Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Books, poems, drama…

Sophist by Plato

Part 1 out of 3

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.3 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

This etext was prepared by Sue Asscher




Translated by Benjamin Jowett


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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?

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
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

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.'

Hegel was quite sensible how great would be the difficulty of presenting
philosophy to mankind under the form of opposites. Most of us live in the
one-sided truth which the understanding offers to us, and if occasionally
we come across difficulties like the time-honoured controversy of necessity
and free-will, or the Eleatic puzzle of Achilles and the tortoise, we
relegate some of them to the sphere of mystery, others to the book of
riddles, and go on our way rejoicing. Most men (like Aristotle) have been
accustomed to regard a contradiction in terms as the end of strife; to be
told that contradiction is the life and mainspring of the intellectual
world is indeed a paradox to them. Every abstraction is at first the enemy
of every other, yet they are linked together, each with all, in the chain
of Being. The struggle for existence is not confined to the animals, but
appears in the kingdom of thought. The divisions which arise in thought
between the physical and moral and between the moral and intellectual, and
the like, are deepened and widened by the formal logic which elevates the
defects of the human faculties into Laws of Thought; they become a part of
the mind which makes them and is also made up of them. Such distinctions
become so familiar to us that we regard the thing signified by them as
absolutely fixed and defined. These are some of the illusions from which
Hegel delivers us by placing us above ourselves, by teaching us to analyze
the growth of 'what we are pleased to call our minds,' by reverting to a
time when our present distinctions of thought and language had no

Of the great dislike and childish impatience of his system which would be
aroused among his opponents, he was fully aware, and would often anticipate
the jests which the rest of the world, 'in the superfluity of their wits,'
were likely to make upon him. Men are annoyed at what puzzles them; they
think what they cannot easily understand to be full of danger. Many a
sceptic has stood, as he supposed, firmly rooted in the categories of the
understanding which Hegel resolves into their original nothingness. For,
like Plato, he 'leaves no stone unturned' in the intellectual world. Nor
can we deny that he is unnecessarily difficult, or that his own mind, like
that of all metaphysicians, was too much under the dominion of his system
and unable to see beyond: or that the study of philosophy, if made a
serious business (compare Republic), involves grave results to the mind and
life of the student. For it may encumber him without enlightening his
path; and it may weaken his natural faculties of thought and expression
without increasing his philosophical power. The mind easily becomes
entangled among abstractions, and loses hold of facts. The glass which is
adapted to distant objects takes away the vision of what is near and
present to us.

To Hegel, as to the ancient Greek thinkers, philosophy was a religion, a
principle of life as well as of knowledge, like the idea of good in the
Sixth Book of the Republic, a cause as well as an effect, the source of
growth as well as of light. In forms of thought which by most of us are
regarded as mere categories, he saw or thought that he saw a gradual
revelation of the Divine Being. He would have been said by his opponents
to have confused God with the history of philosophy, and to have been
incapable of distinguishing ideas from facts. And certainly we can
scarcely understand how a deep thinker like Hegel could have hoped to
revive or supplant the old traditional faith by an unintelligible
abstraction: or how he could have imagined that philosophy consisted only
or chiefly in the categories of logic. For abstractions, though combined
by him in the notion, seem to be never really concrete; they are a
metaphysical anatomy, not a living and thinking substance. Though we are
reminded by him again and again that we are gathering up the world in
ideas, we feel after all that we have not really spanned the gulf which
separates phainomena from onta.

Having in view some of these difficulties, he seeks--and we may follow his
example--to make the understanding of his system easier (a) by
illustrations, and (b) by pointing out the coincidence of the speculative
idea and the historical order of thought.

(a) If we ask how opposites can coexist, we are told that many different
qualities inhere in a flower or a tree or in any other concrete object, and
that any conception of space or matter or time involves the two
contradictory attributes of divisibility and continuousness. We may ponder
over the thought of number, reminding ourselves that every unit both
implies and denies the existence of every other, and that the one is many--
a sum of fractions, and the many one--a sum of units. We may be reminded
that in nature there is a centripetal as well as a centrifugal force, a
regulator as well as a spring, a law of attraction as well as of repulsion.
The way to the West is the way also to the East; the north pole of the
magnet cannot be divided from the south pole; two minus signs make a plus
in Arithmetic and Algebra. Again, we may liken the successive layers of
thought to the deposits of geological strata which were once fluid and are
now solid, which were at one time uppermost in the series and are now
hidden in the earth; or to the successive rinds or barks of trees which
year by year pass inward; or to the ripple of water which appears and
reappears in an ever-widening circle. Or our attention may be drawn to
ideas which the moment we analyze them involve a contradiction, such as
'beginning' or 'becoming,' or to the opposite poles, as they are sometimes
termed, of necessity and freedom, of idea and fact. We may be told to
observe that every negative is a positive, that differences of kind are
resolvable into differences of degree, and that differences of degree may
be heightened into differences of kind. We may remember the common remark
that there is much to be said on both sides of a question. We may be
recommended to look within and to explain how opposite ideas can coexist in
our own minds; and we may be told to imagine the minds of all mankind as
one mind in which the true ideas of all ages and countries inhere. In our
conception of God in his relation to man or of any union of the divine and
human nature, a contradiction appears to be unavoidable. Is not the
reconciliation of mind and body a necessity, not only of speculation but of
practical life? Reflections such as these will furnish the best
preparation and give the right attitude of mind for understanding the
Hegelian philosophy.

(b) Hegel's treatment of the early Greek thinkers affords the readiest
illustration of his meaning in conceiving all philosophy under the form of
opposites. The first abstraction is to him the beginning of thought.
Hitherto there had only existed a tumultuous chaos of mythological fancy,
but when Thales said 'All is water' a new era began to dawn upon the world.
Man was seeking to grasp the universe under a single form which was at
first simply a material element, the most equable and colourless and
universal which could be found. But soon the human mind became
dissatisfied with the emblem, and after ringing the changes on one element
after another, demanded a more abstract and perfect conception, such as one
or Being, which was absolutely at rest. But the positive had its negative,
the conception of Being involved Not-being, the conception of one, many,
the conception of a whole, parts. Then the pendulum swung to the other
side, from rest to motion, from Xenophanes to Heracleitus. The opposition
of Being and Not-being projected into space became the atoms and void of
Leucippus and Democritus. Until the Atomists, the abstraction of the
individual did not exist; in the philosophy of Anaxagoras the idea of mind,
whether human or divine, was beginning to be realized. The pendulum gave
another swing, from the individual to the universal, from the object to the
subject. The Sophist first uttered the word 'Man is the measure of all
things,' which Socrates presented in a new form as the study of ethics.
Once more we return from mind to the object of mind, which is knowledge,
and out of knowledge the various degrees or kinds of knowledge more or less
abstract were gradually developed. The threefold division of logic,
physic, and ethics, foreshadowed in Plato, was finally established by
Aristotle and the Stoics. Thus, according to Hegel, in the course of about
two centuries by a process of antagonism and negation the leading thoughts
of philosophy were evolved.

There is nothing like this progress of opposites in Plato, who in the
Symposium denies the possibility of reconciliation until the opposition has
passed away. In his own words, there is an absurdity in supposing that
'harmony is discord; for in reality harmony consists of notes of a higher
and lower pitch which disagreed once, but are now reconciled by the art of
music' (Symp.). He does indeed describe objects of sense as regarded by us
sometimes from one point of view and sometimes from another. As he says at
the end of the Fifth Book of the Republic, 'There is nothing light which is
not heavy, or great which is not small.' And he extends this relativity to
the conceptions of just and good, as well as to great and small. In like
manner he acknowledges that the same number may be more or less in relation
to other numbers without any increase or diminution (Theat.). But the
perplexity only arises out of the confusion of the human faculties; the art
of measuring shows us what is truly great and truly small. Though the just
and good in particular instances may vary, the IDEA of good is eternal and
unchangeable. And the IDEA of good is the source of knowledge and also of
Being, in which all the stages of sense and knowledge are gathered up and
from being hypotheses become realities.

Leaving the comparison with Plato we may now consider the value of this
invention of Hegel. There can be no question of the importance of showing
that two contraries or contradictories may in certain cases be both true.
The silliness of the so-called laws of thought ('All A = A,' or, in the
negative form, 'Nothing can at the same time be both A, and not A') has
been well exposed by Hegel himself (Wallace's Hegel), who remarks that 'the
form of the maxim is virtually self-contradictory, for a proposition
implies a distinction between subject and predicate, whereas the maxim of
identity, as it is called, A = A, does not fulfil what its form requires.
Nor does any mind ever think or form conceptions in accordance with this
law, nor does any existence conform to it.' Wisdom of this sort is well
parodied in Shakespeare (Twelfth Night, 'Clown: For as the old hermit of
Prague, that never saw pen and ink, very wittily said to a niece of King
Gorboduc, "That that is is"...for what is "that" but "that," and "is" but
"is"?'). Unless we are willing to admit that two contradictories may be
true, many questions which lie at the threshold of mathematics and of
morals will be insoluble puzzles to us.

The influence of opposites is felt in practical life. The understanding
sees one side of a question only--the common sense of mankind joins one of
two parties in politics, in religion, in philosophy. Yet, as everybody
knows, truth is not wholly the possession of either. But the characters of
men are one-sided and accept this or that aspect of the truth. The
understanding is strong in a single abstract principle and with this lever
moves mankind. Few attain to a balance of principles or recognize truly
how in all human things there is a thesis and antithesis, a law of action
and of reaction. In politics we require order as well as liberty, and have
to consider the proportions in which under given circumstances they may be
safely combined. In religion there is a tendency to lose sight of
morality, to separate goodness from the love of truth, to worship God
without attempting to know him. In philosophy again there are two opposite
principles, of immediate experience and of those general or a priori truths
which are supposed to transcend experience. But the common sense or common
opinion of mankind is incapable of apprehending these opposite sides or
views--men are determined by their natural bent to one or other of them;
they go straight on for a time in a single line, and may be many things by
turns but not at once.

Hence the importance of familiarizing the mind with forms which will assist
us in conceiving or expressing the complex or contrary aspects of life and
nature. The danger is that they may be too much for us, and obscure our
appreciation of facts. As the complexity of mechanics cannot be understood
without mathematics, so neither can the many-sidedness of the mental and
moral world be truly apprehended without the assistance of new forms of
thought. One of these forms is the unity of opposites. Abstractions have
a great power over us, but they are apt to be partial and one-sided, and
only when modified by other abstractions do they make an approach to the
truth. Many a man has become a fatalist because he has fallen under the
dominion of a single idea. He says to himself, for example, that he must
be either free or necessary--he cannot be both. Thus in the ancient world
whole schools of philosophy passed away in the vain attempt to solve the
problem of the continuity or divisibility of matter. And in comparatively
modern times, though in the spirit of an ancient philosopher, Bishop
Berkeley, feeling a similar perplexity, is inclined to deny the truth of
infinitesimals in mathematics. Many difficulties arise in practical
religion from the impossibility of conceiving body and mind at once and in
adjusting their movements to one another. There is a border ground between
them which seems to belong to both; and there is as much difficulty in
conceiving the body without the soul as the soul without the body. To the
'either' and 'or' philosophy ('Everything is either A or not A') should at
least be added the clause 'or neither,' 'or both.' The double form makes
reflection easier and more conformable to experience, and also more
comprehensive. But in order to avoid paradox and the danger of giving
offence to the unmetaphysical part of mankind, we may speak of it as due to
the imperfection of language or the limitation of human faculties. It is
nevertheless a discovery which, in Platonic language, may be termed a 'most
gracious aid to thought.'

The doctrine of opposite moments of thought or of progression by
antagonism, further assists us in framing a scheme or system of the
sciences. The negation of one gives birth to another of them. The double
notions are the joints which hold them together. The simple is developed
into the complex, the complex returns again into the simple. Beginning
with the highest notion of mind or thought, we may descend by a series of
negations to the first generalizations of sense. Or again we may begin
with the simplest elements of sense and proceed upwards to the highest
being or thought. Metaphysic is the negation or absorption of physiology--
physiology of chemistry--chemistry of mechanical philosophy. Similarly in
mechanics, when we can no further go we arrive at chemistry--when chemistry
becomes organic we arrive at physiology: when we pass from the outward and
animal to the inward nature of man we arrive at moral and metaphysical
philosophy. These sciences have each of them their own methods and are
pursued independently of one another. But to the mind of the thinker they
are all one--latent in one another--developed out of one another.

This method of opposites has supplied new instruments of thought for the
solution of metaphysical problems, and has thrown down many of the walls
within which the human mind was confined. Formerly when philosophers
arrived at the infinite and absolute, they seemed to be lost in a region
beyond human comprehension. But Hegel has shown that the absolute and
infinite are no more true than the relative and finite, and that they must
alike be negatived before we arrive at a true absolute or a true infinite.
The conceptions of the infinite and absolute as ordinarily understood are
tiresome because they are unmeaning, but there is no peculiar sanctity or
mystery in them. We might as well make an infinitesimal series of
fractions or a perpetually recurring decimal the object of our worship.
They are the widest and also the thinnest of human ideas, or, in the
language of logicians, they have the greatest extension and the least
comprehension. Of all words they may be truly said to be the most inflated
with a false meaning. They have been handed down from one philosopher to
another until they have acquired a religious character. They seem also to
derive a sacredness from their association with the Divine Being. Yet they
are the poorest of the predicates under which we describe him--signifying
no more than this, that he is not finite, that he is not relative, and
tending to obscure his higher attributes of wisdom, goodness, truth.

The system of Hegel frees the mind from the dominion of abstract ideas. We
acknowledge his originality, and some of us delight to wander in the mazes
of thought which he has opened to us. For Hegel has found admirers in
England and Scotland when his popularity in Germany has departed, and he,
like the philosophers whom he criticizes, is of the past. No other thinker
has ever dissected the human mind with equal patience and minuteness. He
has lightened the burden of thought because he has shown us that the chains
which we wear are of our own forging. To be able to place ourselves not
only above the opinions of men but above their modes of thinking, is a
great height of philosophy. This dearly obtained freedom, however, we are
not disposed to part with, or to allow him to build up in a new form the
'beggarly elements' of scholastic logic which he has thrown down. So far
as they are aids to reflection and expression, forms of thought are useful,
but no further:--we may easily have too many of them.

And when we are asked to believe the Hegelian to be the sole or universal
logic, we naturally reply that there are other ways in which our ideas may
be connected. The triplets of Hegel, the division into being, essence, and
notion, are not the only or necessary modes in which the world of thought
can be conceived. There may be an evolution by degrees as well as by
opposites. The word 'continuity' suggests the possibility of resolving all
differences into differences of quantity. Again, the opposites themselves
may vary from the least degree of diversity up to contradictory opposition.
They are not like numbers and figures, always and everywhere of the same
value. And therefore the edifice which is constructed out of them has
merely an imaginary symmetry, and is really irregular and out of
proportion. The spirit of Hegelian criticism should be applied to his own
system, and the terms Being, Not-being, existence, essence, notion, and the
like challenged and defined. For if Hegel introduces a great many
distinctions, he obliterates a great many others by the help of the
universal solvent 'is not,' which appears to be the simplest of negations,
and yet admits of several meanings. Neither are we able to follow him in
the play of metaphysical fancy which conducts him from one determination of
thought to another. But we begin to suspect that this vast system is not
God within us, or God immanent in the world, and may be only the invention
of an individual brain. The 'beyond' is always coming back upon us however
often we expel it. We do not easily believe that we have within the
compass of the mind the form of universal knowledge. We rather incline to
think that the method of knowledge is inseparable from actual knowledge,
and wait to see what new forms may be developed out of our increasing
experience and observation of man and nature. We are conscious of a Being
who is without us as well as within us. Even if inclined to Pantheism we
are unwilling to imagine that the meagre categories of the understanding,
however ingeniously arranged or displayed, are the image of God;--that what
all religions were seeking after from the beginning was the Hegelian
philosophy which has been revealed in the latter days. The great
metaphysician, like a prophet of old, was naturally inclined to believe
that his own thoughts were divine realities. We may almost say that
whatever came into his head seemed to him to be a necessary truth. He
never appears to have criticized himself, or to have subjected his own
ideas to the process of analysis which he applies to every other

Hegel would have insisted that his philosophy should be accepted as a whole
or not at all. He would have urged that the parts derived their meaning
from one another and from the whole. He thought that he had supplied an
outline large enough to contain all future knowledge, and a method to which
all future philosophies must conform. His metaphysical genius is
especially shown in the construction of the categories--a work which was
only begun by Kant, and elaborated to the utmost by himself. But is it
really true that the part has no meaning when separated from the whole, or
that knowledge to be knowledge at all must be universal? Do all
abstractions shine only by the reflected light of other abstractions? May
they not also find a nearer explanation in their relation to phenomena? If
many of them are correlatives they are not all so, and the relations which
subsist between them vary from a mere association up to a necessary
connexion. Nor is it easy to determine how far the unknown element affects
the known, whether, for example, new discoveries may not one day supersede
our most elementary notions about nature. To a certain extent all our
knowledge is conditional upon what may be known in future ages of the
world. We must admit this hypothetical element, which we cannot get rid of
by an assumption that we have already discovered the method to which all
philosophy must conform. Hegel is right in preferring the concrete to the
abstract, in setting actuality before possibility, in excluding from the
philosopher's vocabulary the word 'inconceivable.' But he is too well
satisfied with his own system ever to consider the effect of what is
unknown on the element which is known. To the Hegelian all things are
plain and clear, while he who is outside the charmed circle is in the mire
of ignorance and 'logical impurity': he who is within is omniscient, or at
least has all the elements of knowledge under his hand.

Hegelianism may be said to be a transcendental defence of the world as it
is. There is no room for aspiration and no need of any: 'What is actual
is rational, what is rational is actual.' But a good man will not readily
acquiesce in this aphorism. He knows of course that all things proceed
according to law whether for good or evil. But when he sees the misery and
ignorance of mankind he is convinced that without any interruption of the
uniformity of nature the condition of the world may be indefinitely
improved by human effort. There is also an adaptation of persons to times
and countries, but this is very far from being the fulfilment of their
higher natures. The man of the seventeenth century is unfitted for the
eighteenth, and the man of the eighteenth for the nineteenth, and most of
us would be out of place in the world of a hundred years hence. But all
higher minds are much more akin than they are different: genius is of all
ages, and there is perhaps more uniformity in excellence than in
mediocrity. The sublimer intelligences of mankind--Plato, Dante, Sir
Thomas More--meet in a higher sphere above the ordinary ways of men; they
understand one another from afar, notwithstanding the interval which
separates them. They are 'the spectators of all time and of all
existence;' their works live for ever; and there is nothing to prevent the
force of their individuality breaking through the uniformity which
surrounds them. But such disturbers of the order of thought Hegel is
reluctant to acknowledge.

The doctrine of Hegel will to many seem the expression of an indolent
conservatism, and will at any rate be made an excuse for it. The mind of
the patriot rebels when he is told that the worst tyranny and oppression
has a natural fitness: he cannot be persuaded, for example, that the
conquest of Prussia by Napoleon I. was either natural or necessary, or that
any similar calamity befalling a nation should be a matter of indifference
to the poet or philosopher. We may need such a philosophy or religion to
console us under evils which are irremediable, but we see that it is fatal
to the higher life of man. It seems to say to us, 'The world is a vast
system or machine which can be conceived under the forms of logic, but in
which no single man can do any great good or any great harm. Even if it
were a thousand times worse than it is, it could be arranged in categories
and explained by philosophers. And what more do we want?'

The philosophy of Hegel appeals to an historical criterion: the ideas of
men have a succession in time as well as an order of thought. But the
assumption that there is a correspondence between the succession of ideas
in history and the natural order of philosophy is hardly true even of the
beginnings of thought. And in later systems forms of thought are too
numerous and complex to admit of our tracing in them a regular succession.
They seem also to be in part reflections of the past, and it is difficult
to separate in them what is original and what is borrowed. Doubtless they
have a relation to one another--the transition from Descartes to Spinoza or
from Locke to Berkeley is not a matter of chance, but it can hardly be
described as an alternation of opposites or figured to the mind by the
vibrations of a pendulum. Even in Aristotle and Plato, rightly understood,
we cannot trace this law of action and reaction. They are both idealists,
although to the one the idea is actual and immanent,--to the other only
potential and transcendent, as Hegel himself has pointed out (Wallace's
Hegel). The true meaning of Aristotle has been disguised from us by his
own appeal to fact and the opinions of mankind in his more popular works,
and by the use made of his writings in the Middle Ages. No book, except
the Scriptures, has been so much read, and so little understood. The Pre-
Socratic philosophies are simpler, and we may observe a progress in them;
but is there any regular succession? The ideas of Being, change, number,
seem to have sprung up contemporaneously in different parts of Greece and
we have no difficulty in constructing them out of one another--we can see
that the union of Being and Not-being gave birth to the idea of change or
Becoming and that one might be another aspect of Being. Again, the
Eleatics may be regarded as developing in one direction into the Megarian
school, in the other into the Atomists, but there is no necessary connexion
between them. Nor is there any indication that the deficiency which was
felt in one school was supplemented or compensated by another. They were
all efforts to supply the want which the Greeks began to feel at the
beginning of the sixth century before Christ,--the want of abstract ideas.
Nor must we forget the uncertainty of chronology;--if, as Aristotle says,
there were Atomists before Leucippus, Eleatics before Xenophanes, and
perhaps 'patrons of the flux' before Heracleitus, Hegel's order of thought
in the history of philosophy would be as much disarranged as his order of
religious thought by recent discoveries in the history of religion.

Hegel is fond of repeating that all philosophies still live and that the
earlier are preserved in the later; they are refuted, and they are not
refuted, by those who succeed them. Once they reigned supreme, now they
are subordinated to a power or idea greater or more comprehensive than
their own. The thoughts of Socrates and Plato and Aristotle have certainly
sunk deep into the mind of the world, and have exercised an influence which
will never pass away; but can we say that they have the same meaning in
modern and ancient philosophy? Some of them, as for example the words
'Being,' 'essence,' 'matter,' 'form,' either have become obsolete, or are
used in new senses, whereas 'individual,' 'cause,' 'motive,' have acquired
an exaggerated importance. Is the manner in which the logical
determinations of thought, or 'categories' as they may be termed, have been
handed down to us, really different from that in which other words have
come down to us? Have they not been equally subject to accident, and are
they not often used by Hegel himself in senses which would have been quite
unintelligible to their original inventors--as for example, when he speaks
of the 'ground' of Leibnitz ('Everything has a sufficient ground') as
identical with his own doctrine of the 'notion' (Wallace's Hegel), or the
'Being and Not-being' of Heracleitus as the same with his own 'Becoming'?

As the historical order of thought has been adapted to the logical, so we
have reason for suspecting that the Hegelian logic has been in some degree
adapted to the order of thought in history. There is unfortunately no
criterion to which either of them can be subjected, and not much forcing
was required to bring either into near relations with the other. We may
fairly doubt whether the division of the first and second parts of logic in
the Hegelian system has not really arisen from a desire to make them accord
with the first and second stages of the early Greek philosophy. Is there
any reason why the conception of measure in the first part, which is formed
by the union of quality and quantity, should not have been equally placed
in the second division of mediate or reflected ideas? The more we analyze
them the less exact does the coincidence of philosophy and the history of
philosophy appear. Many terms which were used absolutely in the beginning
of philosophy, such as 'Being,' 'matter,' 'cause,' and the like, became
relative in the subsequent history of thought. But Hegel employs some of
them absolutely, some relatively, seemingly without any principle and
without any regard to their original significance.

The divisions of the Hegelian logic bear a superficial resemblance to the
divisions of the scholastic logic. The first part answers to the term, the
second to the proposition, the third to the syllogism. These are the
grades of thought under which we conceive the world, first, in the general
terms of quality, quantity, measure; secondly, under the relative forms of
'ground' and existence, substance and accidents, and the like; thirdly in
syllogistic forms of the individual mediated with the universal by the help
of the particular. Of syllogisms there are various kinds,--qualitative,
quantitative, inductive, mechanical, teleological,--which are developed out
of one another. But is there any meaning in reintroducing the forms of the
old logic? Who ever thinks of the world as a syllogism? What connexion is
there between the proposition and our ideas of reciprocity, cause and
effect, and similar relations? It is difficult enough to conceive all the
powers of nature and mind gathered up in one. The difficulty is greatly
increased when the new is confused with the old, and the common logic is
the Procrustes' bed into which they are forced.

The Hegelian philosophy claims, as we have seen, to be based upon
experience: it abrogates the distinction of a priori and a posteriori
truth. It also acknowledges that many differences of kind are resolvable
into differences of degree. It is familiar with the terms 'evolution,'
'development,' and the like. Yet it can hardly be said to have considered
the forms of thought which are best adapted for the expression of facts.
It has never applied the categories to experience; it has not defined the
differences in our ideas of opposition, or development, or cause and
effect, in the different sciences which make use of these terms. It rests
on a knowledge which is not the result of exact or serious enquiry, but is
floating in the air; the mind has been imperceptibly informed of some of
the methods required in the sciences. Hegel boasts that the movement of
dialectic is at once necessary and spontaneous: in reality it goes beyond
experience and is unverified by it. Further, the Hegelian philosophy,
while giving us the power of thinking a great deal more than we are able to
fill up, seems to be wanting in some determinations of thought which we
require. We cannot say that physical science, which at present occupies so
large a share of popular attention, has been made easier or more
intelligible by the distinctions of Hegel. Nor can we deny that he has
sometimes interpreted physics by metaphysics, and confused his own
philosophical fancies with the laws of nature. The very freedom of the
movement is not without suspicion, seeming to imply a state of the human
mind which has entirely lost sight of facts. Nor can the necessity which
is attributed to it be very stringent, seeing that the successive
categories or determinations of thought in different parts of his writings
are arranged by the philosopher in different ways. What is termed
necessary evolution seems to be only the order in which a succession of
ideas presented themselves to the mind of Hegel at a particular time.

The nomenclature of Hegel has been made by himself out of the language of
common life. He uses a few words only which are borrowed from his
predecessors, or from the Greek philosophy, and these generally in a sense
peculiar to himself. The first stage of his philosophy answers to the word
'is,' the second to the word 'has been,' the third to the words 'has been'
and 'is' combined. In other words, the first sphere is immediate, the
second mediated by reflection, the third or highest returns into the first,
and is both mediate and immediate. As Luther's Bible was written in the
language of the common people, so Hegel seems to have thought that he gave
his philosophy a truly German character by the use of idiomatic German
words. But it may be doubted whether the attempt has been successful.
First because such words as 'in sich seyn,' 'an sich seyn,' 'an und fur
sich seyn,' though the simplest combinations of nouns and verbs, require a
difficult and elaborate explanation. The simplicity of the words contrasts
with the hardness of their meaning. Secondly, the use of technical
phraseology necessarily separates philosophy from general literature; the
student has to learn a new language of uncertain meaning which he with
difficulty remembers. No former philosopher had ever carried the use of
technical terms to the same extent as Hegel. The language of Plato or even
of Aristotle is but slightly removed from that of common life, and was
introduced naturally by a series of thinkers: the language of the
scholastic logic has become technical to us, but in the Middle Ages was the
vernacular Latin of priests and students. The higher spirit of philosophy,
the spirit of Plato and Socrates, rebels against the Hegelian use of
language as mechanical and technical.

Hegel is fond of etymologies and often seems to trifle with words. He
gives etymologies which are bad, and never considers that the meaning of a
word may have nothing to do with its derivation. He lived before the days
of Comparative Philology or of Comparative Mythology and Religion, which
would have opened a new world to him. He makes no allowance for the
element of chance either in language or thought; and perhaps there is no
greater defect in his system than the want of a sound theory of language.
He speaks as if thought, instead of being identical with language, was
wholly independent of it. It is not the actual growth of the mind, but the
imaginary growth of the Hegelian system, which is attractive to him.

Neither are we able to say why of the common forms of thought some are
rejected by him, while others have an undue prominence given to them. Some
of them, such as 'ground' and 'existence,' have hardly any basis either in
language or philosophy, while others, such as 'cause' and 'effect,' are but
slightly considered. All abstractions are supposed by Hegel to derive
their meaning from one another. This is true of some, but not of all, and
in different degrees. There is an explanation of abstractions by the
phenomena which they represent, as well as by their relation to other
abstractions. If the knowledge of all were necessary to the knowledge of
any one of them, the mind would sink under the load of thought. Again, in
every process of reflection we seem to require a standing ground, and in
the attempt to obtain a complete analysis we lose all fixedness. If, for
example, the mind is viewed as the complex of ideas, or the difference
between things and persons denied, such an analysis may be justified from
the point of view of Hegel: but we shall find that in the attempt to
criticize thought we have lost the power of thinking, and, like the
Heracliteans of old, have no words in which our meaning can be expressed.
Such an analysis may be of value as a corrective of popular language or
thought, but should still allow us to retain the fundamental distinctions
of philosophy.

In the Hegelian system ideas supersede persons. The world of thought,
though sometimes described as Spirit or 'Geist,' is really impersonal. The
minds of men are to be regarded as one mind, or more correctly as a
succession of ideas. Any comprehensive view of the world must necessarily
be general, and there may be a use with a view to comprehensiveness in
dropping individuals and their lives and actions. In all things, if we
leave out details, a certain degree of order begins to appear; at any rate
we can make an order which, with a little exaggeration or disproportion in
some of the parts, will cover the whole field of philosophy. But are we
therefore justified in saying that ideas are the causes of the great
movement of the world rather than the personalities which conceived them?
The great man is the expression of his time, and there may be peculiar
difficulties in his age which he cannot overcome. He may be out of harmony
with his circumstances, too early or too late, and then all his thoughts
perish; his genius passes away unknown. But not therefore is he to be
regarded as a mere waif or stray in human history, any more than he is the
mere creature or expression of the age in which he lives. His ideas are
inseparable from himself, and would have been nothing without him. Through
a thousand personal influences they have been brought home to the minds of
others. He starts from antecedents, but he is great in proportion as he
disengages himself from them or absorbs himself in them. Moreover the
types of greatness differ; while one man is the expression of the
influences of his age, another is in antagonism to them. One man is borne
on the surface of the water; another is carried forward by the current
which flows beneath. The character of an individual, whether he be
independent of circumstances or not, inspires others quite as much as his
words. What is the teaching of Socrates apart from his personal history,
or the doctrines of Christ apart from the Divine life in which they are
embodied? Has not Hegel himself delineated the greatness of the life of
Christ as consisting in his 'Schicksalslosigkeit' or independence of the
destiny of his race? Do not persons become ideas, and is there any
distinction between them? Take away the five greatest legislators, the
five greatest warriors, the five greatest poets, the five greatest founders
or teachers of a religion, the five greatest philosophers, the five
greatest inventors,--where would have been all that we most value in
knowledge or in life? And can that be a true theory of the history of
philosophy which, in Hegel's own language, 'does not allow the individual
to have his right'?

Once more, while we readily admit that the world is relative to the mind,
and the mind to the world, and that we must suppose a common or correlative
growth in them, we shrink from saying that this complex nature can contain,
even in outline, all the endless forms of Being and knowledge. Are we not
'seeking the living among the dead' and dignifying a mere logical skeleton
with the name of philosophy and almost of God? When we look far away into
the primeval sources of thought and belief, do we suppose that the mere
accident of our being the heirs of the Greek philosophers can give us a
right to set ourselves up as having the true and only standard of reason in
the world? Or when we contemplate the infinite worlds in the expanse of
heaven can we imagine that a few meagre categories derived from language
and invented by the genius of one or two great thinkers contain the secret
of the universe? Or, having regard to the ages during which the human race
may yet endure, do we suppose that we can anticipate the proportions human
knowledge may attain even within the short space of one or two thousand

Again, we have a difficulty in understanding how ideas can be causes, which
to us seems to be as much a figure of speech as the old notion of a creator
artist, 'who makes the world by the help of the demigods' (Plato, Tim.), or
with 'a golden pair of compasses' measures out the circumference of the
universe (Milton, P.L.). We can understand how the idea in the mind of an
inventor is the cause of the work which is produced by it; and we can dimly
imagine how this universal frame may be animated by a divine intelligence.
But we cannot conceive how all the thoughts of men that ever were, which
are themselves subject to so many external conditions of climate, country,
and the like, even if regarded as the single thought of a Divine Being, can
be supposed to have made the world. We appear to be only wrapping up
ourselves in our own conceits--to be confusing cause and effect--to be
losing the distinction between reflection and action, between the human and

These are some of the doubts and suspicions which arise in the mind of a
student of Hegel, when, after living for a time within the charmed circle,
he removes to a little distance and looks back upon what he has learnt,
from the vantage-ground of history and experience. The enthusiasm of his
youth has passed away, the authority of the master no longer retains a hold
upon him. But he does not regret the time spent in the study of him. He
finds that he has received from him a real enlargement of mind, and much of
the true spirit of philosophy, even when he has ceased to believe in him.
He returns again and again to his writings as to the recollections of a
first love, not undeserving of his admiration still. Perhaps if he were
asked how he can admire without believing, or what value he can attribute
to what he knows to be erroneous, he might answer in some such manner as
the following:--

1. That in Hegel he finds glimpses of the genius of the poet and of the
common sense of the man of the world. His system is not cast in a poetic
form, but neither has all this load of logic extinguished in him the
feeling of poetry. He is the true countryman of his contemporaries Goethe
and Schiller. Many fine expressions are scattered up and down in his
writings, as when he tells us that 'the Crusaders went to the Sepulchre but
found it empty.' He delights to find vestiges of his own philosophy in the
older German mystics. And though he can be scarcely said to have mixed
much in the affairs of men, for, as his biographer tells us, 'he lived for
thirty years in a single room,' yet he is far from being ignorant of the
world. No one can read his writings without acquiring an insight into
life. He loves to touch with the spear of logic the follies and self-
deceptions of mankind, and make them appear in their natural form, stripped
of the disguises of language and custom. He will not allow men to defend
themselves by an appeal to one-sided or abstract principles. In this age
of reason any one can too easily find a reason for doing what he likes
(Wallace). He is suspicious of a distinction which is often made between a
person's character and his conduct. His spirit is the opposite of that of
Jesuitism or casuistry (Wallace). He affords an example of a remark which
has been often made, that in order to know the world it is not necessary to
have had a great experience of it.

2. Hegel, if not the greatest philosopher, is certainly the greatest
critic of philosophy who ever lived. No one else has equally mastered the

Book of the day: