Beauty as a Thing in Itself

SOCRATES: Now, didn’t we say earlier that if something turned out both to be and not to be at the same time, it would lie in between what purely is and what in every way is not, and that neither knowledge nor ignorance would deal with it; but whatever it was again that turned out to lie in between ignorance and knowledge would?

CIPACON: Are we talking about that cat again?

SOCRATES: And now, what we are calling belief has turned out to lie in between them?

CIPACON: Between live cats and dead ones?

SOCRATES: Apparently, then, it remains for us to find what partakes in [e] both being and not being, and cannot correctly be called purely one or the other, so that if we find it, we can justifiably call it the object of belief, thereby assigning extremes to extremes and in-betweens to in-betweens. Isn’t that so?

CIPACON: Whatever.

SOCRATES: Now that all that has been established, I want him to tell me this—the excellent fellow who believes that there is no beautiful itself, no form of beauty itself that remains always the same in all respects, but who [479a] does believe that there are many beautiful things—I mean, that lover of seeing who cannot bear to hear anyone say that the beautiful is one thing, or the just, or any of the rest—I want him to answer this question: “My very good fellow,” we will say, “of all the many beautiful things, is there one that won’t also seem ugly? Or any just one that won’t seem unjust? Or any pious one that won’t seem impious?”

CIPACON: Are we talking about Grizabella, the glamour cat, now?

SOCRATES: What about the many things that are doubles? Do they seem to be any the less halves than doubles?

CIPACON: If you are seeing double, maybe you should stop with the wine.

SOCRATES: And again, will things that we say are great, small, light, or heavy be any more what we say they are than they will be the opposite?

CIPACON: We are talking about pets, again, right?

Not Exactly Readings in Ancient Greek Philosophy: From Thales to Aristotle (p. 332). Hackett Publishing Company, Inc.. Kindle Edition.


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