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GROTE’S PLATO 1866 - John Stuart Mill, The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XI - Essays on Philosophy and the Classics 
The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XI - Essays on Philosophy and the Classics, ed. John M. Robson, Introduction by F.E. Sparshott (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1978).
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Dissertations and Discussions, III (1867), 275-379, where the title, “Plato,” is footnoted: “Edinburgh Review, April, 1866.” Reprinted from the Edinburgh Review, CXXIII (April, 1866), 297-364, where the article (unsigned) is headed: “Art. I.—Plato and the other Companions of Sokrates. By George Grote, F.R.S., &c. 8vo. 3 vols. London: [Murray,] 1865”; the running heads are “Grote’s Plato.” Identified in JSM’s bibliography as “A review of Grote’s ‘Plato and the other Companions of Socrates’ in the Edinburgh Review for April 1866” (MacMinn, 97). An unsigned offprint of the article in the Somerville College Library, paged 1-68, is titled “Plato / and the other / Companions of Socrates. / By / George Grote, F.R.S., &c.”; JSM has added under the title in ink “(Edinburgh Review, 1866)”—his habitual indication when an article was to be reprinted; there are no alterations or corrections in the offprint.
In the footnoted variants, “66” indicates Edinburgh Review, “67” indicates D&D, III, 1st ed. (the copy-text). For an account of the composition of the essay and related matters, see the Introduction and the Textual Introduction, xxxvii-xli and xc-xci above.
the readers of Mr. Grote’s History of Greece were not likely to forget the hope held out in its concluding volume,[*] that he who had so well interpreted the political life of Hellas would delineate and judge that great outburst of speculative thought, by which, as much as by her freedom, Greece has been to the world what Athens according to Pericles was to Greece, a course of education.[†] It might have been safely predicted, that the same conscientious research, the same skilful discrimination of authenticated fact from traditional misapprehension or uncertified conjecture, and the same rare power of realizing different intellectual and moral points of view, which were conspicuous in the History, and nowhere more than in the memorable chapters on the Sophists and on Sokrates, would find congenial occupation in tracing out the genuine lineaments of Plato, Aristotle, and their compeers. But the present work does more than merely keep the promise of Mr. Grote’s previous achievements—it reveals new powers: had it not been written the world at large might never have known, except on trust, the whole range of his capacities and endowments. Though intellects exercised in the higher philosophy might well perceive that such a book as the History of Greece could not have been produced but by a mind similarly disciplined, the instruction which lay on the surface of that great work was chiefly civic and political; while the speculations of the Grecian philosophers, and emphatically of Plato, range over the whole domain of human thought and curiosity, from etymology up to cosmogony, and from the discipline of the music-school and the gymnasium to the most vast problems of metaphysics and ontology. Many even of Mr. Grote’s admirers may not have been prepared to find, that he would be as much at home in the most abstract metaphysical speculations as among the concrete realities of political institutions—would move through the one region with the same easy mastery as through the other—and would bring before us, along with the clearest and fullest explanation of ancient thought, mature and well-weighed opinions of his own, manifesting a command of the entire field of speculative philosophy which places him in the small number of the eminent psychologists and metaphysicians of the age.
The work of which we now give an account, though complete in itself, brings down the history of Greek philosophy only to Plato and his generation; but a continuation is promised, embracing at least the generation of Aristotle; which, by the analogy of the concluding chapters of the present work, may be construed as implying an estimate of the Stoics and Epicureans. If to this were added a summary of what is known to us concerning the Pythagorean revival and the later Academy, no portion of purely Greek thought would remain untreated of; for Neoplatonism, an aftergrowth of late date and little intrinsic value, was a hybrid product of Greek and Oriental speculation, and its place in history is by the side of Gnosticism. What contact it has with the Greek mind is with that mind in its decadence; as the little in Plato which is allied to it belongs chiefly to the decadence of Plato’s own mind. We are quite reconciled to the exclusion from Mr. Grote’s plan, of this tedious and unsatisfactory chapter in the history of human intellect. But such an exposition as he is capable of giving of Aristotle, will be hardly inferior in value to that of Plato. The latter, however, was the most needed; for Plato presents greater difficulties than Aristotle to the modern mind; more of our knowledge of the master, than of the pupil, is only apparent, and requires to be unlearnt; and much more use has been made of what the later philosopher can teach us, than of the earlier.
Though the writings of Plato supply the principal material of Mr. Grote’s three volumes, the portion of them which does not relate directly to Plato is of great interest and value. The first two chapters contain as full an account as our information admits, of the forms of Greek philosophy which preceded Sokrates; and the two which conclude the work recount the little which is known (except in the case of Xenophon it is very little) of the other “Socratici viri”[*] and their speculations: the Megaric school, commencing with Eukleides, the Cynic, with Antisthenes, the Cyrenaic or Hedonistic, with Aristippus. All these were personal companions of Sokrates, and their various and conflicting streams of thought did not flow out of a primitive intellectual fountain opened by him, but issued from the rock in different places at the touch of his magical wand; for it was his profession and practice to make others think, not to think for them. Concerning Sokrates himself, though in one sense nearly the whole book relates to him, there is no express notice in these volumes, the narrative and estimate which we read in the History of Greece being sufficient.[†]
Some knowledge of the earlier Hellenic thinkers is necessary to a full understanding of Plato. Unfortunately the materials are defective, and almost wholly second-hand, a few fragments only of the original authors having been preserved by the citations of later writers. We are in possession, however, of what were regarded by their successors as the fundamental doctrines of each; but there is some difficulty in knowing what to make of them. These first gropings of the speculative intellect have so little in common with modern scientific habits, that the modern mind does not easily accommodate itself to them. The physical theories seem so absurd, and the metaphysical ones so unintelligible, that there needs some stress of thought to enable us to perceive how eminently natural they were. Multiplied failures have taught us the unwelcome lesson, that man can only arrive at an understanding of nature by a very circuitous route; that the great questions are not accessible directly, but through a multitude of smaller ones, which in the first ardour of their investigations men overlooked and despised—though they are the only questions sufficiently simple and near at hand, to disclose the real laws and processes of nature, with which as keys we are afterwards enabled to unlock such of her greater mysteries as are really within our reach. This process, which human impatience was late in thinking of, and slow in learning to endure, is an eminently artificial one; and the mind which has been trained to it has become, happily for mankind, so highly artificialized, that it has forgotten its own natural mode of procedure. The natural man, in the words of Bacon’s emphatic condemnation, naturam rei in ipsa re perscrutatur.[*] He neither can nor will lay a regular siege to his object, approach it by a series of intermediate positions, and possess himself first of the outworks; he will make but one leap into the citadel: and since, to his freshly awakened curiosity, no inquiry seems worth pursuing which promises less than an explanation of the entire universe, he makes a plausible guess which explains or seems to explain a few obvious facts, and stretches or twists this into a theory of the whole. Such theories were thrown up in considerable number and variety by the early Hellenic mind. Mr. Grote has recounted what is known of them, and by the application of a clear philosophic intellect to the results of his own and of German erudition, has made out as much of their meaning as any one can well hope to do. To render that meaning intelligible without a considerable effort of thought, exceeds even his powers; for the terms which embody it have no exact equivalents in modern language, which, having fitted itself to more definite conceptions of the problems, and to a certain number of ascertained solutions, has got rid of many of the vaguenesses and ambiguities to which the early conjectural solutions were principally indebted for such plausibility as they possessed.
These early theories, as we said, may be distinguished into physical and metaphysical, though the physical hypotheses could not always dispense with metaphysical aid, and the metaphysical ones were employed to account for physical phenomena. In the physical, some one or more substances familiar to experience were assumed as the element or elements which, variously transformed, are the material of the entire universe; and all the phenomena of nature were supposed to be produced by the powers, properties, or essences of these elements, or by hidden forces residing in them. Thales ascribed this cosmic universality to water, Anaximenes to air: we must remember that the ancients called many things water and air which are not so styled in modern physics. Empedokles explained all things by the mixture and mutual action of earth, water, air, and fire. These material substances were usually supposed to require the concurrence of certain abstract entities called Wet and Dry, Cold and Hot, Soft and Hard, Heavy and Light, &c., which were the immediate if not ultimate agents in the generation of phenomena.* It would be a mistake were we to imagine that these and similar hypotheses were really absurd, until proved so by the subsequent course of inductive investigation. A more artful examination of nature has since shown that the supposed elements are not real elements but compounds, and that the generalized properties, which were mistaken for causative agencies, are the products of incorrect generalization and abstraction—notiones temerè à rebus abstractæ.[*] But this was not, and could not be, known at the time when the hypotheses were framed. In the meanwhile, they served as first steps in that comparison of phenomena in respect of their likenesses and differences, which is the preparation for the discovery of their laws; and the process of applying the hypotheses to the explanation of facts other than those which had suggested them, was continually bringing into view fresh points of likeness and difference, and laying the foundation for less imperfect hypotheses. The metaphysical theories, on the other hand, which grounded their conception of the universe not on physical agencies, but on the largest and vaguest abstractions—the One, the Same, the Different, that which Is, that which Becomes—seem, to us, not so much erroneous as unmeaning: we find it difficult to conceive what can have been in the thoughts of men who could offer matter like this as an explanation of anything. By we, must be understood the physicists, the experimentalists, the Baconians; since the German Transcendentalists find much more signification in these than in the physical hypotheses. For, indeed, their Ontology is essentially a return to this first stage of human speculation—a reproduction of the same methods, the same questions, and to a great degree the same answers, sometimes under a superficial varnish of modern inductive philosophy. Hegel moves among the same vague abstractions as the earliest tyros in metaphysical thought; his dialectics recall the Parmenides of Plato’s dialogue, while his substantive doctrines are in great part a reproduction of Herakleitus. If we turn back to Anaximander, the earliest known speculative philosopher after his townsman Thales, we find already the fundamental notions of Transcendentalism.
He adopted as the foundation of his hypothesis a substance which he called the Infinite or Indeterminate. Under this name he conceived Body simply, without any positive or determinate properties, yet including the fundamental contraries Hot, Cold, Moist, Dry, &c., in a potential or latent state, including further a self-changing and self-developing force, and being moreover immortal and indestructible. By this inherent force, and by the evolution of one or more of these dormant contrary qualities, were generated the various definite substances of nature—Air, Fire, Water, &c.*
We have here the fundamental antithesis of the Transcendentalists, Matter and Form; while the conception of an abstract Body, devoid of properties, but with a potentiality of evolving them from itself by an indwelling force, is the transcendental Noumenon, as contrasted with Phænomenon. Again, the Ens of Parmenides, Being in General, “which is always, and cannot properly be called either past or future,” which is not “really generated or destroyed, but only in appearence to us, or relatively to our apprehension,” which “is essentially One, and cannot be divided,”† what is it (as Mr. Grote remarks)‡ but the Absolute of the modern Ontologists? a little in advance of them however, for the Eleatic philosopher left to his Absolute one quality cognisable by man, that of Extension, but the Transcendentalists refuse it even that, and yet maintain (some of them at least) that it is knowable. Even the almost Asiatic mysticism of Pythagoras respecting Number, has, as Mr. Grote points out,§ its exact equivalent in German nineteenth-century philosophy. When numbers, mere abstract properties of things, are mistaken for actual things, they are soon supposed to exert powers, and have as good a chance as anything else of finding a philosopher to instal them as the ruling power of the universe.
Both these veins of speculation—the physical and the metaphysical—were temporarily thrown into the shade by the new turn given to the philosophic mind by Sokrates: but for a short time only; for the ambitious striving for a theory of the universe reappears in its most metaphysical form in the later productions of his greatest disciple, Plato. The originality of Sokrates, which was of the highest order, consisted chiefly in his method. Yet his principal instrument had been in part prepared for him by the pupil of Parmenides, Zeno of Elea, “who stands announced on the authority of Aristotle as the inventor of dialectic; that is, as the first person, of whose skill in the art of cross-examination and refutation conspicuous illustrative specimens were preserved.”* The speciality of Zeno consisted in bringing prominently forward the difficulties and objections to which a theory was liable: not in the modern manner, by producing facts inconsistent with it, but rather by tracing its consequences, and reducing it to a logical contradiction; a mode of arguing which he more particularly employed against those who opposed his master’s doctrine of the Absolute and Indivisible One, and maintained with Herakleitus that the universe is not One but Many. The celebrated paradoxes by which Zeno is best known, his arguments against the reality of Motion, Mr. Grote† considers neither as sceptical fallacies nor logical puzzles, but as bonâ fide arguments, not intended to disprove motion as a phenomenal fact, but to assert its relative character, as a state of our own consciousness—incapable of being, in any true and consistent meaning, predicated of the Ens Unum, or Absolute, which the Parmenidean doctrine regarded as immoveable. However this may be, these arguments were quite in keeping with the vocation of Zeno for what Mr. Grote happily terms the negative arm of philosophy[*] —that which tests the truth of theories by the difficulties which they are bound to meet; and if he often mistook verbal difficulties for real, this was inevitable at first, and Plato frequently did the same.
It was reserved for Sokrates, and for Plato, who, whether as the interpreter or continuator of Sokrates, can never be severed from him, to exalt this negative arm of philosophy to a perfection never since surpassed, and to provide it with its greatest, most interesting, and most indispensable field of exercise, the generalities relating to life and conduct. These great men originated the thought, that, like every other part of the practice of life, morals and politics are an affair of science, to be understood only after severe study and special training; an indispensable part of which consists in acquiring the habit of considering, not merely what can be said in favour of a doctrine, but what can be said against it; of sifting opinions, and never accepting any until it has emerged victorious over every logical, still more than over every practical objection. These two principles—the necessity of a scientific basis and method for ethics and politics, and of rigorous negative dialectics as a part of that method, are the greatest of the many lessons to be learnt from Plato; and it is because the modern mind has in a great measure laid both these lessons, especially the latter of them, aside, that we regard the Platonic writings as among the most precious of the intellectual treasures bequeathed to us by antiquity. Mr. Grote is of the same opinion, and has rendered, by the work before us, an inappreciable service, in facilitating the study to those who can read the original, and making the results accessible to those who cannot.
He first relates the biography of Plato, as far as it can be constructed from the extant authorities. He then treats of the Platonic Canon; and after a comparison and ponderation of evidence, equal in merit to any in his History, accepts as works of Plato the entire list recognised by the Alexandrian critics, and admitted by all scholars until for the first time disputed by German editors and commentators in the present century. A chapter is next devoted to a general view of the Platonic writings; and the remainder of the work (except the final chapters on the minor Sokratics), consists of a minute analysis and compte rendu of each dialogue separately. In this analysis are comprehended the following elements, which are far from being kept as separate in fact as we must keep them in description. First, a complete abstract of the dialogue, omitting no idea, and no important development. Attention is next drawn to the light which the dialogue throws on Plato’s doctrine or method, and the bearing which it has upon the author’s general conception of Plato and his writings. Lastly, the thoughts on which the particular dialogue turns, or which are struck out in the course of it, are disentangled from the context, and critically examined, sometimes at considerable length, both from Plato’s point of view and from the author’s; and when the verdict is adverse, we are shown the author’s own view of the same questions, and its justification. The book is thus a perfect treasury of instructive discussions on the most important questions of philosophy, speculative and practical; while at the same time it is a quite complete account of Plato. Plato himself, not anybody’s interpretation of him, is brought before us. Nothing needs be taken on trust, except the fidelity of the abstract, which is perfect. We lose, of course, Plato’s dramatic power, his refined comedy, and the magic of his style, the reproduction of which (could any one hope to succeed in it) would be the work, not of an expositor, but of a translator. But the thoughts are there, exactly as they are, and exactly where they are, in the Platonic writings. The account of each dialogue is thus a kind of complete work in itself—a plan necessarily involving much repetition, as the same idea or Platonic peculiarity, being manifested in several dialogues, gives fresh occasion for the same line of remark. These repetitions have been censured by some critics from a literary point of view, as signs of want of skill in composition;[*] but this is to mistake the author’s purpose. He does not lay himself open to the reproach from carelessness or awkwardness; he altogether disregards and defies it. What would be imperfections in a picture of Plato addressed to the imagination, are merits in what is meant to be an aid or substitute for the study of the philosopher in detail. Mr. Grote intended the reader to judge of Plato for himself—to find in each chapter what he would have found in the corresponding dialogue, together with all that is necessary for understanding it and estimating its value. His own opinions on Plato and the Platonic topics turn up often, because every dialogue contains fresh evidence bearing on them. The alternative was indeed open to him of using references instead of repetitions; and had he cared more for his literary reputation, and less for his subject, he would have adopted it. But those who read for instruction will generally prefer that the things they need to be reminded of should be told over again in a form and language adapted to the special occasion, rather than be compelled to search for them in another chapter, where they are exhibited in a quite different framework of circumstances. Even in an artistic point of view, it is too narrow a conception of art, to exclude that which produces its effect by an accumulation of small touches. Besides, many of Mr. Grote’s views being contrary to received opinion, he was bound to give some idea of the mass of evidence on which they rest. Those who find it tiresome to have this evidence noted en passant where it occurs, would have far more reason to complain if it had been culled out and laid in a single heap, in which case we may surmise that few of them would have taken the trouble even to look at it.
In truth, there are few, if any, ancient authors concerning whose mind and purpose so many demonstrably false opinions are current, as concerning Plato; and there is probably no writer, of merit comparable to his, and of whom so many writings survive, who leaves us in so much real uncertainty respecting his opinions. His works—except a few letters, which (allowing them, with Mr. Grote, to be authentic) were written late in life, and have mostly a biographic rather than a philosophical interest—are exclusively in the form of dialogue; and he himself is never one of the interlocutors. Not one of the opinions contained in them is presented as his own, nor in any connexion with himself. There certainly is, in almost every dialogue, one principal speaker, who either as confuter or instructor carries off the honours of the discussion. But this chief speaker, in the great majority of cases, is not a fictitious or unknown person, who could only be looked on as the author’s own spokesman, but a philosopher with a well-marked intellectual individuality of his own, and regarded by Plato himself with the deepest reverence. The question arises, how far the opinions put into the mouth of Sokrates are those of the real Sokrates, or of Plato speaking in his name? and if the former, whether Plato desired to be considered as adopting them? But, again, Sokrates, though generally the leading speaker, is not always so. In one dialogue, the Parmenides, he takes part in the discussion, but only to be powerfully confuted by that veteran philosopher. In the Sophistes and the Politikos he is a mere listener, while the place usually filled by him is occupied by a nameless stranger from Elea; though these two dialogues are an avowed continuation of the Theætetus, in which Sokrates takes the leading part. In Timæus and Kritias, the persons bearing those names are the teachers, and Sokrates an approving and admiring hearer. In the Leges and Epinomis he does not appear at all. Some reason there must have been for these diversities, but it neither shows itself in the dialogues, nor is known by external evidence. All this would have been of little consequence, if the dialogues had exhibited a consistent system of opinions, always adhered to and always coming out victorious. But so far is this from being the case, that the result of a large proportion of them is merely negative, many opinions in succession being tried and rejected, and the question finally left unsolved. When an opinion does seem to prevail, it almost always happens that in some other dialogue that same opinion is either refuted, or shown to involve difficulties which, though frequently passed over, are never resolved. Some of the ancient critics were hence led to suspect that Plato had, as his master professed to have, no positive opinions; a supposition for which plausible arguments might be drawn from many of the dialogues, but which is quite inconsistent with the spirit of others. Besides, a philosopher who for nearly forty years lectured in open school to numerous audiences, must have had something positive to teach them: mere negation and confutation raise up imitators, but not disciples.
To these various puzzles the German editors and critics add another—namely, which of the writings ascribed to Plato are really his own. They relieve their author from the responsibility of contradictory opinions, by rejecting many dialogues as spurious, on account of something in them that is inconsistent with what is said in some other dialogue, or with what the critic is of opinion that Plato must have thought, or on the mere ground of inferior merit as a composition; for of Plato alone among writers or artists it seems to be imagined that he cannot have produced any work not equal to his finest. Mr. Grote gains a triumphant victory over these critics, by exhibiting the overwhelming strength of the external testimony; showing that the rejections grounded on internal evidence proceed on an ideal of Plato which is a mere imagination of the critic; and pointing out that what are deemed evidences of unauthenticity in the rejected dialogues, are equally found in those which no one rejects, or could reject, since they are the type itself, which the others are thrown out for not conforming to. If we could add to our knowledge of what Plato’s writings were, any authentic information respecting the order in which they were written, their inconsistencies might be found to correspond with successive stages of the progress of his own mind. But we have nothing on this subject save conjectures, each founded on an antecedent theory of the very matter which it is intended to clear up. The imperfect publicity which ancient writings obtained at their first appearance, consisting chiefly in being read aloud by the author, or by some one whom he had allowed to take a copy, makes it impossible to fix the chronological succession of a writer’s works, when they are at all numerous. Several dialogues, by their allusions to historical events, give indication of a date to which it is supposed that they must have been subsequent; but even this supposition is uncertain, since, as we are informed by Dionysius,[*] Plato retouched and corrected his writings up to the latest period of his life. When a dialogue professes to be a continuation of another dialogue, it was probably, though not certainly, the latest composed of the two. There is a presumption that the dialogues of mere search preceded those which expound and enforce some definite doctrine; though, as one of the best German critics of Plato remarks,* this must be taken with a limitation, since he may have continued to produce dialogues of search after those of exposition began. Finally, direct testimony combines with internal probability in placing the Leges after the Republic, and near the end of Plato’s career. This is nearly all the help which the works themselves give towards ascertaining the order of their composition; but we have a precious though limited item of information from Aristotle, respecting some metaphysical doctrines taught by Plato in his latest lectures, varying considerably from those we read in any of the dialogues, but towards which the line of thought in several of them seems to be leading up.[†] We may, therefore, place those particular dialogues among the last of his compositions, and in the order of their approach to what we are told of his final teachings. This indication, agreeing with other internal evidence, gives the following as the latest terms of the series:—Republic, Timæus (with its unfinished appendage Kritias), Leges, with its supplement the Epinomis—the first probably separated by a considerable interval of time from the two last; and the Philebus, which we believe to be later than the Republic, probably coming in at some intermediate point.
Such being the paucity of direct evidence of Plato’s opinions and purposes, there was no check to the latitude which readers and admirers might give themselves in deducing theories from the general tone of his writings. Much, no doubt, may be thence inferred, but it requires more than a knowledge of Plato to distinguish what. Great men and great writers outlive the ideas and most of the monuments of their time, and descend to posterity disjoined from the element in which they lived, and by which their thoughts ought to be interpreted. This is especially the case with great reformers. How continually we should misunderstand the deliverances of Luther, of Fichte, of Bentham, of Voltaire, of Rousseau, Fourier, Owen—may we add of Carlyle? if we knew nothing of their age, and of the men and things they attacked, but what they themselves tell us. Men who are in open quarrel with the whole body of their contemporaries, do not make the discriminations which posterity is bound to make; and their sweeping denunciations do not imply, from them, what such statements would mean from persons perhaps greatly their inferiors, but not standing so far off from the rest of the world as to efface all differences of distance. This caution has been disregarded and ignored in Plato’s case; yet none of the great thinkers and writers who have come down to us require it more. When Plato says hard things of his countrymen, or of any class or profession among them, he is judging them by their divergence from his own standard, which was, no doubt, in many respects superior to theirs (though by no means so in all respects), but which he himself proclaimed to be a new and original one, and which certainly differed as widely from the modern European or English standard as from the Athenian. But the denunciations which he levels at them from his own point of view, are almost always interpreted as from ours, and we fancy that their conduct and feelings, if known to us in detail, would appear to us as blameable and contemptible as Plato deemed them; whereas we should find them, with a few superficial differences, very like our own; and it is most certain that Plato, if he returned to life, would be to the full as contemptuous of our statesmen, lawyers, clergy, professors, authors, and all others among us who lay claim to mental superiority, as he ever was of the corresponding classes at Athens; while they, on their part, would regard him very much as they regard other freethinkers, socialists, and visionary reformers of the world.
The opinion which commonly prevails about Plato is something like the following. The Athenians, and the other Greeks, had become deeply demoralized by a set of impostors called Sophists—pretenders to universal knowledge, and adepts at disconcerting simple minds by entangling them in a mesh of words—who corrupted young men of fortune, by denying moral distinctions, and teaching the art of misleading a popular assembly. The lives and intellectual activity of Sokrates and Plato had for their chief object to counteract the doctrines and influence of these men. They devoted themselves to vindicating the cause of virtue against immoral subtleties; but they came too late; the evil was too far advanced for cure, and the ruin of Greece was ultimately the consequence of the corruption engendered by the Sophists. In Philosophy proper, the speculations of Plato are supposed to have been guided by a similar purpose. He was the founder and chief of the Idealist or Spiritualist school, against the Materialistic or Sensational, which under the auspices of the Sophists, is asserted to have been generally prevalent; and was the champion of the intuitive or à priori character of moral truth, against what is regarded, by most of the Platonic critics, as the low and degrading doctrine of Utility.
Readers of Mr. Grote’s History are acquainted with the strong case which is there made out against this common theory.[*] Mr. Grote disbelieves the alleged moral corruption as a fact; and denies positively that the Sophists were the cause of it, or that the persons so called had any doctrines in common, much less the immoral ones imputed to them. He affirms that there is no evidence that any one of them taught the opinions alleged, and full proof that some taught the reverse: That the Sophists were not a sect, but the general body of teachers by profession, and, as is everywhere the case with professional teachers as a class, the moral and prudential opinions they taught were the common and orthodox ones of their country: That Plato’s quarrel was precisely with those common opinions, and his antagonism to the Sophists a mere consequence of this; and his testimony, were it far stronger than it is, has no value against them, unless we are willing to extend our condemnation, as he did, to the ways of mankind in general. These views of Mr. Grote, which we are satisfied are true to the letter, receive continual confirmation from his survey of the Platonic writings; and we think it possible even to strengthen his argument, by showing that the case presented against the Sophists on Plato’s authority, is contradicted by Plato’s own representation of them.
First, who were the Sophists? In the more lax use of the word, it was a name for speculative men in general. All the early philosophers whose theories are presented in Mr. Grote’s first two chapters, wereacalleda Sophists in ordinary parlance; especially when, as was probably the case with all of them, they taught orally, and took money for their teaching. M. Boeckh says of one of Plato’s cotemporaries, the famous mathematician Eudoxus, “he lived as a Sophist, which means, he taught and gave lectures.”* Against these men, as a body, no accusation is brought, nor had Plato any hostility to them. But the Sophists, emphatically so called, were those who speculated on human, as distinguished from cosmic, questions; who made profession of civil wisdom, and undertook to instruct men in the knowledge which qualifies for social or political life. As one whose whole time was passed in discussing these topics, Sokrates was counted among Sophists, both during his life and after his death. Æschines, in the oration against Timarchus, gives him that title.[*] Isokrates, himself called a Sophist in an oration of Demosthenes,† alludes distinctly to Plato as being one.‡ A Sophist named Mikkus is introduced in the Platonic Lysis as a companion and eulogist (ἐπαινέτης) of Sokrates. But the most conspicuous Sophists cotemporary with Sokrates, the supposed chiefs of the immoral and corrupting teachers against whom he is said to have warred, were Protagoras, Prodikus, and Hippias. They are all three introduced into the great and many-sided Platonic composition called Protagoras, and are often referred to by name in other dialogues, Hippias even having two to himself.[†] Now, while there is an undisguised purpose on Plato’s part to lower the reputation of these men, and convict them of not understanding what they professed to teach, not a thought or a sentiment is ascribed to them of any immoral tendency, while they often appear in the character of serious and impressive exhorters to virtue.
With regard to Protagoras in particular, the discourse which he is made to deliver on the moral virtues is justly considered by Mr. Grote as “one of the best parts of the Platonic writings.”§ It springs out of a doubt raised, seriously or ironically, by Sokrates, whether virtue is teachable, on the ground that there are no recognised teachers of it, as there are of other things. Protagoras admits the fact, and says that the reason why there are no express teachers of virtue is that all mankind teach it. Artistic or professional skill in any special department needs only be possessed by a few, for the benefit of the rest; but social and civic virtue, consisting in justice and self-restraint, is indispensable in every one; and as the welfare of each imperatively requires this virtue in others, every one inculcates it on all. A highly philosophical as well as eloquent exposition follows,
of the growth and propagation of common sense—the common, established, ethical and social sentiment among a community; sentiment neither dictated in the beginning by any scientific or artistic lawgiver; nor personified in any special guild of craftsmen apart from the remaining community; nor inculcated by any formal professional teachers; nor tested by analysis; nor verified by comparison with any objective standard; but self-sown and self-asserting, stamped, multiplied, and kept in circulation by the unpremeditated conspiracy of the general public—the omnipresent agency of King Nomos* and his numerous volunteers.†
This common standard of virtue Protagoras fully accepts. He takes it “for granted that justice, virtue, good, evil, &c., are known, indisputable, determinate data, fully understood and unanimously interpreted.”‡ He pretends not to set right the general opinion, but “teaches in his eloquent expositions and interpretations the same morality, public and private, that every one else teaches; while he can perform the work of teaching somewhat more effectively than they:”§ and “what he pretends to do, beyond the general public, he really can do.”¶ Sokrates (or Plato under his name) not accepting this common standard, and not considering justice, virtue, good, and evil, as things understood, but as things whose essence, and the proper meaning of the words, remain to be found out, of course contests the point with Protagoras; and bringing to bear on him the whole power of the Sokratic cross-examination, convicts him of being unable to give any definition or theory of these things; an incapacity which, in Platonic speech, goes by the name of not knowing what they are. The inability of Protagoras to discuss, and of his opinions to resist logical scrutiny, is driven home against the Sophist with great force. But it is remarkable that Protagoras, in answering the questions of Sokrates, whenever required to choose between two opinions, one of which is really or apparently the more moral or elevating, not only chooses the loftier doctrine, but declares that no other choice would be agreeable to his past life, to which he repeatedly appeals as not permitting him to concede anything that would lower the claims or dignity of virtue; thus proving (as far as anything put into his mouth by Plato can prove it), not only that he had never taught other than virtuous doctrines, but that he had an established reputation both for virtuous teaching, and for an exemplary and dignified life. Finally, it is Sokrates who, in this dialogue, maintains the “degrading” doctrine of Utilitarianism—at least the part most odious to its impugners, the doctrine of Hedonism, that Pleasure and the absence of Pain are the ends of morality; in opposition to Protagoras, to whom that opinion is repugnant; a reversal of the parts assigned to the two teachers by the German commentators, very embarrassing to some of them, who, rather than impute to Plato so “low” a doctrine, resort to the absurd supposition that one of the finest specimens of analysis in all his writings is ironical, intended to ridicule a Sophist who is not even represented as agreeing with it. Let us add, that though at first sore under his confutation by Sokrates, Protagoras parts with him on excellent terms, and predicts for him, at the conclusion of the dialogue, great eminence in wisdom.
Prodikus of Keios has no dialogue devoted to himself, nor is Sokrates ever introduced as confuting him. Except a few touches of good-humoured ridicule on his subtle verbal distinctions, chiefly found in the Protagoras, and probably intended not so much for disparagement as to heighten the dramatic interest of that eminently dramatic dialogue; and except that he comes in for his share of the raillery kept up against the Sophists generally about the money they took from their pupils, Prodikus is treated by Plato with marked respect. Sokrates not only confesses intellectual obligations to him, but speaks of him more than once, at least semi-seriously, as his teacher; and is made to say in the Theætetus,* that in conversing with young men, he is apt at discerning those to whom he can be of no use, and judging by whom they will be benefited, and that he has handed over many to Prodikus—a sure proof that in Plato’s opinion Prodikus was not only no corrupter of youth, but improving to them. As a matter of fact, we know that Prodikus was the author of the celebrated mythe or apologue called “The Choice of Hercules,” one of the most impressive exhortations in ancient literature to a life of labour and self-denial in preference to one of ease and pleasure. The substance of this composition is preserved by Xenophon, who, in his Memorabilia, introduces Sokrates repeating it to Aristippus, and declaring that it was a favourite lecture of Prodikus, one of those which he oftenest delivered;* and it bears a nearer resemblance than anything in Plato to the moral teachings ascribed by Xenophon to the real Sokrates. Prodikus, therefore, is out of the question in any charge against the Sophists of immoral teaching or influence.
Hippias, a man conspicuous among his cotemporaries for the rare variety of his accomplishments, is treated by Plato more disrespectfully. The two dialogues called by his name not only exhibit him as (like Protagoras) unable to cope with Sokrates in close discussion, or give a philosophic theory of the subjects on which he was accustomed to discourse, but load him with ridicule, of a less refined character than usual with Plato, for his naïf vanity and self-confidence. It is possible that the real Hippias may have been open to ridicule on this account; but from any vestige of immoral or corrupt teaching the Hippias of Plato is as clear as his Protagoras and his Prodikus. In the Second Hippias, that Sophist is introduced as having just finished delivering, with great applause, an encomium on the character of Achilles in the Iliad, as contrasted with Ulysses in the Odyssey, asserting the great moral superiority of the former. Now, even the better Greeks did not usually give so marked a preference to the direct, frank, and outspoken type of character, over one which aimed at good objects by skilful craft and dissimulation; so that Hippias stands represented by Plato as one whose moral standard, so far as it differed from the common one, was exceptionally high and noble—as that of Sophokles is shown to have been by the character of Neoptolemus, contrasted with that of Ulysses in the Philoktetes.[*] The Sophist maintains this high estimate of veracity and sincerity throughout the dialogue; while the only ethical doctrine which is malè sonans is assigned to Sokrates himself, who, by a series of arguments which Hippias is totally unable to refute, contends that one who speaks falsehood knowingly is less bad than one who speaks it unknowingly, and (as a general thesis) that “those who hurt mankind, or cheat, or lie, or do wrong wilfully, are better than those who do the same unwillingly.”† Mr. Grote may well say that
if this dialogue had come down to us with the parts inverted, and with the reasoning of Sokrates assigned to Hippias, most critics would probably have produced it as a tissue of sophistry, justifying the harsh epithets which they bestow upon the Athenian Sophists, as persons who considered truth and falsehood to be on a par—subverters of morality, and corrupters of the youth of Athens. But as we read it, all that which in the mouth of Hippias would have passed for sophistry, is here put forward by Sokrates; while Hippias not only resists his conclusions, and adheres to the received ethical sentiment tenaciously, even when he is unable to defend it, but hates the propositions forced upon him, protests against the perverse captiousness of Sokrates, and requires much pressing to induce him to continue the debate.*
It is obvious what advantage Melêtus and Anytus might have derived from this thesis of Sokrates, if they had brought it up against him before the Dikasts; though it is merely a paradoxical form which, as we know from Xenophon,[*] the real Sokrates gave to one of his favourite opinions, adopted and strenuously maintained by Plato, that the root of all moral excellence is knowledge.
Except these three distinguished men, the only other Sophists, in the more limited sense, who are shown up by Plato, or brought by him into collision with Sokrates, are the two brothers in the Euthydemus; who are not represented as persons of any celebrity (though somebody of the name of Euthydemus is mentioned in the Kratylus in connexion with a philosophical paradox), but as old men who have passed their lives in teaching gymnastic and military exercises, together with rhetoric, and have only quite lately turned their attention to dialectics, or the art of discussion. We know nothing otherwise of these persons, who may have been entirely fictitious, and in any case the care taken to describe them as novices in their art precludes the supposition of their being intended as representative men. The purpose of the dialogue is obviously to rebut the accusation brought against Sokrates, and doubtless also against Plato, of being jugglers with words, and dealers in logical puzzles; which is done by exhibiting, on the one hand, a caricature of the most absurd logical juggling in the persons of Euthydemus and Dionysodorus, and on the other, an illustrative specimen of Plato’s ideal of the genuinely Sokratic process—real Dialectic, contrasted with Eristic; the one merely embarrassing and humiliating an ingenuous student, by involving him through verbal ambiguities in obvious absurdities; the other, encouraging and stimulating him to vigorous exercise of his own mind in clearing his thoughts from confusion. Mr. Grote’s comments on this dialogue, as on most of the others, are singularly interesting and valuable. It suffices here to observe that the purpose of the Euthydemus is not to discredit anybody, but to repel the attacks made on dialectic, by exhibiting the good form of it in marked opposition to the bad.
There is thus absolutely nothing in Plato’s representation of particular Sophists that gives countenance to the reproaches usually cast upon them. There is, however, another class of teachers on whom he is more severe, and into whose mouth he does, though but in one instance, put immoral doctrines. These are the Rhetoricians, or teachers of oratory; a vocation sometimes combined with that of Sophist, but carefully distinguished from it by Plato, in that one of his works in which rhetoric is most depreciated. The types exhibited of the class are Gorgias, Polus, and Thrasymachus, all of whom Sokrates is introduced as triumphantly confuting. As there is thus something more of foundation for the common interpretation of Plato’s attacks on the rhetoricians, than of those on the Sophists, it is worth showing how very little that something amounts to.
Rhetoric, being the art of persuasion, is necessarily open to the reproach that it may be used indifferently in behalf of wrong and right, and may avail to “make the worse appear the better reason.”[*] But so far was it in Greece from being taught or recommended for this purpose by its popular teachers, that Gorgias, the most celebrated of them, in the dialogue bearing his name, and intended to lay rhetoric and the rhetoricians prostrate in the dust, is represented as emphatically deprecating such a use of it. After extolling, in magnificent terms, the value of his art, the general power it gives of attaining objects, and the ascendancy it confers in the State, he proceeds to say that, like all other powers, it should be used justly; and as gymnastic teachers are not blamed, or expelled from the city, if any one trained by them abuses the bodily strength he has acquired, by assaulting his parents or his friends, so the teachers of rhetoric are not in fault if their pupils make an unjust use of the valuable talent bestowed upon them; “for they (the teachers) bestowed it to be rightly used, against the enemies of the State and against evil-doers, not in aggression, but in defence.”[†] Thus far Gorgias; who, even in this most polemic dialogue, is treated with considerable respect, and has his dignity saved by being withdrawn from the Sokratic cross-examination when the conflict begins to grow serious. We may fairly presume that his teaching was as far above all moral reproach as that of Isokrates, the most famous and successful Grecian rhetorical teacher whose works have come down to us—to whose earnest and impressive inculcation of the moral virtues it is sufficient to allude.
The dispute is taken up by Polus, another teacher of rhetoric, represented as a much younger and very petulant man, between whom and Sokrates there is a discussion of a very dramatic character, with much vehemence on one side, and sarcasm and irony on the other. Sokrates asserts that to do injustice is the greatest of evils—a far worse one than to be unjustly done by: while Polus maintains, on the contrary, that an unjust man who escapes punishment, and practises injustice on so great a scale as to achieve signal success—especially he who can make himself despot of his city—is supremely enviable. Now this, which seems to be evidence on the side of the common theory, is really a strong confirmation of Mr. Grote’s; for no reader of Plato can be unaware that what Polus here expresses (though disclaimed by the Platonic Protagoras as a vulgar prejudice)* was the received opinion and established sentiment of the Grecian world. Polus appeals to it, and says—“Ask any of the persons present:” to which Sokrates answers—“Instead of refuting me by argument, you, like a pleader in a court of justice, overwhelm me with witnesses. No doubt all the testimony is on your side. If you ask Nicias” (the most morally respected citizen and politician of his time), “or Aristokrates, or the whole family of Pericles, or any family you think fit—in short, any Athenian or any foreigner, they will all assent; but I, one man, do not assent, and the only witness I will call is yourself; unless I can convince you that I am in the right, I shall consider myself to have done nothing.”[*] Similar evidence of the universal opinion appears at every turn in the Platonic dialogues. Whether it is the ambitious and unprincipled Alcibiades, or the youthful and inquiring Theages, or the two grave and reverend elders from Crete and Lacedæmon who figure in the Leges, they all speak with the same voice: the usurping despot, and every one who is eminently successful in injustice, is a man to be envied—such a man (they usually add) as we, and all the world, and you yourself, Sokrates, if you could, would wish to be. Sokrates claims complete originality in the contrary opinion, that injustice is an evil, and the greatest that can befall any one—a doctrine which, through the teachings of Plato himself, of the Stoics, and of some of the forms of Christianity, has grown so familiar to us, that it has become a truism, and even a cant; and moderns are ready to conclude offhand that not to profess it implies a denial of moral obligation. But look at Polus himself in the dialogue. He is asked by Sokrates—“You think it a worse thing (κάκιον) to be injured than to injure. Do you also think it a baser, or more shameful thing (αἴσχιον)?” Polus acknowledges the reverse: and Sokrates goes on to prove (by a fallacious argument, however), that whatever is more αἰσχρόν must be more κακόν.[†] Now this distinction of Polus is exactly that which the Greeks drew. Their opinion, that a wicked man would be happy if he could succeed in his wickedness, did not make them less abhor the bad man. He was to be restrained, punished, and, if need be, extirpated, not because his guilt was an evil to himself, but because it was an evil to others. He was looked upon as one who sought, and, if successful, obtained, good to himself by the damage and suffering of other people, and who was therefore not to be tolerated by them unless on compulsion. This is a different doctrine from the common one of modern moralists, but not an immoral doctrine; and even if it were, the Sophists and rhetoricians did not invent it, but found it universal. The speeches of Glaukon and Adeimantus, in the Second Book of the Republic, set forth this view of the case. Both these speakers strenuously disapprove the unjust life, and are anxious to be convinced that it is a calamity to the evil-doer. But, according to them, all mankind, even those who most inculcate justice, inculcate it as self-sacrifice, describing the life of the just man as hard and difficult, that of the unjust as pleasant and easy. The very best of them represent justice as personally desirable only on account of the good reputation and social consideration which attend it, implying that one who could acquire the reputation and rewards of justice without the reality, would be supremely fortunate, possessing the prize without the sacrifices, while he who had the reality, but missed the rewards, would be utterly miserable. Any man would be unjust if he possessed the ring of Gyges, which rendered the wearer invisible at pleasure. With this memorable testimony as to what was the general belief, it is mere ignorance to throw the responsibility on the Sophists and rhetoricians. We may add that even Polus is so far from being put in an odious light, that his petulance abates under the Sokratic cross-examination; he is not uncandid, does not obstinately resist conviction, and ends by confessing himself refuted. The speaker in this dialogue who really professes immoral doctrines, who denies that injustice is αἰσχρόν, and asserts that right and wrong are matters of convention, is Kallikles: neither a Sophist nor a rhetorician, but an active and ambitious political man, who, though he frequents the rhetoricians, proclaims his contempt of the Sophists, and represents a type of character doubtless frequent among Grecian politicians, though we may doubt their having ever publicly professed the principles they acted on.
The other rhetorical teacher shown up by Plato is Thrasymachus in the Republic, who is presented as rude, overbearing, even insolent in his manner of discussing, and who undoubtedly is made to profess, with a not very material difference, essentially the same immoral doctrine as Kallikles. He is accordingly confuted and put to shame; but even Thrasymachus ends better than he began, and though he takes no share in the long sequel of the dialogue, joins with others in pressing Sokrates to go on, and parts with him on friendly terms. This single exhibition of Thrasymachus, made, not by himself, but by Plato when he wants a spokesman for an immoral doctrine, is the solitary case that can be cited from Plato in support of the opinion which imputes immoral teaching to the Sophists; and Thrasymachus was not a Sophist, but a rhetorician.*
Nevertheless, it neither needs nor can be denied, not only that Plato had an unfavourable opinion of the Sophists generally, but that his writings contain much evidence of their being looked upon, in Athenian society, with a widespread sentiment of aversion. Their unpopularity may be accounted for, without supposing it to have been, in a moral point of view, deserved. In the first place, the disapprobation was far from being unanimous. Though the name Sophist was already a term of reproach, it was also one of praise: Plato himself speaks of “the genuine Sophistic art” (ἡ γένει γενναία σοϕιστική)† as a thing which he cannot completely distinguish from something laudable, and asks, “Have we not, in seeking for the Sophist, unexpectedly found the Philosopher?‡ In another place, when speaking of the skilful adaptations of Creative Power, he says that the gods are admirable Sophists. The term, when applied to any one, was an insult or a compliment according to the person who used it; like metaphysician, or political economist, or Malthusian, in our own day. And this double tradition was prolonged into the latest period of Grecian culture. It lasted even after the word philosopher had come into use as the designation which all kinds of speculative men took to themselves; when this name might have been expected to engross all the favourable associations, leaving only the unfavourable to the word sophist. In one of the dialogues of Lucian, who was cotemporary with Marcus Aurelius, the sophist is identified with the philosopher, and described as the chosen and professional inculcator and guardian of virtue.§ Those who are chiefly brought forward by Plato as thinking ill of the Sophists, are either practical politicians, whose contempt for theorists is no rare or abnormal phenomenon in any age, or elderly and respectable fathers of families, who had passed through life with credit and success without the acquirements which they now found the younger generation running after. The character in Plato who exhibits the strongest example of mingled hatred and contempt for the Sophists, is Anytus, in the Menon. This man, a politician of influence and repute, no sooner hears them mentioned than he bursts into a torrent of abuse, calling them people whom it is madness to have anything to do with, and whose presence no city ought to tolerate; though he admits, when questioned, that he has never conversed with any of them, nor has any personal knowledge of what they taught, but does not the less indignantly denounce them as “corrupters of youth,”[*] the charge on which afterwards, in conjunction with Melêtus, he indicted Sokrates, withcwhatc result we all know. It is worth mentioning, that Xenophon relates, on the authority of Sokrates himself, the origin of the offence which Anytus had taken against him: it was because he criticized the education which Anytus was giving to his son, saying that a man who sought for himself the greatest honours of the state ought to have brought up this promising youth to a higher occupation than his own business of a tanner.* This is probably a fair example of the feeling which indisposed respectable elderly Athenians towards “Sokrates the Sophist,”[†] and towards the other Sophists. When the charge of corrupting youth comes to be particularized, it always resolves itself into making them think themselves wiser than the laws, and fail in proper respect to their fathers and their seniors. And this is a true charge: only it ought to fall, not on the Sophists, but on intellectual culture generally. Whatever encourages young men to think for themselves, does lead them to criticize the laws of their country—does shake their faith in the infallibility of their fathers and their elders, and make them think their own speculations preferable. It is beyond doubt that the teaching of Sokrates, and of Plato after him, produced these effects in an extraordinary degree. Accordingly, we learn from Xenophon that the youths of rich families who frequented Sokrates, did so, for the most part, against the severe disapprobation of their relatives.[*] In every age and state of society, fathers and the elder citizens have been suspicious and jealous of all freedom of thought and all intellectual cultivation (not strictly professional) in their sons and juniors, unless they can get it controlled and regulated by some civil or ecclesiastical authority in which they have confidence. But it had not occurred to Athenian legislators to have an established Sophistical Church, or State Universities. The teaching of the Sophists was all on the voluntary principle; and the dislike of it was of the same nature with the outcry against “godless colleges,” or the objection of most of our higher and middle classes to any schools but denominational ones. They disapproved of any teaching, unless they could be certain that all their own opinions would be taught. It mattered not that the instructors taught no heresy; the mere fact that they accustomed the mind to ask questions, and require other reasons than use and wont, sufficed at Athens, as it does in most other places, to make the teaching dangerous in the eyes of self-satisfied respectability. Accordingly, respectability, as Plato himself tells us, looked with at least as evil an eye on Philosophers as on Sophists. Sokrates, in the Apologia, speaks of the reproach of atheism, of making the worse appear the better cause, and so forth, as the charges always at hand to be flung at those who philosophize; τὰ κατὰ πάντων τω̑ν ϕιλοσοϕούντων πρόχειρα ταυ̑τα.[†] Xenophon also calls the teaching of an art of words “the common reproach of the multitude against philosophers.”* There is nothing in all Plato more impressive than his picture, in the Gorgias and the Republic, of the solitary and despised position of the philosopher in every existing society, and the universal impression against him, as at best an useless person, but more frequently an eminently wicked one (παμπονήρους, κακοὺς πα̑σαν κακίαν).‡ He takes pains to point out the causes which gave to this unfavourable opinion of philosophers a colour of truth, and admits that it was not unfrequently justified by the conduct of those who were so called; which is more than he ever says of the Sophists.
Plato’s own dislike of the Sophists was probably quite as intense as that to which he testifies on the part of the Athenian public: but was it of the same nature? Did he regard them as corruptors of youth? Not if the Sokrates of the Republic expresses Plato’s opinions. In one of the most weighty passages of that majestic dialogue, Sokrates is made to say—People fancy that it is Sophists and such people that are corruptors of youth; but this is a mistake. The real corruptor of the young is society itself; their families, their associates, all whom they see and converse with, the applauses and hootings of the public assembly, the sentences of the court of justice. These are what pervert young men, by holding up to them a false standard of good and evil, and giving an entirely wrong direction to their desires. As for the Sophists, they merely repeat the people’s own opinions.
Do you imagine [he asks], like the many, that young men are corrupted by Sophists—that there are private Sophists who corrupt them in any degree worth talking about (ὅτι καὶ ἄξιον λόγου)? Are not the very men who assert this, themselves the greatest Sophists, educating and training in the most thorough manner both young and old, men and women, to be such as they wish them to be? Those fee-taking individuals whom they call Sophists, and regard as their rivals, teach nothing but these very opinions of the multitude, and call them wisdom.*
And it is these false opinions of the multitude, as he proceeds to show, which corrupt so many minds originally well fitted for philosophy, and divert them to the paths of vulgar ambition. If there is a class from whom he deems the multitude to have imbibed these false opinions, and whom he consequently makes accountable for them, it is the poets, who, in the religion of Hellas, were also the theologians.
Why, then, is Plato so merciless in running down the Sophists? The reasons are plain enough in many parts of his writings: let us look for them where we may be sure of finding them, in the dialogue devoted to defining what a Sophist is. The Sophistes is an elaborate investigation into the Sophist’s nature and essence, and, besides its direct purpose, is intended as an example of the most thorough mode of conducting such investigations. From a succession of different points of view, Plato arrives at several definitions of the Sophist, some of which want so little of being complimentary, that he confesses a difficulty in distinguishing the Sophist from the Dialectician. Others are condemnatory, but the grounds of condemnation which emerge are limited to two; the same which compose the definition by his pupil Aristotle, of a Sophist in the unfavourable sense: χρηματιστὴς ἀπὸ ϕαινομένης σοϕίας ἀλλ’ οὐκ οὔσης.[*] The first and principal topic of disparagement (which recurs in almost every dialogue where they are mentioned) is that they took money for their teaching. And everything proves that whatever antipathy he had to the Sophists specially, as distinguished from other influential classes in Greece, was grounded on that circumstance alone. This will perhaps be hardly credible to many readers. In modern times, when everybody takes pay for everything (legislators and county magistrates alone excepted), and it is thought quite natural and creditable that men should be paid in money even for saving souls, it is difficult to realize the point of view from which Plato and Sokrates looked on this subject. Sokrates, we are told by Xenophon, compared those who sell their wisdom to those who sell their caresses,* and maintained that both alike ought only to be given in exchange for love. Nor is this inconsistent with the fact that Plato certainly, and Sokrates probably, though they took no fees, accepted presents from their admirers: for to minister to the needs of a friend was a duty of friendship; and the Platonic Sokrates† expresses his whole sentiment on the question by saying, that the teachers of any special art may consistently and reasonably demand payment for their instructions, because they profess to make people good artists or artificers, not good men; but that it is the height of inconsistency in a professed teacher of virtue to grumble because those whom he has pretended to instruct do not pay him sufficiently, since his complaint of their injustice is the clearest proof that the instruction has been of no use.‡ Nor is it difficult to find arguments, tenable even from the modern point of view, which might be, and have been, brought to prove the mischief of erecting the commerce of ideas into a money-getting trade. In the brilliant dialogue entitled Gorgias, in which the hardest things are said that are to be found in all Plato both against the sophistic and the rhetorical profession, he classes them as two branches of one comprehensive, not art but knack, that of adulation (κολακεία). They attain their purposes, he affirms, not by making people wiser or better, but by conforming to their opinions, pandering to their existing desires, and making them better pleased with themselves and with their errors and vices than they were before.[*] And is not this the really formidable temptation of all popular teaching and all literature? necessarily aggravated when these are practised for their pecuniary fruits. We may picture to ourselves Plato, judging from this point of view the teachers of the present day.dAnd established clergy, he might say, are directly bribed to profess an existing set of opinions, whether they believe them or not, and however remote they may be from truth. The ministers of every non-established sect are no less bound by their pecuniary interest to preach, not what is true, but what their flocks already believe. Of lawyers it is unnecessary to speak, who must either give up their profession, or accept a brief without scruple from what they know to be the wrong side. Schoolmasters, and the teachers and governors of universities, must, on every subject on which opinions differ, provide the teaching which will be acceptable to those who can give them pupils, not that which is really the best. Statesmen, he might say, have renounced even the pretence that anything ought to be required from them but to give to the public, not what is best for it, but what it wishes to have. The press, especially the most influential part of it, the newspapers and periodicals—by what incessant evidence does it prove that it considers as its business to be of the same mind with the public; to court, assent to, adulate, Public Opinion, and instead of disagreeable truths, ply it with the things it likes toehear.e There is so much groundwork of reality for a representation like this, that some in our own day draw the same practical inference with Plato, and think there should be no law of copyright, that writers may no longer be tempted to prepare opinions for the market, and no one may write aught but what he feels impelled to put forth from pure zeal for his convictions. We think this opinion wrong, not because nothing can be said for it, but because there is much more to be said on the opposite side. It is, however, a substantially correct expression of Plato’s sentiments, and shows that his bitterness against the Sophists for being paid teachers was far from being the mere sentimentality which we might be apt to think it.
The other ground of disapproval of the Sophists which comes out in the Sophistes, and wherever else Plato discusses them, is, that the doctrines in which they dealt were apparent, not real wisdom; Opinion only, and not Knowledge. Whoever is aware of what Plato meant by knowledge, and of the attitude which he and his master assumed towards what passed for such among their cotemporaries, will admit that what is here said of the Sophists was true; but not truer of them than of all other persons in that age. If there is one thing more than another which Plato represents Sokrates as maintaining, it is that knowledge, on the subjects most important to man, did not yet exist, though everybody was living under the false persuasion of possessing it. He, Sokrates, did not pretend to know anything, except his own ignorance; but inasmuch as other people did not know even that, Sokrates, who did, deserved the palm of wisdom assigned to him by the Delphian Oracle. In the Apologia, which is either the real speech of Sokrates, or Plato’s idealization of his life and character, he represents himself as driven by a religious obligation to cross-examine all men, and discover if any of them had attained that real knowledge which he himself was conscious of not possessing. For this purpose, as he says, he sought the conversation of those who seemed, or were considered, wise; beginning with the politicians, all of whom he found to be in a state of gross ignorance, and in general more profoundly so in proportion to their reputation, but puffed up in the extreme by a false opinion of their own knowledge. He next tested the poets, but found that though they composed splendid things, doubtless by a divine afflatus, they were unable to give any rational account of the works which, or of the subjects on which, they composed. Last, he tried the artificers, and these, he found, did possess real knowledge, each concerning his special art; but fell into the error of imagining that they knew other things besides, which false opinion put them on the whole in a worse condition than his own conscious ignorance. It is noticeable that he does not here mention the Sophists among those whom he had cross-examined, and convicted of not knowing what they pretended to know. It is evident, however, that one who had this opinion concerning all the world, would come first and most into collision with the teachers. Those who not only fancied that they knew what they knew not, but professed to teach it, would be the very first persons whom it would fall in his way to convict of ignorance; and this is the exact position of Plato with regard to the Sophists. He attacks them not as the perverters of society, but as marked representatives of society itself, and compelled, by the law of their existence as its paid instructors, to sum up in themselves all that is bad in its tendencies.
The enemy against whom Plato really fought, and the warfare against whom was the incessant occupation of the greater part of his life and writings, was not Sophistry, either in the ancient or the modern sense of the term, but Commonplace. It was the acceptance of traditional opinions and current sentiments as an ultimate fact; and bandying of the abstract terms which express approbation and disapprobation, desire and aversion, admiration and disgust, as if they had a meaning thoroughly understood and universally assented to. The men of his day (like those of ours) thought that they knew what Good and Evil, Just and Unjust, Honourable and Shameful, were, because they could use the words glibly, and affirm them of this and of that, in agreement with existing custom. But what the property was, which these several instances possessed in common, justifying the application of the term, nobody had considered; neither the Sophists, nor the rhetoricians, nor the statesmen, nor any of those who set themselves up or were set up by others as wise. Yet whoever could not answer this question was wandering in darkness; had no standard by which his judgments were regulated, and which kept them consistent with one another; no rule which he knew, and could stand by, for the guidance of his life. Not knowing what Justice and Virtue are, it was impossible to be just and virtuous; not knowing what Good is, we not only fail to reach it, but are certain to embrace Evil instead. Such a condition, to any one capable of thought, made life not worth having. The grand business of human intellect ought to consist in subjecting these general terms to the most rigorous scrutiny, and bringing to light the ideas that lie at the bottom of them. Even if this cannot be done, and real knowledge be attained, it is already no small benefit to expel the false opinion of knowledge; to make men conscious of their ignorance of the things most needful to be known, fill them with shame and uneasiness at their own state, and rouse a pungent internal stimulus, summoning up all their mental energies to attack these greatest of all problems, and never rest until, as far as possible, the true solutions are reached. This is Plato’s notion of the condition of the human mind in his time, and of what philosophy could do to help it; and any one who does not think the description applicable, with slight modifications, to the majority even of educated minds in our own and in all times known to us, certainly has not brought either the teachers or the practical men of any time to the Platonic test.*
The sole means by which, in Plato’s opinion, the minds of menfcanf be delivered from this intolerable state, and put in the way of obtaining the real knowledge which has power to make them wise and virtuous, is what he terms Dialectics; and the philosopher, as conceived by him, is almost synonymous with the Dialectician. What Plato understood by this name consisted of two parts. One is, the testing every opinion by a negative scrutiny, eliciting every objection or difficulty that could be raised against it, and demanding, before it was adopted, that they should be successfully met. This could only be done effectually by way of oral discussion; pressing the respondent by questions, to which he was generally unable to make replies that were not in contradiction either to admitted fact, or to his own original hypothesis. This cross-examination is the Sokratic Elenchus; which, wielded by a master such as Sokrates was, and as we can ourselves appreciate in Plato, no mere appearance of knowledge without the reality was able to resist. Its pressure was certain, in an honest mind, to dissipate the false opinion of knowledge, and make the confuted respondent sensible of his own ignorance, while it at once helped and stimulated him to the mental effort by which alone that ignorance could be exchanged for knowledge. Dialectics, thus understood, is one branch of an art which is a main portion of the Art of Living—that of not believing except on sufficient evidence; its function being that of compelling a man to put his belief into precise terms, and take a defensible position against all the objections that can be made to it. The other, or positive arm of Plato’s dialectics, of which he and Sokrates may be regarded as the originators, is the direct search for the common feature of things that are classed together, or, in other words, for the meaning of the class-name. It comprehends the logical processes of Definition and Division or Classification; the theory and systematic employment of which were a new thing in Plato’s day: indeed Aristotle says that the former of the operations was first introduced by Sokrates.[*] They are indissolubly connected, Division being, as Plato inculcates, the only road to Definition. To find what a thing is, it is necessary to set out from Being in general, or from some large and known Kind which includes the thing sought—to dismember the kind into its component parts, and these into others, each division being, if possible, only into two members (an anticipation of Ramus and Bentham), marking at each stage the distinctive feature which differentiates one member from the other. By the time we have divided down to the thing of which we are in quest, we have remarked its points of agreement with all the things to which it is allied, and the points that constitute its differences from them; and are thus enabled to produce a definition of it, which is a compendium of its whole nature. This mode of arriving at a definition is elaborately exemplified, first on an insignificant subject, then on a great and difficult one, in the Sophistes and Politikos; two of the most important of the Platonic dialogues, because in both of them the conception of this part of the process of philosophizing is purely Baconian, unincumbered by the ontological theory which Plato in other writings superinduces on his pure logic.* Without this theory, however, a very insufficient conception would be formed of the Platonic philosophy. The bond of union among the particulars comprised in a class, as understood by Plato, is not a mental Concept, framed by abstraction, and having no existence outside the mind, but a Form or Idea, existing by itself, belonging to another world than ours—with which Form or Idea, concrete objects have a communion or participation of nature, and in the likeness of which (though a very imperfect likeness) they have been made. When this mode of conceiving the process of generalization had been received into Plato’s mind, he was led to think that the Ideas were the real existences, which were alone permanent, alone the object of knowledge. Individual objects, if they could be said to be knowable at all, were only knowable through the Ideas, which, therefore, it was the characteristic function of the philosopher to cognise; thus exalting the philosopher to a region above nature and the earth, and making him of kin to the gods, who, being the possessors of supreme wisdom, must live in the perpetual contemplation of these glorious and superterrene existences. We have here reached the mystical and poetical side of Plato’s philosophy; and the dialectic process being the only road by which an earthly nature can approach these divine essences (for he by no meansgregardedg their apprehension as intuitive), we begin to understand how that process acquires the poetical and religious halo which surrounds it in his mind; how the dialectician becomes a kind of divine person—the nearest approach possible for man to the celestial nature.
The real merits, however, of the Platonic dialectics are not dependent on this religious and metaphysical superstructure; and before we follow Plato farther on that slippery ground, we must dwell a little on the debt mankind owe to him for this, incomparably his greatest gift.
The larger half of the Platonic compositions is directly devoted to the exemplification and application of the dialectic art; the investigation, in conversation between two persons, of the definition of some term in general use, connected with emotional sentiments and practical impulses and restraints. Sometimes the inquiry takes the shape of confutation of an opinion maintained by some admired teacher, or self-confident dogmatist: sometimes the interlocutor is a friend or companion, usually an ingenuous youth, who is encouraged to attempt a definition, and as the definitions he hazards are successively shown to be insufficient, looks out for another, free from the particular fault which has been pointed out. An idea of the variety of topics embraced by these inquiries may be conveyed to those unacquainted with Plato, by the following catalogue:
All these dialogues have for their sole object the investigation of Definitions, either in the way of confutation or of simple search. If we add those of which an important part is directed to this purpose, though the dialogue has other objects besides, we include the four greatest masterpieces of Plato’s genius:
Protagoras.—A manifold and magnificent display of the Sokratic and Platonic mind, a great part of which consists of an inquiry into the definitions of the cardinal virtues, and especially of Courage.
Phædrus.—Equally multifarious; part of which is a discussion respecting the nature and definition of Rhetoric.
Gorgias.—What is Rhetoric? With this inquiry the dialogue sets out, but leads through it into an ethical controversy on the superiority of the just over the unjust life.
Republic.—The inquiry, What is Justice? is the starting point of this great work, which widens out into a complete treatise on the Platonic ethics, and on the constitution of a perfect commonwealth.
A series of investigations worthy to be attributed to the philosopher who, as we hear from Xenophon, “never ceased considering, along with his companions, what each existing thing is,” being of opinion “that those who know what each thing is, are able to exhibit it to other people; but when men know it not, it is no wonder that they themselves go astray, and mislead others.”*
In casting our eyes over this list, we are forcibly reminded what a curious thing Mixed Modes are; if we may venture to borrow from the Lockian psychology a phrase which has fallen into undeserved disuse, signifying those complex ideas which the mind makes up for itself, not by directly copying an original in nature, but by combination of elements more or less arbitrarily selected from experience. Of this kind are the various concepts connected with praise and blame, which, being mostly compounded of elements having little to hold them together except a common emotion, are differently composed in different ages and countries, and the words which represent them in one language have no synonyms in another. We found it impossible to express the subjects of several of Plato’s dialogues in English, except by heaping together a number of names, no one of which is an exact equivalent of the Greek word, and which even in combination are only an approximate expression of the same collection of attributes. The subject of the Lysis is ϕιλία, translated Friendship; and the inquiry into the nature of ϕιλία has to give an account of friendship; but it has also to give an account of a man’s ϕιλία for horses, and dogs, and wine, of the ϕιλία of a sick body for health and medicine, that of a philosopher for wisdom, even the imaginary attraction of Dry for Moist, Cold for Hot, Bitter for Sweet, Empty for Full, and contraries in general for one another. Σωϕροσύνη, the subject of the Charmides, is one of the most difficult words to translate in the whole Greek language. The common rendering, Temperance, corresponds to a part of the meaning, but is ridiculously inadequate to the whole. Continence, Modesty, Moderation, are all short of thehmark. Self-Restrainth and Self-Control are better, but imply the coercion of the character by the will, while what is required is rather a character not needing coercion. There is also in the Greek word an implied idea of order, of measure, and, as may be seen from this very dialogue, of deliberateness, which are wanting in the nearest English equivalents. Unobtrusiveness, too, is an essential part of the concept; and there is a connotation besides of Judgment or Intelligence (let us say Reasonableness); otherwise Plato could not, as he does in the Protagoras, found an apparent argument on the antithesis between σωϕροσύνη and ἀϕροσύνη.[*] Sobriety, a word used several times in this connexion by Mr. Grote, perhaps comes nearest to the Greek word in its variety of applications; but even this hardly admits of being substituted for it in discourse, without a perpetual running comment. A still more illustrative case, interesting as an example of the relation between national language and national character, is the Greek employment of the words which we translate by Beautiful and Ugly: καλόν and αἰσχρόν. These terms, derived from purely physical characteristics, and never ceasing to carry that meaning, became the symbols, both in speculation and in daily life, of the æsthetic or artistic view of human actions and qualities, as distinguished from the useful and the simply dutiful; an aspect prominent, and even predominant, in the susceptible Grecian mind, but which, to our exclusively practical turn of thought, confirmed by monachism and puritanism, is scarcely intelligible, and our translators bungle with their “honourable” and “shameful” in a vain attempt to express the complicated sentiment of the Greeks on matters of conduct and character, or to understand what their writers meant. The French, whose ethical sentiment retains more of the æsthetic element, sometimes indeed out of due proportion to the prudential and the dutiful, realize better the Hellenic feeling, and can often, even in moral discussion, translate τὸ καλόν by “le beau;” though there is no similar correlation of “le laid” with αἰσχρόν.*
In spite, however, of these divergences between Plato’s world and our own in the composition of the complex ideas to which emotions are attached, whoever has a due value for the Method will often learn as much from these cases, as from the more frequent ones in which the subject of inquiry is a Mixed Mode identical or very similar to one familiar to ourselves; as Virtue, Justice, Courage, Knowledge, Law.
In many of these investigations, the person questioned does not at first exactly know what is expected from him, and instead of a genuine definition, replies by specimens of particular things commonly included under the name; the pretentious and practised teacher Hippias, as represented in the dialogue, being as unfamiliar with the sort of investigation intended, and more inexpert and clumsy when he attempts it, than the respectable and competent man of action Laches, the opulent Thessalian patrician Menon, or the youth Theætetus. Sokrates labours, by a profusion of illustrative examples (showing how little familiar the notion then was), to make them understand that what is wanted is not any particular cases of the beautiful, or of virtue, or of knowledge, but what Beauty, or Virtue, or Knowledge, in themselves are. The respondent is then encouraged, or, if in an antagonistic position, compelled, to point out some feature or circumstance which is always present along with the notion or predicate into the meaning of which they are inquiring. The part of Sokrates is, to show either that this feature or circumstance is not present in all the cases, or, more frequently, that it is present in many more than the cases, to which the word is applicable; thus obliging the respondent either to withdraw his definition and try another, or to limit the first by some circumstance, intended to exclude the particulars which had been unguardedly left within the boundary. Many definitions are tried, and shown to be untenable, and the dialogue often concludes without any result but the confession of ignorance. Even when one of the definitions examined seems to be accepted in one dialogue, it is often contested, and apparently refuted, in another; so that the result, on the whole, is rather one of method than of doctrine; though striking fragments of truth come to the surface, in the general turning up of the subject which the process involves. The confutations, too, though of marvellous ingenuity, are frequently, to us, obvious fallacies. Yet the process is the true and only mode of acquiring abstract notions which are both clear, and correspond to points of identity among real facts; and the manifold and masterly exemplification of it in the Platonic dialogues is a discipline in precise thinking, to which there is even now nothing simile aut secundum in philosophy. To suppose that dialectic training only trains dialecticians, is great ignorance of its power and virtue. Such training is an indispensable education for dogmatic thinkers: and it is quite in the course of nature that Plato should have been the master of Aristotle. But the many first-rate minds which have owed much of their clearness and vigour to the Platonic dialectic, have shown what it had done for them by the fruits it brought forth in themselves, rather than by creating any fresh models of it. The dialogues, therefore, are the still unrivalled types of the dialectic process; made captivating by all the grace and felicity of execution which gave to the author the title of the Attic Bee; and afford an example, once in all literature, of the union between an eminent genius for philosophy and the most consummate skill and feeling of the artist.
Much, however, as the modern world owes to the Platonic dialectics, it is seldom duly sensible of the obligation. The testing and cross-examining process is never popular.
In the natural process of growth in the human mind, belief does not follow proof, but springs up apart from and independent of it; an immature intelligence believes first, and proves (if indeed it ever seeks proof) afterwards. This mental tendency is further confirmed by the pressure and authority of King Nomos; who is peremptory in exacting belief, but neither furnishes nor requires proof. The community, themselves deeply persuaded, will not hear with calmness the voice of a solitary reasoner, adverse to opinions thus established; nor do they like to be required to explain, analyse, or reconcile those opinions. They disapprove especially that dialectic debate which gives free play and efficacious prominence to the negative arm.*
“Nothing can be more repugnant to an ordinary mind than the thorough sifting of deep-seated, long familiarized notions.”* Scarcely any modern would endure to submit himself to the Sokratic interrogation, which, to Plato’s apprehension, was so emphatically the only sufficient Elenchus or test, that he entertained a very poor opinion of the value either of long speeches, or of written discourse, where the discourser was not at hand to be questioned and to question—διδόναι καὶ δέχεσθαι λόγον.[*] Even such approach to the Sokratic method as written composition admits of, the confutation of adversaries behind their backs, is seldom regarded with much favour; even those who agree with the writer caring little for it, beyond what pleasure they may take in seeing their opponents humiliated. For themselves, they are content to be convinced by their own reasons, without troubling themselves about counter-arguments which they are sure must be fallacious. Yet truth, in everything but mathematics, is not a single but a double question; not what can be said for an opinion, but whether more can be said for it than against it. There is no knowledge, and no assurance of right belief, but with him who can both confute the opposite opinion, and successfully defend his own against confutation. But this, the principal lesson of Plato’s writings, the world and many of its admired teachers have very imperfectly learned. We have to thank our free Parliament, and the publicity of our courts of justice, for whatever feeling we have of the value of debate. The Athenians, who were incessantly engaged in hearing both sides of every deliberative and judicial question, had a far stronger sense of it.
The other, or positive half of the Platonic dialectic, is equally far from being appreciated; that, namely, whereby the vague generalities which serve as the standard of censure or applause in common discourse, are put on the logical rack, and compelled to declare what definite signification lies in them. This twofold obligation, to be able to maintain our opinions against the criticism of opponents and refute theirs, and never to use a term in serious discourse without a precise meaning, has always been odious to the classes who compose nearly the whole of mankind; dogmatists of all persuasions, and merely practical people. Hence it is that human intellect improves so slowly, and, even in acquiring more and more of the results of wisdom, grows so little wiser. In things that depend on natural sagacity, which is about equally abundant at all times, we are not inferior to our forefathers; in knowledge of observed facts we are far beyond them; but we cast off particular errors without extirpating the causes of error; the Idols of the Tribe, and even of the Den, infest us almost as much as formerly;[†] the discipline which purges the intellect itself,iprotectingi it from false generalization, inconclusive inference, and simple nonsense, on subjects which it imperfectly knows, is still absent from all but a few minds. We have been disabused of many false and pernicious opinions by the evidence of fact, but not by correcting the mental habits whichjengenderj them; and we are almost as ready as ever to receive new errors, when our senses and memory do not supply us with truths which those particular erroneous opinions would contradict.
It is singular that Plato himself did not fully profit by the principal lesson of his own teaching. This is one of the inconsistencies by which he is such a puzzle to posterity. No one can read many of the works of Plato, and doubt that he had positive opinions. But he does not bring his own opinions to the test which he applies to others. “It depends on the actual argumentative purpose which Plato has in hand, whether he chooses to multiply objections and give them effect, or to ignore them altogether.”* “The affirmative Sokrates only stands his ground because no negative Sokrates is allowed to attack him.”† Or, what is worse, Plato applies the test, and disregards its indications; states clearly and strongly the objections to the opinion he favours, and goeskonk his way as if they did not exist. If there is a doctrine which is the guide of his deepest speculations, which he invests with all the plausibility that his wonderful power of illustration can give, and clothes in the most brilliant colours of his poetic imagination, it is the theory of Self-Existent Ideas—the essential groundwork of some of his grandest dialogues, especially the Phædrus, the Phædon, and an important portion of the Republic. Yet there is in his writings no specimen of logical confutation more remarkable than that by which Parmenides, in the dialogue so called, overthrows this very doctrine, put into the mouth of the youthful Sokrates. Some of the Platonic critics consequently decide the Parmenides not to be a work of Plato, but one directed against Plato, by a disciple of the Eleatic school; forgetting that Parmenides, in the dialogue, gives an equally peremptory refutation of his own principal doctrine, the Unity of Being, and moreover winds up his refutation of the theory of Ideas by saying that, liable as it is to these great difficulties, philosophy and dialectics would be impossible unless it were admitted.‡ One would expect that so important a theory would not be left in this predicament, suspended between opposite reasons deemed equally irresistible. We should have supposed that the great master of dialectics, since he accepted the doctrine, would have held himself bound to refute its seeming refutation. Yet he never does this, and, we venture to think, could not have done it. The objections are repeated, in a more abridged form, in the Philebus, and are equally left unanswered, Sokrates merely remarking, that the subject will probably always continue to be a theme for the ingenuity of young dialecticians.* The dogmatic Plato seems a different person from the elenctic Plato:
The two currents of his speculation, the affirmative and the negative, are distinct and independent of each other. Where the affirmative is especially present (as in Timæus) the negative altogether disappears. Timæus is made to proclaim the most sweeping theories, not one of which the real Sokrates would have suffered to pass without abundant cross-examination; but the Platonic Sokrates hears them with respectful silence, and commends afterwards. When Plato comes forward to affirm, his dogmas are altogether à priori; they enunciate preconceptions or hypotheses, which derive their hold upon his belief not from any aptitude for solving the objections which he has raised, but from deep and solemn sentiment of some kind or other—religious, ethical, æsthetical, poetical, &c., the worship of numerical symmetry or exactness, &c. The dogmas are enunciations of some grand sentiment of the divine, good, just, beautiful, symmetrical, &c., which Plato follows out into corollaries. But this is a process of itself; and while he is performing it, the doubts previously raised are not called up to be solved, but are forgotten or kept out of sight.†
Plato was sceptic, dogmatist, religious mystic and inquisitor, mathematician, philosopher, poet (erotic as well as satirical), rhetor, artist, all in one, or, at least, all in succession, throughout the fifty years of his philosophical life. At one time his exuberant dialectical impulse claims satisfaction, manifesting itself in a string of ingenious doubts and unsolved contradictions; at another time he is full of theological antipathy against those who libel Helios and Selênê, or who deny the universal providence of the gods: here we have unqualified confessions of ignorance, and protestations against the false persuasion of knowledge, as alike wide-spread and deplorable; there we find a description of the process of building up the Kosmos from the beginning, as if the author had been privy to the inmost purposes of the Demiurgus. In one dialogue the erotic fever is in the ascendant, distributed between beautiful youths and philosophical concepts, and confounded with a religious inspiration and furor which supersedes and transcends human sobriety (Phædrus); in another, all vehement impulses of the soul are stigmatized and repudiated, no honourable scope being left for anything but the calm and passionless Nous (Philêbus, Phædon). Satire is exchanged for dithyramb and mythe, and one ethical point of view for another (Protagoras, Gorgias). The all-sufficient dramatizing power of the master gives full effect to each of these multifarious tendencies. On the whole—to use a comparison of Plato himself—the Platonic sum total somewhat resembles those fanciful combinations of animals imagined in the Hellenic mythology—an aggregate of distinct and disparate individuals, which look like one because they are packed in the same external wrapper.*
The most important, though not the whole, of these varieties of tone and sentiment, seem to us to be explained by the philosopher’s advance in years, and growth in positive convictions. The first alone will account for much. There needs little argument to prove that the warfare against the intenser pleasures, and condemnation of all mental perturbations, of the Philebus, the Leges, and even the Republic, belong to a later time of life than the amatory enthusiasm of the Phædrus and the Symposion. Again, the works which bear the strongest marks of having been written in Plato’s later years, show a great modification in his estimation of the Elenctic process. He had apparently met the not unfrequent fate of great reformers, so strikingly exemplified in the career of Luther, who, precisely because he had succeeded beyond all reasonable expectation in his original purpose, had to expend his principal energies during the latter part of his life in driving back followers who had outrun their leader. In the dialogues of mere Search, which were probably written by Plato while the influence of Sokrates over his mind was still predominant, there is nothing he oftener repeats, in the person of his hero, than that the mere awakening of a sense of ignorance, the mere destruction of the false persuasion of knowledge which is universal among mankind, is in itself, though nothing further come of it, a highly valuable result of Dialectics. But as he advanced in life, and acquired a persuasion of knowledge of his own; when, to use a metaphor of Mr. Grote’s, he ceased to be leader of opposition, and passed over to the ministerial benches, he came to think that the Sokratic cross-examination is a dangerous edge-tool. Already in the Republic we find him dwelling on the mischiefs of a purely negative state of mind, and complaining that Dialectics are placed too early in the course of education, and are taken up by “immature youths, who abuse the licence of interrogation, find all their home-grown opinions uncertain, and end by losing all positive convictions.”† In the Platonic commonwealth, this pursuit only commences at the age of thirty, in order that Plato’s own dogmatic opinions may have a long start before being exposed to the dangers of the elenctic test. Dialectic, with its logical cross-examination, is still, however, the grand instrument of philosophizing, and those trained in it are alone considered fit to rule. But as Plato advanced still further in years and in dogmatism, he seems to have lost his relish and value for Dialectic altogether. In his second imaginary commonwealth—that of the Leges—it is no longer mentioned; it forms no part of the education either of the rulers or of the ruled, but in lieu of it is substituted a rigid and immutable orthodoxy of Plato’s own making, any disloyalty to which, or any dream of trying it by the Elenchus, is repressed with Torquemada-like severity. With regard to his omission to fortify his opinions in his own mind, against the difficulties raised by himself, our suspicion is, that he had come to despair of the efficacy of the dialectic process as a means of discriminating truth; that his inability to solve his own objections had brought him to the persuasion that objections insoluble by dialectics could be made against all truths; and, the ethical and political tendencies of his mind becoming predominant over the purely speculative, he came to think that the doctrines which had the best ethical tendency should be taught, with little or no regard to whether they could be proved true, and even at the risk of their being false.
There are thus, independently of minor discrepancies, two complete Platos in Plato—the Sokratist and the Dogmatist—of whom the former is by far the more valuable to mankind, but the latter has obtained from them much the greater honour. And no wonder; for the one was capable of being a useful prop to many a man’s moral and religious dogmas, while the other could only clear and invigorate the human understanding.
There is, indeed, ample justification for the homage which all cultivated ages have rendered to Plato simply as a moralist—as one of the most powerful masters of virtue who have appeared among mankind. Amid all his changes, there is one thing to which he is ever constant—the transcendent worth of virtue and wisdom (which he invariably identifies), and the infinitely superior eligibility of the just life, even if calumniated and persecuted, over the unjust, however honoured by men, and by whatever power and grandeur surrounded. And what he thus feels, no one ever had a power superior to his of making felt by his readers. It is this element which completes in him the character of a Great Teacher. Others can instruct, but Plato is of those who form great men, by the combination of moral enthusiasm and logical discipline. “Aristotle,” says Mr. Grote, “in one of his lost dialogues, made honourable mention of a Corinthian cultivator, who in reading the Platonic Gorgias, was smitten with such vehement admiration, that he abandoned his fields and his vines, came to Athens forthwith, and committed himself to the tuition of Plato.”* It was not, we may be assured, by its arguments, that the Gorgias produced this striking manifestation of psychagogic efficacy; for they are nearly all of them fallacies, and could not have resisted the first touch of the cross-examining Elenchus, so unsparingly applied to their impugners. This great dialogue, full of just thoughts and fine observations on human nature, is, in mere argument, one of the weakest of Plato’s works. It is not by its logic, but by its ἠ̑θος, that it produces its effects; not by instructing the understanding, but by working on the feelings and imagination. Nor is this strange; for the disinterested love of virtue is an affair of feeling. It is impossible to prove to any one Plato’s thesis, that justice is supreme happiness, unless he can be made to feel it as such. The external inducements which recommend it he may be taught to appreciate; the favourable regards and good offices of other people, and the rewards of another life. These considerations, however, though Plato has recourse to them in other places, are not available in the Gorgias. The posthumous recompense he only ventures to introduce in the form of a mythe; and the earthly one is opposed to the whole scheme of the dialogue, which represents the virtuous and wise man as, in every existing society, a solitary being, misjudged, persecuted, and having no more chance with the Many against their adulators, than (to use Plato’s comparison)[*] a physician would have, if indicted before a jury of children by a confectioner for giving them nauseous drugs instead of delicious sweetmeats. It is precisely this picture of the moral hero, still tenax propositi[†] against the hostility and contempt of the world, which makes the splendour and power of the Gorgias. The Sokrates of the dialogue makes us feel all other evils to be more tolerable than injustice in the soul, not by proving it, but by the sympathy he calls forth with his own intense feeling of it. He inspires heroism, because he shows himself a hero. And his failures in logic do not prevent the step marked by the Gorgias from being one of the greatest ever made in moral culture—the cultivation of a disinterested preference of duty for its own sake, as a higher state than that of sacrificing selfish preferences to a more distant self-interest.
In the Republic, the excellence and inherent felicity of the just life are as impressively insisted on, and enforced by arguments of greater substance. But, as Mr. Grote justly remarks, those arguments, even if conclusive, are addressed to the wrong point; for the life they suppose is not that of the simply just man, but of the philosopher. They are not applicable to the typical just man—to such a person as Aristeides, who is no dialectician, soars to no speculative heights, and is no nearer than other people to a vision of the Self-Existent Ideas, but who, at every personal sacrifice, persistently acts up to the rules of virtue acknowledged by the worthiest of his countrymen. It is not obvious what place there was for Aristeides in the Platonic theory of virtue, nor how he was to be adjusted to the doctrine of Plato and of the historical Sokrates, that virtue is a branch of knowledge, and that no one is unjust willingly. Aristeides probably had the same notions of justice as his cotemporaries, and could as little as any of them have answered Sokratic interrogatories by a definition of it which would have been proof against all objections. The conformity of his will to it, the never being unjust willingly, was probably the chief moral difference between him and ordinary men. Plato might indeed have said that Aristeides had the most indispensable point of knowledge—he knew that the just man must be the happiest. But Aristeides was not the kind of man of whom Plato has, more or less successfully, proved this; and the true Platonic doctrine is that it is impossible to be just, without knowing (in the high Platonic meaning of knowledge) what justice is.*
When we try Plato, as a moralist, by this test of his own; when, from the inspired apostle of virtue, we pass to the philosophic teacher of it, and ask for his criterion of virtue, we find it different in different works. In the Protagoras, it is completely utilitarian, in all that is stigmatized by some people as “low” and “degrading;” though justly condemned by Mr. Grote from the utilitarian point of view, because destitute of the unselfish element.[*] According to the Sokrates of the Protagoras, there is nothing good as an end except pleasure and the absence of pain; all other good things are but means to these. Virtue is an affair of calculation, and the sole elements of the calculation are pains and pleasures. But the elements computed are the agent’s own pains and pleasures, omitting those of other people, and of mankind. The system is thus a selfish one; though only theoreticallylsol , since its propounder would have held fast to the doctrine that the just is the only happy life, i.e. (according to the theory of this dialogue) the one which affords to the agent himself the greatest excess of pleasure over pain. The standard of the Protagoras agrees with that of the historical Sokrates, who throughout the Memorabilia inculcates the ordinary duties of life on hedonistic grounds, and recommends them by the ordinary hedonistic inducements, the good opinion and praise of fellow-citizens, reciprocity of good treatment, and the favour of benevolent deities. Even in the Leges, Plato affirms that people will never be persuaded to prefer virtue unless convinced of its being the path of greatest pleasure, and that whether it is so or not (though he fully believes that it is), they must not only be taught to believe this, but no approach to a doubt of it must be tolerated within the country. The Sokrates of the Gorgias, however, dissents both from the Sokrates of the Protagoras and from the real Sokrates. Good is, with him, no longer synonymous with Pleasurable, nor Evil with Painful. To constitute anything a Good, it must be either pleasurable or beneficial (ὠϕέλιμον), and Justice belongs to the category of Beneficial; but beneficial to what end, is not explained, except that the end certainly is not Pleasure. Justice is assimilated to the health of the soul, injustice to a disease: and since the health of the body is its greatest good, and disease its greatest evil, the same estimate is extended by analogy to the mind. There is no attempt, in the Gorgias, to define Justice. In the Republic, which has this definition for its express purpose, and travels through the whole process of constructing an ideal commonwealth to arrive at it, the result is brought out, that Justice is synonymous with the complete supremacy of Reason in the soul. The human mind is analysed into the celebrated three elements, Reason, Spirit or Passion (τὸ θυμοειδές, another troublesome Mixed Mode) and Appetite. The just mind is that in which each of the three keeps its proper place; in which Reason governs, Passion makes itself the aid and instrument of Reason, and the two combined keep Appetite in a state of willing subjection. In the Philebus, which is professedly De Bono (or rather De Summo Bono), the subject is more discriminatingly scrutinized. After a long discussion, in which those who uphold Pleasure, and those who contend for wisdom or intelligence (ϕρόνησις), as the ultimate end, are both confuted; Good, or that which is worthy of being desired, is found to consist of five things, desirable in unequal degrees. We shall not quote the whole list, as, from the vagueness of some of the conceptions, and the extremely abstract nature of the phraseology, even Mr. Grote confesses how hard it is to be understood.[*] The first four, however, have exclusive reference to the rational elements of the mind, while the fifth, placed far below the others, consists of the few pleasures which are gentle and unmixed with pain; all others, and especially the intenser pleasures, having been eliminated, as belonging to a distempered mental condition. All these theories lay themselves open to Mr. Grote’s criticism, by defining virtue with reference to the good only of the agent himself; even justice, pre-eminently the social virtue, being resolved into the supremacy of reason within our own minds: in disregard of the fact that the idea and sentiment of virtue have their foundation not exclusively in the self-regarding, but also, and even more directly, in the social feelings: a truth first fully accepted by the Stoics, who have the glory of being the earliest thinkers who grounded the obligation of morals on the brotherhood, the συγγένεια, of the whole human race. The grand defect of Plato’s ethical conceptions (excellently discussed in Mr. Grote’s remarks on the Republic) was in overlooking, what was completely seized by Aristotle—that the essential part of the virtue of justice is the recognition and observance of the rights of other people.*
It is noticeable that even in the Republic, the governing and controlling principle of the mind, which we have translated Reason, and whose unresisted authority constitutes the essence of virtue, is τὸ λογιστικόν—literally the calculating principle (λογιστική being used by Plato himself, in the Gorgias, to denote a portion of Arithmetic).[†] This is the very doctrine of the Protagoras, except that the elements to be calculated are different. And, through the whole series of the dialogues, a Measuring Art, μετρητικὴ τέχνη, as a means of distinguishing the truth of things from their superficial appearance, is everywhere desiderated as the great requisite both of wisdom and of virtue. When, however, the test of Pain and Pleasure is abandoned, no other elements are shown to us which the Measuring Art is to be employed to measure. Of course it has to measure our minds and actions themselves; but we measure anything, to make it conform to, or agree with, the dimensions of something else; and Plato does not tell us of what else. Our life is to be regulated, but we are not told what it is to be regulated by. The measuring process is supposed to have a virtue in itself. The analogy used is that of the untrue magnitudes and proportions of objects as seen by the eye, and their rectification by measurement; Plato overlooking that it is not the act of measuring which rectifies them, but the perceptions of touch which the measuring only ascertains. The idea of Measure as a good in itself, independent of any end beyond it, seems to have grown upon Plato as he advanced in life. Mere conformity to a fixed rule, especially if accompanied by regularity of numerical proportion, became his principal standard of excellence. This answered to a powerful sentiment in the Hellenic mind, which, combining with vehement impulses a high sense of personal dignity, demanded harmonious proportion in mind and deportment as much as in architecture, and to which anything inordinate, dissonant, unrhythmical, even in voice or demeanour, was not only distasteful,* but seemed an indication of an ill-regulated mind; as it is expressly affirmed to be by Plato in the Republic.† In Plato’s own mind we know that Measure and Regularity were the very footprints of divinity; that they, and only they, were the marks of design in the Kosmos, and where they ceased, the share of Deity ended too; the Kosmos altogether being but a compromise with ἀνάγκη or Necessity; which, by an inversion of the modern idea, stood for the capricious portion of the agencies in Nature—those in which the same consequent did not invariably follow the same antecedent.‡ In the Philebus, Measure and the Measured, μέτρον καὶ τὸ μέτριον καίριον,[*] stand as the first elements of Good, even Intelligence being only the third, and Pleasure (limited to the unexciting pleasures) the fifth and hindmost. In Plato’s later speculations, from the Republic to the Epinomis, the sciences of measure and proportion, Arithmetic, Geometry, and Astronomy, gradually take the place of Dialectics as the proper education of a ruler and philosopher. We learn from Aristotle that this was even more emphatically the case in his lectures, during the latter years of his life. Those which he delivered on the Ipsum Bonum, or Idea of Good, to the surprise of hearers, turned on transcendental properties of numbers. Number was resolved into two elementary factors—The One, and the Dyad or Two, this last being identified with the Indeterminate; and the Good was affirmed to be identical with the One, while Evil was the Unbounded or Undetermined, ἀόριστον and ἄπειρον.* Thus did the noble light of philosophy in Plato go out in a fog of mystical Pythagoreanism.
In this Pythagorean morass, as we learn from the same authority, the brilliant doctrine of Ideas was submerged and quenched. Yet that doctrine stands, and will stand to posterity, as the purest type of the Platonic metaphysics. It is true of Plato, as of all his countrymen with the partial exception of Aristotle, that while their moral and political thoughts abound in a wisdom both practical and of permanent application, their metaphysical speculations are only interesting as the first efforts of original and inventive minds to let in light on a dark subject. The Platonic Ideas are nothing more; but, of all theories which have arisen in ingenious minds from an imperfect conception of the processes of abstraction and generalization, they are surely among the most plausible as well as beautiful. Men already abstracted and generalized before Plato wrote, or they would not have been human beings; but they did so by an unconscious working of the laws of association, which resembled an instinct: no theory ofnthosen operations was in existence till Plato formed one, and the mere direction of consciousness upon the processes themselves was a new thing, which, as we see in many of the dialogues, even an intelligent pupil required to be assisted to do by a great prodigality of illustration. Now a contemplative mind soon perceived that all the objects of sense, whether substances, attributes, or events—and the noblest objects most—are that which they are, in only an imperfect manner, and suggest to the mind a type of what they are, far more perfect than themselves; a “something far more deeply interfused,”[*] which eye has not seen nor ear heard,[†] but of which that which can be seen or heard is an imperfect, and often very distant, resemblance. Psychology in its infancy did not yet enable men to perceive that the mind itself creates this more perfect type, by comparison and abstraction from the imperfect materials of its experience; but they perceived that the types embodied the unattainable perfection of all other things, and were the models which Nature itself seemed to strive to approach. What, then, could be more natural than to regard the types as real objects, concealed from sense, but cognisable directly by the mind—which, once conceived as external to us, seemed more real than anything else, all other things resembling imperfect attempts to copy them? The Self-Beautiful, the Self-Good, which not only were to all beautiful and good things as the ideal is to the actual, but united in themselves the separate perfections of all the various kinds of beauty and goodness—these forms or essences, from a participation in which all concrete things derive what they possess of goodness and beauty, but paled and disfigured by the turbid element in which they are immersed—these existences, so vastly more splendid than their feeble earthly representatives, and not, like them, subject to injury or decay—must not they be Realities in a far higher sense than the particulars which are within sensible cognisance? particulars which indeed are not realities: for there is no particular good or beautiful or just thing, which is not, in some case that may be supposed, unjust, evil, and unbeautiful. Was it not then to be presumed that the part of our nature which apprehends these Real Existences would perceive them far more clearly, but for the veil of sense interposed; and that it is only when the veil is removed, that we pass out of the world of images and likenesses into that of the Things themselves, and contemplate the splendid vision in all its brightness? But even in this world of shadows, the mind of the philosopher, trained by the dialectic process to see “the One in the Many,” can achieve, by arduous labour, such a perception of the Ideal Forms, as qualifies him for admission to a nearer and more satisfactory view of them in a life after death.
The mode in which Plato was led, by the same train of thought, to another of his opinions, the famous doctrine of Reminiscence, is not left for us to divine. It is shown to us in the Menon, in which more that is characteristic of Plato is brought together in a smaller space than in any other dialogue: if the Phædon and the Gorgias are noble statues, the Menon is a gem. Why is it, asks Sokrates,[*] that when we seek for something we do not know, we yet know what we are seeking? and how comes it that we are able to recognise it when found? This, it seems, had been one of the puzzles of these early thinkers, resembling others of which great notice is taken in the Platonic writings: not quibbles of captious sophists, as commentators and historians of philosophy pretend, but difficulties really embarrassing to those who were trying to understand their own mental operations. Whyo, asks Sokrates,o does truth (so hard to find) when found, approve itself to us, often instantaneously, as truth? He can think of no explanation, but that we had known it in a former life, and need only to be reminded of our knowledge. Modern thinkers who have stopped short at Plato’s point of view, resolve the difficulty by pronouncing the knowledge to be intuitive. But Plato could not put up with this explanation; he knew too well how slowly, painfully, and at last imperfectly, the knowledge is acquired. The whole process of philosophizing was conceived by him as a laborious effort to call former knowledge back to mind. His doctrine is related to that of Wordsworth’s ode, erroneously called Platonic, not as identical but as opposite: with Wordsworth our life here is “a sleep and a forgetting,”[*] with Plato it is a recollecting. We at once perceive the support which this doctrine gives to Plato’s conception of the process of instruction (a conception supremely important in his own and in all time) that “teaching and learning are words without meaning;”* that knowledge is “to be evolved out of the mind, not poured into it from without.”† The intimate connexion between the doctrine of Reminiscence and that of Ideas, even were it not obvious, would be shown by the Phædon, in which the Reminiscence theory is maintained on the express ground that every existing thing, in itself incomplete, brings to mind a type of its own nature more perfect than itself; and as we can only be reminded of that which we once knew, we must have known the type in a former life. The two doctrines are inseparably blended in the poetic mythe delivered by Sokrates in the Phædrus; and when in Plato’s later years the one doctrine drops out of his speculations, so does the other.
The doctrine of Pre-existence is naturally connected with that of Immortality; and in the Phædon the arguments for the latter are mostly grounded on the former. That wonderful dialogue, which divides with perhaps the Gorgias alone, the honour of being the most finished and consummate prose composition in Plato, if not in all literature—which combines in itself more sources of the grandest interest, more artistically fused together, than any other of Plato’s works—contains not one argument which is not a fallacy, or which could convince any one not anxiously desirous to be convinced. Plato himself, when he approaches the subject in other dialogues, resorts to quite different arguments, more resembling those on which recent schools of metaphysics have grounded the doctrines of Spiritualism. For instance, in the Leges, he argues that Mind or Soul, the principle of Life, is the only thing which originates motion—inanimate objects only carrying on and transmitting force communicated to them from elsewhere; that Mind, therefore, rules Matter, and must be anterior to it (πρεσβύτερον), and not subject to its laws.[*] This argument, though adduced only as proof of a Divine government, is available for the other purpose, and though we are far from thinking it conclusive, is worth all those of the Phædon put together. As Mr. Grote remarks, though the personal incidents of the Phædon are Sokratic, and are probably those which really happened, its doctrines and arguments are exclusively Platonic.[†] Sokrates, it is well known, professed no dogmatic certainty about another life. It is all the more worthy of note, that Plato had not yet abandoned the Sokratic canon of belief—viz. that it ought to be the genuine, unbiassed, untampered with, conviction of the individual reason, after giving an impartial hearing to every argument that can be thought of. As the Gorgias proclaims, with an energy and solemnity never surpassed, the rights of the individual intellect, and the obligation on every one, though the whole world should be on the contrary side, to stand firm, he alone, in asserting what recommends itself to his own reason; so in the Phædon, as Mr. Grote observes in one of his many valuable remarks on that dialogue:
Freedom of debate and fulness of search, the paramount value of “reasoned truth”—the necessity of keeping up the force of individual reason by constant argumentative exercise—and the right of independent judgment for hearer as well as speaker—stand emphatically proclaimed in these last words of the dying philosopher. He does not announce the immortality of the soul as a dogma of imperative orthodoxy; which men, whether satisfied with the proofs or not, must believe, or make profession of believing, on pain of being shunned as a moral pestilence, and disqualified from giving testimony in a court of justice. He sets forth his own conviction, with the grounds on which he adopts it. But he expressly recognises the existence of dissentient opinions; he invites his companions to bring forward every objection; he disclaims all special purpose of impressing his own conclusions upon their minds; nay, he expressly warns them not to be biassed by their personal sympathies, then wound up to the highest pitch, towards himself. He entreats them to preserve themselves from being tinged with misology, or the hatred of free argumentative discussion, and he ascribes this mental vice to the early habit of easy, uninquiring, implicit belief; since a man thus ready of faith, embracing opinions without any discriminating test, presently finds himself driven to abandon one opinion after another, until at last he mistrusts all opinions, and hates the process of discussing them, laying the blame on philosophy instead of upon his own intellect. . . .Sokrates is depicted as having not only an affirmative opinion, but even strong conviction, on a subject of great moment; which conviction, moreover, he is specially desirous of preserving unimpaired, during his few remaining hours of life. Yet even here he manifests no anxiety to get that conviction into the minds of his friends, except as a result of their own independent scrutiny and self-working reason. Not only he does not attempt to terrify them into believing, by menace of evil consequences if they do not, but he repudiates pointedly even the gentler machinery of conversion, which might work on their minds through attachment to himself and reverence for his authority. His devotion is to “reasoned truth;” he challenges his friends to the fullest scrutiny by their own independent reason; he recognises the sentence that they pronounce afterwards as valid for them, whether concurrent with himself or adverse. Their reason is for them what his reason is for him; requiring, both alike (as Sokrates here proclaims) to be stimulated as well as controlled by all-searching debate, but postulating equal liberty of final decision for each one of the debaters.*
One of the things for which Plato has been most applauded by those modern schools which pique themselves on counting him among their precursors, is the warfare which he is supposed to have made on a sceptical philosophy, attributed, totally without evidence, to the Sophists generally, and considered as one of the means by which they demoralized the Greeks. The doctrines meant are two. One is the special tenet of Herakleitus (who was not a Sophist, except in the loose sense in which all speculative thinkers were so called), that the universe is in a state of perpetual flux, in which nothing is, but all things become (εἰ̑ναι, γίγνεσθαι; the Hegelian Seyn and Werden). The other is the doctrine of Protagoras, that “Man is the measure of all things: of things which are, that they are, and of things which are not, that they are not. As things appear to me, so they are to me: as they appear to you, such they really are to you.”[*] In other words, the doctrine of the Subjective nature of truth: which is a scandal to philosophers, as seeming to make all opinions equally true, and truth “that which each man troweth.”[†]
Now, what the Herakleitean doctrine affirms of all things, is what Plato himself believed of the phenomenal world—of things cognisable by sense. The only thing which he regarded as really existing, τὸ ὄντως ὄν, was the Intelligible World, the world of Self-existent Forms; the extramundane prototypes of that, in the visible universe, which seems, but is not, real existence, and which is considered by him as something intermediate between Ens and Non-Ens.* Herakleitus did not believe in these Forms, and that was the amount of difference between him and Plato. When they both refused to the world of sense what they called Real Existence, they did not mean to deny what wepunderstand by the term, but only what the ancient thinkers understood by itp . What they denied of the visible universe, was Existence in a transcendent sense—the Existence per se which Plato ascribed to his Ideas, and Xenophanes and Parmenides to their Ens Unum. In modern phrase, Herakleitus denied the Absolute; though his doctrine of a really existent Principle of Change, and his other tenet of an Universal Reason apart from individual minds, a doctrine much in favour with some modern Transcendentalists, reintroduced an Absolute of another kind. Now it may safely be affirmed that no scepticism, limited to the Absolute, ever did anybody harm, or made the smallest practical difference to any human being. The doctrine of Protagoras requires a little more consideration. Though we may reasonably suppose that Plato, in the Theœtetus, gives it in that Sophist’s words, we are ignorant by what reasons Protagoras defended it, or in what sense he explained it. Sir William Hamilton considered it to mean his own doctrine of the Relativity of human knowledge, and placed Protagoras at the head of his list of early authorities in support of that doctrine.[*] Mr. Grote interprets the maxim Homo Mensura in the same sense, but includes also in its meaning the autonomy of the individual intellect.[†] That everything is true to me, which appears so to me, he understands to mean, that my reception of it as truth depends, and ought to depend, on the impression which the evidence makes upon my own mind. Mr. Grote, therefore, defends the Protagorean doctrine against the Sokrates of the Theœtetus; but his defence, though useful and instructive, does not satisfy us, and is the only important point in the whole work on which we find ourselves differing from Mr. Grote. For the truth of an opinion, even to myself, is a different thing from my reception of it as true, since it implies reference to an external standard. My mind, on the evidence before it, may accept as truth that I am five miles from London; but when I set out to walk the distance, and find it ten, the ten miles were all along as true for me as for other people. Protagoras cannot well have intended to deny this, but he cannot be acquitted of an incorrect and misleading mode of expression. His proposition is valid as to our present feelings or states of consciousness, the truth of which has no meaning except that we are actually feeling them; and this is probably the reason why Plato (erroneously in Mr. Grote’s opinion)[*] identifies it with the doctrine that knowledge is sensible perception (αἴσθησις), the truth of the one doctrine being coextensive with the sphere of the other. But it is not true of the past, the future, the absent, or anything present except the feeling in our mind. It is invalid as to all that are called matters of belief or opinion: for a belief or opinion is relative not only to the believing mind, but to something else—namely, the matter of fact which the belief is about. The truth of the belief is its agreement with that fact. Mr. Grote says: “To say that all men recognise one and the same objective distinction between truth and falsehood, would be to contradict palpable facts. Each man has a standard, an ideal of truth in his own mind; but different men have different standards.”* Of the proof of truth, yes: but not, we apprehend, of truth itself. No one means anything by truth, but the agreement of a belief with the fact which it purports to represent. We grant that, according to the philosophy which we hold in common with Mr. Grote, the fact itself, if knowable by us, is relative to our perceptions—to our senses or our internal consciousness; and our opinion about the fact is so too; but the truth of the opinion is a question of relation between these two relatives, one of which is an objective standard for the other. Justice is not done to Plato’s attack on “Homo Mensura” without considering this aspect of the matter; the rather as he himself brings forward these very arguments. Sokrates asks, Since man is the measure of all things, and has the criterion of truth in himself, whatever he thinks or perceives being true to him, will the criterion serve for things yet to come? If he thinks he shall catch a fever and feel hot, and a physician thinks the contrary, will he be feverish and hot to himself, but not to the physician?[*] A fair reductio ad absurdum, and a just criticism on Protagoras, though, if Mr. Grote is right in his interpretation of the Protagorean dictum, the error is in language, not in thought. But in philosophy, especially where it touches the ultimate foundations of our reason, wrong language is as misleading as a wrong opinion.
This dialogue, the Theætetus, though it ends without any conclusion, leaving the question proposed in it unanswered, is one of the most suggestive in all Plato by the number of points of view it brings forward; and is among the finest examples in his writings of genuine honest Search, in which the confutation of any one, even when it falls in his way, is only incidental, and even then the greatest pains are taken to put, in the most forcible manner, whatever the confuted person could say. In arguing against Protagoras (who is treated with a respect in marked contrast with the manner in which the Herakleiteans, and some materialistic philosophers, supposed to be the school of Demokritus, are referred to), Sokrates laments the necessity of disputing his opinion when he is not present nor even alive to defend it; says that as he and his friends are not here to help their doctrine, the obligation lies on their adversaries to do it; and fulfils that obligation by a discourse of some length,[†] which, like those of Glaukon and Adeimantus in the Republic, is a monument of the essential fairness of Plato’s mind. The Theætetus contains some of Plato’s acutest examinations of certain speculative questions which often recur in other dialogues: among others the difference between Knowledge and True Opinion, ὀρθή or ἀληθὴς δόξα. This distinction gave Plato great trouble, and the whole subject of the truth and falsity of opinions was full of intricacy and logical embarrassment to him and to his cotemporaries.[‡] Among other points, it appears to have been a serious puzzle to them, in what manner false opinions could be possible; how we can think that which is not—a non-entity—any more than we can touch, or eat, or drink that which is not.[§] It is surprising how often Plato returns to this perplexity. More than half the Sophistes is devoted to the discussion of it, merely in a parenthesis. As a specimen of the stumbling-blocks which the early metaphysical inquirers found in their path, as well as a striking example of the diversity of the points of view of different dialogues, we will quote a passage from Mr. Grote on this subject:
How is a false proposition possible? Many held that a false proposition and a false name were impossible, that you could not speak the things that is not,[*] or Non-Ens (τὸ μὴ ὄν): that such a proposition would be an empty sound, without meaning or signification; that speech may be significant or insignificant, but could not be false, except in the sense of being unmeaning. Now this doctrine is dealt with in the Theætêtus, Sophistês, and Kratylus. In the Theætêtus, Sokratês examines it at great length, and proposes several different hypotheses to explain how a false proposition might be possible; but ends in pronouncing them all inadmissible. He declares himself incompetent, and passes on to something else. Again, in the Sophistês, the same point is taken up, and discussed there also very copiously. The Eleate in that dialogue ends by finding a solution which satisfies him—(viz. that τὸ μὴ ὄν = τὸ ἕτερον του̑ ὄντος).[†] But what is remarkable is, that the solution does not meet any of the difficulties propounded in the Theœtêtus; nor are these difficulties at all adverted to in the Sophistês. Finally in the Kratylus, we have the very same doctrine, that false affirmations are impossible,—which both in the Theætêtus and in the Sophistês is enunciated, not as the decided opinion of the speaker, but as a problem which embarrasses him—we have this same doctrine averred unequivocally by Kratylus as his own full conviction. And Sokratês finds that a very short argument, and a very simple comparison, suffice to refute him. The supposed “aggressive cross-examiner,” who presses Sokratês so hard in the Theætêtus, is not allowed to put his puzzling questions in the Kratylus.
How are we to explain these three different modes of handling the same question by the same philosopher? If the question about Non-Ens can be disposed of in the summary way which we read in the Kratylus, what is gained by the string of unsolved puzzles in the Theætêtus, or by the long discursive argument in the Sophistês, ushering in a new solution no way satisfactory? If, on the contrary, the difficulties which are unsolved in the Theætêtus, and imperfectly solved in the Sophistês, are real and pertinent,—how are we to explain the proceeding of Plato in the Kratylus, when he puts into the mouth of Kratylus a distinct averment of the opinion about Non-Ens, yet without allowing him, when it is impugned by Sokratês, to urge any of these pertinent arguments in defence of it? If the peculiar solution given in the Sophistês be the really genuine and triumphant solution, why is it left unnoticed both in the Kratylus and the Theætêtus, and why is it contradicted in other dialogues? Which of the three dialogues represents Plato’s real opinion on the question?
To these questions, and to many others of like bearing, connected with the Platonic writings, I see no satisfactory reply, if we are to consider Plato as a positive philosopher, with a scheme and edifice of methodized opinions in his mind; and as composing all his dialogues with a set purpose, either of inculcating these opinions on the reader, or of refuting the opinions opposed to them. This supposition is what most Platonic critics have in their minds, even when professedly modifying it. Their admiration for Plato is not satisfied unless they conceive him in the professorial chair as a teacher, surrounded by a crowd of learners, all under the obligation (incumbent on learners generally) to believe what they hear. Reasoning upon such a basis, the Platonic dialogues present themselves to me as a mystery. They exhibit neither identity of the teacher, nor identity of the matter taught: the composer (to use various Platonic comparisons) is Many, and not One—he is more complex than Typhôs.*
There is a similar discrepancy in the view taken by Plato, in different dialogues, of the distinction between True Opinion and Knowledge. In the Menon, it would seem as if the two were much the same, except that Opinion is “evanescent, and will not stay in the mind, while Knowledge is permanent and ineffaceable.”† True Opinion is converted into Knowledge, when bound down (δεδεμένον) “by a chain of causal reasoning”[*] (αἰτίας λογισμῳ̑). This binding process, it is added, is ἀνάμνησις, or reminding, and can only be accomplished by questioning, sufficiently repeated and diversified.[†] What the ἀνάμνησις does is rather differently defined in the Phædrus; it there generates the apprehension of the general Concept,‡ which in that dialogue means the Self-existent Idea. In other dialogues the view taken is very similar, minus the idea of Reminiscence. Knowledge is that of which a rational explanation can be given; that which is guaranteed by both arms of the dialectic process, being able to resist all confutation, and having been arrived at by a correct use of the logical process of Division, διαίρεσις κατ’ εἴδη, terminating in an unimpeachable Definition. Anything short of this is only Opinion. We here have what is rightly regarded as the characteristically Platonic view of the subject; but it is remarkable that this very definition of knowledge, ἀληθὴς δόξα μετὰ λόγου, is one of those propounded by Theætetus, and, after a long discussion between him and Sokrates, abandoned.[‡] The most elaborate, but the obscurest exposition we find of this subject, is in the sixth and seventh books of the Republic. We cannot give it at length, but its leading point is, that knowledge is of Forms or Ideas, while Opinion relates to the world of sense, composed of mere images of those Forms.§ But the knowledge of Forms is only to be acquired by Dialectics.¶
Among views so contradictory, and in which no common conviction or purpose appears, what worth, it may be asked, is there to us in the investigations? Besides the worth of their Method, they have, though in unequal degrees, a value in their substance;
not in the conclusion, but in the premises for and against it. In this sense all the dialogues have value, and all the same sort of value, though not all equal in amount. In different dialogues, the same subject is set before you in different ways; with remarks and illustrations sometimes tending towards one theory, sometimes towards another. It is for you to compare and balance them, and to elicit such result as your reason approves. The Platonic dialogues require, in order to produce their effect, a supplementary responsive force, and a strong effective reaction, from the individual reason of the reader: they require moreover that he shall have a genuine interest in the process of dialectic scrutiny (τὸ ϕιλομαθές, ϕιλόλογον), which will enable him to perceive beauties in what would be tiresome to others.*
As regards Plato himself, the probability is that there was a period in his life when he was, on merely speculative points, a real Seeker, testing every opinion, and bringing prominently forward the difficulties which adhere to them all; and that during this period many of his principal dialogues were written, from points of view extremely various, embodying in each the latest trains of thought which had passed through his mind on the particular subject. That the difficulties of his own suggesting, even after he had definitively identified himself with the opinions to which they apply, are hardly ever solved, seems only explicable on the supposition that he had ceased to care about solving them, having come to think that insoluble difficulties were always to be expected. He certainly, if we trust his Seventh Epistle, was then of opinion that no verbal definition of anything can precisely hit the mark, and that the knowledge of what a thing is, though not attainable till after a long and varied course of dialectic debate, is never the direct result of discussion, but comes out at last (and only in the happier natures) by a sort of instantaneous flash. He probably became indifferent to speculation for its own sake, ceased to expect that any theoretical position would be found unassailable, and no longer cared for anything but practical results. In his latest compositions there is no abatement of ethical earnestness, but “the love of dialectic, and the taste for enunciating difficulties even when he could not clear them up, died out within him.”† He almost became infected with the misology so impressively deprecated in his own Phædon, and an example among many, that this misology is not always, as there represented, the road to scepticism, but still oftener to the most intolerant affirmative dogmatism.
The ethical and political doctrines of Plato are really the only ones which can be regarded as serious and deeply-rooted convictions. At the head of these, or only second after his faith in the exclusive eligibility of the just life, must be placed the opinion common to him with Sokrates, that Virtue is a branch of Intelligence, or Knowledge. His best argument for this opinion is, that not only all the external things we value, such as health, strength, and pecuniary means, but all that we regard as virtues—courage, temperance, and the rest—may be so used as to do harm instead of good: they all require a discriminating faculty to decide when they ought to be employed and when not; and this, which is the distinctive element of virtue, is a part of Knowledge. Though the premises of this argument are profoundly true, they only prove that the knowledge in question is one of the conditions of virtue, but not that it is virtue itself; something else besides the knowledge of what is right being necessary to induce us to practise it. We know what would have been Plato’s answer to this objection. He would have said, that the further condition required is also a knowledge, the knowledge that to do right is good; no one desires evil knowing it to be evil; it is desired because it is believed to be good. But even if Plato had proved, as completely as he thought he had, that to do wrong is the greatest evil which can befall the wrong-doer, it would have remained a question whether the habitually vicious man is capable of having this belief impressed upon him; whether the evidence that happiness is to be found in virtue alone, can reach a mind not prepared for it by already possessing the virtues of courage, temperance, &c., not to mention justice, the most fundamental of all.
This exaltation of Knowledge—not Intellect, or mere mental ability, of which there is no idolatry at all in Plato, but scientific knowledge, and scientifically-acquired craftsmanship, as the one thing needful in every concern of life, and pre-eminently in government—is the pervading idea in Plato’s practical doctrines. He derived it from Sokrates, who (says Xenophon) “considered as kings and rulers not those who wield the sceptre, or those who have been chosen by the incompetent (ὑπὸ τω̑ν τυχόντων), nor those who have drawn the successful lot, or who by force or deceit have got into the highest place, but those who know how to rule.”* What constitutes the man who knows how to rule, is the subject of an important dialogue, the Politikos. We there learn that he is one of the rarest of human beings; that the greatest concern of a State is to obtain such a man, and place him at the head of it; that when so placed, his power cannot be too absolute; to limit him by laws, even of his own making, being as absurd as if a scientific physician were required never to deviate from his own prescriptions. This exclusive right of the most capable person to rule—a principle strenuously asserted by Plato against the theory and practice of all governments (modern as well as ancient); and the doctrine that when this Capable Person has been obtained, the rest of the community have nothing to do but to obey him—form a theory of government which must be quite to the taste of Mr. Carlyle; but he is probably less pleased with the further proposition added by Plato, that the depositary of this divine right is not found, but made, and that his qualification is Science; a philosophic and reasoned knowledge of human affairs—of what is best for mankind. When this is possessed, it is a far surer guide than laws, which cannot possibly be adapted to all individual cases; but when this scientific wisdom cannot be had, laws are better than any mere counterfeit of it: “The true government of mankind is the scientific or artistic; whether it be carried on by one, or a few, or many—whether by poor or rich, by force or consent—whether according to law, or without law.” But
true science or art is not attainable by many persons, whether rich or poor; scarcely even by a few, and probably by One alone; since the science or art of governing men is more difficult than any other science or art. But the government of this One is the only true and right government, whether he proclaims law or governs without law, whether he employs severity or mildness—provided only he adheres to his art, and achieves its purpose, the good and improvement of the governed. He is like the true physician, who cuts and burns patients, when his art commands, for the purpose of curing them. He will not be disposed to fetter himself by fixed general laws; for the variety of situations and the fluctuation of circumstances is so perpetual, that no law can possibly fit all cases. He will recognise no other law but his art. If he lays down any general formula or law, it will only be from necessity, because he cannot be always at hand to watch and direct each individual case; but he will not hesitate to depart from his own formula whenever Art enjoins it. That alone is base, evil, unjust, which he with his political science or art declares to be so. If in any particular case he departs from his own declaration, and orders such a thing to be done, the public have no right to complain that he does injustice. No patient can complain of his physician if the latter, acting upon the counsels of his art, disregards a therapeutic formula. All the acts of the true Governor are right, whether according or contrary to law, so long as he conducts himself with art and intelligence—aiming exclusively to preserve the people, and to render them better instead of worse. How mischievous would it be . . . if we prescribed by fixed laws how the physician and the steersman should practise their respective arts; if we held them bound to peremptory rules, punishing them whenever they departed from those rules, and making them accountable before the Dikastery, whenever any one accused them of doing so—if we consecrated these rules and dogmas, forbidding all criticism or censure upon them, and putting to death the free inquirer as a dreaming, prosy Sophist, corrupting the youth and inciting lawless discontent! How absurd, if we pretended that every citizen did know, or might or ought to know, these two arts; because the matters concerning them were enrolled in the laws, and because no one ought to be wiser than the laws! Who would think of imposing any such fetters on other arts, such as those of the general, the painter, the husbandman, the carpenter, the prophet, the cattle-dealer? To impose them would be to render life, hard as it is even now, altogether intolerable. Yet these are the trammels under which in actual cities the political Art is exercised.
Such are the mischiefs inseparable, in greater or less degree, from fixed and peremptory laws. Yet grave as these mischiefs are, there are others yet graver, which such laws tend to obviate. If the Magistrate appointed to guard and enforce the laws, ventures to break or contravene them, simulating, but not really possessing, the Art or Science of the genuine Ruler, he will make matters far worse. The laws at any rate are such as the citizens have been accustomed to, and such as give a certain measure of satisfaction. But the arbitrary rule of this violent and unscientific Governor is a tyranny, which is greatly worse than the laws. Fixed laws are thus a second-best; assuming that you cannot obtain a true scientific, artistic Governor. If such a man could be obtained, men would be delighted to live under him. But they despair of ever seeing such a character, and they therefore cling to fixed laws, in spite of the numerous concomitant mischiefs. These mischiefs are indeed so serious, that when we look at actual cities, we are astonished how they get on under such a system; and we cannot but feel how firm and deeply-rooted a city naturally is. We see therefore . . . that there is no true polity—nothing which deserves the name of a genuine political society—except the government of one chief, scientific or artistic. With him laws are superfluous, and even inconvenient. All other polities are counterfeits; factions and cabals rather than governments, delusions carried on by tricksters and conjurors. But among these other polities or sham-polities, there is a material difference as to greater or less badness; and the difference turns upon the presence or absence of good laws. Thus, the single-headed government, called monarchy (assuming the Prince not to be a man of science or art) is the best of all the sham-polities, if the Prince rules along with and in observance of known good laws; but it is the worst of them all, if he rules without such laws, as a despot or tyrant. Oligarchy, or the government of a few, if under good laws, is less good than that of the Prince under the same circumstances—if without such laws, is less bad than that of the despot. Lastly, the government of the many is less good under the one supposition, and less bad under the other. It is less effective, either for good or for evil. It is in fact less of a government; the administrative force being lost by dissipation among many hands for short intervals; and more free play being thus left to individuals. Accordingly, assuming the absence of laws, democracy is the least bad or most tolerable of the six varieties of sham-polity. Assuming the presence of laws, it is the worst of them.*
The ideal of government expressed in this passage, though expanded and minutely applied in other works, is never materially varied. Of the two detailed treatises on Government, in the dialogue form, which we have from Plato, the Republic and the Leges, the former is a delineation of his best form of society, under the unrestricted authority of one or a very small number, scientifically trained and fitted for the function of rulers. The Leges must be understood (and that is its best excuse) as a set of directions for the construction and preservation of his second-best State, in which, the scientific ruler not being forthcoming, an imperfect substitute is provided in the form of laws, which he seems to have thought would only answer the purpose by being not only inviolable but unalterable. Accordingly, in the ideal commonwealth of the Republic, there is no responsibility of any kind—no provision for written laws or courts of justice; the wisdom of the scientific rulers being wholly trusted to, for doing without such things, or providing them as far as required. The whole energy of Plato’s constructive intellect is concentrated on the means of sifting the most gifted natures out of the body of citizens, and educating them from the earliest infancy to the age of fifty, by which time, and not before, it is expected that a very few, or at least one, competent scientific governor may be met with among them. This, and the intellectual and emotional training of the remainder of the people, so that they shall willingly obey and second these rightful chiefs, compose the whole machinery of the Republic. In Leges, on the contrary, where no such scientific rulers are looked for, there is an elaborate and minute system of positive laws, carrying legal regulation down to the details of common life, and accompanied by all the ordinary apparatus of courts of justice; magistrates of various kinds chosen for short periods, by processes from which even the democratic Lot is not wholly excluded—and systematic accountability of all persons in office, in the Athenian manner, after the expiration of their term, to an authority in which the whole body of citizens have a qualified participation. The author does not disguise that his government is not the abstractedly best; and records his persistence, on some principal points, in those doctrines of the Republic which are put in abeyance in the Leges, where the community ostensibly contemplated is an actual Cretan colony.
While Plato has thus two independent plans for the constitution of a political society, his notion of the end to be aimed at never varies. The business of rulers is to make the people whom they govern wise and virtuous. No political object but this is worth consideration.qWith respect toq the other things usually desired by men and communities, he does not indeed always maintain the scornful tone assumed in the Gorgias, where all the statesmen of Athens, even the eminent ones of old—Miltiades, Themistokles, Kimon, Perikles—are reproached for having “filled the city with harbours, and docks, and fortifications, and tributes, and similar rubbish” (ϕλυαριω̑ν), instead of improving their desires, “the only business of a good citizen.”* In other places (as in the Second Alcibiades, Euthydemus, Menon, Leges), he contents himself with saying, that it is better not to have such things at all, than to have them, if devoid of the wisdom without which they cannot profit the possessor; or, with Sokrates in the Apologia, that wealth does not produce virtue, but virtue wealth, and all other things that are desirable. But, either as the sole desirable thing, or as the means of obtaining all others, the wisdom and virtue of the citizens (considered as identical) are the only proper end of government.
In the political theory thus conceived by Plato—confining ourselves to his scheme of the ideally best, and neglecting his compromise with existing obstacles in the comparatively tame production of his decline—there are two things specially deserving of remark. First, the vigorous assertion of a truth, of transcendent importance and universal application—that the work of government is a Skilled Employment; that governing is not a thing which can be done at odd times, or by the way, in conjunction with a hundred other pursuits, nor to which a person can be competent without a large and liberal general education, followed by special and professional study, laborious and of long duration, directed to acquiring, not mere practical dexterity, but a scientific mastery of the subject. This is the strong side of the Platonic theory. Its weak side is, that it postulates infallibility, or something near it, in rulers thus prepared; or else ascribes such a depth of comparative imbecility to the rest of mankind, as to unfit them for any voice whatever in their own government, or any power of calling their scientific ruler to account. The error of Plato, like most of the errors of profound thinkers, consisted in seeing only one half of the truth; and (as is also usual with such thinkers) the half which he asserted, was that which he found neglected and left in the background by the institutions and customs of his country. His doctrine was an exaggerated protest against the notion that any man is fit for any duty; a phrase which is the extreme formula of that indifference to special qualifications, and to the superiority of one mind over another, to which there is more or less tendency in all popular governments, and doubtless at Athens, as well as in the United States and in Great Britain, though it would be a mistake to regard it in any of them as either universal or incurable.
But though Plato had no hesitation in allowing absolute power to the scientific ruler when he had got one, the superiority of his genius is displayed in his clear perception of the difficulties with which this scheme of government was beset, and in the boldness with which he grappled with the problem; daring all things, however opposed to the common notions of his time (and of ours), if he could see his way to removing the rocks and shoals which threatened to be fatal to his commonwealth. The mental superiority which gives the divine right to rule, did not, in his opinion, consist in being able forcibly to seize the powers of government, and retain them by sternly repressing all active opposition and silencing every disapproving voice. This was a common enough phenomenon in Plato’s time, not quite unknown in ours; but the superiority which Plato required in his ruler was of a very different kind. According to him, it was precisely the young men most gifted by nature, and most capable of being trained to the character of genuine rulers, that when perverted by the false standard of good and evil prevailing in existing society, and delivering themselves up to selfish and lawless ambition, fall into the deep-dyed iniquity of the Tyrannus. In that combination of profound philosophy with sublime eloquence and rich poetic imagination which composes the later books of the Republic, there is a moving picture of the mode in which society, by its temptations and its wrongly-placed applauses and condemnations, corrupts these originally fine natures: and the portraiture of the full-blown Tyrannus, in the consummation of his guilt, his hatefulness to gods and men, the depth of his inward misery, and the retribution that awaits him, generally in this life, but certainly in a world to come, is one of the best known and most impressive passages in Plato.[*] The Platonic ruler or rulers, as already remarked, are not found, but made; and the problem of making them was conceived by him in all its magnitude and difficulty. It could only be achieved by centering upon them, and upon the class from whom they were to be selected, every kind of tuition and training, intellectual, emotional, and practical, that could help to form the character required, andrbyr withdrawing them utterly from the influence of those conditions of ordinary life, which give rise to inclinations and to a type of character disqualifying for the pure and noble use of irresponsible power.
To this purpose belongs the proscription of all such tales and legends of the gods (legends as sacred to the Greeks as the narratives of the Old and New Testaments to the ordinary Christian) as represented them to be the authors of any evil, or imputed to them unjust commands, or human weaknesses, or ascribed to them, or their descendants the Heroes, any acts which would be wicked or disreputable if done by ordinary human beings. These stories, Plato affirms, are not true; but were they so, they should not be suffered to be repeated and believed. Other legends, of a moral and elevating character, should be composed (a thing considered by him quite within the competence of Government), and the people brought up in the belief of them from their first childhood. To the same head belongs the exclusion from the Republic, not (as is sometimes asserted) of all poets, but of those who will not consent to the expurgation from their poems of all sentiments and opinions which the philosophic rulers deem injurious: for instance, that death, or the life after death, is fearful and horrible; and especially that most pernicious opinion, that there can be happiness without virtue, or that virtue is not itself the summit of happiness. Certain kinds of poetry however, the epic and dramatic, are absolutely banished, in common with all other indiscriminately mimetic or imitative arts. Art ought not to represent, either to the senses or to the mind, the likeness of anything but what is good and noble; nor ought the citizens to recite, or read, or hear recited, an imitation of the thoughts, feelings, or conduct, or bad, or degraded, or weak and foolish persons. The same severe restrictions were placed on music, a most important agent of good or evil in the estimation of Greeks, whose popular education (except the gymnastic and military elements) was chiefly emotional. No tunes or measures were tolerated in the Republic, but such as were licensed by the authorities, by whom all that were of a wailing, a relaxing, or a voluptuous character must be forbidden, those only being retained which soothe and mitigate the violent emotions, or which inspire active energy. To the same educational purpose belong the peculiar institutions of Plato respecting property and marriage, which have given some scandal to posterity, and would probably have given much more, if Plato had been suspected of a penchant for scepticism and materialism, instead of being admired as their chief enemy. The explanation of this portion of his scheme is very simple. It was not intended for the citizens generally, but for the ϕύλακες or military profession, from whom the prince or the ruling elders were selected, and who were the executors of their orders and the instruments of their government. This armed body having the remaining citizens entirely at their mercy, all was lost if they preferred their private interest to that of the public; and Plato well knew, even with the most perfect education he could give them, how little chance they had of escaping this perversion. Since it did not consort with his idea of scientific government to give the unscientific multitude even a joint authority in their own affairs, there was only one mode of protection left; those in command must have no private interests of their own to care for. The other citizens have each their family and property, but the guardians must have nothing which they can call their own. Their maintenance must be temperately provided at a common table by the State; they must have no private possessions, and must not know their own children. The object is that which the Catholic Church seeks to obtain by the celibacy of its clergy, and the communism of its monastic orders; exclusive devotion to the purposes of their institution. Whatever else may be justly said against this Platonic conception, it deserves any name rather than that of a toleration of licentiousness; for it leaves less to individual inclination than any existing practice, the public authorities deciding (within the age appointed for “producing children for the city”)[*] who should be united with whom. Mr. Grote truly remarks, that with the customs of the Platonic commonwealth, and the Platonic physical and mental education common to both sexes, the passion between them would be likely to be reduced to its very lowest degree of power;[†] a result decidedly intended and calculated on by Plato in the Leges.
Though not expressly remarked, it is continually visible in Mr. Grote’s book, as well as in the works themselves, how strong a hold the idea of the Division of Labour had taken on Plato’s mind. He propounds it as explicitly as Adam Smith,[*] at the beginning of his delineation of the natural constitution and growth of a State; and it governs all the arrangements of his ideal Republic. To use his own phrase, there shall be no double or triple men in the commonwealth; each does one thing, and one only; in order that every one may have that to do for which he has greatest natural aptitude, and that each thing may be done by the person who has most studied and practised it. Civil justice in a commonwealth, which furnishes him with the type and illustrative exemplar of justice in an individual mind, consists in every person’s doing his own appointed business, and not meddling with that of another.* An artificer must not usurp the occupation of another artificer; rulers alone must rule, guardians alone fight, producers alone produce and have the ownership of the produce. When these limits are observed, and no one interferes in the legitimate business of some one else, the community is prosperous and harmonious; if not, everybody has something which concerns him more nearly than the true discharge of his own function; the energies of the different classes are distracted by contests for power, and the State declines into some one of the successive gradations of bad government, which a considerable portion of the Republic is employed in characterizing. The demand for a Scientific Governor, not responsible for any part of his conduct to his unscientific fellow-citizens, is part of this general conception of Division of Labour, and errs only by a too exclusive clinging to that one principle.
It is necessary to conclude; though volumes might easily be occupied with the topics on which Plato’s compositions throw light, either by the truths he has reached, by the mode of his reaching them, or by his often equally instructive errors. We would gladly also have quoted more copiously from Mr. Grote; having said little or nothing of the important discussions, on all the principal topics of Plato, which he hast, in this work,t incidentally contributed to the philosophy of the age from the stores of his richly endowed mind. The point of view from which these topics are treated, as all acquainted with Mr. Grote’s writings would expect, is that of the Experience philosophy, as distinguished from the Intuitive or Transcendental; and readers will esteem the discussions more or less highly, according to their estimation of that philosophy; but few, we think, will dispute that Mr. Grote, by this work, has placed himself in a distinguished rank among its defenders, in an age in which it has been more powerfully and discriminatingly defended than at any former time. For further knowledge we must refer to the work itself, which will not only be the inseparable companion of Plato’s writings, but which no student, of whatever school of thought, can read without instruction, and no one who knows anything of philosophy or the history of philosophy, without admiration and gratitude.
[[*] ]See Vol. XII, p. 663.
[[†] ]See Thucydides, trans. Smith, Vol. I, p. 330 (II, 41).
[[*] ]See Cicero, Letters to Atticus (Latin and English), trans. E. O. Winstedt, 3 vols. (London: Heinemann; New York: Macmillan, 1912), Vol. III, p. 230 (xiv. 9).
[[†] ]See Vol. VIII, pp. 551-683.
[[*] ]Novum Organum, Works, Vol. I, p. 180 (Bk. I, Aph. 70).
[* ]Τἀνάντια ἀρχαὶ τω̑ν ὄντων, “an axiom,” says Mr. Grote (Vol. I, p. 15n), “occupying a great place in the minds of the Greek philosophers.” [See Aristotle, The Metaphysics (Greek and English), trans. Hugh Tredennick, 2 vols. (London: Heinemann; New York: Putnam’s Sons, 1933), Vol. I, p. 36 (986b).]
[[*] ]See Bacon, Novum Organum, Works, Vol. I, p. 158 (Bk. I, Aph. 14).
[* ]Grote, Vol. I, p. 5.
[† ]Ibid., p. 21.
[‡ ]Ibid., p. 22.
[§ ]Ibid., p. 10n-11n.
[* ]Ibid., p. 96. [See Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers, trans. Hicks, Vol. II, p. 435 (IX, 25).]
[† ]Ibid., pp. 103-4.
[[*] ]See ibid., pp. 94ff.
[[*] ]See George Henry Lewes, “Mr. Grote’s Plato,” Fortnightly Review, II (Sept., 1865), 169-70.
[[*] ]Dionysius of Halicarnassus, On Literary Composition (Greek and English), trans. W. Rhys (London: Macmillan, 1910), p. 264 (xxv).
[* ][Friedrich] Ueberweg. [Untersuchungen über die Echtheit und Zeitfolge Platonischer Schriften, und über die Hauptmomente aus Platos Leben (Vienna: Gerolds Sohn, 1861), p. 81.] See Grote, Vol. I, p. 184.
[[†] ]The information derives, as Grote indicates (Vol. I, p. 217n), from Aristoxenus, Elements of Harmony.
[[*] ]See Vol. VIII, pp. 505ff.
[* ][Translated from] Grote, Vol. I, p. 123n. [The passage is quoted by Grote from August Boeckh, Ueber die vierjährigen Sonnenkriese der Alten, vorzüglich den Eudoxischen (Berlin: Reimer, 1863), p. 150.]
[[*] ]Æschines, Against Timarchus, in The Speeches of Æschines, trans. Adams, p. 138 (173).
[† ]Contra Lacritum. [In Private Orations (Greek and English), trans. A. T. Murray, 3 vols. (London: Heinemann; Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1936), Vol. I, p. 304 (40-2).] Grote, Vol. III, p. 178n.
[‡ ]In his Oratio ad Philippum. [In Isocrates (Greek and English), trans. George Norlin, 2 vols. (London: Heinemann; New York: Putnam’s Sons, 1928), Vol. I, pp. 252-4 (12-14).] See Grote, Vol. III, p. 462.
[[†] ]Greater Hippias, Lesser Hippias, in Cratylus, Parmenides, Greater Hippias, Lesser Hippias (Greek and English), trans. H. N. Fowler (London: Heinemann; New York: Macmillan, 1914).
[§ ]Grote, Vol. II, p. 45.
[* ]Νόμος ὁ πάντων βασιλεύς, an expression of Pindar, cited by Herodotus (as well as by Plato himself in the Gorgias), and very happily applied, on many occasions, by Mr. Grote. [See Herodotus, trans. Godley, Vol. II, p. 150 (III, 38); and Plato, Gorgias, trans. Lamb, p. 386 (484b); cf. Mill’s trans., p. 122 above.] “The large sense of the word Νόμος, as received by Pindar and Herodotus, must be kept in mind, comprising positive morality, religious ritual, consecrated habits,bandb local turns of sympathy and antipathy, &c.” (Grote, Vol. I, p. 253n.) Νόμος, thus understood, includes all that is enjoined by law, custom, or the general sentiment, and all that is voluntarily accepted in reliance on these.
[† ]Grote, Vol. II, pp. 45-6.
[‡ ]Ibid., p. 47.
[§ ]Ibid., p. 73.
[¶ ]Ibid., p. 77.
[* ]Plato, Theætetus [in Theætetus, Sophist (Greek and English), trans. H. N. Fowler (London: Heinemann; New York: Putnam’s Sons, 1921), pp. 36-9], 151b.
[* ]Ὅπερ δὴ καὶ πλείστοις ἐπιδείκνυται. Xenophon, Memorabilia [trans. Marchant, p. 94], II, i .
[[*] ]See Philoctetes, in Sophocles (Greek and English), trans. F. Storr, 2 vols. (London: Heinemann; New York: Putnam’s Sons, 1919), Vol. II, pp. 361-493.
[† ]Grote, Vol. I, p. 390.
[* ]Ibid., p. 394.
[[*] ]See Memorabilia, trans. Marchant, pp. 222-4 (III, 9, 1-5).
[[*] ]See p. 153 above.
[[†] ]Cf. Gorgias, trans. Lamb, p. 292 (456e-457a); cf. Mill’s earlier trans., p. 103 above.
[* ]Plato, Protagoras, [in Laches, Protagoras, Meno, Euthydemus (Greek and English), trans. W. R. M. Lamb (London: Heinemann; Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1952), pp. 166, 168, 248-50,] 333c,d, and 352e [the first passage is not rendered in Mill’s translation; for the second, cf. p. 57 above].
[[*] ]Cf. Gorgias, trans. Lamb, pp. 342, 344 (471c-d, 471e-472b); cf. Mill’s earlier trans., pp. 113-14 above.
[[†] ]Cf. ibid., p. 352 (474c); cf. Mill’s trans., p. 115 above.
[* ]In the Leges, certain persons are mentioned, in a style of invective, as maintaining the doctrines put into the mouths of Kallikles and Thrasymachus; but they are nowhere called Sophists, and seem to be identified with the physical inquirers who denied the sun, moon, and planets to be gods, and alleged them to be γη̑ν καὶ λίθους (Leges, 886d [see Laws (Greek and English), trans. R. G. Bury, 2 vols. (London: Heinemann; New York: Putnam’s Sons, 1926), Vol. II, p. 302]). As the person most notorious for asserting this was Anaxagoras, who has obtained from subsequent ages about the highest moral and religious reputation of all these early inquirers, we regard this denunciation by Plato as merely a specimen of that odium theologicum which was a stranger to his better days, but comes out forcibly in the Leges, his latest production.
[† ]Plato, Sophistes, [in Theætetus, Sophist (Greek and English), trans. H. N. Fowler (London: Heinemann; New York: Putnam’s Sons, 1921), p. 316,] 231b.
[‡ ]Ibid., [p. 400,] 253c.
[§ ]The supposed speaker is Solon, and he is celebrating to Anacharsis, in a strain like that of Pericles in his funeral oration [see Thucydides, trans. Smith, Vol. I, p. 330 (II, 41)], the excellence of the Athenian customs: Ῥυθμίζομεν οὐ̑ν τὰς γνώμας αὐτω̑ν (of the youth), νόμους τε τοὺς κοινοὺς ἐκδιδάσκοντες, οἵ δημόσια πα̑σι πρόκεινται ἀναγινώσκειν μεγάλοις γράμμασιν ἅμα ἀναγεγραμμένοι, κελεύοντες ἅτε χρὴ ποιει̑ν, καὶ ὠ̑ν ἀπέχεσθαι, καὶ ἀγαθω̑ν ἀνδρω̑ν συνουσίας, παρ’ ὠ̑ν λέγειν τὰ δέοντα ἐκμανθάνουσι, καὶ πράττειν τὰ δίκαια, καὶ ἐκ του̑ ἴσου ἀλλήλοις συμπολιτεύεσθαι, καὶ μὴ ἐϕίεσθαι τω̑ν αἰσχρω̑ν, καὶ ὀρέγεσθαι τω̑ν καλω̑ν, βίαιον δὲ μηδὲν ποιει̑ν, οἱ δὲ ἄνδρες οὑ̑τοι, σοϕισταί, καὶ ϕιλόσοϕοι πρὸς ἡμω̑ν ὀνομάζονται. (Luc. de Gymnasiis.) [See “Anacharsis, or Athletics,” in Lucian (Greek and English), trans. A. M. Harmon, 8 vols. (London: Heinemann; New York: Putnam’s Sons, 1925), Vol. IV, p. 36 (22).]
[[*] ]Plato, Meno, in Laches, Protagoras, Meno, Euthydemus (Greek and English), trans. W. R. M. Lamb (London: Heinemann; Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1952), pp. 339-43.
[* ]Xenophon, Apology [in Anabasis, Books IV-VII, Symposium and Apology (Greek and English), trans. O. J. Todd (London: Heinemann; Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1961), pp. 504-6 (29).
[[†] ]See Æschines, Against Timarchus, p. 138 (173).
[[*] ]See Xenophon, Memorabilia, trans. Marchant, p. 36 (I, 2, 49-53).
[[†] ]Plato, Apology, trans. Fowler, p. 88 (23d).
[* ]Xenophon, Memorabilia [trans. Marchant, p. 26], I, 2, 31.
[[‡] ]See Republic, trans. Shorey, Vol. II, pp. 16-31 (487d-490d).
[* ]Plato, Republic [trans. Shorey, Vol. II, pp. 34-5, and 38-9], Bk. VI, 492a and 493a.
[[*] ]Aristotle, On Sophistical Refutations, in On Sophistical Refutations, On Coming-to-be and Passing Away, On the Cosmos (Greek and English), trans. E. S. Forster and D. J. Furley (London: Heinemann; Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1955), p. 14 (165a).
[* ]Καὶ τὴν σοϕίαν ὡσαύτως τοὺς μὲν ἀργυρίου τῳ̑ βουλομένῳ πωλου̑ντας, σοϕιστάς, ὥσπερ πόρνους, ἀποκαλου̑σιν. (Xenophon, Memorabilia [trans. Marchant, p. 72], I, 6, 13.)
[† ]Plato, Gorgias, 519c [trans. Lamb, p. 506; cf. Mill’s trans., pp. 143-4 above].
[‡ ]It is worth noting that the most renowned of the Sophists, Protagoras, according to Plato’s representation of him, had anticipated this censure, and taken care that it should not be applicable to himself. For he is made to say that if any one to whom he had given instruction disputed its price, he made him go to a temple and declare on oath what he himself considered the instruction to be worth, and make payment on that valuation. (Plato, Protagoras, 328b [trans. Lamb, p. 150; cf. Mill’s trans., p. 51].)
[[*] ]See, e.g., Gorgias, trans. Lamb, pp. 312-18 (463b-464d); cf. Mill’s trans., pp. 108-9 above.
[* ]“Such terms as Nature, Law, Freedom, Necessity, Body, Substance, Matter, Church, State, Revelation, Inspiration, Knowledge, Belief, are tossed about in the wars of words as if everybody knew what they meant, and as if everybody used them exactly in the same sense; whereas most people, and particularly those who represent public opinion, pick up these complicated terms as children, beginning with the vaguest conceptions, adding to them from time to time, perhaps correcting likewise at haphazard some of their involuntary errors, but never taking stock, never either inquiring into the history of the terms which they handle so freely, or realising the fulness of their meaning according to the strict rules of logical definition.” (Max Müller, Lectures on the Science of Language, Second Series [London: Longman, Green, Longman, Roberts & Green, 1864], pp. 526-7.)
[[*] ]See Aristotle, Metaphysics (Greek and English), trans. Hugh Tredennick, 2 vols. (London: Heinemann; New York: Putnam’s Sons, 1933), Vol. I, p. 43 (987b).
[* ]The transition in Plato’s mind from the simple to the transcendental doctrine is represented in a tolerably intelligible manner in his Seventh Epistle, of which an abstract is given by Mr. Grote, Vol. I, pp. 223ff.
[* ]Memorabilia [trans. Marchant, p. 332], IV, 6, 1.
[h-h]66 mark; Self-Restraint
[[*] ]See Protagoras, 332a-333c (trans. Lamb, pp. 162-6; cf. Mill’s treatment of the passage, pp. 53-4 above).
[* ]We do not pretend that καλόν, any more than its French equivalent, was always used in a distinctly æsthetic meaning. As commonly happens, the fine edge of its signification was blunted by use, and it was often little more than an ornamental expression for ἀγαθόν, as when we speak in English of “a fine thing;” so that Sokrates, in a conversation recorded by Xenophon (Memorabilia [trans. Marchant, pp. 216-20], III, 8 [2-9]) and referred to by Mr. Grote (Vol. III, p. 540), could maintain that everything is καλόν which is well adapted to its purpose, and that a well-made manure-basket is as truly καλόν as Virtue.
[* ]Grote, Vol. I, pp. 258-9.
[* ]Ibid., Vol. II, p. 12.
[[*] ]See Plato, Republic, trans. Shorey, Vol. II, p. 194 (531e).
[[†] ]See Bacon, Novum Organum, Works, Vol. I, pp. 163ff. (Bk. I, Aph. 39ff.).
[* ]Grote, Vol. II, p. 108.
[† ]Ibid., Vol. I, p. 323.
[‡ ]Plato, Parmenides, 135b [in Cratylus, Parmenides, Greater Hippias, Lesser Hippias (Greek and English), trans. H. N. Fowler (London: Heinemann; New York: Macmillan, 1914), p. 228; cf. Mill’s trans., p. 229 above].
[* ]Plato, Philebus, [in The Statesman, Philebus, Ion (Greek and English), trans. H. N. Fowler and W. R. M. Lamb (London: Heinemann; New York: Putnam’s Sons, 1925), p. 217,] 15d.
[† ]Grote, Vol. I, pp. 270-1.
[* ]Ibid., pp. 214-15.
[† ]Ibid., Vol. III, p. 103.
[* ]Ibid., Vol. II, p. 90.
[[*] ]See Gorgias, trans. Lamb, p. 514 (521d-522a); cf. Mill’s trans., p. 145 above.
[[†] ]Horace, “Carmina,” p. 178 (III, iii, 1).
[* ]The historical Sokrates of the Memorabilia ([trans. Marchant, pp. 314-16,] IV,4 [12-14]), being challenged by the Sophist Hippias to give over merely tormenting others, and commit himself to a positive opinion about justice, replies by a definition which would have included Aristeides, but not the Platonic ruler or philosopher: Justice, he says, is τὸ νόμιμον—conformity to the laws of the country. This definition, which exactly suited the unideal and practical Xenophon, does not satisfy the Sophist, who is here again represented as contending for a higher law. He objects, that the laws cannot be the standard of virtue, since the communities which enact them often change their mind, and abrogate the laws they have made. To which Sokrates makes the ingenious, and not un-Sokratic, answer, that communities also make war, and again peace, yet we do not disparage a good tactician or soldier because peace may come. The only work of Plato in which the vein of sentiment corresponds with this, is the Kriton, in which Sokrates, after his condemnation, refuses to accept an offer made to contrive his escape. He here insists powerfully on the duties which a man owes to his country and its laws, even when these are unjustly applied against himself, and personifies the Laws as reproaching him, if he flies from his doom, for ingratitude, in accepting through life all the benefits they gave, and now refusing to submit to their obligations. Judged by Plato’s standard in other places, the answer of the Xenophontic Sokrates to the question of Hippias is very un-Platonic; yet we suspect that Plato would have given the same answer to some persons and in some circumstances; that King Nomos was in his mind the sufficient and proper ruler for the generality of mankind; that laws, together with established customs (the ἄγραϕοι νόμοι of the same Xenophontic conversation [ibid., p. 320 (IV, 4, 19)], those common to all mankind) were his real rule of justice for the citizen, though the legislator and the philosopher required a more scientific standard. Among many passages pointing to this conclusion, we may refer to two in Theætetus ([trans. Fowler, pp. 112-14 and 132,] 172a and 177d), and Leges (Vol. I, [trans. Bury, pp. 44-8,] 637-8), where the point of view of the private citizen, taking the laws of his own country for the test of virtue, is distinguished from that of the philosopher, as represented by the characters in the dialogue, who are investigating what constitutes the virtue of the legislators themselves.
[[*] ]See Grote, Vol. II, pp. 82-3.
[[*] ]See ibid., p. 584.
[* ]Ibid., Vol. III, pp. 133-59. The only vestige we find in Plato of the conception of morality which refersm to the general happiness, is when, in answering the remark that the guardians of his ideal republic, being denied all the interests to which human life is generally devoted, would have a poor and undesirable existence, he says, “Perhaps it may turn out that theirs would be the happiest of all; but even if what you say is true, our object is not that one portion of the community may be as happy as possible, but that the whole community may be so.” [Cf. Republic, trans. Shorey, Vol. I, pp. 316-17 (420b).]
[[†] ]Gorgias, trans. Lamb, p. 270 (450d); cf. Mill’s trans., p. 100 above.
[* ]Tennyson, in one of his finest poems, the “Eleanore,” has entered well into this peculiarity of Grecian feeling:
[† ]Plato, Republic [trans. Shorey, pp. 250-62], III, 400-2, and Grote, Vol. III, pp. 53-4.
[‡ ]See the Timæus, throughout.
[[*] ]See Philebus, trans. Fowler and Lamb, p. 394 (66a).
[* ]Grote, Vol. I, pp. 217-18 [derived from Aristoxenus; cf. p. 386n above].
[[*] ]William Wordsworth, “Lines, composed a few miles above Tintern Abbey,” in Poetical Works, 5 vols. (London: Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown and Green, 1827), Vol. II, p. 183 (99).
[[†] ]Cf. I Corinthians, 2:9.
[[*] ]See Meno, trans. Lamb, pp. 299 ff.
[o-o]66 (asks Sokrates)
[[*] ]“Ode. Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood,” in Poetical Works, Vol. IV, p. 349 (Stanza 5, 1).
[* ]Grote, Vol. II, p. 18.
[† ]Ibid., Vol. I, p. 230n.
[[*] ]Laws, trans. Bury, Vol. II, pp. 323-41.
[[†] ]See Grote, Vol. II, p. 196.
[* ]Ibid., pp. 154-5, 156-7.
[[*] ]Cf. Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers, trans. Hicks, Vol. II, pp. 462-5 (IX, 51).
[[†] ]Cf. John Horne Tooke, Επεα Πτεροεντα. Or, The Diversions of Purley, 2 vols. (London: Johnson, 1798, 1805), Vol. II, p. 403.
[* ]Such, at least, is the thesis maintained in most of the dialogues by the speaker who appears to be Plato’s representative, and poetically symbolized in the famous simile of the Cave [in the Republic]. But in one of the most important passages of his works, the parenthetical discussion in the Sophistes, the Eleatic Stranger directly impugns this doctrine, maintaining against certain thinkers who are called “the friends of Forms,” that the Forms are not the only real existences; are not eternally and unchangeably the same, there being Forms of change itself; and that the objects of Perception as well as Conception really exist; Existence being here defined as consisting in Power. To exist, is to have a power of any kind—to be capable of acting, or even of being acted upon. Λέγω δὴ τὸ καὶ ὁποιανου̑ν κεκτήμενον δύναμιν, εἴτ’ εἰς τὸ ποιει̑ν ἕτερον ὅτιουν πεϕυκός, εἴτ’ εἰς τὸ παθει̑ν καὶ σμικρότατον ὑπὸ του̑ ϕαυλοτάτου, κἄν εἰ μόνον εἰσάπαξ—πα̑ν του̑το ὄντως εἰ̑ναι· τίθεμαι γὰρ ὅρον ὁρίζειν τὰ ὄντα, ὡς ἔστιν οὐκ ἄλλο τι πλὴν δύναμις. [Trans. Fowler, p. 378 (247d-e).]
[p-p]66 , but only what the ancient thinkers, understood by the term
[[*] ]See William Hamilton, Discussions on Philosophy and Literature, Education and University Reform (London: Longman, Brown, Green and Longmans; Edinburgh: Maclachlan and Stewart, 1852), p. 608 (App. I, Pt. 2); cf. Grote, Vol. II, p. 343n.
[[†] ]See Grote, Vol. II, pp. 347 ff., and 512 ff.
[[*] ]See ibid., pp. 324-5.
[* ]Ibid., p. 512.
[[*] ]See Theætetus, trans. Fowler, pp. 134-7 (178b-c).
[[†] ]See ibid., pp. 88-103 (164e-168e).
[[‡] ]Ibid., pp. 219ff.
[[§] ]Ibid., pp. 172-203 (188c-196c).
[[*] ]Cf. Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels, Voyage IV, Chap. iii, in Works, ed. Walter Scott, 19 vols. (Edinburgh: Constable, 1814), Vol. XII.
[[†] ]Trans. Fowler, p. 422 (258e-259a).
[* ]Grote, Vol. II, pp. 549-51. [The reference to Typhos comes from the Phædrus; see Fowler’s translation, p. 422 (230a); cf. Mill’s trans., pp. 63-4 above.]
[† ]Ibid., p. 10.
[[†] ]See Meno, trans. Lamb, pp. 360-2 (97e-98a).
[‡ ]Ξυνιέναι κατ’ εἰ̑δος λεγόμενον, ἐκ πολλω̑ν ἰὸν αἰσθήσεων εἰς ἕν λογισμῳ̑ ξυναιρούμενον. (Plato, Phædrus, 249b [trans. Fowler, p. 480; cf. Mill’s trans., p. 75 above].)
[[‡] ]See Theætetus, trans. Fowler, pp. 222-3 (201c-d).
[§ ]Grote, Vol. III, pp. 88-93.
[¶ ]Ibid., pp. 101-2.
[* ]Ibid., Vol. II, p. 551.
[† ]Ibid., p. 394.
[* ]Memorabilia [trans. Marchant, p. 228], III, 9, 10.
[* ]Grote, Vol. II, pp. 483-6.
[* ]Plato, Gorgias [trans. Lamb, pp. 504, 500], 519a, 517c [cf. Mill’s trans., pp. 143, 142 above].
[[*] ]See Republic, trans. Shorey, Vol. II, pp. 334ff. (571aff.).
[[*] ]See Plato, Republic, trans. Shorey, Vol. I, p. 464 (461a).
[[†] ]See Grote, Vol. III, pp. 225-6.
[[*] ]See An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, 4 vols. (London: Knight, 1835-39), Vol. I, Bk. I, Chaps. i-iii, pp. 6 ff.
[* ]It must be noted as one more of the contradictions between different dialogues, that when this same requisite, the exclusive attention of every person to the thing which he knows, is suggested in the Charmides as the essence or definition of σωϕροσύνη, Sokrates not only objects to it as such, but doubts whether this restriction is of any great benefit, since it does not bestow that which is the real condition and constituent of well-being, the knowledge of good and evil. (See Grote, Vol. I, pp. 489-91.)
[* ]Νόμος ὁ πάντων βασιλεύς, an expression of Pindar, cited by Herodotus (as well as by Plato himself in the Gorgias), and very happily applied, on many occasions, by Mr. Grote. [See Herodotus, trans. Godley, Vol. II, p. 150 (III, 38); and Plato, Gorgias, trans. Lamb, p. 386 (484b); cf. Mill’s trans., p. 122 above.] “The large sense of the word Νόμος, as received by Pindar and Herodotus, must be kept in mind, comprising positive morality, religious ritual, consecrated habits,bandb local turns of sympathy and antipathy, &c.” (Grote, Vol. I, p. 253n.) Νόμος, thus understood, includes all that is enjoined by law, custom, or the general sentiment, and all that is voluntarily accepted in reliance on these.
[* ]Ibid., Vol. III, pp. 133-59. The only vestige we find in Plato of the conception of morality which refersm to the general happiness, is when, in answering the remark that the guardians of his ideal republic, being denied all the interests to which human life is generally devoted, would have a poor and undesirable existence, he says, “Perhaps it may turn out that theirs would be the happiest of all; but even if what you say is true, our object is not that one portion of the community may be as happy as possible, but that the whole community may be so.” [Cf. Republic, trans. Shorey, Vol. I, pp. 316-17 (420b).]
[* ]It must be noted as one more of the contradictions between different dialogues, that when this same requisite, the exclusive attention of every person to the thing which he knows, is suggested in the Charmides as the essence or definition of σωϕροσύνη, Sokrates not only objects to it as such, but doubts whether this restriction is of any great benefit, since it does not bestow that which is the real condition and constituent of well-being, the knowledge of good and evil. (See Grote, Vol. I, pp. 489-91.)
[s]66 [no paragraph]