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ὅταν -- εἷς μίαν. This principle—the cardinal principle of the Republic, reiterated also with great emphasis in Laws 846 D—847 B—is deduced by Plato from φύσις, whose rule is specialization: cf. 370 C ὅταν εἷς ἓν κατὰ φύσινπράττῃ. Plato (as usual in the Republic) is thinking of Man's nature, one man being naturally fitted for one pursuit, another for another: cf. III 395 B, IV 433 A, 434 A, B. The principle of specialization had already been enunciated by Socrates: see e.g. Xen. Mem. III 9. 3, 15, Cyrop. VIII 2. 5, 6. Aristotle widens it into a general law of Nature: οὐθὲν γὰρ φύσις ποιεῖ τοιοῦτον οἷον οἱ χαλκοτύποι τὴν Δελφικὴν μάχαιραν πενιχρῶς, ἀλλ᾽ ἓν πρὸς ἕν (Pol. A 2. 1252^{b} 1 ff.). In its application to politics, the principle becomes in Plato's hands a weapon for attacking the foundations of Athenian democracy (see Gorg. 455 A—C), to which, in this respect, his own Ideal City was a kind of counterblast.

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  • Commentary references from this page (2):
    • Plato, Gorgias, 455a
    • Xenophon, Memorabilia, 3.9.3
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