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diffused Socratic doctrines, while the doctrines themselves do not appear to him worth making the beginning of a new period.— Ast had previously arrived at the same result by a road in some respects opposite.* With him Plato is the full bloom of that which he terms the Athenian form of philosophy, and as no plant begins with its bloom, he feels himself constrained to place Socrates at the head of this philosophy, but yet not strictly as a philosopher. He says, that the operation of philosophy in Socrates was confined to the exercise of qualities that may belong to any virtuous man, that is to say, it was properly no philosophy at all; and makes the essence of his character to consist in enthusiasm and irony. Now he feels that he cannot place a man endowed with no other qualities than these at the head of a new period, and therefore he ranges the sophists by his side, not indeed without some inconsistency, for he himself sees in them the perverse tendency which was to be counteracted by the spirit of the new age; but yet he prefers this to recognizing the germ of a new gradation in Socrates alone, whose highest philosophical worth he makes to consist in his martyrdom, which, however, cannot by any means be deemed of equal moment in the sphere of science, as in that of religion or politics. Though in form, , this course of Ast's is opposite to Krug's, in substance it is the same: its result is likewise to begin a new period of philosophy with Plato. For Ast perceives nothing new or peculiar in the struggle Socrates made against the Sophists, only virtue and the thirst after truth, which had undoubtedly animated all the preceding philosophers; what he represents as characteristic in the Athenian philosophy, is the union of the elements which had been previously separate and opposed to each other; and since he does not in fact show the existence of this union in Socrates himself, and distinctly recognizes their separation in his immediate disciples, Plato is after all the point at which, according to him, that union begins.
* Grundriss einer Gesch, der Philos.
But if we choose really to consider Plato as the true beginner of a new period, not to mention that he is far too perfect for a first beginning, we fall into two difficulties. First as to his relation to Aristotle. In all that is most peculiar to Plato, Aristotle appears as directly opposite to him as possible; but the main division of philosophy, notwithstanding the wide difference between their modes of treating it, he has in common with Plato, and the Stoics with both; it fits as closely and sits as easily on one as the other, so that one can scarcely help believing that it was derived from some common origin, which was the root of Plato's as well as theirs. The second difficulty is to conceive what Plato's relation to Socrates could really have been, if Socrates was not in any way his master in philosophy. If we should suppose
that Plato's character was formed by the example of Socrates, and that reverence for his master's virtue, and love of truth, was the tie that bound him, still this merely moral relation is not a sufficient solution of the difficulty. The mode in which Plato introduces Socrates, even, in
works which contain profound philosophical investigations, must be regarded as the wildest caprice, and would necessarily have appeared merely ridiculous and absurd to all his contemporaries, if he was not in some way or other indebted to him for his philosophical life. Hence we are forced to abide by the conclusion, that if a great pause is to be made in Greek philosophy, to separate the scattered tenets of the earlier schools from the later systems, this must be made with Socrates; but then we must also ascribe to him some element of a more strictly philosophical kind than most writers do, though, as a mere beginning, it needs not to have been carried very far toward maturity. Such a pause as this, however, we cannot avoid making: the earlier philosophy which we designate by the names of Pythagoras, Parmenides, Heraclitus, Anaxagoras, Empedocles, &c. has evidently a common type, and the later, in which Plato, Aristotle, and Zeno are the conspicuous names, has likewise one of its own, which is very different from the other. Nothing can have been lost between them, which could have formed a gradual transition: much less is it possible so to connect any of the later forms with any of the earlier, as to regard them as a continuous whole. This being so, nothing remains to be done, but to subject the case of Socrates to a new revision, in order to see whether the judges he has met with among posterity have not been as unjust, in denying his philosophical worth and his merits in the cause of philosophy, as his contemporaries were in denying his worth as a citizen, and imputing to him
imaginary offences against the commonwealth. But this would render it necessary to ascertain somewhat more distinctly, wherein his philosophical merit consists.
But this new inquiry naturally leads us back in the first instance to the old question, whether we are to believe Plato or Xenophon in their accounts of what Socrates was; a question, however, which only deserves to be proposed at all, so far as these two authors are really at variance with each other, and which therefore only admits of a rational answer, after it has been decided whether such a variance exists, and where it lies. Plato nowhere professes himself the historian of Socrates; with the exception perhaps of the Apology, and of insulated passages, such as the speech of Alcibiades in the Banquet. For it would certainly have been in bad taste, if here, where Plato is making contemporaries of Socrates speak of him in his presence, he had exhibited him in a manner that was not substantially faithful, though even here many of the details may have been introduced for the sake of playful exaggeration. On the other hand, Plato himself does not warrant anyone to consider all that he makes Socrates say in his dialogues, as his real thoughts and language; and it would be rendering him but a poor service to confine his merit to that of having given a correct and skilful report of the doctrines of Socrates. On the contrary, he undoubtedly means his philosophy to be considered as his own, and not Socrates'. And accordingly every intelligent reader is probably convinced by his own reflections, that
is not still more strongly expressed, than we here and there actually find it. And still less should we be able to comprehend, why men of such abilities as Critias and Alcibiades, and others formed by nature for speculation, as Plato and Euclid, set so high a value on their intercourse with Socrates, and found satisfaction in it so long. Nor can it be supposed, that Socrates held discourses in public such as Xenophon puts into his mouth, but that he delivered lessons of a different kind elsewhere, and in private; for this, considering the apologetic form of Xenophon's book, to which he rigidly confines himself, he would probably not have passed over in silence. Socrates must have disclosed the philosophical element of his character in the same social circle of which Xenophon gives us specimens. And is not this just the impression which Xenophon's conversations make? philosophical matter, translated into the unphilosophical style of the common understanding, an operation in which the philosophical base is lost; just as some critics have proposed, by way
of test for the productions of the loftiest poetry, to resolve them into prose, and evaporate their spirit, which can leave nothing but an extremely sober kind of beauty remaining. And as, after such an experiment, the greatest of poets would scarcely be able to restore the lost poetry, but yet a reader of moderate capacity soon observes what has been done, and can even point it out in several passages, , where the decomposing hand has grown tired of its work: so it is in the other case with the philosophical
: basis. One finds some parallels with Plato, other