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[889a] what it is that the people in their camp really intend.

By all means let us do so.

It is evident, they assert, that the greatest and most beautiful things are the work of nature and of chance, and the lesser things that of art,—for art receives from nature the great and primary products as existing, and itself molds and shapes all the smaller ones, which we commonly call “artificial.”

How do you mean? [889b]

I will explain it more clearly. Fire and water and earth and air, they say, all exist by nature and chance, and none of them by art; and by means of these, which are wholly inanimate, the bodies which come next—those, namely, of the earth, sun, moon and stars—have been brought into existence. It is by chance all these elements move, by the interplay of their respective forces, and according as they meet together and combine fittingly,—hot with cold, dry with moist, [889c] soft with hard, and all such necessary mixtures as result from the chance combination of these opposites,—in this way and by those means they have brought into being the whole Heaven and all that is in the Heaven, and all animals, too, and plants—after that all the seasons had arisen from these elements; and all this, as they assert, not owing to reason, nor to any god or art, but owing, as we have said, to nature and chance.1 As a later product of these, art comes later; and it, being mortal itself and of mortal birth, begets later playthings [889d] which share but little in truth, being images of a sort akin to the arts themselves—images such as painting begets, and music, and the arts which accompany these. Those arts which really produce something serious are such as share their effect with nature,—like medicine, agriculture, and gymnastic. Politics too, as they say, shares to a small extent in nature, but mostly in art; and in like manner all legislation which is [889e] based on untrue assumptions is due, not to nature, but to art.

What do you mean?

The first statement, my dear sir, which these people make about the gods is that they exist by art and not by nature,—by certain legal conventions2 which differ from place to place, according as each tribe agreed when forming their laws. They assert, moreover, that there is one class of things beautiful by nature, and another class beautiful by convention3; while as to things just, they do not exist at all by nature, but men are constantly in dispute about them and continually altering them, and whatever alteration they make at any time

1 This is a summary of the doctrines of the Atomists (Leucippus and Democritus) who denied the creative agency of Reason. Similar views were taught, later, by Epicurus and Lucretius.

2 A view ascribed to Critias.

3 Cp. Aristot. Nic. Eth. 1094 b 14 ff.

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