Vol. I.







The Canon of Thrasyllus continued to be generally acknowledged, by the Neo-Platonists, as well as by Ficinus and the succeeding critics after the revival of learning.

The Platonic Canon established by Thrasyllus maintained its authority until the close of the last century, in regard to the distinction between what was genuine and spurious. The distribution indeed did not continue to be approved: the Tetralogies were neglected, and the order of the dialogues varied: moreover, doubts were intimated about Kleitophon and Epinomis. But nothing was positively removed from, or positively added to, the total recognised by Thrasyllus. The Neo-Platonists (from the close of the second century B.C., down to the beginning of the sixth A.D.) introduced a new, mystic, and theological interpretation, which often totally changed and falsified Plato’s meaning. Their principles of interpretation would have been strange and unintelligible to the rhetors Thrasyllus and Dionysius of Halikarnassus — or to the Platonic philosopher Charmadas, who expounded Plato to Marcus Crassus at Athens. But they still continued to look for Plato in the nine Tetralogies of Thrasyllus, in each and all of them. So also continued Ficinus, who, during the last half of the fifteenth century, did so much to revive in the modern world the study of Plato. He revived along with it the neo-platonic interpretation. The Argumenta, prefixed to the different dialogues by Ficinus, are remarkable, as showing what an ingenious student, interpreting in that spirit, discovered in them.

But the scholars of the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries, speaking generally — though not neglecting these neo-platonic302 refinements, were disposed to seek out, wherever they could find it, a more literal interpretation of the Platonic text, correctly presented and improved. The next great edition of the works of Plato was published by Serranus and Stephens, in the latter portion of the sixteenth century.

Serranus — his six Syzygies — left the aggregate Canon unchanged, Tennemann — importance assigned to the Phædrus.

Serranus distributed the dialogues of Plato into six groups which he called Syzygies. In his first Syzygy were comprised Euthyphron, Apologia, Kriton, Phædon (coinciding with the first Tetralogy of Thrasyllus), as setting forth the defence of Sokrates and of his doctrine. The second Syzygy included the dialogues introductory to philosophy generally, and impugning the Sophists — Theagês, Erastæ, Theætêtus, Sophistês, Euthydêmus, Protagoras, Hippias II. In the third Syzygy were three dialogues considered as bearing on Logic — Kratylus, Gorgias, Ion. The fourth Syzygy contained the dialogues on Ethics generally — Philêbus, Menon, Alkibiadês I.; on special points of Ethics — Alkibiadês II., Charmidês, Lysis, Hipparchus; and on Politics — Menexenus, Politikus, Minos, Republic, Leges, Epinomis. The fifth Syzygy included the dialogues on Physics, and Metaphysics (or Theology) — Timæus, Kritias, Parmenidês, Symposion, Phædrus, Hippias I. In the sixth Syzygy were ranged the thirteen Epistles, the various dialogues which Serranus considered spurious (Kleitophon among them, which he regarded as doubtful), and the Definitions.

Serranus, while modifying the distribution of the Platonic works, left the entire Canon very much as he found it. So it remained throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries: the scholars who devoted themselves to Plato were content with improvement of the text, philological illustration, and citations from the ancient commentators. But the powerful impulse, given by Kant to the speculative mind of Europe during the last quarter of the eighteenth century, materially affected the point of view from which Plato was regarded. Tennemann, both in his System of the Platonic Philosophy, and in dealing with Plato as a portion of his general history of philosophy, applied the doctrines of Kant largely and even excessively to the exposition of ancient doctrines. Much of his comment is instructive, 303greatly surpassing his predecessors. Without altering the Platonic Canon, he took a new view of the general purposes of Plato, and especially he brought forward the dialogue Phædrus into a prominence which had never before belonged to it, as an index or key-note (ἐνδόσιμον) to the whole Platonic series. Shortly after Tennemann, came Schleiermacher, who introduced a theory of his own, ingenious as well as original, which has given a new turn to all the subsequent Platonic criticism.

Schleiermacher — new theory about the purposes of Plato. One philosophical scheme, conceived by Plato from the beginning — essential order and interdependence of the dialogues, as contributing to the full execution of this scheme. Some dialogues not constituent items in the series, but lying alongside of it. Order of arrangement.

Schleiermacher begins by assuming two fundamental postulates, both altogether new. 1. A systematic unity of philosophic theme and purpose, conceived by Plato in his youth, at first obscurely — afterwards worked out through successive dialogues; each dialogue disclosing the same purpose, but the later disclosing it more clearly and fully, until his old age. 2. A peremptory, exclusive, and intentional order by Plato of the dialogues, composed by Plato with a view to the completion of this philosophical scheme. Schleiermacher undertakes to demonstrate what this order was, and to point out the contribution brought by each successive dialogue to the accomplishment of Plato’s premeditated scheme.

To those who understand Plato, the dialogues themselves reveal (so Schleiermacher affirms) their own essential order of sequence — their own mutual relations of antecedent and consequent. Each presupposes those which go before: each prepares for those which follow. Accordingly, Schleiermacher distributes the Platonic dialogues into three groups: the first, or elementary, beginning with Phædrus, followed by Lysis, Protagoras, Lachês, Charmidês, Euthyphron, Parmenidês: the second, or preparatory, comprising Gorgias, Theætêtus, Menon, Euthydêmus, Kratylus, Sophistês, Politikus, Symposion, Phædon, Philêbus: the third, or constructive, including Republic, Timæus, and Kritias. These groups or files are all supposed to be marshalled under Platonic authority: both the entire files as first, second, third and the dialogues composing each file, carrying their own place in the order, imprinted in visible characters. But to each file, there is attached what 304 Schleiermacher terms an Appendix, containing one or more dialogues, each a composition by itself, and lying not in the series, but alongside of it (Nebenwerke). The Appendix to the first file includes Apologia, Kriton, Ion, Hippias II., Hipparchus, Minos, Alkibiadês II. The Appendix to the second file consists of Theagês, Erastæ, Alkibiadês I., Menexenus, Hippias I., Kleitophon. That of the third file consists of the Leges. The Appendix is not supposed to imply any common positive character in the dialogues which it includes, but simply the negative attribute of not belonging to the main philosophical column, besides a greater harmony with the file to which it is attached than with the other two files. Some dialogues assigned to the Appendixes are considered by Schleiermacher as spurious; some however he treats as compositions on special occasions, or adjuncts to the regular series. To this latter category belong the Apologia, Kriton, and Leges. Schleiermacher considers the Charmidês to have been composed during the time of the Anarchy, B.C. 404: the Phædrus (earliest of all), in Olymp. 93 (B.C. 406), two years before:1 the Lysis, Protagoras, and Lachês, to lie between them in respect of date.

1 Schleierm. vol. i. p. 72; vol. ii. p. 8.

Theory of Ast — he denies the reality of any preconceived scheme — considers the dialogues as distinct philosophical dramas.

Such is the general theory of Schleiermacher, which presents to us Plato in the character of a Demiurgus, contemplating from the first an Idea of philosophy, and constructing a series of dialogues (like a Kosmos of Schleiermacher), with the express purpose of giving embodiment to it as far as practicable. We next come to Ast, who denies this theory altogether. According to Ast, there never was any philosophical system, to the exposition and communication of which each successive dialogue was deliberately intended to contribute: there is no scientific or intentional connection between the dialogues, — no progressive arrangement of first and second, of foundation and superstructure: there is no other unity or connecting principle between them than that which they involve as all emanating from the same age, country, and author, and the same general view of the world (Welt-Ansicht) or critical estimate of man and nature.2 The dialogues305 are dramatic (Ast affirms), not merely in their external form, but in their internal character: each is in truth a philosophical drama.3 Their purpose is very diverse and many-sided: we mistake if we imagine the philosophical purpose to stand alone. If that were so (Ast argues), how can we explain the fact, that in most of the dialogues there is no philosophical result at all? Nothing but a discussion without definite end, which leaves every point unsettled.4 Plato is poet, artist, philosopher, blended in one. He does not profess to lay down positive opinions. Still less does he proclaim his own opinions as exclusive orthodoxy, to be poured ready-prepared into the minds of recipient pupils. He seeks to urge the pupils to think and investigate for themselves. He employs the form of dialogue, as indispensable to generate in their minds this impulse of active research, and to arm them with the power of pursuing it effectively.5 But each Platonic dialogue is a separate composition in itself, and each of the greater dialogues is a finished and symmetrical whole, like a living organism.6

2 Ast, Leben und Schriften Platon’s, p. 40.

3 Ast, ib. p. 46.

4 Ast, ibid. p. 89.

5 Ast, ib. p. 42.

6 The general view here taken by Ast — dwelling upon the separate individuality as well as upon the dramatic character of each dialogue — calling attention to the purpose of intellectual stimulation, and of reasoning out different aspects of ethical and dialectical questions, as distinguished from endoctrinating purpose — this general view coincides more nearly with my own than that of any other critic. But Ast does not follow it out consistently. If he were consistent with it, he ought to be more catholic than other critics, in admitting a large and undefinable diversity in the separate Platonic manifestations: instead of which, he is the most sweeping of all repudiators, on internal grounds. He is not even satisfied with the Parmenides as it now stands; he insists that what is now the termination was not the real and original termination; but that Plato must have appended to the dialogue an explanation of its ἀπορίαι, puzzles, and antinomies; which explanation is now lost.

His order of arrangement. He admits only fourteen dialogues as genuine, rejecting all the rest.

Though Ast differs thus pointedly from Schleiermacher in the enunciation of his general principle, yet he approximates to him more nearly when he comes to detail: for he recognises three classes of dialogues, succeeding each other in a chronological order verifiable (as he thinks) by the dialogues themselves. His first class (in which he declares the poetical and dramatic element to be predominant) consists of Protagoras, Phædrus, Gorgias, Phædon. His second class, distinguished by the dialectic element, includes Theætêtus, Sophistês, Politikus, Parmenidês, Kratylus. His third class, wherein the poetical and dialectic 306 element are found both combined, embraces Philêbus, Symposion, Republic, Timæus, Kritias. These fourteen dialogues, in Ast’s view, constitute the whole of the genuine Platonic works. All the rest he pronounces to be spurious. He rejects Leges, Epinomis, Menon, Euthydêmus, Lachês, Charmidês, Lysis, Alkibiades I. and II., Hippias I. and II., Ion, Erastæ, Theages, Kleitophon, Apologia, Kriton, Minos, Epistolæ — together with all the other dialogues which were rejected in antiquity by Thrasyllus. Lastly, Ast considers the Protagoras to have been composed in 408 B.C., when Plato was not more than 21 years of age — the Phædrus in 407 B.C. — the Gorgias in 404 B.C.7

7 Ast, Leben und Schriften Platon’s, p. 376.

Socher agrees with Ast in denying preconceived scheme — his arrangement of the dialogues, differing from both Ast and Schleiermacher — he rejects as spurious Parmenidês, Sophistês, Politikus, Kritias, with many others.

Socher agrees with Ast in rejecting the fundamental hypothesis of Schleiermacher — that of a preconceived scheme systematically worked out by Plato. But on many points he differs from Ast no less than from Schleiermacher. He assigns the earliest Platonic composition (which he supposes to be Theagês), to a date preceding the battle of Arginusæ, in 406 B.C., when Plato was about 22-23 years of age.8 Assuming it is certain that Plato composed dialogues during the lifetime of Sokrates, he conceives that the earliest of them would naturally be the most purely Sokratic in respect of theme, as well as the least copious, comprehensive, and ideal, in manner of handling. During the six and a half years between the battle of Arginusæ and the death of Sokrates, Socher registers the following succession of Platonic compositions: Theagês, Lachês, Hippias II., Alkibiadês I., Dialogus de Virtute (usually printed with the spurious, but supposed by Socher to be a sort of preparatory sketch for the Menon), Menon, Kratylus, Euthyphron. These three last he supposes to precede very shortly the death of Sokrates. After that event, and very shortly after, were composed the Apologia, Kriton, and Phædon.

8 Socher, Ueber Platon’s Schriften, p. 102. These critics adopt 429 B.C. as the year of Plato’s birth: I think 427 B.C. is the true year.

These eleven dialogues fill up what Socher regards as the first period of Plato’s life, ending when he was somewhat more than thirty years of age. The second period extends to the commencement307 of his teaching at the Academy, when about 41 or 42 years old (B.C. 386). In this second period were composed Ion, Euthydêmus, Hippias I, Protagoras, Theætêtus, Gorgias, Philêbus — in the order here set forth. During the third period of Plato’s life, continuing until he was 65 or more, he composed Phædrus, Menexenus, Symposion, Republic, Timæus. To the fourth and last period, that of extreme old age, belongs the composition of the Leges.9

9 Socher, Ueber Platon’s Schriften, pp. 301-459-460.

Socher rejects as spurious Hipparchus, Minos, Kleitophon, Alkibiadês II., Erastæ, Epinomis, Epistolæ, Parmenidês, Sophistês, Politikus, Kritias: also Charmidês, and Lysis, these two last however not quite so decisively.

Schleiermacher and Ast both consider Phædrus and Protagoras as early compositions — Socher puts Protagoras into the second period, Phædrus into the third.

Both Ast and Schleiermacher consider Phædrus and Protagoras as among the earliest compositions of Plato. Herein Socher dissents from them. He puts Protagoras into the second period, and Phædrus into the third. But the most peculiar feature in his theory is, that he rejects as spurious Parmenidês, Sophistês, Politikus, Kritias.

K. F. Hermann — Stallbaum — both of them consider the Phædrus as a late dialogue — both of them deny preconceived order and system — their arrangements of the dialogues — they admit new and varying philosophical points of view.

From Schleiermacher, Ast, and Socher, we pass to K. F. Hermann10 — and to Stallbaum, who has prefixed Prolegomena to his edition of each dialogue. Both these critics protest against Socher’s rejection of the four dialogues last indicated: but they agree with Socher and Ast in denying the reality of any preconceived system, present to Plato’s mind in his first dialogue, and advanced by regular steps throughout each of the succeeding dialogues. The polemical tone of K. F. Hermann against this theory, and against Schleiermacher, its author, is strenuous and even unwarrantably bitter.11 Especially the position laid 308down by Schleiermacher — that Phædrus is the earliest of Plato’s dialogues, written when he was 22 or 23 years of age, and that the general system presiding over all the future dialogues is indicated therein as even then present to his mind, afterwards to be worked out — is controverted by Hermann and Stallbaum no less than by Ast and Socher. All three concur in the tripartite distribution of the life of Plato. But Hermann thinks that Plato acquired gradually and successively, new points of view, with enlarged philosophical development: and that the dialogues as successively composed are expressions of these varying phases. Moreover, Hermann thinks that such variations in Plato’s philosophy may be accounted for by external circumstances. He reckons Plato’s first period as ending with the death of Sokrates, or rather at an epoch not long after the death of Sokrates: the second as ending with the commencement of Plato’s teaching at the Academy, after his return from Sicily — about 385 B.C.: the third, as extending from thence to his old age. To the first, or Sokratic stadium, Hermann assigns the smaller dialogues: the earliest of which he declares to be — Hippias II., Ion, Alkibiadês I., Lysis, Charmidês, Lachês: after which come Protagoras and Euthydêmus, wherein the batteries are opened against the Sophists, shortly before the death of Sokrates. Immediately after the last mentioned event, come a series of dialogues reflecting the strong and fresh impression left by it upon Plato’s mind — Apologia, Kriton, Gorgias, Euthyphron, Menon, Hippias I. — occupying a sort of transition stage between the first and the second period. We now enter upon the second or dialectic period; passed by Plato greatly at 309Megara, and influenced by the philosophical intercourse which he there enjoyed, and characterised by the composition of Theætêtus, Kratylus, Sophistês, Politikus, Parmenidês.12 To the third, or constructive period, greatly determined by the influence of the Pythagorean philosophy, belong Phædrus, Menexenus, Symposion, Phædon, Philêbus, Republic, Timæus, Kritias: a series composed during Plato’s teaching at the Academy, and commencing with Phædrus, which last Hermann considers to be a sort of (Antritts-Programme) inauguratory composition for the opening of his school of oral discourse or colloquy. Lastly, during the final years of the philosopher, after all the three periods, come the Leges or treatise de Legibus: placed by itself as the composition of his old age.

10 K. F. Hermann, Geschichte und System der Platonischen Philosophie, p. 368, seq. Stallbaum, Disputatio de Platonis Vitâ et Scriptis, prefixed to his edition of Plato’s Works, p. xxxii., seq.

11 Ueberweg (Untersuchungen, pp. 50-52) has collected several citations from K. F. Hermann, in which the latter treats Schleiermacher “wie einen Sophisten, der sich in absichtlicher Unwahrhaftigkeit gefalle, mitunter fast als einen Mann der innerlich wohl wisse, wie die Sache stehe (nämlich, dass sie so sei, wie Hermann lehrt), der sich aber, etwa aus Lust, seine überlegene Dialektik zu beweisen, Mühe gebe, sie in einem anderen Lichte erscheinen zu lassen; also — το ἥττω λόγον κρείττω ποιεῖν — recht in rhetorisch sophistischer Manier.”

We know well, from other and independent evidence, what Schleiermacher really was, that he was not only one of the most accomplished scholars, but one of the most liberal and estimable men of his age. But how different would be our appreciation if we had no other evidence to judge by except the dicta of opponents, and even distinguished opponents, like Hermann! If there be any point clear in the history of philosophy, it is the uncertainty of all judgments, respecting writers and thinkers, founded upon the mere allegations of opponents. Yet the Athenian Sophists, respecting whom we have no independent evidence (except the general fact that they had a number of approvers and admirers), are depicted confidently by the Platonic critics in the darkest colours, upon the evidence of their bitter opponent Plato — and in colours darker than even his evidence warrants. The often-repeated calumny, charged against almost all debaters — τὸ τὸν ἥττο λόγον κρείττω ποιεῖν — by Hermann against Schleiermacher, by Melêtus against Sokrates, by Plato against the Sophists — is believed only against these last.

12 K. F. Hermann, Gesch. u. Syst. d. Plat. Phil., p. 496, seq. Stallbaum (p. xxxiii.) places the Kratylus during the lifetime of Sokrates, a little earlier than Euthydêmus and Protagoras, all three of which he assigns to Olymp. 94, 402-400 B.C. See also his Proleg. to Kratylus, tom. v. p, 26.

Moreover, Stallbaum places the Menon and Ion about the same time — a few months or weeks before the trial of Sokrates (Proleg. ad Menonem, tom. vi. pp. 20, 21; Proleg. ad Ionem, tom. iv. p. 289). He considers the Euthyphron to have been actually composed at the moment to which it professes to refer (viz., after Melêtus had preferred indictment against Sokrates), and with a view of defending Sokrates against the charge of impiety (Proleg. ad Euthyphron. tom. vi. pp. 138-139-142). He places the composition of the Charmidês about six years before the death of Sokrates (Proleg. ad Charm. p. 86). He seems to consider, indeed, that the Menon and Euthydêmus were both written for the purpose of defending Sokrates: thus implying that they too were written after the indictment was preferred (Proleg. ad Euthyphron. p. 145).

In regard to the date of the Euthyphron, Schleiermacher also had declared, prior to Stallbaum, that it was unquestionably (unstreitig) composed at a period between the indictment and the trial of Sokrates (Einl. zum Euthyphron, vol. ii. p. 53, of his transl. of Plato).

They reject several dialogues.

Hermann and Stallbaum reject (besides the dialogues already rejected by Thrasyllus) Alkibiadês II., Theagês, Erastæ, Hipparchus, Minos, Epinomis: Stallbaum rejects the Kleitophon: Hermann hesitates, and is somewhat inclined to admit it, as he also admits, to a considerable extent, the Epistles.13

13 Stallbaum, p. xxxiv. Hermann, pp. 424, 425.

Steinhart — agrees in rejecting Schleiermacher’s fundamental postulate — his arrangement of the dialogues — considers the Phædrus as late in order — rejects several.

Steinhart, in his notes and prefaces to H. Müller’s translation of the Platonic dialogues, agrees in the main with K. F. Hermann, both in denying the fundamental postulate of Schleiermacher, and in settling the general order of the dialogues, though with some difference as to individual dialogues. He considers Ion as the 310earliest, followed by Hippias I, Hippias II., Alkibiadês I., Lysis, Charmidês, Lachês, Protagoras. These constitute what Steinhart calls the ethico-Sokratical series of Plato’s compositions, having the common attributes — That they do not step materially beyond the philosophical range of Sokrates himself — That there is a preponderance of the mimic and plastic element — That they end, to all appearance, with unsolved doubts and unanswered questions.14 He supposes the Charmidês to have been composed during the time of the Thirty, the Lachês shortly afterwards, and the Protagoras about two years before the death of Sokrates. He lays it down as incontestable that the Protagoras was not composed after the death of Sokrates.15 Immediately prior to this last-mentioned event, and posterior to the Protagoras, he places the Euthydêmus, Menon, Euthyphron, Apologia, Kriton, Gorgias, Kratylus: preparatory to the dialectic series consisting of Parmenidês, Theætêtus, Sophistês, Politikus, the result of Plato’s stay at Megara, and contact with the Eleatic and Megaric philosophers. The third series of dialogues, the mature and finished productions of Plato at the Academy, opens with Phædrus. Steinhart rejects as spurious Alkibiadês II., Erastæ, Theagês, &c.

14 See Steinhart’s Proleg. to the Protag. vol. i. p. 430. of Müller’s transl. of Plato.

15 Steinhart, Prolegg. to Charmidês, p. 295.

Susemihl — coincides to a great degree with K. F. Hermann his order of arrangement.

Another author, also, Susemihl, coincides in the main with the principles of arrangement adopted by K. F. Hermann for the Platonic dialogues. First in the order of chronological composition he places the shorter dialogues — the exclusively ethical, least systematic; and he ranges them in a series, indicating the progressive development of Plato’s mind, with approach towards his final systematic conceptions.16 Susemihl begins this early series with Hippias II., followed by Lysis, Charmidês, Lachês, Protagoras, Menon, Apologia, Kriton, Gorgias, Euthyphron. The seven first, ending with the Menon, he conceives to have been published successively during the lifetime of Sokrates: the Menon itself, during the interval between his indictment and 311his death;17 the Apologia and Kriton, very shortly after his death; followed, at no long interval, by Gorgias and Euthyphron.18 The Ion and Alkibiadês I. are placed by Susemihl among the earliest of the Platonic compositions, but as not belonging to the regular series. He supposes them to have been called forth by some special situation, like Apologia and Kriton, if indeed they be Platonic at all, of which he does not feel assured.19

16 F. Susemihl, Die Genetische Entwickelung der Platonischen Philosophie, Leipsic, 1865, p. 9.

17 Susemihl, ibid. pp. 40-61-89.

18 Susemihl, ib. pp. 113-125.

19 Susemihl, ib. p. 9.

Immediately after Euthyphron, Susemihl places Euthydêmus, which he treats as the commencement of a second series of dialogues: the first series, or ethical, being now followed by the dialectic, in which the principles, process, and certainty of cognition are discussed, though in an indirect and preparatory way. This second series consists of Euthydêmus, Kratylus, Theætêtus, Phædrus, Sophistês, Politikus, Parmenidês, Symposion, Phædon. Through all these dialogues Susemihl professes to trace a thread of connection, each successively unfolding and determining more of the general subject: but all in an indirect, negative, round-about manner. Allowing for this manner, Susemihl contends that the dialectical counter-demonstrations or Antinomies, occupying the last half of the Parmenidês, include the solution of those difficulties, which have come forward in various forms from the Euthydêmus up to the Sophistês, against Plato’s theory of Ideas.20 The Phædon closes the series of dialectic compositions, and opens the way to the constructive dialogues following, partly ethical, partly physical — Philêbus, Republic, Timæus, Kritias.21 The Leges come last of all.

20 Susemihl, ib. p. 355, seq.

21 Susemihl, pp. 466-470. The first volume of Susemihl’s work ends with the Phædon.

Edward Munk — adopts a different principle of arrangement, founded upon the different period which each dialogue exhibits of the life, philosophical growth, and old age, of Sokrates — his arrangement, founded on this principle. He distinguishes the chronological order of composition from the place allotted to each dialogue in the systematic plan.

A more recent critic, Dr. Edward Munk, has broached a new and very different theory as to the natural order of the Platonic dialogues. Upon his theory, they were intended by Plato22 to depict the life and working of a philosopher, in successive dramatic exhibitions, from youth to old age. The different moments in the life of Sokrates, indicated in each dialogue, mark the the 312place which Plato intended it to occupy in the series. The Parmenidês is the first, wherein Sokrates is introduced as a young man, initiated into philosophy by the ancient Parmenidês: the Phædon is last, describing as it does the closing scene of Sokrates. Plato meant his dialogues to be looked at partly in artistic sequence, as a succession of historical dramas — partly in philosophical sequence, as a record of the progressive development of his own doctrine: the two principles are made to harmonize in the main, though sometimes the artistic sequence is obscured for the purpose of bringing out the philosophical, sometimes the latter is partially sacrificed to the former.23 Taken in the aggregate, the dialogues from Parmenidês to Phædon form a Sokratic cycle, analogous to the historical plays of Shakespeare, from King John to Henry VIII.24 But Munk at the same time contends that this natural order of the dialogues — or the order in which Plato intended them to be viewed — is not to be confounded with the chronological order of their composition.25 The Parmenidês, though constituting the opening Prologue of the whole cycle, was not composed first: nor the Phædon last. All of them were probably composed after Plato had attained the full maturity of his philosophy: that is, probably after the opening of his school at the Academy in 386 B.C. But in composing each, he had always two objects jointly in view: he adapted the tone of each to the age and situation in which he wished to depict Sokrates:26 he commemorated, in each, one of the past phases of his own philosophising mind.

22 Dr. Edward Munk. Die natürliche Ordnung der Platonischen Schriften, Berlin, 1857. His scheme of arrangement is explained generally, pp. 25-48, &c.

23 Munk, ib. p. 29.

24 Munk, ib. p. 27.

25 Munk, ibid. p. 27.

26 Munk, ib. p. 54; Preface, p. viii.

The Cycle taken in its intentional or natural order, is distributed by Munk into three groups, after the Parmenidês as general prologue.27

1. Sokratic or Indirect Dialogues. — Protagoras, Charmidês, Lachês, Gorgias, Ion, Hippias I., Kratylus, Euthydêmus, Symposion.313

2. Direct or Constructive Dialogues. — Phædrus, Philêbus, Republic, Timæus, Kritias.

3. Dialectic and Apologetic Dialogues. — Menon, Theætêtus, Sophistês, Politikus, Euthyphron, Apologia, Kriton, Phædon.

The Leges and Menexenus stand apart from the Cycle, as compositions on special occasion. Alkibiadês I., Hippias II., Lysis, are also placed apart from the Cycle, as compositions of Plato’s earlier years, before he had conceived the general scheme of it.28

27 Munk, ib. p. 50.

28 Munk, ib. pp. 25-34.

The first of the three groups depicts Sokrates in the full vigour of life, about 35 years of age: the second represents him an elderly man, about 60: the third, immediately prior to his death.29 In the first group he is represented as a combatant for truth: in the second as a teacher of truth: in the third, as a martyr for truth.30

29 Munk, ib. p. 26.

30 Munk, ib. p. 31.

Views of Ueberweg — attempt to reconcile Schleiermacher and Hermann — admits the preconceived purpose for the later dialogues, composed after the foundation of the school, but not for the earlier.

Lastly, we have another German author still more recent, Frederick Ueberweg, who has again investigated the order and authenticity of the Platonic dialogues, in a work of great care and ability: reviewing the theories of his predecessors, as well as proposing various modifications of his own.31 Ueberweg compares the different opinions of Schleiermacher and K. F. Hermann, and admits both of them to a certain extent, each concurrent with and limiting the other.32 The theory of a preconceived system and methodical series, proposed by Schleiermacher, takes its departure from the Phædrus, and postulates as an essential condition that that dialogue shall be recognised as the earliest composition.33 This condition Ueberweg does not admit. He agrees with Hermann, Stallbaum, and others, in referring the Phædrus to a later date (about 386 B.C.), shortly after Plato had established his school in Athens, when he was rather above forty years of age. At this period (Ueberweg thinks) Plato may be considered as having acquired methodical views which had not been present to him before; and the dialogues 314composed after the Phædrus follow out, to a certain extent, these methodical views. In the Phædrus, the Platonic Sokrates delivers the opinion that writing is unavailing as a means of imparting philosophy: that the only way in which philosophy can be imparted is, through oral colloquy adapted by the teacher to the mental necessities, and varying stages of progress, of each individual learner: and that writing can only serve, after such oral instruction has been imparted, to revive it if forgotten, in the memory both of the teacher and of the learner who has been orally taught. For the dialogues composed after the opening of the school, and after the Phædrus, Ueberweg recognises the influence of a preconceived method and of a constant bearing on the oral teaching of the school: for those anterior to that date, he admits no such influence: he refers them (with Hermann) to successive enlargements, suggestions, inspirations, either arising in Plato’s own mind, or communicated from without. Ueberweg does not indeed altogether exclude the influence of this non-methodical cause, even for the later dialogues: he allows its operation to a certain extent, in conjunction with the methodical: what he excludes is, the influence of any methodical or preconceived scheme for the earlier dialogues.34 He thinks that Plato composed the later portion of his dialogues (i.e., those subsequent to the Phædrus and to the opening of his school), not for the instruction of the general reader, but as reminders to his disciples of that which they had already learnt from oral teaching: and he cites the analogy of Paul and the apostles, who wrote epistles not to convert the heathen, but to admonish or confirm converts already made by preaching.35

31 Ueberweg, Untersuchungen.

32 Ueberweg, p. 111.

33 Ueberweg, pp. 23-26.

34 Ueberweg, pp. 107-110-111. “Sind beide Gesichtspunkte, der einer methodischen Absicht und der einer Selbst-Entwicklung Platon’s durchweg mit einander zu verbinden, so liegt es auch in der Natur der Sache und wird auch von einigen seiner Nachfolger (insbesondere nachdrücklich von Susemihl) anerkannt, dass der erste Gesichtspunkt vorzugsweise für die späteren Schriften von der Gründung der Schule an — der andere vorzugsweise für die früheren — gilt.”

35 Ueberweg, pp. 80-86, “Ist unsere obige Deutung richtig, wonach Platon nicht für Fremde zur Belehrung, sondern wesentlich für seine Schüler zur Erinnerung an den mündlichen Unterricht, schrieb (wie die Apostel nicht für Fremde zur Bekehrung, sondern für die christlichen Gemeinden zur Stärke und Läuterung, nachdem denselben der Glaube aus der Predigt gekommen war) — so folgt, dass jede Argumentation, die auf den Phaedrus gegründet wird, nur für die Zeit gelten kann, in welcher bereits die Platonische Schule bestand.”

His opinions as to authenticity and chronology of the dialogues, He rejects Hippias Major, Erastæ, Theagês, Kleitophon, Parmenidês: he is inclined to reject Euthyphron and Menexenus.

Ueberweg investigates the means which we possess, either from 315external testimony (especially that of Aristotle) or from internal evidence, of determining the authenticity as well as the chronological order of the dialogues. He remarks that though, in contrasting the expository dialogues with those which are simply enquiring and debating, we may presume the expository to belong to Plato’s full maturity of life, and to have been preceded by some of the enquiring and debating — yet we cannot safely presume all these latter to be of his early composition. Plato may have continued to inclined to compose dialogues of mere search, even after the time when he began to compose expository dialogues.36 Ueberweg considers that the earliest of Plato’s dialogues are, Lysis, Hippias Minor, Lachês, Charmidês, Protagoras, composed during the lifetime of Sokrates: next the Apologia, and Kriton, not long after his death. All these (even the Protagoras) he reckons among the “lesser Platonic writings”.37 None of them allude to the Platonic Ideas or Objective Concepts. The Gorgias comes next, probably soon after the death of Sokrates, at least at some time earlier than the opening of the school in 386 B.C.38 The Menon and Ion may be placed about the same general period.39 The Phædrus (as has been already observed) is considered by Ueberweg to be nearly contemporary with the opening of the school: shortly afterwards Symposion and Euthydêmus:40 at some subsequent time, Republic, Timæus, Kritias, and Leges. In regard to the four last, Ueberweg does not materially differ from Schleiermacher, Hermann, and other critics: but on another point he differs from them materially, viz.: that instead of placing the Theætêtus, Sophistês, and Politikus, in the Megaric period or prior to the opening of the school, he assigns them (as well as the Phædon and Philêbus) to the last twenty years of Plato’s life. He places Phædon later than Timæus, and Politikus later than Phædon: he considers that Sophistês, Politikus, and Philêbus are among the latest compositions of Plato.41 He rejects Hippias Major, Erastæ, Theagês, Kleitophon, and Parmenidês: he is 316inclined to reject Euthyphron. He scarcely recognises Menexenus, in spite of the direct attestation of Aristotle, which attestation he tries (in my judgment very unsuccessfully) to invalidate.42 He recognises the Kratylus, but without determining its date. He determines nothing about Alkibiadês I. and II.

36 Ueberweg, p. 81.

37 Ueberweg, pp. 100-105-296. “Eine Anzahl kleinerer Platonischer Schriften.”

38 Ueberweg, pp. 249-267-296.

39 Ueberweg, pp. 226, 227.

40 Ueberweg, p. 265.

41 Ueberweg, pp. 204-292.

42 Ueberweg, pp. 143-176-222-250.

Other Platonic critics — great dissensions about scheme and order of the dialogues.

The works above enumerated are those chiefly deserving of notice, though there are various others also useful, amidst the abundance of recent Platonic criticism. All these writers, Schleiermacher, Ast, Socher, K. F. Hermann, Stallbaum, Steinhart, Susemihl, Munk, Ueberweg, have not merely laid down general schemes of arrangement for the Platonic dialogues, but have gone through the dialogues seriatim, each endeavouring to show that his own scheme fits them well, and each raising objections against the schemes earlier than his own. It is indeed truly remarkable to follow the differences of opinion among these learned men, all careful students of the Platonic writings. And the number of dissents would be indefinitely multiplied, if we took into the account the various historians of philosophy during the last few years. Ritter and Brandis accept, in the main, the theory of Schleiermacher: Zeller also, to a certain extent. But each of these authors has had a point of view more or less belonging to himself respecting the general scheme and purpose of Plato, and respecting the authenticity, sequence, and reciprocal illustration of the dialogues.43

43 Socher remarks (Ueber, Platon. p. 225) (after enumerating twenty-two dialogues of the Thrasyllean canon, which he considers the earliest) that of these twenty-two, there are only two which have not been declared spurious by some one or more critics. He then proceeds to examine the remainder, among which are Sophistês, Politikus, Parmenidês. He (Socher) declares these three last to be spurious, which no critic had declared before.

Contrast of different points of view instructive — but no solution has been obtained.

By such criticisms much light has been thrown on the dialogues in detail. It is always interesting to read the different views taken by many scholars, all careful students of Plato, respecting the order and relations of the dialogues: especially as the views are not merely different but contradictory, so that the weak points of each are put before us as well as the strong. But as to the large problem which these critics have undertaken to solve — though several solutions have been proposed, in favour 317of which something may be urged, yet we look in vain for any solution at once sufficient as to proof and defensible against objectors.

The problem incapable of solution. Extent and novelty of the theory propounded by Schleiermacher — slenderness of his proofs.

It appears to me that the problem itself is one which admits of no solution. Schleiermacher was the first who proposed it with the large pretensions which it has since embraced, and which have been present more or less to the minds of subsequent critics, even when they differ from him. He tells us himself that he comes forward as Restitutor Platonis, in a character which no one had ever undertaken before.44 And he might fairly have claimed that title, if he had furnished proofs at all commensurate to his professions. As his theory is confessedly novel as well as comprehensive, it required greater support in the way of evidence. But when I read the Introductions (the general as well as the special) in which such evidence ought to be found, I am amazed to find that there is little else but easy and confident assumption. His hypothesis is announced as if the simple announcement were sufficient to recommend it45 — as if no other supposition were consistent with the recognised grandeur of Plato as a philosopher — as if any one, dissenting from it, only proved thereby that he did not understand Plato. Yet so far from being of this self-recommending character, the hypothesis is really loaded with the heaviest antecedent improbability. That in 406 B.C., and at the age of 23, in an age when schemes of philosophy elaborated in detail were unknown — Plato should conceive a vast scheme of philosophy, to be worked out underground without ever being proclaimed, through numerous Sokratic dialogues one after the other, each ushering in that which follows and each resting upon that which precedes: that he should have persisted throughout a long life in working out this scheme, adapting the sequence of his dialogues to the successive stages which he had attained, so that none of them could be properly understood unless when 318studied immediately after its predecessors and immediately before its successors — and yet that he should have taken no pains to impress this one peremptory arrangement on the minds of readers, and that Schleiermacher should be the first to detect it — all this appears to me as improbable as any of the mystic interpretations of Iamblichus or Proklus. Like other improbabilities, it may be proved by evidence, if evidence can be produced: but here nothing of the kind is producible. We are called upon to grant the general hypothesis without proof, and to follow Schleiermacher in applying it to the separate dialogues.

44 Schleiermacher, Einleitung, pp. 22-29. “Diese natürliche Folge (der Platonischen Gespräche) wieder herzustellen, diess ist, wie jedermann sieht, eine Absicht, welche sich sehr weit entfernt von allen bisherigen Versuchen zur Anordnung der Platonischen Werke,” &c.

45 What I say about Schleiermacher here will be assented to by any one who reads his Einleitung, pp. 10, 11, seq.

Schleiermacher’s hypothesis includes a preconceived scheme, and a peremptory order of interdependence among the dialogues.

Schleiermacher’s hypothesis includes two parts. 1. A premeditated philosophical scheme, worked out continuously from the first dialogue to the last. 2. A peremptory canonical order, essential to this scheme, and determined thereby. Now as to the scheme, though on the one hand it cannot be proved, yet on the other hand it cannot be disproved. But as to the canonical order, I think it may be disproved. We know that no such order was recognised in the days of Aristophanes, and Schleiermacher himself admits that before those days it had been lost.46 But I contend that if it was lost within a century after the decease of Plato, we may fairly presume that it never existed at all, as peremptory and indispensable to the understanding of what Plato meant. A great philosopher such as Plato (so Schleiermacher argues) must be supposed to have composed all his dialogues with some preconceived comprehensive scheme: but a great philosopher (we may add), if he does work upon a preconceived scheme, must surely be supposed to take some reasonable precautions to protect the order essential to that scheme from dropping out of sight. Moreover, Schleiermacher himself admits that there are various dialogues which lie apart from the canonical order and form no part of the grand premeditated scheme. The distinction here made between these outlying compositions (Nebenwerke) and the members of the regular series, is indeed altogether arbitrary: but the admission of it tends still farther to invalidate the fundamental postulate of a grand Demiurgic universe of dialogues,319 each dovetailed and fitted into its special place among the whole. The universe is admitted to have breaks: so that the hypothesis does not possess the only merit which can belong to gratuitous hypothesis — that of introducing, if granted, complete symmetry throughout the phenomena.

46 Schleiermacher, Einleitung, p. 24.

Assumptions of Schleiermacher respecting the Phædrus inadmissible.

To these various improbabilities we may add another — that Schleiermacher’s hypothesis requires us to admit that the Phædrus is Plato’s earliest dialogue, composed about 406 B.C., when he was 21 years of age, on my computation, and certainly not more than 23: that it is the first outburst of the inspiration which Sokrates had imparted to him,47 and that it embodies, though in a dim and poetical form, the lineaments of that philosophical system which he worked out during the ensuing half century. That Plato at this early age should have conceived so vast a system — that he should have imbibed it from Sokrates, who enunciated no system, and abounded in the anti-systematic negative — that he should have been inspired to write the Phædrus (with its abundant veins, dithyrambic,48 erotic, and transcendental) by the conversation of Sokrates, which exhibited acute dialectic combined with practical sagacity, but neither poetic fervour nor transcendental fancy, — in all this hypothesis of Schleiermacher, there is nothing but an aggravation of improbabilities.

47 See Schleiermacher’s Einleitung to the Phædrus: “Der Phaidros, der erste Ausbruch seiner Begeisterung vom Sokrates”.

48 If we read Dionysius of Halikarnassus (De Admirab. Vi Dic. in Demosth. pp. 968-971, Reiske), we shall find that rhetor pointing out the Phædrus as a signal example of Plato’s departure from the manner and character of Sokrates, and as a specimen of misplaced poetical exaggeration. Dikæarchus formed the same opinion about the Phædrus (Diog. L. iii. 38).

Neither Schleiermacher, nor any other critic, has as yet produced any tolerable proof for an internal theory of the Platonic dialogues.

Against such improbabilities (partly external partly internal) Schleiermacher has nothing to set except internal reasons: that is, when he shall have arranged the dialogues and explained the interdependence as well as the special place of each, the arrangement will impress itself upon all as being the intentional work of Plato himself.49 But these “internal reasons” (innere Gründe), which are to serve as constructive evidence (in the absence of positive declarations) of Plato’s purpose, fail to produce upon other minds the 320effect which Schleiermacher demands. If we follow them as stated in his Introductions (prefixed to the successive Platonic dialogues), we find a number of approximations and comparisons, often just and ingenious, but always inconclusive for his point: proving, at the very best, what Plato’s intention may possibly have been — yet subject to be countervailed by other “internal reasons” equally specious, tending to different conclusions. And the various opponents of Schleiermacher prove just as much and no more, each on behalf of his own mode of arrangement, by the like constructive evidence — appeal to “internal reasons”. But the insufficient character of these “internal reasons” is more fatal to Schleiermacher than to any of his opponents: because his fundamental hypothesis — while it is the most ambitious of all and would be the most important, if it could be proved — is at the same time burdened with the strongest antecedent improbability, and requires the amplest proof to make it at all admissible.

49 See the general Einleitung, p. 11.

Munk’s theory is the most ambitious, and the most gratuitous, next to Schleiermacher’s.

Dr. Munk undertakes the same large problem as Schleiermacher. He assumes the Platonic dialogues to have been composed upon a preconceived system, beginning when Plato opened his school, about 41 years of age. This has somewhat less antecedent improbability than the supposition that Plato conceived his system at 21 or 23 years of age. But it is just as much destitute of positive support. That Plato intended his dialogues to form a fixed series, exhibiting the successive gradations of his philosophical system — that he farther intended this series to coincide with a string of artistic portraits, representing Sokrates in the ascending march from youth to old age, so that the characteristic feature which marks the place and time of each dialogue, is to be found in the age which it assigns to Sokrates — these are positions for the proof of which we are referred to “internal reasons”; but which the dialogues do not even suggest, much less sanction.

The age assigned to Sokrates in any dialogue is a circumstance of little moment.

In many dialogues, the age assigned to Sokrates is a circumstance neither distinctly brought out, nor telling on the debate. It is true that in the Parmenidês he is noted as young, and is made to conduct himself with the deference of youth, receiving hints and admonitions 321from the respected veteran of Elea. So too in the Protagoras, he is characterised as young, but chiefly in contrast with the extreme and pronounced old age of the Sophist Protagoras: he does not conduct himself like a youth, nor exhibit any of that really youthful or deferential spirit which we find in the Parmenidês; on the contrary, he stands forward as the rival, cross-examiner, and conqueror of the ancient Sophist. On the contrary, in the Euthydêmus,50 Sokrates is announced as old; though that dialogue is indisputably very analogous to the Protagoras, both of them being placed by Munk in the earliest of his three groups. Moreover in the Lysis also, Sokrates appears as old; — here Munk escapes from the difficulty by setting aside the dialogue as a youthful composition, not included in the consecutive Sokratic Cycle.51 What is there to justify the belief, that the Sokrates depicted in the Phædrus (which dialogue has been affirmed by Schieiermacher and Ast, besides some ancient critics, to exhibit decided marks of juvenility) is older than the Sokrates of the Symposion? or that Sokrates in the Philêbus and Republic is older than in the Kratylus or Gorgias? It is true that the dialogues Theætêtus and Euthyphron are both represented as held a little before the death of Sokrates, after the indictment of Melêtus against him had already been preferred. This is a part of the hypothetical situation, in which the dialogists are brought into company. But there is nothing in the two dialogues themselves (or in the Menon, which Munk places in the same category) to betoken that Sokrates is old. Holiness, in the Euthyphron — Knowledge, in the Theætêtus — is canvassed and debated just as Temperance and Courage are debated in the Charmidês and Lachês. Munk lays it down that Sokrates appears as a Martyr for Truth in the Euthyphron, Menon, and Theætêtus and as a Combatant for Truth in the Lachês, Charmidês, Euthydêmus, &c. But the two groups of dialogues, when compared with each other, will not be found to warrant this distinctive appellation. In the Apologia, Kriton, and Phædon, it may be said with propriety that Sokrates is represented as a martyr for truth: in all three he appears not 322merely as a talker, but as a personal agent: but this is not true of the other dialogues which Munk places in his third group.

50 Euthydêmus, c. 4, p. 272.

51 Lysis, p. 223, ad fin. Καταγέλαστοι γεγόναμεν ἐγώ τε, γέρων ἀνήρ, καὶ ὑμεῖς. See Munk, p. 25.

No intentional sequence or interdependence of the dialogues can be made out.

I cannot therefore accede to this “natural arrangement of the Platonic dialogues,” assumed to have been intended by Plato, and founded upon the progress of Sokrates as he stands exhibited in each, from youth to age — which Munk has proposed in his recent ingenious volume. It is interesting to be made acquainted with that order of the Platonic dialogues which any critical student conceives to be the “natural order”. But in respect to Munk as well as to Schleiermacher, I must remark that if Plato had conceived and predetermined the dialogues, so as to be read in one natural peremptory order, he would never have left that order so dubious and imperceptible, as to be first divined by critics of the nineteenth century, and understood by them too in several different ways. If there were any peremptory and intentional sequence, we may reasonably presume that Plato would have made it as clearly understood as he has determined the sequence of the ten books of his Republic.

Principle of arrangement adopted by Hermann is reasonable — successive changes in Plato’s point of view: but we cannot explain either the order or the causes of these changes.

The principle of arrangement proposed by K. F. Hermann (approved also by Steinhart and Susemihl) is not open to the same antecedent objection. Not admitting any preconceived, methodical, intentional, system, nor the maintenance of one and the same successive philosophical point of view throughout — Hermann supposes that the dialogues as successively composed represent successive phases of Plato’s philosophical development and variations in his point of view. Hermann farther considers that these variations may be assigned and accounted for: first pure Sokratism, next the modifications experienced from Plato’s intercourse with the Megaric philosophers, — then the influence derived from Kyrênê and Egypt — subsequently that from the Pythagoreans in Italy — and so forth. The first portion of this hypothesis, taken generally, is very reasonable and probable. But when, after assuming that there must have been determining changes in Plato’s own mind, we proceed to inquire what these were, and whence they arose, we find a sad lack of evidence for the answer to the question. We 323neither know the order in which the dialogues were composed, — nor the date when Plato first began to compose, — nor the primitive philosophical mind which his earliest dialogues represented, — nor the order of those subsequent modifications which his views underwent. We are informed, indeed, that Plato went from Athens to visit Megara, Kyrênê, Egypt, Italy; but the extent or kind of influence which he experienced in each, we do not know at all.52 I think it a reasonable presumption that the points which Plato had in common with Sokrates were most preponderant in the mind of Plato immediately after the death of his master: and that other trains of thought gradually became more and more intermingled as the recollection of his master became more distant. There is also a presumption that the longer, more elaborate, and more transcendental dialogues (among which must be ranked the Phædrus), were composed in the full maturity of Plato’s age and intellect: the shorter and less finished may have been composed either then or earlier in his life. Here are two presumptions, plausible enough when stated generally, yet too vague to justify any special inferences: the rather, if we may believe the statement of Dionysius, that Plato continued to “comb and curl his dialogues until he was eighty years of age”.53

52 Bonitz (in his instructive volume, Platonische Studien, Wien, 1858, p. 5) points out how little we know about the real circumstances of Plato’s intellectual and philosophical development: a matter which most of the Platonic critics are apt to forget.

I confess that I agree with Strümpell, that it is impossible to determine chronologically, from Plato’s writings, and from the other scanty evidence accessible to us, by what successive steps his mind departed from the original views and doctrines held and communicated by Sokrates (Strümpell, Gesch. der Griechen, p. 294, Leipsic, 1861).

53 Dionys. Hal. De Comp. Verbor. p. 208; Diog. L. iii. 37; Quintilian, viii. 6.

F. A. Wolf, in a valuable note upon the διασκευασταὶ (Proleg. ad Homer. p. clii.) declares, upon this ground, that it is impossible to determine the time when Plato composed his best dialogues. “Ex his collatis apparet διασκευάζειν a veteribus magistris adscitum esse in potestatem verbi ἐπιδιασκευάζειν: ut in Scenicis propé idem esset quod ἀναδιδάσκειν — h. e. repetito committere fabulam, sed mutando, addendo, detrahendo, emendatam, refictam, et secundis curis elaboratam. Id enim facere solebant illi poetæ sæpissimé: mox etiam alii, ut Apollonius Rhodius. Neque aliter Plato fecit in optimis dialogis suis: quam ob causam exquirere non licet, quando quisque compositus sit; quum in scenicis fabulis saltem ex didascaliis plerumque notum sit tempus, quo editæ sunt.”

Preller has a like remark (Hist. Phil. ex Font. Loc. Context., sect. 250).

In regard to the habit of correcting compositions, the contrast between Plato and Plotinus was remarkable. Porphyry tells us that Plotinus, when once he had written any matter, could hardly bear even to read it over — much less to review and improve it (Porph. Vit. Plotini, 8).

Hermann’s view more tenable than Schleiermacher’s.

If we compare K. F. Hermann with Schleiermacher, we see 324that Hermann has amended his position by abandoning Schleiermacher’s gratuitous hypothesis, of a preconceived Platonic system with a canonical order of the dialogues adapted to that system — and by admitting only a chronological order of composition, each dialogue being generated by the state of Plato’s mind at the time when it was composed. This, taken generally, is indisputable. If we perfectly knew Plato’s biography and the circumstances around him, we should be able to determine which dialogues were first, second, and third, &c., and what circumstances or mental dispositions occasioned the successive composition of those which followed. But can we do this with our present scanty information? I think not. Hermann, while abandoning the hypothesis of Schleiermacher, has still accepted the large conditions of the problem first drawn up by Schleiermacher, and has undertaken to decide the real order of the dialogues, together with the special occasion and the phase of Platonic development corresponding to each. Herein, I think, he has failed.

Small number of certainties, or even reasonable presumptions, as to date or order of the dialogues.

It is, indeed, natural that critics should form some impression as to earlier and later in the dialogues. But though there are some peculiar cases in which such impression acquires much force, I conceive that in almost all cases it is to a high degree uncertain. Several dialogues proclaim themselves as subsequent to the death of Sokrates. We know from internal allusions that the Theætêtus must have been composed after 394 B.C., the Menexenus after 387 B.C., and the Symposion after 385 B.C. We are sure, by Aristotle’s testimony, that the Leges were written at a later period than the Republic; Plutarch also states that the Leges were composed during the old age of Plato, and this statement, accepted by most modern critics, appears to me trustworthy.54 The Sophistês proclaims itself as a second meeting, by mutual agreement, of the same persons who had conversed in the Theætêtus, with the addition of a new companion, the Eleatic stranger. But we must remark that the subject of the Theætêtus, though left unsettled at the close of that dialogue, is not resumed in the Sophistês: in which last, 325moreover, Sokrates acts only a subordinate part, while the Eleatic stranger, who did not appear in the Theætêtus, is here put forward as the prominent questioner or expositor. So too, the Politikus offers itself as a third of the same triplet: with this difference, that while the Eleatic stranger continues as the questioner, a new respondent appears in the person of Sokrates Junior. The Politikus is not a resumption of the same subject as the Sophistês, but a second application of the same method (the method of logical division and subdivision) to a different subject. Plato speaks also as if he contemplated a third application of the same method — the Philosophus: which, so far as we know, was never realised. Again, the Timæus presents itself as a sequel to the Republic, and the Kritias as a sequel to the Timæus: a fourth, the Hermokrates, being apparently announced, as about to follow — but not having been composed.

54 Plutarch, Isid. et Osirid. c. 48, p. 370.

Trilogies indicated by Plato himself.

Here then are two groups of three each (we might call them Trilogies, and if the intended fourth had been realised, Tetralogies), indicated by Plato himself. A certain relative chronological order is here doubtless evident: the Sophistês must have been composed after the Theætêtus and before the Politikus, the Timæus after the Republic and before the Kritias. But this is all that we can infer: for it does not follow that the sequence must have been immediate in point of time: there may have been a considerable interval between the three forming the so-called Trilogy.55 We may add, that neither in the Theætêtus nor in the Republic, do we find indication that either of them is intended as the first of a Trilogy: the marks 326proving an intended Trilogy are only found in the second and third of the series.

55 It may seem singular that Schleiermacher is among those who adopt this opinion. He maintains that the Sophistes does not follow immediately upon the Theætêtus; that Plato, though intending when he finished the Theætêtus to proceed onward to the Sophistês, altered his intention, and took up other views instead: that the Menon (and the Euthydêmus) come in between them, in immediate sequel to the Theætêtus (Einleitung zum Menon, vol. iii. p. 326).

Here Schleiermacher introduces a new element of uncertainty, which invalidates yet more seriously the grounds for his hypothesis of a preconceived sequence throughout all the dialogues. In a case where Plato directly intimates an intentional sequence, we are called upon to believe, on “internal grounds” alone, that he altered his intention, and introduced other dialogues. He may have done this: but how are we to prove it? How much does it attenuate the value of his intentions, as proofs of an internal philosophical sequence? We become involved more and more in unsupported hypothesis. I think that K. F. Hermann’s objections against Schleiermacher, on the above ground, have much force; and that Ueberweg’s reply to them is unsatisfactory. (Hermann, Gesch. und Syst. der Platon. Phil. p. 350. Ueberweg, Untersuchungen, p. 82, seq.)

Positive dates of all the dialogues — unknown.

While even the relative chronology of the dialogues is thus faintly marked in the case of a few, and left to fallible conjecture in the remainder — the positive chronology, or the exact year of composition, is not directly marked in the case of any one. Moreover, at the very outset of the enquiry, we have to ask, At what period of life did Plato begin to publish his dialogues? Did he publish any of them during the lifetime of Sokrates? and if so, which? Or does the earliest of them date from a time after the death of Sokrates?

When did Plato begin to compose? Not till after the death of Sokrates.

Amidst the many dissentient views of the Platonic critics, it is remarkable that they are nearly unanimous in their mode of answering this question.56 Most of them declare without hesitation, that Plato published several before the death of Sokrates — that is, before he was 28 years of age — though they do not all agree in determining which these dialogues were. I do not perceive that they produce any external proofs of the least value. Most of them disbelieve (though Stallbaum and Hermann believe) the anecdote about Sokrates and his criticism on the dialogue Lysis.57 In spite of their unanimity, I cannot but adopt the 327opposite conclusion. It appears to me that Plato composed no Sokratic dialogues during the lifetime of Sokrates.

56 Valentine Rose (De Aristotelis Librorum ordine, p. 25, Berlin, 1854), Mullach (Democriti Fragm. p. 99), and R. Schöne (in his Commentary on the Platonic Protagoras), are among the critics known to me, who intimate their belief that Plato published no Sokratic dialogues during the lifetime of Sokrates. In discussing the matter, Schöne adverts to two of the three lines of argument brought forward in my text:—1. The too early and too copious “productivity” which the received supposition would imply in Plato. 2. The improbability that the name of Sokrates would be employed in written dialogues, as spokesman, by any of his scholars during his lifetime.

Schöne does not touch upon the improbability of the hypothesis, arising out of the early position and aspirations of Plato himself (Schöne, Ueber Platon’s Protagoras, p. 64, Leipsic, 1862).

57 Diog. Laert. iii. 85; Stallbaum, Prolegg. ad Plat. Lys. p. 90; K. F. Hermann, Gesch. u. Syst. der Plat. Phil. p. 370. Schleiermacher (Einl. zum Lysis, i. p. 175) treats the anecdote about the Lysis as unworthy of credence. Diogenes (iii. 38) mentions that some considered the Phædrus as Plato’s earliest dialogue; the reason being that the subject of it was something puerile: λόγος δὲ πρῶτον γράψαι αὐτὸν τὸν Φαῖδρον· καὶ γὰρ ἔχει μειρακιῶδες τι τὸ πρόβλημα. Δικαίαρχος δὲ καὶ τὸν τρόπον τῆς γραφῆς ὅλον ἐπιμέμφεται ὡς φορτικόν. Olympiodorus also in his life of Plato mentions the same report, that the Phædrus was Plato’s earliest composition, and gives the same ground of belief, “its dithyrambic character”. Even if the assertion were granted, that the Phædrus is the earliest Platonic composition, we could not infer that it was composed during the life-time of Sokrates. But that assertion cannot be granted. The two statements, above cited, give it only as a report, suggested to those who believed it by the character and subject-matter of the dialogue. I am surprised that Dr. Volquardsen, who in a learned volume, recently published, has undertaken the defence of the theory of Schleiermacher about the Phædrus (Phädros, Erste Schrift Platon’s, Kiel, 1862), can represent this as a “feste historische Ueberlieferung” — the rather as he admits that Schleiermacher himself placed no confidence in it, and relied upon other reasons (pp. 90-92-93). Comp. Schleiermacher, Einl. zum Phaidros, p. 76.

Whoever will read the Epistle of Dionysius of Halikarnassus, addressed to Cneius Pompeius (pp. 751-765, Reiske), will be persuaded that Dionysius can neither have known, nor even believed, that the Phædrus was the first composition, and a youthful composition, of Plato. If Dionysius had believed this, it would have furnished him with the precise excuse which his letter required. For the purpose of his letter is to mollify the displeasure of Cn. Pompey, who had written to blame him for some unfavourable criticisms on the style of Plato. Dionysius justifies his criticisms by allusions to the Phædrus. If he had been able to add, that the Phædrus was a first composition, and that Plato’s later dialogues were comparatively free from the like faults — this would have been the most effective way of conciliating Cn. Pompey.

Reasons for this opinion. Labour of the composition — does not consist with youth of the author.

All the information (scanty as it is) which we obtain from the rhetor Dionysius and others respecting the composition of the Platonic dialogues, announces them to have cost much time and labour to their author: a statement illustrated by the great number of inversions of words which he is said to have introduced successively in the first sentence of the Republic, before he was satisfied to let the sentence stand. This corresponds, too, with all that we read respecting the patient assiduity both of Isokrates and Demosthenes.58 A first-rate Greek composition was understood not to be purchasable at lower cost. I confess therefore to great surprise, when I read in Ast the affirmation that the Protagoras was composed when Plato was only 22 years old — and when I find Schleiermacher asserting, as if it were a matter beyond dispute, that Protagoras, Phædrus, and Parmenidês, all bear evident marks of Plato’s youthful age (Jugendlichkeit). In regard to the Phædrus and Parmenidês, indeed, Hermann and other critics contest the view of Schleiermacher; and detect, in those two dialogues, not only no marks of “juvenility,” but what they consider plain proofs of maturity and even of late age. But in regard to the Protagoras, most of them agree with Schleiermacher and Ast, in declaring it to be a work of Plato’s youth, some time before the death of Sokrates. 328Now on this point I dissent from them: and since the decision turns upon “internal grounds,” each must judge for himself. The Protagoras appears to me one of the most finished and elaborate of all the dialogues: in complication of scenic arrangements, dramatic vivacity, and in the amount of theory worked out, it is surpassed by none — hardly even by the Republic.59 Its merits as a composition are indeed extolled by all the critics; who clap their hands, especially, at the humiliation which they believe to be brought upon the great Sophist by Sokrates. But the more striking the composition is acknowledged to be, the stronger is the presumption that its author was more than 22 or 24 years of age. Nothing short of good positive testimony would induce me to believe that such a dialogue as the Protagoras could have been composed, even by Plato, before he attained the plenitude of his powers. No such testimony is produced or producible. I extend a similar presumption, even to the Lysis, Lachês, Charmidês, and other dialogues: though with a less degree of confidence, because they are shorter and less artistic, not equal to the Protagoras. All of them, in my judgment, exhibit a richness of ideas and a variety of expression, which suggest something very different from a young novice as the author.

58 Timæus said that Alexander the Great conquered the Persian empire in less time than Isokrates required for the composition of his panegyrical oration (Longinus, De Sublim. c. 4).

59 “Als aesthetisches Kunstwerk ist der Dialog Protagoras das meisterhafteste unter den Werken Platon’s.” (Socher, Ueber Platon, p. 226.)

But over and above this presumption, there are other reasons which induce me to believe, that none of the Platonic dialogues were published during the lifetime of Sokrates. My reasons are partly connected with Sokrates, partly with Plato.

Reasons founded on the personality of Sokrates, and his relations with Plato.

First, in reference to Sokrates — we may reasonably doubt whether any written reports of his actual conversations were published during his lifetime. He was the most constant, public, and indiscriminate of all talkers: always in some frequented place, and desiring nothing so much as a respondent with an audience. Every one who chose to hear him, might do so without payment and with the utmost facility. Why then should any one wish to read written reports of his conversations? especially when we know that the strong interest which they excited in the hearers depended much upon the spontaneity of his 329 inspirations, and hardly less upon the singularity of his manner and physiognomy. Any written report of what he said must appear comparatively tame. Again, as to fictitious dialogues (like the Platonic) employing the name of Sokrates as spokesman — such might doubtless be published during his lifetime by derisory dramatists for the purpose of raising a laugh, but not surely by a respectful disciple and admirer for the purpose of giving utterance to doctrines of his own. The greater was the respect felt by Plato for Sokrates, the less would he be likely to take the liberty of making Sokrates responsible before the public for what Sokrates had never said.60 There is a story in Diogenes — to the effect that Sokrates, when he first heard the Platonic dialogue called Lysis, exclaimed — “What a heap of falsehoods does the young man utter about me!”61 This story merits no credence as a fact: but it expresses the displeasure which Sokrates would be likely to feel, on hearing that one of his youthful companions had dramatised him as he appears in the Lysis. Xenophon tells us, and it is very probable, that inaccurate oral reports of the real colloquies of Sokrates may have got into circulation. But that the friends and disciples of Sokrates, during his lifetime, should deliberately publish fictitious dialogues, putting their own sentiments into his mouth, and thus contribute to mislead the public — is not easily credible. Still less credible is it that Plato, during the lifetime of Sokrates, should have published such a dialogue as the Phædrus, wherein we find ascribed to Sokrates, poetical and dithyrambic effusions utterly at variance with the real manifestations which Athenians might hear every day from Sokrates in the market-place.62 Sokrates 330in the Platonic Apology, complains of the comic poet Aristophanes for misrepresenting him. Had the Platonic Phædrus been then in circulation, or any other Platonic dialogues, he might with equally good reason have warned the Dikasts against judging of him, a real citizen on trial, from the titular Sokrates whom even disciples did not scruple to employ as spokesman for their own transcendental doctrine, and their own controversial sarcasms.

60 Valentine Rose observes, in regard to a dialogue composed by some one else, wherein Plato was introduced as one of the interlocutors, that it could not have been composed until after Plato’s death, and that the dialogues of Plato were not composed until after the death of Sokrates. “Platonis autem sermones antequam mortuus fuerit, scripto neminem tradidisse, neque magistri viventis personâ in dialogis abusos fuisse (non magis quam vivum Socratem induxerunt Xenophon, Plato, cæteri Socratici), hoc veterum mori et religioni quivis facile concedet,” &c. (V. Rose, Aristoteles Pseudepigraphus, pp. 57, 74, Leipsic, 1863.) — Val. Rose expresses the same opinion (that none of the Sokratic dialogues, either by Plato or the other companions of Sokrates, were written until after the death of Sokrates) in his earlier work, De Aristotelis Librorum Ordine et Auctoritate, p. 25.

61 Diog. L. iii. 35.

62 In regard to the theory (elaborated by Schleiermacher, recently again defended by Volquardsen), that the Phædrus is the earliest among the Platonic dialogues, composed about 406 B.C., it appears to me inconsistent also with what we know about Lysias. In the Platonic Phædrus, Lysias is presented as a λογογράφος of the highest reputation and eminence (p. 228 A, 257 C, and indeed throughout the whole dialogue). Now this is quite inconsistent with what we read from Lysias himself in the indictment which he preferred against Eratosthenes, not long after the restoration of the democracy, 403 B.C. He protests therein strenuously that he had never had judicial affairs of his own, nor meddled with those of others; and he expresses the greatest apprehension from his own ἀπειρία (sects. 4-6). I cannot believe that this would be said by a person whom Phædrus terms δεινότατος ὣν τῶν νῦν γράφειν. Moreover, Lysias, in that same discourse, describes his own position at Athens, anterior to the Thirty: he belonged to a rich metic family, and was engaged along with his brother Polemarchus in a large manufactory of shields, employing 120 slaves (s. 20). A person thus rich and occupied was not likely to become a professed and notorious λογογράφος, though he may have been a clever and accomplished man. Lysias was plundered and impoverished by the Thirty; and he is said to have incurred much expense in aiding the efforts of Thrasybulus. It was after this change of circumstances that he took to rhetoric as a profession; and it is to some one of these later years that the Platonic Phædrus refers.

Reasons, founded on the early life, character, and position of Plato.

Secondly, in regard to Plato, the reasons leading to the same conclusion are yet stronger. Unfortunately, we know little of the life of Plato before he attained the age of 28, that is, before the death of Sokrates: but our best means of appreciating it are derived from three sources. 1. Our knowledge of the history of Athens from 409-399 B.C., communicated by Thucydides, Xenophon, &c. 2. The seventh Epistle of Plato himself, written four or five years before his death (about 352 B.C.). 3. A few hints from the Memorabilia of Xenophon.

Plato’s early life — active by necessity, and to some extent ambitious.

To these evidences about the life of Plato, it has not been customary to pay much attention. The Platonic critics seem to regard Plato so entirely as a spiritual person (“like a blessed spirit, visiting earth for a short time,” to cite a poetical phrase applied to him by Göthe), that they disdain to take account of his relations with the material world, or with society around him. Because his mature life was consecrated to philosophy, they presume that his youth must have been so likewise. But this is a hasty assumption. You cannot thus abstract any man from 331the social medium by which, he is surrounded. The historical circumstances of Athens from Plato’s nineteenth year to his twenty-sixth (409-403 B.C.) were something totally different from what they afterwards became. They were so grave and absorbing, that had he been ever so much inclined to philosophy, he would have been compelled against his will to undertake active and heavy duty as a citizen. Within those years (as I have observed in a preceding chapter) fell the closing struggles of the Peloponnesian war; in which (to repeat words already cited from Thucydides) Athens became more a military post than a city — every citizen being almost habitually under arms: then the long blockade, starvation, and capture of the city, followed by the violences of the Thirty, the armed struggle under Thrasybulus, and the perilous, though fortunately successful and equitable, renovation of the democracy. These were not times for a young citizen, of good family and robust frame, to devote himself exclusively to philosophy and composition. I confess myself surprised at the assertion of Schleiermacher and Steinhart, that Plato composed the Charmidês and other dialogues under the Anarchy.63 Amidst such disquietude and perils he could not have renounced active duty for philosophy, even if he had been disposed to do so.

63 Steinhart, Einl. zum Laches, vol. i. p. 358, where he says that Plato composed the Charmidês, Lachês, and Protagoras, all in 404 B.C. under the Thirty. Schleiermacher, Einleitung zum Charmides, vol. ii. p. 8.

The lines of Lucretius (i. 41) bear emphatically upon this trying season:

Nam neque nos agere hoc patriai tempore iniquo

Possumus æquo animo nec Memmi clara propago

Talibus in rebus communi desse saluti.

But, to make the case stronger, we learn from Plato’s own testimony, in his seventh Epistle, that he was not at that time disposed to renounce active political life. He tells us himself, that as a young man he was exceedingly eager, like others of the same age, to meddle and distinguish himself in active politics.64 How natural such eagerness was, to a young citizen of his family and condition, may be seen by the analogy of his younger brother Glaukon, who was prematurely impatient to come forward: as 332well as by that of his cousin Charmides, who had the same inclination, but was restrained by exaggerated diffidence of character. Now we know that the real Sokrates (very different from the Platonic Sokrates in the Gorgias) did not seek to deter young men of rank from politics, and to consign them to inactive speculation. Sokrates gives65 earnest encouragement to Charmides; and he does not discourage Glaukon, but only presses him to adjourn his pretensions until the suitable stock of preliminary information has been acquired. We may thus see that assuming the young Plato to be animated with political aspirations, he would certainly not be dissuaded, — nay, he would probably be encouraged — by Sokrates.

64 Plato, Epist. vii. p. 324 C. Νέος ἐγώ ποτε ὢν πολλοῖς δὴ ταὐτὸν ἔπαθον· ᾠήθην, εἰ θᾶττον ἐμαυτοῦ γενοίμην κύριος, ἐπὶ τὰ κοινὰ τῆς πόλεως εὐθὺς ἰέναι. Again, 325 E: ὥστε με, τὸ πρῶτον πολλῆς μεστὸν ὄντα ὁρμῆς ἐπὶ τὸ πράττειν τὰ κοινά, &c.

65 See the two interesting colloquies of Sokrates, with Glaukon and Charmides (Xenoph. Mem. iii. 6, 7).

Charmides was killed along with Kritias during the eight months called The Anarchy, at the battle fought with Thrasybulus and the democrats (Xen. Hell. ii. 4, 19). The colloquy of Sokrates with Charmides, recorded by Xenophon in the Memorabilia, must have taken place at some time before the battle of Ægospotami; perhaps about 407 or 406 B.C.

Plato farther tells us that when (after the final capitulation of Athens) the democracy was put down and the government of the Thirty established, he embarked in it actively under the auspices of his relatives (Kritias, Charmides, &c., then in the ascendant), with the ardent hopes of youth66 that he should witness and promote the accomplishment of valuable reforms. Experience showed him that he was mistaken. He became disgusted with the enormities of the Thirty, especially with their treatment of Sokrates; and he then ceased to co-operate with them. Again, after the year called the Anarchy, the democracy was restored, and Plato’s political aspirations revived along with it. He again put himself forward for active public life, though with less ardent hopes.67 But he became dissatisfied with the march of affairs, and his relationship with the deceased Kritias was now a formidable obstacle to popularity. At length, four years after the restoration of the democracy, came the trial and condemnation of Sokrates. It was that event which finally shocked and disgusted Plato, converting his previous dissatisfaction into an utter despair of obtaining any good results from existing governments.333 From thenceforward, he turned away from practice and threw himself into speculation.68

66 Plato, Epist. vii. 324 D. Καὶ ἐγὼ θαυμαστὸν οὐδὲν ἔπαθον ὑπὸ νεότητος, &c.

67 Plato, Epist. vii. 325 A. Πάλιν δέ, βραδύτερον μὲν, εἶλκε δέ με ὅμως ἡ περὶ τὸ πράττειν τὰ κοινὰ καὶ πολιτικὰ ἐπιθυμία.

68 Plato, Epist. vii. 325 C: Σκοποῦντι δή μοι ταῦτα τε καὶ τοὺς ἀνθρώπους τοὺς πράττοντας τὰ πολιτικά, &c. 325 E: Καὶ τοῦ μὲν σκοπεῖν μὴ ἀποστῆναι, πῆ ποτὲ ἄμεινον ἂν γίγνοιτο περί τε αὐτὰ ταῦτα καὶ δὴ καὶ περὶ τὴν πᾶσαν πολιτείαν, τοῦ δὲ πράττειν αὖ περιμένειν αἰεὶ καιρούς, τελευτῶντα δὲ νοῆσαι περὶ πασῶν τῶν νῦν πόλεων ὅτι κακῶς ξύμπασαι πολιτεύονται.

I have already stated in the 84th chapter of my History, describing the visit of Plato to Dionysius in Sicily, that I believe the Epistles of Plato to be genuine, and that the seventh Epistle especially contains valuable information. Some critics undoubtedly are of a different opinion, and consider them as spurious. But even among these critics, several consider that the author of the Epistles, though not Plato himself, was a contemporary and well informed: so that his evidence is trustworthy. See K. F. Hermann, Gesammelte Abhandlungen, pp. 282-283. The question has been again discussed recently by Ueberweg (Untersuch. über d. Aechth. u. Zeitf. d. Plat. Schriften, pp. 120-123-125-129), who gives his own opinion that the letters are not by Plato, and produces various arguments to the point. His arguments are noway convincing to me: for the mysticism and pedantry of the Epistles appear to me in full harmony with the Timæus and Leges, and with the Pythagorean bias of Plato’s later years, though not in harmony with the Protagoras, and various other dialogues. Yet Ueberweg also declares his full belief that the seventh Epistle is the composition of a well-informed contemporary, and perfectly worthy of credit as to the facts and K. F. Hermann declares the same. This is enough for my present purpose.

The statement, trusted by all the critics, that Plato’s first visit to Syracuse was made when he was about 40 years of age, depends altogether on the assertion of the seventh Epistle. How numerous are the assertions made by Platonic critics respecting Plato, upon evidence far slighter than that of these Epistles! Boeckh considers the seventh Epistle as the genuine work of Plato. Valentine Rose also pronounces it to be genuine, though he does not consider the other Epistles to be so (De Aristotelis Librorum Ordine, p. 25, p. 114, Berlin, 1854). Tennemann admits the Epistles generally to be genuine (System der Platon. Philos. i. p. 106).

It is undeniable that these Epistles of Plato were recognised as genuine and trusted by all the critics of antiquity from Aristophanes downwards. Cicero, Plutarch, Aristeides, &c., assert facts upon the authority of the Epistles. Those who declare the Epistles to be spurious and worthless, ought in consistency to reject the statements which Plutarch makes on the authority of the Epistles: they will find themselves compelled to discredit some of the best parts of his life of Dion. Compare Aristeides, Περὶ Ῥητορικῆς Or. 45, pp. 90-106, Dindorf.

Plato did not retire from political life until after the restoration of the democracy, nor devote himself to philosophy until after the death of Sokrates.

This very natural recital, wherein Plato (at the age of 75) describes his own youth between 21 and 28 — taken in conjunction with the other reasons just enumerated — impresses upon me the persuasion, that Plato did not devote himself to philosophy, nor publish any of his dialogues, before the death of Sokrates: though he may probably have composed dramas, and the beautiful epigrams which Diogenes has preserved. He at first frequented the society of Sokrates, as many other aspiring young men frequented it (likewise that of Kratylus, and perhaps that of various Sophists69), from love of 334ethical debate, admiration of dialectic power, and desire to acquire a facility of the same kind in his own speech: not with any view to take up philosophy as a profession, or to undertake the task either of demolishing or constructing in the region of speculation. No such resolution was adopted until after he had tried political life and had been disappointed:—nor until such disappointment had been still more bitterly aggravated by the condemnation of Sokrates. It was under this feeling that Plato first consecrated himself to that work of philosophical meditation and authorship, — of inquisitive travel and converse with philosophers abroad, — and ultimately of teaching in the Academy, — which filled up the remaining fifty years of his life. The death of Sokrates left that venerated name open to be employed as spokesman in his dialogues: and there was nothing in the political condition of Athens after 399 B.C., analogous to the severe and perilous struggle which tasked all the energies of her citizens from 409 B.C. down to the close of the war.

69 Compare Plat. Protag. 312 A-B, 315 A, where the distinction is pointedly drawn between one who visited Protagoras ἐπὶ τέχνῃ, ὡς δημιουργὸς ἐσόμενος, and others who came simply ἐπὶ παιδείᾳ, ὡς τὸν ἰδιώτην καὶ τὸν ἐλεύθερον πρέπει.

All Plato’s dialogues were composed during the fifty-one years after the death of Sokrates.

I believe, on these grounds, that Plato did not publish any dialogues during the life of Sokrates. An interval of fifty-one years separates the death of Sokrates from that of Plato. Such an interval is more than sufficient for all the existing dialogues of Plato, without the necessity of going back to a more youthful period of his age. As to distribution of the dialogues, earlier or later, among these fifty-one years, we have little or no means of judging. Plato has kept out of sight — with a degree of completeness which is really surprising — not merely his own personality, but also the marks of special date and the determining circumstances in which each dialogue was composed. Twice only does he mention his own name, and that simply in passing, as if it were the name of a third person.70 As to the point 335of time to which he himself assigns each dialogue, much discussion has been held how far Plato has departed from chronological or historical possibility; how far he has brought persons together in Athens who never could have been there together, or has made them allude to events posterior to their own decease. A speaker in Athenæus71 dwells, with needless acrimony, on the anachronisms of Plato, as if they were gross faults. Whether they are faults or not, may fairly be doubted: but the fact of such anachronisms cannot be doubted, when we have before us the Menexenus and the Symposion. It cannot be supposed, in the face of such evidence, that Plato took much pains to keep clear of anachronisms: and whether they be rather more or rather less numerous, is a question of no great moment.

70 In the Apologia, c. 28, p. 38, Sokrates alludes to Plato as present in court, and as offering to become guarantee, along with others, for his fine. In the Phædon, Plato is mentioned as being sick; to explain why he was not present at the last scene of Sokrates (Phædon, p. 59 B). Diog. L. iii. 37.

The pathos as well as the detail of the narrative in the Phædon makes one imagine that Plato really was present at the scene. But being obliged, by the uniform scheme of his compositions, to provide another narrator, he could not suffer it to be supposed that he was himself present.

I have already remarked that this mention of Plato in the third person (Πλάτων δέ, οἶμαι, ἠσθένει) was probably one of the reasons which induced Panætius to declare the Phædon not to be the work of Plato.

71 Athenæus, v. pp. 220, 221. Didymus also attacked Plato as departing from historical truth — ἐπιφυόμενος τῷ Πλάτωνι ὡς παριστοροῦντι — against which the scholiast (ad Leges, i. p. 630) defends him. Grœn van Prinsterer, Prosopogr. Plat. p. 16. The rhetor Aristeides has some remarks of the same kind, though less acrimonious (Orat. xlvii. p. 435, Dind.) than the speaker in Athenæus.

The Thrasyllean Canon is more worthy of trust than the modern critical theories by which it has been condemned.

I now conclude my enquiry respecting the Platonic Canon. The presumption in favour of that Canon, as laid down by Thrasyllus, is stronger (as I showed in the preceding chapter) than it is in regard to ancient authors generally of the same age: being traceable, in the last resort, through the Alexandrine Museum, to authenticating manuscripts in the Platonic school, and to members of that school who had known and cherished Plato himself.72 I have reviewed the doctrines of several recent critics who discard this Canon as unworthy of trust, and who set up for themselves a type of what Plato must have been, derived from a certain number of items in the Canon — rejecting the remaining items as unconformable to their hypothetical type. The different theories which they have laid down respecting general and systematic purposes of Plato (apart from the purpose of each separate composition), appear 336to me uncertified and gratuitous. The “internal reasons,” upon which they justify rejection of various dialogues, are only another phrase for expressing their own different theories respecting Plato as a philosopher and as a writer. For my part I decline to discard any item of the Thrasyllean Canon, upon such evidence as they produce: I think it a safer and more philosophical proceeding to accept the entire Canon, and to accommodate my general theory of Plato (in so far as I am able to frame one) to each and all of its contents.

72 I find this position distinctly asserted, and the authority of the Thrasyllean catalogue, as certifying the genuine works of Plato, vindicated, by Yxem, in his able dissertation on the Kleitophon of Plato (pp. 1-3, Berlin, 1846). But Yxem does not set forth the grounds of this opinion so fully as the present state of the question demands. Moreover, he combines it with another opinion, upon which he insists even at greater length, and from which I altogether dissent — that the tetralogies of Thrasyllus exhibit the genuine order established by Plato himself among the Dialogues.

Unsafe grounds upon which those theories proceed.

Considering that Plato’s period of philosophical composition extended over fifty years, and that the circumstances of his life are most imperfectly known to us — it is surely hazardous to limit the range of his varieties, on the faith of a critical repugnance, not merely subjective and fallible, but withal entirely of modern growth: to assume, as basis of reasoning, the admiration raised by a few of the finest dialogues — and then to argue that no composition inferior to this admired type, or unlike to it in doctrine or handling, can possibly be the work of Plato. “The Minos, Theagês, Epistolæ, Epinomis, &c., are unworthy of Plato: nothing so inferior in excellence can have been composed by him. No dialogue can be admitted as genuine which contradicts another dialogue, or which advocates any low or incorrect or un-Platonic doctrine. No dialogue can pass which is adverse to the general purpose of Plato as an improver of morality, and a teacher of the doctrine of Ideas.” On such grounds as these we are called upon to reject various dialogues: and there is nothing upon which, generally speaking, so much stress is laid as upon inferior excellence. For my part, I cannot recognise any of them as sufficient grounds of exception. I have no difficulty in believing, not merely that Plato (like Aristophanes) produced many successive novelties, “not at all similar one to the other, and all clever”73 — but also that among these novelties, there were inferior dialogues as well as superior: that in different dialogues he worked out different, even contradictory, points of view — and among them some which critics declare to be low and objectionable:337 that we have among his works unfinished fragments and abandoned sketches, published without order, and perhaps only after his death.

73 Aristophan. Nubes, 547-8.

Ἀλλ’ ἀεὶ καινὰς ἰδέας εἰσφέρων σοφίζομαι,

Οὐδὲν ἀλλήλαισιν ὁμοίας, καὶ πάσας δεξιάς.

Opinions of Schleiermacher, tending to show this.

It may appear strange, but it is true, that Schleiermacher, the leading champion of Plato’s central purpose and systematic unity from the beginning, lays down a doctrine to the same effect. He says, “Truly, nothing can be more preposterous, than when people demand that all the works even of a great master shall be of equal perfection — or that such as are not equal, shall be regarded as not composed by him”. Zeller expresses himself in the same manner, and with as little reserve.74 These eminent critics here proclaim a general rule which neither they nor others follow out.

74 Schleiermacher, Einleitung zum Menon, vol. iii. p. 337. “Und wahrlich, nichts ist wohl wunderlicher, als wenn man verlangt, dass alle Werke auch eines grossen Meisters von gleicher Volkommenheit seyn sollten — oder die es nicht sind, soll er nicht verfertigt haben.”

Compare Zeller, Phil. d. Griech., vol. ii. p. 322, ed. 2nd.

It is to be remembered that this opinion of Schleiermacher refers only to completed works of the same master. You are not authorised in rejecting any completed work as spurious, on the ground that it is not equal in merit to some other. Still less, then, are you authorised in rejecting, on the like ground, an uncompleted work — a professed fragment, or a preliminary sketch. Of this nature are several of the minor items in the Thrasyllean canon.

M. Boeckh, in his Commentary on the dialogue called Minos, has assigned the reasons which induce him to throw out that dialogue, together with the Hipparchus, from the genuine works of Plato (and farther to consider both of them, and the pseudo-Platonic dialogues De Justo and De Virtute, as works of Σίμων ὁ σκυτεύς: with this latter hypothesis I have here no concern). He admits fully that the Minos is of the Platonic age and irreproachable in style — “veteris esse et Attici scriptoris, probus sermo, antiqui mores totus denique character, spondent” (p. 32). Next, he not only admits that it is like Plato, but urges the too great likeness to Plato as one of the points of his case. He says that it is a bad, stupid, and unskilful imitation of different Platonic dialogues: “Pergamus ad alteram partem nostræ argumentationis, eamque etiam firmiorem, de nimiâ similitudine Platonicorum aliquot locorum. Nam de hoc quidem conveniet inter omnes doctos et indoctos, Platonem se ipsum haud posse imitari: ni forté quis dubitet de sanâ ejus mente” (p. 23). In the sense which Boeckh intends, I agree that Plato did not imitate himself: in another sense, I think that he did. I mean that his consummate compositions were preceded by shorter, partial, incomplete sketches, which he afterwards worked up, improved, and re-modelled. I do not understand how Plato could have composed such works as Republic, Protagoras, Gorgias, Symposion, Phædrus, Phædon, &c., without having before him many of these preparatory sketches. That some of these sketches should have been preserved is what we might naturally expect; and I believe Minos and Hipparchus to be among them. I do not wonder that they are of inferior merit. One point on which Boeckh (pp. 7, 8) contends that Hipparchus and Minos are unlike to Plato is, that the collocutor with Sokrates is anonymous. But we find anonymous talkers in the Protagoras, Sophistês, Politikus, and Leges.

I find elsewhere in Schleiermacher, another opinion, not less important, in reference to disallowance of dialogues, on purely 338internal grounds. Take the Gorgias and the Protagoras: both these two dialogues are among the most renowned of the catalogue: both have escaped all suspicion as to legitimacy, even from Ast and Socher, the two boldest of all disfranchising critics. In the Protagoras, Sokrates maintains an elaborate argument to prove, against the unwilling Protagoras, that the Good is identical with the Pleasurable, and the Evil identical with the Painful — in the Gorgias, Sokrates holds an argument equally elaborate, to show that Good is essentially different from Pleasurable, Evil from Painful. What the one affirms, the other denies. Moreover, Schleiermacher himself characterises the thesis vindicated by Sokrates in the Protagoras, as “entirely un-Sokratic and un-Platonic”.75 If internal grounds of repudiation are held to be available against the Thrasyllean canon, how can such grounds exist in greater force than those which are here admitted to bear against the Protagoras — That it exhibits Sokrates as contradicting the Sokrates of the Gorgias — That it exhibits him farther as advancing and proving, at great length, a thesis “entirely un-Sokratic and un-Platonic”? Since the critics all concur in disregarding these internal objections, as insufficient to raise even a suspicion against the Protagoras, I cannot concur with them when they urge the like objections as valid and irresistible against other dialogues.

75 Schleiermacher, Einl. zum Protag. vol. i. p. 232. “Jene ganz unsokratische und unplatonische Ansicht, dass das Gute nichts anderes ist als das Angenehme.”

So also, in the Parmenides, we find a host of unsolved objections against the doctrine of Ideas; upon which in other dialogues Plato so emphatically insists. Accordingly, Socher, resting upon this discrepancy as an “internal ground,” declares the Parmenides not to be the work of Plato. But the other critics refuse to go along with this inference. I think they are right in so refusing. But this only shows how little such internal grounds are to be trusted, as evidence to prove spuriousness.

I may add, as farther illustrating this point, that there are few dialogues in the list against which stronger objections on internal grounds can be brought, than Leges and Menexenus. Yet both of them stand authenticated, beyond all reasonable dispute, as genuine works of Plato, not merely by the Canon of Thrasyllus, but also by the testimony of Aristotle.76

76 See Ast, Platon’s Leben und Schriften, p. 384: and still more, Zeller, Plat. Studien, pp. 1-131, Tübingen, 1839. In that treatise, where Zeller has set forth powerfully the grounds for denying the genuineness of the Leges, he relied so much upon the strength of this negative case, as to discredit the direct testimony of Aristotle affirming the Leges to be genuine. In his Phil. d. Griech. Zeller altered this opinion, and admitted the Leges to be genuine. But Strümpell adheres to the earlier opinion given by Zeller, and maintains that the partial recantation is noway justified. (Gesch. d. Prakt. Phil. d. Griech. p. 457.)

Suckow mentions (Form der Plat. Schriften, 1855, p. 135) that Zeller has in a subsequent work reverted to his former opinion, denying the genuineness of the Leges. Suckow himself denies it also; relying not merely on the internal objections against it, but also on a passage of Isokrates (ad Philippum, p. 84), which he considers to sanction his opinion, but which (in my judgment) entirely fails to bear him out.

Suckow attempts to show (p. 55), and Ueberweg partly countenances the same opinion, that the two passages in which Aristotle alludes to the Menexenus (Rhet. i. 9, 30; iii. 14, 11) do not prove that he (Aristotle) considered it as a work of Plato, because he mentions the name of Sokrates only, and not that of Plato. But this is to require from a witness such precise specification as we cannot reasonably expect. Aristotle, alluding to the Menexenus, says, Σωκράτης ἐν τῷ Ἐπιταφίῳ: just as, in alluding to the Gorgias in another place (Sophist. Elench. 12, p. 173), he says, Καλλικλῆς ἐν τῷ Γοργίᾳ: and again, in alluding to the Phædon, ὁ ἐν Φαίδωνι Σωκράτης (De Gen. et Corrupt. ii. 9, p. 335): not to mention his allusions in the Politica to the Platonic Republic, under the name of Sokrates. No instance can be produced in which Aristotle cites any Sokratic dialogue, composed by Antisthenes, Æschines, &c., or any other of the Sokratic companions except Plato. And when we read in Aristotle’s Politica (ii. 3, 3) the striking compliment paid — Τὸ μὲν οὖν περιττὸν ἔχουσι πάντες οἱ τοῦ Σωκράτους λόγοι, καὶ τὸ κομψόν, καὶ τὸ καινότομον, καὶ τὸ ζητητικόν· καλῶς δὲ πάντα ἴσως χαλεπόν — we cannot surely imagine that he intends to designate any other dialogues than those composed by Plato.


Any true theory of Plato must recognise all his varieties, and must be based upon all the works in the Canon, not upon some to the exclusion of the rest.

While adhering therefore to the Canon of Thrasyllus, I do not think myself obliged to make out that Plato is either like to himself, or equal to himself, or consistent with himself, throughout all the dialogues included therein, and throughout the period of fifty years during which these dialogues were composed. Plato is to be found in all and each of the dialogues, not in an imaginary type abstracted from some to the exclusion of the rest. The critics reverence so much this type of their own creation, that they insist on bringing out a result consistent with it, either by interpretation specially contrived, or by repudiating what will not harmonise. Such sacrifice of the inherent diversity, and separate individuality, of the dialogues, to the maintenance of a supposed unity of type, style, or purpose, appears to me an error. In fact,77 there exists, for us, no personal Plato any more than 340there is a personal Shakespeare. Plato (except in the Epistolæ) never appears before us, nor gives us any opinion as his own: he is the unseen prompter of different characters who converse aloud in a number of distinct dramas — each drama a separate work, manifesting its own point of view, affirmative or negative, consistent or inconsistent with the others, as the case may be. In so far as I venture to present a general view of one who keeps constantly in the dark — who delights to dive, and hide himself, not less difficult to catch than the supposed Sophist in his own dialogue called Sophistês — I shall consider it as subordinate to the dialogues, each and all: and above all, it must be such as to include and acknowledge not merely diversities, but also inconsistencies and contradictions.78

77 The only manifestation of the personal Plato is in the Epistolæ. I have already said that I accept these as genuine, though most critics do not. I consider them valuable illustrations of his character, as far as they go. They are all written after he was more than sixty years of age. And most of them relate to his relations with Dionysius the younger, with Dion, and with Sicilian affairs generally. This was a peculiar and outlying phase of Plato’s life, during which (through the instigation of Dion, and at the sacrifice of his own peace of mind) he became involved in the world of political action: he had to deal with real persons, passions, and interests — with the feeble character, literary velleities, and jealous apprehensions of Dionysius — the reforming vehemence and unpopular harshness of Dion — the courtiers, the soldiers, and the people of Syracuse, all moved by different passions of which he had had no practical experience. It could not be expected that, amidst such turbulent elements, Plato as an adviser could effect much: yet I do not think that he turned his chances, doubtful as they were, to the best account. I have endeavoured to show this in the tenth volume of my History of Greece, c. 84. But at all events, these operations lay apart from Plato’s true world — the speculation, dialectic, and lectures of the Academy at Athens. The Epistolæ, however, present some instructive points, bearing upon Plato’s opinions about writing as a medium of philosophical communication and instruction to learners, which I shall notice in the suitable place.

78 I transcribe from the instructive work of M. Ernest Renan, Averroès et l’Averroïsme, a passage in which he deprecates the proceeding of critics who presume uniform consistency throughout the works of Aristotle, and make out their theory partly by forcible exegesis, partly by setting aside as spurious all those compositions which oppose them. The remark applies more forcibly to the dialogues or Plato, who is much less systematic than Aristotle:—

“On a combattu l’interprétation d’Ibn-Rosehd (Averroès), et soutenu que l’intellect actif n’est pour Aristote qu’une faculté de l’ame. L’intellect passif n’est alors que la faculté de recevoir les φαντάσματα: l’intellect actif n’est que l’induction s’exerçant sur les φαντάσματα et en tirant les idées générales. Ainsi l’on fait concorder la théorie exposée dans le troisième livre du Traité de l’Ame, avec celle des Seconds Analytiques, où Aristote semble réduire le rôle de la raison à l’induction généralisant les faits de la sensation. Certes, je ne me dissimule pas qu’Aristote paraît souvent envisager le νοῦς comme personnel à l’homme. Son attention constante à repéter que l’intellect est identique à l’intelligible, que l’intellect passe à l’acte quand il devient l’objet qu’il pense, est difficile à concilier avec l’hypothèse d’un intellect séparé de l’homme. Mais il est dangereux de faire ainsi coincider de force les différents aperçus des anciens. Les anciens philosophaient souvent sans se limiter dans un système, traitant le même sujet selon les points de vue qui s’offraient à eux, ou qui leur étaient offerts par les écoles antérieures, sans s’inquiéter des dissonances qui pouvaient exister entre ces divers tronçons de théorie. Il est puéril de chercher à les mettre d’accord avec eux-mêmes, quand eux-mêmes s’en sont peu souciés. Autant vaudrait, comme certains critiques Allemands, déclarer interpolés tous les passages que l’on ne peut concilier avec les autres. Ainsi, la théorie des Seconds Analytiques et celles du troisième livre de l’Ame, sans se contredire expressément, représentent deux aperçus profondément distincts et d’origine différente, sur le fait de l’intelligence.”341 (Averroès et l’Averroïsme, p. 96-98, Paris, 1852.)

There is also in Strümpell (Gesch. der Prakt. Phil. der Griech. vor Aristot. p. 200) a good passage to the same purpose as the above from M. Renan: disapproving this presumption, — that the doctrines of every ancient philosopher must of course be systematic and coherent with each other — as “a phantom of modern times”: and pointing out that both Plato and Aristotle founded their philosophy, not upon any one governing ἀρχὴ alone, from which exclusively consequences are deduced, but upon several distinct, co-ordinate, independent, points of view: each of which is by turns followed out, not always consistently with the others.








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