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sparing ridicule of the latter are exerted on all occasions, and with the happiest success, to prove, that with all the pretensions of their countrymen, their knowledge consisted in mere appearance and not in reality; that they were lovers of the knowledge which lay merely in opinion (Pinodošov), not lovers of the wisdom, which lay in real science (PI100 ). To separate and define with the utmost precision these distinct species of knowledge, the most gigantic powers are displayed by Plato : it was with this view, no doubt, that he framed his theory* of the two worlds, the one visible, the other ideal; the latter containing immutable essences and real beings, the former containing only objects drawn from the great archetypes in the ideal world, and which, being subject to generation and corruption, to increase and diminution, are unfit to be called beings. For the same purpose, he drew out his four species and degrees of knowledge—intelligence, or the knowledge of pure essences (vono us); the knowledge where the reasoning powers and imagery act conjointly, as in estimating the ideal of geometrical figures (Savoia), the knowledge into which belief entered, and by which bodies and their properties were to be estimated (T1515); and that more common knowledge of his own and all other superficial times, the knowledge which lay only in conjecture, and whose food was, in Plato's contemptuous classification, the knowledge of the images or shadows of bodies. Ignorance he divides'with equal precision into two kinds : simple ignorance (yvoice) and the ignorance which, mistaking itself for knowledge (Quadice) is without hope of remedy, as long as this opinion attends it: and it is certainly a strong incentive to the desire of attaining true knowledge ourselves, and of being cautious what opinions we promulgate among others, to find such a man as Plato, laying it down as a fundamentalt principle, that the wicked man sins only through ignorance, and that the end of his actions, like that of all other men, is good, but that he mistakes the nature of it, and uses wrong means to attain it. The poet, with a different but not less powerful weapon, attacks his countrymen upon the same score. Under cover of a few compliments, without which the sovereign people of Athens were not very safely approached, he tells them to their faces that they were a set of shallow, self-conceited, assuming coxcombs; that their distinguishing feature was ignorance, and their pretended wisdom only the worst part of ignorance, excessive cunning : he assures them that they were the dupes of every person, native or stranger,
See the close of the Sixth Book of Plat. Rep.—a book, as Gray remarks, which can never be read too often.
+ In Protog. In Epist. ad Dion. Fam, in Menone, in Philebo, in Sophistà. See also Gray's Works, v. ii. p. 361. VOL. XXI. NO. XLII.
who had only the talent to discover that their feelings centered in their ears : he gives them to understand, that the great intellects, which had sprung up suddenly among them, and among whom he might have placed himself as not the least extraordinary, had only made them a sort of parvenus in knowledge, as the miraculous and almost incredible events of the Persian war had made them parvenus in the history of nations : and, drawing an image from those foolish birds whose mouths are always open, he tells them, by a bold pun, the deep sense of which excuses the conceit, that they were Cechenians, and not Athenians. Such were the opinions of Plato and Aristophanes respecting the state of knowledge in their own country.
That morality should have improved under such a system of education as this, was not much to be expected; and in fact, as intellect advanced, if such a word is to be prostituted by application to such a species of knowledge, the public morals became deteriorated with a most alarming rapidity: how indeed could it be otherwise under preceptors, such as were allowed to direct the minds of the wealthy, the young and the unsuspecting! Like their great predecessor, Protagoras, they taught that the first and most important of all acquisitions was eloquence; not that simple and sublime eloquence which advocates the cause of innocence and truth, but that specious eloquence which, in the senate, the ecclesia, the courts of law, and the common intercourse of society, could steal, like the songs by which serpents were charmed, upon the ears of their auditors, and sway their minds at the will of the speaker. As the first step towards this important acquisition, the pupil was carefully initiated in all the niceties of that language, whose mazes and subtleties sometimes led from premises apparently simple, to conclusions which seemed more like legerdemain than the effects of sober reasoning.* He was instructed, that it was in his
and his duty, to make the same thing appear to the same person at one time just, at another unjust: that he could by this means in a speech to the people make the same things appear, at this time good, at that time the reverse; nay, that if as clever as the Eleatict Palamedes, he might make the same things appear like and unlike, one and many, in a state of quietude and in a state of motion. These lessons admirably prepared the pupil for his next degree; viz. initiation into the mystery of the Great Beast, the Meya Operejea, as that populace was significantly and contemptuously termed in private by those, who did not scruple to pandar to its basest feelings in public. He was told, that this animal,-great and strong,—had certain irascible and concupiscent passions, of which it was necessary to make himself the master. He was accordingly taught to know in what way it was necessary to approach this animal, and how to touch him—what made bim difficult and what easy of access—how to discriminate between the tones which the Great Beast himself uttered, and the tones which in others either soothed or provoked him. All this, the neophyte was told had, during a course of time, been collected into an art; in this art, he was assured, lay true wisdom, and this wisdom was what they (the sophists) undertook to teach. As to any discrimination of the passions of this animal, or any separation of the honourable, the good and the just, from the base, the bad and the unjust; it was what, they declared, they neither laid claim to themselves, nor expected from others : it was their business to shape their judgments by the instincts of the animal ; calling that good, in which he delighted; that evil, with which he was displeased, and considering all as just and honourable which satisfied the necessities of nature ;—and what essential difference there was between that which is good in itself and good according to nature, they confessed they did not know themselves, and consequently could not communicate to others.
* Iu Gorgià, p. 284.
† By the Eleatic Palamedes was meant Alcidamas, a pupil of Gorgias, (vid. Quintil. 1. iii. c. 1.) and not Zenon, as Diogenes Laertius, quoting from Plato with his too common inaccuracy, supposes. (Diog. Laert. IX. 25.) # De Rep. lib. vi. p. 472. F. G.
The higher pandects of the school were now laid open to him; and it is at once curious and painful to see how early these sophists had discovered all those dangerous doctrines, which, at subsequent periods, have been made use of by bad and designing men for the subversion of society. They asserted on all occasions that might makes right; that the property of the weak belongs to the strong, and that, whatever the law might say to the contrary, the voice of nature taught and justified the doctrine. They proclaimed that the only wise persons were those, who aspired to the direction of public affairs, and who were stopped in this attempt by no other consideration than the measure of their capacity; and they added, that those who, without any command over themselves, could acquire a command over others, had a right to have their superior talent rewarded by possessing more than others; for temperance, selfrestraint, and a dominion over the passions and desires, were set down by them as marks of dulness and stupidity, only calculated to excite mirth and derision. They asserted with confidence, that nature itself made it both just and honourable, that he who wished to live happily, ought to permit his desires as large a sway as possible : they bargained indeed for the possession of
courage and political wisdom in their scholars ; but once in possession of these, a man, in their opinion, was at liberty to administer to his passions in all other respects, and to leave nothing unindulged, which could contribute to their gratification. They declared, that those who attached disgrace to this doctrine, did it only from a sense of shame at wanting the means to gratify their own passions; and their praises of moderation they asserted to be mere hypocrisy, and to proceed solely from the wish of enslaving better men than themselves. With the same power of self-indulgence, said these flagitious liars, these assertors of moderation would
pursue the same path as those who were now the objects of their animadversions :--they concluded, therefore, that it was ridiculous in those, who were above restraint, to lay a restraint upon themselves, and they proclaimed in the most unqualified terms, that luxury, intemperance and licentiousness, were alone virtue and happiness, and that all other declarations were mere specious pretences,-compacts contrary to nature,—the triflings of men, who deserved no consideration.
The sacred principles of justice were treated with a contempt equally daring. They often began with the bold definition, that justice itself was nothing but the interest of the strongest; that the master-piece of injustice was to appear a man of virtue without being really one: and they proceeded to prove (and in a town like Athens, the demonstration perhaps was not difficult) that on all occasions the just man came off worse than the unjust. In the mutual compacts of private life, said they, the just man is always loser, and the unjust a gainer. In public affairs, when a contribution is to be made, the one with equal property always contributes less than the other; whereas, when a disbursement is to be made, the former receives nothing, and the latter is a considerable gainer. If both are in office, one mischief at least happens to the just man; his private affairs go to ruin from being neglected, and the public give him no redress, merely because he is a just man ; he becomes odious besides to his relations and his friends, because he will not for their service overstep the bounds of right; whereas, to the unjust man, the very reverse is the case. this more forcibly, they drew the picture of a tyranny, where the unjust man was in the highest state of felicity, the voluntarily just in the greatest state of depression ; and they proved that the former, though outraging every rule of humanity, was loaded with praises, not only those
who were conscious of his crimes, but even those, who had suffered by them, considering him a happy man : for if injustice, added they, is ever blamed, the blame proceeds not from the fear of committing it, but from the fear of suffering by it. Improving upon these notions, they declared that to be able
to commit an injury, was in itself a blessing, to receive an injury was in itself an evil; but that there was more of ill in receiving, than there was of good in committing, and that to set this right, was the origin and object of legislation. Justice, therefore, they considered as a medium between the greatest of blessings, that of committing wrong with impunity, and the greatest evil, which consists in not being able to revenge an injury received ; and hence according to them, was derived the common attachment to justice, not as being a blessing in itself, but because persons in a capacity to hurt others, oblige them to consider it as such : for he, they continued, who has power in his hands, and is really a man, would never submit to such a convention :-it would indeed be complete folly to do it. Give the good man and the bad man, they triumphantly concluded, power to act as they please; present them with rings like that of Gyges, which should make them invisible, and what will be the consequence? The virtuous man would soon be found treading the very same path as the villain, and if he should be so adamantine' as to act otherwise, he would be considered as the most pitiful and stupid of his species : in public, indeed, every one would eulogize his virtues; but this would be done with a design of deceiving others, and in the fear of risking fortune, if a contrary course were pursued.
Such were some of the doctrines, which, advanced with all the powers of dialectic skill, and dropping upon a soil too well fitted by an imperfect education for their reception, confused the intellects and perverted the notions of the young Athenians. But the poisonous chalice was not yet full.-As some compunctious visiting of nature might interfere, and the dread of present or future retribution (that witness of himself, which the Deity has left in all ages) might hinder the pupil from giving due effect to these pernicious precepts, the high doctors of this infernal school now took him in hand, and in this moment of wavering and irresolution, they with a hot iron for ever seared the conscience, which still retained some faint marks of tenderness and sensibility. The opinions, which he had sucked in with his nurse's and his mother's milk, which from the mouths of the same persons he had heard conveyed in the shape of serious arguments, or amusing fables, and which he saw evinced in the numerous and imposing sacrificial rites of his country, all these he was told were false ; and he was required to abjure them : he, who had been witness to the victims offered to the gods by his parents, and to the prayers and supplications made to the same gods in behalf of themselves and their children with an earnestness and a warmth, which shewed the conviction of their own minds that there was some superintending Power; he, who in the prostrations and adora