Page images

no other object for knowledge save human conduct, and no guarantee for conduct save in knowledge.' How great the services were which he rendered to both morality and science by this effort, how wholesome was the influence which he exercised on the intellectual condition of his people and of mankind generally, history attests. If in the sequel, the difference between morality and intellect was recognised quite as fully as their unity, yet the tie by which he connected them has never been broken; and if in the last centuries of the old world, philosophy took the place of the waning religion, giving a stay to morality, purifying and quickening the moral consciousness,

To revert to the question mooted above, as to whether he primarily regarded knowledge as a means to moral action, or moral action as a result of knowledge, so much may be said: that his peculiarity consisted herein that for him this dilemma did not exist, that for him knowledge as such was at once a moral need and a moral force, and that therefore virtue, as we shall find, was neither a simple consequence of knowledge, nor an end to be attained by means of knowledge, but was directly and in itself knowledge. If, therefore, Labriola (Dottrina di Socrate, 40) describes the only inner motive of Socrates' action as the moral need of certainty, and the conviction that this is only attainable by a clear and indubitably certain knowledge,' his statement may be accepted as true. On the

other hand, Ribbing's (Socrat.
Studien, i. 46) view does not
seem to carry conviction,
that, according to both Plato
and Xenophon, Socrates took
in the first place a practical
view of life, and that 'the the-
ory of knowledge was only
developed by him for the sake
of a practical purpose.' We
have already seen that, accor-
ding to Socrates, true know-
ledge coincides with right in-
tention. But, for the reasons
set forth on p. 105, we cannot
allow that knowledge with him
has no independent value, and
is only pursued as a means to
a practical purpose; which must
be the view of Ribbing, in as
far as he contradicts the one
given above. Nor do the pas-
sages quoted by Ribbing (Plato,
Apol. 22, D.; 28, D.; 29, E.;
31, A.; 38, A.) suggest this



E. The

subjectire character of the

theory of Socrates.

this great and beneficial result, in as far as it can be assigned to any one individual, was due to the teaching of Socrates.

The interest of philosophy being thus turned away from the outer world and directed towards man and his moral nature, and man only regarding things as true and binding of the truth of which he has convinced himself by intellectual research, there appears necessarily in Socrates a deeper importance attached to the personality of the thinker. In this modern writers have thought to discern the peculiar character of his philosophy. Very different, however, is the personal importance of the thinker with Socrates from the caprice of the Sophists, different too from the extreme individualism of the post-Aristotelian schools. Socrates was aware, that each individual must seek the grounds of his own conviction for himself, that truth is not something given from without, but must be found by the exercise of individual thought. He required all opinions to be examined anew, no matter how old or how common they were, proofs only and not authorities. claiming belief. Still, he was far from making man, as Protagoras did, the measure of all things. He did not even as the Stoics and Epicureans declare personal conviction and practical need to be the ultimate standard of truth, nor yet as the Sceptics, resolve all truth into probability; but to him knowledge was an end in itself; so too he was persuaded

› Hegel, Gesch. d. Phil. ii. 40; Rötscher, Aristoph., pp. 245, 388.

that true knowledge could be obtained by a thoughtful consideration of things. Moreover he saw in man the proper object of philosophy, but instead of making of personal caprice a law, as the Sophists did, he subordinated caprice to the general law residing in the nature of things and of moral relations. Instead too of making, with later philosophers, the self-contentment of the wise man his highest end, he confined himself to the point of view of old Greek morality, which could not conceive of the individual apart from the community, and which accordingly regarded activity for the state as the first duty of a citizen,3 and the law of the state as the natural rule of conduct. Hence the Stoic apathy and indifference to country were entirely alien from Socrates. If it can be truly said that in him commences an unbounded reference to the person, to the freedom of the inner life,' 5 it must also be added that this statement by no means exhausts the theory of Socrates. Thus the disputes as to whether the Socratic doctrine rests on a purely personal or a really independent basis will have to be settled, by allowing indeed that, compared with former systems, his teaching exhibits



Proofs may be found Xen. Mem. ii. 2; ii. 6, 1–7; iii. 8, 1-3; iv. 4, 20.

Compare the conversation with Aristippus, Xen. Mem. ii. 1, 13; and Plato's Crito, 53, A.

3 It has been already seen that Socrates placed his own activity under this point of view. See pp. 65, 68; Xen. Mem. i. 6, 15; Plato, Apol. 30, A.

+ Mem. iv. 4, 12, and 3, 15,

with which the previous re-
marks respecting the peculiar
conduct of the sage may be

Hegel, 1. c.

6 Compare the views of Rötscher, 1. c., and Brandis for the opposite view. 'Ueber die vorgebliche Subjektivität der Sokrat. Lehre,' in Rhein. Mus. ii. 1, 85.




a deeper importance attaching to the personality of the thinker, without, however, by any means belonging to those which are purely relative. It aims at gaining a knowledge which shall do more than satisfy a personal want, and which shall be true and desirable for more than the thinker; but the ground on which it is sought is the personal thought 1 of the individual.

This theory is indeed not further expanded by Socrates. He has established the principle, that only the knowledge which has to do with conceptions is true knowledge. To the further inference that only the being of conceptions is true being, and that therefore only conceptions are true, and to a systematic exposition of conceptions true in themselves - so far he never advanced. Knowledge is here something sought, a problem to be solved by the thinker; philo sophy is philosophic impulse, and philosophic method, a seeking for truth, not yet a possessing it; and this deficiency countenances the view that the platform

1 Hegel says nothing very different, when in distinguishing (Gesch. d. Phil. ii. 40, 166) Socrates from the Sophists he says in Socrates the creation of thought is at once clad with an independent existence of its own,' and what is purely personal is externalised and made universal by him as the good.' Socrates is said to have substituted thinking man is the measure of all things,' in place of the Sophistic doctrine man is the measure of all things.' In a word, his leading thought is not the individual as he knows himself experimentally,

but the universal element which is found running through all individuals. With this view agree also Rötscher, 1. c. p. 246, 392, and Hermann, Gesch. und Syst. des Plat. i. 239.

2 The objections of Alberti, Sokr. 94, to the above vanish if the word 'only' is properly emphasised. He only asserts what is already well known, that Socrates did not develope his theory of conceptions to the theory of ideas, nor contrast the universal thought in the conception, as being the only thing truly real with individual things.

of Socrates was that of a narrow reference to the person. Still it should never be forgotten, that the aim of Socrates was always to discover and set forth that which is in itself true and good. Mankind is to be intellectually and morally educated, but the one and only means thereto is to attain a knowledge of truth.

The primary aim of Socrates being to train men to think, rather than to construct a system, the main point with him was a philosophic method to determine the way which would lead to truth. The substance of his teaching thus appears to have been partly confined to questions having an immediate bearing on human conduct; partly it does not go beyond the general and theoretical demand, that all action should be determined by a knowledge of conceptions. There is no systematic development of individual points of morality and no attempt to give a reason for them.


« PreviousContinue »