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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Socrates and Euthydemus
By Socrates (469–399 B.C.)
 
From Xenophon’s ‘Memorabilia’: Translation of John Selby Watson

SOCRATES, having made the letters as he proposed, asked, “Does falsehood then exist among mankind?” “It does assuredly,” replied he.—“Under which head shall we place it?” “Under injustice, certainly.”—“Does deceit also exist?” “Unquestionably.”—“Under which head shall we place that?” “Evidently under injustice.”—“Does mischievousness exist?” “Undoubtedly.”—“And the enslaving of men?” “That too prevails.”—“And shall neither of these things be placed by us under justice, Euthydemus?” “It would be strange if they should be,” said he. “But,” said Socrates, “if a man, being chosen to lead an army, should reduce to slavery an unjust and hostile people, should we say that he committed injustice?” “No, certainly,” replied he.—“Should we not rather say that he acted justly?” “Indisputably.”—“And if, in the course of the war with them, he should practice deceit?” “That also would be just,” said he.—“And if he should steal and carry off their property, would he not do what was just?” “Certainly,” said Euthydemus; “but I thought at first that you asked these questions only with reference to our friends.” “Then,” said Socrates, “all that we have placed under the head of injustice, we must also place under that of justice?” “It seems so,” replied Euthydemus. “Do you agree, then,” continued Socrates, “that having so placed them, we should make a new distinction,—that it is just to do such things with regard to enemies, but unjust to do them with regard to friends, and that towards his friends our general should be as guileless as possible?” “By all means,” replied Euthydemus.  1
  “Well, then,” said Socrates, “if a general, seeing his army dispirited, should tell them, inventing a falsehood, that auxiliaries were coming, and should by that invention check the despondency of his troops, under which head should we place such an act of deceit?” “It appears to me,” said Euthydemus, “that we must place it under justice.”—“And if a father, when his son requires medicine and refuses to take it, should deceive him, and give him the medicine as ordinary food, and by adopting such deception should restore him to health, under which head must we place such an act of deceit?” “It appears to me that we must put it under the same head.”—“And if a person, when his friend was in despondency, should, through fear that he might kill himself, steal or take away his sword, or any other weapon, under which head must we place that act?” “That, assuredly, we must place under justice.”—“You say, then,” said Socrates, “that not even towards our friends must we act on all occasions without deceit?” “We must not indeed,” said he; “for I retract what I said before, if I may be permitted to do so.” “It is indeed much better that you should be permitted,” said Socrates, “than that you should not place actions on the right side. But of those who deceive their friends in order to injure them (that we may not leave even this point unconsidered), which of the two is the more unjust,—he who does so intentionally or he who does so involuntarily?” “Indeed, Socrates,” said Euthydemus, “I no longer put confidence in the answers which I give; for all that I said before appears to me now to be quite different from what I then thought: however, let me venture to say that he who deceives intentionally is more unjust than he who deceives involuntarily?”  2
  “Does it appear to you, then, that there is a way of learning and knowing what is just, as there is of learning and knowing how to read and write?” “I think there is.”—“And which should you consider the better scholar, him who should purposely write or read incorrectly, or him who should do so unawares?” “Him who should do so purposely; for whenever he pleased, he would be able to do both correctly.”—“He therefore that purposely writes incorrectly may be a good scholar, but he who does so involuntarily is destitute of scholarship?” “How can it be otherwise?”—“And whether does he who lies and deceives intentionally know what is just, or he who does so unawares?” “Doubtless he who does so intentionally.”—“You therefore say that he who knows how to write and read is a better scholar than he who does not know?” “Yes.”—“And that he who knows what is just is more just than he who does not know?” “I seem to say so; but I appear to myself to say this I know not how.”—“But what would you think of the man who, wishing to tell the truth, should never give the same account of the same thing, but in speaking of the same road, should say at one time that it led towards the east, and at another towards the west, and in stating the result of the same calculation, should sometimes assert it to be greater and sometimes less,—what, I say, would you think of such a man?” “It would be quite clear that he knew nothing of what he thought he knew.”  3
  “Do you know any persons called slave-like?” “I do.”—“Whether for their knowledge or their ignorance?” “For their ignorance, certainly.”—“Is it then for their ignorance of working in brass that they receive this appellation?” “Not at all.”—“Is it for their ignorance of the art of building?” “Nor for that.”—“Or for their ignorance of shoemaking?” “Not on any one of these accounts; for the contrary is the case, as most of those who know such trades are servile.”—“Is this, then, an appellation of those who are ignorant of what is honorable, and good, and just?” “It appears so to me.”—“It therefore becomes us to exert ourselves in every way to avoid being like slaves.” “But, by the gods, Socrates,” rejoined Euthydemus, “I firmly believed that I was pursuing that course of study by which I should, as I expected, be made fully acquainted with all that was proper to be known by a man striving after honor and virtue; but now, how dispirited must you think I feel, when I see that with all my previous labor, I am not even able to answer a question about what I ought most of all to know, and am acquainted with no other course which I may pursue to become better!”  4
 
 
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