The Project Gutenberg EBook of Plato and the Other Companions of Sokrates, 3rd ed. Volume III (of 4), by George Grote This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org Title: Plato and the Other Companions of Sokrates, 3rd ed. Volume III (of 4) Author: George Grote Release Date: August 7, 2012 [EBook #40437] Language: English Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1 *** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK PLATO, COMPANIONS OF SOKRATES, VOL III *** Produced by Ed Brandon as part of the on-line Grote Project
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|PHÆDRUS — SYMPOSION.|
|These two are the two erotic dialogues of Plato. Phædrus is the originator of both||1|
|Eros as conceived by Plato. Different sentiment prevalent in Hellenic antiquity and in modern times. Position of women in Greece||ib.|
|Eros, considered as the great stimulus to improving philosophical communion. Personal Beauty, the great point of approximation between the world of sense and the world of Ideas. Gradual generalisation of the sentiment||4|
|All men love Good, as the means of Happiness, but they pursue it by various means. The name Eros is confined to one special case of this large variety||5|
|Desire of mental copulation and procreation, as the only attainable likeness of immortality, requires the sight of personal beauty as an originating stimulus||6|
|Highest exaltation of the erotic impulse in a few privileged minds, when it ascends gradually to the love of Beauty in general. This is the most absorbing sentiment of all||7|
|Purpose of the Symposion, to contrast this Platonic view of Eros with several different views of it previously enunciated by the other speakers; closing with a panegyric on Sokrates, by the drunken Alkibiades||8|
|Views of Eros presented by Phædrus, Pausanias, Eryximachus, Aristophanes, Agathon||9|
|Discourse of Sokrates from revelation of Diotima. He describes Eros as not a God, but an intermediate Dæmon between Gods and men, constantly aspiring to divinity, but not attaining it||9|
|Analogy of the erotic aspiration with that of the philosopher, who knows his own ignorance and thirsts for knowledge||10|
|Eros as presented in the Phædrus — Discourse of Lysias, and counter-discourse of Sokrates, adverse to Eros — Sokrates is seized with remorse, and recants in a high-flown panegyric on Eros||11|
|Panegyric — Sokrates admits that the influence of Eros is a variety of madness, but distinguishes good and bad varieties of madness, both coming from the Gods. Good madness is far better than sobriety||ib.|
|Poetical mythe delivered by Sokrates, describing the immortality and pre-existence of the soul, and its pre-natal condition of partial companionship with Gods and eternal Ideas||12|
|Operation of such pre-natal experience upon the Intellectual faculties of man — Comparison and combination of particular sensations indispensable — Reminiscence||13|
|Reminiscence is kindled up in the soul of the philosopher by the aspect of visible Beauty, which is the great link between the world of sense and the world of Ideas||14|
|Elevating influence ascribed, both in Phædrus and Symposion, to Eros Philosophus. Mixture in the mind of Plato, of poetical fancy and religious mysticism, with dialectic theory||15|
|Differences between Symposion and Phædrus. In-dwelling conceptions assumed by the former, pre-natal experiences by the latter||17|
|Nothing but metaphorical immortality recognised in Symposion||ib.|
|Form or Idea of Beauty presented singly and exclusively in Symposion||18|
|Eros recognised, both in Phædrus and Symposion, as affording the initiatory stimulus to philosophy — Not so recognised in Phædon, Theætêtus, and elsewhere||ib.|
|Concluding scene and speech of Alkibiades in the Symposion — Behaviour of Sokrates to Alkibiades and other handsome youths||19|
|Perfect self-command of Sokrates — proof against every sort of trial||20|
|Drunkenness of others at the close of the Symposion — Sokrates is not affected by it, but continues his dialectic process||21|
|Symposion and Phædon — each is the antithesis and complement of the other||22|
|Symposion of Plato compared with that of Xenophon||ib.|
|Small proportion of the serious, in the Xenophontic Symposion||24|
|Platonic Symposion more ideal and transcendental than the Xenophontic||25|
|Second half of the Phædrus — passes into a debate on Rhetoric. Eros is considered as a subject for rhetorical exercise||26|
|Lysias is called a logographer by active politicians. Contempt conveyed by the word. Sokrates declares that the only question is, Whether a man writes well or ill||27|
|Question about teaching the art of writing well or speaking well. Can it be taught upon system or principle? Or does the successful Rhetor succeed only by unsystematic knack?||28|
|Theory of Sokrates — that all art of persuasion must be founded upon a knowledge of the truth, and of gradations of resemblance to the truth||ib.|
|Comparison made by Sokrates between the discourse of Lysias and his own. Eros is differently understood: Sokrates defined what he meant by it: Lysias did not define||29|
|Logical processes — Definition and Division — both of them exemplified in the two discourses of Sokrates||ib.|
|View of Sokrates — that there is no real Art of Rhetoric, except what is already comprised in Dialectic — The rhetorical teaching is empty and useless||30|
|What the Art of Rhetoric ought to be — Analogy of Hippokrates and the medical Art||31|
|Art of Rhetoric ought to include a systematic classification of minds with all their varieties, and of discourses with all their varieties. The Rhetor must know how to apply the one to the other, suitably to each particular case||32|
|The Rhetorical Artist must farther become possessed of real truth, as well as that which his auditors believe to be truth. He is not sufficiently rewarded for this labour||33|
|Question about Writing — As an Art, for the purpose of instruction, it can do little — Reasons why. Writing may remind the reader of what he already knows||ib.|
|Neither written words, nor continuous speech, will produce any serious effect in teaching. Dialectic and cross-examination are necessary||34|
|The Dialectician and Cross-Examiner is the only man who can really teach. If the writer can do this, he is more than a writer||37|
|Lysias is only a logographer: Isokrates promises to become a philosopher||38|
|Date of the Phædrus — not an early dialogue||ib.|
|Criticism given by Plato on the three discourses — His theory of Rhetoric is more Platonic than Sokratic||ib.|
|His theory postulates, in the Rhetor, knowledge already assured — it assumes that all the doubts have been already removed||39|
|The Expositor, with knowledge and logical process, teaches minds unoccupied and willing to learn||ib.|
|The Rhetor does not teach, but persuades persons with minds pre-occupied — guiding them methodically from error to truth||40|
|He must then classify the minds to be persuaded, and the means of persuasion or varieties of discourse. He must know how to fit on the one to the other in each particular case||41|
|Plato’s Idéal of the Rhetorical Art — involves in part incompatible conditions — the Wise man or philosopher will never be listened to by the public||ib.|
|The other part of the Platonic Idéal is grand but unattainable — breadth of psychological data and classified modes of discourse||42|
|Plato’s ideal grandeur compared with the rhetorical teachers — Usefulness of these teachers for the wants of an accomplished man||44|
|The Rhetorical teachers conceived the Art too narrowly: Plato conceived it too widely. The principles of an Art are not required to be explained to all learners||45|
|Plato includes in his conception of Art, the application thereof to new particular cases. This can never be taught by rule||46|
|Plato’s charge against the Rhetorical teachers is not made out||47|
|Plato has not treated Lysias fairly, in neglecting his greater works, and selecting for criticism an erotic exercise for a private circle||47|
|No fair comparison can be taken between this exercise of Lysias and the discourses delivered by Sokrates in the Phædrus||48|
|Continuous discourse, either written or spoken, inefficacious as a means of instruction to the ignorant||49|
|Written matter is useful as a memorandum for persons who know — or as an elegant pastime||50|
|Plato’s didactic theories are pitched too high to be realised||51|
|No one has ever been found competent to solve the difficulties raised by Sokrates, Arkesilaus, Karneades, and the negative vein of philosophy||ib.|
|Plato’s idéal philosopher can only be realised under the hypothesis of a pre-existent and omniscient soul, stimulated into full reminiscence here||52|
|Different proceeding of Plato in the Timæus||53|
|Opposite tendencies co-existent in Plato’s mind — Extreme of the Transcendental or Absolute — Extreme of specialising adaptation to individuals and occasions||54|
|Character of dialogues immediately preceding — much transcendental assertion. Opposite character of the Parmenides||56|
|Sokrates is the juvenile defendant — Parmenides the veteran censor and cross-examiner. Parmenides gives a specimen of exercises to be performed by the philosophical aspirant||ib.|
|Circumstances and persons of the Parmenides||57|
|Manner in which the doctrine of Parmenides was impugned. Manner in which his partisan Zeno defended him||58|
|Sokrates here impugns the doctrine of Zeno. He affirms the Platonic theory of ideas separate from sensible objects, yet participable by them||60|
|Parmenides and Zeno admire the philosophical ardour of Sokrates. Parmenides advances objections against the Platonic theory of Ideas||60|
|What Ideas does Sokrates recognise? Of the Just and Good? Yes. Of Man, Horse, &c.? Doubtful. Of Hair, Mud, &c.? No||ib.|
|Parmenides declares that no object in nature is mean to the philosopher||61|
|Remarks upon this — Contrast between emotional and scientific classification||ib.|
|Objections of Parmenides — How can objects participate in the Ideas. Each cannot have the whole Idea, nor a part thereof||62|
|Comparing the Idea with the sensible objects partaking in the Idea, there is a likeness between them which must be represented by a higher Idea — and so on ad infinitum||63|
|Are the Ideas conceptions of the mind, and nothing more? Impossible||64|
|The Ideas are types or exemplars, and objects partake of them by being likened to them. Impossible||65|
|If Ideas exist, they cannot be knowable by us. We can know only what is relative to ourselves. Individuals are relative to individuals: Ideas relative to Ideas||ib.|
|Forms can be known only through the Form of Cognition, which we do not possess||66|
|Form of cognition, superior to our Cognition, belongs to the Gods. We cannot know them, nor can they know us||ib.|
|Sum total of objections against the Ideas is grave. But if we do not admit that Ideas exist, and that they are knowable, there can be no dialectic discussion||67|
|Dilemma put by Parmenides — Acuteness of his objections||68|
|The doctrine which Parmenides attacks is the genuine Platonic theory of Ideas. His objections are never answered in any part of the Platonic dialogues||ib.|
|Views of Stallbaum and Socher. The latter maintains that Plato would never make such objections against his own theory, and denies the authenticity of the Parmenidês||69|
|Philosophers are usually advocates, each of a positive system of his own||70|
|Different spirit of Plato in his Dialogues of Search||ib.|
|The Parmenidês is the extreme manifestation of the negative element. That Plato should employ one dialogue in setting forth the negative case against the Theory of Ideas is not unnatural||71|
|Force of the negative case in the Parmenidês. Difficulties about participation of sensible objects in the world of Ideas||ib.|
|Difficulties about the Cognizability of Ideas. If Ideas are absolute, they cannot be cognizable: if they are cognizable, they must be relative. Doctrine of Homo Mensura||72|
|Answer of Sokrates — That Ideas are mere conceptions of the mind. Objection of Parmenides correct, though undeveloped||73|
|Meaning of Abstract and General Terms, debated from ancient times to the present day — Different views of Plato and Aristotle upon it||76|
|Plato never expected to make his Ideas fit on to the facts of sense: Aristotle tried to do it and partly succeeded||78|
|Continuation of the Dialogue — Parmenides admonishes Sokrates that he has been premature in delivering a doctrine, without sufficient preliminary exercise||79|
|What sort of exercise? Parmenides describes: To assume provisionally both the affirmative and the negative of many hypotheses about the most general terms, and to trace the consequences of each||ib.|
|Impossible to do this before a numerous audience — Parmenides is entreated to give a specimen — After much solicitation he agrees||80|
|Parmenides elects his own theory of the Unum, as the topic for exhibition — Aristoteles becomes respondent||ib.|
|Exhibition of Parmenides — Nine distinct deductions or Demonstrations, first from Unum Est — next from Unum non Est||81|
|The Demonstrations in antagonising pairs, or Antinomies. Perplexing entanglement of conclusions given without any explanation||ib.|
|Different judgments of Platonic critics respecting the Antinomies and the dialogue generally||82|
|No dogmatical solution or purpose is wrapped up in the dialogue. The purpose is negative, to make a theorist keenly feel all the difficulties of theorising||85|
|This negative purpose is expressly announced by Plato himself. All dogmatical purpose, extending farther, is purely hypothetical, and even inconsistent with what is declared||87|
|The Demonstrations or Antinomies considered. They include much unwarranted assumption and subtlety. Collection of unexplained perplexities or ἀπορίαι||88|
|Even if Plato himself saw through these subtleties, he might still choose to impose and to heap up difficulties in the way of a forward affirmative aspirant||89|
|The exercises exhibited by Parmenides are exhibited only as illustrative specimens of a method enjoined to be applied to many other Antinomies||91|
|These Platonic Antinomies are more formidable than any of the sophisms or subtleties broached by the Megaric philosophers||ib.|
|In order to understand fully the Platonic Antinomies, we ought to have before us the problems of the Megarics and others. Uselessness of searching for a positive result||93|
|Assumptions of Parmenides in his Demonstrations convey the minimum of determinate meaning. Views of Aristotle upon these indeterminate predicates, Ens, Unum, &c.||94|
|In the Platonic Demonstrations the same proposition in words is made to bear very different meanings||95|
|First demonstration ends in an assemblage of negative conclusions. Reductio ad Absurdum, of the assumption — Unum non Multa||96|
|It ends in demonstrating Both, of that which the first Demonstration had demonstrated Neither||98|
|Startling paradox — Open offence against logical canon — No logical canon had then been laid down||99|
|Demonstration third — Attempt to reconcile the contradiction of Demonstrations I. and II.||100|
|Plato’s imagination of the Sudden or Instantaneous — Breaches or momentary stoppages in the course of time||ib.|
|Review of the successive pairs of Demonstrations or Antinomies in each, the first proves the Neither, the second proves the Both||101|
|The third Demonstration is mediatorial but not satisfactory — The hypothesis of the Sudden or Instantaneous found no favour||102|
|Review of the two last Antinomies. Demonstrations VI. and VII.||103|
|Demonstration VII. is founded upon the genuine doctrine of Parmenides||104|
|Demonstrations VI. and VII. considered — Unwarrantable steps in the reasoning — The fundamental premiss differently interpreted, though the same in words||105|
|Demonstrations VIII. and IX. — Analysis of Demonstration VIII.||106|
|Demonstration VIII. is very subtle and Zenonian||107|
|Demonstration IX. Neither following Both||ib.|
|Concluding words of the Parmenides — Declaration that he has demonstrated the Both and the Neither of many different propositions||108|
|Comparison of the conclusion of the Parmenides to an enigma of the Republic. Difference. The constructor of the enigma adapted its conditions to a foreknown solution. Plato did not||ib.|
|Subjects and personages in the Theætêtus||110|
|Question raised by Sokrates — What is knowledge or Cognition? First answer of Theætêtus, enumerating many different cognitions. Corrected by Sokrates||111|
|Preliminary conversation before the second answer is given. Sokrates describes his own peculiar efficacy — mental obstetric — He cannot teach, but he can evolve knowledge out of pregnant minds||112|
|Ethical basis of the cross-examination of Sokrates — He is forbidden to pass by falsehood without challenge||113|
|Answer of Theætêtus — Cognition is sensible perception: Sokrates says that this is the same doctrine as the Homo Mensura laid down by Protagoras, and that both are in close affinity with the doctrines of Homer, Herakleitus, Empedoklês, &c., all except Parmenides||ib.|
|Plato here blends together three distinct theories for the purpose of confuting them; yet he also professes to urge what can be said in favour of them. Difficulty of following his exposition||114|
|The doctrine of Protagoras is completely distinct from the other doctrines. The identification of them as one and the same is only constructive — the interpretation of Plato himself||115|
|Explanation of the doctrine of Protagoras — Homo Mensura||116|
|Perpetual implication of Subject with Object — Relate and Correlate||118|
|Such relativity is no less true in regard to the ratiocinative combinations of each individual, than in regard to his percipient capacities||ib.|
|Evidence from Plato proving implication of Subject and Object, in regard to the intelligible world||121|
|The Protagorean measure is even more easily shown in reference to the intelligible world than in reference to sense||122|
|Object always relative to Subject — Either without the other, impossible. Plato admits this in Sophistes||126|
|Plato’s representation of the Protagorean doctrine in intimate conjunction with the Herakleitean||126|
|Relativity of sensible facts, as described by him||ib.|
|Relations are nothing in the object purely and simply without a comparing subject||127|
|Relativity twofold — to the comparing Subject — to another object, besides the one directly described||ib.|
|Statement of the doctrine of Herakleitus — yet so as to implicate it with that of Protagoras||128|
|Agent and Patient — No absolute Ens||129|
|Arguments derived from dreams, fevers, &c., may be answered||130|
|Exposition of the Protagorean doctrine, as given here by Sokrates is to a great degree just. You cannot explain the facts of consciousness by independent Subject and Object||131|
|Plato’s attempt to get behind the phenomena. Reference to a double potentiality — Subjective and Objective||133|
|Arguments advanced by the Platonic Sokrates against the Protagorean doctrine. He says that it puts the wise and foolish on a par — that it contradicts the common consciousness. Not every one, but the wise man only, is a measure||135|
|In matters of present sentiment every man can judge for himself. Where future consequences are involved special knowledge is required||136|
|Plato, when he impugns the doctrine of Protagoras, states that doctrine without the qualification properly belonging to it. All belief relative to the condition of the believing mind||137|
|All exposition and discussion is an assemblage of individual judgments and affirmations. This fact is disguised by elliptical forms of language||139|
|Argument — That the Protagorean doctrine equalises all men and animals. How far true. Not true in the sense requisite to sustain Plato’s objection||141|
|Belief on authority is true to the believer himself — The efficacy of authority resides in the believer’s own mind||142|
|Protagorean formula — is false, to those who dissent from it||143|
|Plato’s argument that the wise man alone is a measure — Reply to it||ib.|
|Plato’s argument as to the distinction between present sensation and anticipation of the future||145|
|The formula of Relativity does not imply that every man believes himself to be infallible||ib.|
|Plato’s argument is untenable — That if the Protagorean formula be admitted, dialectic discussion would be annulled — The reverse is true — Dialectic recognises the autonomy of the Individual mind||146|
|Contrast with the Treatise De Legibus — Plato assumes infallible authority — sets aside Dialectic||148|
|Plato in denying the Protagorean formula, constitutes himself the measure for all. Counter-proposition to the formula||ib.|
|Import of the Protagorean formula is best seen when we state explicitly the counter-proposition||150|
|Unpopularity of the Protagorean formula — Most believers insist upon making themselves a measure for others, as well as for themselves. Appeal to Abstractions||150|
|Aristotle failed in his attempts to refute the Protagorean formula — Every reader of Aristotle will claim the right of examining for himself Aristotle’s canons of truth||152|
|Plato’s examination of the other doctrine — That knowledge is Sensible Perception. He adverts to sensible facts which are different with different Percipients||153|
|Such is not the case with all the facts of sense. The conditions of unanimity are best found among select facts of sense — weighing, measuring, &c.||154|
|Arguments of Sokrates in examining this question. Divergence between one man and another arises, not merely from different sensual impressibility, but from mental and associative difference||155|
|Argument — That sensible Perception does not include memory — Probability that those who held the doctrine meant to include memory||157|
|Argument from the analogy of seeing and not seeing at the same time||ib.|
|Sokrates maintains that we do not see with our eyes, but that the mind sees through the eyes: that the mind often conceives and judges by itself without the aid of any bodily organ||159|
|Indication of several judgments which the mind makes by itself — It perceives Existence, Difference, &c.||160|
|Sokrates maintains that knowledge is to be found, not in the Sensible Perceptions themselves, but in the comparisons add computations of the mind respecting them||161|
|Examination of this view — Distinction from the views of modern philosophers||162|
|Different views given by Plato in other dialogues||163|
|Plato’s discussion of this question here exhibits a remarkable advance in analytical psychology. The mind rises from Sensation, first to Opinion, then to Cognition||164|
|Plato did not recognise Verification from experience, or from facts of sense, as either necessary or possible||168|
|Second definition given by Theætêtus — That Cognition consists in right or true opinion||ib.|
|Objection by Sokrates — This definition assumes that there are false opinions. But how can false opinions be possible? How can we conceive Non-Ens: or confound together two distinct realities?||ib.|
|Waxen memorial tablet in the mind, on which past impressions are engraved. False opinion consists in wrongly identifying present sensations with past impressions||169|
|Sokrates refutes this assumption. Dilemma. Either false opinion is impossible, or else a man may know what he does not know||170|
|He draws distinction between possessing knowledge, and having it actually in hand. Simile of the pigeon-cage with caught pigeons turned into it and flying about||ib.|
|Sokrates refutes this. Suggestion of Theætêtus — That there may be non-cognitions in the mind as well as cognitions, and that false opinion may consist in confounding one with the other. Sokrates rejects this||171|
|He brings another argument to prove that Cognition is not the same as true opinion. Rhetors persuade or communicate true opinion; but they do not teach or communicate knowledge||172|
|New answer of Theætêtus — Cognition is true opinion, coupled with rational explanation||173|
|Criticism on the answer by Sokrates. Analogy of letters and words, primordial elements and compounds. Elements cannot be explained: compounds alone can be explained||ib.|
|Sokrates refutes this criticism. If the elements are unknowable, the compound must be unknowable also||174|
|Rational explanation may have one of three different meanings. 1. Description in appropriate language. 2. Enumeration of all the component elements in the compound. In neither of these meanings will the definition of Cognition hold||ib.|
|Third meaning. To assign some mark, whereby the thing to be explained differs from everything else. The definition will not hold. For rational explanation, in this sense, is already included in true opinion||175|
|Conclusion of the dialogue — Summing up by Sokrates — Value of the result, although purely negative||176|
|Remarks on the dialogue. View of Plato. False persuasion of knowledge removed. Importance of such removal||ib.|
|Formation of the testing or verifying power in men’s minds, value of the Theætêtus, as it exhibits Sokrates demolishing his own suggestions||177|
|Comparison of the Philosopher with the Rhetor. The Rhetor is enslaved to the opinions of auditors||178|
|The Philosopher is master of his own debates||179|
|Purpose of dialogue to qualify for a life of philosophical Search||ib.|
|Difficulties of the Theætêtus are not solved in any other Dialogue||180|
|Plato considered that the search for Truth was the noblest occupation of life||182|
|Contrast between the philosopher and the practical statesman — between Knowledge and Opinion||183|
|SOPHISTES — POLITIKUS.|
|Persons and circumstances of the two dialogues||185|
|Relation of the two dialogues to the Theætêtus||187|
|Plato declares that his first purpose is to administer a lesson in logical method: the special question chosen, being subordinate to that purpose||188|
|Method of logical Definition and Division||ib.|
|Sokrates tries the application of this method, first, upon a vulgar subject. To find the logical place and deduction of the Angler. Superior classes above him. Bisecting division||189|
|Such a lesson in logical classification was at that time both novel and instructive. No logical manuals then existed||190|
|Plato describes the Sophist as analogous to an angler. He traces the Sophist by descending subdivision from the acquisitive genus of art||191|
|The Sophist traced down from the same, by a second and different descending subdivision||192|
|Also, by a third||193|
|The Sophist is traced down, from the genus of separating or discriminating art||194|
|In a logical classification, low and vulgar items deserve as much attention as grand ones. Conflict between emotional and scientific classification||195|
|The purifier — a species under the genus discriminator — separates good from evil. Evil is of two sorts; the worst sort is, Ignorance, mistaking itself for knowledge||197|
|Exhortation is useless against this worst mode of evil. Cross-examination, the shock of the Elenchus, must be brought to bear upon it. This is the sovereign purifier||ib.|
|The application of this Elenchus is the work of the Sophist, looked at on its best side. But looked at as he really is, he is a juggler who teaches pupils to dispute about every thing — who palms off falsehood for truth||198|
|Doubt started by the Eleate. How can it be possible either to think or to speak falsely?||199|
|He pursues the investigation of this problem by a series of questions||ib.|
|The Sophist will reject our definition and escape, by affirming that to speak falsely is impossible. He will require us to make out a rational theory, explaining Non-Ens||200|
|The Eleate turns from Non-Ens to Ens. Theories of various philosophers about Ens||ib.|
|Difficulties about Ens are as great as those about Non-Ens||201|
|Whether Ens is Many or One? If Many, how Many? Difficulties about One and the Whole. Theorists about Ens cannot solve them||201|
|Theories of those who do not recognise a definite number of Entia or elements. Two classes thereof||202|
|1. The Materialist Philosophers. 2. The Friends of Forms or Idealists, who recognise such Forms as the only real Entia||ib.|
|Argument against the Materialists — Justice must be something, since it may be either present or absent, making sensible difference — But Justice is not a body||203|
|At least many of them will concede this point, though not all Ens is common to the corporeal and the incorporeal. Ens is equivalent to potentiality||204|
|Argument against the Idealists — who distinguish Ens from the generated, and say that we hold communion with the former through our minds, with the latter through our bodies and senses||ib.|
|Holding communion — What? Implies Relativity. Ens is known by the mind. It therefore suffers or undergoes change. Ens includes both the unchangeable and the changeable||205|
|Motion and rest are both of them Entia or realities. Both agree in Ens. Ens is a tertium quid — distinct from both. But how can anything be distinct from both?||206|
|Here the Eleate breaks off without solution. He declares his purpose to show, That Ens is as full of puzzle as Non-Ens||ib.|
|Argument against those who admit no predication to be legitimate, except identical. How far Forms admit of intercommunion with each other||ib.|
|No intercommunion between any distinct forms. Refuted. Common speech is inconsistent with this hypothesis||207|
|Reciprocal intercommunion of all Forms — inadmissible||ib.|
|Some Forms admit of intercommunion, others not. This is the only admissible doctrine. Analogy of letters and syllables||ib.|
|Art and skill are required to distinguish what Forms admit of intercommunion, and what Forms do not. This is the special intelligence of the Philosopher, who lives in the bright region of Ens: the Sophist lives in the darkness of Non-Ens||208|
|He comes to enquire what Non-Ens is. He takes for examination five principal Forms — Motion — Rest — Ens — Same — Different||ib.|
|Form of Diversum pervades all the others||209|
|Motion is different from Diversum, or is not Diversum. Motion is different from Ens — in other words, it is Non-Ens. Each of these Forms is both Ens and Non-Ens||210|
|By Non-Ens, we do not mean anything contrary to Ens — we mean only something different from Ens. Non-Ens is a real Form, as well as Ens||ib.|
|The Eleate claims to have refuted Parmenides, and to have shown both that Non-Ens is a real Form, and also what it is||211|
|The theory now stated is the only one, yet given, which justifies predication as a legitimate process, with a predicate different from the subject||212|
|Enquiry, whether the Form of Non-Ens can come into intercommunion with the Forms of Proposition, Opinion, Judgment||213|
|Analysis of a Proposition. Every Proposition must have a noun and a verb — it must be proposition of Something. False propositions, involve the Form of Non-Ens, in relation to the particular subject||ib.|
|Opinion, Judgment, Fancy, &c., are akin to Proposition, and may be also false, by coming into partnership with the Form Non-Ens||214|
|It thus appears that Falsehood, imitating Truth, is theoretically possible, and that there may be a profession, like that of the Sophist, engaged in producing it||ib.|
|Logical distribution of Imitators — those who imitate what they know, or what they do not know — of these last, some sincerely believe themselves to know, others are conscious that they do not know, and designedly impose upon others||215|
|Last class divided — Those who impose on numerous auditors by long discourse, the Rhetor — Those who impose on select auditors, by short question and answer, making the respondent contradict himself — the Sophist||215|
|Dialogue closed. Remarks upon it. Characteristics ascribed to a Sophist||216|
|These characteristics may have belonged to other persons, but they belonged in an especial manner to Sokrates himself||ib.|
|The conditions enumerated in the dialogue (except the taking of a fee) fit Sokrates better than any other known person||217|
|The art which Plato calls “the thoroughbred and noble Sophistical Art” belongs to Sokrates and to no one else. The Elenchus was peculiar to him. Protagoras and Prodikus were not Sophists in this sense||218|
|Universal knowledge — was professed at that time by all Philosophers — Plato, Aristotle, &c.||219|
|Inconsistency of Plato’s argument in the Sophistês. He says that the Sophist is a disputatious man who challenges every one for speaking falsehood. He says also that the Sophist is one who maintains false propositions to be impossible||220|
|Reasoning of Plato about Non-Ens — No predications except identical||221|
|Misconception of the function of the copula in predication||ib.|
|No formal Grammar or Logic existed at that time. No analysis or classification of propositions before the works of Aristotle||222|
|Plato’s declared purpose in the Sophistês — To confute the various schools of thinkers — Antisthenes, Parmenides, the Materialists, &c.||223|
|Plato’s refutation throws light upon the doctrine of Antisthenes||ib.|
|Plato’s argument against the Materialists||224|
|Reply open to the Materialists||ib.|
|Plato’s argument against the Idealists or Friends of Forms. Their point of view against him||225|
|Plato argues — That to know, and be known, is action and passion, a mode of relativity||226|
|Plato’s reasoning — compared with the points of view of both||ib.|
|The argument of Plato goes to an entire denial of the Absolute, and a full establishment of the Relative||227|
|Coincidence of his argument with the doctrine of Protagoras in the Theætêtus||ib.|
|The Idealists maintained that Ideas or Forms were entirely unchangeable and eternal. Plato here denies this, and maintains that ideas were partly changeable, partly unchangeable||228|
|Plato’s reasoning against the Materialists||ib.|
|Difference between Concrete and Abstract, not then made conspicuous. Large meaning here given by Plato to Ens — comprehending not only objects of Perception, but objects of Conception besides||229|
|Narrower meaning given by Materialists to Ens — they included only Objects of Perception. Their reasoning as opposed to Plato||ib.|
|Different definitions of Ens — by Plato — the Materialists, the Idealists||231|
|Plato’s views about Non-Ens examined||ib.|
|His review of the select Five Forms||233|
|Plato’s doctrine — That Non-Ens is nothing more than different from Ens||ib.|
|Communion of Non-Ens with proposition — possible and explicable||235|
|Imperfect analysis of a proposition — Plato does not recognise the predicate||ib.|
|Plato’s explanation of Non-Ens is not satisfactory — Objections to it||236|
|Plato’s view of the negative is erroneous. Logical maxim of contradiction||239|
|Examination of the illustrative propositions chosen by Plato — How do we know that one is true, the other false?||ib.|
|Necessity of accepting the evidence of sense||240|
|Errors of Antisthenes — depended partly on the imperfect formal logic of that day||241|
|Doctrine of the Sophistês — contradicts that of other Platonic dialogues||242|
|The persons whom Plato here attacks as Friends of Forms are those who held the same doctrine as Plato himself espouses in Phædon, Republic, &c.||246|
|The Sophistês recedes from the Platonic point of view, and approaches the Aristotelian||247|
|Aristotle assumes without proof, that there are some propositions true, others false||249|
|Plato in the Sophistês has undertaken an impossible task — He could not have proved, against his supposed adversary, that there are false propositions||ib.|
|What must be assumed in all dialectic discussion||251|
|Discussion and theorising presuppose belief and disbelief, expressed in set forms of words. They imply predication, which Antisthenes discarded||252|
|Precepts and examples of logical partition, illustrated in the Sophistês||253|
|Recommendation of logical bipartition||254|
|Precepts illustrated by the Philêbus||ib.|
|Importance of founding logical Partition on resemblances perceived by sense||255|
|Province of sensible perception — is not so much narrowed by Plato here as it is in the Theætêtus||256|
|Comparison of the Sophistês with the Phædrus||257|
|Comparison of the Politikus with the Parmenidês||258|
|Variety of method in dialectic research — Diversity of Plato||259|
|The Politikus by itself, apart from the Sophistês||260|
|Views of Plato on mensuration. Objects measured against each other. Objects compared with a common standard. In each Art, the purpose to be attained is the standard||ib.|
|Purpose in the Sophistês and Politikus is — To attain dialectic aptitude. This is the standard of comparison whereby to judge whether the means employed are suitable||261|
|Plato’s defence of the Politikus against critics. Necessity that the critic shall declare explicitly what his standard of comparison is||262|
|Comparison of Politikus with Protagoras, Phædon, Philêbus, &c.||ib.|
|Definition of the statesman, or Governor. Scientific competence. Sokratic point of departure. Procedure of Plato in subdividing||263|
|King during the Saturnian period, was of a breed superior to the people — not so any longer||264|
|Distinction of causes Principal and Causes Auxiliary. The King is the only Principal Cause, but his auxiliaries pretend to be principal also||266|
|Plato does not admit the received classification of government. It does not touch the point upon which all true distinction ought to be founded — Scientific or Unscientific||267|
|Unscientific governments are counterfeits. Government by any numerous body must be counterfeit. Government by the one scientific man is the true government||268|
|Fixed laws, limiting the scientific Governor, are mischievous, as they would be for the physician and the steersman. Absurdity of determining medical practice by laws, and presuming every one to know it||269|
|Government by fixed laws is better than lawless government by unscientific men, but worse than lawless government by scientific men. It is a second-best||ib.|
|Comparison of unscientific governments. The one despot is the worse. Democracy is the least bad, because it is least of a government||270|
|The true governor distinguished from the General, the Rhetor, &c. They are all properly his subordinates and auxiliaries||271|
|What the scientific Governor will do. He will aim at the formation of virtuous citizens. He will weave together the energetic virtues with the gentle virtues. Natural dissidence between them||272|
|If a man sins by excess of the energetic element, he is to be killed or banished: if of the gentle, he is to be made a slave. The Governor must keep up in the minds of the citizens an unanimous standard of ethical orthodoxy||272|
|Remarks — Sokratic Ideal — Title to govern mankind derived exclusively from scientific superiority in an individual person||273|
|Different ways in which this ideal is worked out by Plato and Xenophon. The man of speculation and the man of action||ib.|
|The theory in the Politikus is the contradiction to that theory which is assigned to Protagoras in the Protagoras||274|
|Points of the Protagorean theory — rests upon common sentiment||275|
|Counter-Theory in the Politikus. The exigencies of the Eleate in the Politikus go much farther than those of Protagoras||276|
|The Eleate complains that under the Protagorean theory no adverse criticism is allowed. The dissenter is either condemned to silence or punished||ib.|
|Intolerance at Athens, not so great as elsewhere. Plato complains of the assumption of infallibility in existing societies, but exacts it severely in that which he himself constructs||277|
|Theory of the Politikus — distinguished three gradations of polity. Gigantic individual force the worst||278|
|Comparison of the Politikus with the Republic. Points of analogy and difference||279|
|Comparison of the Politikus with the Kratylus. Dictatorial, constructive, science or art, common to both: applied in the former to social administration — in the latter to the formation and modification of names||281|
|Courage and Temperance are assumed in the Politikus. No notice taken of the doubts and difficulties raised in Lachês and Charmidês||282|
|Purpose of the difficulties in Plato’s Dialogues of Search — To stimulate the intellect of the hearer. His exposition does not give solutions||284|
|Persons and subjects of the dialogue Kratylus — Sokrates has no formed opinion, but is only a Searcher with the others||285|
|Argument of Sokrates against Hermogenes — all proceedings of nature are conducted according to fixed laws — speaking and naming among the rest||286|
|The name is a didactic instrument; fabricated by the law-giver upon the type of the Name-Form, and employed as well as appreciated, by the philosopher||287|
|Names have an intrinsic aptitude for signifying one thing and not another||289|
|Forms of Names, as well as Forms of things nameable — essence of the Nomen, to signify the Essence of its Nominatum||ib.|
|Exclusive competence of a privileged lawgiver, to discern these essences, and to apportion names rightly||290|
|Counter-Theory, which Sokrates here sets forth and impugns — the Protagorean doctrine — Homo Mensura||291|
|Objection by Sokrates — That Protagoras puts all men on a level as to wisdom and folly, knowledge and ignorance||292|
|Objection unfounded — What the Protagorean theory really affirms — Belief always relative to the believer’s mind||ib.|
|Each man believes others to be wiser on various points than himself — Belief on authority — not inconsistent with the affirmation of Protagoras||293|
|Analogy of physical processes (cutting and burning) appealed to by Sokrates — does not sustain his inference against Protagoras||294|
|Reply of Protagoras to the Platonic objections||295|
|Sentiments of Belief and Disbelief, common to all men — Grounds of belief and disbelief, different with different men and different ages||295|
|Protagoras did not affirm, that Belief depended upon the will or inclination of each individual but that it was relative to the circumstances of each individual mind||297|
|Facts of sense — some are the same to all sentient subjects, others are different to different subjects. Grounds of unanimity||298|
|Sokrates exemplifies his theory of the Absolute Name or the Name-Form. He attempts to show the inherent rectitude of many existing names. His etymological transitions||299|
|These transitions appear violent to a modern reader. They did not appear so to readers of Plato until this century. Modern discovery, that they are intended as caricatures to deride the Sophists||302|
|Dissent from this theory — No proof that the Sophists ever proposed etymologies||304|
|Plato did not intend to propose mock-etymologies, or to deride any one. Protagoras could not be ridiculed here. Neither Hermogenes nor Kratylus understand the etymologies as caricature||306|
|Plato intended his theory as serious, but his exemplifications as admissible guesses. He does not cite particular cases as proofs of a theory, but only as illustrating what he means||308|
|Sokrates announces himself as Searcher. Other etymologists of ancient times admitted etymologies as rash as those of Plato||310|
|Continuance of the dialogue — Sokrates endeavours to explain how it is that the Names originally right have become so disguised and spoiled||312|
|Letters, as well as things, must be distinguished with their essential properties, each must be adapted to each||313|
|Essential significant aptitude consists in resemblance||ib.|
|Sokrates assumes that the Name-giving Lawgiver was a believer in the Herakleitean theory||314|
|But the Name-Giver may be mistaken or incompetent — the rectitude of the name depends upon his knowledge||315|
|Changes and transpositions introduced in the name — hard to follow||315|
|Sokrates qualifies and attenuates his original thesis||316|
|Conversation of Sokrates with Kratylus; who upholds that original thesis without any qualification||ib.|
|Sokrates goes still farther towards retracting it||317|
|There are names better and worse — more like, or less like to the things named: Natural Names are the best, but they cannot always be had. Names may be significant by habit, though in an inferior way||318|
|All names are not consistent with the theory of Herakleitus: some are opposed to it||319|
|It is not true to say, That Things can only be known through their names||320|
|Unchangeable Platonic Forms — opposed to the Herakleitean flux, which is true only respecting sensible particulars||ib.|
|Herakleitean theory must not be assumed as certain. We must not put implicit faith in names||321|
|Remarks upon the dialogue. Dissent from the opinion of Stallbaum and others, that it is intended to deride Protagoras and other Sophists||ib.|
|Theory laid down by Sokrates à priori, in the first part — Great difficulty, and ingenuity necessary, to bring it into harmony with facts||322|
|Opposite tendencies of Sokrates in the last half of the dialogue — he disconnects his theory of Naming from the Herakleitean doctrine||324|
|Ideal of the best system of naming — the Name-Giver ought to be familiar with the Platonic Ideas or Essences, and apportion his names according to resemblances among them||325|
|Comparison of Plato’s views about naming with those upon social institutions. Artistic, systematic construction — contrasted with unpremeditated unsystematic growth||327|
|Politikus compared with Kratylus||328|
|Ideal of Plato — Postulate of the One Wise Man — Badness of all reality||329|
|Comparison of Kratylus, Theætêtus, and Sophistês, in treatment of the question respecting Non-Ens, and the possibility of false propositions||331|
|Discrepancies and inconsistencies of Plato, in his manner of handling the same subject||332|
|No common didactic purpose pervading the Dialogues — each is a distinct composition, working out its own peculiar argument||ib.|
|Character, Personages, and Subject of the Philêbus||334|
|Protest against the Sokratic Elenchus, and the purely negative procedure||335|
|Enquiry — What mental condition will ensure to all men a happy life? Good and Happiness — correlative and co-extensive. Philêbus declares for Pleasure, Sokrates for Intelligence||ib.|
|Good — object of universal choice and attachment by men, animals, and plants — all-sufficient — satisfies all desires||ib.|
|Pleasures are unlike to each other, and even opposite cognitions are so likewise||336|
|Whether Pleasure, or Wisdom, corresponds to this description? Appeal to individual choice||337|
|First Question submitted to Protarchus — Intense Pleasure, without any intelligence — He declines to accept it||338|
|Second Question — Whether he will accept a life of Intelligence purely without any pleasure or pain? Answer — No||ib.|
|It is agreed on both sides, That the Good must be a Tertium Quid. But Sokrates undertakes to show, That Intelligence is more cognate with it than Pleasure||339|
|Difficulties about Unum et Multa. How can the One be Many? How can the Many be One? The difficulties are greatest about Generic Unity — how it is distributed among species and individuals||ib.|
|Active disputes upon this question at the time||340|
|Order of Nature — Coalescence of the Finite with the Infinite. The One — The Finite Many — The Infinite Many||ib.|
|Mistake commonly made — To look only for the One, and the Infinite Many, without looking for the intermediate subdivisions||341|
|Illustration from Speech and Music||342|
|Plato’s explanation does not touch the difficulties which he had himself recognised as existing||343|
|It is nevertheless instructive, in regard to logical division and classification||344|
|At that time little thought had been bestowed upon classification as a logical process||ib.|
|Classification — unconscious and conscious||345|
|Plato’s doctrine about classification is not necessarily connected with his Theory of Ideas||ib.|
|Quadruple distribution of Existences. 1. The Infinite. 2. The Finient 3. Product of the two former. 4. Combining Cause or Agency||346|
|Pleasure and Pain belong to the first of these four Classes — Cognition or Intelligence belongs to the fourth||347|
|In the combination, essential to Good, of Intelligence with Pleasure, Intelligence is the more important of the two constituents||ib.|
|Intelligence is the regulating principle — Pleasure is the Indeterminate, requiring to be regulated||348|
|Pleasure and Pain must be explained together — Pain arises from the disturbance of the fundamental harmony of the system — Pleasure from the restoration of it||ib.|
|Pleasure presupposes Pain||349|
|Derivative pleasures of memory and expectation belonging to mind alone. Here you may find pleasure without pain||ib.|
|A life of Intelligence alone, without pain and without pleasure, is conceivable. Some may prefer it: at any rate it is second-best||ib.|
|Desire belongs to the mind, presupposes both a bodily want, and the memory of satisfaction previously had for it. The mind and body are here opposed. No true or pure pleasure therein||350|
|Can pleasures be true or false? Sokrates maintains that they are so||351|
|Reasons given by Sokrates. Pleasures attached to true opinions, are true pleasures. The just man is favoured by the Gods, and will have true visions sent to him||ib.|
|Protarchus disputes this — He thinks that there are some pleasures bad, but none false — Sokrates does not admit this, but reserves the question||352|
|No means of truly estimating pleasures and pains — False estimate habitual — These are the false pleasures||ib.|
|Much of what is called pleasure is false. Gentle and gradual changes do not force themselves upon our notice either as pleasure or pain. Absence of pain not the same as pleasure||353|
|Opinion of the pleasure-hating philosophers — That pleasure is no reality, but a mere juggle. There is no reality except pain, and the relief from pain||354|
|Sokrates agrees with them in part, but not wholly||ib.|
|Theory of the pleasure-haters — We must learn what pleasure is by looking at the intense pleasures — These are connected with distempered body and mind||355|
|The intense pleasures belong to a state of sickness; but there is more pleasure, on the whole, enjoyed in a state of health||356|
|Sokrates acknowledges some pleasures to be true. Pleasures of beautiful colours, odours, sounds, smells, &c. Pleasures of acquiring knowledge||ib.|
|Pure and moderate pleasures admit of measure and proportion||357|
|Pleasure is generation, not substance or essence: it cannot therefore be an End, because all generation is only a means towards substance — Pleasure therefore cannot be the Good||ib.|
|Other reasons why pleasure is not the Good||358|
|Distinction and classification of the varieties of Knowledge or Intelligence. Some are more true and exact than others, according as they admit more or less of measuring and computation||ib.|
|Arithmetic and Geometry are twofold: As studied by the philosopher and teacher: As applied by the artisan||359|
|Dialectic is the truest and purest of all Cognitions. Analogy between Cognition and Pleasure: in each, there are gradations of truth and purity||360|
|Difference with Gorgias, who claims superiority for Rhetoric. Sokrates admits that Rhetoric is superior in usefulness and celebrity: but he claims superiority for Dialectic, as satisfying the lover of truth||ib.|
|Most men look to opinions only, or study the phenomenal manifestations of the Kosmos. They neglect the unchangeable essences, respecting which alone pure truth can be obtained||361|
|Application. Neither Intelligence nor Pleasure separately, is the Good, but a mixture of the two — Intelligence being the most important. How are they to be mixed?||ib.|
|We must include all Cognitions — not merely the truest, but the others also. Life cannot be carried on without both||362|
|But we must include no pleasures except the true, pure, and necessary. The others are not compatible with Cognition or Intelligence — especially the intense sexual pleasures||ib.|
|What causes the excellence of this mixture? It is Measure, Proportion, Symmetry. To these Reason is more akin than Pleasure||363|
|Quintuple gradation in the Constituents of the Good. 1. Measure. 2. Symmetry. 3. Intelligence. 4. Practical Arts and Right Opinions. 5. True and Pure Pleasures||364|
|Remarks. Sokrates does not claim for Good the unity of an Idea, but a quasi-unity of analogy||365|
|Discussions of the time about Bonum. Extreme absolute view, maintained by Eukleides: extreme relative by the Xenophontic Sokrates. Plato here blends the two in part; an Eclectic doctrine||ib.|
|Inconvenience of his method, blending Ontology with Ethics||366|
|Comparison of Man to the Kosmos (which has reason, but no emotion) is unnecessary and confusing||367|
|Plato borrows from the Pythagoreans, but enlarges their doctrine. Importance of his views in dwelling upon systematic classification||368|
|Classification broadly enunciated, and strongly recommended — yet feebly applied — in this dialogue||369|
|What is the Good? Discussed both in Philêbus and in Republic. Comparison||370|
|Mistake of talking about Bonum confidently, as if it were known, while it is subject of constant dispute. Plato himself wavers about it; gives different explanations, and sometimes professes ignorance, sometimes talks about it confidently||ib.|
|Plato lays down tests by which Bonum may be determined: but the answer in the Philêbus does not satisfy those tests||371|
|Inconsistency of Plato in his way of putting the question — The alternative which he tenders has no fair application||372|
|Intelligence and Pleasure cannot be fairly compared — Pleasure is an End, Intelligence a Means. Nothing can be compared with Pleasure, except some other End||373|
|The Hedonists, while they laid down attainment of pleasure and diminution of pain, postulated Intelligence as the governing agency||374|
|Pleasures of Intelligence may be compared, and are compared by Plato, with other pleasures, and declared to be of more value. This is arguing upon the Hedonistic basis||375|
|Marked antithesis in the Philêbus between pleasure and avoidance of pain||377|
|The Hedonists did not recognise this distinction — They included both in their acknowledged End||ib.|
|Arguments of Plato against the intense pleasures — The Hedonists enforced the same reasonable view||378|
|Different points of view worked out by Plato in different dialogues — Gorgias, Protagoras, Philêbus — True and False Pleasures||379|
|Opposition between the Gorgias and Philêbus, about Gorgias and Rhetoric||380|
|Peculiarity of the Philêbus — Plato applies the same principle of classification — true and false — to Cognitions and Pleasures||382|
|Distinction of true and false — not applicable to pleasures||ib.|
|Plato acknowledges no truth and reality except in the Absolute — Pleasures which he admits to be true — and why||385|
|Plato could not have defended this small list of Pleasures, upon his own admission, against his opponents — the Pleasure-haters, who disallowed pleasures altogether||387|
|Sokrates in this dialogue differs little from these Pleasure-haters||389|
|Forced conjunction of Kosmology and Ethics — defect of the Philêbus||391|
|Directive sovereignty of Measure — how explained and applied in the Protagoras||ib.|
|How explained in Philêbus — no statement to what items it is applied||393|
|Classification of true and false — how Plato applies it to Cognitions||394|
|Valuable principles of this classification — difference with other dialogues||395|
|Close of the Philêbus — Graduated elements of Good||397|
|Contrast between the Philêbus and the Phædrus, and Symposion, in respect to Pulchrum, and intense Emotions generally||398|
|Persons and situation of the dialogue||401|
|Funeral harangue at Athens — Choice of a public orator — Sokrates declares the task of the public orator to be easy — Comic exaggeration of the effects of the harangue||401|
|Sokrates professes to have learnt a funeral harangue from Aspasia, and to be competent to recite it himself. Menexenus entreats him to do so||402|
|Harangue recited by Sokrates||403|
|Compliments of Menexenus after Sokrates has finished, both to the harangue itself and to Aspasia||ib.|
|Supposed period — shortly after the peace of Antalkidas||ib.|
|Custom of Athens about funeral harangues. Many such harangues existed at Athens, composed by distinguished orators or logographers — Established type of the harangue||404|
|Plato in this harangue conforms to the established type — Topics on which he insists||405|
|Consolation and exhortation to surviving relatives||407|
|Admiration felt for this harangue, both at the time and afterwards||407|
|Probable motives of Plato in composing it, shortly after he established himself at Athens as a teacher — His competition with Lysias — Desire for celebrity both as rhetor and as dialectician||ib.|
|Menexenus compared with the view of rhetoric presented in the Gorgias — Necessity for an orator to conform to established sentiments||409|
|Colloquial portion of the Menexenus is probably intended as ridicule and sneer at Rhetoric — The harangue itself is serious, and intended as an evidence of Plato’s ability||410|
|Anachronism of the Menexenus — Plato careless on this point||411|
|Persons and circumstances of Kleitophon||413|
|Conversation of Sokrates with Kleitophon alone: he alludes to observations of an unfavourable character recently made by Kleitophon, who asks permission to explain||ib.|
|Explanation given. Kleitophon expresses gratitude and admiration for the benefit which he has derived from long companionship with Sokrates||414|
|The observations made by Sokrates have been most salutary and stimulating in awakening ardour for virtue. Arguments and analogies commonly used by Sokrates||ib.|
|But Sokrates does not explain what virtue is, nor how it is to be attained. Kleitophon has had enough of stimulus, and now wants information how he is to act||415|
|Questions addressed by Kleitophon with this view, both to the companions of Sokrates and to Sokrates himself||416|
|Replies made by the friends of Sokrates unsatisfactory||ib.|
|None of them could explain what the special work of justice or virtue was||417|
|Kleitophon at length asked the question from Sokrates himself. But Sokrates did not answer clearly. Kleitophon believes that Sokrates knows, but will not tell||417|
|Kleitophon is on the point of leaving Sokrates and going to Thrasymachus. But before leaving he addresses one last entreaty, that Sokrates will speak out clearly and explicitly||418|
|Remarks on the Kleitophon. Why Thrasyllus placed it in the eighth Tetralogy immediately before the Republic, and along with Kritias, the other fragment||419|
|Kleitophon is genuine, and perfectly in harmony with a just theory of Plato||420|
|It could not have been published until after Plato’s death||ib.|
|Reasons why the Kleitophon was never finished. It points out the defects of Sokrates, just as he himself confesses them in the Apology||421|
|The same defects also confessed in many of the Platonic and Xenophontic dialogues||422|
|Forcible, yet respectful, manner in which these defects are set forth in the Kleitophon. Impossible to answer them in such a way as to hold out against the negative Elenchus of a Sokratic pupil||423|
|The Kleitophon represents a point of view which many objectors must have insisted on against Sokrates and Plato||424|
|The Kleitophon was originally intended as a first book of the Republic, but was found too hard to answer. Reasons why the existing first book was substituted||ib.|
These two are the two erotic dialogues of Plato. Phædrus is the originator of both.
I put together these two dialogues, as distinguished by a marked peculiarity. They are the two erotic dialogues of Plato. They have one great and interesting subject common to both: though in the Phædrus, this subject is blended with, and made contributory to, another. They agree also in the circumstance, that Phædrus is, in both, the person who originates the conversation. But they differ materially in the manner of handling, in the comparisons and illustrations, and in the apparent purpose.
Eros as conceived by Plato. Different sentiment prevalent in Hellenic antiquity and in modern times. Position of women in Greece.
The subject common to both is, Love or Eros in its largest sense, and with its manifold varieties. Under the totally different vein of sentiment which prevails in modern times, and which recognises passionate love as prevailing only between persons of different sex — it is difficult for us to enter into Plato’s eloquent exposition of the feeling as he conceives it. In the Hellenic point of view,1 upon which Plato builds, the attachment of man to woman was regarded as a natural impulse, and as a domestic, social, sentiment; 2yet as belonging to a common-place rather than to an exalted mind, and seldom or never rising to that pitch of enthusiasm which overpowers all other emotions, absorbs the whole man, and aims either at the joint performance of great exploits or the joint prosecution of intellectual improvement by continued colloquy. We must remember that the wives and daughters of citizens were seldom seen abroad: that the wife was married very young: that she had learnt nothing except spinning and weaving: that the fact of her having seen as little and heard as little as possible, was considered as rendering her more acceptable to her husband:2 that her sphere of duty and exertion was 3confined to the interior of the family. The beauty of women yielded satisfaction to the senses, but little beyond. It was the masculine beauty of youth that fired the Hellenic imagination with glowing and impassioned sentiment. The finest youths, and those too of the best families and education, were seen habitually uncovered in the Palæstra and at the public festival-matches; engaged in active contention and graceful exercise, under the direction of professional trainers. The sight of the living form, in such perfection, movement, and variety, awakened a powerful emotional sympathy, blended with aesthetic sentiment, which in the more susceptible natures was exalted into intense and passionate devotion. The terms in which this feeling is described, both by Plato and Xenophon, are among the strongest which the language affords — and are predicated even of Sokrates himself. Far from being ashamed of the feeling, they consider it admirable and beneficial; though very liable to abuse, which they emphatically denounce and forbid.3 In their 4view, it was an idealising passion, which tended to raise a man above the vulgar and selfish pursuits of life, and even above the fear of death. The devoted attachments which it inspired were dreaded by the despots, who forbade the assemblage of youths for exercise in the palæstra.4
1 Schleiermacher (Einleit. zum Symp. p. 367) describes this view of Eros as Hellenic, and as “gerade den anti-modernen and anti-christlichen Pol der Platonischen Denkungsart”. Aristotle composed Θέσεις Ἐρωτικαὶ or Ἐρωτικάς, Diogenes Laert. v. 22-24. See Bernays, Die Dialoge des Aristoteles, p. 133, Berlin, 1863.
Compare the dialogue called Ἐρωτικός, among the works of Plutarch, p. 750 seq., where some of the speakers, especially Protogenes, illustrate and enlarge upon this Platonic construction of Eros — ἀληθινοῦ δὲ Ἔρωτος οὐδ’ ὁτιοῦν τῇ γυναικωνίτιδι μέτεστιν, &c. (750 C, 761 B, &c.)
In the Treatise De Educatione Puerorum (c. 15, p. 11 D-F) Plutarch hesitates to give a decided opinion on the amount of restriction proper to be imposed on youth: he is much impressed with the authority of Sokrates, Plato, Xenophon, Æschines, Kebês, καὶ τὸν πάντα χόρον ἐκείνων τῶν ἀνδρῶν, οἱ τοὺς ἄῤῥενας ἐδοκίμασαν ἔρωτας, &c. See the anecdote about Episthenes, an officer among the Ten Thousand Greeks under Xenophon, in Xenophon, Anabasis, vii. 4, 7, and a remarkable passage about Zeno the Stoic, Diog. Laert. vii. 13. Respecting the general subject of παιδεραστία in Greece, there is a valuable Excursus in Bekker’s Charikles, vol. i. pp. 347-377, Excurs. ii. I agree generally with his belief about the practice in Greece, see Cicero, Tusc. Disp. iv. 33, 70. Bekker quotes abundant authorities, which might be farther multiplied if necessary. In appreciating the evidence upon this point, we cannot be too careful to keep in mind what Sokrates says (in the Xenophontic Symposion, viii. 34) when comparing the Thebans and Eleians on one side with the Athenians and Spartans on the other — Ἐκείνοις μὲν γὰρ ταῦτα νόμιμα, ἡμῖν δὲ ἐπονείδιστα. We must interpret passages of the classical authors according to their fair and real meanings, not according to the conclusions which we might wish to find proved.
If we read the oration of Demosthenes against Neæra (which is full of information about Athenian manners), we find the speaker Apollodôrus distributing the relations of men with women in the following manner (p. 1386) — τὸ γὰρ συνοικεῖν τοῦτ’ ἐστίν, ὃς ἂν παιδοποιῆται καὶ εἰσάγῃ εἴς τε τοὺς δημότας καὶ τοὺς φράτορας τοὺς υἱεῖς, καὶ τὰς θυγατέρας ἐκδιδῷ ὡς αὐτοῦ οὔσας τοῖς ἀνδράσι. Τὰς μὲν γὰρ ἑταίρας, ἡδονῆς ἕνεκα ἔχομεν — τὰς δὲ παλλακάς, τῆς καθ’ ἡμέραν θεραπείας τοῦ σώματος — τὰς δὲ γυναῖκας, τοῦ παιδοποιεῖσθαι γνησίως, καὶ τῶν ἕνδον φύλακα πίστην ἔχειν.
To the same purpose, the speaker in Lysias (Ὑπὲρ τοῦ Ἐρατοσθένους φόνου — sect. 7), describing his wife, says — ἐν μὲν οὖν τῷ πρώτῳ χρόνῳ πασῶν ἦν βελτίστη· καὶ γὰρ οἰκονόμος δεινὴ καὶ φειδωλὸς ἀγαθὴ καὶ ἀκριβῶς πάντα διοικοῦσα.
Neither of these three relations lent itself readily to the Platonic vein of sentiment and ideality: neither of them led to any grand results either in war — or political ambition — or philosophical speculation; the three great roads, in one or other of which the Grecian ideality travelled. We know from the Republic that Plato did not appreciate the value of the family life, or the purposes for which men marry, according to the above passage cited from Demosthenes. In this point, Plato differs from Xenophon, who, in his Œconomicus, enlarges much (in the discourse of Ischomachus) upon the value of the conjugal union, with a view to prudential results and good management of the household; while he illustrates the sentimental and affectionate side of it, in the story of Pantheia and Abradates (Cyropædia).
2 See the Œconomicus of Xenophon, cap. iii. 12, vii. 5.
3 The beginning of the Platonic Charmidês illustrates what is here said, pp. 154-155; also that of the Protagoras and Lysis, pp. 205-206.
Xenophon, Sympos. i. 8-11; iv. 11, 15. Memorab. i. 3, 8-14 (what Sokrates observes to Xenophon about Kritobulus). Dikæarchus (companion of Aristotle) disapproved the important influence which Plato assigned to Eros (Cicero, Tusc. D. iv. 34-71).
If we pass to the second century after the Christian Era, we find some speakers in Athenæus blaming severely the amorous sentiments of Sokrates and the narrative of Alkibiades, as recited in the Platonic Symposium (v. 180-187; xi. 506-508 C). Athenæus remarks farther, that Plato, writing in this strain, had little right to complain (as we read in the Republic) of the licentious compositions of Homer and other poets, and to exclude them from his model city. Maximus Tyrius, in one of his four discourses (23-5) on the ἐρωτικὴ of Sokrates, makes the same remark as Athenæus about the inconsistency of Plato in banishing Homer from the model city, and composing what we read in the Symposion; he farther observes that the erotic dispositions of Sokrates provoked no censure from his numerous enemies at the time (though they assailed him upon so many other points), but had incurred great censure from contemporaries of Maximus himself, to whom he replies — τοὺς νυνὶ κατηγόρους (23, 6-7). The comparisons which he institutes (23, 9) between the sentiments and phrases of Sokrates, and those of Sappho and Anakreon, are very curious.
Dionysius of Halikarnassus speaks of the ἐγκώμια on Eros in the Symposion, as “unworthy of serious handling or of Sokrates”. (De Admir. Vi Dic. Demosth. p. 1027.)
But the most bitter among all the critics of Plato, is Herakleitus — author of the Allegoriæ Homericæ. Herakleitus repels, as unjust and calumnious, the sentence of banishment pronounced by Plato against Homer, from whom all mental cultivation had been derived. He affirms, and tries to show, that the poems of Homer — which he admits to be full of immorality if literally understood — had an allegorical meaning. He blames Plato for not having perceived this; and denounces him still more severely for the character of his own writings — ἐῤῥίφθω δὲ καὶ Πλάτων ὁ κόλαξ, Ὁμήρου συκοφάντης — Τοὺς δὲ Πλάτωνος διαλόγους, ἄνω καὶ κάτω παιδικοὶ καθυβρίζουσιν ἔρωτες, οὐδαμοῦ δε οὐχι τῆς ἀῤῥένος ἐπιθυμίας μεστός ἐστιν ὁ ἀνήρ (Herakl. All. Hom., c. 4-74, ed. Mehler, Leiden, 1851).
4 Plato, Sympos. 182 C. The proceedings of Harmodius and Aristogeiton, which illustrate this feeling, are recounted by Thucydides, vi. 54-57. These two citizens were gratefully recollected and extensively admired by the Athenian public.
Eros, considered as the great stimulus to improving philosophical communion. Personal Beauty, the great point of approximation between the world of sense and the world of Ideas. Gradual generalisation of the sentiment.
Especially to Plato, who combined erotic and poetical imagination with Sokratic dialectics and generalising theory — this passion presented itself in the light of a stimulus introductory to the work of philosophy — an impulse at first impetuous and undistinguishing, but afterwards regulated towards improving communion and colloquy with an improvable youth. Personal beauty (this is5 the remarkable doctrine of Plato in the Phædrus) is the main point of visible resemblance between the world of sense and the world of Ideas: the Idea of Beauty has a brilliant representative of itself among concrete objects — the Ideas of Justice and Temperance have none. The contemplation of a beautiful youth, and the vehement emotion accompanying it, was the only way of reviving in the soul the Idea of Beauty which it had seen in its antecedent stage of existence. This was the first stage through which every philosopher must pass; but the emotion of love thus raised, became gradually in the better minds both expanded and purified. The lover did not merely admire the person, but also contracted the strongest sympathy with the feelings and character, of the beloved youth: delighting to recognise and promote in him all manifestations of mental beauty which were in harmony with the physical, so as to raise him to the greatest attainable perfection of human nature. The original sentiment of admiration, having been thus first transferred by association from beauty in the person to beauty in the mind and character, became gradually still farther generalised; so that beauty was perceived not as exclusively specialised in any one individual, but as invested in all beautiful objects, bodies as well as minds. The view would presently be farther enlarged. 5The like sentiment would be inspired, so as to worship beauty in public institutions, in administrative arrangements, in arts and sciences. And the mind would at last be exalted to the contemplation of that which pervades and gives common character to all these particulars — Beauty in the abstract — or the Self-Beautiful — the Idea or Form of the Beautiful. To reach this highest summit, after mounting all the previous stages, and to live absorbed in the contemplation of “the great ocean of the beautiful,” was the most glorious privilege attainable by any human being. It was indeed attainable only by a few highly gifted minds. But others might make more or less approach to it: and the nearer any one approached, the greater measure would he ensure to himself of real good and happiness.6
5 Plato, Phædrus, pp. 249 E, 250 B-E.
6 Plato, Sympos. pp. 210-211.
Respecting the Beautiful, I transcribe here a passage from Ficinus, in his Argument prefixed to the Hippias Major, p. 757. “Unumquodque è singulis pulchris, pulchrum hoc Plato vocat: formam in omnibus, pulchritudinem; speciem et ideam supra omnia, ipsum pulchrum. Primum sensus attingit opinioque. Secundum ratio cogitat. Tertium mens intuetur.
“Quid ipsum Bonum? Ipsum rerum omnium principium, actus purus, actus sequentia cuncta vivificans. Quid ipsum Pulchrum? Vivificus actus e primo fonte bonorum effluens, Mentem primo divinam idearum ordine infinité decorans, Numina deinde sequentia mentesque rationum serie complens, Animas tertio numerosis discursibus ornans, Naturas quarto seminibus, formis quinto materiam.”
All men love Good, as the means of Happiness, but they pursue it by various means. The name Eros is confined to one special case of this large variety.
Such is Plato’s conception of Eros or Love and its object. He represents it as one special form or variety of the universal law of gravitation pervading all mankind. Every one loves, desires, or aspires to happiness: this is the fundamental or primordial law of human nature, beyond which we cannot push enquiry. Good, or good things, are nothing else but the means to happiness:7 accordingly, every man, loving happiness, loves good also, and desires not only full acquisition, but perpetual possession of good. In this wide sense, love belongs to all human beings: every man loves good and happiness, with perpetual possession of them — and nothing else.8 But different men have different ways of pursuing this same 6object. One man aspires to good or happiness by way of money-getting, another by way of ambition, a third by gymnastics — or music — or philosophy. Still no one of these is said to love, or to be under the influence of Eros. That name is reserved exclusively for one special variety of it — the impulse towards copulation, generation, and self-perpetuation, which agitates both bodies and minds throughout animal nature. Desiring perpetual possession of good, all men desire to perpetuate themselves, and to become immortal. But an individual man or animal cannot be immortal: he can only attain a quasi-immortality by generating a new individual to replace himself.9 In fact even mortal life admits no continuity, but is only a succession of distinct states or phenomena: one always disappearing and another always appearing, each generated by its antecedent and generating its consequent. Though a man from infancy to old age is called the same, yet he never continues the same for two moments together, either in body or mind. As his blood, flesh, bones, &c., are in perpetual disappearance and renovation, always coming and going — so likewise are his sensations, thoughts, emotions, dispositions, cognitions, &c. Neither mentally nor physically does he ever continue the same during successive instants. The old man of this instant perishes and is replaced by a new man during the next.10 As this is true of the individual, so it is still more true of the species: continuance or immortality is secured only by perpetual generation of new individuals.
7 Plato, Sympos. pp. 204-205. Φέρε, ὁ ἐρῶν τῶν ἀγαθῶν, τί ἐρᾷ; Γενέσθαι, ἦν δ’ ἐγώ, αὐτῷ. Καὶ τί ἔσται ἐκείνῳ ᾧ ἂν γένηται τἀγαθά; Τοῦτ’ εὐπορώτερον, ἦν δ’ ἐγώ, ἔχω ἀποκρίνασθαι, ὅτι εὐδαίμων ἔσται. Κτήσει γάρ, ἔφη, ἀγαθῶν, οἱ εὐδαίμονες εὐδαίμονες· Καὶ οὐκέτι προσδεῖ ἐρέσθαι, ἵνα τί δὲ βούλεται εὐδαίμων εἶναι ὁ βουλόμενος, ἀλλὰ τέλος δοκεῖ ἔχειν ἡ ἀπόκρισις.… Ταύτην δὴ τὴν βούλησιν καὶ τὸν ἔρωτα τοῦτον, πότερα κοινὸν εἶναι πάντων ἀνθρώπων, καὶ πάντας τἀγαθὰ βούλεσθαι αὐτοῖς εἶναι ἀεί, ἢ πῶς λέγεις; Οὕτως, ἦν δ’ ἐγώ, κοινὸν εἶναι πάντων.
8 Plato, Sympos. p. 206 A. ὡς οὐδέν γε ἄλλο ἐστὶν οὖ ἐρῶσιν ἄνθρωποι ἢ τοῦ ἀγαθοῦ.
9 Plato, Sympos. p. 207 C.
10 Plato, Sympos. pp. 207-208.
Desire of mental copulation and procreation, as the only attainable likeness of immortality, requires the sight of personal beauty as an originating stimulus.
The love of immortality thus manifests itself in living beings through the copulative and procreative impulse, which so powerfully instigates living man in mind as well as in body. Beauty in another person exercises an attractive force which enables this impulse to be gratified: ugliness on the contrary repels and stifles it. Hence springs the love of beauty — or rather, of procreation in the beautiful — whereby satisfaction is obtained for this restless and impatient agitation.11 With some, this erotic impulse stimulates the body, attracting them towards women, and inducing them 7to immortalise themselves by begetting children: with others, it acts far more powerfully on the mind, and determines them to conjunction with another mind for the purpose of generating appropriate mental offspring and products. In this case as well as in the preceding, the first stroke of attraction arises from the charm of physical, visible, and youthful beauty: but when, along with this beauty of person, there is found the additional charm of a susceptible, generous, intelligent mind, the effect produced by the two together is overwhelming; the bodily sympathy becoming spiritualised and absorbed by the mental. With the inventive and aspiring intelligences — poets like Homer and Hesiod, or legislators like Lykurgus and Solon — the erotic impulse takes this turn. They look about for some youth, at once handsome and improvable, in conversation with whom they may procreate new reasonings respecting virtue and goodness — new excellences of disposition — and new force of intellectual combination, in both the communicants. The attachment between the two becomes so strong that they can hardly live apart: so anxious are both of them to foster and confirm the newly acquired mental force of which each is respectively conscious in himself.12
11 Plato, Sympos. p. 206 E. ὅθεν δὴ τῷ κυοῦντί τε καὶ ἤδη σπαργῶντι πολλὴ ἡ πτόησις γέγονε περὶ τὸ καλὸν διὰ τὸ μεγάλης ὠδῖνος ἀπολύειν τὸν ἔχοντα. Ἐστὶ γὰρ οὐ τοῦ καλοῦ ὁ ἔρως, ἀλλὰ — τῆς γεννήσεως καὶ τοῦ τόκου ἐν τῷ καλῷ.
12 Plato, Sympos. p. 209.
Highest exaltation of the erotic impulse in a few privileged minds, when it ascends gradually to the love of Beauty in genere. This is the most absorbing sentiment of all.
Occasionally, and in a few privileged natures, this erotic impulse rises to a still higher exaltation, losing its separate and exclusive attachment to one individual person, and fastening upon beauty in general, or that which all beautiful persons and beautiful minds have in common. The visible charm of beautiful body, though it was indispensable as an initial step, comes to be still farther sunk and undervalued, when the mind has ascended to the contemplation of beauty in genere, not merely in bodies and minds, but in laws, institutions, and sciences. This is the highest pitch of philosophical love, to which a few minds only are competent, and that too by successive steps of ascent: but which, when attained, is thoroughly soul-satisfying. If any man’s vision be once sharpened so that he can see beauty pure and absolute, he will have no eyes for the individual manifestations 8of it in gold, fine raiment, brilliant colours, or beautiful youths.13 Herein we have the climax or consummation of that erotic aspiration which first shows itself in the form of virtuous attachment to youth.14
13 Plato, Symposion, p. 211.
14 Plato, Symposion, p. 211 B. ὅταν δή τις ἀπὸ τῶνδε διὰ τὸ ὀρθῶς παιδεραστεῖν ἐπανιὼν ἐκεῖνο τὸ καλὸν ἄρχηται καθορᾷν, σχεδὸν ἄν τι ἅπτοιτο τοῦ τέλους, &c.
Purpose of the Symposion, to contrast this Platonic view of Eros with several different views of it previously enunciated by the other speakers; closing with a panegyric on Sokrates, by the drunken Alkibiades.
It is thus that Plato, in the Symposion, presents Love, or erotic impulse: a passion taking its origin in the physical and mental attributes common to most men, and concentrated at first upon some individual person — but gradually becoming both more intense and more refined, as it ascends in the scale of logical generalisation and comes into intimate view of the pure idea of Beauty. The main purpose of the Symposion is to contrast this Platonic view of Eros or Love — which is assigned to Sokrates in the dialogue, and is repeated by him from the communication of a prophetic woman named Diotima15 — with different views assigned to other speakers. Each of the guests at the Banquet — Phædrus, Pausanias, Eryximachus, Aristophanes, Agathon, Sokrates — engages to deliver a panegyric on Eros: while Alkibiades, entering intoxicated after the speeches are finished, delivers a panegyric on Sokrates, in regard to energy and self-denial generally, but mainly and specially in the character of Erastes. The pure and devoted attachment of Sokrates towards Alkibiades himself — his inflexible self-command under the extreme of trial and temptation — the unbounded ascendancy which he had acquired over that insolent youth, who seeks in every conceivable manner to render himself acceptable to Sokrates — are emphatically extolled, and illustrated by singular details.
15 Plat. Sympos. p. 201 D. γυναικὸς μαντικῆς Διοτίμας, ἡ ταῦτά τε σοφὴ ἦν καὶ ἄλλα πολλά, καὶ Ἀθηναίοις ποτὲ θυσαμένοις πρὸ τοῦ λοιμοῦ δέκα ἔτη ἀναβολὴν ἐποίησε τῆς νόσου, ἢ δὴ καὶ ἐμὲ τὰ ἐρωτικὰ ἐδίδαξεν.
Instead of γυναικὸς μαντικῆς, which was the old reading, Stallbaum and other editors prefer to write γυναικὸς Μαντινικῆς, also 211 D. I cannot but think that μαντικῆς is right. There is no pertinence or fit meaning in Μαντινικῆς, whereas the word μαντικῆς is in full keeping with what is said about the special religious privileges and revelations of Diotima — that she procured for the Athenians an adjournment of the plague for ten years. The Delphian oracle assured the Lydian king Krœsus that Apollo had obtained from the Μοῖραι a postponement of the ruin of the Lydian kingdom for three years, but that he could obtain from them no more (Herodot. i. 91).
9 Views of Eros presented by Phædrus, Pausanias, Eryximachus, Aristophanes, Agathon.
Both Phædrus16 and Pausanias, in their respective encomiums upon Eros, dwell upon that God as creating within the human bosom by his inspirations the noblest self-denial and the most devoted heroism, together with the strongest incentives to virtuous behaviour. Pausanias however makes distinctions: recognising and condemning various erotic manifestations as abusive, violent, sensual — and supposing for these a separate inspiring Deity — Eros Pandêmus, contrasted with the good and honourable Eros Uranius17 or Cœlestis. In regard to the different views taken of Eros by Eryximachus, Aristophanes, and Agathon — the first is medical, physiological, cosmical18 — the second is comic and imaginative, even to exuberance — the third is poetical or dithyrambic: immediately upon which follows the analytical and philosophical exposition ascribed to Sokrates, opened in his dialectic manner by a cross-examination of his predecessor, and proceeding to enunciate the opinions communicated to him by the prophetess Diotima.
16 Sydenham conceives and Boeckh (ad Plat. Legg. iii. 694) concurs with him, that this discourse, assigned to Phædrus, is intended by Plato as an imitation of the style of Lysias. This is sufficiently probable. The encomium on Eros delivered by Agathon, especially the concluding part of it (p. 197), mimics the style of florid effeminate poetry, overcharged with balanced phrases (ἰσόκωλα, ἀντίθετα), which Aristophanes parodies in Agathon’s name at the beginning of the Thesmophoriazusæ, Athenæus, v. 187 C.
17 Plato, Sympos. pp. 180-181.
18 Respecting this view of Eros or Aphrodite, as a cosmical, all-pervading, procreative impulse, compare Euripides, Frag. Incert. 3, 6, assigned by Welcker (Griech. Trag. p. 737) to the lost drama — the first Hippolytus; also the beautiful invocation with which the poem of Lucretius opens, and the fragmentary exordium remaining from the poem of Parmenides.
Discourse of Sokrates from revelation of Diotima. He describes Eros as not a God, but an intermediate Dæmon between Gods and men, constantly aspiring to divinity, but not attaining it.
Sokrates treats most of the preceding panegyrics as pleasing fancies not founded in truth. In his representation (cited from Diotima) Eros is neither beautiful, nor good, nor happy; nor is he indeed a God at all. He is one of the numerous intermediate body of Dæmons, inferior to Gods yet superior to men, and serving as interpreting agents of communication between the two.19 Eros is the offspring of Poverty and Resource (Porus).20 He represents the state of aspiration and 10striving, with ability and energy, after goodness and beauty, but never actually possessing them: a middle condition, preferable to that of the person who neither knows that he is deficient in them, nor cares to possess them: but inferior to the condition of him who is actually in possession. Eros is always Love of something — in relation to something yet unattained, but desired: Eros is to be distinguished carefully from the object desired.21 He is the parallel of the philosopher, who is neither ignorant nor wise: not ignorant, because genuine ignorance is unconscious of itself and fancies itself to be knowledge: not wise, because he does not possess wisdom, and is well aware that he does not possess it. He is in the intermediate stage, knowing that he does not possess wisdom, but constantly desiring it and struggling after it. Eros, like philosophy, represents this continual aspiration and advance towards a goal never attained.22
19 Plato, Sympos. pp. 202-203.
20 What Sokrates says here in the Symposion about Eros is altogether at variance with what Sokrates says about Eros in Phædrus, wherein we find him speaking with the greatest reverence and awe about Eros as a powerful God, son of Aphroditê (Phædrus, pp. 242 D, 243 D, 257 A).
21 Plato, Symposion, pp. 199-200. Ὁ Ἔρως ἔρως ἐστὶν οὐδενὸς ἣ τινός; Πάνυ μὲν οὖν ἔστιν.… Πότερον ὁ Ἔρως ἐκείνου οὗ ἔστιν ἔρως, ἐπιθυμεῖ αὐτοῦ ἢ οὔ; Πάνυ γε.… Ἀνάγκη τὸ ἐπιθυμοῦν ἐπιθυμεῖν οὖ ἐνδεές ἐστιν, ἢ μὴ ἐπιθυμεῖν, ἐὰν μὴ ἐνδεὲς ᾖ.
22 Plato, Sympos. p. 204 A. Τίνες οὖν οἱ φιλοσοφοῦντες, εἰ μήτε οἱ σοφοὶ μήτε οἱ ἀμαθεῖς;… Οἱ μεταξὺ τούτων ἀμφοτέρων, ὧν αὖ καὶ ὁ Ἔρως. Ἐστὶ γὰρ δὴ τῶν καλλίστων ἡ σοφία, Ἔρως δ’ ἐστὶν ἔρως περὶ τὸ καλόν· ὥστε ἀναγκαῖον Ἔρωτα φιλόσοφον εἶναι, φιλόσοφον δὲ ὄντα μεταξὺ εἶναι σοφοῦ καὶ ἀμαθοῦς.
Analogy of the erotic aspiration with that of the philosopher, who knows his own ignorance and thirsts for knowledge.
It is thus that the truly Platonic conception of Love is brought out, materially different from that of the preceding speakers — Love, as a state of conscious want, and of aspiration or endeavour to satisfy that want, by striving after good or happiness — Philosophy as the like intermediate state, in regard to wisdom. And Plato follows out this coalescence of love and philosophy in the manner which has been briefly sketched above: a vehement impulse towards mental communion with some favoured youth, in the view of producing mental improvement, good, and happiness to both persons concerned: the same impulse afterwards expanding, so as to grasp the good and beautiful in a larger sense, and ultimately to fasten on goodness and beauty in the pure Idea: which is absolute — independent of time, place, circumstances, and all variable elements — moreover the object of the one and supreme science.23
23 Plato, Symposion, pp. 210-211.
11 Eros as presented in the Phædrus — Discourse of Lysias, and counter-discourse of Sokrates, adverse to Eros — Sokrates is seized with remorse, and recants in a high-flown panegyric on Eros.
I will now compare the Symposion with the Phædrus. In the first half of the Phædrus also, Eros, and the Self-Beautiful or the pure Idea of the Beautiful, are brought into close coalescence with philosophy and dialectic — but they are presented in a different manner. Plato begins by setting forth the case against Eros in two competing discourses (one cited from Lysias,24 the other pronounced by Sokrates himself as competitor with Lysias in eloquence) supposed to be addressed to a youth, and intended to convince him that the persuasions of a calm and intelligent friend are more worthy of being listened to than the exaggerated promises and protestations of an impassioned lover, from whom he will receive more injury than benefit: that the inspirations of Eros are a sort of madness, irrational and misguiding as well as capricious and transitory: while the calm and steady friend, unmoved by any passionate inspiration, will show himself worthy of permanent esteem and gratitude.25 By a sudden revulsion of feeling, Sokrates becomes ashamed of having thus slandered the divine Eros, and proceeds to deliver a counter-panegyric or palinode upon that God.26
24 Plato, Phædrus, p. 230 seq.
25 Plato, Phædrus, p. 237 seq.
26 Eros, in the Phædrus, is pronounced to be a God, son of Aphroditê (p. 242 E); in the Symposion he is not a God but a Dæmon, offspring of Porus and Penia, and attendant on Aphroditê, according to Diotima and Sokrates (p. 203).
Panegyric — Sokrates admits that the influence of Eros is a variety of madness, but distinguishes good and bad varieties of madness, both coming from the Gods. Good madness is far better than sobriety.
Eros (he says) is, mad, irrational, superseding reason and prudence in the individual mind.27 This is true: yet still Eros exercises a beneficent and improving influence. Not all madness is bad. Some varieties of it are bad, but others are good. Some arise from human malady, others from the inspirations of the Gods: both of them supersede human reason and the orthodoxy of established custom28 — but the former substitute what is worse, the latter what is better. The greatest blessings enjoyed by man arise from madness, when it is imparted by divine inspiration. 12And it is so imparted in four different phases and by four different Gods: Apollo infuses the prophetic madness — Dionysus, the ritual or religious — The Muses, the poetical — and Eros, the erotic.29 This last sort of madness greatly transcends the sober reason and concentration upon narrow objects which is so much praised by mankind generally.30 The inspired and exalted lover deserves every preference over the unimpassioned friend.
27 Plato, Phædrus, pp. 265-266. τὸ ἄφρον τῆς διανοίας ἕν τι κοινῇ εἶδος.… τὸ τῆς παρανοίας ὡς ἓν ἐν ἡμῖν πεφυκὸς εἶδος. Compare p. 236 A.
28 Plato, Phædrus, p. 265 A. Μανίας δέ γε εἴδη δύο· τὴν μέν, ὑπὸ νοσημάτων ἀνθρωπίνων, τὴν δέ, ὑπὸ θείας ἐξαλλαγῆς τῶν εἰωθότων νομίμων γιγνομένην. Compare 249 D.
29 Plato, Phædrus, p. 244 A. εἰ μὲν γὰρ ἦν ἁπλοῦν τὸ μανίαν κακὸν εἶναι, καλῶς ἂν ἐλέγετο· νῦν δὲ τὰ μέγιστα τῶν ἀγαθῶν ἡμῖν γίγνεται διὰ μανίας, θείᾳ μέντοι δόσει διδομένης.
Compare Plutarch, Ἐρωτικός, c. 16. pp. 758-759, &c.
30 Plato, Phædrus, p. 245 B. μηδέ τις ἡμᾶς λόγος θορυβείτω δεδιττόμενος ὡς πρὸ τοῦ κεκινημένου τὸν σώφρονα δεῖ προαιρεῖσθαι φίλον.
P. 256 E; ἡ δὲ ἀπὸ τοῦ μὴ ἐρῶντος οἰκειότης, σωφροσύνῃ θνητῇ κεκραμένη, θνητά τε καὶ φειδωλὰ οἰκονομοῦσα, ἀνελευθερίαν ὑπὸ πλήθους ἐπανουμένην ὡς ἀρετὴν τῇ φίλῃ ψυχῇ ἐντεκοῦσα, &c.
Poetical mythe delivered by Sokrates, describing the immortality and pre-existence of the soul, and its pre-natal condition of partial companionship with Gods and eternal Ideas.
Plato then illustrates, by a highly poetical and imaginative mythe, the growth and working of love in the soul. All soul or mind is essentially self-moving, and the cause of motion to other things. It is therefore immortal, without beginning or end: the universal or cosmic soul, as well as the individual souls of Gods and men.31 Each soul may be compared to a chariot with a winged pair of horses. In the divine soul, both the horses are excellent, with perfect wings: in the human soul, one only of them is good, the other is violent and rebellious, often disobedient to the charioteer, and with feeble or half-grown wings.32 The Gods, by means of their wings, are enabled to ascend up to the summit of the celestial firmament — to place themselves upon the outer circumference or back of the heaven — and thus to be carried round along with the rotation of the celestial sphere round the Earth. In the course of this rotation they contemplate the pure essences and Ideas, truth and reality without either form or figure or colour: they enjoy the vision of the Absolute — Justice, Temperance, Beauty, Science. The human souls, with their defective wings, try to accompany the Gods; some attaching themselves 13to one God, some to another, in this ascent. But many of them fail in the object, being thrown back upon earth in consequence of their defective equipment, and the unruly character of one of the horses: some however succeed partially, obtaining glimpses of Truth and of the general Ideas, though in a manner transient and incomplete.
31 Plato, Phædrus, pp. 245-246. Compare Krische, De Platonis Phædro, pp. 49-50 (Göttingen, 1848).
Plato himself calls this panegyric in the mouth of Sokrates a μυθικός τις ὕμνος (Phædr. p. 265 D).
32 The reader will recollect Homer, Iliad, xvi. 152, where the chariot and horses of Patroklus are described, when he is about to attack the Trojans; the mortal horse Pedasus is harnessed to it alongside of the two immortal horses Xanthus and Balius.
Operation of such pre-natal experience upon the Intellectual faculties of man — Comparison and combination of particular sensations indispensable — Reminiscence.
Those souls which have not seen Truth or general Ideas at all, can never be joined with the body of a man, but only with that of some inferior animal. It is essential that some glimpse of truth should have been obtained, in order to qualify the soul for the condition of man:33 for the mind of man must possess within itself the capacity of comparing and combining particular sensations, so as to rise to one general conception brought together by reason.34 This is brought about by the process of reminiscence; whereby it recalls those pure, true, and beautiful Ideas which it had partially seen during its prior extra-corporeal existence in companionship with the Gods. The rudimentary faculty of thus reviving these general Conceptions — the visions of a prior state of existence — belongs to all men, distinguishing them from other animals: but in most men the visions have been transient, and the power of reviving them is faint and dormant. It is only some few philosophers, whose minds, having been effectively winged in their primitive state for ascent to the super-celestial regions, have enjoyed such a full contemplation of the divine Ideas as to be able to recall them with facility and success, during the subsequent corporeal existence. To the reminiscence of the philosopher, these Ideas present themselves with such brilliancy and fascination, that he forgets all other pursuits and interests. Hence he is set down as a madman by the generality of mankind, whose minds have not ascended beyond particular and present phenomena to the revival of the anterior Ideas.
33 Plato, Phædrus, pp. 249-250. πᾶσα μὲν ἀνθρώπου ψυχὴ φύσει τεθέαται τὰ ὄντα — ἢ οὐκ ἂν ἦλθεν εἰς τόδε τὸ ζῶον· ἀναμιμνήσκεσθαι δ’ ἐκ τῶνδε ἐκεῖνα οὐ ῥᾴδιον ἁπάσῃ, &c.
34 Plato, Phædrus, p. 249 B. Οὐ γὰρ ἥ γε μή ποτε ἰδοῦσα τὴν ἀλήθειαν εἰς τόδε ἥξει τὸ σχῆμα. Δεῖ γὰρ ἄνθρωπον ξυνιέναι κατ’ εἶδος λεγόμενον, ἐκ πολλῶν ἰὸν αἰσθήσεων εἰς ἓν λογισμῷ ξυναιρούμενον. Τοῦτο δέ ἐστιν ἀνάμνησις ἐκείνων, ἅ ποτ’ εἶδεν ἡμῶν ἡ ψυχὴ συμπορευθεῖσα θεῷ καὶ ὑπεριδοῦσα ἃ νῦν εἶναί φαμεν, καὶ ἀνακύψασα εἰς τὸ ὂν ὄντως.
14 Reminiscence is kindled up in the soul of the philosopher by the aspect of visible Beauty, which is the great link between the world of sense and the world of Ideas.
It is by the aspect of visible beauty, as embodied in distinguished youth, that this faculty of reminiscence is first kindled in minds capable of the effort. It is only the embodiment of beauty, acting as it does powerfully upon the most intellectual of our senses, which has sufficient force to kindle up the first act or stage of reminiscence in the mind, leading ultimately to the revival of the Idea of Beauty. The embodiments of justice, wisdom, temperance, &c., in particular men, do not strike forcibly on the senses, nor approximate sufficiently to the original Idea, to effect the first stroke of reminiscence in an unprepared mind. It is only the visible manifestation of beauty, which strikes with sufficient shock at once on the senses and the intellect, to recall in the mind an adumbration of the primitive Idea of Beauty. The shock thus received first develops the reminiscent faculty in minds apt and predisposed to it, and causes the undeveloped wings of the soul to begin growing. It is a passion of violent and absorbing character; which may indeed take a sensual turn, by the misconduct of the unruly horse in the team, producing in that case nothing but corruption and mischief — but which may also take a virtuous, sentimental, imaginative turn, and becomes in that case the most powerful stimulus towards mental improvement in both the two attached friends. When thus refined and spiritualised, it can find its satisfaction only in philosophical communion, in the generation of wisdom and virtue; as well as in the complete cultivation of that reminiscent power, which vivifies in the mind remembrance of Forms or Ideas seen in a prior existence. To attain such perfection, is given to few; but a greater or less approximation may be made to it. And it is the only way of developing the highest powers and virtues of the mind; which must spring, not from human prudence and sobriety, but from divine madness or erotic inspiration.35
35 Plato, Phædrus, p. 256 B. οὗ μεῖζον ἀγαθὸν οὔτε σωφροσύνη ἀνθρωπίνη οὔτε θεία μανία δυνατὴ πορίσαι ἀνθρώπῳ. — 245 B: ἐπ’ εὐτυχία τῇ μεγίστῃ παρὰ θεῶν ἡ τοιαύτη μανία δίδοται.
The long and highly poetical mythe, of which I have given some of the leading points, occupies from c. 51 to c. 83 (pp. 244-257) of the dialogue. It is adapted to the Hellenic imagination, and requires the reader to keep before him the palæstræ of Athens, as described in the Lysis, Erastæ, and Charmidês of Plato — visited both by men like Sokrates and by men like Kritias (Xenoph. Memor. i. 2, 29).
15Such is the general tenor of the dialogue Phædrus, in its first half: which presents to us the Platonic love, conceived as the source and mainspring of exalted virtue — as the only avenue to philosophy — as contrasted, not merely with sensual love, but also with the sobriety of the decent citizen who fully conforms to the teaching of Law and Custom. In the Symposion, the first of these contrasts appears prominently, while the second is less noticed. In the Phædrus, Sokrates declares emphatically that madness, of a certain sort, is greatly preferable to sobriety: that the temperate, respectable, orthodox citizen, is on the middle line, some madmen being worse than he, but others better: that madness springing from human distemper is worse, but that when it springs from divine inspiration, it is in an equal degree better, than sobriety: that the philosophical œstrus, and the reminiscence of the eternal Ideas (considered by Plato as the only true and real Entia), is inconsistent with that which is esteemed as sobriety: and is generated only by special inoculation from Eros or some other God. This last contrast, as I have just observed, is little marked in the Symposion. But on the other hand, the Symposion (especially the discourse of Sokrates and his repetition of the lessons of Diotima), insists much more upon the generalisation of the erotic impulse. In the Phædrus, we still remain on the ground of fervent attachment between two individuals — an attachment sentimental and virtuous, displaying itself in an intercourse which elicits from both of them active intelligence and exalted modes of conduct: in the Symposion, such intercourse is assimilated explicitly to copulation with procreative consequences, but it is represented as the first stage of a passion which becomes more and more expanded and comprehensive: dropping all restriction to any single individual, and enlarging itself not merely to embrace pursuits, and institutions, but also to the plenitude and great ocean of Beauty in its largest sense.
Elevating influence ascribed, both in Phædrus and Symposion, to Eros Philosophus. Mixture in the mind of Plato, of poetical fancy and religious mysticism, with dialectic theory.
The picture here presented by Plato, of the beneficent and elevating influence of Eros Philosophus, is repeated by Sokrates as a revelation made to him by the prophetess Diotima. It was much taken to heart by 16the Neo-Platonists.36 It is a striking manifestation of the Platonic characteristics: transition from amorous impulse to religious and philosophical mysticism — implication of poetical fancy with the conception of the philosophising process — surrender of the mind to metaphor and analogy, which is real up to a certain point, but is forcibly stretched and exaggerated to serve the theorising purpose of the moment. Now we may observe, that the worship of youthful masculine beauty, and the belief that contemplation of such a face and form was an operative cause, not only raising the admiration but also quickening the intelligence of the adult spectator, and serving as a provocative to instructive dialogue — together with a decided attempt to exalt the spiritual side of this influence and depreciate the sensual — both these are common to Plato with Sokrates and Xenophon. But what is peculiar to Plato is, that he treats this merely as an initial point to spring from, and soars at once into the region of abstractions, until he gets clear of all particulars and concomitants, leaving nothing except Beauty Absolute — τὸ Καλὸν — τὸ αὐτὸ-καλὸν — the “full sea of the beautiful”. Not without reason does Diotima express a doubt whether Sokrates (if we mean thereby the historical Sokrates) could have followed so bold a flight. His wings might probably have failed 17and dropped him: as we read in the Phædrus respecting the unprepared souls who try to rise aloft in company with the Gods. Plato alone is the true Dædalus equal to this flight, borne up by wings not inferior to those of Pindar37 — according to the comparison of Dionysius of Halikarnassus.
36 Porphyry, Vit. Plotini, 23.
Plato’s way of combining, in these two dialogues — so as to pass by an easy thread of association from one to the other — subjects which appear to us unconnected and even discordant, is certainly remarkable. We have to recognise material differences in the turn of imagination, as between different persons and ages. The following remark of Professor Mohl, respecting the Persian lyric poet Hafiz, illustrates this point. “Au reste, quand même nous serions mieux renseignés sur sa vie, il resterait toujours pour nous le singulier spectacle d’un homme qui tantôt célèbre l’absorption de l’âme dans l’essence de Dieu, tantôt chante le vin et l’amour, sans grossièreté, il est vrai, mais avec un laisser aller et un naturel qui exclut toute idée de symbolisme — et qui généralement glisse de l’une dans l’autre de ces deux manières de sentir, qui nous paraissent si différentes, sans s’apercevoir lui-même qu’il change de sujet. Les Orientaux ont cherché la solution de cette difficulté dans une interprétation mystique de toutes ses poésies; mais les textes s’y refusent. Des critiques modernes ont voulu l’expliquer en supposant une hypocrisie de l’auteur, qui lui aurait fait mêler une certaine dose de piété mystique, à ses vers plus légers, pour les faire passer: mais ce calcul parait étranger à la nature de l’homme. Je crois qu’il faut trouver le mot de l’énigme dans l’état général des esprits et de la culture de son temps: et la difficulté pour nous est seulement de nous réprésenter assez vivement l’état des esprits en Perse à cette époque, et la nature de l’influence que le Soufisme y exerçait depuis des siècles sur toutes les classes cultivées de la nation.” — Mohl (Rapport Annuel à la Société Asiatique, 1861, p. 89.)
37 Dionys. Hal. De Adm. Vi Dic. in Demosth., p. 972, Reiske.
Various remarks may be made, in comparing this exposition of Diotima in the Symposion with that which we read in the Phædrus and Phædon.
Differences between Symposion and Phædrus. In-dwelling conceptions assumed by the former, pre-natal experiences by the latter.
First, in the Phædrus and Phædon (also in the Timæus and elsewhere), the pre-existence of the soul, and its antecedent familiarity, greater or less, with the world of Ideas, — are brought into the foreground; so as to furnish a basis for that doctrine of reminiscence, which is one of the peculiar characteristics of Plato. The Form or Idea, when once disengaged from the appendages by which it has been overgrown, is said to be recognised by the mind and welcomed as an old acquaintance. But in the Symposion, no such doctrine is found. The mind is described as rising by gradual steps from the concrete and particular to the abstract and general, by recognising the sameness of one attribute as pervading many particulars, and by extending its comparisons from smaller groups of particulars to larger; until at length one and the same attribute is perceived to belong to all. The mind is supposed to evolve out of itself, and to generate in some companion mind, certain abstract or general conceptions, correlating with the Forms or Concepta without. The fundamental postulate here is, not that of pre-existence, but that of in-dwelling conceptions.
Nothing but metaphorical immortality recognised in Symposion.
Secondly, in the Phædrus and Phædon, the soul is declared to be immortal, à parte post as well as à parte ante. But in the Symposion, this is affirmed to be impossible.38 The soul yearns for, but is forbidden to reach, immortality: or at least can only reach immortality in a metaphorical sense, by its prolific operation — by generating in itself as long as it lasts, and in other minds who will survive it, a self-renewing series of noble thoughts and 18feelings — by leaving a name and reputation to survive in the memory of others.
38 Plato, Sympos. pp. 207-208.
Form or Idea of Beauty presented singly and exclusively in Symposion.
Thirdly, in Phædrus, Phædon, Republic, and elsewhere, Plato recognises many distinct Forms or Ideas — a world or aggregate of such Entia Rationis39 — among which Beauty is one, but only one. It is the exalted privilege of the philosophic mind to come into contemplation and cognition of these Forms generally. But in the Symposion, the Form of Beauty (τὸ καλὸν) is presented singly and exclusively — as if the communion with this one Form were the sole occupation of the most exalted philosophy.
39 Plat. Repub. v. 476. He recognises Forms of ἄδικον, κακόν, αἰσχρόν, as well as Forms of δίκαιον, ἀγαθόν, καλόν, &c.
Eros recognised, both in Phædrus and Symposion, as affording the initiatory stimulus to philosophy — Not so recognised in Phædon, Theætêtus, and elsewhere.
Fourthly, The Phædrus and Symposion have, both of them in common, the theory of Eros as the indispensable, initiatory, stimulus to philosophy. The spectacle of a beautiful youth is considered necessary to set light to various elements in the mind, which would otherwise remain dormant and never burn: it enables the pregnant and capable mind to bring forth what it has within and to put out its hidden strength. But if we look to the Phædon, Theætêtus, Sophistês, or Republic, we shall not find Eros invoked for any such function. The Republic describes an elaborate scheme for generating and developing the philosophic capacity: but Eros plays no part in it. In the Theætêtus, the young man so named is announced as having a pregnant mind requiring to be disburthened, and great capacity which needs foreign aid to develop it: the service needed is rendered by Sokrates, who possesses an obstetric patent, and a marvellous faculty of cross-examination. Yet instead of any auxiliary stimulus arising from personal beauty, the personal ugliness of both persons in the dialogue is emphatically signified.
I note these peculiarities, partly of the Symposion, partly of the Phædrus along with it — to illustrate the varying points of view which the reader must expect to meet in travelling through the numerous Platonic dialogues.
19 Concluding scene and speech of Alkibiades in the Symposion — Behaviour of Sokrates to Alkibiades and other handsome youths.
In the strange scene with which the Symposion is wound up, the main purpose of the dialogue is still farther worked out. The spirit and ethical character of Eros Philosophus, after having been depicted in general terms by Diotima, are specially exemplified in the personal history of Sokrates, as recounted and appreciated by Alkibiades. That handsome, high-born, and insolent youth, being in a complete state of intoxication, breaks in unexpectedly upon the company, all of whom are as yet sober: he enacts the part of a drunken man both in speech and action, which is described with a vivacity that would do credit to any dramatist. His presence is the signal for beginning to drink hard, and he especially challenges Sokrates to drink off, after him, as much wine as will fill the large water-vessel serving as cooler; which challenge Sokrates forthwith accepts and executes, without being the least affected by it. Alkibiades instead of following the example of the others by delivering an encomium on Eros, undertakes to deliver one upon Sokrates. He proceeds to depict Sokrates as the votary of Eros Philosophus, wrapped up in the contemplation of beautiful youths, and employing his whole time in colloquy with them — yet as never losing his own self-command, even while acquiring a magical ascendency over these companions.40 The abnormal exterior of Sokrates, resembling that of a Satyr, though concealing the image of a God within — the eccentric pungency of his conversation, blending banter with seriousness, homely illustrations with impressive principles — has exercised an influence at once fascinating, subjugating, humiliating. The impudent Alkibiades has been made to feel painfully his own unworthiness, even while receiving every mark of admiration from others. He has become enthusiastically devoted to Sokrates, whom he has sought to attach to himself, and to lay under obligation, by tempting offers of every kind. The details of these offers are given with a fulness which cannot be translated to modern readers, and which even then required to be excused as the revelations of a drunken man. They present one of the boldest fictions in the Greek language — if we look at them in conjunction with the real character of 20Alkibiades as an historical person.41 Sokrates is found proof against every variety of temptation, however seductive to Grecian feeling. In his case, Eros Philosophus maintains his dignity as exclusively pure, sentimental, and spiritual: while Alkibiades retires more humiliated than ever. We are given to understand that the like offers had been made to Sokrates by many other handsome youths also — especially by Charmides and Euthydemus — all of them being treated with the same quiet and repellent indifference.42 Sokrates had kept on the vantage-ground as regards all:— and was regarded by all with the same mixture of humble veneration and earnest attachment.
40 Plato, Sympos. p. 216 C-D.
41 Plato, Sympos. p. 219. See also, respecting the historical Alkibiades and his character, Thucyd. vi. 15; Xenoph. Memor. i. 1; Antisthenes, apud Athenæum, xii. 534.
The invention of Plato goes beyond that of those ingenious men who recounted how Phrynê and Lais had failed in attempts to overcome the continence of Xenokrates, Diog. L. iv. 7: and the saying of Lais, ὡς οὐκ ἀπ’ ἀνδρός, ἀλλ’ ἀπ’ ἀνδρίαντος, ἀνασταίη. Quintilian (viii. 4, 22-23) aptly enough compares the description given by Alkibiades — as the maximum of testimony to the “invicta continentia” of Sokrates — with the testimony to the surpassing beauty of Helen, borne by such witnesses as the Trojan δημογέροντες and Priam himself (Hom. Iliad iii. 156). One of the speakers in Athenæus censures severely this portion of the Platonic Symposion, xi. 506 C, 508 D, v. 187 D. Porphyry (in his life of Plotinus, 15) tells us that the rhetor Diophanes delivered an apology for Alkibiades, in the presence of Plotinus; who was much displeased, and directed Porphyry to compose a reply.
42 Plato, Symp. p. 222 B.
In the Hieron of Xenophon (xi. 11) — a conversation between the despot Hieron and the poet Simonides — the poet, exhorting Hieron to govern his subjects in a mild, beneficent, and careful spirit, expatiates upon the popularity and warm affection which he will thereby attract to himself from them. Of this affection one manifestation will be (he says) as follows:— ὥστε οὐ μόνον φιλοῖο ἄν, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἐρῷο, ὑπ’ ἀνθρώπων· καὶ τοὺς καλοὺς οὐ πειρᾷν, ἀλλὰ πειρώμενον ὑπ’ αὐτῶν ἀνέχεσθαι ἄν σε δέοι, &c.
These words illustrate the adventure described by Alkibiades in the Platonic Symposion.
Herakleides of Pontus, Dikæarchus, and the Peripatetic Hieronymus, all composed treatises Περὶ Ἐρωτος, especially περὶ παιδικῶν ἐρώτων (Athenæ. xiii. 602-603).
Perfect self-command of Sokrates — proof against every sort of trial.
Not merely upon this point but upon others also, Alkibiades recounts anecdotes of the perfect self-mastery of Sokrates: in endurance of cold, heat, hunger, and fatigue — in contempt of the dangers of war, in bravery on the day of battle — even in the power of bearing more wine than any one else, without being intoxicated, whenever the occasion was such as to require him to drink: though he never drank much willingly. While all his emotions are thus described as under the full control of Reason and Eros Philosophus — his special gift and privilege was that of conversation — not less 21eccentric in manner, than potent, soul-subduing,43 and provocative in its effects.
43 Plato, Sympos. pp. 221-222.
Alkibiades recites acts of distinguished courage performed by Sokrates, at the siege of Potidæa as well as at the battle of Delium.
About the potent effect produced by the conversation of Sokrates upon his companions, compare Sympos. p. 173 C-D.
In the Xenophontic Apology (s. 18), Sokrates adverts to the undisturbed equanimity which he had shown during the long blockade of Athens after the battle of Ægospotami, while others were bewailing the famine and other miseries.
Drunkenness of others at the close of the Symposion — Sokrates is not affected by it, but continues his dialectic process.
After the speech of Alkibiades is concluded, the close of the banquet is described by the primary narrator. He himself, with Agathon and Aristophanes, and several other fresh revellers, continue to drink wine until all of them become dead drunk. While Phædrus, Eryximachus, and others retire, Sokrates remains. His competency to bear the maximum of wine without being disturbed by it, is tested to the full. Although he had before, in acceptance of the challenge of Alkibiades, swallowed the contents of the wine cooler, he nevertheless continues all the night to drink wine in large bowls, along with the rest. All the while, however, he goes on debating his ordinary topics, even though no one is sufficiently sober to attend to him. His companions successively fall asleep, and at day-break, he finds himself the only person sober,44 except Aristodemus (the narrator of the whole scene), who has recently waked after a long sleep. Sokrates quits the house of Agathon, with unclouded senses and undiminished activity — bathes — and then visits the 22gymnasium at the Lykeion; where he passes all the day in his usual abundant colloquy.45
44 In Sympos. p. 176 B, Sokrates is recognised as δυνατώτατος πίνειν, above all the rest: no one can be compared with him. In the two first books of the Treatise De Legibus, we shall find much to illustrate what is here said (in the Symposion) about the power ascribed to him of drinking more wine than any one else, without being at all affected by it. Plato discusses the subject of strong potations (μέθη) at great length; indeed he seems to fear that his readers will think he says too much upon it (i. 642 A). He considers it of great advantage to have a test to apply, such as wine, for the purpose of measuring the reason and self-command of different men, and of determining how much wine is sufficient to overthrow it, in each different case (i. 649 C-E). You can make this trial (he argues) in each case, without any danger or harm; and you can thus escape the necessity of making the trial in a real case of emergency. Plato insists upon the χρεία τῆς μέθης, as a genuine test, to be seriously employed for the purpose of testing men’s reason and force of character (ii. p. 673). In the Republic, too (iii. p. 413 E), the φύλακες are required to be tested, in regard to their capacity of resisting pleasurable temptation, as well as pain and danger.
Among the titles of the lost treatises of Theophrastus, we find one Περὶ Μέθης (Diog. L. v. 44). It is one of the compliments that the Emperor Marcus Antoninus (i. 16) pays to his father — That he was, like Sokrates, equally competent both to partake of, and to abstain from, the most seductive enjoyments, without ever losing his calmness and self-mastery.
45 Plato, Sympos. p. 223.
Symposion and Phædon — each is the antithesis and complement of the other.
The picture of Sokrates, in the Symposion, forms a natural contrast and complement to the picture of him in the Phædon; though the conjecture of Schleiermacher46 — that the two together are intended to make up the Philosophus, or third member of the trilogy promised in the Sophistês — is ingenious rather than convincing. The Phædon depicts Sokrates in his last conversation with his friends, immediately before his death; the Symposion presents him in the exuberance of life, health, and cheerfulness: in both situations, we find the same attributes manifested — perfect equanimity and self-command, proof against every variety of disturbing agency — whether tempting or terrible — absorbing interest in philosophical dialectic. The first of these two elements, if it stood alone, would be virtuous sobriety, yet not passing beyond the limit of mortal virtue: the last of the two superadds a higher element, which Plato conceives to transcend the limit of mortal virtue, and to depend upon divine inspiration or madness.47
46 Einleitung zum Gastmahl, p. 359 seq.
47 Plato, Phædrus, p. 256 C-E. σωφροσύνη θνητή — ἐρωτικὴ μανία: σωφροσύνη ἀνθρωπίνη — θεία μανία. Compare p. 244 B.
Symposion of Plato compared with that of Xenophon.
The Symposion of Plato affords also an interesting subject of comparison with that of his contemporary Xenophon, as to points of agreement as well as of difference.48 Xenophon states in the beginning that he intends to describe what passed in a scene where he himself was 23present; because he is of opinion that the proceedings of excellent men, in hours of amusement, are not less worthy of being recorded than those of their serious hours. Both Plato and Xenophon take for their main subject a festive banquet, destined to celebrate the success of a young man in a competitive struggle. In Plato, the success is one of mind and genius — Agathon has gained the prize of tragedy: in Xenophon, it is one of bodily force and skill — Autolykus victor in the pankration. The Symposion of Xenophon differs from that of Plato, in the same manner as the Memorabilia of Xenophon generally differ from the Sokratic dialogues of Plato — that is, by approaching much nearer to common life and reality. It describes a banquet such as was likely enough to take place, with the usual accompaniments — a professional jester, and a Syracusan ballet-master who brings with him a dancing-girl, a girl to play on the flute and harp, and a handsome youth. These artists contribute to the amusement of the company by music, dancing, throwing up balls and catching them again, jumping into and out of a circle of swords. All this would have occurred at an ordinary banquet: here, it is accompanied and followed by remarks of pleasantry, buffoonery and taunt, interchanged between the guests. Nearly all the guests take part, more or less: but Sokrates is made the prominent figure throughout. He repudiates the offer of scented unguents: but he recommends the drinking of wine, though moderately, and in small cups. The whole company are understood to be somewhat elevated with wine, but not one of them becomes intoxicated. Sokrates not only talks as much fun as the rest, but even sings, and speaks of learning to dance, jesting on his own corpulence.49 Most part of the scene is broad farce, in the manner, though not with all the humour, of Aristophanes.50 24The number and variety of the persons present is considerable, greater than in most of the Aristophanic plays.51 Kallias, Lykon, Autolykus, Sokrates, Antisthenes, Hermogenes, Nikeratus, Kritobulus, have each his own peculiarity: and a certain amount of vivacity and amusement arises from the way in which each of them is required, at the challenge of Sokrates, to declare on what it is that he most prides himself. Sokrates himself carries the burlesque farther than any of them; pretending to be equal in personal beauty to Kritobulus, and priding himself upon the function of a pander, which he professes to exercise. Antisthenes, however, is offended, when Sokrates fastens upon him a similar function: but the latter softens the meaning of the term so as to appease him. In general, each guest is made to take pride in something the direct reverse of that which really belongs to him; and to defend his thesis in a strain of humorous parody. Antisthenes, for example, boasts of his wealth. The Syracusan ballet-master is described as jealous of Sokrates, and as addressing to him some remarks of offensive rudeness; which Sokrates turns off, and even begins to sing, for the purpose of preventing confusion and ill-temper from spreading among the company:52 while he at the same time gives prudent advice to the Syracusan about the exhibitions likely to be acceptable.
48 Pontianus, one of the speakers in Athenæus (xi. 504), touches upon some points of this comparison, with a view of illustrating the real or supposed enmity between Plato and Xenophon; an enmity not in itself improbable, yet not sufficiently proved.
Athenæus had before him the Symposion of Epikurus (not preserved) as well as those of Plato, Xenophon, and Aristotle (xv. 674); and we learn from him some of its distinctive points. Masurius (the speaker in Athenæus, v. init.) while he recognises in the Symposia of Xenophon and Plato a dramatic variety of characters and smartness — finds fault with both, but especially with Plato, for levity, rudeness, indecency, vulgarity, sneering, &c. The talk was almost entirety upon love and joviality. In the Symposion of Epikurus, on the contrary, nothing was said about these topics; the guests were fewer, the conversation was grave and dull, upon dry topics of science, such as the atomic theory (προφήτας ἀτόμων, v. 3, 187 B, 177 B. Ἐπίκουρος δὲ συμπόσιον φιλοσόφων μόνον πεποίηται), and even upon bodily ailments, such as indigestion or fever (187 C). The philosophers present were made by Epikurus to carry on their debate in so friendly a spirit, that the critic calls them “flatterers praising each other”; while he terms the Platonic guests “sneerers insulting each other” (μυκτηριστῶν ἀλλήλους τωθαζόντων, 182 A), though this is much more true about the Xenophontic Symposion than about the Platonic. He remarks farther that the Symposion of Epikurus included no libation or offering to the Gods (179 D).
It is curious to note these peculiarities in the compositions (now lost) of a philosopher like Epikurus, whom many historians of philosophy represent as thinking about nothing but convivial and sexual pleasure.
49 Xenophon, Sympos. vii. 1; ii. 18-19. προγάστωρ, &c.
50 The taunt ascribed to the jester Philippus, about the cowardice of the demagogue Peisander, is completely Aristophanic, ii. 14; also that of Antisthenes respecting the bad temper of Xanthippê, ii. 10; and the caricature of the movements of the ὀρχηστρὶς by Philippus, ii. 21. Compare also iii. 11.
51 Xen. Symp. c. 4-5.
52 Xen. Symp. vi. Αὐτὴ μὲν ἡ παροινία οὕτω κατεσβέσθη, vii. 1-5.
Epiktêtus insists upon this feature in the character of Sokrates — his patience and power of soothing angry men (ii. 12-14).
Small proportion of the serious, in the Xenophontic Symposion.
Though the Xenophontic Symposion is declared to be an alternate mixture of banter and seriousness,53 yet the only long serious argument or lecture delivered is by Sokrates; in which he pronounces a professed panegyric upon Eros, but at the same time pointedly distinguishes the sentimental from the sensual. He denounces the latter, and confines his panegyric to the former — selecting Kallias and Autolykus as honourable examples of it.54
53 Xen. Symp. iv. 28. ἀναμὶξ ἐσκωψάν τε καὶ ἐσπούδασαν, viii. 41.
54 Xen. Symp. viii. 24. The argument against the sensual is enforced with so much warmth that Sokrates is made to advert to the fact of his being elate with wine — ὅ τε γὰρ οἶνος συνεπαίρει, καὶ ὁ ἀεὶ σύνοικος ἐμοὶ ἔρως κεντρίζει εἰς τὸν ἀντίπαλον ἔρωτα αὐτοῦ παῤῥησιάζεσθαι.
The contrast between the customs of the Thebans and Eleians, and those of the Lacedæmonians, is again noted by Xenophon, Rep. Laced. ii. 13. Plato puts (Symp. 182) a like contrast into the mouth of Pausanias, assimilating the customs of Athens in this respect to those of Sparta. The comparison between Plato and Xenophon is here curious; we see how much more copious and inventive is the reasoning of Plato.
25The Xenophontic Symposion closes with a pantomimic scene of Dionysus and Ariadnê as lovers represented (at the instance of Sokrates) by the Syracusan ballet-master and his staff. This is described as an exciting spectacle to most of the hearers, married as well as unmarried, who retire with agreeable emotions. Sokrates himself departs with Lykon and Kallias, to be present at the exercise of Autolykus.55
55 Xen. Symp. viii. 5, ix. 7. The close of the Xenophontic Symposion is, to a great degree, in harmony with modern sentiment, though what is there expressed would probably be left to be understood. The Platonic Symposion departs altogether from that sentiment.
Platonic Symposion more ideal and transcendental than the Xenophontic.
We see thus that the Platonic Symposion is much more ideal, and departs farther from common practice and sentiment, than the Xenophontic. It discards all the common accessories of a banquet (musical or dancing artists), and throws the guests altogether upon their own powers of rhetoric and dialectic, for amusement. If we go through the different encomiums upon Eros, by Phædrus, Pausanias, Eryximachus, Aristophanes, Agathon, Diotima — we shall appreciate the many-coloured forms and exuberance of the Platonic imagination, as compared with the more restricted range and common-place practical sense of Xenophon.56 All the Platonic speakers are accomplished persons — a man of letters, a physician, two successful poets, a prophetess: the Xenophontic personages, except Sokrates and Antisthenes, are persons of ordinary capacity. The Platonic Symposion, after presenting Eros in five different points of view, gives pre-eminence and emphasis to a sixth, in which Eros is regarded as the privileged minister and conductor to the mysteries of philosophy, both the lowest and the highest: the Xenophontic Symposion dwells upon one view only of Eros (developed by Sokrates) and cites Kallias as example of it, making no mention of philosophy. The Platonic Symposion exalts Sokrates, as the representative of Eros Philosophus, to a pinnacle of elevation which places him above human fears and weaknesses57 — coupled however with that 26eccentricity which makes the vulgar regard a philosopher as out of his mind: the Xenophontic Symposion presents him only as a cheerful, amiable companion, advising temperance, yet enjoying a convivial hour, and contributing more than any one else to the general hilarity.
56 The difference between the two coincides very much with that which is drawn by Plato himself in the Phædrus — θεία μανία as contrasted with σωφροσύνη θνητὴ (p. 256 E). Compare Athenæus, v. 187 B.
57 Plato, Phædrus, p. 249 D. νουθετεῖται μὲν ὑπὸ τῶν πολλῶν ὡς παρακινῶν, ἐνθουσιάζων δὲ λέληθε τοὺς πολλοὺς.… αἰτίαν ἔχει ὡς μανικῶς διακείμενος.
Such are the points of comparison which present themselves between the same subject as handled by these two eminent contemporaries, both of them companions, and admirers of Sokrates: and each handling it in his own manner.58
58 Which of these two Symposia was the latest in date of composition we cannot determine with certainty: though it seems certain that the latest of the two was not composed in imitation of the earliest.
From the allusion to the διοίκισις of Mantineia (p. 193 A) we know that the Platonic Symposion must have been composed after 385 B.C.: there is great probability also, though not full certainty, that it was composed during the time when Mantineia was still an aggregate of separate villages and not a town — that is, between 385-370 B.C., in which latter year Mantineia was re-established as a city. The Xenophontic Symposion affords no mark of date of composition: Xenophon reports it as having been himself present. It does indeed contain, in the speech delivered by Sokrates (viii. 32), an allusion to, and a criticism upon, an opinion supported by Pausanias ὁ Ἀγάθωνος τοῦ ποιητοῦ ἐραστής, who discourses in the Platonic Symposion: and several critics think that this is an allusion by Xenophon to the Platonic Symposion. I think this opinion improbable. It would require us to suppose that Xenophon is inaccurate, since the opinion which he ascribes to Pausanias is not delivered by Pausanias in the Platonic Symposion, but by Phædrus. Athenæus (v. 216) remarks that the opinion is not delivered by Pausanias, but he does not mention that it is delivered by Phædrus. He remarks that there was no known written composition of Pausanias himself: and he seems to suppose that Xenophon must have alluded to the Platonic Symposion, but that he quoted it inaccurately or out of another version of it, different from what we now read. Athenæus wastes reasoning in proving that the conversation described in the Platonic Symposion cannot have really occurred at the time to which Plato assigns it. This is unimportant: the speeches are doubtless all composed by Plato. If Athenæus was anxious to prove anachronism against Plato, I am surprised that he did not notice that of the διοίκισις of Mantineia mentioned in a conversation supposed to have taken place in the presence of Sokrates, who died in 399 B.C.
I incline to believe that the allusion of Xenophon is not intended to apply to the Symposion of Plato. Xenophon ascribes one opinion to Pausanias, Plato ascribes another; this is noway inconceivable. I therefore remain in doubt whether the Xenophontic or the Platonic Symposion is earliest. Compare the Præf. of Schneider to the former, pp. 140-143.
Second half of the Phædrus — passes into a debate on Rhetoric. Eros is considered as a subject for rhetorical exercise.
I have already stated that the first half of the Phædrus differs materially from the second; and that its three discourses on the subject of Eros (the first two depreciating Eros, the third being an effusion of high-flown and poetical panegyric on the same theme) may be better understood by being looked at in conjunction with the Symposion. The second half of the Phædrus passes into a different discussion, criticising the discourse of Lysias as a rhetorical composition: examining the principles upon which the teaching of Rhetoric as an Art either 27is founded, or ought to be founded: and estimating the efficacy of written discourse generally, as a means of working upon or instructing other minds.
Lysias is called a logographer by active politicians. Contempt conveyed by the word. Sokrates declares that the only question is, Whether a man writes well or ill.
I heard one of our active political citizens (says Phædrus) severely denounce Lysias, and fasten upon him with contempt, many times over, the title of a logographer. Active politicians will not consent to compose and leave behind them written discourses, for fear of being called Sophists.59 To write discourses (replies Sokrates) is noway discreditable: the real question is, whether he writes them well.60 And the same question is the only one proper to be asked about other writers on all subjects — public or private, in prose or in verse. How to speak well, and how to write well — is the problem.61 Is there any art or systematic method, capable of being laid down beforehand and defended upon principle, for accomplishing the object well? Or does a man succeed only by unsystematic knack or practice, such as he can neither realise distinctly to his own consciousness, nor describe to others?
59 Plato, Phædrus, p. 257 C.
60 Plato, Phædrus, pp. 257 E, 258 D.
The two appellations — λογογράφος and σοφιστής — are here coupled together as terms of reproach, just as they stand coupled in Demosthenes, Fals. Leg. p. 417. It is plain that both appellations acquired their discreditable import mainly from the collateral circumstance that the persons so denominated took money for their compositions or teaching. The λογογράφος wrote for pay, and on behalf of any client who could pay him. In the strict etymological sense, neither of the two terms would imply any reproach.
Yet Plato, in this dialogue, when he is discussing the worth of the reproachful imputation fastened on Lysias, takes the term λογογράφος only in this etymological, literal sense, omitting to notice the collateral association which really gave point to it and made it serve the purpose of a hostile speaker. This is the more remarkable, because we find Plato multiplying opportunities, even on unsuitable occasions, of taunting the Sophists with the fact that they took money. Here in the Phædrus, we should have expected that if he noticed the imputation at all, he would notice it in the sense intended by the speaker. In this sense, indeed, it would not have suited the purpose of his argument, since he wishes to make it an introduction to a philosophical estimate of the value of writing as a means of instruction.
Heindorf observes, that Plato has used a similar liberty in comparing the λογογράφος to the proposer of a law or decree. “Igitur, quum solemne legum initium ejusmodi esset, ἔδοξε τῇ βουλῇ, &c., Plato aliter longé quam vulgo acciperetur, neque sine calumniâ quâdam, interpretatus est” (ad p. 258).
61 Plato, Phædrus, p. 259 E. ὅπῃ καλῶς ἔχει λέγειν τε καὶ γράφειν, καὶ ὅπῃ μή, σκεπτέον. — p. 258 D. τίς ὁ τρόπος τοῦ καλῶς τε καὶ μὴ γράφειν.
28 Question about teaching the art of writing well or speaking well. Can it be taught upon system or principle? Or does the successful Rhetor succeed only by unsystematic knack?.
First let us ask — When an orator addresses himself to a listening crowd upon the common themes — Good and Evil, Just and Unjust — is it necessary that he should know what is really and truly good and evil, just and unjust? Most rhetorical teachers affirm, that it is enough if he knows what the audience or the people generally believe to be so: and that to that standard he must accommodate himself, if he wishes to persuade.62
62 Plato, Phædrus, p. 260 A.
Theory of Sokrates — that all art of persuasion must be founded upon a knowledge of the truth, and of gradations of resemblance to the truth.
He may persuade the people under these circumstances (replies Sokrates), but if he does so, it will be to their misfortune and to his own. He ought to know the real truth — not merely what the public whom he addresses believe to be the truth — respecting just and unjust, good and evil, &c. There can be no genuine art of speaking, which is not founded upon knowledge of the truth, and upon adequate philosophical comprehension of the subject-matter.63 The rhetorical teachers take too narrow a view of rhetoric, when they confine it to public harangues addressed to the assembly or to the Dikastery. Rhetoric embraces all guidance of the mind through words, whether in public harangue or private conversation, on matters important or trivial. Whether it be a controversy between two litigants in a Dikastery, causing the Dikasts to regard the same matters now as being just and good, presently as being unjust and evil: or between two dialecticians like Zeno, who could make his hearers view the same subjects as being both like and unlike — both one and many — both in motion and at rest: in either case the art (if there be any art) and its principles are the same. You ought to assimilate every thing to every thing, in all cases where assimilation is possible: if your adversary assimilates in like manner, concealing the process from his hearers, you must convict and expose his proceedings. Now the possibility or facility of deception in this way will depend upon the extent of likeness between things. If there be much real likeness, deception is easy, and one of them may easily be passed off as the other: if there be little likeness, 29deception will be difficult. An extensive acquaintance with the real resemblances of things, or in other words with truth, constitutes the necessary basis on which all oratorical art must proceed.64
63 Plato, Phædrus, pp. 260-261.
64 Plato, Phædrus, p. 262.
Comparison made by Sokrates between the discourse of Lysias and his own. Eros is differently understood: Sokrates defined what he meant by it: Lysias did not define.
Sokrates then compares the oration of Lysias with his own two orations (the first depreciating, the second extolling, Eros) in the point of view of art; to see how far they are artistically constructed. Among the matters of discourse, there are some on which all men are agreed, and on which therefore the speaker may assume established unanimity in his audience: there are others on which great dissension and discord prevail. Among the latter (the topics of dissension), questions about just and unjust, good and evil, stand foremost:65 it is upon these that deception is most easy, and rhetorical skill most efficacious. Accordingly, an orator should begin by understanding to which of these two categories the topic which he handles belongs: If it belongs to the second category (those liable to dissension) he ought, at the outset, to define what he himself means by it, and what he intends the audience to understand. Now Eros is a topic on which great dissension prevails. It ought therefore to have been defined at the commencement of the discourse. This Sokrates in his discourse has done: but Lysias has omitted to do it, and has assumed Eros to be obviously and unanimously apprehended by every one. Besides, the successive points in the discourse of Lysias do not hang together by any thread of necessary connection, as they ought to do, if the discourse were put together according to rule.66
65 Plato, Phædrus, p. 263 B. Compare Plato, Alkibiad. i. p. 109.
66 Plato, Phædrus, pp. 263-265.
Logical processes — Definition and Division — both of them exemplified in the two discourses of Sokrates.
Farthermore, in the two discourses of Sokrates, not merely was the process of logical definition exemplified in the case of Eros — but also the process of logical division, in the case of Madness or Irrationality. This last extensive genus was divided first into two species — Madness, from human distemper — Madness, from divine inspiration, carrying a man out of the customary orthodoxy.67 Next, this last species was again divided into 30four branches or sub-species, according to the God from whom the inspiration proceeded, and according to the character of the inspiration — the prophetic, emanating from Apollo — the ritual or mystic, from Dionysus — the poetic, from the Muses — the amatory, from Eros and Aphroditê.68 Now both these processes, definition and division, are familiar to the true dialectician or philosopher: but they are not less essential in rhetoric also, if the process is performed with genuine art. The speaker ought to embrace in his view many particular cases, to gather together what is common to all, and to combine them into one generic concept, which is to be embodied in words as the definition. He ought also to perform the counter-process: to divide the genus not into parts arbitrary and incoherent (like a bad cook cutting up an animal without regard to the joints) but into legitimate species;69 each founded on some positive and assignable characteristic. “It is these divisions and combinations (says Sokrates) to which I am devotedly attached, in order that I may become competent for thought and discourse: and if there be any one else whom I consider capable of thus contemplating the One and the Many as they stand in nature — I follow in the footsteps of that man as in those of a God. I call such a man, rightly or wrongly, a Dialectician.”70
67 Plato, Phædrus, p. 265 A. ὑπὸ θείας ἐξαλλαγῆς τῶν εἰωθότων νομίμων.
68 Plato, Phædrus, p. 265.
69 Plato, Phædrus, pp. 265-266. 265 D: εἰς μίαν τε ἰδέαν συνορῶντα ἄγειν τὰ πολλαχῆ διεσπαρμένα, ἵν’ ἕκαστον ὁριζόμενος δῆλον ποῖῃ περὶ οὗ ἂν ἀεὶ διδάσκειν ἐθέλῃ. 265 E: τὸ πάλιν κατ’ εἴδη δύνασθαι τέμνειν κατ’ ἄρθρα, ᾗ πέφυκε, καὶ μὴ ἐπιχειρεῖν καταγνύναι μέρος μηδέν, κακοῦ μαγείρου τρόπῳ χρώμενον.
Seneca, Epist. 89, p. 395, ed. Gronov. “Faciam ergo quod exigis, et philosophiam in partes, non in frusta, dividam. Dividi enim illam, non concidi, utile est.”
70 Plato, Phædrus, p. 266 B. Τούτων δὴ ἔγωγε αὐτός τε ἐραστής, ὦ Φαῖδρε, τῶν διαιρέσεων καὶ συναγωγῶν, ἵν’ οἷός τε ὦ λέγειν τε καὶ φρονεῖν· ἐάν τέ τιν’ ἄλλον ἡγήσωμαι δυνατὸν εἰς ἓν καὶ ἐπὶ πολλὰ πεφυκὸς ὁρᾷν, τοῦτον διώκω κατόπισθε μετ’ ἴχνιον ὥστε θεοῖο. καὶ μέντοι καὶ τοὺς δυναμένους αὐτὸ δρᾷν εἰ μὲν ὀρθῶς ἢ μὴ προσαγορεύω, θεὸς οἶδε· καλῶ δὲ οὖν μέχρι τοῦδε διαλεκτικούς.
This is Dialectic (replies Phædrus); but it is not Rhetoric, as Thrasymachus and other professors teach the art.
View of Sokrates — that there is no real Art of Rhetoric, except what is already comprised in Dialectic — The rhetorical teaching is empty and useless.
What else is there worth having (says Sokrates), which these professors teach? The order and distribution of a discourse: first, the exordium, then recital, proof, second proof, refutation, recapitulation at the close: advice how to introduce maxims or similes: receipts for moving the anger or compassion of the dikasts. 31Such teaching doubtless enables a speaker to produce considerable effect upon popular assemblies:71 but it is not the art of rhetoric. It is an assemblage of preliminary accomplishments, necessary before a man can acquire the art: but it is not the art itself. You must know when, how far, in what cases, and towards what persons, to employ these accomplishments:72 otherwise you have not learnt the art of rhetoric. You may just as well consider yourself a physician because you know how to bring about vomit and purging — or a musician, because you know how to wind up or unwind the chords of your lyre. These teachers mistake the preliminaries or antecedents of the art, for the art itself. It is in the right, measured, seasonable, combination and application of these preliminaries, in different doses adapted to each special matter and audience — that the art of rhetoric consists. And this is precisely the thing which the teacher does not teach, but supposes the learner to acquire for himself.73
71 Plato, Phædrus, pp. 267-268.
72 Plato, Phædrus, p. 268 B. ἐρέσθαι εἰ προσεπίσταται καὶ οὑστίνας δεῖ καὶ ὁπότε ἕκαστα τούτων ποιεῖν, καὶ μέχρι ὁπόσου;
73 Plato, Phædrus, p. 269.
What the Art of Rhetoric ought to be — Analogy of Hippokrates and the medical Art.
The true art of rhetoric (continues Sokrates) embraces a larger range than these teachers imagine. It deals with mind, as the medical researches of Hippokrates deal with body — as a generic total with all its species and varieties, and as essentially relative to the totality of external circumstances. First, Hippokrates investigates how far the body is, in every particular man, simple, homogeneous, uniform: and how far it is complex, heterogeneous, multiform, in the diversity of individuals. If it be one and the same, or in so far as it is one and the same, he examines what are its properties in relation to each particular substance acting upon it or acted upon by it. In so far as it is multiform and various, he examines and compares each of the different varieties, in the same manner, to ascertain its properties in relation to every substance.74 It is in this way that Hippokrates32 discovers the nature or essence of the human body, distinguishing its varieties, and bringing the medical art to bear upon each, according to its different properties. This is the only scientific or artistic way of proceeding.
74 Plato, Phædrus, p. 270 D. Ἆρ’ οὐχ ὧδε δεῖ διανοεῖσθαι περὶ ὁτουοῦν φύσεως; Πρῶτον μὲν, ἁπλοῦν ἢ πολυειδές ἐστιν, οὗ περὶ βουλησόμεθα εἶναι αὐτοὶ τεχνικοὶ καὶ ἄλλον δυνατοὶ ποιεῖν; ἔπειτα δέ, ἐὰν μὲν ἁπλοῦν ᾖ, σκοπεῖν τὴν δύναμιν αὐτοῦ, τίνα πρὸς τί πέφυκεν εἰς τὸ δρᾷν ἔχον ἢ τίνα εἰς τὸ παθεῖν ὑπὸ τοῦ; ἐὰν δὲ πλείω εἴδη ἔχῃ, ταῦτα ἀριθμησάμενος, ὅπερ ἐφ’ ἑνός, τοῦτ’ ἰδεῖν ἐφ’ ἑκάστου, τῷ τί ποιεῖν αὐτὸ πέφυκεν ἢ τῷ τί παθεῖν ὑπὸ τοῦ;
Art of Rhetoric ought to include a systematic classification of minds with all their varieties, and of discourses with all their varieties. The Rhetor must know how to apply the one to the other, suitably to each particular case.
Now the true rhetor ought to deal with the human mind in like manner. His task is to work persuasion in the minds of certain men by means of discourse. He has therefore, first, to ascertain how far all mind is one and the same, and what are the affections belonging to it universally in relation to other things: next, to distinguish the different varieties of minds, together with the properties, susceptibilities, and active aptitudes, of each: carrying the subdivision down until he comes to a variety no longer admitting division.75 He must then proceed to distinguish the different varieties of discourse, noting the effects which each is calculated to produce or to hinder, and the different ways in which it is likely to impress different minds.76 Such and such men are persuadable by such and such discourses — or the contrary. Having framed these two general classifications, the rhetor must on each particular occasion acquire a rapid tact in discerning to which class of minds the persons whom he is about to address belong: and therefore what class of discourses will be likely to operate on them persuasively.77 He must farther know those subordinate artifices of speech on which the professors insist; and he must also be aware of the proper season and limit within which each can be safely employed.78
75 Plato, Phædrus, p. 277 B. ὁρισάμενός τε πάλιν κατ’ εἴδη μέχρι τοῦ ἀτμήτου τέμνειν ἐπιστηθῇ.
76 Plato, Phædrus, p. 271 A. Πρῶτον, πάσῃ ἀκριβείᾳ γράψει τε καὶ ποιήσει ψυχὴν ἰδεῖν, πότερον ἓν καὶ ὅμοιον πέφυκεν ἢ κατὰ σώματος μορφὴν πολυειδές· τοῦτο γάρ φαμεν φύσιν εἶναι δεικνύναι.
Δεύτερον δέ γε, ὅτῳ τί ποιεῖν ἢ παθεῖν ὑπὸ τοῦ πέφυκεν.
Τρίτον δὲ δὴ διαταξάμενος τὰ λόγων τε καὶ ψυχῆς γένη καὶ τὰ τούτων παθήματα, δίεισι τὰς αἰτίας, προσαρμόττων ἕκαστον ἑκάστῳ, καὶ διδάσκων οἵα οὖσα ὑφ’ οἵων λόγων δι’ ἣν αἰτίαν ἐξ ἀνάγκης ἡ μὲν πείθεται, ἡ δὲ ἀπειθεῖ.
77 Plato, Phædrus, p. 271 D. δεῖ μὴ ταῦτα ἱκανῶς νοήσαντα, μετὰ ταῦτα θεώμενον αὐτὰ ἐν ταῖς πράξεσιν ὄντα τε καὶ πραττόμενα, ὀξέως τῇ αἰσθήσει δύνασθαι ἐπακολουθεῖν, &c.
78 Plato, Phædrus, p. 272 A. ταῦτα δὲ ἤδη πάντ’ ἔχοντι, προσλαβόντι καιροὺς τοῦ πότε λεκτέον καὶ ἐπισχετέον, βραχυλογίας τε αὖ καὶ ἐλεεινολογίας καὶ δεινώσεως, ἑκάστων τε ὅσ’ ἂν εἴδη μάθῃ λόγων, τούτων τὴν εὐκαιρίαν τε καὶ ἀκαιρίαν διαγνόντι, καλῶς τε καὶ τελέως ἐστὶν ἡ τέχνη ἀπειργασμένη, πρότερον δ’ οὔ.
33 The Rhetorical Artist must farther become possessed of real truth, as well as that which his auditors believe to be truth. He is not sufficiently rewarded for this labour.
Nothing less than this assemblage of acquirements (says Sokrates) will suffice to constitute a real artist, either in speaking or writing. Arduous and fatiguing indeed the acquisition is: but there is no easier road. And those who tell us that the rhetor need not know what is really true, but only what his audience will believe to be true — must be reminded that this belief, on the part of the audience, arises from the likeness of that which they believe, to the real truth. Accordingly, he who knows the real truth will be cleverest in suggesting apparent or quasi-truth adapted to their feelings. If a man is bent on becoming an artist in rhetoric, he must go through the process here marked out: yet undoubtedly the process is so laborious, that rhetoric, when he has acquired it, is no adequate reward. We ought to learn how to speak and act in a way agreeable to the Gods, and this is worth all the trouble necessary for acquiring it. But the power of speaking agreeably and effectively to men, is not of sufficient moment to justify the expenditure of so much time and labour.79
79 Plato, Phædrus, pp. 273-274.
Question about Writing — As an Art, for the purpose of instruction, it can do little — Reasons why. Writing may remind the reader of what he already knows.
We have now determined what goes to constitute genuine art, in speaking or in writing. But how far is writing, even when art is applied to it, capable of producing real and permanent effect? or indeed of having art applied to it at all? Sokrates answers himself — Only to a small degree. Writing will impart amusement and satisfaction for the moment: it will remind the reader of something which he knew before, if he really did know. But in respect to any thing which he did not know before, it will neither teach nor persuade him: it may produce in him an impression or fancy that he is wiser than he was before, but such impression is illusory, and at best only transient. Writing is like painting — one and the same to all readers, whether young or old, well or ill informed. It cannot adapt itself to the different state of mind of different persons, as we have declared that every finished speaker ought to do. It cannot answer questions, supply deficiencies, reply to objections, rectify misunderstanding. It is 34defenceless against all assailants. It supersedes and enfeebles the memory, implanting only a false persuasion of knowledge without the reality.80
80 Plato, Phædrus, p. 275 D-E. ταὐτὸν δὲ καὶ οἱ λόγοι (οἱ γεγραμμένοι)· δόξαις μὲν ἂν ὥς τι φρονοῦντας αὐτοὺς λέγειν ἐὰν δέ τι ἕρῃ τῶν λεγομένων βουλόμενος μαθεῖν, ἕν τι σημαίνει μόνον ταὐτὸν ἀεί. Ὅταν δὲ ἅπαξ γραφῇ, κυλινδεῖται μὲν πανταχοῦ πᾶς λόγος ὁμοίως παρὰ τοῖς ἐπαΐουσιν, ὡς δ’ αὐτῶς παρ’ οἷς οὐδὲν προσήκει, καὶ οὐκ ἐπίσταται λέγειν οἷς δεῖ γε καὶ μή.
Neither written words, nor continuous speech, will produce any serious effect in teaching. Dialectic and cross-examination are necessary.
Any writer therefore, in prose or verse — Homer, Solon, or Lysias — who imagines that he can by a ready-made composition, however carefully turned,81 if simply heard or read without cross-examination or oral comment, produce any serious and permanent effect in persuading or teaching, beyond a temporary gratification — falls into a disgraceful error. If he intends to accomplish any thing serious, he must be competent to originate spoken discourse more effective than the written. The written word is but a mere phantom or ghost of the spoken word: which latter is the only legitimate offspring of the teacher, springing fresh and living out of his mind, and engraving itself profoundly on the mind of the hearer.82 The speaker must know, with discriminative comprehension, and in logical subdivision, both the matter on which he discourses, and the minds of the particular hearers to whom he addresses himself. He will thus be able to adapt the order, the distribution, the manner of presenting his subject, to the apprehension of the particular hearers and the exigencies of the particular moment. He will submit to cross-examination,83 remove difficulties, and furnish all additional explanations which the case requires. By this process he will not indeed produce that immediate, though flashy and evanescent, impression of suddenly acquired knowledge, which arises from the perusal of what is written. He will sow seed which for a long time appears buried under ground; but which, after such interval, springs up and ripens into complete 35and lasting fruit.84 By repeated dialectic debate, he will both familiarise to his own mind and propagate in his fellow-dialogists, full knowledge; together with all the manifold reasonings bearing on the subject, and with the power also of turning it on many different sides, of repelling objections and clearing up obscurities. It is not from writing, but from dialectic debate, artistically diversified and adequately prolonged, that full and deep teaching proceeds; prolific in its own nature, communicable indefinitely from every new disciple to others, and forming a source of intelligence and happiness to all.85
81 Plato, Phædrus, pp. 277-278. ὡς οἱ ῥαψῳδούμενοι (λόγοι) ἄνευ ἀνακρίσεως καὶ διδαχῆς πειθοῦς ἕνεκα ἐλέχθησαν, &c.
82 Plato, Phædrus, p. 276 A. ἄλλον ὁρῶμεν λόγον τούτου ἀδελφὸν γνήσιον τῷ τρόπῳ τε γίγνεται, καὶ ὅσῳ ἀμείνων καὶ δυνατώτερος τούτου φύεται;… Ὅς μετ’ ἐπιστήμης γράφεται ἐν τῇ τοῦ μανθάνοντος ψυχῇ, δυνατὸς μὲν ἀμῦναι ἑαυτῷ, ἐπιστήμων δὲ λέγειν τε καὶ σιγᾷν πρὸς οὓς δεῖ. Τὸν τοῦ εἰδότος λόγον λέγεις ζῶντα καὶ ἔμψυχον, οὗ ὁ γεγραμμένος εἴδωλον ἄν τι λέγοιτο δικαίως, &c. 278 A.
83 Plato, Phædrus, p. 278 C. εἰ μὲν εἰδὼς ᾗ τἀληθὲς ἔχει συνέθηκε ταῦτα (τὰ συγγράμματα) καὶ ἔχων βοηθεῖν, εἰς ἔλεγχον ἰὼν περὶ ὧν ἔγραψε, καὶ λέγων αὐτὸς δυνατὸς τὰ γεγραμμένα φαῦλα ἀποδεῖξαι, &c.
84 Plato, Phædrus, p. 276 A.
85 Plato, Phædrus, pp. 276-277.
This blending of philosophy with rhetoric, which pervades the criticisms on Lysias in the Phædrus, is farther illustrated by the praise bestowed upon Isokrates in contrast with Lysias. Isokrates occupied that which Plato in Euthydêmus calls “the border country between philosophy and politics”. Many critics declare (and I think with probable reason86) that Isokrates is the person intended (without being named) in the passage just cited from the Euthydêmus. In the Phædrus, Isokrates is described as the intimate friend of Sokrates, still young; and is pronounced already superior in every way to Lysias — likely to become superior in future to all the rhetors that have ever flourished — and destined probably to arrive even at the divine mysteries of philosophy.87
87 Plato, Phædrus, p. 279 A.
When we consider that the Phædrus was pretty sure to bring upon Plato a good deal of enmity — since it attacked, by name, both Lysias, a resident at Athens of great influence and ability, and several other contemporary rhetors more or less celebrated — we can understand how Plato became disposed to lighten this amount of enmity by a compliment paid to Isokrates. This latter rhetor, a few years older than Plato, was the son of opulent parents at Athens, and received a good education; but when his family became impoverished by the disasters at the close of the Peloponnesian war, he established himself as a teacher of rhetoric at Chios: after some time, however, he returned to Athens, and followed the same profession there. He engaged himself also, like Lysias, in composing discourses for pleaders before the 36dikastery88 and for speakers in the assembly; by which practice he acquired both fortune and reputation. Later in life, he relinquished these harangues destined for real persons on real occasions, and confined himself to the composition of discourses (intended, not for contentious debate, but for the pleasure and instruction of hearers) on general questions — social, political, and philosophical: at the same time receiving numerous pupils from different cities of Greece. Through such change, he came into a sort of middle position between the rhetoric of Lysias and the dialectic of Plato: insomuch that the latter, at the time when he composed the Phædrus, had satisfaction in contrasting him favourably with Lysias, and in prophesying that he would make yet greater progress towards philosophy. But at the time when Plato composed the Euthydêmus, his feeling was different.89 In the Phædrus, Isokrates is compared with Lysias and other rhetors, and in that comparison Plato presents him as greatly superior: in the Euthydêmus, he is compared with philosophers as well as with rhetors, and is even announced as disparaging philosophy generally: Plato then declares him to be a presumptuous half-bred, and extols against him even the very philosopher whom he himself had just been caricaturing. To apply a Platonic simile, the most beautiful ape is ugly compared with man — the most beautiful man is an ape compared with the Gods:90 the same intermediate position between rhetoric and philosophy is assigned by Plato to Isokrates.
88 Dion. Hal. De Isocrate Judicium, p. 576. δεσμὰς πάνυ πολλὰς δικανικῶν λόγων περιφέρεσθαί φησιν ὑπὸ τῶν βιβλιοπωλῶν Ἀριστοτέλης, &c.
Plutarch, Vit. x. Oratt. pp. 837-838.
The Athenian Polykrates had been forced, by loss of property, to quit Athens and undertake the work of a Sophist in Cyprus. Isokrates expresses much sympathy for him: it was a misfortune like what had happened to himself (Orat. xi. Busiris 1). Compare De Permutation. Or. xv. s. 172.
The assertion made by Isokrates — that he did not compose political and judicial orations, to be spoken by individuals for real causes and public discussions — may be true comparatively, and with reference to a certain period of his life. But it is only to be received subject to much reserve and qualification. Even out of the twenty-one orations of Isokrates which we possess, the last five are composed to be spoken by pleaders before the dikastery. They are such discourses as the logographers, Lysias among the rest, were called upon to furnish, and paid for furnishing.
89 Plato, Euthydêm. p. 306. I am inclined to agree with Ueberweg in thinking that the Euthydêmus is later than the Phædrus. Ueberweg, Aechtheit der Platon. Schriften, pp. 256-259-265.
90 Plato, Hipp. Major, p. 289.
From the pen of Isokrates also, we find various passages apparently directed against the viri Socratici including Plato 37(though without his name): depreciating,91 as idle and worthless, new political theories, analytical discussions on the principles of ethics, and dialectic subtleties; maintaining that the word philosophy was erroneously interpreted and defined by many contemporaries, in a sense too much withdrawn from practical results: and affirming that his own teaching was calculated to impart genuine philosophy. During the last half of Plato’s life, his school and that of Isokrates were the most celebrated among all that existed at Athens. There was competition between them, gradually kindling into rivalry. Such rivalry became vehement during the last ten years of Plato’s life, when his scholar Aristotle, then an aspiring young man of twenty-five, proclaimed a very contemptuous opinion of Isokrates, and commenced a new school of rhetoric in opposition to him.92 Kephisodôrus, a pupil of Isokrates, retaliated; publishing against Aristotle, as well as against Plato, an acrimonious work which was still read some centuries afterwards. Theopompus, another eminent pupil of Isokrates, commented unfavourably upon Plato in his writings: and other writers who did the same may probably have belonged to the Isokratean school.93
91 Isokrates, Orat. x. 1 (Hel. Enc.); Orat. v. (Philipp.) 12; Or. xiii. (Sophist.) 9-24; Orat. xv. (Permut.) sect. 285-290. φιλοσοφίαν μὲν οὖν οὐκ οἶμαι δεῖν προσαγορεύειν τὴν μηδὲν ἐν τῷ παρόντι μήτε πρὸς τὸ λέγειν μήτε πρὸς τὸ πράττειν ὥφελοῦσαν — τὴν καλουμένην ὑπό τινων φιλοσοφίαν οὐκ εἶναι φημί, &c.
92 Cicero, De Oratore, iii. 35, 141; Orator. 19, 62; Numenius, ap. Euseb. Præp. Evang. xiv. 6, 9. See Stahr, Aristotelia, i. p. 63 seq., ii. p. 44 seq.
Schroeder’s Quæstiones Isocrateæ (Utrecht, 1859), and Spengel’s work, Isokrates und Plato, are instructive in regard to these two contemporary luminaries of the intellectual world at Athens. But, unfortunately, we can make out few ascertainable facts. When I read the Oration De Permut., Or. xv. (composed by Isokrates about fifteen years before his own death, and about five years before the death of Plato, near 353 B.C.), I am impressed with the belief that many of his complaints about unfriendly and bitter criticism refer to the Platonic School of that day, Aristotle being one of its members. See sections 48-90-276, and seq. He certainly means the Sokratic men, and Plato as the most celebrated of them, when he talks of οἱ περὶ τὰς ἐρωτήσεις καὶ ἀποκρίσεις, οὓς ἀντιλογικοὺς καλοῦσιν — οἱ περὶ τὰς ἔριδας σπουδάζοντες — those who are powerful in contentious dialectic, and at the same time cultivate geometry and astronomy, which others call ἀδολεσχία and μικρολογία (280) — those who exhorted hearers to virtue about which others knew nothing, and about which they themselves were in dispute. When he complains of the περιττολόγιαι of the ancient Sophists, Empedokles, Ion, Parmenides, Melissus, &c., we cannot but suppose that he had in his mind the Timæus of Plato also, though he avoids mention of the name.
93 Athenæus, iii. p. 122, ii. 60; Dionys. Hal. Epistol. ad Cn. Pomp. p. 757.
The Dialectician and Cross-Examiner is the only man who can really teach. If the writer can do this, he is more than a writer.
This is the true philosopher (continues Sokrates) — the man who alone is competent to teach truth about the just, good, 38and honourable.94 He who merely writes, must not delude himself with the belief that upon these important topics his composition can impart any clear or lasting instruction. To mistake fancy for reality hereupon, is equally disgraceful, whether the mistake be made by few or by many persons. If indeed the writer can explain to others orally the matters written — if he can answer all questions, solve difficulties, and supply the deficiencies, of each several reader — in that case he is something far more and better than a writer, and ought to be called a philosopher. But if he can do no more than write, he is no philosopher: he is only a poet, or nomographer, or logographer.95
94 Plato, Phædrus, p. 277 D-E.
95 Plato, Phædrus, pp. 278-279.
Lysias is only a logographer: Isokrates promises to become a philosopher.
In this latter class stands Lysias. I expect (concludes Sokrates) something better from Isokrates, who gives promise of aspiring one day to genuine philosophy.96
Date of the Phædrus — not an early dialogue.
I have already observed that I dissent from the hypothesis of Schleiermacher, Ast, and others, who regard the Phædrus either as positively the earliest, or at least among the earliest, of the Platonic dialogues, composed several years before the death of Sokrates. I agree with Hermann, Stallbaum, and those other critics, who refer it to a much later period of Plato’s life: though I see no sufficient evidence to determine more exactly either its date or its place in the chronological series of dialogues. The views opened in the second half of the dialogue, on the theory of rhetoric and on the efficacy of written compositions as a means of instruction, are very interesting and remarkable.
Criticism given by Plato on the three discourses — His theory of Rhetoric is more Platonic than Sokratic.
The written discourse of Lysias (presented to us as one greatly admired at the time by his friends, Phædrus among them) is contrasted first with a pleading on the same subject (though not directed towards the attainment of the same end) by Sokrates (supposed to be improvised39 on the occasion); next with a second pleading of Sokrates directly opposed to the former, and intended as a recantation. These three discourses are criticised from the rhetorical point of view,97 and are made the handle for introducing to us a theory of rhetoric. The second discourse of Sokrates, far from being Sokratic in tenor, is the most exuberant effusion of mingled philosophy, poetry, and mystic theology, that ever emanated from Plato.
97 Plato, Phædrus, p. 235 A.
His theory postulates, in the Rhetor, knowledge already assured — it assumes that all the doubts have been already removed.
The theory of rhetoric too is far more Platonic than Sokratic. The peculiar vein of Sokrates is that of confessed ignorance, ardour in enquiry, and testing cross-examination of all who answer his questions. But in the Phædrus we find Plato (under the name of Sokrates) assuming, as the basis of his theory, that an expositor shall be found who knows what is really and truly just and unjust, good and evil, honourable and dishonourable — distinct from, and independent of, the established beliefs on these subjects, traditional among his neighbours and fellow-citizens:98 assuming (to express the same thing in other words) that all the doubts and difficulties, suggested by the Sokratic cross-examination, have been already considered, elucidated, and removed.
98 Plato, Phædrus, pp. 259 E, 260 E, and 262 B.
The Expositor, with knowledge and logical process, teaches minds unoccupied and willing to learn.
The expositor, master of such perfect knowledge, must farther be master (so Plato tells us) of the arts of logical definition and division: that is, he must be able to gather up many separate fragmentary particulars into one general notion, clearly identified and embodied in a definition: and he must be farther able to subdivide such a general notion into its constituent specific notions, each marked by some distinct characteristic feature.99 This is the only way to follow out truth in a manner clear and consistent with itself: and truth is equally honourable in matters small or great.100
99 Plato, Phædrus, p. 266.
100 Plato, Phædrus, p. 261 A.
That truth upon matters small and contemptible deserves to be sought out and proved as much as upon matters great and sublime, is a doctrine affirmed in the Sophistês, Politikus, Parmenidês: Sophist. pp. 218 E, 227 A; Politik. 266 D; Parmenid. 130 E.
Thus far we are in dialectic: logical exposition proceeding by 40way of classifying and declassifying: in which it is assumed that the expositor will find minds unoccupied and unprejudiced, ready to welcome the truth when he lays it before them. But there are many topics on which men’s minds are, in the common and natural course of things, both pre-occupied and dissentient with each other. This is especially the case with Justice, Goodness, the Honourable, &c.101 It is one of the first requisites for the expositor to be able to discriminate this class of topics, where error and discordance grow up naturally among those whom he addresses. It is here that men are liable to be deceived, and require to be undeceived — contradict each other, and argue on opposite sides: such disputes belong to the province of Rhetoric.
101 Plato, Phædrus, p. 263 A.
The Rhetor does not teach, but persuades persons with minds pre-occupied — guiding them methodically from error to truth.
The Rhetor is one who does not teach (according to the logical process previously described), but persuades; guiding the mind by discourse to or from various opinions or sentiments.102 Now if this is to be done by art and methodically — that is, upon principle or system explicable and defensible — it pre-supposes (according to Plato) a knowledge of truth, and can only be performed by the logical expositor. For when men are deceived, it is only because they mistake what is like truth for truth itself: when they are undeceived, it is because they are made to perceive that what they believe to be truth is only an apparent likeness thereof. Such resemblances are strong or faint, differing by many gradations. Now no one can detect, or bring into account, or compare, these shades of resemblance, except he who knows the truth to which they all ultimately refer. It is through the slight differences that deception is operated. To deceive a man, you must carry him gradually away from the truth by transitional stages, each resembling that which immediately precedes, though the last in the series will hardly at all resemble the first: to undeceive him (or to avoid being deceived yourself), you must conduct him back by the counter-process from error to truth, by a series of transitional resemblances tending in that direction. You cannot do this like an artist (on system and by pre-determination), unless you know 41what the truth is.103 By anyone who does not know, the process will be performed without art, or at haphazard.
102 Plato, Phædrus, p. 261 A. ἡ ῥητορικὴ τέχνη ψυχαγωγία τις διὰ λόγων, &c.
103 Plato, Phædrus, pp. 262 A-D, 273 D.
He must then classify the minds to be persuaded, and the means of persuasion or varieties of discourse. He must know how to fit on the one to the other in each particular case.
The Rhetor — being assumed as already knowing the truth — if he wishes to make persuasion an art, must proceed in the following manner:— He must distribute the multiplicity of individual minds into distinct classes, each marked by its characteristic features of differences, emotional and intellectual. He must also distribute the manifold modes of discourse into distinct classes, each marked in like manner. Each of these modes of discourse is well adapted to persuade some classes of mind — badly adapted to persuade other classes: for such adaptation or non-adaptation there exists a rational necessity,104 which the Rhetor must examine and ascertain, informing himself which modes of discourse are adapted to each different class of mind. Having mastered this general question, he must, whenever he is about to speak, be able to distinguish, by rapid perception,105 to which class of minds the hearer or hearers whom he is addressing belong: and accordingly, which mode of discourse is adapted to their particular case. Moreover, he must also seize, in the case before him, the seasonable moment and the appropriate limit, for the use of each mode of discourse. Unless the Rhetor is capable of fulfilling all these exigencies, without failing in any one point, his Rhetoric is not entitled to be called an Art. He requires, in order to be an artist in persuading the mind, as great an assemblage of varied capacities as Hippokrates declares to be necessary for a physician, the artist for curing or preserving the body.106
104 Plato, Phædrus, pp. 270 E, 271 A-D. Τρίτον δὲ δὴ διαταξάμενος τὰ λόγων τε καὶ ψυχῆς γένη, καὶ τὰ τούτων παθήματα, δίεισι τὰς αἰτίας, προσαρμόττων ἕκαστον ἑκάστῳ, καὶ διδάσκων οἵα οὖσα ὑφ’ οἵων λόγων δι’ ἣν αἰτίαν ἐξ ἀνάγκης ἡ μὲν πείθεται, ἡ δὲ ἀπειθεῖ.
105 Plato, Phædrus, p. 271 D-E. δεῖ δὴ ταῦτα ἱκανῶς νοήσαντα, μετὰ ταῦτα θεώμενον αὐτὰ ἐν ταῖς πράξεσιν ὄντα τε καὶ πραττόμενα, ὀξέως τῇ αἰσθήσει δύνασθαι ἐπακολουθεῖν, ἢ μηδὲ εἰδέναι πω πλέον αὐτῶν ὧν τότε ἤκουε λόγων ξυνών.
106 Plato, Phædrus, p. 270 C.
Plato’s Idéal of the Rhetorical Art — involves in part incompatible conditions — the Wise man or philosopher will never be listened to by the public.
The total, thus summed up by Plato, of what is necessary to constitute an Art of Rhetoric, is striking and comprehensive. It is indeed an idéal, not merely unattainable by reason of its magnitude, but also including 42impracticable conditions. He begins by postulating a perfectly wise man, who knows all truth on the most important social subjects; on which his country-men hold erroneous beliefs, just as sincerely as he holds his true beliefs. But Plato has already told us, in the Gorgias, that such a person will not be listened to: that in order to address auditors with effect, the rhetor must be in genuine harmony of belief and character with them, not dissenting from them either for the better or the worse: nay, that the true philosopher (so we read in one of the most impressive portions of the Republic) not only has no chance of guiding the public mind, but incurs public obloquy, and may think himself fortunate if he escapes persecution.107 The dissenter will never be allowed to be the guide of a body of orthodox believers; and is even likely enough, unless he be prudent, to become their victim. He may be permitted to lecture or discuss, in the gardens of the Academy, with a few chosen friends, and to write eloquent dialogues: but if he embodies his views in motions before the public assembly, he will find only strenuous opposition, or something worse. This view, which is powerfully set forth by Sokrates both in the Gorgias and Republic, is founded on a just appreciation of human societies: and it is moreover the basis of the Sokratic procedure — That the first step to be taken is to disabuse men’s minds of their false persuasion of knowledge — to make them conscious of ignorance — and thus to open their minds for the reception of truth. But if this be the fact, we must set aside as impracticable the postulate advanced by Sokrates here in the Phædrus — of a perfectly wise man as the employer of rhetorical artifices. Moreover I do not agree with what Sokrates is here made to lay down as the philosophy of Error:— that it derives its power of misleading from resemblance to truth. This is the case to a certain extent: but it is very incomplete as an account of the generating causes of error.
The other part of the Platonic Idéal is grand but unattainable — breadth of psychological data and classified modes of discourse.
But the other portion of Plato’s sum total of what is necessary to an Art of Rhetoric, is not open to the same objection. It involves no incompatible conditions: and we can say nothing against it, except that it requires 43a breadth and logical command of scientific data, far greater than there is the smallest chance of attaining. That Art is an assemblage of processes, directed to a definite end, and prescribed by rules which themselves rest upon scientific data — we find first announced in the works of Plato.108 A vast amount of scientific research, both inductive and deductive, is here assumed as an indispensable foundation — and even as a portion — of what he calls the Art of Rhetoric: first, a science of psychology, complete both in its principles and details: next, an exhaustive catalogue and classification of the various modes of operative speech, with their respective impression upon each different class of minds. So prodigious a measure of scientific requirement has never yet been filled up: of course, therefore, no one has ever put together a body of precepts commensurate with it. Aristotle, following partially the large conceptions of his master, has given a comprehensive view of many among the theoretical postulates of Rhetoric; and has partially enumerated the varieties both of persuadable auditors, and of persuasive means available to the speaker for guiding them. Cicero, Dionysius of Halikarnassus, Quintilian, have furnished valuable contributions towards this last category of data, but not much towards the first: being all of them defective in breadth of psychological theory. Nor has 44Plato himself done anything to work out his conception in detail or to provide suitable rules for it. We read it only as an impressive sketch — a grand but unattainable idéal — “qualem nequeo monstrare et sentio tantum”.
108 I repeat the citation from the Phædrus, one of the most striking passages in Plato, p. 271 D.
ἔπειδὴ λόγου δύναμις τυγχάνει ψυχαγωγία οὖσα, τὸν μέλλοντα ῥητορικὸν ἔσεσθαι ἀνάγκη εἰδέναι ψυχὴ ὅσα εἴδη ἔχει. ἔστιν οὖν τόσα καὶ τόσα, καὶ τοῖα καὶ τοῖα· ὅθεν οἱ μὲν τοιοίδε, οἱ δὲ τοιοίδε γίγνονται. τούτων δὲ δὴ διῃρημένων, λόγων αὖ τόσα καὶ τόσα ἔστιν εἴδη, τοιόνδε ἕκαστον. οἱ μὲν οὖν τοιοίδε ὑπὸ τῶν τοιῶνδε λογων διὰ τήνδε τὴν αἰτίαν ἐς τὰ τοιάδε εὐπειθεῖς, οἱ δὲ τοιοίδε διὰ τάδε δυσπειθεῖς, &c. Comp. p. 261 A.
The relation of Art to Science is thus perspicuously stated by Mr. John Stuart Mill, in the concluding chapter of his System of Logic, Ratiocinative and Inductive (Book vi. ch. xii. § 2):
“The relation in which rules of Art stand to doctrines of Science may be thus characterised. The Art proposes to itself an end to be attained, defines the end, and hands it over to the Science. The Science receives it, considers it as a phenomenon or effect to be studied, and having investigated its causes and conditions, sends it back to Art with a theorem of the combinations of circumstances by which it could be produced. Art then examines these combinations of circumstances, and according as any of them are or are not in human power, pronounces the end attainable or not. The only one of the premisses, therefore, which Art supplies, is the original major premiss, which asserts that the attainment of the given end is desirable. Science then lends to Art the proposition (obtained by a series of inductions or of deductions) that the performance of certain actions will attain the end. From these premisses Art concludes that the performance of these actions is desirable; and finding it also practicable, converts the theorem into a rule or precept.”
Plato’s ideal grandeur compared with the rhetorical teachers — Usefulness of these teachers for the wants of an accomplished man.
Indeed it seems that Plato himself regarded it as unattainable — and as only worth aiming at for the purpose of pleasing the Gods, not with any view to practical benefit, arising from either speech or action among mankind.109 This is a point to be considered, when we compare his views on Rhetoric with those of Lysias and the other rhetors, whom he here judges unfavourably and even contemptuously. The work of speech and action among mankind, which Plato sets aside as unworthy of attention, was the express object of solicitude to Lysias, Isokrates, and rhetors generally: that which they practised efficaciously themselves, and which they desired to assist, cultivate, and improve in others: that which Perikles, in his funeral oration preserved by Thucydides, represents as the pride of the Athenian people collectively110 — combination of full freedom of preliminary contentious debate, with energy in executing the resolution which might be ultimately adopted. These rhetors, by the example of their composed speeches as well as by their teaching, did much to impart to young men the power of expressing themselves with fluency and effect before auditors, either in the assembly or in the dikastery: as Sokrates here fully admits.111 Towards this purpose it was useful to analyse the constituent parts of a discourse, and to give an appropriate name to each part. Accordingly, all the rhetorical teachers (Quintilian included) continued such analysis, though differing more or less in their way of performing it, until the extinction of Pagan civilisation. Young men were taught to learn by heart regular discourses,112 — to compose the like for themselves — to understand the difference between such as were well or ill composed — and to acquire a command of oratorical means for moving or convincing the hearer. All this instruction had a practical value: 45though Plato, both here and elsewhere, treats it as worthless. A citizen who stood mute and embarrassed, unable to argue a case with some propriety before an audience, felt himself helpless and defective in one of the characteristic privileges of a Greek and a freeman: while one who could perform the process well, acquired much esteem and influence.113 The Platonic Sokrates in the Gorgias consoles the speechless men by saying — What does this signify, provided you are just and virtuous? Such consolation failed to satisfy: as it would fail to satisfy the sick, the lame, or the blind.
109 Plato, Phædrus, pp. 273-274. ἣν οὐχ ἕνεκα τοῦ λέγειν καὶ πράττειν πρὸς ἀνθρώπους δεῖ διαπονεῖσθαι τὸν σώφρονα, ἀλλὰ τοῦ θεοῖς κεχαρισμένα μὲν λέγειν δύνασθαι, &c. (273 E).
110 Thucyd. ii. 39-40-41.
111 Plato, Phædrus, p. 288 A.
112 See what is said by Aristotle about ἡ Γοργίου πραγματεία in the last chapter of De Sophisticis Elenchis.
113 I have illustrated this point in my History of Greece, by the example of Xenophon in his command of the Cyreian army during its retreat.
His democratical education, and his powers of public speaking, were of the greatest service not only in procuring influence to himself, but also in conducting the army through its many perils and difficulties.
See Aristot. Rhet. i. 1, 3, p. 1355, b. 1.
The Rhetorical teachers conceived the Art too narrowly: Plato conceived it too widely. The principles of an Art are not required to be explained to all learners.
The teaching of these rhetors thus contributed to the security, dignity, and usefulness of the citizens, by arming them for public speech and action. But it was essentially practical, or empirical: it had little system, and was founded upon a narrow theory. Upon these points Plato in the Phædrus attacks them. He sets little value upon the accomplishments arming men for speech and action (λεκτικοὺς καὶ πρακτικοὺς εἶναι) — and he will not allow such teaching to be called an Art. He explains, in opposition to them, what he himself conceived the Art of Rhetoric to be, in the comprehensive way which I have above described.
But if the conception of the Art, as entertained by the Rhetors, is too narrow — that of Plato, on the other hand, is too wide.
First, it includes the whole basis of science or theory on which the Art rests: it is a Philosophy of Rhetoric, expounded by a theorist — rather than an Art of Rhetoric, taught to learners by a master. To teach the observance of certain rules or precepts is one thing: to set forth the reasons upon which those rules are founded, is another — highly important indeed, and proper to be known by the teacher; yet not necessarily communicated, or even communicable, to all learners. Quintilian, in his Institutio Rhetorica, gives both:— an ample theory, as well as an ample 46development of rules, of his professional teaching. But he would not have thought himself obliged to give this ample theory to all learners. With many, he would have been satisfied to make them understand the rules, and to exercise them in the ready observance thereof.
Plato includes in his conception of Art, the application thereof to new particular cases. — This can never be taught by rule.
Secondly, Plato, in defining the Art of Rhetoric, includes not only its foundation of science (which, though intimately connected with it, ought not to be considered as a constituent part), but also the application of it to particular cases; which application lies beyond the province both of science and of art, and cannot be reduced to any rule. “The Rhetor” (says Plato) “must teach his pupils, not merely to observe the rules whereby persuasion is operated, but also to know the particular persons to whom those rules are to be applied — on what occasions — within what limits — at what peculiar moments, &c.114 Unless the Rhetor can teach thus much, his pretended art is no art at all: all his other teaching is of no value.” Now this is an amount of exigence which can never be realised. Neither art nor science can communicate that which Plato here requires. The rules of art, together with many different hypothetical applications thereof, may be learnt: when the scientific explanation of the rules is superadded, the learner will be assisted farther towards fresh applications: but after both these have been learnt, the new cases which will arise can never be specially foreseen. The proper way of applying the general precepts to each case must be suggested by conjecture adapted to the circumstances, under the corrections of past experience.115 It is inconsistent in Plato, after affirming that nothing 47deserves the name of art116 except what is general — capable of being rationally anticipated and prescribed beforehand — then to include in art the special treatment required for the multiplicity of particular cases; the analogy of the medical art, which he here instructively invokes, would be against him on this point.
114 Plato, Phædr. pp. 268 B, 272 A.
115 What Longinus says about critical skill is applicable here also — πολλῆς ἔστι πείρας τελευταῖον ἐπιγέννημα. Isokrates (De Permut. Or. xv. sect. 290-312-316) has some good remarks about the impossibility of ἐπιστήμη respecting particulars. Plato, in the Gorgias, puts τέχνη, which he states to depend upon reason and foreknowledge, in opposition to ἐμπειρία and τριβή, which he considers as dependant on the φύσις στοχαστική. But in applying the knowledge or skill called Art to particular cases, the φύσις στοχαστικὴ is the best that can be had (p. 463 A-B). The conception of τέχνη given in the Gorgias is open to the same remark as that which we find in the Phædrus. Plato, in another passage of the Phædrus, speaks of the necessity that φύσις, ἐπιστήμη, and μελέτη, shall concur to make an accomplished orator. This is very true; and Lysias, Isokrates, and all the other rhetors whom Plato satirises, would have concurred in it. In his description of τέχνη and ἐπιστήμη, and in the estimate which he gives of all that it comprises, he leaves no outlying ground for μελέτη. Compare Xenophon, Memor. iii. 1, 11; also Isokrates contra Sophistas, a. 16; and a good passage of Dionysius Halik. De Compos. Verborum, in which that rhetor remarks that καιρὸς or opportunity neither has been nor can be reduced to art and rule.
116 Plato, Gorgias, pp. 464-465.
Plato’s charge against the Rhetorical teachers is not made out.
While therefore Plato’s view of the science or theory of Rhetoric is far more comprehensive and philosophical than any thing given by the rhetorical teachers — he has not made good his charge against them, that what they taught as an art of Rhetoric was useless and illusory. The charge can only be sustained if we grant — what appears to have been Plato’s own feeling — that the social and political life of the Athenians was a dirty and corrupt business, unworthy of a virtuous man to meddle with. This is the argument of Sokrates (in the Gorgias,117 the other great anti-rhetorical dialogue), proclaiming himself to stand alone and aloof, an isolated, free-thinking dissenter. As representing his sincere conviction, and interpreting Plato’s plan of life, this argument deserves honourable recognition. But we must remember that Lysias and the rhetorical teachers repudiated such a point of view. They aimed at assisting and strengthening others to perform their parts, not in speculative debate on philosophy, but in active citizenship; and they succeeded in this object to a great degree. The rhetorical ability of Lysias personally is attested not merely by the superlative encomium on him assigned to Phædrus,118 but also by his great celebrity — by the frequent demand for his services as a logographer or composer of discourses for others — by the number of his discourses preserved and studied after his death. He, and a fair proportion of the other rhetors named in the Phædrus, performed well the useful work which they undertook.
117 Plato, Gorg. 521 D.
118 Plato, Phædr. p. 228 A.
Plato has not treated Lysias fairly, in neglecting his greater works, and selecting for criticism an erotic exercise for a private circle.
When Plato selects, out of the very numerous discourses before him composed by Lysias, one hardly intended for any real auditors — neither deliberative, nor judicial, nor panegyrical, but an ingenious erotic paradox for a 48private circle of friends — this is no fair specimen of the author. Moreover Plato criticises it as if it were a philosophic exposition instead of an oratorical pleading. He complains that Lysias does not begin his discourse by defining — but neither do Demosthenes and other great orators proceed in that manner. He affirms that there is no organic structure, or necessary sequence, in the discourse, and that the sentences of it might be read in an inverted order:119 — and this remark is to a certain extent well-founded. In respect to the skilful marshalling of the different parts of a discourse, so as to give best effect to the whole, Dionysius of Halikarnassus120 declares Lysias to be inferior to some other orators — while ascribing to him marked oratorical superiority on various other points. Yet Plato, in specifying his objections against the erotic discourses of Lysias, does not show that it offends against the sound general principle which he himself lays down respecting the art of persuasion — That the topics insisted on by the persuader shall be adapted to the feelings and dispositions of the persuadend. Far from violating this principle, Lysias kept it in view, and employed it to the best of his power — as we may see, not merely by his remaining orations, but also by the testimonies of the critics:121 though he did not go through the large preliminary work of scientific classification, both of different minds and different persuasive apparatus, which Plato considers essential to a thorough comprehension and mastery of the principle.
119 Plato, Phædrus, pp. 263-264.
120 Dionysius (Judicium De Lysiâ, pp. 487-493) gives an elaborate criticism on the πραγματικὸς χαρακτὴρ of Lysias. The special excellence of Lysias (according to this critic) lay in his judicial orations, which were highly persuasive and plausible: the manner of presenting thoughts was ingenious and adapted to the auditors: the narration of facts and details, especially, was performed with unrivalled skill. But as to the marshalling of the different parts of a discourse, Dionysius considers Lysias as inferior to some other orators — and still more inferior in respect to δεινοτὴς and to strong emotional effects.
121 Dionys. Hal. (Ars Rhetorica, p. 381) notices the severe exigencies which Plato here imposes upon the Rhetor, remarking that scarcely any rhetorical discourse could be produced which came up to them. The defect did not belong to Lysias alone, but to all other rhetors also — ὁπότε γὰρ καὶ Λυσίαν ἐλέγχει, πᾶσαν τὴν ἡμετέραν ῥητορικὴν ἔοικεν ἐλέγχειν. Demosthenes almost alone (in the opinion of Dionysius) contrived to avoid the fault, because he imitated Plato.
No fair comparison can be taken between this exercise of Lysias and the discourses delivered by Sokrates in the Phædrus.
The first discourse assigned by Plato to Sokrates professes to be placed in competition with the discourse of Lysias, and to aim at the same object. But in reality it aims 49at a different object: it gives the dissuasive arguments, but omits the persuasive — as Phædrus is made to point out: so that it cannot be fairly compared with the discourse of Lysias. Still more may this be said respecting the second discourse of Sokrates: which is of a character and purpose so totally disparate, that no fair comparison can be taken between it and the ostensible competitor. The mixture of philosophy, mysticism, and dithyrambic poetry, which the second discourse of Sokrates presents, was considered by a rhetorical judge like Dionysius as altogether inconsistent with the scope and purpose of reasonable discourse.122 In the Menexenus, Plato has brought himself again into competition with Lysias, and there the competition is fairer:123 for Plato has there entirely neglected the exigencies enforced in the Phædrus, and has composed a funeral discourse upon the received type; which Lysias and other orators before him had followed, from Perikles downward. But in the Phædrus, Plato criticises Lysias upon principles which are a medley between philosophy and rhetoric. Lysias, in defending himself, might have taken the same ground as we find Sokrates himself taking in the Euthydêmus. “Philosophy and politics are two distinct walks, requiring different aptitudes, and having each its own practitioners. A man may take whichever he pleases; but he must not arrogate to himself superiority by an untoward attempt to join the two together.”124
122 See the Epistol. of Dion. Halikarn. to Cneius Pompey — De Platone — pp. 755-765.
123 Plato, Menexen. p. 237 seq. Stallbaum, Comm. in Menexenum, pp. 10-11.
124 Plato, Euthydêm. p. 306 A-C.
Continuous discourse, either written or spoken, inefficacious as a means of instruction to the ignorant.
Another important subject is also treated in the Phædrus. Sokrates delivers views both original and characteristic, respecting the efficacy of continuous discourse — either written to be read, or spoken to be heard without cross-examination — as a means of instruction. They are re-stated — in a manner substantially the same, though with some variety and fulness of illustration — in Plato’s seventh Epistle125 to the surviving friends of Dion. I have already touched upon these views in my eighth Chapter, on the Platonic Dialogues generally, and have 50pointed out how much Plato understood to be involved in what he termed knowledge. No man (in his view) could be said to know, who was not competent to sustain successfully, and to apply successfully, a Sokratic cross-examination. Now knowledge, involving such a competency, certainly cannot be communicated by any writing, or by any fixed and unchangeable array of words, whether written or spoken. You must familiarise learners with the subject on many different sides, and in relation to many different points of view, each presenting more or less chance of error or confusion. Moreover, you must apply a different treatment to each mind, and to the same mind at different stages: no two are exactly alike, and the treatment adapted for one will be unsuitable for the other. While it is impossible, for these reasons, to employ any set forms of words, it will be found that the process of reading or listening leaves the reader or listener comparatively passive: there is nothing to stir the depths of the mind, or to evolve the inherent forces and dormant capacities. Dialectic conversation is the only process which can adapt itself with infinite variety to each particular case and moment — and which stimulates fresh mental efforts ever renewed on the part of each respondent and each questioner. Knowledge — being a slow result generated by this stimulating operation, when skilfully conducted, long continued, and much diversified — is not infused into, but evolved out of, the mind. It consists in a revival of those unchangeable Ideas or Forms, with which the mind during its state of eternal pre-existence had had communion. There are only a few privileged minds, however, that have had sufficient communion therewith to render such revival possible: accordingly, none but these few can ever rise to knowledge.126
125 Plato, Epistol. vii. pp. 341-344.
126 Schleiermacher, in his Introduction to the Phædrus, justly characterises this doctrine as genuine Sokratism — “die ächt Sokratische erhabene Verachtung alles Schreibens and alles rednerischen Redens,” p. 70.
Written matter is useful as a memorandum for persons who know — or as an elegant pastime.
Though knowledge cannot be first communicated by written matters, yet if it has been once communicated and subsequently forgotten, it may be revived by written matters. Writing has thus a real, though secondary, usefulness, as a memorandum. And Plato doubtless accounted written dialogues the most useful of all 51written compositions, because they imitated portions of that long oral process whereby alone knowledge had been originally generated. His dialogues were reports of the conversations purporting to have been held by Sokrates with others.
Plato’s didactic theories are pitched too high to be realised.
It is an excellent feature in the didactic theories of Plato, that they distinguish so pointedly between the passive and active conditions of the intellect; and that they postulate as indispensable, an habitual and cultivated mental activity, worked up by slow, long-continued, colloquy. To read or hear, and then to commit to memory, are in his view elegant recreations, but nothing more. But while, on this point, Plato’s didactic theories deserve admiration, we must remark on the other hand that they are pitched so high as to exceed human force, and to overpass all possibility of being realised.127 They mark out an idéal, which no person ever attained, either then or since — like the Platonic theory of rhetoric. To be master of any subject, in the extent and perfection required for sustaining and administering a Sokratic cross-examination — is a condition which scarce any one can ever fulfil: certainly no one, except upon a small range of subjects. Assuredly, Plato himself never fulfilled it.
127 A remark made by Sextus Empiricus (upon another doctrine which he is discussing) may be applied to this view of Plato — τὸ δὲ λέγειν ὅτι τῇ διομαλισμῷ τῶν πράξεων καταλαμβάνομεν τὸν ἔχοντα τὴν περὶ τὸν βίον τέχνην, ὑπερφθεγγομένων ἔστι τὴν ἀνθρώπων φύσιν, καὶ εὐχομένων μᾶλλον ἢ ἀληθῆ λεγόντων (Pyrrh. Hyp. iii. 244).
No one has ever been found competent to solve the difficulties raised by Sokrates, Arkesilaus, Karneades, and the negative vein of philosophy.
Such a cross-examination involved the mastery of all the openings for doubt, difficulty, deception, or refutation, bearing on the subject: openings which a man is to profit by, if assailant — to keep guarded, if defendant. Now when we survey the Greek negative philosophy, as it appears in Plato, Aristotle, and Sextus Empiricus — and when we recollect that between the second and the third of these names, there appeared three other philosophers equally or more formidable in the same vein, all whose arguments have perished (Arkesilaus, Karneades, Ænesidêmus) — we shall see that no man has ever been known competent both to strike and parry with these weapons, in a manner so skilful and ready as to 52amount to knowledge in the Platonic sense. But in so far as such knowledge is attainable or approachable, Plato is right in saying that it cannot be attained except by long dialectic practice. Reading books, and hearing lectures, are undoubtedly valuable aids, but insufficient by themselves. Modern times recede from it even more than ancient. Regulated oral dialectic has become unknown; the logical and metaphysical difficulties — which negative philosophy required to be solved before it would allow any farther progress — are now little heeded, amidst the multiplicity of observed facts, and theories adapted to and commensurate with those facts. This change in the character of philosophy is doubtless a great improvement. It is found that by acquiescing provisionally in the axiomata media, and by applying at every step the control of verification, now rendered possible by the multitude of ascertained facts — the sciences may march safely onward: notwithstanding that the logical and metaphysical difficulties, the puzzles (ἀπορίαι) involved in philosophia prima and its very high abstractions, are left behind unsolved and indeterminate. But though the modern course of philosophy is preferable to the ancient, it is not for that reason to be considered as satisfactory. These metaphysical difficulties are not diminished either in force or relevancy, because modern writers choose to leave them unnoticed. Plato and Aristotle were quite right in propounding them as problems, the solution of which was indispensable to the exigencies and consistent schematism of the theorising intelligence, as well as to any complete discrimination between sufficient and insufficient evidence. Such they still remain, overlooked yet not defunct.
Plato’s idéal philosopher can only be realised under the hypothesis of a pre-existent and omniscient soul, stimulated into full reminiscence here.
Now all these questions would be solved by the idéal philosopher whom Plato in the Phædrus conceives as possessing knowledge: a person who shall be at once a negative Sokrates in excogitating and enforcing all the difficulties — and an affirmative match for Sokrates, as respondent in solving them: a person competent to apply this process to all the indefinite variety of individual minds, under the inspirations of the moment. This is a magnificent idéal. Plato affirms truly, that those teachers who taught rhetoric and philosophy by writing, could never produce such a pupil: 53and that even the Sokratic dialectic training, though indispensable and far more efficacious, would fail in doing so, unless in those few cases where it was favoured by very superior capacity — understood by him as superhuman, and as a remnant from the pre-existing commerce of the soul with the world of Forms or Ideas. The foundation therefore of the whole scheme rests upon Plato’s hypothesis of an antecedent life of the soul, proclaimed by Sokrates here in his second or panegyrical discourse on Eros. The rhetorical teachers, with whom he here compares himself and whom he despises as aiming at low practical ends — might at any rate reply that they avoided losing themselves in such unmeasured and unwarranted hypotheses.
Different proceeding of Plato in the Timæus.
One remark yet remains to be made upon the doctrine here set forth by Plato: that no teaching is possible by means of continuous discourse spoken or written — none, except through prolonged and varied oral dialectic.128 To this doctrine Plato does not constantly conform in his practice: he departs from it on various important occasions. In the Timæus, Sokrates calls upon the philosopher so named for an exposition on the deepest and most mysterious cosmical subjects. Timæus delivers the exposition in a continuous harangue, without a word of remark or question addressed by any of the auditors: while at the beginning of the Kritias (the next succeeding dialogue) Sokrates greatly commends what Timæus had spoken. The Kritias itself too (though unfinished) is given in the form of continuous exposition. Now, as the Timæus is more abstruse than any other Platonic writing, we cannot imagine that Plato, at the time when he composed it, thought so meanly about continuous exposition, as a vehicle of instruction, as we find him declaring in the Phædrus. I point this out, because it illustrates my opinion that the different dialogues of Plato represent very different, sometimes even opposite, 54points of view: and that it is a mistake to treat them as parts of one preconceived and methodical system.
128 The historical Sokrates would not allow his oral dialectic process to be called teaching. He expressly says “I have never been the teacher of any one” (Plat. Apol. Sokr. pp. 33 A, 19 E): and he disclaimed the possession of knowledge. Aristotle too considers teaching as a presentation of truths, ready made and supposed to be known, by the teacher to learners, who are bound to believe them, δεῖ γὰρ πιστεύειν τὸν μανθάνοντα. The Platonic Sokrates, in the Phædrus and Symposion, differs from both; he recognises no teaching except the perpetual generation of new thoughts and feelings, by means of stimulating dialectic colloquy, and the revival in the mind thereby of the experience of an antecedent life, during which some communion has been enjoyed with the world of Ideas or Forms.
Opposite tendencies co-existent in Plato’s mind — Extreme of the Transcendental or Absolute — Extreme of specialising adaptation to individuals and occasions.
Plato is usually extolled by his admirers, as the champion of the Absolute — of unchangeable forms, immutable truth, objective necessity cogent and binding on every one. He is praised for having refuted Protagoras; who can find no standard beyond the individual recognition and belief, of his own mind or that of some one else. There is no doubt that Plato often talks in that strain: but the method followed in his dialogues, and the general principles of method which he lays down, here as well as elsewhere, point to a directly opposite conclusion. Of this the Phædrus is a signal instance. Instead of the extreme of generality, it proclaims the extreme of specialty. The objection which the Sokrates of the Phædrus advances against the didactic efficacy of written discourse, is founded on the fact, that it is the same to all readers — that it takes no cognizance of the differences of individual minds nor of the same mind at different times. Sokrates claims for dialectic debate the valuable privilege, that it is constant action and re-action between two individual minds — an appeal by the inherent force and actual condition of each, to the like elements in the other — an ever shifting presentation of the same topics, accommodated to the measure of intelligence and cast of emotion in the talkers and at the moment. The individuality of each mind — both questioner and respondent — is here kept in view as the governing condition of the process. No two minds can be approached by the same road or by the same interrogation. The questioner cannot advance a step except by the admission of the respondent. Every respondent is the measure to himself. He answers suitably to his own belief; he defends by his own suggestions; he yields to the pressure of contradiction and inconsistency, when he feels them, and not before. Each dialogist is (to use the Protagorean phrase) the measure to himself of truth and falsehood, according as he himself believes it. Assent or dissent, whichever it may be, springs only from the free working of the individual mind, in its actual condition then and there. It is to the individual mind alone, that appeal is made, and this is what Protagoras asks for.
55We thus find, in Plato’s philosophical character, two extreme opposite tendencies and opposite poles co-existent. We must recognise them both: but they can never be reconciled: sometimes he obeys and follows the one, sometimes the other.
If it had been Plato’s purpose to proclaim and impose upon every one something which he called “Absolute Truth,” one and the same alike imperative upon all — he would best proclaim it by preaching or writing. To modify this “Absolute,” according to the varieties of the persons addressed, would divest it of its intrinsic attribute and excellence. If you pretend to deal with an Absolute, you must turn away your eyes from all diversity of apprehending intellects and believing subjects.
Character of dialogues immediately preceding — much transcendental assertion. Opposite character of the Parmenides.
In the dialogues immediately preceding — Phædon, Phædrus, Symposion — we have seen Sokrates manifesting his usual dialectic, which never fails him: but we have also seen him indulging in a very unusual vein of positive affirmation and declaration. He has unfolded many novelties about the states of pre-existence and post-existence: he has familiarised us with Ideas, Forms, Essences, eternal and unchangeable, as the causes of all the facts and particularities of nature: he has recognised the inspired variety of madness, as being more worthy of trust than sober, uninspired, intelligence: he has recounted, with the faith of a communicant fresh from the mysteries, revelations made to him by the prophetess Diotima, — respecting the successive stages of exaltation whereby gifted intelligences, under the stimulus of Eros Philosophus, ascend into communion with the great sea of Beauty. All this is set forth with as much charm as Plato’s eloquence can bestow. But after all, it is not the true character of Sokrates:— I mean, the Sokrates of the Apology, whose mission it is to make war against the chronic malady of the human mind — false persuasion of knowledge, without the reality. It is, on the contrary, Sokrates himself infected with the same chronic malady which he combats in others, and requiring medicine against it as much as others. Such is the exact character in which Sokrates appears in the Parmenides: which dialogue I shall now proceed to review.
Sokrates is the juvenile defendant — Parmenides the veteran censor and cross-examiner. Parmenides gives a specimen of exercises to be performed by the philosophical aspirant.
The Parmenides announces its own purpose as intended to 57repress premature forwardness of affirmation, in a young philosophical aspirant: who, with meritorious eagerness in the search for truth, and with his eyes turned in the right direction to look for it — has nevertheless not fully estimated the obstructions besetting his path, nor exercised himself in the efforts necessary to overcome them. By a curious transposition, or perhaps from deference on Plato’s part to the Hellenic sentiment of Nemesis, — Sokrates, who in most Platonic dialogues stands forward as the privileged censor and victorious opponent, is here the juvenile defendant under censorship by a superior. It is the veteran Parmenides of Elea who, while commending the speculative impulse and promise of Sokrates, impresses upon him at the same time that the theory which he had advanced — the self-existence, the separate and substantive nature, of Ideas — stands exposed to many grave objections, which he (Sokrates) has not considered and cannot meet. So far, Parmenides performs towards Sokrates the same process of cross-examining refutation as Sokrates himself applies to Theætêtus and other young men elsewhere. But we find in this dialogue something ulterior and even peculiar. Having warned Sokrates that his intellectual training has not yet been carried to a point commensurate with the earnestness of his aspirations — Parmenides proceeds to describe to him what exercises he ought to go through, in order to guard himself against premature assertion or hasty partiality. Moreover, Parmenides not only indicates in general terms what ought to be done, but illustrates it by giving a specimen of such exercise, on a topic chosen by himself.
Circumstances and persons of the Parmenides.
Passing over the dramatic introduction1 whereby the personages58 discoursing are brought together, we find Sokrates, Parmenides, and the Eleatic Zeno (the disciple of Parmenides), engaged in the main dialogue. When Parmenides begins his illustrative exercise, a person named Aristotle (afterwards one of the Thirty oligarchs at Athens), still younger than Sokrates, is made to serve as respondent.
1 This dramatic introduction is extremely complicated. The whole dialogue, from beginning to end, is recounted by Kephalus of Klazomenæ; who heard it from the Athenian Antiphon — who himself had heard it from Pythodôrus, a friend of Zeno, present when the conversation was held. A string of circumstances are narrated by Kephalus, to explain how he came to wish to hear it, and to find out Antiphon. Plato appears anxious to throw the event back as far as possible into the past, in order to justify the bringing Sokrates into personal communication with Parmenides: for some unfriendly critics tried to make out that the two could not possibly have conversed on philosophy (Athenæus, xi. 505). Plato declares the ages of the persons with remarkable exactness: Parmenides was 65, completely grey-headed, but of noble mien: Zeno about 40, tall and graceful: Sokrates very young. (Plat. Parmen. p. 127 B-C.)
It required some invention in Plato to provide a narrator, suitable for recounting events so long antecedent as the young period of Sokrates.
Sokrates is one among various auditors, who are assembled to hear Zeno reading aloud a treatise of his own composition, intended to answer and retort upon the opponents of his preceptor Parmenides.
Manner in which the doctrine of Parmenides was impugned. Manner in which his partisan Zeno defended him.
The main doctrine of the real Parmenides was, “That Ens, the absolute, real, self-existent, was One and not many”: which doctrine was impugned and derided by various opponents, deducing from it absurd conclusions. Zeno defended his master by showing that the opposite doctrine ( — “That Ens, the absolute, self-existent universe, is Many — ”) led to conclusions absurd in an equal or greater degree. If the Absolute were Many, the many would be both like and unlike: but they cannot have incompatible and contradictory attributes: therefore Absolute Ens is not Many. Ens, as Parmenides conceived it, was essentially homogeneous and unchangeable: even assuming it to be Many, all its parts must be homogeneous, so that what was predicable of one must be predicable of all; it might be all alike, or all unlike: but it could not be both. Those who maintained the plurality of Ens, did so on the ground of apparent severalty, likeness, and unlikeness, in the sensible world. But Zeno, while admitting these phenomena in the sensible world, as relative to us, apparent, and subject to the varieties of individual estimation — denied their applicability to absolute and self-existent Ens.2 Since absolute Ens or Entia are Many (said the opponents of Parmenides), they will be both like and unlike: and thus we can explain the phenomena of the sensible world. The absolute (replied Zeno) cannot be both like and unlike; therefore it cannot be many. We must recollect 59that both Parmenides and Zeno renounced all attempt to explain the sensible world by the absolute and purely intelligible Ens. They treated the two as radically distinct and unconnected. The one was absolute, eternal, unchangeable, homogeneous, apprehended only by reason. The other was relative, temporary, variable, heterogeneous; a world of individual and subjective opinion, upon which no absolute truth, no pure objectivity, could be reached.
Sokrates here impugns the doctrine of Zeno. He affirms the Platonic theory of ideas separate from sensible objects, yet participable by them.
Sokrates, depicted here as a young man, impugns this doctrine of Zeno: and maintains that the two worlds, though naturally disjoined, were not incommunicable. He advances the Platonic theory of Ideas: that is, an intelligible world of many separate self-existent Forms or Ideas, apprehended by reason only — and a sensible world of particular objects, each participating in one or more of these Forms or Ideas. “What you say (he remarks to Zeno), is true of the world of Forms or Ideas: the Form of Likeness per se can never be unlike, nor can the Form of Unlikeness be ever like. But in regard to the sensible world, there is nothing to hinder you and me, and other objects which rank and are numbered as separate individuals, from participating both in the Form of likeness and in the Form of unlikeness.3 In so far as I, an individual object, participate in the Form of Likeness, I am properly called like; in so far as I participate in the Form of Unlikeness, I am called unlike. So about One and Many, Great and Little, and so forth: I, the same individual, may participate in many different and opposite Forms, and may derive from them different and opposite denominations. I am one and many — like and unlike — great and little — all at the same time. But no such combination is possible between the Forms themselves, self-existent and opposite: the Form of Likeness cannot become unlike, nor vice versâ. The Forms themselves stand permanently apart, incapable of fusion or coalescence with each other: but different and even opposite Forms may lend 60themselves to participation and partnership in the same sensible individual object.”4
3 Plato, Parmenid. p. 129 A. οὐ νομίζεις εἶναι αὐτὸ καθ’ αὐτὸ εἶδός τι ὁμοιότητος, καὶ τῷ τοιούτῳ αἶ ἄλλο τι ἐναντίον, ὃ ἔστιν ἀνόμοιον; τούτοιν δὲ δυοῖν ὄντοιν καὶ ἐμὲ καὶ σὲ καὶ τὰ ἄλλα ἃ δὴ πολλὰ καλοῦμεν, μεταλαμβάνειν;
4 Plato, Parmenid. pp. 129-130.
Parmenides and Zeno admire the philosophical ardour of Sokrates. Parmenides advances objections against the Platonic theory of Ideas.
Parmenides and Zeno are represented as listening with surprise and interest to this language of Sokrates, recognising two distinct worlds: one, of invisible but intelligible Forms, — the other that of sensible objects, participating in these Forms. “Your ardour for philosophy” (observes Parmenides to Sokrates), “is admirable. Is this distinction your own?”5
5 Plato, Parmenid. p. 130 A. Ὦ Σώκρατες, ὡς ἄξιος εἶ ἄγασθαι τῆς ὁρμῆς τῆς ἐπὶ τοὺς λόγους· καί μοι εἰπέ, αὐτὸς σὺ οὕτω διῄρησαι ὡς λέγεις, χωρὶς μὲν εἴδη αὐτὰ ἄττα, χωρὶς δὲ τὰ τούτων αὖ μετέχοντα;
Plato now puts into the mouth of Parmenides — the advocate of One absolute and unchangeable Ens, separated by an impassable gulf from the sensible world of transitory and variable appearances or phenomena — objections against what is called the Platonic theory of Ideas: that is, the theory of an intelligible world, comprising an indefinite number of distinct intelligible and unchangeable Forms — in partial relation and communication with another world of sensible objects, each of which participates in one or more of these Forms. We thus have the Absolute One pitted against the Absolute Many.
What Ideas does Sokrates recognise? Of the Just and Good? Yes. Of Man, Horse, &c.? Doubtful. Of Hair, Mud, &c.? No.
What number and variety of these intelligible Forms do you recognise — (asks Parmenides)? Likeness and Unlikeness — One and Many — Just, Beautiful, Good, &c. — are all these Forms absolute and existent per se? Sokr. — Certainly they are. Parm. — Do you farther recognise an absolute and self-existent Form of Man, apart from us and all other individuals? — or a Form of fire, water, and the like? Sokr. — I do not well know how to answer:— I have often been embarrassed with the question. Parm. — Farther, do there exist distinct intelligible Forms of hair, mud, dirt, and all the other mean and contemptible objects of sense which we see around? Sokr. — No — certainly — no such Forms as these exist. Such objects are as we see them, and nothing beyond: it would be too absurd to suppose Forms of such like things.6 Nevertheless there are 61times when I have misgivings on the point; and when I suspect that there must be Forms of them as well as of the others. When such reflections cross my mind, I shrink from the absurdity of the doctrine, and try to confine my attention to Forms like those which you mentioned first.
6 Plato, Parmenid. p. 130 D. Οὐδαμῶς, φάναι τὸν Σωκράτην, ἀλλὰ ταῦτα μέν γε, ἅπερ ὁρῶμεν, ταῦτα καὶ εἶναι· εἶδος δέ τι αὐτῶν οἰηθῆναι εἶναι μὴ λίαν ᾖ ἄτοπον.
Alexander, who opposes the doctrine of the Platonists about Ideas, treats it as understood that they did not recognise Ideas of worms, gnats, and such like animals. Schol. ad Aristot. Metaphys. A. 991 a. p. 575, a. 30 Brandis.
Parmenides declares that no object in nature is mean to the philosopher.
Parm. — You are still young, Sokrates:— you still defer to the common sentiments of mankind. But the time will come when philosophy will take stronger hold of you, and will teach you that no object in nature is mean or contemptible in her view.7
7 Plato, Parmenid. p. 130 E. Νέος γὰρ εἶ ἔτι, καὶ οὕπω σου ἀντείληπται φιλοσοφία ὡς ἕτι ἀντιλήψεται, κατ’ ἐμὴν δόξαν, ὅτε οὐδὲν αὐτῶν ἀτιμάσεις· νῦν δὲ ἔτι πρὸς ἀνθρώπων ἀποβλέπεις δόξας διὰ τὴν ἡλικίαν.
Remarks upon this — Contrast between emotional and scientific classification.
This remark deserves attention. Plato points out the radical distinction, and frequent antipathy between classifications constructed by science, and those which grow up spontaneously under the associating influence of a common emotion. What he calls “the opinions of men,” — in other words, the associations naturally working in an untaught and unlettered mind — bring together the ideas of objects according as they suggest a like emotion — veneration, love, fear, antipathy, contempt, laughter, &c.8 As things which inspire like emotions are thrown into the same category and receive the same denomination, so the opposite proceeding inspires great repugnance, when things creating antipathetic emotions are forced into the same category. A large proportion of objects in nature come to be regarded as unworthy of any serious attention, and fit only to serve for discharging on them our laughter, contempt, or antipathy. The investigation of the structure and manifestations of insects is one of the marked features which Aristophanes ridicules in Sokrates: moreover the same poet also brings odium on the philosopher for alleged study of astronomy and meteorology — the heavenly bodies being as it were at the opposite emotional pole, objects of such reverential admiration and worship, 62that it was impious to watch or investigate them, or calculate their proceedings beforehand.9 The extent to which anatomy and physiology were shut out from study in antiquity, and have continued to be partially so even in modern times, is well known. And the proportion of phenomena is both great and important, connected with the social relations, which are excluded both from formal registration and from scientific review; kept away from all rational analysis either of causes or remedies, because of the strong repugnances connected with them. This emotional view of nature is here noted by Plato as conflicting with the scientific. No object (he says) is mean in the eyes of philosophy. He remarks to the same effect in the Sophistês and Politikus, and the remark is illustrated by the classifying processes there exhibited:10 mean objects and esteemed objects being placed side by side.
8 Plato, himself, however, occasionally appeals πρὸς ἀνθρώπων δόξας, and becomes ἀτεχνῶς δημήγορος, when it suits his argument; see Gorgias, 494 C.
9 Aristophan. Nubes, 145-170-1490.
τί γὰρ μαθόντ’ ἐς τοὺς θεοὺς ὑβρίζετον,
καὶ τῆς σελήνης ἐσκοπεῖσθε τὴν ἔδραν;
Compare Xenoph. Memor. i. 1, 11-13, iv. 7, 6-7; Plutarch, Perikles, 23; also the second chapter of the first Book of Macrobius, about the discredit which is supposed to be thrown upon grand and solemn subjects by a plain and naked exposition. “Inimicam esse naturæ nudam expositionem sui.”
10 Plato, Sophist. p. 227 B; Politik. p. 266 D; also Theætêt. p. 174 D.
Both the Platonic Sokrates, and the Xenophontic Sokrates, frequently illustrate the education of men by comparison with the bringing up of young animals as well as with the training of horses: they also compare the educator of young men with the trainer of young horses. Indeed this comparison occurs so frequently, that it excites much displeasure among various modern critics (Forchhammer, Köchly, Socher, &c.), who seem to consider it as unseemly and inconsistent with “the dignity of human nature”. The frequent allusions made by Plato to the homely arts and professions are noted by his interlocutors as tiresome.
See Plato, Apolog. Sokr. p. 20 A. ὦ Καλλία, εἰ μέν σου τὼ υἱέε πώλω ἢ μόσχω ἐγενέσθην, &c.
The Zoological works of Aristotle exhibit a memorable example of scientific intelligence, overcoming all the contempt and disgust usually associated with minute and repulsive organisms. To Plato, it would be repugnant to arrange in the same class the wolf and the dog. See Sophist. p. 231 A.
Parmenides now produces various objections against the Platonic variety of dualism: the two distinct but partially inter-communicating worlds — one, of separate, permanent, unchangeable, Forms or Ideas — the other, of individual objects, transient and variable; participating in, and receiving denomination from, these Forms.
Objections of Parmenides — How can objects participate in the Ideas. Each cannot have the whole Idea, nor a part thereof.
1. How (asks Parmenides) can such participation take place? 63Is the entire Form in each individual object? No: for one and the same Form cannot be at the same time in many distant objects. A part of it therefore must be in one object; another part in another. But this assumes that the Form is divisible — or is not essentially One. Equality is in all equal objects: but how can a part of the Form equality, less than the whole, make objects equal? Again, littleness is in all little objects: that is, a part of the Form littleness is in each. But the Form littleness cannot have parts; because, if it had, the entire Form would be greater than any of its parts, — and the Form littleness cannot be greater than any thing. Moreover, if one part of littleness were added to other parts, the sum of the two would be less, and not greater, than either of the factors. It is plain that none of these Forms can be divisible, or can have parts. Objects therefore cannot participate in the Form by parts or piecemeal. But neither can each object possess the entire Form. Accordingly, since there remains no third possibility, objects cannot participate in the Forms at all.11
11 Plato, Parmenid. p. 131. A similar argument, showing the impossibility of such μέθεξις, appears in Sextus Empiric. adv. Arithmeticos, sect. 11-20, p. 334 Fab., p. 724 Bek.
Comparing the Idea with the sensible objects partaking in the Idea, there is a likeness between them which must be represented by a higher Idea — and so on ad infinitum.
2. Parmenides now passes to a second argument. The reason why you assume that each one of these Forms exists, is — That when you contemplate many similar objects, one and the same ideal phantom or Concept is suggested by all.12 Thus, when you see many great objects, one common impression of greatness arises from all. Hence you conclude that The Great, or the Form of Greatness, exists as One. But if you take this Form of Greatness, and consider it in comparison with each or all the great individual objects, it will have in common with them something that makes it great. You must therefore search for some higher Form, which represents what belongs in common both to the Form of Greatness and to individual great objects. And this higher Form again, when compared with the rest, will have 64something in common which must be represented by a Form yet higher: so that there will be an infinite series of Forms, ascending higher and higher, of which you will never reach the topmost.13
12 Plato, Parmenid. p. 132. Οἶμαι σε ἐκ τοῦ τοιοῦδε ἓν ἕκαστον εἶδος οἴεσθαι εἶναι. Ὅταν πόλλ’ ἄττα μεγάλα σοι δόξῃ εἶναι, μία τις ἴσως δοκεῖ ἰδέα ἡ αὐτὴ εἶναι ἐπὶ πάντα ἰδόντι, ὅθεν ἓν τὸ μέγα ἡγεῖ εἶναι.
13 Plato, Parmenid. p. 132 A. See this process, of comparing the Form with particular objects denominated after the Form, described in a different metaphysical language by Mr. John Stuart Mill, System of Logic, book iv. ch. 2, sect. 3. “As the general conception is itself obtained by a comparison of particular phenomena, so, when obtained, the mode in which we apply it to other phenomena is again by comparison. We compare phenomena with each other to get the conception; and we then compare those and other phenomena with the conception. We get the conception of an animal by comparing different animals, and when we afterwards see a creature resembling an animal, we compare it with our general conception of an animal: and if it agrees with our general conception, we include it in the class. The conception becomes the type of comparison. We may perhaps find that no considerable number of other objects agree with this first general conception: and that we must drop the conception, and beginning again with a different individual case, proceed by fresh comparisons to a different general conception.”
The comparison, which the argument of the Platonic Parmenides assumes to be instituted, between τὸ εἶδος and τὰ μετέχοντα αὐτοῦ, is denied by Proklus; who says that there can be no comparison, nor any κοινότης, except between τὰ ὁμοταγῆ: and that the Form is not ὁμοταγὲς with its participant particulars. (Proklus ad Parmenidem, p. 125, p. 684 ed. Stallbaum.)
This argument of Parmenides is the memorable argument known under the name of ὁ τρίτος ἄνθρωπος. Against the Platonic εἴδη considered as χωριστά, it is a forcible argument. See Aristot. Metaphys. A. 990, b. 15 seq., where it is numbered among οἱ ἀκριβέστεροι τῶν λόγων. We find from the Scholion of Alexander (p. 566 Brandis), that it was advanced in several different ways by Aristotle, in his work Περὶ Ἰδεῶν: by his scholar Eudemus ἐν τοῖς περὶ Λέξεως: and by a contemporary σοφιστὴς named Polyxenus, as well as by other Sophists.
Are the Ideas conceptions of the mind, and nothing more? Impossible.
3. Perhaps (suggests Sokrates) each of these Forms is a Conception of the mind and nothing beyond: the Form is not competent to exist out of the mind.14 How? (replies Parmenides.) There cannot be in the mind any Conception, which is a Conception of nothing. Every Conception must be of something really existing: in this case, it is a Conception of some one thing, which you conceive as belonging in common to each and all the objects considered. The Something thus conceived as perpetually One and the same in all, is, the Form. Besides, if you think that individual objects participate in the Forms, and that these Forms are Conceptions of the mind, — you must suppose, either that all 65objects are made up of Conceptions, and are therefore themselves Concipients: or else that these Forms, though Conceptions, are incapable of conceiving. Neither one nor the other is admissible.15
14 Plato, Parmenid. p. 132 B. μὴ τῶν εἰδῶν ἕκαστον ᾖ τούτων νοήμα, καὶ οὐδαμοῦ αὐτῷ προσήκη ἐγγίγνεσθαι ἄλλοθι ἢ ἐν ψυχαῖς.… Τί οὖν; φάναι, ἓν ἕκαστόν ἐστι τῶν νοημάτων, νόημα δὲ οὐδενός; Ἀλλ’ ἀδύνατον, εἰπεῖν. Ἀλλὰ τινός; Ναί. Ὄντος ἢ οὐκ ὄντος; Ὄντος. Οὐχ ἑνός τινος, ὃ ἐπὶ πᾶσιν ἐκεῖνο τὸ νόημα ἐπὸν νοεῖ, μίαν τινὰ οὖσαν ἰδέαν; Ναί.
Aristotle (Topic. ii. 113, a. 25) indicates one way of meeting this argument, if advanced by an adversary in dialectic debate — εἰ τὰς ἰδέας ἐν ἡμῖν ἔφησεν εἶναι.
15 Plato, Parmenid. p. 132 D. οὐκ ἀνάγκη, εἰ τἄλλα φῂ τῶν εἰδῶν μετέχειν, ἢ δοκεῖν σοι ἐκ νοήματα ὄντα ἀνόητα εἶναι; Ἀλλ’ οὐδὲ τοῦτο, φάναι, ἔχει λόγον.
The word ἀνόητα here is used in its ordinary sense, in which it is the negation, not of νοητός but of νοητικός. There is a similar confusion, Plato, Phædon, p. 80 B. Proklus (pp. 699-701, Stall.) is prolix but very obscure.
The Ideas are types or exemplars, and objects partake of them by being likened to them. Impossible.
4. Probably the case stands thus (says Sokrates). These Forms are constants and fixtures in nature, as models or patterns. Particular objects are copies or likenesses of them: and the participation of such objects in the Form consists in being made like to it.16 In that case (replies Parmenides), the Form must itself be like to the objects which have been made like to it. Comparing the Form with the objects, that in which they resemble must itself be a Form: and thus you will have a higher Form above the first Form — and so upwards in the ascending line. This follows necessarily from the hypothesis that the Form is like the objects. The participation of objects in the Form, therefore, cannot consist in being likened to it.17
16 Aristotle (Metaphys. A. 991, a. 20) characterises this way of presenting the Platonic Ideas as mere κενολογία and poetical metaphor. See also the remarkable Scholion of Alexander, pp. 574-575, Brandis.
17 Plato, Parmenid. pp. 132-133.
This is again a repetition, though differently presented, of the same argument — ὁ τρίτος ἄνθρωπος — enunciated p. 132 A.
If Ideas exist, they cannot be knowable by us. We can know only what is relative to ourselves. Individuals are relative to individuals: Ideas relative to Ideas.
5. Here are grave difficulties (continues Parmenides) opposed to this doctrine of yours, affirming the existence of self-existent, substantive, unchangeable, yet participated, Forms. But difficulties still graver remain behind. Such Forms as you describe cannot be cognizable by us: at least it is hard to show how they can be cognizable. Being self-existent and substantive, they are not in us: such of them as are relative, have their relation with each other, not with those particular objects among us, which are called great, little, and so forth, from being supposed to be similar to or participant in the forms, and bearing names the same as those of the Forms. Thus, for example, if I, an individual man, am in the relation of master, I bear that relation to another individual66 man who is my servant, not to servantship in general (i.e. the Form of servantship, the Servus per se). My servant, again, bears the relation of servant to me, an individual man as master, — not to mastership in general (i.e. to the Form of mastership, the Dominus per se). Both terms of the relation are individual objects. On the other hand, the Forms also bear relation to each other. The Form of servantship (Servus per se) stands in relation to the Form of mastership (Dominus per se). Neither of them correlates with an individual object. The two terms of the relation must be homogeneous, each of them a Form.18
18 Plato, Parmenid. p. 133 E.
Forms can be known only through the Form of Cognition, which we do not possess.
Now apply this to the case of cognition. The Form of Cognition correlates exclusively with the Form of Truth: the Form of each special Cognition, geometrical or medical, or other, correlates with the Form of Geometry or Medicine. But Cognition as we possess it, correlates only with Truth relatively to us: also, each special Cognition of ours has its special correlating Truth, relatively to us.19 Now the Forms are not in or with us, but apart from us: the Form of Cognition is not our Cognition, the Form of Truth is not our Truth. Forms can be known only through the Form of Cognition, which we do not possess: we cannot therefore know Forms. We have our own cognition, whereby we know what is relative to us; but we know nothing more. Forms, which are not relative to us, lie out of our knowledge. Bonum per se, Pulchrum per se, and the other self-existent Forms or Ideas, are to us altogether unknowable.20
19 Plato, Parmenid. p. 134 A. Οὐκοῦν καὶ ἐπιστήμη, αὐτὴ μὲν ὃ ἔστιν ἐπιστήμη, τῆς ὃ ἔστιν ἀλήθεια, αὐτῆς ἂν ἐκείνης εἴη ἐπιστήμη; … Ἡ δὲ παρ’ ἡμῖν ἐπιστήμη οὐ τῆς παρ’ ἡμῖν ἂν ἀληθείας εἴη; καὶ αὖ ἑκάστη ἡ παρ’ ἡμῖν ἐπιστήμη τῶν παρ’ ἡμῖν ὄντων ἑκάστου ἂν ἐπιστήμη σύμβαινοι εἶναι;
Aristotle (Topica, vi. p. 147, a. 6) adverts to this as an argument against the theory of Ideas, but without alluding to the Parmenides; indeed he puts the argument in a different way — τὸ δ’ εἶδος πρὸς τὸ εἶδος δοκεῖ λέγεσθαι, οἷον αὐτὴ ἐπιθυμία αὐτοῦ ἡδέος, καὶ αὐτὴ βούλησις αὐτοῦ ἀγαθοῦ. Aristotle argues that there is no place in this doctrine for the φαινόμενον ἀγαθόν, which nevertheless men often wish for, and he remarks, in the Nikom. Ethica, i. 4, 1096 b. 33 — that the αὐτὸ-ἀγαθὸν is neither πρακτὸν nor κτητὸν ἀνθρώπῳ.
20 Plato, Parmenid. p. 134 C. Ἄγνωστον ἄρα ἡμῖν καὶ αὐτὸ τὸ καλὸν ὃ ἔστι, καὶ τὸ ἀγαθόν, καὶ πάντα ἃ δὴ ὡς ἰδέας αὐτὰς οὔσας ὑπολαμβάνομεν.
Form of cognition, superior to our Cognition, belongs to the Gods. We cannot know them, nor can they know us.
6. Again, if there be a real self-existent Form of Cognition, apart from that which we or others possess — it must doubtless be far superior in accuracy and perfection 67to that which we possess.21 The Form of Beauty and the other Forms, must be in like manner superior to that which is found under the same name in individual objects. This perfect Form of Cognition must therefore belong to the Gods, if it belong to any one. But if so, the Gods must have a Form of Truth, the proper object of their Form of Cognition. They cannot know the truth relatively to us, which belongs to our cognition — any more than we can know the more perfect truth belonging to them. So too about other Forms. The perfect Form of mastership belongs to the Gods, correlating with its proper Form of servantship. Their mastership does not correlate with individual objects like us: in other words, they are not our masters, nor are we their servants. Their cognition, again, does not correlate with individual objects like us: in other words, they do not know us, nor do we know them. In like manner, we in our capacity of masters are not masters of them — we as cognizant beings know nothing of them or of that which they know. They can in no way correlate with us, nor can we correlate with them.22
21 An argument very similar is urged by Aristotle (Metaph. Θ. 1050, b. 34) εἰ ἄρα τινές εἰσι φύσεις τοιαῦται ἢ οὐσίαι οἵας λέγουσιν οἱ ἐν τοῖς λόγοις τὰς ἰδέας, πολὺ μᾶλλον ἐπιστῆμον ἄν τι εἴη ἡ αὐτοεπιστήμη καὶ κινούμενον ἡ κίνησις.
22 Plato, Parmenid. p. 135 A. Ταῦτα μὲντοι, ὦ Σώκρατες, ἔφη ὁ Παρμενίδης, καὶ ἔτι ἄλλα πρὸς τούτοις πάνυ πολλὰ ἀναγκαῖον ἔχειν τὰ εἴδη, εἰ εἰσὶν αὐται αἱ ἰδέαι τῶν ὄντων, &c.
Sum total of objections against the Ideas is grave. But if we do not admit that Ideas exist, and that they are knowable, there can be no dialectic discussion.
Here are some of the objections, Sokrates (concludes Parmenides), which beset your doctrine, that there exist substantive, self-standing, Forms of Ideas, each respectively definable. Many farther objections might also be urged.23 So that a man may reasonably maintain, either that none such exist — or that, granting their existence, they are essentially unknowable by us. He must put forth great ingenuity to satisfy himself of the affirmative; and still more wonderful ingenuity to find arguments for the satisfaction of others, respecting this question.
23 Plato, Parmenid. p. 134 D-E. Οὔκουν εἰ παρὰ τῷ θεῷ αὕτη ἔστιν ἡ ἀκριβεστάτη δεσποτεία καὶ αὕτη ἡ ἀκριβεστάτη ἐπιστήμη, οὔτ’ ἂν ἡ δεσποτεία ἡ ἐκείνων (i.e. τῶν θεῶν) ἡμῶν ποτὲ ἂν δεσπόσειεν, οὔτ’ ἂν ἡ ἐπιστήμη ἡμᾶς γνοίη οὐδέ τι ἄλλο τῶν παρ’ ἡμῖν· ἀλλὰ ὁμοίως ἡμεῖς τ’ ἐκείνων οὐκ ἄρχομεν τῇ παρ’ ἡμῖν ἀρχῇ, οὐδε γιγνώσκομεν τοῦ θείου οὐδὲν τῇ ἡμετέρᾳ ἐπιστήμη, ἐκεῖνοί τε αὖ (sc. οἱ θεοί) κατὰ τὸν αὐτὸν λόγον οὔτε δεσπόται ἡμῶν εἰσὶν οὔτε γιγνώσκουσι τὰ ἀνθρώπεια πράγματα θεοὶ ὄντες. Ἀλλὰ μὴ λίαν, ἔφη (Sokrates), ᾖ θαυμαστὸς ὁ λόγος, εἴ τις θεὸν ἀποστερήσεις τοῦ εἰδέναι.
The inference here drawn by Parmenides supplies the first mention of a doctrine revived by (if not transmitted to) Averroes and various scholastic doctors of the middle ages, so as to be formally condemned by theological councils. M. Renan tells us — “En 1269, Étienne Tempier, évêque de Paris, ayant rassemblé le conseil des maîtres en théologie … condamna, de concert avec eux, treize propositions qui ne sont presque toutes que les axiomes familiers de l’averroïsme: Quod intellectus hominum est unus et idem numero. Quod mundus est æternus. Quod nunquam fuit primus homo. Quod Deus non cognoscit singularia,” &c. (Renan, Averroès, p. 213, 2nd ed., p. 268.)
68Nevertheless, on the other side (continues Parmenides), unless we admit the existence of such Forms or Ideas — substantive, eternal, unchangeable, definable — philosophy and dialectic discussion are impossible.24
24 Plato, Parmenid. p. 135 B.
Dilemma put by Parmenides — Acuteness of his objections.
Here then, Parmenides entangles himself and his auditors in the perplexing dilemma, that philosophical and dialectic speculation is impossible, unless these Forms or Ideas, together with the participation of sensible objects in them, be granted; while at the same time this cannot be granted, until objections, which appear at first sight unanswerable, have been disposed of.
The acuteness with which these objections are enforced, is remarkable. I know nothing superior to it in all the Platonic writings. Moreover the objections point directly against that doctrine which Plato in other dialogues most emphatically insists upon, and which Aristotle both announces and combats as characteristic of Plato — the doctrine of separate, self-existent, absolute, Forms or Ideas. They are addressed moreover to Sokrates, the chief exponent of that doctrine here as well as in other dialogues. And he is depicted as unable to meet them.
The doctrine which Parmenides attacks is the genuine Platonic theory of Ideas. His objections are never answered in any part of the Platonic dialogues.
It is true that Sokrates is here introduced as juvenile and untrained; or at least as imperfectly trained. And accordingly, Stallbaum with others think, that this is the reason of his inability to meet the objections: which (they tell us), though ingenious and plausible, yet having no application to the genuine Platonic doctrine about Ideas, might easily have been answered if Plato had thought fit, and are answered in other 69dialogues.25 But to me it appears, that the doctrine which is challenged in the Parmenidês is the genuine Platonic doctrine about Ideas, as enunciated by Plato in the Republic, Phædon, Philêbus, Timæus, and elsewhere — though a very different doctrine is announced in the Sophistês. Objections are here made against it in the Parmenidês. In what other dialogue has Plato answered them? and what proof can be furnished that he was able to answer them? There are indeed many other dialogues in which a real world of Ideas absolute and unchangeable, is affirmed strenuously and eloquently, with various consequences and accompaniments traced to it: but there are none in which the Parmenidean objections are elucidated, or even recited. In the Phædon, Phædrus, Timæus, Symposion, &c., and elsewhere, Sokrates is made to talk confidently about the existence and even about the cognoscibility of these Ideas; just as if no such objections as those which we read in the Parmenidês could be produced.26 In these other dialogues, Plato accepts implicitly one horn of the Parmenidean dilemma; but without explaining to us upon what grounds he allows himself to neglect the other.
25 Stallbaum, Prolegom. pp. 52-286-332.
26 According to Stallbaum (Prolegg. pp. 277-337) the Parmenidês is the only dialogue in which Plato has discussed, with philosophical exactness, the theory of Ideas; in all the other dialogues he handles it in a popular and superficial manner. There is truth in this — indeed more truth (I think) than Stallbaum himself supposed: otherwise he would hardly have said that the objections in the Parmenides could easily have been answered, if Plato had chosen.
Stallbaum tells us, not only respecting Socher but respecting Schleiermacher (pp. 324-332), “Parmenidem omnino non intellexit”. In my judgment, Socher understands the dialogue better than Stallbaum, when he (Socher) says, that the objections in the first half bear against the genuine Platonic Ideas; though I do not agree with his inference about the spuriousness of the dialogue.
Views of Stallbaum and Socher. The latter maintains that Plato would never make such objections against his own theory, and denies the authenticity of the Parmenidês.
Socher has so much difficulty in conceiving that Plato can have advanced such forcible objections against a doctrine, which nevertheless in other Platonic dialogues is proclaimed as true and important, — that he declares the Parmenidês (together with the Sophistês and Politikus) not to be genuine, but to have been composed by some unknown Megaric contemporary. To pass over the improbability that any unknown author should have been capable of composing works of so much ability as these — Socher’s decision about spuriousness is founded upon an estimate of Plato’s philosophical character, which I think incorrect. Socher 70expects (or at least reasons as if he expected) to find in Plato a preconceived system and a scheme of conclusions to which every thing is made subservient.
Philosophers are usually advocates, each of a positive system of his own.
In most philosophers, doubtless, this is what we do find. Each starts with some favourite conclusions, which he believes to be true, and which he supports by all the arguments in their favour, as far as his power goes. If he mentions the arguments against them, he usually answers the weak, slurs over or sneers at the strong: at any rate, he takes every precaution that these counter arguments shall appear unimportant in the eyes of his readers. His purpose is, like that of a speaker in the public assembly, to obtain assent and belief: whether the hearers understand the question or not, is a matter of comparative indifference: at any rate, they must be induced to embrace his conclusion. Unless he thus foregoes the character of an impartial judge, to take up that of an earnest advocate; unless he bends the whole force of his mind to the establishment of the given conclusion — he becomes suspected as deficient in faith or sincerity, and loses much in persuasive power. For an earnest belief, expressed with eloquence and feeling, is commonly more persuasive than any logic.
Different spirit of Plato in his Dialogues of Search.
Now whether this exclusive devotion to the affirmative side of certain questions be the true spirit of philosophy or not, it is certainly not the spirit of Plato in his Dialogues of Search; wherein he conceives the work of philosophy in a totally different manner. He does not begin by stating, even to himself a certain conclusion at which he has arrived, and then proceed to prove that conclusion to others. The search or debate (as I have observed in a preceding chapter) has greater importance in his eyes than the conclusion: nay, in a large proportion of his dialogues, there is no conclusion at all: we see something disproved, but nothing proved. The negative element has with him a value and importance of its own, apart from the affirmative. He is anxious to set forth what can be said against a given conclusion; even though not prepared to establish any thing in its place.
71The Parmenidês is the extreme manifestation of the negative element. That Plato should employ one dialogue in setting forth the negative case against the Theory of Ideas is not unnatural.
Such negative element, manifested as it is in so many of the Platonic dialogues, has its extreme manifestation in the Parmenidês. When we see it here applied to a doctrine which Plato in other dialogues insists upon as truth, we must call to mind (what sincere believers are apt to forget) that a case may always be made out against truth as well as in its favour: and that its privilege as a certified portion of “reasoned truth,” rests upon no better title than the superiority of the latter case over the former. It is for testing the two cases — for determining where the superiority lies — and for graduating its amount — that the process of philosophising is called for, and that improvements in the method thereof become desirable. That Plato should, in one of his many diversified dialogues, apply this test to a doctrine which, in other dialogues, he holds out as true — is noway inconsistent with the general spirit of these compositions. Each of his dialogues has its own point of view, worked out on that particular occasion; what is common to them all, is the process of philosophising applied in various ways to the same general topics.
Those who, like Socher, deny Plato’s authorship of the Parmenidês, on the ground of what is urged therein against the theory of Ideas, must suppose, either that he did not know that a negative case could be made out against that theory; or that knowing it, he refrained from undertaking the duty.27 Neither supposition is consistent with what we know both of his negative ingenuity, and of his multifarious manner of handling.
27 Plato, Philêbus, p. 14, where the distinction taken coincides accurately enough with that which we read in Plato, Parmenid. p. 129 A-D.
Strümpell thinks that the Parmenidês was composed at a time of Plato’s life when he had become sensible of the difficulties and contradictions attaching to his doctrine of self-existent Forms or Ideas, and when he was looking about for some way of extrication from them: which way he afterwards thought that he found in that approximation to Pythagorism — that exchange of Ideas for Ideal numbers, &c. — which we find imputed to him by Aristotle (Gesch. der Griech. Phil. sect. 96, 3). This is not impossible; but I find no sufficient ground for affirming it. Nor can I see how the doctrine which Aristotle ascribes to Plato about the Ideas (that they are generated by two στοιχεῖα or elements, τὸ ἕν along with τὸ μέγα καὶ τὸ μικρόν) affords any escape from the difficulties started in the Parmenidês.
Strümpell considers the dialogue Parmenidês to have been composed “ganz ausdrücklich zur dialektischen Uebung,” ib. s. 96, 2, p. 128.
Force of the negative case in the Parmenidês. Difficulties about participation of sensible objects in the world of Ideas.
The negative case, made out in the Parmenidês against the 72theory of Ideas, is indeed most powerful. The hypothesis of the Ideal World is unequivocally affirmed by Sokrates, with its four principal characteristics. 1. Complete essential separation from the world of sense. 2. Absolute self-existence. 3. Plurality of constituent items, several contrary to each other. 4. Unchangeable sameness and unity of each and all of them. — Here we have full satisfaction given to the Platonic sentiment, which often delights in soaring above the world of sense, and sometimes (see Phædon) in heaping contemptuous metaphors upon it. But unfortunately Sokrates cannot disengage himself from this world of sense: he is obliged to maintain that it partakes of, or is determined by, these extra-sensible Forms or Ideas. Here commence the series of difficulties and contradictions brought out by the Elenchus of Parmenides. Are all sensible objects, even such as are vulgar, repulsive, and contemptible, represented in this higher world? The Platonic sentiment shrinks from the admission: the Platonic sense of analogy hesitates to deny it. Then again, how can both assertions be true — first that the two worlds are essentially separate, next, that the one participates in, and derives its essence from, the other? How (to use Aristotelian language28) can the essence be separated from that of which it is the essence? How can the Form, essentially One, belong at once to a multitude of particulars?
28 Arist. Met. A. 991, b. 1. ἀδύνατον, χωρὶς εἶναι τὴν οὐσίαν καὶ οὖ ἡ οὐσία.
Two points deserve notice in this debate respecting the doctrine of Ideas:—
Difficulties about the Cognizability of Ideas. If Ideas are absolute, they cannot be cognizable: if they are cognizable, they must be relative. Doctrine of Homo Mensura.
1. Parmenides shows, and Sokrates does not deny, that these Forms or Ideas described as absolute, self-existent, unchangeable, must of necessity be unknown and unknowable to us.29 Whatever we do know, or can know, is relative to us; — to our actual cognition, or to our cognitive power. If you declare an object to 73be absolute, you declare it to be neither known nor knowable by us: if it be announced as known or knowable by us, it is thereby implied at the same time not to be absolute. If these Forms or Objects called absolute are known, they can be known only by an absolute Subject, or the Form of a cognizant Subject: that is, by God or the Gods. Even thus, to call them absolute is a misnomer: they are relative to the Subject, and the Subject is relative to them.
29 Plato, Parmenid. 133 B. εἴ τις φαίη μηδὲ προσήκειν αὐτὰ γιγνώσκεσθαι ὄντα τοιαῦτα οἷά φαμεν δεῖν εἶναι τὰ εἴδη.… ἀπίθανος ἂν εἴη ὁ ἄγνωστα αὐτὰ ἀναγκάζων εἶναι. 134 A. ἡ δὲ παρ’ ἡμῖν ἐπιστήμη οὐ τῆς παρ’ ἡμῖν ἂν ἀληθείας εἴη; καὶ αὖ ἑκάστη ἡ παρ’ ἡμῖν ἑπιστήμη τῶν παρ’ ἡμῖν ὄντων ἑκάστου ἂν ἐπιστήμη ξύμβαινοι εἶναι; 134 C. ἄγνωστον ἄρα ἡμῖν ἔστι καὶ αὐτὸ τὸ καλὸν ὃ ἔστι, καὶ τὸ ἀγαθόν, καὶ πάντα ἃ δὴ ὡς ἰδέας αὐτὰς οὔσας ὑπολαμβάνομεν.
The opinion here advanced by the Platonic Parmenides asserts, in other words, what is equivalent to the memorable dictum of Protagoras — “Man is the measure of all things — of things existent, that they do exist — and of things non-existent, that they do not exist”. This dictum affirms universal relativity, and nothing else: though Plato, as we shall see in the elaborate argument against it delivered by Sokrates in the Theætêtus, mixed it up with another doctrine altogether distinct and independent — the doctrine that knowledge is sensible perception.30 Parmenides here argues that if these Forms or Ideas are known by us, they can be known only as relative to us: and that if they be not relative to us, they cannot be known by us at all. Such relativity belongs as much to the world of Conception, as to the world of Perception. And it is remarkable that Plato admits this essential relativity not merely here, but also in the Sophistês: in which latter dialogue he denies the Forms or Ideas to be absolute existences, on the special ground that they are known:— and on the farther ground that what is known must act upon the knowing mind, and must be acted upon thereby, i.e., must be relative. He there defines the existent to be, that which has power to act upon something else, or to be acted upon by something else. Such relativeness he declares to constitute existence:31 defining existence to mean potentiality.
31 Plato, Sophistês, pp. 248-249. This reasoning is put into the mouth of the Eleatic Stranger, the principal person in that dialogue.
Answer of Sokrates — That Ideas are mere conceptions of the mind. Objection of Parmenides correct, though undeveloped.
2. The second point which deserves notice in this portion of the Parmenidês, is the answer of Sokrates (when embarrassed by some of the questions of the Eleatic 74veteran) — “That these Forms or Ideas are conceptions of the mind, and have no existence out of the mind”. This answer gives us the purely Subjective, or negation of Object: instead of the purely Objective (Absolute), or negation of Subject.32 Here we have what Porphyry calls the deepest question of philosophy33 explicitly raised: and, as far as we know, for the first time. Are the Forms or Ideas mere conceptions of the mind and nothing more? Or are they external, separate, self-existent realities? The opinion which Sokrates had first given declared the latter: that which he now gives declares the former. He passes from the pure Objective (i.e., without Subject) to the pure Subjective (i.e., without Object). Parmenides, in his reply, points out that there cannot be a conception of nothing: that if there be Conceptio, there must be Conceptum aliquid:34 and that this Conceptum or Concept is what is common to a great many distinct similar Percepta.
32 Plato, Parmenid. p. 132 A-B.
The doctrine, that ποιότητες were φιλαὶ ἔννοιαι, having no existence without the mind, was held by Antisthenes as well as by the Eretrian sect of philosophers, contemporary with Plato and shortly after him. Simplikius, Schol. ad Aristot. Categ. p. 68, a. 30, Brandis. See, respecting Antisthenes, the first volume of the present work, p. 165.
33 See the beginning of Porphyry’s Introduction to the Categories of Aristotle. βαθυτάτη οὔσης τῆς τοιαύτης πραγματείας, &c. Simplikius (in Schol. ad Aristot. Categ. p. 68, a. 28, ed. Brandis) alludes to the Eretrian philosophers and Theopompus, who considered τὰς ποιότητας as φιλὰς μόνας ἐννοίας διακενῶς λεγομένας κατ’ οὐδεμίας ὑποστάσεως, οἷον ἀνθρωπότητα ἢ ἱππότητα, &c.
34 Compare Republic, v. p. 476 B. ὁ γιγνώσκων γιγνώσκει τὶ ἢ οὐδὲν; Γιγνώσκει τί, &c.
The following passage in the learned work of Cudworth bears on the portion of the Parmenidês which we are now considering. Cudworth, Treatise of Immutable Morality, pp. 243-245.
“But if any one demand here, where this ἀκίνητος οὐσία, these immutable Entities do exist? I answer, first, that as they are considered formally, they do not properly exist in the Individuals without us, as if they were from them imprinted upon the Understanding, which some have taken to be Aristotle’s opinion; because no Individual Material thing is either Universal or Immutable.… Because they perish not together with them, it is a certain argument that they exist independently upon them. Neither, in the next place, do they exist somewhere else apart from the Individual Sensibles, and without the Mind, which is that opinion that Aristotle justly condemns, but either unjustly or unskilfully attributes to Plato.… Wherefore these Intelligible Ideas or Essences of Things, those Forms by which we understand all Things, exist nowhere but in the mind itself; for it was very well determined long ago by Socrates, in Plato’s Parmenidês, that these things are nothing else but Noemata: ‘These Species or Ideas are all of them nothing but Noemata or Notions that exist nowhere but in the Soul itself’.…
“And yet notwithstanding, though these Things exist only in the Mind, they are not therefore mere Figments of the Understanding.…
“It is evident that though the Mind thinks of these Things at pleasure, yet they are not arbitrarily framed by the Mind, but have certain, determinate, and immutable Natures of their own, which are independent upon the Mind, and which are blown (quære not blown) away into Nothing at the pleasure of the same Being that arbitrarily made them.”
It is an inadvertence on the part of Cudworth to cite this passage of the Parmenidês as authenticating Plato’s opinion that Forms or Ideas existed only in the mind. Certainly Sokrates is here made to express that opinion, among others; but the opinion is refuted by Parmenidês and dropped by Sokrates. But the very different opinion, which Cudworth accuses Aristotle of wrongly attributing to Plato, is repeated by Sokrates in the Phædon, Republic, and elsewhere, and never refuted.
75This reply, though scanty and undeveloped, is in my judgment both valid, as it negatives the Subject pure and simple, and affirms that to every conception in the mind, there must correspond a Concept out of (or rather along with) the mind (the one correlating with or implying the other) — and correct as far as it goes, in declaring what that Concept is. Such Concept is, or may be, the Form. Parmenides does not show that it is not so. He proceeds to impugn, by a second argument, the assertion of Sokrates — that the form is a Conception wholly within the mind: he goes on to argue that individual things (which are out of the mind) cannot participate in these Forms (which are asserted to be altogether in the mind): because, if that were admitted, either every such thing must be a Concipient, or must run into the contradiction of being a Conceptio non concipiens.35 Now this argument may refute the affirmation of Sokrates literally taken, that the Form is a Conception entirely belonging to the mind, and having nothing Objective corresponding to it — but does not refute the doctrine that the Form is a Concept correlating with the mind — or out of the mind as well as in it. In this as in other Concepts, the subjective point of view preponderates over the objective, though Object is not altogether eliminated: just as, in the particular external things, the objective point of view predominates, though Subject cannot be altogether dismissed. Neither Subject nor Object can ever entirely disappear: the one is the inseparable correlative and complement of the other: but sometimes the subjective point of view may preponderate, sometimes76 the objective. Such preponderance (or logical priority), either of the one or the other, may be implied or connoted by the denomination given. Though the special connotation of the name creates an illusion which makes the preponderant point of view seem to be all, and magnifies the Relatum so as to eclipse and extinguish the Correlatum — yet such preponderance, or logical priority, is all that is really meant when the Concepts are said to be “in the mind” — and the Percepts (Percepta, things perceived) to be “out of the mind”: for both Concepts and Percepts are “of the mind, or relative to the mind”.36
35 On this point the argument in the dialogue itself, as stated by Parmenides, is not clear to follow. Strümpell remarks on the terms employed by Plato. “Der Umstand, dass die Ausdrücke εἶδος und ἰδέα nicht sowie λόγος den Unterschied, zwischen Begriff und dem durch diesen begriffenen Realen, hervortreten lassen — sondern, weil dieselben bald im subjektiven Sinne den Begriff, bald im objektiven Sinne das Reale bezeichnen — bald in der einen bald in der andern Bedeutung zu nehmen sind — kann leicht eine Verwechselung und Unklarheit in der Auffassung veranlassen,” &c. (Gesch. der Gr. Philos. s. 90, p. 115).
36 This preponderance of the Objective point of view, though without altogether eliminating the Subjective, includes all that is true in the assertion of Aristotle, that the Perceptum is prior to the Percipient — the Percipiendum prior to the Perceptionis Capax. He assimilates the former to a Movens, the latter to a Motum. But he declares that he means not a priority in time or real existence, but simply a priority in nature or logical priority; and he also declares the two to be relatives or reciproca. The Prius is relative to the Posterius, as the Posterius is relative to the Prius. — Metaphys. Γ. 1010, b. 36 seq. ἀλλ’ ἔστι τι καὶ ἕτερον παρὰ τὴν αἴσθησιν, ὃ ἀναγκη πρότερον εἶναι τῆς αἰσθήσεῶς· τὸ γὰρ κινοῦν τοῦ κινουμένου φύσει πρότερόν ἐστι· κἂν εἰ λέγεται πρὸς ἄλληλα ταῦτα, οὐδὲν ἧττον.
See respecting the πρότερον φύσει, Aristot. Categor. p. 12, b. 5-15, and Metaphys. Δ. 1018, b. 12 — ἁπλῶς καὶ τῇ φύσει πρότερον.
Meaning of Abstract and General Terms, debated from ancient times to the present day — Different views of Plato and Aristotle upon it.
The question — What is the real and precise meaning attached to abstract and general words? — has been debated down to this day, and is still under debate. It seems to have first derived its importance, if not its origin, from Sokrates, who began the practice of inviting persons to define the familiar generalities of ethics and politics, and then tested by cross-examination the definitions given by men who thought that common sense would enable any one to define.37 But I see no ground for believing that Sokrates ever put to himself the question — Whether that which an abstract term denotes is a mental conception, or a separate and self-existent reality. That question was raised by Plato, and first stands clearly brought to view here in the Parmenidês.
37 Aristotel. Metaphys. A. 987, b. 3. M. 1078, b. 18-32.
If we follow up the opinion here delivered by the Platonic Sokrates, together with the first correction added to it by Parmenides, amounting to this — That the Form is a Conception of the mind with its corresponding Concept: if, besides, we dismiss the doctrine held by Plato, that the Form is a separate self-existent77 unchangeable Ens (ἓν παρὰ τὰ πολλὰ): there will then be no greater difficulty in understanding how it can be partaken by, or be at once in, many distinct particulars, than in understanding (what is at bottom the same question) how one and the same attribute can belong at once to many different objects: how hardness or smoothness can be at once in an indefinite number of hard and smooth bodies dispersed everywhere.38 The object and the attribute are both of them relative to the same percipient and concipient mind: we may perceive or conceive many objects as distinct individuals — we may also conceive them all as resembling in a particular manner, making abstraction of the individuality of each: both these are psychological facts, and the latter of the two is what we mean when we say, that all of them possess or participate in one and the same attribute. The concrete term, and its corresponding abstract, stand for the same facts of sense differently conceived. Now the word one, when applied to the attribute, has a different meaning from one when applied to an individual object. Plato speaks sometimes elsewhere as if he felt this diversity of meaning: not however in the Parmenidês, though there is great demand for it. But Aristotle (in this respect far superior) takes much pains to point out that 78Unum Ens — and the preposition In (to be in any thing) — are among the πολλαχῶς λεγόμενα, having several different meanings derived from one primary or radical by diverse and distant ramifications.39 The important logical distinction between Unum numero and Unum specie (or genere, &c.) belongs first to Aristotle.40
38 That “the attribute is in its subject,” is explained by Aristotle only by saying That it is in its subject, not as a part in the whole, yet as that which cannot exist apart from its subject (Categor. 1, a. 30-3, a. 30). Compare Hobbes, Comput. or Logic. iii. 3, viii. 3. Respecting the number of different modes τοῦ ἔν τινι εἶναι, see Aristot. Physic. iii. p. 210, a. 18 seq., with the Scholia, p. 373 Brandis, and p. 446, 10 Brand. The commentators made out, variously, nine, eleven, sixteen distinct τρόπους τοῦ ἔν τινι εἶναι. In the language of Aristotle, genus, species, εἶδος, and even differentia are not ἐν ὑποκειμένῳ, but are predicated καθ’ ὑποκειμένου (see Cat. p. 3, a. 20). The proprium and accidens alone are ἐν ὑποκειμένῳ. Here is a difference between his language and that of Plato, according to whom τὸ εἶδος is ἐν ἑκάστῳ τῶν πολλῶν (Parmenid. 131 A). But we remark in that same dialogue, that when Parmenides questions Sokrates whether he recognises εἴδη αὐτὰ καθ’ αὐτά he first asks whether Sokrates admits δικαίου τι εἶδος αὐτὸ καθ’ αὑτό, καὶ καλοῦ, καὶ ἀγαθοῦ, καὶ πάντων τῶν τοιούτων. Sokrates answers without hesitation, Yes. Then Parmenides proceeds to ask, Do you recognise an εἶδος of man, separate and apart from all of us individual men? — or an εἶδος of fire, water, and such like? Here Sokrates hesitates: he will neither admit nor deny it (130 D). The first list, which Sokrates at once accepts, is of what Aristotle would call accidents: the second, which Sokrates doubts about, is of what Aristotle would call second substances. We thus see that the conception of a self-existent εἶδος realised itself most easily and distinctly to the mind of Plato in the case of accidents. He would, therefore, naturally conceive τὰ εἴδη as being ἐν ὑποκειμένῳ, agreeing substantially, though not in terms, with Aristotle. It is in the case of accidents or attributes that abstract names are most usually invented; and it is the abstract name, or the neuter adjective used as its equivalent, which suggests the belief in an εἶδος.
39 Aristotel. Metaphys. Δ. 1015-1016, I. 1052, a. 29 seq. τὰ μὲν δὴ οὕτως ἓν ἢ συνεχὲς ἢ ὅλον· τὰ δὲ ὧν ἂν ὁ λόγος εἷς ᾖ· τοιαῦτα δὲ ὧν ἡ νόησις μία, &c.
About abstract names, or the names of attributes, see Mr. John Stuart Mill’s ‘System of Logic,’ i. 2, 4, p. 30, edit. 5th. “When only one attribute, neither variable in degree nor in kind, is designated by the name — as visibleness, tangibleness, equality, &c. — though it denotes an attribute of many different objects, the attribute itself is always considered as one, not as many.” Compare, also, on this point, p. 153, and a note added by Mr. Mill to the fifth edition, p. 203, in reply to Mr. Herbert Spencer. The oneness of the attribute, in different subjects, is not conceded by every one. Mr. Spencer thinks that the same abstract word denotes one attribute in Subject A, and another attribute, though exactly like it, in Subject B (Principles of Psychology, p. 126 seq.) Mr. Mill’s view appears the correct one; but the distinction (pointed out by Archbishop Whately) between undistinguishable likeness and positive identity, becomes in these cases imperceptible or forgotten.
Aristotle, however, in the beginning of the Categories ranks ἡ τίς γραμματικὴ as ἄτομον καὶ ἓν ἀριθμῷ (pp. 1, 6, 8), which I do not understand; and it seems opposed to another passage, pp. 3, 6, 15.
The argument between two such able thinkers as Mr. Mill and Mr. Spencer, illustrates forcibly the extreme nicety of this question respecting the One and the Many, under certain supposable circumstances. We cannot be surprised that it puzzled the dialecticians of the Platonic Aristotelian age, who fastened by preference on points of metaphysical difficulty.
40 See interesting remarks on the application of this logical distinction in Galen, De Methodo Medendi, Book iii. vol. x. p. 130 seq. Aristotle and Theophrastus both dwelt upon it.
Plato never expected to make his Ideas fit on to the facts of sense: Aristotle tried to do it and partly succeeded.
Plato has not followed out the hint which he has here put into the mouth of Sokrates in the Parmenidês — That the Ideas or Forms are conceptions existing only in the mind. Though the opinion thus stated is not strictly correct (and is so pointed out by himself), as falling back too exclusively on the subjective — yet if followed out, it might have served to modify the too objective and absolute character which in most dialogues (though not in the Sophistês) he ascribes to his Forms or Ideas: laying stress upon them as objects — and as objects not of sensible perception — but overlooking or disallowing the fact of their being relative to the concipient mind. The bent of Plato’s philosophy was to dwell upon these Forms, and to bring them into harmonious conjunction with each other: he neither took pains, nor expected, to make them fit on to the world of sense. With Aristotle, on the contrary, this last-mentioned purpose is kept very generally in view. Amidst all the extreme abstractions 79which he handles, he reverts often to the comparison of them with sensible particulars: indeed Substantia Prima was by him, for the first time in the history of philosophy, brought down to designate the concrete particular object of sense: in Plato’s Phædon, Republic, &c, the only Substances are the Forms or Ideas.
Continuation of the Dialogue — Parmenides admonishes Sokrates that he has been premature in delivering a doctrine, without sufficient preliminary exercise.
Parmenides now continues the debate. He has already fastened upon Sokrates several difficult problems: he now proposes a new one, different and worse. Which way are we to turn then, if these Forms be beyond our knowledge? I do not see my way (says Sokrates) out of the perplexity. The fact is, Sokrates (replies Parmenides), you have been too forward in producing your doctrine of Ideas, without a sufficient preliminary exercise and enquiry. Your love of philosophical research is highly praiseworthy: but you must employ your youth in exercising and improving yourself, through that continued philosophical discourse which the vulgar call useless prosing: otherwise you will never attain truth.41 You are however right in bestowing your attention, not on the objects of sense, but on those objects which we can best grasp in discussion, and which we presume to exist as Forms.42
41 Plato, Parmenid. p. 135 C. Πρῲ γάρ, πρὶν γυμνασθῆναι, ὦ Σώκρατες, ὁρίζεσθαι ἐπιχειρεῖς καλόν τέ τι καὶ δίκαιον καὶ ἀγαθὸν καὶ ἓν ἕκαστον τῶν εἰδῶν … καλὴ μὲν οὖν καὶ θεία, εἶ ἴσθι, ἡ ὁρμὴ ἣν ὁρμᾷς ἐπὶ τοὺς λόγους· ἕλκυσον δὲ σαυτὸν καὶ γυμνάσαι, μᾶλλον διὰ τῆς δοκούσης ἀχρήστου εἶναι καὶ καλουμένης ὑπὸ τῶν πολλῶν ἀδολεσχίας, ἕως ἔτι νέος εἶ· εἰ δὲ μὴ, σὲ διαφεύξεται ἡ ἀλήθεια.
42 Plato, Parmenid. p. 135 E.
What sort of exercise? Parmenides describes: To assume provisionally both the affirmative and the negative of many hypotheses about the most general terms, and to trace the consequences of each.
What sort of exercise must I go through? asks Sokrates. Zeno (replies Parmenides) has already given you a good specimen of it in his treatise, when he followed out the consequences flowing from the assumption — “That the self-existent and absolute Ens is plural”. When you are trying to find out the truth on any question, you must assume provisionally, first the affirmative and then the negative, and you must then follow out patiently the consequences deducible from one hypothesis as well as from the other. If you are enquiring about the Form of Likeness, whether it exists or does not exist, you must assume successively 80both one and the other;43 marking the deductions which follow, both with reference to the thing directly assumed, and with reference to other things also. You must do the like if you are investigating other Forms — Unlikeness, Motion, and Rest, or even Existence and Non-Existence. But you must not be content with following out only one side of the hypothesis: you must examine both sides with equal care and impartiality. This is the only sort of preparatory exercise which will qualify you for completely seeing through the truth.44
43 Plato, Parmenid. p. 136 A. καὶ αὖθις αὖ ἐὰν ὑποθῇ, εἰ ἔστιν ὁμοιότης ἢ εἰ μή ἐστι, τί ἐφ’ ἑκατέρας τῆς ὑποθέσεως συμβήσεται, καὶ αὐτοῖς τοῖς ὑποτεθεῖσι καὶ τοῖς ἄλλοις καὶ πρὸς αὑτὰ καὶ πρὸς ἄλληλα.
44 Plato, Parmenid. p. 136 B.
Impossible to do this before a numerous audience — Parmenides is entreated to give a specimen — After much solicitation he agrees.
You propose to me, Parmenides (remarks Sokrates), a work of awful magnitude. At any rate, show me an example of it yourself, that I may know better how to begin. — Parmenides at first declines, on the ground of his old age: but Zeno and the others urge him, so that he at length consents. — The process will be tedious (observes Zeno); and I would not ask it from Parmenides unless among an audience small and select as we are here. Before any numerous audience, it would be an unseemly performance for a veteran like him. For most people are not aware that, without such discursive survey and travelling over the whole field, we cannot possibly attain truth or acquire intelligence.45
45 Plato, Parmenid. p. 136 D. εἰ μὲν οὖν πλείους ἦμεν, οὐκ ἂν ἄξιον ἦν δεῖσθαι· ἀπρεπῆ γὰρ τὰ τοιαῦτα πολλῶν ἐναντίον λέγειν, ἄλλως τε καὶ τηλικούτῳ· ἀγνοοῦσι γὰρ οἱ πολλοὶ ὅτι ἄνευ ταύτης τῆς διὰ πάντων διεξόδου καὶ πλάνης, ἀδύνατον ἐντυχόντα τῷ ἀληθεῖ νοῦν σχεῖν. Hobbes remarks (Computatio sive Logica, i. 3, 12): “Learners ought to go through logical exercises silently and by themselves: for it will be thought both ridiculous and absurd, for a man to use such language publicly”. Proklus tells us, that the difficulty of the γυμνασία, here set out by the Platonic Parmenides, is so prodigious, that no one after Plato employed it. (Prok. ad Parmen. p. 801, Stallb.)
Parmenides elects his own theory of the Unum, as the topic for exhibition — Aristoteles becomes respondent.
It is especially on this ground — the small number and select character of the auditors — that Parmenides suffers himself to be persuaded to undertake what he calls “amusing ourselves with a laborious pastime”.46 He selects, as the subject of his dialectical exhibition, his own doctrine respecting the One. He proceeds to 81trace out the consequences which flow, first, from assuming the affirmative thesis, Unum Est: next, from assuming the negative thesis, or the Antithesis, Unum non Est. The consequences are to be deduced from each hypothesis, not only as regards Unum itself, but as regards Cætera, or other things besides Unum. The youngest man of the party, Aristoteles, undertakes the duty of respondent.
46 Plato, Parmenid. p. 137 A. δεῖ γὰρ χαρίζεσθαι, ἐπειδὴ καὶ ὃ Ζήνων λέγει, αὐτοί ἐσμεν … ἢ βούλεσθε ἐπειδήπερ δοκεῖ πραγματειώδη παιδιὰν παίζειν, &c.
Exhibition of Parmenides — Nine distinct deductions or Demonstrations, first from Unum Est — next from Unum non Est.
The remaining portion of the dialogue, half of the whole, is occupied with nine distinct deductions or demonstrations given by Parmenides. The first five start from the assumption, Unum Est: the last four from the assumption, Unum non Est. The three first draw out the deductions from Unum Est, in reference to Unum: the fourth and fifth draw out the consequences from the same premiss, in reference to Cætera. Again, the sixth and seventh start from Unum non Est, to trace what follows in regard to Unum: the eighth and ninth adopt the same hypothesis, and reason it out in reference to Cætera.
The Demonstrations in antagonising pairs, or Antinomies. Perplexing entanglement of conclusions given without any explanation.
Of these demonstrations, one characteristic feature is, that they are presented in antagonising pairs or Antinomies: except the third, which professes to mediate between the first and second, though only by introducing new difficulties. We have four distinct Antinomies: the first and second, the fourth and fifth, the sixth and seventh, the eighth and ninth, stand respectively in emphatic contradiction with each other. Moreover, to take the demonstrations separately — the first, fifth, seventh, ninth, end in conclusions purely negative: the other four end in double and contradictory conclusions. The purpose is formally proclaimed, of showing that the same premisses, ingeniously handled, can be made to yield these contradictory results.47 No attempt is made to reconcile the contradictions, except partially by means of the third, in reference to the two preceding. In regard to the fourth and fifth, sixth and seventh, eighth and ninth, no hint is given that they 82can be, or afterwards will be, reconciled. The dialogue concludes abruptly at the end of the ninth demonstration, with these words: “We thus see that — whether Unum exists or does not exist — Unum and Cætera both are, and are not, all things in every way — both appear, and do not appear, all things in every way — each in relation to itself, and each in relation to the other”.48 Here is an unqualified and even startling announcement of double and contradictory conclusions, obtained from the same premisses both affirmative and negative: an announcement delivered too as the fulfilment of the purpose of Parmenides. Nothing is said at the end to intimate how the demonstrations are received by Sokrates, nor what lesson they are expected to administer to him: not a word of assent, or dissent, or surprise, or acknowledgment in any way, from the assembled company, though all of them had joined in entreating Parmenides, and had expressed the greatest anxiety to hear his dialectic exhibition. Those who think that an abrupt close, or an abrupt exordium, is sufficient reason for declaring a dialogue not to be the work of Plato (as Platonic critics often argue), are of course consistent in disallowing the Parmenides. For my part, I do not agree in the opinion. I take Plato as I find him, and I perceive both here and in the Protagoras and elsewhere, that he did not always think it incumbent upon him to adapt the end of his dialogues to the beginning. This may be called a defect, but I do not feel called upon to make out that Plato’s writings are free from defects; and to acknowledge nothing as his work unless I can show it to be faultless.
47 See the connecting words between the first and second demonstration, pp. 142 A, 159. Οὐκοῦν ταῦτα μὲν ἤδη ἐῶμεν ὡς φανερά, ἐπισκοπῶμεν δὲ πάλιν, ἓν εἰ ἔστιν, ἆρα καὶ οὐχ οὕτως ἔχει τἄλλα τοῦ ἑνὸς ἢ οὕτω μόνον; Also p. 163 B.
48 Plato, Parmenid. ad fin. Εἰρήσθω τοίνυν τοῦτό τε καὶ ὅτι, ὡς ἔοικεν, ἓν εἴτ’ ἔστιν εἴτε μὴ ἔστιν, αὐτό τε καὶ τἄλλα καὶ πρὸς αὑτὰ καὶ πρὸς ἄλληλα πάντα πάντως ἐστί τε καὶ οὐκ ἐστι καὶ φαίνεταί τε καὶ οὐ φαίνεται.
Different judgments of Platonic critics respecting the Antinomies and the dialogue generally.
The demonstrations or Antinomies in the last half of the Parmenides are characterised by K. F. Hermann and others as a masterpiece of speculative acuteness. Yet if these same demonstrations, constructed with care and labour for the purpose of proving that the same premisses will conduct to double and contradictory conclusions, had come down to us from antiquity under the name either of the Megaric Eukleides, or Protagoras, or Gorgias — many of the Platonic critics would probably have 83said of them (what is now said of the sceptical treatise remaining to us under the name of Gorgias) that they were poor productions worthy of such Sophists, who are declared to have made a trade of perverting truth. Certainly the conclusions of the demonstrations are specimens of that “Both and Neither,” which Plato (in the Euthydemus49) puts into the mouth of the Sophist Dionysodorus as an answer of slashing defiance — and of that intentional evolution of contradictions which Plato occasionally discountenances, both in the Euthydemus and elsewhere.50 And we know from Proklus51 that there were critics in ancient times, who depreciated various parts of the Parmenides as sophistical. Proklus himself denies the charge with some warmth. He as well as the principal Neo-Platonists between 200-530 A.D. (especially his predecessors and instructors at Athens, Jamblichus, Syrianus, and Plutarchus) admired the Parmenides as a splendid effort of philosophical genius in its most exalted range, inspired so as to become cognizant of superhuman persons and agencies. They all agreed so far as to discover in the dialogue a sublime vein of mystic theology and symbolism: but along with this general agreement, there was much discrepancy in their interpretation of particular parts and passages. The commentary of Proklus attests the existence of such debates, reporting his own dissent from the interpretations sanctioned by his venerated masters, Plutarchus and Syrianus. That commentary, in spite of its prolixity, is curious to read as a specimen of the fifth century, A.D., in one of its most eminent representatives. Proklus discovers a string of theological symbols and a mystical meaning throughout the whole dialogue: not merely in the acute argumentation which characterises its middle part, but also in the perplexing antinomies of its close, and even in the dramatic 84details of places, persons, and incidents, with which it begins.52
49 Plato, Euthydem. p. 300 C. Ἀλλ’ οὐ τοῦτο ἐρωτῶ, ἀλλὰ τὰ πάντα σιγᾷ ἢ λέγει; Οὐδέτερα καὶ ἀμφότερα, ἔφη ὑφαρπάσας ὁ Διονυσόδωρος· εὖ γὰρ οἶδα ὅτι τῇ ἀποκρίσει οὐχ ἕξεις ὅ, τι χρῇ.
50 Plato, Sophist. p. 259 B. εἴτε ὡς τι χαλεπὸν κατανενοηκὼς χαίρει, τοτὲ μὲν ἐπὶ θάτερα τοτὲ δ’ ἐπὶ θάτερα τοὺς λόγους ἕλκων, οὐκ ἄξια πολλῆς σπουδῆς ἐσπούδακεν, ὡς οἱ νῦν λόγοι φασίν. — Also p. 259 D. Τὸ δὲ ταὐτὸν ἕτερον ἀποφαίνειν ἁμῇ γέ πῃ, καὶ τὸ θάτερον ταὐτόν, καὶ τὸ μέγα σμικρόν, καὶ τὸ ὅμοιον ἀνόμοιον, καὶ χαίρειν οὕτω τἀναντία ἀεὶ προφέροντα ἐν τοῖς λόγοις, οὔ τέ τις ἔλεγχος οὗτος ἀληθινός, ἄρτι τε τῶν ὄντων τινὸς ἐφαπτομένου δῆλος νεογενὴς ὤν.
51 Proklus, ad Platon. Parmen. p. 953, ed. Stallb.; compare p. 976 in the last book of the commentary, probably composed by Damaskius. K. F. Hermann, Geschichte und System der Platon. Philos. p. 507.
52 This commentary is annexed to Stallbaum’s edition of the Parmenides. Compare also the opinion of Marinus (disciple and biographer of Proklus) about the Parmenidês — Suidas v. Μαρῖνος. Jamblichus declared that Plato’s entire theory of philosophy was embodied in the two dialogues, Parmenides and Timæus: in the Parmenides, all the intelligible or universal Entia were deduced from τὸ ἕν: in the Timæus, all cosmical realities were deduced from the Demiurgus. Proklus ad Timæeum, p. 5 A, p. 10 Schneider.
Alkinous, in his Introduction to the Platonic Dialogues (c. 6, p. 159, in the Appendix Platonica attached to K. F. Hermann’s edition of Plato) quotes several examples of syllogistic reasoning from the Parmenides, and affirms that the ten categories of Aristotle are exhibited therein.
Plotinus (Ennead. v. 1, 8) gives a brief summary of what he understood to be contained in the Antinomies of the Platonic Parmenides; but the interpretation departs widely from the original.
I transcribe a few sentences from the argument of Ficinus, to show what different meanings may be discovered in the same words by different critics. (Ficini Argum. in Plat. Parmen. p. 756.) “Cum Plato per omnes ejus dialogos totius sapientiæ semina sparserit, in libris De Republicâ cuncta moralis philosophiæ instituta collegit, omnem naturalium rerum scientiam in Timæo, universam in Parmenide complexus est Theologiam. Cumque in aliis longo intervallo cæteros philosophos antecesserit, in hoc tandem seipsum superasse videtur. Hic enim divus Plato de ipso Uno subtilissimé disputat: quemadmodum Ipsum Unum rerum omnium principium est, super omnia, omniaque ab illo: quo pacto ipsum extra omnia sit et in omnibus: omniaque ex illo, per illud, atque ad illud. Ad hujus, quod super essentiam est, Unius intelligentiam gradatim ascendit. In iis quæ fluunt et sensibus subjiciuntur et sensibilia nominantur: In iis etiam quas semper eadem sunt et sensibilia nuncupantur, non sensibus amplius sed solâ mente percipienda: Nec in iis tantum, verum etiam supra sensum et sensibilia, intellectumque et intelligibilia:— ipsum Unum existit. — Illud insuper advertendum est, quod in hoc dialogo cum dicitur Unum, Pythagoreorum more quæque substantia a materiâ penitus absoluta significari potest: ut Deus, Mens, Anima. Cum vero dicitur Aliud et Alia, tam materia, quam illa quæ in materiâ fiunt, intelligere licet.”
The Prolegomena, prefixed by Thomson to his edition of the Parmenides, interpret the dialogue in the same general way as Proklus and Ficinus: they suppose that by Unum is understood Summus Deus, and they discover in the concluding Antinomies theological demonstrations of the unity, simplicity, and other attributes of God. Thomson observes, very justly, that the Parmenides is one of the most difficult dialogues in Plato (Prolegom. iv.-x.) But in my judgment, his mode of exposition, far from smoothing the difficulties, adds new ones greater than those in the text.
The various explanations of it given by more recent commentators may be seen enumerated in the learned Prolegomena of Stallbaum,53 who has also set forth his own views at considerable length. And the prodigious opposition between the views 85of Proklus (followed by Ficinus in the fifteenth century), who extols the Parmenides as including in mystic phraseology sublime religious truths — and those of the modern Tiedemann, who despises them as foolish subtleties and cannot read them with patience — is quite sufficient to inspire a reasonable Platonic critic with genuine diffidence.
53 Stallbaum, Prolegg. in Parmen. ii. 1, pp. 244-265. Compare K. F. Hermann, Gesch. und Syst. der Platon. Phil. pp. 507-668-670.
To the works which he has there enumerated, may be added the Dissertation by Dr. Kuno Fischer, Stuttgart, 1851, De Parmenide Platonico, and that of Zeller, Platonische Studien, p. 169 seqq.
Kuno Fischer (pp. 102-103) after Hegel (Gesch. der Griech. Phil. I. p. 202), and some of the followers of Hegel, extol the Parmenides as a masterpiece of dialectics, though they complain that “der philosophirende Pöbel” misunderstand it, and treat it as obscure. Werder, Logik, pp. 92-176, Berlin, 1841. Carl Beck, Platon’s Philosophie im Abriss ihrer genetischen Entwickelung, p. 75, Reutlingen, 1852. Marbach, Gesch. der Griech. Phil. sect. 96, pp. 210-211.
No dogmatical solution or purpose is wrapped up in the dialogue. The purpose is negative, to make a theorist keenly feel all the difficulties of theorising.
In so far as these different expositions profess, each in its own way, to detect a positive dogmatical result or purpose in the Parmenides,54 none of them carry conviction to my mind, any more than the mystical interpretations 86which we read in Proklus. If Plato had any such purpose, he makes no intimation of it, directly or indirectly. On the contrary, he announces another purpose not only different, but contrary. The veteran Parmenides, while praising the ardour of speculative research displayed by Sokrates, at the same time reproves gently, but distinctly, the confident forwardness of two such immature youths as Sokrates and Aristotle in laying down positive doctrines without the preliminary exercise indispensable for testing them.55 Parmenides appears from the beginning to the end of the dialogue as a propounder of doubts and objections, not as a doctrinal teacher. He seeks to restrain the haste of Sokrates — to make him ashamed of premature affirmation87 and the false persuasion of knowledge — to force upon him a keen sense of real difficulties which have escaped his notice. To this end, a specimen is given of the exercise required. It is certainly well calculated to produce the effect intended — of hampering, perplexing, and putting to shame, the affirmative rashness of a novice in philosophy. It exhibits a tangled skein of ingenious contradiction which the novice must somehow bring into order, before he is in condition to proclaim any positive dogma. If it answers this purpose, it does all that Parmenides promises. Sokrates is warned against attaching himself exclusively to one side of an hypothesis, and neglecting the opposite: against surrendering himself to some pre-conception, traditional, or self-originated, and familiarising his mind with its consequences, while no pains are taken to study the consequences of the negative side, and bring them into comparison. It is this one-sided mental activity, and premature finality of assertion, which Parmenides seeks to correct. Whether the corrective exercises which he prescribes are the best for the purpose, may be contested: but assuredly the malady which he seeks to correct is deeply rooted in our human nature, and is combated by Sokrates himself, though by other means, in several of the Platonic dialogues. It is a rare mental endowment to study both sides of a question, and suspend decision until the consequences of each are fully known.
54 I agree with Schleiermacher, in considering that the purpose of the Parmenides is nothing beyond γυμνασία, or exercise in the method and perplexities of philosophising (Einl. p. 83): but I do not agree with him, when he says (pp. 90-105) that the objections urged by Parmenides (in the middle of the dialogue) against the separate substantiality of Forms or Ideas, though noway answered in the dialogue itself, are sufficiently answered in other dialogues (which he considers later in time), especially in the Sophistes (though, according to Brandis, Handb. Gr.-Röm. Phil. p. 241, the Sophistes is earlier than the Parmenides). Zeller, on the other hand, denies that these objections are at all answered in the Sophistes; but he maintains that the second part of the Parmenides itself clears up the difficulties propounded in the first part. After an elaborate analysis (in the Platon. Studien, pp. 168-178) of the Antinomies or contradictory Demonstrations in the concluding part of the dialogue, Zeller affirms the purpose of them to be “die richtige Ansicht von den Ideen als der Einheit in dem Mannichfaltigen der Erscheinung dialektisch zu begründen, die Ideenlehre möglichen Einwürfen und Missverständnissen gegenüber dialektisch zu begründen” (pp. 180-182). This solution has found favour with some subsequent commentators. See Susemihl, Die genetische Entwickelung der Platon. Philosophie, pp. 341-353; Heinrich Stein, Vorgeschichte und System des Platonismus, pp. 217-220.
To me it appears (what Zeller himself remarks in p. 188, upon the discovery of Schleiermacher that the objections started in the Parmenides are answered in the Sophistes) that it requires all the acuteness of so able a writer as Zeller to detect any such result as that which he here extracts from the Parmenidean Antinomies — from what Aristeides calls (Or. xlvii. p. 430) “the One and Many, the multiplied twists and doublings, of this divine dialogue”. I confess that I am unable to perceive therein what Zeller has either found or elicited. Objections and misunderstandings (Einwürfe und Missverständnisse), far from being obviated or corrected, are accumulated from the beginning to the end of these Antinomies, and are summed up in a formidable total by the final sentence of the dialogue. Moreover, none of these objections which Parmenides had advanced in the earlier part of the dialogue are at all noticed, much less answered, in the concluding Antinomies.
The general view taken by Zeller of the Platonic Parmenides, is repeated by him in his Phil. der Griech. vol. ii. pp. 394-415-429, ed. 2nd. In the first place, I do not think that he sets forth exactly (see p. 415) the reasoning as we read it in Plato; but even if that were exactly set forth, still what we read in Plato is nothing but an assemblage of difficulties and contradictions. These are indeed suggestive, and such as a profound critic may meditate with care, until he finds himself put upon a train of thought conducting him to conclusions sound and tenable in his judgment. But the explanations, sufficient or not, belong after all not to Plato but to the critic himself. Other critics may attach, and have attached, totally different explanations to the same difficulties. I see no adequate evidence to bring home any one of them to Plato; or to prove (what is the main point to be determined) that any one of them was present to his mind when he composed the dialogue.
Schwegler also gives an account of what he affirms to be the purpose and meaning of the Parmenides — “The positive meaning of the antinomies contained in it can only be obtained by inferences which Plato does not himself expressly enunciate, but leaves to the reader to draw” (Geschichte der Philosophie im Umriss, sect. 14, 4 c. pp. 52-53, ed. 5).
A learned man like Schwegler, who both knows the views of other philosophers, and has himself reflected on philosophy, may perhaps find affirmative meaning in the Parmenides; just as Sokrates, in the Platonic Protagoras, finds his own ethical doctrine in the song of the poet Simonides. But I venture to say that no contemporary reader of Plato could have found such a meaning in the Parmenides; and that if Plato intended to communicate such a meaning, the whole structure of the dialogue would be only an elaborate puzzle calculated to prevent nearly all readers from reaching it.
By assigning the leadership of the dialogue to Parmenides (Schwegler says) Plato intends to signify that the Platonic doctrine of Ideas is coincident with the doctrine of Parmenides, and is only a farther development thereof. How can this be signified, when the discourse assigned to Parmenides consists of a string of objections against the doctrine of Ideas, concluding with an intimation that there are other objections, yet stronger, remaining behind?
The fundamental thought of the Parmenides (says Schwegler) is, that the One is not conceivable in complete abstraction from the Many, nor the Many in complete abstraction from the One, — that each reciprocally supposes and serves as condition to the other. Not so: for if we follow the argumentation of Parmenides (p. 131 E), we shall see that what he principally insists upon, is the entire impossibility of any connection or participation between the One and the Many — there is an impassable gulf between them.
Is the discussion of τὸ ἓν (in the closing Antinomies) intended as an example of dialectic investigation — or is it per se the special object of the dialogue? This last is clearly the truth (says Schwegler). “otherwise the dialogue would end without result, and its two portions would be without any internal connection”. Not so; for if we read the dialogue, we find Parmenides clearly proclaiming and singling out τὸ ἓν as only one among a great many different notions, each of which must be made the subject of a bilateral hypothesis, to be followed out into its consequences on both sides (p. 136 A). Moreover, I think that the “internal connection” between the first and the last half of the dialogue, consists in the application of this dialectic method, and in nothing else. If the dialogue ends without result, this is true of many other Platonic dialogues. The student is brought face to face with logical difficulties, and has to find out the solution for himself; or perhaps to find out that no solution can be obtained.
55 Plato, Parmenid. p. 135 C.
This negative purpose is expressly announced by Plato himself. All dogmatical purpose, extending farther, is purely hypothetical, and even inconsistent with what is declared.
Such, in my judgment, is the drift of the contradictory demonstrations here put into the mouth of Parmenides respecting Unum and Cætera. Thus far at least, we are perfectly safe: for we are conforming strictly to the language of Plato himself in the dialogue: we have no proof that he meant anything more. Those who presume that he must have had some ulterior dogmatical purpose, place themselves upon hypothetical ground: but when they go farther and attempt to set forth what this purpose was, they show their ingenuity only by bringing out what they themselves have dropped in. The number of discordant hypotheses attests56 the difficulty of the problem. I agree with those 88early Platonic commentators (mentioned and opposed by Proklus) who could see no other purpose in these demonstrations than that of dialectical exercise. In this view Schleiermacher, Ast, Strümpell, and others mainly concur: the two former however annexing to it a farther hypothesis — which I think improbable — that the dialogue has come to us incomplete; having once contained at the end (or having been originally destined to contain, though the intention may never have been realised) an appendix elucidating the perplexities of the demonstrations.57 This would have been inconsistent with the purpose declared by Parmenides: who, far from desiring to facilitate the onward march of Sokrates by clearing up difficulties, admonishes him that he is advancing too rapidly, and seeks to keep him back by giving him a heap of manifest contradictions to disentangle. Plato conceives the training for philosophy or for the highest exercise of intellectual force, to be not less laborious than that which was required for the bodily perfections of an Olympic athlete. The student must not be helped out of difficulties at once: he must work his own way slowly out of them.
56 Proklus ad Platon. Parmen. I. pp. 482-485, ed. Stallb.; compare pp. 497-498-788-791, where Proklus is himself copious upon the subject of exercise in dialectic method.
Stallbaum, after reciting many different hypothetical interpretations from those interpreters who had preceded him, says (Prolegg. p. 265), “En lustravimus tandem varias interpretum de hoc libro opiniones. Quid igitur? verusne fui, quum suprà dicerem, tantam fuisse hominum eruditorum in eo explicando fluctuationem atque dissensionem, ut quamvis plurimi de eo disputaverint, tamen ferè alius aliter judicaverit? Nimirum his omnibus cognitis, facilè alicui in mentem veniat Terentianum illud — Fecisti propé, multo sim quam dudum incertior.”
Brandis (Handbuch Gr.-Röm. Phil. s. 105, pp. 257-258) cannot bring himself to believe that dialectical exercise was the only purpose with which Plato composed the Parmenides. He then proceeds to state what Plato’s ulterior purpose was, but in such very vague language, that I hardly understand what he means, much less can I find it in the Antinomies themselves. He has some clearer language, p. 241, where he treats these Antinomies as preparatory ἀπορίαι.
57 Ast, Platon’s Leben und Schriften, pp. 239-244; Schleiermacher, Einleit. zum Parmen. pp. 94-99; Strümpell, Geschichte der Theoretischen Philosophie der Griechen, sect. 96, pp. 128-129.
I do not agree with Socher’s conclusion, that the Parmenides is not a Platonic composition. But I think he is quite right in saying that the dialogue as it now stands performs all that Parmenides promises, and leaves no ground for contending that it is an unfinished fragment (Socher, Ueber Platon’s Schriften, p. 286), so far as philosophical speculation is concerned. The dialogue as a dramatic or literary composition undoubtedly lacks a proper close; it is ἄπους or κολοβὸς (Aristot. Rhetor. iii. 8), sinning against the strict exigence which Plato in the Phædrus applies to the discourse of Lysias.
The Demonstrations or Antinomies considered. They include much unwarranted assumption and subtlety. Collection of unexplained perplexities or ἀπορίαι.
That the demonstrations include assumption both unwarranted and contradictory, mingled with sophistical subtlety (in the modern sense of the words), is admitted by most of the commentators: and I think that the real 89amount of it is greater than they admit. How far Plato was himself aware of this, I will not undertake to say. Perhaps he was not. The reasonings which have passed for sublime and profound in the estimation of so many readers, may well have appeared the same to their author. I have already remarked that Plato’s ratiocinative force is much greater on the negative side than on the positive: more ingenious in suggesting logical difficulties than sagacious in solving them. Impressed, as Sokrates had been before him, with the duty of combating the false persuasion of knowledge, or premature and untested belief, — he undertook to set forth the pleadings of negation in the most forcible manner. Many of his dialogues manifest this tendency, but the Parmenides more than any other. That dialogue is a collection of unexplained ἀπορίαι (such as those enumerated in the second book of Aristotle’s Metaphysica) brought against a doctrine which yet Plato declares to be the indispensable condition of all reasoning. It concludes with a string of demonstrations by which contradictory conclusions (Both and Neither) are successively proved, and which appear like a reductio ad absurdum of all demonstration. But at the time when Plato composed the dialogue, I think it not improbable that these difficulties and contradictions appeared even to himself unanswerable: in other words, that he did not himself see any answers and explanations of them. He had tied a knot so complicated, that he could not himself untie it. I speak of the state of Plato’s mind when he wrote the Parmenides. At the dates of other dialogues (whether earlier or later), he wrote under different points of view; but no key to the Parmenides does he ever furnish.
Even if Plato himself saw through these subtleties, he might still choose to impose and to heap up difficulties in the way of a forward affirmative aspirant.
If however we suppose that Plato must have had the key present to his own mind, he might still think it right to employ, in such a dialogue, reasonings recognised by himself as defective. It is the task imposed upon Sokrates to find out and expose these defective links. There is no better way of illustrating how universal is the malady of human intelligence — unexamined belief and over-confident affirmation — as it stands proclaimed to be in the Platonic Apology. Sokrates is exhibited in the Parmenides as placed under the screw of the Elenchus, and no more able than others 90to extricate himself from it, when it is applied by Parmenides: though he bears up successfully against Zeno, and attracts to himself respectful compliments, even from the aged dialectician who tests him. After the Elenchus applied to himself, Sokrates receives a farther lesson from the “Neither and Both” demonstrations addressed by Parmenides to the still younger Aristotle. Sokrates will thus be driven, with his indefatigable ardour for speculative research, to work at the problem — to devote to it those seasons of concentrated meditation, which sometimes exhibited him fixed for hours in the same place and almost in the same attitude58 — until he can extricate himself from such difficulties and contradictions. But that he shall not extricate himself without arduous mental effort, is the express intention of Parmenides: just as the Xenophontic Sokrates proceeds with the youthful Euthydemus and the Platonic Sokrates with Lysis, Theætetus, and others. Plausible subtlety was not unsuitable for such a lesson.59 Moreover, in the Parmenides, Plato proclaims explicitly that the essential condition of the lesson is to be strictly private: that a process so roundabout and tortuous cannot be appreciated by ordinary persons, and would be unseemly before an audience.60 He selects as respondent the youngest person in the company, one still younger than Sokrates: because (he says) such a person will reply with artless simplicity, to each question as the question may strike him — not carrying his mind forward to the ulterior questions for which his reply may furnish the handle — not afraid of being entangled in puzzling inconsistencies — not solicitous to baffle the purpose of 91the interrogator.61 All this betokens the plan of the dialogue — to bring to light all those difficulties which do not present themselves except to a keen-sighted enquirer.
58 Plato, Symposion, p. 220 C-D: compare pp. 174-175.
In the dialogue Parmenides (p. 130 E), Parmenides himself is introduced as predicting that the youthful Sokrates will become more and more absorbed in philosophy as he advances in years.
Proklus observes in his commentary on the dialogue — ὁ γὰρ Σωκράτης ἄγαται τὰς ἀπορίας, &c. (L. v. p. 252).
59 Xenoph. Memor. iv. 2, ad fin.
60 Plato, Parmenid. pp. 136 C, 137 A. Hobbes remarks (Computatio sive Logica, Part I, ch. iii. s. 12), “Learners ought to go through logical exercises silently and by themselves: for it will be thought both ridiculous and absurd, for a man to use such language publicly”.
Proklus tells us, that the difficulty of the γυμνασία here enjoined by the Platonic Parmenides is so prodigious, that no one after Plato employed it (Prokl. ad Parmenid. p. 306, p. 801, Stallb.).
εἰ μὲν οὖν πλείους ἦμεν, οὐκ ἂν ἄξιον ἦν δεῖσθαι. ἀπρεπῆ γὰρ τὰ τοιαῦτα πολλῶν ἐναντίον λέγειν, ἄλλως τε καὶ τηλικούτῳ· ἀγνοοῦσι γὰρ οἱ πολλοὶ ὅτι ἀνευ ταύτης τῆς διὰ πάντων διεξόδου καὶ πλάνης ἀδύνατον ἐντυχόντα τῷ ἀληθεῖ νοῦν σχεῖν.
61 Plato, Parmenides, p. 137 B; compare Sophistes, p. 217 D.
To understand the force of this remark of Parmenides, we should contrast it with the precepts given by Aristotle in the Topica for dialectic debate: precepts teaching the questioner how to puzzle, and the respondent how to avoid being puzzled. Such precautions are advised to the respondent by Aristotle, not merely in the Topica but also in the Analytica — χρὴ δ’ ὅπερ φυλάττεσθαι παραγγέλλομεν ἀποκρινομένους, αὐτοὺς ἐπιχειροῦντας πειρᾶσθαι λανθάνειν (Anal. Priora, ii. p. 66, a. 33).
The exercises exhibited by Parmenides are exhibited only as illustrative specimens of a method enjoined to be applied to many other Antinomies.
We must remark farther, that the two hypotheses here handled at length by Parmenides are presented by him only as examples of a dialectical process which he enjoins the lover of truth to apply equally to many other hypotheses.62 As he shows that in the case of Unum, each of the two assumptions (Unum est — Unum non est) can be traced through different threads of deductive reasoning so as to bring out double and contradictory results — Both and Neither: so also in the case of those other assumptions which remain to be tested afterwards in like manner, antinomies of the same character may be expected: antinomies apparent at least, if not real — which must be formally propounded and dealt with, before we can trust ourselves as having attained reasoned truth. Hence we see that, negative and puzzling as the dialogue called Parmenides is, even now — it would be far more puzzling if all that it prescribes in general terms had been executed in detail. While it holds out, in the face of an aspirant in philosophy, the necessity of giving equal presumptive value to the affirmative and negative sides of each hypothesis, and deducing with equal care, the consequences of both — it warns him at the same time of the contradictions in which he will thereby become involved. These contradictions are presented in the most glaring manner: but we must recollect a striking passage in the Republic, where Plato declares that to confront the aspirant with manifest contradictions, is the best way of provoking him to intellectual effort in the higher regions of speculation.63
62 Plato, Parmenid. p. 136 B.
63 Plato, Repub. vii. p. 524 E, and indeed the whole passage, pp. 523-524.
These Platonic Antinomies are more formidable than any of the sophisms or subtleties broached by the Megaric philosophers.
I have already had occasion, when I touched upon the other viri 92Socratici, contemporaneous with or subsequent to Plato, to give some account of the Zenonian and Megaric dialecticians, and of their sophisms or logical puzzles, which attracted so much attention from speculative men, in the fourth and third centuries B.C. These Megarics, like the Sophists, generally receive very harsh epithets from the historian of philosophy. They took the negative side, impugned affirmative dogmas, insisted on doubts and difficulties, and started problems troublesome to solve. I have tried to show, that such disputants, far from deserving all the censure which has been poured upon them, presented one indispensable condition to the formation of any tolerable logical theory.64 Their sophisms were challenges to the logician, indicating various forms of error and confusion, against which a theory of reasoning, in order to be sufficient, was required to guard. And the demonstrations given by Plato in the latter half of the Parmenides are challenges of the same kind: only more ingenious, elaborate, and effective, than any of those (so far as we know them) proposed by the Megarics — by Zeno, or Eukleides, or Diodorus Kronus. The Platonic Parmenides here shows, that in regard to a particular question, those who believe the affirmative, those who believe the negative, and those who believe neither — can all furnish good reasons for their respective conclusions. In each case he gives the proof confidently as being good: and whether unimpeachable or not, it is certainly very ingenious and subtle. Such demonstrations are in the spirit of Sextus Empiricus, who rests his theory of scepticism upon the general fact, that there are opposite and contradictory conclusions, both of them supported by evidence equally good: the affirmative no more worthy of belief than the negative.65 Zeno (or, as Plato calls him, the Eleatic 93Palamêdes66) did not profess any systematic theory of scepticism; but he could prove by ingenious and varied dialectic, both the thesis and the antithesis on several points of philosophy, by reasons which few, if any, among his hearers could answer. In like manner the Platonic Parmenides enunciates his contradictory demonstrations as real logical problems, which must exercise the sagacity and hold back the forward impulse of an eager philosophical aspirant. Even if this dilemma respecting Unum Est and Unum non Est, be solved, Parmenides intimates that he has others in reserve: so that either no tenable positive result will ever be attained — or at least it will not be attained until after such an amount of sagacity and patient exercise as Sokrates himself declares to be hardly practicable.67 Herein we may see the germ and premisses of that theory which was afterwards formally proclaimed by Ænesidemus and the professed Sceptics: the same holding back (ἐποχὴ), and protest against precipitation in dogmatising,68 which these latter converted into a formula and vindicated as a system.
64 Among the commentators on the Categories of Aristotle, there were several whose principal object it was to propound all the most grave and troublesome difficulties which they could think of. Simplikius does not commend the style of these men, but he expresses his gratitude to them for the pains which they had taken in the exposition of the negative case, and for the stimulus and opportunity which they had thus administered to the work of affirmative exposition (Simplikius, Schol. ad Categ. Aristot. p. 40, a. 22-30; Schol. Brandis). David the Armenian, in his Scholia on the Categories (p. 27, b. 41, Brandis), defends the Topica of Aristotle as having been composed γυμνασίας χάριν, ἵνα θλιβομένη ἡ ψυχὴ ἐκ τῶν ἐφ’ ἑκάτερα ἐπιχειρημάτων ἀπογεννήσῃ τὸ τῆς ἀληθείας φῶς.
65 Sext. Emp. Pyrrh. Hypot. i. 8-12. Ἔστι δὲ ἡ σκεπτικὴ δύναμις ἀντιθετικὴ φαινομένων τε καὶ νοουμένων καθ’ οἱονδήποτε τρόπον, ἀφ’ ἧς ἐρχόμεθα, διὰ τὴν ἐν τοῖς ἀντικειμένοις πράγμασι καὶ λόγοις ἰσοσθένειαν, τὸ μὲν πρῶτον εἰς ἐποχὴν τὸ δὲ μετὰ τοῦτο εἰς ἀταραξίαν … ἰσοσθένειαν δὲ λέγομεν τὴν κατὰ πίστιν καὶ ἀπιστίαν ἰσότητα, ὡς μηδένα μηδενὸς προκεῖσθαι τῶν μαχομένων λόγων ὡς πιστότερον … συστάσεως δὲ τῆς σκεπτικῆς ἐστιν ἀρχὴ μάλιστα τὸ παντὶ λόγῳ λόγον ἴσον ἀντικεῖσθαι.
66 Plato, Phædrus, p. 261 D.
67 Plato, Parmenid. p. 136 C-D.
68 Sext. Emp. Pyrrh. Hyp. i. 20-212. τὴν τῶν δογματικῶν προπέτειαν — τὴν δογματικὴν προπέτειαν.
In order to understand fully the Platonic Antinomies, we ought to have before us the problems of the Megarics and others. Uselessness of searching for a positive result.
Schleiermacher has justly observed,69 that in order to understand properly the dialectic manœuvres of the Parmenides, we ought to have had before us the works of that philosopher himself, of Zeno, Melissus, Gorgias, and other sceptical reasoners of the age immediately preceding — which have unfortunately perished. Some reference to these must probably have been present to Plato in the composition of this dialogue.70 At the same time, if we accept the dialogue as being (what it declares itself to be) a string of objections and dialectical problems, we shall take care not to look for 94any other sort of merit than what such a composition requires and admits. If the objections are forcible, the problems ingenious and perplexing, the purpose of the author is satisfied. To search in the dialogue for some positive result, not indeed directly enunciated but discoverable by groping and diving — would be to expect a species of fruit inconsistent with the nature of the tree. Ζητῶν εὑρήσεις οὐ ῥόδον ἀλλὰ βάτον.
69 Schleiermacher, Einleitung zum Parmen. pp. 97-99.
70 Indeed, the second demonstration, among the nine given by Parmenides (pp. 143 A, 155 C), coincides to a great degree with the conclusion which Zeno is represented as having maintained in his published dissertation (p. 127 E); and shows that the difficulties and contradictions belong to the world of invisible Ideas, as well as to that of sensible particulars, which Sokrates had called in question (p. 129 C-E).
The Aristotelian treatise (whether by Aristotle, Theophrastus, or any other author) De Zenone, Melisso, Xenophane, et Gorgiâ — affords some curious comparisons with the Parmenides of Plato. Aristotel. p. 974 seq. Bekk.; also Fragmenta Philosophorum Græcorum, ed. Didot, pp. 278-309.
Assumptions of Parmenides in his Demonstrations convey the minimum of determinate meaning. Views of Aristotle upon these indeterminate predicates, Ens, Unum, &c.
It may indeed be useful for the critic to perform for himself the process which Parmenides intended Sokrates to perform; and to analyse these subtleties with a view to measure their bearing upon the work of dogmatic theorising. We see double and contradictory conclusions elicited, in four separate Antinomies, from the same hypothesis, by distinct chains of interrogatory deduction; each question being sufficiently plausible to obtain the acquiescence of the respondent. The two assumptions successively laid down by Parmenides as principia for deduction — Si Unum est — Si Unum non est — convey the very minimum of determinate meaning. Indeed both words are essentially indeterminate. Both Unum and Ens are declared by Aristotle to be not univocal or generic words,71 though at the same time not absolutely equivocal: but words bearing several distinct transitional95 meanings, derived either from each other, or from some common root, by an analogy more or less remote. Aristotle characterises in like manner all the most indeterminate predicates, which are not included in any one distinct category among the ten, but are made available to predication sometimes in one category, sometimes in another: such as Ens, Unum, Idem, Diversum, Contrarium, &c. Now in the Platonic Parmenides, the two first among these words are taken to form the proposition assumed as fundamental datum, and the remaining three are much employed in the demonstration: yet Plato neither notices nor discriminates their multifarious and fluctuating significations. Such contrast will be understood when we recollect that the purpose of the Platonic Parmenides is, to propound difficulties; while that of Aristotle is, not merely to propound, but also to assist in clearing them up.
71 Aristot. Metaphys. iv. 1015-1017, ix. 1052, a. 15; Anal. Poster. ii. p. 92, b. 14. τὸ δ’ εἶναι οὐκ οὐσία οὐδενί. οὐ γὰρ γένος τὸ ὄν. — Topica, iv. p. 127, a. 28. πλείω γὰρ τὰ πᾶσιν ἑπόμενα· οἷον τὸ ὂν καὶ τὸ ἓν τῶν πᾶσιν ἑπομένων ἔστιν, Physica, i. p. 185, b. 6.
Simplikius noted it as one among the differences between Plato and Aristotle — That Plato admitted Unum as having only one meaning, not being aware of the diversity of meanings which it bore; while Aristotle expressly pointed it out as a πολλακῶς λεγόμενον (Schol. ad Aristot. Sophist. Elench. p. 320, b. 3, Brandis). Aristotle farther remarks that Plato considered τὸ γένος as ἓν ἀριθμῷ, and that this was an error; we ought rather to say that Plato did not clearly discriminate ἓν ἀριθμῷ from ἓν εἴδει (Aristot. Topic. vi. 143, b. 30).
Simplikius farther remarks, that it was Aristotle who first rendered to Logic the important service of bringing out clearly and emphatically the idea of τὸ ὁμώνυμον — the same word with several meanings either totally distinct and disparate, or ramifying in different directions from the same root, so that there came to be little or no affinity between many of them. It was Aristotle who first classified and named these distinctions (συνώνυμον — ὁμώνυμον, and the intermediate κατ’ ἀναλογίαν), though they had been partially noticed by Plato and even by Sokrates. ἕως Ἀριστοτέλους οὐ πάμπαν ἔκδηλον ἦν τὸ ὁμώνυμον· ἀλλὰ Πλάτων τε ἤρξατο περὶ τούτου ἢ μᾶλλον ἐκείνου Σωκράτης, Schol. ad Aristot. Physic. p. 323, b. 24, Brandis.
In the Platonic Demonstrations the same proposition in words is made to bear very different meanings.
Certainly, in Demonstrations 1 and 2 (as well as 4 and 5), the foundation assumed is in words the same proposition — Si Unum est: but we shall find this same proposition used in two very different senses. In the first Demonstration, the proposition is equivalent to Si Unum est Unum:72 in the second, to Si Unum est Ens, or Si Unum existit. In the first the proposition is identical and the verb est serves only as copula: in the second, the verb est is not merely a copula but implies Ens as a predicate, and affirms existence. We might have imagined that the identical proposition — Unum est Unum — since it really affirms nothing — would have been barren of all consequences: and so indeed it is barren of all affirmative consequences. But Plato obtains for it one first step in the way of negative predicates — Si Unum est Unum, Unum non est Multa: and from hence he proceeds, by a series of gentle transitions ingeniously managed, to many other negative predications respecting the subject Unum. Since it is not Multa, it can have no parts, nor can it be a whole: it has neither beginning, middle, nor end: it has no boundary, or it is boundless: it has no figure, it is neither straight nor circular: it has therefore no place, being 96neither in itself, nor in anything else: it is neither in motion nor at rest: it is neither the same with anything else, nor the same with itself:73 it is neither different from any thing else, nor different from itself: it is neither like, nor unlike, to itself, nor to anything else: it is neither equal, nor unequal, to itself nor to any thing else: it is neither older nor younger, nor of equal age, either with itself or with anything else: it exists therefore not in time, nor has it any participation with time: it neither has been nor will be, nor is: it does not exist in any way: it does not even exist so as to be Unum: you can neither name it, nor reason upon it, nor know it, nor perceive it, nor opine about it.
72 Plato, Parmenid. pp. 137 C, 142 B.
73 This part of the argument is the extreme of dialectic subtlety, p. 139 C-D-E.
First demonstration ends in an assemblage of negative conclusions. Reductio ad Absurdum, of the assumption — Unum non Multa.
All these are impossibilities (concludes Plato). We must therefore go back upon the fundamental principle from which we took our departure, in order to see whether we shall not obtain, on a second trial, any different result.74
74 Plato, Parmenid. p. 142 A.
Here then is a piece of dialectic, put together with ingenuity, showing that everything can be denied, and that nothing can be affirmed of the subject — Unum. All this follows, if you concede the first step, that Unum is not Multa. If Unum be said to have any other attribute except that of being Unum, it would become at once Multa. It cannot even be declared to be either the same with itself, or different from any thing else; because Idem and Diversum are distinct natures from Unum, and if added to it would convert it into Multa.75 Nay it cannot even be affirmed to be itself: it cannot be named or enunciated: if all predicates are denied, the subject is denied along with them: the subject is nothing but the sum total of its predicates — and when they are all withdrawn, no subject remains. As far as I can understand the bearing of this self-contradictory demonstration, it appears a reductio ad absurdum of the proposition — Unum is not Multa. Now Unum which is not Multa designates the Αὐτὸ-Ἓν or Unum Ideale; which Plato himself affirmed, and which Aristotle impugned.76 If this be what is meant, the dialogue Parmenides 97would present here, as in other places, a statement of difficulties understood by Plato as attaching to his own doctrines.
75 This is the main point of Demonstration 1, and is stated pp. 139 D, 140 A, compared with p. 137 C.
76 Aristot. Metaph. A. 987, b. 20; A. 992, a. 8; B. 1001, a. 27; I. 1053, b. 18. Some ancient expositors thought that the purpose of Plato in the Parmenides was to demonstrate this Αὐτὸ-Ἓν; see Schol. ad Aristot. Metaph. p. 786, a. 10, Brandis.
It is not easy to find any common bearing between the demonstrations given in this dialogue respecting Ἓν and Πολλὰ — and the observations which Plato makes in the Philêbus upon Ἓν and Πολλά. Would he mean to include the demonstrations which we read in the Parmenides, in the category of what he calls in Philêbus “childish, easy, and irrational debates on that vexed question?” (Plato, Philêbus, p. 14 D). Hardly: for they are at any rate most elaborate as well as ingenious and suggestive. Yet neither do they suit the description which he gives in Philêbus of the genuine, serious, and difficult debates on the same question.
Parmenides now proceeds to his second demonstration: professing to take up again the same hypothesis — Si Unum est — from which he had started in the first77 — but in reality taking up a different hypothesis under the same words. In the first hypothesis, Si Unum est, was equivalent to, Si Unum est Unum: nothing besides Unum being taken into the reasoning, and est serving merely as copula. In the second, Si Unum est, is equivalent to, Si Unum est Ens, or exists: so that instead of the isolated Unum, we have now Unum Ens.78 Here is a duality consisting of Unum and Ens: which two are considered as separate or separable factors, coalescing to form the whole Unum Ens, each of them being a part thereof. But each of these parts is again dual, containing both Unum and Ens: so that each part may be again divided into lesser parts, each of them alike dual: and so on ad infinitum. Unum Ens thus contains an infinite number of parts, or is Multa.79 But even Unum 98itself (Parmenides argues), if we consider it separately from Ens in which it participates, is not Unum alone, but Multa also. For it is different from Ens, and Ens is different from it. Unum therefore is not merely Unum but also Diversum: Ens also is not merely Ens but Diversum. Now when we speak of Unum and Ens — of Unum and Diversum — or of Ens and Diversum — we in each case speak of two distinct things, each of which is Unum. Since each is Unum, the two things become three — Ens, Diversum, Unum — Unum, Diversum, Unum — Unum being here taken twice. We thus arrive at two and three — twice and thrice — odd and even — in short, number, with its full extension and properties. Unum therefore is both Unum and Multa — both Totum and Partes — both finite and infinite in multitude.80
77 Plato, Parmenid. p. 142 A. Βούλει οὖν ἐπὶ τὴν ὑπόθεσιν πάλιν ἐξ ἀρχῆς ἐπανέλθωμεν, ἐάν τι ἡμῖν ἐπανιοῦσιν ἀλλοῖον φανῇ;
78 This shifting of the real hypothesis, though the terms remain unchanged, is admitted by implication a little afterwards, p. 142 B. νῦν δὲ οὐχ αὕτη ἔστιν ἡ ὑπόθεσις, εἰ ἓν ἓν, τί χρὴ συμβαίνειν, ἀλλ’ εἰ ἓν ἔστιν.
79 Plato, Parmenid. pp. 142-143. This is exactly what Sokrates in the early part of the dialogue (p. 129 B-D) had pronounced to be utterly inadmissible, viz.: That ὃ ἔστιν ἓν should be πολλὰ — that ὃ ἔστιν ὅμοιον should be ἀνόμοιον. The essential characteristic of the Platonic Ideas is here denied. However, it appears to me that Plato here reasons upon two contradictory assumptions; first, that Unum Ens is a total composed of two parts separately assignable — Unum and Ens; next, that Unum is not assignable separately from Ens, nor Ens from Unum. Proceeding upon the first, he declares that the division must be carried on ad infinitum, because you can never reach either the separate Ens or the separate Unum. But these two assumptions cannot be admitted both together. Plato must make his election; either he takes the first, in which case the total Unum Ens is divisible, and its two factors, Unum and Ens, can be assigned separately; or he takes the second, in which case Unum and Ens cannot be assigned separately — are not distinguishable factors, — so that Unum Ens instead of being infinitely divisible, is not divisible at all.
The reasoning as it now stands is, in my judgment, fallacious.
80 Plato, Parmen. pp. 144 A-E, 145 A.
It ends in demonstrating Both, of that which the first Demonstration had demonstrated Neither.
Parmenides proceeds to show that Unum has beginning, middle, and end — together with some figure, straight or curved: and that it is both in itself, and in other things: that it is always both in motion and at rest:81 that it is both the same with itself and different from itself — both the same with Cætera, and different from Cætera:82 both like to itself, and unlike to itself — both like to Cætera, and unlike to Cætera:83 that it both touches, and does not touch, both itself and Cætera:84 that it is both equal, greater, and less, in number, as compared with itself and as compared with Cætera:85 that it is both older than itself, younger than itself, and of the same age with itself — both older than Cætera, younger than Cætera, and of the same age as Cætera — also that it is not older nor younger either than itself or than Cætera:86 that it grows both older and younger than itself, and than Cætera.87 Lastly, Unum was, is, and will be; it has been, is, and will be generated: it has had, has now, and will have, attributes and predicates: it can be named, and can be the object of perception, conception, opinion, reasoning, and cognition.88
81 Plato, Parmenid. p. 146 A-B.
82 Plato, Parmenid. pp. 146-147 C.
83 Plato, Parmenid. p. 148 A-D.
84 Plato, Parmenid. p. 149 A-D.
85 Plato, Parmenid. pp. 150-151 D.
86 Plato, Parmen. pp. 152-153-154 A.
87 Plato, Parmenid. pp. 154 B, 155 C. κατὰ δὴ πάντα ταῦτα, τὸ ἓν αὐτό τε αὑτοῦ καὶ τῶν ἄλλων πρεσβύτερον καὶ νεώτερον ἔστι τε καὶ γίγνεται, καὶ οὕτε πρεσβύτερον οὕτε νεώτερον οὕτ’ ἔστιν οὕτε γίγνεται οὕτε αὑτοῦ οὕτε τῶν ἄλλων.
88 Plato, Parmenid. p. 155 C-D.
99Here Parmenides finishes the long Demonstratio Secunda, which completes the first Antinomy. The last conclusion of all, with which it winds up, is the antithesis of that with which the first Demonstration wound up: affirming (what the conclusion of the first had denied) that Unum is thinkable, perceivable, nameable, knowable. Comparing the second Demonstration with the first, we see — That the first, taking its initial step, with a negative proposition, carries us through a series of conclusions every one of which is negative (like those of the second figure of the Aristotelian syllogism):— That whereas the conclusions professedly established in the first Demonstration are all in Neither (Unum is neither in itself nor in any thing else — neither at rest nor in motion — neither the same with itself nor different from itself, &c.), the conclusions of the second Demonstration are all in Both (Unum is both in motion and at rest, both in itself and in other things, both the same with itself and different from itself):— That in this manner, while the first Demonstration denies both of two opposite propositions, the second affirms them both.
Startling paradox — Open offence against logical canon — No logical canon had then been laid down.
Such a result has an air of startling paradox. We find it shown, respecting various pairs of contradictory propositions, first, that both are false — next, that both are true. This offends doubly against the logical canon, which declares, that of two contradictory propositions, one must be true, the other must be false. We must remember, that in the Platonic age, there existed no systematic logic — no analysis or classification of propositions — no recognised distinction between such as were contrary, and such as were contradictory. The Platonic Parmenides deals with propositions which are, to appearance at least, contradictory: and we are brought, by two different roads, first to the rejection of both, next to the admission of both.89
89 Prantl (in his Geschichte der Logik, vol. i. s. 3, pp. 70-71-73) maintains, if I rightly understand him, not only that Plato did not adopt the principium identitatis et contradictionis as the basis of his reasonings, but that one of Plato’s express objects was to demonstrate the contrary of it, partly in the Philêbus, but especially in the Parmenides:—
“Eine arge Täuschung ist es, zu glauben, dass das principium identitatis et contradictionis oberstes logisches Princip des Plato sei … Es ist gerade eine Hauptaufgabe, welche sich Plato stellen musste, die Coexistenz der Gegensätze nachzuweisen, wie diess bekanntlich im Philebus und besonders im Parmenides geschieht.”
According to this view, the Antinomies in the Parmenides are all of them good proofs, and the conclusions of all of them, summed up as they are in the final sentence of the dialogue, constitute an addition to the positive knowledge of Sokrates. I confess that this to me is unintelligible. I understand these Antinomies as ἀπορίαι to be cleared up, but in no other character.
Prantl speaks (p. 73) of “die antinomische Begründung der Ideenlehre im Parmenides,” &c. This is the same language as that used by Zeller, upon which I have already remarked.
100Demonstration third — Attempt to reconcile the contradiction of Demonstrations I. and II.
How can this be possible? How can these four propositions all be true — Unum est Unum — Unum est Multa — Unum non est Unum — Unum non est Multa? Plato suggests a way out of the difficulty, in that which he gives as Demonstration 3. It has been shown that Unum “partakes of time” — was, is, and will be. The propositions are all true, but true at different times: one at this time, another at that time.90 Unum acquires and loses existence, essence, and other attributes: now, it exists and is Unum — before, it did not exist and was not Unum: so too it is alternately like and unlike, in motion and at rest. But how is such alternation or change intelligible? At each time, whether present or past, it must be either in motion or at rest: at no time, neither present nor past, can it be neither in motion nor at rest. It cannot, while in motion, change to rest — nor, while at rest, change to motion. No time can be assigned for the change: neither the present, nor the past, nor the future: how then can the change occur at all?91
90 This is a distinction analogous to that which Plato points out in the Sophistes (pp. 242-243) between the theories of Herakleitus and Empedoklês.
91 Plato, Parmenid. p. 156.
Plato’s imagination of the Sudden or Instantaneous — Breaches or momentary stoppages in the course of time.
To this question the Platonic Parmenides finds an answer in what he calls the Sudden or the Instantaneous: an anomalous nature which lies out of, or apart from, the course of time, being neither past, present, nor future. That which changes, changes at once and suddenly: at an instant when it is neither in motion nor at rest. This Suddenly is a halt or break in the flow of time:92 an extra-temporal condition, in which the subject has 101no existence, no attributes — though it revives again forthwith clothed with its new attributes: a point of total negation or annihilation, during which the subject with all its attributes disappears. At this interval (the Suddenly) all predicates may be truly denied, but none can be truly affirmed.93 Unum is neither at rest, nor in motion — neither like nor unlike — neither the same with itself nor different from itself — neither Unum nor Multa. Both predicates and Subject vanish. Thus all the negations of the first Demonstration are justified. Immediately before the Suddenly, or point of change, Unum was in motion — immediately after the change, it is at rest: immediately before, it was like — equal — the same with itself — Unum, &c. — immediately after, it is unlike — unequal — different from itself — Multa, &c. And thus the double and contradictory affirmative predications, of which the second Demonstration is composed, are in their turn made good, as successive in time. This discovery of the extra-temporal point Suddenly, enables Parmenides to uphold both the double negative of the first Demonstration, and the double affirmative of the second.
92 Plato, Parmenid. p. 156 E. ἀλλ’ ἡ ἐξαίφνης αὕτη φύσις ἄτοπός τις ἐγκάθηται μεταξὺ τῆς κινήσεώς τε καὶ στάσεως, ἐν χρόνῳ οὐδενὶ οὖσα, καὶ εἰς ταύτην δὴ καὶ ἐκ ταύτης τό τε κινούμενον μεταβάλλει ἐπὶ τὸ ἑστάναι, καὶ τὸ ἑστὸς ἐπὶ τὸ κινεῖσθαι.… καὶ τὸ ἓν δή, εἴπερ ἕστηκέ τε καὶ κινεῖται, μεταβάλλοι ἂν ἐφ’ ἑκάτερα· μόνως γὰρ ἂν οὕτως ἀμφότερα ποιοῖ· μεταβάλλον δ’ ἐξαίφνης μεταβάλλει, καὶ ὅτε μεταβάλλει, ἐν οὐδενὶ χρόνῳ ἂν εἴη, οὐδὲ κινοῖτ’ ἂν τότε, οὐδ’ ἂν σταίη.
Τὸ ἐξαίφνης — ἡ ἐξαίφνης φύσις ἄτοπός τις — may be compared to an infinitesimal; analogous to what is recognised in the theory of the differential calculus.
93 This appears to be an illustration of the doctrine which Lassalle ascribes to Herakleitus; perpetual implication of negativity and positivity — des Nichtseins mit dem Sein: perpetual absorption of each particular into the universal; and perpetual reappearance as an opposite particular. See the two elaborate volumes of Lassalle upon Herakleitus, especially i. p. 358, ii. p. 258. He scarcely however takes notice of the Platonic Parmenides.
Some of the Stoics considered τὸ νῦν as μηδέν — and nothing in time to be real except τὸ παρῳχηκὸς and τὸ μέλλον (Plutarch, De Commun. Notitiis contra Stoicos, p. 1081 D).
Review of the successive pairs of Demonstrations or Antinomies in each, the first proves the Neither, the second proves the Both.
The theory here laid down in the third Demonstration respecting this extra-temporal point — the Suddenly — deserves all the more attention, because it applies not merely to the first and second Demonstration which precede it, but also to the fourth and fifth, the sixth and seventh, the eighth and ninth, which follow it. I have already observed, that the first and second Demonstration form a corresponding pair, branching off from the same root or hypothetical proposition (at least the same in terms), respecting the subject Unum; and destined to prove, one the Neither, the other the Both, of several different predicates. So also the fourth and fifth form a pair applying to the subject Cætera; and destined to prove, that from 102the same hypothetical root — Si Unum est — we can deduce the Neither as well as the Both, of various predicates of Cætera. When we pass on to the four last Demonstrations, we find that in all four, the hypothesis Si Unum non est is substituted for that of Si Unum est: but the parallel couples, with the corresponding purpose, are still kept up. The sixth and seventh apply to the subject Unum, and demonstrate respecting that subject (proceeding from the hypothesis Si Unum non est) first the Both, then the Neither, of various predicates: the eighth and ninth arrive at the same result, respecting the subject Cætera. And a sentence at the close sums up in few words the result of all the four pairs (1-2, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9, that is, of all the Demonstrations excepting the third) — the Neither and the Both respecting all of them.
The third Demonstration is mediatorial but not satisfactory — The hypothesis of the Sudden or Instantaneous found no favour.
To understand these nine Demonstrations properly, therefore, we ought to consider eight among them (1-2, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9) as four Antinomies, or couples establishing dialectic contradictions: and the third as a mediator satisfactory between the couples — announced as if it reconciled the contradictions of the first Antinomy, and capable of being adapted, in the same character with certain modifications, to the second, third, and fourth Antinomy. Whether it reconciles them successfully — in other words, whether the third Demonstration will itself hold good — is a different question. It will be found to involve the singular and paradoxical (Plato’s own phrase) doctrine of the extra-temporal Suddenly — conceiving Time as a Discretum and not a Continuum. This doctrine is intended by Plato here as a means of rendering the fact of change logically conceivable and explicable. He first states briefly the difficulty (which we know to have been largely insisted on by Diodorus Kronus and other Megarics) of logically explaining the fact of change — and then enunciates this doctrine as the solution. We plainly see that it did not satisfy others — for the puzzle continued to be a puzzle long after — and that it did not even satisfy Plato, except at the time when he composed the Parmenides — since neither the doctrine itself (the extra-temporal break or transition) nor the very peculiar phrase in which it is embodied (τὸ ἐξαίφνης, ἄτοπός τις φύσις) occur in any of his other dialogues. If the doctrine were really tenable, it would have been of use in dialectic, and as such, would have 103been called in to remove the theoretical difficulties raised among dialectical disputants, respecting time and motion. Yet Plato does not again advert to it, either in Sophistes or Timæus, in both of which there is special demand for it.94 Aristotle, while he adopts a doctrine like it (yet without employing the peculiar phrase τὸ ἐξαίφνης) to explain qualitative change, does not admit the same either as to quantitative change, or as to local motion, or as to generation and destruction.95 The doctrine served the purpose of the Platonic Parmenides, as ingenious, original, and provocative to intellectual effort: but it did not acquire any permanent footing in Grecian dialectics.
94 Steinhart represents this idea of τὸ ἐξαίφνης — the extra-temporal break or zero of transition — as an important progress made by Plato, compared with the Theætêtus, because it breaks down the absoluten Gegensatz between Sein and Werden, Ruhe and Bewegung (Einleitung zum Parmen. p. 309).
Surely, if Plato had considered it a progress, we should have seen the same idea repeated in various other dialogues — which is not the case.
95 Aristotel. Physic. p. 235, b. 32, with the Scholion of Simplikius, p. 410, b. 20, Brandis.
The discussion occupies two or three pages of Aristotle’s Physica. In regard to ἀλλοίωσις or qualitative change, he recognised what he called ἀθρόαν μεταβολήν — a change all at once, which occupied no portion of time. It is plain, however, that even his own scholars Theophrastus and Eudemus had great difficulty in accepting the doctrine; see Scholia, pp. 409-410-411, Brandis.
The two last Antinomies, or four last Demonstrations, have, in common, for their point of departure, the negative proposition, Si Unum non est: and are likewise put together in parallel couples (6-7, 8-9), a Demonstration and a Counter-Demonstration — a Both and a Neither: first with reference to the subject Unum — next with reference to the subject Cætera.
Review of the two last Antinomies. Demonstrations VI. and VII.
Si Unum est — Si Unum non est. Even from such a proposition as the first of these, we might have thought it difficult to deduce any string of consequences — which Plato has already done: from such a proposition as the second, not merely difficult, but impossible. Nevertheless the ingenious dialectic of Plato accomplishes the task, and elicits from each proposition a Both, and a Neither, respecting several predicates of Unum as well as of Cætera. When you say Unum non est (so argues the Platonic Parmenides in Demonstration 6), you deny existence respecting Unum: but the proposition Unum non est, is distinguishable from Magnitudo non est — Parvitudo non est — and such like: propositions wherein the subject is different, though the predicate is the same: so that 104Unum non Ens is still a Something knowable, and distinguishable from other things — a logical subject of which various other predicates may be affirmed, though the predicate of existence cannot be affirmed.96 It is both like and unlike, equal and unequal — like and equal to itself unlike and unequal to other things.97 These its predicates being all true, are also real existences: so that Unum partakes quodam modo in existence: though Unum be non-Ens, nevertheless, Unum non-Ens est. Partaking thus both of non-existence and of existence, it changes: it both moves and is at rest: it is generated and destroyed, yet is also neither generated nor destroyed.98
96 Plato, Parmenid. pp. 160-161 A. εἶναι μὲν δὴ τῷ ἑνὶ οὐχ οἷόν τε, εἴπερ γε μὴ ἔστι, μετέχειν δὲ πολλῶν οὐδὲν κωλύει, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἀνάγκη, εἴπερ τό γε ἓν ἐκεῖνο καὶ μὴ ἄλλο μὴ ἔστιν. εἰ μέντοι μήτε τὸ ἓν μήτ’ ἐκεῖνο μὴ ἔσται, ἀλλὰ περὶ ἄλλου του ὁ λόγος, οὐδὲ φθέγγεσθαι δεῖ οὐδέν· εἰ δὲ τὸ ἓν ἐκεῖνο καὶ μὴ ἄλλο ὑποκεῖται μὴ εἶναι, καὶ τοῦ ἐκείνου καὶ ἄλλων πολλῶν ἀνάγκη αὐτῷ μετεῖναι.
97 Plato, Parmenid. p. 161 C-D.
98 Plato, Parmenid. pp. 162-163 A.
The steps by which these conclusions are made out are extremely subtle, and hardly intelligible to me.
Having thus deduced from the fundamental principle this string of Both opposite predicates, the Platonic Parmenides reverts (in Demonstration 7) to the same principium (Si Unum non est) to deduce by another train of reasoning the Neither of these predicates. When you say that Unum non est, you must mean that it does not partake of existence in any way — absolutely and without reserve. It therefore neither acquires nor loses existence: it is neither generated nor destroyed: it is neither in motion nor at rest: it partakes of nothing existent: it is neither equal nor unequal — neither like nor unlike — neither great nor little — neither this, nor that: neither the object of perception, nor of knowledge, nor of opinion, nor of naming, nor of debate.99
99 Plato, Parmenid. pp. 163-164 A.
Demonstration VII. is founded upon the genuine doctrine of Parmenides.
These two last counter-demonstrations (6 and 7), forming the third Antinomy, deserve attention in this respect — That the seventh is founded upon the genuine Parmenidean or Eleatic doctrine about Non-Ens, as not merely having no attributes, but as being unknowable, unperceivable, unnameable: while the sixth is founded upon a different apprehension of Non-Ens, which is explained and defended by Plato in the Sophistes, as a substitute for, and refutation of, the Eleatic doctrine.100 According to 105Number 7, when you deny, of Unum, the predicate existence, you deny of it also all other predicates: and the name Unum is left without any subject to apply to. This is the Eleatic dogma. Unum having been declared to be Non-Ens, is (like Non-Ens) neither knowable nor nameable. According to Number 6, the proposition Unum est non-Ens, does not carry with it any such consequences. Existence is only one predicate, which may be denied of the subject Unum, but which, when denied, does not lead to the denial of all other predicates — nor, therefore, to the loss of the subject itself. Unum still remains Unum, knowable, and different from other things. Upon this first premiss are built up several other affirmations; so that we thus arrive circuitously at the affirmation of existence, in a certain way: Unum, though non-existent, does nevertheless exist quodam modo. This coincides with that which the Eleatic stranger seeks to prove in the Sophistes, against Parmenides.
100 Plato, Sophistes, pp. 258-259.
Demonstrations VI. and VII. considered — Unwarrantable steps in the reasoning — The fundamental premiss differently interpreted, though the same in words.
If we compare the two foregoing counter-demonstrations (7 and 6), we shall see that the negative results of the seventh follow properly enough from the assumed premisses: but that the affirmative results of the sixth are not obtained without very unwarrantable jumps in the reasoning, besides its extreme subtlety. But apart from this defect, we farther remark that here also (as in Numbers 1 and 2) the fundamental principle assumed is in terms the same, in signification materially different. The signification of Unum non est, as it is construed in Number 7, is the natural one, belonging to the words: but as construed in Number 6, the meaning of the predicate is altogether effaced (as it had been before in Number 1): we cannot tell what it is which is really denied about Unum. As, in Number 1, the proposition Unum est is so construed as to affirm nothing except Unum est Unum — so in Number 7, the proposition Unum non est is so construed as to deny nothing except Unum non est Unum, yet conveying along with such denial a farther affirmation — Unum non est Unum, sed tamen est aliquid scibile, differens ab aliis.101 Here this aliquid scibile is assumed as a 106substratum underlying Unum, and remaining even when Unum is taken away: contrary to the opinion — that Unum was a separate nature and the fundamental Subject of all — which Aristotle announces as having been held by Plato.102 There must be always some meaning (the Platonic Parmenides argues) attached to the word Unum, even when you talk of Unum non Ens: and that meaning is equivalent to Aliquid scibile, differens ab aliis. From this he proceeds to evolve, step by step, though often in a manner obscure and inconclusive, his series of contradictory affirmations respecting Unum.
101 Plato, Parmenid. p. 160 C.
102 Aristot. Metaph. B. 1001, a. 6-20.
The last couple of Demonstrations — 8 and 9 — composing the fourth Antinomy, are in some respects the most ingenious and singular of all the nine. Si Unum non est, what is true about Cætera? The eighth demonstrates the Both of the affirmative predicates, the ninth proves the Neither.
Demonstrations VIII. and IX. — Analysis of Demonstration VIII.
Si Unum non est (is the argument of the eighth), Cætera must nevertheless somehow still be Cætera: otherwise you could not talk about Cætera.103 (This is an argument like that in Demonstration 6: What is talked about must exist, somehow.) But if Cætera can be named and talked about, they must be different from something, — and from something, which is also different from them. What can this Something be? Not certainly Unum: for Unum, by the Hypothesis, does not exist, and cannot therefore be the term of comparison. Cætera therefore must be different among themselves and from each other. But they cannot be compared with each other by units: for Unum does not exist. They must therefore be compared with each other by heaps or multitudes: each of which will appear at first sight to be an unit, though it be not an unit in reality. There will be numbers of such heaps, each in appearance one, though not in reality:104 numbers odd and even, great and little, in appearance: heaps appearing to be greater and less than each other, and equal to each other, though not being really so. Each of these heaps will appear to have a beginning, middle, and end, yet will not really have any such: 107for whenever you grasp any one of them in your thoughts, there will appear another beginning before the beginning,105 another end after the end, another centre more centrical than the centre, — minima ever decreasing because you cannot reach any stable unit. Each will be a heap without any unity; looking like one, at a distance, — but when you come near, each a boundless and countless multitude. They will thus appear one and many, like and unlike, equal and unequal, at rest and moving, separate and coalescing: in short, invested with an indefinite number of opposite attributes.106
103 Plato, Parmenid. p. 164 B. Ἄλλα μέν που δεῖ αὐτὰ εἶναι· εἰ γὰρ μηδὲ ἄλλα ἐστίν, οὐκ ἂν περὶ τῶν ἄλλων λέγοιτο.
104 Plato, Parmenid. p. 164 D. Οὐκοῦν πολλοὶ ὄγκοι ἔσανται, εἶς ἕκαστος φαινόμενος, ὢν δὲ οὔ, εἴπερ ἓν μὴ ἔσται. Οὕτως.
105 Plato, Parmenid. p. 165 A. Ὅτι ἀεὶ αὐτῶν ὅταν τίς τι λάβῃ τῇ διανοίᾳ ὥς τι τούτων ὅν, πρό τε τῆς ἀρχῆς ἄλλη ἀεὶ φαίνεται ἀρχή, μετά τε τὴν τελευτὴν ἑτέρα ὑπολειπομένη τελευτή, ἕν τε τῷ μέσῳ ἄλλα μεσαίτερα τοῦ μέσου, σμικρότερα δὲ διὰ τὸ μὴ δύνασθαι ἑνὸς αὐτῶν ἑκάστου λαμβάνεσθαι, ἄτε οὐκ ὄντος τοῦ ἑνός.
106 Plato, Parmenid. p. 165 E. Compare p. 158 E. τοῖς ἄλλοις δὴ τοῦ ἑνὸς.… ἡ δὲ αὐτῶν φύσις καθ’ ἑαυτὰ ἀπειρίαν (πάρεσχε).
Demonstration VIII. is very subtle and Zenonian.
This Demonstration 8, with its strange and subtle chain of inferences, purporting to rest upon the admission of Cætera without Unum, brings out the antithesis of the Apparent and the Real, which had not been noticed in the preceding demonstrations. Demonstration 8 is in its character Zenonian. It probably coincides with the proof which Zeno is reported (in the earlier half of this dialogue) to have given against the existence of any real Multa. If you assume Multa (Zeno argued), they must be both like and unlike, and invested with many other opposite attributes; but this is impossible; therefore the assumption is untrue.107 Those against whom Zeno reasoned, contended for real Multa, and against a real Unum. Zeno probably showed, and our eighth Demonstration here shows also, — that Multa under this supposition are nothing real, but an assemblage of indefinite, ever-variable, contradictory appearances: an Ἄπειρον, Infinite, or Chaos: an object not real and absolute, but relative and variable according to the point of view of the subject.
107 Plato, Parmenid. p. 127 E; compare this with the close of the eighth Demonstration, p. 165 E — εἰ ἑνὸς μὴ ὄντος πολλὰ ἔστιν.
Demonstration IX. Neither following Both.
To the eighth Demonstration, ingenious as it is, succeeds a countervailing reversal in the ninth: the Neither following the Both. The fundamental supposition is in terms the same. Si Unum non est, what is to become108 of Cætera? Cætera are not Unum: yet neither are they Multa: for if there were any Multa, Unum would be included in them. If none of the Multa were Unum, all of them would be nothing at all, and there would be no Multa. If therefore Unum be not included in Cætera, Cætera would be neither Unum nor Multa: nor would they appear to be either Unum or Multa: for Cætera can have no possible communion with Non-Entia: nor can any of the Non-Entia be present along with any of Cætera — since Non-Entia have no parts. We cannot therefore conceive or represent to ourselves Non-Ens as along with or belonging to Cætera. Therefore, Si Unum non est, nothing among Cætera is conceived either as Unum or as Multa: for to conceive Multa without Unum is impossible. It thus appears, Si Unum non est, that Cætera neither are Unum nor Multa. Nor are they conceived either as Unum or Multa — either as like or as unlike — either as the same or as different — either as in contact or as apart. — In short, all those attributes which in the last preceding Demonstration were shown to belong to them in appearance, are now shown not to belong to them either in appearance or in reality.108
108 Plato, Parmenid. p. 166 A-B. Ἓν ἄρα εἰ μὴ ἔστι, τἄλλα οὔτε ἔστιν οὔτε δοξάζεται ἓν οὔτε πολλά.… Οὔδ’ ἄρα ὅμοια οὐδὲ ἀνόμοια.… Οὐδὲ μὴν τὰ αὐτά γε οὐδ’ ἕτερα, οὐδὲ ἁπτόμενα οὐδὲ χωρίς, οὐδὲ ἄλλ’ ὅσα ἐν τοῖς πρόσθεν διήλθομεν (compare διελθεῖν, p. 165 E) ὡς φαινόμενα αὐτά, τούτων οὔτε τι ἔστιν οὔτε φαίνεται τἄλλα, ἓν εἰ μὴ ἔστιν.
Concluding words of the Parmenides — Declaration that he has demonstrated the Both and the Neither of many different propositions.
Here we find ourselves at the close of the Parmenides. Plato announces his purpose to be, to elicit contradictory conclusions, by different trains of reasoning, out of the same fundamental assumption.109 He declares, in the concluding words, that — on the hypothesis of Unum est, as well as on that of Unum non est — he has succeeded in demonstrating the Both and the Neither of many distinct propositions, respecting Unum and respecting Cætera.
109 Compare, with the passage cited in the last note, another passage, p. 159 B, at the beginning of Demonstration 5.
Οὐκοῦν ταῦτα μὲν ἤδη ἐῶμεν ὡς φανερά, ἐπισκοπῶμεν δὲ πάλιν, ἓν εἰ ἔστιν, ἆρα καὶ οὐχ οὕτως ἔχει τἄλλα τοῦ ἑνὸς ἢ οὕτω μόνον;
Here the purpose to prove οὐχ οὕτως, immediately on the heels of οὕτως, is plainly enunciated.
Comparison of the conclusion of the Parmenides to an enigma of the Republic. Difference. The constructor of the enigma adapted its conditions to a foreknown solution. Plato did not.
The close of the Parmenides, as it stands here, may be fairly compared to the enigma announced by Plato in his Republic — “A man and no man, struck and did not 109strike, with a stone and no stone, a bird and no bird, sitting upon wood and no wood”.110 This is an enigma, propounded for youthful auditors to guess: stimulating their curiosity, and tasking their intelligence to find it out. As far as I can see, the puzzling antinomies in the Parmenides have no other purpose. They drag back the forward and youthful Sokrates from affirmative dogmatism to negative doubt and embarrassment. There is however this difference between the enigma in the Republic, and the Antinomies in the Parmenides. The constructor of the enigma had certainly a preconceived solution to which he adapted the conditions of his problem: whereas we have no sufficient ground for asserting that the author of the Antinomies had any such solution present or operative in his mind. How much of truth Plato may himself have recognised, or may have wished others to recognise, in them, we have no means of determining. We find in them many equivocal propositions and unwarranted inferences — much blending of truth with error, intentionally or unintentionally. The veteran Parmenides imposes the severance of the two, as a lesson, upon his youthful hearers Sokrates and Aristoteles.
110 Plato, Republ. v. 479 C. The allusion was to an eunuch knocking down a bat seated upon a reed. Αἰνός τις ἔστιν ὡς ἀνήρ τε κοὐκ ἀνήρ, Ὄρνιθά τε κοὐκ ὄρνιθ’ ἰδών τε κοὐκ ἰδών, Ἐπὶ ξύλου τε κοὐ ξύλου καθημένην Λίθῳ τε κοὐ λίθῳ βάλοι τε κοὐ βάλοι.
I read with astonishment the amount of positive philosophy which a commentator like Steinhart extracts from the concluding enigma of the Parmenides, and which he even affirms that no attentive reader of the dialogue can possibly miss (Einleitung zum Parmenides, pp. 302-303).
Subjects and personages in the Theætêtus.
In this dialogue, as in the Parmenides immediately preceding, Plato dwells upon the intellectual operations of mind: introducing the ethical and emotional only in a partial and subordinate way. The main question canvassed is, What is Knowledge — Cognition — Science? After a long debate, turning the question over in many distinct points of view, and examining three or four different answers to the question — all these answers are successively rejected, and the problem remains unsolved.
The two persons who converse with Sokrates are, Theodôrus, an elderly man, eminent as a geometrician, astronomer, &c., and teaching those sciences — and Theætêtus, a young man of great merit and still greater promise: acute, intelligent, and inquisitive — high-principled and courageous in the field, yet gentle and conciliatory to all: lastly, resembling Sokrates in physiognomy and in the flatness of his nose. The dialogue is supposed to have taken place during the last weeks of the life of Sokrates, when his legal appearance as defendant is required to answer the indictment of Melêtus, already entered in the official record.1 The dialogue is here read aloud to Eukleides of Megara and his fellow-citizen Terpsion, by a slave of Eukleides: this last person had recorded it in writing from narrative previously made to him by Sokrates.2 It is prefaced by a short discourse between 111Eukleides and Terpsion, intended to attract our sympathy and admiration towards the youthful Theætêtus.
1 Plato, Theætêt. ad fin. p. 210.
2 Plato, Theætêt. i. pp. 142 E, 143 A. Plato hardly keeps up the fiction about the time of this dialogue with perfect consistency. When it took place, the indictment of Melêtus had already been recorded: Sokrates breaks off the conversation for the purpose of going to answer it: Eukleides hears the dialogue from the mouth of Sokrates afterwards. “Immediately on getting home to Megara” (says Eukleides) “I wrote down memoranda (of what I had heard): then afterwards I called it back to my mind at leisure, and as often as I visited Athens I questioned Sokrates about such portions as I did not remember, and made corrections on my return here, so that now nearly all the dialogue has been written out.”
Such a process would require longer time than is consistent with the short remainder of the life of Sokrates. Socher indeed tries to explain this by assuming a long interval between the indictment and the trial, but this is noway satisfactory. (Ueber Platon’s Schriften, p. 251.)
Mr. Lewis Campbell, in the Preface to his very useful edition of this dialogue (p. lxxi. Oxford, 1861), considers that the battle in which Theætêtus is represented as having been wounded, is probably meant for that battle in which Iphikrates and his peltasts destroyed the Spartan Mora, B.C. 390: if not that, then the battle at the Isthmus of Corinth against Epaminondas. B.C. 369. Schleiermacher in his Einleitung to the dialogue (p. 185) seems to prefer the supposition of some earlier battle or skirmish under Iphikrates. The point can hardly be determined. Still less can we fix the date at which the dialogue was written, though the mention of the battle of Corinth certifies that it was later than 394 B.C. Ast affirms confidently that it was the first dialogue composed by Plato after the Phædon, which last was composed immediately after the death of Sokrates (Ast, Platon’s Leben, &c., p. 192). I see no ground for this affirmation. Most of the commentators rank it among the dialectical dialogues, which they consider to belong to a later period of Plato’s life than the ethical, but to an earlier period than the constructive, such as Republic, Timæus, &c. Most of them place the Theætêtus in one or other of the years between 393-383 B.C., though they differ much among themselves whether it is to be considered as later or earlier than other dialogues — Kratylus, Euthydemus, Menon, Gorgias, &c. (Stallbaum, Proleg. Theæt. pp. 6-10; Steinhart, Einleit. zum Theæt. pp. 100-213.) Munk and Ueberweg, on the contrary, place the Theætêtus at a date considerably later, subsequent to 368 B.C. Munk assigns it to 358 or 357 B.C. after Plato’s last return from Sicily (Munk, Die natürliche Ordnung der Platon. Schr. pp. 357-597: Ueberweg, Ueber die Aechtheit der Platon. Schr. pp. 228-236).
Question raised by Sokrates — What is knowledge or Cognition? First answer of Theætêtus, enumerating many different cognitions. Corrected by Sokrates.
In answer to the question put by Sokrates — What is Knowledge or Cognition? Theætêtus at first replies — That there are many and diverse cognitions:— of geometry, of arithmetic, of arts and trades, such as shoemaking, joinery, &c. Sokrates points out (as in the Menon, Hippias Major, and other dialogues) that such an answer involves a misconception of the question: which was general, and required a general answer, setting forth the characteristic common to all cognitions. No one can know what cognition is in shoemaking or any particular case — unless he first knows what is cognition generally.3 Specimens of suitable answers to general questions are then given (or of definition of a general term), in the case of clay — and of numbers square and oblong.4 112I have already observed more than once how important an object it was with Plato to impress upon his readers an exact and adequate conception of the meaning of general terms, and the proper way of defining them. For this purpose he brings into contrast the misconceptions likely to arise in the minds of persons not accustomed to dialectic.
3 Plato, Theætêt. p. 147 A.
Οὐδ’ ἄρα ἐπιστήμην ὑποδημάτων συνίησιν, ὁ ἐπιστήμην μὴ εἰδιός; Οὐ γάρ.
4 Plato, Theætêt. p. 148. Oblong (προμήκεις) numbers are such as can be produced only from two unequal factors. The explanation of this difficult passage, requiring us to keep in mind the geometrical conception of numbers usual among the Greek mathematicians, will be found clearly given in Mr. Campbell’s edition of this dialogue, pp. 20-22.
Preliminary conversation before the second answer is given. Sokrates describes his own peculiar efficacy — mental obstetric — He cannot teach, but he can evolve knowledge out of pregnant minds.
Theætêtus, before he attempts a second answer, complains how much the subject had embarrassed him. Impressed with what he had heard about the interrogatories of Sokrates, he had tried to solve this problem: but he had not been able to satisfy himself with any attempted solution — nor yet to relinquish the search altogether. “You are in distress, Theætêtus” (observes Sokrates), “because you are not empty, but pregnant.5 You have that within you, of which you need to be relieved; and you cannot be relieved without obstetric aid. It is my peculiar gift from the Gods to afford such aid, and to stimulate the parturition of pregnant minds which cannot of themselves bring forth what is within them.6 I can produce no truth myself: but I can, by my art inherited from my mother the midwife Phænaretê, extract truth from others, and test the answers given by others: so as to determine whether such answers are true and valuable, or false and worthless. I can teach nothing: I only bring out what is already struggling in the minds of youth: and if there be nothing within them, my procedure is unavailing. My most important function is, to test the answers given, how far they are true or false. But most people, not comprehending my drift, complain of me as a most eccentric person, who only makes others sceptical. They reproach me, and that truly enough, with always asking questions, and never saying any thing of my own: because I have nothing to say worth hearing.7 113The young companions who frequent my society, often suffer long-continued pains of parturition night and day, before they can be delivered of what is within them. Some, though apparently stupid when they first come to me, make great progress, if my divine coadjutor is favourable to them: others again become tired of me, and go away too soon, so that the little good which I have done them becomes effaced. Occasionally, some of these impatient companions wish to return to me afterwards — but my divine sign forbids me to receive them: where such obstacle does not intervene, they begin again to make progress.”8
5 Plato, Theætêt. p. 148 E. ὠδίνεις, διὰ τὸ μὴ κενὸς ἀλλ’ ἐγκύμων εἶναι.
6 Plato, Theætêt. p. 149 A, p. 150 A.
7 Plato, Theætêt. p. 149 A. οἱ δέ, ἄτε οὐκ εἰδότες, τοῦτο μὲν οὐ λέγουσι περὶ ἐμοῦ, ὅτι δὲ ἀτοπώτατός εἰμι, καὶ ποιῶ τοὺς ἀνθρώπους ἀπορεῖν. 150 B-C μέγιστον δὲ τοῦτ’ ἕνι τῇ ἡμετέρᾳ τέχνῃ, βασανίζειν δυνατὸν εἶναι παντὶ τρόπῳ, πότερον εἴδωλον ἢ ψεῦδος ἀποτίκτει τοῦ νέου ἡ διανοία, ἢ γόνιμόν τε καὶ ἀληθές· ἐπεὶ τόδε γε καὶ ἐμοὶ ὑπάρχει ὅπερ ταῖς μαίαις· ἄγονός εἰμι σοφίας, &c.
8 Plato, Theætêt. pp. 150 E, 151 A. ἐνίοις μὲν τὸ γιγνόμενόν μοι δαιμόνιον ἀποκωλύει ξυνεῖναι, ἐνίοις δὲ ἐᾷ· καὶ πάλιν οὗτοι ἐπιδιδόασιν.
We here see (what I have already adverted to in reviewing the Theagês, vol. ii. ch. xv. pp. 105-7) the character of mystery, unaccountable and unpredictable in its working on individuals, with which Plato invests the colloquy of Sokrates.
Ethical basis of the cross-examination of Sokrates — He is forbidden to pass by falsehood without challenge.
This passage, while it forcibly depicts the peculiar intellectual gift of Sokrates, illustrates at the same time the Platonic manner of describing, full of poetry and metaphor. Cross-examination by Sokrates communicated nothing new, but brought out what lay buried in the mind of the respondent, and tested the value of his answers. It was applicable only to minds endowed and productive: but for them it was indispensable, in order to extract what they were capable of producing, and to test its value when extracted. “Do not think me unkind,” (says Sokrates,) “or my procedure useless, if my scrutiny exposes your answers as fallacious. Many respondents have been violently angry with me for doing so: but I feel myself strictly forbidden either to admit falsehood, or to put aside truth.”9 Here we have a suitable prelude to a dialogue in which four successive answers are sifted and rejected, without reaching, even at last, any satisfactory solution.
9 Plato, Theætêt. p. 151 D.
Answer of Theætêtus — Cognition is sensible perception: Sokrates says that this is the same doctrine as the Homo Mensura laid down by Protagoras, and that both are in close affinity with the doctrines of Homer, Herakleitus, Empedoklês, &c., all except Parmenides.
The first answer given by Theætêtus is — “Cognition is sensation (or sensible perception)”. Upon this answer Sokrates remarks, that it is the same doctrine, though in other words, as what was laid down by Protagoras — “Man is the measure of all things: of things existent, that they exist: of things non-existent, that they do not exist. As things appear to me, so they 114are to me: as they appear to you, so they are to you.”10 Sokrates then proceeds to say, that these two opinions are akin to, or identical with, the general view of nature entertained by Herakleitus, Empedoklês, and other philosophers, countenanced moreover by poets like Homer and Epicharmus. The philosophers here noticed (he continues), though differing much in other respects, all held the doctrine that nature consisted in a perpetual motion, change, or flux: that there was no real Ens or permanent substratum, but perpetual genesis or transition.11 These philosophers were opposed to Parmenides, who maintained (as I have already stated in a previous chapter) that there was nothing real except Ens — One, permanent, and unchangeable: that all change was unreal, apparent, illusory, not capable of being certainly known, but only matter of uncertain opinion or estimation.
10 Plato, Theætêt. pp. 151 E — 152 A.
Theætêt. οὐκ ἄλλο τί ἐστιν ἐπιστήμη ἢ αἴσθησις.…
Sokrat. Κινδυνεύεις μέντοι λόγον οὐ φαῦλον εἰρηκέναι περὶ ἐπιστήμης, ἀλλ’ ὅν ἔλεγε καὶ Πρωταγόρας· τρόπον δέ τινα ἄλλον εἴρηκε τὰ αὐτὰ ταῦτα. Φησὶ γάρ που — Πάντων χρημάτων μέτρον ἄνθρωπον εἶναι, τῶν μὲν ὄντων, ὡς ἔστι — τῶν δὲ μὴ ὄντων, ὡς οὐκ ἔστιν. Ἀνέγνωκας γάρ που;
Theætêt. Ἀνέγνωκα καὶ πολλάκις.
Sokrat. Οὐκοῦν οὕτω πως λέγει, ὠς οἷα μὲν ἕκαστα ἐμοὶ φαίνεται, τοιαῦτα μέν ἐστιν ἐμοὶ — οἷα δὲ σοί, τοιαῦτα δὲ αὖ σοί· ἀνθρωπος δὲ σύ τε κἀγώ.
Theætêt. Λέγει γὰρ οὖν οὕτως.
Here Plato appears to transcribe the words of Protagoras (compare p. 161 B, and the Kratylus, p. 386 A) which distinctly affirm the doctrine of Homo Mensura — Man is the measure of all things, — but do not affirm the doctrine, that knowledge is sensible perception. The identification between the two doctrines is asserted by Plato himself. It is Plato who asserts “that Protagoras affirmed the same doctrine in another manner,” citing afterwards the manner in which he supposed Protagoras to affirm it. If there had been in the treatise of Protagoras any more express or peremptory affirmation of the doctrine “that knowledge is sensible perception,” Plato would probably have given it here.
11 Plato, Theætêt. p. 152 E. καὶ περὶ τούτου πάντες ἑξῆς οἱ σοφοὶ πλὴν Παρμενίδου ξυμφερέσθων, Πρωταγόρας τε καὶ Ἡράκλειτος καὶ Ἐμπεδοκλῆς, καὶ τῶν ποιητῶν οἱ ἄκροι τῆς ποιήσεως ἑκατέρας, κωμῳδίας μὲν Ἐπίχαρμος, τραγῳδίας δὲ Ὅμηρος.
Plato here blends together three distinct theories for the purpose of confuting them; yet he also professes to urge what can be said in favour of them. Difficulty of following his exposition.
The one main theme intended for examination here (as Sokrates12 expressly declares) is the doctrine — That Cognition is sensible perception. Nevertheless upon all the three opinions, thus represented as cognate or identical,13 Sokrates bestows a lengthened comment 115(occupying a half of the dialogue) in conversation, principally with Theætêtus, but partly also with Theodôrus. His strictures are not always easy to follow with assurance, because he often passes with little notice from one to the other of the three doctrines which he is examining: because he himself, though really opposed to them, affects in part to take them up and to suggest arguments in their favour: and further because, disclaiming all positive opinion of his own, he sometimes leaves us in doubt what is his real purpose — whether to expound, or to deride, the opinions of others — whether to enlighten Theætêtus, or to test his power of detecting fallacies.14 We cannot always distinguish between the ironical and the serious. Lastly, it is a still greater difficulty, that we have not before us either of the three opinions as set forth by their proper supporters. There remains no work either of Protagoras or of Herakleitus: so that we do not clearly know the subject matter upon which Plato is commenting — nor whether these authors would have admitted as just the view which he takes of their opinions.15
12 Plato, Theætêt. p. 163 A.
13 Plato, Theætêt. p. 160 D. Sokrat. Παγκάλως ἄρα σοι εἴρηται ὅτι ἐπιστήμη οὐκ ἄλλο τί ἐστιν ἢ αἴσθησις· καὶ εἰς ταὐτὸν συμπέπτωκε, κατὰ μὲν Ὅμηρον καὶ Ἡράκλειτον καὶ πᾶν τὸ τοιοῦτον φῦλον, οἷον ῥεύματα κινεῖσθαι τὰ πάντα — κατὰ δὲ Πρωταγόραν τὸν σοφώτατον, πάντων χρημάτων ἄνθρωπον μέτρον εἶναι — κατὰ δὲ Θεαίτητον, τούτων οὗτως ἐχόντων, αἴσθησιν ἐπιστήμην γίγνεσθαι.
14 See the answer of Theætêtus and the words of Sokrates following, p. 157 C.
15 It would be hardly necessary to remark, that when Plato professes to put a pleading into the mouth of Protagoras (pp. 165-166) we have no other real speaker than Plato himself, if commentators did not often forget this. Steinhart indeed tells us (Einleit. zum Theætêt. pp. 36-47) positively — that Plato in this pleading keeps in the most accurate manner (auf das genaueste) to the thoughts of Protagoras, perhaps even to his words. How Steinhart can know this I am at a loss to understand. To me it seems very improbable. The mere circumstance that Plato forces into partnership three distinct theories, makes it probable that he did not adhere to the thoughts or language of any one of them.
The doctrine of Protagoras is completely distinct from the other doctrines. The identification of them as one and the same is only constructive — the interpretation of Plato himself.
It is not improbable that the three doctrines, here put together by Plato and subjected to a common scrutiny, may have been sometimes held by the same philosophers. Nevertheless, the language16 of Plato himself shows us that Protagoras never expressly affirmed knowledge to be sensible Perception: and that the substantial identity between this doctrine, and the different doctrine maintained by Protagoras, is to be regarded as a construction put upon the two by Plato. That the theories of Herakleitus and Empedokles differed 116materially from each other, we know certainly: the theory of each, moreover, differed from the doctrine of Protagoras — “Man is the measure of all things”. How this last doctrine was defended by its promulgator, we cannot say. But the defence of it noway required him to maintain — That knowledge is sensible perception. It might be consistently held by one who rejected that definition of knowledge.17 And though Plato tries to refute both, yet the reasonings which he brings against one do not at all tell against the other.
16 See Theætêt. p. 152 A. This is admitted (to be a construction put by Plato himself) by Steinhart in his note 7, p. 214, Einleitung zum Theætêtus, though he says that Plato’s construction is the right one.
17 Dr. Routh, in a note upon his edition of the Euthydêmus of Plato (p. 286 C) observes:— “Protagoras docebat, Πάντων χρημάτων μέτρον ἄνθρωπον εἶναι, τῶν μὲν ὄντων, ὡς ἔστι· τῶν δὲ μὴ ὄντων, ὡς οὐκ ἔστι. Quâ quidem opinione qualitatum sensilium sine animi perceptione existentiam sustulisse videtur.”
The definition here given by Routh is correct as far as it goes, though too narrow. But it is sufficient to exhibit the Protagorean doctrine as quite distinct from the other doctrine, ὅτι ἐπιστήμη οὐκ ἄλλο τί ἐστιν ἢ αἴσθησις.
Explanation of the doctrine of Protagoras — Homo Mensura.
The Protagorean doctrine — Man is the measure of all things — is simply the presentation in complete view of a common fact — uncovering an aspect of it which the received phraseology hides. Truth and Falsehood have reference to some believing subject — and the words have no meaning except in that relation. Protagoras brings to view this subjective side of the same complex fact, of which Truth and Falsehood denote the objective side. He refuses to admit the object absolute — the pretended thing in itself — Truth without a believer. His doctrine maintains the indefeasible and necessary involution of the percipient mind in every perception — of the concipient mind in every conception — of the cognizant mind in every cognition. Farther, Protagoras acknowledges many distinct believing or knowing Subjects: and affirms that every object known must be relative to (or in his language, measured by) the knowing Subject: that every cognitum must have its cognoscens, and every cognoscibile its cognitionis capax: that the words have no meaning unless this be supposed: that these two names designate two opposite poles or aspects of the indivisible fact of cognition — actual or potential — not two factors, which are in themselves separate or separable, and which come together to make a compound product. A man cannot in any case get clear of or discard his own mind as a Subject. Self is necessarily omnipresent; 117concerned in every moment of consciousness, and equally concerned in all, though more distinctly attended to in some than in others.18 The Subject, self, or Ego, is that which all our moments of consciousness have in common and alike: Object is that in which they do or may differ — although some object or other there always must be. The position laid down by Descartes — Cogito, ergo sum — might have been stated with equal truth — Cogito, ergo est (cogitatum aliquid): sum cogitans — est cogitatum — are two opposite aspects of the same indivisible mental fact — cogitatio. In some cases, doubtless, the objective aspect may absorb our attention, eclipsing the subjective: in other cases, the subjective attracts exclusive notice: but in all cases and in every act of consciousness, both are involved as co-existent and correlative. That alone exists, to every man, which stands, or is believed by him to be capable of standing, in some mode of his consciousness as an Object correlative with himself as a Subject. If he believes in its existence, his own believing mind is part and parcel of such fact of belief, not less than the object believed in: if he disbelieves it, his own disbelieving mind is the like. Consciousness in all varieties has for its two poles Subject and Object: there cannot be one of these poles without the opposite pole — north without south — any more than there can be concave without convex (to use a comparison familiar with Aristotle), or front 118 without back: which are not two things originally different and coming into conjunction, but two different aspects of the same indivisible fact.
18 In regard to the impossibility of carrying abstraction so far as to discard the thinking subject, see Hobbes, Computation or Logic, ch. vii. 1.
“In the teaching of natural philosophy I cannot begin better than from privation; that is, from feigning the world to be annihilated. But if such annihilation of all things be supposed, it may perhaps be asked what would remain for any man (whom only I except from this universal annihilation of things) to consider as the subject of philosophy, or at all to reason upon; or what to give names unto for ratiocination’s sake.
“I say, therefore, there would remain to that man ideas of the world, and of all such bodies as he had, before their annihilation, seen with his eyes, or perceived by any other sense; that is to say, the memory and imagination of magnitudes, motions, sounds, colours, &c., as also of their order and parts. All which things, though they be nothing but ideas and phantasms, happening internally to him that imagineth, yet they will appear as if they were external and not at all depending upon any power of the mind. And these are the things to which he would give names and subtract them from, and compound them with one another. For seeing that after the destruction of all other things I suppose man still remaining, and namely that he thinks, imagines, and remembers, there can be nothing for him to think of but what is past.… Now things may be considered, that is, be brought into account, either as internal accidents of our mind, in which manner we consider them when the question is about some faculty of the mind: or, as species of external things, not as really existing, but appearing only to exist, or to have a being without us. And in this manner we are now to consider them.”
Perpetual implication of Subject with Object — Relate and Correlate.
In declaring that “Man is the measure of all things” — Protagoras affirms that Subject is the measure of Object, or that every object is relative to a correlative Subject. When a man affirms, believes, or conceives, an object as existing, his own believing or concipient mind is one side of the entire fact. It may be the dark side, and what is called the Object may be the light side, of the entire fact: this is what happens in the case of tangible and resisting substances, where Object, being the light side of the fact, is apt to appear all in all:19 a man thinks of the Something which resists, without attending to the other aspect of the fact of resistance, viz.: his own energy or pressure, to which resistance is made. On the other hand, when we speak of enjoying any pleasure or suffering any pain, the enjoying or suffering Subject appears all in all, distinguished plainly from other Subjects, supposed to be not enjoying or suffering in the same way: yet it is no more than the light side of the fact, of which Object is the dark side. Each particular pain which we suffer has its objective or differential peculiarity, distinguishing it from other sensations, correlating with the same sentient Subject.
19 “Nobiscum semper est ipsa quam quærimus (anima); adest, tractat, loquitur — et, si fas est dicere, inter ista nescitur.” (Cassiodorus, De Animâ, c. 1, p. 594, in the edition of his Opera Omnia, Venet. 1729).
“In the primitive dualism of consciousness, the Subject and Object being inseparable, either of them apart from the other must be an unknown quantity: the separation of either must be the annihilation of both.” (F. W. Farrar, Chapters on Language, c. 23, p. 292: which chapter contains more on the same topic, well deserving of perusal.)
Such relativity is no less true in regard to the ratiocinative combinations of each individual, than in regard to his percipient capacities.
The Protagorean dictum will thus be seen, when interpreted correctly, to be quite distinct from that other doctrine with which Plato identifies it: that Cognition is nothing else but sensible Perception. If, rejecting this last doctrine, we hold that cognition includes mental elements distinct from, though co-operating with, sensible perception — the principle of relativity laid down by Protagoras will not be the less true. My intellectual activity — my powers of remembering, imagining, ratiocinating, combining, &c., are a part of 119my mental nature, no less than my powers of sensible perception: my cognitions and beliefs must all be determined by, or relative to, this mental nature: to the turn and development which all these various powers have taken in my individual case. However multifarious the mental activities may be, each man has his own peculiar allotment and manifestations thereof, to which his cognitions must be relative. Let us grant (with Plato) that the Nous or intelligent Mind apprehends intelligible Entia or Ideas distinct from the world of sense: or let us assume that Kant and Reid in the eighteenth century, and M. Cousin with other French writers in the nineteenth, have destroyed the Lockian philosophy, which took account (they say) of nothing but the à posteriori element of cognition — and have established the existence of other elements of cognition à priori: intuitive beliefs, first principles, primary or inexplicable Concepts of Reason.20 Still we must recollect that all such à priori Concepts, Intuitions, Beliefs, &c., are summed up in the mind: and that thus each man’s mind, with its peculiar endowments, natural or supernatural, is still the measure or limit of his cognitions, acquired and acquirable. The Entia Rationis exist relatively to 120Ratio, as the Entia Perceptionis exist relatively to Sense. This is a point upon which Plato himself insists, in this very dialogue. You do not, by producing this fact of innate mental intuitions, eliminate the intuent mind; which must be done in order to establish a negative to the Protagorean principle.21 Each intuitive belief whether correct or erroneous — whether held unanimously by every one semper et ubique, or only held by a proportion of mankind — is (or would be, if proved to exist) a fact of our 121nature; capable of being looked at either on the side of the believing Subject, which is its point of community with all other parts of our nature — or on the side of the Object believed, which is its point of difference or peculiarity. The fact with its two opposite aspects is indivisible. Without Subject, Object vanishes: without Object (some object or other, for this side of the fact is essentially variable), Subject vanishes.
20 See M. Jouffroy, Préface à sa Traduction des Œuvres de Reid, pp. xcvii.-ccxiv.
M. Jouffroy, following in the steps of Kant, declares these à priori beliefs or intuitions to be altogether relative to the human mind. “Kant, considérant que les conceptions de la raison sont des croyances aveugles auxquelles notre esprit se sent fatalement déterminé par sa nature, en conclut qu’elles sont rélatives à cette nature: que si notre nature était autre, elles pourraient être différentes: que par conséquent, elles n’ont aucune valeur absolue: et qu’ainsi notre vérité, notre science, notre certitude, sont une vérité, une science, une certitude, purement subjective, purement humaine — à laquelle nous sommes déterminés à nous fier par notre nature, mais qui ne supporte pas l’examen et n’a aucune valeur objective” (p. clxvii.) … “C’est ce que répéte Kant quand il soutient que l’on ne peut objectiver le subjectif: c’est à dire, faire que la vérité humaine cesse d’être humaine, puisque la raison qui la trouve est humaine. On peut exprimer de vingt manières différentes cette impossibilité: elle reste toujours la même, et demeure toujours insurmontable,” p. cxc. Compare p. xcvii. of the same Preface.
M. Pascal Galuppi (in his Lettres Philosophiques sur les Vicissitudes de la Philosophie, translated from the Italian by M. Peisse, Paris, 1844) though not agreeing in this variety of à priori philosophy, agrees with Kant in declaring the à priori element of cognition to be purely subjective, and the objective element to be à posteriori (Lett. xiv. pp. 337-338), or the facts of sense and experience. “L’ordre à priori, que Kant appelle transcendental, est purement idéal, et dépourvu de toute réalité. Je vis, qu’en fondant la connaissance sur l’ordre à priori, on arrive nécessairement au scepticisme: et je reconnus que la doctrine Écossaise est la mère légitime du Criticisme Kantien, et par conséquent, du scepticisme, qui est la conséquence de la philosophie critique. Je considérai comme de haute importance ce problème de Kant. Il convient de déterminer ce qu’il y a d’objectif, et ce qu’il y a de subjectif, dans la connaissance. Les Empiriques n’admettent dans la connaissance d’autres élémens que les objectifs,” &c.
21 See this point handled in Sextus Empiric. adv. Mathemat. viii. 355-362. We may here cite a remark of Simplikius in his Commentary on the Categories of Aristotle (p. 64, a. in Schol. Brandis). Aristotle (De Animâ, iii. 2, 426, a. 19; Categor. p. 7, b. 23) lays down the doctrine that in most cases Relata or (τὰ πρός τι) are “simul Naturâ, καὶ συναναιρεῖ ἄλληλα”: but that in some Relata this is not true: for example, τὸ ἐπιστητὸν is relative to ἐπιστήμη, yet still it would seem prior to ἐπιστήμη (πρότερον ἂν δόξειε τῆς ἐπιστήμης εἶναι). There cannot be ἐπιστήμη without some ἐπιστητόν: but there may be ἐπιστητὸν without any ἐπιστήμη. There are few things, if any (he says), in which the ἐπιστητὸν (cognoscibile) is simul naturâ with ἐπιστήμη (or cognitio) and cannot be without it.
Upon which Simplikius remarks, What are these few things? Τίνα δὲ τὰ ὀλίγα ἐστίν, ἐφ’ ὧν ἅμα τῷ ἐπιστητῷ ἡ ἐπιστήμη ἐστίν; Τὰ ἄνευ ὕλης, τὰ νοητά, ἅμα τῷ κατ’ ἐνεργείαν ἀεὶ ἐστώσῃ ἐπιστήμη ἔστιν, εἴτε καὶ ἐν ἡμῖν ἐστί τις τοιαύτη ἀεὶ ἄνω μένουσα, … εἴτε καὶ ἐν τῷ κατ’ ἐνεργείαν vῷ εἴ τις καὶ τὴν νόησιν ἐκείνην ἐπιστήμην ἕλοιτο καλεῖν. δύναται δὲ καὶ διὰ τὴν τῶν κοινῶν ὑπόστασιν εἰρῆσθαι, τὴν ἐξ ἀφαιρέσεως· ἅμα γὰρ τῇ ὑποστάσει τούτων καὶ ἡ ἐπιστήμη ἐστίν. ἀληθὲς δὲ καὶ ἐπὶ τῶν ἀναπλασμάτων τῶν τε ἐν τῇ φαντασίᾳ καὶ τῶν τεχνιτῶν· ἅμα γὰρ χίμαιρα καὶ ἡ ἐπιστήμη χιμαίρας.
We see from hence that Simplikius recognises Concepts, Abstractions, and Fictions, to be dependent on the Conceiving, Abstracting, Imagining, Mind — as distinguished from objects of Sense, which he does not recognise as dependent in the like manner. He agrees in the doctrine of Protagoras as to the former, but not as to the latter. This illustrates what I have affirmed, That the Protagorean doctrine of “Homo Mensura” is not only unconnected with the other principle (that Knowledge is resolvable into sensible perception) to which Aristotle and Plato would trace it — but that there is rather a repugnance between the two. The difficulty of proving the doctrine, and the reluctance to admit it, is greatest in the case of material objects, least in the case of Abstractions, and General Ideas. Yet Aristotle, in reasoning against the Protagorean doctrine (Metaphysic. Γ. pp. 1009-1010, &c.) treats it like Plato, as a sort of corollary from the theory that Cognition is Sensible Perception.
Simplikius farther observes (p. 65, b. 14) that Aristotle is not accurate in making ἐπιστητὸν correlate with ἐπιστήμη: that in Relata, the potential correlates with the potential, and the actual with the actual. The Cognoscible is correlative, not with actual cognition (ἐπιστήμη) but with potential Cognition, or with a potential Cognoscens. Aristotle therefore is right in saying that there may be ἐπιστητὸν without ἐπιστήμη, but this does not prove what he wishes to establish.
Themistius, in another passage of the Aristotelian Scholia, reasoning against Boethus, observes to the same effect as Simplikius, that in relatives, the actual correlates with the actual, and the potential with the potential:—
Καίτοι, φησί γε ὁ Βοηθός, οὐδὲν κωλύει τὸν ἀριθμὸν εἶναι καὶ δίχα τοῦ ἀριθμοῦντος, ὥσπερ οἶμαι τὸ αἰσθητὸν καὶ δίχα τοῦ αἰσθανομένου· σφάλλεται δέ, ἅμα γὰρ τὰ πρὸς τί, καὶ τὰ δυνάμει πρὸς τὰ δυνάμει· ὥστε εἰ μὴ καὶ ἀριθμητικόν, οὐδὲ τὸ ἀριθμητόν (Schol. ad Aristot. Physic. iv. p. 223, a. p. 393, Schol. Brandis).
Compare Aristotel. Metaphysic. M. 1087, a. 15, about τὸ ἐπίστασθαι δυνάμει and τὸ ἐπίστασθαι ἐνεργείᾳ.
About the essential co-existence of relatives — Sublato uno, tollitur alterum — see also Sextus Empiric. adv. Mathematicos, vii. 395, p. 449, Fabric.
Evidence from Plato proving implication of Subject and Object, in regard to the intelligible world.
That this general doctrine is true, not merely respecting the facts of sense, but also respecting the facts of mental conception, opinion, intellection, cognition — may be seen by the reasoning of Plato himself in other dialogues. How, for example, does Plato prove, in his Timæus, the objective reality of Ideas or Forms? He infers them from the subjective facts of his own mind. The subjective fact called Cognition (he argues) is generically different from the subjective fact called True Opinion: therefore the Object correlating with the One must be distinct from the Object correlating with the other: there must be a Noumenon or νοητόν τι correlating with Nous, distinct from the δοξαστόν τι which correlates with δόξα.22 So again, in the Phædon,23 Sokrates proves the pre-existence of the human soul from the fact that there were pre-existent cognizable Ideas: if there were knowable Objects, there must also have been a Subject 122Cognoscens or Cognitionis capax. The two are different aspects of one and the same conception: upon which we may doubtless reason abstractedly under one aspect or under the other, though they cannot be separated in fact. Now Both these two inferences of Plato rest on the assumed implication of Subject and Object.24
22 Plato, Timæus, p. 51 B-E, compare Republic, v. p. 477.
See this reasoning of Plato set forth in Zeller, Die Phil. der Griech. vol. ii. pp. 412-416, ed. 2nd.
Nous, according to Plato (Tim. 51 E), belongs only to the Gods and to a select few among mankind. It is therefore only to the Gods and to these few men that Νοητὰ exist. To the rest of mankind Νοητὰ are non-apparent and non-existent.
23 Plato, Phædon, pp. 76-77. ἴση ἀνάγκη ταῦτά τε (Ideas or Forms) εἶναι, καὶ τὰς ἡμετέρας ψυχὰς πρὶν καὶ ἡμᾶς γεγονέναι — καὶ εἰ μὴ ταῦτα, οὐδὲ τάδε. Ὑπερφυῶς, ἔφη ὁ Σιμμίας, δοκεῖ μοι ἡ αὐτὴ ἀνάγκη εἶναι, καὶ εἰς καλόν γε καταφεύγει ὁ λόγος εἰς τὸ ὁμοίως εἶναι τήν τε ψυχὴν ἡμῶν πρὶν γενέσθαι ἡμᾶς καὶ τὴν οὐσίαν ἣν σὺ νῦν λέγεις.
Compare p. 92 E of the same dialogue with the notes of Wyttenbach and Heindorf — “Haec autem οὐσία Idearum, rerum intelligibilium, αὐτῆς ἐστὶν (sc. τῆς ψυχῆς) ut hoc loco dicitur, est propria et possessio animæ nostræ,” &c.
About the essential implication of Νοῦς with the Νοητά, as well as of τὸ δόξαζον with τὰ δοξαζόμενα, and of τὸ αἰσθανόμενον with τὰ αἰσθητά, see Plutarch, De Animæ Procreat. in Timæo, pp. 1012-1024; and a curious passage from Joannes Philoponus ad Aristot. Physica, cited by Karsten in his Commentatio De Empedoclis Philosophiâ, p. 372, and Olympiodorus ad Platon. Phædon, p. 21. τὸν νοῦν φαμὲν ἀκριβῶς γινώσκειν, διότι αὐτός ἐστι τὸ νοητόν.
Sydenham observes, in a note upon his translation of the Philêbus (note 76, p. 118), “Being Intelligent and Being Intelligible are not only correlatives, but are so in their very essence: neither of them can be at all, without the Being of the other”.
24 I think that the inference in the Phædon is not necessary to prove that conclusion, nor in itself just. For when I speak of Augustus and Antony as having once lived, and as having fought the battle of Actium, it is noway necessary that I should believe myself to have been then alive and to have seen them: nor when I speak of civil war as being now carried on in the United States of America, is it necessary that I should believe myself to be or to have been on the spot as a percipient witness. I believe, on evidence which appears to me satisfactory, that both these are real facts: that is, if I had been at Actium on the day of the battle, or if I were now in the United States, I should see and witness the facts here affirmed. These latter words describe the subjective side of the fact, without introducing any supposition that I have been myself present and percipient.
The Protagorean measure is even more easily shown in reference to the intelligible world than in reference to sense.
In truth, the Protagorean measure or limit is even more plainly applicable to our mental intuitions and mental processes (remembering, imagining, conceiving, comparing, abstracting, combining of hypotheses, transcendental or inductive) than to the matter of our sensible experience.25 In regard to the Entia Rationis, divergence between one theorist and another is quite as remarkable as the divergence between one percipient and another in the most disputable region of Entia Perceptionis. Upon the separate facts of sense, there is a nearer approach to unanimity among mankind, than upon the theories whereby theorising men connect together those facts to their own satisfaction. An opponent of Protagoras would draw his most plausible arguments from the undisputed facts of sense. He would appeal to matter and what are called its primary 123qualities, as refuting the doctrine. For in describing mental intuitions, Mind or Subject cannot well be overlaid or ignored: but in regard to the external world, or material substance with its primary qualities, the objective side is so lighted up and magnified in the ordinary conception and language — and the subjective side so darkened and put out of sight — that Object appears as if it stood single, apart, and independent.
25 Bacon remarks that the processes called mental or intellectual are quite as much relative to man as those called sensational or perceptive. “Idola Tribûs sunt fundata in ipsâ naturâ humanâ. Falso enim asseritur, Sensum humanum esse mensuram rerum: quin contra, omnes perceptiones, tam Sensûs quam Mentis, sunt ex analogiâ hominis, non ex analogiâ Universi.”
Nemesius, the Christian Platonist, has a remark bearing upon this question. He says that the lower animals have their intellectual movements all determined by Nature, which acts alike in all the individuals of the species, but that the human intellect is not wholly determined by Nature; it has a freer range, larger stores of ideas, and more varied combinations: hence its manifestations are not the same in all, but different in different individuals — ἐλεύθερον γάρ τι καὶ αὐτεξούσιον τὸ λογικόν, ὅθεν οὐχ ἓν καὶ ταὐτὸν πᾶσιν ἔργον ἀνθρώποις, ὡς ἑκάστῳ εἴδει τῶν ἀλόγων ζώων· φύσει γὰρ μόνῃ τὰ τοιαῦτα κινεῖται, τὰ δὲ φύσει ὁμοίως παρὰ πᾶσίν ἐστιν· αἱ δὲ λογικαὶ πράξεις ἄλλαι παρ’ ἄλλοις καὶ οὐκ ἐξ ἀνάγκης αἱ αὗται παρὰ πᾶσιν (De Nat. Hom., c. ii. p. 53. ed. 1565).
A man conceives objects, like houses and trees, as existing when he does not actually see or touch them, just as much as when he does see or touch them. He conceives them as existing independent of any actual sensations of his own: and he proceeds to describe them as independent altogether of himself as a Subject — or as absolute, not relative, existences. But this distinction, though just as applied in ordinary usage, becomes inadmissable when brought to contradict the Protagorean doctrine; because the speaker professes to exclude, what cannot be excluded, himself as concipient Subject.26 It is he who conceives 124absent objects as real and existing, though he neither sees nor touches them: he believes fully, that if he were in a certain 125position near them, he would experience those appropriate sensations of sight and touch, whereby they are identified. Though he eliminates himself as a percipient, he cannot eliminate himself as a concipient: i.e., as conceiving and believing. He can conceive no object without being himself the Subject conceiving, nor believe in any future contingency without being himself the Subject believing. He may part company with himself as percipient, but he cannot part company with himself altogether. His conception of an absent external object, therefore, when fully and accurately described, does not contradict the Protagorean doctrine. But it is far the most plausible objection which can be brought against that doctrine, and it is an objection deduced from the facts or cognitions of sense.
26 Bishop Berkeley observes:—
“But, say you, surely there is nothing easier than to imagine trees, for instance, in a park, or books existing in a closet, and nobody by to perceive them. I answer, you may so — there is no difficulty in it. But what is all this, more than framing in your mind certain ideas which you call books and trees, and at the same time omitting to frame the idea of any one that may perceive them? But do not you yourself perceive or think of them all the while? This therefore is nothing to the purpose. It only shows you have the power of imagining or forming ideas in your mind: but it doth not show that you can conceive it possible the objects of your thought may exist without the mind. To make out this, it is necessary that you conceive them existing unconceived or unthought of, which is a manifest repugnancy. When we do our utmost to conceive the existence of external bodies, we are all the while only contemplating our own ideas. But the mind, taking no notice of itself, is deluded to think it can and doth conceive bodies existing unthought of or without the mind, though at the same time they are apprehended by or exist in itself.”
Berkeley, Principles of Human Knowledge, sect. xxiii. p. 34, ed. of Berkeley’s Works, 1820. The same argument is enforced in Berkeley’s First Dialogue between Hylas and Philonous, pp. 145-146 of the same volume.
I subjoin a passage from the work of Professor Bain on Psychology, where this difficult subject is carefully analysed (The Senses and the Intellect, p. 370). “There is no possible knowledge of the world except in reference to our minds. Knowledge means a state of mind: the knowledge of material things is a mental thing. We are incapable of discussing the existence of an independent material world: the very act is a contradiction. We can speak only of a world presented to our own minds. By an illusion of language we fancy that we are capable of contemplating a world which does not enter into our own mental existence: but the attempt belies itself, for this contemplation is an effort of mind.”
“Solidity, extension, space — the foundation properties of the material world — mean, as has been said above, certain movements and energies of our own bodies, and exist in our minds in the shape of feelings of force, allied with visible and tactile, and other sensible impressions. The sense of the external is the consciousness of particular energies and activities of our own.”
(P. 376). “We seem to have no better way of assuring ourselves and all mankind, that with the conscious movement of opening the eyes there will always be a consciousness of light, than by saying that the light exists as an independent fact, without any eyes to see it. But if we consider the fact fairly we shall see that this assertion errs, not simply in being beyond any evidence that we can have, but also in being a self-contradiction. We are affirming that to have an existence out of our minds, which we cannot know but as in our minds. In words we assert independent existence, while in the very act of doing so we contradict ourselves. Even a possible world implies a possible mind to conceive it, just as much as an actual world implies an actual mind. The mistake of the common modes of expression on this matter is the mistake of supposing the abstractions of the mind to have a separate and independent existence. Instead of looking upon the doctrine of an external and independent world as a generalisation or abstraction grounded on our particular experiences, summing up the past and predicting the future, we have got into the way of maintaining the abstraction to be an independent reality, the foundation, or cause, or origin, of all these experiences.”
To the same purpose Mr. Mansel remarks in his Bampton Lectures on “The Limits of Religious Thought,” page 52:
“A second characteristic of Consciousness is, that it is only possible in the form of a relation. There must be a Subject or person conscious, and an Object or thing of which he is conscious. There can be no consciousness without the union of these two factors; and in that union each exists only as it is related to the other. The subject is a subject only in so far as it is conscious of an object: the object is an object only in so far as it is apprehended by a subject: and the destruction of either is the destruction of consciousness itself. It is thus manifest that a consciousness of the Absolute is equally self-contradictory with that of the Infinite.… Our whole notion of Existence is necessarily relative, for it is existence as conceived by us. But Existence, as we conceive it, is but a name for the several ways in which objects are presented to our consciousness — a general term embracing a variety of relations.… To assume Absolute Existence as an object of thought is thus to suppose a relation existing when the related terms exist no longer. An object of thought exists, as such, in and through its relation to a thinker; while the Absolute, as such, is independent of all relation.”
Dr. Henry More has also a passage asserting the essential correlation on which I am here insisting (Immortality of the Soul, ch. ii. p. 3). And Professor Ferrier, in his Institutes of Metaphysic, has given much valuable elucidation respecting the essential relativity of cognition.
Though this note is already long, I shall venture to add from an eminent German critic — Trendelenburg — a passage which goes to the same point.
“Das Sein ist als die absolute Position erklärt worden. Der Begriff des Seins drücke blos das aus: es werde bei dem einfachen Setzen eines Was sein Bewenden haben. Es hat sich hier die abstracte Vorstellung des Seins nur in eine verwandte Anschauung umgekleidet; denn das Gesetzte steht in dem Raum da; und insofern fordert die absolute Position schon den Begriff des seiendem Etwas, das gesetzt wird. Fragt man weiter, so ist in der absoluten Position schon derjenige mitgedacht, der da setzt. Das Sein wird also nicht unabhängig aus sich selbst bestimmt, sondern zur Erklärung ein Verhältniss zu der Thätigkeit des Gedankens herbeigezogen.
“Aehnlich würde jede von vorn herein versuchte Bestimmung des Denkens ausfallen. Man würde es nur durch einen Bezug zu den Dingen erläutern können, welche in dem Denken Grund und Mass finden. Wir begeben uns daher jeder Erklärung, und setzen eine Vorstellung des Denkens und Seins voraus, in der Hoffnung dass beide mit jedem Schritt der Untersuchung sich in sich selbst bestimmen werden.” “Indem wir Denken und Sein unterscheiden, fragen wir, wie ist es möglich, dass sich im Erkennen Denken und Sein vereinigt? Diese Vereinigung sprechen wir vorläufig als eine Thatsache aus, die das Theoretische wie das Praktische beherrscht.” Trendelenburg, Logische Untersuchungen, sect. 3, pp. 103-104, Berlin, 1840.
Object always relative to Subject — Either without the other, impossible. Plato admits this in Sophistes.
I cannot therefore agree with Plato in regarding the Protagorean doctrine — Homo Mensura — as having any dependance upon, or any necessary connection with, the other theory (canvassed in the Theætêtus) which pronounces cognition to be sensible perception. Objects of thought exist in relation to a thinking Subject; as Objects of sight or touch exist in relation to a seeing or touching Subject. And this we shall find Plato himself declaring in the Sophistes (where his Eleatic disputant is introduced as impugning a doctrine substantially the same as that of Plato himself in the Phædon, Timæus, and elsewhere) as well as here in the Theætêtus. In the Sophistes, certain philosophers (called the Friends of Forms or Ideas) are noticed, who admitted that all sensible or perceivable existence (γένεσις — Fientia) was relative to a (capable) sentient or percipient — but denied the relativity of Ideas, and maintained that Ideas, Concepts, Intelligible Entia, were not relative but absolute. The Eleate combats these philosophers, and establishes against them — That the Cogitable or Intelligible existence, Ens Rationis, was just as much relative to an Intelligent or Cogitant subject, as perceivable existence was relative to a Subject capable of perceiving — That Existence, under both varieties, was nothing more than a potentiality, correlating with a counter-potentiality 126(τὸ γνωστὸν with τὸ γνωστικόν, τὸ αἰσθητὸν with τὸ αἰσθητικόν, and never realised except in implication therewith.27
27 Plato, Sophistes, pp. 247-248.
The view taken of this matter by Mr. John Stuart Mill, in the third chapter of the first Book of his System of Logic, is very instructive; see especially pp. 65-66 (ed. 4th).
Aristippus (one of the Sokratici viri, contemporary of Plato) and the Kyrenaic sect affirmed the doctrine — ὅτι μόνα τὰ πάθη καταληπτά. Aristokles refutes them by saying that there can be no πάθος without both Object and Subject — ποιοῦν and πάσχον. And he goes on to declare that these three are of necessary co-existence or consubstantiality. Ἀλλὰ μὴν ἀνάγκη γε τρία ταῦτα συνυφίστασθαι — τό τε πάθος αὐτό, καὶ τὸ ποιοῦν, καὶ τὸ πάσχον (ap. Eusebium, Præp. Ev. xiv. 19, 1).
I apprehend that Aristokles by these words does not really refute what Aristippus meant to affirm. Aristippus meant to affirm the Relative, and to decline affirming anything beyond; and in this Aristokles agrees, making the doctrine even more comprehensive by showing that Object as well as Subject are relative also; implicated both with each other and in the πάθος.
Plato’s representation of the Protagorean doctrine in intimate conjunction with the Herakleitean.
This doctrine of the Eleate in the Platonic Sophistes coincides with the Protagorean — Homo Mensura — construed in its true meaning: Object is implicated with, limited or measured by, Subject: a doctrine proclaiming the relativeness of all objects perceived, conceived, known, or felt — and the omnipresent involution of the perceiving, conceiving, knowing, or feeling, Subject: the object varying with the Subject. “As things appear to me, so they are to me: as they appear to you, so they are to you.” This theory is just and important, if rightly understood and explained: but whether Protagoras did so explain or understand it, we cannot say; nor does the language of Plato enable us to make out. Plato passes on from this theory to another, which he supposes Protagoras to have held without distinctly stating it: That there is no Ens distinguishable in itself or permanent, or stationary: that all existences are in perpetual flux, motion, change — acting and reacting upon each other, combining with or disjoining from each other.28
28 Plato, Theætêt. p. 152 D.
Though Plato states the grounds of this theory in his ironical way, as if it were an absurd fancy, yet it accidentally coincides with the largest views of modern physical science. Absolute rest is unknown in nature: all matter is in perpetual movement, molecular as well as in masses.
Relativity of sensible facts, as described by him.
Turning to the special theory of Protagoras (Homo Mensura), and producing arguments, serious or ironical in its defence, Sokrates says — What you call colour has no definite place or existence either within you or without you. It is the result of the passing collision between your eyes and the flux of things suited to act upon them. 127It is neither in the agent nor in the patient, but is something special and momentary generated in passing between the two. It will vary with the subject: it is not the same to you, to another man, to a dog or horse, or even to yourself at different times. The object measured or touched cannot be in itself either great, or white, or hot: for if it were, it would not appear different to another Subject. Nor can the Subject touching or measuring be in itself great, or white, or hot: for if so, it would always be so, and would not be differently modified when applied to a different object. Great, white, hot, denote no positive and permanent attribute either in Object or Subject, but a passing result or impression generated between the two, relative to both and variable with either.29
29 Plato, Theætêt. pp. 153-154. ὃ δὴ ἕκαστον εἶναί φαμεν χρῶμα, οὔτε τὸ προσβάλλον οὔτε τὸ προσβαλλόμενον ἔσται, ἀλλὰ μεταξύ τι ἑκαστῳ ἴδιον γεγονός.
Relations are nothing in the object purely and simply without a comparing subject.
To illustrate this farther (continues Sokrates) — suppose we have here six dice. If I compare them with three other dice placed by the side of them, I shall call the six dice more and double: if I put twelve other dice by the side of them, I shall call the six fewer and half. Or take an old man — and put a growing youth by his side. Two years ago the old man was taller than the youth: now, the youth is grown, so that the old man is the shorter of the two. But the old man, and the six dice, have remained all the time unaltered, and equal to themselves. How then can either of them become either greater or less? or how can either really be so, when they were not so before?30
30 Plato, Theætêt. pp. 154-155. Compare the reasoning in the Phædon, pp. 96-97-101.
Relativity twofold — to the comparing Subject — to another object, besides the one directly described.
The illustration here furnished by Sokrates brings out forcibly the negation of the absolute, and the affirmation of universal relativity in all conceptions, judgments, and predications, which he ascribes to Protagoras and Herakleitus. The predication respecting the six dice denotes nothing real, independent, absolute, inhering in them: for they have undergone no change. It is relative, and expresses a mental comparison made by me or some one else. It is therefore relative in two different senses:— 1. To some other object with which the comparison of the dice is 128made:— 2. To me as comparing Subject, who determine the objects with which the comparison shall be made.31 — Though relativity in both senses is comprehended by the Protagorean affirmation — Homo Mensura — yet relativity in the latter sense is all which that affirmation essentially requires. And this is true of all propositions, comparative or not — whether there be or be not reference to any other object beyond that which is directly denoted. But Plato was here illustrating the larger doctrine which he ascribes to Protagoras in common with Herakleitus: and therefore the more complicated case of relativity might suit his purpose better.
31 The Aristotelian Category of Relation (τὰ πρὸς τί, Categor. p. 6, a. 36) designates one object apprehended and named relatively to some other object — as distinguished from object apprehended and named not thus relatively, which Aristotle considers as per se καθ’ αὑτό (Ethica Nikomach. i. p. 1096, a. 21). Aristotle omits or excludes relativity of the object apprehended to the percipient or concipient subject, which is the sort of relativity directly noted by the Protagorean doctrine.
Occasionally Aristotle passes from relativity in the former sense to relativity in the latter; as when he discusses ἐπιστητὸν and ἐπιστήμη, alluded to in one of my former notes on this dialogue. But he seems unconscious of any transition. In the Categories, Object, as implicated with Subject does not seem to have been distinctly present to his reflection. In the third book of the Metaphysica, indeed, he discusses professedly the opinion of Protagoras; and among his objections against it, one is, that it makes everything relative or πρὸς τί (Metaph. Γ. p. 1011, a. 20, b. 5). This is hardly true in the sense which πρὸς τί bears as one of his Categories: but it is true in the other sense to which I have adverted.
A clear and full exposition of what is meant by the Relativity of Human Knowledge, will be found in Mr. John Stuart Mill’s most recent work, ‘Examination of Sir William Hamilton’s Philosophy,’ ch. ii. pp. 6-15.
Sokrates now re-states that larger doctrine, in general terms, as follows.
Statement of the doctrine of Herakleitus — yet so as to implicate it with that of Protagoras.
The universe is all flux or motion, divided into two immense concurrent streams of force, one active, the other passive; adapted one to the other, but each including many varieties. One of these is Object: the other is, sentient, cognizant, concipient, Subject. Object as well as Subject is, in itself and separately, indeterminate and unintelligible — a mere chaotic Agent or Patient. It is only by copulation and friction with each other that they generate any definite or intelligible result. Every such copulation, between parts adapted to each other, generates a twin offspring: two correlative and inseparable results infinitely diversified, but always born in appropriate pairs:32 a 129definite perception or feeling, on the subjective side — a definite thing perceived or felt, on the objective. There cannot be one of these without the other: there can be no objective manifestation without its subjective correlate, nor any subjective without its objective. This is true not merely about the external senses — touch, taste, smell, sight, hearing — but also about the internal, — hot and cold, pleasure and pain, desire, fear, and all the countless variety of our feelings which have no separate names.33 Each of these varieties of feeling has its own object co-existent and correlating with it. Sight, hearing, and smell, move and generate rapidly and from afar; touch and taste, slowly and only from immediate vicinity: but the principle is the same in all. Thus, e.g., when the visual power of the eye comes into reciprocal action with its appropriate objective agent, the result between them is, that the visual power passes out of its abstract and indeterminate state into a concrete and particular act of vision — the seeing a white stone or wood: while the objective force also passes out of its abstract and indeterminate state into concrete — so that it is no longer whiteness, but a piece of white stone or wood actually seen.34
32 Plato, Theætêt. p. 156 A. ὡς τὸ πᾶν κίνησις ἦν, καὶ ἄλλο παρὰ τοῦτο οὐδέν, τῆς δὲ κινήσεως δύο εἴδη, πλήθει μὲν ἄπειρον ἑκάτερον, δύναμιν δὲ τὸ μὲν ποιεῖν ἔχον, τὸ δὲ πάσχειν. Ἐκ δὲ τῆς τούτων ὁμιλίας τε καὶ τρίψεως πρὸς ἄλληλα γίγνεται ἔκγονα πλήθει μὲν ἄπειρα, δίδυμα δέ — τὸ μὲν αἰσθητόν, τὸ δὲ αἴσθησις, ἀεὶ συνεκπίπτουσα καὶ γεννωμένη μετὰ τοῦ αἰσθητοῦ.
33 Plato, Theætêt. p. 156 B.
34 Plato, Theætêt. p. 156 E. ὁ μὲν ὀφθαλμὸς ἄρα ὄψεως ἔμπλεως ἐγένετο καὶ ὁρᾷ δὴ τότε καὶ ἐγένετο οὔ τι ὄψις ἀλλὰ ὀφθαλμὸς ὁρῶν, τὸ δὲ ξυγγεννῆσαν τὸ χρῶμα λευκότητος περιεπλήσθη καὶ ἐγένετο οὐ λευκότης αὖ ἀλλὰ λευκόν, εἴτε ξύλον εἴτε λίθος εἴτε ὁτιοῦν ξυνέβη χρῆμα χρωσθῆναι τῷ τοιούτῳ χρώματι.
Plato’s conception of the act of vision was — That fire darted forth from the eyes of the percipient and came into confluence or coalescence with fire approaching from the perceived object (Plato, Timæus, pp. 45 C, 67 C).
Agent and Patient — No absolute Ens.
Accordingly, nothing can be affirmed to exist separately and by itself. All existences, come only as twin and correlative manifestations of this double agency. In fact neither of these agencies can be conceived independently and apart from the other: each of them is a nullity without the other.35 If either of them be varied, the result also will vary proportionally: each may be in its turn agent or patient, according to the different partners with which it comes into confluence.36 It is therefore improper to say — Such or such a 130thing exists. Existence absolute, perpetual, and unchangeable is nowhere to be found: and all phrases which imply it are incorrect, though we are driven to use them by habit and for want of knowing better. All that is real is, the perpetual series of changeful and transient conjunctions; each Object, with a certain Subject, — each Subject, with a certain Object.37 This is true not merely of individual objects, but also of those complex aggregates rationally apprehended which receive generic names, man, animal, stone, &c.38 You must not therefore say that any thing is, absolutely and perpetually, good, honourable, hot, white, hard, great — but only that it is so felt or esteemed by certain subjects more or less numerous.39
35 Plato, Theætêt. p. 157 A. ἐπεὶ καὶ τὸ ποιοῦν εἶναι τι καὶ τὸ πάσχον αὖ τι ἐπὶ ἑνὸς νοῆσαι, ὥς φασιν, οὐκ εἶναι παγίως. Οὔτε γὰρ ποιοῦν ἐστί τι, πρὶν ἂν τῷ πάσχοντι ξυνέλθῃ — οὔτε πάσχον, πρὶν ἂν τῷ ποιοῦντι, &c.
36 Plato, Theætêt. p. 157 A. τό τέ τινι ξυνελθὸν καὶ ποιοῦν ἄλλῳ αὖ προσπεσὸν πάσχον ἀνεφάνη.
37 Plato, Theætêt. p. 157 A. οὐδὲν εἶναι ἓν αὐτὸ καθ’ αὑτό, ἀλλά τινι ἀεὶ γίγνεσθαι, τὸ δ’ εἶναι παντάχοθεν ἐξαιρετέον, &c.
38 Plato, Theætêt. p. 157 B. δεῖ δὲ καὶ κατὰ μέρος οὕτω λέγειν καὶ περὶ πολλῶν ἀθροισθέντων, ᾧ δὴ ἀθροίσματι ἄνθρωπόν τε τίθενται καὶ λίθον καὶ ἕκαστον ζῶόν τε καὶ εἶδος.
In this passage I follow Heindorf’s explanation which seems dictated by the last word εἶδος. Yet I am not sure that Plato does really mean here the generic aggregates. He had before talked about sights, sounds, hot, cold, hard, &c., the separate sensations. He may perhaps here mean simply individual things as aggregates or ἀθροίσματα — a man, a stone, &c.
39 Plato, Theætêt. p. 157 E.
Arguments derived from dreams, fevers. &c., may be answered.
The arguments advanced against this doctrine from the phenomena of dreams, distempers, or insanity, admit (continues Sokrates) of a satisfactory answer. A man who is dreaming, sick, or mad, believes in realities different from, and inconsistent with, those which he would believe in when healthy. But this is because he is, under those peculiar circumstances, a different Subject, unlike what he was before. One of the two factors of the result being thus changed, the result itself is changed.40 The cardinal principle of Protagoras — the essential correlation, and indefeasible fusion, of Subject and Object, exhibits itself in a perpetual series of definite manifestations. To say that I (the Subject) perceive, — is to say that I perceive some Object: to perceive and perceive nothing, is a contradiction. Again, if an Object be sweet, it must be sweet to some percipient Subject: sweet, but sweet to no one, is impossible.41 Necessity binds the essence of the percipient to that of something perceived: so that every name which you bestow upon either of them implies some reference to 131the other; and no name can be truly predicated of either, which implies existence (either perpetual or temporary) apart from the other.42
40 Plato, Theætêt. p. 159.
41 Plato, Theætêt. p. 160 A.
42 Plato, Theætêt. p. 160 B. ἔπειπερ ἡμῶν ἡ ἀνάγκη τὴν οὐσίαν συνδεῖ μέν, συνδεῖ δε οὐδενὶ τῶν ἄλλων, οὐδ’ αὖ ἡμῖν αὐτοῖς· ἀλλήλοις δὴ λείπεται συνδεδέσθαι (i. e. τὸν αἰσθανόμενον and τὸ ποιοῦν αἰσθάνεσθαι). Ὤστε εἴτε τις εἶναι τί ὀνομάζει, τινὶ εἶναι, ἢ τινός, ἢ πρός τι, ῥητέον αὐτῷ, εἴτε γίγνεσθαι· αὐτὸ δὲ ἐφ’ αὑτοῦ τι ἢ ὂν ἢ γιγνόμενον οὔτε αὐτῷ λεκτέον, οὔτ’ ἄλλου λέγοντος ἀποδεκτέον.
Compare Aristot. Metaphys. Γ. 6, p. 1011, a. 23.
Exposition of the Protagorean doctrine, as given here by Sokrates is to a great degree just. You cannot explain the facts of consciousness by independent Subject and Object.
Such is the exposition which Sokrates is here made to give, of the Protagorean doctrine. How far the arguments, urged by him in its behalf, are such as Protagoras himself either really urged, or would have adopted, we cannot say. In so far as the doctrine asserts essential fusion and implication between Subject and Object, with actual multiplicity of distinct Subjects — denying the reality either of absolute and separate Subject, or of absolute and separate Object43 — I think it true and instructive. We are reminded that when we affirm any thing about an Object, there is always (either expressed or tacitly implied) a Subject or Subjects (one, many, or all), to whom the Object is what it is declared to be. This is the fundamental characteristic of consciousness, feeling, and cognition, in all their actual varieties. All of them are bi-polar or bi-lateral, admitting of being looked at either on 132the subjective or on the objective side. Comparisons and contrasts, gradually multiplied, between one consciousness and another, lead us to distinguish the one of these points of view from the other. In some cases, the objective view is brought into light and prominence, and the subjective thrown into the dark and put out of sight: in other cases, the converse operation takes place. Sometimes the Ego or Subject is prominent, sometimes the Mecum or Object.44 Sometimes the Objective is as it were divorced from the Subject, and projected outwards, so as to have an illusory appearance of existing apart from and independently of any Subject. In other cases, the subjective view is so exclusively lighted up and conspicuous, that Object disappears, and we talk of a mind conceiving, as if it had no correlative Concept. It is possible, by abstraction, to indicate, to 133name, and to reason about, the one of these two points of view without including direct notice of the other: this is abstraction or logical separation — a mental process useful and largely applicable, yet often liable to be mistaken for real distinctness and duality. In the present case, the two abstractions become separately so familiar to the mind, that this supposed duality is conceived as the primordial and fundamental fact: the actual, bilateral, consciousness being represented as a temporary derivative state, generated by the copulation of two factors essentially independent of each other. Such a theory, however, while aiming at an impracticable result, amounts only to an inversion of the truth. It aims at explaining our consciousness as a whole; whereas all that we can really accomplish, is to explain, up to a certain point, the conditions of conjunction and sequence between different portions of our consciousness. It also puts the primordial in the place of the derivative, and transfers the derivative to the privilege of the primordial. It attempts to find a generation for what is really primordial — the total series of our manifold acts of consciousness, each of a bilateral character, subjective on one side and objective on the other: and it assigns as the generating factors two concepts obtained by abstraction from these very acts, — resulting from multiplied comparisons, — and ultimately exaggerated into an illusion which treats the logical separation as if it were bisection in fact and reality.
43 Aristotle, in a passage of the treatise De Animâ (iii. 1, 2-4-7-8, ed. Trendelenburg, p. 425, b. 25, p. 426, a. 15-25, Bekk.), impugns an opinion of certain antecedent φυσιόλογοι whom he does not specify; which opinion seems identical with the doctrine of Protagoras. These philosophers said, that “there was neither white nor black without vision, nor savour without the sense of taste”. Aristotle says that they were partly right, partly wrong. They were right in regard to the actual, wrong in regard to the potential. The actual manifestation of the perceived is one and the same with that of the percipient, though the two are not the same logically in the view of the reflecting mind (ἡ δὲ τοῦ αἰσθητοῦ ἐνέργεια καὶ τῆς αἰσθήσεως ἡ αὐτὴ μέν ἐστι καὶ μία, τὸ δ’ εἶναι οὐ ταὐτὸν αὐταῖς). But this is not true when we speak of them potentially — διχῶς γὰρ λεγομένης τῆς αἰσθήσεως καὶ τοῦ αἰσθητοῦ, τῶν μὲν κατὰ δύναμιν τῶν δὲ κατ’ ἐνέργειαν, ἐπί τούτων μὲν συμβαίνει τὸ λεχθέν, ἐπὶ δὲ τῶν ἑτέρων οὐ συμβαίνει. Ἀλλ’ ἐκεῖνοι ἁπλῶς ἔλεγον περὶ τῶν λεγομένων οὐχ ἁπλῶς.
I think that the distinction, which Aristotle insists upon as a confutation of these philosophers, is not well founded. What he states, in very just language, about actual perception is equally true about potential perception. As the present fact of actual perception implicates essentially a determinate percipient subject with a determinate perceived object, and admits of being looked at either from the one point of view or from the other — so the concept of potential perception implicates in like manner an indeterminate perceivable with an indeterminate subject competent to perceive. The perceivable or cogitable has no meaning except in relation to some Capax Percipiendi or Capax Cogitandi.
44 The terms Ego and Mecum, to express the antithesis of these two λόγῳ μόνον χωριστὰ, are used by Professor Ferrier in his very acute treatise, the Institutes of Metaphysic, pp. 93-96. The same antithesis is otherwise expressed by various modern writers in the terms Ego and non-Ego — le moi et le non-moi. I cannot think that this last is the proper way of expressing it. You do not want to negative the Ego, but to declare its essential implication with a variable correlate; to point out the bilateral character of the act of consciousness. The two are not merely Relata secundum dici but Relata secundum esse, to use a distinction recognised in the scholastic logic.
The implication of Subject and Object is expressed in a peculiar manner (though still clearly) by Aristotle in the treatise De Animâ, iii. 8, 1, 431, b. 21. ἡ ψυχὴ τὰ ὄντα πώς ἐστι πάντα· ἢ γὰρ αἰσθητὰ τὰ ὄντα ἢ νοητά. ἐστὶ δ’ ἡ ἐπιστήμη μὲν τὰ ἐπιστητά πως, ἡ δ’ αἴσθησις τὰ αἰσθητά. The adverb πως (τρόπον τινά, as Simplikius explains it, fol. 78, b. 1) here deserves attention. “The soul is all existing things in a certain way (or looked at under a certain aspect). All things are either Percepta or Cogitata: now Cognition is in a certain sense the Cognita — Perception is the Percepta.” He goes on to say that the Percipient Mind is the Form of Percepta, while the matter of Percepta is without: but that the Cogitant Mind is identical with Cogitata, for they have no matter (iii. 4, 12, p. 430, a. 3, with the commentary of Simplikius p. 78, b. 17, f. 19, a. 12). This is in other words the Protagorean doctrine — That the mind is the measure of all existences; and that this is even more true about νοητὰ than about αἰσθητά. That doctrine is completely independent of the theory, that ἐπιστήμη is αἴσθησις.
It is in conformity with this affirmation of Aristotle (partially approved even by Cudworth — see Mosheim’s Transl. of Intell. Syst. Vol. II. ch. viii. pp. 27-28) — ἡ ψυχὴ τὰ ὄντα πώς ἐστι πάντα — that Mr. John Stuart Mill makes the following striking remark about the number of ultimate Laws of Nature:—
“It is useful to remark, that the ultimate Laws of Nature cannot possibly be less numerous than the distinguishable sensations or other feelings of our nature: those, I mean, which are distinguishable from one another in quality, and not merely in quantity or degree. For example, since there is a phenomenon sui generis called colour, which our consciousness testifies to be not a particular degree of some other phenomenon, as heat, or odour, or motion, but intrinsically unlike all others, it follows that there are ultimate laws of colour …The ideal limit therefore of the explanation of natural phenomena would be to show that each distinguishable variety of our sensations or other states of consciousness has only one sort of cause.” (System of Logic, Book iii. ch. 14, s. 2.)
Plato’s attempt to get behind the phenomena. Reference to a double potentiality — Subjective and Objective.
In Plato’s exposition of the Protagorean theory, the true doctrine held by Protagoras,45 and the illusory explanation (whether belonging to him or to Plato himself), are singularly blended together. He denies expressly 134all separate existence either of Subject or Object — all possibility of conceiving or describing the one as a reality distinct from the other. He thus acknowledges consciousness and cognition as essentially bilateral. Nevertheless he also tries to explain the generation of these acts of consciousness, by the hypothesis of a latens processus behind them and anterior to them — two continuous moving forces, agent and patient, originally distinct, conspiring as joint factors to a succession of compound results. But when we examine the language in which Plato describes these forces, we see that he conceives them only as Abstractions and Potentialities;46 though he ascribes to them a metaphorical copulation and generation. “Every thing is motion (or change): of which there are two sorts, each infinitely manifold: one, having power to act — the other having power to suffer.” Here instead of a number of distinct facts of consciousness, each bilateral — we find ourselves translated by abstraction into a general potentiality of consciousness, also essentially bilateral and multiple. But we ought to recollect, that the Potential is only a concept abstracted from the actual, — and differing from it in this respect, that it includes what has been and what may be, as well as what is. But it is nothing new and distinct by itself: it cannot be produced as a substantive antecedent to the actual, and as if it afforded explanation thereof. The general proposition about motion or change (above cited in the words of Plato), as far as it purports to get behind the fact of consciousness and to assign its cause or antecedent — is illusory. But if considered as a general expression for that fact itself, in the most comprehensive terms — indicating the continuous thread of separate, ever-changing acts of consciousness, each essentially bilateral, or subjective as well 135as objective — in this point of view the proposition is just and defensible.47
45 The elaborate Dissertation of Sir William Hamilton, on the Philosophy of the Unconditioned (standing first in his ‘Discussions on Philosophy’), is a valuable contribution to metaphysical philosophy. He affirms and shows, “That the Unconditioned is incognisable and inconceivable: its notion being only a negation of the Conditioned, which last can alone be positively known and conceived” (p. 12); refuting the opposite doctrine as proclaimed, with different modifications, both by Schelling and Cousin.
In an Appendix to this Dissertation, contained in the same volume (p. 608), Sir W. Hamilton not only re-asserts the doctrine (“Our whole knowledge of mind and matter is relative, conditioned — relatively conditioned. Of things absolutely or in themselves, be they external, be they internal, we know nothing, or know them only as incognisable,” &c.) — but affirms farther that philosophers of every school, with the exception of a few late absolute theorisers in Germany, have always held and harmoniously re-echoed the same doctrine.
In proof of such unanimous agreement, he cites passages from seventeen different philosophers.
The first name on his list stands as follows:— “1. Protagoras — (as reported by Plato, Aristotle, Sextus Empiricus, Diogenes Laertius, &c.) — Man is (for himself) the measure of all things”.
Sir William Hamilton understands the Protagorean doctrine as I understand it, and as I have endeavoured to represent it in the present chapter. It has been very generally misconceived.
I cannot, however, agree with Sir William Hamilton, in thinking that this theory respecting the Unconditioned and the Absolute, has been the theory generally adopted by philosophers. The passages which he cites from other authors are altogether insufficient to prove such an affirmation.
46 Plato, Theætêt. p. 156 A. τῆς δὲ κινήσεως δύο εἴδη, πλήθει μὲν ἄπειρον ἑκάτερον, δύναμιν δὲ τὸ μὲν ποιεῖν ἔχον, τὸ δὲ πάσχειν.
47 In that distinction, upon which Aristotle lays so much stress, between Actus and Potentia, he declares Actus or actuality to be the Prius — Potentia or potentiality to be the Posterius. See Metaphysica, Θ. 8, 1049, b. 5 seqq.; De Animâ, ii. 4, 415, a. 17. The Potential is a derivative from the Actual — derived by comparison, abstraction, and logical analysis: a Mental concept, helping us to describe, arrange, and reason about, the multifarious acts of sense or consciousness — but not an anterior generating reality.
Turgot observes (Œuvres, vol. iii. pp. 108-110; Article in the Encyclopédie, Existence):—
“Le premier fondement de la notion de l’existence est la conscience de notre propre sensation, et le sentiment du moi qui résulte de cette conscience. La relation nécessaire entre l’être appercevant, et l’être apperçu considéré hors du moi, suppose dans les deux termes la même réalité. Il y a dans l’un et dans l’autre un fondement de cette relation, que l’homme, s’il avoit un langage, pourroit désigner par le nom commun d’existence ou de présence: car ces deux notions ne seroient point encore distinguées l’une de l’autre.…
“Mais il est très-important d’observer que ni la simple sensation des objets présens, ni la peinture que fait l’imagination des objets absens, ni le simple rapport de distance ou d’activité réciproque, commun aux uns et aux autres, ne sont précisément la chose que l’esprit voudroit désigner par le nom général d’existence; c’est le fondement même de ces rapports, supposé commun au moi, à l’objet vu et à l’objet simplement distant, sur lequel tombe véritablement et le nom d’existence et notre affirmation, lorsque nous disons qu’une chose existe. Ce fondement n’est ni ne peut être connu immédiatement, et ne nous est indiqué que par les rapports différents qui le supposent: nous nous en formons cependant une espèce d’idée que nous tirons par voie d’abstraction du témoignage que la conscience nous rend de nous-mêmes et de notre sensation actuelle: c’est-à-dire, que nous transportons en quelque sorte cette conscience du moi sur les objets extérieurs, par une espèce d’assimilation vague, démentie aussitôt par la séparation de tout ce qui caractérise le moi, mais qui ne suffit pas moins pour devenir le fondement d’une abstraction ou d’un signe commun, et pour être l’objet de nos jugemens.”
It is to be remembered, that the doctrine here criticised is brought forward by the Platonic Sokrates as a doctrine not his own, but held by others; among whom he ranks Protagoras as one.
Having thus set forth in his own language, and as an advocate, the doctrine of Protagoras, Sokrates proceeds to impugn it: in his usual rambling and desultory way, but with great dramatic charm and vivacity. He directs his attacks alternately against the two doctrines: 1. Homo Mensura: 2. Cognition is sensible perception.
I shall first notice what he advances against Homo Mensura.
Arguments advanced by the Platonic Sokrates against the Protagorean doctrine. He says that it puts the wise and foolish on a par — that it contradicts the common consciousness. Not every one, but the wise man only, is a measure.
It puts every man (he says) on a par as to wisdom and intelligence: and not only every man, but every horse, dog, frog, and other animal along with him. Each man is a measure for himself: all his judgments and beliefs are true: he is therefore as wise as Protagoras136 and has no need to seek instruction from Protagoras.48 Reflection, study, and dialectic discussion, are superfluous and useless to him: he is a measure to himself on the subject of geometry, and need not therefore consult a professed geometrician like Theodôrus.49
48 Plato, Theætêt. p. 161. Compare Plato, Kratylus, p. 386 C, where the same argument is employed.
49 Plato, Theætêt. p. 169 A.
The doctrine is contradicted (continues Sokrates) by the common opinions of mankind: for no man esteems himself a measure on all things. Every one believes that there are some things on which he is wiser than his neighbour — and others on which his neighbour is wiser than he. People are constantly on the look out for teachers and guides.50 If Protagoras advances an opinion which others declare to be false, he must, since he admits their opinion to be true, admit his own opinion to be false.51 No animal, nor any common man, is a measure; but only those men, who have gone through special study and instruction in the matter upon which they pronounce.52
50 Plato, Theætêt. p. 170.
51 Plato, Theætêt. p. 171 B. Οὐκοῦν τὴν αὑτοῦ ἂν ψευδῆ ξυγχωροῖ, εἰ τὴν τῶν ἡγουμένων αὐτὸν ψεύδεσθαι ὁμολογεῖ ἀληθῆ εἶναι;
52 Plato, Theætêt. p. 171 C.
In matters of present sentiment every man can judge for himself. Where future consequences are involved special knowledge is required.
In matters of present and immediate sensation, hot, cold, dry, moist, sweet, bitter, &c., Sokrates acknowledges that every man must judge for himself, and that what each pronounces is true for himself. So too, about honourable or base, just or unjust, holy or unholy — whatever rules any city may lay down, are true for itself: no man, no city, — is wiser upon these matters than any other.53 But in regard to what is good, profitable, advantageous, healthy, &c., the like cannot be conceded. Here (says Sokrates) one man, and one city, is decidedly wiser, and judges more truly, than another. We cannot say that the judgment of each is true;54 or that what every man or every city anticipates to promise good or profit, will necessarily realise such anticipations. In such cases, not merely present sentiment, but future consequences are involved.
53 Plato, Theætêt. pp. 172 A, 177 E.
54 Plato, Theætêt. p. 172.
Here then we discover the distinction which Plato would 137draw.55 Where present sentiment alone is involved, as in hot and cold, sweet and bitter, just and unjust, honourable and base, &c., there each is a judge for himself, and one man is no better judge than another. But where future consequences are to be predicted, the ignorant man is incapable: none but the professional Expert, or the prophet,56 is competent to declare the truth. When a dinner is on table, each man among the guests can judge whether it is good: but while it is being prepared, none but the cook can judge whether it will be good.57 This is one Platonic objection against the opinion of Protagoras, when he says that every opinion of every man is true. Another objection is, that opinions of different men are opposite and contradictory,58 some of them contradicting the Protagorean dictum itself.
55 Plato, Theætêt. p. 178.
56 Plato, Theætêt. p. 179. εἴ πῃ τοὺς συνόντας ἔπειθεν, ὅτι καὶ τὸ μέλλον ἔσεσθαί τε καὶ δόξειν οὔτε μάντις οὔτε τις ἄλλος ἄμεινον κρίνειεν ἂν ἢ αὐτὸς αὑτῷ.
57 Plato, Theætêt. p. 178.
58 Plato, Theætêt. p. 179 B.
Theodor. Ἐκείνῃ μοι δοκεῖ μάλιστα ἁλίσκεσθαι ὁ λόγος, ἁλισκόμενος καὶ ταύτῃ, ᾖ τὰς τῶν ἄλλων δόξας κυρίας ποιεῖ, αὗται δὲ ἐφάνησαν τοὺς ἐκείνου λόγους οὐδαμῇ ἀληθεῖς ἡγούμεναι.
Sokrat. Πολλαχῇ καὶ ἄλλῃ ἂν τό γε τοιοῦτον ἁλοίη, μὴ πᾶσαν παντὸς ἀληθῆ δόξαν εἶναι· περὶ δὲ τὸ παρὸν ἑκάστῳ πάθος, ἐξ ὧν αἱ αἰσθήσεις καὶ αἱ κατὰ ταύτας δόξαι γίγνονται … Ἴσως δὲ οὐδὲν λέγω, ἀνάλωτοι γάρ, εἰ ἔτυχον, εἰσίν.
Plato, when he impugns the doctrine of Protagoras, states that doctrine without the qualification properly belonging to it. All belief relative to the condition of the believing mind.
Such are the objections urged by Sokrates against the Protagorean doctrine — Homo Mensura. There may have been perhaps in the treatise of Protagoras, which unfortunately we do not possess, some reasonings or phrases countenancing the opinions against which Plato here directs his objections. But so far as I can collect, even from the words of Plato himself when he professes to borrow the phraseology of his opponent, I cannot think that Protagoras ever delivered the opinion which Plato here refutes — That every opinion of every man is true. The opinion really delivered by Protagoras appears to have been59 — That every opinion delivered by every man is true, to that man 138himself. But Plato, when he impugns it, leaves out the final qualification; falling unconsciously into the fallacy of passing (as logicians say) a dicto secundum quid ad dictum simpliciter.60 The qualification thus omitted by Plato forms the characteristic feature of the Protagorean doctrine, and is essential to the phraseology founded upon it. Protagoras would not declare any proposition to be true absolutely, or false absolutely. The phraseology belonging to that doctrine is forced upon him by Plato. Truth Absolute there is none, according to Protagoras. All truth is and must be truth relative to some one or more persons, either actually accepting and believing in it, or conceived as potential believers under certain circumstances. Moreover since these believers are a multitude of individuals, each with his own peculiarities — so no truth can be believed in, except under the peculiar measure of the believing individual mind. What a man adopts as true, and what he rejects as false, are conditioned alike by this limit: a limit not merely different in different individuals, but variable and frequently varying in the same individual. You cannot determine a dog, or a horse, or a child 139to believe in the Newtonian astronomy: you could not determine the author of the Principia in 1687 to believe what the child Newton had believed in 1647.61 To say that what is true to one man, is false to another — that what was true to an individual as a child or as a youth, becomes false to him in his advanced years, is no real contradiction: though Plato, by omitting the qualifying words, presents it as if it were such. In every man’s mind, the beliefs of the past have been modified or reversed, and the beliefs of the present are liable to be modified or reversed, by subsequent operative causes: by new supervening sensations, emotions, intellectual comparisons, authoritative teaching, or society, and so forth.
59 Plato, Theætêt. p. 152 A. Οὐκοῦν οὕτω πως λέγει (Protagoras) ὡς οἷα μὲν ἕκαστα ἐμοὶ φαίνεται, τοιαῦτα μέν ἐστιν ἐμοί — οἷα δὲ σοί, τοιαῦτα δὲ αὖ σοί. 158 A. τὰ φαινόμενα ἑκάστῳ ταῦτα καὶ εἶναι τούτῳ ᾧ φαίνεται. 160 C. Ἀληθὴς ἄρα ἐμοὶ ἡ ἐμὴ αἴσθησις· τῆς γὰρ ἐμῆς οὐσίας ἀεί ἐστι· καὶ ἐγὼ κριτὴς κατὰ τὸν Πρωταγόραν τῶν τε ὄντων ἐμοί, ὡς ἔστι, καὶ τῶν μὴ ὄντων, ὡς οὐκ ἔστιν.
Comp. also pp. 166 D, 170 A, 177 C.
Instead of saying αἴσθησις (in the passage just cited, p. 160 D), we might with quite equal truth put Ἀληθὴς ἄρα ἐμοὶ ἡ ἐμὴ νόησις· τῆς γὰρ ἐμῆς οὐσίας ἀεί ἔστιν. In this respect αἴσθησις and νόησις are on a par. Νόησις is just as much relative to ὁ νοῶν as αἴσθησις to ὁ αἰσθανόμενος.
Sextus Empiricus adverts to the doctrines of Protagoras (mainly to point out how they are distinguished from those of the Sceptical school, to which he himself belongs) in Pyrrhon. Hypot. i. sects. 215-219; adv. Mathematicos, vii. s. 60-64-388-400. He too imputes to Protagoras both the two doctrines. 1. That man is the measure of all things: that what appears to each person is, to him: that all truth is thus relative. 2. That all phantasms, appearances, opinions, are true. Sextus reasons at some length (390 seq.) against this doctrine No. 2, and reasons very much as Protagoras himself would have reasoned, since he appeals to individual sentiment and movement of the individual mind (οὐκ ὡσαύτως γὰρ κινούμεθα, 391-400). It appears to me perfectly certain that Protagoras advanced the general thesis of Relativity: we see this as well from Plato as from Sextus — καὶ οὕτως εἰσάγει τὸ πρός τι — τῶν πρός τι εἶναι τὴν ἀληθείαν (Steinhart is of opinion that these words τῶν πρός τι εἶναι τὴν ἀληθείαν are an addition of Sextus himself, and do not describe the doctrine of Protagoras; an opinion from which I dissent, and which is contradicted by Plato himself: Steinhart, Einleitung, note 8). If Protagoras also advanced the doctrine — all opinions are true — this was not consistent with his cardinal principle of relativity. Either he himself did not take care always to enunciate the qualifications and limitations which his theory requires, and which in common parlance are omitted — Or his opponents left out the limitations which he annexed, and impugned the opinion as if it stood without any. This last supposition I think the most probable.
The doctrine of Protagoras is correctly given by Sextus in the Pyrrhon. Hypot.
60 Aristotle, in commenting on the Protagorean formula, falls into a similar inaccuracy in slurring over the restrictive qualification annexed by Protagoras. Metaphysic. Γ. p. 1009, a. 6. Compare hereupon Bonitz’s note upon the passage, p. 199 of his edition.
This transition without warning, à dicto secundum quid ad dictum simpliciter, is among the artifices ascribed by Plato to the Sophists Euthydêmus and Dionysodôrus (Plat. Euthyd. p. 297 D).
61 The argument produced by Plato to discredit the Protagorean theory — that it puts the dog or the horse on a level with man — furnishes in reality a forcible illustration of the truth of the theory.
Mr. James Harris, the learned Aristotelian of the last century, remarks, in his Dialogue on Happiness (Works, ed. 1772, pp. 143-168):—
“Every particular Species is, itself to itself, the Measure of all things in the Universe. As things vary in their relations to it, they vary also in their value. If their value be ever doubtful, it can noway be adjusted but by recurring with accuracy to the natural State of the Species, and to those several Relations which such a State of course creates.”
All exposition and discussion is an assemblage of individual judgments and affirmations. This fact is disguised by elliptical forms of language.
The fact, that all exposition and discussion is nothing more than an assemblage of individual judgments, depositions, affirmations, negations, &c, is disguised from us by the elliptical form in which it is conducted. For example:— I, who write this book — can give nothing more than my own report, as a witness, of facts known to me, and of what has been said, thought, or done by others, — for all which I cite authorities:— and my own conviction, belief or disbelief, as to the true understanding thereof, and the conclusions deducible. I produce the reasons which justify my opinion: I reply to those reasons which have been supposed by others to justify the opposite. It is for the reader to judge how far my reasons appear satisfactory to his mind.62 To deliver my 140own convictions, is all that is in my power: and if I spoke with full correctness and amplitude, it would be incumbent on me to avoid pronouncing any opinion to be true or false simply: I ought to say, it is true to me — or false to me. But to repeat this in every other sentence, would be a tiresome egotism. It is understood once for all by the title-page of the book: an opponent will know what he has to deal with, and will treat the opinions accordingly. If any man calls upon me to give him absolute truth, and to lay down the canon of evidence for identifying it — I cannot comply with the request, any farther than to deliver my own best judgment, what is truth — and to declare what is the canon of evidence which guides my own mind. Each reader must determine for himself whether he accepts it or not. I might indeed clothe my own judgments in oracular and vehement language: I might proclaim them as authoritative dicta: I might speak as representing the Platonic Ideal, Typical Man, — or as inspired by a δαίμων like Sokrates: I might denounce opponents as worthless men, deficient in all the sentiments which distinguish men from brutes, and meriting punishment as well as disgrace. If I used all these harsh phrases, I should only imitate what many authors of repute think themselves entitled to say, about THEIR beliefs and convictions. Yet in reality, I should still be proclaiming nothing beyond my own feelings:— the force of emotional association, and antipathy towards opponents, which had grown round these convictions in my own mind. Whether I speak in accordance with others, or in opposition to others, in either case I proclaim my own reports, feelings and judgments — nothing farther. I cannot escape from the Protagorean limit or measures.63
62 M. Destutt Tracy observes as follows:—
“De même que toutes nos propositions peuvent être ramenées à la forme de propositions énonciatives, parce qu’au fond elles expriment toutes un jugement; de même, toutes nos propositions énonciatives peuvent ensuite être toujours réduites à n’être qu’une de celles-ci: ‘je pense, je sens, ou je perçois, que telle chose est de telle manière, ou que tel être produit tel effet’ — propositions dont nous sommes nous-mêmes le sujet, parce qu’au fond nous sommes toujours le subjet de tous nos jugemens, puisqu’ils n’expriment jamais qu’une impression que nous éprouvons.” (Idéologie: Supplément à la première Section, vol. iv. p. 165, ed. 1825 duodec.)
“On peut même dire que comme nous ne sentons, ne savons, et ne connaissons, rien que par rapport à nous, l’idée, sujet de la proposition, est toujours en définitif notre moi; car quand je dis cet arbre est vert, je dis réellement je sens, je sais, je vois, que cet arbre est vert. Mais précisément parce que ce préambule se trouve toujours et nécessairement compris dans toutes nos propositions, nous le supprimons quand nous voulons; et toute idée peut être le sujet de la proposition.” (Principes Logiques, vol. iv. ch. viii. p. 231.)
63 Sokrates himself states as much as this in the course of his reply to the doctrine of Protagoras, Theætêt. 171 D.: ἀλλ’ ἡμῖν ἀνάγκη, οἶμαι, χρῆσθαι ἡμῖν αὐτοῖς … καὶ τὰ δοκοῦντα ἀεί, ταῦτα λέγειν.
The necessity (ἀνάγκη) to which Sokrates here adverts, is well expressed by M. Degérando. “En jugeant ce que pensent les autres hommes, en comprenant ce qu’ils éprouvent, nous ne sortons point en effet de nous-mêmes, comme on seroit tenté de le croire. C’est dans nos propres idées que nous voyons leurs idées, leurs manières d’être, leur existence même. Le monde entier ne nous est connu que dans une sorte de chambre obscure: et lorsqu’au sortir d’une société nombreuse nous croyons avoir lu dans les esprits et dans les cœurs, avoir observé des caractères, et senti (si je puis dire ainsi) la vie d’un grand nombre d’hommes — nous ne faisons en effet que sortir d’une grande galerie dont notre imagination a fait tous les frais; dont elle a créé tous les personnages, et dessiné, avec plus ou moins de vérité, tous les tableaux.” (Degérando, Des Signes et de l’Art de Penser, vol. i. ch. v. p. 132.)
141Argument — That the Protagorean doctrine equalises all men and animals. How far true. Not true in the sense requisite to sustain Plato’s objection.
To this theory Plato imputes as a farther consequence, that it equalises all men and all animals. No doubt, the measure or limit as generically described, bears alike upon all: but it does not mark the same degree in all. Each man’s bodily efforts are measured or limited by the amount of his physical force: this is alike true of all men: yet it does not follow that the physical force of all men is equal. The dog, the horse, the new-born child, the lunatic, is each a measure of truth to himself: the philosopher is so also to himself: this is alike true, whatever may be the disparity of intelligence: and is rather more obviously true when the disparity is great, because the lower intelligence has then a very narrow stock of beliefs, and is little modifiable by the higher. But though the Protagorean doctrine declares the dog or the child to be a measure of truth — each to himself — it does not declare either of them to be a measure of truth to me, to you, or to any ordinary by-stander. How far any person is a measure of truth to others, depends upon the estimation in which he is held by others: upon the belief which they entertain respecting his character or competence. Here is a new element let in, of which Plato, in his objection to the Protagorean doctrine, takes no account. When he affirms that Protagoras by his equalising doctrine acknowledged himself to be no better in point of wisdom and judgment than a dog or a child, this inference must be denied.64 The Protagorean doctrine is perfectly consistent with great diversities of knowledge, intellect, emotion, and character, between one man and another. Such diversities are recognised in individual belief and estimation, and are thus comprehended in the doctrine. Nor does Protagoras deny that men are teachable and modifiable. The scholar after being taught 142will hold beliefs different from those which he held before. Protagoras professed to know more than others, and to teach them: others on their side also believed that he knew more than they, and came to learn it. Such belief on both sides, noway contradicts the general doctrine here under discussion. What the scholar believes to be true, is still true to him: among those things which he believes to be true, one is, that the master knows more than he: in coming to be taught, he acts upon his own conviction. To say that a man is wise, is to say, that he is wise in some one’s estimation: your own or that of some one else. Such estimation is always implied, though often omitted in terms. Plato remarks very truly, that every one believes some others to be on certain matters wiser than himself. In other words, what is called authority — that predisposition to assent, with which we hear the statements and opinions delivered by some other persons — is one of the most operative causes in determining human belief. The circumstances of life are such as to generate this predisposition in every one’s mind to a greater or less degree, and towards some persons more than towards others.
64 Plato, Theætêt. p. 161 D. ὁ δ’ ἄρα ἐτύγχανεν ὢν εἰς φρόνησιν οὐδὲν βελτίων βατράχου γυρίνου, μὴ ὅτι ἄλλου του ἀνθρώπων. I substitute the dog or horse as illustrations.
Belief on authority is true to the believer himself — The efficacy of authority resides in the believer’s own mind.
Belief on authority is true to the believer himself, like all his other beliefs, according to the Protagorean doctrine: and in acting upon it, — in following the guidance of A, and not following the guidance of B, — he is still a measure to himself. It is not to be supposed that Protagoras ever admitted all men to be equally wise, though Plato puts such an admission into his mouth as an inference undeniable and obvious. His doctrine affirms something altogether different:— that whether you believe yourself to be wise or unwise, in either case the belief is equally your own — equally the result of your own mental condition and predisposition, — equally true to yourself, — and equally an item among the determining conditions of your actions. That the beliefs and convictions of one person might be modified by another, was a principle held by Protagoras not less than by Sokrates: the former employed as his modifying instrument, eloquent lecturing — the latter, dialectical cross-examination. Both of them recognise the belief of the person to whom they address themselves as true to him, yet at the same time as something which may be modified and corrected, 143by appealing to what they thought the better parts of it against the worse.
Protagorean formula — is false, to those who dissent from it.
Again — Sokrates imputes it as a contradiction to Protagoras — “Your doctrine is pronounced to be false by many persons: but you admit that the belief of all persons is true: therefore your doctrine is false”.65 Here also Plato omits the qualification annexed by Protagoras to his general principle — Every man’s belief is true — that is, true to him. That a belief should be true, to one man, and false to another — is not only no contradiction to the formula of Protagoras, but is the very state of things which his formula contemplates. He of course could only proclaim it as true to himself. It is the express purpose of his doctrine to disallow the absolutely true and the absolutely false. His own formula, like every other opinion, is false to those who dissent from it: but it is not false absolutely, any more than any other doctrine. Plato therefore does not make out his charge of contradiction.
65 Plato, Theætêt. p. 171 A. Sextus Empiric. (adv. Mathem. vii. 61) gives a pertinent answer to this objection.
Plato’s argument — That the wise man alone is a measure — Reply to it.
Some men (says Sokrates) have learnt, — have bestowed study on special matters, — have made themselves wise upon those matters. Others have not done the like, but remain ignorant. It is the wise man only who is a measure: the ignorant man neither is so, nor believes himself to be so, but seeks guidance from the wise.66
66 Plato, Theætêt. pp. 171 C, 179 B.
Upon this we may remark — First, that even when the untaught men are all put aside, and the erudites or Experts remain alone — still these very erudites or Experts, the men of special study, are perpetually differing among themselves; so that we cannot recognise one as a measure, without repudiating the authority of the rest.67 If by a measure, Plato means an infallible measure, he will not find it in this way: he is as far from the absolute as before. Next, it is perfectly correct that if any man be known to have studied or acquired experience on special matters, his opinion obtains an authority with others (more or 144fewer), such as the opinion of an ignorant man will not possess. This is a real difference between the graduated man and the non-graduated. But it is a difference not contradicting the theory of Protagoras; who did not affirm that every man’s opinion was equally trustworthy in the estimation of others, but that every man’s opinion was alike a measure to the man himself. The authority of the guide resides in the belief and opinion of those who follow him, or who feel prepared to follow him if necessity arises. A man gone astray on his journey, asks the way to his destination from residents whom he believes to know it, just as he might look at a compass, or at the stars, if no other persons were near. In following their direction, he is acting on his own belief, that he himself is ignorant on the point in question and that they know. He is a measure to himself, both of the extent of his own ignorance, and of the extent of his own knowledge. And in this respect all are alike — every man, woman, child, and animal;68 though they are by no means alike in the estimation of others, as trustworthy authorities.
67 “Nam, quod dicunt omnino, se credere ei quem judicent fuisse sapientem — probarem, si id ipsum rudes et indocti judicare potuissent (statuere enim, qui sit sapiens, vel maximé videtur esse sapientis). Sed, ut potuerint, potuerunt, omnibus rebus auditis, cognitis etiam reliquorum sententiis: judicaverunt autem re semel auditâ, atque ad unius se auctoritatem contulerunt.” (Cicero, Acad. Priora, ii. 3, 9.)
68 Plato, Theætêt. p. 171 E. I transcribe the following from the treatise of Fichte (Beruf des Menschen, Destination de l’Homme; Traduction de Barchou de Penhoën, ch. i. Le Doute, pp. 54-55):—
“De la conscience de chaque individu, la nature se contemplant sous un point de vue différent, il en résulte que je m’appelle moi, et que tu t’appelles toi. Pour toi, je suis hors de toi; et pour moi, tu es hors de moi. Dans ce qui est hors de moi, je me saisis d’abord de ce qui m’avoisine le plus, de ce qui est le plus à ma portée: toi, tu fais de même. Chacun de notre côté, nous allons ensuite au delà. Puis, ayant commencé à cheminer ainsi dans le monde de deux points de départ différens, nous suivons, pendant le reste de notre vie, des routes qui se coupent çà et là, mais qui jamais ne suivent exactement la même direction, jamais ne courent parallèlement l’une à l’autre. Tous les individus possibles peuvent être: par conséquent aussi, tous les points de vue de conscience possibles. La somme de ces consciences individuelles fait la conscience universelle: il n’y a pas d’autre. Ce n’est en effet que dans l’individu que se trouve à la fois et la limitation et la réalité. Dans l’individu la conscience est entièrement déterminée par la nature intime de l’individu. Il n’est donné à personne de savoir autre chose que ce qu’il sait. Il ne pourrait pas davantage savoir les mêmes choses d’une autre façon qu’il ne les sait.”
The same doctrine is enforced with great originality and acuteness in a recent work of M. Eugène Véron, Du Progrès Intellectuel dans l’Humanité, Supériorité des Arts Modernes sur les Arts Anciens (Paris, 1862, Guillaumin). M. Véron applies his general doctrine mainly to the theory of Art and Æsthetics: moreover he affirms more than I admit respecting human progress as a certain and constant matter of fact. But he states clearly, as an universal truth, the relative point of view — the necessary measurement for itself, of each individual mind — and the consequent obligation, on each, to allow to other minds the like liberty. We read, pp. 14-16-17:—
“Cela revient à dire que dans quelque cas que nous supposions, nous ne pouvons sentir que dans la mesure de notre sensibilité, comprendre et juger que dans la mesure de notre intelligence; et que nos facultés étant en perpetuel developpement, les variations de notre personnalité entrainent nécessairement celles de nos jugemens, même quand nous n’en avons pas conscience.… Chaque homme a son esprit particulier. Ce que l’un comprend sans peine, un autre ne le peut saisir; ce qui répugne à l’un, plait à l’autre: ce qui ce me parait odieux, mon voisin l’approuve. Quelque bonne envie que nous semblions avoir de nous perdre dans la foule, de dépouiller notre individualité pour emprunter des jugemens tout faits et des opinions taillées à la mesure et à l’usage du public — il est facile de voir que, tout en ayant l’air de répéter la leçon apprise, nous jugeons à notre manière, quand nous jugeons: que notre jugement, tout en paraissant être celui de tout le monde, n’en reste pas moins personnel, et n’est pas une simple imitation: que cette ressemblance même est souvent plus apparente que réelle: que l’identité extérieure des formules et des expressions ne prouve pas absolument celle de la pensée. Rien n’est élastique comme les mots, et comme les principes généraux dans lesquels on pense enfermer les intelligences. C’est souvent quand le langage est le plus semblable qu’on est le plus loin de s’entendre.
“Du reste, quand même cette ressemblance serait aussi réelle qu’elle est fausse, en quoi prouverait-il l’identité nécessaire des intelligences? Qu’y aurait-il d’étonnant qu’au milieu de ce communisme intellectual qui régit l’éducation de chaque classe, et détermine nos habitudes intellectuelles et morales, les distinctions natives disparussent ou s’atténuassent? Ne faut-il pas plutôt admirer l’opiniâtre vitalité des différences originelles qui résistent à tant de causes de nivellement? L’identité primitive des intelligences n’est qu’une fiction logique sans réalité — une simple abstraction de langage, qui ne repose que sur l’identité du mot avec lui-même. Tout se reduit à la possibilité abstraite des mêmes développemens, dans les mêmes conditions d’hérédité et d’éducation — mais aussi de développemens différens dans des circonstances différentes: c’est à dire, que l’intelligence de chacun n’est identique à celle de tous, qu’au moment où elle n’est pas encore proprement une intelligence.”
145Plato’s argument as to the distinction between present sensation and anticipation of the future.
A similar remark may be made as to Plato’s distinction between the different matters to which belief may apply: present sensation or sentiment in one case — anticipation of future sensations or sentiments, in another. Upon matters of present sensation and sentiment (he argues), such as hot or cold, sweet or bitter, just or unjust, honourable or base, &c., one man is as good a judge as another: but upon matters involving future contingency, such as what is healthy or unhealthy, — profitable and good, or hurtful and bad, — most men judge badly: only a few persons, possessed of special skill and knowledge, judge well, each in his respective province.
The formula of Relativity does not imply that every man believes himself to be infallible.
I for my part admit this distinction to be real and important. Most other persons admit the same.69 In acting upon it, I follow out my belief, — and so do they. This is a general fact, respecting the circumstances which determine individual belief. Like all other causes of belief, it operates relatively to the individual mind, and thus falls under that general canon of relativity, which it is the express purpose of the Protagorean formula to 146affirm. Sokrates impugns the formula of relativity, as if it proclaimed every one to believe himself more competent to predict the future than any other person. But no such assumption is implied in it. To say that a man is a measure to himself, is not to say that he is, or, that he believes himself to be, omniscient or infallible. A sick man may mistake the road towards future health, in many different directions. One patient may over-estimate his own knowledge, — that is one way, but only one among several: another may be diffident, and may undervalue his own knowledge: a third may over-estimate the knowledge of his professional adviser, and thus follow an ignorant physician, believing him to be instructed and competent: a fourth, instead of consulting a physician, may consult a prophet, whom Plato70 here reckons among the authoritative infallible measures in respect to future events: a fifth may (like the rhetor Ælius Aristeides71) disregard the advice of physicians, and follow prescriptions enjoined to him in his own dreams, believing them to be sent by Æsculapius the Preserving God. Each of these persons judges differently about the road to future health: but each is alike a measure to himself: the belief of each is relative to his own mental condition and predispositions. You, or I, may believe that one or other of them is mistaken: but here another measure is introduced — your mind or mine.
69 Plato, Theætêt. p. 179 A. πᾶς ἂν ὁμολογοῖ.
70 Plato, Theætêt. p. 179 A, where Mr. Campbell observes in his note — “The μάντις is introduced as being ἐπιστήμων of the future generally; just as the physician is of future health and disease, the musician of future harmony,” &c.
71 See the five discourses of the rhetor Aristeides — Ἱερῶν Λόγοι, Oratt. xxiii.-xxvii. — containing curious details about his habits and condition, and illustrating his belief; especially Or. xxiii. p. 462 seqq. The perfect faith which he reposed in his dreams, and the confidence with which he speaks of the benefits derived from acting upon them, are remarkable.
Plato’s argument is untenable — That if the Protagorean formula be admitted, dialectic discussion would be annulled — The reverse is true — Dialectic recognises the autonomy of the Individual mind.
But the most unfounded among all Plato’s objections to the Protagorean formula, is that in which Sokrates is made to allege, that if it be accepted, the work of dialectical discussion is at an end: that the Sokratic Elenchus, the reciprocal scrutiny of opinions between two dialogists, becomes nugatory — since every man’s opinions are right.72 Instead of right, we must add the requisite qualification, here as elsewhere, by reading, right to the man himself. Now, dealing with 147Plato’s affirmation thus corrected, we must pronounce not only that it is not true, but that the direct reverse of it is true. Dialectical discussion and the Sokratic procedure, far from implying the negation of the Protagorean formula, involve the unqualified recognition of it. Without such recognition the procedure cannot even begin, much less advance onward to any result. Dialectic operates altogether by question and answer: the questioner takes all his premisses from the answers of the respondent, and cannot proceed in any direction except that in which the respondent leads him. Appeal is always directly made to the affirmative or negative of the individual mind, which is thus installed as measure of truth or falsehood for itself. The peculiar and characteristic excellence of the Sokratic Elenchus consists in thus stimulating the interior mental activity of the individual hearer, in eliciting from him all the positive elements of the debate, and in making him feel a shock when one of his answers contradicts the others. Sokrates not only does not profess to make himself a measure for the respondent, but expressly disclaims doing so: he protests against being considered as a teacher, and avows his own entire ignorance. He undertakes only the obstetric process of evolving from the respondent mind what already exists in it without the means of escape — and of applying interrogatory tests to the answer when produced: if there be nothing in the respondent’s mind, his art is inapplicable. He repudiates all appeal to authority, except that of the respondent himself.73 Accordingly there 148is neither sense nor fitness in the Sokratic cross-examination, unless you assume that each person, to whom it is addressed, is a measure of truth and falsehood to himself. Implicitly indeed, this is assumed in rhetoric as well as in dialectic: wherever the speaker aims at persuading, he adapts his mode of speech to the predispositions of the hearer’s own mind; and he thus recognises that mind as a measure for itself. But the Sokratic Dialectic embodies the same recognition, and the same essential relativity to the hearer’s mind, more forcibly than any rhetoric. And the Platonic Sokrates (in the Phædrus) makes it one of his objections against orators who addressed multitudes, that they did not discriminate either the specialties of different minds, or the specialties of discourse applicable to each.74
72 Plato, Theætêt. p. 161 E.
73 Read the animated passage in the conversation with Pôlus: Plato, Gorg. 472, and Theætêt. 161 A, pp. 375, 376.
In this very argument of Sokrates (in the Theætêtus) against the Protagorean theory, we find him unconsciously adopting (as I have already remarked) the very language of that theory, as a description of his own procedure, p. 171 D. Compare with this a remarkable passage in the colloquy of Sokrates with Thrasymachus, in Republic, i. 337 C.
Moreover, the long and striking contrast between the philosopher and the man of the world, which Plato embodies in this dialogue (the Theætêtus, from p. 172 to p. 177), is so far from assisting his argument against Protagoras, that it rather illustrates the Protagorean point of view. The beliefs and judgments of the man of the world are presented as flowing from his mental condition and predispositions: those of the philosopher, from his. The two are radically dissentient: each appears to the other mistaken and misguided. Here is nothing to refute Protagoras. Each of the two is a measure for himself.
Yes, it will be said; but Plato’s measure is right, and that of the man of the world is wrong. Perhaps I may think so. As a measure for myself, I speak and act accordingly. But the opponents have not agreed to accept me any more than Plato as their judge. The case remains unsettled as before.
74 Plato, Phædrus, p. 271 D-E; compare 258 A.
Contrast with the Treatise De Legibus — Plato assumes infallible authority — sets aside Dialectic.
Though Sokrates, and Plato so far forth as follower of Sokrates, employed a colloquial method based on the fundamental assumption of the Protagorean formula — autonomy of each individual mind — whether they accepted the formula in terms, or not; yet we shall find Plato at the end of his career, in his treatise De Legibus, constructing an imaginary city upon the attempted deliberate exclusion of this formula. We shall find him there monopolising all teaching and culture of his citizens from infancy upwards, barring out all freedom of speech or writing by a strict censorship, and severely punishing dissent from the prescribed orthodoxy. But then we shall also find that Plato in that last stage of his life — when he constitutes himself as lawgiver, the measure of truth or falsehood for all his citizens — has at the same time discontinued his early commerce with the Sokratic Dialectics.
Plato in denying the Protagorean formula, constitutes himself the measure for all. Counter-proposition to the formula.
On the whole then, looking at what Plato says about the Protagorean doctrine of Relativity — Homo Mensura — first, his statement what the doctrine really is, next his strictures upon it — we may see that he ascribes to it consequences which it will not fairly carry. He impugns it as if it excluded philosophy and argumentative scrutiny: whereas, on the contrary, it is the only basis upon which philosophy or “reasoned truth” can stand. Whoever denies the Protagorean autonomy149 of the individual judgment, must propound as his counter theory some heteronomy, such as he (the denier) approves. If I am not allowed to judge of truth and falsehood for myself, who is to judge for me? Plato, in the Treatise De Legibus, answers very unequivocally:— assuming to himself that infallibility which I have already characterised as the prerogative of King Nomos: “I, the lawgiver, am the judge for all my citizens: you must take my word for what is true or false: you shall hear nothing except what my censors approve — and if, nevertheless, any dissenters arise, there are stringent penalties in store for them”. Here is an explicit enunciation of the Counter-Proposition,75 necessary to be maintained by those who deny the Protagorean doctrine. If you pronounce a man unfit to be the measure of truth for himself, you constitute yourself the measure, in his place: either directly as lawgiver — or by nominating censors according to your own judgment. As soon as he is declared a lunatic, some other person must be appointed to manage his property for him. You can only exchange one individual judgment for another. You cannot get out of the region of individual judgments, more or fewer in number: the King, the Pope, the Priest, the Judges or Censors, the author of some book, or the promulgator of such and such doctrine. The infallible measure which you undertake to provide, must be found in some person or persons — if it can be found at all: in some person selected by yourself — that is, in the last result, yourself.76
75 Professor Ferrier’s Institutes of Metaphysic exhibit an excellent example of the advantages of setting forth explicitly the Counter-Proposition — that which an author intends to deny, as well as the Proposition which he intends to affirm and prove.
76 Aristotle says (Ethic. Nikomach. x. 1176, a. 15) δοκεῖ δ’ ἐν ἅπασι τοῖς τοιούτοις εἶναι τὸ φαινόμενον τῷ σπουδαίῳ. “That is, which appears to be in the judgment of the wise or virtuous man.” The ultimate appeal is thus acknowledged to be, not to an abstraction, but to some one or more individual persons whom Aristotle recognises as wise. That is truth which this wise man declares to be truth. You cannot escape from the Relative by any twist of reasoning.
What Platonic critics call “Der Gegensatz des Seins und des Scheins“ (see Steinhart, Einleit. zum Theætêt. p. 37) is unattainable. All that is attainable is the antithesis between that which appears to one person, and that which appears to one or more others, choose them as you will: between that which appears at a first glance, or at a distance, or on careless inspection — and that which appears after close and multiplied observations and comparisons, after full discussion, &c. Das Sein is that which appears to the person or persons whom we judge to be wise, under these latter favourable circumstances.
Epiktetus, i. 28, 1. Τί ἔστιν αἴτιον τοῦ συγκατατίθεσθαί τινι; Τὸ φαίνεσθαι ὅτι ὑπάρχει. Τῷ οὖν φαινομένῳ ὅτι οὐχ ὑπάρχει, συγκατατίθεσθαι οὐχ οἷόν τε.
150Import of the Protagorean formula is best seen when we state explicitly the counter-proposition.
It is only when the Counter-Proposition to the Protagorean formula is explicitly brought out, that the full meaning of that formula can be discerned. If you deny it, the basis of all free discussion and scrutiny is withdrawn: philosophy, or what is properly called reasoned truth, disappears. In itself it says little.
Unpopularity of the Protagorean formula — Most believers insist upon making themselves a measure for others, as well as for themselves. Appeal to Abstractions.
Yet little as its positive import may seem to be, it clashes with various illusions, omissions, and exigencies, incident to the ordinary dogmatising process. It substitutes the concrete in place of the abstract — the complete in place of the elliptical. Instead of Truth and Falsehood, which present to us the Abstract and impersonal as if it stood alone — the Objective divested of its Subject — we are translated into the real world of beliefs and disbeliefs, individual believers and disbelievers: matters affirmed or denied by some Subject actual or supposable — by you, by me, by him or them, perhaps by all persons within our knowledge. All men agree in the subjective fact, or in the mental states called belief and disbelief; but all men do not agree in the matters believed and disbelieved, or in what they speak of as Truth and Falsehood. No infallible objective mark, no common measure, no canon of evidence, recognised by all, has yet been found. What is Truth to one man, is not truth, and is often Falsehood, to another: that which governs the mind as infallible authority in one part of the globe, is treated with indifference or contempt elsewhere.77 Each man’s belief, though in part determined151 by the same causes as the belief of others, is in part also determined by causes peculiar to himself. When a man speaks of Truth, he means what he himself (along with others, or singly, as the case may be) believes to be Truth; unless he expressly superadds the indication of some other persons believing in it. This is the reality of the case, which the Protagorean formula brings into full view; but which most men dislike to recognise, and disguise from themselves as well as from others in the common elliptical forms of speech. In most instances a believer entirely forgets that his own mind is the product of a given time and place, and of a conjunction of circumstances always peculiar, amidst the aggregate of mankind — for the most part narrow. He cannot be content (like Protagoras) to be a measure for himself and for those whom his arguments may satisfy. This would be to proclaim what some German critics denounce as Subjectivism.78 152He insists upon constituting himself — or some authority worshipped by himself — or some abstraction interpreted by himself — a measure for all others besides, whether assentient or dissentient. That which he believes, all ought to believe.
77 Respecting the grounds and conditions of belief among the Hindoos, Sir William Sleeman (Rambles and Recollections of an Indian Official, ch. xxvi. vol. i. pp. 226-228) observes as follows:—
“Every word of this poem (the Ramaen, Ramayana) the people assured me was written, if not by the hand of the Deity himself, at least by his inspiration, which was the same thing, and it must consequently be true. Ninety-nine out of a hundred, among the Hindoos, implicitly believe, not only every word of this poem, but every word of every poem that has ever been written in Sanscrit. If you ask a man whether he really believes any very egregious absurdity quoted from these books, he replies with the greatest naïveté in the world, ‘Is it not written in the book; and how should it be there written if not true?’ … The greater the improbability, the more monstrous and preposterous the fiction, the greater is the charm that it has over their minds; and the greater their learning in the Sanscrit, the more are they under the influence of this charm. Believing all to be written by the Deity, or by his inspirations, and the men and things of former days to have been very different from the men and things of the present day, and the heroes of these fables to have been demigods, or people endowed with powers far superior to those of the ordinary men of their own day, the analogies of nature are never for a moment considered; nor do questions of probability, or possibility, according to those analogies, ever obtrude to dispel the charm with which they are so pleasingly bound. They go on through life reading and talking of these monstrous fictions, which shock the taste and understanding of other nations, without once questioning the truth of one single incident, or hearing it questioned. There was a time, and that not very distant, when it was the same in England and in every other European nation; and there are, I am afraid, some parts of Europe where it is so still. But the Hindoo faith, so far as religious questions are concerned, is not more capacious or absurd than that of the Greeks and Romans in the days of Sokrates and Cicero; the only difference is, that among the Hindoos a greater number of the questions which interest mankind are brought under the head of religion.”
78 This is the objection taken by Schwegler, Prantl, and other German thinkers, against the Protagorean doctrine (Prantl, Gesch. der Logik, vol. i. p. 12 seq.; Schwegler, Gesch. der Philos. im Umriss. s. 11, b. p. 26, ed. 5th). I had transcribed from each of these works a passage of some length, but I cannot find room for them in this note.
These authors both say, that the Protagorean canon, properly understood, is right, but that Protagoras laid it down wrongly. They admit the principle of Subjectivity, as an essential aspect of the case, in regard to truth; but they say that Protagoras was wrong in appealing to individual, empirical, accidental, subjectivity of each man at every varying moment, whereas he ought to have appealed to an ideal or universal subjectivity. “What ought to be held true, right, good, &c.,” (says Schwegler) “must be decided doubtless by me, but by me so far forth as a rational, and thinking being. Now my thinking, my reason, is not something specially belonging to me, but something common to all rational beings, something universal; so far therefore as I proceed as a rational and thinking person, my subjectivity is an universal subjectivity. Every thinking person has the consciousness that what he regards as right, duty, good, evil, &c., presents itself not merely to him as such, but also to every rational person, and that, consequently, his judgment possesses the character of universality, universal validity: in one word, Objectivity.”
Here it is explicitly asserted, that wherever a number of individual men employ their reason, the specialities of each disappear, and they arrive at the same conclusions — Reason being a guide impersonal as well as infallible. And this same view is expressed by Prantl in other language, when he reforms the Protagorean doctrine by saying, “Das Denken ist der Mass der Dinge”.
To me this assertion appears so distinctly at variance with notorious facts, that I am surprised when I find it advanced by learned historians of philosophy, who recount the very facts which contradict it. Can it really be necessary to repeat that the reason of one man differs most materially from that of another — and the reason of the same person from itself, at different times — in respect of the arguments accepted, the authorities obeyed, the conclusions embraced? The impersonal Reason is a mere fiction; the universal Reason is an abstraction, belonging alike to all particular reasoners, consentient or dissentient, sound or unsound, &c. Schwegler admits the Protagorean canon only under a reserve which nullifies its meaning. To say that the Universal Reason is the measure of truth is to assign no measure at all. The Universal Reason can only make itself known through an interpreter. The interpreters are dissentient; and which of them is to hold the privilege of infallibility? Neither Schwegler nor Prantl are forward to specify who the interpreter is, who is entitled to put dissentients to silence; both of them keep in the safe obscurity of an abstraction — “Das Denken” — the Universal Reason. Protagoras recognises in each dissentient an equal right to exercise his own reason, and to judge for himself.
In order to show how thoroughly incorrect the language of Schwegler and Prantl is, when they talk about the Universal Reason as unanimous and unerring, I transcribe from another eminent historian of philosophy a description of what philosophy has been from ancient times down to the present.
Degérando, Histoire Comparée des Systèmes de Philosophie, vol. i. p. 48:— “Une multitude d’hypothèses, élevées en quelque sorte au hasard, et rapidement détruites; une diversité d’opinions, d’autant plus sensible que la philosophie a été plus developpée; des sectes, des partis même, des disputes interminables, des spéculations stériles, des erreurs maintenues et transmises par une imitation aveugle; quelques découvertes obtenues avec lenteur, et mélangées d’idees fausses; des réformes annoncées à chaque siècle et jamais accomplies; une succession de doctrines qui se renversent les unes les autres sans pouvoir obtenir plus de solidité: la raison humaine ainsi promenée dans un triste cercle de vicissitudes, et ne s’élevant à quelques époques fortunées que pour retomber bientôt dans de nouveaux écarts, &c.… les mêmes questions, enfin, qui partagèrent il y a plus de vingt siècles les premiers génies de la Grèce, agitées encore aujourd’hui après tant de volumineux écrits consacrés à les discuter”.
This state of mind in reference to belief is usual with most men, not less at the present day than in the time of Plato and Protagoras. It constitutes the natural intolerance prevalent among mankind; which each man (speaking generally), in the case of his own beliefs, commends and exults in, as a virtue. It flows as a natural corollary from the sentiment of belief, though it may be corrected by reflection and social sympathy. Hence the doctrine of Protagoras — equal right of private judgment to each man for himself — becomes inevitably unwelcome.
Aristotle failed in his attempts to refute the Protagorean formula — Every reader of Aristotle will claim the right of examining for himself Aristotle’s canons of truth.
We are told that Demokritus, as well as Plato and Aristotle, wrote against Protagoras. The treatise of Demokritus is lost: but we possess what the two latter said against the Protagorean formula. In my judgment both 153failed in refuting it. Each of them professed to lay down objective, infallible, criteria of truth and falsehood: Democritus on his side, and the other dogmatical philosophers, professed to do the same, each in his own way — and each in a different way.79 Now the Protagorean formula neither allows nor disallows any one of these proposed objective criteria: but it enunciates the appeal to which all of them must be submitted — the subjective condition of satisfying the judgment of each hearer. Its protest is entered only when that condition is overleaped, and when the dogmatist enacts his canon of belief as imperative, peremptory, binding upon all (allgemeingültig) both assentient and dissentient. I am grateful to Aristotle for his efforts to lay down objective canons in the research of truth; but I claim the right of examining those canons for myself, and of judging whether that, which satisfied Aristotle, satisfies me also. The same right which I claim for myself, I am bound to allow to all others. The general expression of this compromise is, the Protagorean formula. No one demands more emphatically to be a measure for himself, even when all authority is opposed to him, than Sokrates in the Platonic Gorgias.80
79 Plutarch, adv. Kolot. p. 1108.
According to Demokritus all sensible perceptions were conventional, or varied according to circumstances, or according to the diversity of the percipient Subject; but there was an objective reality — minute, solid, invisible atoms, differing in figure, position, and movement, and vacuum along with them. Such reality was intelligible only by Reason. Νόμῳ γλυκύ, νόμῳ πικρόν, νόμῳ θερμόν, νόμῳ ψυχρόν, νόμῳ χροιή· ἐτέῃ δὲ ἄτομα καὶ κενόν. Ἅπερ νομίζεται μὲν εἶναι καὶ δοξάζεται τὰ αἰσθητά, οὐκ ἔστι δὲ κατὰ ἀληθείαν ταῦτα· ἀλλὰ τὰ ἄτομα μόνον καὶ κένον.
Sextus Empiric. adv. Mathemat. vii. 135-139; Diog. Laert. ix. 72. See Mullach, Democriti Fragm. pp. 204-208.
The discourse of Protagoras Περὶ τοῦ ὄντος, was read by Porphyry, who apparently cited from it a passage verbatim, which citation Eusebius unfortunately has not preserved (Eusebius, Præpar. Evang. x. 3, 17). One of the speakers in Porphyry’s dialogue (describing a repast at the house of Longinus at Athens to celebrate Plato’s birthday) accused Plato of having copied largely from the arguments of Protagoras — πρὸς τοὺς ἓν τὸ ὂν εἰσάγοντας. Allusion is probably made to the Platonic dialogues Parmenides and Sophistes.
80 Plato, Gorgias, p. 472.
Plato’s examination of the other doctrine — That knowledge is Sensible Perception. He adverts to sensible facts which are different with different Percipients.
After thus criticising the formula — Homo Mensura — Plato proceeds to canvass the other doctrine, which he ascribes to Protagoras along with others, and which he puts into the mouth of Theætêtus — “That knowledge154 is sensible perception”. He connects that doctrine with the above-mentioned formula, by illustrations which exhibit great divergence between one percipient Subject and another. He gives us, as examples of sensible perception, the case of the wind, cold to one man, not cold to another: that of the wine, sweet to a man in health, bitter if he be sickly.81 Perhaps Protagoras may have dwelt upon cases like these, as best calculated to illustrate the relativity of all affirmations: for though the judgments are in reality both equally relative, whether two judges pronounce alike, or whether they pronounce differently, under the same conditions — yet where they judge differently, each stands forth in his own individuality, and the relativity of the judgment is less likely to be disputed.
81 Plato, Theætêt. pp. 152 A, 159 C.
Such is not the case with all the facts of sense. The conditions of unanimity are best found among select facts of sense — weighing, measuring, &c.
But though some facts of sense are thus equivocal, generating dissension rather than unanimity among different individuals — such is by no means true of the facts of sense taken generally.82 On the contrary, it is only these facts — the world of reality, experience, and particulars — which afford a groundwork and assurance of unanimity in human belief, under all varieties of teaching or locality. Counting, measuring, weighing, are facts of sense simple and fundamental, and comparisons of those facts: capable of being so exhibited that no two persons shall either see them differently or mistrust them. Of two persons exposed to the same wind, one may feel cold, and the other not: but both of them will see the barometer or thermometer alike.83 Πάντα μέτρῳ καὶ ἀριθμῷ 155καὶ σταθμῷ — would be the perfection of science, if it could be obtained. Plato himself recognises, in more than one place, the irresistible efficacy of weight and measure in producing unanimity; and in forestalling those disputes which are sure to arise where weight and measure cannot be applied.84 It is therefore among select facts of sense, carefully observed and properly compared, that the groundwork of unanimity is to be sought, so far as any rational and universal groundwork for it is attainable. In other words, it is here that we must seek for the basis of knowledge or cognition.
82 Aristotle (Metaphysic. Γ. p. 1010, a. 25 seq.) in arguing against Herakleitus and his followers, who dwelt upon τὰ αἰσθητὰ as ever fluctuating and undefinable, urges against them that this is not true of all αἰσθητά, but only of those in the sublunary region of the Kosmos. But this region is (he says) only an imperceptibly small part of the entire Kosmos; the objects in the vast superlunary or celestial region of the Kosmos were far more numerous, and were also eternal and unchangeable, in constant and uniform circular rotation. Accordingly, if you predicate one or other about αἰσθητὰ generally, you ought to predicate constancy and unchangeability, not flux and variation, since the former predicates are true of much the larger proportion of αἰσθητά. See the Scholia on the above passage of Aristotle’s Metaphysica, and also upon Book A. 991, a. 9.
83 Mr. Campbell, in his Preface to the Theætêtus (p. lxxxiii.), while comparing the points in the dialogue with modern metaphysical views, observes. “Modern Experimental Science is equally distrustful of individual impressions of sense, but has found means of measuring the motions by which they are caused, through the effect of the same motions upon other things besides our senses. When the same wind is blowing one of us feels warm and another cold (Theætêt. p. 152), but the mercury of the thermometer tells the same tale to all. And though the individual consciousness remains the sole judge of the exact impression momentarily received by each person, yet we are certain that the sensation of heat and cold, like the expansion and contraction of the mercury, is in every case dependent on a universal law.”
It might seem from Mr. Campbell’s language (I do not imagine that he means it so) as if Modern Experimental Science had arrived at something more trustworthy than “individual impressions of sense”. But the expansion or contraction of the mercury are just as much facts of sense as the feeling of heat or cold; only they are facts of sense determinate and uniform to all, whereas the feeling of heat or cold is indeterminate and liable to differ with different persons. The certainty about “universal law governing the sensations of heat and cold,” was not at all felt in the days of Plato.
84 Thus in the Philêbus (pp. 55-56) Plato declares that numbering, measuring, and weighing, are the characteristic marks of all the various processes which deserve the name of Arts; and that among the different Arts those of the carpenter, builder, &c., are superior to those of the physician, pilot, husbandman, military commander, musical composer, &c., because the two first-named employ more measurement and a greater number of measuring instruments, the rule, line, plummet, compass, &c.
“When we talk about iron or silver” (says Sokrates in the Platonic Phædrus, p. 263 A-B) “we are all of one mind, but when we talk about the Just and the Good we are all at variance with each other, and each man is at variance with himself”. Compare an analogous passage, Alkibiad. I. p. 109.
Here Plato himself recognises the verifications of sense as the main guarantee for accuracy: and the compared facts of sense, when select and simplified, as ensuring the nearest approach to unanimity among believers.
Arguments of Sokrates in examining this question. Divergence between one man and another arises, not merely from different sensual impressibility, but from mental and associative difference.
A loose adumbration of this doctrine is here given by Plato as the doctrine of Protagoras, in the words — Knowledge is sensible perception. To sift this doctrine is announced as his main purpose;85 and we shall see how he performs the task. Sokr. — Shall we admit, that when we perceive things by sight or hearing, we at the same time know them all? When foreigners talk to us in a strange language, are we to say that we do not hear what they say, or that we both hear 156and know it? When unlettered men look at an inscription, shall we contend that they do not see the writing, or that they both see and know it? Theætêt. — We shall say, under these supposed circumstances, that what we see and hear, we also know. We hear and we know the pitch and intonation of the foreigner’s voice. The unlettered man sees, and also knows, the colour, size, forms, of the letters. But that which the schoolmaster and the interpreter could tell us respecting their meaning, that we neither see, nor hear, nor know. Sokr. — Excellent, Theætêtus. I have nothing to say against your answer.86
85 Plato, Theætêt. p. 163 A. εἰς γὰρ τοῦτό που πᾶς ὁ λόγος ἡμῖν ἔτεινε, καὶ τούτου χάριν τὰ πολλὰ καὶ ἄτοπα ταῦτα ἐκινήσαμεν.
86 Plato, Theætêt. p. 163 C.
This is an important question and answer, which Plato unfortunately does not follow up. It brings to view, though without fully unfolding, the distinction between what is really perceived by sense, and what is inferred from such perception: either through resemblance or through conjunctions of past experience treasured up in memory — or both together. Without having regard to such distinction, no one can discuss satisfactorily the question under debate.87 Plato here abandons, moreover, 157the subjective variety of impression which he had before noticed as the characteristic of sense:— (the wind which blows cold, and the wine which tastes sweet, to one man, but not to another). Here it is assumed that all men hear the sounds, and see the written letters alike: the divergence between one man and another arises from the different prior condition of percipient minds, differing from each other in associative and reminiscent power.
87 I borrow here a striking passage from Dugald Stewart, which illustrates both the passage in Plato’s text, and the general question as to the relativity of Cognition. Here, the fact of relative Cognition is brought out most conspicuously on its intellectual side, not on its perceptive side. The fact of sense is the same to all, and therefore, though really relative, has more the look of an absolute; but the mental associations with that fact are different with different persons, and therefore are more obviously and palpably relative. — Dugald Stewart, First Preliminary Dissertation to Encyclopæd. Britannica, pp. 66, 8th ed.
“To this reference of the sensation of colour to the external object, I can think of nothing so analogous as the feelings we experience in surveying a library of books. We speak of the volumes piled up on its shelves as treasures or magazines of the knowledge of past ages; and contemplate them with gratitude and reverence as inexhaustible sources of instruction and delight to the mind. Even in looking at a page of print or manuscript, we are apt to say that the ideas we acquire are received by the sense of sight; and we are scarcely conscious of a metaphor when we apply this language. On such occasions we seldom recollect that nothing is perceived by the eye but a multitude of black strokes drawn upon white paper, and that it is our own acquired habits which communicate to these strokes the whole of that significancy whereby they are distinguished from the unmeaning scrawling of an infant. The knowledge which we conceive to be preserved in books, like the fragrance of a rose, or the gilding of the clouds, depends, for its existence, on the relation between the object and the percipient mind: and the only difference between the two cases is, that, in the one, this relation is the local and temporary effect of conventional habits: in the other, it is the universal and the unchangeable work of nature.… What has now been remarked with respect to written characters, may be extended very nearly to oral language. When we listen to the discourse of a public speaker, eloquence and persuasion seem to issue from his lips; and we are little aware that we ourselves infuse the soul into every word that he utters. The case is exactly the same when we enjoy the conversation of a friend. We ascribe the charm entirely to his voice and accents; but without our co-operation, its potency would vanish. How very small the comparative proportion is, which in such cases the words spoken contribute to the intellectual and moral effect, I have elsewhere endeavoured to show.”
Argument — That sensible Perception does not include memory — Probability that those who held the doctrine meant to include memory.
Sokrates turns to another argument. If knowledge be the same thing as sensible perception, then it follows, that so soon as a man ceases to see and hear, he also ceases to know. The memory of what he has seen or heard, upon that supposition, is not knowledge. But Theætêtus admits that a man who remembers what he has seen or heard does know it. Accordingly, the answer that knowledge is sensible perception, cannot be maintained.88
88 Plato, Theætêt. pp. 163, 164.
Here Sokrates makes out a good case against the answer in its present wording. But we may fairly doubt whether those who affirmed the matter of knowledge to consist in the facts of sense, ever meant to exclude memory. They meant probably the facts of sense both as perceived and as remembered; though the wording cited by Plato does not strictly include so much. Besides, we must recollect, that Plato includes in the meaning of the word Knowledge or Cognition an idea of perfect infallibility: distinguishing it generically from the highest form of opinion. But memory is a fallible process: sometimes quite trustworthy — under other circumstances, not so. Accordingly, memory, in a general sense, cannot be put on a level with present perception, nor said to generate what Plato calls knowledge.
Argument from the analogy of seeing and not seeing at the same time .
The next argument of Plato is as follows. You can see, and not see, the same thing at the same time: for you may close one of your eyes, and look only with the other. But it is impossible to know a thing, and not 158to know it at the same time. Therefore to know is not the same as to see.89
89 Plato, Theætêt. p. 165 B.
This argument is proclaimed by Plato as a terrible puzzle, leaving no escape.90 Perhaps he meant to speak ironically. In reality, this puzzle is nothing but a false inference deduced from a false premiss. The inference is false, because if we grant the premiss, that it is possible both to see a thing, and not to see it, at the same time — there is no reason why it should not also be possible to know a thing, and not to know it, at the same time. Moreover, the premiss is also false in the ordinary sense which the words bear: and not merely false, but logically impossible, as a sin against the maxim of contradiction. Plato procures it from a true premiss, by omitting an essential qualification. I see an object with my open eye: I do not see it with my closed eye. From this double proposition, alike intelligible and true, Plato thinks himself authorised to discard the qualification, and to tell me that I see a thing and do not see it — passing à dicto secundum quid ad dictum simpliciter. This is the same liberty which he took with the Protagorean doctrine. Protagoras having said — “Every thing which any man believes is true to that man” — Plato reasons against him as if he had said — “Every thing which any man believes is true”.
90 Plato, Theætêt. p. 165 B. τὸ δεινότατον ἐρώτημα — ἀφύκτῳ ἐρωτήματι, &c.
Mr. Campbell observes upon this passage:— “Perhaps there is here a trace of the spirit which was afterwards developed in the sophisms of Eubulidês”. Stallbaum, while acknowledging the many subtleties of Sokrates in this dialogue, complains that other commentators make the ridiculous mistake (“errore perquam ridiculo”) of accepting all the reasoning of Sokrates as seriously meant, whereas much of it (he says) is mere mockery and sarcasm, intended to retort upon the Sophists their own argumentative tricks and quibbles. — “Itaquè sæpe per petulantiam quandam argutiis indulget (Socrates), quibus isti haudquaquam abstinebant: sæpè ex adversariorum mente disputat, sed ita tamen disputat, ut eos suis ipsorum capiat laqueis; sæpè denique in disputando iisdem artificiis utitur, quibus illi uti consueverant, sicuti etiam in Menone, Cratylo, Euthydemo, fieri meminimus”. (Stallbaum, Proleg. ad Theæt. pp. 12-13, 22-29).
Stallbaum pushes this general principle so far as to contend that the simile of the waxen tablet (p. 191 C), and that of the pigeon-house (p. 200 C), are doctrines of opponents, which Sokrates pretends to adopt with a view to hold them up to ridicule.
I do not concur in this opinion of Stallbaum, which he reproduces in commenting on many other dialogues, and especially on the Kratylus, for the purpose of exonerating Plato from the reproach of bad reasoning and bad etymology, at the cost of opponents “inauditi et indefensi”. I see no ground for believing that Plato meant to bring forward these arguments as paralogisms obviously and ridiculously silly. He produced them, in my judgment, as suitable items in a dialogue of search: plausible to a certain extent, admitting both of being supported and opposed, and necessary to be presented to those who wish to know a question in all its bearings.
159Again, argues Plato,91 you cannot say — I know sharply, dimly, near, far, &c. — but you may properly say, I see sharply, dimly, near, far, &c.: another reason to show that knowledge and sensible perception are not the same. After a digression of some length directed against the disciples of Herakleitus — (partly to expose their fundamental doctrine that every thing was in flux and movement, partly to satirise their irrational procedure in evading argumentative debate, and in giving nothing but a tissue of mystical riddles one after another),92 Sokrates returns back to the same debate, and produces more serious arguments, as follows:—
91 Plato, Theætêt. p. 165 D. The reasonings here given by Plato from the mouth of Sokrates, are compared by Steinhart to the Trug-schlüsse, which in the Euthydêmus he ascribes to that Sophist and Dionysodorus. But Steinhart says that Plato is here reasoning in the style of Protagoras: an assertion thoroughly gratuitous, for which there is no evidence at all (Steinhart, Einleitung zum Theætêt. p. 53).
92 Plato, Theætêt. pp. 179-183. The description which we read here (put into the mouth of the geometer Theodôrus) of the persons in Ephesus and other parts of Ionia, who speculated in the vein of Herakleitus — is full of vivid fancy and smartness, but is for that reason the less to be trusted as accurate.
The characteristic features ascribed to these Herakleiteans are quite unlike to the features of Protagoras, so far as we know them; though Protagoras, nevertheless, throughout this dialogue, is spoken of as if he were an Herakleitean. These men are here depicted as half mad — incapable of continuous attention — hating all systematic speech and debate — answering, when addressed, only in brief, symbolical, enigmatic phrases, of which they had a quiver-full, but which they never condescended to explain (ὥσπερ ἐκ φαρέτρας ῥηματίσκια αἰνιγματώδη ἀνασπῶντες ἀποτοξεύουσιν, see Lassalle, vol. i. pp. 32-39 — springing up by spontaneous inspiration, despising instruction, p. 180 A), and each looking down upon the others as ignorant. If we compare the picture thus given by Plato of the Herakleiteans, with the picture which he gives of Protagoras in the dialogue so called, we shall see that the two are as unlike as possible.
Lassalle, in his elaborate work on the philosophy of Herakleitus, attempts to establish the philosophical affinity between Herakleitus and Protagoras: but in my judgment unsuccessfully. According to Lassalle’s own representation of the doctrine of Herakleitus, it is altogether opposed to the most eminent Protagorean doctrine, Ἄνθρωπος ἑαυτῷ μέτρον — and equally opposed to that which Plato seems to imply as Protagorean — Αἴσθησις = Ἐπιστήμη. The elucidation given by Lassalle of Herakleitus, through the analogy of Hegel, is certainly curious and instructive. The Absolute Process of Herakleitus is at variance with Protagoras, not less than the Absolute Object or Substratum of the Eleates, or the Absolute Ideas of Plato. Lassalle admits that Herakleitus is the entire antithesis to Protagoras, yet still contends that he is the prior stage of transition towards Protagoras (vol. i. p. 64).
Sokrates maintains that we do not see with our eyes, but that the mind sees through the eyes: that the mind often conceives and judges by itself without the aid of any bodily organ.
Sokr. — If you are asked, With what does a man perceive white and black? you will answer, with his eyes: shrill or grave sounds? with his ears. Does it not seem to you more correct to say, that we see through our eyes rather than with our eyes:— that we hear through our ears, not with our ears. Theætêt. — I think it is more 160correct. Sokr. — It would be strange if there were in each man many separate reservoirs, each for a distinct class of perceptions.93 All perceptions must surely converge towards one common form or centre, call it soul or by any other name, which perceives through them, as organs or instruments, all perceptible objects. —
93 Plato, Theætêt. p. 184 D. δεινὸν γάρ που, εἰ πολλαί τινες ἐν ἡμῖν, ὥσπερ ἐν δουρείοις ἵπποις, αἰσθήσις ἐγκαθηνται, ἀλλὰ μὴ εἰς μίαν τινὰ ἰδέαν, εἴτε ψυχὴν εἴτε ὅ, τι δεῖ καλεῖν, πάντα ταῦτα ξυντείνει, ᾗ διὰ τούτων οἷον ὀργάνων αἰσθανόμεθα ὅσα αἰσθητά.
We thus perceive objects of sense, according to Plato’s language, with the central form or soul, and through various organs of the body. The various Percepta or Percipienda of tact, vision, hearing — sweet, hot, hard, light — have each its special bodily organ. But no one of these can be perceived through the organ affected to any other. Whatever therefore we conceive or judge respecting any two of them, is not performed through the organ special to either. If we conceive any thing common both to sound and colour, we cannot conceive it either through the auditory or through the visual organ.94
94 Plato, Theætêt. p. 184-185.
Now there are certain judgments (Sokrates argues) which we make common to both, and not exclusively belonging to either. First, we judge that they are two: that each is one, different from the other, and the same with itself: that each is something, or has existence, and that one is not the other. Here are predicates — existence, non-existence, likeness, unlikeness, unity, plurality, sameness, difference, &c., which we affirm, or deny, not respecting either of these sensations exclusively, but respecting all of them. Through what bodily organ do we derive these judgments respecting what is common to all? There is no special organ: the mind perceives, through itself these common properties.95
95 Plato, Theætêt. p. 185 D. δοκεῖ τὴν ἀρχὴν οὐδ’ εἶναι τοιοῦτον οὐδὲν τούτοις ὄργανον ἴδιον, ὥσπερ ἐκείνοις, ἀλλ’ αὐτὴ δι’ αὑτῆς ἡ ψυχὴ τὰ κοινά μοι φαίνεται περὶ πάντων ἐπισκοπεῖν.
Indication of several judgments which the mind makes by itself — It perceives Existence, Difference, &c.
Some matters therefore there are, which the soul or mind apprehends through itself — others, which it perceives through the bodily organs. To the latter class belong the sensible qualities, hardness, softness, heat, sweetness, &c., which it perceives through the bodily organs;161 and which animals, as well as men, are by nature competent to perceive immediately at birth. To the former class belong existence (substance, essence), sameness, difference, likeness, unlikeness, honourable, base, good, evil, &c., which the mind apprehends through itself alone. But the mind is not competent to apprehend this latter class, as it perceives the former, immediately at birth. Nor does such competence belong to all men and animals; but only to a select fraction of men, who acquire it with difficulty and after a long time through laborious education. The mind arrives at these purely mental apprehensions, only by going over, and comparing with each other, the simple impressions of sense; by looking at their relations with each other; and by computing the future from the present and past.96 Such comparisons and computations are a difficult and gradual attainment; accomplished only by a few, and out of the reach of most men. But without them, no one can apprehend real existence (essence, or substance), or arrive at truth: and without truth, there can be no knowledge.
96 Plato, Theætêt. p. 186 B. Τὴν δέ γε οὐσίαν καὶ ὅ τι ἔστον καὶ τὴν ἐναντιότητα πρὸς ἀλλήλω (of hardness and softness) καὶ τὴν οὐσίαν αὖ τῆς ἐναντιότητος, αὐτὴ ἡ ψυχὴ ἐπανιοῦσα καὶ ξυμβάλλουσα πρὸς ἄλληλα κρίνειν πειρᾶται ἡμῖν … Οὐκοῦν τὰ μὲν εὐθὺς γενομένοις πάρεστι φύσει αἰσθάνεσθαι ἀνθρώποις τε καὶ θηρίοις, ὅσα διὰ τοῦ σώματος παθήματα ἐπὶ τὴν ψυχὴν τείνει· τὰ δὲ περὶ τούτων ἀναλογίσματα, πρός τε οὐσίαν καὶ ὠφελείαν μόγις καὶ ἐν πολλῷ χρόνῳ διὰ πολλῶν πραγμάτων καὶ παιδείας παραγίγνεται, οἷς ἂν καὶ παραγίγνηται.
Sokrates maintains that knowledge is to be found, not in the Sensible Perceptions themselves, but in the comparisons add computations of the mind respecting them.
The result therefore is (concludes Sokrates), That knowledge is not sensible perception: that it is not to be found in the perceptions of sense themselves, which do not apprehend real essence, and therefore not truth — but in the comparisons and computations respecting them, and in the relations between them, made and apprehended by the mind itself.97 Plato declares good and evil, honourable and base, &c., to be among matters most especially relative, perceived by the 162mind computing past and present in reference to future.98
97 Plato, Theætêt. p. 186 D. ἐν μὲν ἄρα τοῖς παθήμασιν οὐκ ἔνι ἐπιστήμη, ἐν δὲ τῷ περὶ ἐκείνων συλλογισμῷ· οὐσίας γὰρ καὶ ἀληθείας ἐνταῦθα μέν, ὡς ἔοικε, δυνατὸν ἅψασθαι, ἐκεῖ δὲ ἀδύνατον. The term συλλογισμὸς is here interesting, before it had received that technical sense which it has borne from Aristotle downwards. Mr. Campbell explains it properly as “nearly equivalent to abstraction and generalisation” (Preface to Theætêtus, p. lxxiv., also note, p. 144).
98 Plato, Theætêt. p. 186 A. καλὸν καὶ αἰσχρόν, καὶ ἀγαθὸν καὶ κακόν. Καὶ τούτων μοι δοκεῖ ἐν τοῖς μάλιστα πρὸς ἄλληλα σκοπεῖσθαι τὴν οὐσίαν, ἀναλογιζομένη (ἡ ψυχὴ) ἐν ἑαυτῇ τὰ γεγονότα καὶ τὰ παρόντα πρὸς τὰ μέλλοντα.
Base and honourable, evil and good, are here pointed out by Sokrates as most evidently and emphatically relative. In the train of reasoning here terminated, Plato had been combating the doctrine Αἴσθησις = Ἐπιστήμη. In his sense of the word αἴσθησις he has refuted the doctrine. But what about the other doctrine, which he declares to be a part of the same programme — Homo Mensura — the Protagorean formula? That formula, so far from being refuted, is actually sustained and established by this train of reasoning. Plato has declared οὐσία, ἀληθεία, ἐναντιότης, ἀγαθόν, κακόν, &c., to be a distinct class of Objects not perceived by Sense. But he also tells us that they are apprehended by the Mind through its own working, and that they are apprehended always in relation to each other. We thus see that they are just as much relative to the concipient mind, as the Objects of sense are to the percipient and sentient mind. The Subject is the correlative limit or measure (to use Protagorean phrases) of one as well as of the other. This confirms what I observed above, that the two doctrines, 1. Homo Mensura, 2. Αἴσθησις = Ἐπιστήμη, — are completely distinct and independent, though Plato has chosen to implicate or identify them.
Examination of this view — Distinction from the views of modern philosophers.
Such is the doctrine which Plato here lays down, respecting the difference between sensible perception, and knowledge or cognition. From his time to the present day, the same topic has continued to be discussed, with different opinions on the part of philosophers. Plato’s views are interesting, as far as his language enables us to make them out. He does not agree with those who treat sensation or sensible perception (in his language, the two are not distinguished) as a bodily phenomenon, and intelligence as a mental phenomenon. He regards both as belonging to the mind or soul. He considers that the mind is sentient as well as intelligent: and moreover, that the sentient mind is the essential basis and preliminary — universal among men and animals, as well as coæval with birth — furnishing all the matter, upon which the intelligent mind has to work. He says nothing, in this dialogue, about the three distinct souls or minds (rational, courageous, and appetitive), in one and the same body, which form so capital a feature in his Timæus and Republic: nothing about eternal, self-existent, substantial Ideas, or about the pre-existence of the soul and its reminiscence as the process of acquiring knowledge. Nor does he countenance the doctrine of innate ideas, instinctive beliefs, immediate mental intuitions, internal senses, &c., which have been recognised by 163many philosophers. Plato supposes the intelligent mind to work altogether upon the facts of sense; to review and compare them with one another; and to compute facts present or past, with a view to the future. All this is quite different from the mental intuitions and instincts, assumed by various modern philosophers as common to all mankind. The operations, which Plato ascribes to the intelligent mind, are said to be out of the reach of the common man, and not to be attainable except by a few, with difficulty and labour. The distinctive feature of the sentient mind, according to him, is, that it operates through a special bodily organ of sense: whereas the intelligent mind has no such special bodily organ.
Different views given by Plato in other dialogues.
But this distinction, in the first place, is not consistent with Timæus — wherein Plato assigns to each of his three human souls a separate and special region of the bodily organism, as its physical basis. Nor, in the second place, is it consistent with that larger range of observed facts which the farther development of physiology has brought to view. To Plato and Aristotle the nerves and the nervous system were wholly unknown: but it is now ascertained that the optic, auditory, and other nerves of sense, are only branches of a complicated system of sensory and motory nerves, attached to the brain and spinal cord as a centre: each nerve of sense having its own special mode of excitability or manifestation. Now the physical agency whereby sensation is carried on, is, not the organ of sense alone, but the cerebral centre acting along with that organ: whereas in the intellectual and memorial processes, the agency of the cerebral centre and other internal parts of the nervous system are sufficient, without any excitement beginning at the peripheral extremity of the special organ of sense, or even though that organ be disabled. We know the intelligent mind only in an embodied condition: that is, as working along with and through its own physical agency. When Plato, therefore, says that the mind thinks, computes, compares, &c., by itself — this is true only as signifying that it does so without the initiatory stimulus of a special organ of sense; not as signifying that it does so without the central nervous force or currents — an agency essential alike to thought, to sensation, to emotion, and to appetite.
164Plato’s discussion of this question here exhibits a remarkable advance in analytical psychology. The mind rises from Sensation, first to Opinion, then to Cognition.
Putting ourselves back to the Platonic period, we must recognise that the discussion of the theory Αἴσθησις = Ἐπιστήμη, as it is conducted by Plato, exhibits a remarkable advance in psychological analysis. In analysing the mental phenomena, Plato displayed much more subtlety and acuteness than his predecessors — as far at least as we have the means of appreciating the latter. It is convenient to distinguish intellect from sensation (or sensible perception) and emotion, though both of them are essential and co-ordinate parts of our mental system, and are so recognised by Plato. It is also true that the discrimination of our sensations from each other, comparisons of likeness or unlikeness between them, observation of co-existence or sequence, and apprehension of other relations between them, &c., are more properly classified as belonging to intellect than to sense. But the language of psychology is, and always has been, so indeterminate, that it is difficult to say how much any writer means to include under the terms Sense99 — Sensation — Sensible Perception — αἴσθησις. The 165propositions in which our knowledge is embodied, affirm — not sensations detached and isolated, but — various relations of antecedence166 and consequence, likeness, difference, &c., between two or more sensations or facts of sense. We rise thus to a state of mind more complicated than simple sensation: including (along with sensation), association, memory, discrimination, comparison of sensations, abstraction, and generalisation. This is what Plato calls opinion100 or belief; a mental process, which, though presupposing sensations and based upon them, he affirms to be carried on by the mind through itself, not through any special bodily organ. In this respect it agrees with what he calls knowledge or cognition. Opinion or belief is the lowest form, possessed in different grades by all men, of this exclusively mental process: knowledge or cognition is the highest form of 167the same, attained only by a select few. Both opinion, and cognition, consist in comparisons and computations made by the mind about the facts of sense. But cognition (in Plato’s view) has special marks:—
1. That it is infallible, while opinion is fallible. You have it101 or you have it not — but there is no mistake possible.
2. That it apprehends what Plato calls the real essence of things, and real truth, which, on the contrary, Opinion does not apprehend.
3. That the person who possesses it can maintain his own consistency under cross-examination, and can test the consistency of others by cross-examining them (λόγον δοῦναι καὶ δέξασθαι).
99 The discussion in pp. 184-186-186 of the Theætêtus is interesting as the earliest attempt remaining to classify psychological phenomena. What Demokritus and others proposed with the same view — the analogy or discrepancy between τὸ αἰσθάνεσθαι and τὸ νοεῖν — we gather only from the brief notices of Aristotle and others. Plato considers himself to have established, that “cognition is not to be sought at all in sensible perception, but in that function, whatever it be, which is predicated of the mind when it busies itself per se (i.e. not through any special bodily organ) about existences” (p. 187 A). We may here remark, as to the dispute between Plato and Protagoras, that Plato here does not at all escape from the region of the Relative, or from the Protagorean formula, Homo Mensura. He passes from Mind Percipient to Mind Cogitant; but these new Entia cogitationis (as his language implies) are still relative, though relative to the Cogitant and not to the Percipient. He reduces Mind Sentient to the narrowest functions, including only each isolated impression of one or other among the five senses. When we see a clock on the wall and hear it strike twelve — we have a visual impression of black from the hands, of white from the face, and an audible impression from each stroke. But this is all (according to Plato) which we have from sense, or which addresses itself to the sentient mind. All beyond this (according to him) is apprehended by the cogitant mind: all discrimination, comparison, and relation — such as the succession, or one, two, three, &c., of the separate impressions, the likeness of one stroke to the preceding, the contrast or dissimilarity of the black with the white — even the simplest acts of discrimination or comparison belong (in Plato’s view) to mental powers beyond and apart from sense; much more, of course, apprehension of the common properties of all, and of those extreme abstractions to which we apply the words Ens and Non-Ens (τό τ’ ἐπὶ πᾶσι κοινὸν καὶ τὸ ἐπὶ τούτοις, ᾧ τὸ ἔστιν ἐπονομάζεις καὶ τὸ οὐκ ἔστιν, p. 185 C).
When Plato thus narrows the sense of αἴσθησις, it is easy to prove that ἐπιστήμη is not αἴσθησις; but I doubt whether those who affirmed this proposition intended what he here refutes. Neither unreflecting men, nor early theorizers, would distinguish the impressions of sense from the feeling of such impressions being successive, distinct from one another, resembling, &c. Mr. John Stuart Mill observes (Logic, Book i. chap. iii. sects. 10-13) — “The simplest of all relations are those expressed by the words antecedent and consequent, and by the word simultaneous. If we say dawn preceded sunrise, the fact in which the two things dawn and sunrise were jointly concerned, consisted only of the two things themselves. No third thing entered into the fact or phenomenon at all, unless indeed we choose to call the succession of the two objects a third thing; but their succession is not something added to the things themselves, it is something involved in them. To have two feelings at all, implies having them either successively or simultaneously. The relations of succession and simultaneity, of likeness and unlikeness, not being grounded on any fact or phenomenon distinct from the related objects themselves, do not admit of the same kind of analysis. But these relations, though not (like other relations) grounded on states of consciousness, are themselves states of consciousness. Resemblance is nothing but our feeling of resemblance: succession is nothing but our feeling of succession.”
By all ordinary (non-theorising) persons, these familiar relations, involved in the facts of sense, are conceived as an essential part of αἴσθησις: and are so conceived by those modern theorists who trace all our knowledge to sense — as well as (probably) by those ancient theorists who defined ἐπιστήμη to be αἴσθησις, and against whom Plato here reasons. These theorists would have said (as ordinary language recognises) — “We see the dissimilarity of the black hands from the white face of the clock; we hear the likeness of one stroke of the clock to another, and the succession of the strokes one, two, three, one after the other”.
The reasoning of Plato against these opponents is thus open to many of the remarks made by Sir William Hamilton, in the notes to his edition of Reid’s works, upon Reid’s objections against Locke and Berkeley: Reid restricted the word Sensation to a much narrower meaning than that given to it by Locke and Berkeley. “Berkeley’s Sensation” (observes S. W. Hamilton) “was equivalent to Reid’s Sensation plus Perception. This is manifest even by the passages adduced in the text” (note to p. 289). But Reid in his remarks omits to notice this difference in the meaning of the same word. The case is similar with Plato when he refutes those who held the doctrine Ἐπιστήμη = Αἴσθησις. The last-mentioned word, in his construction, includes only a part of the meaning which they attributed to it; but he takes no notice of this verbal difference. Sir William Hamilton remarks, respecting M. Royer Collard’s doctrine, which narrows prodigiously the province of Sense, — “Sense he so limits that, if rigorously carried out, no sensible perception, as no consciousness, could be brought to bear”. This is exactly true about Plato’s doctrine narrowing αἴσθησις. See Hamilton’s edit. of Reid, Appendix, p. 844.
Aristotle understands αἴσθησις — αἰσθητικὴ ψυχὴ or ζωή — as occupying a larger sphere than that which Plato assigns to them in the Theætêtus. Aristotle recognises the five separate αἰσθήσεις, each correlating with and perceiving its ἴδιον αἰσθητόν: he also recognises ἡ κοινὴ αἴσθησις — common sensation or perception — correlating with (or perceiving) τὰ κοινὰ αἰσθητά, which are motion, rest, magnitude, figure, number. The κοινὴ αἴσθησις is not a distinct or sixth sense, apart from the five, but a general power inhering in all of them. He farther recognises αἴσθησις as discriminating, judging, comparing, knowing: this characteristic, τὸ κριτοκὸν and γνωστικόν, is common to αἴσθησις, φαντασία, νόησις, and distinguishes them all from appetite — τὸ ὀρεκτικόν, κινητικόν, &c. See the first and second chapters of the third Book of the Treatise De Animâ, and the Commentary of Simplikius upon that Treatise, especially p. 56, b. Aristotle tells us that all animals ἔχει δύναμιν σύμφυτον κριτικήν, ἣν καλοῦσιν αἴσθησιν. Anal. Poster. ii. p. 99, b. 35. And Sir William Hamilton adopts a similar view, when he remarks, that Judgment is implied in every act of Consciousness.
Occasionally indeed Aristotle partitions the soul between νοῦς and ὄρεξις — Intelligence and Appetite — recognising Sense as belonging to the head of Intelligence — see De Motu Animalium, 6, p. 700, b. 20. ταῦτα δὲ πάντα ἀνάγεται εἰς νοῦν καὶ ὄρεξιν· καὶ γὰρ ἡ φαντασία καὶ ἡ αἴσθησις τὴν αὐτὴν τῷ νῷ χώραν ἔχουσι· κριτικὰ γὰρ πάντα. Compare also the Topica, ii. 4, p. 111, a. 18.
It will thus be seen that while Plato severs pointedly αἴσθησις from anything like discrimination, comparison, judgment, even in the most rudimentary form — Aristotle refuses to adopt this extreme abstraction as his basis for classifying the mental phenomena. He recognises a certain measure of discrimination, comparison, and judgment, as implicated in sensible perceptions. Moreover, that which he calls κοινὴ αἴσθησις is unknown to Plato, who isolates each sense, and indeed each act of each sense, as much as possible. Aristotle is opposed, as Plato is, to the doctrine Ἐπιστήμη = Αἴσθησις, but he employs a different manner of reasoning against it. See, inter alia, Anal. Poster. i. 31, p. 87, b. 28. He confines ἐπιστήμη to one branch of the νοητική.
The Peripatetic Straton, the disciple of Theophrastus, denied that there was any distinct line of demarcation between τὸ αἰσθάνεσθαι and τὸ νοεῖν: maintaining that the former was impossible without a certain measure of the latter. His observation is very worthy of note. Plutarch, De Solertiâ Animalium, iii. 6, p. 961 A. Καίτοι Στράτωνός γε τοῦ φυσικοῦ λόγος ἐστίν, ἀποδεικνύων ὡς οὐδ’ αἰσθάνεσθαι τοπαράπαν ἄνευ τοῦ νοεῖν ὑπάρχει· καὶ γὰρ γράμματα πολλάκις ἐπιπορευόμενα τῇ ὄψει, καὶ λόγοι προσπίπτοντες τῇ ἀκοιῇ διαλανθάνουσιν ἡμᾶς καὶ διαφεύγουσι πρὸς ἑτέροις τὸν νοῦν ἔχοντας· εἶτ’ αὖθις ἐπανῆλθε καὶ μεταθεῖ καὶ μεταδιώκει τῶν προïεμένων ἕκαστον ἀναλεγόμενος· ᾗ καὶ λέλεκται. Νοῦς ὁρῇ, καὶ νοῦς ἀκούει, τὰ δὲ ἄλλα κωφὰ καὶ τυφλά· ὡς τοῦ περὶ τὰ ὄμματα καὶ ὦτα πάθους, ἂν μὴ παρῇ τὸ φρονοῦν, αἴσθησιν οὐ ποιοῦντος.
Straton here notices that remarkable fact (unnoticed by Plato and even by Aristotle, so far as I know) in the process of association, that impressions of sense are sometimes unheeded when they occur, but force themselves upon the attention afterwards, and are recalled by the mind in the order in which they occurred at first.
100 Plato, Theæt. p. 187 A. Sokr. ὅμως δὲ τοσοῦτόν γε προβεβήκαμεν, ὥστε μὴ ζητεῖν αὐτὴν (ἐπιστήμην) ἐν αἰσθήσει τοπαράπαν, ἀλλ’ ἐν ἐκείνῳ τῷ ὀνόματι, ὅ, τι ποτ’ ἔχει ἡ ψυχή, ὅταν αὐτὴ καθ’ αὑτὴν πραγματεύηται περὶ τὰ ὄντα. Theæt. Ἀλλὰ μὴν τοῦτό γε καλεῖται, ὡς ἐγᾦμαι, δοξάζειν. Sokr. Ὀρθῶς γὰρ οἴει.
Plato is quite right in distinguishing between αἴσθησις and δόξα, looking at the point as a question of psychological classification. It appears to me, however, most probable that those who maintained the theory Ἐπιστήμη = Αἴσθησις, made no such distinction, but included that which he calls δόξα in αἴσθησις. Unfortunately we do not possess their own exposition; but it cannot have included much of psychological analysis.
101 Schleiermacher represents Plato as discriminating Knowledge (the region of infallibility, you either possess it or not) from Opinion (the region of fallibility, true or false, as the case may be) by a broad and impassable line —
“Auch hieraus erwächst eine sehr entscheidende, nur ebenfalls nicht ausdrücklich gezogene, Folgerung, dass die reine Erkenntniss gar nicht auf demselben Gebiet liegen könne mit dem Irrthum — und es in Beziehung auf sie kein Wahr und Falsch gebe, sondern nur ein Haben oder Nicht Haben.” (Schleiermacher, Einleit. zum Theæt. p. 176.)
Steinhart (in his Einleit. zum Theæt. p. 94) contests this opinion of Schleiermacher (though he seems to give the same opinion himself, p. 92). He thinks that Plato does not recognise so very marked a separation between Knowledge and Opinion: that he considers Knowledge as the last term of a series of mental processes, developed gradually according to constant laws, and ascending from Sensible Perception through Opinion to Knowledge: that the purpose of the Theætêtus is to illustrate this theory.
Ueberweg, on the contrary, defends the opinion of Schleiermacher and maintains that Steinhart is mistaken (Aechtheit und Zeit. Platon. Schriften, p. 279).
Passages may be produced from Plato’s writings to support both these views: that of Schleiermacher, as well as that of Steinhart. In Timæus, p. 51 E, the like infallibility is postulated for Νοῦς (which there represents ἐπιστήμη) as contrasted with δόξα. But I think that Steinhart ascribes to the Theætêtus more than can fairly be discovered in it. That dialogue is purely negative. It declares that ἐπιστήμη is not αἴσθησις. It then attempts to go a step farther towards the affirmative, by declaring also that ἐπιστήμη is a mental process of computation, respecting the impressions of αἴσθησις — that it is τὸ συλλογίζεσθαι, which is equivalent to τὸ δοξάζειν: compare Phædrus, 249 B. But this affirmative attempt breaks down: for Sokrates cannot explain what τὸ δοξάζειν is, nor how τὸ δοξάζειν ψευδῆ is possible; in fact he says (p. 200 B) that this cannot be explained until we know what ἐπιστήμη is. The entire result of the dialogue is negative, as the closing words proclaim emphatically. On this point many of the commentators agree — Ast, Socher, Stallbaum, Ueberweg, Zeller, &c.
Whether it be true, as Schleiermacher, with several others, thinks (Einl. pp. 184-185), that Plato intends to attack Aristippus in the first part of the dialogue, and Antisthenes in the latter part, we have no means of determining.
This at least is the meaning which Plato assigns to the two words corresponding to Cognition and to Opinion, in the present dialogue, and often elsewhere. But he also frequently employs the word Cognition in a lower and more general signification, not 168restricted, as it is here, to the highest philosophical reach, with infallibility — but comprehending much of what is here treated only as opinion. Thus, for example, he often alludes to the various professional men as possessing Cognition, each in his respective department: the general, the physician, the gymnast, the steersman, the husbandman, &c.102 But he certainly does not mean, that each of them has attained what he calls real essence and philosophical truths — or that any of them are infallible.
102 Compare Plato, Sophistes, pp. 232 E, 233 A.
Plato did not recognise Verification from experience, or from facts of sense, as either necessary or possible.
One farther remark must be made on Plato’s doctrine. His remark — That Cognition consists not in the affections of sense, but in computation or reasoning respecting those affections, (i. e. abstraction, generalisation, &c.) — is both true and important. But he has not added, nor would he have admitted, that if we are to decide whether our computation is true and right, or false and erroneous — our surest way is to recur to the simple facts of sense. Theory must be verified by observation; wherever that cannot be done, the best guarantee is wanting. The facts themselves are not cognition: yet they are the test by which all computations, pretending to be cognitions, must be tried.103
103 See the remarks on the necessity of Verification, as a guarantee for the Deductive Process, in Mr. John Stuart Mill’s System of Logic, Book iii. ch. xi. s. 8. Newton puts aside his own computation or theory respecting gravity as the force which kept the moon in its orbit, because the facts reported by observers respecting the lunar motions were for some time not in harmony with it. Plato certainly would not have surrendered any συλλογισμὸς under the same respect to observed facts. Aristotle might probably have done so; but this is uncertain.
Second definition given by Theætêtus — That Cognition consists in right or true opinion.
We have thus, in enquiring — What is Knowledge or Cognition? advanced so far as to discover — That it does not consist in sensible perception, but in some variety of that purely mental process which is called opining, believing, judging, conceiving, &c. And here Theætêtus, being called upon for a second definition, answers — That Knowledge consists in right or true opinion. All opinion is not knowledge, because opinion is often false.104
104 Plato, Theæt. p. 187 B. It is scarcely possible to translate δοξάζειν always by the same English word.
Objection by Sokrates — This definition assumes that there are false opinions. But how can false opinions be possible? How can we conceive Non-Ens: or confound together two distinct realities?.
Sokr. — But you are here assuming that there are false opinions? 169How is this possible? How can any man judge or opine falsely? What mental condition is it which bears that name? I confess that I cannot tell: though I have often thought of the matter myself, and debated it with others.105 Every thing comes under the head either of what a man knows, or of what he does not know. If he conceives, it must be either the known, or the unknown. He cannot mistake either one known thing for another known thing: or a known thing for an unknown: or an unknown for a known: or one unknown for another unknown. But to form a false opinion, he must err in one or other of these four ways. It is therefore impossible that he can form a false opinion.106
105 Plato, Theæt. p. 187 C.
106 Plato, Theæt. p. 188.
If indeed a man ascribed to any subject a predicate which was non-existent, this would be evidently a false opinion. But how can any one conceive the non-existent? He who conceives must conceive something: just as he who sees or touches, must see or touch something. He cannot see or touch the non-existent: for that would be to see or touch nothing: in other words, not to see or touch at all. In the same manner, to conceive the non-existent, or nothing, is impossible.107 Theæt. — Perhaps he conceives two realities, but confounds them together, mistaking the one for the other. Sokr. — Impossible. If he conceives two distinct realities, he cannot suppose the one to be the other. Suppose him to conceive, just and unjust, a horse and an ox — he can never believe just to be unjust, or the ox to be the horse.108 If, again, he conceives one of the two alone and singly, neither could he on that hypothesis suppose it to be the other: for that would imply that he conceived the other also.
107 Plato, Theæt. p. 188-189.
108 Plato, Theæt. p. 190.
Waxen memorial tablet in the mind, on which past impressions are engraved. False opinion consists in wrongly identifying present sensations with past impressions.
Let us look again in another direction (continues Sokrates). We have been hasty in our concessions. Is it really impossible for a man to conceive, that a thing, which he knows, is another thing which he does not know? Let us see. Grant me the hypothesis (for the sake of illustration), that each man has in his mind a waxen 170tablet — the wax of one tablet being larger, firmer, cleaner, and better in every way, than that of another: the gift of Mnemosynê, for inscribing and registering our sensible perceptions and thoughts. Every man remembers and knows these, so long as the impressions of them remain upon his tablet: as soon as they are blotted out, he has forgotten them and no longer knows them.109 Now false opinion may occur thus. A man having inscribed on his memorial tablet the impressions of two objects A and B, which he has seen before, may come to see one of these objects again; but he may by mistake identify the present sensation with the wrong past impression, or with that past impression to which it does not belong. Thus on seeing A, he may erroneously identify it with the past impression B, instead of A: or vice versâ.110 False opinion will thus lie, not in the conjunction or identification of sensations with sensations — nor of thoughts (or past impressions) with thoughts — but in that of present sensations with past impressions or thoughts.111
109 Plato, Theæt. p. 191 C. κήρινον ἐκμογεῖον.
110 Plato, Theæt. p. 193-194.
111 Plato, Theæt. p. 195 D.
Sokrates refutes this assumption. Dilemma. Either false opinion is impossible, or else a man may know what he does not know.
Having laid this down, however, Sokrates immediately proceeds to refute it. In point of fact, false conceptions are found to prevail, not only in the wrong identification of present sensations with past impressions or thoughts, but also in the wrong identification of one past impression or thought with another. Thus a man, who has clearly engraved on his memorial tablet the conceptions of five, seven, eleven, twelve, — may nevertheless, when asked what is the sum of seven and five, commit error and answer eleven: thus mistaking eleven for twelve.
We are thus placed in this dilemma — Either false opinion is an impossibility:— Or else, it is possible that what a man knows, he may not know. Which of the two do you choose?112
112 Plato, Theæt. p. 196 C. νῦν δὲ ἤτοι οὐκ ἔστι ψευδὴς δόξα, ἢ ἅ τις οἶδεν, οἷόν τε μὴ εἰδέναι· καὶ τούτων πότερα αἱρεῖ;
He draws distinction between possessing knowledge, and having it actually in hand. Simile of the pigeon-cage with caught pigeons turned into it and flying about.
To this question no answer is given. But Sokrates, — after remarking on the confused and unphilosophical manner in which the debate has been conducted, both he and Theætêtus having perpetually employed the 171words know, knowledge, and their equivalents, as if the meaning of the words were ascertained, whereas the very problem debated is, to ascertain their meaning113 — takes up another path of enquiry. He distinguishes between possessing knowledge, — and having it actually in hand or on his person: which distinction he illustrates by comparing the mind to a pigeon-cage. A man hunts and catches pigeons, then turns them into the cage, within the limits of which they fly about: when he wants to catch any one of them for use, he has to go through a second hunt, sometimes very troublesome: in which he may perhaps either fail altogether, or catch the wrong one instead of the right. The first hunt Sokrates compares to the acquisition of knowledge: the second, to the getting it into his hand for use.114 A man may know, in the first sense, and not know, in the second: he may have to hunt about for the cognition which (in the first sense) he actually possesses. In trying to catch one cognition, he may confound it with another: and this constitutes false opinion — the confusion of two cognita one with another.115
113 Plato, Theæt. p. 196 D.
114 Plato, Theæt. p. 197-198.
115 Plato, Theæt. p. 199 C. ἡ τῶν ἐπιστημῶν μεταλλαγή.
Sokrates refutes this. Suggestion of Theætêtus — That there may be non-cognitions in the mind as well as cognitions, and that false opinion may consist in confounding one with the other. Sokrates rejects this.
Yet how can such a confusion be possible? (Sokrates here again replies to himself.) How can knowledge betray a man into such error? If he knows A, and knows B — how can he mistake A for B? Upon this supposition, knowledge produces the effect of ignorance: and we might just as reasonably imagine ignorance to produce the effects of knowledge.116 — Perhaps (suggests Theætêtus), he may have non-cognitions in his mind, mingled with the cognitions: and in hunting for a cognition, he may catch a non-cognition. Herein may lie false opinion. — That can hardly be (replies Sokrates). If the man catches what is really a non-cognition, he will not suppose it to be such, but to be a cognition. He will believe himself fully to know, that in which he is mistaken. But how is it possible that he should confound a non-cognition with a cognition, or vice 172versâ? Does not he know the one from the other? We must then require him to have a separate cognition of his own cognitions or non-cognitions — and so on ad infinitum.117 The hypothesis cannot be admitted.
116 Plato, Theæt. p. 199 E.
117 Plato, Theæt. p. 200 B.
We cannot find out (continues Sokrates) what false opinion is: and we have plainly done wrong to search for it, until we have first ascertained what knowledge is.118
118 Plato, Theæt. p. 200 C.
He brings another argument to prove that Cognition is not the same as true opinion. Rhetors persuade or communicate true opinion; but they do not teach or communicate knowledge.
Moreover, as to the question, Whether knowledge is identical with true opinion, Sokrates produces another argument to prove that it is not so: and that the two are widely different. You can communicate true opinion without communicating knowledge: and the powerful class of rhetors and litigants make it their special business to do so. They persuade, without teaching, a numerous audience.119 During the hour allotted to them for discourse, they create, in the minds of the assembled dikasts, true opinions respecting complicated incidents of robbery or other unlawfulness, at which none of the dikasts have been personally present. Upon this opinion the dikasts decide, and decide rightly. But they cannot possibly know the facts without having been personally present and looking on. That is essential to knowledge or cognition.120 Accordingly, they have acquired true and right opinions; yet without acquiring knowledge. Therefore the two are not the same.121
119 Plato, Theæt. p. 201 A. οὗτοι γάρ που τῇ ἑαυτῶν τέχνῃ πείθουσιν, οὐ διδάσκοντες, ἀλλὰ δοξάζειν ποιοῦντες ἃ ἂν βούλωνται.
120 Plato, Theæt. p. 201 B-C. Οὐκοῦν ὅταν δικαίως πεισθῶσι δικασταὶ περὶ ὧν ἰδόντι μόνον ἔστιν εἰδέναι, ἄλλως δὲ μή, ταῦτα τότε ἐξ ἀκοῆς κρίνοντες, ἀληθῆ δόξαν λαβόντες, ἄνευ ἐπιστήμης ἔκριναν, ὀρθὰ πεισθέντες, εἴπερ εὖ ἐδίκασαν;
121 The distinction between persuading and teaching — between creating opinion and imparting knowledge — has been brought to view in the Gorgias, and is noted also in the Timæus. As it stands here, it deserves notice, because Plato not only professes to affirm what knowledge is, but also identifies it with sensible perception. The Dikasts (according to Sokrates) would have known the case, had they been present when it occurred, so as to see and hear it: there is no other way of acquiring knowledge.
Hearing the case only by the narration of speakers, they can acquire nothing more than a true opinion. Hence we learn wherein consists the difference between the two. That which I see, hear, or apprehend by any sensible perception, I know: compare a passage in Sophistes, p. 267 A-B, where τὸ γιγνώσκειν is explained in the same way. But that which I learn from the testimony of others amounts to nothing more than opinion; and at best to a true opinion.
Plato’s reasoning here involves an admission of the very doctrine which he had before taken so much pains to confute — the doctrine that Cognition is Sensible Perception. Yet he takes no notice of the inconsistency. An occasion for sneering at the Rhetors and Dikasts is always tempting to him.
So, in the Menon (p. 97 B), the man who has been at Larissa is said to know the road to Larissa; as distinguished from another man who, never having been there, opines correctly which the road is. And in the Sophistes (p. 263) when Plato is illustrating the doctrine that false propositions, as well as true propositions, are possible, and really occur, he selects as his cases, Θεαίτητος κάθηται, Θεαίτητος πέτεται. That one of these propositions is false and the other true, can be known only by αἴσθησις — in the sense of that word commonly understood.
173New answer of Theætêtus — Cognition is true opinion, coupled with rational explanation.
Theætêtus now recollects another definition of knowledge, learnt from some one whose name he forgets. Knowledge is (he says) true opinion, coupled with rational explanation. True opinion without such rational explanation, is not knowledge. Those things which do not admit of rational explanation, are not knowable.122
122 Plato, Theætêt. p. 201 D. τὴν μὲν μετὰ λόγου ἀληθῆ δόξαν ἐπιστήμην εἶναι· τὴν δὲ ἄλογον, ἐκτὸς ἐπιστήμης· καὶ ὧν μὲν μή ἐστι λόγος, οὐκ ἐπιστητὰ εἶναι, οὑτωσὶ καὶ ὀνομάζων, ἂ δ’ ἔχει, ἐπιστητά.
The words οὑτωσὶ καὶ ὀνομάζων are intended, according to Heindorf and Schleiermacher, to justify the use of the word ἐπιστητά, which was then a neologism. Both this definition, and the elucidation of it which Sokrates proceeds to furnish, are announced as borrowed from other persons not named.
Criticism on the answer by Sokrates. Analogy of letters and words, primordial elements and compounds. Elements cannot be explained: compounds alone can be explained.
Taking up this definition, and elucidating it farther, Sokrates refers to the analogy of words and letters. Letters answer to the primordial elements of things; which are not matters either of knowledge, or of true opinion, or of rational explanation — but simply of sensible perception. A letter, or a primordial element, can only be perceived and called by its name. You cannot affirm of it any predicate or any epithet: you cannot call it existing, or this, or that, or each, or single, or by any other name than its own:123 for if you do, you attach to it something extraneous to itself, and then it ceases to be an element. But syllables, words, propositions — i. e., the compounds made up by putting together various letters or elements — admit of being known, explained, and described, by enumerating the component elements. You may indeed conceive them correctly, without being able to explain them or to enumerate their component elements: but then you do not know them. You can only be said to know 174them, when besides conceiving them correctly, you can also specify their component elements124 — or give explanation.
123 Plato, Theæt. pp. 201 E — 202 A. αὐτὸ γὰρ καθ’ αὑτὸ ἕκαστον ὀνομάσαι μόνον εἴη, προσειπεῖν δὲ οὐδὲν ἄλλο δυνατόν, οὔθ’ ὡς ἔστιν, οὔθ’ ὡς οὐκ ἔστιν’ ἤδη γὰρ ἂν οὐσίαν ἢ μὴ οὐσίαν αὐτῷ προστίθεσθαι, δεῖν δὲ οὐδὲν προσφέρειν, εἴπερ αὐτὸ ἐκεῖνο μόνον τις ἐρεῖ· ἐπεὶ οὐδὲ τὸ αὐτό, οὐδέ τὸ ἐκεῖνο, οὐδὲ το ἕκαστον, οὐδὲ το μόνον, οὐδὲ τὸ τοῦτο, προσοιστέον, οὐδ’ ἄλλα πολλὰ τοιαῦτα· ταῦτα μὲν γὰρ περιτρέχοντα πᾶσι προσφέρεσθαι, ἕτερα ὄντα ἑκείνων οἷς προστίθεται. Also p. 205 C.
124 Plato, Theæt. p. 202.
Sokrates refutes this criticism. If the elements are unknowable, the compound must be unknowable also.
Having enunciated this definition, as one learnt from another person not named, Sokrates proceeds to examine and confute it. It rests on the assumption (he says), that the primordial elements are themselves unknowable; and that it is only the aggregates compounded of them which are knowable. Such an assumption cannot be granted. The result is either a real sum total, including both the two component elements: or it is a new form, indivisible and uncompounded, generated by the two elements, but not identical with them nor including them in itself. If the former, it is not knowable, because if neither of the elements are knowable, both together are not knowable: when you know neither A nor B you cannot know either the sum or the product of A and B. If the latter, then the result, being indivisible and uncompounded, is unknowable for the same reason as the elements are so: it can only be named by its own substantive name, but nothing can be predicated respecting it.125
125 Plato, Theæt. pp. 203-206.
Nor can it indeed be admitted as true — That the elements are unknowable, and the compound alone knowable. On the contrary, the elements are more knowable than the compound.126
126 Plato, Theæt. p. 206.
Rational explanation may have one of three different meanings. 1. Description in appropriate language. 2. Enumeration of all the component elements in the compound. In neither of these meanings will the definition of Cognition hold.
When you say (continues Sokrates) that knowledge is true opinion coupled with rational explanation, you may mean by rational explanation one of three things. 1. The power of enunciating the opinion in clear and appropriate words. This every one learns to do, who is not dumb or an idiot: so that in this sense true opinion will always carry with it rational explanation. — 2. The power of describing the thing in question by its component elements. Thus Hesiod says that there are a hundred distinct wooden pieces in a waggon: you and I do not know nor can we describe them all: we can distinguish only the more obvious fractions — the wheels, the axle, the body, the yoke, 175&c. Accordingly, we cannot be said to know a waggon: we have only a true opinion about it. Such is the second sense of λόγος or rational explanation. But neither in this sense will the proposition hold — That knowledge is right opinion coupled with rational explanation. For suppose that a man can enumerate, spell, and write correctly, all the syllables of the name Theætêtus — which would fulfil the conditions of this definition: yet, if he mistakes and spells wrongly in any other name, such as Theodôrus, you will not give him credit for knowledge. You will say that he writes Theætêtus correctly, by virtue of right opinion simply. It is therefore possible to have right opinion coupled with rational explanation, in this second sense also, — yet without possessing knowledge.127
127 Plato, Theæt. p. 207-208 B. ἔστιν ἄρα μετὰ λόγου ὀρθὴ δόξα, ἣν οὔπω δεῖ ἐπιστήμην καλεῖν.
Third meaning. To assign some mark, whereby the thing to be explained differs from everything else. The definition will not hold. For rational explanation, in this sense, is already included in true opinion.
3. A third meaning of this same word λόγος or rational