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Philebus by Plato

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we must always be experiencing one of them; that is what the wise tell us;
for, say they, all things are ever flowing up and down.

PROTARCHUS: Yes, and their words are of no mean authority.

SOCRATES: Of course, for they are no mean authorities themselves; and I
should like to avoid the brunt of their argument. Shall I tell you how I
mean to escape from them? And you shall be the partner of my flight.


SOCRATES: To them we will say: 'Good; but are we, or living things in
general, always conscious of what happens to us--for example, of our
growth, or the like? Are we not, on the contrary, almost wholly
unconscious of this and similar phenomena?' You must answer for them.

PROTARCHUS: The latter alternative is the true one.

SOCRATES: Then we were not right in saying, just now, that motions going
up and down cause pleasures and pains?


SOCRATES: A better and more unexceptionable way of speaking will be--


SOCRATES: If we say that the great changes produce pleasures and pains,
but that the moderate and lesser ones do neither.

PROTARCHUS: That, Socrates, is the more correct mode of speaking.

SOCRATES: But if this be true, the life to which I was just now referring
again appears.

PROTARCHUS: What life?

SOCRATES: The life which we affirmed to be devoid either of pain or of

PROTARCHUS: Very true.

SOCRATES: We may assume then that there are three lives, one pleasant, one
painful, and the third which is neither; what say you?

PROTARCHUS: I should say as you do that there are three of them.

SOCRATES: But if so, the negation of pain will not be the same with

PROTARCHUS: Certainly not.

SOCRATES: Then when you hear a person saying, that always to live without
pain is the pleasantest of all things, what would you understand him to
mean by that statement?

PROTARCHUS: I think that by pleasure he must mean the negative of pain.

SOCRATES: Let us take any three things; or suppose that we embellish a
little and call the first gold, the second silver, and there shall be a
third which is neither.

PROTARCHUS: Very good.

SOCRATES: Now, can that which is neither be either gold or silver?

PROTARCHUS: Impossible.

SOCRATES: No more can that neutral or middle life be rightly or reasonably
spoken or thought of as pleasant or painful.

PROTARCHUS: Certainly not.

SOCRATES: And yet, my friend, there are, as we know, persons who say and
think so.

PROTARCHUS: Certainly.

SOCRATES: And do they think that they have pleasure when they are free
from pain?

PROTARCHUS: They say so.

SOCRATES: And they must think or they would not say that they have

PROTARCHUS: I suppose not.

SOCRATES: And yet if pleasure and the negation of pain are of distinct
natures, they are wrong.

PROTARCHUS: But they are undoubtedly of distinct natures.

SOCRATES: Then shall we take the view that they are three, as we were just
now saying, or that they are two only--the one being a state of pain, which
is an evil, and the other a cessation of pain, which is of itself a good,
and is called pleasant?

PROTARCHUS: But why, Socrates, do we ask the question at all? I do not
see the reason.

SOCRATES: You, Protarchus, have clearly never heard of certain enemies of
our friend Philebus.

PROTARCHUS: And who may they be?

SOCRATES: Certain persons who are reputed to be masters in natural
philosophy, who deny the very existence of pleasure.


SOCRATES: They say that what the school of Philebus calls pleasures are
all of them only avoidances of pain.

PROTARCHUS: And would you, Socrates, have us agree with them?

SOCRATES: Why, no, I would rather use them as a sort of diviners, who
divine the truth, not by rules of art, but by an instinctive repugnance and
extreme detestation which a noble nature has of the power of pleasure, in
which they think that there is nothing sound, and her seductive influence
is declared by them to be witchcraft, and not pleasure. This is the use
which you may make of them. And when you have considered the various
grounds of their dislike, you shall hear from me what I deem to be true
pleasures. Having thus examined the nature of pleasure from both points of
view, we will bring her up for judgment.

PROTARCHUS: Well said.

SOCRATES: Then let us enter into an alliance with these philosophers and
follow in the track of their dislike. I imagine that they would say
something of this sort; they would begin at the beginning, and ask whether,
if we wanted to know the nature of any quality, such as hardness, we should
be more likely to discover it by looking at the hardest things, rather than
at the least hard? You, Protarchus, shall answer these severe gentlemen as
you answer me.

PROTARCHUS: By all means, and I reply to them, that you should look at the
greatest instances.

SOCRATES: Then if we want to see the true nature of pleasures as a class,
we should not look at the most diluted pleasures, but at the most extreme
and most vehement?

PROTARCHUS: In that every one will agree.

SOCRATES: And the obvious instances of the greatest pleasures, as we have
often said, are the pleasures of the body?

PROTARCHUS: Certainly.

SOCRATES: And are they felt by us to be or become greater, when we are
sick or when we are in health? And here we must be careful in our answer,
or we shall come to grief.

PROTARCHUS: How will that be?

SOCRATES: Why, because we might be tempted to answer, 'When we are in

PROTARCHUS: Yes, that is the natural answer.

SOCRATES: Well, but are not those pleasures the greatest of which mankind
have the greatest desires?


SOCRATES: And do not people who are in a fever, or any similar illness,
feel cold or thirst or other bodily affections more intensely? Am I not
right in saying that they have a deeper want and greater pleasure in the
satisfaction of their want?

PROTARCHUS: That is obvious as soon as it is said.

SOCRATES: Well, then, shall we not be right in saying, that if a person
would wish to see the greatest pleasures he ought to go and look, not at
health, but at disease? And here you must distinguish:--do not imagine
that I mean to ask whether those who are very ill have more pleasures than
those who are well, but understand that I am speaking of the magnitude of
pleasure; I want to know where pleasures are found to be most intense.
For, as I say, we have to discover what is pleasure, and what they mean by
pleasure who deny her very existence.

PROTARCHUS: I think I follow you.

SOCRATES: You will soon have a better opportunity of showing whether you
do or not, Protarchus. Answer now, and tell me whether you see, I will not
say more, but more intense and excessive pleasures in wantonness than in
temperance? Reflect before you speak.

PROTARCHUS: I understand you, and see that there is a great difference
between them; the temperate are restrained by the wise man's aphorism of
'Never too much,' which is their rule, but excess of pleasure possessing
the minds of fools and wantons becomes madness and makes them shout with

SOCRATES: Very good, and if this be true, then the greatest pleasures and
pains will clearly be found in some vicious state of soul and body, and not
in a virtuous state.

PROTARCHUS: Certainly.

SOCRATES: And ought we not to select some of these for examination, and
see what makes them the greatest?

PROTARCHUS: To be sure we ought.

SOCRATES: Take the case of the pleasures which arise out of certain

PROTARCHUS: What disorders?

SOCRATES: The pleasures of unseemly disorders, which our severe friends
utterly detest.

PROTARCHUS: What pleasures?

SOCRATES: Such, for example, as the relief of itching and other ailments
by scratching, which is the only remedy required. For what in Heaven's
name is the feeling to be called which is thus produced in us?--Pleasure or

PROTARCHUS: A villainous mixture of some kind, Socrates, I should say.

SOCRATES: I did not introduce the argument, O Protarchus, with any
personal reference to Philebus, but because, without the consideration of
these and similar pleasures, we shall not be able to determine the point at

PROTARCHUS: Then we had better proceed to analyze this family of

SOCRATES: You mean the pleasures which are mingled with pain?


SOCRATES: There are some mixtures which are of the body, and only in the
body, and others which are of the soul, and only in the soul; while there
are other mixtures of pleasures with pains, common both to soul and body,
which in their composite state are called sometimes pleasures and sometimes

PROTARCHUS: How is that?

SOCRATES: Whenever, in the restoration or in the derangement of nature, a
man experiences two opposite feelings; for example, when he is cold and is
growing warm, or again, when he is hot and is becoming cool, and he wants
to have the one and be rid of the other;--the sweet has a bitter, as the
common saying is, and both together fasten upon him and create irritation
and in time drive him to distraction.

PROTARCHUS: That description is very true to nature.

SOCRATES: And in these sorts of mixtures the pleasures and pains are
sometimes equal, and sometimes one or other of them predominates?


SOCRATES: Of cases in which the pain exceeds the pleasure, an example is
afforded by itching, of which we were just now speaking, and by the
tingling which we feel when the boiling and fiery element is within, and
the rubbing and motion only relieves the surface, and does not reach the
parts affected; then if you put them to the fire, and as a last resort
apply cold to them, you may often produce the most intense pleasure or pain
in the inner parts, which contrasts and mingles with the pain or pleasure,
as the case may be, of the outer parts; and this is due to the forcible
separation of what is united, or to the union of what is separated, and to
the juxtaposition of pleasure and pain.


SOCRATES: Sometimes the element of pleasure prevails in a man, and the
slight undercurrent of pain makes him tingle, and causes a gentle
irritation; or again, the excessive infusion of pleasure creates an
excitement in him,--he even leaps for joy, he assumes all sorts of
attitudes, he changes all manner of colours, he gasps for breath, and is
quite amazed, and utters the most irrational exclamations.

PROTARCHUS: Yes, indeed.

SOCRATES: He will say of himself, and others will say of him, that he is
dying with these delights; and the more dissipated and good-for-nothing he
is, the more vehemently he pursues them in every way; of all pleasures he
declares them to be the greatest; and he reckons him who lives in the most
constant enjoyment of them to be the happiest of mankind.

PROTARCHUS: That, Socrates, is a very true description of the opinions of
the majority about pleasures.

SOCRATES: Yes, Protarchus, quite true of the mixed pleasures, which arise
out of the communion of external and internal sensations in the body; there
are also cases in which the mind contributes an opposite element to the
body, whether of pleasure or pain, and the two unite and form one mixture.
Concerning these I have already remarked, that when a man is empty he
desires to be full, and has pleasure in hope and pain in vacuity. But now
I must further add what I omitted before, that in all these and similar
emotions in which body and mind are opposed (and they are innumerable),
pleasure and pain coalesce in one.

PROTARCHUS: I believe that to be quite true.

SOCRATES: There still remains one other sort of admixture of pleasures and

PROTARCHUS: What is that?

SOCRATES: The union which, as we were saying, the mind often experiences
of purely mental feelings.

PROTARCHUS: What do you mean?

SOCRATES: Why, do we not speak of anger, fear, desire, sorrow, love,
emulation, envy, and the like, as pains which belong to the soul only?


SOCRATES: And shall we not find them also full of the most wonderful
pleasures? need I remind you of the anger

'Which stirs even a wise man to violence,
And is sweeter than honey and the honeycomb?'

And you remember how pleasures mingle with pains in lamentation and

PROTARCHUS: Yes, there is a natural connexion between them.

SOCRATES: And you remember also how at the sight of tragedies the
spectators smile through their tears?

PROTARCHUS: Certainly I do.

SOCRATES: And are you aware that even at a comedy the soul experiences a
mixed feeling of pain and pleasure?

PROTARCHUS: I do not quite understand you.

SOCRATES: I admit, Protarchus, that there is some difficulty in
recognizing this mixture of feelings at a comedy.

PROTARCHUS: There is, I think.

SOCRATES: And the greater the obscurity of the case the more desirable is
the examination of it, because the difficulty in detecting other cases of
mixed pleasures and pains will be less.


SOCRATES: I have just mentioned envy; would you not call that a pain of
the soul?


SOCRATES: And yet the envious man finds something in the misfortunes of
his neighbours at which he is pleased?

PROTARCHUS: Certainly.

SOCRATES: And ignorance, and what is termed clownishness, are surely an

PROTARCHUS: To be sure.

SOCRATES: From these considerations learn to know the nature of the


SOCRATES: The ridiculous is in short the specific name which is used to
describe the vicious form of a certain habit; and of vice in general it is
that kind which is most at variance with the inscription at Delphi.

PROTARCHUS: You mean, Socrates, 'Know thyself.'

SOCRATES: I do; and the opposite would be, 'Know not thyself.'

PROTARCHUS: Certainly.

SOCRATES: And now, O Protarchus, try to divide this into three.

PROTARCHUS: Indeed I am afraid that I cannot.

SOCRATES: Do you mean to say that I must make the division for you?

PROTARCHUS: Yes, and what is more, I beg that you will.

SOCRATES: Are there not three ways in which ignorance of self may be

PROTARCHUS: What are they?

SOCRATES: In the first place, about money; the ignorant may fancy himself
richer than he is.

PROTARCHUS: Yes, that is a very common error.

SOCRATES: And still more often he will fancy that he is taller or fairer
than he is, or that he has some other advantage of person which he really
has not.

PROTARCHUS: Of course.

SOCRATES: And yet surely by far the greatest number err about the goods of
the mind; they imagine themselves to be much better men than they are.

PROTARCHUS: Yes, that is by far the commonest delusion.

SOCRATES: And of all the virtues, is not wisdom the one which the mass of
mankind are always claiming, and which most arouses in them a spirit of
contention and lying conceit of wisdom?

PROTARCHUS: Certainly.

SOCRATES: And may not all this be truly called an evil condition?

PROTARCHUS: Very evil.

SOCRATES: But we must pursue the division a step further, Protarchus, if
we would see in envy of the childish sort a singular mixture of pleasure
and pain.

PROTARCHUS: How can we make the further division which you suggest?

SOCRATES: All who are silly enough to entertain this lying conceit of
themselves may of course be divided, like the rest of mankind, into two
classes--one having power and might; and the other the reverse.

PROTARCHUS: Certainly.

SOCRATES: Let this, then, be the principle of division; those of them who
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?

PROTARCHUS: Undoubtedly.

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

PROTARCHUS: Certainly.

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?

PROTARCHUS: Certainly.

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.


SOCRATES: Then many other cases still remain?

PROTARCHUS: Certainly.

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.

PROTARCHUS: Excellent.

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
to them?

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
subserve (absolutes).

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.

PROTARCHUS: Certainly.

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.

PROTARCHUS: Assuredly.

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.

PROTARCHUS: Assuredly.

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
of generation?

PROTARCHUS: Certainly.

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?

PROTARCHUS: Certainly.

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
other unit.

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?

PROTARCHUS: Impossible.

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?

PROTARCHUS: Certainly.

SOCRATES: And these were the names which I adduced of the rivals of

PROTARCHUS: Very true, Socrates.

SOCRATES: In the next place, as to the mixture, here are the ingredients,
pleasure and wisdom, and we may be compared to artists who have their
materials ready to their hands.


SOCRATES: And now we must begin to mix them?

PROTARCHUS: By all means.

SOCRATES: But had we not better have a preliminary word and refresh our


SOCRATES: Of that which I have already mentioned. Well says the proverb,
that we ought to repeat twice and even thrice that which is good.

PROTARCHUS: Certainly.

SOCRATES: Well then, by Zeus, let us proceed, and I will make what I
believe to be a fair summary of the argument.

PROTARCHUS: Let me hear.

SOCRATES: Philebus says that pleasure is the true end of all living
beings, at which all ought to aim, and moreover that it is the chief good
of all, and that the two names 'good' and 'pleasant' are correctly given to
one thing and one nature; Socrates, on the other hand, begins by denying
this, and further says, that in nature as in name they are two, and that
wisdom partakes more than pleasure of the good. Is not and was not this
what we were saying, Protarchus?

PROTARCHUS: Certainly.

SOCRATES: And is there not and was there not a further point which was
conceded between us?

PROTARCHUS: What was it?

SOCRATES: That the good differs from all other things.

PROTARCHUS: In what respect?

SOCRATES: In that the being who possesses good always everywhere and in
all things has the most perfect sufficiency, and is never in need of
anything else.


SOCRATES: And did we not endeavour to make an imaginary separation of
wisdom and pleasure, assigning to each a distinct life, so that pleasure
was wholly excluded from wisdom, and wisdom in like manner had no part
whatever in pleasure?


SOCRATES: And did we think that either of them alone would be sufficient?

PROTARCHUS: Certainly not.

SOCRATES: And if we erred in any point, then let any one who will, take up
the enquiry again and set us right; and assuming memory and wisdom and
knowledge and true opinion to belong to the same class, let him consider
whether he would desire to possess or acquire,--I will not say pleasure,
however abundant or intense, if he has no real perception that he is
pleased, nor any consciousness of what he feels, nor any recollection,
however momentary, of the feeling,--but would he desire to have anything at
all, if these faculties were wanting to him? And about wisdom I ask the
same question; can you conceive that any one would choose to have all
wisdom absolutely devoid of pleasure, rather than with a certain degree of
pleasure, or all pleasure devoid of wisdom, rather than with a certain
degree of wisdom?

PROTARCHUS: Certainly not, Socrates; but why repeat such questions any

SOCRATES: Then the perfect and universally eligible and entirely good
cannot possibly be either of them?

PROTARCHUS: Impossible.

SOCRATES: Then now we must ascertain the nature of the good more or less
accurately, in order, as we were saying, that the second place may be duly


SOCRATES: Have we not found a road which leads towards the good?

PROTARCHUS: What road?

SOCRATES: Supposing that a man had to be found, and you could discover in
what house he lived, would not that be a great step towards the discovery
of the man himself?

PROTARCHUS: Certainly.

SOCRATES: And now reason intimates to us, as at our first beginning, that
we should seek the good, not in the unmixed life but in the mixed.


SOCRATES: There is greater hope of finding that which we are seeking in
the life which is well mixed than in that which is not?

PROTARCHUS: Far greater.

SOCRATES: Then now let us mingle, Protarchus, at the same time offering up
a prayer to Dionysus or Hephaestus, or whoever is the god who presides over
the ceremony of mingling.

PROTARCHUS: By all means.

SOCRATES: Are not we the cup-bearers? and here are two fountains which are
flowing at our side: one, which is pleasure, may be likened to a fountain
of honey; the other, wisdom, a sober draught in which no wine mingles, is
of water unpleasant but healthful; out of these we must seek to make the
fairest of all possible mixtures.

PROTARCHUS: Certainly.

SOCRATES: Tell me first;--should we be most likely to succeed if we
mingled every sort of pleasure with every sort of wisdom?

PROTARCHUS: Perhaps we might.

SOCRATES: But I should be afraid of the risk, and I think that I can show
a safer plan.

PROTARCHUS: What is it?

SOCRATES: One pleasure was supposed by us to be truer than another, and
one art to be more exact than another.

PROTARCHUS: Certainly.

SOCRATES: There was also supposed to be a difference in sciences; some of
them regarding only the transient and perishing, and others the permanent
and imperishable and everlasting and immutable; and when judged by the
standard of truth, the latter, as we thought, were truer than the former.

PROTARCHUS: Very good and right.

SOCRATES: If, then, we were to begin by mingling the sections of each
class which have the most of truth, will not the union suffice to give us
the loveliest of lives, or shall we still want some elements of another

PROTARCHUS: I think that we ought to do what you suggest.

SOCRATES: Let us suppose a man who understands justice, and has reason as
well as understanding about the true nature of this and of all other

PROTARCHUS: We will suppose such a man.

SOCRATES: Will he have enough of knowledge if he is acquainted only with
the divine circle and sphere, and knows nothing of our human spheres and
circles, but uses only divine circles and measures in the building of a

PROTARCHUS: The knowledge which is only superhuman, Socrates, is
ridiculous in man.

SOCRATES: What do you mean? Do you mean that you are to throw into the
cup and mingle the impure and uncertain art which uses the false measure
and the false circle?

PROTARCHUS: Yes, we must, if any of us is ever to find his way home.

SOCRATES: And am I to include music, which, as I was saying just now, is
full of guesswork and imitation, and is wanting in purity?

PROTARCHUS: Yes, I think that you must, if human life is to be a life at

SOCRATES: Well, then, suppose that I give way, and, like a doorkeeper who
is pushed and overborne by the mob, I open the door wide, and let knowledge
of every sort stream in, and the pure mingle with the impure?

PROTARCHUS: I do not know, Socrates, that any great harm would come of
having them all, if only you have the first sort.

SOCRATES: Well, then, shall I let them all flow into what Homer poetically
terms 'a meeting of the waters'?

PROTARCHUS: By all means.

SOCRATES: There--I have let them in, and now I must return to the fountain
of pleasure. For we were not permitted to begin by mingling in a single
stream the true portions of both according to our original intention; but
the love of all knowledge constrained us to let all the sciences flow in
together before the pleasures.

PROTARCHUS: Quite true.

SOCRATES: And now the time has come for us to consider about the pleasures
also, whether we shall in like manner let them go all at once, or at first
only the true ones.

PROTARCHUS: It will be by far the safer course to let flow the true ones

SOCRATES: Let them flow, then; and now, if there are any necessary
pleasures, as there were arts and sciences necessary, must we not mingle

PROTARCHUS: Yes; the necessary pleasures should certainly be allowed to

SOCRATES: The knowledge of the arts has been admitted to be innocent and
useful always; and if we say of pleasures in like manner that all of them
are good and innocent for all of us at all times, we must let them all

PROTARCHUS: What shall we say about them, and what course shall we take?

SOCRATES: Do not ask me, Protarchus; but ask the daughters of pleasure and
wisdom to answer for themselves.


SOCRATES: Tell us, O beloved--shall we call you pleasures or by some other
name?--would you rather live with or without wisdom? I am of opinion that
they would certainly answer as follows:


SOCRATES: They would answer, as we said before, that for any single class
to be left by itself pure and isolated is not good, nor altogether
possible; and that if we are to make comparisons of one class with another
and choose, there is no better companion than knowledge of things in
general, and likewise the perfect knowledge, if that may be, of ourselves
in every respect.

PROTARCHUS: And our answer will be:--In that ye have spoken well.

SOCRATES: Very true. And now let us go back and interrogate wisdom and
mind: Would you like to have any pleasures in the mixture? And they will
reply:--'What pleasures do you mean?'

PROTARCHUS: Likely enough.

SOCRATES: And we shall take up our parable and say: Do you wish to have
the greatest and most vehement pleasures for your companions in addition to
the true ones? 'Why, Socrates,' they will say, 'how can we? seeing that
they are the source of ten thousand hindrances to us; they trouble the
souls of men, which are our habitation, with their madness; they prevent us
from coming to the birth, and are commonly the ruin of the children which
are born to us, causing them to be forgotten and unheeded; but the true and
pure pleasures, of which you spoke, know to be of our family, and also
those pleasures which accompany health and temperance, and which every
Virtue, like a goddess, has in her train to follow her about wherever she
goes,--mingle these and not the others; there would be great want of sense
in any one who desires to see a fair and perfect mixture, and to find in it
what is the highest good in man and in the universe, and to divine what is
the true form of good--there would be great want of sense in his allowing
the pleasures, which are always in the company of folly and vice, to mingle
with mind in the cup.'--Is not this a very rational and suitable reply,
which mind has made, both on her own behalf, as well as on the behalf of
memory and true opinion?

PROTARCHUS: Most certainly.

SOCRATES: And still there must be something more added, which is a
necessary ingredient in every mixture.

PROTARCHUS: What is that?

SOCRATES: Unless truth enter into the composition, nothing can truly be
created or subsist.

PROTARCHUS: Impossible.

SOCRATES: Quite impossible; and now you and Philebus must tell me whether
anything is still wanting in the mixture, for to my way of thinking the
argument is now completed, and may be compared to an incorporeal law, which
is going to hold fair rule over a living body.

PROTARCHUS: I agree with you, Socrates.

SOCRATES: And may we not say with reason that we are now at the vestibule
of the habitation of the good?

PROTARCHUS: I think that we are.

SOCRATES: What, then, is there in the mixture which is most precious, and
which is the principal cause why such a state is universally beloved by
all? When we have discovered it, we will proceed to ask whether this
omnipresent nature is more akin to pleasure or to mind.

PROTARCHUS: Quite right; in that way we shall be better able to judge.

SOCRATES: And there is no difficulty in seeing the cause which renders any
mixture either of the highest value or of none at all.

PROTARCHUS: What do you mean?

SOCRATES: Every man knows it.


SOCRATES: He knows that any want of measure and symmetry in any mixture
whatever must always of necessity be fatal, both to the elements and to the
mixture, which is then not a mixture, but only a confused medley which
brings confusion on the possessor of it.

PROTARCHUS: Most true.

SOCRATES: And now the power of the good has retired into the region of the
beautiful; for measure and symmetry are beauty and virtue all the world


SOCRATES: Also we said that truth was to form an element in the mixture.

PROTARCHUS: Certainly.

SOCRATES: Then, if we are not able to hunt the good with one idea only,
with three we may catch our prey; Beauty, Symmetry, Truth are the three,
and these taken together we may regard as the single cause of the mixture,
and the mixture as being good by reason of the infusion of them.

PROTARCHUS: Quite right.

SOCRATES: And now, Protarchus, any man could decide well enough whether
pleasure or wisdom is more akin to the highest good, and more honourable
among gods and men.

PROTARCHUS: Clearly, and yet perhaps the argument had better be pursued to
the end.

SOCRATES: We must take each of them separately in their relation to
pleasure and mind, and pronounce upon them; for we ought to see to which of
the two they are severally most akin.

PROTARCHUS: You are speaking of beauty, truth, and measure?

SOCRATES: Yes, Protarchus, take truth first, and, after passing in review
mind, truth, pleasure, pause awhile and make answer to yourself--as to
whether pleasure or mind is more akin to truth.

PROTARCHUS: There is no need to pause, for the difference between them is
palpable; pleasure is the veriest impostor in the world; and it is said
that in the pleasures of love, which appear to be the greatest, perjury is
excused by the gods; for pleasures, like children, have not the least
particle of reason in them; whereas mind is either the same as truth, or
the most like truth, and the truest.

SOCRATES: Shall we next consider measure, in like manner, and ask whether
pleasure has more of this than wisdom, or wisdom than pleasure?

PROTARCHUS: Here is another question which may be easily answered; for I
imagine that nothing can ever be more immoderate than the transports of
pleasure, or more in conformity with measure than mind and knowledge.

SOCRATES: Very good; but there still remains the third test: Has mind a
greater share of beauty than pleasure, and is mind or pleasure the fairer
of the two?

PROTARCHUS: No one, Socrates, either awake or dreaming, ever saw or
imagined mind or wisdom to be in aught unseemly, at any time, past,
present, or future.


PROTARCHUS: But when we see some one indulging in pleasures, perhaps in
the greatest of pleasures, the ridiculous or disgraceful nature of the
action makes us ashamed; and so we put them out of sight, and consign them
to darkness, under the idea that they ought not to meet the eye of day.

SOCRATES: Then, Protarchus, you will proclaim everywhere, by word of mouth
to this company, and by messengers bearing the tidings far and wide, that
pleasure is not the first of possessions, nor yet the second, but that in
measure, and the mean, and the suitable, and the like, the eternal nature
has been found.

PROTARCHUS: Yes, that seems to be the result of what has been now said.

SOCRATES: In the second class is contained the symmetrical and beautiful
and perfect or sufficient, and all which are of that family.


SOCRATES: And if you reckon in the third dass mind and wisdom, you will
not be far wrong, if I divine aright.

PROTARCHUS: I dare say.

SOCRATES: And would you not put in the fourth class the goods which we
were affirming to appertain specially to the soul--sciences and arts and
true opinions as we called them? These come after the third class, and
form the fourth, as they are certainly more akin to good than pleasure is.


SOCRATES: The fifth class are the pleasures which were defined by us as
painless, being the pure pleasures of the soul herself, as we termed them,
which accompany, some the sciences, and some the senses.


SOCRATES: And now, as Orpheus says,

'With the sixth generation cease the glory of my song.'

Here, at the sixth award, let us make an end; all that remains is to set
the crown on our discourse.


SOCRATES: Then let us sum up and reassert what has been said, thus
offering the third libation to the saviour Zeus.


SOCRATES: Philebus affirmed that pleasure was always and absolutely the

PROTARCHUS: I understand; this third libation, Socrates, of which you
spoke, meant a recapitulation.

SOCRATES: Yes, but listen to the sequel; convinced of what I have just
been saying, and feeling indignant at the doctrine, which is maintained,
not by Philebus only, but by thousands of others, I affirmed that mind was
far better and far more excellent, as an element of human life, than


SOCRATES: But, suspecting that there were other things which were also
better, I went on to say that if there was anything better than either,
then I would claim the second place for mind over pleasure, and pleasure
would lose the second place as well as the first.


SOCRATES: Nothing could be more satisfactorily shown than the
unsatisfactory nature of both of them.

PROTARCHUS: Very true.

SOCRATES: The claims both of pleasure and mind to be the absolute good
have been entirely disproven in this argument, because they are both
wanting in self-sufficiency and also in adequacy and perfection.

PROTARCHUS: Most true.

SOCRATES: But, though they must both resign in favour of another, mind is
ten thousand times nearer and more akin to the nature of the conqueror than

PROTARCHUS: Certainly.

SOCRATES: And, according to the judgment which has now been given,
pleasure will rank fifth.


SOCRATES: But not first; no, not even if all the oxen and horses and
animals in the world by their pursuit of enjoyment proclaim her to be so;--
although the many trusting in them, as diviners trust in birds, determine
that pleasures make up the good of life, and deem the lusts of animals to
be better witnesses than the inspirations of divine philosophy.

PROTARCHUS: And now, Socrates, we tell you that the truth of what you have
been saying is approved by the judgment of all of us.

SOCRATES: And will you let me go?

PROTARCHUS: There is a little which yet remains, and I will remind you of
it, for I am sure that you will not be the first to go away from an

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