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losophical 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 the matter of the utterly false derivation and explanation of the words, when alas ! among so many examples there is hardly one that can meet with toleration, to say nothing of support. For even though we may be disposed to excuse, and regret that the admirable philosopher, from fault of the times, was capable of producing so little instructive or sound upon so important a subject, still this resource can never suffice, because in fact the ignorance is too great, and even against our inclination something like a feeling of contempt will always enter into the surprise we feel, that one who laid so much stress upon the obligation we are under to know the variety and extent of our ignorance, should have plunged into such trifling and unmeaning play, upon a subject about which he manifestly knew nothing. On the other hand, much has indeed been gained by the discovery of modern times, that to Plato likewise all this was but play and jest, and that here, as in several of his works, we are to look for no exalted wisdom. Only even upon this view it is again difficult to justify the profound philosopher for such a mass of ponderous and pointless jesting, and for his unexampled proceeding in allowing his unfortunate propensity for playing upon words to break out in so astounding a manner; as a natural philosopher would be astonished to come suddenly upon a complete and prodigious layer of a rare kind of stone which usually only appears distributed here and there in small grains. And this discovery imposes upon us a difficult investigation, with a view, I mean, to separating the jest from the earnest; unless Plato is to be accused of the worst joke of all, namely, of affecting a serious air in serious matters, and this too only for
a joke. Whoever then has embraced this latter view in
a random kind of way, and thinks either to content
himself with it in general, or by such a method to open up further traces for judging of or separating the details, and so taste about with a new palate among the old fruits and cates, we commend him to his employment; for us however it is necessary to strike into another road, and rather to follow out the work itself as if nothing had been said about it, and to try if it will not betray to us what it really means, as also to ascertain how we are to estimate every particular in it. That we may then be able to consider more at our ease the more important matter, it may be advisable first to look at all the details, in order to draw attention separately to what is intended seriously, and what is jest. And first the principle which appears to be the ground-work of the whole, that language is the artificial instrument of the dialecticians, and that appellations must be given in conformity with the nature of things, does indeed sound strange when we hear it thus superficially stated; but it bears too great a resemblance to other investigations with which we are already acquainted, and follows too closely the fundamental laws of all Platonic speculation, to allow of our rejecting it as not seriously laid down. But the illustration which follows upon this, by means of more or less known proper names, which are referred to the condition and peculiarities of persons or to circumstances in their life, this is clearly not serious in a similar sense, inasmuch as Socrates himself subsequently destroys it by the remark, that the manner in which particular individuals are named is not the same with that in which material things acquired their appellations, but that we must look in the latter case to the appellations of the various species of the general and eternal. Now this is again manifestly said in earnest, inasmuch as these names do certainly form a moiety of the core of language, as this core also, like the Greek, divided into nouns and verbs. But when again the dialogue pursues this further, and investigates the natural correctness of nouns, first in the names of the gods, which are so treated that we cannot well say, that as proper names, they would not have belonged rather to the first section, and then in those of the heavenly bodies and their relations, the elements, the virtues, the various other phaenomena of the mind, and finally the poles of all thought and knowledge itself, all this, when thus taken in the gross, is manifestly jest. We infer this not only from the violent method of dealing with the words, from the total neglect of the distinction between fundamental and inflected syllables, and the commutation and transposition of letters, so that oftentimes a scarcely similar sound is produced; as well as from the unlimited share ascribed to the desire of embellishment in the then construction of words, so that, as Socrates allows, something was introduced from the very first in order to conceal the meaning, and consequently in entire contradiction to the supposed nature of language; but we recognize the jesting spirit even far more in the expressions of Socrates himself, when he ridicules this species of wisdom as an inspiration quite foreign to him, which he would follow to-day, but to-morrow would purify himself of ; when by the same process he educes a similar sense out of opposite words, and shows consequently that it destroys