Friday, May 20, 2016

The royal logos in Plato’s Sophist and the royal art in his Euthydemus

Having located the Sophist in the art of Image-making, the Eleatic Stranger proceeds: ‘Agreed then that we should at once quarter the ground by dividing the art of Image-making (Dedoktai toinun hoti tachista diairein tȇn eidȏlopoikȇn technȇn), and if, as soon as we descend into that enclosure (kai katabantas eis autȇn), we meet with the Sophist at bay (ean men hȇmas euthus ho sophistȇs hupomeinȇi), we should arrest him (sullabein auton) on the royal warrant of reason (kata ta epestalmena hupo tou basilikou logou), report the capture, and hand him over to the sovereign (k’akeinȏi paradontas apophȇnai tȇn agran).’ (Soph. 235b8-c2, tr. F. M. Cornford) Cornford notes: ‘Apelt illustrates the illusion to the Persian method (called ‘draw-netting’, sagȇneia) of sweeping up the whole population of a district by means of a line of soldiers holding hands and marching across it. It is several times mentioned by Herodotus (e. g. vi. 31) and Plato (Laws 698d) says that Datis, ten years before Salamis, sent word to Athens that he had captured all the Eritreans by this method, under Darius’ orders (the ‘royal warrant’) to transport all Eritreans and Athenians to Persia. The method is an admirable image for the procedure of the last section which has drawn the notion of Image-making or Imitation like a net round all the types called ‘Sophists’ collected for review. The net also includes other ‘imitators’, all the varieties of artists.’ (F. M. Cornford, Plato’s Theory of Knowledge, London 1935, p. 196)

In the Laws Plato says in the given passage: ‘Now Datis and his myriads soon became complete masters of Eretria, and he sent a fearful report to Athens that no Eretrian had escaped him; for the soldiers of Datis had joined hands (sunapsantes gar ara tas cheiras) and netted the whole of Eretria (sagȇneusaien pasan tȇn Eretrikȇn). And this report, whether well or ill founded, was terrible to all the Hellenes, and above all to the Athenians.’ (Tr. Jowett) This passage is part of Plato’s praise of the ancient constitution of Athens ‘when reverence was our queen and mistress (despotis enȇn tis aidȏs), and made us willing to live in obedience to the laws which then prevailed (di hȇn douleuontes tois tote nomois zȇn ȇthelomen, 698b5-6, tr. Jowett). It was because of this willingness to be guided by aidȏs (Liddell and Scott: ‘as a moral feeling, reverence, awe, respect for the feeling or opinion of others or of one’s own conscience, and so shame, self-respect, sense of honour’) that the Athenians escaped the fate of the Eritreans.

I find it difficult to imagine that Plato wanted to evoke this picture in the mind of his readers – the Eleatic Stranger in the mind of his Athenian audience – at the point of raising the expectation that he and Theaetetus were about to capture the Sophist.

Plato’s Second Letter can help us find the clue to the Stranger’s kata ta epestalmena hupo tou basilikou logou, which Cornford translates ‘on the royal warrant of reason’, but which may simply mean ‘according to the royal word sent to us’. For in that letter Plato discusses the sophists with which Dionysius was surrounded: ‘You were surprised at my sending you Polyxenus [a sophist credited with formulating some form of the ‘Third Man Argument’ against the Forms] to you; but now as of old I repeat the same statement about Lycophron also and the others you have with you, that, as respects dialectic, you are far superior to them all both in natural intelligence and in argumentative ability; and I maintain that if anyone of them is beaten in argument, this defeat is not voluntary (kai oudeis autȏn hekȏn exelenchetai), as some imagine, but involuntary. All the same, it appears that you treat them with the greatest consideration and make them presents. So much, then, about these men: too much, indeed, about such as they.’ (314c7-d7, tr. R. G. Bury)

Dionysius wanted to know what Plato thought about the sophists, and it is not difficult to imagine that Plato thought that Dionysius deserved a more thorough answer than the one he gave him in the Second Letter.

The royal logos in the Sophist required that the Sophist should be captured (sullabein auton) and handed over to him (ekeinȏi paradontas, 235b10-c1). These words point to the Euthydemus where Socrates maintains that all arts and branches of knowledge must hand their findings and products over to the royal art: ‘The kingly art was identified by us with the political (edoxe gar dȇ hȇmin hȇ politikȇ kai hȇ basilikȇ technȇ hȇ autȇ einai) … To this royal or political art (Tautȇi tȇi technȇi) all the arts, including the art of the general (kai hȇ stratȇgikȇ kai hai allai), render up the supremacy over the works (products or deeds) (paradidonai archein tȏn ergȏn) which they themselves produce (hȏn autai dȇmiourgoi eisin), that being the only art which knew how to use them (hȏs monȇi epistamenȇi chrȇsthai).’ (291c4-9). Seen in the light of the royal art depicted in the Euthydemus, the reference to the royal logos commanding the Eleatic Stranger [i.e. Plato] to capture the Sophist in the Sophist responds to Dionysius’ inquisitiveness as to what Plato’s business was in his coming to Syracuse, and seeks to allay all his mistrust of him, referred to in the Second Letter (312a); the supremacy belongs to the king, the philosopher with his findings enlightens him.

In the Second Letter Plato wrote to Dionysius: ‘You have done right now in sending Archedemus; and in the future also, after he returns to you and reports to you my suggestions (kai apangellȇi ta par emou), you will probably be beset by other perplexities. Then, if you are rightly advised, you will send Archedemus back to me, and he with his cargo will return to you again. And if you do this twice or thrice, and fully test what I send you (kai basanisȇis ta par emou pemphthenta hikanȏs), I shall be surprised if your present difficulties do not assume quite a new aspect.’ (313d4-e2) When Plato was sending the Second Letter to Dionysius, it may be presumed that the Euthydemus was part of the cargo; for although it was written more than a quarter of a century prior to Plato’s involvement with Dionysius, it was written as if in response to what this involvement demanded.

Apart from Socrates and the young aristocrat Cleinias, the main interlocutors in the Euthedemus are two brothers, sophists (sophistai, 271c1), Euthydemus and Dionysodorus, who profess to teach virtue (aretȇn) and to impart it better and quicker than any man (273d8-9). Socrates: ‘But are you quite sure about this, Dionysodorus and Euthydemus? The promise is so vast, that a feeling of incredulity steals over me.’ – Euthydemus: ‘You may take our word for the fact.’ – Socrates: ‘Then I think you happier in having such a treasure than the Great King (ȇ megan basilea) is in the possession of his kingdom.’ (274a1-7, tr. Jowett) In the Sophist the Stranger refers to the Great King as follows: ‘We must admit that refutation is the greatest and chiefest of purifications, and he who has not been refuted, though he be the Great King (basileus ho megas) himself, is in an awful state of impurity; he is uninstructed and deformed in those things in which he who would be truly blessed ought to be fairest and purest.’ (230d6-e3, tr. Jowett) Speaking of the Great King in the Sophist, Plato speaks to Dionysius, as I believe, for Dionysius had pretended to know the nature of the First, ‘the King of All, for whose sake all things are, and which is the cause of all things that are beautiful’ (Second Letter 312e1-3), which if he knew he would be truly blessed, but in fact his ‘view of the truth sways now this way, now that, round about the apparent object; whereas the true object is totally different.’ (S. L. 313b7-c1, tr. Bury)

When the two sophists in the Euthydemus maintained that ‘of all men who are now living’ they are most likely to stimulate the young Cleinias to philosophy and to the study of virtue, Socrates implored them ‘to persuade the youth whom you see here that he ought to be a philosopher and study virtue’ (274e-275a). Euthydemus began by asking Cleinias: ‘Are those who learn the wise or the ignorant?’ Dionysodorus whispered into Socrates’ ear: ‘Whichever the youngster answers, I prophesy that he will be refuted.’ (275d-e) The whole subsequent performance of the two sophists consists in eliciting a statement from their interlocutor, be it Cleinias, Socrates or Ctesippus (Cleinias’ admirer), and then refuting it.

In the Sophist the Stranger begins by defining the Sophist as man who ‘professes to form acquaintances only for the sake of virtue, and demands reward in the shape of money’ (223a3-4, tr. Jowett), and on that basis he goes on to define him firstly as ‘a paid hunter after wealth and youth’, secondly ‘as a merchant in the goods of the soul’, thirdly as ‘a retailer of the same wares’, fourthly as a ‘manufacturer of the wares he sold’, and fifthly as ‘an athlete, a fighter in arguments, who appropriated to himself the art of eristic’, the sixth is ‘the purifier of the soul of opinions that stand in the way of learning’ (231d-e). What runs as a common thread through all these six provisional definitions is antilogikȇ, the art of pitting arguments against arguments (232b); in the Euthydemus it is exemplified by the performance of the two sophists.

There are telling correspondences between the Euthydemus and the Sophist.

In the Euthydemus Socrates presents the two sophists with an example of ‘the hortatory philosophy’, as Jowett translates Plato’s tȇn protreptikȇn sophian (278c5). He begins by asking Cleinias: ‘Don’t all men (Ara ge pantes anthrȏpoi), don’t we all want to do well (boulometha eu prattein, 278e3)?’ He ends with the words: ‘Now (nun oun), as you think that wisdom can be taught (epeidȇ soi kai didakton dokei), and that wisdom only can make a man happy and fortunate (kai monon tȏn ontȏn eudaimona kai eutuchȇ poiein ton anthrȏpon), will you not acknowledge that all of us ought to love wisdom (allo ti ȇ phaiȇs an anankaion einai philosophein), and you individually will try to love her (kai autos en nȏi echeis auto poiein)?’ – Cleinias answers: ‘Certainly (Panu men oun), Socrates (ȏ Sȏkrates), I will do my best (hȏs hoion te malista).’ (282c8-d3, tr. Jowett)

Socrates was eager to see ‘where the sophists would start in their exhortation to the young man that he should practice wisdom and virtue (283a3-4). Dionysosorus, the elder of the two brothers, began as follows: ‘Tell me, Socrates and the rest of you who say that you want this young man to become wise, are you in jest or in real earnest?’ When Socrates answered that they were all in profound earnest, Dionysodorus resumed his questioning of Socrates: ‘And so you say that you wish Cleiniss to become wise … And he is not wise yet … you wish him to become wise and not ignorant … You wish him to be what he is not, and no longer to be what he is? … You wish him no longer to be what he is, which can only mean that you wish him to perish. Pretty lovers and friends they must be who want their favourite not to be, or to perish.’ Ctesippus angrily interposed: ‘What can make you tell such a lie about me and the others, which I hardly like to repeat, as that I wish Cleinias to perish?’ Euthydemus stepped in: ‘And do you think, Ctesippus, that it is possible to tell a lie?’ – Ctesippus: ‘I should be mad to say anything else.’ – Euthydemus: ‘And in telling a lie, do you tell the thing of which you speak or not? … And he who tells, tells that thing which he tells, and no other? … And that is a distinct thing apart from other things? … And he who says that thing says that which is? … And he who says that which is, says the truth. And therefore Dionysodorus, if he says that which is, says the truth of you and no lie.’ – Ctesippus: ‘But he is saying what is not.’ Euthydemus: ‘And that which is not is not? … And that which is not is nowhere? … And can anyone do anything about that which has no existence, or do to Cleinias that which is not and is nowhere? … Then no one says that which is not, for in saying what is not he would be doing something; and you have already acknowledged that no one can do what is not. And therefore, upon your own showing (hȏste kata ton son logon), no one says what is false (oudeis pseudȇ legei); but if Dionysodorus says anything (all’ eiper legei Dionusodȏros), he says what is true and what is (t’alȇthȇ te kai ta onta legei).’ (283b4-284c6, tr. Jowett)

On the margin of my Oxford text of Plato I noted Gifford’s remark: ‘Plato is referring throughout the passage 283e7-284c6 to the doctrine of Parmenides, “Only that which can be can be thought”, as stated in Proem 33-40, and more briefly in 43 chrȇ to legein te noein t’ eon emmenai [which I would translate: ‘speaking and thinking must be being’, J.T.].’

In the Sophists, just when the Stranger was going to divide the art of Image-making (diairein tȇn eidȏlopoiikȇn technȇn) and capture the Sophist, as the royal logos enjoined (sullabein auton kata ta epestalmena hupo tou basilikou logou, 235b8-c1), he realized that ‘this “appearing” or “seeming” without really “being”, and the saying of something which yet is not true – all these expressions have always been and still are deeply involved in perplexity … The audacity of the statement lies in its implication (Tetolmȇken ho logos houtos hupothesthai) that “what is not” has being (to mȇ on einai); for in no other way could a falsehood come to have being (pseudos gar ouk an allȏs egigneto on) … Parmenides from beginning to end testified against this, constantly telling us what he also says in his poem: “Never shall this be proved – that things that are not are; but do thou, in thy inquiry, hold back thy thought from this way.” (236e1-237a9, tr. Cornford). And so, to capture the Sophist in the region of Image-making, the Stranger must commit an act, for which he fears he might be accused of parricide (patraloian); he must subject Parmenides’ thesis to examination and ‘establish by main force that what is not (biazesthai to te mȇ on), in some respect has being (hȏs esti kata ti), and that what is (kai to on au palin), in a way is not (hȏs ouk esti pȇi)’ (241d3-7, tr. Cornford)

Let me end this post by pointing to a correspondence between the Euthydemus and the Parmenides. In the Parmenides all arguments against the Forms raised by the historical Parmenides – the ‘greatest difficulty’ is raised by Parmenides who steps out of his historical role and predicts the coming of a man who will discover the Forms that can’t be refuted by any objections raised against them –  impugn Socrates’ theory of participation of sensible things in the Forms. In the Euthydemus the problem of participation comes to the fore in the following passage:

Dionysodorus: ‘Socrates, did you ever see a beautiful thing (Su gar ȇdȇ ti pȏpot’ eides kalon pragma)?’ – Socrates: ‘Yes, I have seen many (Egȏge, kai polla ge).’ – Dionysodorus: ‘Were they other than the beautiful (Ara hetera onta tou kalou), or the same as the beautiful (ȇ t’auta tȏi kalȏi)?’ – Socrates: ‘Now I was in a great quandary at having to answer this question (K’agȏ en panti egenomȇn hupo aporias), and I thought that I was rightly served for having opened my mouth at all (kai hȇgoumȇn dikaia peponthenai hoti egruxa); I said however, “They are not the same as absolute beauty (homȏs de hetera ephȇn autou ge tou kalou), but they have beauty present with each of them (parestin mentoi hekastȏi autȏn kallos ti)”.’ – Dionysodorus: ‘And are you an ox because an ox is present with you (Ean oun paragenȇtai soi bous, bous ei), or are you Dionysodorus, because Dionysodorus is present with you (kai hoti nun egȏ soi pareimi, Dionusodȏros ei)?’ – Socrates: ‘God forbid (Euphȇmei touto ge).’ – Dionysodorus: ‘But how (Alla tina tropon) by reason of one thing being present with another (heterou heterȏi paragenomenou), will one thing be another (to heteron heteron an eiȇi)?’ – Socrates: ‘Is that your difficulty (Ara touto aporeis)? I said (ephȇn egȏ).’ – Dionysodorus: ‘Of course (Pȏs gar ouk aporȏ), I and all the world are in a difficulty about the non-existent (kai egȏ kai hoi alloi hapantes anthrȏpoi ho mȇ esti).’ (300e3-301b4, tr. Jowett)

At the time when Plato wrote the Euthydemus – and I believe it can be dated as written in the late 390s B.C., prior to Plato’s first journey to Sicily – his Socrates was contemplating the participation of many beautiful things in Beauty itself, i.e. of sensible things in the Forms, which Dionysodorus ‘with all the world’ dismissed as non-existent.

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