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cause of the mixture of good and evil which is found in the material world.
The principle opposite to matter in the system of Plato is God. He inculcated an intelligent cause, the origin of all spiritual being, and the framer of the material world. The nature of this great being, he pronounced it difficult to discover, and when discovered, impossible to divulge. The existence of God he inferred from the marks of intelligence, which appear in the form and arrangement of bodies in the visible world; and from the unity of the material system he concluded that the mind by which it was formed must be one. God, according to Plato, is the supreme intelligence, incorporeal, without beginning, end, or change, and capable of being perceived only by the mind. He distinguished the Deity not only from body, and whatever has corporeal qualities, but from matter itself, from which all things are made. He also ascribed to the Deity power and wisdom sufficient for the formation and preservation of the world, and supposed him possessed of goodness, which inclined him to desire, and, as far as the refractory nature of matter would permit, to produce the happiness of the universe.
By Ideas, Plato appears to have meant patterns or archetypes, subsisting by themselves as real beings in the divine reason, as in their original and eternal region, and issuing thence to give form to sensible things, and to become objects of contemplation and science to rational beings. In the Timæus it is argued, that the reason of the Deity (ὁ λογίσμος τοῦ θεοῦ) comprehends exemplars of all things; and that this reason is one of the primary causes of things. According to Plutarch,f Justin Martyr, and Pseudo Origen, Plato maintains the three principles, God, Matter, and Idea. Laertius speaks of but two principles in nature, as according to the Platonic system, God and Matter, but he may be supposed to allude to those two sources only of being which are primary and
a Tim. t. iii. p. 29.
b Tim. 1. e. Ep. vii. t. iii. p. 341.
Tim. t. iii. p. 30. Polit. t. ii. 174.
e Polit. t. ii. p. 174. de Legg. x. t. ii. p. 899.
f Plac. Phil. 1. i. c. 10.
Philosoph. c. 19. p. 108.
De Legg. p. 886.
Ad Græc. p. 7.
independent; for the third, the Idea or exemplar, is to be considered but as instrumental and dependent on the efficient cause. "The exemplar," according to Seneca, "is not the efficient cause of nature, but an instrument necessary to the cause." This branch of the Platonic philosophy will be found explained, where it is made available for argument, in the course of the Phædo.
Visible things were regarded by Plato as fleeting shades, and ideas as the only permanent substances. These he conceived to be the proper objects of science to a mind raised by divine contemplation above the varying scenes of the material world. His impressions on the subject are appropriately expressed in a passage of his Republic, in which he compares the state of the human mind with respect to the material and intellectual world, to that of a man, who, in a cave into which no light can enter but by a single passage, views upon a wall opposite to the entrance the shadows of external objects, and mistakes them for realities. So strongly was he influenced by this impression, that Plato, in the election of magistrates for his Republic, required that none should be chosen who had not, by the habitual contemplation of the world of ideas, attained a perfect power of abstraction. It was another doctrine in the Platonic system, that the Deity formed the material world after a perfect archetype, which had subsisted eternally in his reason, and endued it with a soul. "God," according to Plato, "produced mind prior in time as well as excellence to the body, that the latter might be subject to the former."-" From that substance which is indivisible and always the same, and from that which is corporeal and divisible, he compounded a third kind of substance, participating in the nature of both." This substance, which is not eternal but produced, and which derives the superior part of its nature from God, and the inferior from matter, Plato supposed to be the animating principle of the universe, pervading and adorning all things. This third principle in nature is, in the Platonic system, inferior to the Deity, being derived from that divine reason which is the seat of the ideal world; wherein it differs completely from
a Ep. 65.
Ibid. p. 518. Enf. Phil. I. c.
e Cratyl. t. iii. p. 53. Cf. Aristot.
b Lib. vii. init. t. ii. p. 515.
d Tim. t. iii. p. 34.
Metaph. 1. xiv. c. 6.
the Stoical doctrine of the soul of the world, which supposed the essence of the divine nature to be diffused through the universe.a
Upon the foundation of the preceding doctrines concerning the Deity, matter, ideas, the soul of the world, and dæmons, Plato raised the structure of his Physics.
To account for the origin and present state of human souls, Plato supposes that when the Deity formed the universe, he separated from the soul of the world inferior souls, which were thus mediately derived from the divine nature itself, equal in number to the stars, and assigned to each its proper celestial abode; but that these souls (for what reason does not appear) were sent down to the earth into human bodies as into a sepulchre or prison. He ascribes to this cause the depravity and misery to which human nature is liable, and maintains that it is only by disengaging itself from all animal passions, and rising above sensible objects to the contemplation of the world of intelligence, that the soul of man can be prepared to return to its original habitation.
a The doctrine of a twofold soul of the world, the one presiding over it (vπepKooμoç) and the other residing in it (ykóσμtos), was appended to the Platonic system by the later Platonists, to accommodate this system to the notions adopted by many of the Christian fathers respecting the divine nature. (Plotin. Ennead. iii. 1. v. c. 2.)
It will appear evident, from an examination of the doctrine of Plato concerning God and the soul of the world, that it differs materially from the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. Plato did not suppose three subsistences in one divine essence, separate from the visible world; but taught that the λóyog, or reason of God, is the seat of the intelligible world, or of ideas, and that the soul of the world is a third subordinate nature, compounded of intelligence and matter. Enf. Phil. 1. c. See Cudworth's Intellectual System, book i. c. 4. where the subject is discussed at length.
b These Plato probably conceived to be subordinate divinities, produced at the same time with the soul of the world, (Tim. t. iii. p. 40. Conviv. t. iii. p. 201.) and supposed them to have been appointed by the supreme Being to the charge of forming animal bodies and superintending the visible world; a doctrine which he seems to have borrowed from the Pythagoreans, and particularly from Timæus the Locrian, according to whom, "the ruler of all assigned the inspection of human affairs to dæmons, and committed to them the government of the world." Enf. Phil. I. c.
With regard to the conduct which should be adopted and adhered to through the trials and perplexities of this life, so as to afford the most consoling hope of a happier life to come, Plato has laid down, through the course of his works, the most admirable and efficient precepts. From the system of the universe, as being regulated by a wise and beneficent providence, he argues against the captious querulousness of those who are induced to complain of or deny this governing influence, because they do not feel it sufficiently near in their circumstances or themselves so as to protect them against the common accidents and disasters of life. He argues against that contracted and selfish feeling which cannot comprehend how at times the general good must be promoted at the sacrifice of particular interests, and in all anxieties and difficulties suggests the patience and comfort which cannot fail to be derived from conscious virtue. To despair, under any circumstances, is a mark of disloyalty to Providence, who never eventually deserts that spirit which has aspired, as far as its faculties would permit, to assimilate itself in goodness to its great original, or suffers it, when thus purified and advanced to a congenial nature, to undergo any real calamity. Those, on the other hand, are really unfortunate, who have succeeded in the purposes of mischief and have become rooted in the delusions of vice. For it is an eternal and immutable law, the operation of which pervades the entire universe, and from the obligation of which no created being of whatever grade is free, that the rewards of virtue are not more unerringly sure than the punishment of vice.
It has been already observed, that, as preparatory to the study of theoretical philosophy, Plato required from his disciples a knowledge of the elements of mathematics. Upon this subject, although he has not left any express treatise, he has yet made frequent use of mathematical ideas and language to explain and illustrate his philosophical tenets; and he recommends these studies as peculiarly adapted to raise the mind from sensible to intellectual objects, and to inure it to abstract and general conceptions.
Such is a comprehensive sketch of the Platonic philosophy, which has been compiled, and of necessity contracted, from other and more extended treatises on this interesting and important subject. A good deal has been designedly omitted, or but slightly
noticed here, which, however, shall be found more largely and, it is hoped, satisfactorily explained and developed throughout the course of the following work, where it is practically applied; but sufficient, probably, has been said at the outset to give some insight into the character, system, and style of Plato, which in the study of this selected portion of his writings may not appear unuseful.
It is needless to enter here upon the praise or censure to which Plato has been subjected, in the extremes of both; it was only natural that where extraordinary ability and deserts demanded admiration and respect, envy and jealousy should essay to thwart the just award by the ready instrumentality of obloquy and detraction. His respect for his great master, if Plutarch may be credited, was exemplified in his life, in an assimilation of manners, in his equanimity of temper, and in that uniformity of character which is the best proof of sincerity and integrity; Οὕτω καὶ Πλάτων ἐν Συρακούσαις οἷος ἐν ἀκαδημίᾳ καὶ πρὸς Διονύσιον οἷος πρὸς Διώνα.
The doctrines of Plato were expounded in the academy after his decease by his nephew Speusippus, of Athens (died B. C. 339.) He was succeeded by Xenocrates of Chalcedon, one of Plato's favourite pupils, (died B. C. 314.) who in his manner of expression resembled Pythagoras, having, for instance, defined the soul to be a self-moving number. After him Polemo of Athens presided at the academy, who considered the "summum bonum" to consist in a life regulated according to nature; and subsequently Crates of Athens. Finally Crantor of Soli, the friend and disciple of Xenocrates and Polemo, maintained the original system of the founder of the school, with the exception of a few alterations, applied principally to the popular doctrines of practical morality. The name of Crantor is the last of distinction in the Old Academy.
In Germany Plato has been a favourite study of the ablest philosophers, amongst others, John Reuchlin, Leibnitz, and Kant. Amongst his British admirers are to be reckoned Gale and More, Cudworth, Bacon, Berkeley, and Shaftesbury. The minds both of Milton and Gray were thoroughly imbued with the spirit of Plato's writings. Of this there is sufficient proof in the Comus, Il
• Plutarch, in Opp. vol. 8. p. 193. ed. Reiske.