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[48b] and taking once again a fresh starting point suitable to the matter we must make a fresh start in dealing therewith, just as we did with our previous subjects. We must gain a view of the real nature of fire and water, air and earth, as it was before the birth of Heaven, and the properties they had before that time; for at present no one has as yet declared their generation, but we assume that men know what fire is, and each of these things, and we call them principles and presume that they are elements1 of the Universe, although in truth they do not so much as deserve to be likened with any likelihood,

1 στοιχεῖα, here applied to physical “elements,” was the regular term for “letters” of the alphabet; Cf. Theaet. 203 B ff.,Rep.402 A ff.

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