Hippias Major  

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"[a]s to the act of sexual love, we should all, no doubt, contend that it is most pleasant, but that one must, if he perform it, do it so that no one else shall see, because it is most repulsive to see.”

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Hippias Major (or What is Beauty? or Greater Hippias (Template:Lang-el, Hippías meízōn), to distinguish it from the Hippias Minor, which has the same chief character) is one of the dialogues of Plato. It belongs to the early dialogues, written while the author was still young. Its precise date is uncertain, although a date of c. 390 BC has been suggested; its authenticity has been doubted.

In the Hippias Major, Socrates and Hippias set out to find a definition for "beauty", but are destined to fail due to their inability to formulate an answer which encompasses the entire concept. The actual Greek term that is used in the dialogue is καλόν, which as an adjective often means fine or noble as well as beautiful. For this reason, translators such as Paul Woodruff typically translate the term (τὸ καλόν—the abstract noun of the adjective) as "the Fine" (things) instead of "Beauty."

As in Charmides, Lysis and Euthyphro, Hippias Major has an "anatreptic" purpose, that is, the result of the dialogue is to defeat commonly held opinions, without necessarily offering a resolution. The concept of something good in and of itself (if only obliquely) makes its first appearance in this work. The dialogue can be read as much as a serious philosophical work as a light satirical comedy with two actors. The astuteness of Socrates in taking refuge under the authority of a supposed third protagonist in order to direct biting criticism at Hippias, endows the dialogue with humour.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Hippias Major" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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