are weak and unable to revenge themselves, when they are laughed at, may be
truly called ridiculous, but those who can defend themselves may be more
truly described as strong and formidable; for ignorance in the powerul is
hateful and horrible, because hurtful to others both in reality and in
fiction, but powerless ignorance may be reckoned, and in truth is,
PROTARCHUS: That is very true, but I do not as yet see where is the
admixture of pleasures and pains.
SOCRATES: Well, then, let us examine the nature of envy.
SOCRATES: Is not envy an unrighteous pleasure, and also an unrighteous
PROTARCHUS: Most true.
SOCRATES: There is nothing envious or wrong in rejoicing at the
misfortunes of enemies?
PROTARCHUS: Certainly not.
SOCRATES: But to feel joy instead of sorrow at the sight of our friends'
misfortunes - is not that wrong?
SOCRATES: Did we not say that ignorance was always an evil?
SOCRATES: And the three kinds of vain conceit in our friends which we
enumerated - the vain conceit of beauty, of wisdom, and of wealth, are
ridiculous if they are weak, and detestable when they are powerful: May we
not say, as I was saying before, that our friends who are in this state of
mind, when harmless to others, are simply ridiculous?
PROTARCHUS: They are ridiculous.
SOCRATES: And do we not acknowledge this ignorance of theirs to be a
SOCRATES: And do we feel pain or pleasure in laughing at it?
PROTARCHUS: Clearly we feel pleasure.
SOCRATES: And was not envy the source of this pleasure which we feel at
the misfortunes of friends?
SOCRATES: Then the argument shows that when we laugh at the folly of our
friends, pleasure, in mingling with envy, mingles with pain, for envy has
been acknowledged by us to be mental pain, and laughter is pleasant; and so
we envy and laugh at the same instant.
SOCRATES: And the argument implies that there are combinations of pleasure
and pain in lamentations, and in tragedy and comedy, not only on the stage,
but on the greater stage of human life; and so in endless other cases.
PROTARCHUS: I do not see how any one can deny what you say, Socrates,
however eager he may be to assert the opposite opinion.
SOCRATES: I mentioned anger, desire, sorrow, fear, love, emulation, envy,
and similar emotions, as examples in which we should find a mixture of the
two elements so often named; did I not?
SOCRATES: We may observe that our conclusions hitherto have had reference
only to sorrow and envy and anger.
PROTARCHUS: I see.
SOCRATES: Then many other cases still remain?
SOCRATES: And why do you suppose me to have pointed out to you the
admixture which takes place in comedy? Why but to convince you that there
was no difficulty in showing the mixed nature of fear and love and similar
affections; and I thought that when I had given you the illustration, you
would have let me off, and have acknowledged as a general truth that the
body without the soul, and the soul without the body, as well as the two
united, are susceptible of all sorts of admixtures of pleasures and pains;
and so further discussion would have been unnecessary. And now I want to
know whether I may depart; or will you keep me here until midnight? I
fancy that I may obtain my release without many words; - if I promise that
to-morrow I will give you an account of all these cases. But at present I
would rather sail in another direction, and go to other matters which
remain to be settled, before the judgment can be given which Philebus
PROTARCHUS: Very good, Socrates; in what remains take your own course.
SOCRATES: Then after the mixed pleasures the unmixed should have their
turn; this is the natural and necessary order.
SOCRATES: These, in turn, then, I will now endeavour to indicate; for with
the maintainers of the opinion that all pleasures are a cessation of pain,
I do not agree, but, as I was saying, I use them as witnesses, that there
are pleasures which seem only and are not, and there are others again which
have great power and appear in many forms, yet are intermingled with pains,
and are partly alleviations of agony and distress, both of body and mind.
PROTARCHUS: Then what pleasures, Socrates, should we be right in
conceiving to be true?
SOCRATES: True pleasures are those which are given by beauty of colour and
form, and most of those which arise from smells; those of sound, again, and
in general those of which the want is painless and unconscious, and of
which the fruition is palpable to sense and pleasant and unalloyed with
PROTARCHUS: Once more, Socrates, I must ask what you mean.
SOCRATES: My meaning is certainly not obvious, and I will endeavour to be
plainer. I do not mean by beauty of form such beauty as that of animals or
pictures, which the many would suppose to be my meaning; but, says the
argument, understand me to mean straight lines and circles, and the plane
or solid figures which are formed out of them by turning-lathes and rulers
and measurers of angles; for these I affirm to be not only relatively
beautiful, like other things, but they are eternally and absolutely
beautiful, and they have peculiar pleasures, quite unlike the pleasures of
scratching. And there are colours which are of the same character, and
have similar pleasures; now do you understand my meaning?
PROTARCHUS: I am trying to understand, Socrates, and I hope that you will
try to make your meaning clearer.
SOCRATES: When sounds are smooth and clear, and have a single pure tone,
then I mean to say that they are not relatively but absolutely beautiful,
and have natural pleasures associated with them.
PROTARCHUS: Yes, there are such pleasures.
SOCRATES: The pleasures of smell are of a less ethereal sort, but they
have no necessary admixture of pain; and all pleasures, however and
wherever experienced, which are unattended by pains, I assign to an
analogous class. Here then are two kinds of pleasures.
PROTARCHUS: I understand.
SOCRATES: To these may be added the pleasures of knowledge, if no hunger
of knowledge and no pain caused by such hunger precede them.
PROTARCHUS: And this is the case.
SOCRATES: Well, but if a man who is full of knowledge loses his knowledge,
are there not pains of forgetting?
PROTARCHUS: Not necessarily, but there may be times of reflection, when he
feels grief at the loss of his knowledge.
SOCRATES: Yes, my friend, but at present we are enumerating only the
natural perceptions, and have nothing to do with reflection.
PROTARCHUS: In that case you are right in saying that the loss of
knowledge is not attended with pain.
SOCRATES: These pleasures of knowledge, then, are unmixed with pain; and
they are not the pleasures of the many but of a very few.
PROTARCHUS: Quite true.
SOCRATES: And now, having fairly separated the pure pleasures and those
which may be rightly termed impure, let us further add to our description
of them, that the pleasures which are in excess have no measure, but that
those which are not in excess have measure; the great, the excessive,
whether more or less frequent, we shall be right in referring to the class
of the infinite, and of the more and less, which pours through body and
soul alike; and the others we shall refer to the class which has measure.
PROTARCHUS: Quite right, Socrates.
SOCRATES: Still there is something more to be considered about pleasures.
PROTARCHUS: What is it?
SOCRATES: When you speak of purity and clearness, or of excess, abundance,
greatness and sufficiency, in what relation do these terms stand to truth?
PROTARCHUS: Why do you ask, Socrates?
SOCRATES: Because, Protarchus, I should wish to test pleasure and
knowledge in every possible way, in order that if there be a pure and
impure element in either of them, I may present the pure element for
judgment, and then they will be more easily judged of by you and by me and
by all of us.
PROTARCHUS: Most true.
SOCRATES: Let us investigate all the pure kinds; first selecting for
consideration a single instance.
PROTARCHUS: What instance shall we select?
SOCRATES: Suppose that we first of all take whiteness.
PROTARCHUS: Very good.
SOCRATES: How can there be purity in whiteness, and what purity? Is that
purest which is greatest or most in quantity, or that which is most
unadulterated and freest from any admixture of other colours?
PROTARCHUS: Clearly that which is most unadulterated.
SOCRATES: True, Protarchus; and so the purest white, and not the greatest
or largest in quantity, is to be deemed truest and most beautiful?
SOCRATES: And we shall be quite right in saying that a little pure white
is whiter and fairer and truer than a great deal that is mixed.
PROTARCHUS: Perfectly right.
SOCRATES: There is no need of adducing many similar examples in
illustration of the argument about pleasure; one such is sufficient to
prove to us that a small pleasure or a small amount of pleasure, if pure or
unalloyed with pain, is always pleasanter and truer and fairer than a great
pleasure or a great amount of pleasure of another kind.
PROTARCHUS: Assuredly; and the instance you have given is quite
SOCRATES: But what do you say of another question: - have we not heard that
pleasure is always a generation, and has no true being? Do not certain
ingenious philosophers teach this doctrine, and ought not we to be grateful
PROTARCHUS: What do they mean?
SOCRATES: I will explain to you, my dear Protarchus, what they mean, by
putting a question.
PROTARCHUS: Ask, and I will answer.
SOCRATES: I assume that there are two natures, one self-existent, and the
other ever in want of something.
PROTARCHUS: What manner of natures are they?
SOCRATES: The one majestic ever, the other inferior.
PROTARCHUS: You speak riddles.
SOCRATES: You have seen loves good and fair, and also brave lovers of
PROTARCHUS: I should think so.
SOCRATES: Search the universe for two terms which are like these two and
are present everywhere.
PROTARCHUS: Yet a third time I must say, Be a little plainer, Socrates.
SOCRATES: There is no difficulty, Protarchus; the argument is only in
play, and insinuates that some things are for the sake of something else
(relatives), and that other things are the ends to which the former class
PROTARCHUS: Your many repetitions make me slow to understand.
SOCRATES: As the argument proceeds, my boy, I dare say that the meaning
will become clearer.
PROTARCHUS: Very likely.
SOCRATES: Here are two new principles.
PROTARCHUS: What are they?
SOCRATES: One is the generation of all things, and the other is essence.
PROTARCHUS: I readily accept from you both generation and essence.
SOCRATES: Very right; and would you say that generation is for the sake of
essence, or essence for the sake of generation?
PROTARCHUS: You want to know whether that which is called essence is,
properly speaking, for the sake of generation?
PROTARCHUS: By the gods, I wish that you would repeat your question.
SOCRATES: I mean, O my Protarchus, to ask whether you would tell me that
ship-building is for the sake of ships, or ships for the sake of ship-
building? and in all similar cases I should ask the same question.
PROTARCHUS: Why do you not answer yourself, Socrates?
SOCRATES: I have no objection, but you must take your part.
SOCRATES: My answer is, that all things instrumental, remedial, material,
are given to us with a view to generation, and that each generation is
relative to, or for the sake of, some being or essence, and that the whole
of generation is relative to the whole of essence.
SOCRATES: Then pleasure, being a generation, must surely be for the sake
of some essence?
SOCRATES: And that for the sake of which something else is done must be
placed in the class of good, and that which is done for the sake of
something else, in some other class, my good friend.
PROTARCHUS: Most certainly.
SOCRATES: Then pleasure, being a generation, will be rightly placed in
some other class than that of good?
PROTARCHUS: Quite right.
SOCRATES: Then, as I said at first, we ought to be very grateful to him
who first pointed out that pleasure was a generation only, and had no true
being at all; for he is clearly one who laughs at the notion of pleasure
being a good.
SOCRATES: And he would surely laugh also at those who make generation
their highest end.
PROTARCHUS: Of whom are you speaking, and what do they mean?
SOCRATES: I am speaking of those who when they are cured of hunger or
thirst or any other defect by some process of generation are delighted at
the process as if it were pleasure; and they say that they would not wish
to live without these and other feelings of a like kind which might be
PROTARCHUS: That is certainly what they appear to think.
SOCRATES: And is not destruction universally admitted to be the opposite
SOCRATES: Then he who chooses thus, would choose generation and
destruction rather than that third sort of life, in which, as we were
saying, was neither pleasure nor pain, but only the purest possible
PROTARCHUS: He who would make us believe pleasure to be a good is involved
in great absurdities, Socrates.
SOCRATES: Great, indeed; and there is yet another of them.
PROTARCHUS: What is it?
SOCRATES: Is there not an absurdity in arguing that there is nothing good
or noble in the body, or in anything else, but that good is in the soul
only, and that the only good of the soul is pleasure; and that courage or
temperance or understanding, or any other good of the soul, is not really a
good? - and is there not yet a further absurdity in our being compelled to
say that he who has a feeling of pain and not of pleasure is bad at the
time when he is suffering pain, even though he be the best of men; and
again, that he who has a feeling of pleasure, in so far as he is pleased at
the time when he is pleased, in that degree excels in virtue?
PROTARCHUS: Nothing, Socrates, can be more irrational than all this.
SOCRATES: And now, having subjected pleasure to every sort of test, let us
not appear to be too sparing of mind and knowledge: let us ring their
metal bravely, and see if there be unsoundness in any part, until we have
found out what in them is of the purest nature; and then the truest
elements both of pleasure and knowledge may be brought up for judgment.
SOCRATES: Knowledge has two parts, - the one productive, and the other
SOCRATES: And in the productive or handicraft arts, is not one part more
akin to knowledge, and the other less; and may not the one part be regarded
as the pure, and the other as the impure?
SOCRATES: Let us separate the superior or dominant elements in each of
PROTARCHUS: What are they, and how do you separate them?
SOCRATES: I mean to say, that if arithmetic, mensuration, and weighing be
taken away from any art, that which remains will not be much.
PROTARCHUS: Not much, certainly.
SOCRATES: The rest will be only conjecture, and the better use of the
senses which is given by experience and practice, in addition to a certain
power of guessing, which is commonly called art, and is perfected by
attention and pains.
PROTARCHUS: Nothing more, assuredly.
SOCRATES: Music, for instance, is full of this empiricism; for sounds are
harmonized, not by measure, but by skilful conjecture; the music of the
flute is always trying to guess the pitch of each vibrating note, and is
therefore mixed up with much that is doubtful and has little which is
PROTARCHUS: Most true.
SOCRATES: And the same will be found to hold good of medicine and
husbandry and piloting and generalship.
PROTARCHUS: Very true.
SOCRATES: The art of the builder, on the other hand, which uses a number
of measures and instruments, attains by their help to a greater degree of
accuracy than the other arts.
PROTARCHUS: How is that?
SOCRATES: In ship-building and house-building, and in other branches of
the art of carpentering, the builder has his rule, lathe, compass, line,
and a most ingenious machine for straightening wood.
PROTARCHUS: Very true, Socrates.
SOCRATES: Then now let us divide the arts of which we were speaking into
two kinds, - the arts which, like music, are less exact in their results,
and those which, like carpentering, are more exact.
PROTARCHUS: Let us make that division.
SOCRATES: Of the latter class, the most exact of all are those which we
just now spoke of as primary.
PROTARCHUS: I see that you mean arithmetic, and the kindred arts of
weighing and measuring.
SOCRATES: Certainly, Protarchus; but are not these also distinguishable
into two kinds?
PROTARCHUS: What are the two kinds?
SOCRATES: In the first place, arithmetic is of two kinds, one of which is
popular, and the other philosophical.
PROTARCHUS: How would you distinguish them?
SOCRATES: There is a wide difference between them, Protarchus; some
arithmeticians reckon unequal units; as for example, two armies, two oxen,
two very large things or two very small things. The party who are opposed
to them insist that every unit in ten thousand must be the same as every
PROTARCHUS: Undoubtedly there is, as you say, a great difference among the
votaries of the science; and there may be reasonably supposed to be two
sorts of arithmetic.
SOCRATES: And when we compare the art of mensuration which is used in
building with philosophical geometry, or the art of computation which is
used in trading with exact calculation, shall we say of either of the pairs
that it is one or two?
PROTARCHUS: On the analogy of what has preceded, I should be of opinion
that they were severally two.
SOCRATES: Right; but do you understand why I have discussed the subject?
PROTARCHUS: I think so, but I should like to be told by you.
SOCRATES: The argument has all along been seeking a parallel to pleasure,
and true to that original design, has gone on to ask whether one sort of
knowledge is purer than another, as one pleasure is purer than another.
PROTARCHUS: Clearly; that was the intention.
SOCRATES: And has not the argument in what has preceded, already shown
that the arts have different provinces, and vary in their degrees of
PROTARCHUS: Very true.
SOCRATES: And just now did not the argument first designate a particular
art by a common term, thus making us believe in the unity of that art; and
then again, as if speaking of two different things, proceed to enquire
whether the art as pursed by philosophers, or as pursued by non-
philosophers, has more of certainty and purity?
PROTARCHUS: That is the very question which the argument is asking.
SOCRATES: And how, Protarchus, shall we answer the enquiry?
PROTARCHUS: O Socrates, we have reached a point at which the difference of
clearness in different kinds of knowledge is enormous.
SOCRATES: Then the answer will be the easier.
PROTARCHUS: Certainly; and let us say in reply, that those arts into which
arithmetic and mensuration enter, far surpass all others; and that of these
the arts or sciences which are animated by the pure philosophic impulse are
infinitely superior in accuracy and truth.
SOCRATES: Then this is your judgment; and this is the answer which, upon
your authority, we will give to all masters of the art of
PROTARCHUS: What answer?
SOCRATES: That there are two arts of arithmetic, and two of mensuration;
and also several other arts which in like manner have this double nature,
and yet only one name.
PROTARCHUS: Let us boldly return this answer to the masters of whom you
speak, Socrates, and hope for good luck.
SOCRATES: We have explained what we term the most exact arts or sciences.
PROTARCHUS: Very good.
SOCRATES: And yet, Protarchus, dialectic will refuse to acknowledge us, if
we do not award to her the first place.
PROTARCHUS: And pray, what is dialectic?
SOCRATES: Clearly the science which has to do with all that knowledge of
which we are now speaking; for I am sure that all men who have a grain of
intelligence will admit that the knowledge which has to do with being and
reality, and sameness and unchangeableness, is by far the truest of all.
But how would you decide this question, Protarchus?
PROTARCHUS: I have often heard Gorgias maintain, Socrates, that the art of
persuasion far surpassed every other; this, as he says, is by far the best
of them all, for to it all things submit, not by compulsion, but of their
own free will. Now, I should not like to quarrel either with you or with
SOCRATES: You mean to say that you would like to desert, if you were not
PROTARCHUS: As you please.
SOCRATES: May I not have led you into a misapprehension?
SOCRATES: Dear Protarchus, I never asked which was the greatest or best or
usefullest of arts or sciences, but which had clearness and accuracy, and
the greatest amount of truth, however humble and little useful an art. And
as for Gorgias, if you do not deny that his art has the advantage in
usefulness to mankind, he will not quarrel with you for saying that the
study of which I am speaking is superior in this particular of essential
truth; as in the comparison of white colours, a little whiteness, if that
little be only pure, was said to be superior in truth to a great mass which
is impure. And now let us give our best attention and consider well, not
the comparative use or reputation of the sciences, but the power or
faculty, if there be such, which the soul has of loving the truth, and of
doing all things for the sake of it; let us search into the pure element of
mind and intelligence, and then we shall be able to say whether the science
of which I have been speaking is most likely to possess the faculty, or
whether there be some other which has higher claims.
PROTARCHUS: Well, I have been considering, and I can hardly think that any
other science or art has a firmer grasp of the truth than this.
SOCRATES: Do you say so because you observe that the arts in general and
those engaged in them make use of opinion, and are resolutely engaged in
the investigation of matters of opinion? Even he who supposes himself to
be occupied with nature is really occupied with the things of this world,
how created, how acting or acted upon. Is not this the sort of enquiry in
which his life is spent?
SOCRATES: He is labouring, not after eternal being, but about things which
are becoming, or which will or have become.
PROTARCHUS: Very true.
SOCRATES: And can we say that any of these things which neither are nor
have been nor will be unchangeable, when judged by the strict rule of truth
ever become certain?
SOCRATES: How can anything fixed be concerned with that which has no
PROTARCHUS: How indeed?
SOCRATES: Then mind and science when employed about such changing things
do not attain the highest truth?
PROTARCHUS: I should imagine not.
SOCRATES: And now let us bid farewell, a long farewell, to you or me or
Philebus or Gorgias, and urge on behalf of the argument a single point.
PROTARCHUS: What point?
SOCRATES: Let us say that the stable and pure and true and unalloyed has
to do with the things which are eternal and unchangeable and unmixed, or if
not, at any rate what is most akin to them has; and that all other things
are to be placed in a second or inferior class.
PROTARCHUS: Very true.
SOCRATES: And of the names expressing cognition, ought not the fairest to
be given to the fairest things?
PROTARCHUS: That is natural.
SOCRATES: And are not mind and wisdom the names which are to be honoured
SOCRATES: And these names may be said to have their truest and most exact
application when the mind is engaged in the contemplation of true being?