Socrates opened the last book of the Republic with the words ‘Of the many excellences which I perceive in the order of our state (Kai mȇn polla men kai alla peri autȇs ennoȏ, hȏs pantos ara mallon orthȏs ȏikizomen tȇn polin), there is none which upon reflection pleases me better than the rule about poetry (ouch hȇkista de enthumȇtheis peri poiȇseȏs legȏ).’ – Glaucon: ‘To what do you refer (To poion)?’ – Socrates: ‘To our refusal to admit the imitative kind of poetry (To mȇdamȇi paradechesthai autȇs hosȇ mimȇtikȇ).’ (595a1-5, tr. B. Jowett) To justify this claim, Socrates discusses imitation (mimȇsis), asking what it really is (hoti pot’ estin, 595c7). In doing so he distinguishes three kinds of bed, the Form of bed created by God (theon ergasasthai, 597b6), a bed created by a carpenter, who creates beds by looking at the Form of bed (pros tȇn idean blepȏn houtȏ poiei tas klinas, 596b7-8), and a bed which is painted, the painter does not deserve the name of a maker; he is an imitator. What the imitator brings into being is thrice removed from the true being (597e). Follows a long discussion of the deficient nature of imitative art, which becomes focussed on tragedy, the most influential art form, and Homer, whom Plato regards as its initiator: ‘And next (meta touto) we have to consider tragedy (episkepteon tȇn te tragȏidian) and its leader (kai ton hȇgemona autȇs), Homer (Homȇron) (598d7-8) … Then must we not infer that all these poetical individuals, beginning with Homer, are only imitators, who copy images of virtue and the other themes of their poetry (Oukoun tithȏmen apo Homȇrou arxamenous pantas tous poiȇtikous mimȇtas eidȏlȏn aretȇs einai, kai tȏn allȏn peri hȏn poiousin), but have no contact with the truth (tȇs de alȇtheias ouch haptesthai)?’ (600e3-6) … The imitator or maker of the image (ho tou eidȏlou poiȇtȇs, ho mimȇtȇs) knows nothing of true existence (tou men ontos ouden epaiei); he knows appearance only (tou de phainomenou, 601b9-10).’ (Tr. Jowett)
It might seem that at this point Socrates said everything he had to say on imitation, and in fact he has nothing more to say about the distance that separates the imitator from the Forms. And yet, Socrates goes on to say: ‘Then let us have a clear understanding, and not be satisfied with half an explanation (Mȇ toinun hȇmiseȏs auto katalipȏmen rȇthen, all’ hikanȏs idȏmen).’ (601c3-4, tr. Jowett) What can the second half of Socrates’ explanation possibly be? The twist and turn that Socrates makes at this point may be best explained in the light of the cave simile of book VII; instead of turning his sight to the light of true being, Socrates turns to the cave, into the world of becoming. The point is that Socrates will not talk about the realm of things and animals in terms of books V-VII as the world of becoming; he will speak about it in contrast to its imitation by artists.
Socrates: ‘Of the painter (Zȏgraphos) we say (phamen) that he will paint rains (hȇnias te grapsei), and he will paint a bit (kai chalinon)?’ – Glaucon: ‘Yes (Nai).’ – Socrates: ‘And the worker in leather and brass will make them (Poiȇsei de ge skutotomos kai chalkeus)?’ – Glaucon: ‘Certainly (Panu ge).’ – Socrates: ‘But does the painter know the right form of the bit and the reins (Ar’ oun epaiei hoias dei tas hȇnias einai kai ton chalinon ho grapheus)? Nay, hardly even the workers in brass and leather who make them (ȇ oud’ ho poiȇsas, ho te chalkeus kai ho skuteus); only the horseman who knows how to use them – he knows their right form (all’ ekeinos hosper toutois epistatai chrȇsthai, monos ho hippikos).’ – Glaucon: ‘Most true (Alȇthestata).’ – Socrates: ‘And may we not say the same of all things (Ar’ oun ou peri panta houtȏ phȇsomen echein)?’ – Glaucon: ‘What (Pȏs)?’ – Socrates: ‘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)?’ – Glaucon: ‘Yes (Nai).’ – Socrates: ‘And the excellence (Oukoun 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).’ (601c6-d6, tr. Jowett)
Jowett’s ‘does the painter know the right form of the bit and the reins’ for ar’ oun epaiei hoias dei tas hȇnias einai kai ton chalinon ho grapheus at 601c10-11, and ‘he knows their right form’ for monos ho hippikos [epaiei hoias dei tas hȇnias einai kai ton chalinon] at 60112-13 is misleading, for the word ‘form’ usually stands for Plato’s eidos or idea, which Socrates does not mention here. Socrates says that only horsemen know how the bit and the reins are to be made; ‘how they are to be’ is the nearest the English can get to expressing Plato’s hoias dei einai.
James Adam notes on Socrates’ last entry: ‘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: see especially Xen. Symp. 5. 4. ff.’ (The Republic of Plato, Cambridge University Press 1902, digitally printed version 2009, p. 404, n. ad 601 D 24) So let me follow Adam’s advice and see the reference. But first I must set the scene.
Xenophon’s Symposium takes place in the house of Callias – the famous Callias, the house of which Socrates and his young friend Hippocrates decided to visit in Plato’s Protagoras, the visit to which I devoted my posts 1-7 ‘Being together in Plato’s Protagoras’, the first of which I posted on July 7. Callias organized the banquet to celebrate the victory of Autolycus at the greater Panathenaic games in the pancratium, a sever athletic contest involving wrestling and boxing. To amuse each other, each of the banqueters is to say what he is most proud of. When Critobulus was asked ‘What do you take greatest pride in (epi tini mega phroneis)?’, he replied ‘In beauty (epi kallei)’. Socrates exclaimed: ‘What? Are you too going to be able to maintain (Ê oun kai su hexeis legein) that you can make us better, and by means of your beauty (hoti tȏi sȏi kallei hikanos ei beltious hȇmas poiein)?’ – Critobulus: ‘Why, otherwise (Ei de mȇ), it is clear enough (dȇlon ge) that I shall cut but an indifferent figure (hoti phaulos phanoumai).’ (III. 7, tr. O. J. Todd) Critobulus explained his grounds for taking pride in his beauty (ex hȏn epi tȏi kallei mega phronȏ) at IV. 10-18. When he finished, Socrates exclaimed: ‘How now (Ti touto)? You boast as though you actually thought yourself a handsomer man than me (hȏs gar kai emou kalliȏ ȏn tauta kompazeis).’ – ‘Of course (Nȇ Di’),’ was Critobulus’s reply (ephȇ ho Kritoboulos); ‘otherwise I should be the ugliest of all the Satyrs [‘of all the Seilenes’] ever on the stage [‘in the satiric plays’] (ȇ pantȏn Seilȇnȏn tȏn en tois satyrikois aischistos an eiȇn).’ (IV. 19, tr. Todd)
Chapter V, to which Adam’s note directed our attention, opens with the words of Callias: ‘Critobulus (Su de dȇ, ȏ Critoboule), are you going to refuse to enter the lists in the beauty contest with Socrates (eis ton peri tou kallous agȏna pros Sȏkratȇn ouk anthistasai)?’ – Critobulus: ‘I do not shun the contest (ouk anaduomai).’ So Socrates subjected him to questioning: ‘Do you hold, then, that beauty is to be found only in man (Poteron oun en anthrȏpȏi monon nomizeis to kalon einai), or is it also in other objects (ȇ kai en allȏi tini)?’ – Critobulus: ‘In faith, my opinion is that beauty is to be found quite as well in a horse (Egȏ men nai ma Di’ kai en hippȏi) or an ox (kai boї) or in any number of inanimate things (kai en apsuchois pollois). I know (oida), at any rate (g’oun), that a shield may be beautiful (ousan kai aspida kalȇn), or a sword (kai xiphos), or a spear (kai doru).’ – Socrates: ‘How can it be that all these things are beautiful when they are entirely dissimilar (Kai pȏs hoion te tauta mȇden homoia onta allȇlois panta kala einai)?’ – Critobulus: ‘Why, they are beautiful and fine, if they are well made for the respective functions for which we obtain them (Ên nȇ Di’ pros ta erga hȏn heneka hekasta ktȏmetha eu eirgasmena ȇi), or if they are naturally constituted to serve our needs (ȇ eu pephukota pros ha an deȏmetha, kai tauta kala).’ (V. 1-4, tr. Todd)
It is the last exchange between Socrates and Critobulus, to which Adam points in reference to Socrates’ words ‘And the excellence (Oukoun 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)’. And indeed, Critobulus’ reply to Socrates’ last question in Xenophon’s Symposium is strikingly akin to Socrates’ words in Plato’s Republic X. [Let me note that Critobulus’ father was Crito, Socrates’ close friend; father and son were present at Socrates’ trial (Pl. Apology, 33d8-e1, 38b6-7) and on his last day in prison (Pl. Phaedo 59b7); Crito attempted to persuade Socrates to escape from prison in Plato’s Crito. Critobulus was obviously well tutored by Socrates.]
Does this then mean that Plato in Republic X gives word to the historical Socrates? I believe it does; the exchange between Critobulus and Socrates that took place at Callias’ banquet was a thing to remember and to be talked about whenever people talked about Socrates.
Socrates: ’Do you know (Oistha oun) the reason why we need eyes (ophthalmȏn tinos heneka deometha)?’ – Critobulus: ‘Obviously to see with (Dȇlon hoti tou horan).’ – Socrates: ‘In that case (Houtȏ men toinun ȇdȇ), it would appear without further ado that my eyes are finer ones than yours (hoi emoi ophthalmoi kalliones an tȏn sȏn eiȇsan).’ – ‘How so (Pȏs dȇ)?’ – ‘Because (Hoti), while yours see only straight ahead (hoi men soi to kat’ euthu monon horȏsin), mine (hoi de emoi), bulging out as they do, see also to the sides (kai to ek plagiou dia to epipolaioi einai).’ – ‘Do you mean to say that a crab (Legeis su karkinon) is better equipped visually than any other creature (euophthalmotaton einai tȏn zȏiȏn)?’ – ‘Absolutely (Pantȏs dȇpou); for its eyes are also better set to insure strength (epei kai pros ischun tous ophthalmous arista pephukotas echei).’ – ‘Well, let that pass (Eien); but whose nose is finer (tȏn de rinȏn potera kalliȏn), yours (hȇ sȇ) or mine (ȇ hȇ emȇ)?’ – ‘Mine, I consider (Egȏ men oimai tȇn emȇn), granting that Providence made us noses to smell with (eiper ge tou osphrainesthai heneken epoiȇsan hȇmin rinas hoi theoi – Todd’s ‘Providence’ stands for Socrates’ ‘the gods’, hoi theoi). For your nostrils (hoi men gar soi muktȇres) look down toward the ground (eis gȇn horȏsin), but mine are wide open and turned outward (hoi de emoi anapeptantai i.e. ‘are turned upward and wide open’) so that I can catch scents from all about (hȏste tas pantothen osmas prosdechesthai).’ – ‘But how do you make a snub nose (To de dȇ simon tȇs rinos) handsomer than a straight one (pȏs tou orthou kallion)?’ – ‘For the reason that (Hoti) it does not put a barricade between the eyes but allows them unobstructed vision of whatever they desire to see (ouk antiphrattei, all’ eai euthus tas opseis horan ha an boulȏntai); whereas a high nose (hȇ de hupsȇlȇ ris), as if in despite (hȏsper epȇreazousa), has walled the eyes off one from the other (diateteichike ta ommata).’ – ‘As for the mouth (Tou ge mȇn stomatos), I concede that point (huphiemai). For if it is created for the purpose of biting off food (ei gar tou apodaknein heneka pepoiȇtai), you could bite off a far bigger mouthful than I could (polu an su meizon ȇ egȏ apodakois). And don’t you think that your kiss is also the more tender because you have thick lips (dia de to pachea echein ta cheilȇ ouk oiei kai malakȏteron sou echein to philȇma)?’ – ‘According to your argument, it would seem that I have a mouth more ugly even than an ass’s (Eoika egȏ kata ton son logon kai tȏn onȏn aischion to stoma echein). But do you not reckon it a proof (ekeino de ouden tekmȇrion logizȇi) of my superior beauty (hȏs egȏ sou kalliȏn eimi) that the River Nymphs (hoti hai Naides), goddesses as they are (theai ousai), bear as their offspring the Seileni, who resemble me more closely than they do you (tous Seilȇnous emoi homoioterous tiktousin ȇ soi)?’ – ‘I cannot argue any longer with you (Ouketi echȏ pros se antilegein), let them distribute the ballots (alla diapherontȏn tas psȇphous), so that I may know without suspense (hina hȏs tachista eidȏ) what fine or punishment I must undergo (hoti me chrȇ pathein ȇ apoteisai). Only (Monon), let the balloting be secret (kruphȇi pherontȏn), for I am afraid that the “wealth” you and Antisthenes possess will overmaster me (dedoika gar ton son kai Antisthenous plouton mȇ me katadunasteusȇi).’
So the maiden and the lad (Hȇ men dȇ pais kai ho pais)[ hired by Callias to entertain the guests] turned in the ballots secretly (krupha anepheron). While this was going on, Socrates (ho de Sȏkratȇs en toutȏi) saw to it (diepratte) that the light should be brought in front of Critobulus (ton te luchnon antiprosenenkein tȏi Kritoboulȏi), so that the judges might not be misled (hȏs mȇ exapatȇtheiȇsan hoi kritai), and stipulated that the prize given by the judges to crown the victor should be kisses and not ribbons (kai tȏi nikȇsanti mȇ tainias alla philȇmata anadȇmata para tȏn kritȏn genesthai). When the ballots were turned out of the urn (epei de exepeson hai psȇphoi) and proved to be a unanimous verdict in favour of Critobulus (kai egenonto pasai sun Kritoboulȏi), ‘Faugh! (Papai)’ exclaimed Socrates (ephȇ ho Sȏkratȇs); ‘your money, Critobulus, does not appear to resemble Callias’s (ouch homoion eoike to son argurion, ȏ Kritoboule, tȏi Kalliou einai). For his (To men gar toutou) makes people more honest (dikaioterous poiei) [as Callias claimed at IV. 1-5], while yours (to de son) is about the most potent to corrupt men (hȏsper to pleiston diaphtheirein hikanon esti), whether members of a jury or judges of a contest (kai dikastas kai kritas).’ (V. 5-10, tr. Todd)