THE STORYLINE OF PLATO'S PROTAGORAS*
My aim in these pages is to demonstrate that the speeches and actions in Protagoras are the moments of a complex, coherent, fully worked out storyline. Hippocrates intends to abandon family and friends, of whom Socrates is one, in order to associate with Protagoras. Later, at the conference of sophists taking place at Kallias’ house, concerned whether Hippocrates’ soul would be harmed by Protagoras’ teaching, Socrates engages the sophist in order to gauge his bona fides. Socrates’ testing indicates that Protagoras privately believes that one may commit ?d???a [injustice] while exercising s?f??s??? [prudence] in so doing, although the sophist refuses to agree to that proposition in public. In the second half of the dialogue, a remark of Protagoras’ effects a turning point in the discussion. Socrates recognizes that the sophist’s characterization of ??d?e?a [courage], at 351b1?2, that it comes from nature and from the good nurture (sc. of that nature) in souls, is an apothegm or wise saying. Hippocrates intends to associate with Protagoras to acquire the sophist’s wisdom. Protagoras’ wise saying must be made to disappear, lest it draw Hippocrates to follow after its Pied Piper author, thus dissolving his friendship with Socrates. Henceforth, the sophist is forbidden, twice, to play a collaborative role in the inquiry: Socrates will lead, Protagoras is to follow. Socrates evokes an ?p?st?µ? [science] of measuring pains against pleasures, to be taught by sophists to the intemperate polloi to overcome their acrasia. Hippocrates’ daylong pursuit through the countryside of the runaway slave Satyrus is a representation of his exemplary self-discipline, and indicates that he already possesses the ?p?st?µ? of self-control that Socrates urges on the polloi. Making use of propositions agreed to by Protagoras in the hedonic calculus passage, Socrates forces him step by step to accept a replacement of his wise saying. By foisting on Protagoras and the other sophists the teaching of an ?p?st?µ? in the hearing of Hippocrates who already possesses it,
* I follow the texts of Burnet, J. 1901?06. Platonis opera. 5 vols. Oxford: Clarendon Press; Bywater, I. 1920. Aristotelis Ethica Nicomachea. Oxford: Clarendon Press; and Walzer, R. R. 1991. Aristotelis Ethica Eudemia. Oxford:
Clarendon Press. Translations of the Greek are mine unless otherwise indicated. A version of this paper was read at the 1973 annual meeting of the American Philological Association at St. Louis.
and “unsaying,” as it were, Protagoras’ wise saying, Socrates removes the proximate reasons for his friend to associate with Protagoras. Socrates leaves Kallias' house with Hippocrates, their friendship preserved.
1. The testing of Protagoras (309?335b)
Socrates encounters an unnamed ?ta???? [friend] to whom he recounts the events of the day.
Hippocrates had awakened Socrates before daybreak. He informs Socrates that Protagoras arrived in Athens yesterday, which Hippocrates only learned of late at night, for he had spent the daylight hours in the country, chasing after a runaway slave. Socrates corrects the young man. Protagoras actually arrived two days ago. Socrates may have attended the first full day of discussions at Kallias' house.1
Hippocrates’ personal character is often deprecated. Wolfsdorf writes (2008: 83):
In Protagoras Plato spends considerable time conveying an impression of Hippocrates as
an impetuous and intemperate soul. Hippocrates arrives at Socrates’ house before
sunrise; he knocks forcefully (panu sphodra) at the door with a stick; he rushes inside
(euthus epeigomenos); he shouts (tęi phonęi mega). He would have come to Socrates before
he went to bed, but having gone to the district of Oinoë in search of his runaway slave
Satyrus, he returned home too late. Plato’s inclusion of Hippocrates’ failure to control his
slave may also suggest a failure of self-control. Alternatively, the names Oenoë and
Satyrus may conceal the real reason Hippocrates returned home so late: He was out
drinking. When Hippocrates finishes his story, Socrates says, “Then I, recognizing his
1 Socrates does not introduce himself when he first speaks to Protagoras, at 316b1?2, and the sophist, a few lines on, addresses Socrates by name. See Denyer 2008: 87, "Protagoras obviously remembers Socrates' name from some previous meeting." For the dates of Protagoras’ sojourns in Athens, see Morrison 1941: 7. Protagoras apparently set up as a public teacher in Athens “not before 460 or later than 454.” He left Athens for Thurii in 444 and returned to Athens in 433, the putative date of Protagoras which takes place when Socrates and Hippocrates were young men (?µe?? ??? ?t? ???? [314b5]). It is not impossible, although unlikely, that Socrates initially met Protagoras eleven years earlier. On the other hand, Protagoras may have remembered the teen-ager Socrates’ exceptionally ugly face.
spirit and excitement (ptoięsin) . . . .
Hippocrates possesses the virtue of ??d?e?a—“spirit” seems an odd way to translate ??d?e?a. “Excitement” as a translation of Hippocrates’ pt???s?? is suggestive of an unfocused flaw of temperament, like that of Apollodorus in the Symposium. I suggest that Hippocrates’ pt???s?? characterizes his ??d?e?a—the terms are named together—and is synonymous with the ?ta? [forward-going] brave men whom Protagoras speaks of at 349e3. According to Wolfsdorf, Plato is depicting a brave Hippocrates who is intemperate in his ways. Socrates names indulgence in food, drink, and sex as tokens of akrasia at 353c6. The portrayal of Hippocrates’ day-long effort to re-enslave a fugitive slave who ran away to the wine country, and whose name is suggestive of unbridled pleasure, and the young man’s return home at nightfall to eat dinner, seems the very negation of someone enslaved by the pleasures of food, drink and sex.
Hippocrates means to dissolve his relations with family and friends, of whom Socrates is one (“we, your friends” [?µ?? t?? ?ta????]), and associate with Protagoras, not out of political ambition, but so as to be made wise. The young man jokes that the sophist has wronged him "because he is the only wise man and doesn't make me one" (310d5?6). There is no mention in this passage or elsewhere of Hippocrates harboring political ambition. Despite that negative fact, it is generally assumed that his intention is political in nature.2
Hippocrates’ friendship with Socrates is that of an ?ta????, like the unnamed ?ta???? to whom Socrates relates the dialogue. Whatever the degree of their personal relationship, Socrates, as always, means to be useful to his friends. In that eleemosynary spirit, Socrates
warns of the danger of being poisoned by what is on offer from sophists. Just as grocers sell food for the body, some of it perchance spoiled, sophists sell food for the soul. Unlike provisions
2 See Adkins (1973: 3) “Hippocrates is the son of a great and wealthy house, who wishes to make a name for himself in politics (emphasis added), and thinks that the best way of achieving his goal is to become a pupil of Protagoras. See also Bartlett (2003: 613) “. . . he (sc. Hippocrates) wishes to become the student of Protagoras evidently because he believes that acquiring such wisdom or skill himself is essential to fulfilling his political ambition (emphasis added) to his becoming ‘held in high regard in the city’ (310e6?7; 316b10?cl).” Socrates does not identify here what it is for which Hippocrates desires to become ??????µ?? in his city.
from the market, which may be carried off and tested by experts in the kitchen, the latter must be consumed immediately upon purchase.
Later, at Kallias' house, Socrates presents himself and Hippocrates to Protagoras. The
sophist, who does not yet know why they have come, asks whether they prefer to confer
(d?a?e????a?3) privately or in public. Socrates replies that “It is indifferent to us. Hear what we have come for, and you decide.” Protagoras warily asks that question because it is the safer course for him that the intentions of prospective associates with political ambitions be examined in private. On the other hand, the intentions of others without political ambition, like Antimoiros of Mende, may be safely discussed in public. Socrates’ reply does not identify Hippocrates’ motive for association with Protagoras, namely that the young man wishes to become wise. Socrates simply evokes Hippocrates’ wealthy and distinguished background, stating that he seems to desire (?p???µe??) to become ??????µ?? [famous] in his city, and that state of affairs he imagines would certainly happen, were he to associate with Protagoras. Socrates turns Protagoras’ question around, bidding the sophist “Now do consider, concerning these things (pe?? a?t??),” that is Hippocrates’ wealthy and high-born background, and his desire to become famous, “whether you deem it necessary to consult privately one on one, or
3 M. Burnyeat 2013: 419 contrasts Protagoras’ use of the aorist infinitive d?a?e????a? at 316b3 with Socrates’ use of the present infinitive d?a???es?a? at 316c3. According to Burnyeat, Socrates’ use of the imperfect present infinitive indicates his “focus on the ongoing process of discussion” whereas “Protagoras’ perfective d?a?e????a? shows him foreseeing an end to the conversation before it has even begun.” I propose an alternative reading of Protagoras’ d?a?e????a? and Socrates’ d?a???es?a?. Protagoras asks ??te???, ?f?, µ??? ß????µe??? d?a?e????a? ? ?a? µet? t?? ?????; (316b3). He employs the perfective aorist infinitive d?a?e????a? and the singular µ??? because he is referring to a singular event: an interview with Hippocrates. Is it to be conducted privately or before the others (µet? t?? ?????) in attendance at Kallias’ house? Socrates’ version of the question reads ta?t’ ??? ?d? s? s??pe?, p?te??? pe?? a?t?? µ???? ??e? de?? d?a???es?a? p??? µ?????, ? µet’ ????? (316c2–4). Socrates employs the present imperfective infinitive, and envisions a plurality of interviewees interviewed individually (µ???? . . . p??? µ?????), because he is asking about Protagoras’ customary practice (an activity of imperfect aspect) for interviewing one on one those such as Hippocrates whose intentions are undefined. Socrates omits the article in the phrase µet’ ????? to indicate that its antecedents are unnamed auditors of public discussions in general.
openly before others.” As Protagoras desires to give a public demonstration, he thanks Socrates
for providentially bringing someone seemingly without political ambitions, whose prospective
association with him may be discussed openly: “Socrates, you have correctly divined my intention (sc. to conduct a discussion for all to hear).” Protagoras’s answer indicates that he does
not judge that Hippocrates’ desire to become ??????µ?? in his city requires a private consultation, as is required for interviews with those harboring political ambitions.
The sophist goes on to describe his modus operandi. He is a foreigner who trawls the great cities, persuading the best young men to abandon their usual converse with family and friends (t?? ???? t??? ße?t?st??? ?p??e?p??ta? t?? t?? ????? s????s?a? [317c7?8]) to follow him. Those alienations of affection cause resentments (f?????), unpleasantnesses (d?sµ??e?a?), and even plots (?p?ß???a?) against him. Doing what Protagoras does puts him in existential danger from deadly enemies. Who are those violent men? Their identity is not far to seek. It seems that Homer, Hesiod, and other sophists, fearing resentment, disguised what they were up to as best they could. But it did not escape the notice of the rulers of the cities (t??? d??aµ????? ?? ta?? p??es? p??tte??). What they noticed is not stated. I suggest that the rulers noticed that promising young men in their inner circles, closely bound to them by ties of friendship and
family, but impatient to rule in their stead, were engaging in private consultations with new
The attendees assembled and seated, Socrates is asked to say again what he said before, that Hippocrates desires to become famous. Instead, Socrates asks what the young man will get from associating with Protagoras. The sophist promises that he will get what he came for. Socrates presses him4 to say exactly what that might be. Protagoras' µ???µa [teaching] is for managing optimally one's estate "and that one might be the most powerful in the things of the city in doing and speaking" (?p?? t? t?? p??e?? d??at?tat?? ?? e?? ?a? p??tte?? ?a?
???e??). Later on, at 354b4?5, "rule over others" (????? ???a?) and "wealth" (p???t??)
4 Conspiracy against them is an ongoing danger to rulers, so actionable intelligence regarding potential conspirators is of paramount concern. At Chrm. 167a1?5, the future tyrant Critias defines s?f??s??? in part as a unilateral knowledge of what the others are thinking. See Eisenstadt 2008: 495.
terminate a list of pleasures. The former is a lapidary phrase, capturing in two words the essence of being preeminent in the affairs of the city in speaking in favor of one's agenda and effecting it; the latter term names the telos of Protagoras' teaching of how best to manage one's estate.
Socrates closes off the prospect of wealth and rule over others by recasting Protagoras'
µ???µa into a harmless platitude, namely that the sophist's teaching is the science of politics and making men into good citizens. That, Protagoras replies, is precisely5 what he teaches. Earlier, Socrates spoke of the danger of purchasing food for the soul from a sophist that must be consumed immediately; here, in effect, he has carried it off uneaten to be tested, as it were in
Socrates denies that ??et? [excellence] is teachable. He offers two arguments, the first easily refuted. He cites apparently contradictory rules followed by the Athenians when meeting in the ekklesia. On the one hand, they accept advice on technical issues only from competent professionals trained by known teachers. On the other hand, any citizen may offer advice about managing the city’s affairs (pe?? t?? t?? p??e?? d?????se??), whether rich or poor, aristocrat or menial, without being asked who taught him d??a??s??? [justice] and s?f??s??? [prudence], which are required to advise competently on matters of policy. Socrates concludes that the Athenians believe that ??et? is not teachable because, unlike the case of professionally trained experts, a citizen cannot name the teacher whom he learned it from. As Protagoras points out in his speech, the contradiction disappears when one takes into account the fact that
citizens acquire those twin aspects of ??et?, not by paying experts to teach it to them, but by
emulating their elders, and through long practice, each eventually deeming himself expert in
5 See Taylor 1976: 71 "We find it startling that Socrates should equate teaching the art of how to run a city with making men into good citizens, and that Protagoras should accept this equation." See also Bartlett 2003: 614 “It is certainly true that Socrates immediately imposes on Protagoras the most respectable interpretation of his remarks possible—to the effect that Protagoras teaches the political art and good citizenship, words that had never
passed Protagoras' lips—just as it is true that Protagoras happily concedes this to be what he publicly pronounces or ‘professes’ (319a6?7).” Protagoras is not happy. Socrates has pressured Protagoras at length (318b1?d4) into revealing the maximalist programme of his µ???µa. Because it is safer to discuss such matters with a prospective associate in private, the sophist apparently regrets its public disclosure, and elects to unsay it, as it were, by endorsing warmly Socrates' innocuous substitution.
making just and prudent policy decisions.
Socrates' stronger argument for the thesis that ??et? is not teachable rests on the unquestionable fact that men of great excellence, such as Pericles, appear from time to time, and are recognized in their accomplishments by their contemporaries to possess ??et? in full. Yet they have no known teacher of their excellence, nor are they able to transmit it to their sons. Accordingly, ??et? is not teachable.
In the speech that follows, Protagoras commends the practice of having children read
poetry about great and good men of old "so that the child be zealous to imitate them and to strive to become such as they were," but he does not address the deep question of how great men come to possess ??et? in full. The sophist observes that citizens assiduously inculcate a
lesser, demotic6 ??et? into their children. The inculcation of demotic justice into children is reinforced with threats, beatings and the prospect of worse. Protagoras' opinion that man is unjust in his nature informs his account of the origin of mankind, told in the form of a myth. The impending extirpation of mankind, whose lawlessness towards one another prevented
concerted resistance against packs of predator animals, and rendered living together in cities impossible, was averted by Zeus' contrivance: in order that they might live together in cities, all must be coerced to be just towards one another.
Socrates has reported the entirety of Protagoras’ speech. Some of its propositions he agrees with, others not. It may be safely assumed that he is in agreement that ?s??t?? [reverence for the gods] is innate in man. On the other hand, Socrates does not agree with Protagoras' characterization of justice as a coercive Social Contract. Protagoras paired d??? [law] with a?d?? [shame], the sophist asserting that conjointly with their lawless attitude towards others, men are naturally shameless. Earlier that day, the dramatic detail of Hippocrates blushing in the dark,7 at 312a2, indicates that a?d?? may awaken autonomously. That real world
6 At Phdr. 82a11?b3, Socrates corroborates Protagoras’ observation in praising "those who practice a demotic and civic ??et? that they call s?f??s??? and d??a??s???, which (sc. demotic and civic ??et?) comes to be from habit and practice, without philosophy or reason.”
7 Ordinarily, blushing is caused by embarrassment at an act or thought noticed or perceived by others. Socrates’ report of glimpsing Hippocrates’ blush in the near dark is a literary device that serves to inform the
event argues against the notion that humankind is naturally shameless. Likewise, the fact that men possessing ??et? in full appear from time to time argues against the notion that all would,
if they could, behave lawlessly towards others.
Socrates intends to test the sophist's wares which he has carried off for inspection. Aside
the charm of the origin myth, and the logos of civilization that it entails, it remains to be determined whether or not, according to Protagoras' teaching about ruling over others, the s?f??? [prudent] ruler practices ?d???a [injustice]. Socrates’ methodology for testing the sophist in that regard proceeds by indirection. Pairs of abstractions are examined: d??a??s??? [justice] and ?s??t?? [piety], s?f??s??? [prudence] and s?f?a [wisdom], and ?d???a [injustice] and s?f??s??? [prudence]. I note that the penultimate abstraction is not d??a??s???, as is usually asserted, but its negation. The word d??a??s??? or cognate forms do
not appear in the third discussion, in contrast to ?d????, ?d??e?, ?d????s??, and ?d?????te?, the latter occurring twice. Following Kahn,8 I read the third discussion, not as a testing of propositions, but as a testing of Protagoras the man.
In a preliminary interrogatory, Socrates elicits Protagoras’ theory of ??et?, that its parts are different from one another, and have different functions, as different as the mouth's function
is to that of the eyes, and are unlike pieces of gold, which differ only in largeness and smallness, and that having one part does not imply that one has another part, unlike parts of the face.9
Socrates states a contrary view, that “all the names (sc. of the parts of ??et?) reference the same unitary existent thing” (p??ta ???µata t?? a?t?? ???? ??t?? [321d1]). That idea is
restated at 349b2?3, again in contrast to the sophist's opinions, that "there are five names (sc. d??a??s???, ?s??t??, s?f??s???, s?f?a, ??d?e?a) that inhere in the unitary practice (sc. of ??et?)" (p??te ??ta ???µata, ?p? ??? p???µat? ?st??). Finally, in his summary of the
dialogue at 361b1?2, Socrates offers a skewed and curtailed version of 321d1 and 348b2?3, in
reader of the fact of Hippocrates’ unwitnessed autonomous blush.
8 See Kahn 1996: 97 "The elenchus described in the Apology is a testing of persons, not propositions. (This conception of the elenchus is occasionally expressed in the dialogues, for instance at Laches 1877E?188B and Protagoras 333C [. . .])."
9 A face without nose or mouth is not a face.
which ?p?st?µ? [knowledge] is the supervening principle that directs other parts of ??et?.
In scholarly literature, Socrates’ so-called Unity of the Virtues doctrine at 321d1 and 348b2?3 is addressed as a decontextualized standalone proposition. No consensual interpretation of its precise meaning has been forthcoming. This may be said: 321d1 and 348b2?3 exactly represent the negation of Protaoras' opinion that parts of ??et? may be exercised independently of other parts. That complementarity permits the speculation that Protagoras’ opinion of the matter may have dictated the twin formulations of the Unity of the Virtues doctrine that negates it.
According to Protagoras, the words d??a??s???, ?s??t??, s?f??s???, s?f?a and
??d?e?a name different human activities or capacities, conjoined or not as may be. As he says
(329e5?6), many are ??d?e??? [brave], but unjust, and (sc. many) are just, but not wise. The first pair of uncongenial dispositions reminds that the primitive men of the myth would have exercised ??d?e?a in killing or fending off a dangerous animal, singulatim, with firebrand or farm implement. But in the war against packs of predator animals, they were the weaker because, unlike the animals, they lacked justice vis-ŕ-vis their fellows, so that they did not come to one another's defense. It is also represented in the speech that the innate10 disposition of men
to reverence the gods (?s??t??) existed in mythical time, anterior to historical time11 when cities were established and justice came into existence.
The overview of Protagoras’ opinions concluded, Socrates initiates a series of discussions. In the first discussion, Socrates observes and Protagoras concurs that ?s??t?? [revering the gods] and d??a??s??? [justice] are activities practiced by men. Socrates argues that the eponymous attribute of ?s??t?? applies to d??a??s??? and vice versa. Protagoras replies that he is prepared to address Socrates’ proposition as a yet unproven hypothesis. Socrates forbids
Protagoras the use of hypotheticals. To that diktat, Protagoras replies that everything may be
10 Cf. 322a4: mankind alone of the animals worships the gods "through their kinship with deity" (d?? t??
t?? ?e?? s?????e?a?).
11 See Wilamowitz 1931: 1.13 "Es ist eine fundamentale Tatsache, die nie vergessen werden darf, so oft es auch geschieht, daß die Moral im Zusammenleben der Menschen entsteht, anders als der Glaube an die Götter, die selbst erst spät von den Menschen zu moralischen Wesen umgebildet werden."
hypothesized: "in one way or another, all things are the same as everything else." Accordingly, even opposites like black and white, hard and soft, have some degree of likeness. Socrates dares Protagoras to say that piety and justice have as little in common as black and white. "Not so, he replies, at all, nor yet, on the other hand, as I believe you regard them."13 Socrates intuits the sophist’s feelings that fuel those words, and reveals them to the audience: "You seem to me to be in a state of displeasure as regards our conversation" (d ? s ? e ? ? ? d??e?? µ?? ? ? e ? ? p??? t??t?). Socrates' diktat and his subsequent remarks leading to Protagoras’ d?s???e?a are apparently an instance of the unpleasantnesses Protagoras spoke of earlier, at 316d2?3, that he typically experiences at the hands of those who, like Socrates, resent the prospect of losing an intimate to the sophist’s circle. Thus Protagoras’ state of displeasure.
In the second discussion, Socrates states that it is necessarily the case that a thing have
only one opposite thing. Consequently, s?f?a and s?f??s??? are identical because the same
thing is their opposite, namely “thoughtlessness” (?f??s???). Protagoras agrees very reluctantly (?a? µ??’ ????t??) to that dubious argument.
Socrates recapitulates the conclusions of the prior discussions: "Then s?f??s??? and
s?f?a would be one? And before that, we saw that d??a??s??? and ?s??t?? were virtually the same."
The subsequent discussion (333b7?335c7) has been interpreted as an ultimately aborted attempt by Socrates to prove that d??a??s??? is the same as s?f??s???.14 The text suggests
13 Lamb's translation 1924: 161.
14 See Schleiermacher 1836: 87, "Socrates . . . forces from him (sc. Protagoras) in a second course the confession that discretion (sc. s?f??s???) also and wisdom must be identical, and at length is on the point of
proving the same of justice (sc. that d??a??s??? is identical with s?f??s???), when Protagoras violently starting off in order to break the thread, brings forward a long, but exclusively empirical discussion upon the nature of the Good”; Grote 1888: 2, 280, "Meanwhile [. . .] Sokrates pursues his examination, with intent to prove that justice
(d??a??s???) and moderation (s?f??s???) are identical”; Adam 1893: 136, "If d??a??s??? = ?s??t?? and
s?f??s??? = s?f?a it remains to identify either d??a??s??? or ?s??t?? with either s?f??s??? or s?f?a in order to prove the identity of these four virtues. Socrates begins to prove that d??a??s??? = s?f??s???”; Sullivan 1961: 16, “Socrates now begins the equation of s?f??s??? and d??a??s???, incidentally forcing Protagoras to defend a thesis which he is ashamed to affirm—the common view that one may exercise self-control in injustice”; Allen 1970:
otherwise. The word d??a??s??? does not occur in this passage; ?d???a and cognates occur five
Socrates predicts that it is now the turn of Protagoras himself to submit to being tested. The sophist discountenances such an examination, alleging that it would be displeasing (t ? ? ??? ? ? ? ? ? ?t??t? d ? s ? e ? ? e??a? [333d1?2]), but eventually agrees to answer.
Socrates asks Protagoras “whether it seems to you that an unjust man might exercise
s?f??s???, whilst committing injustice” (??? t?? s?? d??e? ?d???? ?????p?? s?f???e??, ?t? ?d??e?;). Protagoras replies "I would be ashamed to agree, although there are many who say that." The received opinion of that exchange is that Protagoras disagrees15 with the proposition.
95, ". . . the third (sc. discussion) (333d-334a), which is interrupted without reaching its conclusion, would have maintained the unity of justice and temperance”; Vlastos 1974: 416, n.1/1981, 221, n.1, "The defense is presented in the form of separate arguments for the unity of four pairs of virtues: (1) Justice and Piety (330B6?331E6); (2) Wisdom and Temperance (332A4?333B6); (3) Temperance and Justice (333B8?334C6); (4) Courage and Wisdom (349D2?350C5)”; Guthrie 1975: 4.218, “Without pause he starts on the relationship between justice and self-control (or however we translate sophrosyne . . .) .”; Taylor 1976: 131, "333b7?334a2 Socrates begins an argument to prove the identity of justice with sophrosune”; Frede, D. 1986: 732, “Socrates . . . points out in three successive arguments that (1) justice must be the same as piety (330c?32a), (2) wisdom the same as prudence or self-control (332a?33b), and (3) justice the same as self-control (333b?34a)”; Frede, M. 1992: xxvi, “Next follows an argument that wisdom and temperance are the same (332a3?333b6), and the beginning of an argument that justice and temperance go together (333b ff.), which however Protagoras does not allow to arrive at a formal conclusion . . . “; Manuwald 1999: 271, "333b7?334c6 Sokrates setzt dazu an, sophrosyne und Gerechtigkeit als identisch zu erweisen, jedoch kommt die Argumentation wegen längerer Ausfuhrungen des Protagoras über die Vielfältigkeit und Relativität des Nützlichen und Guten nicht zum Abschluß"; Denyer 2008: 132, "Socrates starts to present an argument that temperance and justice are a single thing."
15 See Adam 1893: 137, "Protagoras' own opinion" is "that ?d???a is not compatible with s?f??s???;" Nestle 1910: 97, "Protagoras bekennt sich als Gegner der weitverbreiteten Lehre vom Naturrecht des Stärkeren, die auf
eine völlige Umwertung aller sittlichen Werte hinauslief [Thuk. III 82]. . . ;" Ritter 1910: 1.322, "Die Frage, ob ihm
etwa ein ungerecht Handelnder eben damit Besonnenheit zu betätigen scheine, verneint er zwar für sich ganz
entschieden;" Pohlenz 1913: 99n3, "Protagoras selber bekennt als seine Ansicht ?t? ??de?? ?d???? s?f???e? [333c], was uns nach dem Mythos nicht verwundern kann"; Vlastos 1956: viii, "But he (sc. Plato) also makes it clear that, unlike some salesmen, this one has moral inhibitions. Protagoras refuses to admit that everyone agrees that all must say they are d??a???, whether they are so or not . . . ;" Sprague 1967: 2, Protagoras' "own opinion" is "that acts
Socrates repeats the question. "Do some men seem to you to be s?f??? [prudent], whilst
Protagoras: ?st?, ?f? [“Let it be so!” he said]. The sophist affirms the proposition hypothetically.
Socrates: "And you agree that exercising prudence (s?f???e??) is the same as practicing good sense (e? f???e??)?”
Protagoras: ?f? [he agreed]. The sophist affirms this in his own voice.
Socrates: "And that good sense (e? f???e??) is (sc. the same as) good planning (e? ß???e?es?a?), whilst practicing ?d???a?"
Protagoras: ?st?, ?f? [“Let it be so!” he said].
E?ß????a [good planning] is surely what Protagoras teaches (cf. 318e5), but the reappearance of the condition "whilst practicing ?d???a" forces him, again, to answer hypothetically. Socrates' repetition, retraction, and reinsertion of the damning phrase drives the sophist to frame his answers alternatively in third person hypothetical or first person indicative. That is
embarassingly revelatory of Protagoras’ private opinion that ?d???a and s?f??s??? are
Socrates lobs him a soft ball: ??te???, ?? d’ ???, e? e? p??tt??s?? ?d?????te? ? e?
?a???; [“Whether acting unjustly is doing well or doing poorly?”]. The syntax permits Progaoras to reply simply e? e? [“Doing well”], thereby obscuring whether he is affirming the transgressive proposition in propria voce or hypothesizing it.
Socrates and Protagoras agree that good things exist. The sophist delivers a speech on
different kinds of ??a?? [good things]. One kind of ??a?? is useful to one species of animal, but harmful to another species, for example, good and useful for horses, bad for cattle.
of injustice are intemperate;" Guthrie 1975: 4.218, “Can a wrong-doer be said to employ this virtue (sc. s?f??s???)? Prot. thinks not, though many people believe it”; Manuwald 1999: 272, "Protagoras’ verwahrt sich gegen diese Ansicht (sc. that ?d???a and s?f??s??? are compatible), die er als verbreitet bezeichnet . . . ." An exception is Paul Friedländer 1957: 2.16. Friedländer poses this question: "Aber wenn Protagoras sich nun herbeiläßt die Meinung (sc. that ?d???a and s?f??s??? are compatible) der Vielen gesprachsweise zu vertreten, so wird man sich fragen, ob er sie nicht auch im Erneste vertreten könnte."
Another kind of ??a?? is useful to one part of a man or animal or plant, but harmful to
another part of that species. Olive oil is an example of that kind of ??a??, good on the
outside of a man's body, inside the worst of evils (sc. when ill). All doctors forbid the sick to ingest olive oil, other than the smallest amount sprinkled on food, "just enough to quench the
displeasure (? d?s???e?a) of the sensations in the nostrils that occur (sc. when a sick man eats) porridges and sauces." The invalid's nausea at the smell and taste of food is handily relieved by
drizzling a small amount of oil on it. Unlike unremitting and excruciating pain, or good pain
that results, afterwards, in greater pleasure, easily mitigated nasal displeasure is a pain that is
neither good nor bad. Protagoras' d?s???e?a at Socrates' harsh treatment is a pain of that kind.
By analogy, there is likely another kind of ??a??, omitted by Protagoras, that is useful to
one member of a species, but harmful to another of the same species, as when one man profitably practices ?d???a against another man with impunity, thanks to his concommitant
exercise of s?f??s???. Or, on a larger stage, good things that are useful to the s?f??? tyrant
and his circle, but harmful to those he rules, the fruit of ?d???a exercised with s?f??s???.
The sophist has eluded the cast of Socrates' net by delivering a well-received speech.
Socrates protests: Protagoras should give measured answers. But this is the man whose motto is "Man the measure of all things!" The sophist's metrics are infinitely elastic, except for money. He asks whether his answers should be tailored to suit him or Socrates. Socrates tries another approach: if the sophist will not agree regarding the middle or mean of the yardstick for
measuring answers, perhaps he can be flattered into agreement about its ends. Praising
Protagoras as able not only to speak more tersely than anyone else on the same subject (cf. Grg.
449bc), but interminably as well, Socrates asks him to exercise the former talent. Protagoras
insists that he will not be ordered about.
This glimpse of the sophist’s private opinion and confidential counsel regarding the compatability of ?d???a and s?f??s??? in ruling over others indicates that Protagoras'
teaching is unfit to consume. Socrates declares that it is no longer his ?????16 [work] to continue the conversation. He gets up to go but is prevailed upon to stay.
16 This is the mid-point of the dialogue: slightly more than 27 Stephanus pages separate 335b2 (????t? ?µ?? ?????) from the beginning of Protagoras and from its end.
2. Protagoras’ and Socrates’ interpretations of Simonides’ poem (338e?347a)
Afterwards, Protagoras extolls literary criticism as the greatest share of a gentleman’s
education. He proceeds to find fault with a well known poem of Simonides (PMG 542),17 by
criticizing the poet for contradicting himself. He quotes Simonides’ own opinion: “it is difficult
to become truly excellent” (??d?’ ??a??? µ?? ??a???? ? e ? ? s ? a ? ?a?ep??). Protagoras then faults Simonides for criticizing Pittacus for expressing the same opinion, as it seems to the
sophist: “it is difficult, you say, to be (sc. and remain) a good man” (?a?ep?? f?t’ ?s????
? µ µ e ? a ?). To the unvirtuous sophist, the distinction between becoming a virtuous man and
remaining a virtuous man may well seem imperceptible.
Socrates in turn offers a counter interpretation refuting Protagoras’ claim that Simonides
contradicts himself, and latterly rudely deprecates displays of literary criticism at symposia as the entertainment of second-rate men. The harsh deprecation of literary criticism performed in public, which Protagoras extolled as the acme of educational attainment, seems another instance of the unpleasantnesses Socrates visits on his rival for Hippocrates’ affection.
The Simonides’ poem passage is usually taken to be an interlude or digression, unrelated to discussions before and after, and playing no detectable role in the business of Protagoras. I suggest that Simonides overthrowing Pittacus’ wise saying in PMG 542 foreshadows Socrates overthrowing Protagoras’ wise saying, after hearing the sophist utter it at 351b1?2.
Socrates explains that Simonides’ critique of Pittacus’ saying was motivated by the former’s ambition to be numbered among the wise. To effect that ambition, Simonides refuted a wise
saying of Pittacus, which was known and circulated in camera by the Seven Sages, among whom
the latter was numbered. To explain the historical existence of wise sayings of the Seven Sages displayed in the temple of Apollo at Delphi, Socrates provides an origin myth, like the myth in Protagoras’ great speech that provides the grounds for the constitutional systems of cities in historical times. According to Socrates, the Seven Sages, and others even nowadays, were aware of the wisdom of the Spartans, and the Cretans, and wished to imitate them. It seems that the Spartans practise philosophy in secret, whilst feigning the state of being ignorant rustics. As
17 Page 1962: 282. See Beresford’s so far unchallenged reconstruction of PMG 542.
proof for that assertion, Socrates provides this anecdote (342d6?e4): “For if one is willing to engage in conversation with the meanest of Spartans, generally as the conversation proceeds, one will find that he (sc. the Spartan) seems to be a mean fellow, then at some point or another in the conversation, he lets fly a noteworthy remark, brief and compact, like a skilled javelin thrower, so that his interlocuter appears no better than a child.” The wise saying of the Spartan is said to be “a brief and compact remark worth noting (??µa ????? ????? ß?a?? ?a? s??est?aµµ????).” That formulation is echoed a few lines on in characterizing utterances of the Seven Sages as “concise remarks worthy of mention” (??µata ß?a??a ????µ??µ??e?ta [343a7?8]). The belief in antiquity that wise men might be recognized in their wisdom by
gnomic utterances of profound thoughts,18 a belief reflected in the fact that those wise sayings were accepted as such, as the text reports (????a?te? ta?ta ? d? p??te? ?µ???s?? [343b2?3]), may seem naive to the sceptical modern mentality for whom the concept of truth and true statements or wise sayings are problematic.
3. Protagoras' wise saying and its aftermath (348d?359a)
The poetry criticisms end. Socrates subjects Protagoras to another round of harsh invective. He goes on to emphasize the collaborative aspect of philosophical inquiry (348d3?4): "When one is
alone and thinks about something, straightway he goes about seeking a man, until he should
come upon him, to whom he might demonstrate (sc. the thought) and, with that man, ascertain
(sc. whether it be true or false)."19 An instance of such a collaboration takes place at 314c3?8, when Socrates and Hippocrates, in front of Kallias' house, paused to discuss an unidentified
topic “until we agreed with one another.”
After stipulating that serious inquiry be collaborative, Socrates acknowledges the charm of conversation with the top sophist of the time, and calls for a rerun of their initial inquiry about ??et?. He reproduces, verbatim, Protagoras’s opinion about the parts of ??et?. The sophist readjusts the opinion he is prepared to defend. Conceding now that four of the parts of ??et?
18 Cf. St. Augustine Confessiones VII, 19 “. . . at one time, to put forth wise thoughts in words, at another, to
remain silent” (nunc proferre per signa sapientes sententias, nunc esse in silentio).
19 Like the d?sµ??e?a? [unpleasantnesses] that Socrates visits on the sophist, the stipulation at 348d3?4 that
are fairly close to one another (?p?e???? pa?ap??s?a ????????), the sophist maintains that ??d?e?a is an outlier, and that it often cohabits with vice (349d6?8): "You will find many who are quite unjust (?d????) and impious (???s???) and undisciplined (????ast??) and uneducated (?µa?e??), but are exceptionally ??d?e??? (sc. in battle).” The well-travelled sophist knows the
world. Socrates at the putative date of Protagoras had not yet fought abroad, or observed the
behavior of off-duty soldiers in bivouac.
Socrates marshalls his thoughts about ??d?e?a, the part of ??et? that did not figure in the
three earlier discussions. Asked whether brave men (??d?e???) are bold (?a??a????), Protagoras agrees. It is then established that ??et? is entirely a fine thing with no admixture of baseness. Base acts of anger-fed or insane boldness are excluded from being instances of
??d?e?a because, as ??d?e?a is a part of ??et?, it does not admit of baseness. Socrates asks if
the sophist has seen men boldly diving into wells. Protagoras names those men, they are
professional divers. Socrates asks whether they dive boldly because they have learned and know (?p?sta?ta?) how to dive (sc. safely), or through something else. Protagoras confirms that they know how to dive safely. And likewise for cavalrymen and for light-infantry armed with javelins. Protagoras also notes that training makes such men bolder than before they were trained. That fact Socrates knows from personal experience, for he had trained in his branch of
the military,20 and noticed that he had become a bolder hoplite than before he was trained.
Socrates asks whether the sophist has also seen men untrained in all those life-risking activities,
a d?a???µa [thought] be confirmed as true or false in collaboration with another person, and the abrogation of that
stipulation at 351e8?9, are moments of the storyline.
20 How he managed to train is unknown. Cf. van Wees 2004, 94, "But they (sc. hoplites) were not, however,
subjected to any regular programme of training: in an anecdote set in the late fifth cenury, when he himself was growing up, Xenophon has Socrates say to an unfit youug man; just because the city offers no public military training (original emphasis) is absolutely no reason why you should neglect it in private, too (Memorabilia 3.12.5).” Ibid. 55, "Poorer men would get themselves a shield and spear if they had the chance. Socrates who had no regular income and whose house and furniture were worth no more than 500 drachmas, nevertheless fought as a hoplite in the large force which laid siege to Potidaea in 432?429 BC and in the general levy which invaded Boeotia in 424 BC. Men in his position, keen to serve but probably unable to afford it from their own means, might be helped out by better-off neighbours and friends."
but acting boldly in each of them. Protagoras in fact has seen extremely bold men of that sort. Socrates asks if those bold fellows are brave (??d?e???). To Protagoras, that would make ??d?e?a a shameful thing. Socrates: “How then do you say about the brave (t??? ??d?e????)?
Do you not say that those are the bold (t???21 ?a??a?????)?” Protagoras: “I still do.” Socrates:
“On the one hand, are there those (sc. as you said) who are bold, but not brave, and apparently insane (???? µa???µe??? fa????ta?)? On the other hand, are there others most wise (s?f?tat??) (sc. in their trained expertise as divers, cavalrymen and peltasts), who are the boldest (?a??a?e?tat??), and (sc. those who are) the boldest are the bravest (??d?e??tat??)? And, according to that argument, would (sc. not) wisdom (s?f?a) be ??d?e?a?”
Socrates expresses his thinking in a less than precise language that suggests he might be committing an illicit conversion. Protagoras fears lest an illicit conversion be incorrectly
ascribed to him, that if the brave are the bold, it follows that the bold are the brave. I submit
that the storyline requires that Socrates err here to provide antithesis to thesis, the latter
Protagoras’ forthcoming argument that cumulates with the wise saying about ??d?e?a at 351b1?2. The ambiguity of his imprecise language aside, Socrates’ error seems to be this. Being brave is a necessary condition, and prior in being, to enrolling in and completing a course of training for a dangerous profession. Cowards do not seek to become professional divers. Did
Socrates not realize that he himself was brave before learning the art of the hoplite? Socrates recognizes that Hippocrates possesses ??d?e?a at 310d2?3. Concurrently, the young man expresses the desire to possess wisdom in joking that Protagoras has wronged him by being the only wise man and not making him one. Already brave, Hippocrates’ yearning for s?f?a is a real life refutal of Socrates’ assertion that wisdom = bravery. As it is Socrates who recounts all
21 The article t??? that precedes the adjective ?a??a????? is sometime athetised or emended. According to Wolfsdorf 2006: 439, however t??? is dealt with, Socrates’ meaning remains the same: “Consequently, the weight of the evidence—that Socrates is not an utter fool (sc. so as to commit an illicit conversion) and that there is no indication elsewhere in Plato of the use of the article with a predicate other than to state or deny identity—suggests that the text must here be corrupt and that t??? should be excised or altered. I leave open the question which solution is preferable, for in either case the meaning of Socrates' question is now clarified as: Do you speak of the courageous as confident (original emphasis)?”
this, he should be aware of the counterfactual. It is not evident why Socrates advances the
proposition that wisdom is bravery before hearing Protagoras’ wise saying at 351b1?2. His use of that theory after 351b1?2 is more perspicuous.
Protagoras rightly takes exception to Socrates’ finding that ??d?e?a is wisdom. He refutes that equation by analogy, citing the fact that physical strength (?s???) permits the exercise of power (d??aµ??). Absent innate physical strength, power may also issue from an honorable (?a???) expertise (?p?st?µ?), or from base (a?s????) insanity (µa??a) or base anger (??µ??) of those whose expertise, or state of insanity, or transient anger permits them to exceed their physical limitations. Protagoras points out that ?s???, brute physical strength, comes from nature and its good nurture in bodies (?s??? d? ?p? f?se?? ?a? e?t??f?a? t?? s?µ?t??).
Finally, Protagoras declares that "??d?e?a comes from nature and from its good nurture
in souls."22 That thought is expressed in eight words of Greek, brief so as to recall Socrates’
anecdote about the pithy remark of the stupid Spartan, at 342d6?e4, who so flustered his interlocuter with an unexpected ??µa. I submit that the sophist's remark about ??d?e?a at 351b1?2, is an apothegm or wise saying. A passage in the Republic confirms that reading. At Rep.4.429d4 et seq. Socrates locates martial ??d?e?a in a subset of citizens, fewer than the
number of metal workers; these are the guardian-soldiers of the Just City. The nature and
nurture of those chosen to be guardian-soldiers is likened to naturally white wool that dyers pick out from variously colored wools, and by means of a complex procedure, imbue with fast colors that do not fade even when scoured by harsh detergent. The steadfastness of the
guardian-solders is like the color fastness of that dyed wool.
The particulars of Socrates’ characterization of ??d?e?a in this passage are these (Rep. 4.429e8?430a4):
. . . and when we choose (sc. those likely to become) soldiers (st?at??ta?) . . . educated
through music and gymnastics . . . persuaded that the ??µ?? [laws] are the finest things,
22 The notion in so many words is not reprised by other ancient authors. Plato may have modelled it on a remark of the historical Protagoras: f?se?? ?a? ?s??se?? d?das?a??a de?ta? (DK 80 B3). See Shorey 1909.
their ???? d??a23 [correct belief] regarding the dreadful things (t? de???) and the other
things (t? ???a) is made colorfast . . . and possessing such a gift of nature, and it having
received its appropriate nurture, . . . this I name and set down to be ??d?e?a.
The Greek of the emphasized phrase above—d?? t? t?? te f?s?? ?a? t?? t??f?? ?p?t?de?a? ?s?????a?—echoes the sophist's characterization of ??d?e?a in Protagoras (??d?e?a d? ?p? f?se?? ?a? e?t??f?a? t?? ????? ????eta?) in thought and vocabulary.24 Socrates’ reprise and elaboration of Protagoras' remark in Protagoras that he heard when he was a young man (cf. 314b5), warrants that 351b1?2 is a wise saying.25
Conversely, in Laches, Nicias reproduces Socrates’ definition of ??d?e?a in Protagoras, which replaces Protagoras'. Nicias asserts, at La. 194e?195a, that ??d?e?a is the ?p?st?µ?
(s?f?a in Protagoras) of dreadful and benign circumstances in war and elsewhere. Socrates, again in Laches, observes that t? de??? [dire circumstances] cause fear, and that fear is the expectation of a future evil. Thus Nicias’ notion is open to the objection that his ?p?st?µ?
[science] of t? de??? concerns only the future, whereas if ??d?e?a were an ?p?st?µ?, it would bear on past, present, and future alike, as sciences do. Socrates gets Nicias to acknowledge, at
La. 199e12, that he does not know what ??d?e?a is. The fact that Nicias’ definition of ??d?e?a,
23 ???? d??a [correct belief] concerning the dreadful things is not about recognizing phenomenal de??? as such, or noticing their absence; rather it is the ground of ???? p????? [correct practice] in warfare and elsewhere.
24 Manuwald (1999: 377) denies that Rep. 4.429e8?430a4 and Prot. 351b1?2 express the same thought about the same thing. His view is that despite their shared vocabulary, Socrates in the Republic and Protagoras in Protagoras are talking about different kinds of ??d?e?a. Socrates sometimes use different words to name the same or almost the same thing, For example, the words s?f?a, ?p?st?µ?, and f????s?? refer virtually to the same thing, and seem to replace one another according to the rhetorical demands of the remark. On the other hand, so far as I know, Socrates nowhere uses the same words to name different things, which would be a recipe for confusion.
25 How have commentators dealt with 351b1?2? It seems that all suppose that as Plato’s mouth-piece, Socrates’ assertions regarding ??d?e?a at 350c4?5, and again at 360d4?5, possess an authorative voice and win the argument; the significance of Protagoras’ remark for the storyline is not recognized. Some dismiss the remark as confused (Schleiermacher 1836: 81, Grote 1888: 2.289, Sauppe 1892: 142, Weiss 1985: 11). Others simply paraphrase it (Adam 1893: 176, Taylor 1976: 161, Denyer 2008: 176) without signaling its significance. Manuwald (1999: 377) notes the verbal similarity of Prot. 351b1?2 and Rep. 4.430a4?5 but denies the pertinence of the latter to the former.
refuted by Socrates in Laches, and subsequently withdrawn by Nicias, is identical to that of Socrates’ in Protagoras disconfirms the latter.
But what if the Republic and/or Laches had not survived? Is it possible to assess the
respective merits of Protagoras' and Socrates' sayings about ??d?e?a in Protagoras itself, aside
the external evidence cited above? Protagoras' saying changes the tenor of the conversation. This is the story so far. The sophist guardedly alluded, at 316d?317a, to his role as consigliere to political adventurers,26 was pressured by Socrates into publicly offering that service at 318e and, as it seems, condones and counsels the pairing of ?d???a with s?f??s??? when ruling over others. But Socrates' friend Hippocrates does not desire rule over others, he desires to be made wise. If the wise saying stands—it may be assumed that the young man recognizes it as such (cf. 343b2?3)—it will necessarily27 draw Hippocrates to follow after its author, thus dissolving his friendship with Socrates.
Immediately upon the sophist uttering the wise saying, Socrates changes the subject.28 He asks the sophist if, in living one’s life pleasantly (?d???) until one dies, one lives well (e?), in which case living pleasantly is a good thing, and painfully a bad thing. In affirming that proposition, Protagoras adds the stipulation that the pleasant things that such a man enjoys must be honorable things (t? ?a??), not base things, if they are to be good things. The coincidence of the attributes ?a??? [honorable], ??a??? [good], and ?d? [pleasant] in a well-lived life, established at this point, is reprised later at 360a3, where Protagoras agrees that
??d?e??? [brave men] go willingly into battle because doing so is personally honorable, a good
thing for the city preserved thereby, and pleasurable.
Socrates wonders why the polloi lack appetitive self-control, and err in indulging in the
immediate pleasures of food, drink and sex without regard for the consequent pains of poverty
26 According to Morrison (1941: 14?16), Protagoras returned to Athens in 422 BCE, in aid of Alcibiades'
27 Strict causality may be assumed to be operative in a work of fiction.
28 "Do you speak of some men, Protagoras, I asked, as living well, and others ill?" (Lamb’s translation [1924: 223]). See Taylor 2003: 149/2008: 266, "Socrates abruptly begins a new argument designed to force Protagoras to
accept the identity of courage with wisdom, which he finally does at 360d?e."
and sickness. Socrates proposes that there are two kinds of pleasures and two kinds of pain, which may be distinguished inter se by their consequences. Protagoras realizes that the
unpleasantnesses Socrates has been visiting on him are instances of a third kind of pain, like the
nasal distress of the invalid, depicted at 334b7?c6, not good, but tolerable because prospectively short term, and not bad, as is excruciating and unremitting physical pain. Distinguishing between pains has made Protagoras personally safer (?sfa??ste???) throughout his life. His amendment to Socrates’ theory is also ?sfa??ste??? in that it improves the theory.29 As it seems to the sophist, who is feeling the third kind of pain, it saves the phenomena.
In view of his contribution to the previous discussion, namely his wise saying about ??d?e?a, Protagoras expects to continue playing an active role in a new discussion. He recalls Socrates' stipulation, at 348d3?4, that an inquiry be pursued collaboratively: "As you often say, Socrates, let us look at it, and if the pleasant and the good are the same, we will agree, if not,
then we will dispute" (351e3?6). Socrates replies "Do you intend to lead the s????? [inquiry], or
am I to lead?" Protagoras courteously accedes to Socrates' intention to lead the s?????. Up to the point when Protagoras uttered his wise saying, the s????? was a vehicle of honest collaborative inquiry. The stipulation that inquiry be collaborative is now abandoned; a new protocol of leader and follower is imposed. That modality of speech reduces Protagoras to the role of a consenting auditor and converts the discussion into a rhetorical exercise. Socrates’ theory of pains and pleasures is contradicted by reality, and the propositions that Protagoras agrees to will not be the product of collaborative inquiry. Those facts should suffice to reject the notion that Socrates is making a serious case for the primacy of pleasure in living well.
Socrates commences an imaginary conversation with the polloi. He taxes them for not privileging ?p?st?µ? in making life-style choices, as he and Protagoras do; instead their notion
is that pleasure overcomes them. Protagoras objects that the opinions of the polloi are not
worthy of serious inquiry. Socrates reminds the sophist of their new arrangement: I lead, you
follow. Socrates promises that examining the opinions of the polloi will help find out about
??d?e?a (??e??e?? pe?? ??d?e?a?), this said as though Protagoras had not just delivered a wise
29 Cf. Pl. Plt. 282b6: it is ?sfa??ste???, in applying diaeresis to a category, to cut through the middle.
saying about it.
The theory of the hedonic calculus is that pleasures are good, pains bad, unless contrary consequences outweigh them; in that case, the former become bad, the latter good.
The hedonic calculus demonstration concludes with Socrates evoking an unidentified ?p?st?µ? to measure the pleasures of food, drink and sex against the pains of poverty and illness. The sophists’ ready acquiescence to Socrates’ proposal that they teach such an ?p?st?µ? is likely motivated by the pleasant prospect of enrolling additional students. Socrates urges the polloi to send their children to sophists to be taught an ?p?st?µ? that Hippocrates’ disciplined lifestyle indicates he already possesses. Socrates chides the polloi for being close-pursed and reluctant to fund sophists. In contrast, at 310e1?2, Hippocrates speaks of spending his and his friends’ money freely to pay Protagoras’ tuition. For Plato, liberality is token of a noble
disposition in young men.30
4. The replacement of the wise saying (359a2?360e5)
The sophist is ordered to defend the proposition to the audience (?p????e?s?? ?µ?? ???ta???a?) that ignorance (?µa??a) and ??d?e?a are compatible. (Protagoras had observed
at 349d6?8 that ?µa??a is often a vice of brave soldiers). Socrates will reprise that term in the formulation of the replacement definition of ??d?e?a. Two propositions previously agreed to by Protagoras “prove” Socrates’ replacement faux-wise saying. Firstly, that the attributes ??a??? [good], ?d? [pleasant] and ?a??? [honorable] characterize the well-lived life. Second, that all
should pursue pleasure and avoid pain by employing an unidentified ?p?st?µ? for
measuring one against the other.
These are the steps through which Socrates forces the sophist to affirm, albeit reluctantly,
the replacement definition of ??d?e?a. Asked whether cowards go after t? ?a??a??a [things that allow boldness31], and whether ??d?e??? go towards t? de???, Protagoras expresses the conventional opinion, that cowards run away from battle, ??d?e??? the reverse.
Protagoras is asked whether ??d?e??? go into battle deeming (????µ?????) that they will
30 Cf. Theodorus’ praise of Theaetetus in that regard at Tht. 144d2?3.
confront terrible things. The sophist considers this impossible, having agreed, at 351b4?c1, that one lives well in avoiding pain, that a pleasurable life is good, but enduring in pain is bad. Accordingly, by going into battle, ??d?e??? show that they do not deem war to be terrible.
Socrates gets Protagoras to agree that ". . . no one goes towards what he deems terrible, since since (?pe?d?) to be overcome by oneself was found to be ?µa??a [ignorance].” The clauses, despite the conjunctive ?pe?d?, seem loosely connected.
Socrates goes on to say "and yet all men go also to meet what they can face boldly, whether cowardly or brave, and in this respect cowardly and brave go to meet the same things."32 That observation seems to refer to undertakings that allow boldness in doing them, where the distinction between cowards and ??d?e??? would not apply.
Protagoras is apparently not interested in undangerous endeavors or activities. The
sophist reverts to the earlier topic, saying that cowards are unwilling (sc. and do not go into
battle), whereas ??d?e??? (sc. go) willingly. Socrates observes that going into battle is an
honorable (?a???) act on the part of the soldier and ??a??? [a good thing] in that it preserves the city that wins the battle. Asked for the identity of those unwilling to go into battle, though it be honorable and good, Protagoras again names the cowards.
To "honorable" and "good," which coextensively inform the act of going into battle,
Socrates now adds the attribute "pleasant" (?d?) in that good and pleasant are equivalent.
Protagoras agrees that ??d?e??? believe that going into battle is good, honorable and pleasant.
But Socrates placed "military campaigns" (st?ate?a?) in the list of good pains at 354a4?7.33
31 Lamb’s translation 1924: 249.
32 Lamb’s translation 1924: 249.
33 Socrates characterizes (sc. strenuous) gymnastic exercise, (sc. the rigors of) military campaigns, and (sc. unaesthetized) medical therapy as good pains. These are listed in order of increasing pain. Denyer 2008: 185
points out that cauterization, amputation, drug courses, and fasting, the procedures which are named after medical therapy, "are listed in order of decreasing pain." The figure of speech here is one of climax and anticlimax. Socrates
goes on to name the pleasures which the aforementioned good pains produce: "health, bodily fitness, the city preserved, rule over others, and wealth" (354b3?5). Two pairs of pleasures are named, before and after the historical watershed of cities established and preserved thanks to successful military campaigns. In the initial pair, “health” and “bodily fitness,” the former is prior in being and a necessary condition of the latter: without being
Going into battle is not pleasant. The counterfactual to the present argument goes unnoticed by
Socrates observes that ??d?e??? do not fear shameful fears, nor confidently engage in shameful activities. And for cowards, it is the opposite. The cause for the latter's behavior is said
to be their ?????a [unawareness] and ?µa??a [ignorance]. Socrates finally produces the replacement definition. It is expressed as a ratio or proportion: the ignorance (?µa??a) of t?
de??? [dreadful circumstances] and t? µ? de??? [benign circumstances] is to cowardice as the s?f?a [wisdom] of dreadful and benign circumstances is to ??d?e?a.
Socrates badgers the sophist to affirm the replacement definition over and over again. Protagoras is incrementally reduced to silence. After Protagoras falls silent, Socrates badgers him for not answering. That is unpleasant.34
Socrates' final interrogatory (360e4?5) asks whether some men are both exceptionally
brave (??d?e??tat??) and exceptionally ignorant (?µa??stat??), as Protagoras asserted
earlier at 349d8. The sophist, to gratify his interlocuter, as he says, replies that the propositionseems to him impossible if one has affirmed, as a consenting interlocuter, the propositions of the hedonic calculus demonstration.
4. Socrates’ anecdote about Prometheus and Epimetheus (360e6?361d6)
Socrates states that he has been asking questions in order to examine every aspect of ??et? and,
further, to investigate what ??et?, as a whole, really is. And that bears on the question which he and Protagoras have both addressed at length: whether or not ??et? is teachable, Socrates initially holding the view that it is not teachable, Protagoras that it is taught by all to all. But, as
healthy, it is impossible to acquire and preserve bodily fitness by engaging in sports and gymnastics. Nowadays, victorious albeit painful military campaigns preserve cities and the pleasures they afford. The order in which the last pleasures are named reflects the fact that rule over others is coeval with the establishment of cities, prior in being and a necessary condition for the accumulation of wealth in time under the aegis of the city (cf. Th. I,11,1?3; I,13,1).
34 Vlastos 1956: xxiv notes Socrates' harsh treatment of the sophist: "And his handling of Protagoras is
merciless, if not cruel."
Socrates says here, they have traded to the other their initial opinions. The speeches themselves,
laughing at their authors, explain the trade: in contrast to his initial opinion, Socrates latterly
demonstrated his hedonic calculus theory (after Protagoras uttered the wise saying about ??d?e?a), according to which the acrasia of the polloi may be overcome by an ?p?st?µ? of
measurement. From which it was proved that ??d?e?a is the s?f?a of t? de???. (In Plato, s?f?a and ?p?st?µ? replace one another almost at whim; cf. Nicias’ replacement of the former with the latter in his paraphrase of Socrates’ definition of ??d?e?a in Protagoras at La. 194e?195a). Contrariwise, Protagoras first set it down that ??et? was teachable, but now seems as eager for the opposite, declaring that it has been found to be almost anything but ?p?st?µ?. That statement accurately reprises Protagoras’ assertion, at 329e5?6, that there are ??d?e??? who are unjust, and that there are many who are just but not s?f?? [wise]. From which it follows that all the parts of ??et? do not necessarily cohabit in a person. Further, that ??et?, which surely includes justice, cannot be reduced to ?p?st?µ? or s?f?a, if it is a fact that many do not possess s?f?a, yet practice justice as law-abiding citizens. Because of their topsy-turvy opinions on the teachability of ??et?, Socrates desires to examine the question once again.
Except that Socrates fears lest Epimetheus sabotage the inquiry. Addressing the sophist, he says "Prometheus, as you represent him in your myth, suits me more than Epimetheus; I am
using Prometheus and imitating him (? ???µe??? ??? ?a? p??µ????µe???), on behalf of my own life entirely in the entirety of what I am busying myself doing" (?p?? t?? ß??? t?? ?µa?t?? pa?t?? p??ta ta?ta p?a?µate??µa?). Prometheus’ doings, as recounted by Protagoras, follow the canonical tale: Prometheus stole fire and technology from Hephaistos and Athena in order to preserve mankind, was brought to trial (???p?? d??? µet???e? [322a2]), was convicted, and suffered cruel punishment. Socrates preserves a friendship at risk by imitating Prometheus, as he says. After hearing the wise saying, he argues for a hedonic calculus that divides pain into two kinds: bad because painful, and good because productive, afterwards, of more pleasure than the original pain. But the division of pain into two kinds is belied by the reality of a third intermediate kind, neither good nor bad, as in the case of the invalid's displeasure when eating, and in Protagoras' repeated displeasure at the unpleasantnesses visited on him by Socrates. After Protagoras uttered the wise saying, the s????? ceased to be a collaborative inquiry as originally stipulated. There is the contradiction between the characterization of military campaigns as painful, at 354a4, and the fact that Protagoras is induced to affirm that the ??d?e???, in going into battle, go towards what is more honorable, better and more pleasant (?p? t? ??????? te ?a? ?µe???? ?a? ?d??? [360a7?8]). Consider, also, that Aristotle found Socrates’ definition of ??d?e?a in Protagoras as the science of t? de??? incoherent,35 as does Socrates in Laches. Those particulars argue for the conclusion that the hedonic calculus demonstration, and the replacement definition of ??d?e?a imposed on Protagoras, are intellectually fraudulent,36 amounting to crimes committed against logos,
35 At NE 1116b3?8, in the context of an extended analysis of psychic dispositions, Aristotle observes that
"acquired expertise (?µpe???a) in various circumstances seems to be ??d?e?a. From that, Socrates opined that ?p?st?µ? (sc. of dire and benign circumstances) is ??d?e?a. Various folks in various circumstances demonstrate this, and particularly professional soldiers in war. For it seems that many battlefield situations are not dangerous
(p???? ?e?? t?? p???µ??), which veteran soldiers have so often observed and recognized (? µ???sta s??e????as??). So they appear (sc. to be) ??d?e???, because their (sc. inexperienced) opponents misread the situation” (?t? ??? ?sas?? ?? ????? ??? ?st??).” Recognition from prior experience of a non-threatening situation on the battlefield seems to be an instance of a s?f?a or ?p?st?µ? of t? µ? de???, and argues for one limb of Socrates’ definiton of ??d?e?a in Protagoras. The discussion at NE 1116b3?8 turns elsewhere, which suggests that Aristotle was unable to imagine an instance of how recognizing t? de??? on the battlefield, or anywhere else, might require ?p?st?µ?. At EE 1229a13?16, Aristotle again finds it impossible to parse Socrates' notion of the
?p?st?µ? of t? de???. Aristotle defines military ??d?e?a in the latter passage to be "from experience (d?’
?µpe???a?) and knowing (t? e?d??a?)—not as Socrates said regarding (sc. ??d?e?a as the ?p?st?µ? of) t? de???—
but how to take protective measures in dire circumstances” (?t? t?? ß???e?a? t?? de????). At EE 1230a5?11, Aristotle uses the analogy of experienced sailors climbing masts in heavy seas to refute Socrates: "Similarly do many endure danger through expertise, which is the expedient that by far most soldiers employ. This is the
opposite of Socrates’ opinion, in supposing that ?p?st?µ? (sc. of t? de???) is ??d?e?a. For it is not by knowing of
the frightful dangers from which sailors take courage, those who know how to climb masts (sc. in heavy seas), but because they know protective measures for those dire circumstances (??te ??? d?? t? e?d??a? t? f?ße?? ?a????s?? ?? ?p? t??? ?st??? ??aßa??e?? ?p?st?µe???, ???? ?t? ?sas? t?? ß???e?a? t?? de????).”
36 At the beginning of Protagoras, Socrates encounters a friend who knows of his stance in society as an
??ast?? [lover] of Alcibiades. Asked how the beautiful young man has been treating him, Socrates replies "Well, as it seemed to me, not least than on this very day. For he said many things about me, coming to my aid. And I have
only just left him. However there is a strange thing I have to tell you: although he was present, I not merely paid
arguments contrived for the sake of preserving a friendship, comic analogues to Prometheus'
crimes against Hephaistos and Athena, committed for the sake of preserving mankind, to compare small to large.
What then would be Epimetheus' dire effect on the s?????? Just as Epimetheus was unconcerned with our preservation in the distribution (?? t? d?a??µ? ?µ???se? ?µ?? [361d1?2]), so would he be unconcerned whether the friendship between Socrates and Hippocrates endures, or the young man abandons family and friends to associate with
Protagoras. Epimetheus' indifference in that matter permits an impartial objectivity. Socrates fears that objective Epimethean examination of the s????? would trip it up (sf???) and trick it (??apat?sa?), in other words, negate its putative standing and negate the trickery of it being a set of specious arguments.37 The anecdote about Prometheus and Epimetheus permits Socrates guardedly to acknowledge the deception.38
him no attention, but at times forgot him altogether" (Lamb’s translation of 309b5?9 [1924: 93, 95]). The
acquaintance asks whether he has encountered someone of greater beauty than Alcibiades. Socrates replies "Yes, of far greater." He explains that the man's beauty is greater in that the highest wisdom appears more beautiful (t? s?f?tat?? ??????? fa??es?a? [309c11?12]). But Protagoras is, in fact, an old (cf. 317c3), unbeautiful man, and the sophist's homo-mensura doctrine is not the highest wisdom. Socrates is speaking playfully in order to get his interlocuter to set aside a preoccupation with beautiful bodies, and direct his attention, instead, to the discussions with Protagoras. Eros is made to give way to philosophy, so to speak. Alcibiades' remark, at 336c2?4, supports this reading. Commenting on Socrates' denial, at 334c8?9, that he has a good memory, Alcibiades is prepared to wager that he is not forgetful at all, "not but that he plays (pa??e?) and says that he is forgetful." The audience is put on notice ab initio that when occasion warrants, Socrates speaks playfully, i.e. insincerely or speciously.
37 Comparable to this pair of negativizing counteractions against the specious s????? that Socrates has conducted after hearing the sophist’s wise saying, a pair of counteractions negating an action and negating its actor’s very existence is to be found at Rep. 6.494e4?495a1. The conversion of a promising young man, persuaded to abandon political ambition, and pursue philosophy instead, arouses the anger of men of the city whose political protégé he is. The persuaded young man is unpersuaded by the angry friends (?a? pe?? a?t??, ?p?? ?? µ? pe?s??), and the Socrates-like philosopher who persuaded him, is rendered not such as he was (?a? pe?? t?? pe????ta, ?p?? ?? µ? ???? t’ ?), that is relieved of existence by assassination or judicial execution.
38 It may be objected that unsaying Prototagoras’ wise saying is antithetical to Socrates’ canonical search for the truth. On the other hand, Protagoras was revealed as an immoralist at 333b8?d8, making Hippocrates’
5. Protagoras’ lack of resentment (361d7?362a4)
Protagoras declares that he is "least of all a resentful man" (f???e??? te ???st' ?????p??). A remark in Laws suggests that the sophist, in uttering his wise saying, demonstrates such a disposition. At Lg. 5.730e1?731a3, the Athenian stranger observes that s?f??s??? and
f????s?? [good judgment] are untransferable good things, meaning that those who possess those virtues are unable to give them to another. The stranger goes on to speak of other good things that are transferable. Some who possess a ?t?µa [a valuable thing] are able to share it with others, whilst keeping it for themselves. Others who possess a ?t?µa wish to share, but areunable to. And then there is the resentful man (t?? d? f??????ta), who is "unwilling that a commonality of good things with anyone else come to be through friendship." Accordingly, Protagoras, in uttering his wise saying, shares in a friendly way, without resentment, a ?t?µa that he possesses.
Protagoras praises Socrates: “I would not be surprised were you to become one of those famous for wisdom.” The sophist announces that the time has come to turn to something else. Socrates leaves Kallias' house with Hippocrates, their friendship preserved.
prospective association with the sophist a questionable undertaking. I note that the wise saying was appropriated by Socrates, as its reprise in the Republic indicates.
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