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Full Online Book HomeEssaysRepresentative Men: Seven Lectures - Lecture II. Plato; or, the Philosopher
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Representative Men: Seven Lectures - Lecture II. Plato; or, the Philosopher Post by :Bruce_Springste Category :Essays Author :Ralph Waldo Emerson Date :March 2011 Read :3151

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Representative Men: Seven Lectures - Lecture II. Plato; or, the Philosopher

Among books, Plato only is entitled to Omar's fanatical compliment to
the Koran, when he said, "Burn the libraries; for, their value is in
this book." These sentences contain the culture of nations; these are
the corner-stone of schools; these are the fountain-head of literatures.
A discipline it is in logic, arithmetic, taste, symmetry, poetry,
language, rhetoric, ontology, morals, or practical wisdom. There was
never such range of speculation. Out of Plato come all things that are
still written and debated among men of thought. Great havoc makes he
among our originalities. We have reached the mountain from which all
these drift bowlders were detached. The Bible of the learned for twenty-
two hundred years, every brisk young man, who says in succession fine
things to each reluctant generation,--Boethius, Rabelais, Erasmus,
Bruno, Locke, Rousseau, Alfieri, Coleridge,--is some reader of Plato,
translating into the vernacular, wittily, his good things. Even the
men of grander proportion suffer some deduction from the misfortune
(shall I say?) of coming after this exhausting generalizer. St.
Augustine, Copernicus, Newton, Behmen, Swedenborg, Goethe, are likewise
his debtors, and must say after him. For it is fair to credit the
broadest generalizer with all the particulars deducible from his thesis.

Plato is philosophy, and philosophy, Plato,--at once the glory and the
shame of mankind, since neither Saxon nor Roman have availed to add
any idea to his categories. No wife, no children had he, and the
thinkers of all civilized nations are his posterity, and are tinged
with his mind. How many great men Nature is incessantly sending up out
of night, to be his men,--Platonists! the Alexandrians, a constellation
of genius; the Elizabethans, not less; Sir Thomas More, Henry More,
John Hales, John Smith, Lord Bacon, Jeremy Taylor, Ralph Cudworth,
Sydenham, Thomas Taylor; Marcilius Ficinus, and Picus Mirandola.
Calvinism is in his Phaedo: Christianity is in it. Mahometanism draws
all its philosophy, in its hand-book of morals, the Akhlak-y-Jalaly,
from him. Mysticism finds in Plato all its texts. This citizen of a
town in Greece is no villager nor patriot. An Englishman reads and
says, "how English!" a German--"how Teutonic!" an Italian--"how Roman
and how Greek!" As they say that Helen of Argos had that universal
beauty that everybody felt related to her, so Plato seems, to a reader
in New England, an American genius. His broad humanity transcends all
sectional lines.

This range of Plato instructs us what to think of the vexed question
concerning his reputed works,--what are genuine, what spurious. It is
singular that wherever we find a man higher, by a whole head, than any
of his contemporaries, it is sure to come into doubt, what are his
real works. Thus, Homer, Plato, Raffaelle, Shakspeare. For these men
magnetize their contemporaries, so that their companions can do for
them what they can never do for themselves; and the great man does
thus live in several bodies; and write, or paint, or act, by many
hands; and after some time, it is not easy to say what is the authentic
work of the master, and what is only of his school.

Plato, too, like every great man, consumed his own times. What is a
great man, but one of great affinities, who takes up into himself all
arts, sciences, all knowables, as his food? He can spare nothing; he
can dispose of everything. What is not good for virtue is good for
knowledge. Hence his contemporaries tax him with plagiarism. But the
inventor only knows how to borrow; and society is glad to forget the
innumerable laborers who ministered to this architect, and reserves
all its gratitude for him. When we are praising Plato, it seems we are
praising quotations from Solon, and Sophron, and Philolaus. Be it so.
Every book is a quotation; and every house is a quotation out of all
forests, and mines, and stone quarries; and every man is a quotation
from all his ancestors. And this grasping inventor puts all nations
under contribution.

Plato absorbed the learning of his times,--Philolaus, Timaeus,
Heraclitus, Parmenides, and what else; then his master, Socrates; and
finding himself still capable of a larger synthesis,--beyond all example
then or since,--he traveled into Italy, to gain what Pythagoras had
for him; then into Egypt, and perhaps still further east, to import
the other element, which Europe wanted, into the European mind. This
breadth entitles him to stand as the representative of philosophy. He
says, in the Republic, "Such a genius as philosophers must of necessity
have, is wont but seldom, in all its parts, to meet in one man; but
its different parts generally spring up in different persons." Every
man, who would do anything well, must come to it from a higher ground.
A philosopher must be more than a philosopher. Plato is clothed with
the powers of a poet, stands upon the highest place of the poet, and
(though I doubt he wanted the decisive gift of lyric expression) mainly
is not a poet, because he chose to use the poetic gift to an ulterior
purpose.

Great geniuses have the shortest biographies. Their cousins can tell
you nothing about them. They lived in their writings, and so their
house and street life was trivial and commonplace. If you would know
their tastes and complexions, the most admiring of their readers most
resembles them. Plato, especially, has no external biography. If he
had lover, wife, or children, we hear nothing of them. He ground them
all into paint. As a good chimney burns its smoke, so a philosopher
converts the value of all his fortunes into his intellectual
performances.

He was born 430 A. C., about the time of the death of Pericles; was
of patrician connection in his times and city; and is said to have had
an early inclination for war; but in his twentieth year, meeting with
Socrates, was easily dissuaded from this pursuit, and remained for ten
years his scholar, until the death of Socrates. He then went to Megara;
accepted the invitations of Dion and of Dionysius, to the court of
Sicily; and went thither three times, though very capriciously treated.
He traveled into Italy; then into Egypt, where he stayed a long time;
some say three,--some say thirteen years. It is said, he went farther,
into Babylonia: this is uncertain. Returning to Athens, he gave lessons,
in the Academy, to those whom his fame drew thither; and died, as we
have received it, in the act of writing, at eighty-one years.

But the biography of Plato is interior. We are to account for the
supreme elevation of this man, in the intellectual history of our
race,--how it happens that, in proportion to the culture of men, they
become his scholars; that, as our Jewish Bible has implanted itself
in the table-talk and household life of every man and woman in the
European and American nations, so the writings of Plato have
pre-occupied every school of learning, every lover of thought, every
church, every poet,--making it impossible to think, on certain levels,
except through him. He stands between the truth and every man's mind,
and has almost impressed language, and the primary forms of thought,
with his name and seal. I am struck, in reading him, with the extreme
modernness of his style and spirit. Here is the germ of that Europe
we know so well, in its long history of arts and arms; here are all
its traits, already discernible in the mind of Plato,--and in none
before him. It has spread itself since into a hundred histories, but
has added no new element. This perpetual modernness is the measure of
merit, in every work of art; since the author of it was not misled by
anything shortlived or local, but abode by real and abiding traits.
How Plato came thus to be Europe, and philosophy, and almost literature,
is the problem for us to solve.

This could not have happened, without a sound, sincere, and catholic
man, able to honor, at the same time, the ideal, or laws of the mind,
and fate, or the order of nature. The first period of a nation, as of
an individual, is the period of unconscious strength. Children cry,
scream and stamp with fury, unable to express their desires. As soon
as they can speak and tell their want, and the reason of it, they
become gentle. In adult life, whilst the perceptions are obtuse, men
and women talk vehemently and superlatively, blunder and quarrel; their
manners are full of desperation; their speech is full of oaths. As
soon as, with culture, things have cleared up a little, and they see
them no longer in lumps and masses, but accurately distributed, they
desist from that weak vehemence, and explain their meaning in detail.
If the tongue had not been framed for articulation, man would still
be a beast in the forest. The same weakness and want, on a higher
plane, occurs daily in the education of ardent young men and women.
"Ah! you don't understand me; I have never met with any one who
comprehends me:" and they sigh and weep, write verses, and walk
alone,--fault of power to express their precise meaning. In a month
or two, through the favor of their good genius, they meet some one so
related as to assist their volcanic estate; and, good communication
being once established, they are thenceforward good citizens. It is
ever thus. The progress is to accuracy, to skill, to truth, from blind
force.

There is a moment, in the history of every nation, when, proceeding
out of this brute youth, the perceptive powers reach their ripeness,
and have not yet become microscopic: so that man, at that instant,
extends across the entire scale; and, with his feet still planted on
the immense forces of night, converses, by his eyes and brain, with
solar and stellar creation. That is the moment of adult health, the
culmination of power.

Such is the history of Europe, in all points; and such in philosophy.
Its early records, almost perished, are of the immigrations from Asia,
bringing with them the dreams of barbarians; a confusion of crude
notions of morals, and of natural philosophy, gradually subsiding,
through the partial insight of single teachers.

Before Pericles, came the Seven Wise Masters; and we have the beginnings
of geometry, metaphysics, and ethics: then the partialists,--deducing
the origin of things from flux or water, or from air, or from fire,
or from mind. All mix with these causes mythologic pictures. At last,
comes Plato, the distributor, who needs no barbaric paint, or tattoo,
or whooping; for he can define. He leaves with Asia the vast and
superlative; he is the arrival of accuracy and intelligence. "He shall
be as a god to me, who can rightly divide and define."

This defining is philosophy. Philosophy is the account which the human
mind gives to itself of the constitution of the world. Two cardinal
facts lie forever at the base: the one, and the two.--1. Unity, or
Identity; and, 2, Variety. We unite all things, by perceiving the law
which pervades them; by perceiving the superficial differences, and
the profound resemblances. But every mental act,--this very perception
of identity or oneness, recognizes the difference of things. Oneness
and otherness. It is impossible to speak, or to think, without embracing
both.

The mind is urged to ask for one cause of many effects; then for the
cause of that; and again the cause, diving still into the profound;
self-assured that it shall arrive at an absolute and sufficient one,--a
one that shall be all. "In the midst of the sun is the light, in the
midst of the light is truth, and in the midst of truth is the
imperishable being, "say the Vedas. All philosophy, of east and west,
has the same centripetence. Urged by an opposite necessity, the mind
returns from the one, to that which is not one, but other or many;
from cause to effect; and affirms the necessary existence of variety,
the self-existence of both, as each is involved in the other. These
strictly-blended elements it is the problem of thought to separate,
and to reconcile. Their existence is mutually contradictory and
exclusive; and each so fast slides into the other, that we can never
say what is one, and what it is not. The Proteus is as nimble in the
highest as in the lowest grounds, when we contemplate the one, the
true, the good,--as in the surfaces and extremities of matter. In all
nations, there are minds which incline to dwell in the conception of
the fundamental Unity. The raptures of prayer and ecstasy of devotion
lose all being in one Being. This tendency finds its highest expression
in the religious writings of the East, and chiefly, in the Indian
Scriptures, in the Vedas, the Bhagavat Geeta, and the Vishnu Purana.
Those writings contain little else than this idea, and they rise to
pure and sublime strains in celebrating it.

The Same, the Same! friend and foe are of one stuff; the ploughman,
the plough, and the furrow, are of one stuff; and the stuff is such,
and so much, that the variations of forms are unimportant. "You are
fit" (says the supreme Krishna to a sage) "to apprehend that you are
not distinct from me. That which I am, thou art, and that also is this
world, with its gods, and heroes, and mankind. Men contemplate
distinctions, because they are stupefied with ignorance." "The words
I and mine constitute ignorance. What is the great end of all, you
shall now learn from me. It is soul,--one in all bodies, pervading,
uniform, perfect, preeminent over nature, exempt from birth, growth,
and decay, omnipresent, made up of true knowledge, independent,
unconnected with unrealities, with name, species, and the rest, in
time past, present, and to come. The knowledge that this spirit, which
is essentially one, is in one's own, and in all other bodies, is the
wisdom of one who knows the unity of things. As one diffusive air,
passing through the perforations of a flute, is distinguished as the
notes of a scale, so the nature of the Great Spirit is single, though
its forms be manifold, arising from the consequences of acts. When the
difference of the investing form, as that of god, or the rest, is
destroyed, there is no distinction." "The whole world is but a
manifestation of Vishnu, who is identical with all things, and is to
be regarded by the wise, as not differing from, but as the same as
themselves. I neither am going nor coming; nor is my dwelling in any
one place; nor art thou, thou; nor are others, others; nor am I, I."
As if he had said, "All is for the soul, and the soul is Vishnu; and
animals and stars are transient painting; and light is whitewash; and
durations are deceptive; and form is imprisonment; and heaven itself
a decoy." That which the soul seeks is resolution into being, above
form, out of Tartarus, and out of heaven,--liberation from nature.

If speculation tends thus to a terrific unity, in which all things are
absorbed, action tends directly backwards to diversity. The first is
the course of gravitation of mind; the second is the power of nature.
Nature is the manifold. The unity absorbs, and melts or reduces. Nature
opens and creates. These two principles reappear and interpenetrate
all things, all thought; the one, the many. One is being; the other,
intellect; one is necessity; the other, freedom; one, rest; the other,
motion; one, power; the other, distribution; one, strength; the other,
pleasure; one, consciousness; the other, definition; one, genius; the
other, talent, one, earnestness; the other, knowledge; one, possession;
the other, trade; one, caste; the other, culture; one king; the other,
democracy; and, if we dare carry these generalizations a step higher,
and name the last tendency of both, we might say, that the end of the
one is escape from organization,--pure science; and the end of the
other is the highest instrumentality, or use of means, or executive
deity.

Each student adheres, by temperament and by habit, to the first or to
the second of these gods of the mind. By religion, he tends to unity;
by intellect, or by the senses, to the many. A too rapid unification,
and an excessive appliance to parts and particulars, are the twin
dangers of speculation.

To this partiality the history of nations corresponded. The country
of unity, of immovable institutions, the seat of a philosophy delighting
in abstractions, of men faithful in doctrine and in practice to the
idea of a deaf, unimplorable, immense fate, is Asia; and it realizes
this fate in the social institution of caste. On the other side, the
genius of Europe is active and creative; it resists caste by culture;
its philosophy was a discipline; it is a land of arts, inventions,
trade, freedom. If the East loved infinity, the West delighted in
boundaries.

European civility is the triumph of talent, the extension of system,
the sharpened understanding, adaptive skill, delight in forms, delight
in manifestation, in comprehensible results. Pericles, Athens, Greece,
had been working in this element with the joy of genius not yet chilled
by any foresight of the detriment of an excess. They saw before them
no sinister political economy; no ominous Malthus; no Paris or London;
no pitiless subdivision of classes,--the doom of the pinmakers, the
doom of the weavers, of dressers, of stockingers, of carders, of
spinners, of colliers; no Ireland; no Indian caste, superinduced by
the efforts of Europe to throw it off. The understanding was in its
health and prime. Art was in its splendid novelty. They cut the
Pentelican marble as if it were snow, and their perfect works in
architecture and sculpture seemed things of course, not more difficult
than the completion of a new ship at the Medford yards, or new mills
at Lowell. These things are in course, and may be taken for granted.
The Roman legion, Byzantine legislation, English trade, the saloons
of Versailles, the cafes of Paris, the steam-mill, steamboat,
steam-coach, may all be seen in perspective; the town-meeting, the
ballot-box, the newspaper and cheap press.

Meantime, Plato, in Egypt, and in Eastern pilgrimages, imbibed the
idea of one Deity, in which all things are absorbed. The unity of Asia,
and the detail of Europe; the infinitude of the Asiatic soul, and the
defining, result-loving, machine-making, surface-seeking, opera-going
Europe,--Plato came to join, and by contact to enhance the energy of
each. The excellence of Europe and Asia are in his brain. Metaphysics
and natural philosophy expressed the genius of Europe; he substructs
the religion of Asia, as the base.

In short, a balanced soul was born, perceptive of the two elements.
It is as easy to be great as to be small. The reason why we do not at
once believe in admirable souls, is because they are not in our
experience. In actual life, they are so rare, as to be incredible;
but, primarily, there is not only no presumption against them, but the
strongest presumption in favor of their appearance. But whether voices
were heard in the sky, or not; whether his mother or his father dreamed
that the infant man-child was the son of Apollo; whether a swarm of
bees settled on his lips, or not; a man who could see two sides of a
thing was born. The wonderful synthesis so familiar in nature; the
upper and the under side of the medal of Jove; the union of
impossibilities, which reappears in every object; its real and its
ideal power,--was now, also, transferred entire to the consciousness
of a man.

The balanced soul came. If he loved abstract truth, he saved himself
by propounding the most popular of all principles, the absolute good,
which rules rulers, and judges the judge. If he made transcendental
distinctions, he fortified himself by drawing all his illustrations
from sources disdained by orators, and polite conversers; from mares
and puppies; from pitchers and soup-ladles; from cooks and criers;
the shops of potters, horse-doctors, butchers, and fishmongers. He
cannot forgive in himself a partiality, but is resolved that the two
poles of thought shall appear in his statement. His arguments and his
sentences are self-poised and spherical. The two poles appear; yes,
and become two hands, to grasp and appropriate their own.

Every great artist has been such by synthesis. Our strength is
transitional, alternating; or, shall I say, a thread of two strands.
The seashore, sea seen from shore, shore seen from sea; the taste of
two metals in contact; and our enlarged powers at the approach and at
the departure of a friend; the experience of poetic creativeness, which
is not found in staying at home, nor yet in traveling, but in
transitions from one to the other, which must therefore be adroitly
managed to present as much transitional surface as possible; this
command of two elements must explain the power and charm of Plato. Art
expresses the one, or the same by the different. Thought seeks to know
unity in unity; poetry to show it by variety; that is, always by an
object or symbol. Plato keeps the two vases, one of aether and one of
pigment, at his side, and invariably uses both. Things added to things,
as statistics, civil history, are inventories. Things used as language
are inexhaustibly attractive. Plato turns incessantly the obverse and
the reverse of the medal of Jove.

To take an example:--The physical philosophers have sketched each his
theory of the world; the theory of atoms, of fire, of flux, of spirit;
theories mechanical and chemical in their genius. Plato, a master of
mathematics, studious of all natural laws and causes, feels these, as
second causes, to be no theories of the world, but bare inventories
and lists. To the study of nature he therefore prefixes the dogma,--"Let
us declare the cause which led the Supreme Ordainer to produce and
compose the universe. He was good; and he who is good has no kind of
envy. Exempt from envy, he wished that all things should be as much
as possible like himself. Whosoever, taught by wise men, shall admit
this as the prime cause of the origin and foundation of the world,
will be in the truth." "All things are for the sake of the good, and
it is the cause of everything beautiful." This dogma animates and
impersonates his philosophy. The synthesis which makes the character
of his mind appears in all his talents. Where there is great compass
of wit, we usually find excellencies that combine easily in the living
man, but in description appear incompatible. The mind of Plato is not
to be exhibited by a Chinese catalogue, but is to be apprehended by
an original mind in the exercise of its original power. In him the
freest abandonment is united with the precision of a geometer. His
daring imagination gives him the more solid grasp of facts; as the
birds of highest flight have the strongest alar bones. His patrician
polish, his intrinsic elegance, edged by an irony so subtle that it
stings and paralyzes, adorn the soundest health and strength of frame.
According to the old sentence, "If Jove should descend to the earth,
he would speak in the style of Plato."

With this palatial air, there is, for the direct aim of several of his
works, and running through the tenor of them all, a certain earnestness,
which mounts, in the Republic, and in the Phaedo, to piety. He has
been charged with feigning sickness at the time of the death of
Socrates. But the anecdotes that have come down from the times attest
his manly interference before the people in his master's behalf, since
even the savage cry of the assembly to Plato is preserved; and the
indignation towards popular government, in many of his pieces, expresses
a personal exasperation. He has a probity, a native reverence for
justice and honor, and a humanity which makes him tender for the
superstitions of the people. Add to this, he believes that poetry,
prophecy, and the high insight, arc from a wisdom of which man is not
master; that the gods never philosophize; but, by a celestial mania,
these miracles are accomplished. Horsed on these winged steeds, he
sweeps the dim regions, visits worlds which flesh cannot enter; he saw
the souls in pain; he hears the doom of the judge; he beholds the penal
metempsychosis; the Fates, with the rock and shears; and hears the
intoxicating hum of their spindle.

But his circumspection never forsook him. One would say, he had read
the inscription on the gates of Busyrane,--"Be bold;" and on the second
gate,--"Be bold, be bold and evermore be bold;" and then again he
paused well at the third gate,--"Be not too bold." His strength is
like the momentum of a falling planet; and his discretion, the return
of its due and perfect curve,--so excellent is his Greek love of
boundary, and his skill in definition. In reading logarithms, one is
not more secure, than in following Plato in his flights. Nothing can
be colder than his head, when the lightnings of his imagination are
playing in the sky. He has finished his thinking, before he brings it
to the reader; and he abounds in the surprises of a literary master.
He has that opulence which furnishes, at every turn, the precise weapon
he needs. As the rich man wears no more garments, drives no more horses,
sits in no more chambers, than the poor,--but has that one dress, or
equipage, or instrument, which is fit for the hour and the need; so
Plato, in his plenty, is never restricted, but has the fit word. There
is, indeed, no weapon in all the armory of wit which he did not possess
and use,--epic, analysis, mania, intuition, music, satire, and irony,
down to the customary and polite. His illustrations are poetry and his
jests illustrations. Socrates' profession of obstetric art is good
philosophy; and his finding that word "cookery," and "adulatory art,"
for rhetoric, in the Gorgias, does us a substantial service still. No
orator can measure in effect with him who can give good nicknames.

What moderation, and understatement, and checking his thunder in mid
volley! He has good-naturedly furnished the courtier and citizen with
all that can be said against the schools. "For philosophy is an elegant
thing, if any one modestly meddles with it; but, if he is conversant
with it more than is becoming, it corrupts the man." He could well
afford to be generous,--he, who from the sunlike centrality and reach
of his vision, had a faith without cloud. Such as his perception, was
his speech: he plays with the doubt, and makes the most of it: he
paints and quibbles; and by and by comes a sentence that moves the sea
and land. The admirable earnest comes not only at intervals, in the
perfect yes and no of the dialogue, but in bursts of light. "I,
therefore, Callicles, am persuaded by these accounts, and consider how
I may exhibit my soul before the judge in a healthy condition.
Wherefore, disregarding the honors that most men value, and looking
to the truth, I shall endeavor in reality to live as virtuously as I
can and, when I die, to die so. And I invite all other men, to the
utmost of my power; and you, too, I in turn invite to this contest,
which, I affirm, surpasses all contests here."

He is a great average man one who, to the best thinking, adds a
proportion and equality in his faculties, so that men see in him their
own dreams and glimpses made available, and made to pass for what they
are. A great common sense is his warrant and qualification to be the
world's interpreter. He has reason, as all the philosophic and poetic
class have: but he has, also, what they have not,--this strong solving
sense to reconcile his poetry with the appearances of the world, and
build a bridge from the streets of cities to the Atlantis. He omits
never this graduation, but slopes his thought, however picturesque the
precipice on one side, to an access from the plain. He never writes
in ecstasy, or catches us up into poetic rapture.

Plato apprehended the cardinal facts. He could prostrate himself on
the earth, and cover his eyes, whilst he adorned that which cannot be
numbered, or gauged, or known, or named: that of which everything can
be affirmed and denied: that "which is entity and nonentity." He called
it super-essential. He even stood ready, as in the Parmenides, to
demonstrate that it was so,--that this Being exceeded the limits of
intellect. No man ever more fully acknowledged the Ineffable. Having
paid his homage, as for the human race, to the Illimitable, he then
stood erect, and for the human race affirmed, "And yet things are
knowable!"--that is, the Asia in his mind was first heartily
honored,--the ocean of love and power, before form, before will, before
knowledge, the Same, the Good, the One; and now, refreshed and empowered
by this worship, the instinct of Europe, namely, culture, returns; and
he cries, Yet things are knowable! They are knowable, because, being
from one, things correspond. There is a scale: and the correspondence
of heaven to earth, of matter to mind, of the part to the whole, is
our guide. As there is a science of stars, called astronomy; a science
of quantities called mathematics; a science of qualities, called
chemistry; so there is a science of sciences,--I call it
Dialectic,--which is the intellect discriminating the false and the
true. It rests on the observation of identity and diversity; for, to
judge, is to unite to an object the notion which belongs to it. The
sciences, even the best,--mathematics, and astronomy, are like
sportsmen, who seize whatever prey offers, even without being able to
make any use of them. Dialectic must teach the use of them. "This is
of that rank that no intellectual man will enter on any study for its
own sake, but only with a view to advance himself in that one sole
science which embraces all."

"The essence or peculiarity of man is to comprehend the whole; or that
which in the diversity of sensations, can be comprised under a rational
unity." "The soul which has never perceived the truth, cannot pass
into the human form." I announce to men the intellect. I announce the
good of being interpenetrated by the mind that made nature: this
benefit, namely, that it can understand nature, which it made and
maketh. Nature is good, but intellect is better: as the law-giver is
before the law-receiver. I give you joy, O sons of men: that truth is
altogether wholesome; that we have hope to search out what might be
the very self of everything. The misery of man is to be balked of the
sight of essence, and to be stuffed with conjecture: but the supreme
good is reality; the supreme beauty is reality; and all virtue and all
felicity depend on this science of the real: for courage is nothing
else than knowledge: the fairest fortune that can befall man, is to
be guided by his daemon to that which is truly his own. This also is
the essence of justice,--to attend every one his own; nay, the notion
of virtue is not to be arrived at, except through direct contemplation
of the divine essence. Courage, then, for "the persuasion that we must
search that which we do not know, will render us, beyond comparison,
better, braver, and more industrious, than if we thought it impossible
to discover what we do not know, and useless to search for it." He
secures a position not to be commanded, by his passion for reality;
valuing philosophy only as it is the pleasure of conversing with real
being.

Thus, full of the genius of Europe, he said, "Culture." He saw the
institutions of Sparta, and recognized more genially, one would say,
than any since, the hope of education. He delighted in every
accomplishment, in every graceful and useful and truthful performance;
above all, in the splendors of genius and intellectual achievement.
"The whole of life, O Socrates," said Glauco, "is, with the wise the
measure of hearing such discourses as these." What a price he sets on
the feats of talent, on the powers of Pericles, of Isocrates, of
Parmenides! What price, above price on the talents themselves! He
called the several faculties, gods, in his beautiful personation. What
value he gives to the art of gymnastics in education; what to geometry;
what to music, what to astronomy, whose appeasing and medicinal power
he celebrates! In the Timseus, he indicates the highest employment of
the eyes. "By us it is asserted, that God invented and bestowed sight
on us for this purpose,--that, on surveying the circles of intelligence
in the heavens, we might properly employ those of our own minds, which,
though disturbed when compared with the others that are uniform, are
still allied to their circulations; and that, having thus learned, and
being naturally possessed of a correct reasoning faculty, we might,
by imitating the uniform revolutions of divinity, set right our own
wanderings and blunders." And in the Republic,--"By each of these
disciplines, a certain organ of the soul is both purified and
reanimated, which is blinded and buried by studies of another kind;
an organ better worth saving than ten thousand eyes, since truth is
perceived by this alone."

He said, Culture; but he first admitted its basis, and gave immeasurably
the first place to advantages of nature. His patrician tastes laid
stress on the distinctions of birth. In the doctrine of the organic
character and disposition is the origin of caste. "Such as were fit
to govern, into their composition the informing Deity mingled gold:
into the military, silver; iron and brass for husbandmen and
artificers." The East confirms itself, in all ages, in this faith. The
Koran is explicit on this point of caste. "Men have their metal, as
of gold and silver. Those of you who were the worthy ones in the state
of ignorance, will be the worthy ones in the state of faith, as soon
as you embrace it." Plato was not less firm. "Of the five orders of
things, only four can be taught in the generality of men." In the
Republic, he insists on the temperaments of the youth, as the first
of the first.

A happier example of the stress laid on nature, is in the dialogue
with the young Theages, who wishes to receive lessons from Socrates.
Socrates declares that, if some have grown wise by associating with
him, no thanks are due to him; but, simply, whilst they were with him,
they grew wise, not because of him; he pretends not to know the way
of it. "It is adverse to many, nor can those be benefited by associating
with me, whom the Daemons oppose, so that it is not possible for me
to live with these. With many, however, he does not prevent me from
conversing, who yet are not at all benefited by associating with me.
Such, O Theages, is the association with me; for, if it pleases the
God, you will make great and rapid proficiency: you will not, if he
does not please. Judge whether it is not safer to be instructed by
some one of those who have power over the benefit which they impart
to men, than by me, who benefit or not, just as it may happen." As if
he had said, "I have no system. I cannot be answerable for you. You
will be what you must. If there is love between us, inconceivably
delicious and profitable will our intercourse be; if not, your time
is lost, and you will only annoy me. I shall seem to you stupid, and
the reputation I have, false. Quite above us, beyond the will of you
or me, is this secret affinity or repulsion laid. All my good is
magnetic, and I educate, not by lessons, but by going about my
business."

He said, Culture; he said, Nature; and he failed not to add, "There
is also the divine." There is no thought in any mind, but it quickly
tends to convert itself into a power, and organizes a huge
instrumentality of means. Plato, lover of limits, loved the illimitable,
saw the enlargement and nobility which come from truth itself, and
good itself, and attempted, as if on the part of the human intellect,
once for all, to do it adequate homage,--homage fit for the immense
soul to receive, and yet homage becoming the intellect to render. He
said, then, "Our faculties run out into infinity, and return to us
thence. We can define but a little way; but here is a fact which will
not be skipped, and which to shut our eyes upon is suicide. All things
are in a scale; and, begin where we will, ascend and ascend. All things
are symbolical; and what we call results are beginnings."

A key to the method and completeness of Plato is his twice bisected
line. After he has illustrated the relation between the absolute good
and true, and the forms of the intelligible world, he says:--"Let there
be a line cut in two, unequal parts. Cut again each of these two
parts,--one representing the visible, the other the intelligible
world,--and these two new sections, representing the bright part and
the dark part of these worlds, you will have, for one of the sections
of the visible world,--images, that is, both shadows and reflections;
for the other section, the objects of these images,-that is, plants,
animals, and the works of art and nature. Then divide the intelligible
world in like manner; the one section will be of opinions and
hypotheses, and the other section, of truths." To these four sections,
the four operations of the soul correspond,--conjecture, faith,
understanding, reason. As every pool reflects the image of the sun,
so every thought and thing restores us an image and creature of the
supreme Good. The universe is perforated by a million channels for his
activity. All things mount and mount.

All his thought has this ascension; in Phaedrus, teaching that "beauty
is the most lovely of all things, exciting hilarity, and shedding
desire and confidence through the universe, wherever it enters; and
it enters, in some degree, into all things; but that there is another,
which is as much more beautiful than beauty, as beauty is than chaos;
namely, wisdom, which our wonderful organ of sight cannot reach unto,
but which, could it be seen, would ravish us with its perfect reality."
He has the same regard to it as the source of excellence in works of
art. "When an artificer, in the fabrication of any work, looks to that
which always subsists according to the same; and, employing a model
of this kind, expresses its idea and power in his work; it must follow,
that his production should be beautiful. But when he beholds that which
is born and dies, it will be far from beautiful."

Thus ever: the Banquet is a teaching in the same spirit, familiar now
to all the poetry, and to all the sermons of the world, that the love
of the sexes is initial; and symbolizes, at a distance, the passion
of the soul for that immense lake of beauty it exists to seek. This
faith in the Divinity is never out of mind, and constitutes the
limitation of all his dogmas. Body cannot teach wisdom;--God only. In
the same mind, he constantly affirms that virtue cannot be taught;
that it is not a science, but an inspiration; that the greatest goods
are produced to us through mania, and are assigned to us by a divine
gift.

This leads me to that central figure, which he has established in his
Academy, as the organ through which every considered opinion shall be
announced, and whose biography he has likewise so labored, that the
historic facts are lost in the light of Plato's mind. Socrates and
Plato are the double star, which the most powerful instruments will
not entirely separate. Socrates, again, in his traits and genius, is
the best example of that synthesis which constitutes Plato's
extraordinary power. Socrates, a man of humble stem, but honest enough;
of the commonest history; of a personal homeliness so remarkable, as
to be a cause of wit in others,--the rather that his broad good nature
and exquisite taste for a joke invited the sally, which was sure to
be paid. The players personated him on the stage; the potters copied
his ugly face on their stone jugs. He was a cool fellow, adding to his
humor a perfect temper, and a knowledge of his man, be he who he might
whom he talked with, which laid the companion open to certain defeat
in any debate,--and in debate he immoderately delighted. The young men
are prodigiously fond of him, and invite him to their feasts, whither
he goes for conversation. He can drink, too; has the strongest head
in Athens; and, after leaving the whole party under the table, goes
away, as if nothing had happened, to begin new dialogues with somebody
that is sober. In short, he was what our country-people call an old
one.

He affected a good many citizen-like tastes, was monstrously fond of
Athens, hated trees, never willingly went beyond the walls, knew the
old characters, valued the bores and philistines, thought everything
in Athens a little better than anything in any other place. He was
plain as a Quaker in habit and speech, affected low phrases, and
illustrations from cocks and quails, soup-pans and sycamore-spoons,
grooms and farriers, and unnameable offices,--especially if he talked
with any superfine person. He had a Franklin-like wisdom. Thus, he
showed one who was afraid to go on foot to Olympia, that it was no
more than his daily walk within doors, if continuously extended, would
easily reach.

Plain old uncle as he was, with his great ears,--an immense talker,--the
rumor ran, that, on one or two occasions, in the war with Boeotia, he
had shown a determination which had covered the retreat of a troop;
and there was some story that, under cover of folly, he had, in the
city government, when one day he chanced to hold a seat there, evinced
a courage in opposing singly the popular voice, which had well-nigh
ruined him. He is very poor; but then he is hardy as a soldier, and
can live on a few olives; usually, in the strictest sense, on bread
and water, except when entertained by his friends. His necessary
expenses were exceedingly small, and no one could live as he did. He
wore no undergarment; his upper garment was the same for summer and
winter; and he went barefooted; and it is said that, to procure the
pleasure, which he loves, of talking at his ease all day with the most
elegant and cultivated young men, he will now and then return to his
shop, and carve statues, good or bad, for sale. However that be, it
is certain that he had grown to delight in nothing else than this
conversation; and that, under his hypocritical pretense of knowing
nothing, he attacks and brings down all the fine speakers, all the
fine philosophers of Athens, whether natives, or strangers from Asia
Minor and the islands. Nobody can refuse to talk with him, he is so
honest, and really curious to know; a man who was willingly confuted,
if he did not speak the truth, and who willingly confuted others,
asserting what was false; and not less pleased when confuted than when
confuting; for he thought not any evil happened to men, of such a
magnitude as false opinion respecting the just and unjust. A pitiless
disputant, who knows nothing, but the bounds of whose conquering
intelligence no man had ever reached; whose temper was imperturbable;
whose dreadful logic was always leisurely and sportive; so careless
and ignorant as to disarm the weariest, and draw them, in the
pleasantest manner, into horrible doubts and confusion. But he always
knew the way out; knew it, yet would not tell it. No escape; he drives
them to terrible choices by his dilemmas, and tosses the Hippiases and
Gorgiases, with their grand reputations, as a boy tosses his balls.
The tyrannous realist!-Meno has discoursed a thousand times, at length,
on virtue, before many companies, and very well, as it appeared to
him; but, at this moment, he cannot even tell what it is,--this
cramp-fish of a Socrates has so bewitched him.

This hard-headed humorist, whose strange conceits, drollery, and
_bon-hommie_, diverted the young patricians, whilst the rumor of
his sayings and quibbles gets abroad every day, turns out, in a sequel,
to have a probity as invincible as his logic and to be either insane,
or, at least, under cover of this play, enthusiastic in his religion.
When accused before the judges of subverting the popular creed, he
affirms the immortality of the soul, the future reward and punishment;
and, refusing to recant, in a caprice of the popular government, was
condemned to die, and sent to the prison. Socrates entered the prison,
and took away all ignominy from the place, which could not be a prison,
whilst he was there. Crito bribed the jailor; but Socrates would not
go out by treachery. "Whatever inconvenience ensue, nothing is to be
preferred before justice. These things I hear like pipes and drums,
whose sound makes me deaf to everything you say." The fame of this
prison, the fame of the discourses there, and the drinking of the
hemlock, are one of the most precious passages in the history of the
world.

The rare coincidence, in one ugly body, of the droll and the martyr,
the keen street and market debater with the sweetest saint known to
any history at that time, had forcibly struck the mind of Plato, so
capacious of these contrasts; and the figure of Socrates, by a
necessity, placed itself in the foreground of the scene, as the fittest
dispenser of the intellectual treasurers he had to communicate. It was
a rare fortune, that this Aesod of the mob, and this robed scholar,
should meet, to make each other immortal in their mutual faculty. The
strange synthesis, in the character of Socrates, capped the synthesis
in the mind of Plato. Moreover, by this means, he was able, in the
direct way, and without envy, to avail himself of the wit and weight
of Socrates, to which unquestionably his own debt was great; and these
derived again their principal advantage from the perfect art of Plato.

It remains to say, that the defect of Plato in power is only that which
results inevitably from his quality. He is intellectual in his aim;
and, therefore, in expression, literary. Mounting into heaven, driving
into the pit, expounding the laws of the state, the passion of love,
the remorse of crime, the hope of the parting soul,--he is literary,
and never otherwise. It is almost the sole deduction from the merit
of Plato, that his writings have not,--what is, no doubt, incident
to this regnancy of intellect in his work,--the vital authority which
the screams of prophets and the sermons of unlettered Arabs and Jews
possess. There is an interval; and to cohesion, contact is necessary.

I know not what can be said in reply to this criticism, but that we
have come to a fact in the nature of things: an oak is not an orange.
The qualities of sugar remain with sugar, and those of salt, with salt.

In the second place, he has not a system. The dearest defenders and
disciples are at fault. He attempted a theory of the universe, and his
theory is not complete or self-evident. One man thinks he means this,
and another, that: he has said one thing in one place, and the reverse
of it in another place. He is charged with having failed to make the
transition from ideas to matter. Here is the world, sound as a nut,
perfect, not the smallest piece of chaos left, never a stitch nor an
end, not a mark of haste, or botching, or second thought; but the
theory of the world is a thing of shreds and patches.

The longest wave is quickly lost in the sea. Plato would willingly
have a Platonism, a known and accurate expression for the world, and
it should be accurate. It shall be the world passed through the mind
of Plato,--nothing less. Every atom shall have the Platonic tinge;
every atom, every relation or quality you knew before, you shall know
again and find here, but now ordered; not nature, but art. And you
shall feel that Alexander indeed overran, with men and horses, some
countries of the planet; but countries, and things of which countries
are made, elements, planet itself, laws of planet and of men, have
passed through this man as bread into his body, and become no longer
bread, but body: so all this mammoth morsel has become Plato. He has
clapped copyright on the world. This is the ambition of individualism.
But the mouthful proves too large. Boa constrictor has good will to
eat it, but he is foiled. He falls abroad in the attempt; and biting,
gets strangled: the bitten world holds the biter fast by his own teeth.
There he perishes: unconquered nature lives on, and forgets him. So
it fares with all: so must it fare with Plato. In view of eternal
nature, Plato turns out to be philosophical exercitations. He argues
on this side, and on that. The acutest German, the lovingest disciple,
could never tell what Platonism was; indeed, admirable texts can be
quoted on both sides of every great question from him.

These things we are forced to say, if we must consider the effort of
Plato, or of any philosopher, to dispose of Nature,--which will not
be disposed of. No power of genius has ever yet had the smallest success
in explaining existence. The perfect enigma remains. But there is an
injustice in assuming this ambition for Plato. Let us not seem to treat
with flippancy his venerable name. Men, in proportion to their
intellect, have admitted his transcendent claims. The way to know him,
is to compare him, not with nature, but with other men. How many ages
have gone by, and he remains unapproached! A chief structure of human
wit, like Karnac, or the mediaeval cathedrals, or the Etrurian remains,
it requires all the breadth of human faculty to know it. I think it
is truliest seen, when seen with the most respect. His sense deepens,
his merits multiply, with study. When we say, here is a fine collection
of fables; or, when we praise the style; or the common sense; or
arithmetic; we speak as boys, and much of our impatient criticism of
the dialectic, I suspect, is no better. The criticism is like our
impatience of miles when we are in a hurry; but it is still best that
a mile should have seventeen hundred and sixty yards. The great-eyed
Plato proportioned the lights and shades after the genius of our life.

 

PLATO: NEW READINGS


The publication, in Mr. Bohn's "Serial Library," of the excellent
translations of Plato, which we esteem one of the chief benefits the
cheap press has yielded, gives us an occasion to take hastily a few
more notes of the elevation and bearings of this fixed star; or, to
add a bulletin, like the journals, of Plato at the latest dates.

Modern science, by the extent of its generalization, has learned to
indemnify the student of man for the defects of individuals, by tracing
growth and ascent in races; and, by the simple expedient of lighting
up the vast background, generates a feeling of complacency and hope.
The human being has the saurian and the plant in his rear. His arts
and sciences, the easy issue of his brain, look glorious when
prospectively beheld from the distant brain of ox, crocodile, and fish.
It seems as if nature, in regarding the geologic night behind her,
when, in five or six millenniums, she had turned out five or six men,
as Homer, Phidias, Menu, and Columbus, was nowise discontented with
the result. These samples attested the virtue of the tree. These were
a clear amelioration of trilobite and saurus, and a good basis for
further proceeding. With this artist time and space are cheap, and she
is insensible of what you say of tedious preparation. She waited
tranquilly the flowing periods of paleontology, for the hour to be
struck when man should arrive. Then periods must pass before the motion
of the earth can be suspected; then before the map of the instincts
and the cultivable powers can be drawn. But as of races, so the
succession of individual men is fatal and beautiful, and Plato has the
fortune, in the history of mankind, to mark an epoch.

Plato's fame does not stand on a syllogism, or on any masterpieces of
the Socratic, or on any thesis, as, for example, the immortality of
the soul. He is more than an expert, or a school-man, or a geometer,
or the prophet of a peculiar message. He represents the privilege of
the intellect, the power, namely, of carrying up every fact to
successive platforms, and so disclosing, in every fact, a germ of
expansion. These expansions are in the essence of thought. The
naturalist would never help us to them by any discoveries of the extent
of the universe, but is as poor, when cataloguing the resolved nebula
of Orion, as when measuring the angles of an acre. But the Republic
of Plato, by these expansions, may be said to require, and so to
anticipate, the astronomy of Laplace. The expansions are organic. The
mind does not create what it perceives, any more than the eye creates
the rose. In ascribing to Plato the merit of announcing them, we only
say, here was a more complete man, who could apply to nature the whole
scale of the senses, the understanding, and the reason. These
expansions, or extensions, consist in continuing the spiritual sight
where the horizon falls on our natural vision, and, by this second
sight, discovering the long lines of law which shoot in every direction.
Everywhere he stands on a path which has no end, but runs continuously
round the universe. Therefore, every word becomes an exponent of nature.
Whatever he looks upon discloses a second sense, and ulterior senses.
His perception of the generation of contraries, of death out of life,
and life out of death,--that law by which, in nature, decomposition
is recomposition, and putrefaction and cholera are only signals of a
new creation; his discernment of the little in the large, and the large
in the small; studying the state in the citizen, and the citizen in
the state; and leaving it doubtful whether he exhibited the Republic
as an allegory on the education of the private soul; his beautiful
definitions of ideas, of time, of form, of figure, of the line,
sometimes hypothetically given, as his defining of virtue, courage,
justice, temperance; his love of the apologue, and his apologues
themselves; the cave of Trophonius; the ring of Gyges; the charioteer
and two horses; the golden, silver, brass, and iron temperaments;
Theuth and Thamus; and the visions of Hades and the Fates--fables which
have imprinted themselves in the human memory like the signs of the
zodiac; his soliform eye and his boniform soul; his doctrine of
assimilation; his doctrine of reminiscence; his clear vision of the
laws of return, or reaction, which secure instant justice throughout
the universe, instanced everywhere, but specially in the doctrine,
"what comes from God to us, returns from us to God," and in Socrates'
belief that the laws below are sisters of the laws above.

More striking examples are his moral conclusions. Plato affirms the
coincidence of science and virtue; for vice can never know itself and
virtue; but virtue knows both itself and vice. The eye attested that
justice was best, as long as it was profitable; Plato affirms that it
is profitable throughout; that the profit is intrinsic, though the
just conceal his justice from gods and men; that it is better to suffer
injustice, than to do it; that the sinner ought to covet punishment;
that the lie was more hurtful than homicide; and that ignorance, or
the involuntary lie, was more calamitous than involuntary homicide;
that the soul is unwillingly deprived of true opinions; and that no
man sins willingly; that the order of proceeding of nature was from
the mind to the body; and, though a sound body cannot restore an unsound
mind, yet a good soul can, by its virtue, render the body the best
possible. The intelligent have a right over the ignorant, namely, the
right of instructing them. The right punishment of one out of tune,
is to make him play in tune; the fine which the good, refusing to
govern, ought to pay, is, to be governed by a worse man; that his
guards shall not handle gold and silver, but shall be instructed that
there is gold and silver in their souls, which will make men willing
to give them everything which they need. This second sight explains
the stress laid on geometry. He saw that the globe of earth was not
more lawful and precise than was the supersensible; that a celestial
geometry was in place there, as a logic of lines and angles here below;
that the world was throughout mathematical; the proportions are constant
of oxygen, azote, and lime; there is just so much water, and slate,
and magnesia; not less are the proportions constant of moral elements.

This eldest Goethe, hating varnish and falsehood, delighted in revealing
the real at the base of the accidental; in discovering connection,
continuity, and representation, everywhere; hating insulation; and
appears like the god of wealth among the cabins of vagabonds, opening
power and capability in everything he touches. Ethical science was new
and vacant, when Plato could write thus:--"Of all whose arguments are
left to the men of the present time, no one has ever yet condemned
injustice, or praised justice, otherwise than as respects the repute,
honors, and emoluments arising therefrom; while, as respects either
of them in itself, and subsisting by its own power in the soul of the
possessor, and concealed both from gods and men, no one has yet
sufficiently investigated, either in poetry or prose writings,--how,
namely, that the one is the greatest of all the evils that the soul
has within it, and justice the greatest good."

His definition of ideas, as what is simple, permanent, uniform, and
self-existent, forever discriminating them from the notions of the
understanding, marks an era in the world. He was born to behold the
self-evolving power of spirit, endless generator of new ends; a power
which is the key at once to the centrality and the evanescence of
things. Plato is so centered, that he can well spare all his dogmas.
Thus the fact of knowledge and ideas reveals to him the fact of
eternity; and the doctrine of reminiscence he offers as the most
probable particular explication. Call that fanciful,--it matters not;
the connection between our knowledge and the abyss of being is still
real, and the explication must be not less magnificent.

He has indicated every eminent point in speculation. He wrote on the
scale of the mind itself, so that all things have symmetry in his
tablet. He put in all the past, without weariness, and descended into
detail with a courage like that he witnessed in nature. One would say,
that his forerunners had mapped out each a farm, or a district, or an
island, in intellectual geography, but that Plato first drew the sphere.
He domesticates the soul in nature; man is the microcosm. All the
circles of the visible heaven represent as many circles in the rational
soul. There is no lawless particle, and there is nothing casual in the
action of the human mind. The names of things, too, are fatal, following
the nature of things. All the gods of the Pantheon are, by their names,
significant of a profound sense. The gods are the ideas. Pan is speech,
or manifestation; Saturn, the contemplative; Jove, the regal soul; and
Mars, passion. Venus is proportion; Calliope, the soul of the world;
Aglaia, intellectual illustration.

These thoughts, in sparkles of light, had appeared often to pious and
to poetic souls; but this well-bred, all-knowing Greek geometer comes
with command, gathers them all up into rank and gradation, the Euclid
of holiness, and marries the two parts of nature. Before all men, he
saw the intellectual values of the moral sentiment. He describes his
own ideal, when he paints in Timaeus a god leading things from disorder
into order. He kindled a fire so truly in the center, that we see the
sphere illuminated, and can distinguish poles, equator, and lines of
latitude, every arc and node; a theory so averaged, so modulated, that
you would say, the winds of ages had swept through this rhythmic
structure, and not that it was the brief extempore blotting of one
short-lived scribe. Hence it has happened that a very well-marked
class of souls, namely those who delight in giving a spiritual, that
is, an ethico-intellectual expression to every truth by exhibiting an
ulterior end which is yet legitimate to it, are said to Platonize.
Thus, Michel Angelo is a Platonist, in his sonnets. Shakspeare is a
Platonist, when he writes, "Nature is made better by no mean, but
nature makes that mean," or,

"He that can endure
To follow with allegiance a fallen lord,
Does conquer him that did his master conquer,
And earns a place in the story."

Hamlet is a pure Platonist, and 'tis the magnitude only of Shakspeare's
proper genius that hinders him from being classed as the most eminent
of this school. Swedenborg, throughout his prose poem of "Conjugal
Love," is a Platonist.

His subtlety commended him to men of thought. The secret of his popular
success is the moral aim, which endeared him to mankind. "Intellect,"
he said, "is king of heaven and of earth;" but, in Plato, intellect
is always moral. His writings have also the sempiternal youth of poetry.
For their arguments, most of them, might have been couched in sonnets;
and poetry has never soared higher than in the Timaeus and the Phaedrus.
As the poet, too, he is only contemplative. He did not, like Pythagoras,
break himself with an institution. All his painting in the Republic
must be esteemed mythical, with intent to bring out, sometimes in
violent colors, his thought. You cannot institute, without peril of
charlatan.

It was a high scheme, his absolute privilege for the best (which, to
make emphatic, he expressed by community of women), as the premium
which he would set on grandeur. There shall be exempts of two kinds:
first, those who by demerit have put themselves below
protection,--outlaws; and secondly, those who by eminence of nature
and desert are out of the reach of your rewards; let such be free of
the city, and above the law. We confide them to themselves; let them
do with us as they will. Let none presume to measure the irregularities
of Michel Angelo and Socrates by village scales.

In his eighth book of the Republic, he throws a little mathematical
dust in our eyes. I am sorry to see him, after such noble superiorities,
permitting the lie to governors. Plato plays Providence a little with
the baser sort, as people allow themselves with their dogs and cats.

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The Long Bow The Long Bow

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I find myself still sitting in front of the last book by Mr. H. G. Wells, I say stunned with admiration, my family says sleepy with fatigue. I still feel vaguely all the things in Mr. Wells's book which I agree with; and I still feel vividly the one thing that I deny. I deny that biology can destroy the sense of truth, which alone can even desire biology. No truth which I find can deny that I am seeking the truth. My mind cannot find anything which denies my mind... But what is all this? This is
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The Modern Scrooge The Modern Scrooge

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Mr. Vernon-Smith, of Trinity, and the Social Settlement, Tooting, author of "A Higher London" and "The Boyg System at Work," came to the conclusion, after looking through his select and even severe library, that Dickens's "Christmas Carol" was a very suitable thing to be read to charwomen. Had they been men they would have been forcibly subjected to Browning's "Christmas Eve" with exposition, but chivalry spared the charwomen, and Dickens was funny, and could do no harm. His fellow worker Wimpole would read things like "Three Men in a Boat" to the poor; but Vernon-Smith regarded this as a
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