Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

useful or tending towards a decision of the question, is always heedlessly abandoned. So that as regards the lame progress of the investigation, the Minos does indeed resemble the Hipparchus, but is far worse; this circumstance, however, excites no presumption against the supposition of an identity of composer, but is sufficiently explained by the nature of the subject. For the purpose of the dialogue generally cannot have been the investigation of an idea, but this is all show and pretence, adopted however, because no Socratic dialogue can exist without it, the main object being only a poor justification of Socrates’ prejudice in favour of Crete. But this Minos has in itself a still further and more peculiar mark of spuriousness, in the pre-eminent awkwardness of the language. Instead of either seriously using the words connected with the principal word, by derivation and sound, or playing with them without injury to the investigation, and without sophistical trick, the author, like a clumsy workman, miserably entangles himself between these two processes. Again, the name of the kingly art is put abruptly and without any referential notice as a thing conceded, for the art of statemanship, and that of the kingly man for statesman. This is brought in here out of the later Platonic dialogues, out of which however the composer, whose imitation of Plato is always harping upon the most frequented places, was incapable of drawing anything more profound. But it is unnecessary to add more upon a subject clear as day to any one who will see. • *

VII. ALCIBIADES II.

ALREADY in ancient times, doubts were entertained of the legitimacy of this dialogue, as some persons attributed it to Xenophon. For this supposition there were indeed no particular grounds, and least of all a decisive similiarity of style; and we might almost say that it . must have been at once rejected by every philologist. But it is only the more probable that there was at least some decided reason existing for denying this little work to Plato; though no such testimony is in fact wanting upon which to hang a decisive sentence of rejection. The case however of this dialogue is very different from that of those hitherto rejected or suspected. For many might probably say that it is better in many points of view, but every reader will certainly be obliged to confess that it is also far less Platonic in the thoughts, in the arrangement, and also in the execution. For, first, as regards the subject-matter, the interpreters have at various times congratulated themselves on finding here the true doctrine of Socrates upon the subject of prayer; and this is principally the reason why this place in particular has been assigned to this dialogue, in order to refer back to the Euthyphro and the Apology together. For when we talk of finding in Plato a doctrine of Socrates pure, this can only mean mixed up with the doctrine of other wise men, and not perfectly estranged from the manner in which Plato had once for all conceived Socrates. Now how could any one who has understood the hints in the Euthyphro and the spirit of the Apology consider it as a Socratic doctrine that the gods, without any fixed principle, and without even considering what

is best, sometimes grant and sometimes deny, nay, that one might suppose the case possible of their offering, what could be dangerous for mankind to receive 2 or that to meet with death after the performance of brilliant exploits, or live in banishment is a great evil which a man must use great foresight to avoid /On the contrary, this is manifestly a doctrine about the gods of the nature of those of which Socrates says in the Euthyphro, that it is perhaps because he does not consent to anything of the kind, when people maintain such propositions concerning the gods, that he is calumniated and accused of impiety. And the latter view is quite as manifestly at variance with all the motions attributed to Socrates himself in the Apology, not to mention other Platonic dialogues which the composer of this clearly had before him. And again, whether the notion is Socratic or not, how poorly it is worked up. For as long as the supposition remains in existence, of inconsistency and uncertainty in the minds of the gods, of what use can it be to wait to pray for the knowledge of what is best, if they may also refuse this according as they think proper ? But if it should be said that Plato by this contradiction wished to negative the former supposition, we answer that there is not at the end any indication of the contradiction, as there is in the Protagoras and other similar cases; nor again, is there in the course of the dialogue any trace of the irony which Plato in such a case never could have omitted to introduce. But more accurately considered, the doctrine of prayer, even according to the intention of the composer, is certainly not to be taken for the main subject of the dialogue, but what we find about the reasonable and unreasonable man, and about the relation of other arts and sciences to that of the good and the best.

Now this doctrine is certainly Platonic enough, and a preliminary discussion of it might fairly find a place here with reference to the dialogues soon to follow. But the manner in which it is brought forward is far from Platonic, or even Socratic ; for it was, as we know, Socrates himself who said that all good, private and public, can arise only from virtue, and not conversely : while here the necessity for the knowledge of the best is itself only put upon the ground that otherwise security is endangered, and the state must prosper ill. And in like manner this method of drawing conclusions is neither moral nor scientific enough, as has already appeared up to the present point, and will appear still further in reference to the time of his later works, which manifestly enough our composer had in view. For immediately before the last result quite comes out, that those namely must rule in the state who have attained to the knowledge of the best, Socrates shoots off again to that discussion about prayer, which can however be nothing but the setting of the whole. And even before that the unity of the work is destroyed by the proposition being maintained that ignorance itself may be to a certain degree a good, a proposition which, in default of anything better, leaves still remaining an unsocial, uncultivated, aboriginal kind of life, such as forced itself upon those who misunderstood the cynical principles, of which generally many traces appear here, though not however without contradiction. The arrangement, moreover, as exhibited in the manner in which this theory about the knowledge of the best is connected with that of prayer, must appear to every reader so capricious and so entirely destitute of any art that it is not possible to tax Plato with such a work. And in like manner, as regards the execution, the un

Platonic character of the work upon the whole is shown in the poverty of Socrates' sentences, the miserable little formulae with which, in order to tack the dialogue on again as it is slipping through his hands, he asks Alcibiades' opinion of it, the very slight use made of Alcibiades, his want of anything like marked character, the indistinctness in all the by-work, and still more matter that might be brought forward—all this is so prominent, that particular turns, which come out Platonically enough, can excite no doubt whatever of the spuriousness of the dialogue, but only confirm the opinion that the composer had indeed read his master industriously enough, but had penetrated less into his spirit than his language, and been incapable of learning from him his peculiar secrets. Plato is also thus acquitted cursorily of one of the worst anachronisms of which he can be accused. For it is only necessary to have a general knowledge of the dates, and decide as we may all that is questionable with reference to certain facts connected with this dialogue, it will still be found impossible that Socrates should have conversed with Alcibiades about the death of Archelaus ; to say nothing of the fact that in the same dialogue the intention of murdering Pericles is without any necessity lent by supposition to Alcibiades, as if it were possible that the former should have been alive a short time after the death of Archelaus.

END OF THE FIRST PART.

« EdellinenJatka »