Tag Archives: 2022

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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On Homer’s Iliad Book I

In Book I of the Iliad, Achilles restrains an impulse to run a sword through Agamemnon.

That may be the greatest act in the whole epic. I say so, having recently completed a reading of Njal’s Saga, which features a lot of impulsive killing. Now I am embarking on the Iliad again, a book at a time. Here I take up Book I and some comparisons with the saga.

I wrote here about Homer’s epic book by book between April, 2017, and September, 2019. I was reading Chapman’s Elizabethan translation. In my account of Book I from then, there are details that do not otherwise stand out to me now, when I am reading mainly Murray’s translation in the Loeb Classical Library, and comparisons with Njal’s Saga are in mind.

Bench on concrete wharf, looking out across a bay to the hills beyond; coast guard vessel in view
Sarıyer, Istanbul (European side)
Loeb Iliad, volume I
November 25, 2022

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The Ideal

The noun “idea” came to English in the sixteenth century, via Latin, from Plato’s ἰδέα: so the dictionaries tell me. An older version, “idee,” came from the French idée. The adjective “ideal” came via the French idéal from the Latin ideālis, but this seems to have been a native coinage, derived from no Greek term. Leo Strauss corroborates this in a passage that I quoted in “Nature”: “ ‘ideal’ is not a Platonic term.” Nonetheless, in translations of the Republic that are still in print, Benjamin Jowett and Paul Shorey use the word “ideal.” This may blur the distinction between two activities:

  • Making something, such as a meal or a bookshelf, according to a recipe or plan.
  • Creating something brand-new.

I looked at the first creation myth of Genesis in my previous post, whose title quoted the Bible on God’s judgment of what he had created: “It Was Good.” The goodness of the world, I suggested, did not lie in its fitting a plan, since a plan would have had to be spoken into existence, and this is just how the world itself came to be.

I don’t know about God, but if we have a basis for calling something good, we might call this basis an ideal. However, I also don’t know whether this is what Plato actually has in mind when his translators use the term “ideal.”

Bookshelves on one wall, window on another
Hacıosman, Tarabya, Sarıyer, İstanbul
November 12, 2022

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“It Was Good”

In the first creation myth in the first book of the Hebrew Bible, God is always looking back at what he has been doing, to see whether it is any good. It always is, but he cannot have known in advance that it was going to be, and this is why he has to check his work.

So it seems to me. In any case, when we create things, part of the job is checking our work.

The new Turkish translation of Collingwood’s Religion and Philosophy
with introduction by yours truly

We do create things. This blog post is an example. So is your response, if you come up with one. So is an electric car, or a vaccine.

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Sacrifice and Simulation

Executive summary. An experiment has been performed to detect whether we are living in a simulation. The experiment is to tell Abraham to sacrifice his son. Whatever he does, he breaks a law. Thus there is more to the world than can be understood by natural science.

Beach, sparkling sea, mountains, clouds, sky
Altınova, Ayvalık, Balıkesir, Türkiye
Looking towards Lesbos, Greece
September 20, 2022

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Ways of Thinking

This is a report from five years ago on an art exhibit in Istanbul called “Doublethink.” I had an amusing encounter with one of the artists, and I had a conversation with the curator, who like George Orwell had attended Eton College. I wrote my report in three emails, given here with their timestamps. Because I mention some sculptures at the Nesin Mathematics Village, I have added the best photographs that I could find of them among the pictures that I have taken at the Village. Unfortunately I don’t seem to have documented the sculptures as such.

January 21, 2016
See “Nesin Matematik Köyü, Ocak (January) 2016

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