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That the professional teachers called Sophists in Greece were intellectual and moral corrupters, and that much corruption grew up under their teaching m the Athenian mind, are common statements which I have towards endeavoured to show to be erroneous. Corresponding to these statements is another, which represents Socrates as one whose special merit it was to have rescued the Athenian mind from such demoralizing influences—a reputation which he neither deserves nor requires. In general, the favourable interpretation of evidence, as exhibited towards Socrates, has been scarcely less marked than the harshness of presumption against the Sophists. Of late, however, some authors have treated his history in an altered spirit, and have manifested a disposition to lower him down to that which they regard as the Sophistical level. M. Forchhammer’s treatise —“The Athenians and Socrates, or Lawful Dealing against Revolution”—goes even further, and maintains confidently that Socrates was most justly condemned as a heretic, a traitor, and a corrupter of youth. His book, the conclusions of which I altogether reject, is a sort of retribution to the Sophists, as extending to their alleged opponent the same bitter and unfair spirit of construction with that under which they have so long unjustly suffered. But when we impartially consider the evidence, it will appear that Socrates deserves our admiration and esteem, not indeed as an anti-Sophist, but as combining with the qualities of a good man a force of character and an originality of speculation as well as of method, and a power of intellectually working on others—generally different from that of any professional teacher—without parallel either among contemporaries or successors.

The life of Socrates comprises seventy years, from 469 to 399 B,C. His father, Sophroniskus, being a sculptor, the son began by following the same profession, in which he stained sufficient proficiency to have executed various works; especially a draped group of the Charites or Graces, preserved in the Acropolis, and shown as his work down to the time of Pausanias. His mother, Phaenarete, was a mid­wife, and he had a brother by the mother’s side named Patroclus. Respecting his wife Xanthippe and his three sons, all that has passed into history is the violent temper of the former and the patience of her husband in enduring it. The position and family of Socrates, without being absolutely poor, were humble and unimportant; but he was of genuine Attic breed, belonging to the ancient gens Daedalidae, which took its name from Daedalus the mythical artist as progenitor.

The personal qualities of Socrates, on the other hand, were marked and distinguishing, not less in body than in mind. His physical constitution was healthy, robust, and enduring to an extraordinary degree. He was not merely strong and active as an hoplite on military service, but capable of bearing fatigue or hardship, and indifferent to heat or cold, in a measure which astonished all his companions. He went barefoot in all seasons of the year, even during the winter campaign at Potidaea, under the severe frosts of Thrace; and the same homely clothing sufficed to him for winter as well as for summer. Though his diet was habitually simple as well as abstemious, yet there were occasions, of religious festival or friendly congratulation, on which every Greek considered joviality and indulgence to be becoming. On such occasions, Socrates could drink more wine than any guest present, yet without being overcome or intoxicated. He abstained, on principle, from all extreme gymnastic training, which required, as necessary condition, extraordinary abundance of food. It was his professed purpose to limit, as much as possible, the number of his wants, as a distant approach to the perfection of the gods, who wanted nothing; to control such as were natural, and prevent the multiplication of any that were artificial. His admirable bodily temperament contributed materially to facilitate such a purpose, and assist him in the maintenance of that self-mastery, contented self-sufficiency, and independence of the favour as well as of the enmity of others, which were essential to his plan of intellectual life. His friends, who communicate to us his great bodily strength and endurance, are at the same time full of jests upon his ugly physiognomy—his flat nose, thick lips, and prominent eyes, like a satyr or Silenus. We cannot implicitly trust the evidence of such very admiring witnesses, as to the philosopher’s exemption from infirmities of temper; for there seems good proof that he was by natural temperament violently irascible—a defect which he generally kept under severe control, but which occasionally betrayed him into great improprieties of language and demeanour.

Of those friends, the best known to us are Xenophon and Xenophon and Plato, though there existed in antiquity various dialogues composed and memoranda put together, by other hearers of Socrates, respecting his conversations and teaching, which are all now lost. The “Memorabilia” of Xenophon profess to record actual conversations held by Socrates, and are prepared with the announced purpose of vindicating him against the accusations of Meletus and his other accusers on the trial, as well as against unfavourable opinions, seemingly much circulated, respecting his character and purposes. We thus have in it a sort of partial biography, subject to such deductions from its evidentiary value as may be requisite for imperfection of memory, intentional decoration, and partiality. On the other hand, the purpose of Plato in the numerous dialogues wherein he introduces Socrates is not so clear, and is explained very differently by different commentators. Plato was a great speculative genius, who came to form opinions of his own distinct from those of Socrates, and employed the name of the latter as spokesman for these opinions in various dialogues. How much, in the Platonic Socrates, can be safely accepted either as a picture of the man or as a record of his opinions—how much, on the other hand, is to be treated as Platonism—or in what proportions the two are intermingled—is a point not to be decided with certainty or rigour. The “Apology of Socrates,” the “Criton,” and the “Phaedon” (in so far as it is a moral picture, and apart from the doctrines advocated in it) appear to belong to the first category; while the political and social views of the “Republic,” the cosmic theories in the “Timaeus,” and the hypothesis of Ideas, as substantive existences apart from the phenomenal world, in the various dialogues wherever it is stated, certainly belonged to the second. Of the ethical dialogues, much may be probably taken to represent Sokrates more or less platonized.

But though the opinions put by Plato into the Socrates are liable to thus much of uncertainty, we find, to our great satisfaction, that the pictures given by Plato and Xenophon of their common master are in the main accordant, differing only as drawn from the same original by two authors radically different in spirit and character. Xenophon, the man of action, brings out at length those conversations of Socrates which had a bearing on practical conduct and were calculated to correct vice or infirmity in particular individuals; such being the matter which served his purpose as an apologist, at the same time that it suited his intellectual taste. But he intimates nevertheless very plainly that the conversation of Socrates was often, indeed usually, of a more negative, analytical, and generalizing tendency; not destined for the reproof of positive or special defect, but to awaken the inquisitive faculties and lead to the rational comprehension of vice and virtue as referable to determinate general principles. Now this latter side of the master’s physiognomy, which Xenophon records distinctly, though without emphasis or development, acquires almost exclusive prominence in the Platonic picture. Plato leaves out the practical, and consecrates himself to the theoretical, Socrates, whom he divests in part of his identity, in order to enrol him as chief speaker in certain larger theoretical views of his own. The two pictures therefore do not contradict each other, but mutually supply each other’s defects, and admit of being blended into one consistent whole. And respecting the method of Socrates—a point more characteristic than either his precepts or his theory—as well as respecting the effect of that method on the minds of hearers—both Xenophon and Plato are witnesses substantially in unison; though, here again, the latter has made the method his own, worked it out on a scale of enlargement and perfection, and given to it a permanence which it could never have derived from its original author, who only talked and never wrote. It is fortunate that our two main witnesses about him, both speaking from personal knowledge, agree to so great an extent.

Both describe in the same manner his private life and habits—his contented poverty, justice, temperance in the largest sense of the word, and self-sufficing independence of character. On most of these points, too, Aristophanes and the other comic writers, so far as their testimony counts for anything, appear as confirmatory witnesses; for they abound in jests on the coarse fare, shabby and scanty clothing, bare feet, pale face, poor and joyless life, of Socrates. Of the circum­stances of his life we are almost wholly ignorant. He served as an hoplite at Potidaea, at Delium, and at Amphipolis; with credit apparently in all, though exaggerated encomiums on the part of his friends provoked an equally exaggerated scepticism on the part of Athenaeus and others. He seems never to have filled any political office until the year (B.C. 406) of the battle of Arginusae, in which year he was member of the Senate of Five Hundred, and one of the Prytanes on that memorable day when the proposition of Kallixenus against the six generals was submitted to the public assembly. His determined refusal, in spite of all personal hazard, to put an unconstitutional question to the vote, has been already recounted. That during his long life he strictly obeyed the laws is proved by the fact that none of his numerous enemies ever arraigned him before a court of justice : that he discharged all the duties of an upright man and a brave as well as pious citizen may also be confidently asserted. His friends lay especial stress upon his piety, that is, upon his exact discharge of all the religious duties considered as incumbent upon an Athenian.

Though these points are requisite to be established, in order that we may rightly interpret the character of Socrates, it is not from them that he has derived his eminent place in history. Three peculiarities distinguish the man. 1. His long life passed in contented poverty, and in public, apostolic dialectics. 2. His strong religious or belief of acting under a mission and signs from especially his Daemon or Genius—the special religious warning of which he believed himself to be frequently the subject. 3. His great intellectual originality, both of subject and of method, and his power of stirring and forcing the germ of inquiry and ratiocination in others. Though these three characteristics were so blended in Socrates that it is not easy to consider them separately, yet in each respect he stood distinguished from all Greek philosophers before or after him.

At what time Socrates relinquished his profession as a statuary we do not know; but it is certain that all the middle and later part of his life, at least, was devoted exclusively to the self-imposed task of teaching; excluding all other business, public or private, and to the neglect of all means of fortune. We can hardly avoid speaking of him as a teacher, though he himself disclaimed the appellation: his practice was to talk or converse—to prattle or prose, if we translate the derisory word by which the enemies of philosophy described dialectic conversation. Early in the morning he frequented the public walks, the gymnasia for bodily training, and the schools where youths were receiving instruction. He was to be seen in the market-place at the hour when it was must crowded, among the booths and tables where goods were exposed for sale : his whole day was usually spent in this public manner. He talked with any one, young or old, rich, or poor, who sought to address him, and in the hearing of all who chose to stand by. Not only he never either asked or received any reward, but he made no distinction of persons, never withheld his conversation from any one, and talked upon the same general topics to all. He conversed with politicians, Sophists, military men, artisans, ambitious or studious youths, &c. He visited all persons of interest in the city, male or female : his friendship with Aspasia is well known, and one of the most interesting chapters of Xenophon’s Memorabilia recounts his visit to, and dialogue with, Theodote—a beautiful Hetaera or Female Companion. Nothing could be more public, perpetual, and indiscriminate as to persons than his conversation. But as it was engaging, curious, and instructive to hear, certain persons made it their habit to attend him in public as companions and listeners. These men, a fluctuating body, were commonly known as his disciples or scholars; though neither he nor his personal friends ever employed the terms teacher and disciple to describe the relation between them. Many of them came, attracted by his reputation, during the later years of his life, from other Grecian cities : Megara, Thebes, Elis, Cyrene, &c.

Now no other person in Athens, or in any other Grecian city, appears ever to have manifested himself in this perpetual and indiscriminate manner as a public talker for instruction. All teachers either took money for their lessons, or at least gave them apart from the multitude in a private house or garden, to special pupils, with admissions and rejections at their own pleasure. By the peculiar mode of life which Socrates pursued, not only his conversation reached the minds of a much wider circle, but he became more abundantly known as a person. While acquiring a few attached friends and admirers, and raising a certain intellectual interest in others, he at the same time provoked a large number of personal enemies. This was probably the reason why he was selected by Aristophanes and the other comic writers to be attacked as a general representative of philosophical and rhetorical teaching; the more so as his marked and repulsive physiognomy admitted so well of being imitated in the mask which the actor wore. The audience at the theatre would more readily recognize the peculiar figure which they were accustomed to see every day m the market-place, than if Prodicus or Protagoras, whom most of them did not know by sight, had been brought on the stage. It was of little importance either to them or to Aristophanes whether Socrates was represented as teaching what he did really teach or something utterly different.

This extreme publicity of life and conversation was one among the characteristics of Socrates, distinguishing him from all teachers either before or after him. Next was his persuasion of a special religious mission, restraints, impulses, and communications, sent to him by the gods. Taking the belief in such supernatural intervention generally, it was indeed noway peculiar to Socrates : it was the ordinary faith of the ancient world, insomuch that the attempts to resolve phenomena into general laws were looked upon with a certain disapprobation, as indirectly setting it aside. And Xenophon accordingly avails himself of such general fact, in replying to the indictment for religious innovation of which his master was found guilty, to affirm that the latter pretended to nothing beyond what was included in the creed of every pious man. But this is not an exact statement of the matter in debate ; for it alurs over at least, if it does not deny, that speciality of inspiration from the gods, which those who talked with Socrates (as we learn even from Xenophon) believed, and which Sokrates himself believed also. Very different is his own representation, as put forth in the defence before the Dikastery. He had been accustomed constantly to hear, even from his childhood, a divine voice, interfering, at moments when he was about to act, in the way of restraint, but never in the way of instigation. Such prohibitory warning was wont to come upon him very frequently, not merely on great, but even on small occasions, intercepting what he was about to do or to say. Though later writers speak of this as the daemon or genius of Sokrates, he himself does not personify it, hut treats it merely as a “divine sign, a prophetic or supernatural voice”. He was accustomed not only to obey it implicitly, but to speak of it publicly and familiarly to others, so that the fact was well known both to his friends and to his enemies. It had always forbidden him to enter on public life: it forbade him, when the indictment was hanging over him, to take any thought for a prepared defence : and so completely did he march with a consciousness of this bridle in his month, that when he felt no check, he assumed that the turning which he was about to take was the right one. Though his persuasion on the subject was unquestionably sincere and his obedience constant, yet he never dwelt upon it himself as anything grand or awful, or entitling him to peculiar deference, but spoke of it often in his usual strain of familiar playfulness. To his friends generally, it seems to have constituted one of his titles to reverence, though neither Plato nor Xenophon scruples to talk of it in that jesting way which doubtless they caught from himself. But to his enemies and to the Athenian public it appeared in the light of an offensive heresy, an impious innovation on the orthodox creed, and a desertion of the recognized gods of Athens.

Such was the Daemon or Genius of Socrates as described by himself and as conceived in the genuine Platonic dialogues—a voice always prohibitory, and bearing exclusively upon his own personal conduct. That which Plutarch and other admirers of Socrates conceived as a Daemon or intermediate Being between gods and men, was looked upon by the fathers of the Christian Church as a devil—by Le Clerc as one of the fallen angels—by some other modern commentators as mere ironical phraseology on the part of Socrates himself. Without presuming to determine the question raised in the former hypotheses, I believe that the last is untrue, and that the conviction of Socrates on the point was quite sincere. A circumstance little attended to, but deserving peculiar notice, and stated by himself, is that the restraining voice began when he was a child, and continued even down to the end of his life : it had thus become an established persuasion, long before his philosophical habits began. But though this peculiar form of inspiration belonged exclusively to him, there were also other ways in which he believed himself to have received the special mandates of the gods, not simply checking him when he was about to take a wrong turn, but spurring him on, directing, and peremptorily exacting from him a positive course of proceeding. Such distinct mission had been imposed upon him by dreams, by oracular intimations, and by every other means which the gods employed for signifying their special will.

Of these intimations from the oracle, he specifies particularly one, in reply to a question put at Delphi, by his intimate friend and enthusiastic admirer, Chaerephon. The question put was, whether any other man was wiser than wiser than Socrates; to which the Pythian priestess replied that no other man was wiser. Socrates affirms that he was greatly perplexed on hearing this declaration from so infallible an authority,—being conscious to himself that he possessed no wisdom on any subject, great or small. At length, after much meditation and a distressing mental struggle, he resolved to test the accuracy of the infallible priestess, by taking measure of the wisdom of others as compared with his own. Selecting a leading politician, accounted wise both by others and by himself, he proceeded to converse with him and put scrutinizing questions; the answers to which satisfied him that this man’s supposed wisdom was really no wisdom at all. Having made such a discovery, Socrates next tried to demonstrate to the politician himself how much he wanted of being wise; but this was impossible: the latter still remained as fully persuaded of his own wisdom as before. “The result which I acquired (says Socrates) was that I was a wiser man than he, for neither he nor I knew anything of what was truly good and honourable; but the difference between us was, that he fancied he knew them, while I was fully conscious of my own ignorance : I was thus wiser than he, inasmuch as I was exempt from that capital error. So far therefore the oracle was proved to be right, Socrates repeated the same experiment successively upon a great number of different persons, especially those in reputation for distinguished abilities; first, upon political men and rhetors, next upon poets of every variety, and upon artists as well as artisans. The result of his trial was substantially the same in all cases. The poets indeed composed splendid verses, but when questioned even about the words, the topics, and the purpose of their own compositions, they could give no consistent or satisfactory explanations ; so that it became evident that they spoke or wrote, like prophets, as unconscious subjects under the promptings of inspiration. Moreover their success as poets filled them with a lofty opinion of their own wisdom on other points also. The case was similar with artists and artisans; who, while highly instructed, and giving satisfactory answers, each in his own particular employment, were for that reason only the more convinced that they also knew well other great and noble subjects. This great general mistake more than countervailed their special capacities, and left them, on the whole, less wise than Socrates.

“In this research and scrutiny (said Socrates on his defence) I have been long engaged, and am still engaged. I interrogate every man of reputation: I prove him to be defective in wisdom, but I cannot prove it so as to make him sensible of the defect. Fulfilling the mission imposed upon me, I have thus established the veracity of the god, who meant to pronounce that human wisdom was of little reach or worth; and that he who, like Socrates, felt most convinced of his own worthlessness as to wisdom, was really the wisest of men. My service to the god has not only constrained me to live in constant poverty and neglect of political estimation, but has brought upon me a host of bitter enemies in those whom I have examined and exposed; while the bystanders talk of me as a wise man, because they give me credit for wisdom respecting all the points on which my exposure of others turns.”—“Whatever be the danger and obloquy which I may incur, it would be monstrous indeed if, having maintained my place in the ranks as an hoplite under your generals at Delium and Potidaea, I were now, from fear of death or anything else, to disobey the oracle and desert the post which the god has assigned to me—the duty of living for philosophy and cross-questioning both myself and others. And should you even now offer to acquit me, on condition of my renouncing this duty, I should tell you, with all respect and affection, that I will obey the god rather than you, and that I will persist until my dying day in cross-questioning you, exposing your want of wisdom and virtue, and reproaching you until the defect be remedied. My mission as your monitor is a mark of the special favour of the god to you; and if you condemn me, it will be your loss, for you will find none other such. Perhaps you will ask me, Why cannot you go away, Socrates, and live among us in peace and silence? This is the hardest of all questions for me to answer to your satisfaction. If I tell you that silence on my part would be disobedience to the god, you will think me in jest and not believe me. You will believe me still less if I tell you that the greatest blessing which can happen to man is to carry on discussions every day about virtue, and those other matters which you hear me canvassing when I cross-examine myself as well as others, and that life without such examination is no life at all. Nevertheless so stands the fact, incredible as it may seem to you”.

I have given rather ample extracts from the Platonic Apology, because no one can conceive fairly the character of Socrates who does not enter into the spirit of that impressive discourse. We see in it plain evidence of a marked supernatural mission which he believed himself to be executing, and which would not allow him to rest or employ himself in other ways. The oracular answer brought by Chaerephon from Delphi was a fact of far more importance in his history than the so-called Daemon, about which so much more has been said. That answer, together with the dreams and other divine mandates concurrent to the same end, came upon him in the middle of his life, when the intellectual man was formed and when he had already acquired a reputation for wisdom among those who knew him. It supplied a stimulus which brought into the most pronounced action a pre-existing tram of generalizing dialectics and Zenonian negation—an intellectual vein with which the religious impulse rarely comes into continence. Without such a motive, to which his mind was peculiarly susceptible, his conversation would probably have taken the same general turn, but would assuredly have been restricted within much narrower and more cautious limits. For nothing could well be more unpopular and obnoxious than the task which he undertook of cross- examining and convicting of ignorance every distinguished man whom he could approach. So violent indeed was the enmity which he occasionally provoked, that there were instances (we are told) in which he was struck or maltreated, and very frequently laughed to scorn. Though he acquired much admiration from auditors, especially youthful auditors, and from a few devoted adherents, yet the philosophical motive alone would not have sufficed to prompt him to that systematic, and even obtrusive, cross-examination which he adopted as the business of his life.

This then is the second peculiarity which distinguishes Socrates, in addition to his extreme publicity of life and indiscriminate conversation. He was not simply a philosopher, but a religious missionary doing the work of philosophy—“a elenctic cross-examining god (to use an expression which Plato puts into his mouth respecting an Eleatic philosopher) going about to examine and convict the infirm in reason”. Nothing of this character belonged either to Parmenides and Anaxagoras before him, or to Plato and Aristotle after him. Both Pythagoras and Empedocles did indeed lay claim to supernatural communications, mingled with their philosophical teaching. But though there be thus far a general analogy between them and Socrates, the modes of manifestation were so utterly different that no fair comparison can be instituted.

The third and most important characteristic of Socrates—that trough which the first and second became operative—was his intellectual peculiarity. His influence on the speculative mind of his age was marked and important, as to subject, as to method, and as to doctrine.

He was the first who turned his thoughts and discussions distinctly to the subject of ethics. With the philosophers who preceded him, the subject of examination had been Nature or Cosmos as one undistinguishable whole, blending together cosmogony, astronomy,  geometry, physics, metaphysics, &c. The Ionic as well as the Eleatic philosophers, Pythagoras as well as Empedocles, all set before themselves this vast and undefined problem; each framing some system suited to his own vein of imagination, religious, poetical, scientific, or sceptical. According to that honourable ambition for enlarged knowledge, however, which marked the century following 480 B.C., and of which the professional men called Sophists were at once the products and the instruments— arithmetic, geometry, and astronomy, as much as was then known, were becoming so far detached sciences, as to be taught separately to youth. Such appears to have been the state of science when Socrates received his education. He received at least the ordinary amount of instruction in all: he devoted himself as a young man to the society and lessons of the physical philosopher Archelaus (the disciple of Anaxagoras), whom he accompanied from Athens to Samos; and there is even reason to believe that during the earlier part of his life he was much devoted to what was then understood as the general study of Nature. A man of his earnest and active intellect was likely first to manifest his curiosity as a learner—“to run after and track the various discourses of others, like a Laconian hound”, if I may borrow an expression applied to him by Plato—before he struck out any novelties of his own. And in Plato’s dialogue called “Parmenides,” Socrates appears as a young man full of ardour for the discussion of the Parmenidean theory, looking up with reverence to Parmenides and Zeno, and receiving from them, instructions in the process of dialectical investigation. I have already in the preceding chapter noted the tenor of that dialogue as illustrating the way in which Grecian philosophy presents itself, even at the first dawn of dialectics, as at once negative and positive, recognizing the former branch of method no less than the latter as essential to the attainment of truth. I construe it as an indication respecting the early mind of Sokrates, imbibing this conviction from the ancient Parmenides and the mature and practised Zeno—and imposing upon himself as a condition of assent to any hypothesis or doctrine the obligation of setting forth conscientiously both the positive conclusions and the negative conclusions which could be deduced from it, however laborious such a process might be, and however little appreciated by the multitude. Little as we know the circumstances which went to form the remarkable mind of Socrates, we may infer from this dialogue that he owes in part his powerful negative vein of dialectics to “the double-tongued and all-objecting Zeno.”

To a mind at all exigent on the score of proof, physical science as handled in that day wag indeed likely to appear not only unsatisfactory, but hopeless; and Socrates, in the maturity of his life, deserted it altogether. The contradictory hypotheses which he heard, with the impenetrable confusion which overhung the subject, brought him even to the conviction that the gods intended the machinery by which they brought about astronomical and physical results to remain unknown, and that it was impious, as well as useless, to pry into their secrets. His master Archelaus, though mainly occupied with physics, also speculated more or less concerning moral subjects—concerning justice and injustice, the laws, &c., and is said to have maintained the tenet, that justice and injustice were determined by law or convention, not by nature. From him, perhaps, Socrates may have been partly led to turn his mind in this direction. But to a man disappointed with physics, and having in his bosom a dialectical impulse powerful, unemployed, and restless, the mere realities of Athenian life, even without Archelaus, would suggest human relations, duties, action, and suffering, as the most interesting materials for contemplation and discourse. Socrates could not go into the public assembly, the Dikastery, or even the theatre, without hearing discussions about what was just or unjust, honourable or base, expedient or hurtful, &c., nor without having his mind conducted to the inquiry, what was the meaning of these large words which opposing disputants often invoked with equal reverential confidence. Along with the dialectic and generalizing power of Socrates, which formed his bond of connexion with such minds as Plato, there was at the same time a vigorous practicality, a large stock of positive Athenian experience, with which Xenophon chiefly sympathized, and which he has brought out in his “Memorabilia”. Of these two intellectual tendencies, combined with a strong religious sentiment, the character of Socrates is composed; and all of them were gratified at once, when he devoted himself to admonitory interrogation on the rules and purposes of human life; from which there was the less to divert him, as he had neither talents nor taste for public speaking.

That “the proper study of mankind is man,” Socrates was the first to proclaim. He recognized the security and happiness of man both as the single end of study, and as the limiting principle whereby it ought to be circumscribed. In the present state to which science has attained, nothing is more curious than to look back at the rules which this eminent man laid down. Astronomy—now exhibiting the maximum of perfection, with the largest and most exact power of predicting future phaenomena which human science has ever attained—was pronounced by him to be among the divine mysteries which it was impossible to understand, and madness to investigate, as Anaxagoras had foolishly pretended to do. He admitted indeed that there was advantage in knowing enough of the movements of the heavenly bodies to serve as an index to the change of seasons, and as guides for voyages, journeys by land, or night-watches. But thus much (he said) might easily be obtained from pilots and watchmen ; while all beyond was nothing but waste of valuable time, exhausting that mental effort which ought to be employed in profitable acquisitions. He reduced geometry to its literal meaning of land-measuring, necessary so far as to enable any one to proceed correctly in the purchase, sale, or division of land, which any man of common attention might do almost without a teacher, but silly and worthless if carried beyond, to the study of complicated diagrams. Respecting arithmetic, he gave the same qualified permission of study; but as to general physics, or the study of Nature, he discarded it altogether: “Do these inquirers (he asked) think that they already know human affairs well enough, that they thus begin to meddle with divine  Do they think that they shall be able to excite or calm the winds and the rain at pleasure, or have they no other view than to gratify an idle curiosity? Surely they must see that such matters are beyond human investigation. Let them only recollect how much the greatest men, who have attempted the investigation, differ in their pretended results, holding opinions extreme and opposite to each other, like those of madmen!”. Such was the view which Socrates took of physical science and its prospects. It is the very same scepticism in substance, and carried further in degree, though here invested with a religious colouring, for which Ritter and others so severely denounce Gorgias. But looking at matters as they stood in 440—430 B.C., it ought not to be accounted even surprising, much less blameable. To an acute man of that day, physical science as then studied may well be conceived to have promised no result, and even to have seemed worse than barren, if (like Sokrates) he had an acute perception how much of human happiness was forfeited by immorality and by corrigible ignorance—how much might be gained by devoting the same amount of earnest study to this latter object. Nor ought we to omit remarking that the objection of Socrates—“You may judge how unprofitable are these studies by observing how widely the students differ among themselves”—remains in high favour down to the present day, and may constantly be seen employed against theoretical arguments, in every department.

Socrates desired to confine the studies of his hearers to human matters as distinguished from divine; the latter comprehending astronomy and physics. He looked at all knowledge from the point of view of human practice, which had been assigned by the gods to man as his proper subject for study and learning, and with reference to which, therefore, they managed all the current phenomena upon principles of constant and intelligible sequence; so that every one who chose to learn might learn, while those who took no such pains suffered for their neglect. Even in these, however, the most careful study was not by itself completely sufficient; for the gods did not condescend to submit all the phenomena to constant antecedence and consequence, but reserved to themselves the capital turns and junctures for special sentence. Yet here again, if a man had been diligent in learning all that the gods permitted to be learnt—and if, besides, he was assiduous in pious court to them, and in soliciting special information by way of prophecy—they would be gracious to him, so far as to signify beforehand how they intended to act in putting the final hand and in settling the undecipherable portions of the problem. The kindness of the gods in replying through their oracles, or sending information by sacrificial signs or prodigies, in cases of grave difficulty, was, in the view of Socrates, one of the most signal evidences of their care for the human race. To seek access to these prophecies, or indications of special divine intervention to come, was the proper supplementary business of any one who had done as much for himself as could be done by patient study. But as it was madness in a man to solicit special information from the gods on matters which they allowed him to learn by his own diligence, so it was not less madness in him to investigate as a learner that which they chose to keep back for their own specialty of will.

Such was the capital innovation made by Sokrates in regard to the subject of Athenian study, bringing down philosophy (to use the expression of Cicero) from the heavens to the earth, and such his attempt to draw the line between that which was and was not scientifically discoverable: an attempt, remarkable, inasmuch as it shows his conviction that the scientific and the religious point of view mutually excluded one another, so that where the latter began the former ended. It was an innovation, inestimable in respect to the new matter which it let in; of little import as regards that which it professed to exclude. For, in point of fact, physical science, though partially discouraged, was never absolutely excluded through any prevalence of that systematic disapproval which he, in common with the multitude of his day, entertained. If it became comparatively neglected, this arose rather from the greater popularity and the more abundant and accessible matter of that which he introduced. Physical or astronomical science was narrow in amount, known only to few; and even with those few it did not admit of being expanded, enlivened, or turned to much profitable account in discussion. But the moral and political phenomena, on which Socrates turned the light of speculation, were abundant, varied, familiar, and interesting to every one; comprising (to translate a Greek line which he was fond of quoting) “all the good and evil which has befallen you in your home”; connected, too, not merely with the realities of the present, but also with the literature of the past, through the gnomic and other poets.

The motives which determined this important innovation, as to subject of study, exhibit Socrates chiefly as a religious man and a practical, philanthropic preceptor—the Xenophontic hero. His innovations, not less important, as to method and doctrine, place before us the philosopher and dialectician—the other side of his character, or the Platonic hero; faintly traced, indeed, yet still recognized and identified, by Xenophon.

“Socrates (says the latter) continued incessantly discussing human affairs (the sense of this word will be understood by what has been said above), investigating—What is piety? What is impiety? What is the honourable and the base? What is the just and the unjust? What is temperance or unsound mind? What is courage or cowardice? What is a city ? What is the character fit for a citizen? What is authority over men? What is the character befitting the exercise of such authority? and other similar questions. Men who knew these matters he accounted good and honourable; men who were ignorant of them he assimilated to slaves.”

Socrates (says Xenophon again, in another passage) considered that the dialectic process consisted in coming together and taking common counsel to distinguish and distribute things into Genera or Families, so as to learn what each separate thing really was. To go through this process carefully was indispensable, as the only way of enabling a man to regulate his own conduct, aiming at good objects and avoiding bad. To be so practised as to be able to do it readily was essential to make a man a good leader or adviser of others. Every man who had gone through the process, and come to know what each thing was, could also, of course, define it and explain it to others; but if he did not know, it was no wonder that he went wrong himself, and put others wrong besides. Moreover, Aristotle says: “To Socrates we may unquestionably assign two novelties—Inductive Discourses and the Definitions of  general terms”

I borrow here intentionally from Xenophon in preference to Plato; since the former, tamely describing a process which he imperfectly appreciated, identifies it so much the more completely with the real Socrates, and is thus a better witness than Plato, whose genius not only conceived but greatly enlarged it for didactic purposes of is own. In our present state of knowledge, some mental effort is required to see anything important in the words of Xenophon; so familiar has every student been rendered with ordinary terms and gradations of logic and classification,—such as Genus—Definition—Individual things as comprehended in a Genus—what each thing is, and to what genus it belongs, &c. But familiar as these words have now become, they denote a mental process, of which, in 440—430 B.C., few men besides Sokrates had any conscious perception. Of course men conceived and described things in classes, as is implied in the very form and language, and in the habitual junction of predicates with subjects in common speech. They explained their meaning clearly and forcibly in particular cases : they laid down maxims, argued questions, stated premises, and drew conclusions, on trials in the Dikastery or debates in the assembly: they had an abundant poetical literature, which appealed to every variety of emotion : they were beginning to compile historical narrative, intermixed with reflection and criticism. But though all this was done, and often admirably well done, it was wanting in that analytical consciousness which would have enabled any one to describe, explain, or vindicate what he was doing. The ideas of men—speakers as well as hearers, the productive minds as well as the recipient multitude—were associated together in groups favourable rather to emotional results, or to poetical, rhetorical, narrative, and descriptive effect, than to methodical generalization, to scientific conception, or to proof either inductive or deductive. That reflex act of attention which enables me to understand, compare, and rectify their own mental process was only just beginning. It was a recent novelty on the part of the rhetorical teachers to analyse the component parts of a public harangue, and to propound some precepts for making men tolerable speakers. Protagoras was just setting forth various grammatical distinctions, while Prodicus discriminated the significations of words nearly equivalent and liable to be confounded. All these proceedings appeared then so new as to incur the ridicule even of Plato; yet they were branches of that same analytical tendency which Sokrates now carried into scientific inquiry. It may be doubted whether any one before him ever used the words Genus and Species (originally meaning Family and Form) in the philosophical sense now exclusively appropriated to them. Not one of those many names (called by logicians names of the second intention), which imply distinct attention to various parts of the logical process, and enable us to consider and criticise it in detail, then existed. All of them grew out of the schools of Plato, Aristotle, and the subsequent philosophers, so that we can thus trace them in their beginning to the common root and father, Socrates.

To comprehend the full value of the improvements struck out by Socrates, we have only to examine the intellectual paths pursued by his predecessors or contemporaries. He set to himself distinct and specific problems—“What is justice? What is piety, courage, political government? What is it which is really denoted by such great and important names, bearing upon the conduct or happiness of man?”. Now it has been already remarked that Anaxagoras, Empedocles, Democritus, the Pythagoreans, all had still present to their minds those vast and undivided problems which had been transmitted down from the old poets; bending their minds to the invention of some system which would explain them all at once, or assist the imagination in conceiving both how the Cosmos first began, and how it continued to move on. Ethics and physics, man and nature, were all blended together; and the Pythagoreans, who explained all Nature by numbers and numerical relations, applied the same explanation to moral attributes—considering justice to be symbolized by a perfect equation, or by four, the first of all square numbers. These early philosophers endeavoured to find out the beginnings, the component elements, the moving cause or causes, of things in the mass; but the logical distribution into Genus, Species, and individuals does not seem to have suggested itself to them, or to have been made a subject of distinct attention by any one before Socrates. To study Ethics, or human dispositions and ends, apart from the physical world, and according to a theory of their own, referring to human good and happiness as the sovereign and comprehensive end; to treat each of the great and familiar words designating moral attributes as logical aggregates comprehending many judgments in particular cases, and connoting a certain harmony or consistency of purpose among the separate judgments; to bring many of these latter into comparison, by a scrutinizing dialectical process, so as to test the consistency and completeness of the logical aggregate or general notion, as it stood in every man’s mind—all these were parts of the same forward movement which Socrates originated.

It was at that time a great progress to break unwieldy mass conceived by former philosophers as science, and to study Ethics apart, with a reference, more or less distinct, to their own appropriate end. Nay, we see (if we may trust the “Phaedon” of Plato) that Socrates, before he resolved on such pronounced severance, had tried to construct, or had at least yearned after, an undivided and reformed system including Physics also under the Ethical end; a scheme of optimistic Physics, applying the general idea “What was best” as the commanding principle from whence physical explanations were to be deduced, which he hoped to find, but did not find, in Anaxagoras. But it was a still greater advance to seize, and push out in conscious application, the essential features of that logical process, upon the correct performance of which our security for general truth greatly depends. The notions of Genus, subordinate Genera, and individuals as comprehended under them (we need not here notice the points on which Plato and Aristotle differed from each other and from the modern conceptions on that subject) were at that time newly brought into clear consciousness in the human mind. The profusion of logical distribution employed in some of the dialogues of Plato, such as the Sophistes and the Politicus, seems partly traceable to his wish to familiarize hearers with that which was then a novelty, as well as to enlarge its development and diversify its mode of application. He takes numerous indirect opportunities of bringing it out into broad light, by putting into the mouths of his dialogists answers implying complete inattention to it, exposed afterwards in the course of the dialogue by Socrates. What was now begun by Socrates and improved by Plato was embodied as part in a comprehensive system of formal logic by the genius of Aristotle—a system which was not only of extraordinary value in reference to the processes and controversies of its time, but which also, having become insensibly worked into the minds of instructed men, has contributed much to form what is correct in the habits of modern thinking. Though it has been now enlarged and recast, by some modern authors (especially by M. John Stuart Mill in his admirable System of Logic), into a structure commensurate with the vast increase of knowledge and extension of positive method belonging to the present day, we must recollect that the distance, between the best modern logic and that of Aristotle, is hardly so great as that between Aristotle and those who preceded him by a centuryEmpedocles, Anaxagoras, and the Pythagoreans, and that the movement in advance of these latter commences with Socrates.

By Xenophon, by Plato, and by Aristotle, the growth as well as the habitual use of logical classification is represented as concurrent with and dependent upon dialectics. In this methodized discussion, so much in harmony with the marked sociability of the Greek character, the quick recurrence of short question and answer was needful as a stimulus to the attention, at a time when the habit of close and accurate reflection on abstract subjects had been so little cultivated. But the dialectics of Sokrates had far greater and more important peculiarities than this. We must always consider his method in conjunction with the subjects to which he applied it. As those subjects were not recondite or special, but bore on the practical life of the house, the market-place, the city, the Dikastery, the gymnasium, or the temple, with which every one was familiar, so Socrates never presented himself as a teacher, nor as a man having new knowledge to communicate. On the contrary, he disclaimed such pretensions, uniformly and even ostentatiously. The subjects on which he talked were just those which every one professed to know perfectly and thoroughly, and on which every one believed himself in a condition to instruct others, rather than to require instruction for himself. On such questions as these—What is justice?— What is piety?—What is a democracy?—What is a law?—every man fancied that he could give a confident opinion, and even wondered that any other person should feel a difficulty. When Socrates, professing ignorance, put any such question, he found no difficulty in obtaining an answer, given offhand, and with very little reflection. The answer purported to be the explanation or definition of a term—familiar indeed, but of wide and comprehensive import—given by one who had never before tried to render to himself an account of what it meant. Having got this answer, Sokrates put fresh questions applying it to specific cases, to which the respondent was compelled to give answers inconsistent with the first; thus showing that the definition was either too narrow, or too wide, or defective m some essential condition. The respondent then amended his answer, but this was a prelude to other questions, which could only be answered in ways inconsistent with the amendment; and the respondent, after many attempts to disentangle himself, was obliged to plead guilty, to the inconsistencies, with an admission that he could make no satisfactory answer to the original query, which had at first appeared so easy and familiar. Or if he did not himself admit this, the hearers at least felt it forcibly. The dialogue, as given, to us, commonly ends with a result purely negative, proving that the respondent was incompetent to answer the question proposed to him, in a manner consistent and satisfactory even to himself. Socrates, as he professed from the beginning to have no positive theory to support, so he maintains to the end the same air of a learner, who would be glad to solve the difficulty if he could, but regrets to find himself disappointed of that instruction which the respondent had promised.

We see by this description of the cross-examining path of this remarkable man how intimate was the bond of connexion between the dialectic method and the logical distribution of particulars into species and genera. The discussion first raised by Socrates turns upon the meaning of some large generic term : the queries whereby he follows it up bring the answer given into collision with various particulars which it ought not to comprehend, yet does, or with others which it ought to comprehend, but does not. It is in this manner that the latent and undefined cluster of association, which has grown up round a familiar term, is as it were penetrated by a fermenting leaven, forcing it to expand into discernible portions, and bringing the appropriate function which the term ought to fulfil, to become a subject of distinct consciousness. The inconsistencies into which the hearer is betrayed in his various answers proclaim to him the fact that he has not yet acquired anything like a clear and full conception of the common attribute which binds together the various particulars embraced under some term which is ever upon his lips, or perhaps enable him to detect a different fact, not less important, that there is no such common attribute, and that the generalization is merely nominal and fallacious. In either case, he is put upon the train of thought which leads to a correction of the generalization, and lights him on to that which Plato1 calls seeing the One in the Many, and the Many in the One. Without any predecessor to copy, Socrates fell as it were instinctively into that which Aristotle describes as the double track of the dialectic process—breaking up the One into Many and recombining the Many into One. The former duty, at once the first and the most essential, Socrates performed directly by his analytical string of questions; the latter, or synthetical process, was one which he did not often directly undertake, but strove so to arm and stimulate the hearer’s mind, as to enable him to do it for himself. This One and Many denote the logical distribution of a multifarious subject-matter under generic terms, with clear understanding of the attributes implied or connoted by each term, so as to discriminate those particulars to which it really applies. At a moment when such logical distribution was as yet novel as a subject of consciousness, it could hardly have been probed and laid out in the mind by any less stringent process than the cross-examining dialectics of Socrates—applied to the analysis of some attempts at definition hastily given by respondents; that “inductive discourse and search for (clear general notions or) definitions of general terms,” which Aristotle so justly points out as his peculiar innovation.

I have already adverted to the persuasion of religious mission under which Socrates acted in pursuing this system of conversation and interrogation. He probably began it in a tentative way, upon a modest scale, and under the pressure of logical embarrassment weighing on his own mind. But as he proceeded, and found himself successful as well as acquiring reputation among a certain circle of friends, his earnest soul became more and more penetrated with devotion to that which he regarded as a duty. It was at this time probably that his friend Chaerephon came back with the oracular answer from Delphi (noticed a few pages above), to which Socrates himself alluded as having prompted him to extend the range of his conversation, and to question a class of persons whom he had not before ventured to approach—the noted politicians, poets, and artisans. He found them more confident than humbler individuals in their own wisdom, but quite as unable to reply to his queries without being driven to contradictory answers.

Such scrutiny of the noted men in Athens is made to stand prominent in the “Platonic Apology,” because it was the principal cause of that unpopularity which Socrates at once laments and accounts for before the Dikasts. It was the most impressive portion of his proceedings, in the eyes both of enemies and admirers, as well as the most flattering to his own natural temper. Nevertheless it would be a mistake to present this part of the general purpose of Socrates—or of his divine mission, if we adopt his own language—as if it were the whole, and to describe him as one standing forward merely to unmask select leading men, politicians, sophists, poets, or others, who had acquired unmerited reputation, and were puffed up with foolish conceit of their own abilities, being in reality shallow and incompetent Such an idea of Sokrates is at once inadequate and erroneous. His conversation (as I have before remarked) was absolutely universal and indiscriminate; while the mental defect which he strove to rectify was one not at all peculiar to leading men, but common to them with the mass of mankind, though seeming to be exaggerated in them, partly because more is expected from them, partly because the general feeling of self­estimation stands at a higher level, naturally and reasonably, in their bosoms than in those of ordinary persons. That defect was the “seeming and conceit of knowledge without the reality,” of human life with its duties, purposes, and conditions—the knowledge of which Sokrates called emphatically “human wisdom,” and regarded as essential to the dignity of a freeman; while he treated other branches of science as above the level of man, and as a stretch of curiosity, not merely superfluous, but reprehensible. His warfare against such false persuasion of knowledge, in one man as well as another, upon those subjects (for with him, I repeat, we must never disconnect the method from the subjects)—clearly marked even in Xenophon, is abundantly and strikingly illustrated by the fertile genius of Plato, and constituted the true missionary scheme which pervaded the last half of his long life ; a scheme far more comprehensive, as well as more generous, than those anti-Sophistic polemics which are assigned to him by so many authors as his prominent object.

In pursuing the thread of his examination, there was no topic upon which Socrates more frequently insisted than the contrast between the state of men’s knowledge on the general topics of man and society, and that which artists or professional men possessed in their respective special crafts. So perpetually did he reproduce this comparison, that his enemies accused him of wearing it threadbare. Take a man of special vocation—a carpenter, a brazier, a pilot, a musician, a surgeon—and examine him on the state of his professional knowledge—you will find him able to indicate the persons from whom, and the steps by which, he first acquired it: he can describe to you his general aim, with the particular means which he employs to realize the aim, as well as the reason why such means must be employed and why precautions must be taken to combat such and such particular obstructions: he can teach his profession to others: in matters relating to his profession, he counts as an authority, so that no extra-professional person thinks of contesting the decision of a surgeon in case of disease, or of a pilot at sea. But while such is the fact in regard to every special art, how great is the contrast in reference to the art of righteous, social, and useful living, which forms, or ought to form, the common business alike important to each and to all! On this subject Socrates remarked that every one felt perfectly well-informed, and confident in his own knowledge, yet no one knew from whom, or by what steps, he had learnt: no one had ever devoted any special reflection either to ends, or means, or obstructions: no one could explain or give a consistent account of the notions in his own mind, when pertinent questions were put to him : no one could teach another, as might be inferred (he thought) from the fact that there were no professed teachers, and that the sons of the best men were often destitute of merit: every one knew for himself, and laid down general propositions confidently, without looking up to any other man as knowing better—yet there was no end of dissension and dispute on particular cases.

Such was the general contrast which Socrates sought to impress upon his hearers by a variety of questions bearing on it, directly or indirectly. One way of presenting it, which Plato devoted much of his genius to expand in dialogue, was to discuss, Whether virtue be really teachable? How was it that superior men like Aristeides and Pericles acquired the eminent qualities essential for guiding and governing Athens, since they neither learnt them under any known master, as they had studied music and gymnastics, nor could ensure the same excellences to their sons, either through their own agency or through that of any master? Was it not rather the fact that virtue, as it was never expressly taught, so it was not really teachable, but was vouchsafed or withheld according to the special volition and grace of the gods? If a man has a young horse to be broken or trained, he finds without difficulty a professed trainer, thoroughly conversant with the habits of the race, to communicate to the animal the excellence required; but whom can he find to teach virtue to his sons, with the like preliminary knowledge and assured result? Nay, how can any one either teach virtue or affirm virtue to be teachable, unless he be prepared to explain what virtue is, and what are the points of analogy and difference between its various branches—justice, temperance, fortitude, prudence…? In several of the Platonic dialogues, the discussion turns on the analysis of these last-mentioned words—the “Laches” and “Protagoras” on courage, the “Charmides” on temperance, the “Euthyphron” on holiness.

By these and similar discussions did Socrates, and Plato amplifying upon his master, raise indirectly all the important questions respecting society, human aspirations and duties, and the principal moral qualities which were accounted virtuous in individual men. As the general terms, on which his conversation turned, were among the most current and familiar in the language, so also the abundant instances of detail, whereby he tested the hearer’s rational comprehension and consistent application of such large terms, were selected from the best-known phenomena of daily life; bringing home the inconsistency, if inconsistency there was, in a manner obvious to every one. The answers made to him—not merely by ordinary citizens, bur by men of talent and genius, such as the poets or the rhetors, when called upon for an explanation of the moral terms and ideas set forth in their own compositions, revealed alike that state of mind against which his crusade, enjoined and consecrated by the Delphian oracle, was directed—the semblance and conceit of knowledge without real knowledge. They proclaimed confident, unhesitating persuasion, on the greatest and gravest questions concerning man and society, in the bosoms of persons who had never bestowed upon them sufficient reflection to be aware that they involved any difficulty. Such persuasion had grown up gradually and unconsciously, partly by authoritative communication, partly by insensible transfusion, from others; the process beginning antecedent to reason as a capacity—continuing itself with little aid and no control from reason—and never being finally revised. With the great terms and current propositions concerning human life and society, a complex body of association had become accumulated from countless particulars, each separately trivial and lost to the memory—knit together by a powerful sentiment, and imbibed as it were by each man from the atmosphere of authority and example around him. Upon this basis the fancied knowledge really rested; and reason, when invoked at all, was called in simply as a hand­maid, expositor, or apologist of the pre-existing sentiment; as an accessory after the fact, not as a test of verification. Every man found these persuasions in his own mind, without knowing how they became established there; and witnessed them in others, as portions of a general fund of unexamined common place and credence. Because the words were at once of large meaning, embodied in old and familiar mental processes, and surrounded by a strong body of sentiment, the general assertions in which they were embodied appeared self-evident and imposing to every one: so that, in spite of continual dispute in particular cases, no one thought himself obliged to analyse the general propositions themselves, or to reflect whether he had verified their import, and could apply them rationally and consistently.

The phenomenon here adverted to is too obvious, even at the present day, to need further elucidation as matter of fact In morals, in politics, in political economy, on all subjects relating to man and society, the like confident persuasion of knowledge without the reality is sufficiently prevalent; the like generation and propagation, by authority and example, of unverified convictions, resting upon strong sentiment without consciousness of the steps or conditions of their growth; the like enlistment of reason as the one-sided advocate of a pre-established sentiment; the like illusion, because every man is familiar with the language, that therefore every man is master of the complex facts, judgments, and tendencies, involved in its in signification, and competent both to apply comprehensive words and to assume the truth or falsehood of large propositions, without any special analysis or study.

There is one important difference, however, to note, between our time and that of Socrates. In his day, the impressions not only respecting man and society, but also respecting the physical world, were of this same self-propagating and unscientific character. The popular astronomy of the Socratic age was an aggregate of primitive superficial observations and imaginative inferences, passing unexamined from elder men to younger, accepted with unsuspecting faith, and consecrated by intense sentiment. Not only men like Nicias, or Anytus and Meletus, but even Socrates himself protested against the impudence of Anaxagoras, when he degraded the divine Helios and Selene into a sun and moon of calculable motions and magnitudes. But now, the development of the scientific point of view, with the vast increase of methodized physical and mathematical knowledge, has taught every one that such primitive astronomical and physical convictions were nothing better than “a fancy of knowledge without the reality”. Every one renounces them without hesitation, seeks his conclusions from the scientific teacher, and looks to the proofs alone for his guarantee. A man who has never bestowed special study on astronomy knows that he is ignorant of it: to fancy that he knows it, without such preparation, would be held an absurdity. While the scientific point of view has thus acquired complete predominance in reference to the physical world, it has made little way comparatively on topics regarding man and society—wherein “fancy of knowledge without the reality” continues to reign, not without criticism and opposition, yet still as a paramount force. And if a new Socrates were now to put the same questions in the market-place to men of all ranks and professions, he would find the like confident persuasion and unsuspecting dogmatism as to generalities—the like faltering blindness and contradiction, when tested by cross-examining details.

In the time of Socrates, this last comparison was not open, since there did not exist, in any department, a body of doctrine scientifically constituted; but the comparison which he actually took, borrowed from the special trades and professions, brought him to an important result. He was the first to see (and the idea pervades all his speculations), that as in each art or profession there is an end to be attained—a theory, laying down the means and conditions whereby it is attainable—and precepts, deduced from that theory—such precepts, collectively taken, directing and covering nearly the entire field of practice, but each precept, separately taken, liable to conflict with others, and therefore liable to cases of exception; so all this is not less true, or admits not less of being realized, respecting the general art of human living and society. There is a grand and all-comprehensive End—the security and happiness, as far as practicable, of each and all persons in the society : there may be a theory, laying down those means and conditions under which the nearest approach, can be made to that end : there may also be precepts, prescribing to every man the conduct and character which best enables him to become an auxiliary towards its attainment, and imperatively restraining him from acts which tend to hinder it—precepts deduced from the theory, each one of them separately taken being subject to exceptions, but all of them taken collectively governing practice, as in each particular art. Socrates and Plato talk of “the art of dealing with human beings”—“the art of behaving in society”— “that science which has for its object to make men happy,”.... They draw a marked distinction between art, or rules of practice deduced from a theoretical survey of the subject-matter, and taught with precognition of the end—and mere artless, irrational, knack or dexterity, acquired by simple copying or assimilation, through a process of which no one could render account.

Plato, with that variety of indirect allusion which is his characteristic, continually constrains the reader to look upon human and social life as having its own ends and purposes no less than each separate profession or craft, and impels him to transfer to the former that conscious analysis as a science, and intelligent practice as an art, which are known as conditions of success in the latter. It was in furtherance of these rational conceptions—“Science and Art”—that Socrates carried on his crusade against “that conceit of knowledge without reality,” which reigned undisturbed in the moral world around him, and was only beginning to be slightly disturbed even as to the physical world. To him the precept, inscribed in the Delphian temple—“Know yourself”—was the holiest of all texts, which he constantly cited, and strenuously enforced upon his hearers; interpreting it to mean, Know what sort of a man thou art, and what are thy capacities, in reference to human use. His manner of enforcing it was alike original and effective; and though he was dexterous in varying his topics and queries according to the individual person with whom he had to deal, it was his first object to bring the hearer to take just measure of his own real knowledge or real ignorance. To preach, to exhort, even to confute particular errors, appeared to Socrates useless, so long as the mind lay wrapped up in its habitual mist, or illusion of wisdom: such mist must be dissipated before any new light could enter. Accordingly, the hearer being usually forward in announcing positive declarations on those general doctrines, and explanations of those terms to which he was most attached and in which he had the most implicit confidence, Socrates took them to pieces, and showed that they involved contradiction and inconsistency, professing himself to be without any positive opinion, nor ever advancing any until the hearer’s mind had undergone the proper purifying cross-examination.

It was this indirect and negative proceeding which, though only a part of the whole, stood out as his most original and most conspicuous characteristic, and determined his reputation with a large number of persons who took no trouble to know anything else about him. It was an exposure no less painful than surprising to the person questioned; producing upon several of them an effect of permanent alienation, so that they never came near him again, but reverted to their former state of mind without any permanent change. But on the other hand, the ingenuity and novelty of the process was highly interesting to hearers, especially youthful hearers, sons of rich men and enjoying leisure, who not only carried away with then a lofty admiration of Socrates, but were fond of trying to copy his negative polemics. Probably men like Alcibiades and Critias frequented his society chiefly for this purpose of acquiring a quality which they might turn to some account in their political career. His constant habit of never suffering a general term to remain undetermined, but applying it at once to particulars, the homely and effective instances of which he made choice; the string of interrogatories each advancing towards a result, yet a result not foreseen by any one; the indirect and circuitous manner whereby the subject was turned round, and at last approached and laid open by a totally different face—all this constituted a sort of prerogative in Socrates, which no one else seems to have approached. Its effect was enhanced by a voice and manner highly plausible and captivating, and to a certain extent by the very eccentricity of his Silenic physiognomy. What is termed “his irony,” or assumption of the character of an ignorant learner asking information from one who knew better than himself, while it was essential as an excuse for his practice as a questioner, contributed also to add zest and novelty to his conversation, and totally banished from it both didactic pedantry and seeming bias as an advocate, which, to one who talked so much, was of no small advantage. After he had acquired celebrity, this uniform profession of ignorance in debate was usually construed as mere affectation, and those who merely heard him occasionally, without penetrating into his intimacy, often suspected that he was amusing himself with ingenious paradox. Timon the Satirist and Zeno the Epicurean accordingly described him as a buffoon who turned every one into ridicule, especially men of eminence.

It is by Plato that the negative and indirect vein of Socrates has been worked out and immortalized; while Xenophon, who sympathized little in it, complains that others looked at his master too exclusively or this side, and that they could not conceive him as a guide to virtue, but only as a stirring and propulsive force. One of the principal objects of his “Memorabilia” is to show that Socrates, after having worked upon novices sufficiently with the negative line of questions, altered his tone, desisted from embarrassing them, and addressed to them precepts not less plain and simple than directly useful in practice. I do not at all doubt that this was often the fact, and that the various dialogues in which Xenophon presents to us the philosopher inculcating self-control, temperance, piety, duty to parents, brotherly love, fidelity in friendship, diligence, benevolence, &c. on positive grounds, are a faithful picture of one valuable side of his character, and an essential part of the whole. Such direct admonitory influence was common to Socrates with Prodicus and the best of the Sophists.

It is however neither from the virtue of his life nor from the goodness of his precepts (though both were essential features in his character) that he derives his peculiar title to fame, but from his originality and prolific efficacy in the line of speculative philosophy. Of that originality, the first portion (as has been just stated) consisted in his having been the first to conceive the idea of an Ethical Science with its appropriate End, and with precepts capable of being tested and improved; but the second point, and not the least important, was his peculiar method and extraordinary power of exciting scientific impulse and capacity in the minds of others. It was not by positive teaching that this effect was produced. Both Socrates and Plato thought that little mental improvement could be produced by expositions directly communicated, or by new written matter lodged in the memory. It was necessary that mind should work upon mind, by short question and answer, or an expert employment of the dialectic process, in order to generate new thoughts and powers : a process which Plato, with his exuberant fancy, compares to copulation and pregnancy, representing it as the true way, and the only effectual way, of propagating the philosophic spirit.

We should greatly misunderstand the negative and indirect vein of Socrates if we supposed that it ended in nothing more than simple negation. On busy or ungifted minds, among the indiscriminate public who heard him, it probably left little permanent effect of any kind, and ended in a mere feeling of admiration for ingenuity, or perhaps dislike of paradox : on practical minds like Xenophon, its effect was merged in that of the preceptorial exhortation. But where the seed fell upon an intellect having the least predisposition or capacity for systematic thought, the negation had only the effect of driving the hearer back at first, giving him a new impetus for afterwards springing forward. The Socratic dialectics, clearing away from the mind its mist of fancied knowledge, and laying bare the real ignorance, produced an immediate effect like the touch of the torpedo. The newly-created consciousness of ignorance was alike unexpected, painful, and humiliating—a season of doubt and discomfort, yet combined with an internal working and yearning after truth never before experienced. Such intellectual quickening, which could never commence until the mind had been disabused of its original illusion of false knowledge, was considered by Socrates not merely as the index and precursor, but as the indispensable condition, of future progress. It was the middle point in the ascending mental scale, the lowest point being ignorance unconscious, self-satisfied, and mistaking itself for knowledge; the next above, ignorance conscious, unmasked, ashamed of itself, and thirsting after knowledge as yet unpossessed; while actual knowledge, the third and highest stage, was only attainable after passing through the second as a preliminary. This second stage was a sort of pregnancy, and every mind either by nature incapable of it, or in which, from want of the necessary conjunction, it had never arisen, was barren for all purposes of original or self-appropriated thought. Socrates regarded it as his peculiar vocation and skill (employing another Platonic metaphor), while he had himself no power of reproduction, to deal with such pregnant and troubled minds in the capacity of a midwife; to assist them in that mental parturition whereby they were to be relieved, but at the same time to scrutinize narrowly the offspring which they brought forth, and if it should prove distorted or unpromising, to cast it away with the rigour of a Lycurgean nurse, whatever might be the reluctance of the mother-mind to part with its new-born. Plato is fertile in illustrating this relation between the teacher and the scholar, operating not by what it put into the latter, but by what it evolved out of him ; by creating an uneasy longing after truth, aiding in the elaboration necessary for obtaining relief, and testing whether the doctrine elaborated possessed the real lineaments, or merely the delusive semblance, of truth.

There are few things more remarkable than the description given of the colloquial magic of Socrates and its vehement effects, by those who had themselves heard it and felt its force. Its suggestive and stimulating power was a gift so extraordinary, as well to justify any abundance of imagery on the part of Plato to illustrate it. On the subjects to which he applied himself—man and society—his hearers had done little but feel and affirm: Socrates undertook to make them think, weigh, and examine themselves and their own judgments, until the latter were brought into consistency with each other as well as with a known and venerable end. The generalizations embodied in their judgments had grown together and coalesced in a manner at once so intimate, so familiar, yet so unverified, that the particulars implied in them had passed out of notice; so that Socrates, when he recalled these particulars out of a forgotten experience, presented to the hearer his own opinions under a totally new point of view. His conversations (even as they appear in the reproduction of Xenophon, which presents but a mere skeleton of the reality) exhibit the main features of a genuine inductive method, struggling against the deep-lying, but unheeded, errors of the early intellect acting by itself without conscious march or scientific guidance—of the intellectus sibi permissus—upon which Bacon so emphatically dwells. Amidst abundance of instantiae negativae the scientific value of which is dwelt upon in the “Novum Organon,”—and negative instances too so dexterously chosen as generally to show the way to new truth, in place of that error which they set aside—there is a close pressure on the hearer’s mind, to keep it in the distinct track of particulars, as conditions of every just and consistent generalization, and to divert it from becoming enslaved to unexamined formulae or from delivering mere intensity of persuasion under the authoritative phrase of reason. Instead of anxiety to plant in the hearer a conclusion leady-made and accepted on trust, the questioner keeps up a prolonged suspense, with special emphasis laid upon the particulars tending both affirmatively and negatively; nor is his purpose answered until that state of knowledge and apprehended evidence is created, out of which the conclusion starts as a living product, with its own root and self-sustaining power, consciously linked with its premises. If this conclusion so generated he not the same as that which the questioner himself adopts, it will at least be some other, worthy of a competent and examining mind taking its own independent view of the appropriate evidence. And amidst all the variety and divergence of particulars which we find enforced in the language of Sokrates, the end, towards which all of them point, is one and the same, emphatically signified—the good and happiness of social man.

It is not then to multiply proselytes or to procure authoritative assent, but to create earnest seekers, analytical intellects, foreknowing and consistent agents, capable of forming conclusions for themselves and of teaching others, as well as to force them into that path of inductive generalization whereby alone trustworthy conclusions can be formed, that the Socratic method aspires. In many of the Platonic dialogues, wherein Socrates is brought forward as the principal disputant, we read a series of discussions and arguments, distinct, though having reference to the same subject, but terminating either in a result purely negative or without any definite result at all. The commentators often attempt, but in my judgment with little success, either by arranging the dialogues in a supposed sequence or by various other hypotheses, to assign some positive doctrinal conclusion as having been indirectly contemplated by the author. But if Plato had aimed at any substantive demonstration of this sort, we cannot well imagine that he would have left his purpose thus in the dark, visible only by the microscope of a critic. The didactic value of these dialogues—that wherein the genuine Socratic spirit stands most manifest—consists, not in the positive conclusion proved, but in the argumentative process itself, coupled with the general importance of the subject upon which evidence negative and affirmative is brought to bear.

This connects itself with that which I remarked in the preceding chapter, when mentioning Zeno and the first manifestations of dialectics, respecting the large sweep, the many-sided argumentation, and the strength as well as forwardness of the negative arm in Grecian speculative philosophy. Through Socrates, this amplitude of dialectic range was transmitted from Zeno first to Plato and next to Aristotle. It was a proceeding natural to men who were not merely interested in establishing or refuting some given particular conclusion, but who also (like expert mathematicians in their own science) loved, esteemed, and sought to improve the dialectic process itself, with the means of verification which it afforded—a feeling of which abundant evidence is to be found in the Platonic writings. Such pleasure in the scientific operation, though not merely innocent, but valuable both as a stimulant and as a guarantee against error, and though the corresponding taste among mathematicians is always treated with the sympathy which it deserves, incurs much unmerited reprobation from modern historians of philosophy, under the name of love of disputation, cavilling, or sceptical subtlety.

But over and above any love of the process, the subjects to which dialectics were applied, from Sokrates downwards, man and society, ethics, polities, metaphysics, &c., were such as particularly called for this many-sided handling. On topics like these, relating to sequences of fact which depend upon a multitude of co-operating or conflicting causes, it is impossible to arrive, by any one thread of positive reasoning or induction, at absolute doctrine which a man may reckon upon finding always true, whether he remembers the proof or not, as is the case with mathematical, astronomical, or physical truth. The utmost which science can ascertain, on subjects thus complicated, is an aggregate, not of peremptory theorems and predictions, but of tendencies, by studying the action of each separate cause, and combining them together as well as our means admit. The knowledge of tendencies thus obtained, though falling much short of certainty, is highly important for guidance; but it is plain that conclusions of this nature, resulting from multifarious threads of evidence—true only on a balance, and always liable to limitation—can never be safely detached from the proofs on which they rest, or taught as absolute and consecrated formulae. They require to be kept in perpetual and conscious association with the evidences, affirmative and negative, by the joint consideration of which their truth is established; nor can this object be attained by any other means than by ever-renovated discussion, instituted from new and distinct points of view, and with free play to that negative arm which is indispensable as stimulus not less than as control. To ask for nothing but results—to decline the labour of verification—to be satisfied with a ready-made stock of established positive arguments as proof—and to decry the doubter or negative reasoner, who starts new difficulties, as a common enemy—this is a proceeding sufficiently common, in ancient as well as in modern times. But it is nevertheless an abnegation of the dignity and even of the functions of speculative philosophy. It is the direct reverse of the method both of Socrates and Plato, who, as inquirers, felt that, for the great subjects which they treated, multiplied threads of reasoning, coupled with the constant presence of the cross-examining Elenchus, were indispensable. Nor is it less at variance with the views of Aristotle (though a man very different from either of them), who goes round his subject on all sides, states and considers all its difficulties, and insists emphatically on the necessity of having all these difficulties brought out in full force, as the incitement and guide to positive philosophy, as well as the test of its sufficiency.

Understanding thus the method of Socrates, we shall be at no loss to account for a certain variance on his part (and a still greater variance on the part of Plato, who expanded the method in writing so much more) with and the Sophists, without supposing the latter to be corrupt teachers. As they aimed at qualifying young men for active life, they accepted the current ethical and political sentiment, with its unexamined commonplaces and inconsistencies, merely seeking to shape it into what was accounted a meritorious character at Athens. They were thus exposed, along with others —and more than others, in consequence of their reputation—to the analytical cross-examination of Socrates, and were quite as little able to defend themselves against it.

Whatever may have been the success of Protagoras or any other among these Sophists, the mighty originality of Socrates achieved results not only equal at the time, but incomparably grander and more lasting in reference to the future.  Out of his intellectual school sprang not merely Plato, himself a host, but all the other leaders of Grecian speculation for the next half-century, and all those who continued the great line of speculative philosophy down to later times. Eukleides and the Megaric school of philosophers—Aristippus and the Cyrenaic—Antisthenes and Diogenes, the first of those called the Cynics—all emanated more or less directly from the stimulus imparted by Socrates, though each followed a different vein of thought. Ethics continue to be what Socrates had first made them—a distinct branch of philosophy—alongside of which politics, rhetoric, logic, and other speculations relating to man and society, gradually arranged themselves; all of them more popular, as well as more keenly controverted, than physics, which at that time presented comparatively little charm, and still less of attainable certainty. There can be no doubt that the individual influence of Sokrates permanently enlarged the horizon, improved the method, and multiplied the ascendant minds of the Grecian speculative world in a manner never since paralleled. Subsequent philosophers may have had a more elaborate doctrine, and a larger number of disciples who imbibed their ideas; but none of them applied the same stimulating method with the same efficacy—none of them struck out of other minds that fire which sets light to original thought—none of them either produced in others the pains of intellectual pregnancy, or extracted from others the fresh and unborrowed offspring of a really parturient mind.

Having thus touched upon Socrates, both as first opener of the field of Ethics to scientific study, and as author of a method, little copied and never paralleled since his time, for stimulating in other men’s minds earnest analytical inquiry, I speak last about his theoretical doctrine. Considering the fanciful, far-fetched ideas, upon which alone the Pythagoreans and other predecessors had shaped their theories respecting virtues and vices, the wonder is that Socrates, who had no better guides to follow, should have laid down an ethical doctrine which has the double merit of being true, as far as it goes, legitimate, and of comprehensive generality; though it errs, mainly by stating a part of the essential conditions of virtue (sometimes also a part of the Ethical End) as if it were the whole. Socrates resolved all virtue into knowledge or wisdom , all vice into ignorance or folly. To do right was the only way to impart happiness, or the least degree of unhappiness compatible with any given situation: now this was precisely what every one wished for and aimed at—only that many persons, from ignorance, took the wrong road; and no man was wise enough always to take the right. But as no man was willingly his own enemy, so no man ever did wrong willingly: it was because he was not fully or correctly informed of the consequences of his own actions; so that the proper remedy to apply was enlarged teaching of consequences and improved judgment. To make him willing to be taught, the only condition required was to make him conscious of his own ignorance, the want of which consciousness was the real cause both of indocility and of vice.

That this doctrine sets forth one portion of the essential conditions of virtue is certain; and that too the most commanding portion, since there can be no assured moral conduct except under the supremacy of reason. But that it omits to notice, what is not less essential to virtue, the proper condition of the emotions, desires, &c., taking account only of the intellect, is also certain, and has been remarked by Aristotle as well as by many others. It is fruitless, in my judgment, to attempt by any refined explanation to make out that Socrates meant by “knowledge” something more than what is directly implied in the word. He had present to his mind, as the grand depravation of the human being, not so much vice as madness—that state in which a man does not know what he is doing. Against the vicious man, securities, both public and private, maybe taken with considerable effect; against the madman there is no security except perpetual restraint. He is incapable of any of the duties incumbent on social man; nor can he, even if he wishes, do good either to himself or to others. The sentiment which we feel towards such an unhappy being is indeed something totally different from moral reprobation, such as we feel for the vicious man who does wrong knowingly. But Socrates took measure of both with reference to the purposes of human life and society, and pronounced that the latter was less completely spoiled for those purposes than the former. Madness was ignorance at its extreme pitch, accompanied too by the circumstance that the madman himself was unconscious of his own ignorance, acting under a sincere persuasion that he knew what, he was doing. But short of this extremity, there were many varieties and gradations in the scale of ignorance, which, if accompanied by false conceit of knowledge, differed from madness only in degree; and each of which disqualified a man from doing right, in proportion to the ground which it covered. The worst of all ignorance—that which stood nearest to madness—was when a man was ignorant of himself, fancying that he knew what he did not really know, and that he could do, or avoid, or endure, what was quite beyond his capacity; when, for example, intending to speak the same truth, he sometimes said one thing, sometimes another—or, casting up the same arithmetical figures, made sometimes a greater sum, sometimes a less. A person who knows his letters, or an arithmetician, may doubtless write bad orthography or cast-up incorrectly, by design, but can also perform the operations correctly, if he chooses; while one ignorant of writing or of arithmetic cannot do it correctly, even though he should be anxious to do so. The former therefore comes nearer to the good orthographer or arithmetician than the latter. So, if a man knows what is just, honourable, and good, but commits acts of a contrary character, he is juster, or comes nearer to being a just man, than one who does not know what just acts are, and does not distinguish them from unjust; for this latter cannot conduct himself justly, even if he desires it ever so much.

The opinion here maintained illustrates forcibly the general doctrine of Socrates. I have already observed that the fundamental idea which governed his train of reasoning was the analogy of each man’s social life and duty to a special profession or trade. Now what is principally inquired after in regard to these special men is their professional capacity; without this, no person would ever think of employing them, let their dispositions be ever so good; with it, good dispositions and diligence are presumed, unless there be positive grounds for suspecting the contrary. But why do we indulge such presumption? Because their pecuniary interest, their professional credit, and their place among competitors are staked upon success, so that we reckon upon their best efforts. But in regard to that manifold and indefinite series of acts which constitute the sum­total of social duty, a man has no such special interest to guide and impel him, nor can we presume in him those dispositions which will ensure his doing right, wherever he knows what right is. Mankind are obliged to give premiums for these dispositions, and to attach penalties to the contrary, by means of praise and censure : moreover, the natural sympathies and antipathies of ordinary minds, which determine so powerfully the application of moral terms, run spontaneously in this direction, and even overshoot the limit which reason would prescribe. The analogy between the paid special duty and the general social duty fails in this particular. Even if Socrates were correct as to the former (and this would be noway true), in making the intellectual conditions of good conduct stand for the whole, no such inference could safely be extended to the latter.

Socrates affirmed that “well-doing” was the noblest pursuit of man. “Well-doing” consisted in doing a thing well, after having learnt it and practised it, by the rational and proper means: it was altogether disparate from good fortune, or success without rational scheme and preparation. “The best man (he said) and most beloved by the gods is he who as a husbandman performs well the duties of husbandry—as a surgeon, those of medical art—in political life, his duty towards the commonwealth. But the man who does nothing well is neither useful nor agreeable to the gods.” This is the Socratic view of human life: to look at it as an assemblage of realities and practical details—to translate the large words of the moral vocabulary into those homely particulars to which at bottom they refer—to take account of acts, not of dispositions apart from act (in contradiction to the ordinary flow of the moral sympathies), to enforce upon all men that what they chiefly required was teaching and practice as preparations for act; and that therefore ignorance, especially ignorance mistaking itself for knowledge, was their capital deficiency. The religion of Socrates, as well as his ethics, had reference to practical human ends. His mind had little of that transcendentalism which his scholar Plato exhibits in such abundance.

It is indisputable, then, that Socrates laid down a general ethical theory which is too narrow, and which states a part of the truth as if it were the whole. But as it frequently happens with philosophers who make the like mistake, we find that he did not confine his deductive reasonings within the limits of the theory, but escaped the erroneous consequences by a partial inconsistency. For example, no man ever insisted more emphatically than he on the necessity of control over the passions and appetites, of enforcing good habits, and on the value of that state of the sentiments and emotions which such a course tended to form. In truth, this is one particular characteristic of his admonitions. He exhorted men to limit their external wants, to he sparing in indulgence, and to cultivate, even in preference to honours and advancement, those pleasures which would surely arise from a performance of duty, as well as from self-examination and the consciousness of internal improvement. This earnest attention, in measuring the elements and conditions of happiness, to the state of the internal associations as contrasted with the effect of external causes—as well as the pains taken to make it appear how much the latter depend upon the former for their power of conferring happiness, and how sufficient is moderate good fortune in respect to externals, provided the internal man be properly disciplined—is a vein of thought which pervades both Socrates and Plato, and which passed from them, under various modifications, to most of the subsequent schools of ethical philosophy. It is probable that Protagoras or Prodicus, training rich youth for active life, without altogether leaving out such internal element of happiness, would yet dwell upon it less—a point of decided superiority in Socrates.

The political opinions of Socrates were much akin to his ethical, and deserve especial notice as having in part contributed to his condemnation by the Dikastery. He thought that the functions of government belonged legitimately to those who knew best how to exercise them for the advantage of the governed. “The legitimate King or Governor was not the man who held the sceptre—nor the man elected by some vulgar persons—nor he who had got the post by lot—nor he who had thrust himself in by force or by fraud— but he alone who knew how to govern well”. Just as the pilot governed on shipboard, the surgeon in a sick man’s house, the trainer in a palaestra—every one else being eager to obey these professional superiors, and even thanking and recompensing them for their directions, simply because their greater knowledge was an admitted fact. It was absurd (Socrates used to contend) to choose public officers by lot, when no one would trust himself on shipboard under the care of a pilot selected by hazard, nor would any one pick out a carpenter or a musician in like manner.

We do not know what provisions Socrates suggested for applying his principle to practice—for discovering who was the fittest man in point of knowledge—or for superseding him in case of his becoming unfit, or in case another fitter than he should arise. The analogies of the pilot, the surgeon, and professional men generally, would naturally conduct him to election by the people, renewable after temporary periods; since no one of these professional persons, whatever may be his positive knowledge, is ever trusted or obeyed except by the free choice of those who confide in him, and who may at any tune make choice of another. But it does not appear that Socrates followed out this part of the analogy. His companions remarked to him that his first-rate intellectual ruler would be a despot, who might, if he pleased, either refuse to listen to good advice, or even put to death those who gave it. “He will not act thus (replied, Socrates), for if he does, he will himself be the greatest loser.”

We may notice in this doctrine of Socrates the same imperfection as that which is involved in the ethical doctrine: a disposition to make the intellectual conditions of political fitness stand for the whole. His negative political doctrine is not to be mistaken: he approved neither of democracy nor of oligarchy. As he was not attached, either by sentiment or by conviction, to the constitution of Athens, so neither had he the least sympathy with, oligarchical usurpers such as the Four Hundred, and the Thirty. His positive ideal state, as far as we can define it, would have been something like that which is worked out in the “Cyropaedia” of Xenophon.

In describing the persevering activity of Socrates, as a religious and intellectual missionary, we have really described his life; for he had no other occupation, than this continual intercourse with the Athenian public, his indiscriminate conversation, and invincible dialectics. Discharging faithfully and bravely his duties as an hoplite on military service, but keeping aloof from official duty in the Dikastery, the public assembly, or the Senate-house, except in that one memorable year of the battle of Arginusae, he incurred none of those party animosities which an active public life at Athens often provoked. His life was legally blameless, nor had he ever been brought up before the Dikastery until his one final trial, when he was seventy years of age. That he stood conspicuous before the public eye in 423 B.C., at the time when the “Clouds” of Aristophanes were brought on the stage, is certain. He may have been, and probably was, conspicuous even earlier; so that we can hardly allow him less than thirty years of public, notorious, and efficacious discoursing, down to his trial in 399 B.C.

It was in that year that Meletus, seconded by two auxiliaries, Anytus and Lykon, presented against him, and hung up in the appointed place (the portico before the office of the second or King Archon) an indictment against. him in the following terms:—“Socrates is guilty of crime—first, for not worshipping the gods whom the city worships, but introducing new divinities of his own; next, for corrupting the youth. The penalty due is death.”

It is certain that neither the conduct nor the conversation of Socrates had undergone any alteration for many years past, since the sameness of his manner of talking is both derided by his enemies and confessed by himself. Our first sentiment, therefore (apart from the question of guilt or innocence), is one of astonishment that he should have been prosecuted, at seventy years of age, for persevering in an occupation which he had publicly followed during twenty-five or thirty years preceding. Xenophon, full of reverence for his master, takes up the matter on much higher ground, and expresses himself in a feeling of indignant amazement that the Athenians could find anything to condemn in a man every way so admirable. But whoever attentively considers the picture which I have presented of the purpose, the working, and the extreme publicity of Socrates will rather be inclined to wonder, not that the indictment was presented at last, but that some such indictment had not been presented long before. Such certainly is the impression suggested by the language of Socrates himself in the “Platonic Apology”. He there proclaims emphatically that, though his present accusers were men of consideration, it was neither their enmity nor their eloquence which he had now principally to fear, but the accumulated force of antipathy—the numerous and important personal enemies, each with sympathizing partisans—the long­standing and uncontradicted calumnies—raised against him throughout his cross-examining career.

In truth, the mission of Socrates, as he himself describes it, could not but prove eminently unpopular and obnoxious. To convince a man that, of matters which he felt confident of knowing, and had never thought of questioning or even of studying, he is really profoundly ignorant, insomuch that he cannot reply to a few pertinent queries without involving himself in flagrant contradictions, is an operation highly salutary, often necessary, to his future improvement, but an operation of painful mental surgery, in which, indeed, the temporary pain experienced is one of the conditions almost indispensable to the future beneficial results. It is one which few men can endure without hating the operator at the time; although, doubtless, such hatred would not only disappear, but be exchanged for esteem and admiration, if they persevered until the full ulterior consequences of the operation developed themselves. But we know (from the express statement of Xenophon) that many who underwent this first pungent thrust of his dialectics never came near him again: he disregarded them as laggards, but their voices did not the less count in the hostile chorus. What made that chorus the more formidable was the high quality and position of its leaders. For Socrates himself tells us that the men whom he chiefly and expressly sought out to cross-examine were the men of celebrity as statesmen, rhetors, poets, or artisans—those at once most sensitive to such humilia­tion, and most capable of making their enmity effective,

When we reflect upon this great body of antipathy, so terrible both from number and constituent items, we shall wonder only that Socrates could have gone on so long standing in the market-place to aggravate it, and that the indictment of Meletus could have been so long postponed, since it was just as applicable earlier as later, and since the sensitive temper of the people, as to charges of irreligion, was a well-known fact. The truth is, that as history presents to us only one man who ever devoted his life to prosecute this duty of an elenctic or cross-examining missionary, so there was but one city, in the ancient world at least, wherein he would have been allowed to prosecute it for twenty-five years with safety and impunity, and that city was Athens. I have in a previous volume noted the respect for individual dissent of opinion, taste, and behaviour, among one another, which characterized the Athenian population, and which Pericles puts in emphatic relief as a part of his funeral discourse. It was this established liberality of the democratical sentiment at Athens which so long protected the noble eccentricity of Socrates from being disturbed by the numerous enemies which he provoked. At Sparta, at Thebes, at Argos, Miletus, or Syracuse, his blameless life would have been insufficient as a shield, and his irresistible dialectic power would have caused him to be only the more speedily silenced. Intolerance is the natural weed of the human bosom, though its growth or development may be counteracted by liberalizing causes. Of these, at Athens, the most powerful was the democratical constitution as there worked, in combination with diffused intellectual and aesthetical sensibility, and keen relish for discourse. Liberty of speech was consecrated, in every man’s estimation, among the first of privileges; every man was accustomed to hear opinions opposite to his own constantly expressed, and to believe that others had a right to their opinions as well as himself. And though men would not, as a general principle, have extended such toleration to religious subjects, yet the established habit in reference to other matters greatly in­fluenced their practice, and rendered them more averse to any positive severity against avowed dissenters from the received religious belief. It is certain that there was at Athens both a keener intellectual stimulus, and greater freedom as well of thought as of speech, than in any other city of Greece. The long toleration of Socrates is one example of this general fact, while his trial proves little, and his execution nothing, against it, as will presently appear.

There must, doubtless, have been particular circumstances, of which we are scarcely at all informed, which induced his accusers to prefer their indictment at the actual moment, in spite of the advanced age of Socrates.

In the first place, Anytus, one of the accusers of Socrates, appears to have become incensed against him on private grounds. The son of Anytus had manifested interest in his conversation; and Socrates, observing in the young man intellectual impulse and promise, endeavoured to dissuade his father from bringing him up to his own trade of a leather-seller. It was in this general way that a great proportion of the antipathy against Socrates was excited, as he himself tells us in the “Platonic Apology ”. The young men were those to whom he chiefly addressed himself, and who, keenly relishing his conversation, often carried home new ideas, which displeased their fathers; hence the general charge against Socrates of corrupting the youth. Now, this circumstance had recently happened in the peculiar case of Anytus, a rich tradesman, a leading man m politics, and just now of peculiar influence in the city, because he had been one of the leading fellow-labourers with Thrasybulus in the expulsion of the Thirty, manifesting an energetic and meritorious patriotism. He (like Thrasybulus and many others) had sustained great loss of property during the oligarchical dominion; which, perhaps, made him the more strenuous in requiring that his son should pursue trade with assiduity, in order to restore the family fortunes. He seems, moreover, to have been an enemy of all teaching which went beyond the narrowest practicality—hating alike Socrates and the Sophists.

While we can thus point out a recent occurrence, which had brought one of the most ascendant politicians in the city into special exasperation against Socrates, another circumstance which weighed him down was his past connexion with the deceased Critias and Alcibiades. Of these two men, the latter, though he had some great admirers, was on the whole odious; still more from his private insolence and enormities than from his public treason as an exile. But the name of Critias was detested, and deservedly detested, beyond that of any other man in Athenian history, as the chief director of the unmeasured spoliation and atrocities committed by the Thirty. That Socrates had educated both Critias and Alcibiades was affirmed by the accusers, and seemingly believed by the general public, both at the time and afterwards. That both of them had been among those who conversed with him, when young men, is an unquestionable fact; to what extent, or down to what period, the conversation was carried, we cannot distinctly ascertain. Xenophon affirms that both of them frequented his society when young, to catch from him an argumentative facility which might be serviceable to their political ambition; that he curbed their violent and licentious propensities so long as they continued to come to him; that both of them manifested a respectful obedience to him, which seemed in little consonance with their natural tempers; but that they soon quitted him, weary of such restraint, after having acquired as much as they thought convenient of his peculiar accomplishment. The writings of Plato, on the contrary, impress us with the idea that the association of both of them with Socrates must have been more continued and intimate; for both of them are made to take great part in the Platonic dialogues; while the attachment of Socrates to Alcibiades is represented as stronger than that which he ever felt towards any other man—a fact not difficult to explain, since the latter, notwithstanding his ungovernable dispositions, was distinguished in his youth not less for capacity and forward impulse than for beauty—and since youthful male beauty fired the imagination of Greeks, especially that of Sokrates, more than the charms of women. From the year 420 B.C., in which the activity of Alkibiades as a political leader commenced, it seems unlikely that he could have seen much of Socrates, and after the year 415 B.C. the fact is impossible, since in that year he became a permanent exile, with the exception of three or four months in the year 407 B.C. At the moment of the trial of Socrates, therefore, his connexion with Alcibiades must at least have been a fact long past and gone. Respecting Critias we make out less. As he was a kinsman of Plato (one of the well-known companions of Socrates, and present at his trial), and himself an accomplished and literary man, his association with Socrates may have continued longer; at least a colour was given for so asserting. Though the supposition that any of the vices either of Critias or Alcibiades were encouraged, or even tolerated, by Socrates, can have arisen in none but prejudiced or ill-informed minds, yet it is certain that such a supposition was entertained, and that it placed him before the public in an altered position after the enormities of the Thirty. Anytus, incensed with him already on the subject of his son, would be doubly incensed against him as the reputed tutor of Critias.

Of Meletus, the primary, though not the most important, accuser, we know only that he was a poet; of Lykon, that he was a rhetor. Both these classes had been alienated by the cross-examining dialectics to which many of their number had been exposed by Socrates. They were the last men to bear such an exposure with patience; while their enmity, taken as a class rarely unanimous, was truly formidable when it bore upon any single individual.

We know nothing of the speeches of either of the accusers before the Dikastery, except what can be picked out from the remarks in Xenophon and the defence of Plato. Of the three counts of the indictment, the second was the easiest for them to support, on plausible grounds. That Socrates was a religious innovator would be considered as proved by the peculiar divine sign of which he was wont to speak freely and publicly, and which visited no one except himself. Accordingly, in the “Platonic Defence,” he never really replies to the second charge. He questions Meletus before the Dikastery, and the latter is represented as answering, that he meant to accuse Socrates of not believing in the gods at all; to which imputed disbelief Socrates answers with an emphatic negative. In support of the first count, however—the charge of general disbelief in the gods recognized by the city—nothing in his conduct could be cited; for he was exact in his legal worship like other citizens— and even more than others, if Xenophon is correct. But it would appear that the old calumnies of the Aristophanic “Clouds” were revived, and that the effect of that witty drama, together with similar efforts of Eupolis and others, perhaps hardly less witty, was still enduring—a striking proof that these comedians were no impotent libellers. Socrates manifests greater apprehension of the effect of the ancient impressions than of the speeches which had been just delivered against him. But these latter speeches would of course tell, by refreshing the sentiments of the past, and reviving the Aristophanic picture of Socrates as a speculator on physics as well as a rhetorical teacher for pleading, making the worse appear the better reason. Socrates in the “Platonic Defence” appeals to the number of persons who had listened to his conversation, whether any of them had ever heard him say one word on the subject of physical studies; while Xenophon goes farther, and represents him as having positively discountenanced them, on the ground of impiety.

As there were three distinct accusers to speak against Socrates, so we may reasonably suppose that they would concert beforehand on what topics each should insist—Meletus undertaking that which related to religion, while Anytus and Lykon would dwell on the political grounds of attack. In the “Platonic Apology,” Socrates comments emphatically on the allegations of Meletus, questions him publicly before the Dikasts, and criticises his replies. He makes little allusion to Anytus, or to anything except what is formally embodied in the indictment; and treats the last count, the charge of corrupting youth, in connexion with the first, as if the corruption alleged consisted in irreligious teaching. But Xenophon intimates that the accusers, in enforcing this allegation of pernicious teaching, went into other matters quite distinct from the religious tenets of Socrates, and denounced him as having taught them lawlessness and disrespect, as well towards their parents as towards their country. We find mention made in Xenophon of accusatory grounds similar to those in the “Clouds”—similar also to those which modern authors usually advance against the Sophists.

Socrates (said Anytus and the other accusers) taught young men to despise the existing political constitution, by remarking that the Athenian practice of naming Archons by lot was silly, and that no man of sense would ever choose in this way a pilot or a carpenter—though the mischief there arising from bad qualification was far less than in the case of the Archons. Such teaching (it was urged) destroyed in the minds of the hearers respect for the laws and constitution, and rendered them violent and licentious. As examples of the way in which it had worked, his two pupils, Critias and Alcibiades, might be cited, both formed in his school: one, the most violent and rapacious of the Thirty recent oligarchs; the other, a disgrace to the democracy by his outrageous insolence and licentiousness; both of them authors of ruinous mischief to the city.

Moreover, the youth learnt from him conceit of their own superior wisdom, and the habit of insulting their fathers as well as of slighting their other kinsmen. Socrates told them (it was urged) that even their fathers, in case of madness, might be lawfully put under restraint, and that when a man needed service, those whom he had to look to were not his kinsmen as such, but the persons best qualified to render it: thus, if he was sick, he must consult a surgeon—if involved in a lawsuit, those who were most conversant with such a situation. Between friends also, mere good feeling and affection were of little use: the important circumstance was, that they should acquire the capacity of rendering mutual service to each other. No one was worthy of esteem except the man who knew what was proper to be done, and could explain it to others: which meant (urged the accuser) that Socrates was not only the wisest of men, but the only person capable of making his pupils wise; other advisers being worthless compared with him.

He was in the habit too (the accusation proceeded) of citing the worst passages out of distinguished poets, and of perverting them to the mischievous purpose of spoiling the dispositions of youth, planting in them criminal and despotic tendencies. Thus he quoted a line of Hesiod—“No work is disgraceful; but indolence is disgraceful”: explaining it to mean, that a man might without scruple do any sort of work, base or unjust as it might be, for the sake of profit. Next, Socrates was particularly fond of quoting those lines of Homer (in the second book of the Iliad) wherein Odysseus is described as bringing back the Greeks, who had just dispersed from the public agora, in compliance with the exhortation of Agamemnon, and were hastening to their ships. Odysseus caresses and flatters the chiefs, while he chides and even strikes the common men; though both were doing the same thing, and guilty of the same fault—if fault it was, to obey what the commander-in-chief had himself just suggested. Socrates interpreted this passage (the accuser affirmed) as if Homer praised the application of stripes to poor men and the common people.

Nothing could be easier than for an accuser to find matter for inculpation of Socrates, by partial citations from his continual discourses, given without the context or explanations which had accompanied them—by bold invention, where even this partial basis was wanting—sometimes also by taking up real error, since no man who is continually talking, especially extempore, can always talk correctly. Few teachers would escape, if penal sentences were permitted to tell against them, founded upon evidence such as this. Xenophon, in noticing the imputations, comments upon them all, denies some, and explains others. As to the passages out of Hesiod and Homer, he affirms that Socrates drew from them inferences quite contrary to those alleged; which latter seem indeed altogether unreasonable, invented to call forth the deep-seated democratical sentiment of the Athenians, after the accuser had laid his preliminary ground by connecting Socrates with Critias and Alcibiades. That Socrates improperly depreciated either filial duty or the domestic affections is in like manner highly improbable. We may much more reasonably believe the assertion of Xenophon, who represents him to have exhorted the hearer “to make himself as wise, and as capable of rendering service, as possible; so that, when he wished to acquire esteem  from father or brother or friend, he might not sit still in reliance on the simple fact of relationship, but might earn such feeling by doing them positive good”. To tell a young man that mere good feeling would be totally insufficient, unless he were prepared and competent to carry it into action, is a lesson which few parents would wish to discourage. Nor would any generous parent make it a crime against the teaching of Socrates, that it rendered his son wiser than himself—which probably it would do. To restrict the range of teaching for a young man, because it may make him think himself wiser than his father, is only one of the thousand shapes in which the pleading of ignorance against knowledge was then, and still continues occasionally to be, presented.

Nevertheless it is not to be denied that these attacks of Anytus bear upon the vulnerable side of the Socratic general theory of Ethics, according to which virtue was asserted to depend upon knowledge. I have already remarked that this is true, but not the whole truth; a certain state of the affections and dispositions being not less indispensable, as conditions of virtue, than a certain state of the intelligence. An enemy, therefore, had some pretence for making it appear that Socrates, stating a part of the truth as the whole, denied or degraded all that remained. But though this would be a criticism not entirely unfounded against his general theory, it would not hold against his precepts or practical teaching, as we find them in Xenophon; for these (as I have remarked) reach much wider than his general theory, and inculcate the cultivation of habits and dispositions not less strenuously than the acquisition of knowledge.

The censures affirmed to have been cast by Socrates against the choice Archons by lot at Athens are not denied by Xenophon. The accuser urged that “by such censures Socrates excited the young men to despise the established constitution, and to become lawless and violent in their conduct”. This is just the same pretence, of tendency to bring the government into hatred and contempt, on which in former days prosecutions for public libel were instituted against writers in England, and on which they still continued to be abundantly instituted in France, under the first President of the Republic (1850). There can hardly be a more serious political mischief than such confusion of the disapproving critic with a conspirator, and such imposition of silence upon dissentient minorities. Nor has there ever been any case in which such an imputation was more destitute of colour than that of Socrates, who appealed always to men’s reason and very little to their feelings—so little, indeed, that modern authors make his coldness a matter of charge against him—who never omitted to inculcate rigid observance of the law, and set the example of such obser­vance himself. Whatever may have been his sentiments about democracy, he always obeyed the democratical government; nor is there any pretence for charging him with participation in oligarchical schemes. It was the Thirty who for the first time in his long life interdicted his teaching altogether, and were on the point almost of taking his life, while his intimate friend Chaerephon was actually in exile with the democrats.

Xenophon lays great emphasis on two points, when defending Socrates against his accusers. First, Socrates was in his own conduct virtuous, self-denying, and strict in obedience to the law. Next, he accustomed his hearers to hear nothing except appeals to their reason, and impressed on them obedience only to their rational convictions. That such a man, with so great a weight of presumption in his favour, should be tried and found guilty as a corrupter of youth—the most undefined of all imaginable charges —is a grave and melancholy fact in the history of mankind. Yet when we see upon what light evidence modern authors are willing to admit the same charge against the Sophists, we have no right to wonder that the Athenians—when addressed, not through that calm reason to which Sokrates appealed, but through all their antipathies, religious as well as political, public as well as private—were exasperated into dealing with him as the type and precursor of Critias and Alcibiades.

After all, the exasperation, and the consequent verdict of Guilty, were not wholly the fault of the Dikasts, nor wholly brought about by his accusers and his numerous private enemies. No such verdict would have been given unless by what we must call the consent and concurrence of Socrates himself. This is one of the most important facts of the case, in reference both to himself and to the Athenians.

We learn from his own statement in the “Platonic Defence,” that the verdict of Guilty was only pronounced by a majority of five or six, amidst a body so numerous as an Athenian Dikastery—probably 557 in total number, if a confused statement in Diogenes Laertius can be trusted. Now any one who reads that defence, and considers it in conjunction with the circumstances of the case and the feelings of the Dikasts, will see that its tenor is such as must have turned a much greater number of votes than six against him. And we are informed by the distinct testimony of Xenophon that Socrates approached his trial with the feelings of one who hardly wished to be acquitted. He took no thought whatever for the preparation of his defence; and when his friend Hermogenes remonstrated with him on the serious consequences of such an omission, he replied, first, that the just and blameless life which he was conscious of having passed was the best of all preparations for defence; next, that having once begun to meditate on what it would be proper for him to say, the divine sign had interposed to forbid him from proceeding. He went on to say that it was no wonder that the gods should deem it better for him to die now than to live longer. He had hitherto lived in perfect satisfaction, with a consciousness of progressive moral improvement, and with esteem, marked and unabated, from his friends. If his life were prolonged, old age would soon overpower him; he would lose in part his sight, his hearing, or his intelligence; and life with such abated efficacy and dignity would be intolerable to him. Whereas, if he were condemned now, he should be condemned unjustly, which would be a great disgrace to his judges, but none to him; nay, it would even procure for him increase of sympathy and admiration, and a more willing acknowledgment from every one that he had been both a just man and an improving preceptor.

These words, spoken before his trial, intimate a state of belief which explains the tenor of the defence, and formed one essential condition of the final result. They proved that Socrates not only cared little for being acquitted, but even thought that the approaching trial was marked out by the gods as the term of his life, and that there were good reasons why he should prefer such a consummation as best for himself. Nor is it wonderful that he should entertain that opinion, when we recollect the entire ascendency within him of strong internal conscience and intelligent reflection, built upon an originally fearless temperament, and silencing what Plato calls “the child within us, who trembles before death”—his great love of colloquial influence, and incapacity of living without it—his old age, now seventy years, rendering it impossible that such influence could much longer continue—and the opportunity afforded to him, by now towering above ordinary men under the like circumstances, to read an impressive lesson, as well as to leave behind him a reputation yet more exalted than that which he had hitherto acquired. It was in this frame of mind that Socrates came to his trial, and undertook his unpremeditated defence, the substance of which we now read in the “Platonic Apology”. His calculations, alike high-minded and well-balanced, were completely realized. Had he been acquitted after such a defence, it would have been not only a triumph over his personal enemies, but would have been a sanction on the part of the people and the popular Dikastery to his teaching—which, indeed, had been enforced by Anytus in his accusing argument, in reference to acquittal generally, even before he heard the defence; whereas his condemnation, and the feelings with which he met it, have shed double and triple lustre over his whole life and character.

Prefaced by this exposition of the feelings of Socrates, the “Platonic Defence” becomes not merely sublime and impressive, but also the manifestation of a rational and consistent purpose. It does indeed include a vindication of himself against two out of the three counts of the indictment—against the charge of not believing in the recognized gods of Athens, and that of corrupting the youth : respecting the second of the three, whereby he was charged with religious innovation, he says little or nothing. But it bears no resemblance to the speech of one standing on his trial, with the written indictment concluding, “Penalty, Death,” hanging up in open court before him. On the contrary, it is an emphatic lesson to the hearers, embodied in the frank outpouring of a fearless and self­confiding conscience. It is undertaken, from the beginning, because the law commands; with a faint wish, and even not an unqualified wish,—but no hope,—that it may succeed. Socrates first replies to the standing antipathies against him without, arising from the number of enemies whom his cross-examining Elenchus had aroused against him, and from those false reports which the Aristophanic “Clouds” had contributed so much to circulate. In accounting for the rise of these antipathies, he impresses upon the Dikasts the divine mission under which he was acting, not without considerable doubts whether they will believe him to be in earnest, and gives that interesting exposition of his intellectual campaign against “the conceit of knowledge without the reality,” of which I have already spoken. He then goes into the indictment, questions Meletus in open court, and dissects his answers. Having rebutted the charge of irreligion, he reverts again to the imperative mandate of the gods under which he is acting, “to spend his life in the search for wisdom and in examining himself as well as others”—a mandate which, if he were to disobey, he would be then justly amenable to the charge of irreligion; and he announces to the Dikasts distinctly, that even if they were now to acquit him, he neither could nor would relax in the course which he had been pursuing. He considers that the mission imposed upon him is among the greatest blessings ever conferred by the gods upon Athens. He deprecates those murmurs of surprise or displeasure which his discourse evidently called forth more than once—though not so much on his own account as on that of the Dikasts, who will be benefited by hearing him, and who will hurt themselves and their city much more than him if they should now pronounce condemnation. It was not on his own account that he sought to defend himself, but on account of the Athenians, lest they by condemning him should sin against the gracious blessing of the god: they would not easily find such another if they should put him to death. Though his mission had spurred him on to indefatigable activity in individual colloquy, yet the divine sign had always forbidden him from taking active part in public proceedings. On the two exceptional occasions when he had stood publicly forward—once under the democracy, once under the oligarchy—he had shown the same resolution as at present not to be deterred by any terrors from that course which he believed to be just. Young men were delighted, as well as improved, by listening to his cross-examinations. In proof of the charge that he had corrupted them, no witnesses had been produced—neither any of themselves, who, having been once young when they enjoyed his conversation, had since grown elderly, nor any of their relatives; while he on his part could produce abundant testimony to the improving effect of his society from the relatives of those who had profited by it.

“No man (says he) knows what death is, yet men fear it as if they knew well that it was the greatest of all evils, which is just a case of that worst of all ignorance—the conceit of knowing what you do not really know. For my part this is the exact point on which I differ from most other men, if there be any one thing in which I am wiser than they: as I know nothing about Hades, so I do not pretend to any knowledge; but I do know well that disobedience to a person better than myself, either god or man, is both an evil and a shame; nor will I ever embrace evil certain in order to escape evil which may for aught I know he a good. Perhaps you may feel indignant at the resolute tone of my defence: you may have expected that I should do as most others do in less dangerous trials than mine—that I should weep, beg, and entreat for my life, and bring forward my children and relatives to do the same. I have relatives like other men, and three children; but not one of them shall appear before you for any such purpose. Not from any insolent dispositions on my part, nor any wish to put a slight upon you, but because I hold such conduct to be degrading to the reputation which I enjoy; for I have a reputation for superiority among you, deserved or undeserved as it may be. It is a disgrace to Athens when her esteemed men lower themselves, as they do but too often, by such mean and cowardly supplications; and you Dikasts, instead of being prompted thereby to spare them, ought rather to condemn them the more for so dishonouring the city. Apart from any reputation of mine, too, I should be a guilty man if I sought to bias you by supplications. My duty is to instruct and persuade you, if I can; but you have sworn to follow your convictions in judging according to the laws, not to make the laws bend to your partiality, and it is your duty so to do. Far be it from me to habituate you to perjury; far be it from you to contract any such habit. Do not therefore require of me proceedings dishonourable in reference to myself, as well as criminal and impious in regard to you, espe­cially at a moment when I am myself rebutting an accusation of impiety advanced by Meletus. I leave to you and to the god to decide as may turn out best both for me and for you.”

No one who reads the “Platonic Apology” of Socrates will ever wish that he had made any other defence. But it is the speech of one who deliberately foregoes the immediate purpose of a defence—persuasion of his judges; who speaks for posterity without regard to his own life—“sola posteritatis cura, et abruptis vitae blandimentis”. The effect produced upon the Dikasts was such as Socrates anticipated beforehand, and heard afterwards without surprise as without discomposure, in the verdict of guilty. His only surprise was at the extreme smallness of the majority whereby that verdict was passed? And this is the true matter for astonishment. Never before had the Athenian Dikasts heard such a speech addressed to them. While all of them doubtless knew Socrates as a very able and very eccentric man, respecting his purposes and character they would differ; some regarding him with unqualified hostility, a few others with respectful admiration, and a still larger number with simple admiration for ability, without any decisive sentiment either of antipathy or esteem But by all these three categories, hardly excepting even his admirers, the speech would be felt to carry one sting which never misses its way to the angry feelings of the judicial bosom, whether the judges in session be one or a few or many, the sting of “affront to the court”. The Athenian Dikasts were always accustomed to be addressed with deference, often with subservience: they now heard themselves lectured by a philosopher who stood before them like a fearless and invulnerable superior beyond their power, though awaiting their verdict; one who laid claim to a divine mission, which probably many of them believed to be an imposture, and who declared himself the inspired uprooter of “conceit of knowledge without the reality,” which purpose many would not understand and some would not like. To many his demeanour would appear to betray an insolence not without analogy to Alcibiades or Critias, with whom his accuser had compared him. I have already remarked, in reference to his trial, that considering the number of personal enemies whom he made, the wonder is, not that he was tried at all, hut that he was not tried until so late in his life: I now remark, in reference to the verdict, that, considering his speech before the Dikastery, we cannot be surprised that he was found guilty, but only that such verdict passed by so small a majority as five or six.

That the condemnation of Socrates was brought on distinctly by the tone and tenor of his defence is the express testimony of Xenophon. “ Other persons on trial (he says) defended themselves in such manner as to conciliate the favour of the Dikasts, or flatter or entreat them contrary to the laws, and thus obtained acquittal. But Socrates would resort to nothing of this customary practice of the Dikastery contrary to the laws. Though he might easily have been let off by the Dikasts, if he would have done anything of the kind even moderately, he preferred rather to adhere to the laws and die, than to save his life by violating them.”  Now no one in Athens except Socrates, probably, would have construed the laws as requiring the tone of oration which he adopted; nor would he himself have so construed them if he had been twenty years younger, with less of acquired dignity and more years of possible usefulness open before him. Without debasing himself by unbecoming flattery or supplication, he would have avoided lecturing them as a master and superior, or ostentatiously asserting a divine mission for purposes which they would hardly understand, or an independence of their verdict which they might construe as defiance. The rhetor Lysias is said to have sent to him a composed speech for his defence, which he declined to use, not thinking it suitable to his dignity. But such a man as Lysias would hardly compose what would lower the dignity even of the loftiest client—though he would look to the result also; nor is there any doubt that if Socrates had pronounced it, or even a much less able speech, if inoffensive, he would have been acquitted. Quintilian indeed expresses his satisfaction that Socrates maintained that towering dignity which brought out the rarest and most exalted of his attributes, but which at the same time renounced all chance of acquittal. Few persons will dissent from this criticism; but when we look at the sentence, as we ought in fairness to do, from the point of view oi the Dikasts, justice will compel us to admit that Sokrates deliberately brought it upon himself.

If the verdict of guilty was thus brought upon Socrates by his own consent and co-operation, much more may the same remark be made respecting the capital sentence which followed it. In Athenian procedure, the penalty inflicted was determined by a separate vote of the Dikasts, taken after the verdict of guilty. The accuser having named the penalty which he thought suitable, the accused party, on his side, named some lighter penalty upon himself; and between these two the Dikasts were called on to make their option—no third proposition being admissible. The prudence of an accused party always induced him to propose, even against himself, some measure of punishment which the Dikasts might be satisfied to accept, in preference to the heavier sentence invoked by his antagonist.

Now Meletus, in his indictment and speech against Socrates, had called for the infliction of capital punishment. It was for Socrates to make his own counter-proposition; and the very small majority by which the verdict had been pronounced afforded sufficient proof that the Dikasts were noway inclined to sanction the extreme penalty against him. They doubtless anticipated, according to the uniform practice before the Athenian courts of justice, that he would suggest some lesser penalty—fine, imprisonment, exile, disfranchisement… And had he done this purely and simply, there can be little doubt that the proposition would have passed. But the language of Socrates, after the verdict, was in a strain yet higher than before it; and his resolution to adhere to his own point of view, disdaining the smallest abatement or concession, only the more emphatically pronounced. “What counter-proposition shall I make to you (he said) as a substitute for the penalty of Meletus? Shall I name to you the treatment which I think I deserve at your hands? In that case, my proposition would be that I should be rewarded with a subsistence at the public expense in the Prytaneum; for that is what I really deserve as a public benefactor—one who has neglected all thought of his own affairs and embraced voluntary poverty, in order to devote himself to your best interests, and to admonish you individually on the serious necessity of mental and moral improvement. Assuredly I cannot admit that I have deserved from you any evil whatever; nor would it be reasonable in me to propose exile or imprisonment—which I know to be certain and considerable evils—in place of death, which may, perhaps, be not an evil, but a good. I might, indeed, propose to you a pecuniary fine; for the payment of that would be no evil. But I am poor, and have no money: all that I could muster might, perhaps, amount to a mina; and I, there­fore, propose to you a fine of one mina, as punishment on myself. Plato, and my other friends near me, desire me to increase this sum to thirty minae, and they engage to pay it for me. A fine of thirty minae, therefore, is the counter-penalty which I submit for your judgment.”

Subsistence in the Prytaneum, at the public expense, was one of the greatest honorary distinctions which the citizens of Athens ever conferred—an emphatic token of public gratitude. That Socrates, therefore, should proclaim himself worthy of such an honour, and talk of assessing it upon himself in lieu of a punishment, before the very Dikasts who had just passed against him a verdict of guilty, would be received by them as nothing less than a deliberate insult—a defiance of judicial authority, which it was their duty to prove, to an opinionated and haughty citizen, that he could not commit with impunity. The persons who heard his language with the greatest distress were, doubtless, Plato, Crito, and his other friends around him, who, though sympathizing with him fully, knew well that he was assuring the success of the proposition of Meletus, and would regret that he should thus throw away his life by what they would think an ill-placed and unnecessary self-exaltation. Had he proposed, with little or no preface, the substitute-fine of thirty minae with which this part of his speech concluded, there is every reason for believing that the majority of Dikasts would have voted for it.

The sentence of death passed against him, by what majority we do not know. But Socrates neither altered his tone, nor manifested any regret for the language by which he had himself seconded the purpose of his  accusers. On the contrary, he told the Dikasts, in a short address prior to his departure for the prison, that he was satisfied both with his own conduct and with the result. The divine sign (he said) which was wont to restrain him, often on very small occasions, both in deeds and in words, had never manifested itself once to him throughout the whole day, neither when he came thither at first, nor at any one point throughout his whole discourse. The tacit acquiescence of this infallible monitor satisfied him not only that he had spoken rightly, but that the sentence passed was in reality no evil to him; that to die now was the best thing which could befall him. Either death was tantamount to a sound, perpetual, and dreamless sleep—which in his judgment would be no loss, but rather a gain, compared with the present life; or else, if the common myths were true, death would transfer him to a second life in Hades, where he would find all the heroes of the Trojan War, and of the past generally—so as to pursue, in conjunction with them, the business of mutual cross-examination, and debate on ethical progress and perfection.

There can be no doubt that the sentence really appeared to Socrates in this point of view, and to his friends also, after event had happened—though, doubtless, not at the time when they were about to lose him. He took his line of defence advisedly, and with full knowledge of the result. It supplied him with the fittest of all opportunities for manifesting, in an impressive manner, both his personal ascendency over human fears and weakness, and the dignity of what he believed to be his divine mission. It took him away in his full grandeur and glory, like the setting of the tropical sun, at a moment when senile decay might be looked upon as close at hand. He calculated that his defence and bearing on the trial would be the most emphatic lesson which he could possibly read to the youth of Athens; more emphatic, probably, than the sum-total of those lessons which his remaining life might suffice to give, if he shaped his defence otherwise. This anticipation of the effect of the concluding scene of his life, setting the seal on all his prior discourses, manifests itself in portions of his concluding words to the Dikasts, wherein he tells them that they will not, by putting him to death, rid themselves of the importunity of the cross-examining Elenchus; that numbers of young men, more restless and obtrusive than he, already carried within them that impulse, which they would now proceed to apply—his superiority having hitherto kept them back. It was thus the persuasion of Socrates that his removal would be the signal for numerous apostles putting forth with increased energy that process of interrogatory test and spur to which he had devoted his life, and which, doubtless, was to him far dearer and more sacred than his life. Nothing could be more effective than his lofty bearing on his trial for inflaming the enthusiasm of young men thus predisposed ; and the loss of life was to him compensated by the missionary successors whom he calculated on leaving behind.

Under ordinary circumstances, Socrates would have drunk the cup of hemlock in the prison on the day after his trial. But it so happened that the day of his sentence was prison for immediately after that on which the sacred ship started on its yearly ceremonial pilgrimage from Athens to Delos for the festival of Apollo. Until the return of this vessel to Athens, it was accounted unholy to put any person to death by public authority. Accordingly, Socrates remained in prison—and, we are pained to read, actually with chains on his legs—during the interval that this ship was absent, thirty days altogether. His friends and companions had free access to him, passing nearly all their time with him in the prison; and Crito had even arranged a scheme for procuring his escape, by a bribe to the gaoler. This scheme was only prevented from taking effect by the decided refusal of Socrates to become a party in any breach of the law—a resolution which we should expect as a matter of course, after the line which he had taken in his defence. His days were spent in the prison in discourse respecting ethical and human subjects, which had formed the charm and occupation of his previous life: it is to the last of these days that his conversation with Simmias, Kebes, and Phaedon, on the immortality of the soul, is referred in the Platonic Dialogue called “Phaedon”. Of that conversation the main topics and doctrines are Platonic rather than Socratic. But the picture which the dialogue presents of the temper and state of mind of Sokrates, during the last hours of his life, is one of immortal beauty and interest, exhibiting his serene and even playful equanimity, amidst the uncontrollable emotions of his surrounding friends—the genuine unforced persuasion, governing both his words and his acts, of what he had pronounced before the Dikasts, that the sentence of death was no calamity to him—and the unabated maintenance of that earnest interest in the improvement of man and society, which had for so many years formed both his paramount motive and his active occupation. The details of the last scene are given with minute fidelity, even down to the moment of his dissolution; and it is consoling to remark that the cup of hemlock (the means employed for executions by public order at Athens) produced its effect by steps far more exempt from suffering than any natural death which was likely to befall him. Those who have read what has been observed above respecting the strong religious persuasions of Socrates will not be surprised to hear that his last words, addressed to Crito immediately before he passed into a state of insensibility, were—“Crito, we owe a cock to Aesculapius: discharge the debt, and by no means omit it”.

Thus perished the “parens philosophiae”—the first of Ethical philosophers—a man who opened to science both new matter, alike copious and valuable, and a new method, memorable not less for its originality and efficacy than for the profound philosophical basis on which it rests. Though Greece produced great poets, orators, speculative philosophers, historians, &c., yet other countries, having the benefit of Grecian literature to begin with, have nearly equalled her in all these lines, and surpassed her in some. But where are we to look for a parallel to Socrates, either in or out of the Grecian world? The cross-examining Elenchus, which he not only first struck out, but wielded with such matchless effect and to such noble purposes, has been mute ever since his last conversation in the prison; for even his great successor Plato was a writer and lecturer, not a colloquial dialectician. No man has ever been found strong enough to bend his bow; much less sure enough to use it as he did. His life remains as the only evidence, but a very satisfactory evidence, how much can be done by this sort of intelligent interrogation—how powerful is the interest which it can be made to inspire—how energetic the stimulus which it can apply in awakening dormant reason and generating new mental power.

It has been often, customary to exhibit Socrates as a moral preacher, in which character probably he has acquired to himself the general reverence attached to his name. This is indeed a true attribute, but not the characteristic or salient attribute, nor that by which he permanently worked on mankind. On the other hand, Arkesilau, and the New Academy, a century and more afterwards, thought that they were following the example of Socrates (and Cicero seems to have thought so too) when they reasoned against everything—and when they laid it down as a system, that against every affirmative position, an equal force of negative argument might be brought up as counterpoise. Now this view of Socrates is, in my judg­ment, not merely partial, but incorrect. He entertained no such systematic distrust of the powers of the mind to attain certainty. He laid down a clear (though erroneous) line of distinction between the knowable and the unknowable. About physics, he was more than a sceptic—he thought that man could know nothing; the gods did not intend that man should acquire any such information, and therefore managed matters in such a way as to be beyond his ken, for all except the simplest phenomena of daily wants; moreover, not only man could not acquire such information, but ought not to labour after it. But respecting the topics which concern man and society, the views of Sokrates were completely the reverse. This was the field which the gods had expressly assigned, not merely to human practice, but to human study and acquisition of knowledge—a field wherein, with that view, they managed phenomena on principles of constant and observable sequence, so that every man who took the requisite pains might know them. Nay, Socrates went a step farther— and this forward step is the fundamental conviction upon which all his missionary impulse hinges. He thought that every man not only might know these things, but ought to know them ; that he could not possibly act well unless lie did know them ; and that it was his imperious duty to learn them as he would learn a profession; otherwise he was nothing better than a slave, unfit to be trusted as a free and accountable being. Sokrates felt persuaded that no man could behave as a just, temperate, courageous, pious, patriotic agent, unless he taught himself to know correctly what justice, temperance, courage, piety, patriotism, &c., really were. He was possessed with the truly Baconian idea, that the power of steady moral action depended upon, and was limited by, the rational comprehension of moral ends and means. But when he looked at the minds around him, he perceived that few or none either had any such comprehension, or had ever studied to acquire it, yet at the same time every man felt persuaded that he did possess it, and acted confidently upon such persuasion. Here then Socrates found that the first outwork for him to surmount was that universal “conceit of knowledge without the reality,” against which he declares such emphatic war; and against which, also, though under another form of words and in reference to other subjects. Bacon declares war not less emphatically, two thousand years afterwards. Sokrates found that those notions respecting human and social affairs, on which each man relied and acted, were nothing but spontaneous products of the “intellectus sibi permissus,”—of the intellect left to itself, either without any guidance, or with only the blind guidance of sympathies, antipathies, authority, or silent assimilation. They were products got together (to use Bacon’s language) “from much faith and much chance, and from the primitive suggestions of boyhood,” not merely without care or study, but without even consciousness of the process, and without any subsequent revision. Upon this basis the Sophists, or processes teachers for active life, sought to erect a superstructure of virtue and ability; but to Sokrates such an attempt appeared hopeless and contradictory— not less impracticable than Bacon in his time pronounced it to be, to carry up the tree of science into majesty and fruit-bearing, without first clearing away those fundamental vices which lay unmolested and in poisonous influence round its root. Sokrates went to work in the Baconian manner and spirit; bringing his cross-examining process to bear, as the first condition to all further improvement, upon these rude, self-begotten, incoherent generalizations, which passed in men’s minds for competent and directing knowledge. But he, not less than Bacon, performs this analysis, not with a view to finality in the negative, but as the first stage towards an ulterior profit—as the preliminary purification indispensable to future positive result. In the physical sciences, to which Bacon’s attention was chiefly turned, no such result could be obtained without improved experimental research, bringing to light facts new and yet unknown; but on those topics which Socrates discussed, the elementary data of the inquiry were all within the hearer’s experience, requiring only to be pressed upon his notice, affirmatively, as well as negatively, together with the appropriate ethical and political end ; in such manner as to stimulate within him the rational effort requisite fur combining them anew upon consistent principles.

If then the philosophers of the New Academy considered Socrates either as a sceptic or as a partisan of systematic negation, they misinterpreted his character, and mistook the first stage of his process—that which Plato, Bacon, and Herschel call the purification of the intellect—for the ultimate goal. The Elenchus, as Socrates used it, was animated by the truest spirit of positive science, and formed an indispensable precursor to its attainment. There are two points, and two points only, in topics concerning man and society, with regard to which Sokrates is a sceptic—or rather, which he denies, and on the negation of which his whole method and purposes turn. He denies, first, that men can know that on which they have bestowed no conscious effort, no deliberate pains, no systematic study, in learning. He denies, next, that men can practise what they do not know; that they can be just, or temperate, or virtuous generally, without knowing what justice, or temperance, or virtue is. To imprint upon the minds of his hearers his own negative conviction, on these two points, is indeed his first object, and the primary purpose of his multiform dialectical manoeuvring. But though negative in his means, Socrates is strictly positive in his ends : his attack is undertaken only with distinct view to a positive result; in order to shame them out of the illusion of knowledge, and to spur them on and arm them for the acquisition of real, assured, comprehensive, self-explanatory, knowledge—as the condition and guarantee of virtuous practice. Socrates was indeed the reverse of a sceptic: no man ever looked upon life with a more positive and practical eye: no man ever pursued his mark with a clearer perception of the road which he was travelling : no man ever combined, in like manner, the absorbing enthusiasm of a missionary with the acuteness, the originality, the inventive resource, and the generalizing comprehension of a philosopher.

His method yet survives, as far as such method can survive, in some of the dialogues of Plato. It is a process of eternal value and of universal application. That purification of the intellect, which Bacon signalized as indispensable for rational or scientific progress, the Socratic Elenchus affords the only known instrument for at least partially accomplishing. However little that instrument may have been applied since the death of its inventor, the necessity and use of it neither have disappeared, nor ever can disappear. There are few men whose minds are not more or less in that state of sham knowledge against which Socrates made war: there is no man whose notions have not been first got together by spontaneous, unexamined, unconscious, uncertified association—resting upon forgotten particulars, blending together disparates or inconsistencies, and leaving in his mind old and familiar phrases and oracular propositions, of which he has never rendered to himself account: there is no man, who, if he be destined for vigorous and profitable scientific effort, has not found it a necessary branch of self-education to break up, disentangle, analyse, and reconstruct these ancient mental compounds, and who has not been driven to it by his own lame and solitary efforts, since the giant of the colloquial Elenchus no longer stands in the market place to lend him help and stimulus.

To hear of any man, especially of so illustrious a man, being condemned to death on such accusations as that of. heresy and alleged corruption of youth, inspires at the present day a sentiment of indignant reprobation, the force of which I have no desire to enfeeble. The fact stands eternally recorded as one among the thousand misdeeds of intolerance, religious and political. But since amidst this catalogue each item has its own peculiar character, grave or light, we are bound to consider at what point of the scale the condemnation of Socrates is to be placed, and what inferences it justifies in regard to the character of the Athenians. Now if we examine the circumstances of the case, we shall find them all extenuating ; and so powerful indeed, as to reduce such inferences to their minimum, consistent with the general class to which the incident belongs.

First, the sentiment now prevalent is founded upon a conviction that such matters as heresy and heretical teaching of youth are not proper for judicial cognizance. Even in the modern world, such a conviction is of recent date; and in the fifth century B.C. it was unknown. Sokrates himself would not have agreed in it; and all Grecian governments, oligarchical and democratical alike, recognized the opposite. The testimony furnished by Plato is on this point decisive. When we examine the two positive communities which he constructs, in the treatises “De Republica” and generally” In Legibus,” we find that there is nothing about which he is more anxious than to establish an unresisted orthodoxy of doctrine, opinion, and education. A dissenting and free-spoken teacher, such as Socrates was at Athens, would not have been allowed to pursue his vocation for a week in the Platonic Republic. Plato would not indeed condemn him to death; but he would put him to silence, and in case of need send him away. This in fact is the consistent deduction, if you assume that the state is to determine what is orthodoxy and orthodox teaching, and to repress what contradicts its own views. Now all the Grecian states, including Athens, held this principle, of interference against the dissenting teacher. But at Athens, though the principle was recognized, yet the application of it was counteracted by resisting forces which it did not find elsewhere: by the democratical constitution with its liberty of speech and love of speech—by the more active spring of individual intellect—and by the toleration, greater there than anywhere else, shown to each man’s peculiarities of every sort. In any other government of Greece, as well as in the Platonic Republic, Socrates would have been quickly arrested in his career, even if not severely punished; in Athens, he was allowed to talk and teach publicly for twenty-five or thirty years, and then condemned when an old man. Of these two applications of the same mischievous principle, assuredly the latter is at once the more moderate and the less noxious.

Secondly, the force of this last consideration, as an extenuating circumstance in regard to the Athenians, is much increased, when we reflect upon the number of individual enemies whom Socrates made to himself in the prosecution of his cross-examining process. Here were a multitude of individuals, including men personally the most eminent and effective in the city, prompted by special antipathies, over and above general convictions, to call into action the dormant state-principle of intolerance against an obnoxious teacher. If, under such provocation, he was allowed to reach the age of seventy, and to talk publicly for so many years, before any real Meletus stood forward, this attests conspicuously the efficacy of the restraining dispositions among the people, which made their practical habits more liberal than their professed principles.

Thirdly, whoever has read the account of the trial and defence of Socrates will see that he himself contributed quite as much to the result us all the three accusers united. Not only he omitted to do all that might have been done without dishonour, to ensure acquittal, but he held positive language very nearly such as Meletus himself would have sought to put in his mouth. He did this deliberately, having an exalted opinion both of himself and his own mission, and accounting the cup of hemlock, at his age, to be no calamity. It was only by such marked and offensive self-exaltation that he brought on the first vote of the Dikastery, even then the narrowest majority, by which he was found guilty: it was only by a still more aggravated manifestation of the same kind, even to the pitch of something like insult, that he brought on the second vote, which pronounced the capital sentence. Now it would be uncandid not to allow for the effect of such a proceeding on the minds of the Dikastery. They were not at all disposed, of their own accord, to put in force the recognized principle of intolerance against him. But when they found that the man who stood before them charged with this offence addressed them in a tone such as Dikasts had never heard before and could hardly hear with calmness, they could not but feel disposed to credit all the worst inferences which his accusers had suggested, and to regard Sokrates as a dangerous man both religiously and politically, against whom it was requisite to uphold the majesty of the court and constitution.

In appreciating this memorable incident, therefore, though the mischievous principle of intolerance cannot be denied, yet all the circumstances show that that principle was neither irritable nor predominant in the Athenian bosom; that even a large body of collateral antipathies did not readily call it forth against any individual; that the more liberal and generous dispositions, which deadened its malignity, were of steady efficacy, not easily overborne; and that the condemnation ought to count as one of the least gloomy items m an essentially gloomy catalogue.

Let us add, that as Socrates himself did not account his own condemnation and death, at his age, to be any misfortune, but rather a favourable dispensation of the gods, who removed him just in time to escape that painful consciousness of intellectual decline which induced Democritus to prepare the poison tor himself, so his friend Xenophon goes a step farther, and while protesting against the verdict of guilty, extols the manner of death as a subject of triumph—as the happiest, most honourable, and most gracious way, in which the gods could set the seal upon an useful and exalted life.

It is asserted by Diodorus, and repeated with exaggerations by other later authors, that after the death of Socrates the Athenians bitterly repented of the manner in which they had treated him, and that they even went so far as to put his accusers to death without trial. I know not upon what authority this statement is made, and I disbelieve it altogether. From the tone of Xenophon’s “Memorabilia,” there is every reason to presume that the memory of Socrates still continued to be unpopular at Athens when that collection was composed. Plato, too, left Athens immediately after the death of his master, and remained absent for some time: indirectly, I think, this affords a presumption that no such reaction took place in Athenian sentiment as that which Diodorus alleges; and the same presumption is countenanced by the manner in which the orator Aeschines speaks of the condemnation, half a century afterwards. I see no reason to believe that the Athenian Dikasts, who doubtless felt themselves justified, and more than justified, in condemning Sokrates after his own speech, retracted that sentiment after his decease.