312 (English, original)

An original translation

“And what if someone went on to ask, ‘Well, what sort of person do you think you’ll
become if you go to Protagoras?'”
Hippocrates blushed (by that point there was enough daylight that I could see him) and said, “If it’s like the previous ones, it’s clear that I would be planning to become a sophist.”
“And wouldn’t you be ashamed, for heavens’ sake, to present yourself to the Greeks as a sophist?”
“By god, Socrates, yes I would – if I should say what I think, anyway.”
“But you don’t really think that the kind of education you’ll get from Protagoras
is any different from the kind you get from the writing tutor or the music teacher
or the gymnastics coach, do you? You didn’t learn any of these things to go into a
trade, but just for your education, since you’re a private citizen and a free man.”
“Oh. That‘s definitely how I think studying with Protagoras is.”
“So, do you realize what you’re about to do, or haven’t you noticed?”
“What do you mean?”
“You’re about to hand over care of your soul to a man who is as you say a sophist.
But I’d be surprised if you even knew what a sophist was. And if you don’t know this
much, then you can’t know whether it’s a good or a bad idea to surrender your
soul to him.”
“I think I know.”
“Tell me, then, what you think a sophist is.”
“I’d say a sophist is, as the name implies, someone who knows about clever things.”
“But then, couldn’t you also say that painters and builders know about clever
things? If someone asked us, ‘What kind of clever things do painters know about?’
I suppose I’d tell him that they know how to make images. Likewise for the others. But if someone asked, ‘What kind of clever things do sophists know about?’ what would
we answer? What sort of work are they in charge of?”
“We’d have to answer that a sophist is in charge of making people clever at speaking, wouldn’t we?”
“Maybe that’s right, but it isn’t enough by itself. Our answer to the question has
to say what the sophist makes someone clever at speaking about. For example, the music teacher makes you clever, I guess, at speaking about the same thing which you then know about, namely music. Right?”
“All right. And the sophist, what does he make you clever at speaking about?”
“It’s clear that it would be the same thing he knows.”
“That’s reasonable. But then what is it that the sophist himself knows about and makes his student know about?”
“I swear, I don’t know what to tell you any more.”


6 Responses to 312 (English, original)

  1. Calendula says:

    I like both this translation and the ease of comparing versions. However, why is Jowett presented first, and Plato last?

    • Dhananjay says:

      It was a rather arbitrary choice (originally, I hadn’t decided whether or not to include Jowett, and when I added him to the first set he ended up on the more recent side), but I assumed (perhaps wrongly!) that the parallel arrangement of the three columns would discount any importance in their horizontal ordering.

  2. Calendula says:

    “So what does the sophist make someone clever at speaking about?” — reading this again today, it strikes me how Plato’s wording is simple where the translation gets a bit contorted. Have you considered more informal, or oral, “pedagogical” turn of phrase, something like “And the sophist makes someone clever at speaking about — what?”

    • Dhananjay says:

      Plato’s wording strikes me as quite contorted here, with the question as part of a preposition phrase, depending on a verb, which is dependent on an adjective, which is the predicate complement of the main verb: ὁ δὲ δὴ σοφιστὴς περὶ τίνος δεινὸν ποιεῖ λέγειν;

  3. Calendula says:

    Sure, later on I realized how carefully you prepared this point — the “being clever at speaking about” is certainly thematic here. But I think that Plato’s wording is here more theme / rheme (or rheme / theme) oriented than contorted. A bit like in French: “And the sophist, what does he make one clever at speaking about?” By the way, try the search for “δὲ δὴ form:nominative form:preposition” on Perseus under Philologic to see some interesting parallels for the usage.

    • Dhananjay says:

      Ah, I see your point now. Focus is certainly more prominent in Greek than English, but this is a nice case where English can capture the sense without much awkwardness.

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