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[511c] making no use whatever of any object of sense1 but only of pure ideas moving on through ideas to ideas and ending with ideas.2” “I understand,” he said; “not fully, for it is no slight task that you appear to have in mind, but I do understand that you mean to distinguish the aspect of reality and the intelligible, which is contemplated by the power of dialectic, as something truer and more exact than the object of the so-called arts and sciences whose assumptions are arbitrary starting-points. And though it is true that those who contemplate them are compelled to use their understanding3 and not

1 This is one of the passages that are misused to attribute to Plato disdain for experience and the perceptions of the senses. Cf. on 530 B, p. 187, note c. The dialectician is able to reason purely in concepts and words without recurring to images. Plato is not here considering how much or little of his knowledge is ultimately derived from experience.

2 The description undoubtedly applies to a metaphysical philosophy that deduces all things from a transcendent first principle. I have never denied that. The point of my interpretation is that it also describes the method which distinguishes the dialectician as such from the man of science, and that this distinction is for practical and educational purposes the chief result of the discussion, as Plato virtually says in the next few lines. Cf. What Plato Said, pp. 233-234.

3 διανοίᾳ here as in 511 A is general and not technical.

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