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    2020-08-13 07:11:27


    The nature of dialectic is still further elucidated in the Phaedrus, where it is also contrasted with the method, or rather the no-method, of popular rhetoric. Here, again, discussions about love are chosen as an illustration. A discourse on the subject by no less a writer than Lysias is quoted and shown to be deficient in the most elementary requisites of logical exposition. The different arguments are strung together without any principle of arrangement, and ambiguous terms are used without being defined. In insisting on the necessity of definition, Plato followed Socrates; but he defines according to a totally different method. Socrates had arrived at his general notions partly by a comparison of particular instances with a view to eliciting the points where they agreed, partly by amending the conceptions already in circulation. We have seen that the earliest Dialogues attributed to Plato are one long exposure of the difficulties attending such a procedure; and his subsequent investigations all went to prove that nothing solid could be built on such shifting foundations as sense and opinion. Meanwhile increasing familiarity with the great ontological systems had taught him to begin with the most general notions, and to work down from them to the most particular. The consequence was that dialectic came to mean nothing but classification or logical division. Definition was absorbed into this process, and reasoning by syllogism was not yet differentiated from it. To tell what a thing was, meant to fix its place in the universal order of existence, and its individual existence was sufficiently accounted for by the same determination. If we imagine first a series of concentric circles, then a series of contrasts symmetrically disposed on either side of a central dividing line, and finally a series of transitions descending from the most absolute unity to the most irregular diversity—we shall, by combining the three schemes, arrive at some understanding of the Platonic dialectic. To assign anything its place in these various sequences was at once to define it and to demonstrate the necessity of222 its existence. The arrangement is also equivalent to a theory of final causes; for everything has a function to perform, marked out by its position, and bringing it into relation with the universal order. Such a system would inevitably lead to the denial of evil, were not evil itself interpreted as the necessary correlative of good, or as a necessary link in the descending manifestations of reality. Moreover, by virtue of his identifying principle, Plato saw in the lowest forms a shadow or reflection of the highest. Hence the many surprises, concessions, and returns to abandoned positions which we find in his later writings. The three moments of Greek thought, circumscription, antithesis, and mediation, work in such close union, or with such bewildering rapidity of alternation, through all his dialectic, that we are never sure whither he is leading us, and not always sure that he knows it himself.It was, no doubt, for these and similar reasons that all the most vigorous intellects of Hellas ranged themselves either on the Stoic or on the Sceptic side, leaving the halfhearted compromise of Epicurus to those who could not think out any one theory consistently, or who, like the Romans at first, were not acquainted with any system but his. Henceforth, during a period of some centuries, the whole philosophic movement is determined by the interaction of these two fundamental forces. The first effect of their conflict was to impose on Scepticism an important modification, illustrating its essentially parasitic character. We have seen it, as a general tendency of the Greek mind, clinging to the very texture of mythology, accompanying the earliest systematic compilation of facts, aiding the humanistic attacks on physical science, associated with the first great religious reaction, operating as the dialectic of dialectic itself, and finally assuming the form of a shadowy morality, in rivalry with and imitation of ethical systems based on a positive and substantial doctrine. We have now to trace its metamorphosis into a critical system extending its ramifications in parallelism with the immense dogmatic structure of Stoicism, and simultaneously endeavouring to reach the same practical results by a more elastic adaptation144 to the infirmities of human reason and the uncertainties of sensible experience. As such, we shall also have to study its influence over the most plastic of Roman intellects, the great orator in whose writings Greek philosophy was reclothed with something of its ancient charm, so that many who were debarred from admission to the groves and porticoes of Athens have caught an echo of the high debates which once stirred their recesses, as they trod the shady slopes of Tusculum under his visionary guidance, or followed his searching eyes over the blue waters to Pompeii, while he reasoned on mind and its object, on sense and knowledge, on doubt and certainty, with Lucullus and Hortensius, on the sunlight Baian shore. It is the history of the New Academy that we shall now proceed to trace.

    And so, with the dissolution of our bodily organism, the music of consciousness would pass away for ever. Perhaps no form of psychology taught in the Greek schools has approached nearer to modern thought than this. It was professed at Thebes by two Pythagoreans, Cebes and Simmias, in the time of Plato. He rightly regarded them as formidable opponents, for they were ready to grant whatever he claimed for the soul in the way of immateriality and superiority to the body, while denying the possibility of its separate existence. We may so far anticipate the course of our exposition as to mention that the direct argument by which he met them was a reference to the moving power of mind, and to the constraint exercised by reason over passionate impulse; characteristics which the analogy with a musical harmony failed to explain. But his chief reliance was on an order of considerations, the historical genesis of which we shall now proceed to trace.One symptom of this reaction was the fashionable archaism of the Augustan age, the tendency to despise whatever was new in literature, and to exalt whatever was old. It is well known how feelingly Horace complains of a movement which was used to damage his own reputation as a poet;309 but what seems to have escaped observation is, that this protest against the literary archaism of his contemporaries is only one symptom of a much profounder division between his philosophy and theirs. He was just as good a patriot as they were, but his sympathies were with the Hellenising aristocracy to which Lucretius and Cicero had belonged, not with the narrow-minded conservatism of the middle classes and the country people. He was a man of progress and free-thought, who accepted the empire for what it might be worth, a Roman Prosper Merimée or Sainte-Beuve, whose preference of order to anarchy did not involve any respect for superstitious beliefs simply because they were supported by authority. And this healthy common sense is so much a part of his character, that he sometimes gives his mistresses the benefit of it, warning Leuconoe against the Babylonian soothsayers, and telling202 Phidyle that the gods should be approached not only with sacrifices but with clean hands.310 Yet so strong was the spirit of the age, that the sceptical poet occasionally feels himself obliged to second or to applaud the work of restoration undertaken by Augustus, and to augur from it, with more or less sincerity, a reformation in private life.311 And even the frivolous Ovid may be supposed to have had the same object in view when composing his Fasti.

    Even in his much-admired criticisms on the actually existing types of government our philosopher shows practical weakness and vacillation of character. There is a good word for them all—for monarchy, for aristocracy, for middle-class rule, and even for pure democracy.183 The fifth book, treating of297 political revolutions, is unquestionably the ablest and most interesting in the whole work; but when Aristotle quits the domain of natural history for that of practical suggestions, with a view to obviate the dangers pointed out, he can think of nothing better than the old advice—to be moderate, even where the constitutions which moderation is to preserve are by their very nature so excessive that their readjustment and equilibration would be equivalent to their destruction. And in fact, Aristotle’s proposals amount to this—that government by the middle class should be established wherever the ideal aristocracy of education is impracticable; or else a government in which the class interests of rich and poor should be so nicely balanced as to obviate the danger of oligarchic or democratic injustice. His error lay in not perceiving that the only possible means of securing such a happy mean was to break through the narrow circle of Greek city life; to continue the process which had united families into villages, and villages into towns; to confederate groups of cities into larger298 states; and so, by striking an average of different inequalities, to minimise the risk of those incessant revolutions which had hitherto secured the temporary triumph of alternate factions at the expense of their common interest. And, in fact, the spontaneous process of aggregation, which Aristotle did not foresee, has alone sufficed to remedy the evils which he saw, but could not devise any effectual means of curing, and at the same time has bred new evils of which his diagnosis naturally took no account.

    Finally, while the attempt to attain extreme accuracy of definition was leading to the destruction of all thought and all reality within the Socratic school, the dialectic method had been taken up and parodied in a very coarse style by a class of persons called Eristics. These men had, to some extent, usurped the place of the elder Sophists as paid instructors of youth; but their only accomplishment was to upset every possible assertion by a series of verbal juggles. One of their favourite paradoxes was to deny the reality of falsehood on the Parmenidean principle that ‘nothing cannot exist.’ Plato satirises their method in the Euthydêmus, and makes a much more serious attempt to meet it in the Sophist; two Dialogues which seem to have been composed not far from one another.156 The Sophist effects a considerable simplification in the ideal theory by resolving negation into difference, and altogether omitting the notions of unity and plurality,—perhaps as a result of the investiga265tions contained in the Parmenides, another dialogue belonging to the same group, where the couple referred to are analysed with great minuteness, and are shown to be infected with numerous self-contradictions. The remaining five ideas of Existence, Sameness, Difference, Rest, and Motion, are allowed to stand; but the fact of their inseparable connexion is brought out with great force and clearness. The enquiry is one of considerable interest, including, as it does, the earliest known analysis of predication, and forming an indispensable link in the transition from Platonic to Aristotelian logic—that is to say, from the theory of definition and classification to the theory of syllogism.

    On examining the apologue of Prodicus, we find it characterised by a somewhat similar style of reasoning. There is, it is true, no reference to physical phenomena, but Virtue dwells strongly on the truth that nothing can be had for nothing, and that pleasure must either be purchased by toil or atoned for by languor, satiety, and premature decay.81 We know also that the Cynical school, as represented by Antisthenês, rejected all pleasure on the ground that it was always paid for by an equal amount of pain; and Heraclês, the Prodicean type of a youth who follows virtue in preference to vice disguised as happiness, was also the favourite hero of the Cynics. Again, Plato alludes, in the Philêbus, to certain thinkers, reputed to be ‘great on the subject of physics,’ who deny the very existence of pleasure. Critics have been at a loss to identify these persons, and rather reluctantly put up with the explanation that Antisthenês and his school are referred to. Antisthenês was a friend of Prodicus, and may at one time have shared in his scientific studies, thus giving occasion to the association touched on by Plato. But is it not equally possible that Prodicus left behind disciples who, like him, combined moral with physical teaching; and, going a little further, may we not conjecture that their opposition to Hedonism was inherited from the master himself, who, like the Stoics afterwards, may have based it on an application of physical reasoning to ethics?

    With regard to the propagation of the race, Plato’s methods are avowedly borrowed from those practised by bird-fanciers, horse-trainers, and cattle-breeders. It had long been a Greek custom to compare the people to a flock of sheep and their ruler to a shepherd, phrases which still survive in ecclesiastical parlance. Socrates habitually employed the same simile in his political discussions; and the rhetoricians used it as a justification of the governors who enriched themselves at the expense of those committed to their charge. Plato twisted the argument out of their hands and showed that the shepherd, as such, studies nothing but the good of his sheep. He failed to perceive that the parallel could not be carried out in every detail, and that, quite apart from more elevated considerations, the system which secures a healthy progeny in the one case cannot be transferred to creatures possessing a vastly more complex and delicate organisation. The destruction of sickly and deformed children could only be justified on the hypothesis that none but physical qualities were of any value to the community. Our philosopher forgets his own distinction between soul and body just when he most needed to remember it.

    The same, in self-same place, and by itself

    The glowing enthusiasm of Plato is, however, not entirely derived from the poetic traditions of his native city; or perhaps we should rather say that he and the great writers who preceded him drew from a common fount of inspiration. Mr. Emerson, in one of the most penetrating criticisms ever written on our philosopher,129 has pointed out the existence of two distinct elements in the Platonic Dialogues—one dispersive, practical, prosaic; the other mystical, absorbing, centripetal. The American scholar is, however, as we think, quite mistaken when he attributes the second of these tendencies to Asiatic influence. It is extremely doubtful whether Plato ever travelled farther east than Egypt; it is probable that his stay in that country was not of long duration; and it is certain that he did not acquire a single metaphysical idea from its inhabitants. He liked their rigid conservatism; he liked their institution of a dominant priesthood; he liked their system of popular education, and the place which it gave to mathematics made him look with shame on the ‘swinish ignorance’ of his own countrymen in that respect;130 but on the whole he classes them among the races exclusively devoted to money-making, and in aptitude for philosophy he places them far below the Greeks. Very different were the impressions brought home from his visits to Sicily and204 Southern Italy. There he became acquainted with modes of thought in which the search after hidden resemblances and analogies was a predominant passion; there the existence of a central unity underlying all phenomena was maintained, as against sense and common opinion, with the intensity of a religious creed; there alone speculation was clothed in poetic language; there first had an attempt been made to carry thought into life by associating it with a reform of manners and beliefs. There, too, the arts of dance and song had assumed a more orderly and solemn aspect; the chorus received its final constitution from a Sicilian master; and the loftiest strains of Greek lyric poetry were composed for recitation in the streets of Sicilian cities or at the courts of Sicilian kings. Then, with the rise of rhetoric, Greek prose was elaborated by Sicilian teachers into a sort of rhythmical composition, combining rich imagery with studied harmonies and contrasts of sense and sound. And as the hold of Asiatic civilisation on eastern Hellas grew weaker, the attention of her foremost spirits was more and more attracted to this new region of wonder and romance. The stream of colonisation set thither in a steady flow; the scenes of mythical adventure were rediscovered in Western waters; and it was imagined that, by grasping the resources of Sicily, an empire extending over the whole Mediterranean might be won. Perhaps, without being too fanciful, we may trace a likeness between the daring schemes of Alcibiades and the more remote but not more visionary kingdom suggested by an analogous inspiration to the idealising soul of Plato. Each had learned to practise, although for far different purposes, the royal art of Socrates—the mastery over men’s minds acquired by a close study of their interests, passions, and beliefs. But the ambition of the one defeated his own aim, to the destruction of his country and of himself; while the other drew into Athenian thought whatever of Western force and fervour was needed for the accomplishment of its205 imperial task. We may say of Plato what he has said of his own Theaetêtus, that ‘he moves surely and smoothly and successfully in the path of knowledge and inquiry; always making progress like the noiseless flow of a river of oil’;131 but everywhere beside or beneath that placid lubricating flow we may trace the action of another current, where still sparkles, fresh and clear as at first, the fiery Sicilian wine.

    Institute of Plasma Physics, Hefei Institutes of Physical Science (ASIPP, HFIPS) undertakes the procurement package of superconducting conductors, correction coil, superconducting feeder, power supply and diagnosis, accounting for nearly 80% of China's ITER procurement package.

    "I am so proud of our team and it’s a great pleasure for me working here," said BAO Liman, an engineer from ASIPP, HFIPS, who was invited to sit near Chinese National flay on the podium at the kick-off ceremony to represent Chinese team. BAO, with some 30 ASIPP engineers, has been working in ITER Tokamak department for more than ten years. Due to the suspended international traveling by COVID-19, most of the Chinese people who are engaged in ITER construction celebrated this important moment at home through live broadcasting.

    One of ASIPP’s undertakes, the number 6 poloidal field superconducting coil (or PF6 coil) , the heaviest superconducting coil in the world, was completed last year, and arrived at ITER site this June. PF6 timely manufacturing and delivery made a solid foundation for ITER sub-assembly, it will be installed at the bottom of the ITER cryostat.

    Last year, a China-France Consortium in which ASIPP takes a part has won the bid of the first ITER Tokamak Assembly task, TAC-1, a core and important part of the ITER Tokamak assembly.

    Exactly as Bernard BIGOT, Director-General of ITER Organization, commented at a press conference after the ceremony, Chinese team was highly regarded for what they have done to ITER project with excellent completion of procurement package.


    The kick-off ceremony for ITER assembly (Image by Pierre Genevier-Tarel-ITER Organization) 


    the number 6 poloidal field superconducting coil (Image by ASIPP, HFIPS) 


    ITER-TAC1 Contract Signing Ceremony (Image by ASIPP, HFIPS)

    World dignitaries celebrate a collaborative achievement

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