« EdellinenJatka »
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.
SU PPLE MENT.
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.
IV. THE LESSER HIPPIAS.
This dialogue has a great similarity to the Ion, considered as well in itself and its whole design, as any one must see on a comparison of the two, as in reference to the ambiguity of its Platonic origin. For in the Hippias also we not only find combined with much that is genuinely Platonic so much that is suspicious, that one side might easily balance the other, but also in point of peculiar character each looks so like what we meet with in that dialogue that the same view which rejects or adopts the one must draw down a like sentence upon the other. For as regards, first of all, the subject-matter and what is essential in the form, each is not only worthy of the remaining works of Plato hitherto laid before the reader, but also in accurate agreement with them. The two positions which are immediately adduced, that, first, the man who is right and the man who is wrong in any matter is one and the same, namely he who knows something of it; and that again which in itself I can by no means consider, as Ast does, unsocratic, which maintains that he who errs intentionally in all things is better than he who errs unintentionally and without his knowledge ;—these propositions are adduced in such a manner from the particular Homeric case, and the whole discussion so manifestly intended to draw attention to the distinction between the theoretical and the practical, consequently to the nature of the will and the moral faculty, and at the same time to point out in what sense alone virtue can be called a knowledge, that in this no one can mistake the whole style of the earlier Platonic
method of philosophizing. In like manner, especially in the development of the second position, the gradual transition to the opposite is so entirely in accordance with the maxims in the Phaedrus, that the spirit and earlier period of the philosopher appears in this distinctly prominent This then supposed, the final object of the dialogue is so similar to that of the Protagoras, that it is impossible not to ask what is the order of the two dialogues and what relation they have to one another, if they are both to be established as coming from Plato? Now if the Hippias was written after the Protagoras, then some point ought to appear further developed or more distinctly set forth in the former than in the latter. But we cannot discover this to be the case: for it might indeed appear that the first part must bring an attentive reader, advancing in his conclusions beyond the letter of what he reads, sooner than the Protagoras could do, to certainty as to what, if Virtue is a knowledge, is to be the object of this knowledge, namely, the Good. But in the Hippias this investigation is by no means carried forward from the point at which it had stopped in the Protagoras; but it is introduced quite in a different manner, and in both conducted negatively only. For in the Protagoras it is only cursorily that the proposition, that pleasure is the object of moral knowledge, is reduced to a contradiction; in the Hippias it is argued against it, that Virtue, in so far as it is a knowledge, is not the knowledge of the object with which it is concerned from time to time. Now the fact that many persons will find it easier to discover the positive conclusion in the Hippias, can prove nothing in favour of the later composition of that dialogue. On the contrary, U