2. We tried to exhibit how Plato himself delimits the highest idea.
He works with a presentation in sensory images. The sensory image of the highest idea is the sun, and in relation to the sun, the comprehension of the highest idea is sensory perception with the eyes.
By means of correlation we will now show how the good is like the sun in its own domain. This fundamental state of affairs is, as it were, the basis for showing how the ἀγαθόν, the good, in its domain—the idea—is like the sun, in order to clarify which question is the decisive one in determining the ἀγαθόν.
In the state of perceiving with the eyes, there stands on one side the act of seeing, on the other being seen. There is an inner connection between seeing and the visibility of things. Both require a δύναμις, a making-possible. This is the same for both. The bridge, as it were, is light. The eye must be sun-like, and so must the visible being.
To the sun-likeness of seeing—both that of the eye and that of the visible being—there corresponds the goodness of the idea and of the comprehension of the idea. Both must have arisen from a common origin in order for the bridge to be possible.
b) The good as the empowerment of
truth and Being in their belonging together
Now it is important for us to see what features of the highest idea Plato gains by characterizing it through sensory images. To put it in brief slogans, it becomes apparent from the passage in book VI that the highest idea, the ἀγαθόν, is ἐπέκεινα τῆς οὐσῖας, beyond Being, over and above Being, towering over it; towering not in an indefinite sense or in a spatial sense (a higher stratum), but towering over Being in two quite definite respects: πρεσβείᾳ καὶ δυνάμει (book VI, 509b9); (1) age, older origin and thus a higher rank; (2) power.
The good towers over Being in rank and in power. We should gather from this that in general the ἀγαθόν is seen only in these two respects, that it has rank and that it is powerful.
This is the first feature, from book VI. Book VII is immediately connected to it (allegory of the cave). The idea of the good here is κυρία παρασχομένη ἀλήθειαν καὶ νοῦν (book VII, 517c4). From this (κυρία [sovereign]) we see the good’s character of mastery. Furthermore, it is παρασχομένη, granting; to grant something and to bind by the granting. The good, as the sovereign mistress, grants (1) truth, makes truth possible, and (2) Being or the understanding of Being, νοῦς.
The idea of the good, as highest idea, is what towers above, grants mastery, and binds. We can sum up this description—what towers above, grants, and binds—in the fundamental act of empowering (that which empow-