I will try also to show how he encouraged his companions to become skilled in discussion. Socrates held that those who know what any given thing is can also expound it to others; on the other hand, those who do not know are misled themselves and mislead others. For this reason he never gave up considering with his companions what any given thing is.To go through all his definitions would be an arduous task. I will say only enough to indicate his method of analysis.
His analysis of Piety — to take that first — was more or less as follows:Tell me, Euthydemus, what sort of thing is Piety, in your opinion?A very excellent thing, to be sure, he replied.Can you say what sort of man is pious?He who worships the gods, I think.May a man worship the gods according to his own will and pleasure?No, there are laws to be observed in worshipping the gods!
Then will not he who knows these laws know how he must worship the gods?I think so.Then does he who knows how he must worship the gods think that he must do so according to his knowledge, and not otherwise?He does indeed.And does everyone worship the gods as he thinks he ought, and not otherwise?I think so.
Then will he who knows what is lawful about the gods worship the gods lawfully?Certainly.Then does not he who worships lawfully worship as he ought?Of course.Yes, but he who worships as he ought is pious?Certainly.Shall we therefore rightly define the pious man as one who knows what is lawful concerning the gods?I at any rate think so.
In dealing with men, again, may one do as one chooses?No, in the case of men too there are laws of conduct.Then do not those who observe them in their dealings with one another behave as they ought?Of course.And do not they who behave as they ought behave well?Certainly.And do not they who behave well towards men act well in human affairs?Presumably.And do not those who obey the laws do what is just?Certainly.
Do you know what sort of things are called just?The things that the laws command.Consequently those who do what the laws command do both what is just and what they must do?Of course.And are not they who do what is just, just men?I think so.Do you think then, that any obey the laws without knowing what the laws command?I do not.And knowing what they must do, do you suppose that any think they must not do it?I don’t think so.Do you know of any who do, not what they think they must do, but something else?I do not.Consequently those who know what is lawful concerning men do what is just?Certainly.But are not they who do what is just, just men?Exactly.At last, then, we may rightly define just men as those who know best what is just concerning men?I think so.And what of Wisdom?
How shall we describe it? Tell me, does it seem to you that the wise are wise about what they know, or are some wise about what they do not know?About what they know, obviously; for how can a man be wise about the things he doesn’t know?The wise, then, are wise by knowledge?How else can a man be wise if not by knowledge?Do you think that wisdom is anything but that by which men are wise?No.It follows that Wisdom is Knowledge?I think so.Then do you think it possible for a man to know all things?Of course not — nor even a fraction of them.So an all-wise man is an impossibility?Of course, of course.Consequently everyone is wise just in so far as he knows?I think so.
Now to seek the Good, Euthydemus: is this the way?What do you mean?Does it seem to you that the same thing is useful to everyone?No.In fact, what is useful to one may sometimes be hurtful to another, don’t you think?Assuredly.Should you call anything good except what is useful?No.Consequently what is useful is good for him to whom it is useful?I think so.
Consider the Beautiful: can we define it in any other way? Or is it possible to name a beautiful body, for instance, or vessel, or anything else that you know to be beautiful for all purposes?Of course not.Then does the beauty in using anything consist in using it for just that purpose for which that particular thing is useful?Certainly.And is a thing beautiful for any other purpose than that for which it is beautiful to use that particular thing?For no other purpose whatever.The useful, then, is beautiful for any purpose for which it is useful?I think so.Next comes Courage, Euthydemus.
Do you think it a beautiful thing?I prefer to say very beautiful.So you think Courage useful for no mean purposes?Of course — or rather, for the greatest.Then do you think that in the pressure of terrors and dangers it is useful to be ignorant of them?By no means.So those who feel no fear of such things because they are ignorant of them are not courageous?Of course not, for in that case many madmen and cowards would be courageous.What of those who are afraid when there is no ground for fear?Still less, of course.Then do you think that those who are good in the presence of terrors and dangers are courageous, and those who are bad are cowards?Certainly.
And do you think that any are good in the presence of such things, except those who can deal with them well?None but these.And bad, except such as deal badly with them?These and none others.Then do both classes behave as they think they must?How can they behave otherwise?Then do those who cannot behave well know how they must behave?Surely not.So those who know how they must behave are just those who can?Yes, only they.Well now, do those who are not utterly mistaken deal badly with such things?I think not.So those who behave badly are utterly mistaken?Presumably.It follows that those who know how to deal well with terrors and dangers are courageous, and those who utterly mistake the way are cowards?That is my opinion.
Kingship and despotism, in his judgment, were both forms of government, but he held that they differed. For government of men with their consent and in accordance with the laws of the state was kingship; while government of unwilling subjects and not controlled by laws, but imposed by the will of the ruler, was despotism. And where the officials are chosen among those who fulfil the requirements of the laws, the constitution is an aristocracy: where rateable property is the qualification for office, you have a plutocracy: where all are eligible, a democracy.
Whenever anyone argued with him on any point without being able to make himself clear, asserting but not proving, that so and so was wiser or an abler politician or braver or what not, he would lead the whole discussion back to the definition required, much in this way:
Do you say that your man is a better citizen than mine?I do indeed.Then why didn’t we first consider what is the function of a good citizen?Let us do so.In financial administration, then, is not the better man he who makes the city wealthier?Certainly.And in war he who makes her stronger than her rivals?Of course.And on an embassy he who turns enemies into friends?Presumably.And in debate he who puts down strife and produces harmony?I think so.By this process of leading back the argument even his adversay came to see the truth clearly.
Whenever he himself argued out a question, he advanced by steps that gained general assent, holding this to be the only sure method. Accordingly, whenever he argued, he gained a greater measure of assent from his hearers than any man I have known. He said that Homer gave Odysseus the credit of being a safe speaker[*](Odyssey, viii. 171.) because he had a way of leading the discussion from one acknowledged truth to another.