Category Archives: Poetry

On Plato’s Republic, 14

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In the tenth and final book of Plato’s Republic (Stephanus 595–621), with the help of Glaucon, Socrates does three things:

  1. Confirm and strengthen the ban on imitative poetry carried out in Book III.
  2. Prove the immortality of the soul.
  3. Tell the Myth of Er about how best to make use of that immortality.


Bernard Picart
Glaucus Turned into a Sea-God, 1731
“Just as those who catch sight of the sea Glaucus would no longer easily see his original nature because some of the old parts of his body have been broken off and the others have been ground down and thoroughly maimed by the waves at the same time as other things have grown on him – shells, seaweed, and rocks – so that he resembles any beast rather than what he was by nature, so, too, we see the soul in such a condition because of countless evils” – Republic 611d

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Figs

This is about figs, because the opening of “The Sixth Elegy” of the Duino Elegies of Rainer Maria Rilke is about them, and I turn out to live among them.

Fig trees growing like weeds on Ayşecik Sokağı
Fulya, Şişli
November 15, 2021

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Nature

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Can Socrates really “find a natural support for justice,” as Allan Bloom says he must? It is strictly impossible, I say in “Bloom, Badiou, Ryle, Shorey.” Inevitably there is more that can be said, and I shall try to get some of it said here.

Sand, sea, mountains, sky
Anatolian sand, Aegean sea, Lesbian mountains
Uranus over all
Profesörler Sitesi, Altınova, Balıkesir, Turkey
September 24, 2021

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On Plato’s Republic, 5

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Our fifth scheduled reading in the Republic is Book IV (Stephanus pages 419–45). Socrates speaks

  • with Adeimantus, through the completion of the construction of the city in speech;
  • with Glaucon, after he insists (427d) that Socrates join in the search for justice in the city; they find it and map it back to the individual.


Intellect, spirit, and appetite
Profesörler Sitesi, Altınova, Balıkesir, Turkey
September 13, 2021

Before proposing a general summary, I shall note the following highlights of the reading. At the end I make some further remarks on one of these, the Law of Contradiction.

Highlights

  1. Common [they are,] the things of friends, κοινὰ τὰ [τῶν] φίλων (424a). Aristotle refers to this in Book II, Chapter 1 of the Politics, 1260b1a:

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Badiou, Bloom, Ryle, Shorey

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The discussion having been postponed for our fifth reading in the Republic, I give here some remarks that started out as part of my commentary on Book IV. The remarks concern

  • the translations of the Republic that I have been reading, mainly those of
    • Alain Badiou (b. 1937), translated in turn from the French by Susan Spitzer;
    • Allan Bloom (1930–92);
    • Paul Shorey (1857–1934);
  • the “Interpretive Essay” that accompanies Bloom’s translation;
  • a 1969 review of Bloom’s translation and essay by Gilbert Ryle (1900–76), who embarrasses the profession of philosophy (if it be a profession).

I quote also Christopher Hitchens, Daryl H. Rice, Agnes Callard, Martha Nussbaum, and Henry David Thoreau.


Palm trimmed
Profesörler Sitesi, Altınova, Balıkesir, Turkey
September 13, 2021

Here’s a table of contents:

Shorey

In the preface of his own translation, Bloom says Shorey’s is one of the two best English translations. The other is A. D. Lindsay’s, but I know nothing about him or it.

Being part of the Loeb Classical Library, Shorey’s translation is

  • convenient for

    • including the Greek, so that one can see that Shorey makes “the principle of doing one’s own business” (433b) from τὸ τὰ αὑτοῦ πράττειν (Bloom has “the practice of minding one’s own business”);
    • using footnotes rather than endnotes;
  • inconvenient for having

    • two volumes;
    • small thin pages, so that leafing through to find the passage you want is hard.


Palm bearded
Profesörler Sitesi, Altınova, Balıkesir, Turkey
September 12, 2021

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Chaucer, CT, Tales of the Nun’s Priest and the Nun

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Here is a table of contents for this final reading of our group:

THE PROLOGUE OF THE NONNE PRESTES TALE.

THE NONNE PREESTES TALE.

EPILOGUE TO THE NONNE PREESTES TALE.

THE SECONDE NONNES TALE.

The angel seyde, ‘god lyketh thy requeste,
And bothe, with the palm of martirdom,
Ye shullen come unto his blisful feste.’

The palm of martirdom for to receyve,
Seinte Cecile, fulfild of goddes yifte,
The world and eek hir chambre gan she weyve.

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On Plato’s Republic, 4

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Our fourth scheduled reading in the Republic is Book III, Stephanus pages 386–417. Socrates continues to direct the construction of the fantastic city. Plato’s brothers, faithful as dogs, agree to two infamous proposals:

  1. The deportation from the city of any poet “who is able by wisdom to become every sort of thing and to imitate all things” (δυνάμενον ὑπὸ σοφίας παντοδαπὸν γίγνεσθαι καὶ μιμεῖσθαι πάντα χρήματα, 398a).

  2. The teaching of the Noble Lie, that the citizens were formed under ground and distinguished, according to class, with admixture of

    • gold for the rulers,
    • silver for the auxiliaries,
    • iron and bronze for the “farmers and other craftsmen” (414b–5c).

Later in this post, I shall try to analyze the reading into sections; but a serial summary of these seems tedious, and I shall focus on a few remarkable points, such as the ones above.


Two dogs with my copy of
Allan Bloom (translator), The Republic of Plato, 2016 edition,
on the beach at
Profesörler Sitesi, Altınova, Balıkesir, Turkey
September 8, 2021

I shall be quoting

  • Homer, whom Socrates loves to hate;
  • Adam Kirsch, from the 2016 introduction to Allan Bloom’s Republic translation, on the danger of summarizing Plato;
  • Pascal on the will of God as the rule for justice;
  • Bruno Bettelheim on fairy tales such as the Three Little Pigs, and perhaps our City in Speech, as opposed to fables;
  • Somerset Maugham on the fable of the Ant and the Grasshopper;
  • Plato, in the Symposium, on the identity of comedy and tragedy, and Socrates as a seductive flute-player;
  • Anne Applebaum on “The New Puritans”: the same as the old ones, called Glaucon, Adeimantus, and Socrates?

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On Plato’s Republic, 3

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We are reading now Book II of Plato’s Republic, Stephanus pages 357–83, covering:

  1. The conventional arguments in favor of injustice and justice, reviewed by Plato’s brothers Glaucon and Adeimantus respectively.
  2. The beginning of the construction of the city in speech, wherein the advent of justice is to be discerned; the guardians of the city are to be like dogs and to be given a traditional education, although with none of the traditional stories, since they talk about things like parricide and bad luck.

A book next to a dog lying on the beach

Dog with copy of Alain Badiou, Plato’s Republic:
A Dialogue in Sixteen Chapters, with a Prologue and an Epilogue, 2012
Profesörler Sitesi, Altınova, Balıkesir, Turkey, September 2, 2021

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Chaucer, CT, Tales of the Prioress and the Monk

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In the selection from the Canterbury Tales taken up here,

  • the Prioress tells an unchristian tale of piety;
  • the Host wishes Rome would not put monks under a vow of celibacy;
  • the Monk tells a miniature Canterbury Tales; all of his tales are tragedies, but with various sources, Hebraic, classical, and contemporary.

Andrea Mantegna, Judith with the Head of Holofernes
Andrea Mantegna or Follower (Possibly Giulio Campagnola)
Judith with the Head of Holofernes, c. 1495/1500
Widener Collection
National Gallery of Art, Washington

In some nominal sense at least, the tales of the Prioress and the Monk have a common theme, Judaism; they also have a common character, Satan.

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Chaucer, CT, Franklin’s Tale

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Remarkable teachings from the Franklin, who says he never learned rhetoric, nor read Cicero:

Pacience is an heigh vertu certeyn;
For it venquisseth, as thise clerkes seyn,
Thinges that rigour sholde never atteyne.

Patience is a high virtue certain;
For it vanquisheth, as these clerks say,
Things that rigor should never attain.

There are things that you cannot win by force. Love is one, and that is the Franklin’s theme.

You can’t hurry love
No you just have to wait

Respect is another thing that you cannot win by force. I took up that theme in considering Collingwood on “Civilization as Education” (September, 2018). Confusion here may explain the problem of bad leadership that Socrates takes up in the Republic – which I have now taken up in a new series.


Rembrandt van Rijn
Lucretia, 1664
Andrew W. Mellon Collection
National Gallery of Art, Washington

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