previous next
[1036b] [1] for the bronze would be none the less no part of the form, but it is difficult to separate it in thought.For example, the form of "man" is always manifested in flesh and bones and elements of this kind; then are these actually parts of the form and formula, or are they not so, but matter, though since the form is not induced in other materials, we cannot separate it?Now since this seems to be possible, but it is not clear when, some thinkers1 are doubtful even in the case of the circle and the triangle, considering that it is not proper to define them by lines and continuous space, but that all these are to the circle or triangle as flesh or bone is to man, and bronze or stone to the statue; and they reduce everything to numbers, and say that the formula of "line" is the formula of 2.And of the exponents of the Forms, some make 2 the Ideal line, and some the form of the line2; for they say that in some cases the form and that of which it is the form, e.g. 2 and the form of 2, are the same; but in the case of "line" this is no longer so.It follows, then, that there is one form of many things whose form is clearly different (a consequence which confronted the Pythagoreans too3), and that it is possible to make one supreme Form of everything, and not to regard the rest as forms. [20] In this way, however, all things would be one.

Now we have stated that the question of definitions involves some difficulty, and have shown why this is so. Hence to reduce everything in this way and to dispose of the matter is going too far; for some things are presumably a particular form in particular matter, or particular things in a particular state.And the analogy in the case of the living thing which the younger Socrates4 used to state is not a good one; for it leads one away from the truth, and makes one suppose that it is possible for a man to exist without his parts, as a circle does without the bronze. But the case is not similar; for the animal is sensible and cannot be defined without motion, and hence not unless its parts are in some definite condition;for it is not the hand in any condition that is a part of a man, but only when it can perform its function, and so has life in it. Without life in it it is not a part.

And with respect to mathematical objects, why are the formulae of the parts not parts of the formulae of the whole; e.g., why are the formulae of the semicircles not parts of the formula of the circle? for they are not sensible.Probably this makes no difference; because there will be matter even of some things which are not sensible.

1 The Pythagoreans.

2 The distinction seems to be that given in Aristot. Met. 8.3.1. Some held that the line, considered absolutely, is simply "twoness"; others that it is "twoness in length."

3 Cf. Aristot. Met. 1.5.17.

4 A "disciple" of the great Socrates; one of the speakers in the PoliticusPlat. Stat. and referred to in Plat. Theaet. 147c, Plat. Soph. 218b.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Greek (1924)
hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide References (5 total)
  • Cross-references in notes to this page (1):
  • Cross-references in notes from this page (4):
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: