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Plato, Phaedo 74 A–B

  • Dorothy Tarrant (a1)

Extract

The questions involved in this passage continue to be matter of debate. At this point in the dialogue the Forms are not yet regarded as causes, or as ‘in’ particulars; they are here introduced as in each case the perfect type, which particulars so named imperfectly resemble. Thus, equal things are described as being ‘like’ αὐτὸ τὸ ἴσον How far can this statement be reconciled with the case of the other Forms, which are presently instanced as on a par with ‘the Equal’ (75 c–d, οὐ γὰρ περὶ τοῦ ἴσου νῦν ὁ λόγος ἡμῖν μᾶλλόν τι ἤ καὶ περὶ αὐτοῦ τοῦ καλοῦ καὶ αὐτοῦ τοῦ ἀγαθοῦ καὶ δικαίου καὶ ὁσίου). Further, what is the point and significance of the plural phrase αὐτὰ τὰ ἴσα?

(I) αὐτὸ τὸ ἴσον Plato does not at any point in his argument indicate that he finds any difference in status between αὐτὸ τὸ ἴσον and the other perfect types. He refers to it in terms which become familiar in relation to the Forms of being. Thus, 74c, ἐκ τούτων . . .τῶν ἴσων, ἑτέρων ὄντων ἐκείνου τοῦ ἴσου 74d, ὅταν τίς τι ἰδὼν ἐννοήσῃ ὅτι βούλεται μὲν τοῦτο . . . εἶναι οἶον ἄλλο τι τῶν ὄντων, ἐνδεῖ δέ, κτλ 75a, ἰδόντες τὰ ἴσα ἐνενοήσαμεν, ὅτι ὀρέγεται μὲν πάντα ταῦτα εἶναι οἶον τὸ ἴσον, ἔχει δέ ἐνδεεστέρως . . . ἐκείνου τε ὀρέγεται τοῦ ἔστιν ἴσον, καὶ αὐτοῦ ἐνδεέστερά έστιν 75b, εἰληφότας ἐπιστήμην αὐτοῦ ἴσου ὅτι ἔστιν It is after this passage of exercise, so to speak, in the concept of αὐτὸ τὸ ἴσον that he explicitly (75c–d, already quoted) places this Form on a level with αὐτὸ τὸ καλόν and the rest.

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Plato, Phaedo 74 A–B

  • Dorothy Tarrant (a1)

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