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Plato : PROTAGORAS

Persons of the dialogue: Companion - Socrates - Hippocrates - Alcibiades - Critias
- Protagoras - Hippias - Prodicus - Sophists - Callias

Scene: The House of Callias
Translated by Benjamin Jowett - 22 Pages (Part 2) - Greek fonts
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PROTAGORAS part 2 of 2

Part 1

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This Part: 22 Pages


Part 2 Page 3

I am of opinion, Socrates, he said, that skill in poetry is the principal part of education; and this I conceive to be the power of knowing what compositions of the poets are correct, and what are not, and how they are to be distinguished, and of explaining when asked the reason of the difference. And I propose to transfer the question which you and I have been discussing to the domain of poetry; we will speak as before of virtue, but in reference to a passage of a poet. Now Simonides says to Scopas the son of Creon the Thessalian: -

Hardly on the one hand can a man become truly good, built four-square in hands and feet and mind, a work without a flaw. - Do you know the poem? or shall I repeat the whole?

There is no need, I said; for I am perfectly well acquainted with the ode-I have made a careful study of it.

Very well, he said. And do you think that the ode is a good composition, and true?

Yes, I said, both good and true.

But if there is a contradiction, can the composition be good or true?

No, not in that case, I replied.

And is there not a contradiction? he asked. Reflect.

Well, my friend, I have reflected.

And does not the poet proceed to say, "I do not agree with the word of Pittacus, albeit the utterance of a wise man: Hardly can a man be good"? Now you will observe that this is said by the same poet.

I know it.

And do you think, he said, that the two sayings are consistent?

Yes, I said, I think so (at the same time I could not help fearing that there might be something in what he said). And you think otherwise?

Why, he said, how can he be consistent in both? First of all, premising as his own thought, "Hardly can a man become truly good"; and then a little further on in the poem, forgetting, and blaming Pittacus and refusing to agree with him, when he says, "Hardly can a man be good," which is the very same thing. And yet when he blames him who says the same with himself, he blames himself; so that he must be wrong either in his first or his second assertion.

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