a) Simile of the Wax; Keeping-in-Mind

The first simile is discussed at 191 c ff. ἐκμαγεῖον is not a 'slab' [Tafel], as it is usually translated, but simply a mass [Masse], into which something is imprinted. The second simile is discussed at 197 b ff.

Attempts have been made to show that Plato took over these images of the soul from earlier philosophers. In all such cases, professional historians of philosophy and philologists are immediately at hand to inquire into and demonstrate their origin. It has thus been discovered that Democritus 'already' knew the simile of the so-called 'wax slab'. The image of the aviary has likewise been traced back to the so-called 'primitive' conception of the soul as a bird. One now knows from where Plato obtained his material. Against whom the whole discussion of the dialogue is directed has also been worked out; the matter has been researched with historical exactitude. Just one thing is missing: one does not understand what Plato himself is asking and seeking. It would not be worthwhile to go into such methods here were they not characteristic of the general procedure of the history of philosophy and controversy with philosophers. If one has established where a philosopher has got something from and against whom he is philosophizing, then one is satisfied. What it is all about takes second place, i.e. is not even taken up. One is far from thinking that Plato, despite 'obtaining' these images from others, makes something different out of them, employing them to a quite different purpose and in a quite different problematic, that in the end this problematic opens up of itself and does not by any means need an opponent. Perhaps it is not too much to assume that a man of the stature of Plato could himself come across the phenomenon of untruth and the question of what it is.

We can assure ourselves from the beginning that Plato does indeed take a great deal from elsewhere. But we also wish to reflect that he takes this from somewhere else than those merely curious authors believe who cannot imagine anything except that a new book must arise from a dozen earlier ones (in the manner of opposing one or another). For us the question is not from where Plato obtains the images of the wax slab and aviary, but rather: to what purpose does he employ their analogical content, which phenomena of the soul does he wish, newly and for the first time, to indicate and make visible?

We have thus arrived at the point where the new field of the main investigation comes into view, the field within which we shall finally

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