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[372a] and voluntarily and designedly do harm be better than those who do so involuntarily? And there seems to be good reason to forgive a man who unwittingly does wrong or speaks falsehood or does any other evil. And the laws surely are much more severe towards those who do evil and tell falsehoods voluntarily, than towards those who do so involuntarily.

Socrates
Do you see, Hippias, that I speak the truth [372b] when I say that I am persistent in questioning wise men? And this is probably the only good thing about me, as I am otherwise quite worthless; for I am all wrong about facts, and do not know the truth about them. And it is to me sufficient proof of the truth of this, that when I come into contact with one of you who are famous for wisdom, and to whose wisdom all the Greeks bear witness, I am found to know nothing; [372c] for there is hardly a single thing about which you and I have the same opinion; and yet what greater proof of ignorance is there than when one disagrees with a wise man? But I have this one remarkable good quality, which is my salvation; for I am not afraid to learn, but I inquire and ask questions and am very grateful to him who answers, and I never failed in gratitude to anyone; for when I have learned anything I have never denied it, pretending that the information was a discovery of my own; but I praise the wisdom of him who instructed me and proclaim what I learned from him. And so now I do not agree with what you say, [372d] but disagree very strongly; and I know very well that this is my own fault, because I am the sort of man I am—not to give myself any greater title. For my opinion, Hippias, is the exact opposite of what you say; I think that those who injure people and do wrong and speak falsehood and cheat and err voluntarily, not involuntarily, are better than those who do so involuntarily. Sometimes, however, the opposite of this seems to me to be the case, and I am all astray about these matters, [372e] evidently because I am ignorant; but now at the present moment a sort of paroxysm of my disease has come upon me, and those who err in respect to anything voluntarily appear to me better than those who err involuntarily. And I lay the blame for my present condition upon our previous argument, which causes those who do any of these things involuntarily to appear to me at this moment worse than those who do them voluntarily. So please do me a favour and do not refuse to cure my soul; for you will be doing me much more good if you cure my soul of ignorance, than if you were to cure my body of disease.


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    • Sir Richard C. Jebb, Commentary on Sophocles: Antigone, 547
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