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that the art is one and indivisible; then the principle is set up that every art is one by reason of its object, and it is lastly notified that poetry has many objects distinct from one another, according to which it certainly would not in that case be one. This is upon the whole so very much in the Platonic manner, to lead from one proposition over to its opposite, that whoever has remarked the gradual transition will certainly look at once for more accurate advices upon the nature of the art of poetry, by which alone this contradiction may be solved, as the real object and purpose of the dialogue. Now for him who searches carefully, there do indeed exist in it something like the following; that the proposed object is by no means an object of the poet in the sense in which it is his who deals with it for a certain end according to the rules of art, but that the principle of unity in the art of poetry must be looked for in something else; and that the work of the poet exercises a creative influence in the minds of the readers. But, first, there is a greater want of any kind of instruction for pursuing these notices further than can be well excused, and then both they, and the consequences which might be drawn from them, for the separation and subdivision of the arts generally, have been already quite as clearly enunciated in the Phaedrus, and certainly placed upon a better and more dialectic foundation ; so that the dialogue does nothing for them, further than investigate them in disconnection with the principles on which they rest; a process which can never be of any but the very slightest use. Hence the question naturally upon this presents itself, what the Ion is to do placed after the Phaedrus, and yet no one who compares the similar passages in the two, can conceive a wish to change the order.

For, compare as we will, the thing always assumes the appearance of the Ion having had the Phaedrus in view, and not the Phaedrus the Ion. Add to this, that what might lead the reader to consider the notices to which we just now alluded as the main object of the piece, is placed too much in the shade. For art is regarded almost entirely from the point of view alone that it supposes a knowledge, of its object, whereby it is distinguished from artless handicraft, but not from that which presents it as endeavouring to produce a work by means of that knowledge, whereby it disconnects itself from pure science. This latter point is touched upon in a cursory manner only, and never accompanied by a hint of the kind which in the Protagoras and its family, and even so early as in the Lysis, marked out the way with so much distinctness. And this can be neither attributed to the nature of the dress in which the dialogue is put, as it expressly ascribes the same work to the rhapsodist and the poet; nor does this confusion of the unities of the object and the work wear the appearance of purpose sufficiently to make it without going further, a competent guide. And since the conclusion comes round again, and considers the rhapsodist simply, without containing even a hint respecting the true view, we are almost compelled, from the obscurity and deficiency of the execution, to reject again the only tenable theory contained in the work. . And the same difficulties present themselves, when we consider closely, and compare particular passages in reference to subject and arrangement, as well as execution and language; for many details are so much in the peculiar spirit of Plato and in his most genuine method, that we think we certainly recognize him in them alone; and then again we come sometimes upon weaknesses such as we could scarcely ascribe to him in his earliest stages, sometimes upon faulty resemblances to other passages which have completely the appearance of unfortunate imitations. The annotations will show this more accurately, as points of that kind can be made manifest and judged of only by considering them in the particular place where they occur. While, then, as we contemplate this dialogue, our judgment is thus drawn from one side to the other, and the balance wavers unsteadily without giving a decisive kick, two distinct theories spontaneously arise, between which it may not be very easy to make or to keep a determined choice. For either one of Plato's pupils may have composed the dialogue after a hasty sketch of his master, in which some particular passages were worked out more fully than others, or at least taking Plato's hints and expressions as guides, whence the obscure arrangement of the whole, as well as the various execution of the details, is satisfactorily explained: or this dialogue does indeed come from Plato, but only as an imperfectly executed essay, which had scarcely had the correction of the finishing hand. The only period in which it can claim to have been composed must be as: early as possible after the Phaedrus ; and it can be viewed only as the first essay towards the mode of treating the dialogue commenced subsequently to this work, in which the development of details resembles the composition of the whole. But whether in this case the Ion is to be considered a kind of prelude to some greater work of Plato which remained unexecuted, upon the nature of the Art of Poetry, or whether it had nothing in view beyond a playful and polemic extension of certain sentiments expressed in the Phaedrus—to attempt to decide this further, in the present uncertainty of the case, might be hazardous. Sooner might one be able to maintain that the bringing out and publication of the work were, not to say unintentional, such as Zeno complains of in the Parmenides, but hastened by some seductive cause or other from without. This, since no trace of external circumstances can be found in it, might perhaps most naturally have been that pretty, though like a pet, somewhat spoiled and abused comparison with the loadstone, from fondness for which, in order to bring it on fresh and shining, Plato may on the one hand have at that time finished off this little exercise more hastily than would otherwise have been done, without expending any particular pains upon every particular, and on the other, perhaps, not have been disposed to withhold the publication of it, if he did not otherwise lay any particular value upon the main subject. But even this comparison would have found a place so appropriately in the Phaedrus, where the dependency of different men upon different gods, and the attractions to love thence resulting, were under discussion, that it were to be wished Plato had discovered it at that time, and by that means perhaps spared us this ambiguous Ion. In any case this little dialogue, betraying as it does so many suspicious features, and devoid of any particular philosophical tendency, could hardly lay claim to any other place but this which we assign to it.


It is not without mature reflection that I leave this introduction to stand in the main as it was originally written ; for it does not seem to me good to extinguish in a later edition all traces of how circumspectly, and turning every thing to the best, I have gone to work with those dialogues ascribed to Plato which appeared to me at first suspicious, that my method of proceeding might be the less liable to be confounded, by attentive readers at least, with a frivolous and precipitate criticism coming in after the thing was decided upon. As for the rest, every reader who compares the annotations with the introduction will remark that I give more space to the grounds of suspicion than to the defence, which last however I thought it incumbent upon me to investigate in the case of a work which, with all its weaknesses, is not entirely without a Platonic tone; and even now I refrain from cancelling that defence, as it may pave the way towards explaining what is unquestionably Platonic in detail, supposing the work itself to be condemned as not genuine. But Bekker marks this and the following dialogues more decisively as ungenuine, and, in so doing, has my full assent.

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