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[529a] For it is obvious to everybody, I think, that this study certainly compels the soul to look upward1 and leads it away from things here to those higher things.” “It may be obvious to everybody except me,” said I, “for I do not think so.” “What do you think?” he said. “As it is now handled by those who are trying to lead us up to philosophy,2 I think that it turns the soul's gaze very much downward.” “What do you mean?” he said. “You seem to me in your thought to put a most liberal3 interpretation on the ‘study of higher things,’” [529b] I said, “for apparently if anyone with back-thrown head should learn something by staring at decorations on a ceiling, you would regard him as contemplating them with the higher reason and not with the eyes.4 Perhaps you are right and I am a simpleton. For I, for my part, am unable to suppose that any other study turns the soul's gaze upward5 than that which deals with being and the invisible. But if anyone tries to learn about the things of sense, whether gaping up6 or blinking down,7 I would never say that he really learns—for nothing of the kind admits of true knowledge—nor would I say that his soul looks up, but down, [529c] even though he study floating on his back8 on sea or land.”

“A fair retort,9” he said; “your rebuke is deserved. But how, then, did you mean that astronomy ought to be taught contrary to the present fashion if it is to be learned in a way to conduce to our purpose?” “Thus,” said I, “these sparks that paint the sky,10 since they are decorations on a visible surface, we must regard, to be sure, as the fairest and [529d] most exact of material things but we must recognize that they fall far short of the truth,11 the movements, namely, of real speed and real slowness in true number and in all true figures both in relation to one another and as vehicles of the things they carry and contain. These can be apprehended only by reason and thought, but not by sight; or do you think otherwise?” “By no means,” he said. “Then,” said I, “we must use the blazonry of the heavens as patterns to aid in the study of those realities, just as [529e] one would do who chanced upon diagrams drawn with special care and elaboration by Daedalus or some other craftsman or painter. For anyone acquainted with geometry who saw such designs would admit the beauty of the workmanship, but would think it absurd to examine them seriously in the expectation of finding in them the absolute truth

1 Cf. my review if Warburg, Class. Phil. xxiv. (1929) p. 319. The dramatic misunderstanding forestalls a possible understanding by the reader. Cf. on 523 B. The misapprehension is typical of modern misunderstandings. Glaucon is here the prototype of all sentimental Platonists or anti-Platonists. The meaning of “higher” things in Plato's allegory is obvious. But Glaucon takes it literally. Similarly, modern critics, taking Plato's imagery literally and pressing single expressions apart from the total context, have inferred that Plato would be hostile to all the applications of modern science to experience. They refuse to make allowance for his special and avowed educational purpose, and overlook the fact that he is prophesying the mathematical astronomy and science of the future. The half-serious exaggeration of his rhetoric can easily be matched by similar utterances of modern thinkers of the most various schools, from Rousseau's “écarter tous les faits” to Judd's “Once we acquire the power to neglect all the concrete facts . . . we are free from the incumbrances that come through attention to the concrete facts.” Cf. also on 529 B, 530 B and 534 A.

2 ἀνάγοντες is tinged with the suggestions of 517 A, but the meaning here is those who use astronomy as a part of the higher education. φιλοσοφία is used in the looser sense of Isocrates. Cf. A.J.P. xvi. p. 237.

3 For οὐκ ἀγεννῶςGorg. 462 D, where it is ironical, as here, Phaedr. 264 B, Euthyph. 2 C, Theaet. 184 C. In Charm. 158 C it is not ironical.

4 The humorous exaggeration of the language reflects Plato's exasperation at the sentimentalists who prefer star-gazing to mathematical science. Cf. Tim. 91 D on the evolution of birds from innocents who supposed that sight furnished the surest proof in such matters. Yet such is the irony of misinterpretation that this and the following pages are the chief support of the charge that Plato is hostile to science. Cf. on 530 B, p. 187, note c.

5 Cf. Theaet. 174 Aἄνω βλέποντα.

6 Cf. Aristoph.Clouds 172.

7 συμμύω probably refers to the eyes. But cf. Adam ad loc.

8 Cf. Phaedr. 264 A, and Adam in Class. Rev. xiii. p. 11.

9 Or rather, “serves me right,” or, in the American language, “I’ve got what's coming to me.” The expression is colloquial. Cf. Epist. iii. 319 E, Antiphon cxxiv. 45. But δίκην ἔχει in 520 B = “it is just.”

10 Cf. Tim. 40 Aκόσμον ἀληθινὸν αὐτῷ πεποικιλμένον, Eurip.Hel. 1096ἀστέρων ποικίλματα, Critias, Sisyphus,Diels ii.3 p. 321, lines 33-34τό τ᾽ ἀστερωπὸν οὐρανοῦ δέμας χρόνου καλὸν ποίκιλμα τέκτονος σοφοῦ. Cf. also Gorg. 508 A, Lucretius v. 1205 “stellis micantibus aethera fixum,” ii. 1031 ff., Aeneid iv. 482 “stellis ardentibus aptum,” vi. 797, xi. 202, Ennius, Ann. 372. The word ποικίλματα may further suggest here the complication of the movements in the heavens

11 The meaning of this sentence is certain, but the expression will no more bear a matter-of-fact logical analysis than that of Phaedo 69 A-B, or Rep. 365 C, or many other subtle passages in Plato. No material object perfectly embodies the ideal and abstract mathematical relation. These mathematical ideas are designated as the true,ἀληθινῶν, and the real,ὄν. As in the Timaeus(38 C, 40 A-B, 36 D-E) the abstract and ideal has the primacy and by a reversal of the ordinary point of view is said to contain or convey the concrete. The visible stars are in and are carried by their invisible mathematical orbits. By this way of speaking Plato, it is true, disregards the apparent difficulty that the movement of the visible stars then ought to be mathematically perfect. But this interpretation is, I think, more probable for Plato than Adam's attempt to secure rigid consistency by taking τὸ ὂν τάχος etc., to represent invisible and ideal planets, and τὰ ἐνόντα to be the perfect mathematical realities, which are in them. ἐνόντα would hardly retain the metaphysical meaning of ὄντα. For the interpretation of 529 D cf. also my “Platonism and the History of Science,”Am. Philos. Soc, Proc. lxvi. p. 172.

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