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ἀλλ̓ -- ἐν οὐρανῷ κτλ. ‘But perhaps it is laid up in heaven as an ensample for him who desires to behold it and beholding found a city in himself.’ If the philosopher is prevented from founding a city after the pattern in the Heavens, he can at all events ‘found himself’ (“sich selbst begründen” Schneider, and so also Bosanquet): cf. VI 496 C —497 A. ἑαυτὸν κατοικίζειν is a pregnant and powerful phrase, which involves not only the idea of the πόλις s. πολιτεία ἐν ἡμῖν (cf. 590 E, 591 E, X 605 B, 608 B), but also perhaps a hint that the παράδειγμα ἐν οὐρανῷ is as it were the μητρόπολις from which our souls should be colonised. Jowett and Campbell understand ἐκεῖ after ἑαυτὸν κατοικίζειν, while Richards thinks Plato may have written ἑαυτὸν <αὐτόσε> or <εἰς αὐτὴν> κατοικίζειν: but the word παράδειγμα, as well as τῷ βουλομένῳ ὁρᾶν καὶ ὁρῶντι, shews that the heavenly city is regarded as a model for the soul rather than as the place in which the soul should be planted. The conjectures αὐτὸ (sc. τὸ παράδειγμα) κατοικίζειν and ὁρῶντι πρὸς (s. εἰςαὐτὸ κατοικίζειν (Herwerden) do not merit refutation. What does Plato mean by ἐν οὐρανῷ? It is surely something more than “harmlose populär-theologische Redeweise” (Pfleiderer zur Lösung etc. p. 33). The poet Gray (who aptly reminds us of Diogenes Laertius' epitaph on Plato πόλιν ἤλυθεν ἥν ποθ᾽ ἑαυτῷ | ἔκτισε, καὶ δαπέδῳ Ζηνὸς ἐνιδρύσατο III 45) remarks “ἐν οὐρανῷ, that is, in the idea of the divinity: see the beginning of the following book.” Apparently he understood the words of the Heaven of Ideas, a view which has, with various modifications and qualifications, found favour also with other critics (see Steinhart Einleitung p. 254 and cf. Susemihl Gen. Entw. II p. 248 ff. Proclus in Tim. 269 E seems to interpret the παράδειγμα as τὴν ἐν οὐρανῷ πολιτείαν τῆς ψυχῆς, but Plato is manifestly speaking of the πολιτεία τῆς πόλεως). Others have taken ἐν οὐρανῷ of the ‘Weltall’ or Macrocosm, as if the Universe itself were one great ideal city, after whose pattern we should regulate the City of the Soul (see Steinhart l. c. and p. 270 with Tim. 47 B, 90 D); but, as Schneider points out, we can hardly reconcile such an interpretation with VII 529 C—530 C, and ἀνάκειται is also against it. The sentence may be compared with Pol. 297 C, Laws 713 B ff. and especially 739 D, E, where the polity of the Republic is thus described: μέν δὴ τοιαύτη πόλις, εἴτε που θεοὶ παῖδες θεῶν αὐτὴν οἰκοῦσι πλείους ἑνός, οὕτω διαζῶντες εὐφραινόμενοι κατοικοῦσι: διὸ δὴ παράδειγμά γε πολιτείας οὐκ ἄλλῃ χρὴ σκοπεῖν, ἀλλ᾽ ἐχομένους ταύτης τὴν τι μάλιστα τοιαύτην ζητεῖν κατὰ δύναμιν. We might employ this passage to explain ἐν οὐρανῷ ἴσως παράδειγμα, but its tone is less elevated and impressive, and in particular it does not help us to understand τῷ βουλομένῳ ὁρᾶν καὶ ὁρῶντι. Plato's language is extraordinarily suggestive, and I confess that to me, as apparently to Susemihl (l. c. p. 249), these words suggest, not indeed the doctrine of Anamnesis in all its bearings, but something of the half-religious, half-poetical atmosphere with which Plato invests that doctrine in the Phaedrus. The mysterious and haunting phrase ἐν οὐρανῷ παράδειγμα recalls the ‘imperial palace whence we came,’ and the whole sentence reminds us once again of that profound and inspiring doctrine ἄνθρωπος οὐράνιον φυτόν, οὐκ ἔγγειον, which, as I have often pointed out, underlies so much of Platonism. The sister-doctrine of Immortality seems also to be implied, and from this point of view the Christian parallels are highly remarkable and significant: see for example Philipp. 3. 30 ἡμῶν γὰρ τὸ πολίτευμα ἐν οὐρανοῖς ὑπάρχει, and many other passages in the New Testament, e.g. Hebr. 11. 16, 12. 23, 13. 14: 1 Pet. i. 4, 2. iii. 13. I do not venture to assert that Plato consciously and deliberately thought of Anamnesis and Immortality when he wrote ἐν οὐρανῷ etc., but the words are steeped in the fragrance of these beliefs; and to regard the reference to heaven “as a mere passing figure of speech” (Bosanquet) seems to me to do less than justice to the wonderful depth and fervour of this passage.

τὰ γὰρ ταύτης κτλ. See Nettleship Lect. and Rem. II p. 338 and Theaet. 173 C ff., quoted by him. Interpreted strictly and by themselves, the words of Plato would mean only that the philosopher will abstain from public and political life except when some ‘divine chance’ enables him to exercise his true vocation. But taken in connexion with ἑαυτὸν κατοικίζειν they mean more. In founding the city within himself after the likeness of the heavenly city the philosopher is in reality a true πολιτικός, because he is thereby faithful to the principles of the true and perfect State: even while he lives, he is already in a sense a citizen of Heaven, for the Kingdom of Heaven is reproduced within him. In existing cities the truest politicians are sometimes those who abstain from politics altogether, according to Gorg. 521 D ff. I agree with Steinhart (Einleitung p. 254) and Christ (Gr. Literaturgesch. p. 348 note 6) that Plato now speaks much less hopefully than before of the prospects of realising his ideal city upon earth: see on V 470 E, VI 499 C and 502 C. It is possible to force some of the earlier allusions into a sort of harmony with the words of this passage (see for example Hirmer Entst. u. Komp. d. Pl. Pol. pp. 637 ff.); but we cannot help feeling that the tone and atmosphere are very different. Steinhart (l.c. p. 703 note 264) traces the difference to Plato's disappointed hopes of the younger Dionysius. The conjecture is interesting, but even without this stimulus Plato may well have come to feel that his καλλίπολις is hardly of this world (cf. Laws 713 B), and that its true value lies in the religious, political, and moral ideals which it holds before mankind.

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hide References (3 total)
  • Commentary references from this page (3):
    • Plato, Theaetetus, 173c
    • Plato, Gorgias, 521d
    • Plato, Timaeus, 47b
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