previous next
[438b] “that of relative terms those that are somehow qualified are related to a qualified correlate, those that are severally just themselves to a correlate that is just itself.1” “I don't understand,” he said. “Don't you understand,” said I, “that the greater2 is such as to be greater than something?” “Certainly.” “Is it not than the less?” “Yes.” “But the much greater than the much less. Is that not so?” “Yes.” “And may we add the one time greater than the one time less and that which will be greater than that which will be less?” “Surely.”

1 ὅσα γ᾽ ἐστὶ τοιαῦτα etc.: a palmary example of the concrete simplicity of Greek idiom in the expression of abstract ideas.ὅσα etc. (that is, relative terms) divide by partitive apposition into two classes,τὰ μὲν . . . τὰ δέ. The meaning is that if one term of the relation is qualified, the other must be, but if one term is without qualification, the other is also taken absolutely. Plato, as usual (Cf. on 347 B), represents the interlocutor as not understandiong the first general abstract statement, which he therefore interprets and repeats. I have varied the translation in the repetition in order to bring out the full meaning, and some of the differences between Greek and English idiom.

2 The notion of relative terms is familiar. Cf. Charmides 167 E, Theaetetus 160 A, Symposium 199 D-E, Parmenides 133 C ff., Sophist 255 D, Aristotle Topics vi. 4, and Cat. v. It is expounded here only to insure the apprehension of the further point that the qualifications of either term of the relation are relative to each other. In the Politicus 283 f. Plato adds that the great and small are measured not only in relation to each other, but by absolute standards. Cf. Unity of Plato's Thought, pp. 61, 62, and 531 A.

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 Notes (James Adam)
load focus Greek (1903)
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: