“Epinomis” by Plato

The Importance of Number

Of the properties of all the arts, not a single one can remain, but all of them are utterly defective, when once you remove numeration.

If you note the divinity of birth, and its mortality, in which awe of the divine must be acknowledged, and real number, it is not anybody who can tell how great is the power which we owe to the accompaniment of number as a whole—for it is clear that everything in music needs a distinct numeration of movement and notes—and above all, how it is the cause of all good things; and that it is the cause of no evil thing. Nay, the motion that we may call unreasoned and unordered, lacking shape and rhythm and harmony, and everything that has a share of some evil, is deficient in number altogether.

How We Learnt to Count in Numbers?

God implanted this very conception, so that we might be equal to comprehending it when shown to us, and in the second place, he showed it and shows it. Among such things, what one more singularly beautiful can a man behold than the world of day? Then he comes to the province of night, and views it ; and there quite another sight lies before him. And so the heaven, revolving these very objects for many nights and many days, never ceases to teach men one and two.

Within certain limits, and in certain cases, every creature so enabled has been made fully apt for numeration, — when it considers any unit in itself. But as to reckoning number generally in the relations of things to each other, I think that God, if not for a greater reason, to this end interposed, the waxing and waning of the moon, and arranged the months to make up the year, and all things began to comprehend number in relation to number by a happy fortune.

Evidence of Intelligence

Now that which has motion in disorder we should regard as unintelligent, acting like the animal creatures about us for the most part; but that which has an orderly and heavenly progress must be taken as strongly evincing its intelligence. For in passing on and acting and being acted upon always in the same respects and manner it must provide sufficient evidence of its intelligent life. The necessity of a soul that has acquired mind will prove itself by far the greatest of all necessities; for it makes laws as ruler, not as ruled: but this inalterable thing, when the soul has taken the best counsel in accord with the best mind, comes out as the perfect thing in truth and in accord with mind, and not even adamant could ever prove stronger than it or more inalterable; but in fact the three Fates have it in hold, and keep watch that what has been decided by each of the gods with the best counsel shall be perfect.

Every diagram, and system of number, and every combination of harmony, and the agreement of the revolution of the stars must be made manifest as one through all to him who learns in the proper way, and will be made manifest if a man learns aright by keeping his gaze on unity; for it will be manifest to us, as we reflect, that there is one bond naturally uniting all these things: but if one goes about it in some other way, one must call it Fortune, as we also put it.


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