one of the most eminent of the Greek philosophers. He was by far the most illustrious of the pupils of Socrates, completely eclipsing all his fellow students, so that St. Augustine justly remarks, "Inter discipulos Socrates, non quidem immerito, excellentissima gloria claruit, qui omnes caeteros obscuraret, Plato" (De Civ. Dei, 8, 4). He was the earliest of the systematic scholars, or founders of permanent schools, in which the doctrines of the original master, with more or less of development and change, continued to be expounded through successive generations. His fame and influence on antiquity transcended the renown and authority of any other teacher, and may have suggested, in connection with the character of his doctrine and the mode of its exposition, the declaration of Labeo, that he was to be accounted a god rather than a man. "Hunc Platonern Labeo inter semideos commemorandum putavit, sicut Herculem, sicut Romulum; semideos autem heroibus anteponit, sed utrosque inter numina collocat" (Augustine, ibid. 2. 14). His influence was increased, rather than diminished, during the long and ardent struggle between rising Christianity and expiring Paganism-both combatants receiving his impulse, claiming his alliance, and submitting to his philosophical ascendency. Though the oblivion of the Greek language and the dogmatic character of mediaeval speculation turned intellectual activity into widely divergent channels, yet the revival of letters was attended by the resurrection of Plato; and the Medicean Academy of Florence under the direction of Marsilius Ficinus (q.v.), renewed the prominence of his name and of his philosophy. Since that period, the beginning of the 16th century, Plato has enjoyed an augmented authority in the domain of metaphysical inquiry; has animated successive schools of brilliant reputation and of extensive rule; and has been the late progenitor of the most famous systems which have given to modern Germany its marvelous predominance in transcendental metaphysics.
I. Life and Times. — The notices of Plato's life which have come down to us are few and scanty and for the most part unauthenticated. Legend early fastened upon his name, and incrusted it over with myths as striking and as unreal as any employed by himself for the exemplification of his tenets. He transformed the rugged honesty of his teacher, Socrates: he was himself transfigurated by the wild fantasy of his own followers, and was translated in equal degree with Bully Bottom, though in dissimilar mode. But, if little is known of the real circumstances and incidents of the life of the philosopher, there is abundant information in regard to the troubled and motley times in which he lived. The ancient authorities for the life of Plato which have been transmitted to us are few, late, and untrustworthy. His biography by his pupil, companion, and successor, Xenocrates, was early lost. Of the numerous writers contemporaneous with him, or living in the next centuries, who treated his life, professedly or incidentally, scarcely any available memorials survive. Our fullest authorities are Diogenes Laertius, Apuleius, Olympiodorus, in the life prefixed to most editions of the Opera Platonis, and an anonymous biographer. These writers, Diogenes Laertius especially, may have had trustworthy materials at command, but they have commingled, or rather inundated them, with the legendary growth which sprang up after Plato's death-a growth which should not be entirely neglected, as it exhibits the manner in which Plato was regarded by his admiring disciples, arising out of his own imaginative expositions, and anticipating the fantastic reveries of the Neo-Platonic Thaumaturgists.
Plato was born a full Athenian citizen, of Athenian parents, but, apparently, not within the limits of Attica. His birthplace seems to have been the island of AEgina, where his father owned a cleruchy, or colonial estate. There are dissonances in regard to the year of his birth, but it fell within the first half of the Decennial War, or earlier portion of the Peloponnesian War. Grote assigns his nativity to May, B.C. 427, just before the surrender of Plataea; Clinton to May, B.C. 429, four or five months before the death of Pericles; and Diogenes Laertius to B.C. 428, the year in which Anaxagoras died. Taking Grote's date for convenience, as this is no place for the investigation of such chronological problems, the philosopher's birth was synchronous with the first exhibitions of the comedian Aristophanes, whom, throughout life he so greatly admired, and whose works he kept habitually under his pillow. Both the parents of Plato were of noble blood; a circumstance which affected equally his political inclinations and his speculative views. His father was Ariston, the son of Aristocles, and traced his descent from Codrus and the god Poseidon. His mother's name was Perictione. She was descended from a collateral branch of the family of Solon the Lawgiver; was nearly related to Critias the chief of the Thirty Tyrants, and was the sister of Charmides, who was at the same time one of the ten governors of the Piraeus. The genealogical table is given by Ueberweg. Legend, which is traced back to Speusippus, the nephew of Plato, ascribed the paternity of Plato to the god Apollo; and, in the form in which the story is told by Olympiodorus, closely imitates the record in regard to the nativity of Christ. A similar origin was assigned to Servius Tullius, to Pythagoras, to Alexander the Great, to Scipio Africanus, to Apollonius of Tvanma, to the seventh ancestor of Genghiz-Kahn, to Buddha, and to many other notable personages. The story of Hercules is well known, and furnished occasion for the apt sarcasm of Tertullian: "Herculem de fabula facis Christum" (Adv. Marc. 4, 2). It was an old- world tale, often repeated in many ages and in many lands. As it was traced back to Speusippus, the translation of Plato into a supernatural being must have commenced immediately after his death. The transcendentalism of his doctrine may have suggested the fiction of his original divinity. The latter was recognized in the inscription on the tomb erected to his memory by the Athenians:
Soon after his birth he was carried to Mount Hymettus by his father and mother, that they might perform on his account the due sacrifices to the enchorial deities Pan, the Nymphs, and the Nomian Apollo. As the infant lay sleeping on the flowers, the bees settled upon his lips, and filled his mouth with honey and the honeycomb, that Homer's verse might be accomplished, says Olympiodorus:
Τοῦ καὶ ἀπὸ γλώσσης μέλιτος γλυκίων ῥέεν ἀνδή (II. 2, 249). According to Greek usage, the child was called Aristocles, after his paternal grandfather. The name of Plato was imposed on him by Ariston of Argos, his instructor in gymnastics, on account of the breadth of his shoulders or of his forehead, or in consequence of the compass and fluency of his speech. He excelled so far in athletic sports as to gain the reputation of having contended in the Isthmian and other games. He began his education at an early age by studying grammar under Dionysius, and continued it by prosecuting the wide circle of knowledge then called music under Draco, a distinguished pupil of the more distinguished Damon. At some period of his youth he also gained an acquaintance with the philosophy of Heraclitus, under the guidance of Cratylus, after whom he has named one of his Dialogues. As a boy, he is said to have been quick in apprehension, eager, diligent, grave, and modest. His first ambition, as with most young men of lively genius, seems to have been for literary renown. He wrote lyrics, dithyrambs, epigrams, and tragedies; and is even said to have composed a tetralogy for competition in the Dionysiac festival. In the estimation of antiquity he was universally accomplished, and his writings attest a wide range of acquirement. After he entered into intimate relations with Socrates, he burned up his juvenile poems; but throughout his career he was attended by the poetic afflatus. The acquaintance with Socrates seems to have begun about his twentieth year (B.C. 407), and was probably incited by the same causes which induced other wealthy, elegant, and ambitious Athenians to frequent the company of the ceaseless disputant—the desire of skill in debate, and dexterity in public harangues. Plato, or the author of the Seventh Epistle attributed to Plato, acknowledges that in youth "he was animated, like other young men, to devote himself, as soon as he was his own master, to the affairs of the commonwealth." Other attractions arose, and the association with Socrates became closer and closer with the passing years, till his venerable master was removed from him by the fatal cup of hemlock, after eight years of communion.
The twentieth year of Plato, according to Grote's chronology, coincides with the return of Alcibiades to Athens, the commission of Lysander as commander of the Peloponnesian fleet, and the appointment of Cyrus to the satrapy of Asia two years later came the decisive overthrow of the Athenians at Egospotami—the siege — the starvation — the surrender — the dismantling and the humiliation of Athens. During these disastrous and sorrowing years the age of Plato would keep him employed, during the season of military operations, in the fleet, the infantry, or, more probably from his social station, in the cavalry. He is said to have participated in three engagements at Tanagra, at Delium, and at Corinth. These exploits are wild imaginations, springing from the acknowledgment of Plato's service in the field, which an active, healthy youth could not have avoided, in such days of agony, without incurring the degradation of λειποταξία. Plato might have been present at Corinth, but Delium was fought when he was only three years old; Tanagra, when he was only one, or, if the principal action of that name be regarded, thirty years before his birth. There is no reason to doubt Plato's military service, but the scenes of that service are wholly conjectural. His intimate connection with Chabrias, in whose defense he once spoke, perhaps arose from old camaraderie.
The subjugation of Athens and the usurpation of the Thirty opened to Plato the public career which appeared barred against him during the reckless rule of the Demus. Critias, the leader of the Thirty, a man of splendid and various talent, of high culture, of daring energy, and of unscrupulous ambition, was a cousin; Charmides, one of the Ten at Piraeus, who fell in the battle with Thrasybulus, was an uncle. The gates of the political stadium were thrown wide open to him and the prospect of rapid advancement invited his eager activity. Accepting the Seventh Epistle as genuine, we have his own declaration that he promptly seized the opportunity afforded. His relatives, his friends, his party, so long excluded from office, were at length in power; and he entered as an aspirant along with those to whom he was united by blood, by traditional association, by hereditary interest, and by personal proclivities. He was a born aristocrat. These things should be remembered in the appreciation of Plato's political reveries, in the estimation of his censures of Pericles and the democracy, and even in the interpretation of his sarcasms on the rhetoricians and sophists. He was himself an exclusive, an oligarch, and he hated popular liberty even more than he hated a tyrant. His political prospects were, however, soon overclouded. The recent democracy had, doubtless, been lawless, savage, oppressive, and indiscreet; but his kinsmen, Critias, Charmides, and their colleagues, were more lawless, sanguinary, rapacious, and brutal. It is safe to reject the blind partisanship alike of Grote and of Mitford. Whether under the rule of the mob or under the rule of the few, the internal condition of Athens had become desperate. Our histories of Greece, with all their details of license and exaction, reveal but little of the consuming fever by which Athens and her sister states slowly perished. What outraged Plato more than anything else was the indignity and treacherous injustice shown towards his master, Socrates, himself affiliated with the dominant party. Socrates was ordered to arrest an innocent man, and to conduct him to punishment, in order that he might be involved in the crimes and odium of the chiefs. We are reminded of the nefarious counsels given by the historian and administrator Guicciardini for the repression of the prostrate and humiliated Florence. Socrates refused, and his life was endangered. At the same time his garrulous mouth was stopped, and his instructions in the streets and highways prohibited. Plato gave up the delusive visions of reform which he subsequently ascribed to his youth, and withdrew himself from political concerns. Critias was killed, the Thirty driven out, the usurpation overthrown, and a complete subversion of the recent polity was effected. Plato again sought an entrance into public life. He was dragged in this direction by a strong desire, as he confesses. His inclinations were decidedly political. He complains of the violence and vengeance which attended the political disturbances, but admits that much moderation was shown by the restored democracy. Still the party adverse to him acquired full ascendency, and he found himself excluded from influence. His final repulse from Athenian politics was due to the malicious indictment of Socrates, and his death under sentence of the criminal court. The peril and the condemnation of his teacher drew Plato closer to him. He attended and advised the sage in his trial. He offered to pay the fine that might be imposed upon him; and, if parted by sickness from his last serene hours, he fondly treasured up his memory and his aims, and consecrated his own life to the illustration of his virtues, and the perpetuation of the fame of his great guide and friend. Anxious and occupied with other cares as were the years of Plato's intercourse with Socrates, many of the learned German scholars who have occupied themselves with the Platonic writings have concluded that several of them were composed and published before or soon after the death of his illustrious instructor. It seems more reasonable to refer them all, or nearly all, to a much later period.
The tragic fate of Socrates dispersed the Socratic fraternity and drove Plato from Athens. He naturally feared to be involved in like odium and like danger with Socrates. It must be remembered that the real cause of enmity was mainly political— that Socrates and Plato were not merely adversaries of democratic ascendency, but had been identified with the tyranny of the Thirty. The looseness, too, and unregulated passion of Athenian procedure, civil and criminal, must also be borne in mind. Justice, innocence, and law were no assured protection before an Attic dicastery. This, doubtless, intensified Plato's hereditary opposition to the rule of the majority, and would increase his distrust after the judicial murder of Socrates. He might recall the remark made by Alcibiades at the time of his flight from Sicily, that he would not trust his life to the vote of his own mother, lest she should blunder and deposit a black pebble for a white one. Plato accordingly retired from Athens, and found refuge in the house of Euclid at Megara, a fellow-pupil, and the father of the Megaric school. He was now in his twenty-eighth year. How long he continued at Megara and how far he imbibed the doctrines of Euclid, cannot be ascertained, though Megaric tendencies may readily be recognized in his own teachings. After leaving Megara, Plato entered upon a round of distant voyages; but their extent, their order, and whether continuous or interspersed with visits to his native city, must remain undetermined. In the course of his travels he visited Cyrene, where he studied geometry under Theodorus; and thence proceeded to Egypt, where he admired the ancient monuments, and held intercourse with the priests. Some reports alleged that he extended his journeys to Palestine, Syria, Babylonia, and even to Persia. When he was about forty years of age he visited Tarentum where he became acquainted with the Pythagoreans, Archytas, Timaeus, Echecrates, etc. — and Syracuse, where his intimacy with Dion was formed. He is said to have been admitted at this time to the society of the elder Dionysius, and to have offended the tyrant, who sent him away in charge of Pollis, the Spartan, to be disposed of as a prisoner of war. The commission was executed, and Plato was sold as a slave in AEgina, but soon ransomed by Anniceris, who refused reimbursement. The story is questionable in all its parts.
Immediately after this supposed adventure Plato returned to Athens, and revived in a novel and more systematic form the career of Socrates, opening a school of philosophy in the grove of the hero Academus, which adjoined a small estate of his own, either inherited or purchased, lying a mile north of Athens, on the road to Eleusis. Here he remained for nearly forty years, in the exercise of his didactic vocation, with the exception of two absences in Sicily, each of considerable length. To this interval between the death of Socrates and the establishment of the Academy has been attributed the composition of many of the Platonic Dialogules. This has been done by German critics, who have been enabled by keen intuition to discover what was in the mind of Plato, though wholly unrevealed by himself. The object of their production in these years is not easily discernible. The leisure for their preparation would scarcely be afforded during the fatigues of his long journeys; nor is it likely that one so averse to the literary promulgation of his views would engage in such labors while occupied in storing his mind with multifarious knowledge, in examining the dogmas of other philosophers, and in maturing his own views. In the absence of all positive information, a decision is as absurd as it would be impossible. But the conclusion of Grote is most plausible— that the Chartae Platonicae are all subsequent to Plato's entrance upon his career as a teacher.
The history of the Academy under the rule and instruction of its founder is unknown. That it was thoroughly successful is evident from the high and wide reputation of its teacher, from the distinguished names of its pupils, from the duration of their academical course, and from its flourishing condition at his death. Among the more notable of the earlier academicians were Aristotle, who attended the instructions of the great teacher for twenty years; Speusippus, the nephew of Plato, and his immediate successor; Xenocrates, who succeeded Speusippus in the direction of the school; Eudoxus of Cnidus, the illustrious astronomer; the orators Demosthenes, Hyperides, and Lycurgus; the Syracusan Dion, and his comrade and murderer, Callippus. May we add "Timon of Athens" to the list, on the strength of the statement of Olympiodorus, that "with Plato alone did the misanthrope associate." Men and strong-minded women are said to have flocked to his lectures, as he renounced the pungent and mortifying irony of Socrates, abstained from disputations in the markets and workshops, and refrained from hunting up young men to persecute them with logomachies. He differed from the Pythagoreans in the abstinence from oaths, secrecy, and dogmatism; he differed from the Sophists, or those to whom the name in a later day attached, in requiring no fee from his hearers, though he accepted presents at times of large amounts. Honor, renown, and influence increased with advancing years. He was consulted, like that strange philosopher, Bentham, in recent times, by communities anxious to improve their organizations or jurisprudence. The Macedonian king Perdiccas sought his advice, and received Philip into his confidence upon his recommendation. The younger Dionysius twice tempted him to Syracuse, though from these visits he derived little advantage for himself, no improvement of condition for the Sicilians, and only discredit for philosophy. These two expeditions to Sicily constitute notable episodes in the life of Plato, and are reported and exculpated at length in the Seventh Epistle. On the accession of Dionysius the younger, who entertained some philosophical aspirations, and was still in the freshness of youth, his uncle Dion persuaded Plato to accept an invitation to Syracuse, in the hope that his influence over a youthful mind might promote a renovation of good order and prosperity, by inducing the abandonment of the savage policy and cruel practices of the preceding tyranny. Plato yielded with hesitation and reluctance, as he afterwards declared, and sailed for Syracuse B.C. 367, twenty years after his first supposed visit. He was cordially welcomed, hospitably entertained, and for some time handsomely treated. But no conversion was effected. He found the young cub the whelp of the old beast. Dion was banished, and Plato discovered himself to be virtually a captive under surveillance. He was anxious to return to Athens, but the means of escape were unattainable. Dionysius made promises, and entreaties which were commands, and Plato prolonged his stay till the season of navigation in the ensuing year. Notwithstanding this unhappy experience, he was again (B.C. 361) persuaded to visit the tyrant of Syracuse, for the purpose of reconciling Dionysius to Dion, and securing the restoration of the latter to his country. The attempt failed utterly. Plato's life was imperiled, and he was enabled to return home only through the intervention of Archytas of Tarentum. On his return he met Dion at Olympia, and seems to have sanctioned his military expedition against Dionysius, though refusing any direct participation in the enterprise, on account of the technical hospitality received from the tyrant. Dion's bold adventure was successful. Dionysius was deposed and driven into exile. Dion acquired the control of Syracuse, declined into tyrannical procedures himself, was assassinated by his comrade Callippus, who was murdered in turn, and in the conflict of anarchy Dionrsius was restored.
The intercourse of Plato with Dionysius, and even with Dion, was open to grave suspicion; and his visits to Sicily, with their calamitous issues, occasioned bitter reproach. The Seventh Epistle, addressed to the friends of Dion, is an elaborate exposition of the motives by which he professed to have been guided, and an anxious apology for his conduct. The disorder of the explanations; the subtle casuistry of the reasoning; the earnest palliation of his actions; the inconsequences and incongruities of his statements; the ruggedness and inequality of the expression; the absence of art, alike in the structure and in the details of the letter-are very divergent from the graces of Platonic composition, but are in perfect consonance with the situation of Plato, and with the painful solicitudes of a man compelled to justify what he was ashamed of, and, after the disaster of the mortifying events, to put the best possible interpretations upon unpleasant and damaging memories which could not be suppressed. The real facts may have been these: Plato, with the sanguine hope of a poet, the confidence of a philosopher, and the ambition of a reformer, believed that he could re-establish peace, good order, and happiness in Syracuse by his presence; but Dionysius and his subjects were equally intractable; and the Syracusans were so unfitted for civic and social tranquility, by selfish and sensual luxury, chronic discord and general demoralization, as to be restless under any government, and refractory under any laws. The dissolution was universal throughout the Hellenic world, though unrecognized; the total decay of the constitution was mistaken for an accidental, transitory, and curable disease. It was a time, in some respects, like the present: when the distemperature of society was universally experienced; when theories of all kinds new constitutions on novel principles; socialistic, communistic, and other dreams-were in vogue, and sometimes put into practice, with only an aggravation of misery. This unhappy condition of society explains not merely Plato's failures in Sicily, but his disgust at Athenian politics, and the visionary, extravagant, and often immoral devices of his own political speculations.
The remainder of Plato's life, after his final return from Sicily, was devoted to his school. It was passed in great ease and honor, notwithstanding the troubles, domestic and foreign, in which Athens was involved, and the succession of wars which harassed, impoverished, and depopulated Greece. He died B.C. 347, in the year in which Olynthus was taken by Philip of Macedon, and, according to Seneca, on the same day of the same month in which he had been born ("Platoni diligentiie suae beneficio contigisse, quod natali suo decessit, et annum unum atque octogesimum implevit, sine ulla deductione," Epist. 6, 6 , § 31). He adds that hence the Magi, then at Athens, sacrificed to him, as being of a nature more than human ("amplioris fuisse sortis quam humanae rati")— thus furnishing another evidence of his mythical divinity.
From this account of the life of Plato it will be seen that he had large and unsatisfactory acquaintance with the social ailments and political conditions of his time; that he held intimate intercourse with the most distinguished personages of the period; that he was brought into close connection with Socrates and the Socratic family, with the Heraclitean, Megaric, Pythagorean, and other schools; that his education was large and liberal; his studies, observation, and travels varied and extensive; his talents versatile and lofty; that he united the genius of the poet the aptitudes of the rhetorician, the skill of the dialectician, the reason of the philosopher, with the diligence of a scholar, the training of a man of the world, and the propensities of a statesman. He was thus full-armed, and prepared to convert to his own use all former knowledge and speculation. How he employed his gifts and the materials at his command will be manifested by the consideration of his literary and philosophical career.
II. Writings. — The literary remains which pass under the name of Plato are among the most extensive monuments of the classic age of Athens, notwithstanding the disfavor with which he regarded writing as a mode of instruction, and his repeatedly expressed preference for oral communication in the treatment of philosophical problems (Phaedo, p. 276; Grote, Plato, vol. 1, ch. 6 p. 221-232). It would be pressing too far the remarkable declaration contained in the Seventh Epistle: "I have never myself written anything upon these subjects; there neither is, nor shall there ever be, a treatise of Plato"-it would be pressing this declaration too far to conclude from it that Plato had written nothing up to that late period of his life. It would be pressing it still further, and more unwarrantably, to receive it as evidence that he never wrote anything at all. The genuineness of the epistle is not above suspicion, and has often been denied. Moreover, Plato adds: "The opinions called by the name of Plato are those of Socrates, in his days of youthful vigor and glory." These opinions might have been published by writing, as well as by oral delivery, and still have been disclaimed; and there is a bold fiction, or Platonic myth, in ascribing them to Socrates at any period of his life; but it enabled Plato to disconnect himself from all personal responsibility for the doctrines set forth by him. It is certain that Plato discountenanced the written promulgation of philosophy, and that his writings were not designed for general circulation, or for the acquisition of literary or other fame, but as summaries for his school, and for the attestation of his views. This is confirmed by the story of Hermodorus selling the Platonic treatises in Sicily, and by the proverb founded thereon: λόγοισιν ῾Ερμόδωρος ἐμπορεύεται. Yet, in despite of this aversion, which rested on grounds of personal ease and security, as well as on the exclusiveness of sect and other philosophic reasons, the Opera Plitonis constitute a very copious collection. They consist of thirty- six works, in fifty-six books, counting the thirteen epistles as one book. To these are appended, in many editions of Plato, seven treatises generally recognized to be spurious. Of the thirty-six works habitually ascribed to Plato, only two have wholly escaped challenge on the score of authenticity.
It is very important for the student of philosophy that the genuine treatises of Plato should be clearly separated from those that are doubtful or illegitimate. It is equally important that none should be repudiated from fanciful conjecture. The task of criticism seemed to have been adequately executed by the great scholars of the Museum at Alexandria, and the results which they reached were not seriously questioned till the close of the last century. Since that period a succession of acute and too ingenious philologians in Germany, commencing with Tennemann and Schleiermacher, have undertaken to determine the legitimacy, the order, and the approximate dates of the several Platonic treatises, in accordance with their own notion of his latent meaning; and have rejected such of the Dialogues as failed to harmonize in form, finish, or sentiment with their preconceived views of the Platonic scheme. These criticisms, arrangements, and rejections do not accord with each other: there are continual dissonances among these organizers and repudiators. If they are followed, everything becomes a quaking bog beneath the feet of the inquirer. It is safer and more satisfactory to acquiesce in the conclusions of the ancients, who had means of judging at their command denied to us, and to receive as Plato's what has been received as Plato's under their authority. To this conclusion Mr. Grote comes after a diligent and minute examination of the Platonic canon, and of all that has been alleged on the part of the opponents. He shows that, the accepted canon rests upon the scheme of Thrasyllus, formed about the reign of Tiberius; that the canon of Thrasyllus rests upon the classification of Aristophanes of Byzantium, and the arrangements of the Alexandrian Library; that the Alexandrian critics probably derived their Knowledge, mediately or immediately, from Xenocrates and the early Academy itself; and that the Platonic documents were attested by their careful preservation, transcription, and collation in the Academy itself-the house and manuscripts of Plato having been bequeathed by him to the school. The chain of evidence is as complete as possible for the determination of the authorship of ancient works. The direct positive evidence is valuable and irrefragable, but limited. It is almost entirely confined to references in Aristotle to treatises with which he connects the name of Plato; references to passages in Plato, but without mention of his name; and references which can scarcely be explained otherwise than as references to evident passages in Plato. The Dialogues thus accredited are, first, the Republic, Timseus, and Laws; second, the Phaedon, Banquet, Phsedrus, and Gorgias; third, the Meno. Hippias Minor, and Menexenus; fourth, the Thevetetus, Philebus, and Sophistes; and lastly, the Politicus, Apology, Lysis, Laches, and perhaps the Protagoras, Euthydemus, and Cratylus.
The question of the canon is associated with several other difficult inquiries— the order of production and dates of the several works, their coherence and interdependence, their special aim, and their purpose as parts of a supposed Platonic system. There are no external testimonies or internal criteria by which the dates of production can be fixed. In some of the Dialogues events are mentioned which seem to determine the anterior limit of their composition, but reveal nothing as to later years. Some critics have supposed that the order or approximate dates could be settled by the relative age assigned to Socrates in each. This is very arbitrary and fantastical, and leaves no guidance but bold conjecture. Some critics assume that certain pieces appeared during the lifetime of Socrates, others immediately after his death, others again during the period of Plato's foreign wanderings, and a large portion of the remainder in an indicated succession after the institution of the Academy. Some philological legislators decide that the Phaedrus and such other Dialogues as may suit their fancy were the first fruits of his literary fecundity, in consequence of the joyous juvenility of their utterances, the uncastigated redundancy of imagination, and the poetic richness of expression. But the latest productions of Edmund Burke were the richest, the most ornate, fervid, and poetical.
It is impossible to discover the chronological order of the Platonic treatises. The wide diversity of opinion on the subject, the ingenious arguments employed by discordant scholars to confirm their own theories and to refute those of' others, attest this impossibility. There is as much divergence of view in regard to the sequence of the Platonic Dialogues as in regard to the dramas of Shakespeare. The hopeless uncertainty of all conclusions is assured by the similar characteristics of both authors. The productions of each were subject to continued revision and alteration; the first draft rarely, if ever, represented the ultimate form. Additions, suppressions, expansions, modifications, were from time to time introduced by both into their works, which were not published in permanent form, or thrown into circulation until after the death of their authors. Hence it is an utterly delusive procedure in either case to undertake to decide the date of production by tone by style, by doctrine, or by historical statement or allusion. The writings of Plato are not bounded by the accidents of time. They bear the impress of his hand, his heart, his soul, not at particular moments of his life, but are the flower and sum of his whole intellectual existence. Except in a few instances, which do not affect the totality of his instructions, there is no ascertainable before and after, but all stand upon the same chronological plane. The attempt to determine the order in which the several works of Plato was produced derives its chief interest from the aid thence expected in tracing the evolution of the Platonic doctrines, and the relation of each treatise to the rest. The inquiry is tempting, but, even if capable of satisfactory solution, would be more fruitless in the case of Plato than of any other philosopher. There is so little in Plato of a dogmatic character, so much of tentative, skeptical, and undefined exploration, that the chief result of such an investigation, if it were practicable, would not be the discovery of the process of development and expansion, but only the settlement of the sequence of published doubts.
The question of the connection of the Platonic writings early engaged attention. It seems to have been raised in the years immediately following Plato's death. The great critic Aristophanes of Byzantium, librarian of the Museum at Alexandria, put forth an arrangement of the more notable tractates of Plato in a system of trilogies, the members of each trilogy being determined by community of subject or correspondence of form and treatment. The Platonic exposition is, for the most part, so thoroughly dramatic that it might naturally suggest an arrangement analogous to that observed in theatrical compositions. But the adaptation of the mould to the Platonic writings is altogether arbitrary, and proved to be inadequate in the hands of its inventors. The Leges and Epinomnis were divorced from the Republic; the Crito and Phaedo were placed in a different class from the Euthyphron and the Apology. Only fifteen of the treatises were trilogized; the rest were ungrouped, and followed in single file. Grote thinks the arrangement may have been earlier than Aristophanes. The imperfections of the scheme are manifold, and provoked other distributions. By some critics his works were arranged in three classes:
1. The Direct, or dramatic; 2. The Indirect, or narrative; 3. The Mixed.
This disposition is awkward, insufficient, and indistinct. Only two, or at most three of the works of Plato are really narrative. All the rest are dialogues, and therefore dramatic; but these are composed of dialogues blended in varying proportions with narrative. Under the reign of the first emperors of Rome the Platonic remains were redistributed by Thrasyllus, to whom were due two distinct schemes. Imitating the example of Aristophanes, and guided by the same dramatic analogy, he disposed the whole recognized works of Plato in nine tetralogies, or groups of four each. The first tetralogy, in which a real community of subject and an orderly development are manifest, was formed of the Euthyphron, Apology, Crito, and Phaedo— which still lead the procession of the Corpus Platonicum in nearly all editions of Plato's works. But the tetralogies of Thrasyllus had no more chronological truth, and rarely more logical coherence, than the trilogies of the Alexandrian school. They do not seem to have satisfied himself, for he proposed another and totally diverse classification of the Platonic memorials, founded upon their form and aim rather than on their subject or supposed succession. In this plan Thrasyllus distinguished the Platonic treatises into I. Inquisitory; II. Expository. The Inquisitory productions were divided into, A. Gymnastic; B. Agonistic. The Gymnastic were subdivided into, 1. Obstetrical; 2. Peirastic, or Tentative; and the Agonistic into, 1. Confirmatory, or Monstratory; and 2. Refutatory. The Expository treatises were separated into, C. Theoretical, and D. Practical. Each of these contained two classes: the Theoretical—1. Physical; 2. Logical; and the Practical—1. Ethical, and 2. Political. The two schemes are exhibited by Grote in tabular form (Plato, vol. 1, ch. 4:p. 161, 162).
The ancients thus renounced the effort to reduce into a connected series the writings of Plato, either by the evidence of the order of their production, or by hypothetical indications of their logical and philosophical interdependence. Such disappointment did not cool the ardor or repress the audacity of the German philologians. Schleiermacher bluntly assumed that the various productions of Plato constituted preconceived and well-ordered parts of a systematic doctrine, contemplated in its integrity from the beginning of his career. Starting from this point, he undertook to detect by internal signs the periods of production, the relation of the parts to each other, the purpose of each treatise, and the constitution of the whole philosophy. Whatever did not accord with this scheme was set aside as a disconnected or incidental labor, or was rejected as a fraudulent pretence. Schleiermacher's views raised up a host of opponents, but a host of imitators of his procedure also. It is not appropriate to examine here the theory of Schleiermacher, or the theories of his antagonists; or to point out what has been admitted and what rejected by each of the acute disputants. The theses of Schleiermacher, Ast, Socher, C. K. Hermann, Stallbaum. Steinhart, Sisemihl, Munk, and Ueberweg are carefully stated, weighed, and judged in Grote's laborious and tedious work. The discussion is noticed here because it involves the decision of two very important points in the appreciation of the doctrine of Plato: Was there any unity of design in the literary productions of this philosopher? Is there any unity of execution, any methodical scheme of philosophy in them? In other words, did Plato contemplate from the commencement of his career the elaboration of that scheme which may be deduced from his works? Does each separate work bear, from the intention of its author, a definite relation, and render a definite service to any complete doctrine? Are the works of Plato to be considered parts of a system? or as, in the main, occasional and fragmentary presentations of disconnected parts of philosophical inquiry? These questions probe the whole significance of Plato's career and of the Platonic doctrine, and we assent substantially to the conclusions of Grote. The idea of a preconceived plan had been rejected by Ast, Socher, Hermann, Stallbaum, and others, before it was impugned by Grote. A system of philosophy is always a production of slow and gradual growth, requiring not merely long meditation and frequent re- examination, but favorable circumstances, so that it is rarely completed by its originator, except in method and broken outline. The philosophy of Comte is one of the few instances of complete organization by the author himself; the philosophy of Leibnitz an instance of the much commoner result of only fragmentary indication. The assumption of Schleiermacher is at variance with nearly all experience. Certain fundamental views in regard to principle or method, usually to both, for they are almost indissolubly connected, present themselves to the quick apprehension and creative imagination of the young philosopher. These long struggle to shape themselves into definite form. They are at first vague, though luminous; active, though indeterminate; indistinct in outline, though of penetrating radiance. As separate questions arise, they are discussed under the impulse and by the guidance of the new light: and each successive discussion renders this new force more distinct, more prominent, and more controlling. With the process of such expansion, new modifications and new applications are introduced, and it is only when an opportunity is afforded, after the performance of this course, for revising the chain of progression, that a philosopher is enabled to present his doctrine in harmonious integrity. Was this opportunity afforded to Plato, outside of the sphere of his acroamatic expositions? It may well be doubted, if not roundly denied. In his published works we find fragmentary revelations only, accompanied by incongruities and positive inconsistencies, which would surely have been absent from speculations complete in the mind of the philosopher, and not merely in various stages of development.
If there was no unity of purpose in the several productions, if they were never contemplated in their conception as parts of a general and concordant system, there could scarcely be any definite unity in their execution. The whole is composed of all its parts. The meditated whole may, indeed, be discerned "by the mind's eye" where several of the parts have been lost or never supplied, as any circle may be completed from a single arc, or from the broken segments of the same circumference. But that this may be done it is essential that all the members finished or preserved shall have the same curvature, shall have been described by the same radius revolving round the same center. This cannot be said, and cannot be supposed without violent presumptions, of the Platonic treatises. All that we know, and all that we can positively discern, is adverse to such an hypothesis. The style of Plato is singularly various: its variety is one of the most salient indications of the wealth, freedom, and activity of his genius. The structure of the several dialogues is so ingeniously diversified as to render them incapable of classification, and to make them, like the plays of Shakespeare, each a distinct species in itself. Plato's mode of procedure is as elastic as his style. The Socratic method of disputation may be usually retained, but its spirit is curiously changed in different applications, and its prominence is varied. The points of view, the central stations, are constantly shifted in passing from one dialogue to another, and, as a necessary result, the aspects presented are changed-the tendencies are dissimilar and the doctrines are uncoalescing. But more than this: very few of the treatises of Plato are constructive or dogmatical. Nearly all of them are simply negative or inquisitorial. The latter do not seek to maintain any dependence on the former. They are separated by the whole diameter of the intellectual sphere. It is only in a few of his works—presumably the late and still crude products of his old age, the second fruitage that never ripens-that Plato enounces principles which are neither inductions nor deductions, and propounds dogmas which are rather germs of undeveloped speculation than the partial representation of the conclusions of a system already completed and formulated. However greatly he may have travestied and sublimated the character of his teacher and philosophical protagonist, his procedure was in the main and throughout honestly and earnestly Socratic, and his aim was Socratic also. His object was not the establishment of a doctrine, but the stimulation of candid investigation, in order to free his hearers from the stagnation of thought and the obsession of vulgar or treacherous errors. He was not a doctrinaire, but an inquirer; or, rather, he taught the need and practice of investigation, not a body of conclusions. Undoubtedly there is an intellectual unity, vague, unformed, and in great measure unconscious, in the constitution of every man, there is a mental identity, through innumerable and often wide changes of opinion, in the entire career of every thinker, and this unity and this identity, intuitively recognized by the pupil or student, will suggest purpose where no purpose was present, and furnish the elements of an imaginary system which never revealed itself to its parent. To this cause may be largely assigned the strange and divergent developments of the Platonic philosophy in the several schools which sheltered their reveries under the prestige of his great name. It would lead us too far from our proper subject to pursue further this line of reflection. We return, therefore, to the text that there was no conscious scheme, no unity of execution, in the writings of Plato, and approve of the spirit in which they have been regarded by Grote, who says, "I shall not affect to handle them as contributions to one positive doctrinal system, nor as occupying an intentional place in the gradual unfolding of one preconceived scheme, nor as successive manifestations of change, knowable and determinable, in the views of the author. For us they exist as distinct imaginary conversations, composed by the same author at unknown times and under unknown specialties of circumstance" (Plato, vol. 1, ch. 6, p. 279).
The mode in which these questions may be decided regulates the interpretation to be given to the Platonic philosophy, both in the original conception of its author and in its subsequent developments. It explains the origin, the cause, and the filiation of the later divergences, and their wide separation from each other. It determines our appreciation of the nature and extent of Plato's services to his own and future times, fixes his position in the history of philosophy and in the development of human intellect. It affects our estimate of his relation to his disciples, to his country, and to his times, and, indeed, penetrates and colors every part of the criticism which may be hazarded on his personal and speculative career.
III. Relations to his Times. — For the just and adequate conception of Plato it is indispensable to ascertain his actual position in the Hellenic world, and his attitude towards Attic thought, the thought both of the general public and of the cultivated intelligences in that period of mental activity which followed the death of Pericles. To do this it is necessary to consider the remarkable mission of Socrates; for, however Plato may have transmuted and glorified his master, he unquestionably continued his labors in a higher sphere, and both spoke in his name and contemplated the same public results. The extreme democracy of Athens, which was only the fullest and most pronounced exhibition of the general Hellenic tendency, threw all power-political, social, and, we may almost say, religious-into the hands of the multitude. The populace became more willful, arrogant, and reckless after the demoralization produced by the Peloponnesian War and the plague. But the intractable Demus, described in burning lineaments by Aristophanes, is always under the guidance or at the mercy of demagogues, flatterers, and timeserving politicians. The sense of power produced in the masses the feeling of right, for with mere numbers "might is right;" and the execrable maxim, "Stet pro ratione voluntas," is the motto of an ochlocracy even more than it is of an autocrat. The mob cannot be led by considerations of abstract morality; it may be wheedled by persuasion, by adroit catchwords, by dexterous appeals to its whims, passions, and immediate interests. At Athens it had lost all reverence for the cardinal principles of right; it had been greatly corrupted by the incidents and consequences of the war; it was habitually misguided for selfish purposes by its dissolute leaders; gentleness, mercy, justice, prudence, were all discredited; and everything was sacrificed to momentary caprice, to insane suspicion, and to blind fury (Plato, De Rep. 8:10-13; Xenoph. De Rep. Ath. Oratores Attici, passim). In these respects the Athenians were merely the highest exemplification of the contemporaneous spirit of the Greeks. The leaders, who debauched the people, could hope to gain or to retain their ascendency only by encouraging the debauched sentiments by which they throve. Under these circumstances professed teachers visited the Greek cities and thronged to Athens, undertaking to communicate for pay the corroding arts by which the populace might be swayed, and office, power, honor, and emolument acquired. By the union of these bad influences truth lost all respect; virtue all authority; the sense of right was destroyed; every ancient rule, custom, or institution was deprived of its sanction; every venerable principle was brought into contempt; morality was supplanted by passion or apparent expediency; nothing stable was suffered to remain; words became jugglers' tools, reason was degraded to chicanery, casuistry, and sonorous plausibility; and specious rhetoric or ambiguous commonplaces took the place of wisdom. No hope could be entertained for the renewed health of society, for the welfare of the community, for the restoration of order in the state, till this vicious circle of delusions had been broken and suppressed. But the delusions, and the pernicious practices which attended them, were fortified by the conceit of knowledge and of practical sagacity; and this conceit could not be overcome without exposing the ignorance which it concealed, and compelling the vain tribe of blind leaders of the blind to confess their ignorance with shame and remorse. The most effectual mode of reaching this result might well seem to be the examination of the nature, import, and ambiguities of words, habitually and loosely used without reference to their special significance or insignificance; the investigation of the shadowy and unsettled notions attached to current phrases and accepted aphorisms; the discovery of the characteristics and relations of propositions, both in particular employments and in their general constitution; and the detection of the conditions under which valid conclusions might be drawn. Lessons of this character could not be effectually communicated to persons confident in their own knowledge and perspicacity, and contemning all who were of a different communion, otherwise than by propounding a series of interrogations growing not out of each other, but out of the answers to each question, and thus leading the respondents into a labyrinth of perplexities, absurdities, inconsistencies, and impotent confusion. No escape would then be left from the recognition of previous ignorance and error. The better natures would be stimulated to further inquiry, and to persistent efforts to attain a knowledge of momentous truths, or, at least, to abstain from the preconization of manifest uncertainties, unmeaning verbiage, or interested misrepresentations, as unquestionable truth. Now this procedure was the Socratic elenchus, and it was mainly conducted by means of the Socratic sorites-a most fallacious form of reasoning, but most piercing in unveiling the hollow pretensions of arrogant sophistry. It was a keen "examination of conscience," intended to lay bare the habitual sins of ignorance, false knowledge, and fraudulent conceit. It was not designed to teach anything but the knowledge of self, and the accompanying knowledge of ignorance disguised as wisdom. This was the true Nosce teipsum, and the ground on which the Delphic Oracle pronounced Socrates the wisest of men-because he professed to know nothing. It was a contrivance for sweeping away error, as the indispensable preliminary for the discovery of truth. It was not the announcement of truth, but the preparation for its reception. It was the preaching of repentance, which must precede, and might induce. the restoration of individual, social, and political health, morality, and welfare. We see from the testimony (of Plato, Xenophon, and even Aristophanes, to what cruel tortures, to what writhing reluctations, to what bitter reflections, to what irritating mortifications, the catechumenos in this strange school were subjected. Some went away penitent, some sought fuller knowledge, and attached themselves to the master with reverent love and eager desire to learn, some followed him to acquire the secret of his art, that they might apply it to the nefarious practices which he proposed to frustrate. Hence from the Socratic school issued Alcibiades, and Critias, and Charmides, and Xenophon—the mercenary soldier and enemy of his country. But the most of the disciples departed in rage and confusion, to feed upon their husks, to repeat their old practices, and to nurse enmity against the man and the process by which they had been exposed and brought to shame.
The vocation of Socrates was exercised in the dockyards, the workshops, the markets, the streets, and all places of public gathering. He straggled about, seizing upon every chance idler whom he might; and whom he fascinated, or button-holed, so that "he could not choose but hear." Plato changed the audience and the venue; but he pursued the same dialectical method as his instructor, for the same purposes, with the same distant prospects; but with greater elegance, higher culture, and in a loftier range of thought, illustration, and expression. Like Socrates, he aimed at coercing his hearers into an examination of the meaning of their terms and the contents of their propositions, single or connected, in order to induce them to put aside the misguiding and corrupting influences of the empty pretence of knowledge, and of sophistical rules of action. When this was achieved, something more might be attempted: till this was done, nothing beneficial could be expected. The teachings of Socrates and Plato might train men in the legitimate employment of language and the instruments of thought, but was not calculated for the establishment of systematic doctrine; and they had direct relation to the positive needs of the Hellenic communities of their time, rather than to the intellectual aspirations of a few cultivated minds. It these views be correct, it is manifest that Plato could neither have contemplated nor executed any rounded scheme of philosophy in the writings that remain to us; and we know that we possess all his important works. The philosophy that may be ascribed to him must therefore be patiently, and in some degree at least conjecturally, developed from the hints that he has given, and from the scattered tenets that he has expressed.
There is another peculiarity which points in the same direction. Artistic considerations, and the desire to reproduce the life of the time and the familiar intercourse of Athenians, may have induced Plato to adopt the form of dialogue in nearly all his compositions. The truer representation both of Socrates and of the Socratic mode of procedure may also have concurred in recommending the dramatic presentation of his inquiries. But the dialogue had another and still higher advantage for him: it enabled him to conceal his opinions, and to dissociate himself from any doctrines calculated to give offence, or that might give offence, to the irritable people of Athens. The fate of Socrates was always before his eyes; and with much more sincerity, as well as art, than Descartes, he evaded responsibility for his opinions lie did not only adopt the form of dialogue, but he made Socrates the principal speaker, illustrating the Socratic method under the mask of Socrates, and putting nearly everything of weight, moment, or originality into his mouth. He never appears in paropria persona. There is nothing to connect him before the Athenian dicasteries with any tenet in his writings. There is a constant avoidance of definite doctrine a frequent censure of written instruction, a continual reference to the obstetrical procedure, and a deliberate renunciation of all responsibility. Everything is thus adverse to systematic unity of any kind in the Copus Platonicum.
IV. Literary and Artistic Merits. — The dramatic form of nearly all the Platonic writings has just been mentioned as one of the instrumentalities by which the philosopher shrouded his personality, and withdrew himself from the malice of his fellow-citizens; but it constitutes one of the distinguishing excellences of his composition. Whatever construction may be put upon Plato's philosophic career, whatever value may be assigned to his speculations, whatever censures of his doctrines may be hazarded, his varied literary merits and graces have always won the most enthusiastic admiration. In a beautiful epigram on his great comic contemporary attributed to him, Plato says that the Graces found in the soul of Aristophanes a temple which should never decay. The comedies of Aristophanes were Plato's constant companions. He caught from them many delicate turns of expression and attitudes of thought; and he offered in his own Protean mind an equally imperishable temple for the habitation of the Graces. Plato probably owes much more of his immortality to the beauties of his compositions than he does to his philosophic splendor and profundity; and perhaps it was chiefly through the fascination of his manner that his doctrines secured the attention necessary for their appreciation and acceptance. The literary attractions of the Platonic writings furnish their first and most easily recognized claim to permanent renown, and can scarcely be regarded as accidental or undesigned characteristics. Plato's earliest efforts were in the direction of poetry. He is believed to have produced attempts of high pretension in the popular forms of poetic art. No literary apprenticeship equals poetical composition. When he first associated himself with Socrates he was full of dreams of political distinction, and he may have expected to derive from the intercourse the same aids for a political career which were derived by other illustrious pupils of the school. When he renounced the temptations of a political career, he converted to philosophic purposes all the knowledge of literary art and all the faculties of effective expression which he had acquired by his previous discipline. The result was a style unrivalled for variety, fertility, vivacity, ease, flexibility, and almost every form of literary excellence. The great difficulty of expression to say simple things simply, and ordinary things with propriety (difficile est communia dicere)— was never surmounted by any writer with such felicity as by Plato. None has approached him in the natural facility with which he changes the mood of expression with the changed mood of feeling, or with the requirements of the changing subject. He turns "from grave to gay, from lively to severe," with inimitable self-possession; rising without effort to the highest sublimities of imagination, descending without a fall to the playfulness of unchecked humor and poising himself in the middle air without hazard and without uneasy fluttering of his pinions.
The exuberance of the Greek vocabulary can be estimated only by comparing Aristophanes with Platonot that they exhaust its wealth. but that they have an ampler mastery of its treasures than any other writers of the tongue. In this comparison Plato will not appear inferior to Aristophanes in the extent of his possessions, in the happiness of their employment, or in the force of their combinations. Words are, however, only the currency of thought and feeling. The preeminent merit of Plato is equally manifest in the plasticity of his phraseology; the appropriate turns of expression—the homeliness at times, at times the rare magnificence of his diction; the close adaptation of the utterance to the sentiment, so as to furnish a perfect cast of whatever is intended to be conveyed, no matter how convoluted and intricate. To these qualities must be added the balance and harmony of all the instrumentalities of communication, and-that which most delighted an Attic ear-the rhythm and melody which are almost as imperceptible to moderns as "the music of the spheres" to those who know not "divine philosophy." These remarkable excellences are only aids for the fuller exhibition of higher characteristics of art. The drama was the favorite recreation of the Athenian people; their whole life was dramatic; their time was spent in the open air, "hearing or telling some new thing;" their political discussions were dramatic; their forensic controversies were thoroughly theatrical; their social gatherings and their street colloquies were all dramatic-and the dialogue was in consequence the natural representation of their daily existence, as well as of the customary procedure of Socrates. 'The Dialogues of Plato, at once artful and artistic, seemed wholly devoid of art, from their correspondence with the familiar usages of the people, and thus they won regard and ready acceptance, which might have been sturdily refused to a more demonstrative form of communication. Then, too, the dialogue enabled the author to turn and twist a question into every imaginable attitude and shape, and Plato reveled in the performance of such legerdemain. It furnished an opportunity of examining a thesis or a doubt on every possible side; of bringing forward and answering, modifying, appreciating, or evading, every conceivable objection; and of thus applying the Socratic elenchus in the most startling manner and with the best effect. It also enabled Plato to keep ever in the foreground his beloved teacher, who was elevated by his presentation, though dressed up so as to be incapable of recognition.
This prominence of Socrates points to another charm of the Platonic writings. We have little reason to believe that the Socrates of Plato was the man whom Xenophon described, whom Aristophanes ridiculed, whom the Athenians laughed at, whom Anytus and Melitus indicted, and who drank the hemlock in the public dungeon. The character presented was thoroughly unreal and wholly idealized; but it was a perfectly natural and consistent creation-as much so as Hamlet, Prospero, or Falstaff. It was a living portrait of one who had never appeared in that fashion in life. The same remarks may be extended to the other personages introduced into the magic mirror of Plate. The dramatic imagination is continually displayed by him with a power and a sagacity which might have been envied by Sophocles, by Aristophanes, or by Moliere. These lifelike personages, moreover, are not employed by him as vain puppets, or as pageantry to excite surprise or to decorate the scene. They have a sufficient sratio essecendi, and help forward all the graver purposes of the philosopher. How much more effective are the illustration and the pungency of the reasoning when they are the spontaneous outpouring of the thoughts and feelings of personages like ourselves and our acquaintances! Mr. Grote has shown the aim and the service of the endless questionings and inconclusive argumentation of Plato; and he has noted their partial correspondence with the unappreciated method of the schoolmen. Both procedures appear tedious, over-subtle, and absurd to modern apprehensions; yet they had their use, and might be revived with advantage. But the Platonic art renders the further service of bringing "home to men's business and bosoms" the grave perplexities which are discussed in so many forms and clothed in such chameleon hues; and also of making men take a lively interest in debates, which might otherwise be repelled as abstract refinements, devoid of practical interest and significance. The total neglect into which the great schoolmen have fallen, when contrasted with the unfading fame of Plato, may prove how much of his influence in every age has been due to his literary skill and the marvelous subtlety and perfection of his dialogue.
If we frankly and admiringly confess the variety and splendor of the Platonic style, we must not close our eyes to its occasional defects. The copiousness of his expression and the joy of indulging his genius certainly encouraged loquacity and a needless languor of movement. The richness of his imagination, lavished upon reveries, also led to turgidity and inappropriate gorgeousness of rhetoric. These defects were noticed by the ancient critics, and can scarcely be overlooked by the sober modern student (Dionys. Halicarn. De Vi Demosth. p. 956; Longin. De Sublim. c. 32. 29). There is the brilliancy, but there is also the extravagance of the Miltonic outbursts of fancy, and, as the language far outstrips the thought, it becomes obscure, like a cloud before the sun, whose darkness is deepened by the fringe of radiance on its borders.
It is not merely from this cause that Plato frequently lapses into obscurities and awkwardness. He is sometimes more concerned about his expression than about his thought. He dealt in reflections still vague to himself, and in mysteries not clear to his own mind. There was constant demand for the services of a Delian diver. The subjects which he handled were not only deep, but unfathomed by him; not only dark, but undefined. Their imperfect apprehension by himself was reflected by the indistinctness of his utterances. There was also a misguiding star by which he was often led astray and tempted into pathless intricacies. The imagination of Plato was the commanding faculty of his intellect, and he followed its beams too far. He was a poet by congenital propensity. Aristotle has said that the philosopher is a devotee of fable (φιλόμυθος ὁ φιλοσόφος πώς ἐστιν, Metaph. 1, 2, p. 982). Plato furnished the example and confirmed the dictum. He insisted upon the employment of philosophical fiction as the best means of popular education; and proposed to substitute it for the great poets-Homer, Pindar, and the Tragediansm— whom he condemned and excluded from his commonwealth. He was constantly indulging his poetic appetencies, inventing fables for the illustration of his positions, and converting his fables into philosophical verities. Were the Platonic Ideas at first anything more than fantastic dreams— "tenues sine corpore vitas?" This tendency, which grew with years, eventuated in mysticism; and mysticism is at best a luminous cloud, unsubstantial, impalpable, inapprehensible, however bright it may be.
V. Philosophy. — From what has already been observed, it will be evident that we could not ascribe to Plato a definite, distinct, coherent, and complete body of doctrine. But philosophy, in its original application, and peculiarly in the Socratic school, imported the love and pursuit of truth and wisdom, without assuming their actual attainment. In the philosophy of every sect, the method of inquiry and the germs or fundamental principles constitute its distinctive characteristics and excellences, and determine its ulterior developments, whether wrought out by the founder of the school or by his successors. Thus, though we may deny to Plato the full creation of a philosophic system, we must admit that he laid the corner-stone and some of the foundations of a system; that he opened out new paths of inquiry and broadened old ones, that he stimulated investigation by characteristic modes, and communicated a potent impulse in a particular direction, and that he furnished new and pregnant germs of thought to be cherished into ample growth and production by those who should come after him. These germs are scattered through his writings without reciprocal connection; but they may be discovered, harmonized, and combined. Though their meaning may appear diverse to different minds, their combinations be variously established, and their developments be strangely divergent, yet a general accordance in the constitution of all the expositions will maintain the family likeness, and attest the presence of a distinctive and fruitful thought undisclosed body of thought in the original founder of the sect. It is this body of thought, indicated, but unequally and imperfectly revealed, in the Platonic treatises-extracted from them, and coordinated by a succession of acolytes, who professed to find it in the authentic texts-which constitutes the philosophy of Plato. Partly in consequence of the length of this notice, partly in consequence of the impossibility of referring the connected scheme in its connected form to Plato, it will be presented in brief outline under the head of SEE PLATONIC PHILOSOPHY.
VI. Services and Influence. — A few remarks may be added here on the character and tendency of the Platonic teachings, as no appropriate place will be found for them in the proposed examination of the Platonic doctrine. The aim of Plato was to bring his people to a knowledge of their intellectual sins, and to a confession of ignorance and guilt in their pretensions and practices, in order that a foundation for truth might be discovered, and the rules of correct action and upright conduct might be established and observed. His main object was to confute intellectual chicanery, to dispel delusion, and to lead men to an eager desire for justice, righteousness, and wisdom. For his greater pupil, Aristotle, was reserved the task of building on the ground which he cleared from wreck and ruin and poisonous weeds. But the vast and magnificent structures of the Stagirite are the best proof of the valuable service which Plato rendered. The domination of sophistry was ended by the career of Socrates and the institution of Plato's Academy. In various modes, earnest men addressed themselves to the search for truth, and ceased to wander after "sounding brass and tinkling cymbals." Healthy thought, eager purpose, and honest resolution were reawakened throughout the realm of Hellenic intellect, and, though devious paths were pursued, and dissimilar resting-places accepted as the goal, all prosecuted their investigations with a single eye to truth, and not as the means of fraudulently gaining personal advantage. As the Knights of the Round Table separated in the quest of the Holy Grail, which only one achieved, so the philosophers of Greece, after Socrates and Plato, traveled by different routes to reach the same end, though Aristotle alone accomplished the task which all contemplated the pursuit of the summum bonum, or supreme good, became after Plato the special object of all philosophy (Cicero, De Fin. Bon. et Mal.). Divergent were the tracks of the inquirers, and dissimilar the forms of good which were contemplated, but with all the schools virtue and happiness, which was its promised fruit, were the aim. The utter rottenness of the communities of Greece, the irreparable disintegration of Hellenic society, prevented the new spirit from infusing health into the diseased political fabric; but the unexampled integrity of Lycurgus, and the exalted morality of Demosthenes in his Orations, both alleged pupils of Plato, may be taken as evidence of the wholesome reaction produced. To the lofty and pure sentiments of Plato, even more than to the beauty of his style, may be applied the observation of Quintilian: "Ut mihi non hominis ingenio sed quodam Delphico videatur oraculo instructus" (Or. Inst. 10. 1, 81).
The philosophy and the habitual sentiments of Greece were purified and elevated by the teachings of Plato, and the world never wholly lost the vantage-ground which had thus been gained. There is indeed nothing more remarkable in the history of Greek intellect than the purity of sentiment, the spirituality of aspiration, the adoration of virtue and holiness and justice and right, the fervid enthusiasm for a virtuous life, irrespective of consequences, and the intuitive apprehension of the highest precepts of morality, which shine through all the writings of Plato. They are blended, occasionally, it is true, with coarse views contracted from the habitual practice of the pagan world around. Some of these views are too disgusting to be commemorated here. Others are aberrations unworthy of Plato. When he advocates the community of goods and the community of women, and the paternal abnegation of children, in the governing class of his ideal commonwealth, we see how far fantasy betrayed him into pernicious error (De Rep. 5). There was no greater service rendered to humanity by Aristotle than his confutation of these dangerous and immoral extravagances. But when we contemplate the positions of Plato in regard to the perfections of God, to the nature of virtue and holiness; when we consider his declaration that man should assimilate himself to the Deity, that God is the source of good, but not of evil, that the regeneration of the spiritual nature is not to be attained by argumentative reasoning, and cannot be taught as a science or an art; when we regard his assertion of the immortality of the soul, his belief in future retribution, his allegation that the highest truth must be revealed, his delineation of the Son of God (τοῦ θεοῦ ἔγγονος)it is impossible to overlook his vast superiority over all former schemes of morality, and his near approximation to the doctrines of Christianity-some of which he announces almost in the language of the apostles. We know no more terrible and sublime picture than the passage in which he depicts the dead presenting themselves for judgment in the other world, scarred and blotched and branded with the ineradicable marks of their earthly sins (ψυχὴν...διαμεμαστιγωμένην καὶ οὐλῶν μεστὴν ὑπὸ ἐπιορικῶν καὶ ἀδικίας, § ἕκαστῳ ἡ πρᾶξις αὐτοῦ ἐξωμόρξατο εἰς τὴν ψυχήν, κ.τ.λ. Goig. c. 80). Yet this is but one of many analogous passages. This approximation to revealed truth is among the most insoluble problems bequeathed to us by antiquity. It has often been thought that Plato derived much of his theological and ethical doctrine from the Hebrew prophets, either circuitously or by direct acquisition during his supposed travels in Palestine. But his tenets are not to be found in those prophets in such a form as to be apprehended by a Gentile; nor can they be detected in them except through the illumination of the later revelation. It has been alleged that the spiritual interpretation of these utterances, which gives them their startling significance, is unwarrantably deduced from the Neo-Platonists, who were posterior to the evangelists. But the tenets are in Plato's text, were commented on by Cicero, and affected the speculation of Philo-Judaus, before Christianity had secured definite establishment, or Neo-Platonism was distinctly constituted. It has been suggested that these anticipations of the teachings of the Great Master are hesitating and only problematic-dreams thrown out as possibilities, the vague longings of the ecstatic fancy but the mystery remains; how could such dreams and longings arise in the midst of paganism, and of Athenian degradation and corruption? We offer no solution of the enigma, which awaits its (Edipus. We only note the existence of the riddle. There are marvels in the life of men and of nations which no plummet in man's hands can fathom, but which justify the conviction that, as the spirit of God brooded over the face of the deep, and brought order and beauty and life out of chaos, so it incessantly broods over the dark confusion of earthly change, regulating all issues, and preparing the world, in the midst of manifold disorder, for the higher and purer phases of being for which it is designed, and towards which it is blindly striving.
We are not of the number of those who accept without inquiry the tenets of Plato, or approve the whole tendency of his teachings. We are of another school. We recognize however, that his aims are always noble, and that an invigorating morality breathes through nearly all his writings. To him we are indebted for many glorious visions of supernal beauty, which beam upon us like the unattainable stars disclosed through rifts in the clouds which envelop the earth. But the philosophy of Plato is essentially mystical, and consequently unsubstantial; and, though mysticism may inflame, spiritualize, and refine natures already spiritual and refined, it is heady and intoxicating, and apt to justify willful aberrations, and to place every fantastic conviction on the same level with confirmed truth. The Socratic elenchus, with its appropriate instrument, the Socratic sorites, is invaluable in certain rare conjunctures, but it is a dangerous procedure. It reveals the baselessness of error, but it weakens all convictions; and it was a natural consequence of its employment that Platonism so soon passed into the skepticism of the New Academy. The spirit of Plato's philosophy is throughout idealistic, though it is not pure idealism; and idealism, in all its forms, inevitably runs into pantheism, which resolves everything into phenomenal evolutions of divinity, and thus destroys the distinctions of right and wrong, and all moral responsibility. Hence, when the best of the Romans under the later republic and early empire experienced the necessity of corroborating the moral sense, and instituting a rigorous rule of conduct, it was not to the Platonists but to the Stoics that they recurred. Notwithstanding the purity of' Plato's sentiments, his devotion to the abstract and ideal in preference to the actual, and his absolute submission to the tyranny of his rich imagination, tempted him into political and social heresies of the worst type of communism.
It is thus necessary to distinguish between the various tendencies of the Platonic doctrine, and, while admiring with reverent enthusiasm its rare excellences and elevating impulses, we must not overlook the germs of corruption which were also present, and which. like rust on iron or mould on bread, contaminated the wholesome body on which they preyed.
VII. Literature. — The literature of Platonism is endless. A complete collection of the works treating of this subject, directly or indirectly, would equal in extent the Library of Alexandria, and would include the writings of all subsequent philosophers. The professed historians of philosophy necessarily devote a large share of attention to Plato and his speculations; and in the treatment of the subsequent developments of metaphysical inquiry they are constantly compelled to refer to his system, in its original or derivative form, in consequence of the unceasing influence which it has exercised on the highest and most abstract departments of human thought. The special treatises which have been written on the general philosophy of Plato, or on particular Platonic theses, are practically innumerable. Under these circumstances it would be a cumbrous and inappropriate task to undertake to present here a Platonic bibliography. Such a labor would be inevitably incomplete, if fullness were contemplated. A selection of the best or most accessible authorities would be open to many objections, on the score of both omissions and admissions. It would be, moreover, a vain repetition of what has already been done in a sufficient manner by the historians of philosophy. It is consequently more advisable to direct attention to the copious enumeration of illustrative treatises found in the notice of Plato in Ueberweg's History of Philosophy, and to specify here only those recent works which are most useful or most accessible to the English student.
The basis of all intelligent study of the Platonic doctrine must, of course, be the writings of Plato. Of these there are three versions in the English language. Henry Rogers complained, nearly thirty years ago, that there was no translation creditable to English scholarship, the only complete attempt being that of Thomas Taylor, the Platonist, whose sins and imbecilities are severely castigated by him. This translation is, The Works of Plato, viz. his Fifty-five Dialogues zandt Twelve Epistles, translated from the Greek. Nine of the Dialogues by the late Floyer Sydenham and the remainder by Thomas Taylor, with occasional Annotations on the Nine Dialogues translated by Sydenham, and copious Notes by the latter Translator, etc. (Lond. 1804, 5 vols. 4to). At the very time of Rogers's complaint a new and respectable version was on the eve of appearance: The Works of Plato, a New and Literal Version, chiefly from the Text of Stallbaum, by Henry Cary and others (Bohn, Lend. 1848, 6 vols. sm. 8vo). A third and admirable version, recently produced, satisfies the desires and removes the grounds of censure expressed by Rogers: Jowett, The Dialogues of Plato,
translated into English, with Analyses and Introductions (republished N. Y. 1874, 4 vols. 8vo). A new and revised edition of the work has recently appeared.
The other aids deserving of notice in this connection are, Day, Summary and Analysis of the Dialogues of Plato (1870, 8vo); Grote, Plato and the other Companions of Socrates (2nd ed. 1867, 3 vols. 8vo); Lewes, Biographical Hist. of Philosophy; Rogers, Essays, "Plato and Socrates" (in the Edinb. Rev. April, 1848, art. 1); Zeller, Plato and the Older Academy, translated by Alleyne and Goodwin (Lond. 1876,8vo). It may be added that indispensable assistance is still rendered by Cicero's Quaestiones Academicae, etc., by Cudworth's Intellectual System of the Universe, and by Brucker's elaborate exposition of the Platonic tenets in his well-known Historia Critica Philosophiae. (G.F.H.)