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