Indeed I do. Now, Nicias, please go back to the beginning [*](Cf. 190 c.) and answer us: you know we started our discussion by considering courage as a part of virtue?Nic.
And you joined in this answer,—that it is a part, there being also other parts, which taken all together have received the name of virtue.Nic.
Why, of course.Soc.
Now, do you mean the same as I do by these? Besides courage, I refer to temperance, justice, and other similar qualities. And you also, do you not?Nic.
Certainly I do.Soc.
So much for that; thus far we agree: but let us pass on to what is to be dreaded and what to be dared, and make sure that you and we do not take two different views of these. Let me tell you our view of them, and if you do not agree with it, you shall instruct us. We hold that the dreadful are things that cause fear, and the safely ventured are those that do not; and fear is caused not by past or present, but by expected evils: for fear is expectation of coming evil. You are of the same mind with us in this, are you not, Laches?Lach.
Yes, entirely so, Socrates.Soc.
So there you have our view, Nicias,—that coming evils are to be dreaded, and things not evil, or good things, that are to come are to be safely dared. Would you describe them in this way, or in some other?Nic.
I would describe them in this way.Soc.
And the knowledge of these things is what you term courage?Nic.
There is still a third point on which we must see if you are in agreement with us.Nic.
What point is that?Soc.
I will tell you. It seems to your friend and me that, to take the various subjects of knowledge, there is not one knowledge of how a thing has happened in the past, another of how things are happening in the present, and another of how a thing that has not yet happened might or will happen most favorably in the future, but it is the same knowledge throughout. For example, in the case of health, it is medicine always and alone that surveys present, past, and future processes alike; and farming is in the same position as regards the productions of the earth.
And in matters of war; I am sure you yourselves will bear me out when I say that here generalship makes the best forecasts on the whole, and particularly of future results, and is the mistress rather than the servant of the seer’s art, because it knows better what is happening or about to happen in the operations of war; whence the law ordains that the general shall give orders to the seer, and not the seer to the general. May we say this, Laches?Lach.
Well now, do you agree with us, Nicias, that the same knowledge has comprehension of the same things, whether future, present, or past?Nic.
I do, for that is my own opinion, Socrates.Soc.
And courage, my good friend, is knowledge of what is to be dreaded and dared, as you say, do you not?Nic.
And things to be dreaded and things to be dared have been admitted to be either future goods or future evils?Nic.
And the same knowledge is concerned with the same things, whether in the future or in any particular stage?Nic.
That is so.Soc.
Then courage is knowledge not merely of what is to be dreaded and what dared, for it comprehends goods and evils not merely in the future, but also in the present and the past and in any stage, like the other kinds of knowledge.Nic.
So the answer that you gave us, Nicias, covers only about a third part of courage; whereas our question was of what courage is as a whole. And now it appears, on your own showing, that courage is knowledge not merely of what is to be dreaded and what dared, but practically a knowledge concerning all goods and evils at every stage; such is your present account of what courage must be. What do you say to this new version, Nicias?Nic.
I accept it, Socrates.Soc.
Now do you think, my excellent friend, there could be anything wanting to the virtue of a man who knew all good things, and all about their production in the present, the future, and the past, and all about evil things likewise? Do you suppose that such a man could be lacking in temperance, or justice, and holiness, when he alone has the gift of taking due precaution, in his dealings with gods and men, as regards what is to be dreaded and what is not, and of procuring good things, owing to his knowledge of the right behaviour towards them?Nic.
I think, Socrates, there is something in what you say.Soc.
Hence what you now describe, Nicias, will be not a part but the whole of virtue.Nic.
But, you know, we said that courage is one of the parts of virtue.Nic.
Yes, we did.Soc.
And what we now describe is seen to be different.Nic.
So it seems.Soc.
Thus we have failed to discover, Nicias, what courage really is.Nic.
And I, in fact, supposed, my dear Nicias, that you were going to discover it, when you showed such contempt for the answers I made to Socrates: indeed I had very great hopes that the wisdom you derived from Damon would avail you for the discovery.Nic.
That is all very fine, Laches; you think you can now make light of the fact that you were yourself shown just now to know nothing about courage; when my turn comes to be shown up in the same light, that is all you care, and now it will not matter to you at all, it seems, if I share your ignorance of things whereof any self-respecting man ought to have knowledge. You really strike me, indeed, as following the average man’s practice of keeping an eye on others rather than on oneself: but I fancy that for the present I have said as much as could be expected on the subject of our discussion, and that later on I must make good any defects in my statement upon it with the help of Damon—whom I know you choose to ridicule, and that without ever having seen the actual Damon—and with others’ help besides. And when I have settled the matter I will enlighten you, in no grudging spirit: for I think you are in very great need of instruction.Lach.
You are a man of wisdom, I know, Nicias. But still I advise Lysimachus here and Melesias to dismiss you and me, and to retain our friend Socrates as I said at first, for the education of your boys: were my own sons old enough, I should do the same thing too.Nic.
For my part I agree; if Socrates will consent to take charge of these young people, I will seek for no one else. I should be only too glad to entrust him with Niceratus, if he should consent: but when I begin to mention the matter to him, he always recommends other men to me and refuses himself. Just see, Lysimachus, if Socrates will give you a more favorable hearing.Lys.
It is only right that he should, Nicias, for indeed I would be willing to do many things for him which I would not do for a great many others. Well, what do you say, Socrates? Will you comply, and lend your endeavours for the highest improvement of these boys?Soc.
Why, how strange it would be, Lysimachus, to refuse to lend one’s endeavours for the highest improvement of anybody! Now if in the debates that we have just held I had been found to know what our two friends did not know, it would be right to make a point of inviting me to take up this work: but as it is, we have all got into the same difficulty, so why should one of us be preferred to another?
In my own opinion, none of us should; and this being so, perhaps you will allow me to give you a piece of advice. I tell you, gentlemen—and this is confidential—that we ought all alike to seek out the best teacher we can find, first for ourselves—for we need one—and then for our boys, sparing neither expense nor anything else we can do: but to leave ourselves as we now are, this I do not advise. And if anyone makes fun of us for seeing fit to go to school at our time of life, I think we should appeal to Homer, who said that
shame is no good mate for a needy man.Hom. Od. 17.347 So let us not mind what anyone may say, but join together in arraging for our own and the boys’ tuition.Lys.
I gladly approve of your suggestions, Socrates; and as I am the oldest, so I am the most eager to have lessons with the young ones. Now this is what I ask you to do: come to my house tomorrow at daybreak; be sure not to fail, and then we shall consult on this very matter. For the present, let us break up our meeting.Soc.
I will not fail, Lysimachus, to come to you tomorrow, God willing.