THE STORYLINE OF PLATO'S "PROTAGORAS"
submitted for publication 7-23-2013
THE STORYLINE OF PLATO'S PROTAGORAS*
The great puzzle of the Protagoras, addressed in the past by Schleiermacher and Grote, and still an open question,x is whether or not Socrates' so-called hedonistic calculus demonstration (xxx-xx) is to be taken seriously. I offer here a reading of the dialogue, according to which the hedonistic calculus demonstration must be insincere because the dialectic of the dramatic events and the various discussions requires it to be so.
The Protagoras is full of incident and showpiece conversations. Scholars do not often entertain the possibility that all of these separate elements might possess a unity of meaning and significance that would determine the dialogue's conclusion. Rather, the Protagoras is counted as one of Plato's aporetic dialogues (the others are Laches, Charmides, Euthyphro, Meno, Lysis, and Theaetetus), so-called because of the perception that their endings are inconclusive. Such dialogues are judged to lack storylines such as those in works of literature whose endings are implied by, and provide a resolution of what came before. Par contre, I argue that Socrates' narration of the actions and discussions of the day reflects a unitary authorial intent. Here is an overview of its storyline as I see it. Socrates' testing of Protagoras indicates that the sophist believes that ?d???a and s?f??s??? are compatible, despite his refusal to say so in public. And Protagoras' definition of ??d?e?a, at 351b, that it is from nature and from the good nurture of it in the soul, is a wise saying. The sophist's autobiographical account at 316c et seq. reveals that he hires out as consigliere to political adventurers. At 318e, he opens the prospect of wielding supreme power in the city. However, so far as is known, Socrates' friend Hippocrates does not desire political power; rather, he wishes to be made wise, as he indicates at 310d. Lest it draw the young man to follow after its Pied Piper author, thus dissolving their friendship, the wise saying must disappear. Henceforth, Protagoras is forbidden to play an active role in the inquiry. Socrates argues, speciously, for the equivalence of pleasure and the Good, in support of an alternative definition of ??d?e?a. The sophist reluctantly accepts Socrates' definition in place of his own. By this unsaying of the wise saying as it were, the proximate reason for Hippocrates to associate with Protagoras disappears. Socrates leaves Kritias' house with the young man, their friendship preserved.
1. The testing of Protagoras (309a?335b)
Socrates encounters an unnamed acquaintance to whom he recounts the events of the day. Hippocrates had awakened Socrates before daybreak. He informs Socrates that Protagoras has arrived in Athens the previous day, which Hippocrates only learned of late at night, for
* I follow the text of John Burnet, Platonis opera, Vols.1?5, Oxford (1901?06). Translations of the Greek are mine unless otherwise indicated.
x Cf. Platos Protagoras: Proceedings of the Third Symposium Platonicum Pragense, Ales Havlicek & Filip Karfik (eds.), Prague, 2003.
he had spent the daylight hours in the countryside, chasing after a runaway slave. This strenuous itinerary to recover a slave named Satyrus suggests that the young man intends to be master of his desires, in contrast to the ???as?a of the p?????, described at xxx.
Socrates corrects the young man: Protagoras actually arrived two days ago. Socrates has already attended the first full day of discussions at Kallias' house.1
Hippocrates intends to dissolve his relations with family and friends, of whom Socrates is one (?µ?? t?? ?ta???? [313b1]), in order to associate with Protagoras, not out of political ambition, but to be made wise. He jokes that the sophist has wronged him "because he is the only wise man, and doesn't make me one (310d5?6)." 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 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 asks whether they prefer to confer privately or in public. The intentions of some must be kept secret, requiring private discussion, as in the case of nephews and protégés of rulers (discussed below). As Protagoras desires to give a public demonstration, he thanks Socrates for providently bringing him someone whose intentions may be discussed openly.
The sophist describes himself as a foreigner who trawls the great cities, persuading the best young men to abandon their usual intercourse with friends and family. These alienations of affection cause resentments (f?????), unpleasantnesses (d?sµ??e?a?), and even plots (?p?ß???a?) against him. Doing what he does puts him in existential danger from deadly enemies. Who are these 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?? [317a3]), that members of their inner circle, closely bound to them by ties of friendship and family, but impatient to rule in their stead, were engaged in private discussions with new associates.
The audience seated, Socrates is asked to say again what he said before, i.e. that Hippocrates desires to become well-spoken of (??????µ??) in the city. 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 him to say exactly what that might be. Protagoras' µ???µa is for the sake of optimally managing 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?? [318e6]). Later on, at 354b4?5, "rule over others" (????? ???a?) and "wealth" (p???t??) 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.
1 This may be inferred from the fact that Socrates does not introduce himself when he first speaks to Protagoras, at 316b1?2, and that the sophist, a few lines on, addresses Socrates by name. Cf. Nicholas Denyer, Plato Protagoras, Cambridge (2008), 87, "Protagoras obviously remembers Socrates' name from some previous meeting."
Socrates closes the prospect of wealth and rule over others by recasting Protagoras'
µ???µax into a harmless platitude. He asks whether the sophist is talking about "the science
of politics (? p???t??? t????), and promising to produce good citizens." This, Protagoras replies, is precisely2 what he teaches. At 314b, Socrates noted the danger of
immediately consuming the sophist's soul food; here, in effect, he has carried it off uneaten to be tested, as it were in vessels.
Socrates denies that ??et? is d?da?t??, citing as evidence the Athenian customs permitting one and all to offer advice about policy initiatives, and accepting advice on technical issues only from accredited professionals. Socrates counts this as one custom. And, anecdotally, that Pericles, whose ??et? was exemplary, failed to transmit it to his sons and wards. This argument elicits Protagoras' great speech (320c?328d).
The speech concluded, Socrates undertakes to examine Protagoras. Initially this takes the form of arguments against the sophist's opinion that the parts of ??et? are different from one another, and have different functions, as different as the mouth's function is to that of the eyes, and unlike pieces of gold, which differ only in quantity. And that having one part does not imply that one has another part, unlike parts of the face.3 Socrates asserts a contrary opinion, that the names (???µata) of the parts are merely different appellations for a single existing thing, ??et?. Socrates presents no argument in support of this bold assertion. At xxx, at the end of the dialogue, in an echo of this remark, Socrates amplifies the thought, again without argument ("xxx"). The words are enigmatic and seem to intimate future speculations on this subject.
For his part, Protagoras believes that d??a??s???, ?s??t??, s?f??s???, s?f?a and ??d?e?a name human activities or capacities, conjoined or not as may be. As he says (329e5?6), many are ??d?e??? but unjust, and (scil. many) are d??a??? but not wise. The first pair of uncongenial dispositions here reminds that pre-civilized men, in Protagoras' great speech, would have exercised ??d?e?a in killing or fending off a dangerous animal, singulatim, with firebrand or farm implement. However, lacking justice towards others, they were unable to cooperate in the war against packs of predator animals. It is also represented
in the speech that the innate4 disposition of men to reverence the gods (?s??t??) is anterior in historical time,5 and different in its nature from d??a??s???, which first occurs in cities.
2 Cf. Christopher Charles Whiston Taylor, Plato Protagoras, Oxford (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." Socrates has pressured Protagoras (318b1?d4) into revealing the maximalist programme of his µ???µa. Because it is safer to discuss such matters with a prospective client in private, the sophist may then have regretted its public disclosure, and elected to "unsay" it, as it were, by endorsing warmly Socrates' innocuous substitution.
3 A face without nose or mouth is not a face.
4 322a4: mankind alone worshipped gods "through consanguinity with deity" (d?? t?? t?? ?e?? s?????e?a?).
5 Cf. Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff, Der Glaube der Hellenen (Berlin 1931/32), Vol. 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."
Socrates observes, and Protagoras agrees, that ?s??t?? and d??a??s??? name specific activities or practices of civilized men. And that the eponymous attribute of ?s??t?? applies to d??a??s???, and vice versa. Protagoras' anecdote about how he collects money due him provides an example of this. Led into a temple, the debtor acts justly: he swears truthfully as to the worth, in local currency, of the sophist's teachings, and pays up (?µ?sa? ?s?? ?? f? ???a e??a? t? µa??µata, t?s??t?? ?at????e [328c1?2]). He does so because he fears divine retribution, should he swear falsely in a sacred place. The sophist sets a fixed price (? µ?s???) for his teaching. Money is apparently the exception to relativistic Protagorean mensura. Inside this temple, in this transaction, d??a??s??? is ?s??? and ?s??t?? is d??a???. Socrates concludes that reverencing the gods and acting justly are virtually the same thing.
As mentioned, ?s??t?? is innate in man, unlike justice, the lack of which in human nature led Zeus to give it to everyone, as a gift, in order to make living in cities possible. Choosing not to make an issue over this or any other difference, Protagoras
proposes that Socrates' proposition be assumed for the sake of argument: "Let us assume that d??a??s??? is ?s??? and ?s??t?? is d??a???." Socrates summarily forbids the use of hypotheticals. To this diktat, Protagoras replies that everything may be hypothesized: "in one way or another, all things are the same as everything else." Accordingly, even opposites like like black and white, hard and soft, have some degree of likeness. Socrates dares Protagoras to say that ?s??t?? and justice have so 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."6 His petulant response shows that he is displeased (d?s?e??? ??e??).
Socrates argues that s?f??s??? and s?f?a are the same thing. Protagoras reluctantly agrees.
Socrates recapitulates the conclusions of the two 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 next discussion (333b7?335c7) has been interpreted as an attempt by Socrates to prove that d??a??s??? is the same as s?f??s???.7 This reading reflects a cavalier attitude towards the text, in that the word d??a??s??? appears nowhere in this passage. From here
6 I am quoting the translation of Walter Rangeley Maitland Lamb, Plato: Protagoras, Cambridge, Mass. (1924).
7 Cf. George Grote, Plato and the other companions of Sokrates, 2nd edition, Vol. 2, London (1888), 280: "Meanwhile . . . Sokrates pursues his examination, with intent to prove that justice (d??a??s???) and moderation (s?f??s???) are identical;" John Adam & A. M. Adam, Platonis Protagoras, Cambridge (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???;" Taylor, 131: "333b7?334a2 Socrates begins an argument to prove the identity of justice with sophrosune;" Bernd Manuwald, Platon Protagoras, Göttingen (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, 132: "Socrates starts to present an argument that temperance and justice are a single thing."
on, Socrates intends to test Protagoras the person,8 rather than a set of propositions as in preceding discussions. Socrates says as much in his prediction at 333c: s?µßa??e? µ??t?? ?s?? ?a? ?µ? t?? ???t??ta ?a? t?? ?p??????µe??? ??et??es?a?. Protagoras finds the prospect of such an examination unpleasant (d?s?e?? e??a?).
Socrates asks the sophist whether an ?d???? man is s?f???, when practicing ?d???a. Protagoras replies "I would be ashamed to agree, although there are many who say this." The usual reading of this exchange is that Protagoras disagrees9 with the proposition. But
the sophist has already approvingly cited, at 323b2?7, in the great speech, the view which he is now ashamed to call his own: ". . . if it is known that someone is ?d????, and if he says the truth about himself before others, what was deemed to be s?f??s??? elsewhere, here is insanity: everyone agrees that all must say they are d??a???, whether they are so or not . . . ."
Socrates returns to the question. "Do some men seem to you to be s?f???, when practicing ?d???a?"
Protagoras: ?st?, ?f?. The sophist answers hypothetically.
Socrates: "And you agree that being s?f??? is the same as thinking prudentially?"
Protagoras: ?f?. The sophist affirms this in his own voice.
Socrates: "And that e? f???e?? (prudential thinking) is (scil. the same as) e? ß???e?es?a?, when practicing ?d???a?"
Protagoras: ?st?, ?f?.
E?ß????a is surely what Protagoras teaches (cf. 318e), but the reappearance of the condition "when 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. This is
embarrassingly revelatory of Protagoras' personal belief that ?d???a and s?f??s??? are compatible.
Socrates throws him a soft ball: ??te???, ?? d" ???, e? e? p??tt??s?? ?d?????te? ? e? ?a???; The syntax permits Progaoras to reply simply e? e?, 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 various kinds of ??a??. One kind is useful to one species of animal, but harmful to another species. Another kind is useful to a part of a species of animal, but harmful to another part of the same species. By analogy, there is likely a third kind of ??a??, useful to some members of a species, but harmful to others of the same species, as when some men
8 Cf. Charles Harry Kahn, Plato and the Socratic dialogue, Cambridge (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 Cf. Adam, 137: "Protagoras' own opinion" is "that ?d???a is not compatible with s?f??s???;" Wilhelm Nestle, Platonis Protagoras, Leipzig and Berlin (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] . . .;" Constantin Ritter, Platon, Vol. 1, Munich (1910), 322: "Die Frage, ob ihm etwa ein ungerecht Handelnder eben damit Besonnenheit zu betätigen scheine, verneint er zwar für sich ganz entschieden"; MAX POHLENZ, Aus Platos Werdezeit, Berlin (1913), 99, n. 3: "Protagoras selber bekennt als seine
Ansicht ?t? ??de?? ?d???? s?f???e? [333c], was uns nach dem Mythos nicht verwundern kann;" Gregory
practice ?d???a against other men with the impunity that s?f??s??? provides.
Olive oil is an example of the second kind of ??a??, good on the outside of a man's body, inside the worst of evils (scil. 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 (scil. 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 pains that result in greater pleasures, 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 this kind.
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 extremes. Praising Protagoras as able not only to speak more tersely than anyone else on the same subject (cf. Grg. 449b?c) but interminably as well, Socrates asks him to exercise the former talent. Protagoras insists that he will not be ordered about.
This glimpse of Protagoras' personal belief and private counsel regarding the compatability of ?d???a and s?f??s??? indicates that the sophist's soul food is unsafe to consume. Socrates declares that it is no longer his ?????11 to continue the conversation. He gets up to go but is prevailed upon to stay.
2. Protagoras' wise saying and its aftermath (348d?359a)
Afterwards, Protagoras cites literary criticism as the acme of educational accomplishment. He identifies a seeming contradiction in a poem by Simonides. Socrates undertakes to justify the contradiction, but subsequently deprecates literary criticism as idle entertainment. The anecdote about a stupid Spartan, at xxx, who so flustered his interlocuter with an unexpected rhema, is an anticipation of the unexpected plot reversal at 351b (discussed below).
Vlastos, Plato Protagoras, New York (1956), viii: "But he (scil. Plato) also makes it clear that, unlike some
salesmen, this one has moral inhibitions. Protagoras refuses to admit that injustice is compatible with sophrosyne; many would assert this, he says, but not he: he would be ashamed to say such a thing;" Rosamond Kent Sprague, "An Unfinished Argument in Plato's Protagoras," Apeiron 1 (1967), 2: Protagoras' "own opinion" is "that acts of injustice are intemperate;" Manuwald, 272: "Protagoras verwahrt sich gegen diese Ansicht (scil. that ?d???a and s?f??s??? are compatible), die er als verbreitet bezeichnet, . . . ;" An exception is Paul Friedländer, Platon, 2nd edition, Vol. 2, Berlin (1957), 16: "Aber wenn Protagoras sich nun herbeiläßt die Meinung (scil. 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."
11 This is the mid-point of the dialogue: slightly more than 27 Stephanus pages separate 335b2 from the beginning of the Protagoras and from its end.
Socrates goes on to describe the correct way12 of philosophizing (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 (scil. a d?a???µa) and, with the man, ascertain (scil. whether it be true or false)." An instance of such collaboration took place at 314c3?7, when Socrates and Hippocrates, on their way to Kallias' house, paused to finish a thought.
Socrates restates the propositions that Protagoras previously agreed to (329d?330b). The sophist still believes that, unlike the parts of the face, one may possess one part of ??et? without possessing the other parts. He singles out ??d?e?a as often cohabiting 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???
(scil. in battle)." The well-traveled Protagoras knows the world. Socrates, at the putative date of the Protagoras, had not yet fought abroad, nor observed the behavior of off-duty soldiers in bivouac. But he had trained in his branch of the military,13 and noticed that
training had made him a bolder hoplite. He names other dangerous professions. Divers, cavalry, and light-infantry perform their perilous duties more boldly than before they were trained. Training is a kind of ?p?st?µ?. If boldness is from ?p?st?µ?, and if boldness and ??d?e?a cohabit in the person of Socrates and in others, then perhaps14 ??d?e?a is from ?p?st?µ?. Protagoras points out the fallacy. Boldness acquired through
training and ??d?e?a do not always cohabit in a person. Boldness also come from anger or insanity.
The sophist goes on to say that ??d?e?a is from nature, and from the good nurture of it in the soul.15 This idea is expressed in eight words of Greek, brief so as to recall the unanticipated ??µa of the stupid Spartan, at 342d6?e4, who so flustered his interlocutor. Socrates abruptly changes the subject. The balance of the dialogue is devoted to
12At Smp. 174d?175a, it is reported to Agathon that Socrates has paused outside, and is rapt in solitary speculation. Aristodemus explains that it is Socrates' custom (????) to philosophize by himself. Later in the Symposium (220c), Alcibiades recounts having seen Socrates doing just that at Potidaia. The stipulation in the Protagoras that philosophy be done collaboratively is required by its storyline.
13 How he managed to train is unknown. Cf. Hans van Wees, Greek Warfare : myth and realities, London (2004), 94: "But they (scil. 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 (van Wees' 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."
14 The proposition seems expressed tentatively.
15 The remark seems to reflect the saying of the historical Protagoras, adventitiously preserved at DK 80 B3: f?se?? ?a? ?s??se?? d?das?a??a de?ta?. For a history of the idea, cf. Paul Shorey, "Phusis, Melete, Episteme," TAPA 40 (1909), 185?201).
making Protagoras accept a replacement definition of ??d?e?a.16
Readers might well fail to recognize that the sophist's remark, at 351b2, is meant to be a wise saying, and Socrates' replacement of it, at 360d1?2, its opposite. Happily, passages in other dialogues address this crux, in addition to their contextual significance. Consider Rep. 429e8?430b4, where Plato has Socrates flesh out the bare bones of Protagoras' remark:
". . . when we chose (scil. those likely to become) soldiers (st?at??ta?) . . . educated through music and gymnastics . . . and persuaded by the ??µ??, they acquire the (scil. correct) d??a regarding the dreadful things (t? de???) and the other things (t? ???a) . . . and from nature and from appropriate nurture (scil. of ??d?e?a in their souls), they constitute the military power (d??aµ??) (scil. of the city) and are its preservation (s?t???a) (viz. through victory on the battlefield), . . . this I name and set down to be ??d?e?a." The phrase d?? t? t?? te f?s?? ?a? t?? t??f?? ?p?t?de?a? ?s?????a? appropriates Protagoras' saying about ??d?e?a in language and meaning. The elaboration by Socrates of the original saying warrants that the sophist's remark is wise.
Conversely, Plato puts Socrates' replacement definition of ??d?e?a, virtually word
for word, in Nicias' mouth in the Laches (194e?195a). Plato has Laches, who perceptively recognized Socrates' ??d?e?a on the battlefield (La. 181b), and is apparently himself ??d?e???, insinuate at La. 195e and 197c that his fellow general Nicias is a coward. According to Plutarch (Nic. II,4), the historical Nicias was "by nature timid (??a?s??) and pessimistic (d?se?p??); in war good luck concealed his cowardice (de???a)." A definition of ??d?e?a whose author is a coward is eo ipso nonsensical. By the happenstance that literary invention permits, the coward Nicias' definition of ??d?e?a in the Laches is the same as that of Socrates in the Protagoras.
But what if the Laches and/or the Republic had not survived? Is it possible to recognize the pair of opposites on their own? If Socrates' definition of ??d?e?a does not make sense, as Aristotle concluded (see n. 22), then its opposite sensu stricto would be wise.
The saying changes the tenor of the conversation. Protagoras has guardedly alluded, at 316d?317a, to his role as consigliere to political adverturers,17 was pressured by Socrates into publicly offering this service at 318e and, as it seems, condones and advises the pairing of ?d???a with s?f??s??? in such endeavors. But Socrates' friend Hippocrates, so far as is known, is innocent of political ambition. Socrates is now at great risk of losing the young man's friendship. If the wise saying is allowed to stand, it will necessarily18 draw Hippocrates, whose expressed intent is to be made wise, to follow after its author.
In order to preserve their friendship, Socrates intends to replace Protagoras' definition of ??d?e?a with his own, and make the sophist accept it. For the replacement to seem convincing, a set of theses in its aid is demonstrated. The basic theory is that pleasures
16 Cf. Taylor, "The Hedonism of the Protagoras reconsidered, 148?164," in: Ale Havlķcek and Filip Karfķk (editors), Plato's Protagoras, Prague (2003), 149: "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."
17 John S. Morrison, "The place of Protagoras in Athenian public life (460?415 B.C.)," CQ 35 (1941), 14?16, proposes that Protagoras returned to Athens in 422 B.C. in aid of Alcibiades' ambitions.
18 I write "necessarily" because a strict causality must be assumed for the sake of the storyline.
are either good or bad, and pains likewise. Accordingly, there are two kinds of pleasure and two kinds of pain. Protagoras recognizes that the unpleasantnesses Socrates has been visiting on him, passim, exemplify a third kind of pain, like the nasal distress of the invalid, described 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 remark, at the present moment, is also ?sfa??ste??? in that it improves the proposed theory.19 As it seems to the sophist, who is feeling the third kind of pain, it saves the phenomena.
In view of his recent contribution to it, Protagoras expects that he will continue to play an active role in the discussion. He recalls Socrates' stipulation, at 348c7?d4, that philosophy be done 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 mean to lead the s?????, or am I to lead?"
Socrates commences an imagined conversation with the p????? regarding their beliefs. Protagoras objects to examining their beliefs as undeserving of serious inquiry. Socrates reminds the sophist of their new arrangement: I lead, you follow. He explains
that examining the opinions of the p????? 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 saying about it.
The so-called hedonistic calculus demonstration follows. It culminates in Socrates advocating the use of an unidentified ?p?st?µ? for measuring the pleasures of food, drink and sex against the pains of poverty and illness, and urging the p????? to pay sophists to learn it. Hippocrates' disciplined life-style spares him this expense.
3. The replacement of the wise saying (359a?362a)
The demonstration concluded, Protagoras is ordered to defend the proposition that ignorance (?µa??a) and ??d?e?a are compatible. ?µa??a was one of four vices of off-duty soldiers, cited by Protagoras at 349d6?8. The term reoccurs in Socrates' formulation of the replacement definition of ??d?e?a. The following exchanges are the steps through which the replacement definition is forced upon the sophist.
Asked whether cowards go after things they deal with boldly (t? ?a??a??a), and ??d?e??? go towards the dreadful things, 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 confront terrible things. The sophist considers this impossible, on the basis of prior argument, in that life choices are or should be made in view of avoiding pain. Accordingly, by going into batle, ??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 (?pe?d?) to be overcome by oneself was found to be ignorance (?µa??a)." 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
19 Pol. 282b6: it is ?sfa??ste???, in applying diaeresis to a category, to cut through the middle.
things."20 This seems to refer to undertakings that elicit no one's dread in the doing of 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 (scil. and do not go into battle), whereas ??d?e??? (scil. go) willingly.
Socrates observes that going into battle is an honorable (?a???) act and a good thing (viz. in that it preserves the city). Asked 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 pleasure are the same according to prior argument. Accordingly, going into battle is a pleasure. Protagoras agrees that ??d?e??? deem 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?6.21 Going into battle is not pleasant. The counterfactual to the present argument goes unnoticed by the sophist.
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 unawareness (?????a) and ignorance (?µa??a).
Socrates finally produces the replacement definition. It is expressed as a ratio or proportion: the ?µa??a of dreadful and non-dreadful things is to cowardice as the ?p?st?µ? of the same is to ??d?e?a.
Dreadful circumstances and their opposite are self-evident for the most part, so it is hard to imagine what the ?p?st?µ? of them might be. Aristotle twice addresses this
20 Lamb's translation.
21 Socrates characterizes (scil. strenuous) gymnastic exercise, (scil. the rigors [cf. Smp. 219e?220b] of) military campaigns, and (scil. unaesthetized) medical therapy as good pains. These are listed in order of increasing pain. Denyer, 185, points out that cauterization, amputation, drug courses and fasting, procedures which are named after medical therapy, "are listed in order of decreasing pain." The figure of speech 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). The pleasures seem to be listed in order of their origins in historical time. Medical specialists restoring health to the sick, and laymen acquiring and preserving bodily fitness by engaging in sports, were ubiquitous in pre-civilized societies as they are in cities nowadays. Cf. Julius Jüthner, RE, Vol.VII,2 (1912), s.v. Gymnastik: "Dann mit Recht erblickt Philostr. Gymn. 16 ihre Entstehungsursache in der natürlichen Fähigkeit des Menschen zu ringen, zu boxen und zu laufen and meint daher, daß die G. dem Menschen angeboren sie. Ihr Erwachen war also nicht an einen Ort, an ein Volk gebunden, sondern konnte unter günstigen Umständen überall vor sich gehen." Naming "health" before "bodily fitness" suggests that the former is prior in nature to the latter. In other words, acquiring and preserving fitness by means of gymnastic exercise is materially contingent on being healthy enough to do so. In later times, victorious, albeit painful military campaigns preserve cities and the pleasures that the latter afford. The order in which the last two pleasures are named reminds that rule over others is coeval with the establishment of cities, whereas wealth takes time to accumulate, under the aegis of the city (cf. Th. I,11,1?3; I,13,1).
Socrates badgers the sophist to affirm, over and over again, that ??d?e?a and cowardice are the ?p?st?µ? and ?µa??a, respectively, of dreadful and non-dreadful things. Protagoras is incrementally reduced to silence. After Protagoras falls silent, Socrates badgers him for not answering. This is unpleasant.23
Socrates' final interrogatory, at 360e4?5, asks whether some men are both exceptionally courageous (??d?e??tat??) and exceptionally ignorant (?µa??stat??). Protagoras, to gratify his interlocuter, as he says, replies that the proposition seems to him impossible on the basis of prior arguments.
Socrates summarizes the dialogue (360e?361d). He still wants to know all about ??et?, so as to determine whether it is d?da?t?? or not. But the speeches laugh at their authors for latterly exchanging with the other their initial viewpoints.
Socrates is afraid that Epimetheus, who was "unconcerned about us (viz. mankind) in the distribution," might perchance sabotage the s?????. He goes on to say "I like (scil. the doings of) Prometheus more than Epimetheus; I am using him and thinking like Prometheus (? ???µe??? ??? ?a? p??µ????µe???), for entirely personal reasons, in the entirety of what I am now doing (?p?? t?? ß??? t?? ?µa?t?? pa?t?? p??ta ta?ta p?a?µate??µa?)." In the sophist's myth, Prometheus, at a loss to "find some kind of preservation for man" (??t??a s?t???a? t? ?????p? e???? [321c8]), resolved the aporia by stealing fire-based technology from Hephaestus and agriculture from Athena. After hearing Protagoras' wise saying, Socrates contrives to preserve a friendship by employing the
22 At Eth. Nic. 1116b3?8, in the context of an extended analysis of psychic dispositions, Aristotle observes that "acquired expertise (?µpe???a) in various circumstance seems to be ??d?e?a. From that, Socrates opined that ?p?st?µ? is ??d?e?a. Various folks in various circumstance 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 noticed (? µ???sta s??e????as??). So they appear (scil. to be) ??d?e???, because their (scil. inexperienced) opponents misread the situation (?t? ??? ?sas?? ?? ????? ??? ?st??)." Aristotle seems to be postulating an example of Socrates' ?p?st?µ? of non-dreadful things in the Protagoras. The discussion turns elsewhere, which suggests that Aristotle was unable to imagine an example of Socrates' ?p?st?µ? of dreadful things. At Eth. Eud. 1128a13?16, Aristotle again finds it impossible to parse the notion of the ?p?st?µ? of dreadful things. He defines military ??d?e?a in this passage to be "from experience (d? ?µpe???a?) and a knowing (t? e?d??a?) ? and not as Socrates said regarding (scil. ??d?e?a as the ?p?st?µ? of) the dreadful things ? of how to come to one another's aid in dreadful circumstances (?t? t?? ß???e?a? t?? de????)".
23 Socrates' rough treatment of the sophist is noticed by Vlastos, xxiv: "And his handling of Protagoras is merciless, if not cruel." The d?sµ??e?a? Socrates visits on Protagoras in the Protagoras, unpleasantnesses the sophist typically experiences in the course of seducing the best young men away from their intimates, are carried over into the Theaetetus. In the latter dialogue, Theaetetus is disabused of the notion that ?p?st?µ? is from perceptions. Socrates points out the contradictions of the homo-mensura doctrine with so much animus against the sophist that Theodorus reproaches him: "You are running my friend very hard (Tht. 171c8)." Protagoras, conjured up from the underworld as far as his neck, complains of Socrates' abuse. The sophist sinks down below ground, and departs at a run (?atad?? ?? ?????t? ?p?t????? [Tht. 171c13]). I suggest that he is running away, as he cannot in the Protagoras, from Socrates' unpleasantnesses.
Promethean method, as he says. I submit that the hedonistic calculus demonstration or s?????, as Socrates terms it, whose division of pain into two kinds is belied by the reality of a third intermediate kind, in aid of a definition of ??d?e?a that seemed incomprehensible to Aristotle, with Socrates leading and Protagoras following, thus not a collaborative inquiry as was stipulated, is an intellectual fraud.24 In effect, its arguments are crimes against logos, comic analogues to Prometheus' crimes against the gods, to compare small to large. What then is the Epimethean method, and how might it sabotage the s?????? Prometheus was concerned for the preservation of mankind, Epimetheus not (?? t? d?a??µ? ?µ???se? ?µ?? [361d1?2]). We may assume that Epimetheus would be indifferent whether Socrates preserve his friendship with Hippocrates, or the young man abandon family and friends to associate with Protagoras. Epimetheus' impartiality implies an objective viewpoint which, if directed at this s?????, makes it lose its footing (sf???), and tricks (??apat?sa?) it, i.e. negates the trickery of its specious argument.25
The summary concludes with Socrates telling the sophist that he desires to continue philosophizing about ??et? "with you" (µet? s??), i.e. collaboratively, despite forbidding him to do so, at 351e8?9 and 353b3?5. Protagoras himself said that drawing the best young men away from friends and family elicits f?????, d?sµ??e?a? and ?p?ß???a?. Perhaps making the sophist's wise saying disappear, accompanied by unpleasantnesses, in order to preserve a friendship, should be construed as the ?p?ß???? of a resentful Socrates.
Protagoras undertakes an encomnium of Socrates. He declares that he is "least of all a resentful man (f???e??? te ???st' ?????p??)." A remark in the Leges suggests that the sophist, by uttering the wise saying, demonstrates such a disposition. At Lg. 5.730e1?731a3, the Athenian stranger observes that s?f??s??? and f????s?? are untransferable good
24 At the beginning of the dialogue, Socrates encounters someone who knows of his public stance as an ??ast?? of Alcibiades. He asks 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 him no attention, but at times forgot him altogether" (Lamb's translation of 309b5?9). 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 his preoccupation with beautiful bodies and direct his attention, instead, to the conversations with Protagoras. Eros is made to give way to philosophy, so to speak. Alcibiades' remark, at 336c2?4, supports such a 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 reader is put on notice ab initio that, when occasion warrants, Socrates speaks playfully, i.e. insincerely or speciously.
25 For examples of this trope, cf. Rep. 494e4?495a1 where a promising young man, persuaded to abandon political ambition and pursue philosophy instead, is unpersuaded by his 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 ?), i.e. relieved of existence by private assassination or judicial execution.
things, meaning that those who possess these virtues are unable to give them to another.26 (At Smp. 175d3?7, Socrates apprises Agathon of that sad fact, when invited to share the latter's couch, and impart wisdom through propinquity). The stranger goes on to speak of other good things that are transferable. Some who possess a ?t?µa are able to share it with others, whilst keeping it for themselves. Others who possess a ?t?µa wish to share, but are unable 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, uttering a wise saying would be an example of sharing, without resentment, a ?t?µa that one possesses, for the sake of friendship.
The praise concluded, the sophist announces that the time has come to turn to something else. Socrates leaves Kritias' house with Hippocrates, their friendship preserved.
Austin Michael Eisenstadt
26 The Athenian stranger shares Socrates' initial opinion in the Protagoras that ??et? is not d?da?t??. Socrates expresses the same view in the Meno.
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