Wednesday, July 13, 2016

4 ‘Being together’ in Plato’s Protagoras (with a glance at his Lesser Hippias and his Phaedo)

Socrates describes what he and his friend saw when they entered Callias’ house: ‘When we came in (Epeidȇ de eisȇlthomen) we found Protagoras (katelabomen Prȏtagoran) walking in the colonnade (en tȏi prostȏiȏi peripatounta).’ When he says whom he saw next, he speaks in the singular: ‘“And after him I recognized” (Ton de met’ eisenoȇsa), as Homer says (ephȇ Homȇros), Hippias of Elis (Hippian ton Êleion).’

In my preceding post I referred to J. Adam’s and A. M. Adam’s view that there is no resemblance between Heracles and Hippias (Platonis Protagoras, Cambridge University Press, 1971, Ch. VII, n. 1, p. 100). I remarked that this does not mean that Hippias did not remind Socrates of the phantom of Heracles in Homer’s Odyssey. For when Socrates said those words, he must have had in front of his mind both the phantom of Heracles to whom Odysseus pointed with his words ton de met’ eisenoȇsa biȇn Hȇraklȇeiȇn (‘and after him I recognized the mighty Heracles’), and Hippias of Elis. And so I considered the possibility that when Socrates saw Hippias with his entourage within the scene that reminded him of Odysseus entering the realm of the dead, he thought of Hippias’ whinging when he exposed him to his questioning, and was by contrast reminded of Odysseus’ seeing the phantom of the ‘mighty Heracles’ (biȇn Hȇraklȇeiȇn) with his entourage of the souls of the dead – ‘around him the screeching of the dead (amphi de min klangȇ nekuȏn, XI, 605)’ (Od. XI, 605).

In the Phaedo Socrates says that ‘there is recollection from similar things, but also from dissimilar things’ (sumbainei tȇn anamnȇsin einai men aph’ homoiȏn, einai de kai apo anomoiȏn, 74a2-3). He gets to this point by explaining to Simmias what he means by ‘recollection’: ‘If someone (ean tis), on seeing a thing (ti heteron ȇ idȏn), or hearing it (ȇ akousas), or getting any other sense-perception of it (ȇ tina allȇn aisthȇsin labȏn), not only recognizes that thing (mȇ monon ekeino gnȏi), but also thinks of something else (alla kai heteron ennoȇsȇi), which is the object not of the same knowledge (hou mȇ hȇ autȇ epistȇmȇ) but of another (all’ allȇ), don’t we then rightly say (ara ouchi touto dikaiȏs legomen) that he’s been “reminded” (hoti anemnȇsthȇ) of the object of which he has got the thought (hou tȇn ennoian elaben)?’ – Simmias: ‘What do you mean (Pȏs legeis)?’ – Socrates: ‘Take the following examples (Hoion ta toiade): knowledge of a man, surely, is other (allȇ pou epistȇmȇ anthrȏpou) than that of lyre (kai luras)?’ – Simmias: ‘Of course (Pȏs gar ou).’ – Well now (Oukoun), you know (oistha) what happens to lovers, whenever they see a lyre or cloak or anything else their lovers are accustomed to use (hoti hoi erastai, hotan idȏsin luran ȇ himation ȇ allo ti hois ta paidika autȏn eiȏthe chrȇsthai): they recognize (egnȏsan te) the lyre (tȇn luran), and they get in their mind, don’t they (kai en tȇi dianoiai elabon), the form of the boy (to eidos tou paidos) whose lyre it is (hou ȇn hȇ lura)? And that is recollection (touto de estin anamnȇsis). Likewise (hȏsper ge kai), someone seeing Simmias (Simmian tis idȏn) is often (pollakis) reminded of Cebes (Kebȇtos anemnȇsthȇ), and there’d surely be countless other such cases (kai alla pou muria toiaut’ an eiȇ, 73c6-d10, tr. D. Gallop).’

In my preceding post I considered the possibility that on seeing Hippias Socrates was thinking of Hippias’ whinging when he exposed him to his questioning, and was by contrast reminded of the phantom of the ‘mighty Heracles’. This may seem very far-fetched, but there are more points in Odysseus’ description of the scene in the Odyssey that might have reminded Socrates of Hippias. Odysseus notices Heracles’ magnificent ‘belt in which wondrous deeds were wrought (telamȏn, hina theskela erga tetukto, XI, 610)’, and the phantom of Heracles mentions the difficult tasks he had to accomplish during his life (chalepous aethlous, XI, 622). In the Lesser Hippias Socrates reminds Hippias of his deeds: ‘I have heard you boasting (sou ȇkouon megalauchoumenou) … as you said (ephȇstha de), upon one occasion, when you went to the Olympic games (aphikesthai pote eis Olumpian), all that you had on your person (ha eiches peri to sȏma hapanta) was made by yourself (sautou erga echȏn). You began with your ring (prȏton men daktulion, enteuthen gar ȇrchou, hon eiches), which was of your own workmanship (sautou echein ergon) … but what appeared to everyone most extraordinary (kai ho pasi edoxen atopȏtaton) and a proof of singular art (kai sophias pleistȇs epideigma), was the girdle of your tunic, which, you said (epeidȇ tȇn zȏnȇn ephȇstha tou chitȏniskou, hȇn eiches), was as fine as the most costly Persian fabric (einai men hoiai hai Persikai tȏn polytelȏn), and of your own weaving (tautȇn de autos plexai, 368b3-368c7, tr. B. Jowett).’

As Socrates and his young friend Hippocrates entered the house of Callias, Socrates compared what they saw to what Odysseus saw when he entered the realm of the dead; his being reminded of Heracles on seeing Hippias shows that he made the comparison with a touch of humour.

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