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[479a] I will say, let him answer me, that good1 fellow who does not think there is a beautiful in itself or any2 idea of beauty in itself always remaining the same and unchanged, but who does believe in many beautiful things—the lover of spectacles, I mean, who cannot endure to hear anybody say that the beautiful is one and the just one, and so of other things—and this will be our question: My good fellow, is there any one of these many fair-and-honorable things that will not sometimes appear ugly and base3? And of the just things, that will not seem unjust? And of the pious things, that will not seem impious?” “No, it is inevitable,” he said, “that they would appear

1 Ironical. Cf. Phaedrus 266 E.

2 τινὰ does not mean that the theory of Ideas is a novelty here or that the terminology is new and strange. It merely says that the type of mind that is absorbed in the concrete cannot apprehend any general aspect of things.αὐτό and κατὰ ταὐτά are the technical designation of the Idea here. Cf. my note on Philebus 64 A, Class. Phil. xx. (1925) p. 347.

3 Plato consciously uses mere logic to lend the emphasis and dignity of absolute metaphysics to his distinction between the two types of mind, which is for all practical purposes his main point here. If you cannot correctly define the beautiful, all your imperfect definitions will be refuted by showing that they sometimes describe what is ugly. Cf. Hippias Major 289 C and note on Republic i. 333 E. The many concrete objects are this and are not that, and so with conscious use of the ambiguity of the copula may be said to tumble about between being and not-being. That this is the consciously intended meaning may be inferred from the fact that in Timaeus 37 E, where Plato must have had in mind the conclusions of the Sophist, he still avails himself of this ambiguity to suggest an absolute being behind phenomena. Cf. Unity of Plato's Thought, pp. 55, 56, 60, De Platonis Idearum Doctrina pp. 48, 49.

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