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Llilla vel lorem ljeksionellida Tyrant put tlake Nusling
gressed the laws of the state. His duties as a citizen had been conscientiously fulfilled. His avowed opinion was that man must live for the state and obey its laws. He was no partizan of the oligarchical faction. On the contrary, he had twice hazarded his life, once to rescue the victors at Arginusæ-good democrats from the extrajudicial mercies of an infuriated populace, the other time to prevent an unjust command of the thirty tyrants from being carried out. His school, too, in as far as it can be called a school, had no decided political bias. If the greater number of his pupils were taken from the upper classes, and hence probably belonged to the aristocratic party, one of his most intimate friends was amongst the companions of Thrasybulus; most of his adherents however seem to have taken no decided line in politics. A charge of political inactivity has been brought against him in modern times. On this head, different judgments may be passed on him from different points of views. From our side we can only praise him for continuing faithful to his higher calling, not wasting his powers and his life on a career, in which he would have attained no success, and for which he was unfitted. But whatever view may be taken, it is certainly not a punishable offence to avoid a statesman's career; least of all to avoid it under the conviction that you can do more good to the state in other ways. To
CHAP. help the state in his own way was to Socrates an X.
object of the highest and deepest interest. His political theories may not have corresponded with existing institutions, but his character as a citizen must be admitted to be pure; and according to the laws of Athens, he was guilty of no crime against the
state. (2) Rela
Nor were the political views of Socrates the only tion borne
things which gave offence. His whole position was, theory to as Hegel has so well indicated, at variance with the morality. ground occupied by the old Greek morality. The
moral life of Greece, like every national form of life, rested originally on authority. It relied partly on the unquestioned authority of the laws of the state, and partly on the all-powerful influence of custom and training, which raised general convictions to the rank of written laws of God, traceable by no one to a definite origin. To oppose this traditional morality was regarded as a crime and conceit, an offence against God and the commonweal. To doubt its rightfulness never occurred to any one, nor indeed permitted ; and for this reason, the need of an enquiry into its foundations, of proving its
Compare p. 65.
rights. But this law had long ? At an earlier period it fallen into disuse, if indeed it might have given offence, that had ever been in force; and Socrates appeared to hold aloof who can blame Socrates for refrom the political questions of maining neutral when he could his time, and an appeal might conscientiously side with none have been made to the old law of the conflicting parties ? Perof Solon, Plut. Sol. c. 20 ; Arist. haps it was a political narrowin Gell. N. A. ii. 12, 1, threaten- ness, but it was not a crime. ing neutrals in case of an in- 3 Gesch. d. Phil. ii. 81. ternal quarrel with loss of civil
necessity, or even of supporting it by personal introspection, was never felt.
Socrates, however, demanded such an enquiry. (a) PerHe would allow nothing to be believed, and have no- conviction thing done, until men were first fully convinced of its substi
tuted for truth or expediency. For him it is not enough to deference have a rule, universally recognised and legally estab- to autho
rity. lished, but the individual must think out each subject
horala for himself, and discover its reasons: true virtue and right action are only possible when they spring from The Family personal conviction. Hence his whole life was spent in examining the current notions touching morals, in testing their truth, and seeking for their reasons. Leitat ile This examination brought him in nearly all points to the same results as those which were established by custom and opinion. If his notions were in many respects clearer and sharper, this advantage was one which he shared in common with the best and wisest of his contemporaries. Nevertheless, tried by the standard of the old Greek morality, his position seems very critical. In the first place the ordinary morality, and the received rules of conduct resting on authority and tradition, were by him deprived of their chief value. In comparison with knowledge, and the conscious virtue of Socrates, they were so much depreciated, that not only was the self-love of individuals hurt, but the actual validity of the laws of the state was called in question. If man has only to follow his own convictions, he will agree with the popular will only when, and in as far as, it agrees with his convictions. If the two come into collision, there can be
(6) Less importance attached to politics.
no doubt as to which side he will espouse. This principle is candidly avowed by Socrates in his defence, in his celebrated declaration that he would obey God rather than the Athenians. And thus his views stand, even in theory, in sharp and irreconcileable contradiction to the older view. It was impossible therefore to guarantee, indeed it was highly improbable that there would be, a perfect agreement between the two in their results, and as a matter of fact, Socrates by his political views was undeniably opposed to the existing form of constitution.”
There can moreover be no mistaking the fact, that the whole character of the Socratic philosophy is at variance with the preponderance given to political interests, without which the Greek states could never, considering their limited range, have achieved greatness. The duty of the individual towards the community was indeed recognised by Socrates to its full extent. Even his friends he urged to devote their attention to public affairs when any of them showed ability for the task, and in keeping back from public life those who were young 4 and unformed, he acted meritoriously from the point of view of ancient Greece. Still the maxim that man must be clear about himself, and be sure of his own moral well-being before meddling with that of others and with the community;5 the conviction of Socrates that a political career was not only alien to his own
Plat. Apol. 29, C.
4 Mem. iii. 6; iv. 2; Plato, Symp. 216, A. 5 Plato, I. c.
character, but impossible, in the then state of things, CHAP. to a man of integrity;l the whole inward turn given to thought and pursuits, the demand for self-knowledge, for moral knowledge, for self-training- all this could not but weaken in himself and his pupils the inclination for political life. It could not fail to make the moral perfection of the individual the main point, while reducing activity for the state—that highest and most immediate duty of a citizen according to the ancient view—to a subordinate and derivative rank.
And, lastiy, if the charge of rejecting his country's (c) His Gods was, as he believed, unjustly preferred against subversive Socrates, still his theory, it must be admitted, was an of religion. extremely perilous one, as was seen in the case of Antisthenes, when once the Socratic demand for knowledge was developed to its consequences, and religious notions were similarly dealt with in order to discover what people understood thereby. This is true also of his datuóviov. As a kind of oracle it had indeed a place on the ground of the Greek faith, but by its internal character it made the decision depend on the subject instead of depending on external portents. And yet how dangerous was this proceeding in a country in which oracles were not only a religious but a political institution! How easily might others be led to imitate the example of Socrates, taking counsel, however, with their own understanding instead of with an undefined inward feeling, and thus thinking little of belief in the Gods or of their utter
| Plato, Apol. 31, C.