Tag Archives: Sappho

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

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Thoreau and Anacreon

Gray clouds over blue sky over white clouds over buildings

At the beginning of Walden, the author says he wrote its pages, “or rather the bulk of them,” in the isolated house he had built by the pond of that name. He lived there, 1845–7. He wrote there also A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers. He had spent the week of the title with his brother, who died of tetanus in January, 1842. Writes Laura Dassow Walls,

Into the narrative of his 1839 river trip with John, Henry had woven everything he ever felt, thought, and experienced …

This in Henry David Thoreau: A Life (University of Chicago Press, 2017). Weaving is Thoreau’s metaphor, used in Walden in a consideration of what is worth doing in life.

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Some Say Poetry

In a poetry review, a remark on being a student has drawn my attention:

In My Poets, a work of autobiographical criticism with occasional ventriloquial interludes, McLane recalls two “early impasses in reading,” freshman-year encounters with Charles Olson and Frank O’Hara. She writes about not “getting it” but wanting to get it, about a desire to get it that was left wanting by code-breaking and analysis and satisfied by hearing and feeling.

This is from the second half of a “New Books” column by Christine Smallwood, in the Reviews section of Harper’s, July 2017. After quoting Smallwood’s review, I want to say something about learning and creating, in poetry and also in mathematics.

Potted palms with plaster farm animals on hillside behind

Kuzguncuk, 2017.11.05

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Feyhaman Duran

Born on the Asian side of Istanbul in Kadıköy in 1886, İbrahim Feyhaman was orphaned nine years later. His father had been a poet and calligrapher. His mother’s dying wish was that Feyhaman attend the Lycée Impérial Ottoman de Galata-Sérai; his maternal grandfather, Duran Çavuş, saw that this happened. Some time after graduation, headmaster Tevfik Fikret had Feyhaman come back to Galatasaray to teach calligraphy.


Garden of Aşiyan, September 10, 2015

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