Sivut kuvina

Plato puts into the mouth of Hippias about gold, and the pretty girl, was derived from any other authors. And thus it is impossible for any one to avoid asking himself, how it happens that Plato exhibits the not undistinguished sophist as guilty of such an unheard degree of stupidity, as not to be even in a condition to understand a question as to how a word is to be explained The personal ridicule indisputably appears here under a far coarser form than anywhere else, not excepting even the Euthydemus, where the persons are probably in no instance strictly historical, and it would, exaggerated as it is, have certainly destroyed its own effect. This manner, or rather absence of anything deserving the name, scarcely reconcileable as it is with the propriety and polish of Plato, may perhaps excite a suspicion in the minds of many as to the genuineness of the dialogue, because we might certainly meet with it very naturally in a less experienced imitator, who felt that it was necessary for him to give himself an easy task if he was to succeed in any degree in the irony and dialectics of his prototype. And the suspicion once excited, much certainly will be found apparently confirming it. Thus, at the very beginning Socrates indulges in a piece of sophistical dialectics, which might induce us to believe, that not anything, being what it is, can be useless, a piece of art which would not be unworthy of any of the persons in the Euthydemus. Were this a parody of anything of the kind resembling it, one should think that Plato would rather have put it into the mouth of the sophist than of Socrates. On the contrary, Hippias meantime exhibits in his behaviour a plain common sense which he is not quite able subsequently to keep up, and with a moderation which is not very carefully returned on the side of Socrates. Then, in the arrangement of the whole, it certainly strikes us as something strange, that in the first half of the dialogue all explanations of the beautiful come from Hippias, and in the latter all from Socrates, who there contradicts himself, and that for the most part in an unnatural and precipitate manner, without being in any way compelled as it were to do so by the course of the dialogue, but, in fact, going out of his way for the purpose. Lastly, the play with the man in the back-ground, to whom Socrates is always obliged to render an account, is brought out into almost too coarse relief to have come from the hand of Plato—for the man threatens to beat him, like Aspasia in the Menexenus, and Socrates afterwards puts himself by name in the place of the man, without, however, its being made clear that he meant only himself from the first, and in such a manner that no particular effect whatever is produced by his doing so, and the resort to this expedient again is altogether contrary to good taste. But it might, notwithstanding, be rather precipitate to entertain the notion of making these grounds very importantly valid, and we could not justify the placing of this dialogue in the same class with those which we have strictly and unconditionally rejected. There is an abundance of pleasantry dispersed over the whole, and when we have made due allowances and considered further that this was the principal object in view, and that in the second part a variety of contemporaneous matter is criticised under the name of Hippias as well as of Socrates, we shall be readily disposed to pardon the exaggerations as well as the extravagancies of the humour which prevails in the dialogue. We may, moreover, easily see how much of the polemics generally is grounded upon self-defence. The earthenware, kitchen-furniture, and the golden mill, are purposely introduced in defiance of those who were pleased to ridicule examples taken from trifling things; and that superintending listener is to be regarded as exemplifying in the highest degree the practice which sometimes occurs when Socrates asks his interlocutor how he must answer a third person making this or that objection. And who then can say how many other personal allusions may be here concealed in consequence of which much that remains is even more beautiful than it appears to us. Even the senseless answers of Hippias may be parodies of others like them, or of the superficial manner in which the good and the beautiful were by many made to consist in this or that particular thing without penetrating into the real essence of them. But why Hippias in particular is the person to give his name to these, is a point upon which no one will look for information. Only, it is not very probable that Plato should have chosen him twice, and each time for the unfortunate hero of a private colloquy with Socrates, especially as the two dialogues have no internal relation whatever to one another. If then one of them is to be considered Platonic, and the other not, the victory will be with the larger of the two. For many traces exist that the author in the composition of the smaller dialogue had the larger before him. Particular expressions of ridicule directed against the man, which the larger dispatches in a few words, are spun out in the former with disproportionate prolixity, and the banquet of speeches to which in the larger dialogue the Sophist invites Socrates, is exactly concluded in the smaller.


IN the old catalogues of the writings of Plato, the Clitophon stands, not among those condemned as spurious, but in the middle of the genuine list, and has been in like manner adopted into all the editions up to that of Stephanus, who, like other later editors, has followed Serranus. And thus it finds a place here, with the same right as all the other dialogues of that collection.

The defence of its legitimacy, however, is a task which we could not pledge ourselves to undertake with success. The very commencement, where Socrates addresses Clitophon, who is moreover represented as the only person present, in the third person, and laments his depreciation in such a manner that Clitophon can say to him that he is manifestly sensitive—this, to go no further, is completely unplatonic. Then it cannot in any way be conceived that Plato should allow his Socrates to be put down in such a manner. But even if we would assume that the dialogue is only a fragment, and that the refutation would have followed immediately, still it is far from easy to see for what purpose Plato should have introduced generally such an attack upon Socrates—an attack which, in all his writings, is fully repelled, both immediately and by the ironical matter contained in them.

If then we are once agreed that this little piece is not from the hand of Plato, there is yet room for great variety of opinion as to its tendency and object. There is, indeed, no question that in the works of several of the lesser Socraticians the wisdom of Socrates especially presented itself in its negative character only, as a confutation of the errors and exposure of the insufficiencies of other methods. Now, if this method is itself intended to be here censured as insufficient, the piece might be regarded as complete. This Socrates is then to be represented as actually reduced to silence, and this method might thus be intended to convey a justification against the objection made against Plato from various sides, of far exceeding the real Socrates. And perhaps it was under this supposition that the ancients assigned the Clitophon its place before the Republic, to stand, as it were, in the place of an exculpatory introduction, because this dialogue appeared to them to be the first place in which much that extended far beyond Socrates was particularly and manifestly taught. But then, in the first place, the insufficiency ought to have been represented more fundamentally on the side of doctrine and knowledge, than on that only of admonition and excitement, for which wisdom can only furnish a mean. And then again, it would be strange that the dissatisfied person applies. directly to a sophist like Thrasymachus. It is certainly, therefore, more probable that the dialogue comes down from one of the best oratorical schools, and is directed against Socrates and the Socraticians in general, Plato not excepted. And we must be much confirmed in this view when we see how the whole is actually a running parody and caricature of the Platonic manner, especially of all that appears against the sophists as teachers of the art of politics, and which must have so naturally found an application to the teachers of the art of speaking, who were Plato's contemporaries. We

« EdellinenJatka »