previous next
applies both to ‘the Ideal man’ and to ‘man,’1 for in so far as both are man, there will be no difference between them; and if so, no more will there be any difference between ‘the Ideal Good’ and ‘Good’ in so far as both are good. [6] Nor yet will the Ideal Good be any more good because it is eternal, seeing that a white thing that lasts a long time is no whiter than one that lasts only a day. [7]

The Pythagoreans2 seem to give a more probable doctrine on the subject of the Good when they place Unity in their column of goods; and indeed Speusippus3 appears to have followed them. But this subject must be left for another discussion. [8]

We can descry an objection that may be raised against our arguments on the ground that the theory in question was not intended to apply to every sort of good, and that only things pursued and accepted for their own sake are pronounced good as belonging to a single species, while things productive or preservative of these in any way, or preventive of their opposites, are said to be good as a means to these, and in a different sense. [9] Clearly then the term ‘goods’ would have two meanings, (1) things good in themselves and (2) things good as a means to these; let us then separate things good in themselves from things useful as means, and consider whether the former are called good because they fall under a single Idea. [10] But what sort of things is one to class as good in themselves? Are they not those things which are sought after even without any accessory advantage, such as wisdom, sight, and certain pleasures and honors? for even if we also pursue these things as means to something else, still one would class them among things good in themselves. Or is there nothing else good in itself except the Idea? If so, the species will be of no use.4 [11] If on the contrary the class of things good in themselves includes these objects, the same notion of good ought to be manifested in all of them, just as the same notion of white is manifested in snow and in white paint. But as a matter of fact the notions of honor and wisdom and pleasure, as being good, are different and distinct. Therefore, good is not a general term corresponding to a single Idea. [12]

But in what sense then are different things called good? For they do not seem to be a case of things that bear the same name merely by chance. Possibly things are called good in virtue of being derived from one good; or because they all contribute to one good. Or perhaps it is rather by way of a proportion5: that is, as sight is good in the body, so intelligence is good in the soul, and similarly another thing in something else. [13]

Perhaps however this question must be dismissed for the present, since a detailed investigation of it belongs more properly to another branch of philosophy6 And likewise with the Idea of the Good; for even if the goodness predicated of various in common really is a unity or something existing separately and absolute, it clearly will not be practicable or attainable by man; but the Good which we are now seeking is a good within human reach. [14]

But possibly someone may think that to know the Ideal Good may be desirable

1 i.e., ‘the ordinary notion of man’—the concept of man in general which we form from our experience of particular men, but do not regard as a thing existing independently of them—; or perhaps ‘a particular man,’ but this seems to require ἀνθρώπῳ τινί or τῷδε.

2 This parenthetical note might come better after 6.4 (Burnet, Cl. Rev. 3:198). The Pythagoreans, instead of (like Plato) saying the Good was one, more wisely said the One was good (or akin to the Good). Some of them (Aristot. Met. 986a 22) taught that there were ten pairs of opposing principles, which they ranged in two columns—limit and the unlimited, odd and even, unity and plurality, right and left, male and female, resting and moving, straight and crooked, light and darkness, good and bad, square and oblong. They also held (Aristot. Met. 1072b 32) that good and beauty were not original, but appeared in the course of the evolution of the world; hence perhaps the late position of good in the list of opposites. The phrase ‘column of goods’ (cf. Aristot. Met. 1093b 12 ‘column of the beautiful’) is inexact, as good was only one of the things in the column—unless it means the column to which good things among others belong; but doubtless all the positive principles were regarded as akin.

3 Speusippus was Plato's nephew, and succeeded him as head of the Academy.

4 i.e., the species or class of things good in themselves will be a class to which nothing belongs (for the Idea is not in the class).

5 The writer's own solution: when different things are called good, it means they each bear the same relation to (viz. contribute to the welfare of) certain other things, not all to the same thing.

6 .i.e., First Philosophy or Metaphysics.

load focus Greek (J. Bywater)
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 Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: