficult occasions are the brave, and that they who know not how to do so are the cowards.” “That is my opinion,” said Euthydemus.
Socrates was wont to say, that a kingly government and a tyrannical government were indeed two sorts of monarchy, and that there was this difference between them; that, under a kingly government, the subjects p. 184obeyed willingly, and that everything was done according to the laws of the State; but that, under a tyrannical government, the people obeyed by force, and that all the laws were reduced to the sole will of the sovereign.
Concerning the other sorts of government, he said: That when the offices of a Republic are given to the good citizens, this sort of State was called aristocracy, or government of good men; when, on the contrary, the magistrates were chosen according to their revenues, it was called a plutocracy, or government of the rich; and when all the people are admitted, without distinction, to bear employments, it is a democracy, or popular government.
If any one opposed the opinion of Socrates, on any affair whatever, without giving a convincing reason, his custom was to bring back the discourse to the first proposition, and to begin by that to search for the truth. For example: if Socrates had commended any particular person, and any stander-by had named another, and pretended that he was more valiant, or more experienced in affairs, he would have defended his opinion in the following manner:—
“You pretend,” would he have said, “that he of whom you speak is a better citizen than the person whom I was praising. Let us consider what is the duty of a good citizen, and what man is most esteemed in a Republic. Will you not grant me, that in relation to the management of the public revenue, he is in the highest esteem who, while he has that office, saves the Republic most money? In regard to the war, it is he who gains most victories over the enemies. If we are to enter into a treaty with other States, it is he who can dexterously win over to the party of the p. 185Republic those who before opposed its interests. If we are to have regard to what passes in the assemblies of the people, it is he who breaks the cabals, who appeases the seditious, who maintains concord and unity among the citizens.” This being granted him, he applied these general rules to the dispute in question, and made the truth plainly appear, even to the eyes of those who contradicted him. As for himself, when he undertook to discourse of anything, he always began by the most common and universally received propositions, and was wont to say, that the strength of the argumentation consisted in so doing. And, indeed, of all the men I have ever seen, I know none who could so easily bring others to own the truth of what he had a mind to prove to them. And he said that Homer, speaking of Ulysses, called him “the certain or never-failing orator,” because he had the art of supporting his arguments upon principles that were acknowledged by all men.
CHAPTER VII. METHOD TO BE OBSERVED IN STUDY.—ARTS AND SCIENCES NO FURTHER USEFUL, THAN THEY CONTRIBUTE TO RENDER MEN WISER, BETTER, OR HAPPIER.—VAIN AND UNPROFITABLE KNOWLEDGE TO BE REJECTED.
I presume now, that what I have said has been a sufficient evidence of the frankness and sincerity with which Socrates conversed with his friends, and made known his opinions to them. It remains now that I should say something of the extreme care Socrates p. 186showed for the advancement of his friends, and how much he had at heart that they might not be ignorant of anything that could be useful to them, to the end they might not want the assistance of others in their own affairs. For this reason, he applied himself to examine in what each of them was knowing; then, if he thought it in his power to teach them anything that an honest and worthy man ought to know, he taught them such things with incredible readiness and affection; if not, he carried them himself to masters who were able to instruct them. But he resolved within himself how far a person who was well-educated in his studies ought to learn everything.
Thus for geometry he said, that we ought to know enough of it not to be imposed upon in measure when we buy or sell land, when we divide an inheritance into shares, or measure out the work of a labourer, and that it was so easy to know this, that if a man applied himself ever so little to the practice of such things, he would soon learn even the extent and circumference of the whole earth, and how to measure it; but he did not approve that a man should dive into the very bottom of this science, and puzzle his brains with I know not what figures, though he himself was expert in it, for he said he could not see what all those niceties and inventions were good for, which take up the whole life of a man, and distract him from other more necessary studies.
In like manner he was of opinion that a man should employ some time in astronomy, that he might know by the stars the hour of the night, what day of the month it is, and what season of the year we are in, in order that we might know when to relieve a sentinel in the night, and when it is best to venture out to sea, p. 187or undertake a journey, and, in short, that we might know how to do everything in its proper season. He said that all this was easily learnt by conversing with seamen, or with such as go a-hunting by night, or others who profess to know these things; but he dissuaded very much from penetrating farther into this science, as even to know what planets are not in the same declination, to explain all their different motions, to know how far distant they are from the earth, in how long time they make their revolutions, and what are their several influences, for he thought these sciences wholly useless, not that he was ignorant of them himself, but because they take up all our time, and divert us from better employments. In fine, he could not allow of a too curious inquiry into the wonderful workmanship of the Deity in the disposition of the universe, that being a secret which the mind cannot comprehend, and because it is not an action acceptable to God to endeavour to discover what He would hide from us. He held, likewise, that it was dangerous to perplex the mind with these sublime speculations, as Anaxagoras had done, who pretended to be very knowing in them, for in teaching that the sun was the same thing as fire, he does not consider that fire does not dazzle the eyes, but that it is impossible to support the splendour of the sun. He did not reflect, neither, that the sun blackens the sky, which fire does not; nor lastly, that the heat of the sun is necessary to the earth, in order to the production of trees and fruits, but that the heat of fire burns and kills them. When he said, too, that the sun was only a stone set on fire, he did not consider that a stone glitters not in the fire, and cannot last long in it p. 188without consuming, whereas the sun lasts always, and is an inexhaustible source of light.
Socrates advised, likewise, to learn arithmetic, but not to amuse ourselves with the vain curiosities of that science, having established this rule in all his studies and in all his conferences, never to go beyond what is useful.
He exhorted his friends to take care of their health, and to that purpose to consult with the learned; and to observe, besides, each in his own particular, what meat, what drink, and what exercise is best for him, and how to use them to preserve himself in health. For when a man has thus studied his own constitution, he cannot have a better physician than himself.
If any one desired to attempt or to learn things that were above the power or capacity of human nature, he advised him to apply himself to divination; for he who knows by what means the gods generally signify their mind to men, or how it is they used to give them counsel and aid, such a person never fails to obtain from the Deity all that direction and assistance that is necessary for him.
CHAPTER VIII. BEHAVIOUR OF SOCRATES FROM THE TIME OF HIS CONDEMNATION TO HIS DEATH.—HIS CHARACTER SUMMED UP IN A FEW WORDS.
To conclude: if, because Socrates was condemned to death, any one should believe that he was a liar to say that he had a good demon that guided him, and gave him instructions what he should or should not do, let him consider, in the first place, that he was arrived to p. 189such an age that if he had not died when he did, he could not have lived much longer; that by dying when he did he avoided the most toilsome part of life, in which the mind loses much of its vigour; and that in amends for it he discovered to the whole world the greatness of his soul, acquired to himself an immortal glory, by the defence he made before his judges, in behaving himself with a sincerity, courage, and probity that were indeed wonderful, and in receiving his sentence with a patience and resolution of mind never to be equalled; for it is agreed by all that no man ever suffered death with greater constancy than Socrates.
He lived thirty days after his condemnation, because the Delian feasts happened in that month, and the law forbids to put any man to death till the consecrated vessel that is sent to the Isle of Delos be come back to Athens. During that time his friends, who saw him continually, found no change in him; but that he always retained that tranquillity of mind and agreeableness of temper which before had made all the world admire him. Now, certainly no man can die with greater constancy than this; this is doubtless the most glorious death that can be imagined; but if it be the most glorious, it is the most happy; and if it be the most happy, it is the most acceptable to the Deity.
Hermogenes has told me, that being with him a little after Melitus had accused him, he observed, that he seemed to decline speaking of that affair: from whence he took occasion to tell him that it would not be amiss for him to think of what he should answer in his own justification. To which Socrates replied: “Do you believe I have done anything else all my life than think of it?” And Hermogenes asking him what he meant by saying so? Socrates told him that he had p. 190made it the whole business of his life to examine what was just and what unjust; that he had always cherished justice and hated injustice, and that he did not believe there was any better way to justify himself.
Hermogenes said further to him—“Do you not know that judges have often condemned the innocent to death, only because their answers offended them, and that, on the contrary, they have often acquitted the guilty?” “I know it very well,” answered Socrates; “but I assure you, that having set myself to think what I should say to my judges, the demon that advises me dissuaded me from it.” At which Hermogenes seeming surprised, Socrates said to him, “Why are you surprised that this God thinks it better for me to leave this world than to continue longer in it? Sure, you are not ignorant that I have lived as well and as pleasantly as any man, if to live well be, as I take it, to have no concern but for virtue, and if to live pleasantly be to find that we have made some progress in it. Now, I have good reason to believe that this is my happy case, that I have always had a steady regard for virtue, and made progress in it, because I perceive that my mind, at this time, doth not misgive me, nay, I have the sincere testimony of my conscience that I have done my duty; and in this belief I strengthen myself by the conversation I have had with others, and by comparing myself with them. My friends, too, have believed the same thing of me, not because they wish me well, for in that sense every friend would think as much of his friend, but because they thought they advanced in virtue by my conversation.
“If I were to live longer, perhaps I should fall into the inconveniences of old age: perhaps my sight should grow dim, my hearing fail me, my judgment become p. 191weak, and I should have more trouble to learn, more to retain what I had learnt; perhaps, too, after all, I should find myself incapable of doing the good I had done before. And if, to complete my misery, I should have no sense of my wretchedness, would not life be a burden to me? And, on the other hand, say I had a sense of it, would it not afflict me beyond measure? As things now stand, if I die innocent the shame will fall on those who are the cause of my death, since all sort of iniquity is attended with shame. But who will ever blame me because others have not confessed my innocence, nor done me justice? Past experience lets us see that they who suffer injustice, and they who commit it, leave not a like reputation behind them after their death. And thus, if I die on this occasion, I am most certain that posterity will more honour my memory than theirs who condemn me; for it will be said of me, that I never did any wrong, never gave any ill advice to any man; but that I laboured all my life long to excite to virtue those who frequented me.”
This was the answer that Socrates gave to Hermogenes, and to several others. In a word, all good men who knew Socrates daily regret his loss to this very hour, reflecting on the advantage and improvement they made in his company.
For my own part, having found him to be the man I have described, that is to say, so pious as to do nothing without the advice of the Deity; so just as never to have in the least injured any man, and to have done very signal services to many; so chaste and temperate as never to have preferred delight and pleasure before modesty and honesty; so prudent as never to have mistaken in the discernment of good and evil, and never to have had need of the advice of others, p. 192to form a right judgment of either; moreover, most capable to deliberate and resolve in all sorts of affairs, most capable to examine into men, to reprehend them for their vices, and to excite them to virtue; having, I say, found all these perfections in Socrates, I have always esteemed him the most virtuous and most happy of all men; and if any one be not of my opinion, let him take the pains to compare him with other men, and judge of him afterwards.
***END OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE MEMORABLE THOUGHTS OF SOCRATES***