Alcibiades I by Plato
Alcibiades I (continued)
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 friend?
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 should.
SOCRATES: You would feel no doubt; and for this reason--because you would know?
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?
ALCIBIADES: I agree.
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?
ALCIBIADES: Tell me.
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 ignorant?
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 mischievous?
SOCRATES: And most mischievous and most disgraceful when having to do with the greatest matters?
ALCIBIADES: By far.
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, Pericles.
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 wise.
SOCRATES: And you, whom he taught, can do the same?
SOCRATES: And in like manner the harper and gymnastic-master?
SOCRATES: When a person is enabled to impart knowledge to another, he thereby gives an excellent proof of his own understanding of any matter.
ALCIBIADES: I agree.
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 uneducated.
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.
ALCIBIADES: At what?
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 rivals?
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 not?
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.
ALCIBIADES: How so?
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?
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, Pericles.
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?
ALCIBIADES: We do.
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 unwise?
ALCIBIADES: The wise.
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?
SOCRATES: The shoemaker, for example, is wise in respect of the making of shoes?
SOCRATES: Then he is good in that?
ALCIBIADES: He is.
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 bad?
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 rowers?
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 mentioning.
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 them.
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?
SOCRATES: What art makes cities agree about numbers?
SOCRATES: And private individuals?
ALCIBIADES: The same.
SOCRATES: And what art makes each individual agree with himself?
ALCIBIADES: The same.
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 measure?
SOCRATES: Individuals are agreed with one another about this; and states, equally?
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?
ALCIBIADES: It would.
SOCRATES: Then, upon your view, women and men have two sorts of knowledge?
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 work?
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?
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 feet?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
ALCIBIADES: It is.
SOCRATES: Now the question which I asked was whether you conceive the user to be always different from that which he uses?
ALCIBIADES: I do.
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?
ALCIBIADES: He does.
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?
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.