1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Plato
PLATO, the great Athenian philosopher, was born in 427 B.C., and lived to the age of eighty. His literary activity may be roughly said to have extended over the first half of the 4th century B.C. His father's name was Ariston, said to have been a descendant of Codrus; and his mother's family, which claimed descent from Solon, included Critias, one of the thirty tyrants, and other well-known Athenians of the early 4th century B.C. That throughout his early manhood he was the devoted friend of Socrates, that in middle life he taught those who resorted to him in the grove named Academus, near the Cephisus, and there founded the first great philosophical school, that (with alleged interruptions) he continued to preside over the Academy until his death, are matters of established fact. It is said by Aristotle that he was at one time intimate with Cratylus the Heraclitean. Beyond this we have no authentic record of his outward life. That his name was at first Aristocles, and was changed to Plato because of the breadth of his shoulders or of his style or of his forehead, that he wrestled well, that he wrote poetry which he burnt on hearing Socrates, fought in three great battles, that he had a thin voice, that (as is told of other Greek philosophers) he travelled to Cyrene and conversed with priests in Egypt, are statements of Diogenes Laertius, which rest on more or less uncertain tradition. The express assertion — which this author attributes to Hermodorus — that after the death of Socrates Plato and other Socratics took refuge with Euclides in Megara, has a somewhat stronger claim to authenticity. But the fact cannot be regarded as certain, still less the elaborate inferences which have been drawn from it. The romantic legend of Plato's journeys to Sicily, and of his relations there with the younger Dionysius and the princely but unfortunate Dion, had obtained some degree of consistency before the age of Cicero, and at an unknown but probably early time was worked up into the so-called Epistles of Plato, now all but universally discredited. Nor is there sufficient ground for supposing, as some have done, that an authentic tradition is perceptible behind the myth.
The later years of the Peloponnesian War witnessed much mental disturbance and restlessness at Athens. More than at any timeAntecedent Conditions. since the age of Cleisthenes, the city was divided, and a man's foes were often men of his own tribe or deme. Contention in the law courts and rivalries in the assembly had for many men a more absorbing interest than questions of peace and war. Hereditary traditions had relaxed their hold, and political principles were not yet formulated. Yet there was not less scope on this account for personal ambition, while the progress of democracy, the necessity of conciliating the people, and the apportionment of public offices by lot had a distracting and, to reflecting persons, often a discouraging effect. For those amongst whom Plato was brought up this effect was aggravated by the sequel of the oligarchical revolution, while, on the other hand, for some years after the restoration of the democracy, a new stimulus had been imparted, which, though of short duration, was universally felt.
These events appear in two ways to have encouraged the diffusion of ideas. The ambitious seem to have welcomed them as a means of influence, while those who turned from public life were the more stimulated to speculative disputation. However this may have been, it is manifest that before the beginning of the 4th century B.C. the intellectual atmosphere was already charged with a new force, which although essentially one may be differently described, according to the mode of its development, as (1) rhetorical and (2) theoretical and “sophistical.” This last word indicates the channel through which the current influences were mostly derived. A new want, in the shape both of interested and of disinterested curiosity, had insensibly created a new profession. Men of various fatherlands, some native Athenians, but more from other parts of Hellas, had set themselves to supplement the deficiencies of ordinary education, and to train men for the requirements of civic life. More or less consciously they based their teachings on the philosophical dogmas of an earlier time, when the speculations of Xenophanes, Heraclitus or Parmenides had interested only a few “wise men.” Those great thoughts were now to be expounded, so that “even cobblers might understand.” The self-appointed teachers found a rich field and abundant harvest among the wealthier youth, to the chagrin of the old-fashioned Athenian, who sighed with Aristophanes for the good old days when men knew less and listened to their elders and obeyed the customs of their fathers. And such distrust was not wholly unfounded. For, amidst much that was graceful and improving, these novel questionings had an influence that, besides being unsettling, was aimless and unreal. A later criticism may discern in them the two great tendencies of naturalism and humanism. But it may be doubted if the sophist was himself aware of the direction of his own thoughts. For, although Prodicus or Hippias could debate a thesis and moralize with effect, they do not appear to have been capable of speculative reasoning. What passed for such was often either verbal quibbling or the pushing to an extreme of some isolated abstract notion. That prudens quaestio which is dimidium scientiae had not yet been put. And yet the hour for putting it concerning human life was fully come. For the sea on which men were drifting was profoundly troubled, and would not sink back into its former calm. Conservative reaction was not less hopeless than the dreams of theorists were mischievously wild. In random talk, with gay, irresponsible energy, the youth were debating problems which have exercised great minds in Europe through all after time.
Men's thoughts had begun to be thus disturbed and eager when Socrates (q.v.) arose. To understand him is the most necessary preliminary to the study of Plato. There is no reason to doubt the general truth of the assertion, which Plato attributes to him in the Apologia, that he felt a divine vocation to examine himself by questioning other men.Socrates. He was really doing for Athenians, whether they would or no, what the sophist professed to do for his adherents, and what such men as Protagoras and Prodicus had actually done in part. One obvious difference was that he would take no fee. But there was another and more deep-lying difference, which distinguished him not only from the contemporary sophists but from the thinkers of the previous age. This was the Socratic attitude of inquiry. The sceptical movement had confused men's notions as to the value of ethical ideas. If “right is one thing in Athens and another in Sparta, why strive to follow right rather than expediency? The laws put restraint on nature, which is prior to them. Then why submit to law?” And the ingenuities of rhetoric had stirred much unmeaning disputation. Every case seemed capable of being argued in opposite ways. Even on the great question of the ultimate constitution of things, the conflicting theories of absolute immutability and eternal change appeared to be equally irrefragable and equally untenable. Men's minds had been confused by contradictory voices — one crying “All is motion,” another “All is rest”; one “The absolute is unattainable,” another “The relative alone is real”; some upholding a vague sentiment of traditional right, while some declared for arbitrary convention and some for the law “of nature.” Some held that virtue was spontaneous, some that it was due to training, and some paradoxically denied that either vice or falsehood had any meaning. The faith of Socrates, whether instinctive or inspired, remained untroubled by these jarring tones. He did not ask “Is virtue a reality?”or “Is goodness a delusion?” But, with perfect confidence that there was an answer, he asked himself and others “What is it?” (τί ἐστί); or, more particularly, as Xenophon testifies, “What is a state? What is a statesman? What is just? What is unjust? What is government? What is it to be a ruler of men?” In this form of question, however simple, the originality of Socrates is typified; and by means of it he laid the first stone, not only of the fabric of ethical philosophy, but of scientific method, at least in ethics, logic and psychology. Socrates never doubted that if men once knew what was best, they would also do it. They erred, he thought, from not seeing the good, and not because they would not follow it if seen. This is expressed in the Socratic dicta: “Vice is ignorance,” “Virtue is knowledge.” This lifelong work of Socrates, in which the germs of ethics, psychology and logic were contained, was idealized, developed, dramatized — first embodied and then extended beyond its original scope — in the writings of Plato, which may be described as the literary outcome of the profound impression made by Socrates upon his greatest follower. These writings (in pursuance of the importance given by Socrates to conversation) are all cast in the form of imaginary dialogue. But in those which are presumably the latest in order of composition this imaginative form interferes but little with the direct expression of the philosopher's own thoughts. The many-coloured veil at first inseparable from the features is gradually worn thinner, and at last becomes almost imperceptible.
Plato's philosophy, as embodied in his dialogues, has at once an intellectual and a mystical aspect; and both are dominated by a pervading ethical motive.Plato's Dialogues. In obeying the Socratic impulse, his speculative genius absorbed and harmonized the various conceptions which were present in contemporary thought, bringing them out of their dogmatic isolation into living correlation with one another, and with the life and experience of mankind. His poetical feeling and imagination, taking advantage of Pythagorean and Orphic suggestions, surrounded his abstract reasonings with a halo of mythology which made them more fascinating, but also more difficult for the prosaic intellect to comprehend. Convinced through the conversations of Socrates that truth and good exist and that they are inseparable, persuaded of the unity of virtue and of its dependence upon knowledge, he set forth upon a course of inquiry, in which he could not rest until the discrepancies of ordinary thinking were not only exposed but accounted for, and resolved in relation to a comprehensive theory. In this “pathway towards reality,” from the consideration of particular virtues he passed to the contemplation of virtue in general, and thence to the nature of universals, and to the unity of knowledge and being. Rising still higher on the road of generalization, he discussed the problem of unity and diversity, the one and the many. But in these lofty speculations the facts of human experience were not lost to view. The one, the good, the true, is otherwise regarded by him as the moral ideal, and this is examined as realized both in the individual and in the state. Thus ethical and political speculations are combined. And as the method of inquiry is developed, the leading principles both of logic and of psychology become progressively more distinct and clear. Notwithstanding his high estimate of mathematical principles, to him the type of exactness and certitude, Plato contributed little directly to physical science. Though he speaks with sympathy and respect of Hippocrates, he had no vocation for the patient inductive observation of natural processes, through which the Coan physicians, though they obtained few lasting results, yet founded a branch of science that was destined to be beneficently fruitful. And he turned scornfully aside from the Atomists, Leucippus and Democritus, whose first principle, the basis of so much in modern physics, appeared to him to be tainted with materialism. Yet his discursive thought, as in later years he held high intercourse with Archytas and other contemporary minds, could not fail, unlike his master's, to include a theory of the Cosmos in its purview. In this regard, however, the poet-philosopher brought imagination to the aid of reason, thus creating a new mythology, of which the Timaeus is the most conspicuous example.
Amidst great diversity, both of subject and of treatment, Plato's dialogues are pervaded by two dominant motives, a passion for human improvement and a persistent faith in the power and supremacy of mind. What is commonly known as his doctrine of Ideas is only one phase in a continuous progress towards the realization of a system of philosophy in which the supreme factor is reason guiding will. But the objectivity, which from the first was characteristic of all Greek thinking, and his own power of poetic presentation, obscured for a time, even for Plato himself, the essential spirituality of his conceptions, and at one time even threatened to arrest them at a stage in which the universal was divorced from the particular, the permanent from the transient, being from becoming, and in which the first principles of reality were isolated from one another as well as from the actual world. Gradually the veil was lifted, and the relation between the senses and the intellect, phenomena and general laws, the active and the contemplative powers, came to be more clearly conceived. The true nature of abstraction and generalization, and of predication and inference, began to be discerned, and speculation was verified through experience. The ideas were seen as categories, or forms of thought, under which the infinite variety of natural processes might be comprised. And thus the dialogues present, as in a series of dissolving views, a sort of model or compendium of the history of philosophy. Plato's system is nowhere distinctly formulated, nor are the views put forward in his dialogues always consistent with each other, but much especially of his later thought is systematized, and as it were crystallized in the treatises of Aristotle; by whom the point of view which Plato had approached, but not finally attained, was made the starting-point for more precise metaphysical determinations and carried into concrete theories having the stamp of a more rigid logical method. The departments of ethics and politics, of dialectic and of psychology, of physics and metaphysics, thus came to be more clearly distinguished, but something was lost of the unity and intensity of spiritual insight which had vitalized these various elements, and fused them in a dynamic harmony.
The student of philosophy, whatever may be the modern system to which he is most inclined, sensational, intuitional, conceptional, transcendental, will find his account in returning to this well-spring of European thought, in which all previous movements are absorbed, and from which all subsequent lines of reflection may be said to diverge. As was observed by Jowett (St Paul, 1855), “the germs of all ideas, even of most Christian ones, are to be found in Plato.”
Two great forces are persistent in Plato: the love of truth and zeal for human improvement. In the period culminating with the Republic,Historical Influence of Plato. these two motives, the speculative and the practical, are combined in one harmonious working. In the succeeding period, without excluding one another, they operate with alternate intensity. In the varied outcome of his long literary career, the metaphysical “doctrine of ideas” which has been associated with Plato's name underwent many important changes. But pervading all these there is the same constant belief in the supremacy of reason and the identity of truth and good. From that abiding root spring forth a multitude of thoughts concerning the mind and human things — turning chiefly on the principles of psychology, education and political reform — thoughts which, although unverified, and often needing correction from experience, still constitute Plato the most fruitful of philosophical writers. While general ideas are powerful for good or ill, while abstractions are necessary to science, while mankind are apt to crave after perfection, and ideals, either in art or life, have an acknowledged value, so long the renown of Plato will continue. “All philosophic truth is Plato rightly divined; all philosophic error is Plato misunderstood” — is the verdict of one of the keenest of modern metaphysicians.
Plato's followers, however, have seldom kept the proportions of his teaching. The diverse elements of his doctrine have survived the spirit that informed them. The pythagorizing mysticism of the Timaeus has been more prized than the subtle and clear thinking of the Theaetetus. Logical inquiries have been hardened into a barren ontology. Semi-mythical statements have been construed literally and mystic fancies perpetuated without the genuine thought which underlay them. A part (and not the essential part) of his philosophy has been treated as the whole. But the influence of Plato has extended far beyond the limits of the Platonic schools. The debt of Aristotle to his master has never yet been fully estimated. Zeno, Chrysippus, Epicurus borrowed from Plato more than they knew. The moral ideal of Plutarch and that of the Roman Stoics, which have both so deeply affected the modern world, could not have existed without him. Neopythagoreanism was really a crude Neoplatonism. And the Sceptics availed themselves of weapons either forged by Plato or borrowed by him from the Sophists. A wholly distinct line of infiltration is suggested by the mention of Philo and the Alexandrian school (cf. section in Arabian Philosophy, ii. 26bc, 9th edition), and of Clement and Origen, while Gnostic heresies and even Talmudic mysticism betray perversions of the same influence. The effect of Hellenic thought on Christian theology and on the life of Christendom is a subject for a volume, and has been pointed out in part by E. Zeller and others (cf. Neoplatonism). Yet when Plotinus in the 3rd century (after hearing Ammonius), amidst the revival of religious paganism, founded a new spiritualistic philosophy upon the study of Plato and Aristotle combined, this return to the fountain head had all the effect of novelty. And for more than two centuries, from Plotinus to Proclus, the great effort to base life anew on the Platonic wisdom was continued. But it was rather the ghost than the spirit of Plato that was so “unsphered.” Instead of striving to reform the world, the Neoplatonist sought after a retired and cloistered virtue. Instead of vitalizing science with fresh thought, he lost hold of all reality in the contemplation of infinite unity. He had skill in dealing with abstractions, but laid a feeble hold upon the actual world.
“Hermes Trismegistus” and “Dionysius Areopagita” are names that mark the continuation of this influence into the middle ages. The pseudo-Dionysius was translated by Erigena in the 9th century.
Two more “Platonic” revivals have to be recorded — at Florence in the 15th and at Cambridge in the 17th century. Both were enthusiastic and both uncritical. The translation of the dialogues into Latin by Marsilio Ficino was the most lasting effect of the former movement, which was tinged with the unscientific ardour of the Renaissance. The preference still accorded to the Timaeus is a fair indication of the tendency to bring fumum ex fulgore which probably marred the discussions of the Florentine Academy concerning the “chief good.” The new humanism had also a sentimental cast, which was alien from Plato. Yet the effect of this spirit on art and literature was very great, and may be clearly traced not only in Italian but in English poetry.
The “Cambridge Platonists” have been described by Principal Tulloch in his important work on Rational Theology in England in the 17th century, and again by Professor J. A. Stewart in the concluding chapter of his volume on the Myths of Plato. Their views were mainly due to a reaction from the philosophy of Hobbes, and were at first suggested as much by Plotinus as by Plato. It is curious to find that, just as Socrates and Ammonius (the teacher of Plotinus) left no writings, so Whichcote, the founder of this school, worked chiefly through conversation and preaching. His pupils exercised a considerable influence for good, especially on English theology; and in aspiration if not in thought they derived something from Plato, but they seem to have been incapable of separating his meaning from that of his interpreters, and Cudworth, their most consistent writer, was at once more systematic and less scientific than the Athenian philosopher. The translations of Sydenham and Taylor in the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th are proofs of the continued influence of Platonism in England.
The critical study of Plato begins from Schleiermacher, who did good work as an interpreter, and tried to arrange the dialogues in the order of composition.Critical History. His attempt, which, like many efforts of constructive criticism, went far beyond possibility, was vitiated by the ground-fallacy of supposing that Plato had from the first a complete system in his mind which he partially and gradually revealed in writing. At a considerably later time Karl Friedrich Hermann, to whom all students of Plato are indebted, renewed the same endeavour on the far more plausible assumption that the dialogues faithfully reflect the growth of Plato's mind. But he also was too sanguine, and exaggerated the possibility of tracing a connexion between the outward events of Plato's life and the progress of his thoughts. This great question of the order of the dialogues, which has been debated by numberless writers, is one which only admits of an approximate solution. Much confusion, however, has been obviated by the hypothesis (first hinted at by Ueberweg, and since supported by Lewis Campbell and others) that the Sophistes and Politicus, whose genuineness had been called in question by Joseph Socher, are really intermediate between the Republic and the Laws. The allocation of these dialogues, not only on grounds of metaphysical criticism, but also on philological and other evidence of a more tangible kind, supplies a point of view from which it becomes possible to trace with confidence the general outlines of Plato's literary and philosophical development. Reflecting at first in various aspects the impressions received from Socrates, he is gradually touched with an inspiration which becomes his own, and which seeks utterance in half-poetical forms. Then first the ethical and by and by the metaphysical interest becomes predominant. And for a while this last is all absorbing, as he confronts the central problems which his own thoughts have raised. But, again, the hard-won acquisitions of this dialectical movement must be fused anew with imagination and applied to life. And in a final effort to use his intellectual wealth for the subvention of human need the great spirit passed away.
It may not be amiss to recapitulate the steps through which the above position respecting the order of the dialogues has become established.Order of Dialogues. Lovers of Hegel had observed that the point reached in the Sophistes in defining “not being” was dialectically in advance of the Republic. But Kantian interpreters might obviously have said the same of the Parmenides: and Grote as a consistent utilitarian looked upon the Protagoras as the most mature production of Plato's genius. It seemed desirable to find some criterion that was not bound up with philosophical points of view. Dr Thompson, the Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, had vindicated the genuineness of the Sophistes against the objections of Socher, but had not accounted for the peculiarities of language, which that acute critic had perceived. By comparing those peculiarities with the style of the Laws, Plato's latest work, and with that of the Timaeus and Critias, which presupposed the Republic, Lewis Campbell argued in 1867 that the Sophistes and Politicus, with the Philebus, were in chronological sequence intermediate between the Republic and the Laws. Thus a further defence of their authenticity was at the same time a long step towards the solution of the problem which Schleiermacher had proposed. Many years afterwards the more detailed stylistic investigations of W. Dittenberger, Constantin Ritter and others arrived independently at the same conclusion. It was vehemently supported by W. Lutoslawski in his work on Plato's Logic, and has been frankly accepted with ample acknowledgments by the high authority of Dr Theodor Gomperz (see especially the Notes to his Greek Thinkers, iii. 310, 315 of English translation).
The Platonic dialogues are not merely the embodiment of the mind of Socrates and of the reflections of Plato. They are the portraiture of the highest intellectual life of Hellas in the time of Plato — a life but distantly related to military and political events, and scarcely interrupted by them. Athens appears as the centre of the excitable Hellenic mind, profoundly stirred by the arrival of great sophists, and keenly alive to the questions of Socrates, although in the pages of Plato, even more than in reality, he only “whispers with a few striplings in a corner.” For, in the Platonic grouping, the agora, which was the chief scene of action for the real Socrates, retires into the background, and he is principally seen consorting with his chosen companions, who are also friends of Plato, and with the acquaintances whom he makes through them. The scene is narrowed (for the Academy was remote from the bustle of resort, and Plato judged the Hellenic world securely from the vantage-ground of partial retirement) — but the figures are distinct and full of life. In reading the dialogues we not only breathe the most refined intellectual atmosphere, but are also present witnesses of the urbanity, the freedom, the playfulness, the generous warmth of the “best society” in Athens. For Plato has a numerous repertory of dramatis personae, who stand in various relations to his chief character — the impetuous Chaerephon, Apollodorus the inseparable weak brother, old Crito the true-hearted, Phaedo the beloved disciple, Simmias and Cebes, who have been with Philolaus, the graceful and ingenuous Phaedrus, the petulant Philebus, Theaetetus of the philosophic nature, who is cut off in his prime, and the incorrigible Alcibiades; then Plato's own kinsmen — Glaucon the irrepressible in politics, in quarrel and in love; Adeimantus, solid and grave; Critias in his phase of amateur philosopher, and not as what he afterwards became; Charmides, not in fiery manhood, but in his first bloom of diffident youth; and many others who appear as mere acquaintances, but have an interest of their own — the accomplished Agathon, the gay Aristophanes, Eryximachus the all-worthy physician; Meno, light of spirit; Callias, entertainer of sophists; Callicles the wilful man of the world; Cephalus the aged father of Lysias; and Nicias the honoured soldier. All these appear, not as some of them do on the page of history, in sanguinary contention or fierce rivalry, but as peaceful Athenians, in momentary contact with Socrates, whose electric touch now benumbs and now exhilarates, and sometimes goads to frenzy of love or anger. Still more distantly related to him, as it were standing in an outer circle, are the imposing forms of Gorgias and Protagoras, surrounded with the lesser lights of Hippias, Prodicus and Polus. Thrasymachus, Euthydemus, Dionysodorus hang round like comic masks, adding piquancy to the design. The adversaries Anytus and Meletus are allowed to appear for a moment, but soon vanish. The older philosophers, though Socrates turned away from them, also make their entrance on the Platonic stage. Parmenides with his magnificent depth is made to converse with the imaginary Socrates, who is still quite young. A stranger from Elea plays an important part in some later dialogues, and Timaeus the Pythagorean is introduced discoursing of the creation of the world. In these dialogues Socrates is mostly silent; in the Philebus he has lost himself in Plato; and in the twelve books of the Laws, where an unnamed Athenian is the chief speaker, even the Platonic Socrates finally disappears.
Now, in evolving his philosophy from the Socratic basis, Plato works along three main lines — the ethical and political, the metaphysical or scientific, and the mystical. All three are often intimately blended, as in the close of Rep., bk. vi., and even where one element is uppermost the others are not wholly suppressed. But this distinction, like that sometimes made in modern philosophy between the good, the true and the beautiful, is one which, if not unduly pressed, may be usefully, borne in mind.
Having noted this once for all, we pass to the more detailed. consideration of the several dialogues.
I. Laches, Charmides, Lysis. — In this first group Socrates is dealing tentatively with single ethical notions. The result in each case is a confession of ignorance, but the subject has been so handled as to point the way to more fruitful discussions in the future. And suggestions are casually thrown out which anticipate some of the most far-reaching of Plato's subsequent contemplations.
The Laches is a vigorous sketch, in which the characters of the soldier, the aged citizen, and the prudent general are well preserved; and Socrates is seenLaches. conversing with his elders, although with reference to the treatment of the young. The question raised is the definition of courage; and the humour of the piece consists in showing that three men, all of whom are unquestionably brave, are unable to give an account of bravery, or to decide whether courage is an animal instinct or a mental accomplishment.
Similarly, in the dialogue which bears his name, the temperate Charmides, of whom all testify that (as Aristophanes has it), he “fills up the gracious mould of modesty,” is hopelesslyCharmides. embarrassed when challenged by the Socratic method to put in words his conception of the modesty or temperance which he possesses, and which, as Socrates assures him, is a priceless gift. The Charmides contains some hints of Platonic notions, such as that of knowledge as self-consciousness, and of virtue as “doing one's own business.”
The graceful little dialogue which bears the name of Lysis ends, like the two former, with a confession of failure. Socrates, Lysis and Menexenus are all friends, and thinkLysis. highly of friendship, yet after many efforts they are unable to tell “what friendship is.” Yet some of the suggestions which are here laid aside are afterwards allowed to reappear. The notion that “what is neither good nor evil loves the good because of the presence of evil” is expanded and emphasized in the Symposium. And the conception of an ideal object of friendship, an αὐτὸ φίλον (though rejected as in the criticism of Aristotle by the characteristic reductio ad infinitum), is destined to have a wider scope in the history of Platonism.
II. Protagoras, Io, Meno. — The previous dialogues have marked the distinction between unconscious and conscious morality, and have also brought out the Socratic tendency to identify virtue with the knowledge of good. Now, the more strongly it is felt that knowledge is inseparable from virtue the more strange and doubtful appears such unconscious excellence as that of Laches, Charmides or Lysis. Hence arises the further paradox of Socrates: “Virtue is not taught, and that which is commonly regarded as virtue springs up spontaneously or is received unconsciously by a kind of inspiration.”
Protagoras, in the dialogue named after him, is the professor of popular, unscientific, self-complacent excellence; while Socrates appears in his life-long search after the ideal knowledge of the best. The two men are naturally at cross purposes. Protagoras contends that virtue is taught by himselfProtagoras. and others more or less successfully, and is not one but many. Socrates disputes the possibility of teaching virtue (since all men equally profess it, and even statesmen fail to give it to their sons), but affirms that, if it can be taught, virtue is not many, but one. The discussion, as in the former dialogues, ends inconclusively. But in the course of it Plato vividly sets forth the natural opposition between the empiric and scientific points of view, between a conventional and an intellectual standard. He does full justice to the thesis of Protagoras, and it is not to be supposed that he was contented to remain in the attitude which he has here attributed to Socrates. In his ideal state, where the earlier training of the best citizens is a refinement on the actual Hellenic education, he has to some extent reconciled the conceptions which are here dramatically opposed.
The preparations for the encounter and the description of it include many life-like touches — such as the eagerness of the young Athenian gentleman to hear the sophist, though he would be ashamed to be thought a sophist himself; the confusion into which the house of Callias has been thrown by the crowd of strangers and by the self-importance of rival professors; the graceful dignity of the man who has been forty years a teacher, the graphic description of the whole scene, the characteristic speeches of Prodicus and Hippias (from which some critics have elicited a theory of their doctrines), and the continued irony with which Socrates bears them all in hand and soothes the great man after disconcerting him.
In the argument there are two points which chiefly deserve notice. (1) Protagoras, in accordance with his relative view of things (which Plato afterwards criticized in the Theaetetus), claims not to teach men principles but to improve them in those virtues which Providence has given in some measure to all civilized men. (2) Socrates in postulating a scientific principle, which he expressly reserves for future consideration, would have it tested by the power of calculating the amount of pleasure. Grote dwells with some complacency on the “utilitarianism” of Socrates in the Protagoras. And it is true that a principle of utility is here opposed to conventional sentiment. But this opposition is intended to prepare the way for the wider and deeper contrast between an arbitrary and a scientific standard, or between impressions and conceptions or ideas. And when Plato (in the Gorgias and Philebus) endeavours to define the art of measurement, which is here anticipated, it is not wonderful that differences here unthought of should come into view, or that the pleasant should be again contradistinguished from the good. In all three dialogues he is equally asserting the supremacy of reason.
On the first vision of that transcendental knowledge which is to be the key at once to truth and good, philosophy is apt to lose her balance, and to look with scorn upon “the trivial round, the common task,” and the respectable commonplaces of “ordinary thinking.” Yet, as Socrates is reminded by Protagoras, this unconscious wisdom also has a value. And Plato, who, when most ideal, ever strives to keep touch with experience, is fully convinced of the reality of this lower truth, of this unphilosophic virtue. But he is long puzzled how to conceive of it. For, if knowledge is all in all, what are we to make of wisdom and goodness in those who do not know? Protagoras had boldly spoken of honour and right as a direct gift from Zeus, and Socrates, in the Io and Meno, is represented as adopting an hypothesis of inspiration in order to account for these unaccredited graces of the soul.
Socrates has observed that rhapsodists and even poets have no definite knowledge of the things which they so powerfully represent (cf. Apol. 22; Phaed., 245 A.; Rep. iii. 398 A).Io. He brings the rhapsode Io to admit this, and to conclude that he is the inspired medium of a magnetic influence. The Muse is the chief magnet, and the poet is the first of a series of magnetic rings. Then follow the rhapsode and the actor, who are rings of inferior power, and the last ring is the hearer or spectator.
The Meno raises again the more serious question, Can virtue be taught? Socrates here states explicitly the paradox with which the Protagoras ended.Meno. “Virtue is knowledge; therefore virtue can be taught. But virtue is not taught. Therefore (in the highest sense) there can be no virtue.” And he repeats several of his former reasons — that Athenian statesmen failed to teach their sons, and that the education given by sophists is unsatisfying. (The sophists are here denounced by Anytus, who is angered by Socrates's ironical praise of them.) But the paradox is softened in two ways: (1) the absence of knowledge does not preclude inquiry, and (2) though virtue cannot be taught, yet there is a sense in which virtue exists.
1. Meno begins in gaiety of heart to define virtue, but is soon “benumbed” by the “torpedo” shock of Socrates, and asks “How can one inquire about that which he does not know?” Socrates meets this “eristic” difficulty with the doctrine of reminiscence (ἀναμνησις). All knowledge is latent in the mind from birth and through kindred (or association of) ideas much may be recovered, if only a beginning is made. Pindar and other poets have said that the soul is immortal and that she has passed through many previous states. And Socrates now gives a practical illustration of the truth that knowledge is evolved from ignorance. He elicits, from a Greek slave of Meno's, the demonstration of a geometrical theorem. About the middle of the process he turns to Meno and observes that the slave (who has made a false start) is now becoming conscious of ignorance. He then gradually draws from the man, by leading questions, the positive proof.
2. Though virtue is not yet defined, it may be affirmed “hypothetically” that, if virtue is knowledge, virtue can be taught. And experience leads us to admit two phases of virtue — the one a mode of life based on scientific principle, which hitherto is an ideal only; the other sporadic, springing of itself, yet of divine origin, relying upon true opinion, which it is, however, unable to make fast through demonstration of the cause or reason. But if there were a virtuous man who could teach virtue he would stand amongst his fellows like Teiresias amongst the shades. This mystical account of ordinary morality is in keeping with the semi-mythical defence of the process of inquiry — that all knowledge is implicit in the mind from birth.
III. Euthyphro, Apologia, Crito, Phaedo. — There is no ground for supposing that these four dialogues were written consecutively, or that they belong strictly to the same period of Plato's industry. But they are linked together for the reader by their common reference to the trial and death of Socrates; no one of them has been proved to be in the author's earliest or latest manner; and they may therefore fitly end the series of dialogues in which the personal traits of the historic Socrates are most apparent, and Plato's own peculiar doctrines are as yet but partially disclosed.
The little dialogue known by the name of Euthyphro might have been classed with the Laches, Charmides and Lysis, as dealing inconclusively with a single notion.Euthyphro. But, although slight and tentative in form, it has an under tone of deeper significance, in keeping with the gravity of the occasion. Plato implies that Socrates had thought more deeply on the nature of piety than his accusers had, and also that his piety was of a higher mood than that of ordinary religious men.
Euthyphro is a soothsayer, well-disposed to Socrates, but not one of his particular friends. They meet at the door of the king Archon, whither Socrates has been summoned for the “precognition” (ἀνάκρισις) preliminary to his trial. Both men are interested in cases of alleged impiety. For Euthyphro's business is to impeach his father, who has inadvertently caused the death of a criminal labourer. The prophet feels the duty of purging the stain of blood to be more imperative the nearer home. Socrates is struck by the strong opinion thus evinced respecting the nature of piety and detains Euthyphro at the entrance of the court, that he may learn from so clear an authority “what piety is,” and so be fortified against Meletus. He leads his respondent from point to point, until the doubt is raised whether God loves holiness because it is holy, or it is holy because loved by God. Does God will what is righteous, or is that righteous which is willed by God? Here they find themselves wandering round and round. Socrates proves himself an involuntary Daedalus who makes opinions move, while he seeks for one which he can “bind fast with reason.”
“The holy is a portion of the just.” But what portion? “Due service of the gods by prayer and sacrifice.” But how does this affect the gods? “It pleases them.” Again we are found to be reasoning in a circle.
“Thus far has Socrates proceeded in placing religion on a moral foundation. He is seeking to realize the harmony of religion and morality, which the great poets Aeschylus, Sophocles and Pindar had unconsciously anticipated, and which is the universal want of all men. To this the soothsayer adds the ceremonial element, ‘attending upon the gods.’ When further interrogated by Socrates as to the nature of this ‘attention to the gods,’ he replies that piety is an affair of business, a science of giving and asking and the like. Socrates points out the anthropomorphism of these notions. But when we expect him to go on and show that the true service of the gods is the service of the spirit and co-operation with them in all things true and good, he stops short; this was a lesson which the soothsayer could not have been made to understand, and which everyone must learn for himself."
In Plato's Apology the fate of Socrates is no longer the subject of mere allusions, such as the rage of Anytus at the end of the Meno, and the scene and occasionApology. of the Euthyphro. He is now seen face to face with his accusers, and with his countrymen who are condemning him to death.
What most aggravated his danger (after life-long impunity) is thus stated by James Riddell, in the introduction to his edition of the dialogue: “The ἐπιείκεια” (clemency) “of the restored people did not last long, and was naturally succeeded by a sensitive and fanatical zeal for their revived political institutions. Inquiry into the foundations of civil society was obviously rather perilous for the inquirer at such a time. Socrates knew the full extent of his danger. But, according to Xenophon (Mem. iv. c. 8, § 14), he prepared no defence, alleging that his whole life had been a preparation for that hour.”
The tone of the Platonic Apology is in full accordance with that saying; but it is too elaborate a work of art to be taken literally as a report of what was actually said. Jowett well compares it to “those speeches of Thucydides in which he has embodied his conception of the lofty character and policy of the great Pericles.” Yet “it is significant that Plato is said to have been present at the defence, as he is also said to have been absent at the last scene of the Phaedo. Some of the topics may have been actually used by Socrates, and the recollection of his very words may. have rung in the ears of his disciple.”
The Platonic Apology is in three parts: (1) before conviction, (2) after conviction and before sentence, (3) after the sentence.
1. Socrates cares not for acquittal. But he does care to explain his life. And he selects those aspects of it which there is hope of making his audience understand. That he partly succeeded in this is shown by the large number of those (220 out of 500) who voted for his acquittal.
a. His answer to Meletus, as least important, is reserved for the middle of his speech. He addresses himself first to “other accusers” — comic poets and the rest, who have prejudiced his reputation by falsely identifying him with the physical philosophers and the sophists. But what then is the strange pursuit which has given to Socrates the name of wise? It is the practice of cross-examining, to which he was first impelled by the oracle at Delphi, and which he has followed ever since as a religious mission. The god said “Socrates is wise,” when he was conscious of no wisdom great or small. So he went in search of some one wiser than himself, but could find none, though he found many who had conceit of wisdom. And he inferred that the god must mean “He is wisest who, like Socrates, is most aware of his own ignorance.” This unceasing quest has left him in great poverty, and has made him enemies, who are represented by Anytus, Meletus and Lycon. And their enmity is further embittered by the pleasure which young men take in seeing pretence unmasked, and in imitating the process of refutation. Hence has arisen the false charge that Socrates is a corrupter of youth.
b. Here he turns to Meletus. “If I corrupt the youth, who does them good?” Mel. “The laws, the judges, the audience, the Athenians generally” (cf. Protagoras and Meno). “Strange, that here only should be one to corrupt and many to improve; or that any one should be so infatuated as to wish to have bad neighbours.” Mel. “Socrates is an atheist. He believes the sun to be a stone.” “You are accusing Anaxagoras. I have said that I knew nothing of such theories. And you accuse me of introducing novel notions about divine things. How can I believe in divine things (δαιμόνια) and not in divine beings (δαίμονες)? and how in divine beings, if not in gods who are their authors?”
c. That is a sufficient answer for his present accuser. He returns to the general long-standing defamation, which may well be his death, as slander has often been and again will be the death of many a man.
Yet if spared he will continue the same course of life, in spite of the danger. As at Potidaea and Delium he faced death where the Athenians posted him, so now he will remain at the post where he is stationed by the god. For to fear death is to assume pretended knowledge.
One thing is certain. A worse man cannot harm a better. But if the Athenians kill Socrates they will harm themselves. For they will lose the stimulus of his exhortations — and his poverty is a sufficient witness that he was sincere. Not that he would engage in politics. If he had done that he would have perished long before, as he nearly did for his independent vote after the battle of Arginusae, and for disobeying the murderous command of the Thirty Tyrants.
But have not Socrates's disciples, Alcibiades, Critias, Charmides, proved bad citizens? He has no disciples. Any one, bad or good, may come and hear him, and the talk which is his life-work is not unamusing. But why are no witnesses brought to substantiate this charge? There are elder friends of his companions, who would be angry if he had used his influence for harm. But these men's confidence in Socrates is unshaken.
He will not appeal ad misericordiam. That would be a disgrace for one who (rightly or not) has been reputed wise, and to admit such an appeal in any case is a violation of the juror's oath.
Socrates has told the Athenians the whole truth, so far as a mixed audience of them could receive it. Elaboration and subtlety could have no place in addressing the Heliastic court, nor could that universal truth towards which he was leading men be made intelligible to a new audience while the clepsydra was running. But his tone and attitude must have made a strong appeal to the better nature of his hearers. With Meletus he “played rather than fought,” but he has shown clearly that he has no fear of death, that he chooses to obey God rather than man, and that for very love of the Athenian, he will not be swayed by their desires.
2. One convicted on a capital charge had the right of pleading before sentence in mitigation of the penalty proposed by his accuser. Socrates was convicted by fewer votes than he himself anticipated. The indictment of Meletus was ineffectual, and if it had not been for the speeches of Anytus and Lycon the defendant would have been triumphantly acquitted. Could he but have conversed with his judges more than once, he might have removed their prejudices. In no spirit of bravado, therefore, but in simple justice to himself, he meets the claim of Meletus that he shall be punished with death by the counterclaim that he shall be maintained in the prytaneum as a public benefactor. He cannot ask that death, which may be a good, shall be commuted for imprisonment or exile, which are certainly evils. A fine would be no evil: but he has no money — he can offer a mina. Here Plato and others interpose, and with their friendly help he offers thirty minae.
3. He is sentenced to death, and the public business of the court is ended. But while the record is being entered and the magistrates are thus occupied, Socrates is imagined as addressing (a) the majority, and (b) the minority in the court.
a. To those who have condemned him he speaks in a prophetic tone. “For the sake of depriving an old man of the last dregs of life they have given Athens a bad name. He would not run away, and so death has overtaken him. But his accusers are overtaken by unrighteousness, and must reap the fruits of it.
“Nor will the Athenians find the desired relief. Other reprovers, whom Socrates has hitherto restrained, will now arise, not in a friendly but in a hostile spirit. The only way for the citizens to escape reproof is to reform their lives.”
b. To the minority, who would have acquitted him, he speaks with gentle solemnity. “Let them know to their comfort that the divine voice has not once checked him throughout that day. This indicates that death is not an evil. And reason shows that death is either a long untroubled sleep, or removal to a better world, where there are no unjust judges.
“No evil can happen to a good man either in life or after death. Wherefore Socrates will not be angry with his condemners, who have done him no harm, although they meant him anything but good. He will only ask of them to do to the sons of Socrates as Socrates has done to them.”
Is the love of truth consistent with civic duties? Is the philosopher a good citizen? are questions which are sure to arise where the truth involves practical improvement. Crito. In the Apology Socrates appears as an intrepid reformer; the Crito gives an impressive picture of him as a loyal and law-abiding Athenian.
Execution had been delayed during the annual mission to Delos (during which no one could be put to death). But the returning vessel had just been reported as descried from Sunium. At early dawn Crito, the oldest friend of Socrates, obtained access to his cell, and found him sleeping peacefully. Presently he awoke, and Crito told him of the approach of the fatal ship. Socrates replies by telling his dream. A fair form stood over him and said,
“The third day hence to Phthia shalt thou come”
And it would seem that the day after to-morrow will really be the day for going home.
Crito then reveals his plan for an escape. And Socrates argues the question in the old familiar way. “Crito's zeal is excellent, and most men would think his object right. But the few who think soundly say that it is wrong to return evil for evil. The laws of Athens (through the fault of men) are doing Socrates harm. But ought he therefore to infringe the law? Might not the laws of his country plead with him and say: ‘You owe to us your birth and breeding; and when grown up you voluntarily submitted to us. For you might have gone elsewhere. But you preferred us to all other laws, and have been the most constant resident in Athens. Even at the last you accepted death rather than exile. If you now break your covenant you will ruin your friends and will be rejected by all well-ordered cities. You might be received in Thessaly, but could only live there by cringing to foreigners for food. Where in that case will be your talk about virtue? You would not take your sons thither. And your friends would be equally kind to them if you were dead. Think not of life and children first and of justice afterwards, but think of justice first, that you may be justified in the world below.’ ”
Crito admits these arguments to be unanswerable.
The Meno referred to the immortality and pre-existence of the soul as a traditional doctrine, and it was there associated with the possibility of inquiry.Phaedo, In the Phaedo Plato undertakes to substantiate this belief and base it anew by narrating the last hours of Socrates, who is represented as calmly discussing the question with his friends when his own death was immediately at hand. The argument turns chiefly on the eternity of knowledge, and is far from satisfying. For, granting that eternity of knowledge involves eternity of mind, does the eternity of mind assure continued being to the individual? Yet no unprejudiced reader of the Phaedo can doubt that Plato, at the time of writing it, sincerely believed in a conscious personal existence after death. The words of Socrates, when he declares his hope of going to be with other friends, are absolutely unambiguous, and his reply to Crito's question, “How shall we bury you?” has a convincing force beyond all dialectic: “I cannot persuade Crito that I here am Socrates — I who am now reasoning and ordering discourse. He imagines Socrates to be that other, whom he will see by and by, a corpse.” This and similar touches not only stamp the Phaedo as a marvel of art, but are indisputable evidence of the writer's profound belief. They may be inventions, but they have nothing “mythical” about them, any more than the charge of Socrates to his friends, that they would best fulfil his wishes by attending to their own lives.
The narrative, to be appreciated, must be read in full. But a short abstract of the argument may be given here.
1. Death is merely the separation of soul and body. And this is the very consummation at which philosophy aims. The body hinders thought. The mind attains to truth by retiring into herself. Through no bodily sense does she perceive justice, beauty, goodness and other ideas. The philosopher has a life-long quarrel with bodily desires, and he should welcome the release of his soul. Thus he alone can have true courage, even as temperance and all the virtues are real in him alone.
But does the soul exist after death?
a. An old tradition tells of many successive births, the soul departing to Hades and returning again, so that the living are born from the dead. And if the dead had no existence, this could not be, since from nothing nothing can arise. Moreover, experience shows that opposite states come from their opposites, and that such a process is always reciprocal. Death certainly succeeds to life. Then life must succeed to death. And that which undergoes these changes must exist through all. If the dead came from the living, and not the living from the dead, the universe would ultimately be consumed in death.
This presumption is confirmed by the doctrine (here attributed to Socrates, cf. Meno) that knowledge comes from recollection. What is recollected must be previously known. Now we have never since birth had intuition of the absolute equality of which (through association) we are reminded by the sight of things approximately equal. And we cannot have seen it at the moment of birth, for at what other moment can we have forgotten it? Therefore, if ideals be not vain, our souls must have existed before birth, and, according to the doctrine of opposites above stated, will have continued existence after death.
b. To charm away the fears of the “child within,” Socrates adds, as further considerations:—
i. The soul is uncompounded, incorporeal, invisible, and therefore indissoluble and immutable.
ii. The soul commands, the body serves; therefore the soul is akin to the divine.
iii. Yet even the body holds together long after death, and the bones are all but indestructible.
The soul, if pure, departs to the invisible world, but, if tainted by communion with the body, she lingers hovering near the earth, and is afterwards born into the likeness of some lower form. That which true philosophy has purified alone rises ultimately to the gods. The lesson is impressively applied.
2. A pause ensues; and Simmias and Cebes are invited to express their doubts. For, as the swan dies singing, Socrates would die discoursing.
a. Simmias desires not to rest short of demonstration, though he is willing to make the highest attainable probability the guide of life.
If the soul is the harmony of the body, what becomes of her “when the lute is broken”?
b. Cebes compares the body to a garment which the soul keeps weaving at. The garment in which the weaver dies outlasts him. So the soul may have woven and worn many bodies in one lifetime, yet may perish and leave a body behind. Or even supposing her to have many lives, does even this hypothesis exempt her from ultimate decay?
Socrates warns his friends against losing faith in inquiry. Theories, like men, are disappointing; yet we should be neither misanthropists nor misologists. Then he answers his two friends.
a — i. The soul is acknowledged to be prior to the body. But no harmony is prior to the elements which are harmonized.
ii. The soul has virtue and vice, i.e. harmony and discord. Is there harmony of harmony? Cf. Rep. x. 609.
iii. All soul is equally soul, but all harmony is not equally harmonious.
iv. If the soul were the harmony of the body they would be agreed; but, as has been already shown, they are perpetually quarrelling.
v. The soul is not conditioned by the bodily elements, but has the power of controlling them.
b. Cebes has raised the wide question whether the soul is independent of generation and corruption. Socrates owns that he himself (i.e. Plato?) had once been fascinated by natural philosophy, and had sought to give a physical account of everything. Then, hearing out of Anaxagoras that mind was the disposer of all, he had hoped to learn not only how things were, but also why. But he found Anaxagoras forsaking his own first principle and jumbling causes with conditions. (“The cause why Socrates sits here is not a certain disposition of joints and sinews, but that he has thought best to undergo his sentence — else the joints and sinews would have been ere this, by Crito's advice, on the way to Thessaly.”) Physical science never thinks of a power which orders everything for good, but expects to find another Atlas to sustain the world more strong and lasting than the reason of the best.
Socrates had turned from such philosophers and found for himself a way, not to gaze directly on the universal reason, but to seek an image of it in the world of mind, wherein are reflected the ideas, as, for example, the idea of beauty, through partaking of which beautiful things are beautiful. Assuming the existence of the ideas, he felt his way from hypothesis to hypothesis.
Now the participation of objects in ideas is in some cases essential and inseparable. Snow is essentially cold, fire hot, three odd, two even. And things thus essentially opposite are inclusive of each other's attributes. (When it was said above that opposites come from opposites, not opposite things were meant, but opposite states or conditions of one thing). Snow cannot admit heat, nor fire cold; for they are inseparable vehicles of heat and cold respectively. The soul is the inseparable vehicle of life, and therefore, by parity of reasoning, the soul cannot admit of death, but is immortal and imperishable.
3. What follows is in the true sense mythological, and is admitted by Socrates to be uncertain: “Howbeit, since the soul is proved to be immortal, men ought to charm their spirits with such tales.”
The earth, a globe self-balanced in the midst of space, has many mansions for the soul, some higher and brighter, some lower and. darker than our present habitation. We who dwell about the Mediterranean Sea are like frogs at the bottom of a pool. In some higher place, under the true heaven, our souls may dwell hereafter, and see not only colours and forms in their ideal purity but truth and justice as they are.
In the Phaedo, more than elsewhere, Plato preaches withdrawal from the world. The Delian solemnity is to Socrates and his friends a period of “retreat,” in which their eyes are turned from earthly things to dwell on the eternal. The theory of ideas here assumes its most transcendental aspect, and it is from portions of this dialogue and of the Phaedrus and Timaeus that the popular conception of Platonism has been principally derived. But to understand Plato rightly it is not enough to study isolated passages which happen to charm the imagination; nor should single expressions be interpreted without regard to the manner in which he presents the truth elsewhere.
It has already been shown (1) that Socratic inquiry implied a standard of truth and good, undiscovered but endlessly discoverable, and to be approached inductively; and (2) that in Plato this implicit assumption becomes explicit, in the identification of virtue with knowledge (Lach., Charm.) as an art of measurement (Protag.), and in the vision (towards the end of the Lysis) of an absolute object of desire. The Socratic “self-knowledge” has been developed (Charm.) into a science of mind or consciousness, apart from which no physical studies can be fruitful. (3) Co-ordinate with these theoretical tendencies there has appeared in Plato the determination not to break with experience. In the Phaedo, a long step is made in the direction of pure idealism. The ordinary virtue, which in the Protagoras and Meno was questioned but not condemned, is here rejected as unreal, and the task proposed to the philosopher is less to understand the world than to escape from it. The universal has assumed the form of the ideal, which is supposed, as elsewhere in Plato, to include mathematical as well as moral notions. The only function of perception is to awaken in us some reminiscence of this ideal. By following the clue thus given, and by searching for clearer images of truth in the world of mind, we may hope to be emancipated from sensation, and to lay hold upon the sole object of pure reason.
It is obvious that when he wrote the Phaedo Plato conceived of universals as objective entities rather than as forms of thought. The notion of “ideal colours” (though occurring in the myth) is an indication of his ontological mood. Yet even here the εἴδη are not consistently hypostatized. The notion of “what is best” has a distinctly practical side, and the “knowledge through reminiscence” is in one aspect a process of reflection on experience, turning on the laws of association. It is also said that objects “partake” of the ideas, and some concrete natures are regarded as embodiments or vehicles of some of them. Still if regarded as a whole, notwithstanding the scientific attitude of Socrates, the Phaedo is rather a meditation than an inquiry — a study of the soul as self-existent, and of the mind and truth as coeternal.
IV. Symposium, Phaedrus, Cratylus. — Socrates is again imagined as in the fullness of life. But the real Socrates is becoming more and more inextricably blended with Platonic thought and fancy. In the Apology there is a distinct echo of the voice of Socrates; the Phaedo gives many personal traits of him; but the dialogues which are now to follow are replete with original invention, based in part, no doubt, on personal recollections.
The Symposium admits both of comparison and of contrast with the Phaedo. Both dialogues are mystical, both are, spiritual,Symposium. but the spirituality in either is of a different order. That is here immanent which was there transcendent; the beautiful takes the place of the good. The world is not now to be annihilated, but rather transfigured, until particular objects are lost in universal light. Instead of flying from the region of growth and decay, the mind, through intercourse with beauty, is now the active cause of production. Yet the life of contemplation is still the highest life, and philosophy the truest μουσική.
The leading conception of the Symposium has been anticipated in the Lysis, where it was said that “the indifferent loves the good, because of the presence of evil.”
The banqueters (including Socrates), who are met to celebrate the tragic victory of Agathon, happen not to be disposed for hard drinking. They send away the flute-girl and entertain each other with the praise of Love. Phaedrus tells how Love inspires to honourable deeds, and how Alcestis and Achilles died for Love. Pausanias rhetorically distinguishes the earthly from the heavenly Love. The physician Eryximachus, admitting the distinction, yet holds that Love pervades all nature, and that art consists in following the higher Love in each particular sphere. So Empedocles had spoken of Love as overcoming previous discord. For opposites cannot, as Heraclitus fancied, coexist. Aristophanes, in a comic myth, describes the origin of Love as an imperfect creature's longing for completion. The original double human beings were growing impious, and Zeus split them in twain, ever since which act the bereaved halves wander in search of one another. Agathon speaks, or rather sings, of Love and his works. He is the youngest, not the eldest of gods, living and moving delicately wherever bloom is and in the hearts of men — the author of all virtue and of all good works, obeyed by gods, fair and causing all things fair, making men to be of one mind at feasts — pilot, defender, saviour, in whose footsteps all should follow, chanting strains of love.
Socrates will not attempt to rival the poet, and begins by stipulating that he may tell the truth. He accepts the distinction between Love and his works, but points out that, since desire implies want, and the desire of Love is toward beauty, Love, as wanting beauty, is not beautiful. So much being established in the Socratic manner, he proceeds to unfold the mystery once revealed to him by Diotima, the Mantinean wise woman. Love is neither beautiful nor ugly, neither wise nor foolish, neither god nor mortal. Between gods and mortals is the world of mediating spirits (τὸ δαιμόνιον). And Love is a great spirit, child of Resource (the son of Prudence) and Poverty the beggar maid, who conceived him at the birthday feast of Aphrodite. He is far from living “delicately,” but is ragged and shoeless, always in difficulties, yet always brimming with invention, a mighty hunter after wisdom and all things fair; sometimes “all full with feasting” on them, the next moment “clean starved” for lack; never absolutely knowing nor quite ignorant. That is to say, he is a “philosopher.” For knowledge is the most beautiful thing, and love is of the beautiful.
But what does love desire of the beautiful? The possession is enough. But there is one kind of love — called “being in love” — which desires beauty for a peculiar end. The lover is seeking, not his “other half,” but possession of the beautiful and birth in beauty. For there is a season of puberty both in body and mind, when human nature longs to create, and it cannot, save in presence of beauty. This yearning is the earnest of immortality. Even in the bird's devotion to its mate and to its young there is a craving after continued being. In individual lives there is a flux, not only of the body, but in the mind. Nay the sciences themselves also come and go (here the contrast to the Phaedo is at its height). But in mortal things the shadow of continuity is succession.
The love of fame is a somewhat brighter image of immortality than the love of offspring. Creative souls would bring into being not children of their body, but good deeds. And such a one is readiest to fall in love with a fair mind in a fair body, and then is filled with enthusiasm and begets noble thoughts. Homer, Hesiod, Lycurgus, Solon, were such genial minds. But they stopped at the threshold (cf. Prot., Meno), and saw not the higher mysteries, which are reserved for those who rise from noble actions, institutions, laws, to universal beauty. The true order is to advance from one to all fair forms, then to fair practices, fair thoughts, and lastly to the single thought of absolute beauty. In that communion only, beholding beauty with the eye of the mind, one shall bring forth realities and become the friend of God and be immortal, if mortal man may.
Alcibiades here breaks in and is vociferously welcomed. He is crowning Agathon, when, on perceiving Socrates, he declares that he will crown him too. Then he announces himself king of the feast, and insists upon hard drinking (though this will make no difference to Socrates). Eryximachus demands from the newcomer a speech in praise of love. But Alcibiades will praise no one else when Socrates is near. And with the freedom of one who is deep in wine he proceeds with his strange encomium of “this Marsyas.” “In face and outward bearing he is like a Satyr or Silenus, and by his voice he charms more powerfully than they do by their pipings. The eloquence of Pericles has no effect in comparison with his. His words alone move Alcibiades to shame, and fascinate him until he stops his ears and runs from him.” — “I often wish him dead. Yet that would break my heart. He brings me to my wit's end.” — “And, as carved Sileni are made to encase images of gods, so this Silenus-mask entreasures things divine. He affects ignorance and susceptibility to beauty. Thus he mocks mankind. But he cares nothing for outward shows, and his temperance (σωφροσύνη) is wonderful.” To prove this Alcibiades reveals his own heart-secret. (He is not ashamed to speak it amongst others who have felt the pang which Socrates inflicts). And he makes it abundantly manifest that in their widely rumoured intercourse (cf. Protag. init.) Socrates had never cared for anything but what was best for his younger friend. Alcibiades then relates as an eyewitness the endurance shown by Socrates at Potidaea, his strange persistence in solitary meditation — standing absorbed in thought for a day and a night together — and his intrepid conduct in the retreat from Delium (cf. Laches). “The talk of Socrates is of pack-asses and cobblers, and he is ever saying the same things in the same words; but one who lifts the mask and looks within will find that no other words have meaning.” Alcibiades ends by warning his companions against the wiles of Socrates.
Some raillery follows, and they are invaded by another band of revellers, who compel them to drink still more deeply. The soberly inclined (led by Eryximachus) slink off, and Aristodemus, the reporter of the scene, only remembers further that when he awoke at cock-crow Socrates was still conversing with Agathon and Aristophanes, and showing them that tragedy and comedy were essentially one. He talked them both asleep, and at daybreak went about his usual business.
The philosopher of the Symposium is in the world and yet not of it, apparently yielding but really overcoming. In the Phaedo the soul was exhorted to “live upon her servant's loss,” as in Shakespeare's most religious sonnet; this dialogue tells of a “soul within sense” in the spirit of some more recent poetry. By force of imagination rather than of reason, the reconciliation of becoming (γένεσις) with being (οὐσία), of the temporal with the eternal, is anticipated. But through the bright haze of fancy and behind the mask of irony, Socrates still appears the same strong, pure, upright and beneficent human being as in the Apology, Crito and Phaedo.
The impassioned contemplation of the beautiful is again imagined as the beginning of philosophy. But the “limitless ocean of beauty” Phaedrus. is replaced by a world of supramundane forms, beheld by unembodied souls, and remembered here on earth through enthusiasm, proceeding by dialectic from multiform impressions to one rational conception, and distinguishing the “lines and veins” of truth. The Phaedrus records Plato's highest “hour of insight,” when he willed the various tasks hereafter to be fulfilled. In it he soars to a pitch of contemplation from whence he takes a comprehensive and keen-eyed survey of the country to be explored, marking off the blind alleys and paths that lead astray, laying down the main roads and chief branches, and taking note of the erroneous wanderings of others. Reversing the vulgar adage, he flies that he may walk.
The transcendent aspiration of the Phaedo and the mystic glow of the Symposium are here combined with the notion of a scientific process. No longer asking, as in the Protagoras, Is virtue one or many? Plato rises to the conception of a scientific one and many, to be contemplated through dialectic — no barren abstraction, but a method of classification according to nature. This method is to be applied especially to psychology, not merely with a speculative, but also with a practical aim. For the “birth in beauty” of the Symposium is here developed into an art of education, of which the true rhetoric is but the means, and true statesmanship an accidental outcome.
Like all imaginative critics, Plato falls to some extent under the influence of that which he criticizes. The art of rhetoric which he so often travestied had a lasting effect upon his style. Readers of his latest works are often reminded of the mock grandiloquence of the Phaedrus. But in this dialogue the poetical side of his genius is at the height. Not only can he express or imitate anything, and produce any effect at will, but he is standing behind his creation and disposing it with the most perfect mastery, preserving unity amidst profuse variety, and giving harmony to a wildness bordering on the grotesque.
The person of Socrates is here deliberately modified. He no longer (as in the Symposium) teaches positive wisdom under the pretence of repeating what he has heard, but is himself caught by an exceptional inspiration, which is accounted for by the unusual circumstance of his finding himself in the country and alone with Phaedrus. He has been hitherto a stranger to the woods and fields, which would tempt him away from studying himself through intercourse with men. But by the promise of discourse — especially of talk with Phaedrus — he may be drawn anywhither.
Phaedrus has been charmed by a discourse of Lysias, which after some coy excuses he consents to read.
It is a frigid erotic diatribe, in which one not in love pleads for preference over the lover. Socrates hints at criticism, and is challenged to produce something better on the same theme.
1. Distinguishing desire from true opinion, he defines love as desire prevailing against truth, and then expatiates on the harmful tendencies of love as so defined. But he becomes alarmed at his own unwonted eloquence, and is about to remove, when the “divine token” warns him that he must first recite a “palinode” in praise of love. For no divine power can be the cause of evil.
2. Love is madness; but there is a noble madness, as is shown by soothsayers (called μάντεις from μαίνομαι). And of the higher madness there are four kinds.
To explain this it is necessary to understand psychology. The soul is self-existent and self-moving, and therefore eternal. And her form is like a pair of winged steeds with their charioteer. In divine souls both steeds are good, but in human souls one of them is bad. Now before entering the body the soul lost her wings, which in her unembodied state were nourished by beauty, wisdom, goodness, and all that is divine. For at the festival of souls, in which they visit the heaven that is above the heavens, the unruly steed caused the charioteer to see imperfectly. So the soul cast her feathers and fell down and passed into the human form. And, according to the comparative clearness or dimness of that first vision, her earthly lot is varied from that of a philosopher or artist down through nine grades (including woman) to that of a tyrant. On her conduct in this state of probation depends her condition when again born into the world. And only in ten thousand years can she return to her pristine state, except through a life of philosophy (cf. Phaedo) or of pure and noble love (cf. Symposium).
The mind of the philosopher alone has wings. He is ever being initiated into perfect mysteries, and his soul alone becomes complete. But the vulgar deem him mad and rebuke him; they do not see that he is inspired.
This divine madness (the fourth kind of those above mentioned) is kindled through the renewed vision of beauty. For wisdom is not seen; her loveliness would have been transporting if she had a visible form. The struggle of the higher passion with the lower is then described with extraordinary vividness, under the image of the two steeds. When the higher impulse triumphs the issue is a philosophic friendship, at once passionate and absolutely pure.
3. From his “palinode” Socrates returns to Lysias, who is advised to leave speech-writing for philosophy.
a. Phaedrus remarks that the speech-writer is despised by the politician. Socrates replies that speech-writing and politics are one concern. The real difference is between those who base their teaching on philosophy and those who are content with rules of art. For example, if the first speech of Socrates is compared with that of Lysias, the one is found to distinguish and define, the other not; the one observes order in discourse, the other “begins where he should end,” and his utterance is like a disordered chain. A speech should be an organic whole, a “creature having hands and feet.” So in the “palinode” there was a classification of the kinds of madness, which led the way to “a possibly true though partly erring myth.” This approximation to truth in the midst of much that was playful was due to the observance of two principles, generalization and division (συναγωγή, διαίρεσις). Whoever sees the one and many in nature, him Socrates follows and walks in his footsteps, as if he were a god. In comparison of dialectic, as thus conceived, the frigid rules of Lysias, Thrasymachus, Theodorus, Evenus, Tisias, Gorgias, Polus and Protagoras are futile and absurd.
b. Another condition of teaching (or true rhetoric) is the science of mind. Whether the soul be one or many, complex or multiform, and if multiform what are its parts and kinds, are questions which the teacher must have already solved. And he must likewise have classified all arguments and know them in their various applicability to divers souls. An art of speaking that should fulfil this condition is non-existent. Yet how can even verisimilitude be attained without knowledge of truth?
c. The art of writing is kindred to the art of speech. But Socrates maintains that oral teaching through the living contact of mind with mind has many advantages over written composition, which is, comparatively speaking, a dead thing. Men may write for amusement or to record the intercourse that has been. But the serious occupation of the true thinker and teacher is the communication of truth through vital converse with others like-minded — the creation of “thoughts that breathe” in spirits conscious of their value.
In conclusion, a friendly hint is given to Isocrates that he may do better than Lysias if he will but turn his attention to philosophy.
The Phaedrus anticipates much that Plato afterwards slowly elaborated, and retains some things which he at last eliminated. (1) The presence of movement or impulse in the highest region is an aspect of truth which reappears in the Sophistes and other later dialogues. It has been thought strange that it should be found so early as in the Phaedrus. But does not this remark imply an unwarrantable assumption, viz. that Plato's idealism took its departure from the being of Parmenides? Is it not rather the fact that his own theory was formulated before the Megarian ascendancy led him to examine the Eleatic doctrine, and that it was by a tendency from the first inherent in Platonism that that doctrine was modified in his final teaching? (2) The outlines of method which are thrown out at white heat in the Phaedrus are a preparation for the more sober treatment of the ideas in the dialectical dialogues. In these, however, the conception of classification is somewhat altered through contact with Eleaticism. (3) The Phaedrus aims, not merely at realizing universals, but at grasping them in and through particulars. This is an ideal of knowledge which was “lost as soon as seen,” but one which in some of his latest dialogues, such as the Politicus and Philebus, Plato again endeavoured to work out. (4) The Phaedrus contains the elements of that true psychology into which the ontological theory of the ideas is gradually transmuted in Plato's more advanced writings, when the difficulties of his ideal doctrine in its cruder forms have been clearly felt and understood. (5) Plato here appears as a professor of education preferring oral intercourse to authorship. In this paradox he at once exalts the work of Socrates and avows his own vocation as a teacher. The passage throws an interesting light upon the form of dialogue in which his works are cast. But it is not to be supposed that he remained long unconscious of the influence he was destined to wield by writing. In executing a great task like the Republic, he practically diverged from the untenable view asserted here; and in the Laws he recommends his longest and least dramatic work as a suitable basis for the education of the future. (6) It must always appear strange, even to those most familiar with the conditions of Hellenic life, that in portraying the idealizing power of passionate love Plato should have taken his departure from unnatural feeling.
On this subject he has sung his own “palinode” in the Laws, which he intended as his final legacy to mankind. Not that he ceased to exalt genius and originality above mere talent, or to demand for philosophy the service of the heart as well as the head nor yet that friendship was less valued by him in later years. All this remained unchanged. And in the Republic the passion of love is still distantly referred to as the symbol of ideal aspiration. But a time came when he had learned to frown on the aberration of feeling which in the Symposium and Phaedrus he appears to regard as the legitimate stimulus of intellectual enthusiasm. And already in the Theaetetus not love but wonder is described as the only beginning of philosophy.
While calling attention to this change of sentiment, it is right to add that Platonic love in the “erotic” dialogues of Plato is very different from what has often been so named, and that nothing even in the noble passage of the Laws above referred to casts the slightest shadow of blame on the Socrates of the Symposium. Such changes are, amongst other things, a ground for caution in comparing the two steeds of the Phaedrus with the spirit (θυμός) and desire (ἐπιθυμία) of the Republic and Timaeus. The Phaedrus, in common with these dialogues, asserts the existence of higher and lower impulses in human nature, but there is no sufficient ground for supposing that when Plato wrote the Phaedrus he would have defined them precisely as they are defined in the Republic.
The Cratylus is full of curious interest as marking the highest point reached by the “science of language” in antiquity; but, as this dialogueCratylus. “hardly derives any light from Plato's other writings,” so neither does it reflect much light on them. It deals slightly with the contrast between Heracliteanism and Eleaticism, the importance of dialectic, the difficulty about the existence of falsehood, and ends with a brief allusion to the doctrine of ideas — but these topics are all more fully discussed elsewhere.
Three persons maintain different views respecting the nature and origin of language.
Hermogenes affirms that language is conventional, Cratylus (the Heraclitean) that it is natural. Socrates, mediating between these sophistical extremes, declares that language, like other institutions, is rational, and therefore (1) is based on nature, but (2) modified by convention.
In his dialectical treatment of the subject, Socrates displays a tissue of wild etymologies in reliance on the “inspiration” of Euthyphro. Presently a distinction appears between primary and secondary words. Many primary words convey the notion of movement and change. It follows that the legislator or word-maker held Heraclitean views. Socrates thus far presses on Hermogenes the view of Cratylus. Then turning to Cratylus he asks if there are no false names. “False language,” Cratylus argues, “is impossible.” Socrates shows that a true image may be inadequate, so that we have a right to criticize the work of the word-maker. And the facts indicate an element of meaningless convention. Nor was the original word-maker consistently Heraclitean. For some important words point not to motion but to rest.
But the question returns — Are we sure that the theory of nature which the word-maker held was true? This difficulty cannot be touched by verbal arguments. In seeking to resolve it we must consider, not words, but things. If there is a true beauty and a true good, which are immutable, and if these are accessible to knowledge, that world of truth can have nothing to do with flux and change.
V. Gorgias, Republic. — In the Symposium and Phaedrus Plato largely redeems the promise implied in the Phaedo, where Socrates tells his friends to look among themselves for a charmer who may soothe away the fear of death. But he was pledged also to a sterner duty by the warning of Socrates to the Athenians, in the Apology, that after he was gone there would arise others for their reproof more harsh than he had been. To this graver task, which he had but partially fulfilled with the light satire upon Lysias or the gentle message to Isocrates, the philosopher now directs his powers, by holding up the mirror of what ought to be against what is, the principles of truth and right against the practice of men. For the good has more than one aspect. The beautiful or noble when realized in action becomes the just. And to the question, What is just? are closely allied those other questions of Socrates — What is a state? What is it to be a statesman?
In the Gorgias Plato asserts the absolute supremacy of justice through the dramatic portraiture of Socrates in his opposition to the world; in the Republic he strives at greater length to define the nature of justice through the imaginary creation of an ideal community.
In the Gorgias the Platonic Socrates appears in direct antagonism with the Athenian world. The shadow of his fate is impending. Chaerephon (who is still alive)Gorgias. understands him, but to the other interlocutors, Gorgias, Polus, Callicles, he appears perversely paradoxical. Yet he effectively dominates them all. And to the reader of the dialogue this image of “Socrates contra mundum” is hardly less impressive than that other image of Socrates confronting death.
1. Gorgias asserts that rhetoric is an art concerned with justice; and that persuasion is the secret of power.
a. Socrates, after suggesting some ironical doubts, declares his opinion that rhetoric is no art, but a knack of pleasing, or in other words “the counterfeit of a subsection of statesmanship." This oracular definition rouses the interest of Gorgias, and Socrates proceeds with the following “generalization and division”:—
Flattery influences men through pleasure without knowledge. And the rhetor is a kind of confectioner, who can with difficulty be distinguished from the sophist.
b. Rhetoric, then, is not an art. And persuasion is not the secret of power. Here Socrates maintains against Polus the three paradoxes:—
The tyrant does what he chooses but not what he wishes;
It is less evil to suffer wrong than to do wrong;
It is better for the wrongdoer to be punished than to escape punishment.
The only use of rhetoric, therefore, is for self-accusation, and (if it is ever permissible to do harm) to prevent the punishment of one's enemy.
2. Callicles here loses patience and breaks in. He propounds his theory, which is based on the opposition of nature and custom.
“There is no natural right but the right of the stronger. And natural nobility is to have strong passions and power to gratify them. The lawful
|is a word that cowards use,|
|Devised at first to keep the strong in awe.”|
Socrates entangles him in an argument in which it is proved that pleasure is different from good, and that there are good and bad pleasures.
Now the question is whether the life of philosophy, or the life which Callicles defends, is conducive to good. And it has been shown that rhetoric is one of a class of pursuits which minister to pleasure without discriminating what is good.
Callicles again becomes impatient. Did not Themistocles, Cimon, Pericles labour for their country's good? Socrates then renews his demonstration, proving that if the just man is wronged the evil lies with the wrongdoer, not with him, and that it is worst for the wrongdoer if he escape. And for avoidance of this greatest evil not rhetoric avails anything, nor any of the arts which save life (seeing that life may be used well or ill), nor even such an art of politics as Themistocles, Cimon, or Pericles knew, but another science of politics which Socrates alone of the Athenians practises. The pursuit of it may well endanger him; but his strength lies in having done no wrong. For in the world to come he can present his soul faultless before her judge. Not the show of justice but the reality will avail him there.
This truth is enforced by an impressive myth. And Callicles is invited to leave the life which relies on rhetoric and to follow Socrates in practising the life of philosophic virtue.
The value of justice has been shown. But what is justice? Is the life upheld by Socrates sufficiently definite for practical guidance?Republic. The views of Callicles have been overborne; but have they been thoroughly examined? Socrates claims to be the only politician. But how can that deserve the name of policy which results in doing nothing? These and cognate questions may well have haunted Plato when he planned the Republic, the greatest of his works. For that which lay deepest in him was not mere speculative interest or poetic fervour, but the practical enthusiasm of a reformer. The example of Socrates had fired him with an ideal of wisdom, courage, temperance and righteousness, which under various guises, both abstract and concrete, has appeared and reappeared in the preceding dialogues. But the more vividly he conceived of this ideal life, the more keenly he felt its isolation in the present world — that of the restored Athenian democracy. For to a Greek mind above all others life was nothing without the social environment, and justice, of all virtues, could least be realized apart from a community. Hence it became necessary to imagine a form of society in which the ideal man might find himself at home, a state to which the philosopher might stand in harmonious relationship, no longer as an alien sojourner, but as a native citizen, not standing aloof in lonely contemplation, but acting with the full consent of other men and ruling in the right of wisdom. Plato did not regard his own republic as a barren dream. He believed that sooner or later in the course of time a state essentially resembling his ideal commonwealth would come into being. Still more firmly was he convinced that until then mankind would not attain their highest possible development. To ignore this real aspect of his most serious work is to lose much of the author's meaning. Yet it is hardly less erroneous to interpret a great imaginative creation au pied de la lettre, as if examining a piece of actual legislation. Even in his Laws, a far more prosaic writing, Plato himself repeatedly protests against such criticism. In his most aspiring flights he is well aware of the difference between the imaginary and actual embodiment of an ideal, although as a literary artist he gives to his creations, whether in anticipation or retrospect, an air of sober reality and matter-of-fact. He is more in earnest about principles than about details, and if questioned would probably be found more confident with regard to moral than to political truth. He may have been wholly unconscious of the inconsistencies of his scheme, but it would not have greatly disconcerted him to have discovered them, or to have been told that this or that arrangement would not “work.” He would have trusted the correction of his own rough draft to the philosopher-kings of the future.
The Republic falls naturally into five portions. (1) Bk. i. is preliminary, raising the main question about justice. (2) Bks. ii., iii., iv. contain the outlines of the perfect state, including the education of the “guardians,” and leading up to the definition of justice (a) in the state, and (b) in the individual. (3) Bks. v., vi., vii. (which to some critics present the appearance of an afterthought or excrescence on the original design) contain the cardinal provisions (1) of communism (for the guardians only), (2) that philosophers shall be kings, (3) of higher education for the rulers (viz. the philosopher-kings). This third provision occupies bks. vi. and vii. (which have again, as some think, the appearance of an outgrowth from bk. v.). (4) Bks. viii. and ix., resuming the general subject from bk. iv., present the reverse of the medal by showing the declension of the state and individual through four stages, until in the life of tyranny is found the image of ideal injustice, as that of justice was found in the life of the perfect state. (5) Bk. x. forms a concluding chapter, in which several of the foregoing enactments are reviewed, and the work ends, like the Gorgias, with a vision of judgment.
Thus the main outlines of the scheme are contained in bks. ii., iii., iv., viii., ix. And yet bks. v., vi., vii. form the central portion, a sort of inner kernel, and are of the highest significance.
In speculating about the composition of the Republic (as is the fashion of some interpreters) it is important to bear in mind the general character of Plato's writings.
“The conception of unity,” says Jowett, “really applies in very different degrees to different kinds of art — to a statue, for example, far more than to any kind of literary composition, and to some species of literature far more than to others. Nor does the dialogue appear to be a style of composition in which the requirement of unity is most stringent; nor should the idea of unity derived from one sort of art be hastily transferred to another. . . . Plato subjects himself to no rule of this sort. Like every great artist he gives unity of form to the different and apparently distracting topics which he brings together. He works freely, and is not to be supposed to have arranged every part of the dialogue before he begins to write. He fastens or weaves together the frame of his discourse loosely and imperfectly, and which is the warp and which the woof cannot always be determined.”
It should be added, that as Dialectic was still a “world not realized,” and he was continually conscious of using imperfect methods, he was not solicitous to bind himself to any one method, or to watch carefully over the logical coherence of his work. “Sailing with the wind of his argument,” he often tacks and veers, changing his method with his subject-matter, much as a poet might adopt a change of rhythm. Absorbed as he is in each new phase of his subject, all that precedes is cancelled for the time. And much of what is to come is deliberately kept out of view, because ideas of high importance are reserved for the place where their introduction will have most effect. Another cause of apparent inconsequence in Plato is what he himself would call the use of hypothesis. He works less deductively and more from masses of generalized experience than Platonists have been ready to admit. And in the Republic he is as much engaged with the criticism of an actual as with the projection of an ideal condition of society. If we knew more of the working of Attic institutions as he observed them, we should often understand him better.
These general considerations should be weighed against the inequalities which have led some critics to suppose that the “first sketch of the state” in bks. ii.-iv. is much earlier than the more exalted views of bks. v.-vii. If in these later books new conditions for choosing the future rulers are allowed to emerge, if in discussing the higher intellectual virtues the simple psychology of bk. iv. is lost sight of (it reappears in the Timaeus), if the “knowledge of the expedient” at first required falls far short of the conception of knowledge afterwards attained, all this is quite in keeping with Plato's manner elsewhere, and may be sufficiently accounted for by artistic and dialectical reserve. It can hardly be an altogether fortuitous circumstance that the culminating crisis, the third and highest “wave” of difficulty — the declaration that philosophers must be kings and kings philosophers — comes in precisely at the central point of the whole long work.
The great principle of the political supremacy of mind, though thus held back through half the dialogue, really dominates the whole. It may be read between the lines all through, even in the institution of gymnastic and the appraisement of the cardinal virtues. It is a genuine development of Socratic thought. And it is this more than any other single feature which gives the Republic a prophetic significance as “an attempt towards anticipating the work of future generations.”
Other aspects of the great dialogue, the Dorian framework, so inevitable in the reaction from Ionian life, the traces of Pythagorean influence, the estimate of oligarchy and democracy, the characters of the interlocutors in their bearing on the exposition, have been fully treated by recent writers, and for brevity's sake are here passed over.
There are other points, however, which must not be omitted, because they are more intimately related to the general development of Plato's thoughts.
1. The question debated by Proclus has been raised before and since, whether the proper subject of the Republic is justice or the state. The doubt would be more suggestive if put in a somewhat different form: Is Plato more interested in the state or the individual? That he is in earnest about both, and that in his view of them they are inseparable, is an obvious answer. And it is almost a truism to say that political relations were prior to ethical in the mind of a Greek. Yet if in some passages the political analogy reacts on moral notions (as in the definition of temperance), in others the state is spoken of in language borrowed from individual life. And it remains questionable whether the ethics or the politics of the Republic are less complete. On the whole Plato himself seems to be conscious that the ideal derived from the life-work of Socrates could be more readily stamped on individual lives than on communities of men (see especially Rep. vii. 528 A, ix. 592).
2. The analogy of the individual is often used to enforce the requirement of political unity and simplicity (see especially v. 462 C). This is also to be referred, however, to Plato's general tendency to strain after abstractions. He had not yet reached a point of view from which he could look steadily on particulars in the light of universal principles. He recurs often to experience, but is soon carried off again into the abstract region which to him seemed higher and purer. “It has been said that Plato flies as well as walks, but this hardly expresses the whole truth, for he flies and walks at the same time, and is in the air and on firm ground in successive instants” (Jowett). Plato's scheme of communism had been suggested to him partly by Dorian institutions and partly by the Pythagorean rule. But it was further commended by the general consideration that the state is a higher and more abstract unity than the family. The lower obligation must give way to the higher; the universal must overrule the particular bond.
3. Similarly it may be argued that, while the subordination of music to state discipline, and the importance attached to rhythm and harmony in education, had likewise a connexion with Sparta and the Pythagoreans severally, Plato's deliberate attitude towards poetry and art could hardly be other than it is. Philosophy, while still engaged in generalization, could not assign to the imagination its proper function. “Aesthetik” could not enter into her purview. For a moment, in the Symposium, the ancient quarrel of poetry and philosophy had seemed to be melted in a dominant tone, but this was only a fond anticipation. Plato, if man ever did so, had felt the siren charm, but he is now embarked on a more severe endeavour, and, until the supreme unity of truth and good is grasped, vagrant fancy must be subdued and silent.
4. In the early education of the guardians a place is found for the unconscious virtue acquired through habit, which the Protagoras and Meno stumbled over and the Phaedo treated with disdain. In the ideal state, however, this lower excellence is no longer a wild plant, springing of itself through some uncovenanted grace of inspiration, but cultivated through an education which has been purified by philosophy so as to be in harmony with reason. But if Plato were cross-questioned as to the intrinsic value of habits so induced as a preservative for his pupils against temptation, he would have replied, “I do not pretend to have removed all difficulties from their path. Enough of evil still surrounds them to test their moral strength. I have but cleared the well-springs of the noxious weeds that have been fatal to so many, in order that they may have little to unlearn, and be exposed only to such dangers as are inevitable.”
5. It is a singular fact, and worth the attention of those who look for system in Plato, that the definition of justice here so laboriously wrought out, viz. the right division of labour between the three classes in the state and between the three corresponding faculties in the individual soul, is nowhere else repeated or applied, although the tripartite division of the soul recurs in the Timaeus, and the notion of justice is of great importance to the arguments of the Politicus and the Laws.
6. Before leaving the Republic, it is important to mark the stage which has now been reached by Plato's doctrine of ideas. The statements of the Republic on this subject are by no means everywhere consistent.
a. Towards the end of bk. v. philosophers are defined as lovers of the whole, who recognize the unity of justice, goodness, beauty, each in itself, as distinguished from the many just or good or beautiful things. The former are said to be objects of knowledge, the latter of opinion, which is intermediate between knowledge and ignorance. Knowledge is of being, ignorance of the non-existent, opinion of that which is and is not.
b. In bk. vi. there is a more elaborate statement, implying a more advanced point of view. The “contemplation of all time and all existence” is a riper conception than “the love of each thing as a whole.” Ignorance and nonentity have now disappeared, and the scale is graduated from the most evanescent impression of sense to the highest reach of absolute knowledge. And in the highest region there is again a gradation, rising to the form of good, and descending from it to the true forms of all things. In the application of this scheme to the theory of education in bk. vii. there are still further refinements. The psychological analysis becomes more subtle, and more stress is laid on the connexion of ideas.
c. The doctrine reverts to a cruder aspect in bk. x., where we are told of an ideal bed, which is one only and the pattern of all the many actual beds.
d. A yet different phase of idealism presents itself in bk. ix. (sub fin.), in the mention of a “pattern” of the perfect state laid up in heaven which the philosopher is to make his rule of life.
What is said above concerning Plato's mode of composition has some bearing on these inconsistencies of expression. And that bks. vi., vii., as being the most important, were finished last is a not untenable hypothesis. But that Plato, in preparing the way for what he had in contemplation, should content himself with provisional expressions which he had himself outgrown, or that in a casual illustration (as in bk. x.) he should go back to a crude or even childish form of his own theory, is equally conceivable and in accordance with his manner elsewhere. Socrates in the Parmenides confessedly wavers on this very point. And there are “ideas” of the four elements in the Timaeus.
VI. Euthydemus, Parmenides, Theaetetus, Sophist, Statesman, Philebus (the dialectical dialogues). — Even in the most advanced metaphysics of the Republic there is a hyperbolical, transcendental tendency, from which Plato ultimately to some extent worked himself free. But it was not in conversation with “dear Glaucon,” or “between the lines” of an ethico-political writing, that this partial emancipation could be effectually attained. We have now to consider a series of dialogues, probably intended for a narrower circle of readers, in which Plato grapples directly with the central difficulties of his own theory of knowing and being. It is not necessary to assume that all of these are later than the Republic. The position of the Euthydemus and Parmenides in the order of composition is very uncertain. The Theaetetus has points of affinity with the Republic. The Sophist, Politicus and Philebus are in a later style. But, on account of their cognate subject-matter, these six dialogues may be conveniently classed together in a group by themselves. And the right place for such a group is intermediate between the Republic and the Laws.
The unity of the object of definition, the identity of virtue and knowledge, the existence of an absolute good, which would be universally followed if universally known, and of a standard of truth which is implied in the confession of ignorance, were postulates underlying the Socratic process, which in so far made no claim to be a “philosophy without assumptions.” These postulates, when once apprehended, drew Plato on to speculate concerning the nature, the object and the method of knowledge. Now, so far as we have hitherto followed him, his speculation has either been associated with ethical inquiry, or has been projected in a poetical and semi-mythical form. In the Phaedrus however, the vision of ideas was expressly conjoined with an outline of psychology and a foreshadowing of scientific method. And, while the opposition of ideas to phenomena and of knowledge to opinion has been repeatedly assumed, it has also been implied that there is a way between them, and. that the truth can only be approached by man through interrogation of experience. For it is nowhere supposed that the human inquirer is from the first in a position to deduce facts from ideas. Much rather, the light of the ideas is one which fitfully breaks in upon experience as men struggle towards the universal.
But it is not less true that the metaphysical aspirations from which Socrates had seemed to recall men's thoughts had been reawakened in consequence of the impulse which Socrates himself had given. From asking, Is virtue one? Can virtue be taught? Plato passes on to ask, What is unity? What are knowledge and being? From criticizing imperfect modes of teaching virtue, he has begun to speculate about the right and wrong uses of the intellect, and from dramatic portraits of the individual Protagoras or Gorgias goes on to the ideal delineation of the sophist. He has entered upon the “longer way,” and is no longer contented with mere “hypotheses.” With this demand for scientific precision his conception of the ideas themselves is modified, and he strives anew to conceive of them in relation to one another, to the mind, and to the world. As the balance of ethical truth was restored by admitting an unconscious (or inspired) conformity to reason, so now a fresh attempt is made on the intellectual side to bridge the gulf between sense and knowledge.
This endeavour involves, not only an expansion of the method of Socrates, but an examination of the earlier philosophies from which Socrates had turned away. Their influence on Plato has been traceable in the preceding dialogues, though, except in the case of Pythagoreanism (Gorg., Phaed., Rep.) it has been mostly indirect and casual. But in these dialectical dialogues he manifests his serious conviction that the contemporary fallacies which formed the chief hindrance to inquiry were deeply rooted in forms of thought created by earlier thinkers, above all by Heraclitus and Parmenides. To the exclusiveness of their first principles as held by their followers Plato attributed the barrenness
s and impracticable unreality of many discussions, which put shadow-fighting and controversy in the place of real investigation, and led men to think that truth was unattainable. He therefore enters into conversation, as it were, with the great minds of former times, and in the spirit of Socrates compels each of them to yield up his secret, and to acknowledge a supplemental truth. To this effort he may very probably have been stimulated by the dialectical activity of his Socratic friends at Megara, whose logical tastes had drawn them towards Eleaticism. But, unlike them, while strengthening his metaphysical theory, he was also led to give to his political speculations a more practical turn.
The Euthydemus is a treatise “De Sophisticis Elenchis” in the form of a farce, and may serve to introduce the five other dialogues,Euthydemus. as the encounter with Thrasymachus introduces the serious part of the Republic. Under the mask of mockery there is more of concentrated thought, and also more of bitterness, in this dialogue than in the Protagoras or the Gorgias.
A sample of educational dialectic — in which Socrates draws out of young Cleinias the admissions (1) that a philosophy is needed, (2) that the highest philosophy is a science of kingcraft, which remains for the present undefined — is contrasted with a series of ridiculous sophisms, propounded by Dionysodorus and his brother Euthydemus, in which absolute and relative notions, whether affirmative or negative, object and subject, universal and particular, substance and attribute, action and modality, are capriciously confused. Crito, to whom Socrates narrates the scene, is moved to contempt. But Socrates warns him not on this account to despair of philosophy. In conclusion, Isocrates, or some one else, who prematurely mixes up philosophy with practical politics, is cautioned against spoiling two good things.
Such puzzles as — How can I learn either what I know or what I do not know? How can things become what they are not? How is falsehood or denial possible? — although treated jocularly here, will be found returning afterwards to “trouble the mind's eye.”
Plato appears in the same act to have become aware of his affinity with Parmenides, and to have been led to reconsider the foundations of his own doctrine.Parmenides. The one being of Parmenides was a more abstract notion than justice, beauty or the good. And the Zenonian method had more pretension to exactness than the Socratic. But it remained barren, because contented to repeat its own first essays in the destructive analysis of experience, without rising to the examination of its own first principles. For this higher criticism, of which he himself also stood in need, Plato looks up from the disciples to the master Parmenides. The appeal to him is put into the mouth of Socrates, as a very young man, who has framed for himself a theory of ideas, and would gladly see the Zenonian process applied to the notions of sameness, difference, likeness, unlikeness, unity and being.
Parmenides, whom Plato treats with tender reverence not unmixed with irony, proposes to the youth a series of questions which reveal the crudity of the doctrine of εἴδη. (z) Are there ideas of trivial things? (2) How do things “partake” of them? (3) Must not idealism proceed in infinitum? (4) If ideas are thoughts, do they and their participants think? (5) If they are patterns, and things resemble them, must there not be a pattern of the resemblance, and so on in infinitum? (6) If absolute, are they thinkable by man?
These difficulties are real, and yet to deny ideas is to destroy philosophy. (As the paradoxical doubts in the Protagoras do not shake the faith of Socrates in the existence of good, so neither does Plato here intend for a moment to derogate from the belief in the existence of the One and the True.)
Parmenides advises Socrates to arm himself for the further pursuit of truth (1) by the higher application and (2) by the extension or completion of the Zenonian method. (1) The method is to be applied to abstractions. (2) It is not enough to show the inferences which may be drawn from the admission of an hypothesis, but account must also be taken of the inferences which follow from its rejection.
Parmenides exemplifies his suggestion by examining his own first principle in conversation with a youth who, while a contemporary of Socrates, is a namesake of Plato's pupil Aristotle. Not content with the affirmative and negative hypotheses, he pursues either along two lines, according as either term of the proposition is emphasized, and this not only as regards the hypothesis of unity, but also as applied to the alternative hypothesis of plurality. The result, as in the Protagoras, is purely destructive, and the dialogue ends abruptly without a word of reply from Socrates.
The second part of the Parmenides may be regarded as an experiment in which Plato “assays to go” in Eleatic armour. Yet the strange web is “shot” with colours of original thought. The mode of conceiving time and becoming, and the vision of nothingness towards the end, may be noted as especially Platonic. These passages may be regarded in the same light as the wise words of Protagoras or the sober truths which occur amidst the wild fancies of the Cratylus. They should not mislead the interpreter into a search for recondite meanings.
The Zenonian method has been carried out to the utmost in application to the highest subject, and has led the mind into a maze of contradiction.Theaetetus. It remains to call in question the method itself, and the notion of absolute identity and difference on which it hinges, and so to lay anew the foundation-stone of thought. Before this can be attempted, however, another set of difficulties have to be met, and another set of philosophers examined. For the current scepticism had undermined the conception of knowledge as well as that of being, and the fame of Heraclitus was hardly second to that of Parmenides. Protagoras appeared in a former dialogue as the champion of ordinary morality; he is now made the exponent of ordinary thinking. His saying “Man the measure” is shown to rest on the unstable basis of the Heraclitean flux. By an elaborate criticism of both theories knowledge is at last separated from the relativity of sense; but the subsequent attempt to distinguish on abstract grounds between true and false opinion, and to define knowledge as true opinion with a reason (cf. Meno), proves ineffectual. Plato still shows traces of Megarian influence. But the disjunctive method of the Parmenides is not resumed. The indirect proofs are so arranged as to exhibit the skill of Socrates in “bringing to the birth” the germs of thought in a richly endowed and “pregnant” young mind. Theaetetus is the embodiment of the philosophic nature described in Rep. bk. vi., and has already been trained by Theodorus of Cyrene in geometry and the other preparatory sciences of Rep. bk. vii. It is in conversation with Theodorus that Socrates impressively contrasts the lives of the lawyer and the philosopher. The Theaetetus marks a great advance in clearness of metaphysical and psychological expression. See for example the passage (184-186) in which the independent function of the mind is asserted, and ideas are shown to be the truth of experience. There is also a distinct approach towards a critical and historical method in philosophy, while the perfection of style continues unimpaired, and the person of Socrates is as vividly represented as in any dialogue.
Notwithstanding the persistence of an indirect and negative method, the spirit of this dialogue also is the reverse of sceptical. “Socrates must assume the reality of knowledge or deny himself” (197 A). Perhaps in no metaphysical writing is the balance more firmly held between experience, imagination and reflection. Plato would seem to have made a compact with himself to abstain rigidly from snatching at the golden fruit that has so often eluded his grasp, and to content himself with laboriously “cutting steps” towards the summit that was still unsealed.
With Plato, as with other inventive writers, a time seems to have arrived when he desired to connect successive works in a series.Sophist. Thus in planning the Sophistes he linked it to the Theaetetus (which had been written without any such intention), and projected a whole tetralogy of dialectical dialogues, Theaetetus, Sophistes, Politicus, Philosophus, of which the last piece seems never to have been written.
After an interval, of which our only measure is a change of style, the philosopher returns to the great central question of knowledge and being. The obstacle in his path, on which he has often played with light satire, dramatic portraiture and indirect allusion, is now to be made the object of a seriously planned attack. He has made his approaches, and the enemy's fortress is to be forthwith sapped and overthrown. This hostile position is not merely the “Sophistik” which, as some tell us, is an invention of the Germans, and as Plato himself declares is only the reflection or embodiment of the average mind, but the fallacy of fallacies, the prime falsehood (πρῶτον ψεῦδος) of all contemporary thought. This is nothing else than the crude absoluteness of affirmation and negation which was ridiculed in the Euthydemus, and has been elsewhere mentioned as the first principle of the art of controversy. For dramatic purposes this general error is personified. And the word “sophist,” which had somehow become the bête noire of the Platonic school, thus for the first time fixedly acquires the significance which has since clung to the name. That Plato himself would not adhere pedantically to the connotation here implied is shown by the admission, at the opening of the dialogue, that amongst other disguises under which the philosopher walks the earth the sophist is one.
In the Sophistes, as in the Parmenides, a new method is introduced, and again by an Eleatic teacher. This method is repeated with improvements in the Politicus, and once more referred to in the Philebus. It bears a strong resemblance to the “synagogē” and “diaeresis” of the Phaedrus, but is applied by the “friend from Elea” with a degree of pedantry which Socrates nowhere betrays. And the two methods, although kindred, have probably come through different channels — the classifications of the Phaedrus being Plato's own generalization of the Socratic process, while the dichotomies of the Sophistes and Politicus are a caricature of Socrates cast in the Megarian mould. Plato seems to have regarded this method as an implement which might be used with advantage only when the cardinal principles on which it turned had been fully criticized.
1. After various attempts to “catch the sophist,” he is defined as the maker of an unreal likeness of truth. Here the difficulty begins — for the definition implies the existence of the unreal, i.e. of not-being. In our extremity it is necessary to “lay hands on our father Parmenides.”
2. The contradictions attendant on the notion of “being,” whether as held by Parmenides or his opponents or by the “less exact” thinkers who came after them, are then examined, and in an extremely subtle and suggestive passage (246-249) an attempt is made to mediate between idealism and materialism. The result is that while consummate being is exempt from change it cannot be devoid of life and motion. “Like children, ‘Give us both,’ say we.”
3. This leads up to the main question: (a) are different notions incommunicable, or (b) are all ideas indiscriminately communicable, or (c) is there communion of some kinds and not of others? The last view is alone tenable, and is confirmed by experience. And of the true combination and separation of kinds the philosopher is judge.
4. Then it is asked (in order to “bind the sophist”) whether being is predicable of not-being.
Five chief kinds (or categories) are now examined, viz. being, rest, motion, sameness, difference. Rest and motion are mutually incommunicable, but difference is no less universal than being itself. For everything is “other” than the rest, i.e. is not. Thus positive and negative not only coexist but are coextensive.
5. And, in spite of Parmenides, we have discovered the existence, and also the nature, of not-being. It follows that the mere pursuit of contradictions is childish and useless and wholly incompatible with a philosophic spirit.
Negation, falsity, contradiction, are three notions which Plato from his height of abstraction does not hold apart. This position is the converse of the Spinozistic saying, “Omnis determinatio est negatio.” According to him, every negative implies an affirmative. And his main point is that true negation is correlative to true affirmation, much as he has said in the Phaedrus that the dialectician separates kinds according to the “lines and veins of nature.” The Sophistes is a standing protest against the error of marring the finely-graduated lineaments of truth, and so destroying the vitality of thought.
The idealists whom the Eleatic stranger treats so gently have been identified with the Megarians. But may not Plato be reflecting on a Megarian influence operating within the Academy?
Here, as partly already in the Parmenides and Theaetetus, the ideas assume the nature of categories, and being is the sum of positive attributes, while negation, as the shadow of affirmation, is likewise finally comprehended in the totality of being.
The remark made incidentally, but with intense emphasis, that the universe lives and moves “according to God,” is an indication of the religious tone which reappears increasingly in the Politicus, Philebus, Timaeus and Laws.
In passing on to consider the statesman, true and false, the Eleatic stranger does not forget the lesson which has just been learned. While continuing his methodPoliticus (Statesman). of dichotomies, he is careful to look on both sides of each alternative, and he no longer insists on dividing between this and not-this when another mode of classification is more natural. A rule not hitherto applied is now brought forward, the rule of proportion or right measure (τὸ μέτριον), as distinguished from arbitrary limitations. Nor is formal logical treatment any longer felt to be adequate to the subject in hand, but an elaborate myth is introduced. On the ethico-political side also a change has come over Plato. As he has stripped his ideas of transcendental imagery, so in reconsidering his philosopher-king he turns away from the smiling optimism of the Republic and looks for a scientific statesmanship that shall lay a strong grasp upon the actual world. He also feels more bitterly towards the demagogues and other rulers of Hellas. The author of the Politicus must have had some great quarrel with mankind. But so far as they will receive it he is still intent on doing them good.
1. The king is first defined as a herdsman of men, who as “slow bipeds” are distinguished from the pig and the ape. But the king is not all in all to his charges, as the herdsman is. The above definition confuses human with divine rule.
2. Now the universe is like a top, which God first winds in one direction and then leaves to spin the other way. In the former or divine cycle all was spontaneous, and mankind who had all things in common, were under the immediate care of gods. They were happy, if they used their leisure in interrogating nature. But in this reign of Zeus it is far otherwise. Men have to order their own ways and try to imitate in some far-off manner the all-but forgotten divine rule.
3. Therefore in our-present definition the term “superintendent” must be substituted for “herdsman.”
What special kind of superintendence is true statesmanship?
4. By way of an example, the art of weaving is defined. The example shows that kingcraft has first to be separated from other kindred arts, both causal and co-operative. Nine categories are adduced which exhaust social functions. Eight are eliminated, and the ninth, the class of ministers, remains. Of these (a) slaves, (b) hirelings, (c) traders, (d) officials, (e) priests are again parted off, although the last are only with difficulty separated from the king, when (f) a strange medley of monstrous creatures come into view. Some are fierce like lions, some crafty like the fox, and some have mixed natures like centaurs and satyrs. These are the actual rulers of mankind, more sophistical and juggling than the sophist himself. And they too must be separated from the true king.
5. The familiar tripartite distinction of monarchy, oligarchy, democracy, is doubled by introducing into each the distinction involved in the presence or absence of wealth, and in the observance or non-observance of law. But no one of the six carries in itself a scientific principle.
The true government is the rule, not of many, but of one or of a few. “And they may govern, whether poor or rich, by free-will or compulsion, and either with or without law, so long as they govern scientifically.”
6. The respondent, a youthful namesake of Socrates, is shocked at the remark that the true ruler may govern without law.
This leads to a discussion of the nature of law, which is compared to the prescription left by a physician. If present, he might dispense with his own rule. So the presence of a competent ruler is better than the sovereignty of law, which makes no allowance for nature or circumstance, but tyrannically forces its own way. Imagine medicine, navigation, &c., similarly conducted by time-honoured prescription, with penalties for innovation; — what would become of civilization? Yet if law is disregarded by rulers who are unscientific and warped by self-interest, this leads to far worse evils. For the laws are based on some experience and wisdom. Hence, in the continued absence of the true ruler, the best course, though only second best, is the strict observance of law. And he who so rules in humble imitation of the scientific governor may be truly called a king, although if the divine lawgiver were to appear his living will would supersede the law.
7. As it is, though cities survive many evils, yet many are shipwrecked because of the ignorance of those at the helm. The order of badness in the actual states is—
|1. Constitutional monarchy.|
|2. Constitutional oligarchy.|
|3. Law-abiding democracy.|
|4. Law-breaking democracy.|
|5. Law-defying oligarchy.|
8. It remains to separate from the true ruler those who co-operate with him as subordinates, the general, the judge, the orator. His own peculiar function is an art of weaving strength (the warp) with gentleness (the woof), when education has prepared them — and this (1) by administration, (2) by marriage.
The four preceding dialogues have shown (1) the gradual transformation of the Platonic ideas (while still objective) into forms of thought, (2) the tendency to group them into series of categories, (3) a corresponding advance in psychological classification, (4) an increasing importance given to method, (5) the inclination to inquire into processes (γενέσεις) as well as into the nature of being.
Meanwhile Plato's approach to the Eleatics, though in the way of criticism, has brought into prominence the notions of unity,Philebus. being, sameness, difference, and has left some what in abeyance the idea of good. To this “highest of all studies” Plato now returns, equipped with his improved instruments, and ready to forge new ones in the same laboratory, or in some other, should occasion serve. His converse with Parmenides ended in his assertion of an element of difference pervading all things — in other words, of an indeterminate element underlying all determinations. This brings him again into relation with the Pythagoreans, who had similarly asserted the combination of finite and infinite in the universe. Taking advantage of their help, he gains a more advanced (but still ideal) conception of the concrete harmony of things, and approaches the definition of that which in the Republic he but shadowed forth. With this most serious inquiry there is combined (as in the Sophistes and Politicus) an ironical and controversial use of dialectic, by which the juggler and false pretender (who is in this case the goddess of pleasure), after claiming the highest place, is thrust down to the lowest.
It must be admitted that the style of the Philebus is far from brilliant, or even clear. In the effort of connecting abstractions Plato's movement is more laboured than in his first glad realization of them.
Instead of attempting here to follow the windings of the dialogue, it must suffice to state the main result. Neither pleasure nor knowledge is the highest good, and the good eludes definition; but the shrine, or habitation, of the good is a complex life of which the elements are, in order of merit: (1) measure, the cause of all right mixture; (2) (a) beauty, the effect, and (b) reality, the inseparable condition; (3) intellect; (4) science, art and right opinion; (5) pure pleasure unaccompanied with pain. “Not all the animal kingdom shall induce us to put pleasure first.”
The Philebus introduces us to the interior of the Academy in the lifetime of the master. More than any other of the dialogues it recalls Aristotle's description of Plato's teaching. But, while his followers seem early to have fallen under the dominance of the latest phase of his doctrine, Plato himself, even in the Philebus, is still detached from any servitude to the creations of his own mind. He manipulates them as the medium for expressing his fresh thoughts, but they are not yet crystallized into a system.
“I will remind you,” Socrates, “of what has been omitted,” says Protarchus at the conclusion of this dialogue. The last (presumably) of Plato's metaphysical writings thus fitly ends with a confession of incompleteness. But if, as Renan says, “the most fatal error is to believe that one serves one's country by calumniating those who founded it,” neither is it for the interest of science to ignore these imperfect anticipations. By methods elaborated in the course of centuries, and far more sure than any which Plato had at his command, mankind have gained an extent of knowledge which he dreamt not of. But the Greek metaphysician is none the less a pioneer of knowledge, while the special sciences of ethics and psychology had been carried from infancy to adolescence in a single lifetime.
VII. Timaeus, Critias [Hermocrates]. — As the Sophistes and Politicus were written in continuation of the Theaetetus, so, at some uncertain time, Plato conceived the design of writing a great trilogy, for which the ideal state depicted in the Republic should be the point of departure. The grand outline there sketched by Socrates was now to be filled up by Critias and Hermocrates. The form set up by reasoning should be made alive, the “airy burghers” should be seen “making history.” As a prelude to this magnificent celebration, Timaeus, the Pythagorean philosopher, who is present at the Panathenaea, is invited to discourse of the origin of all things, and to bring down the glorious theme to the creation of man. What should have followed this, but is only commenced in the fragment of the Critias, would have been the story, not of a fall, but of the triumph of reason in humanity.
In the Philebus (59 A, cf. 62 D) Plato speaks with a touch of contempt of the life-long investigation of nature, as being concerned only with this visible universe, and immersed in the study of phenomena, whether past, present or to come, which admit of no stability and therefore of no certainty. “These things have no absolute first principle, and can never be the objects of reason and true science.”
Yet even this lower knowledge is there admitted as an element of that life which is the habitation of the good. And there are not wanting signs in his later dialogues that Plato's imagination had again been strongly drawn towards those physical studies which, as the Phaedo shows, had fascinated him in youth. That nature and the world proceed “according to God and not according to chance” is the belief of the Eleatic stranger, to which he perceives that Theaetetus will be irresistibly drawn as he grows older (Soph. 265 D). In the midst of dialectical abstractions, the processes of actual production (γενέσεις) have been increasingly borne in mind. And the myth in the Politicus turns on cosmological conceptions which, although differing from those in the Timaeus, and more accordant with Plato's bitterest mood, yet throw a new light on the deeper current of his thoughts. In the same passage (272 C) there occurs the first clear anticipation of an interrogatio naturae.
The impulse in this new direction, if not originated, was manifestly reinforced, through closer intercourse with the Pythagorean school. And the choice of Timaeus the Pythagorean as chief speaker is an acknowledgment of this obvious tendency. If in the course of the dialogue there occur ideas apparently borrowed from the Atomists, whom Plato persistently ignored, this fact ought probably to be referred to some early reaction of Atomic on Pythagorean doctrine. It is important to observe, however, that not only the Timaeus, but the unfinished whole of which it forms the introduction, is professedly an imaginative creation. For the legend of prehistoric Athens and of Atlantis, whereof Critias was to relate what belonged to internal policy and Hermocrates the conduct of the war, would have been no other than a prose poem, a “mythological lie,” conceived in the spirit of the Republic, and in the form of a fictitious narrative. And, therefore, when Timaeus professes to give only a probable account of shadowy truths, he must be taken at his word, and not criticized in too exacting a spirit. His descriptions have much the same relation to the natural philosophy of Plato's time that Milton's cosmology has to the serious investigations of Galileo or Copernicus — except that all physical speculation hitherto partook in some measure of this half-mythological character, and that Plato's mind, although working in an unfamiliar region, is still that of a speculative philosopher.
As Parmenides, after demonstrating the nonentity of growth and decay, was yet impelled to give some account of this non-existent and unintelligible phenomenal world,Timaeus. so Plato, although warned off by Socrates, must needs attempt to give a probable and comprehensive description of the visible universe and its creation. In doing so he acknowledges an imperfect truth in theories which his dialectic had previously set aside. In examining the earlier philosophers he has already transgressed the limits prescribed by Socrates, and the effort to connect ideas has made him more and more conscious of the gap between the ideal and the actual. He cannot rest until he has done his utmost to fill up the chasm — calling in the help of imagination where reason fails him. His dominant thought is still that of a deduction from the “reason of the best,” as in the Phaedo, or “the idea of good,” as in the Republic. But both his abstract idealism and his absolute optimism were by this time considerably modified, and, although not confounding “causes with conditions,” as he once accused Anaxagoras of doing, he yet assigns more scope to “second causes” than he would then have been willing to attribute to them. This partly comes of ripening experience and a deepening sense of the persistency of evil, and partly from the feeling — which seems to have grown upon him in later life — of the distance between God and man.
Timaeus begins by assuming (1) that the universe being corporeal is caused and had a beginning, and (2) that its mysterious author made it after an everlasting pattern. Yet, being bodily and visible, it can only be made the subject, humanly speaking, of probable discourse. Thus much being premised, he proceeds to unfold — (a) the work of mind in creation, (b) the effects of necessity, including the general and specific attributes of bodies, (c) the principles of physiology, and (d) an outline of pathology and medicine.
To give a full account of such a comprehensive treatise is beyond our scope, and the Timaeus, however great and interesting, has been well described as an out-building of the great fabric of original Platonism. A very few scattered observations are all that there is space for here.
a. 1. In the mythology of the Timaeus some of the conceptions which attained logical clearness in the Sophist and Philebus resume an ontological form. Thus, in compounding the soul-stuff of the universe, the father of all takes of the continuous and discrete and fuses them into an essence (the composite being of the Philebus). Again he takes of, the same and other (cf. the Sophist), overcoming their inherent repugnance by his sovereign act.
2. The notion of an economy or reservation in Plato has been often exaggerated and misapplied. But it is difficult to acquit him of intentional obscurity in speaking of the creation of the Earth. It is clear, though Plato does not say so, that she is meant to have been created together with the Heaven and together with Time, and so before the other “gods within the heaven,” i.e. the sun and moon and five planets, and it is a plausible supposition that she is the “artificer of day and night,” by interposing her bulk to the sun's rays. If the word εἱλλομένη in p. 40 implies motion (as Aristotle thought), it cannot be, as Grote supposed, a motion consentaneous with that of the outer sphere, but either some far slower motion, perhaps assumed in order to account for the shifting of the seasons, or an equal retrograde motion which is supposed to neutralize in her case the “motion of the same.” She clings to the centre, as her natural abode. And the diurnal motion of the heavens is due not to any mechanical force but to the soul of the world extending from the centre to the poles and comprehending all.
3. Immortality is in the Timaeus dependent on the will of the Eternal. And the sublime idea of eternity is here first formulated.
4. The phenomena of vision and hearing are included among the works of reason, because the final cause of these higher senses is to give men perception of number, through contemplation of the measures of time.
b. 1. It has been commonly said that the four elements of the Timaeus are geometrical figures, without content. This is not true. For what purpose does Plato introduce, “besides the archetype and the created form, a third kind, dim and hard to conceive, a sort of limbec or matrix of creation,” if not to fill up the triangles which are elements of elements, and to be the vehicle of the forms compounded of them? It has been supposed that this “nurse of generation” is identical with “space,” and it cannot be said that they are clearly kept apart by Plato. But he had a distinct nomenclature for either, and, although gravity is explained away (so that his molecules, unlike Clerk Maxwell's, may be called imponderable), yet extension, or the property of filling space, is sufficiently implied.
2. The difference of size in the triangles and varying sharpness of their outlines are ingenious though inadequate expedients, adopted in order to account for qualitative difference and physical change.
3. In criticizing the illusory notion of “up and down,” Plato, apparently for the first time, broaches the conception of antipodes.
4. More distinctly than in the Philebus, bodily pleasure is explained by “a sudden and sensible return to nature” (cf. Ar. Rhet. i. 11, § 1; N.E., vii. 10).
5. Natural philosophers are warned against experimenting on the mixture of colours, which is a divine process and forbidden to man (Tim. 68D). (Ancient science was at a loss for a theory of colours.)
c. 1. Plato tends more and more in his later writings to account for moral evil by physical conditions, thus arriving at the Socratic principle of the involuntariness of vice by a different road.
Hence in the Timaeus not the body only is made by the inferior gods, but they also create the lower and mortal parts of the human soul: the principle of anger which is planted in the breast, within hearing of reason, and that of appetite which is lodged below the diaphragm like an animal tied in a stall, with the stomach for a crib and the liver for a “soothsaying” looking-glass to soothe or terrify it when tempted to break loose.
2. The brain-pan was left bare of protecting flesh “because the sons of God who framed us deliberately chose for us a precarious life with capability of reason, in preference to a long secure existence with obstruction of thought.”
3. The nails are a rudimentary provision for the lower animals, into which degenerate souls were afterwards to be transformed.
4. Vegetables have sensation but not motion.
5. By way of illustrating the very curious account here given of respiration, it is asserted that what is commonly thought to be the attraction of the magnet is really due to rotatory motion and displacement: a remarkable anticipation (Tim. 80c).
6. When the original particles wear out, and the bonds of soul and body in the marrow give way, the soul escapes delightedly and flies away. This is the painless death of natural decay.
d. 1. The dependence of mental disease on bodily conditions is more fully recognized in the Timaeus than elsewhere in Plato (contrast the Charmides, for example).
2. He has also changed his mind about the treatment of disease, and shows more respect for regimen and diet than in the Republic. Diseases are a kind of second nature, and should be treated accordingly.
3. It is also a remark in contrast with the Republic, that overstudy leads to head complications, which physicians ascribe to chill and find intractable.
Lastly, it is one of the strange irregularities in the composition of the Timaeus that the creation of woman and the relation of the sexes to each other are subjects reserved to the end, because this is the place given to the lower animals, and woman (cf. the Phaedrus) is the first transmigration from the form of man. This order is probably not to be attributed to Plato's own thought, but to some peculiarity of Pythagorean or Orphic tradition.
VIII. The Laws.—The two series of dialogues, the dialectical and the imaginative — Sophistes, Politicus, Philosophus — Timaeus, Critias, Hermocrates — were left incomplete. For Plato had concentrated his declining powers, in the evening of his life, upon a different task. He was resolved to leave behind him, if he could so far overcome the infirmities of age, a code of laws, conceived in a spirit of concession, and such as he still hoped that some Hellenic state might sanction. The motive for this great work may be gathered from the Politicus. The physician in departing is to give a written prescription, adapted as far as possible to the condition of those from whom he goes away. This is the second-best course, in the absence of the philosopher-king. And, as the Hellenic world will not listen to Plato's heroic remedy, he accommodates his counsel to their preconceptions.Laws. He returns once more from abstract discussions to study the application of ideas to life, and though, by the conditions of the problem, his course is “nearer earth and less in light,” this long writing, which is said to have been posthumous, has a peculiar interest. The ripeness of accumulated experience and the mellowness of wise contemplation make up for the loss of prophetic insight and poetic charm.
The form of dialogue is still retained, and an aged Athenian is imagined as discoursing of legislation with the Lacedaemonian Megillus and the Cretan Cleinias, who has in view the foundation of a new colony, and is on his way with his two companions from Cnossus to the temple and oracle of Zeus.
Plato now aims at moderating between Dorian and Ionian law, freely criticizing both, and refining on them from a higher point of view. “The praise of obedience, the authority assigned to elders, the prohibition of dowries, the enforcement of marriage, the common meals, the distribution and inalienability of land, the institution of the Crypteia, the freedom of bequest to a favourite son, the dislike of city walls - all reflect the custom of Sparta.” . . . “The use of the lot, the scrutiny of magistrates, the monthly courses of the council, the pardon of the forgiven homicide, most of the regulations about testaments and the guardianship of orphans, the degrees of consanguinity recognized by law, correspond to Athenian laws and customs” (Jowett).
The philosopher's own thoughts come out most strongly in the “preludes” to the laws, and in the regulations concerning education, marriage and the punishment of impiety (i.e. 1st, atheism; 2nd, denial of providence; 3rd and worst, immoral superstition). The difficulty which is met in the Politicus by the abandonment of the world for a time, and in the Timaeus by the lieutenancy of lower gods, here leads to the hypothesis of an evil soul. The priority of mind (often before asserted) and the increased importance attached to numbers are the chief indications of Plato's latest thoughts about the intelligible world. But it must be remembered that the higher education (answering to Rep. vi., vii.) is expressly reserved. Had Plato written his own Epinomis, the proportions of the whole work (not then “acephalous”) might have been vastly changed.
The severity of the penalties attached to the three forms of heresy, especially to the third and worst of them, has led to the remark that Plato, after asserting “liberty of prophesying,” had become intolerant and bigoted in his old age (Grote). But the idea of toleration in the modern sense was never distinctly present to the mind of any ancient philosopher. And, if in the Laws the lines of thought have in one way hardened, there are other ways in which experience has softened them. Plato's “second-best” constitution contains a provision, which was not admissible in the “perfect state,” for possible changes and readaptations in the future. The power of self-reformation is hedged round indeed with extreme precautions; and no young or middle-aged citizen is ever to hear a word said in depreciation of any jot or tittle of the existing law. But that it should be provided, however guardedly, that select commissioners, after travelling far and wide, should bring back of the fruit of their observations for the consideration of the nocturnal council, and that a power of constitutionally amending the laws should thus be admitted into the state, is sufficiently remarkable, when the would-be finality of ancient legislation is considered. Plato even comes near to the reflexion that “constitutions are not made, but grow” (iv. 709 A).
Plato in the Laws desists finally from impersonating Socrates. But he is in some ways nearer to his master in spirit than when he composed the Phaedrus. The sympathy with common life, the acceptance of Greek religion, the deepening humanity, are no less essentially Socratic than the love of truth which breathes in every page. And some particular aspects of Socratism reappear, such as the question about courage and that concerning the unity of virtue.
Doubtful and Spurious Works. — Of the dialogues forming part of the “Platonic canon,” and not included in the preceding survey, the Lesser Hippias, First Alcibiades and Menexenus are the most Platonic, though probably not Plato's. The Greater Hippias and the Clitophon are also admitted to have some plausibility. The Second-Alcibiades (on Prayer), the Hipparchus (touching on Peisistratus and Homer), Minos (“de lege”), Epinomis, Erastae, Theages, are generally condemned, though most of them are very early forgeries or academic exercises. And the Axiochus (though sometimes prized for its subject, “the contempt of death”), the De justo, De virtute, Demodocus, Sisyphus, Eryxias (a not-uninteresting treatise on the use of money), together with the so-called Definitions, were rejected in ancient times, and are marked as spurious in the MSS.
Editions.—(1) Complete: Aldine, Ven., 1513; H. Stephanus, 3 vols. (1578), with Latin version by Serranus (i.e. De Serre, the real editor), (the paging of this edition is preserved for convenience of reference on the margins of most subsequent editions); G. Stallbaum, (12 vols., 1821-1825); G. Stallbaum, the text in 1 vol. (1850); C. F. Hermann (6 vols., 1851-1853); Immanuel Bekker (1816-1823); the Zurich edition by Baiter, Orelli and Winkelmann (1839-1842); Hirschig and Schneider, in Didot's series (1856-1873); M. von Schanz, with critical notes (1875-1887); J. Burnet (Oxford, 1902). (2) Partial: L. F. Heindorf, Lysis, Charmides, Hippias Major, Phaedrus, Gorgias, Theaetetus, Cratylus, Parmenides, Euthydemus, Phaedo, Sophist, Protagoras; Philebus, C. Badham, E. Poste (1861), R. G. Bury; Apologia, J. Riddell (with Digest of Platonic Idioms) (1861); Protagoras, Wayte (1854) 1871; Theaetetus, L. Campbell (1861) 1883, B. Kennedy; Sophist and Politicus, L. Campbell (1867); Phaedo, W. Geddes, Archer Hind; Timaeus, Archer Hind (1888); Parmenides, Waddell (1894); Meno, J. Adam, Seymer Thompson; Apologia, Crito, Meno, St G. Stock; Euthydemus, Gifford; Phaedrus, Gorgias, W. H. Thompson; Symposium, Euthydemus, Laches, C. Badham; Parmenides, Stallbaum, Maguire, Waddell, Leges, F. Ast (1814), C. Ritter (Commentary) (1896); Republic, Jowett and Campbell (1894), J. Adam (1902).
Translations.—Latin: A Latin version of the Timaeus by Chalcidius existed in the middle ages and was known to Dante. It was printed at Paris in 1520 (Teubner, 1876). The complete rendering by Marsiglio Ficino (1496) formed the basis of other Latin translations, such as that of Serranus (supra), which accompanied the edition of Stephanus. It was printed in the Basel edition of 1534. English: (1) Complete: Sydenham and Taylor (1804); Jowett (1871-1892). (2) Partial: Republic, Davies and Vaughan, Jowett (in a separate volume; 3rd ed., 2 vols., 1908); Philebus, E. Poste; Georgias, Cope; Timaeus, Archer Hind (in his edition); Apology, Crito, Phaedo, Church, Jowett (reprinted from the complete translation with preface by E. Caird); Theaetetus, Paley, Kennedy; German: Schleiermacher (1817-1828), J. H. Müller (1850-1866); French: V. Cousin (13 vols., 1822-1840). Italian: Bonghi.
Dissertations.—English: F. Schleiermacher's Introductions, translated by W. Dobson (1836); Ed. Zeller's Plato and the Older Academy, translated by F. Alleyne, &c. (1876); B. Jowett's Introductions, in his complete translation, final edition (1892); G. Grote, Plato and the other Companions of Socrates (1865); F. C. Conybeare on an Armenian version (1891); W. Pater, Plato and Platonism (1893); R. L. Nettleship, Lectures on the Republic, &c. (1898) (cf. also his essay in Hellenica, 1880); Th. Gomperz, Greek Thinkers, vols. ii. and iii. in Eng. trans. (1905); W. Lutoslawski, Plato's Logic, &c.; L. Campbell on Plato's Republic in Murray's “Home and School Series” (1902); L. Campbell, Religion in Greek Literature (London, 1898); J. A. Stewart, The Myths of Plato (1905); A. E. Taylor, Plato (1908); J. A. Stewart, Plato's Doctrine of Ideas (1909). German: C. F. Hermann, Geschichte und System, &c. (1839); A. Boeckh, Untersuchungen (1852); Ed. Zeller, Geschichte der gr. Philosophie; Fr. Überweg, Untersuchungen (1861); S. Ribbing, Genetische Darstellung (1863); Fr. Susemihl, Genetische Entwicklung (1855-1898); E. Alberti, Geist and Ordnung (1864); C. Schaarschmidt, Die Sammlung der platonischen Schriften (1866); M. Vermehren, Plat. Studien (1870); D. Peipers, Untersuchungen über das System Platons. Teil i., “Die Erkenntnisstheorie” (Leipzig, 1874); O. Apelt, Beiträge zur Geschichte der griechischen Philosophien; L. Spengel, Isocrates und Platon (1863); A. Krohn, Die platonische Frage (1878) E. Teichmüller, Literarische Fehder (1881); H. Bonitz, Platonische Studien (especially valuable) (1886); E. Pfleiderer, Socrates und Platon (1896); H. Windenband, Platon (1900); C. Ritter, Untersuchungen; Th. Gomperz, Platonische Aufsätze: Griechische Denker, vol. ii.; P. Natorp, Pl. Ideenlehre (1903); C. Ritter, Platon: sein Leben, seine Schriften, seine Lehre (1909), vol. i.; and Neue Untersuchungen (1910). Other references will be found in the volumes named. French: V. Cousin; T. H. Martin, Études sur la Timée (1841). Italian: Felice Tocco.
Dictionaries and Indices.—Mitchell's Index to Plato; F. Ast, Lexicon platonicum; E. Abbott, Index to Plato (English, 1875).
On the MSS.—See especially Bekker's edition; Gaisford's Lectiones platonicae (1820); M. Schanz's edition with critical notes; Jowett and Campbell's Republic, vol. ii.; J. Burnett's Oxford edition. The important Codex Clarkianus in the Bodleian library has been reproduced in facsimile, with a preface by T. W. Allen (1898-1899).
- (L. C.)
- See Laws, vii. 814 c.
- Some epigrams in the Anthology are attributed to him.
- This is told on the authority of Aristoxenus. But Plato cannot have been at Delium.
- It had been the policy of Pericles to invite distinguished foreigners to Athens.
- Theaet. 180 D.
- See Caird, Hegel, p. 168.
- Ferrier, Institutes of Metaphysics, p. 169 (§ i. prop. vi. § 12).
- Nub., 995, τῆς αἰδοῦς μέλλεις τἄγαλμ’ ἀναπλῆσαι.
- Phaed. 82 B; Rep. x. 619 C.
- The origin of this traditional belief is very obscure. The Greeks themselves were apt to associate it with Pythagoras and with the “Orphic” mysteries.
- Eucl. i. 47 (the case where the triangle is isosceles).
- Hom. Odyss. x. 495, Οἴῳ πεπνῦσθαι, ταὶ δὲ σκιαὶ ἀἷσσουσιν.
- Cf. Gorg. 521; Rep. vi. 496.
- In the Timaeus immortality is made to rest on the goodwill of God, because “only an evil being would wish to dissolve that which is harmonious and happy” (Tim. 41 A).
- Cf. Milton, Il Penseroso, 88-92—
“To unsphere The spirit of Plato, to unfold What worlds or what vast regions hold The immortal mind that hath forsook Her mansion in this fleshly nook.”
- Cf. Theaet. 184-186.
- Laws viii. 836.
- Jowet—who has, notwithstanding, thrown much light on the Cratylus in his brilliant introduction.
- See especially Rep. v. 472; Legg. v. 746.
- Introd. to the Phaedrus.
- Krohn, Der platonische Staat (Halle, 1876).
- See, for example, the admission of luxury and the after-purification through “music,” bks. ii., iii.
- Cf. Meno.
- Cf. Rep. x. 597.
- Cf. the younger Socrates of the Politicus. It would be precarious to draw any inference from this minute fact.
- Rep. vi. 493.
- Soph. 265 D.
- See, however, Polit. 272 C, D.
- See Jowett, Introd. to the Timaeus.
- Aristotle, however uses εἱλουμένη, a different word.
- There is an anticipation of microscopic observation in the words ἀόρατα ὑπὸ σμικρότητος καὶ ἀδιάπλαστα ζῷα = spermatozoa.
- ἡμεῖς δ’ ἐν δυσμαῖς τοῦ βίου, Legg. vi. 770 A.
- ἄν . . γήρως ἐπικρατῶμεν γε τοσοῦτον, Legg. vi. 752 A.
- Published by Philippus the Opuntian.
- See especially iv. 716 seq.; v. 727 seq.; 735 seq.; vi. 766; vii. 773 seq., 777, 794, 803 seq., 811, 817; viii. 835 seq.; ix. 875; x. 887 seq. 897 seq., 904 seq.
- Legg. xii. 968 E. (Ath.) “I am willing to share with you the danger of stating to you my views about education and nurture, which is the question coming to the surface again.”
- Cf. Laches.
- Cf. Protagoras.
- According to Schaarschmidt, only nine dialogues are genuine — Protag., Phaedr., Symp., Apol., Crito, Phaedo, Rep., Tim., Leges.