Sivut kuvina

been glad to possess and immortalize a young friend like this. What Theaetetus here produces about the square root has very much the appearance of having been at that time something new, but whether it was a discovery of Theaetetus himself, or one of Plato's with which he ornaments his pupil, I cannot take upon myself to decide. With regard to Theodorus it is not necessary to say anything, as he is sufficiently known, and the only question which could be a subject of curiosity, namely, why he is found in this place particularly, and why Socrates is so urgent with him to unite in conducting the dialogue, cannot be satisfactorily answered out of the dialogue itself. Meanwhile the more probable the fact is of his visit to Athens, the less probable the account becomes that Plato went expressly to Cyrene to learn his science from him there.


IF the reader bears in mind the end of the Theaetetus, and compares it with the beginning of the Sophist, where manifestly the same persons again meet together with decided reference to the plan we find there concerted, it may fairly be matter of surprise to him that the Sophist does not here follow immediately upon the Theaetetus. And there ought indeed to be very sufficient grounds to justify us in disregarding so clear and apparently so intentional a notice. But for this very reason these grounds are of such a kind that they cannot be perfectly understood by the reader until he can refer back from the Sophist to the Theaetetus, and the matter which the present arrangement introduces between the two. Only every one must at least allow that that notice does not contain any compulsive necessity, or exclude the possibility of the insertion of several dialogues between the two just mentioned. For how easy it is to suppose that Plato may indeed have intended to produce, immediately after the Theaetetus, what we now find in the Sophist, and yet have been afterwards either called upon by particular occasions first to explain certain points, or have even seen that he could not appropriately comprehend in one dialogue all that was necessary, in order to attain to the results he wished, and that he therefore subjoined intermediately several smaller ones, without however snapping the main clue after having once indicated it. Or it might even have been his original intention, when he ended the Theaetetus, to continue the same persons in the Menon, making them say what we now find in this dialogue, and then he may have been subsequently influenced by some motive or other to prefer the choice of others for this purpose, and to apply the intimation formerly thrown out to a later work. In short, that external circumstance, explicable as it is in a variety of ways, should not stand in opposition to an internal necessity or even probability, as soon, that is, as it can be shown that the Menon does really connect itself immediately with the Theaetetus, and must at all events be placed between that dialogue and the Sophist. And this, as far as this place admits of an elucidation of the subject, will, it is hoped, be clearly enough manifest from the following comparison, We find the first indication in the fact that in that part of the Theaetetus where the opposition between knowledge and ignorance is set up, Socrates says that he prefers setting aside for the present the states of Learning and Forgetting as lying between the two, and clearly speaks of them as if they involved a problem which he would suspend until another time, in order not to lose sight of his principal subject. Now this is precisely the problem stated in the Menon, and whoever compares attentively must at once, and on this account, give up all idea of placing the Menon before the Theaetetus. Neither is it solved otherwise than Plato usually solves his problems when he does so preliminarily, I mean by a mythical hypothesis, so that we here find precisely what according to his own method, after this question had been once started, was necessary to be done. As then in the Sophist, as well as in other dialogues manifestly belonging to this series, the same question is treated more dialectically and scientifically: the Menon maturally comes to stand nearer to the Theaetetus and before the others. For when Plato wrote the Menon, had as much been already done in public expositions towards the scientific solution of this question, as we shall find in subsequent dialogues, the mythical treatment of it in this dialogue would no longer have had any meaning, but Plato would have referred the reader by a different method, with which we have already been made acquainted in his writings, to the works in which this was better done. And the same conclusion will ensue from the consideration of another question which likewise pervades several of these dialogues, I mean that of the immortality of the soul. When it is considered how in the Gorgias and Theaetetus this idea is first of all little more than hypothetically assumed and mythically sketched out, and then in this dialogue set up as a ground of explanation of a fact, and as it were postulated, how it is elsewhere, and in the Phaedon particularly, demonstrated and expounded with a higher degree of scientific clearness, any one having already any however slight acquaintance with Plato's method of proceeding must allow that it is only by assigning this position to the Menon, that this continuously increasing distinctness which gradually penetrates to the very centre-point of the subject, peculiar to Plato, can enter into the discussion of this, and that the first thing which Plato had to do after that general projection, was precisely to show that he was justified in thus assuming the doctrine of immortality, in so far, that is, as the possibility of all science and communication of knowledge must stand or fall with it. However, this is certainly no proof for those who are able to consider the Phaedon an earlier work than the Gorgias. But we cannot notice these opinions until we compare those two dialogues with one another according to our own arrangement. Now if it is kept in view, on the one hand, how these two questions, that of the possibility of communicating knowledge, and that of immortality, are brought into connection with one another; and on the other, how the question of the possibility of attaining to knowledge is here reduced within the other, of the possibility of attaining to virtue, and of the nature of virtue generally, it will be seen that the Menon belongs quite as immediately to the Gorgias as to the Theaetetus, and that the view taken of the relation of these two dialogues to one another is still more confirmed by means of it, inasmuch as the Menon is intended to draw the two still more close together, and to interweave them with one another, and this for those readers who might not perhaps yet be able to comprehend how the main problems of the two dialogues are connected with one another, and how in each of the two what is brought forward as digression is connected with the principal subject. And this view is confirmed by all closer consideration of the Menon, which, the more nearly we take it in connection with those two dialogues does the more closely and spontaneously connect itself with them, and this so immediately that it is impossible to conceive the intervention of anything else between them. Hence scarcely anything will be necessary here but to put down the particular points. First then, the projection and development of the idea of right conception, and the distinction pointed out between it and pure knowledge properly so called, must present itself to every one as the last result of the Theaetetus, though not in that place regularly and fully enunciated. And this in the Menon is not only assumed as proved and expressly put among the little of which Socrates can maintain that he knows it, but it is evident that the decisive treatment of the question respecting the possibility of teaching political virtue, (troXtrikm apérm) is nothing but an immediate deduction, a corollary from the Theaetetus intended to apply to the subject of the Gorgias the last results of the former. In like manner the Menon gives us an immediate continuation of the Gorgias, inasmuch as it is demonstrated in it, that the ideas of the good and of virtue can be quite as little determined by any more accurately defined method of attaining to the pleasant as by the pleasant in general, and that it is necessary to discuss the two connected ideas purely for themselves upon exclusive and original principles. And that the connection may

« EdellinenJatka »