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In the present volume are contained those dialogues
to appeared in an English dress, are the Epinomis, the
* Since this preface was written, a complete translation of Diogenes
To render this edition as perfect as possible, it has
INTRODUCTION TO THE EPIMMS.
Although this dialogue is called the Epinomis, which might be rendered into English by "A Sequel to the Laws," yet it contains not a single hint for an enactment of any kind. It is in fact little more than a Homily, written for the most part on the Laws, vii. § 20—22, p. 300—308, and it seems to be the production of some Pythagorean; who, perceiving that Plato had adopted some of the ideas promulgated by that school of philosophy, was desirous of showing that he had only partially touched upon their tenets relating to numbers. For with this question were intimately connected all their ideas relating to the power and attributes of the deity. And this the writer was the more willing to dilate upon, as Plato had expressed his unwillingness to discuss the subject of religion at a greater length. For after witnessing the fate of Socrates, who had endeavoured to rationalize the creed of his country, Plato probably thought it dangerous, as Aristotle certainly did afterwards, to run counter to popular prejudices; and he was therefore led to remark, that all the enactments relating to religion should be left to the discretion of its ministers, assisted by the interpreters of the voice of the gods.
Respecting the author of the dialogue, nothing is known for certain. Thus much however is tolerably clear, that it was not written by Plato. For, as remarked by Ast on § 7, where mention is made of the five elements, out of which all living things are said to be formed, this doctrine is at variance with that promulgated in the Timaeus, where only four are enumerated. But when in § 5, where the Athenian Guest alludes to some memoranda made by Clinias and Megillus of the previous conversation, Ast would infer that the Laws had been published already, he seems not to be aware that an inference the very reverse ought to be drawn. For the memoranda would rather be made shortly after the conversation had taken place, just as was done by Xenophon in the case of Socrates, with a view to their being published afterwards. And hence we can account for the tradition, that the Laws were not given to the world, till after the death of their author.
The Epinomis is indeed attributed to Plato by Nicomachus; but not by Proclus, as has been sometimes asserted. For Boeckh has shown that the Neo-Platonist on Euclid i. p. 12, originally expressed himself in a way to indicate that he did not know who was the author of the dialogue. Boeckh himself feels inclined to assign the authorship to Philip of Opuntium; who appears from Suidas to have written not a little on subjects relating to Arithmetic, Geometry, and Astronomy, all of which are discussed at greater or less length in the Epinomis.
Be however the author who he may, the dialogue itself has, like the Laws, come down to us in rather an unsatisfactory state; and hence I have been compelled to write longer notes than would otherwise have been necessary.