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phaedo   


the earth by the heaven; another gives the air as a support to the

earth, which is a sort of broad trough. Any power which in disposing

them as they are disposes them for the best never enters into their

minds, nor do they imagine that there is any superhuman strength in

that; they rather expect to find another Atlas of the world who is

stronger and more everlasting and more containing than the good is,

and are clearly of opinion that the obligatory and containing power of

the good is as nothing; and yet this is the principle which I would

fain learn if anyone would teach me. But as I have failed either to

discover myself or to learn of anyone else, the nature of the best,

I will exhibit to you, if you like, what I have found to be the second

best mode of inquiring into the cause.

I should very much like to hear that, he replied.

Socrates proceeded: I thought that as I had failed in the

contemplation of true existence, I ought to be careful that I did

not lose the eye of my soul; as people may injure their bodily eye

by observing and gazing on the sun during an eclipse, unless they take

the precaution of only looking at the image reflected in the water, or

in some similar medium. That occurred to me, and I was afraid that

my soul might be blinded altogether if I looked at things with my eyes

or tried by the help of the senses to apprehend them. And I thought

that I had better have recourse to ideas, and seek in them the truth

of existence. I dare say that the simile is not perfect-for I am

very far from admitting that he who contemplates existence through the

medium of ideas, sees them only "through a glass darkly," any more

than he who sees them in their working and effects. However, this

was the method which I adopted: I first assumed some principle which I

judged to be the strongest, and then I affirmed as true whatever

seemed to agree with this, whether relating to the cause or to

anything else; and that which disagreed I regarded as untrue. But I

should like to explain my meaning clearly, as I do not think that

you understand me.

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