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[479a] I will say, let him answer me, that good1 fellow who does not think there is a beautiful in itself or any2 idea of beauty in itself always remaining the same and unchanged, but who does believe in many beautiful things—the lover of spectacles, I mean, who cannot endure to hear anybody say that the beautiful is one and the just one, and so of other things—and this will be our question: My good fellow, is there any one of these many fair-and-honorable things that will not sometimes appear ugly and base3? And of the just things, that will not seem unjust? And of the pious things, that will not seem impious?” “No, it is inevitable,” he said, “that they would appear [479b] to be both beautiful in a way and ugly, and so with all the other things you asked about.” “And again, do the many double things4 appear any the less halves than doubles?” “None the less.” “And likewise of the great and the small things, the light and the heavy things—will they admit these predicates any more than their opposites?” “No,” he said, “each of them will always hold of, partake of, both.” “Then is each of these multiples rather than it is not that which one affirms it to be?” “They are like those jesters who palter with us in a double sense at banquets,” he replied, “and resemble the children's riddle5 [479c] about the eunuch and his hitting of the bat—with what and as it sat on what they signify that he struck it. For these things too equivocate, and it is impossible to conceive firmly6 any one of them to be or not to be or both or neither.” “Do you know what to do with them, then?” said I, “and can you find a better place to put them than that midway between existence or essence and the not-to-be? For we shall surely not discover a darker region than not-being7 that they should still more not be, [479d] nor brighter than being that they should still more be.” “Most true,” he said. “We would seem to have found, then, that the many conventions8 of the many about the fair and honorable and other things are tumbled about in9 the mid-region between that which is not and that which is in the true and absolute sense.” “We have so found it.” “But we agreed in advance that, if anything of that sort should be discovered, it must be denominated opinable, not knowable, the wanderer between being caught by the faculty that is betwixt and between.” “We did.” “We shall affirm, then, that those who view many beautiful things [479e] but do not see the beautiful itself and are unable to follow another's guidance10 to it, and many just things, but not justice itself, and so in all cases—we shall say that such men have opinions about all things, but know nothing of the things they opine.” “Of necessity.” “And, on the other hand, what of those who contemplate the very things themselves in each case, ever remaining the same and unchanged—shall we not say that they know and do not merely opine?” “That, too, necessarily follows.” “Shall we not also say that the one welcomes to his thought and loves the things

1 Ironical. Cf. Phaedrus 266 E.

2 τινὰ does not mean that the theory of Ideas is a novelty here or that the terminology is new and strange. It merely says that the type of mind that is absorbed in the concrete cannot apprehend any general aspect of things.αὐτό and κατὰ ταὐτά are the technical designation of the Idea here. Cf. my note on Philebus 64 A, Class. Phil. xx. (1925) p. 347.

3 Plato consciously uses mere logic to lend the emphasis and dignity of absolute metaphysics to his distinction between the two types of mind, which is for all practical purposes his main point here. If you cannot correctly define the beautiful, all your imperfect definitions will be refuted by showing that they sometimes describe what is ugly. Cf. Hippias Major 289 C and note on Republic i. 333 E. The many concrete objects are this and are not that, and so with conscious use of the ambiguity of the copula may be said to tumble about between being and not-being. That this is the consciously intended meaning may be inferred from the fact that in Timaeus 37 E, where Plato must have had in mind the conclusions of the Sophist, he still avails himself of this ambiguity to suggest an absolute being behind phenomena. Cf. Unity of Plato's Thought, pp. 55, 56, 60, De Platonis Idearum Doctrina pp. 48, 49.

4 Cf. on 524 A, B.

5 The scholiast (Hermann vi. 34) quotes the riddle in two forms. It might run in English—“A tale there is, a man not yet a man,/ Seeing, saw not, a bird and not a bird,/ Perching upon a bough and not a bough,/ And hit it—not, with a stone and not a stone.” The key words of the answer are eunuch, bat, reed, pumice-stone. Cf. also Athenaeus 448 E, 452 E, Gifford on Euthydemus 300 D. It was used in the Stoic schools of logic, and Epicurus is said to have used it to disprove Plato's statement that either the negative or the affirmative of a proposition must be true or false. Cf. Usener, Epicurea, p. 348.

6 Cf. Theaetetus 157 A.

7 Cf. Sophist 254 Aεἰς τὴν τοῦ μὴ ὄντος σκοτεινότητα.

8 A further thought is developed here, suggested in 479 A, B. Just as the many particular horses, trees, or tables shift and change, and are and are not in comparision with the unchanging multitude of each, so the many opinions of the multitude about justice and the good and the beautiful and other moral conceptions change, and both are and are not in comparison with the unalterable ideas of justice and beauty, which the philosopher more nearly apprehends. Thus, for the purposes of this contrast, notions, opinions, and what English usage would call ideas, fall into the same class as material objects. Cf. Euthyphro 6 D, Phaedo 78 D, Parmenides 131 D, Gorgias 488 Dτὰ τῶν πολλῶν ἄρα νόμιμα, Laws 715 Bτὰ τούτων δίκαια, 860 Cτοῖς μὲν τοίνυν πολλοῖς etc., 962 Dτὰ τῶν πόλεων(of states)νόμιμα. The practical truth of this distinction is unaffected by our metaphysics. Plato is speaking of what he elsewhere calls the εἴδωλα of justice, beauty and the like. Cf. 517 D, 532 D, Theaetetus 150 B, and “The Idea of Good in Plato's Republic,”University of Chicago Studies in Classical Philology, i. p. 238.

9 Cf. Phaedrus 275 E, Phaedo 81 C, 82 E. Isocrates uses καλινδέομαι in similar contemptuous connotation, v. 82, xiii. 20, xv. 30.

10 Cf. Aristotle Metaphysics 989 a 33τοῖς ἐπάγουσιν αὐτόν.

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