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[509a] it is right to deem light and vision sunlike, but never to think that they are the sun, so here it is right to consider these two their counterparts, as being like the good or boniform,1 but to think that either of them is the good2 is not right. Still higher honor belongs to the possession and habit3 of the good.” “An inconceivable beauty you speak of,” he said, “if it is the source of knowledge and truth, and yet itself surpasses them in beauty. For you surely4 cannot mean that it is pleasure.” “Hush,” said I, “but examine [509b] the similitude of it still further in this way.5” “How?” “The sun, I presume you will say, not only furnishes to visibles the power of visibility but it also provides for their generation and growth and nurture though it is not itself generation.” “Of course not.” “In like manner, then, you are to say that the objects of knowledge not only receive from the presence of the good their being known, but their very existence and essence is derived to them from it, though the good itself is not essence but still transcends essence6 in dignity and surpassing power.” [509c]

And Glaucon very ludicrously7 said, “Heaven save us, hyperbole8 can no further go.” “The fault is yours,” I said, “for compelling me to utter my thoughts about it.” “And don't desist,” he said, “but at least9 expound the similitude of the sun, if there is anything that you are omitting.” “Why, certainly,” I said, “I am omitting a great deal.” “Well, don't omit the least bit,” he said. “I fancy,” I said, “that I shall have to pass over much, but nevertheless so far as it is at present practicable I shall not willingly leave anything out.” “Do not,” [509d] he said. “Conceive then,” said I, “as we were saying, that there are these two entities, and that one of them is sovereign over the intelligible order and region and the other over the world of the eye-ball, not to say the sky-ball,10 but let that pass. You surely apprehend the two types, the visible and the intelligible.” “I do.” “Represent them then, as it were, by a line divided11 into two unequal12 sections and cut each section again in the same ratio (the section, that is, of the visible and that of the intelligible order), and then as an expression of the ratio of their comparative clearness and obscurity you will have, as one of the sections [509e] of the visible world, images. By images13 I mean,

1 ἀγαθοειδῆ occurs only here in classical Greek literature. Plato quite probably coined it for his purpose.

2 There is no article in the Greek. Plato is not scrupulous to distinguish good and the good here. cf. on 505 C, p. 89, note f.

3 ἕξις is not yet in Plato quite the technical Aristotelian “habit.” However Protag. 344 C approaches it. Cf. also Phileb. 11 D, 41 C, Ritter-Preller, p. 285. Plato used many words in periphrasis with the genitive, e.g.ἕξιςLaws 625 C,γένεσιςLaws 691 B, Tim. 73 B, 76 E,μοῖραPhaedr. 255 B, 274 E, Menex. 249 B,φύσιςPhaedo 109 E, Symp. 186 B, Laws 729 C, 845 D, 944 D, etc. He may have chosen ἕξις here to suggest the ethical aspect of the good as a habit or possession of the soul. The introduction of ἡδονή below supports this view. Some interpreters think it=τὸ ἀγαθὸν ὡς ἔχει, which is possible but rather pointless.

4 For οὐ γὰρ δήπου Cf. Apol. 20 C, Gorg. 455 A, Euthyph. 13 A.

5 i.e. not only do we understand a thing when we know its purpose, but a purpose in some mind is the chief cause of its existence, God's mind for the universe, man's mind for political institutions. this, being the only interpretation that makes sense o the passage, is presumably more or less consciously Plato's meaning. Cf. Introd. pp. xxxv-xxxvi. Quite irrelevant are Plato's supposed identification of the ἀγαθόν with the ἕν, one, and Aristotle's statement, Met. 988 a, that the ideas are the cause of other things and the one is the cause of the ideas. the remainder of the paragraph belongs to transcendental rhetoric. It has been endlessly quoted and plays a great part in Neoplatonism, in all philosophies of the unknowable and in all negative and mystic theologies.

6 It is an error to oppose Plato here to the Alexandrians who sometimes said ἐπέκεινα τοῦ ὄντος. Plato's sentence would have made ὄντος very inconvenient here. But εἶναι shows that οὐσίας is not distinguished from τοῦ ὄντος here. ἐπέκεινα became technical and a symbol for the transcendental in Neoplatonism and all similar philosophies. cf. Plotinus xvii. 1, Dionysius Areop.De divinis nominibus, ii. 2, Friedländer, Platon, i. p. 87.

7 He is amused at Socrates' emphasis. Fanciful is Wilamowitz' notion (Platon, i. p. 209)that the laughable thing is Glaucon's losing control of himself, for which he compares Aristoph.Birds 61. Cf. the extraordinary comment of Proclus, p. 265. The dramatic humor of Glaucon's surprise is Plato's way of smiling at himself, as he frequently does in the dialogues. Cf. 536 B, 540 B, Lysis 223 B, Protag. 340 E, Charm. 175 E, Cratyl. 426 B, Theaet. 200 B, 197 D, etc. Cf. Friedländer, Platon, i. p. 172 on the Phaedo.

8 “What a comble!” would be nearer the tone of the Greek. There is no good English equivalent for ὑπερβολῆς. Cf. Sir Thomas Browne's remark that “nothing can be said hyperbolically of God.” The banter here relieves the strain, as is Plato's manner.

9 Cf. 502 A, Symp. 222 E, Meno 86 E.

10 Cf. the similar etymological pun in Cratyl. 396 B-C. Here, as often, the translator must choose between over-translating for some tastes, or not translating at all.

11 The meaning is given in the text. Too many commentators lose the meaning in their study of the imagery. Cf. the notes of Adam, Jowett, Campbell, and Apelt. See Introd. p. xxi for my interpretation of the passage.

12 Some modern and ancient critics prefer ἀν᾽ ἴσα. It is a little more plausible to make the sections unequal. But again there is doubt which shall be longer, the higher as the more honorable or the lower as the more multitudinous. Cf. Plut.Plat. Quest. 3.

13 Cf. 402 B, Soph. 266 B-C.

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