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Plato, Alcibiades I

A Dialogue Concerning the Nature of Man

Translated by Thomas Taylor
Edited by William C. Michael
© Classical Liberal Arts Academy, 2023


Socrates

Son of Clinias! You wonder, I suppose, that I, who was the earliest of your admirers, now, when all the rest have forsaken you, am the only one who still retains unalterably the same sentiments; and yet, that for so many years I have never spoken so much as a word to you, whilst the others were pressing through crowds of people to converse with you. This reserve and distance in my behavior have been owing to no human regards, but to an impediment thrown in my way by a demoniacal nature, the power and force of which you shall buy and buy be made acquainted with. But now, seeing that this power no longer operates to hinder my approach, I am come thus to accost you; and am in good hopes too, that for the future the daemon will give no opposition to my desire of conversing with you. All this while, however, being but a spectator, I have been able tolerably well to observe and consider your behavior with regard to your admirers. And I find, that, though they have been numerous, and such persons too as thought highly of themselves, there is not one whom you have not driven away from you by your superior haughtiness and imagined elevation. The reasons of your being exalted so highly in your own opinion, I am desirous of laying before you. They are these: you presume, that in no affair whatever you need assistance from any other party: for that what you have of your own, whether of outward advantages or inward accomplishments, is so great as to be all-sufficient. In the first place, do you think yourself excelling in the handsomeness of your person and in the fineness of your figure. And in this opinion it is evident to everyone who has eyes that you are not mistaken. In the next place, you dwell on these thoughts: that you are descended from families the most illustrious in the state to which you belong; that this state is the greatest of any increase; that you have friends here, and relations on your father’s side, very numerous and very powerful, ready to assist you on every occasion; and that your relations on your mother’s side are not inferior to them, either in power or in number. But a greater strength than from all these whom I have mentioned, taken together, you think that you derive from Pericles, the son of Xanthippus, whom your father left guardian to yourself and to your brother: Pericles, who is able to do what he pleases; and that, not only at Athens, but throughout all Greece, and with many and great families abroad. To all these advantages I shall add the greatness of your estate; though, indeed, on this advantage you seem to value yourself less than you do on any other. Elevated as you are in your own mind on these accounts, you have looked down on your admirers and they, conscious of their comparative meanness, have bowed their heads, and have retired. This you are very sensible of: and therefore I well know that you wonder what I can have in my thoughts, or what hopes I can entertain, seeing that I quit you not, but continue my attachment to you still, when your other admirers have all forsaken you.

Alcibiades

This however, Socrates, perhaps you do not know, that you have been a little beforehand with me. Before I really had it in my mind to address you first, and to ask you these very questions: what can possibly be your meaning, and with what views or expectations is it, that you continually press on me, and, wherever I am, are assiduous to be there yourself? For I do in truth wonder, what your business can be with me, and should be very glad to be informed.

Socrates

You will hear me then, tis to be supposed, with willingness and attention, if you really are desirous, as you say you are, of knowing what I have in my thoughts. I speak therefore as to a person disposed to here, and to stay till he has heard all.

Alcibiades

I am entirely so disposed: it is your part to speak.

Socrates

Observe this: you must not wonder, if, as I found it difficult to make a beginning, I should find it no less difficult to make an end.

Alcibidaes

My good man, say all you have to say; for I shall not fail to attend to you.

Socrates

I must say it: invalid is a hard task for any man to address the person whom he loves or admires, if that person be superior to flattery, yet I must adventure boldly to speak my mind. If, Elsa baides, I had observed you satisfied with those advantages of yours, which I just now enumerated; if you had appeared to indulge the fancy of spending your whole life and the enjoyment of them; I persuade myself, that my love and admiration of you would have long since left me. But that you entertain thoughts very different from such as those, I shall now show, and shall lay your mind open before yourself. That means you will also plainly perceive, how constantly and closely my mind has attended you. My opinion of you then is this: with that, if any of the gods were to put this question to you, “Alcibiades!” were he to say, “whether do you choose to live in the possession of all the things which are at present yours; or do you prefer immediate death, if you are not permitted ever to acquire things greater?” In this case, it appears to me that you would make death your option. But what kind of expectations you live in, I shall now declare. You think, that, if you speedily make your appearance before the Athenian people in assembly, (and this you purpose to do within a few days), you shall be able to convince them, that you merit higher honors than were ever bestowed on Pericles, or any other person in any age: and having convinced them of this, you think that you will arrive at the chief power in this state; and if here at home, that you will then have the greatest weight and influence abroad; and not only so with the rest of the Grecian states, but with the barbarian nations too, as many as inhabit the same continent with us. And further: if the deity I before spoke of, allowing you larger limits, were to say to you, that “you must be contented with being the master here in Europe; before that it will not be permitted you to pass over into Asia, nor to concern yourself with the administration of any affairs there;” it appears to me, that neither on these terms, thus limited, would you think life eligible; nor on any terms, indeed, that fell short of filling, in a manner, the whole world with your renown, and of being everywhere lord and master. I believe you deem no man that ever lived, excepting Cyrus and Xerxes, worth the speaking of. In fine, that you entertain such hopes as I have mentioned, I know with certainty, and speak not from mere conjecture. Now you, perhaps, conscious of the truth of what I have spoken, might say, “What is all of this to the account you promised to give me, of the reasons for which your attachment to me still continues?” I will tell you then, dear son of Clinias and Dinomache! That all these thoughts of yours should ever come to an end, is impossible without my help, so great power I think myself to have with regard to your affairs and to yourself too. For this reason, I have long been of opinion, that the god did not as yet permit me to hold any conversation with you; and I waited for the time when he would give me leave. For, as you entertain hopes of proving to the people, that your value to them is equal to whatever they can give you; and as you expect that, having proved this point, you shall immediately obtain whatever power you desire; in the same manner do I expect to have the greatest power and influence over you, when I shall have proved that I am valuable to you more than any other thing is; and that neither guardian, nor relation, nor any other person, is able to procure the power you long for, except myself; with the assistance, however, of the god. So long therefore as you were yet too young, and before you had your mind filled with those swelling hopes, I believe that the god would not permit me to have discourse with you, because you would not have regarded me, and I consequently should have discoursed in vain; but that he has now given me free leave, before that you would now hearken to me.

Alcibiades

Much more unaccountable and absurd do you appear to me now, Socrates, since you have begun to open yourself, then when you followed me everywhere without speaking to me a word: and yet you had all the appearance of being a man of that sort then. As to what you have said, whether I entertain those thoughts in my mind, or not, you, it seems, know with certainty: so that, were I to say I did not, the denial would not avail me, nor persuade you to believe me. Admitting it then, and supposing that I indulge the hopes you mentioned ever so much, how they may be accomplished by means of you, and that without your help they never can, are you able to prove to me?

Socrates

Do you ask me, whether I am able to prove it to you in a long harangue, such a one as you are accustomed to hear? I have no abilities in that way. But yet I should be able, as I think, to prove to you, that those pretensions of mine are not vain, if you would be willing but to do me one small piece of service.

Alcibiades

If that service be not difficult to be done, I am willing.

Socrates

Do you think it difficult, or not, to make answers to such questions as are proposed to you?

Alcibiades

Not difficult.

Socrates

Be ready then to answer.

Alcibiades

Do you then propose your questions.

Socrates

May I propose them, with a supposition that you have those thoughts in your mind which I attribute to you?

Alcibiades

Be it so, if you choose it: that I may know what further you have to say.

Socrates

Well then. You have it in your mind, as I said, to appear in presence of the Athenians within a short time, with intention to harangue them and give them your advice. If therefore, when you are just ready to mount the rostrum, I were to stop you, and to say thus, “Since the Athenians are here met in assembly, on purpose to deliberate on some of their affairs, what, I pray you, are to be the subjects of their deliberation, now that you rise up to give them your counsel? Must not the subjects be such as you are better acquainted with than they?”, what answer would you make me?

Alcibiades

I certainly should answer, that the subjects were such as I knew better than others who were present.

Socrates

On those subjects, then, which you happen to have knowledge in you are a good counselor?

Alcibiades

Without doubt.

Socrates

Have you knowledge in those things only which you have either learnt from others, or found out yourself?

Alcibiades

What things other than those is it possible that I should have any knowledge in?

Socrates

And is it possible that ever you should have learned, or have found out, anything which you were not willing to learn, or to search out by yourself?

Alcibiades

It is not.

Socrates

And were you ever at anytime willing to learn, or did you ever at anytime seek to know, any things in which you imagined yourself to be already knowing?

Alcibiades

No, certainly.

Socrates

In those things which you now happen to know, was there once a time when you did not think yourself knowing?

Alcibiades

That must have been.

Socrates

Now, what the things are which you have learnt, I tolerably well know. But if you have been taught anything without my knowledge, tell me what. To the best of my memory, you have been taught grammar, the gymnastic exercises, and to play on stringed instruments of music: for on wind instruments, besides, you refused to learn. This is the sum total of all your knowledge; unless you have learnt anything else in some place or other, which I have not discovered: and I think, that neither by day nor yet by night did you ever stir out of doors but I was acquainted with all your motions.

Alcibiades

‘Tis true that I have not gone to any other masters than to such as taught the arts which you have mentioned.

Socrates

Well then. When the Athenians are consulting together about the grammar of their language, how to write or speak it with propriety, at these times is it that you will rise up to give them your advice?

Alcibiades

By Jove, not I.

Socrates

But is it then when they are in debate about striking chords on the lyre?

Alcibiades

By no means should I make a speech on such a subject.

Socrates

It cannot be on the subject of wrestling neither: because they never use to deliberate on this subject in their public assemblies.

Alcibiades

Certainly not.

Socrates

On what subject, then, of their consultations is it that you intend the giving them your advice? It cannot be when building is the subject.

Alcibiades

No, certainly.

Socrates

Because in this case a builder would give them better advice than you could.

Alcibiades

True.

Socrates

Nor yet is it when they consult together concerning divination.

Alcibiades

It is not.

Socrates

For a diviner would in this case be a better counselor than you.

Alcibiades

Without doubt.

Socrates

And that, whether he was a tall or a short man; whether his person was handsome or deformed; and whether his family was noble or ignoble.

Alcibiades

How should it be otherwise?

Socrates

For to give good advice in any case whatever, belongs, I suppose, only to a person skilled in the subject, and not to a fine gentleman.

Alcibiades

Beyond all question.

Socrates

And whether the man who gives them his advice be rich or poor, it will make no difference to the Athenians, when they are consulting about the health of the city; but they will always inquire after a physician only to consult with.

Alcibiades

They will be right in so doing.

Socrates

Now, on what subject is it, when they are met in consultation together, that you will do right in rising up and giving them your counsel?

Alcibiades

‘Tis when they are in consultation, Socrates, about their own affairs.

Socrates

About increasing their navy, do you mean? what sort of vessels they should provide, and in what manner they should have them built?

Alcibiades

I mean no such thing, Socrates.

Socrates

Because you are ignorant, I presume, in the art of shipbuilding. Is not this the reason? Or is there any other, why you would choose in such a consultation to sit silent?

Alcibiades

That is the only reason.

Socrates

What affairs of their own then do you mean?

Alcibiades

I mean, Socrates, when they are deliberating about the making war, or the making peace; or concerning any other affairs of state.

Socrates

Do you mean, when they are deliberating on these points, with whom ‘tis proper for them to make peace, and with whom to engage in war, and in what way ‘tis proper to carry on that war? Is this what you mean?

Alcibiades

It is.

Socrates

And you will agree, that ‘tis proper to make peace or war with those people with whom ‘tis best so to do?

Alcibiades

Certainly.

Socrates

And at that time when ‘tis best?

Alcibiades

By all means.

Socrates

And to continue it so long as ‘tis best to continue it?

Alcibiades

To be sure.

Socrates

Now, suppose that the Athenians were deliberating about the exercise of wrestling, with what sort of persons it is proper to come to close quarters, and with whom to engage at arm’s length, and in what way, would you give the best counsel in this case, or would a master of the exercises?

Alcibiades

Such a master, certainly.

Socrates

Can you tell me now, what end such a master would have in his view, when he gave his counsel on these points, with whom it is proper to wrestle closely, and with whom not so? at what times it is proper, and in what manner? My meaning is to ask you these questions: whether is it proper to wrestle closely with those persons with whom it is best so to wrestle, or is it not?

Alcibiades

It is.

Socrates

Whether as much also as is best?

Alcibiades

As much.

Socrates

Whether at those times too when ‘tis best?

Alcibiades

Without doubt.

Socrates

But further: Ought not a singer sometimes, in singing, to touch his lute, and to move his feet?

Alcibiades

He thought.

Socrates

Ought he not to do so at those times when ‘tis best so to do?

Alcibiades

Certainly.

Socrates

And to continue the doing so as long as ‘tis best to continue it?

Alcibiades

I agree.

Socrates

Well now. Since you agree with me that there is a best in both these actions, in fingering the lute whilst singing, and in the exercise of close wrestling, by what name call you that which is the best in fingering the lute? As that which is the best in wrestling I call gymnastical, what name now do you give to that which is best done in that other action?

Alcibiades

I do not apprehend your meaning.

Socrates

Try to copy after the pattern which I shall now give you. Supposing, then, that I had been asked this question, “In wrestling, how is that performed which is performed best?” I should answer that ‘tis performed in every respect rightly. Now, in wrestling, that performance is right which is according to the rules of art. Is it not?

Alcibiades

It is.

Socrates

And the art, in this case, is it not gymnastic?

Alcibiades

Without dispute.

Socrates

I said, that that which is the best in wrestling is gymnastical.

Alcibiades

You did.

Socrates

And was it not well said?

Alcibiades

I think it was.

Socrates

Come then. Do you in like manner (for it would not ill become you likewise to discourse well) say, in the first place, what is the art, to which belong the playing on the harp, the singing, and the moving at the same time, rightly all; the whole of this art, by what name is it called? Are you not yet able to tell?

Alcibiades

Indeed I am not.

Socrates

Try in this way then. What goddesses are those who preside over this art?

Alcibiades

The muses mean you, Socrates?

Socrates

I do. Consider now, what name is given to their art−a name derived from them?

Alcibiades

I suppose you mean music.

Socrates

The very thing. What then is that which is performed rightly, according to this art? Just as in the other case I told you, that whatever was performed rightly according to the rules of that other art, was gymnastical; in this case now, after the same manner, whatever is performed agreeably to the rules of this art, how do you say it must be performed?

Alcibiades

Musically, I think.

Socrates

You say well. Let us now proceed further; and tell me, what name you give to that which is best in making war; and what name to that which is best in making peace: just as, in the former cases, the best in one of them you called the more musical, in the other the more gymnastical. Try now in these cases likewise to name that which is the best.

Alcibiades

I find myself quite unable to tell what it is.

Socrates

‘Tis a shame to you that you are so. For, suppose you were speaking and giving your opinion concerning the superiority of one kind of food to another, and should say, that such or such a kind of food was the best at this season, and such a such or quantity of it; and suppose a man should thereupon question you thus, “What do you mean by the best, Alcibiades?”. On these subjects you would be able to give him an answer, and to tell him, that by the best you meant the most wholesome; and this you would say, notwithstanding that you do not profess to be a physician. And yet, on a subject which you profess to have the knowledge of, and rise up to give your judgment and advice on, as if you had this knowledge, are you not ashamed, when you are questioned, as I think you are, on this very subject, to be unable to give an answer, and to tell what is that which is the best? And must not this inability appear to others shameful in you?

Alcibiades

Certainly it must.

Socrates

Consider thoughtfully now, and tell me, what is the end or aim of that which is done best in the making or the continuing of peace, and likewise in the going to war with those with whom it is proper?

Alcibiades

Well, I do consider; but cannot think of what it is.

Socrates

No you not, when we go to war, what it is which both the parties accuse each other of during their military preparations, and what names they give to the causes of their quarrels?

Alcibiades

I do. They accuse each other of deceiving, or of offering violence, or of taking away some of their possessions.

Socrates

But observe: how do they say they have been thus treated? Try to tell me what difference there is in the manner of this treatment they give to each other.

Alcibiades

Do you mean, whether they thus treat each other justly or unjustly?

Socrates

This is the very difference I mean.

Alcibiades

These different manners of ill treatment differ totally and entirely.

Socrates

Well then. With whom would you counsel the Athenians to engage in war? Whether with those who treat them ill unjustly, or with those who treat them as they deserve?

Alcibiades

A question, this, of very serious import. For, if any man should entertain a thought of the propriety of going to war with such as act uprightly, he would not dare to own it.

Socrates

Because it is not lawful, I suppose, to engage in such a war.

Alcibiades

By no means is it so, neither seems it to be beautiful.

Socrates

With a view therefore to these things, and to what is just, you will make your speeches to the people.

Alcibiades

There is a necessity for bringing my arguments from these topics.

Socrates

That best then, concerning which I just now asked you what it was, the best on these subjects, whether it is proper to go to war or not, with whom it is proper, and with whom not, at what times it is proper, and when not, does the best on these subjects appear to be any other thing than that which is the most agreeable to justice? or does it not?

Alcibiades

It appears to be no other thing.

Socrates

How is this, friend Alcibiades? Is it a secret to yourself, that you are ignorant in the science of justice? Or else, is it is secret to me, that you have learnt it, and have gone to some master, who has taught you to distinguish between what is the most agreeable to justice, and what is the most repugnant to it? If this which I last mentioned be the case, who is this master? Tell me; that I too may go and learn of him, through your recommendation.

Alcibiades

You banter, Socrates.

Socrates

Not so; by the guardian-god of friendship to both of us, you and me, whose deity I would least of all invoke for witness to a falsehood! If then you have any master who teaches you that science, let me know who he is.

Alcibiades

And what if I have not? Do you think that I could by no other means have attained the knowledge of what is just, and what is unjust?

Socrates

I think that you would, if you had discovered it by yourself.

Alcibiades

Are you then of opinion that I could not have discovered it by myself?

Socrates

I am entirely of opinion that you might, if ever you had sought for it.

Alcibiades

Do you presume, then, that I have never sought for it?

Socrates

I should presume that you had, if ever you had thought yourself ignorant of it.

Alcibiades

Was there not then a time when I so thought?

Socrates

Well said. Can you tell me, then, at what time you did not imagine yourself to know what things are just, and what are unjust? For, come, let me ask you: was it last year, when you inquired into these subjects, and did not imagine yourself already knowing in them? Or did you at that time think that you had such knowledge? Answer truly now, that our argument may come to some conclusion.

Alcibiades

Well then. I did at that time presume myself to be knowing in those subjects.

Socrates

And in all the third year back from this present, in all the fourth, too, and all the fifth, did you not presume of yourself the same?

Alcibiades

I did.

Socrates

And earlier than the time I mentioned last, you were but a boy.

Alcibiades

True.

Socrates

And in your days of boyhood I am well assured that you thought yourself knowing in those subjects.

Alcibiades

How are you so sure of that?

Socrates

Often in the schools, when you were a boy, and in other places too whenever you were playing at dice, or was a party in any other play, I have heard you talking about what things were just or unjust, not as if you had any doubts on those subjects, but very strenuously and boldly pronouncing, that such or such a one of your playmates was a wicked boy, and a rogue, and was guilty of a piece of injustice. Is not all this true?

Alcibiades

Well. But what else was I to do, when any of them injured me?

Socrates

Right. But if you had happened to be ignorant of this very point, whether you were injured or not, would you say, “What in such a case was I to do?”.

Alcibiades

But, by Jove, I was not ignorant of that point; for I clearly saw that I was injured.

Socrates

You thought yourself, it seems, therefore, when you were a boy, knowing in the science of what is just and what is unjust?

Alcibiades

I did so; and knowing in it I was too.

Socrates

At what time was it that you first discovered it? For certainly it was not at a time when you thought yourself knowing in it.

Alcibiades

That, ‘tis clear, could not be.

Socrates

At what time then was it that you thought yourself ignorant in it? Consider: but that time you will never find.

Alcibiades

By Jove, Socrates, I am not able to tell when.

Socrates

You did not acquire that knowledge, then, by any discovery of your own?

Alcibiades

That does not at all appear to have been the case.

Socrates

And besides, you acknowledged but just before, that you did not acquire it by being taught. If then you neither discovered it of yourself, nor was taught it by any other person, how or whence have you this knowledge?

Alcibiades

Well. But I was wrong in my answers, when I supposed that I had found out that knowledge by myself.

Socrates

In what way then did you acquire it?

Alcibiades

I learned it, I presume, in the same way in which others do.

Socrates

We are now come round again to the same question as before: from whom did you learn it? Inform me.

Alcibiades

From the people.

Socrates

To no good teachers have you recourse for the origin of your knowledge, in referring it to the people.

Alcibiades

Why so? Are not they very capable of teaching?

Socrates

Not so much as what movements are proper, and what improper, to make in a game at tables. And yet the knowledge of these things is meaner and more inconsiderable, in my opinion, than the knowledge of what things are just, and what are unjust. Do not you think so too?

Alcibiades

I do.

Socrates

Incapable, therefore, as they are of teaching meaner things, can they teach things higher and of more importance?

Alcibiades

I think they can. Nay, it is certain that they are capable of teaching many things of more importance than the movements in a game at tables.

Socrates

What things do you mean?

Alcibiades

Such as, for instance, to speak the Greek language: for I myself learned it from them. Nor could I name any other teacher of that language that I ever had; but must refer my being able to speak it to those very persons whom you say are no good teachers.

Socrates

Well, my noble sir: in this matter, indeed, the people are good teachers, and as such may justly be recommended.

Alcibiades

Why particularly in this?

Socrates

Because in this they possess all the requisites necessary to every good teacher.

Alcibiades

What requisites do you mean?

Socrates

Do you not know, that those who are to teach anything must in the first place have the knowledge of it for themselves? Must they not?

Alcibiades

Without doubt.

Socrates

And must not all those who have the knowledge of anything agree together on that subject, and not differ in their opinions?

Alcibiades

Certainly.

Socrates

But where they differ among themselves in their opinions, would you say that they have, all of them, knowledge in those subjects?

Alcibiades

Certainly not.

Socrates

Of such things, then, how can they be good teachers?

Alcibiades

By no means can they.

Socrates

Well now. Do the people seem to you to differ among themselves about the meaning of the words stone and wood? Ask whom you will, are they not all agreed in the same opinion? And when they are bid to take up a stone, or a piece of wood, do they not all go to the same kind of things? And do they not all apprehend alike, what kind of things every other such word signifies? For I presume this is what you mean by knowledge of the Greek language: is it not?

Alcibiades

It is.

Socrates

Now, on these subjects, as we said before, do not the people of our city agree among themselves? And among the several cities of Greece is there any difference of opinion? Do the same words, in different places, signify different things?

Alcibiades

They do not.

Socrates

On these subjects, therefore, agreeably to our argument, the people should be good teachers.

Alcibiades

It is true.

Socrates

If then we had a mind to have any person instructed in this matter, we should do right in sending him, for such instruction, amongst the multitude of the people?

Alcibiades

Quite right.

Socrates

But what if we had a mind to have that person taught, not only to know men from horses by the different words denoting them in the Greek language, but, beside this, to know what horses are fit for the race, and what are unfit? Is the multitude able to teach this also?

Alcibiades

Certainly, not.

Socrates

And you admit this to be a sufficient proof of their ignorance in this matter, and of their inability to teach, that they agree not in their opinions on this head?

Alcibiades

I do.

Socrates

And what if we would have him learn, not only by what word in our language men are distinguished from other things, but, further, to know what men are healthy and who are unhealthy? Whether should we deem the multitude to be the proper teachers for him?

Alcibiades

By no means.

Socrates

And it would be an evidence to you of there being bad teachers on this subject, if you saw them disagreeing in their opinions?

Alcibiades

It would.

Socrates

And how is it now on the subject of justice? Do you find the multitude of agreeing with one another, or even the same person always of the same mind, concerning either men or actions, who are the honest, or what is just?

Alcibiades

With less than on any other subject, by Jove, Socrates, are they agreed with regard to this.

Socrates

What? Do you then think they differ on this subject more than on any other?

Alcibiades

By far do they.

Socrates

You have never, I suppose, seen or heard of men, in any age, who contended for their several opinions concerning the wholesome and the unwholesome and food, with so much zeal as to fight and kill one another on that account?

Alcibiades

Never.

Socrates

But concerning just and unjust in actions, that their disputes have carried them to such extremities, I am sure, if you have not seen, you have at least heard from many reports, and particularly from those of Homer; for you have heard both the Odyssey and the Iliad read to you.

Alcibiades

Thoroughly well, Socrates, am I versed in both.

Socrates

And this is not the subject of both these poems the diversity of opinions with regard to what is just and what is unjust?

Alcibiades

It is.

Socrates

And did not this diversity of opinions produce fighting and slaughter between the Greeks and Trojans, and between Ulysses and the wooers of Penelope?

Alcibiades

True.

Socrates

And I believe that the deaths of those Athenians, Lacedaemonians and Boeotians, who perished at Tanagra, and of those who afterwards died at Coronea, amongst whom was Clinias your father, were not owing to differences on any other subject than this, what was just and what unjust.

Alcibiades

You are in the right.

Socrates

Shall we say then that these people had knowledge in that subject on which they differed with so much vehemence, as in support of their different opinions to suffer from each other the utmost effects of hatred?

Alcibiades

It appears they had not.

Socrates –

Do you not then refer to such a sort of teachers as you yourself acknowledge to be ignorant?

Alcibiades

I do, it seems.

Socrates

How therefore is it probable that you should have the knowledge to discern what is just from what is unjust, when your account of them is so vague, and when you appear neither to have been taught that knowledge by any other person, nor to have found it out for yourself?

Alcibiades

According to what you say, ‘tis not probable.

Socrates

Are you sensible that what you said last was not said fairly, Alcibiades?

Alcibiades

What was unfair?

Socrates

Your assertion that I said those things of you which were said.

Alcibiades

What? Did not you say that I had not the knowledge to discern what was just from what was unjust?

Socrates

Not I, indeed.

Alcibiades

Who was it then that said so? Was it I myself?

Socrates

It was.

Alcibiades

Make that appear.

Socrates

You will see it in this way. If I ask you concerning one and two, which is the greater number, you will say that two is.

Alcibiades

I shall.

Socrates

How much greater is it?

Alcibiades

Greater by one.

Socrates

Now whether of us is it who says that two is a greater number or more than one by one?

Alcibiades

It is I myself.

Socrates

Did not I ask the question, and did not you give an answer to it?

Alcibiades

True: it was so.

Socrates

On this subject, then, who appears to have made any assertion? Do I, you only asked a question? Or do you, who gave the answer?

Alcibiades

I.

Socrates

In a word, whenever any question is asked, and an answer to it is given, say, who is it that makes and assertion, the party that asks the question, or the party that gives the answer?

Alcibiades

The party that gives the answer, in my opinion, Socrates.

Socrates

Through the whole of our past discourse was not I the party that asked the questions?

Alcibiades

You were.

Socrates

And we’re not you the party that gave the answers?

Alcibiades

I was.

Socrates

Well then. Whether of us two made the assertions?

Alcibiades

From what I have admitted, Socrates, I myself appear to have been that person.

Socrates

In those assertions was it not said that Alcibiades, the fine son of Clinias, had not the knowledge to discern what was just and what was unjust, but imagined that he had; and that he was about going into the assembly to give the Athenians his counsel and advice upon subjects which he knew nothing of? Is not this true?

Alcibiades

It appears so to be.

Socrates

That which Euripides says may therefore well be applied to the condition you are now in, Alcibiades. You are in danger of being found to have heard all this which has been said of you from yourself, and not from me. Before, not I, but you, were the asserter of it; and you lay the blame of it on me without reason.

Alcibiades

Indeed, Socrates, you are in the right.

Socrates

Mad therefore is the undertaking, my good sir, which you entertain thoughts of attempting, to teach others what you are ignorant of yourself from your having neglected to learn it.

Alcibiades

I believe, Socrates, that the Ahenians, as well as other Grecian states, seldom deliberate and counsel about justice or injustice in any affair before them because these things may presume obvious and plain to all men. Laying aside therefore the consideration of this point, they consider which way it will be most for their interest need to take. For I suppose that justice and interest are not the same thing; seeing that many have found it their interest to have done things the most unjust, and that others have gained no advantage from having acted with honesty.

Socrates

As well. Suppose interest to be a thing ever so different from justice, do you imagine now that you know what is a man’s interest, and why this or that thing is so?

Alcibiades

What should hinder me, Socrates, from knowing it? Unless you will make a doubt of this too, by asking me, from whom I learned this knowledge, or how I discovered it myself.

Socrates

How strangely you deal with me in this? If you say anything wrong, when ‘tis possible to prove it wrong by the same arguments used in confusing what you before said amiss, you would have new matter introduced, and different arguments made use of, to prove you in the wrong again: as if the former proofs were worn out like old clothes, and you could no longer put them on, but one must bring you a fresh proof never used before. But without taking further notice of your evasions, I shall repeat the same question, and ask you from what learning you came to know what was a man’s interest, and who taught you this knowledge; and all the other questions asked before I ask you again, summing them up in one. It is evident now, that your answers will amount to the very same as they did before; and that you will not be able to show by what means you attained the knowledge of what is advantageous to man; or conducive to his good; either how you found it out yourself, or from whom you learned it. However, seeing that you are squeamish, and decline the tasting of the same arguments again, I waive the inquiry into this point, whether you have or not the knowledge of what is the interest of the Athenians. But this other point, whether the same actions are just and advantageous; or whether what ‘tis just to do, differs from what ‘tis a man’s interest to do; but why should not you prove, by putting questions to me, in the same manner as I did to you? Or, if you had rather, make a discourse upon that subject only by yourself.

Alcibiades

But I know not if I should be able, Socrates, to make such a discourse to you.

Socrates

Why, my good friend, suppose me to be the assembly and the people. And, were you addressing your discourse to them, it would be proper for you to persuade every single man of them would it not?

Alcibiades

It would.

Socrates

Does it not belong, then, to the same person to be able to persuade one single man by himself, and to persuade many men assembled together, and speaking on any subject with which he is well acquainted? As, for instance, a teacher of grammar is equally well able to persuade one man and many men, when letters are the subject of his discourse.

Alcibiades

True.

Socrates

And when numbers are the subject, would not the same person, who persuades many, persuade one as well?

Alcibiades

He would.

Socrates

And must not this person be one who is well acquainted with numbers? Must he not be an arithmetician?

Alcibiades

Most certainly.

Socrates

And would not you also, in speaking on any subject, if you are able to persuade many of the truth of what you say, be able to persuade a single one?

Alcibiades

‘Tis probable that I should.

Socrates

But these subjects, it is plain, must be such as you are well acquainted with.

Alcibiades

Undoubtedly.

Socrates

Is there any other difference, then, between a speaker and the assembly of the people and a speaker in such conversation as this of ours, then merely so much as this−the former endeavors to persuade a collection of many men−the latter to persuade men one by one?

Alcibiades

There appears to be no other.

Socrates

Come then. Since it apparently belongs to the same person to persuade a multitude and to persuade a single man, practice your skill on me, and undertake to prove to me that in some cases that which is just is not a man’s interest.

Alcibiades

You are very saucy, Socrates.

Socrates

And I am now going to be so saucy as to convince you of the truth of a position quite contrary to that which you declined the proving of to me.

Alcibiades

Begin then.

Socrates

Do you but answer to the questions which I shall put to you.

Alcibiades

Not so: but do you yourself say plainly what you have to say.

Socrates

Why so? Would you not choose to be entirely well persuaded of the truth of it, if it be true?

Alcibiades

By all means, certainly.

Socrates

And would you not, if you yourself were to assert it, have the most entire persuasion of its truth?

Alcibiades

I think so.

Socrates

Answer then to my questions: and if you do not hear from your own mouth, that to act justly is to act for one’s own advantage, believe no other person who asserts that position.

Alcibiades

I shall not: and I consent to answer your questions. For no harm I think will come to me that way.

Socrates

You think as if you had the spirit of divination. Tell me, then: do you say that some just actions are advantageous to the man who performs them, and that some are not so?

Alcibiades

I do.

Socrates

And do you say also, that some just actions are beautiful, and that some are not so?

Alcibiades

What mean you buy this question?

Socrates

Whether did you ever think that a man acted basely and yet just late at the same time?

Alcibiades

I never thought so.

Socrates

You think then that all actions which are just are also beautiful?

Alcibiades

I do.

Socrates

But what, as to actions which are beautiful? Whether do you think that all of these are good to the performer, or that some of them are so, and some are not so?

Alcibiades

For my part, Socrates, I think that some beautiful actions are evil to the performer of them.

Socrates

And that some base actions are good to the performer?

Alcibiades

I do.

Socrates

Do you mean such actions as these? Many men by aiding in battle some friend or near relation have been wounded mortally; whilst others, by withholding their aid when they ought to have given it, have come off safe and sound.

Alcibiades

A just instance of what I mean.

Socrates

That aid then of theirs you called beautiful with respect to their endeavoring to save those whom they ought to defend. Now such an action proceeds from fortitude, does it not?

Alcibiades

It does.

Socrates

But evil you call it also with respect to the wounds and death which it procured them, do not?

Alcibiades

I do.

Socrates

And are not fortitude and death two different things?

Alcibiades

Certainly.

Socrates

To aid a friend, therefore, is not both beautiful and evil in the same respect?

Alcibiades

It appears that ‘tis not.

Socrates

Consider now whether it be not good in the same respect in which it is beautiful; as in this particular which we mentioned. For, with respect to fortitude, you agreed with me that it was beautiful and handsome to give such aid. This very thing then, fortitude, consider whether it be a good or an evil. And consider it in this way: which kind of things would you choose to have your own, whether good things or evil things?

Alcibiades

Good things.

Socrates

And would you not choose the best things too?

Alcibiades

Most of all things.

Socrates

And would you not choose to part with them least of all?

Alcibiades

Undoubtedly.

Socrates

What say you then of fortitude? At what price would you choose to part with it?

Alcibiades

I would not accept of life, not I, to live a coward.

Socrates

You think, then, that cowardice is evil in the utmost degree?

Alcibiades

That I do.

Socrates

On a par, as it seems, with death.

Alcibiades

It is so.

Socrates

Are not life and fortitude the most of all things opposite to death and cowardice?

Alcibiades

They are.

Socrates

And would you choose to have those most of all things, and these least of all things?

Alcibiades

Certainly.

Socrates

Is it because you deem those the best of all things, and these the worst?

Alcibiades

For this very reason.

Socrates

Viewing then the giving of aid in battle to such as are dear to us in that light in which it appears beautiful−viewing it with regard to the practice of that virtue which you acknowledge to be one of the best of things, you gave it the epithet of beautiful?

Alcibiades

It appears I did so.

Socrates

But with regard to its operating evil, the evil of death, you gave it the epithet of evil?

Alcibiades

True.

Socrates

Is it not then just and right to denominate every action thus? If, with regard to the evil which it operates, you call it evil, ought it not, with regard to the good which it operates, to be also called good?

Alcibiades

I think it ought.

Socrates

In the same respect, then in which it is good, is it not beautiful? And in the same respect in which it is evil, is it not base?

Alcibiades

It is.

Socrates

In saying, then, that the aiding of our friends in battle is an action beautiful indeed, but that yet tis evil, you say exactly the same thing as if you called it an action, good indeed, but yet evil.

Alcibiades

I think you are in the right, Socrates.

Socrates

Nothing therefore which is beautiful, so far as it is beautiful, is evil; nor is anything which is base, so far as it is base, good.

Alcibiades

Evidently it is not.

Socrates

Further now consider it in this way: whoever acts beautifully, does he not act well too?

Alcibiades

He does.

Socrates

And those who act well, are they not happy?

Alcibiades

Without doubt.

Socrates

And are they not happy by being possessed of good things?

Alcibiades

Most certainly.

Socrates

And are they not possessed of these good things by acting well and beautifully?

Alcibiades

They are.

Socrates

To act well, therefore, is in the rank of good things?

Alcibiades

Beyond a doubt.

Socrates

And is not acting well a beautiful thing also?

Alcibiades

It is.

Socrates

Again therefore we have found, that one and the same thing is both beautiful and good?

Alcibiades

We have.

Socrates

Whatever then we should find to be a beautiful thing, we shall find it to be a good thing too, according to this reasoning?

Alcibiades

It must be so.

Socrates

And what? Are good things advantageous? Or are they not?

Alcibiades

They are.

Socrates

Do you remember, now, what we agreed in concerning things which are just?

Alcibiades

I imagine that you mean this, that those persons who do things which are just must of necessity do things which at the same time are beautiful.

Socrates

And did we not agree in this too, that those who do things which are beautiful do things which are also good?

Alcibiades

We did.

Socrates

And good things, you say, are advantageous?

Alcibiades

True.

Socrates

Things therefore which are just, O Alcibiades! are things which are advantageous.

Alcibiades

It seems they are.

Socrates

Well now; are not you the person who asserts these things? And am not I the questioner concerning them?

Alcibiades

So it appears.

Socrates

Whoever then rises up to speak in any council, whether it be of Athenians or Peparethians, imagining that he discerns what is just and what is unjust, if he should say that he knows justice to be sometimes evil and detrimental, would you not laugh at his pretensions to knowledge? since you yourself are found to be the very person who asserts that the same things are both just and advantageous?

Alcibiades

Now, by the gods, Socrates, for my part, I know not what to say to it; but am quite like a man distracted. For sometimes I am of one opinion, just while you are putting your questions to me, and presently after am of another.

Socrates

Are you ignorant now, my friend, what condition you are in?

Alcibiades

Entirely ignorant.

Socrates

Do you imagine, then, that if any person were to ask you, how many eyes you had, whether two or three, or how many hands, whether two or four, or any other such question, you would sometimes ask answer one thing, and add another times another? Or would you always give the same answer?

Alcibiades

I confess that I am now doubtful of myself; but I do believe that I should always give the same answer.

Socrates

And is not your knowledge of the subject the cause of that consistency there would be in your answers?

Alcibiades

I believe it is.

Socrates

When therefore you give contrary answers to one and the same question, without choosing to prevaricate, ‘tis evident that you have no knowledge of the subject.

Alcibiades

Probably so.

Socrates

Now you say that, two questions concerning things just or unjust, beautiful or base, good or evil, advantageous or otherwise, you should answer sometimes one thing and sometimes another. Is it not then evident, that your ignorance in these subjects is the cause of this inconsistency of yours?

Alcibiades

It appears so to me myself.

Socrates

Is not this then the true state of the case? On every subject which a man has not the knowledge of, must not his soul be wavering in her opinions?

Alcibiades

Most undoubtedly.

Socrates

Well now. Do you know by what means you may mount up to heaven?

Alcibiades

By Jupiter, not I.

Socrates

Is your opinion doubtful and wavering on this subject?

Alcibiades

Not at all.

Socrates

Do you know the reason why it is not? Or shall I tell it you?

Alcibiades

Do you tell me.

Socrates

Tis this, my friend: it is because you neither know nor imagine that you know the way up to heaven.

Alcibiades

How is that the reason? Explain yourself.

Socrates

Let you and I consider it together. Concerning any affairs which you are ignorant of, and are at the same time convinced that you are so, do you waver in your opinions? For instance, in the affair of dressing meats and making sauces, you are, I presume, well acquainted with your ignorance.

Alcibiades

Perfectly well.

Socrates

Do you form any opinions then yourself on these affairs of cookery, and waiver in those opinions? Or do you leave those matters to such as are skilled in them?

Alcibiades

I do as you mentioned last.

Socrates

And what if you were in a ship under sail, would you form any opinion, whether the rudder ought to be turned toward the ship or from it, and be unsettled in that opinion for want of knowledge in the affair? Or would you leave it to the pilot, and not trouble yourself about it?

Alcibiades

To the pilot I should leave it.

Socrates

Concerning affairs then which you are ignorant of, and are no stranger to your own ignorance in those respects, you are not wavering in your opinions?

Alcibiades

I believe I am not.

Socrates

Do you perceive that errors, committed in the doing of anything, are all to be ascribed to this kind of ignorance in a man, his imagining that he knows what he knows not?

Alcibiades

How do you mean?

Socrates

Whenever we undertake to act in any affair, it is only when we imagine we know what to do.

Alcibiades

Certainly.

Socrates

And such as have no opinion of their own knowledge in the affair resign it up to others to act for them.

Alcibiades

How should they do otherwise?

Socrates

Ignorant persons of this kind live therefore without committing errors, because they give up the management of those affairs in which they are ignorant into the hands of others.

Alcibiades

True.

Socrates

What kind of persons, then, are those who err and act amiss? For certainly they are not such as know how to act.

Alcibiades

By no means.

Socrates

Since then they are neither the knowing, nor those of the ignorant who know that they are ignorant, are any other persons left than of that kind who are ignorant, but imagine themselves knowing?

Alcibiades

None other than these.

Socrates

This kind of ignorance, therefore, is the cause of wrongdoings, and is the only kind which is culpable.

Alcibiades

Very true.

Socrates

And where it concerns things of greatest moment, is it not in these cases the most of any mischievous and shameful?

Alcibiades

By far the most so.

Socrates

Well then. Can you name any things of greater moment than those which are honest, and beautiful, and good, and advantageous?

Alcibiades

Certainly none.

Socrates

Is it not on these subjects that you acknowledge yourself to waver in your opinions?

Alcibiades

It is.

Socrates

And, if you are thus wavering, is it not evident from our past conclusions, not only that you are ignorant in subjects of the greatest moment, but that amidst this ignorance you imagine that you know them?

Alcibiades

I fear it is so.

Socrates

Fie upon it, Alcibiades! What a condition then you are in! A condition which I am loathe to name: but however, since we are alone, it must be spoken out. You are involved, my good sir, in that kind of ignorance which is the most shameful, according to the result of our joint reasoning, and according to your own confession. From this kind of ignorance it is, that you are eager to engage in politics before you have learnt the elements of that science. Indeed, you are not the only person in this sad condition; for in the same state of ignorance are the numerous managers of our civil affairs, all of them, except perhaps Pericles, your guardian, and a few more.

Alcibiades

And, Socrates, to confirm this opinion of yours, Pericles is said to have become wise, not spontaneously or of himself: On the contrary, tis reported of him that he had had the advantage of enjoying the conversation of many wise men, particularly of Pythoclides and Anaxagoras: and even at this time, old as he is, he is intimate with Damon for this very purpose.

Socrates

But what? Have you ever seen a man who was wise in any art whatever, and yet was unable to make another man wise in the same art? As, for instance, the master who taught you grammar was himself wise in that heart; and in the same art he made you wise; as he also made every other person whom he undertook to teach. Did he not?

Alcibiades

He did.

Socrates

And you, who have learnt from him that kind of wisdom, would not you be able to teach it to another person?

Alcibiades

Certainly I should.

Socrates

And is not the same thing true of a music master and of a master in the exercises?

Alcibiades

Perfectly so.

Socrates

For this undoubtedly is a fair proof of the knowledge of such as are knowing in any subject whatever, there being able to produce their scholars, and to show these to be knowing in the same.

Alcibiades

I think so too.

Socrates

Well then. Can you name to me anyone whom Pericles has made a wise man? His own sons has he, to begin with them?

Alcibiades

But what if the sons of Pericles were silly fellows, Socrates?

Socrates

Clinias then, your brother?

Alcibiades

Why should you mention Clinias, a man out of his senses?

Socrates

Since Clinias then is out of his senses, and since the sons of Pericles were silly fellows, to what defect in your disposition shall we impute the little care taken by Pericles to improve you?

Alcibiades

I presume that I myself am in the fault, that of not giving due attention to him.

Socrates

But name any person else, an Athenian or a foreigner, either a slave or a free man, who is indebted to the instructions of Pericles for becoming wiser than he was: as I can name to you those, who from the lessons of Zeno have improved in wisdom, Pythodorus the son of Isolochus, and Callias the son of Calliades; each of whom, at the price of 100 minae, paid to Zeno, became eminent for wisdom.

Alcibiades

Now, by Jupiter, I cannot.

Socrates

Very well. What then do you think of doing about yourself? Whether to rest satisfied in the condition which you are now in, or to apply yourself to some means of improvement?

Alcibiades

Concerning this, Socrates, I would consult with you. For I apprehend what you have said, and admit the truth of it. Those who have the administration of the state, except a few of them, seem indeed to me too not to have had a proper education.

Socrates

Well; and what conclusion do you draw from thence?

Alcibiades

This, that if they, through their education, we’re well qualified to govern, a man who should undertake to enter the lists in contest with them, ought to come to the engagement duly prepared by discipline and exercise, as in other combats. But now, seeing that such persons as these, raw and undisciplined as they are, have attained to the management of state affairs, what need is there for a man to exercise himself in such matters, or to give himself the trouble of acquiring knowledge in them? For I well know, that by dint of natural abilities I shall excel them by far, and get above them.

Socrates

Fie upon it, my fine young gentleman! What a declaration is this which you have made! How unworthy of your personal qualities, and of other advantages you are possessed of!

Alcibiades

I should be glad, Socrates, to know why you think it unworthy of me, and in what respect.

Socrates

You offer an affront, not only to the regard which I have for you, but to the opinion too which you have of yourself.

Alcibiades

How so?

Socrates

In that you think of entering the lists to contend with these men here at Athens.

Alcibiades

Whom then am I to contend with?

Socrates

Does this question become a man to ask who thinks his mind to be great and elevated?

Alcibiades

How do you mean? Is it not with these very persons that I am to stand in competition?

Socrates

Let me ask you this question; whether, if you had any thoughts of commanding a ship of war, would you deem it sufficient for you to excel the mariners who were to be under your command, in the skill belonging to a commander? Or, presuming yourself qualified with this due pre-excellence, would you direct your eye to those only whom you are in fact to combat against, and not, as you now do, to such as are to combat together with you? For to these men certainly you ought to be so much superior, that they should never be your associates in competition against any, but your inferior assistants in combating against the enemy; if you really think of exhibiting any noble exploits worthy of yourself and of your country.

Alcibiades

And such a thought I assure you that I entertain.

Socrates

Is it then at all worthy of you, to be contented with being a better man than your fellow soldiers, and not to have your eye directed toward the leaders of those whom you have to struggle with, studying how to become a better man than they, and employing yourself in exercises which are proper with a view to them?

Alcibiades

What persons do you mean, Socrates?

Socrates

Do you not know, that our city is every now and then at war with the Lacedaemonians, and with the Great King?

Alcibiades

True.

Socrates

If then you have it in your mind to be the leader of this city, would you not think rightly in thinking that you will have the kings of Sparta and of Persia to contend against?

Alcibiades

I suspect that you are in the right.

Socrates

And yet you, my good sir, On the contrary, are to fix your view on Midias, a feeder of quails, and on other such persons, who undertake to manage affairs of state, still wearing the badge of slavery (as the women would term it) in their souls, through their ignorance of the Muses; and not having yet thrown it off, but retaining their old sentiments, and manners still barbarian, are come to flatter the people, not to govern them. Ought you now to emulate these men whom I am speaking of, and disregard yourself? Ought you to neglect the acquiring of all such knowledge, as only is acquired through learning, when you have so great a combat to sustain? Or ought you to omit the exercising yourself in all such actions as are well performed only through practice? Should you not be furnished with all the qualifications requisite for the government of the state before you undertake to govern it?

Alcibiades

Indeed, Socrates, I believe you are in the right: but however, I imagine the commanders of the Spartan armies, and the Persian monarch, to be just such men as the others whom you have mentioned.

Socrates

But, my very good sir, consider this imagination of yours, what evils attend on it.

Alcibiades

In what respects?

Socrates

In the first place, what opinion concerning your antagonists do you think would engage you to take most care about yourself? Whether the opinion of there being formidable, or the contrary?

Alcibiades

The opinion without doubt of there being formidable.

Socrates

And do you think it would do you any harm to take care about yourself?

Alcibiades

None at all; but on the contrary great good.

Socrates

The want of this great good, then, is one of the evils which attend on that imagination?

Alcibiades

It is true.

Socrates

Consider if there be not probably another two; and that is the falsity of it.

Alcibiades

How do you prove that?

Socrates

Whether is it probable that persons, the most excellent in their natural dispositions, are to be found amongst those who descend from ancestors the noblest? Or is it not?

Alcibiades

Undoubtedly it is.

Socrates

And is it not probable that such as have excellent dispositions from nature, if they meet with a suitable education, should become accomplished in virtue?

Alcibiades

Of necessity they must.

Socrates

Let us consider now, in comparing their advantages with our own, whether the kings of Sparta and of Persia seem to be descended from meaner ancestors than we are. Knowing not that those are descendants of Hercules, and these of Achaemenes? That the beginning of Hercules is attributed to Jupiter, and the ancestry of Achaemenes to Perseus the son of Jupiter?

Alcibiades

And the family which I am of, O Socrates! Descends from Eurysaces; and the descent of Eurysaces was from Jupiter.

Socrates

And the family which I am of, my noble Alcibiades! descends from Daedalus; and the descent of Daedalus was from Vulcan, the son of Jupiter. But the pedigree of those with whom we set ourselves in comparison, beginning from the persons who now reign, exhibits the race of kings, all of them sons of kings, in a direct line quite up to Jupiter; those whom I first mentioned, kings of Argos and Lacedaemon; the others, kings of Persia perpetually, and often of all Asia, as they are at present: whereas we are but private men, ourselves and our fathers. If you then were to boast of your ancestors, and pompously say that Salamis was the hereditary dominion of Eurysaces, or, to ascend higher in your ancestry, that Aeacus governed in his native country Aegina, can you imagine how ridiculous you would appear in the eyes of Artaxerxes, the son of Xerxes?  Consider besides, whether we may not be found inferior to those great men, not only in the pride of ancestry, but also in the care taken of our birth and breeding. Are you not sensible of the singular advantages which attend the progeny of the Spartan kings in this respect, that their wives have a guard of state appointed for them by the Ephori; to the end that no king of theirs may be the issue of stolen embraces, or have for his real father any other man than a descendant of Hercules? And as to the Persian king, so greatly is he our superior with regard to this point, that none of his subjects entertain the least suspicion of his having any other father than the king his predecessor. The consort therefore of the king of Persia is under no restraint but that of her own dread of the evil consequences, should she dishonor the king’s bed. Further, when the king’s eldest son, the heir apparent to the crown, is born, all the king’s subjects in the city of his residence keep that day an original feast-day: and from thenceforward the anniversary of that day is celebrated with sacrifices and feasts by all Asia. But when we came first into the world, alas, Alcibiades! our very neighbors, as the comic poet says, little knew what happened. After this the child is brought up, not by some insignificant nurse, but by the best eunuchs about the King’s person. And these have it in their charge to take care of the royal infant in every respect, but especially to contrive the means of his becoming as handsome as possible in his person, by so fashioning his pliant limbs, and giving such a direction to their growth, that they may be straight: and for executing this office well they are highly honored. When the young princesses have attained the age of seven years, they are provided with horses and with riding masters, and are initiated in the exercise of hunting. At fourteen years of age they are put into the hands of those who are called the royal preceptors. And these are chosen out from such as are deemed the most excellent of the Persians, men of mature age, four in number; excelling severally in wisdom, justice, temperance, and fortitude. By the first of these they are taught the magic of Zoroaster the son of Oromazes, by which magic is meant the worship of the gods: and the same person instructs them likewise in the art of government. He who excels in the science of justice teaches them to follow truth in every part of their conduct throughout life. The person who excels in temperance and yours the young prince not to be governed by sensual pleasure of any kind, that he may acquire the habits of a free man and of a real king; by governing first all his own appetites, instead of being their slave. And the fourth, he who excels in fortitude forms his royal pupil to be fearless and intrepid; for that his mind, under the power of fear, would be a slave. But, Alcibiades, for your preceptor Pericles appointed one of his domestics, too old to be fit for any other service, Zopyrus of Thrace. I would recount to you the other articles of the breeding and instruction given to your antagonists, if the narration would not be too long; and besides this, the articles already mentioned are sufficient indications of those others which they infer and draw along with them. But your birth, Alcibiades, your breeding and institution, or any other circumstances attending you, scarce any one of the Athenians is at all solicitous about, unless there be some man who happens to have an especial regard for you. Further; if you would consider the treasures of the Persian kings, the sumptuous furniture of their palaces and tables, their wardrobes of apparel, the long trains of their garments, and the fragrance by of their unguents, there are numerous retinue of attendance, and the rest of their magnificence, in comparing all this with what you have of the same kind yourself, you would evidently perceive how much you fall short of them, and would be ashamed at the comparison. If, on the other hand, you would consider the Lacedaemonians, their sobriety and modesty, how simple their way of living, and how easily they are satisfied, their magnanimity and observance of order, their manly endurance of pain and love of labor, their emulation to excel, and their love of honor, you would think yourself a child to them in all these excellencies. Besides this, if you make riches any part of your consideration, and in this respect imagine yourself a person of consequence, let us not pass over this point neither unexamined; If by any means you can be made sensible in what rank you stand. If you choose then to consider the Lacedaemonians with regard to wealth, you will find that what we have here in Attica falls far short of theirs. For the lands which they possess in their own country, and in Messenia, are such as that no person here would dispute their superiority in this respect, whether he considers the quantity or the value of those lands, the number of their other slaves, besides such as the Helotes, or the number of their horses and other cattle in the pasture-grounds of Messenia.  But, setting aside all this, you will find that, as to gold and silver, there is not so much amongst all the Grecians as there is amongst the Lacedaemonians in private hands. For gold and silver have now for many generations been flowing into them from all parts of Greece, and often too from foreign countries; but there is no reflux anyway. That therefore which the fox said to the lion in a fable of Aesop’s may justly be applied to them; the footsteps of money coming into Lacedaemon are easy to be discovered, as being all turned towards it; but the tracks of money going out of it are nowhere to be discerned. Thus it may easily be conceived, that of all the Grecians the richest in gold and silver are the Lacedaemonians, and that of all the Lacedaemonians, the richest is their king. For of such comings-in a larger share, and oftener, is received by kings than by other men. And besides this, the tax is paid by the Lacedaemonians to their kings bring them in a large revenue. But whatever wealth the Lacedaemonians have, though great if compared with that of any other Grecians, yet in comparison with the riches of the Persians, and especially of their king, ‘tis nothing. For I once heard a man of credit, who had been at the capital city of Persia, say, that in going up to it, he traveled almost a day’s journey through a large and fertile territory, which the inhabitants of it called the Queen’s Girdle; that there was another extensive tract of land called the Queen’s Veil; and that many other fair and fruitful countries were appropriated to provide the rest of the queen’s apparel; each of those countries having its name from that part of the apparel which the revenue of it furnished. So that, where any person to tell the queen-mother, Amastris, the consort formerly of Xerxes, that the son of Dinomache had it in his head to lead an army against her son; and where she told at the same time that Dinomache’s whole attire might be worth perhaps 50 minae; supposing it to be of the most costly kind; and that this son of hers had land in the district of Erchia, containing not so much as three hundred acres; she I suppose would wonder in what kind of things this Alcibiades could place so much confidence as to think of contending with Artaxerxes. And I imagine that she would say it is impossible that this man should undertake such an affair with any other confidence than what he places in the prudence and skill which he is master of: for that the Grecians have nothing else worthy of account. Because if she was to hear further, that this same Alcibiades in the first place had not completed the twentieth year of his age; in the next place that he was utterly uninstructed; and besides this, that, when a friend of his advised him first to acquire the knowledge, the prudence, and the habits, necessary for the execution of his designs, before he had offered to attack the king, he refused to hearken to this advice, and said, that even in his present condition he was prepared sufficiently; I believe she would be astonished, and would ask, what kind of a thing it could be then in which the youth put his confidence? Upon this, were we to tell her, in his handsomeness and find person, in his birth and family, in his riches, and in the natural faculties of his mind, she would think us, Alcibiades, out of our senses, when she reflected on all the advantages which her son enjoyed of the same kinds. No less do I imagine that Lampido, daughter of Leotychidas, wife of Archidamus, and mother of Agis, who, all of them in their turns, succeeded to the crown of Sparta, she too would wonder, in reflecting on their greatness, where she told, that you had taken it into your head to make war against her son, so ill-instructed as you are. And now do you not think it’s shameful, if the wives of our enemies consider more prudently for us than we do for ourselves, what sort of persons we ought to be before we venture to attack such enemies? Harken therefore, my good sir, to the advice which I give you, in agreement with the Delphic inscription, KNOW THYSELF: since your antagonists are to be, not those whom you imagine, but these whom I have told you of: and these you can never excel in any other point than skill and application; in which articles if you are found deficient, you will fail of that reputation and renown, as well with Grecians as Barbarians, which I think you long for with more ardor than any other man does for whatever is the object of his wishes.

Alcibiades

Can you teach me then, O Socrates, what sort of application I ought to use? For you seem to be entirely right in all which you have spoken.

Socrates

Something I have indeed to say upon that subject. But let us enter into a joint consultation, you and I, about the means of becoming, both of us, better men. For when I say, there is a necessity for instruction, I mean it of myself as well as of you: since only one difference there is between you and me.

Alcibiades

What is that?

Socrates

He who is my guardian is better and wiser than Pericles, who is yours.

Alcibiades

And who is yours, O Socrates?

Socrates

A god, O Alcibiades! He who permitted me not before this day to enter into any discourse with you: he it is, on whose dictates to me I rely, when I am bold to say, that you will acquire the renown you long for, by no other means than through me.

Alcibiades

You are in jest, Socrates.

Socrates

Perhaps so: but I speak in truth however in good earnest when I say that we stand in need of instruction, or rather, that all men wanted; but that you and I have very special need of it.

Alcibiades

In saying that I have need of it, you are not mistaken.

Socrates

Neither am I, in saying that I myself have.

Alcibiades

What then must we do?

Socrates

We must not despair, nor give ourselves up to indolence, my friend.

Alcibiades

By no means, Socrates, does it become us to do so.

Socrates

Indeed it does not. We must therefore consider of the affair, you and I together period now then answer to my questions. We profess to be desirous of becoming as excellent as possible: do we not?

Alcibiades

We do.

Socrates

In what kind of excellence?

Alcibiades

In that certainty which belongs to men of merit.

Socrates

Of merit in what respect?

Alcibiades

In the management of business and affairs, undoubtedly.

Socrates

But what business do you mean? The business of a jockey?

Alcibiades

Clearly not.

Socrates

For then we should go for instruction to those who understand the management of horses.

Alcibiades

Certainly we should.

Socrates

Do you mean then of a mariner?

Alcibiades

I do not.

Socrates

For in that case we should apply to those who understand navigation.

Alcibiades

Certainly so.

Socrates

But what business or affairs then? And by what sort of men are these affairs managed?

Alcibiades

I mean such affairs as are managed by men of honor and merit amongst the Athenians.

Socrates

Men of honor and merit do you call such as have understanding, or such as are void of understanding?

Alcibiades

Such as have understanding.

Socrates

In whatever business a man has understanding, in that has he not merit?

Alcibiades

He has.

Socrates

And in whatever business he is void of understanding, is he not in that void of merit?

Alcibiades

Without doubt.

Socrates

Whether hath a shoemaker understanding in the business of making shoes?

Alcibiades

He certainly has.

Socrates

In this respect therefore he has merit.

Alcibiades

He has.

Socrates

Well; but is not a shoemaker void of understanding in the business of making clothes?

Alcibiades

No doubt of it.

Socrates

In this respect therefore he is void of merit.

Alcibiades

He is so.

Socrates

The same man therefore, according to this account, is at the same time void of merit and possessed of merit.

Alcibiades

It appears so.

Socrates

Would you say, then, that men possessed of merit are at the same time void of merit?

Alcibiades

That cannot be.

Socrates

What kind of men then do you mean by the men of merit?

Alcibiades

I mean such as have abilities to govern at Athens.

Socrates

Not to govern horses, I presume.

Alcibiades

No, certainly.

Socrates

But to govern men.

Alcibiades

That is my meaning.

Socrates

But what men do you mean? Men who are sick?

Alcibiades

I do not mean these.

Socrates

Men then who are going on a voyage?

Alcibiades

I mean not such men.

Socrates

Men then who are gathering the harvest?

Alcibiades

Nor such neither.

Socrates

But men who do nothing do you mean? or men who do something?

Alcibiades

Men who do something.

Socrates

Who do what? Try if you can to make me sensible of your precise meaning.

Alcibiades

Well then. I mean men who have commerce one with another, and make use of one another’s aid and assistance in that kind of life which we lead in cities.

Socrates

You speak then of such as have abilities to govern men, who make use of other men to aid and assist them.

Alcibiades

I do.

Socrates

Do you mean the governing of men who make use of mariners in the rowing of galleys, and give them the proper orders?

Alcibiades

I mean no such thing.

Socrates

For ability to govern such men belongs to the commander of a galley.

Alcibiades

True.

Socrates

Do you then mean the governing of men who are musicians, and lead the song to other men, making use of chorus singers and dancers?

Alcibiades

I mean not this neither.

Socrates

For this skill belongs to the master of the whole choir.

Alcibiades

Right.

Socrates

In speaking then of ability to govern men who make use of other men, what kind of use do you mean? Or in what way?

Alcibiades

Fellow citizens, I mean, partakers of the same polity, and engaged in mutual commerce for mutual help and benefit. I speak of ability to govern these.

Socrates

What art then is that which gives this ability? As if I were to ask you, on the subject just now mentioned, the knowing how to govern men embarked in the same voyage, what art is it that gives this knowledge?

Alcibiades

The art of commanding ships.

Socrates

And what science is that which gives the power of governing those others whom we mentioned, those who have parts in the same song?

Alcibiades

That which belongs, as just now you said, to the master of the whole choir.

Socrates

And by what name do you call that science which gives ability to govern those who partake of the same polity?

Alcibiades

Prudence I call it for my part, Socrates.

Socrates

What? Do you think then that want of prudence is proper for the commander of a ship?

Alcibiades

Certainly not so.

Socrates

But rather that prudence is.

Alcibiades

I think it is, so far as it regards the safety of those who are sailing in this ship.

Socrates

It is well said: and that other science, that which you call prudence, what end does that regard?

Alcibiades

The good government and safety of the commonwealth.

Socrates

And what is it which the commonwealth enjoys when it is governed best and preserved in safety? And what is it from which it is then preserved? As, if you were to ask me this question, what is it which the body enjoys when it is best taken care of, and preserved in safety? And from what is it then preserved? I would say that then it enjoys health, and is preserved from disease. Are not you of the same opinion?

Alcibiades

I am.

Socrates

And, if you were to ask me further, what do the eyes enjoy when the best care is taken of them? And from what are they then preserved? I would answer in like manner as before, if they enjoyed their sight, and were preserved from blindness. So likewise of the ears; when they are preserved from deafness, and have their hearing perfect, they are then in their best condition, and are taken the best care of.

Alcibiades

Right.

Socrates

Well, now; what does the commonwealth enjoy, and from what is it preserved, when it is in its best condition, has the best care taken of it, and is best preserved?

Alcibiades

It seems to me, Socrates, that the members of it then enjoy mutual amity, and are preserved from enmity and factions.

Socrates

By amity do you mean their being of the same mind, or of different minds?

Alcibiades

Their being of the same mind.

Socrates

Now through what science is it that different civil states are of the same mind concerning numbers?

Alcibiades

Through the science of arithmetic.

Socrates

Well; and is it not through that very science that private persons are of the same mind with one another?

Alcibiades

It is.

Socrates

And that any person to, by himself, continues always in the same mind, is it not through his possessing that science?

Alcibiades

It is.

Socrates

And through what science is it that a single individual is always of the same mind concerning a span and a cubit, whether of the two is the greater measure? Is it not through the science of mensuration?

Alcibiades

Without doubt.

Socrates

And is it not so too between different private persons and civil states?

Alcibiades

It is.

Socrates

And how concerning weights? Does not the same hold true in this case?

Alcibiades

I agree it does.

Socrates

But now the sameness of mind which you speak of, what is that? What is the subject matter of it? And through what science is it procured? I ask you likewise whether the same science which procures it for the public procures it no less for private persons; and whether it operates that effect in a man considered by himself as well as between one man and another.

Alcibiades

Probably it does.

Socrates

What science or art then is it? Do not labor for an answer, but speak readily what you think.

Alcibiades

I think it to be such an amity and sameness of mind, that which we are Speaking of, as there is between a father and a mother in loving their child, and as there is between brother and brother, and between man and wife.

Socrates

Do you then think it possible, Alcibiades, for a man to be of the same mind with his wife on the subject of weaving, when he is ignorant and she is knowing in the art?

By no means.

Socrates

Nor ought he neither. For ‘tis a piece of knowledge belonging only to women.

Alcibiades

Certainly.

Socrates

Well; and can a woman be of the same mind with her husband on the subject of fighting in battle among the infantry, when she has never learnt the art?

Alcibiades

Certainly she cannot.

Socrates

For the knowledge of this you would perhaps say belonged only to men.

Alcibiades

I should so.

Socrates

Some pieces of knowledge, therefore, properly belong to women; others to men according to your account.

Alcibiades

No doubt can be made of it.

Socrates

On those subjects therefore which are not common to both the sexes there is no sameness of mind, between husbands and their wives.

Alcibiades

There is not any.

Socrates

Neither then is there any friendship; if friendship consist in sameness of mind.

Alcibiades

It appears there is not.

Socrates

So far therefore as women are attentive to their own business they are not beloved by their husbands.

Alcibiades

It seems they are not.

Socrates

Neither are men beloved by their wives, so far as their minds are engaged in their own business.

Alcibiades

It seems they are not.

Socrates

Neither then do citizens live well together in cities, when each of them mines only his own business.

Alcibiades

Nay, Socrates; for my part I imagine that they do, so far as they are thus employed.

Socrates

How say you? What, without friendship between them, by means of which we said that civil states were in a happy condition, and without which we said they could not flourish?

Alcibiades

But it seems to me that friendship is on this very account produced between them, because everyone gives his whole attention to his own business.

Socrates

It did not seem so to you just now. But how do you explain at present what you said, that friendship was produced by sameness of mind? Whether is it possible that fellow citizens can be all of the same mind on subjects in which some of them are knowing, and others ignorant?

Alcibiades

It is not possible.

Socrates

And do they do their duty, and act as they ought, or not, when each of them attends to his own business?

Alcibiades

As they ought, undoubtedly.

Socrates

When the citizens then of any city act as they ought, and all of them do their duty, is not friendship produced between them?

Alcibiades

It must be so I think, Socrates.

Socrates

What kind of friendship, or sameness of mind, do you then mean, in the procuring of which you say that wisdom and prudence are requisite to make us men of virtue and merit? For I can neither learn from you what it is, nor what objects it regards. But sometimes it seems to regard the same objects, and sometimes not, according to your account of it.

Alcibiades

Now by the gods, Socrates, I know not what I mean, myself. But am in danger of appearing to have been, of a long time, in a shameful state of mind, without being sensible of it.

Socrates

Now therefore you ought to take courage. For if fifty years of your life had elapsed before you had discovered the real state of your mind, an application of it to the care of yourself would have been a difficult task for you. But you are now at the very time of life in which such a discovery should be made, to be of any advantage to you.

Alcibiades

What then am I to do, Socrates, now that I am made sensible of my condition?

Socrates

Only to answer to the questions I shall put to you, Alcibiades. And if you will do so, you and I, by the favor of God, if any credit may be given to a prophecy of mine, shall both of us be the better for it.

Alcibiades

Your prophecy shall be accomplished, as far as the accomplishment depends on my answering to your questions.

Socrates

Come on then. What is it to take care of oneself? That we may not falsely imagine, as we often do, that we are taking care of ourselves, and no not that all the while we are otherwise employed. And when is it that a man is taking that care? Whether when he is taking care of what appertains to him, is he then taking care of himself?

Alcibiades

For my part I must own I think so.

Socrates

And when is it, thank you, that a man is taking care of his feet? Whether is it then when he is taking care of the things appertaining to his feet?

Alcibiades

I do not apprehend your meaning.

Socrates

do you acknowledge something to be appertaining to the hand, a ring, for instance? Or does it appertain to any other part of the human body than a finger?

Alcibiades

Certainly not.

Socrates

And does not issue appertain to the foot in like manner?

Alcibiades

It does.

Socrates

Whether then at the time of our taking care of our shoes are we taking care immediately of our feet?

Alcibiades

I do not quite apprehend you, Socrates.

Socrates

Do you acknowledge that whatever be the subject of our care, a right care of it may be taken?

Alcibiades

I do.

Socrates

I ask you then, whether you think that a man takes a right care of whatever is the subject of his care, when he improves it and makes it better?

Alcibiades

I answer Yes.

Socrates

What art now is that by which our shoes are improved and made better?

Alcibiades

The shoemaker’s art.

Socrates

By the shoemaker’s art therefore it is that we take a right care of our shoes.

Alcibiades

True.

Socrates

And is it also by the shoemaker’s art that we take a right care of our feet? Or is it by that art by which we improve our feet and make them better?

Alcibiades

It is by this art.

Socrates

And do we not improve and make better our feet by the same art by which we improve and make better the rest of our body?

Alcibiades

I believe we do.

Socrates

And is not this the gymnastic art?

Alcibiades

Undoubtedly.

Socrates

By the gymnastic art therefore we take care of the foot, and by the shoemakers art we take care of what is appertinent to the foot.

Alcibiades

Exactly so.

Socrates

And in like manner by the gymnastic art we take care of our hands, and by the art of engraving rings we take care of what is appertinent to the hand.

Alcibiades

Certainly.

Socrates

By the gymnastic art also we take care of our bodies; but it is by the weaver’s art and some others that we take care of things appertinent to the body.

Alcibiades

I agree with you entirely.

Socrates

By one kind of knowledge therefore we take care of things themselves, and by a different kind of knowledge we take care of things only appertinent to those things which are the principle.

Alcibiades

It appears so.

Socrates

You are not therefore taking care of yourself when you are taking care only of the appertinences to yourself.

Alcibiades

At that time ‘tis very true I am not.

Socrates

For one and the same art, it seems, doth not take care of a thing itself, end of the appertinences to that thing besides.

Alcibiades

It appears to be not the same art.

Socrates

Now then, by what kind of art might we take care of ourselves?

Alcibiades

I have nothing to answer to this question.

Socrates

So much, however, we are agreed in, that it is not an art by which we improve or better anything which is ours; but an art by which we improve and better our very selves.

Alcibiades

I acknowledge it.

Socrates

Could we ever know what art would improve or amend a shoe, if we knew not what a shoe was?

Alcibiades

Impossible.

Socrates

Neither could we know what art would make better rings for the finger, if ignorant what a ring for the finger was.

Alcibiades

True.

Socrates

Well; and can we ever know what art would improve or make a man’s self better, so long as we are ignorant of what we ourselves are?

Alcibiades

Impossible.

Socrates

Let me ask you, then, whether it happens to be an easy thing to know oneself; and whether he was some person of mean attainments in knowledge, who put up this inscription in the temple at Pytho: or is it a piece of knowledge difficult to be attained, and not obvious to everyone?

Alcibiades

To me, Socrates, it has often seemed easy and obvious to everyone, and often too, at other times, thing of the greatest difficulty.

Socrates

But whether in itself it can be an easy thing or not, with respect to us, Alcibiades, the state of the case is this; had we attained to that piece of knowledge, we should perhaps know what it is to take care of ourselves; but never can we know this so long as we remain ignorant of that.

Alcibiades

These are truths which I acknowledge.

Socrates

Come then. By what means might it be found what is the very self of everything? For so we might perhaps find what we ourselves are: but so long as we continue in the dark as to that point, it will be no way possible to know ourselves.

Alcibiades

You are certainly in the right.

Socrates

Attend now, I conjure you in the name of Jupiter: with whom is it that you are at this present time discoursing? Is it not with me?

Alcibiades

It is.

Socrates

And am I not discoursing with you?

Alcibiades

You are.

Socrates

It is Socrates then who is discoursing and arguing.

Alcibiades

Quite true.

Socrates

And Alcibiades is attentive to his arguments.

Alcibiades

He is.

Socrates

Is it not by reason that Socrates thus argues in discourse?

Alcibiades

Undoubtedly.

Socrates

And is not to argue in discourse the same thing as to reason?

Alcbiades

Quite the same.

Socrates

But is not the person who uses a thing, different from the thing which he uses?

Alcibiades

How do you mean?

Socrates

As a shoemaker, for instance, cuts his leather with the shears, and the paring knife, and other tools.

Alcibiades

Well; he does so.

Socrates

Is not then the shoemaker, who cuts the leather and uses those tools in cutting it, different from the tools which he uses?

Alcibiades

Without doubt.

Socrates

Are not, in like manner, the instruments on which a musician plays, different things from the musician himself?

Alcibiades

Certainly.

Socrates

It was in this sense that just now I asked you whether you thought that, in all cases, the person who used a thing was different from the thing which he used.

Alcibiades

I think he is.

Socrates

Now then, to resume the instance of the shoemaker; what say we? Does he cut the leather with his tools only, or also with his hands?

Alcibiades

With his hands also.

Socrates

He therefore uses also these.

Alcibiades

He does.

Socrates

And we are agreed, that the person who makes use of any things is different from the things which he makes use of.

Alcibiades

We are.

Socrates

The shoemaker then, and the musician, are different from the hands and eyes with which they perform their operations.

Alcibiades

It is apparent.

Socrates

And does not a man use also his whole body?

Alcibiades

Most certainly.

Socrates

Now the user is different from the thing used.

Alcibiades

True.

Socrates

A man therefore is a being different from his body.

Alcibiades

It seems so.

Socrates

What sort of being then is man?

Alcibiades

I know not.

Socrates

But you know that man is some being who makes use of the body.

Alcibiades

True.

Socrates

Does any being make use of the body other than the soul?

Alcibiades

None other.

Socrates

And does it not do so by governing the body?

Alcibiades

It does.

Socrates

Further. I suppose that no man would ever think otherwise than this.

Alcibiades

Than what?

Socrates

That a man himself was one of these three things.

Alcibiades

What three things?

Socrates

Soul, or body, or a compound of them both, constituting one whole.

Alcibiades

What besides could be imagined?

Socrates

Now we agreed that the being which governs the body is the man.

Alcibiades

We did.

Socrates

What being then is the man? Does the body itself govern itself?

Alcibiades

By no means.

Socrates

For the body we said was governed.

Alcibiades

True.

Socrates

The body then cannot be that being which we are in search of.

Alcibiades

It seems not.

Socrates

But whether it does the compound being govern the body? And whether is this the man?

Alcibiades

Perhaps it is.

Socrates

Least of any of the three can this be so. For of two parties, one of which is the party governed, there is no possibility that both of them should govern jointly.

Alcibiades

Right.

Socrates

Since then neither the body, nor the compound of soul and body together, is the man, it remains, I think, either that a man’s self is nothing at all, or, if it be anything, it must be concluded that the man is no other thing than the soul.

Alcibiades

Clearly so.

Socrates

Needed them to be proved to you still more clearly, that the soul is the very man?

Alcibiades

It needs not, by Jupiter: for the proofs already brought seemed to me sufficient.

Socrates

If it be proved tolerably well, though not accurately, it is sufficient for us. For we shall then perhaps, and not before, have an accurate knowledge of man’s self, when we shall have discovered what we just now passed by as a matter which required much consideration.

Alcibiades

What is that?

Socrates

That of which was said some such thing as this, that in the first place we should consider what is self itself: whereas, instead of this, we have been considering what is the proper self of every man. And this indeed for our purpose will perhaps suffice. For we could by no means ever say that anything was more peculiarly and properly oneself, than is the soul.

Alcibiades

Certainly, we could not.

Socrates

May we not then fairly thus determine, that we are conversing one with another, by means of reason, you and I, soul with soul?

Alcibiades

Quite fairly.

Socrates

This therefore was our meaning when we said a little before, that Socrates discoursed with Alcibiades, making use of reason: we meant, it seems, that he directed his words and arguments, not to your outward person, but to Alcibiades himself, that is to the soul.

Alcibiades

It seems so to me too.

Socrates

He therefore enjoins a man to recognize the soul, he who gives him this injunction, to know himself.

Alcibiades

That is probably his meaning.

Socrates

Whoever then has a knowledge only of his body, has indeed attained the knowledge of what is his, but not the knowledge of himself.

Alcibiades

Just so.

Socrates

None therefore of the physicians, so far as he is only a physician, knows himself: neither does any master of the exercises, so far as he is such a master and nothing more.

Alcibiades

It seems they do not.

Socrates

Far from knowing themselves then are husbandmen, and other artificers or workmen. For such men as these are ignorant it seems of the things which are theirs, and knowing only in subjects still more remote, the mirror appertinences to those things which are theirs, so far as their several arts lead them. For they are acquainted only with things appertinent to the body, to the culture and service of which body these things administer.

Alcibiades

What you say is true.

Socrates

If therefore wisdom consists in the knowledge of oneself, none of these artificers are wise men by their skill in their respective arts.

Alcibiades

I think they are not.

Socrates

On this account it is that these arts seem mechanical and mean, and not the learning fit for a man of a virtuous merit.

Alcibiades

Entirely true.

Socrates

To return to our subject whoever then employs his care in the service of his body, takes care indeed of what is his, but not of himself.

Alcibiades

There is danger of its being found so.

Socrates

And whosoever is attentive to the improvement of his wealth is not taking care either of himself or of what is his, but of things still more remote, the mere appertinences to what is his.

Alcibiades

It seems so to me too.

Socrates

The man therefore who is intent on getting money, is so far not acting for his own advantage.

Alcibiades

Rightly concluded.

Socrates

It follows also, that whoever was an admirer of the outward person of Alcibiades, did not admire Alcibiades but something which belongs to Alcibiades.

Alcibiades

You say what is true.

Socrates

But whoever is your admirer is the admirer of your soul.

Alcibiades

It appears to follow of necessity from our reasoning.

Socrates

And hence it is, that the admirer of your outward person, when the flower of it is all fallen, departs and forsakes you.

Alcibiades

So it appears.

Socrates

But the admirer of a soul departs not, so long as that soul goes on to improve itself.

Alcibiades

Probably so.

Socrates

I am he then who forsakes you not, but abides by you, when the flower of youth having left you, the rest of your followers have left you and are gone.

Alcibiades

It is kindly done of you, Socrates: and never do you forsake me.

Socrates

Exert all your endeavors then to be as excellent a man as possible.

Alcibiades

I will do my best.

Socrates

For the state of your case is this: Alcibiades, the son of Clinias, never it seems had any admirer, neither has he now, besides one only, and therefore to be cherished, this Socrates here, the son of Sophroniscus and Phaenarete.

Alcibiades

‘Tis true.

Socrates

Did you not say that I had been a little beforehand with you when I accosted you; before that you had it in your mind to address me first; as you wanted to ask me, why of all your admirers I was the only one who forsook you not?

Alcibiades

I did say so: and that was the very case.

Socrates

This then was the reason: ‘twas because I was the only person who admired you; the others admired that which is yours. That which is yours has already dropt its flower; and the spring season of it is passed: whereas you yourself are but beginning to flourish. If therefore the Athenian populace corrupt you not, and make you less fair, I never shall forsake you. But this is what I chiefly fear, that you may come to admire and court the populace, and be corrupted by them, and we should lose you since many of the Athenians, men of virtuous merit too, have been thus corrupted before now. For the people of magnanimous Erechtheus has an outward person fair and engaging to behold. But we ought to strip it of all its showy dress, and view it naked. Use therefore the caution which I give you.

Alcibiades

What caution?

Socrates

In the first place, my friend, exercise yourself; and acquire the knowledge of those things which are necessary to be learned by every man who engages in political affairs: but engage not in them until you are thus exercised and thus instructed: that you may come to them prepared with an antidote, and suffer no harm from the poison of the populace.

Alcibiades

What you say, Socrates, to me seems right. But explain, if you can, more clearly, how or in what way we should take care of ourselves.

Socrates

Is not this then sufficiently clear to us from what has been already said? For what we are, has been tolerably well agreed on. Indeed before that point was settled we feared lest we should mistake it, and imagine that we were taking care of ourselves, when the object of our care all the while was some other thing.

Alcibiades

This is true.

Socrates

Upon that it was concluded by both of us that we ought to take care of the soul, and that to this we should direct all our attention and regard.

Alcibiades

It was evident.

Socrates

And that the care of our bodies and our possessions should be delivered over to others.

Alcibiades

We could not doubt it.

Socrates

In what way then may we attain to know the soul itself with the greatest clearness? For, when we know this, it seems we shall know ourselves. Now, in the name of the gods, whether are we not ignorant of the right meaning of that Delphic inscription just now mentioned?

Alcibiades

What meaning? What have you in your thoughts, oh Socrates! when you ask this question?

Socrates

I will tell you what I suspect that this inscription means, and what particular thing it advises us to do. For a just resemblance of it is, I think, not to be found wherever one pleases; but in only one thing, of the sight.

Alcibiades

How do you mean?

Socrates

Consider it jointly now with me. Were a man to address himself to the outward human eye, as if it were some other man; and were he to give it this council, “See yourself.”; what particular thing should we suppose that he advised the eye to do? Should we not suppose that it was to look at such a thing, as that the eye, by looking at, might see itself.

Alcibiades

Certainly we should.

Socrates

What kind of thing then do we think of, by looking at which we see the thing at which we look, and at the same time see ourselves?

Alcibiades

‘Tis evident, O Socrates, that for this purpose we must look at mirrors, and other things of the like kind.

Socrates

You are right. And has not the eye itself, with which we see, something of the same kind belonging to it?

Alcibiades

Most certainly it has.

Socrates

You have observed, then, the face of the person who looks in the eye of another person, appears visible to himself in the eye sight of the person opposite to him, as in a mirror? And we therefore call this the pupil, because it exhibits the image of that person who looks in it.

Alcibiades

What you say is true.

Socrates

An eye therefore beholding an eye, and looking in the most excellent part of it, in that with which it sees, may thus see itself?

Alcibiades

Apparently so.

Socrates

But if the eye look at any other part of the man, or at anything whatever, except what this part of the eye happens to be like, it will not see itself.

Alcibiades

It is true.

Socrates

If therefore the eye would see itself, it must look in an eye, and in the place of the eye, too, where the virtue of the eye is naturally seated; and the virtue of the eye is sight.

Alcibiades

Just so.

Socrates

Whether then is it not true, my friend Alcibiades, that the soul if she would know herself, must look at soul, and especially at that place in the soul in which wisdom, the virtue of the soul, is ingenerated; and also add whatever else this virtue of the soul resembles?

Alcibiades

To me, O Socrates, it seems true.

Socrates

Do we know of any place in the soul more divine than that which is the seat of knowledge and intelligence?

Alcibiades

We do not.

Socrates

This therefore in the soul resembles the divine nature. And a man, looking at this, and recognizing all that which is divine, and God and wisdom, would thus gain the most knowledge of himself.

Alcibiades

It is apparent.

Socrates

And to know oneself, we acknowledge to be wisdom.

Alcibiades

By all means.

Socrates

Shall we not say, therefore, that as mirrors are clearer, purer, and more splendid than that which is analogous to a mirror in the eye, in like manner God is purer and more splendid within that which is best in our soul?

Alcibiades

It is likely, Socrates.

Socrates

Looking therefore at God, we should make use of him as the most beautiful mirror, and among human concerns we should look at the virtue of the soul; and thus, by so doing, shall we not especially see and know our very selves?

Alcibiades

Yes.

Socrates

We are not wise, but are ignorant of ourselves, can we know what our good is, and what our evil?

Alcibiades

How is it possible that we should, Socrates?

Socrates

For perhaps it appears impossible for a man who knows not Alcibiades himself, to know anything which relates to Alcibiades, as having that relation.

Alcibiades

Impossible it is, by Jupiter.

Socrates

Neither then can anything which is our own, be known by us to be our own, any other way than through the knowledge of ourselves.

Alcibiades

How should we?

Socrates

And if we know not that which is ours, neither can we know any of the appertinences to what is ours.

Alcibiades

It appears we cannot.

Socrates

We therefore were not at all right in admitting, as we did just now, that certain persons there were, who knew not themselves, but who knew what belonged to them, and was theirs. Neither can such as know not themselves know the appertinences to what is theirs. For it seems, that ‘tis the province of one and the same person, and is from one end the same science, to know himself, to know the things which are his, and to know the appertinences to those things.

Alcibiades

I believe it will be found so.

Socrates

And whoever is ignorant of what belongs to himself and is his own, must be likewise ignorant of what belongs to other men and is theirs.

Alcibiades

Undoubtedly.

Socrates

And if he is ignorant of what belongs to other men, will he not be ignorant also of what belongs to the public, and to other civil states?

Alcibiades

He must be so.

Socrates

Such a man, therefore, cannot be a politician.

Alcibiades

Certainly he cannot.

Socrates

Neither will he be fit to manage a family.

Alcibiades

Certainly not.

Socrates

Nor will he have any certain knowledge of anything which he is doing.

Alcibiades

He will not.

Socrates

And will not the man who knows not what he is doing, do amiss?

Alcibiades

Certainly so.

Socrates

And doing amiss, will he not act ill, both as a private person, and as a member of the public?

Alcibiades

No doubt of it.

Socrates

And the man who acts ill, is he not in a bad condition?

Alcibiades

A very bad one.

Socrates

And then what condition will they be who have an interest in his conduct?

Alcibiades

In a very bad one they too.

Socrates

It is not possible therefore that any man should be happy if he be not wise and good.

Alcibiades

It is not possible.

Socrates

Those then who are bad men are in a bad condition.

Alcibiades

A very bad one indeed.

Socrates

Not even by riches therefore is a man delivered out of a miserable condition; nor by any other thing than wisdom and virtue.

Alcibiades

Apparently so.

Socrates

Fortifications therefore, and shipping, and harbors, will be of no avail to the happiness of any civil states; neither will the multitude of their people, nor the extent of their territories; if they lack virtue.

Alcibiades

Of none at all.

Socrates

If then you would manage the affairs of the city well and rightly, you must impart virtue to the citizens.

Alcibiades

Beyond question.

Socrates

But can a man impart to others that which he has not himself?

Alcibiades

How should he?

Socrates

You yourself therefore in the first place should acquire virtue, as should also every other man who has any thoughts of governing, and managing, not himself only, and his own private affairs, but the people also, and the affairs of the public.

Alcibiades

True.

Socrates

Not arbitrary power therefore, nor command, ought you to procure, neither for yourself nor for the city, but justice and prudence.

Alcibiades

It is evident.

Socrates

For, if you act justly and prudently, your own conduct, and that of the city too, will be pleasing unto God.

Alcibiades

‘Tis highly probable.

Socrates

And ye will thus act, by looking, as we said before, at that which is divine and splendid.

Alcibiades

Evidently so.

Socrates

And, further, by directing your sight hither, ye will behold and know what is your own good.

Alcibiades

True.

Socrates

Will ye not then act both rightly and well?

Alcibiades

Certainly.

Socrates

And acting thus I will ensure happiness both to yourself and to the city.

Alcibiades

You will be a safe insurer.

Socrates

But acting unjustly, as looking to that which is without God, and dark, ‘tis highly probable that ye will perform actions similar to what ye behold, actions dark and atheistical, as being ignorant of yourselves.

Alcibiades

In all probability that would be the case.

Socrates

For, O my friend Alcibiades! If a man have the power of doing what he pleases, and at the same time lacks intellect, what will be the probable consequence of such arbitrary power, to himself, if he is a private person, and to the state also, if he governs it? As in the case of a bodily disease, if the sick person, without having medical knowledge, had the power of doing what he pleased, and if he tyrannized so as that no person would dare to reprove him, what would be the consequence? Would it not be, in all probability, the destruction of his body?

Alcibiades

It would indeed.

Socrates

And in the affair of a sea voyage, if a man, void of the knowledge and skill belonging to a sea commander, had the power of acting and directing in the vessel as he thought proper, do you conceive what would be the consequence, both to himself and to the companions of his voyage?

Alcibiades

I do; that they would all be lost.

Socrates

Is it otherwise then in the administration of the state, or in any offices of command or power? If virtue be wanting in the persons who are appointed to them, will not the consequence be an evil and destructive conduct?

Alcibiades

It must.

Socrates

Arbitrary power, then, my noble Alcibiades! is not the thing which you are to aim at procuring, neither for yourself nor yet for the commonwealth; but virtue, if you mean either your own private happiness or that of the public.

Alcibiades

True.

Socrates

And

Alcibiades

Evidently so.

Socrates

Is not that which is better, more beautiful also?

Alcibiades

It is.

Socrates

And is not that which is more beautiful, more becoming?

Alcibiades

Without doubt.

Socrates

It becomes a bad man therefore to be a slave: for it is better for him so to be.

Alcibiades

Certainly.

Socrates

Vice therefore is a thing servile, and becoming only to the condition of a slave.

Alcibiades

Clearly.

Socrates

And virtue is a thing liberal, and becoming to a gentleman.

Alcibiades

It is.

Socrates

Are we not, my friend, to shun everything which is servile, and becoming only to a slave?

Alcibiades

The most of all things, O Socrates!

Socrates

Are you sensible of the present state of your own mind? Do you find it liberal, and such as becomes a gentleman, or not?

Alcibiades

I think I am very fully sensible of what it is.

Socrates

Do you know then, by what means you may escape from that condition in which you are now, not to name what it is, when it happens to be the case of a man of honor?

Alcibiades

I do.

Socrates

By what?

Alcibiades

Through you, Socrates, if you please.

Socrates

That is not well said, Alcibiades!

Alcibiades

What ought I then to say?

Socrates

You ought to say, “If God pleases.”.

Alcibiades

I adopt those words then for my own. And I shall add to them these further; that we shall be in danger, Socrates, of changing parts, I of assuming yours, and you of bearing mine. For it is not possible for me to avoid the following you everywhere from this day forward, with as much assiduity as if I was your guardian, and you my pupil.

Socrates

My friendship then for you, noble Alcibiades! may be compared justly to a stork; if, having hatched in your heart, and there cherished, a winged love, it is afterward to be by this love, in return, cherished and supported.

Alcibiades

And this you will find to be the very case: for I shall begin from henceforward to cultivate the science of justice.

Socrates

I wish you may persevere. But I am terribly afraid for you: not that I in the least distrust the goodness of your disposition; but perceiving the torrent of the times, I fear you may be borne away with it, in spite of your own resistance, and of my endeavors in your aid.

The End

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