On Plato’s Republic, 7

Index to this series

We shall define the philosophers, the lovers of knowledge or wisdom, as

τοὺς αὐτὸ ἄρα ἕκαστον τὸ ὂν ἀσπαζομένους,

those-who itself therefore each that-which is delight-in.

This is at Stephanus 480a, at the end of our seventh reading in Plato’s Republic. The reading constitutes, of Book V, the latter part, beginning at 472a.

The meaning of Socrates’s definition of the philosopher is not obvious. Here are five translations; take your pick.

Jowett (3rd edition 1892):
“those who love the truth in each thing.”
Shorey (revised edition 1937):
“those who in each and every kind welcome the true being.”
Cornford (1941):
“those whose affections are set, in every case, on the reality.”
Bloom (2nd edition 1991):
“those who delight in each thing that is itself.”
Waterfield (1993):
“those who are devoted to everything that is real.”

The point is not to find a formula in English, but to understand the meaning that Socrates happens to express in Greek. Socrates offers the definition of the philosopher in the form of a question. Are these the folks that should be called philosophers?

Glaucon agrees that they are, and that they are to be distinguished from the lovers of opinion, or perhaps of reputation. These are the “philodoxers” or “doxophilists,” who may love beautiful sights and sounds,

αὐτὸ δὲ τὸ καλὸν οὐδ᾽ ἀνέχεσθαι ὥς τι ὄν,

itself but the beautiful not bear as something that-is.

This is actually a bit less obscure than the account of the philosopher; here is what the same translators as above do with it.

Jowett
“but would not tolerate the existence of absolute beauty.”
Shorey
“but they could not endure the notion of the reality of the beautiful itself.”
Cornford
“but would not hear of beauty itself being a real thing.”
Bloom
“but can’t even endure the fact that the fair itself is something?”
Waterfield
“but can’t abide the idea that there is such a thing as beauty itself.”

We shall get here after the question of Socrates at 476c, here just with Bloom’s translation:

σκόπει δέ. τὸ ὀνειρώττειν ἆρα οὐ τόδε ἐστίν, ἐάντε ἐν ὕπνῳ τις ἐάντ᾽ ἐγρηγορὼς τὸ ὅμοιόν τῳ μὴ ὅμοιον ἀλλ᾽ αὐτὸ ἡγῆται εἶναι ᾧ ἔοικεν;

Consider it. Doesn’t dreaming, whether one is asleep or awake, consist in believing a likeness of something to be not a likeness, but rather the thing itself to which it is like?

We shall get here because, in the former part of Book V, Socrates told of

  • the service of women with men among the guardians and
  • their being mated with men, and kept ignorant of their children, in a eugenics program run by the rulers.

These two proposals, or laws, were likened to waves, and now we are seeing the third wave, which is the coincidence of political power and philosophy in the city. This needs an explanation of what the philosopher is anyway.

Five dogs at the edge of the sea
Aristocracy, timocracy, oligarchy, democracy, tyranny
Profesörler Sitesi, Altınova, Balıkesir, Turkey
September 20, 2021

The second wave in feminism was recognized as such before there was a third wave. The same was apparently not true for coffee, but the third wave was the first to be called a wave.

Socrates called his first wave a wave, as he did at 457b, only just before he was about to name the second one. He tried to avoid the question of whether those waves could be achieved. Now that Glaucon has pressed him, Socrates announces the third wave, “biggest and most difficult” (472a). It is the following (473c–d):

the philosophers rule as kings or those now called kings and chiefs genuinely and adequately philosophize, and political power and philosophy coincide in the same place, while the many natures now making their way to either apart from the other are by necessity excluded.

The clause is subjunctive in Greek, because it is given as a condition, without which,

there is no rest from ills for the cities, my dear Glaucon, nor I think for human kind, nor will the regime we have now described in speech ever come forth from nature, insofar as possible, and see the light of the sun.

Glaucon expects a lot of men to “throw off their clothes” at this, and take up what weapons they can, to “run full speed at you to do wonderful deeds” (474e). Glaucon will defend Socrates, but wants to know how Socrates will try to make his point.

He has to define the philosopher (474b). The first conclusion is,

the one who is willing to taste every kind of learning with gusto, and who approaches learning with delight, and is insatiable, we shall justly assert to be a philosopher.

This is offered for Glaucon’s assent, which however is not immediately forthcoming. There are people who would seem not to deserve the title of philosopher, although they love seeing or hearing all kinds of things (475d). Socrates allows, “They are like philosophers” (ὁμοίους μὲν φιλοσόφοις), who however are to be distinguished as being “The lovers of the sight of the truth” (τοὺς τῆς ἀληθείας φιλοθεάμονας 475e). This tends to justify Jowett’s translation of the ultimate formula for the philosopher at 480a, given at the beginning of this post: “those who love the truth in each thing.”

Meanhile, we have to get a distinction clear. There are two types of man:

  • the man living in a dream (476c),

    who holds that there are fair things but doesn’t hold that there is beauty itself and who, if someone leads him to the knowledge of it, isn’t able to follow;

  • the man who is quite awake (476d),

    who … believes that there is something fair itself and is able to catch sight both of it and of what participates in it, and doesn’t believe that what participates is it itself, nor that it itself is what participates.

The thought of the wakeful man is knowledge; of the dreamer, only opinion. Already considered above, the ultimate conclusion at 480a is,

“Must we, therefore, call philosophers rather than lovers of opinion those who delight in each thing that is itself?” // τοὺς αὐτὸ ἄρα ἕκαστον τὸ ὂν ἀσπαζομένους φιλοσόφους ἀλλ᾽ οὐ φιλοδόξους κλητέον;

“That’s entirely certain.”

For parallelism in the English to parallel that of the Greek, the philosopher being φιλοσόφος, we could, as Badious does, refer to the lover of opinion, φιλοδόξος, as the “philodoxer.”

Some Details

ΦΙΛΟΔΟΞΟΣ

Plato seems to be the earliest author cited for the word φιλοδόξος in the Liddell–Scott lexicon, and the citation is to the very passage (480a) just quoted. The definition given is “loving fame or glory.” The online version of the lexicon at the Perseus Project retains this definition; however, in the print edition, a special symbol refers you to the supplement at the back, where the definition, for Plato’s use of the word, is changed to “fond of (mere) belief, (opp. true knowledge).”

We may ask whether this new definition is really an improvement. If one loves opinion, or belief, then whose belief does one love: one’s own, or that of others about oneself, as long as it is good?

The original definition of φιλοδόξος is retained for Aristotle’s use of the word in Rhetoric 1387b. Here is the translation of W. Rhys Roberts in The Basic Works of Aristotle (edited by Richard McKeon), which fills out the elliptical Greek text:

Ambitious men [“philotimics”] are more envious than those who are not [“aphilotimics”]. So also those who profess wisdom [“doxosophics”]; they are ambitious [“philotimic”] – to be thought wise. Indeed, generally, those who aim at a reputation for anything [“philodoxics”] are envious on this particular point. And small-minded men [“micropsychics”] are envious, for everything seems great to them.

καὶ οἱ φιλότιμοι φθονερώτεροι τῶν ἀφιλοτίμων. καὶ οἱ δοξόσοφοι: φιλότιμοι γὰρ ἐπὶ σοφίᾳ. καὶ ὅλως οἱ φιλόδοξοι περί τι φθονεροὶ περὶ τοῦτο. καὶ οἱ μικρόψυχοι: πάντα γὰρ μεγάλα δοκεῖ αὐτοῖς εἶναι.

As for the word δόξα itself, translated as opinion, though other meanings include expectation, reputation, and glory, “The word is connected with δοκέω, but of unclear formation,” according to Beekes’s Greek etymological dictionary. That verb δοκέω appears, with the sense of “to seem,” in the second sentence of the whole Republic:

Now, in my opinion, the procession of the native inhabitants was fine; but the one the Thracians conducted was no less fitting a show. (Bloom)

I thought the procession of the citizens very fine, but it was no better than the show, made by the marching of the Thracian contingent. (Shorey)

καλὴ μὲν οὖν μοι καὶ ἡ τῶν ἐπιχωρίων πομπὴ ἔδοξεν εἶναι, οὐ μέντοι ἧττον ἐφαίνετο πρέπειν ἣν οἱ Θρᾷκες ἔπεμπον.

Shorey’s “I thought” could more literally be “Methought,” featuring “to think” in its original sense of to seem.

One, Two, Many

Defining opinion is going to involve violations of the Laws of Contradiction and the Excluded Middle.

Nonetheless, the first step might be taken as a consequence of the Law of Contradiction. Being opposites, the beautiful (or fine, or fair) and the ugly (or base, or shameful) are themselves two (ἐπειδή ἐστιν ἐναντίον καλὸν αἰσχρῷ, δύο αὐτὼ εἶναι 475e). “Themselves” here is in the dual number in the Greek.

Now follows some interesting reasoning. Since the beautiful and ugly are two, each is one (ἐπειδὴ δύο, καὶ ἓν ἑκάτερον 476a).

Evidently the same applies to all pairs of opposites; but now Socrates takes it further (still in 476a):

The same argument also applies then to justice and injustice, good and bad, and all the forms; each is itself one, but, by showing up everywhere in a community with actions, bodies, and one another, each is an apparitional many. (Bloom)

And in respect of the just and the unjust, the good and the bad, and all the ideas or forms, the same statement holds, that in itself each is one, but that by virtue of their communion with actions and bodies and with one another they present themselves everywhere, each as a multiplicity of aspects. (Shorey)

καὶ περὶ δὴ δικαίου καὶ ἀδίκου καὶ ἀγαθοῦ καὶ κακοῦ καὶ πάντων τῶν εἰδῶν πέρι ὁ αὐτὸς λόγος, αὐτὸ μὲν ἓν ἕκαστον εἶναι, τῇ δὲ τῶν πράξεων καὶ σωμάτων καὶ ἀλλήλων κοινωνίᾳ πανταχοῦ φανταζόμενα πολλὰ φαίνεσθαι ἕκαστον.

The translators follow the Greek word order, more or less, but Bloom’s “showing up” is plural in the Greek, so it could be more accurate to say,

… the same statement holds, that each appears many, appearing everywhere by virtue of their communion with actions and bodies and with one another.

It all seems fine, but the connection with opposites is not clear. In any case, the dreamer now is the one who doesn’t recognize that the many come from the one. More precisely, as we have seen (476c),

Doesn’t dreaming, whether one is asleep or awake, consist in believing a likeness of something to be not a likeness, but rather the thing itself to which it is like? (Bloom)

Is not the dream state, whether the man is asleep or awake, just this: the mistaking of resemblance for identity? (Shorey)

τὸ ὀνειρώττειν ἆρα οὐ τόδε ἐστίν, ἐάντε ἐν ὕπνῳ τις ἐάντ᾽ ἐγρηγορὼς τὸ ὅμοιόν τῳ μὴ ὅμοιον ἀλλ᾽ αὐτὸ ἡγῆται εἶναι ᾧ ἔοικεν;

Bloom seems quite literal. In particular, his “of something” reflects τῳ, the dative form then not of the neuter article τό, but of the neuter indefinite pronoun τὶ (though in either case the standard dative would seem to be τῷ, with a circumflex, often printed as a tilde).

We would offend people by calling them dreamers in Socrates’s sense; but the offense that he and Glaucon actually discuss comes from telling somebody that he does not know something, but just opines it (δοξάζειν ἀλλ᾽ οὐ γιγνώσκειν 476d); as we might say, “That’s just your opinion!” if not “You don’t know what you’re talking about!”

Knowledge depends on what is; ignorance, on what is not; opinion, on what is both or neither or in between. Indeed (477a),

Now if there were something such as both to be and not to be, wouldn’t it lie between what purely and simply is and what in no way is? (Bloom)

If a thing, then, is so conditioned as both to be and not to be, would it not lie between that which absolutely and unqualifiedly is and that which in no way is? (Shorey)

εἰ δὲ δή τι οὕτως ἔχει ὡς εἶναί τε καὶ μὴ εἶναι, οὐ μεταξὺ ἂν κέοιτο τοῦ εἰλικρινῶς ὄντος καὶ τοῦ αὖ μηδαμῇ ὄντος;

“Oh, nothing”

Before saying what the third wave is, Socrates obtains the agreement of Glaucon that

We got to this point while seeking what justice and injustice are like (Bloom).

It was the inquiry into the nature of justice and injustice that brought us to this pass (Shorey).

ἡμεῖς ζητοῦντες δικαιοσύνην οἷόν έστι καὶ ἀδικίαν δεῦρο ἥκομεν.

Bloom’s translation is more literal, since there is no φύσις in the Greek, nor any other noun, corresponding to Shorey’s “nature.” And yet Bloom’s translation may lead one to think that two other things can be named that justice and injustice are respectively like. Instead of “like what,” one could translate the relative pronoun οἷον as “what sort of thing.” To ask what sort of thing justice is is to ask what its nature is, and thus we obtain Shorey’s translation.

From my long recent post on the subject of nature, one may recall the reverse possibility of translating φύσις with a relative pronoun, or what would be a case of a relative pronoun, if English nouns were still declined. Emily Wilson does not let Odysseus say, as Murray lets him say, of Hermes and an herb that he “showed me its nature. At the root it was black, but its flower was like milk.” Wilson has him say that Hermes “showed me how / its root is black, its flower white as milk.”

Something that neither Bloom nor Shorey does is reflect that the formations of δικαιοσύνη are ἀδικία are not strictly parallel. One could render them as “justice” and “unjustness.”

The main point is that what is wanted for justice and the just man is a pattern, as Shorey and Bloom call it. They could have called it a paradigm, since that’s the Greek, παράδειγμα; but I don’t think I myself had often encountered the word “paradigm” before heading off to St John’s College, where the word was used, first of all, for examples of Greek declensions and conjugations, such as

  singular dual plural
1 λύω λύομεν
2 λύεις λύετον λύετε
3 λύει λύετον λύουσι

This paradigm shows an actual word though. Our paradigm for justice will be like a painting of what Bloom calls “the fairest human being,” and Shorey “the ideally beautiful man”: ὁ κάλλιστος ἄνθρωπος (472d). The painting can exist, without any need of demonstration that the such a man as in the picture can exist. Perhaps the point is made better with a two-dimensional painting, rather than three-dimensional sculpture, which one can more easily imagine as stepping off the pedestal.

Zeus poised to throw a thunderbolt
Bronze statue of Zeus or Poseidon
“Found in the sea of Cape Artemision, in northern Euboea …
It is certainly the work of a great sculptor of the early Classical period.
ca. 460 BC.” – when Socrates was about ten years old
National Archeological Museum, Athens
July 11, 2017

There is a curious transition that Shorey, at least, finds noteworthy. After Socrates recalls the nature of the inquiry, Glaucon asks, “So what?” – or as Shorey and Bloom have it, “But what of it?” (ἀλλὰ τί τοῦτο; 472b).

Socrates’s answer is “Nothing,” for Bloom, but “Oh, nothing,” for Shorey, who says οὐδέν here is “idiomatic, like the English of the translation.” Socrates continues:

But if we find out what justice is like, will we also insist that the just man must not differ at all from justice itself but in every way be such as it is? (Bloom)

Only this: if we do discover what justice is, are we to demand that the just man shall differ from it in no respect, but shall conform in every way to the ideal? (Shorey)

ἀλλ᾽ ἐὰν εὕρωμεν οἷόν ἐστι δικαιοσύνη, ἆρα καὶ ἄνδρα τὸν δίκαιον ἀξιώσομεν μηδὲν δεῖν αὐτῆς ἐκείνης διαφέρειν, ἀλλὰ πανταχῇ τοιοῦτον εἶναι οἷον δικαιοσύνη ἐστίν;

Meanwhile, Shorey’s note on the “Oh, nothing” has continued:

The emphatic statement that follows of the value of ideals as ideals is Plato’s warning hint that he does not expect the literal realization of his Utopia, though it would be disillusionizing to say so too explicitly … This is one of the chief ideas that Cicero derived from Plato. He applies it to his picture of the ideal orator, and the mistaken ingenuity of modern scholarship has deduced from this and attributed to the maleficent influence of Plato the post-Renaissancee and eighteenth-century doctrine of fixed literary kinds. Cf. my note in the New York Nation, vol. ciii. p. 238, Sept. 7, 1916.

The “mistaken ingenuity of modern scholarship” is apparently that of Roy Kenneth Hack, who writes,

I believe that Cicero is right, and that Plato is responsible … We must attack the error at its source, which is the doctrine of ideas; for the laws of the genres are nothing but the expression in the sphere of literature of the Platonic doctrine of ideal forms.

The Platonic doctrine is, I believe, logically inapplicable to literature; yet Plato sought so to apply it, and the results have been disastrous for all his followers, from Aristotle and Horace to Brunetière and Norden, as well as for Plato himself.

This is on page 43–4 of “The Doctrine of Literary Forms,” which constitutes the first 65 pages of Volume 27 (1916) of Harvard Studies in Classical Philology. I am not reading the whole article now, though it seems interesting and relevant to the our reading of the Republic, if only as evidence of the kinds of ideas that people can come up with.

For example, Horace has some rules about which meters fit which kinds of speech. Hack finds that Horace’s own poetry does not respect these rules. This could mean Horace is a better or worse critic than poet; however, Hack’s concern is not this question, but a fundamental misunderstanding, whereby Horace’s rules are confused with laws of nature (pages 26–7):

We have now traversed the whole of Horace’s verse in the search for his critical theory … If his doctrine is valid, then we may logically demand that its validity be shown in his own practice, and that his artistic product correspond to his artistic principles, or rules. If on the contrary his doctrine is not valid for his own work, if it can be proved that the practising artist quietly foreswore or ignored the body of rules which he himself laid down, then I shall maintain that we have absolutely conclusive evi­dence of its essential falsity … Either meter and content are inseparably connected or else the laws are void and of no effect.

These laws are most distinctly stated in Ars Poetica 73–98. They may be recapitulated as follows: (1) the feats of kings and captains and war’s sad tale must be written in hexameter, (2) the voice of complaint and of granted prayers in pentameter, (3) anger, as well as comedy and tragedy, in the iambus, (4) gods, children of gods, the victor in boxing and the horse first in the race, the troubles of young hearts and the gay banquet, in lyric meters. One subdivision of the third law requires that the verses and diction of comedy be distinguished from the verses and diction of tragedy.

We have seen Socrates’s banishing of (certain kinds of) poets in Book III; Hack finds people who seem to agree with this (pages 64–5):

But no sane man can read Homer without being stirred by a genius who was not only great but fine and pure and high. Homer did not “choose a second-rate subject”; his subject is human life, which is the ‘subject’ of all poetry. Until we have eliminated from human life the “crude pride and self-absorption, the cruelty and lack of love” (which qualities as they are displayed by Achilles cause Murray to denounce the ‘subject’ of the Iliad), we have no right to condemn Homer or any other poet on such grounds. We might as well say that Shakspere is immoral because Macbeth was a murderer and Othello was jealous.

Finally, there are people who would analyze a work of poetry as if it were a processed food to be supplied with a nutritional analysis (page 65):

For similar reasons we must abolish the old method of Quellenforschung, which required us to “separate the borrowed element from the personal element” of poetry before we could make a just estimate of the personal element. This method goes on the crass assumption that literary truth is identical with scientific truth. Take a textbook on chemistry; it is perfectly possible for a chemist who has studied the book to discriminate between “old” and “new” truths contained therein, to tell how much is borrowed and how much is a fresh and personal contribution. Scientific truth is a body of objective truth which can be and is extended by discovery. But literary truth is not created in that way, nor can it be weighed and measured in that way. Catullus and Horace did not take the Greek authors with whom they were acquainted, select portions of their work, and then add thereto some new truth which was their sole personal achievement. On the contrary, all the literature which they read and heard passed into their own souls and became, not a part of their stock-in-trade, to be dealt out in the same condition as received, but an inalienable aspect of their own creative activity and life. Their originality is not decreased in the slightest by the fact that they have been influenced by Sappho or Alcaeus; it is profoundly enhanced.

The volume of Harvard Studies contains two more articles, and all three are reviewed, as are a new dissertation from each of Princeton, Yale, Columbia, and new volumes of the Loeb Classical Library, under the heading of “Reviews of Educational Books,” the sub-head “The Classics,” and the sub-sub-head “Greek and Latin,” in the issue of The Nation that Shorey’s footnote in the Republic refers to. If not a subscriber, one can obtain the relevant pages of The Nation from The Unz Review, currently described at Wikipedia as “a website that promotes antisemitism, Holocaust denial, conspiracy theories, and white supremacist material,” although the “editor-in-chief and publisher” was “Born in California to a Ukrainian-Jewish immigrant” and “raised in a Yiddish-speaking household.”

The site describes itself as “An Alternative Media Selection. A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media.” Here is the unsigned review, presumably by Shorey, of Hack’s dissertation:

The twenty-seventh volume of Harvard Studies in contrast with its predecessor illustrates the broader, not to say bellelettristic, type of doctoral dissertation. Under the title “The Doctrine of Literary Forms,” Mr. Roy Kenneth Hack makes a violent assault on Professor Saintsbury’s enemy, the tradition of literary kinds (genres), and traces the evil thing by way of Horace and Cicero to its lair in the philosophy of Plato. To Norden, he says, Horace’s “Ars Poetica” is an eisagogic ars conforming precisely in its schematism to the rules for that form of didactic treatise or poem. But assign it with Weissenfels to the epistolary genre, and it turns out to be written in a loose conversational style. To this rigid a priori method that deduces the qualities of a work of art from its name and place in a fixed traditional classification of “kinds,” Mr. Hack would oppose a more flexible study of the essential qualities of the artist and his work as we find them. He further exemplifies the contrasted methods by the analysis of Horatian odes. We entirely sympathize with his protest against the abuse in recent philology of the mechanical application of the doctrine of the conventionalized literary type to the criticism of a concrete work of art. But we think that he errs in associating this so closely as he does with the allied but still distinct question of the romantic revolt against the classic and pseudo-classic doctrine of kinds as a law of literary practice. The pedantry that multiplies superfluous distinctions in philological inquiry need not abolish the observance of indispensable discriminations in the composition and criticism of literature. Matthew Arnold, who was anything but a pedant, made a very sensible plea for the retention in practice and in the terminology of criticism of the four or five chief kinds recognized by the Greeks. To Mr. Hack, however, the whole conception is anathema. And in Cicero’s rhetorical works he finds the clue to its origin. Cicero’s “Orator,” he says, refers to the Platonic ideas. The doctrine of fixed literary kinds is thus proved to have been a special development of the Platonic theory of absolute kinds or types opposed to the flux of phenomena in every domain. There is some confusion of thought here. Cicero’s main purpose in the passages cited is to defend by Plato’s theory of ideas the attempt to conceive and describe an ideal or perfect orator regardless of the possibility of his realization. However plausible the analogy may appear to us, Cicero is not really attempting to justify the doctrine of literary kinds which he takes for granted as a datum of common-sense. Here, as elsewhere, he employs the Platonic idea for two purposes: (1) to affirm the necessity of basing all arguments on a preliminary definition; (2) to justify the conception of an ideal pattern even if it be unrealizable in practice. Mr. Hack then does not in fact substantiate his historical deduction of the specific doctrine of literary kinds from the Platonic Ideas, however plausible such a connection may appear a priori. He passes abruptly to a generalized exposition of the Platonic philosophy, a denunciation of Plato’s condemnation of poetry, a demonstration that Aristotle’s defence in the Poetics rests on essentially the same false presupposition and some final reflections on the pernicious influence in literature and criticism of the entire tradition of fixed kinds or genres. Throughout he seems to confound, as so many have done, the Platonic and Aristotelian mimesis or imitation of nature and emotion with the later literary doctrine of the imitation of classical models.

The question may remain of what it even means to have an ideal that cannot be realized. In “Nature” I noted Strauss’s remark, “‘ideal’ is not a Platonic term.” I note now that the artisan or craftsman – the person with a technique – seems to be missing from the present reading, although he or she will, on every job, be working towards what we may call an ideal, be this a healthy body or a well-fitting shoe.

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