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Η, ΠΕΡΙ ΨΥΧΗΣ.
Plat. Op. Serrani, Vol. 1. p. 57.
THIS famous dialogue was supposed by Panatius1 the stoick, a great admirer of Plato, not to be genuine, or at least interpolated, rather, as it seems, from his own persuasion 2 of the soul's mortality, than from any thing in the piece itself unlike the manner or the tenets of the philosopher, to whom it has always been ascribed. The whole course of antiquity has regarded it as one of his principal works; and (what seems decisive) Aristotle3 himself cites it, as a work of his master.
The historical part of it is admirable, and, though written and disposed with all the art and management of the best tragick writer, (for the slightest circumstance in it wants not its force and meaning) it exhibits nothing to the eye but the noble simplicity of nature. 1 Anthologia, L. 1. 44. 2 Cicero, Tusc. Quæst. L. 1. 32.
3 Meteorolog. L. 2. 2.
NOTES ON THE GREEK TEXT.
P. 58. Kar' eviaUTOV.] This annual solemnity should be distinguished from the great Delian festival described by Thucydides, (See Taylor's Comment on the Marmor Sandvicense,) which returned only once in four years, and which, after a long intermission, was revived Ol. 88. 3.
Every intelligent reader will feel what those who were eye-witnesses are said to have felt, namely, anon Tiva κράσιν, απο τε της ἡδονης συγκεκραμενην ὁμου και της AUTηs. The innocence, the humanity, the cheerfulness, and the unaffected intrepidity of Socrates, will draw some tears from him (as it did many from them) as for the loss of a father; and will, at the same time, better than any arguments, shew him a soul, which, if it were not so, at least deserved to be immortal.
The reasoning part is far inferior, sometimes weak, sometimes false, too obscure, too abstracted, to convince us of any thing; yet with a mixture of good sense and with many fine observations. The fabulous account of
a future state is too particular and too fantastick an invention for Socrates to dwell upon at such a time, and has less decorum and propriety in it than the other parts of the dialogue.
Socrates attempts in this dialogue to prove, that true philosophy is but a continual preparation for death; its daily study and practice being to wean and separate the body from the soul, whose pursuit of truth is perpetually stopped and impeded by the numerous avocations, the little pleasures, pains, and necessities of its companion. That, as death is but a transition from its opposite,1 life (in the same manner as heat is from cold,
1 This was an idea of Pythagoras. Εν βιῳ αρχη τελευτης εν Swn de reveals poopas. Diog. Laert. L. 8. s. 22.
P. 61. Þıλoλaov.] We see that Philolaus of Crotona had been at Thebes, and that Simmias and Cebes had both received from him some tincture of the Pythagorean doctrines.
weakness from strength, and all things, both in the natural and in the moral world, from their contraries) so life is only a transition from death; whence he would infer the probability of a metempsychosis. That, such propositions, as every one assents to at first, being self-evident, and no one giving any account how such parts of knowledge, on which the rest are founded, were originally conveyed to our mind, there must have been a pre-existent state, in which the soul was acquainted with these truths, which she recollects and assents to on their recurring to her in this life. That, as truth is eternal and immutable, and not visible to our senses but to the soul alone; and as the empire, which she exercises over the body, bears a resemblance to the power of the Divinity, it is probable that she, like her object, is everlasting and unchangeable, and, like the office she bears, something divine. That, it cannot be, as some have thought, merely a harmony resulting from a disposition of parts in the body, since it directs, commands, and restrains the functions of that very body. That,
1 Socrates has explained the same doctrine in the Meno, p. 81, &c. but rather as conjectural than demonstrable, for he adds, in the conclusion, p. 86. Τα μεν γε αλλα ουκ αν πανυ ὑπερ του λογου διίσχυρισαίμην, &c.
P. 97. Hence it is clear that Socrates never was the scholar of Anaxagoras, (whatever Laertius and others have said) though he had read his works with application.
* See who Echecrates was, in Plato's 9th Epistle, Op. Vol. 3. p. 358. The Phliasians were ever the faithful allies of Sparta, and (though the Peloponnesian war was now at an end) it is no wonder if they had not any great intercourse with Athens.
the soul, being the cause of life to the body, can never itself be susceptible of death; and that, there will be a state of rewards and punishments, the scene of which he takes pains in describing, though he concludes, that no man can tell exactly where or what it shall be.
Dacier's superstition and folly are so great in his notes on the Phædo, that they are not worth dwelling upon.
ΕΡΑΣΤΑΙ SEU ΑΝΤΕΡΑΣΤΑΙ:
THE scene lies in the school of Dionysius the grammarian,1 who was Plato's own master. The design is to shew, that philosophy consists not in ostentation, nor in that insight (which the sophists affected) into a variety of the inferior parts of science, but in the knowledge of one's self, and in a sagacity in discovering the characters and dispositions of mankind, and of correcting and of modelling their minds to their own advantage.
The dialogue is excellent, but too short for such a subject. The interlocutors are not named, nor is there any mark of the time when it happened.
1 гpaμμatioτns, of whom children learned to read and write. Vid. Charmidem. p. 161.
NOTE ON THE GREEK TEXT.
Platon. Op. Serrani, Vol. 1. p. 132.
P. 135. The price of a slave skilled in carpenter's work, was five or six minæ, about £19. 7s. 6d. ; of an architect, 10,000 drachmæ, i.e. above £322. 17s. Od.