Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

conceal. What remains then but to confess that the Platonic Socrates is here a double-faced Janus * In the work itself the backwards looking face speaks, and to that we have until now listened ; in the Timaeus the front one lets itself be heard. And with the supposition the fact agrees, that in the work itself so many problems previously set are again taken up, and so many previously isolated investigations combined, and that this whole tissue into which are worked many particulars which are as keys and talismans to what has gone before, affords extreme satisfaction; while in the Timaeus the same work appears as a new member of a new series of theoretical expositions, in which Timaeus, Critias, and Hermocrates are to follow Socrates; and this two-fold relation seems to be the key to all that may yet have continued obscure in the connection of the work. The idea of virtue in general, and of the four virtues in particular, is defined, and in this we have the key-stone to all the earlier and preparatory labours upon ethical points, and the doctrine of the Republic has no other concern with this task, but that which Socrates professes from the beginning onwards. But as the idea of virtue is on the one side so essentially connected with the idea of the good, which in Plato's view is the grand object of dialectic science, and, on the other side, would not come under discussion at all unless there was an interest in the right regulation of life, it is equally natural, first, that this interest, as it here appears as an apologetic ground of morality, should also conduct and predominate through the whole work, and then that the elements of dialectics in it, as well as of ethics, should be again taken up, combined with one another, and as it were fixed by a key-stone. Now, we observe that Plato discovers the idea of virtue without having even a conception of an absolute freedom of will, such that by means of it man may at any moment, and independently of all previous conduct and existences, be any thing that he likes; but according to him this free will is so connected with that state of conditional existence in which man is here plunged, that a combination of the elements of the soul may arise in which the existence of a weak principle of virtue is all that is possible, and that there is but one style and mode of education which can enable virtue to develope itself to its full extent. And thus the constitution of the state attains a high degree of importance, and it is natural that this theory in particular should be expounded at the same time, as well as that the process in it of the continuation of the species from which, it is argued, the various tempers in different minds arise, should be placed under the dominion of common reason, and quite as natural that the theory of dialectics, and with it at the same time, the polemics against that imitative poetry which, according to Plato's conviction, most effectively crushes the endeavour after truth— should be interwoven with the theory of political education. Every step is professedly only laid down as it is necessarily evolved from the idea of human nature, without any historical conditions, which is tantamount to a declaration that the state cannot exist in actual practice, but only with a reality such that the further an actual state is removed from this standard the less virtue can appear in it. And thus, the Republic in our work attains a more important prominency than at first appears, but yet never such as to become the proper and main subject. The relation, however, of the work before us to the following dialogues is distinctly marked by Plato himself, as one not to be taken into consideration until we are arrived at a more advanced stage in the development of the philosophy of this series. In the dialogues that succeed, no one but Socrates of the whole company to whom we are here introduced bears any part; Glaucon and Adimantus, and whoever else may have appropriated those Socratic arguments, all go away perfectly satisfied, a sure sign that the work according to its original plan is only the keystone to all that has hitherto appeared. It does not become the commencement of a new series until its repetition. This is indeed a repetition which we now possess, but as a clear confirmation of what has been just said, we do not here learn to whom Socrates again repeats it, but we see first from the opening of the Timaeus that the hearers were the aforenamed, and a fourth besides who is not named. These persons then, as is clear from the expressions we there meet with had wished especially to hear Socrates’ arguments about the state, and although he was in consequence obliged to repeat the whole discussion, the Republic was to them the main subject. It is therefore to this circumstance that the title, and all who quote the work from Aristotle downwards, particularly refer; it seemed however all the more necessary to establish first of all the first and original relation of the work. Now, when Socrates on the following day requests as a repayment from those who desire him to repeat his arguments, that they, as masters in the province of practical life, will show him, better than he can himself, his own Republic in living motion with reference to internal as well as external circumstances, this wish does in no way contradict the confession previously made, that this Republic exists only in imagination. For, although as near an approximation to it as is possible is the highest point at which all others are to aim, still a standard for every thing that can take place in the life of a state can only be given by such a living representation; and this must be the best means of exposing in their nakedness all immoral, and therefore corrupt, politics. Socrates had already this return in mind when he repeated the work, and had cursorily explained, with a view of establishing a ground whereupon to found his claims to it, in what manner generally such a state might be framed, provided only genuine philosophers had once the power in their hands. But on this second meeting every thing does not come off as he had anticipated; but having once for all committed the subject to the hands of others, he must also be content with what they resolved. Now, they resolve that he must have patience to listen to the romantic history of his state. For Timaeus, in order that the subject may commence with the true beginning, is first of all to treat in a historical form, which nearly all more ancient physiologists have adopted, of the origin and formation of the world, down to the beginnings of the human race; and then Critias is to exhibit that state according to its internal and external history, not indeed as Socrates appears to have intended, now for the first time existing and localized, but as the ancient Athens, of which he has received information from foreign legendary lore. / Thus, accordingly, our work, under new authority, comes into a still more comprehensive series than that which Socrates, according to his own expressions, had in view. But, although the annexation of that philosophy which concerns the theory of Nature to this work appears to overreach his original plans, still not only is the necessity for it declared in his own words, but even the first outlines drawn according to which they are to set to work upon this subject. For the principle already laid down in the Phaedo, that nature must be conceived from the idea of the good, is virtually repeated in the Philebus as well as in these books, where that idea is pronounced to be absolutely the highest; and further, we here find it stated pretty early as a principle to be generally established, that the Deity is not the efficient cause of every thing without distinction, but that he can only be the cause of good, and it is upon this principle especially that the theory in the Timaeus of the formation of the world is constructed. The necessity for a science of abstract being in general is clearly declared by the remark, to the principle of which so striking a prominency is given in these books, that an accurate knowledge of the mind is not to be attained by the method hitherto pursued. Now, what is wanted can be nothing but a knowledge of the relation between the mind and objective existence collectively, and of the place which the mind is to occupy in the system accordingly. And thus the manner in which the Timaeus connects itself with the books of the Republic is a declaration of the essential identity of ethics and natural philosophy. The same principle also is expressed under another form in the last fable about the migration of the souls. For this myth, in which at the same time the system of the world brought forward in the Timaeus is graphically prefigured, is meant also to declare it as a

« EdellinenJatka »