26 April 2005

I'm Puzzled

I’m hoping readers of Dissoi Blogoi can help me understand the portion of the following passage from the Republic which I’ve placed in bold type. (Btw, the link to Perseus is here.):

diomologhsa/meno/j g' e)/fhn e)gw/, kai\ a)namnh/saj u(ma=j ta/ t' e)n toi=j e)/mprosqen r(hqe/nta kai\ a)/llote h)/dh polla/kij ei)rhme/na.

[507b] ta\ poi=a; h)= d' o(/j.

polla\ kala/, h)=n d' e)gw/, kai\ polla\ a)gaqa\ kai\ e(/kasta ou(/twj ei)=nai/ fame/n te kai\ diori/zomen tw=| lo/gw|.

fame\n ga/r.

kai\ au)to\ dh\ kalo\n kai\ au)to\ a)gaqo/n, kai\ ou(/tw peri\ pa/ntwn a(\ to/te w(j polla\ e)ti/qemen, pa/lin au)= kat' i)de/an mi/an e(ka/stou w(j mia=j ou)/shj tiqe/ntej, o(\ e)/stin e(/kaston prosagoreu/omen.

e)/sti tau=ta.

kai\ ta\ me\n dh\ o(ra=sqai/ famen, noei=sqai d' ou)/, ta\j d' au)= i)de/aj noei=sqai me/n, o(ra=sqai d' ou)/.

panta/pasi me\n ou)=n.

Here are three translations. I can’t make much sense of any of them, or the Greek.


And again, we speak of a self-beautiful and of a good that is only and merely good, and so, in the case of all the things that we then posited as many, we turn about and posit each as a single idea or aspect, assuming it to be a unity and call it that which each really is.


And beauty itself and good itself and all the things that we thereby set down as many, reversing ourselves, we set down according to a single form of each, believing that there is but one, and call it “the being” of each.


We also say there is a beautiful itself and a good itself. And the same with all the things we then said were “many.” Applying the procedure in reverse, we relate them to a single form or character of each—since we believe it is single—and call it “what each is”.

My difficulties (or some of them):
1. I don’t understand which two procedures are mean to be the reverse of each other. Is it that Plato is presuming that applying the same word to many things is an operation which takes us from one thing to many? So the One Over Many is a kind of inverse operation of predication? Or is it that we couldn't have grouped many things in a single class without having engaged in an operation that is the inverse of the One Over Many?

2. How are we supposed to coordinate the two instances of ‘each’ here (e(ka/stou ... e(/kaston)? Is the first the kind or the class of many and the second the single form corresponding to that class? Or do the two instances indicate the same thing?

(Maybe there’s an easy answer to this. I don’t have any commentaries at hand, as I write this, except Nick White’s, which skips over the passage. But I figure that the passage is likely to be puzzling to others if it is to me and so worth discussing—not as experts, but as interested amateurs--and if someone posts something definitive on it, fine. Naturally I’ve been drawn to the passage by thinking about the One Over Many in Republic 10.596a, in connection with the TMA, and looking at this passage as intimating the same thing.)


Anonymous said...

That's my take on it:
1.we predicate "being" of the multiple things caught by our senses - beautiful things, good things - and of the ideas. First we posit them as being many things, then as being one thing.
2. Each of them, particular cases, are considered to be one (ex. each good thing considered as an instance of the good), and each of the single form we call that which is, reversing the order of reality.
Too easy? 

Posted by Anonymous

Anonymous said...

There is no need to read a mysterious "reverse procedure" into the Greek. That is not the best reading of "palin". "Palin au"is often in Attic just a pleonastic phrase signaling a continuation. See LSJ, where the meanings "in turn" or "again" are noted.
I read the sentence in question:
"There is Beauty Itself and Good Itself, and likewise in the case of all the things we had before reckoned as many, there is [ or 'we posit' ] in turn a single form of each, since we reckon it to be one, and we call it the being/essence of each."
The missing verbs are all copulas. Tithemi keeps roughly the same meaning. "Each" understands "each kind of thing".

Anonymous said...

I've downloaded splonic and can read all of the greek except what is in bold. Are any other mac users having this problem?

Anonymous said...

For the second anonymous, about palin au, that's LSJ. The exact Rep. 507b is quoted here:

2. to express contradiction, p. ereei gainsay, Il.9.56; p. ho ge lazeto muthon took back his word, unsaid it, 4.357; opp. alêthea eipein, Od.13.254; mêde tôi doxêi p. let no one think contrariwise, A.Th.1045: in Prose, contrariwise, Pl.Grg.482d; p. au Id.R.507b ; au . . p. Id.Ap.27d: in this sense sts. c. gen., to p. neotatos youth's opposite, Pi.O.10(11).87; chronou to p. the change of time, E.HF777(lyr.); cf. empalin.

The first anonymous.