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Measure, Excess, and the All: To Agathon in Plato Claudia Baracchi Now let us say through what cause the composer composed becoming and the all. He was good, and in one who is good there never arises about anything whatsoever any grudge. —­Plato, Timaeus Apollo, what a daimonic excess! —­Plato, Republic I. Remarks on Republic and Timaeus The Platonic Socrates addresses the question of the good in the central books of the Republic (VI–­ VII). He names the good without claiming to possess the knowledge thereof. He names it in a sequence of affirmations without eidetic perspicuity—­without defining the good in its whatness.At the insistence of his desirous interlocutor, Socrates ventures to speak logoi admittedly falling short of beauty, for, he says, discourses not illuminated by truth are ugly (R. 506c). Not knowing the truth regarding the good, he will at most (and reluctantly) offer an account of the “offspring”and “interest”of the good—­ an outline of its semblance and phenomenal precipitate (R. 506d–­ 507a).Thus, the discourse of the Republic develops in this tension between the philosopher kings (whose prerogatives include the proper grasp of the good and all that flows from it) and the philosopher Socrates (who consistently fails to provide an appropriate account of the first and ultimate cause that the good designates). It remains to be seen whether Socrates’s posture here simply reveals a constitutive inadequacy or whether, precisely in pointing beyond the order of eidetic knowledge, it may end up indicating the utmost philosophical accomplishment. First of all, then, the good appears as a generative principle: as the father of the sun (and hence of the domain of visibility) and, at the same time, 109 as the source of intelligibility (of intelligence and what it intellects) (R. 508e–­ 509b). And it is only in virtue of the analogy with the sun that the good may be seized in its infinite resourcefulness,generosity,and overflowing (R. 508b). Just as the sun discloses the visible as such by inundating it with light, so the good discloses the intelligible as such by pervading it with the invisible glow of being and truth. In its superabundance, the good gives rise to the whole range of manifestation visible and invisible:1 it opens up the region of intellect and the intellected and, as the father of the sun and distant progenitor of phenomenal becoming, it underlies all manners of sensibility, the region of seeing and being seen. The regions of sensibility and of intelligibility emerge in their originary continuity, as the continuum of increasing or decreasing manifestness. One can discern here already the emanative movement variously elaborated in the neo-​ Platonic lineages and assimilated into the Judeo-​ Persian-​ Arabic traditions—­ the procession out of the one into the many successive layers of cosmic becoming. The good infuses light and subtle radiance into life as a whole (R. 518c). Thus, the good appears as a strange idea, if indeed an idea at all—let alone­ an idea among ideas. For it originates the articulation of being that takes place in and as the eidetic manifold, and hence can hardly itself be captured in terms of ideality or eidetic determination. It carries the excessive trait of origin vis-​ à-​ vis that which is originated—­ a peculiar inaccessibility and impervious anteriority. Thus, this discourse lacking the halo of beauty, and repeatedly addressing the good as an idea (R. 505a, 508e), ends up making explicit the discontinuity of the good with respects to all that it engenders: the good is characterized as epekeina tes ousias, beyond being (R. 509b).2 This, stricto sensu, means ‘unspeakable,’ or speakable in modes of logos irreducible to predication, determination, and definition. Among other things, the good unveils the richness and nonsimplicity of logos. The good: a strange idea, then, and one displaying an even stranger analogical relation to the sun. For the likeness of intelligible and sensible, in and of itself, already presents conspicuous problems: how can the resemblance of the visible to the invisible be understood? In virtue of what liminal law of sense can visible and invisible be yoked together, such that their relationship may meaningfully be assessed in terms of adequacy and agreement? In what way may the consideration of the visible provide access into the invisible? Such questions become even more troubling when at stake is the proportionality or similarity between the sun and the good, son and ultimate father (R. 508b–­ c). This is why the imaginal, mythical strand of...


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