Plato, Laches

LCL 165: 2-3

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Introduction to the Laches

Introduction to the Laches

This dialogue is so simple and clear that it requires but little preparatory comment, and indeed is in itself an excellent introduction to the Socratic method of probing the primary difficulties of any moral question. Two eminent generals, Nicias and Laches, are consulted by two old men, Lysimachus and Melesias, who, though their own fathers were Aristeides the Just and the elder Thucydides,1 are at loss to know what is the best education for their sons. The four friends have just witnessed an exhibition of fighting in armour, and the immediate question is whether the boys ought to learn this new accomplishment. Socrates, now about fifty years old, is invited to join in the discussion; and after modestly disclaiming, in his usual manner, any knowledge of the subject, he turns the talk into an investigation of the nature of courage (190). Henceforward the argument is between Nicias, Laches, and Socrates: it soon passes from military to moral courage (192); and Nicias, working from a definition which he has previously heard from Socrates, suggests that courage is knowledge of what is to be dreaded (194). But this excludes animals and children, and Socrates points out that what is required

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DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.plato_philosopher-laches.1924