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to Plato, Socrates appears as an expert thinker, at home in all branches of knowledge; whereas, in Xenophon he is represented far less as a philosopher than as a man innocent and excellent, full of piety and common sense. Hence Xenophon's account is specially appealed to in support of the conception of Socrates as a popular moral man, holding aloof from all speculative questions, and in fact as far less of a philosopher than a teacher of morality and instructor of youth.1 It certainly cannot be denied that Socrates was full of the most lively enthusiasm for morality, and made it the business of his life to exercise a moral influence upon others. Had he only discharged this function after the unscientific manner of a popular teacher, by imparting and inculcating the received notions of duty and virtue, the influence would be inexplicable which he exerted, not only over weaklings and hairbrains, but over the most talented and cultivated of his cotemporaries. It would be a mystery what induced Plato to connect the deepest philosophical enquiries with his person, or what led all later philosophers, down to Aristotle, nay even down to the Stoics and Neoplatonists, to
1 How common this view was in past times, needs not to be proved by authorities which abound from Cicero down to Wiggers and Reinhold. That it is not yet altogether exploded may be gathered not only from writers like Van Heusde, Characterismi, p. 53, but even Marbach, a disciple of the Hegelian philosophy, asserts in his Gesch. d. Philos. i. 174, 178,
181, that Socrates 'regarded the
2 Conf. Apol. 23, D.; 30, E.;
regard him as the founder of a new epoch, and to trace their own peculiar systems to the movement set on foot by him.
Even in himself and his doings more than one feature is at variance with this conception. Whereas it would follow herefrom that knowledge is only of value in as far as it is instrumental for action, so far was Socrates from sharing this belief that he considered actions only then to have a value when they proceed from correct knowledge; that he referred moral action or virtue to knowledge, making its perfection depend on perfection of knowledge. Whereas, according to the ordinary assumption, he would in his intercourse with others have before ali things aimed at moral training, so far was it otherwise that it appears from his own words that love of knowledge was the original motive for his activity.' Accordingly we observe him in his dialogues pursuing enquiries, which not only have no moral purpose, but which,
1 Plato, Apol. 21, where Socrates deduces his whole activity from the fact that he pursued a real knowledge.
2 Examples are to be found in the conversations (Mem. iii. 10), in which Socrates conducts the painter Parrhasius, the sculptor Clito, and Pistias, the forger of armour, to the conceptions of their respective arts. It is true Xenophon introduces these conversations with the remark that Socrates knew how to make himself useful to artisans. But the desire to make himself useful can only have been a very
subordinate one; he was no doubt really actuated by the motive mentioned in the Apology, a praiseworthy curiosity to learn from intercourse with all classes, whether they were clearly conscious of what their arts were for. Xenophon himself attests this, Mem. iv. 6, 1: σκοπῶν σὺν τοῖς συνοῦσι, τί ἕκαστον εἴη τῶν ὄντων οὐδεπώποτ' ěλŋyev. This pursuit of the conceptions of things, aiming not at the application of knowledge, but at knowledge itself, is quite enough to prove that Socrates was not only a preacher of virtue, but a philosopher.
in their practical application, could only serve immoral purposes.1 These traits are not met with exclusively in one or other of our authorities, but they are equally diffused through the accounts given by the three main sources. Socrates can therefore not possibly have been the unscientific moral teacher for which he was formerly taken. Knowledge must have had for him a very different value and importance from what it would have had on such a supposition. It may not even be assumed that the knowledge which he sought was ultimately only pursued for the sake of action, and only valued as a means to morality.2 He who pursues knowledge in this sense, only as a means to an end which lies beyond him, not from an independent impulse and love of knowing, will never study so carefully and so independently the problem and method of philosophic research as Socrates did; will never be a reformer of philosophy as he was.
Even Xenophon found some difficulty in bringing it into harmony with his practical view of things, as his words show: from which it may be seen that Socrates made his friends more critical. But criticism is the organ of knowledge.
Mem. iii. 11 contains a paragraph adapted more than any other to refute the idea that Socrates was only a popular teacher. Socrates hears one of his companions commending the beauty of Theodota, and at once goes with his company to see her. He finds her acting as a painter's model, and he thereupon enters into a conver
sation with her, in which he
Ribbing, Socrat. Stud. i. 46.
Nay more, he would have been incapable of exerting the deep reforming influence over Ethics which, according to the testimony of history, he did exert, had he thus confined himself to practical interests. His importance for Ethics is derived not so much from the fact that he insisted on a re-establishment of moral life-this Aristophanes and without doubt many others did,-but from his recognising that a scientific basis for moral convictions must be an indispensable condition for any real reform of morals. Herewith it is presupposed that practical problems are determined and vindicated by knowledge; in other words, that knowledge not merely subserves action, but leads and governs it—a view never as yet held by any one who did not attribute to knowledge an independent value of its own. If, therefore, Socrates, as we shall note, confined himself in principle to enquiries having for man a practical value, it can only be inferred that he was not himself fully conscious of the range of his thought. In practice he went beyond these limits, treating ethical questions in such a manner as no one could do unless fired with an independent love of knowledge.
The area is thus determined within which the fundamental conception of the Socratic philosophy must be looked for. True knowledge is the treasure to discover which Socrates goes forth in the service of the Delphic God; to gain the knowledge of the essence of things, he, with his friends, unweariedly labours; to true knowledge he ultimately refers all moral demands. The force with which he asserted
this demand constitutes him the creator in Greece of an independent system of morality. For him it is not enough that men should do what is right; they C. His theory that must also know why they do it. He demands that knowledge they should not follow a dark impulse, an undefined consists in concep enthusiasm or the aptitude of habit, but should act tions. from clear consciousness; and because it was deficient in this characteristic, he refuses to allow true wisdom to the art of his time, however high it otherwise stood.1 In a word, the idea of knowledge forms the central point of the Socratic philosophy.2 All philosophy aiming at knowledge, this point must be further circumscribed to give it precision, which was done in this wise, that, whereas the pursuit of true knowledge had been,
In Plato, Apol. 22, B., Socrates observes: In his sifting of men he had turned to the poets, but had soon found that they were usually not able to account for their own works. Εγνων οὖν ὅτι οὐ σοφίᾳ ποιοῖεν ἃ ποιοῖεν, ἀλλὰ φύσει τινὶ καὶ ἐνθουσιάζοντες, ὥσπερ οἱ θεομάντεις καὶ χρησμῳδοί· καὶ γὰρ αὐτοὶ λέγουσι μὲν πολλὰ καὶ καλὰ, ἴσασι δὲ οὐδὲν ὧν λέγουσιν. Besides, no one knows the limits of his knowledge, but thinks to understand all things. He had also observed the same in the χειροτέχναι, the representatives of sculpture and
2 Schleiermacher, Werke, iii. 2, 300: The awakening of the idea of knowledge, and its first utterances, must have been the substance of the philosophy of Socrates.' Ritter agrees
with this, Gesch. d. Philosophie,