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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 nature 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
transition from one becoming state to another. All this is in fact far too ingenious, far too fully worked out and too accurately treated to allow of our considering it as only collateral matter occasionally touched upon, and the political part alone as the peculiar object of the work. This explanation, as soon as Callicles has admitted a distinction between the pleasant and the good, though only quite in general terms, is followed by the third section, which connects and comprehends the two preceding. In this, then, Socrates, in accordance with the ethical and preparatory nature of the work, concludes with a development resting upon the disposition of the mind, and expressing it mythically. Now if a comparison is to be instituted also between this myth and that in the Phaedrus, and there is to a certain extent much resemblance between the two, in so far as even this has been celebrated as a fundamental myth, it must be remembered that the future bears exactly the same relation to the will and to art in this, as the past does to science and knowledge in that, and that in the one as well as the other Time is only an image, while the essential point consists in the consideration of mind divested of personality. And thus Plato is so far from intending to set such a value upon the mythical part as might lead us to take it historically, that he connects it with the popular mythology. Nor, moreover, does the Gorgias leave the subject of love unnoticed, but in this dialogue love is quite as much the guiding principle of the political art, as it is in the Phaedrus of the cultivation of the individual; only, as we must at all events suppose, relying upon the investigations pursued in the Lysis, it has already divested itself of its mythical dress. Z
But we need not pursue particular comparisons of this kind; only we may observe in general that a comparison with what has preceded brings us to our second result: I mean that with reference to the proof which the form may supply, the Gorgias not only belongs to the second part, but also occupies the first place in it. For in that which constitutes the main subject of the dialogue, the mode in which the particular instance, rhetoric, that is, as an example of mere semblance in art, is combined with the more general object of the whole exposition, the endeavour to investigate upon the practical side the opposition between the eternal and the mutable, in this the Gorgias, notwithstanding all its apparent similarity with the Phaedrus, bears entirely the character of the second part. For in that dialogue, where philosophising was only spoken of as an impulsive feeling, and knowledge as inward intuition, the method, as a thing external, could only serve for illustration. But now when the Parmenides has so prepared the way, that it is rather the reality of knowledge together with its objects, that are to be discussed, instead of mere method, art is set up as something formed and finished, and the connection between the arts as something external, and the investigation is pursued rather with a view of discovering whether they have an object, and what it is. Nay, if we look to the mere structure, a decided transition may be pointed out from the Phaedrus through the Protagoras to the Gorgias, and from this to the Euthydemus and Sophist, in which the form of utter negation comes out most strongly.
And in like manner all these dialogues are penetrated throughout by a germ, continually growing and treated only as an indirect object, of the positive, in the indi