Sivut kuvina

concerned. Among those therefore which cannot be accused of that deficiency there is much that need not belong to Plato without its betraying itself in the language, so that this exclusively can scarcely decide anything. For when suspicions arise in our minds which depend more upon a general impression than upon any distinct grounds which we can bring forward in support of it, it may be assumed that these depend more upon the composition in general than upon the language alone. And such again might be the case when we would judge of the genuineness of the remaining works according to the subject-matter of those of the first class. For this might be done in two ways. Either it might be maintained that nothing can be Platonic which stands in contradiction with the subject-matter of these recognised dialogues. But Plato would thus be deprived of a right enjoyed by every one else, that of correcting or changing his opinions even after he has publicly explained them ; and it would be at once supposed in his case, wonderful as such a supposition on consideration of our modern philosophy must appear, and so much so that it cannot be believed without the strongest proof, that from the period of his entrance upon his philosophical career, or still earlier, he always thought the same as he did afterwards. Or, if less regard be paid to the accurate coincidence of all the particular thoughts than to the quality and importance of the subject-matter generally, and a rule be laid down that every work of Plato's must have the same importance and the same relation to the main idea of the philosophy, it would in that case be forgotten that external circumstances frequently occasion the production of heterogeneous works of a somewhat limited size by an author, who without the influence of such circumstances would never have produced them spontaneously. In occasional pieces, properly speaking, like these, it cannot be fairly demanded that those ideas of the author which belong to a higher sphere should develope themselves, and when traces of them are seen, their appearance is accidental and supererogatory, and may not even always be taken as an infallible proof of their origin from him. Equally manifest is it that every great artist of every kind will work up studies out of his own particular line, and though the adept will discover in them more or less of his style and spirit, yet they neither belong to the class of works which peculiarly characterize their author, nor advance his great views of art, or, what is more, he may in them, purposely perhaps, and for sake of some preparatory exercise, remove himself out of his accustomed circle of subjects, and even the method natural to him. There are clearly in our Platonic collection several pieces which can be ascribed to Plato only by regarding them in this point of view, and to endeavour to decide with respect to such from the trifling nature of the subject-matter, or from particular deviations in the treatment of it, might, according to this analogy, be a process very liable to mistake. These difficulties, then, clearly tend to show, that we should judge neither from the subject alone, nor from the language alone, but that we must look to a third and more certain something in which those two unite—the Form and Composition in general. For even in the language, what affords most proof consists not in particulars but in the whole tenor and peculiar colouring of it, which at once stands in the closest relation to the composition. In like manner

this will betray itself in its principal features even in those studies in which we miss the important matter of these works of a higher class. Moreover, and it is this which must contribute to give us a correct idea of this genuine Platonic form, we need not first abstract it, like those other two tests, out of the larger works as an analogy, the limits of the applicability of which can still not be drawn with certainty; but it is, in every essential point, a natural consequence of Plato's motions with regard to philosophical communication, and must therefore be found, generally, to the same extent in which this latter exists. For it is nothing but the immediate putting into practice of those methodical ideas which we developed from Plato's first principle as to the mode in which writing operates. So that the same idiosyncracy of the philosopher which justifies us in looking for a pervading connection throughout his works, does also reveal to us that which yields the surest canon for judging of their genuineness, and thus the solution of both problems grows from a common root. / Now the dialogistic dress has already been represented above as the external condition of this dialogistic form, and its almost indispensable scheme, but only where, vividly conceiving the purpose of imitating oral instruction, which always has to deal with a definite subject, it further adds thereto an especial characteristic, the admixture of which forms the Platonic dialogue. I speak of that mimic and dramatic quality by means of which persons and circumstances become individualized, and which, by general confession, spreads so much beauty and charm over the dialogues of Plato. / His great and undisputed works plainly show us that he does not neglect this admixture even when he is most deeply absorbed in the subject, as on the other hand they shew us almost universally that he admits it most copiously when the subject-matter does not lead so far into the dark solemnity of speculation. Whence we may certainly conclude that this peculiar form can never be totally wanting, and that even in the most insignificant trifle which he undertook, whether as a study or an occasional piece, Plato will have applied something of this art. Moreover, the want of this is indisputably the first thing which, to the feeling of every reader, must distinguish as unplatonic the dialogues rejected from antiquity downwards; as it is also the correct basis upon which that old critical judgement rests, that all dialogues without Introductions are to be disavowed, except that this formula expresses the fact but very partially and imperfectly. And to the inward and essential condition of the Platonic form belongs every thing in the composition resulting from the purpose of compelling the mind of the reader to spontaneous production of ideas; that frequent recommencement of the investigation from another point of view, provided nevertheless that all these threads do actually unite in the common center-point; that progression, often in appearance capricious, and only excusable from the loose tenor which a dialogue might have, but which nevertheless is always full of meaning and of art; the concealment, further, of the more important object under one more trifling; the indirect commencement with some individual instance; the dialectic play with ideas, under which, however, the relation to the whole and to the original ideas is continually progressing: these are the conditions some of which must necessarily be found in all really Platonic works that have any philosophical bearing. Meanwhile it must be evident that this character can show itself in its full light only in proportion to the importance of the subject-matter, and we here see first how, when we are employed upon Plato, the task of proving the genuineness of any dialogue, and the investigation of its right place, mutually support and verify each other. For in any dialogue which at once recommends itself by its language, and which manifestly treats of Platonic subjects, the more perfectly this form is stamped upon it, we may not only pronounce it genuine with so much the more certainty, but since all those arts point back to what has gone before and forward to what is to come, it will necessarily be so much the easier to determine to what main dialogue it belongs or between which it lies, and in what region of the development of the Platonic philosophy it can furnish an illuminating point. And in like manner, conversely, the easier it is to assign to any dialogue its place in the list of the others, these relations must become more marked by means of those expedients, and the dialogue appropriates itself, with the greater certainty, to Plato. These dialogues, therefore, in which Platonic matter is united in proper proportion with Platonic form, and both appear sufficiently manifest, constitute a second class of Platonic works, which, even without looking to the pretty valid evidence which likewise appears in support of some of them, sufficiently authenticates itself by its relation to, and connection with, the first. But the more deficient a dialogue is in reference to the form, and when the subject-matter presents itself but slightly enough proportioned to it, the more suspicious, certainly, the genuineness of that dialogue becomes, especially as the other elements of the Platonic character must be

« EdellinenJatka »