Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

upon the Republic had at that time been actually written, and the sentiments we meet with in them are here to be defended. Thus much may be said by way of preface as regards the subject-matter. As to the form, it is indeed true that the Philebus, in its inward construction, nearly enough resembles the main dialogues of this indirect series. But in its outward dress, it may with justice be accused of a degree of negligence, and it will probably be an universal opinion, that in this respect it does not furnish any such pure enjoyment as the majority of the Platonic works up to this point. That peculiar dialogic character which we are accustomed to find in Plato, does not come out into proper relief, the dialogue does not form itself spontaneously, as the origination of the subject is put behind the scene, for which the dramatic position which Philebus thereby obtains is no compensation whatever. I should rather say, that Plato disdained making preparations for introducing a subject which at that time afforded matter of general discussion and dispute. In like manner the transitions are the result neither of the incidental occasions of the dialogue, nor of the opinions and objections of the interlocutor and his particular disposition, but the whole lies ready in the head of Socrates, and comes out with all the personality and arbitrary character of a connected speech. In short we may clearly see, that here in the transition to the properly constructive works, the dialogic character begins to be only an external form, from which Plato cannot escape, partly from habit, partly because he will not dispense with Socrates. Perhaps it is because he feels the inconvenience of this position that he applies various artificial means of animating the dialogue, which do not indeed produce any very particular effect: the conversation sometimes becomes meaningless, and somewhat pedantically twisted in order to introduce something more than the ordinary formulae of answers. So that one might say, that there is a certain unpleasant character spread over these conversations upon pleasure, that we observe that the author is surfeited with the indirect method of proceeding hitherto used, and that nothing is kept up more dramatically than the manner in which we may perceive, especially towards the end of all his speeches, not perhaps without disadvantage to the subject, that Socrates is hastening and ardently wishing to be rid of the young men/

APPEND Ix.

I. THEAGES.

THE spuriousness of the Theages has been already in recent times so often pointed out, and from such a variety of sources, that a particular allegation of proof in support of that opinion is now no longer necessary. For, such readers of Plato as can pride themselves upon any degree of critical perception or skill, will have ere this discovered the grounds of it themselves, and as regards those of a different description, such a judgment is in their eyes only verified by a sufficient frequent repetition of it, and such a repetition, in the present instance, they may find.

The fable, if we may be allowed the expression, of this little dialogue, consists in Socrates' adoption of a pupil, and the person chosen is one of those who are mentioned in the Apology of Socrates as already dead before the final sentence was passed upon that philosopher. As far as we know, Theages is not otherwise known than from two notices of him in Plato himself, and has no opportunity of showing whether he received much or little benefit from having made the acquaintance of Socrates, late enough certainly, after the Sicilian overthrow. In the dialogues of Plato, indeed, the adoption of a pupil is never brought so forward or made so immediate an object; our author, however, has had in his mind, as a model to work upon, a passage in a parenthetic digression of Socrates

S S

in the Theaetetus, though without understanding how to interweave the more profound meaning of it into his composition. For Plato's principal object in that passage, which is to show how Socrates exercised an influence upon his disciples, not so much by teaching as by developing truth out of their own minds, is left entirely untouched by our composer, who adheres only to the consequence which follows from this; that according to a method of proceeding, exactly similar, Socrates succeeds with some pupils and not with others, by virtue of a divine ordinance or predetermination; and in illustrating this point he has fallen into a strange confusion and most perversely distorted amalgamation of this divine ordinance, and that personal presentiment which, with Socrates, becomes a heavenly voice; whence the passage in the Apology, where Socrates mentions this voice, is the second hinge upon which the whole of the little dialogue turns. It is very remarkable that in that passage in the Theaetetus Plato does not make Socrates say that that daemonic sign has ever prevented him admitting any one whomsoever to his society; intimating as it were by this, that he owed this privilege to all, and could not allow himself to feel a decided presentiment; hence there might easily be for a time among his hearers those who were incapable of drawing advantage from his philosophy. But he makes the voice come in then, and not before, when an unworthy disciple would attach himself, because, then certainly the inward feeling must have a voice to decide, whether the unworthiness is to be regarded as the effect of seduction from without, and the return of a genuine love for the true and good, or, conversely, the unworthiness arises from the victory

of the internal nature, and the return on the contrary is ungenuine. That Plato in that passage alludes to particular cases besides the Aristides whom he names, whether of the disciples of Socrates or his own, will be clear to every one, but even this particular allusion does not seduce him into going beyond the character which in the Apology Socrates attributes to that daemonic sign, I mean, that it was merely a warning sign. Our author on the contrary, while he enunciates this in almost literal conformity with what we find in the Apology, does, in the description itself, carelessly exceed this principle, for with him this sign appears as a power which comes regularly to the assistance of some persons and works influentially for them. This is indeed immediately attributable to his superficial and confused views of that passage in the Theaetetus, and more remotely, I doubt not, to the fact, that he foists upon the daemonic voice a particular and personal existence, and changes the daemonic feeling into a little daemon, a conception agreeable to no genuine Platonic passage, and which must be recognised as quite unsupportable, from the manner especially in which Socrates in the Apology contradicts the accusation brought against him of infidelity, as was there, we hope, satisfactorily shown. And as in other dialogues foisted upon Plato, it is found necessary for the most part to resort to little stories taken from antiquity or foreign parts, in order to disguise the poverty of the subject-matter, so in this, two stories are introduced about the power of this little daemon to foretell such results as must have depended entirely upon accidental circumstances; a power of which Plato never knew anything, and

« EdellinenJatka »