PLATO AND ARISTOTLE
AGAINST this rich and intricate background the figures of Plato and Aristotle stand out, transcending but not alien to it. By the measure of their greater genius, and in particular their profound faith in the intellect, they are more conscious of Sparta's inadequacies, and more contemptuous of superficial laconism, than even Isocrates could be. But their criticisms were destined to have less effect than their approval, limited as it was, yet rooted in the fact that their fundamental political beliefs had much in common with those associated with Sparta.
Plato's youth, in the last years of the fifth century, was probably passed in strongly laconizing circles; his family was noble, and Critias a close relation. But his disillusionment with politics soon embraced not only all shades of opinion in Athens, but all existing states. Nowhere, he seems to have become convinced, did statesmen act out of real knowledge of what was best for a city. And his whole career has sometimes been seen as a long investigation of reality, and the methods of teaching the knowledge of reality and therefore of virtue, with an aim which in the last resort may be described as political.
Not that Plato positively turned against Sparta. Several of his earlier dialogues mention her fairly favourably en passant. The Apology1 praises, indirectly, one important form of 'prudent slowness' there--in matters of capital punishment. In the Crito,2 as we saw, Socrates is shown as an admirer of Spartan and Cretan eunomia. Laches,3 in the dialogue called after him, is portrayed,____________________