D. I. Pisarev

Plato’s Idealism

(A review of the philosophical activities
of Socrates and Plato, after Zeller; [1]
compiled by Klevanov [2])

There exist such privileged personages whose names enjoy a special popularity which is often undeserved and not always flattering. Their names are to be met in textbooks, in collections of anecdotes for children and even in copy-book maxims. From frequent use of his name, the real character of such a man becomes somewhat blurred, giving place to a kind of conventional concept. He comes to stand for a type or personify some particular quality attributed to him in a remarkable or even impossible degree. Who in his early years did not imagine Bayard [3] as representing knightliness, although Bayard lived in times when chivalry was already an anachronism, especially in France? Who has not seen in Henry IV of France the embodiment of mildness and artless good-nature? Who has not looked upon Plato, Socrates and Seneca as luminaries who incarnated all the wisdom of the Greeks and the Romans? These lights of the world, these paragons of virtue, are glorified in textbooks, in which you will find nothing about them except cries of admiration, colourless and rhetorical in greater or lesser degree.

Though they do not imitate such unfounded textbook forthrightness, many serious studies share with the textbooks their obsequious attitude towards these exclusive personages. Dazzled by the lustre of a name with twenty centuries of fame behind it, scholars, especially in Germany, blunt the edge of their criticism in dealing with such personages, humbly lower their eyes and limit themselves to the role of respectflul and conscientious exponents. They are obviously weighed down by the authority of school and tradition. In any history



of Greek Philosophy, it is customary to speak with some condescension of the Eleatic school, of Pythagoras and Anaxagoras, [4] make mention of the Sophists with indignation, be moved by the personality and fate of Socrates, bow low to Plato with his Demiurge and his ideas, call Aristotle his great disciple, one so often unfair to his great teacher, and then abuse Epicurus, make mock of the Sceptics and voice virtuous sympathy for the lofty qualities of the Stoics.

All this is the accepted thing, demanded by the interests of morality, which is so jealously guarded by many would-be cognoscenti and by many genuine enthusiasts in the spacious but not always grateful field of science. These moral sentiments, which for close on two thousand years have been cited in books and manuscripts often have no bearing on problems of practical morals, have placed Socrates and Plato on that inaccessible pedestal from which I will not even attempt to remove them. Let them stand on these pedestals, but only higher and farther away from us. Let their ideas be venerated as a shrine that cannot be understood by or is unsuited to our frivolous and immoral age and generation. Let their lofty idealism he held up to reverence by the select few, and let these select few spurn the vulgar mob that the fashionable Horace [5] looks upon with such disdain, but with whom we willingly mingle and would have our reader mingle too.

This is not in jest. It seems to me that, in its very choice of subject, Mr. Klevanov’s book may be considered a highly useless, or perhaps a uselessly lofty, attempt to make popular that which cannot and should not be popular. He who would write for the general reading public should go over his field in the light of a healthy and original criticism, tackle the problem in bold literary fashion, make his own opinion public and say something that is living and sincere, though the subject be dead or petrified by time. As for the specialists, those who march in the van of society, they will hardly consider a rehashing of Zeller a precious acquisition. Specialists are an obstinate race and given to doubt; they prefer to get at the original sources and do their own spade-work.

The dialectic subtleties that fill the greater part of Mr Klevanov’s book are too refined for the public, too colourless and


inane, too removed from common sense; for the specialist they lack the charm of novelty. In one respect only could Mr. Klevanov have given his work a fresh colouring and a living pulse: he might have shown how Plato and Socrates looked upon practical activities, problems of social life, and the interests of the people, the individual and the state. He might have dwelt on the practical consequences of idealism and, with sober criticism, weighed the specific nature of the influence exerted by that idealism on the individual and on relations between people in the family and the state. This Mr. Klevanov has not done. He has not done so because he is weighed down by two authorities—Plato and Zeller. For a proper discussion of the problems mentioned above, whether from the present-day or simply the human point of view, one has to venture to think independently, and that kind of boldness is not very popular nowadays.

The shades of Plato and Socrates evoke Mr. Klevanov’s pious awe; he cannot make up his mind to allow the least departure from the letter of Zeller’s exposition. ln these conditions, it is hard to say anything original about idealism, firstly because borrowed thoughts always become cold and arid during the transfer, and secondly because Zeller, being a German scholar, examines Plato in a spirit of admiration of the system’s beauty and logic, without the least regard for the measure of its inner sufficiency and practical use.

German scholars and critics use a method which may be very honest, if often quixotism: they take an opponent’s point of view and fight that opponent with the latter’s own weapons. This is a good way to reveal inconsistency, but it will not show up an absence of practicalness, because each man has his own idea of a practical life, this depending on his temperament, his standing in life, and the degree and conditions of his development. I think that a critic may follow another path; he need not demand of himself a full and dispassionate objectiveness, or artificially assume another’s point of view; he may fully remain himself, with his living convictions and clearly defined and quite unconcealed likes and dislikes. He may present to the


reader the essence of the thoughts he is discussing, then develop his own ideas, show wherein they coincide or differ, defend his platform against all objections and attacks that may enter the reader’s mind, and finally leave it to the reader himself to make the choice between the author and the subject of his review.

Du choc des opinions jaillit la verité, runs the well-known French saying. If this is true then objectiveness cannot always be considered a great virtue in the critic. It would be hard to be more subjective than Macaulay, [6] yet nobody will reproach the celebrated historian either for partiality or for narrow prejudice. Under his pen, people come to life and give a full account of their actions, thoughts and motives; the reader is witness of a majestic process, in which a keen and intelligent Englishman, public speaker and parliamentarian, is counsel now for the prosecution, now for the defence of the figure under discussion, his stand depending upon the urge of his conscience or his convictions. Besides the historical personage being described and analyzed, the reader sees the critic before him, sees the changing expressions on the keen and sensitive face, hears in his diction now sympathy, now indignation, now irony, now inspiration—emotions and attitudes evoked in any energetic man by the various phenomena of life and human thought. An excess of enthusiasm may, of course, impair the clarity of the critic’s sight, but that cannot happen if he is gifted.

A man in whom the critical faculty preponderates over the creative, one who is more critic than artist in temperament, will not, even at moments of enthusiasm, indulge in fanciful thinking. At moments when the breast breathes more deeply and the heart beats faster, the brain too works more rapidly, the thoughts pour forth more boldly and originally, and the analytical mind’s close control over this accelerated activity proves just as fruitless as is laborious polishing of lyrical strains that have gushed from the soul of a genuine poet at a moment of genuine emotion. Talent always has its own visage which it cannot renounce easily; it will leave its impression on whatever it writes, whether it is a work of fiction or a critical


study, and will not strive towards artificial equanimity or deliberate objectiveness.

In speaking of Plato, any intelligent man understands that we cannot demand of him what might be expected of any present-day university student; nobody would think of comparing him even to any present-day obscurantist or reproach him with the childishness of many of his political views and tendencies; but, begging your pardon, while recognizing him as a son of his people and his time, we cannot regard his moral and political theories with respectful and passionless courtesy. The subject is of concern to all, since in his studies Plato deals with standing problems, such as each generation of mankind is called upon to solve and resolve in its own way.

It is only the unpractical book-learning of the esteemed Herr Zeller or the praiseworthy modesty of his assiduous disciple Mr. Klevanov that can remain absolutely indifferent to such problems. The reverence paid to Plato in Mr. Klevanov’s book is not backed up by any warm feeling. Each page is full of protestations of esteem for Plato, but displays none of that ardour with which a flesh and blood man always voices his cherished thoughts and convictions. Mr. Klevanov’s language is everywhere smooth, even and methodical; each thought develops from the preceding, and the exposition is clear, correct, sluggish and wearying.

From now on, I need make no further mention of Mr. Klevanov in the present article; he follows faithfully in Zeller’s footsteps and presents an exposition of Plato without any analysis or real sympathy. From the general tone of the exposition, it may be surmised that Mr. Klevanov is an idealist, but a further discussion is of such little interest that we prefer to go over to Plato himself.

What stands out so prominently in this Greek philosopher is his poetical endowment, i.e., a rich imagination and an immense urge to creativity. With a sensitiveness innate in poets, Plato responded with all his life and activities to the most burning problem of the time as incarnated in the person of Socrates, and, indeed, the latter’s cause was so resplendent and majestic to the view that it was difficult not to be drawn to it. A man of humble origin and plain looks, with


no wealth and little learning, Socrates undertook to become a teacher of morals to a whole people, tried to infuse life into the exhausted national consciousness and by the ineluctable sincerity of his convictions overcame he most celebrated dialecticians of his time, won over the most gifted among the youth, and ultimately fell victim to the forces of reaction, maintaining an unshakeable firmness and a calm presence of mind till the end.

Even the most modern of critics, who are prepared to wield the bistoury [sic] in dissecting Socrates’ philosophical system, are disarmed by the circumstances of his death. This philosophy, many say, must be good, because it sustained him in his last moments; his martyrdom, many say, laid the impress of his teaching upon the human mind. This argument will prove cogent if we unreservedly accept Socrates’ thesis that knowledge of the truth and the performance of good deeds mean one and the same thing. We shall, however, not make this mistake and shall be able to separate the province of volition from that of knowledge. Socrates died like a man because he was a man and not because the theses of his philosophy sustained him during his last moments. Varying impressions are produced on different people by one and the same idea; people with different inclinations and ambitions are produced by one and the same school; man is not an empty bottle to be filled with any kind liquid [sic]. Socrates’ death is a reflection only of his personality, and says nothing for or against his teaching. His death proves that he was no phrase-monger, but does not prove that he could not be mistaken in theory or in life. The facts bear out my opinion that Socrates’ honesty and steadfastness were qualities of his personality, not of his teaching.

Among Socrates’ friends and disciples were Alcibiades and Critias, [7] the latter one of the Thirty Tyrants and leader of the Oligarchs, a man whose very name was justly hated by his contemporaries and fellow-citizens. Neither Alcibiades nor Critias was noted for political integrity or steadfastness of conviction, so that it can be seen that Socrates’ teaching was powerless to improve morals or reform a man’s nature. Nevertheless, for Plato Socrates’ personality could not but be


the finest recommendation of his teaching. Plato fell under the spell of Socrates’ personality and became his devoted proselyte, the more so that Socrates’ philosophy provided ample opportunity for play of the imagination and creative thought.

Plato’s poetical genius received a decisive impulse from Socrates and he began his creative activities in the direction indicated by his beloved teacher. There was nothing reprehensible about this, though it might be regretted that the poet abandoned the balmy domain of pictures and images for the elevated but frigid sphere of abstract thought. The beauty Plato aspired towards as an artist began to visit him stripped of external form, or, more correctly, he himself tried to strip it of form, penetrate into its general essence and perceive it in a completely abstract sense. What began was a striving towards the ideal, that is to say, a phantom, hallucinations. The richness of life, the tangible reality of matter, the play of line and colour, the multi-coloured variety of phenomena—all things that make our life full and rich—seemed to Plato an evil, a screen that served to hide the truth of the world, like a beautiful maiden in an enchanted tower, a beauty that was incorruptible, immutable and everlasting.

These fantasies were magnified by an ardent imagination. Plato’s hallucinations developed to such a degree that he came to believe that ideas actually exist independently of phenomena; idealism thereby soared to such a pitch of fancifulness and, at the same time, achieved so complete a negation of the most elementary evidence of experience as had never been known either before or after Plato. His bold and creative brush painted a picture of the world that was complete, fantastic and majestic. The Demiurge, Idea, the world spirit, the mass of matter with its insentient inertia, the stars and the luminaries, with their own lives and thoughts in boundless space―all these emerged from under Plato’s pen, began to live and breathe, and produced an impression of actual existence, and all because Plato had a profound belief in what he had created, and also because Plato was a great poet like Homer, Dante or Milton.

All of Plato’s physics is a pure product of fantasy, which does not permit a shadow of doubt in the pupil; it is not


grounded in any evidence provided by experience, is developed in and of itself, and is based exclusively on the dialectic elaboration of the idea lying at its root. Platonism is a religion and not a philosophy, which accounts for its tremendous success during the mystic period of the decline of paganism. That is why it was preserved and nurtured by Byzantine scholars, transmitted to Italy and Europe during the Renaissance, placed on an unshakeable pedestal, and exists to this day under various designations.

Those who have no creative power of their own usually adhere to the fantasies of others and become their partisans. Compared to numerous fantasies of the same kind, Plato’s fantasy is marked by soaring thought and bold conception of the whole picture, so that it is not surprising that his ideas were eagerly adhered to by many mystics with developed minds and delicacy of aesthetic feeling. Plato believed in what his fantasy had created, considering it the indisputable truth, and never took a critical attitude towards it. Any moment of doubt, or any sober glance could destroy all the enchantment and dispel the whole vivid and splendid hallucination. This fatal moment never came, all of Plato’s works bearing the imprint of the most fantastic and at the same time most calm belief in the infallibility of his ideas and the reality of the phantoms they had brought forth. Confidence in oneself goes hand in glove with intellectual intolerance, and intellectual intolerance only waits for any opportunity to institute persecution of dissidents. While Plato remained in the sphere of abstract thought or, more precisely, free invention, he was a pure poet. When he entered the sphere of the existent, he became a doctrinaire.

How do you like, for instance, Plato’s concept of love! In his dialogue Symposium he defines love as a striving of finite creatures to immortalize and prolong themselves in constantly new generations. In his opinion, the primary degree of love is love of beautiful, sensual forms; the second is love of beautiful souls; the third and highest degree is love of the arts and ultimately, as the crown of the whole, love of Idea, which gives birth to genuine cognition and genuine virtue (page 128). It stands to reason that a man who arrived at


this highest quintessence of love should find no place for love of woman; consequently, the ultimate aim of normal development was to be the moral emasculation of mankind for the sake of an idea. This is the wonderful result arrived at by a doctrinarian desire to introduce a general and artifical idea into all the living phenomena and functions of life. Plato’s doctrinarianism runs counter to reality and even to his own experience of life. As an artist Plato was highly sensitive to plastic beauty; as a strong and healthy male who grew up under the skies of flowering Greece, he had no intention of checking his erotic urges, and his love of ideas did not prevent him from indulging in indiscriminate love of women, thus rendering tribute to the epoch and the people. . . . But the evil was done: the seed of ascetism and hostility to matter had been cast; under the Roman Empire it burgeoned into the teachings of the Neo-Pythagoreans [8] and the Neo-Platonists, and, rooted in Plato, brought mankind an abundant crop of self-imposed delusions and senseless self-castigation. Those who were not poets as Plato was, demanded consistency of themselves and suffered from the conflict between idea and life, since they failed to realize that idea stems from life and that life does not follow a set pattern. For such people there arose the necessity of struggling against themselves, and their finest efforts were squandered on sterile moral gymnastics, on a desperate remoulding of self, the eradication of passions and the levelling-out of the most individual and vital features of their make-up. It was this kind of idealism that weighed so heavily on the Rudins and the Chulkaturins [9] of the preceding generation; it produced our congenital carpers and petty Hamlets, people of limited intellect but unbounded ambition. To derive such people from Plato would be ridiculous, but it should be noted that these flabby and sickly gentlemen suffer from an ailment lauded by Plato as mankind’s finest quality and the only distinction between man and beast.

Plato’s moral teaching is pervaded by his doctrinarianism. Just as in his physics, he pays no heed to that which is provided by life. He does not make a study of the strivings natural in man, and why should he do so? The absolute truth in which the poet-thinker believes with all his soul lies not in


phenomena but somewhere beyond them high and far-off in spheres that can be reached only by a flight of fervid imagination, but never by critical examination based on the study of the facts. Plato considers himself in full possession of this precious but imponderable truth. He asserts, it is true, that “in this life it is impossible for the soul to achieve a fully pure view with regard to the truthˮ (page 141), but this statement does not lead to the conclusions that might be expected; it is evident that it has not penetrated very deeply into Plato’s mind. He allows that death may open up a wider world of knowledge to his soul, but there is no evidence to show that he has realized the insufficiency of his ready capital or that he doubts the correctness of his ideas. What he knows or has produced through his creative imagination seems absolutely correct to him and permits of no verification. In consequence, Plato lays down in his moral philosophy: this is what should be thought; that is how one should act; that is what should be aspired towards. These orders are issued to mankind from the eminence of philosophical thought, permit neither comment nor objections, and call for complete obedience. Traits of national character and the basic qualities of human nature rise up against these mandates, but this in no-wise embarrasses the proud thinker who stands enraptured in contemplation of his brain-child.

Everything that is not in accord with these instructions is considered false, adventitious, unlawful and damaging to the general welfare of mankind. Who has created this concept of the common weal, it may be asked? Plato, G.O.C. Army of Philosophy, I will reply, and poor mankind, protected by his ceaseless labours, has no voice in a matter which is dubbed its common weal. Any human activity, according to Plato, should be directed towards the good; all men must strive towards the good since possession of goodness means felicity (page 209).

The good or weal is an extremely broad concept, one that may be expanded ad infinitum: to the starving, a crust of bread is the supreme blessing; to one in love, the gracious glance of the woman he loves; to the civil servant, it is consideration coming from his superior, or promotion and a decoration; to the poet, a moment of inspiration, and so on and


so forth. All these gentlemen are right from their own point of view, and if we look with irony on certain human aspirations and speak with esteem of others, we do so merely because we stand closer to certain of them, can understand them better and can sympathize more fully with them. If one gourmet likes to have sherry at dinner and another prefers port, there will hardly be a critic in the world able to prove conclusively that one of the two is right and the other wrong. Logically speaking, it is feasible that Mr. A’s preference for sherry and Mr. B’s for port come either from physiological causes, i.e., from the peculiarities of the palate, throat or stomach, or from historical causes, i.e., from acquired habit. Mr. A’s penchant for sherry and Mr. B’s for port may subject these gentlemen to various trials and troubles. If Mr. A finds himself in the company of port lovers, his taste may be found strange—our society is incapable of respect for the opinion of others—or even reprehensible; people about him will shrug their shoulders, and he will be looked upon with surprise. Further, if Mr. A happens to find himself in some small provincial town in which there is no drinkable sherry, he will be faced by the sad necessity of choosing between giving up his favourite beverage and taking some other wine, or remaining true to himself and stand up to the trial with becoming fortitude. In Mr. A’s predicament, some will follow one path, some the other, but I venture to suggest that neither side will be held up to public praise or contumely because of the choice made. The trouble is that, when it is a matter of choosing between sherry and port, we remain cool and calm, and argue with simplicity, common sense and a certain skill, though our command of the dialectic method is unconscious. When it is a matter of lofty problems, we at once assume a sour countenance, become stilted and begin to speak in a high vein, following the aesthetic rules of the last century. We will allow a fellow-man to follow his own taste with regard to his dessert or an hors d’oeuvres, but heaven forfend his voicing an independent opinion on morality or, still worse and deserving punishment through “stoningˮ [10] to death, be it with many stones or but one stone, his putting his ideas into practice even within the privacy of his home. If the matter is considered in the light


of common sense, we are entitled to demand of our neighbour only that he should not harm our person by physical violence, damage our property or acquire it by dishonest means.

We are, of course, entitled to pass opinion on his behaviour, in excess of the three cases mentioned, because, l think, there is nothing in the world that cannot be made the subject of talk or critical analysis. But, in discussing the person or behaviour of our neighbour, we should remember, if we desire to be logical, that our judgement of his morality has the same absolute significance as, for instance, his opinion that brunettes are prettier than blondes, or vice versa. It is time to realize, gentlemen, that common ideals have as little right to existence as common eyeglasses or common boots made to one measure and on the same last. If you take to wearing another man’s glasses, you will ruin your sight; if you walk, say, five versts* in another man’s boots you will ruin your feet; if you place on your back a knapsack of alien convictions you will stumble under this unnatural load, get worn out by the necessity of adjusting the load and tying the knapsack more comfortably to your back, but it will all end up by the knapsack falling to the ground and getting lost somewhere on the dusty road. It is often very hard to restore strength that has been expended, but it is impossible to return time that has been wasted. The vigour of early youth and confidence in oneself always fall together with the knapsack of ideals, and get lost in the dust of the highway.

It should at last be realized that an ideal is not even an abstract concept, but simply a semblance of another person. Any ideal has its author, in the same way as any folk-song has not only its homeland but even its originator. To discover the name of either of these is always very difficult and, in most cases, quite impossible, but when a moral portrait is made of a certain person—a portrait sometimes flattering, sometimes disparaging—an ideal is suited only to the original or to those who fully resemble him in temperament, station or inner force. It is hard to find two persons with complete facial resemblance; complete moral similarity between two per-

* Verst—3,500 feet.—Tr.


sons who have developed independently of each other is a rarity which, I think, has not been met in the history of mankind. There are many colourless and depersonalized individuals, such that have been crushed by circumstances, moulded to one pattern by social discipline or polished to a single likeness by the despotism of fashion or etiquette. To the glance, they all seem alike in face, voice and manners; in such society, the least originality in the way of life, the style of hair or in clothes will seem audacity, defiance of the law and a challenge to morals. A real man will look upon such society with compassion; why, he will ask, should these gentlemen observe, of their own free will, artificial laws which impose hardship on each individual? This question will, l think, seem sensible to you, and yet all these gentlemen who circumscribe their personal liberty in pursuance of invented or inherited laws, are idealists down to the last man, though many of them have never heard the word.

Our world of fashion, our beau monde, is thronged with idealists who consciously or otherwise strive to achieve abstract perfection. Un jeune homme comme il faut, une jeune personne charmante—these are laudatory appellations bestowed by society for zealous observation of its code and, at the same time, are the designation of two ideals that are striven towards, in accordance with their sex, by many young people endowed with the strength of youth and capable of development. These young people perish in the moral sense, turn petty and wither away, because they try to follow up their ideal by destroying what personality they possess or those seeds which, under favourable conditions, might have produced independent individuality. Many marriages of convenience, many tricks of guile and duels take place not for the satisfaction of this or that passion, but because of some ideal or fear of public opinion which stands rampant at the foot of an idol it has created. “That is done,” “that is not done”—such are the formulas mostly used to settle problems of everyday life. It is a rarity to hear an outspoken and honest statement: “That is what I want; I don’t want that,ˮ though everybody has the right, within reason, to pronounce such words when it is a question of his private interests. What is done or what is not


done means, in so many words, what is or is not in accordance with the fashionable ideal; consequently, idealism presses down on society and by fettering the forces of the individual, hampers reasonable and all-round development.

When I reject a common ideal, I do not in the least reject the necessity and lawfulness of self-perfection. Personally, I do not consider that it is man’s duty to strive towards perfection. To call that a duty is as ridiculous as saying that it is incumbent upon man to breathe and eat, grow upwards and fill out sideways. Self-perfection is as natural and involuntary as are the processes of respiration, blood-circulation and digestion. Whatever you engage in, you acquire greater technique, habit and experience with the passage of each day. This takes place quite unconsciously and independently of desire, this rule being applicable not only to any trade or handicraft, but to life itself. Despite all differences in wealth, education and social station, we all live with our thoughts and feelings, though our thoughts deal with the most varying interests, and our emotions are evoked by the greatest variety of causes. We all receive and absorb impressions, and the longer we live, the greater the skill we acquire in this occupation. The existence of everyday experience is not to be doubted; it is recognized and respected by the literate and the illiterate, the educated European and the Australian savage. This experience is the result of self-perfection, and the process of its acquisition is a non-conscious, purely vegetative development of the mind, a process that can meet with fortuitous aid or fortuitous hindrances from the environment, just in the same way as the digestive process may be impaired by unwholesome food or restored by exercise and abstinence.

Observations of man’s nature, systematized to form a collective science known as medicine, tell us which things and functions harm the human organism and which are beneficial. Following the instructions of science, any man can live a regular life, which will conserve his forces and foster his physical well-being. However, no medical man worthy of the name will prescribe a common or general hygiene to all his patients: he will make a point of first studying the temperament of each of them and will then arrange his instructions


in accordance with the material gathered. As a rule, people in educated society think more of themselves than common people do, partly because they have greater means and leisure, and partly because education develops and fortifies the mind.

The educated class show more concern for their health than common people do, use artificial methods to maintain it, and try to preclude any possible disorder by recourse to various precautions. The same kind of hygienic measures for the protection and development of his intellectual faculties and his moral advancement are taken by a man who is cognizant of his being an intellectual entity and is concerned with the normal functioning of his mind. For instance, I have arrived at a realization that I have the ambition and the ability to engage in scientific pursuits; following the prompting of this urge, I begin an intense course of reading in philosophy and history. Surely I shall not make T. Granovsky or P. Kudryavtsev my ideals, as Bersenev [11] does, or try to emulate Macaulay, Niebhur, Thierry or Guizot, however high my regard for these great thinkers. I shall not set any goal before myself, nor any preconceived idea; I do not know what results I shall arrive at, and I do not in the least worry about what I shall achieve in life. I am interested in the process of doing what I have mapped out for myself. Since I see that this does not cause the least inconvenience to anybody, I have reason to consider myself in the right towards myself and the world at large. I do my work and try to make it easier, or—which is the same—to derive the greatest possible enjoyment from each and any effort. This, as I see it, is the Alpha and Omega of any reasonable human activity. The process of intellectual development and moral improvement allows the application of certain methods of hygiene, but, of course, one and the same method cannot be used with even two individuals. These methods certainly do not consist in adapting the individual to a given model; based on a study of the individual, these methods tend merely to give greater scope to that individual’s forces and aspirations.

To emancipate one’s individuality is not so easy and simple as might appear; we are full of intellectual prejudices and moral timidity, which hamper our desiring, thinking and act-


ing freely of our own free will we hem ourselves in by our own influence on our individuality. To escape this influence and live following our own inclinations and pleasure, we require a considerable amount of natural or acquired strength, for the development of which we must go through a whole course of moral hygiene. The latter ends not in man’s approaching the ideal, but in his becoming an individual, winning the reasonable right and realizing the blessed necessity of being himself. I shall shun the company of inane people, which can lead to no good, for the same reason that I avoid standing near an open window when I have a toothache, but I shall not elevate this act to the rank of a virtue or find it necessary for others to follow my example. I think that I have sufficiently shown the difference between aspiring toward the ideal and the process of moral self-perfection. It is probable that I have said nothing new, but I think that any independent conviction is entitled to express itself in words, even if it has been professed by hundreds of people in the course of decades and centuries. Besides, the problem of idealism will continue to live as long as there exist mystical theories and unpractical strivings, so that an elucidation of this problem, however weak and superficial, cannot now be superfluous or untimely.

To return to Plato’s moral philosophy. As I have already said, the good, in Plato’s opinion, should be the purpose of man’s activities and a source of the greatest enjoyment. With him, the concept of goodness exists as an absolute idea and is not made to depend in the least degree on the personality or status of the perceptive subject. No proof is needed to show that this independent and absolute concept of the good is in fact a child of Plato’s brain; a man thinks with his own brain in the same way as he digests food only with his stomach or breathes with his lungs. It is a curious thing that, while he enjoined on all mankind the duty of rendering service to the good, Plato himself did not establish for himself his own conception of the essence and physiognomy of that good. In his Dialogues Theaetetus and Phaeton, as well as in his treatise on the Republic, he regarded all sensual phenomena as an evil, the human body as a source of strife, and man’s


life as a period of imprisonment in a deep and gloomy cell. Death comes as a moment of release; with this point of view, it remains a mystery why Plato himself did not hasten to bring that desirable moment nearer for himself, why he did not justify suicide in theory and why he sang the praises of the Demiurge, who brought us into this prison-world and is the cause of all our trials and tribulations.

In his other Dialogues, as for instance in Philebus, the highest good is defined as full reconciliation between the sensual and the spiritual, as the harmonious blending of both of these, the fine arts, and especially music, being regarded as means of bringing about this fusion. In Plato’s hostility towards the sensual world, one can discern a mighty mind’s effort to break away from the soil he grew up on. The thinker-poet wished to renounce the national character, the tenor of his environment, and his own flesh and blood. A Greek, a citizen of a free city, a healthy and handsome man, at whose invitation friends and hetaerae would come flocking to the feast, he bent every effort to prove to himself that everything in this world is evil: the flowing cup of wine, the ardent caresses of beautiful women, the fragrance of flowers, the strains of the lyre, sonorous hexameters, and even friendship, which the Greeks considered loftier and purer than love. This attempt to prove to himself and others what is denied by the evidence of the five senses did not spring from any real causes and therefore-does not bear the imprint of sincere inspiration.

As a rule, romanticism arises during periods of suffering and distress, when man feels the need to escape from the facts of life and seek forgetfulness. “I am wretched here,” he seems to say. “I feel stifled and find it hard to breathe. I shall find comfort, at least, in the eternally sunny, calm and balmy atmosphere conjured up by my imagination and impervious to grief and care, and the groans of the suffering.”

A sincere romanticism, one rooted in the soil, came into being during the Roman Empire and developed with special force in the Middle Ages. The principle of negation assumed appalling proportions. All faith in the noble features and impulses of human nature were lost, and a healthy belief in reality yielded place to a belief, one that often developed into


hallucination. in the real existence and irrevealable perfection of the spectral and visionary world of fantasy.

In their works Seneca, Tacitus and Marcus Aurelius [12] gave sincere and forceful expression to their feelings of melancholy, indignation against the age and complete doubt in the future. The neo-Platonists, the Essenes and the Egyptian Therapeutaes, [13] as well as the knights, monks and, in some measure, the troubadours of medieval times, embodied a romantic urge to escape from reality into a better, supersensual world. In all these people romanticism was a requirement of the soul. In Rome after Augustus, [14] a self-respecting man found it hard to live with decency: loathsome crimes were of daily occurrence: treachery, the laying of secret information to the authorities, the use of torture, executions, gladiatorial games, the brutal treatment of slaves and the glorification of moral degenerates and cretins—all these could not but harden the heart of the most good-natured optimist. Thinking people of those times could choose between two alternatives: they could either indulge in the most unbridled licentiousness or escape into the realm of the unfettered imagination, find comfort in its joyous creations and, to achieve these creations, enter into conflict with all reality, beginning with their own bodies. The first of these alternatives was chosen by the Epicureans, tihe second—among others—-by the neo-Platonists. Those endowed with a sober and critical mind could not believe in what had been brought forth by their own imaginations, so that for want of better things, they gave preference to gross but tangible pleasures rather than to more refined but absolutely illusory solace. Epicureanism and neo-Platonism, the loosest sensuality and mortification of the flesh sprang from one and the same historical cause.

The middle course, i. e., the practising of theoretical convictions and the gleaning of ideas from everyday life, became impossible, because the tenor of existence was ordained by the will of a few and subject to accident and violence. This led to two extremes: some turned away from all ideas to find pleasure in the sensual and carnal, while others turned away from life to take refuge in the figments of the brain. Both of these tendencies must be justified as involuntary and natural


departures from the usual order of things. If, however, we consider Plato’s times, we shall find it hard to understand what could have brought about his hostility to the world of physical phenomena. During the Peloponnesian Warl [15] and following its conclusion, there was nothing in the moral or political state of Greece to give a thinker cause for despair or uncompromising censure. Many aspects of Greek life, for instance the existence of slavery and a certain brand of perversion, might have scandalized a man of today, but Plato was not over-critical of them and did not realize their reprehensibility. In his ideal state, the slaves remain slaves, while pervertedness is idealized as an expression of an aesthetic urge, its physical consequences being glossed over.

As is well known, Plato was the author of a plan for an ideal organization of the state and even tried to put his political ideals into practice in the city of Syracuse in Sicily. This leads to the conclusion that he believed in the possibility of happiness on earth and thought the material at hand good enough for the building of a durable and beautiful edifice. How, then, is Plato’s hostility to the world of the senses to be understood? I think it should be taken only as a theoretical conclusion of his mind, one out of sympathy with, and ignored by, the vivid human nature of the poet-thinker. Everything is vile in the material world, says Plato’s doctrine; on the contrary, everything is wonderful and capable of becoming even better, his poetical feeling objects, and this voice of his spontaneous feeling is caught up by the example of his own life, the light tonality of his fantasy and the sensuous vividness that marks even the most abstract of his ideas. The poet-thinker was always in search of an image and clothed his ideas in forms borrowed from the material world, thus showing that this world in no way inspired a feeling of revulsion in him and that a great idea will not lose from contact with a sensual phenomenon.

It was, however, necessary for Plato to indicate the source and possibility of evil, a problem that cannot be evaded in any system of philosophy or any poetical creed. He could hardly attribute evil to the will of the Demiurge, since this


was something that both his common sense and his aesthetic feeling rebelled against.

To impose upon a good and wise being responsibility for all the imperfection and vileness of human life would mean to preclude the possibility of his existence and turn the beautiful system of Plato’s universe upside down. It was impossible, too, to educe evil into a separate idea which could be contrasted with the idea of good. That would have given rise to innumerable and insoluble problems and contradictions. If evil is eternal, then it is natural, and, if it is natural, it is not evil. lf the Demiurge embodies the idea of power and follows the best of motives, he should wish to, and must, destroy evil. If he does not wipe out evil, that must be because he is poweriess to do so. To avoid such contradictions Plato turned to matter and, through dialectic argument, proved that it is the unwilling and unconscious cause of evil. Forced to acknowledge the inert power and eternity of matter, which exists apart from the will of the Demiurge and merely derives its form, from him, Plato arrived at the theoretical conclusion that evil is a property of matter. When he creates some being, the Demiurge places upon matter the seal of some idea, but matter is too coarse to receive the imprint with full clarity and purity; the material offers resistance to the hand of the artist, this involuntary resistance being even embodied under the name of the irrational world-spirit. It is in this resistance that the beginning of evil lies.

It will be seen from the above that Plato’s pessimism did not stem from his immediate feelings and was not caused by the conditions and circumstances of his life; it was the outcome of inference and never affected his character in any great degree. The contradiction into which Plato fell, by almost simultaneously developing two almost diametrically opposed world outlooks, shows one of the most attractive traits of his individuality. It will be seen from this contradiction that the doctrinaire in Plato could not overcome the poet and the man, and the living urges and the living sympathies of his soul came gushing forth despite the dead letter of a written system. However, his doctrine developed along its own lines; as a thinker, Plato drew the final conclusions from his philosophi-


cal system, while as a man he protested in word and deed against what had been evolved by his own intellect. Impressionable, inconstant and mercurial like a true poet, he contradicted himself without noticing the fact or giving thought to how he could in some manner draw together and reconcile two opposing views.

While he was very offanded in his treatment of his own theories, Plato denied this freedom to others, and was highly indignant at the inconsistencies and deviations from the reasonable that existed in private and public life. Incapable of introducing unity even into the world of his own thought, he wished to subordinate all the phenomena of human life to immutable laws and institute a strict regularity and soundness in all relations among people, in the family and the state. A viable development of life was to yield to an immutable and immobile emanation of his creative thought. Plato’s treatise on the Republic was not the fruit of a free play of the fantasy, or a pretty toy, the uselessness and impracticability of which would be realized by the author himself; it was almost a project, and Plato’s fondest hope was to put it into practice. Today, of course, no man with common sense would undertake the task of remodelling society along new lines and making a whole people live in a way that he thought beneficial, and not in the way it has been used to and wishes to follow. In Plato’s times, this task was probably as bootless as it would be today, but it might have seemed much simpler, because the Greek nationality was split up into a number of petty states, so that an orator speaking in an Athens square might be addressing a whole people.

Compared with the entire population, the class of free and enfranchised citizens was small, alone enjoying the power to refashion the state as it thought fit. The minds of such citizens could be swayed by a popular orator or writer. This, of course, could not lead to laws and institutions suggested by one person and not produced by social conditions being able to affect the current of historical life or change its direction at will; it could, however, fill Plato with deceptive hopes, and bring him to believe in the possibility of drawing up and applying projects of state organization.


Till now we have seen Plato as a poet and a doctrinaire. Without sharing his fantastic imaginings, we have had to acknowledge that his creations contain much inspiration, boldness and force of imagination; without sympathizing with his moral principles, we have not been able to deny that they were consistent and orderly. Their consistency was not impaired even by the duality of his views on matter and its relation towards the human mind. As a thinker who was following up a certain idea, Plato arrived at extreme conclusions in a very bold manner; as a living man, he followed a quite different path, thus proving at one and the same time the power of his creative thought, the strength of his physical nature and the impossibility of forcibly adapting life to the narrow framework of preconceived theory.

In a word, the final conclusion may be drawn that Plato is indubitably entitled to our esteem as a powerful mind and a remarkable talent. The colossal mistakes this talent made in the field of abstract thought derived not from weakness of mind, shortness of sight or timidity of thought, but from the predominance of the poetical element, deliberate negligence of the testimony of experience and an overweening desire, common in powerful minds, to extract the truth from the depths of one’s creative spirit instead of considering and studying it in phenomena taken separately. Despite his errors and the complete inefficacy of his system, Plato may be with justice called the father of idealism.

Whether this has been of signal service to humanity is a question that will be answered in different ways by representatives of various schools of abstract thought, but whatever the answer, nobody will deny Plato a place of honour in the history of science. Geniuses often make felicitous mistakes that exert a stimulating influence on the minds of whole gencrations. At first, they are highly popular but later come in for criticism, but both this popularity and this critical attitude become for a long time a school for mankind, the cause of an intellectual struggle and the development of certain forces, the guiding and determining principle of historical trends and radical changes. Plato, however, did not confine himself to the realm of pure thought and failed to realize that the real


sense of historical and state life cannot be understood while experience and individual phenomena are neglected. He undertook the solution of practical problems without being able to pose them properly, so that his efforts in this direction were so feeble and inefficacious that they collapsed at the lightest impact of criticism. These attempts were marked neither by a reasonable love of mankind nor respect for the individual, neither by an artistic orderliness, unity of purpose nor by moral loftiness of ideal.

If you imagine a fanciful but ugly edifice, one with arches, pediments, porticoes, belvederes and colonnades, all of which serve no practical purpose, you will get an idea of the impression produced on the reader by Plato’s treatises on the Republic and on Laws. “The primary aim of the republic,” Plato considers, “is to make its citizens virtuous and ensure the material and moral welfare of all and eachˮ (page 223). Recent studies, as for instance Wilhelm Humboldt’s Ideen zu einem Versuch die Grenzen der Wirksamkeit des Staats zu bestimmen, [16] look upon the matter in a different light and define the republic as a preservative institution that protects the individual against offence and attack by internal and external enemies. By this definition they release the grown-up citizen from the specific and unwanted guardianship imposed upon him all his life long by Plato’s republic. Apart from the erroneousness of the basic view, we shall see that even the aim Plato pursued cannot be achieved by the means and methods he suggested in his treatises. Virtue is required of the citizen, but Plato places the latter under a humiliating constraint that the moral and aesthetic feeling rise up against. The reader’s mind is confronted by a dilemma; as self-respecting people, the citizens may not put up with that restraint, in which case all of Plato’s institutions go by the board, or they may submit to constraint and, by becoming perverted, lose the capacity of being virtuous. There is no compatibility between virtue, even as understood by Plato, and the observance of the laws of this ideal republic. His moral philosophy considers wisdom, courage, self-possession and justice the four chief virtues. The question arises: which of these tour virtues denies man the right to free criticism and leads to absolute submission? If


none of these virtues is suited to the obedient citizens of the ideal state, then that means that Plato separates the ideal of man from that of the citizen.

Many thinkers of antiquity, among them Aristotle in his Politicus, say that virtue can be achieved only by the fully enfranchised citizens and does not exist for the slave, the artisan or for woman. But Plato, who imposes unnatural and offensive restraint upon all citizens, goes much further. He gives society a structure which, by the very fact of its existence, would render impossible not only the achievement of an ideal but even any striving towards it. This arrangement must seem highly original to any thinker, according to whose conceptions there can be no salvation without an ideal. If a man’s ideal cannot be achieved even theoretically in a civic society, the conclusion follows either that man must live and develop outside of society or that the notorious ideal is a useless plaything of the idle imagination. Neither of those conclusions would have pleased Plato, but both can be eliminated only by a denial of utopian theory or by a revision of the ideal.

Plato’s republic is made up of officials, warriors, artisans, tradesmen, slaves and females, but not of human beings. Each individual is a screw, pinion or wheel of certain shape in the machine of state; besides this official function, he has no significance in any quarter: he is neither son, brother, husband, father, nor friend or lover. He is taken from his mother’s breast at birth and placed in a home for children; he is not shown to his parents for several years and his origin is deliberately forgotten. He is brought up in the same way as other children of the same age, and as soon as he is able to remember and be conscious of himself, the feels that he is state property and linked to nothing and nobody in this world. Ongrowing up, he is assigned to a definite post; he becomes a warrior and warlikef exercises become his chief occupation and amusement. As a good citizen, he is obliged to put into these exercises the remnants of his energy and soul that have not been dried up by his schooling. When his beard has appeared and his masculine strength has developed, he is examined and certified by a special dignitary (page 265), who then brings


him a girl fit in his opinion to become the young man’s wife. The offspring accrue to the advantage of society and are treated in exactly the same fashion as the parents were. When a man grows old, he is made a civic official and appointed to some existing department: he becomes a judge, or a treasurer, or is placed in charge of young people, according to what he has been found suited for. Trade and the handicrafts are considered humiliating for the full-blown citizen and are forbidden by law.

The external forms that these political convictions shall find expression in are merely outlined in Plato’s works. He thinks it proper that the most worthy and wise should stand at the head of the state, but it is a matter of supreme indifference to him whether it will be one sage or several.

As an aristocrat by birth and a man who thought himself immeasurably superior to the masses in intellect and moral dignity, Plato felt repugnance for the democratic form of rule. This aspect of his theory will be seen fairly clearly from the following excerpts from Mr. Klevanov’s book: “Regarding the question as to whether government should be based on the consent of the people or should act upon them by force, Plato expresses the frank opinion that the most reasonable institutions can never be put into effect if the consent of the mass of the people is required. A ruler who is aware of his duties must treat those under him in the way an experienced healer acts: he will not ask for their consent but volens nolens must give them bitter but beneficial medicinesˮ (page 225).

“Plato goes on to say that it would be imprudent to let a wise ruler be hampered by lawsˮ (page 225). “In general Plato arrives at the firm conclusion that the masses of the people are incapable of ruling themselves and that it cannot be demanded that the art of government should ever be understood by themˮ (page 226). “But, with his unflattering opinion of the degree of the masses’ moral development, Plato realized that the majority of the governed would be unwilling to submit patiently and obediently to the rule of the wise. That is why Plato had to empower his philosopher rulers with authority sufficient to enforce their decrees and also to supply them with active and able-bodied executors adequate in number


to get these decrees implemented. It was in this light that Plato saw the necessity of a special class of soldiers entrusted not so much with the defence of the state against attack from without as with the maintenance of law and order within itˮ (page 229). “That is why in his treatise on the republic Plato permits rulers the use of deceit as a means of government, though he forbids lying by the private individualˮ (page 218).

These excerpts display Plato’s opinion that rulers have no obligations towards those they rule over, so that deceit, violence and arbitrariness are recognized as means of government. Moral laws binding on private individuals do not apply to statesmen; these are expected to display wisdom, but the right to appraise the degree of that wisdom has been taken away from those most concerned and is, I think, granted only to the Demiurge. On one hand, arbitrariness will be limited only in the measure he finds necessary, while on the other, no limitation has been placed on submissiveness. If the latter grows lax, it should be increased artifically, by means moral or physical, stringent or weak, this depending on the patient’s physique and the doctor’s discretion. The removal of harmful influences should play an important part in the moral education or medical treatment to be applied to the citizens of the ideal republic. Homer is banished as an immoral teller of fairy-tales; myths are rehashed and stuffed with moral ideas; statues of Apollo and Aphrodite are draped for the sake of decency. To preclude citizens of the ideal republic being led to temptation by neighbouring peoples, intercourse with foreign lands should be made as difficult and limited as possible. “Travelling to foreign parts should be permitted only to those of mature age, and exclusively for personal education or for state reasons. On their return citizens should be examined so as to ascertain whether they have brought harmful convictions back with themˮ (page 267). It would be useless to analyze such regulations, for they speak for themselves loudly and eloquently.

I shall permit myself the observation that to mankind’s credit, the spirit of Plato’s political ideas never attempted to win a place in real life. The most unbridled of despots, men like Xerxes of Persia, Caligula and Domitian [17]—never even


attempted with a single stroke of the pen to destroy the family or reduce their people to the level of a stud-farm. Fortunately for their subjects, these gentlemen were not philosophers; they butchered people as a pastime, but at least they did not try to reform mankind or systematically pervert their fellow-citizens. Enlightened and intelligent despots like Louis XI, Tiberius and Ferdinand the Catholic [18] exerted a conscious influence on their subjects, but their plans and most far-fetched dreams never achieved the majesty and boldness that mark Plato’s ideas. All these men had aspirations in common, but, spurred by his poetical genius, Plato pursued these aspirations with the utmost energy. The mighty spirit of criticism and doubt, the element of free thinking and individuality stood in the way of such aspirations and were therefore hateful to Plato. All these men used the signboard of the public weal morally to justify their aspirations, and Plato too availed himself of it. The army was their material support and the same force plays an important part in Plato's republic. Like the sages of the ideal republic, these rulers thought themselves the worthiest and best of their fellow-citizens, men called upon to be the instructors and physicians of an underdeveloped and morally sick humanity. Roman torture and executions, the Spanish Inquisition, the campaigns against the Albigenses, Cardinal La Balue’s cage, the flames that licked Huss at the stake, Massacre of St. Bartholomew, the Bastille and so on and so forth may be termed bitter but beneficial medicines which at various times and in varying doses the ‘healers of mankind administered volens nolens to their patients, without asking for their consent. The principle brought forward by Plato in his treatises on the Republic and on laws is not unknown to latter-day European civilization.

April 10



First published in Russkaye Slovo (Russian Word) in April 1861 and included in Part IX of the first edition of Pisarev’s works in 1868. Differences between the texts were negligible. In this translation the text of the first edition is used with slight corrections of inexactitudes according to the text of Russkoye Slovo.

1 Zeller, Eduard (1814-l908) — a German idealist philosopher, author of Platonische Studien and Die Philosophie der Griechen. p. 45

2 Klevanov, Alexander — a Russian translator of the ancient classics and author of the compilations Plato’s Philosophical Conversations and Works of Julius Caesar. p. 45

3 Bayard, Pierre du Terrait, seigneur de (1476-l5224) — a French knight, known as “the knight without fear or reproachˮ because of his bravery, outspokenness, magnanimity, and aversion for breach of faith. p. 45

4 Eleates — a philosophical school formed in Elea, Southern Italy, in the 6th and 5th centuries B.C. Parmenides, Zeno and other representatives of this school developed the doctrine of the unity, homogeneity and invariability of true existence. Although Eleates’ outlook was, in the main, materialist, they contributed, with the Pythagoreans, by their extreme metaphysical conclusions (on the immobility and invariability of existence) to the subsequent development of Plato’ idealism. p. 45

5 Horace, the Roman poet (65-8 B.C.) is called “fashionableˮ by Pisarev because he was court poet to the Emperor Augustus and sang the delights of a calm, well-provided life knowing neither labour, cares nor privation. p. 46

6 Macaulay, Thomas Babington (1800-l859) — an English historian and liberal politician. His History of England from the Accession of James II and other works, famous less for their historical objectivity than their literary qualities, were translated into Russian at the beginning of the sixties of the last century. p. 48

7 Alcibiades (451-404 B.C.) ― Athenian politician and general who fought against the Spartans and then went over first to them and then to the Persians. He returned to Athens towards the end of his life, but was accused of treason and fled to Persia, where he was murdered. p. 50


8 Neo-Pythagoreans ― representatives of a mystic philosophical doctrine which appeared in the 1st and 2nd centuries AD. and eclectically combined the propositions of Pythagorean philosophy with the teachings of Plato, the Stoics and the religious and mystic trends of the Orient and the Occident during the Hellenic period. The Neo-Platonians were representatives of a philosophical trend of ancient philosophy which developed in the 3rd century; their idealist and mystic doctrine influenced the development of Christianity. p. 53

9 Rudin ― a character in Turgenev’s novel of the same name, first published in 1856. Chulkaturin — a character in Turgenev’s novel The Diary of an Unwanted Man (1850). p. 53

10 Pisarev here uses stoning as a pun on Kamen (stone), pen-name of the poet P. I. Weinberg who attacked Y. Tolmachova. (For more details see Note l2 to “Nineteenth Century Scholasticism”). p. 55

11 Bersenev — a character in Turgenev’s novel On the Eve (I860). Granovsky, Timofei Nikolayevitch (l8l3-l855) — a Russian scientist and public figure, professor of world history at Moscow University, who professed progressive ideas and humanism. Kudryavtsev, Pyotr Nikolayevich (l8l6-l858) — a Russian liberal historian, professor at Moscow University, a pupil of Granovsky and his successor as professor of history at the University. Niebuhr, Barthold Georg (1776-l83l) — a German historian of antiquity who established the existence of the tribal system in ancient Rome. p. 59

12 Tacitus, Cornelius (c. 55-120) — a Roman historian. Marcus Aurelius (121-180) ― a Roman emperor, famous as the last great philosopher of the Stoic trend. p. 62

13 Essenes or Essenisni — an ancient Hebrew mystic sect which appeared in Palestine in the 2nd century B.C. and sought salvation from the perversion of city life in asceticism and solitude. Therapeutae — a Hebrew religious association which appeared in Alexandria in the 2nd century B.C. By its views it was close to the Essenes. p. 62

14 Augustus (68 B.C.-14 A.D.) — a Roman emperor who set a military dictatorship and brutally suppressed the resistance of the slaves and other sections of the population. p. 62

15 The Peloponnesian War took place from 43l to 404 B.C. between aristocratic Sparta and Democratic Athenes. Sparta was victorious. p. 63

16 Humboldt, Kart Wilhelm (1767-l835) — a German philologist and Prussian statesman. In the work referred to by Pisarev, which was not published until l85l bccause of the censorship, he limited the role of the state to care for the security of citizens. p. 57

17 Xerxes (5th century B.C.) — an ancient Persian king who taught against Athens and carried out cruel ecpressions on the population after he had captured the city. Caligula, Gaius Caesar —a Roman emperor who reigned from 37 to 4 A.D., a despot reputed tor his extravagance. Domi-


tian — Roman emperor from 81 to 96 noted for his cruelty and murdered by conspirators. p. 70

18 Tiberius, Claudius Nero —succeeded Augustus as Roman emperor and reigned from l4 to 37 A.D. He extended and consolidated the frontiers of the Empire and was notorious for his extreme cruelty. Ferdinand the Catholic (1452-1516) first king of unified Spain; he established a centralized bureaucratic administration in the country and maintained absolutism by means of the Inquisition. p. 71

SOURCE: Pisarev, Dmitri (Ivanovich), 1840-1868. “Plato’s Idealism,” translated by J. Katzer, in Selected Philosophical, Social, and Political Essays (Westport, CT: Hyperion Press, 1981), pp. 45-71, 676-678. (Originally published 1958.)

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