Sunday, March 19, 2017

1 Plato’s Symposium, its dating with references to his Second and Seventh Letter, and to Plutarch’s Dion and Timoleon

Plutarch in his Dion describes the early days of Plato’s arrival in Syracuse at the court of Dionysius II: ‘When Plato came to Sicily (Platôn eis Sikelian aphikomenos), in the first instances (peri men tas prôtas apantêseis) he met with astonishing friendliness and honour (thaumastês etunchane philophrosunês kai timês). For a royal chariot (kai gar harma tôn basislikôn), magnificently adorned, awaited him as he left his trireme (autô̢ parestê kekosmêmenon diaprepôs apobanti tês triêrous), and the tyrant offered a sacrifice of thanksgiving (kai thusian ethusen ho turannos) for the great blessing that had been bestowed upon his government (hôs eutuchêmatos megalou tê̢ archê̢ prosgegonotos). Moreover, the modesty that characterized his symposia (aidôs de sumposiôn), the decorum of the courtiers (kai schêmatismos aulês), and the mildness of the tyrant himself (kai pra̢otês autou tou turannou) in all his dealings with the public (peri hekasta tôn chrêmatizomenôn), inspired the citizens with marvellous hopes of his reformation (thaumastas enedôken elpidas metabolês tois politais). There was also something like a general rush for letters and philosophy (phora de tis ên epi logous kai philosophian hapantôn), and the palace was filled with dust, as they say, owing to the multitude of geometricians there (kai to tyranneion, hôs phasi, koniortos hupo plêthous tôn geômetrountôn kateichen).’ [Geometrical figures were traced in loose sand strewn upon the floor.] (Ch. XIII 1-4, the note and translation by B. Perrin.)

I am dating the Symposium in 364 B.C., that is the second year of Plato’s ‘temporary’ stay in Athens, the first year having been devoted to the Phaedo and the Parmenides, dialogues directed at his disciples in the Academy, which he intended to leave for good. But when the first year passed without his being summoned back, his eyes turned to Dionysius and the task of transforming him into a philosopher-king. Choosing the symposium as the framework for his dialogue, his thoughts went back to the early days of his intercourse with Dionysius, before it was sullied by Dionysius’ expulsion of Dion.

The theme discussed in Plato’s Symposium is Eros, the god of love; Plutarch’s description of Dionysius’ relationship to Plato after his expulsion of Dion sheds light on this choice of theme: ‘As for Plato, Dionysius at once removed him to the acropolis (Platôna de Dionusios euthus men eis tên akropolin mestestêsen), where he contrived to give him a guard of honour under pretence of hospitable kindness (entimon autô̢ schêmati xenias philanthrôpou phrouran mêchanêsamenos), in order that he might not accompany Dion (hôs mê sumpleoi Diôni) and bear witness to his wrongs (martus hôn êdikeito). But after time and intercourse (chronô̢ de kai sundiaitêsei) … he conceived a passion for him that was worthy of a tyrant (êrasthê turannikon erôta), demanding that he alone should have his love returned by Plato (monos axiôn hupo Platônos anterasthai) and be admired beyond all others (kai thaumazesthai malista pantôn), and he was ready (hetoimos ôn) to entrust Plato with the administration of the tyranny (epitrepein ta pragmata kai tên turannida) if only he would not set his friendship for Dion above that (mê protimônti tên pros Diôna philian) which he had for him (tês pros hauton).’ (Dion XVI, 1-2, tr. Perrin)

Plato gives substance to Plutarch’s account when he says in the Seventh Letter that in those days it had been proclaimed (diêngelmenon) ‘that Dionysius is wonderfully devoted to Plato’ (hôs Platôna Dionusios thaumastôs hôs aspazetai),’ and goes on to say: ‘But what were the facts (to d’ eichen dê pôs;)? For the truth (to gar alêthes) must be told (dei phrazein). He became indeed more and more devoted as time advanced (êspazeto men aei proïontos tou chronou mallon), according as he grew familiar with my disposition and character (kata tên tou tropou te kai êthous sunousian), but he was desirous that I should praise him more than Dion (heauton de epainein mallon ê Diôna ebouleto me) and regard him rather than Dion as my special friend (kai philon hêgeisthai diapherontôs mallon ê ‘keinon), and this triumph he was marvellously anxious to achieve (kai thaumastôs ephilonikei pros to toiouton). But the best way to achieve this, if that was to be achieved (hê̢ d’ an houtôs egeneto, eiper egigneto, kallista) – namely, by occupying himself in learning and in listening to discourses on philosophy and by associating with me – this he always shirked (ôknei hôs dê manthanôn kai akouôn tôn peri philosophian logôn kai emoi sungignesthai) owing to his dread of the talk of slanderers (phoboumenos tous tôn diaballontôn logous), lest he might be hampered in some measure (mê pê̢ parapodistheiê) and Dion might accomplish all his designs (kai Diôn dê panta eiê diapepragmenos). I, however (egô de), put up with all this (panta hupemenon), holding fast the original purpose (tên prôtên dianoian phulattôn) with which I had come (hê̢per aphikomên), in the hope that he might possibly gain a desire (ei pôs eis epithumian elthoi) for the philosophic life (tês philosophou zôês); but he, with his resistance, won the day (ho d’ enikêse antiteinôn).’ (330a1-b7, tr. Bury)

As their mutual intercourse did not make progress in the direction in which Plato wanted it to go, he departed for Athens; his departure was to be temporary, until the next sailing season; Dionysius ‘promised him that in the summer he would summon Dion home’ (sunthemenos eis hôran etous metapempsasthai Diôna, Plut. Dion XVI.4).

It is noteworthy that Plato speaks of that first stay in Sicily as epidêmia (Letter VII, 330b8), ‘staying at home’, and for his departing for Athens he uses the verb apodêmeô (330c2), ‘to be away from home’. When Plato went to Syracuse at Dion’s bidding, summoned by Dionysius, he went there with the intention to make it his home for the end of his days.

During his ‘temporary’ stay in Athens Plato remained true to his hope that he might awaken in Dionysius a desire for philosophy, although the latter broke his promise to summon Dion ‘in the summer’ (eis hôran etous). If he was to have any chance of making his hope true, he had to do something extraordinary; because he could not use the power of his spoken word, he had to take recourse to writing. He had to rekindle Dionysius’ love for him and direct it towards philosophy. This is the road along which Plato in the Symposium, in the guise of ‘most wise Diotima’ (sophôtatê Diotima, 208b8), suggests a talented young man, erotically inclined, should be guided, beginning with love towards the beauty of one body, marching towards the boundless love of wisdom, and ending with the sight of the Beauty itself (210a-212a).

Plato opens his Second Letter, addressed to Dionysius, with the words: ‘I hear from Archedemus (Êkousa Archedêmou) that you think (hoti su hêgê̢) that not only I myself should keep quiet (chrênai peri sou mê monon eme hêsuchian agein) but my friends also (alla kai tous emous epitêdeious) from doing or saying anything bad about you (tou phlauron ti poein ê legein peri se); and that “you except Dion only” (Diôna de monon exaireton poiê̢, 310b4-c1; translations from the Letters are Bury’s).’

These words indicate that Dionysius believed he had reason to be indignant and injured and that he was in a position to tell to Plato how to behave concerning himself. Plato responds by deploring his lack of influence on Dion and Dionysius: ‘Now your saying this, that Dion is excepted, implies (houtos de ho logos sêmainei, to Diôna exaireton einai)  that I have no control over my friends (hoti ouk archô egô tôn emôn epitêdeiôn); for had I had this control over you and Dion, as well as the rest (ei gar êrchon egô houtô tôn te allôn kai sou kai Diônos), more blessings would have come to us all (pleiô an ên hêmin te pasin agatha) and to the rest of the Greeks also (tois te allois Hellêsin), as I affirm (hôs egô phêmi, 310c1-5).’

What Plato says next allows us to date the Letter: ‘I do not say this as though what Cratistolus and Polyxenus have told you is to be trusted (kai tauta legô hôs ouch hugies ti Kratistolou kai Poluxenou pros se eirêkotôn); for it is said that one of these men declares (hôn phasi legein ton heteron) that at Olympia he had heard (hoiti akouoi Olumpiasi) quite a number of my companions maligning you (pollôn tinôn tôn met’ emou se kakêgorountôn). No doubt his hearing is more acute than mine (isôs gar oxuteron emou akouei); for I certainly heard no such thing (egô men gar ouk êkousa, 310c6-d3).’

The Olympic Festival referred to must be that of 364 B.C. This means that Plato’s disappointment with Dionysius’ breaking his promise of summoning Dion back home ‘next summer’ was acutely felt by him, and that Dion must have been seething with resentment. This explains Dionysius’ ‘excepting Dion’ from saying or doing anything against him. But Dionysius presumably continued sending to Dion the revenues of his vast property, and he still kept open the prospect of summoning both Plato and Dion back to Sicily. Plato, on his part, is clearly interested in their maintaining friendly relations, untainted by detractors and calumniators: ‘For the future, whenever anyone makes such a statement about any of us, what you ought, I think, to do is (chrê de, hôs emoi dokei, houtôsi se poiein tou loipou, hotan ti toiouto legê̢ tis peri hêmôn tinos) to send me a letter of inquiry (grammata pempsanta eme eresthai); for I shall tell the truth (egô gar t’alêthê legein) without scruple or shame (oute oknêsô oute aischunoumai, 310d3-6).’

After dismissing Dionysius’ complaint as based on fabrications, Plato invites him to view their relationship as it is stands, as it is seen by people: ‘Now as for you and me (emoi de dê kai soi), the relation in which we stand towards each other (ta pros allêlous) is really this (houtôsi tunchanei onta). There is not a single Greek, one may say, to whom we are unknown (oute autoi agnôtes esmen oudeni Hellênôn hôs epos eipein), and our intercourse is a matter of common talk (oute hê sunousia hêmôn sigatai); and you may be sure of this (mê lanthanetô de se), that it will be common talk also in days to come (hoti oud’ eis ton epeita chronon sigêthêsetai), because so many have heard tell of it (tosoutoi hoi paradedegmenoi eisin autên) owing to its duration and its publicity (hate ouk oligên gegenêmenên oud’ êrema, 310d6-e4; following Novotný and Bury, I accept H. Richards emendation of tosoutoi, ‘so many’, for toioutoi, ‘such’, ‘of such quality’, of the manuscripts, retained by Burnet).’

Plato’s sudden concern for the opinion of common people, for what people may think and say about him and Dionysius, sounds strange when Socrates in his dialogues is concerned only with what is right, not with what people think to be right. Plato asks: ‘What now is the point of this remark (ti oun dê legô nuni;)?’ He answers: ‘I will go back to the beginning and tell you (erô anôthen arxamenos). It is natural for wisdom and great power to come together (pephuke sunienai eis t’auton phronêsis te kai dunamis megalê), and they are for ever pursuing and seeking each other (kai taut’ allêla aei diôkei kai zêtei) and consorting together (kai sungignetai). Moreover (epeita), these are qualities which people delight in discussing themselves in private conversation (kai hoi anthrôpoi chairousin peri toutôn autoi te dialegomenoi) and hearing others discuss in their poems (kai allôn akouontes en te idiais sunousiais kai en tais poiêsesi). For example (hoion kai), when men talk about Hiero (peri Hierônos hotan dialegôntai anthrôpoi) or about Pausanias (kai Pausaniou) the Lacedaemonian (tou Lakedaimoniou) they delight (chairousi) to bring in their meeting with Simonides (tên Simônidou sunousian parapherontes) and what he did (ha te epraxen) and said to them (kai eipen pros autous). [Bury remarks: ‘Hiero, the elder, was tyrant of Gela and Syracuse 485-467 B.C. Pausanias defeated the Persians at Plataea 479 B.C. Simonides of Ceos was a famous lyric poet.] … The poets, too, follow their example (kai dê tauta mimoumenoi hoi poiêtai), and bring together Creon and Tiresias (Kreonta men kai Teiresian sunagousin), Polyeidus and Minos (Polueidon de kai Minô), Agamemnon and Nestor (Agamemnona de kai Nestora), Odysseus and Palamedes (kai Odussea kai Palamêdê); and so it was, I suppose (hôs d’ emoi dokei), that the earliest men also brought together Prometheus and Zeus (kai Promêthea Dii tautê̢ pê̢ sunêgon hoi prôtoi anthrôpoi). [Bury remarks: ‘Creon and Tiresias are characters in Sophocles’ Oedipus Tyrannus and; Polyeidus and Minos in Euripides’ Polyeidus; the rest in Homer; Aeschylus in Prometheus Vinctus tells us about Zeus and Prometheus.] And of these some were – as the poets tell – at feud with each other, and others were friends; while others again were now friends and now foes, and partly in agreement and partly in disagreement (toutôn de tous men eis diaphoran, tous d’ eis philian allêlois iontas, tous de tote men eis philian tote d’ eis diaphoran, kai ta men homonoountas, ta de diapheromenous a̢dousi, 310e4-311b7).’

R. G. Bury refers to this passage as an argument against the authenticity of the Second Letter: ‘Can we imagine the real Plato … trotting out a list of sages and potentates to suggest his own magnanimity and the magnificence of Dionysius? (Prefatory Note to ‘Epistle II’, vol. IX of the LCL edition of Plato, pp. 399-400). In fact, this passage provides a telling testimony to its authenticity, for it is hard to imagine how anybody could forge this letter in view of Dionysius’ final years, and if anyone did, how such a forgery could be accepted by the Academy as genuine. Plutarch says that ‘after he had been conveyed to the camp of Timoleon (komistheis eis to tou Timoleontos stratopedon), where for the first time he was seen as a private person and in humble garb (tote prôton idiôtês kai tapeinos ophtheis), he was sent off to Corinth with a single ship and a small treasure (epi mias neôs kai chrêmatôn oligôn eis Korinthon apestalê), having been born (gennêtheis men) and reared (kai trapheis) in a tyranny (en turannidi) which was the greatest and most illustrious of all tyrannies (tê̢ pasôn epiphanestatê̢ kai megistê̢, Timoleon XIII, 8-9) … after his arrival at Corinth (Tou de Dionusiou katapleusantos eis Korinthon) there was no Greek (oudeis ên Hellênôn) who did not long to behold and speak to him (hos ouchi theasasthai kai proseipein epothêsen auton) … For that age showed no work either of nature or of art (ouden gar oute phuseôs ho tote kairos oute technês) that was comparable to this work of Fortune (hoson ekeino tuchês ergon epedeixato), namely, the recent tyrant of Sicily (ton Sikelias oligon emprosthen turannon) in Corinth (en Korinthô̢), whiling his time away at a fishmonger’s (diatribonta peri tên opsopôlin) or sitting in a perfumer’s shop (ê kathêmenon en muropôliô̢), drinking diluted wine (pinonta kekramenon) from the taverns (apo tôn kapêleiôn) and skirmishing (kai diaplêktizomenon) in public (en mesô̢) with common prostitutes (tois aph’ hôras ergazomenois gunaiois), or trying to teach music-girls in their singing (tas de mousourgous en tais ô̢dais didaskonta), and earnestly contending with them about songs for the stage (kai peri theatrikôn a̢smatôn erizein spoudazonta pros ekeinas) and melody in hymns (kai peri melous harmonias). Some thought that Dionysius did these things as an aimless loiterer, and because he was naturally easy-going and fond of license (tauta d’hoi men allôs aluonta kai phusei ra̢thumon onta kai philakolaston ô̢onto poiein ton Dionusion); but others thought that it was in order to be held in contempt (hoi d’ huper tou kataphroneisthai) and not in fear by the Corinthians (kai mê phoberon onta tois Korinthiois), nor under suspicion (mêd’ hupopton) of being oppressed (hôs barunomenon) by the change in his life (tên metabolên tou biou) and of striving after power (kai pragmatôn ephiemenon), that he engaged in these practices and played an unnatural part (epitêdeuein kai hupokrinesthai para phusin), making a display of great silliness in the way he amused himself (pollên abelterian epideiknumenon en tô̢ scholazein). (Timoleon XIV, 1-4, tr. Bernadotte Perrin.)
In view of all this, the Second Letter could be included among Plato’s Letters only if its authenticity was undisputed.
But let me return to the Second Letter with a remark on Plato’s kai dê tauta mimoumenoi hoi poiêtai (311a7), which means ‘and the poets, imitating these examples’. Bury’s translation ‘the poets, too, follow their example’ obscures the fact that Plato keeps thinking of the poetry of Homer and the tragedians as ‘imitation’ (mimêsis), but unlike Socrates in the Republic, he views it now in positive terms. He goes on to say: ‘Now my object in saying this is to make it clear (panta de tauta legô tode boulomenos endeixasthai), that when we ourselves die men’s talk about us will not likewise be silenced (hoti ouk, epeidan hêmeis teleutêsômen, kai hoi logoi hoi peri hêmôn autôn sesigêsontai); so that we must be careful about it (hôst’ epimelêteon autôn estin). We must necessarily (anankê gar), it seems (hôs eoike), have a care also for the future (melein hêmin kai tou epeita chronou), seeing that (epeidê), by some law of nature (kai tunchanousin kata tina phusin), the most slavish men (hoi men andrapodôdestatoi) pay no regard to it (ouden phrontizontes autou), whereas the most upright (hoi d’ epieikestatoi) do all they can (pan poiountes) to ensure that they shall be well spoken of in the future (hopôs an eis ton epeita chronon eu akousôsin, 311b7-c7).’
Plato strongly emphasizes this point as intimately linked to his care for philosophy: ‘In our case, then – if God so grant – it still remains possible (touto oun hêmin eti, sun theô̢ eipein, exestin) to put right whatever has been amiss in word or deed during our intercourse in the past (ei ti ara mê kalôs pepraktai kata tên emprosthen sunousian, epanorthousthai kai ergô̢ kai logô̢). For I maintain that, as regards the true philosophy (peri gar philosophian phêmi egô tên alêthinên), men will think and speak well of it if we ourselves are upright (doxan esesthai kai logon hêmôn men ontôn epieikôn beltiô), and ill if we are base (phaulôn de, t’ounantion). And in truth we could do nothing more pious than to give attention to this matter (kaitoi peri toutou hêmeis epimeloumenoi ouden an eusebesteron prattoimen), nothing more impious than to disregard it (oud’ amelountes asebesteron).’ (311d6-e2)
Plato’s Socrates was interested in afterlife but not in after-fame. The interest in after-fame Plato appears to have for the first time expressed – in his writings – in the Seventh Letter. It was an important thought; for Plato, it was closely linked to his engagement in philosophy, and it deserved to be properly anchored in it. This task he undertook in the Symposium, in the guise of Diotima.

When Socrates’ turn came to give an encomium on Eros in the Symposium, he chose instead to tell ‘the tale about Eros (ton logon ton peri tou Erôtos) I once heard (hon pot’ êkousa) from a woman (gunaikos), Diotima of Mantinea (Mantinikês Diotimas), who was wise in this (hê tauta te sophê ên) and many other kinds of knowledge (kai alla polla, 201d2-3)’. Diotima tells the young Socrates that ‘universal love and interest is for the sake of immortality (athanasias gar charin panti hautê hê spoudê kai ho erôs hepetai, 208b5-6) … Of that, Socrates, you may be assured (Eu isthi, ô Sôkrates); – think only of the ambition of men (epei ge kai tôn anthrôpôn ei etheleis eis tên philotimian blepsai), and you will wonder at the senselessness of their ways (thaumazois an tês alogias peri ha egô eirêka), unless you consider (ei mê ennoeis enthumêtheis) how they are stirred by the passionate love of fame (hôs deinôs diakeintai erôti tou onomastoi genesthai kai kleos es ton aei chronon athanaton katathesthai). They are ready to run all risks (kai huper toutou kindunous te kinduneuein hetoimoi eisi pantas), even greater than they would have run for their children (eti mallon ê huper tôn paidôn), and to pour out money (kai chrêmata analiskein) and undergo any sort of toil (kai ponous ponein houstinsaoun), and even die (kai huperapothnê̢skein), if so they leave an everlasting name (kai kleos es ton aei chronon athanaton katathesthai, taken from above, where it remained untranslated). Do you imagine (epei oiei su) that Alcestis would have died to save Admetus (Alkêstin huper Admêtou apothanein an), or Achilles to avenge Patroclus (ê Achillea Patroklô̢ epapothanein), or your own Codrus in order to preserve the kingdom for his sons (ê proapothanein ton humeteron Kodron huper tês basileias tôn paidôn), if they had not imagined (mê oiomenous) that the memory of their virtues, which still survives among us, would be immortal (athanaton mnêmên aretês peri heautôn esesthai, hên nun hêmeis echomen;)? Nay (pollou ge dei), she said (ephê), I am persuaded that all men do all things, and the better they are the more they do them, in the hope of the glorious fame of immortal virtue (all’ oimai huper aretês athanatou kai toiautês doxês eukleous pantes panta poiousin, hosô̢ an ameinous ôsi, tosoutô̢ mallon); for they desire the immortal (tou gar athanatou erôsin).’ (208c1-e1, tr. B. Jowett)

Monday, March 13, 2017

Applying for Pension Credit

In my letter to the Department for Work & Pensions I wrote:
I came to Britain in August 1980 at the invitation of the Master of Balliol College, University of Oxford, and of Kings College, University of Cambridge. (The Kings College provided the grant for my first seven months in Britain.) I came here and I have remained deeply convinced that mu studies, the work I have been doing, is important for students of philosophy in the Czech Republic and in Britain (and in every country culturally linked to the cultural treasures of the Ancient Greece). I am deeply convinced that my work ought to be properly remunerated, and I claim that remuneration simply by my work, which can be seen on my website and my blog. From time to time I resort to a direct appeal, as I have done in my recent appeal to the Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University and to Oxford Academics. I enclose these two texts as items 5 and 6. Nothing would please me more than if my appeals received a positive response and I could write to you that I do not need the Pension Credit after all. Unfortunately, it is very unlikely. These two texts will tell you how desperate is the situation in which I live, and how much I need the Pension Credit. If the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford or any academic positively responds to my appeals, I should inform your office about it.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

A book on Plato?

A friend wrote to me: ‘I wonder if you might not approach a publisher with a carefully directed proposal.’

The problem is that I have become used to the freedom of working on my blog. What I am doing is ‘subverting’ the Platonic scholarship of the last hundred and fifty years. (See ‘Could my dating of the Phaedrus be the answer?’ posted on my blog on November 25, 2016.) The nearest I have got to writing a book on this subject is The Lost Plato on my website, which was to be the 1st volume of my Plato. I put a few more things on my website, a paper on ‘Socrates, Plato, and the Laws of Athens’ (the most frequented piece on my website), a piece on Plato and Isocrates, but then I got stuck and devoted myself to recording the Greeks and putting the recordings on my website. Retrospectively, it was a very important ‘preparatory’ work, for it really made me at home in the world, thought, and language of the Ancient Greeks.

And then, when I began working on Plato’s Parmenides, I discovered the blog as an ideal working tool. It gives me the freedom ‘to go where Plato takes me’, or better to say, ‘I go where my thinking about Plato takes me’. Let me give an example. After posting ‘Plato’s Statesman, the date of its composition with references to his Parmenides, Phaedo, Symposium, Second and Seventh Letter, and to Plutarch’s Dion’ on my blog, I thought my next post would be ‘Plato’s Statesman in the light of its dating’. I put this title on my computer just to let it work on my subconscious. But yesterday, having a bath before going to bed, I realized that I must write next something very different, namely ‘Stylometric contrast between Plato’s Symposium on the one hand, and his Sophist and Statesman on the other’. For there is a stylometric ‘gap’ between Plato’s six late dialogues (Sophist, Statesman, Philebus, Timaeus, Critias, Laws) and the rest of his work. This gap has been explained by conjuring up a chronological gap: ‘To account for so marked a change … it seems necessary to suppose a reasonably long interval of interruption in Plato’s activity …  from 367 down to at least 361-360 … he must have been too fully occupied in other ways to have much time for composition’. (A. E. Taylor, Plato, quoted in my preceding post.)

If Platonic scholars have read my preceding post, they must have thought: ‘Plato’s Symposium and Sophist in close chronological succession? Absurd!’ Luckily, I spent a lot of my time studying works on stylometry, the result of which I incorporated in the The Lost Plato, Ch. 3, ‘Stylometric arguments for and against the late dating of the Phaedrus’. With its help, I should be able to show that there is nothing absurd in dating the Symposium in proximity to the Sophist. But more than that, I hope that by considering the stylometric contrast between these two dialogues with reference to Plato’s Second and Seventh Letters, I shall be able to explain why Plato abandoned writing dialogues ‘which belong to a Socrates become fair and young, (ta de nun legomena [Platônos] Sôkratous estin kalou kai neou gegonotos, SL 314c3-4, tr. Bury).’

If I succeed in doing so, I hope to put to rest such explanations as ‘they all [i.e. the late six dialogues] agree linguistically in the adoption of the stylistic graces of Isocrates. Particularly the artificial avoidance of hiatus, a thing quite new in the prose of Plato’ (Taylor, l.c.).

Let me end this post by quoting from The Lost Plato, Ch. 3: ‘As Cherniss remarked, Plato consciously avoided hiatus in none of the first group [of Plato’s dialogues] and in all those of the second. The question is, how the elderly Plato succeeded with apparent ease in avoiding the hiatus when he made the decision to do so. No one appears to have considered this question except Thesleff, who remarks that the avoidance of hiatus was an Isocratean mannerism “unlikely to have been adopted by the aged Plato” and therefore attributes it to “Plato’s secretary”. However, it is hardly likely that Plato’s secretary could have restructured every sentence so as to avoid hiatus while writing to Plato’s dictation, and even less likely that Plato would have permitted this person to rewrite the dialogues in an Isocratean manner. Yet Thesleff put his finger on a real problem, which requires explanation. The ancient biographic tradition offers us two pieces of information, which can help us in finding a solution. Diogenes informs us that before attaching himself to Socrates Plato wrote poetry, dithyrambs, lyric poems, and tragedies (iii. 5), which means that Plato in his youth cultivated the poetic skill of avoiding hiatus; this training, although not consciously exercised, left its traces in the Phaedrus, his first dialogue (iii. 38).’


I have applied to the Department for Work & Pensions for the Pension Credit. If I get it, I may be able to survive.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Plato’s Statesman, the date of its composition with references to his Parmenides, Phaedo, Symposium, Second and Seventh Letter, and to Plutarch’s Dion

Our reading and perception of the Statesman will be influenced by its dating; for if it was written after Plato’s second journey to Sicily, he must have written it with Dionysius the younger in mind. Stylometrically, the Statesman is one of the six late dialogues (Sophist, Statesman, Philebus, Timaeus, Critias, Laws), but this does not solve the problem, for Plato went for his second journey to Sicily in 367 B.C., in his early sixties, and he may have changed his style of writing before he went on his journey.

But there is another factor which we must consider. The Statesman follows the Sophist and the Sophist follows the Theaetetus. The Theaetetus ends with Socrates’ words: ‘Well, now I must go (nun men oun apantêteon moi) to the King’s Porch (eis tên tou basileôs stoan) to face the charge Meletus (epi tên Melêtou graphên) has brought against me (hên me gegraptai). But let’s meet here again, Theodorus, in the morning (heôthen de, ô Theodôre, deûro palin apantômen).’ (210d1-4, tr. John McDowell) The Sophist opens with the words of Theodorus: ‘Here we are, Socrates, true to our agreement of yesterday (Kata tên chthes homologian, ô Sôkrates, hêkomen te kosmiôs); and we bring with us a stranger (kai tonde tina xenon agomen) from Elea (to men genos ex Eleas), who is a disciple of Parmenides and Zeno (hetairon de tôn amphi Parmenidên kai Zênôna), and a true Philosopher (mala de andra philosophon).’ (216a1-4, tr. B. Jowett) At Socrates’ bidding, the stranger from Elea provides the definition of the Sophist, which he accomplishes in a discussion with Theaetetus in the Sophist, then the definition of the Statesman elaborated in a discussion with the younger Socrates in the Statesman. Until recently, the battle in which Theaetetus was wounded – of which we learn in the preface to the dialogue – was the one that took place in 369. On this dating, Plato would have had time to write the Theaetetus, but hardly the Sophist and Statesman, before leaving Athens for Sicily. But there are serious doubts concerning the implied dating of the Theaetetus. Debra Nails writes: ‘Athens was almost certainly not mustering forty-six-years-old academics for hoplite combat by 369; Theaetetus’ skilful soldiering (Tht. 142b-c) was far more likely to have been exhibited when he was of military age, twenty-four. Second, Euclides’ 30-km. walk, from which he has just returned as the dialogue’s frame begins, is more likely for a man of fifty-nine than a man of eighty-one … Those who insist that Theaetetus was involved in the mathematics of the early decades of the Academy are invited to imagine that Theaetetus recovered from his wounds and dysentery and lived on for as long as they like (the year 369 becomes irrelevant when no battle is required to kill him off). If, however, Theaetetus died of his wounds, then the battle in which he was engaged was probably fought in the spring of 391.’ (Debra Nails, The People of Plato, Hackett Publishing Company 2002, p. 276)

As can be seen, Theaetetus is best dated after 391, and its link to the Sophist and the Statesman cannot serve as an argument for dating the two later dialogues as written after Plato’s second journey to Sicily. The possibility of Plato’s writing the Statesman in the wake of the Republic should not be dismissed without argument, for although in the latter the rulers-philosophers are considered to be more than one, the few fitted for the task, for whom the whole system of education is designed, Plato toyed there with the idea of just one supreme ruler: 'What has been said about the State and the government is not a mere dream (peri tês poleôs te kai politeias mê pantapasin hêmas euchas eirêkenai), and although difficult not impossible (alla chalepa men, dunata de pê̢), but only possible in the way which has been supposed (kai ouk allê̢ ê eirêtai); that is to say when true philosophers are born in the reigning family in a State, one or more of them (hotan hoi hôs alêthôs philosophoi dunastai, ê pleious ê heis en polei genomenoi).’ (Rep. 540d1-5, tr. B. Jowett) But when in the Republic Plato speaks of the one ruler as a possibility, he has in mind a philosopher-ruler, whereas in the Statesman the Statesman is portrayed as distinct from the Philosopher. The gap between these dialogues is not only stylometric, as between the Theaetetus and the Sophist - Statesman, but doctrinal.

In fact, this doctrinal discrepancy between the Republic and the Statesman provides the strongest argument against the dating of the latter prior to his second journey to Sicily. Plato tells us in the Seventh Letter that he gave up on his attempts to pursue a politic career in Athens after he had conceived the idea of philosopher-rulers. He went on his first journey to Sicily overwhelmed by this idea (326a-b), with this idea he in Sicily enthused Dion, a young Sicilian aristocrat, and it was this idea with which Dion in his turn enthused Dionysius: ‘Holding these right views, Dion (Tauta Diôn orthôs dianoêtheis) persuaded Dionysius to summon me (epeise metapempesthai Dionusion eme); and he himself also sent a request (kai autos edeito pempôn) that I should by all means come with all speed (hêkein ho ti tachista ek pantos tropou), before that any others (prin tinas allous) should encounter Dionysius (entuchontas Dionusiô̢) and turn him aside to some way of life other than best (ep’ allon bion auton tou beltistou paratrepsai). And these were the terms – long though they are to repeat – in which his request was couched (legôn de tade edeito, ei kai makrotera eipein): “What opportunities (tinas gar kairous), he asked (ephê), are we to wait for that could be better (meizous paramenoumen) than those that have now been presented (tôn nun paragenomenôn) by a stroke of divine good fortune (theia̢ tini tuchê̢;)?” And he dwelt in detail (katalegôn de) on the extent of the empire in Italy and Sicily (tên te archên Italias kai Sikelias) and his own power therein (kai tên hautou dunamin en autê̢), and the youth of Dionysius, mentioning also how great a desire he had for philosophy and education (kai tên neotêta kai tên epithumian tên Dionusiou, philosophias te kai paideias hôs echoi sphodra), and he spoke of his own nephews and connexions (legôn, tous te hautou adelphidous kai tous oikeious) and how they would be not only easily converted themselves to the doctrines and life I always taught (hôs euparaklêtoi eien pros ton hup’ emou legomenon aei logon kai bion), but also most useful in helping to influence Dionysius (hikanôtatoi te Dionusion sumparakalein); so that now, if ever (hôste, eiper pote, kai nun), all our hopes will be fulfilled (elpis pasa apotelesthêsetai) in seeing the same persons at once philosophers and rulers of mighty States (tou tous autous philosophous te kai poleôn archontas megalôn xumbênai genomenous).’ (SL 327d7-328b1, tr. R. G. Bury) – Note that Dion spoke in plural, having presumably in mind himself and Plato as philosopher-rulers, and Dionysius when properly educated by Plato.

A. E. Taylor dates the Statesman after Plato’s return from his third, that is his last journey from Sicily. In the chapter on ‘Sophistes-Politicus’ he writes: ‘The dialogues which we have still to consider all reveal themselves, by steady approximation to the style characteristic of the Laws, as belonging to the latest period of Plato’s activity as a writer … From 367 down to at least 361-360, the year of Plato’s second and longer sojourn with Dionysius II and his final resolution to take no further direct part in the affairs of Syracuse, he must have been too fully occupied in other ways to have much time for composition. We must probably, therefore, think of this whole group of latest dialogues as written in the thirteen last years of Plato’s life, 360-348/7. Since the Sophistes and Politicus attach themselves outwardly to the Theaetetus, and the former [i.e. the Sophist], in fact, contains the critical examination of Eleatic principles which that dialogue [i.e. the Theaetetus] had half promised, it is reasonable to hold, as most recent critics do, that the Sophistes opens the series.’ (A. E. Taylor, Plato, the man and his work, University Paperbacks, Methuen: London, first published in 1926, the 8th reprint in 1966, p.  371)
What pressing activities could Taylor mean? The period between Plato’s return to Athens after his first stay at the court of Dionysius and his departure from Athens to his second stay there was predetermined by their parting in 366. Plato says in the Seventh Letter: ‘we both made a compact (sunômologêsamen amphoteroi) … Dionysius said that he would invite Dion and me back again (Dionusios men ephê metapempsasthai Diôna kai eme palin) … and he asked Dion to regard his situation not as an exile (Diôna de êxiou dianoeisthai mê phugên hautô̢ gegonenai tote) but a change of abode (metastasin de); and upon these conditions I promised to return (egô d’ hêxein hômologêsa epi toutois tois logois).’ (338a5-b2 )

Plutarch says in the Life of Dion that Dionysius ‘kept sending to Dion the revenues from his property (tas de prosodous tôn ktêmatôn apepempen autô̢)’, ‘asking him to keep quiet (axioun auton hêsuchian agein), and to attempt no revolution (kai mêden neôterizein), and ̂to say no evil of him to the Greeks (mêde blasphêmein kat’ autou pros tous Hellenas) (Ch. XVI, 5-6)’. He adds that ‘this Plato tried to effect (tauta epeirato poiein Platôn)’. But Plutarch specifies that ‘having turned Dion to philosophy (kai Diôna trepsas epi philosophian), Plato kept him in the Academy (en Akadêmeia̢ kateichen, Ch. VII, 1)’. There is no reason to think that teaching in the Academy prevented Plato from composing his dialogues.

Plutarch indicates that to ‘keep Dion quiet’ required more than getting him engaged in philosophy, but this ‘extra’ Plato appears to have delegated to his nephew: ‘Plato desired that Dion’s disposition should be tempered and sweetened by association with men of charming presence who indulged seasonably in graceful pleasantries (boulomenou tou Platônos homilia̢ charin echousê̢ kai paidias emmelous kata kairon haptomenê̢ kerannumenon aphêdunesthai tou Diônos to êthos). And such a man was Speusippus (toioutos de tis Speusippos ên).’ (Ch. XVII, 3-4, tr. Bernadotte Perrin)

Teaching in the Academy was not the only Plato’s activity of which Plutarch informs us: ‘And when Plato himself was called upon to furnish a chorus of boys (autô̢ de Platôni chorêgounti paidôn chorô̢), Dion had the chorus trained (ton te choron êskêse ho Dion) and defrayed all the expense of its maintenance (kai to dapanêma pan etelese par’ heautou), and Plato encouraged in him such an ambition to please the Athenians (sunchôrountos tou Platônos tên toiautên philotimian pros tous Athênaious), on the ground that it would procure goodwill for Dion rather than fame for himself (hôs ekeinô̢ mallon eunoian ê doxan autô̢ pherousan).’ (Ch. XVII, 5, tr. Bernadotte Perrin) Plato himself in the Second Letter refers to another non-philosophical activity of his; he tells to Dionysius that Cratistolus and Polyxenus are not to be trusted ‘for it is said (hôn phasi) that one of these men declares that at Olympia [the Olympic Festival of 364 B.C.] he heard (legein ton heteron hoti akouoi Olumpiasi) quite a number of my companions maligning you (pollôn tinôn tôn met’ emou se kakêgorountôn). No doubt his hearing is more acute than mine (isôs gar oxuteron emou akouei); for I certainly heard no such thing (egô men gar ouk êkousa, 310c7-d3, tr. Bury.’ But neither Plato’s being called upon to furnish a chorus of boys – notice that it was Dion who had the chorus trained – nor his attendance at the Olympic games can be viewed as activities preventing him from writing.

In 367 Plato left Athens ‘with all speed’, urgently called by Dion, and so he had little possibility to prepare the Academy for his departure. In 367/366, the year he spent at the court of Dionysius, he badly deplored ‘having left my own occupations, which were anything but ignoble (katalipôn tas emautou diatribas, ousas ouk aschêmonas, Seventh Letter 329b1-2)’. When he urged Dionysius ‘by all means possible (hopê̢ dê pot’ edunamên) to let me go (apheinai me, 338a3-4)’ he was presumably thinking first and foremost about his disciples. The year when Plato went on his second journey to Sicily (367 B.C.) was the year when the 17 years old Aristotle entered the Academy, and there are reasons to believe that during Plato’s absence, which was intended to be permanent – Plato was to devote the rest of his life to his ideal of the State governed by philosophers – the theory of Forms came under attack in the Academy itself. If Plato was to have any hope of returning to Dionysius as the foremost philosopher – ‘I came to Sicily with the reputation of being by far the most eminent of those engaged in philosophy (êlthon egô eis Sikelian doxan echôn polu tôn en philosophia̢ diapherein, Second Letter 311e5-6, tr. Bury)’ – he had to make his theory of Forms unassailable by any criticism. This he did in the Parmenides, as I have argued on my blog (see ‘A year on my blog with Plato’s Parmenides’ posted on November 24, 2015) and on my website in ‘Plato’s defence of the Forms in the Parmenides’.

I believe that Plato wrote one more dialogue in 366/365, the Phaedo. Diogenes Laertius says that ‘according to Favorinus, when Plato read the dialogue On the Soul, Aristotle alone stayed to the end; the rest of the audience got up and went away’ (touton monon parameinai Platôni Phabôrinos pou phêsin anagignôskonti ton Peri psuchês, tous d’ allous anastênai pantas, III, 37, tr. R. D. Hicks). This story suggests that on that occasion Plato read the Phaedo for the first time; the audience had to leave, or else they all would have ended howling: Socrates’ leaving his disciples for good was heart-rendering; add to it Plato’s having composed the Phaedo as his farewell.

In the Parmenides, the young Socrates presents his theory of Forms as a criticism of Parmenides’ and Zeno’s theory of the oneness of Being – there are as many true Beings as there are Forms. Parmenides subjects Socrates’ theory to severe criticism, but avers that if one discards the Forms, ‘one will completely destroy the power of discussion’ (tên tou dialegesthai dunamin pantapasi diaphtherei, Parm. 135c1-2). He thus left the young Socrates in the state of philosophic ignorance: he could neither profess the theory of Forms as true, for he could not defend it against Parmenides’ arguments, nor could he reject it. In this state of philosophic ignorance he went throughout his life, from discussion to discussion, searching for Forms as moral concepts, leaving their being, their ontological status, undecided, suspended in his not-knowing. In this state of philosophic ignorance we find him in the Phaedo, where in his autobiographic digression he intimates that he had given up on looking for true causes of things and adopted ‘the second best course in quest for the cause (ton deuteron ploun epi tên tês aitias zêtêsin [99c9-d1] … I thought that I had better find refuge in discussions (edoxe dê moi eis tous logous kataphugonta) and in them seek the truth of things (en ekeinois skopein tôn ontôn tên alêtheian, 99e4-6)’. On his last day, pressed by Cebes, he transcends ‘that safe answer’ (apokrisin tên asphalê ekeinên, 105b7), ‘that ignorant one’ (apokrisin ekeinên tên amathê, 105c1), finding ‘a subtler answer on the basis of the present considerations’ (apokrisin kompsoteran ek tôn nun, 105c2). He now views the Forms as true causal agents, finds the Form of Life indelibly attached to human souls and thus guaranteeing human immortality (105c-107b). Socrates thus on his last day transcends his ignorance, admonishing his disciples: ‘follow up the argument (akolouthêsete tô̢ logô̢) as far as is humanly possible (kath’ hoson dunaton malist’ anthrôpô̢ epakolouthêsai); and if you make sure you have done so (k’an touto auto saphes genêtai), there will be no need for any further enquiry (ouden zêtêsete peraiterô, 107b7-9, tr. B. Jowett)’. Socrates ends by exhorting his friends and disciples ‘to live taking care of themselves (humôn autôn epimeloumenoi, 115b6), following as if in footsteps what was said now, and in previous discussions (hôsper kat ichnê kata ta nun eirêmena kai ta en tô̢ emprosthen chronô̢ zên, 115b9-10). Plato could not leave his friends and disciples with a more pertinent goodbye.

The sailing season of 365 B.C. passed without any invitation from Dionysius. The Second Letter, which Plato wrote to Dionysius in 364 (Plato’s visit at the Olympic Festival of 364 is referred to as a recent event, SL 310c-d), indicates a rift between the two: ‘If you altogether despise philosophy (ei men holôs philosophias katapephronêkas), leave it alone (ean chairein). If, again, you have been taught by someone else (ei de par’ heterou akêkoas) or have yourself invented better doctrines than mine (ê autos beltiona hêurêkas tôn par’ emoi), hold them in honour (ekeina tima). But if you are contented with my doctrines (ei d’ ara ta par’ hêmôn soi areskei), then you should hold me also in special honour (timêteon kai eme malista, 312b4-7) … For seeing that you are testing my doctrines (epei gar basanizeis auta) both by attending the lectures of other teachers (sungignomenos te allois) and by examining my teaching side by side with theirs (kai paratheômenos para ta tôn allôn), as well as by itself (kai auta kath’ hauta), then, if the test you make is a true one, not only will these doctrines implant themselves now in your mind (nun soi tauta te, ei alêthês hê basanos, prosphusetai), but you also will be devoted both to them and to us (kai oikeios toutois te kai hêmin esê̢, 313c7-d3).’

Dionysius appears to have surrounded himself with sophists inimical to Plato and his philosophy. Plato had no fear of Dionysius’ comparing his teaching with that of the others, meaning his oral teaching, for the whole point of their relationship was to be his teaching and advising Dionysius. But it appears that they had only one discussion about the very crux of Plato’s philosophy, the Good, ‘the King of all to whom all things are related (peri ton pantôn basilea pant’ esti), for whose sake they all are (kai ekeinou heneka pantaekeinou is masculine, referring to the King), and which is the cause of all beautiful things (kai ekeino aition hapantôn tôn kalôn, 312e13 – notice Plato’s switch from the ‘King’, which is masculine, to the Good, which is neuter), and so his only real representative at the court of Dionysius during his absence were his writings. The Parmenides could not stand alone as a defence of Plato’s theory of Forms, for it only indicated that Plato knew of the arguments against the theory of Forms from his youth; no arguments against the Forms had any relevance for those who could see the Forms. For any arguments against the Forms were of necessity framed within the realm ‘that lies in between pure being and absolute not-being’ (metaxu keisthai tou eilikrinôs ontos te kai tou pantôs mê ontos, Republic 478d6-7) and so they had no relevance concerning the Forms, the true being. But this could be only gestured at by Parmenides as the goal to be reached by an exceptional man in future (Parm. 133b4-c1); the place in which this goal was reached was the Republic. (The Parmenides and the Republic are dramatically interconnected; Plato’s brothers Adeimantus and Glaucon are Socrates’ main interlocutors in the Republic, in the Parmenides they introduce Cephalus, the narrator, to their half-brother Antiphon, who tells Cephalus from memory the discussion that once upon a time the young Socrates held with Zeno and the aging Parmenides. Plato’s elder brother Adeimantus vouches for the truth of Antiphon’s having diligently learnt it by heart in his teens, and that he had heard it many times from Pythodorus who was present at that discussion.) But the Republic is two long, Plato introduces the Forms in it in the fifth book. He needed to present Dionysius with the theory of Forms in a more compact and attractive manner. This, in my view, he did in writing the Symposium, which no sophist in Dionysius’ entourage could match with anything they could produce. The Symposium is dramatically linked both to the Parmenides and to the Republic by Plato’s brother Glaucon who figures in the preamble to the dialogue (Symp. 172a-173b). In my view, Plato composed it after the Parmenides and the Phaedo, with Dionysius in mind.

Another sailing season passed by without an invitation from Dionysius. What went wrong? To understand the situation in which Plato thus found himself, we must go back to Syracuse, and back in time.

Plutarch writes in the Dion: ‘This tyrant’s son [i.e. Dionysius II, the son of Dionysius I] (Ton d’ huion autou) Dion saw to be dwarfed and deformed in character from his lack of education (dialelôbêmenon apaideusia̢ kai suntetrimmenon to êthos ho Diôn horôn), and therefore exhorted him to apply himself to study (parekalei pros paideian trapesthai), and to use every entreaty with the first of philosophers to come to Sicily (kai deêthênai tou prôtou tôn philosophôn pasan deêsin elthein eis Sikelian), and, when he came, to become his disciple (elthonti de paraschein hauton, X 1) … Since Dion frequently gave him such advice (Tauta pollakis tou Diônos parainountos), and artfully mingled with it some of Plato’s doctrines (kai tôn logôn tou Platônos estin houstinas hupospeirontos), Dionysius was seized with a keen and even frenzied passion (eschen erôs ton Dionusion oxus kai perimanês) for the teachings and companionship of Plato (tôn te logôn kai tês ousias tou Platônos, XI 1).

There was only one dialog of Plato that was full of ‘doctrines’ – as Bernadotte Perrin translates Plutarch’s logôn – that could have this effect on Dionysius: the Phaedrus. I have little doubt that Plato took the Phaedrus to Sicily on his first journey to Sicily and that he left a copy as a present to Dion, this aristocratic youth with whom he became enamoured (Plato was 40 when he left Athens for Sicily, Dion was about 20 when they first met). In his relationship to Dionysius Dion tried to imitate the Phaedran Philosopher-lover; ill-suited for that role, he prompted him to invite the genuine one.

‘But the enemies of Dion (Hoi de tô̢ Diôni polemountes), afraid of the alteration in Dionysius (phoboumenoi tên tou Dionusiou metabolên), persuaded him (epeisan auton) to recall from exile Philistus (apo tês phugês metapempesthai Philiston), a man versed in letters (andra kai pepaideumenon peri logous) and acquainted with the ways of tyrants (kai turannikôn êthôn empeirotaton), that they might have in him a counterpoise to Plato and philosophy (hôs antitagma pros Platôna kai philosophian ekeinon hexontes, XI 4) [Philistus was a first class historian. Plutarch says that it was during his exile that ‘in his leisure Philistus composed the greater part of his history’ (hopou kai dokei ta pleista suntheinai tês historias scholazôn, XI 6-7).] … Such was the condition of affairs (En toiautê̢ de katastasei tôn pragmatôn ontôn) when Plato came to Sicily (Platôn eis Sikelian aphikomenos), and in the first instances (peri men tas prôtas apantêseis) he met with astonishing friendliness (thaumastês etunchane philophrosunês) and honour (kai timês, XIII 1) … After a few days had passed (hêmerôn de oligôn diagenomenôn), there was one of the customary sacrifices of the country (thusia men ên patrios) in the palace grounds (en tois turanneiois); and the herald (tou de kêrukos), as was the custom (hôsper eiôthei), prayed (kateuxamenou) that the tyranny might abide (diamenein tên turannida) unshaken  (asaleuton) for many generations (pollous chronous), it is said that Dionysius, who was standing near (ho Dionusios legetai parestôs), cried: “Stop cursing us!” (“Ou pausê̢,” phanai, “katarômenos hêmin;”) This quite vexed Philistus and his company (touto komidê̢ tous peri ton Philiston elupêsen), who thought that time and familiarity would render Plato’s influence almost irresistible (amachon tina tou Platônos hêgoumenous esesthai chronô̢ kai sunêtheia̢ tên dunamin), if now (ei nun), after a brief intimacy (ek sunousias oligês), he had so altered (êlloiôken houtô) and transformed (kai metabeblêke) the sentiments of the youthful prince (tên gnômên to meirakion). (XIII 5-6) … And some pretended (enioi de prosepoiounto) to be indignant (duscherainein) that the Athenians, who in former times (ei proteron men Athênaioi) had sailed to Sicily with large land and sea forces (nautikais kai pezikais dunamesi megalais deuro pleusantes), but had perished utterly (apôlonto kai diephtharêsan) without taking Syracuse (proteron ê labein Surakousas), should now (nuni de), by means of one sophist (di’ henos sophistou), overthrow the tyranny of Dionysius (kataluousi tên Dionusiou turannida), by persuading him (sumpeisantes auton) to dismiss his ten thousand body-guards (ek tôn muriôn doruphorôn apodranta), and abandon his four hundred triremes (kai kataliponta tas triakosias triêreis) and his ten thousand horsemen (kai tous murious hippeis) and his many times that number of men-at-arms (kai tous pollakis tosoutous hoplitas), in order to seek in Academic philosophy for a mysterious good (en Akadêmeia̢ to siôpômenon agathon zêtein), and make geometry his guide to happiness (kai dia geômetrias eudaimona genesthai), surrendering the happiness that was based on dominion and wealth and luxury to Dion and Dion’s nephews and nieces (tên en archê̢ kai chrêmasi kai truphais eudaimonian Diôni kai tois Diônos adelphidois proemenon).’ (XIV 2-3, tr. Bernadotte Perrin)

If Plato was to have any chance of renewing his mission in Syracuse, he had to find a way of ostensibly distancing himself from his Republic. He prepared the way for it in his Second Letter. Having discussed the ‘King of All’, and admonishing Dionysius ‘lest these doctrines be ever divulged to uneducated people’ (eulabou mentoi mê pote ekpesê̢ tauta eis anthrôpous apaideutous, SL 314a1-2), he says: ‘I myself have never yet written anything on these subjects (ouden pôpot’ egô peri toutôn egrapsa), and no treatise by Plato exists (oud’ estin sungramma Platônos ouden) or will exist (oud’ estai), but those which now bear his name (ta de nun legomena) belong to a Socrates become fair and young (Sôkratous estin kalou kai neou gegonotos).’ (314c2-4, tr. Bury)

In the light of this passage, Plato does not express his own views in the Republic, but the views of ‘a Socrates become fair and young’. But this was not enough; Plato had to distance himself from the Republic manifestly. He did so in the Sophist and the Statesman, in the guise of the Stranger from Elea. I therefore date these two dialogues as written in the latter part of Plato’s stay in Athens between his second and third journey to Sicily.

Dionysius may have wondered, and the sophists around him may have asked him, whether there was any reason to believe that when Plato in the Sophist and the Statesman abandoned the doctrine of the Republic concerning the unity of philosophy and statesmanship in one person or persons, speaking through the mouth of the Stranger of Elea, he abandoned his resolve ‘that there never will exist a treatise by Plato’. Well, the only way he could find the answer to this question was by discussing it with Plato in person; he had to invite him back.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Would you sponsor my work on Plato?

Dear Oxford Academic,

I have been studying Ancient Philosophy for more than fifty years. For the last 8 years, the results of my work could be viewed on my website; in January 2008 I put on my website The Lost Plato and in the years that followed a number of texts concerning my work; recordings of Plato, Aristotle, Isocrates, Xenophon, Alcidamas, Homer, Pindar, and The New Testament in the original; virtual lecture on ‘Socrates, Plato, and the Laws of Athens’ and on ‘Human Spiritual Nature and the X of Neurophysiologists’.

I live in a house for old people; my working conditions are good. The problem is my financial situation. The monthly Service Charge for the flat is £185.10, the monthly council tax is £210.24, then come bills for telephone, water, and electricity. I need to eat and dress, and need to buy some underwear. My only income is every four weeks £112.12 of British State Pension, and every three months a Czech Pension of approximately £460 (£460.21 was the last payment I received, in January 2016).

Would you look on my website, especially the paper on ‘Plato’s defence of Forms in the Parmenides’, and on my blog, in particular the series of 25 posts devoted to the dating of the Phaedrus, which began on November 25, 2016 with the post entitled ‘Could my dating of Plato’s Phaedrus be an answer?’ and ended with the post entitled ‘4cc Dating of the Phaedrus – doctrinal arguments (discussing Plato’s Euthydemus, Statesman, Republic and Laws, and Aristotle’s Politics)’ and posted on February 17 of this year? If you do, you will see that the Blog allows a new form of work. Every post opens for me a new enquiry, with every post my understanding of Plato gets more structured, more articulated; and I hope that at least some of those who follow my blog do enjoy the new glimpses of Plato each post brings.

Originally, on March 3, I addressed my appeal for sponsorship to the University of Oxford Faculty of Philosophy Members, Philosophy Panel. ‘Subject’: ‘busking on the net’. I then looked in the dictionary: ‘busk – to perform music in a public place and ask for money from people passing by’. I realized that the ‘witty’ ‘busking on the net’ is all wrong. Buskers would not busk if they expected to get no money. I shall continue enquiring into Plato on my Blog whether I find anybody willing to sponsor me or no. But any help would be appreciated. Yesterday I had to cancel my dental appointment.

If you look at ‘Plato’s Statesman, the date of its composition with references to his Parmenides, Phaedo, Symposium, Second and Seventh Letter, and to Plutarch’s Dion’, which I posted on March 8, you will see that my work is getting better from post to post.

Julius Tomin

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Would you help? (A letter to the Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University)

Dear Vice-Chancellor,
I believe that I have become a victim of blacklisting by Oxford philosophers. To justify this presumption, let me quote Nick Cohen’s ‘The Pub Philosopher’ published in The Independent Magazine on November 18, 1989, a day after the beginning of the Velvet Revolution in my country. The article opens with the words: ‘The judgements passed by Oxford dons on Julius Tomin seem outrageously brutal. “I don’t wish to sound East European,” said one, “but perhaps he does need psychiatric help … But you can disguise paranoia in the East. There are so many real conspiracies. There aren’t the same excuses when you come to the West.” Younger philosophers, who do not have the personal ties, will go on the record. Jonathan Barnes, Professor of Ancient Philosophy at Balliol College, Oxford, impatiently brushed aside the suggestion that the Conservatives’ reduction in funding for British philosophy since 1980 might explain why there was never an academic post for Tomin at Oxford. “That’s not the point at all,” he said, “He would not be accepted as a graduate here, let alone be given a teaching job. He’s like a recalcitrant student who can’t admit he’s wrong.”

My Oxford colleagues miss-calculated, they left out the power of Ancient Philosophy. My daily travels to Ancient Greece, enjoying its cultural treasures in the original, have kept me sane.

I believe that a capable lawyer could find a way of rectifying my situation, but I have no possibility of looking for one. If you could help in any way, it would be great.

Let me inform you about my current situation. I have looked on my bank account, all I possess is £181.97. On March 2, £181.33 will be deduced from my bank account, which is the Service Charge I pay monthly for the flat in an old person house in which I live. Tomorrow I shall go to my Bank to ask for an overdraft. With the help of it I hope to survive until my Czech pension arrives, which I get four times a year (£454.64). The only other money I get is every four weeks £112.12 of British State Pension; the next £112.12 I expect to get later in March.

I hope you will find the right way of rectifying my situation in which I have found myself thanks to inviting Oxford dons to my philosophy seminar in Prague in 1978.
I hope to be hearing from you soon.
Julius Tomin
In the Attachment I am sending you the email concerning this matter I sent to the Master of Balliol in December 2016. I have received no reply.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

3 Reading Plato’s Statesman (with a reference to his Republic)

In my recent post (marked 4cc, February 17) I noted that ‘the Euthydemus and the Statesman have in common an important doctrinal aspect: they both insist that philosophy and politics are different disciplines.’ I contrasted this with the Republic in which ‘the unity of philosopher and statesman forms the very foundation of Plato’s ideal State’. But now, as I have begun to read the Statesman I came upon a passage that compels me to revise my observation. For Statesman 259a1-b5 suggests that Plato preserved the personal unity of political science and philosophy as far as he himself was concerned, although he had every reason to believe that it could never be attained by Dionysius, the ruler of Syracuse, whose adviser he was going to become.

Stranger: ‘If anyone who is in a private station has the skill to advise one of the public physicians (ei tô̢ tis tôn dêmosieuontôn iatrôn hikanos sumbouleuein idiôteuôn autos), must not he also be called a physician (ar’ ouk anankaion autô̢ prosagoreuesthai t’ounoma tês technês t’auton hoper hô̢ sumbouleuei ‘is it not necessary to give him the name of the same science which has the man whom he advises’;)?’ – Young Socrates: ‘Yes (Nai).’ – Str. ‘And if anyone who is in a private station is able to advise the ruler of a country (Ti d’; hostis basileuonti chôras andri parainein deinos idiôtês on autos), may not he be said to have the knowledge (ar’ ou phêsomen echein auton tên epistêmên) which the ruler himself ought to have (hên edei ton archonta auton kektêsthai;)? – Y. Soc. ‘True (Phêsomen).’ – Str. ‘But surely the science of a true king is royal science (Alla hê men alêthinou basileôs basilikê;)?’ – Y. Soc. ‘Yes (Nai).’ – Str. ‘And will not he who possesses this knowledge (Tautên de ho kektêmenos ouk), whether he happens to be a ruler or a private man (ante archôn ante idiôtês ôn tunchanê̢), when regarded only in reference to his art (pantôs kata ge tên technên autên), be truly called “royal” (basilikos orthôs prosrêthêsetai)? – Y. Soc. ‘He certainly ought to be (Dikaion oun).’ (259a1-b6, tr. Jowett)

This agreement with the position expressed in the Republic does not alter the fact that in writing the Statesman Plato was compelled to profoundly alter it. For in the Republic Plato maintained that in the well governed state, i.e. state governed by philosopher-rulers all those who pursued either philosophy or politics to the exclusion of the other (tôn poreuomenôn chôris eph’ hekateron) must be compelled to stand aside (ex anankês apokleisthôsin, 473d3-5). Strictly speaking, on the principle thus expressed in the Republic the Statesman of the Statesman ought to be compelled to stand aside and hand over the rule of the state to a true philosopher-ruler.