h.j.paton - plato's theory of eikasia, 1922

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*=[i ;o

Meeting of the Aristotelian Society at 21, Gower Street, W.G.

1,

on January 16th, 1922, at 8

P.M.

-V.

PLATO S THEOEY OF EIKA2IA.*By H.J.

PATON.

IT

is,

I suppose, universally admitted that the portion of thelineit

EepuUic which deals with the most important passages, ifpassage,for a

and the cavenotof

is

one of the

is

the

mosts

proper understanding

Plato

important position with

regard to

the

problems

of

impossible to get a coherentor of the reasons

knowledge. Yet it is almost account of this fourfold divisionto

which can have led Platothatthereis

makeor

it.

It is

not

uncommonly supposedbetweenbutthe

no

fundamental

differencetheir

two

highest

activities

between

objects,

many

of those

who

recognize that Plato

was sharply distinguishing the mathematical sciences and their objects from philosophy and its objects, yet fail to observe anysimilar distinction as regards the lower part of the division. They have no use for a distinction between circaa-ia and TROTW.

To them

as to the Sophist ait,

shadow

is

as real as the object

which casts

and we

find for instance the

American

critic

Mr. Shorey boldly asserting that el/caaia and the el/cove? are for the sake of "symmetry." It is "playfully thrownin"

surely a strange reading of the character of Plato as a seeker after truth to maintain that in the very heart of his greatest work and at the very core of the problem of knowledge he

should disturb and confuse those

who

are seeking to under"

stand his doctrine with aness"

even though

it

wholly uncalled for playful should be for the sake of "symmetry."little

* I must express suggested to

me

my debt to Professor J. A. Smith who originally the line of reflexion on this subject which I have

endeavoured

to follow.

70

H.

J.

PATON.

It is strange that in a place

marked by the suppressed butsetting forth the very essence of

tense emotion of oneall

who

is

that he has thought, there should occur without the least hint or warning a passage which has no counterpart in histhinking, whichis

at its best superfluous

and

at its

worst

misleading.

It is stranger still that in a later dialogue

The

the very turning point of the argument, the question Sophist of the possibility of error and of sophistry, should rest upon asimilar meaningless distinction expressed in almost identical

we have any respect at all for Plato as we must put this down as grotesquely improbablewords.If

a thinker;

and the

mere incapacityunderstand.

of the critic to

understand his doctrine willis

not be for us a sufficient proof that there

no doctrine

to

The interpretation which we seekthefour sectionsof

to

uphold

is

that each of

the line represents

a different kind of

cognitive activity,

and the objects

of these different activities

are different objects.

Tocomestrying,f

establish this

we must hark backthe

to the

argument which

immediately beforeto

fourfold

division.

Weor.

are

establish

^distinction

_

between

$oa

om nioiu.

\

AX

and eVt(JT7i^2^-QlJoiQwledge. A 6 fa is- supposed to ho. hef.wftfin ignorancejmd knowledge, and its objects are supposed to Hebetween the objectsof ignorance

and those_ofjknpwled^e.Jftg ftharantftr ofdiffers

.To

^

Aw\^U^

establish the distinctioni- e->

we

consider

faculties, or better, powers.its different^"

One powerand Itsrrr~"~

Swd^ets, from another

1

\

J

according to ZL

objects

:

c5 re ecrrt Kai b airepyd era i. The ecji The power of function of seeing and its objects are colours! hearing has the function of hearing and its objects are sounds.

different function* ~ power of sight has the

Now

knowledge,

if

it

is

really knowledge,

must

be^ infallible

this_is very importantfallible.

That

is

to say

is while opinion as i^jsmere opinion because the functions of the infallible

477

d.

PLATOfallible

S

THEORY OF

EIKASIA.

7T

andjbhe

different -knowledge and opinion are and therefore fhey__have different objects. digeient SiW/*e9, as sound SuchJis_J^la^(^^

must be

or not there can_be_np^jipjitLLihat_he accepted the- conclusion. Having established the necessity of difference in the objects:

we proceedof

to ask

what theselies

different objects are.

Theis

$vi>ap,c$

S6%a clearly

between ignoranceItis

whichasit

of

course

simply nothing than ignorance, but not so clear as knowledge.

and knowledge.

were clearerIts

objects

must

lie

between the objects

of ignorance

Now the objects of knowledge. are themselves nothing, or simply what

and the objects of ignorance which is nothingis

not.

We

cannot

philosophically speaking be ignorant about anything.

Ordinary statements of that kind imply some sort of cognition of an Ignorance is mere blankness or object in some sense real.darkness andnotexist.it

cannot have an object.

Its objects literally

do

Thereal

objects of

knowledge on the other hand are the truly

TO TravreXws bv TravreXco? yvcoo-rov.

They

are

the

et3r;

or true universalstimeless, intelligibleare,

the self-sufficient, self-dependent, perfect,realities,

which

are,are.

ancT~are~^tetrtheyWj^af,then^-ftrre-

and arejieyer other than theyS6%a

the

of objejsts^

the objec^pj

is the object of knowledge. ra yiyvop.eva, the__things of ih^m^Jn__the wo_rld_pf sense and change, things which are never themselves^but are

We_execj_them ignoranceand what1

to liejbetween

what

is

not

continually passing over into something else, things which in a md in a sense are nn^ about between"

tumbling

not-being."

It

is,

in

thi\s..^^oie_ibat_we find

what

.we are seeking.

These__objects__are

between the objects of

clearness and reality_than thatjvhich

is merely a blank nothing, but they have far JSSR rtftariiesallij^^ in tell which we grasp ljy_j^asoii apart from sense. igible^objects

Clearly, then, for Plato

whether he was rigHTor wrong

x

72the objej3j&^Li>^

H.

J.

PATOX.of

Thisj

j^^^^isjhe^reatest_ difference possible.

The_objects

ofj

thg_diflerent_jui/a/iety of seciij^_andjh earing

werex we

\different.

We

sec colours

and we hear sounds.

But

thisof

Sdifference^_is__as

nothing

to

the difference oL_th.e jabjects

^pinion and knowledge. In comparison with this second differ ence these minor differences become negligible. In comparison

with this second difference

seffrg

become

similar,is

and we

class

and hearing and their objects them both under the SiW/u? of

Sofa, which

opposed to the SiWytu? of eVto-rr;^.our subsequent procedure.

Consider

now

We

take a lineguess,

stretching, as from the allegory of the cave

we may

from

darkness intofirst

light.is

We

divide

it

in

two unequal

sections, the

of

which

Sofa and the second eVio-nj/w;.

The

first

section, that of Sofa, isreality.

We

presumably the shorter as having less then subdivide these two sections in the samegives

proportion, whichdivision of eitcaaia

us

in

the

first

section

the

smaller

and the larger division

of Tricms,

and in the

second section the smaller division of Sidvoia and the larger division of vorjo-i? or eVicrrr;/^ proper. We thus establish a

mathematical proportion, Sofa eVio-T?;/^:

=

etVao-ta

:

TTLO-TIS

=

Sidv ota

:

voricris

or eVierT^T/ proper.

Again, keeping to the:

same terminology (though Plato varies), eUaala ^icivoia = Note further* that this proportion holds not TTLO-TIS 1/0770-49. between the activities, but between their objects. OiWa or only:

yevecris or becoming, the object of Sofa = eVio-Tr^u?? Sofa. Plato expressly refrains from drawing out the proportions between the subordinate divisions* and::

being, the object of eTricmjfjLT}

their

objects, rr]v

efi

oh ravra avdXoylavis

in order to avoidth