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[505a] by attacking the argument. I suspect it is rather the latter. For you have often heard1 that the greatest thing to learn is the idea of good2 by reference to which3 just things4 and all the rest become useful and beneficial. And now I am almost sure you know that this is what I am going to speak of and to say further that we have no adequate knowledge of it. And if we do not know it, then, even if without the knowledge of this we should know all other things never so well, you are aware that it would avail us nothing,

1 Plato assumed that the reader will understand that the unavailing quest for “the good” in the earlier dialogues is an anticipation of the idea of good. Cf. Vol. I. on 476 A and What Plato Said, p. 71. Wilamowitz, Platon, i. p. 567, does not understand.

2 Cf. 508 E, 517 C, Cratyl. 418 E. Cf. Phileb. 64 E and What Plato Said, p. 534, on Phaedo 99 A. Plato is unwilling to confine his idea of good to a formula and so seems to speak of it as a mystery. It was so regarded throughout antiquity (cf. Diog. Laert. iii. 27), and by a majority of modern scholars. Cf. my Idea of Good in Plato's Republic, pp. 188-189, What Plato Said, pp. 72, 230-231, Introd. Vol. I. pp. xl-xli, and Vol. II. pp. xxvii, xxxiv.

3 Lit. “the use of which,” i.e. a theory of the cardinal virtues is scientific only if deduced from an ultimate sanction or ideal.

4 The omission of the article merely gives a vaguely generalizing color. It makes no difference.

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