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by [?]

Socrates was the first Democrat: he stood for the demos–the people. Plato would have done the same, but he saw that the business was extra hazardous, to use the phrase of our insurance friends. He who works for the people will be destroyed by the people. Hemlock is such a rare and precious commodity that few can afford it; the cross is a privilege so costly that few care to pay the price.

The genius is a man who first states truths; and all truths are unpleasant on their first presentation. That which is uncommon is offensive. “Who ever heard anything like that before?” ask the literary and philosophic hill tribes in fierce indignation. Says James Russell Lowell, “I blab unpleasant truths, you see, that none may need to state them after me.”

Plato was a teacher by nature: this was his business, his pastime, and the only thing in life that gave him joy. But he dropped back to the good old ways of making truth esoteric as did the priests of Egypt, instead of exoteric as did Socrates. He founded his college in the grove of his old friend Academus, a mile out of Athens on the road to Eleusis. In honor of Academus the school was called “The Academy.” It was secluded, safe, beautiful for situation. In time Plato bought a tract of land adjoining that of Academus, and this was set apart as the permanent school. All the teaching was done out of doors, master and pupils seated on the marble benches, by the fountain-side, or strolling through the grounds, rich with shrubs and flowers and enlivened by the song of birds. The climate of Athens was about like that of Southern California, where the sun shines three hundred days in the year.

Plato emphasized the value of the spoken word over the written, a thing he could well afford to do, since he was a remarkably good writer. This for the same reason that the only man who can afford to go ragged is the man with a goodly bank-balance. The shibboleth of the modern schools of oratory is, “We grow through expression.” And Plato was the man who first said it. Plato’s teaching was all in the form of the “quiz,” because he believed that truth was not a thing to be acquired from another–it is self-discovery.

Indeed, we can imagine it was very delightful–this walking, strolling, lying on the grass, or seated in semicircles, indulging in endless talk, easy banter, with now and then a formal essay read to start the vibrations.

Here it was that Aristotle came from his wild home in the mountains of Macedonia, to remain for twenty years and to evolve into a rival of the master.

We can well imagine how Aristotle, the mountain-climber and horseman, at times grew heartily tired of the faultily faultless garden with its high wall and graveled walks and delicate shrubbery, and shouted aloud in protest, “The whole world of mountain, valley and plain should be our Academy, not this pent-up Utica that contracts our powers.”

Then followed an argument as to the relative value of talking about things or doing them, or Poetry versus Science.

Poetry, philosophy and religion are very old themes, and they were old even in Plato’s day; but natural science came in with Aristotle. And science is only the classification of the common knowledge of the common people. It was Aristotle who named things, not Adam. He contended that the classification and naming of plants, rocks and animals was quite as important as to classify ideas about human happiness and make guesses at the state of the soul after death.

Of course he got himself beautifully misunderstood, because he was advocating something which had never been advocated before. In this lay his virtue, that he outran human sympathy, even the sympathy of the great Plato.

Yet for a while the unfolding genius of this young barbarian was a great joy to Plato, as the earnest, eager intellect of an ambitious pupil always is to his teacher. Plato was great in speculation; Aristotle was great in observation. Well has it been said that it was Aristotle who discovered the world. And Aristotle in his old age said, “My attempts to classify the objects of Nature all came through Plato’s teaching me first how to classify ideas.” And forty years before this Plato had said, “It was Socrates who taught me this game of the correlation and classification of thoughts.”