Ep. VII. 326a Plato seems to refer to Rep. VI. 499 b.—c. as already written before his first visit to Sicily in 387. It has been argued that the Symposium must be later than 385 since Aristophanes, who died in that year, is introduced into the dialogue. But it is not clear that Plato made it an absolute rule never to introduce living speakers. It is hard e.g., to believe that Eucleides must have died while the Theaetetus was being written.
never introduces himself into his own dialogues, he is not for mally committed to anything which is taught in them. The speakers who are formally bound by the utterances of the dia logues are their protagonists, Socrates, Parmenides, the Pythago rean Timaeus, and all these are real historical persons. The ques tion thus arises, with what right do we assume that Plato means us to accept as his own the doctrines put into the mouths of these characters? Is his purpose dogmatic and didactic, or may it be that it is mainly dramatic? Are we more at liberty to hold Plato responsible for what is said by his dramatis personae than we should be to treat a poet like Browning in the same fashion? It is tempting to evade this formidable issue in one of two ways. One is that of Grote, who held that Plato allows himself freely to develop in a dialogue any view which interests him for the moment, without pledging himself to its truth or considering its com patibility with other positions assumed elsewhere in his writings. Thus, according to this theory, Plato can make Socrates advocate hedonistic utilitarianism in the Protagoras, or denounce it in the Gorgias, can assert the so-called "ideal theory" through the mouth of Socrates in the Phaedo, or refute it in the character of Par menides in the dialogue of that name, with equal gusto and with out pledging himself in either case. His championships are purely dramatic, or, at most, reflect his passing mood at the moment of composition.
The more common assumption of the 19th century was that some of Plato's characters, notably Socrates and Timaeus, are "mouthpieces" through whom he inculcates tenets of his own, without concern for dramatic or historical propriety. Thus it was, and often still is, held that the most famous philosophical doc trines of the Phaedo and Republic, the "ideal theory," the doc trine of "recollection" and of the tripartite soul, were actually originated by Plato after the death of Socrates, to whom these speculations were entirely unknown, and consciously fathered on the older philosopher by a mystification too glaring to deceive any one seriously. Careful study of the dialogues should satisfy us
that neither of these two extreme views is tenable.
The Thought of the Earlier and Later Dialogues.—There is undeniably a real difference between the thought of the dialogues which are later than the Theaetetus and those which are earlier, and this difference will have to be accounted for. But there are no serious discrepancies of doctrine between the individual dialogues of the same period.' Now Plato seems to announce his own personal conviction of certain doctrines of the second group of dialogues by a striking dramatic device. In the Sophistes and Politicus the leading part is taken by an Eleatic and in the Laws by an Athenian who are the only anonymous, indeed almost certainly the only imaginary, personages in the whole of Plato's writings.' It can hardly be doubted that the reason why these two characters have been left anonymous is precisely that the writer may be free to use them as "mouth-pieces" for his own teaching. Plato thus takes on himself the responsibility for the logic and epistemology of the Sophistes and Politicus and the ethics and educational and political theory of the Politicus and Laws in a specially marked way, and by doing so compels us to face the question how far he means the utterances of Socrates in his earlier dialogues to be taken as expressions of a philosophy of his own.
"Forms."—It may be regarded as an established result of the inquiries of Dr. Henry Jackson and others that there is a definite philosophical doctrine running through the earlier dialogues which has as its main features the theory of "Forms" (the "ideal" theory), the theory that knowledge is "recollection," and the the ory of the "tripartite soul." In the dialogues of the second period these tenets, as we have learned to know them from the earlier 'As there would be between the Protagoras and the Gorgias or Phaedo if the Protagoras really said that the pleasure is the good. What it actually says is only that "the many," "most men," hold this view (353 d.—e.), and ought not therefore to regard the doctrine that "good ness is knowledge" as paradoxical, since on their own theory, virtue will/ amount to right computation of pleasures and pains.