Sivut kuvina

endowed minion of his instructor, we might be inclined to maintain that the treatment of the relation between these two, and the keeping, or rather the want of keeping, in their characters is still more unplatonic than anything else in the present dialogue. For instance, this Socrates, with the mute character which he boasts of having so long played with his minion, and this careful watching which could be neither agreeable to him nor worthy of him, now introducing himself with a long speech, the like of which he hates as he says elsewhere, and with an arrogance which he hates still more, professing himself the only teacher capable of instructing in the art of politics—this character is indeed manifestly the direct opposite of the Platonic Socrates. In the representation of his relation to Alcibiades, moreover, all appearance of the love of the boy is avoided as pedantically as possible, and due merit assigned to the fact, that Socrates has not even once addressed Alcibiades until the time of his youthful bloom was as good as entirely passed. But how are we to reconcile this with the manner in which the same relation is treated of in the Protagoras and Symposium ? In the Protagoras Pericles is still alive, and yet Socrates and Alcibiades appear as old acquaintances, who must already have conversed much with one another; and what Alcibiades tells us in the Symposium, must also be taken from the time of his bloom; for he can hardly intend to say that he wished to force himself as a minion upon Socrates when his bloom was passed. And then how completely Alcibiades himself appears without any resemblance to him whom we find elsewhere represented At first, one might suppose him here cut out after the pattern of Callicles or Ctesippus,

but he soon changes and shows himself prodigiously shamefaced and shy, so that he cannot ever be put into harness, although Socrates is constantly bringing him up anew, and frequently without necessity and without justice, and leading him off again dissatisfied with his answers. In short, however we may consider it, our present dialogue is in this respect either a contradiction of all other Platonic dialogues, or else Plato's own dialogues are so with reference to the rest. And whoever does not feel this, we cannot indeed afford him any advice, but only congratulate him that his notions of Plato can be so cheaply satisfied. We would, however, yet further draw the attention of others to one or two points from which perhaps in the sequel—for we are not in any way inclined ourselves even to start the subject here, more accurate conclusions might result as to the particular mode in which the present dialogue originated, and has come down to us. For what is most Platonic in it may be indeed in part imitation, sometimes more close and sometimes more remote, of other passages, and as regards the subjectmatter may be drawn from reminiscences of other works; in fact, it is of such a description, that though we cannot believe Plato to have literally written it thus, it may be perhaps based upon hints taken from his own instructions; as for example, the discussion upon the relation of justice to profit, which was a very available example in illustration of his doctrine of the community of ideas. Moreover, some particular passages are in fact of such a nature, that we might not be very loath to suppose that they came from Plato's pen exactly as they stand here. And if we consider further the way in which the greatest part is here not worked out, but only laid down as a thema, the abruptness or awkwardness of the transitions from one part to another, especially when a piece of worthless and empty dialectics ends or a new one begins, and how the superior matter which is torn asunder and deformed by these foreign additions might stand in far more accurate connection, we might almost be tempted to think that an immediate disciple of Plato somehow or other got hold of a sketch of a dialogue of his master which had probably come down from earlier times, and which the latter did not finish but reject, and distributed into other dialogues, as the Gorgias and Meno, and some still later, what he intended to teach in it. But this dialogue, at least if Plato had really finished it himself, would scarcely have been called Alcibiades. This appellation was certainly but little appropriate to such a colloquy with Socrates. For his boiling vivacity would not have borne to have attributed to it the character of a passive interlocutor, though of the best kind, like Theaetetus for instance, and Plato could scarcely have thought of engaging him in violent polemics against Socrates, as he does Callicles; so that it may certainly be fairly maintained that instead of two Alcibiades', which up to the present day have been attributed to Plato, he did not even write one.


No reader of Plato, it is presumed, will feel any surprise at finding this little work not brought forward in the series of his properly philosophical writings, to which, inasmuch as no philosophical subject is treated of in any part of it, the Menexenus has as little claim to belong as the Apology of Socrates. The occasion of the latter, however, is clear and manifest; but what can have induced Plato to venture at a late period into the province, to him entirely strange, of regular state speeches, may reasonably be expected to be not very possible for us now to decide; at least, nothing appears in the work itself which could give a determinate direction to the conjectures of ingenuity. That the speech is placed in some relation to the funeral oration of Pericles, which Thucydides has preserved to us, is certainly manifest, but when Socrates refers both to one authoress, and that authoress Aspasia, this is a jest, out of which it will not be easy for any one to extract any serious meaning ; nor, when he says that the later oration contains much that was omitted in the earlier, is this a much more available indication, inasmuch as the aim of the two speeches is so completely different in each, that we do not see why the second should have in any way contained what we find in the first, and we might feel more satisfied with this opinion, if it was pronounced by a later author who had laid it down as a law at starting, that such a speech must begin from the beginning with a panegyric upon all the exploits of the Athenian people.


Another thing which may easily strike any one is, that Plato probably intended in this speech to set up a counterpart to one of Lysias, and in fact, when we compare the funeral oration of this rhetorician on the same occasion with that which we are considering, it is not possible to overlook a great similarity in point of arrangement, and an equally great diversity in point of character and execution. What is loosely connected together in Lysias is here combined into a whole, by means of distinctly enunciated ideas, the connection of which is impressed upon the hearer by means of words, whose sound is an echo of their sense, brought into strong and prominent relief; the tender element in the sorrow is compensated by manly advice, and the whole speech is at the same time pervaded by a more exalted aim. But had this contrast been the actual object in view, must we not suppose that Plato, who so well understands how to give a hint, would have found some means of intimating the same in the dialogue which comprehends the speech

If then this explanation also leaves us where we were, might we not venture to say, that Plato intended by such a speech as this to give a practical answer to the objection occasionally brought up against him, that his dislike to the art of speaking was the result of his own incapacity to prepare speeches, which Socrates in his dialogue is so often obliged jestingly to acknowledge P and that he chose in particular this opportunity for doing so, because in the Corinthian war one of his own friends had met his death P Nay, that from his partiality to this exhibition, he has himself practised the severely censured and hypocritical department of the corrupting art, inasmuch as in the historical nar

« EdellinenJatka »