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[533a] “You will not be able, dear Glaucon, to follow me further,1 though on my part there will be no lack of goodwill.2 And, if I could, I would show you, no longer an image and symbol of my meaning, but the very truth, as it appears to me—though whether rightly or not I may not properly affirm.3 But that something like this is what we have to see, I must affirm.4 Is not that so?” “Surely.” “And may we not also declare that nothing less than the power of dialectics could reveal5 this, and that only to one experienced6 in the studies we have described, and that the thing is in no other wise possible?” “That, too,” he said, “we may properly affirm.” “This, at any rate,” said I, “no one will maintain in dispute against us7: [533b] that there is any other way of inquiry8 that attempts systematically and in all cases to determine what each thing really is. But all the other arts have for their object the opinions and desires of men or are wholly concerned with generation and composition or with the service and tendance of the things that grow and are put together, while the remnant which we said9 did in some sort lay hold on reality—geometry and the studies that accompany it— [533c] are, as we see, dreaming10 about being, but the clear waking vision11 of it is impossible for them as long as they leave the assumptions which they employ undisturbed and cannot give any account12 of them. For where the starting-point is something that the reasoner does not know, and the conclusion and all that intervenes is a tissue of things not really known,13 what possibility is there that assent14 in such cases can ever be converted into true knowledge or science?” “None,” said he.

“Then,” said I, “is not dialectics the only process of inquiry that advances in this manner, doing away with hypotheses, up to the first principle itself in order to find confirmation there? And it is literally true that when the eye of the soul15 is sunk [533d] in the barbaric slough16 of the Orphic myth, dialectic gently draws it forth and leads it up, employing as helpers and co-operators in this conversion the studies and sciences which we enumerated, which we called sciences often from habit,17 though they really need some other designation, connoting more clearness than opinion and more obscurity than science. ‘Understanding,’18 I believe, was the term we employed. But I presume we shall not dispute about the name19 [533e] when things of such moment lie before us for consideration.” “No, indeed,” he said.20* * *“Are you satisfied, then,” said I, “as before,21 to call the first division science,

1 This is not mysticism or secret doctrine. It is, in fact, the avoidance of dogmatism. but that is not all. Plato could not be expected to insert a treatise on dialectical method here, or risk an absolute definition which would only expose him to misinterpretation. The principles and methods of such reasoning, and the ultimate metaphysical conclusions to which they may lead, cannot be expounded in a page or a chapter. They can only be suggested to the intelligent, whose own experience will help them to understand. As the Republic and Laws entire explain Plato's idea of social good, so all the arguments in the dialogues illustrate his conception of fair and unfair argument. Cf. What Plato Said,Index s.v.Dialectics, and note f below.

2 For the idiom οὐδὲν προθυμίας ἀπολίποι Cf. Symp. 210 A, Meno 77 A, Laws 961 C, Aesch.Prom. 343, Thucyd. viii. 22. 1, Eurip.Hippol. 285.

3 On Plato's freedom from the dogmatism often attributed to him Cf. What Plato Said, p. 515 on Meno 86 B.

4 On Plato's freedom from the dogmatism often attributed to him Cf. What Plato Said, p. 515 on Meno 86 B.

5 The mystical implications of φήνειεν are not to be pressed. It is followed, as usual in Plato, by a matter-of-fact statement of the essential practical conclusion (γοῦν)that no man can be trusted to think straight in large matters who has not been educated to reason and argue straight.

6 Plato anticipates the criticism that he neglects experience.

7 i.e. dispute our statement and maintain. The meaning is plain. It is a case of what I have called illogical idiom. Cf. T.A.P.A. vol. xlvii. pp. 205-234. The meaning is that of Philebus 58 E, 59 A. Other “science” may be more interesting or useful, but sound dialectics alone fosters the disinterested pursuit of truth for its own sake. Cf. Soph. 295 C, Phaedr. 265-266. Aristotle, Topics i. 2. 6, practically comes back to the Platonic conception of dialectics. The full meaning of dialectics in Plato would demand a treatise. It is almost the opposite of what Hegelians call by that name, which is represented in Plato by the second part of the Parmenides. The characteristic Platonic dialectic is the checking of the stream of thought by the necessity of securing the understanding and assent of an intelligent interlocutor at every step, and the habit of noting all relevant distinctions, divisions, and ambiguities, in ideas and terms. When the interlocutor is used merely to relieve the strain on the leader's voice or the reader's attention, as in some of the later dialogues, dialectic becomes merely a literary form.

8 Cicero's “via et ratione.”περὶ παντός is virtually identical with αὐτοῦ γε ἑκάστου πέρι. It is true that the scientific specialist confines himself to his specialty. The dialectician, like his base counterfeit the sophist (Soph. 231 A), is prepared to argue about anything, Soph. 232 cf., Euthyd. 272 A-B.

9 Cf. 525 C, 527 B.

10 The interpreters of Plato must allow for his Emersonian habit of hitting each nail in turn as hard as he can. There is no real contradiction between praising mathematics in comparison with mere loose popular thinking, and disparaging it in comparison with dialectics. There is no evidence and no probability that Plato is here proposing a reform of mathematics in the direction of modern mathematical logic, as has been suggested. Cf. on 527 A. It is the nature of mathematics to fall short of dialectics.

11 Cf. Phileb. 20 B and on 520 C, p. 143, note g.

12 Cf. on 531 E.

13 The touch of humor is the expression may be illustrated by Lucian, Hermotimus 74, where it is used to justify Lucian's skepticism even of mathematics, and by Hazlitt's remark on Coleridge, “Excellent talker if you allow him to start from no premises and come to no conclusion.”

14 Or “admission.” Plato thinks of even geometrical reasoning as a Socratic dialogue. Cf. the exaggeration of this idea by the Epicureans in Cic.De fin. i. 21 “quae et a falsis initiis profecta, vera esse non possunt: et si essent vera nihil afferunt quo iucundius, id est, quo melius viveremus.” Dialectic proceeds διὰ συγχωρήσεων, the admission of the interlocutor. Cf. Laws 957 D, Phaedr. 237 C-D, Gorg. 487 E, Lysis 219 C, Prot. 350 E, Phileb. 12 A, Theaet. 162 A, 169 D-E, I 64 C, Rep. 340 B. But such admissions are not valid unless when challenged they are carried back to something satisfactory—ἱκανόν—(not necessarily in any given case to the idea of good). But the mathematician as such peremptorily demands the admission of his postulates and definitions. Cf. 510 B-D, 511 B.

15 Cf. on 519 B, p. 138, note a.

16 Orphism pictured the impious souls as buried in mud in the world below; cf. 363 D. Again we should not press Plato's rhetoric and imagery either as sentimental Platonists or hostile critics. See Newman, Introd. Aristot.Pol. p. 463, n. 3.

17 All writers and philosophers are compelled to “speak with the vulgar.” Cf. e.g. Meyerson, De l'explication dans les sciences, i. p. 329: “Tout en sachant que la couleur n'est pas réellement une qualité de l'object, à se servir cependant, dans la vie de tous les jours, d'une locution qui l'affirme.”

18 Cf. on 511 D, pp. 116-117, note c.

19 This unwillingness to dispute about names when they do not concern the argument is characteristic of Plato. Cf. What Plato Said, p. 516 on Meno 78 B-C for numerous instances. Stallbaum refers to Max. Tyr.Diss. xxvii. p. 40ἐγὼ γάρ τοι τά τε ἄλλα, καὶ ἐν τῇ τῶν ὀνομάτων ἐλευθερίᾳ πείθομαι Πλάτωνι.

20 The next sentence is hopelessly corrupt and is often considered an interpolation. The translation omits it. See Adam, Appendix XVI. to Bk. VII., Bywater, Journal of Phil.(Eng.) v. pp. 122-124.

21 Supra 511 D-E.

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