The Classical Quarterly (New Series)

Shorter Notes

What Are the Topnoi in Philebus 51C?

Todd Comptona1

a1 Los Angeles

In an interesting passage in the Philebus (51c, cf. 56b–c, an enlarged and slightly modified list), Plato associates pure beauty with geometrical forms created by certain measuring tools used both by mathematicians and carpenters. The ‘beauty of figures’ is analysed as' something straight [εxs1F50θxs22EF τι]… and round [περιφερxs22EFς] and the two- and three-dimensional figures (sc. σχxs22EF7mu;ατα) generated from these by [τxs22EFρνοι] and ruler [κανxs22EFσ7iota;] and set-squares [γωνxs22EFαι]' He continues: ‘For I maintain that these things are not beautiful in relation to something, as other things are, but they are always beautiful by nature, by themselves…’