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380D - 383C In the second place, God is changeless, and incapable of deceiving. He is changeless, since He is the best. That which is the best cannot be changed by others, and will not change itself, for it can only change to what is worse. Homer and the other poets err in attributing changefulness to the gods. Neither can God deceive, for while the true or veritable lie, that is to say, ignorance of truth within the soul, is hateful alike to gods and men, the spoken lie, which is but an image of the other, is admissible only when used against enemies, or on behalf of friends, or to invest the ancient and unknown with a semblance of reality. God has no need of lying for any of these ends: he is therefore wholly true. In this respect also Homer and Aeschylus misrepresent the divine nature.

ἆρα γόητα κτλ. Although the gods are constantly represented as deceivers in Greek poetry and legend, Plato was by no means the first to uphold the opposite view. In Pindar (Ol. 10. 4) Truth is the daughter of Zeus, and the dramatists often teach a similar doctrine: see Nägelsbach Nachhom. Theol. p. 46. There is a close imitation of Plato's argument throughout this passage in Arist. Fr. 15. 1476^{b} 14 ff. ed. Rose.

αὐτόν is emphatic: the contrast is between actual and apparent transformations of the Deity. After αὐτόν, Herwerden would insert παντοδαπόν, comparing 381 E; before it, Richards adds ἄλλον, by which Benedictus and Ast replace αὐτόν. Hartman proposes <τι> γιγνόμενον. It has apparently escaped notice that γιγνόμενον, as well as ἀλλάττοντα τὸ αὑτοῦ εἶδος, belongs to εἰς πολλὰς μορφάς in the sense of ‘passing into’: cf. Tim. 57 A εἰς ἄλλο τι γιγνόμενον, infra III 400 B εἰς βραχύ τε καὶ μακρὸν γιγνόμενον, IX 588 C, and the frequent idiom γένεσις εἰς e.g. Phaed. 71 B, 71 E, Phil. 26 D, Tim. 49 C, 54 B.

ἁπλοῦν: one of the watchwords of Plato's State (370 B, C, 374 A—D al.): his citizens are to be nothing if not ἁπλοῖ. In making the gods a reflection of the type of human character which he desired to foster, Plato is acting strictly in accordance with the method of Greek theology, whose Olympus is an image of human society. The end of human action is ὁμοίωσις θεῷ κατὰ τὸ δυνατόν (Theaet. 176 B); and Plato's God, changeless and with ‘no shadow of turning,’ furnished the citizens of his ideal city with an abiding standard of human conduct. Cf. 383 C.

τί δὲ τόδε; Steinhart (Platon's Werke V p. 680) justly observes that the method of reasoning employed here— the disproof of each of the two members of the opposite alternative—recalls the arguments by which Parmenides established the attributes of Being (see RP.^{7} §§ 95, 98); but the resemblance is not close enough to suggest that Plato was thinking of Parmenides when he wrote this chapter. Although the unchangeableness of God was taught by Xenophanes and the Eleatics, there are few if any traces of such a doctrine outside the philosophers before Plato.

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hide References (5 total)
  • Commentary references from this page (5):
    • Plato, Phaedo, 71b
    • Plato, Theaetetus, 176b
    • Plato, Philebus, 26d
    • Plato, Timaeus, 49c
    • Plato, Timaeus, 57a
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