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PLATO, TIMAEUS 52c2-5(*).

In a long and important sentence in the Timaeus (52b6-d1), Plato explains that, whereas that which truly or really is ([GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) cannot come to be in anything else, sensible things, being mere images, must necessarily come to be in something else, on pain of not existing at all:

[GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII](52c2-5).(1)

The syntax and sense of the clause [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] have been much disputed. In 1956 Harold Cherniss offered a thorough review and critique of previous translations and interpretations.(2) He convincingly rejects, on grounds of sense and grammar, interpretations that give [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] a straightforward local (that `in which' an image is or has come to be) or final sense (that `for the sake of which' an image is or has come to be). He rejects as well those that take [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] to designate that `on which' or `after which' an image has been made or modelled or that `which it was made to' represent.(3) Included herein are all interpretations that make the clause say that an image is not its own original or model or, alternatively, its own image. A rather different interpretation was proposed by Cornford,(4) who supposed that [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] expresses the conditions or terms on which an image comes to be (for [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] with the dative in this sense cf. e.g. Lg. 87467 with England's note). The `conditions' of an image's coming to be are the existence of (1) an original for it to be modelled upon and (2) a medium to contain it, and Cherniss cogently objects that if Cornford's interpretation were right, the words [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], which express condition (1), should be parallel with [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], which express condition (2), and therefore (like them) in the infinitive construction of indirect discourse (rather than in the [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]-clause).(5)

Cherniss himself explains the clause in terms of the idiom Plato uses to designate that which a word refers to.(6) Cf. e.g. Prt. 349b1-3: [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (`do wisdom, temperance, courage, justice, and holiness, five names, refer to one thing?'). Here, as in Cra. 433e7-8, 434c7-8, 437c3-4, Prm. 147d1-2, 9, e1-2, 4-6, 16469-c1, Sph. 218c2-3, 237d1-2, 244c1-2, and 262a3-7 (all cited by Cherniss), [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] with the dative designates that which a word refers to, stands for, or signifies. So also in Sph. 240a7-b1, after Theaetetus has defined an image as `another of such sort likened to the real thing' ([GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), the Eleatic stranger asks whether by `another of such sort' Theaetetus means another real thing, or to what did he use the word `of such sort' to refer? ([GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]).(7) Similarly, in Ti. 52c2 [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] designates that which an image has come(8) to signify or refer to, what it stands for. As Cherniss points out, it is entirely appropriate that the language applied elsewhere to the relation of words and their significates should be applied here to images, since for Plato words are but one example of images--namely images of the things that they signify.(9) Cherniss, then, translates the clause: `since not even that very thing that an image signifies belongs to the image itself'.

Subsequent translators and commentators either follow Cherniss or simply ignore the difficulties the clause presents. Brisson, Lee, and Gill, for instance, express agreement with Cherniss's construction and interpretation of the disputed clause (though not necessarily with all details of his understanding of the passage as a whole).(10) Patterson(11) reverts to the interpretation defended by Cook Wilson, Wilamowitz, Taylor, and others,(12) translating: `since even that which it [sc. an image] is supposed to be does not belong to it'. But he fails to confront the formidable objections to this interpretation raised by both Cornford and Cherniss.(13) Prior(14) translates `since not even that itself in dependence on which it [sc. an image] has come to be belongs to it', and in support of such an interpretation of [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] refers to LSJ, s.v. [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]; B I.1g. A mere glance at this portion of LSJ's entry reveals that Prior has completely misunderstood the usage he invokes, which denotes that an action is `in someone's power'. Interpreted as Prior suggests, the clause in question would mean `that in whose power an image is', which is obviously nonsense. Most recently Zekl(15) translates: `auch das, nach dem es [sc. ein Bild] gebildet ist, nicht aus ihm selbst kommt'. This not only gives a peculiar sense to [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], it ignores the crucial fact (signalled by Cornford and Cherniss(16)) that no parallel has ever been cited in support of the sense here attributed to [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII].

Cherniss's interpretation of the precise sense of [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] is almost certainly correct, supported as it is by the many decisive parallels he has brought to light. Nevertheless, two points raise doubts about his construction of the clause [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] as a whole. In the first place, in taking [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] as subject of [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] and [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], but [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] as subject of [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], Cherniss assumes a rather awkward, unannounced change of subject.(17) Secondly, he is compelled to suppose that [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII],(18) which he construes as a possessive genitive, refers not to the grammatical subject [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] but rather to [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. Although Cherniss is able to cite parallels for the reflexive referring in this way to the `thing most prominent in the speaker's thought',(19) it is hard not to feel, with Wilamowitz and others, that [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] rather requires [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] as subject of [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII].(20)

Neither of these syntactical anomalies by itself proves anything; taken together, however, they suggest that something is amiss with Cherniss's construction of the clause. Both can be eliminated by the simple expedient of construing [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], v as subject of [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], with [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] the predicate. This construction also has the advantage of giving to the obviously emphatic words [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] an appropriately emphatic position in the clause (inversion of subject and predicate). Most important, it is perfectly compatible with Cherniss's interpretation of the meaning of [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]: `since an image is not the very thing that it signifies' or `stands for'. As for the reflexive [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], on the interpretation suggested here it can no longer be construed (with Cornford, Cherniss, and others) as a possessive genitive. Kuhner(21) long ago explained it rather as a genitive of `relation', citing several supporting parallels from Plato. Cf. e.g. R. 597d13: `[GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] [sc. [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]] [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]; (`But what shall we say that he is in relation to a bed?'); Smp. 204d4: [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]; (`What is Eros in relation to beautiful things?'); and Sph. 255d6-7: [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (`Whatever is "other" must necessarily be what it is [sc. "other"] in relation to another'). It may be objected that this interpretation seems to render [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] superfluous; for, wishing to say that an image is not the very thing it signifies, Plato hardly needed to add `in relation to itself'. And indeed it is superfluous, on the level of strict logic. I suggest, however, that the main function of [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] is to provide a foil and contrast to the words [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] which follow.(22) and thereby to reinforce the point that, whatever meaning an image has, it has this meaning `not independently as its own but only in reference to something else' (Cherniss 59 = 374).

One final aspect of the construction of the clause deserves some clarification: the negative [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. Most interpreters, if they take notice of it at all, give it the climactic sense of `not even'.(23) According to Cook Wilson and Cherniss,(24) it implies that the clause [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. denies something that might have been expected to be true. But it is also possible to account for the negative along different lines. Denniston(25) discusses the use of [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] in causal or explanatory clauses and sentences in which the logical relationship is inverted in such a way that a negative idea which is logically prior to another is presented instead as posterior to it. Cf. e.g. Prin. 137e6-138a1: [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (cited by Denniston). Here, [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] represents the logically prior negative idea `does not have parts' as posterior to the negative idea `is neither straight nor circular'. That is, instead of saying `since it does not have parts, it is neither straight nor circular, either', Plato says `it is neither straight nor circular, since it does not have parts either'. Cf. also Alc. 1 132d1-3, likewise cited by Denniston: [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. Here, too, the logically prior negative idea `there is not much evidence' is represented as posterior to the negative idea `I am not certain what the inscription means'. (The latter negative, moreover, is merely implicit in the sentence as positively formulated--[GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII].) A similar process of inversion is, I suggest, at work in Ti. 52c2-5. Here, an image's coming to be in something else ([GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) is treated implicitly as a negative notion (`to come to be in something else, not in itself') which, logically speaking, is consequent upon its being (as the [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]-clause says) an image of something else. Yet, by the idiom in question, [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] represents the [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]-clause instead as logically posterior (`since an image is not, either, the very thing which it refers to etc.').

Ti. 52c2-5, then, means: `that for an image, since it is not, in relation to itself, that very thing with reference to which it has come to be (i.e. that it signifies), but is an ever-moving apparition(26) of something else, it is proper (not) to come to be (in itself, either, but) in something else'.

(*) I wish to thank CQ's anonymous referee for several suggested improvements.

(1) References to dialogues of the first and second tetralogies follow the new OCT of E. A. Duke et al., Platonis Opera i (Oxford, 1995); all other dialogues are cited from the edition of Burnet.

(2) H. Cherniss, `Timaeus 52 C 2-5', in Melanges de philosophie grecque offerts a Mgr. Dibs (Paris, 1956), pp. 49-60, reprinted in his Selected Papers (Leiden, 1977), pp. 364-75, hereafter referred to as `Cherniss'.

(3) Cf. Cherniss 50-7 = 365-72.

(4) F. M. Cornford, Plato's Cosmology (London, 1937), pp. 192 n. 4, 370-1.

(5) Cf. Cherniss 54-5 = 369-70.

(6) Cf. Cherniss 58-9 = 373-4.

(7) Cf. further LSJ, s.v. [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] B III.5 with the passages there cited, as well as Aristotle, APr. 3164-5 ([GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) with the comment of T Waitz, Aristotelis organon graece i (Leipzig, 1844), p. 398: [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] B non idem est quod [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] B: hoc enim terminum significat, illud rem ad quam terminus refertur etc.' (cited by Cherniss 58 n. 2 = 373 n. 2).

(8) [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]is used here instead of [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] in order to emphasize the transitory nature of the image, which comes to signify what it signifies `only at the moment of its appearance' (Cherniss 59 n. 7 = 374 n. 7).

(9) Cf. Cherniss 58 with n. 4 = 373 with n. 4.

(10) Cf. L. Brisson, Le meme et l'autre dans la structure ontologique du Tirade de Platon (Paris, 1974), p. 195 with n. 2 (who, however, translates ambiguously: `puisque cela meme par rapport a quoi elle vient a l'etre ne lui appartient pas en propre'); E. N. Lee, Monist 50 (1966), 359 with n. 42; M. L. Gill, Phronesis 32 (1987), 49 with n. 31.

(11) R. Patterson, Image and Reality in Plato's Metaphysics (Indianapolis, 1985), pp. 44-6, 84-5.

(12) Cf. J. Cook Wilson, On the Interpretation of Plato's Timaeus (London, 1889), pp. 109-10; U. yon Wilamowitz-Moellendorff, [Platon.sup.3] ii (Dublin and Zurich, 1962), pp. 391-2; A. E. Taylor, A Commentary on Plato's Timaeus (Oxford, 1928), pp. 347-8.

(13) Cf. Cornford (n. 4), 370 and Cherniss 53-4 = 368-9.

(14) W. J. Prior, Unity and Development in Plato's Metaphysics (La Salle, 1985), p. 114 with n. 28.

(15) H. G. Zekl, Platon: Timaios (Hamburg, 1992), p. 85.

(16) Cf. Cornford (n. 4), 370 and Cherniss 53 = 368.

(17) For such unannounced changes of subject cf. Cherniss 59 n. 6 = 374 n. 6, with the reference to B. L. Gildersleeve, Syntax of Classical Greek i (New York, 1900), p. 36; Cornford (n. 4), 371; G. J. de Vries, Mnemosyne 12 (1959), 64; 18 (1965), 242-3.

(18) Neither Burnet nor the Bude editor Rivaud records any variants. At Simplicius, in Ph. 539.28 (Diels), where the passage of Ti. is quoted, Diels reports that the MSS offer [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], which Stephanus in fact proposed to read (cf. Cherniss 50 n. 3 = 365 n. 3). Yet Simplicius quotes the passage also at in Ph. 225.10 (Diels), where the MSS offer [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. There is no good reason to suspect the text.

(19) Cf. Cherniss 50 n. 3 = 365 n. 3; R. Kuhner and B. Gerth, Ausfuhrliche Grammatik der griechischen Sprache II: [Satzlehre.sup.3] i (Hannover and Leipzig, 1898), p. 562.

(20) Cf. Wilamowitz (n. 12), 392: `Keine Erklarung, die das Reflexivum halt, daft [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] als Subjekt aufgeben'.

(21) Cf. Kuhner-Gerth (n. 19), i.334, Anm. 2.

(22) Note the chiastic arrangement in the [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]-clause as a whole, which balances [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] with [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (both predicates of [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] with [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], and [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] with [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII].

(23) For this sense cf. J. D. Denniston, Greek [Particles.sup.2] (Oxford, 1954), p. 196.

(24) Cf. Cook Wilson (n. 12), 109 and Cherniss 53, 54 = 368, 369.

(25) Denniston (n. 23), 195; cf. the similar use of [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (ibid. 295-6).

(26) On the sense of [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] here cf. Cherniss 59 n. 7 = 374 n. 7.

G. J. PENDRICK

Decatur, GA
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Title Annotation:Interpretation of conditional sentences
Author:PENDRICK G. J.
Publication:The Classical Quarterly
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 1998
Words:2596
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