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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
and the Phaedrus, and further, to what is notwithstanding here more intimated than expounded or systematised, the separation of rhetoric from sophistics, so that the former, regarded as an art under the category of the science of semblance, is to contain whatever refers to the greatest object of all art, the state, while sophistics, as is further explained elsewhere, contain the semblance of communicating with the principles themselves. For though Socrates compares rhetoric only with the administration of justice, and sophistics on the contrary with legislation, the proper sense of this indisputably is, that sophistics are to be supposed to imitate the knowledge of the first principles, from which certainly original composition and conformation proceed, and rhetoric the application of them to a given subject. The case is exactly the same, according to the ancient ideas, with gymnastics, in which outward perfection of the human body is one and the same with the principles of its preservation and production; rhetoric, on the contrary, like politics in the ordinary sense, can never be anything but a remedial art, and applies those principles to a given corruption. Here then, to discover and expose the utter superficiality of the art of speaking, Socrates has to deal with the artists themselves, Gorgias and Polus. The confusion of the pleasant with the good is shown on the other hand in Callicles, whom a similarity in disposition had made a pupil of the other two; and then in the last section in which Socrates recapitulates all that had preceded, both sets of principles are shown to originate in the same one vicious principle, and to point to the same deficiency. Still, as it is not natural to Plato to make any decisive divisions in his general plan, so neither do we here find them in particular in the different sections.
In the first, then, of these, Socrates shows to Gorgias, to whom Plato, we know not with what justice, ascribes at the outset a somewhat limited purpose in his instructions, representing that that purpose tends only to a proper conduct of political life, and in no way to the cultivation of virtue—Socrates proves to him from his own method, and that of the other rhetoricians, that justice and injustice, which nevertheless he is obliged to recognise as the objects of his art, can never be consciously contained in it, or given by it. To Polus however the mature and relations of the art of semblance are still more accurately exposed, and he is shown in particular that in the idea of the beautiful, which he still refuses to give up as unmeaning, and persists in assigning to it a province of its own, the commission of injustice proves to be worse than the sufferance of it, which leads immediately to a distinction between the good and the pleasant. Here again the comparison with the Protagoras comes very near, that we may be enabled to see the use which in his indirect investigations Plato makes of the idea of the beautiful; I mean, that he propounds it formally and hypothetically only, and, allowing it to be entered as an abstract and exclusive notion, explains dialectically its relation to other homogenous ideas as to which men are substantially agreed. In the Protagoras, now, the apparent supposition of the unity of the good and the pleasant had been made the ground-work of the argument, and there remained therefore no other instrument of distinction, but mediateness or immediateness of the pleasant and unpleasant in time, which however can constitute no such instrument, as is so multifariously explained in the Protagoras itself and the dialogues connected with it. In the dialogue with Polus the identity of the good and the pleasant is left less definite, and only the difference between the pleasant and useful more strongly laid down, without its being decidedly assumed (what indeed had been already contradicted in previous dialogues), that this distinction would depend only upon time. Whence, as soon as the distinction between the good and the pleasant is made out, the result comes out of itself, that the idea of the useful is immediately connected with the good. In the conversation with Callicles Socrates’ immediate purpose is chiefly to awaken the consciousness of that opposition, and to force his interlocutor to allow that the proposition, that all good is exhausted in the pleasant, has no support in internal consciousness, but that this hypothesis compels us to place yet a further good beyond the sphere of the pleasant. And the attempts which in conjunction with Callicles Socrates makes for accomplishing this end, and which, moreover, are especially remarkable on account of the admixture, the first as yet, of Italian wisdom, might fairly be allowed to constitute in themselves the most ingenious part of this work. I mean, when we further take into consideration the manner in which they fail and the necessity for this failure, which is as nicely calculated as from the whole description of Callicles' character it is beautifully applied, and the way in which Socrates, without having neglected, as he would have been most glad to have done, the excitement of the feeling, guards against the objection of giving himself pliable opponents; and returning to his own peculiar philosophical organ of dialectics, adduces a most important exposition of the true nature of pleasure, that it is something in perpetual flux, and can only be conceived as arising in the