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[596a] that the dimmer vision sees things in advance of the keener.1” “That is so,” he said; “but in your presence I could not even be eager to try to state anything that appears to me, but do you yourself consider it.” “Shall we, then, start the inquiry at this point by our customary procedure2? We are in the habit, I take it, of positing a single idea or form3 in the case of the various multiplicities to which we give the same name. Do you not understand?” “I do.” “In the present case, then, let us take any multiplicity you please; [596b] for example, there are many couches and tables.” “Of course.” “But these utensils imply, I suppose, only two ideas or forms, one of a couch and one of a table.” “Yes.” “And are we not also in the habit of saying that the craftsman who produces either of them fixes his eyes4 on the idea or form, and so makes in the one case the couches and in the other the tables that we use, and similarly of other things? For surely no craftsman makes the idea itself. How could he?” “By no means.” “But now consider [596c] what name you would give to this craftsman.” “What one?” “Him who makes all the things5 that all handicraftsmen severally produce.” “A truly clever and wondrous man you tell of.” “Ah, but wait,6 and you will say so indeed, for this same handicraftsman is not only able to make all implements, but he produces all plants and animals, including himself,7 and thereto earth and heaven and the gods and all things in heaven and in Hades under the earth.” “A most marvellous sophist,8“ [596d] he said. “Are you incredulous?” said I. “Tell me, do you deny altogether the possibility of such a craftsman, or do you admit that in a sense there could be such a creator of all these things, and in another sense not? Or do you not perceive that you yourself would be able to make all these things in a way?” “And in what way,9 I ask you,” he said. “There is no difficulty,” said I, “but it is something that the craftsman can make everywhere and quickly. You could do it most quickly if you should choose to take a mirror and carry it about everywhere. [596e] You will speedily produce the sun and all the things in the sky, and speedily the earth and yourself and the other animals and implements and plants and all the objects of which we just now spoke.” “Yes,” he said, “the appearance of them, but not the reality and the truth.” “Excellent,” said I, “and you come to the aid of the argument opportunely. For I take it that the painter too belongs to this class of producers, does he not?” “Of course.” “But you will say, I suppose, that his creations are not real and true. And yet, after a fashion, the painter10 too makes a couch, does he not?” “Yes,” he said, “the appearance of one, he too.”

1 Perhaps a slight failure in Attic courtesy. Cf. Laws 715 D-E, and for ὀξύτερον βλεπόντων927 B, Euthydem. 281 D, Rep. 404 A, Themist.Orat. ii. p. 32 C. Cf. the saying πολλάκι καὶ κηποῦρος ἀνὴρ μάλα καίριον εἶπεν.

2 Cf. Phaedo 76 D, 100 B, Phileb. 16 D, 479 E, Thompson on Meno 72 D. See Zeller, Phil. d. Gr. ii. 1. p. 660. The intentional simplicity of Plato's positing of the concept here (cf. 597 A), and his transition from the concept to the “idea,” has been mistaken for a primitive aspect of his thought by many interpreters. It is quite uncritical to use Aristot.Met. 991 b 6 ff. to prove that Plato's “later” theory of ideas did not recognize ideas of artefacts, and therefore that this passage represents an earlier phase of the theory. He deliberately expresses the theory as simply as possible, and a manufactured object suits his purpose here as it does in Cratyl. 389. See also supra,Introd. pp. xxii-xxiii.

3 “Forms” with a capital letter is even more misleading than “ideas.”

4 Cf. Cratyl. 389 A-B. There is no contradiction, as many say, with 472 D.

5 Cf. Emerson, The Poet: “and therefore the rich poets—as Homer, Chaucer, Shakespeare and Raphael—have no limits to their riches except the limits of their lifetime, and resemble a mirror carried through the streets ready to render an image of every created thing.” (Cf. 596 D-Eκάτοπτρον περιφέρειν and Julian, Or. v. 163 D.) Empedocles, fr. 23 (Diels i.3 pp. 234-235): ὡς δ᾽ ὁπόταν γραφέες . . . δένδρεά τε κτίζοντε καὶ ἀνέρας ἠδὲ γυναῖκας . . .

6 Climax beyond climax. Cf. on 508 E p. 104, note c.

7 It is a tempting error to refer this to God, as I once did, and as Wilamowitz, Platon. i. p. 604 does. So Cudworth, True Intel. System of the Universe, vol. ii. p. 70: “Lastly, he is called ὃς πάντα τά τε ἄλλα ἐργάζεται, καὶ ἑαυτόν, ‘he that causeth or produceth both all other things, and even himself.'” But the producer of everything, including himself, is the imitator generalized and then exemplified by the painter and the poet. Cf. Soph. 234 A-B.

8 Eurip.Hippol. 921δεινὸν σοφιστὴν εἶπας.

9 καὶ τίς is sceptical as in Aristoph.Acharn. 86.

10 Art is deception. Diels ii.3 p. 339, Dialex. 3 (10)ἐν γὰρ τραγωιδοποιίᾳ καὶ ζωγραφίᾳ ὅστις <κε> πλεῖστα ἐξαπατῇ ὅμοια τοῖς ἀληθινοῖς ποιέων, οὗτος ἄριστος, Xen.Mem. iii. 10. 1γραφική ἐστιν εἰκασία τῶν ὁρωμένων. Cf. Plut.Quomodo adolescens 17 F-18 A on painting and poetry. There are many specious resemblances between Plato's ideas on art and morality and those of the “lunatic fringe” of Platonism. Cf. Jane Harrison, Ancient Art and Ritual, pp. 21-22, Charles F. Andrews, Mahatma Gandhi's Ideas, p. 332. William Temple, Plato and Christianity, p. 89: “In the tenth book of the Republic he says that, whereas the artificer in making any material object imitates the eternal idea, an artist only imitates the imitation (595 A-598 D); but in Book V he said that we do not blame an artist who depicts a face more beautiful than any actual human face either is or ever could be (472 D).” But this does not affect Plato's main point here, that the artist imitates the “real” world, not the world of ideas. The artist's imitation may fall short of or better its model. But the model is not the (Platonic) idea.

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