Monday, May 15, 2017

I can return to my Platonic studies: my back dated Pension Credit has arrived

This morning I went to my Bank. I gave the clerk behind the counter the following letter:

Dear Lloyds Bank,

I am sorry I am such a useless customer. I am very grateful for all the assistance I have received from the Bank clerks at the local branch in Dursley. I do believe you are entitled to be informed about my financial situation and about my immediate prospects. I applied for Pension Credit at the beginning of March. I still have not received it, although I am entitled to it. If I do not receive it by Wednesday, Wednesday will be the first day of my living without any food. For details of my contacts with the Pension Service I enclose the ‘Letter to a friend interested in Plato’, which I wrote on Saturday.

Would you consider contacting the Pension Service and ask them about my Pension Credit claim? In my view, as a concerned Bank, you are fully entitled to do so. The Pension Credit General Enquiries can be contacted by phone on: 0345 606 0265, or: 0345 606 0285.

I hope all shall be settled by Wednesday and I can become one of your normal customers.

Julius Tomin

The lady read the letter, looked at my bank account, and said: ‘This morning arrived quite a lot of money on your account.’

The back dated Pension Credit has arrived. I can pay my debts, the water bill, the electricity bill, the Barclaycard bill, and return to Plato.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

A letter to a friend interested in Plato

Dear friend,

After my today's shopping at Sainsburys – reduced price broccoli, milk, reduced price blackberries, and yogurt – I am left with £1.49 on my current bank account, the only bank account I have. I have got £3.95 in my wallet, and £3.00 on my nectar card, which is all I have. This means, if I am very economical, with the food I have I can survive until Wednesday. If no miracle intervenes, on Wednesday morning I shall stop eating. I shall be drinking water, so I can last for quite a while, but I don’t think I shall do much more work on Plato. And yet, I feel I have so much more to learn, and so much more to say about him.

I did a number of hunger-strikes in the past, but I have never stopped eating simply because I had no money to buy my food. I do not relish the prospect. I hope you will agree with me that if it happens, Platonic Studies will be impoverished

I should like to ask you a favour. Would you contact the Department for Work and Pensions and ask them why I am not receiving the Pension Credit for which I applied at the beginning of March? When I applied, by telephone, I was told that my claim would be backdated to November 2016. Then they asked me for my passport and some other documents, which I sent them and they then duly returned. Then I got a letter from the DWP dated April 12, which says 'Having carefully considered your application we have decided that you do have right to Pension Credit. The decision is made on the grounds that you have obtained the right of permanent residence in the UK.' Then on Monday April 27 I received a phone call telling me that on Thursday April 27 I shall be visited by a DWP visitor 'as we need information about your personal/household circumstances, income and savings. This will help us make sure that you are getting the right amount of money.' I was not pleased with the call: 'When I applied for the Pension Credit at the beginning of March, I had an almost two-hour conversation with your officer, explaining to her all the income I have: £112.12 British State Pension every four weeks and £484.97 Czech Pension every three months, that is four times a year. The next British State Pension and the next Czech Pension I expect in June,' I said. Then on Thursday 27 the lady came, she was very nice. She received from me 14 months of bank statements from my Lloyds Bank. She said apologetically: 'We just could not believe that you live on so little money.'

I was determined to leave the place where I live - a sheltered housing, a flat owned by Doina, my ex-wife, where I don't pay rent, but pay monthly £185.10 Service Charges (for services that are of no interest to me), and £220.00 monthly Counsel Tax. I intended to cycle to Oxford on April 30, become homeless, and ask for counsel housing at Oxford, sleeping rough in front of Balliol in the meantime. The lady told me: 'Do not cycle to Oxford, you will pay no Council Tax, and I shall do my best to help with those Service Charges.' She took some documents, and said she would arrange sending me my basic Pension Credit as soon as possible. On May 3, I got back the documents accompanied by one sentence on a scrap of paper: 'Documents returned with thanks.' Since then, I have heard nothing more from the DWP.

Please, would you phone on Monday the Pension Credit General Enquiries: 0345 606 0265, or: 0345 606 0285; simply to ask, what do they intend to do about my Pension Credit, why am I not receiving it? I think that everybody interested in Platonic Studies is entitled to make such a phone call.
Many thanks in advance


From Plato’s Symposium to Aristophanes’ Birds

Socrates asked Diotima ‘What is Love (Ti oun an eiê ho erôs; Symposium 202d8)?’ She answered: ‘He is a great spirit (Daimôn megas), and like all spirits he is intermediate between the divine and the mortal (kai gar pan to daimonion metaxu esti theou te kai thnêtou, 202d13-e1).’ – Socrates: ‘And who was his father and his mother (Patros te tinos esti kai thnêtou;)? – Diotima: ‘The tale will take time (Makroteron men diêgêsasthai); nevertheless (homôs de) I will tell you (soi erô). On the day when Aphrodite was born (hote gar egeneto hê Aphroditê) there was a feast of all the gods (hêstiônto hoi theoi hoi te alloi), among them the god Poros or Plenty, who is the son of Metis or Sagacity (kai ho tês Mêtidos huos Poros). When the feast was over (epeidê de edeipnêsan), Penia or Poverty, as the manner is on such occasions, came about the doors to beg (prosaitêsousa hoion dê euôchias ousês aphiketo hê Penia, kai ên peri tas thuras). Now Plenty (ho oun Poros), who was the worse for nectar (methustheis tou nektaros) – there was no wine in those days (oinos gar oupô ên) – went into the garden of Zeus (eis ton tou Zênos kêpon eiselthôn) and fell into a heavy sleep (bebarêmenos heuden); and Poverty considering that for her there was no plenty, plotted to have a child by him (hê oun Penia epibouleuousa dia tên hautês aporian paidion poiêsasthai ek tou Porou), and accordingly she lay down at his side (kataklinetai te par autô̢) and conceived Love (kai ekuêse ton Erôta), who partly because he is naturally a lover of the beautiful, and because Aphrodite is herself beautiful, and also because he was begotten during her birthday feast, is her follower and attendant (dio dê kai tês Aphroditês akolouthos kai therapôn gegonen ho Erôs, gennêtheis en tois ekeinês genethliois, kai hama phusei erastês ôn peri to kalon kai tês Aphroditês kalês ousês). And as his parentage is (hate oun Porou kai Penias huos ôn), so also are his fortunes (ho Erôs en toiautê̢ tuchê̢ kathestêken). In the first place (prôton men) he is always poor (penês aei esti), and anything but tender and fair (kai pollou dei hapalos te kai kalos), as the many imagine him (hoion hoi polloi oiontai); and he is rough (alla sklêros) and squalid (kai auchmêros), and has no shoes (kai anupodêtos), nor a house to dwell in (kai aoikos); on the bare earth (chamaipetês ôn kai astrôtos) exposed he lies under the open heaven, in the streets, or at the door of houses, taking his rest (epi thurais kai en hodois hupaitrios koimômenos); and like his mother he is always in distress (tên tês mêtros phusin echôn, aei endeia̢ sunoikos). Like his father too, whom he also partly resembles (kata de au ton patera), he is always plotting against the fair (epiboulos esti tois kalois) and good (kai tois agathois); he is bold (andreios ôn), enterprising (kai itês), strong (kai suntonos), a mighty hunter (thêreutês deinos), always waving some intrigue or other (aei tinas plekôn mêchanas), keen in the pursuit of wisdom (kai phronêseôs epithumêtês), fertile in resources (kai porimos); a philosopher at all times (philosophôn dia pantos tou biou, 203b1-d7, tr. Jowett).’

On the margin of my Oxford text I wrote (some thirty five years ago; a note taken from Bury’s edition of the Symposium?): ‘The properties of Eros are as observed Max. Tyr. diss. XXIV.4. p. 461 atechnôs hoia eis auton Sôkratên eskôpton en Dionysiois hoi kômô̢doi (‘just in what way the writers of comedies scoffed at Socrates at Dionysia’).

I read Aristophanes’ Clouds not long ago, and so it was easy to find some relevant passages:

Strepsiades points to the house of Socrates: ‘That is the Thoughtery of wise souls (psuchôn sophôn tout’ esti phrontistêrion, 94). – Pheidippides, his son: ‘Bah! the wretches! (aiboi ponêroi g’) I know them (oida); you mean those quacks with pale faces, those barefoot fellows (tous alazonas tous ôchriôntas tous anupodêtous legeis), such as that miserable Socrates and Chaerephon (hôn ho kakodaimôn Sôkrates kai Chairephôn)?

Strepsiades enters Socrates’ Thoughtery calling on Socrates suspended in a basket up above the ground. Socrates: ‘Mortal, what do you want with me (ti me kaleis ôphêmere)?’ – Strepsiades: ‘First, what are you doing up there? Tell me, I beseech you (prôton men ho ti dra̢s antibolô kateipe moi).’ – Soc. ‘I am traversing the air and contemplating the sun (aerobatô kai periphronô to hêlion, 223-225).’

Soc. ‘Do you really wish to know the truth of celestial matters (boulei ta theia pragmat’ eidenai saphôs hatt’ estin orthôs;) ....and to converse with the clouds, who are our genii (kai xungenesthai tais Nephelaisin es logous, tais hêmeteraisi daimosi; 250-253)?

The Leader of the Chorus, of the Clouds, says to Socrates: ‘But, Socrates, begin the lessons you want to teach this old man (all’ encheirei ton presbutên ho ti per melleis prodidaskein); rouse his mind (kai diakinei ton noun autou), try the strength of his intelligence (kai tês gnômês apopeirô).’ – Socrates to Strepsiades: ‘Come (age dê), tell me (kateipe moi su) the kind of mind you have (ton sautou tropon); it's important that I know this, that I may order my batteries against you in the right fashion (hin’ auton eidôn hostis esti mêchanas êdê ‘pi toutois pros se kainas prospherô, 476-480). (I have used the translation available at the Internet Classics Archive.)

There is one essential characteristic of Socrates, prominent in the depicting of the Eros in Diotima’s tale, the caricature of which is missing in the Clouds: Socrates’ philosophic ignorance. The reason is, I believe, that when Aristophanes wrote the Clouds this characteristic was not prominent. It came to the fore only after Chaerephon went to Delphi and asked the oracle ‘whether there is anybody wiser than I’ (ei tis emou eiê sophôteros, Plato, Apology 21a6) When ‘the Pythian prophetess answered that there was no man wiser’ (aneilen oun hê Puthia mêdena sophôteron einai, 216-7), Socrates reacted to it by rigorous self-reflection, which resulted in his ‘I neither know nor think that I know’ (hôsper oun ouk oida, oude oiomai, 21d5). This character comes to the fore in the Birds, as I remembered; I had to re-read it.

The Birds were staged in 314, not long after the commencement of the Sicilian war.

Two Athenians, Pisthetairos and Euelpides, can’t stand any more their living in Athens; they go in search of Tereus, an ancient Thracian king changed into a hoopoe, and with his help and that of the other birds they build a Cuckoo-City-in-the-Clouds (Nephelokokkugia, 819). When the Nephelokokkugia is built, Iris, the messenger of the Gods, manages to get through the gate. Pisthetairos interrogates her: ‘By which gate (kata poias pulas) did you pass through the wall (eisêlthes eis to teichos), wretched female (ô miarôtatê;)?’ – Iris: ‘I don't know (ouk oida), O Zeus (ma Di’), by which gate (kata poias pulas).’ – Pisthetairos: ‘Have you heard how she ironizes (êkousas autês hoion eirôneuetai; 1210-11)?

Pisthetairos: ‘Ah! and so you slipped into this city on the sly (k’apeita dêth’ houtô siôpê̢ diapetei dia tês poleôs) and into these realms of air-land that don't belong to you (tês allotrias kai tou chaous;).’ – Iris: ‘And what other roads (poia̢ gar allê̢) can the gods travel (chrê petesthai tous theous;)? – Pisthetairos: ‘I don’t know, by Zeus (ouk oida ma Di’ egôge), for not this way (tê̢de men gar ou, 1217-20).’

To see the Socratic link, it is important to realize that Socrates’ ‘I don’t know’ was perceived as irony, and that Socrates identified Iris (the rainbow, linking the human and the divine sphere) with philosophy (see Plato, Theaet. 155d).

A Herald returns from the earth and reports to Pisthetairos: ‘Oh you, who have founded so illustrious a city in the air (ô kleinotatên aitherion oikisas polin), you know not (ouk oisth’) in what esteem men hold you (hosên timên par’ anthrôpois pherei) and how many lovers of this place you have (hosous t’ erastas têsde tês chôras echeis). For before you built this city (prin men gar oikisai se tênde tên polin), all men had a mania for Sparta (elakônomanoun hapantes anthrôpoi tote); they used to wear long hair (ekomôn), were fasting (epeinôn), went dirty (errupôn), they Socratized (esôkratoun).’ (1277-1282)

Note the similarity between the concept of the ‘lover’ that Aristophanes uses here and the concept of the ‘lover’ developed by Socrates in the Symposium. Men on the earth love Pisthetairos’ City in the Clouds as something higher than what Socrates offered them. In the Clouds Aristophanes presents Socrates with his thoughts high in the air; in the Birds Pisthetairos trumps him; he builds the city in the air.

The symposium in celebration of Agathon’s victory with his first tragedy took place in 416, two years prior to the staging or the Birds. If we compare Aristophanes’ Birds with Plato’s Symposium, we have reason to believe that both Socrates and Aristophanes attended it, and that the symposiasts did amuse themselves by their stories about Eros. In the Birds Eros plays an important role. The chorus, composed of the birds, becomes convinced of their great destiny thanks to Eros: ‘The Immortals did not exist until Eros had brought together all the ingredients of the world (proteron d’ ouk ên genos athanatôn, prin Erôs xunemeixen hapanta) … Thus our origin is very much older than that of the dwellers in Olympus (hôde men esmen polu presbutatoi pantôn makarôn). That we are the offspring of Eros (hêmeis d’ hôs esmen Erôtos), this is clear by many proofs (pollois dêlon, 700-704).

When Plato wrote the Symposium, he must have thought that his readers could hardly help thinking of Aristophanes’ comedy. When the drunken Alcibiades joins the symposiasts, in his speech in praise of Socrates he gives a dignified expression to Aristophanes’ ‘they all Socratized’: ‘And you whom I see around me, Phaedrus (kai horôn au Phaidrous) and Agathon (Agathonas) and Eryximachus (Eruximachous) and Pausanias (Pausanias) and Aristodemus (Aristodemous) and Aristophanes (te kai Aristophanas), all of you, and I need not say Socrates himself (Sôkratê de auton ti dei legein), and multitudes of others (kai hosoi alloi), have had experience of the same dionysiac madness and passion of philosophy (pantes gar kekoinôkate tês philosophou manias te kai bakcheias, 218a7-b4, tr. Jowett).’ – It is worth noting that in the original all those named are in the plural, only Socrates is in the singular.


In the Meno Plato gives another response to Aristophanes’s ‘they all Socratized’. Meno asked Socrates whether virtue can be taught, and Socrates said in his reply: ‘I am certain that if you were to ask any Athenian whether virtue was natural or acquired (ei goun tina etheleis houtôs eresthai tôn enthade), he would laugh in your face (oudeis hostis ou gelasetai), and say (kai erei): “Stranger (Ô xene), you have far too good an opinion of me (kinduneuô soi dokein makarios tis einai), if you think that I can answer your question (aretên goun eite didakton eith’ hosô̢ tropô̢ paragignetai eidenai). For I literally do not know what virtue is, and much less whether it is acquired by teaching or not (egô de tosouton deô eite didakton eite mê didakton eidenai, hôs oude auto hoti pot’ esti to parapan aretê tunchanô eidôs).” And myself (Egô oun kai autos), Meno (ô Menôn, houtôs echô), living as I do in this region of poverty, am as poor as the rest of the world (sumpenomai tois politais toutou tou pragmatos); and I confess with shame that I know literally nothing about virtue (kai emauton katamemphomai hôs ouk eidôs peri tês aretês to parapan, 71a1-b3, tr. Jowett).’

Friday, May 12, 2017

An appeal to classicists: Let us record Aristophanes’ Birds and make our recording available online

On May 11, after returning from Oxford I wrote to a few Oxford classicists:

Dear Colleague,
Yesterday I spent several hours in the Bodleian with Nan Dunbar's Aristophanes Birds. She gives a metrical analysis of all lyrical passages. Following her guidance, I marked the scanning in my text. I expected that my reading the passages properly scanned would contribute to my enjoyment of them, but the experience far exceeded my expectations.

I should like to find a classicist classicists who would be willing to join me in reading and recording the Birds. The two main characters, Pisthetairos and Euelpides, are old, and Tereus, the hoopoe, is ancient; a task for retired classicists.

I intend to approach British classicists first, but I am ready to go anywhere, if money could be found – perhaps from some EU funds, but that's a secondary question. The most important thing is to find out who – if anybody – might be interested. It doesn't have to be a man or men, and it don't have to be old persons. Anybody interested in the project would be welcome.

If anybody comes to your mind, advise me. please.


Tuesday, May 9, 2017

A letter to the Editor of the Oxford Isis

Dear Editor,

Allow me to inform you about my protest-appeal addressed to Oxford philosophers. Tomorrow I shall arrive at Oxford to spend the afternoon and the evening in front of Balliol with a simple poster: LET US DISCUSS PLATO.

I shall not be eating tomorrow, I shall hold a token one-day hunger-strike against my exclusion from academic circles, to which I belong thanks to my work on Plato, which you can see on my blog and on my website.

Wednesday is a good day for my appeal-protest; I held on Wednesdays my philosophy seminar in Prague in 1977-1980, to which I invited Oxford philosophers. See Roger Scruton’s ‘A Catacomb Culture’ on my website.

Would Isis inform Oxford students about my protest-appeal? I do believe that classics and classical philosophy has a future. The culture that is ever more and more diverse and ever more and more globalized needs to find again and again its roots in the world of the Ancient Greeks. But we can enjoin the Greeks authentically only if we understand Ancient Greek directly, without translating it into English (or German, or French … or Czech). And here is the root of the ‘disagreement’ between me and my Oxford (and Cambridge, and Berkeley, and Heidelberg … and Prague) colleagues. When I learnt Ancient Greek in Prague, I knew that the Ancient Greeks did not translate their Greek in their heads into Hebrew or Scythian or Persian, to understand it; they understood it in Greek. I therefore learnt it so as to understand it without translating it in my head.

When Dr Kathy Wilkes (from St Hilda’s) and then Dr Anthony Kenny, the Master of Balliol, came to Prague to my seminar in 1979/1980, the difference between their and my approach to Ancient Greek became apparent. Having been drilled in translating Ancient Greek into English, and chosen English texts into Ancient Greek, from their tender youth in their public schools onward, they were incapable of understanding Ancient Greek without translating it in their heads. The great advantage my approach gave me became even more apparent after I came to Oxford in 1980 at the invitation of the Master of Balliol, and took part in professor Owen’s (from Kings College Cambridge) Aristotelian seminar in London, three times a term, attended by the best classical philosophers from Oxford, Cambridge, and London Universities, and in Professor Ackrill’s (at Brasenose) Aristotelian seminar at Oxford. Understanding Ancient Greek directly is the only authentic way of approaching the Greek texts, and the only way one can truly enjoy them. It would be great if students interested in culture approached me at Balliol and discussed these matters with me.


Julius Tomin

LET US DISCUSS PLATO (a letter to the Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University)

Dear Vice-Chancellor.

Allow me to inform you that tomorrow I shall arrive at Oxford to spend the afternoon and the evening in front of Balliol with a simple poster: LET US DISCUSS PLATO. I shall not be eating tomorrow, I shall hold a token one-day hunger-strike against my exclusion from academic circles, to which I belong thanks to my work on Plato.

On Thursday, I shall resume eating for a few days, until my money runs out. When my money runs out I shall hold a seven-day hunger-strike. I shall inform the Pension Service about my hunger-strike. If by then I do not receive the Pension Credit, for which I applied at the beginning of March, my hunger-strike will simply turn into starvation; one needs money to get food.

Wednesday is a good day for my appeal-protest; I held on Wednesdays my philosophy seminar in Prague in 1977-1980, to which I invited Oxford philosophers. See Roger Scruton’s ‘A Catacomb Culture’ on my website.

What led me to this decision? On April 16, I wrote to the Master of Balliol:

‘Allow me to inform you that from May 2 on, in all likelihood, I shall be spending daily some time in front of Balliol with a poster ‘A HOMELESS PHILOSOPHER APPEALS TO OXFORD PHILOSOPHERS: LET US DISCUSS PLATO’.

I plan to leave Dursley on my bicycle on April 30, arriving at Oxford on May 2. I shall be looking for a place to live in Oxford.

I say in all likelihood, for if my financial situation improves before the end of April, so that I become able to pay the council tax (£211 a month), and the service charges (£185.10 a month) to ‘midland heart’, I shall be happy to stay where I live at present. At the moment, I have £177.51 on my current bank account; this is all I have. I expect to receive the State Pension of £112,12 in May, I receive it every fourth week; in June, I expect the Czech pension of approximately £484.97 (the amount I received in March), which I receive every three months.

At the beginning of March I applied for the State Pension Credit, and yesterday I received a letter informing me that I have the right to it – ‘The decision is made on the grounds that you have obtained the right of permanent residence in the UK … Your Pension Credit application has now been passed on to our processing section who will assess your award and advise you of your entitlement accordingly’ – so it is possible that the Pension Service will step in.’

On April 24 I wrote on my blog: ‘A lady from the Pension Service is going to visit me on Thursday April 27 to examine my financial situation, to see my bank statements. Obviously, the Pension Service will do nothing to solve my financial situation by the end of this month, and so I become homeless, unless some miracle happens.’

The lady from Pension Service came, she told me that I shall be paying no council tax and that she will do everything possible to contribute to the Service Charges, which I have to pay in the sheltered accommodation where I live: ‘Mr Tomin, do not cycle to Oxford!’

It sounded like a miracle, and although I trained diligently for my cycling trip, I was happy to stay and resume my work on Plato.

Almost a fortnight has elapsed; the only thing I received from the Pension Service are the documents the lady took from me: ‘Documents returned with thanks.’

Julius Tomin

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Plato’s Parmenides and Symposium in the light of their dating, with references to his Second Letter, Phaedo, and Phaedrus, and to Xenophon’s Hellenica

I am dating the Parmenides in 366/5, the year after Plato returned from his second journey to Sicily, and the Symposium in 364/3 B.C., after the sailing season passed, in which he sent Dionysius the Second Letter.

In the Symposium Aristodemus opened his narration ‘by saying (ephê gar) that he met Socrates fresh from the bath (hoi Sôkratê entuchein leloumenon te) and sandalled (kai tas blautas hupodedemenon); and as the sight of the sandals was unusual (ha ekeinos oligakis epoiei), he asked him (kai eresthai auton) whither he was going (hopoi ioi) that he had been converted into such a beau (houtô kalos gegenêmenos).’ Socrates replied: ‘To a banquet (Epi deipnon) at Agathon’s (eis Agathônos), whose invitation to his sacrifice of victory I refused yesterday (chthes gar auton diephugon tois epinikiois), fearing a crowd (phobêtheis ton ochlon), but promising that I would come today instead (hômologêsa d’eis têmeron paresesthai); and so I have put on my finery (tauta de ekallôpisamên), because he is such a fine man (hina kalos para kalon iô).’ (174a3-9, translations from the Symp. are Jowett’s)

On the proposed dating of the dialogue, Plato alludes here to his Second Letter in which he wrote to Dionysius that ‘no treatise by Plato exists (oud’ estin sungramma Platônos ouden) or will exist (oud’ estai), but those which now bear his name (ta de nun legomena) belong to a Socrates (Sôkratous estin) become fair and young (kalou kai neou gegonotos, 314c2-4, tr. Bury)’. While in Aristodemus’ introductory words he alludes to ‘Socrates become fair’ (kalou gegonotos), in Socrates’ speech on Eros he alludes to ‘Socrates become young’ (Sôkratous neou gegonotos). For Socrates opens his speech with the words ‘I will rehearse a tale of love (ton de logon ton peri tou Erôtos) which I heard from Diotima of Mantinea (hon pot’ êkousa gunaikos Mantinikês Diotimas), a woman wise in this and many other kinds of knowledge (hê tauta te sophê ên kai alla polla) … She was my instructress in the art of love (hê dê kai eme ta erôtika edidaxen), and I shall try to repeat to you what she said to me (hon oun ekeinê elege logon peirasomai humin dielthein).’ (201d1-6) In Plato’s Parmenides we are presented with ‘Socrates who was very young at that time’ (Sôkratê de einai tote sphodra neon, 127c4-5), and in the Symposium he appears to present us with Socrates even younger.

The passage in the Parmenides, which makes me surmise that in the Symposium Plato present us with an even younger Socrates, is the following. Ending his criticism of young Socrates’ theory of Forms (‘characters’ – eidê, ‘characteristics’ – ideai in R. E. Allens’s rendering), Parmenides tells him: ‘If in light of all the present difficulties and others like them, Socrates, one will not allow that there are characters of things that are (ei ge tis dê, ô Sôkrates,  au mê easei eidê tôn ontôn einai, eis panta ta nundê kai alla toiauta apoblepsas), and refuses to distinguish as something a character of each single thing (mêde ti horieitai eidos henos hekastou), he will not even have anything to which to turn his mind (oude hopoi trepsei tên dianoian hexei), since he will not allow that there is a characteristic, ever the same,  of each of the things that are (mê eôn idean tôn ontôn hekastou tên autên einai); and so he will utterly destroy the power and significance of thought and discourse (kai houtôs tên tou dialegesthai dunamin pantapasi diaphtherei). I think you are only too aware of that sort of consequence (tou toioutou men oun moi dokeis kai mallon ê̢sthêsthai).’ – Socrates: ‘True (Alêthê legeis).’ – Parmenides: ‘What will you do about philosophy, then (Ti oun poiêseis philosophias peri;)? Which way will you turn (pê̢ trepsê̢) while these things are unknown (agnooumenôn toutôn;)?’ – Socrates: ‘For the moment, at least, I am not really sure I see (Ou panu moi dokô kathoran en ge tô̢ paronti).’ – Parmenides: ‘No, because you undertake to mark off something beautiful and just and good and each one of the characters too soon, before being properly trained (Prô̢ gar, prin gumnasthênai, horizesthai epicheireis kalon te ti kai dikaion kai agathon kai hen hekaston tôn eidôn). I realized that yesterday (enenoêsa gar kai prô̢ên), when I heard you (sou akouôn) discussing here with Aristotle (dialegomenou enthade Aristotelei tô̢de). Believe me, your impulse toward argument is noble and indeed divine (kalê men oun kai theia, eu isthi, hê hormê hên horma̢s epi tous logous). But train yourself more thoroughly while you are still young; drag yourself through what is generally regarded as useless, and condemned by the multitude as idle talk (helkuson de sauton kai gumnasai mallon dia tês dokousês achrêstou einai kai kaloumenês hupo tôn pollôn adoleschias, heôs eti neos ei). Otherwise (ei de mê), the truth will escape you (se diapheuxetai hê alêtheia).’ (135b5-d6, tr. R. E. Allen)

The Aristotle, in discussion with whom the young Socrates undertook to define something beautiful and just and good (kalon te ti kai dikaion kai agathon) and each one of the Forms (kai hen hekaston tôn eidôn), became one of the Thirty Tyrants (ton tôn trriakonta genomenon), as Plato remarks in the Parmenides (127d2-3).

The Thirty ruled Athens after its defeat in the Peloponnesian war from April to December 404 B. C. Xenophon says in his Hellenica that the Thirty ‘put many people to death out of personal enmity (pollous men echthras heneka apekteinon), and many also for the sake of securing their property (pollous de chrêmatôn, II. iii. 21) … for the sake of their private gain (hoi idiôn kerdeôn heneka) have killed in eight months more Athenians almost (oligou dein pleious apektonasin Athênaiôn en oktô mêsin), than all the Peloponnesians in ten years of war (ê pantes Peloponnêsioi deka etê polemountes, II. iv. 21).’ He informs us that Pythodorus was elected archon at Athens in 404, but because ‘Pythodorus was chosen during the time of oligarchy, the Athenians do not use his name to mark the year, but call it “the archonless year” (Puthodôrou d’ en Athênais archontos, hon Athênaioi, hoti en oligarchia̢ hê̢rethê, ouk onomazousin, all’ anarchian ton eniauton kalousin, II. iii. 1, tr. C. L. Brownson).’

The Pythodorus in the Parmenides is named as ‘a certain Pythodorus’ (Puthodôros tis, 126b9), and thus it certainly is not the Pythodorus that was the archon elected during the reign of the Thirty, but his very name, combined with ‘Aristotle who became one of the Thirty’, must have reminded Plato’s readers of the year of Pythodorus’s ‘reign’ called by the Athenians anarchia. The more so, since the year of Plato’s absence from the Academy, the year he spent in Syracuse at Dion’s and Dionysius’ bidding, must have appeared both to Plato and to the Members of his Academy as the year of anarchy, during which his theory of Forms got under a sustained attack, in which the young Aristotle presumably took part. We may conjecture that the 17 years old Aristotle came to Plato’s Academy in 367 prior to Plato’s departure from Athens, and that Plato was left with an impression of a very bright and attentive student, the picture he evoked in the Parmenides in that of Aristotle, the youngest of the company (ho neôtatos, 137b6)’ attentively following Parmenides’ exposition of a philosophic exercise, dutifully answering his questions with ‘No’ (Pôs gar an;), ‘Why’ (Ti dê;), ‘Yes’ (Nai), ‘Of course’ (Panu ge), ‘Necessarily’ (Anankê), ‘True’ (Alêthê) and such like (Aristotle’s answers to Parmenides’ first six questions; the English ‘equivalents’ are Allen’s). During the year of Plato’s absence, the young Aristotle appears to have shown, from Plato’s point of view, his ‘destructive’ and ‘anarchic’ potential.

(Aristotle’s critical remarks on the Forms chime with Parmenides’ criticism of the Forms in the Parmenides. For this see ‘A note on the 3rd book of Aristotle’s Metaphysics’, posted on October 16, 2014 on my blog, and ‘1-4 Arguments against the Forms in Plato’s Parmenides and Aristotle’s critical remarks on the Forms’, posted on Sept. 22, 2015 – October 3, 2015.)

Parmenides’ words to Socrates – ‘I think you are only too aware of that sort of consequence … you undertake to mark off something beautiful and just and good and each one of the Forms too soon, before being properly trained. I realized that yesterday, when I heard you discussing here with Aristotle’ (135c8-d2) – indicate that when he met the young Socrates, the latter was already involved in his philosophic pursuits, in which we find him involved in Plato’s dialogues beginning with the Phaedrus and ending with the Philebus. In the Symposium Plato presents us with Socrates’ fictional recollection of his initiation into philosophy viewed as ‘erotic’ art, erotic in the sense given to the word by Diotima in her discussion with Socrates.

There is a profound difference between the presentation of the young Socrates in the Parmenides and the still younger one in the Symposium. In the Parmenides Plato insists on the veracity of the encounter between Socrates, Zeno, and Parmenides. Cephalus, the narrator, tells Adeimantus, Plato’s elder brother, that he and his friends came to Athens from Clazomenae in search for Antiphon (Adeimantus’, Plato’s, and Glaucon’s half-brother): ‘These gentlemen here are fellow citizens of mine (Hoide politai t’ emoi eisi), much interested in philosophy (mala philosophoi). They’ve heard (akêkoasi te) that your Antiphon (hoti houtos ho Antiphôn) used to associate with a certain Pythodorus, a companion of Zeno’s (Puthodôrô̢ tini Zênônos hetairô̢ polla entetuchêke), and that he can relate from memory the arguments that once were discussed by Socrates, Zeno, and Parmenides, having often heard them from Pythodorus (kai tous logous, hous pote Sôkratês kai Zênôn kai Parmenidês dielechthêsan, pollakis akousas tou Puthodôrou apomnêmoneuei).’ – Adeimantus: ‘True (Alêthê legeis, ‘what you say is true’).’ – Cephalus: ‘Well, that’s what we want, to hear those arguments (Toutôn toinun deometha diakousai).’ – Aadeimantus: ‘No difficulty here (All’ ou chalepon). When Antiphon was young (meirakion gar ôn) he used to rehearse them diligently (autous eu mala diemeletêsen).’ (126b8-c7, tr. Allen)

In the Symposium, Socrates welcomes Eros as the proposed theme for encomia: ‘I profess to know nothing but matters of love’ (ouden allo phêmi epistasthai ê ta erôtika, 177d7-8) … I will rehearse a tale of love (ton de logonton peri tou Erôtos) which I once heard (hon pot’ êkousa) from Diotima of Mantinea (gunaikos Mantinikês Diotimas), a woman wise in this (hê tauta sophê ên, 201d1-3) … and I shall try to repeat to you what she said to me (hon oun ekeinê elege logon, peirasomai humin dielthein, 201d5-6).’ Diotima in her speech refers to Aristophanes’ speech given by him at the symposium.

Aristophanes had narrated: ‘In the first place (dei de prôton), let me treat of the nature of man (humas mathein tên anthrôpinên phusin) and what has happened to it (kai ta pathêmata autês). The original human nature (hê gar palai hêmôn phusis) was not like the present (ouch hautê ên hêper nun), but different (all’ alloia). The sexes were not two as they are now, but originally three in number (prôton men gar tria ên ta genê ta tôn anthrôpôn, ouch hôsper nun duo); there was man, woman (arren kai thêlu), and the union of the two, of which the name survives but nothing else (alla kai triton prosên koinon on amphoterôn toutôn, hou nun onoma loipon, auto de êphanistai). Once it was a distinct kind, with a bodily shape and name of its own, constituted by the union of the male and female (androgunon gar hen tote men ên kai eidos kai onoma ex amphoterôn koinon tou te arrenos kai thêleos): but now only the word “androgynous” is preserved, and that as a term of reproach (nun de ouk estin all’ ê en oneidei onoma keimenon). In the second place (epeita), the primeval man was round (holon ên hekastou tou anthrôpou to eidos strongulon), his back and sides forming a circle (nôton kai pleuras kuklô̢ echon); and he had four hands (cheiras de tettaras eiche) and the same number of feet (kai skelê ta isa tais chersin), one head with two faces, looking opposite ways, set on a round neck and precisely alike (kai prosôpa du’ ep’ aucheni kukloterei, homoia pantê̢’ kephalên ep’ amphoterois tois prosôpois keimenois mian); also four ears (kai ôta tettara), two privy members (kai aidoia duo), and the remainder to correspond (kai t’alla panta hôs apo toutôn an tis eikaseien) (189d5-190a4) … Terrible was their might (ên oun tên ischun deina) and strength (kai tên rômên), and the thoughts of their hearts were great (kai ta phronêmata megala eichon), and they made an attack upon the gods (epecheirêsan de tois theois, 190b5-6) … Zeus (Zeus) said (ephê): “Methinks (Dokô moi) I have a plan (echein mêchanên) which will enfeeble their strength (hôs an eien te anthrôpoi kai pausainto tês akolastias asthenesteroi genomenoi, 190c6-d1)” … He cut men in two (etemne tous anthrôpous dicha, 190d7) … he bade Apollo give the face and half of the neck a turn (ton Apollô ekeleuen to te prosôpon metastrephein kai to tou auchenos hêmisu) in order that man might contemplate the section of himself: he would thus learn a lesson of humility (pros tên tomên, hina theômenoi tên hautôn tmêsin kosmiôteros eiê ho anthrôpos) (190e2-5) … After the division the two parts of man (epeidê oun hê phusis dicha etmêthê), each desiring his other half (pothoun hekaston to hêmisu to hautou), came together (sunê̢ei), and throwing their arms about one another (kai periballontes tas cheiras), entwined in mutual embraces (kai sumplekomenoi allêlois), longing to grow into one (epithumountes sumphunai), they began to die from hunger (apethnê̢skon hupo limou) and self-neglect (kai tês allês argias), because they did not like to do anything apart (dia to mêden ethelein chôris allêlôn poiein, 191a5-b1) … Zeus in pity (eleêsas de ho Zeus) invented a new plan (allên mêchanên porizetai): he turned the parts of generation round to the front (kai metatithêsin autôn ta aidoia eis to prosthen), for this had not always been their position, and they sowed the seed no longer as hitherto like grasshoppers in the ground, but in one another (teôs gar kai tauta ektos eichon, kai egennôn kai etikton ouk eis allêlous all’ eis gên, hôsper hoi tettiges - metethêke te oun houtô autôn eis to prosthen kai dia toutôn tên genesin en allêlois epoiêsen, 191b5-c3) … So ancient is the desire for one another which is implanted in us (esti dê oun ek tosou ho erôs emphutos allêlôn tois anthrôpois), reuniting our original nature (kai tês archaias phuseôs sunagôgeus), seeking to make one of two (kai epicheirôn poiêsai hen ek duoin), and to heal the state of man (kai iasthai tên phusin tên anthrôpinên, 191c8-d3) … Men who are a section of that double nature (hosoi men oun tôn andrôn tou koinou tmêma eisin) which was once called androgynous (ho dê tote androgunon ekaleito) are lovers of women (philogunaikes te eisi, 191d6-7) … The women who are a section of the woman (hosai de tôn gunaikôn gunaikos tmêma eisin) do not care for men (ou panu hautai tois andrasi ton noun prosechousin), but have female attachments (alla mallon pros tas gunaikas tetrammenai eisi, 191e2-5) … But they who are a section of the male (hosoi de arrenos tmêma eisi) follow the male (ta arrena diôkousi, ‘chase the male’, 191e6). (Jowett’s translation of these passages is mostly very loose, but he gets the meaning right.)

Socrates narrates that Diotima told him: ‘And you hear people say that lovers are seeking for their other half.’
Jowett’s ‘And you hear people say’ for Plato’s Kai legetai men ge tis logos obfuscates Diotima’s reference to Aristophanes’ story. Let me try to translate Diotima’s words as close to the original as I can make it: ‘And there is some story being said (Kai legetai men ge tis logos) that those who are seeking the other half of themselves (hôs hoi an to hêmisu heautôn zêtôsin), these love (houtoi erôsin), but my story says that the eros [desire, love] is neither of the half nor of the whole (ho d’ emos logos oute hêmiseos phêsin einai ton erôta oute holou), unless it happens somehow (ean mê tunchanê̢ ge pou), my friend (ô hetaire), to be a good (agathon on, 205d10-e3).
Now back to the narrator, and to Jowett’s translation: ‘When Socrates had done speaking (Eipontos de tauta tou Sôkratous), the company applauded (tous men epainein), and Aristophanes was beginning to say something (ton de Aristophanê legein ti epicheirein) in answer to the allusion which Socrates had made to his own speech (hoti emnêsthê autou legôn ho Sôkratês peri tou logou), when suddenly (kai exaiphnês) there was a great nocking at the door of the house (tên auleion thuran krouomenên polun psophon paraschein), as of revellers (hôs kômastôn), and the sound of a flute-girl was heard (kai aulêtridos phônên akouein, 212c4-8).’
The only purpose of Aristophanes’ attempted intervention is to make it clear that Diotima’s speech was – dramatically – Socrates’ ad hoc invention, and that he in his speech alluded to Aristophanes’ ad hoc speech.
Let me and with a reflection on Plato’s Second Letter proclamation that ‘no treatise by Plato exists (oud’ estin sungramma Platônos ouden) or will exist (oud’ estai), but those which now bear his name (ta de nun legomena) belong to a Socrates (Sôkratous estin) become fair and young (kalou kai neou gegonotos, 314c2-4, tr. Bury)’. The Second Letter was preceded by two dialogues, the Phaedo and the Parmenides. When Plato wrote the Second Letter he believed that these two dialogues were to be his last; from then on, he was to devote himself fully to the education of Dionysius, using the ‘living spoken word that has soul’ (logon zônta kai empsuchon), not the written word, its pale imitation (hou ho gegrammenos eidôlon an ti legoito dikaiôs, Phaedrus 276a8-9). He formulated his Second Letter proclamation so as to exclude from it these last two dialogues: the Phaedo can’t be viewed as a dialogue belonging to a Socrates become young, and the Parmenides simply can’t be viewed as ‘a Socrates’s dialogue’.
In the Symposium Plato alludes to the Second Letter proclamation, yet he wrote it so that it can’t be seen as a “Socrates’s” (Sôkratous) dialogue.