Thursday, August 18, 2016

Socrates in Plato’s Republic X, in his Cratylus, and in Xenophon’s Memorabilia

In Republic X Socrates contends that ‘there are three arts which are concerned with all things (peri hekaston tautas tinas treis technas einai): one which uses (chrȇsomenȇn), another which makes (poiȇsousan), a third which imitates them (mimȇsomenȇn)’ and that ‘the excellence (aretȇ) and beauty (kai kallos) and rightness (kai orthotȇs) of every structure, animate or inanimate (hekastou skeuous kai zȏiou), and of every action of man (kai praxeȏs), is relative solely to the use (ou pros allo ti ȇ tȇn chreian estin) for which nature of the artist has intended them (pros hȇn an hekaston ȇi pepoiȇmenon ȇ pephukos).’ (601d1-6, tr. Jowett) With reference to Xenophon’s Symposium 5. 4 ff. James Adam appositely pointed out that ‘the historical Socrates was in the habit of testing the beauty, excellence etc. of an object by the degree in which it fulfilled its function or purpose’. (I discussed his reference in my preceding post.)

While Adam has no difficulty in referring to the historical Socrates concerning the argument, he cannot bring it into harmony with Plato’s thought, but not for want of trying. Socrates goes on to say: ‘Then beyond doubt (Pollȇ ara anankȇ) it is the user (ton chrȏmenon hekastȏi) who has the greatest experience of them (empeirotaton te einai), and he must report (kai angelon gignesthai) to the maker (tȏi poiȇtȇi) of the good or bad qualities which develop themselves in use (hoia agatha ȇ kaka poiei en tȇi chreiai hȏi chrȇtai); for example (hoion), the flute-player will tell the flute-maker (aulȇtȇs pou aulopoiȏi exangellei peri tȏn aulȏn) which of his flutes is satisfactory to the performer (hoi an hupȇretȏsi en tȏi aulein); he will tell him how he ought to make them (kai epitaxei hoious dei poiein), and the other will attend to his instructions (ho d’ hupȇretȇsei).’ (601d8-e2, tr. Jowett)

Adam notes with reference to empeirotaton (601d8): ‘Throughout the whole of this argument it is held that he who uses, e.g. an instrument, has knowledge of it, and Plato says nothing to make us attach any metaphysical significance to the word “knowledge”, which he often employs throughout his writings without any suggestion of the Ideas. There is no doubt a certain sense in which – if we have regard to Cratylus 390 B ff. and Euthydemus 288 E ff. – ho chrȏmenos (‘the one who uses’) has, not indeed scientific knowledge of the Idea, but something analogous thereto.’

Adam’s reference to the Euthydemus is not to the point. At 288 E Socrates maintains that we seek knowledge which will do us good (hȇtis hȇmas onȇsei). At 289 B he stipulates that ‘the knowledge which we want (toiautȇs tinos ara hȇmin epistȇmȇs dei) is one that uses as well as makes (en hȇi sumpeptȏken hama to te poiein kai to epistasthai chrȇsthai toutȏi ho an poiȇi, 289b4-6, tr. Jowett)’. As can be seen, in the Euthydemus Socrates is after knowledge in which ‘making and knowing how to use what it makes is synthesized, brought together into one’, if I am to express Plato’s words less neatly but more accurately. In our passage in Republic X the whole point lies in keeping ‘making’ and ‘using’ apart.

Let me now turn to Adam’s reference to Cratylus 390 B ff. Socrates: ‘But who then is to determine whether the proper form is given to the shuttle, whatever sort of the wood may be used (Tis oun ho gnȏsomenos ei to prosȇkon eidos kerkidos en hopoiȏioun xulȏi keitai)? The carpenter who makes (ho poiȇsas, ho tektȏn), or the weaver who is to use them (ȇ ho chrȇsomenos, ho huphantȇs)?’ – Hermogenes: ‘I should say, the weaver who is to use them, Socrates (Eikos men mallon, ȏ Sȏkrates, ton chrȇsomenon).’ – Socrates: ‘And who uses the work of the lyre-maker (Tis oun ho tȏi tou luropoiou ergȏi chrȇsomenos)? Will not he be the man (ar’ ouch houtos) who best knows how to direct the work while it is being done (hos epistaito an ergazomenȏi kallista epistatein), and who will know also whether the finished work has been well done or not (kai eirgasmenon gnoiȇ eit’ eu eirgastai eite mȇ)? – Hermogenes: ‘Certainly (Panu ge).’ – Socrates: ‘And who is he (Tis)?’ – Hermogenes: ‘The player of the lyre (Ho kitharistȇs).’ – Socrates: And who will direct the shipwright (Tis de ho tȏi tou naupȇgou)?’ – Hermogenes: ‘The pilot (Kubernȇtȇs).’

The relevance of Adam’s reference to this passage in the Cratylus becomes obvious when we see what Socrates says next in the Republic X passage: ‘So the one pronounces with knowledge about the goodness and badness of flutes (Oukoun ho men eidȏs exangellei peri chrȇstȏn kai ponȇrȏn aulȏn), while the other, confiding in him, will make them accordingly (ho de pisteuȏn poiȇsei)?’ – Glaucon: ‘True (Nai)’ – Socrates: ‘The instrument is the same (Tou autou ara skeous), but about the excellence or badness of it the maker will possess a correct belief (ho men poiȇtȇs pistin orthȇn hexei peri kallous te kai ponȇrias), since he associates with one who knows (sunȏn tȏi eidoti), and is compelled to hear what he has to say (kai anankazomenos akouein para tou eidotos); whereas the user will have knowledge (ho de chrȏmenos epistȇmȇn)?’ Glaucon: ‘True (Panu ge).’ (601e4-602a2)

Adam notes on pisteuȏn: ‘In the language of the Line [Republic VI. 509d-511d], his [i.e, the maker’s] state of mind is pistis [‘belief’] (cf. pistin orthȇn [‘correct belief’] below). In 596 B [i.e. in the first ‘half’ of the discussion on ‘imitation’ with which Republic X opens] on the other hand the dȇmiourgos pros tȇn idean blepei [‘the maker looks towards the Idea’]. Plato does not try to reconcile the two points of view: but he might say that the objective reality of that which guides the dȇmiourgos is always the Idea, whether he acts on his own initiative or under the direction of another.’

Adam’s suggestion that ‘the objective reality of that which guides the dȇmiourgos is always the Idea, whether he acts on his own initiative or under the direction of another’ is in fact in harmony with what Socrates says in the Cratylus.

Socrates: ‘The shuttle (kerkis) is an instrument of distinguishing (organon diakritikon) the threads of the web (huphasmatos).’ – Hermogenes: ‘Yes (Nai)’ – Soc. ‘And the shuttle is the instrument of the weaver (Huphantikon de hȇ kerkis)?’ – Her. ‘Assuredly (Pȏs d’ou)’. – Soc. ‘Then the weaver (Huphantikos men ara) will use the shuttle well (kerkidi kalȏs chrȇsetai) – and well means like a weaver (kalȏs d’estin huphantikȏs)?’ – Soc. ‘And when the weaver uses the shuttle, whose work will he be using well (Tȏi tinos oun ergȏi ho huphantȇs kalȏs chrȇsetai hotan tȇi kerkidi chrȇtai)?’ – Her. ‘That of the carpenter (Tȏi tou tektonos).’ – Soc. ‘And is every man a carpenter (Pas de tektȏn), or the skilled only (ȇ ho tȇn technȇn echȏn)?’ – Her. ‘Only the skilled (Ho tȇn technȇn).’ – Soc. ‘And when the piercer uses the awl, whose work will he be using well (Tȏi tinos oun ergȏi ho trupȇtȇs kalȏs chrȇsetai hotan tȏi trupanȏi chrȇtai)?’ – Her. ‘That of the smith (Tȏi tou chalkeȏs).’ – Soc. ‘And is every man a smith, or only the skilled (Ar’ oun pas chalkeus ȇ ho tȇn technȇn echȏn)? – Her. ‘The skilled only (Ho tȇn technȇn).’ – Soc. ‘To what does the carpenter look (poi blepȏn ho tektȏn) in making the shuttle (tȇn kerkida poiei)? Does he not look to the way (ou pros toiouton ti) in which the shuttle must, in the nature of things, operate (ho epephukei kerkizein)?’ – Her. ‘Certainly (Panu ge)’. – Soc. ‘And suppose the shuttle be broken in the making (Ti de; an katagȇi autȏi hȇ kerkis poiounti), will he make another, looking to the broken one (poteron poiȇsei allȇn pros tȇn kateaguian blepȏn)? Or will he look to the form (ȇ pros ekeino to eidos) according to which (pros hoper) he made the other (kai hȇn kateaxen epoiei)?’ – Her. ‘To the latter (Pros ekeino), I should imagine (emoige dokei).’ – Soc. ‘Might not that be justly called the true or ideal shuttle (Oukoun ekeino dikaiotat’ an auto ho estin kerkis kalesaimen)?’ – Her. ‘I think so (Emoige dokei).’ – Soc. ‘And whatever shuttles are wanted, for the manufacture of garments, thin or thick, or flaxen, woollen, or other material (Oukoun epeidan deȇi leptȏi himatiȏi ȇ pachei ȇ linȏi ȇ ereȏi ȇ hopoiȏioun tini kerkida poiein), all these must, indeed, have the form of the shuttle (pasas men dei to tȇs kerkidos echein eidos); but the maker must also produce in each one the form which is naturally most suitable to its special work (hoia d’ hekastȏi kallistȇ epephukei, tautȇn apodidonai tȇn phusin eis to ergon hekaston).’ – Her. ‘Yes (Nai)’. – Soc. ‘And the same holds of other instruments (Kai peri tȏn allȏn dȇ organȏn ho autos tropos): when a man has discovered the instrument which is naturally adapted to each work, he must express this natural form, and not others which he fancies, in the material, whatever it may be, which he employs (to phusei hekastȏi exeuronta dei apodounai eis ekeino ex hou an poiȇi, ouch hoion an autos boulȇthȇi, all’ hoion epephukei); for example, he ought to know how to put into iron the form of awls adapted by nature to their several uses (to phusei gar hekastȏi, hȏs eoike, trupanon pephukos eis ton sidȇron dei epistasthai tithenai).’ – Her. ‘Certainly (Panu ge)’. – Soc. ‘And how to put into wood forms of shuttles adapted by nature to their uses (Kai tȇn phusei kerkida hekastȏi pephukuian eis xulon)?’ – Her. ‘True (Esti tauta).’ – Soc. ‘For the several forms of shuttles naturally answer to the several kinds of webs (Phusei gar ȇn hekastȏi eidei huphasmatos, hȏs eoiken, hekastȇ kerkis); and this is true of instruments in general (kai t’alla houtȏs).’ – Her. ‘Yes (Nai).’ (Pl. Cratylus 388c13-389d3, tr. Jowett)

Socrates who thus speaks in Republic X and in the Cratylus is Socrates who says in Plato’s Apology: ‘At last I went to the artisans (Teleutȏn oun epi tous cheirotechnas ȇia), for I was conscious (emautȏi gar sunȇidȇ) that I knew nothing at all (ouden epistamenȏi), as I may say (hȏs epos eipein), and I was sure that they knew many fine things (toutous de g’ ȇidȇ hoti heurȇsoimi polla kai kala epistamenous); and here I was not mistaken (kai toutou men ouk epseusthȇn), for they did know many things (all’ ȇpistanto) of which I was ignorant (ha egȏ ouk ȇpistamȇn), and in this they certainly were wiser than I was (kai mou tautȇi sophȏteroi ȇsan).’ (22c9-d4, tr. Jowett)

Xenophon describes one such occasion in his Memorabilia: ‘On visiting Pistias the armourer (Pros de Pistian ton thȏrakopoion eiselthȏn), who showed him some well-made breastplates (epideixantos autou tȏi Sȏkratei thȏrakas eu eirgasmenous), Socrates exclaimed: “Upon my word (Nȇ tȇn Hȇran, ephȇ), Pistias, it’s a beautiful invention (kalon ge, ȏ Pistia, to heurȇma), for the breastplate covers the parts that need protection (to ta men deomena skepȇs tou anthrȏpou skepazein ton thȏraka) without impending the use of the hands (tais de chersi mȇ kȏluein chrȇsthai). But tell me, Pistias,” he added (atar, ephȇ, lexon moi ȏ Pistia), “why (dia ti) do you charge more for your breastplates than any other maker, though they are no stronger and cost no more to make (out’ ischuroterous oute polutelesterous tȏn allȏn poiȏn tous thȏrakas pleionos pȏleis)?” – “Because the proportions of mine are better, Socrates (Hoti, ephȇ, ȏ Sȏkrates, euruthmoterous poiȏ).” – “And how do you show their proportions when you ask a higher price – by weight or measure (Ton de ruthmon, ephȇ, potera metrȏi ȇ stathmȏi apodeiknuȏn pleionos timai)? For I presume you don’t make them all of the same weight or the same size (ou gar dȇ isous ge pantas oude homoious oimai se poiein), that is, if you make them to fit (ei ge harmottontas poieis).” – “Fit, Why, of course (Alla nȇ Di’, ephȇ, poiȏ)! A breastplate is of no use (ouden gar ophelos esti thȏrakos) without that (aneu toutou)!” – “Then are not some human bodies well, others ill proportioned (Oukoun, ephȇ, sȏmata ge anthrȏpȏn ta men eurruthma, ta de arruthma)?” – “Certainly (Panu men oun, ephȇ).” – “Then if a breastplate is to fit an ill-proportioned body, how do you make it well-proportioned (Pȏs oun, ephȇ, tȏi arruthmȏi sȏmati harmottonta ton thȏraka euruthmon poieis)?” – “By making it fit (Hȏsper gar harmottonta, ephȇ); for if it is a good fit it is well proportioned (ho harmottȏn gar euruthmos).’ – “Apparently you mean well-proportioned not absolutely (Dokeis moi, ephȇ ho Sȏkratȇs, to euruthmon ou kath’ heauto legein), but in relation to the wearer (alla pros ton chrȏmenon [‘but in relation to the user’]), as you might call a shield well-proportioned for the man whom it fits (hȏsper an ei phaiȇs aspida, hȏi an harmottȇi, toutȏi euruthmon einai), or a military cape (kai chlamuda) – and this seems to apply to everything according to you (kai t’alla hȏsautȏs eoiken echein tȏi sȏi logȏi). And perhaps (isȏs de) there is another important advantage in a good fit (kai allo ti ou mikron agathon tȏi harmottein prosesti).” – “Tell it me, if you know, Socrates (Didaxon, ephȇ, ȏ Sȏkrates, ei ti echeis).” – “The good fit is less heavy to wear than the misfit (Hȇtton, ephȇ, tȏi barei piezousin hoi harmottontes tȏn anarmostȏn), though both are of the same weight (ton auton stathmon echontes). For the misfit (hoi men gar anarmostoi), hanging entirely from the shoulders (ȇ holoi ek tȏn ȏmȏn kremamenoi), or pressing on some other part of the body (ȇ kai allo ti tou sȏmatos sphodra piezontes), proves uncomfortable and irksome (dusphoroi kai chalepoi gignontai); but the good fit (hoi de harmottontes), with its weight distributed over the collar-bone and shoulder-blades (dieilȇmmenoi to baros to men hupo tȏn kleidȏn kai epȏmidȏn), the shoulders (to d’ hupo tȏn ȏmȏn), chest (to de hupo tou stȇthous), back (to de hupo tou nȏtou) and belly (to de hupo tȇs gastros), may almost be called an accessory rather than an encumbrance (oligou dein ou phorȇmati, alla prosthȇmati eoikasin).” – “The advantage you speak of is the very one which I think makes my work worth a big price (Eirȇkas, ephȇ, auto, di’ hoper egȏge ta ema erga pleistou axia nomizȏ einai). Some (enioi), however (mentoi), prefer to buy the ornamented and the gold-plated breast-plates (tous poikilous kai tous epichrusous thȏrakas mallon ȏnountai).” – “Still (Alla mȇn, ephȇ), if the consequence is (ei ge dia tauta) that they buy misfits (mȇ harmottontas ȏnountai), it seems to me they buy ornamented and gold-plated trash (kakon emoige dokousi poikilon te kai epichruson ȏneisthai). However (atar, ephȇ), as the body is not rigid (tou sȏmatos mȇ menontos), but now bent (alla tote men kurtoumenou), now straight (tote de orthoumenou), how can tight breast-plates fit (pȏs an akribeis thȏrakes harmottoien)?” – “They can’t (Oudamȏs, ephȇ).” – “You mean (Legeis, ephȇ) that the good fits are not the tight ones (harmottein ou tous akribeis), but those that don’t chafe the wearer (alla tous mȇ lupountas en tȇi chreiai ‘in their use’)?” – “That is your own meaning (Autos, ephȇ, touto legeis), Socrates (ȏ Sȏkrates), and you have hit the right nail on the head (kai panu orthȏs apodechȇi).”’ (III. 9-15, tr. E. C. Marchant)

There is nothing wrong in Marchant’s ‘in relation to the wearer’ for Socrates’ pros ton chrȏmenon and in his ‘those that don’t chafe the wearer’ for Socrates’ tous mȇ lupountas en tȇi chreiai, but it obscures the way in which Socrates’ thinking in Xenophon’s Memorabilia resonates with his thinking in Plato’s Cratylus and Republic X.

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