While Socrates was speaking, Pythodorus thought that Parmenides
and Zeno were not altogether pleased at the successive steps of the
argument; but still they gave the closest attention and often looked
at one another, and smiled as if in admiration of him. When he had
finished, Parmenides expressed their feelings in the following words:-
Socrates, he said, I admire the bent of your mind towards
philosophy; tell me now, was this your own distinction between ideas
in themselves and the things which partake of them? and do you think
that there is an idea of likeness apart from the likeness which we
possess, and of the one and many, and of the other things which Zeno
I think that there are such ideas, said Socrates.
Parmenides proceeded: And would you also make absolute ideas of
the just and the beautiful and the good, and of all that class?
Yes, he said, I should.
And would you make an idea of man apart from us and from all other
human creatures, or of fire and water?
I am often undecided, Parmenides, as to whether I ought to include
them or not.
And would you feel equally undecided, Socrates, about things of
which the mention may provoke a smile?-I mean such things as hair,
mud, dirt, or anything else which is vile and paltry; would you
suppose that each of these has an idea distinct from the actual
objects with which we come into contact, or not?
Certainly not, said Socrates; visible things like these are such
as they appear to us, and I am afraid that there would be an absurdity
in assuming any idea of them, although I sometimes get disturbed,
and begin to think that there is nothing without an idea; but then
again, when I have taken up this position, I run away, because I am
afraid that I may fall into a bottomless pit of nonsense, and
perish; and so I return to the ideas of which I was just now speaking,
and occupy myself with them.