BECK index

To listen to Plato's dialog Alcibiades Part 1 between Socrates and Alcibiades about self-knowledge, click on the play button below.

To listen to Plato's dialog Alcibiades Part 2 between Socrates and Alcibiades about self-knowledge, click on the play button below.

Introduction to Alcibiades

Alcibiades was about twenty years younger than Socrates. His father died in battle when Alcibiades was about 4, and he was brought up by Pericles, the eminent political leader of Athens. The ALCIBIADES dialog is set in 432 BC when Alcibiades was 18, the same year that Socrates saved his life during the battle at Potidaea. Later in 424 at Delium Alcibiades stayed to protect Socrates during the retreat.

In spite of Socrates' attempts to guide him, the ambitious Alcibiades had a tumultuous career in politics, diplomacy, and war. His courage in battle and his speeches in the assembly enabled him to become a general when he was thirty. An alliance he recommended was defeated by Sparta at Mantineia in 418, but he managed to escape being ostracized by political maneuvering.

His victories in the chariot races at the Olympics in 416 restored him to prominence, and he instigated a military expedition against Sicily. Just before sailing the statues of Hermes were vandalized. Alcibiades was blamed and also condemned to death for profaning the Eleusinian mysteries. However, when he was recalled from Sicily he escaped and joined the Spartans (Lacedaimonians), seduced the wife of Spartan king Agis II, stirred up revolt among Ionian allies of Athens, and tried to get financial support for Athens from Persia.

In 411 the Athenian fleet loyal to the democracy put him in command, and he won big victories against Sparta; in 407 he returned to Athens and was given supreme authority over the war. His influence declined though, and when the war went badly he took refuge in Phrygia with the Persian governor, who murdered him in 404 for the Spartans.

What follows is the Alcibiades I dialog. There is also an Alicibiades II dialog which may or may not be by Plato.

This has been published in the WISDOM BIBLE as a book. For ordering information, please click here. This text is also available as spoken by Sanderson Beck and Joshua Gomez on CD.

by Plato

Translated by Sanderson Beck

1. Socrates Approaches Alcibiades
2. Ambition of Alcibiades
3. Socrates Questions Alcibiades
4. The Learning of Alcibiades
5. Advice on War and Peace
6. Art of Music
7. War and Justice
8. How Did Alcibiades Learn Justice?
9. Learning of the Many
10. Many Do Not Agree on Justice
11. Alcibiades has been Answering
12. Socrates Asks to be Persuaded
13. The Just Is Advantageous
14. Why Alcibiades Is Confused
15. Pericles Made No One Wise

16. Against Whom Will Alcibiades Compete?
17. Noble Upbringing of Persian Kings
18. Lacedaimonians and Persians
19. Taking Care to Be Best
20. Ruling Over People
21. Friendship and Oneness
22. Taking Care of Ourselves
23. To Know Oneself
24. The Soul Uses the Body
25. The Soul Is the Person
26. Socrates Loves Alcibiades
27. For the Soul to Know Herself
28. The Ignorant Do Badly
29. The Need for Knowledge and Goodness
30. The Condition of Alcibiades

SOCRATES. Child of Cleinias,
I think you may be surprised,
that being the first of your lovers,
the others having stopped, I alone have not left you,
and when the others in a crowd were conversing with you,
I have not spoken to you in years.
And the cause of this is not anything human,
but a certain divine opposition,
whose power you shall also hear of later;
but now since it no longer opposes, thus I have come;
and I am hopeful also it will not oppose anymore.

So nearby I have been observing during this time
considering how you attend to the lovers;
for though they were many and high-minded,
none not overcome by your spirit, they fled from you,
and the reason, for which they were overwhelmed,
I intend to explain.

You say you do not need any person for anything;
for your advantages are great,
so as not to need anything,
starting from the body and ending in the soul.
For you think first you are most beautiful and greatest;
and this is clear for everyone to see that it is not false;
since you are of the most dashing family in your own city,
being the greatest of the Greeks,
and there by your father for you
are many friends and relatives and the best,
who if you should need something would assist you,
and the ones by your mother are neither worse nor fewer;
and you think altogether greater than what I said
to advance you is the power of Pericles, son of Xanthippus,
whom your father left behind as guardian
for you and your brother;
who not only is able to do whatever he wishes in the city,
but in all of Greece and among many and great foreigners.
And I shall add also that of the wealth;
but you seem to me to presume least on the greatness of this.

So boasting of all these things
you have prevailed over the lovers
and they cowering under were conquered,
and these things have not been unnoticed by you;
so I know well that you are wondering why
for whatever purpose I do not leave off the love,
and having what hope do I remain when the others have fled.

ALCIBIADES. And perhaps, Socrates,
you are not aware that you just anticipated me.
For I had in mind before going to you to ask the same thing,
what do you want
and looking for what hope are you annoying me,
always taking the utmost care to be present wherever I am;
for I really wonder what is your business,
and would be glad if I could hear of it.

SO. Then you will listen to me, presumably, eagerly,
if, as you say, you desire to know what I mean,
and as to one listening and staying around I may speak.

ALC. Certainly; but speak.

SO. Look then; for it would not be surprising if,
as I had trouble starting,
so also I may have trouble stopping.

ALC. Joyful one, speak; for I shall listen.

SO. Speak I should.
Though it is hard to come near as a lover
to a man who does not yield to lovers,
but nevertheless I must venture to say what I mean.
For Alcibiades, if I saw you were content
with what I just explained
and thought it necessary to end life among these,
long ago I would have left off the love,
so at least I persuade myself;
but now I shall allege other thoughts to you,
by which you shall also know that
I have been continuously attentive to you.

For you seem to me, if some god should say to you,
"Alcibiades, do you wish to live having what you now have,
or to die immediately,
if you are not to be permitted to gain greater?"
It seems to me you would choose to die;
but now upon what hope you really live, I shall say.

You believe that
if you should soon come before the Athenian democracy---
and this will be in a very few days---
thus going you will point out to the Athenians
that you are more worthy of honor than either Pericles
or anyone else who has ever existed,
and having pointed this out
you will have the greatest power in the state,
and if you are the greatest here,
you are also among the other Greeks,
and not only among Greeks but also among the foreigners,
who inhabit the same continent with us.

And if this same god should say to you
that you must have power in Europe,
but you will not be permitted to cross over into Asia
nor to interfere with the affairs there,
it seems to me you would not live on only those terms either,
if you are not to fill with your name and your power
all, as one might say, of humanity;
and I think that except for Cyrus and Xerxes
you believe no one has existed worthy of a word.
So that you have this hope, I know well and am not guessing.

Thus perhaps you would say,
since you know what I say is true;
so what, Socrates, does this have to do with your argument?
And I shall tell you, dear child of Cleinias and Deinomache.
For the goal of all your purposes
is impossible for you to set without me;
such is the power I think I have
in regard to your business and you;
and because of this long ago I thought
the god would not allow me to converse with you,
while I was staying around for the time
when it would be allowed.

For as you have hopes of proving yourself
in the state to her that of all you are worthy,
and having proven no one else is
that immediately you will be powerful,
so I along with you hope to be more powerful
proving that of all I am worthy for you,
and neither guardian nor relative nor anyone else is adequate
to give over the power which you set for yourself
except me, with the god however.
So being in your youth and before being full of such hopes,
as it seems to me, the god did not allow conversing
so that I would not be conversing in vain;
but now he commands it; for now you will listen to me.

ALC. Now, Socrates, you appear to me
even more extraordinary, since you began to speak,
than when you followed in silence;
although even then you were seen as quite excessive.
So if I intend these things or not,
as likely, you have decided,
and if I should say no,
it will not be more likely for me to persuade you.
Well; but if really I especially do intend these things,
how will it occur for me because of you
and without you it would not happen?
What do you have to say?

SO. Then are you asking if I have to make a long speech,
which you are used to hearing?
For such is not my way;
but it is possible, as I think,
to prove to you that these things are so,
if you are willing to do me one small service.

ALC. But if the service you mean is not hard, I am willing.

SO. Does it seem hard to answer questions?

ALC. Not hard.

SO. Then answer.

ALC. Ask.

SO. Then as to your having these intentions,
which I say you intend, I am asking.

ALC. Let it be so, if you wish,
so that I may also know what you will ask.

SO. Come now; for you intend, as I say,
to come forward in advising the Athenians in not too long;
so if when about to go up on the platform
taking hold of you I should ask, "Alcibiades,
since about something of the Athenians
you are intending to advise them,
about what are you standing up to advise them?
Then is it about what you know better than they?"
What would you answer?

ALC. I would say of course,
about what I know better than they.

SO. About what you happen to know, you are a good adviser.

ALC. Why not?

SO. Then you know only the things
which you have learned from another or discovered yourself?

ALC. For what else could I know?

SO. So is it possible
that you could ever learn or discover something
not being willing to learn or inquire yourself?

ALC. It is not.

SO. But what? Would you have been willing
to inquire or learn what you thought you knew?

ALC. Of course not.

SO. Then what you happen to know now,
was there a time when you did not believe you knew it?

ALC. Necessarily.

SO. But what you have learned, I also know pretty well;
but if something has escaped me, say it.
For you really learned according to my memory
writing and the harp and wrestling;
for the flute you were not willing to learn;
this is what you know,
unless somehow you learned something escaping my notice;
but I think, neither at night nor mid-day
did you go out from inside without my noticing.

ALC. But I have not attended school
in any others than these.

SO. So which is it,
is it when the Greeks are being advised about writing,
how one should write correctly,
then will you stand up to advise them?

ALC. By God, not I.

SO. But when it is about notes on the lyre?

ALC. Not at all.

SO. Nor are they used to being advised
about wrestling in the assembly.

ALC. Of course not.

SO. So when they are being advised about what?
for surely it is not when it is about building.

ALC. Of course not.

SO. For a builder will advise on this better than you.

ALC. Yes.

SO. Nor is it when they are being advised about divination?

ALC. No.

SO. For a diviner on this is better than you.

ALC. Yes.

SO. Whether one is small or large,
whether beautiful or ugly, even noble or ignoble.

ALC. For how could it not be so?

SO. For I think concerning each the advice
is from the knowledgeable, and not from the wealthy.

ALC. For how could it not be so?

SO. But whether the one counseling is a worker or wealthy,
would make no difference to Athenians,
when they are being advised in the state
about how they should be healthy,
but they seek a physician to be the adviser.

ALC. Naturally.

SO. So what will they be considering
when you are standing up
so that you will correctly be standing up to advise them?

ALC. When it is about their own affairs, Socrates.

SO. Do you mean about shipbuilding,
what kind of ships it is useful for them to have built?

ALC. Not I, Socrates.

SO. For I think you do not know how to build ships.
Is this the cause or something else?

ALC. No, but this is it.

SO. But about what affairs of theirs do you mean
when they are being advised?

ALC. When it is about war, Socrates, or about peace
or other affairs of the state.

SO. Then do you mean, when they are being advised,
with whom it is useful to make peace
and on whom to make war and in what way?

ALC. Yes.

SO. And on whom it is better, should they not?

ALC. Yes.

SO. And at the time when it is better?

ALC. Certainly.

SO. And for as long a time as is better?

ALC. Yes.

SO. So if the Athenians should be advised,
with whom it is useful to wrestle close
and with whom at arm's length and in what way,
would you be the better adviser or the gymnastic trainer?

ALC. The gymnastic trainer, of course.

SO. So you have to say,
looking at what will the gymnastic trainer advise
with whom they must wrestle close and with whom not,
and when and in what way?
What I mean is: then must they not wrestle close
with these with whom it is better, or not?

ALC. Yes.

SO. Then so much as is better also?

ALC. So much.

SO. Then also at the time that is better?

ALC. Certainly.

SO. But also in singing is it necessary to play the harp
at the time of the song and stepping?

ALC. It is.

SO. Then at the time when it is better?

ALC. Yes.

SO. And so much as is better?

ALC. I say so.

SO. So what then? Since you name "better" for both
playing the harp with the song and for wrestling close,
what do you call better in playing the harp,
as I call gymnastic in wrestling?
But what do you call that?

ALC. I do not understand.

SO. But try to imitate me.
For I had the correct answer in every case,
and it is correct doubtless according to the current art;
or is it not?

ALC. Yes.

SO. And was not the art gymnastic?

ALC. But how could it not be?

SO. And I said in wrestling the better is gymnastic.

ALC. You did say it.

SO. Then beautifully?

ALC. It seems to me.

SO. Come then you too---for it would be fitting also
for you to converse beautifully---
say first, what is the art which includes
playing the harp and singing and stepping correctly?
What is it called all together?
Is it not yet possible to say?

ALC. Not now.

SO. Try another way: who are the goddesses of the art?

ALC. Do you mean the Muses, Socrates?

SO. I do. Really look: what is the art named after them?

ALC. You seem to me to mean music.

SO. I do mean it.
So what according to this is correctly done?
As there I told you
according to the art gymnastic was correct,
and so now what do you say is so here?
How is it done?

ALC. It seems to me by music.

SO. You speak well.
Come now, also the better in war and in maintaining peace,
what do you name this that is better?
just as there you said the better was the more musical,
and in the other the more gymnastical;
try now also here to tell the better.

ALC. But I have no idea at all.

SO. But yet it is disgraceful,
if you were speaking and counseling someone about food
that this kind is better and now and so much,
since he would ask,
"What do you mean by 'the better,' Alcibiades?"
about these things one would have to say
that it is the more healthy,
although you do not pretend to be a physician;
and about what you pretend to be knowledgeable
and counsel standing up as one knowing,
but of this, as is fitting,
about which you were asked if you could say,
are you not ashamed? Or does it not appear disgraceful?

ALC. Very.

SO. Consider then and be ready to say,
to what does "better" refer in maintaining peace
and in warring with whom it is necessary?

ALC. But in considering I am not able to understand.

SO. Don't you know, when we make war,
with what suffering we charge each other
when we go into warring, and what we name it when we go?

ALC. I do, that someone deceived or violated or cheated.

SO. You have it; how are each of these suffered?
Try to say, what is the difference between one or another.

ALC. Do you mean by this, Socrates, justly or unjustly?

SO. The same.

ALC. But this is the whole difference and all of it.

SO. So what then?
On which are you counseling the Athenians to war,
those doing the unjust or the just?

ALC. This you are asking is tricky;
for even if someone decides that it is necessary
to war on those doing the just, he would not admit it.

SO. For this is not lawful, as is fitting.

ALC. Of course not; nor does it seem to be beautiful.

SO. Then will you make your speeches
along these lines also?

ALC. Necessarily.

SO. So what else, the better
which I was just now asking in reference to warring or not,
and with whom it is necessary and with whom it is not,
and when it is and when not,
happens to be the more just? or not?

ALC. It appears so.

SO. How so, dear Alcibiades?
Has it escaped your notice that you do not know this,
or did it escape me
your learning and attending school with a teacher,
who taught you to discern the more just and the more unjust?
And who is he?
And tell me so that you may introduce me too as his pupil.

ALC. You are mocking, Socrates.

SO. No, by the god of Friendship, mine and yours,
by whom I would not swear falsely in the least;
but if you have it, tell who it is.

ALC. But what if I don't have it?
Don't you think I could know about justice and injustice
in any other way?

SO. Yes, if you could discover it.

ALC. But don't you believe I could discover it.

SO. And very much, if you inquired.

ALC. Then don't you think I might inquire?

SO. I do, if you thought you didn't know.

ALC. Then was there not a time when I was that way?

SO. You speak beautifully.
Therefore you have to say this time,
when you did not think you knew the just and the unjust?
Come, was it a year ago you inquired
and didn't think you knew;
Or did you think you knew?
And answer the truth
so that the discussion may not become vain.

ALC. But I thought I knew.

SO. And the third and fourth and fifth years were you thus?

ALC. I was.

SO. But before this you were a child, were you not?

ALC. Yes.

SO. Even then I know well that you thought you knew.

ALC. How do you know it well?

SO. Many times I heard you at your teachers'
when a child and elsewhere,
and when playing dice or another children's game,
how not having any doubt about the just and unjust,
but speaking very loud and confidently
about what occurred with the children,
how one was bad and unjust and was thus doing wrong;
or do I not speak the truth?

ALC. But what was I to do, Socrates,
when someone was wronging me?

SO. But if it happened you were ignorant
whether you were wronged or not at that time,
do you mean, "What are you supposed to do?"

ALC. By God, but I was not ignorant,
but I clearly understood that I was being wronged.

SO. Then you thought you knew even as a child,
as is likely, the just and the unjust.

ALC. I did; and I did know.

SO. In what time period did you discover it?
For it was certainly not when you thought you knew.

ALC. Of course not.

SO. So when did you believe you were ignorant?
Consider; for you will not discover this period.

ALC. By God, Socrates, then I have nothing to say.

SO. Then by discovering them you do not know these things.

ALC. I appear not to at all.

SO. But you just said you do not know them by learning;
and if you neither discovered nor learned,
how do you know and from where?

ALC. But perhaps on this I was not answering you correctly,
appearing to know this by discovering it.

SO. But how do you have it?

ALC. I learned it, I think, and I also like the others.

SO. Again we come to the same argument.
From whom? Tell me.

ALC. From the many.

SO. Not in serious teachers are you taking refuge
in appealing to the many.

ALC. But what? Are they not capable of teaching?

SO. Not even how to play checkers and how not to;
although I think this is more trivial than justice.
But what? Don't you think so?

ALC. Yes.

SO. Then unable to teach the more trivial,
are they able to teach the more serious?

ALC. I think so; but at any rate
many are able to teach more serious things than checkers.

SO. What kind of things?

ALC. For example, I learned to speak Greek from these,
and I could not say who my teacher was,
but I attribute it to the same ones,
who you say are not serious teachers.

SO. But, noble one, the many are good teachers of this,
and may be justly praised for teaching these things.

ALC. Why?

SO. Because they have what is useful
to be good teachers of these things.

ALC. What do you mean by this?

SO. Don't you know
that it is useful for those about to teach anything
that they should first know it themselves? Or don't you?

ALC. For how could I not?

SO. Then those knowing agree with each other
and do not differ?

ALC. Yes.

SO. But if they differ on these,
will you say they know these things?

ALC. Of course not.

SO. Thus how could they be teachers of these things?

ALC. They could not at all.

SO. So what then?
Do the many seem to you to differ on what is stone or wood?
And if you asked them,
would they not agree on the same things,
and do they go after the same things
when they want to get stone or wood?
Just as also with every such thing;
for what I pretty much understand that you mean
by knowing how to speak Greek is this; or is it not?

ALC. Yes.

SO. Then on these things, as we said,
they agree with each other
and with their own selves in private,
and in democracy the states
do not disagree with each other on these,
and they do not affirm others?

ALC. They do not.

SO. Then it is likely of these things also
they will be good teachers.

ALC. Yes.

SO. Then if we should want to
make anyone know about these things,
correctly we should send him to be taught by these many?

ALC. Certainly.

SO. But what if we wanted to know,
not only what people are or what horses are,
but also which of them are runners and which not,
then would the many still be capable of teaching this?

ALC. Of course not.

SO. And do you have adequate proof that they neither know
nor are proficient teachers of these things,
since they do not agree themselves about them?

ALC. I do.

SO. But what if we wanted to know,
not only what people are, but which are healthy or diseased,
then would the many be adequate teachers for us?

ALC. Of course not.

SO. And would you have proof
that they are bad teachers of these things,
if you saw them differing?

ALC. I would.

SO. But what then?
Now about just and unjust people and business
do the many seem to you to agree on these themselves
or with each other?

ALC. Not in the least by God, Socrates.

SO. But what? Do they differ very much about these?

ALC. Much.

SO. Then I think you never yet saw nor heard
people differing so seriously about health and lack of it,
so as to fight because of these things and kill each other.

ALC. Of course not.

SO. But about justice and injustice I know that,
even if you have not seen it,
you have heard at any rate from many others and Homer.
For you have heard both the Odyssey and the Iliad.

ALC. Most certainly, Socrates.

SO. Then are these poems about
a difference of just and unjust?

ALC. Yes.

SO. And the battles and the deaths occurred
because of this difference
between the Achaeans and the other Trojans,
and between the suitors of Penelope and Odysseus.

ALC. You speak the truth.

SO. And I think also at Tanagra
when Athenians and Lacedaemonians and Boeotians died,
and later at Coronea, in which also your father met his end,
and concerning the former
no other difference than about the just and unjust
produced the deaths and the battles. Did it not?

ALC. You speak the truth.

SO. So are we to say these are knowledgeable,
about what they differ on so seriously,
so as to go opposing each other to their very last extremity?

ALC. It does not appear so.

SO. Then are you referring to such teachers,
whom you admit yourself do not know?

ALC. It is likely.

SO. So how is it likely
that you know the just and the unjust,
about which you go astray so
and appear not to have learned from anyone
nor discovered yourself?

ALC. From what you are saying it is not likely.

SO. Here again do you see
how you are not speaking beautifully, Alcibiades?

ALC. In what?

SO. In that you are saying it is me speaking these things.

ALC. But what? Are you not speaking,
how I do not know about the just and unjust?

SO. Definitely not.

ALC. But am I?

SO. Yes.

ALC. How so?

SO. Here is a way.
If I ask you between the one and the two, which is more,
will you not say that it is the two?

ALC. I shall.

SO. By how much?

ALC. By one.

SO. So which of us is saying
that the two is one more than the one?

ALC. I am.

SO. Then I was asking, and you were answering?

ALC. Yes.

SO. So do I the one questioning
appear to be the one speaking about these things,
or you the one answering?


SO. But what if I ask what are the letters of "Socrates,"
and you should say; which is the one speaking?


SO. Come now, in a word say:
when asking and answering is occurring,
which is the one speaking,
the one asking or the one answering?

ALC. The one answering, it seems to me, Socrates.

SO. Then so far through all the argument
was I the one asking?

ALC. Yes.

SO. And you the one answering?

ALC. Certainly.

SO. So what then?
Which of us has spoken what has been said?

ALC. I appear to have, Socrates, out of what I admitted.

SO. Then was it said about justice and injustice
that Alcibiades, the fair son of Cleinias, did not know,
but thought he did,
and was about to go into the assembly
to advise Athenians about what he does not know?
Was this not so?

ALC. It appears so.

SO. Then it follows, Alcibiades, something of Euripides:
that you are in danger of your having heard it not from me,
I am not the one speaking these things, but you,
and you blame me in vain.
And yet you also speak well.
For mad is the scheme you have in mind to attempt, best one,
to teach what you do not know, having neglected to learn it.

ALC. I think, Socrates, rarely are Athenians advised
and the other Greeks, which is more just or more unjust;
for such things they believe are obvious;
so passing over these
they consider which will be advantageous in practice.
For these, I think, are not the same,
the just and the advantageous,
but many really profited by committing great wrongs,
and others, I think, doing just actions gained no advantage.

SO. But what?
If the just happens to be quite another thing,
and the advantageous different,
you don't think you know these things
which are advantageous for the people, and why?

ALC. For what is to prevent it, Socrates?
Unless again you will ask me from whom I learned it
or how I discovered it myself.

SO. What a way you do this!
If you speak something not correct,
and it happens that because of the previous argument
it can be so demonstrated,
then you think it is necessary
to hear some new different demonstrations,
as though the previous ones are like a worn-out coat,
and you should no longer wear it,
if someone does not bring you a clean and undefiled proof.
But I saying goodby
passing by your advance runners of the argument
nonetheless shall ask,
again from where did you learn how to know the advantageous,
and who is the teacher,
and all those things I asked before I shall ask as one;
for it is clear that in this you will find also
you will have no way to demonstrate
either that by discovering it you know the advantageous
or by having learned it.
But since you are fastidious
and no longer like the taste of this argument,
let me say goodby to this,
whether or not you know the advantageous for the Athenians;
but whether justice and advantage are the same or different,
why don't you demonstrate?
If you want, ask me as I did you,
or even explain it by your own argument.

ALC. But I don't know if I can explain it to you, Socrates.

SO. But joyful one, use me as assembly and democracy;
for there it will be necessary for you to persuade each one.
Will it not?

ALC. Yes.

SO. Then is the same person able to persuade
one alone and many together about what he knows,
just as a grammar school teacher can persuade
one and many about writing?

ALC. Yes.

SO. So again will not the same person persuade
one and many about arithmetic?

ALC. Yes.

SO. And he will be the one who knows, the arithmetician?

ALC. Certainly.

SO. Then too as you are able to persuade many,
is the same also so with one?

ALC. It is likely.

SO. And it is clear that these things are what you know.

ALC. Yes.

SO. So the only difference between
an orator in the democracy
and one in this kind of conversation
is that one persuades a crowd of the same things
which another does one at a time?

ALC. It may be.

SO. Come now,
since the same person appears to persuade many and one,
practice on me and try to demonstrate
how the just sometimes is not advantageous.

ALC. You are insolent, Socrates.

SO. Now at any rate with this insolence
I intend to persuade you of the opposite
of what you are not willing to persuade me.

ALC. Speak then.

SO. Only answer the questions.

ALC. No, but you speak yourself.

SO. But what? Don't you especially want to be convinced?

ALC. By all means.

SO. Then if you should say that these things are so,
would you be especially convinced?

ALC. It seems I would.

SO. Then answer; and if you don't hear from yourself,
that the just is advantageous,
you should not trust another speaking.

ALC. I won't, but let me answer;
for I don't think I shall be harmed by it.

SO. For you are prophetic.
And tell me: do you say
some of the just things are advantageous, but others are not?

ALC. Yes.

SO. But what? Are some of the beautiful, and some not?

ALC. How are you asking this?

SO. Did someone ever seem to you dishonorable,
but practice justice?

ALC. Not to me.

SO. But are all just things beautiful?

ALC. Yes.

SO. And what of the beautiful things?
Are they all good, or some, and not others?

ALC. I think, Socrates,
some of the beautiful things are bad.

SO. And some of the dishonorable good?

ALC. Yes.

SO. Then do you mean in such cases,
when many in war rescuing a companion or relative
received injuries or died,
but the ones not rescuing, as needed, went away healthy?

ALC. Definitely.

SO. Then such a rescue you say is beautiful
in respect to the attempt to save which was needed;
and this is courage, is it not?

ALC. Yes.

SO. But it is bad in respect to the deaths and wounding?

ALC. Yes.

SO. So then is not the courage one thing,
and the death another?

ALC. Certainly.

SO. Then it is not in respect to the same thing
the rescuing the friends is beautiful and bad?

ALC. It appears not.

SO. Then see if, what is beautiful is also good,
just as also here: for you admitted
in respect to the courage the rescue was beautiful;
So consider this same thing, the courage, is it good or bad?
But consider this way:
which would you choose for yourself, good or bad?

ALC. Good.

SO. Then the very greatest things,
and would you least accept losing such things?

ALC. For how could I not?

SO. So what do you say about courage?
at what price would you choose to lose it?

ALC. I would not even choose life as a coward.

SO. Then cowardice seems to you to be the worst of evils.

ALC. To me.

SO. Equal to dying, as is likely.

ALC. I say so.

SO. Then most opposite to death and cowardice
are life and courage?

ALC. Yes.

SO. And would you especially choose the latter for you,
and the former least?

ALC. Yes.

SO. Then is it that you believe these are best,
and the others worst?

ALC. Certainly.

SO. Then you believe courage is among the best things
and death among the worst.

ALC. I do.

SO. Then to rescue the friends in war, which is beautiful,
in respect to the doing of good by the courage,
do you name it beautiful?

ALC. I appear to.

SO. But in respect to the doing of evil by the death bad?

ALC. Yes.

SO. Then in this it is just to name each of the actions:
if really you call what produces evil bad,
and what does good must be called good.

ALC. It seems to me.

SO. So then also what does good, beautiful;
and what does bad, dishonorable?

ALC. Yes.

SO. Then saying the rescue in the war of the friends
is beautiful, but bad,
you mean nothing different than naming it good, but bad.

ALC. You seem to me to speak the truth, Socrates.

SO. Then nothing of the beautiful,
in so far as it is beautiful, is bad,
and nothing of the dishonorable,
in so far as it is dishonorable, is good.

ALC. It appears not.

SO. Then still also consider this.
Whoever acts beautifully, does he not also do well?

ALC. Yes.

SO. And are not the ones doing well happy?

ALC. For how could they not be?

SO. Then are they happy because of gaining good things?

ALC. Especially.

SO. And do they gain these things
by doing well and acting beautifully?

ALC. Yes.

SO. Then is doing well good?

ALC. But how could it not be?

SO. Then is the success beautiful?

ALC. Yes.

SO. Then it has appeared to us again
that the beautiful and the good are the same.

ALC. It appears so.

SO. Then what we find is beautiful,
we shall also find is good from this argument.

ALC. By necessity.

SO. But what? Are good things advantageous or not?

ALC. Advantageous.

SO. So do you remember what we agreed about the just?

ALC. I think the ones doing the just
must be doing the beautiful.

SO. So too the ones doing the beautiful the good?

ALC. Yes.

SO. And the good things are advantageous?

ALC. Yes.

SO. Then the just, Alcibiades, is advantageous.

ALC. It is likely.

SO. So what then? Are you not the one speaking,
and I the one asking?

ALC. I appear to be, as is likely.

SO. So if anyone stands up advising
either Athenians or Peparethians,
thinking he knows the just and the unjust,
and says that the just is sometimes bad,
would you do anything other than laugh at him,
since you also happen to be saying
that the same things are just and advantageous?

ALC. But by the gods, Socrates,
I do not know at all what I am saying,
but it is really like feeling strange.
For at one time during your questioning
it seems to me different,
and at another time something else.

SO. Next this, friend, are you unaware what the feeling is?

ALC. Certainly.

SO. So do you think, if someone should ask you,
do you have two eyes or three,
and two hands or four, or any other such thing,
at one time would you answer different,
and at another time something else,
or always the same?

ALC. I am already having anxiety about myself,
yet I think the same.

SO. Then is it because you know? Is this the cause?

ALC. I think so.

SO. Then about what you answer
with unwilling contradictions,
it is clear that you do not know about them.

ALC. It is likely.

SO. Then too about the just and unjust and beautiful
and dishonorable and bad and good and advantageous also
are you not saying you are going astray in your answers?
Next is it not clear that because of not knowing about them,
you are going astray over these?

ALC. To me it is.

SO. So then is it also so:
when someone does not know something,
is it necessary for the soul to go astray about this?

ALC. For how could it not?

SO. So what then?
Do you know some way by which you could go up into heaven?

ALC. By God, not I.

SO. And does your opinion about this go astray?

ALC. Of course not.

SO. And do you know the cause, or shall I state it?

ALC. State it.

SO. Because, friend, you do not think you know it
while not knowing it.

ALC. Again what do you mean by this?

SO. You look also in common.
What is not known, and you know that it is not known,
do you go astray about these things?
For example about preparing a sauce
do you know for sure that you do not know how?

ALC. Certainly.

SO. So then do you think about these things yourself,
how it is useful to prepare it, and go astray,
or do you turn it over to one who knows?

ALC. Just so.

SO. And what if you should be sailing on a ship,
then would you think whether it is useful
to hold the tiller inward or outward,
and in not knowing you would go astray,
or turning it over to the pilot would you keep silent?

ALC. Turn it over to the pilot.

SO. Then you do not go astray about what you don't know,
as long as you know that you don't know?

ALC. It is not likely.

SO. So are you aware that
mistakes in practice are because of this ignorance,
thinking one knows when one does not know?

ALC. Again what do you mean by this?

SO. Is the time when we attempt to act,
when we think we know what we are doing?

ALC. Yes.

SO. And when people do not think they know,
do they give it over to others?

ALC. Why not?

SO. Then are they of the ones who do not know
unerring in life because of turning them over to others?

ALC. Yes.

SO. So who are the ones making mistakes?
For they are not the ones who know.

ALC. Of course not.

SO. And since it is neither the ones who know
nor the ones who do not know
knowing that they have not known it,
are the others left the ones who do not know,
but think they know?

ALC. None, but these.

SO. Then this ignorance is a cause of evils
and the shameful kind of stupidity?

ALC. Yes.

SO. Thus when it is about the greatest things,
then it is most harmful and shameful?

ALC. By far.

SO. So what then?
Can you mention anything greater than the just
and the beautiful and the good and the advantageous?

ALC. Of course not.

SO. Then it is about these you say you go astray?

ALC. Yes.

SO. But if you go astray,
then is it not clear from the previous
that not only are you ignorant of the greatest things,
but also while not knowing them you think you know?

ALC. I run the risk.

SO. Then alas, Alcibiades,
what a misfortune you are suffering!
I shrink from naming it,
but nevertheless, since we are alone, let me speak.
For you are living with stupidity, best one, to the extreme,
as your argument also accuses you yourself;
and because of this you dart into politics
before being educated.
And you are not the only one to have suffered this,
but also many of the ones managing the affairs of state here,
except a few and perhaps your guardian Pericles.

ALC. It is said, Socrates,
he did not become wise by accident,
but associated with many also wise,
both Pythocleides and Anaxagoras;
even now at his age
he still is with Damon for this very purpose.

SO. So what then? Did you ever know anyone wise
who was unable to make someone else wise as himself?
Just as the one who taught you writing, was wise himself
and made you and the others whom he wanted to; did he not?

ALC. Yes.

SO. Then also you who learned from that one
will be able to make another wise?

ALC. Yes.

SO. And both the harpist
and the gymnastic trainer in the same way?

ALC. Certainly.

SO. For doubtless a beautiful proof
of knowing whatever one knows is this,
when one can also point out another who is knowing.

ALC. It seems to me.

SO. So what then?
Can you say whom Pericles made wise,
starting from one of his sons?

ALC. But what if the two sons of Pericles
were foolish, Socrates?

SO. But Cleinias, your brother.

ALC. But why would you say Cleinias, a mad person?

SO. Then since Cleinias is mad,
and the two sons of Pericles were foolish,
what cause are we to attribute to you,
why did he allow you to be thus?

ALC. I think I am the cause for not paying attention.

SO. But of the other Athenians
or the foreigners, slave or free,
say who has cause to have become wiser
because of being with Pericles,
just as I can say because of Zeno,
Pythodorus son of Isolochus and Callias son of Calliades,
of whom each has paid Zeno a hundred minae,
became wise and notable.

ALC. But by God, I cannot.

This has been published in the WISDOM BIBLE as a book. For ordering information, please click here.This text is also available as spoken by Sanderson Beck and Joshua Gomez on CD.

16. Against Whom Will Alcibiades Compete?
17. Noble Upbringing of Persian Kings
18. Lacedaimonians and Persians
19. Taking Care to Be Best
20. Ruling Over People
21. Friendship and Oneness
22. Taking Care of Ourselves
23. To Know Oneself
24. The Soul Uses the Body
25. The Soul Is the Person
26. Socrates Loves Alcibiades
27. For the Soul to Know Herself
28. The Ignorant Do Badly
29. The Need for Knowledge and Goodness
30. The Condition of Alcibiades

SOCRATES "Know Yourself"

BECK index