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Introduction to the Philosophy and Writings of Plato   By: (1758-1835)

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INTRODUCTION TO THE PHILOSOPHY AND WRITINGS OF PLATO

By

THOMAS TAYLOR

"Philosophy," says Hierocles, "is the purification and perfection of human life. It is the purification, indeed, from material irrationality, and the mortal body; but the perfection, in consequence of being the resumption of our proper felicity, and a reascent to the divine likeness. To effect these two is the province of Virtue and Truth; the former exterminating the immoderation of the passions; and the latter introducing the divine form to those who are naturally adapted to its reception."

Of philosophy thus defined, which may be compared to a luminous pyramid, terminating in Deity, and having for its basis the rational soul of man and its spontaneous unperverted conceptions, of this philosophy, August, magnificent, and divine, Plato may be justly called the primary leader and hierophant, through whom, like the mystic light in the inmost recesses of some sacred temple, it first shone forth with occult and venerable splendour.[1] It may indeed be truly said of the whole of this philosophy, that it is the greatest good which man can participate: for if it purifies us from the defilements of the passions and assimilates us to Divinity, it confers on us the proper felicity of our nature. Hence it is easy to collect its pre eminence to all other philosophies; to show that where they oppose it, they are erroneous; that so far as they contain any thing scientific they are allied to it; and that at best they are but rivulets derived from this vast ocean of truth.

[1] In the mysteries a light of this kind shone forth from the adytum of the temple in which they were exhibited.

To evince that the philosophy of Plato possesses this preeminence; that its dignity and sublimity are unrivaled; that it is the parent of all that ennobles man; and, that it is founded on principles, which neither time can obliterate, nor sophistry subvert, is the principal design of this Introduction.

To effect this design, I shall in the first place present the reader with the outlines of the principal dogmas of Plato's philosophy. The undertaking is indeed no less novel than arduous, since the author of it has to tread in paths which have been untrodden for upwards of a thousand years, and to bring to light truths which for that extended period have been concealed in Greek. Let not the reader, therefore, be surprised at the solitariness of the paths through which I shall attempt to conduct him, or at the novelty of the objects which will present themselves in the journey: for perhaps he may fortunately recollect that he has traveled the same road before, that the scenes were once familiar to him, and that the country through which he is passing is his native land. At, least, if his sight should be dim, and his memory oblivious, (for the objects which he will meet with can only be seen by the most piercing eyes,) and his absence from them has been lamentably long, let him implore the power of wisdom,

From mortal mists to purify his eyes, That God and man he may distinctly see.

Let us also, imploring the assistance of the same illuminating power, begin the solitary journey.

Of all the dogmas of Plato, that concerning the first principle of things as far transcends in sublimity the doctrine of other philosophers of a different sect, on this subject, as this supreme cause of all transcends other causes. For, according to Plato, the highest God, whom in the Republic he calls the good, and in the Parmenides the one, is not only above soul and intellect, but is even superior to being itself. Hence, since every thing which can in any respect be known, or of which any thing can be asserted, must be connected with the universality of things, but the first cause is above all things, it is very properly said by Plato to be perfectly ineffable. The first hypothesis therefore of his, Parmenides, in which all things are denied of this immense principle, concludes as follows: "The one therefore is in no respect... Continue reading book >>




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