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mind, we see the origin and the birth of the theory of IDEAS.
This great theory lies at the root of the Dialectics of Plato; and in any attempt to ascertain the course and objects of his thought, is the first matter that arrests attention. Indeed, when we have thoroughly mastered it, we have in some sort the key
between both, and that which alone might reconcile the laws of matter to the ideas of pure intellect. This, accordingly, was the object to which he addressed himself. And from the result, from the realization of his aim in this respect, dates the principle of identity between philosophy and religion which governed Europe for many centu
It is not difficult to conceive in what way Tracing this IDEAL THEORY through its such a mind as that of Plato would be di- course in the actual dialogues, it is very rectly affected, when, penetrated with the striking to contrast its splendid influence, Socratic view of science, he applied him- and the magnificence of its range, with the self to its investigation, with the results of narrow and uninviting currents of thought the old philosophies before him. On the through which it works its way into existone hand, there was the opinion of Hera- ence. It is while the field of dialectical clitus that all things were in a perpetual discussion is cleared and opened for the state of flux; that they were ever waxing right settlement of these opposing quesand waning; that they were constantly tions as to Being and Becoming, that it bechanging their substance; and that nothing gins to show itself. With that view we could be predicated of any thing as fixed: beside which stood the practical and most mischievous inference of the Sophists, that Man must therefore be the measure of all things. On the other hand, there was the Eleatic doctrine of immutable being that there was no multiplicity; that there was no becoming, no change, no generation, augmentation, or decay; but that All was One, eternal, and at rest. Now, to the first, while he did not deny the reality of sensation, he had at once to oppose the doctrine he had derived from Socrates: that general definition (that idea of the One embracing Multiplicity) on which his whole notion of science stood, and which was in itself its own ground and authority. So, to the second, while of the reality of the permanent being he was fully convinced, he of course could not reconcile what he believed to be real in the mutable appearances and phenomena of nature. What, then, remained for Plato?
have been carried back into a discussion as to the nature of language; we are made to feel that by false views of science all thought and language are involved in endless confusion; and it is pointed out to us in what way language, rightly used, will make of necessity a distinction between certain forms or notions and yet combine them together. We are taken into all the intricacies of Greek syntax: and from such steps as that of the manner in which, in propositions, a noun is necessarily joined with a verb, we are shown how it is that becoming and being are in like manner inseparably united. These are laws of language as of thought, which may not be annulled. Thus the verb is the action, the noun is the active object; and as, in the unavoidable union of these two in the shortest sentence, it is set forth of some entity that it either is becoming, or has, or will become, something; so is it impossible, without setting aside all the laws of language, to separate the action from the agent, the predicate from the subject, becoming from being. From these arguments we are brought to the important question of definitions, immediately arising out of them. The mere Name of a subject, it is shown, predicates Being of it: and it is marked as the first step in classification, and in itself giving a certainty and fixity to things which is directly opposed to generation and becoming,-this mere act of naming the subject, or of affixing to it its general name, the name of its genus. Next we are instructed in another argument, which arises from the foregoing, to prove the utter absurdity of those who would not allow that different names could be employed for one and the same thing: on the
ground that the one is ever one, as the then, were the General Terms he had bemanifold is also invariably the manifold. fore vainly sought, and which, as belonging Thus, in the same connecting process of to Being in contrast from Becoming, could argument, thinking is exhibited to be a be made the objects of science and certain talking of the soul with itself; and as all knowledge. There were those forms, those speech is a combination of one word with Ideas, of the universal which would in one or many others, every word having its themselves include every type of the tranmeaning, thinking must of course be a sim-sitory; there was in each the subject, One, ilar combination of one thought with another. And by this time we have arrived at the necessity for the great art or science of discourse, dialectics, which shall regulate these combinations of thought; which shall preside over the faculty that investigates the properties of all sensations; and which must manifestly itself depend upon Definition.
and with it the predicates that might be asserted of it, Many; and in these, at last, should he reconcile what he believed to be true in the theory of sensible and ever changing things, with what he felt and knew to be true in that of an eternal and immutable nature.
Having mastered this elevation above the Then there follows immedi- doubts and uncertainties that before arrestately upon this, that all-important processed which Definition implies: the finding of some general term which shall include a multiplicity of objects; together with the secondary but necessary process of explanation, as to wherein the term to be defined differs from others which belong to the same genus with it. And having proceed. ed thus far, the greatest question of Dialectics comes within view, and with it the Ideal Theory of Plato dawns clearly upon
his progress, Plato beheld the Grander Idea to which all science, so considered, must have reference: and the mission of Philosophy upon earth, as well as the means for discharging it, stood plainly revealed before him. If the fleeting sensible were really true, it was to him, then, true only through the eternal essence of which it was the partaker: wherefore, with that divine art of dialectics, he would proceed to strip off those tissues of the temporal and mutable in which all certainty and immutability clothe and cover themselves here, and redresst the errors and imperfect thoughts of man, in the recollection, and, as it were, renewed presence, of the Great Source of all existence, wherewith he, as every other transitory substance, had been connected in his origin. Man is the measure of all things; was the end of the philosophy of Protagoras. GOD is the measure of all things; was the beginning and the end of the philosophy of Plato.
What are these General Terms which are the object of the mind in the process of thought? Objects of sense they cannot be, for those are in a constant state of transition. "If," to adopt Aristotle's words in describing the origin of the Platonic ideas, "there is to be any knowledge and science, it must be concerning some permanent natures, different from the sensible natures of objects; for there can be no permanent science respecting that which is perpetually changing." Where, then, were these per- The means of judgment as to what share manent natures to be found? The ques- Socrates may have had in this method and tion took Plato back to the proof he had result, have, in a preceding article, been just established: that, independently of the placed before the reader. Aristotle, after senses, the soul possesses a faculty of its describing the invention of inductive reaown by which it investigates the common sonings and universal definitions, quoted and the general: and suggested the answer, in the article referred to, adds this remark: that by means of reflexion, and through the "Socrates, however, did not make univerunderstanding or rational contemplation, sals or definitions separable from the obwould it alone be possible to become cog-jects; but the Platonists separated them, nizant of such natures. As opposed to the and these essences they termed ideas." transitory knowledge which sensation con- To which may be added, since it is importveys, this which the intellect apprehends would be constant and permanent; unproduced, imperishable, and ever identical with itself; a pure and absolute entity; such as the soul, if it could purify and free itself from the agitations and hindrances of body, would plainly and palpably behold. There,
* Metaph. 1. 6, xiii. 4.
*So Schleiermacher, speaking of the proof in the Gorgias: "Therefore, the highest and most generul problem of philosophy is exclusively this-to apprehend and fix the essential in that fleeting chaos."
† Sartor Resartus is the quaint but expressive phrase, under which a great original thinker of modern days sets forth the ends and objects of philosophy.
Quoted at p. 357 of F. Q. R., No. 60.
change. The things, then, which were the subjects of universal truths, he called Ideas; and held that objects of sense had their names according to them and after them; so that things participated in that idea which had the same name as was applied to them."
ant to understand how far these ideas were objectively (that is, as things existing in themselves) carried by Plato, the view of another ancient writer. "Some existences are sensible, some intelligible; and according to Plato, they who wish to understand the principles of things, must first separate the ideas from the things; such as the ideas But in this and similar passages, there is of Similarity, Unity, Number, Magnitude, little reason to doubt that Aristotle either Position, Motion: secondly, he must as did not or would not understand the sense sume an absolute Fair, Good, Just, and the in which Plato regarded the notion of Belike: thirdly, he must consider the ideas ing, in which these Ideas had their origin, of relation, as Knowledge, Power: recol- and therefore refused to consider them as lecting that the things which we perceive, other than mere metaphysical definitions. have this or that appellation applied to With the Stagyrite himself, Being never them, because they partake of this or that meant more than that highest abstraction idea; those things being just, which parti- to which a severe logical examination of cipate in the idea of the Just; those being our mental conceptions may avail to lift us; beautiful, which contain the idea of the just as his metaphysics are but a strict logiBeautiful."* Much further than this, how-cal analysis of the primary highest modes ever, which would have implied little more of subjective thought. But with Plato, Bethan the General Terms for which they ing was the opposite to Becoming, certainty were first invented, it is very certain that as opposed to change, the absolute and eterPlato carried his system of Ideas. The nal in contrast with the conditional and very word, signifying, it is not unimportant created, essential and independent Truth; to keep in mind, not the ideas of our mo- and therefore his metaphysics, as the study dern language, but Forms, was likely to of a Being thus external to man, cannot have suggested to such an imagination the rightly be considered as other than objectcharacter and properties we shall shortly ive; and these Ideas will be found, as we find them to assume. Aristotle, in a pas- proceed, to have the properties of laws sage of a preceding book of his 'Metaphy-established by that Being to control subsics' to that which has just been quoted, jective thought-themselves altogether unwould no doubt corroborate the more lim- modified by sensation, but with the power ited view. "When Socrates, treating of of modifying it, both in the spiritual and moral subjects, arrived at universal truths, material world. And hence, it is needless and turned his thoughts to definitions, Pla- to suggest to the reader, the extraordinary to adopted similar doctrines, and construed influence it was certain to exert, whenever them in this way-that these truths and de- it should be applied to any settled scheme finitions must be applicable to something of religious belief. else, and not to sensible things: for it was impossible, he conceived, that there should be a common definition of any sensible object, since such were always in a state of
• Derived apparently from a speech in the 'Parmenides:' in which the philosopher after whom the dialogue is named, is made to say to Socrates, "It appears to you, as you say, that there are cer tain kinds, or ideas, of which things partake, and receive applications according to that of which they partake: thus those things which partake of Likeness are called like; those things which partake of Greatness are called great; those things which partake of Beauty and Justice are called beautiful and just." In the 'Phædo' a similar opinion is summed up in something like the same words:"that each idea has an existence, and that other things partake of these ideas, and are called according to the idea of which they partake."
t Excepting in philosophy, of course. The use of the word idea in modern metaphysics, is derived from the ldia and eldos of Plato. When Locke would express the notion of what is common to an entire class, he uses the term abstract idea. The First: 6th Section.
But this is in a certain degree anticipating: though even in the mere abstract dialectical use of the term Ideas, and before they enter into physical or ethical application, it seems necessary for the reader to know that mere general properties of objects, or general notions of genus and species, far less exclusive reservation to ideal conceptions of the good or beautiful or just, will certainly not satisfy the purpose
*There is a striking passage in the Nicomachean Ethics, one of the latest works of Aristotle, which may perhaps be taken as a half-touching twinge of conscience in the Stout Stagyrite,' when, towards the close of his illustrious life, he thought of the frequent disrespect with which he had referred to his old master's labors. In the passage (sixth sec. of first book) he remarks that "it is painful for him to refute the doctrine of ideas, as it had been introduced by persons who were his friends; nevertheless, that it is his duty to disregard such pri vate feelings; for both philosophers and truth being dear to him, it is right to give the preference to truth."
These Ideas, then, thus comprehending all things, or in which all things some way participated, were the ground of objective truth from which Plato contemplated the Deity. This latter process brings us more immediately to that class of dialogues which may be called transitional or progressive: occupying a middle place between the elementary and constructive parts of the Platonic system: treating less of the method than of the object of philo. sophy; not yet absolutely setting forth the two real sciences, but by preparatory and progressive steps fixing and defining them; and thus, by setting in operation, as it were, the Process of Knowing, aiming at a more complete apprehension and exact decision of what Knowledge was to embrace. While we sit still, we are never the wiser, is an appropriate remark of the Thatetus,' itself the noblest dialogue in this class; but going into the river, and moving up and down, straightway we discover its depths and its shallows.
and intention of Plato. It is correctly said "philosophy has not yet claimed you for by Ritter: "We must dismiss all narrow her own, as, in my judgment, she will views of the Platonic Idea, and understand claim you, and you will not dishonor her. by them whatever exhibits an eternal truth; As yet, like a young man as you are, you a persistent something which forms the look to the opinions of men." basis of the mutability of the sensible." This is an all-embracing definition; and the realization of Plato's idea of science, if he is allowed to have thought it possible, will admit of no other. According to that, there could not assuredly be any thing which does not participate in Ideas, or may not be comprehended in an Idea. For, as the same writer in another place remarks, "if Plato maintained that there must necessarily be ideas to exhibit the unalterable and eternal truth of the objects of every science, in order that the science itself should be possible, he was constrained to find ideas wherever there is a true essence, and scientific investigation is possible." But to this there was to him no limit. Nothing in his opinion need be excluded from the sphere of right knowledge. To every thing scientific inquiry might attach itself; in every thing some truth might be found; even in individuals, even in the qualities and properties of things, in all that comes into being. Such was his feeling of the one universal science. In the dialogue which bears the name of Parmenides, that philosopher is made to reprove Socrates, then supposed to be a youth entering on the study of philosophy, for showing a disinclination to recognize as possible the reality of the Ideas of man, fire, water, nay, even of hair and of clay, and other equally mean and paltry objects: since it is unbecoming a true philosopher to defer to vulgar opinion, and to consider any object as wholly despicable. Youth and inexperience will do this, he says; and will find themselves under some supposed necessity of with-derstood without a previous meditation upon the drawing from the consideration of base and common objects, in order to rise to higher and nobler considerations; whereas the true philosopher, disregarding all human opinions as to great and little, despises nothing. "O Socrates!" adds Parmenides,
The Ideas thus in operation, the Deity revealed Himself to Plato. For, pursuing the method of argument in which they originated, that the true and the real are exhibited in general notions as elements of science; and that these are so related to each other, that every higher notion embraces and combines under it several lower;* he arrived at the conclusion that the elements of truth cannot be so separated from each other as not to be, nevertheless, held together by some higher bond :† im
it down, that the divine can only be known by our
Ritter quotes a passage from the Republic,' to which he gives a different, and it seems to us a more correct, sense than that which is suggested by Schleiermacher. It is the sixth book, 511 B, where dialectic is said "to make use of the as
This fine thought is, of course, a necessary re-sumed notions, not as first principles, but actually sult of the Platonic theory of knowledge that you cannot separate the science of divine from that of human things. Thus, while in the 'Laws' he says, that human things can never be rightly un
as mere assumptions, or so many grades and progressions, in order to arrive at the unassumed....the principle of all things... but which, when it has once seized upon it, returns to insist upon the tena
mediately giving rise to the question, whe- | some other body, set any other in motion. ther, if the lower ideas are held together Arguing the soul's immortality in the by the higher, there is not ultimately a Phædrus' he had said, "that which is set SUPREME IDEA, which comprises all the in motion by something else may cease to subordinate, and in itself exhibits the sum move, and may therefore cease to live; and harmony of all. It is almost needless but that which is self-moving, as it never to add, that he could only answer this in quits itself, never ceases moving; but is the affirmative; and that in this Supreme the source and beginning of motion to all Idea he placed the last limit to all know- other things which are moved." The spiledge. This was the ultimatum in the ritual, then, must be the moving principle realm of ideas: in itself sufficient, and im- of this universe: and no irrational spirit plying nothing beyond. This was the could have created it in conformity with GOOD: that which exhausted all true entity, ideas of order and beauty, and in this conand gave back its image in sensible forms: stant agreement with an unalterable type: that which was desired by all, and was it- but would have confused all things, reduced self in want of nothing: embracing what-all to disorder, and brought about continual ever subsisted without difference in time or destruction and decay. Look, says Plato space; all truth and science; all substan- in the 'Laws,' at the sun, and the moon, ces and all reason. This was GOD: Him-and the stars; look at the earth, with all self neither reason nor essence, but supe- its seasons and its beauties; you behold in rior to both, and uniting both within Him- them not only a type of the divine ideas, self. Such are almost the very expressions bat a type and resemblance of the Supreme of Plato. Idea. It is in these forms He conceals
In this view, it is obvious, the existence himself: embracing the beginning, the of God, being as necessary as science it-middle, and the end of all things. These self, could require no formal proof. Where are His work: the living symbols of a (as in the 'Laws') he is asked to prove power beyond you, but yet themselves a it, he observes that "such a demonstration school wherein patient and zealous study would be unnecessary, except for certain shall lead you up to Him. prejudices which are extensively diffused Thus Plato may be said to have mapped among mankind," and continues the subject out the means and the end of knowledge; with evident reluctance: never indeed dis. the guide and the object to philosophical tinctly entering on such a proof, but con-investigation. In this particular class of tenting himself with refuting the false opin- dialogues, it but remains to be seen how he ions that would directly contradict so would propose that man should so far enfundamental a notion of philosophy. Of large and cultivate his science, as, by atthese, the most false was that which could taining what pure and certain knowledge so far confound the secondary causes, or may be possible of the Multiplicity of ideas, means, with the true first cause, as to sub- to be enabled to master whatever lies with stitute the material for the spiritual. For in his reach of the Unity of truth and scithe philosopher above all men to do this-ence which subsists in the Good. himself trusting solely to the reason, and yet seeking to derive this sensible world from other operation than that of a divine and intellectual cause-he held to be most unworthy. All in the world, he says in the Laws,' "is for the sake of the rest, and the places of the single parts are so ordered as to subserve to the preservation and excellence of the whole." The cause of this could not be material, because the material cannot, unless when impelled by
The Gorgias' and the 'Theætetus,' two of his most masterly productions, are devoted as it were to the education of man, with this object: that is, to the settlement of just and defined principles in respect to it. Of these great dialogues, the Gorgias' is practical, and the Theatetus' theoretical: the latter conducting us, indeed, to the verge of many sacred mysteries. How intimately this theory and practice were connected; how exactly grounded, that is, on the same modes of thought, the search for the Good in pleasure, and that for Pure Knowledge in the sensuous perception; has been exhibited in our account of the Sophists.* It had followed
See the speech of Callicles in the Protagoras'-described in our first paper on this all-important subject-illustrative of the general practi cal bearing of the Sophistical principles.