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SOCRATES: But can a man learn any kind of knowledge which is imparted by word of mouth if he is wholly deprived of the sense of hearing?
CRITIAS: Certainly not, I think.
SOCRATES: And will not hearing be useful for virtue, if virtue is taught by hearing and we use the sense of hearing in giving instruction?
SOCRATES: And since medicine frees the sick man from his disease, that art too may sometimes appear useful in the acquisition of virtue, e.g. when hearing is procured by the aid of medicine.
CRITIAS: Very likely.
SOCRATES: But if, again, we obtain by wealth the aid of medicine, shall we not regard wealth as useful for virtue?
SOCRATES: And also the instruments by which wealth is procured?
SOCRATES: Then you think that a man may gain wealth by bad and disgraceful means, and, having obtained the aid of medicine which enables him to acquire the power of hearing, may use that very faculty for the acquisition of virtue?
CRITIAS: Yes, I do.
SOCRATES: But can that which is evil be useful for virtue?
SOCRATES: It is not therefore necessary that the means by which we obtain what is useful for a certain object should always be useful for the same object: for it seems that bad actions may sometimes serve good purposes? The matter will be still plainer if we look at it in this way:—If things are useful towards the several ends for which they exist, which ends would not come into existence without them, how would you regard them? Can ignorance, for instance, be useful for knowledge, or disease for health, or vice for virtue?
SOCRATES: And yet we have already agreed—have we not?—that there can be no knowledge where there has not previously been ignorance, nor health where there has not been disease, nor virtue where there has not been vice?
CRITIAS: I think that we have.
SOCRATES: But then it would seem that the antecedents without which a thing cannot exist are not necessarily useful to it. Otherwise ignorance would appear useful for knowledge, disease for health, and vice for virtue.
Critias still showed great reluctance to accept any argument which went to prove that all these things were useless. I saw that it was as difficult to persuade him as (according to the proverb) it is to boil a stone, so I said: Let us bid 'good-bye' to the discussion, since we cannot agree whether these things are useful and a part of wealth or not. But what shall we say to another question: Which is the happier and better man,—he who requires the greatest quantity of necessaries for body and diet, or he who requires only the fewest and least? The answer will perhaps become more obvious if we suppose some one, comparing the man himself at different times, to consider whether his condition is better when he is sick or when he is well?
CRITIAS: That is not a question which needs much consideration.
SOCRATES: Probably, I said, every one can understand that health is a better condition than disease. But when have we the greatest and the most various needs, when we are sick or when we are well?
CRITIAS: When we are sick.
SOCRATES: And when we are in the worst state we have the greatest and most especial need and desire of bodily pleasures?
SOCRATES: And seeing that a man is best off when he is least in need of such things, does not the same reasoning apply to the case of any two persons, of whom one has many and great wants and desires, and the other few and moderate? For instance, some men are gamblers, some drunkards, and some gluttons: and gambling and the love of drink and greediness are all desires?
SOCRATES: But desires are only the lack of something: and those who have the greatest desires are in a worse condition than those who have none or very slight ones?
CRITIAS: Certainly I consider that those who have such wants are bad, and that the greater their wants the worse they are.
SOCRATES: And do we think it possible that a thing should be useful for a purpose unless we have need of it for that purpose?
SOCRATES: Then if these things are useful for supplying the needs of the body, we must want them for that purpose?
CRITIAS: That is my opinion.
SOCRATES: And he to whom the greatest number of things are useful for his purpose, will also want the greatest number of means of accomplishing it, supposing that we necessarily feel the want of all useful things?
CRITIAS: It seems so.
SOCRATES: The argument proves then that he who has great riches has likewise need of many things for the supply of the wants of the body; for wealth appears useful towards that end. And the richest must be in the worst condition, since they seem to be most in want of such things.