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Plato's Theaetetus.


Soc. Take sound and atom then-have you this thought, the same in respect to both, that they ARE?

Theaet. I have.

Soc. And also the thought that each is (not simply different but) a different thing from the other, while it is the same with itself?

Theaet. Why surely.

Soc. And moreover that both are two, and each is one?
Theaet. That, too, beyond all doubt.

Soc. Through what, then, have you all these notions concerning the two? For neither through the hearing, nor the sight, is it possible to receive any such common thought. And now I will give you another proof in this. For suppose if such a case were conceivable, that in respect to both, that is, sound and color, we were examining this question, namely, whether they were salt or not, either one or both you know very well by what you would make the examination, and that this would not be sight, nor hearing, but something else.

Theaet. It would be the sentient power that resides in the tongue.

Soc. Very well. Now tell me again. Through what does that power operate which manifests to you what relates to all the senses, as much as to these two just mentioned -I mean such common notions as those to which you give the names, (or of which you say) it is, or it is not, etc., besides the others of which we just now asked.

Theaet. It is substance and being you are now talking about, and not-being, and likeness and unlikeness, and identity, and diversity and moreover oneness and number generally. It is clear, too, that your question has respect to even and odd, together with all those notions of number that are involved in them. And you mean to ask - through what one of the bodily organs we become sentient of these, as we became sentient of the other first mentioned (namely, colors, sounds, etc.) through the organ of sense and by the soul.

Soc. Most admirably done, my boy Theaetetus-you take me well. That is just what I meant to ask.

Theaet. By Zeus, then, Master Socrates, I can give you no other answer than that there seems to me to be no such organ or organs at all for these as in the former cases, (that is, we are not sentient of them at all or derive them through sense) but the soul itself, as it seems, both by and through itself, sees all these notions which we have in common respecting them all.

Soc. Beautifully answered. You are indeed a beautiful boy now, Theaetetus, and not at all homely, as Theodorus represented you. And besides the beauty of it, you have done me a great favor in delivering me from the necessity of quite a long explanation; since to yourself it thus appears, that some things the soul looks at and sees, itself, and in and through itself, whilst the knowledge of others it derives through the organs of the body. But to what class would you assign these beauty and the contrary, good and evil? Theaet. To the latter class most certainly. These, above all things, does the soul survey in their being, and in their mutual relations, ever, in so doing, calling up within herself, the past, the present, and the future."

In other words, color, and sound, and hard, and sweet, the soul becomes sentient of through the organs of sense, but unity and number, and identity and likeness, etc., together with the good and the beautiful, and their contraries, she sees both by and through herself, because these notions, or knowledges, are in herself, and never came out of sense, nor from any blank reflection of, or reflecting on, what was merely given by the sense.

The followers of Mill would claim to be the common sense school. Their explanations, they would say, are easytheir terms intelligible to the common mind. They involve none of that mystical jargon which belongs to the "exploded doctrine of innate ideas." But will this claim bear the test of careful examination? There has been already shown, we think, the utter barrenness of their word reflection. Another explanation in very common use with some is made by the still more notionless word capacity. There is no mystery in the mind's operations if we only suppose it to have a capacity for this, and for that. But pray- what is a capacity? It is a place for holding - δεκτικόν τι. When we say, moreover, the soul has a capacity, we only double the figure, and it makes it thus doubly unmeaning. It then becomes a capacity holding a capacity, or a capacity for a capacity, and so on ad infinitum.

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But granting that there may be such a merely holding-place, or vacuum, in the soul, the question still remains. We have not advanced a hair's breadth towards its solution. How do the intuitions, notions, ideas, aforesaid, ever get into it? If they are there à priori, then are they innate, or in-born, to use the better Saxon phrase, and then there would be good sense, as well as good reason, in saying, the soul has a capacity for them. If not, we are just where we were, and the unmystical psychologists must find room for them in the sensation, and this, it has been shown, they can never do.

There is the same barrenness in the word faculty, which others would employ in this common sense operation of getting something out of nothing. The term is all very well, if we do not take away all meaning for our present purpose, and reduce it to a blank agency, by attempting to conceive of a faculty (facilitas) without the distinct appropriate energies, means, supply (according to the best sense of the word) for doing what it was appointed to do, having, moreover, no knowledge of what it is to do, or how to do it, comparing without any previous rule of comparison, distinguishing without any known ground of distinction, combining without any à priori unity of aim, or aim of unity, to which, and by which, the combination is to be di


Origin of Mathematical Knowledge.


rected,—and, above all things, remembering without any knowledge of time, and estimating motion without any knowledge of space; for these most inconceivable of all absurdities flow directly à posteriori atque à fortiori, from the common sense explanation, that we get this very knowledge, or the ideas of time and space by induction from the perception of motion and the exercise of memory. We relieve the term from absurdity, only by making it wholly unmeaning. Faculty for this, or that, becomes synonymous with possibility, a term which may be predicated of almost any one thing in rerum natura in respect to almost anything else. In this way, for all we know, the plant has a faculty, somewhere, that is a possibility to become an animal, and the animal has a faculty to become a man. We need only say, that nothing can be more opposite to all this barrenness, than the manner in which our author invariably employs the term, defining ever, with the most satisfactory clearness, the intuitions, notions, and comprehensions, it must carry along with it in all the operations it is appointed to perform. The same objections apply to the common use of the terms, belief, habit, association. All is contingent. There is no à priori ground for the belief, no starting principle by which the habit and the association may be originally determined, or that can give the law through which they subsequently cohere.

No writers are more apt to impose on themselves and their readers, in this way, than those of this school who have the most to say of experience and "positive knowledge" as the "fruit alone of sense and experience." Often when they think they have presented the more easy and intelligible explanation, they have only covered up a difficulty by giving it a name. We need only suppose the soul to have a capacity, or a faculty, or a power of reflection, or of memory, and all mystery is dissipated at once. With these as our machinery, and sense and sensible experience as the foundation, we can raise any superstructure we please. The school are ever fond of ridiculing the doctrine of occult qualities in the ancient physics, whilst they introduce it with all its darkness into the realm of mind. An example of this very ready way of explaining things occurs in a remark of Sir John Herschel as quoted by Prof. Davies in his late work on the Logic of Mathematics. His position is, that mathematical knowledge comes from experience and induction, in the same way as outward physical science; which is also a favorite position with Mill. They are the same he says, "only that in the one case the mind spontaneously presents the facts on which the induction rests,” -as though this spontaneous presentation were a very non-essential affair, and did

not constitute the immense difference in the two cases, making, in fact, an impassable chasm between them!

If we must have a metaphor, the best that could be used would be the one the author has so happily employed in respect to consciousness, p. 169. Instead of a capacity, or rather, together with a capacity, which is a very good figure in its place, we may say the soul has a light which she sheds upon the opaque content in the sensibility, and which immediately brings form and distinctness out of chaos, -a light through which sensation becomes perception, and phenomena are known as representing things and events in a permanent and enduring nature of things. This light we may metaphorically suppose, either to be of the very essence of the soul itself, or to be generated by a spiritual energy, which, in its own working (above and aside from sense) gives birth to both light and heat, or, in other words, the purely spiritual emotion of interest in knowledge, and the purely intellectual illumination by which it is seen.

It was held as a part of the ancient Greek physics, that in seeing, a real light went forth from the eye to meet that which was conveyed, through the diaphanous medium, from the object itself. Whatever modern science may object to this, there was, we believe, a substantial truth, if not in the optical theory itself, at least lying right behind it. We may take it as meaning, that even sense is not pure passivity. The soul sends forth an energy, even in sense-seeing, instinctive it may be, rather than voluntary, yet none the less its own spiritual act. She does something instead of simply receiving. She communicates to the eye a light without which it would be in darkness, and the pictures on the retina, or the brain, would never be read. And then, could we conceive of the eye as a separate existence, this infused light might be regarded as its spiritual principle. Ei yày v ó ópθαλμὸς ζῶον ψυχὴ ἂν αὐτῷ ἦν ἡ ΟΨΙΣ-“ If the eye were an animal," says Aristotle (De Anima, Lib. II. 1. 9), "vision would be its


But why not at once call it knowledge, ideas, from the intellectual meaning and tenses of edw1-a meaning which we have reason to regard as being no more metaphorical, and no less real, in the one case than in the other. Why not then call it knowledge (notio), since the moment it finds its object it knows it, and remembers it moreover as cognized by something which had an à priori being. It

1 Some of these, it is well known, signify to see, others to know. ɛidwhov (idol) would be from the one class, idea from the other. Both are alike literal-alike metaphorical.


Knowledge as possessed and exercised.


is easy to anticipate the plausible objection, that it can be no knowledge until it become itself an object of consciousness, and thus sees itself seeing, and knows itself knowing, or that there is an absurdity in the conception of a dormant knowledge, in other words, a knowledge unknown, and thoughts unthought. But have we not the same mystery, for we would not dare to style it absurdity, in respect to what we call our acquired knowledge? For, whether inborn or acquired makes no difference here. It is one of the most indubitable facts of our spiritual constitution, that there is a knowledge which we may be said to possess, and yet to have or hold it not,-xextovαι κεκτῆσθαι ázλà un éxar-according to Plato's well illustrated distinction, in his simile of the aviary, or spiritual pigeon-park, toward the close of the Theaetetus, 197. A. And so also Aristotle (De Anima, Lib. II. c. 1. 5). "It may be spoken of," says he, "in two ways, as knowledge (έniorýμn) in itself, and as knowledge in actual spiritual beholding (ev v Dewoɛiv). For in the very being of the soul itself there is a sleeping and an awaking. The awaking is analogous to the spiritual beholding; the sleep to the having and yet not energizing” — τῷ ἔχειν καὶ μὴ ἐνεργεῖν.

There is to each man a knowledge which is truly his knowledge, belonging to his being as it belongs not to another, and yet it may be truly said he knows it not; he thinks it not. It is as truly asleep within him, as when the whole soul, including the visual as well as the theoretical (rò Dewpeir) is buried in the profoundest slumber. Take then our acquired knowledge, we say again, and the mystery is not at all diminished. It is rather increased. Notwithstanding our familiarity with the fact, there are some elements in it, which, when we examine them closely, enhance the wonder. How very small a part of that immense store of intuitions, thoughts, feelings, facts, scenes, events, which go to make up the knowledge of one single man, (be he one of the most narrow information,) is at any one hour of his life in actual exercise, that is actually known or thought? How small the ratio of his waking being at any one time, to that far greater part which is sleeping, much of it too, perhaps the most of it, having thus slept for many years.

But, where is it? What relation has it to his spiritual constitution? Does it truly enter into his very esse? so that he ever carries it with him, the past in the present, and is all that he is during every moment that he exists. Twenty years ago a thought was

1 He means, doubtless, aside from the animal sleep which it has from its con nection with the body and the sentient nature.

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