Page images
PDF
EPUB

CHAP.

V.

parts of the dialogues of Plato can be considered historical, which are either to be found in Xenophon, or immediately follow from what Xenophon says, or which are opposed to Plato's own views. This hypothesis would only give us the Socrates of Xenophon slightly modified, whilst the deeper spring of Socratic thought would still be wanting. The only safe course to pursue is that adopted by Schleiermacher—to ask, What may Socrates have been, in addition to what Xenophon reports, without gainsaying the character and maxims which Xenophon distinctly assigns to him ? and what must he have been to call for and to justify such a description as is given of him in the dialogues of Plato ?

Schleiermacher's estimate of Xenophon' has been since adopted by several other writers; and even previously to Schleiermacher, Dissen had declared that he could only see in the pages of Xenophon a description of the outward appearance of Socrates. The like approval has been bestowed on Schleiermacher's canon for finding out

· Brandis, in Rhein. Mus. von has himself failed to observe Niebuhr und Brandis, i. b. 122. in using the Phædo (see above, Conf. Gesch. d. Gr.-Röm. Philos. p. 59). In respect of the personii. a. 20; Ritter, Gesch. d. Phil. ality of Socrates rather than his ii. 44; Ribbing, Ueber d. Ver- teaching, Van Heusde (Charachältniss zwischen den Xeno. terismi principum philosophophont. und den Platon. Be- rum veterum, p. 54) gives a richten über Socrates. Upsala preference to Plato's picture Universitets Årskrift, 1870, as being truer to life than specially p. 1, 125. Alberti, Xenophon's Apology. too (Socrates, 5), takes in the ? De philosophia morali in main the side of Schleier. Xenophontis de Socrate commacher, whilst allowing that mentariis tradita, p. 28 (in Plato's account can only be Dissen's Kleineren Schriften, p. used for history with extreme 87). caution-a caution which he

CHAP.

V.

the real Socrates; only to supplement it has the remark been made, that the language used by Aristotle respecting the teaching of Socrates may be also employed to determine its outside aspect. On the other hand, Xenophon's authority has been warmly supported by several critics.2

In deciding between these two views, a difficulty, however, presents itself. The authority of the one or the other of our accounts can only be ascertained by a reference to the true historical picture of Socrates, and the true historical picture can only be known from these conflicting accounts. This difficulty would be insurmountable, if the two narratives had the same claim to be considered historical in points which they state varyingly. Indeed, Aristotle's scanty notices respecting the Socratic philosophy would have been insufficient to settle the question, even on the assumption that he had other sources of information at command beside the writings of Xenophon and Plato -an assumption for which there is not the least evidence. But if one thing is clearer than another, it is this,—that Plato only claims to be true to facts in those descriptions in which he agrees with Xenophon, as for instance, in the Apology and the Symposium. On other points no one could well assert that he wished all to be taken as historical

[ocr errors]

By Brandis, l. c.

22.

Conf. Fries, Gesch. d. ? Hegel. Gesch. d. Phil. ii. Phil. i. 259. For further lite69; Rötscher, Aristophanes und rature on this point consult sein Zeitalter, p. 393; Hermann, Hurndall, De philosophia moGesch. und Syst. des Platonis- rali Socratis (Heidelberg, 1853), mus, i. 249; Labriola, La dot. p. 7, and Ribbing, 1. c. trina di Socrate (Napoli, 1871),

CHAP.

V.

which he puts into the mouth of Socrates. Of Xenophon, on the contrary, it may be granted that, whether from his deficiency in philosophic sense, or from his exclusively practical tastes, not unfrequently the scientific meaning and the inner connection of the principles of Socrates escape his notice. Nor must we ever forget that the Memorabilia are primarily intended to be a defence of his teacher against the charges brought against him, which charges were the cause of his condemnation, and passed current years after his death. For this purpose a description was requisite, not so much of his philosophy as of his morals and religion, setting forth his piety, his integrity, his obedience to the laws, his services to his friends and fellow-citizens rather than his intellectual convictions; and Xenophon candidly confesses that this is the main object of his treatise. Even the question, whether, with the means at his command, a life-like reproduction of the dialogues of Socrates can be expected from Xenophon, cannot be answered affirmatively without some limitation. His treatise was not written until six years after the death of Socrates, and we have not the least indication that it was based on notes made either by himself or others in the time immediately following the dialogues. What was committed to writing years

Mem. i. 1, 1 and 20; 2, 1; discourses at home and filled 3,1; iv. 4, 25; 5, 1; 8, 11. up their sketches by further

? It cannot be inferred from enquiries. Nay, the very disPlato, Symp. 172, C.; 173, B.; courses which are vouched for Theät. 143, A., that Socrates' by this supposed care, cannot friends (as Volquardsen, Dæmon possibly be historical. Such d. Sokr. 6, says) took down his statements cannot therefore

CHAP.

V.

afterwards from his own or his friends' memory has not the claim to accuracy of a verbal report, but rather owes to himself its more definite form and setting. No doubt it was his intention to give a true account of Socrates and his teaching. He says that he writes from his own recollection. He expressly observes in a few cases that he was present during the dialogue, but had heard similar things from others, mentioning his authority. If, then, many a Socratic discourse is unknown to him or has escaped his memory, if one or other line of thought has not been thoroughly understood, or its pbilosophical importance misunderstood by him, it may nevertheless be assumed that a pupil of Socrates, accustomed to consort with him for years, and able to communicate all that Xenophon actually communicates, neither repeats on the whole what is false, nor leaves any essential side of the Socratic teaching untouched. From Plato, indeed, so far as his description is historical or permits a reference to the Socrates of history, many a trait supplementary of Xenophon's narrative may be expected, and many an explanation of the real meaning of sayings, which his fellow-pupil reports as understood only from the standpoint of

mean more than similar ones τούτων δή γράψω οπόσα αν in Parm. 126, B. Neither does diapvnuovevow. iv. 3, 2; others Mem. i. 4, 1 refer to writings have reported similar converof pupils of Socrates, but to sations respecting the Gods, at the views of opponents. Mem. which they were present: éyà iv. 3, 2 appears to refer not δε ότε προς Ευθύδημον τοιάδε even to writings, but to oral dieéyeto Tapeyevóunv. iv. 8, 4: communications.

λέξω δε και & Ερμογένους του Ιπ. 1 Mem. 1. 3, 6: ώς δε δή και πανίκου ήκουσα περί αυτού. ωφελεϊν έδόκει μοι τους ξυνόντας

CHAP. practical utility. Hence objection can hardly be taken
V.

to the above-quoted canon of Schleiermacher. Ne-
vertheless, it is highly improbable that in essential
points there should be an irreconcilable difference
between Xenophon's description and that which we
may take for historically established as Plato's.? The
real state of the case, however, can only be ascer-
tained by examining the statements of various
authorities in detail to test their worth and their
agreement, and this enquiry naturally coincides with
the exposition of the Socratic teaching, from which it
could only be distinguished in point of form. It will
not, therefore, be separated from it here. Socrates
will be described from the three accounts of Xeno-
phon, Plato, and Aristotle. If the attempt to form
a harmonious picture from these sources succeeds,
Xenophon will be vindicated. Should it not succeed,
it will then be necessary to ask, which of the tradi-

tional accounts is the true one.3 B. Philo- To begin with the question as to the philosophisophical platform.

cal platform and fundamental principle of Socrates. Supposed Here the sketches of our main authorities seem to popular philo

give ground for the most opposite views. According sophy. 1 P. 100.

guish in point of speculation ? As Ribbing, l. C. asserts. what belongs to Socrates and Hard is it to reconcile herewith what belongs to Plato. As that Ribbing declines to ques- regards morals, he hopes to tion “the essentially historical gain a true general view of accuracy of Xenophon’s de- Socrates by taking the maxims scription.

which are attributed to him 3 The course here followed unanimously by Xenophon, is also in the main that taken Plato, and Aristotle, following by Strümpell, Gesch. d. Prakt. them out to their consequences, Philos. d. Gr. i. 116.

He con

and testing the traditions by siders it impossible to distin- these.

« PreviousContinue »