Translated by Benjamin Jowett
INTRODUCTION AND ANALYSIS.
The dramatic power of the dialogues of Plato appears to diminish as the metaphysical interest of them increases (compare Introd. to the Philebus). There are no descriptions of time, place or persons, in the Sophist and Statesman, but we are plunged at once into philosophical discussions; the poetical charm has disappeared, and those who have no taste for abstruse metaphysics will greatly prefer the earlier dialogues to the later ones. Plato is conscious of the change, and in the Statesman expressly accuses himself of a tediousness in the two dialogues, which he ascribes to his desire of developing the dialectical method. On the other hand, the kindred spirit of Hegel seemed to find in the Sophist the crown and summit of the Platonic philosophy—here is the place at which Plato most nearly approaches to the Hegelian identity of Being and Not-being. Nor will the great importance of the two dialogues be doubted by any one who forms a conception of the state of mind and opinion which they are intended to meet. The sophisms of the day were undermining philosophy; the denial of the existence of Not-being, and of the connexion of ideas, was making truth and falsehood equally impossible. It has been said that Plato would have written differently, if he had been acquainted with the Organon of Aristotle. But could the Organon of Aristotle ever have been written unless the Sophist and Statesman had preceded? The swarm of fallacies which arose in the infancy of mental science, and which was born and bred in the decay of the pre-Socratic philosophies, was not dispelled by Aristotle, but by Socrates and Plato. The summa genera of thought, the nature of the proposition, of definition, of generalization, of synthesis and analysis, of division and cross-division, are clearly described, and the processes of induction and deduction are constantly employed in the dialogues of Plato. The 'slippery' nature of comparison, the danger of putting words in the place of things, the fallacy of arguing 'a dicto secundum,' and in a circle, are frequently indicated by him. To all these processes of truth and error, Aristotle, in the next generation, gave distinctness; he brought them together in a separate science. But he is not to be regarded as the original inventor of any of the great logical forms, with the exception of the syllogism.
There is little worthy of remark in the characters of the Sophist. The most noticeable point is the final retirement of Socrates from the field of argument, and the substitution for him of an Eleatic stranger, who is described as a pupil of Parmenides and Zeno, and is supposed to have descended from a higher world in order to convict the Socratic circle of error. As in the Timaeus, Plato seems to intimate by the withdrawal of Socrates that he is passing beyond the limits of his teaching; and in the Sophist and Statesman, as well as in the Parmenides, he probably means to imply that he is making a closer approach to the schools of Elea and Megara. He had much in common with them, but he must first submit their ideas to criticism and revision. He had once thought as he says, speaking by the mouth of the Eleatic, that he understood their doctrine of Not-being; but now he does not even comprehend the nature of Being. The friends of ideas (Soph.) are alluded to by him as distant acquaintances, whom he criticizes ab extra; we do not recognize at first sight that he is criticizing himself. The character of the Eleatic stranger is colourless; he is to a certain extent the reflection of his father and master, Parmenides, who is the protagonist in the dialogue which is called by his name. Theaetetus himself is not distinguished by the remarkable traits which are attributed to him in the preceding dialogue. He is no longer under the spell of Socrates, or subject to the operation of his midwifery, though the fiction of question and answer is still maintained, and the necessity of taking Theaetetus along with him is several times insisted upon by his partner in the discussion. There is a reminiscence of the old Theaetetus in his remark that he will not tire of the argument, and in his conviction, which the Eleatic thinks likely to be permanent, that the course of events is governed by the will of God. Throughout the two dialogues Socrates continues a silent auditor, in the Statesman just reminding us of his presence, at the commencement, by a characteristic jest about the statesman and the philosopher, and by an allusion to his namesake, with whom on that ground he claims relationship, as he had already claimed an affinity with Theaetetus, grounded on the likeness of his ugly face. But in neither dialogue, any more than in the Timaeus, does he offer any criticism on the views which are propounded by another.
The style, though wanting in dramatic power,—in this respect resembling the Philebus and the Laws,—is very clear and accurate, and has several touches of humour and satire. The language is less fanciful and imaginative than that of the earlier dialogues; and there is more of bitterness, as in the Laws, though traces of a similar temper may also be observed in the description of the 'great brute' in the Republic, and in the contrast of the lawyer and philosopher in the Theaetetus. The following are characteristic passages: 'The ancient philosophers, of whom we may say, without offence, that they went on their way rather regardless of whether we understood them or not;' the picture of the materialists, or earth-born giants, 'who grasped oaks and rocks in their hands,' and who must be improved before they can be reasoned with; and the equally humourous delineation of the friends of ideas, who defend themselves from a fastness in the invisible world; or the comparison of the Sophist to a painter or maker (compare Republic), and the hunt after him in the rich meadow-lands of youth and wealth; or, again, the light and graceful touch with which the older philosophies are painted ('Ionian and Sicilian muses'), the comparison of them to mythological tales, and the fear of the Eleatic that he will be counted a parricide if he ventures to lay hands on his father Parmenides; or, once more, the likening of the Eleatic stranger to a god from heaven.—All these passages, notwithstanding the decline of the style, retain the impress of the great master of language. But the equably diffused grace is gone; instead of the endless variety of the early dialogues, traces of the rhythmical monotonous cadence of the Laws begin to appear; and already an approach is made to the technical language of Aristotle, in the frequent use of the words 'essence,' 'power,' 'generation,' 'motion,' 'rest,' 'action,' 'passion,' and the like.
The Sophist, like the Phaedrus, has a double character, and unites two enquirers, which are only in a somewhat forced manner connected with each other. The first is the search after the Sophist, the second is the enquiry into the nature of Not-being, which occupies the middle part of the work. For 'Not-being' is the hole or division of the dialectical net in which the Sophist has hidden himself. He is the imaginary impersonation of false opinion. Yet he denies the possibility of false opinion; for falsehood is that which is not, and therefore has no existence. At length the difficulty is solved; the answer, in the language of the Republic, appears 'tumbling out at our feet.' Acknowledging that there is a communion of kinds with kinds, and not merely one Being or Good having different names, or several isolated ideas or classes incapable of communion, we discover 'Not-being' to be the other of 'Being.' Transferring this to language and thought, we have no difficulty in apprehending that a proposition may be false as well as true. The Sophist, drawn out of the shelter which Cynic and Megarian paradoxes have temporarily afforded him, is proved to be a dissembler and juggler with words.
The chief points of interest in the dialogue are: (I) the character attributed to the Sophist: (II) the dialectical method: (III) the nature of the puzzle about 'Not-being:' (IV) the battle of the philosophers: (V) the relation of the Sophist to other dialogues.
I. The Sophist in Plato is the master of the art of illusion; the charlatan, the foreigner, the prince of esprits-faux, the hireling who is not a teacher, and who, from whatever point of view he is regarded, is the opposite of the true teacher. He is the 'evil one,' the ideal representative of all that Plato most disliked in the moral and intellectual tendencies of his own age; the adversary of the almost equally ideal Socrates. He seems to be always growing in the fancy of Plato, now boastful, now eristic, now clothing himself in rags of philosophy, now more akin to the rhetorician or lawyer, now haranguing, now questioning, until the final appearance in the Politicus of his departing shadow in the disguise of a statesman. We are not to suppose that Plato intended by such a description to depict Protagoras or Gorgias, or even Thrasymachus, who all turn out to be 'very good sort of people when we know them,' and all of them part on good terms with Socrates. But he is speaking of a being as imaginary as the wise man of the Stoics, and whose character varies in different dialogues. Like mythology, Greek philosophy has a tendency to personify ideas. And the Sophist is not merely a teacher of rhetoric for a fee of one or fifty drachmae (Crat.), but an ideal of Plato's in which the falsehood of all mankind is reflected.
A milder tone is adopted towards the Sophists in a well-known passage of the Republic, where they are described as the followers rather than the leaders of the rest of mankind. Plato ridicules the notion that any individuals can corrupt youth to a degree worth speaking of in comparison with the greater influence of public opinion. But there is no real inconsistency between this and other descriptions of the Sophist which occur in the Platonic writings. For Plato is not justifying the Sophists in the passage just quoted, but only representing their power to be contemptible; they are to be despised rather than feared, and are no worse than the rest of mankind. But a teacher or statesman may be justly condemned, who is on a level with mankind when he ought to be above them. There is another point of view in which this passage should also be considered. The great enemy of Plato is the world, not exactly in the theological sense, yet in one not wholly different—the world as the hater of truth and lover of appearance, occupied in the pursuit of gain and pleasure rather than of knowledge, banded together against the few good and wise men, and devoid of true education. This creature has many heads: rhetoricians, lawyers, statesmen, poets, sophists. But the Sophist is the Proteus who takes the likeness of all of them; all other deceivers have a piece of him in them. And sometimes he is represented as the corrupter of the world; and sometimes the world as the corrupter of him and of itself.
Of late years the Sophists have found an enthusiastic defender in the distinguished historian of Greece. He appears to maintain (1) that the term 'Sophist' is not the name of a particular class, and would have been applied indifferently to Socrates and Plato, as well as to Gorgias and Protagoras; (2) that the bad sense was imprinted on the word by the genius of Plato; (3) that the principal Sophists were not the corrupters of youth (for the Athenian youth were no more corrupted in the age of Demosthenes than in the age of Pericles), but honourable and estimable persons, who supplied a training in literature which was generally wanted at the time. We will briefly consider how far these statements appear to be justified by facts: and, 1, about the meaning of the word there arises an interesting question:—
Many words are used both in a general and a specific sense, and the two senses are not always clearly distinguished. Sometimes the generic meaning has been narrowed to the specific, while in other cases the specific meaning has been enlarged or altered. Examples of the former class are furnished by some ecclesiastical terms: apostles, prophets, bishops, elders, catholics. Examples of the latter class may also be found in a similar field: jesuits, puritans, methodists, and the like. Sometimes the meaning is both narrowed and enlarged; and a good or bad sense will subsist side by side with a neutral one. A curious effect is produced on the meaning of a word when the very term which is stigmatized by the world (e.g. Methodists) is adopted by the obnoxious or derided class; this tends to define the meaning. Or, again, the opposite result is produced, when the world refuses to allow some sect or body of men the possession of an honourable name which they have assumed, or applies it to them only in mockery or irony.
The term 'Sophist' is one of those words of which the meaning has been both contracted and enlarged. Passages may be quoted from Herodotus and the tragedians, in which the word is used in a neutral sense for a contriver or deviser or inventor, without including any ethical idea of goodness or badness. Poets as well as philosophers were called Sophists in the fifth century before Christ. In Plato himself the term is applied in the sense of a 'master in art,' without any bad meaning attaching to it (Symp.; Meno). In the later Greek, again, 'sophist' and 'philosopher' became almost indistinguishable. There was no reproach conveyed by the word; the additional association, if any, was only that of rhetorician or teacher. Philosophy had become eclecticism and imitation: in the decline of Greek thought there was no original voice lifted up 'which reached to a thousand years because of the god.' Hence the two words, like the characters represented by them, tended to pass into one another. Yet even here some differences appeared; for the term 'Sophist' would hardly have been applied to the greater names, such as Plotinus, and would have been more often used of a professor of philosophy in general than of a maintainer of particular tenets.
But the real question is, not whether the word 'Sophist' has all these senses, but whether there is not also a specific bad sense in which the term is applied to certain contemporaries of Socrates. Would an Athenian, as Mr. Grote supposes, in the fifth century before Christ, have included Socrates and Plato, as well as Gorgias and Protagoras, under the specific class of Sophists? To this question we must answer, No: if ever the term is applied to Socrates and Plato, either the application is made by an enemy out of mere spite, or the sense in which it is used is neutral. Plato, Xenophon, Isocrates, Aristotle, all give a bad import to the word; and the Sophists are regarded as a separate class in all of them. And in later Greek literature, the distinction is quite marked between the succession of philosophers from Thales to Aristotle, and the Sophists of the age of Socrates, who appeared like meteors for a short time in different parts of Greece. For the purposes of comedy, Socrates may have been identified with the Sophists, and he seems to complain of this in the Apology. But there is no reason to suppose that Socrates, differing by so many outward marks, would really have been confounded in the mind of Anytus, or Callicles, or of any intelligent Athenian, with the splendid foreigners who from time to time visited Athens, or appeared at the Olympic games. The man of genius, the great original thinker, the disinterested seeker after truth, the master of repartee whom no one ever defeated in an argument, was separated, even in the mind of the vulgar Athenian, by an 'interval which no geometry can express,' from the balancer of sentences, the interpreter and reciter of the poets, the divider of the meanings of words, the teacher of rhetoric, the professor of morals and manners.
2. The use of the term 'Sophist' in the dialogues of Plato also shows that the bad sense was not affixed by his genius, but already current. When Protagoras says, 'I confess that I am a Sophist,' he implies that the art which he professes has already a bad name; and the words of the young Hippocrates, when with a blush upon his face which is just seen by the light of dawn he admits that he is going to be made 'a Sophist,' would lose their point, unless the term had been discredited. There is nothing surprising in the Sophists having an evil name; that, whether deserved or not, was a natural consequence of their vocation. That they were foreigners, that they made fortunes, that they taught novelties, that they excited the minds of youth, are quite sufficient reasons to account for the opprobrium which attached to them. The genius of Plato could not have stamped the word anew, or have imparted the associations which occur in contemporary writers, such as Xenophon and Isocrates. Changes in the meaning of words can only be made with great difficulty, and not unless they are supported by a strong current of popular feeling. There is nothing improbable in supposing that Plato may have extended and envenomed the meaning, or that he may have done the Sophists the same kind of disservice with posterity which Pascal did to the Jesuits. But the bad sense of the word was not and could not have been invented by him, and is found in his earlier dialogues, e.g. the Protagoras, as well as in the later.
3. There is no ground for disbelieving that the principal Sophists, Gorgias, Protagoras, Prodicus, Hippias, were good and honourable men. The notion that they were corrupters of the Athenian youth has no real foundation, and partly arises out of the use of the term 'Sophist' in modern times. The truth is, that we know little about them; and the witness of Plato in their favour is probably not much more historical than his witness against them. Of that national decline of genius, unity, political force, which has been sometimes described as the corruption of youth, the Sophists were one among many signs;—in these respects Athens may have degenerated; but, as Mr. Grote remarks, there is no reason to suspect any greater moral corruption in the age of Demosthenes than in the age of Pericles. The Athenian youth were not corrupted in this sense, and therefore the Sophists could not have corrupted them. It is remarkable, and may be fairly set down to their credit, that Plato nowhere attributes to them that peculiar Greek sympathy with youth, which he ascribes to Parmenides, and which was evidently common in the Socratic circle. Plato delights to exhibit them in a ludicrous point of view, and to show them always rather at a disadvantage in the company of Socrates. But he has no quarrel with their characters, and does not deny that they are respectable men.
The Sophist, in the dialogue which is called after him, is exhibited in many different lights, and appears and reappears in a variety of forms. There is some want of the higher Platonic art in the Eleatic Stranger eliciting his true character by a labourious process of enquiry, when he had already admitted that he knew quite well the difference between the Sophist and the Philosopher, and had often heard the question discussed;—such an anticipation would hardly have occurred in the earlier dialogues. But Plato could not altogether give up his Socratic method, of which another trace may be thought to be discerned in his adoption of a common instance before he proceeds to the greater matter in hand. Yet the example is also chosen in order to damage the 'hooker of men' as much as possible; each step in the pedigree of the angler suggests some injurious reflection about the Sophist. They are both hunters after a living prey, nearly related to tyrants and thieves, and the Sophist is the cousin of the parasite and flatterer. The effect of this is heightened by the accidental manner in which the discovery is made, as the result of a scientific division. His descent in another branch affords the opportunity of more 'unsavoury comparisons.' For he is a retail trader, and his wares are either imported or home-made, like those of other retail traders; his art is thus deprived of the character of a liberal profession. But the most distinguishing characteristic of him is, that he is a disputant, and higgles over an argument. A feature of the Eristic here seems to blend with Plato's usual description of the Sophists, who in the early dialogues, and in the Republic, are frequently depicted as endeavouring to save themselves from disputing with Socrates by making long orations. In this character he parts company from the vain and impertinent talker in private life, who is a loser of money, while he is a maker of it.
But there is another general division under which his art may be also supposed to fall, and that is purification; and from purification is descended education, and the new principle of education is to interrogate men after the manner of Socrates, and make them teach themselves. Here again we catch a glimpse rather of a Socratic or Eristic than of a Sophist in the ordinary sense of the term. And Plato does not on this ground reject the claim of the Sophist to be the true philosopher. One more feature of the Eristic rather than of the Sophist is the tendency of the troublesome animal to run away into the darkness of Not-being. Upon the whole, we detect in him a sort of hybrid or double nature, of which, except perhaps in the Euthydemus of Plato, we find no other trace in Greek philosophy; he combines the teacher of virtue with the Eristic; while in his omniscience, in his ignorance of himself, in his arts of deception, and in his lawyer-like habit of writing and speaking about all things, he is still the antithesis of Socrates and of the true teacher.
II. The question has been asked, whether the method of 'abscissio infinti,' by which the Sophist is taken, is a real and valuable logical process. Modern science feels that this, like other processes of formal logic, presents a very inadequate conception of the actual complex procedure of the mind by which scientific truth is detected and verified. Plato himself seems to be aware that mere division is an unsafe and uncertain weapon, first, in the Statesman, when he says that we should divide in the middle, for in that way we are more likely to attain species; secondly, in the parallel precept of the Philebus, that we should not pass from the most general notions to infinity, but include all the intervening middle principles, until, as he also says in the Statesman, we arrive at the infima species; thirdly, in the Phaedrus, when he says that the dialectician will carve the limbs of truth without mangling them; and once more in the Statesman, if we cannot bisect species, we must carve them as well as we can. No better image of nature or truth, as an organic whole, can be conceived than this. So far is Plato from supposing that mere division and subdivision of general notions will guide men into all truth.
Plato does not really mean to say that the Sophist or the Statesman can be caught in this way. But these divisions and subdivisions were favourite logical exercises of the age in which he lived; and while indulging his dialectical fancy, and making a contribution to logical method, he delights also to transfix the Eristic Sophist with weapons borrowed from his own armoury. As we have already seen, the division gives him the opportunity of making the most damaging reflections on the Sophist and all his kith and kin, and to exhibit him in the most discreditable light.
Nor need we seriously consider whether Plato was right in assuming that an animal so various could not be confined within the limits of a single definition. In the infancy of logic, men sought only to obtain a definition of an unknown or uncertain term; the after reflection scarcely occurred to them that the word might have several senses, which shaded off into one another, and were not capable of being comprehended in a single notion. There is no trace of this reflection in Plato. But neither is there any reason to think, even if the reflection had occurred to him, that he would have been deterred from carrying on the war with weapons fair or unfair against the outlaw Sophist.
III. The puzzle about 'Not-being' appears to us to be one of the most unreal difficulties of ancient philosophy. We cannot understand the attitude of mind which could imagine that falsehood had no existence, if reality was denied to Not-being: How could such a question arise at all, much less become of serious importance? The answer to this, and to nearly all other difficulties of early Greek philosophy, is to be sought for in the history of ideas, and the answer is only unsatisfactory because our knowledge is defective. In the passage from the world of sense and imagination and common language to that of opinion and reflection the human mind was exposed to many dangers, and often
'Found no end in wandering mazes lost.'
On the other hand, the discovery of abstractions was the great source of all mental improvement in after ages. It was the pushing aside of the old, the revelation of the new. But each one of the company of abstractions, if we may speak in the metaphorical language of Plato, became in turn the tyrant of the mind, the dominant idea, which would allow no other to have a share in the throne. This is especially true of the Eleatic philosophy: while the absoluteness of Being was asserted in every form of language, the sensible world and all the phenomena of experience were comprehended under Not-being. Nor was any difficulty or perplexity thus created, so long as the mind, lost in the contemplation of Being, asked no more questions, and never thought of applying the categories of Being or Not-being to mind or opinion or practical life.
But the negative as well as the positive idea had sunk deep into the intellect of man. The effect of the paradoxes of Zeno extended far beyond the Eleatic circle. And now an unforeseen consequence began to arise. If the Many were not, if all things were names of the One, and nothing could be predicated of any other thing, how could truth be distinguished from falsehood? The Eleatic philosopher would have replied that Being is alone true. But mankind had got beyond his barren abstractions: they were beginning to analyze, to classify, to define, to ask what is the nature of knowledge, opinion, sensation. Still less could they be content with the description which Achilles gives in Homer of the man whom his soul hates—
os chi eteron men keuthe eni phresin, allo de eipe.
For their difficulty was not a practical but a metaphysical one; and their conception of falsehood was really impaired and weakened by a metaphysical illusion.
The strength of the illusion seems to lie in the alternative: If we once admit the existence of Being and Not-being, as two spheres which exclude each other, no Being or reality can be ascribed to Not-being, and therefore not to falsehood, which is the image or expression of Not-being. Falsehood is wholly false; and to speak of true falsehood, as Theaetetus does (Theaet.), is a contradiction in terms. The fallacy to us is ridiculous and transparent,—no better than those which Plato satirizes in the Euthydemus. It is a confusion of falsehood and negation, from which Plato himself is not entirely free. Instead of saying, 'This is not in accordance with facts,' 'This is proved by experience to be false,' and from such examples forming a general notion of falsehood, the mind of the Greek thinker was lost in the mazes of the Eleatic philosophy. And the greater importance which Plato attributes to this fallacy, compared with others, is due to the influence which the Eleatic philosophy exerted over him. He sees clearly to a certain extent; but he has not yet attained a complete mastery over the ideas of his predecessors—they are still ends to him, and not mere instruments of thought. They are too rough-hewn to be harmonized in a single structure, and may be compared to rocks which project or overhang in some ancient city's walls. There are many such imperfect syncretisms or eclecticisms in the history of philosophy. A modern philosopher, though emancipated from scholastic notions of essence or substance, might still be seriously affected by the abstract idea of necessity; or though accustomed, like Bacon, to criticize abstract notions, might not extend his criticism to the syllogism.
The saying or thinking the thing that is not, would be the popular definition of falsehood or error. If we were met by the Sophist's objection, the reply would probably be an appeal to experience. Ten thousands, as Homer would say (mala murioi), tell falsehoods and fall into errors. And this is Plato's reply, both in the Cratylus and Sophist. 'Theaetetus is flying,' is a sentence in form quite as grammatical as 'Theaetetus is sitting'; the difference between the two sentences is, that the one is true and the other false. But, before making this appeal to common sense, Plato propounds for our consideration a theory of the nature of the negative.
The theory is, that Not-being is relation. Not-being is the other of Being, and has as many kinds as there are differences in Being. This doctrine is the simple converse of the famous proposition of Spinoza,—not 'Omnis determinatio est negatio,' but 'Omnis negatio est determinatio';—not, All distinction is negation, but, All negation is distinction. Not-being is the unfolding or determining of Being, and is a necessary element in all other things that are. We should be careful to observe, first, that Plato does not identify Being with Not-being; he has no idea of progression by antagonism, or of the Hegelian vibration of moments: he would not have said with Heracleitus, 'All things are and are not, and become and become not.' Secondly, he has lost sight altogether of the other sense of Not-being, as the negative of Being; although he again and again recognizes the validity of the law of contradiction. Thirdly, he seems to confuse falsehood with negation. Nor is he quite consistent in regarding Not-being as one class of Being, and yet as coextensive with Being in general. Before analyzing further the topics thus suggested, we will endeavour to trace the manner in which Plato arrived at his conception of Not-being.
In all the later dialogues of Plato, the idea of mind or intelligence becomes more and more prominent. That idea which Anaxagoras employed inconsistently in the construction of the world, Plato, in the Philebus, the Sophist, and the Laws, extends to all things, attributing to Providence a care, infinitesimal as well as infinite, of all creation. The divine mind is the leading religious thought of the later works of Plato. The human mind is a sort of reflection of this, having ideas of Being, Sameness, and the like. At times they seem to be parted by a great gulf (Parmenides); at other times they have a common nature, and the light of a common intelligence.
But this ever-growing idea of mind is really irreconcilable with the abstract Pantheism of the Eleatics. To the passionate language of Parmenides, Plato replies in a strain equally passionate:—What! has not Being mind? and is not Being capable of being known? and, if this is admitted, then capable of being affected or acted upon?—in motion, then, and yet not wholly incapable of rest. Already we have been compelled to attribute opposite determinations to Being. And the answer to the difficulty about Being may be equally the answer to the difficulty about Not-being.
The answer is, that in these and all other determinations of any notion we are attributing to it 'Not-being.' We went in search of Not-being and seemed to lose Being, and now in the hunt after Being we recover both. Not-being is a kind of Being, and in a sense co-extensive with Being. And there are as many divisions of Not-being as of Being. To every positive idea—'just,' 'beautiful,' and the like, there is a corresponding negative idea—'not-just,' 'not-beautiful,' and the like.
A doubt may be raised whether this account of the negative is really the true one. The common logicians would say that the 'not-just,' 'not-beautiful,' are not really classes at all, but are merged in one great class of the infinite or negative. The conception of Plato, in the days before logic, seems to be more correct than this. For the word 'not' does not altogether annihilate the positive meaning of the word 'just': at least, it does not prevent our looking for the 'not-just' in or about the same class in which we might expect to find the 'just.' 'Not-just is not-honourable' is neither a false nor an unmeaning proposition. The reason is that the negative proposition has really passed into an undefined positive. To say that 'not-just' has no more meaning than 'not-honourable'—that is to say, that the two cannot in any degree be distinguished, is clearly repugnant to the common use of language.
The ordinary logic is also jealous of the explanation of negation as relation, because seeming to take away the principle of contradiction. Plato, as far as we know, is the first philosopher who distinctly enunciated this principle; and though we need not suppose him to have been always consistent with himself, there is no real inconsistency between his explanation of the negative and the principle of contradiction. Neither the Platonic notion of the negative as the principle of difference, nor the Hegelian identity of Being and Not-being, at all touch the principle of contradiction. For what is asserted about Being and Not-Being only relates to our most abstract notions, and in no way interferes with the principle of contradiction employed in the concrete. Because Not-being is identified with Other, or Being with Not-being, this does not make the proposition 'Some have not eaten' any the less a contradiction of 'All have eaten.'
The explanation of the negative given by Plato in the Sophist is a true but partial one; for the word 'not,' besides the meaning of 'other,' may also imply 'opposition.' And difference or opposition may be either total or partial: the not-beautiful may be other than the beautiful, or in no relation to the beautiful, or a specific class in various degrees opposed to the beautiful. And the negative may be a negation of fact or of thought (ou and me). Lastly, there are certain ideas, such as 'beginning,' 'becoming,' 'the finite,' 'the abstract,' in which the negative cannot be separated from the positive, and 'Being' and 'Not-being' are inextricably blended.
Plato restricts the conception of Not-being to difference. Man is a rational animal, and is not—as many other things as are not included under this definition. He is and is not, and is because he is not. Besides the positive class to which he belongs, there are endless negative classes to which he may be referred. This is certainly intelligible, but useless. To refer a subject to a negative class is unmeaning, unless the 'not' is a mere modification of the positive, as in the example of 'not honourable' and 'dishonourable'; or unless the class is characterized by the absence rather than the presence of a particular quality.
Nor is it easy to see how Not-being any more than Sameness or Otherness is one of the classes of Being. They are aspects rather than classes of Being. Not-being can only be included in Being, as the denial of some particular class of Being. If we attempt to pursue such airy phantoms at all, the Hegelian identity of Being and Not-being is a more apt and intelligible expression of the same mental phenomenon. For Plato has not distinguished between the Being which is prior to Not-being, and the Being which is the negation of Not-being (compare Parm.).
But he is not thinking of this when he says that Being comprehends Not-being. Again, we should probably go back for the true explanation to the influence which the Eleatic philosophy exercised over him. Under 'Not-being' the Eleatic had included all the realities of the sensible world. Led by this association and by the common use of language, which has been already noticed, we cannot be much surprised that Plato should have made classes of Not-being. It is observable that he does not absolutely deny that there is an opposite of Being. He is inclined to leave the question, merely remarking that the opposition, if admissible at all, is not expressed by the term 'Not-being.'
On the whole, we must allow that the great service rendered by Plato to metaphysics in the Sophist, is not his explanation of 'Not-being' as difference. With this he certainly laid the ghost of 'Not-being'; and we may attribute to him in a measure the credit of anticipating Spinoza and Hegel. But his conception is not clear or consistent; he does not recognize the different senses of the negative, and he confuses the different classes of Not-being with the abstract notion. As the Pre-Socratic philosopher failed to distinguish between the universal and the true, while he placed the particulars of sense under the false and apparent, so Plato appears to identify negation with falsehood, or is unable to distinguish them. The greatest service rendered by him to mental science is the recognition of the communion of classes, which, although based by him on his account of 'Not-being,' is independent of it. He clearly saw that the isolation of ideas or classes is the annihilation of reasoning. Thus, after wandering in many diverging paths, we return to common sense. And for this reason we may be inclined to do less than justice to Plato,—because the truth which he attains by a real effort of thought is to us a familiar and unconscious truism, which no one would any longer think either of doubting or examining.
IV. The later dialogues of Plato contain many references to contemporary philosophy. Both in the Theaetetus and in the Sophist he recognizes that he is in the midst of a fray; a huge irregular battle everywhere surrounds him (Theaet.). First, there are the two great philosophies going back into cosmogony and poetry: the philosophy of Heracleitus, supposed to have a poetical origin in Homer, and that of the Eleatics, which in a similar spirit he conceives to be even older than Xenophanes (compare Protag.). Still older were theories of two and three principles, hot and cold, moist and dry, which were ever marrying and being given in marriage: in speaking of these, he is probably referring to Pherecydes and the early Ionians. In the philosophy of motion there were different accounts of the relation of plurality and unity, which were supposed to be joined and severed by love and hate, some maintaining that this process was perpetually going on (e.g. Heracleitus); others (e.g. Empedocles) that there was an alternation of them. Of the Pythagoreans or of Anaxagoras he makes no distinct mention. His chief opponents are, first, Eristics or Megarians; secondly, the Materialists.
The picture which he gives of both these latter schools is indistinct; and he appears reluctant to mention the names of their teachers. Nor can we easily determine how much is to be assigned to the Cynics, how much to the Megarians, or whether the 'repellent Materialists' (Theaet.) are Cynics or Atomists, or represent some unknown phase of opinion at Athens. To the Cynics and Antisthenes is commonly attributed, on the authority of Aristotle, the denial of predication, while the Megarians are said to have been Nominalists, asserting the One Good under many names to be the true Being of Zeno and the Eleatics, and, like Zeno, employing their negative dialectic in the refutation of opponents. But the later Megarians also denied predication; and this tenet, which is attributed to all of them by Simplicius, is certainly in accordance with their over-refining philosophy. The 'tyros young and old,' of whom Plato speaks, probably include both. At any rate, we shall be safer in accepting the general description of them which he has given, and in not attempting to draw a precise line between them.
Of these Eristics, whether Cynics or Megarians, several characteristics are found in Plato:—
1. They pursue verbal oppositions; 2. they make reasoning impossible by their over-accuracy in the use of language; 3. they deny predication; 4. they go from unity to plurality, without passing through the intermediate stages; 5. they refuse to attribute motion or power to Being; 6. they are the enemies of sense;—whether they are the 'friends of ideas,' who carry on the polemic against sense, is uncertain; probably under this remarkable expression Plato designates those who more nearly approached himself, and may be criticizing an earlier form of his own doctrines. We may observe (1) that he professes only to give us a few opinions out of many which were at that time current in Greece; (2) that he nowhere alludes to the ethical teaching of the Cynics—unless the argument in the Protagoras, that the virtues are one and not many, may be supposed to contain a reference to their views, as well as to those of Socrates; and unless they are the school alluded to in the Philebus, which is described as 'being very skilful in physics, and as maintaining pleasure to be the absence of pain.' That Antisthenes wrote a book called 'Physicus,' is hardly a sufficient reason for describing them as skilful in physics, which appear to have been very alien to the tendency of the Cynics.
The Idealism of the fourth century before Christ in Greece, as in other ages and countries, seems to have provoked a reaction towards Materialism. The maintainers of this doctrine are described in the Theaetetus as obstinate persons who will believe in nothing which they cannot hold in their hands, and in the Sophist as incapable of argument. They are probably the same who are said in the Tenth Book of the Laws to attribute the course of events to nature, art, and chance. Who they were, we have no means of determining except from Plato's description of them. His silence respecting the Atomists might lead us to suppose that here we have a trace of them. But the Atomists were not Materialists in the grosser sense of the term, nor were they incapable of reasoning; and Plato would hardly have described a great genius like Democritus in the disdainful terms which he uses of the Materialists. Upon the whole, we must infer that the persons here spoken of are unknown to us, like the many other writers and talkers at Athens and elsewhere, of whose endless activity of mind Aristotle in his Metaphysics has preserved an anonymous memorial.
V. The Sophist is the sequel of the Theaetetus, and is connected with the Parmenides by a direct allusion (compare Introductions to Theaetetus and Parmenides). In the Theaetetus we sought to discover the nature of knowledge and false opinion. But the nature of false opinion seemed impenetrable; for we were unable to understand how there could be any reality in Not-being. In the Sophist the question is taken up again; the nature of Not-being is detected, and there is no longer any metaphysical impediment in the way of admitting the possibility of falsehood. To the Parmenides, the Sophist stands in a less defined and more remote relation. There human thought is in process of disorganization; no absurdity or inconsistency is too great to be elicited from the analysis of the simple ideas of Unity or Being. In the Sophist the same contradictions are pursued to a certain extent, but only with a view to their resolution. The aim of the dialogue is to show how the few elemental conceptions of the human mind admit of a natural connexion in thought and speech, which Megarian or other sophistry vainly attempts to deny.
True to the appointment of the previous day, Theodorus and Theaetetus meet Socrates at the same spot, bringing with them an Eleatic Stranger, whom Theodorus introduces as a true philosopher. Socrates, half in jest, half in earnest, declares that he must be a god in disguise, who, as Homer would say, has come to earth that he may visit the good and evil among men, and detect the foolishness of Athenian wisdom. At any rate he is a divine person, one of a class who are hardly recognized on earth; who appear in divers forms—now as statesmen, now as sophists, and are often deemed madmen. 'Philosopher, statesman, sophist,' says Socrates, repeating the words—'I should like to ask our Eleatic friend what his countrymen think of them; do they regard them as one, or three?'
The Stranger has been already asked the same question by Theodorus and Theaetetus; and he at once replies that they are thought to be three; but to explain the difference fully would take time. He is pressed to give this fuller explanation, either in the form of a speech or of question and answer. He prefers the latter, and chooses as his respondent Theaetetus, whom he already knows, and who is recommended to him by Socrates.
We are agreed, he says, about the name Sophist, but we may not be equally agreed about his nature. Great subjects should be approached through familiar examples, and, considering that he is a creature not easily caught, I think that, before approaching him, we should try our hand upon some more obvious animal, who may be made the subject of logical experiment; shall we say an angler? 'Very good.'
In the first place, the angler is an artist; and there are two kinds of art,—productive art, which includes husbandry, manufactures, imitations; and acquisitive art, which includes learning, trading, fighting, hunting. The angler's is an acquisitive art, and acquisition may be effected either by exchange or by conquest; in the latter case, either by force or craft. Conquest by craft is called hunting, and of hunting there is one kind which pursues inanimate, and another which pursues animate objects; and animate objects may be either land animals or water animals, and water animals either fly over the water or live in the water. The hunting of the last is called fishing; and of fishing, one kind uses enclosures, catching the fish in nets and baskets, and another kind strikes them either with spears by night or with barbed spears or barbed hooks by day; the barbed spears are impelled from above, the barbed hooks are jerked into the head and lips of the fish, which are then drawn from below upwards. Thus, by a series of divisions, we have arrived at the definition of the angler's art.
And now by the help of this example we may proceed to bring to light the nature of the Sophist. Like the angler, he is an artist, and the resemblance does not end here. For they are both hunters, and hunters of animals; the one of water, and the other of land animals. But at this point they diverge, the one going to the sea and the rivers, and the other to the rivers of wealth and rich meadow-lands, in which generous youth abide. On land you may hunt tame animals, or you may hunt wild animals. And man is a tame animal, and he may be hunted either by force or persuasion;—either by the pirate, man-stealer, soldier, or by the lawyer, orator, talker. The latter use persuasion, and persuasion is either private or public. Of the private practitioners of the art, some bring gifts to those whom they hunt: these are lovers. And others take hire; and some of these flatter, and in return are fed; others profess to teach virtue and receive a round sum. And who are these last? Tell me who? Have we not unearthed the Sophist?
But he is a many-sided creature, and may still be traced in another line of descent. The acquisitive art had a branch of exchange as well as of hunting, and exchange is either giving or selling; and the seller is either a manufacturer or a merchant; and the merchant either retails or exports; and the exporter may export either food for the body or food for the mind. And of this trading in food for the mind, one kind may be termed the art of display, and another the art of selling learning; and learning may be a learning of the arts or of virtue. The seller of the arts may be called an art-seller; the seller of virtue, a Sophist.
Again, there is a third line, in which a Sophist may be traced. For is he less a Sophist when, instead of exporting his wares to another country, he stays at home, and retails goods, which he not only buys of others, but manufactures himself?
Or he may be descended from the acquisitive art in the combative line, through the pugnacious, the controversial, the disputatious arts; and he will be found at last in the eristic section of the latter, and in that division of it which disputes in private for gain about the general principles of right and wrong.
And still there is a track of him which has not yet been followed out by us. Do not our household servants talk of sifting, straining, winnowing? And they also speak of carding, spinning, and the like. All these are processes of division; and of division there are two kinds,—one in which like is divided from like, and another in which the good is separated from the bad. The latter of the two is termed purification; and again, of purification, there are two sorts,—of animate bodies (which may be internal or external), and of inanimate. Medicine and gymnastic are the internal purifications of the animate, and bathing the external; and of the inanimate, fulling and cleaning and other humble processes, some of which have ludicrous names. Not that dialectic is a respecter of names or persons, or a despiser of humble occupations; nor does she think much of the greater or less benefits conferred by them. For her aim is knowledge; she wants to know how the arts are related to one another, and would quite as soon learn the nature of hunting from the vermin-destroyer as from the general. And she only desires to have a general name, which shall distinguish purifications of the soul from purifications of the body.
Now purification is the taking away of evil; and there are two kinds of evil in the soul,—the one answering to disease in the body, and the other to deformity. Disease is the discord or war of opposite principles in the soul; and deformity is the want of symmetry, or failure in the attainment of a mark or measure. The latter arises from ignorance, and no one is voluntarily ignorant; ignorance is only the aberration of the soul moving towards knowledge. And as medicine cures the diseases and gymnastic the deformity of the body, so correction cures the injustice, and education (which differs among the Hellenes from mere instruction in the arts) cures the ignorance of the soul. Again, ignorance is twofold, simple ignorance, and ignorance having the conceit of knowledge. And education is also twofold: there is the old-fashioned moral training of our forefathers, which was very troublesome and not very successful; and another, of a more subtle nature, which proceeds upon a notion that all ignorance is involuntary. The latter convicts a man out of his own mouth, by pointing out to him his inconsistencies and contradictions; and the consequence is that he quarrels with himself, instead of quarrelling with his neighbours, and is cured of prejudices and obstructions by a mode of treatment which is equally entertaining and effectual. The physician of the soul is aware that his patient will receive no nourishment unless he has been cleaned out; and the soul of the Great King himself, if he has not undergone this purification, is unclean and impure.
And who are the ministers of the purification? Sophists I may not call them. Yet they bear about the same likeness to Sophists as the dog, who is the gentlest of animals, does to the wolf, who is the fiercest. Comparisons are slippery things; but for the present let us assume the resemblance of the two, which may probably be disallowed hereafter. And so, from division comes purification; and from this, mental purification; and from mental purification, instruction; and from instruction, education; and from education, the nobly-descended art of Sophistry, which is engaged in the detection of conceit. I do not however think that we have yet found the Sophist, or that his will ultimately prove to be the desired art of education; but neither do I think that he can long escape me, for every way is blocked. Before we make the final assault, let us take breath, and reckon up the many forms which he has assumed: (1) he was the paid hunter of wealth and birth; (2) he was the trader in the goods of the soul; (3) he was the retailer of them; (4) he was the manufacturer of his own learned wares; (5) he was the disputant; and (6) he was the purger away of prejudices—although this latter point is admitted to be doubtful.
Now, there must surely be something wrong in the professor of any art having so many names and kinds of knowledge. Does not the very number of them imply that the nature of his art is not understood? And that we may not be involved in the misunderstanding, let us observe which of his characteristics is the most prominent. Above all things he is a disputant. He will dispute and teach others to dispute about things visible and invisible—about man, about the gods, about politics, about law, about wrestling, about all things. But can he know all things? 'He cannot.' How then can he dispute satisfactorily with any one who knows? 'Impossible.' Then what is the trick of his art, and why does he receive money from his admirers? 'Because he is believed by them to know all things.' You mean to say that he seems to have a knowledge of them? 'Yes.'
Suppose a person were to say, not that he would dispute about all things, but that he would make all things, you and me, and all other creatures, the earth and the heavens and the gods, and would sell them all for a few pence—this would be a great jest; but not greater than if he said that he knew all things, and could teach them in a short time, and at a small cost. For all imitation is a jest, and the most graceful form of jest. Now the painter is a man who professes to make all things, and children, who see his pictures at a distance, sometimes take them for realities: and the Sophist pretends to know all things, and he, too, can deceive young men, who are still at a distance from the truth, not through their eyes, but through their ears, by the mummery of words, and induce them to believe him. But as they grow older, and come into contact with realities, they learn by experience the futility of his pretensions. The Sophist, then, has not real knowledge; he is only an imitator, or image-maker.
And now, having got him in a corner of the dialectical net, let us divide and subdivide until we catch him. Of image-making there are two kinds,—the art of making likenesses, and the art of making appearances. The latter may be illustrated by sculpture and painting, which often use illusions, and alter the proportions of figures, in order to adapt their works to the eye. And the Sophist also uses illusions, and his imitations are apparent and not real. But how can anything be an appearance only? Here arises a difficulty which has always beset the subject of appearances. For the argument is asserting the existence of not-being. And this is what the great Parmenides was all his life denying in prose and also in verse. 'You will never find,' he says, 'that not-being is.' And the words prove themselves! Not-being cannot be attributed to any being; for how can any being be wholly abstracted from being? Again, in every predication there is an attribution of singular or plural. But number is the most real of all things, and cannot be attributed to not-being. Therefore not-being cannot be predicated or expressed; for how can we say 'is,' 'are not,' without number?
And now arises the greatest difficulty of all. If not-being is inconceivable, how can not-being be refuted? And am I not contradicting myself at this moment, in speaking either in the singular or the plural of that to which I deny both plurality and unity? You, Theaetetus, have the might of youth, and I conjure you to exert yourself, and, if you can, to find an expression for not-being which does not imply being and number. 'But I cannot.' Then the Sophist must be left in his hole. We may call him an image-maker if we please, but he will only say, 'And pray, what is an image?' And we shall reply, 'A reflection in the water, or in a mirror'; and he will say, 'Let us shut our eyes and open our minds; what is the common notion of all images?' 'I should answer, Such another, made in the likeness of the true.' Real or not real? 'Not real; at least, not in a true sense.' And the real 'is,' and the not-real 'is not'? 'Yes.' Then a likeness is really unreal, and essentially not. Here is a pretty complication of being and not-being, in which the many-headed Sophist has entangled us. He will at once point out that he is compelling us to contradict ourselves, by affirming being of not-being. I think that we must cease to look for him in the class of imitators.
But ought we to give him up? 'I should say, certainly not.' Then I fear that I must lay hands on my father Parmenides; but do not call me a parricide; for there is no way out of the difficulty except to show that in some sense not-being is; and if this is not admitted, no one can speak of falsehood, or false opinion, or imitation, without falling into a contradiction. You observe how unwilling I am to undertake the task; for I know that I am exposing myself to the charge of inconsistency in asserting the being of not-being. But if I am to make the attempt, I think that I had better begin at the beginning.
Lightly in the days of our youth, Parmenides and others told us tales about the origin of the universe: one spoke of three principles warring and at peace again, marrying and begetting children; another of two principles, hot and cold, dry and moist, which also formed relationships. There were the Eleatics in our part of the world, saying that all things are one; whose doctrine begins with Xenophanes, and is even older. Ionian, and, more recently, Sicilian muses speak of a one and many which are held together by enmity and friendship, ever parting, ever meeting. Some of them do not insist on the perpetual strife, but adopt a gentler strain, and speak of alternation only. Whether they are right or not, who can say? But one thing we can say—that they went on their way without much caring whether we understood them or not. For tell me, Theaetetus, do you understand what they mean by their assertion of unity, or by their combinations and separations of two or more principles? I used to think, when I was young, that I knew all about not-being, and now I am in great difficulties even about being.
Let us proceed first to the examination of being. Turning to the dualist philosophers, we say to them: Is being a third element besides hot and cold? or do you identify one or both of the two elements with being? At any rate, you can hardly avoid resolving them into one. Let us next interrogate the patrons of the one. To them we say: Are being and one two different names for the same thing? But how can there be two names when there is nothing but one? Or you may identify them; but then the name will be either the name of nothing or of itself, i.e. of a name. Again, the notion of being is conceived of as a whole—in the words of Parmenides, 'like every way unto a rounded sphere.' And a whole has parts; but that which has parts is not one, for unity has no parts. Is being, then, one, because the parts of being are one, or shall we say that being is not a whole? In the former case, one is made up of parts; and in the latter there is still plurality, viz. being, and a whole which is apart from being. And being, if not all things, lacks something of the nature of being, and becomes not-being. Nor can being ever have come into existence, for nothing comes into existence except as a whole; nor can being have number, for that which has number is a whole or sum of number. These are a few of the difficulties which are accumulating one upon another in the consideration of being.
We may proceed now to the less exact sort of philosophers. Some of them drag down everything to earth, and carry on a war like that of the giants, grasping rocks and oaks in their hands. Their adversaries defend themselves warily from an invisible world, and reduce the substances of their opponents to the minutest fractions, until they are lost in generation and flux. The latter sort are civil people enough; but the materialists are rude and ignorant of dialectics; they must be taught how to argue before they can answer. Yet, for the sake of the argument, we may assume them to be better than they are, and able to give an account of themselves. They admit the existence of a mortal living creature, which is a body containing a soul, and to this they would not refuse to attribute qualities—wisdom, folly, justice and injustice. The soul, as they say, has a kind of body, but they do not like to assert of these qualities of the soul, either that they are corporeal, or that they have no existence; at this point they begin to make distinctions. 'Sons of earth,' we say to them, 'if both visible and invisible qualities exist, what is the common nature which is attributed to them by the term "being" or "existence"?' And, as they are incapable of answering this question, we may as well reply for them, that being is the power of doing or suffering. Then we turn to the friends of ideas: to them we say, 'You distinguish becoming from being?' 'Yes,' they will reply. 'And in becoming you participate through the bodily senses, and in being, by thought and the mind?' 'Yes.' And you mean by the word 'participation' a power of doing or suffering? To this they answer—I am acquainted with them, Theaetetus, and know their ways better than you do—that being can neither do nor suffer, though becoming may. And we rejoin: Does not the soul know? And is not 'being' known? And are not 'knowing' and 'being known' active and passive? That which is known is affected by knowledge, and therefore is in motion. And, indeed, how can we imagine that perfect being is a mere everlasting form, devoid of motion and soul? for there can be no thought without soul, nor can soul be devoid of motion. But neither can thought or mind be devoid of some principle of rest or stability. And as children say entreatingly, 'Give us both,' so the philosopher must include both the moveable and immoveable in his idea of being. And yet, alas! he and we are in the same difficulty with which we reproached the dualists; for motion and rest are contradictions—how then can they both exist? Does he who affirms this mean to say that motion is rest, or rest motion? 'No; he means to assert the existence of some third thing, different from them both, which neither rests nor moves.' But how can there be anything which neither rests nor moves? Here is a second difficulty about being, quite as great as that about not-being. And we may hope that any light which is thrown upon the one may extend to the other.
Leaving them for the present, let us enquire what we mean by giving many names to the same thing, e.g. white, good, tall, to man; out of which tyros old and young derive such a feast of amusement. Their meagre minds refuse to predicate anything of anything; they say that good is good, and man is man; and that to affirm one of the other would be making the many one and the one many. Let us place them in a class with our previous opponents, and interrogate both of them at once. Shall we assume (1) that being and rest and motion, and all other things, are incommunicable with one another? or (2) that they all have indiscriminate communion? or (3) that there is communion of some and not of others? And we will consider the first hypothesis first of all.
(1) If we suppose the universal separation of kinds, all theories alike are swept away; the patrons of a single principle of rest or of motion, or of a plurality of immutable ideas—all alike have the ground cut from under them; and all creators of the universe by theories of composition and division, whether out of or into a finite or infinite number of elemental forms, in alternation or continuance, share the same fate. Most ridiculous is the discomfiture which attends the opponents of predication, who, like the ventriloquist Eurycles, have the voice that answers them in their own breast. For they cannot help using the words 'is,' 'apart,' 'from others,' and the like; and their adversaries are thus saved the trouble of refuting them. But (2) if all things have communion with all things, motion will rest, and rest will move; here is a reductio ad absurdum. Two out of the three hypotheses are thus seen to be false. The third (3) remains, which affirms that only certain things communicate with certain other things. In the alphabet and the scale there are some letters and notes which combine with others, and some which do not; and the laws according to which they combine or are separated are known to the grammarian and musician. And there is a science which teaches not only what notes and letters, but what classes admit of combination with one another, and what not. This is a noble science, on which we have stumbled unawares; in seeking after the Sophist we have found the philosopher. He is the master who discerns one whole or form pervading a scattered multitude, and many such wholes combined under a higher one, and many entirely apart—he is the true dialectician. Like the Sophist, he is hard to recognize, though for the opposite reasons; the Sophist runs away into the obscurity of not-being, the philosopher is dark from excess of light. And now, leaving him, we will return to our pursuit of the Sophist.
Agreeing in the truth of the third hypothesis, that some things have communion and others not, and that some may have communion with all, let us examine the most important kinds which are capable of admixture; and in this way we may perhaps find out a sense in which not-being may be affirmed to have being. Now the highest kinds are being, rest, motion; and of these, rest and motion exclude each other, but both of them are included in being; and again, they are the same with themselves and the other of each other. What is the meaning of these words, 'same' and 'other'? Are there two more kinds to be added to the three others? For sameness cannot be either rest or motion, because predicated both of rest and motion; nor yet being; because if being were attributed to both of them we should attribute sameness to both of them. Nor can other be identified with being; for then other, which is relative, would have the absoluteness of being. Therefore we must assume a fifth principle, which is universal, and runs through all things, for each thing is other than all other things. Thus there are five principles: (1) being, (2) motion, which is not (3) rest, and because participating both in the same and other, is and is not (4) the same with itself, and is and is not (5) other than the other. And motion is not being, but partakes of being, and therefore is and is not in the most absolute sense. Thus we have discovered that not-being is the principle of the other which runs through all things, being not excepted. And 'being' is one thing, and 'not-being' includes and is all other things. And not-being is not the opposite of being, but only the other. Knowledge has many branches, and the other or difference has as many, each of which is described by prefixing the word 'not' to some kind of knowledge. The not-beautiful is as real as the beautiful, the not-just as the just. And the essence of the not-beautiful is to be separated from and opposed to a certain kind of existence which is termed beautiful. And this opposition and negation is the not-being of which we are in search, and is one kind of being. Thus, in spite of Parmenides, we have not only discovered the existence, but also the nature of not-being—that nature we have found to be relation. In the communion of different kinds, being and other mutually interpenetrate; other is, but is other than being, and other than each and all of the remaining kinds, and therefore in an infinity of ways 'is not.' And the argument has shown that the pursuit of contradictions is childish and useless, and the very opposite of that higher spirit which criticizes the words of another according to the natural meaning of them. Nothing can be more unphilosophical than the denial of all communion of kinds. And we are fortunate in having established such a communion for another reason, because in continuing the hunt after the Sophist we have to examine the nature of discourse, and there could be no discourse if there were no communion. For the Sophist, although he can no longer deny the existence of not-being, may still affirm that not-being cannot enter into discourse, and as he was arguing before that there could be no such thing as falsehood, because there was no such thing as not-being, he may continue to argue that there is no such thing as the art of image-making and phantastic, because not-being has no place in language. Hence arises the necessity of examining speech, opinion, and imagination.
And first concerning speech; let us ask the same question about words which we have already answered about the kinds of being and the letters of the alphabet: To what extent do they admit of combination? Some words have a meaning when combined, and others have no meaning. One class of words describes action, another class agents: 'walks,' 'runs,' 'sleeps' are examples of the first; 'stag,' 'horse,' 'lion' of the second. But no combination of words can be formed without a verb and a noun, e.g. 'A man learns'; the simplest sentence is composed of two words, and one of these must be a subject. For example, in the sentence, 'Theaetetus sits,' which is not very long, 'Theaetetus' is the subject, and in the sentence 'Theaetetus flies,' 'Theaetetus' is again the subject. But the two sentences differ in quality, for the first says of you that which is true, and the second says of you that which is not true, or, in other words, attributes to you things which are not as though they were. Here is false discourse in the shortest form. And thus not only speech, but thought and opinion and imagination are proved to be both true and false. For thought is only the process of silent speech, and opinion is only the silent assent or denial which follows this, and imagination is only the expression of this in some form of sense. All of them are akin to speech, and therefore, like speech, admit of true and false. And we have discovered false opinion, which is an encouraging sign of our probable success in the rest of the enquiry.
Then now let us return to our old division of likeness-making and phantastic. When we were going to place the Sophist in one of them, a doubt arose whether there could be such a thing as an appearance, because there was no such thing as falsehood. At length falsehood has been discovered by us to exist, and we have acknowledged that the Sophist is to be found in the class of imitators. All art was divided originally by us into two branches—productive and acquisitive. And now we may divide both on a different principle into the creations or imitations which are of human, and those which are of divine, origin. For we must admit that the world and ourselves and the animals did not come into existence by chance, or the spontaneous working of nature, but by divine reason and knowledge. And there are not only divine creations but divine imitations, such as apparitions and shadows and reflections, which are equally the work of a divine mind. And there are human creations and human imitations too,—there is the actual house and the drawing of it. Nor must we forget that image-making may be an imitation of realities or an imitation of appearances, which last has been called by us phantastic. And this phantastic may be again divided into imitation by the help of instruments and impersonations. And the latter may be either dissembling or unconscious, either with or without knowledge. A man cannot imitate you, Theaetetus, without knowing you, but he can imitate the form of justice or virtue if he have a sentiment or opinion about them. Not being well provided with names, the former I will venture to call the imitation of science, and the latter the imitation of opinion.
The latter is our present concern, for the Sophist has no claims to science or knowledge. Now the imitator, who has only opinion, may be either the simple imitator, who thinks that he knows, or the dissembler, who is conscious that he does not know, but disguises his ignorance. And the last may be either a maker of long speeches, or of shorter speeches which compel the person conversing to contradict himself. The maker of longer speeches is the popular orator; the maker of the shorter is the Sophist, whose art may be traced as being the
/ contradictious / dissembling / without knowledge / human and not divine / juggling with words / phantastic or unreal / art of image-making.
In commenting on the dialogue in which Plato most nearly approaches the great modern master of metaphysics there are several points which it will be useful to consider, such as the unity of opposites, the conception of the ideas as causes, and the relation of the Platonic and Hegelian dialectic.
The unity of opposites was the crux of ancient thinkers in the age of Plato: How could one thing be or become another? That substances have attributes was implied in common language; that heat and cold, day and night, pass into one another was a matter of experience 'on a level with the cobbler's understanding' (Theat.). But how could philosophy explain the connexion of ideas, how justify the passing of them into one another? The abstractions of one, other, being, not-being, rest, motion, individual, universal, which successive generations of philosophers had recently discovered, seemed to be beyond the reach of human thought, like stars shining in a distant heaven. They were the symbols of different schools of philosophy: but in what relation did they stand to one another and to the world of sense? It was hardly conceivable that one could be other, or the same different. Yet without some reconciliation of these elementary ideas thought was impossible. There was no distinction between truth and falsehood, between the Sophist and the philosopher. Everything could be predicated of everything, or nothing of anything. To these difficulties Plato finds what to us appears to be the answer of common sense—that Not-being is the relative or other of Being, the defining and distinguishing principle, and that some ideas combine with others, but not all with all. It is remarkable however that he offers this obvious reply only as the result of a long and tedious enquiry; by a great effort he is able to look down as 'from a height' on the 'friends of the ideas' as well as on the pre-Socratic philosophies. Yet he is merely asserting principles which no one who could be made to understand them would deny.
The Platonic unity of differences or opposites is the beginning of the modern view that all knowledge is of relations; it also anticipates the doctrine of Spinoza that all determination is negation. Plato takes or gives so much of either of these theories as was necessary or possible in the age in which he lived. In the Sophist, as in the Cratylus, he is opposed to the Heracleitean flux and equally to the Megarian and Cynic denial of predication, because he regards both of them as making knowledge impossible. He does not assert that everything is and is not, or that the same thing can be affected in the same and in opposite ways at the same time and in respect of the same part of itself. The law of contradiction is as clearly laid down by him in the Republic, as by Aristotle in his Organon. Yet he is aware that in the negative there is also a positive element, and that oppositions may be only differences. And in the Parmenides he deduces the many from the one and Not-being from Being, and yet shows that the many are included in the one, and that Not-being returns to Being.
In several of the later dialogues Plato is occupied with the connexion of the sciences, which in the Philebus he divides into two classes of pure and applied, adding to them there as elsewhere (Phaedr., Crat., Republic, States.) a superintending science of dialectic. This is the origin of Aristotle's Architectonic, which seems, however, to have passed into an imaginary science of essence, and no longer to retain any relation to other branches of knowledge. Of such a science, whether described as 'philosophia prima,' the science of ousia, logic or metaphysics, philosophers have often dreamed. But even now the time has not arrived when the anticipation of Plato can be realized. Though many a thinker has framed a 'hierarchy of the sciences,' no one has as yet found the higher science which arrays them in harmonious order, giving to the organic and inorganic, to the physical and moral, their respective limits, and showing how they all work together in the world and in man.
Plato arranges in order the stages of knowledge and of existence. They are the steps or grades by which he rises from sense and the shadows of sense to the idea of beauty and good. Mind is in motion as well as at rest (Soph.); and may be described as a dialectical progress which passes from one limit or determination of thought to another and back again to the first. This is the account of dialectic given by Plato in the Sixth Book of the Republic, which regarded under another aspect is the mysticism of the Symposium. He does not deny the existence of objects of sense, but according to him they only receive their true meaning when they are incorporated in a principle which is above them (Republic). In modern language they might be said to come first in the order of experience, last in the order of nature and reason. They are assumed, as he is fond of repeating, upon the condition that they shall give an account of themselves and that the truth of their existence shall be hereafter proved. For philosophy must begin somewhere and may begin anywhere,—with outward objects, with statements of opinion, with abstract principles. But objects of sense must lead us onward to the ideas or universals which are contained in them; the statements of opinion must be verified; the abstract principles must be filled up and connected with one another. In Plato we find, as we might expect, the germs of many thoughts which have been further developed by the genius of Spinoza and Hegel. But there is a difficulty in separating the germ from the flower, or in drawing the line which divides ancient from modern philosophy. Many coincidences which occur in them are unconscious, seeming to show a natural tendency in the human mind towards certain ideas and forms of thought. And there are many speculations of Plato which would have passed away unheeded, and their meaning, like that of some hieroglyphic, would have remained undeciphered, unless two thousand years and more afterwards an interpreter had arisen of a kindred spirit and of the same intellectual family. For example, in the Sophist Plato begins with the abstract and goes on to the concrete, not in the lower sense of returning to outward objects, but to the Hegelian concrete or unity of abstractions. In the intervening period hardly any importance would have been attached to the question which is so full of meaning to Plato and Hegel.
They differ however in their manner of regarding the question. For Plato is answering a difficulty; he is seeking to justify the use of common language and of ordinary thought into which philosophy had introduced a principle of doubt and dissolution. Whereas Hegel tries to go beyond common thought, and to combine abstractions in a higher unity: the ordinary mechanism of language and logic is carried by him into another region in which all oppositions are absorbed and all contradictions affirmed, only that they may be done away with. But Plato, unlike Hegel, nowhere bases his system on the unity of opposites, although in the Parmenides he shows an Hegelian subtlety in the analysis of one and Being.
It is difficult within the compass of a few pages to give even a faint outline of the Hegelian dialectic. No philosophy which is worth understanding can be understood in a moment; common sense will not teach us metaphysics any more than mathematics. If all sciences demand of us protracted study and attention, the highest of all can hardly be matter of immediate intuition. Neither can we appreciate a great system without yielding a half assent to it—like flies we are caught in the spider's web; and we can only judge of it truly when we place ourselves at a distance from it. Of all philosophies Hegelianism is the most obscure: and the difficulty inherent in the subject is increased by the use of a technical language. The saying of Socrates respecting the writings of Heracleitus—'Noble is that which I understand, and that which I do not understand may be as noble; but the strength of a Delian diver is needed to swim through it'—expresses the feeling with which the reader rises from the perusal of Hegel. We may truly apply to him the words in which Plato describes the Pre-Socratic philosophers: 'He went on his way rather regardless of whether we understood him or not'; or, as he is reported himself to have said of his own pupils: 'There is only one of you who understands me, and he does NOT understand me.'
Nevertheless the consideration of a few general aspects of the Hegelian philosophy may help to dispel some errors and to awaken an interest about it. (i) It is an ideal philosophy which, in popular phraseology, maintains not matter but mind to be the truth of things, and this not by a mere crude substitution of one word for another, but by showing either of them to be the complement of the other. Both are creations of thought, and the difference in kind which seems to divide them may also be regarded as a difference of degree. One is to the other as the real to the ideal, and both may be conceived together under the higher form of the notion. (ii) Under another aspect it views all the forms of sense and knowledge as stages of thought which have always existed implicitly and unconsciously, and to which the mind of the world, gradually disengaged from sense, has become awakened. The present has been the past. The succession in time of human ideas is also the eternal 'now'; it is historical and also a divine ideal. The history of philosophy stripped of personality and of the other accidents of time and place is gathered up into philosophy, and again philosophy clothed in circumstance expands into history. (iii) Whether regarded as present or past, under the form of time or of eternity, the spirit of dialectic is always moving onwards from one determination of thought to another, receiving each successive system of philosophy and subordinating it to that which follows—impelled by an irresistible necessity from one idea to another until the cycle of human thought and existence is complete. It follows from this that all previous philosophies which are worthy of the name are not mere opinions or speculations, but stages or moments of thought which have a necessary place in the world of mind. They are no longer the last word of philosophy, for another and another has succeeded them, but they still live and are mighty; in the language of the Greek poet, 'There is a great God in them, and he grows not old.' (iv) This vast ideal system is supposed to be based upon experience. At each step it professes to carry with it the 'witness of eyes and ears' and of common sense, as well as the internal evidence of its own consistency; it has a place for every science, and affirms that no philosophy of a narrower type is capable of comprehending all true facts.
The Hegelian dialectic may be also described as a movement from the simple to the complex. Beginning with the generalizations of sense, (1) passing through ideas of quality, quantity, measure, number, and the like, (2) ascending from presentations, that is pictorial forms of sense, to representations in which the picture vanishes and the essence is detached in thought from the outward form, (3) combining the I and the not-I, or the subject and object, the natural order of thought is at last found to include the leading ideas of the sciences and to arrange them in relation to one another. Abstractions grow together and again become concrete in a new and higher sense. They also admit of development from within their own spheres. Everywhere there is a movement of attraction and repulsion going on—an attraction or repulsion of ideas of which the physical phenomenon described under a similar name is a figure. Freedom and necessity, mind and matter, the continuous and the discrete, cause and effect, are perpetually being severed from one another in thought, only to be perpetually reunited. The finite and infinite, the absolute and relative are not really opposed; the finite and the negation of the finite are alike lost in a higher or positive infinity, and the absolute is the sum or correlation of all relatives. When this reconciliation of opposites is finally completed in all its stages, the mind may come back again and review the things of sense, the opinions of philosophers, the strife of theology and politics, without being disturbed by them. Whatever is, if not the very best—and what is the best, who can tell?—is, at any rate, historical and rational, suitable to its own age, unsuitable to any other. Nor can any efforts of speculative thinkers or of soldiers and statesmen materially quicken the 'process of the suns.'