Alcibiades, Callias, Critias, Hippias, Prodicus,by Plato
As I was rising from my seat, Callias seized me by the right hand. In his left hand caught hold of this old cloak of mine.
We cannot let you go, Socrates.
If you leave us, our discussions will end.
I therefore beg you to remain, as there is nothing in the world that I should like better than to hear you and Protagoras discourse.
I have always admired you.
I now heartily applaud and love your philosophical spirit, and I would gladly comply with your request, if I could.
But the truth is that I cannot.
And what you ask is as great an impossibility to me, as if you bade me run a race with Crison of Himera, when in his prime, or with some one of the long or day course runners. To such a request I should reply that I would fain ask the same of my own legs; but they refuse to comply.
Therefore, if you want to see Crison and me in the same stadium, you must bid him slacken his speed to mine, for I cannot run quickly, and he can run slowly.
And in like manner if you want to hear me and Protagoras discoursing, you must ask him to shorten his answers, and keep to the point, as he did at first; if not, how can there be any discussion? For discussion is one thing, and making an oration is quite another, in my humble opinion.
That, Callias, is not a true statement of the case.
Socrates admits that he cannot make a speech—in this he yields the palm to Protagoras:
but I should be greatly surprised if he yielded to any living man in the power of holding and apprehending an argument. Now if Protagoras will make a similar admission, and confess that he is inferior to Socrates in argumentative skill, that is enough for Socrates;
but if he claims a superiority in argument as well, let him ask and answer—not, when a question is asked, slipping away from the point, and instead of answering, making a speech at such length that most of his hearers forget the question at issue (not that Socrates is likely to forget—I will be bound for that, although he may pretend in fun that he has a bad memory).
Socrates appears to me to be more in the right than Protagoras.
O Prodicus and Hippias, Callias appears to me to be a partisan of Protagoras.
This led Alcibiades, who loves opposition, to take the other side. But we should not be partisans either of Socrates or of Protagoras; let us rather unite in entreating both of them not to break up the discussion.
Well said, Critias.
Those who are present at such discussions ought to be impartial hearers of both the speakers; remembering, however, that impartiality is not the same as equality, for both sides should be impartially heard, and yet an equal meed should not be assigned to both of them; but to the wiser a higher meed should be given, and a lower to the less wise.
And I as well as Critias would beg you, Protagoras and Socrates, to grant our request, which is, that you will argue with one another and not wrangle; for friends argue with friends out of good-will, but only adversaries and enemies wrangle. And then our meeting will be delightful; for in this way you, who are the speakers, will be most likely to win esteem, and not praise only, among us who are your audience; for esteem is a sincere conviction of the hearers’ souls, but praise is often an insincere expression of men uttering falsehoods contrary to their conviction. And thus we who are the hearers will be gratified and not pleased; for gratification is of the mind when receiving wisdom and knowledge, but pleasure is of the body when eating or experiencing some other bodily delight. Thus spoke Prodicus, and many of the company applauded his words.
This proposal was received by the company with universal approval;
Callias said that he would not let me off, and they begged me to choose an arbiter.
But to choose an umpire of discourse would be unseemly.
If the person chosen was inferior, then the inferior or worse should not preside over the better. If he were equal, then he will do as we do. What will be the use of choosing him?
We cannot have anyone better since there is no one wiser than Protagoras.
If Protagoras is not disposed to answer, let him ask and I will answer.
I will try to show at the same time how he should answer.
When I have answered as many questions as he likes to ask, let him in like manner answer me.
If he seems to be not very ready at answering the precise question asked of him, you and I will unite in entreating him, as you entreated me, not to spoil the discussion.
This will require no special arbiter – all of you shall be arbiters.
This was generally approved.
Protagoras was obliged to agree that he would ask questions even if it was very much against his will.
When he had put a sufficient number of them, that he would answer in his turn those which he was asked in short replies.