Sivut kuvina

which is not even justified by the expressions of Xenophon. Probably, the composer suffered himself to be misled by a passage in the Euthyphro, in which that person connects with the voice of Socrates his own individual impulse, by virtue of which he predicts, in the Ecclesia, some accidental event or other. The two stories moreover present, in themselves, a sufficiently strange appearance. For one of them, which concerns a well-known Platonic personage, is not brought to an end, and we are left uncertain as to whether the author is to suppose it generally known, or whether he found it elsewhere in the same form, or whether he did not know how to extricate himself out of his talk when he had begun it. In the other, the voice cautions against an undertaking, the nature of which is utterly unknown to Socrates; not to mention that we have, it would seem, the wise man brought into company with very inferior people, and of a class which we do not find in Plato. - In other respects also, the bad imitator appears only too manifestly from under the mask he has put on. How badly the proposition is stated, or fails to be stated, out of the Euthydemus, that the art of politics rules over the works of all other arts How this Socrates accumulates in the most tedious manner, clumsily and at random aping the Socratic induction, examples which are no examples as they illustrate nothing, and is still never satisfied, but begins yet once again in just as tedious a form, only, to display a common knowledge of common things How Theages, only that an opportunity may be given for harping upon a sentiment of Euripides, is obliged to delay bethinking himself that he does not really want to be a

tyrant, although he had previously admitted an inclination towards it, as if the innocent boy were a second Alcibiades or a Callicles, to whom, however, he bears otherwise no resemblance at all. And how Socrates twists the proposition for him under his own hands, as if he had now ceased to wish to be a statesman, and only desired to be a good citizen, without having instructed him in the slightest degree as to how far the two characters are identical or distinct But to enumerate all that is ill done, would be, as far as the subject-matter is concerned—for in much of the language there is Platonic colouring enough—to copy off the whole dialogue, and we would rather conclude with its character for brevity, and imitate it in this re



THE spuriousness of this little dialogue is proved with equal force by every thing we meet with in it from beginning to end, by its most outward dress, as well as by its most inward matter, in so far as it contains enough of the latter description. To go no further, it is evinced by the namelessness of the persons, the abrupt manner of Socrates in his opening questions, and the way in which, being himself the narrator, he concludes with the announcement of the general assent which was awarded to him. Still more, undoubtedly, every reader will discover upon a nearer view a general and utter absence of Platonic urbanity and irony, to which, however, the dialogue in its external form throughout makes immediately the most decided pretensions. The opposition between polite literature and gymnastics, never before laid down in such marked distinction, is here represented to the life in the persons of two uneducated fellows, who can scarcely be conceived to be lovers of Athenian boys of noble family, the one a kind of athlete, the other professedly a master of polite literature, though not a single polished word, nay, not even an harmonious sentence, though music is one of his accomplishments, is ever heard from him. If it is asked what is the proper subject-matter, we must look for it in the proposition that philosophy is not multiscience, for with this the dialogue begins, and concludes again with it, a distinction to which indeed the Platonic Socrates may refer occasionally, or treat of it ironically, when he has to deal with sophists who boast of their multiscience, but which Plato, after having written a single work, could hardly make the subject of a regular dialogue, unless he wished to work out some other matter under this disguise, or inculcate some further doctrine, and we look in vain for anything of this kind in the present instance. But even for Plato's first exercise, this dialogue, so awkward and unmeaning as it is, would be far too bad. For after Socrates has already allowed himself to admit, that only moderation in everything, and not excess, produces advantage, he does not at once draw the immediate consequence from this, that philosophy must therefore be a bad thing when it is multiscience, but passes first to a question which is here perfectly idle, and which again he lets drop at once in a manner which to a reader of Plato must appear utterly strange; and then again takes up the preceding one in a different manner quite from the beginning, and this, in order to deduce from it less than he had already obtained, amounting only to the proposition, that the philosopher is a useless and superfluous character as long as there are masters in the several arts; just as if he had before gone too far without intending it. This discussion is followed lastly, by yet a third, whose object is to show that there are kinds of knowledge in which it is disgraceful for a man, such as a philosopher must be, to hold only that second rank beyond which multiscience cannot rise. But how much that is in no way connected with the subject, and which is serviceable to no end whatever, is mixed up with this last part That about the identity of justice with the administration of it, appears to have a tendency to justify a remarkable use of language which occurs a few times in Plato's writings; but the way in which the doctrine of the identity of the four cardinal virtues is here harped upon in the most trivial manner, is only to be explained from the fact that this doctrine was one of the commonest mountebank stages; and moreover from the most superficial recollection, something upon this subject might be patched up. On the other hand, several opportunities, which however unsought for, necessarily present themselves for saying or hinting something affirmative beyond that negative explanation, or at least for pointing out by a different method where such an explanation is to be found, are left without any use whatever being made of them. For one who had understood even in any degree this art of Plato, it would have been in fact a not unworthy problem, taking this notion of multiscience as a ground-work, and following somehow the analogy of what is said in the Euthydemus upon the subject of the kingly art, to lead to the true view of philosophy, and even now an adroit imitator who should skilfully adjust the members of the dialogue as we now have it, and finish it further in this point of view, might make an attempt to accomplish this. Hence, it might even be supposed that the first idea and ground-plans of the dialogue, which do indeed betray some such purpose, may perhaps be mediately or immediately the work of a more skilful hand, or that some traditionary notices of Platonic conversations may be at the bottom of it. But to imagine the performance itself as it lies here before us to be Platonic, or still more decisively as the third part of the trilogy still owing, and consequently as the representation of the Philosopher in addition to that of the Statesman and Sophist—this is the strangest motion that can possibly be entertained.


It is well known that old commentators upon Plato celebrate this dialogue as the best introduction to the wisdom of the philosopher, and recommend beginners to give the preference to it in commencing the study of Plato's writings. And it is certainly undeniable that in the first Alcibiades, a variety of matter is touched upon, and a number of questions started, upon which other writings of Plato afford more accurate conclu

« EdellinenJatka »