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τὴν ψυχήν: though his bodily eye looks upwards.

κἂν ἐξ ὑπτίας κτλ.: ‘aye, even though the learner float face upwards on land or in the sea.’ I understand ἐξ ὑπτίας νεῖν ἐν γῇ as an allusion to Socrates in the κρεμάθρα: cf. Ap. 19 C ταῦτα γὰρ ἑωρᾶτε καὶ αὐτοὶ ἐν τῇ Ἀριστοφάνους κωμῳδίᾳ, Σωκράτη τινὰ ἐκεῖ περιφερόμενον, φάσκοντά τε ἀεροβατεῖν κτλ. and see Ar. Clouds 218—226. If we suppose that Socrates lay supine in his swinging κρεμάθρα, as presumably he did, since he was looking at the moon, then any one who had seen the Clouds would at once catch the allusion, especially after ἄνω κεχηνώς and the other references just above. For νεῖν of floating in the air, cf. ἀερονηχής Ar. Clouds 337, with Blaydes ad loc. and on Peace 831.

ἐν θαλάττῃ is thrown in by Plato with the same extravagant mockery as κάτω συμμεμυκώς. Float him on land, float him, if you like, in the sea; but though his body's eye looks upward, his soul looks down. On the text and other views of this passage see App. IX.

, D 19 ταῦτα μὲν κτλ. ‘Yonder embellishments in the heavens, forasmuch as they are wrought in that which is seen with the bodily eye, we should indeed consider more beautiful and perfect than anything visible, but far inferior to those which are genuine and true—far inferior to the movements wherewith essential speed and essential slowness, in true and genuine number and in all true forms, are moved in relation to each other and therewithal make that which is essentially in them to move: the true adornments, which are apprehended by reasoning and the mathematical intelligence, but not by sight.’ The clause κάλλιστα μὲνἔχειν is concessive, and ἐπείπερ ἐν ὁρατῷ πεποίκιλται gives the reason why τὰ ἐν οὐρανῷ ποικίλματα πολὺ ἐνδεῖ τῶν ἀληθινῶν (sc. ποικιλμάτων), for the ἀληθινὰ ποικίλματα are wrought, not ἐν ὁρατῷ, but ἐν νοητῷ, i.e. in the lower νοητόν, with which and which alone the true astronomer as such is conversant. See App. I. The clause ἃς τὸ ὀ̂ν τάχοςφορὰς κτλ. explains τῶν ἀληθινῶν (ποικιλμάτων), being equivalent, as Schneider points out, to τοῦτ᾽ ἔστι, τῶν φορῶν, ἂς κτλ., ‘that is, the movements which’ etc. So much for the relation between the different members of the sentence. In order to grasp the meaning of Plato, we should read the sentence aloud, letting the full stress of the voice fall on the words ἀληθινῶν, ὄν, οὖσα, ἀληθινῷ, ἀληθέσι and -όντα in τὰ ἐνόντα φέρει. Each of these words is emphatic, and expresses that degree of Truth or Being which belongs to the mathematical realities of true astronomy, as opposed to the sensibles or αἰσθητά which form the subject-matter of the astronomy which Plato has just condemned. Popular astronomy observes with the bodily eye the movements of visible and material planets, e.g. Mercury and Mars. These two planets φορὰς πρὸς ἄλληλα φέρει in γιγνόμενος or κινητὸς ἀριθμός, i.e. in time (cf. Tim. 37 C ff.), Mercury, as astronomers tell us, completing his orbit in about three, and Mars in about twenty-three, months. In the second place, these planets travel in γιγνόμενα (not ἀληθῆ) σχήματα, i.e. in forms or orbits which belong to the world of γιγνόμενα, and as they travel they carry with them the γιγνόμενα which they contain, Mars for example his snow-caps and canals. The Platonic astronomer, on the other hand, looks with the eye of διάνοια at the ἀληθινὰ ποικίλματα, i.e. at the motions of true or mathematical stars. These mathematical stars φορὰς πρὸς ἄλληλα φέρεται ἐν τῷ ἀληθινῷ ἀριθμῷ, i.e. in mathematical number, e.g. in 3 and 23 (not three months, etc.), and also ἐν ἀληθέσι σχήμασιν, i.e. in mathematical orbits, viz. the perfect ellipses which are imperfectly reproduced in the orbits of the visible material planets. Furthermore, although here perhaps our imagination may refuse to follow Plato in his flight, just as the visible Mars in his journey carries with him the γιγνόμενα which he contains, so Plato represents the true stars of mathematical astronomy as carrying round with them τὰ ἐνόντα, i.e. the mathematical realities which are in them. The mathematical counterpart of Mars, for example, will take with it in its revolution those perfect mathematical forms which are imperfectly reproduced in the canals and snow-caps of the visible Mars. Plato in short conceives of a mathematical οὐρανός of which the visible heavens are but a blurred and imperfect expression in time and space, just as every visible and material triangle is only an approximation to a true or perfect, i.e. a mathematical, triangle. The following remark of Aristotle's is intended as an objection to Plato's theory, but, according to the doctrine of this part of the Republic, Plato would have accepted the criticism as containing a just and true account of the astronomy which he prescribes: ἔτι δὲ εἴ τις παρὰ τὰ εἴδη καὶ τὰ αἰσθητὰ τὰ μεταξὺ θήσεται, πολλὰς ἀπορίας ἕξει. δῆλον γὰρ ὡς ὁμοίως γραμμαί τε παρ᾽ αὐτὰς καὶ τὰς αἰσθητὰς ἔσονται καὶ ἕκαστον τῶν ἄλλων γενῶν. ὥστ᾽ ἐπείπερ ἀστρολογία μία τούτων ἐστίν, ἔσται τις καὶ οὐρανὸς παρὰ τὸν αἰσθητὸν οὐρανὸν καὶ ἥλιός τε καὶ σελήνη καὶ τἄλλα ὁμοίως τὰ κατὰ τὸν οὐρανόν (Met. B 2. 997^{b} 12 ff.). It remains to speak of two particular difficulties. What does Plato mean by ταῦτα τὰ ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ ποικίλματα, and by τὸ ὂν τάχος καὶ οὖσα βραδυτής? The ποικίλματα seem to be generally identified with the stars and nothing more. But inasmuch as astronomy deals with φορὰ βάθους, and the ordinary astronomer, according to Plato, studies τὰς τῶν ἄστρων φοράς (cf. 533 A) rather than ἄστρα themselves, it may be presumed that the ποικίλματα ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ in reality denote the stars regarded as moving bodies, i.e., strictly speaking, the movements of the heavenly bodies revolving in their orbits (cf. Tim. 39 D and 40 C); and the presumption becomes a certainty when we reach the words τῶν ἀληθινῶν, ἃςφέρει, for since the true ποικίλματα which true astronomy studies are identified with the movements of true stars, we are bound in like manner to suppose that the γιγνόμενα ποικίλματα which observational astronomy studies are the movements of γιγνόμενα ἄστρα. Some may be disposed to think that τὰ ἐν οὐρανῷ ποικίλματα refers to the intricate and complex patterns which the orbits of the celestial bodies weave upon the Heavens: cf. Tim. 39 D τὰς τούτων πλάνας, πλήθει μὲν ἀμηχάνῳ χρωμένας, πεποικιλμένας δὲ θαυμαστῶς. But in view of expressions like Aesch. P. V. 24 ποικιλείμων νύξ and Eur. Hel. 1102 ἀστέρων ποικίλματα, it is better to hold that Plato adopts the word which was usually applied to the ‘spangles’ in the heavens, the “patines of bright gold,” with which “the floor of heaven is thick inlaid” (Merchant of Venice V 1), and uses it of the movements of the stars, especially as throughout this chapter he consistently represents the visible stars which popular astronomy investigates as nothing but visible or material φοραί. I understand τὸ ὂν τάχος and οὖσα βραδυτής as the mathematical counterparts of visible stars. This interpretation is, I think, the only one which gives a proper sense to φοράς τε πρὸς ἄλληλα φέρεται καὶ τὰ ἐνόντα φέρει, and no other solution preserves in its full and unimpaired significance the necessary contrast between the astronomy of observation and Plato's form of the science. The place which in popular astronomy is occupied by a γιγνόμενον τάχος, e.g. the planet Mercury, and a γιγνομένη βραδυτής, e.g. the planet Mars, is in true astronomy filled by ὂν τάχος and οὖσα βραδυτής. Plato's conception of a true science of Astronomy is a remarkable product of his peculiar half-poetical, half-philosophical imaginative faculty, and differs fundamentally from the theory and practice of the science both in antiquity and now. But it must in fairness be allowed that if a science of astronomy could be constructed on Platonic principles, admitting no element of sense-perception, and dealing exclusively with incorporeal mathematical abstractions, it would prove a better prelude to the study of the ἀχρώματός τε καὶ ἀσχημάτιστος καὶ ἀναφὴς οὐσία (Phaedr. 247 C) than could ever be provided by the astronomy which depends on observation of the heavenly bodies. See further App. II, and for other views of this passage App. X.

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hide References (8 total)
  • Commentary references from this page (8):
    • Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound, 24
    • Euripides, Helen, 1102
    • Plato, Apology, 19c
    • Plato, Phaedrus, 247c
    • Plato, Timaeus, 37c
    • Plato, Timaeus, 39d
    • Aristophanes, Clouds, 218
    • Aristophanes, Clouds, 337
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