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unwarrantable form of phrase. Finally, that the reason, in proportion as it learns to contemplate the perfect and eternal, desires the enjoyment of such contemplations in a more consummate degree, and cannot be fully satisfied except in the actual fruition of the perfect itself:-this seems not to contradict any received principle of psychology, or any known law of human nature. Yet these suppositions, taken together, constitute the famous THEORY OF IDEAS; and, thus stated, may surely be pronounced to form no very appropriate object for the contempt of even the most accomplished of our modern "physiologists of mind."' (Ancient Philosophy, vol. ii. pp. 117-8.)
This, as we have said, is most probably a correct, though somewhat free, translation of Plato's real doctrine; yet it must be confessed, as Professor Thompson remarks, that it contains expressions which it would be hard exactly to parallel in Plato, whose highly imaginative phraseology would require for this purpose a very liberal interpretation. That the Ideal Models,' or Universal Laws, are real distinct existences independent of the Divine Mind, is surely likely to convey a very different impression from this, that they are the Eternal Reasons by which an Eternal Mind regulates all its operations. True, there is a sense (and we doubt not that it was Plato's real meaning), in which they are independent of the Divine Mind; that is, even that mind does not make them,-they are not as other laws might be, the arbitrary products of Will,—which is probably all that Plato designed to assert. If so, he meant—and a most important truth it is that in the order of reason, though not of time (for where things are equally eternal, as Butler remarks, it is in vain to argue about precedence), such and such things are right, not because God wills them, but he wills them because they are right; that, similarly things are true, not of arbitrary ordination, but of necessary relation. If this be the correct interpretation, Plato meant what few philosophers will deny, except those who assert that God could, if he had pleased, have made three angles of a triangle not equal to two right angles, or reversed the relations of virtue and vice. But then to get this and this only out of Plato, requires not merely free translation, but abstinence from such strong expressions, of very different import, as Butler has sometimes used, and which, in fact, read very like contradictions.
It is remarked by Sir W. Hamilton that if Descartes and Locke had expressed themselves with the due rigour and caution with regard to the subject of 'Innate Ideas,' it would have been found, after all, that there was no irreconcileable difference between them, and that they would have been seen to be equally consistent with each other and with truth.' We
have little doubt that, on similar conditions, much might be said for Plato's consistency with himself. It is a difficulty under which all metaphysicians labour that, in giving expression to their conceptions, they must use figurative language. It is not matter of choice, but matter of necessity. All the operations, conceptions, and faculties of mind must, from the very law of its development, be expressed by terms derived. from the material world and its analogies. And when, as in the case of Plato, the imagination is a predominant faculty, and delights in painting thought, a still larger latitude in the representation of philosophical conceptions is the result, and a larger indulgence will be required by the wise and discreet interpreter. When the wisdom and discretion, however, do not exist, when the uncongenial, unimaginative, too literal critic undertakes the office of expositor, the metaphysical is apt to harden into the literal; imagery becomes doctrine; and symbol, the substance and reality of that it symbolises. In these cases the plastic forms of a poetically expressed philosophy are fixed and congealed by a frigid, icy, stolid criticism into literal and absurd paradox. It was by some such process, we imagine, that the archetypes of Plato became separate entities,
- having a local habitation' as well as a name; not only in a secondary and metaphorical sense independent of the supreme intelligence, but, in some mystical yet gross sense, existing out of it; similarly, that the species of Aristotle became frozen in the language of the schoolmen into attenuated material films; and (to illustrate our meaning in a much more important instance) that the strong metaphorical language of Christ became hardened into the monstrous doctrine of Transubstantiation. It is nothing,' said Selden, wisely and profoundly, 'it is nothing but rhetoric turned into logic.' But this tendency to turn rhetoric into logic, symbols into the things signified, is one of the infirmities of the human mind, in philosophy as well as theology, and one against which the interpreter and critic of philosophy must be on his guard; especially when interpreting writings which, like those of Plato, are instinct throughout with the spirit of poetry; where the imagery is as beautiful as the logic is subtle, and the most refined speculations are often conveyed in metaphor, myth, and allegory. Let but the cold spirit of an uncongenial criticism breathe upon them, and these yielding, mobile elements, which only a kindred glow of fancy can keep fluent, are apt to assume the appearance of fantastic frost-work or portentous icicles. It is true such
*See Sir W. Hamilton's Notes on Reid.
errors in modern interpreters would not have a similar effect as in previous ages: but it would not be less disastrous to the fame of Plato. They would not accept the absurdity their criticism deduced; but they would charge it on him.
From such errors the criticism of Professor Butler is on the whole remarkably free. Himself endowed with much splendour of imagination, he everywhere fully appreciates, and makes allowance for, the poetic colouring which so deeply tinctures the style of Plato; which diffuses itself indeed over conceptions in themselves as subtle, and over reasonings as refined, as any to be found in the pages of his great pupil and rival. In some points, as we have before observed, Butler is only too liberal an apologist.
The chief value of Plato's philosophy to every student of it, is quite independent of the interpretation which may be given of various parts of it, or (even supposing such criticism just), of the truth or fallacy of these particular speculations themselves. It consists, eminently, in the spirit of his philosophy; in the perpetual correction it supplies of ever-recurring tendencies to low materialistic or sensational systems-an influence it has again and again auspiciously exerted at various critical epochs of philosophical speculation; in the grandeur and elevation of its ethical views; in the lofty aspirations, the magnanimous and ennobling sentiments it inspires; in the attractive and beautiful, even though impracticable, ideal it ever presents of moral beauty; and in the profoundly just analyses of human nature and delineations of character, which are interspersed with the subtlest discussions of metaphysical truth, and in which the form of dialogue enables Plato to indulge at pleasure; — in the discipline given to the mind (perhaps the most valuable result of all metaphysical philosophy); and it may be added in the case of Plato, in the stimulus supplied alike to the intellect, fancy, and taste, by the rare genius he displays, and the literary beauties in which he abounds.
We may perhaps be allowed (at least if our own experience does not wholly deceive us) to hint one thing more. It is, that the general spirit of Plato's philosophy is often so deep or so comprehensive, that though we may dissent from his theories, or admit them only with large adjustments and rectifications, they yet perpetually suggest profound essential truth. philosophy is truth seen through a veil of allegory, where some variety of interpretation is admissible; or, like the eye of a portrait, seems fixed on every one who looks at it, from whatsoever side.
Let us be permitted briefly to illustrate this observation, by
taking, as an example, the wonderful Seventh Book of the Republic. How profoundly just (let our philosophy be what it will), how profoundly just, in relation to the conditions of human nature-to the limitation of our faculties-to our ignorance of the Absolute-to the predominance of the Phenomenal over us—is that opening picture of our species, as fettered captives in the subterranean cave; where, by the dim firelight, they see only the gliding shadows of the objects that are passing, and hear only the echoes of the voices that are speaking, between them and the light! How deep is the satire launched at a complacent sensational philosophy in the representation of the honours and veneration one may imagine bestowed among these purblind creatures, on those who, in that darkness, could most sharply detect' the forms, or most shrewdly anticipate coincidences or sequences in the appear'ance,' of these shadows on the wall; who could best tell what objects came together, or in what order of succession they might be expected! How keen the sarcasm implied in the representation that, supposing one of these captives to be dragged up to daylight, and compelled to converse with realities till he saw things in their true light, he would, if again plunged into the cave, be apt to seem more blind than those who had never left it, and, moving them to alternate laughter and pity, make them exclaim on the madness of those who ventured to leave the subterranean cavern and the friendly darkness, only to lose their eyesight! How sublime the declaration, that, nevertheless, he who had thus, in some degree, purified his vision, must be content again to descend to those depths, endeavour to free the miserable captives from their chains, and enable them to gaze on the glories of earth and sky, and be ravished by the beauties which himself had seen.
Similarly as to Plato's observations on Education in the same book. Who (however he may think that each science, as it passes in review, is regarded too exclusively as an instrument of mental discipline, and that its utilitarian benefits and applications are less prominently stated and less highly valued than they deserve), who can fail to recognise, amidst deficiencies and excesses, the noblest principles and maxims of philosophical education? Who will deny that, to the generality of men, the various pursuits by which the mind itself is trained to reflection, sagacity, abstraction, generalisation, and made capable of finding and appreciating Truth, are valuable exactly as they conduce to these ends, and, in this light, worth far more than any material advantages which can accrue from the prosecution of any one science, or the practice of any one art whatever?—a fact, indeed, obvious enough,
when we consider that, to form such a mind, if only to be capable of efficiently prosecuting any one pursuit, many kinds of discipline, from which not one in a million ever gets a penny, or hopes to do so, must concur. Who will not acknowledge a meaning in Plato's hyperbole, that the chief object of the pursuits which should constitute a wise education, is to awaken, to develop, to purify, some faculty of the soul, better worth pre'serving than a thousand eyes;' intellectually, to make it sagacious, prompt, comprehensive; morally, to enamour it of the true and the just, the beautiful and the good?
Even when he so audaciously declares that the sublime phenomena of Astronomy itself, unless they conduct the soul to universal truth, are really of little value; that the starry 'diagrams' of the heavens are to be looked at as little better than geometrical diagrams (exquisitely wrought by some cun'ning Dædalus'), except like these significant of immutable laws, and suggestive of absolute science; how sublime a truth is adumbrated in his words! Not exactly his meaning, it may be, yet embracing and surpassing it. The oracular words seem more than justified in that marvellous science of celestial dynamics which, in proportion as it is more fully known, transforms the glittering hieroglyphics of the heavens into an 'intelligible' scroll, and enforces, with ever fresh cogency, the sublime moral lessons of which Plato was perhaps chiefly thinking, that the 'heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth 'his handy work.'
It must be admitted, indeed, that when Plato comes to the practical application of his system of philosophical education to the chosen youth who are to form the governors' of his Republic, we see extravagancies which may well move the world to smile. The world will never be well governed, he tells us, while power and office are coveted as splendid rewards of ambition, or sources of sordid gain; while that is the case, men in power will look to their own good, not to that of the people. These last, as he elsewhere tells us, will be the cows' that are to be taken care of, because they are to be milked; the sheep' that are pastured for their flesh and their wool. The only people that are to be trusted with such an office, are the happy men who have so purged their mental vision by the euphrasy and rue' of philosophic contemplation, that they will despise the rewards of ambition-descend to office when they take ittake it because they must, not because they would assume the seals, or even the purple, with a sigh, and lay them down with rapture who are so transported with visions of the rò ov àɛí, and so smitten with the beauty of Tò ovτws ov, that they grudge