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[509b] the similitude of it still further in this way.1” “How?” “The sun, I presume you will say, not only furnishes to visibles the power of visibility but it also provides for their generation and growth and nurture though it is not itself generation.” “Of course not.” “In like manner, then, you are to say that the objects of knowledge not only receive from the presence of the good their being known, but their very existence and essence is derived to them from it, though the good itself is not essence but still transcends essence2 in dignity and surpassing power.”

1 i.e. not only do we understand a thing when we know its purpose, but a purpose in some mind is the chief cause of its existence, God's mind for the universe, man's mind for political institutions. this, being the only interpretation that makes sense o the passage, is presumably more or less consciously Plato's meaning. Cf. Introd. pp. xxxv-xxxvi. Quite irrelevant are Plato's supposed identification of the ἀγαθόν with the ἕν, one, and Aristotle's statement, Met. 988 a, that the ideas are the cause of other things and the one is the cause of the ideas. the remainder of the paragraph belongs to transcendental rhetoric. It has been endlessly quoted and plays a great part in Neoplatonism, in all philosophies of the unknowable and in all negative and mystic theologies.

2 It is an error to oppose Plato here to the Alexandrians who sometimes said ἐπέκεινα τοῦ ὄντος. Plato's sentence would have made ὄντος very inconvenient here. But εἶναι shows that οὐσίας is not distinguished from τοῦ ὄντος here. ἐπέκεινα became technical and a symbol for the transcendental in Neoplatonism and all similar philosophies. cf. Plotinus xvii. 1, Dionysius Areop.De divinis nominibus, ii. 2, Friedländer, Platon, i. p. 87.

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