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[524a] In the first place, the sensation that is set over the hard is of necessity related also to the soft,1 and it reports to the soul that the same thing is both hard and soft to its perception.” “It is so,” he said. “Then,” said I, “is not this again a case where the soul must be at a loss2 as to what significance for it the sensation of hardness has, if the sense reports the same thing as also soft? And, similarly, as to what the sensation of light and heavy means by light and heavy, if it reports the heavy as light, and the light as heavy?” [524b] “Yes, indeed,” he said, “these communications3 to the soul are strange and invite reconsideration.” “Naturally, then,” said I, “it is in such cases as these that the soul first summons to its aid the calculating reason4 and tries to consider whether each of the things reported to it is one or two.5” “Of course.” “And if it appears to be two, each of the two is a distinct unit.6” “Yes.” “If, then, each is one and both two, the very meaning7 of ‘two’ is that the soul will conceive them as distinct.8 For if they were not separable, [524c] it would not have been thinking of two, but of one.” “Right.” “Sight too saw the great and the small, we say, not separated but confounded.9 “Is not that so?” “Yes.” “And for10 the clarification of this, the intelligence is compelled to contemplate the great and small,11 not thus confounded but as distinct entities, in the opposite way from sensation.” “True.” “And is it not in some such experience as this that the question first occurs to us, what in the world, then, is the great and the small?” “By all means.” “And this is the origin of the designation “intelligible” for the one, and “visible” for the other.” [524d] “Just so,” he said.

“This, then, is just what I was trying to explain a little while ago when I said that some things are provocative of thought and some are not, defining as provocative things that impinge upon the senses together with their opposites, while those that do not I said do not tend to awaken reflection.” “Well, now I understand,” he said, “and agree.” “To which class, then, do you think number and the one belong12?” “I cannot conceive,” he said. “Well, reason it out from what has already been said. For, if unity is adequately13 seen by itself [524e] or apprehended by some other sensation, it would not tend to draw the mind to the apprehension of essence, as we were explaining in the case of the finger. But if some contradiction is always seen coincidentally with it, so that it no more appears to be one than the opposite, there would forthwith be need of something to judge between them, and it would compel the soul to be at a loss and to inquire, by arousing thought in itself, and to ask,

1 Cf. Theaet. 186 ff., Tim. 62 B, Taylor, Timaeus, p. 233 on 63 D-E, Unity of Plato's Thought, nn. 222 and 225, Diels, Dialex. 5 (ii.3 p. 341). Protag. 331 D anticipates this thought, but Protagoras cannot follow it out. Cf. also Phileb. 13 A-B. Stallbaum also compares Phileb. 57 D and 56 C f.

2 Plato gives a very modern psychological explanation. Thought is provoked by the contradictions in perceptions that suggest problems. The very notion of unity is contradictory of uninterpreted experience. This use of ἀπορεῖν(Cf. 515 D) anticipates much modern psychology supposed to be new. Cf. e.g. Herbert Spencer, passim, and Dewey, How We Think, p. 12 “we may recapitulate by saying that the origin of thinking is some perplexity, confusion, or doubt”; also ibid, p. 62. Meyerson, Déduction relativiste p. 142, says “Mais Platon . . . n'avait-il pas dit qu'il était impossible de raisonner si ce n'est en partant d'une perception?” citing Rep. 523-524, and Rodier, Aristot. De anima, i. p. 191. But that is not Plato's point here. Zeller, Aristot. i. p. 166 (Eng.), also misses the point when he says “Even as to the passage from the former to the latter he had only the negative doctrine that the contradictions of opinion and fancy ought to lead us to go further and to pass to the pure treatment of ideas.”

3 For ἑρμηνεῖαι Cf. Theaet. 209 A.

4 Cf. Parmen. 130 Aτοῖς λογισμῷ λαμβανομένοις.

5 Cf. Theaet. 185 B, Laws 963 C, Sophist 254 D, Hipp. Major 301 D-E, and, for the dialectic here, Parmen. 143 D.

6 Or, as the Greek puts it, “both ‘one’ and ‘other.'” Cf. Vol. 1. p. 516, note f on 416 A. For ἕτερον Cf. What Plato Said, pp. 522, 580, 587-588.

7 γε “vi termini” Cf. 379 B, 576 C, Parmen. 145 A, Protag. 358 C.

8 κεχωρισμένα and ἀχώριστα suggest the terminology of Aristotle in dealing with the problem of abstraction.

9 Plato's aim is the opposite of that of the modern theorists who say that teaching should deal integrally with the total experience and not with the artificial division of abstraction.

10 The final use of διά became more frequent in later Greek. Cf. Aristot.Met. 982 b 20, Eth. Nic. 1110 a 4.Gen. an. 717 a 6, Poetics 1450 b 3, 1451 b 37. Cf. Lysis 218 B, Epin. 975 A, Olympiodorus, Life of Plato,Teubner vi. 191, ibid. p. 218, and schol.passim,Apsines, Spengel i. 361, line 18.

11 Plato merely means that this is the psychological origin of our attempt to form abstract and general ideas. My suggestion that this passage is the probable source of the notion which still infests the history of philosophy, that the great-and-the-small was a metaphysical entity or principle in Plato's later philosophy, to be identified with indeterminate dyad, has been disregarded. Cf. Unity of Plato's Thought, 84. But it is the only plausible explanation that has ever been proposed of the attribution of that “clotted nonsense” to Plato himself. For it is fallacious to identify μᾶλλον καὶ ἦττον in Philebus 24 C, 25 C, 21 E, and elsewhere with the μέγα καὶ σμικρόν. But there is no limit to the misapprehension of texts by hasty or fanciful readers in any age.

12 To waive metaphysics, unity is, as modern mathematicians say, a concept of the mind which experience breaks up. The thought is familiar to Plato from the Meno to the Parmenides. But it is not true that Plato derived the very notion of the concept from the problem of the one and the many. Unity is a typical concept, but the consciousness of the concept was developed by the Socratic quest for the definition.

13 Cf. 523 B. The meaning must be gathered from the context.

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