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Plato: Hipparchus (excerpts)

[225a] SOCRATES: What is love of profit? What can it be, and who are the lovers of profit?

COMRADE: In my opinion, they are those who think it worth while to make profit out of things of no worth.

SOCRATES: Is it your opinion that they know those things to be of no worth, or do not know? For if they do not know, you mean that the lovers of profit are fools.

COMRADE: No, I do not mean they are fools, but rascals who wickedly yield to profit, because they know that the things out of which they dare to make their profit are worthless, [225b] and yet they dare to be lovers of profit from mere shamelessness.

SOCRATES: Well now, do you mean by the lover of profit such a man, for instance, as a farmer who plants something which he knows is a worthless herb, and thinks fit to make profit out of it when he has reared it up? Is that the sort of man you mean?

COMRADE: The lover of profit, as such, Socrates thinks he ought to make profit from everything.

SOCRATES: Please do not speak so recklessly, as though you had been wronged by someone, [225c] but give me your attention and answer just as you would if I were beginning my questions over again. Do you not admit that the lover of profit has knowledge of the worth of the thing from which he thinks it worth while to make profit?


SOCRATES: Then who has knowledge of the worth of plants, and of the sort of season and soil in which they are worth planting--if we too may throw in one of those artful phrases1 which adroit pleaders use to trick out their speeches in the law courts?

[225d] COMRADE: For my part, I should say a farmer.

SOCRATES: And by “think it worth while to make profit” do you mean aught but “thinking one ought to make profit”?

COMRADE: I mean that.

SOCRATES: Then do not attempt to deceive me, who am now quite an elderly person,

[226a] and you so young, by making, as you did just now, an answer that is not even your own thought; but tell me in all truth, do you suppose that any man who was taking up farming and who knew it was a worthless plant that he was planting, could think to make profit from it?

COMRADE: Upon my word, I do not.

SOCRATES: Or again, take a horseman who knows that he is providing worthless food for his horse; do you suppose he is unaware that he is destroying his horse?

COMRADE: I do not.

[226b] SOCRATES: So he does not think to make profit from that worthless food.


SOCRATES: Or again, take a navigator who has furnished his ship with worthless spars and ropes; do you think he is unaware that he will suffer for it, and will be in danger of being lost himself, and of losing the ship and all her cargo?

COMRADE: I do not.

SOCRATES: So he does not think to make profit from [226c] that worthless tackle?

COMRADE: No, indeed.

SOCRATES: But does a general, who knows that his army has worthless arms, think to make profit, or think it worth while to make profit, from them?

COMRADE: By no means.

SOCRATES: Or does a flute-player who has worthless flutes, or a harper with a lyre, a bowman with a bow, or anyone else at all, in short, among ordinary craftsmen or sensible men in general, with any implement or other equipment of any sort that is worthless, think to make profit from it?

[226d] COMRADE: To all appearance, no.

SOCRATES: Then whoever can they be, your lovers of profit? For I presume they are not the people whom we have successively mentioned, but people who know their worthless things, and yet think they are to make profit from them. But in that case, by what you say, remarkable sir, no man alive is a lover of profit

COMRADE: Well, Socrates I should like to call those lovers of profit who from insatiable greed consumedly long for things that are even quite petty and of little or no worth, [226e] and so love profit, in each case.

SOCRATES: Not knowing, of course, my excellent friend, that the things are worthless; for we have already convinced ourselves by our argument that this is impossible.

COMRADE: I agree.

SOCRATES: And if not knowing this, clearly they are ignorant of it, but think that those worthless things are worth a great deal.

COMRADE: Apparently.

SOCRATES: Now, of course lovers of profit must love profit?


SOCRATES: And by profit you mean the opposite of loss?

[227a] COMRADE: I do.

SOCRATES: And is it a good thing for anyone to suffer loss?

COMRADE: For no one.

SOCRATES: Rather an evil?


SOCRATES: So mankind are harmed by loss.

COMRADE: They are harmed.

SOCRATES: Then loss is an evil.


SOCRATES: And profit is the opposite of loss.

COMRADE: The opposite.

SOCRATES: So that profit is a good.


SOCRATES: Hence it is those who love the good that you call lovers of profit.

COMRADE: So it seems.

[227b] SOCRATES: At least there is nothing mad, my friend, about lovers of profit, as you describe them. But tell me, do you yourself love, or not love, whatever is good?

COMRADE: I love it.

SOCRATES: And is there anything good that you do not love, or must it then be evil?

COMRADE: Upon my word, nothing.

SOCRATES: In fact, I expect you love all good things.


SOCRATES: Well now, ask me on my side whether I do not likewise: for I shall agree with you, for my part, that I love good things. But besides you and me, do you not think that all the rest of mankind [227c] love good things, and hate evil things?

COMRADE: It appears so to me.

SOCRATES: And we admitted that profit is good?


SOCRATES: On this new showing, everyone appears to be a lover of profit; whereas, by our former way of arguing, no one was a lover of profit. So on which of the two arguments are we to rely, in order to avoid error?

COMRADE: What has to be done, I think, Socrates:, is to conceive the lover of profit rightly. The right view of the lover of profit is that he is one who concerns himself with,

[227d] and thinks fit to make profit from, things from which honest men do not dare to make profit.

SOCRATES: But you see, my sweet sir, we have just admitted that making profit is being benefited.

COMRADE: Well, what of that?

SOCRATES: There is the further point we have admitted in addition to this -- that all men wish for good things always.


SOCRATES: Then good men likewise wish to have all profits, if these are good things.

[227e] COMRADE: Not those profits from which they are bound, Socrates, to suffer harm.

SOCRATES: By “suffer harm” do you mean “suffer loss,” or something else?

COMRADE: No, I mean just “suffer loss.”

SOCRATES: Well, do men suffer loss from profit or from loss?

COMRADE: From both; for they suffer loss from loss and from wicked profit.

SOCRATES: Pray now, do you consider that any useful and good thing is wicked?

COMRADE: I do not.

[228a] SOCRATES: And we admitted a little while ago that profit is the opposite of loss, which is an evil.

COMRADE: I agree.

SOCRATES: And that, being the opposite of an evil, it is good?

COMRADE: That was our admission.

SOCRATES: So you see, you are attempting to deceive me, for you deliberately contradict what we agreed to just now.

COMRADE: No, on my honor, Socrates; on the contrary, it is you who are deceiving me, by twisting this way and that so perplexingly in your talk.

[229e] SOCRATES: Well now, as though we were playing a board game with pieces, I am willing to let you take back, as you please, anything you have said in carrying on the discussion, in order that you may not think you are being deceived. So tell me, shall I take back for you the statement that all men desire good things?

COMRADE: No, thank you.

SOCRATES: Well, that suffering loss, or loss, is an evil?

COMRADE: No, thank you.

SOCRATES: Well, that profit, or making profit, is the opposite of loss, or suffering loss?

[230a] COMRADE: Nor that either.

SOCRATES: Well, that making profit, as the opposite of evil, is a good?

COMRADE: It’s not always good; take that back for me.

SOCRATES: You think, then, it seems, that some profit is good, and some evil.


SOCRATES: Well then, I’ll take that back for you; so let us assume that some profit is good, and some other profit evil. But the good sort is no more profit than the evil sort, is it?

COMRADE: What do you mean by this question?

SOCRATES: I will explain. Is there both good and evil food?

[230b] COMRADE: Yes.

SOCRATES: And is the one sort more food than the other, or are they both similarly this same thing, food, and in this respect does the one differ no wise from the other, in being food, but only in the fact of the one being good and the other evil?


SOCRATES: And so with drink and every other class of things that exist, when some things in any class come to be good, and others evil, one thing does not differ from another in that respect whereby they are the same? For instance, [230c] one man, I suppose, is virtuous, and another wicked.


SOCRATES: But neither of them, I conceive, is more or less man than the other -- neither the virtuous than the wicked, nor the wicked than the virtuous.

COMRADE: What you say is true.

SOCRATES: Then are we to take the same view of profit also, that both the wicked and the virtuous sort are similarly profit?

COMRADE: Necessarily.

SOCRATES: So he who has virtuous profit is no whit the more a profiter than he who has wicked profit: neither sort [230d] is found to be more profit, as we agree.


SOCRATES: For neither of them has addition of either more or less.

COMRADE: No, indeed.

SOCRATES: And how could one do or suffer anything more or less with a thing of this sort, that had neither of these additions?

COMRADE: Impossible.

SOCRATES: Since, therefore, both of these are profits and profit-making affairs, we must now consider what it can be that leads you to call both of them profit: [230e] what is it that you see to be the same in both? Suppose you were to ask me, in those instances that I gave just now, what it is that leads me to call both good food and evil food alike food, I should tell you -- for this reason, because both are a dry sustenance of the body. For that, I am sure you would agree, is what food is, would you not?

COMRADE: I would.

SOCRATES: And so too about drink the answer would be on the same lines, that the wet sustenance of the body, [231a] whether it be wholesome or pernicious, has this name of drink; and likewise with the rest. Try therefore on your part to imitate my method of answering. When you say that virtuous profit and wicked profit are both profit, what is it that you see to be the same in them, judging it to be the actual element of profit? And if again you are yourself unable to answer, just let me put it for your consideration, whether you describe as profit every acquisition that one has acquired either with no expense, or as a profit over and above one's expense.

[231b] COMRADE: I believe that is what I call profit.

SOCRATES: Do you include a case where, after enjoying a banquet at which one has had much good cheer without any expense, one acquires an illness?

COMRADE: Upon my word, not I.

SOCRATES: And if one acquired health from attending a banquet, would one acquire profit or loss?

COMRADE: Profit.

SOCRATES: Hence profit is not just acquiring any acquisition.

COMRADE: No, indeed.

SOCRATES: Do you mean, not if it is evil? Or will one acquire no profit even if one acquires something good?

COMRADE: Apparently one will, if it is good.

[231c] SOCRATES: And if it is evil, will not one suffer loss?

COMRADE: I think so.

SOCRATES: You see, then, how you are running round again to the same old point? Profit is found to be good, and loss evil.

COMRADE: For my part, I cannot tell what to say.

SOCRATES: And not without good reason, sir. Now answer this further question: you say that if one acquires more than the amount one has spent, it is profit?

COMRADE: I do not mean, when it is evil, but if one gets more gold or silver than one has spent.

SOCRATES: Now, I am just going to ask you about that. Tell me, [231d] if one spends half a pound of gold and gets double that weight in silver, has one got profit or loss?

COMRADE: Loss, I presume, Socrates; for one's gold is reduced to twice, instead of twelve times, the value of silver.

SOCRATES: But you see, one has got more; or is double not more than half?

COMRADE: Not in worth, the one being silver and the other gold.

SOCRATES: So profit, it seems, must have this addition of worth. At least, you now say that silver, though more than gold, is not worth as much, and that gold, though less, is of equal worth.

[231e] COMRADE: Assuredly, for that is the case.

SOCRATES: Then the valuable is what produces profit, whether it be small or great, and the valueless produces no profit.


SOCRATES: And by the valuable you mean simply, valuable to possess?

COMRADE: Yes, to possess.

SOCRATES: And again, by what is valuable to possess, do you mean the unprofitable or the profitable?

COMRADE: The profitable, I presume.

SOCRATES: And the profitable is good?


[232a] SOCRATES: And so, most valiant of men, have we not here once more, for the third or fourth time, the admission that what produces profit is good?

COMRADE: So it seems.

SOCRATES: Then do you remember the point from which this discussion of ours arose?

COMRADE: I think I do.

SOCRATES: In case you do not, I will remind you. You maintained against me that good men do not wish to make all sorts of profit, but only those profits that are good, and not those that are wicked.


[232b] SOCRATES: And now the argument has compelled us to acknowledge that all profits, both small and great, are good?

COMRADE: Yes, it has compelled me, at least, Socrates, rather than persuaded me.

SOCRATES: Well, later on, perhaps, it might also persuade you. Now, however, whether you are persuaded or whatever is your feeling, you at least agree with me that all profits are good, both small and great ones.

COMRADE: Yes, I do admit it.

SOCRATES: And you admit that virtuous men all wish for all good things, do you not?


[232c] SOCRATES: But, you know, you stated yourself that wicked men love both small and great profits.


SOCRATES: And so, by your account, all men will be lovers of profit, whether they be virtuous or wicked.

COMRADE: Apparently.

SOCRATES: Hence it is not right to reproach anybody with being a lover of profit: for he who makes this reproach is actually a lover of profit himself.

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