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8. SUMMARY OF INTRODUCTORY OBSERVATIONS IN THE FORM
OF A DEFENCE OF PLATO AGAINST A CHARGE BROUGHT
Let me close this Introduction with a summing up of its meaning, in the form of a defence of Plato against a charge brought by Kant in a well-known passage.
The light dove, in free flight cleaving the air and feeling its resistance, might imagine that in airless space she would fare better. Even so Plato left the world of sense, because it sets so narrow limits to the understanding, and ventured beyond, on the wings of the Ideas, into the empty space of the pure understanding. He did not see that, with all his effort, he made no way.
Here Kant brings against Plato the charge of “transcendental use, or rather, misuse, of the Categories of the Understanding”of supposing super-sensible objects, Soul, Cosmos, God, answering to “ Ideas” which have no adequate objects in a possible experience, and then determining these supposed objects by means of conceptions—the Categories the application of which ought to be restricted to sensible objects.
In bringing this charge, Kant seems to me to ignore the function which Myth performs in the Platonic philosophy. I submit that the objects which Plato supposes for the “ Transcendental Ideas ”s are imaginatively constructed by him, not presented as objects capable of determination by scientific categories—that Plato, by means of the plainly nonscientific language of Myth, guards against the illusions which Kant guards against by means of “criticism ”; or, to put it otherwise, that Plato's employment of Myth, when he deals with the ideals of Soul, Cosmos, and God-Kant's three Ideas of Reason— shows that his attitude is “critical,” not dogmatic. The part which the Myth of Er plays in the philosophic action of the Republic may be taken as a specimen of the evidence for this view of Plato's attitude. There is nothing in the Republic, to my mind, so significant as the
1 Kritik der reinen Vernunft, Einleitung, $ 3.
3 “Ideas” in Kant's sense, not the Platonic idéau.
deep sympathy of its ending with the mood of its beginning. It begins with the Hope of the aged Cephalus—“The sweet hope which guides the wayward thought of mortal man;" it ends with the great Myth in which this Hope is visualised. As his Hope is sufficient for Cephalus, who retires to his devotions from the company of the debaters, so is the Representation of it—the Vision of Er-given as sufficient, in the end, for the debaters themselves. To attempt to rationalise here—to give speculative reasons for such a Hope, or against it, would be to forget that it is the foundation of all our special faculties, including the faculty of scientific explanation; and that science can neither explain away, nor corroborate, its own foundation. The attempt which is made in the latter half of the Tenth Book of the Republic to place the natural expression of this Hope—man's belief in the immortality of the Soul-on a “scientific basis,”—to determine “Soul” by means of “ Categories of the Understanding,”—I regard as intended by the great philosopher-artist to lead up to the Myth of Er, and heighten its effect by contrast
-to give the reader of the Republic a vivid sense of the futility of rationalisın in a region where Hope confirms itself by“vision splendid.” 1
Of course, I do not deny that passages may be found in which the Ideas of Soul, Cosmos, and God are treated by Plato, without Mythology, as having objects to be determined under the scientific categories of Cause and Substance-e.g. in Phaedrus, 245 E, and Phaedo, 105 c, we seem to have
4. The argument about immortality (Rep. 608 c to 612 A ),” says R. L. Nettleship (Philosophical Lectures and Remains, ii. 355), “ does not seem to be in any organic connection either with what actually precedes or with what actually follows it. It would seem that Plato had two plans in his mind as to how to finish the Republic.” I cannot think that Plato had two plans in his mind. The argument for the immortality of the Soul in Rep. 608 C-612 A is forinally 60 inconclusive that it is impossible to suppose Plato to be serious with it. The equivocal use of the term Death (Oávatos) in the argument could not have Escaped a logician so acute as Plato. The argument is, that, as Injustice (ådıkla), the proper vice (raxia) of the Soul, does not cause “Death” (vávaros), in the sense of the separation of Soul from body, nothing else can ever cause Death' (dávatos), now, however, to be understood in the sense of the annihilation of the disembodied Soul itself.
? Grote (Plato, ii. 190) has an interesting note on Phaedo, 105 C,—“Nemesius, the Christian bishop of Emesa, declares that the proofs given by Plato of the immortality of the Soul are knotty and difficult to understand, such as even adepts in philosophical study can hardly follow. His own belief in it rests upou the inspiration of the Christian Scriptures (Nemesius, de Nat. Homin. c. 2, p. 55,
serious scientific argument for the immortality of the Soulindeed, it would be astonishing if there were no such passages, for the distinction between Category and Idea, as understood by Kant, is not explicit in Plato's mind; but I submit that such passages fade into insignificance by the side of the great Myths. We are safe in saying at least that, if sometimes Plato lapses into a logical treatment of these ideals, or “ Ideas of Reason,” he is well aware that there is another way of treating them,—in Myth,—and that he shows a marked preference for this latter way.
The Platonic Myth, then, effects its purpose—the regulation of Transcendental Feeling for the service of conduct and science-in two ways which we may profitably distinguish, while admitting that the distinction between them was not explicit in Plato's mind : (1) by representing ideals, and (2) by tracing faculties back to their origins. In following either of these two ways the Platonic Myth carries us away to
Places” and “ Times” which are, indeed, beyond the ken of sense or science, but yet are felt to be involved in the concrete “ Here ” and “Now" of ordinary experience.
The order in which I propose to take the Myths scarcely amounts to an arrangement of them in two classes according as the object is, either to represent ideals, or trace faculties to their origins, for most of them do both. I shall begin, however, with the Myths which are mainly concerned with ideals, and shall end with those which are mainly concerned with origins. The former, it may be remarked, answer roughly to the so-called Eschatological Myths—but only roughly, for some of them are more properly described as Aetiological; the latter answer to the Aetiological Myths.
I shall take first the Myths in the Phaedo and Gorgias, and the Myth of Er in the Republic,—strictly “ Eschatological” Myths,—which present the Soul as immortal, free within limits set by åváran, and responsible, under God's government, throughout all its transmigrations.
Next I shall take the Myths—mainly “ Aetiological "—in the Politicus, Fourth Book of the Laws, and Protagoras, where God's creative agency, and government of the Cosmos and Man, are broadly treated, and presented as consistent with the existence of evil.
Then I shall go on to the Timaeus, in which the three ideals, or "Ideas of Reason "-Soul, Cosmos, and God-are represented in one vast composition.
Having examined these Myths—all chiefly interesting as representations of ideals, or “ Ideas of Reason”—I shall examine three Myths which are chiefly concerned with the deduction of Categories or Virtues. These are the Myths in the Phaedrus, Meno, and Symposium. They are mainly concerned with showing how man, as knowing subject and moral agent, is conditioned by his past. Although the “Eschatological” outlook, with its hope of future salvation, is by no means absent from these three Myths, their chief interest lies in the way in which, as “ Aetiological” Myths, they exhibit the functions of the understanding and moral faculty as cases of áváuvnors which, quickened by čpws, interprets the particular impressions, and recognises the particular duties, of the present life, in the light of the remembered vision of the Eternal Forms once seen in the Supercelestial Place.
Having examined the Myths which set forth the Ideals and Categories of the Individual, I shall end my review with an examination of two Myths which set forth respectively the Ideals and the Categories of a Nation—one of which gives us the spectacle of a Nation led on by a vision of its future, while the other shows us how the life of the "social organism is conditioned by its past. These are the Atlantis Myth, introduced in the Timaeus and continued in the fragmentary Critias, and the Myth of the Earth-Born in the Republic. The Atlantis Myth (intended to complete the account of the Ideal State given in the Republic) is to be regarded as an Eschatological Myth; but it differs from the Eschatological Myths of the other class which have been examined in representing, not the future lot of the Individual Soul, but the ideal which a Nation has before it in this world-the ideal of a united Hellas, under a New Athens, maintaining civilisation against the assaults of outer barbarism.
After the Atlantis Myth I shall take the Myth of the Earth-Born in the Republic, which is an Aetiological Myth,
Couturat, de Platonis Mythis (Paris, 1896), p. 32, Timaeus ipse] totus mythicus est ; and Zeller, Plato, p. 160°(Eng. Transl), " The whole investiture of the Timaeus is mythic—the Demiurgus, together with the subordinate gods, and all the history of the creation of the world.”
differing from the Aetiological Myths of the other class which have been examined, in deducing, not the Categories faculties and virtues-of the Individual, but the deep-cut characteristics of the “social organism." And yet, here again, while Categories are deduced, an Ideal—that of the orderly life of the kallimolis—is represented. Indeed, this is more or less true of all the Platonic Myths. They all view man's present life sub specie aeternitatis in God ; exhibit it as part of the great plan of Providence as one term of a continuous progress to be reviewed at once a parte ante and a parte post. Especially in the Timaeus do we see the “Genesis” and the "Apocalypse ” of the Platonic Mythology blended in one Vision.