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617D - 619A As soon as they arrived upon the scene, the souls were called upon to choose new lives. The order of choosing was determined by lot; but there were many more samples of lives than lots, and every soul was made responsible for its own choice. The moment of choice is the supreme crisis of our fate, and it behoves us to spare no effort to equip ourselves for resisting the attractions of wealth and power, and selecting the better life, that is, the life of virtue.

Ἀνάγκης κτλ. Proclus' remarks on the style of this speech deserve attention: πανταχοῦ μὲν Πλάτων νοῦν ἡγεμόνα προστησάμενος ὧν φθέγγεται νοερῶν ὄντως ἐπάξια φθέγγεται θεαμάτων: ὅταν δὲ καὶ τοὺς κρείττονας ἡμῶν ἀπεικονίζηται, σαφῶς ἐνθεάζοντι προσέοικε καὶ τοὺς φοιβολήπτους μιμεῖται, ῥήματα ἀφιεὶς ὥσπερ βέλη νοῦ γέμοντα καὶ ὑψηλῶν ἐπιβολῶν: συνεξορμώσης δὲ αὐτῷ τῆς ἑρμηνείας ταῖς νοήσεσιν ἀκαλλωπίστως συνεστραμμένοις μὲν χρῆται φθέγμασιν, ἀπολελυμένα δὲ ἀπ᾽ ἀλλήλων αὐτὰ διίστησιν τὴν ἀπόλυτον μιμούμενος θέαν τῆς ψυχῆς ἀπ᾽ ἄλλων ἐπ᾽ ἄλλα πηδῶσαν: οἷα καὶ διὰ τούτων ἐργάζεται τῶν τοῦ προφητου λόγων, ἐν ἐλαχίστοις μὲν ἀπεριήγητα νοήματα συλλαβών, ἀσύνδετα δὲ τὰ τλεῖστα φθεγξάμενος, συστρέψας δὲ τὰ κῶλα τοῖς αἰνίγμασιν παραπλησίως (l.c. 269). The omission of articles also adds dignity and impressiveness: cf. VII 518 A al.

ψυχαὶ κτλ. Plato loosely calls the souls ἐφήμεροι, because their connexion with body is transient. In themselves of course, they are immortal—ψυχὴ πᾶσα ἀθάνατος (Phaedr. 245 C). The explanation of Proclus is somewhat different, and, as often happens, too recondite: τὰς μὲν ἀνθρωπίνας ψυχάς, οὔτι γε πάσας, ἀλλὰ τὰς γενέσεως ἐπορεγομένας ἤδη καλῶν ἐφημέρους, ὡς θνητῶν καὶ ἐφημέρων ἁπτομένας (l.c. 270). περιόδου means of course τῆς ἀπὸ γενέσεως ἐπὶ γένεσιν περιόδου, viz. 1100 years (supra 615 A note); and θανατηφόρου, ‘fraught with death,’ ‘death-bringing’ agrees with περιόδου.

, E 28 οὐχ ὑμᾶς -- αἱρήσεσθε. Cf. infra 620 D, E ὃν εἵλετο δαίμοναφύλακα ξυμπέμπειν τοῦ βίου καὶ ἀποπληρωτὴν τῶν αἱρεθέντων. Each individual soul is accompanied throughout its life on earth by a δαίμων of its own. This δαίμων is the personification of its destiny throughout that particular life—its genius in short, albus or ater (Hor. Epp. II 2. 189), according as the soul is εὐδαίμων or κακοδαίμων. There are not a few traces of this belief before the time of Plato, e.g. in Heraclitus' famous saying ἦθος ἀνθρώπῳ δαίμων (Fr. 121 Bywater) in Pind. Ol. 13. 28 Ζεῦ πάτερΞενοφῶντος εὔθυνε δαίμονος οὖρον, and often in Euripides (examples in Nägelsbach Nachhom. Theol. p. 113); and Döring (l.c. p. 489) is no doubt right in holding that the doctrine was not exclusively Orphic or Pythagorean. According to the popular view, which Plato himself is content to make use of in Phaed. 107 D ἑκάστου δαίμων, ὅσπερ ζῶντα εἰλήχει, we do not choose our δαίμων, but are rather allotted to it: cf. Theocr. 4. 40 αἲ αἲ τῶ σκληρῶ μάλα δαίμονος, ὅς με λέλογχεν, and the fine lines of Menander ἅπαντι δαίμων ἀνδρὶ συμπαρίσταται | εὐθὺς γενομένῳ, μυσταγωγὸς τοῦ βίου (Mein. Frag. Com. Graec. IV p. 238), together with Homer Il. XXIII 79 (κὴρ) ἥπερ λάχε γεινόμενόν περ. In the emphatic οὐχ ὑμᾶς δαίμων λήξεται, Plato proclaims his dissent from the popular view: the individual is himself responsible for his destiny (ἀλλ᾽ ὑμεῖςαἱρήσεσθε). Hence αἰτία ἑλομένου: θεὸς ἀναίτιος. On later, especially Stoic, developments of the doctrine of a δαίμων see Rohde Pysche^{2} II p. 316 note See also on 620 D.

πρῶτος -- βίον. See on 618 A πολὺ πλείω τῶν παρόντων.

ἐξ ἀνάγκης. The choice, though free, is irrevocable: ἐνεδέχετο γὰρ καὶ ἄλλον βίον ζῆν, ἀλλὰ πρὸ τῆς αἱρέσεως, μετὰ δὲ τὴν αἵρεσιν ἀδύνατον (Proclus l.c. 275).

ἀρετὴ δὲ ἀδέσποτον. “Mortals that would follow me, Love Virtue, she alone is free” (Milton Comus 1018 f.). On Platonic principles, a thing is in so far as it is good (VI 509 B ff.), so that our truest individuality is nothing more or less than that which is the best and highest part of our nature: cf. the words of Aristotle, who in Eth. Nic. X 7. 1178^{a} 2 πλατωνίζει as follows: δόξειε δ᾽ ἂν καὶ εἶναι ἕκαστος τοῦτο (i.e. τὸ κράτιστον των ἐν αὑτῷ), εἴπερ τὸ κύριον καὶ ἄμεινον. We therefore attain our fullest development and enjoy our only true liberty as individuals by becoming servants of Virtue. In the words of Goethe, “Das Gesetz nur kann uns Freiheit geben.” Proclus' comment, though true and instructive as far as it goes, does not exhaust the significance of Plato's saying: ἀδέσποτον δὲ τὴν ἀρετήν, ἀλλ᾽ οὐ διὰ τὸ ἐφ᾽ ἡμῖν μόνον, ἀλλὰ διότι τὴν ψυχὴν ἐλευθέραν ἀποτελεῖ τῶν πικροτάτων δεσποτῶν, οἷς δουλεύουσα τῶν ἀγαθῶν στέρεται πάντων (l.c. 276. 5 ff. Cf. also Pl. Rep. I 329 C and especially Xen. Mem. IV 5. 3—5). The germ of the Platonic doctrine of moral freedom is to be found in the Socratic οὐδεὶς ἑκὼν πονηρός (see on IX 577 D, E): for its sequel, we should look to the Stoic theory of the freedom of the wise man (ἐλευθέρους τοὺς σπουδαίους μόνον Zeno ap. D. L. VII 33): see especially Epictetus Gnom. Epict. Stob. 31 ed. Schenkl ἐλευθερία καὶ δουλεία, τὸ μὲν ἀρετῆς ὄνομα, τὸ δὲ κακίας and the chapter περὶ ἐλευθερίας ib. Dissert. IV 1.

αἰτία -- ἀναίτιος. Cf. II 379 B ff. and Tim. 42 D. The whole of Lachesis' speech is frequently quoted or referred to by later Greek writers (see the references in Schneider's note), and these words in particular became a kind of rallying-cry among the champions of the freedom of the will in the early Christian era (Dieterich Nek. p. 115 note). A bust of Plato found at Tibur and dating from the first century B.C. bears the inscription αἰτία ἑλομένῳ (sic). Θεὸς ἀναίτιος, together with ψυχὴ πᾶσα ἀθάνατος (from Phaedr. 245 C). See Kaibel IGIS 1196 quoted by Dieterich l.c. With the sentiment itself cf. Laws 904 B—D.

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hide References (4 total)
  • Commentary references from this page (4):
    • Plato, Phaedo, 107d
    • Plato, Phaedrus, 245c
    • Plato, Timaeus, 42d
    • Xenophon, Memorabilia, 4.5.3
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