© 1996 Bernard SUZANNE Last updated November 22, 1998
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Tetralogies : Next tetralogy : The Soul - Previous tetralogy : The Sophists

3rd tetralogy : the soul

From theories to facts

In the first tetralogy, we were suggested that, in order to become "good men", we had to befriend a certain wisdom that had yet to be more clearly defined, and thus become philo-sophoi, especially if we wanted to engage in politics. In the second tetralogy, we have been introduced to the phantom of "sophia" of those who call themselves "sophists" and ask huge sums of money to supposedly teach virtue, and to the kind of justice it leads to with the likes of Callicles, a semblance (eidôla) of man who only has the appearance, the reputation, of beauty (kalli-kleos). Now, we move from the first to the second segment of the visible, from images to actual living beings, from talking self-proclaimed sophists to acting self-made pragmatists. There, we will confront those who judge only by the results, who care only for hard facts, or at least pretend to, the "pragmatists" who see in democracy the best way to improve their business, who measure success by wealth, who don't like whomever challenges their common wisdom, the likes of Anytus who is even madder at Socrates who might really educate the Athenians for free and have them think twice before buying than at the sophists who only compete with him for their money.

The walking "teacher" and the unmoved "pupil"

In order to introduce us to the sophists who pretend to teach a sophia which translates the "know thyself" into "man is the measure of all things" (Protagoras), or technai which care only for the "material" man and its external features (Hippias), or deal with a logos limited to words and means to use them to instill persuasion rather than speak the truth (Gorgias), that is, men who care only for appearance, opinion and their pocketbook, and produce only an "image" of virtue, Plato wrote a dialogue which is itself and "image" of dialogue (it is a dialogue retold by Socrates afterward), staging a young lad in search of power over the horses of his soul (hippo-crates), a namesake of the most famous body-healer of the time, attracted by the reputation, the "appearance", of Protagoras, the most famed self-proclaimed soul-healer of the time. He went into great details about the appearance of the sophists gathered in the house of the richest man in town, and crowded his dialogue with people who only "talk" to us through their names, a mere "image" of themselves. And he staged a walking "teacher" going nowhere that had to be stopped to answer Socrates.

In order to confront us with the "pragmatists" who don't waste time in futile inquiries, only care for results and silence the logos in the name of erga (action), Plato throws us in the middle of an ongoing discussion with a young lad who stays firm in his resolve (the name of Meno means "stable", "unmoved", fixed", "staying put") and doesn't intend to change his mind each time somebody else talks, be it Socrates. He replaces staging details (we must find out by ourselves, from the spoken logoi, where we are , who is there and what's going on) by "experiments" (with the slave, and with us readers). He shies away from images, using only a couple of very "concrete" ones, bringing high voltage to the dialogue when Meno compares Socrates to a sting-fish (Meno, 80a-b), and heavy weight when Socrates compares opinions "cast in concrete" though unproved to statues of stone that look almost alive (Dedalus' statues, Meno, 97d-98a which happen to be images of men). He shows Socrates trying to hint at forms (eidè, see Meno, 72c-e, where the word is used three times in a few lines) but understood only when falling back on "shapes" and "figures" (schèmata, in the example of definition given at Meno, 75b-76c), and needing to find a way to account for the eternity of ideas that stays within time and space (the so-called "theory of reminiscence", Meno, 81b-e). And he locates the discussion at the house of a self-made man who all but refuses the dialogue with Socrates and yet will soon become the "soul" of Socrates' accusation, a demiourgos turned politician (see Apology, 23e) in the name of democracy.

Teachers of virtue

To Protagoras, who claims to teach virtue and at the same time holds that there is no absolute criterion of man's worth but only his own opinions and feelings, Socrates shows that, if he wants to be consistent with his own hypotheses, he should accept the idea that virtue is based on a science of measurement of the relative intensity of pleasures and pains, immediate and future, resulting from our acts, and that this is the science he should be teaching. But he also lets us wondering if pleasure is the appropriate measure of the good.

To Meno who doesn't care what virtue is, and only wants to know if it can be taught, that is, if you get your money's worth by paying sophists to teach you virtue (or, in the background, Plato at the Academy), or rather, wants to put Socrates to a test on a question he has already given an answer to by his past acts--in attending lessons of Gorgias who, by his own avowal toward the end of the dialogue, doesn't claim to teach virtue but only to turn people into powerful and fearsome (deinous) speakers (Meno, 95c), something apparently easier to verify in practice--Socrates shows that, if one judges only by the results, nobody seems to be able to teach virtue, not even the best politicians, who were all unable to transmit their "virtue" to their own sons. But he also proves him that results are not a good criterion of knowledge because there are several ways to reach the same result, be it bad or good, and knowledge is only one of them.

In both cases, Socrates grounds his argument on the assumption that only a "knowledge" can be taught. But with Protagoras, he shows that, if man is the measure, virtue must be a science of measurement (and thus can be taught), while with Meno, he shows that, if one is to judge by the facts, nobody was ever able to teach virtue, and thus, virtue is not a "knowledge" (epistèmè). In both cases, Socrates is reasoning ex hupotheseôs, as he explicitly states at Meno, 86e about the later part of his discussion with Meno, that is, based on the interlocutor's own assumptions (the beginning of a "theory" of this way of discussing is given by Socrates at Meno, 75d, when he says that "it is more dialectical to answer not only based on the truth, but also on each point based on what the interlocutor claims to know"), to try and exhibit the inconsistencies between these hypotheses and their claims. Thus the apparent differences in Socrates' position in these two dialogues don't come from the fact that he, or Plato, changed his mind in between, but that he changed interlocutor !

Guides on the way "home"

Socrates (at least Plato's Socrates) and Plato never thought that man is the measure and that pleasure is the good, and thus are not bound by the Protagoras' conclusion, which Socrates even describes as a "trick" in the end (Prot., 361a-c), reproducing in the discussion the about-face described at the beginning in the physical movement of the heir of the theory of mobilism in the hall of Callias' house (Prot., 314e-315b). And Socrates and Plato never pretended to "teach" virtue, at least not the way they could teach, say, geometry (Socrates to Meno's slave, Plato to the students at the Academy), but to show a way of life :

Tricky games

Thus, Socrates is right at the beginning of the Protagoras when he claims that virtue cannot be taught, and he tricks Protagoras by forcing him to admit that, for his claim to the contrary to be true, he should, based on his (Protagoras') own assumptions, acknowledge that virtue is a science (of measurement). And he is right at the end of the Meno to conclude that virtue is not a "knowledge (epistèmè)" on a par with all other knowledge, that is, one that could be taught, after tricking Meno by forcing him to continue, unnoticed to him, the inquiry into virtue's nature while pretending to inquire into the only thing Meno cares for, whether or not virtue can be taught, and using his (Meno's) own criterion of judgment, facts, here the presence or absence of teachers of virtue, to conclude that facts prove it can't be taught (which give us an insight, if only negative, into its nature).

The trick with Meno is that the discussion, in the second half of the dialogue, starts along the lines of the following implied "syllogism" : only a "knowledge (épistèmè)" can be taught ; virtue is (or is not) a knowledge ; thus virtue can (or cannot) be taught. But it surreptitiously moves toward a different syllogism : only a knowledge can be taught ; virtue cannot be taught (as a matter of facts) ; thus virtue is not a knowledge. In order to please Meno who wouldn't have accepted the second part of the first line of argument, which implies an inquiry into the nature of virtue (is it an épistèmè ?), Socrates takes advantage of Meno's eagerness to find out if virtue can be taught to switch to the second line of reasoning, which turns out to be an inquiry into virtue's nature after all !

Yet, despite all the trickery and even plain sophistry used at times by Socrates in both dialogues, there is truth in the argument used by Socrates with Protagoras that men are driven by what they deem pleasurable and will never hurt themselves voluntarily if they can avoid it (see the comment on the dialogue with Polus in Gorgias in the introduction to the second tetralogy). The problem is that they may be wrong in their opinions on what is their true good, as is Protagoras who believes pleasure and good are the same. And so, even if Meno doesn't want to move, and will never become a philosopher (he starts "wondering", thaumazein--the first step toward philosophy according to Socrates, see Theætetus, 155d--only at the very end of the dialogue, at Meno, 96d and 97c, and his agreement with Socrates was most likely very superficial, as facts prove, because he was not very good at convincing Anytus, as he was requested to do by the last words of Socrates before leaving him, at 100b-c), there is room, if not for teaching, at least for help and counseling in the job of looking for man's true good and coming to better know oneself.

Who's the enemy ?

In these discussions on whether virtue can be taught or not, Socrates, in the Protagoras, forces the champion of multiplicity and relativity to acknowledge unity of purpose (the search for one's own pleasure) behind seemingly opposite behaviors (courage and cowardice), while in the Meno, he forces the champion of pragmatism and the simplicity of facts to acknowledge the many different ways (knowledge or true opinion) one may reach the same result (the city of Larissa, that is, "home", or what one so calls). And in so doing, he somehow answers in the Protagoras the unsuccessful search for courage undertaken in the Laches, and prepares the Republic by hinting at a form of courage that has more to do with the fight within oneself to avoid being "overcome by pleasure" (Protagoras, 352e) by sheer ignorance of one's own good than with diving in ditches (Protagoras, 349e) or holding firm in battle. And he shows in the Meno the perfect example of a "coward" overcome by his own ignorance for fear of talking with Socrates and the sophists, but who will nonetheless pull the strings of Socrates' trial while staying in the background and cast evil on the city and himself while believing he does good.

What kind of logos ?

In the Protagoras, with sophists who care more for appearance than substance, the logos is viewed in terms of speech : myth, poetry, long monologues, Protagoras wants to give a taste of them all (and Hippias would follow suit, were it not for Alcibiades' intervention at 347b). And Socrates acts against this tide of talking by threatening to leave when he has had enough of it, toward the middle of the dialogue. Yet, it is by way of example that he shows Protagoras (and us readers) that the key difference is not between logos and muthos, the choice he offers at the beginning of the first part of the dialogue (Protagoras, 320c) before eventually submitting both in a long monologue, or between logos and poetry, between prose and verses, the new choice offers at the start of the second half, but rather between monologue and dialogue. It is not the form of the words that counts, their appearance, but the form of the relationship between those who speak the words !

Socrates does that at the beginning of the second part of the dialogue with the commentary of Simonides' poem (Protagoras, 339a-347a). This commentary is in two parts : the first one, till 342a, is in the form of a dialogue between Socrates, Protagoras and Prodicus, and it shows, behind the sophistry developed by Socrates, that a dialogue allows real progress. Prodicus is asked to take sides and Protagoras answers Socrates' commentaries. And we find out that he accepts Socrates' difference between being and becoming (which is the sole purpose of this whole discussion of Simonides from the standpoint of the larger discussion it is the first part of), but not his spurious interpretation of the word "hard" despite Prodicus agreement, a point Socrates takes that into account in the ensuing discussion. But, when Socrates moves to a commentary in the form of a long monologue, he throws at Protagoras quite a few of his principles, such as the fact that nobody does willingly evil (345d-e), without giving Protagoras a chance to agree or disagree (but he will be fair enough not to take it for granted later, when he again builds on these premises in what has by then reverted to dialogue form and taken a more serious twist). He can thus proceed through a convoluted explanation that leaves Protagoras and all the sophists far behind (and could have given Anytus reasons to equate Socrates to a sophist, had he taken time to listen to it...).

In the Meno, on the other hand, with people who don't waste time in futile discussions, logos is viewed in terms of definitions (another meaning of the Greek word). The first part of the dialogue is a search for a definition of virtue in which Socrates tries to bring in the "forms" (eidè) to tell Meno what he is looking for (72c-e), but ends up having to give him, as an example of what he wants, a definition of shape, figure (schema in Greek), which is a more "tangible" (you can draw a figure, not the "form" of virtue) entity than "form" (in the sense Plato gives it), though still an abstract one (it is a mathematical construct). Yet, the definition, given in terms of "limit", telos, a word that applies quite fittingly to the "forms" (eidè) as well, especially to the "form" of the good, doesn't help much Meno, who prefers the second one Socrates gives, of "colour" this time, along the lines of Empedocles' theories, and Socrates is prompt to point at the "tragic" dimension of this misunderstanding (Meno, 76e). Nonetheless, it is with figures that Socrates later proves that you may understand something and deal with it without even having a word to name it (the slave with the "diagonal" of the square, who understands Socrates' demonstration but only gets the technical word at the very end, after it's over, as the word the "sophistai" would use, 85b), while on the other hand he himself serves as a proof that you may know a word and its definition and be unable to recognize what it names when you see it, or use it mistakenly (Anytus with the word "sophistès" he applies to Socrates !...)

Soul's game

If we now are to play the "soul's game" we have been playing with the Protagoras and a few other dialogues, and try to figure out what part of the soul each character in the Meno best fits with, we may say that, in moving from Protagoras to Meno, we move from the "sensible" soul, the epithumiai, to the thumos, the will. And indeed, the will is in the end the part of the soul that acts, the one that decides for this or that and gets the self moving... or staying put ! And what a will does Meno have ! He knows what he wants and will do all that's required to get his way. Or at least that's what he thinks... If we now look at the portrait Xenophon draws of him in the Anabasis (Anabasis, II.6.21-29), we can see the kind of "road" Meno was fond of : "for the accomplishment of the objects upon which his heart was set, he imagined that the shortest route was by way of perjury and falsehood and deception, while he counted straightforwardness and truth the same thing as folly. (II.6.22)" But, far from finding his "way home", he wandered with the Ten-Thousand through Persia, and this "hereditary guest friend of the Great King (Meno, 78d)", as Socrates ironically calls him, died, according to Xenophon, far away from home and miserable, a prisoner of that Great King, probably about the same year Socrates died in Athens...

It is likely that, if you asked him, Anytus would pretend to play the logos and he certainly played politician around that time in Athens. Socrates, in the Apology, presents him as the spokesman for "craftsmen and politicians (tôn dèmiourgôn kai tôn politikôn)" (Apology, 23e), which, for him, is akin to saying "demiurge turned politician", that is, sorcerer's apprentice or craftsman of witchcraft. And, in the Meno, he is shown as an impulsive character, not very articulate, short on words and fast at getting angry, unwilling to even submit his own opinions to a test, a champion of the many against the elite... In short, he looks more like a bunch of epithumiai than an articulate logos ! Thus, as was the case with Callias in Athens' soul in the Protagoras, the host of the dialogue, the one providing the "material" setting, sides with the lower part of the soul, the one most akin to nature.

But then, is there room for a logos in such a soul ? Well ! we might find it where we least expect it ! There remains that the logos be played by Meno's slave, to show that, in such a character, in the "democratic" soul of Athens somehow endowed with a "foreign" will who counts on the power of speech to get his way (Meno is a Thessalian raised by a rhetor from Sicily), reason is enslaved by the will. And indeed, in the whole dialogue, the slave is the only one to make progress and to show understanding ! But this is to no avail, because the unwavering Meno will keep him enslaved and miss the point.

Guinea pigs

And what was the point ? What is the worth of this "experiment" with the logos ? If you stay at the "materialistic" level of a "theory of forms" that you try to hold within time and space by looking for its roots in a "theory of reminiscence" that has a rather "mythical" bias, it may not prove much, especially owing to the fact that it is most likely a literary creation of Plato himself ! But this is not the purpose of the experiment. The true experiment is the one that takes place in the reader himself when he comes to see the difference between the opinion of one who thinks you double the surface of a square by doubling the size of its sides, and can easily be proved wrong, and the certitude that same one may acquire a few minutes later when he knows that you do it by building a square on the diagonal of the first one, and will never be proved wrong again on that matter. And it doesn't matter whether or not you already know the answer (which is most likely the case nowadays) when you read the dialogue, because you can picture within yourself those two states of mind from your own experience, on that topic or any other you'd like. If Socrates uses geometry in his example, it's because it is the most readily available example of "eternal truths" that don't depend on us, and because it has a "neutral" character which, unlike virtue or other moral qualities or values, doesn't raise passions. The goal is not so much to explain why it is so-- an the theory of reminiscence is only one among several possible explanations, as much as knowledge is only one among several possible explanations of success in action, and a very "materialistic" at that, as has already been said--as it is to show that you cannot deny the existence of immaterial, everlasting "laws" applying to equally immaterial "forms" independent of our own will, and that you can draw these laws from mere material "pictures" that only faintly represent what you are talking about (no drawn square will ever be a "perfect" square). And, if that is true, it ruins Protagoras' relativistic claim to find in man the measure of all things and it gives more credence to the search for similar truths in the area that should be of most concern to us, to the search for the "form" of our own being...

The Socrates vs. City of Athens case

This is why, to help us in this business, Plato now offers us the "picture" of Socrates' life and death, themselves the best "pictures" of what a man worthy of this name should be...

The picture centers on Socrates' most important act in life, his krisis, his trial, showing the law in action, in between two dialogues that show on either side the letter ("matter") of the law in the Euthyphro, and the spirit of the law in the Crito.

Evening news or Reality show ?

The Apology of Socrates, centerpiece of the trilogy, offers what is at the same time the most objective and the most subjective account of his trial. The most objective, because it purports to put us in the very position of a juror, with no more, but no less, data than what actual jurors got : Socrates' own words for his defense in direct style with not a single word added to tell us where we are or what's going on (and in this respect, it is all but a dialogue). Yet the most subjective, because we only see Socrates through Socrates' own eyes and words, through his own logos and understanding of his own life. And not even that ! What we actually read is Plato's rewriting of what we take as Socrates' own words at his trial !...

Most scholars consider the Apology to be one of the first works, if not the first work, of Plato. They think he wrote it a few years after Socrates' death, that is, years before the founding of the Academy, as a defense of his beloved master's memory in response to attacks from other writers of the time. But a careful analysis of its structure (see the commented plan of the Apology, elsewhere in these pages) shows it to be so elaborate, and so in line with everything else we have seen so far, and we'll keep seeing as we go, about the structure of the dialogues as a whole, that it is hardly conceivable that, in it, we get a "journalistic" report of Socrates' defense. It most likely betrays "historical truth" to remain faithful to the spirit of Socrates and better fit in the overall design and purpose of the dialogues as I see them.

Seer of no future and friend of good old days

Because Socrates was accused of impiety, as a prelude to the trial itself, Plato confronts his understanding of piety with that of one of the upholders of Athenian religion, a sort of seer supposed to be an expert on religious matters, who goes by the name of Euthyphro and happens to have some business in court at the same time as Socrates. And to show how far from corrupting the city Socrates is, Plato shows us how, after his trial, he prefers to lose his life by virtue of a lawful, though unjust, condemnation, rather than making fun of the law by fleeing away with the help of friends.

The Euthyphro takes place in front of the porch of the King-Archon, where laws were published, and stages a character whose job is to look into the future to help in directing present behavior, whose name means "right-minded", "well-disposed", and who, at first shows sympathy and understanding for Socrates (Euthyphro, 3b-c) but turns out to be unable to either teach him anything about piety or learn from him and to help avoid the evil of an unjust conviction and, in the end, refuses to assist him and finds a pretext to end the discussion and flee toward mundane affairs. The Crito takes place inside Socrates' prison, where law is upheld, and stages a character who is asked to look back to the past to search for the roots of Socrates' present behavior, whose name implies "judgment", and who, at first disagrees with Socrates and wants him to flee but turns out to be able to concur (koinônein, Crito, 49d) and speak of one voice (homologein, 15 occurrences in 5 Stephanus pages in the second half of the dialogue) with him and avoid the evil of an unjust escape and, in the end, accepts to let him stay and follow "the path the god is pointing at" (Crito, 54d, the very last words of the dialogue).

Dead gods and living Laws

The Euthyphro evidences the inability of official religion to teach anything to sensible men. Socrates wants (or at least that's what he says, tongue-in-cheek) to become a follower of Euthyphro in order to avoid a conviction for impiety, but Euthyphro turns out to be unable to explain what piety is and his supposed "science" is not even a true opinion and moves around like Dedalus' statues (Euthyphro, 11c-e, a reminder of the Meno). The Crito evidences the didactic role of the laws, which are the result of god's gift of the logos to men (the word didaskein, to teach, is used 22 times in the 5 Stephanus pages that make up the speech of the personified Laws, and never elsewhere in the 7 other pages of the dialogue, where are found 15 out of 16 occurrences of doxa, opinion, and 24 out of 28 occurrences of dokein, to appear, think, believe, be of the opinion, in relation with the 18 mentions of hoi polloi, the many, whose "opinions" the Laws answer).

The Euthyphro is full of gods, or at least of the word "gods" (58 occurrences, always in the plural, in 14 Stephanus pages, plus 17 occurrences of theophilès, loved by gods), and mentions several of them by name (Zeus, Hestia, Kronos, Ouranos, Hephaistos, Hera, along with Tantalus, Proteus and Heracles), but the single mention of ho theos, the god (singular), whose way Socrates is ready to follow, in the very last words of the Crito, confirming his statement at the start of the dialogue, "if that's what pleases the gods--ei tautè tois theois philon (an answer to the theophilia invoked by Euthyphro so many times)--, so be it" (Crito, 43d), tells us more about "piety" than all of Euthyphro's words put together (and, as if to show this is not blindness on his part and he is not afraid of the gods, the only name of a god in the dialogue, aside for two or three "By Zeus !" in the mouth of Crito, is that of Hades, the god of the underworld, toward the end of the dialogue, at Crito, 54c) !

But Euthyphro's conception of the gods is as "materialistic" as his conception of the law is "literal" and contrasts with Socrates "spiritual" understanding of both despite his personification of the Laws in his speech in the Crito. To this bears witness the case Euthyphro is bringing against his own father for having let die in chains a day laborer who was himself a murderer for having killed a slave while drunk, as he was away to ask officials what to do about him (but then, Meletos is suing Socrates, who might have been his spiritual father, for having tried to cure free men of the city who were all but "dead" in their souls for having been left alone by their parents busy making money, by staying at his post following god's advice).

Who's got an Idea ?

Of this inaptitude of Euthyphro to raise above ground level, another proof is given by his total inability to understand Socrates' vocabulary of "forms". This vocabulary is first introduced at Euthyphro, 5d with the "idea (idean)" of impiety, to better test Euthyphro by offering him the example of an "impious" way of talking about "forms", using them for "negative" concepts. It is again used, rightly this time, about the "pious", three times in four lines at Euthyphro, 6d-e (first eidos, then twice idea). But, no more than Meno, Euthyphro is able to make sense of it.

In fact, the whole dialogue with Euthyphro is a test on him by Socrates of both parts of the dialectical method described at Phædrus, 265d-266b, that split the dialogue in two almost equal parts. In the first part (2a-9c), Socrates tries the "ascending" way, which attempts to go from individual instances "toward a single idea (eis mian te idean)" (Phædrus, 265d). He starts with the instance of Euthyphro's case against his father that he gives as an example of pious act and tries to raise to the "idea of pious", only to fall back on the case at 8b. The second part (9c-16a) tries the "descending" way, which starts from a larger concept and attempts to "split it according to the form (kat' eidè diatemnein)" (Phædrus, 265e). It attemps to define piety as a "part" of justice (the "theory" about part and whole is developed at Euthyphro, 11e-12e), but is unable to succeed because, though he himself admitted in the first part that justice is one of those things on which both men and gods most widely disagree (Euthyphro, 7c-d), Euthyphro doesn't bother seeking a definition of justice, the "whole" he is trying to find a part of, and inquiring whether he puts the same thing as Socrates behind that word.

If the Euthyphro, which stands at the level of the lowest part of the soul in the trilogy, demonstrates the materialistic bent of the seer and the religion he represents by using the methods of dialectic and the vocabulary of ideas at no avail, the Crito, at the level of the highest part of the soul, successfully displays the spirit of Socrates' faith without ever using the vocabulary of forms and by grounding its inquiry in a lifetime of examination (he has the Laws tell him at Crito, 52e "you had seventy years to make up your mind"). The first part of the dialogue from the opinion of the many (hoi polloi) all the way up to the central principle of Socrates' behavior ("the principle of the examination (tès skepseôs tèn archèn)", Crito, 48e) on which he wants Crito to concur, that "it is never right to act unjustly or to answer to injustice by injustice or to return evil for evil" (Crito, 49d). The second part, through the speech of the Laws, moves down from that principle to its application to the current situation of Socrates.

Missing souls

In fact, there is only one feature both dialogues share : they are the only two dialogues out of the whole set of 28 in which the word psuchè (soul) is never used. And for sure, the only "soul" that is present in the Euthyphro is the "soul" that is part of his name : Euthu-phrôn indeed means "righteous hearth/soul", and is built on a word, phrèn, originally meaning "diaphragm" and used by Homer and the poets to designate the heart as well as the soul, but quite a "biological" soul at that ! Hence, Euthyphro summarizes in his name the whole attitude of the city that kills Socrates, a self-righteous city raised to the tune of Homer and bogged down in its materialistic bias, unable to understand Socrates' higher views on gods and men. On the other hand, in the Crito, the word for soul may not be there, but the thing is, along with the god that is almost never named, and the dialogue even affords a definition of both of them in a sentence that is worth quoting in full : "and indeed, with regard to the just and the unjust, the ugly and the beautiful, the good and the evil, about which is our current inquiry, should we follow and fear the opinion of the many, or else, that of the one, if there is such a one, who knows about these, and thus must be revered and feared more than all other ones together, because, by not following him, we would destroy and spoil that which becomes better through justice and dies from injustice ? (Crito, 47c-d)" That which becomes better through justice and dies from injustice... What better definition of the soul, that is, of the self, could we find ?!... But it still implies a definition of justice that has yet to be more sharply carved... And this will come with the next tetralogy...

For the time being, we end up the first part of the trip, the journey through the "visible" world, listening to the Laws. But at the same time we see what disorderly laws, or laws put to work by "uneducated" men, may lead to. They bring about the death of the most just among men. We should be ready to understand why both laws and men might have to be changed, and willing to embark for the second part of the journey that will lead us to men speaking new laws

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First published August 14, 1996 - Last updated November 22, 1998
© 1996 Bernard SUZANNE (click on name to send your comments via e-mail)
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