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during which, as being a sort of consecrated period, the highest penalty of the law might not be inflicted. His friends were admitted to see him, and the more wealthy among them projected a plan for his escape ; providing, likewise, for his comfort in whatever place he might choose for his residence. They most earnestly entreated him to submit to the proposed plan; but he was inexorable. To this subject the dialogue named after the second speaker, “ Crito,” is devoted. Crito was one of his richest friends. One morning, early, he visited the prison, and finding Socrates, refused to disturb him, but waited till he awoke. He then expressed his surprise that in such circumstances he should sleep so quietly; adding, that he had often admired his happy equanimity, but never so much so as then, in the circumstances in which he was placed. Socrates passes this off with a quiet allusion to his age ; and suspecting the cause of his early visit, asks him at once if the vessel had arrived from Delos. Crito tells him that it was to be expected in the course of the day, as some travellers who had arrived from Sunium had seen it there, and that, therefore, on the morrow he must die. Socrates expresses his readiness, if it should please the gods, that so it should be ; but adds, that he thought it would not be so till the following day: and on Crito asking why he thus thought, he said that he had just had a vision, in which he saw a beautiful and graceful woman, clothed in white, who said to him, addressing him by name, that in three days he should arrive at fertile Phthia. (This was a city of Thessaly, the birthplace of Achilles, where he told Ulysses he hoped to arrive the third day after his departure from Troy. Socrates evidently applied it to his arrival at home after his own Trojan warfare.) Crito acknowledges the vision to be a strange one, and again entreats him to embrace the opportunity of escape while it was yet open to him, assuring him that all things were prepared, and that there was no doubt of success. He urges the claims of his friends, refers to the orphanage of his children, and argues that even his own character required it, as he might yet live to do good, instead of thus, as it were, indolently, yielding to the malice of his enemies. This leads. to the subject of the dialogue. The conversation is sustained
with great spirit, and ends in the victory of Socrates, to whose arguments Crito is compelled, though reluctantly, to submit. He argues that we are not to attend to the opinion of men indiscriminately, but only to the wise and virtuous : that our great object should be, not barely to live, but (TO Ev Env) to live well, and that to live well is to live with honour and justice: that death is far preferable to injustice, and that it would be unjust and dishonourable to bribe men to assist in evading the laws of the State ; that, in fact, to obey these is the great duty of a citizen. A long personification then follows, ably, and with great richness and beauty of illustration, sustained. The laws of the State, as in fact constituting the abstract idea of the State, are introduced, expostulating with Socrates, showing him that his first and highest allegiance was due to them; that they should be to him more honourable, sacred, and venerable than father, mother, and all his relations and friends; and that the wickedness of his enemies absolved him not from his obligations. The law had been set in motion by wicked men, but it was by the law he had been condemned. He had experienced its advantages throughout his life ; he had professed and inculcated submission to it in all his teaching: and was he now to set it at nought, because wicked men had turned its power against him? or was he, protesting against the wickedness of the accuser, to acknowledge the supremacy of the law, by refusing even to save his life in contravention of it? Thus argued the “corrupter of youth,” with Crito, himself a young man. He concludes by telling his friend that these remonstrances so engrossed him, that he could hear nothing else; but that if Crito really thought that he could really outweigh them, he would listen to him. “Socrates,” exclaims Crito, “ I have nothing to say!” “ Cease then,” Socrates finishes by saying, " and let us follow, since Deity leads the way.”
The “ Phædo" gives the conversation of Socrates with his friends on the last day of his life, and concludes with the account of his death. It is a wonderful composition, such, perhaps, as none but Plato could have written, and contains some powerful argumentation. It clearly displays the difference between the two great masters of philosophy, Aristotle and Plato. The first was essentially logical and formal. His work seemed to be arrangement and discussion. Keenly penetrating, imbued with the love of the most exact order, he is the type of the accurate reasoner. But he was rather accurate than profound. He did not so much search for truths in their depths, as collect them, put them in proper position, and then, proceeding in the same track, ascertain the farther truths to which they conducted. And thus far he was a discoverer; like the traveller who in advancing on his journey, enters upon new regions. But a discoverer in the sense of developing truth from its recondite sources he was not. As he was a discoverer by travelling, so was Plato by mining. He sought to bring hidden truths and reasons to light. In the sense in which the term philosophy is now used, as implying the development of principles, and the connexion of things apparently very different by the connexion of their sources, he was the type of the philosopher, as Aristotle was that of the logician. Accuracy characterizes the one; profundity the other. If the first be compared to the skilful anatomist, who knows all the parts of the organized form, and can either, in analysis, reduce the whole to its parts, or in synthesis, arrange the parts into the whole; so may the second be compared to the physiologist, who inquires into the functions and uses of the parts, and their combining reference to the functions and uses of the whole. Hitherto, the gifted men who, by a well-directed activity, have distinguished themselves from their fellows, have appeared to be distributed in these two classes. Now and then, the rare talent has been seen which has united the two; but, as yet, such instances have been rare.
Nowhere have Plato's peculiar powers been more manifest than in the Phædo; but to us, nowhere is their result more unsatisfying. He did not possess the true principles of the case; and we are far better pleased with the issue of his reasoning, than with the reasoning itself. He did the best he could in the then low condition of physical and mental science : few would have done so well. The reasoning of the Phædo is good in the mass; most imperfect and unsatisfactory in its particular and subordinate details. The substance of what Socrates said, thus standing on the verge of life, and with death in full and near prospect, may be given in very few words. The soul is evidently different from the body, though dwelling in it. Death, which is the dissolution of the body, is not likely, therefore, to affect the soul. The details of this argument are worth little in the present state even of philosophical knowledge. There is a knowledge in the soul, as that of equality, differing from that afforded by the senses, as that of numbers. This the soul must have learnt elsewhere. It is reminiscence. It must, therefore, have had a preexistence. Then nothing can be its own contrary. Odd must have even for its contrary. Odd, though numerically differing, is always so. It is the body that dies; therefore, it is the soul that lives; and, as essentially living, must live always. It was objected,-harmony differs from the musical instrument, but is destroyed with it. May not the soul be like a harmony? No, Socrates replies. There is an essential difference. Harmony is always such. A change into a discordant sound makes it something else. The soul may be good, or it may be wicked; and still a soul. It is the substance to which properties belong. These verbal arguments could not satisfy now. Nor were the views of the future more correct when the general notion was left. It would be existence, if so at all, with the great and good,-gods and heroes : but of entering into the presence of the great Source of Being, as man's true and highest good, there must have been no conception. The views of virtue, too, were vague in the same way. The soul and the body are opposites. Therefore, it is by subduing the body, and living for the soul, that the soul was to be fitted for better existence. All fleshly lusts are condemned, and the social virtues enforced; but what we know to be the true duties of piety are referred to very vaguely, scarcely at all.
But, from all this much instruction is to be derived. Socrates was evidently led to make the best use of his one talent. He obeyed the truth as far as he knew it, and was rewarded with vast superiority. The particular mode of the divine dealing with such, is not revealed to us. But we see an administered government as far as we can go. Obedience
was followed by reward. Who can doubt of the future, to whom mercy in Christ is known?
The case is instructive as showing the extent of natural powers. Here they are, not dormant, but active, and rightly employed. And they conduct in the right direction. But the great facts of the case, in their full character, remain unknown. Falsehood was largely detected, but truth was not clearly discovered, though approaches were made to it. Socrates came nearer the just idea of God, of holiness, and of immortality, than his contemporaries. Still, the fact remains without exception,—“the world by wisdom knew not God.” The things which Socrates most desired to know, and which evidently he willingly died hoping to know, having made important approximations to them, are to us known clearly. Why? Because we walk in the day-light of revelation. Merely in the abstract, we might say it was conceivable that a man should obtain a clear idea of some vast and complicated structure, like a Gothic cathedral, though dwelling in utter darkness, by going over the whole, part by part, and putting, ultimately, the whole together. As a mental conception we might say it was, in the abstract, possible ; but, taking man as he is, in point of fact it would be impossible. It must be studied in light.
That light we possess; and to this we owe our superior advantages. We know more because we have been shown more. The great moral excellence of Socrates appears to have been the principles which led him to improve rightly his one talent, and to disregard death itself in comparison with rectitude. As far as he knew the right, to this he subjected all else. And does not this suggest our duty ? Unswerving, uncompromising attachment to right, as now made known to us by God himself, through his holy word. He had one talent; he traded with it, and gained more. Let us view the condition of these great men, and be thankful for our high advantages; but let us be careful to imitate them, by adopting their principles. Let us obey the truth ; let us improve our talents. If, knowing our Master's will, we do it not, we shall be deservedly beaten with many stripes, and condemned by those who, while they knew so little, did so much, and so well.