Six Domains of the
Polynomic System of Value

I have not told lies.

The "Negative Confession" or Protestation of Ani, The Egyptian Book of the Dead, The Book of Going Forth by Day, The Complete Papyrus of Ani, Featuring Integrated Text and Full-Color Images, translated by Dr. Raymond O. Faulkner [1994, 1998, Chronicle Books, San Francisco, 2008, Chapter 125, Plate 31], hieroglyphic transcription, E.A. Wallis Budge, The Egyptian Book of the Dead, The Papyrus of Ani [1895, Dover Publications, 1967, p.199] -- the eighth Confession as translated in both references, but the 35th in the order of the manuscript.

Of every color and fragrance,
there is none that is not the Middle Way.

Guàndǐng (561-632), Introduction, Zhìyǐ (538-597), Mohe Zhiguan, "The Great Calming and Contemplation," translated by Jacqueline Stone; Chinese Tiantai School.

The table below summarizes the theory of the polynomological or polynomic system of value, τὸ τὴς ἀξίας πολυνομικὸν σύστημα, where most domains of value are subsumed under larger domains. Each encompassing domain is ontologically stronger and deeper, but each nested domain is logically stronger and has a more definable content. Note that every form of value is a good, even though "good and bad" are specifically listed for non-moral ethical goods. There are also non-moral uses for "right and wrong," as one says of a mathematical mistake, "That's not right," or asks the mechanic, "What's wrong with my car?" The diagram below the table gives the elements of the system in terms of the underlying metaphysical theory explained elsewhere.

THE PHENOMENAL GOODReligion, the sacred and the polluted: the view of transcendent reality or of the ultimate meaning of all existence, free of space and time, and the meaning of death; no rational content; not subject to non- contradiction; forms of obligation completely historical and contingent apart from subsumption of forms of value listed below.
ETHICSAesthetics, the beautiful and the ugly: theory of art & beauty, the worth of things independent of human purposes, "disinterested" value, the worth of nature, the relation of value and being, things good-in- themselves. Pluralistic and relativistic aesthetic variety, limited by forms of obligation below and by indefinable principles of taste.
MORALITYIdeal Ethics, the good and the bad: non-moral worth in human life, the good of teleological ethics, the worth and meaning of life--happiness, fulfillment, material well being, pleasure etc.--things good-for-us. Pluralistic and relativistic aesthetic variety, limited by forms of obligation below and specified by personal preference.
PERSONSMorality of things, right and wrong: ethics of property, contract, government, and public order; moral force of legislation, restricted by requirements of morality of persons & subject to falsification of utility; liberties and duties of the marketplace and of public life.
WILLMorality of actions, right and wrong: ethics of justice and injustice; evaluation of actions in their own right; causes of judicial penalty and retribution.
Morality of intentions, good and ill will: ethics of intention and virtue; moral evaluation of intentions; "mere" morality.
obligation: imperatives (commands)obligation: jussives (commands)obligation: hortatives (exhortations)obligation: optatives (wishes)obligation: pietatives (religious obligations, of piety)













veracious, honest, upright
righteous, good
good, beautiful, pretty

beautiful, graceful


true, right, just

good, beautiful, happy


Graphic Version of Table

While ὀρθός, orthos, "right, correct, straight" is perfectly reasonable in this context, and we do see it as an adverb, ὀρθῶς, "rightly," in relation to the effects of wisdom, my feeling is that it would be more natural in Greek to say δίκαιος, dikaios, "just," for moral rightness. The Latin counterpart of ὀρθός is rectus, also meaning "right" and "straight," a word that is in fact the cognate of "right" in English and Recht in German. The neuter form of rectus, however, now has a very different meaning, deriving from rectum intestinum, i.e. the "straight intestine" or rectum. But the same word also turns up in mathematics, as the latus rectum, one of the dimensions of a conic section -- namely, the chord through the focus at right angles to the major axis ("d" at left is the semi-latus rectum -- and, yes, latus is of the neuter gender, latus, lateris -- hence lateralis, "lateral").

On the other hand, δίκαιος would correspond to justus in Latin and is derived from δίκη, dike, "custom, right, judgment, trial, justice," etc., as justus derives from jus (genitive juris), "right, law" -- hence justitia, "justice." Latin jus is also said to correspond to Greek θέμις, which is also "justice," but is also contrasted with written law, νομός, although both can mean "custom." The goddess of justice is herself Θέμις.

In English, "justice" tends to be reserved for legal and judicial contexts, while in Greek δίκαιος retains a more general moral overtone, as Plato uses it in the problem of the Republic, where the discussion is about "justice" but the issue is really the force of moral obligation. In the New Testament, δικαιοσύνη, dikaiosýnê, which might well mean "justice" in Greek, nevertheless can be translated "righteousness" [2 Corinthians 6:21].

The ambiguity of jus itself is of interest, since with a general meaning of "correct action," it can mean both a "right" in the modern sense and a "duty," which is something imposed by a right, not identitical to it. A similar ambiguity turns up in French, where droit can mean either a "right" (as in les droits d'homme, "the Rights of Man") or a "duty" (as in Dieu et mon droit, "God and my duty," the motto on the arms of the Kings and Queens of England).

That could be confusing; but both "right" and droit originally just meant "straight" (rectus, ὀρθός) and so implied any kind of moral or legal correctness. Indeed, "doing the right thing" generally means behaving in a morally correct or dutiful way, regardless of what rights may or may not be involved. [note]

Similarly, the Greek term γενναῖος, gennaios, "noble, kind," also seems less than paradigmatic. Latin benevolentia, "good will, kindness" is the right word, but its Greek counterpart, εὔβουλος, euboulos, although corresponding in etymological sense, nevertheless tends to mean "well-advised" or "prudent" rather than benevolent or kind. This goes back to βουλή, boulê, which does indeed mean "will," but also "counsel," or even "Council," i.e. part of the government of Athens. Its cognate in Latin, the verb volo, "to will," does not have the extra meanings as in Greek. Thus, I have gone for the Greek word that is actually the cognate of "kin," the root of "kind":  γένος, genos, "race, stock, family" (Latin genus). See Alcestis use γενναῖος in Alcestis by Euripides.

Now beauty [κάλλος], as we said, shone bright among those visions, and in this world below we apprehend it through the clearest of our senses, clear and resplendent. For sight [ὄψις] is the keenest of the physical senses [αἰσθήσεις, singular αἴσθησις], though wisdom [φρόνησις] is not seen by it -- how terrible [δεινός] would be our love [ἔρως] for it, if such a clear image [εἴδωλον] of wisdom were granted as would come through sight -- and the same is true of the other beloved [ἐραστά, singular ἐραστόν] objects; but beauty alone has this privilege [μοῖρα], to be most clearly shown [ἐκφανέστατον] and most lovely [ἐρασμιώτατον] of them all.

Plato, Phaedrus, 250D [R. Hackford, Plato's Phaedrus, Library of the Liberal Arts, 1952, p. 93, translation modified; Greek text, the Loeb Classical Library, Euthryphro Apology Crito Phaedo Phaedrus, Harvard University Press, 1914-1966, p. 485]

An intriguing contrast of usage in Greek is between the noun κάλλος (neuter, genitive κάλλεος, Attic contraction κάλλους), "beauty," and the adjective καλός (feminine καλή, neuter καλόν), "beautiful." While the meaning of the former is generally confined to physical beauty, the latter has a range of meaning that extends well beyond the aesthetic into the moral, so that it can mean "good, virtue, admirable, fair, noble, fine," etc. We also get τὸ πάγκαλον, "the all beautiful, good, noble, or excellent." Socrates uses this when he asked Euthyphro what is the "excellent aim," τὸ πάγκαλον ἔργον ["all noble work"], that the gods have, using us as their servants [Euthyphro 13e]. Euthyphro answers πολλὰ καὶ καλά, "indeed many fine things," using the neuter plural adjective.

We see the interesting adjective, περικαλλής ("very beautiful"), used for Aphrodite here.
John Keats (1795-1821), 1822, by William Hilton (17861839), National Portrait Gallery, London
"A thing of beauty is a joy forever,"
"Edymion," 1818
This is based on "beauty," κάλλος, with the addition of περί, "around," and is applied to specifically physical beauty, in this case just to Aphrodite's neck, δειρή. Aphrodite is also the καλλίπυγος, "beautiful bottom," where we have πυγή, "rump, buttocks" -- but we also find the beauty praised of the γλουτός, "rump," or (plural) γλουτοί, "buttocks." See also Καλλιόπη, the epic Muse with the "Beautiful Face [ὤψ, from ὄψομαι, future 'will see'; or 'Voice,' ὄψ, from εἶπον, aorist 'said']."

We also get the interesting and common expression in Greek, καλοκἀγαθός, "beautiful and good," a contraction of καλὸς καὶ ἀγαθός. The "beautiful" in this is generally seen as having its moral connotation, which gives us the sense that the "noble" or "excellent" part of καλός goes beyond the mere goodness of ἀγαθός.

On the other hand, common homoerotic graffiti in Athens was of the form "[so-and-so] καλός," i.e. "so-and-so is beautiful." This is understood to involve an emphasis on physical beauty, which is generally what was regarded as attractive about young men. We do not, of course, get the corresponding graffito about girls, "[so-and-so] καλή," since the beauty of respectable women was not admired in public, young girls had no romantic relationships with men, and the implication that they did, or exposed themselves to admiration, would be an insult to the honor of them and their family. It might result in blood, as seen in the Mediterranean and Islamic world today.

In the Euthyphro we also find Socrates using the adverb, καλῶς, to mean "correctly" or "truly" [9e]. We learn from De Ceremoniis that "Welcome" is καλῶς ἦλθες, literally "Beautifully come" -- ἦλθες, "come" is the second person singular aorist (ἦλθον) of ἔρχομαι, "to come or go" [Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus, "What it is necessary to observe at the nuptial crowning of an emperor," De Ceremoniis, Book I, Chapter 39, R198; Constantine Porphyrogennetos, The Book of Ceremonies, translated by Ann Moffatt and Maxeme Tall, with the Greek edition of the Corpus Scriptorum Historiae Byzantinae, Bonn, 1829, Australian Association for Byzantine Studies, Byzantina Australiensia 18, Canberra, 2012, Volume I, p.199]. In Modern Greek this is, among other forms, καλώς ήρθες.

Friedrich Schiller, to whom we owe so much, as taking the first step towards the polynomic theory, wrote a striking essay, Über Anmuth und Würde, "On Grace and Dignity." The idea of "grace," as an extension of the aesthetic, beyond beauty, goes back to the Greek χάρις, Latin gratia,
L'Etoile Perdue, "The Lost Pleiad," 1884, by William-Adolphe Bouguereau (18251905)
where it meant "outward grace or favour (as we say well or ill favoured), grace, loveliness; grace, graciousness, kindness, goodwill; thankfulness, thanks, gratitude; a favour," etc. [Liddell & Scott, Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon, Oxford, 1889, 1964, p.882]. "Grace" in Schiller's German is either Anmuth (modern Anmut) or Grazie. I don't detect any systematic difference between the two terms.

The derivates of "grace" are revealing. We have "gracious," "graceful," and "gracile." The first is largely an issue of manners and deportment, the latter two are about appearance. "Graceful" is a kind of movement, while "gracile" would be "slender or thin, especially in a charming or attractive way," by which we might expect, that the gracile person, or even animal, more effectively will appear graceful in motion, as we see with the Pleiad Μερόπη, Merópē, at right. But there are specific goddesses, the Graces, who represent different forms of grace. All this, of course, predates the Christian theology about the grace of God, which is a favour, boon, or gift from God. Schiller doesn't go that far either.

Schiller begins with a simple distinction:

Anmuth ist eine bewegliche Schönheit; eine Schönheit nehmlich die an ihrem Subjekte zufällig entstehen und eben so aufhören kann. Dadurch unterscheidet sie sich von der fixen Schönheit, die mit dem Subjekte selbst nothwendig gegeben ist. Ihren Gürtel kann Venus abnehmen under der Juno augenblicklich überlassen; ihre Schönheit würde sie nur mit ihrer Person weggeben können. Ohne ihren Gürtel ist sie nicht mehr die reizende Venus, ohne Schönheit ist sie nicht Venus mehr.

Grace is a movable beauty, a beauty that can appear in a subject by chance and disappear in the same way. In this it distinguishes itself from static beauty, which is necessarily granted along with the subject itself. Venus can remove her girdle and give it to Juno [in the Iliad, to confer grace, so Juno can seduce Zeus] for a moment; her beauty could only be given in conjunction with her person. Without her girdle she is no longer the charming Venus; without beauty she is no longer Venus. [Schiller's "On Grace and Dignity" in Its Cultural Context, Essays and a New Translation, Edited by Jane V. Curran and Christophe Fricker, Camden House, 2005, pp.125,172]

Since motion is a matter of will, Schiller expands his analysis with the consideration that the will falls under the authority of the understanding, reason, and also moral judgment. On the other hand, beauty, as purely aesthetic, falls under the control of nature, sensibility, and spontaneous desire.

In Kant, this dualism leads to temptation from sensual interests and, to the extent that Kant has such a thing, sin. While sympathetic with Kant's morals, Schiller sees this as going too far: Kant is more like the Athenian lawgiver Draco, who mandated death for all infractions, rather than Solon, whose code was more humane. Schiller charitably interprets Kant as doing this as a kind of shock therapy, rather than as something he really believes. I doubt it; but the result is a reform of Kant in a direction away from moralism.

Schiller's idea is that grace represents a reconciliation of nature and reason, sensiblity and morality. Through grace, natural inclinations become infused with moral and rational restraint:

Die Freyheit regiert also jetzt die Schönheit. Die Natur gab die Schönheit des Baues, die Seele giebt die Schönheit des Spiels. Und nun wissen wir auch, was wir unter Anmuth und Grazie zu verstehen haben. Anmuth ist die Schönheit der Gestalt unter dem Einfluß der Feyheit; die Schönheit derjenigen Erscheinungen, die die Person bestimmt. Die architektnische Schönheit macht dem Urheber der Natur, Anmuth und Grazie machen ihren Besitzer Ehre. Jene ist ein Talent, diese ein personliches Verdienst.

Freedom now rules beauty. Nature provided beauty of form; the soul provides the beauty of play. Now we also know, what we have to understand by grace (and gratia). Grace is beauty of form under freedom's influence, the beauty of those appearances that the person determines. Architectonic beauty honors the creator of nature, grace honors those who possess it. The former is a talent, the latter, personal merit. [ibid. pp.133-134,182]

Curiously, Schiller says Anmuth und Grazie twice here, as though the words have slightly different meanings; but the translator (Jane V. Curran, one of the edtiors) simply translates both expressions together as "grace." This seems right to me, but I would like to know why Schiller uses both terms together here, unless it is just to remind us that he uses both words.

The accomplishment of reconciling nature and reason produces for Schiller a "beautiful soul," eine schöne Seele:

Eine schöne Seele nennt man es, wenn sich das sittliche Gefühl aller Empfindungen des Menschen endlich bis zu dem Grad versichert hat, daß es den Affekt die Leitung des Willens ohne Scheu überlassen darf, und nie Gefahr läuft, mit den Entscheidungen desselben im Widerspruch zu stehen. Daher send bey einter schönen Seele die enzelnen Hanglungen eigentlich nicht sittlich, sondern der ganze Charakter ist es.

One refers to a beautiful soul when the ethical sense has at last so taken control of all a person's feelings that it can leave affect to guide the will without hesitation and is never in danger of standing in contradiction to its decisions. For this reason the actions of a beautiful soul are not themselves ethical, but the character as a whole is so. [ibid. pp.152,203]

This reminds me of a famous statement by Confucius, that 七十而從心所欲, 不踰秬, "At seventy, I could follow what my heart desired, and not transgress the norm," i.e. the moral standard of the Mandate of Heaven [Analects II:4]. So Confucius himself achieves Schiller's ideal of the "beautiful soul." This gives us a sense that a morally unified personality has been an ideal for a long time.

The term "charm" turns up occasonally in Schiller's discussion and in definitions of these various terms. Charm, however, is not a quality whose display concerns a person as such, like beauty or grace, but it is a power in the person to effect others in a certain way, i.e. to "charm" them.
Bust of Schiller, Central Park, New York City
I have discussed this separately.

What follows in Schiller's essay are reflections on "dignity," which he introduces with the issue that sometimes natural inclinations can get out of control. The more "natural" is grace, the less it appears to be under the control of reason. But, for Schiller, reason better be ready to step in should inclinations begin to "transgress the norm." A person will be ready to assert moral judgment because of their moral dignity. This requires a soul with a bit more going for it than beauty:

Die schöne Seele muß sich also im Affekt in eine erhabene verwandeln, und das ist der untrügliche Probierstein, wodurch man sie von dem guten Herzen oder der Temperamentstugend unterscheiden kann... War es... die Vernunft selbst, die, wie bey einem schönen Charakter der Fall ist, die Neigungen in Pflicht nahm, und der Sinnlichkeit das Steuer nur anvertraute, so wird sie es in demselben Moment zurücknehmen, als der Trieb seine Vollmacht mißbrauchen will. Die Temperamentstugend sinkt also im Affekt zum bloßen Naturprodukt herab; die schöne Seele geht ins heroische über, und erhebt sich zur einen Intelligenz.

Beherrschung der Triebe durch die moralische Kraft ist Geistesfreiheit, und Würde heißt ihr Ausdruck in der Erscheinung.

The beautiful soul, then, must in emotion, change into a sublime soul and this is the foolproof test to distinguish it from a good heart or from virtue born of temperament... If...reason itself, as is the case in a beautiful character, has taken over the inclinations and only entrusted sensuousness with the helm, it will take it back the moment that instinct tries to abuse its power. Virtue of temperament, in the emotions, then, is reduced to a simple product of nature; the beautiful soul becomes heroic and elevates itself to pure intelligence.

Control of impulses through moral strength is spiritual freedom, and its expression in appearance is called dignity. [ibid. pp.158, 209]

The key term here is "sublime," erhaben, which carries us into a whole new aesthetic dimension, as I discuss elsewhere. It is a new dimension for Schiller too, since this reasserts the supremacy of reason, where in the merely "beautiful" soul, things may have been going along on a kind of temperamental autopilot.

Schiller often nicely contrasts his related terms:

Anmuth liegt also in der Freyheit der willkührlichen Bewegungen; Würde in der Beherrschung der unwillkührlichen. Die Anmuth läßt der Natur da, wo sie die Befehle des Geistes ausrichtet, einen Schein von Freywilligkeit; die Würde hingegen unterwirft sie da, wo sie herrschen will, dem Geist.

Grace, then, lies in the freedom of intentional movements, dignity in the mastery of instinctive ones. Grace leaves nature with the appearance of free will where she carries out the commands of the mind; dignity, by contrast, subjugates her where she wants to be in command, to the mind. [ibid. pp.160-161,212]

I will continue this interesting point for discussion elsewhere.

Anyone familiar with Ancient Egypt would know the word , "good, beautiful, happy," which turns up, especially, in the names of many Egyptian women. This looks like all the meaning of Greek καλοκἀγαθός, in just one word, with something extra -- the "happy" part. But there is another Egyptian word for "beautiful," with a different semantic range. That is , "beautiful, pleasing, kind" [Hieroglyphic Dictionary, A Middle Egyptian Vocabulary, Bill Petty, PhD, Museum Tours Press, Littleton, CO, p.31].

We might say that this goes from external beauty to an internal, moral beauty. It ends up like Chinese , "benevolent, kind." The moral sense is perhaps made stronger in the word , the "pleasant man," or, we might say, the "kind man." Of course, not all pleasing or pleasant people are actually kind, so we might want to see some usage and context to be sure of the range. Or the Egyptians may just not have been as cynical as we have become, suspecting the intentions of those pleasant people. However, Alan Gardiner does give us , which he simply defines as "the good man" [Egyptian Grammar, Oxford, 1927, 1964, p.557]. Not cynical [note].


"Beauty" is a significant concept for the Navajo, whose particular concerns about pollution have been considered elsewhere. The key term is hózhǫ́. This basically means "beauty" but also "harmony, peace, happiness, balance, contentment, wholeness," and "goodness." It is derived from the verbal root -zhǫǫd, "to be nice, peaceful, beautiful."

This all covers a lot of the same ground as Egyptian , but it is also connected to principles of right conduct and a flourishing way of life. Navajo "holy" or "sacred" is itself diyin -- as in the Diyin Dine'é, the "Holy People," the Navajo gods, such as Changing Woman, Asdzą́ą́ nádleehé, and Talking God, Haashch'ééłti'í.

Hózhǫ́ is what is supposed to be restored as the result of the Sings or Chants that are the principal public ceremonies of Navajo religion, conducted at private homes, in the absence of public shrines or temples, and can take days to perform (although some ceremonies can be conducted at sacred places, such as in certain caves). With hózhǫ́ restored, one will "walk in beauty," which sounds rather like "walking in the ways of the LORD."

Without hózhǫ́, evil can happen, manifest in pollution, witchcraft, crime, sickness, death, etc. Thus, hózhǫ́ also encompasses the Egyptian , "truth" and "justice," typically vocalized "Maat."

The absence of dedicated sacred structures among the Navajo is anomalous in the area, where the Pueblo Indians back to the Anasazi used a kiva for ritual functions. Kiva is a word from Hopi, and the structure can take several forms. The typical and classical form, however, is of a sunken, circular building, whose entrance is through the center of the roof, rather like the "oculus" at the summit of the Pantheon.

In this it recalls the cosmology that is accepted by the Navajo as well as the Pueblos, that humanity has lived in a succession of worlds, emigrating from one to the next through exits in the sky. The Navajo generally believed that we are in the fourth world, although some apparently believe that the fourth will be the next world into which we will migrate.

Each world is abandoned after it becomes too corrupt; and, unfortunately, some of the corruption is carried to the next world, which begins its decay. These days, the corruption is often said to involve money, although that did not exist, of course, in traditional Indian societies.

The University of New Mexico has a bulding called the "Kiva," which is a stand-alone, sunken, circular classroom. In my day, multiple levels down to the center held tables for students. Now the tables have been replaced by desks. The group at my table, however, developed into a friendly fellowship, complete with stories about ex-husbands, which I expect would be more difficult were we scattered among desks. You do not need to enter the building through the roof, since the upper level is above ground, with windows and conventional doorways around the building.

I had a Cultural Anthropology class there in the Spring of 1968, which included one unit on Navajo religion. There was also a unit on India, where the professor had done his graduate Anthropology field work in a particular village, on the Bushmen of South Africa, on the Pygmies of the Ituri Forest, and on New Guinea. I never gathered that the Kiva was used for any religious purposes.

The professor thought that life was hard in his Indian village, thanks to institutions like the Caste System, relieved, for himself and for the actual villagers, by the use of Bhāṅg, भांग, i.e. marijuana, for whose legalization he not infrequently advocated.

The Navajo Language

Navajo Death Pollution

Ethnic Confusion, The Anasazi

Sacred Names

Εὐδαίμονας δὲ δὴ λέγεις οὐ τοὺς τἀγαθὰ καὶ τὰ καλὰ κεκτημένους;

And do you not call those happy who possess good and beautiful things?

Plato, Symposium, 202c, Lysis, Symposium, Gorgias, translated by W.R.M. Lamb, Loeb Classical Library, Harvard University Press, 1925, 1991, p.177

ἔχει γὰρ ὧδε. θεῶν οὐδεὶς φιλοσοφεῖ οὐδ᾽ ἐπιθυμεῖ σοφὸς γενέσθαι· ἔστι γάρ· οὐδ᾽ εἴ τις ἄλλος σοφός, οὐ φιλοσοφεῖ. οὐδ᾽ αὖ οἱ ἀμαθεῖς φιλοσοφοῦσιν οὐδ᾽ ἐπιθυμοῦσι σοφοὶ γενέσθαι· αὐτὸ γὰρ τοῦτό ἐστι χαλεπὸν ἀμαθία, τὸ μὴ ὄντα καλὸν κἀγαθὸν μηδὲ φρόνιμον δοκεῖν αὑτῷ εἶναι ἱκανόν· οὔκουν ἐπιθυμεῖ ὁ μὴ οἰόμενος ἐνδεὴς εἶναι οὗ ἂν μὴ οἴηται εἰδεῖσθαι.

The truth is this:  none of the gods loves wisdom [φιλοσοφεῖν] or desires to become wise [σοφός]; for they are wise already. Nor does anyone else who is wise love wisdom. Neither do the ignorant [ἀμαθεῖς] love wisdom, or desire to become wise: For this is the harshest thing [χαλεπὸν] about ignorance, that those who are neither good [ἀγαθός] nor beautiful [καλός] nor sensible [φρόνιμος] think that they are good enough: No one desires what they are lacking when they do not think themselves lacking.

Plato, Symposium, 203E-204A, Lysis, Symposium, Gorgias, translated by W.R.M. Lamb, Loeb Classical Library, Harvard University Press, 1925, 1991, pp. 182-183, translation modified.

A correspondent has suggested that would be a better term for "good" than , especially since it occurs in an expression like , "good and evil" --
with the , "evil man" (Japanese akunin), as the sort of person hopelessly condemned to the Buddhist
Hells, who can be saved by the compassionate Vow of the Buddha Amitâbha. However, that may be just the point. The semantic range of , as we see it in Confucius, seems to be narrower and specifically to have more the sense of moral good than . The latter has a broader and more general application, including things like a "good complexion," a "beautiful face," or, as a verb, (in the 4th tone), "fond of women." That is just the point of hortative value, with its non-moral range, and is therefore more appropriate. is itself an interesting expression, where "good and evil" in English tends to have a moral reference. Just as "evil" in English is a moral adjective (although standing in for "bad" as a noun), itself, with a basic meaning of "evil, wicked, wrong, foul," is mostly applicable to what is wicked and vicious, not just bad. As a verb, means to "dislike," "hate," or "loathe," or to be "hateful, abominable." In turn, , "good heart," "good mind," or "benevolent," is then the equivalent of , "benevolent." [cf. Mathews' Chinese-English Dictionary, Harvard University Press, 1972, characters #2062, #4809, & #5657.]


The correspondent also suggested that , "upright," was a better term than , especially since the latter, as jingi in Japanese, is used for the code of the gangster Yakuza. However, and are the Confucian terminology for benevolence and righteousness, which also figure in the Taoist critique of Confucianism; and the binome is used by Mencius, who certainly never heard of the Yakuza (or, for that matter, of Japan). is, however, a noteworthy character, especially since it duplicates the non-moral and geometrical, as well as the moral, meanings of ὀρθός and rectus as "straight" and "rectangular" (i.e. "right angles").

At left we see two expressions for "justice": and . The first is an adjective, "just; fair; equitable; even-handed; impartial"; and the second is either an adjective, "righteous; just," or a noun, "justice; fairness." In Chinese, there are no inflections or suffixes to tell us the difference between an adjective and a noun. We only know from the meaning.

We also have two expression there for "sublime." The difference with these is of a different sort, which is discuss elsewhere, on the page about the sublime.

The semantic range of many of the value terms in Arabic makes it difficult to assign some of them unambiguously to just one of the categories used here.
veracious, honest,
good beautiful,


righteous, good


good, beautiful, pretty;
, ugliness,
shamefulness, ignominy
(salty) beautiful, good




Thus, the assignment in some treatments does not seem consistent. Under Judicial Moralism, (حَسَن) is used for "good," while in The Polynomic Theory, it is used for "beauty." It can mean both, just as (صَالِح) can mean both "righteous" and "good." More restricted is (جَيِّد) for "good" and (جَمِيل) for "beautiful."

Another case is the term (مَلِيح), which originally would mean "salty" but also "beautiful" and "handsome." In Levantine Arabic, meaning the Syrian, Lebanese, and Palestinian dialects, the meaning of this drifted into meaning "good" in terms of food (Hawaiian 'ono as opposed to maika'i) or "tasty," pronounced mlîḥ or mnîḥ. I am suspicious that this also turns up as a root in Egyptian, used with Egyptian words for virtue, from the verb .

The accompanying table illustrates these different constructions. Other words for "good" occur in other dialects of Arabic -- (طَيِّب), is "good, pleasant, delicious, kindly," etc. in Classical Arabic, "good" in Libyan Arabic, and is used as the equivalent of "OK" in Lebanon. See the use of (صَلَاح), ṣalâḥ, "goodness, righteousness, piety, godliness," in the name of the heroic Saladin.

There is a old joke about Arabic, that every word means what it means, means its opposite, and means a kind of camel. That is not quite what we get here, since the range of meanings does not extend to opposites, and I haven't found "a camel" under any of the dictionary entires. Without the camel, a better candidate might be the root for "forbidden," (حَرُمَ), ḥaruma, as I discuss elsewhere, which by itself is a verb that means "to be forbidden, prohibited, interdicted, unlawful, unpermitted." It has derivatives that cover what is forbidden because it is holy, sacred, or private or because it is unlawful, sinful, unclean, etc. -- giving us an expression like (إِبْن حَرَام), 'ibn ḥarâm, "son of the forbidden," "illegitimate son, bastard." This is even to be found as harâmzâdâ, with the Persian patronymic ending, in Hindi, (हरामज़ादा).

The opposites here, however, are due to the boundaries that both the clean and the unclean require, to protect the former from the latter, and everything else from the latter. Terms for the sacred itself do not mean their opposite, although the applications of "forbidden" (Polynesian tapu) have confused scholars like James George Frazer, who ended up with the absurd conclusion that the "primitive mind" doesn't really distiguish between holiness and pollution.

Since each domain of value can vary independently of the others, the table here shows this happening. Each category is set to cycle with a different period. There are 64 possible combinations of the categories. A browser whose "stop" button will stop the animation can freeze the categories in a specific combination.

The effect of this, of course, is that good intentions do not necessarily lead to right action or to good consequences -- "the path to Hell is paved with good intentions". The protection of personal rights may, nevertheless, violate property rights, or the other way around. Beautiful things, or good art, may be, in some sense, bad things (e.g. The Triumph of the Will). And, as a saying goes in Japanese, "even a fish head can be an object of veneration," i.e. some ugly, nasty object may be sacred. This independent variation is what produces ethical dilemmas.

Where the previous table produced the effect of a somewhat random sequence of combinations, this table runs systematically through the 64 possible combinations, in about a minute, then repeats. As each negative value (wrong, bad, etc.) turns over to a positive, the value to its right turns over.


Karmaṇy evâdhikâras te mâ phaleṣu kadâcana /
mâ karmaphalahetur bhûr mâ te sango 'stv akarmaṇi

Set thy heart upon thy work, but never on its reward.
Work not for a reward; but never cease to do thy work.

The Bhagavad Gita, 2:47, Juan Mascaró translation [Penguin Books, 1962, p.52];
the Categorical Imperative of the Bhagavad Gita.

The force of moral obligation is characterized with terms (mostly) borrowed from grammar. "Imperative" goes back to Kant (the "categorical imperative") and is a term used for the mood of verbs in many languages that expresses a command (Latin impero, to order). That an imperative is different from the indicative verbal mood mirrors Hume's observation that propositions with "ought" do not logically follow from propositions with "is."
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"Optative" was introduced by Leonard Nelson as part of the Friesian critique (which began with Schiller) of Kant's moralism (cf. Nelson, System of Ethics, Yale, 1956, p.165). The term "optative" was borrowed from Greek grammar, where it "takes its name from its chief independent use, that of expressing a wish" (Chase & Phillips, A New Introduction to Greek, 3rd edition, Harvard, 1965, p.82). The word itself, of course, is Latin, from opto, "choose, select" and its participle optatus, "wished for, desired, welcome." We also get other derivates like optimum, "best," and "optimism," meaning, well, you know.

The original Friesian division of ethics into moral and non-moral value has here been extended. A wish is often for something outside of one's control, which sounds more like independent objects that can occur in aesthetic value. Nelson's category has thus been subdivided into "optative" and "hortative." The latter is borrowed from Greek grammar again, where it signifies the subjunctive mood that is used "to express a request or a proposal" (Chase & Phillips, p.103). It is therefore an exhortation, with the sense and root of both words from Latin hortor, "to exhort, incite, encourage." Exhortations as "horatives" will be for some good end that is nevertheless not a duty. It shares features with aesthetic value, including aesthetic variety.

We find Socrates talking about exhorting people towards virtue [Apology, 29d-30a]. He uses the verb παρακελεύομαι, derived from the verb κέλευω. Both can mean "to order" or just "to urge, exhort." However, the emphasis with the latter would seem to be on the former meaning, while the emphasis with the former, which sports a prefix and uses the middle voice (called a "deponent" verb, where the middle or passive voice has an active meaning), is softened into the latter meaning. Socrates, who only asked people questions, was not in the business of ordering anyone to do anything.

A particularly evocative hortative in Greek is found in the last words of the Emperor Constantine XI Dragases. Fighting at the Fifth Military Gate of Constantinople on May 29, 1453, the Emperor faced the Turks who were then breaking through the Walls. With the Fall of the City imminent, Constantine reportedly threw off his regalia and exclaimed, ἴωμεν, ἄνδρες, ἐπὶ τοὺς βαρβάρους τούσδε, "Let's go, men, against these barbarians!" [Greek Text, Laonikos Chalkokondyles, The Histories, Volume II, translated by Anthony Kaldellis, Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library, Harvard University Press, 2014, p.192]. Rushing into the melee, he was killed. His remains were never identified with certainty. Íômen, ἴωμεν, "let's go," first personal plural of "go" (εἶμι) is a subjunctive used as a hortative.

Moral obligation has also been subdivided, between "imperative" and "jussive." This term I have now borrowed from Arabic grammar (it also occurs in Hebrew), where it is a mood of the imperfect verb, usually formed by dropping the final vowel (which in Hebrew is already lost and will be lost in spoken modern Arabic).
Moods in Arabic
It is often used to express an imperative (Latin iubeo, iubere, iussi, iussum, "to order, command") and indeed the proper Arabic imperative is constructed from it (Ziadeh & Winder, An Introduction to Modern Arabic, Princeton, 1957, pp.123-124, 129).

Indeed, in Latin itself, the "jussive" is the use of the subjunctive as an imperative, as the hortative is a use of the Greek subjunctive (Frederic M. Wheelock, Latin, Barnes & Noble, 1956, 1966, p.133).

For the polynomic system, a "jussive" is used for duties involving property, contract, and other legal issues in which there is an element of convention, custom, and perhaps jurisdictional variation. Laws concerning mala prohibita or "strict liability" may have no moral force at all.

More broadly, jussives will apply to the moral force of common promises. A promise, of course, that meets certain legal criteria (consideration, lawfulness, etc.) becomes a legal contract, even if the agreement is only made orally. Thus, there is a continuum, as the seriousness of promises can stretch from the transient and trivial to those upon which friendships or marriages might come to grief, and finally to legally enforceable contracts.

Since promises are created and assumed, they can be about anything; and nothing prevents promises being made, or contracts being accepted, that involve contradictions with other obligations in their fulfillment. Ethicists worry over conflicts of duties, often involving promises, but nothing is less surprising than that promises should involve conflicts. At a serious level, during World War I, Britain promised independence to the Arabs, Lebanon and Syria to the French, and Palestine to the Zionists. It was mainly the Arabs who felt betrayed, since Lebanon and Syria were taken by France, and Palestine was opened to the Zionists; but Britain could feel that its pledge had been kept, to an extent, with the Arab states of Jordan and Iraq. Nevertheless, although the French are long gone, many Arabs begrudge the Jews their State in Israel, the only exception to general Arab independence -- to which many Arabic speaking Jews had fled from Arab countries.

In the dilemmas that have been considered at this site, the issue of a promise comes up explicitly in the The Value of a Promise. In each of the cases considered, the promise or understanding involves concealing the commission of a crime. The perpetrators of the crimes, of course, wish to hold their friends to the "promise" and regard it as a crass betrayal to inform on them. This has larger moral and political significance. Confucius endorses sons and fathers concealing each others' offenses, meaning that family bonds override other moral considerations [XIII:18].

More recently, people testifying to the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) placed great moral store in the principle that they would not betray friendship or confidences by identifying Communists they knew -- despite the fact that under Communism even children were expected to inform on their parents. People refusing to testify were often found guilty of Contempt of Congress. Later they simply took the Fifth Amendment -- appealing to principles they didn't even believe in and wished to overthrow (this is common in Anti-American ideology and practice) -- as vulnerable witnesses, having learned better, usually did before Joseph McCarthy.

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As we pass from promises to contracts, we have the intriguing cases of the requirements of Confidentiality, where, in particular, doctors, psychiatrists, lawyers, and priests are bound by professional duty to conceal facts that, in the latter two cases especially, may involve the commission of crimes. However, evidence of future crimes cannot be concealed.

The moral force of such confidentiality is designed to protect the rights of those accused of crimes, or to address the danger that the commission of crimes may represent to the immortal souls of the perpetrators. Mere promises would have difficulty rising to those levels of importance, although it is not unusual for some people, like those testifying to HUAC, to think so.

Philosophy of Science, Linguistics

Finally, "pietative" is a neologism, on analogy with the other terms. This is from Latin pio, "to seek to appease by an offering, to propitiate," pius, "dutiful, pious," and pietas, "dutifulness, piety." Religious duties, of course, concern ritual, that certain activities must be done in a certain way, or that there are specifically religious events, marriage, ordination, burial, etc., for which the proper ritual procedures are prescribed,
various, KantArabic,






or that certain precautions or remedies be observed in relation to specifically religious subjects, such as pollution. What is distinctive about these religious obligations is that they are entirely vacated by a change or loss of religion. The atheist may have rituals, but they will tend to fall into the category of an obsessive-compulsive disorder -- which may be how the atheist views religion.

The idea of the different moods of obligation is that they are part of the larger picture of the system of metaphysical modes of necessity (including analytic, a priore, etc. necessity). Also, all the modes of necessity are identical in force in an absolute sense, even as their force seems attenuated as we move from imperatives to pietatives.

This is reflected in the diagram at left, which is constructed on analogy with the magnetic substates in quantum mechanics. The "angular momentum vector," which is a constant length, represents the full and absolute force of necessity or obligation. Angular momentum on the z axis, however, varies from the full value to zero. Thus, the z axis represents what we see in the phenomenal world, while the full vector is necessity among Kantian things-in-themselves.

The pietative Holy, whose rational content is indeterminate and apparently arbitrary in the phenomenal world, not only is as necessary among things-in-themselves as imperative obligation or analytic necessity, but the vector is at a perfect right angle to the z axis, i.e. its force is wholly outside the phenomenal world.

This is therefore conformable to the religious sense that all obligation is ultimately a function of religious obligation. Rationally, the prohibition of pork in Judaism and ʾIslâm is a very different matter from the prohibition of murder, but in terms of the valence of religious obligation they may be identical. Thus, the Ten Commandments contain no internal distinctions to distinguish the prohibition of "graven images" from those of theft, adultery, or murder. Here, the former is a pietative, while the latter are jussives and imperatives.

This recalls the dispute in Mediaeval philosophy been ʾIbn Sîna (Avicenna) and ʾAl-Ghazâlî. The former held that the prohibition of wine in Islamic law was prudential (a hortative) and therefore could be overruled by a physician for medical purposes. ʾAl-Ghazâlî, however, held that the prohibition was absolute, an imperative, and could not be abrogated for any reason. Prudential or not, obeying the prohibition was a sign of obedience to God. The idea that God would command things that were not dictated by reason, and so could be second-guessed by us, was contrary to the spirit of Greek philosophy and the Hellenizing Islamic falâsifah, (فَلَاسِفَة); but ʾAl-Ghazâlî was not in that tradition.

The Six Modes of Value:

  1. Imperatives of Intention: "Morality, Justice, and Judicial Moralism"
  2. Imperatives of Action: "The Fallacies of Egoism and Altruism, and the Fundamental Principle of Morality"
  3. Jussives: "Capitalism, the Free Market, and the Duties of Property and Contract"
  4. Hortatives: "The Polynomic Theory of Value"
  5. Optatives: "The Polynomic Theory of Value"
  6. Pietatives: "The New Friesian Theory of Religious Value"

One might ask, why colored legs? Part of it is by accident, with the background that the modes of value here are color coded, as a vivid device to distinguish their variety. The accident is the arrival of an e-mail advertisement for tights, from the late British vendor "MyTights," which just happened to display the rainbow of colors, including all the colors used for the modes of value, with some extras. So I have added Chinese characters for the values and virtues, matched with the colors. The non-accidental part is the desire to do something politically incorrect, using the vivid display of women's legs for otherwise serious axiological business. So the approach here is with play, delight (), and political needling.

The variety of colors is already an aesthetic statement, and the legs simply amplify this, perhaps even in an erotic direction. We have play and delight in both beauty and sexuality. The politically incorrectness would go back to feminist objections to using women's bodies to sell things. Of course, the origin of this ad was to sell clothing for women's bodies, which is rather hard to do without giving some indication of the bodies, or parts of them, that the clothing is for. On the other hand, feminists might regard colored tights as insufficiently serious, morally and politically, for the enlightened to be involved in. This would be consistent with the political anhedonia and anaesthesia of much of feminism. But then, this site is not in the business of selling clothes, or anything. It does "sell" ideas, but not for money. Perhaps that is enough to motivate objections that women's legs do not belong here. Good. Political incorrectness achieved, with the addition of a Greek καλή.

Of the ten sets of characters in the image of the legs, six can be identified in the tables above, although "beauty" and "sacred" have been displaced from right to left. These are indeed the "Six Domains" of polynomic value. What has been added, first at each end, are , which are the Confucian virtues "conscientiousness" and "consideration" inroduced at Analects 4:15. This is the "one thread" that runs through the teaching of Confucius. The character after the "sacred" is , "love," which is particularly noteworthy as given for the definition of at Analects 12:22, which says it means , "love others." Finally, at right, we have , which is just the emotion "sad." This color, as it happens, is used in the discussion of tears, with the fragment of the Requiem Mass that begins Lacrimosa dies illa, "Tearful that day." Not so much play and sexuality there, but a sobering reminder of that aspect of life.
ἰδοὺ ἡ γυνή καλλίπυγος

The beauty of the legs and the colors in this image is already something, but there is more. The popular understanding that "beauty is in the eye of the beholder," and that colors are entirely subjective epiphenomena of perception, are both contradicted by the metaphysics here, introduced in The Origin of Value in a Transcendent Function and elaborated in A New Kant-Friesian System of Metaphysics, The Foundations of Value, Part III, Metaphysical Issues: The Theory of the Good, A Lecture on the Good, and A Deuteronomy of Kant-Friesian Metaphysics.

In those terms, not only beauty itself, but even the colors of these stockings, are more real than matter, energy, and the whole universe -- "The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces, The solemn temples, the great globe itself" -- a profoundly paradoxical statement when beauty and the body are generally thought of as wedded to matter, if not polluted and corrupted by it -- or polluted and corrupted by "consumerism" (i.e. the abundance of goods promised by Marx for communism but only delivered by capitalism). The theory in the history of philosophy that comes closest to the truth is Platonism, with ἡ τοῦ καλοῦ ἰδέα, the "Form of Beauty." Thus, while Aristotle says we delight in our senses, and particularly in vision, I would say I particularly delight (ἀγαπῶ) in color. And legs.

A New Kant-Friesian System of Metaphysics

A Deuteronomy of Kant-Friesian Metaphysics

Chinese Virtues

The Chinese Seven Passions

The Emotions

Value Theory


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Six Domains of the Polynomic System of Value, Note 1

The Latin value terms involve some interesting features. Rectus especially has semantic connections that go beyond a simple geometric meaning of "straight." The root here seems to be the verb rego (regere, rexi, rectum), "to guide, direct." The most immediate derivative of this looks like rex, regis, "king," whose ancient Indo-European echo we even see in Sanskrit , râja. The moral and political meanings of rectus are thus deeply embedded in the word, from which we get regno, "to rule," regnum, "royal power" or the "realm" of a king, regio, a "realm, region, country," etc., and rector, "ruler, governor, director, guide." Rectus as "straight" or "ruled" or "guided" can have purely geometrical application, as can regio, but the meanings of morally "right, correct, proper, straightforward, honest," etc., are not just metaphorical -- rex alone reveals an ancient dimension of action and practice.

Since jus can mean both "right" and "law," an interesting contrast may be with lex, which begins by meaning "a set form of words," from lego, "to ordain, appoint, delegate authority," and so meaning a "contract," leading to "a law, a bill, as proposed to the people," and then "a law as passed, a statute." Thus, the distinction between jus and lex looks like it will accommodate that between natural law and positive law. Jus is what is right regardless of what the actual leges are. Similarly, jus determines the nature of justicia, "justice," which can be used to judge the laws themselves, and of justus, that which is "just" as a person or thing. A righteous person will be justificus, "justified," which was the name of an intriguing television series about an unconventional (i.e. he shoots a lot of suspects) U.S. Marshal (Raylan Givens, played by the marvelous Timothy Olyphant, 2010-2015).

In those terms, the ambiguity of jus between "rights" and "duties" comes out with a tendency to the latter. The righteous or justified person does not have that character for demanding his "rights," but because he observes his duty and recognizes the rights of others. Demanding one's "rights" may leave the impression only of self-regard, self-centeredness, and selfishness -- especially when we begin to suspect that many of the "rights" are the bogus entitlements of the Welfare State. This undercuts the fundamental meaning of morality, which is to recognize the dignity and autonomy, i.e. the rights, of others. Of course, if we recognize the rights of others, this certainly means that they have such rights, which serve to protect their own persons and interests. They have the right, indeed, to enforce their rights, but it is a matter of self-interest -- reminding us that self-interest is not in itself improper or wrongful, which is part of the confusion over the views and arguments of Bernard Mandeville.

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Six Domains of the Polynomic System of Value, Note 2;
Egyptian Women and Beauty

The use of in the names of Egyptian women, as we know, fits the stereotype that beauty is defining and distinguishing for women. Since we see this in Ancient Egypt, where it even goes with the status of the mirror as a feminine object, it is clear that the origin of the stereotype is not modern, Western, Roman, Jewish, Christian, capitalist, or anything else assigned as the cause by feminist ideology.

The most conspicuous names in Egyptian history that use the word are, first of all in fame, , Nefertiti, who was the Queen of Akhenaton of the XVIII Dynasty. Nefertiti's name means "The Beautiful One has Come." Nefertiti is particularly famous for the bust, held in Berlin (at the Ägyptisches Museum), recovered from the excavation of Akhenaton's capital, Akhetaton. Questions have arisen about the authenticity of the bust, which is remarkable, but tests have confirmed its antiquity.

Another name occurs at that point in the XVIII Dynasty. There is a Queen Neferneferuaton, , "Good/Beautiful are the Beauties of Aton." It is not at all certain who this is. It may still be Nefertiti herself, reigning after Akhenaton has died, or it may be their daughter, Meriaton, , reigning with the next King, Smenkhkare. What the feminist might identify as another part of the sexism of the name is what we see in the extension of the cartouche, ꜣḫt-n-h(y).s, the "spirit of her husband." This uses the "justified spirit" glyph that is in the name of Akhenaton himself, . But where he is the spirit of the Aton, she is only indirectly, by way of her husband, . As we see, where beauty may be associated with women, the Egyptians may indicate male functions a little more literally, although the cartouche does not use the full, graphic writing.

The next Queen is Nefertari, , the first and favorite wife of Ramesses II of the XIX Dynasty, who herself appears to be deified in a temple at Abu Simbel. Her full name here, Nefertari Merit-n-Mut, means "Beautiful Companion, Beloved of [the goddess] Mût." Nefertari is particularly well know for her elaborate and extraordinarily preserved tomb in the Valley of the Queens, , Bībān al-Malikāt ("the Gates of the Queens," بِيبَان ٱلْمَلِكَات), featuring many brilliant images of her, as we see at right, where her name can be clearly read in the cartouche.

Remarkably, I have seen images of Nefertari and hieroglyphics including her name accurately reproduced in a honeymoon suit at a resort in the Pocano Mountains, Pennsylvania. My wife and I enjoyed this on our 8th wedding anniversary trip in 1999. The room included a hot tub in the shape of a seven foot tall champagne glass, accessed from the bathroom on the upper level of the split-level suit. Nefertari might have found this puzzling, if not offensive. I do wonder how many patrons of the hotel could read her name on the wall and recognize her images. Great fun; but it would have been more fun with Las Vegas outside the door.

The Valley of the Queens itself reinforces the feminine beauty stereotype, since it is called , which means "The Place of Beauties."

Long before the Valley of the Queens existed, we had the last ruler of the XII Dynasty, who also seems to have been the first woman recorded as ruling Egypt in her own right. This was , Sobekneferu, the "Beauties of [the crocodile god] Sobek" (often with the sun god Rē thrown in), who is recorded by Manetho as Σκεμίοφρες. Sobekneferu is well attested, even with surviving, obviously female, statuary; and Manetho says she was the sister, ἀδελφή, of the last male King, Amenemhet IV. For some reason, this now seems to be doubted, apparently because his parentage, from Amenemhet III, is less certain than hers. While some later ruling Queens, like Hatshepsut, were excluded from the king lists, Sobekneferu was not -- hence Manetho's recognition. The "egg" determinative is used here, unlike in the previous names, to indicate a female. We will see it much later in the name of Cleopatra. It is common with all the Ptolemaic Queens. There we also see the silent "t" of the standard feminine word ending.

The (Two) Human Breasts

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