Plato, Epinomis (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Pl. Epin.].
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981cwhereas the body, as we call it, has that of being fashioned and produced and seen. But the other—let us repeat it, for not once only be it said—has to be invisible even to the inquiring, and merely thought, if he has got a share of memory and reckoning by both odd and even variations. [Note] The bodies, then, being five, we must name them as fire, water, and thirdly air, earth fourth, and ether fifth; and by predominance of these are each of the many varieties of creatures perfected. We should learn this by single instances in the following way. 981dLet us take as earthy our first single element—all men, all things that have many feet or none, and those that move along and that stay still, held in place by roots; but we must conceive its unity thus, though all these things are the outcome of all kinds, yet for the most part it is of earth and of solid nature. And another kind of creature we must regard as second in birth as well as one that can be seen: for its greatest part is of fire, though it has some earth and 981eair, and has slight portions of all the others also, wherefore we must say that all sorts of creatures are born of them, and things seen, and here again we must conceive the heavenly kinds of creatures, which altogether, we must agree, have been born as the divine race of stars, endowed with the fairest body as also with the happiest and best soul. [Note] One or other of two lots we may very well, in our judgement, assign to them: for each of them is either imperishable 982aand immortal, and by all necessity wholly divine, or has a certain longevity sufficient for the life of each, such that nothing could ever require a longer one.

Let us therefore first observe that, as we state it, such creatures are of two sorts—for let us state it again—both visible, the one of fire, as would appear, entirely, and the other of earth; and the earthy is in disorder, whereas that of fire has its motion in perfect order. Now that which has motion in disorder we should regard as unintelligent, acting 982blike the animal creatures about us for the most part; but that which has an orderly and heavenly progress must be taken as strongly evincing its intelligence. For in passing on and acting and being acted upon always in the same respects and manner it must provide sufficient evidence of its intelligent life. The necessity [Note] of a soul that has acquired mind will prove itself by far the greatest of all necessities; for it makes laws as ruler, not as ruled: but this inalterable thing, when 982cthe soul has taken the best counsel in accord with the best mind, comes out as the perfect thing in truth and in accord with mind, and not even adamant could ever prove stronger than it or more inalterable; but in fact the three Fates have it in hold, and keep watch that what has been decided by each of the gods with the best counsel shall be perfect. And men ought to have found proof of the stars and the whole of that travelling system being possessed of mind in the fact that they always do the same things because they do what has been decided long ago for an incalculable time, 982dnot deciding differently this way and that, and doing sometimes one thing, sometimes another, in wanderings and changes of circuit. Most of us have thought just the opposite—that because they do the same things in the same way they have no soul: the multitude followed the lead of the unintelligent so far as to suppose that, whereas humanity was intelligent and living because it moved about, divinity was unintelligent because it abode in the same courses. But if man had sided with the fairer and better and 982efriendly part, he might have concluded that he ought to regard as intelligent—and for this very reason—that which acts always in the same respects, in the same way, and for the same reasons; and that this is the nature of the stars, fairest to see, and passing along, dancing [Note] the fairest and most magnificent of all dances in the world, they make good the needs of all living creatures. And now, to see how justly we speak of their living spirit, 983alet us first consider their great size. For they are not actually those small things that they appear to be, but each of them is immense in its bulk; we should do well to believe this, because there are ample proofs of such a conclusion. For we can rightly consider the whole of the sun as larger than the whole of the earth, and all the travelling stars are of amazing size. Let us conclude then whether it can possibly be that any natural force revolves this great mass that is now being revolved, continually and at the same time. 983bGod, then, I say, will be the cause, and never in any other way is it possible. For never can a thing get living spirit by any other means than by the act of God, as we have explained; and when God is able to do this, he has found it a perfectly easy matter, firstly that all body and all mass should be made a living creature, and secondly to move it in the course he considers best. So now I trust we may make one true statement about all these things: it cannot be that earth and heaven and all the 983cstars and all the masses they comprise, without soul attached to each or resident in each, should pass along as they do, so exactly to every year and month and day, and that all the things that happen should happen for the good of us all.

And according as man is a meaner creature, he should show himself, not a babbler, but a speaker of clear sense. If, then, anyone shall speak of onrushes or natural forces or the like as in a sort the causes of bodies, he will say nothing clear: but we must firmly recall what we have said, and see whether



Plato, Epinomis (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Pl. Epin.].
<<Pl. Epin. 980a Pl. Epin. 982b (Greek) >>Pl. Epin. 984c

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