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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Plato Bilingual Anthology : PHILOSOPHY NEEDS EYESIGHT

from Timaeus, * 47a-c, translated by B. Jowett

Greek Fonts / Plato Complete works / Plato Concept


HE SIGHT in my opinion is the source of the greatest benefit to us, for had we never seen the stars, and the sun, and the heaven, none of the words which we have spoken about the universe would ever have been uttered. But now the sight of day and night, and the months and the revolutions of the years, have created number, and have given us a conception of time, and the power of enquiring about the nature of the universe; and from this source we have derived philosophy, than which no greater good ever was or will be given by the gods to mortal man. This is the greatest boon of sight: and of the lesser benefits why should I speak? even the ordinary man if he were deprived of them would bewail his loss, but in vain. Thus much let me say however: God invented and gave us sight to the end that we might behold the courses of intelligence in the heaven, and apply them to the courses of our own intelligence which are akin to them, the unperturbed to the perturbed; and that we, learning them and partaking of the natural truth of reason, might imitate the absolutely unerring courses of God and regulate our own vagaries. The same may be affirmed of speech and hearing: they have been given by the gods to the same end and for a like reason. For this is the principal end of speech, whereto it most contributes. Moreover, so much of music as is adapted to the sound of the voice and to the sense of hearing is granted to us for the sake of harmony; and harmony, which has motions akin to the revolutions of our souls, is not regarded by the intelligent votary of the Muses as given by them with a view to irrational pleasure, which is deemed to be the purpose of it in our day, but as meant to correct any discord which may have arisen in the courses of the soul, and to be our ally in bringing her into harmony and agreement with herself; and rhythm too was given by them for the same reason, on account of the irregular and graceless ways which prevail among mankind generally, and to help us against them.


ὀμμάτων μέγιστον ἀγαθὸν φιλοσοφία

ὄψις δὴ κατὰ τὸν ἐμὸν λόγον αἰτία τῆς μεγίστης ὠφελίας γέγονεν ἡμῖν͵ ὅτι τῶν νῦν λόγων περὶ τοῦ παντὸς λεγομένων οὐδεὶς ἄν ποτε ἐρρήθη μήτε ἄστρα μήτε ἥλιον μήτε οὐρανὸν ἰδόντων. νῦν δ΄ ἡμέρα τε καὶ νὺξ ὀφθεῖσαι μῆνές τε καὶ ἐνιαυτῶν περίοδοι καὶ ἰσημερίαι καὶ τροπαὶ μεμηχάνηνται μὲν ἀριθμόν͵ χρόνου δὲ ἔννοιαν περί τε τῆς τοῦ παντὸς φύσεως ζήτησιν ἔδοσαν· ἐξ ὧν ἐπορισάμεθα φιλοσοφίας γένος͵ οὗ μεῖζον ἀγαθὸν οὔτ΄ ἦλθεν οὔτε ἥξει ποτὲ τῷ θνητῷ γένει δωρηθὲν ἐκ θεῶν. λέγω δὴ τοῦτο ὀμμάτων μέγιστον ἀγαθόν· τἆλλα δὲ ὅσα ἐλάττω τί ἂν ὑμνοῖμεν͵ ὧν ὁ μὴ φιλόσοφος τυφλωθεὶς ὀδυρόμενος ἂν θρηνοῖ μάτην; ἀλλὰ τούτου λεγέσθω παρ΄ ἡμῶν αὕτη ἐπὶ ταῦτα αἰτία͵ θεὸν ἡμῖν ἀνευρεῖν δωρήσασθαί τε ὄψιν͵ ἵνα τὰς ἐν οὐρανῷ τοῦ νοῦ κατιδόντες περιόδους χρησαίμεθα ἐπὶ τὰς περιφορὰς τὰς τῆς παρ΄ ἡμῖν διανοήσεως͵ συγγενεῖς ἐκείναις οὔσας͵ ἀταράκτοις τεταραγμένας͵ ἐκμαθόντες δὲ καὶ λογισμῶν κατὰ φύσιν ὀρθότητος μετασχόντες͵ μιμούμενοι τὰς τοῦ θεοῦ πάντως ἀπλανεῖς οὔσας͵ τὰς ἐν ἡμῖν πεπλανημένας καταστησαίμεθα. φωνῆς τε δὴ καὶ ἀκοῆς πέρι πάλιν ὁ αὐτὸς λόγος͵ ἐπὶ ταὐτὰ τῶν αὐτῶν ἕνεκα παρὰ θεῶν δεδωρῆσθαι. λόγος τε γὰρ ἐπ΄ αὐτὰ ταῦτα τέτακται͵ τὴν μεγίστην συμβαλλόμενος εἰς αὐτὰ μοῖραν͵ ὅσον τ΄ αὖ μουσικῆς φωνῇ χρήσιμον πρὸς ἀκοὴν ἕνεκα ἁρμονίας ἐστὶ δοθέν. ἡ δὲ ἁρμονία͵ συγγενεῖς ἔχουσα φορὰς ταῖς ἐν ἡμῖν τῆς ψυχῆς περιόδοις͵ τῷ μετὰ νοῦ προσχρωμένῳ Μούσαις οὐκ ἐφ΄ ἡδονὴν ἄλογον καθάπερ νῦν εἶναι δοκεῖ χρήσιμος͵ ἀλλ΄ ἐπὶ τὴν γεγονυῖαν ἐν ἡμῖν ἀνάρμοστον ψυχῆς περίοδον εἰς κατακόσμησιν καὶ συμφωνίαν ἑαυτῇ σύμμαχος ὑπὸ Μουσῶν δέδοται· καὶ ῥυθμὸς αὖ διὰ τὴν ἄμετρον ἐν ἡμῖν καὶ χαρίτων ἐπιδεᾶ γιγνομένην ἐν τοῖς πλείστοις ἕξιν ἐπίκουρος ἐπὶ ταὐτὰ ὑπὸ τῶν αὐτῶν ἐδόθη.


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