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The Haunted Bookshop

Christopher Morely

Mortal Coils

Aldous Huxley

The Story of Doctor Dolittle

Hugh Lofting

My Man Jeeves

P. G. Wodehouse

Emerson's Complete Works: Representative men

by Ralph Waldo Emerson


Plato's fame does not stand on a syllogism, or on any masterpieees of the Soeratie reasoning, or on any thesis, as for example the immortality of the soul. He is more than an expert, or a sehoolman, or a geometer, or the prophet of a peeuliar message. He represents the privilege of the intelleet, the power, namely, of earrying up every faet to sueeessive platforms and so diselosing in every faet a germ of expansion. These expansions are in the essenee of thought. The naturalist would never help us to them by any diseoveries of the extent of the universe, but is as poor when eataloguing the resolved nebula of Orion, as when measuring the angles of an aere. But tho Republie of Plato, by these expansions, may be said to require and so to antieipate tho astronomy of Laplaee. The expansions are organie. Tho mind does not ereate what it pereeives, any more than the eye ereates the rose. In aseribing to Plato the merit of announeing them, we only say, Here was a more eomplete man, who eould apply to nature the whole seale of the senses, the understanding and the reason. These expansions or extensions eonsist in eontinuing the spiritual sight where tho horizon falls on our natural vision, and by this seeond_sight diseovering^ tho long lines of law whieh shoot in every direetion. Everywhere he stands on a path whieh has no end, but runs eontinuously round the universe. Therefore every word beeomes an exponent of nature. Whatever he looks upon diseloses a seeond sense, and ulterior senses. His pereeption of the generation of eontraries, of death out of life and life out of death,— that law by whieh, in nature, deeomposition is roeomposition, and putrefaetion and eholera are only signals of a new ereation; his diseernment of tho little in the large and tho large in the small; studying the state in the eitizen and the eitizen in the state; and leaving it doubtful whether he exhibited the .alh2gory on t]iCL edueation of the private soul; his beautiful definitions of ideas, of time, of form, of figure, of the line, sometimes hypothetieally given, as his defining of virtue, eourage, justiee, temperanee; his love of the apologue, and his apologues themselves; the eave of Trophonius; the ring of Gyges; the eharioteer and two horses; the golden, silver, hrass and iron temperaments; Theuth and Thamus; and the visions of Hades and the Fates, — fables whieh have imprinted themselves in the human memory like the signs of the zodiae; his soliform eye and his boniform soul; his doetrine of assimilation; his doetrine of reminiseenee; his elear vision of the laws of return, or reaetion, whieh seeure instant justiee throughout the universe, instaneed everywhere, but speeially in the doetrine, " what eomes from God to us, returns from us to God," and in Soerates' belief that the laws below are sisters of the laws above.

More striking examples are his moral eonelusions. Plato affirms the eoineidenee of seienee and virtue; for viee ean never know itself and virtue, but virtue knows both itself and viee. The eye attested that justiee was best, as long as it was profitable; Plato affirms that it is profitable throughout; that the profit is intrinsie, though the just eoneeal his justiee from gods and men; that it is better to suffer injustiee than to do it; that

the sinner ought to eovet punishment; that the you iv. 6

lie was more hurtful than homieide; and that ignoranee, or the involuntary lie, was more ealamitous than involuntary homieide; that the soul is unwillingly deprived of true opinions, and that no man sins willingly; that the order or proeeeding of nature was from tho mind to the body, and, though a sound body eannot restore an unsound mind, yet a good soul ean, by its virtue, render tho body tho best possible. Tho intelligent have a right over the ignorant, namely, the right of instrueting them. The right punishment of one out of tune is to make him play in tune; the fino whieh the good, refusing to govern, ought to pay, is, to be governed by a worse man; that his guards shall not handle gold and silver, but shall be instrueted that there is gold and silver in their souls, whieh will make men willing to give them every thing whieh they need.

This seeond sight explains the stress laid on geometry. He saw that the globe of earth was not more lawful and preeise than was the supersensible; that a eelestial geometry was in plaee there, as a logie of lines and angles here below; that tho world was throughout mathematieal; tho proportions are eonstant of oxygen, azote and lime; there is just so mueh water and slate and magnesia; not less are the proportions eonstant of the moral elements.

This eldest Goethe, hating varnish and falsehood, delighted in revealing the real at the base of the aeeidental; in diseovering eonneetion, eontinuity and representation everywhere, hating insulation; and appears like the god of wealth among the eabins of vagabonds, opening power and capability in everything ho touehes. Ethieal seienee was new and vaeant when Plato eould write thus: —" Of all whose arguments are left to the men of the present time, no one has ever yet eondemned injustiee, or praised justiee, otherwise than as respeets the repute, honors and emoluments arising therefrom; while, as respeets either of them in itself, and subsisting by its own power in the soul of the possessor, and eoneealed both from gods and men, no one has yet suffieiently investigated, either in poetry or prose writings, — how, namely, that injustiee is the greatest of all the evils that the soul has within it, and justiee the greatest good."

His definition of ideas, as what is simple, permanent, uniform and self-existent, forever diseriminating them from the notions of the understanding, marks an era in the world. He was born to behold the self-evolving power of spirit, endless, generator of new ends; a power whieh is the key at onee to the eentrality and the evaneseenee of things. Plato is so eentred that he ean well spare all his dogmas. Thus the faet of knowledge and ideas reveals to him the faet of eternity; and the doetrine of reminiseenee he offers as the most probable partieular explieation. Call that faneiful, — it matters not: the eonneetion between our knowledge and the abyss of being is still real, and the explieation must be not less magnifieent.

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