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differing from sensible things in being eternal and unchangeable, from
Forms in that there are many alike, while the Form itself is in each
case unique.
Since the Forms were the causes of all other things, he thought
their elements were the elements of all things. As matter, the great
and the small were principles; as essential reality, the One; for from
the great and the small, by participation in the One, come the
But he agreed with the Pythagoreans in saying that the One is
substance and not a predicate of something else; and in saying that
the Numbers are the causes of the reality of other things he agreed
with them; but positing a dyad and constructing the infinite out of
great and small, instead of treating the infinite as one, is
peculiar to him; and so is his view that the Numbers exist apart
from sensible things, while they say that the things themselves are
Numbers, and do not place the objects of mathematics between Forms and
sensible things. His divergence from the Pythagoreans in making the
One and the Numbers separate from things, and his introduction of
the Forms, were due to his inquiries in the region of definitions (for
the earlier thinkers had no tincture of dialectic), and his making the
other entity besides the One a dyad was due to the belief that the
numbers, except those which were prime, could be neatly produced out
of the dyad as out of some plastic material. Yet what happens is the
contrary; the theory is not a reasonable one. For they make many
things out of the matter, and the form generates only once, but what
we observe is that one table is made from one matter, while the man
who applies the form, though he is one, makes many tables. And the
relation of the male to the female is similar; for the latter is
impregnated by one copulation, but the male impregnates many
females; yet these are analogues of those first principles.
Plato, then, declared himself thus on the points in question; it
is evident from what has been said that he has used only two causes,
that of the essence and the material cause (for the Forms are the
causes of the essence of all other things, and the One is the cause of
the essence of the Forms); and it is evident what the underlying
matter is, of which the Forms are predicated in the case of sensible
things, and the One in the case of Forms, viz. that this is a dyad,
the great and the small. Further, he has assigned the cause of good
and that of evil to the elements, one to each of the two, as we say
some of his predecessors sought to do, e.g. Empedocles and Anaxagoras.

Our review of those who have spoken about first principles and
reality and of the way in which they have spoken, has been concise and
summary; but yet we have learnt this much from them, that of those who
speak about 'principle' and 'cause' no one has mentioned any principle
except those which have been distinguished in our work on nature,
but all evidently have some inkling of them, though only vaguely.
For some speak of the first principle as matter, whether they
suppose one or more first principles, and whether they suppose this to
be a body or to be incorporeal; e.g. Plato spoke of the great and
the small, the Italians of the infinite, Empedocles of fire, earth,
water, and air, Anaxagoras of the infinity of things composed of
similar parts. These, then, have all had a notion of this kind of
cause, and so have all who speak of air or fire or water, or something
denser than fire and rarer than air; for some have said the prime
element is of this kind.
These thinkers grasped this cause only; but certain others have
mentioned the source of movement, e.g. those who make friendship and
strife, or reason, or love, a principle.
The essence, i.e. the substantial reality, no one has expressed
distinctly. It is hinted at chiefly by those who believe in the Forms;
for they do not suppose either that the Forms are the matter of
sensible things, and the One the matter of the Forms, or that they are

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