« PreviousContinue »
The sect of philosophers, who affirm that there is no pleasure but the absence of pain, is in the wrong, but from a noble principle.2
To know the nature of pleasure, we should consider such as are strongest: bodily pleasures are such.
Pleasure is in proportion to our desires. The desires and longings of sick persons are the most violent: the mad and thoughtless feel the strongest 3 degree of pleasure and of pain; so that both the one and the other increase with the disorder and depravity of our body and mind.
Pleasures of lust have a mixture of pain, as the pain of the itch has a mixture of pleasure, and both subsist at the same instant.
Anger, grief, love, envy, are pains of the soul, but with a mixture 5 of pleasure. Exemplified in the exercise of our compassion and terror at a tragick spectacle, and of our envy at a comick one. The pleasure of ridicule arises from vanity and from the ignorance of ourselves. We laugh at the follies of the weak, and hate those of the powerful.
1 66 'Pleasure," says Mr. Selden, "is nothing but the intermission of pain, the enjoyment of something I am in great trouble for, till I have it."
2 Δυσχερεια τινι φύσεως ουκ αγεννοῦς λιαν μεμισηκοτων την της ἡδονης δυναμιν, και νενομικοτων ουδεν ύγιες.
3 V. Plat. in Republ. L. 3. p. 403.
4 Vid. Gorgiam. p. 494.
5 V. Aristot. Rhetor. L. 2. c. 2.
6. Μη τους δραμασι μονον, αλλα και τη του βιου ξυμπασῃ τραγωδία
και κωμωδια, p. 50.
7 Γελοῖα μεν, ὁποσα ασθενη μισητα δε, ὁποσα ἢ εῤῥωμενα.
Pure and unmixed pleasures 1 proved to exist: those of the senses resulting from regularity of figure, beautiful colours, melodious sounds, odours of fragrance, &c. and all whose absence is not necessarily 2 accompanied with any uneasiness. Again: satisfactions of the mind resulting from knowledge, the absence or loss of which is not naturally attended with any pain.
A small portion of pure and uncorrupted pleasure is preferable to a larger one of that which is mixed and impure.
The opinion of some philosophers, that pleasure is continually generating, but is never produced, i.e. it has no real existence, seems true with regard to mere bodily pleasures.
Enquiry into knowledge. The nature of the arts: such of them, as approach the nearest to real knowledge, are the most considerable, being founded on number, weight, and measure, and capable of demonstration.
Secondly, those attainable only by use and frequent trial, being founded on conjecture and experiment, such as musick, medicine, agriculture, natural philosophy, &c. P. 60. Recapitulation.
P. 61. Happiness resides in the just mixture of wisdom and pleasure; particularly when we join the
1 Vid. de Republ. L. 9. p. 584.
2 Ουτι φύσειγε, αλλ' εν τισι λογισμοις. p. 52.
3 Vid. de Republ. L. 10. p. 602.
4 And above all, logick, to which we owe all the evidence and certainty we find in the rest. Ωσπερ θριγκος, τοις μαθημασιν ἡ Διαλεκτικη ἡμιν επάνω κειται, &c. De Republ. L. 7. p. 534. 5 Vid. de Republ. L. 9. p. 582. and de Leg. L. 5. p. 733.
purest pleasures with the clearer and more certain sciences.
P. 63. Prosopopoeia of the pleasures and sciences, consulted on the proposal made for uniting them.
P. 64. No mixture is either useful or durable, without proportion. The supreme good of man consists in beauty, in symmetry, and in truth, which are the causes of all the happiness to be found in the above-mentioned union.
Η, ΠΕΡΙ ΑΡΕΤΗΣ.
THE subject of the dialogue is this: That virtue is knowledge, and that true philosophy alone can give us that knowledge.
I see nothing in this dialogue to make one think that Plato intended to raise the character of Meno. He is introduced as a young man who seems to value
NOTES ON THE GREEK TEXT.
Plat. Op. Serrani, Vol. 2. p. 70.
Ρ. 70. Εφ' ιππικη τε και πλουτω.] The breed of Thessalian horses was the most celebrated in Greece; and when the cities of Thessaly were united among themselves, they could raise a body of six thousand, equal to any cavalry in the world. (Xenophon Hellenic. L. 6. p. 339 Pausan. L. 10. p. 799. Plato in Hipp. Maj. p. 284.) They were of great service to Alexander in his expeditions. The country was very rich in pasture and in corn, and, as their government was generally remiss and ill-regulated, their wealth naturally introduced a corruption (Athenæus, L. 14. p. 663.) of manners, which made them first slaves themselves, and then the instruments of slavery to other people. It was they who invited the Persian (Herod. L. 7. and L. 9.) into Greece; and afterwards gave rise to the power of the Macedonians.
Isocrates (Orat. de Pace, p. 183.) produces them as an example of a strong and wealthy people, reduced by their own bad management to a low and distressed condition.
himself on his parts, and on the proficiency he has made under Gorgias the Leontine, (whose notions are here exposed) and the compliments Socrates makes him on his beauty, wealth, family, and other distinctions, are only little politenesses ordinarily used by that philosopher to put persons into good humour, and draw them into conversation with him.
The time of the dialogue seems to be not long before the expedition of the ten thousand into Asia, for Meno was even then a very young man, (ετι ὡραιος, αγενειος) as he is represented here; and the menaces of Anytus (p. 94) shew, that it was not long before the accusa
Ρ. 70. Αριστιππου του Λαρισσαιου.] Aristippus of Larissa, one of the potent house of the Aleuadæ, descendants of Hercules, from which the Thessalians had so often elected their Tayoi, or captains-general. There had been a friendship kept up between them and the royal family of Persia, ever since the invasion of Greece by Xerxes, in which they were of great use to him. This Aristippus had particular connections with the younger Cyrus (Xenoph. Anab. L. 1. p. 145. and 2. 173.) who lent him a body of four thousand mercenaries, which he made use of to subdue the faction which opposed him in Thessaly, and seems to have established a sort of tyranny there. Meno (also of Larissa) son of Alexidemus, led a body of fifteen hundred men to the assistance of Cyrus in his expedition against his brother, Artaxerxes, Ol. 94. 4, and (after the death of Cyrus) betrayed the Greek commanders into the hands of the Persian, who cut off their heads. He himself survived not above a year, but was destroyed by the Persians. His character is admirably drawn by Xenophon, (Anab. L. 2. p. 173.) and many have looked on this as a mark of the enmity between Plato and Xenophon. See Athenæus, L. 11. p. 505 and 506. Diog. Laert. L. 2. Sect. 57, and L. 3. s. 34, and Aul. Gellius, L. 14. s. 3.