*****The Project Gutenberg Etext of Alcibiades I, by Plato*****
#20 in our series by Plato

Copyright laws are changing all over the world, be sure to check
the copyright laws for your country before posting these files!!

Please take a look at the important information in this header.
We encourage you to keep this file on your own disk, keeping an
electronic path open for the next readers. Do not remove this.

**Welcome To The World of Free Plain Vanilla Electronic Texts**

**Etexts Readable By Both Humans and By Computers, Since 1971**

*These Etexts Prepared By Hundreds of Volunteers and Donations*

Information on contacting Project Gutenberg to get Etexts, and
further information is included below. We need your donations.

Alcibiades I

by Plato (see Appendix I)

Translated by Benjamin Jowett

March, 1999 [Etext #1676]

*****The Project Gutenberg Etext of Alcibiades I, by Plato*****
*****This file should be named 1lcbd10.txt or 1lcbd10.zip******

Corrected EDITIONS of our etexts get a new NUMBER, 1lcbd11.txt
VERSIONS based on separate sources get new LETTER, 1lcbd10a.txt

This etext was prepared by Sue Asscher

Project Gutenberg Etexts are usually created from multiple editions,
all of which are in the Public Domain in the United States, unless a
copyright notice is included. Therefore, we do NOT keep these books
in compliance with any particular paper edition, usually otherwise.

We are now trying to release all our books one month in advance
of the official release dates, for time for better editing.

Please note: neither this list nor its contents are final till
midnight of the last day of the month of any such announcement.
The official release date of all Project Gutenberg Etexts is at
Midnight, Central Time, of the last day of the stated month. A
preliminary version may often be posted for suggestion, comment
and editing by those who wish to do so. To be sure you have an
up to date first edition [xxxxx10x.xxx] please check file sizes
in the first week of the next month. Since our ftp program has
a bug in it that scrambles the date [tried to fix and failed] a
look at the file size will have to do, but we will try to see a
new copy has at least one byte more or less.

Information about Project Gutenberg (one page)

We produce about two million dollars for each hour we work. The
fifty hours is one conservative estimate for how long it we take
to get any etext selected, entered, proofread, edited, copyright
searched and analyzed, the copyright letters written, etc. This
projected audience is one hundred million readers. If our value
per text is nominally estimated at one dollar then we produce $2
million dollars per hour this year as we release thirty-six text
files per month, or 432 more Etexts in 1999 for a total of 2000+
If these reach just 10% of the computerized population, then the
total should reach over 200 billion Etexts given away this year.

The Goal of Project Gutenberg is to Give Away One Trillion Etext
Files by the December 31, 2001. [10,000 x 100,000,000=Trillion]
This is ten thousand titles each to one hundred million readers,
which is only ~5% of the present number of computer users.

At our revised rates of production, we will reach only one-third
of that goal by the end of 2001, or about 3,333 Etexts unless we
manage to get some real funding; currently our funding is mostly
from Michael Hart's salary at Carnegie-Mellon University, and an
assortment of sporadic gifts; this salary is only good for a few
more years, so we are looking for something to replace it, as we
don't want Project Gutenberg to be so dependent on one person.

We need your donations more than ever!

All donations should be made to "Project Gutenberg/CMU": and are
tax deductible to the extent allowable by law. (CMU = Carnegie-
Mellon University).

For these and other matters, please mail to:

Project Gutenberg
P. O. Box 2782
Champaign, IL 61825

When all other email fails try our Executive Director:
Michael S. Hart

We would prefer to send you this information by email.


To access Project Gutenberg etexts, use any Web browser
to view http://promo.net/pg. This site lists Etexts by
author and by title, and includes information about how
to get involved with Project Gutenberg. You could also
download our past Newsletters, or subscribe here. This
is one of our major sites, please email hart@pobox.com,
for a more complete list of our various sites.

To go directly to the etext collections, use FTP or any
Web browser to visit a Project Gutenberg mirror (mirror
sites are available on 7 continents; mirrors are listed
at http://promo.net/pg).

Mac users, do NOT point and click, typing works better.

Example FTP session:

ftp sunsite.unc.edu
login: anonymous
password: your@login
cd pub/docs/books/gutenberg
cd etext90 through etext99
dir [to see files]
get or mget [to get files. . .set bin for zip files]
GET GUTINDEX.?? [to get a year's listing of books, e.g., GUTINDEX.99]
GET GUTINDEX.ALL [to get a listing of ALL books]


**Information prepared by the Project Gutenberg legal advisor**

(Three Pages)

Why is this "Small Print!" statement here? You know: lawyers.
They tell us you might sue us if there is something wrong with
your copy of this etext, even if you got it for free from
someone other than us, and even if what's wrong is not our
fault. So, among other things, this "Small Print!" statement
disclaims most of our liability to you. It also tells you how
you can distribute copies of this etext if you want to.

By using or reading any part of this PROJECT GUTENBERG-tm
etext, you indicate that you understand, agree to and accept
this "Small Print!" statement. If you do not, you can receive
a refund of the money (if any) you paid for this etext by
sending a request within 30 days of receiving it to the person
you got it from. If you received this etext on a physical
medium (such as a disk), you must return it with your request.

tm etexts, is a "public domain" work distributed by Professor
Michael S. Hart through the Project Gutenberg Association at
Carnegie-Mellon University (the "Project"). Among other
things, this means that no one owns a United States copyright
on or for this work, so the Project (and you!) can copy and
distribute it in the United States without permission and
without paying copyright royalties. Special rules, set forth
below, apply if you wish to copy and distribute this etext
under the Project's "PROJECT GUTENBERG" trademark.

To create these etexts, the Project expends considerable
efforts to identify, transcribe and proofread public domain
works. Despite these efforts, the Project's etexts and any
medium they may be on may contain "Defects". Among other
things, Defects may take the form of incomplete, inaccurate or
corrupt data, transcription errors, a copyright or other
intellectual property infringement, a defective or damaged
disk or other etext medium, a computer virus, or computer
codes that damage or cannot be read by your equipment.

But for the "Right of Replacement or Refund" described below,
[1] the Project (and any other party you may receive this
etext from as a PROJECT GUTENBERG-tm etext) disclaims all
liability to you for damages, costs and expenses, including

If you discover a Defect in this etext within 90 days of
receiving it, you can receive a refund of the money (if any)
you paid for it by sending an explanatory note within that
time to the person you received it from. If you received it
on a physical medium, you must return it with your note, and
such person may choose to alternatively give you a replacement
copy. If you received it electronically, such person may
choose to alternatively give you a second opportunity to
receive it electronically.


Some states do not allow disclaimers of implied warranties or
the exclusion or limitation of consequential damages, so the
above disclaimers and exclusions may not apply to you, and you
may have other legal rights.

You will indemnify and hold the Project, its directors,
officers, members and agents harmless from all liability, cost
and expense, including legal fees, that arise directly or
indirectly from any of the following that you do or cause:
[1] distribution of this etext, [2] alteration, modification,
or addition to the etext, or [3] any Defect.

You may distribute copies of this etext electronically, or by
disk, book or any other medium if you either delete this
"Small Print!" and all other references to Project Gutenberg,

[1] Only give exact copies of it. Among other things, this
requires that you do not remove, alter or modify the
etext or this "small print!" statement. You may however,
if you wish, distribute this etext in machine readable
binary, compressed, mark-up, or proprietary form,
including any form resulting from conversion by word pro-
cessing or hypertext software, but only so long as

[*] The etext, when displayed, is clearly readable, and
does *not* contain characters other than those
intended by the author of the work, although tilde
(~), asterisk (*) and underline (_) characters may
be used to convey punctuation intended by the
author, and additional characters may be used to
indicate hypertext links; OR

[*] The etext may be readily converted by the reader at
no expense into plain ASCII, EBCDIC or equivalent
form by the program that displays the etext (as is
the case, for instance, with most word processors);

[*] You provide, or agree to also provide on request at
no additional cost, fee or expense, a copy of the
etext in its original plain ASCII form (or in EBCDIC
or other equivalent proprietary form).

[2] Honor the etext refund and replacement provisions of this
"Small Print!" statement.

[3] Pay a trademark license fee to the Project of 20% of the
net profits you derive calculated using the method you
already use to calculate your applicable taxes. If you
don't derive profits, no royalty is due. Royalties are
payable to "Project Gutenberg Association/Carnegie-Mellon
University" within the 60 days following each
date you prepare (or were legally required to prepare)
your annual (or equivalent periodic) tax return.

The Project gratefully accepts contributions in money, time,
scanning machines, OCR software, public domain etexts, royalty
free copyright licenses, and every other sort of contribution
you can think of. Money should be paid to "Project Gutenberg
Association / Carnegie-Mellon University".


This etext was prepared by Sue Asscher


by Plato (see Appendix I)

Translated by Benjamin Jowett


It seems impossible to separate by any exact line the genuine writings of
Plato from the spurious. The only external evidence to them which is of
much value is that of Aristotle; for the Alexandrian catalogues of a
century later include manifest forgeries. Even the value of the
Aristotelian authority is a good deal impaired by the uncertainty
concerning the date and authorship of the writings which are ascribed to
him. And several of the citations of Aristotle omit the name of Plato, and
some of them omit the name of the dialogue from which they are taken.
Prior, however, to the enquiry about the writings of a particular author,
general considerations which equally affect all evidence to the genuineness
of ancient writings are the following: Shorter works are more likely to
have been forged, or to have received an erroneous designation, than longer
ones; and some kinds of composition, such as epistles or panegyrical
orations, are more liable to suspicion than others; those, again, which
have a taste of sophistry in them, or the ring of a later age, or the
slighter character of a rhetorical exercise, or in which a motive or some
affinity to spurious writings can be detected, or which seem to have
originated in a name or statement really occurring in some classical
author, are also of doubtful credit; while there is no instance of any
ancient writing proved to be a forgery, which combines excellence with
length. A really great and original writer would have no object in
fathering his works on Plato; and to the forger or imitator, the 'literary
hack' of Alexandria and Athens, the Gods did not grant originality or
genius. Further, in attempting to balance the evidence for and against a
Platonic dialogue, we must not forget that the form of the Platonic writing
was common to several of his contemporaries. Aeschines, Euclid, Phaedo,
Antisthenes, and in the next generation Aristotle, are all said to have
composed dialogues; and mistakes of names are very likely to have occurred.
Greek literature in the third century before Christ was almost as
voluminous as our own, and without the safeguards of regular publication,
or printing, or binding, or even of distinct titles. An unknown writing
was naturally attributed to a known writer whose works bore the same
character; and the name once appended easily obtained authority. A
tendency may also be observed to blend the works and opinions of the master
with those of his scholars. To a later Platonist, the difference between
Plato and his imitators was not so perceptible as to ourselves. The
Memorabilia of Xenophon and the Dialogues of Plato are but a part of a
considerable Socratic literature which has passed away. And we must
consider how we should regard the question of the genuineness of a
particular writing, if this lost literature had been preserved to us.

These considerations lead us to adopt the following criteria of
genuineness: (1) That is most certainly Plato's which Aristotle attributes
to him by name, which (2) is of considerable length, of (3) great
excellence, and also (4) in harmony with the general spirit of the Platonic
writings. But the testimony of Aristotle cannot always be distinguished
from that of a later age (see above); and has various degrees of
importance. Those writings which he cites without mentioning Plato, under
their own names, e.g. the Hippias, the Funeral Oration, the Phaedo, etc.,
have an inferior degree of evidence in their favour. They may have been
supposed by him to be the writings of another, although in the case of
really great works, e.g. the Phaedo, this is not credible; those again
which are quoted but not named, are still more defective in their external
credentials. There may be also a possibility that Aristotle was mistaken,
or may have confused the master and his scholars in the case of a short
writing; but this is inconceivable about a more important work, e.g. the
Laws, especially when we remember that he was living at Athens, and a
frequenter of the groves of the Academy, during the last twenty years of
Plato's life. Nor must we forget that in all his numerous citations from
the Platonic writings he never attributes any passage found in the extant
dialogues to any one but Plato. And lastly, we may remark that one or two
great writings, such as the Parmenides and the Politicus, which are wholly
devoid of Aristotelian (1) credentials may be fairly attributed to Plato,
on the ground of (2) length, (3) excellence, and (4) accordance with the
general spirit of his writings. Indeed the greater part of the evidence
for the genuineness of ancient Greek authors may be summed up under two
heads only: (1) excellence; and (2) uniformity of tradition--a kind of
evidence, which though in many cases sufficient, is of inferior value.

Proceeding upon these principles we appear to arrive at the conclusion that
nineteen-twentieths of all the writings which have ever been ascribed to
Plato, are undoubtedly genuine. There is another portion of them,
including the Epistles, the Epinomis, the dialogues rejected by the
ancients themselves, namely, the Axiochus, De justo, De virtute, Demodocus,
Sisyphus, Eryxias, which on grounds, both of internal and external
evidence, we are able with equal certainty to reject. But there still
remains a small portion of which we are unable to affirm either that they
are genuine or spurious. They may have been written in youth, or possibly
like the works of some painters, may be partly or wholly the compositions
of pupils; or they may have been the writings of some contemporary
transferred by accident to the more celebrated name of Plato, or of some
Platonist in the next generation who aspired to imitate his master. Not
that on grounds either of language or philosophy we should lightly reject
them. Some difference of style, or inferiority of execution, or
inconsistency of thought, can hardly be considered decisive of their
spurious character. For who always does justice to himself, or who writes
with equal care at all times? Certainly not Plato, who exhibits the
greatest differences in dramatic power, in the formation of sentences, and
in the use of words, if his earlier writings are compared with his later
ones, say the Protagoras or Phaedrus with the Laws. Or who can be expected
to think in the same manner during a period of authorship extending over
above fifty years, in an age of great intellectual activity, as well as of
political and literary transition? Certainly not Plato, whose earlier
writings are separated from his later ones by as wide an interval of
philosophical speculation as that which separates his later writings from

The dialogues which have been translated in the first Appendix, and which
appear to have the next claim to genuineness among the Platonic writings,
are the Lesser Hippias, the Menexenus or Funeral Oration, the First
Alcibiades. Of these, the Lesser Hippias and the Funeral Oration are cited
by Aristotle; the first in the Metaphysics, the latter in the Rhetoric.
Neither of them are expressly attributed to Plato, but in his citation of
both of them he seems to be referring to passages in the extant dialogues.
From the mention of 'Hippias' in the singular by Aristotle, we may perhaps
infer that he was unacquainted with a second dialogue bearing the same
name. Moreover, the mere existence of a Greater and Lesser Hippias, and of
a First and Second Alcibiades, does to a certain extent throw a doubt upon
both of them. Though a very clever and ingenious work, the Lesser Hippias
does not appear to contain anything beyond the power of an imitator, who
was also a careful student of the earlier Platonic writings, to invent.
The motive or leading thought of the dialogue may be detected in Xen. Mem.,
and there is no similar instance of a 'motive' which is taken from Xenophon
in an undoubted dialogue of Plato. On the other hand, the upholders of the
genuineness of the dialogue will find in the Hippias a true Socratic
spirit; they will compare the Ion as being akin both in subject and
treatment; they will urge the authority of Aristotle; and they will detect
in the treatment of the Sophist, in the satirical reasoning upon Homer, in
the reductio ad absurdum of the doctrine that vice is ignorance, traces of
a Platonic authorship. In reference to the last point we are doubtful, as
in some of the other dialogues, whether the author is asserting or
overthrowing the paradox of Socrates, or merely following the argument
'whither the wind blows.' That no conclusion is arrived at is also in
accordance with the character of the earlier dialogues. The resemblances
or imitations of the Gorgias, Protagoras, and Euthydemus, which have been
observed in the Hippias, cannot with certainty be adduced on either side of
the argument. On the whole, more may be said in favour of the genuineness
of the Hippias than against it.

The Menexenus or Funeral Oration is cited by Aristotle, and is interesting
as supplying an example of the manner in which the orators praised 'the
Athenians among the Athenians,' falsifying persons and dates, and casting a
veil over the gloomier events of Athenian history. It exhibits an
acquaintance with the funeral oration of Thucydides, and was, perhaps,
intended to rival that great work. If genuine, the proper place of the
Menexenus would be at the end of the Phaedrus. The satirical opening and
the concluding words bear a great resemblance to the earlier dialogues; the
oration itself is professedly a mimetic work, like the speeches in the
Phaedrus, and cannot therefore be tested by a comparison of the other
writings of Plato. The funeral oration of Pericles is expressly mentioned
in the Phaedrus, and this may have suggested the subject, in the same
manner that the Cleitophon appears to be suggested by the slight mention of
Cleitophon and his attachment to Thrasymachus in the Republic; and the
Theages by the mention of Theages in the Apology and Republic; or as the
Second Alcibiades seems to be founded upon the text of Xenophon, Mem. A
similar taste for parody appears not only in the Phaedrus, but in the
Protagoras, in the Symposium, and to a certain extent in the Parmenides.

To these two doubtful writings of Plato I have added the First Alcibiades,
which, of all the disputed dialogues of Plato, has the greatest merit, and
is somewhat longer than any of them, though not verified by the testimony
of Aristotle, and in many respects at variance with the Symposium in the
description of the relations of Socrates and Alcibiades. Like the Lesser
Hippias and the Menexenus, it is to be compared to the earlier writings of
Plato. The motive of the piece may, perhaps, be found in that passage of
the Symposium in which Alcibiades describes himself as self-convicted by
the words of Socrates. For the disparaging manner in which Schleiermacher
has spoken of this dialogue there seems to be no sufficient foundation. At
the same time, the lesson imparted is simple, and the irony more
transparent than in the undoubted dialogues of Plato. We know, too, that
Alcibiades was a favourite thesis, and that at least five or six dialogues
bearing this name passed current in antiquity, and are attributed to
contemporaries of Socrates and Plato. (1) In the entire absence of real
external evidence (for the catalogues of the Alexandrian librarians cannot
be regarded as trustworthy); and (2) in the absence of the highest marks
either of poetical or philosophical excellence; and (3) considering that we
have express testimony to the existence of contemporary writings bearing
the name of Alcibiades, we are compelled to suspend our judgment on the
genuineness of the extant dialogue.

Neither at this point, nor at any other, do we propose to draw an absolute
line of demarcation between genuine and spurious writings of Plato. They
fade off imperceptibly from one class to another. There may have been
degrees of genuineness in the dialogues themselves, as there are certainly
degrees of evidence by which they are supported. The traditions of the
oral discourses both of Socrates and Plato may have formed the basis of
semi-Platonic writings; some of them may be of the same mixed character
which is apparent in Aristotle and Hippocrates, although the form of them
is different. But the writings of Plato, unlike the writings of Aristotle,
seem never to have been confused with the writings of his disciples: this
was probably due to their definite form, and to their inimitable
excellence. The three dialogues which we have offered in the Appendix to
the criticism of the reader may be partly spurious and partly genuine; they
may be altogether spurious;--that is an alternative which must be frankly
admitted. Nor can we maintain of some other dialogues, such as the
Parmenides, and the Sophist, and Politicus, that no considerable objection
can be urged against them, though greatly overbalanced by the weight
(chiefly) of internal evidence in their favour. Nor, on the other hand,
can we exclude a bare possibility that some dialogues which are usually
rejected, such as the Greater Hippias and the Cleitophon, may be genuine.
The nature and object of these semi-Platonic writings require more careful
study and more comparison of them with one another, and with forged
writings in general, than they have yet received, before we can finally
decide on their character. We do not consider them all as genuine until
they can be proved to be spurious, as is often maintained and still more
often implied in this and similar discussions; but should say of some of
them, that their genuineness is neither proven nor disproven until further
evidence about them can be adduced. And we are as confident that the
Epistles are spurious, as that the Republic, the Timaeus, and the Laws are

On the whole, not a twentieth part of the writings which pass under the
name of Plato, if we exclude the works rejected by the ancients themselves
and two or three other plausible inventions, can be fairly doubted by those
who are willing to allow that a considerable change and growth may have
taken place in his philosophy (see above). That twentieth debatable
portion scarcely in any degree affects our judgment of Plato, either as a
thinker or a writer, and though suggesting some interesting questions to
the scholar and critic, is of little importance to the general reader.



Plato (see Appendix I above)

Translated by Benjamin Jowett


The First Alcibiades is a conversation between Socrates and Alcibiades.
Socrates is represented in the character which he attributes to himself in
the Apology of a know-nothing who detects the conceit of knowledge in
others. The two have met already in the Protagoras and in the Symposium;
in the latter dialogue, as in this, the relation between them is that of a
lover and his beloved. But the narrative of their loves is told
differently in different places; for in the Symposium Alcibiades is
depicted as the impassioned but rejected lover; here, as coldly receiving
the advances of Socrates, who, for the best of purposes, lies in wait for
the aspiring and ambitious youth.

Alcibiades, who is described as a very young man, is about to enter on
public life, having an inordinate opinion of himself, and an extravagant
ambition. Socrates, 'who knows what is in man,' astonishes him by a
revelation of his designs. But has he the knowledge which is necessary for
carrying them out? He is going to persuade the Athenians--about what? Not
about any particular art, but about politics--when to fight and when to
make peace. Now, men should fight and make peace on just grounds, and
therefore the question of justice and injustice must enter into peace and
war; and he who advises the Athenians must know the difference between
them. Does Alcibiades know? If he does, he must either have been taught
by some master, or he must have discovered the nature of them himself. If
he has had a master, Socrates would like to be informed who he is, that he
may go and learn of him also. Alcibiades admits that he has never learned.
Then has he enquired for himself? He may have, if he was ever aware of a
time when he was ignorant. But he never was ignorant; for when he played
with other boys at dice, he charged them with cheating, and this implied a
knowledge of just and unjust. According to his own explanation, he had
learned of the multitude. Why, he asks, should he not learn of them the
nature of justice, as he has learned the Greek language of them? To this
Socrates answers, that they can teach Greek, but they cannot teach justice;
for they are agreed about the one, but they are not agreed about the other:
and therefore Alcibiades, who has admitted that if he knows he must either
have learned from a master or have discovered for himself the nature of
justice, is convicted out of his own mouth.

Alcibiades rejoins, that the Athenians debate not about what is just, but
about what is expedient; and he asserts that the two principles of justice
and expediency are opposed. Socrates, by a series of questions, compels
him to admit that the just and the expedient coincide. Alcibiades is thus
reduced to the humiliating conclusion that he knows nothing of politics,
even if, as he says, they are concerned with the expedient.

However, he is no worse than other Athenian statesmen; and he will not need
training, for others are as ignorant as he is. He is reminded that he has
to contend, not only with his own countrymen, but with their enemies--with
the Spartan kings and with the great king of Persia; and he can only attain
this higher aim of ambition by the assistance of Socrates. Not that
Socrates himself professes to have attained the truth, but the questions
which he asks bring others to a knowledge of themselves, and this is the
first step in the practice of virtue.

The dialogue continues:--We wish to become as good as possible. But to be
good in what? Alcibiades replies--'Good in transacting business.' But
what business? 'The business of the most intelligent men at Athens.' The
cobbler is intelligent in shoemaking, and is therefore good in that; he is
not intelligent, and therefore not good, in weaving. Is he good in the
sense which Alcibiades means, who is also bad? 'I mean,' replies
Alcibiades, 'the man who is able to command in the city.' But to command
what--horses or men? and if men, under what circumstances? 'I mean to say,
that he is able to command men living in social and political relations.'
And what is their aim? 'The better preservation of the city.' But when is
a city better? 'When there is unanimity, such as exists between husband
and wife.' Then, when husbands and wives perform their own special duties,
there can be no unanimity between them; nor can a city be well ordered when
each citizen does his own work only. Alcibiades, having stated first that
goodness consists in the unanimity of the citizens, and then in each of
them doing his own separate work, is brought to the required point of self-
contradiction, leading him to confess his own ignorance.

But he is not too old to learn, and may still arrive at the truth, if he is
willing to be cross-examined by Socrates. He must know himself; that is to
say, not his body, or the things of the body, but his mind, or truer self.
The physician knows the body, and the tradesman knows his own business, but
they do not necessarily know themselves. Self-knowledge can be obtained
only by looking into the mind and virtue of the soul, which is the diviner
part of a man, as we see our own image in another's eye. And if we do not
know ourselves, we cannot know what belongs to ourselves or belongs to
others, and are unfit to take a part in political affairs. Both for the
sake of the individual and of the state, we ought to aim at justice and
temperance, not at wealth or power. The evil and unjust should have no
power,--they should be the slaves of better men than themselves. None but
the virtuous are deserving of freedom.

And are you, Alcibiades, a freeman? 'I feel that I am not; but I hope,
Socrates, that by your aid I may become free, and from this day forward I
will never leave you.'

The Alcibiades has several points of resemblance to the undoubted dialogues
of Plato. The process of interrogation is of the same kind with that which
Socrates practises upon the youthful Cleinias in the Euthydemus; and he
characteristically attributes to Alcibiades the answers which he has
elicited from him. The definition of good is narrowed by successive
questions, and virtue is shown to be identical with knowledge. Here, as
elsewhere, Socrates awakens the consciousness not of sin but of ignorance.
Self-humiliation is the first step to knowledge, even of the commonest
things. No man knows how ignorant he is, and no man can arrive at virtue
and wisdom who has not once in his life, at least, been convicted of error.
The process by which the soul is elevated is not unlike that which
religious writers describe under the name of 'conversion,' if we substitute
the sense of ignorance for the consciousness of sin.

In some respects the dialogue differs from any other Platonic composition.
The aim is more directly ethical and hortatory; the process by which the
antagonist is undermined is simpler than in other Platonic writings, and
the conclusion more decided. There is a good deal of humour in the manner
in which the pride of Alcibiades, and of the Greeks generally, is supposed
to be taken down by the Spartan and Persian queens; and the dialogue has
considerable dialectical merit. But we have a difficulty in supposing that
the same writer, who has given so profound and complex a notion of the
characters both of Alcibiades and Socrates in the Symposium, should have
treated them in so thin and superficial a manner in the Alcibiades, or that
he would have ascribed to the ironical Socrates the rather unmeaning boast
that Alcibiades could not attain the objects of his ambition without his
help; or that he should have imagined that a mighty nature like his could
have been reformed by a few not very conclusive words of Socrates. For the
arguments by which Alcibiades is reformed are not convincing; the writer of
the dialogue, whoever he was, arrives at his idealism by crooked and
tortuous paths, in which many pitfalls are concealed. The anachronism of
making Alcibiades about twenty years old during the life of his uncle,
Pericles, may be noted; and the repetition of the favourite observation,
which occurs also in the Laches and Protagoras, that great Athenian
statesmen, like Pericles, failed in the education of their sons. There is
none of the undoubted dialogues of Plato in which there is so little
dramatic verisimilitude.



Plato (see Appendix I above)

Translated by Benjamin Jowett

PERSONS OF THE DIALOGUE: Alcibiades, Socrates.

SOCRATES: I dare say that you may be surprised to find, O son of Cleinias,
that I, who am your first lover, not having spoken to you for many years,
when the rest of the world were wearying you with their attentions, am the
last of your lovers who still speaks to you. The cause of my silence has
been that I was hindered by a power more than human, of which I will some
day explain to you the nature; this impediment has now been removed; I
therefore here present myself before you, and I greatly hope that no
similar hindrance will again occur. Meanwhile, I have observed that your
pride has been too much for the pride of your admirers; they were numerous
and high-spirited, but they have all run away, overpowered by your superior
force of character; not one of them remains. And I want you to understand
the reason why you have been too much for them. You think that you have no
need of them or of any other man, for you have great possessions and lack
nothing, beginning with the body, and ending with the soul. In the first
place, you say to yourself that you are the fairest and tallest of the
citizens, and this every one who has eyes may see to be true; in the second
place, that you are among the noblest of them, highly connected both on the
father's and the mother's side, and sprung from one of the most
distinguished families in your own state, which is the greatest in Hellas,
and having many friends and kinsmen of the best sort, who can assist you
when in need; and there is one potent relative, who is more to you than all
the rest, Pericles the son of Xanthippus, whom your father left guardian of
you, and of your brother, and who can do as he pleases not only in this
city, but in all Hellas, and among many and mighty barbarous nations.
Moreover, you are rich; but I must say that you value yourself least of all
upon your possessions. And all these things have lifted you up; you have
overcome your lovers, and they have acknowledged that you were too much for
them. Have you not remarked their absence? And now I know that you wonder
why I, unlike the rest of them, have not gone away, and what can be my
motive in remaining.

ALCIBIADES: Perhaps, Socrates, you are not aware that I was just going to
ask you the very same question--What do you want? And what is your motive
in annoying me, and always, wherever I am, making a point of coming?
(Compare Symp.) I do really wonder what you mean, and should greatly like
to know.

SOCRATES: Then if, as you say, you desire to know, I suppose that you will
be willing to hear, and I may consider myself to be speaking to an auditor
who will remain, and will not run away?

ALCIBIADES: Certainly, let me hear.

SOCRATES: You had better be careful, for I may very likely be as unwilling
to end as I have hitherto been to begin.

ALCIBIADES: Proceed, my good man, and I will listen.

SOCRATES: I will proceed; and, although no lover likes to speak with one
who has no feeling of love in him (compare Symp.), I will make an effort,
and tell you what I meant: My love, Alcibiades, which I hardly like to
confess, would long ago have passed away, as I flatter myself, if I saw you
loving your good things, or thinking that you ought to pass life in the
enjoyment of them. But I shall reveal other thoughts of yours, which you
keep to yourself; whereby you will know that I have always had my eye on
you. Suppose that at this moment some God came to you and said:
Alcibiades, will you live as you are, or die in an instant if you are
forbidden to make any further acquisition?--I verily believe that you would
choose death. And I will tell you the hope in which you are at present
living: Before many days have elapsed, you think that you will come before
the Athenian assembly, and will prove to them that you are more worthy of
honour than Pericles, or any other man that ever lived, and having proved
this, you will have the greatest power in the state. When you have gained
the greatest power among us, you will go on to other Hellenic states, and
not only to Hellenes, but to all the barbarians who inhabit the same
continent with us. And if the God were then to say to you again: Here in
Europe is to be your seat of empire, and you must not cross over into Asia
or meddle with Asiatic affairs, I do not believe that you would choose to
live upon these terms; but the world, as I may say, must be filled with
your power and name--no man less than Cyrus and Xerxes is of any account
with you. Such I know to be your hopes--I am not guessing only--and very
likely you, who know that I am speaking the truth, will reply, Well,
Socrates, but what have my hopes to do with the explanation which you
promised of your unwillingness to leave me? And that is what I am now
going to tell you, sweet son of Cleinias and Dinomache. The explanation
is, that all these designs of yours cannot be accomplished by you without
my help; so great is the power which I believe myself to have over you and
your concerns; and this I conceive to be the reason why the God has
hitherto forbidden me to converse with you, and I have been long expecting
his permission. For, as you hope to prove your own great value to the
state, and having proved it, to attain at once to absolute power, so do I
indulge a hope that I shall be the supreme power over you, if I am able to
prove my own great value to you, and to show you that neither guardian, nor
kinsman, nor any one is able to deliver into your hands the power which you
desire, but I only, God being my helper. When you were young (compare
Symp.) and your hopes were not yet matured, I should have wasted my time,
and therefore, as I conceive, the God forbade me to converse with you; but
now, having his permission, I will speak, for now you will listen to me.

ALCIBIADES: Your silence, Socrates, was always a surprise to me. I never
could understand why you followed me about, and now that you have begun to
speak again, I am still more amazed. Whether I think all this or not, is a
matter about which you seem to have already made up your mind, and
therefore my denial will have no effect upon you. But granting, if I must,
that you have perfectly divined my purposes, why is your assistance
necessary to the attainment of them? Can you tell me why?

SOCRATES: You want to know whether I can make a long speech, such as you
are in the habit of hearing; but that is not my way. I think, however,
that I can prove to you the truth of what I am saying, if you will grant me
one little favour.

ALCIBIADES: Yes, if the favour which you mean be not a troublesome one.

SOCRATES: Will you be troubled at having questions to answer?

ALCIBIADES: Not at all.

SOCRATES: Then please to answer.


SOCRATES: Have you not the intention which I attribute to you?

ALCIBIADES: I will grant anything you like, in the hope of hearing what
more you have to say.

SOCRATES: You do, then, mean, as I was saying, to come forward in a little
while in the character of an adviser of the Athenians? And suppose that
when you are ascending the bema, I pull you by the sleeve and say,
Alcibiades, you are getting up to advise the Athenians--do you know the
matter about which they are going to deliberate, better than they?--How
would you answer?

ALCIBIADES: I should reply, that I was going to advise them about a matter
which I do know better than they.

SOCRATES: Then you are a good adviser about the things which you know?

ALCIBIADES: Certainly.

SOCRATES: And do you know anything but what you have learned of others, or
found out yourself?

ALCIBIADES: That is all.

SOCRATES: And would you have ever learned or discovered anything, if you
had not been willing either to learn of others or to examine yourself?

ALCIBIADES: I should not.

SOCRATES: And would you have been willing to learn or to examine what you
supposed that you knew?

ALCIBIADES: Certainly not.

SOCRATES: Then there was a time when you thought that you did not know
what you are now supposed to know?

ALCIBIADES: Certainly.

SOCRATES: I think that I know tolerably well the extent of your
acquirements; and you must tell me if I forget any of them: according to
my recollection, you learned the arts of writing, of playing on the lyre,
and of wrestling; the flute you never would learn; this is the sum of your
accomplishments, unless there were some which you acquired in secret; and I
think that secrecy was hardly possible, as you could not have come out of
your door, either by day or night, without my seeing you.

ALCIBIADES: Yes, that was the whole of my schooling.

SOCRATES: And are you going to get up in the Athenian assembly, and give
them advice about writing?

ALCIBIADES: No, indeed.

SOCRATES: Or about the touch of the lyre?

ALCIBIADES: Certainly not.

SOCRATES: And they are not in the habit of deliberating about wrestling,
in the assembly?


SOCRATES: Then what are the deliberations in which you propose to advise
them? Surely not about building?


SOCRATES: For the builder will advise better than you will about that?


SOCRATES: Nor about divination?


SOCRATES: About that again the diviner will advise better than you will?


SOCRATES: Whether he be little or great, good or ill-looking, noble or
ignoble--makes no difference.

ALCIBIADES: Certainly not.

SOCRATES: A man is a good adviser about anything, not because he has
riches, but because he has knowledge?

ALCIBIADES: Assuredly.

SOCRATES: Whether their counsellor is rich or poor, is not a matter which
will make any difference to the Athenians when they are deliberating about
the health of the citizens; they only require that he should be a

ALCIBIADES: Of course.

SOCRATES: Then what will be the subject of deliberation about which you
will be justified in getting up and advising them?

ALCIBIADES: About their own concerns, Socrates.

SOCRATES: You mean about shipbuilding, for example, when the question is
what sort of ships they ought to build?

ALCIBIADES: No, I should not advise them about that.

SOCRATES: I suppose, because you do not understand shipbuilding:--is that
the reason?


SOCRATES: Then about what concerns of theirs will you advise them?

ALCIBIADES: About war, Socrates, or about peace, or about any other
concerns of the state.

SOCRATES: You mean, when they deliberate with whom they ought to make
peace, and with whom they ought to go to war, and in what manner?


SOCRATES: And they ought to go to war with those against whom it is better
to go to war?


SOCRATES: And when it is better?

ALCIBIADES: Certainly.

SOCRATES: And for as long a time as is better?


SOCRATES: But suppose the Athenians to deliberate with whom they ought to
close in wrestling, and whom they should grasp by the hand, would you, or
the master of gymnastics, be a better adviser of them?

ALCIBIADES: Clearly, the master of gymnastics.

SOCRATES: And can you tell me on what grounds the master of gymnastics
would decide, with whom they ought or ought not to close, and when and how?
To take an instance: Would he not say that they should wrestle with those
against whom it is best to wrestle?


SOCRATES: And as much as is best?

ALCIBIADES: Certainly.

SOCRATES: And at such times as are best?


SOCRATES: Again; you sometimes accompany the lyre with the song and dance?


SOCRATES: When it is well to do so?


SOCRATES: And as much as is well?


SOCRATES: And as you speak of an excellence or art of the best in
wrestling, and of an excellence in playing the lyre, I wish you would tell
me what this latter is;--the excellence of wrestling I call gymnastic, and
I want to know what you call the other.

ALCIBIADES: I do not understand you.

SOCRATES: Then try to do as I do; for the answer which I gave is
universally right, and when I say right, I mean according to rule.


SOCRATES: And was not the art of which I spoke gymnastic?

ALCIBIADES: Certainly.

SOCRATES: And I called the excellence in wrestling gymnastic?


SOCRATES: And I was right?

ALCIBIADES: I think that you were.

SOCRATES: Well, now,--for you should learn to argue prettily--let me ask
you in return to tell me, first, what is that art of which playing and
singing, and stepping properly in the dance, are parts,--what is the name
of the whole? I think that by this time you must be able to tell.

ALCIBIADES: Indeed I cannot.

SOCRATES: Then let me put the matter in another way: what do you call the
Goddesses who are the patronesses of art?

ALCIBIADES: The Muses do you mean, Socrates?

SOCRATES: Yes, I do; and what is the name of the art which is called after

ALCIBIADES: I suppose that you mean music.

SOCRATES: Yes, that is my meaning; and what is the excellence of the art
of music, as I told you truly that the excellence of wrestling was
gymnastic--what is the excellence of music--to be what?

ALCIBIADES: To be musical, I suppose.

SOCRATES: Very good; and now please to tell me what is the excellence of
war and peace; as the more musical was the more excellent, or the more
gymnastical was the more excellent, tell me, what name do you give to the
more excellent in war and peace?

ALCIBIADES: But I really cannot tell you.

SOCRATES: But if you were offering advice to another and said to him--This
food is better than that, at this time and in this quantity, and he said to
you--What do you mean, Alcibiades, by the word 'better'? you would have no
difficulty in replying that you meant 'more wholesome,' although you do not
profess to be a physician: and when the subject is one of which you
profess to have knowledge, and about which you are ready to get up and
advise as if you knew, are you not ashamed, when you are asked, not to be
able to answer the question? Is it not disgraceful?


SOCRATES: Well, then, consider and try to explain what is the meaning of
'better,' in the matter of making peace and going to war with those against
whom you ought to go to war? To what does the word refer?

ALCIBIADES: I am thinking, and I cannot tell.

SOCRATES: But you surely know what are the charges which we bring against
one another, when we arrive at the point of making war, and what name we
give them?

ALCIBIADES: Yes, certainly; we say that deceit or violence has been
employed, or that we have been defrauded.

SOCRATES: And how does this happen? Will you tell me how? For there may
be a difference in the manner.

ALCIBIADES: Do you mean by 'how,' Socrates, whether we suffered these
things justly or unjustly?

SOCRATES: Exactly.

ALCIBIADES: There can be no greater difference than between just and

SOCRATES: And would you advise the Athenians to go to war with the just or
with the unjust?

ALCIBIADES: That is an awkward question; for certainly, even if a person
did intend to go to war with the just, he would not admit that they were

SOCRATES: He would not go to war, because it would be unlawful?

ALCIBIADES: Neither lawful nor honourable.

SOCRATES: Then you, too, would address them on principles of justice?

ALCIBIADES: Certainly.

SOCRATES: What, then, is justice but that better, of which I spoke, in
going to war or not going to war with those against whom we ought or ought
not, and when we ought or ought not to go to war?


SOCRATES: But how is this, friend Alcibiades? Have you forgotten that you
do not know this, or have you been to the schoolmaster without my
knowledge, and has he taught you to discern the just from the unjust? Who
is he? I wish you would tell me, that I may go and learn of him--you shall
introduce me.

ALCIBIADES: You are mocking, Socrates.

SOCRATES: No, indeed; I most solemnly declare to you by Zeus, who is the
God of our common friendship, and whom I never will forswear, that I am
not; tell me, then, who this instructor is, if he exists.

ALCIBIADES: But, perhaps, he does not exist; may I not have acquired the
knowledge of just and unjust in some other way?

SOCRATES: Yes; if you have discovered them.

ALCIBIADES: But do you not think that I could discover them?

SOCRATES: I am sure that you might, if you enquired about them.

ALCIBIADES: And do you not think that I would enquire?

SOCRATES: Yes; if you thought that you did not know them.

ALCIBIADES: And was there not a time when I did so think?

SOCRATES: Very good; and can you tell me how long it is since you thought
that you did not know the nature of the just and the unjust? What do you
say to a year ago? Were you then in a state of conscious ignorance and
enquiry? Or did you think that you knew? And please to answer truly, that
our discussion may not be in vain.

ALCIBIADES: Well, I thought that I knew.

SOCRATES: And two years ago, and three years ago, and four years ago, you
knew all the same?


SOCRATES: And more than four years ago you were a child--were you not?


SOCRATES: And then I am quite sure that you thought you knew.

ALCIBIADES: Why are you so sure?

SOCRATES: Because I often heard you when a child, in your teacher's house,
or elsewhere, playing at dice or some other game with the boys, not
hesitating at all about the nature of the just and unjust; but very
confident--crying and shouting that one of the boys was a rogue and a
cheat, and had been cheating. Is it not true?

ALCIBIADES: But what was I to do, Socrates, when anybody cheated me?

SOCRATES: And how can you say, 'What was I to do'? if at the time you did
not know whether you were wronged or not?

ALCIBIADES: To be sure I knew; I was quite aware that I was being cheated.

SOCRATES: Then you suppose yourself even when a child to have known the
nature of just and unjust?

ALCIBIADES: Certainly; and I did know then.

SOCRATES: And when did you discover them--not, surely, at the time when
you thought that you knew them?

ALCIBIADES: Certainly not.

SOCRATES: And when did you think that you were ignorant--if you consider,
you will find that there never was such a time?

ALCIBIADES: Really, Socrates, I cannot say.

SOCRATES: Then you did not learn them by discovering them?

ALCIBIADES: Clearly not.

SOCRATES: But just before you said that you did not know them by learning;
now, if you have neither discovered nor learned them, how and whence do you
come to know them?

ALCIBIADES: I suppose that I was mistaken in saying that I knew them
through my own discovery of them; whereas, in truth, I learned them in the
same way that other people learn.

SOCRATES: So you said before, and I must again ask, of whom? Do tell me.

ALCIBIADES: Of the many.

SOCRATES: Do you take refuge in them? I cannot say much for your

ALCIBIADES: Why, are they not able to teach?

SOCRATES: They could not teach you how to play at draughts, which you
would acknowledge (would you not) to be a much smaller matter than justice?


SOCRATES: And can they teach the better who are unable to teach the worse?

ALCIBIADES: I think that they can; at any rate, they can teach many far
better things than to play at draughts.

SOCRATES: What things?

ALCIBIADES: Why, for example, I learned to speak Greek of them, and I
cannot say who was my teacher, or to whom I am to attribute my knowledge of
Greek, if not to those good-for-nothing teachers, as you call them.

SOCRATES: Why, yes, my friend; and the many are good enough teachers of
Greek, and some of their instructions in that line may be justly praised.

ALCIBIADES: Why is that?

SOCRATES: Why, because they have the qualities which good teachers ought
to have.

ALCIBIADES: What qualities?

SOCRATES: Why, you know that knowledge is the first qualification of any

ALCIBIADES: Certainly.

SOCRATES: And if they know, they must agree together and not differ?


SOCRATES: And would you say that they knew the things about which they


SOCRATES: Then how can they teach them?

ALCIBIADES: They cannot.

SOCRATES: Well, but do you imagine that the many would differ about the
nature of wood and stone? are they not agreed if you ask them what they
are? and do they not run to fetch the same thing, when they want a piece of
wood or a stone? And so in similar cases, which I suspect to be pretty
nearly all that you mean by speaking Greek.


SOCRATES: These, as we were saying, are matters about which they are
agreed with one another and with themselves; both individuals and states
use the same words about them; they do not use some one word and some

ALCIBIADES: They do not.

SOCRATES: Then they may be expected to be good teachers of these things?


SOCRATES: And if we want to instruct any one in them, we shall be right in
sending him to be taught by our friends the many?

ALCIBIADES: Very true.

SOCRATES: But if we wanted further to know not only which are men and
which are horses, but which men or horses have powers of running, would the
many still be able to inform us?

ALCIBIADES: Certainly not.

SOCRATES: And you have a sufficient proof that they do not know these
things and are not the best teachers of them, inasmuch as they are never
agreed about them?


SOCRATES: And suppose that we wanted to know not only what men are like,
but what healthy or diseased men are like--would the many be able to teach

ALCIBIADES: They would not.

SOCRATES: And you would have a proof that they were bad teachers of these
matters, if you saw them at variance?


SOCRATES: Well, but are the many agreed with themselves, or with one
another, about the justice or injustice of men and things?

ALCIBIADES: Assuredly not, Socrates.

SOCRATES: There is no subject about which they are more at variance?


SOCRATES: I do not suppose that you ever saw or heard of men quarrelling
over the principles of health and disease to such an extent as to go to war
and kill one another for the sake of them?

ALCIBIADES: No indeed.

SOCRATES: But of the quarrels about justice and injustice, even if you
have never seen them, you have certainly heard from many people, including
Homer; for you have heard of the Iliad and Odyssey?

ALCIBIADES: To be sure, Socrates.

SOCRATES: A difference of just and unjust is the argument of those poems?


SOCRATES: Which difference caused all the wars and deaths of Trojans and
Achaeans, and the deaths of the suitors of Penelope in their quarrel with

ALCIBIADES: Very true.

SOCRATES: And when the Athenians and Lacedaemonians and Boeotians fell at
Tanagra, and afterwards in the battle of Coronea, at which your father
Cleinias met his end, the question was one of justice--this was the sole
cause of the battles, and of their deaths.

ALCIBIADES: Very true.

SOCRATES: But can they be said to understand that about which they are
quarrelling to the death?

ALCIBIADES: Clearly not.

SOCRATES: And yet those whom you thus allow to be ignorant are the
teachers to whom you are appealing.

ALCIBIADES: Very true.

SOCRATES: But how are you ever likely to know the nature of justice and
injustice, about which you are so perplexed, if you have neither learned
them of others nor discovered them yourself?

ALCIBIADES: From what you say, I suppose not.

SOCRATES: See, again, how inaccurately you speak, Alcibiades!

ALCIBIADES: In what respect?

SOCRATES: In saying that I say so.

ALCIBIADES: Why, did you not say that I know nothing of the just and

SOCRATES: No; I did not.

ALCIBIADES: Did I, then?


ALCIBIADES: How was that?

SOCRATES: Let me explain. Suppose I were to ask you which is the greater
number, two or one; you would reply 'two'?


SOCRATES: And by how much greater?


SOCRATES: Which of us now says that two is more than one?


SOCRATES: Did not I ask, and you answer the question?


SOCRATES: Then who is speaking? I who put the question, or you who answer


SOCRATES: Or suppose that I ask and you tell me the letters which make up
the name Socrates, which of us is the speaker?


SOCRATES: Now let us put the case generally: whenever there is a question
and answer, who is the speaker,--the questioner or the answerer?

ALCIBIADES: I should say, Socrates, that the answerer was the speaker.

SOCRATES: And have I not been the questioner all through?


SOCRATES: And you the answerer?


SOCRATES: Which of us, then, was the speaker?

ALCIBIADES: The inference is, Socrates, that I was the speaker.

SOCRATES: Did not some one say that Alcibiades, the fair son of Cleinias,
not understanding about just and unjust, but thinking that he did
understand, was going to the assembly to advise the Athenians about what he
did not know? Was not that said?

ALCIBIADES: Very true.

SOCRATES: Then, Alcibiades, the result may be expressed in the language of
Euripides. I think that you have heard all this 'from yourself, and not
from me'; nor did I say this, which you erroneously attribute to me, but
you yourself, and what you said was very true. For indeed, my dear fellow,
the design which you meditate of teaching what you do not know, and have
not taken any pains to learn, is downright insanity.

ALCIBIADES: But, Socrates, I think that the Athenians and the rest of the
Hellenes do not often advise as to the more just or unjust; for they see no
difficulty in them, and therefore they leave them, and consider which
course of action will be most expedient; for there is a difference between
justice and expediency. Many persons have done great wrong and profited by
their injustice; others have done rightly and come to no good.

SOCRATES: Well, but granting that the just and the expedient are ever so
much opposed, you surely do not imagine that you know what is expedient for
mankind, or why a thing is expedient?

ALCIBIADES: Why not, Socrates?--But I am not going to be asked again from
whom I learned, or when I made the discovery.

SOCRATES: What a way you have! When you make a mistake which might be
refuted by a previous argument, you insist on having a new and different
refutation; the old argument is a worn-our garment which you will no longer
put on, but some one must produce another which is clean and new. Now I
shall disregard this move of yours, and shall ask over again,--Where did
you learn and how do you know the nature of the expedient, and who is your
teacher? All this I comprehend in a single question, and now you will
manifestly be in the old difficulty, and will not be able to show that you
know the expedient, either because you learned or because you discovered it
yourself. But, as I perceive that you are dainty, and dislike the taste of
a stale argument, I will enquire no further into your knowledge of what is
expedient or what is not expedient for the Athenian people, and simply
request you to say why you do not explain whether justice and expediency
are the same or different? And if you like you may examine me as I have
examined you, or, if you would rather, you may carry on the discussion by

ALCIBIADES: But I am not certain, Socrates, whether I shall be able to
discuss the matter with you.

SOCRATES: Then imagine, my dear fellow, that I am the demus and the
ecclesia; for in the ecclesia, too, you will have to persuade men


SOCRATES: And is not the same person able to persuade one individual
singly and many individuals of the things which he knows? The grammarian,
for example, can persuade one and he can persuade many about letters.


SOCRATES: And about number, will not the same person persuade one and
persuade many?


SOCRATES: And this will be he who knows number, or the arithmetician?

ALCIBIADES: Quite true.

SOCRATES: And cannot you persuade one man about that of which you can
persuade many?

ALCIBIADES: I suppose so.

SOCRATES: And that of which you can persuade either is clearly what you


SOCRATES: And the only difference between one who argues as we are doing,
and the orator who is addressing an assembly, is that the one seeks to
persuade a number, and the other an individual, of the same things.

ALCIBIADES: I suppose so.

SOCRATES: Well, then, since the same person who can persuade a multitude
can persuade individuals, try conclusions upon me, and prove to me that the
just is not always expedient.

ALCIBIADES: You take liberties, Socrates.

SOCRATES: I shall take the liberty of proving to you the opposite of that
which you will not prove to me.


SOCRATES: Answer my questions--that is all.

ALCIBIADES: Nay, I should like you to be the speaker.

SOCRATES: What, do you not wish to be persuaded?

ALCIBIADES: Certainly I do.

SOCRATES: And can you be persuaded better than out of your own mouth?

ALCIBIADES: I think not.

SOCRATES: Then you shall answer; and if you do not hear the words, that
the just is the expedient, coming from your own lips, never believe another
man again.

ALCIBIADES: I won't; but answer I will, for I do not see how I can come to
any harm.

SOCRATES: A true prophecy! Let me begin then by enquiring of you whether
you allow that the just is sometimes expedient and sometimes not?


SOCRATES: And sometimes honourable and sometimes not?

ALCIBIADES: What do you mean?

SOCRATES: I am asking if you ever knew any one who did what was
dishonourable and yet just?


SOCRATES: All just things are honourable?


SOCRATES: And are honourable things sometimes good and sometimes not good,
or are they always good?

ALCIBIADES: I rather think, Socrates, that some honourable things are

SOCRATES: And are some dishonourable things good?


SOCRATES: You mean in such a case as the following:--In time of war, men
have been wounded or have died in rescuing a companion or kinsman, when
others who have neglected the duty of rescuing them have escaped in safety?


SOCRATES: And to rescue another under such circumstances is honourable, in
respect of the attempt to save those whom we ought to save; and this is


SOCRATES: But evil in respect of death and wounds?


SOCRATES: And the courage which is shown in the rescue is one thing, and
the death another?

ALCIBIADES: Certainly.

SOCRATES: Then the rescue of one's friends is honourable in one point of
view, but evil in another?


SOCRATES: And if honourable, then also good: Will you consider now
whether I may not be right, for you were acknowledging that the courage
which is shown in the rescue is honourable? Now is this courage good or
evil? Look at the matter thus: which would you rather choose, good or


SOCRATES: And the greatest goods you would be most ready to choose, and
would least like to be deprived of them?

ALCIBIADES: Certainly.

SOCRATES: What would you say of courage? At what price would you be
willing to be deprived of courage?

ALCIBIADES: I would rather die than be a coward.

SOCRATES: Then you think that cowardice is the worst of evils?


SOCRATES: As bad as death, I suppose?


SOCRATES: And life and courage are the extreme opposites of death and


SOCRATES: And they are what you would most desire to have, and their
opposites you would least desire?


SOCRATES: Is this because you think life and courage the best, and death
and cowardice the worst?


SOCRATES: And you would term the rescue of a friend in battle honourable,
in as much as courage does a good work?


SOCRATES: But evil because of the death which ensues?


SOCRATES: Might we not describe their different effects as follows:--You
may call either of them evil in respect of the evil which is the result,
and good in respect of the good which is the result of either of them?


SOCRATES: And they are honourable in so far as they are good, and
dishonourable in so far as they are evil?


SOCRATES: Then when you say that the rescue of a friend in battle is
honourable and yet evil, that is equivalent to saying that the rescue is
good and yet evil?

ALCIBIADES: I believe that you are right, Socrates.

SOCRATES: Nothing honourable, regarded as honourable, is evil; nor
anything base, regarded as base, good.

ALCIBIADES: Clearly not.

SOCRATES: Look at the matter yet once more in a further light: he who
acts honourably acts well?


SOCRATES: And he who acts well is happy?

ALCIBIADES: Of course.

SOCRATES: And the happy are those who obtain good?


SOCRATES: And they obtain good by acting well and honourably?


SOCRATES: Then acting well is a good?

ALCIBIADES: Certainly.

SOCRATES: And happiness is a good?


SOCRATES: Then the good and the honourable are again identified.

ALCIBIADES: Manifestly.

SOCRATES: Then, if the argument holds, what we find to be honourable we
shall also find to be good?

ALCIBIADES: Certainly.

SOCRATES: And is the good expedient or not?

ALCIBIADES: Expedient.

SOCRATES: Do you remember our admissions about the just?

ALCIBIADES: Yes; if I am not mistaken, we said that those who acted justly
must also act honourably.

SOCRATES: And the honourable is the good?


SOCRATES: And the good is expedient?


SOCRATES: Then, Alcibiades, the just is expedient?

ALCIBIADES: I should infer so.

SOCRATES: And all this I prove out of your own mouth, for I ask and you

ALCIBIADES: I must acknowledge it to be true.

SOCRATES: And having acknowledged that the just is the same as the
expedient, are you not (let me ask) prepared to ridicule any one who,
pretending to understand the principles of justice and injustice, gets up
to advise the noble Athenians or the ignoble Peparethians, that the just
may be the evil?

ALCIBIADES: I solemnly declare, Socrates, that I do not know what I am
saying. Verily, I am in a strange state, for when you put questions to me
I am of different minds in successive instants.

SOCRATES: And are you not aware of the nature of this perplexity, my

ALCIBIADES: Indeed I am not.

SOCRATES: Do you suppose that if some one were to ask you whether you have
two eyes or three, or two hands or four, or anything of that sort, you
would then be of different minds in successive instants?

ALCIBIADES: I begin to distrust myself, but still I do not suppose that I

SOCRATES: You would feel no doubt; and for this reason--because you would

ALCIBIADES: I suppose so.

SOCRATES: And the reason why you involuntarily contradict yourself is
clearly that you are ignorant?

ALCIBIADES: Very likely.

SOCRATES: And if you are perplexed in answering about just and unjust,
honourable and dishonourable, good and evil, expedient and inexpedient, the
reason is that you are ignorant of them, and therefore in perplexity. Is
not that clear?


SOCRATES: But is this always the case, and is a man necessarily perplexed
about that of which he has no knowledge?

ALCIBIADES: Certainly he is.

SOCRATES: And do you know how to ascend into heaven?

ALCIBIADES: Certainly not.

SOCRATES: And in this case, too, is your judgment perplexed?


SOCRATES: Do you see the reason why, or shall I tell you?


SOCRATES: The reason is, that you not only do not know, my friend, but you
do not think that you know.

ALCIBIADES: There again; what do you mean?

SOCRATES: Ask yourself; are you in any perplexity about things of which
you are ignorant? You know, for example, that you know nothing about the
preparation of food.

ALCIBIADES: Very true.

SOCRATES: And do you think and perplex yourself about the preparation of
food: or do you leave that to some one who understands the art?

ALCIBIADES: The latter.

SOCRATES: Or if you were on a voyage, would you bewilder yourself by
considering whether the rudder is to be drawn inwards or outwards, or do
you leave that to the pilot, and do nothing?

ALCIBIADES: It would be the concern of the pilot.

SOCRATES: Then you are not perplexed about what you do not know, if you
know that you do not know it?

ALCIBIADES: I imagine not.

SOCRATES: Do you not see, then, that mistakes in life and practice are
likewise to be attributed to the ignorance which has conceit of knowledge?

ALCIBIADES: Once more, what do you mean?

SOCRATES: I suppose that we begin to act when we think that we know what
we are doing?


SOCRATES: But when people think that they do not know, they entrust their
business to others?


SOCRATES: And so there is a class of ignorant persons who do not make
mistakes in life, because they trust others about things of which they are


SOCRATES: Who, then, are the persons who make mistakes? They cannot, of
course, be those who know?

ALCIBIADES: Certainly not.

SOCRATES: But if neither those who know, nor those who know that they do
not know, make mistakes, there remain those only who do not know and think
that they know.

ALCIBIADES: Yes, only those.

SOCRATES: Then this is ignorance of the disgraceful sort which is


SOCRATES: And most mischievous and most disgraceful when having to do with
the greatest matters?


SOCRATES: And can there be any matters greater than the just, the
honourable, the good, and the expedient?

ALCIBIADES: There cannot be.

SOCRATES: And these, as you were saying, are what perplex you?


SOCRATES: But if you are perplexed, then, as the previous argument has
shown, you are not only ignorant of the greatest matters, but being
ignorant you fancy that you know them?

ALCIBIADES: I fear that you are right.

SOCRATES: And now see what has happened to you, Alcibiades! I hardly like
to speak of your evil case, but as we are alone I will: My good friend,
you are wedded to ignorance of the most disgraceful kind, and of this you
are convicted, not by me, but out of your own mouth and by your own
argument; wherefore also you rush into politics before you are educated.
Neither is your case to be deemed singular. For I might say the same of
almost all our statesmen, with the exception, perhaps of your guardian,

ALCIBIADES: Yes, Socrates; and Pericles is said not to have got his wisdom
by the light of nature, but to have associated with several of the
philosophers; with Pythocleides, for example, and with Anaxagoras, and now
in advanced life with Damon, in the hope of gaining wisdom.

SOCRATES: Very good; but did you ever know a man wise in anything who was
unable to impart his particular wisdom? For example, he who taught you
letters was not only wise, but he made you and any others whom he liked


SOCRATES: And you, whom he taught, can do the same?


SOCRATES: And in like manner the harper and gymnastic-master?

ALCIBIADES: Certainly.

SOCRATES: When a person is enabled to impart knowledge to another, he
thereby gives an excellent proof of his own understanding of any matter.


SOCRATES: Well, and did Pericles make any one wise; did he begin by making
his sons wise?

ALCIBIADES: But, Socrates, if the two sons of Pericles were simpletons,
what has that to do with the matter?

SOCRATES: Well, but did he make your brother, Cleinias, wise?

ALCIBIADES: Cleinias is a madman; there is no use in talking of him.

SOCRATES: But if Cleinias is a madman and the two sons of Pericles were
simpletons, what reason can be given why he neglects you, and lets you be
as you are?

ALCIBIADES: I believe that I am to blame for not listening to him.

SOCRATES: But did you ever hear of any other Athenian or foreigner, bond
or free, who was deemed to have grown wiser in the society of Pericles,--as
I might cite Pythodorus, the son of Isolochus, and Callias, the son of
Calliades, who have grown wiser in the society of Zeno, for which privilege
they have each of them paid him the sum of a hundred minae (about 406
pounds sterling) to the increase of their wisdom and fame.

ALCIBIADES: I certainly never did hear of any one.

SOCRATES: Well, and in reference to your own case, do you mean to remain
as you are, or will you take some pains about yourself?

ALCIBIADES: With your aid, Socrates, I will. And indeed, when I hear you
speak, the truth of what you are saying strikes home to me, and I agree
with you, for our statesmen, all but a few, do appear to be quite

SOCRATES: What is the inference?

ALCIBIADES: Why, that if they were educated they would be trained
athletes, and he who means to rival them ought to have knowledge and
experience when he attacks them; but now, as they have become politicians
without any special training, why should I have the trouble of learning and
practising? For I know well that by the light of nature I shall get the
better of them.

SOCRATES: My dear friend, what a sentiment! And how unworthy of your
noble form and your high estate!

ALCIBIADES: What do you mean, Socrates; why do you say so?

SOCRATES: I am grieved when I think of our mutual love.


SOCRATES: At your fancying that the contest on which you are entering is
with people here.

ALCIBIADES: Why, what others are there?

SOCRATES: Is that a question which a magnanimous soul should ask?

ALCIBIADES: Do you mean to say that the contest is not with these?

SOCRATES: And suppose that you were going to steer a ship into action,
would you only aim at being the best pilot on board? Would you not, while
acknowledging that you must possess this degree of excellence, rather look
to your antagonists, and not, as you are now doing, to your fellow
combatants? You ought to be so far above these latter, that they will not
even dare to be your rivals; and, being regarded by you as inferiors, will
do battle for you against the enemy; this is the kind of superiority which
you must establish over them, if you mean to accomplish any noble action
really worthy of yourself and of the state.

ALCIBIADES: That would certainly be my aim.

SOCRATES: Verily, then, you have good reason to be satisfied, if you are
better than the soldiers; and you need not, when you are their superior and
have your thoughts and actions fixed upon them, look away to the generals
of the enemy.

ALCIBIADES: Of whom are you speaking, Socrates?

SOCRATES: Why, you surely know that our city goes to war now and then with
the Lacedaemonians and with the great king?

ALCIBIADES: True enough.

SOCRATES: And if you meant to be the ruler of this city, would you not be
right in considering that the Lacedaemonian and Persian king were your true

ALCIBIADES: I believe that you are right.

SOCRATES: Oh no, my friend, I am quite wrong, and I think that you ought
rather to turn your attention to Midias the quail-breeder and others like
him, who manage our politics; in whom, as the women would remark, you may
still see the slaves' cut of hair, cropping out in their minds as well as
on their pates; and they come with their barbarous lingo to flatter us and
not to rule us. To these, I say, you should look, and then you need not
trouble yourself about your own fitness to contend in such a noble arena:
there is no reason why you should either learn what has to be learned, or
practise what has to be practised, and only when thoroughly prepared enter
on a political career.

ALCIBIADES: There, I think, Socrates, that you are right; I do not
suppose, however, that the Spartan generals or the great king are really
different from anybody else.

SOCRATES: But, my dear friend, do consider what you are saying.

ALCIBIADES: What am I to consider?

SOCRATES: In the first place, will you be more likely to take care of
yourself, if you are in a wholesome fear and dread of them, or if you are

ALCIBIADES: Clearly, if I have such a fear of them.

SOCRATES: And do you think that you will sustain any injury if you take
care of yourself?

ALCIBIADES: No, I shall be greatly benefited.

SOCRATES: And this is one very important respect in which that notion of
yours is bad.


SOCRATES: In the next place, consider that what you say is probably false.


SOCRATES: Let me ask you whether better natures are likely to be found in
noble races or not in noble races?

ALCIBIADES: Clearly in noble races.

SOCRATES: Are not those who are well born and well bred most likely to be
perfect in virtue?

ALCIBIADES: Certainly.

SOCRATES: Then let us compare our antecedents with those of the
Lacedaemonian and Persian kings; are they inferior to us in descent? Have
we not heard that the former are sprung from Heracles, and the latter from
Achaemenes, and that the race of Heracles and the race of Achaemenes go
back to Perseus, son of Zeus?

ALCIBIADES: Why, so does mine go back to Eurysaces, and he to Zeus!

SOCRATES: And mine, noble Alcibiades, to Daedalus, and he to Hephaestus,
son of Zeus. But, for all that, we are far inferior to them. For they are
descended 'from Zeus,' through a line of kings--either kings of Argos and
Lacedaemon, or kings of Persia, a country which the descendants of
Achaemenes have always possessed, besides being at various times sovereigns
of Asia, as they now are; whereas, we and our fathers were but private
persons. How ridiculous would you be thought if you were to make a display
of your ancestors and of Salamis the island of Eurysaces, or of Aegina, the
habitation of the still more ancient Aeacus, before Artaxerxes, son of
Xerxes. You should consider how inferior we are to them both in the
derivation of our birth and in other particulars. Did you never observe
how great is the property of the Spartan kings? And their wives are under
the guardianship of the Ephori, who are public officers and watch over
them, in order to preserve as far as possible the purity of the Heracleid
blood. Still greater is the difference among the Persians; for no one
entertains a suspicion that the father of a prince of Persia can be any one
but the king. Such is the awe which invests the person of the queen, that
any other guard is needless. And when the heir of the kingdom is born, all
the subjects of the king feast; and the day of his birth is for ever
afterwards kept as a holiday and time of sacrifice by all Asia; whereas,
when you and I were born, Alcibiades, as the comic poet says, the
neighbours hardly knew of the important event. After the birth of the
royal child, he is tended, not by a good-for-nothing woman-nurse, but by
the best of the royal eunuchs, who are charged with the care of him, and
especially with the fashioning and right formation of his limbs, in order
that he may be as shapely as possible; which being their calling, they are
held in great honour. And when the young prince is seven years old he is
put upon a horse and taken to the riding-masters, and begins to go out
hunting. And at fourteen years of age he is handed over to the royal
schoolmasters, as they are termed: these are four chosen men, reputed to
be the best among the Persians of a certain age; and one of them is the
wisest, another the justest, a third the most temperate, and a fourth the
most valiant. The first instructs him in the magianism of Zoroaster, the
son of Oromasus, which is the worship of the Gods, and teaches him also the
duties of his royal office; the second, who is the justest, teaches him
always to speak the truth; the third, or most temperate, forbids him to
allow any pleasure to be lord over him, that he may be accustomed to be a
freeman and king indeed,--lord of himself first, and not a slave; the most
valiant trains him to be bold and fearless, telling him that if he fears he
is to deem himself a slave; whereas Pericles gave you, Alcibiades, for a
tutor Zopyrus the Thracian, a slave of his who was past all other work. I
might enlarge on the nurture and education of your rivals, but that would
be tedious; and what I have said is a sufficient sample of what remains to
be said. I have only to remark, by way of contrast, that no one cares
about your birth or nurture or education, or, I may say, about that of any
other Athenian, unless he has a lover who looks after him. And if you cast
an eye on the wealth, the luxury, the garments with their flowing trains,
the anointings with myrrh, the multitudes of attendants, and all the other
bravery of the Persians, you will be ashamed when you discern your own
inferiority; or if you look at the temperance and orderliness and ease and
grace and magnanimity and courage and endurance and love of toil and desire
of glory and ambition of the Lacedaemonians--in all these respects you will
see that you are but a child in comparison of them. Even in the matter of
wealth, if you value yourself upon that, I must reveal to you how you
stand; for if you form an estimate of the wealth of the Lacedaemonians, you
will see that our possessions fall far short of theirs. For no one here
can compete with them either in the extent and fertility of their own and
the Messenian territory, or in the number of their slaves, and especially
of the Helots, or of their horses, or of the animals which feed on the
Messenian pastures. But I have said enough of this: and as to gold and
silver, there is more of them in Lacedaemon than in all the rest of Hellas,
for during many generations gold has been always flowing in to them from
the whole Hellenic world, and often from the barbarian also, and never
going out, as in the fable of Aesop the fox said to the lion, 'The prints
of the feet of those going in are distinct enough;' but who ever saw the
trace of money going out of Lacedaemon? And therefore you may safely infer
that the inhabitants are the richest of the Hellenes in gold and silver,
and that their kings are the richest of them, for they have a larger share
of these things, and they have also a tribute paid to them which is very
considerable. Yet the Spartan wealth, though great in comparison of the
wealth of the other Hellenes, is as nothing in comparison of that of the
Persians and their kings. Why, I have been informed by a credible person
who went up to the king (at Susa), that he passed through a large tract of
excellent land, extending for nearly a day's journey, which the people of
the country called the queen's girdle, and another, which they called her
veil; and several other fair and fertile districts, which were reserved for
the adornment of the queen, and are named after her several habiliments.
Now, I cannot help thinking to myself, What if some one were to go to
Amestris, the wife of Xerxes and mother of Artaxerxes, and say to her,
There is a certain Dinomache, whose whole wardrobe is not worth fifty
minae--and that will be more than the value--and she has a son who is
possessed of a three-hundred acre patch at Erchiae, and he has a mind to go
to war with your son--would she not wonder to what this Alcibiades trusts
for success in the conflict? 'He must rely,' she would say to herself,
'upon his training and wisdom--these are the things which Hellenes value.'
And if she heard that this Alcibiades who is making the attempt is not as
yet twenty years old, and is wholly uneducated, and when his lover tells
him that he ought to get education and training first, and then go and
fight the king, he refuses, and says that he is well enough as he is, would
she not be amazed, and ask 'On what, then, does the youth rely?' And if we
replied: He relies on his beauty, and stature, and birth, and mental
endowments, she would think that we were mad, Alcibiades, when she compared
the advantages which you possess with those of her own people. And I
believe that even Lampido, the daughter of Leotychides, the wife of
Archidamus and mother of Agis, all of whom were kings, would have the same
feeling; if, in your present uneducated state, you were to turn your
thoughts against her son, she too would be equally astonished. But how
disgraceful, that we should not have as high a notion of what is required
in us as our enemies' wives and mothers have of the qualities which are
required in their assailants! O my friend, be persuaded by me, and hear
the Delphian inscription, 'Know thyself'--not the men whom you think, but
these kings are our rivals, and we can only overcome them by pains and
skill. And if you fail in the required qualities, you will fail also in
becoming renowned among Hellenes and Barbarians, which you seem to desire
more than any other man ever desired anything.

ALCIBIADES: I entirely believe you; but what are the sort of pains which
are required, Socrates,--can you tell me?

SOCRATES: Yes, I can; but we must take counsel together concerning the
manner in which both of us may be most improved. For what I am telling you
of the necessity of education applies to myself as well as to you; and
there is only one point in which I have an advantage over you.

ALCIBIADES: What is that?

SOCRATES: I have a guardian who is better and wiser than your guardian,

ALCIBIADES: Who is he, Socrates?

SOCRATES: God, Alcibiades, who up to this day has not allowed me to
converse with you; and he inspires in me the faith that I am especially
designed to bring you to honour.

ALCIBIADES: You are jesting, Socrates.

SOCRATES: Perhaps, at any rate, I am right in saying that all men greatly
need pains and care, and you and I above all men.

ALCIBIADES: You are not far wrong about me.

SOCRATES: And certainly not about myself.

ALCIBIADES: But what can we do?

SOCRATES: There must be no hesitation or cowardice, my friend.

ALCIBIADES: That would not become us, Socrates.

SOCRATES: No, indeed, and we ought to take counsel together: for do we
not wish to be as good as possible?


SOCRATES: In what sort of virtue?

ALCIBIADES: Plainly, in the virtue of good men.

SOCRATES: Who are good in what?

ALCIBIADES: Those, clearly, who are good in the management of affairs.

SOCRATES: What sort of affairs? Equestrian affairs?

ALCIBIADES: Certainly not.

SOCRATES: You mean that about them we should have recourse to horsemen?


SOCRATES: Well, naval affairs?


SOCRATES: You mean that we should have recourse to sailors about them?


SOCRATES: Then what affairs? And who do them?

ALCIBIADES: The affairs which occupy Athenian gentlemen.

SOCRATES: And when you speak of gentlemen, do you mean the wise or the


SOCRATES: And a man is good in respect of that in which he is wise?


SOCRATES: And evil in respect of that in which he is unwise?

ALCIBIADES: Certainly.

SOCRATES: The shoemaker, for example, is wise in respect of the making of


SOCRATES: Then he is good in that?


SOCRATES: But in respect of the making of garments he is unwise?


SOCRATES: Then in that he is bad?


SOCRATES: Then upon this view of the matter the same man is good and also


SOCRATES: But would you say that the good are the same as the bad?

ALCIBIADES: Certainly not.

SOCRATES: Then whom do you call the good?

ALCIBIADES: I mean by the good those who are able to rule in the city.

SOCRATES: Not, surely, over horses?

ALCIBIADES: Certainly not.

SOCRATES: But over men?


SOCRATES: When they are sick?


SOCRATES: Or on a voyage?


SOCRATES: Or reaping the harvest?


SOCRATES: When they are doing something or nothing?

ALCIBIADES: When they are doing something, I should say.

SOCRATES: I wish that you would explain to me what this something is.

ALCIBIADES: When they are having dealings with one another, and using one
another's services, as we citizens do in our daily life.

SOCRATES: Those of whom you speak are ruling over men who are using the
services of other men?


SOCRATES: Are they ruling over the signal-men who give the time to the

ALCIBIADES: No; they are not.

SOCRATES: That would be the office of the pilot?


SOCRATES: But, perhaps you mean that they rule over flute-players, who
lead the singers and use the services of the dancers?

ALCIBIADES: Certainly not.

SOCRATES: That would be the business of the teacher of the chorus?


SOCRATES: Then what is the meaning of being able to rule over men who use
other men?

ALCIBIADES: I mean that they rule over men who have common rights of
citizenship, and dealings with one another.

SOCRATES: And what sort of an art is this? Suppose that I ask you again,
as I did just now, What art makes men know how to rule over their fellow-
sailors,--how would you answer?

ALCIBIADES: The art of the pilot.

SOCRATES: And, if I may recur to another old instance, what art enables
them to rule over their fellow-singers?

ALCIBIADES: The art of the teacher of the chorus, which you were just now

SOCRATES: And what do you call the art of fellow-citizens?

ALCIBIADES: I should say, good counsel, Socrates.

SOCRATES: And is the art of the pilot evil counsel?


SOCRATES: But good counsel?

ALCIBIADES: Yes, that is what I should say,--good counsel, of which the
aim is the preservation of the voyagers.

SOCRATES: True. And what is the aim of that other good counsel of which
you speak?

ALCIBIADES: The aim is the better order and preservation of the city.

SOCRATES: And what is that of which the absence or presence improves and
preserves the order of the city? Suppose you were to ask me, what is that
of which the presence or absence improves or preserves the order of the
body? I should reply, the presence of health and the absence of disease.
You would say the same?


SOCRATES: And if you were to ask me the same question about the eyes, I
should reply in the same way, 'the presence of sight and the absence of
blindness;' or about the ears, I should reply, that they were improved and
were in better case, when deafness was absent, and hearing was present in


SOCRATES: And what would you say of a state? What is that by the presence
or absence of which the state is improved and better managed and ordered?

ALCIBIADES: I should say, Socrates:--the presence of friendship and the
absence of hatred and division.

SOCRATES: And do you mean by friendship agreement or disagreement?

ALCIBIADES: Agreement.

SOCRATES: What art makes cities agree about numbers?

ALCIBIADES: Arithmetic.

SOCRATES: And private individuals?


SOCRATES: And what art makes each individual agree with himself?


SOCRATES: And what art makes each of us agree with himself about the
comparative length of the span and of the cubit? Does not the art of


SOCRATES: Individuals are agreed with one another about this; and states,


SOCRATES: And the same holds of the balance?


SOCRATES: But what is the other agreement of which you speak, and about
what? what art can give that agreement? And does that which gives it to
the state give it also to the individual, so as to make him consistent with
himself and with another?

ALCIBIADES: I should suppose so.

SOCRATES: But what is the nature of the agreement?--answer, and faint not.

ALCIBIADES: I mean to say that there should be such friendship and
agreement as exists between an affectionate father and mother and their
son, or between brothers, or between husband and wife.

SOCRATES: But can a man, Alcibiades, agree with a woman about the spinning
of wool, which she understands and he does not?

ALCIBIADES: No, truly.

SOCRATES: Nor has he any need, for spinning is a female accomplishment.


SOCRATES: And would a woman agree with a man about the science of arms,
which she has never learned?

ALCIBIADES: Certainly not.

SOCRATES: I suppose that the use of arms would be regarded by you as a
male accomplishment?


SOCRATES: Then, upon your view, women and men have two sorts of knowledge?

ALCIBIADES: Certainly.

SOCRATES: Then in their knowledge there is no agreement of women and men?

ALCIBIADES: There is not.

SOCRATES: Nor can there be friendship, if friendship is agreement?

ALCIBIADES: Plainly not.

SOCRATES: Then women are not loved by men when they do their own work?

ALCIBIADES: I suppose not.

SOCRATES: Nor men by women when they do their own work?


SOCRATES: Nor are states well administered, when individuals do their own

ALCIBIADES: I should rather think, Socrates, that the reverse is the
truth. (Compare Republic.)

SOCRATES: What! do you mean to say that states are well administered when
friendship is absent, the presence of which, as we were saying, alone
secures their good order?

ALCIBIADES: But I should say that there is friendship among them, for this
very reason, that the two parties respectively do their own work.

SOCRATES: That was not what you were saying before; and what do you mean
now by affirming that friendship exists when there is no agreement? How
can there be agreement about matters which the one party knows, and of
which the other is in ignorance?

ALCIBIADES: Impossible.

SOCRATES: And when individuals are doing their own work, are they doing
what is just or unjust?

ALCIBIADES: What is just, certainly.

SOCRATES: And when individuals do what is just in the state, is there no
friendship among them?

ALCIBIADES: I suppose that there must be, Socrates.

SOCRATES: Then what do you mean by this friendship or agreement about
which we must be wise and discreet in order that we may be good men? I
cannot make out where it exists or among whom; according to you, the same
persons may sometimes have it, and sometimes not.

ALCIBIADES: But, indeed, Socrates, I do not know what I am saying; and I
have long been, unconsciously to myself, in a most disgraceful state.

SOCRATES: Nevertheless, cheer up; at fifty, if you had discovered your
deficiency, you would have been too old, and the time for taking care of
yourself would have passed away, but yours is just the age at which the
discovery should be made.

ALCIBIADES: And what should he do, Socrates, who would make the discovery?

SOCRATES: Answer questions, Alcibiades; and that is a process which, by
the grace of God, if I may put any faith in my oracle, will be very
improving to both of us.

ALCIBIADES: If I can be improved by answering, I will answer.

SOCRATES: And first of all, that we may not peradventure be deceived by
appearances, fancying, perhaps, that we are taking care of ourselves when
we are not, what is the meaning of a man taking care of himself? and when
does he take care? Does he take care of himself when he takes care of what
belongs to him?

ALCIBIADES: I should think so.

SOCRATES: When does a man take care of his feet? Does he not take care of
them when he takes care of that which belongs to his feet?

ALCIBIADES: I do not understand.

SOCRATES: Let me take the hand as an illustration; does not a ring belong
to the finger, and to the finger only?


SOCRATES: And the shoe in like manner to the foot?


SOCRATES: And when we take care of our shoes, do we not take care of our

ALCIBIADES: I do not comprehend, Socrates.

SOCRATES: But you would admit, Alcibiades, that to take proper care of a
thing is a correct expression?


SOCRATES: And taking proper care means improving?


SOCRATES: And what is the art which improves our shoes?

ALCIBIADES: Shoemaking.

SOCRATES: Then by shoemaking we take care of our shoes?


SOCRATES: And do we by shoemaking take care of our feet, or by some other
art which improves the feet?

ALCIBIADES: By some other art.

SOCRATES: And the same art improves the feet which improves the rest of
the body?

ALCIBIADES: Very true.

SOCRATES: Which is gymnastic?

ALCIBIADES: Certainly.

SOCRATES: Then by gymnastic we take care of our feet, and by shoemaking of
that which belongs to our feet?

ALCIBIADES: Very true.

SOCRATES: And by gymnastic we take care of our hands, and by the art of
graving rings of that which belongs to our hands?


SOCRATES: And by gymnastic we take care of the body, and by the art of
weaving and the other arts we take care of the things of the body?


SOCRATES: Then the art which takes care of each thing is different from
that which takes care of the belongings of each thing?


SOCRATES: Then in taking care of what belongs to you, you do not take care
of yourself?

ALCIBIADES: Certainly not.

SOCRATES: For the art which takes care of our belongings appears not to be
the same as that which takes care of ourselves?

ALCIBIADES: Clearly not.

SOCRATES: And now let me ask you what is the art with which we take care
of ourselves?

ALCIBIADES: I cannot say.

SOCRATES: At any rate, thus much has been admitted, that the art is not
one which makes any of our possessions, but which makes ourselves better?


SOCRATES: But should we ever have known what art makes a shoe better, if
we did not know a shoe?

ALCIBIADES: Impossible.

SOCRATES: Nor should we know what art makes a ring better, if we did not
know a ring?

ALCIBIADES: That is true.

SOCRATES: And can we ever know what art makes a man better, if we do not
know what we are ourselves?

ALCIBIADES: Impossible.

SOCRATES: And is self-knowledge such an easy thing, and was he to be
lightly esteemed who inscribed the text on the temple at Delphi? Or is
self-knowledge a difficult thing, which few are able to attain?

ALCIBIADES: At times I fancy, Socrates, that anybody can know himself; at
other times the task appears to be very difficult.

SOCRATES: But whether easy or difficult, Alcibiades, still there is no
other way; knowing what we are, we shall know how to take care of
ourselves, and if we are ignorant we shall not know.

ALCIBIADES: That is true.

SOCRATES: Well, then, let us see in what way the self-existent can be
discovered by us; that will give us a chance of discovering our own
existence, which otherwise we can never know.

ALCIBIADES: You say truly.

SOCRATES: Come, now, I beseech you, tell me with whom you are conversing?
--with whom but with me?


SOCRATES: As I am, with you?


SOCRATES: That is to say, I, Socrates, am talking?


SOCRATES: And Alcibiades is my hearer?


SOCRATES: And I in talking use words?

ALCIBIADES: Certainly.

SOCRATES: And talking and using words have, I suppose, the same meaning?

ALCIBIADES: To be sure.

SOCRATES: And the user is not the same as the thing which he uses?

ALCIBIADES: What do you mean?

SOCRATES: I will explain; the shoemaker, for example, uses a square tool,
and a circular tool, and other tools for cutting?


SOCRATES: But the tool is not the same as the cutter and user of the tool?

ALCIBIADES: Of course not.

SOCRATES: And in the same way the instrument of the harper is to be
distinguished from the harper himself?


SOCRATES: Now the question which I asked was whether you conceive the user
to be always different from that which he uses?


SOCRATES: Then what shall we say of the shoemaker? Does he cut with his
tools only or with his hands?

ALCIBIADES: With his hands as well.

SOCRATES: He uses his hands too?


SOCRATES: And does he use his eyes in cutting leather?


SOCRATES: And we admit that the user is not the same with the things which
he uses?


SOCRATES: Then the shoemaker and the harper are to be distinguished from
the hands and feet which they use?


SOCRATES: And does not a man use the whole body?

ALCIBIADES: Certainly.

SOCRATES: And that which uses is different from that which is used?


SOCRATES: Then a man is not the same as his own body?

ALCIBIADES: That is the inference.

SOCRATES: What is he, then?

ALCIBIADES: I cannot say.

SOCRATES: Nay, you can say that he is the user of the body.


SOCRATES: And the user of the body is the soul?

ALCIBIADES: Yes, the soul.

SOCRATES: And the soul rules?


SOCRATES: Let me make an assertion which will, I think, be universally

ALCIBIADES: What is it?

SOCRATES: That man is one of three things.

ALCIBIADES: What are they?

SOCRATES: Soul, body, or both together forming a whole.

ALCIBIADES: Certainly.

SOCRATES: But did we not say that the actual ruling principle of the body
is man?

ALCIBIADES: Yes, we did.

SOCRATES: And does the body rule over itself?

ALCIBIADES: Certainly not.

SOCRATES: It is subject, as we were saying?


SOCRATES: Then that is not the principle which we are seeking?

ALCIBIADES: It would seem not.

SOCRATES: But may we say that the union of the two rules over the body,
and consequently that this is man?

ALCIBIADES: Very likely.

SOCRATES: The most unlikely of all things; for if one of the members is
subject, the two united cannot possibly rule.


SOCRATES: But since neither the body, nor the union of the two, is man,
either man has no real existence, or the soul is man?


SOCRATES: Is anything more required to prove that the soul is man?

ALCIBIADES: Certainly not; the proof is, I think, quite sufficient.

SOCRATES: And if the proof, although not perfect, be sufficient, we shall
be satisfied;--more precise proof will be supplied when we have discovered
that which we were led to omit, from a fear that the enquiry would be too
much protracted.

ALCIBIADES: What was that?

SOCRATES: What I meant, when I said that absolute existence must be first
considered; but now, instead of absolute existence, we have been
considering the nature of individual existence, and this may, perhaps, be
sufficient; for surely there is nothing which may be called more properly
ourselves than the soul?

ALCIBIADES: There is nothing.

SOCRATES: Then we may truly conceive that you and I are conversing with
one another, soul to soul?

ALCIBIADES: Very true.

SOCRATES: And that is just what I was saying before--that I, Socrates, am
not arguing or talking with the face of Alcibiades, but with the real
Alcibiades; or in other words, with his soul.


SOCRATES: Then he who bids a man know himself, would have him know his

ALCIBIADES: That appears to be true.

SOCRATES: He whose knowledge only extends to the body, knows the things of
a man, and not the man himself?

ALCIBIADES: That is true.

SOCRATES: Then neither the physician regarded as a physician, nor the
trainer regarded as a trainer, knows himself?

ALCIBIADES: He does not.

SOCRATES: The husbandmen and the other craftsmen are very far from knowing
themselves, for they would seem not even to know their own belongings?
When regarded in relation to the arts which they practise they are even
further removed from self-knowledge, for they only know the belongings of
the body, which minister to the body.

ALCIBIADES: That is true.

SOCRATES: Then if temperance is the knowledge of self, in respect of his
art none of them is temperate?


SOCRATES: And this is the reason why their arts are accounted vulgar, and
are not such as a good man would practise?

ALCIBIADES: Quite true.

SOCRATES: Again, he who cherishes his body cherishes not himself, but what
belongs to him?

ALCIBIADES: That is true.

SOCRATES: But he who cherishes his money, cherishes neither himself nor
his belongings, but is in a stage yet further removed from himself?


SOCRATES: Then the money-maker has really ceased to be occupied with his
own concerns?


SOCRATES: And if any one has fallen in love with the person of Alcibiades,
he loves not Alcibiades, but the belongings of Alcibiades?


SOCRATES: But he who loves your soul is the true lover?

ALCIBIADES: That is the necessary inference.

SOCRATES: The lover of the body goes away when the flower of youth fades?


SOCRATES: But he who loves the soul goes not away, as long as the soul
follows after virtue?


SOCRATES: And I am the lover who goes not away, but remains with you, when
you are no longer young and the rest are gone?

ALCIBIADES: Yes, Socrates; and therein you do well, and I hope that you
will remain.

SOCRATES: Then you must try to look your best.


SOCRATES: The fact is, that there is only one lover of Alcibiades the son
of Cleinias; there neither is nor ever has been seemingly any other; and he
is his darling,--Socrates, the son of Sophroniscus and Phaenarete.


SOCRATES: And did you not say, that if I had not spoken first, you were on
the point of coming to me, and enquiring why I only remained?

ALCIBIADES: That is true.

SOCRATES: The reason was that I loved you for your own sake, whereas other
men love what belongs to you; and your beauty, which is not you, is fading
away, just as your true self is beginning to bloom. And I will never
desert you, if you are not spoiled and deformed by the Athenian people; for
the danger which I most fear is that you will become a lover of the people
and will be spoiled by them. Many a noble Athenian has been ruined in this
way. For the demus of the great-hearted Erechteus is of a fair
countenance, but you should see him naked; wherefore observe the caution
which I give you.

ALCIBIADES: What caution?

SOCRATES: Practise yourself, sweet friend, in learning what you ought to
know, before you enter on politics; and then you will have an antidote
which will keep you out of harm's way.

ALCIBIADES: Good advice, Socrates, but I wish that you would explain to me
in what way I am to take care of myself.

SOCRATES: Have we not made an advance? for we are at any rate tolerably
well agreed as to what we are, and there is no longer any danger, as we
once feared, that we might be taking care not of ourselves, but of
something which is not ourselves.

ALCIBIADES: That is true.

SOCRATES: And the next step will be to take care of the soul, and look to

ALCIBIADES: Certainly.

SOCRATES: Leaving the care of our bodies and of our properties to others?

ALCIBIADES: Very good.

SOCRATES: But how can we have a perfect knowledge of the things of the
soul?--For if we know them, then I suppose we shall know ourselves. Can we
really be ignorant of the excellent meaning of the Delphian inscription, of
which we were just now speaking?

ALCIBIADES: What have you in your thoughts, Socrates?

SOCRATES: I will tell you what I suspect to be the meaning and lesson of
that inscription. Let me take an illustration from sight, which I imagine
to be the only one suitable to my purpose.

ALCIBIADES: What do you mean?

SOCRATES: Consider; if some one were to say to the eye, 'See thyself,' as
you might say to a man, 'Know thyself,' what is the nature and meaning of
this precept? Would not his meaning be:--That the eye should look at that
in which it would see itself?


SOCRATES: And what are the objects in looking at which we see ourselves?

ALCIBIADES: Clearly, Socrates, in looking at mirrors and the like.

SOCRATES: Very true; and is there not something of the nature of a mirror
in our own eyes?

ALCIBIADES: Certainly.

SOCRATES: Did you ever observe that the face of the person looking into
the eye of another is reflected as in a mirror; and in the visual organ
which is over against him, and which is called the pupil, there is a sort
of image of the person looking?

ALCIBIADES: That is quite true.

SOCRATES: Then the eye, looking at another eye, and at that in the eye
which is most perfect, and which is the instrument of vision, will there
see itself?

ALCIBIADES: That is evident.

SOCRATES: But looking at anything else either in man or in the world, and
not to what resembles this, it will not see itself?

ALCIBIADES: Very true.

SOCRATES: Then if the eye is to see itself, it must look at the eye, and
at that part of the eye where sight which is the virtue of the eye resides?


SOCRATES: And if the soul, my dear Alcibiades, is ever to know herself,
must she not look at the soul; and especially at that part of the soul in
which her virtue resides, and to any other which is like this?

ALCIBIADES: I agree, Socrates.

SOCRATES: And do we know of any part of our souls more divine than that
which has to do with wisdom and knowledge?

ALCIBIADES: There is none.

SOCRATES: Then this is that part of the soul which resembles the divine;
and he who looks at this and at the whole class of things divine, will be
most likely to know himself?


SOCRATES: And self-knowledge we agree to be wisdom?


SOCRATES: But if we have no self-knowledge and no wisdom, can we ever know
our own good and evil?

ALCIBIADES: How can we, Socrates?

SOCRATES: You mean, that if you did not know Alcibiades, there would be no
possibility of your knowing that what belonged to Alcibiades was really

ALCIBIADES: It would be quite impossible.

SOCRATES: Nor should we know that we were the persons to whom anything
belonged, if we did not know ourselves?

ALCIBIADES: How could we?

SOCRATES: And if we did not know our own belongings, neither should we
know the belongings of our belongings?

ALCIBIADES: Clearly not.

SOCRATES: Then we were not altogether right in acknowledging just now that
a man may know what belongs to him and yet not know himself; nay, rather he
cannot even know the belongings of his belongings; for the discernment of
the things of self, and of the things which belong to the things of self,
appear all to be the business of the same man, and of the same art.

ALCIBIADES: So much may be supposed.

SOCRATES: And he who knows not the things which belong to himself, will in
like manner be ignorant of the things which belong to others?

ALCIBIADES: Very true.

SOCRATES: And if he knows not the affairs of others, he will not know the
affairs of states?

ALCIBIADES: Certainly not.

SOCRATES: Then such a man can never be a statesman?

ALCIBIADES: He cannot.

SOCRATES: Nor an economist?

ALCIBIADES: He cannot.

SOCRATES: He will not know what he is doing?

ALCIBIADES: He will not.

SOCRATES: And will not he who is ignorant fall into error?

ALCIBIADES: Assuredly.

SOCRATES: And if he falls into error will he not fail both in his public
and private capacity?

ALCIBIADES: Yes, indeed.

SOCRATES: And failing, will he not be miserable?


SOCRATES: And what will become of those for whom he is acting?

ALCIBIADES: They will be miserable also.

SOCRATES: Then he who is not wise and good cannot be happy?

ALCIBIADES: He cannot.

SOCRATES: The bad, then, are miserable?

ALCIBIADES: Yes, very.

SOCRATES: And if so, not he who has riches, but he who has wisdom, is
delivered from his misery?


SOCRATES: Cities, then, if they are to be happy, do not want walls, or
triremes, or docks, or numbers, or size, Alcibiades, without virtue?
(Compare Arist. Pol.)

ALCIBIADES: Indeed they do not.

SOCRATES: And you must give the citizens virtue, if you mean to administer
their affairs rightly or nobly?

ALCIBIADES: Certainly.

SOCRATES: But can a man give that which he has not?

ALCIBIADES: Impossible.

SOCRATES: Then you or any one who means to govern and superintend, not
only himself and the things of himself, but the state and the things of the
state, must in the first place acquire virtue.

ALCIBIADES: That is true.

SOCRATES: You have not therefore to obtain power or authority, in order to
enable you to do what you wish for yourself and the state, but justice and


SOCRATES: You and the state, if you act wisely and justly, will act
according to the will of God?

ALCIBIADES: Certainly.

SOCRATES: As I was saying before, you will look only at what is bright and
divine, and act with a view to them?


SOCRATES: In that mirror you will see and know yourselves and your own


SOCRATES: And so you will act rightly and well?


SOCRATES: In which case, I will be security for your happiness.

ALCIBIADES: I accept the security.

SOCRATES: But if you act unrighteously, your eye will turn to the dark and
godless, and being in darkness and ignorance of yourselves, you will
probably do deeds of darkness.

ALCIBIADES: Very possibly.

SOCRATES: For if a man, my dear Alcibiades, has the power to do what he
likes, but has no understanding, what is likely to be the result, either to
him as an individual or to the state--for example, if he be sick and is
able to do what he likes, not having the mind of a physician--having
moreover tyrannical power, and no one daring to reprove him, what will
happen to him? Will he not be likely to have his constitution ruined?

ALCIBIADES: That is true.

SOCRATES: Or again, in a ship, if a man having the power to do what he
likes, has no intelligence or skill in navigation, do you see what will
happen to him and to his fellow-sailors?

ALCIBIADES: Yes; I see that they will all perish.

SOCRATES: And in like manner, in a state, and where there is any power and
authority which is wanting in virtue, will not misfortune, in like manner,

ALCIBIADES: Certainly.

SOCRATES: Not tyrannical power, then, my good Alcibiades, should be the
aim either of individuals or states, if they would be happy, but virtue.

ALCIBIADES: That is true.

SOCRATES: And before they have virtue, to be commanded by a superior is
better for men as well as for children? (Compare Arist. Pol.)

ALCIBIADES: That is evident.

SOCRATES: And that which is better is also nobler?


SOCRATES: And what is nobler is more becoming?

ALCIBIADES: Certainly.

SOCRATES: Then to the bad man slavery is more becoming, because better?


SOCRATES: Then vice is only suited to a slave?


SOCRATES: And virtue to a freeman?


SOCRATES: And, O my friend, is not the condition of a slave to be avoided?

ALCIBIADES: Certainly, Socrates.

SOCRATES: And are you now conscious of your own state? And do you know
whether you are a freeman or not?

ALCIBIADES: I think that I am very conscious indeed of my own state.

SOCRATES: And do you know how to escape out of a state which I do not even
like to name to my beauty?



ALCIBIADES: By your help, Socrates.

SOCRATES: That is not well said, Alcibiades.

ALCIBIADES: What ought I to have said?

SOCRATES: By the help of God.

ALCIBIADES: I agree; and I further say, that our relations are likely to
be reversed. From this day forward, I must and will follow you as you have
followed me; I will be the disciple, and you shall be my master.

SOCRATES: O that is rare! My love breeds another love: and so like the
stork I shall be cherished by the bird whom I have hatched.

ALCIBIADES: Strange, but true; and henceforward I shall begin to think
about justice.

SOCRATES: And I hope that you will persist; although I have fears, not
because I doubt you; but I see the power of the state, which may be too
much for both of us.

End of this Project Gutenberg Etext of Alcibiades I, by Plato

Udvalgte artikler
Filosofi: Dekonstruktion
Her introduceres dekonstruktionen som er en filosofi Jaques Derrida grundlagde.

Psykologi: Sigmund Freud og psykoanalysen
Her fremlægges psykoanalysen som er en af de væsentligeste psykologiske retninger.

Filosofi: Ludwig Wittgenstein: Fra logik til sprogspilsteori
Her skildres de to meget forskellige filosofiske sprogteorier som Wittgenstein beskæftigede sig med.

Sociologi og psykologi: Introduktion til Pierre Bourdieu
Om begreber og videnskabsteori hos Bourdieu, som i høj grad benyttes indenfor sociologien og psykologien.

Filosofi: Aristoteles logik og metafysik
En gennemgang af Aristoteles filosofi om logik og metafysik.