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Plato's "Lesser Hippias"

Author(s): Robert G. Hoerber

Source: Phronesis, Vol. 7, No. 2 (1962), pp. 121-131
Published by: BRILL
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Plato's LesserHippias

THE two propositions of the LesserHippias - that the

truthful individual is one and the same as the liar; and that a
person who commits injustice voluntarily is superior to one who
does so unwillingly - might prove puzzling to readers unversed in
Socratic dialectic, there should be no doubt concerning the genuineness
of the treatise. Even the generally sceptical scholars of the nineteenth
century, such as Stallbaum, Steinhart, and Socher, agreed to its authenticity. Ast and Schleiermacher are the only Platonists of that era who
rejected the composition as spurious especially because of its sophistry. I
Scholars of the current century agree with the majority of previous
Platonists in accepting the Lesser Hippias as a genuine work of Plato,
no doubt because Aristotle cites the dialogue in no uncertain terms.2
Both the dramatic date and time of composition, however, are
questions which cannot be resolved with any degree of certainty. The
consensus of opinion is that the Lesser Hippias is an early work of Plato;
possibly the brevity of the treatise and the absence of metaphysical
concepts have pointed Platonists in that direction. 3 Since absolute proof,
or even concrete evidence, to the contrary are lacking, we may assume
that the consensus of scholars is probably correct. Only two Platonists
have risked an opinion on the dramatic date of the dialogue - and that

I Cf. George Grote, Plato and the other Companionsof Sokrates (London 187S) I 387-8,
for references to the scholars of the previous century. Even W. Lutoslawski seems to
accept the LesserHippias, omitting it from his study merely because it is so brief and
because he feels it is of no importance in the area of logic; cf. The Origin and Growthof
Plato'sLogic(London 1905) 75, 194.
2 Metaphysica 1025a6-9:
"Hence, the argument in the Hippias that the same man is
false and true is misleading. For it takes him to be fasle who is able to speak falsely,
though he is discerning and intelligent, and takes him to be better who is consciously
false" (Richard Hope's translation).
3 Cf. Paul Shorey, WhatPlato Said (Chicago 1957) SS; F. M. Cornford, CambridgeAncient
History (Cambridge 1933) VI 3 I; Hans Raeder, Platons Philosophische Entwickelung
(Leipzig i905)
57; George Grote, op. cit. (above, note I) 1 388. Wilamowitz
assumes the date of the composition to be prior to 399 B.C.: "Aber ein unvorbereiteter
Leser musste sagen, Sokrates vertritt im Gegensatze zu Hippias die Unsittlichkeit, and
so viel sollte jeder einsehen, dass kein Sokratiker nach dem Urteil des Gerichts denjenigen so etwas sagen lassen konnte, der als Verfuhrer der Jugend verurteilt war"; cf.
Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff, Platon: Sein Lebenundseine Werke(Berlin 1 959) 10 3.

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merely by implication; for their statementsconcern the dramatic date

of the GreaterHippias, which mayor maynot implicatethe LesserHippias.
According to Wilamowitz, "Hippias spricht von seinen Besuchen in
nicht mehr die
Sparta; von denen konnte nach dem Kriege von 402/i
Rede sein. Aber das geht nur die in Wahrheit ganz gleichgultige Zeit
des fingierten Gespraches an."' A. E. Taylor states: "The presence of
Hippias at Athens implies that the time is one of peace, and, as the first
visit of Gorgias to the city is referred to as a past event (282b), the
supposed date must be after 427 B.C., and therefore during the years of
the peace of Nicias. "2 Granted that the scenes of both compositions
called after Hippias took place on his same visit to Athens,3 the evidence
adduced by both Taylor and Wilamowitz is so slight that the question
of dramatic date is better left open, with the assumption that it possibly
is sometime during the last twenty years of Socrates' life. The appearance
of Hippias in the Protagoras adds little light, since the dramatic date of
the Protagoras cannot be established with certainty;4 and, furthermore,
there is no necessity to assume that the scenes of these two treatises
(Hippias Minor and Protagoras) occurred during the same visit of
The general tenets and accomplishments of the fifth-century sophist
Hippias are well-known to students of Greek history: his stress on
arithmetic, geometry, and astronomy; his support of nature over against
human legislation; the discovery of a new curve, the "quadratrix," to
assist in the trisection of an angle and the squaring of a circle; the
interest in the elements of speech, letters, syllables, rhythm, and
harmony; a self-sufficiency in the crafts, by which he once brought to
Olympia only the things he himself had made - a ring, a seal, an oil-can
and scraper, shoes, tunic, cloak, and an elaborate Persian girdle; a
compilation of a chronological list of victors in the Olympic games; an
intimate acquaintance with Homer and other poets; a proficiency in the
composition of epic, tragedy, dithyramb, and oratory - which has
accredited Hippias with a number of treatises, almost completely extinct:
(previous note) IOI.
A. E. Taylor, Plato: The Man and his Work(London 1949) 29.
3 Such a situation seems likely in view of the parallel references to Eudicus, son of Apemantus, and to Nestor; cf. Greater Hippias 286b and Lesser Hippias 363a-c, 364c-e,
I Op. cit.

Cf. Kathleen Freeman, The Pre-SocraticPhilosophers/Oxford I949)
343-4. R. Hackforth
is entirely too dogmatic in his statement: "... and the date of this [i.e. the Protagoras]
must be 433-432 at latest' (Plato's Phaedrus [Cambridge 1952] 8).

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"Trojan Speech," "Collection," "Nomenclature of Tribes;" his knowledge of "archaeological" lore; his skill in mnemonics.'
The attainments of Hippias have resulted in his appearance in three
of Plato's compositions2 and in references to him in two other treatises.3
Xenophon4 also records a conversation between Socrates and Hippias
on the question of legislation, in which Hippias is compelled to agree
that no distinction exists between justice and law. A modern commentator attempts to link Hippias with several additional pieces from ancient
literature: the Anonymus Jamblichi; Thycydides 3.84; the Prooemium to
Theophrastus' Characters; the Dissoi Logoi; and the philosophical digression
It seems much more certain to
in Plato's Seventh Letter (342a-343d).5
ascribe to Hippias of Elis the emendations in the accentuation of Homer
which Aristotle accredits to Hippias of Thasos, no doubt by confusion.6
Cf. Plato, Protagoras 3'8d-e, 337C-338a; Lesser Hippias 368b-d; Greater Hippias
sb-286b; Kathleen Freeman, op. cit. (previous note) 38I-9 1; Eduard Zeller, Outlines
of the History of GreekPhilosophy(New York i 95) 1o2-4; J. B. Bury, CambridgeAncient
History (Cambridge
1940)V 380; Philostratus, VitaeSophistarum i. ii; Pausanias E. 2E. 4.
2 Greater Hippias, Lesser Hippias (in which he and Socrates carry on practically the
complete discussion), and Protagoras (in which Hippias plays a minor role, acting as
mediator between Socrates and Protagoras [337c-338a], and in which Protagoras gibes
at Hippias' stress of arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music [3 i 8d-e]). The authercity of the GreaterHippias is a question not pertinent to the present discussion.
3 The Apology (I ge-20a)
contains merely a reference to Hippias, Gorgias, and Prodicus,
who claim ability to teach the youth. In the Phaedrus (267b) Hippias again is merely
mentioned, as agreeing with Prodicus on the appropriate length of a speech.
4 Memorabilia4.4 5-25. Xenophon's conversation seems to have been suggested by the
GreaterHippias. Both have a similar opening:
8Lx Xp6vou yocp &aLx6[ievoqo 'I7rtrLoc'AO'vxo,e ... (Xen.) is parallel to eg 8ta xpovou
F?Zv xarr pacqet -r& 'AO'vcxc. (Plato); also both discussions refer to the laws of Sparta
and to the imperfection of human legislation (Xenophon, Memorabilia4.4. 14-16; Plato,
Greater Hippias 283-5). Xenophon also calls attention to Hippias as Callias' teacher
in the art of mnemonics (Symposium4.62).
s Mario Untersteiner, The Sophists (New York 1954) 273-303. W. H. S. Jones, furthermore, suggests Hippias as the author of the essay De Arte in the Hippocratic collection
(Hippocrates[Loeb edition] vol. 1I); while C. E. Periphanakis assumes that Hippias is the
-ratpoq in Plato's Minos (Les Sophisteset le Droit [Athens 19531 3S). For additional recent



on Hippias see Classical Weekly 47 (xg3-4)


; 5o (I956-7)


The most

recent volume on the LesserHippias is G. Calogero, Platone: L'IppiaMinore(Firenze I 948).

Prof. Calogero refers to the work of George Smith, PlatonisIon et Hippias Minor (London
1895), but not to B. J. H. Ovink, PhilosophischeErkldrungder platonischeDialoge Meno und
Hippias Minor (Amsterdam 193 i). None of these commentaries consider the dramatic
techniques in the LesserHippias.
6 Poetica 146ia21-23.

Cf. K. Freeman,

op. cit. (above,


note 4) 383-4;

Ancilla to the

Pre-SocraticPhilosophers(Oxford 1948) I44. The only thing known of Hippias of Thasos is

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On the basis of the ancient evidence, then, and apart from recent
attempts to associate Hippias of Elis with doubtful portions of Greek
literature, the key characteristic of Hippias is that of a most versatile
polymath.' Such a polymath was a figure of ridicule to the Greeks.
The Greek reader would recall the comic personality of Margites, who
"knew many things, but knew them all badly. "z Also Heracleitus3
expresses the ridicule of excessive versatility:
voov o1: 8L8kcaxzt.

Plato's position concerning a polymath is clear from several statements:


Ws, E



TO 7r,Oo


8MCXX7q 70XUYV4L0Veq


6VTeq, xcL XoXC)to'Lalvelva.L, 80~6aoPoL yeyov6eg

aocp7v. (Phaedrus 2 7 5a-b)
?t 8' o{h& ToUT' 9xcL, xWV8uv6v(
?t vLt
7tO?V0Lev pouav rTOLq 7XtocLV
Otocv.(Laws 8 i i b)
oU2a1105ov yap 8ELOV ou8ue
&LpLE T(V 7nrVT(V 28' oLyvaTOV xXx6v,
&kX' 7ro 7trcLplaXcxL =XupXOLo 0.e-T&xoxX
&yonyig yEYVVtat 7to0XtTOU1T:V
,ut4cov4n,Aa. (Laws8 ga)

To Plato excessive versatility is conducive to confusion. It is no

wonder, then, that in the LesserHippias, which portrays Hippias as a
polymath (368b-d), one of the main threads which runs throughout the
treatise is confusion. Not only does the dialogue end in confusion, but
Plato has Socrates twice pretend confusion (372d-e, 376b-c). Already
in the introductory pages Socrates admits confusion concerning the
as ascribed to Odysseus (364a). It is the adjecmeaning of 7roX&rpo7roq,
tive Homer employs to describe Odysseus in the first line of the Odyssey,
that he was put to death by the Thirty Tyrants (Lysias I 3. S4); while Plato specifically
mentions the proficiency of Hippias of Elis in literature, harmony, rhythm, and syllables
(LesserHippias 368c-d).
I Cf. Cicero, De Oratore 3.32: "Hic Catulus 'di immortales,' inquit 'quantam rerum
varietatem, quantam vim, quantam copiam, Crasse, complexus es quantisque ex angustiis oratorem educere ausus es et in maiorum suorum regno conlocare! Namque
illos veteres doctores auctoresque dicendi nullum genus disputationis a se alienum putasse
accepimus semperque esse in omni orationis ratione versatos; ex quibus Elius Hippias,
cum Olympiam venisset maxima illa quinquennali celebritate ludorum, gloriatus est
cuncta paene aundiente Graecia nihil esse ulla in arte rerum omnium quod ipse nesciret;
nec solum has artis, quibus liberales doctrinae atque ingenuae continerentur, geometriam,
musicam, litterarum cognitionem et poetarum atque illa, quae de naturis rerum, quae
de hominum moribus, quae de rebus publicis dicerentur, se tenere sed anulum, quem
haberet, pallium, quo amictus, soccos, quibus indutus esset, Isel sua manu confecisse. . . "
2 Plato, Alcibiades 11 147c. For other references to Margites see T. W. Allen,
Opera(Oxford i9i i) V 152-9.
3 Fragment 4o, cited by Diogenes Laertius 9. '.
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where it no doubt means "much-travelled,""much-wandering.",The

adjective, however, may be ambiguous, in that it appears in Greek
literature also in the sense of "crafty," "shifty," "clever," "versatile."
It is the latter meaning which the versatile Hippias assumesfor =oXi'rponoq,by equating 7oX&rpo7toqwith 4eua'q(36sb).
Accepting Hippias' interpretation of the adjective, Socrates immediately adds to the confusion both by confused logic and by confused
terminology. He first equates 7toX6Ctpo07oL
and +?uadq with auvaroE; he
then leads Hippias to admit that they are 8uvocoit U'n 7cxvoupytoc;xL
9povMae4 orLV04(not Ui7r0 )LOL6rrfTOc xaC Ocppoavr));
Hippias finally
agrees to the illogical conclusion that 7roXU?po7COL
and feuadq are parallel to (pp6vL[LOL
and aocpot (365d-e).2 In brief, the confused terminology
which equates pp6vvqcrtq
and 7ravoupyxa,is the basis of the illogical
conclusion, paralleling euaceLqwith ao9oL. The false reasoning is too

apparent for additional comment, except to note that a similar instance of

confused terminology appears later in the apparent paralleling of aocpEcc
with 7tavoupylo (3 6 8e).
The confused premises, to which Hippias has agreed, prepare the
I It appear also in Odyssey 10.330.
Liddell-Scott-Jones, A Greek-English Lexicon thus
interprets 7roX&rpo7roin both of these passages of the Odyssey.The question which this
word has raised through the years may be noted in citations from two Platonists:
"Es [i.e. the word 7roXTrpoTroqj
hat sogar schon vor Platon zu einer Anderung des Lesart
gefiihrt, vgl. Berliner Klassikertexte V (V/I, s. 29.) I, S. 29. Wenn Antisthenes
in den Scholien zu dem Verse sich mit der Erklarung abmaht, so zeigt seine Beziehung
auf dieselben Homerstellen und auch die Heranziehung des weisen Nestor, dass er den
Platon (364c) vor Augen hat" (Wilamowitz, op. cit. [above, 1 2 i note 31 1o2); "Dummler
(Kleine Schriften I, S. 35 ff.) meint nachgewiesen zu haben, dass sowohl der Ion als der Hippias minorAngriffe auf Antisthenes enthalten. In derTat steht aber Platon in diesen Dialogen
noch seinem Mitschuler recht nahe, was gerade aus denvon Dummler zitiertenStellen deutlich hervorgeht. Wir sehen ja aus Xenophons Symposion3,6 und 4,6-7, Stellen, die nahe
Beziehungen zum platonischen Ion haben, dass Antisthenes genau wie Platon die Rhapsoden in hohem Grade geringschatzte, und ebenso zeigt auch die von dem Scholiasten
als einer
zur Odysseex i als antisthenisch bezeugte Erklarung des Wortes TroX&ropoT0q
Bezeichnung mehr fur die Redegewandheit (aocpo) als fur die Schlechtigkeit (wovjplz)
des Odysseus einen Gedankengang, der mit dem Hippias minor recht gut ubereinstimmt
(vgl. K. Joel, Der echte und der Xenophontische Sokrates I, S. 404). Der Streit zwischen
Platon und Antisthenes fing erst spater an" (H. Raeder, op. cit. [above, 2 i note 31 96).
2 Plato seems to give a dramatic clue that %To&rpo7roL
and aopoi are not identical terms
when he has Hippias distinguish between three Homeric heroes (364c):
Tre otnxkvxc &pta-rov adv WvSpo
'AXLX)kXz -r7v eE Tpotlv X&ptxOLkVC0v,
aoWrmt-rov 8 Nia-opz,
noXurpo7rw rov 8i 'Ou:aFax.
The introduction of Nestor appears to serve such a principal purpose; Nestor, moreover,
was apparently one of Hippias' favorite characters (cf. GreaterHippias 2 86b).


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way for the first of the perplexing propositions of the dialogue - that
the truthful individual is one and the same as the liar. For on the basis
of the admission that the essential attribute of both the true person and
the deceiver is ability (8uvmroo),it is relatively easy to "prove" to
Hippias that the same person is best able to give either a correct answer
or a false reply in matters of arithmetic, geometry, and astronomy
(366a-368a). After an interlude, reviewing Hippias' versatility in the
various crafts, literary arts, musical theory, and mnemonics, Socrates
again challenges Hippias to disprove the current conclusion; but Hippias
is so confused that he, the specialist in mnemonics, experiences a lapse
of memory, and Socrates is forced to remind him that the current argument would make Odysseus (as well as Achilles) both a liar and a truthful person (368b-369b).
The second half of the dialogue continues the confusion, leading to
another perplexing proposition - that a person who commits injustice
voluntarily is superior to one who does so unwillingly. Socrates cites
conflicting statements of Achilles which seem to indicate that Hippias'
hero was confused concerning his plans for departure from the Greek
army (37oa-37ic).' Hippias' attempt to explain the apparent confusion
of Achilles involves confused terminology; for first, in contrasting &xsW
and excov, he parallels ex?v with eK inltOuhg (by plan, plot, treachery),
and later he employs the phrase i'A ei)vo(gq (through goodwill) as if
equal to &x&w (3 7oe, 37 I e). Also Hippias' appeal to the laws might strike
a contemporary reader as odd (372a), for Hippias' preference for nature
as opposed to law was well-known; he must be confused to appeal to a
standard he professed to be secondary. But after a lengthy discourse by
Socrates (admitting erstwhile confusion) and a special appeal by Eudicus,
Hippias is willing to continue the discussion (372b-373c). The final
few pages, which propose that voluntary error is superior to involuntary
mistake, present additional confusion by making no apparent distinction
and by contrasting 8Uvoc,ut
between rexvaLand IntLrrX.a=
and eta-unl


- although

the entire


of the

; 9.65o-s.
The citations are from the Iliad - 9.3 12-3; 9.357-63; i1.69-7
The joining of uva,l?tc with rkXvvi(376a3) is another instance of loose terminology;
for occurring in the same context in which there is a distinction between 86VOqLL4 e
7rat4aAr, this juxtaposition might give the impression that ktar+.pc and 'rXv-n are
synonymous. Previously Socrates (368bi-2) had indicated a distinction between ntrtIrr[AOt
(referring to arithmetic, geometry, and astronomy, which he just had discussed) and
'Exvo (comprising the crafts of Hippias, which Socrates is about to mention); but
Socrates' distinction in terminology apparently made no impression on Hippias, and the
two terms occur later (37sb8-ci) without any distinction being noted. Although Hippias


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treatise began from the premise that 8uvovoEand aocpot are identical
(36sd-e). And so Plato completes the full circle of confusion, with
Socrates in his final statement again admitting confusion (376b-c).
It is tempting to see a clue of confusion also in the use of the various
comparatives for &yoM6qthroughout the treatise. Hippias supports the
claim of Eudicus' father that Achilles is O'tsLvcvthan Odysseus. This
comparative both Socrates and Hippias employ consistently throughout
the first portion of the dialogue, with one exception - in referring to his
personal accomplishments in non-physical contests at Olympia Hippias
substitutes the comparative xpet'r'rv, which generally has physical
connotation (364a). This is the only time the entire composition employs
the comparative xpe'rL'cov, and it definitely appears out of place. In the
latter portion of the discussion Socrates introduces the comparative
PEXT(v (37ie), which generally has moral connotation; and in the
remainder of the discourse the two comparatives, &X.?Lev&vand PX'dE&v,
are used interchangeably as if there were no distinction in connotation.

The frequent interchange between

&uLLvcWvand PXTVcv

in the latter

part of the dialogue seems to be more than merely coincidental; the

variation of terms could be a clue both to the confusion which permeates
the dialogue and to a possible solution of the perplexing propositions.'
fails to see the point, Plato makes it clear to the reader by emphasizing 17rroJCL
(e.g. mathematics and astronomy) in the first portion of the composition, and TryXVxL
(e.g. physical skills and crafts) in the latter portion.
I A brief list will illustrate the point; "S' and "H" indicate respectively Socrates or
Hippias as the speaker:
363b3-4 (S), 363cI (S)
364a8-9 (H)
&[Lelvwv 364b4 (S), 367c8 (S), 369c4 (H), 369C7 (H), 369c8 (H), 37od7 (S),




(S), 371C4 (S)

(S), 372aI

372d7 (S), 372e3 (S)

(S), 373d6 (S), 374.a2 (S)
374a6 (S), 37427 (S), 374b2 (S), 374b5 (S), 374c3 (S), 374d6 (S),




(S), 374Ce (S)


37sa2 (S), 375a3 (S), 37Sa4 (S), 375a8 (S), 375b2 (S), 37sb6 (S),
375b7 (H), 375cl (S), 37Sc6 (S)
37sc7 (S), 37Edi (S), 375d4 (S), 37Se3 (S)




(S), 376a6 (S)

By distinguishing between &etvcov and Pek?ricv, a reader might suspect that one who
errs willingly may be ,Le1vcjv(i.e. superior in ability in the sciences, the crafts, and
physical skills) but not 3eX-dtwv(i.e. in the realm of ethics). Whether Plato had such a
distinction in mind would be difficult to prove. It is interesting, however, to note that
in the LesserHippias Plato employs JroLeCVand kpy&ica;Om, avoiding npi&r-rLV throughout
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That Plato was challenging his readers to work out a solution to the
perplexing propositions of the LesserHippias seems to be clear from several
aspects of the treatise. Already the various elements of confused logic
and terminology, which we have noticed permeating the discourse,
would lead the reader to suspect that he must scrutinize further the
propositions of Socrates - especially since Socrates himself admits
perplexity both in the course of the discussion and at the conclusion
of the dialogue (372d-e, 376b-c). Also it was well-known that Socrates
(and Plato) consistently held to a theory directly opposed to the second
proposition of the Lesser Hippias; namely, according to Socrates and
Plato no one commits injustice voluntarily.' Another warning Plato
presents to the reader that the argumentation is not to be taken as final
is the statement of Socrates on the concluding page (3 76b):
7otwO), X I7VE,
xac cxaXpa xal &3LxCX
'O &pM ?x(ov 0p'prMvv
tnep T4
?atLV OUtOq, OVX XV AxAo4?LY)7 0


The phrase, etsp Tt{[ ?atV 0o'rO4, should warn the reader not to take
seriously the puzzling propositions of the treatise; for such a phrase
Plato employs in other dialogues to show his personal disagreement
with the premises being discussed.2
That the argumentation is based on fallacious reasoning, leading to
erroneous conclusions, should be evident to the reader. But does Plato
give any dramatic clue (besides the loose logic and terminology) to the
correct solution of the perplexing propositions? The principal dramatic technique of the dialogue is its construction in "doublets." Only
the treatise. One cannot help referring to the distinction among these verbs which
Plato draws in the Charmides(i62a, i63e-d) - a distinction which points to a similar
differentiation between crafts or skills and ethics.
I The theory is found already in Plato's Apology (2sd-26a) and extends to his final work,
the Laws (86od, 73Ic, 734b); cf. Meno 77b-78b, Protagoras34sd-e and 3S8c-d, Republic
s89c, Timaeus 86d-e. For the Platonic sense of voluntary (&xou'toq) as what we really
wish to have, see Proclus' commentary In Rempublicam2.3ss; that everybody really
wishes for what he presumes is good, see Aristotle, Ethica Nicomachea1172b3 - 117 P.
2 The importance of the phrase must not be overlooked. Cf. Euthyphro7d:
TI gi oL 6eot, c1 ECOvpcov; oux cftscp rt&8Laypov'act, 8t oaura&
-rTa5a 8tapo0tVr
and Euthyphro8e:
'A,x' ExoaT6v ye oltxs, X EvOUpcoV, T@'V 7 pLX0rVT30
oi 0p4L5ClYnOUClV



xol Ocol, 7t7ep



In Plato's judgment deities should not engage in quarrels; hence the phrases elTreprt
and ?tep &La,u -nroutv Oeolt.
Also in Gorgias480e:
... t &po8L 'IrLVoXMXGq 7rOLeLV,
etT 10p6Ov etTe 6vTtvouv ...
Plato presents a clue to his disagreement with a popular premise.
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two characterscarry on the argumentation- Socratesand Hippias. The

brief appearanceof Eudicus in the opening paragraphs(363a-c) and
againaroundthe middle of the treatise (373a-c) seems to be a dramatic
clue that there are two parts to the discussion, with an appearanceof
Eudicusintroducing each of the two parts. Again the dialogue contains
two propositions - the identity of the false person with the truthful
individual, and the superiority of voluntary to involuntaryinjustice each proposition being equally perplexing. Two Homeric heroes are
compared- Odysseusand Achilles. Two poems of Homer are compared
(363b, 365c) - Iliad and Odyssey.Other minor "doublets"permeate the
introductory pages of the treatise: the opinion of Hippias and that of
Eudicus' father, Apemantus (363a-b); Hippias' public remarks concerning other poets and concerning Homer (363c); Hippiasat Olympia
and Hippias in discourse with Socrates (363c-d); Hippias at Olympia
lecturing and answering questions (Xekyov'x and a7O0xPLV[oLCvov, 363d);
Hippias' mental pursuits compared to the athletes' physical prowess at
Olympia (364a); Hippias' fellow citizens in Elis and his parents (xat
rn 'HeEov o6Xe... xat toZ* yoVeuaL toq soq, 364b); the large crowd
whom Hippias just finished addressing compared to the small group that
remained for further discussion (364b, 363a); Hippias' public performance as compared to his willingness to reply to specific questions

(363a, 364b).
The "doublets" and professed confusion within the dialogue seem to
be dramatic clues pointing the reader to two famous propositions of
Socrates - that virtue is knowledge, and that no one does wrong voluntarily - each of which may lead to confusing conclusions if a twofold
division is not made. The Socratic dictum, virtue is knowledge, could
lead to the conclusion that ignorance is the only cause of vice, and thus
make ethics a matter of the intellect alone. In the realm of mathematics,
as Plato points out in the first portion of the LesserHippias, it is the
intellect which determines either true or false answers. But mathematics
is not ethics; in ethics the entire soul must be trained, for moral actions
involve more than merely the intellect. The other dictum, no one does
wrong voluntarily, likewise, could be interpreted as if error were never
a matter of any lower part of the soul, but involving only the rational
element. But, as the second portion of the treatise reveals, there must
be more than natural ability for success even in physical pursuits; for the
athlete may choose not to employ the full measure of his ability. The
"doublets" seem to point the reader to a realization that a distinction
must be made between two separate areas: ethics, on the one hand;
I 29

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and scientific technique or physicalprowess, on the other. In the latter

area, it is true, &pe' depends primarily, if not exclusively, on mental
and physical natural ability; in the realm of ethics, however. &per'
encompassesnot only trainingof the intellect, but also voluntarychoice.
Naturalabilityand voluntarychoice maybe separatedin the sciences and
in physical pursuits; in ethics, however, both are essential, if one is to
escapethe puzzlingpropositionsof the LesserHippias.
A reader could solve the confusion of the dialogueby takingto heart
the dramaticclue of "doublets"and by makingthe necessarydistinction
between terms which Plato throughout the treatise illogically employs
as parallel- that is, by distinguishingbetween: i) 8uvTtro and aopoL;
2) Tocn#oupyfx
and 9p6v'rcaYt;3) e' eil-ou),n and '6o euvototq; 4) riXv=
and et'Ma.LTL;
g) O'rie.v&vand rekr(Xcv.He could observe that Socrates'
premises hold true in the technical skills which depend on knowledge
and the development of natural ability, but the perplexities appear when
the premises are transferred to morals or ethics. The reader, furthermore, could come to the realization that Socrates' customary arguments
on the basis of the *yvxoatwere valid only to a point in ethical discussions
- a distinction which Plato develops more fully in the Charmides, as
J. Gould recently has pointed out. I
That Plato was employing "doublets" as a dramatic clue for the reader
to make a distinction between ethics and other areas of human rt-w,u
and 8tKVXML seems to be clear from the influence which the Lesser Hippias
wielded on Aristotle. Two passages from the Nicomachean Ethics are
extremely pertinent:
6p&uev 91' TcV'rt'ocqr*v totocvT)v 90Lv pOu)O%LkVOuVX&yeLV8LxcxLOat)V7jV,

q 7rpaxXrLxOE


&cp'1q 8LXOvt
stp67rov xcL 7Sp'L &aiXaOc4,
xac 0Zv 7tpii)rov (q &v 'V71:c)V7oxetaO&.Tiock. oU8i y&Sp-rv
CL Tp6lo
T v
7r ter
9 ewv.
uLiFV ya'p XaL' C'7LO-n'L
o6, otov &OMTY; vUyteLxoq
ov 7trp'cTTrTol 'rx evotv'a,
evxv'TdTCv e'vXtvrdv
v oe46v
81XoLcXc OV'

t& &ceLxOc.

06vov' X0yo1ev y&p

I 29a6- I 7).




PA8(4CtV, 6rxWvPotT



I John Gould, The Developmentof Plato's Ethics (Cambridge I95)

36-41. That the capacity
in the crafts is twofold - either to help or to harm - also underlies the fallacy of Republic
333d-334b, which is discussed by Gould (.4.-5) and by D. J. Allan, RepublicI (London
1953) 23. The same fallacy prevails in Socrates' discourse with Euthydemus in Xenophon,
Memorabilia4. 2.19-2o.


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The second passage reads:

6a r' &voyxm'rv cpp6vYqaLv Lv

O nepl
cppovqaew 8 oux

yaxO&7rpMx'TxnV. OXO ,uLv TiXp-1


'o x&)v ta?pT'av&vmpercgTpo0, neot 8 qpp6vqaLv

=tlv- x"oLLv ptLv yXvvn
iTsrov)(0=p Xocl7epl Tot; ocpeTac; 0' )Bovo5v 6XT Gkper~TLq ECTL X0CL OU Tip-1.
8uotv 8' 6vToLV ezpolv -c6q
ToU a8o~mrtLOwU
Te yap


'x6vT-cv, Ocr'pou &'v eL

&X?w&gXeLvxal -n'
"vLeZoV 8' 6TL
The influence of the LesserHippias on Aristotle is clear from each of these
passages. From the first citation it seems that the prior portion of the
LesserHippias led Aristotle to the distinction between 9iLq versus 86v&,XLLq


7rep%LT6 ?V8MX6?Levov

and A7rLarr
,un, thus solving the riddle of the first perplexing


In the second citation Aristotle appears to have the latter portion of the
Lesse,Hippias in mind in distinguishing between voluntary error in ethics
as contrasted with error in the 'rexva.I
The dramatic technique of the Lesser Hippias, finally, is manifest from
the play on the word to?U'rpoto. The term first becomes prominent in
the discussion of the Homeric characters Odysseus and Achilles. Then,
in the sense of clever or skilful, the adjective becomes the chief characteristic of the polymath Hippias, who is depicted as most versatile
both in the arts and in the crafts. At the conclusion of the dialogue,
however, it is Socrates who is tOU'TpotoO; for he has thoroughly confused Hippias by maintaining two false theses, but he has done so voluntarily, cautioning that the preposterous propositions are not really
reliable. It is Socrates, therefore, who comes off superior also on that
score; for he is truly 7ro)X'rpo07o0,able to present false answers voluntarily
- and, according to the argument of the treatise, also able to be truthful
when he chooses. The genial humor of the composition portrays Hippias
as completely baffled; Aristotle, however, apparently saw through the
perplexities and no doubt appreciated the humor; a modern reader can
appreciate fully the treatise by following the clues of Plato's dramatic
Westminster College, Fulton, Missouri
I For another Platonic dialogue which seems to have influenced Aristotle particularly,
see my article, "Plato's Lysis"(Phronesis4 fli 9 591 x - 2 8). To observe additional examples
of the intertwining of dramatic techniques with philosophic content, compare also
my studies, "Plato's Euthyphro"(Phronesis3 [I9S8] 9S-I07) and "Plato's Meno"(Phronesis
5 [1 9601 78-10 2).

13 I

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