One of my goals after college graduation was to read the complete works of Plato. The “big red book”, as it was affectionately known in my honors program, included spurious works that were probably not written by Plato himself but by “pseudo-Plato”, one of his students or admirers.
One such dialogue is Eryxias. Eryxias is a fascinating dialogue, regardless of authorship. In it, Socrates tries to convince a few young men that wealth is wisdom. Failing to convince them, he presses a different thesis: even the “wealthiest” person (by their standards) is the worst off because the person with many things has many needs.
My summary of Eryxias’s main points are these:
- Wisdom is wealth, because it is useful and can be traded for food and bodily needs.
- Gold, silver, money, horses, etc. – things considered wealth – are useless without wisdom, because they might be just as likeley applied poorly as well.
- Money is wealth because it can be traded.
- Anything useless cannot be wealth.
- Useful things can still fail to be wealth.
- Conferring knowledge on someone who has money (horses, etc.) confers wealth upon them, transforming the useless things into useful.
- Desires are lack of something; so the greater the desires and needs, the worse off you are. “A man is best off when he is least in need of such things.”