τὸ δὲ μάθημά ἐστιν εὐβουλία περὶ τῶν οἰκείων, ὅπως ἂν ἄριστα τὴν αὑτοῦ οἰκίαν διοικοῖ, [319a] καὶ περὶ τῶν τῆς πόλεως, ὅπως τὰ τῆς πόλεως δυνατώτατος ἂν εἴη καὶ πράττειν καὶ λέγειν.
ἆρα, ἔφην ἐγώ, ἕπομαί σου τῷ λόγῳ; δοκεῖς γάρ μοι λέγειν τὴν πολιτικὴν τέχνην καὶ ὑπισχνεῖσθαι ποιεῖν ἄνδρας ἀγαθοὺς πολίτας.
αὐτὸ μὲν οὖν τοῦτό ἐστιν, ἔφη, ὦ Σώκρατες, τὸ ἐπάγγελμα ὃ ἐπαγγέλλομαι.
ἦ καλόν, ἦν δ᾽ ἐγώ, τέχνημα ἄρα κέκτησαι, εἴπερ κέκτησαι: οὐ γάρ τι ἄλλο πρός γε σὲ εἰρήσεται ἢ ἅπερ νοῶ. ἐγὼ γὰρ τοῦτο, ὦ Πρωταγόρα, οὐκ ᾤμην διδακτὸν [319b] εἶναι, σοὶ δὲ λέγοντι οὐκ ἔχω ὅπως [ἂν] ἀπιστῶ. ὅθεν δὲ αὐτὸ ἡγοῦμαι οὐ διδακτὸν εἶναι μηδ᾽ ὑπ᾽ ἀνθρώπων παρασκευαστὸν ἀνθρώποις, δίκαιός εἰμι εἰπεῖν. ἐγὼ γὰρ Ἀθηναίους, ὥσπερ καὶ οἱ ἄλλοι Ἕλληνες, φημὶ σοφοὺς εἶναι. ὁρῶ οὖν, ὅταν συλλεγῶμεν εἰς τὴν ἐκκλησίαν, ἐπειδὰν μὲν περὶ οἰκοδομίας τι δέῃ πρᾶξαι τὴν πόλιν, τοὺς οἰκοδόμους μεταπεμπομένους συμβούλους περὶ τῶν οἰκοδομημάτων, ὅταν δὲ περὶ ναυπηγίας, τοὺς ναυπηγούς, καὶ τἆλλα πάντα οὕτως, [319c] ὅσα ἡγοῦνται μαθητά τε καὶ διδακτὰ εἶναι: ἐὰν δέ τις ἄλλος ἐπιχειρῇ αὐτοῖς συμβουλεύειν ὃν ἐκεῖνοι μὴ οἴονται δημιουργὸν εἶναι, κἂν πάνυ καλὸς ᾖ καὶ πλούσιος καὶ τῶν γενναίων, οὐδέν τι μᾶλλον ἀποδέχονται, ἀλλὰ καταγελῶσι καὶ θορυβοῦσιν, ἕως ἂν ἢ αὐτὸς ἀποστῇ ὁ ἐπιχειρῶν λέγειν καταθορυβηθείς, ἢ οἱ τοξόται αὐτὸν ἀφελκύσωσιν ἢ ἐξάρωνται κελευόντων τῶν πρυτάνεων. περὶ μὲν οὖν ὧν οἴονται ἐν τέχνῃ εἶναι, οὕτω διαπράττονται: ἐπειδὰν δέ τι περὶ τῶν τῆς [319d] πόλεως διοικήσεως δέῃ βουλεύσασθαι, συμβουλεύει αὐτοῖς ἀνιστάμενος περὶ τούτων ὁμοίως μὲν τέκτων, ὁμοίως δὲ χαλκεὺς σκυτοτόμος, ἔμπορος ναύκληρος, πλούσιος πένης, γενναῖος ἀγεννής, καὶ τούτοις οὐδεὶς τοῦτο ἐπιπλήττει ὥσπερ τοῖς πρότερον, ὅτι οὐδαμόθεν μαθών, οὐδὲ ὄντος διδασκάλου οὐδενὸς αὐτῷ, ἔπειτα συμβουλεύειν ἐπιχειρεῖ: δῆλον γὰρ ὅτι οὐχ ἡγοῦνται διδακτὸν εἶναι. μὴ τοίνυν ὅτι τὸ κοινὸν τῆς [319e] πόλεως οὕτως ἔχει, ἀλλὰ ἰδίᾳ ἡμῖν οἱ σοφώτατοι καὶ ἄριστοι τῶν πολιτῶν ταύτην τὴν ἀρετὴν ἣν ἔχουσιν οὐχ οἷοί τε ἄλλοις παραδιδόναι:
from Burnet's (1903) Oxford Classical Text, courtesy of the Perseus Project
An original translation
What I teach is good judgment in domestic matters, so he can best manage his own household, as well as in public matters, so he can both act and speak most effectively when it comes to his city.”
I said, “Do I follow what you’re saying? I get the feeling you’re talking about expertise in citizenship and that you’re claiming to be in the business of turning men into good citizens.”
“That’s exactly what I’m advertising.”
“Well, you certainly have a nice trick up your sleeve … if you have it. You see, Protagoras, I won’t tell you anything I don’t really think. The thing is, I've always thought this skill couldn't be taught. But I have to believe you when you say that you do teach it. So it’s up to me to tell you where I got the idea that it can’t be taught or even passed on from person to person. It's because I maintain, along with everyone else in Greece, that the Athenians are clever. Now I’ve noticed that when we gather in the Assembly and the city has to do something to do with building, they get the builders to come as building consultants. When it's to do with shipbuilding, they get the ship-builders to come, and the same thing for everything else they think can be taught and learned. But if someone they don’t consider an expert tries to give them advice, no matter how beautiful or rich or upper-crust he is, they still won’t have any of it. Instead, they boo him and shout him down, until the would-be speaker either takes the hint and leaves when he gets shouted down or the archers drag or carry him off at the orders of the executive council. So that’s what they do when they think it’s a technical matter. But when they have to decide on something to do with managing the city, anyone who stands up advises them on the same footing on this, whether he’s a carpenter, a metal-worker, a shoemaker, a retailer, or a ship-owner, rich or poor, connections or no connections. Unlike before, no one lashes out at them out saying, ‘This guy hasn’t learned anywhere, doesn’t have a teacher, and here he is trying to give advice.’ Clearly that’s because they don’t think it can be taught. Not only is this true in the public affairs of the city, but also in private, where our wisest and best citizens can’t pass on this goodness they have to others.”
Jowett's translation (1871)
And this is prudence in affairs private as well as public; he will learn to order his own house in the best manner, and he will be able to speak and act for the best in the affairs of the state.
Do I understand you, I said; and is your meaning that you teach the art of politics, and that you promise to make men good citizens?
That, Socrates, is exactly the profession which I make. Then, I said, you do indeed possess a noble art, if there is no mistake about this; for I will freely confess to you, Protagoras, that I have a doubt whether this art is capable of being taught, and yet I know not how to disbelieve your assertion. And I ought to tell you why I am of opinion that this art cannot be taught or communicated by man to man. I say that the Athenians are an understanding people, and indeed they are esteemed to be such by the other Hellenes. Now I observe that when we are met together in the assembly, and the matter in hand relates to building, the builders are summoned as advisers; when the question is one of shipbuilding, then the ship-wrights; and the like of other arts which they think capable of being taught and learned. And if some person offers to give them advice who is not supposed by them to have any skill in the art, even though he be good-looking, and rich, and noble, they will not listen to him, but laugh and hoot at him, until either he is clamoured down and retires of himself; or if he persist, he is dragged away or put out by the constables at the command of the prytanes. This is their way of behaving about professors of the arts. But when the question is an affair of state, then everybody is free to have a say-carpenter, tinker, cobbler, sailor, passenger; rich and poor, high and low-any one who likes gets up, and no one reproaches him, as in the former case, with not having learned, and having no teacher, and yet giving advice; evidently because they are under the impression that this sort of knowledge cannot be taught. And not only is this true of the state, but of individuals; the best and wisest of our citizens are unable to impart their political wisdom to others:
Compare Lamb's (1924) translation at the Perseus Project