The Artsby Plato
FOREIGNER: And of disputation, that sort which is only a discussion about contracts, and is carried on at random, and without rules of art, is recognized by the reasoning faculty to be a distinct class, but has hitherto had no distinctive name, and does not deserve to receive one from us.
THEAETETUS: No; for the different sorts of it are too minute and heterogeneous.
FOREIGNER: But that which proceeds by rules of art to dispute about justice and injustice in their own nature, and about things in general, we have been accustomed to call argumentation (Eristic)?
FOREIGNER: And of argumentation, one sort wastes money, and the other makes money.
THEAETETUS: Very true.
FOREIGNER: Suppose we try and give to each of these two classes a name.
THEAETETUS: Let us do so.
FOREIGNER: I should say that the habit which leads a man to neglect his own affairs for the pleasure of conversation, of which the style is far from being agreeable to the majority of his hearers, may be fairly termed loquacity: such is my opinion.
THEAETETUS: That is the common name for it.
FOREIGNER: But now who the other is, who makes money out of private disputation, it is your turn to say.
THEAETETUS: There is only one true answer: he is the wonderful Sophist, of whom we are in pursuit, and who reappears again for the fourth time.
FOREIGNER: Yes, and with a fresh pedigree, for he is the money-making species of the Eristic, disputatious, controversial, pugnacious, combative, acquisitive family, as the argument has already proven.
FOREIGNER: How true was the observation that he was a many-sided animal, and not to be caught with one hand, as they say!
THEAETETUS: Then you must catch him with two.
FOREIGNER: Yes, we must, if we can. And therefore let us try another track in our pursuit of him: You are aware that there are certain menial occupations which have names among servants?
THEAETETUS: Yes, there are many such; which of them do you mean?
FOREIGNER: I mean such as sifting, straining, winnowing, threshing.
FOREIGNER: And besides these there are a great many more, such as carding, spinning, adjusting the warp and the woof; and thousands of similar expressions are used in the arts.
THEAETETUS: Of what are they to be patterns, and what are we going to do with them all?
FOREIGNER: I think that in all of these there is implied a notion of division.
FOREIGNER: Then if, as I was saying, there is one art which includes all of them, ought not that art to have one name?
THEAETETUS: And what is the name of the art?
FOREIGNER: The art of discerning or discriminating.
THEAETETUS: Very good.
FOREIGNER: Think whether you cannot divide this.
THEAETETUS: I should have to think a long while.
FOREIGNER: In all the previously named processes either like has been separated from like or the better from the worse.
THEAETETUS: I see now what you mean.
FOREIGNER: There is no name for the first kind of separation; of the second, which throws away the worse and preserves the better, I do know a name.
THEAETETUS: What is it?
FOREIGNER: Every discernment or discrimination of that kind, as I have observed, is called a purification.
THEAETETUS: Yes, that is the usual expression.
FOREIGNER: And any one may see that purification is of two kinds.
THEAETETUS: Perhaps so, if he were allowed time to think; but I do not see at this moment.
FOREIGNER: There are many purifications of bodies which may with propriety be comprehended under a single name.
THEAETETUS: What are they, and what is their name?
FOREIGNER: There is the purification of living bodies in their inward and in their outward parts, of which the former is duly effected by medicine and gymnastic, the latter by the not very dignified art of the bath-man; and there is the purification of inanimate substances—to this the arts of fulling and of furbishing in general attend in a number of minute particulars, having a variety of names which are thought ridiculous.
THEAETETUS: Very true.
FOREIGNER: There can be no doubt that they are thought ridiculous, Theaetetus; but then the dialectical art never considers whether the benefit to be derived from the purge is greater or less than that to be derived from the sponge, and has not more interest in the one than in the other; her endeavour is to know what is and is not kindred in all arts, with a view to the acquisition of intelligence; and having this in view, she honours them all alike, and when she makes comparisons, she counts one of them not a whit more ridiculous than another; nor does she esteem him who adduces as his example of hunting, the general’s art, at all more decorous than another who cites that of the vermin-destroyer, but only as the greater pretender of the two. And as to your question concerning the name which was to comprehend all these arts of purification, whether of animate or inanimate bodies, the art of dialectic is in no wise particular about fine words, if she may be only allowed to have a general name for all other purifications, binding them up together and separating them off from the purification of the soul or intellect. For this is the purification at which she wants to arrive, and this we should understand to be her aim.
THEAETETUS: Yes, I understand; and I agree that there are two sorts of purification, and that one of them is concerned with the soul, and that there is another which is concerned with the body.
FOREIGNER: Excellent; and now listen to what I am going to say, and try to divide further the first of the two.
THEAETETUS: Whatever line of division you suggest, I will endeavour to assist you.
FOREIGNER: Do we admit that virtue is distinct from vice in the soul?
FOREIGNER: And purification was to leave the good and to cast out whatever is bad?
FOREIGNER: Then any taking away of evil from the soul may be properly called purification?
FOREIGNER: And in the soul there are two kinds of evil.
THEAETETUS: What are they?
FOREIGNER: The one may be compared to disease in the body, the other to deformity.
THEAETETUS: I do not understand.
FOREIGNER: Perhaps you have never reflected that disease and discord are the same.
THEAETETUS: To this, again, I know not what I should reply.
FOREIGNER: Do you not conceive discord to be a dissolution of kindred elements, originating in some disagreement?
THEAETETUS: Just that.
FOREIGNER: And is deformity anything but the want of measure, which is always unsightly?
FOREIGNER: And do we not see that opinion is opposed to desire, pleasure to anger, reason to pain, and that all these elements are opposed to one another in the souls of bad men?
FOREIGNER: And yet they must all be akin?
THEAETETUS: Of course.
FOREIGNER: Then we shall be right in calling vice a discord and disease of the soul?
THEAETETUS: Most true.
FOREIGNER: And when things having motion, and aiming at an appointed mark, continually miss their aim and glance aside, shall we say that this is the effect of symmetry among them, or of the want of symmetry?
THEAETETUS: Clearly of the want of symmetry.
FOREIGNER: But surely we know that no soul is voluntarily ignorant of anything?
THEAETETUS: Certainly not.
FOREIGNER: And what is ignorance but the aberration of a mind which is bent on truth, and in which the process of understanding is perverted?
FOREIGNER: Then we are to regard an unintelligent soul as deformed and devoid of symmetry?
THEAETETUS: Very true.
FOREIGNER: Then there are these two kinds of evil in the soul—the one which is generally called vice, and is obviously a disease of the soul…
FOREIGNER: And there is the other, which they call ignorance, and which, because existing only in the soul, they will not allow to be vice.
THEAETETUS: I certainly admit what I at first disputed—that there are two kinds of vice in the soul, and that we ought to consider cowardice, intemperance, and injustice to be alike forms of disease in the soul, and ignorance, of which there are all sorts of varieties, to be deformity.
FOREIGNER: And in the case of the body are there not two arts which have to do with the two bodily states?
THEAETETUS: What are they?
FOREIGNER: There is gymnastic, which has to do with deformity, and medicine, which has to do with disease.
FOREIGNER: And where there is insolence and injustice and cowardice, is not chastisement the art which is most required?
THEAETETUS: That certainly appears to be the opinion of mankind.
FOREIGNER: Again, of the various kinds of ignorance, may not instruction be rightly said to be the remedy?
FOREIGNER: And of the art of instruction, shall we say that there is one or many kinds? At any rate there are two principal ones. Think.
THEAETETUS: I will.
FOREIGNER: I believe that I can see how we shall soonest arrive at the answer to this question.
FOREIGNER: If we can discover a line which divides ignorance into two halves. For a division of ignorance into two parts will certainly imply that the art of instruction is also twofold, answering to the two divisions of ignorance.
THEAETETUS: Well, and do you see what you are looking for?
FOREIGNER: I do seem to myself to see one very large and bad sort of ignorance which is quite separate, and may be weighed in the scale against all other sorts of ignorance put together.
THEAETETUS: What is it?
FOREIGNER: When a person supposes that he knows, and does not know; this appears to be the great source of all the errors of the intellect.
FOREIGNER: And this, if I am not mistaken, is the kind of ignorance which specially earns the title of stupidity.
FOREIGNER: What name, then, shall be given to the sort of instruction which gets rid of this?
THEAETETUS: The instruction which you mean, FOREIGNER, is, I should imagine, not the teaching of handicraft arts, but what, thanks to us, has been termed education in this part the world.
FOREIGNER: Yes, Theaetetus, and by nearly all Hellenes. But we have still to consider whether education admits of any further division.
THEAETETUS: We have.
FOREIGNER: I think that there is a point at which such a division is possible.
FOREIGNER: Of education, one method appears to be rougher, and another smoother.
THEAETETUS: How are we to distinguish the two?
FOREIGNER: There is the time-honoured mode which our fathers commonly practised towards their sons, and which is still adopted by many—either of roughly reproving their errors, or of gently advising them; which varieties may be correctly included under the general term of admonition.
FOREIGNER: But whereas some appear to have arrived at the conclusion that all ignorance is involuntary, and that no one who thinks himself wise is willing to learn any of those things in which he is conscious of his own cleverness, and that the admonitory sort of instruction gives much trouble and does little good—
THEAETETUS: There they are quite right.
FOREIGNER: Accordingly, they set to work to eradicate the spirit of conceit in another way.
THEAETETUS: In what way?
FOREIGNER: They cross-examine a man’s words, when he thinks that he is saying something and is really saying nothing, and easily convict him of inconsistencies in his opinions; these they then collect by the dialectical process, and placing them side by side, show that they contradict one another about the same things, in relation to the same things, and in the same respect. He, seeing this, is angry with himself, and grows gentle towards others, and thus is entirely delivered from great prejudices and harsh notions, in a way which is most amusing to the hearer, and produces the most lasting good effect on the person who is the subject of the operation. For as the physician considers that the body will receive no benefit from taking food until the internal obstacles have been removed, so the purifier of the soul is conscious that his patient will receive no benefit from the application of knowledge until he is refuted, and from refutation learns modesty; he must be purged of his prejudices first and made to think that he knows only what he knows, and no more.
THEAETETUS: That is certainly the best and wisest state of mind.
FOREIGNER: For all these reasons, Theaetetus, we must admit that refutation is the greatest and chiefest of purifications, and he who has not been refuted, though he be the Great King himself, is in an awful state of impurity; he is uninstructed and deformed in those things in which he who would be truly blessed ought to be fairest and purest.
THEAETETUS: Very true.
FOREIGNER: And who are the ministers of this art? I am afraid to say the Sophists.
FOREIGNER: Lest we should assign to them too high a prerogative.
THEAETETUS: Yet the Sophist has a certain likeness to our minister of purification.
FOREIGNER: Yes, the same sort of likeness which a wolf, who is the fiercest of animals, has to a dog, who is the gentlest. But he who would not be found tripping, ought to be very careful in this matter of comparisons, for they are most slippery things. Nevertheless, let us assume that the Sophists are the men. I say this provisionally, for I think that the line which divides them will be marked enough if proper care is taken.
THEAETETUS: Likely enough.
FOREIGNER: Let us grant, then, that from the discerning art comes purification, and from purification let there be separated off a part which is concerned with the soul; of this mental purification instruction is a portion, and of instruction education, and of education, that refutation of vain conceit which has been discovered in the present argument; and let this be called by you and me the nobly-descended art of Sophistry.
THEAETETUS: Very well; and yet, considering the number of forms in which he has presented himself, I begin to doubt how I can with any truth or confidence describe the real nature of the Sophist.
FOREIGNER: You naturally feel perplexed; and yet I think that he must be still more perplexed in his attempt to escape us, for as the proverb says, when every way is blocked, there is no escape; now, then, is the time of all others to set upon him.
FOREIGNER: First let us wait a moment and recover breath, and while we are resting, we may reckon up in how many forms he has appeared. In the first place, he was discovered to be a paid hunter after wealth and youth.
FOREIGNER: In the second place, he was a merchant in the goods of the soul.
FOREIGNER: In the third place, he has turned out to be a retailer of the same sort of wares.
THEAETETUS: Yes; and in the fourth place, he himself manufactured the learned wares which he sold.
FOREIGNER: Quite right; I will try and remember the fifth myself. He belonged to the fighting class, and was further distinguished as a hero of debate, who professed the eristic art.
FOREIGNER: The sixth point was doubtful, and yet we at last agreed that he was a purger of souls, who cleared away notions obstructive to knowledge.
THEAETETUS: Very true.
FOREIGNER: Do you not see that when the professor of any art has one name and many kinds of knowledge, there must be something wrong? The multiplicity of names which is applied to him shows that the common principle to which all these branches of knowledge are tending, is not understood.
THEAETETUS: I should imagine this to be the case.
FOREIGNER: At any rate we will understand him, and no indolence shall prevent us. Let us begin again, then, and re-examine some of our statements concerning the Sophist; there was one thing which appeared to me especially characteristic of him.
THEAETETUS: To what are you referring?
FOREIGNER: We were saying of him, if I am not mistaken, that he was a disputer?
THEAETETUS: We were.
FOREIGNER: And does he not also teach others the art of disputation?
THEAETETUS: Certainly he does.
FOREIGNER: And about what does he profess that he teaches men to dispute? To begin at the beginning—Does he make them able to dispute about divine things, which are invisible to men in general?
THEAETETUS: At any rate, he is said to do so.
FOREIGNER: And what do you say of the visible things in heaven and earth, and the like?
THEAETETUS: Certainly he disputes, and teaches to dispute about them.
FOREIGNER: Then, again, in private conversation, when any universal assertion is made about generation and essence, we know that such persons are tremendous argufiers, and are able to impart their own skill to others.
FOREIGNER: And do they not profess to make men able to dispute about law and about politics in general?
THEAETETUS: Why, no one would have anything to say to them, if they did not make these professions.
FOREIGNER: In all and every art, what the craftsman ought to say in answer to any question is written down in a popular form, and he who likes may learn.
THEAETETUS: I suppose that you are referring to the precepts of Protagoras about wrestling and the other arts?
FOREIGNER: Yes, my friend, and about a good many other things. In a word, is not the art of disputation a power of disputing about all things?
THEAETETUS: Certainly; there does not seem to be much which is left out.
FOREIGNER: But oh! my dear youth, do you suppose this possible? for perhaps your young eyes may see things which to our duller sight do not appear.
THEAETETUS: To what are you alluding? I do not think that I understand your present question.
FOREIGNER: I ask whether anybody can understand all things.
THEAETETUS: Happy would mankind be if such a thing were possible!
SOCRATES: But how can any one who is ignorant dispute in a rational manner against him who knows?
THEAETETUS: He cannot.
FOREIGNER: Then why has the sophistical art such a mysterious power?
THEAETETUS: To what do you refer?
FOREIGNER: How do the Sophists make young men believe in their supreme and universal wisdom? For if they neither disputed nor were thought to dispute rightly, or being thought to do so were deemed no wiser for their controversial skill, then, to quote your own observation, no one would give them money or be willing to learn their art.
THEAETETUS: They certainly would not.
FOREIGNER: But they are willing.
THEAETETUS: Yes, they are.
FOREIGNER: Yes, and the reason, as I should imagine, is that they are supposed to have knowledge of those things about which they dispute?
FOREIGNER: And they dispute about all things?
FOREIGNER: And therefore, to their disciples, they appear to be all-wise?
FOREIGNER: But they are not; for that was shown to be impossible.
THEAETETUS: Impossible, of course.
FOREIGNER: Then the Sophist has been shown to have a sort of conjectural or apparent knowledge only of all things, which is not the truth?
THEAETETUS: Exactly; no better description of him could be given.
FOREIGNER: Let us now take an illustration, which will still more clearly explain his nature.
THEAETETUS: What is it?
FOREIGNER: I will tell you, and you shall answer me, giving your very closest attention. Suppose that a person were to profess, not that he could speak or dispute, but that he knew how to make and do all things, by a single art.
THEAETETUS: All things?
FOREIGNER: I see that you do not understand the first word that I utter, for you do not understand the meaning of ‘all.’
THEAETETUS: No, I do not.
FOREIGNER: Under all things, I include you and me, and also animals and trees.
THEAETETUS: What do you mean?
FOREIGNER: Suppose a person to say that he will make you and me, and all creatures.
THEAETETUS: What would he mean by ‘making’? He cannot be a husbandman;—for you said that he is a maker of animals.
FOREIGNER: Yes; and I say that he is also the maker of the sea, and the earth, and the heavens, and the gods, and of all other things; and, further, that he can make them in no time, and sell them for a few pence.
THEAETETUS: That must be a jest.
FOREIGNER: And when a man says that he knows all things, and can teach them to another at a small cost, and in a short time, is not that a jest?
FOREIGNER: And is there any more artistic or graceful form of jest than imitation?
THEAETETUS: Certainly not; and imitation is a very comprehensive term, which includes under one class the most diverse sorts of things.
FOREIGNER: We know, of course, that he who professes by one art to make all things is really a painter, and by the painter’s art makes resemblances of real things which have the same name with them; and he can deceive the less intelligent sort of young children, to whom he shows his pictures at a distance, into the belief that he has the absolute power of making whatever he likes.
FOREIGNER: And may there not be supposed to be an imitative art of reasoning? Is it not possible to enchant the hearts of young men by words poured through their ears, when they are still at a distance from the truth of facts, by exhibiting to them fictitious arguments, and making them think that they are true, and that the speaker is the wisest of men in all things?
THEAETETUS: Yes; why should there not be another such art?
FOREIGNER: But as time goes on, and their hearers advance in years, and come into closer contact with realities, and have learnt by sad experience to see and feel the truth of things, are not the greater part of them compelled to change many opinions which they formerly entertained, so that the great appears small to them, and the easy difficult, and all their dreamy speculations are overturned by the facts of life?
THEAETETUS: That is my view, as far as I can judge, although, at my age, I may be one of those who see things at a distance only.
FOREIGNER: And the wish of all of us, who are your friends, is and always will be to bring you as near to the truth as we can without the sad reality. And now I should like you to tell me, whether the Sophist is not visibly a magician and imitator of true being; or are we still disposed to think that he may have a true knowledge of the various matters about which he disputes?
THEAETETUS: But how can he, FOREIGNER? Is there any doubt, after what has been said, that he is to be located in one of the divisions of children’s play?
FOREIGNER: Then we must place him in the class of magicians and mimics.
THEAETETUS: Certainly we must.
FOREIGNER: And now our business is not to let the animal out, for we have got him in a sort of dialectical net, and there is one thing which he decidedly will not escape.
THEAETETUS: What is that?
FOREIGNER: The inference that he is a juggler.
THEAETETUS: Precisely my own opinion of him.
FOREIGNER: Then, clearly, we ought as soon as possible to divide the image-making art, and go down into the net, and, if the Sophist does not run away from us, to seize him according to orders and deliver him over to reason, who is the lord of the hunt, and proclaim the capture of him; and if he creeps into the recesses of the imitative art, and secretes himself in one of them, to divide again and follow him up until in some sub-section of imitation he is caught. For our method of tackling each and all is one which neither he nor any other creature will ever escape in triumph.
THEAETETUS: Well said; and let us do as you propose.