LYSIS by Plato, Part 03
I am sure that we have been wrong, Socrates, said Lysis. And he blushed as he spoke, the words seeming to come from his lips involuntarily, because his whole mind was taken up with the argument; there was no mistaking his attentive look while he was listening.
I was pleased at the interest which was shown by Lysis, and I wanted to give Menexenus a rest, so I turned to him and said, I think, Lysis, that what you say is true, and that, if we had been right, we should never have gone so far wrong; let us proceed no further in this direction (for the road seems to be getting troublesome), but take the other path into which we turned, and see what the poets have to say; for they are to us in a manner the fathers and authors of wisdom, and they speak of friends in no light or trivial manner, but God himself, as they say, makes them and draws them to one another; and this they express, if I am not mistaken, in the following words:-
God is ever drawing like towards like, and
making them acquainted. I dare say that you have heard those words.
Yes, he said; I have.
And have you not also met with the treatises of philosophers who say that like must love like? they are the people who argue and write about nature and the universe.
Very true, he replied.
And are they right in saying this?
They may be.
Perhaps, I said, about half, or possibly, altogether, right, if their meaning were rightly apprehended by us. For the more a bad man has to do with a bad man, and the more nearly he is brought into contact with him, the more he will be likely to hate him, for he injures him; and injurer and injured cannot be friends. Is not that true?
Yes, he said.
Then one half of the saying is untrue, if the wicked are like one another?
That is true.
But the real meaning of the saying, as I imagine, is, that, the good are like one another, friends to one another; and that the bad, as is often said of them, are never at unity with one another or with themselves; for they are passionate and restless, and anything which is at variance and enmity with itself is not likely to be in union or harmony with any other thing. Do you not agree?
Yes, I do.
Then, my friend, those who say that the like is friendly to the like mean to intimate, if I rightly apprehend them, that the good only is the friend of the good, and of him only; but that the evil never attains to any real friendship, either with good or evil. Do you agree?
He nodded assent.
Then now we know how to answer the question "Who are friends? for the argument declares "That the good are friends."
Yes, he said, that is true.
Yes, I replied; and yet I am not quite satisfied with this answer. By heaven, and shall I tell you what I suspect? I will. Assuming that like, inasmuch as he is like, is the friend of like, and useful to him-or rather let me try another way of putting the matter: Can like do any good or harm to like which he could not do to himself, or suffer anything from his like which he would not suffer from himself? And if neither can be of any use to the other, how can they be loved by one another? Can they now?
And can he who is not loved be a friend?
But say that the like is not the friend of the like in so far as he is like; still the good may be the friend of the good in so far as he is good?
But then again, will not the good, in so far as he is good, be sufficient for himself? Certainly he will. And he who is sufficient wants nothing-that is implied in the word sufficient.
Of course not.
And he who wants nothing will desire nothing?
He will not.
Neither can he love that which he does not desire?
And he who not is not a lover of friend?
What place then is there for friendship, if, when absent, good men have no need of one another (for even when alone they are sufficient for themselves), and when present have no use of one another? How can such persons ever be induced to value one another?
And friends they cannot be, unless they value one another?
But see now, Lysis, whether we are not being deceived in all this-are we not indeed entirely wrong?
How so? he replied.
Have I not heard some one say, as I just now recollect, that the like is the greatest enemy of the like, the good of the good?-Yes, and he quoted the authority of Hesiod, who says:
Potter quarrels with potter, hard with bard,
Beggar with beggar; and of all other things he affirmed, in like manner, "That of necessity the most like are most full of envy, strife, and hatred of one another, and the most unlike, of friendship. For the poor man is compelled to be the friend of the rich, and the weak requires the aid of the strong, and the sick man of the physician; and every one who is ignorant, has to love and court him who knows." And indeed he went on to say in grandiloquent language, that the idea of friendship existing between similars is not the truth, but the very reverse of the truth, and that the most opposed are the most friendly; for that everything desires not like but that which is most unlike: for example, the dry desires the moist, the cold the hot, the bitter the sweet, the sharp the blunt, the void the full, the full the void, and so of all other things; for the opposite is the food of the opposite, whereas like receives nothing from like. And I thought that he who said this was a charming man, and that he spoke well. What do the rest of you say?
I should say, at first hearing, that he is right, said Menexenus.
Then we are to say that the greatest friendship is of opposites?
Yes, Menexenus; but will not that be a monstrous answer? and will not the all-wise eristics be down upon us in triumph, and ask, fairly enough, whether love is not the very opposite of hate; and what answer shall we make to them-must we not admit that they speak the truth?
They will then proceed to ask whether the enemy is the friend of the friend, or the friend the friend of the enemy?
Neither, he replied.
Well, but is a just man the friend of the unjust, or the temperate of the intemperate, or the good of the bad?
I do not see how that is possible.
And yet, I said, if friendship goes by contraries, the contraries must be friends.
Then neither like and like nor unlike and unlike are friends.
I suppose not.
And yet there is a further consideration: may not all these notions of friendship be erroneous? but may not that which is neither good nor evil still in some cases be the friend of the good?
How do you mean? he said.
Why really, I said, the truth is that I do not know; but my head is dizzy with thinking of the argument, and therefore I hazard the conjecture, that "the beautiful is the friend," as the old proverb says. Beauty is certainly a soft, smooth, slippery thing, and therefore of a nature which easily slips in and permeates our souls. For I affirm that the good is the beautiful. You will agree to that?
This I say from a sort of notion that what is neither good nor evil is the friend of the beautiful and the good, and I will tell you why I am inclined to think so: I assume that there are three principles-the good, the bad, and that which is neither good nor bad. You would agree-would you not?
And neither is the good the friend of the good, nor the evil of the good, nor the good of the evil;-these alternatives are excluded by the previous argument; and therefore, if there be such a thing as friendship or love at all, we must infer that what is neither good nor evil must be the friend, either of the good, or of that which is neither good nor evil, for nothing can be the friend of the bad.
But neither can like be the friend of like, as we were just now saying.
And if so, that which is neither good nor evil can have no friend which is neither good nor evil.
Then the good alone is the friend of that only which is neither good nor evil.
That may be assumed to be certain.
And does not this seem to put us in the right way? Just remark, that the body which is in health requires neither medical nor any other aid, but is well enough; and the healthy man has no love of the physician, because he is in health.
He has none.
But the sick loves him, because he is sick?
And sickness is an evil, and the art of medicine a good and useful thing?
But the human body, regarded as a body, is neither good nor evil?
And the body is compelled by reason of disease to court and make friends of the art of medicine?
Then that which is neither good nor evil becomes the friend of good, by reason of the presence of evil?
So we may infer.
And clearly this must have happened before that which was neither good nor evil had become altogether corrupted with the element of evil-if itself had become evil it would not still desire and love the good; for, as we were saying, the evil cannot be the friend of the good.
Further, I must observe that some substances are assimilated when others are present with them; and there are some which are not assimilated: take, for example, the case of an ointment or colour which is put on another substance.
In such a case, is the substance which is anointed the same as the colour or ointment?
What do you mean? he said.
This is what I mean: Suppose that I were to cover your auburn locks with white lead, would they be really white, or would they only appear to be white?
They would only appear to be white, he replied.
And yet whiteness would be present in them?
But that would not make them at all the more white, notwithstanding the presence of white in them-they would not be white any more than black?
But when old age infuses whiteness into them, then they become assimilated, and are white by the presence of white.
Now I want to know whether in all cases a substance is assimilated by the presence of another substance; or must the presence be after a peculiar sort?
The latter, he said.
Then that which is neither good nor evil may be in the presence of evil, but not as yet evil, and that has happened before now?
And when anything is in the presence of evil, not being as yet evil, the presence of good arouses the desire of good in that thing; but the presence of evil, which makes a thing evil, takes away the desire and friendship of the good; for that which was once both good and evil has now become evil only, and the good was supposed to have no friendship with the evil?