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A History of Philosophy in Epitome by Schwegler

The idea of the good excludes all presupposition


or Creator should find at hand

a something which should be apt to receive and exhibit this ideal image. This something Plato compares to the matter which is fashioned by the artisan (whence the later name _hyle_). He characterizes it as wholly undetermined and formless, but possessing in itself an aptitude for every variety of forms, an invisible and shapeless thing, a something which it is difficult to characterize, and which Plato even does not seem inclined very closely to describe. In this the actuality of matter is denied; while Plato makes it equivalent to space it is only the place, the negative condition of the sensible while it possesses a being only as it receives in itself the ideal form. Still matter remains the objective and phenomenal form of the idea: the visible world arises only through the mingling of ideas with this substratum, and if matter be metaphysically expressed as "the different," then does it follow with logical necessity in a dialectical discussion that it is just as truly being as not-being. Plato does not conceal from himself this difficulty, and therefore attempts to represent with comparisons and images this presupposition of a _hyle_ which he finds it as impossible to do without as to express in a conceivable form. If he would do without it he must rise to the conception of an absolute creation, or consider matter as an ultimate emanation from the absolute spirit, or else explain it as appearance only. Thus the Platonic system is only a fruitless struggle against dualism.

style="text-align: justify;">6. THE IDEA OF THE GOOD AND THE DEITY. If the true and the real is exhibited in general conceptions which are so related to each other that every higher conception embraces and combines under it several lower, so that any one starting from a single idea may eventually discover all (_Meno._ p. 81), then must the sum of ideas form a connected organism and succession in which the lower idea appears as a stepping-stone and presupposition to a higher. This succession must have its end in an idea which needs no higher idea or presupposition to sustain it. This highest idea, the ultimate limit of all knowledge, and itself the independent ground of all other ideas, Plato calls the idea of the good, _i. e._ not of the moral but of the metaphysical good. (_Rep._ VII. 517.)

What this good is in itself, Plato undertakes to show only in images. "In the same manner as the sun," he says in the Republic (VI. 506), "is the cause of sight, and the cause not merely that objects are visible but also that they grow and are produced, so the good is of such power and beauty, that it is not merely the cause of science to the soul, but is also the cause of being and reality to whatever is the object of science, and as the sun is not itself sight or the object of sight but presides over both, so the good is not science and truth but is superior to both, they being not the good itself but of a goodly nature." The good has unconditioned worth, and gives to every other thing all the value it possesses. The idea of the good excludes all presupposition. It is the ultimate ground at the same time of knowing and of being, of the perceiver and the perceived, of the subjective and the objective, of the ideal and the real, though exalted itself above such a division. (_Rep._ VI. 508-517.) Plato, however, has not attempted a derivation of the remaining ideas from the idea of the good; his course here is wholly an empirical one; a certain class of objects are taken, and having referred these to their common essence this is given out as their idea. He has treated the individual conceptions so independently, and has made each one so complete in itself, that it is impossible to find a proper division or establish an immanent continuation of one into another.


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