Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

total failure in the object in view, a useless piece of ornamental finery. Equally worthless is the view maintained by others, that Plato published sometimes one part of his knowledge, sometimes another, either from mere vanity, or in opposition to that of other Philosophers. In all these endeavours, therefore, the restoration of the natural order of these writings, in reference to the progressive developement of the philosophy, is out of the question. Quite different, however, from all that has hitherto been done is the character of the attempt made in Tennemann's system of the Platonic Philosophy; the first, at all events, with any pretensions to completeness, to discover the chronological order of the Platonic dialogues from various historical traces impressed upon them ; for this is certainly critical in its principle, and a work worthy in every way of an historical investigator like the author of that treatise. In this undertaking, indeed, his view is directed less to discover, by the method he adopts, the real and essential relation of the works of Plato to one another, than to discover in general the dates of their composition, in order to avoid confounding early and imperfect attempts with an exposition of the Philosophy of the mature and perfect Plato. And to that undertaking, generally, the present is a necessary counterpart; and thus, on the other hand, that method, resting as it does entirely upon outward signs, provided it could only be universally applied, and definitely assign to any Platonic dialogue its place between any two others, would be the natural test of our own method, which goes entirely upon what is internal. It may not indeed be necessary on that account that the results of the two should perfectly coincide, for the reason that the external production of a work is subjected to other external and accidental conditions than its internal development, which follows only such as are inward and necessary, whence slight variations might easily arise, so that what was internally in existence sooner than something else, does not yet appear externally until a later period. But with due regard to these effects of accident, which would hardly escape an attentive eye, if we had the two series complete, and they could be accurately compared, they could not fail by a pervading coincidence mutually to confirm, in the most decisive manner, their respective correctness. We discover, however, in proceeding upon this method, but few definite points; and for the great majority of the dialogues only somewhat indefinite limits between which they must fall, and often an extreme limit only on one side is given. For in strictness the historical traces should not extend beyond the life of Socrates, within which indeed all the dialogues come, with the exception of the Laws, and the few which Plato makes others narrate, and in which, consequently, he had a later date at command; an advantage, however, which he has not always employed so as to leave a more accurate trace for us. Now the anachronisms which he occasionally allows himself, do indeed excite a hope of some little further historical evidence, so that one might wish that Plato had oftener been guilty of this fault; but even this slight advantage is made very ambiguous by the consideration that many of these facts may have been introduced on a subsequent recasting of the works in which Plato had naturally ceased to transport himself so vividly into the actual time of the dialogue, and might be more easily seduced to transgress its limits, unrestrained by fact. There might, perhaps, be yet another expedient hitherto unused with D

reference to this method. Thus the predominant rank given to Socrates, which, if the dialogues are placed in a certain order, gradually vanishes, might be regarded as a measure of the distance at any given point from the period of his life; or even the choice of the other personages might be regarded as a sign of the liveliness of the interest which Plato took in Athens and in public life then, which was in like manner blunted and destroyed as time advanced. But all this is subject to so many limitations, that any confident use of it might be more delusive than beneficial, and no inference thence drawn can decide any thing, but only yield a slight increase of probability. So that by this method it might hardly be possible to attain more than what it has been applied to in that work with praiseworthy moderation, though, it may be, not always according to correct hypotheses. At all events, the results arising from the consideration upon internal grounds of the Platonic works, can certainly be neither criticised nor contradicted upon that of those historical notices, as that operation only determines an order of reference, but not one chronological point. It must, however, be as much as possible called in to assist, in order to gain certain points by means of which that order also may be brought into connection with the external circumstances. Now, if the natural order of the Platonic works is to be restored out of the disarrangement in which they at present are, it would seem necessary to determine first what pieces are really Plato's and what are not. For otherwise how can an attempt be made with any degree of certainty, or rather, in case of anything foreign being mixed up with the works of Plato, how can even what is genuine fail to appear quite in a false light, if violence be used to place what is ungenuine in connection with it Or is it to be competent to take the problem given itself as a standard, and to declare, slashingly enough, that what will not adapt itself to that connection cannot belong to Plato P Scarcely any one, I suppose, would be found to favour this process, or not to see that this would be an extremely partial decision of a question to be answered upon quite different grounds, and that it is impossible that a notion arising from a consideration of the works assumed as Platonic, should pronounce at the same time upon the correctness of the assumption itself. Or more probably, the majority of readers will not expect to meet with the question about the Platonic writings perfectly entire, but regard it as one long since decided, with the exception of unimportant doubts touching only a few trifles, the adoption or rejection of which may be a matter of great indifference. Such, for instance, will be the opinion of all those who repose upon the long prescribed authority of editions. This authority does indeed coincide accurately enough with the list of Thrasyllus, in Diogenes, only that more modern criticism has withdrawn the Clitopho from our collection; and on the other hand, the explanations of words are wanting in that list; and these, therefore, would be the only dubious matters. Nay, we have still a better evidence in favour of this collection in that of the Grammarian Aristophanes, who has been already named, whose arranging catalogue Diogenes also had before him, and certainly would not have passed the matter over in silence if he had discovered anywhere a variation from it. But how, I would ask, can a searching criticism, even though it would pay no regard to the doubts which one's own feelings suggest, rest upon those authorties? For not only, with the

exception of a few poets, have spurious productions insinuated themselves into all considerable collections of works of particular authors preserved from antiquity, so that it would be matter of wonder if those of Plato were to make an exception, especially as philosophical literature has in a less degree employed the industry of critics; but in Plato's case, an additional circumstance comes in, the importance of which does not seeem in this respect to have been sufficiently considered, that those critics have already rejected a considerable number of small dialogues out of the collection which they found at hand, as not belonging to Plato. For it is clearly manifest from this fact that at the period when this was done, these dialogues must have already maintained their place among other works of Plato for a considerable time, since otherwise no particular operation of criticism would have been necessary again to deprive them of it. And this usurpation, on the other hand, could not have taken place if there had been evidence of the spuriousness of these dialogues documentarily descended from the time of the genuine academicians ; for, generally, as long as men were to be found, who preserved the genuine Platonic tradition with zeal for the cause, it is not conceivable that foreign work should have been commonly foisted upon Plato. Upon what ground, therefore, did these critics found their judgment when they adopted some dialogues and rejected others ? If it should be said that they had, with regard to all not rejected, certain and sufficiently old evidence of their recognition by those who lived nearest after the time of their composition, we might rejoin that the silence of contemporaries, who do not take the case of a future confusion into considera

tion, and require an occasion for every quotation, is

« EdellinenJatka »