The Athenians, and the Greeks generally, laid great stress on beauty of disposition. Penetration of mind, gentleness, and courage made the perfection of a man in the eyes of Socrates and Plato: gentleness, which makes a man peaceful in the State, and pleasant to his fellow-citizens; courage, which makes him strong in misfortune, temperate in his pleasures, and formidable to his enemies; penetration of mind, which makes him delightful in his intercourse with friends, and perfect in his own life, in that it enables him always to see what is the best, and to do it.
To preserve, and to know; according to Plato the happiness of private life consists in these two.
Spirit of flame by his very nature, not only illumined but luminous, Plato shines by his own light. The splendour of his thought colours his language. Brilliance in him is born of the sublime.
Seek only in Plato for forms and ideas; that is what he sought himself. There is more light in him than there are objects, more form than matter. We must breathe him, but not feed upon him.
Plato shows us nothing, but he brings brightness with him; he puts light into our eyes, and fills us with a clearness by which all objects afterwards become illuminated. He teaches us nothing; but he prepares us, fashions us, and makes us ready to know all. Somehow or other the habit of reading him augments in us the capacity for discerning and entertaining whatever fine truths may afterwards present themselves. Like mountain air, it sharpens our organs, and gives us an appetite for wholesome food.
Plato loses himself in the void, but one sees the play of his wings, one hears their rustle.
Plutarch, in interpreting Plato, is clearer than he, and yet has less light, and gives the soul less joy.
Excerpts from the Notes of Joseph Joubert, translated by K. Lyttelton and (some) by M. Arnold.
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