« EdellinenJatka »
that they did this first, though probably more as tacticians than trainers in the art of fighting, and only applied late to philosophizing sophisticism. Plato himself in the Cratylus brings forward Euthydemus, but with a sentiment flowing immediately from the principles of the Ionic philosophy, and from which moreover no such sophistical misapplication immediately ensues, so that we do not at once recognize this Euthydemus in him. Aristotle also mentions him, and that with a few positions of the same kind as we find here, though their formulae will from their nature admit only of an ironical application, and could never be directed against philosophy ; and hence Euthydemus would not have deserved so cruel a treatment for their sake. On the other hand Aristotle brings forward almost all the formulae which here occur, several of them even verbally, without mentioning Euthydemus or his brother, but ascribing them entirely to the Eristic philosophers. Moreover, there is an important passage in our dialogue in which the catch-questions brought forward are mostly referred to the principle of Antisthenes, that there is no such thing as contradiction. Now if we compare with this several particular allusions in the dialogue, and another passage of Aristotle, where he says that Gorgias, the first instructor of Antisthenes, taught how to practise these matters, but not upon first principles, and consequently only communicated a few particular maxims and not the whole art itself, more and more light falls upon the whole, and it becomes very probable that under the name of those two sophists Plato intended rather to assail the Megarian schools and Antisthenes. He might be inclined to spare the former for old friendship's sake, which connected him with the
founder of them ; and he might prefer not mentioning Antisthenes by name in order to avoid personality as much as possible and to expose himself less to his rough treatment. And in considering this point indeed we must remember, in order to come to the right conclusion, that much was very intelligible to contemporaries, and would spontaneously obtrude itself upon their notice, which we can only discover by laborious means, and a variety of combinations and comparisons. From the extravagant ridicule moreover the attentive reader is made aware throughout of a profound and bitter satire upon the then prevailing degeneracy among those even who professed themselves disciples of Socrates. Still however there remains yet something to illustrate and explain. For if we consider accurately what it in reality is that is here criticised, and controverted only in a spirit of ridicule, it must indeed be generally allowed that the particular examples as they here occur deserve nothing else; it is however not to be overlooked, that the whole tissue of these lies and cheats was in its nature nothing but that scepticism, which always accompanies the doctrine of flux and progressive incomplete existence, generally or partially taken up, in its particular application to language. If Plato therefore wished to treat this sophistical art independently and for itself, it was necessary for him either to show shortly how closely it was connected with the principles already refuted by him, or he was obliged to penetrate deeper into its proper object, language; and in this also to point out together with the changeable, the unchangeable and constant. The first he certainly does, but in such a manner that the greater part of the examples discussed have no business there. To the latter F F
he appears rather to point preliminarily than actually to set to work in earnest upon the subject, which was indeed under the circumstances scarcely possible; and any one may see that Plato does not draw from the various character of his examples the advantages which present themselves for this purpose. Hence then the inference manifestly is, that the examples there found are not merely referable to the treatment of the subject, and have not been determined by it. What other cause then produced them P and did Plato indulge himself in this empty trifling, and continue it so long from mere pleasure in the exercise of dramatic power which he applied to them 2 We are at least not compelled to hold to this, and to ascribe to Plato in this dialogue a mode of proceeding which is not generally peculiar to him. For if we consider the particular examples according to their meaning, we shall find among them several which have very much the appearance of alluding to attacks directed partly against the thoughts, partly against the language and expression in Plato's earlier writings; inasmuch as his opponents might have twisted this point or that into nonsense by just such sophistical tricks. And thus we again find, and certainly without feeling much surprise thereat, in this dialogue also the same kind of polemics and extorted self-defence which we had already found, almost gradually increasing in the immediately preceding dialogues; which is moreover the character in which, in the introduction to the Theaetetus, attention has been already drawn to the Euthydemus. And it is only by all this collectively considered that the management of the whole can justify itself before the judgment-seat of a higher criticism, or philosophical spirit. For otherwise it might seem a vicious proceeding, and a disproportion destructive of all more exalted purpose, so to interweave as is here done mere ridicule of things utterly worthless, with the further advancement of genuine philosophical objects. It becomes however quite another matter when on the one side the ridicule is only the disguise of polemics which have relation to science itself, and in which, by the very method pursued personality is avoided, and on the other moreover the scientific bearing is itself less than usual, and only affords illustrations rather than delivers any thing of its own. It is moreover perfectly clear in this the first dialogue upon which we come after the Theaetetus, repeated only as it is and not immediately represented, that Plato was necessarily brought back to this method from wanting to give free scope to the dramatic element which was not possible otherwise than as a narration. Again, the construction of this dialogue has yet something peculiar in detail, not only from the two-fold internal dialogue, the members of which are quite separate from one another, but still more from the circumstance that the external one between Socrates and Crito to whom he narrates, is afterwards continued in a criticising spirit; and though such a proceeding is not to be found anywhere else, it agrees very well with the particular artificiality of this dialogue. Besides, this appendage contains further some polemics of its own, which have a different bearing from the dialogue itself, against the manner, namely, in which a certain respected class viewed and treated Philosophy, probably not without confounding it with Sophisticism. The same thing had been already alluded to in the Gorgias, but probably not properly understood by those whom it immediately concerned. Hence the practice is here in part more thoroughly attacked, and in part the person more distinctly indicated ; and as the school of Isocrates was the most important of this kind at Athens, we can scarcely suppose otherwise than that the objections of this school were particularly meant.
THE Cratylus has at all times given much trouble to the good and sturdy friends of Plato. For it seemed difficult to decide what opinion about language he does in reality profess; whether he is indeed of that which places the origin of language in convention and compact, and consequently looks upon all the details in it as indifferent and accidental ; or of that which considering it in the light of a natural production ascribes to it inward truth and necessary correctness; or whether he may not perhaps have secretly in reserve that other opinion concerning language which suspects it to have been introduced among men by divine agency. Just as in the Menon we can never quite tell whether it is intended to be implied that virtue is simply practised without, and is consequently produced by custom in a kind of conventional manner, or viewed as matter of inward necessity, or whether it is to be regarded as a gift of the gods to men which comes to them according to the divine pleasure, and is properly on that account the only good. A still more difficult task was it to defend the great man in