Author Archives: David Pierce

Mathematician & logician; amateur of philosophy; relation of journalists; alumnus of St John’s College (USA)

Loneliness (Iliad Book IX)

I could have called this post “Democracy versus Autocracy.”

Four pigeons on a street face away from one another. The body of a cat on all fours is directed at them, but the cat’s head is turned away
Four pigeons and a cat
Tarabya Bayır Caddesi / Yücelevler Sokağı
(We live in the development behind the retaining wall)
Tarabya, Sarıyer, Istanbul
Wednesday morning, January 4, 2023

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Emotional Contagion (Iliad VIII)

On the day recounted in Book VIII of the Iliad,

  • on earth, the Achaeans are twice driven behind their new walls;
    • during the first rout,
      • Odysseus does not hear when Diomedes urges him to come to the aid of Nestor;
      • Hector thinks he will be able to burn the Achaean ships and kill all the men;
      • Agamemnon prays for mere survival;
    • the second time, Hector calls for fires to be lit, lest the Greeks try to escape in the night;
  • in heaven, Zeus
    • weighs out a heavier fate for the Achaeans;
    • declares that it shall be so until Achilles is roused by the death of Patroclus;
    • warns Hera and Athena not to interfere (though they try to anyway).

I wrote a fuller summary in 2017. Because I was reading it, I also talked about Huysmans, Against Nature, and the belief of the main character that the prose poem could

contain within its small compass, like beef essence, the power of a novel, while eliminating its tedious analyses and superfluous descriptions.

Now I shall find reason to bring up Herodotus, Plato, Aristotle, Thoreau, and Freud, and especially William James and Collingwood on the subject of emotion.

Morning sun, obscured by overcast skies, still shines on waters in turmoil in the Bosphorus Strait
Waters of the Bosphorus, Sarıyer, Istanbul
Wednesday morning, January 11, 2023

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On Homer’s Iliad Book VII

Book VII of the Iliad shows us the paradox of men at war who can still work together.

Street scene: a rooster walks down the road while, on his right side, a cat faces him. A minibus, car, and building are in the background, along with some greenery
Cock and cat on a village street
near a stream channelled between concrete walls
Tarabya, Sarıyer, Istanbul
Wednesday, January 11, 2023

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Biological History

Sailboats and sun, seen through a mist and reflected in calm water
Tarabya Marina, Sarıyer, Istanbul
January 1, 2023

“As is the generation of leaves, so is that of humanity,” says Glaucus to Diomedes in the Iliad (Book VI, line 146, in Lattimore’s translation). However, leaves are normally considered biologically; humanity, historically. I touched on the distinction in the previous post; now I want to say more. I shall be looking again at R.G. Collingwood’s notion of biological history as a kind of mistake. Continue reading

On Homer’s Iliad Book VI

View from a height (with tree branch in upper right corner): on the ground below, a settlement; beyond it, a bend in a strait (the Bosphorus); beyond that, the two sides of the straight, opening to a sea (the Black Sea)
Kireçburnu, Sarıyer, Istanbul
Friday, December 30, 2022

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On Homer’s Iliad Book V

Tangles of rebar from a building demolition sit, with a backhoe on top, on a narrow street paved with setts
Creative destruction
Arpa Suyu Sokağı, Şişli, Istanbul
Thursday, December 22, 2022

In Book V of the Iliad, the battlefield deaths that started in Book IV continue. Some of them are caused by Diomedes.

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Parenthood and Sex

Each of us has two biological parents. In my case, those parents are not my real parents, namely the ones who raised me. Nonetheless, according to the theory that everybody seems to accept, including myself, each of us has grown up from a zygote, which was formed by the union of two gametes. Moreover, one of those gametes was an egg cell; the other, a sperm cell. The gametes came from gonads: an ovary and testis, respectively. Ovaries are possessed by females of our species; testes, by males. Being female or male is called sex.

We are also distinguished, when children, as being boys or girls. Boys grow up to be men; girls, women.

It is usually assumed that men are male and women are female. Some of us may insist that this is always so, by definition of the words in question. In that case, I will argue,

  • the definitions can admit of exceptions, at least in principle;
  • an exception cannot be granted, merely at the request of the person who asks for it.

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On Homer’s Iliad Book IV

Bosphorus and third bridge over it, seen from a height through trees beside a house
Kireçburnu, Sarıyer, Istanbul
November 30, 2022

Last time I mentioned what I had remembered most from the Iliad, after reading it in high school: the metaphor in Book VI of humans as leaves dying in the fall, to be replaced by new ones in the spring. I also remembered how often men died at the hands of their fellow men:

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On Homer’s Iliad Book III

Trunks of three mature trees on concrete wharf; strait beyond
Yeniköy (Νιχώρι) on the Bosphorus
Sarıyer, Istanbul, December 11, 2022
The Paphlagonians must have passed by here
on their way to join the Trojans
as they did according to Iliad II.851–5
as mentioned in the Wikipedia article “Cytorus
created by me in 2010

In Book III of the Iliad, we learn about Menelaus, Paris, Hector, Helen, and Priam. Having learned about Agamemnon, Achilles, and Patroclus in the first two books, now we know all of the players in the following summary of the epic.

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On Homer’s Iliad Book II

As I proposed last time, Achilles performs the greatest act in the Iliad by not killing Agamemnon in Book I. He then takes himself out of the action for a while. We are not going to see him again till Book IX, when he receives the embassy of Phoenix, Ajax, and Odysseus (chosen by Nestor in lines 168–9).

Benches and bare tree on wet concrete wharf by the Bosphorus under a cloudy sky
Kireçburnu, Sarıyer, Istanbul
Wednesday, November 30, 2022

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