« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
INTRODUCTION TO THE CRITO.
IT has been already remarked in the introduction to the Apology, that this dialogue appears to be of the same nature with that piece. It seems probable that the Crito is not properly speaking, a work conceived and framed by Plato himself, but a conversation, which actually took place; and which was communicated to Plato as faithfully as possible by Crito, between whom and Socrates it had occurred. In this conversation Plato appears to have made scarcely any alteration, except that he restored and embellished the Socratic mode of speaking which was so well known to him, adorned the commencement and the end, and perhaps here and there supplied little deficiencies. This view rests upon exactly the same grounds, which have been explained in the introduction to the Apology. For neither in the one case nor in the other, does there appear any special philosophical object; and although the occasion itself naturally led to the most important inquiries concerning justice, law, and compact, in which Plato was certainly at all times interested, yet these subjects are here treated of so exclusively with a view to the
individual case before us, that we clearly see that the persons engaged in the dialogue, if the conversation actually took place, were wholly wrapt up in it; and should it be considered as a work of Plato's, which was written without reference to anything that actually occurred, we must admit, that it bears the complete character of a work written for a special occasion. Besides, it is expressly mentioned in it that philosophical inquiry is put aside, since particular principles are only stated and taken for granted, without any further examination, and with reference to previous conversations, though by no means as if these principles were to be sought for in other writtings. of Plato,-a mode of proceeding never employed in those works of Plato which are of philosophical importance. But supposing it to have been Plato's own work, what could have been the occasion of his writing it? For there is no sentiment given here, which is not contained in the Apology. If, however, we should suppose that it was Plato's intention only to make known the fact, that the friends of Socrates offered to assist him in escaping from his prison, and that he refused their offer, and that the remainder, with the exception of this historical basis, is Plato's own invention: a more minute consideration would perhaps prove, that the former part of this supposition can stand the test of examination, but not the latter. For, on the one hand, there is nothing remarkable in this fact except the manner in which it took place; for the result might have been foreseen from the
Apology; and the friends of Socrates would therefore have been perfectly justified, even if they had not undertaken anything of this kind; on the other hand, the conversation itself bears the character of one that actually took place, which must always to a certain degree be subject to chance circumstances; but these characteristics would not be suited to a conversation that was deliberately and artificially composed. For dialogues of the former class may easily abandon an idea after barely alluding to it, or they may confirm and establish by repetition what might at once have been said decidedly and expressly; the latter, on the contrary, can neither return to the same point without having some particular object in view, for their progress would be interrupted, nor raise expectations which they do not satisfy. The characteristics of the former kind of conversations are manifest in the Crito, and although the idea is on the whole beautifully and clearly defined, yet the connection of its parts is often loose, unnecessarily interrupted and carelessly resumed. Of these defects of a real conversation, which is reported to a third person, scarcely one will be found entirely wanting in the Crito.
I still think it possible for this dialogue to have been written by Plato in this manner; and I conceive that writting it so near the death of Socrates, he have treated such a conversatlon as conmay scientiously as he did the Apology. It was only at a more distant period, to which according to my view the Phædo belongs, that he could, even
on circumstances connected with the death of Socrates, depart from a strict adherence to facts, and proceed to use them freely, and to interweave them in a work of his own, destined to illustrate certain philosophical problems. For the present, at any rate, I shall endeavour by means of this view to vindicate the claims of Plato to this dialogue, until some criticism more solid than any that has been hitherto produced, shall prove that it is not his work. Two things, chiefly, induce me to maintain this opinion; in the first place, the language, against which Ast makes no particular objection, which unites all the peculiarities of the first period of the Platonic writings just as clearly as the language of the Apology; and secondly, the great strictness with which the author keeps to the individual case which is the subject of the conversation—abstaining from introducing any kind of enquiry concerning first principles-an act of moderation, which such inferior men as the other Socratic philosophers, were certainly incapable of; and by which Plato at the same time clearly distinguishes this work from his other writings. Hence the strong emphasis, which is laid on the assertion, that all deliberation in common is impossible for those who start from different moral principles an emphasis, which must rather be ascribed to Plato, who thereby intended to explain the nature and the tenor of the conversation, than to Socrates, who would hardly have made use of it towards his friend Crito, since he could only differ from him in his inferences.