« EdellinenJatka »
rative here given, none but the fair side is ever presented, and all faults in the state are withdrawn into the dimmest obscurity, while in particular, the later relations with the national enemy of the Hellenes, the Persian king, are embellished and represented in a manner which may scarcely be justified upon historical grounds. And therefore it is, we might suppose, that Socrates treats it as such an easy matter to flatter the people before the people, and hence too, that the speech is ascribed to Aspasia, who must have been pretty well versed in the art of seductive embellishment. And in like manner another person might say, that as Plato in the Philebus relaxes his overstrained polemics against the art of speaking, so likewise he did the same at an earlier period in the present dialogue in act and deed. For that the Menexenus is in fact nothing but an attempt to improve, by giving them a better direction, all these speeches in which the people were ordinarily only flattered; and that the appearance of this flattery is all that is preserved in the present case, and that there is manifest throughout, an endeavour to bring into right vivid consciousness the true idea of the Athenian people and state, in order by this means to give a more exalted turn to the national mind. And a third, again, might make an attempt to connect the present dialogue with the Symposium, in a sense different from that in which the former connected it with the Philebus. For appealing to the great difficulty which exists of explaining the whole, if we take it in a serious point of view, and to the way in which even what Plato must have been most in earnest with, I mean the recommendations to virtue, is itself pushed beyond the line of all that is serious, by repetition and bantering, he might attempt to represent it as in the main a playful imitation of the rhetorical styles. And who can tell how much a skilful critic, having once given a hint of this view, furnished with great reading in the orators, and the commentaries upon them, might not bring forward in support of the same ; something certainly more profound and various than what Dionysius says, who only reminds us of Gorgias, Licymnus, and Polus, and once, in passing, of Agathon. But as far as we are concerned every reader may find in the speech as must jest or earnest as he will, and conjecture according to his own motions what Plato meant by it; much, however, will be gained at once, if we could but persuade our readers not to attribute to the dialogue which contains the speech, a similar value with the speech itself, nor pay it the same regard, for then, at all events, the difficulty vanishes, which arises from the circumstance that none of the different views will meet with any confirmation in the dialogue. We are indeed fully aware that by many persons even the introduction has been discovered to be beautiful, and has been much admired by them. But with how much that is unplatonic has this been the case when it has once come forward under the name of Plato. Certainly, at least, even supposing Plato to have written this introduction, it is not particularly worthy of him. To go no further, for the omission already censured, that it does not assist us in the slightest degree to a trace with regard to the particular meaning of the whole, this dialogic setting deserves some blame, and moreover no discriminating reader, we presume, will receive much pleasure from the awkward deference of Menexenus, who will only take in hand public affairs when Socrates permits it, nor from the pointless way in which Socrates expresses his opinion, that he must certainly be a great orator by reason of Aspasia's instructions, nor from the coarse jest, that he nearly got a beating on account of his slowness at learning, and that he would even dance naked for love of Menexenus. It is certainly a very pardonable suspicion, that this setting is probably the work of another author, who gladly set himself to construct a dialogue out of the speech, and thought it impossible that a Platonic creation should come into the world without Socrates. Such a person may then have easily given in Aspasia an awkward imitation of Diotima, and thus have fallen unsuspectingly into an anachronism with which none of the others of Plato are at all comparable : I mean, that Socrates delivers a speech referring completely and entirely to something that did not ensue until long after his death, and that he professes to have this speech from Aspasia, who must have been already dead long before him. And thus it would be in vain to look for any serious meaning in the promise given by Socrates to produce yet more such state speeches from the mouth of his mistress.
W. THE LARGER HIPPIAS.
THE object of this dialogue is certainly purely philosophical. For the explanation of the idea of the beautiful in its full extent, as it embraces material things as well as immaterial, would certainly be worth the trouble, and quite as important as regards the philosophy of Plato, as the object of many of the smaller dialogues to which we have assigned a place in the larger series. But the reader, if he looks to the mode in which this subject is treated, will certainly not be surprised to find the Hippias Major only in this place in the Appendix. For it is throughout sceptical to a degree which characterises none of the others; a multitude of different explanations of the beautiful are taken up and all of them refuted. And even, when the upshot is taken of all to which the reader is conducted or referred in this process of refutation, we find it to consist only in a couple of perfectly familiar positions, which teach that the origin of the bad is not in power but in impotence 1 and that the beautiful and good should not be separated; and this last, indeed, is the only point upon which Socrates expresses himself with clearness and precision. In consequence of this absence of scientific tone, we cannot number the dialogue among those properly called philosophical. Thus, it does not stand in any visible connection of progressive development with any other whatever. In the persual of it, certainly, every reader is immediately reminded of the Philebus, and it is only on account of this connection, and not with a view of indicating, even in the most remote degree, a period at which the Hippias might have been written, that we assign it its present position. For in the Philebus, Plato expresses himself with the greatest precision as well upon the subject of the connection of the beautiful with the good, as upon that of the nature of the beautiful itself, and considers it not only in its moral bearing, but also according to the first elements of that which we call beautiful in material things. But no one will vestigations here pursued, nor again in any part of the Hippias is any proximate preparation discoverable to what is discussed in the Philebus. In short, it must be at once manifest to every one, that a scientific treatment of the subject, the beautiful that is, in speaking of the present dialogue is almost entirely out of the question, so completely is all such kept out of sight; and quite as certain is it, that the impression which every reader must receive from the whole is, that a polemical purpose is the predominant in it. And under this purpose the dialogue has in view two remarkable explanations of the beautiful. In one of them, that the beautiful is the fitting, we easily recognise the spirit of the Hedonic schools, in so far, that is, as according to them the good is only something capriciously established, consequently agreeable and fitting. Only it may excite our surprise, that in discussing this point Socrates adheres so exclusively to a kind of almost verbal dialectics, without following his usual practice of exposing somewhat severely the notion which is the basis of the theory. With regard to the other explanation, that the beautiful is the pleasant as apprehended by sight and hearing, pointing as it certainly does to the same principles as Plato lays down in the Philebus, it would be very interesting to know who it was that brought forward this explanation in Plato's time, or whether it was invented by himself in order to indicate that property of the beautiful which he mentions in the Philebus as the essential element in it. But, though this explanation is certainly given as lying very close at hand, notwithstanding that we cannot now point out the author of it, it is impossible to believe that the substance of these explanations which