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The Republic by Plato, translated by B. Jowett

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1. Plato expressly says that he is intending to found an Hellenic State
(Book V). Many of his regulations are characteristically Spartan; such as
the prohibition of gold and silver, the common meals of the men, the
military training of the youth, the gymnastic exercises of the women. The
life of Sparta was the life of a camp (Laws), enforced even more rigidly in
time of peace than in war; the citizens of Sparta, like Plato's, were
forbidden to trade--they were to be soldiers and not shopkeepers. Nowhere
else in Greece was the individual so completely subjected to the State; the
time when he was to marry, the education of his children, the clothes which
he was to wear, the food which he was to eat, were all prescribed by law.
Some of the best enactments in the Republic, such as the reverence to be
paid to parents and elders, and some of the worst, such as the exposure of
deformed children, are borrowed from the practice of Sparta. The
encouragement of friendships between men and youths, or of men with one
another, as affording incentives to bravery, is also Spartan; in Sparta too
a nearer approach was made than in any other Greek State to equality of the
sexes, and to community of property; and while there was probably less of
licentiousness in the sense of immorality, the tie of marriage was regarded
more lightly than in the rest of Greece. The 'suprema lex' was the
preservation of the family, and the interest of the State. The coarse
strength of a military government was not favourable to purity and
refinement; and the excessive strictness of some regulations seems to have
produced a reaction. Of all Hellenes the Spartans were most accessible to
bribery; several of the greatest of them might be described in the words of
Plato as having a 'fierce secret longing after gold and silver.' Though
not in the strict sense communists, the principle of communism was
maintained among them in their division of lands, in their common meals, in
their slaves, and in the free use of one another's goods. Marriage was a
public institution: and the women were educated by the State, and sang and
danced in public with the men.

Many traditions were preserved at Sparta of the severity with which the
magistrates had maintained the primitive rule of music and poetry; as in
the Republic of Plato, the new-fangled poet was to be expelled. Hymns to
the Gods, which are the only kind of music admitted into the ideal State,
were the only kind which was permitted at Sparta. The Spartans, though an
unpoetical race, were nevertheless lovers of poetry; they had been stirred
by the Elegiac strains of Tyrtaeus, they had crowded around Hippias to hear
his recitals of Homer; but in this they resembled the citizens of the
timocratic rather than of the ideal State. The council of elder men also
corresponds to the Spartan gerousia; and the freedom with which they are
permitted to judge about matters of detail agrees with what we are told of
that institution. Once more, the military rule of not spoiling the dead or
offering arms at the temples; the moderation in the pursuit of enemies; the
importance attached to the physical well-being of the citizens; the use of
warfare for the sake of defence rather than of aggression--are features
probably suggested by the spirit and practice of Sparta.

To the Spartan type the ideal State reverts in the first decline; and the
character of the individual timocrat is borrowed from the Spartan citizen.
The love of Lacedaemon not only affected Plato and Xenophon, but was shared
by many undistinguished Athenians; there they seemed to find a principle
which was wanting in their own democracy. The (Greek) of the Spartans
attracted them, that is to say, not the goodness of their laws, but the
spirit of order and loyalty which prevailed. Fascinated by the idea,
citizens of Athens would imitate the Lacedaemonians in their dress and
manners; they were known to the contemporaries of Plato as 'the persons who
had their ears bruised,' like the Roundheads of the Commonwealth. The love
of another church or country when seen at a distance only, the longing for
an imaginary simplicity in civilized times, the fond desire of a past which
never has been, or of a future which never will be,--these are aspirations
of the human mind which are often felt among ourselves. Such feelings meet
with a response in the Republic of Plato.

But there are other features of the Platonic Republic, as, for example, the
literary and philosophical education, and the grace and beauty of life,
which are the reverse of Spartan. Plato wishes to give his citizens a
taste of Athenian freedom as well as of Lacedaemonian discipline. His
individual genius is purely Athenian, although in theory he is a lover of
Sparta; and he is something more than either--he has also a true Hellenic
feeling. He is desirous of humanizing the wars of Hellenes against one
another; he acknowledges that the Delphian God is the grand hereditary
interpreter of all Hellas. The spirit of harmony and the Dorian mode are
to prevail, and the whole State is to have an external beauty which is the
reflex of the harmony within. But he has not yet found out the truth which
he afterwards enunciated in the Laws--that he was a better legislator who
made men to be of one mind, than he who trained them for war. The
citizens, as in other Hellenic States, democratic as well as aristocratic,
are really an upper class; for, although no mention is made of slaves, the
lower classes are allowed to fade away into the distance, and are
represented in the individual by the passions. Plato has no idea either of
a social State in which all classes are harmonized, or of a federation of
Hellas or the world in which different nations or States have a place. His
city is equipped for war rather than for peace, and this would seem to be
justified by the ordinary condition of Hellenic States. The myth of the
earth-born men is an embodiment of the orthodox tradition of Hellas, and
the allusion to the four ages of the world is also sanctioned by the
authority of Hesiod and the poets. Thus we see that the Republic is partly
founded on the ideal of the old Greek polis, partly on the actual
circumstances of Hellas in that age. Plato, like the old painters, retains
the traditional form, and like them he has also a vision of a city in the

There is yet another thread which is interwoven in the texture of the work;
for the Republic is not only a Dorian State, but a Pythagorean league. The
'way of life' which was connected with the name of Pythagoras, like the
Catholic monastic orders, showed the power which the mind of an individual
might exercise over his contemporaries, and may have naturally suggested to
Plato the possibility of reviving such 'mediaeval institutions.' The
Pythagoreans, like Plato, enforced a rule of life and a moral and
intellectual training. The influence ascribed to music, which to us seems
exaggerated, is also a Pythagorean feature; it is not to be regarded as
representing the real influence of music in the Greek world. More nearly
than any other government of Hellas, the Pythagorean league of three
hundred was an aristocracy of virtue. For once in the history of mankind
the philosophy of order or (Greek), expressing and consequently enlisting
on its side the combined endeavours of the better part of the people,
obtained the management of public affairs and held possession of it for a
considerable time (until about B.C. 500). Probably only in States prepared
by Dorian institutions would such a league have been possible. The rulers,
like Plato's (Greek), were required to submit to a severe training in order
to prepare the way for the education of the other members of the community.
Long after the dissolution of the Order, eminent Pythagoreans, such as
Archytas of Tarentum, retained their political influence over the cities of
Magna Graecia. There was much here that was suggestive to the kindred
spirit of Plato, who had doubtless meditated deeply on the 'way of life of
Pythagoras' (Rep.) and his followers. Slight traces of Pythagoreanism are
to be found in the mystical number of the State, in the number which
expresses the interval between the king and the tyrant, in the doctrine of
transmigration, in the music of the spheres, as well as in the great though
secondary importance ascribed to mathematics in education.

But as in his philosophy, so also in the form of his State, he goes far
beyond the old Pythagoreans. He attempts a task really impossible, which
is to unite the past of Greek history with the future of philosophy,
analogous to that other impossibility, which has often been the dream of
Christendom, the attempt to unite the past history of Europe with the
kingdom of Christ. Nothing actually existing in the world at all resembles
Plato's ideal State; nor does he himself imagine that such a State is
possible. This he repeats again and again; e.g. in the Republic, or in the
Laws where, casting a glance back on the Republic, he admits that the
perfect state of communism and philosophy was impossible in his own age,
though still to be retained as a pattern. The same doubt is implied in the
earnestness with which he argues in the Republic that ideals are none the
worse because they cannot be realized in fact, and in the chorus of
laughter, which like a breaking wave will, as he anticipates, greet the
mention of his proposals; though like other writers of fiction, he uses all
his art to give reality to his inventions. When asked how the ideal polity
can come into being, he answers ironically, 'When one son of a king becomes
a philosopher'; he designates the fiction of the earth-born men as 'a noble
lie'; and when the structure is finally complete, he fairly tells you that
his Republic is a vision only, which in some sense may have reality, but
not in the vulgar one of a reign of philosophers upon earth. It has been
said that Plato flies as well as walks, but this falls short of the truth;
for he flies and walks at the same time, and is in the air and on firm
ground in successive instants.

Niebuhr has asked a trifling question, which may be briefly noticed in this
place--Was Plato a good citizen? If by this is meant, Was he loyal to
Athenian institutions?--he can hardly be said to be the friend of
democracy: but neither is he the friend of any other existing form of
government; all of them he regarded as 'states of faction' (Laws); none
attained to his ideal of a voluntary rule over voluntary subjects, which
seems indeed more nearly to describe democracy than any other; and the
worst of them is tyranny. The truth is, that the question has hardly any
meaning when applied to a great philosopher whose writings are not meant
for a particular age and country, but for all time and all mankind. The
decline of Athenian politics was probably the motive which led Plato to
frame an ideal State, and the Republic may be regarded as reflecting the
departing glory of Hellas. As well might we complain of St. Augustine,
whose great work 'The City of God' originated in a similar motive, for not
being loyal to the Roman Empire. Even a nearer parallel might be afforded
by the first Christians, who cannot fairly be charged with being bad
citizens because, though 'subject to the higher powers,' they were looking
forward to a city which is in heaven.

2. The idea of the perfect State is full of paradox when judged of
according to the ordinary notions of mankind. The paradoxes of one age
have been said to become the commonplaces of the next; but the paradoxes of
Plato are at least as paradoxical to us as they were to his contemporaries.
The modern world has either sneered at them as absurd, or denounced them as
unnatural and immoral; men have been pleased to find in Aristotle's
criticisms of them the anticipation of their own good sense. The wealthy
and cultivated classes have disliked and also dreaded them; they have
pointed with satisfaction to the failure of efforts to realize them in
practice. Yet since they are the thoughts of one of the greatest of human
intelligences, and of one who had done most to elevate morality and
religion, they seem to deserve a better treatment at our hands. We may
have to address the public, as Plato does poetry, and assure them that we
mean no harm to existing institutions. There are serious errors which have
a side of truth and which therefore may fairly demand a careful
consideration: there are truths mixed with error of which we may indeed
say, 'The half is better than the whole.' Yet 'the half' may be an
important contribution to the study of human nature.

(a) The first paradox is the community of goods, which is mentioned
slightly at the end of the third Book, and seemingly, as Aristotle
observes, is confined to the guardians; at least no mention is made of the
other classes. But the omission is not of any real significance, and
probably arises out of the plan of the work, which prevents the writer from
entering into details.

Aristotle censures the community of property much in the spirit of modern
political economy, as tending to repress industry, and as doing away with
the spirit of benevolence. Modern writers almost refuse to consider the
subject, which is supposed to have been long ago settled by the common
opinion of mankind. But it must be remembered that the sacredness of
property is a notion far more fixed in modern than in ancient times. The
world has grown older, and is therefore more conservative. Primitive
society offered many examples of land held in common, either by a tribe or
by a township, and such may probably have been the original form of landed
tenure. Ancient legislators had invented various modes of dividing and
preserving the divisions of land among the citizens; according to Aristotle
there were nations who held the land in common and divided the produce, and
there were others who divided the land and stored the produce in common.
The evils of debt and the inequality of property were far greater in
ancient than in modern times, and the accidents to which property was
subject from war, or revolution, or taxation, or other legislative
interference, were also greater. All these circumstances gave property a
less fixed and sacred character. The early Christians are believed to have
held their property in common, and the principle is sanctioned by the words
of Christ himself, and has been maintained as a counsel of perfection in
almost all ages of the Church. Nor have there been wanting instances of
modern enthusiasts who have made a religion of communism; in every age of
religious excitement notions like Wycliffe's 'inheritance of grace' have
tended to prevail. A like spirit, but fiercer and more violent, has
appeared in politics. 'The preparation of the Gospel of peace' soon
becomes the red flag of Republicanism.

We can hardly judge what effect Plato's views would have upon his own
contemporaries; they would perhaps have seemed to them only an exaggeration
of the Spartan commonwealth. Even modern writers would acknowledge that
the right of private property is based on expediency, and may be interfered
with in a variety of ways for the public good. Any other mode of vesting
property which was found to be more advantageous, would in time acquire the
same basis of right; 'the most useful,' in Plato's words, 'would be the
most sacred.' The lawyers and ecclesiastics of former ages would have
spoken of property as a sacred institution. But they only meant by such
language to oppose the greatest amount of resistance to any invasion of the
rights of individuals and of the Church.

When we consider the question, without any fear of immediate application to
practice, in the spirit of Plato's Republic, are we quite sure that the
received notions of property are the best? Is the distribution of wealth
which is customary in civilized countries the most favourable that can be
conceived for the education and development of the mass of mankind? Can
'the spectator of all time and all existence' be quite convinced that one
or two thousand years hence, great changes will not have taken place in the
rights of property, or even that the very notion of property, beyond what
is necessary for personal maintenance, may not have disappeared? This was
a distinction familiar to Aristotle, though likely to be laughed at among
ourselves. Such a change would not be greater than some other changes
through which the world has passed in the transition from ancient to modern
society, for example, the emancipation of the serfs in Russia, or the
abolition of slavery in America and the West Indies; and not so great as
the difference which separates the Eastern village community from the
Western world. To accomplish such a revolution in the course of a few
centuries, would imply a rate of progress not more rapid than has actually
taken place during the last fifty or sixty years. The kingdom of Japan
underwent more change in five or six years than Europe in five or six
hundred. Many opinions and beliefs which have been cherished among
ourselves quite as strongly as the sacredness of property have passed away;
and the most untenable propositions respecting the right of bequests or
entail have been maintained with as much fervour as the most moderate.
Some one will be heard to ask whether a state of society can be final in
which the interests of thousands are perilled on the life or character of a
single person. And many will indulge the hope that our present condition
may, after all, be only transitional, and may conduct to a higher, in which
property, besides ministering to the enjoyment of the few, may also furnish
the means of the highest culture to all, and will be a greater benefit to
the public generally, and also more under the control of public authority.
There may come a time when the saying, 'Have I not a right to do what I
will with my own?' will appear to be a barbarous relic of individualism;--
when the possession of a part may be a greater blessing to each and all
than the possession of the whole is now to any one.

Such reflections appear visionary to the eye of the practical statesman,
but they are within the range of possibility to the philosopher. He can
imagine that in some distant age or clime, and through the influence of
some individual, the notion of common property may or might have sunk as
deep into the heart of a race, and have become as fixed to them, as private
property is to ourselves. He knows that this latter institution is not
more than four or five thousand years old: may not the end revert to the
beginning? In our own age even Utopias affect the spirit of legislation,
and an abstract idea may exercise a great influence on practical politics.

The objections that would be generally urged against Plato's community of
property, are the old ones of Aristotle, that motives for exertion would be
taken away, and that disputes would arise when each was dependent upon all.
Every man would produce as little and consume as much as he liked. The
experience of civilized nations has hitherto been adverse to Socialism.
The effort is too great for human nature; men try to live in common, but
the personal feeling is always breaking in. On the other hand it may be
doubted whether our present notions of property are not conventional, for
they differ in different countries and in different states of society. We
boast of an individualism which is not freedom, but rather an artificial
result of the industrial state of modern Europe. The individual is
nominally free, but he is also powerless in a world bound hand and foot in
the chains of economic necessity. Even if we cannot expect the mass of
mankind to become disinterested, at any rate we observe in them a power of
organization which fifty years ago would never have been suspected. The
same forces which have revolutionized the political system of Europe, may
effect a similar change in the social and industrial relations of mankind.
And if we suppose the influence of some good as well as neutral motives
working in the community, there will be no absurdity in expecting that the
mass of mankind having power, and becoming enlightened about the higher
possibilities of human life, when they learn how much more is attainable
for all than is at present the possession of a favoured few, may pursue the
common interest with an intelligence and persistency which mankind have
hitherto never seen.

Now that the world has once been set in motion, and is no longer held fast
under the tyranny of custom and ignorance; now that criticism has pierced
the veil of tradition and the past no longer overpowers the present,--the
progress of civilization may be expected to be far greater and swifter than
heretofore. Even at our present rate of speed the point at which we may
arrive in two or three generations is beyond the power of imagination to
foresee. There are forces in the world which work, not in an arithmetical,
but in a geometrical ratio of increase. Education, to use the expression
of Plato, moves like a wheel with an ever-multiplying rapidity. Nor can we
say how great may be its influence, when it becomes universal,--when it has
been inherited by many generations,--when it is freed from the trammels of
superstition and rightly adapted to the wants and capacities of different
classes of men and women. Neither do we know how much more the co-
operation of minds or of hands may be capable of accomplishing, whether in
labour or in study. The resources of the natural sciences are not half-
developed as yet; the soil of the earth, instead of growing more barren,
may become many times more fertile than hitherto; the uses of machinery far
greater, and also more minute than at present. New secrets of physiology
may be revealed, deeply affecting human nature in its innermost recesses.
The standard of health may be raised and the lives of men prolonged by
sanitary and medical knowledge. There may be peace, there may be leisure,
there may be innocent refreshments of many kinds. The ever-increasing
power of locomotion may join the extremes of earth. There may be
mysterious workings of the human mind, such as occur only at great crises
of history. The East and the West may meet together, and all nations may
contribute their thoughts and their experience to the common stock of
humanity. Many other elements enter into a speculation of this kind. But
it is better to make an end of them. For such reflections appear to the
majority far-fetched, and to men of science, commonplace.

(b) Neither to the mind of Plato nor of Aristotle did the doctrine of
community of property present at all the same difficulty, or appear to be
the same violation of the common Hellenic sentiment, as the community of
wives and children. This paradox he prefaces by another proposal, that the
occupations of men and women shall be the same, and that to this end they
shall have a common training and education. Male and female animals have
the same pursuits--why not also the two sexes of man?

But have we not here fallen into a contradiction? for we were saying that
different natures should have different pursuits. How then can men and
women have the same? And is not the proposal inconsistent with our notion
of the division of labour?--These objections are no sooner raised than
answered; for, according to Plato, there is no organic difference between
men and women, but only the accidental one that men beget and women bear
children. Following the analogy of the other animals, he contends that all
natural gifts are scattered about indifferently among both sexes, though
there may be a superiority of degree on the part of the men. The objection
on the score of decency to their taking part in the same gymnastic
exercises, is met by Plato's assertion that the existing feeling is a
matter of habit.

That Plato should have emancipated himself from the ideas of his own
country and from the example of the East, shows a wonderful independence of
mind. He is conscious that women are half the human race, in some respects
the more important half (Laws); and for the sake both of men and women he
desires to raise the woman to a higher level of existence. He brings, not
sentiment, but philosophy to bear upon a question which both in ancient and
modern times has been chiefly regarded in the light of custom or feeling.
The Greeks had noble conceptions of womanhood in the goddesses Athene and
Artemis, and in the heroines Antigone and Andromache. But these ideals had
no counterpart in actual life. The Athenian woman was in no way the equal
of her husband; she was not the entertainer of his guests or the mistress
of his house, but only his housekeeper and the mother of his children. She
took no part in military or political matters; nor is there any instance in
the later ages of Greece of a woman becoming famous in literature. 'Hers
is the greatest glory who has the least renown among men,' is the
historian's conception of feminine excellence. A very different ideal of
womanhood is held up by Plato to the world; she is to be the companion of
the man, and to share with him in the toils of war and in the cares of
government. She is to be similarly trained both in bodily and mental
exercises. She is to lose as far as possible the incidents of maternity
and the characteristics of the female sex.

The modern antagonist of the equality of the sexes would argue that the
differences between men and women are not confined to the single point
urged by Plato; that sensibility, gentleness, grace, are the qualities of
women, while energy, strength, higher intelligence, are to be looked for in
men. And the criticism is just: the differences affect the whole nature,
and are not, as Plato supposes, confined to a single point. But neither
can we say how far these differences are due to education and the opinions
of mankind, or physically inherited from the habits and opinions of former
generations. Women have been always taught, not exactly that they are
slaves, but that they are in an inferior position, which is also supposed
to have compensating advantages; and to this position they have conformed.
It is also true that the physical form may easily change in the course of
generations through the mode of life; and the weakness or delicacy, which
was once a matter of opinion, may become a physical fact. The
characteristics of sex vary greatly in different countries and ranks of
society, and at different ages in the same individuals. Plato may have
been right in denying that there was any ultimate difference in the sexes
of man other than that which exists in animals, because all other
differences may be conceived to disappear in other states of society, or
under different circumstances of life and training.

The first wave having been passed, we proceed to the second--community of
wives and children. 'Is it possible? Is it desirable?' For as Glaucon
intimates, and as we far more strongly insist, 'Great doubts may be
entertained about both these points.' Any free discussion of the question
is impossible, and mankind are perhaps right in not allowing the ultimate
bases of social life to be examined. Few of us can safely enquire into the
things which nature hides, any more than we can dissect our own bodies.
Still, the manner in which Plato arrived at his conclusions should be
considered. For here, as Mr. Grote has remarked, is a wonderful thing,
that one of the wisest and best of men should have entertained ideas of
morality which are wholly at variance with our own. And if we would do
Plato justice, we must examine carefully the character of his proposals.
First, we may observe that the relations of the sexes supposed by him are
the reverse of licentious: he seems rather to aim at an impossible
strictness. Secondly, he conceives the family to be the natural enemy of
the state; and he entertains the serious hope that an universal brotherhood
may take the place of private interests--an aspiration which, although not
justified by experience, has possessed many noble minds. On the other
hand, there is no sentiment or imagination in the connections which men and
women are supposed by him to form; human beings return to the level of the
animals, neither exalting to heaven, nor yet abusing the natural instincts.
All that world of poetry and fancy which the passion of love has called
forth in modern literature and romance would have been banished by Plato.
The arrangements of marriage in the Republic are directed to one object--
the improvement of the race. In successive generations a great development
both of bodily and mental qualities might be possible. The analogy of
animals tends to show that mankind can within certain limits receive a
change of nature. And as in animals we should commonly choose the best for
breeding, and destroy the others, so there must be a selection made of the
human beings whose lives are worthy to be preserved.

We start back horrified from this Platonic ideal, in the belief, first,
that the higher feelings of humanity are far too strong to be crushed out;
secondly, that if the plan could be carried into execution we should be
poorly recompensed by improvements in the breed for the loss of the best
things in life. The greatest regard for the weakest and meanest of human
beings--the infant, the criminal, the insane, the idiot, truly seems to us
one of the noblest results of Christianity. We have learned, though as yet
imperfectly, that the individual man has an endless value in the sight of
God, and that we honour Him when we honour the darkened and disfigured
image of Him (Laws). This is the lesson which Christ taught in a parable
when He said, 'Their angels do always behold the face of My Father which is
in heaven.' Such lessons are only partially realized in any age; they were
foreign to the age of Plato, as they have very different degrees of
strength in different countries or ages of the Christian world. To the
Greek the family was a religious and customary institution binding the
members together by a tie inferior in strength to that of friendship, and
having a less solemn and sacred sound than that of country. The
relationship which existed on the lower level of custom, Plato imagined
that he was raising to the higher level of nature and reason; while from
the modern and Christian point of view we regard him as sanctioning murder
and destroying the first principles of morality.

The great error in these and similar speculations is that the difference
between man and the animals is forgotten in them. The human being is
regarded with the eye of a dog- or bird-fancier, or at best of a slave-
owner; the higher or human qualities are left out. The breeder of animals
aims chiefly at size or speed or strength; in a few cases at courage or
temper; most often the fitness of the animal for food is the great
desideratum. But mankind are not bred to be eaten, nor yet for their
superiority in fighting or in running or in drawing carts. Neither does
the improvement of the human race consist merely in the increase of the
bones and flesh, but in the growth and enlightenment of the mind. Hence
there must be 'a marriage of true minds' as well as of bodies, of
imagination and reason as well as of lusts and instincts. Men and women
without feeling or imagination are justly called brutes; yet Plato takes
away these qualities and puts nothing in their place, not even the desire
of a noble offspring, since parents are not to know their own children.
The most important transaction of social life, he who is the idealist
philosopher converts into the most brutal. For the pair are to have no
relation to one another, except at the hymeneal festival; their children
are not theirs, but the state's; nor is any tie of affection to unite them.
Yet here the analogy of the animals might have saved Plato from a gigantic
error, if he had 'not lost sight of his own illustration.' For the 'nobler
sort of birds and beasts' nourish and protect their offspring and are
faithful to one another.

An eminent physiologist thinks it worth while 'to try and place life on a
physical basis.' But should not life rest on the moral rather than upon
the physical? The higher comes first, then the lower, first the human and
rational, afterwards the animal. Yet they are not absolutely divided; and
in times of sickness or moments of self-indulgence they seem to be only
different aspects of a common human nature which includes them both.
Neither is the moral the limit of the physical, but the expansion and
enlargement of it,--the highest form which the physical is capable of
receiving. As Plato would say, the body does not take care of the body,
and still less of the mind, but the mind takes care of both. In all human
action not that which is common to man and the animals is the
characteristic element, but that which distinguishes him from them. Even
if we admit the physical basis, and resolve all virtue into health of body
'la facon que notre sang circule,' still on merely physical grounds we must
come back to ideas. Mind and reason and duty and conscience, under these
or other names, are always reappearing. There cannot be health of body
without health of mind; nor health of mind without the sense of duty and
the love of truth (Charm).

That the greatest of ancient philosophers should in his regulations about
marriage have fallen into the error of separating body and mind, does
indeed appear surprising. Yet the wonder is not so much that Plato should
have entertained ideas of morality which to our own age are revolting, but
that he should have contradicted himself to an extent which is hardly
credible, falling in an instant from the heaven of idealism into the
crudest animalism. Rejoicing in the newly found gift of reflection, he
appears to have thought out a subject about which he had better have
followed the enlightened feeling of his own age. The general sentiment of
Hellas was opposed to his monstrous fancy. The old poets, and in later
time the tragedians, showed no want of respect for the family, on which
much of their religion was based. But the example of Sparta, and perhaps
in some degree the tendency to defy public opinion, seems to have misled
him. He will make one family out of all the families of the state. He
will select the finest specimens of men and women and breed from these

Yet because the illusion is always returning (for the animal part of human
nature will from time to time assert itself in the disguise of philosophy
as well as of poetry), and also because any departure from established
morality, even where this is not intended, is apt to be unsettling, it may
be worth while to draw out a little more at length the objections to the
Platonic marriage. In the first place, history shows that wherever
polygamy has been largely allowed the race has deteriorated. One man to
one woman is the law of God and nature. Nearly all the civilized peoples
of the world at some period before the age of written records, have become
monogamists; and the step when once taken has never been retraced. The
exceptions occurring among Brahmins or Mahometans or the ancient Persians,
are of that sort which may be said to prove the rule. The connexions
formed between superior and inferior races hardly ever produce a noble
offspring, because they are licentious; and because the children in such
cases usually despise the mother and are neglected by the father who is
ashamed of them. Barbarous nations when they are introduced by Europeans
to vice die out; polygamist peoples either import and adopt children from
other countries, or dwindle in numbers, or both. Dynasties and
aristocracies which have disregarded the laws of nature have decreased in
numbers and degenerated in stature; 'mariages de convenance' leave their
enfeebling stamp on the offspring of them (King Lear). The marriage of
near relations, or the marrying in and in of the same family tends
constantly to weakness or idiocy in the children, sometimes assuming the
form as they grow older of passionate licentiousness. The common
prostitute rarely has any offspring. By such unmistakable evidence is the
authority of morality asserted in the relations of the sexes: and so many
more elements enter into this 'mystery' than are dreamed of by Plato and
some other philosophers.

Recent enquirers have indeed arrived at the conclusion that among primitive
tribes there existed a community of wives as of property, and that the
captive taken by the spear was the only wife or slave whom any man was
permitted to call his own. The partial existence of such customs among
some of the lower races of man, and the survival of peculiar ceremonies in
the marriages of some civilized nations, are thought to furnish a proof of
similar institutions having been once universal. There can be no question
that the study of anthropology has considerably changed our views
respecting the first appearance of man upon the earth. We know more about
the aborigines of the world than formerly, but our increasing knowledge
shows above all things how little we know. With all the helps which
written monuments afford, we do but faintly realize the condition of man
two thousand or three thousand years ago. Of what his condition was when
removed to a distance 200,000 or 300,000 years, when the majority of
mankind were lower and nearer the animals than any tribe now existing upon
the earth, we cannot even entertain conjecture. Plato (Laws) and Aristotle
(Metaph.) may have been more right than we imagine in supposing that some
forms of civilisation were discovered and lost several times over. If we
cannot argue that all barbarism is a degraded civilization, neither can we
set any limits to the depth of degradation to which the human race may sink
through war, disease, or isolation. And if we are to draw inferences about
the origin of marriage from the practice of barbarous nations, we should
also consider the remoter analogy of the animals. Many birds and animals,
especially the carnivorous, have only one mate, and the love and care of
offspring which seems to be natural is inconsistent with the primitive
theory of marriage. If we go back to an imaginary state in which men were
almost animals and the companions of them, we have as much right to argue
from what is animal to what is human as from the barbarous to the civilized
man. The record of animal life on the globe is fragmentary,--the
connecting links are wanting and cannot be supplied; the record of social
life is still more fragmentary and precarious. Even if we admit that our
first ancestors had no such institution as marriage, still the stages by
which men passed from outer barbarism to the comparative civilization of
China, Assyria, and Greece, or even of the ancient Germans, are wholly
unknown to us.

Such speculations are apt to be unsettling, because they seem to show that
an institution which was thought to be a revelation from heaven, is only
the growth of history and experience. We ask what is the origin of
marriage, and we are told that like the right of property, after many wars
and contests, it has gradually arisen out of the selfishness of barbarians.
We stand face to face with human nature in its primitive nakedness. We are
compelled to accept, not the highest, but the lowest account of the origin
of human society. But on the other hand we may truly say that every step
in human progress has been in the same direction, and that in the course of
ages the idea of marriage and of the family has been more and more defined
and consecrated. The civilized East is immeasurably in advance of any
savage tribes; the Greeks and Romans have improved upon the East; the
Christian nations have been stricter in their views of the marriage
relation than any of the ancients. In this as in so many other things,
instead of looking back with regret to the past, we should look forward
with hope to the future. We must consecrate that which we believe to be
the most holy, and that 'which is the most holy will be the most useful.'
There is more reason for maintaining the sacredness of the marriage tie,
when we see the benefit of it, than when we only felt a vague religious
horror about the violation of it. But in all times of transition, when
established beliefs are being undermined, there is a danger that in the
passage from the old to the new we may insensibly let go the moral
principle, finding an excuse for listening to the voice of passion in the
uncertainty of knowledge, or the fluctuations of opinion. And there are
many persons in our own day who, enlightened by the study of anthropology,
and fascinated by what is new and strange, some using the language of fear,
others of hope, are inclined to believe that a time will come when through
the self-assertion of women, or the rebellious spirit of children, by the
analysis of human relations, or by the force of outward circumstances, the
ties of family life may be broken or greatly relaxed. They point to
societies in America and elsewhere which tend to show that the destruction
of the family need not necessarily involve the overthrow of all morality.
Wherever we may think of such speculations, we can hardly deny that they
have been more rife in this generation than in any other; and whither they
are tending, who can predict?

To the doubts and queries raised by these 'social reformers' respecting the
relation of the sexes and the moral nature of man, there is a sufficient
answer, if any is needed. The difference about them and us is really one
of fact. They are speaking of man as they wish or fancy him to be, but we
are speaking of him as he is. They isolate the animal part of his nature;
we regard him as a creature having many sides, or aspects, moving between
good and evil, striving to rise above himself and to become 'a little lower
than the angels.' We also, to use a Platonic formula, are not ignorant of
the dissatisfactions and incompatibilities of family life, of the
meannesses of trade, of the flatteries of one class of society by another,
of the impediments which the family throws in the way of lofty aims and
aspirations. But we are conscious that there are evils and dangers in the
background greater still, which are not appreciated, because they are
either concealed or suppressed. What a condition of man would that be, in
which human passions were controlled by no authority, divine or human, in
which there was no shame or decency, no higher affection overcoming or
sanctifying the natural instincts, but simply a rule of health! Is it for
this that we are asked to throw away the civilization which is the growth
of ages?

For strength and health are not the only qualities to be desired; there are
the more important considerations of mind and character and soul. We know
how human nature may be degraded; we do not know how by artificial means
any improvement in the breed can be effected. The problem is a complex
one, for if we go back only four steps (and these at least enter into the
composition of a child), there are commonly thirty progenitors to be taken
into account. Many curious facts, rarely admitting of proof, are told us
respecting the inheritance of disease or character from a remote ancestor.
We can trace the physical resemblances of parents and children in the same

'Sic oculos, sic ille manus, sic ora ferebat';

but scarcely less often the differences which distinguish children both
from their parents and from one another. We are told of similar mental
peculiarities running in families, and again of a tendency, as in the
animals, to revert to a common or original stock. But we have a difficulty
in distinguishing what is a true inheritance of genius or other qualities,
and what is mere imitation or the result of similar circumstances. Great
men and great women have rarely had great fathers and mothers. Nothing
that we know of in the circumstances of their birth or lineage will explain
their appearance. Of the English poets of the last and two preceding
centuries scarcely a descendant remains,--none have ever been
distinguished. So deeply has nature hidden her secret, and so ridiculous
is the fancy which has been entertained by some that we might in time by
suitable marriage arrangements or, as Plato would have said, 'by an
ingenious system of lots,' produce a Shakespeare or a Milton. Even
supposing that we could breed men having the tenacity of bulldogs, or, like
the Spartans, 'lacking the wit to run away in battle,' would the world be
any the better? Many of the noblest specimens of the human race have been
among the weakest physically. Tyrtaeus or Aesop, or our own Newton, would
have been exposed at Sparta; and some of the fairest and strongest men and
women have been among the wickedest and worst. Not by the Platonic device
of uniting the strong and fair with the strong and fair, regardless of
sentiment and morality, nor yet by his other device of combining dissimilar
natures (Statesman), have mankind gradually passed from the brutality and
licentiousness of primitive marriage to marriage Christian and civilized.

Few persons would deny that we bring into the world an inheritance of
mental and physical qualities derived first from our parents, or through
them from some remoter ancestor, secondly from our race, thirdly from the
general condition of mankind into which we are born. Nothing is commoner
than the remark, that 'So and so is like his father or his uncle'; and an
aged person may not unfrequently note a resemblance in a youth to a long-
forgotten ancestor, observing that 'Nature sometimes skips a generation.'
It may be true also, that if we knew more about our ancestors, these
similarities would be even more striking to us. Admitting the facts which
are thus described in a popular way, we may however remark that there is no
method of difference by which they can be defined or estimated, and that
they constitute only a small part of each individual. The doctrine of
heredity may seem to take out of our hands the conduct of our own lives,
but it is the idea, not the fact, which is really terrible to us. For what
we have received from our ancestors is only a fraction of what we are, or
may become. The knowledge that drunkenness or insanity has been prevalent
in a family may be the best safeguard against their recurrence in a future
generation. The parent will be most awake to the vices or diseases in his
child of which he is most sensible within himself. The whole of life may
be directed to their prevention or cure. The traces of consumption may
become fainter, or be wholly effaced: the inherent tendency to vice or
crime may be eradicated. And so heredity, from being a curse, may become a
blessing. We acknowledge that in the matter of our birth, as in our nature
generally, there are previous circumstances which affect us. But upon this
platform of circumstances or within this wall of necessity, we have still
the power of creating a life for ourselves by the informing energy of the
human will.

There is another aspect of the marriage question to which Plato is a
stranger. All the children born in his state are foundlings. It never
occurred to him that the greater part of them, according to universal
experience, would have perished. For children can only be brought up in
families. There is a subtle sympathy between the mother and the child
which cannot be supplied by other mothers, or by 'strong nurses one or
more' (Laws). If Plato's 'pen' was as fatal as the Creches of Paris, or
the foundling hospital of Dublin, more than nine-tenths of his children
would have perished. There would have been no need to expose or put out of
the way the weaklier children, for they would have died of themselves. So
emphatically does nature protest against the destruction of the family.

What Plato had heard or seen of Sparta was applied by him in a mistaken way
to his ideal commonwealth. He probably observed that both the Spartan men
and women were superior in form and strength to the other Greeks; and this
superiority he was disposed to attribute to the laws and customs relating
to marriage. He did not consider that the desire of a noble offspring was
a passion among the Spartans, or that their physical superiority was to be
attributed chiefly, not to their marriage customs, but to their temperance
and training. He did not reflect that Sparta was great, not in consequence
of the relaxation of morality, but in spite of it, by virtue of a political
principle stronger far than existed in any other Grecian state. Least of
all did he observe that Sparta did not really produce the finest specimens
of the Greek race. The genius, the political inspiration of Athens, the
love of liberty--all that has made Greece famous with posterity, were
wanting among the Spartans. They had no Themistocles, or Pericles, or
Aeschylus, or Sophocles, or Socrates, or Plato. The individual was not
allowed to appear above the state; the laws were fixed, and he had no
business to alter or reform them. Yet whence has the progress of cities
and nations arisen, if not from remarkable individuals, coming into the
world we know not how, and from causes over which we have no control?
Something too much may have been said in modern times of the value of
individuality. But we can hardly condemn too strongly a system which,
instead of fostering the scattered seeds or sparks of genius and character,
tends to smother and extinguish them.

Still, while condemning Plato, we must acknowledge that neither
Christianity, nor any other form of religion and society, has hitherto been
able to cope with this most difficult of social problems, and that the side
from which Plato regarded it is that from which we turn away. Population
is the most untameable force in the political and social world. Do we not
find, especially in large cities, that the greatest hindrance to the
amelioration of the poor is their improvidence in marriage?--a small fault
truly, if not involving endless consequences. There are whole countries
too, such as India, or, nearer home, Ireland, in which a right solution of
the marriage question seems to lie at the foundation of the happiness of
the community. There are too many people on a given space, or they marry
too early and bring into the world a sickly and half-developed offspring;
or owing to the very conditions of their existence, they become emaciated
and hand on a similar life to their descendants. But who can oppose the
voice of prudence to the 'mightiest passions of mankind' (Laws), especially
when they have been licensed by custom and religion? In addition to the
influences of education, we seem to require some new principles of right
and wrong in these matters, some force of opinion, which may indeed be
already heard whispering in private, but has never affected the moral
sentiments of mankind in general. We unavoidably lose sight of the
principle of utility, just in that action of our lives in which we have the
most need of it. The influences which we can bring to bear upon this
question are chiefly indirect. In a generation or two, education,
emigration, improvements in agriculture and manufactures, may have provided
the solution. The state physician hardly likes to probe the wound: it is
beyond his art; a matter which he cannot safely let alone, but which he
dare not touch:

'We do but skin and film the ulcerous place.'

When again in private life we see a whole family one by one dropping into
the grave under the Ate of some inherited malady, and the parents perhaps
surviving them, do our minds ever go back silently to that day twenty-five
or thirty years before on which under the fairest auspices, amid the
rejoicings of friends and acquaintances, a bride and bridegroom joined
hands with one another? In making such a reflection we are not opposing
physical considerations to moral, but moral to physical; we are seeking to
make the voice of reason heard, which drives us back from the extravagance
of sentimentalism on common sense. The late Dr. Combe is said by his
biographer to have resisted the temptation to marriage, because he knew
that he was subject to hereditary consumption. One who deserved to be
called a man of genius, a friend of my youth, was in the habit of wearing a
black ribbon on his wrist, in order to remind him that, being liable to
outbreaks of insanity, he must not give way to the natural impulses of
affection: he died unmarried in a lunatic asylum. These two little facts
suggest the reflection that a very few persons have done from a sense of
duty what the rest of mankind ought to have done under like circumstances,
if they had allowed themselves to think of all the misery which they were
about to bring into the world. If we could prevent such marriages without
any violation of feeling or propriety, we clearly ought; and the
prohibition in the course of time would be protected by a 'horror
naturalis' similar to that which, in all civilized ages and countries, has
prevented the marriage of near relations by blood. Mankind would have been
the happier, if some things which are now allowed had from the beginning
been denied to them; if the sanction of religion could have prohibited
practices inimical to health; if sanitary principles could in early ages
have been invested with a superstitious awe. But, living as we do far on
in the world's history, we are no longer able to stamp at once with the
impress of religion a new prohibition. A free agent cannot have his
fancies regulated by law; and the execution of the law would be rendered
impossible, owing to the uncertainty of the cases in which marriage was to
be forbidden. Who can weigh virtue, or even fortune against health, or
moral and mental qualities against bodily? Who can measure probabilities
against certainties? There has been some good as well as evil in the
discipline of suffering; and there are diseases, such as consumption, which
have exercised a refining and softening influence on the character. Youth
is too inexperienced to balance such nice considerations; parents do not
often think of them, or think of them too late. They are at a distance and
may probably be averted; change of place, a new state of life, the
interests of a home may be the cure of them. So persons vainly reason when
their minds are already made up and their fortunes irrevocably linked
together. Nor is there any ground for supposing that marriages are to any
great extent influenced by reflections of this sort, which seem unable to
make any head against the irresistible impulse of individual attachment.

Lastly, no one can have observed the first rising flood of the passions in
youth, the difficulty of regulating them, and the effects on the whole mind
and nature which follow from them, the stimulus which is given to them by
the imagination, without feeling that there is something unsatisfactory in
our method of treating them. That the most important influence on human
life should be wholly left to chance or shrouded in mystery, and instead of
being disciplined or understood, should be required to conform only to an
external standard of propriety--cannot be regarded by the philosopher as a
safe or satisfactory condition of human things. And still those who have
the charge of youth may find a way by watchfulness, by affection, by the
manliness and innocence of their own lives, by occasional hints, by general
admonitions which every one can apply for himself, to mitigate this
terrible evil which eats out the heart of individuals and corrupts the
moral sentiments of nations. In no duty towards others is there more need
of reticence and self-restraint. So great is the danger lest he who would
be the counsellor of another should reveal the secret prematurely, lest he
should get another too much into his power; or fix the passing impression
of evil by demanding the confession of it.

Nor is Plato wrong in asserting that family attachments may interfere with
higher aims. If there have been some who 'to party gave up what was meant
for mankind,' there have certainly been others who to family gave up what
was meant for mankind or for their country. The cares of children, the
necessity of procuring money for their support, the flatteries of the rich
by the poor, the exclusiveness of caste, the pride of birth or wealth, the
tendency of family life to divert men from the pursuit of the ideal or the
heroic, are as lowering in our own age as in that of Plato. And if we
prefer to look at the gentle influences of home, the development of the
affections, the amenities of society, the devotion of one member of a
family for the good of the others, which form one side of the picture, we
must not quarrel with him, or perhaps ought rather to be grateful to him,
for having presented to us the reverse. Without attempting to defend Plato
on grounds of morality, we may allow that there is an aspect of the world
which has not unnaturally led him into error.

We hardly appreciate the power which the idea of the State, like all other
abstract ideas, exercised over the mind of Plato. To us the State seems to
be built up out of the family, or sometimes to be the framework in which
family and social life is contained. But to Plato in his present mood of
mind the family is only a disturbing influence which, instead of filling
up, tends to disarrange the higher unity of the State. No organization is
needed except a political, which, regarded from another point of view, is a
military one. The State is all-sufficing for the wants of man, and, like
the idea of the Church in later ages, absorbs all other desires and
affections. In time of war the thousand citizens are to stand like a
rampart impregnable against the world or the Persian host; in time of peace
the preparation for war and their duties to the State, which are also their
duties to one another, take up their whole life and time. The only other
interest which is allowed to them besides that of war, is the interest of
philosophy. When they are too old to be soldiers they are to retire from
active life and to have a second novitiate of study and contemplation.
There is an element of monasticism even in Plato's communism. If he could
have done without children, he might have converted his Republic into a
religious order. Neither in the Laws, when the daylight of common sense
breaks in upon him, does he retract his error. In the state of which he
would be the founder, there is no marrying or giving in marriage: but
because of the infirmity of mankind, he condescends to allow the law of
nature to prevail.

(c) But Plato has an equal, or, in his own estimation, even greater
paradox in reserve, which is summed up in the famous text, 'Until kings are
philosophers or philosophers are kings, cities will never cease from ill.'
And by philosophers he explains himself to mean those who are capable of
apprehending ideas, especially the idea of good. To the attainment of this
higher knowledge the second education is directed. Through a process of
training which has already made them good citizens they are now to be made
good legislators. We find with some surprise (not unlike the feeling which
Aristotle in a well-known passage describes the hearers of Plato's lectures
as experiencing, when they went to a discourse on the idea of good,
expecting to be instructed in moral truths, and received instead of them
arithmetical and mathematical formulae) that Plato does not propose for his
future legislators any study of finance or law or military tactics, but
only of abstract mathematics, as a preparation for the still more abstract
conception of good. We ask, with Aristotle, What is the use of a man
knowing the idea of good, if he does not know what is good for this
individual, this state, this condition of society? We cannot understand
how Plato's legislators or guardians are to be fitted for their work of
statesmen by the study of the five mathematical sciences. We vainly search
in Plato's own writings for any explanation of this seeming absurdity.

The discovery of a great metaphysical conception seems to ravish the mind
with a prophetic consciousness which takes away the power of estimating its
value. No metaphysical enquirer has ever fairly criticised his own
speculations; in his own judgment they have been above criticism; nor has
he understood that what to him seemed to be absolute truth may reappear in
the next generation as a form of logic or an instrument of thought. And
posterity have also sometimes equally misapprehended the real value of his
speculations. They appear to them to have contributed nothing to the stock
of human knowledge. The IDEA of good is apt to be regarded by the modern
thinker as an unmeaning abstraction; but he forgets that this abstraction
is waiting ready for use, and will hereafter be filled up by the divisions
of knowledge. When mankind do not as yet know that the world is subject to
law, the introduction of the mere conception of law or design or final
cause, and the far-off anticipation of the harmony of knowledge, are great
steps onward. Even the crude generalization of the unity of all things
leads men to view the world with different eyes, and may easily affect
their conception of human life and of politics, and also their own conduct
and character (Tim). We can imagine how a great mind like that of Pericles
might derive elevation from his intercourse with Anaxagoras (Phaedr.). To
be struggling towards a higher but unattainable conception is a more
favourable intellectual condition than to rest satisfied in a narrow
portion of ascertained fact. And the earlier, which have sometimes been
the greater ideas of science, are often lost sight of at a later period.
How rarely can we say of any modern enquirer in the magnificent language of
Plato, that 'He is the spectator of all time and of all existence!'

Nor is there anything unnatural in the hasty application of these vast
metaphysical conceptions to practical and political life. In the first
enthusiasm of ideas men are apt to see them everywhere, and to apply them
in the most remote sphere. They do not understand that the experience of
ages is required to enable them to fill up 'the intermediate axioms.'
Plato himself seems to have imagined that the truths of psychology, like
those of astronomy and harmonics, would be arrived at by a process of
deduction, and that the method which he has pursued in the Fourth Book, of
inferring them from experience and the use of language, was imperfect and
only provisional. But when, after having arrived at the idea of good,
which is the end of the science of dialectic, he is asked, What is the
nature, and what are the divisions of the science? He refuses to answer,
as if intending by the refusal to intimate that the state of knowledge
which then existed was not such as would allow the philosopher to enter
into his final rest. The previous sciences must first be studied, and
will, we may add, continue to be studied tell the end of time, although in
a sense different from any which Plato could have conceived. But we may
observe, that while he is aware of the vacancy of his own ideal, he is full
of enthusiasm in the contemplation of it. Looking into the orb of light,
he sees nothing, but he is warmed and elevated. The Hebrew prophet
believed that faith in God would enable him to govern the world; the Greek
philosopher imagined that contemplation of the good would make a
legislator. There is as much to be filled up in the one case as in the
other, and the one mode of conception is to the Israelite what the other is
to the Greek. Both find a repose in a divine perfection, which, whether in
a more personal or impersonal form, exists without them and independently
of them, as well as within them.

There is no mention of the idea of good in the Timaeus, nor of the divine
Creator of the world in the Republic; and we are naturally led to ask in
what relation they stand to one another. Is God above or below the idea of
good? Or is the Idea of Good another mode of conceiving God? The latter
appears to be the truer answer. To the Greek philosopher the perfection
and unity of God was a far higher conception than his personality, which he
hardly found a word to express, and which to him would have seemed to be
borrowed from mythology. To the Christian, on the other hand, or to the
modern thinker in general, it is difficult, if not impossible, to attach
reality to what he terms mere abstraction; while to Plato this very
abstraction is the truest and most real of all things. Hence, from a
difference in forms of thought, Plato appears to be resting on a creation
of his own mind only. But if we may be allowed to paraphrase the idea of
good by the words 'intelligent principle of law and order in the universe,
embracing equally man and nature,' we begin to find a meeting-point between
him and ourselves.

The question whether the ruler or statesman should be a philosopher is one
that has not lost interest in modern times. In most countries of Europe
and Asia there has been some one in the course of ages who has truly united
the power of command with the power of thought and reflection, as there
have been also many false combinations of these qualities. Some kind of
speculative power is necessary both in practical and political life; like
the rhetorician in the Phaedrus, men require to have a conception of the
varieties of human character, and to be raised on great occasions above the
commonplaces of ordinary life. Yet the idea of the philosopher-statesman
has never been popular with the mass of mankind; partly because he cannot
take the world into his confidence or make them understand the motives from
which he acts; and also because they are jealous of a power which they do
not understand. The revolution which human nature desires to effect step
by step in many ages is likely to be precipitated by him in a single year
or life. They are afraid that in the pursuit of his greater aims he may
disregard the common feelings of humanity, he is too apt to be looking into
the distant future or back into the remote past, and unable to see actions
or events which, to use an expression of Plato's 'are tumbling out at his
feet.' Besides, as Plato would say, there are other corruptions of these
philosophical statesmen. Either 'the native hue of resolution is sicklied
o'er with the pale cast of thought,' and at the moment when action above
all things is required he is undecided, or general principles are
enunciated by him in order to cover some change of policy; or his ignorance
of the world has made him more easily fall a prey to the arts of others; or
in some cases he has been converted into a courtier, who enjoys the luxury
of holding liberal opinions, but was never known to perform a liberal
action. No wonder that mankind have been in the habit of calling statesmen
of this class pedants, sophisters, doctrinaires, visionaries. For, as we
may be allowed to say, a little parodying the words of Plato, 'they have
seen bad imitations of the philosopher-statesman.' But a man in whom the
power of thought and action are perfectly balanced, equal to the present,
reaching forward to the future, 'such a one,' ruling in a constitutional
state, 'they have never seen.'

But as the philosopher is apt to fail in the routine of political life, so
the ordinary statesman is also apt to fail in extraordinary crises. When
the face of the world is beginning to alter, and thunder is heard in the
distance, he is still guided by his old maxims, and is the slave of his
inveterate party prejudices; he cannot perceive the signs of the times;
instead of looking forward he looks back; he learns nothing and forgets
nothing; with 'wise saws and modern instances' he would stem the rising
tide of revolution. He lives more and more within the circle of his own
party, as the world without him becomes stronger. This seems to be the
reason why the old order of things makes so poor a figure when confronted
with the new, why churches can never reform, why most political changes are
made blindly and convulsively. The great crises in the history of nations
have often been met by an ecclesiastical positiveness, and a more obstinate
reassertion of principles which have lost their hold upon a nation. The
fixed ideas of a reactionary statesman may be compared to madness; they
grow upon him, and he becomes possessed by them; no judgement of others is
ever admitted by him to be weighed in the balance against his own.

(d) Plato, labouring under what, to modern readers, appears to have been a
confusion of ideas, assimilates the state to the individual, and fails to
distinguish Ethics from Politics. He thinks that to be most of a state
which is most like one man, and in which the citizens have the greatest
uniformity of character. He does not see that the analogy is partly
fallacious, and that the will or character of a state or nation is really
the balance or rather the surplus of individual wills, which are limited by
the condition of having to act in common. The movement of a body of men
can never have the pliancy or facility of a single man; the freedom of the
individual, which is always limited, becomes still more straitened when
transferred to a nation. The powers of action and feeling are necessarily
weaker and more balanced when they are diffused through a community; whence
arises the often discussed question, 'Can a nation, like an individual,
have a conscience?' We hesitate to say that the characters of nations are
nothing more than the sum of the characters of the individuals who compose
them; because there may be tendencies in individuals which react upon one
another. A whole nation may be wiser than any one man in it; or may be
animated by some common opinion or feeling which could not equally have
affected the mind of a single person, or may have been inspired by a leader
of genius to perform acts more than human. Plato does not appear to have
analysed the complications which arise out of the collective action of
mankind. Neither is he capable of seeing that analogies, though specious
as arguments, may often have no foundation in fact, or of distinguishing
between what is intelligible or vividly present to the mind, and what is
true. In this respect he is far below Aristotle, who is comparatively
seldom imposed upon by false analogies. He cannot disentangle the arts
from the virtues--at least he is always arguing from one to the other. His
notion of music is transferred from harmony of sounds to harmony of life:
in this he is assisted by the ambiguities of language as well as by the
prevalence of Pythagorean notions. And having once assimilated the state
to the individual, he imagines that he will find the succession of states
paralleled in the lives of individuals.

Still, through this fallacious medium, a real enlargement of ideas is
attained. When the virtues as yet presented no distinct conception to the
mind, a great advance was made by the comparison of them with the arts; for
virtue is partly art, and has an outward form as well as an inward
principle. The harmony of music affords a lively image of the harmonies of
the world and of human life, and may be regarded as a splendid illustration
which was naturally mistaken for a real analogy. In the same way the
identification of ethics with politics has a tendency to give definiteness
to ethics, and also to elevate and ennoble men's notions of the aims of
government and of the duties of citizens; for ethics from one point of view
may be conceived as an idealized law and politics; and politics, as ethics
reduced to the conditions of human society. There have been evils which
have arisen out of the attempt to identify them, and this has led to the
separation or antagonism of them, which has been introduced by modern
political writers. But we may likewise feel that something has been lost
in their separation, and that the ancient philosophers who estimated the
moral and intellectual wellbeing of mankind first, and the wealth of
nations and individuals second, may have a salutary influence on the
speculations of modern times. Many political maxims originate in a
reaction against an opposite error; and when the errors against which they
were directed have passed away, they in turn become errors.

3. Plato's views of education are in several respects remarkable; like the
rest of the Republic they are partly Greek and partly ideal, beginning with
the ordinary curriculum of the Greek youth, and extending to after-life.
Plato is the first writer who distinctly says that education is to
comprehend the whole of life, and to be a preparation for another in which
education begins again. This is the continuous thread which runs through
the Republic, and which more than any other of his ideas admits of an
application to modern life.

He has long given up the notion that virtue cannot be taught; and he is
disposed to modify the thesis of the Protagoras, that the virtues are one
and not many. He is not unwilling to admit the sensible world into his
scheme of truth. Nor does he assert in the Republic the involuntariness of
vice, which is maintained by him in the Timaeus, Sophist, and Laws
(Protag., Apol., Gorg.). Nor do the so-called Platonic ideas recovered
from a former state of existence affect his theory of mental improvement.
Still we observe in him the remains of the old Socratic doctrine, that true
knowledge must be elicited from within, and is to be sought for in ideas,
not in particulars of sense. Education, as he says, will implant a
principle of intelligence which is better than ten thousand eyes. The
paradox that the virtues are one, and the kindred notion that all virtue is
knowledge, are not entirely renounced; the first is seen in the supremacy
given to justice over the rest; the second in the tendency to absorb the
moral virtues in the intellectual, and to centre all goodness in the
contemplation of the idea of good. The world of sense is still depreciated
and identified with opinion, though admitted to be a shadow of the true.
In the Republic he is evidently impressed with the conviction that vice
arises chiefly from ignorance and may be cured by education; the multitude
are hardly to be deemed responsible for what they do. A faint allusion to
the doctrine of reminiscence occurs in the Tenth Book; but Plato's views of
education have no more real connection with a previous state of existence
than our own; he only proposes to elicit from the mind that which is there
already. Education is represented by him, not as the filling of a vessel,
but as the turning the eye of the soul towards the light.

He treats first of music or literature, which he divides into true and
false, and then goes on to gymnastics; of infancy in the Republic he takes
no notice, though in the Laws he gives sage counsels about the nursing of
children and the management of the mothers, and would have an education
which is even prior to birth. But in the Republic he begins with the age
at which the child is capable of receiving ideas, and boldly asserts, in
language which sounds paradoxical to modern ears, that he must be taught
the false before he can learn the true. The modern and ancient
philosophical world are not agreed about truth and falsehood; the one
identifies truth almost exclusively with fact, the other with ideas. This
is the difference between ourselves and Plato, which is, however, partly a
difference of words. For we too should admit that a child must receive
many lessons which he imperfectly understands; he must be taught some
things in a figure only, some too which he can hardly be expected to
believe when he grows older; but we should limit the use of fiction by the
necessity of the case. Plato would draw the line differently; according to
him the aim of early education is not truth as a matter of fact, but truth
as a matter of principle; the child is to be taught first simple religious
truths, and then simple moral truths, and insensibly to learn the lesson of
good manners and good taste. He would make an entire reformation of the
old mythology; like Xenophanes and Heracleitus he is sensible of the deep
chasm which separates his own age from Homer and Hesiod, whom he quotes and
invests with an imaginary authority, but only for his own purposes. The
lusts and treacheries of the gods are to be banished; the terrors of the
world below are to be dispelled; the misbehaviour of the Homeric heroes is
not to be a model for youth. But there is another strain heard in Homer
which may teach our youth endurance; and something may be learnt in
medicine from the simple practice of the Homeric age. The principles on
which religion is to be based are two only: first, that God is true;
secondly, that he is good. Modern and Christian writers have often fallen
short of these; they can hardly be said to have gone beyond them.

The young are to be brought up in happy surroundings, out of the way of
sights or sounds which may hurt the character or vitiate the taste. They
are to live in an atmosphere of health; the breeze is always to be wafting
to them the impressions of truth and goodness. Could such an education be
realized, or if our modern religious education could be bound up with truth
and virtue and good manners and good taste, that would be the best hope of
human improvement. Plato, like ourselves, is looking forward to changes in
the moral and religious world, and is preparing for them. He recognizes
the danger of unsettling young men's minds by sudden changes of laws and
principles, by destroying the sacredness of one set of ideas when there is
nothing else to take their place. He is afraid too of the influence of the
drama, on the ground that it encourages false sentiment, and therefore he
would not have his children taken to the theatre; he thinks that the effect
on the spectators is bad, and on the actors still worse. His idea of
education is that of harmonious growth, in which are insensibly learnt the
lessons of temperance and endurance, and the body and mind develope in
equal proportions. The first principle which runs through all art and
nature is simplicity; this also is to be the rule of human life.

The second stage of education is gymnastic, which answers to the period of
muscular growth and development. The simplicity which is enforced in music
is extended to gymnastic; Plato is aware that the training of the body may
be inconsistent with the training of the mind, and that bodily exercise may
be easily overdone. Excessive training of the body is apt to give men a
headache or to render them sleepy at a lecture on philosophy, and this they
attribute not to the true cause, but to the nature of the subject. Two
points are noticeable in Plato's treatment of gymnastic:--First, that the
time of training is entirely separated from the time of literary education.
He seems to have thought that two things of an opposite and different
nature could not be learnt at the same time. Here we can hardly agree with
him; and, if we may judge by experience, the effect of spending three years
between the ages of fourteen and seventeen in mere bodily exercise would be
far from improving to the intellect. Secondly, he affirms that music and
gymnastic are not, as common opinion is apt to imagine, intended, the one
for the cultivation of the mind and the other of the body, but that they
are both equally designed for the improvement of the mind. The body, in
his view, is the servant of the mind; the subjection of the lower to the
higher is for the advantage of both. And doubtless the mind may exercise a
very great and paramount influence over the body, if exerted not at
particular moments and by fits and starts, but continuously, in making
preparation for the whole of life. Other Greek writers saw the mischievous
tendency of Spartan discipline (Arist. Pol; Thuc.). But only Plato
recognized the fundamental error on which the practice was based.

The subject of gymnastic leads Plato to the sister subject of medicine,
which he further illustrates by the parallel of law. The modern disbelief
in medicine has led in this, as in some other departments of knowledge, to
a demand for greater simplicity; physicians are becoming aware that they
often make diseases 'greater and more complicated' by their treatment of
them (Rep.). In two thousand years their art has made but slender
progress; what they have gained in the analysis of the parts is in a great
degree lost by their feebler conception of the human frame as a whole.
They have attended more to the cure of diseases than to the conditions of
health; and the improvements in medicine have been more than
counterbalanced by the disuse of regular training. Until lately they have
hardly thought of air and water, the importance of which was well
understood by the ancients; as Aristotle remarks, 'Air and water, being the
elements which we most use, have the greatest effect upon health' (Polit.).
For ages physicians have been under the dominion of prejudices which have
only recently given way; and now there are as many opinions in medicine as
in theology, and an equal degree of scepticism and some want of toleration
about both. Plato has several good notions about medicine; according to
him, 'the eye cannot be cured without the rest of the body, nor the body
without the mind' (Charm.). No man of sense, he says in the Timaeus, would
take physic; and we heartily sympathize with him in the Laws when he
declares that 'the limbs of the rustic worn with toil will derive more
benefit from warm baths than from the prescriptions of a not over wise
doctor.' But we can hardly praise him when, in obedience to the authority
of Homer, he depreciates diet, or approve of the inhuman spirit in which he
would get rid of invalid and useless lives by leaving them to die. He does
not seem to have considered that the 'bridle of Theages' might be
accompanied by qualities which were of far more value to the State than the
health or strength of the citizens; or that the duty of taking care of the
helpless might be an important element of education in a State. The
physician himself (this is a delicate and subtle observation) should not be
a man in robust health; he should have, in modern phraseology, a nervous
temperament; he should have experience of disease in his own person, in
order that his powers of observation may be quickened in the case of

The perplexity of medicine is paralleled by the perplexity of law; in
which, again, Plato would have men follow the golden rule of simplicity.
Greater matters are to be determined by the legislator or by the oracle of
Delphi, lesser matters are to be left to the temporary regulation of the
citizens themselves. Plato is aware that laissez faire is an important
element of government. The diseases of a State are like the heads of a
hydra; they multiply when they are cut off. The true remedy for them is
not extirpation but prevention. And the way to prevent them is to take
care of education, and education will take care of all the rest. So in
modern times men have often felt that the only political measure worth
having--the only one which would produce any certain or lasting effect, was
a measure of national education. And in our own more than in any previous
age the necessity has been recognized of restoring the ever-increasing
confusion of law to simplicity and common sense.

When the training in music and gymnastic is completed, there follows the
first stage of active and public life. But soon education is to begin
again from a new point of view. In the interval between the Fourth and
Seventh Books we have discussed the nature of knowledge, and have thence
been led to form a higher conception of what was required of us. For true
knowledge, according to Plato, is of abstractions, and has to do, not with
particulars or individuals, but with universals only; not with the beauties
of poetry, but with the ideas of philosophy. And the great aim of
education is the cultivation of the habit of abstraction. This is to be
acquired through the study of the mathematical sciences. They alone are
capable of giving ideas of relation, and of arousing the dormant energies
of thought.

Mathematics in the age of Plato comprehended a very small part of that
which is now included in them; but they bore a much larger proportion to
the sum of human knowledge. They were the only organon of thought which
the human mind at that time possessed, and the only measure by which the
chaos of particulars could be reduced to rule and order. The faculty which
they trained was naturally at war with the poetical or imaginative; and
hence to Plato, who is everywhere seeking for abstractions and trying to
get rid of the illusions of sense, nearly the whole of education is
contained in them. They seemed to have an inexhaustible application,
partly because their true limits were not yet understood. These Plato
himself is beginning to investigate; though not aware that number and
figure are mere abstractions of sense, he recognizes that the forms used by
geometry are borrowed from the sensible world. He seeks to find the
ultimate ground of mathematical ideas in the idea of good, though he does
not satisfactorily explain the connexion between them; and in his
conception of the relation of ideas to numbers, he falls very far short of
the definiteness attributed to him by Aristotle (Met.). But if he fails to
recognize the true limits of mathematics, he also reaches a point beyond
them; in his view, ideas of number become secondary to a higher conception
of knowledge. The dialectician is as much above the mathematician as the
mathematician is above the ordinary man. The one, the self-proving, the
good which is the higher sphere of dialectic, is the perfect truth to which
all things ascend, and in which they finally repose.

This self-proving unity or idea of good is a mere vision of which no
distinct explanation can be given, relative only to a particular stage in
Greek philosophy. It is an abstraction under which no individuals are
comprehended, a whole which has no parts (Arist., Nic. Eth.). The vacancy
of such a form was perceived by Aristotle, but not by Plato. Nor did he
recognize that in the dialectical process are included two or more methods
of investigation which are at variance with each other. He did not see
that whether he took the longer or the shorter road, no advance could be
made in this way. And yet such visions often have an immense effect; for
although the method of science cannot anticipate science, the idea of
science, not as it is, but as it will be in the future, is a great and
inspiring principle. In the pursuit of knowledge we are always pressing
forward to something beyond us; and as a false conception of knowledge, for
example the scholastic philosophy, may lead men astray during many ages, so
the true ideal, though vacant, may draw all their thoughts in a right
direction. It makes a great difference whether the general expectation of
knowledge, as this indefinite feeling may be termed, is based upon a sound
judgment. For mankind may often entertain a true conception of what
knowledge ought to be when they have but a slender experience of facts.
The correlation of the sciences, the consciousness of the unity of nature,
the idea of classification, the sense of proportion, the unwillingness to
stop short of certainty or to confound probability with truth, are
important principles of the higher education. Although Plato could tell us
nothing, and perhaps knew that he could tell us nothing, of the absolute
truth, he has exercised an influence on the human mind which even at the
present day is not exhausted; and political and social questions may yet
arise in which the thoughts of Plato may be read anew and receive a fresh

The Idea of good is so called only in the Republic, but there are traces of
it in other dialogues of Plato. It is a cause as well as an idea, and from
this point of view may be compared with the creator of the Timaeus, who out
of his goodness created all things. It corresponds to a certain extent
with the modern conception of a law of nature, or of a final cause, or of
both in one, and in this regard may be connected with the measure and
symmetry of the Philebus. It is represented in the Symposium under the
aspect of beauty, and is supposed to be attained there by stages of
initiation, as here by regular gradations of knowledge. Viewed
subjectively, it is the process or science of dialectic. This is the
science which, according to the Phaedrus, is the true basis of rhetoric,
which alone is able to distinguish the natures and classes of men and
things; which divides a whole into the natural parts, and reunites the
scattered parts into a natural or organized whole; which defines the
abstract essences or universal ideas of all things, and connects them;
which pierces the veil of hypotheses and reaches the final cause or first
principle of all; which regards the sciences in relation to the idea of
good. This ideal science is the highest process of thought, and may be
described as the soul conversing with herself or holding communion with
eternal truth and beauty, and in another form is the everlasting question
and answer--the ceaseless interrogative of Socrates. The dialogues of
Plato are themselves examples of the nature and method of dialectic.
Viewed objectively, the idea of good is a power or cause which makes the
world without us correspond with the world within. Yet this world without
us is still a world of ideas. With Plato the investigation of nature is
another department of knowledge, and in this he seeks to attain only
probable conclusions (Timaeus).

If we ask whether this science of dialectic which Plato only half explains
to us is more akin to logic or to metaphysics, the answer is that in his
mind the two sciences are not as yet distinguished, any more than the
subjective and objective aspects of the world and of man, which German
philosophy has revealed to us. Nor has he determined whether his science
of dialectic is at rest or in motion, concerned with the contemplation of
absolute being, or with a process of development and evolution. Modern
metaphysics may be described as the science of abstractions, or as the
science of the evolution of thought; modern logic, when passing beyond the
bounds of mere Aristotelian forms, may be defined as the science of method.
The germ of both of them is contained in the Platonic dialectic; all
metaphysicians have something in common with the ideas of Plato; all
logicians have derived something from the method of Plato. The nearest
approach in modern philosophy to the universal science of Plato, is to be
found in the Hegelian 'succession of moments in the unity of the idea.'
Plato and Hegel alike seem to have conceived the world as the correlation
of abstractions; and not impossibly they would have understood one another
better than any of their commentators understand them (Swift's Voyage to
Laputa. 'Having a desire to see those ancients who were most renowned for
wit and learning, I set apart one day on purpose. I proposed that Homer
and Aristotle might appear at the head of all their commentators; but these
were so numerous that some hundreds were forced to attend in the court and
outward rooms of the palace. I knew, and could distinguish these two
heroes, at first sight, not only from the crowd, but from each other.
Homer was the taller and comelier person of the two, walked very erect for
one of his age, and his eyes were the most quick and piercing I ever
beheld. Aristotle stooped much, and made use of a staff. His visage was
meagre, his hair lank and thin, and his voice hollow. I soon discovered
that both of them were perfect strangers to the rest of the company, and
had never seen or heard of them before. And I had a whisper from a ghost,
who shall be nameless, "That these commentators always kept in the most
distant quarters from their principals, in the lower world, through a
consciousness of shame and guilt, because they had so horribly
misrepresented the meaning of these authors to posterity." I introduced
Didymus and Eustathius to Homer, and prevailed on him to treat them better
than perhaps they deserved, for he soon found they wanted a genius to enter
into the spirit of a poet. But Aristotle was out of all patience with the
account I gave him of Scotus and Ramus, as I presented them to him; and he
asked them "whether the rest of the tribe were as great dunces as
themselves?"'). There is, however, a difference between them: for whereas
Hegel is thinking of all the minds of men as one mind, which developes the
stages of the idea in different countries or at different times in the same
country, with Plato these gradations are regarded only as an order of
thought or ideas; the history of the human mind had not yet dawned upon

Many criticisms may be made on Plato's theory of education. While in some
respects he unavoidably falls short of modern thinkers, in others he is in
advance of them. He is opposed to the modes of education which prevailed
in his own time; but he can hardly be said to have discovered new ones. He
does not see that education is relative to the characters of individuals;
he only desires to impress the same form of the state on the minds of all.
He has no sufficient idea of the effect of literature on the formation of
the mind, and greatly exaggerates that of mathematics. His aim is above
all things to train the reasoning faculties; to implant in the mind the
spirit and power of abstraction; to explain and define general notions,
and, if possible, to connect them. No wonder that in the vacancy of actual
knowledge his followers, and at times even he himself, should have fallen
away from the doctrine of ideas, and have returned to that branch of
knowledge in which alone the relation of the one and many can be truly
seen--the science of number. In his views both of teaching and training he
might be styled, in modern language, a doctrinaire; after the Spartan
fashion he would have his citizens cast in one mould; he does not seem to
consider that some degree of freedom, 'a little wholesome neglect,' is
necessary to strengthen and develope the character and to give play to the
individual nature. His citizens would not have acquired that knowledge
which in the vision of Er is supposed to be gained by the pilgrims from
their experience of evil.

On the other hand, Plato is far in advance of modern philosophers and
theologians when he teaches that education is to be continued through life
and will begin again in another. He would never allow education of some
kind to cease; although he was aware that the proverbial saying of Solon,
'I grow old learning many things,' cannot be applied literally. Himself
ravished with the contemplation of the idea of good, and delighting in
solid geometry (Rep.), he has no difficulty in imagining that a lifetime
might be passed happily in such pursuits. We who know how many more men of
business there are in the world than real students or thinkers, are not
equally sanguine. The education which he proposes for his citizens is
really the ideal life of the philosopher or man of genius, interrupted, but
only for a time, by practical duties,--a life not for the many, but for the

Yet the thought of Plato may not be wholly incapable of application to our
own times. Even if regarded as an ideal which can never be realized, it
may have a great effect in elevating the characters of mankind, and raising
them above the routine of their ordinary occupation or profession. It is
the best form under which we can conceive the whole of life. Nevertheless
the idea of Plato is not easily put into practice. For the education of
after life is necessarily the education which each one gives himself. Men
and women cannot be brought together in schools or colleges at forty or
fifty years of age; and if they could the result would be disappointing.
The destination of most men is what Plato would call 'the Den' for the
whole of life, and with that they are content. Neither have they teachers
or advisers with whom they can take counsel in riper years. There is no
'schoolmaster abroad' who will tell them of their faults, or inspire them
with the higher sense of duty, or with the ambition of a true success in
life; no Socrates who will convict them of ignorance; no Christ, or
follower of Christ, who will reprove them of sin. Hence they have a
difficulty in receiving the first element of improvement, which is self-
knowledge. The hopes of youth no longer stir them; they rather wish to
rest than to pursue high objects. A few only who have come across great
men and women, or eminent teachers of religion and morality, have received
a second life from them, and have lighted a candle from the fire of their

The want of energy is one of the main reasons why so few persons continue
to improve in later years. They have not the will, and do not know the
way. They 'never try an experiment,' or look up a point of interest for
themselves; they make no sacrifices for the sake of knowledge; their minds,
like their bodies, at a certain age become fixed. Genius has been defined
as 'the power of taking pains'; but hardly any one keeps up his interest in
knowledge throughout a whole life. The troubles of a family, the business
of making money, the demands of a profession destroy the elasticity of the
mind. The waxen tablet of the memory which was once capable of receiving
'true thoughts and clear impressions' becomes hard and crowded; there is
not room for the accumulations of a long life (Theaet.). The student, as
years advance, rather makes an exchange of knowledge than adds to his
stores. There is no pressing necessity to learn; the stock of Classics or
History or Natural Science which was enough for a man at twenty-five is
enough for him at fifty. Neither is it easy to give a definite answer to
any one who asks how he is to improve. For self-education consists in a
thousand things, commonplace in themselves,--in adding to what we are by
nature something of what we are not; in learning to see ourselves as others
see us; in judging, not by opinion, but by the evidence of facts; in
seeking out the society of superior minds; in a study of lives and writings
of great men; in observation of the world and character; in receiving
kindly the natural influence of different times of life; in any act or
thought which is raised above the practice or opinions of mankind; in the
pursuit of some new or original enquiry; in any effort of mind which calls
forth some latent power.

If any one is desirous of carrying out in detail the Platonic education of
after-life, some such counsels as the following may be offered to him:--
That he shall choose the branch of knowledge to which his own mind most
distinctly inclines, and in which he takes the greatest delight, either one
which seems to connect with his own daily employment, or, perhaps,
furnishes the greatest contrast to it. He may study from the speculative
side the profession or business in which he is practically engaged. He may
make Homer, Dante, Shakespeare, Plato, Bacon the friends and companions of
his life. He may find opportunities of hearing the living voice of a great
teacher. He may select for enquiry some point of history or some
unexplained phenomenon of nature. An hour a day passed in such scientific
or literary pursuits will furnish as many facts as the memory can retain,
and will give him 'a pleasure not to be repented of' (Timaeus). Only let
him beware of being the slave of crotchets, or of running after a Will o'
the Wisp in his ignorance, or in his vanity of attributing to himself the
gifts of a poet or assuming the air of a philosopher. He should know the
limits of his own powers. Better to build up the mind by slow additions,
to creep on quietly from one thing to another, to gain insensibly new
powers and new interests in knowledge, than to form vast schemes which are
never destined to be realized. But perhaps, as Plato would say, 'This is
part of another subject' (Tim.); though we may also defend our digression
by his example (Theaet.).

4. We remark with surprise that the progress of nations or the natural
growth of institutions which fill modern treatises on political philosophy
seem hardly ever to have attracted the attention of Plato and Aristotle.
The ancients were familiar with the mutability of human affairs; they could
moralize over the ruins of cities and the fall of empires (Plato,
Statesman, and Sulpicius' Letter to Cicero); by them fate and chance were
deemed to be real powers, almost persons, and to have had a great share in
political events. The wiser of them like Thucydides believed that 'what
had been would be again,' and that a tolerable idea of the future could be
gathered from the past. Also they had dreams of a Golden Age which existed
once upon a time and might still exist in some unknown land, or might
return again in the remote future. But the regular growth of a state
enlightened by experience, progressing in knowledge, improving in the arts,
of which the citizens were educated by the fulfilment of political duties,
appears never to have come within the range of their hopes and aspirations.
Such a state had never been seen, and therefore could not be conceived by
them. Their experience (Aristot. Metaph.; Plato, Laws) led them to
conclude that there had been cycles of civilization in which the arts had
been discovered and lost many times over, and cities had been overthrown
and rebuilt again and again, and deluges and volcanoes and other natural
convulsions had altered the face of the earth. Tradition told them of many
destructions of mankind and of the preservation of a remnant. The world
began again after a deluge and was reconstructed out of the fragments of
itself. Also they were acquainted with empires of unknown antiquity, like
the Egyptian or Assyrian; but they had never seen them grow, and could not
imagine, any more than we can, the state of man which preceded them. They
were puzzled and awestricken by the Egyptian monuments, of which the forms,
as Plato says, not in a figure, but literally, were ten thousand years old
(Laws), and they contrasted the antiquity of Egypt with their own short

The early legends of Hellas have no real connection with the later history:
they are at a distance, and the intermediate region is concealed from view;
there is no road or path which leads from one to the other. At the
beginning of Greek history, in the vestibule of the temple, is seen
standing first of all the figure of the legislator, himself the interpreter
and servant of the God. The fundamental laws which he gives are not
supposed to change with time and circumstances. The salvation of the state
is held rather to depend on the inviolable maintenance of them. They were
sanctioned by the authority of heaven, and it was deemed impiety to alter
them. The desire to maintain them unaltered seems to be the origin of what
at first sight is very surprising to us--the intolerant zeal of Plato
against innovators in religion or politics (Laws); although with a happy
inconsistency he is also willing that the laws of other countries should be
studied and improvements in legislation privately communicated to the
Nocturnal Council (Laws). The additions which were made to them in later
ages in order to meet the increasing complexity of affairs were still
ascribed by a fiction to the original legislator; and the words of such
enactments at Athens were disputed over as if they had been the words of
Solon himself. Plato hopes to preserve in a later generation the mind of
the legislator; he would have his citizens remain within the lines which he
has laid down for them. He would not harass them with minute regulations,
he would have allowed some changes in the laws: but not changes which
would affect the fundamental institutions of the state, such for example as
would convert an aristocracy into a timocracy, or a timocracy into a
popular form of government.

Passing from speculations to facts, we observe that progress has been the
exception rather than the law of human history. And therefore we are not
surprised to find that the idea of progress is of modern rather than of
ancient date; and, like the idea of a philosophy of history, is not more
than a century or two old. It seems to have arisen out of the impression
left on the human mind by the growth of the Roman Empire and of the
Christian Church, and to be due to the political and social improvements
which they introduced into the world; and still more in our own century to
the idealism of the first French Revolution and the triumph of American
Independence; and in a yet greater degree to the vast material prosperity
and growth of population in England and her colonies and in America. It is
also to be ascribed in a measure to the greater study of the philosophy of
history. The optimist temperament of some great writers has assisted the
creation of it, while the opposite character has led a few to regard the
future of the world as dark. The 'spectator of all time and of all
existence' sees more of 'the increasing purpose which through the ages ran'
than formerly: but to the inhabitant of a small state of Hellas the vision
was necessarily limited like the valley in which he dwelt. There was no
remote past on which his eye could rest, nor any future from which the veil
was partly lifted up by the analogy of history. The narrowness of view,
which to ourselves appears so singular, was to him natural, if not

5. For the relation of the Republic to the Statesman and the Laws, and the
two other works of Plato which directly treat of politics, see the
Introductions to the two latter; a few general points of comparison may be
touched upon in this place.

And first of the Laws.

(1) The Republic, though probably written at intervals, yet speaking
generally and judging by the indications of thought and style, may be
reasonably ascribed to the middle period of Plato's life: the Laws are
certainly the work of his declining years, and some portions of them at any
rate seem to have been written in extreme old age.

(2) The Republic is full of hope and aspiration: the Laws bear the stamp
of failure and disappointment. The one is a finished work which received
the last touches of the author: the other is imperfectly executed, and
apparently unfinished. The one has the grace and beauty of youth: the
other has lost the poetical form, but has more of the severity and
knowledge of life which is characteristic of old age.

(3) The most conspicuous defect of the Laws is the failure of dramatic
power, whereas the Republic is full of striking contrasts of ideas and
oppositions of character.

(4) The Laws may be said to have more the nature of a sermon, the Republic
of a poem; the one is more religious, the other more intellectual.

(5) Many theories of Plato, such as the doctrine of ideas, the government
of the world by philosophers, are not found in the Laws; the immortality of
the soul is first mentioned in xii; the person of Socrates has altogether
disappeared. The community of women and children is renounced; the
institution of common or public meals for women (Laws) is for the first
time introduced (Ar. Pol.).

(6) There remains in the Laws the old enmity to the poets, who are
ironically saluted in high-flown terms, and, at the same time, are
peremptorily ordered out of the city, if they are not willing to submit
their poems to the censorship of the magistrates (Rep.).

(7) Though the work is in most respects inferior, there are a few passages
in the Laws, such as the honour due to the soul, the evils of licentious or
unnatural love, the whole of Book x. (religion), the dishonesty of retail
trade, and bequests, which come more home to us, and contain more of what
may be termed the modern element in Plato than almost anything in the

The relation of the two works to one another is very well given:

(1) by Aristotle in the Politics from the side of the Laws:--

'The same, or nearly the same, objections apply to Plato's later work, the
Laws, and therefore we had better examine briefly the constitution which is
therein described. In the Republic, Socrates has definitely settled in all
a few questions only; such as the community of women and children, the
community of property, and the constitution of the state. The population
is divided into two classes--one of husbandmen, and the other of warriors;
from this latter is taken a third class of counsellors and rulers of the
state. But Socrates has not determined whether the husbandmen and artists
are to have a share in the government, and whether they too are to carry
arms and share in military service or not. He certainly thinks that the
women ought to share in the education of the guardians, and to fight by
their side. The remainder of the work is filled up with digressions
foreign to the main subject, and with discussions about the education of
the guardians. In the Laws there is hardly anything but laws; not much is
said about the constitution. This, which he had intended to make more of
the ordinary type, he gradually brings round to the other or ideal form.
For with the exception of the community of women and property, he supposes
everything to be the same in both states; there is to be the same
education; the citizens of both are to live free from servile occupations,
and there are to be common meals in both. The only difference is that in
the Laws the common meals are extended to women, and the warriors number
about 5000, but in the Republic only 1000.'

(2) by Plato in the Laws (Book v.), from the side of the Republic:--

'The first and highest form of the state and of the government and of the
law is that in which there prevails most widely the ancient saying that
"Friends have all things in common." Whether there is now, or ever will
be, this communion of women and children and of property, in which the
private and individual is altogether banished from life, and things which
are by nature private, such as eyes and ears and hands, have become common,
and all men express praise and blame, and feel joy and sorrow, on the same
occasions, and the laws unite the city to the utmost,--whether all this is
possible or not, I say that no man, acting upon any other principle, will
ever constitute a state more exalted in virtue, or truer or better than
this. Such a state, whether inhabited by Gods or sons of Gods, will make
them blessed who dwell therein; and therefore to this we are to look for
the pattern of the state, and to cling to this, and, as far as possible, to
seek for one which is like this. The state which we have now in hand, when
created, will be nearest to immortality and unity in the next degree; and
after that, by the grace of God, we will complete the third one. And we
will begin by speaking of the nature and origin of the second.'

The comparatively short work called the Statesman or Politicus in its style
and manner is more akin to the Laws, while in its idealism it rather
resembles the Republic. As far as we can judge by various indications of
language and thought, it must be later than the one and of course earlier
than the other. In both the Republic and Statesman a close connection is
maintained between Politics and Dialectic. In the Statesman, enquiries
into the principles of Method are interspersed with discussions about
Politics. The comparative advantages of the rule of law and of a person
are considered, and the decision given in favour of a person (Arist. Pol.).
But much may be said on the other side, nor is the opposition necessary;
for a person may rule by law, and law may be so applied as to be the living
voice of the legislator. As in the Republic, there is a myth, describing,
however, not a future, but a former existence of mankind. The question is
asked, 'Whether the state of innocence which is described in the myth, or a
state like our own which possesses art and science and distinguishes good
from evil, is the preferable condition of man.' To this question of the
comparative happiness of civilized and primitive life, which was so often
discussed in the last century and in our own, no answer is given. The
Statesman, though less perfect in style than the Republic and of far less
range, may justly be regarded as one of the greatest of Plato's dialogues.

6. Others as well as Plato have chosen an ideal Republic to be the vehicle
of thoughts which they could not definitely express, or which went beyond
their own age. The classical writing which approaches most nearly to the
Republic of Plato is the 'De Republica' of Cicero; but neither in this nor
in any other of his dialogues does he rival the art of Plato. The manners
are clumsy and inferior; the hand of the rhetorician is apparent at every
turn. Yet noble sentiments are constantly recurring: the true note of
Roman patriotism--'We Romans are a great people'--resounds through the
whole work. Like Socrates, Cicero turns away from the phenomena of the
heavens to civil and political life. He would rather not discuss the 'two
Suns' of which all Rome was talking, when he can converse about 'the two
nations in one' which had divided Rome ever since the days of the Gracchi.
Like Socrates again, speaking in the person of Scipio, he is afraid lest he
should assume too much the character of a teacher, rather than of an equal
who is discussing among friends the two sides of a question. He would
confine the terms King or State to the rule of reason and justice, and he
will not concede that title either to a democracy or to a monarchy. But
under the rule of reason and justice he is willing to include the natural
superior ruling over the natural inferior, which he compares to the soul
ruling over the body. He prefers a mixture of forms of government to any
single one. The two portraits of the just and the unjust, which occur in
the second book of the Republic, are transferred to the state--Philus, one
of the interlocutors, maintaining against his will the necessity of
injustice as a principle of government, while the other, Laelius, supports
the opposite thesis. His views of language and number are derived from
Plato; like him he denounces the drama. He also declares that if his life
were to be twice as long he would have no time to read the lyric poets.
The picture of democracy is translated by him word for word, though he had
hardly shown himself able to 'carry the jest' of Plato. He converts into a
stately sentence the humorous fancy about the animals, who 'are so imbued
with the spirit of democracy that they make the passers-by get out of their
way.' His description of the tyrant is imitated from Plato, but is far
inferior. The second book is historical, and claims for the Roman
constitution (which is to him the ideal) a foundation of fact such as Plato
probably intended to have given to the Republic in the Critias. His most
remarkable imitation of Plato is the adaptation of the vision of Er, which
is converted by Cicero into the 'Somnium Scipionis'; he has 'romanized' the
myth of the Republic, adding an argument for the immortality of the soul
taken from the Phaedrus, and some other touches derived from the Phaedo and
the Timaeus. Though a beautiful tale and containing splendid passages, the
'Somnium Scipionis; is very inferior to the vision of Er; it is only a
dream, and hardly allows the reader to suppose that the writer believes in
his own creation. Whether his dialogues were framed on the model of the
lost dialogues of Aristotle, as he himself tells us, or of Plato, to which
they bear many superficial resemblances, he is still the Roman orator; he
is not conversing, but making speeches, and is never able to mould the
intractable Latin to the grace and ease of the Greek Platonic dialogue.
But if he is defective in form, much more is he inferior to the Greek in
matter; he nowhere in his philosophical writings leaves upon our minds the
impression of an original thinker.

Plato's Republic has been said to be a church and not a state; and such an
ideal of a city in the heavens has always hovered over the Christian world,
and is embodied in St. Augustine's 'De Civitate Dei,' which is suggested by
the decay and fall of the Roman Empire, much in the same manner in which we
may imagine the Republic of Plato to have been influenced by the decline of
Greek politics in the writer's own age. The difference is that in the time
of Plato the degeneracy, though certain, was gradual and insensible:
whereas the taking of Rome by the Goths stirred like an earthquake the age
of St. Augustine. Men were inclined to believe that the overthrow of the
city was to be ascribed to the anger felt by the old Roman deities at the
neglect of their worship. St. Augustine maintains the opposite thesis; he
argues that the destruction of the Roman Empire is due, not to the rise of
Christianity, but to the vices of Paganism. He wanders over Roman history,
and over Greek philosophy and mythology, and finds everywhere crime,
impiety and falsehood. He compares the worst parts of the Gentile
religions with the best elements of the faith of Christ. He shows nothing
of the spirit which led others of the early Christian Fathers to recognize
in the writings of the Greek philosophers the power of the divine truth.
He traces the parallel of the kingdom of God, that is, the history of the
Jews, contained in their scriptures, and of the kingdoms of the world,
which are found in gentile writers, and pursues them both into an ideal
future. It need hardly be remarked that his use both of Greek and of Roman
historians and of the sacred writings of the Jews is wholly uncritical.
The heathen mythology, the Sybilline oracles, the myths of Plato, the
dreams of Neo-Platonists are equally regarded by him as matter of fact. He
must be acknowledged to be a strictly polemical or controversial writer who
makes the best of everything on one side and the worst of everything on the
other. He has no sympathy with the old Roman life as Plato has with Greek
life, nor has he any idea of the ecclesiastical kingdom which was to arise
out of the ruins of the Roman empire. He is not blind to the defects of
the Christian Church, and looks forward to a time when Christian and Pagan
shall be alike brought before the judgment-seat, and the true City of God
shall appear...The work of St. Augustine is a curious repertory of
antiquarian learning and quotations, deeply penetrated with Christian
ethics, but showing little power of reasoning, and a slender knowledge of
the Greek literature and language. He was a great genius, and a noble
character, yet hardly capable of feeling or understanding anything external
to his own theology. Of all the ancient philosophers he is most attracted
by Plato, though he is very slightly acquainted with his writings. He is
inclined to believe that the idea of creation in the Timaeus is derived
from the narrative in Genesis; and he is strangely taken with the
coincidence (?) of Plato's saying that 'the philosopher is the lover of
God,' and the words of the Book of Exodus in which God reveals himself to
Moses (Exod.) He dwells at length on miracles performed in his own day, of
which the evidence is regarded by him as irresistible. He speaks in a very
interesting manner of the beauty and utility of nature and of the human
frame, which he conceives to afford a foretaste of the heavenly state and
of the resurrection of the body. The book is not really what to most
persons the title of it would imply, and belongs to an age which has passed
away. But it contains many fine passages and thoughts which are for all

The short treatise de Monarchia of Dante is by far the most remarkable of
mediaeval ideals, and bears the impress of the great genius in whom Italy
and the Middle Ages are so vividly reflected. It is the vision of an
Universal Empire, which is supposed to be the natural and necessary
government of the world, having a divine authority distinct from the
Papacy, yet coextensive with it. It is not 'the ghost of the dead Roman
Empire sitting crowned upon the grave thereof,' but the legitimate heir and
successor of it, justified by the ancient virtues of the Romans and the
beneficence of their rule. Their right to be the governors of the world is
also confirmed by the testimony of miracles, and acknowledged by St. Paul
when he appealed to Caesar, and even more emphatically by Christ Himself,
Who could not have made atonement for the sins of men if He had not been
condemned by a divinely authorized tribunal. The necessity for the
establishment of an Universal Empire is proved partly by a priori arguments
such as the unity of God and the unity of the family or nation; partly by
perversions of Scripture and history, by false analogies of nature, by
misapplied quotations from the classics, and by odd scraps and commonplaces
of logic, showing a familiar but by no means exact knowledge of Aristotle
(of Plato there is none). But a more convincing argument still is the
miserable state of the world, which he touchingly describes. He sees no
hope of happiness or peace for mankind until all nations of the earth are
comprehended in a single empire. The whole treatise shows how deeply the
idea of the Roman Empire was fixed in the minds of his contemporaries. Not
much argument was needed to maintain the truth of a theory which to his own
contemporaries seemed so natural and congenial. He speaks, or rather
preaches, from the point of view, not of the ecclesiastic, but of the
layman, although, as a good Catholic, he is willing to acknowledge that in
certain respects the Empire must submit to the Church. The beginning and
end of all his noble reflections and of his arguments, good and bad, is the
aspiration 'that in this little plot of earth belonging to mortal man life
may pass in freedom and peace.' So inextricably is his vision of the
future bound up with the beliefs and circumstances of his own age.

The 'Utopia' of Sir Thomas More is a surprising monument of his genius, and
shows a reach of thought far beyond his contemporaries. The book was
written by him at the age of about 34 or 35, and is full of the generous
sentiments of youth. He brings the light of Plato to bear upon the
miserable state of his own country. Living not long after the Wars of the
Roses, and in the dregs of the Catholic Church in England, he is indignant
at the corruption of the clergy, at the luxury of the nobility and gentry,
at the sufferings of the poor, at the calamities caused by war. To the eye
of More the whole world was in dissolution and decay; and side by side with
the misery and oppression which he has described in the First Book of the
Utopia, he places in the Second Book the ideal state which by the help of
Plato he had constructed. The times were full of stir and intellectual
interest. The distant murmur of the Reformation was beginning to be heard.
To minds like More's, Greek literature was a revelation: there had arisen
an art of interpretation, and the New Testament was beginning to be
understood as it had never been before, and has not often been since, in
its natural sense. The life there depicted appeared to him wholly unlike
that of Christian commonwealths, in which 'he saw nothing but a certain
conspiracy of rich men procuring their own commodities under the name and
title of the Commonwealth.' He thought that Christ, like Plato,
'instituted all things common,' for which reason, he tells us, the citizens
of Utopia were the more willing to receive his doctrines ('Howbeit, I think
this was no small help and furtherance in the matter, that they heard us
say that Christ instituted among his, all things common, and that the same
community doth yet remain in the rightest Christian communities'
(Utopia).). The community of property is a fixed idea with him, though he
is aware of the arguments which may be urged on the other side ('These
things (I say), when I consider with myself, I hold well with Plato, and do
nothing marvel that he would make no laws for them that refused those laws,
whereby all men should have and enjoy equal portions of riches and
commodities. For the wise men did easily foresee this to be the one and
only way to the wealth of a community, if equality of all things should be
brought in and established' (Utopia).). We wonder how in the reign of
Henry VIII, though veiled in another language and published in a foreign
country, such speculations could have been endured.

He is gifted with far greater dramatic invention than any one who succeeded
him, with the exception of Swift. In the art of feigning he is a worthy
disciple of Plato. Like him, starting from a small portion of fact, he
founds his tale with admirable skill on a few lines in the Latin narrative
of the voyages of Amerigo Vespucci. He is very precise about dates and
facts, and has the power of making us believe that the narrator of the tale
must have been an eyewitness. We are fairly puzzled by his manner of
mixing up real and imaginary persons; his boy John Clement and Peter Giles,
citizen of Antwerp, with whom he disputes about the precise words which are
supposed to have been used by the (imaginary) Portuguese traveller, Raphael
Hythloday. 'I have the more cause,' says Hythloday, 'to fear that my words
shall not be believed, for that I know how difficultly and hardly I myself
would have believed another man telling the same, if I had not myself seen
it with mine own eyes.' Or again: 'If you had been with me in Utopia, and
had presently seen their fashions and laws as I did which lived there five
years and more, and would never have come thence, but only to make the new
land known here,' etc. More greatly regrets that he forgot to ask
Hythloday in what part of the world Utopia is situated; he 'would have
spent no small sum of money rather than it should have escaped him,' and he
begs Peter Giles to see Hythloday or write to him and obtain an answer to
the question. After this we are not surprised to hear that a Professor of
Divinity (perhaps 'a late famous vicar of Croydon in Surrey,' as the
translator thinks) is desirous of being sent thither as a missionary by the
High Bishop, 'yea, and that he may himself be made Bishop of Utopia,
nothing doubting that he must obtain this Bishopric with suit; and he
counteth that a godly suit which proceedeth not of the desire of honour or
lucre, but only of a godly zeal.' The design may have failed through the
disappearance of Hythloday, concerning whom we have 'very uncertain news'
after his departure. There is no doubt, however, that he had told More and
Giles the exact situation of the island, but unfortunately at the same
moment More's attention, as he is reminded in a letter from Giles, was
drawn off by a servant, and one of the company from a cold caught on
shipboard coughed so loud as to prevent Giles from hearing. And 'the
secret has perished' with him; to this day the place of Utopia remains

The words of Phaedrus, 'O Socrates, you can easily invent Egyptians or
anything,' are recalled to our mind as we read this lifelike fiction. Yet
the greater merit of the work is not the admirable art, but the originality
of thought. More is as free as Plato from the prejudices of his age, and
far more tolerant. The Utopians do not allow him who believes not in the
immortality of the soul to share in the administration of the state (Laws),
'howbeit they put him to no punishment, because they be persuaded that it
is in no man's power to believe what he list'; and 'no man is to be blamed
for reasoning in support of his own religion ('One of our company in my
presence was sharply punished. He, as soon as he was baptised, began,
against our wills, with more earnest affection than wisdom, to reason of
Christ's religion, and began to wax so hot in his matter, that he did not
only prefer our religion before all other, but also did despise and condemn
all other, calling them profane, and the followers of them wicked and
devilish, and the children of everlasting damnation. When he had thus long
reasoned the matter, they laid hold on him, accused him, and condemned him
into exile, not as a despiser of religion, but as a seditious person and a
raiser up of dissension among the people').' In the public services 'no
prayers be used, but such as every man may boldly pronounce without giving
offence to any sect.' He says significantly, 'There be that give worship
to a man that was once of excellent virtue or of famous glory, not only as
God, but also the chiefest and highest God. But the most and the wisest
part, rejecting all these, believe that there is a certain godly power
unknown, far above the capacity and reach of man's wit, dispersed
throughout all the world, not in bigness, but in virtue and power. Him
they call the Father of all. To Him alone they attribute the beginnings,
the increasings, the proceedings, the changes, and the ends of all things.
Neither give they any divine honours to any other than him.' So far was
More from sharing the popular beliefs of his time. Yet at the end he
reminds us that he does not in all respects agree with the customs and
opinions of the Utopians which he describes. And we should let him have
the benefit of this saving clause, and not rudely withdraw the veil behind
which he has been pleased to conceal himself.

Nor is he less in advance of popular opinion in his political and moral
speculations. He would like to bring military glory into contempt; he
would set all sorts of idle people to profitable occupation, including in
the same class, priests, women, noblemen, gentlemen, and 'sturdy and
valiant beggars,' that the labour of all may be reduced to six hours a day.
His dislike of capital punishment, and plans for the reformation of
offenders; his detestation of priests and lawyers (Compare his satirical
observation: 'They (the Utopians) have priests of exceeding holiness, and
therefore very few.); his remark that 'although every one may hear of
ravenous dogs and wolves and cruel man-eaters, it is not easy to find
states that are well and wisely governed,' are curiously at variance with
the notions of his age and indeed with his own life. There are many points
in which he shows a modern feeling and a prophetic insight like Plato. He
is a sanitary reformer; he maintains that civilized states have a right to
the soil of waste countries; he is inclined to the opinion which places
happiness in virtuous pleasures, but herein, as he thinks, not disagreeing
from those other philosophers who define virtue to be a life according to
nature. He extends the idea of happiness so as to include the happiness of
others; and he argues ingeniously, 'All men agree that we ought to make
others happy; but if others, how much more ourselves!' And still he thinks
that there may be a more excellent way, but to this no man's reason can
attain unless heaven should inspire him with a higher truth. His
ceremonies before marriage; his humane proposal that war should be carried
on by assassinating the leaders of the enemy, may be compared to some of
the paradoxes of Plato. He has a charming fancy, like the affinities of
Greeks and barbarians in the Timaeus, that the Utopians learnt the language
of the Greeks with the more readiness because they were originally of the
same race with them. He is penetrated with the spirit of Plato, and quotes
or adapts many thoughts both from the Republic and from the Timaeus. He
prefers public duties to private, and is somewhat impatient of the
importunity of relations. His citizens have no silver or gold of their
own, but are ready enough to pay them to their mercenaries. There is
nothing of which he is more contemptuous than the love of money. Gold is
used for fetters of criminals, and diamonds and pearls for children's
necklaces (When the ambassadors came arrayed in gold and peacocks' feathers
'to the eyes of all the Utopians except very few, which had been in other
countries for some reasonable cause, all that gorgeousness of apparel
seemed shameful and reproachful. In so much that they most reverently
saluted the vilest and most abject of them for lords--passing over the
ambassadors themselves without any honour, judging them by their wearing of
golden chains to be bondmen. You should have seen children also, that had
cast away their pearls and precious stones, when they saw the like sticking
upon the ambassadors' caps, dig and push their mothers under the sides,
saying thus to them--"Look, though he were a little child still." But the
mother; yea and that also in good earnest: "Peace, son," saith she, "I
think he be some of the ambassadors' fools."')

Like Plato he is full of satirical reflections on governments and princes;
on the state of the world and of knowledge. The hero of his discourse
(Hythloday) is very unwilling to become a minister of state, considering
that he would lose his independence and his advice would never be heeded
(Compare an exquisite passage, of which the conclusion is as follows: 'And
verily it is naturally given...suppressed and ended.') He ridicules the
new logic of his time; the Utopians could never be made to understand the
doctrine of Second Intentions ('For they have not devised one of all those
rules of restrictions, amplifications, and suppositions, very wittily
invented in the small Logicals, which here our children in every place do
learn. Furthermore, they were never yet able to find out the second
intentions; insomuch that none of them all could ever see man himself in
common, as they call him, though he be (as you know) bigger than was ever
any giant, yea, and pointed to of us even with our finger.') He is very
severe on the sports of the gentry; the Utopians count 'hunting the lowest,
the vilest, and the most abject part of butchery.' He quotes the words of
the Republic in which the philosopher is described 'standing out of the way
under a wall until the driving storm of sleet and rain be overpast,' which
admit of a singular application to More's own fate; although, writing
twenty years before (about the year 1514), he can hardly be supposed to
have foreseen this. There is no touch of satire which strikes deeper than
his quiet remark that the greater part of the precepts of Christ are more
at variance with the lives of ordinary Christians than the discourse of
Utopia ('And yet the most part of them is more dissident from the manners
of the world now a days, than my communication was. But preachers, sly and
wily men, following your counsel (as I suppose) because they saw men evil-
willing to frame their manners to Christ's rule, they have wrested and
wried his doctrine, and, like a rule of lead, have applied it to men's
manners, that by some means at the least way, they might agree together.')

The 'New Atlantis' is only a fragment, and far inferior in merit to the
'Utopia.' The work is full of ingenuity, but wanting in creative fancy,
and by no means impresses the reader with a sense of credibility. In some
places Lord Bacon is characteristically different from Sir Thomas More, as,
for example, in the external state which he attributes to the governor of
Solomon's House, whose dress he minutely describes, while to Sir Thomas
More such trappings appear simple ridiculous. Yet, after this programme of
dress, Bacon adds the beautiful trait, 'that he had a look as though he
pitied men.' Several things are borrowed by him from the Timaeus; but he
has injured the unity of style by adding thoughts and passages which are
taken from the Hebrew Scriptures.

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