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    Chapter 1
    In several of the dialogues of Plato, doubts have arisen among his
    interpreters as to which of the various subjects discussed in them is the
    main thesis. The speakers have the freedom of conversation; no severe
    rules of art restrict them, and sometimes we are inclined to think, with
    one of the dramatis personae in the Theaetetus, that the digressions have
    the greater interest. Yet in the most irregular of the dialogues there is
    also a certain natural growth or unity; the beginning is not forgotten at
    the end, and numerous allusions and references are interspersed, which form
    the loose connecting links of the whole. We must not neglect this unity,
    but neither must we attempt to confine the Platonic dialogue on the
    Procrustean bed of a single idea. (Compare Introduction to the Phaedrus.)

    Two tendencies seem to have beset the interpreters of Plato in this matter.
    First, they have endeavoured to hang the dialogues upon one another by the
    slightest threads; and have thus been led to opposite and contradictory
    assertions respecting their order and sequence. The mantle of
    Schleiermacher has descended upon his successors, who have applied his
    method with the most various results. The value and use of the method has
    been hardly, if at all, examined either by him or them. Secondly, they
    have extended almost indefinitely the scope of each separate dialogue; in
    this way they think that they have escaped all difficulties, not seeing
    that what they have gained in generality they have lost in truth and
    distinctness. Metaphysical conceptions easily pass into one another; and
    the simpler notions of antiquity, which we can only realize by an effort,
    imperceptibly blend with the more familiar theories of modern philosophers.
    An eye for proportion is needed (his own art of measuring) in the study of
    Plato, as well as of other great artists. We may hardly admit that the
    moral antithesis of good and pleasure, or the intellectual antithesis of
    knowledge and opinion, being and appearance, are never far off in a
    Platonic discussion. But because they are in the background, we should not
    bring them into the foreground, or expect to discern them equally in all
    the dialogues.

    There may be some advantage in drawing out a little the main outlines of
    the building; but the use of this is limited, and may be easily
    exaggerated. We may give Plato too much system, and alter the natural form
    and connection of his thoughts. Under the idea that his dialogues are
    finished works of art, we may find a reason for everything, and lose the
    highest characteristic of art, which is simplicity. Most great works
    receive a new light from a new and original mind. But whether these new
    lights are true or only suggestive, will depend on their agreement with the
    spirit of Plato, and the amount of direct evidence which can be urged in
    support of them. When a theory is running away with us, criticism does a
    friendly office in counselling moderation, and recalling us to the
    indications of the text.

    Like the Phaedrus, the Gorgias has puzzled students of Plato by the
    appearance of two or more subjects. Under the cover of rhetoric higher
    themes are introduced; the argument expands into a general view of the good
    and evil of man. After making an ineffectual attempt to obtain a sound
    definition of his art from Gorgias, Socrates assumes the existence of a
    universal art of flattery or simulation having several branches:--this is
    the genus of which rhetoric is only one, and not the highest species. To
    flattery is opposed the true and noble art of life which he who possesses
    seeks always to impart to others, and which at last triumphs, if not here,
    at any rate in another world. These two aspects of life and knowledge
    appear to be the two leading ideas of the dialogue. The true and the false
    in individuals and states, in the treatment of the soul as well as of the
    body, are conceived under the forms of true and false art. In the
    development of this opposition there arise various other questions, such as
    the two famous paradoxes of Socrates (paradoxes as they are to the world in
    general, ideals as they may be more worthily called): (1) that to do is
    worse than to suffer evil; and (2) that when a man has done evil he had
    better be punished than unpunished; to which may be added (3) a third
    Socratic paradox or ideal, that bad men do what they think best, but not
    what they desire, for the desire of all is towards the good. That pleasure
    is to be distinguished from good is proved by the simultaneousness of
    pleasure and pain, and by the possibility of the bad having in certain
    cases pleasures as great as those of the good, or even greater. Not merely
    rhetoricians, but poets, musicians, and other artists, the whole tribe of
    statesmen, past as well as present, are included in the class of
    flatterers. The true and false finally appear before the judgment-seat of
    the gods below.

    The dialogue naturally falls into three divisions, to which the three
    characters of Gorgias, Polus, and Callicles respectively correspond; and
    the form and manner change with the stages of the argument. Socrates is
    deferential towards Gorgias, playful and yet cutting in dealing with the
    youthful Polus, ironical and sarcastic in his encounter with Callicles. In
    the first division the question is asked--What is rhetoric? To this there
    is no answer given, for Gorgias is soon made to contradict himself by
    Socrates, and the argument is transferred to the hands of his disciple
    Polus, who rushes to the defence of his master. The answer has at last to
    be given by Socrates himself, but before he can even explain his meaning to
    Polus, he must enlighten him upon the great subject of shams or flatteries.
    When Polus finds his favourite art reduced to the level of cookery, he
    replies that at any rate rhetoricians, like despots, have great power.
    Socrates denies that they have any real power, and hence arise the three
    paradoxes already mentioned. Although they are strange to him, Polus is at
    last convinced of their truth; at least, they seem to him to follow
    legitimately from the premises. Thus the second act of the dialogue
    closes. Then Callicles appears on the scene, at first maintaining that
    pleasure is good, and that might is right, and that law is nothing but the
    combination of the many weak against the few strong. When he is confuted
    he withdraws from the argument, and leaves Socrates to arrive at the
    conclusion by himself. The conclusion is that there are two kinds of
    statesmanship, a higher and a lower--that which makes the people better,
    and that which only flatters them, and he exhorts Callicles to choose the
    higher. The dialogue terminates with a mythus of a final judgment, in
    which there will be no more flattery or disguise, and no further use for
    the teaching of rhetoric.

    The characters of the three interlocutors also correspond to the parts
    which are assigned to them. Gorgias is the great rhetorician, now advanced
    in years, who goes from city to city displaying his talents, and is
    celebrated throughout Greece. Like all the Sophists in the dialogues of
    Plato, he is vain and boastful, yet he has also a certain dignity, and is
    treated by Socrates with considerable respect. But he is no match for him
    in dialectics. Although he has been teaching rhetoric all his life, he is
    still incapable of defining his own art. When his ideas begin to clear up,
    he is unwilling to admit that rhetoric can be wholly separated from justice
    and injustice, and this lingering sentiment of morality, or regard for
    public opinion, enables Socrates to detect him in a contradiction. Like
    Protagoras, he is described as of a generous nature; he expresses his
    approbation of Socrates' manner of approaching a question; he is quite 'one
    of Socrates' sort, ready to be refuted as well as to refute,' and very
    eager that Callicles and Socrates should have the game out. He knows by
    experience that rhetoric exercises great influence over other men, but he
    is unable to explain the puzzle how rhetoric can teach everything and know

    Polus is an impetuous youth, a runaway 'colt,' as Socrates describes him,
    who wanted originally to have taken the place of Gorgias under the pretext
    that the old man was tired, and now avails himself of the earliest
    opportunity to enter the lists. He is said to be the author of a work on
    rhetoric, and is again mentioned in the Phaedrus, as the inventor of
    balanced or double forms of speech (compare Gorg.; Symp.). At first he is
    violent and ill-mannered, and is angry at seeing his master overthrown.
    But in the judicious hands of Socrates he is soon restored to good-humour,
    and compelled to assent to the required conclusion. Like Gorgias, he is
    overthrown because he compromises; he is unwilling to say that to do is
    fairer or more honourable than to suffer injustice. Though he is
    fascinated by the power of rhetoric, and dazzled by the splendour of
    success, he is not insensible to higher arguments. Plato may have felt
    that there would be an incongruity in a youth maintaining the cause of
    injustice against the world. He has never heard the other side of the
    question, and he listens to the paradoxes, as they appear to him, of
    Socrates with evident astonishment. He can hardly understand the meaning
    of Archelaus being miserable, or of rhetoric being only useful in self-
    accusation. When the argument with him has fairly run out,

    Callicles, in whose house they are assembled, is introduced on the stage:
    he is with difficulty convinced that Socrates is in earnest; for if these
    things are true, then, as he says with real emotion, the foundations of
    society are upside down. In him another type of character is represented;
    he is neither sophist nor philosopher, but man of the world, and an
    accomplished Athenian gentleman. He might be described in modern language
    as a cynic or materialist, a lover of power and also of pleasure, and
    unscrupulous in his means of attaining both. There is no desire on his
    part to offer any compromise in the interests of morality; nor is any
    concession made by him. Like Thrasymachus in the Republic, though he is
    not of the same weak and vulgar class, he consistently maintains that might
    is right. His great motive of action is political ambition; in this he is
    characteristically Greek. Like Anytus in the Meno, he is the enemy of the
    Sophists; but favours the new art of rhetoric, which he regards as an
    excellent weapon of attack and defence. He is a despiser of mankind as he
    is of philosophy, and sees in the laws of the state only a violation of the
    order of nature, which intended that the stronger should govern the weaker
    (compare Republic). Like other men of the world who are of a speculative
    turn of mind, he generalizes the bad side of human nature, and has easily
    brought down his principles to his practice. Philosophy and poetry alike
    supply him with distinctions suited to his view of human life. He has a
    good will to Socrates, whose talents he evidently admires, while he
    censures the puerile use which he makes of them. He expresses a keen
    intellectual interest in the argument. Like Anytus, again, he has a
    sympathy with other men of the world; the Athenian statesmen of a former
    generation, who showed no weakness and made no mistakes, such as Miltiades,
    Themistocles, Pericles, are his favourites. His ideal of human character
    is a man of great passions and great powers, which he has developed to the
    utmost, and which he uses in his own enjoyment and in the government of
    others. Had Critias been the name instead of Callicles, about whom we know
    nothing from other sources, the opinions of the man would have seemed to
    reflect the history of his life.

    And now the combat deepens. In Callicles, far more than in any sophist or
    rhetorician, is concentrated the spirit of evil against which Socrates is
    contending, the spirit of the world, the spirit of the many contending
    against the one wise man, of which the Sophists, as he describes them in
    the Republic, are the imitators rather than the authors, being themselves
    carried away by the great tide of public opinion. Socrates approaches his
    antagonist warily from a distance, with a sort of irony which touches with
    a light hand both his personal vices (probably in allusion to some scandal
    of the day) and his servility to the populace. At the same time, he is in
    most profound earnest, as Chaerephon remarks. Callicles soon loses his
    temper, but the more he is irritated, the more provoking and matter of fact
    does Socrates become. A repartee of his which appears to have been really
    made to the 'omniscient' Hippias, according to the testimony of Xenophon
    (Mem.), is introduced. He is called by Callicles a popular declaimer, and
    certainly shows that he has the power, in the words of Gorgias, of being
    'as long as he pleases,' or 'as short as he pleases' (compare Protag.).
    Callicles exhibits great ability in defending himself and attacking
    Socrates, whom he accuses of trifling and word-splitting; he is scandalized
    that the legitimate consequences of his own argument should be stated in
    plain terms; after the manner of men of the world, he wishes to preserve
    the decencies of life. But he cannot consistently maintain the bad sense
    of words; and getting confused between the abstract notions of better,
    superior, stronger, he is easily turned round by Socrates, and only induced
    to continue the argument by the authority of Gorgias. Once, when Socrates
    is describing the manner in which the ambitious citizen has to identify
    himself with the people, he partially recognizes the truth of his words.

    The Socrates of the Gorgias may be compared with the Socrates of the
    Protagoras and Meno. As in other dialogues, he is the enemy of the
    Sophists and rhetoricians; and also of the statesmen, whom he regards as
    another variety of the same species. His behaviour is governed by that of
    his opponents; the least forwardness or egotism on their part is met by a
    corresponding irony on the part of Socrates. He must speak, for philosophy
    will not allow him to be silent. He is indeed more ironical and provoking
    than in any other of Plato's writings: for he is 'fooled to the top of his
    bent' by the worldliness of Callicles. But he is also more deeply in
    earnest. He rises higher than even in the Phaedo and Crito: at first
    enveloping his moral convictions in a cloud of dust and dialectics, he ends
    by losing his method, his life, himself, in them. As in the Protagoras and
    Phaedrus, throwing aside the veil of irony, he makes a speech, but, true to
    his character, not until his adversary has refused to answer any more
    questions. The presentiment of his own fate is hanging over him. He is
    aware that Socrates, the single real teacher of politics, as he ventures to
    call himself, cannot safely go to war with the whole world, and that in the
    courts of earth he will be condemned. But he will be justified in the
    world below. Then the position of Socrates and Callicles will be reversed;
    all those things 'unfit for ears polite' which Callicles has prophesied as
    likely to happen to him in this life, the insulting language, the box on
    the ears, will recoil upon his assailant. (Compare Republic, and the
    similar reversal of the position of the lawyer and the philosopher in the

    There is an interesting allusion to his own behaviour at the trial of the
    generals after the battle of Arginusae, which he ironically attributes to
    his ignorance of the manner in which a vote of the assembly should be
    taken. This is said to have happened 'last year' (B.C. 406), and therefore
    the assumed date of the dialogue has been fixed at 405 B.C., when Socrates
    would already have been an old man. The date is clearly marked, but is
    scarcely reconcilable with another indication of time, viz. the 'recent'
    usurpation of Archelaus, which occurred in the year 413; and still less
    with the 'recent' death of Pericles, who really died twenty-four years
    previously (429 B.C.) and is afterwards reckoned among the statesmen of a
    past age; or with the mention of Nicias, who died in 413, and is
    nevertheless spoken of as a living witness. But we shall hereafter have
    reason to observe, that although there is a general consistency of times
    and persons in the Dialogues of Plato, a precise dramatic date is an
    invention of his commentators (Preface to Republic).

    The conclusion of the Dialogue is remarkable, (1) for the truly
    characteristic declaration of Socrates that he is ignorant of the true
    nature and bearing of these things, while he affirms at the same time that
    no one can maintain any other view without being ridiculous. The
    profession of ignorance reminds us of the earlier and more exclusively
    Socratic Dialogues. But neither in them, nor in the Apology, nor in the
    Memorabilia of Xenophon, does Socrates express any doubt of the fundamental
    truths of morality. He evidently regards this 'among the multitude of
    questions' which agitate human life 'as the principle which alone remains
    unshaken.' He does not insist here, any more than in the Phaedo, on the
    literal truth of the myth, but only on the soundness of the doctrine which
    is contained in it, that doing wrong is worse than suffering, and that a
    man should be rather than seem; for the next best thing to a man's being
    just is that he should be corrected and become just; also that he should
    avoid all flattery, whether of himself or of others; and that rhetoric
    should be employed for the maintenance of the right only. The revelation
    of another life is a recapitulation of the argument in a figure.

    (2) Socrates makes the singular remark, that he is himself the only true
    politician of his age. In other passages, especially in the Apology, he
    disclaims being a politician at all. There he is convinced that he or any
    other good man who attempted to resist the popular will would be put to
    death before he had done any good to himself or others. Here he
    anticipates such a fate for himself, from the fact that he is 'the only man
    of the present day who performs his public duties at all.' The two points
    of view are not really inconsistent, but the difference between them is
    worth noticing: Socrates is and is not a public man. Not in the ordinary
    sense, like Alcibiades or Pericles, but in a higher one; and this will
    sooner or later entail the same consequences on him. He cannot be a
    private man if he would; neither can he separate morals from politics. Nor
    is he unwilling to be a politician, although he foresees the dangers which
    await him; but he must first become a better and wiser man, for he as well
    as Callicles is in a state of perplexity and uncertainty. And yet there is
    an inconsistency: for should not Socrates too have taught the citizens
    better than to put him to death?

    And now, as he himself says, we will 'resume the argument from the

    Socrates, who is attended by his inseparable disciple, Chaerephon, meets
    Callicles in the streets of Athens. He is informed that he has just missed
    an exhibition of Gorgias, which he regrets, because he was desirous, not of
    hearing Gorgias display his rhetoric, but of interrogating him concerning
    the nature of his art. Callicles proposes that they shall go with him to
    his own house, where Gorgias is staying. There they find the great
    rhetorician and his younger friend and disciple Polus.

    SOCRATES: Put the question to him, Chaerephon.

    CHAEREPHON: What question?

    SOCRATES: Who is he?--such a question as would elicit from a man the
    answer, 'I am a cobbler.'

    Polus suggests that Gorgias may be tired, and desires to answer for him.
    'Who is Gorgias?' asks Chaerephon, imitating the manner of his master
    Socrates. 'One of the best of men, and a proficient in the best and
    noblest of experimental arts,' etc., replies Polus, in rhetorical and
    balanced phrases. Socrates is dissatisfied at the length and unmeaningness
    of the answer; he tells the disconcerted volunteer that he has mistaken the
    quality for the nature of the art, and remarks to Gorgias, that Polus has
    learnt how to make a speech, but not how to answer a question. He wishes
    that Gorgias would answer him. Gorgias is willing enough, and replies to
    the question asked by Chaerephon,--that he is a rhetorician, and in Homeric
    language, 'boasts himself to be a good one.' At the request of Socrates he
    promises to be brief; for 'he can be as long as he pleases, and as short as
    he pleases.' Socrates would have him bestow his length on others, and
    proceeds to ask him a number of questions, which are answered by him to his
    own great satisfaction, and with a brevity which excites the admiration of
    Socrates. The result of the discussion may be summed up as follows:--

    Rhetoric treats of discourse; but music and medicine, and other particular
    arts, are also concerned with discourse; in what way then does rhetoric
    differ from them? Gorgias draws a distinction between the arts which deal
    with words, and the arts which have to do with external actions. Socrates
    extends this distinction further, and divides all productive arts into two
    classes: (1) arts which may be carried on in silence; and (2) arts which
    have to do with words, or in which words are coextensive with action, such
    as arithmetic, geometry, rhetoric. But still Gorgias could hardly have
    meant to say that arithmetic was the same as rhetoric. Even in the arts
    which are concerned with words there are differences. What then
    distinguishes rhetoric from the other arts which have to do with words?
    'The words which rhetoric uses relate to the best and greatest of human
    things.' But tell me, Gorgias, what are the best? 'Health first, beauty
    next, wealth third,' in the words of the old song, or how would you rank
    them? The arts will come to you in a body, each claiming precedence and
    saying that her own good is superior to that of the rest--How will you
    choose between them? 'I should say, Socrates, that the art of persuasion,
    which gives freedom to all men, and to individuals power in the state, is
    the greatest good.' But what is the exact nature of this persuasion?--is
    the persevering retort: You could not describe Zeuxis as a painter, or
    even as a painter of figures, if there were other painters of figures;
    neither can you define rhetoric simply as an art of persuasion, because
    there are other arts which persuade, such as arithmetic, which is an art of
    persuasion about odd and even numbers. Gorgias is made to see the
    necessity of a further limitation, and he now defines rhetoric as the art
    of persuading in the law courts, and in the assembly, about the just and
    unjust. But still there are two sorts of persuasion: one which gives
    knowledge, and another which gives belief without knowledge; and knowledge
    is always true, but belief may be either true or false,--there is therefore
    a further question: which of the two sorts of persuasion does rhetoric
    effect in courts of law and assemblies? Plainly that which gives belief
    and not that which gives knowledge; for no one can impart a real knowledge
    of such matters to a crowd of persons in a few minutes. And there is
    another point to be considered:--when the assembly meets to advise about
    walls or docks or military expeditions, the rhetorician is not taken into
    counsel, but the architect, or the general. How would Gorgias explain this
    phenomenon? All who intend to become disciples, of whom there are several
    in the company, and not Socrates only, are eagerly asking:--About what then
    will rhetoric teach us to persuade or advise the state?

    Gorgias illustrates the nature of rhetoric by adducing the example of
    Themistocles, who persuaded the Athenians to build their docks and walls,
    and of Pericles, whom Socrates himself has heard speaking about the middle
    wall of the Piraeus. He adds that he has exercised a similar power over
    the patients of his brother Herodicus. He could be chosen a physician by
    the assembly if he pleased, for no physician could compete with a
    rhetorician in popularity and influence. He could persuade the multitude
    of anything by the power of his rhetoric; not that the rhetorician ought to
    abuse this power any more than a boxer should abuse the art of self-
    defence. Rhetoric is a good thing, but, like all good things, may be
    unlawfully used. Neither is the teacher of the art to be deemed unjust
    because his pupils are unjust and make a bad use of the lessons which they
    have learned from him.

    Socrates would like to know before he replies, whether Gorgias will quarrel
    with him if he points out a slight inconsistency into which he has fallen,
    or whether he, like himself, is one who loves to be refuted. Gorgias
    declares that he is quite one of his sort, but fears that the argument may
    be tedious to the company. The company cheer, and Chaerephon and Callicles
    exhort them to proceed. Socrates gently points out the supposed
    inconsistency into which Gorgias appears to have fallen, and which he is
    inclined to think may arise out of a misapprehension of his own. The
    rhetorician has been declared by Gorgias to be more persuasive to the
    ignorant than the physician, or any other expert. And he is said to be
    ignorant, and this ignorance of his is regarded by Gorgias as a happy
    condition, for he has escaped the trouble of learning. But is he as
    ignorant of just and unjust as he is of medicine or building? Gorgias is
    compelled to admit that if he did not know them previously he must learn
    them from his teacher as a part of the art of rhetoric. But he who has
    learned carpentry is a carpenter, and he who has learned music is a
    musician, and he who has learned justice is just. The rhetorician then
    must be a just man, and rhetoric is a just thing. But Gorgias has already
    admitted the opposite of this, viz. that rhetoric may be abused, and that
    the rhetorician may act unjustly. How is the inconsistency to be

    The fallacy of this argument is twofold; for in the first place, a man may
    know justice and not be just--here is the old confusion of the arts and the
    virtues;--nor can any teacher be expected to counteract wholly the bent of
    natural character; and secondly, a man may have a degree of justice, but
    not sufficient to prevent him from ever doing wrong. Polus is naturally
    exasperated at the sophism, which he is unable to detect; of course, he
    says, the rhetorician, like every one else, will admit that he knows
    justice (how can he do otherwise when pressed by the interrogations of
    Socrates?), but he thinks that great want of manners is shown in bringing
    the argument to such a pass. Socrates ironically replies, that when old
    men trip, the young set them on their legs again; and he is quite willing
    to retract, if he can be shown to be in error, but upon one condition,
    which is that Polus studies brevity. Polus is in great indignation at not
    being allowed to use as many words as he pleases in the free state of
    Athens. Socrates retorts, that yet harder will be his own case, if he is
    compelled to stay and listen to them. After some altercation they agree
    (compare Protag.), that Polus shall ask and Socrates answer.

    'What is the art of Rhetoric?' says Polus. Not an art at all, replies
    Socrates, but a thing which in your book you affirm to have created art.
    Polus asks, 'What thing?' and Socrates answers, An experience or routine of
    making a sort of delight or gratification. 'But is not rhetoric a fine
    thing?' I have not yet told you what rhetoric is. Will you ask me another
    question--What is cookery? 'What is cookery?' An experience or routine of
    making a sort of delight or gratification. Then they are the same, or
    rather fall under the same class, and rhetoric has still to be
    distinguished from cookery. 'What is rhetoric?' asks Polus once more. A
    part of a not very creditable whole, which may be termed flattery, is the
    reply. 'But what part?' A shadow of a part of politics. This, as might
    be expected, is wholly unintelligible, both to Gorgias and Polus; and, in
    order to explain his meaning to them, Socrates draws a distinction between
    shadows or appearances and realities; e.g. there is real health of body or
    soul, and the appearance of them; real arts and sciences, and the
    simulations of them. Now the soul and body have two arts waiting upon
    them, first the art of politics, which attends on the soul, having a
    legislative part and a judicial part; and another art attending on the
    body, which has no generic name, but may also be described as having two
    divisions, one of which is medicine and the other gymnastic. Corresponding
    with these four arts or sciences there are four shams or simulations of
    them, mere experiences, as they may be termed, because they give no reason
    of their own existence. The art of dressing up is the sham or simulation
    of gymnastic, the art of cookery, of medicine; rhetoric is the simulation
    of justice, and sophistic of legislation. They may be summed up in an
    arithmetical formula:--

    Tiring : gymnastic :: cookery : medicine :: sophistic : legislation.


    Cookery : medicine :: rhetoric : the art of justice.

    And this is the true scheme of them, but when measured only by the
    gratification which they procure, they become jumbled together and return
    to their aboriginal chaos. Socrates apologizes for the length of his
    speech, which was necessary to the explanation of the subject, and begs
    Polus not unnecessarily to retaliate on him.

    'Do you mean to say that the rhetoricians are esteemed flatterers?' They
    are not esteemed at all. 'Why, have they not great power, and can they not
    do whatever they desire?' They have no power, and they only do what they
    think best, and never what they desire; for they never attain the true
    object of desire, which is the good. 'As if you, Socrates, would not envy
    the possessor of despotic power, who can imprison, exile, kill any one whom
    he pleases.' But Socrates replies that he has no wish to put any one to
    death; he who kills another, even justly, is not to be envied, and he who
    kills him unjustly is to be pitied; it is better to suffer than to do
    injustice. He does not consider that going about with a dagger and putting
    men out of the way, or setting a house on fire, is real power. To this
    Polus assents, on the ground that such acts would be punished, but he is
    still of opinion that evil-doers, if they are unpunished, may be happy
    enough. He instances Archelaus, son of Perdiccas, the usurper of
    Macedonia. Does not Socrates think him happy?--Socrates would like to know
    more about him; he cannot pronounce even the great king to be happy, unless
    he knows his mental and moral condition. Polus explains that Archelaus was
    a slave, being the son of a woman who was the slave of Alcetas, brother of
    Perdiccas king of Macedon--and he, by every species of crime, first
    murdering his uncle and then his cousin and half-brother, obtained the
    kingdom. This was very wicked, and yet all the world, including Socrates,
    would like to have his place. Socrates dismisses the appeal to numbers;
    Polus, if he will, may summon all the rich men of Athens, Nicias and his
    brothers, Aristocrates, the house of Pericles, or any other great family--
    this is the kind of evidence which is adduced in courts of justice, where
    truth depends upon numbers. But Socrates employs proof of another sort;
    his appeal is to one witness only,--that is to say, the person with whom he
    is speaking; him he will convict out of his own mouth. And he is prepared
    to show, after his manner, that Archelaus cannot be a wicked man and yet

    The evil-doer is deemed happy if he escapes, and miserable if he suffers
    punishment; but Socrates thinks him less miserable if he suffers than if he
    escapes. Polus is of opinion that such a paradox as this hardly deserves
    refutation, and is at any rate sufficiently refuted by the fact. Socrates
    has only to compare the lot of the successful tyrant who is the envy of the
    world, and of the wretch who, having been detected in a criminal attempt
    against the state, is crucified or burnt to death. Socrates replies, that
    if they are both criminal they are both miserable, but that the unpunished
    is the more miserable of the two. At this Polus laughs outright, which
    leads Socrates to remark that laughter is a new species of refutation.
    Polus replies, that he is already refuted; for if he will take the votes of
    the company, he will find that no one agrees with him. To this Socrates
    rejoins, that he is not a public man, and (referring to his own conduct at
    the trial of the generals after the battle of Arginusae) is unable to take
    the suffrages of any company, as he had shown on a recent occasion; he can
    only deal with one witness at a time, and that is the person with whom he
    is arguing. But he is certain that in the opinion of any man to do is
    worse than to suffer evil.

    Polus, though he will not admit this, is ready to acknowledge that to do
    evil is considered the more foul or dishonourable of the two. But what is
    fair and what is foul; whether the terms are applied to bodies, colours,
    figures, laws, habits, studies, must they not be defined with reference to
    pleasure and utility? Polus assents to this latter doctrine, and is easily
    persuaded that the fouler of two things must exceed either in pain or in
    hurt. But the doing cannot exceed the suffering of evil in pain, and
    therefore must exceed in hurt. Thus doing is proved by the testimony of
    Polus himself to be worse or more hurtful than suffering.

    There remains the other question: Is a guilty man better off when he is
    punished or when he is unpunished? Socrates replies, that what is done
    justly is suffered justly: if the act is just, the effect is just; if to
    punish is just, to be punished is just, and therefore fair, and therefore
    beneficent; and the benefit is that the soul is improved. There are three
    evils from which a man may suffer, and which affect him in estate, body,
    and soul;--these are, poverty, disease, injustice; and the foulest of these
    is injustice, the evil of the soul, because that brings the greatest hurt.
    And there are three arts which heal these evils--trading, medicine,
    justice--and the fairest of these is justice. Happy is he who has never
    committed injustice, and happy in the second degree he who has been healed
    by punishment. And therefore the criminal should himself go to the judge
    as he would to the physician, and purge away his crime. Rhetoric will
    enable him to display his guilt in proper colours, and to sustain himself
    and others in enduring the necessary penalty. And similarly if a man has
    an enemy, he will desire not to punish him, but that he shall go unpunished
    and become worse and worse, taking care only that he does no injury to
    himself. These are at least conceivable uses of the art, and no others
    have been discovered by us.

    Here Callicles, who has been listening in silent amazement, asks Chaerephon
    whether Socrates is in earnest, and on receiving the assurance that he is,
    proceeds to ask the same question of Socrates himself. For if such
    doctrines are true, life must have been turned upside down, and all of us
    are doing the opposite of what we ought to be doing.

    Socrates replies in a style of playful irony, that before men can
    understand one another they must have some common feeling. And such a
    community of feeling exists between himself and Callicles, for both of them
    are lovers, and they have both a pair of loves; the beloved of Callicles
    are the Athenian Demos and Demos the son of Pyrilampes; the beloved of
    Socrates are Alcibiades and philosophy. The peculiarity of Callicles is
    that he can never contradict his loves; he changes as his Demos changes in
    all his opinions; he watches the countenance of both his loves, and repeats
    their sentiments, and if any one is surprised at his sayings and doings,
    the explanation of them is, that he is not a free agent, but must always be
    imitating his two loves. And this is the explanation of Socrates'
    peculiarities also. He is always repeating what his mistress, Philosophy,
    is saying to him, who unlike his other love, Alcibiades, is ever the same,
    ever true. Callicles must refute her, or he will never be at unity with
    himself; and discord in life is far worse than the discord of musical

    Callicles answers, that Gorgias was overthrown because, as Polus said, in
    compliance with popular prejudice he had admitted that if his pupil did not
    know justice the rhetorician must teach him; and Polus has been similarly
    entangled, because his modesty led him to admit that to suffer is more
    honourable than to do injustice. By custom 'yes,' but not by nature, says
    Callicles. And Socrates is always playing between the two points of view,
    and putting one in the place of the other. In this very argument, what
    Polus only meant in a conventional sense has been affirmed by him to be a
    law of nature. For convention says that 'injustice is dishonourable,' but
    nature says that 'might is right.' And we are always taming down the
    nobler spirits among us to the conventional level. But sometimes a great
    man will rise up and reassert his original rights, trampling under foot all
    our formularies, and then the light of natural justice shines forth.
    Pindar says, 'Law, the king of all, does violence with high hand;' as is
    indeed proved by the example of Heracles, who drove off the oxen of Geryon
    and never paid for them.

    This is the truth, Socrates, as you will be convinced, if you leave
    philosophy and pass on to the real business of life. A little philosophy
    is an excellent thing; too much is the ruin of a man. He who has not
    'passed his metaphysics' before he has grown up to manhood will never know
    the world. Philosophers are ridiculous when they take to politics, and I
    dare say that politicians are equally ridiculous when they take to
    philosophy: 'Every man,' as Euripides says, 'is fondest of that in which
    he is best.' Philosophy is graceful in youth, like the lisp of infancy,
    and should be cultivated as a part of education; but when a grown-up man
    lisps or studies philosophy, I should like to beat him. None of those
    over-refined natures ever come to any good; they avoid the busy haunts of
    men, and skulk in corners, whispering to a few admiring youths, and never
    giving utterance to any noble sentiments.

    For you, Socrates, I have a regard, and therefore I say to you, as Zethus
    says to Amphion in the play, that you have 'a noble soul disguised in a
    puerile exterior.' And I would have you consider the danger which you and
    other philosophers incur. For you would not know how to defend yourself if
    any one accused you in a law-court,--there you would stand, with gaping
    mouth and dizzy brain, and might be murdered, robbed, boxed on the ears
    with impunity. Take my advice, then, and get a little common sense; leave
    to others these frivolities; walk in the ways of the wealthy and be wise.

    Socrates professes to have found in Callicles the philosopher's touchstone;
    and he is certain that any opinion in which they both agree must be the
    very truth. Callicles has all the three qualities which are needed in a
    critic--knowledge, good-will, frankness; Gorgias and Polus, although
    learned men, were too modest, and their modesty made them contradict
    themselves. But Callicles is well-educated; and he is not too modest to
    speak out (of this he has already given proof), and his good-will is shown
    both by his own profession and by his giving the same caution against
    philosophy to Socrates, which Socrates remembers hearing him give long ago
    to his own clique of friends. He will pledge himself to retract any error
    into which he may have fallen, and which Callicles may point out. But he
    would like to know first of all what he and Pindar mean by natural justice.
    Do they suppose that the rule of justice is the rule of the stronger or of
    the better?' 'There is no difference.' Then are not the many superior to
    the one, and the opinions of the many better? And their opinion is that
    justice is equality, and that to do is more dishonourable than to suffer
    wrong. And as they are the superior or stronger, this opinion of theirs
    must be in accordance with natural as well as conventional justice. 'Why
    will you continue splitting words? Have I not told you that the superior
    is the better?' But what do you mean by the better? Tell me that, and
    please to be a little milder in your language, if you do not wish to drive
    me away. 'I mean the worthier, the wiser.' You mean to say that one man
    of sense ought to rule over ten thousand fools? 'Yes, that is my meaning.'
    Ought the physician then to have a larger share of meats and drinks? or the
    weaver to have more coats, or the cobbler larger shoes, or the farmer more
    seed? 'You are always saying the same things, Socrates.' Yes, and on the
    same subjects too; but you are never saying the same things. For, first,
    you defined the superior to be the stronger, and then the wiser, and now
    something else;--what DO you mean? 'I mean men of political ability, who
    ought to govern and to have more than the governed.' Than themselves?
    'What do you mean?' I mean to say that every man is his own governor. 'I
    see that you mean those dolts, the temperate. But my doctrine is, that a
    man should let his desires grow, and take the means of satisfying them. To
    the many this is impossible, and therefore they combine to prevent him.
    But if he is a king, and has power, how base would he be in submitting to
    them! To invite the common herd to be lord over him, when he might have
    the enjoyment of all things! For the truth is, Socrates, that luxury and
    self-indulgence are virtue and happiness; all the rest is mere talk.'

    Socrates compliments Callicles on his frankness in saying what other men
    only think. According to his view, those who want nothing are not happy.
    'Why,' says Callicles, 'if they were, stones and the dead would be happy.'
    Socrates in reply is led into a half-serious, half-comic vein of
    reflection. 'Who knows,' as Euripides says, 'whether life may not be
    death, and death life?' Nay, there are philosophers who maintain that even
    in life we are dead, and that the body (soma) is the tomb (sema) of the
    soul. And some ingenious Sicilian has made an allegory, in which he
    represents fools as the uninitiated, who are supposed to be carrying water
    to a vessel, which is full of holes, in a similarly holey sieve, and this
    sieve is their own soul. The idea is fanciful, but nevertheless is a
    figure of a truth which I want to make you acknowledge, viz. that the life
    of contentment is better than the life of indulgence. Are you disposed to
    admit that? 'Far otherwise.' Then hear another parable. The life of
    self-contentment and self-indulgence may be represented respectively by two
    men, who are filling jars with streams of wine, honey, milk,--the jars of
    the one are sound, and the jars of the other leaky; the first fils his
    jars, and has no more trouble with them; the second is always filling them,
    and would suffer extreme misery if he desisted. Are you of the same
    opinion still? 'Yes, Socrates, and the figure expresses what I mean. For
    true pleasure is a perpetual stream, flowing in and flowing out. To be
    hungry and always eating, to be thirsty and always drinking, and to have
    all the other desires and to satisfy them, that, as I admit, is my idea of
    happiness.' And to be itching and always scratching? 'I do not deny that
    there may be happiness even in that.' And to indulge unnatural desires, if
    they are abundantly satisfied? Callicles is indignant at the introduction
    of such topics. But he is reminded by Socrates that they are introduced,
    not by him, but by the maintainer of the identity of pleasure and good.
    Will Callicles still maintain this? 'Yes, for the sake of consistency, he
    will.' The answer does not satisfy Socrates, who fears that he is losing
    his touchstone. A profession of seriousness on the part of Callicles
    reassures him, and they proceed with the argument. Pleasure and good are
    the same, but knowledge and courage are not the same either with pleasure
    or good, or with one another. Socrates disproves the first of these
    statements by showing that two opposites cannot coexist, but must alternate
    with one another--to be well and ill together is impossible. But pleasure
    and pain are simultaneous, and the cessation of them is simultaneous; e.g.
    in the case of drinking and thirsting, whereas good and evil are not
    simultaneous, and do not cease simultaneously, and therefore pleasure
    cannot be the same as good.

    Callicles has already lost his temper, and can only be persuaded to go on
    by the interposition of Gorgias. Socrates, having already guarded against
    objections by distinguishing courage and knowledge from pleasure and good,
    proceeds:--The good are good by the presence of good, and the bad are bad
    by the presence of evil. And the brave and wise are good, and the cowardly
    and foolish are bad. And he who feels pleasure is good, and he who feels
    pain is bad, and both feel pleasure and pain in nearly the same degree, and
    sometimes the bad man or coward in a greater degree. Therefore the bad man
    or coward is as good as the brave or may be even better.

    Callicles endeavours now to avert the inevitable absurdity by affirming
    that he and all mankind admitted some pleasures to be good and others bad.
    The good are the beneficial, and the bad are the hurtful, and we should
    choose the one and avoid the other. But this, as Socrates observes, is a
    return to the old doctrine of himself and Polus, that all things should be
    done for the sake of the good.

    Callicles assents to this, and Socrates, finding that they are agreed in
    distinguishing pleasure from good, returns to his old division of empirical
    habits, or shams, or flatteries, which study pleasure only, and the arts
    which are concerned with the higher interests of soul and body. Does
    Callicles agree to this division? Callicles will agree to anything, in
    order that he may get through the argument. Which of the arts then are
    flatteries? Flute-playing, harp-playing, choral exhibitions, the
    dithyrambics of Cinesias are all equally condemned on the ground that they
    give pleasure only; and Meles the harp-player, who was the father of
    Cinesias, failed even in that. The stately muse of Tragedy is bent upon
    pleasure, and not upon improvement. Poetry in general is only a rhetorical
    address to a mixed audience of men, women, and children. And the orators
    are very far from speaking with a view to what is best; their way is to
    humour the assembly as if they were children.

    Callicles replies, that this is only true of some of them; others have a
    real regard for their fellow-citizens. Granted; then there are two species
    of oratory; the one a flattery, another which has a real regard for the
    citizens. But where are the orators among whom you find the latter?
    Callicles admits that there are none remaining, but there were such in the
    days when Themistocles, Cimon, Miltiades, and the great Pericles were still
    alive. Socrates replies that none of these were true artists, setting
    before themselves the duty of bringing order out of disorder. The good man
    and true orator has a settled design, running through his life, to which he
    conforms all his words and actions; he desires to implant justice and
    eradicate injustice, to implant all virtue and eradicate all vice in the
    minds of his citizens. He is the physician who will not allow the sick man
    to indulge his appetites with a variety of meats and drinks, but insists on
    his exercising self-restraint. And this is good for the soul, and better
    than the unrestrained indulgence which Callicles was recently approving.

    Here Callicles, who had been with difficulty brought to this point, turns
    restive, and suggests that Socrates shall answer his own questions.
    'Then,' says Socrates, 'one man must do for two;' and though he had hoped
    to have given Callicles an 'Amphion' in return for his 'Zethus,' he is
    willing to proceed; at the same time, he hopes that Callicles will correct
    him, if he falls into error. He recapitulates the advantages which he has
    already won:--

    The pleasant is not the same as the good--Callicles and I are agreed about
    that,--but pleasure is to be pursued for the sake of the good, and the good
    is that of which the presence makes us good; we and all things good have
    acquired some virtue or other. And virtue, whether of body or soul, of
    things or persons, is not attained by accident, but is due to order and
    harmonious arrangement. And the soul which has order is better than the
    soul which is without order, and is therefore temperate and is therefore
    good, and the intemperate is bad. And he who is temperate is also just and
    brave and pious, and has attained the perfection of goodness and therefore
    of happiness, and the intemperate whom you approve is the opposite of all
    this and is wretched. He therefore who would be happy must pursue
    temperance and avoid intemperance, and if possible escape the necessity of
    punishment, but if he have done wrong he must endure punishment. In this
    way states and individuals should seek to attain harmony, which, as the
    wise tell us, is the bond of heaven and earth, of gods and men. Callicles
    has never discovered the power of geometrical proportion in both worlds; he
    would have men aim at disproportion and excess. But if he be wrong in
    this, and if self-control is the true secret of happiness, then the paradox
    is true that the only use of rhetoric is in self-accusation, and Polus was
    right in saying that to do wrong is worse than to suffer wrong, and Gorgias
    was right in saying that the rhetorician must be a just man. And you were
    wrong in taunting me with my defenceless condition, and in saying that I
    might be accused or put to death or boxed on the ears with impunity. For I
    may repeat once more, that to strike is worse than to be stricken--to do
    than to suffer. What I said then is now made fast in adamantine bonds. I
    myself know not the true nature of these things, but I know that no one can
    deny my words and not be ridiculous. To do wrong is the greatest of evils,
    and to suffer wrong is the next greatest evil. He who would avoid the last
    must be a ruler, or the friend of a ruler; and to be the friend he must be
    the equal of the ruler, and must also resemble him. Under his protection
    he will suffer no evil, but will he also do no evil? Nay, will he not
    rather do all the evil which he can and escape? And in this way the
    greatest of all evils will befall him. 'But this imitator of the tyrant,'
    rejoins Callicles, 'will kill any one who does not similarly imitate him.'
    Socrates replies that he is not deaf, and that he has heard that repeated
    many times, and can only reply, that a bad man will kill a good one. 'Yes,
    and that is the provoking thing.' Not provoking to a man of sense who is
    not studying the arts which will preserve him from danger; and this, as you
    say, is the use of rhetoric in courts of justice. But how many other arts
    are there which also save men from death, and are yet quite humble in their
    pretensions--such as the art of swimming, or the art of the pilot? Does
    not the pilot do men at least as much service as the rhetorician, and yet
    for the voyage from Aegina to Athens he does not charge more than two
    obols, and when he disembarks is quite unassuming in his demeanour? The
    reason is that he is not certain whether he has done his passengers any
    good in saving them from death, if one of them is diseased in body, and
    still more if he is diseased in mind--who can say? The engineer too will
    often save whole cities, and yet you despise him, and would not allow your
    son to marry his daughter, or his son to marry yours. But what reason is
    there in this? For if virtue only means the saving of life, whether your
    own or another's, you have no right to despise him or any practiser of
    saving arts. But is not virtue something different from saving and being
    saved? I would have you rather consider whether you ought not to disregard
    length of life, and think only how you can live best, leaving all besides
    to the will of Heaven. For you must not expect to have influence either
    with the Athenian Demos or with Demos the son of Pyrilampes, unless you
    become like them. What do you say to this?

    'There is some truth in what you are saying, but I do not entirely believe

    That is because you are in love with Demos. But let us have a little more
    conversation. You remember the two processes--one which was directed to
    pleasure, the other which was directed to making men as good as possible.
    And those who have the care of the city should make the citizens as good as
    possible. But who would undertake a public building, if he had never had a
    teacher of the art of building, and had never constructed a building
    before? or who would undertake the duty of state-physician, if he had never
    cured either himself or any one else? Should we not examine him before we
    entrusted him with the office? And as Callicles is about to enter public
    life, should we not examine him? Whom has he made better? For we have
    already admitted that this is the statesman's proper business. And we must
    ask the same question about Pericles, and Cimon, and Miltiades, and
    Themistocles. Whom did they make better? Nay, did not Pericles make the
    citizens worse? For he gave them pay, and at first he was very popular
    with them, but at last they condemned him to death. Yet surely he would be
    a bad tamer of animals who, having received them gentle, taught them to
    kick and butt, and man is an animal; and Pericles who had the charge of man
    only made him wilder, and more savage and unjust, and therefore he could
    not have been a good statesman. The same tale might be repeated about
    Cimon, Themistocles, Miltiades. But the charioteer who keeps his seat at
    first is not thrown out when he gains greater experience and skill. The
    inference is, that the statesman of a past age were no better than those of
    our own. They may have been cleverer constructors of docks and harbours,
    but they did not improve the character of the citizens. I have told you
    again and again (and I purposely use the same images) that the soul, like
    the body, may be treated in two ways--there is the meaner and the higher
    art. You seemed to understand what I said at the time, but when I ask you
    who were the really good statesmen, you answer--as if I asked you who were
    the good trainers, and you answered, Thearion, the baker, Mithoecus, the
    author of the Sicilian cookery-book, Sarambus, the vintner. And you would
    be affronted if I told you that these are a parcel of cooks who make men
    fat only to make them thin. And those whom they have fattened applaud
    them, instead of finding fault with them, and lay the blame of their
    subsequent disorders on their physicians. In this respect, Callicles, you
    are like them; you applaud the statesmen of old, who pandered to the vices
    of the citizens, and filled the city with docks and harbours, but neglected
    virtue and justice. And when the fit of illness comes, the citizens who in
    like manner applauded Themistocles, Pericles, and others, will lay hold of
    you and my friend Alcibiades, and you will suffer for the misdeeds of your
    predecessors. The old story is always being repeated--'after all his
    services, the ungrateful city banished him, or condemned him to death.' As
    if the statesman should not have taught the city better! He surely cannot
    blame the state for having unjustly used him, any more than the sophist or
    teacher can find fault with his pupils if they cheat him. And the sophist
    and orator are in the same case; although you admire rhetoric and despise
    sophistic, whereas sophistic is really the higher of the two. The teacher
    of the arts takes money, but the teacher of virtue or politics takes no
    money, because this is the only kind of service which makes the disciple
    desirous of requiting his teacher.

    Socrates concludes by finally asking, to which of the two modes of serving
    the state Callicles invites him:--'to the inferior and ministerial one,' is
    the ingenuous reply. That is the only way of avoiding death, replies
    Socrates; and he has heard often enough, and would rather not hear again,
    that the bad man will kill the good. But he thinks that such a fate is
    very likely reserved for him, because he remarks that he is the only person
    who teaches the true art of politics. And very probably, as in the case
    which he described to Polus, he may be the physician who is tried by a jury
    of children. He cannot say that he has procured the citizens any pleasure,
    and if any one charges him with perplexing them, or with reviling their
    elders, he will not be able to make them understand that he has only been
    actuated by a desire for their good. And therefore there is no saying what
    his fate may be. 'And do you think that a man who is unable to help
    himself is in a good condition?' Yes, Callicles, if he have the true self-
    help, which is never to have said or done any wrong to himself or others.
    If I had not this kind of self-help, I should be ashamed; but if I die for
    want of your flattering rhetoric, I shall die in peace. For death is no
    evil, but to go to the world below laden with offences is the worst of
    evils. In proof of which I will tell you a tale:--

    Under the rule of Cronos, men were judged on the day of their death, and
    when judgment had been given upon them they departed--the good to the
    islands of the blest, the bad to the house of vengeance. But as they were
    still living, and had their clothes on at the time when they were being
    judged, there was favouritism, and Zeus, when he came to the throne, was
    obliged to alter the mode of procedure, and try them after death, having
    first sent down Prometheus to take away from them the foreknowledge of
    death. Minos, Rhadamanthus, and Aeacus were appointed to be the judges;
    Rhadamanthus for Asia, Aeacus for Europe, and Minos was to hold the court
    of appeal. Now death is the separation of soul and body, but after death
    soul and body alike retain their characteristics; the fat man, the dandy,
    the branded slave, are all distinguishable. Some prince or potentate,
    perhaps even the great king himself, appears before Rhadamanthus, and he
    instantly detects him, though he knows not who he is; he sees the scars of
    perjury and iniquity, and sends him away to the house of torment.

    For there are two classes of souls who undergo punishment--the curable and
    the incurable. The curable are those who are benefited by their
    punishment; the incurable are such as Archelaus, who benefit others by
    becoming a warning to them. The latter class are generally kings and
    potentates; meaner persons, happily for themselves, have not the same power
    of doing injustice. Sisyphus and Tityus, not Thersites, are supposed by
    Homer to be undergoing everlasting punishment. Not that there is anything
    to prevent a great man from being a good one, as is shown by the famous
    example of Aristeides, the son of Lysimachus. But to Rhadamanthus the
    souls are only known as good or bad; they are stripped of their dignities
    and preferments; he despatches the bad to Tartarus, labelled either as
    curable or incurable, and looks with love and admiration on the soul of
    some just one, whom he sends to the islands of the blest. Similar is the
    practice of Aeacus; and Minos overlooks them, holding a golden sceptre, as
    Odysseus in Homer saw him

    'Wielding a sceptre of gold, and giving laws to the dead.'

    My wish for myself and my fellow-men is, that we may present our souls
    undefiled to the judge in that day; my desire in life is to be able to meet
    death. And I exhort you, and retort upon you the reproach which you cast
    upon me,--that you will stand before the judge, gaping, and with dizzy
    brain, and any one may box you on the ear, and do you all manner of evil.

    Perhaps you think that this is an old wives' fable. But you, who are the
    three wisest men in Hellas, have nothing better to say, and no one will
    ever show that to do is better than to suffer evil. A man should study to
    be, and not merely to seem. If he is bad, he should become good, and avoid
    all flattery, whether of the many or of the few.

    Follow me, then; and if you are looked down upon, that will do you no harm.
    And when we have practised virtue, we will betake ourselves to politics,
    but not until we are delivered from the shameful state of ignorance and
    uncertainty in which we are at present. Let us follow in the way of virtue
    and justice, and not in the way to which you, Callicles, invite us; for
    that way is nothing worth.

    We will now consider in order some of the principal points of the dialogue.
    Having regard (1) to the age of Plato and the ironical character of his
    writings, we may compare him with himself, and with other great teachers,
    and we may note in passing the objections of his critics. And then (2)
    casting one eye upon him, we may cast another upon ourselves, and endeavour
    to draw out the great lessons which he teaches for all time, stripped of
    the accidental form in which they are enveloped.

    (1) In the Gorgias, as in nearly all the other dialogues of Plato, we are
    made aware that formal logic has as yet no existence. The old difficulty
    of framing a definition recurs. The illusive analogy of the arts and the
    virtues also continues. The ambiguity of several words, such as nature,
    custom, the honourable, the good, is not cleared up. The Sophists are
    still floundering about the distinction of the real and seeming. Figures
    of speech are made the basis of arguments. The possibility of conceiving a
    universal art or science, which admits of application to a particular
    subject-matter, is a difficulty which remains unsolved, and has not
    altogether ceased to haunt the world at the present day (compare
    Charmides). The defect of clearness is also apparent in Socrates himself,
    unless we suppose him to be practising on the simplicity of his opponent,
    or rather perhaps trying an experiment in dialectics. Nothing can be more
    fallacious than the contradiction which he pretends to have discovered in
    the answers of Gorgias (see above). The advantages which he gains over
    Polus are also due to a false antithesis of pleasure and good, and to an
    erroneous assertion that an agent and a patient may be described by similar
    predicates;--a mistake which Aristotle partly shares and partly corrects in
    the Nicomachean Ethics. Traces of a 'robust sophistry' are likewise
    discernible in his argument with Callicles.

    (2) Although Socrates professes to be convinced by reason only, yet the
    argument is often a sort of dialectical fiction, by which he conducts
    himself and others to his own ideal of life and action. And we may
    sometimes wish that we could have suggested answers to his antagonists, or
    pointed out to them the rocks which lay concealed under the ambiguous terms
    good, pleasure, and the like. But it would be as useless to examine his
    arguments by the requirements of modern logic, as to criticise this ideal
    from a merely utilitarian point of view. If we say that the ideal is
    generally regarded as unattainable, and that mankind will by no means agree
    in thinking that the criminal is happier when punished than when
    unpunished, any more than they would agree to the stoical paradox that a
    man may be happy on the rack, Plato has already admitted that the world is
    against him. Neither does he mean to say that Archelaus is tormented by
    the stings of conscience; or that the sensations of the impaled criminal
    are more agreeable than those of the tyrant drowned in luxurious enjoyment.
    Neither is he speaking, as in the Protagoras, of virtue as a calculation of
    pleasure, an opinion which he afterwards repudiates in the Phaedo. What
    then is his meaning? His meaning we shall be able to illustrate best by
    parallel notions, which, whether justifiable by logic or not, have always
    existed among mankind. We must remind the reader that Socrates himself
    implies that he will be understood or appreciated by very few.

    He is speaking not of the consciousness of happiness, but of the idea of
    happiness. When a martyr dies in a good cause, when a soldier falls in
    battle, we do not suppose that death or wounds are without pain, or that
    their physical suffering is always compensated by a mental satisfaction.
    Still we regard them as happy, and we would a thousand times rather have
    their death than a shameful life. Nor is this only because we believe that
    they will obtain an immortality of fame, or that they will have crowns of
    glory in another world, when their enemies and persecutors will be
    proportionably tormented. Men are found in a few instances to do what is
    right, without reference to public opinion or to consequences. And we
    regard them as happy on this ground only, much as Socrates' friends in the
    opening of the Phaedo are described as regarding him; or as was said of
    another, 'they looked upon his face as upon the face of an angel.' We are
    not concerned to justify this idealism by the standard of utility or public
    opinion, but merely to point out the existence of such a sentiment in the
    better part of human nature.

    The idealism of Plato is founded upon this sentiment. He would maintain
    that in some sense or other truth and right are alone to be sought, and
    that all other goods are only desirable as means towards these. He is
    thought to have erred in 'considering the agent only, and making no
    reference to the happiness of others, as affected by him.' But the
    happiness of others or of mankind, if regarded as an end, is really quite
    as ideal and almost as paradoxical to the common understanding as Plato's
    conception of happiness. For the greatest happiness of the greatest number
    may mean also the greatest pain of the individual which will procure the
    greatest pleasure of the greatest number. Ideas of utility, like those of
    duty and right, may be pushed to unpleasant consequences. Nor can Plato in
    the Gorgias be deemed purely self-regarding, considering that Socrates
    expressly mentions the duty of imparting the truth when discovered to
    others. Nor must we forget that the side of ethics which regards others is
    by the ancients merged in politics. Both in Plato and Aristotle, as well
    as in the Stoics, the social principle, though taking another form, is
    really far more prominent than in most modern treatises on ethics.

    The idealizing of suffering is one of the conceptions which have exercised
    the greatest influence on mankind. Into the theological import of this, or
    into the consideration of the errors to which the idea may have given rise,
    we need not now enter. All will agree that the ideal of the Divine
    Sufferer, whose words the world would not receive, the man of sorrows of
    whom the Hebrew prophets spoke, has sunk deep into the heart of the human
    race. It is a similar picture of suffering goodness which Plato desires to
    pourtray, not without an allusion to the fate of his master Socrates. He
    is convinced that, somehow or other, such an one must be happy in life or
    after death. In the Republic, he endeavours to show that his happiness
    would be assured here in a well-ordered state. But in the actual condition
    of human things the wise and good are weak and miserable; such an one is
    like a man fallen among wild beasts, exposed to every sort of wrong and

    Plato, like other philosophers, is thus led on to the conclusion, that if
    'the ways of God' to man are to be 'justified,' the hopes of another life
    must be included. If the question could have been put to him, whether a
    man dying in torments was happy still, even if, as he suggests in the
    Apology, 'death be only a long sleep,' we can hardly tell what would have
    been his answer. There have been a few, who, quite independently of
    rewards and punishments or of posthumous reputation, or any other influence
    of public opinion, have been willing to sacrifice their lives for the good
    of others. It is difficult to say how far in such cases an unconscious
    hope of a future life, or a general faith in the victory of good in the
    world, may have supported the sufferers. But this extreme idealism is not
    in accordance with the spirit of Plato. He supposes a day of retribution,
    in which the good are to be rewarded and the wicked punished. Though, as
    he says in the Phaedo, no man of sense will maintain that the details of
    the stories about another world are true, he will insist that something of
    the kind is true, and will frame his life with a view to this unknown
    future. Even in the Republic he introduces a future life as an
    afterthought, when the superior happiness of the just has been established
    on what is thought to be an immutable foundation. At the same time he
    makes a point of determining his main thesis independently of remoter

    (3) Plato's theory of punishment is partly vindictive, partly corrective.
    In the Gorgias, as well as in the Phaedo and Republic, a few great
    criminals, chiefly tyrants, are reserved as examples. But most men have
    never had the opportunity of attaining this pre-eminence of evil. They are
    not incurable, and their punishment is intended for their improvement.
    They are to suffer because they have sinned; like sick men, they must go to
    the physician and be healed. On this representation of Plato's the
    criticism has been made, that the analogy of disease and injustice is
    partial only, and that suffering, instead of improving men, may have just
    the opposite effect.

    Like the general analogy of the arts and the virtues, the analogy of
    disease and injustice, or of medicine and justice, is certainly imperfect.
    But ideas must be given through something; the nature of the mind which is
    unseen can only be represented under figures derived from visible objects.
    If these figures are suggestive of some new aspect under which the mind may
    be considered, we cannot find fault with them for not exactly coinciding
    with the ideas represented. They partake of the imperfect nature of
    language, and must not be construed in too strict a manner. That Plato
    sometimes reasons from them as if they were not figures but realities, is
    due to the defective logical analysis of his age.

    Nor does he distinguish between the suffering which improves and the
    suffering which only punishes and deters. He applies to the sphere of
    ethics a conception of punishment which is really derived from criminal
    law. He does not see that such punishment is only negative, and supplies
    no principle of moral growth or development. He is not far off the higher
    notion of an education of man to be begun in this world, and to be
    continued in other stages of existence, which is further developed in the
    Republic. And Christian thinkers, who have ventured out of the beaten
    track in their meditations on the 'last things,' have found a ray of light
    in his writings. But he has not explained how or in what way punishment is
    to contribute to the improvement of mankind. He has not followed out the
    principle which he affirms in the Republic, that 'God is the author of evil
    only with a view to good,' and that 'they were the better for being
    punished.' Still his doctrine of a future state of rewards and punishments
    may be compared favourably with that perversion of Christian doctrine which
    makes the everlasting punishment of human beings depend on a brief moment
    of time, or even on the accident of an accident. And he has escaped the
    difficulty which has often beset divines, respecting the future destiny of
    the meaner sort of men (Thersites and the like), who are neither very good
    nor very bad, by not counting them worthy of eternal damnation.

    We do Plato violence in pressing his figures of speech or chains of
    argument; and not less so in asking questions which were beyond the horizon
    of his vision, or did not come within the scope of his design. The main
    purpose of the Gorgias is not to answer questions about a future world, but
    to place in antagonism the true and false life, and to contrast the
    judgments and opinions of men with judgment according to the truth. Plato
    may be accused of representing a superhuman or transcendental virtue in the
    description of the just man in the Gorgias, or in the companion portrait of
    the philosopher in the Theaetetus; and at the same time may be thought to
    be condemning a state of the world which always has existed and always will
    exist among men. But such ideals act powerfully on the imagination of
    mankind. And such condemnations are not mere paradoxes of philosophers,
    but the natural rebellion of the higher sense of right in man against the
    ordinary conditions of human life. The greatest statesmen have fallen very
    far short of the political ideal, and are therefore justly involved in the
    general condemnation.

    Subordinate to the main purpose of the dialogue are some other questions,
    which may be briefly considered:--

    a. The antithesis of good and pleasure, which as in other dialogues is
    supposed to consist in the permanent nature of the one compared with the
    transient and relative nature of the other. Good and pleasure, knowledge
    and sense, truth and opinion, essence and generation, virtue and pleasure,
    the real and the apparent, the infinite and finite, harmony or beauty and
    discord, dialectic and rhetoric or poetry, are so many pairs of opposites,
    which in Plato easily pass into one another, and are seldom kept perfectly
    distinct. And we must not forget that Plato's conception of pleasure is
    the Heracleitean flux transferred to the sphere of human conduct. There is
    some degree of unfairness in opposing the principle of good, which is
    objective, to the principle of pleasure, which is subjective. For the
    assertion of the permanence of good is only based on the assumption of its
    objective character. Had Plato fixed his mind, not on the ideal nature of
    good, but on the subjective consciousness of happiness, that would have
    been found to be as transient and precarious as pleasure.

    b. The arts or sciences, when pursued without any view to truth, or the
    improvement of human life, are called flatteries. They are all alike
    dependent upon the opinion of mankind, from which they are derived. To
    Plato the whole world appears to be sunk in error, based on self-interest.
    To this is opposed the one wise man hardly professing to have found truth,
    yet strong in the conviction that a virtuous life is the only good, whether
    regarded with reference to this world or to another. Statesmen, Sophists,
    rhetoricians, poets, are alike brought up for judgment. They are the
    parodies of wise men, and their arts are the parodies of true arts and
    sciences. All that they call science is merely the result of that study of
    the tempers of the Great Beast, which he describes in the Republic.

    c. Various other points of contact naturally suggest themselves between
    the Gorgias and other dialogues, especially the Republic, the Philebus, and
    the Protagoras. There are closer resemblances both of spirit and language
    in the Republic than in any other dialogue, the verbal similarity tending
    to show that they were written at the same period of Plato's life. For the
    Republic supplies that education and training of which the Gorgias suggests
    the necessity. The theory of the many weak combining against the few
    strong in the formation of society (which is indeed a partial truth), is
    similar in both of them, and is expressed in nearly the same language. The
    sufferings and fate of the just man, the powerlessness of evil, and the
    reversal of the situation in another life, are also points of similarity.
    The poets, like the rhetoricians, are condemned because they aim at
    pleasure only, as in the Republic they are expelled the State, because they
    are imitators, and minister to the weaker side of human nature. That
    poetry is akin to rhetoric may be compared with the analogous notion, which
    occurs in the Protagoras, that the ancient poets were the Sophists of their
    day. In some other respects the Protagoras rather offers a contrast than a
    parallel. The character of Protagoras may be compared with that of
    Gorgias, but the conception of happiness is different in the two dialogues;
    being described in the former, according to the old Socratic notion, as
    deferred or accumulated pleasure, while in the Gorgias, and in the Phaedo,
    pleasure and good are distinctly opposed.

    This opposition is carried out from a speculative point of view in the
    Philebus. There neither pleasure nor wisdom are allowed to be the chief
    good, but pleasure and good are not so completely opposed as in the
    Gorgias. For innocent pleasures, and such as have no antecedent pains, are
    allowed to rank in the class of goods. The allusion to Gorgias' definition
    of rhetoric (Philebus; compare Gorg.), as the art of persuasion, of all
    arts the best, for to it all things submit, not by compulsion, but of their
    own free will--marks a close and perhaps designed connection between the
    two dialogues. In both the ideas of measure, order, harmony, are the
    connecting links between the beautiful and the good.

    In general spirit and character, that is, in irony and antagonism to public
    opinion, the Gorgias most nearly resembles the Apology, Crito, and portions
    of the Republic, and like the Philebus, though from another point of view,
    may be thought to stand in the same relation to Plato's theory of morals
    which the Theaetetus bears to his theory of knowledge.

    d. A few minor points still remain to be summed up: (1) The extravagant
    irony in the reason which is assigned for the pilot's modest charge; and in
    the proposed use of rhetoric as an instrument of self-condemnation; and in
    the mighty power of geometrical equality in both worlds. (2) The reference
    of the mythus to the previous discussion should not be overlooked: the
    fate reserved for incurable criminals such as Archelaus; the retaliation of
    the box on the ears; the nakedness of the souls and of the judges who are
    stript of the clothes or disguises which rhetoric and public opinion have
    hitherto provided for them (compare Swift's notion that the universe is a
    suit of clothes, Tale of a Tub). The fiction seems to have involved Plato
    in the necessity of supposing that the soul retained a sort of corporeal
    likeness after death. (3) The appeal of the authority of Homer, who says
    that Odysseus saw Minos in his court 'holding a golden sceptre,' which
    gives verisimilitude to the tale.

    It is scarcely necessary to repeat that Plato is playing 'both sides of the
    game,' and that in criticising the characters of Gorgias and Polus, we are
    not passing any judgment on historical individuals, but only attempting to
    analyze the 'dramatis personae' as they were conceived by him. Neither is
    it necessary to enlarge upon the obvious fact that Plato is a dramatic
    writer, whose real opinions cannot always be assumed to be those which he
    puts into the mouth of Socrates, or any other speaker who appears to have
    the best of the argument; or to repeat the observation that he is a poet as
    well as a philosopher; or to remark that he is not to be tried by a modern
    standard, but interpreted with reference to his place in the history of
    thought and the opinion of his time.

    It has been said that the most characteristic feature of the Gorgias is the
    assertion of the right of dissent, or private judgment. But this mode of
    stating the question is really opposed both to the spirit of Plato and of
    ancient philosophy generally. For Plato is not asserting any abstract
    right or duty of toleration, or advantage to be derived from freedom of
    thought; indeed, in some other parts of his writings (e.g. Laws), he has
    fairly laid himself open to the charge of intolerance. No speculations had
    as yet arisen respecting the 'liberty of prophesying;' and Plato is not
    affirming any abstract right of this nature: but he is asserting the duty
    and right of the one wise and true man to dissent from the folly and
    falsehood of the many. At the same time he acknowledges the natural
    result, which he hardly seeks to avert, that he who speaks the truth to a
    multitude, regardless of consequences, will probably share the fate of


    The irony of Plato sometimes veils from us the height of idealism to which
    he soars. When declaring truths which the many will not receive, he puts
    on an armour which cannot be pierced by them. The weapons of ridicule are
    taken out of their hands and the laugh is turned against themselves. The
    disguises which Socrates assumes are like the parables of the New
    Testament, or the oracles of the Delphian God; they half conceal, half
    reveal, his meaning. The more he is in earnest, the more ironical he
    becomes; and he is never more in earnest or more ironical than in the
    Gorgias. He hardly troubles himself to answer seriously the objections of
    Gorgias and Polus, and therefore he sometimes appears to be careless of the
    ordinary requirements of logic. Yet in the highest sense he is always
    logical and consistent with himself. The form of the argument may be
    paradoxical; the substance is an appeal to the higher reason. He is
    uttering truths before they can be understood, as in all ages the words of
    philosophers, when they are first uttered, have found the world unprepared
    for them. A further misunderstanding arises out of the wildness of his
    humour; he is supposed not only by Callicles, but by the rest of mankind,
    to be jesting when he is profoundly serious. At length he makes even Polus
    in earnest. Finally, he drops the argument, and heedless any longer of the
    forms of dialectic, he loses himself in a sort of triumph, while at the
    same time he retaliates upon his adversaries. From this confusion of jest
    and earnest, we may now return to the ideal truth, and draw out in a simple
    form the main theses of the dialogue.

    First Thesis:--

    It is a greater evil to do than to suffer injustice.

    Compare the New Testament--

    'It is better to suffer for well doing than for evil doing.'--1 Pet.

    And the Sermon on the Mount--

    'Blessed are they that are persecuted for righteousness' sake.'--Matt.

    The words of Socrates are more abstract than the words of Christ, but they
    equally imply that the only real evil is moral evil. The righteous may
    suffer or die, but they have their reward; and even if they had no reward,
    would be happier than the wicked. The world, represented by Polus, is
    ready, when they are asked, to acknowledge that injustice is dishonourable,
    and for their own sakes men are willing to punish the offender (compare
    Republic). But they are not equally willing to acknowledge that injustice,
    even if successful, is essentially evil, and has the nature of disease and
    death. Especially when crimes are committed on the great scale--the crimes
    of tyrants, ancient or modern--after a while, seeing that they cannot be
    undone, and have become a part of history, mankind are disposed to forgive
    them, not from any magnanimity or charity, but because their feelings are
    blunted by time, and 'to forgive is convenient to them.' The tangle of
    good and evil can no longer be unravelled; and although they know that the
    end cannot justify the means, they feel also that good has often come out
    of evil. But Socrates would have us pass the same judgment on the tyrant
    now and always; though he is surrounded by his satellites, and has the
    applauses of Europe and Asia ringing in his ears; though he is the
    civilizer or liberator of half a continent, he is, and always will be, the
    most miserable of men. The greatest consequences for good or for evil
    cannot alter a hair's breadth the morality of actions which are right or
    wrong in themselves. This is the standard which Socrates holds up to us.
    Because politics, and perhaps human life generally, are of a mixed nature
    we must not allow our principles to sink to the level of our practice.

    And so of private individuals--to them, too, the world occasionally speaks
    of the consequences of their actions:--if they are lovers of pleasure, they
    will ruin their health; if they are false or dishonest, they will lose
    their character. But Socrates would speak to them, not of what will be,
    but of what is--of the present consequence of lowering and degrading the
    soul. And all higher natures, or perhaps all men everywhere, if they were
    not tempted by interest or passion, would agree with him--they would rather
    be the victims than the perpetrators of an act of treachery or of tyranny.
    Reason tells them that death comes sooner or later to all, and is not so
    great an evil as an unworthy life, or rather, if rightly regarded, not an
    evil at all, but to a good man the greatest good. For in all of us there
    are slumbering ideals of truth and right, which may at any time awaken and
    develop a new life in us.

    Second Thesis:--

    It is better to suffer for wrong doing than not to suffer.

    There might have been a condition of human life in which the penalty
    followed at once, and was proportioned to the offence. Moral evil would
    then be scarcely distinguishable from physical; mankind would avoid vice as
    they avoid pain or death. But nature, with a view of deepening and
    enlarging our characters, has for the most part hidden from us the
    consequences of our actions, and we can only foresee them by an effort of
    reflection. To awaken in us this habit of reflection is the business of
    early education, which is continued in maturer years by observation and
    experience. The spoilt child is in later life said to be unfortunate--he
    had better have suffered when he was young, and been saved from suffering
    afterwards. But is not the sovereign equally unfortunate whose education
    and manner of life are always concealing from him the consequences of his
    own actions, until at length they are revealed to him in some terrible
    downfall, which may, perhaps, have been caused not by his own fault?
    Another illustration is afforded by the pauper and criminal classes, who
    scarcely reflect at all, except on the means by which they can compass
    their immediate ends. We pity them, and make allowances for them; but we
    do not consider that the same principle applies to human actions generally.
    Not to have been found out in some dishonesty or folly, regarded from a
    moral or religious point of view, is the greatest of misfortunes. The
    success of our evil doings is a proof that the gods have ceased to strive
    with us, and have given us over to ourselves. There is nothing to remind
    us of our sins, and therefore nothing to correct them. Like our sorrows,
    they are healed by time;

    'While rank corruption, mining all within,
    Infects unseen.'

    The 'accustomed irony' of Socrates adds a corollary to the argument:--
    'Would you punish your enemy, you should allow him to escape unpunished'--
    this is the true retaliation. (Compare the obscure verse of Proverbs,
    'Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him,' etc., quoted in Romans.)

    Men are not in the habit of dwelling upon the dark side of their own lives:
    they do not easily see themselves as others see them. They are very kind
    and very blind to their own faults; the rhetoric of self-love is always
    pleading with them on their own behalf. Adopting a similar figure of
    speech, Socrates would have them use rhetoric, not in defence but in
    accusation of themselves. As they are guided by feeling rather than by
    reason, to their feelings the appeal must be made. They must speak to
    themselves; they must argue with themselves; they must paint in eloquent
    words the character of their own evil deeds. To any suffering which they
    have deserved, they must persuade themselves to submit. Under the figure
    there lurks a real thought, which, expressed in another form, admits of an
    easy application to ourselves. For do not we too accuse as well as excuse
    ourselves? And we call to our aid the rhetoric of prayer and preaching,
    which the mind silently employs while the struggle between the better and
    the worse is going on within us. And sometimes we are too hard upon
    ourselves, because we want to restore the balance which self-love has
    overthrown or disturbed; and then again we may hear a voice as of a parent
    consoling us. In religious diaries a sort of drama is often enacted by the
    consciences of men 'accusing or else excusing them.' For all our life long
    we are talking with ourselves:--What is thought but speech? What is
    feeling but rhetoric? And if rhetoric is used on one side only we shall be
    always in danger of being deceived. And so the words of Socrates, which at
    first sounded paradoxical, come home to the experience of all of us.

    Third Thesis:--

    We do not what we will, but what we wish.

    Socrates would teach us a lesson which we are slow to learn--that good
    intentions, and even benevolent actions, when they are not prompted by
    wisdom, are of no value. We believe something to be for our good which we
    afterwards find out not to be for our good. The consequences may be
    inevitable, for they may follow an invariable law, yet they may often be
    the very opposite of what is expected by us. When we increase pauperism by
    almsgiving; when we tie up property without regard to changes of
    circumstances; when we say hastily what we deliberately disapprove; when we
    do in a moment of passion what upon reflection we regret; when from any
    want of self-control we give another an advantage over us--we are doing not
    what we will, but what we wish. All actions of which the consequences are
    not weighed and foreseen, are of this impotent and paralytic sort; and the
    author of them has 'the least possible power' while seeming to have the
    greatest. For he is actually bringing about the reverse of what he
    intended. And yet the book of nature is open to him, in which he who runs
    may read if he will exercise ordinary attention; every day offers him
    experiences of his own and of other men's characters, and he passes them
    unheeded by. The contemplation of the consequences of actions, and the
    ignorance of men in regard to them, seems to have led Socrates to his
    famous thesis:--'Virtue is knowledge;' which is not so much an error or
    paradox as a half truth, seen first in the twilight of ethical philosophy,
    but also the half of the truth which is especially needed in the present
    age. For as the world has grown older men have been too apt to imagine a
    right and wrong apart from consequences; while a few, on the other hand,
    have sought to resolve them wholly into their consequences. But Socrates,
    or Plato for him, neither divides nor identifies them; though the time has
    not yet arrived either for utilitarian or transcendental systems of moral
    philosophy, he recognizes the two elements which seem to lie at the basis
    of morality. (Compare the following: 'Now, and for us, it is a time to
    Hellenize and to praise knowing; for we have Hebraized too much and have
    overvalued doing. But the habits and discipline received from Hebraism
    remain for our race an eternal possession. And as humanity is constituted,
    one must never assign the second rank to-day without being ready to restore
    them to the first to-morrow.' Sir William W. Hunter, Preface to Orissa.)

    Fourth Thesis:--

    To be and not to seem is the end of life.

    The Greek in the age of Plato admitted praise to be one of the chief
    incentives to moral virtue, and to most men the opinion of their fellows is
    a leading principle of action. Hence a certain element of seeming enters
    into all things; all or almost all desire to appear better than they are,
    that they may win the esteem or admiration of others. A man of ability can
    easily feign the language of piety or virtue; and there is an unconscious
    as well as a conscious hypocrisy which, according to Socrates, is the worst
    of the two. Again, there is the sophistry of classes and professions.
    There are the different opinions about themselves and one another which
    prevail in different ranks of society. There is the bias given to the mind
    by the study of one department of human knowledge to the exclusion of the
    rest; and stronger far the prejudice engendered by a pecuniary or party
    interest in certain tenets. There is the sophistry of law, the sophistry
    of medicine, the sophistry of politics, the sophistry of theology. All of
    these disguises wear the appearance of the truth; some of them are very
    ancient, and we do not easily disengage ourselves from them; for we have
    inherited them, and they have become a part of us. The sophistry of an
    ancient Greek sophist is nothing compared with the sophistry of a religious
    order, or of a church in which during many ages falsehood has been
    accumulating, and everything has been said on one side, and nothing on the
    other. The conventions and customs which we observe in conversation, and
    the opposition of our interests when we have dealings with one another
    ('the buyer saith, it is nought--it is nought,' etc.), are always obscuring
    our sense of truth and right. The sophistry of human nature is far more
    subtle than the deceit of any one man. Few persons speak freely from their
    own natures, and scarcely any one dares to think for himself: most of us
    imperceptibly fall into the opinions of those around us, which we partly
    help to make. A man who would shake himself loose from them, requires
    great force of mind; he hardly knows where to begin in the search after
    truth. On every side he is met by the world, which is not an abstraction
    of theologians, but the most real of all things, being another name for
    ourselves when regarded collectively and subjected to the influences of

    Then comes Socrates, impressed as no other man ever was, with the unreality
    and untruthfulness of popular opinion, and tells mankind that they must be
    and not seem. How are they to be? At any rate they must have the spirit
    and desire to be. If they are ignorant, they must acknowledge their
    ignorance to themselves; if they are conscious of doing evil, they must
    learn to do well; if they are weak, and have nothing in them which they can
    call themselves, they must acquire firmness and consistency; if they are
    indifferent, they must begin to take an interest in the great questions
    which surround them. They must try to be what they would fain appear in
    the eyes of their fellow-men. A single individual cannot easily change
    public opinion; but he can be true and innocent, simple and independent; he
    can know what he does, and what he does not know; and though not without an
    effort, he can form a judgment of his own, at least in common matters. In
    his most secret actions he can show the same high principle (compare
    Republic) which he shows when supported and watched by public opinion. And
    on some fitting occasion, on some question of humanity or truth or right,
    even an ordinary man, from the natural rectitude of his disposition, may be
    found to take up arms against a whole tribe of politicians and lawyers, and
    be too much for them.

    Who is the true and who the false statesman?--

    The true statesman is he who brings order out of disorder; who first
    organizes and then administers the government of his own country; and
    having made a nation, seeks to reconcile the national interests with those
    of Europe and of mankind. He is not a mere theorist, nor yet a dealer in
    expedients; the whole and the parts grow together in his mind; while the
    head is conceiving, the hand is executing. Although obliged to descend to
    the world, he is not of the world. His thoughts are fixed not on power or
    riches or extension of territory, but on an ideal state, in which all the
    citizens have an equal chance of health and life, and the highest education
    is within the reach of all, and the moral and intellectual qualities of
    every individual are freely developed, and 'the idea of good' is the
    animating principle of the whole. Not the attainment of freedom alone, or
    of order alone, but how to unite freedom with order is the problem which he
    has to solve.

    The statesman who places before himself these lofty aims has undertaken a
    task which will call forth all his powers. He must control himself before
    he can control others; he must know mankind before he can manage them. He
    has no private likes or dislikes; he does not conceal personal enmity under
    the disguise of moral or political principle: such meannesses, into which
    men too often fall unintentionally, are absorbed in the consciousness of
    his mission, and in his love for his country and for mankind. He will
    sometimes ask himself what the next generation will say of him; not because
    he is careful of posthumous fame, but because he knows that the result of
    his life as a whole will then be more fairly judged. He will take time for
    the execution of his plans; not hurrying them on when the mind of a nation
    is unprepared for them; but like the Ruler of the Universe Himself, working
    in the appointed time, for he knows that human life, 'if not long in
    comparison with eternity' (Republic), is sufficient for the fulfilment of
    many great purposes. He knows, too, that the work will be still going on
    when he is no longer here; and he will sometimes, especially when his
    powers are failing, think of that other 'city of which the pattern is in
    heaven' (Republic).

    The false politician is the serving-man of the state. In order to govern
    men he becomes like them; their 'minds are married in conjunction;' they
    'bear themselves' like vulgar and tyrannical masters, and he is their
    obedient servant. The true politician, if he would rule men, must make
    them like himself; he must 'educate his party' until they cease to be a
    party; he must breathe into them the spirit which will hereafter give form
    to their institutions. Politics with him are not a mechanism for seeming
    what he is not, or for carrying out the will of the majority. Himself a
    representative man, he is the representative not of the lower but of the
    higher elements of the nation. There is a better (as well as a worse)
    public opinion of which he seeks to lay hold; as there is also a deeper
    current of human affairs in which he is borne up when the waves nearer the
    shore are threatening him. He acknowledges that he cannot take the world
    by force--two or three moves on the political chess board are all that he
    can fore see--two or three weeks moves on the political chessboard are all
    that he can foresee--two or three weeks or months are granted to him in
    which he can provide against a coming struggle. But he knows also that
    there are permanent principles of politics which are always tending to the
    well-being of states--better administration, better education, the
    reconciliation of conflicting elements, increased security against external
    enemies. These are not 'of to-day or yesterday,' but are the same in all
    times, and under all forms of government. Then when the storm descends and
    the winds blow, though he knows not beforehand the hour of danger, the
    pilot, not like Plato's captain in the Republic, half-blind and deaf, but
    with penetrating eye and quick ear, is ready to take command of the ship
    and guide her into port.

    The false politician asks not what is true, but what is the opinion of the
    world--not what is right, but what is expedient. The only measures of
    which he approves are the measures which will pass. He has no intention of
    fighting an uphill battle; he keeps the roadway of politics. He is
    unwilling to incur the persecution and enmity which political convictions
    would entail upon him. He begins with popularity, and in fair weather
    sails gallantly along. But unpopularity soon follows him. For men expect
    their leaders to be better and wiser than themselves: to be their guides
    in danger, their saviours in extremity; they do not really desire them to
    obey all the ignorant impulses of the popular mind; and if they fail them
    in a crisis they are disappointed. Then, as Socrates says, the cry of
    ingratitude is heard, which is most unreasonable; for the people, who have
    been taught no better, have done what might be expected of them, and their
    statesmen have received justice at their hands.

    The true statesman is aware that he must adapt himself to times and
    circumstances. He must have allies if he is to fight against the world; he
    must enlighten public opinion; he must accustom his followers to act
    together. Although he is not the mere executor of the will of the
    majority, he must win over the majority to himself. He is their leader and
    not their follower, but in order to lead he must also follow. He will
    neither exaggerate nor undervalue the power of a statesman, neither
    adopting the 'laissez faire' nor the 'paternal government' principle; but
    he will, whether he is dealing with children in politics, or with full-
    grown men, seek to do for the people what the government can do for them,
    and what, from imperfect education or deficient powers of combination, they
    cannot do for themselves. He knows that if he does too much for them they
    will do nothing; and that if he does nothing for them they will in some
    states of society be utterly helpless. For the many cannot exist without
    the few, if the material force of a country is from below, wisdom and
    experience are from above. It is not a small part of human evils which
    kings and governments make or cure. The statesman is well aware that a
    great purpose carried out consistently during many years will at last be
    executed. He is playing for a stake which may be partly determined by some
    accident, and therefore he will allow largely for the unknown element of
    politics. But the game being one in which chance and skill are combined,
    if he plays long enough he is certain of victory. He will not be always
    consistent, for the world is changing; and though he depends upon the
    support of a party, he will remember that he is the minister of the whole.
    He lives not for the present, but for the future, and he is not at all sure
    that he will be appreciated either now or then. For he may have the
    existing order of society against him, and may not be remembered by a
    distant posterity.

    There are always discontented idealists in politics who, like Socrates in
    the Gorgias, find fault with all statesmen past as well as present, not
    excepting the greatest names of history. Mankind have an uneasy feeling
    that they ought to be better governed than they are. Just as the actual
    philosopher falls short of the one wise man, so does the actual statesman
    fall short of the ideal. And so partly from vanity and egotism, but partly
    also from a true sense of the faults of eminent men, a temper of
    dissatisfaction and criticism springs up among those who are ready enough
    to acknowledge the inferiority of their own powers. No matter whether a
    statesman makes high professions or none at all--they are reduced sooner or
    later to the same level. And sometimes the more unscrupulous man is better
    esteemed than the more conscientious, because he has not equally deceived
    expectations. Such sentiments may be unjust, but they are widely spread;
    we constantly find them recurring in reviews and newspapers, and still
    oftener in private conversation.

    We may further observe that the art of government, while in some respects
    tending to improve, has in others a tendency to degenerate, as institutions
    become more popular. Governing for the people cannot easily be combined
    with governing by the people: the interests of classes are too strong for
    the ideas of the statesman who takes a comprehensive view of the whole.
    According to Socrates the true governor will find ruin or death staring him
    in the face, and will only be induced to govern from the fear of being
    governed by a worse man than himself (Republic). And in modern times,
    though the world has grown milder, and the terrible consequences which
    Plato foretells no longer await an English statesman, any one who is not
    actuated by a blind ambition will only undertake from a sense of duty a
    work in which he is most likely to fail; and even if he succeed, will
    rarely be rewarded by the gratitude of his own generation.

    Socrates, who is not a politician at all, tells us that he is the only real
    politician of his time. Let us illustrate the meaning of his words by
    applying them to the history of our own country. He would have said that
    not Pitt or Fox, or Canning or Sir R. Peel, are the real politicians of
    their time, but Locke, Hume, Adam Smith, Bentham, Ricardo. These during
    the greater part of their lives occupied an inconsiderable space in the
    eyes of the public. They were private persons; nevertheless they sowed in
    the minds of men seeds which in the next generation have become an
    irresistible power. 'Herein is that saying true, One soweth and another
    reapeth.' We may imagine with Plato an ideal statesman in whom practice
    and speculation are perfectly harmonized; for there is no necessary
    opposition between them. But experience shows that they are commonly
    divorced--the ordinary politician is the interpreter or executor of the
    thoughts of others, and hardly ever brings to the birth a new political
    conception. One or two only in modern times, like the Italian statesman
    Cavour, have created the world in which they moved. The philosopher is
    naturally unfitted for political life; his great ideas are not understood
    by the many; he is a thousand miles away from the questions of the day.
    Yet perhaps the lives of thinkers, as they are stiller and deeper, are also
    happier than the lives of those who are more in the public eye. They have
    the promise of the future, though they are regarded as dreamers and
    visionaries by their own contemporaries. And when they are no longer here,
    those who would have been ashamed of them during their lives claim kindred
    with them, and are proud to be called by their names. (Compare Thucyd.)

    Who is the true poet?

    Plato expels the poets from his Republic because they are allied to sense;
    because they stimulate the emotions; because they are thrice removed from
    the ideal truth. And in a similar spirit he declares in the Gorgias that
    the stately muse of tragedy is a votary of pleasure and not of truth. In
    modern times we almost ridicule the idea of poetry admitting of a moral.
    The poet and the prophet, or preacher, in primitive antiquity are one and
    the same; but in later ages they seem to fall apart. The great art of
    novel writing, that peculiar creation of our own and the last century,
    which, together with the sister art of review writing, threatens to absorb
    all literature, has even less of seriousness in her composition. Do we not
    often hear the novel writer censured for attempting to convey a lesson to
    the minds of his readers?

    Yet the true office of a poet or writer of fiction is not merely to give
    amusement, or to be the expression of the feelings of mankind, good or bad,
    or even to increase our knowledge of human nature. There have been poets
    in modern times, such as Goethe or Wordsworth, who have not forgotten their
    high vocation of teachers; and the two greatest of the Greek dramatists owe
    their sublimity to their ethical character. The noblest truths, sung of in
    the purest and sweetest language, are still the proper material of poetry.
    The poet clothes them with beauty, and has a power of making them enter
    into the hearts and memories of men. He has not only to speak of themes
    above the level of ordinary life, but to speak of them in a deeper and
    tenderer way than they are ordinarily felt, so as to awaken the feeling of
    them in others. The old he makes young again; the familiar principle he
    invests with a new dignity; he finds a noble expression for the common-
    places of morality and politics. He uses the things of sense so as to
    indicate what is beyond; he raises us through earth to heaven. He
    expresses what the better part of us would fain say, and the half-conscious
    feeling is strengthened by the expression. He is his own critic, for the
    spirit of poetry and of criticism are not divided in him. His mission is
    not to disguise men from themselves, but to reveal to them their own
    nature, and make them better acquainted with the world around them. True
    poetry is the remembrance of youth, of love, the embodiment in words of the
    happiest and holiest moments of life, of the noblest thoughts of man, of
    the greatest deeds of the past. The poet of the future may return to his
    greater calling of the prophet or teacher; indeed, we hardly know what may
    not be effected for the human race by a better use of the poetical and
    imaginative faculty. The reconciliation of poetry, as of religion, with
    truth, may still be possible. Neither is the element of pleasure to be
    excluded. For when we substitute a higher pleasure for a lower we raise
    men in the scale of existence. Might not the novelist, too, make an ideal,
    or rather many ideals of social life, better than a thousand sermons?
    Plato, like the Puritans, is too much afraid of poetic and artistic
    influences. But he is not without a true sense of the noble purposes to
    which art may be applied (Republic).

    Modern poetry is often a sort of plaything, or, in Plato's language, a
    flattery, a sophistry, or sham, in which, without any serious purpose, the
    poet lends wings to his fancy and exhibits his gifts of language and metre.
    Such an one seeks to gratify the taste of his readers; he has the 'savoir
    faire,' or trick of writing, but he has not the higher spirit of poetry.
    He has no conception that true art should bring order out of disorder; that
    it should make provision for the soul's highest interest; that it should be
    pursued only with a view to 'the improvement of the citizens.' He
    ministers to the weaker side of human nature (Republic); he idealizes the
    sensual; he sings the strain of love in the latest fashion; instead of
    raising men above themselves he brings them back to the 'tyranny of the
    many masters,' from which all his life long a good man has been praying to
    be delivered. And often, forgetful of measure and order, he will express
    not that which is truest, but that which is strongest. Instead of a great
    and nobly-executed subject, perfect in every part, some fancy of a heated
    brain is worked out with the strangest incongruity. He is not the master
    of his words, but his words--perhaps borrowed from another--the faded
    reflection of some French or German or Italian writer, have the better of
    him. Though we are not going to banish the poets, how can we suppose that
    such utterances have any healing or life-giving influence on the minds of

    'Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:' Art then must be true,
    and politics must be true, and the life of man must be true and not a
    seeming or sham. In all of them order has to be brought out of disorder,
    truth out of error and falsehood. This is what we mean by the greatest
    improvement of man. And so, having considered in what way 'we can best
    spend the appointed time, we leave the result with God.' Plato does not say
    that God will order all things for the best (compare Phaedo), but he
    indirectly implies that the evils of this life will be corrected in
    another. And as we are very far from the best imaginable world at present,
    Plato here, as in the Phaedo and Republic, supposes a purgatory or place of
    education for mankind in general, and for a very few a Tartarus or hell.
    The myth which terminates the dialogue is not the revelation, but rather,
    like all similar descriptions, whether in the Bible or Plato, the veil of
    another life. For no visible thing can reveal the invisible. Of this
    Plato, unlike some commentators on Scripture, is fully aware. Neither will
    he dogmatize about the manner in which we are 'born again' (Republic).
    Only he is prepared to maintain the ultimate triumph of truth and right,
    and declares that no one, not even the wisest of the Greeks, can affirm any
    other doctrine without being ridiculous.

    There is a further paradox of ethics, in which pleasure and pain are held
    to be indifferent, and virtue at the time of action and without regard to
    consequences is happiness. From this elevation or exaggeration of feeling
    Plato seems to shrink: he leaves it to the Stoics in a later generation to
    maintain that when impaled or on the rack the philosopher may be happy
    (compare Republic). It is observable that in the Republic he raises this
    question, but it is not really discussed; the veil of the ideal state, the
    shadow of another life, are allowed to descend upon it and it passes out of
    sight. The martyr or sufferer in the cause of right or truth is often
    supposed to die in raptures, having his eye fixed on a city which is in
    heaven. But if there were no future, might he not still be happy in the
    performance of an action which was attended only by a painful death? He
    himself may be ready to thank God that he was thought worthy to do Him the
    least service, without looking for a reward; the joys of another life may
    not have been present to his mind at all. Do we suppose that the mediaeval
    saint, St. Bernard, St. Francis, St. Catharine of Sienna, or the Catholic
    priest who lately devoted himself to death by a lingering disease that he
    might solace and help others, was thinking of the 'sweets' of heaven? No;
    the work was already heaven to him and enough. Much less will the dying
    patriot be dreaming of the praises of man or of an immortality of fame:
    the sense of duty, of right, and trust in God will be sufficient, and as
    far as the mind can reach, in that hour. If he were certain that there
    were no life to come, he would not have wished to speak or act otherwise
    than he did in the cause of truth or of humanity. Neither, on the other
    hand, will he suppose that God has forsaken him or that the future is to be
    a mere blank to him. The greatest act of faith, the only faith which
    cannot pass away, is his who has not known, but yet has believed. A very
    few among the sons of men have made themselves independent of
    circumstances, past, present, or to come. He who has attained to such a
    temper of mind has already present with him eternal life; he needs no
    arguments to convince him of immortality; he has in him already a principle
    stronger than death. He who serves man without the thought of reward is
    deemed to be a more faithful servant than he who works for hire. May not
    the service of God, which is the more disinterested, be in like manner the
    higher? And although only a very few in the course of the world's history
    --Christ himself being one of them--have attained to such a noble
    conception of God and of the human soul, yet the ideal of them may be
    present to us, and the remembrance of them be an example to us, and their
    lives may shed a light on many dark places both of philosophy and theology.


    The myths of Plato are a phenomenon unique in literature. There are four
    longer ones: these occur in the Phaedrus, Phaedo, Gorgias, and Republic.
    That in the Republic is the most elaborate and finished of them. Three of
    these greater myths, namely those contained in the Phaedo, the Gorgias and
    the Republic, relate to the destiny of human souls in a future life. The
    magnificent myth in the Phaedrus treats of the immortality, or rather the
    eternity of the soul, in which is included a former as well as a future
    state of existence. To these may be added, (1) the myth, or rather fable,
    occurring in the Statesman, in which the life of innocence is contrasted
    with the ordinary life of man and the consciousness of evil: (2) the
    legend of the Island of Atlantis, an imaginary history, which is a fragment
    only, commenced in the Timaeus and continued in the Critias: (3) the much
    less artistic fiction of the foundation of the Cretan colony which is
    introduced in the preface to the Laws, but soon falls into the background:
    (4) the beautiful but rather artificial tale of Prometheus and Epimetheus
    narrated in his rhetorical manner by Protagoras in the dialogue called
    after him: (5) the speech at the beginning of the Phaedrus, which is a
    parody of the orator Lysias; the rival speech of Socrates and the
    recantation of it. To these may be added (6) the tale of the grasshoppers,
    and (7) the tale of Thamus and of Theuth, both in the Phaedrus: (8) the
    parable of the Cave (Republic), in which the previous argument is
    recapitulated, and the nature and degrees of knowledge having been
    previously set forth in the abstract are represented in a picture: (9) the
    fiction of the earth-born men (Republic; compare Laws), in which by the
    adaptation of an old tradition Plato makes a new beginning for his society:
    (10) the myth of Aristophanes respecting the division of the sexes, Sym.:
    (11) the parable of the noble captain, the pilot, and the mutinous sailors
    (Republic), in which is represented the relation of the better part of the
    world, and of the philosopher, to the mob of politicians: (12) the
    ironical tale of the pilot who plies between Athens and Aegina charging
    only a small payment for saving men from death, the reason being that he is
    uncertain whether to live or die is better for them (Gor.): (13) the
    treatment of freemen and citizens by physicians and of slaves by their
    apprentices,--a somewhat laboured figure of speech intended to illustrate
    the two different ways in which the laws speak to men (Laws). There also
    occur in Plato continuous images; some of them extend over several pages,
    appearing and reappearing at intervals: such as the bees stinging and
    stingless (paupers and thieves) in the Eighth Book of the Republic, who are
    generated in the transition from timocracy to oligarchy: the sun, which is
    to the visible world what the idea of good is to the intellectual, in the
    Sixth Book of the Republic: the composite animal, having the form of a
    man, but containing under a human skin a lion and a many-headed monster
    (Republic): the great beast, i.e. the populace: and the wild beast within
    us, meaning the passions which are always liable to break out: the
    animated comparisons of the degradation of philosophy by the arts to the
    dishonoured maiden, and of the tyrant to the parricide, who 'beats his
    father, having first taken away his arms': the dog, who is your only
    philosopher: the grotesque and rather paltry image of the argument
    wandering about without a head (Laws), which is repeated, not improved,
    from the Gorgias: the argument personified as veiling her face (Republic),
    as engaged in a chase, as breaking upon us in a first, second and third
    wave:--on these figures of speech the changes are rung many times over. It
    is observable that nearly all these parables or continuous images are found
    in the Republic; that which occurs in the Theaetetus, of the midwifery of
    Socrates, is perhaps the only exception. To make the list complete, the
    mathematical figure of the number of the state (Republic), or the numerical
    interval which separates king from tyrant, should not be forgotten.

    The myth in the Gorgias is one of those descriptions of another life which,
    like the Sixth Aeneid of Virgil, appear to contain reminiscences of the
    mysteries. It is a vision of the rewards and punishments which await good
    and bad men after death. It supposes the body to continue and to be in
    another world what it has become in this. It includes a Paradiso,
    Purgatorio, and Inferno, like the sister myths of the Phaedo and the
    Republic. The Inferno is reserved for great criminals only. The argument
    of the dialogue is frequently referred to, and the meaning breaks through
    so as rather to destroy the liveliness and consistency of the picture. The
    structure of the fiction is very slight, the chief point or moral being
    that in the judgments of another world there is no possibility of
    concealment: Zeus has taken from men the power of foreseeing death, and
    brings together the souls both of them and their judges naked and
    undisguised at the judgment-seat. Both are exposed to view, stripped of
    the veils and clothes which might prevent them from seeing into or being
    seen by one another.

    The myth of the Phaedo is of the same type, but it is more cosmological,
    and also more poetical. The beautiful and ingenious fancy occurs to Plato
    that the upper atmosphere is an earth and heaven in one, a glorified earth,
    fairer and purer than that in which we dwell. As the fishes live in the
    ocean, mankind are living in a lower sphere, out of which they put their
    heads for a moment or two and behold a world beyond. The earth which we
    inhabit is a sediment of the coarser particles which drop from the world
    above, and is to that heavenly earth what the desert and the shores of the
    ocean are to us. A part of the myth consists of description of the
    interior of the earth, which gives the opportunity of introducing several
    mythological names and of providing places of torment for the wicked.
    There is no clear distinction of soul and body; the spirits beneath the
    earth are spoken of as souls only, yet they retain a sort of shadowy form
    when they cry for mercy on the shores of the lake; and the philosopher
    alone is said to have got rid of the body. All the three myths in Plato
    which relate to the world below have a place for repentant sinners, as well
    as other homes or places for the very good and very bad. It is a natural
    reflection which is made by Plato elsewhere, that the two extremes of human
    character are rarely met with, and that the generality of mankind are
    between them. Hence a place must be found for them. In the myth of the
    Phaedo they are carried down the river Acheron to the Acherusian lake,
    where they dwell, and are purified of their evil deeds, and receive the
    rewards of their good. There are also incurable sinners, who are cast into
    Tartarus, there to remain as the penalty of atrocious crimes; these suffer
    everlastingly. And there is another class of hardly-curable sinners who
    are allowed from time to time to approach the shores of the Acherusian
    lake, where they cry to their victims for mercy; which if they obtain they
    come out into the lake and cease from their torments.

    Neither this, nor any of the three greater myths of Plato, nor perhaps any
    allegory or parable relating to the unseen world, is consistent with
    itself. The language of philosophy mingles with that of mythology;
    abstract ideas are transformed into persons, figures of speech into
    realities. These myths may be compared with the Pilgrim's Progress of
    Bunyan, in which discussions of theology are mixed up with the incidents of
    travel, and mythological personages are associated with human beings: they
    are also garnished with names and phrases taken out of Homer, and with
    other fragments of Greek tradition.

    The myth of the Republic is more subtle and also more consistent than
    either of the two others. It has a greater verisimilitude than they have,
    and is full of touches which recall the experiences of human life. It will
    be noticed by an attentive reader that the twelve days during which Er lay
    in a trance after he was slain coincide with the time passed by the spirits
    in their pilgrimage. It is a curious observation, not often made, that
    good men who have lived in a well-governed city (shall we say in a
    religious and respectable society?) are more likely to make mistakes in
    their choice of life than those who have had more experience of the world
    and of evil. It is a more familiar remark that we constantly blame others
    when we have only ourselves to blame; and the philosopher must acknowledge,
    however reluctantly, that there is an element of chance in human life with
    which it is sometimes impossible for man to cope. That men drink more of
    the waters of forgetfulness than is good for them is a poetical description
    of a familiar truth. We have many of us known men who, like Odysseus, have
    wearied of ambition and have only desired rest. We should like to know
    what became of the infants 'dying almost as soon as they were born,' but
    Plato only raises, without satisfying, our curiosity. The two companies of
    souls, ascending and descending at either chasm of heaven and earth, and
    conversing when they come out into the meadow, the majestic figures of the
    judges sitting in heaven, the voice heard by Ardiaeus, are features of the
    great allegory which have an indescribable grandeur and power. The remark
    already made respecting the inconsistency of the two other myths must be
    extended also to this: it is at once an orrery, or model of the heavens,
    and a picture of the Day of Judgment.

    The three myths are unlike anything else in Plato. There is an Oriental,
    or rather an Egyptian element in them, and they have an affinity to the
    mysteries and to the Orphic modes of worship. To a certain extent they are
    un-Greek; at any rate there is hardly anything like them in other Greek
    writings which have a serious purpose; in spirit they are mediaeval. They
    are akin to what may be termed the underground religion in all ages and
    countries. They are presented in the most lively and graphic manner, but
    they are never insisted on as true; it is only affirmed that nothing better
    can be said about a future life. Plato seems to make use of them when he
    has reached the limits of human knowledge; or, to borrow an expression of
    his own, when he is standing on the outside of the intellectual world.
    They are very simple in style; a few touches bring the picture home to the
    mind, and make it present to us. They have also a kind of authority gained
    by the employment of sacred and familiar names, just as mere fragments of
    the words of Scripture, put together in any form and applied to any
    subject, have a power of their own. They are a substitute for poetry and
    mythology; and they are also a reform of mythology. The moral of them may
    be summed up in a word or two: After death the Judgment; and 'there is
    some better thing remaining for the good than for the evil.'

    All literature gathers into itself many elements of the past: for example,
    the tale of the earth-born men in the Republic appears at first sight to be
    an extravagant fancy, but it is restored to propriety when we remember that
    it is based on a legendary belief. The art of making stories of ghosts and
    apparitions credible is said to consist in the manner of telling them. The
    effect is gained by many literary and conversational devices, such as the
    previous raising of curiosity, the mention of little circumstances,
    simplicity, picturesqueness, the naturalness of the occasion, and the like.
    This art is possessed by Plato in a degree which has never been equalled.

    The myth in the Phaedrus is even greater than the myths which have been
    already described, but is of a different character. It treats of a former
    rather than of a future life. It represents the conflict of reason aided
    by passion or righteous indignation on the one hand, and of the animal
    lusts and instincts on the other. The soul of man has followed the company
    of some god, and seen truth in the form of the universal before it was born
    in this world. Our present life is the result of the struggle which was
    then carried on. This world is relative to a former world, as it is often
    projected into a future. We ask the question, Where were men before birth?
    As we likewise enquire, What will become of them after death? The first
    question is unfamiliar to us, and therefore seems to be unnatural; but if
    we survey the whole human race, it has been as influential and as widely
    spread as the other. In the Phaedrus it is really a figure of speech in
    which the 'spiritual combat' of this life is represented. The majesty and
    power of the whole passage--especially of what may be called the theme or
    proem (beginning 'The mind through all her being is immortal')--can only be
    rendered very inadequately in another language.

    The myth in the Statesman relates to a former cycle of existence, in which
    men were born of the earth, and by the reversal of the earth's motion had
    their lives reversed and were restored to youth and beauty: the dead came
    to life, the old grew middle-aged, and the middle-aged young; the youth
    became a child, the child an infant, the infant vanished into the earth.
    The connection between the reversal of the earth's motion and the reversal
    of human life is of course verbal only, yet Plato, like theologians in
    other ages, argues from the consistency of the tale to its truth. The new
    order of the world was immediately under the government of God; it was a
    state of innocence in which men had neither wants nor cares, in which the
    earth brought forth all things spontaneously, and God was to man what man
    now is to the animals. There were no great estates, or families, or
    private possessions, nor any traditions of the past, because men were all
    born out of the earth. This is what Plato calls the 'reign of Cronos;' and
    in like manner he connects the reversal of the earth's motion with some
    legend of which he himself was probably the inventor.

    The question is then asked, under which of these two cycles of existence
    was man the happier,--under that of Cronos, which was a state of innocence,
    or that of Zeus, which is our ordinary life? For a while Plato balances
    the two sides of the serious controversy, which he has suggested in a
    figure. The answer depends on another question: What use did the children
    of Cronos make of their time? They had boundless leisure and the faculty
    of discoursing, not only with one another, but with the animals. Did they
    employ these advantages with a view to philosophy, gathering from every
    nature some addition to their store of knowledge? or, Did they pass their
    time in eating and drinking and telling stories to one another and to the
    beasts?--in either case there would be no difficulty in answering. But
    then, as Plato rather mischievously adds, 'Nobody knows what they did,' and
    therefore the doubt must remain undetermined.

    To the first there succeeds a second epoch. After another natural
    convulsion, in which the order of the world and of human life is once more
    reversed, God withdraws his guiding hand, and man is left to the government
    of himself. The world begins again, and arts and laws are slowly and
    painfully invented. A secular age succeeds to a theocratical. In this
    fanciful tale Plato has dropped, or almost dropped, the garb of mythology.
    He suggests several curious and important thoughts, such as the possibility
    of a state of innocence, the existence of a world without traditions, and
    the difference between human and divine government. He has also carried a
    step further his speculations concerning the abolition of the family and of
    property, which he supposes to have no place among the children of Cronos
    any more than in the ideal state.

    It is characteristic of Plato and of his age to pass from the abstract to
    the concrete, from poetry to reality. Language is the expression of the
    seen, and also of the unseen, and moves in a region between them. A great
    writer knows how to strike both these chords, sometimes remaining within
    the sphere of the visible, and then again comprehending a wider range and
    soaring to the abstract and universal. Even in the same sentence he may
    employ both modes of speech not improperly or inharmoniously. It is
    useless to criticise the broken metaphors of Plato, if the effect of the
    whole is to create a picture not such as can be painted on canvas, but
    which is full of life and meaning to the reader. A poem may be contained
    in a word or two, which may call up not one but many latent images; or half
    reveal to us by a sudden flash the thoughts of many hearts. Often the
    rapid transition from one image to another is pleasing to us: on the other
    hand, any single figure of speech if too often repeated, or worked out too
    much at length, becomes prosy and monotonous. In theology and philosophy
    we necessarily include both 'the moral law within and the starry heaven
    above,' and pass from one to the other (compare for examples Psalms xviii.
    and xix.). Whether such a use of language is puerile or noble depends upon
    the genius of the writer or speaker, and the familiarity of the
    associations employed.

    In the myths and parables of Plato the ease and grace of conversation is
    not forgotten: they are spoken, not written words, stories which are told
    to a living audience, and so well told that we are more than half-inclined
    to believe them (compare Phaedrus). As in conversation too, the striking
    image or figure of speech is not forgotten, but is quickly caught up, and
    alluded to again and again; as it would still be in our own day in a genial
    and sympathetic society. The descriptions of Plato have a greater life and
    reality than is to be found in any modern writing. This is due to their
    homeliness and simplicity. Plato can do with words just as he pleases; to
    him they are indeed 'more plastic than wax' (Republic). We are in the
    habit of opposing speech and writing, poetry and prose. But he has
    discovered a use of language in which they are united; which gives a
    fitting expression to the highest truths; and in which the trifles of
    courtesy and the familiarities of daily life are not overlooked.
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