Sivut kuvina

of his sect. In like manner the sequel further discovers that it fares no better with Protagoras in regard of the distinction between the pleasant and the good. And if, at the conclusion, when Socrates exposes to him the great contradiction in which he is involved, we learn that he has not reflected even in the slightest degree upon the conditions necessary for the instruction of others, or upon the notion of virtue in which he would instruct them ; we have been meanwhile convinced how far removed he must continue from that method, the grand principle of which consists in bringing the nursling of philosophy to self-consciousness, and compelling him to independent thought. Such a method, then, has the dialogistic proved itself meanwhile to be; it is a method which brings all this to view, and applies those testing points, offering them for recognition or rejection, by overlooking which, Protagoras discovers himself to be a person who has never recognised moral truth, and consequently has never endeavoured to attain moral objects as the end of his philosophy. And it is the projection of these points and the trial whether the right can in any way be found which is the aim of the manifold artificial and dialectic turns which Socrates makes, which can only be falsely accounted as technicalities and sophisms in him, by one totally unacquainted with the Platonic method. On the contrary, if we compare them with the execution of the Phaedrus, they are the very points which at once constitute a clear proof of Plato's advancement as a philosophical artist. For in the Phaedrus we do indeed find that indirect process which forms as it were the essential character of all Plato's dialogues, particularly those not immediately constructive, we find it, I say, sufficiently predom

inant in the whole of the composition, but only very sparingly applied in the details; but in this we have it pursued no less in the details than in the whole generally, so that the Protagoras is upon the whole a more perfect attempt to imitate in writing the living and inspired language of the wise man. As also the dialectic maxims of deception and undeception delivered in the Phaedrus, are put into practice with that laborious industry with which able pupils in an art, who have already made considerable progress, or rising masters in the same, seek every tolerable opportunity in their exercises for exhibiting any of the secrets they have discovered before the eyes of the skilful adept. But it is not only the practical dialectics, and the commendatory recognition of the genuine form of philosophical art which appears here further advanced than in the Phaedrus, but also the scientific bearing is improved. The proposition indeed that virtue is the knowledge of what is to be done or chosen, and, consequently, that vice is only error, this proposition, however serious Plato may have been in making it, is not here put into a definite form and brought forward directly as his opinion, but, left as it is indefinite, it belongs rather to the web in which he entangles those who have not yet possessed themselves of the true idea of the good; which results in part from the evidently ironical treatment of the whole proposition, partly from the connection into which it is so easily placed with that utterly un-Socratic and un-Platonic view that the good is nothing but the pleasant, partly also from the resulting application of what in virtue might be knowledge and science to the arts of measuring and arithmetic. But at all events we here find some indirect notices tending towards what certainly must precede the decision of the question, the more accurate definition namely of the idea of knowledge. Thus the apparent contradiction which Socrates himself detects, involved in the fact that he disputes the communicability of virtue, and yet maintains that it is knowledge, this is evidently an enticement held out to reflect upon the relation of knowledge to teaching, after consideration of what had been already said in the Phaedrus upon the nature of ideas. The opposition in reference to the School of Heraclitus between being (to eival) and becoming (to oytoyveabat) although at the same time ironical as regards the Protagoras, has a similar tendency. As also the subordinate question of the unity or plurality of virtue is only a particular case belonging to the more general investigation into the nature of unity or plurality, or the manner in which the general ideas communicate with particulars, so that the doctrine of ideas here begins to pass from the mythical province into the scientific, and by the very principles brought forward in it, the Protagoras contains, over and above its own immediate object, the germs of several succeeding works of Plato, and that in such a manner that it is at once clear even from this that it is of an earlier date than all other dialogues in which these questions are treated more at length. Now as to the myth brought forward by Protagoras, there is no need to number it as some have done, goodnaturedly raising it to an exalted rank, among those of Plato's own; on the contrary, if not the property of Protagoras himself, as seems likely, though there is no evidence to confirm the supposition, yet the manner in which Plato applies it makes it much more probable that it is at all events composed in his spirit. For precisely as is natural to one of a coarsely materialistic mode

of thinking, whose philosophy does not extend beyond immediate sensuous experience, the reasoning principle in men is only viewed as a recompence for their deficient corporeal conformation, and the idea of right with the feeling of shame as requisites for a sensuous existence, and as something not introduced into the minds of men until a later period. Hence also the proof contained in this myth, because Plato could not give any other colouring to such a view, is very oratorically stated, as he does not so much spare investigations upon principles as make the want of them perceptible, since even what he has properly to explain is not connected with the course of the narrative, but is only adduced as a command of Zeus. It appears also strange on that account in respect of the style, and probably imitated after Protagoras. And, as to Socrates' opinion of the poem of Simonides, of which nothing but this fragment is preserved to us, namely, that it must be a censure upon the apophthegm of Pittacus, this is not to be taken merely as a jest. At least we are in possession of another poem generally ascribed to Simonides, in which the resemblance in manner and style to this is not to be mistaken, which stands in a similar polemical relation to the epigram of Cleobulus quoted in the Phaedrus, who was also himself one of the seven wise men.


AMoNG the smaller dialogues immediately dependent

upon the Protagoras, the Laches will stand the first,

because it so nearly resembles the former that it can

only be looked upon as an appendix to, or enlargement N

of, the last part of it. For Courage, of which it is the immediate problem of the Laches to discover the correct idea, formed the subject of an argument in the Protagoras with reference to the disputed point of the unity of all the virtues, or the distinction of them. Protagoras, in maintaining the latter proposition, being reduced to a dilemma by dint of several examples, had however brought himself, influenced by an appearance seemingly favourable to his views, to uphold courage as an exception to that similarity, because in its nature it is distinct from all other virtues; and, even in experience is often to be met with separate from them. In opposition to this, Socrates had shown, that, if we look to the fact how courage exhibits itself in its development as spirit and boldness, but that these qualities only obtain the appellation of that virtue in so far as skill and judgment are connected with them, we shall see that these last properly constitute the points of distinction between courage and foolhardiness and precipitation; and, consequently, that that virtue also ranges into ingenuity in calculation. Against that proof Protagoras had defended himself in a manner, as has been already remarked, actually worthless and foreign to the subject, which Socrates evidently only admits because further investigation upon this track would have led him too far from the point which he had in view. Consequently he there opens up the investigation on another side, inasmuch as he shows, that upon the supposition that the pleasant is generally the good, we need only oppose the unpleasant courageously as a means towards acquiring the pleasant, and that, consequently, courage can be nothing else but a correct comparison of distant pleasure with near pain; consequently a measuring art, consequently intelligence and ingenuity. This,

« EdellinenJatka »