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[523a] that it is one of those studies which we are seeking that naturally conduce to the awakening of thought, but that no one makes the right use1 of it, though it really does tend to draw the mind to essence and reality.” “What do you mean?” he said. “I will try,” I said, “to show you at least my opinion. Do you keep watch and observe the things I distinguish in my mind as being or not being conducive to our purpose, and either concur or dissent, in order that here too we may see more clearly2 whether my surmise is right.” “Point them out,” he said. “I do point them out,” I said, “if you can discern that some reports of our perceptions [523b] do not provoke thought to reconsideration because the judgement3 of them by sensation seems adequate,4 while others always invite the intellect to reflection because the sensation yields nothing that can be trusted.5” “You obviously mean distant6 appearances,” he said, “and shadow-painting.7” “You have quite missed my meaning,8” said I. “What do you mean?” he said. “The experiences that do not provoke thought are those that do not [523c] at the same time issue in a contradictory perception.9 Those that do have that effect I set down as provocatives, when the perception no more manifests one thing than its contrary, alike whether its impact10 comes from nearby or afar. An illustration will make my meaning plain. Here, we say, are three fingers, the little finger, the second and the middle.” “Quite so,” he said. “Assume that I speak of them as seen near at hand. But this is the point that you are to consider.” “What?” “Each one of them appears to be [523d] equally a finger,11 and in this respect it makes no difference whether it is observed as intermediate or at either extreme, whether it is white or black, thick or thin, or of any other quality of this kind. For in none of these cases is the soul of most men impelled to question the reason and to ask what in the world is a finger, since the faculty of sight never signifies to it at the same time that the finger is the opposite of a finger.” “Why, no, it does not,” he said. “Then,” said I, “it is to be expected that such a perception will not provoke or awaken12 [523e] reflection and thought.” “It is.” “But now, what about the bigness and the smallness of these objects? Is our vision's view of them adequate, and does it make no difference to it whether one of them is situated13 outside or in the middle; and similarly of the relation of touch, to thickness and thinness, softness and hardness? And are not the other senses also defective in their reports of such things? Or is the operation of each of them as follows?

1 Plato's point of view here, as he will explain, is precisely the opposite of that of modern educators who would teach mathematics concretely and not puzzle the children with abstract logic. But in the Laws where he is speaking of primary and secondary education for the entire population he anticipates the modern kindergarten ideas (819 B-C).

2 For σαφέστερον cf. 523 C. Cf. Vol. I. p. 47, note f, on 338 D, and What Plato Said, p. 503, on Gorg. 463 D.

3 Cf. Phileb. 38 C.Unity of Plato's Thought, n. 337.

4 ἱκανῶς is not to be pressed here.

5 For οὐδὲν ὑγιές cf. 496 C, 584 A, 589 C, Phaedo 69 B, 89 E, 90 E, Gorg. 524 E, Laws 776 E, Theaet. 173 B, Eurip.Phoen. 201, Bacch. 262, Hel.. 746, etc.

6 The most obvious cause of errors of judgement. Cf. Laws 663 B.

7 Cf. Vol. I. p. 137 on 365 C.

8 The dramatic misapprehension by the interlocutor is one of Plato's methods for enforcing his meaning. Cf. on 529 A, p. 180, note a, Laws 792 B-C.

9 Cf. Jacks, Alchemy of Thought, p. 29: “The purpose of the world, then, being to attain consciousness of itself as a rational or consistent whole, is it not a little strange that the first step, so to speak, taken by the world for the attainment of this end is that of presenting itself in the form of contradictory experience?” αἴσθησις is not to be pressed. Adam's condescending apology for the primitive character of Plato's psychology here is as uncalled-for as all such apologies. Plato varies the expression, but his meaning is clear. Cf. 524 D. No modern psychologists are able to use “sensation,” “perception,” “judgement,” and similar terms with perfect consistency.

10 For προσπίπτουσα Cf. Tim. 33 A, 44 A, 66 A, Rep. 515 A, 561 C, Laws 791 C, 632 A, 637 A, Phileb. 21 C; also “accidere” in Lucretius, e.g. iv. 882, ii. 1024-1025, iv. 236 and iii. 841, and Goethe's “Das Blenden der Erscheinung, die sich an unsere Sinne drängt.”

11 This anticipates Aristotle's doctrine that “substances” do not, as qualities do, admit of more or less.

12 We should never press synonyms which Plato employs for ποικιλία of style or to avoid falling into a rut of terminology.

13 κεῖσθαι perhaps anticipates the Aristotelian category.

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