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τὸ σπανιώτερον τοῦ ἀφθόνου] ‘The rarer, scarcer, is greater, more valuable or important, than the abundant’. This, as is implied in ἀχρηστότερος ὤν in the example, is only true in a sense; it is in fact a paradox, which may however be asserted in argument, since there is something to be said for it, and examples may be found in which it is true; as in the case of gold and iron. In the true and proper sense, in utility and real value, iron is greater and better than gold. Isocrates, ἀντίδ. § 80, 81, on this ground of comparative rarity, ὅσῳ πέρ εἰσι σπανιώτεροι καὶ χαλεπώτεροι, thinks that, in his time at least, great orators and politicians ‘who can speak worthily on behalf of their country's interests’ are more valuable and to be more highly prized than legislators. A similar topic occurs in Top. Γ 2, 117 b 28, τὸ ἐπιφανέστερον τοῦ ἧττον τοιούτου, καὶ τὸ χαλεπώτερον: μᾶλλον γὰρ ἀγαπῶμεν ἔχοντες ἃ μὴ ἔστι ῥᾳδίως λαβεῖν. καὶ τὸ ἰδιαίτερον τοῦ κοινοτέρου. ἄλλον δὲ τρόπον] This gives the true side of the alternative, that the value of a thing is in proportion to its usefulness. Estimated by this standard, ‘water’, as Pindar says, at the opening of his first Olympian ode, ‘is the best of all things.’ Böckh, who cites this passage of Aristotle in his note, evidently agrees with him in interpreting Pindar's ἄριστον as ‘best’ because most useful, or necessary to the support of human life1. Dissen thinks that Pindar had in his mind the great ‘wholesomeness’ of water, ἄριστον dicitur τὸ ὕδωρ quia saluberrimum est. A dry and hot climate and a parched soil would also readily suggest the notion that water is the best of all things. But I agree nevertheless with Böckh in his interpretation of Pindar's thought. These two opposite topics represent two prevailing modes of estimating ‘value’, by use and price: Political Economy teaches us that the former is the true, the latter the false standard. In the one view air and water are the most valuable, in the other the least valuable, of all things. Plato, Euthyd. 304, 3, gives both sides: τὸ γὰρ σπάνιον, ὦ Εὐθύδημε, τίμιον: τὸ δὲ ὕδωρ εὐωνότατον, ἄριστον ὄν, ὡς ἔφη Πίνδαρος.
1 Pindar's own view of the meaning may be readily seen by comparing the first three lines of the 10th Olympian Ode: note the word χρῆσις. In a speech, quoted by Spedding (Letters and life of Fr. Bacon, Vol. III. p. 18), Bacon says: I liken this bill to that sentence of the poet (Pindar), who sets this as a paradox in the fore-front of his book, first water, then gold, preferring necessity before pleasure; and I am of opinion, that things necessary in use are better than those things that are glorious in estimation.
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