Monday, June 27, 2016

12 Socrates in Aristophanes, Plato, and Xenophon

The Clouds say to Strepsiades: ’O man, you who desire the great wisdom from us (ȏ tȇs megalȇs epithumȇsas sophias anthrȏpe par hȇmȏn, 412), how happy you will become among the Athenians and the Greeks (hȏs eudaimȏn en Athȇnaiois kai tois Hellȇsi genȇsei, 413), if your memory is good, if you are a good thinker, if the ability to endure hardship is (ei mnȇmȏn ei kai phrontistȇs kai to talaipȏron enesti, 414) in your soul, and neither standing nor walking makes you weary (en tȇi psuchȇi, kai mȇ kamneis mȇth’ hestȏs mȇte badizȏn, 415), and you are neither too bothered by cold nor pine for a second meal (mȇte rigȏn achthei lian mȇt’ aristan epithumeis, 416), if you abstain from wine, of naked games and other foolish things (oinou t’ apechei kai gumnasiȏn kai tȏn allȏn anoȇtȏn, 417), and if you think this to be the best thing – as behoves a spirited man (kai beltiston touto nomizeis, hoper eikos dexion andra, 418) – to be victorious in your actions and deliberations and in fighting with your tongue (nikan prattȏn kai bouleuȏn kai tȇi glȏttȇi polemizȏn, 419).’

Dover notes on anoȇtȏn (‘foolish things‘) in line 417: ‘Probably to be taken, as mȏros (‘stupid’) often is, as a euphemistic allusion to sexual pleasures; cf. X. M. II. i. 1 lagneia (‘sexual indulgence’), I. ii. 1 aphrodisia (‘erotic appetite’), in descriptions of Socrates’ enkrateia (‘self-control’).’

Xenophon says in Memorabilia I. ii. 1: ‘No less wonderful is it to me (Thaumaston de phainetai moi) that some believed (kai to peisthȇnai tinas) the charge brought against Socrates of corrupting the youth (hȏs Sȏkratȇs tous neous diephtheiren). In the first place, apart from what I have said (hos pros tois eirȇmenois prȏton men), in control of his own erotic passions (aphrodisiȏn) and appetites of belly (kai gastros) he was the strictest of men (pantȏn anthrȏpȏn enkratestatos ȇn); further (eita), cold (pros cheimȏna) and heat (kai theros) and every kind of toil (kai pantas ponous) he was the ablest to endure (karterikȏtatos); and besides (eti de pros), his needs were so schooled to moderation (to metriȏn deisthai pepaideumenos houtȏs) that having very little (hȏste panu mikra kektȇmenos) he was yet very content (panu raidiȏs echein arkounta).’ In Memorabilia II. ii. 1 he says: ‘I thought (Edokei de moi) he exhorted (protrepein) his companions (tous sunontas) to practice (askein) self-control (enkrateian) in the matter of eating (brȏtou) and drinking (kai potou), and sexual indulgence (kai lagneias), and sleeping (kai hupnou), and endurance of cold (kai rigous) and heat (kai thalpous) and toil (kai ponou, tr. Marchant).’

On the margin of my Oxford edition of Aristophanes I noted Starkie’s comment on ‘standing’ in line 415 (‘if … neither standing nor walking makes you weary’: ‘See the anecdote about Socrates told by Alcibiades in Plato’s Symposium 220c.’

Alcibiades’ anecdote is part of his reminiscences about Socrates during the military expedition at Potidaea, in which both of them took part: ‘There we messed together (sunesitoumen ekei), and I had the opportunity of observing his extraordinary power of sustaining fatigue. His endurance was simply marvellous when, being cut off from supplies, we were compelled to go without food – on such occasions, which often happen in time of war, he was superior not only to me but to everybody (ou monon emou periȇn alla kai tȏn allȏn hapantȏn); there was no one to be compared to him. Yet at a festival (en t’ au tais euȏchiais) he was the only person who had any real powers of enjoyment (monos apolauein hoios t’ ȇn); though not willing to drink (pinein ouk ethelȏn), he could if compelled (hopote anankastheiȇ) to beat us all at that (pantas ekratei), –  wonderful to relate! (kai ho pantȏn thaumastotaton) no human being had ever seen Socrates drunk (Sȏkratȇ methuonta oudeis pȏpote heȏraken anthrȏpȏn) … His fortitude in enduring cold (pros de au tas tou cheimȏnos karterȇseis) was also surprising (thaumasia ȇrgazeto). There was a severe frost (kai pote ontos pagou hoiou deinotatou), for the winter in that region is really tremendous (deinoi gar autothi cheimȏnes), and everybody else either remained indoors (kai pantȏn ȇ ouk exiontȏn endothen), or if they went out (ȇ ei tis exioi) had on an amazing quantity of clothes (ȇmphiesmenȏn te thaumasta dȇ hosa), and were well shod (kai hupodedȇmenȏn), and had their feet swathed  (kai eneiligmenȏn tous podas) in felt (eis pilous) and fleeces (kai arnakidas): in the midst of this, Socrates (houtos d’ en toutois) with his bare feet on the ice (anupodȇtos dia tou krustallou) and in his ordinary dress (echȏn himation toiouton hoion kai proteron) marched better than the other soldiers who had shoes (raion eporeueto ȇ hoi alloi hupodedemenoi), and they looked daggers at him (hoi de stratiȏtai hupeblepon auton) because he seemed to despise them (hȏs kataphronounta sphȏn). I have told you one tale, and now I must tell you another, which is worth hearing (kai tauta men dȇ tauta), “of the doings and sufferings of the enduring man” (hoion d’ au tod’ erexe kai etlȇ karteros anȇr [Homer Odyssea IV, 242]) while he was on the expedition (ekei pote epi stratias, axion akousai). One morning he was thinking about something which he could not resolve; he would not give it up, but continued thinking from early dawn until noon – there he stood fixed in thought (heistȇkei zȇtȏn); and at noon attention was drawn to him, and the rumour ran through the wandering crowd that Socrates (hoti Sȏkratȇs) had been standing and thinking about something ever since the break of the day (ex heȏthinou phrontizȏn ti hestȇke). At last, in the evening after supper, some Ionians out of curiosity (I should explain that this was not in winter but in summer), brought out their mats and slept in the open air that they might watch him and see whether he would stand all night. There he stood until the following morning (ho de heistȇkei mechri heȏs egeneto kai hȇlios aneschen); and with the return of light he offered up a prayer to the sun and went his way (epeita ȏichet’ apiȏn proseuxamenos tȏi hȇliȏi).’ (Pl. Symp. 219e-220d, tr. B. Jowett; Jowett’s translation, although very free, captures well the atmosphere of Alcibiades’ narrative; I have supplied the Greek wherever I could find any meaningful correspondence between Plato’s Greek and Jowett’s English.)

On entering the stage, the chorus of Clouds addresses Strepsiades and Socrates as follows: ‘Be greeted, ancient old man who hunt after music loving words (chair’ ȏ presbuta palaiogenes therata logȏn philomousȏn, 358), and you, the priest of the subtlest nonsense, tell us what you need (su te leptotatȏn lȇrȏn hiereu, phraze pros hȇmas ho ti chrȇizeis, 359), for we would not respond to anyone of the meteoro-sophists of today (ou gar an allȏi hupakousaimen tȏn nun meteȏrosophistȏn, 360), except to Prodicus because of his wisdom and his thought, and to you (plȇn ȇ Prodikȏi, tȏi men sophias kai gnȏmȇs houneka, soi de, 361), for you stalk like a pelican on the roads and role your eyes (hoti brenthuei t’ en taisin hodois kai t’ȏphtalmȏ parablleis, 362), and barefoot you put up with much hardship and you have your solemn face looking up to us (k’anupodȇtos kaka poll’ anechei kaph’ hȇmin semnoprosȏpeis, 363).

Alcibiades had these lines in mind when he said: ‘There was another occasion on which his behaviour was very remarkable (axion ȇn theasasthai Sȏkratȇ) – in the flight of the army after the battle of Delium (hote apo Dȇliou phugȇi anechȏrei to stratopedon), where he served among the heavy-armed – I had a better opportunity of seeing him than at Potidaea (entautha dȇ kai kallion etheasamȇn Sȏkratȇ ȇ en Poteidaiai), for I was myself on horseback, and therefore comparatively out of danger (autos gar hȇtton en phobȏi ȇ dia to eph’ hippou einai). He and Laches [an Athenian general] were retreating, for the troops were in flight (anechȏrei oun eskedasmenȏn ȇdȇ tȏn anthrȏpȏn, houtos te hama kai Lachȇs) and I met them (kai egȏ peritunchanȏ) and told them not to be discouraged (kai idȏn euthus parakeleuomai te autoin tharrein), and promised to remain with them (kai elegon hoti ouk apoleipsȏ autȏ); and there you might see him (epeita emoig’ edokei), Aristophanes (ȏ Aristophanes), as you describe (to son dȇ touto), just as he is in the streets of Athens (kai ekei diaporeuesthai hȏsper kai enthade), stalking like a pelican (brenthuomenos), and rolling his eyes (kai t’ȏphtalmȏ paraballȏn), calmly contemplating (ȇrema paraskopȏn) enemies as well as friends (kai tous philious kai tous polemious), and making very intelligible to anybody (dȇlos ȏn panti), even from a distance (kai panu porrȏthen), that whoever attacked him (hoti ei tis hapsetai toutou tou andros) would be likely to meet with a stout resistance (mala errȏmenȏs amuneitai); and in this way he and his companion escaped (dio kai asphalȏs apȇiei kai houtos kai ho hetairos) – for this is the sort of man who is never touched in war (schedon gar ti tȏn houtȏ diakeimenȏn en tȏi polemȏi oude haptontai); those only are pursued who are running away headlong (alla tous protropadȇn pheugontas diȏkousin). I particularly observed how superior he was to Laches in presence of mind.’ (Pl. Symp. 220e8-221c1; tr. Jowett)

Again, Jowett’s translation captures well the atmosphere of Alcibiades’ narrative, but it is at places only loosely related to Alcibiades’ narrative. For example, Jowett’s last sentence ‘I particularly observed how superior he was to Laches in presence of mind’ paraphrases Alcibiades’ prȏton men hoson periȇn Lachȇtos tȏi emphrȏn einai, but in Alcibiades’ narrative this clause follows the clause ‘I had a better opportunity of seeing him than at Potidaea (entautha dȇ kai kallion etheasamȇn Sȏkratȇ ȇ en Poteidaiai), for I was myself on horseback, and therefore comparatively out of danger (autos gar hȇtton en phobȏi ȇ dia to eph’ hippou einai)’. Jowett obviously thought that in these passages Plato’s text needed some improving. In Greek the whole sentence stands as follows: entautha dȇ kai kallion etheasamȇn Sȏkratȇ ȇ en Poteidaiai – autos gar hȇtton en phobȏi ȇ dia to eph’ hippou einai – prȏton men hoson periȇn Lachȇtos tȏi emphrȏn einai (221a5-b1).


If we compare the pronouncements of the Clouds quoted above with the related passages in Xenophon’s Memorabilia and Plato’s Symposium, we can see that they represent a caricature of the Socratic principles of self-control. But as far as their perception of Strepsiades are concerned – ‘O man, you who desire the great wisdom from us … Be greeted, ancient old man who hunt after music loving words’ – they have completely misjudged him. Doesn’t this colossal misjudgement on their part caricature as well something profoundly characteristic about the historical Socrates? When Socrates says in the Apology that he was doing the greatest good to everyone by seeking to persuade each that he must look to himself, and seek virtue and wisdom, was he not profoundly misjudging his fellow citizens (36c-e)? When in Plato’s Meno, after bringing Meno’s slave with his questions to a solution of a mathematic-geometric problem, he tells Meno: ‘At present (Kai nun men ge) these notions have just been stirred up in him, as in a dream (autȏi hȏsper onar arti anakekinȇntai hai doxai hautai); but if he were frequently asked (ei de auton tis anerȇsetai pollakis) the same questions (ta auta tauta), in different forms (kai pantachȇi), he would know as well as anyone at last (oisth’ hoti teleutȏn oudenos hȇtton akribȏs epistȇsetai peri toutȏn)? (85c9-12) … he may be made to do the same with all geometry (houtos gar poiȇsei peri pasȇs geȏmetrias t’auta tauta) and every other branch of knowledge (kai tȏn allȏn mathȇmatȏn hapantȏn)’. (85e1-3, tr. Jowett) – Wasn’t a misjudgement of human nature involved in Socrates’ theory of ‘recollection’?

Friday, June 24, 2016

11 Socrates in Aristophanes, Plato, and Xenophon

In the Clouds Socrates introduces his deity as ‘heavenly Clouds, great goddesses to men of leisure (ouraniai Nephelai megalai theai andrasi argois).’ In Aristophanes’ comedy Socrates presented the Clouds as goddesses that ‘feed most sophists (pleistous hautai boskousi sophistas, 331), prophets (Thouriomanteis [Dover explains: ‘The Athenian foundation of Thurii (446 and 443) was no doubt an occasion of much divination and prophesy]), craftsmen in medicine (iatrotechnas) … dithyrambic poets (kukliȏn te chorȏn aismatokamptas), astrological quacks (meteȏrophenakas); doing nothing (ouden drȏntas), they feed them idle(boskous’ argous), for they write poetry about them (hoti tautas mousopoiousi, 331-3)’. In response, Strepsiades cites a number of dithyrambs expressions focused on Clouds and similar meteorological phenomena, concluding: ‘so in reward (eit’ ant’ autȏn) they gorged (katepinon) great slices of good fish (kestran temachȇ megalan agathan), and meat of chosen birds (krea t’ ornitheia kichȇlan, 338-9).’ – Socrates: ‘Because of the Clouds (dia mentoi tasd’), not justly so (ouchi dikaiȏs, 340)?’

Leisure was central to Socrates’ conception of good life; the term he used was scholȇ, for argia – derived as it is from ergon ‘work’, ‘deed’ ‘action’, qualified by the privative alpha – means ‘idleness’. Plato emphasizes the difference between the two in the Phaedrus. After Phaedrus has read to Socrates the oration in which Lysias pleaded for sex without love, and Socrates presented a rival speech in which he denounced love focussed on sexual intercourse as detrimental to intellectual, moral, and physical excellence, and then presented the palinode in which he developed the notion of Platonic love as the key to happiness, Socrates asked: ‘Then what is the nature of good writing and bad (Tis oun ho tropos tou kalȏs te kai mȇ graphein)? Is it incumbent on us (deometha ti [‘ought we’]), Phaedrus (ȏ Phaidre), to examine Lysias on this point (Lusian te peri toutȏn exetasai), and all such as have written or mean to write anything at all (kai allon hostis pȏpote ti gegraphen ȇ grapsei), whether in the field of public affairs (eite politikon sungramma) or private (eite idiȏtikon), whether in the verse (en metrȏi) of the poet (hȏs poiȇtȇs) or the plain speech of prose (ȇ aneu metrou hȏs idiȏtȇs)?’ – Phaedrus: ‘It is incumbent! (Erȏtas ei deometha [‘You ask whether we ought to?’]) Why, life itself would hardly be worth living save for pleasures like this (tinos an oun heneka k’an tis hȏs eipein zȏȇi, all’ ȇ toioutȏn hȇdonȏn heneka [‘what would anyone live for, so to speak, if not for such pleasures as these?’]): certainly not for those pleasures (ou gar pou ekeinȏn ge) that involve previous pain (hȏn prolupȇthȇnai dei ȇ mȇde hȇsthȇnai), as do almost all concerned with the body (ho dȇ oligou pasai hai peri to sȏma hȇdonai echousi), which for that reason are rightly called slavish (dio kai dikaiȏs andrapodȏdeis keklȇntai).’ – Socrates: ‘Well, I suppose we can spare the time (Scholȇ men dȇ, hȏs eoike).’ (258d7-e6, tr. R. Hackforth)

Here I must interrupt Hackforth’s Socrates, for his ‘Well, I suppose we can spare the time’ stands for Socrates’ Scholȇ men dȇ, hȏs eoike. Christopher Rowe’s ‘We have plenty of time, it seems,’ is better, but even he misses the meaning of the Socratic scholȇ, which is here introduced, the point of which is emphasized by the emphatic and by ‘hȏs eoike, ‘as it seems’, both of which refer to Phaedrus’ enthusiastic readiness to embark upon the theme that Socrates has suggested. It is because of Phaedrus’ enthusiasm that Socrates can say ‘There is then scholȇ, as it seems’, and then continue: ‘and I think too that the cicadas overhead, singing after their wont in the hot sun (kai hama moi dokousin hȏs en tȏi pnigei huper kephalȇs hȇmȏn hoi tettiges aidontes) and conversing with one another (kai allȇlois dialegomenoi), don’t fail to observe us as well (kathoran kai hȇmas). So if they were to see us two (ei oun idoien kai nȏs) behaving like ordinary folk (kathaper tous pollous) at midday (en mesȇmbriai), not conversing (mȇ dialegomenous) but dozing lazy-minded under their spell (alla nustazomenous kai kȇloumenous huph’ hautȏn di’ argian tȇs dianoias), they would very properly have the laugh of us (dikaiȏs an katagelȏien), taking us for a pair of slaves (hȇgoumenoi andrapod’ atta) that had invaded their retreat like sheep (sphisin elthonta eis to katagȏgion hȏsper probatia), to have their midday sleep beside the spring (mesȇmbriazonta peri tȇn krȇnȇn heudein).’ (258e6-259a6, tr. Hackforth)
In Plato’s Theaetetus, summoned to the King’s Office to face the charges raised against him, Socrates contrasts philosophers, who have always scholȇ, who are always free to pursue their activities, bent on discovering what truly is (an monon tuchȏsi tou ontos, 172d9), with rhetoricians who don’t have free time (scholȇ). Let me quote a few lines from Socrates’ long eulogy on scholȇ that begins at Theaetetus 172c and goes on to 176a2: ‘Philosophers always have (tois men touto aei paresti) plenty of time (scholȇ) … the others, on the contrary (hoi de), are always short of time when they speak (en ascholiai te aei legousi), because they are hurried by the clock (katepeigei gar hudȏr reon).’ (172d4-e1, tr. McDowell)
Socrates secured scholȇ for himself by the way he lived. Xenophon narrates that the sophist Antiphon came to Socrates with the intention of drawing his company away from him (Antiphȏn pote boulomenos tous sunousiastas autou parelesthai proselthȏn tȏi Sȏkratei), and spoke thus in their presence (parontȏn autȏn elexe tade): “Socrates (Ō Sȏkrates), I supposed (egȏ men ȏimȇn) that philosophy must add to one’s store of happiness (tous philosophountas eudaimonesterous chrȇnai gignesthai). But the fruits you have reaped from philosophy are apparently very different (su de moi dokeis t’anantia tȇs philosophias apolelaukenai). For example, you are living a life (zȇis g’oun houtȏs) that would drive even a slave to desert his master (hȏs oud’ an heis doulos hupo despotȇi diaitȏmenos meineie). Your meat and your drink (sita te sitȇi kai pota pineis) are of the poorest (ta phaulotata) … and you never wear shoes or tunic (anupodȇtos kai achitȏn diateleis).” To this Socrates replied (Kai ho Sȏkratȇs pros tauta eipe): “Antiphon, you seem (Dokeis moi, ȏ Antiphȏn) to have a notion (hupeilȇphenai) that my life is so miserable (me houtȏs aniarȏs zȇn), that I feel sure (hȏste pepeismai) you would choose death in preference (se mallon apothanein an helesthai) to a life of mine (ȇ zȇn hȏsper egȏ). Come then (ithi oun), let us consider together (episkepsȏmetha) what hardship (ti chalepon) you have noticed (ȇisthȇsai) in my life (t’oumou biou). Is it that those who take money (poteron hoti tois men lambanousin argurion) are bound (anankaion estin) to carry out the work (apergazesthai touto) for which they get a fee (eph’ hȏi an misthon lambanȏsin), while I (emoi de), because I refuse to take it (mȇ lambanonti), am not obliged to talk (ouk anankȇ dialegesthai) to anyone against my will (hȏi an mȇ boulȏmai)? Or do you think that my food is less wholesome than yours or less nourishing (ȇ tȇn diaitan mou phaulizeis hȏs hȇtton men hugieina esthiontos emou ȇ sou, hȇtton de ischun parechonta)? … Seeing that I am always training my body to answer any and every call in its powers (eme de ara ouk oiei tȏi sȏmati aei ta suntunchanonta meletȏnta karterein), do you not think that I can stand every strain better than you can without training (panta raion pherein sou mȇ meletȏntos)? For avoiding slavery to the belly (tou de mȇ douleuein gastri) … is there any more effective specific (oiei ti allo aitiȏteron einai) than the possession of other and greater pleasures (ȇ to hetera echein toutȏn hȇdiȏ), which are delightful not only to enjoy (ha ou monon en chreiai onta euphrainei), but also because they arouse hopes (alla kai elpidas parechonta) of lasting benefit (ȏphelȇsein aei)? And again (kai mȇn), you surely know (touto ge oistha) that while he who supposes that nothing goes well with him (hoti hoi men oiomenoi mȇden eu prattein) is unhappy (ouk euphrainontai), he who believes (hoi de hȇgoumenoi) that he is successful (kalȏs prochȏrein heautois) in farming (ȇ geȏrgian) or a shipping concern (ȇ nauklȇrian) or any other business he is engaged in (ȇ all’ hoti an tunchanȏsin ergazomenoi) is happy in the thought of his prosperity (hȏs eu prattontes euphrainontai). Do you think then (oiei oun) that out of all this thinking (apo pantȏn toutȏn) there comes anything so pleasant (tosautȇn hȇdonȇn einai) as the thought: ‘I am growing in goodness (hosȇn apo tou heauton te hȇgeisthai beltiȏ gignesthai) and I am making better friends (kai philous ameinous ktasthai)?’ And that, I may say (egȏ toinun), is my constant thought (diatelȏ tauta nomizȏn). Further, if help is needed by friends or city (Ean de dȇ philous ȇ polin ȏphelein deȇi), which of the two has more leisure (poterȏi hȇ pleiȏn scholȇ) to supply their needs (toutȏn epimeleisthai), he who lives as I am living or he whose life you call happy (tȏi hȏs egȏ nun ȇ tȏi hȏs su makarizeis diaitȏmenȏi)?”.’ (I. vi. 1-9, tr. E. C. Marchant)
In Xenophon’s Symposium each symposiast tells what he knows best, what he is best in. When Antisthenes is asked ‘what do you take pride in (epi tini mega phroneis)’, he replies: ‘In wealth (Epi ploutȏi).’ Asked whether he had a lot of money (ei polu eiȇ autȏi argurion), he swore that he did not have even a penny (ho de apȏmose mȇde obolon). (III. 8) Asked how it is that with such slender means (pȏs houtȏ brachea echȏn) he bases his pride on wealth (mega phronei epi ploutȏi), he replied: ‘Because (hoti), sirs, I conceive (nomizȏ ȏ andres) that people’s wealth and poverty are to be found not in their real estate (tous anthrȏpous ouk en tȏi oikȏi ton plouton kai tȇn penian echein) but in their hearts (all’ en tais psuchais ‘but in their souls’) … But the most valuable parcel (pleiston d’ axion ktȇma) of my wealth (en tȏi emȏi ploutȏi) I reckon (logizomai) be this (einai ekeino), that even though some one were to rob me of what I now possess (hoti ei mou tis kai ta nun onta pareloito), I see no occupation so humble (ouden houtȏs horȏ phaulon ergon) that it would not give me adequate fare (hopoion ouk arkousan an trophȇn emoi parechoi) … And it is worth noting (axion d’ ennoȇsai) that wealth of this kind makes people generous, also (hoti kai eleutherious ho toioutos ploutos parechetai). For Socrates (Sȏkratȇs te gar houtos), from whom (par’ hou) I acquired this wealth of mine (touton ektȇsamȇn), did not come to my relief with limitation of number or weight (out’ arithmȏi oute stathmȏi epȇrkei moi), but made over to me all that I could carry (all’ hoposon edunamȇn pheresthai, tosouton moi paredidou) … But (kai mȇn kai) – most exquisite possession of all! (to habrotaton ge ktȇma) – you observe that I always have leisure (tȇn scholȇn aei horate moi parousan), so that I can go and see (hȏste kai theasthai) whatever is worth seeing (ta axiotheata), and hear (kai akouein) whatever is worth hearing (ta axiakousta) and (kai) – what I prize highest (ho pleistou egȏ timȏmai) – pass the whole day, untroubled by business, in Socrates’ company (Sȏkratei scholazȏn sundiȇmereuein).’ (IV. 34-44, tr. O. J. Todd)

Let me end this entry on the Socratic scholȇ, caricatured by Aristophanes as argia, with Socrates in Plato’s Apology. Found guilty, Socrates is to propose a just penalty: ‘What shall I propose on my part (egȏ de dȇ tinos humin antitimȇsomai), O men of Athens (ȏ andres Athȇnaioi)? Clearly (ȇ dȇlon) that which is my due (hoti tȇs axias) … I did not go (entautha men ouk ȇia) where I could no good to you or myself (hoi elthȏn mȇte humin mȇte emautȏi mȇden ophelos einai); but where I could do privately the greatest good (as I affirm it to be) to everyone of you (epi de to idiai hekaston iȏn euergetein tȇn megistȇn euergesian, hȏs egȏ phȇmi), thither I went (entautha ȇia), and sought to persuade every man among you (epicheirȏn hekaston humȏn peithein) that he must look to himself, and seek virtue and wisdom before he looks to his private interests (mȇ proteron mȇte tȏn heautou mȇdenos epimeleisthai prin heautou epimelȇtheiȇ, hopȏs hȏs beltistos kai phronimȏtatos esoito), and look to the state before he thinks to the interests of the state (mȇte tȏn tȇs poleȏs, prin autȇs tȇs poleȏs); and that this should be the order which he observes in all his actions (tȏn te  allȏn houtȏ kata ton auton tropon epimeleisthai). What shall be done to such a one (ti oun eimi axios pathein toioutos ȏn)? Doubtless some good thing (agathon ti), O men of Athens (ȏ andres Athȇnaioi), if he has his reward (ei dei ge kata tȇn axian tȇi alȇtheiai timasthai); and the good should be of a kind (kai tauta ge agathon toiouton) suitable to him (hoti an prepoi emoi ‘suitable to me’). What would be a reward suitable (ti oun prepei) to a poor man (andri penȇti) who is your benefactor (euergetȇi), and who desires leisure (deomenȏi agein scholȇn) that he may instruct you (epi tȇi humeterai parakeleusei)? There can be no reward so fitting as maintenance in the Prytaneum, O men of Athens (ouk esth’ hoti mallon, ȏ andres Athȇnaioi, prepei houtȏs hȏs ton toiouton andra en prutaneiȏi siteisthai) … And if I am to estimate the penalty fairly (ei oun dei me kata to dikaion tȇs axias timasthai), I should say that maintenance in the Prytaneum is the just return (toutou timȏmai, en prutaneiȏi sitȇseȏs).’ (36b3-37a1, tr. B. Jowett)

Monday, June 20, 2016

Russell on Plato

After the 10th entry on my blog devoted to Socrates in Aristophanes, Plato, and Xenophon I needed a break. What better break for a not native English speaker insisting on writing on Ancient Philosophy in English than reading Bertrand Russell’s History of Western Philosophy? I was in the middle of my work on ‘Plato’s involvement with Dionysius’ when I needed a break. On that occasion I read what Russell had to say on Socrates; it resulted in weeks devoted to my exploration of Socrates in Aristophanes, Plato and Socrates; I still have not managed to return to my essay. And so I took to my ‘day off’ with Russell with a bit of trepidation. And rightly so.

Russell opens his Chapter 14 on ‘Plato’s Utopia’ as follows: ‘Plato’s most important dialogue, the Republic, consists, broadly, of three parts. The first (to near the end of Book V) consists in the construction of an ideal commonwealth: it is the earliest of Utopias. One of the conclusions arrived at is that rulers must be philosophers. Books VI and VII are concerned to define the word “philosopher”. This discussion constitutes the second section. The third section consists mainly of a discussion of various kinds of actual constitutions and of their merits and defects. The nominal purpose of the Republic is to define ‘justice’. But at an early stage it is decided that, since everything is easier to see in the large than in the small, it will be better to inquire what makes a just State than what makes a just individual. And since justice must be among the attributes of the best imaginable State, such a State is first delineated, and then it is decided which of its perfections is to be called “justice”.’

Reading these lines, I wondered whether Russell looked at the Republic before he decided to present his students with ‘Plato’s Utopia’. For in the 1st Book we are presented with Socrates’ endeavour to define justice that ‘makes a just individual’, which ends with his relapse into ignorance: ‘And the result of the whole discussion has been that I know nothing at all. For I know not what justice is, and therefore I am not likely to know whether it is or is not a virtue, nor can I say whether the just man is happy or unhappy.’ (354b9-c3, tr. B. Jowett) It is only after Plato’s two brothers, Glaucon and Adeimantus, take Socrates into their hands in the 2nd Book, and compel him to transcend his ignorance, that Socrates comes up with the idea that ‘it will be better to inquire what makes a just State than what makes a just individual’, and begins to construct ‘the best imaginable State’. Similarly, the 10th Book does not fit Russell’s ‘three sections’ division of the Republic; it has nothing to do with ‘various kinds of actual constitutions and of their merits and defects’.

I let it pass, thinking of Socrates in the Phaedrus. As they were walking outside the city walls, Phaedrus asked: ‘Tell me, Socrates, isn’t it somewhere about here that they say Boreas seized Oireithua from the river? … but pray tell me, do you believe that story to be true?’ – Socrates: ‘I should be quite in the fashion if I disbelieved it, as the men of science do: I might proceed to give a scientific account of how the maiden, while at play with Pharmaceia, was blown by a gust of Boreas [a personification of the north wind, J. T.] … If our sceptic, with his somewhat crude science, means to reduce every one of them [of such myths] to the standard of probability, he’ll need a lot of time for it. I myself have certainly no time for the business: and I’ll tell you why, my friend: I can’t as yet “know myself”, as the inscription at Delphi enjoins; and so long as that ignorance remains it seems to me ridiculous to inquire into extraneous matters.’ (229b4-230a1, tr. R. Hackforth)

But further on in Russel’s Ch. 14 I read a passage which I could not let pass without comment: ‘On question of fact, we can appeal to science and scientific methods of observation; but on ultimate questions of ethics there seems to be nothing analogous. Yet, if this is really the case, ethical disputes resolve themselves into contests for power – including propaganda power. This point of view, in a crude form is put forth in the first book of the Republic by Thrasymachus … After Socrates has, for some time, been amiably discussing justice with an old man named Cephalus, and with Plato’s elder brothers Glaucon and Adeimantus, Thrasymachus, who has been listening with growing impatience, breaks in with a vehement protest against such childish nonsense. He proclaims emphatically that ‘justice is nothing else than the interest of the stronger’. This point of view is refuted by Socrates with quibbles; it is never fairly faced.’ (p. 118)

Russsel’s ‘After Socrates has … been amiably discussing justice with an old man named Cephalus, and with Plato’s elder brothers Glaucon and Adeimantus, Thrasymachus … breaks in with a vehement protest’ is wrong on several accounts. It is after Socrates has discussed justice with Cephalus and his son Polemarchus that Thrasymachus breaks in. Furthermore, the discussion between Cephalus, Socrates and Polemarchus was not as amiable as it might seem. For Socrates asked Cephalus: ‘What do you consider to be the greatest blessing (ti megiston oiei agathon) which you have reaped from your wealth (apolelaukenai tou pollȇn ousian kektȇsthai)?’ Cephalus replies: ‘When a man begins to think that his last hour is near … he begins to reflect and consider (analogizetai ȇdȇ kai skopei) any wrongs which he may have done to others (ei tina ti ȇdikȇsen) … But to him who has no injustice on his conscience (tȏi de mȇden heautȏi adikon suneidoti), sweet hope, as Pindar charmingly says, is the kind nurse of him who lives in justice and holiness (hos an dikaiȏs kai hosiȏs ton bion diagagȇi) … The great blessing of riches, I do not say to every man, but to a good and upright man, is, that he has had no occasion to deceive or to defraud others, even without intention (to mȇde akonta tina exapatȇsai ȇ pseusasthai [‘to lie’]); and that when he departs to the world below he is not in any apprehension about offerings due to the gods or debts which he owes to men (opheilonta anthrȏpȏi chrȇmata).’ (330d2-331b3, tr. Jowett)

No occasion to deceive or to defraud others; is this the blessing riches bestow on a rich man if he is good and upright? Instead of challenging Cepahlus’ answer as such, Socrates viewed it as an implicit definition of justice, which he made explicit and subjected to questioning: ‘Well said indeed, Cephalus; but as concerning justice (touto d’ auto, tȇn dikaiosunȇn), what is it? To speak the truth and to pay our debts – no more than this (potera tȇn alȇtheian auto phȇsomen eiani haplȏs houtȏs kai to apodidonai an tis ti para tou labȇi)? May not these very actions be sometimes justly (dikaiȏs) and sometimes unjustly (adikȏs) performed? Suppose that a friend when in his right mind has deposited arms with me and he asks for them when he is not in right mind, ought I to give them back to him? No one would say that I ought or that I should be right in doing so, any more than they would say that I ought always to speak the truth to one who is in this condition.’ – Cephalus: ‘You are quite right.’ – Socrates: ‘But then, speaking the truth and paying your debts is not a correct definition of justice (Ouk ara houtos horos estin dikaiosunȇs, alȇthȇ te legein kai ha an labȇi tis apodidonai).’ – Polemarchus interposed: ‘Quite correct, Socrates, if Simonides is to be believed.’ – Cephalus: ‘I fear that I must go now, for I have to look after the sacrifices, and I hand over the argument to the company.’ – Polemarchus: ‘Am I not your heir (Oukoun egȏ tȏn ge sȏn klȇronomos, 331d8)?’ – Cephalus: ‘To be sure (Panu ge).’ – Socrates: ‘Tell me then (Lege dȇ), O thou heir of the argument (su ho tou logou klȇronomos), what did Simonides say, and according to you truly say, about justice (ti phȇis ton Simȏnidȇn legonta orthȏs legein peri dikaiosunȇs)? – Polemarchus: ‘He said that the repayment of a debt (Hoti to ta opheilomena hekastȏi apodidonai) is just (diakion esti), and in saying so (touto legȏn) he appears to me to be right (dokei emoige kalȏs legein).’ (331c1-331e4, translation is Jowett’s, with one exception. Jowett wrongly translates 331d8 ‘Polemarchus, then, is your heir? I said,’ giving the direct speech to Socrates. The Republic is narrated by Socrates, and sometimes his reporting of direct speech in short sentences is rather convoluted, as in this case: Oukoun, ephȇ, egȏ, ho Polemarchos, tȏn ge sȏn klȇronomos.)

Every contemporary of Plato knew that the riches Polemarchus inherited from his father caused his undoing. Let me quote from the speech that his brother Lysias wrote against Eratosthenes, one of the Thirty: ‘Polemarchus received from the Thirty their accustomed order to drink hemlock … They had seven hundred shields of ours, they had all that silver and gold, with copper, jewellery, furniture and women’s apparel beyond what they had ever expected to get; also a hundred and twenty slaves, of whom they took the ablest, delivering the rest to the Treasury.’ (XII. 17-19, tr. W. R. M. Lamb)

When Polemarchus took the argument over from his father, he did so as his heir, and Socrates reemphasized this. Obviously, the contemporary reader would have expected that Socrates would prove Polemarchus to be wrong, and that in doing so Plato would recant his presentation of the latter in the Phaedrus as an exemplary philosopher whose days on earth were bound to be blessed with happiness. (See Phaedrus 256a7-b1 and 257b2-6)

Russell cannot be blamed for not knowing this; no interpreter of Plato could see this ever since the Platonic scholarship dismissed the ancient tradition according to which the Phaedrus was Plato’s first dialogue, written during Socrates’ life-time. But I cannot absolve him from dereliction of duty to his students and his readers. Let me repeat what he says about the 1st Book of the Republic: ‘After Socrates has, for some time, been amiably discussing justice with an old man named Cephalus, and with Plato’s elder brothers Glaucon and Adeimantus, Thrasymachus, who has been listening with growing impatience, breaks in with a vehement protest against such childish nonsense. He proclaims emphatically that ‘justice is nothing else than the interest of the stronger’. This point of view is refuted by Socrates with quibbles; it is never fairly faced.’

Let me end by taking on Russell’s claim that Thrasymachus’ definition of justice ‘is refuted by Socrates with quibbles’.

Socrates asks Thrasymachus to clarify his definition of justice. Thrasymachus: ‘Have you never heard that forms of government differ; there are tyrannies, and there are democracies, and there are aristocracies?’ – Socrates: ‘Yes, I know.’ – Thrasymachus: ‘And the government is the ruling power in each state?’ – Socrates: ‘Certainly’. – Thrasymachus: ‘And the different forms of government make laws democratical, aristocratical, tyrannical, with a view to their several interests; and thereby proclaim that what is advantageous to themselves is justice for those ruled; and him who transgresses this principle they punish as a breaker of the law, and unjust. And that is what I mean, sir, when I say that in all states there is the same principle of justice, which is the interest of the established government; and as the government must be supposed to have power, the only reasonable conclusion is that everywhere there is one principle of justice, which is the interest of the stronger.’ – Socrates: ‘Do you not admit that it is just for the subjects to obey their rulers? – ‘I do’ – ‘But are the rulers of the various states infallible, or are they sometimes liable to err?’ – ‘To be sure, they are liable to err.’ – ‘Then in making their laws they may sometimes make them rightly, and sometimes not?’ – ‘I think so.’ – ‘When they make them rightly, they make them agreeably to their interest; when they are mistaken, contrary to their interest; you admit that?’ – ‘Yes.’ – ‘And whatever laws they make must be obeyed by their subjects, and that is what you call justice?’ – ‘Doubtless.’ – ‘Then justice, according to your argument, is not only observance of the interest of the stronger but the reverse?’ (338d7-339d3, tr. Jowett)

This argument of Socrates points to the very foundation of his philosophy, grounded as it is in the Delphic ‘Know Thyself’, as becomes clear from his discussion of this principle in Xenophon’s Memorabilia, where he tells Euthydemus: ‘Is it not true that through self-knowledge men come to much good, and through self-deception to much harm? For those who know themselves, know what things are expedient for themselves and discern their own powers and limitations. And by doing what they understand, they get what they want and prosper: by refraining from attempting what they do not understand, they make no mistake and avoid failure. And consequently through their power of testing other men too, and through their intercourse with others, they get what is good and shun what is bad … and the same is true of communities. You find that whatever state (Horais de kai tȏn poleȏn), in ignorance of its power, goes to war with a stronger people, it is exterminated or loses its liberty.’ (IV. ii. 26-29, tr. E. C. Marchant) – Socrates extended the Delphic adage to the whole states, and thus to their governments.

Friday, June 17, 2016

10 Socrates in Aristophanes, Plato, and Xenophon

Strepsiades’ assumption that Socrates was teaching for money was wrong, as I have shown in the 6th entry on ‘Socrates in Aristophanes, Plato, and Xenophon’. But what about his assumption that Socrates was teaching the art of speaking, which enables a man to win any court case, both when one is in the right and when one is in the wrong? Strepsiades makes it abundantly clear to Socrates that this is what he wants from him ‘I want to learn to speak. I am oppressed by unbearable debts. My goods are going to be seized for debt (239-241) … Teach me the other of your systems of arguments, the one that enables a person to escape repaying his debts (244-245).’ Socrates does not promise to teach him forensic rhetoric – instead, he asks him, whether he wants to discuss his matters with the Clouds, Socrates’ deity (257-258) – but he allows him to persist in his belief that forensic rhetoric is what he would be taught by him. This theme is central to Aristophanes’ caricature of Socrates in the Clouds. Is there anything in Plato and Xenophon that might enable us to view it as a caricature of Socrates?

In the light of this question, let me examine Plato’s Phaedrus. Socrates: ‘The subject we proposed for inquiry just now (hoper nun prouthemetha skepsasthai) was the nature of good and bad speaking and writing (ton logon hopȇi kalȏs echei legein te kai graphein kai hopȇi mȇ): so we are to inquire into that (skepteon). – Phaedrus: ‘Plainly (Dȇlon).’ – Socrates: ‘Then (Ar’ oun) does not a good and successful discourse presuppose (ouch huparchein dei tois eu ge kai kalȏs rȇthȇsomenois) a knowledge in the mind of the speaker (tȇn tou legontos dianoian eiduian) of the truth (to alȇthes) about this subject (hȏn an peri legein mellȇi)?’ – Phaedrus: ‘As to that, dear Socrates, what I have heard (Houtȏsi peri autȏn akȇkoa, ȏ phile Sȏkrates) is that the intending orator is under no necessity (ouk einai anankȇn tȏi mellonti rȇtori esesthai) of understanding what is truly just (ta tȏi onti dikaia manthanein), but only what is likely to be thought just by the body of men who are to give judgment (alla ta doxant’ an plȇthei hoiper dikasousin); nor need to know what is truly good (oude ta ontȏs agatha) or noble (ȇ kala), but what will be thought so (all’ hosa doxei); since it is on the latter, not the former, that persuasion depends (ek gar toutȏn einai to peithein all’ ouk ek tȇs alȇtheias).’ – Socrates: ‘Not to be lightly rejected, Phaedrus, is any word (Outoi apoblȇton epos einai dei, ȏ Phaidre) of the wise (ho an eipȏsi hoi sophoi); perhaps they are right: one has to see (alla skopein mȇ ti legȏsi). And in particular this present assertion must not be dismissed (kai dȇ kai to nun lechthen ouk apheteon).’ (259e1-7, tr. R. Hackforth)

Socrates: ‘Must not the art of rhetoric, taken as a whole, be (Ar’ oun ou to men holon hȇ rȇtorikȇ an eiȇ technȇ) a kind of influencing of the mind by means of words (psuchagȏgia tis dia logȏn), not only in courts of law (ou monon en dikastȇriois) and other public gatherings (kai hosoi alloi dȇmosioi sullogoi), but in private places also (alla kai en tois idiois)?’ (261a7-9, tr. Hackforth)

Hackforth notes on Socrates’ definition of rhetoric as ‘a kind of influencing of the mind by means of words’ (psuchagȏgia): ‘The word psuchagȏgein, as we have seen, is used by Isocrates, ad Nicoclem II, par. 49, where it has the depreciatory sense of “allure”. It is quite possible that the use of the corresponding noun was suggested to Plato by this passage, though his use of it is not depreciatory but neutral.’ – Hackforth’s ‘as we have seen’ refers to the ‘Introduction’ to his ‘Translation and Commentary’, where in Ch. I. ‘Date of composition’ he notes that Nicocles, for whom Isocrates wrote the speech, ‘succeeded his father Euagoras in 374 B.C. and the oration is believed to be not more than a few years later in date,’ and says: ‘I will therefore give as my guess 370 B.C.’ (pp. 5-7)

I suggest that both Plato in the Phaedrus and Isocrates in ad Nicoclem refer to Aristophanes’ Birds, where ‘psychagogizes Socrates’ (psuchagȏgei Sȏkratȇs, 1555).

After pointing out that rhetoric operates ‘not only in courts of law and other public gatherings, but in private places also’, Socrates continued: ‘And must it not be the same art that is concerned with great issues and small (hȇ autȇ smikrȏn te kai megalȏn peri), its right employment commanding no more respect (kai ouden entimoteron to ge orthon) when dealing with important matters than with unimportant (peri spoudaia ȇ peri phaula gignomenon)? Is that what you have been told about it (ȇ pȏs su tauta akȇkoas)?’  - Phaedrus: ‘No indeed (Ou ma ton Di’), not exactly that (ou pantapasi houtȏs): it is principally, I should say, to lawsuits that an art of speaking and writing is applied (alla malista men pȏs peri tas dikas legetai te kai graphetai technȇi) – and of course to public harangues also (legetai de kai peri dȇmȇgorias). I know of no wider application (epi pleon de ouk akȇkoa).’ (261a9-b5, tr. Hackforth)
Phaedrus’ ‘I have not heard of any wider application’ (epi pleon de ouk akȇkoa, 261b5) suggests that the definition of rhetoric as psuchagȏgia is Socrates’ own definition.
Socrates: ‘What is it that the contending parties in lawcourts do (en tois dikastȇriois hoi antidikoi ti drȏsin)? Do they not in fact contend with words (ouk antilegousi mentoi), or how else should we put it (ȇ ti phȇsomen)? … About what is just (Peri tou dikaiou te) and unjust (kai adikou)? … And he who possesses the art of doing this (Oukoun ho technȇi touto drȏn) can make the same thing appear (poiȇsei phanȇnai to auto) to the same people (tois autois) now just (tote men dikaion), now unjust, at will (hotan de boulȇtai, adikon)? … And in public harangues (kai en dȇmȇgoriai), no doubt (), he can make the same things seem to the community (tȇi polei dokein ta auta) now good (tote men agatha), and now the reverse of good (tote d’ au t’anantia)? … Then can we fail to see that the Palamedes of Elea has an art of speaking (Ton oun Eleatikon Palamȇdȇn legonta ouk ismen technȇi), such that he can make the same things appear to his audience (hȏste phainesthai tois akouousi ta auta) like (homoia) and unlike (kai anomia), or one (kai hen) and many (kai polla), or again at rest (menonta te au) and in motion (kai pheromena)?’ (261c4-d8, tr. Hackforth)
Hackforth notes on ‘the Palamedes of Elea’: ‘i.e. Zeno, whose method of argument was to show that an opponent’s thesis led to two contradictory consequences. For the contradictory pairs here mentioned cf. Parm. 127e6, 129b5, and 129e1; and see F. M. Cornford, Plato and Parmenides, pp. 57-59.’
I don’t have Cornford’s Plato and Parmenides, but I have little doubt that he takes the reference as the indicator that the Phaedrus was written after the Parmenides, believing both to be late dialogues. In the ‘Introduction’ to his Plato’s Theory of Knowledge Cornford writes: ‘The Parmenides describes a meeting imagined as taking place about 450 B.C. between Socrates, who was then about twenty, and the Eleatic philosophers, Parmenides and Zeno. To suppose that anything remotely resembling the conversation in this dialogue could have occurred at that date would make nonsense of the whole history of philosophy in the fifth and fourth centuries; and I believe, with M. Diès, that the meeting itself is a literary fiction, not a fact in the biography of Socrates.’ (Cornford, p. 1)
In ‘Plato’s defence of the Forms in the Parmenides’ (on my website) I have shown the inextricable difficulties and warped images of Parmenides, Plato and Socrates in which the interpreters of the Parmenides have got implicated because of their view that ‘the meeting itself is a literary fiction’. In his reference to ‘the Palamedes of Elea’ Plato in the Phaedrus refers to the discussion between Socrates and Zeno that took place at that meeting.
Xenophon writes in the Memorabilia that when Socrates ‘found that Critias loved Euthydemus and wanted to lead him astray, he tried to restrain him by saying that it was mean and unbecoming in a gentleman to sue like a beggar to the object of his affection, whose good opinion he coveted, stooping to ask a favour that it was wrong to grant. As Critias paid no heed whatever to this protest, Socrates, it is said, exclaimed in the presence of Euthydemus and many others, “Critias seems to have a feeling of a pig: he can no more keep away from Euthydemus than pigs can help rubbing themselves against stones.” Now Critias bore a grudge against Socrates for this; and when he was one of the Thirty and was drafting laws with Charicles, he bore it in mind. He inserted a clause which made it illegal “to teach the art of words” (logȏn technȇn [i.e. the rhetoric] mȇ didaskein). It was a calculated insult to Socrates, whom he saw no means of attacking, except by imputing to him the practice constantly attributed to philosophers, and so making him unpopular … When the   Thirty were putting to death many citizens of the highest respectability and were encouraging many in crime, Socrates had remarked: “It seems strange enough to me that a herdsman who lets his cattle decrease and go to the bad should not admit that he is a poor cowherd; but stranger still that a statesman when he causes the citizens to decrease and go to the bad, should feel no shame or think himself a poor statesman.” This remark was reported to Critias and Charicles, who sent for Socrates, showed him the law and forbade him to hold conversation with the young. “May I question you,” asked Socrates, “in case I do not understand any point in your orders?” “You may,” said they. “Well now,” said he, “I am ready to obey the laws. But lest I unwittingly transgress through ignorance, I want clear directions from you. Do you think that the art of words (poteron tȇn tȏn logȏn technȇn) from which you bid me abstain is associated with sound or unsound reasoning (sun tois orthȏs legomenois einai nomizontes ȇ sun tois mȇ orthȏs apechesthai keleuete autȇs)? For if with sound (ei men gar sun tois orthȏs), then clearly I must abstain from sound reasoning (dȇlon hoti aphekteon an eiȇ tou orthȏs legein): but if with unsound (ei de sun tois mȇ orthȏs), then clearly I must try to reason soundly (dȇlon hoti peirateon orthȏs legein).” “Since you are ignorant, Socrates,” said Charicles in an angry tone, “we put our order into language easier to understand. You may not hold any converse whatever with the young.” “Well then,” said Socrates, “that there may be no question raised about my obedience, please fix the age limit below which a man is to be accounted young.” “So long,” replied Charicles, “as he is not permitted to sit in the Council, because he as yet lacks wisdom. You shall not converse with anyone who is under thirty.” “Suppose I want to buy something, am I not even then to ask the price if the seller is under thirty?” “O yes,” answered Charicles, you may in such cases. But the fact is, Socrates, you are in the habit of asking questions to which you know the answer: so that is what you are not to do.” “Am I to give no answer, then, if a young man asks me something that I know? – for instance, ‘Where does Charicles live?’ or ‘Where is Critias?’” “O yes,” answered Charicles, “you may, in such cases.” “But you see, Socrates,” explained Critias, “you will have to avoid your favourite topic – the cobblers, builders and metal workers; for it is already worn to rags by you in my opinion.” “Then must I keep off the subjects of which these supply illustrations, Justice, Holiness, and so forth?” “Indeed yes,” said Charicles, “and cowherds too: else you may find the cattle decrease (ei de mȇ, phulattou, hopȏs mȇ kai su elattous tous bous poiȇsȇis).” Thus the truth was out: the remark about the cattle had been repeated to them: and it was this that made them angry with him.’ (I.ii.29-38, tr. E. C. Marchant)
When Critias, with Socrates in mind, ‘inserted a clause in the laws (en tois nomois egrapse) that the art of rhetoric must not be taught (logȏn technȇn mȇ didaskein), thus abusively threatening him’ (epȇreazȏn ekeinȏi), he was thinking of the art of rhetoric as Socrates defined it in Plato’s Phaedrus; so did Socrates when he asked him and Charicles whether they bid him abstain from the art of speaking associated with sound or unsound reasoning; and so did the three of them referring to Socrates’ usual discussions ‘about the cobblers, builders and metal workers’ as ‘the subjects of which these supply illustrations, Justice, Holiness, and so forth’.
I have dated the Phaedrus in 405-404, finished soon after the surrender of Athens with which the Peloponnesian War ended (in April 404). The main reasons for this dating are the following:
1. In the Phaedrus Socrates ends the Palinode on love with a prayer to Eros: ‘If anything that Phaedrus and I said earlier sounded discordant to thy ear, set it down to Lysias, the only begetter of that discourse; and staying him from discourses after this fashion turn him towards the love of wisdom, even as his brother Polemarchus has been turned (epi philosophian de, hȏsper hadelphos autou Polemarchos tetraptai, trepson). Then will his lover here (hina kai ho erastȇs hode autou) present no longer halt between two opinions, as now he does, but live for Love in singleness of purpose with the aid of philosophic discourse (all’ haplȏs pros Erȏta meta philosophȏn logȏn ton bion poiȇtai).’ (256b1-6; tr. Hackforth with one exception. He translates ho erastȇs hode autou ‘his loving disciple here’.)
If Lysias turns to philosophy as Polemarchus has been turned to it, Phaedrus can ‘live for Love in singleness of purpose with the aid of philosophic discourse’; this means that they would live in terms specified at 256a7-b1: ‘And so, if victory be won by the higher elements of mind guiding them in ordered rule of the philosophic life, their days on earth will be blessed with happiness and concord.’ (Tr. Hackforth.) I cannot see how Plato could have written this after the Thirty put Polemarchus to death to get his money.
2. In the Phaedran Palinode Plato introduces the Forms as supreme divine beings ‘a god’s nearness whereunto makes him truly divine’ (pros hoisper theos ȏn theios esti, 249c6). What protected Plato from being accused of ‘introducing new divinities’ in the Phaedrus – the crime for which Socrates was sentenced to death five years later – was the amnesty the democrats passed after their victory over the Thirty.
3. In the Seventh Letter Plato says: ‘In my youth I went through the same experience as many other men. I fancied that if, early in life, I became my own master, I should at once embark on a political career … The existing constitution being generally condemned, a revolution took place … thirty were appointed rulers with full powers over public affairs as a whole. Some of these were relatives and acquaintances of mine, and they at once invited me to share in their doings, as something to which I had a claim. The effect on me was not surprising in the case of a young man. I considered that they (ȏiȇthȇn gar autous) would, of course, so manage the State as to bring men out of a bad way of life into a good one (ek tinos adikou biou epi dikaion tropon agontas dioikȇsein tȇn polin).’ (324b8-d5, tr. J. Harward)
Plato must have finished the Phaedrus in the early days of the Thirty, for he wrote one more dialogue, the Charmides, before, as Plato says, ‘in quite a short time they made the former government seem by comparison something precious as gold (SL, 324d7-8, tr. Harward)’; in it he describes the relationship between Critias and Socrates as intellectually demanding, tense, but promising. (See Ch. 5 ‘The Charmides and the Phaedrus’ in The Lost Plato on my website.)
Let me note that the discussion between Socrates and Charicles – “Well then,” said Socrates, “that there may be no question raised about my obedience, please fix the age limit below which a man is to be accounted young.” “So long,” replied Charicles, “as he is not permitted to sit in the Council, because he as yet lacks wisdom. You shall not converse with anyone who is under thirty.” – implies that the Thirty forbade Socrates to talk to Plato. Charicles’ ‘because he as yet lacks wisdom’ may have contributed to the ancient story that the subject of the Phaedrus has ‘something adolescent about it’ (echein meirakiȏdes ti to problȇma, Diog. Laert. III. 38).

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

9 Socrates in Aristophanes, Plato, and Xenophon

In addition to his ‘remarkable conclusions’ (see the 8th entry on this theme, posted on June 9) Dover adds the following observation:

‘Again, that Socrates tells Strepsiades (742) to solve a problem orthȏs diairȏn kai skopȏn has no bearing on the diairesis which is introduced by Plato in Phaedrus 266 b, assumes great importance in Sophist and Politicus, and is part-object of Epicrates’ caricature of Plato. To break down a problem into its components is a necessary stage towards its solution, and diairein was used before Aristophanes both of physical division (Herodotus) and (Herakleitos B1) of dividing a topic into items; Plato also uses it (Laches 197 d) of Prodikos’ semantic distinctions. What Xenophon (Memorabilia iv. 5. 12) calls dialegein kata genȇ is seen, if we examine the context carefully, to be quite different from Platonic diairesis.’ (xliii)

In Plato’s Phaedrus 266 b Socrates says: ‘Believe me, Phaedrus, I am myself a lover of these (Toutȏn dȇ egȏge autos te erastȇs, ȏ Phaidre) divisions and collections (diaireseȏn kai sunagȏgȏn), that I may gain the power to speak and to think (hina hoios te ȏ legein te kai phronein); and whenever I deem another man able to discern an objective unity and plurality (ean te tin’ allon hȇgȇsȏmai dunaton einai eis hen kai epi polla pephukoth’ horan), I follow “in his footsteps where he leads as a god” (touton diȏkȏ “katopisthe met’ ichnion hȏste theoio” [Perhaps an adaptation of Odyssey v, 193, ho d’ epeita met’ ichnia baine theoio.] Furthermore (kai mentoi kai) – whether I am right in doing so, God alone knows – it is those that have this ability whom for the present I call dialecticians (tous dunamenous auto dran ei men orthȏs ȇ mȇ prosagoreuȏ, theos oide, kalȏ de oun mechri toude dialektikous).’ (Tr. and the note on the Odyssey R. Hackforth.)

Whether Socrates’ exhortation in Aristophanes’ Clouds, addressed to Strepsiades – ‘after relaxing your subtle mind (schasas tȇn phrontida leptȇn), consider your affairs step by step (kata mikron periphronei ta pragmata) correctly dividing and investigating them (orthȏs diairȏn kai skopȏn, 740-742)’ – has, or does not have, any bearing on Socrates’ love of diairesis expressed in Phaedrus 266 b can be properly established only after considering the Phaedran ‘divisions and collections’. Reflecting on the two speeches on love, which he presented earlier in the dialogue, Socrates says: ‘For the most part I think (Emoi men phainetai ta men alla) our festal hymn has really been just a festive entertainment (tȏi onti paidiai pepaisthai); but we did casually allude to a certain pair of procedures (toutȏn de tinȏn ek tuchȇs rȇthentȏn duoin eidoin), and it would be very agreeable if we could seize their significance in a scientific fashion (ei autoin tȇn dunamin technȇi labein dunaito tis, ouk achari).’ – Phaedrus: ‘What procedures do you mean (Tinȏn dȇ)?’ This is R. Hackforth’s translation.

The passage is difficult, yet crucial for our understanding of Plato’s? Socrates? view of ‘divisions and collections’ in the Phaedrus. I give therefore the same passage in C. J. Rowe’s translation: ‘To me it seems that the rest (Emoi men phainetai ta men alla) really was playfully done, by way of amusement (tȏi onti paidiai pepaisthai); but by chance two principles of method of the following sort were expressed (toutȏn de tinȏn ek tuchȇs rȇthentȏn duoin eidoin), and it would be gratifying If one could grasp their significance in a scientific way (ei autoin tȇn dunamin technȇi labein dunaito tis, ouk achari).’ – Phaedrus: ‘What were these?’ (Tinȏn dȇ)

Both Hackforth and Rowe appear to have missed the fact that Socrates’ toutȏn de tinȏn ek tuchȇs rȇthentȏn ‘these being said by chance’ refers to Socrates’ two speeches on love, which were ‘for the most part, in truth, playfully made for amusement’ (ta men alla tȏi onti paidiai pepaisthai), yet were marked by ‘two forms’ (duoin eidoin), which ‘it would be very agreeable if one could grasp their power scientifically’ (ei autoin tȇn dunamin technȇi labein dunaito tis). Hermeias remarks on toutȏn de tinȏn ek tuchȇs rȇthentȏn (‘these being said by chance’): ‘As he earlier ascribed the discourse to Pan, and Nymphs, and Muses (hȏsper anȏterȏ eis Pana, kai Numphas kai Mousas anetithei ton logon), so now too he ascribes it to chance’ (houtȏ kai nun eis tuchȇn anagei ton logon). (Hermiae Alexandrini in Platonis Phaedrum Scholia ed. P. Couvreur (1901).

In the Clouds Socrates introduces Clouds as ‘great goddesses (megalai theai) to men of leisure (andrasin argois); they (haiper) give as (hȇmin parechousin) thought (gnȏmȇn), discourse (dialexin), and intellect (kai noun, 316-17)’. Could it be that Plato in the Phaedrus depicts the same aspect of Socrates’ self-awareness – his view that thought, discourse, and intellect comes to him ‘from above’, ‘from outside’, ‘god knows from where’ – which Aristophanes caricatured by depicting Socrates’ deity as Clouds that have no definite form? (See my 2nd entry on this theme, posted on May 27.)

Let me bring in Socrates’ first ascription of discourse to something external to him. Phaedrus finished reading the discourse in which his beloved Lysias argued that a boy should give his sexual favours to a non-lover rather than lover. Phaedrus: ‘The outstanding feature of the discourse is just this, that it has not overlooked any important aspect of the subject, so making it impossible for anyone else to outdo what he has said with a fuller or more satisfactory oration.’ – Socrates: ‘If you go as far as that I shall find it impossible to agree with you; if I were to assent out of politeness, I should be confuted by the wise men and women who in past ages have spoken and written on this theme.’ – Phaedrus: To whom do you refer? Where have you heard anything better than this?’ – Socrates: ‘I can’t tell you off-hand; but I’m sure I have heard something better, from the fair Sappho maybe, or the wise Anacreon, or perhaps some prose writer. What ground, you may ask, have I for saying so? Good sir, there is something welling up within my breast, which make me feel that I could find something different, and something better, to say. I am of course well aware it can’t be anything originating in my own mind, for I know my own ignorance; so I suppose it can only be that it has been poured into me, through my ears, as into a vessel, from some external source.’ (235b1-d1, tr. Hackforth)

As Socrates begins to tell his ‘rival discourse on the same theme’, he himself begins to be surprised at the flow of his eloquence: ‘Well, Phaedrus my friend (Atar, ȏ phile Phaidre), do you think, as I do (dokȏ ti soi, hȏsper emautȏi), that I am divinely inspired (theion pathos peponthenai, 238c5-6, tr. Hackforth)?’

Let us proceed to those ‘two forms’ by which Socrates’ two speeches on love ‘spoken by chance’ are marked ‘by chance’. Phaedrus asked ‘What are they?’ Socrates: ‘The first is that in which we bring a dispersed plurality under a single form, seeing it all together: the purpose being to define so-and-so, and thus to make plain whatever may be chosen as the topic for exposition. For example, take the definition given just now of love (hȏsper ta nundȇ peri erȏtos); whether it was right or wrong (eit’ eu eite kakȏs elechthȇ), at all events it was that which enabled our discourse to achieve lucidity and consistency (to goun saphes kai to auto hautȏi homologoumenon dia tauta eschen eipein ho logos).’ – Phaedrus: ‘And what is the second procedure you speak of, Socrates (To d’ heteron dȇ eidos ti legeis, ȏ Sȏkrates)?’ – Socrates: ‘The reverse of the other, whereby we are enabled to divide into forms, following the objective articulation; we are not to attempt to hack off parts like a clumsy butcher, but to take example from our two recent speeches. The single general form which they postulated was irrationality; next, on the analogy of a single natural body with its pairs of like-named members, right arm or leg, as we say, and left, they conceived of madness as a single objective form existing in human beings: wherefore the first speech divided off a part on the left, and continued to make divisions, never desisting until it discovered one particular part bearing the name of ‘sinister’ love, on which it very properly poured abuse. The other speech conducted us to the forms of madness which lay on the right-hand side, and upon discovering a type of love that shared its name with the other but was divine, displayed it to our view and extolled it as the source of the greatest goods that can befall us.’ (265d3-266b1, tr. Hackforth)

Let me note that Hackforth’s procedure, which stands for Phaedrus’ eidos, obfuscates and misrepresents Socrates’ actual procedure. Eidos is that what could be observed on those two speeches; it is not a procedure that Socrates consciously followed as he was producing them. Similarly, Hackforth’s ‘For example, take the definition given just now of love’ misrepresents Socrates’ hȏsper ta nundȇ peri erȏtos, which means ‘as those [speeches now spoken] now about Eros’, pointing to the two speeches not as examples, but as that on which he observes the two forms.

Of course, one might say, Plato as a writer of the dialogue had the method of ‘divisions and collections’ at his finger-tips when he began to write the dialogue, and he composed Socrates’ two speeches on love accordingly. Yes, and no. For consider Socrates’ first speech: ‘wherefore the first speech divided off a part on the left (ho men to ep’ aristera temnomenos meros, 266a3). In fact, Socrates presented his first speech on Eros as a rival to Lysias’ speech. Phaedrus: ‘Lysias has described how a handsome boy was tempted, but not by a lover: that’s the clever part of it: he maintains that surrender should be to one who is not in love rather than to one who is (227c5-8, tr. Hackforth).’ The theme of Lysias’ speech thus compels Socrates to ‘praise the wisdom of the one [i.e. of the non-lover] and censuring the folly of the other [i.e. of the lover]’ (tou men to phronimon enkȏmiazein, tou de to aphron psegein, 235e7-236a1); the theme was thus given to him, not chosen by him.

As far as this point is concerned, this could be explained by Socrates’ declaration that the two speeches on love were ‘for the most part, in truth, playfully made for amusement’ (ta men alla tȏi onti paidiai pepaisthai), thus pointing to Plato’s playful composition of those two speeches. But the words describing the method of the first speech – ‘wherefore the first speech … continued to make divisions (palin touto temnȏn), never desisting (ouk epanȇken) until it discovered one particular part bearing the name of ‘sinister’ love (prin en autois epheurȏn onomazomenon skaion tina erȏta, 266a3-6)’ – have nothing to do with the actual first speech. What the words describe is the method of ‘divisions’ that Plato’s Eleatic stranger uses in the Sophist and the Statesman, the method which indeed has nothing to do with the historical Socrates’ ‘divisions’. True to his love of divisions, even facing the impending trial, Socrates in the Sophist and the Statesman appears to enjoy the method of divisions, with which the Eleatic Stranger regales him in those two dialogues.

We may learn more about the ‘divisions’ entertained by the historical Socrates if we follow up Dover’s ‘Plato also uses it (Laches 197 d) of Prodikos’ semantic distinctions’. In that dialogue two famous Athenian generals discuss, rather intemperately, courage. Nicias: ‘There is a difference, to my way of thinking, between fearlessness and courage. I am of the opinion that thoughtful courage is a quality possessed by very few, but that rashness and boldness, and fearlessness, which has no forethought, are very common qualities possessed by many men, many women, many children, many animals. And you, and men in general, call by the term “courageous” actions which I call rash; – my courageous actions are wise actions.’ Laches wants to repost by saying something rude, but Socrates interposes: ‘Do not answer him, Laches; I rather fancy that you are not aware of the source from which his wisdom is derived. He has got all this from my friend Damon, and Damon (ho de Damȏn) is always with Prodicus (tȏi Prodikȏi polla plȇsiazei), who, of all the Sophists, is considered (hos dȇ dokei tȏn sophistȏn) to be the best puller to pieces of words of this sort (kallista ta toiauta onomata diairein).’ (197b1-d5, tr. Jowett) Jowett’s ‘Prodicus, who, of all the Sophists, is considered to be the best puller to pieces of words of this sort’ obfuscates Socrates’ reference to Prodicus’ method of ‘divisions’, or rather his method of verbal distinctions (onomata diairein).

I have no objections against Dover’s ‘Plato also uses it [i.e. the term diairein], (Laches 197 d) of Prodikos’ semantic distinctions’, for all that Plato writes is Plato’s, but there are good reasons to believe that Plato’s Socrates in the Laches is as historical as Plato could make him. In the Cratylus Socrates tells Hermogenes, who wants to learn the truth about the meaning of his name: ‘The knowledge of names is a great part of knowledge. If I had not been poor, I might have heard the fifty-drachma course of the great Prodicus, which is a complete education in grammar and language – these are his own words – and then I should have been at once able to answer your question about the correctness of names. But, indeed, I have only heard the single-drachma course, and therefore, I do not know the truth about such matters; I will, however, gladly assist you and Cratylus in the investigation of them.’ (384b1-c3, tr. Jowett) In the Phaedrus Socrates refers to Prodicus with appreciation: ‘When once Prodicus heard me saying this, he laughed, and said that he alone had discovered what kind of speeches are needed: what are needed are neither long speeches nor short ones, but ones of a fitting length (267b2-5, tr. Rowe).’

Dover says that ‘What Xenophon (Memorabilia iv. 5. 12) calls dialegein kata genȇ is seen, if we examine the context carefully, to be quite different from Platonic diairesis.’ So let us begin with iv. 5. 11, where Socrates tells young Euthydemus: ‘Only the self-controlled (tois enkratesi monois) have power to consider (exesti skopein) the things that matter most (ta kratista tȏn pragmatȏn), and, sorting them out after their kind, by word and deed alike (kai logȏi kai ergȏi dialegontas kata genȇ) to prefer the good (ta men agatha proaireisthai) and reject the evil (tȏn de kakȏn apechesthai).’ In iv. 5. 12 Xenophon concludes: ‘And thus (Kai houtȏs), he said (ephȇ), men become supremely good and happy (aristous te kai eudaimonestatous andras gignesthai) and skilled in discussion (kai dialegesthai dunatȏtatous). The very word “discussion,” according to him (ephȇ de kai to dialegesthai), owes its name (onomasthȇnai) to the practice of meeting together for common deliberation (ek tou suniontas koinȇi bouleuesthai), sorting, discussing things after their kind (dialegontas kata genȇ ta pragmata): and therefore one should be ready and prepared for this and be zealous for it; for it makes for excellence (ek toutou gar gignesthai andras aristous), leadership (te kai hȇgemonikȏtatous) and skill in discussion (kai dialektikȏtatous).’ (Tr. E. C. Marchant.) Here dialegontas kata genȇ ta pragmata means the same as diairontas kata genȇ ta pragmata, i.e. ‘dividing things after their kinds.’ Xenophon thus helps us understand why Socrates in the Phaedrus concludes his exposition on ‘divisions and collections’ with the words: ‘I am myself a lover of these divisions and collections (diaireseȏn kai sunagȏgȏn), that I may gain the power to speak and to think (hina hoios te ȏ legein te kai phronein); and … it is those that have this ability whom I call dialecticians (dialektikous, 266b3-c1). In grammar, Xenophon’s dialektikȏtatous is the superlative of Plato’s dialektikous.

As can be seen, pace Dover, Plato’s Phaedrus and Laches, as well as Xenophon’s Memorabilia help us to view Socrates’ exhortation in the Clouds – ‘after relaxing your subtle mind (schasas tȇn phrontida leptȇn), consider your affairs step by step (kata mikron periphronei ta pragmata) correctly analysing and investigating them (orthȏs diairȏn kai skopȏn, 740-742) – as a very poignant caricature of the historical Socrates.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Thanks to Roger Scruton

In May 1980 I was visited by Roger Scruton. I’ve given him a text which he then translated into English with the help of my student Lenka Dvořáková in one of Prague parks. He got the text published in The New Statesman. When I was next summoned to the police, the police had the The New Statesman issue on their desk. The text was published under the title ‘Without music, Mr Tomin … ‘. It was introduced with the words: ‘Exasperated by the security state’s continued harassment of him and of his philosophy classes, Dr Julius Tomin sent an open letter to the Czech Minister of the Interior last weekend, announcing the start of a ten day hunger strike. He headed the letter: ‘Must it have been?’

Prague, 10 May

Mr Minister,

On Wednesday 7 May at noon I delivered in person to the Federal Ministry of Internal Affairs a letter in which I informed you about my serious worries that servants of your department intend once more to misuse the 19th paragraph of law 40/74 which empowers members of the security forces ‘to demand the required explanation from anyone who could contribute to the clarification of matters important to the investigation of a civil offence, or other breech of statutory duty, or help in the search for missing person or property’. I then let you know of my serious anxiety that members of the security forces would like to misuse the above paragraph in order to impede me and my friends from engaging in our joint study of the elements of philosophical thoughts.

On Wednesday the 7th at seven o’clock in the evening I wanted to give a class on Aristotle’s Metaphysics in my flat, to a few of my friends. I told you that, should my anxieties prove justified and the security forces, under your command, prevent me by force from lecturing on Aristotle’s Metaphysics Book 1, I would in protest begin a 10-day hunger-strike. Mr Minister, let me describe to you the manner of my last interrogation following the invitation ‘to give an explanation in accordance with paragraph 19 of law number 40/74; and in the case of non-attendance to face a summons.’

As I informed you in my last letter, I was invited to the police station on Fr. Křížka no. 24. I accepted the invitation and came at three in the afternoon; I waited a moment in the entrance hall until the arrival of an elderly gentleman, who informed me that he was not acquainted with the matter, and the investigating officer was on his way. Then he began to talk about music, assuring me that I would, as a philosopher, greet his comments with interest. He spoke of our national music, and its part in the life of the nation, saying that, so long as our country lives, so too we will play the music of Smetana.

He turned to the subject of baroque music, and of the deep impression which it leaves on the human spirit: ‘Without music, Mr Tomin, I could not imagine my life. I do not want to reproach our modern youth; nevertheless, nowadays young people do not understand music as we older people understand it. Bach said that all men should learn to understand music, and it is true that, in my case, I did not grasp the meaning of Smetana’s Bartered Bride as I now do. As a boy I could not understand my mother when she asked me to sit in the meadow and listen to the song of a skylark. Music is like love. Sensible women tell us that the best lovers are men between forty and fifty. Take Beethoven, for example. How pure and sensitive a soul, and yet how revolutionary was his music! He would have been killed among the first by the Nazis, for they could not understand such music. So gentle a man, and how loved by women! His nephew took advantage of it, indeed appropriating for himself as mistresses the women who loved his uncle. But Beethoven needed to express, in love just as in music, sensitivity before all other things. And so he lived, in the end, with a hunchback.’

The elderly gentleman in civilian clothes recounted that he worked as an extra in the Theatre, and that he had managed to talk about art with our greatest artists. He described to me the structure of a violin, and the art involved in making one and mentioned that he had discussed the problem with some of our greatest scientists. Then, changing the subject, he referred to the concerts arranged for the Prague spring festival, and commented on the various performances of Smetana’s My Country. ‘Mr Tomin, how Smetana must have loved the Czech people; what beautiful relations he must have had with the peasantry!’

At about 5.30, the elderly gentleman with musical interests was replaced by a young man, also in civilian clothes, who announced that I could have been sentenced for damaging the interests of the state abroad, and he began to read extracts from the foreign press which described, for the most part accurately, the harassment by the police of our Wednesday discussions of philosophy.

Shortly after half past six I was transferred to the police station at Bartholomew Street [the police headquarters]. There members of the Secret Police worked on me. Two of them in particular impressed themselves on my memory. Policeman A – they neglected to introduce themselves – walked around the interrogation office, and every time he passed me, struck me bluntly on the head, and then pulled my hair saying, ‘Don’t go to sleep here, Mr Tomin’. He took a step to the door, a step back, and repeated the performance. I could relax only during the five steps that he sometimes took to the window and the five steps back to me. For variety, Policeman A merely pulled violently at the hair of my temples, one side when going to the window, and the other side when he walked to the door.

Another policeman stayed in the room meanwhile, standing motionless by the window. They did not interrogate me, but continued a dialogue among themselves. A: ‘Could this be a philosopher?’ B: ‘Fortunately his philosophy can be seen through by a little child.’ – A: ‘He is crazy and belongs in a mental hospital.’

A: ‘They say he has a doctorate. I would like to know what he gave for it.’ B: ‘He is in the business for money, what can you expect? He must have bought the degree as well.’ After some time A exclaimed: ‘We forbid your lectures! And you will listen to us! And get up! You will want to stand up when I talk to you!’

I recalled, Mr Minister, the second paragraph of law 40/79, concerning the security forces: ‘The security forces help the citizen to exact his rights and to maintain his dignity and personal freedom in accordance with the law and interests of our socialist society.’

I remained sitting. Policemen A and B jumped on me, pulled me to my feet, seized me by the collar of the shirt and pulled me to the wall. I leaned against the wall. Policeman A: ‘Take a step forward! Don’t make our wall dirty!’ I took one step forward. Policeman A: ‘Now we see that you can learn obedience! And it did not require very much.’ So I went to sit down. They shouted and demanded that I stand up; then jumping again on me they twisted my arm behind my back, and finally threw me to the floor. When I tried at least to lift my head Policeman A hit it down. They were breathing heavily, and moving wildly around the room. A kicked my head and, after a moment, they jumped on me once more, and, by twisting my arms, raised me almost to my feet before letting me fall again. Then they took my legs and began to lift them, in order to hold me standing on my head.

At last, no doubt through fatigue, they called for help and together made me sit down on the chair. Others arrived and were told: ‘Imagine! He has been lying on the floor again! What an exhibitionist!’ The reply was: ‘He should be in a mental hospital. Everyone knows that!’ After a while B picked up some of the official record paper: ‘We warn you for stopping (sic) your lecturing activities immediately. Otherwise we prevent it by every lawful means. Do you take this warning?’

I dictated and they wrote in their record: ‘I cannot accept this warning since it involves a contradiction. I am certain that there are no lawful means whereby, in our country …’ At this moment they interrupted me, saying that I had no right to the words ‘our country’ since my country is England. The official record then remained unfinished and unsigned.

The group of policemen who worked on me for two hours left, to be replaced once more by the elderly gentleman who had spoken previously to me about ‘my country’. He seemed a little tired now, and so he spoke about his father whom he loved very much, and who smoked a hundred cigarettes a day. In the mornings he would cough heavily and he was now very ill; they all, mother and children, had to sit continually in the atmosphere of cigarette smoke. Apparently this habit of his father’s had begun in the war, and it was for this reason that the elderly gentleman remained a non-smoker. He spoke of his mother who had prophetic dreams which could be confirmed on the radio in the mornings. He himself was a materialist; nevertheless it seemed to him that they could be transmitted, just as radio or television waves are transmitted, through space; a doctor had explained to him that the brain is more sensitive at night and able to pick up influences which would not affect it by day.

The Policeman B returned with his company, and I was taken to Konviktská St where I was detained for 48 hours in a cell. The reason for the detention was not given. When I at last got home I learned that during that same evening eleven of my friends were taken from my flat, interrogated and detained for forty-eight hours. Mr Minister, I hereby announce that on Wednesday 7th at 6.30 pm in the afternoon I began a ten-day hunger strike.