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[531a] Or do you not know that they repeat the same procedure in the case of harmonies1? They transfer it to hearing and measure audible concords and sounds against one another,2 expending much useless labor just as the astronomers do.” “Yes, by heaven,” he said, “and most absurdly too. They talk of something they call minims3 and, laying their ears alongside, as if trying to catch a voice from next door,4 some affirm that they can hear a note between and that this is the least interval and the unit of measurement, while others insist that the strings now render identical sounds,5

1 This passage is often taken as another example of Plato's hostility to science and the experimental method. It is of course not that, but the precise interpretation is difficult. Glaucon at first misapprehends (cf. p. 180, note a, on 529 A) and gives an amusing description of the mere empiricist in music. But Socrates says he does not mean these, but those who try to apply mathematics to the perception of sound instead of developing a (Kantian)a priori science of harmony to match the mathematical science of astronomy. Cf. also p. 193, note g, on 531 B, W. Whewell, Transaction of the Cabridge Philos. Soc. vol. ix. p. 389, and for music A. Rivaud, “Platon et la musique,”Rev. d’Histoire de la Philos. 1929, pp. 1-30; also Stallbaum ad loc., and E. Frank, Platon u. d. sog. Pyth.,Anhang, on the history of Greek music. He expresses surprise (p. 199) that Glaucon knows nothing of Pythagorean theories of music. Others use this to prove Socrates' ignorance of music.

2 This hints at the distinction developed in the Politicus between relative measurement of one thing against another and measurement by a standard. Cf. Polit. 283 E, 284 B-C, Theat. 186 A.

3 πυκνώματα(condensed notes). The word is technical. Cf. Adam ad loc.But, as ἄττα shows, Plato is using it loosely to distinguish a measure of sense perception from a mathematically determined interval.

4 Cf. Pater, Renaissance, p. 157. The phrase,ἐκ γειτόνων, is colloquial and, despite the protest of those who insist that it only means in the neighborhood, suggests overhearing what goes on next door—as often in the New Comedy.

5 Cf. Aldous Huxley, Jesting Pilate, p. 152: “Much is enthusiastically taught about the use of quarter tones in Indian music. I listened attentively at Lucknow in the hope of hearing some new and extraordinary kind of melody based on these celebrated fractions. But I listened in vain.” Gomprez, Greek Thinkers, iii. pp. 334-335, n. 85, thinks that Plato “shrugs his shoulders at experiments.” He refers to Plutarch, Life of Marcellus, xiv. 65, and Quaest. Conv. viii. 2. 1, 7, where Plato is represented as “having been angry with Eudoxus and Archytas because they employed instruments and apparatus for the solution of a problem, instead of relying solely on reasoning.”

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