Page images

of the human mind, no one can reject pleasure, but where it seems productive of a superior degree of pain, or prefer pain, unless the consequence of it be a superior pleasure. That to balance these one against the other with accuracy, to judge rightly of them at a distance, to calculate the overplus 1 of each, is that science on which our happiness depends, and which is the basis of every virtue. That, if our whole life's welfare and the interests of it were as closely connected with the judgment, which we should make on the real magnitude of objects and on their true figure, (or with our not being deceived by the appearance which they exhibit at a distance,) who doubts but that geometry and opticks would then be the means of happiness to us, and would become the rule of virtue? That there is a kind of knowledge no less necessary to us in our present state, and no less a science; and that, when we pretend to be misled by our passions, we ought to blame our ignorance, which is the true source of all our follies and vices. And now (continues Socrates) who would not laugh at our inconsistency? You set out with affirming that virtue might be taught, yet in the course of our debate you have treated it as a thing entirely distinct 2 from knowledge, and not reducible to

1 Plato de Legib. L. 1. p. 644. and L. 2. p. 663. and L. 5. p. 733. 2 It was the opinion of Socrates, that all the virtues were only prudence (or wisdom) exerted on different occasions. Πασας τας αρετας φρονησεις ειναι και Σωκρατης (adds Aristotle) τῇ μεν ορθώς εζήτει, τῇδ ̓ ἡμαρτανεν· ὅτι μεν γαρ φρονησεις ωετο ειναι πασας τας αρετας ἡμαρτανεν· ὅτι δ' ουκ ανευ φρονησεως καλως eleye. Ethic. ad Nichom. L. 6. c. 13. and Plato de Legib. L. 3. p. 688. calls prudence, Συμπασης ἡγεμων αρετης, φρονησις μετ' ερωτος και επιθυμιας ταυτῃ ἑπομένης.

it I, who advanced the contrary position, have shewn that it is a science, and consequently that it may be learned.

Protagoras, who has had no other share in the dispute than to make (without perceiving the consequence) such concessions as absolutely destroy what he set out with affirming, tries to support the dignity of his own age and reputation, by making an arrogant compliment to Socrates, commending his parts (very considerable, he says, and very promising for so young a man,) and doing him the justice to say to all his acquaintance, that he knows no one more likely, some time or other, to make an extraordinary person; and he adds that this is not a time to enter deeper into this subject, and on any other day he shall be at his service.





As Serranus, and (I think) every commentator after him, has read this dialogue with a grave countenance, and understood it in a literal sense, though it is throughout a very apparent and continued irony; it is no wonder if such persons, as trust to their accounts of it, find it a very silly and frivolous thing. Yet under that irony, doubtless, there is concealed a serious meaning, which makes a part of Plato's great design, a


Plat. Op. Serrani, Vol. 1. p. 530.

P. 530. Aσkλntielα.] Pausanias, in his description of the temple of Esculapius near Epidaurus, speaks of the adjoining stadium and theatre, where these games were celebrated during the festival of the deity. L. 2. p. 174.

Ib. AXλos IIonrais.] The Rhapsodi sung, in the theatres, not only the poems of Homer, but those also (V. de Legib. L. 2. p. 658.) of Hesiod, Archilochus, Mimnermus, and Phocylides, the Iambicks of Simonides, &c. (see Athenæus, L. 14. p. 620.) and even the history of Herodotus.

design which runs through all his writings. He was persuaded that virtue must be built on knowledge, not on that counterfeit 2 knowledge, which dwells only on the surface of things and is guided by the imagination rather than by the judgment, (for this was the peculiar foible of his countrymen, a light and desultory people, easily seduced by their fancy wherever it led them), but on the knowledge which is fixed and settled on certain great and general truths, and on principles as ancient and as unshaken as nature itself, or rather as the author of nature. To this knowledge, and con

1 See Plato's seventh Epistle to the friends of Dion; as well as his Protagoras, Meno, Laches, and Alcibiades.

2 Δοξοσοφια, δοξαστικη επιστημη. (Vid. Sophist. p. 233.)


Ρ. 530. Μαλιστα εν Όμηρω.] These were distinguished by the name of Homeristæ, or Homerida.

2. and Plato de Republ. L. 10, p. 599.

See Pindar Od. Nem.

Ib. Ei un žuvin.] They were remarkable for their ignorance. See Xenoph. Sympos. p. 513. Οισθα ουν εθνος τι ηλιθιωτερον Ραψωδων, &c. Metrodorus of Lampsacus here is not to be confounded with the friend of Epicurus, who was also of Lampsacus.

Ib. The first Metrodorus (mentioned in the preceding note) was a disciple of Anaxagoras, and seems to have written on the moral and natural philosophy of Homer. See Diog. Laert. L. 2, s. 11. Stesimbrotus of Thasus was contemporary with Socrates, but elder than he he is often cited by Plutarch (in Themistocle, in Cimone, in Pericle) having, as it seems, given some account of these great men, with the two last of whom he had lived (see Athenæus, L. 13, p. 589.) he was a sophist of reputation, and gave lessons to Niceratus the son of Nicias. See Xenoph. Sympos. p. 513.

sequently to virtue, he thought that philosophy was our only guide: and as to all those arts, which are usually made merely subservient to the passions of mankind, as politicks,1 eloquence, and poetry, he thought that they were no otherwise to be esteemed than as they are grounded on philosophy, and are 1 See the Gorgias, Meno, Phædrus, and this dialogue.


P. 532. Polygnotus, son of Aglaophon, the painter.

533. Dædalus was the son of Palamaon, of that branch of the royal family, called Metionidæ, being sprung from Metion, the son of Erectheus: (See Pausan. L. 7. p. 531. and L. 1. p. 13.) there were statues of his workmanship still preserved in several cities of Greece, at Thebes, Lebadea, Delos, Olus, and Gnossus, even in the time of Pausanias, above six hundred years after this. See Pausan. L. 9, p. 793. and Plato Hippias Maj. p. 282. Epèus, the son of Panopeus, was the inventor of the Trojan horse; in the temple of the Lycian Apollo at Argos, was preserved a wooden figure of Mercury made by him. Theodorus, the Samian, son of Telecles, first discovered the method of casting iron, and of forming it into figures: he also (with his countryman Rhacus the son of Philæus) was the first who cast statues in bronze; he worked likewise in gold, and graved precious stones.

Ib. OXνμжоν.] Olympus, the Phrygian, lived in the time of Midas before the Trojan war, yet his compositions, or Noμo, as well the musick as the verses, were extant even in Plutarch's days; see Burette on the Treatise de Musicâ, Mémoires de l'Acad. des Inscript. Vol. 10, note 30, V. 13, note 104, V. 15, note 228. and Aristotel. Politic. L. 8. c. 5. and Plato Sympos. p. 215. Και ετι νυνι κηλει τους ανθρωπους, ός αν τα εκεινου αυλῇ. (Marsya scilicet, qui Olympum edocuit) see also Plato in Minoe, p. 318. hence also it seems that they had the musick of Orpheus, of Thamyris, and of Phemius, then in being. (See Hom. Odyss. A. 325, and X. 330.)

« PreviousContinue »