merejhegrj. KHe practiced the theor y even bette r
t han he pre a r her! \t^ As I have shown, in speakingj^^^y
of Plato as dramatist and as lover, there are manylCa^
illustrations of this. Perhaps none of them is better
than the Phasdrus, taken as a whole. Socrates finds
Phasdrus full of a youth's enthusiasm for a piece of
brilliant rhetoric about love. There is little true in-
sight and no sincerity in the speech, and the prose
is not really good. How shall the youth be sobered
from his perilous intoxication and given taste for
wine of better vintage ? How shall he be directed
toward the acquisition of true artistic power and
how shall he be led into knowledge and reverence
for the best thing in the world, which is love. The
dialogue as a whole tells how Socrates actually did
this. It takes the dialogue as a whole, its story, its
arguments, its orations, and the criticisms upon
them, its myths, and above all, its free and joyous
conversation— it takes all to explain how Socrates
went about to win a man.
xl GENERAL INTRODUCTION
This is the t rue Socratic Ar t. It is determined
by the philosophic insight t hat art jn ust adapt itsel f
not only to the_Cjjnrnio n nature J 3f_rnan, but also to
the^yar ying natures, a nd even to the 3 yarying moods
of men. It is ^determ jnegL_hy_ dramatic insight into
the ^ actual ways of the souls a ddressed. It is deter-
^inedj2¥-a_p_assion as__dee p_as it is tranq uil to save
the best of the youth _into_th£jiig.her life.
HOW SHALL ONE READ PLATO?
When corn takes in stuff from the soil, the soil is
changed into corn, but also the corn is changed by
a^bt*^ the soil. So when you read Plato, Plato is trans-
lated into your way of thinking, but also your way
of thinking is influenced by Plato. It is possible for
either of these effects to be over-emphasized to the
neglect of the other. The secret of right growth is
(to maintain the right balance between the old which
one has and the new which is asking for admission.
To find this balance is not easy, but many wise men
say that the first thing to do with a new book, or
anything else worth attention, is to surrender one's
self to it as completely as possible. I believe ac-
cordingly that I can give no better advice to one
who meets Plato for the first time in this volume,
^v*^Q*Athan that you should j et him talk to you . Imagine
that you have wandered into the Athens of 400 B.C.
and have come upon Socrates engaged in talk.
Join the crowd. Keep still. Try to catch the drift.
Do not pigeonhole Socrates the first day. Get ac-
quainted with him as you do with a living man.
You will find it useful without doubt to study
GENERAL INTRODUCTION xli
Plato's system of thought in the brief outline which
is given, or in the fuller accounts which you may
find in other books. But if you suppose that any
such outline of doctrines can compass the fullness
of Plato, you will not understand this or any philos-
ophy in the spirit. With whatever formal devices
you study any master-book, the essential condition
of becoming really acquainted with it is that you
shall live with it in joyful, informal fellowship.
» a » >„«> »
■* > ' ) o •' > >
• • •
• • • • '•
• • • •* •
• _•••• •
• • •• • •
The defense of Socrates includes an answer to the formal
accusations made against him in court, and an answer to
those who for years had attacked his reputation. In both
cases, the charge is the same in substance,— that he is the
enemy of the traditional religion and morality or* \hd Slate.
Those who brought this charge before the/ cou ^supported - •..
it with false or trivial evidence and arguments. Socrates*' :<
met these with arguments, which are, in form, nearly upon
the same level.
His numerous unofficial accusers, Socrates met partly by
an explanation of the popular misunderstanding which iden-
tified him with the natural philosophers or with the Sophists,
but especially by a declaration of his own mission in life,
which was not to deny God but to know and obey the will
of God, and not to corrupt but to save men.
In studying the defense of Socrates against his official and
unofficial accusers, it should be seen that the conflict was not
merely one between a wise and good man and a crowd of
ignorant and malicious ones. The real conflict was between
the unwritten religious, moral, and social constitution of the
Athenian people, and a man who would put everything in
that constitution to question with the hope of arriving at
a better. Socrates was not many things that his accusers
charged,— not a natural philosopher, not a Sophist, not an
atheist, perhaps not a disbeliever in the popular mythology,
not responsible for the sins of young Athenians whom he
4 PLATO THE TEACHER
had labored to make men of. But the instinct of the Athe-
nians was not substantially wrong in holding him an alien
from their religion and morality. " 1 do believe that there
are gods," says Socrates in closing his first speech, " and in a
far higher sense than any of my accusers believe in them. ,,
Because he believed in God, the formal charges against him
were false. But because he believed in God in a far higher
sense than did his accusers, he and his accusers, the people
of Athens, stood in real conflict. They stood for the religion
and morals which they had inherited. He stood for a
religion and morality based upon deeper insight into the
truth- . lt. : \CaS a conflict between a people and its prophet.
It A\fas a fcohfltft in some respects like that between the ortho-
:dox*\iews; Vfcho 'would defend their law and their separate
tfafioriiliiy •a'gain'st destruction, and Him who came not to
destroy but to fulfill. In such a case the question decided
is this : Will the people rise from their own view to their
prophet's view of the life which is proper for them ? At
Athens, as at Jerusalem, the people chose for their tradi-
tions. Socrates, like our Saviour, rejected of his own, be-
came minister to all mankind.
How you have felt, O men of Athens, at hearing the
speeches of my accusers, I cannot tell ; but I know that their
persuasive words almost made me forget who I was, st .
such was the effect of them ; and yet they have hardly '
spoken a word of truth. But many as their false- I7
hoods were, there was one of them which quite amazed me : »
I mean when they told you to be upon your guard, and notjT^e^
to let yourselves be deceived by the force of my eloquence. %Tr**^
They ought to have been ashamed of saying this, because tne yj22^^
were sure to be detected as soon as I opened my lips and dis-^^r£^ > '
played my deficiency ; they certainly did appear to be most^^o/^
shameless in saying this, unless by the force of eloquence they ^>
mean the force of truth j for then I do indeed admit that I am
eloquent. But in how different a way from theirs ! Well, as
I was saying, they have hardly uttered a word, or not more
than a word, of truth ; but you shall hear from me the whole
truth : not, however, delivered after their manner, in a set
oration duly ornamented with words and phrases. No, in-
deed ! but I shall use the words and arguments which occur
to me at the moment ; for I am certain that this is right, and
that at my time of life I ought not to be appearing before you,
O men of Athens, in the character of a juvenile orator : let
no one expect this of me. And I must beg of you to grant
me one favor, which is this, — If you hear me using the same
words in my defense which I have been in the habit of using
and which most of you may have heard in the agora, 2 and at
the tables of the money-changers, 3 or anywhere else, I would
ask you not to be surprised at this, and not to interrupt me.
2 The market-place, corresponding to the Roman forum. Not only was
most of the traffic carried on here, but in most Greek cities it was the gen-
eral meeting-place for social and political purposes.
3 The bankers did business at tables in the market-place.
6 PLATO THE TEACHER
For I am more than seventy years of age, and this is the first
time that I have ever appeared in a court of law, and I am
quite a stranger to the ways of the place ; and therefore
'** I would have you regard me as if I were really a stran-
ger, whom you would excuse if he spoke in his native tongue, and
after the fashion of his country : that I think is not an unfair
^y request. Never mind the manner, which may or may not be
u^y^^U) good ; but think only of the justice of my cause, and give heed