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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 are most vividly reminded of what occurs to this purpose in the Protagoras, the Gorgias, the Euthydemus, and even the first Alcibiades; and the elegant negligence of certain Platonic periods is here imitated with a richness which cannot well fail to make a lively impression. If, on the other hand, this dialogue is to be ascribed to the Platonic school, and to be looked upon as conceived in Plato's spirit, then we need certainly consider what we have here to be only an introduction, and must suppose that Clitophon's triumph was to be converted to a serious defeat, and that a satisfactory and brilliant justification of Socrates was yet to follow. But still this can hardly have been the original design, as, in the first place, the return of the conclusion to the commencement is too decided, and, in the second, Socrates would certainly have begun his attack at an earlier period in the dialogue.
WHEN we compare the compass of this work with even the largest of those which have preceded it in our arrangement, and consider that it is a second repetition of a continuous dialogue advancing without interruption, and, moreover, one that began first, in the evening, we must have been already very vividly convinced by what is said in the Symposium, that he whom Socrates once gets into conversation must hold out the whole night, and even to the morning dawn, though others may have all made off or surrendered themselves to sleep, and that he is as little wearied by repeating his own or other persons arguments, as of investigating and developing truth from the first in common with others. In this character he here appears, inasmuch as he repeats again the whole dialogue on the day immediately succeeding this, and such also was the case the day before, when it was first held. For of the large party, the individuals composing which are at first mentioned by name, partly as accompanying Socrates and Polemarchus, and partly as already present in the dwelling of the latter, the majority disperses one knows not how; at least, they do not say that they prefer the spectacle which is in reserve, of the newly introduced holiday torch-dance, to the continuous and self-evolving argument of Socrates concerning justice and the republic. Only the two sons of Ariston, who, after Polemarchus and Thrasymachus had first disputed with Socrates about the idea of justice, testified by stout objections an especial call to the task, stoutly continue to stand to the argument in alternation with Socrates, without its appearing however to be of any particular importance whether Glaucon or Adimantus sustain the conversation. Now if the author appears by this dress to convey a wish that his readers should in like manner conceive and enjoy the work as one undivided whole in itself, as the arguments themselves are to be supposed delivered without interruption, and again related without a pause, the division, on the other hand, into ten books is an obstacle to the accomplishment of that wish. This division, although Aristotle does not notice it, is certainly of great antiquity, and since from the time of the commentators upon the Stagyrite until now the work is always quoted according to it, this division must be always kept, but it is not so easy to make it probable that it comes from Plato himself. I, at least, cannot prevail upon myself to suppose that if Plato had found it necessary to divide his work, he would have been likely to project a dismemberment of it so perfectly mechanical, and bearing no relation whatever to the subject-matter— one which every reader who would search into the internal connection of the whole must entirely set aside, if he would avoid falling into confusion. For it is only with the end of the first book that the first part also of the work concludes, and in like manner, the conclusion of the whole commences with the beginning of the last book, but beyond this, only the end of the fourth book and of the seventh coincide with an important division in reference to the subject-matter. All