Book IV
III
 

It may be inferred that Socrates was in no hurry for those who were with him to discover capacities for speech and action or as inventive geniuses,[1] without at any rate a well-laid foundation of self- control.[2] For those who possessed such abilities without these same saving virtues would, he believed, only become worse men with greater power for mischief. His first object was to instil into those who were with him a wise spirit in their relation to the gods.[3] That such was the tenor of his conversation in dealing with men may be seen from the narratives of others who were present on some particular occasion.[4] I confine myself to a particular discussion with Euthydemus at which I was present.

Socrates said:[5] Tell me, Euthydemus, has it ever struck you to observe what tender pains the gods have taken to furnish man with all his needs?

Euthydemus. No indeed, I cannot say that it has ever struck me.

Well (Socrates cotinued), you do not need to be reminded that, in the first place, we need light, and with light the gods supply us.

Euthydemus. Most true, and if we had not got it we should, as far as our own eyes could help us, be like men born blind.

Socrates. And then, again, seeing that we stand in need of rest and relaxation, they bestow upon us "the blessed balm of silent night."[6]

Yes (he answered), we are much beholden for that boon.

Socrates. Then, forasmuch as the sun in his splendour makes manifest to us the hours of the day and bathes all things in brightness, but anon night in her darkness obliterates distinctions, have they not displayed aloft the starry orbs, which inform us of the watches of the night, whereby we can accomplish many of our needs?[7]

It is so (he answered).

Socrates. And let us not forget that the moon herself not only makes clear to us the quarters of the night, but of the month also?

Certainly (he answered).

Socrates. And what of this: that whereas we need nutriment, this too the heavenly powers yield us? Out of earth's bosom they cause good to spring up[8] for our benefit; and for our benefit provide appropriate seasons to furnish us in turn not only with the many and diverse objects of need, but with the sources also of our joy and gladness?[9]

Yes (he answered earerly), these things bear token truly to a love for man.[10]

Socrates. Well, and what of another priceless gift, that of water, which conspires with earth and the seasons to give both birth and increase to all things useful to us; nay, which helps to nurture our very selves, and commingling with all that feeds us, renders it more digestible, more wholesome, and more pleasant to the taste; and mark you in proportion to the abundance of our need the superabundance of its supply. What say you concerning such a boon?

Euthydemus. In this again I see a sign of providential care.

Socrates. And then the fact that the same heavenly power has provided us with fire[11]--our assistant against cold, our auxiliary in darkness, our fellow-workman in every art and every instrument which for the sake of its utility mortal man may invent or furnish himself withal. What of this, since, to put it compendiously, there is nothing serviceable to the life of man worth speaking of but owes its fabrication to fire?[12]

Euthydemus. Yes, a transcendent instance of benevolent design.[13]

Socrates. Again, consider the motions of the Sun,[14] how when he has turned him about in winter[15] he again draws nigh to us, ripening some fruits, and causing others whose time is past to dry up; how when he has fulfilled his work he comes no closer, but turns away as if in fear to scorch us to our hurt unduly; and again, when he has reached a point where if he should prolong his reatreat we should plainly be frozen to death with cold, note how he turns him about and resumes his approach, traversing that region of the heavens where he may shed his genial influence best upon us.

Yes, upon my word (he answered), these occurrences bear the impress of being so ordered for the sake of man.

Socrates. And then, again, it being manifest that we could not endure either scorching heat or freezing cold if they came suddenly upon us, note how gradually the sun approaches, and how gradually recedes, so that we fail to notice how we come at last to either extreme.[16]

For my part (he replied), the question forces itself upon my mind, whether the gods have any other occupation save only to minister to man; and I am only hindered from saying so, because the rest of animals would seem to share these benefits along with man.

Socrates. Why, to be sure; and is it not plain that these animals themselves are born and bred for the sake of man? At any rate, no living creature save man derives so many of his enjoyments from sheep and goats, horses and cattle and asses, and other animals. He is more dependent, I should suppose, on these than even on plants and vegetables. At any rate, equally with these latter they serve him as means of subsistence or articles of commerce; indeed, a large portion of the human family do not use the products of the soil as food at all, but live on the milk and cheese and flesh of their flocks and herds, whilst all men everywhere tame and domesticate the more useful kinds of animals, and turn them to account as fellow-workers in war and for other purposes.

Yes, I cannot but agree with what you say (he answered), when I see that animals so much stronger than man become so subservient to his hand that he can use them as he lists.

Socrates. And as we reflect on the infinite beauty and utility and the variety of nature, what are we to say of the fact that man has been endowed with sensibilities which correspond with this diversity, whereby we take our fill of every blessing;[17] or, again, this implanted faculty of reasoning, which enables us to draw inferences concerning the things which we perceive, and by aid of memory to understand how each set of things may be turned to our good, and to devise countless contrivances with a view to enjoying the good and repelling the evil; or lastly, when we consider the faculty bestowed upon us of interpretative speech, by which we are enabled to instruct one another, and to participate in all the blessings fore-named: to form societies, to establish laws, and to enter upon a civilised existence[18]--what are we to think?

Euthydemus. Yes, Socrates, decidely it would appear that the gods do manifest a great regard, nay, a tender care, towards mankind.

Socrates. Well, and what do you make of the fact that where we are powerless to take advantageous forethought for our future, at this stage they themselves lend us their co-operation, imparting to the inquirer through divination knowledge of events about to happen, and instructing him by what means they may best be turned to good account?

Euthydemus. Ay, and you, Socrates, they would seem to treat in a more friendly manner still than the rest of men, if, without waiting even to be inquired of by you, they show you by signs beforehand what you must, and what you must not do.[19]

Socrates. Yes, and you will discover for youself the truth of what I say, if, without waiting to behold the outward and visible forms[20] of the gods themselves, you will be content to behold their works; and with these before you, to worship and honour the Divine authors of them.[21] I would have you reflect that the very gods themselves suggest this teaching.[22] Not one of these but gives us freely of his blessings; yet they do not step from behind their veil in order to grant one single boon.[23] And pre-eminently He who orders and holds together the universe,[24] in which are all things beautiful and good;[25] who fashions and refashions it to never-ending use unworn, keeping it free from sickness or decay,[26] so that swifter than thought it ministers to his will unerringly--this God is seen to perform the mightiest operations, but in the actual administration of the same abides himself invisible to mortal ken. Reflect further, this Sun above our heads, so visible to all--as we suppose--will not suffer man to regard him too narrowly, but should any essay to watch him with a shameless stare he will snatch away their power of vision. And if the gods themselves are thus unseen, so too shall you find their ministers to be hidden also; from the height of heaven above the thunderbolt is plainly hurled, and triumphs over all that it encounters, yet it is all-invisible, no eye may detect its coming or its going at the moment of its swoop. The winds also are themselves unseen, though their works are manifest, and through their approach we are aware of them. And let us not forget, the soul of man himself, which if aught else human shares in the divine--however manifestly enthroned within our bosom, is as wholly as the rest hidden from our gaze. These things you should lay to mind, and not despise the invisible ones, but learn to recognise their power, as revealed in outward things, and to know the divine influence.[27]

Nay, Socrates (replied Euthydemus), there is no danger I shall turn a deaf ear to the divine influence even a little; of that I am not afraid, but I am out of heart to think that no soul of man may ever requite the kindness of the gods with fitting gratitude.

Be not out of heart because of that (he said); you know what answer the god at Delphi makes to each one who comes asking "how shall I return thanks to heaven?"--"According to the law and custom of your city"; and this, I presume, is law and custom everywhere that a man should please the gods with offerings according to the ability which is in him.[28] How then should a man honour the gods with more beautiful or holier honour than by doing what they bid him? but he must in no wise slacken or fall short of his ability, for when a man so does, it is manifest, I presume, that at the moment he is not honouring the gods. You must then honour the gods, not with shortcoming but according to your ability; and having so done, be of good cheer and hope to receive the greatest blessings. For where else should a man of sober sense look to receive great blessings if not from those who are able to help him most, and how else should he hope to obtain them save by seeking to please his helper, and how may he hope to please his helper better than by yielding him the amplest obedience?

By such words--and conduct corresponding to his words--did Socrates mould and fashion the hearts of his companions, making them at once more devout and more virtuous.[29]

[1] Or, "as speakers" (see ch. vi. below), "and men of action" (see ch. v. below), "or as masters of invention" (see ch. vii. below).

[2] Or, "but as prior to those excellences must be engrafted in them {sophrosune} (the virtues of temperance and sanity of soul)."

[3] Lit. "His first object and endeavour was to make those who were with him {sophronas} (sound of soul) as regards the gods."

[4] Reading after Herbst, Cobet, etc., {diegountai}, or if vulg. {diegounto}, translate, "from the current accounts penned during his lifetime by the other witnesses." For {alloi} see K. Joel, op. cit. pp. 15, 23; above, "Mem." I. iv. 1.

[5] For the subject matter of this "teleological" chapter, see above, I. iv.; K. Joel, op. cit. Appendix, p. 547 foll. in ref. to Dummler's views.

[6] {kalliston anapauterion}. The diction throughout is "poetical."

[7] e.g. for temple orientation see Dr. Penrose quoted by Norman Lockyer, "Nature," August 31. 1893.

[8] Cf. Plat. "Laws," 747 D.

[9] Or, "pleasure."

[10] Cf. Plat. "Laws," 713 D; "Symp." 189 D. "These things are signs of a beneficient regard for man."

[11] Lit. "and then the fact that they made provision for us of even fire"; the credit of this boon, according to Hesiod, being due to Prometheus.

[12] Or, "no life-aiding appliance worthy of the name."

[13] Or, "Yes, that may be called an extreme instance of the divine 'philanthropy.'" Cf. Cic. "de N. D." ii. 62.

[14] A single MS. inserts a passage {to de kai era . . . 'Anekphraston}.

[15] i.e. as we say, "after the winter solstice."

[16] Or, "note the gradual approach and gradual recession of the sun- god, so gradual that we reach either extreme in a manner imperceptibly, and before we are aware of its severity."

[17] Or, "Again, when we consider how many beautiful objects there are serviceable to man, and yet how unlike they are to one another, the fact that man has been endowed with senses adapted to each class of things, and so has access to a world of happiness."

[18] Cf. Aristot. "Pol." III. ix. 5.

[19] See above, I. iv. 14, for a parallel to the train of thought on the part of Aristodemus "the little," and of Euthydemus; and for Socrates' {daimonion}, see above; Grote, "Plato," i. 400.

[20] Cf. Cic. "de N. D." I. xii. 31; Lactantius, "de Ira," xi. 13.

[21] See L. Dindorf ad loc. (ed. Ox. 1862), {theous}; G. Sauppe, vol. iii. "An. crit." p. xxix; R. Kuhner; C. Schenkl.

[22] i.e. "that man must walk by faith." For {upodeiknunai} cf. "Econ." xii. 18.

[23] Schneid. cf. Plat. "Crat." 396.

[24] Or, "the co-ordinator and container of the universe."

[25] Or, "in whom all beauty and goodness is."

[26] Cf. "Cyrop." VIII. vii. 22; above, I. iv. 13.

[27] {to daimonion}, the divinity.

[28] Or, "and that law, I presume, is universal which says, Let a man," etc.; and for the maxim see above; "Anab." III. ii. 9.

[29] Or, "sounder of soul and more temperate as well as more pious."