Plato And The Platonic Philosophy. -- By: T. D. Woolsey

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 002:7 (Aug 1845)
Article: Plato And The Platonic Philosophy.
Author: T. D. Woolsey


Plato And The Platonic Philosophy.

By Prof. T. D. Woolsey

Yale College.

Plato against the Atheists, or the tenth book of the Dialogue on Laws, accompanied with critical notes and followed by extended dissertations etc. By Tayler Lewis, LL. D., professor of the Greek Language and Literature in the University in the City of New York, New York: Harper and Brothers. 1845.

It seems strange, if we take into view the intrinsic value of Plato’s Laws and the difficulties attending upon the text and explanation of this work, that so little labor has been bestowed upon it by scholars. Ast’s,1 we believe, is the only separate edition since the invention of printing; and the editors of the general text of

Plato furnish us either with no commentary or with a very brief one. Nor are we much better off in regard to translations. Schleiermacher went no further than the Republic; and we know of no other translator, besides Cousin, who unites scholarship, a philosophical spirit and familiarity with the Platonic dialogues to such a degree as to secure confidence in his interpretations.

The relation between the Republic of Plato and the Laws is one about which not a little difference of opinion has existed. A speaker in Cicero’s treatise De Legibus, near the beginning, uses the following language: “quoniam scrip turn est a te de optimo rei-publicae statu, consequens esse videtur ut scribas tu idem de legibus: sic enim fecisse Platonem ilium tuum, quern tu admiraris, quern omnibus anteponis, quem maxime diligis.” The opinion involved in these words that the object of the Republic was to show the best form of polity is implied also in the prevalent Greek title πολιτεία, and is embraced by many writers of note. If we take this ground it must be supposed either that Plato changed his views before composing the Laws, or what is more natural and is usually believed, that he regarded the form of polity in the Republic as of hopeless attainment on account of its perfection, and intended in his later work to bring down his scheme of government to the level of ordinary human nature. The one would thus be a Eutopia; the other an improvement on the Cretan and Lacedemonian legislation. Others hold that the views of government in the Republic were never meant to be realized and were introduced only to illustrate the nature of politics. Mr. Lewis goes so far as to say, in his first Excursus, that “a misconception of the end and scope of the Republic, or as it should be more properly styled, the dialogue on the nature of right and righteousness (περὶ δικα...

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