Book I
IV
 

A belief is current, in accordance with views maintained concerning Socrates in speech and writing, and in either case conjecturally, that, however powerful he may have been in stimulating men to virtue as a theorist, he was incapable of acting as their guide himself.[1] It would be well for those who adopt this view to weigh carefully not only what Socrates effected "by way of castigation" in cross- questioning whose who conceived themselves to be possessed of all knowledge, but also his everyday conversation with those who spent their time in close intercourse with himself. Having done this, let them decide whether he was incapable of making his companions better.

I will first state what I once heard fall from his lips in a discussion with Aristodemus,[2] "the little," as he was called, on the topic of divinity.[3] Socrates had observed that Aristodemus neither sacrificed nor gave heed to divination, but on the contrary was disposed to ridicule those who did.

So tell me, Aristodemus (he begain), are there any human beings who have won your admiration for their wisdom?

Aristodemus. There are.

Socrates. Would you mention to us their names?

Aristodemus. In the writings of epic poetry I have the greatest admiration for Homer. . . . And as a dithyrambic poet for Melanippides.[4] I admire also Sophocles as a tragedian, Polycleitus as a sculptor, and Zeuxis as a painter.

Socrates. Which would you consider the more worthy of admiration, a fashioner of senseless images devoid of motion or one who could fashion living creatures endowed with understanding and activity?

Aristodemus. Decidedly the latter, provided his living creatures owed their birth to design and were not the offspring of some chance.

Socrates. But now if you had two sorts of things, the one of which presents no clue as to what it is for, and the other is obviously for some useful purpose--which would you judge to be the result of chance, which of design?

Aristodemus. Clearly that which is produced for some useful end is the work of design.

Socrates. Does it not strike you then that he who made man from the beginning[5] did for some useful end furnish him with his several senses--giving him eyes to behold the visible word, and ears to catch the intonations of sound? Or again, what good would there be in odours if nostrils had not been bestowed upon us? what perception of sweet things and pungent, and of all the pleasures of the palate, had not a tongue been fashioned in us as an interpreter of the same? And besides all this, do you not think this looks like a matter of foresight, this closing of the delicate orbs of sight with eyelids as with folding doors, which, when there is need to use them for any purpose, can be thrown wide open and firmly closed again in sleep? and, that even the winds of heaven may not visit them too roughly, this planting of the eyelashes as a protecting screen?[6] this coping of the region above the eyes with cornice-work of eyebrow so that no drop of sweat fall from the head and injure them? again this readiness of the ear to catch all sounds and yet not to be surcharged? this capacity of the front teeth of all animals to cut and of the "grinders" to receive the food and reduce it to pulp? the position of the mouth again, close to the eyes and nostrils as a portal of ingress for all the creature's supplies? and lastly, seeing that matter passing out[7] of the body is unpleasant, this hindward direction of the passages, and their removal to a distance from the avenues of sense? I ask you, when you see all these things constructed with such show of foresight can you doubt whether they are products of chance or intelligence?

Aristodemus. To be sure not! Viewed in this light they would seem to be the handiwork of some wise artificer,[8] full of love for all things living.[9]

Socrates. What shall we say of this passion implanted in man to beget offspring, this passion in the mother to rear her babe, and in the creature itself, once born, this deep desire of life and fear of death?

Aristodemus. No doubt these do look like the contrivances of some one deliberately planning the existence of living creatures.

Socrates. Well, and doubtless you feel to have a spark of wisdom yourself?

Aristodemus. Put your questions, and I will answer.

Socrates. And yet you imagine that elsewhere no spark of wisdom is to be found? And that, too, when you know that you have in your body a tiny fragment only of the mighty earth, a little drop of the great waters, and of the other elements, vast in their extent, you got, I presume, a particle of each towards the compacting of your bodily frame? Mind alone, it would seem, which is nowhere to be found,[10] you had the lucky chance to snatch up and make off with, you cannot tell how. And these things around and about us, enormous in size, infinite in number, owe their orderly arrangement, as you suppose, to some vacuity of wit?

Aristodemus. It may be, for my eyes fail to see the master agents of these, as one sees the fabricators of things produced on earth.

Socrates. No more do you see your own soul, which is the master agent of your body; so that, as far as that goes, you may maintain, if you like, that you do nothing with intelligence,[11] but everything by chance.

At this point Aristodemus: I assure you, Socrates, that I do not disdain the Divine power. On the contrary, my belief is that the Divinity is too grand to need any service which I could render.

Socrates. But the grander that power is, which deigns to tend and wait upon you, the more you are called upon to honour it.

Aristodemus. Be well assured, if I could believe the gods take thought for all men, I would not neglect them.

Socrates. How can you suppose that they do not so take thought? Who, in the first place, gave to man alone of living creatures his erect posture, enabling him to see farther in front of him and to contemplate more freely the height above, and to be less subject to distress than other creatures [endowed like himself with eyes and ears and mouth].[12] Consider next how they gave to the beast of the field[13] feet as a means of progression only, but to man they gave in addition hands-- those hands which have achieved so much to raise us in the scale of happiness above all animals. Did they not make the tongue also? which belongs indeed alike to man and beast, but in man they fashioned it so as to play on different parts of the mouth at different times, whereby we can produce articulate speech, and have a code of signals to express our every want to one another. Or consider the pleasures of the sexual appetite; limited in the rest of the animal kingdom to certain seasons, but in the case of man a series prolonged unbroken to old age. Nor did it content the Godhead merely to watch over the interests of man's body. What is of far higher import, he implanted in man the noblest and most excellent type of soul. For what other creature, to begin with, has a soul to appreciate the existence of the gods who have arranged this grand and beauteous universe? What other tribe of animals save man can render service to the gods? How apt is the spirit of man to take precautions against hunger and thirst, cold and heat, to alleviate disease and foster strength! how suited to labour with a view to learning! how capable of garnering in the storehouse of his memory all that he has heard or seen or understood! Is it not most evident to you that by the side of other animals men live and move a race of gods--by nature excellent, in beauty of body and of soul supreme? For, mark you, had a creature of man's wit been encased in the body of an ox,[14] he would have been powerless to carry out his wishes, just as the possession of hands divorced from human wit is profitless. And then you come, you who have obtained these two most precious attributes, and give it as your opinion, that the gods take no thought or care for you. Why, what will you have them to do, that you may believe and be persuaded that you too are in their thoughts?

Aristodemus. When they treat me as you tell us they treat you, and send me counsellors to warn me what I am to do and what abstain from doing,[15] I will believe.

Socrates. Send you counsellors! Come now, what when the people of Athens make inquiry by oracle, and the gods' answer comes? Are you not an Athenian? Think you not that to you also the answer is given? What when they send portents to forewarn the states of Hellas? or to all mankind? Are you not a man? a Hellene? Are not these intended for you also? Can it be that you alone are excepted as a signal instance of Divine neglect? Again, do you suppose that the gods could have implanted in the heart of man the belief in their capacity to work him weal or woe had they not the power? Would not men have discovered the imposture in all this lapse of time? Do you not perceive that the wisest and most perdurable of human institutions--be they cities or tribes of men--are ever the most God-fearing; and in the individual man the riper his age and judgment, the deeper his religousness? Ay, my good sir (he broke forth), lay to heart and understand that even as your own mind within you can turn and dispose of your body as it lists, so ought we to think that the wisdom which abides within the universal frame does so dispose of all things as it finds agreeable to itself; for hardly may it be that your eye is able to range over many a league, but that the eye of God is powerless to embrace all things at a glance; or that to your soul it is given to dwell in thought on matters here or far away in Egypt or in Sicily, but that the wisdom and thought of God is not sufficient to include all things at one instant under His care. If only you would copy your own behaviour[16] where human beings are concerned. It is by acts of service and of kindness that you discover which of your fellows are willing to requite you in kind. It is by taking another into your counsel that you arrive at the secret of his wisdom. If, on like principle, you will but make trial of the gods by acts of service, whether they will choose to give you counsel in matters obscure to mortal vision, you shall discover the nature and the greatness of Godhead to be such that they are able at once to see all things and to hear all things and to be present everywhere, nor does the least thing escape their watchful care.

To my mind the effect of words like these was to cause those about him to hold aloof from unholiness, baseness, and injustice, not only whilst they were seen of men, but even in the solitary place, since they must believe that no part of their conduct could escape the eye of Heaven.

[1] Al. "If any one believes that Socrates, as represented in certain dialogues (e.g. of Plato, Antisthenes, etc.) of an imaginary character, was an adept ({protrepsasthai}) in the art of stimulating people to virtue negatively but scarcely the man to guide ({proagein}) his hearers on the true path himself." Cf. (Plat.) "Clitophon," 410 B; Cic. "de Or." I. xlvii. 204; Plut. "Mor." 798 B. See Grote, "Plato," iii. 21; K. Joel, op. cit. p. 51 foll.; Cf. below, IV. iii. 2.

[2] See Plat. "Symp." 173 B: "He was a little fellow who never wore any shoes, Aristodemus, of the deme of Cydathenaeum."--Jowett.

[3] Or, "the divine element."

[4] Melanippides, 430 B.C. See Cobet, "Pros. Xen." s.n.

[5] Cf. Aristot. "de Part. Animal." 1. For the "teleological" views see IV. iii. 2 foll.

[6] "Like a sieve" or "colander."

[7] "That which goeth out of a man."

[8] "Demiurge."

[9] Passage referred to by Epictetus ap. Stob. "Flor." 121, 29.

[10] Cf. Plat. "Phileb." 30 B: "Soc. May our body be said to have a soul? Pro. Clearly. Soc. And whence comes that soul, my dear Protarchus, unless the body of the universe, which contains elements similar to our bodies but finer, has also a soul? Can there be any other source?"--Jowett. Cic. "de N. D." ii. 6; iii. 11.

[11] Or, "by your wit," {gnome}.

[12] See Kuhner for an attempt to cure the text.

[13] {erpetois}, a "poetical" word. Cf. "Od." iv. 418; Herod. i. 140.

[14] See Aristot. "de Part. Animal." iv. 10.

[15] See IV. iii. 12.

[16] Or, "reason as you are wont to do."