Hippias is so stupid that he cannot even grasp the difference between a definition and an example. Not even the logical lesson is mastered, and without it we may be sure that the inquiry into the nature of Beauty cannot go very far. Yet the logic of the Hippias Major, limited as it is by the limitations of Hippias' intelligence, has positive value for our inquiry. For this logic is the valid logic of the inductive method and its usefulness compares favourably with some of the more capricious systems employed in other Platonic dialogues.
But Socrates, Aris- totle goes on to observe, did not turn universals and defini- tions into separate realities as did the Platonic school. As we have already shown, the chimaeric substantiation of concepts in this way lies at the root of Plato's Theory of Ideas and haunts him still, even where he has discarded the Theory. Logically speaking, Plato represents a step back- wards from Socrates, or at any rate a deviation from the straight line between Socrates and Aristotle.
The Hippias Major, then, is a Socratic rather than a Platonic dialogue, and indeed, until recent years its genuine Platonic author- ship was seriously challenged. In it, no universal definition is reached, but the instances from which such a definition must be induced are ably and ingeniously deployed. After all, the very brevity of the work - it occupies thirty-seven pages of the Oxford text - disclaims anything more am- bitious.
At this point, just because the Hippias Major offers such a valuable starting-point for our discussion, it would be well to make a short summary of the dialogue. The conversation opens with some brief skirmishing in which Hippias, un- conscious of Socrates' irony, boasts complacently of his knowledge and the money it has earned him. Socrates then with insidious humility raises the question of beauty, and asks, ostensibly on behalf of a third, unnamed party, for a definition of that quality.
Hippias, as we have observed, has had no experience of definitions and offers examples instead. His first suggestion is that beauty is evident in a beautiful maiden. Socrates points out that a beautiful mare and a beautiful lyre are also beautiful. Hippias agrees, but when Socrates wishes to add to these examples a beautiful pot he is inclined to rebel. Even in the sophist's hazy and unphilosophic mind there is a distinction between beauty which is associated with passion and beauty which is the object of mere approval. But Hippias, while conceding such an object as beautiful, objects that a pot is not beautiful as compared with a maiden.
This gives Socrates the opportun- ity to add that a beautiful maiden is not to be compared with a beautiful goddess. A maiden compared with a god- dess is as a pot compared with a maiden. Other definitions are now attempted. Hippias suggests that gold is always beautiful. But Socrates reminds him that Pheidias' gold and ivory statue of Athena had eyeballs of stone. Why was the statue not all of gold if gold is always beautiful? Hippias admits that gold is only beautiful when appropriate, and Socrates, pressing the point, despite protests against vulgar instances, elicits the admission that a figwood ladle is more appropriate to its work than a gold one, and that it is con- sequently more beautiful.
Hippias attempts a further "definition" based on moral beauty. It is in all circumstances, he declares, beautiful to possess health, wealth, and reputation, to live long, give honourable burial to one's parents, and ultimately to meet with the same pious treatment at the hands of one's children. This involves him in awkward mythological consequences. Surely, it would not have been beautiful if Achilles, re- quired to choose between death and glory in youth on the one hand and an undistinguished old age on the other, had opted for the latter!
And in any case, how could the divinely born or begotten heroes bury their divine and immortal parents? Socrates now begins to lead the argument. Notions of beauty as "useful" or beneficial are both rejected, and the final interesting suggestion envisages beauty as pleasure received through the medium of sight or hearing - a con- cept to which we shall give close attention at a later stage, for it occurs elsewhere in Plato's writing. We thus find in the Hippias the various classes of beauty with which we are ourselves familiar.
Functional beauty, which is out- raged by the substitution of a gold for a figwood ladle, is closely related to formal beauty. The basic ingredient is harmony. In formal beauty, shapes, colours, and sounds are united on some single principle to make a pattern. Accord- ing to the British aesthetician, Bernard Bosanquet, unity in variety was the sole valid aesthetic principle for which the ancient Greeks could take credit. However, unity in variety was certainly a callistic principle of which Greek philosophers from the earliest times had been acutely conscious, and it must not be forgotten that we owe to the Pythagoreans our realiza- tion of the essentially mathematical nature of musical har- mony.
Clearly, we owe our sense of functional beauty to the same feeling for harmony that is stirred by formal beauty; a diversity of effort and device is co-ordinated by a unifying purpose, or different purposes are co-ordinated in a single work with a result which gives greater stimulus to each. The principle of unity and variety holds good. So it comes about that formal and functional beauty easily mix, as in the instance of the beautiful mare cited by Socrates. The creature might be appreciated as admirably adapted for some particular human purpose - say, drawing a chariot.
Or the disposition of its limbs and the glossiness of its coat might in themselves unite to suggest energy, control, and vitality. Even when we arrive at personal and moral values, the sense of harmony - of unity and variety that is to say - per- haps still plays an important part. The beautiful maiden suggested by Hippias as an obvious example of beauty may perhaps be judged by the same canons of harmony as a horse or an artefact.
Our appreciation may also be func- tional. And then again - what of Hippias' standards of filial piety and their inherent moral beauty? Surely, here also there is a fittingness, a propriety of behaviour comparable to the propriety of the figwood ladle. Yet Hippias is somehow right in feeling a difference between personal and moral beauty on the one hand and inanimate beauty on the other.
He acquiesces uneasily in the examples of a beautiful mare and a beautiful lyre, perhaps because of the exalted human associations which these objects evoke. But even the most magnificent work of pottery, he finds, belongs to a lower order of beauty than the maiden. Socrates' insistence that a beautiful goddess is superior to a beautiful pot is an ade- quate logical answer to anything that Hippias can say in defence of his own instinctive predilections, but of course the complete inability of Hippias to reduce any sentiment to a thought is the main point of the dialogue.
The modern reader must feel very much as Hippias did. The difference between a goddess and a maiden is much smaller than the difference between a maiden and a pot. For even if the modern reader has not had much experience of goddesses, he may nevertheless recall Dante and Beatrice and many other great idealized loves in history and literature. Roman- tic beauty easily leads us to the sublime, but formal and functional beauty in animals or in inanimate creation seem to belong to another order. The difference surely comes with the advent of personality. CHAPTER I Romantic Beauty in Plato We concluded our introduction with the remark that beauty seemed to be of two kinds : the formal, intellectual, functional beauty on the one hand and the passionate, romantic, and often sublime beauty on the other.
This change of quality appears to be brought about wherever personality is involved in the beautiful object. At the same time, we must ask ourselves : are we not, by dividing beauty in this way, falling into Hippias' error? Beauty is a single appellation which may reasonably be expected to denote a single reality. If we divide our reality into two, then in one case the name must be misapplied, or applied only in virtue of some casual association; or else in one so-called class of beauty something has been superadded which does not exist in the former.
Something like this seems to have hap- pened in our argument, for did we not say that beauty was transformed at the point where it came into contact with personality? And ought we not then to say that beauty is the sense of harmony present in personal as in impersonal beauty, and that romantic or religious passion are stimu- lated not by beauty but by the personality which happens to be associated with it? In this case we should go on to add that our attraction or repulsion by another personality is not a question of beauty but of goodness, and we should agree with Bosanquet that when the Greek philosophers included morality as beautiful "Greek aesthetic unques- tionably cast its net too wide".
Yet if we probe our personal experience, some instinct surely calls for the re- jection of this conclusion. There is a difference between loving and being in love. For when we love our neighbours in the manner of the good Samaritan we are following love's discipline, but this is quite distinct from love's vision, which, as the Russian existentialist, Nicolai Berdyaev, 1 points out, is responsible for the more sensational exclamations of many Christian mystics and for a consequent flavour of heresy which often outraged more matter-of-fact theolo- gians.
Beauty in personality would thus appear comparable with an intimate chemical compound, not a mere physical mixture, and the fact that it seems to crave a common appellation with the impersonally beautiful argues that it is somehow associated with such impersonal beauty. The association, however, may be profound or casual. If it is casual, then our duty is to break it by the use of distinguish- ing nomenclature. If on the other hand it is profound we shall know that we have discovered the ingredient or power which exists no less in detached intellectual delight than in ardent personal passion.
This ingredient or power will then deserve the name of Beauty. We are here so close to Plato's thought that it is desirable to turn once more to the study of his writings. For in differ- ent passages scattered throughout the Dialogues we find that Plato has in his own quite unsystematic way devoted a great deal of attention both to personal romantic beauty and to the cooler impersonal intellectual beauty.
The con- nexion between the two is not so easy to discover from his writing, so far from that indeed that a critic might well de- spair of the attempt. Thus Professor R. Hackforth writes in his commentary on the Philebus: "He Plato approaches Beauty now not from the standpoint of erotic mysticism, but from that of aesthetic analysis. To seek to 'harmonize' these approaches is futile, for Plato's thought resists forcing into a single mould. Berdyaev, Spirit and Reality, translated by O. Clarke, Uni- versity Press, Glasgow, Moreover, if we may take the reader into our confidence at this early stage, we must admit to hav- ing a secret - a secret belief that the two approaches can be harmonized, and that the evidence for such harmony can be discovered in Plato's own writing, if only one knows where to look!
It would perhaps seem more orderly to begin by con- sidering those passages in Plato which are concerned with impersonal beauty, since this, at any rate in Hippias' scale of values, appears to have been thought of as a lower stan- dard of beauty and from an evolutionary point of view might well be considered as prior to personal beauty. Actually, however, we shall do just the opposite, and our reasons for doing so are as follows.
Firstly, the Symposium, which better than any other dialogue illustrates Plato's view of romantic beauty, also contains passages which are of consequence when we wish to consider intellectual beauty, so that rather than any other dialogue it should be taken as as basis for comparison between the two. Secondly, a more sustained and systematic account of romantic beauty is given in the Symposium than is accorded to any kind of beauty anywhere else in Plato's works.
The Phaedrus might be considered as a possible rival in this respect, and we shall certainly be right in studying it in connexion with the Symposium, but on examination the Phaedrus seems to provide us with a more detailed and minute study of what is merely a single stage or aspect of the system in the Symposium, The Symposium is therefore the more comprehensive authority on the subject and should be taken first. Between them, the Symposium and the Phaedrus more nearly approach an organ- ized account of romantic beauty than anything which can be assembled from Plato's observations in the correspond- ing field of intellectual beauty.
Perhaps also, I should apologize for vague terms like "romantic" and "intellectual" - especially "romantic" in connexion with Greek thought - but de- finition is our goal and not our starting-point, and it is ex- pected that such terms will be familiar to the reader through association. The ability to convey meaning through associa- tion is an advantage which the philosopher enjoys over the mathematician. It is only of supreme importance that he should know when his use of words is associative and when terminological, i. Let us then talk about the Symposium. The title of this dialogue is sometimes translated as "The Banquet", but this is to be deplored.
The coincidence of title with Mr Eliot's play would then seem hardly an accident, for the theme and mood of the two works is curiously similar. Both works achieve their atmosphere in circumstances of refined conviviality, where an intimate "drink-together" among intellectuals leads to an intimate "talk-together". In both works also the theme is that of sublimated passion - though in the Greek work the emphasis falls on homosexual pas- sion.
This may seem distasteful to a modern reader of nor- mal susceptibilities, but to allay any sense of outrage we shall say more on this subject at the end of the present chap- ter. The story of the famous party is told by a man called Apollodorus to his friend some sixteen years after the party itself is supposed to have occurred - for we cannot be ab- solutely certain how far the occasion was historical and how far a literary prototype based on the actuality of many such parties. Apollodorus had heard the story from Aristo- demus, a devoted follower of Socrates, and Aristodemus was apparently "following" Socrates at the time when the narrative opened, for it happened that Agathon, the young tragic dramatist, was celebrating his recent stage success, and Socrates was invited to the celebration.
It appears that Socrates took the liberty of bringing Aristodemus along with him and then absent-mindedly forgot where he was go- ing, so that Aristodemus turned up rather embarrassingly in the manner of a gate-crasher at Agathon's house well in advance of the philosopher. Agathon, however, understand- ing the situation at once, immediately puts the unbidden guest at his ease, and Socrates himself arrives on the scene soon after.
Other guests were Phaedrus, a pupil of Hippias, the sophist whom we have already met, Pausanias, a close friend and literary admirer of Agathon, Eryximachus, a medical man, and Aristophanes, the great comic poet, eleven of whose works have been preserved for posterity. Of Agathon's own works nothing has survived, and this is a pity, for in Aristotle's Poetics we may find some tantalizingly interesting information concerning his dramatic output.
It appears that he wrote tragedies, as a modern dramatist might, with fictional characters and no reference to the tra- ditional themes of Greek tragedy. He was also something of a critical theorist and based his plots on the principle that "it was probable that something would happen contrary to probability". Aristotle blames him for trying to cover too wide a field of action in one of his plays and also for conforming to the later practice of inserting irrelevant choral odes ; his importance, however, is beyond dispute and our lack of any extant work from his pen represents a serious gap in our knowledge of Greek drama.
Agathon's party apparently followed an even more bibu- lous meeting on the previous night, and the fact that some of his guests had barely recovered from the effects of it was responsible for their decision to make it an evening of organized talking rather than organized drinking. Each of them agrees to make a speech in praise of love, and indeed each one of them in his own way is an artist in words, but Socrates, when called on to contribute, insists on analysis rather than eulogy of love's power.
Socrates has just time to finish his speech amid general applause when the party is interrupted - and eventually disrupted - by the arrival of an extraordinary drunken character, noisily attended. This is Alcibiades, one of the most "talked of" men in Athens, whose many-sided personality in the course of his life ex- hibited him to the public imagination successively as play- boy, philosophical dilettante, military hero, star of Athen- ian progressive politics, criminal, traitor, lady-killer, the saviour of his country, and finally the uttermost of "out- siders" that ever have been.
Alcibiades throughout his life suffered from very few inhibitions, and on the night when he turned up, gracefully drunk, at Agathon's party to crown the victorious poet with ivy, violets, and ribbons from his own head, he was feeling even less inhibited than usual. In answer to his demand that the company should drink, Eryximachus urges that Alcibiades also should con- tribute a speech in praise of love. Intellectual powers may become the object of physi- cal passion, just as physical beauty may be the object of balanced intellectual appraisal, and it appears that in the days of Alcibiades' adolescence, when his youthful beauty was the sensation and scandal of Athens he had formulated a deliberate plan to captivate and corrupt Socrates.
The plan had hopelessly miscarried. Not only had Socrates proved himself quite incorruptible, but he had not even been shaken out of his attitude of benign serenity by the precocious boy's shameless advances. After such a testi- mony, not surprisingly, organized conversation breaks down and gives way to general drinking. The last thing which Aristodemus remembers is Socrates in argument with Agathon and Aristophanes concerning the respective functions of tragic and comic poetry.
By the time that the two playwrights had fallen asleep it was already dawn. Socrates and Aristodemus quietly left the house. The philo- sopher then had a good wash and went about the day's business. It is hoped by the foregoing account to convey something of the atmosphere of the Symposium to those who have not yet read it; the dialogue, however it is one of Plato's great- est , owes its organic unity to something more than atmo- sphere. Socrates' speech, in which love is analysed as the love of beauty, gives summary expression to what is a com- plete callistic theory, yet the speeches of the previous speakers must not be regarded as irrelevant or simply super- seded by Socrates' words.
The effect is cumulative. One speech affords a starting-point or debating-point for an- other; and the final revelation of Alcibiades is designed to show that Socrates is no mere sophist, but is perfectly cap- able of putting into practice the principles which he has just eloquently expressed.
Our present concern, however, is with Socrates' speech in particular. For love implies de- sire, and desire argues a lack of that which is desired ; and love which is aimed at beauty and goodness must conse- quently lack those qualities. Agathon accepts the refutation good-naturedly and Socrates immediately begins to enlarge on the argument. As usual when putting forward a positive and construc- tive view, he disclaims knowledge himself and attributes his thesis to a mythical third person. On this occasion he cites as his authority a "wise woman" of Mantinea called Dio- tima.
Mantinea was a town in the north Peloponnese, but the choice of locality is explicable as a punning reference to the Greek word meaning "prophecy". Socrates, also, ac- cording to this own account, had once considered love beautiful, but Diotima had disabused him of the idea by the use of such arguments as he had just employed against Agathon. Moreover, it follows that love is not, as Agathon pronounced, a god - for the gods are good and beautiful. At the same time, it is impossible to think of love as ugly, and the conclusion is that love is a "daemon" or spirit, in- termediate between the human and the divine.
Love is not beauty but the desire for it, just as philosophy is not wisdom but the desire for it. The possession of great qualities begins with a sense of deficiency, and it was Socrates' own modest claim to distinction that he realized better than other men the extent of his own ignorance. However, it becomes neces- sary to distinguish the love of beauty from the love of the good. All men love what they conceive to be the good in the sense that they desire it; but what is this special passionate desire which we understand by the phenomenon of "being in love"? Those who are physically in love beget human children in the ordinary way, but it is possible also to be spiritually in love and to beget acts of heroism and self- sacrifice.
The desire for beauty and the desire for immor- tality are closely allied, and while we may perpetuate our- selves instinctively in our offspring in the way that the ani- mals do, the acquisition of an immortal reputation offers a higher and more satisfying means to self-perpetuation. Man's fulfilment of his destiny depends on his power to wean desire from physical objectives and concentrate it upon sublime ambitions, and Plato realized that a homo- sexual attachment provided an even keener stimulus to such sublimation than did a normal one.
Alcibiades' confession and, more particularly, what is said in the Phaedrus on the same subject prove that Plato was not blind to the degrad- ing dangers of such attachments, yet at the same time temp- tation to the perverse is often closely linked with a call to the sublime - simply because the path of mediocrity is closed. Sometimes there is no middle course between hero- ism and cowardice, sanctity and corruption ; and this situa- tion may occur through some crisis or coincidence in life - as it occurred to Joseph Conrad's hero in Lord Jim - or it may come about through an ingrained disposition in per- sonal character.
Certainly one must admit that an educa- tional system or spiritual "askesis" founded on such situa- tions is an all-or-nothing, a sink-or-swim venture. So, according to the system ascribed to Diotima, the lover of a handsome boy must turn his attention from the love of one to the love of many such beauties. This, of course, is a step upwards, for the love of many must not be con- fused with the love of any.
The lover of personal beauty wherever it is found cannot hope to become the paramour of personal beauty wherever it is found, and to that extent the physical outlet is dammed and a reservoir of power created for spiritual ascent. From the love of physical beauty in general the lover must now turn his thoughts to 24 GREEK AESTHETIC THEORY beauty of mind and character, and he will of course be helped in this if he can at first discover beauty of mind and body in a single person, but later he is content if chance throws in his way even a poorly endowed young friend whom by his own superior knowledge and experience he is able to help.
Here a new factor apparently comes into play, a sense of "strength made perfect in weakness". The em- phasis is no longer on contemplation but on conduct. The period of spiritual tumescence has ceased and given place to spiritual procreation. At this point the lover turns away from personal beauty altogether and ardently immerses him- self in the activities and laws of civic life, where also he dis- covers a field of beauty. This exalted passion in turn gives way to study and philosophy where contemplation is closely linked to original thought and output.
The final step on the Platonic ladder is taken when the aspirant to immortality perceives Beauty first as a universal quality pervading all creation and secondly as an eternal Idea detachable from it. Here we cannot follow Plato too closely without becom- ing involved in his controversial Theory of Ideas, but it would seem that in the Symposium he envisages a state of beatitude in which virtue has become effortless delight, so spontaneous that there is no distressing period of tension between the tumescence which Beauty excites and the Good which is begotten on Beauty.
The shadow no longer falls between "the emotion and the response". Turning from the Symposium to the Phaedrus we find that while not co-extensive their themes overlap. Or rather - there is a substantial portion of the Phaedrus which can be regarded as an expansion of the erotic philosophy outlined in the Symposium. Even this statement needs modifying, for it is only the lower rungs of the spiritual ladder, the stages in which Beauty still adheres to the personal, that receive fuller treatment in the Phaedrus.
Before commenting, how- ever, we should perhaps place before the reader a few general facts about this other great dialogue. Phaedrus himself is of course the speaker of the Symposium, Hippias' pupil, and in the course of a country walk with Socrates by the banks of the Ilissus he discusses a rhetorical exercise by the orator Lysias, in which animal passion is paradoxically exalted over romantic ardour. The argument is rather similar to the line of talk adopted by D.
Lawrence and his school in the thirties. Nature is upheld at the expense of human nature. Civilized impulses are regarded as mere perversions of primitive innocence. Man must return to the animal, not advance to the divine. Challenged to make a similar speech, Socrates launches an attack on romantic love; he has noth- ing, however, to say in favour of animal appetite, and soon revokes even his denunciation of love.
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This revocation con- stitutes the portion of the dialogue with which we are at the moment mainly concerned. When it is finished, the conversation turns once more on the subject of rhetoric in general. What is here said concerning literary values is of considerable interest but of no particular relevance to the foregoing analysis of erotic passion and its sublimation. As we have observed, the dialogue lacks the unity of the Sym- posium, since the discussion of rhetoric and the discussion of love are only very loosely linked by the circumstance that love happens to be the chosen subject of the rhetorical exercise originally submitted for criticism.
Let us, however, consider Socrates' "revocation", for in so far as it takes the form of a eulogy on love one naturally places it beside the similar eulogies of the Symposium. It be- longs to the "set". In some respects, however, it exhibits a difference of tone from the Symposium - a difference which is only faintly adumbrated in Alcibiades' confession to- wards the end of the latter dialogue. Socrates' speech in the Symposium enlarges upon the glorious potentialities of subli- mated passion.
We may compare the treatment of erotic passion in the two dialogues with two aspects of modern psychiatry. Sublima- tion must be accompanied by suppression. The reservoir is tapped for power only after the uncontrolled torrent has been dammed. Psychiatry has distinguished between "re- pression" and "suppression". The former denotes the non- recognition of an instinct and constitutes a kind of self- deceit.
Love and Beauty in Plato s philosophy
The latter implies a refusal of immediate outlet to a well-recognized impulse. The superficiality of the journalist often confuses the two processes under the single head of "inhibition". For "suppression" is old-fashioned morality, sublimation a great invention of modern science, and "repression" one of the habits that are supposed to have gone out with Queen Victoria.
The journalist of course must always be in fashion. So while he extols sublimation and denounces repression or "inhibition" , he remains silent on the subject of suppression. He could not possibly recommend anything so out-of-fashion, however commend- able. It is hoped, however, that modern students of Plato's theory of beauty will have diluted the muddy concoctions which journalese thought pours willy-nilly down our throats with the clearer draughts of more scholarly and critical reading, and that consequently in turning from the Sym- posium to the Phaedrus they will feel that they are doing noth- ing retrograde, even though the latter dialogue suggests that discipline and self-control and resistance to temptation and other such outmoded concepts play an essential part in spiritual progress.
Socrates' account of love in the Phaedrus is elaborated with reference to a parable of fallen nature - literally fallen. But whereas the horses of the gods are equal to their task and eager for it, the human chariot is betrayed by one of the horses on which it is forced to rely, a vicious and refractory brute, unworthy of his noble yoke- mate who responds so well to the prompting of the chariot- eer. So it comes about that human souls never quite attain to the full panorama or to the "Plain of Truth" on which their horses are pastured, and they eventually fall back to earth with nothing but a dim memory of the sublime ex- perience which they once briefly enjoyed, benighted in a world whose phenomena are meaningless save when they serve to fan that memory to a slightly warmer glow.
In Heaven, we are told, some souls were more successful than others in following the gods to their glorious vantage point, and in these the memory of divine realities persists more strongly. Such souls become philosophers in their sublun- ary existence, and less privileged souls become kings, states- men, business-men, athletes, medical men, religious functionaries, poets or artists, artisans or farmers, sophists or demagogues, and last of all tyrants - in descending order of merit according to the purity of vision which they en- joyed above the heavens.
The myth of course has an important bearing on Plato's theories concerning the transmigration of souls, according to which the intuitive basis of knowledge is explained as re- collection of a previous existence. With such theories, how- ever, we are not here concerned, and it is not necessary to follow their development in the Phaedrus. What does con- cern us is the history of those souls which have tumbled to earth, their wings bruised and broken by vain attempts to hold their own in the milling field of charioteers who fol- lowed the gods.
The soul's recollection of past glories is very dim, but certain semblances of beauty, especially those discovered by the lover in his beloved, re- mind it so strongly of the original celestial Beauty which it knew before its incarnation in a world of mere semblance, that its crippled and shorn wings are stimulated to fresh growth; and with this growth there occur the growing- pains which are the commonplace of romantic personal re- lationships. For while the driver, aided by the good horse, is trying to rediscover his heavenly home and to muster such strength and inspiration as will enable him to return to it, his sense of nostalgia is aggravated by the refractory per- formance of the bad horse which does everything in its power to drag him downwards into animal sensuality.
Only philosophers, who enjoyed the clearest vision in their celestial existence and who followed the chariot of Zeus, greatest and wisest of gods, in its career to the zenith, are proof against this treacherous element in their own nature. Those who followed Ares or some slightly lower deity, though capable of noble comradeships, cannot be guaran- teed against degrading lapses. If we wish to compare the accounts of sublimated passion given in the Symposium and the Phaedrus there are one or two interesting points to be noted.
The Phaedrus concentrates on that stage in the philosopher-lover's progress in which he is still enamoured of a single person. Sublimation takes place in so far as the power of physical appetite is eventually directed into spiritual channels and harmonized with a lofty sense of beauty; this sublimation, however, is achieved within the framework of single, lifelong, "marriage of true minds". There is no question of progressing from the love of one beautiful body to the appreciation of beauty in many, in the manner prescribed by the Symposium.
For we are told that those who followed Ares in their heavenly career will tend to seek lovers of "martial" and forceful character, whereas those who followed Zeus are more restrained and philosophic. Thirdly, there is a sug- gestion that Plato did not dissociate his erotic concept of beauty from his more formal and intellectual callistic no- tions, such as we have seen foreshadowed in the Hippias Major for in the Phaedrus we are told that beauty is appre- hended chiefly by the eye, since this is the clearest of the senses.
It is worth remembering that the word for "seeing" in Greek is etymologically germane to that which denotes "knowing", and the same is true in other Indo-European languages. If pressed to name the second "clearest" sense, Plato would hardly have done other than name that of hearing, for after the eye the ear is indisputably the finest minister to the intellect.
The most important way, however, in which the Phaedrus differs from the Symposium is, as we have already indicated, in its sense of guilt, its almost Christian concept of fallen nature and original sin as embodied in the symbol of the vicious horse. As in the Symposium, the very essence of the personal relationship envisaged in the Phaedrus is its homo- sexual nature.
Yet here, much more than in the Symposium, is evidence that Plato, himself a homosexual even among Greeks, 1 considered carnal homosexuality vicious, just as he considered sublimated homosexuality holy. He also clearly thought that the spiritual possibilities of such relationships as he described justified the risks which attended them. A brief consideration of Plato's attitude towards sex in general will convince us of the consistency of his outlook.
In the Hippias Major a we are told that the sexual act pre- sents so repulsive and ugly a sight that it can be performed only where there are none to witness it. In the tenth book of the Republic he writes with dis- gust of the spasms of weeping and laughter, for they are irrational and uncontrolled. This is a view with which it is easy enough to sympathize.
A spasm in so far as it is irra- tional lacks formal beauty, and sexual orgasm is one of the least rational and controlled of all spasms. The act becomes beautiful, however, when it is associated with procreation and birth. These associations not only rationalize it, but enlist it in the cause of immortality; and immortality, ac- cording to Plato's argument in the Symposium, is the contri- bution of Beauty to Goodness.
Men not only desire what is good but desire that the good should be theirs for ever, and the act of procreation, whether of a sublimated and spiritual order or of the natural and physical order, is also an act of regeneration, renewing life in its products. There is nothing here alien to the modern view. The sexual act, though ugly on the face of it, is rendered beautiful by virtue of its asso- ciations with birth, regeneration, and nurture.
Deprive it of these associations, and one is left only with the ugliness - as in a homosexual act. We are discussing the purely aesthetic or callistic, as we should say in deference to the termin- ology originally adopted point of view; and though it might be pleaded that the force of such associations is no weaker in a homosexual act than in a heterosexual act of predictable infertility, average sentiment finds in the conjunction of male and female an indispensable symbol if the act is to be redeemed.
Here modern feeling is certainly not at variance with Plato. The modern student, however, may part company from him over the question of sublimated homosexuality, especially when the dangers of such sublimation are ad- mitted - and Plato does in the Phaedrus admit them.
It would be pretentious to claim a keener and finer moral sense, more easily appalled by risks of this kind. For it can be demonstrated that our objections are not moral. Indeed, were they not betrayed by an unguarded moment, 1 like the homosexual lovers referred to in the Phaedrus c?
Clearly, we are not disgusted by immoral- ity, and an adulterous liaison may impress us as noble even though sinful. It is all too easy to sanction taste as "good" merely because it happens to be one's own. Thus Jowett, in his preface to the Symposium, writes: "Nor does Plato feel any repugnance, such as would be felt in modern times, at bringing his great master and hero into connexion with nameless crimes. He is contented with representing him as a saint, who has won the 'Olympian victory' over the temp- tations of human nature.
Jowett considered it a glaring fault of taste that Plato should have referred to such an incident. For chronological reasons Jowett was, of course, unacquainted with the theories of Freud and might have maintained that certain offences were better left nameless. Nevertheless, as a clergy- man he must have known that temptation does not in itself constitute sin even if Socrates had felt tempted , and he seems to admit that, on the contrary, temptation overcome is an occasion of merit. One suspects from the passage quoted that Jowett would have been less offended at a heterosexual sin than at a homosexual temptation; and in this he is representative not only of nineteenth-century but of twentieth-century public opinion.
Ma solo un punto fu quel che ci vinse. The propriety of the term "romantic" in connexion with Greek thought of the classi- cal period has already seemed to call for comment and apology. It is hoped, however, that the foregoing chapter will have done much to justify the term. Not only has our use of the word "romantic" admitted the popular associa- tions of erotic passion but also the more literary suggestions of emotion accentuated by conflict and nostalgia.
So we now undertake to examine Plato's concept of harmonious beauty, fully conscious of the antithesis implied in the ideas of conflict on the one hand and harmony on the other. I would also like to draw the attention of all students of later European literature and critical thought to the pertinence of this inquiry to the great classical-and-romantic anti- thesis-one might almost say "controversy" - which has dominated our literary and artistic culture for the last three centuries.
It is not too much to claim that if we suc- ceed in establishing a synthesis between a notion of beauty apprehended through conflict on the one hand and har- mony on the other, we shall have gone far towards recon- ciling the classical and romantic ideals upon a common basis. In English literature we find the dilemma neatly pre- sented by Jane Austen in Sense and Sensibility, where she makes her hero say: "I like a fine prospect, but not on picturesque principles.
I do not like crooked, twisted trees. I admire them much more if they are tall, straight, and flourishing. I do not like ruined, tattered cottages. I have more pleasure in a snug farmhouse than a watch-tower, and a troop of tidy, happy villagers please me better than the fin- est banditti in the world. It is perhaps one of the advantages of classical studies that they enable us to consider our problems, as it were, at arm's length. The ancient Greek and Roman world is sufficiently remote to allow a detached and cool view of matters which have become controversial under the stress of their im- mediacy.
At the same time, the Greco-Roman heritage is first and foremost the birthright of modern Europe, and because of this we are able to identify ourselves with the doubts and aspirations of antiquity in a way which would be quite impossible if we based our literary culture on, say, Chinese or ancient Indian studies. Even the Arab civiliza- tion which bloomed so healthily in the eleventh century, mainly owing to Greco-Roman inspiration, was soon to be smothered and sand-choked by the Islamic desert wind.
With such considerations in mind, let us apply ourselves once more to the Platonic dialogues. As we have already suggested, Plato's treatment of intellectual beauty is by no means so systematic or complete as is his development of the romantic approach in the Symposium and Phaedrus. Con- sequently, we shall be dealing with passages in which our theme is scantily glanced at, often by way of asides or obiter dicta; but for this very reason we shall be able to avail our- selves of one facility which we did not enjoy in the previous chapter.
It will be possible to quote the fragmentary material with which we are concerned instead of contenting ourselves with a resume. Here, in translation, is an impor- tant passage from the Philebus which strikingly develops the idea already outlined in the Hippias Major, namely that Beauty is pleasure through the medium of eye and ear. Protarchus asks what pure pleasures are and receives the following answer from Socrates: "They centre in those colours and forms which we describe as beautiful, as well as in odours for the most part and sounds and all those things which are unheeded and painless in their absence, though their presence is felt and fraught with unalloyed pleasure.
Socrates: Well, I suppose that what I have said is far from clear, but I will try to clarify it. By beauty of form I do not mean, as is commonly meant, the creatures of nature and pictorial art. But let us put it like this : I mean straights and curves and all that a lathe, rule, or square may produce from them in plane and solid form.
Do you grasp my mean- ing? These, I maintain, are not instances of relative beauty, like other things, but are eternally and essentially beautiful, conveying their peculiar pleasure, which is utterly dissimilar from the pleasure of scratching. There are, more- over, colours in which the same type of beauty and pleas- ure is inherent. Do you understand? Protarchus: I am doing my best, Socrates. Will you please do your best to be clearer. Socrates: What I mean is this: steady, clear reverberations of sound, emitting a single melodic line which is tonally pure, are beautiful essentially and not in virtue of any ex- ternal relationship: and the pleasure which attends such beauty enjoys the same kind of independence.
Protarchus: That is so. Socrates : Odours of course are productive of a less sublime type of pleasure. Protarchus: I do. Socrates : Then let us also add the pleasures of learning, if we can assume that these contain no element of hunger and that any pre-existing hunger is in such cases painless. Protarchus: I would agree to that assumption. Socrates: But consider this: a satiety of learning may be fol- lowed by forgetfulness with consequent depletion. Do you still detect no element of pain in such pleasures?
Protarchus: None that is felt instinctively, but reflection on the experience may prove painful in cases where our learn- ing constituted a useful asset and its loss is regretted. Socrates: Precisely, my good fellow, but we are at the mo- ment concerned only with instinctive experience which is un- tempered by reflection. Protarchus : In that case you were right. The forgetting of what we have learned is not a painful process. Socrates : These pleasures then must be regarded as unmixed with pain, appealing not to the common man but to a very select few.
Whereas the Sym- posium investigated the relationship of Beauty to Goodness, the foregoing passage is concerned with Beauty in relation to Truth. Our enjoyment of colours, forms, and tones is allied to the pleasure which we take in learning and intel- lectual activity. According to Socrates' explicit argument the point of similarity resides in the "painlessness" and pur- ity of all such pleasures, but a little reflection will reveal that their "painlessness" is no coincidence, for the enjoy- ment of colours, forms, and tones is itself essentially intel- lectual and therefore associated with "learning".
Elementary perceptions of colour, form, and tone supply us with those fundamental notions of kind and degree without which thought is im- possible. Seeing and hearing, as long as their objects are abstract and mathematical and free from any material asso- ciations are intellectual pleasures, and such pleasures only become tainted when the abstract form which gives rise to them receives some concrete embodiment.
However, the passage which we have quoted from the Philebus sharply accentuates the contrast between intel- lectual and romantic beauty, and would seem to make re- conciliation between the two concepts, if anything, more difficult. Intellectual beauty is essentially painless and effortless, yet romantic beauty, as we saw in the Symposium and Phaedrus, is attained after suffering and endurance as a result of a deliberate application of the will. Yet Plato cer- tainly does not envisage two types of beauty with nothing but a casual association to justify the common appellation, for when he tells us that the pleasures of smell are less sublime than those of sight and sound, we are reminded of the relationship between beauty and sublimity as it is ex- plained in the Symposium, The sublime literally "the divine" is that which possesses the characteristics of im- mortal deity.
It is the eternal. We naturally ask: if sublime and eternal joys are available to the soul in elementary intellectual pleasure, why should it need to embark on the arduous spiritual "askesis" outlined in the Symposium and the Phaedrus? The answer must be that the epithet "sublime" admits of comparison. We are told that odours are less sublime than sights and sounds. Presumably, then, sights and sounds may be less sublime than other forms of ex- perience, for example, the experiences described in Plato's accounts of erotic aspiration.
The two approaches to beauty can only be reconciled on some- thing like the following hypothesis : Both intellectual and romantic sublimity in its full attainment represent an unalloyed delight in harmony. The sublimity which is the object of romantic aspiration is higher than an intellectually apprehended sublimity, be- cause the former absorbs the soul's entire experience, whereas the latter is a blessed moment which stirs us to evanescent ardour before it fades.
The vision of absolute beauty described in the Symposium is, on the contrary, as Plato expressed it, "neither waxing nor waning". To the extent that the effect of intellectual beauty is evanescent it may seem that Plato has wrongly described it as "painless". The mere transience of delight is in itself an occasion of pain.
But this point has been anticipated by Socrates when he pleads that learning is a painless pleasure, even though we may lament forgetfulness of what we have learnt. There is no pain inherent in the experience itself as there is in the pleasure of "scratching" or the pleasure of cold water to a fevered throat. If, however, we contrast intellectual beauty not with the beatitude which crowns romantic aspiration in its triumph but with romantic aspiration itself, we realize that such aspiration, mixed as it is with pain and evil, with a sense of guilt and unachieved harmony, is to that extent inferior to the primitive and untainted intuitions of form, colour, and tone.
Plato has clearly indicated the relation- ship between romantic aspiration and ultimate beatitude, but he has not marked so clearly the relation between in- tellectual beauty and beatitude. We are obliged therefore to deduce that he views the soul as emerging from innocence into the conflict of experience. Here it strives to impose upon experience the formal harmony which it appre- hended in innocence and, if it succeeds, attains to a fuller and more permanent bliss of which formal delight was merely a fleeting promise.
In collating a system from scattered and fragmentary references it is all too easy to take observations out of their context or to give undue weight to obiter dicta. Furthermore, we have already noted that Plato, just as he will frequently jettison logic in pursuit of an intuition, will also on occasion doggedly pur- sue logic for logic's sake in the very teeth of his own fervent belief. In the Philebus, which to some extent represents an experiment with a new logical system, it would not be sur- prising if we arrived at a certain amount of un-Platonic thought.
So let us test the callistic views expressed in the dialogue for their Platonism. For the concept of Beauty as pleasure reaching us through eye and ear, we have, of course the support of the Hippias Major; but this does not go quite far enough. In the Philebus Socrates is made to insist very strongly on the distinction between pure forms and colours on the one hand and the creatures of Nature and pictorial art on the other.
The same distinction seems to be implied in his designation of one pure series of musical notes as an unalloyed pleasure. He contemplates such a series of notes in isolation from musical art as an almost mathematical phenomenon. His insistence on the "purity" of melody probably means that there must be no verbal accompaniment, though music without words was, among the Greeks, quite exceptional.
In the Laws, on the contrary, Plato seems to censure "songs without words" e , but he is here blaming such compositions for their lack of moral content, whereas in the Philebus he is thinking of sound as a natural source of pleasure unrelated to artistic composition. The requirement of purity also seems to preclude the distor- tion of the musical intervals, a common contemporary practice to which Plato apparently objected in any circum- stances. In the Philebus, a fortiori, since his concept of pure pleasure is almost mathematical, any circumstance which blurred the distinction of units would be unacceptable.
It is in any case easy to appreciate the parallel between forms and colours which imply no natural object on the one hand and gradations of musical tone which imply no explicit meaning on the other. In claiming, however, that the passage quoted from the Philebus represents Plato's considered view of the subject we expose ourselves to one very pertinent objection, which must be disposed of before we can with clear conscience proceed in our argument.
In the Republic c Plato writes: "The devotees of audible and visible pleasure gladly entertain beautiful sounds, colours, and forms and every- thing which may be created from these. Yet their minds are not capable of perceiving and entertaining the nature of beauty itself. To believe in relative beauty merely "is not to live but to dream", and he whose attitude is dominated by such an in- adequate belief makes the mistake of the dreamer.
He con- founds similarity with identity. We are therefore bound to question whether the beautiful sounds, colours, and forms of Republic b are to be identified with the pure colours, forms, and tones of the Philebus, for if they are to be so identi- fied the contradiction is glaring and bewildering.
The latter are not relative. But no other Dialogue of Plato has the same largeness of view and the same perfection of style; no other shows an equal knowledge of the world, or contains more of those thoughts which are new as well as old, and not of one age only but of all. Nowhere in Plato is there a deeper irony or a greater wealth of humour or imagery, or more dramatic power. Nor in any other of his writings is the attempt made to interweave life and speculation, or to connect politics with philosophy.
The Republic is the centre around which the other Dialogues may be grouped; here philosophy reaches the highest point cp, especially in Books V, VI, VII to which ancient thinkers ever attained. Plato among the Greeks, like Bacon among the moderns, was the first who conceived a method of knowledge, although neither of them always distinguished the bare outline or form from the substance of truth; and both of them had to be content with an abstraction of science which was not yet realized.
He was the greatest metaphysical genius whom the world has seen; and in him, more than in any other ancient thinker, the germs of future knowledge are contained. The sciences of logic and psychology, which have supplied so many instruments of thought to after-ages, are based upon the analyses of Socrates and Plato.
The principles of definition, the law of contradiction, the fallacy of arguing in a circle, the distinction between the essence and accidents of a thing or notion, between means and ends, between causes and conditions; also the division of the mind into the rational, concupiscent, and irascible elements, or of pleasures and desires into necessary and unnecessary--these and other great forms of thought are all of them to be found in the Republic, and were probably first invented by Plato. The greatest of all logical truths, and the one of which writers on philosophy are most apt to lose sight, the difference between words and things, has been most strenuously insisted on by him cp.
But he does not bind up truth in logical formulae,-- logic is still veiled in metaphysics; and the science which he imagines to 'contemplate all truth and all existence' is very unlike the doctrine of the syllogism which Aristotle claims to have discovered Soph. Neither must we forget that the Republic is but the third part of a still larger design which was to have included an ideal history of Athens, as well as a political and physical philosophy. The fragment of the Critias has given birth to a world-famous fiction, second only in importance to the tale of Troy and the legend of Arthur; and is said as a fact to have inspired some of the early navigators of the sixteenth century.
This mythical tale, of which the subject was a history of the wars of the Athenians against the Island of Atlantis, is supposed to be founded upon an unfinished poem of Solon, to which it would have stood in the same relation as the writings of the logographers to the poems of Homer. It would have told of a struggle for Liberty cp.
We may judge from the noble commencement of the Timaeus, from the fragment of the Critias itself, and from the third book of the Laws, in what manner Plato would have treated this high argument. We can only guess why the great design was abandoned; perhaps because Plato became sensible of some incongruity in a fictitious history, or because he had lost his interest in it, or because advancing years forbade the completion of it; and we may please ourselves with the fancy that had this imaginary narrative ever been finished, we should have found Plato himself sympathising with the struggle for Hellenic independence cp.
Laws , singing a hymn of triumph over Marathon and Salamis, perhaps making the reflection of Herodotus where he contemplates the growth of the Athenian empire--'How brave a thing is freedom of speech, which has made the Athenians so far exceed every other state of Hellas in greatness! Again, Plato may be regarded as the 'captain' 'arhchegoz' or leader of a goodly band of followers; for in the Republic is to be found the original of Cicero's De Republica, of St. Augustine's City of God, of the Utopia of Sir Thomas More, and of the numerous other imaginary States which are framed upon the same model.
The extent to which Aristotle or the Aristotelian school were indebted to him in the Politics has been little recognised, and the recognition is the more necessary because it is not made by Aristotle himself. The two philosophers had more in common than they were conscious of; and probably some elements of Plato remain still undetected in Aristotle. In English philosophy too, many affinities may be traced, not only in the works of the Cambridge Platonists, but in great original writers like Berkeley or Coleridge, to Plato and his ideas.
That there is a truth higher than experience, of which the mind bears witness to herself, is a conviction which in our own generation has been enthusiastically asserted, and is perhaps gaining ground. Of the Greek authors who at the Renaissance brought a new life into the world Plato has had the greatest influence.
The Republic of Plato is also the first treatise upon education, of which the writings of Milton and Locke, Rousseau, Jean Paul, and Goethe are the legitimate descendants. Like Dante or Bunyan, he has a revelation of another life; like Bacon, he is profoundly impressed with the unity of knowledge; in the early Church he exercised a real influence on theology, and at the Revival of Literature on politics.
Even the fragments of his words when 'repeated at second-hand' Symp. He is the father of idealism in philosophy, in politics, in literature. And many of the latest conceptions of modern thinkers and statesmen, such as the unity of knowledge, the reign of law, and the equality of the sexes, have been anticipated in a dream by him.
The argument of the Republic is the search after Justice, the nature of which is first hinted at by Cephalus, the just and blameless old man--then discussed on the basis of proverbial morality by Socrates and Polemarchus-- then caricatured by Thrasymachus and partially explained by Socrates-- reduced to an abstraction by Glaucon and Adeimantus, and having become invisible in the individual reappears at length in the ideal State which is constructed by Socrates.
The first care of the rulers is to be education, of which an outline is drawn after the old Hellenic model, providing only for an improved religion and morality, and more simplicity in music and gymnastic, a manlier strain of poetry, and greater harmony of the individual and the State. We are thus led on to the conception of a higher State, in which 'no man calls anything his own,' and in which there is neither 'marrying nor giving in marriage,' and 'kings are philosophers' and 'philosophers are kings;' and there is another and higher education, intellectual as well as moral and religious, of science as well as of art, and not of youth only but of the whole of life.
Such a State is hardly to be realized in this world and quickly degenerates. To the perfect ideal succeeds the government of the soldier and the lover of honour, this again declining into democracy, and democracy into tyranny, in an imaginary but regular order having not much resemblance to the actual facts. When 'the wheel has come full circle' we do not begin again with a new period of human life; but we have passed from the best to the worst, and there we end.
The subject is then changed and the old quarrel of poetry and philosophy which had been more lightly treated in the earlier books of the Republic is now resumed and fought out to a conclusion. Poetry is discovered to be an imitation thrice removed from the truth, and Homer, as well as the dramatic poets, having been condemned as an imitator, is sent into banishment along with them. And the idea of the State is supplemented by the revelation of a future life.
The division into books, like all similar divisions Cp. Sir G. Lewis in the Classical Museum. The natural divisions are five in number;-- 1 Book I and the first half of Book II down to the paragraph beginning, 'I had always admired the genius of Glaucon and Adeimantus,' which is introductory; the first book containing a refutation of the popular and sophistical notions of justice, and concluding, like some of the earlier Dialogues, without arriving at any definite result. To this is appended a restatement of the nature of justice according to common opinion, and an answer is demanded to the question--What is justice, stripped of appearances?
The second division 2 includes the remainder of the second and the whole of the third and fourth books, which are mainly occupied with the construction of the first State and the first education. The third division 3 consists of the fifth, sixth, and seventh books, in which philosophy rather than justice is the subject of enquiry, and the second State is constructed on principles of communism and ruled by philosophers, and the contemplation of the idea of good takes the place of the social and political virtues.
In the eighth and ninth books 4 the perversions of States and of the individuals who correspond to them are reviewed in succession; and the nature of pleasure and the principle of tyranny are further analysed in the individual man. The tenth book 5 is the conclusion of the whole, in which the relations of philosophy to poetry are finally determined, and the happiness of the citizens in this life, which has now been assured, is crowned by the vision of another.
Or a more general division into two parts may be adopted; the first Books I - IV containing the description of a State framed generally in accordance with Hellenic notions of religion and morality, while in the second Books V - X the Hellenic State is transformed into an ideal kingdom of philosophy, of which all other governments are the perversions. These two points of view are really opposed, and the opposition is only veiled by the genius of Plato.
The Republic, like the Phaedrus see Introduction to Phaedrus , is an imperfect whole; the higher light of philosophy breaks through the regularity of the Hellenic temple, which at last fades away into the heavens. Whether this imperfection of structure arises from an enlargement of the plan; or from the imperfect reconcilement in the writer's own mind of the struggling elements of thought which are now first brought together by him; or, perhaps, from the composition of the work at different times--are questions, like the similar question about the Iliad and the Odyssey, which are worth asking, but which cannot have a distinct answer.
In the age of Plato there was no regular mode of publication, and an author would have the less scruple in altering or adding to a work which was known only to a few of his friends. There is no absurdity in supposing that he may have laid his labours aside for a time, or turned from one work to another; and such interruptions would be more likely to occur in the case of a long than of a short writing.
In all attempts to determine the chronological order of the Platonic writings on internal evidence, this uncertainty about any single Dialogue being composed at one time is a disturbing element, which must be admitted to affect longer works, such as the Republic and the Laws, more than shorter ones. But, on the other hand, the seeming discrepancies of the Republic may only arise out of the discordant elements which the philosopher has attempted to unite in a single whole, perhaps without being himself able to recognise the inconsistency which is obvious to us.
For there is a judgment of after ages which few great writers have ever been able to anticipate for themselves. They do not perceive the want of connexion in their own writings, or the gaps in their systems which are visible enough to those who come after them. In the beginnings of literature and philosophy, amid the first efforts of thought and language, more inconsistencies occur than now, when the paths of speculation are well worn and the meaning of words precisely defined.
For consistency, too, is the growth of time; and some of the greatest creations of the human mind have been wanting in unity. Tried by this test, several of the Platonic Dialogues, according to our modern ideas, appear to be defective, but the deficiency is no proof that they were composed at different times or by different hands. And the supposition that the Republic was written uninterruptedly and by a continuous effort is in some degree confirmed by the numerous references from one part of the work to another.
The second title, 'Concerning Justice,' is not the one by which the Republic is quoted, either by Aristotle or generally in antiquity, and, like the other second titles of the Platonic Dialogues, may therefore be assumed to be of later date. Morgenstern and others have asked whether the definition of justice, which is the professed aim, or the construction of the State is the principal argument of the work.
The answer is, that the two blend in one, and are two faces of the same truth; for justice is the order of the State, and the State is the visible embodiment of justice under the conditions of human society. The one is the soul and the other is the body, and the Greek ideal of the State, as of the individual, is a fair mind in a fair body.
In Hegelian phraseology the state is the reality of which justice is the idea. Or, described in Christian language, the kingdom of God is within, and yet developes into a Church or external kingdom; 'the house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens,' is reduced to the proportions of an earthly building. Or, to use a Platonic image, justice and the State are the warp and the woof which run through the whole texture.
And when the constitution of the State is completed, the conception of justice is not dismissed, but reappears under the same or different names throughout the work, both as the inner law of the individual soul, and finally as the principle of rewards and punishments in another life. The virtues are based on justice, of which common honesty in buying and selling is the shadow, and justice is based on the idea of good, which is the harmony of the world, and is reflected both in the institutions of states and in motions of the heavenly bodies cp.
The Timaeus, which takes up the political rather than the ethical side of the Republic, and is chiefly occupied with hypotheses concerning the outward world, yet contains many indications that the same law is supposed to reign over the State, over nature, and over man. Too much, however, has been made of this question both in ancient and modern times. There is a stage of criticism in which all works, whether of nature or of art, are referred to design. Now in ancient writings, and indeed in literature generally, there remains often a large element which was not comprehended in the original design.
For the plan grows under the author's hand; new thoughts occur to him in the act of writing; he has not worked out the argument to the end before he begins. The reader who seeks to find some one idea under which the whole may be conceived, must necessarily seize on the vaguest and most general. Thus Stallbaum, who is dissatisfied with the ordinary explanations of the argument of the Republic, imagines himself to have found the true argument 'in the representation of human life in a State perfected by justice, and governed according to the idea of good.
The truth is, that we may as well speak of many designs as of one; nor need anything be excluded from the plan of a great work to which the mind is naturally led by the association of ideas, and which does not interfere with the general purpose. What kind or degree of unity is to be sought after in a building, in the plastic arts, in poetry, in prose, is a problem which has to be determined relatively to the subject-matter. To Plato himself, the enquiry 'what was the intention of the writer,' or 'what was the principal argument of the Republic' would have been hardly intelligible, and therefore had better be at once dismissed cp.
Is not the Republic the vehicle of three or four great truths which, to Plato's own mind, are most naturally represented in the form of the State? Just as in the Jewish prophets the reign of Messiah, or 'the day of the Lord,' or the suffering Servant or people of God, or the 'Sun of righteousness with healing in his wings' only convey, to us at least, their great spiritual ideals, so through the Greek State Plato reveals to us his own thoughts about divine perfection, which is the idea of good--like the sun in the visible world;--about human perfection, which is justice--about education beginning in youth and continuing in later years--about poets and sophists and tyrants who are the false teachers and evil rulers of mankind --about 'the world' which is the embodiment of them--about a kingdom which exists nowhere upon earth but is laid up in heaven to be the pattern and rule of human life.
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No such inspired creation is at unity with itself, any more than the clouds of heaven when the sun pierces through them. Every shade of light and dark, of truth, and of fiction which is the veil of truth, is allowable in a work of philosophical imagination. It is not all on the same plane; it easily passes from ideas to myths and fancies, from facts to figures of speech.
It is not prose but poetry, at least a great part of it, and ought not to be judged by the rules of logic or the probabilities of history. The writer is not fashioning his ideas into an artistic whole; they take possession of him and are too much for him. We have no need therefore to discuss whether a State such as Plato has conceived is practicable or not, or whether the outward form or the inward life came first into the mind of the writer. For the practicability of his ideas has nothing to do with their truth; and the highest thoughts to which he attains may be truly said to bear the greatest 'marks of design'-- justice more than the external frame-work of the State, the idea of good more than justice.
The great science of dialectic or the organisation of ideas has no real content; but is only a type of the method or spirit in which the higher knowledge is to be pursued by the spectator of all time and all existence. It is in the fifth, sixth, and seventh books that Plato reaches the 'summit of speculation,' and these, although they fail to satisfy the requirements of a modern thinker, may therefore be regarded as the most important, as they are also the most original, portions of the work.
It is not necessary to discuss at length a minor question which has been raised by Boeckh, respecting the imaginary date at which the conversation was held the year B. Whether all the persons mentioned in the Republic could ever have met at any one time is not a difficulty which would have occurred to an Athenian reading the work forty years later, or to Plato himself at the time of writing any more than to Shakespeare respecting one of his own dramas ; and need not greatly trouble us now.
Yet this may be a question having no answer 'which is still worth asking,' because the investigation shows that we cannot argue historically from the dates in Plato; it would be useless therefore to waste time in inventing far-fetched reconcilements of them in order to avoid chronological difficulties, such, for example, as the conjecture of C.
Hermann, that Glaucon and Adeimantus are not the brothers but the uncles of Plato cp. Cephalus appears in the introduction only, Polemarchus drops at the end of the first argument, and Thrasymachus is reduced to silence at the close of the first book. The main discussion is carried on by Socrates, Glaucon, and Adeimantus. Among the company are Lysias the orator and Euthydemus, the sons of Cephalus and brothers of Polemarchus, an unknown Charmantides--these are mute auditors; also there is Cleitophon, who once interrupts, where, as in the Dialogue which bears his name, he appears as the friend and ally of Thrasymachus.
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Cephalus, the patriarch of the house, has been appropriately engaged in offering a sacrifice. He is the pattern of an old man who has almost done with life, and is at peace with himself and with all mankind. He feels that he is drawing nearer to the world below, and seems to linger around the memory of the past. He is eager that Socrates should come to visit him, fond of the poetry of the last generation, happy in the consciousness of a well-spent life, glad at having escaped from the tyranny of youthful lusts.
His love of conversation, his affection, his indifference to riches, even his garrulity, are interesting traits of character. He is not one of those who have nothing to say, because their whole mind has been absorbed in making money. Yet he acknowledges that riches have the advantage of placing men above the temptation to dishonesty or falsehood. The respectful attention shown to him by Socrates, whose love of conversation, no less than the mission imposed upon him by the Oracle, leads him to ask questions of all men, young and old alike, should also be noted.
Who better suited to raise the question of justice than Cephalus, whose life might seem to be the expression of it? The moderation with which old age is pictured by Cephalus as a very tolerable portion of existence is characteristic, not only of him, but of Greek feeling generally, and contrasts with the exaggeration of Cicero in the De Senectute. The evening of life is described by Plato in the most expressive manner, yet with the fewest possible touches.
As Cicero remarks Ep. Lysimachus in the Laches. His 'son and heir' Polemarchus has the frankness and impetuousness of youth; he is for detaining Socrates by force in the opening scene, and will not 'let him off' on the subject of women and children. Like Cephalus, he is limited in his point of view, and represents the proverbial stage of morality which has rules of life rather than principles; and he quotes Simonides cp. Clouds as his father had quoted Pindar.
But after this he has no more to say; the answers which he makes are only elicited from him by the dialectic of Socrates. He has not yet experienced the influence of the Sophists like Glaucon and Adeimantus, nor is he sensible of the necessity of refuting them; he belongs to the pre-Socratic or pre-dialectical age. He is incapable of arguing, and is bewildered by Socrates to such a degree that he does not know what he is saying.
He is made to admit that justice is a thief, and that the virtues follow the analogy of the arts. From his brother Lysias contra Eratosth. The 'Chalcedonian giant,' Thrasymachus, of whom we have already heard in the Phaedrus, is the personification of the Sophists, according to Plato's conception of them, in some of their worst characteristics.
He is vain and blustering, refusing to discourse unless he is paid, fond of making an oration, and hoping thereby to escape the inevitable Socrates; but a mere child in argument, and unable to foresee that the next 'move' to use a Platonic expression will 'shut him up. But he is incapable of defending them in a discussion, and vainly tries to cover his confusion with banter and insolence. Whether such doctrines as are attributed to him by Plato were really held either by him or by any other Sophist is uncertain; in the infancy of philosophy serious errors about morality might easily grow up--they are certainly put into the mouths of speakers in Thucydides; but we are concerned at present with Plato's description of him, and not with the historical reality.
The inequality of the contest adds greatly to the humour of the scene. The pompous and empty Sophist is utterly helpless in the hands of the great master of dialectic, who knows how to touch all the springs of vanity and weakness in him. He is greatly irritated by the irony of Socrates, but his noisy and imbecile rage only lays him more and more open to the thrusts of his assailant. His determination to cram down their throats, or put 'bodily into their souls' his own words, elicits a cry of horror from Socrates. The state of his temper is quite as worthy of remark as the process of the argument.
Nothing is more amusing than his complete submission when he has been once thoroughly beaten. At first he seems to continue the discussion with reluctance, but soon with apparent good-will, and he even testifies his interest at a later stage by one or two occasional remarks. When attacked by Glaucon he is humorously protected by Socrates 'as one who has never been his enemy and is now his friend. The play on his name which was made by his contemporary Herodicus Aris.
When Thrasymachus has been silenced, the two principal respondents, Glaucon and Adeimantus, appear on the scene: here, as in Greek tragedy cp. At first sight the two sons of Ariston may seem to wear a family likeness, like the two friends Simmias and Cebes in the Phaedo. But on a nearer examination of them the similarity vanishes, and they are seen to be distinct characters. Glaucon is the impetuous youth who can 'just never have enough of fechting' cp.
He is full of quickness and penetration, piercing easily below the clumsy platitudes of Thrasymachus to the real difficulty; he turns out to the light the seamy side of human life, and yet does not lose faith in the just and true. It is Glaucon who seizes what may be termed the ludicrous relation of the philosopher to the world, to whom a state of simplicity is 'a city of pigs,' who is always prepared with a jest when the argument offers him an opportunity, and who is ever ready to second the humour of Socrates and to appreciate the ridiculous, whether in the connoisseurs of music, or in the lovers of theatricals, or in the fantastic behaviour of the citizens of democracy.
His weaknesses are several times alluded to by Socrates, who, however, will not allow him to be attacked by his brother Adeimantus. He is a soldier, and, like Adeimantus, has been distinguished at the battle of Megara anno ? The character of Adeimantus is deeper and graver, and the profounder objections are commonly put into his mouth. Glaucon is more demonstrative, and generally opens the game. Adeimantus pursues the argument further.
Glaucon has more of the liveliness and quick sympathy of youth; Adeimantus has the maturer judgment of a grown-up man of the world. In the second book, when Glaucon insists that justice and injustice shall be considered without regard to their consequences, Adeimantus remarks that they are regarded by mankind in general only for the sake of their consequences; and in a similar vein of reflection he urges at the beginning of the fourth book that Socrates fails in making his citizens happy, and is answered that happiness is not the first but the second thing, not the direct aim but the indirect consequence of the good government of a State.
In the discussion about religion and mythology, Adeimantus is the respondent, but Glaucon breaks in with a slight jest, and carries on the conversation in a lighter tone about music and gymnastic to the end of the book. It is Adeimantus again who volunteers the criticism of common sense on the Socratic method of argument, and who refuses to let Socrates pass lightly over the question of women and children. It is Adeimantus who is the respondent in the more argumentative, as Glaucon in the lighter and more imaginative portions of the Dialogue.
For example, throughout the greater part of the sixth book, the causes of the corruption of philosophy and the conception of the idea of good are discussed with Adeimantus. Glaucon resumes his place of principal respondent; but he has a difficulty in apprehending the higher education of Socrates, and makes some false hits in the course of the discussion. Once more Adeimantus returns with the allusion to his brother Glaucon whom he compares to the contentious State; in the next book he is again superseded, and Glaucon continues to the end.
Thus in a succession of characters Plato represents the successive stages of morality, beginning with the Athenian gentleman of the olden time, who is followed by the practical man of that day regulating his life by proverbs and saws; to him succeeds the wild generalization of the Sophists, and lastly come the young disciples of the great teacher, who know the sophistical arguments but will not be convinced by them, and desire to go deeper into the nature of things.
These too, like Cephalus, Polemarchus, Thrasymachus, are clearly distinguished from one another. Neither in the Republic, nor in any other Dialogue of Plato, is a single character repeated. The delineation of Socrates in the Republic is not wholly consistent. In the first book we have more of the real Socrates, such as he is depicted in the Memorabilia of Xenophon, in the earliest Dialogues of Plato, and in the Apology.
He is ironical, provoking, questioning, the old enemy of the Sophists, ready to put on the mask of Silenus as well as to argue seriously. But in the sixth book his enmity towards the Sophists abates; he acknowledges that they are the representatives rather than the corrupters of the world. He also becomes more dogmatic and constructive, passing beyond the range either of the political or the speculative ideas of the real Socrates. In one passage Plato himself seems to intimate that the time had now come for Socrates, who had passed his whole life in philosophy, to give his own opinion and not to be always repeating the notions of other men.
There is no evidence that either the idea of good or the conception of a perfect state were comprehended in the Socratic teaching, though he certainly dwelt on the nature of the universal and of final causes cp. The Socratic method is nominally retained; and every inference is either put into the mouth of the respondent or represented as the common discovery of him and Socrates. But any one can see that this is a mere form, of which the affectation grows wearisome as the work advances. The method of enquiry has passed into a method of teaching in which by the help of interlocutors the same thesis is looked at from various points of view.
The nature of the process is truly characterized by Glaucon, when he describes himself as a companion who is not good for much in an investigation, but can see what he is shown, and may, perhaps, give the answer to a question more fluently than another.
Neither can we be absolutely certain that Socrates himself taught the immortality of the soul, which is unknown to his disciple Glaucon in the Republic cp. His favorite oath is retained, and a slight mention is made of the daemonium, or internal sign, which is alluded to by Socrates as a phenomenon peculiar to himself. A real element of Socratic teaching, which is more prominent in the Republic than in any of the other Dialogues of Plato, is the use of example and illustration Greek : 'Let us apply the test of common instances.
The composite animal in Book IX is an allegory of the parts of the soul. The noble captain and the ship and the true pilot in Book VI are a figure of the relation of the people to the philosophers in the State which has been described. Other figures, such as the dog, or the marriage of the portionless maiden, or the drones and wasps in the eighth and ninth books, also form links of connexion in long passages, or are used to recall previous discussions. Plato is most true to the character of his master when he describes him as 'not of this world. To him, as to other great teachers both philosophical and religious, when they looked upward, the world seemed to be the embodiment of error and evil.
The common sense of mankind has revolted against this view, or has only partially admitted it. And even in Socrates himself the sterner judgement of the multitude at times passes into a sort of ironical pity or love. Men in general are incapable of philosophy, and are therefore at enmity with the philosopher; but their misunderstanding of him is unavoidable: for they have never seen him as he truly is in his own image; they are only acquainted with artificial systems possessing no native force of truth-- words which admit of many applications.
Their leaders have nothing to measure with, and are therefore ignorant of their own stature. But they are to be pitied or laughed at, not to be quarrelled with; they mean well with their nostrums, if they could only learn that they are cutting off a Hydra's head.
Numéros en texte intégral
This moderation towards those who are in error is one of the most characteristic features of Socrates in the Republic. In all the different representations of Socrates, whether of Xenophon or Plato, and amid the differences of the earlier or later Dialogues, he always retains the character of the unwearied and disinterested seeker after truth, without which he would have ceased to be Socrates. Leaving the characters we may now analyse the contents of the Republic, and then proceed to consider 1 The general aspects of this Hellenic ideal of the State, 2 The modern lights in which the thoughts of Plato may be read.
BOOK I. The Republic opens with a truly Greek scene--a festival in honour of the goddess Bendis which is held in the Piraeus; to this is added the promise of an equestrian torch-race in the evening. The whole work is supposed to be recited by Socrates on the day after the festival to a small party, consisting of Critias, Timaeus, Hermocrates, and another; this we learn from the first words of the Timaeus. When the rhetorical advantage of reciting the Dialogue has been gained, the attention is not distracted by any reference to the audience; nor is the reader further reminded of the extraordinary length of the narrative.
Of the numerous company, three only take any serious part in the discussion; nor are we informed whether in the evening they went to the torch-race, or talked, as in the Symposium, through the night. The manner in which the conversation has arisen is described as followsSocrates and his companion Glaucon are about to leave the festival when they are detained by a message from Polemarchus, who speedily appears accompanied by Adeimantus, the brother of Glaucon, and with playful violence compels them to remain, promising them not only the torch-race, but the pleasure of conversation with the young, which to Socrates is a far greater attraction.
They return to the house of Cephalus, Polemarchus' father, now in extreme old age, who is found sitting upon a cushioned seat crowned for a sacrifice. Yes, replies Socrates, but the world will say, Cephalus, that you are happy in old age because you are rich. Cephalus answers that when you are old the belief in the world below grows upon you, and then to have done justice and never to have been compelled to do injustice through poverty, and never to have deceived anyone, are felt to be unspeakable blessings. Socrates, who is evidently preparing for an argument, next asks, What is the meaning of the word justice?
To tell the truth and pay your debts? No more than this? Or must we admit exceptions? Ought I, for example, to put back into the hands of my friend, who has gone mad, the sword which I borrowed of him when he was in his right mind? The description of old age is finished, and Plato, as his manner is, has touched the key-note of the whole work in asking for the definition of justice, first suggesting the question which Glaucon afterwards pursues respecting external goods, and preparing for the concluding mythus of the world below in the slight allusion of Cephalus.
The portrait of the just man is a natural frontispiece or introduction to the long discourse which follows, and may perhaps imply that in all our perplexity about the nature of justice, there is no difficulty in discerning 'who is a just man. He proceeds: What did Simonides mean by this saying of his? Did he mean that I was to give back arms to a madman? He meant that you were to do what was proper, good to friends and harm to enemies.
He is answered that justice does good to friends and harm to enemies. But in what way good or harm? The answer is that justice is of use in contracts, and contracts are money partnerships. Yes; but how in such partnerships is the just man of more use than any other man? And there is another difficulty: justice, like the art of war or any other art, must be of opposites, good at attack as well as at defence, at stealing as well as at guarding. But then justice is a thief, though a hero notwithstanding, like Autolycus, the Homeric hero, who was 'excellent above all men in theft and perjury'--to such a pass have you and Homer and Simonides brought us; though I do not forget that the thieving must be for the good of friends and the harm of enemies.
And still there arises another question: Are friends to be interpreted as real or seeming; enemies as real or seeming? And are our friends to be only the good, and our enemies to be the evil? The answer is, that we must do good to our seeming and real good friends, and evil to our seeming and real evil enemies--good to the good, evil to the evil. But ought we to render evil for evil at all, when to do so will only make men more evil?
Can justice produce injustice any more than the art of horsemanship can make bad horsemen, or heat produce cold? The final conclusion is, that no sage or poet ever said that the just return evil for evil; this was a maxim of some rich and mighty man, Periander, Perdiccas, or Ismenias the Theban about B. Thus the first stage of aphoristic or unconscious morality is shown to be inadequate to the wants of the age; the authority of the poets is set aside, and through the winding mazes of dialectic we make an approach to the Christian precept of forgiveness of injuries.
Similar words are applied by the Persian mystic poet to the Divine being when the questioning spirit is stirred within him'If because I do evil, Thou punishest me by evil, what is the difference between Thee and me? The first definition of justice easily passes into the second; for the simple words 'to speak the truth and pay your debts' is substituted the more abstract 'to do good to your friends and harm to your enemies.
We may note in passing the antiquity of casuistry, which not only arises out of the conflict of established principles in particular cases, but also out of the effort to attain them, and is prior as well as posterior to our fundamental notions of morality. The 'interrogation' of moral ideas; the appeal to the authority of Homer; the conclusion that the maxim, 'Do good to your friends and harm to your enemies,' being erroneous, could not have been the word of any great man, are all of them very characteristic of the Platonic Socrates.
Here Thrasymachus, who has made several attempts to interrupt, but has hitherto been kept in order by the company, takes advantage of a pause and rushes into the arena, beginning, like a savage animal, with a roar. At first Thrasymachus is reluctant to argue; but at length, with a promise of payment on the part of the company and of praise from Socrates, he is induced to open the game. Do you mean that because Polydamas the wrestler, who is stronger than we are, finds the eating of beef for his interest, the eating of beef is also for our interest, who are not so strong?
Thrasymachus is indignant at the illustration, and in pompous words, apparently intended to restore dignity to the argument, he explains his meaning to be that the rulers make laws for their own interests. But suppose, says Socrates, that the ruler or stronger makes a mistake--then the interest of the stronger is not his interest. Thrasymachus is saved from this speedy downfall by his disciple Cleitophon, who introduces the word 'thinks;'--not the actual interest of the ruler, but what he thinks or what seems to be his interest, is justice.
The contradiction is escaped by the unmeaning evasion: for though his real and apparent interests may differ, what the ruler thinks to be his interest will always remain what he thinks to be his interest. Of course this was not the original assertion, nor is the new interpretation accepted by Thrasymachus himself. But Socrates is not disposed to quarrel about words, if, as he significantly insinuates, his adversary has changed his mind. In what follows Thrasymachus does in fact withdraw his admission that the ruler may make a mistake, for he affirms that the ruler as a ruler is infallible.
Socrates is quite ready to accept the new position, which he equally turns against Thrasymachus by the help of the analogy of the arts. Every art or science has an interest, but this interest is to be distinguished from the accidental interest of the artist, and is only concerned with the good of the things or persons which come under the art. And justice has an interest which is the interest not of the ruler or judge, but of those who come under his sway.
Thrasymachus is on the brink of the inevitable conclusion, when he makes a bold diversion. Why do you ask? For you fancy that shepherds and rulers never think of their own interest, but only of their sheep or subjects, whereas the truth is that they fatten them for their use, sheep and subjects alike. And experience proves that in every relation of life the just man is the loser and the unjust the gainer, especially where injustice is on the grand scale, which is quite another thing from the petty rogueries of swindlers and burglars and robbers of temples.
The language of men proves this--our 'gracious' and 'blessed' tyrant and the like--all which tends to show 1 that justice is the interest of the stronger; and 2 that injustice is more profitable and also stronger than justice. But the others will not let him go, and Socrates adds a humble but earnest request that he will not desert them at such a crisis of their fate. Then why are they paid? Is not the reason, that their interest is not comprehended in their art, and is therefore the concern of another art, the art of pay, which is common to the arts in general, and therefore not identical with any one of them?
Nor would any man be a ruler unless he were induced by the hope of reward or the fear of punishment;--the reward is money or honour, the punishment is the necessity of being ruled by a man worse than himself. And if a State or Church were composed entirely of good men, they would be affected by the last motive only; and there would be as much 'nolo episcopari' as there is at present of the opposite The satire on existing governments is heightened by the simple and apparently incidental manner in which the last remark is introduced.
There is a similar irony in the argument that the governors of mankind do not like being in office, and that therefore they demand pay. Enough of this: the other assertion of Thrasymachus is far more important--that the unjust life is more gainful than the just. Now, as you and I, Glaucon, are not convinced by him, we must reply to him; but if we try to compare their respective gains we shall want a judge to decide for us; we had better therefore proceed by making mutual admissions of the truth to one another. Thrasymachus had asserted that perfect injustice was more gainful than perfect justice, and after a little hesitation he is induced by Socrates to admit the still greater paradox that injustice is virtue and justice vice.
Socrates praises his frankness, and assumes the attitude of one whose only wish is to understand the meaning of his opponents. At the same time he is weaving a net in which Thrasymachus is finally enclosed. The admission is elicited from him that the just man seeks to gain an advantage over the unjust only, but not over the just, while the unjust would gain an advantage over either. Socrates, in order to test this statement, employs once more the favourite analogy of the arts.
The musician, doctor, skilled artist of any sort, does not seek to gain more than the skilled, but only more than the unskilled that is to say, he works up to a rule, standard, law, and does not exceed it , whereas the unskilled makes random efforts at excess. Thus the skilled falls on the side of the good, and the unskilled on the side of the evil, and the just is the skilled, and the unjust is the unskilled. There was great difficulty in bringing Thrasymachus to the point; the day was hot and he was streaming with perspiration, and for the first time in his life he was seen to blush.
But his other thesis that injustice was stronger than justice has not yet been refuted, and Socrates now proceeds to the consideration of this, which, with the assistance of Thrasymachus, he hopes to clear up; the latter is at first churlish, but in the judicious hands of Socrates is soon restored to good-humour: Is there not honour among thieves? Is not the strength of injustice only a remnant of justice?
Is not absolute injustice absolute weakness also? A house that is divided against itself cannot stand; two men who quarrel detract from one another's strength, and he who is at war with himself is the enemy of himself and the gods. Not wickedness therefore, but semi-wickedness flourishes in states, --a remnant of good is needed in order to make union in action possible,-- there is no kingdom of evil in this world. Another question has not been answered: Is the just or the unjust the happier? To this we reply, that every art has an end and an excellence or virtue by which the end is accomplished.
And is not the end of the soul happiness, and justice the excellence of the soul by which happiness is attained? Justice and happiness being thus shown to be inseparable, the question whether the just or the unjust is the happier has disappeared. Thrasymachus replies: 'Let this be your entertainment, Socrates, at the festival of Bendis.
And yet not a good entertainment--but that was my own fault, for I tasted of too many things. First of all the nature of justice was the subject of our enquiry, and then whether justice is virtue and wisdom, or evil and folly; and then the comparative advantages of just and unjust: and the sum of all is that I know not what justice is; how then shall I know whether the just is happy or not? Thus the sophistical fabric has been demolished, chiefly by appealing to the analogy of the arts.
Among early enquirers into the nature of human action the arts helped to fill up the void of speculation; and at first the comparison of the arts and the virtues was not perceived by them to be fallacious. They only saw the points of agreement in them and not the points of difference. Virtue, like art, must take means to an end; good manners are both an art and a virtue; character is naturally described under the image of a statue; and there are many other figures of speech which are readily transferred from art to morals. The next generation cleared up these perplexities; or at least supplied after ages with a further analysis of them.
The contemporaries of Plato were in a state of transition, and had not yet fully realized the common-sense distinction of Aristotle, that 'virtue is concerned with action, art with production' Nic. And yet in the absurdities which follow from some uses of the analogy, there seems to be an intimation conveyed that virtue is more than art. This is implied in the reductio ad absurdum that 'justice is a thief,' and in the dissatisfaction which Socrates expresses at the final result.
The expression 'an art of pay' which is described as 'common to all the arts' is not in accordance with the ordinary use of language. Nor is it employed elsewhere either by Plato or by any other Greek writer. It is suggested by the argument, and seems to extend the conception of art to doing as well as making. Another flaw or inaccuracy of language may be noted in the words 'men who are injured are made more unjust.
The second of the three arguments, 'that the just does not aim at excess,' has a real meaning, though wrapped up in an enigmatical form. That the good is of the nature of the finite is a peculiarly Hellenic sentiment, which may be compared with the language of those modern writers who speak of virtue as fitness, and of freedom as obedience to law.
The mathematical or logical notion of limit easily passes into an ethical one, and even finds a mythological expression in the conception of envy Greek. Ideas of measure, equality, order, unity, proportion, still linger in the writings of moralists; and the true spirit of the fine arts is better conveyed by such terms than by superlatives. The harmony of the soul and body, and of the parts of the soul with one another, a harmony 'fairer than that of musical notes,' is the true Hellenic mode of conceiving the perfection of human nature.
In what may be called the epilogue of the discussion with Thrasymachus, Plato argues that evil is not a principle of strength, but of discord and dissolution, just touching the question which has been often treated in modern times by theologians and philosophers, of the negative nature of evil. In the last argument we trace the germ of the Aristotelian doctrine of an end and a virtue directed towards the end, which again is suggested by the arts.
The final reconcilement of justice and happiness and the identity of the individual and the State are also intimated. Socrates reassumes the character of a 'know-nothing;' at the same time he appears to be not wholly satisfied with the manner in which the argument has been conducted. Nothing is concluded; but the tendency of the dialectical process, here as always, is to enlarge our conception of ideas, and to widen their application to human life.
Thrasymachus is pacified, but the intrepid Glaucon insists on continuing the argument. He is not satisfied with the indirect manner in which, at the end of the last book, Socrates had disposed of the question 'Whether the just or the unjust is the happier. He then asks Socrates in which of the three classes he would place justice. In the second class, replies Socrates, among goods desirable for themselves and also for their results. Socrates answers that this is the doctrine of Thrasymachus which he rejects. Glaucon thinks that Thrasymachus was too ready to listen to the voice of the charmer, and proposes to consider the nature of justice and injustice in themselves and apart from the results and rewards of them which the world is always dinning in his ears.
He will first of all speak of the nature and origin of justice; secondly, of the manner in which men view justice as a necessity and not a good; and thirdly, he will prove the reasonableness of this view. As the evil is discovered by experience to be greater than the good, the sufferers, who cannot also be doers, make a compact that they will have neither, and this compact or mean is called justice, but is really the impossibility of doing injustice.
No one would observe such a compact if he were not obliged. Let us suppose that the just and unjust have two rings, like that of Gyges in the well-known story, which make them invisible, and then no difference will appear in them, for every one will do evil if he can. And he who abstains will be regarded by the world as a fool for his pains.
Men may praise him in public out of fear for themselves, but they will laugh at him in their hearts Cp. Imagine the unjust man to be master of his craft, seldom making mistakes and easily correcting them; having gifts of money, speech, strength--the greatest villain bearing the highest character: and at his side let us place the just in his nobleness and simplicity--being, not seeming--without name or reward-- clothed in his justice only--the best of men who is thought to be the worst, and let him die as he has lived.
I might add but I would rather put the rest into the mouth of the panegyrists of injustice--they will tell you that the just man will be scourged, racked, bound, will have his eyes put out, and will at last be crucified literally impaled --and all this because he ought to have preferred seeming to being. How different is the case of the unjust who clings to appearance as the true reality! His high character makes him a ruler; he can marry where he likes, trade where he likes, help his friends and hurt his enemies; having got rich by dishonesty he can worship the gods better, and will therefore be more loved by them than the just.
He considered that the most important point of all had been omitted'Men are taught to be just for the sake of rewards; parents and guardians make reputation the incentive to virtue. And other advantages are promised by them of a more solid kind, such as wealthy marriages and high offices. There are the pictures in Homer and Hesiod of fat sheep and heavy fleeces, rich corn-fields and trees toppling with fruit, which the gods provide in this life for the just.
And the Orphic poets add a similar picture of another. The heroes of Musaeus and Eumolpus lie on couches at a festival, with garlands on their heads, enjoying as the meed of virtue a paradise of immortal drunkenness. Some go further, and speak of a fair posterity in the third and fourth generation.