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The Hedonism in Plato's "Protagoras" Author(s): J. P. Sullivan Reviewed work(s): Source: Phronesis, Vol. 6, No. 1 (1961), pp.

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The Hedonism in Plato's Protagoras1

THREE INTERPRETATIONS of the discussion of hedonism in the Protagoras may be distinguished. Some have argued that the discussion

represents the real views of the historical Socrates 2 or of Plato himself at the time he was writing the dialogue.3 This is the view which at present seems to be most generally accepted.4 Others believe that the discussion is ad hominem, that Socrates in the dialogue is simply using the premiss that the only good is pleasure to prove his main thesis that Virtue is Knowledge, while not believing himself in that premiss. 5 There is also a third view, which is not incompatible with either of the above. Those who hold this deny that there is any real hedonism to be found in the dialogue.6
1 An earlier version of this paper was read to the Southern Association for Ancient

Philosophy at Oxford, September 1958. I am grateful to Prof. G. Vlastos for some helpful criticism. 2 So J. Adam, Platonis Protagoras, 1893 p. xxxii ('the episode in question [is] intended to represent the views of the historical Socrates'). 3 Cf. e.g. R. Hackforth, C.Q. 22 (1928) 39-42 ('Plato ... is making a serious attempt to understand himself, and explain to his readers what the Socratic equation really meant ... he soon advanced beyond this view') and J. Tenkku, Acta PhilosophicaFennica I I0(I956) 23-56 ('Hedonism. is probably the first conclusion at which anyone who begins to reflect on ethics naturally arrives... No wonder that Plato defends hedonism in the early period of his ethical reflection to which the Protagorasbelongs.' op. cit. p. 58). 4 Cf. G. Vlastos in his excellent introduction to Plato's Protagoras, Jowett's translation revised by M. Ostwald (N.Y. I956), p. xl, n. and E. R. Dodds, Plato, Gorgias (i959)
pp. 2I-2.

So G.M.A. Grube, C.Q: 27 (1933) 203ff., F. M. Cornford, C.A.H. VI, pp. 313-4. Grube's view does most justice to the dialogue as a whole. He sees the dialogue as an attack on the Sophists, part of its aim being to show that the hedonism implicit in ordinary moral beliefs is ultimately the Sophistic ethic also. The confused and qualified hedonism of the masses and the Sophists is reduced to pure hedonism - all and only pleasures are good. Yet even on this premiss Socrates can prove that Virtue is One and Knowledge of some sort. 6 T. D. Goodell, A.J.P. 42 (1921) 2sff. offers this interpretation at its most extreme: 'in fact he (Plato) never held any doctrine that we nowadays call hedonism. Only a superficial reader can find it in the Protagoras.' Goodell argues that to Plato 'whatever is morally good is intrinsically pleasant to normal human nature' and concludes: 'Taking a popular principle of action, a principle that may be applied ignobly, and is often so applied, by restricting the range of BovA to its lower meanings, Plato by bringing for5 I0

lifts the principle out of itself and transforms it'. 22). says: 'The doctrine to which Socrates obtains Protagoras' consent..The second is the view I believe to be correct and in the following pages I shall try to rehabilitate it by offering some neglected arguments drawn from other dialogues. 260). cit.. even the belief in the ad hominem nature of the hedonistdiscussion has been sometimes reached by misinterpreting the drift of the argument. while holding that Plato does not subscribe to the hedonist position. from the Protagoras itself and in particular from a close analysis of 3SI-359. In fact. E. W. II . who wished to buy an education from the Sophist. it is carefully treated as one neither to be affirmed or denied. for the education he describes seems to entail that. C. the Man and his Work. in the insistence that Protagoras commit himself to the argument (33 ic). heavy-handed irony ('His handling of Protagoras is merciless. In the patently ironic compliments of Socrates. The key-note of hostility is now struck: Hippocrates blushes.. but it is something utterly different from this.2 by his report of his conversation with Hippocrates. if not cruel' op. Guthrie finds that 'the keynote is courtesy and forbearance. p. Guthrie. Symp.p. Protagorasand Meno. Socrates describes the Sophists as wholesalers or retailers of spiritual food. its irony made clear. but simply the ordinary pleasures and pains of the average citizen. in the unflattering portraits of Hippias and Prodicus and to a lesser extent of Protagoras. Some commentators underrate the hostility.. pp. 2 For a similar ironic compliment which is immediately nullified by devastating general criticism cf. and is indeed consistent with a morality as high as most people would aspire to . For these disagreements have led to the belief that Plato regards the hedonism there expounded with some degree of favour.35 a) Socrates' professed admiration of Protagoras (309cd) is immediately counter-balanced. 1 A. may be labelled hedonism. whose wares through the lack of any standard market tests could be extremely dangerous to the customer (3I 3C). in the ward that higher meaning and adding his doctrine of measurement. xxiv-v). Taylor.' (Plato.' but Vlastos is right when he comments on Socrates' clumsy.g. 1 his is hardly hedonisnm in any accepted sense' (Plato. II SomeFeaturesof the Earlier Discussion(3oga. This last is most important and in the course of it I shall try to settle certain minor disagreements about the interpretation. e. ig8ff. when asked if he would not be ashamed to become a Sophist. 1956.. One difficulty of course is that the higher pleasures of the soul are never mentioned. K.. states: 'Neither Socrates nor Plato is represented as adopting the hedonist equation of good with pleasure.

because they cannot. as is clear from the reasons Protagoras offers &pe'rr for its being teachable: (a) the myth symbolizes its actual or potential possession by every citizen =7upOL). 337c-348b.criticism of long speeches and the contemptuous dismissal of the literary discussions which the Sophists practised. he is talking about demoticvirtue. 33 Oa-c. Is this the presupposition of Socrates' doubts or are Socrates' arguments against Protagoras' claim to teach virtue merely ad hoc arguments? The latter: his two arguments (that the Athenians by allowing everyone to speak up on moral and political questions recognise the impossibility or unpredictability of experts in them. 3 37c ft. and that fathers do not. He chooses instead to argue from Protagoras' demoticvirtueto his required conclusions: the dialogue is ad hominemfrom the beginning. . 31' d. 309(d. The discussion of the teachability of virtue soon makes it clear that the conceptions of virtue which Socrates and Protagoras have are diametrically opposed. I). but the blows are laid on more lightly. but Socrates wishes to examine it more closely. hence the change of subject from its teachability to its nature. he lets the Protagorean reply go unchallenged without returning to the attack (as he does with Thrasymachus in Rep. 31 3c. even though there is nothing like the attack on Callicles in the Gorgias. Socrates now concentrates (as in other dialogues) on discovering what is Protagoras' conception of virtue. The virtue described by Protagoras closely resembles the 8?n1otx' of the Phaedo(82 ab). poxxoL 8c Ire (b) the laws. The conclusion of the opening discussion is that the possible spiritual dangers make it important that Hippocrates and a fortiori his teachers should know what sort of education is being sold. 36ode. Socrates does not put forward any further negative arguments or any views he may himself hold. 328c-329b. Protagoras' reply is on its own level perfectly adequate. in our dialogue Protagoras is left on the hook. family and social training and punishment are the methods whereby it is taught. (contrast Phaedo 69c vmpO)xo6popL oLp 7rXoL'. Socrates accompanies Hippocrates to elicit this. 12 I2a. 3 34(1. teach their children virtue) bear no relation to the philosophical virtue of other dialogues.1 there is surely strong criticism. l Cf. Is virtue many or one (32 8e)? Protagoras' conception of virtue has to some extent already emerged.. Whether some higher notion of virtue overshadows the discussion is doubtful. There is always some restraint in Plato's treatment of the great Sophists: in the Gorgias the protagonist is replaced by a pair of whipping boys.

Socrates is ironic when he expresses his gratitude to Hippocrates and his high opinion of Protagoras' speech (328 d ff. temperance etc) used by Protagoras in the myth denote different parts of the collective term virtue or are they synonyms for the same thing? Protagoras. In the present case. Nevertheless in a conversational context a question phrased in a certain way can and often is intended to give the respondent the impression that the questioner believes the answer he invites (e. 1 i. a leading question). . but different from each other in themselves and in their 8ivX4K 1 (33oab).e. Logical casuistry is now possible. I3 . (328 e) is patently ambiguous. fxouaoc. eyx oe %pr 7apnxouaacq r1pwroy6paoc y&p 688 rai3koc OTrexpLvo'rO. Do the different names (justice. says that those qualities are parts of a single whole related to each other as parts of the face are.VC~t aur This use of questions is characteristic of the Socratic method in the dialogues.g. which contradicts the original proposition. introduced by Socrates' compliment to Protagoras on his ability to give brief answers. As usual in the elenchus it would be easier to give up this statement than accept the absurd conclusion reached by using it as a premiss. for logically a question has no truth-value.L OL &cyxOoi yLyvovtv *wViv 8' 7rCLa.'t7roL' - xv gyoyse 6Xtr& [. accepting an analogy of Socrates. And the small difficulty he still has takes up the rest of the dialogue. At 329 the elenchus begins. as is clear from the subsequent references to politicians and books. ey& yocpev pdv Tt)j o'ux elVoL &VOp6Y7rLV7)V 9tpoAOv Xp6vc nyouvv ?7e=tL0LOXaVjj &yOo. So justice must be the same as holiness or very similar or at least the one is like the other.v &haC opo0c. This is absurd. His remark. and thus that justice is something unholy and holiness is unjust. he dissociates himself from it at 33oe-33 Ia . . The argument beginning at 330 c runs as follows: there is such a thing as justice and such a thing as holiness. It lends colour to Socrates' habitual profession of ignorance. a6q 0&ro4 X6yoq?artLv.This is a deliberate technique and a proper appreciation of it is essential to a correct view of the dialogue. The proposition to be submitted to the elenchus is stated (as often) in the form of a question to which assent is given: &p'oiv ov'xG xad T& yq &pPTq j6LOpt oiUx a-t5v 9tepov OOV TOv rtepov. The analogy is important and is constantly referred to by Socrates. . OT6 &? xod e O'LeQel 7rCLV T05TO.LoL. But if Protagoras' proposition that no part of virtue is like any other part is true. . justice is just and holiness holy. then it would follow that justice is not holy and holiness is not just. oute UtO 05 e-q. the actions in which these virtues issue are different. although the entire wording of the proposition is Socrates' own.).

has to explain carefully to Socrates when he (quite naturally) assumes that her statement that 'Loveis not beaut4Jul means that Loveis ugly. In fact. we generally have to say neither x nory. but does give some apparent "opposites" which belong to the same categories (black. and following from this. He returns to the analogy: the parts of the face are different. Secondly. It is generally said that Socrates here confuses the contrary with the contradictory and so proceeds to give a positive sense to not holy and not-just i. and ordinary language with its informal implications are the instruments and objects of enquiry) that Socrates violates strict rules of logic. accepted assumptions. and yet they Symposium 21 4 Op. The real objection is that the adjectives are not applicable at all.e. but in the present discussion. But he is willing to let the point go by default. there is the objection that even if justice were just and holiness holy and these were not like each other.there seems to be some difference. Arguably P'lato was aware of the possibility of such logical confusions. there are passages where a similar confusion is apparent and other passages where the distinction is recognized. cit. ad loc. all this entails is that the adjectives 'just' and 'holy' are not applicable to holiness and justice respectively. '4 . unholy and unjust. It is unlikely at this time that Plato was aware of the mistake.There are a number of objections to this argument. Protagoras does not see the question so simply: justice is not holy or holiness just . ia). not even to the cognate nouns. not that justice is notholy and holiness not-just.' but which have much in common. Diotima e. as he cannot quite put his finger on the error in Socrates' reasoning. it is not a logical mistake but a natural linguistic phenomenon that Socrates takes advantages of. There is the typemistake of calling justice just (this confusion occurs elsewhere in Plato cp. hard. He wrongly says that everything is like everything else. but it is not to the point to say that in conversational contexts like the one under discussion (where concepts of common sense.g. white.he forces Protagoras to state his position without ifs or buts. Some commentators like Adam 1 have tried to defend Plato on the ground that the Greek language naturally tends to give a positive significance to such negative concepts. that Love is something between the two. all moral discourse can use the contradictory as the contrary . Protagoras' defence then is that justice is to some extent like fact to make a contradictory assertion without its being assumed to be a contrary assertion. soft (which for certain purposes would be "opposites. Of course the contradictory can be distinguished from the contrary in such contexts by the tone of voice etc. Socrates will not have this .

5o-56. (c) The fallacy of equivocation thus underlies the deduction. The is identical with aoap'. But points of similarity do not justify our calling things "like. next equation Socrates attempts is that a <ppoaDv-q The dubious arguments here deployed are adequately discussed Socrates could by a similar argument argue for their resemblance.' 8UGXCp&7g as Ostwald following jowett translates (op. 2oie." when the likeness is very small.g. pp. 97 if. 35id. cit. cp. op. Protagoras is accusing Socrates with justice of ignoratio elenchi. Socrates himself may comment adversely on what he has been doing (cf. Protagoras is not allowed to choose whether he will drop one of the premisses rather than accept the conclusion. (b) The premiss that caypoa-v. This is an important point. Symp. Not only is the very term extremely vague but Plato elsewhere himself recognises the distinction between contrary and contradictory. No. cit. Robinson. says Protagoras rightly. 336. Dodds. as justice and piety appeared nearly the same. 84e). xxviii-xxix and E. I S . 3 50C). Rep. op. As the distinction made elsewhere in the dialogue contradicts the main premiss. J. pp. in particular 34id. R. Yet Socrates now assumes that self-control and wisdom are the same.. 31). Socrates asks irrelevantly whether Protagoras thinks the likeness between justice and holiness is small. Meno 9Ic. Prot. 3 3 3b). p.. In the two arguments discussed above Plato has given no sign that Socrates does not believe in the vali1 8OXCtc [Lot gxctv Trp6 toi3o is hardly 'you appear to be unhappy about this. and the concluding remarks at 347c).2 but the main objections may be summarized as follows: (a) the premiss that everything which has an opposite has only one opposite is untrue. Protagoras' annoyance (3 32 A) 1 makes Socrates drop the argument. He does not protest the unsoundness of the argument either. e. 346d. pp. cit. In normal Greek usage it does have two corresponding to its two meanings of folly and lack of self-control. The contextual indications whereby Plato can show his awareness of the unsoundness or unfairness or insincerity of a Socratic procedure are varied: the opponent may protest (cf. p.can have only one opposite is also untrue.are in certain ways like each other . it is reasonable to infer that Plato did not regard this argument as sound. but then I do not agree with what I take to be your view that they are pretty well the same sort of thing. the Simonides interlude. cit. Vlastos. Mind 1942. G. op. which may both be called opposites (cf. the argument may be dropped before the conclusion is pressed home (cf. 2 See R. yet later it is suggested that the point has gone to Socrates (349d). Tenkku.

1. To be literal-minded except where the immediate context stresses the ironic or humorous intention is as mistaken as believing that Plato never makes a mistake. The discussion is then renewed with Socrates answering Protagoras. Socrates might have played on the ambiguity of wktzLov as in the argument with Polus (Gorg. its expressed content is firmly anchored to the rest of the work because Socrates uses the poem to argue for his two great beliefs that Virtue is knowledge and no one errs willingly. cit. p. 172. the Sophists in their own coin. they are aired more dialectically in the last section of the work.g. . 28i. incidentally forcing Protagoras to defend a thesis which he is ashamed to affirm . where Dodds' comment ad loc. Charm. not the thesis. particularly at the expense of Prodicus (cf. There is also the significant hint that it may be Socrates and Protagoras.dity of the arguments. Euthyd. Parody may explain the perversity and falsity of Socrates' literary exegesis: its lack of seriousness is heavily underscored with humour. Yet the difference between the two methods is not as great as one might think. as no doubt Socrates often did. The subject is the consistency of a poem by Simonides and it is generally agreed that Socrates is merely beating the Sophists at one of their own games.' Alternatively he might have used the ambiguity in eiv 7tpOTreLV (cf. the explanation of xoDeT6 and then the withdrawal 1 There are two possible ways the argument might have developed.and 8LxMatov-J. who is in all probability already familiar with earlier elenchtic dialogues and the procedures legitimate in the game. 474c-476a). Offered in their most sophistical guise here.. e.the common view that one may exercise self-control in injustice. . i i 6) and produced the paradox that the unjust man is doing good via the premiss iyaO& 7rp&trtteLv W(X LCX 7rp& trTLV. irony and further parody. 353-4 Alc. who will be examined (333c).. ' There follows a lighter interlude with some humorous and malicious parody of the other Sophists present. In these cases at least the all-important Socratic thesis that Virtue is one is supported by false reasoning in an attempt to convince an interlocutor of its truth. Socrates now begins the equation of aoppoarv. As injustice is seen from the standpoint of public morality. Rep. but it would be wrong to overemphasize its separateness from the rest of the dialogue. Protagoras however abandons his short answers and Socrates wishes to discontinue the discussion. The interlude lowers the intellectual tension. I6 . (op. But the larger context of the dialogue might warn the perceptive reader. It is not merely that the poem deals with virtue or that the whole discussion is parody of Sophistic methods and practice. the worthlessness of which he contemptuously dismisses at 347c. 249) is: 'it is not easy to believe. that Plato is wholly unconscious of the It rather looks as if he was content at this stage to let Socrates repay equivocation.

indeed it becomes bad-tempered. he at no time wished to admit (despite his slip at 3 gob) that the confident are brave (even when he was explicitly ruling out the fools and madmen). Here the discussion is in one sense serious. I have argued from internal evidence that Plato is aware of the invalidity of at least one premiss in the earlier arguments and he is also aware of the shakiness of some of the succeeding arguments. As Protagoras says at 3Soc. especially at 349 de) leads him into a false admission at 3 So bc and his protest at what he alleges is an illegitimate conversion by Socrates is due to a misunderstanding of what Socrates says at 3Soc. This motive does not however explain the perversity of the argumentation that precedes and follows this section: the false premisses and the faulty logic at which even Protagoras is allowed to protest. or (c) that Socrates is attacking Protagoras' own hasty admis1 A sign of this is given at 36ib: Socrates 1hasnot proved that all the virtues are sinmply knowledge but was trying to prove this (&ItLxmp7v&noejLiL). as being very different from the others.' The discussion is resumed: are the virtues one under different names or are they different from one another? Protagoras allows four of them to be assimilated. Yet it is difficult to believe that Plato takes some of the arguments as serious logical support for the thesis that Virtue is one. even though the relevant arguments had not at the time convinced him. then the addition of a few extra premisses which are almost implicit would save the argument. Nevertheless Socrates does not complete a valid chain of reasoning here. nor does he re-examine the links after Protagoras protests. Commentators have tried to show either (a) that Socrates is guilty of the fallacy that Protagoras alleges or of a subtler one. This larger objection disregards the formal steps and gives us what Protagoras really thinks. It is nowv Socrates' task to show by Protagoras' own admissions that courage is identical with wisdom. For Protagoras' valid objection is at 3 Si ab: Oo&pao.of that explanation at 34Ic). r&v+uCxv. a7ro cpyaeW4 XOCLeutpoypM. his overconfident vehemence (note the tendency to superlatives on his part. or if he is.&Vape'O. 17 . Protagoras is clearly no match in logical subtlety for Socrates. An expert is always more confident in technical matters even where there is (for the uninitiated in particular) some hazard attached. but as Protagoras rightly sees he does not thereby qualify for the epithet brave. or (b) that he is not guilty of it. This argument has been fully discussed by other commentators. On the other hand Protagoras' diagrammatic counter-example did not exactly follow the Socratic chain of reasoning (Protagoras is always less logically acute than Socrates). he takes his stand on courage. comes 6 TreXVIq xodL &lo Ouioi5 ye xOt 17ro 'iavLAOt .

and now Bravery has been shown to be Wisdom. This is not the place to go into the question in detail. as Goodell and Guthrie have argued. scarcely hedonism at all in any proper sense. such arguments that the rules of the elenchusallow impression the reader is to get is not that Socrates is a fallacious and dishonest reasoner and Protagoras isn't. III Analysis of 3SIb-3s9a At 35I b Socrates begins afresh. thus completing the assimilation of all the virtues to this latter. Thus it follows that as what is honourable and good is also pleasant by definition. Self-control. the rexv. The cycle of equations is now complete: justice = Piety.the knowledge of the correct choice of pains and pleasures. whatever that unfairness consists in.e.which is fturtherevidence that the whole dialogue is to be taken as ad hominem andi The and premisses. This central passage is our main concern and needs closer examination. Plato may or may not have taken extreme precautions to ensure that there is no real mistake.0?TpnTLX. as being overcomemeans taking greater pain for less pleasure. This can only be due to a defect of knowledge . what is and what is not evil) is bravery. then cowards by refusing to do the honourable thing are convicted of ignorance and all brave men are shown to have the wisdom which is the opposite of this ignorance. The popular belief that a man can be overcome by pleasure or pain and so act against his better knowledge is erroneous: obviously. Wisdom = Self-control. pain is evil.). It runs as follows: pleasure is good. for the inmportant thing surely is that any but the most logically sophisticated readers naturally assume that there is some justice in Protagoras' allegation of unfairness. Knowledge always controls a man's actions. Its formal function (even though it seems an excessive length for the purpose) is just to provide premisses for the reduction of Bravery to Knowledge. but that Socrates may use such tactics against such confused and dangerous people as Protagoras. for Protagoras is a Sophist and our attitude to the Sophists has been given us at the beginning (31 2 if. but he wishes the reader to believe that there is . although it was not proved.sions. The first question concerns the actual hedonism of the passage: is it. because on analysis this is to be overcome by pleasure and so to choose pain. was allowed by Protagoras to be like Justice. because it is compatible with a fine way of life? Is it pure hedonism i8 . Knowledge of what is and what is not to be feared (i.

This is surely a psychological premiss. yet he intends to identify them for the purposes of the argument because.. xxl TaC pL &v xp oYlVn L v7o [rvo4 ()T? This implies a man must take Nvhathe knows to be pleasant on the hedonistic calculus for no other spring of action can prevail. 357C etc). In fact all spiritual values (truth. C' 7r-T ?X'X?t axol TO 41Ci)4 T' OpXeL 4LIV ro XOaXOV&)tO TL T7 V &VLOXV' XMtuvsLCO)VcKL I q'v T rovh. care of the soul. but this word is later analysed into &yaO6vt. Secondly we find that it is psychological as well as ethical hedonism. are immediately said to be good for no other reason than that their outcome is pleasure or prevention of pain. but we needs must choose it.g. there is no mention of more disinterested uses.X.6v (3j2c). but (b) the terms used in talking of human actions are psychological. being overcome by ('T-aOML 3s2e. and a natural one for a man who believed in the paradox that no man errs XeXeU-[. a?X MTTx 7rpXTTSLV . (d) it is essential for the argument that the only good and the only evil should be pleasure and pain or what produces these. 'pleasant. It is initially described as xot). Good is therefore identified with pleasure and not predicated of it. (i4&X. e. '9 . Tr PLCL OCL xocL trXe[o hir'xM. safety of one's country. The only function of knowledge mentioned in the discussion is as an instrumentfor making the right choice between pleasures and pains. etc) for which the philosopher might use it are never mentioned.1 (b) it is stressed throughout for the purposes of the argument that the audience have no other telos whereby anything can be called good or bad xL L vu3 except pleasure and pain. wealth.&ZC8j uozv xocLOvO6CaTLv rpoaocyopEu (Ov sb).. The following considerations make this clear: (a) at 3s6b Socrates says: eav [iev y&p aem npo6 8Ea Ly4. Not only is pleasure the only good. t Tov PLOV &VEU XU7t&V.or are other goods admitted in their own right to form a scale of values? Although Socrates begins by simply predicating good of pleasure. This would not be conclusive as there is an ambiguity in Xt-rao_.Cr. bodily wellbeing. dominion over others. (c) Socrates indicates clearly that he sees each pair of words 'good' and o epMv7 -rC5rcX. It is nowlhere described as an end in itself. And at 3g4e-35S we find: &X' X VpOvL CTVML 'T6o &yOv &v(aOa(XL9za-CLv.) Socrates says: COCWCep Ttyao& yLyvGCrAXj -r. avV r7rLa7ntLY I Knowledge is an obvious candidate for at least a second good thing apart from pleasure. (c) even when talking of knowledge (3 2c if.xcLx. The whole discussion appertains to a virtue strongly reminiscent of the 8-%uorrtxo 'pe r of the Phaedo. (a) the list of conventional good things at 3 s4b like health.' 'bad' and 'painful' as synonymous .[LOV (3 8b)..

Goodness is the criterion of pleasure (as Protagorastried to thatgood men get say at 35Ic). is its reductio ad absurdum. Protagoras'disinclinationto accept the equationshows that 20 . It will be rememberedthat the philosophicalknowledge that leads to the philosopher'svirtue also allows no psychologicalfreedom in our sense (this is the hidden thesis in the Hippias Minor). which are only to be avoided if they lead to pain.Tf 'LOV a' o &vapZo4. The popular view that reason can be swayed by passion to choose what is evil is analysedaway. We needs must love the highestwhen we see it. Plato. This comes out in the Republic. not vice versa. It is statedat 3S4 ab that such things as military service resulting in such goods as the safety of one's countryand dominionover others are good for no other reasonthan that their outcome is pleasure or the prevention of pain.Despite the equation'pleasant' Plato would alwaystake it that pleasurehas to be analysedand identified with good and if necessary redefined to do so.willingly. the differencelies simplyin what we see as highest. Greeks wouldfindpleasure The Gorgias Many in honourableand energetic conduct and Socratesdid not haveto offend the susceptibilitiesof his audience by following the theory to its logical conclusion. xoc5ctn etc). And this is always Plato's way with the problem of = 'good. And later even of the Form of when philosophicalvirtue and the independentstandard the Good are in question. typicallyGreek in this. argueslater that the brave man gets more pleasurethan the coward: he knows where real pleasure lies (36oa . as is indicatedby choice of examplesof necessaryevils. which all relate to an individual'swelfare (e. But the theory as here expounded holds for the pleasures of the manyconventionallyinterpretedand even for baserpleasureslike food. oix er:l -T x6 xa&XL6Ov xxL O. for this might count againstit as a psychologicalthesis. There is no mention of the greatestpleasureof anyoneexcept oneself.g.' pleasurein the moraldialogues. as the numericalvaluesgiven to the different kinds of life prove. The identificationof good with pleasant is no more than a linguistic recommendationdisguisedas an analysis.LLvov xoL E`xptrL). Sucha rationalhedonismmay well issue in a conventionallyrefinedand honourablelife. the best life is also the pleasantesteven on the hedonistic calculus. No evidence would be allowed to count against it. Like many theories of psychologicalhedonism it is put forwardas an empiricaltheory (it claims to state facts about men's behaviour)whereas actually its bases are a priori.Thereis an assumption pleasurefrom good actions (like dyingfor one's country). drink and sex. But this is not a utilitarianview. The hedonism is probablyalso egocentric.

6Waep 7r0?XX. This of course is not proof of my thesis that the hedonistic calculus is an ad hominem assumption. Now here we would say that Socrates is disagreeing with the view of the many and of Protagoras. The linguistic conventions of both Greek and English prevent this. can we believe that Plato approves of the hedonistically based life or indeed supports the hedonistic show that Virtue has to be Knowledge no matter what one's conception of virtue is. The next problem is whether Socrates or Protagoras or the other Sophist or ordinary men are overtly committed to the hedonistic thesis. that pleasures qua pleasures are good and pains qua pains are bad. Pleasure cannot be the criterion unless pleasures have already been approved by standards other than pleasure. He is thus formally committing himself to the thesis. The opposite assumption would be equally wrong unless supported by chronological or internal evidence. tely protests: T' xacx>z. At 35Ic Socrates asks whether to live pleasurably is good and to live painfully bad. This argument will not do (even though the uneasiness about Socrates' actual adherence to the principle may well be justified). OAL 8 C' &T-t &ycl) yap ?ey6. xocO'8 .[r) si -t &M' xtircov &rcol3noaerxta T0oi7&?Uo. C486p. SocratesimmediaL.a-v. that it is his view. xocx& xocl J I`pcXoy6pm. It is implied. although covertly he may not avLaa rcy6. we need not imagine that Plato's attitude to it here is much different from the attitude he has in the Gorgiasand Phaedo: that at best it . but if the arguments that follow are accepted.XoZy'. he is implying by the tone and turn of the question. &pX xar& o oix &yaOA. to clear Plato of the charge of hedonism.?vo4. One cannot use the argumentum ex silentio to show that by the time of writing this dialogue Plato did not believe in the immortality of the soul or the viciousness of politicians or indeed the possibility of a virtue different from the virtue around which the discussion centres. that as Socrates tends to speak in questions in this passage he does not at any point overtly accept the premisses or conclusions which emerge. iS X0xC aC. a CYXLXypa%pla r. The discussion in the Protagoras is more intellectual . at the moment. Plato does not have to expose all his moral attitudes in every dialogue. Only if we accept the view that Socrates' conception of virtue exactly coincides with the conception of virtue held by Protagoras and the ordinary man. How far is the discussion based on hypothetical premisses? Whose basis of life is it? First Socrates. nor indeed introduce any religious views he might have. which expects an affirmative answer.he was aware of the possibility and indicates that the audience in Callias' house were Greek gentlemen. 21 . Protagorasreplies: E'Vnp roZ xo.

although he does not initially agree with the thesis. such remarks may be ambiguous .e. but in the fictional context he is arguing for and by implication holding the pure hedonist position even though this arguing may be done by inviting replies to questions. ironic and not committing Socrates to the thesis . 22 . This is part of the Socratic method. But although his audience may surmise that this is but a hypothesis.) is that they are renmorselesslydriven to confess that the one is the underlying assumption of their lives and that denial of the other is illogical..The inference is that he is taking Socrates as committed to it and he may have to agree or disagree with him. What must be stressed is that the impression Socrates is trying to give the many (not to mention Protagoras and the Sophists) is that he is logically convinced of the validity of his view and that he is trying to convince the many and also Protagoras (who is willing to agree if the thesis is reasonable) that they too must hold the same belief. troi Sophists PLou a7pvx %s whether they think what he says is true. Now for Protagoras and the other Sophists.yet surely in the fictional context. thev are left to think that he too accepts the cogency of his arguments. This whole conversation is skilfully done: the reader is given sufficient indications to realize (as he might anyway from his knowledge of Plato's methods) that Socrates is being 'ironic' (see below). 3Tie). the impression given to the fictional audience is that Socrates is committed. they must assume that Socrates is for the moment serious about it (cf. but the Sophists and the ordinary man (were he present) are to be taken in and regard Socrates as committed to the thesis because that is the natural interpretation of the questions and general drift of the argument. We have already seen that Protagoras. He does not try to persuade the Sophists otherwise. he will agree with Socrates . as Grube long ago pointed out (op. p. cit. Two further remarks by Socrates should clinch this first (3S7ab) he savs: v v OpV XUciro6pOCp&t Etev.i. Protagoras consents to adopt the thesis as a basis for argument..sincerely hold it. 2 i) but nor is the thesis that Virtue is One: the whole point. He does incidentally give the reader several indications that this is not his true view. Now although when taken rigorously. Protagoras says that if after examination the proposition seems reasonable. and with the aid of another premiss (the supremacy of knowledge) Socrates from now on takes Protagoras as his ally in arguing against the many (who like Protagoras think that some pleasures are good and some bad). or a tentative view. He does not retract them.1 is willing to accept it if he can be rationally con1 Dodds is right to stress that it is not an assumption of Protagoras' nor even of "the many" (op. cit. X vOpwnot t7re 0 On 8ov4 T? xxL asks the other at he and 3g8a oacx.

OyCYOOv xOc ot &XoL. the fault which Protagoras.IPEXaOc oi'v 'o Hpo6&xoq vc?o)Oy)aE. who are experts in such matters. This is partly the point of Socrates' frequent references to there being no other telos to which they can point in describing things as good or bad (cf. contrary to Taylor's view. But that the arguments would convince them. 3s6c etc.g. V 8' ?y. that they are cogent and logically rigorous. 8? It will be seen from this acceptance of the wholeargument that not only must Protagoras accept the hedonistic premiss but so must all the other Sophists. and (b) because he allows it to be used as part of the argument for identifying courage with wisdom . 'I7rLO Ir xol H1p6a8mX & y&p 89 E UT V?v L V &?7lY ?y?LV n (XOLV O ??6o) t?pOV 8oxJ 7'y ?us8aocxt.uXOyzXre &pox. 354. They have been the judges throughout of the rigour of the arguments. You neither go nor send your children to these Sophists. Prodicus and Hippias profess to cure. To lveXL. That is why Socrates can say (357e-358): So that is what 'being mastered by pleasure' really is ..8 a' j?ro'r H1pwrcxy6pou?pcwT7. 3ssa. You on the other hand believe it to be something else. he would have protested as he did with regard to the earlier argument about courage (350 ff). - CO. ' 'TO -V 0CVLOCpO'Vxaxov. and most serious ignorance.vinced. Holding that it is nothing 21 . is agreed by Protagoras and the other Sophists and so the mass of mankind too is taken to accept them. e.ignorance. Now for the mass of mankind.) It is no trouble for Socrates to argue them into the first: it is merely a question of carrying their ordinary views to their logical conclusion in relation to surgery and sex. In the argument with the many he accepts it therefore as an hypothesis(not an agreed premiss like the supremacy of knowledge as a controlling element in man). we know. They were really confused.. He is brought to accept it. (a) because the argument in which it is used convinces him that he must either accept this or abandon his otherfirmly held belief about the supremacy of reason. I think this is made clear by Socrates' concluding remarks at 3s8ab . It is more difficult and requires a lengthy analysis of the concept of being overcome by somethingto convince them of the supremacv of reason. They accepted neither the view that good = pleasure simpliciter (5 I c) nor the view that reason is the controlling element in man (3 52b). Thus the ethic of Protagoras and the Sophists and the ethic of the ordinary man are shown to be identical on close analysis as Grube poinited out. Yet for all that their lives are based on the first.had he not accepted this part.

then Plato at this time accepted it too. as it sometimes can. to judge from the examples Socrates offers. But the ostensible conclusions of a dialogue are not always the real ones. And these pleasures and pains. They and the Sophists . Clearly Socrates does not believe that what he means by virtue can be taught by the Sophists. (i) I i. Generalconsiderations Hackforth believed that one of the main purposes of the dialogue was to work out the meaning of the Socratic paradox: on this view one of its main conclusions would be that virtue was the knowledge of pleasures and pains in order to make the right choices. Methodologically we must identify this Socrates and Plato. the bad man involuntarily.e. we have only the text from which to decide questions of sinccrity. were the conventional pleasures and pains of ordinary Greek life.e. Protagoras was happy about the supremacy of reason but less sure about the identity of pleasure and good: the many (3 s3c-3 S4) proved to be unconsciously holding the identity of pleasure and good but regarding the supremacy of reason as absurd. except where internal evidence can be offered for dissociating them. In the Hippias Minor and the Meno much the same happens: the conclusions that the good man errs deliberately. you are careful with your money and withhold it from them . The pupils and teachers get the teachers and pupils they deserve. at very least.coincide in their views and way of life and are therefore suited to each other. and that virtue is a divinely given instinct have. as well as the internal evidence already discussed of the Protagoras itself.their confusions and doubts cleared away . that the good man would not err.a bad policy for yourselves and the community. 24 . Failing external evidence. His advice to ordinary people to send their children to the Sophists is ironic. There is something close to a reversal here (as there is at the end of the dialogue). and that virtue is like this only in present circumstances) .that can be taught. the fictional Socrates. lV Does SocratesSincerelyHold the HedonistPosition?1 To decide this we must look at the features of the elenchus and the methods of the earlier dialogues. unexpressed qualifications (i. If so. The reversal of position alleged by Socrates at the end of our dialogue is not serious.

.2 Meno is particularly naive. pp. and provided that he really does convince him.) he allows that they were good statesmen and wise men. it would be easy enough to introduce ironic tones where appropriate. he may sometimes use premisses that he does not himself believe. but each dialogue need not assume that the reader is unfamiliar with earlier dialogues and the Socratic procedures exhibited in them. The Euthydemus is the clearest case of this. It was also a step to tlhe important belief that virtue is knowledge.recitation is correct.(2) The elenchus is essentially ad hominem. (4) It follows that signs of insincerity or irony are not always given in the immediate context.As Robinson says: In the earliest dialogues. (3) As a special case of this. I I f.. it might be better that they should know it. but in the Protagoras ( i9e) and Afeno (93b ff. pp. cit. and even inferences that he himself considers fallacious (op. 249). although it might be felt that the circumstances were rather special. not necessarily the absolute truth reached by impeccable logical means I This becomles more excusable if it is realised that such opinions are already held or are implicit in other opinions already held. This applies both to defective logical chains of reasoning (see the comments on the first two arguments. If the hedonism we are now discussing was already an unconscious moral assumption of the Sophists and the many. p. cit. IOI-2).. But even in a dialogue as serious as the Gorgias this may happen. exept for the mild sarcasm at 3 29. Dodds's comment is again relevant: 'It looks rather as if he was content at this stage to let Socrates repay the Sophists in their own coin' (op. His doubts about this are clear in the Meno.) and to moral premisses from which these depend. but he encourages Meno to convince Anytus of it. there is no general reason for supposing that Plato was himself deceived by any fallacy by which he makes Socrates deceive another . As the questioner has to find premisses that appeal to the answerer. Socrates is willing to encourage his interlocutors to believe or continue to believe a falsehood and even to propagate it. so he has to find inferences that appeal to him. in the Protagoras no doubts are expressed. A distinction may be made between the fictional audience and the real audience or the reader.1 For instance.. but unable to pass on their wisdom to their sons. (j) The important thing is the substitution of better for worse opinions. but not to the fictional respondent. 2 lf Professor Ryle's suggestion that the dialogues were intended for dramatic. his attitude to statesmen like Pericles is fully given in the Gorgias (5i Sb etc). 25 . Hints of insincerity might be apparent to the latter.

The earlier Socratic dialectic (as seen in Plato) is distinguished from eristic not by its superior logic and deductive chains or by the superior truthvalue of its premisses but by the purity of its motives (e. Vlastos' main reason (loc. being what he incapable of understanding. This ad hominem technique may be repugnant to modern readers. In the case of the hedonist discussion it would be dramatically inappropriate for Socrates to be underlining his doubts while forcing Protagoras to admit the thesis.' We have already seen cases where no warning signls have been given except possibly the fact it comes fronm Socrates and the rea(ler may be familiar with his procedures.. When we turn to the dialogue itself in the light of the above considerations. We can therefore onlv look forsubtler indications. the question can now be reduced to what signs may be regardedlas 'clear and sufficient. we find that some of the objections to the ad hominem theory can now be met.g. just as the merciless Socratic elenchus of Protagoras may offend us. the removal of the conceit of knowledge) and the truth of its conclusions (generally that Virtue is Knowledge).g. We can see now that it is possible and morally defensible in Plato's eyes to give this encouragement. and this Socrates. partictularly as he was unwilling to make the key admission that good and pleasing were synonyms: he wished to say that sonme pleasuLreswere good and some ba(l. cit. working from Protagoras' conception of virtue.. (i) The dialoglUehas been ad hominem from the beginning. but it is a possible moral view which has even now its adherents. has to be taken on trust and we know from the yevvaZov +68oq of the Republic that Plato believed that the end justified the means. particularly to the fictional interlocutors.) for taking the hedonist discussion seriously was that it is most unlikely that Socrates would deliberately offer a false proposition for establishing his great proposition that Virtue is Knowledge. to prove the thesis that Virtuie is One and Knowledge. including the blatant sophistry of the Sinionides interlUde. Protagoras is allowed to object to one argument and this dramatically indicates to the reader that Socrates is 26 . . which is more or less the conventional one (the description of conventional good things [354abJ reminds us of this). Fallacious and humorous arguments have been used. would never do unless he put in clear and sufficient warning would have encouraged the reader to believe afalsehood. As for warning signs. Opo0 which indeed the interlocutor nmay 86Rae.

UoPzV TO 7)O&(z) X uOVOLtV OV 6vCU ?U7=oV). 8L' ou'gv &Xo rociito xcxa XCaL 6&?. 31? et4 E" aXO TL TkO4 &7tOX 4CVTC4. This is followed by t-rq o&ra ayaOCf xaheTe. There is no other T'XoQto which the Sophists or the many can point when talking of good and evil. el poqtv sLacr. 1 and (d) that Socrates. but the impression that they cannot either is clinched at 3 8a. (X?X' if> aov&c. What virtue really is remains a question. (c) that the Sophists cannot either. (b) that the ordinary man cannot. e t OTOV'V 'XO TC 9CvaL EIVxCL 'TO 'ycO8v 7 TL 'nV 8OV. They may possibly hint that just as Epimetheus is short-sighted about human existence. this in turn throws some doubt on the hedonistic calculus as a positive conclusion. He can even say to Socrates (2) pLXovVtxeZv pot 8oxeZ4 (36oe). EL aRxeL Pto XXL eLT TO?aTOUTO e ?fL8V X?o cc aL oyaf3v X OXOV C LE TOCTo aXOUCT?. And an examination of the actual instances of the use of the word or equivalents confirm this impression. Socrates like Prometheus wotuld take the longer view . not with the everyday choices of greater and less pleasures. There are some tenuous indications of the same sort at 3sSe-3S6b. -f 9 dr XXOg ?L 'O XOyetv. (3) The final references to Prometheus and Epimetheus (36icd) seem to take up the Protagorean conception of virtue as given in the myth. 27 I .V 6va " at' efc: reCtO?rTua BOVCV &7roaGpeZ.. As often the dialogue ends on a note of doubt. At 3e. (4) In the discussion itself there seems a calculated stress on the word -6O?4. J &VOp(XtOL. i TO xCxov 'o ce aXVLOCV7nMpxEz. Now were Plato genuinely making the assertion that there really is no other 'rto4.). rT xC\ U?ocq. by carefully using second person plurals and leading questions.roc& &'YcO&Ea'CFrL 0 rLE 1ovaq 8 0o53XevaC7ra0.he is concerned for the whole of his life. 1yc 't x flHpcormxy6poq. 3 SS drives the point home: &X' 9XOLTCaV XOL f'LiV e9MELV aUuQ E&r xc\ vUv `XvaOvaOtL ReatLV. it becomes almost a refrain throughout the argument.OCay Tr xact &toTpotc&. this repetition would be pointless and laboured.capable of disingenuousness in the interests of his paradox. 4LV. an almostsimilarremark(3g4d): Esce s' xxT' Wo ll au'o xOac'prtv xaxov XC1XOreCL ' O TL At 3s4b we find: Mo?rTu'ri xC'L?iWtv R're?. 8 ' Toc. but these are enotugh to make it clear (a) that it is theoretically possible to envisage another telos or standard of good than pleasure. wheni all the Sophists are asked vhether they agree that thle pleasant is good and the painful bad. It might seem that the Sophists are only saying that the ordinary man cannot envisage another tclos. Socrates asks the many: Ovcxoiuv (pOLvs'rTL. so is the Sophistic way of life based upon the hedonistic calculus.

but the reader is presumably meant to pay attention to the form of the questions and see what Socrates is doing. which is at least some form of knowledge. only to revert eventually to a more moderate position in a late dialogue. It is because of this double function that it occupies so much space. LincolnCollege. it is strange that there should be a full-blown hedonistic theory of morals followed by two biting attacks on it in the Gorgiasand Phaedo (however long the interval between them) without a single sign (rare in Platonic writings) of how he moved from one position to the other. the medical and architectural analogies of the Simonides interlude). It seenms clear that Plato always thought this. 1 what real virtue is and to what telos it looks are not questions that can be answered in a dialogue as sophistic and intellec- tual as the Protagoras. the popular virtue or the philosophical. and incidentally revealing the basic conceptions of the Sophists and the mass of mankind. the philosophical motives for which are completely unrecorded. My doubts about the sincerity of the hedonism of the Protagoras arose not from a wish to plaster over cracks in the unity of Plato's thought (for Plato often changes his views) but because in a developing philosophy like Plato's and in the earlier period of his writing when he was producing moral Socratic dialogues fairly assiduously.allows for this possibility although he makes no positive statement as to what this telos might be. but if these are accepted. we are rid of a strange anomaly . providing himself with another ad hominem premiss to assimilate courage and knowledge in the final argument. that is. whether he refers to technical virtue (cf. I 28 . Their virtue is the product of the hedonistic calculus. the Philebus. To the Sophists he seems to be following the argument wherever it leads to.not a contradiction in Platonism but a sudden volteface. The arguments against this view are of course the contextual arguments I have adduced. Oxford.