Alcibiades II

Alcibiades II

ALCIBIADES II PLATONIC IMITATOR Translated by Benjamin Jowett APPENDIX II. The two dialogues which are translated in the second appendix are not mentioned by Aristotle or by any early authority and have no claim to be ascribed to Plato. They are examples of Platonic dialogues to be assigned probably to the second or third generation after Plato when his writings were well known at Athens and Alexandria. They exhibit considerable originality and are remarkable for containing several thoughts of the sort which we suppose to be modern rather than ancient and which therefore have a peculiar interest for us. The Second Alcibiades shows that the difficulties about prayer which have perplexed Christian theologians were not unknown among the followers of Plato. The Eryxias was doubted by the ancients themselves: yet it may claim the distinction of being among all Greek or Roman writings the one which anticipates in the most striking manner the modern science of political economy and gives an abstract form to some of its principal doctrines. For the translation of these two dialogues I am indebted to my friend and secretary Mr. Knight. That the Dialogue which goes by the name of the Second Alcibiades is a genuine writing of Plato will not be maintained by any modern critic and was hardly believed by the ancients themselves. The dialectic is poor and weak. There is no power over language or beauty of style; and there is a certain abruptness and agroikia in the conversation which is very un- Platonic. The best passage is probably that about the poets:--the remark that the poet who is of a reserved disposition is uncommonly difficult to understand and the ridiculous interpretation of Homer are entirely in the spirit of Plato (compare Protag; Ion; Apol.). The characters are ill- drawn. Socrates assumes the 'superior person' and preaches too much while Alcibiades is stupid and heavy-in-hand. There are traces of Stoic influence in the general tone and phraseology of the Dialogue (compare opos melesei tis...kaka: oti pas aphron mainetai): and the writer seems to have been acquainted with the 'Laws' of Plato (compare Laws). An incident from the Symposium is rather clumsily introduced and two somewhat hackneyed quotations (Symp. Gorg.) recur. The reference to the death of Archelaus as having occurred 'quite lately' is only a fiction probably suggested by the Gorgias where the story of Archelaus is told and a similar phrase occurs;--ta gar echthes kai proen gegonota tauta k.t.l. There are several passages which are either corrupt or extremely ill- expressed. But there is a modern interest in the subject of the dialogue; and it is a good example of a short spurious work which may be attributed to the second or third century before Christ. ALCIBIADES II by Platonic Imitator (see Appendix II above) Translated by Benjamin Jowett PERSONS OF THE DIALOGUE: Socrates and Alcibiades. SOCRATES: Are you going Alcibiades to offer prayer to Zeus? ALCIBIADES: Yes Socrates I am. SOCRATES: you seem to be troubled and to cast your eyes on the ground as though you were thinking about something. ALCIBIADES: Of what do you suppose that I am thinking? SOCRATES: Of the greatest of all things as I believe. Tell me do you not suppose that the Gods sometimes partly grant and partly reject the requests which we make in public and private and favour some persons and not others? ALCIBIADES: Certainly. SOCRATES: Do you not imagine then that a man ought to be very careful lest perchance without knowing it he implore great evils for himself deeming that he is asking for good especially if the Gods are in the mood to grant whatever he may request? There is the story of Oedipus for instance who prayed that his children might divide their inheritance between them by the sword: he did not as he might have done beg that his present evils might be averted but called down new ones. And was not his prayer accomplished and did not many and terrible evils thence arise upon which I need not dilate? ALCIBIADES: Yes Socrates but you are speaking of a madman: surely you do not think that any one in his senses would venture to make such a prayer? SOCRATES: Madness then you consider to be the opposite of discretion? ALCIBIADES: Of course. SOCRATES: And some men seem to you to be discreet and others the contrary? ALCIBIADES: They do. SOCRATES: Well then let us discuss who these are. We acknowledge that some are discreet some foolish and that some are mad? ALCIBIADES: Yes. SOCRATES: And again there are some who are in health? ALCIBIADES: There are. SOCRATES: While others are ailing? ALCIBIADES: Yes. SOCRATES: And they are not the same? ALCIBIADES: Certainly not. SOCRATES: Nor are there any who are in neither state? ALCIBIADES: No. SOCRATES: A man must either be sick or be well? ALCIBIADES: That is my opinion. SOCRATES: Very good: and do you think the same about discretion and want of discretion? ALCIBIADES: How do you mean? SOCRATES: Do you believe that a man must be either in or out of his senses; or is there some third or intermediate condition in which he is neither one nor the other? ALCIBIADES: Decidedly not. SOCRATES: He must be either sane or insane? ALCIBIADES: So I suppose. SOCRATES: Did you not acknowledge that madness was the opposite of discretion? ALCIBIADES: Yes. SOCRATES: And that there is no third or middle term between discretion and indiscretion? ALCIBIADES: True. SOCRATES: And there cannot be two opposites to one thing? ALCIBIADES: There cannot. SOCRATES: Then madness and want of sense are the same? ALCIBIADES: That appears to be the case. SOCRATES: We shall be in the right therefore Alcibiades if we say that all who are senseless are mad. For example if among persons of your own age or older than yourself there are some who are senseless--as there certainly are--they are mad. For tell me by heaven do you not think that in the city the wise are few while the foolish whom you call mad are many? ALCIBIADES: I do. SOCRATES: But how could we live in safety with so many crazy people? Should we not long since have paid the penalty at their hands and have been struck and beaten and endured every other form of ill-usage which madmen are wont to inflict? Consider my dear friend: may it not be quite otherwise? ALCIBIADES: Why Socrates how is that possible? I must have been mistaken. SOCRATES: So it seems to me. But perhaps we may consider the matter thus:-- ALCIBIADES: How? SOCRATES: I will tell you. We think that some are sick; do we not? ALCIBIADES: Yes. SOCRATES: And must every sick person either have the gout or be in a fever or suffer from ophthalmia? Or do you believe that a man may labour under some other disease even although he has none of these complaints? Surely they are not the only maladies which exist? ALCIBIADES: Certainly not. SOCRATES: And is every kind of ophthalmia a disease? ALCIBIADES: Yes. SOCRATES: And every disease ophthalmia? ALCIBIADES: Surely not. But I scarcely understand what I mean myself. SOCRATES: Perhaps if you give me your best attention 'two of us' looking together we may find what we seek. ALCIBIADES: I am attending Socrates to the best of my power. ...