Imágenes de páginas

His ethical deas.


carried his views into practice; for Plato asserted that,

though the supreme good is unattainable by our

reason, we must try to resemble God as far as it is possible for the changeable to copy the eternal; remembering that pleasure is not the end of man, and, though the sensual part of the soul dwells on eating and drinking, riches and pleasure, and the spiritual on worldly honours and distinctions, the reason is devoted to knowledge. Pleasure, therefore, cannot be attributed to the gods, though knowledge may; pleasure, which is not a good in itself, but only a means thereto. Each of the three parts of the soul has its own appropriate virtue, that of reason being wisdom; that of the spirit, courage; that of the appetite, temperance; and for the sake of perfection, justice is added for the mutual regulation of the other three.

In carrying his ethical conceptions into practice, Plato His proposed

insists that the state is everything, and that political in

what is in opposition to it ought to be destroyed.

He denies the right of property; strikes at the very existence of the family, pressing his doctrines to such an extreme as to consider women as public property, to be used for the purposes of the state; he teaches that education should bo a governmental duty, and that religion must be absolutely subjected to the politician; that children do not belong to their parents, but to the state; that the aim of government should not be the happiness of the individual, but that of the whole; and that men are to be considered not as men, but as elements of the state, a perfect subject differing from a slave only in this, that he has the state for his master. He recommends the exposure of deformed and sickly infants, and requires every citizen to be initiated into every species of falsehood and fraud. Distinguishing between mere social unions and true polities, and insisting that there should be an analogy between the state and the soul as respects triple constitution, he establishes a division of ruler, warriors, and labourers, preferring, therefore, a monarchy reposing on aristocracy, particularly of talent. Though he considers music essential to education, his opinion of the fine arts is so low that he would admit

Grandeur of

into his state painters and musicians only under severe restrictions, or not at all. It was for the sake of having this chimerical republic realized in Sicily that The Republic he made a journey to Dionysius; and it may be of Plato. added that it was well for those whom he hoped to have subjected to the experiment that his wild and visionary scheme was never permitted to be carried into effect. In our times extravagant social plans have been proposed, and some have been attempted; but we have witnessed nothing so absurd as this vaunted republic of Plato. It shows a surprising ignorance of the acts and wants of man in his social condition.

Some of the more important doctrines of Plato are worthy of further reflection. I shall therefore detain the reader a short time to offer a few remarks


them. It was a beautiful conception of this philosophy that ideas are connected together by others of a higher order, and these, in their turn, by others still Plato's conhigher, their generality and power increasing as

ceptions of God we ascend, until finally a culminating point is reached_a last, a supreme, an all-ruling idea, which is God. Approaching in this elevated manner to the doctrine of an Almighty Being, we are free from those fallacies we are otherwise liable to fall into when we mingle notions derived from time and space with the attributes of God; we also avoid those obscurities necessarily encountered when we attempt the consideration of the illimitable and eternal.

Plato's views of the immortality of the soul offer a striking contrast to those of the popular philo- and of the sophy and superstition of his time. They recall, soul. in many respects, the doctrines of India. In Greece, those who held the most enlarged views entertained what might be termed a doctrine of semi-immortality. They looked for a continuance of the soul in an endless futurity, but gave themselves no concern about the eternity which is past. But Plato considered the soul as having already eternally existed the present life being only a moment in our career; he looked forward with an undoubting faith to the changes through which we must hereafter pass. As sparks issue forth from a flame, so doubtless to his imagination did the soul of man issue forth from the soul

The senti


But this arises from

of the world. Innate ideas and the sentiment of pre

existence indicate our past life. By the latter ment of pre- is meant that on some occasion perhaps of trivial

concern, or perhaps in some momentous event, it suddenly occurs to us that we have been in like circumstances, and surrounded by the things at that instant present on some other occasion before ; but the recollection, though forcibly impressing us with surprise, is misty and confused. With Plato shall we say it was in one of our prior states of existence, and the long-forgotten transactions are now suddenly flashing upon us ?

But Plato did not know the double structure and the double action of the brain of man; he did not remember that the mind may lose all recognition of the lapse of time, and, with equal facility, compress into the twinkling of an eye events so numerous that for their occurrence

days and even years would seem to be required;

or, conversely, that it can take a single, a simple the anatomi- idea, which one would suppose might be disposed

of in a moment, and dwell upon it, dilating or brain.

swelling it out, until all the hours of a long night are consumed. Of the truth of these singular effects we have not only such testimony as that offered by those who have been restored from death by drowning, who describe the flood of memory rushing upon them in the last moment of their mortal agony, the long train of all the affairs in which they have borne a part seen in an instant, as we see the landscape, with all its various objects, by a flash of lightning at night, and that with appalling distinctness, but also from our own experience in our dreams. It is shown in my Physiology how the phenomena of the sentiment of pre-existence may, upon these principles, be explained, each hemisphere of the brain thinking for itself, and the mind deluded as respects the lapse of time, mistaking these simultaneous actions for successive ones, and referring one of the two impressions to an indistinct and misty past. To Plato such facts as these afforded copious proofs of the prior existence of the soul, and strong foundations for a faith in its future life.

Thus Plato's doctrine of the immortality of the soul

cal construction of the

The double

implies a double immortality; the past eternity, as well as that to come, falls within its scope. In the national superstition of his time, the spiritual principle seemed to arise without author or generator, immortality, inding its chance residence in the tabernacle past and

future. of the body, growing with its growth and strengthening with its strength, acquiring for each period of life a correspondence of form and of feature with its companion the body, successively assuming the appearance of the infant, the youth, the adult, the white-bearded patriarch. The shade who wandered in the Stygian fields, or stood before the tribunal of Minos to receive his doom, was thought to correspond in aspect with the aspect of the body at death. It was thus that Ulysses recognized the forms of Patroclus and Achilles, and other heroes of the ten years' siege; it was thus that the peasant recognized the ghost of his enemy or friend. As a matter of superstition, these notions had their use, but in a philosophical senso it is impossible to conceive anything more defective.

Man differs from a lifeless body or a brute in this, that it is not with the present moment alone that Relations of he has to deal. For the brute the past, when the past and gone, is clean gone for ever; and the future. future to man. before it approaches, is as if it were never to be. Man, by his recollection, makes the past a part of the present, and his foreknowledge adds the future thereto, thereby uniting the three in one.

Some of the illustrations commonly given of Plato's Ideal theory may also be instructively used for showing the manner in which his facts are the Ideal dealt with by the methods of modern science. theory. Thus Plato would say that there is contained in every acorn the ideal type of an oak, in accordance with which as soon as suitable circumstances occur, the acorn will develop itself into an oak, and into no other tree. In the act of development of such a seed into its final growth there are, therefore, two things demanding attention, the intrinsic character of the seed and the external forces acting upon it. The Platonic doctrine draws such a distinction emphatically ; its essential purpose is to assert


Criticism on

the absolute existence and independence of that innate type and its imperishability. Though it requires the agency of external circumstances for its complete realization, its being is altogether irrespective of them. There are, therefore, in such a case, two elements concerned-an internal and an external. A like duality is perceived in many other physiological instances, as in the relationship of mind and matter, thought and sensation. It is the aim of the Platonic philosophy to magnify the internal at the expense of the external in the case of man, thereby asserting the absolute supremacy of intellect; this being the particular in which man is distinguished from the brutes and lower organisms, in whom the external relatively predominates. The development of any such organism, be it plant or animal, is therefore nothing but a manifestation of the Divine idea of Platonism. Many instances of natural history offer striking illustrations, as when that which might have been a branch is developed into a flower, the parts thereof showing a disposition to arrange themselves by fives or by threes. The persistency with which this occurs in organisms of the same species, is, in the Platonic interpretation, a proof that, though individuals may perish, the idea is immortal. How else, in this manner, could the like extricate itself from the unlike; the one deliver itself from, and make itself manifest among the many ?

Such is an instance of Plato's views; but the very illustration, thus serving to bring them so explicitly before us, may teach us another, and, perhaps, a more correct doctrine. For, considering the duality presented by such cases, the internal and external, the immortal hidden type and the power acting upon it without, the character and the circumstances, may we not pertinently inquire by what authority does Plato diminish the influence of the latter and enhance the value of the former? Why are facts to be burdened with such hypothetical creations, when it is obvious that a much simpler explanation is sufficient? Let us admit, as our best physiological views direct, that the starting-point of every organism, low or high, vegetable or animal, or whatever else, is a simple cell, the manner of development

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