Book IV
V
 

And now I propose to show in what way he made those who were with him more vigorous in action.[1] In the first place, as befitted one whose creed was that a basis of self-command is indispensable to any noble performance, he manifested himself to his companions as one who had pre-eminently disciplined himself;[2] and in the next place by conversation and discussion he encouraged them to a like self- restraint beyond all others.[3] Thus it was that he continued ever mindful himself, and was continually reminding all whom he encountered, of matters conducive to virtue; as the following discussion with Euthydemus, which has come to my knowledge,[4] will serve to illustrate--the topic of the discussion being self-command.

Tell me, Euthydemus (he began), do you believe freedom to be a noble and magnificent acquisition, whether for a man or for a state?

I cannot conceive a nobler or more magnificent (he answered).

Socrates. Then do you believe him to be a free man who is ruled by the pleasures of the body, and thereby cannot perform what is best?

Certainly not (he answered).

Socrates. No! for possibly to perform what is best appears to you to savour of freedom? And, again, to have some one over you who will prevent you doing the like seems a loss of freedom?

Most decidedly (he answered).

Socrates. It would seem you are decidedly of opinion that the incontinent are the reverse of free?[5]

Euthydemus. Upon my word, I much suspect so.

Socrates. And does it appear to you that the incontinent man is merely hindered from doing what is noblest, or that further he is impelled to do what is most shameful?

Euthydemus. I think he is as much driven to the one as he is hindered from the other.

Socrates. And what sort of lords and masters are those, think you, who at once put a stop to what is best and enforce what is worst?

Euthydemus. Goodness knows, they must be the very worst of masters.

Socrates. And what sort of slavery do you take to be the worst?

I should say (he answered) slavery to the worst masters.

It would seem then (pursued Socrates) that the incontinent man is bound over to the worst sort of slavery, would it not?

So it appears to be (the other answered).

Socrates. And does it not appear to you that this same beldame incontinence shuts out wisdom, which is the best of all things,[6] from mankind, and plunges them into the opposite? Does it not appear to you that she hinders men from attending to things which will be of use and benefit, and from learning to understand them; that she does so by dragging them away to things which are pleasant; and often though they are well aware of the good and of the evil, she amazes and confounds[7] their wits and makes them choose the worse in place of the better?

Yes, so it comes to pass (he answered).

Socrates. And[8] soundness of soul, the spirit of temperate modesty? Who has less claim to this than the incontinent man? The works of the temperate spirit and the works of incontinency are, I take it, diametrically opposed?

That too, I admit (he answered).

Socrates. If this then be so concerning these virtues,[9] what with regard to carefulness and devotion to all that ought to occupy us? Can anything more seriously militate against these than this same incontinence?

Nothing that I can think of (he replied).

Socrates. And can worse befall a man, think you? Can he be subjected to a more baleful influence than that which induces him to choose what is hurtful in place of what is helpful; which cajoles him to devote himself to the evil and to neglect the good; which forces him, will he nill he, to do what every man in his sober senses would shrink from and avoid?

I can imagine nothing worse (he replied).

Socrates. Self-control, it is reasonable to suppose, will be the cause of opposite effects upon mankind to those of its own opposite, the want of self-control?

Euthydemus. It is to be supposed so.

Socrates. And this, which is the source of opposite effects to the very worst, will be the very best of things?

Euthydemus. That is the natural inference.

Socrates. It looks, does it not, Euthydemus, as if self-control were the best thing a man could have?

It does indeed, Socrates (he answered).

Socrates. But now, Euthydemus, has it ever occurred to you to note one fact?

What fact? (he asked).

Socrates. That, after all, incontinency is powerless to bring us to that realm of sweetness which some look upon[10] as her peculiar province; it is not incontinency but self-control alone which has the passport to highest pleasures.

In what way? (he asked). How so?

Why, this way (Socrates answered): since incontinency will not suffer us to resist hunger and thirst, or to hold out against sexual appetite, or want of sleep (which abstinences are the only channels to true pleasure in eating and drinking, to the joys of love, to sweet repose and blissful slumber won by those who will patiently abide and endure till each particular happiness is at the flood)[11]--it comes to this: by incontinency we are cut off from the full fruition of the more obvious and constantly recurring pleasures.[12] To self-control, which alone enables us to endure the pains aforesaid, alone belongs the power to give us any pleasure worth remembering in these common cases.

You speak the words of truth[13] (he answered).

Socrates. Furthermore,[14] if there be any joy in learning aught "beautiful and good," or in patient application to such rules as may enable a man to manage his body aright, or to administer his household well, or to prove himself useful to his friends and to the state, or to dominate his enemies--which things are the sources not only of advantage but of deepest satisifaction[15]--to the continent and self-controlled it is given to reap the fruits of them in their performance. It is the incontinent who have neither part nor lot in any one of them. Since we must be right in asserting that he is least concerned with such things who has least ability to do them, being tied down to take an interest in the pleasure which is nearest to hand.

Euthydemus replied: Socrates, you would say, it seems to me, that a man who is mastered by the pleasures of the body has no concern at all with virtue.

And what is the distinction, Euthydemus (he asked), between a man devoid of self-control and the dullest of brute beasts? A man who foregoes all height of aim, who gives up searching for the best and strives only to gratify his sense of pleasure,[16] is he better than the silliest of cattle?[17] . . . But to the self-controlled alone is it given to discover the hid treasures. These, by word and by deed, they will pick out and make selection of them according to their kinds, choosing deliberately the good and holding aloof from the evil.[18] Thus (he added) it is that a man reaches the zenith, as it were, of goodness and happiness, thus it is that he becomes most capable of reasoning and discussion.[19] The very name discussion ({dialegesthai}) is got from people coming together and deliberating in common by picking out and selecting things ({dialegein}) according to their kinds.[20] A man then is bound to prepare himself as much as possible for this business, and to pursue it beyond all else with earnest resolution; for this is the right road to excellence, this will make a man fittest to lead his fellows and be a master in debate.[21]

[1] Lit. "more practical," i.e. more energetic and effective.

[2] "If any one might claim to be a prince of ascetics, it was Socrates; such was the ineffaceable impression left on the minds of his associates."

[3] Or, "he stimulated in these same companions a spirit of self- restraint beyond all else."

[4] Or, "which I can vouch for."

[5] Or, "incontinency is illiberal."

[6] "Wisdom, the greatest good which men can possess."

[7] Schneid. cf. Plat. "Protag." 355 A; and "Symp." iv. 23.

[8] "And if this be so concerning wisdom, {sophia}, what of {sophrasune}, soundness of soul--sobriety?"

[9] Or add, "If this be so concerning not wisdom only, but concerning temperance and soundness of soul, what," etc.

[10] Or, "which we are apt to think of as."

[11] Or, "at its season." Lit. "is as sweet as possible."

[12] Or, "from tasting to any extent worth speaking of the most necessary and all-pervading sources of happiness."

[13] Lit. "What you say is absolutely and entirely true" (the "vraie verite" of the matter).

[14] Or, "But indeed, if there be joy in the pursuit of any noble study or of such accomplishments as shall enable," etc.

[15] Or, "of the highest pleasures."

[16] Or, "and seeks by hook and by crook to do what is pleasantest."

[17] i.e. he becomes an animal "feeding a blind life within the brain."

[18] Or, "selecting the ore and repudiating the dross." Kuhner cf. Plat. "Laws," v. 735 B.

[19] Or, "draws nearer to happiness and perfection, and is most capable of truth-disclosing conversation." Cf. Plat. "Apol." 41: "What would not a man give, O judges, to be able to examine the leaders of the great Trojan expedition, or Odysseus, or Sisyphus, or numberless others, men and women too! What infinite delight would there be in conversing with them and asking them questions!" (Jowett).

[20] For {dialegein kata gene} = {dialegesthai}, cf. Grote, "H. G." viii. 590.

[21] Cf. Plat. "Rep." 534 D; "Phaedr." 252 E; "Crat." 390 C; "Statesm." 286 D foll.