Home  »  A Library of American Literature  »  Why Socrates Is Not Plato, nor Plato Socrates

Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

Why Socrates Is Not Plato, nor Plato Socrates

By Samuel Stone (1602–1663)

[Born in Hertford, England. Died at Hartford, Conn., 1663. A Congregational Church is a Catholic Visible Church. 1652.]

SOCRATES and Plato are distinguished one from another by their proper and essential forms. As a man and a lion differ in their common form, so Socrates and Plato in their proper form. All opposition is firstly from the form; hereby a thing is that which it is, and is therefore by this distinguished from all other things. All essential distinction and opposition is from the forms of things; they differ not only accidentally, but essentially one from the other, and are distinguished one from another by their essential forms.

The numerical difference between Socrates and Plato is an argument of their specifical distinction; it includeth and implieth an essential difference between things, being distinguished by their proper, individual, essential forms. It is true that our intellectuals are so wounded by the apostasy of the first man that it is exceeding hard for us to find out the forms of things; we are forced many times to describe the forms of things by their accidents, as we are constrained to describe the elements by their proper qualities arising from their forms; yet every one of them hath a proper form. The existence of every thing is from all the causes; nothing can exist and be that which it is without its proper form. And the difference of the proper form is no less than the difference of the common form but rather greater. Look how much greater the similitude and agreement is between singulars in regard of their common forms—so much greater is the difference of their proper form. The difference and opposition of contraries is the greatest and strongest, and yet they communicate in the same genus: these are more opposite one to another than things that are not under the same genus: white and black are more opposite than white and bitter, &c. Gravia bella fratrum.

To differ so numerically is to differ formally; to differ in number is to differ in form; for number is an affection or proper adjunct following the essence. Socrates and Plato have two distinct forms; hence they differ in essence; hence they have two distinct essences and beings; hence they are two; one cannot be the other; they cannot be both one and the same, hence they differ numerically one from the other. Where there is one humanity and essential form of man, there is one essence of man, and one man; and where there are two humanities and essential, proper, and individual forms of man, there are two men; hence they differ numerically, and one is not the other, or the same with the other. Socrates is not Plato, but is numerically different from him. Socrates is one, and Plato is another, as London is one city and York another.

The difference of number is nothing but the difference of the proper and individual form, and to differ in number is to differ in form. Two men have two different forms, two lions have two different forms. If Socrates and Plato, or any other individual men differing in number, should not differ in essence and form, they should differ only accidentally one from the other, as one man differs from himself, or as Socrates in his old age differs from Socrates in his youth, being the same man and differing only in accidents, not in essence. Socrates should be Plato, and Plato Socrates, and when Alexander rides Bucephalus, Aristotle sits in the same saddle, and it were impossible not to set the saddle upon the right horse, for every horse is the same essentially; and he that stealeth one horse, he stealeth all the horses in the world, because the essence of the one is the same with the essence of the other. There is a difference, indeed, in accidents, but none in essence; there being, according to this account, no essential or substantial difference between them.

Lastly:—hence there is, upon the same account, no essential and substantial man in the world, but only Ideal; for all generals subsist in individuals, and individuals subsist only in themselves. If, therefore, individuals differ not essentially one from another, but only accidentally, there is no substantial and essential man subsisting by himself, because individual men only subsist in themselves. If, therefore, no individual, proper, essential, human form, there is no individual, essential man subsisting, and therefore no individual, substantial man in the world. Every individual man is an accidental man, having no proper, substantial individual form or essence. He that hath no substantial proper form, hath no substantial proper essence, and therefore cannot be a substantial, individual man. And hence there is no substantial, individual man in the world, but only ideal and common; and Socrates and Plato should differ essentially no more from one another than Doctor Martin and Doctor Luther. But the truth is, they have not one and the same essence, but differ in their essential form one from another. For an accidental form cannot be the prime and principal essential Cause of a substance.