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PART I I,

I. G.ORGIAS.

LIKE all Plato's greater dialogues up to this point laid before the reader, the following has been in regard of his principal meaning almost universally misunderstood. For we must in Plato's case especially regard a mere half apprehension of anything as an entire misunderstanding ; since where the reciprocal connexion of the parts and their relation to the whole is missed, all correct insight into particulars, and all fundamental comprehension, is rendered impossible. Now, as in the Phaedrus, most critics overlooked too entirely the subject of rhetoric, and for that reason could hardly form a conception of the meaning of the whole; so in the present instance, misled in like manner by a second and unquestionably later title of the dialogue, “Or upon the Art of Speaking,” they have laid far too much weight on the topic of rhetoric, and taken every thing else merely for digressions and occasional investigations. Others again have looked to some other particular point, as to the doctrine set forth by Callicles, of the right of the stronger, and to its refutation by Socrates; or to the incidental remarks tending to the degradation of poetry, and have deduced as a result the ingenious notion, that the Gorgias contains the first outlines of that which has been treated, (I cannot tell whether in their opinion later or earlier) more fully in the books of the Republic. An idea which for the very reason that it is more ingenious than they are aware, conveys nothing at all definite as to the peculiar character

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of this work. For what important production of Plato may not be said to contain, rightly understood, such outlines P So much, however, is clear without further exposition, that according to any one of these views, the portion of the whole so prominently brought forward must appear in very loose connexion with the rest; and especially the inquiry upon the nature of pleasure, if one regards the whole in this light, can hardly be viewed but as an idle supernumerary labour, strangely pieced on to the rest. But a reader must know little of Plato who does not speedily detect thus much, that where anything of this kind occurs, and withal sounding so deep, this must undoubtedly be the weightiest of all the topics handled, and the point from which alone everything else can also be understood in its true connexion, and for that very reason the inner unity of the whole can be discovered; and regarded in this light, the Gorgias appears exactly as the work that is to be placed at the head of the second division of the Platonic writings, with reference to which our general Introduction maintained, that the dialogues which it includes, occupying a middle position between the elementary and constructive ones, treat generally, no longer as the first did, of the method of philosophy, but of its object, aiming at a complete apprehension and right decision of it. Nor yet, as the latter, endeavour absolutely to set forth the two real sciences, Physics and Ethics, but only by preparatory and progressive steps to fix and define them ; and that when considered either singly or in their community of mutual dependence, they signalize themselves by a less uniform construction than was in the first division, but one peculiarly articifial and almost perplexing. Now let this theory be again expressly brought forward here, as introductory to this second class of Plato's collective works, and if it be immediately applied to the dialogue before us, and its position justified in accordance with the theory, all will be said that can be adduced beforehand to facilitate its comprehension. The intuition of the true and perfectly existent, in other words, of the eternal and unalterable, with which, as we have seen, every exposition of Plato's philosophy commenced, has its opposite pole in the equally general, and to common thought and being no less original and underived, intuition of the imperfectly existent, everflowing and mutable, which yet holds bound under its form all action and thought as they can be apprehended in actual, tangible, reality. Therefore the highest and most general problem of philosophy is exclusively this— to apprehend and fix the essential in that fleeting chaos, to display it as the essential and good therein, and so drawing forth to the full light of consciousness the apparent contradiction between those two intuitions, to reconcile it at the same time. This harmonizing process necessarily resolves itself into two factors, upon whose different relation to each other rests the difference of the methods. Setting out from the intuition of the perfectly existent, to advance in the exposition up to the semblance, and thus, simultaneously with its solution, for the first time to awaken and explain the consciousness of this contradiction; this is, in relation to philosophy, the immediate way of proceeding. On the other hand, starting from the consciousness of the contradiction as a thing given, to advance to the primary intuition as the means of its solution, and to lead up by force of the very necessity of such a mean towards it, this is the method which we have named the indirect or mediate, and which being for many reasons especially suited to one who commences on ethical ground, is here placed by Plato in the centre, as the true mean of connexion and progressive formation from the original intuition, his elementary starting-post, to the constructive exposition, the goal of his systematic conclusion. Now the relation which, in the sphere of nature, being and semblance or sensation bear to one another in this antithesis, is the same as that which in ethics exists between good, and pleasure or feeling. Therefore the principal object for the second part of Plato's works, and their common problem, will be to show, that science and art cannot be discovered, but only a deceitful semblance of both must be ever predominant, so long as these two are exchanged with each other, being with appearance, and good with pleasure. And advances are made to the solution of this problem naturally in a twofold way; yet without holding each course entirely apart in different writings: on the one hand, namely, that which hitherto had past for science and art is laid bare in its utter worthlessness: on the other, attempts are made, from the very position of knowing and acknowledging that antithesis to develop rightly the essence of science and art and their fundamental outlines. The Gorgias stands at the head of this class, because it rather limits itself, as preparatory, to the former task, than ventures upon the latter; and starting entirely from the ethical side, attacks at both ends the confusion existing herein, fixing on its inmost spirit, as the root, and its openly displayed arrogance as the fruits. The remaining dialogues observe this general distinction, they partly go farther back in the observation of the scientific in mere seeming, partly farther forwards in the idea of true science, and partly contain other later consequences of what is here first advanced in preparation. From this point, then, we observe a natural connection between the two main positions demonstrated to the interlocutors with Socrates in this dialogue. The first, that their pretensions to the possession of an art properly so called in their art of speaking are entirely unfounded; and the second, that they are involved in a profound mistake in their confusion of the good with the pleasant. And from the same point likewise the particular manner in which each is proved, and the arrangement of the whole, may be explained. For when it is the good that is under consideration, and the ethical object is predominant, Truth must be considered more in reference to art than science, if, that is, unity is to be preserved in the work generally. And moreover, it is art in its most general and comprehensive form that is here discussed, for the dialogue embraces every thing connected with it, from its greatest object, the state, to its least, the embellishment of sensuous existence. Only, as his custom is, Plato is most fond of using the greater form as the scheme and representation of the general, and the less, on the other hand, as an example and illustration of the greater; that no one may lose himself, contrary to Plato's purpose, in the object of the latter, which can never be anything but a particular. For rhetoric, it is to be observed, is here used to represent the whole would-be art of politics, but still only to represent it, and on that account especially, the introduction to the Protagoras is here repeated, verbally one might almost say, in order to draw attention the more certainly, by this change in the application of the word, to the more closely drawn variation from the earlier usage of it in that dialogue

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