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[508a] visibility and the faculty of sight is more precious by no slight form1 that which unites the other pairs, if light is not without honor.” “It surely is far from being so,” he said.

“Which one can you name of the divinities in heaven2 as the author and cause of this, whose light makes our vision see best and visible things to be seen?” “Why, the one that you too and other people mean,” he said; “for your question evidently refers to the sun.3” “Is not this, then, the relation of vision to that divinity?” “What?” “Neither vision itself nor its vehicle, which we call the eye, is identical with the sun.” [508b] “Why, no.” “But it is, I think, the most sunlike4 of all the instruments of sense.” “By far the most.” “And does it not receive the power which it possesses as an influx, as it were, dispensed from the sun?” “Certainly.” “Is it not also true that the sun is not vision, yet as being the cause thereof is beheld by vision itself?” “That is so,” he said. “This, then, you must understand that I meant by the offspring of the good5 which the good [508c] begot to stand in a proportion6 with itself: as the good is in the intelligible region to reason and the objects of reason, so is this in the visible world to vision and the objects of vision.” “How is that?” he said; “explain further.” “You are aware,” I said, “that when the eyes are no longer turned upon objects upon whose colors the light of day falls but that of the dim luminaries of night, their edge is blunted and they appear almost blind, as if pure vision did not dwell in them.” “Yes, indeed,” he said. “But when, I take it, [508d] they are directed upon objects illumined by the sun, they see clearly, and vision appears to reside in these same eyes.” “Certainly.” “Apply this comparison to the soul also in this way. When it is firmly fixed on the domain where truth and reality shine resplendent7 it apprehends and knows them and appears to possess reason; but when it inclines to that region which is mingled with darkness, the world of becoming and passing away, it opines only and its edge is blunted, and it shifts its opinions hither and thither, and again seems as if it lacked reason.” [508e] “Yes, it does,” “This reality, then, that gives their truth to the objects of knowledge and the power of knowing to the knower, you must say is the idea8 of good, and you must conceive it as being the cause of knowledge, and of truth in so far as known.9 Yet fair as they both are, knowledge and truth, in supposing it to be something fairer still10 than these you will think rightly of it. But as for knowledge and truth, even as in our illustration

1 The loose Herodotean-Thucydidean-Isocratean use of ἰδέα. Cf. Laws 689 Dκαὶ τὸ σμικρότατον εἶδος. “Form” over-translates ἰδέᾳ here, which is little more than a synonym for γένος above. Cf. Wilamowitz, Platon, ii. p. 250.

2 Plato was willing to call the stars gods as the barbarians did (Cratyl. 397 D, Aristoph.Peace 406 ff., Herod. iv. 188). Cf. Laws 821 B, 899 B, 950 D, Apol. 26 D, Epinomis 985 B, 988 B.

3 Cf. my Idea of good in Plato's Republic pp. 223-225, Reinhardt, Kosmos und Sympathie, pp. 374-384. Mediaeval writers have much to say of Platos mysterious Tagathon. Aristotle, who rejects the idea of good, uses τἀγαθόν in much the same way. It is naive to take the language of Platonic unction too literally. Cf. What Plato Said, pp. 394 ff.

4 Cf. 509 A, Plotinus, Enn. i. 6. 9οὐ γὰρ ἂν πώποτε εἶδεν ὀφθαλμὸς ἥλιον ἡλιοειδὴς μὴ γεγενημένος and vi. 7. 19, Cic.Tusc.. i. 25. 73 in fine “quod si in hoc mundo fieri sine deo non potest, ne in sphaera quidem eosdem motus Archimedes sine divino ingenio potuisset imitare,” Manilius ii. 115: Quis caelum posset nisi caeli munere nosse, Et reperire deum nisi qui pars ipse deorum?

5 i.e. creation was the work of benevolent design. This is one of the few passages in the Republic where the idea of good is considered in relation to the universe, a thesis reserved for poetical or mythical development in the Timaeus. It is idle to construct a systematic metaphysical theology for Plato by identification of τἀγαθόν here either with god or with the ideas as a whole. Cf. Unity of Plato's Thought, p 512.

6 Cf. Gorg. 465 B-C, 510 A-B, 511 E, 530 D, 534 A, 576 C, Phaedo 111 A-B, Tim. 29 C, 32 A-B. For ἀνάλογον in this sense cf. 511 E, 534 A, Phaedo 110 D.

7 Plato's rhetoric is not to be pressed. Truth, being the good, are virtual synonyms. Still, for Plato's ethical and political philosophy the light that makes things intelligible is the idea of good, i.e. the “sanction,” and not, as some commentators insist, the truth.

8 No absolute distinction can be drawn between εἶδος and ἰδέα in Plato. But ἰδέα may be used o carry the notion of “apprehended aspect” which I think is more pertinent here than the metaphysical entity of the idea, though of course Plato would affirm that. Cf. 379 A, Unity of Plato's Thought, p. 35, What Plato Said, p. 585, Class. Phil. xx. (1925) p. 347.

9 The meaning is clear. we really understand and know anything only when we apprehend its purpose, the aspect of the good that it reveals. Cf. Introd. pp. xxxv-xxxvi. the position and case of γιγνωσκομένης are difficult. But no change proposed is any improvement.

10 Plato likes to cap a superlative by a further degree of completeness, a climax beyond the climax. Cf. 405 Bαἴσχιστον . . . αἴσχιον, 578 B, Symp. 180 A-B and Bury ad loc. The same characteristic can be observed in his method, e.g. in the Symposium where Agathon's speech, which seems the climax, is surpassed by that of Socrates: similarly in the Gorgias and the tenth book of the Republic, Cf. Friedländer, Platon, i. p. 174, Introd. p. lxi. This and the next half page belong, I think, to rhetoric rather than to systematic metaphysics. Plato the idealist uses transcendental language of his ideal, and is never willing to admit that expression has done justice to it. But Plato the rationalist distinctly draws the line between his religious language thrown out at an object and his definite logical and practical conclusions. Cf. e.g. Meno 81 D-E.

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