In the Protagoras, a friend learns that Socrates has just come from a long meeting with Protagoras – ‘I said a lot to him and he to me’. Friend: ‘Well, if there’s nothing else you have to do, why don’t you tell us about your conversation (Ti oun ou diȇgȇsȏ hȇmin tȇn sunousian, ei mȇ se ti kȏluei)? Sit down here (kathezomenos entauthi), and let the slave there get up and make room for you (exanastȇsas ton paida toutoni).’?’ – Socrates: ‘Certainly (Panu men oun), and I shall be glad if you’ll listen (kai charin ge eisomai, ean akouȇte).’ – Friend: ‘And we shall be grateful to you (Kai mȇn kai hȇmeis soi), if you’ll tell us (ean legȇis).’ – Socrates: ‘That’s a favour on either side (Diplȇ an eiȇ hȇ charis). Well, listen then (all’ oun akouete).’ (310a2-7, tr. C. C. W. Taylor)
Let me make a few remarks concerning Taylor’s and Jowett’s translations that I shall be using. Whichever translation I shall use, I shall always give the original; typing it, comparing it with this or that translation means that I thus become much more fully engaged with the Greek text; it does a lot of good to me, as the Greek passes through my consciousness into the subconscious when I read the text – my visual brain centre gets involved as I read the text, my motoric centre gets involved when I type it, neurons connecting the two get activated, but more importantly, there must be a brain centre that unifies the activity of these two centres: it is the word I read that I type. And of course there must be different parts of the visual centre processing the reading of the English translation and the Greek original. And there must be the corresponding centre in the conscious and the subconscious part of my being, where the understanding of the text takes place, understanding that, generated by the Greek and the English, transcends both. Understanding the text as it passes through my consciousness into the subconscious – that’s where I reap the greatest benefit of this activity. And all the activities involved in the interactions between my consciousness and my brain!
I began to consider the relationship between Aristophanes’ Clouds and Plato’s Protagoras about a week ago; in preparation for my preceding blog-entry I read the whole Protagoras aloud. (And of course, before I began the series of my entries on Socrates in Aristophanes, Plato, and Xenophon, I read aloud the Clouds of Aristophanes in its entirety.) The reason for my doing so is rather sad; I simply can’t abandon the hope that one day a university will be found somewhere in this globalised world in which somebody will think that we need the Greeks, and that we should give a chance to those who are prepared to devote their life to understanding them in the original, and that this somebody will look at my website, look at my blog, and will think: ‘Tomin might help us. Let us invite him.’ If it happened, I would need my voice; I must therefore from time to time give some exercise to my vocal organs.
Reading the Protagoras aloud slowed me down, but what a treat it proved to be. And it is from this Protagoras freshly deposited in my subconscious that I draw the posts on my blog related to the theme. When I type the chosen bits of the text, and check what I type with the original, my visual and motoric centres, my consciousness and my subconscious become involved with the text much more intensively because it all happens against the background of the dialogue in its entirety having been freshly entrusted to my subconscious. And I hope the original in the brackets is appreciated by – and does good to – those few who are following my blog.
Taylor’s ‘why don’t you tell us about your conversation’ for Plato’s ti oun ou diȇgȇsȏ hȇmin tȇn sunousian is more accurate than Jowett’s ‘tell me what passed’, but Jowett has a point, for diȇgeomai means ‘set out in detail’, composed as it is of the preposition dia ‘right through’ and hȇgeomai ‘go before’, ‘lead the way’; ti oun ou diȇgȇsȏ hȇmin tȇn sunousian thus means ‘why don’t you take us through the sunousia’. Sunousia isn’t just a conversation; it is ‘being together’; the sunousia that Socrates is going to narrate to his friends is much more than ‘conversation’.
I am unhappy with Taylor’s ‘if there’s nothing else you have to do’ for Plato’s ei mȇ se ti kȏluei, which means ‘if nothing prevents or hinders you from doing so’. Jowett’s ‘if you have no engagement’ is better. Again, Taylor’s ‘I shall be glad if you’ll listen’ doesn’t quite have the force of Socrates’ kai charin ge eisomai, ean akouȇte; Jowett’s ‘I shall be grateful to you for your listening’ is more accurate.
Adam in his commentary notes on akouȇte ‘listen’: From this (akouȇte), as well as from hȇmeis [‘we’] and akouete [‘listen!’], it appears that the Friend was not the only listener.’ (These verbs as well as the pronoun are in the plural.)
Socrates’ ‘I shall be grateful to you for your listening’ is important; Plato thus points to one of the most important aspects of Socrates’ philosophic activities; Socrates is engaged in philosophy primarily for himself, aware that in doing so he does the best he can for others. Towards the end of the discussion Socrates says to Protagoras: ‘I’ve no other object (Outoi allou heneka) in asking all these questions (erȏtȏ panta tauta) than to try to find out (ȇ skepsasthai boulomenos) the truth about excellence (pȏs pot’ echei ta peri tȇs aretȇs), and especially what it is itself (kai ti pot’ estin auto hȇ aretȇ) … it’s because I have forethought (promȇthoumenos) for my life (huper tou biou tou emautou) as a whole (pantos) that I go into all these questions (panta tauta pragmateuomai).’ (360e6-361d5, tr. C. C. W. Taylor)
The introductory scene of Socrates’ narrative concerning his meeting with Protagoras recalls the introductory scenes in Aristophanes’ Clouds: ‘Last night (Tȇs gar parelthousȇs nuktos tautȇsi), just before daybreak (eti batheos orthrou), Hippocrates began knocking very loudly on the door with a stick (Hippokratȇs tȇn thuran tȇi baktȇriai panu sphodra ekroue), and when someone opened it (kai epeidȇ autȏi aneȏixe tis) he came straight in in a great hurry (euthus eisȏ ȇiei epeigomenos), calling out loudly (kai tȇi phȏnȇi mega legȏn), Socrates (ȏ Sȏkrates), are you awake (egrȇgoras) or asleep (ȇ katheudeis)’ (310a8-b3, tr. Taylor) – The Clouds opens with Strepsiades’ monolog: ‘What a long night is this (to chrȇma tȏn nuktȏn hoson), interminable (aperanton); won’t the day ever come (oudepoth’ hȇmera genȇsetai, 2-3)?’ Strepsiades gets the idea that he can extricate himself from his troubles by learning the art of speaking from Socrates. He knocks on the door of Socrates’ house with a stick. A disciple: ‘Go to hell (ball’ es korakas)! Who is it that knocked on the door (tis esth’ ho kopsas tȇn thuran) … whoever so heavily and thoughtlessly kicked the door (hostis houtȏsi sphodra aperimemnȏs tȇn thuran lelaktisas, 133-136).’
Hippokrates has learnt that Protagoras is in Athens: ‘Everybody speaks highly of the man (pantes ton andra epainousin), and says that he is a wonderfully clever speaker (kai phasin sophȏtaton einai legein, 310e6-7).’ Protagoras’ wisdom, this is what he wants Protagoras to teach him. Socrates: ‘If you give him money (an autȏi didȏis argurion) and use a little persuasion (kai peithȇis ekeinon), he’ll make you wise as well (poiȇsei kai se sophon, 310d7-8).’.
Strepsiades’ first idea is to send his son Pheidippides to go and learn rhetoric. He wakes him up: ‘Will you listen to me (kai ti peisei) … Now, look here (deuro nun apoblepe)! Do you see this door and this house (horais to thurion touto kai t’ȏikidion)? … This is the House-of -thinking of wise souls (psuchȏn sophȏn tout’ esti phrontistȇrion). Here live men (entauth’ enoikous’ andres) … these men teach (houtoi didaskous’), if one gives them money (argurion ȇn tis didȏi), to win in speaking (legonta nikan), both when one’s cause is just (kai dikaia) and when it is unjust (k’adika, 90-99).’
Strepsiades didn’t even know the names of ‘those wise men’ when he was thus pointing to Socrates’ house, and Aristophanes presented his caricature of Socrates as contrasted with Strepsiades’ misconception of him. Evoking this Aristophanic scene, Plato in the Protagoras contrast Protagoras who does teach for money with Socrates who does not do so.
Socrates: ‘Do you realize (Oistha), then (oun), what you are going to do (ho melleis nun prattein), or don’t you (ȇ se lanthanei)?’ – Hippocrates: ‘What do you mean (Tou peri ‘Concerning what?’)?’ – Socrates: ‘I mean that you are going to entrust your soul (Hoti melleis tȇn psuchȇn tȇn sautou paraschein) to the care (therapeusai) of a man (andri) who is, as you say (hȏs phȇis), a sophist (sophistȇi). But I should be surprised if you even know what a sophist is (hoti de pote ho sophistȇs estin, thaumazoim’ an ei oistha).’ – Hippocrates: ‘Well, at least I think I know (Oimai g’ eidenai, 312b7-c4) … What answer should we give (Ti an eipoimen auton einai) except that he is master (ȇ epistatȇn) of the craft of making people clever speakers (tou poiȇsai deinon legein, 312d5-7).’ – Socrates suggests that ‘the sophist (ho sophistȇs) happens to be (tunchanei ȏn) a sort of merchant (emporos tis) or pedlar (ȇ kapȇlos) of goods (tȏn agȏgimȏn) for the nourishment of the soul (aph’ hȏn psuchȇ trephetai)’. – Hippocrates: ‘What sort of thing nourishes the soul (Trephetai de hȇ psuchȇ tini)’?’ – Socrates: ‘Learning (Mathȇmasi), surely (dȇpou) … So if you happen to know (ei men oun su tunchaneis epistȇmȏn) which of their wares is good (toutȏn ti chrȇston) and which is bad (kai ponȇron), it’s safe for you (asphales soi) to buy (ȏneisthai) learning (mathȇmata) from Protagoras (kai para Prȏtagorou) or anyone else (kai par’ allou hotououn), but if not (ei de mȇ), then watch out (hora), my friend (ȏ makarie). Don’t take chances in a matter of such importance (mȇ peri tois philtatois kubeuȇis te kai kinduneuȇis, 313c4-314a1, tr. Taylor. Jowett’s translation of the last clause, 314a1, is nearer the original: ‘do not hazard your dearest interests at a game of chance’.).’
Plato’s Socrates does not seem to see anything wrong in the sophists’ selling their goods, except that again and again, questioning them about their goods, he finds that they themselves don’t know what of their goods is good, what bad: ‘perhaps even some of them, my dear fellow (tacha d’ an tines, ȏ ariste, kai toutȏn), might not know (agnooien) whether what they are selling (hȏn pȏlousin) is good (hoti chrȇston) or bad (ȇ ponȇron) for the soul (pros tȇn psuchȇn, 313d7-e1, tr. Taylor)’.
It is worth noting what Socrates has to say about this matter in Plato’s Apology: ‘As little foundation is there (Alla gar oute toutȏn ouden estin) for the report that I am a teacher (hȏs egȏ paideuein epicheirȏ anthrȏpous), and take money (kai chrȇmata prattomai); this accusation has no more truth in it than the other (oude touto alȇthes). Although, if a man were really able to instruct mankind, this too would, in my opinion, be an honour to him (epei kai touto ge moi dokei kalon einai, ei tis hoios t’ eiȇ paideuein anthrȏpous). There is Gorgias of Leontinum (hȏsper Gorgias te ho Leontinos), and Prodicus of Ceos (kai Prodikos ho Keios), and Hippias of Elis (kai Hippias ho Êleios), who go the round of the cities, and are able to persuade the young men to leave their own citizens by whom they might be taught for nothing (toutȏn gar hekastos, ȏ andres, hoios t’ estin iȏn eis hekastȇn tȏn poleȏn tous neous – hois exestin tȏn heautȏn politȏn proika suneinai hȏi an boulȏntai – toutous peithousi tas ekeinȏn sunousias apolipontas), and come to them (sphisin suneinai) whom they not only pay, but are thankful if they may be allowed to pay them (chrȇmata didontas kai charin proseidenai, 19d8-20a2, tr. Jowett)
Provoked by the sophist Antiphon, Socrates discusses this matter in Xenophon’s Memorabilia. Antiphon: ‘Socrates (Ȏ Sȏkrates), I for my part (egȏ toi) believe you to be a just (se dikaion men nomizȏ), but by no means a wise man (sophon de oud’ hopȏs ti oun). And I think you realize it yourself (dokeis de moi kai autos touto gignȏskein). Anyhow, you decline to take money for your society (oudena gar tȇs sunousias argurion prattȇi). Yet if you believed your cloak or house or anything you possess to be worth money (kaitoi to ge himation ȇ tȇn oikian ȇ allo ti hȏn kektȇsai nomizȏn arguriou axion einai), you would not part with it for nothing (oudeni an mȇ hoti proika doiȇs) or even less than its value (all’ oud’ elatton tȇs axias labȏn). Clearly (Dȇlon), then (dȇ), if you set any value on your society (hoti ei kai tȇn sunousian ȏiou tinos axian einai), you would insist on getting the proper price for that too (kai tautȇs an ouk elatton tȇs axias argurion eprattou). It may well be that you are a just man (dikaios men oun an eiȇs) because you do not cheat people (hoti ouk exapatais) through avarice (epi pleonexiai); but wise you cannot be (sophos de ouk an), since your knowledge is not worth anything (mȇdenos ge axia epistamenos).’
To this Socrates replied (Ho de Sȏkratȇs pros tauta eipen): ‘Antiphon (Ȏ Antiphȏn), it is common opinion among us (par hȇmin nomizetai) in regard to beauty (tȇn hȏran) and wisdom (kai tȇn sophian) that there is an honourable and a shameful way of bestowing them (homoiȏs men kalon, homoiȏs de aischron diatithesthai einai). For to offer one’s beauty for money (tȇn te gar hȏran ean men tis arguriou pȏlȇi) to all comers (tȏi boulomenȏi) is called prostitution (pornon auton apokalousin); but we think it virtuous to become friendly with a lover who is known to be a man of honour (ean de tis hon an gnȏi kalon te k’agathon erastȇn onta, touton philon heautȏi poiȇtai, sȏphrona nomizomen). So it is with wisdom (kai tȇn sophian hȏsautȏs). Those who offer it to all comers for money (tous men arguriou tȏi boulomenȏi pȏlountas) are known as sophists, prostitutors of wisdom (sophistas hȏsper pornous apokalousin), but we think that he who makes a friend of one whom he knows to be gifted by nature, and teaches him all the good he can, fulfils a duty of a citizen and a gentleman (hostis de hon an gnȏi euphua onta didaskȏn hoti an echȇi agathon philon poieitai, touton nomizomen ha tȏi kalȏi k’agathȏi politȇi prosȇkei, tauta poiein). That is my own view, Antiphon. Others have a fancy for a good horse or dog or bird: my fancy, stronger even than theirs (egȏ d’oun kai autos, ȏ Antiphȏn, hȏsper allos tis ȇ hippȏi agathȏi ȇ kuni ȇ ornithi hȇdetai, houtȏ kai eti mallon hȇdomai), is for good friends (philois agathois). And I teach them all the good I can (kai ean ti echȏ agathon, didaskȏ), and recommend them to others (kai allois synistȇmi) from whom I think they will get some moral benefit (par’ hȏn an hȇgȏmai ȏphelȇsesthai ti autous eis aretȇn). And the treasures (kai tous thȇsaurous) that the wise men of old (tȏn palai sophȏn andrȏn) have left us in their writings (hous ekeinoi katelipon en bibliois grapsantes) I open and explore with my friends (anelittȏn koinȇi sun tois philois dierchomai). If we come on any good thing (kai an ti horȏmen agathon), we extract it (eklegometha), and we set much store (kai mega nomizomen kerdos) on being useful to one another (ean allȇlois ȏphelimoi gignȏmetha).’ (I. vi. 11, tr. E. C. Marchant)