In the Phaedrus Plato’s Socrates defines the soul as the immortal (athanatos, 245c5), self-moving (to hauto kinoun, c7) source (pȇgȇ) and first principle (kai archȇ) of motion (kinȇseȏs, c9-d1): ‘it is as impossible that it should be destroyed as that it should come into being (touto de out’ apollusthai oute gignesthai dunaton); were it otherwise, the whole universe (ȇ panta te ouranon), the whole of that which comes to be (pasan te genesin would collapse into immobility (sumpesousan stȇnai), and never find another source of motion to bring it back into being (kai mȇpote authis echein hothen kinȇthenta genȇsetai, 245d7-e2) … All soul (psuchȇ pasa) has the care of all that is inanimate (pantos epimeleitai tou apsuchou), and traverses the whole universe (panta de ouranon peripolei), though in ever-changing forms (allot’ en allois eidesi gignomenȇ). Thus when it is perfect (telea men oun ousa) and winged (kai epterȏmenȇ) it journeys on high (meteȏroporei te) and controls the whole world (kai panta ton kosmon dioikei); but one that has shed its wings (hȇ de pterorruȇsasa) sinks down until it can fasten on something solid (pheretai heȏs an tinos stereo antilabȇtai), and settling there (hou katoikistheisa) it takes to itself an earthy body (sȏma gȇїnon labousa) which seems by reason of the soul’s power to move itself (auto hauto dokoun kinein dia tȇn ekeinȇs dunamin).’ (246b6-c4, tr. R. Hackforth)
The soul preserves itself in its perfect condition by periodically viewing the Forms beyond the heavens (huperouranion topon, 247c3), in the Plain of Truth (alȇtheias pedion, 248b6), which Socrates describes as follows: ‘It is there that true Being dwells, without colour or shape, that cannot be touched; reason alone, the soul’s pilot, can behold it, and all true knowledge is knowledge thereof (hȇ gar achrȏmatos te kai aschȇmatistos kai anaphȇs ousia ontȏs ousa, psuchȇs kubernȇtȇi monȏi theatȇ nȏi, peri hȇn to tȇs alȇthous epistȇmȇs genos, touton echei ton topon). Now even as the mind of a god (hat’ oun theou dianoia) is nourished by reason and knowledge (nȏi te kai epistȇmȇi akȇratȏi trephomenȇ), so also is it with every soul (kai hapasȇs psuchȇs) that has a care to receive a proper food (hosȇi an melȇi to prosȇkon dexasthai); wherefore when at last she has beheld Being (idousa dia chronou to on) she is well content (agapai), and contemplating truth (kai theȏrousa t’alȇthȇ) she is nourished (trephetai) and prospers (kai eupathei), until the heaven’s revolution (heȏs an kuklȏi hȇ periphora) brings her back full circle (eis t’auton perienenkȇi). And while she is born round (en de tȇi periodȏi) she discerns justice, its very self (kathorai men autȇn dikaiosunȇn), and likewise temperance (kathorai de sȏphrosunȇn), and knowledge (kathorai de epistȇmȇn), not the knowledge that is neighbour to Becoming (ouch hȇi genesis prosestin) and varies with the various objects (oud’ hȇ estin pou hetera en heterȏi ousa) to which we commonly ascribe being (hȏn hȇmeis nun ontȏn kaloumen), but the veritable knowledge of Being that veritably is (alla tȇn en tȏi ho estin on ontȏs epistȇmȇn ousan) (247c6-e2) … things a god’s nearness whereunto makes him truly god (pros hoisper theos ȏn theios estin, 249c6, tr. Hackforth).
Socrates, who in the Phaedrus presented the Forms as true beings, as ‘things a god’s nearness whereunto makes him truly god’, was liable to Meletus’ charge of being ‘a creator of gods (poiȇtȇn einai theȏn), who created new gods (kainous poiounta theous, (Pl. Euthyphro 2b2). Since the Phaedrus was written prior to the death of Polemarchus in the hands of the Thirty Tyrants, Plato as its writer was immune against prosecution thanks to the amnesty granted by the democrats after their defeat of the Thirty Tyrants. And so it was essential both for Plato and for Socrates to clearly disassociate the latter from the Phaedrus. This task Plato undertook in the Cratylus, in which Socrates discusses the forms as discovered by men, as forms on which the artisan’s eye is fixed when he makes his products; hardly something that could be viewed as the introduction or creation of ‘new gods’.
In the Cratylus Socrates asks Hermogenes: ‘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)?’ – Hermogenes: ‘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 389a5-d3, tr. Jowett)
The Forms as true beings the proximity to which makes a god truly divine was not the only thing from which Plato in the Cratylus had to distance Socrates. The proof of the immortality of the soul in the Phaedrus, the soul presented as the first principle of motion, the soul that has the care of all that is inanimate (pantos epimeleitai tou apsuchou), and traverses the whole universe (panta de ouranon peripolei), and controls the whole world (kai panta ton kosmon dioikei), all this was incompatible with Socrates’ philosophic ignorance, which formed the basis of his daily, life-long defence (see Xenophon’s Memorabilia IV.viii.4, discussed in my preceding post), and which became the basis of his defence against the accusations of Meletus, which Plato immortalised in the Apology. The opportunity for Socrates’ distancing himself from the Phaedran soul was presented in the Cratylus by Hermogenes when he asked Socrates to analyse the name psuchȇ (soul).
Socrates: ‘If I am to say what occurs to me at the moment (Hȏs men toinun ek tou parachrȇma legein), I should imagine (oimai) that those who first used the name “psuche” meant to express (ti toiouton noein tous tȇn psuchȇn onomasantas) that the soul (hȏs touto ara) when in the body (hotan parȇi tȏi sȏmati) is the source of life (aition esti tou zȇn autȏi), and gives the power of breath (tȇn tou anapnein dunamin parechon) and revival (kai anapsuchon), and when this reviving power fails (hama de ekleipontos tou anapsuchontos) then the body perishes (to sȏma apollutai te) and dies (kai teleutai), and this, if I am not mistaken, they called “psuche” (hothen dȇ moi dokousin auto “psuchȇn” kalesai [whence they, it seems to me, they called it “psuchȇ”]). But please (ei de boulei) stay a moment (eche ȇrema); I fancy that I can discover something (dokȏ gar moi ti kathoran) which will be more acceptable (pithanȏteron toutou) to the disciples of Euthyphro (tois amphi Euthuphrona), for I am afraid that they will scorn this explanation (totou men gar, hȏs emoi dokei, kataphronȇsaien an), and think it banal (kai hȇgȇsainto phortikon einai). What do you say to another (tode de skopei ean ara kai soi aresȇi)?’ – Hermogenes: ‘Let me hear (Lege monon).’ – Soc. ‘What is that which holds and carries and gives life and motion to the entire nature of the body? What else but the soul (Tȇn phusin pantos tou sȏmatos, hȏste kai zȇn kai periienai, ti soi dokei echein te kai ochein allo ȇ psuchȇ)?’ – Her. ‘Just that (ouden allo).’ – Soc. ‘And do you not believe with Anaxagoras, that mind or soul is the ordering and containing principle of all things (Ti de; kai tȇn tȏn allȏn hapantȏn phusin ou pisteueis Anaxagorai noun kai psuchȇn einai tȇn diaskosmousan kai echousan)?’ – Her. ‘Yes, I do (Egȏge).’ – Soc. ‘Then you may well call that power “phuseche” which carries and holds nature, and this may be refined away into “psuche” (Kalȏs ara an to onoma touto echoi tȇi dunamei tautȇi hȇ phusin ochei kai echei “phusechȇn” eponomazein. Exesti de kai “psuchȇn” kompseuomenon legein).’ – Her. ‘Certainly (Panu men oun), and this derivation is, I think, more scientific than the other (kai dokei ge moi touto ekeinou technikȏteron einai).’ – Soc. ‘It is so; although the name in its original form was assuredly a quaint one (Kai gar estin, geloion mentoi phainetai hȏs alȇthȏs onomazomenon hȏs etethȇ).’ (Pl. Crat. 399d10-400b7, tr. Jowett)
Socrates speaks with biting irony.
The investigation of the correctness of names in the Cratylus, points to the Phaedrus, where Plato’s Socrates, in a preamble to his presentation of the soul as that which ‘has the care of all that is inanimate (pantos epimeleitai tou apsuchou) and controls the whole world’ (kai panta ton kosmon dioikei), proposed to discuss love as divinely inspired madness (mania), arguing that ‘madness was accounted no shame nor disgrace by the men of old who gave things their names (hoti kai tȏn palaiȏn hoi ta onomata tithemenoi ouk aischron hȇgounto oude oneidos manian): otherwise they would not have connected that greatest of arts, whereby the future is discerned, with this very word “madness”, and named it accordingly (ou gar an tȇi kallistȇi technȇi, hȇi to mellon krinetai, auto touto onoma emplekontes manikȇn ekalesan, 244b6-c2) … though the men of today (hoi de nun), having no sense of values (apeirokalȏs), have put in an extra letter (to tau emballontes), making it not “manic” but “mantic” (mantikȇn ekalesan). That is borne out by the name they gave to the art of those sane prophets who inquire into the future by means of birds and other signs (epei kai tȇn ge tȏn emphronȏn zȇtȇsin tou mellontos dia te ornithȏn poioumenȏn kai tȏn allȏn sȇmeiȏn): the name was “oionoistic”, which by its components indicated that the prophet attained understanding and information by a purely human activity of thought belonging to his own intelligence (hat’ ek dianoias porizomenȏn anthrȏpinȇi oiȇsei noun te kai historian, “oionoistikȇn” epȏnomasan); though a younger generation has come to call it “oionistic”, lengthening the quantity of the “o” to make it sound impressive (hȇn nun oiȏnistikȇn tȏi ȏ semnunontes hoi neoi kalousin). You see then what this ancient evidence attests: corresponding to the superior perfection and value of the prophecy of inspiration over that of omen-reading, both in name and in facts, is the superiority of heaven-sent madness over man-made sanity (hosȏi men oun teleȏteron kai entimoteron mantikȇ oiȏnistikȇs, to te onoma tou onomatos ergon t’ ergou, tosȏi kallion marturousi hoi palaioi manian sȏphrosunȇs tȇn ek theou tȇs par’ anthrȏpȏn gignomenȇs).’ (244c4-d5, tr. Hackforth)
The ‘ridiculous’ (geloion,400b6) name “phusechȇ” in the Cratylus, given to the soul as the power (tȇi dunamei tautȇi) that holds and carries the nature (hȇ phusin ochei kai echei), points to the similarly artificial “oionoistikȇ” – composed of oiomai, nous, and the first syllable of historia’, as Hackforth notes – in the Phaedrus. It does not seem to me that Socrates’ reference in the Cratylus ‘to those around Euthuphro’ who would prefer the artificial name given to the soul – name reminiscent of the Phaedran presentation of the soul – is accidental. For Euthyphro presents himself as a man who predicts future to men in the assembly: ‘they laugh at me thinking me mad (katagelȏsin hȏs mainomenou), and yet every word I have said in my predictions is true (kaitoi ouden hoti ouk alȇthes eirȇka hȏn proeipon, Euth. 3c2-3).’ Was Plato associated with Euthyphro and people around him at the time he wrote the Phaedrus? Isn’t the accolade bestowed on the faculty of divinely inspired prediction of future in the Phaedrus a friendly gesture directed at Euthyphro, spiced with a lot of humour? Their friendly relationship might explain Euthyphro’s reaction to Socrates’ information about Meletus’ indictment against him: ‘My opinion is that in attacking you he is simply aiming a blow at the heart of the state (atechnȏs gar moi dokei aph’ hestias archesthai kakourgein tȇn polin, Euth. 3a7-8, tr. Jowett).’
Worth noting is Hackforth’s unease with Phaedrus 244b-d: ‘With regard to the etymologies here, it is doubtless true that Plato is sometimes serious, sometimes playful in this matter, and that particularly in the Cratylus it is not always easy to be sure which he is. Apparent absurdity is an unsafe criterion, for contemporary notions about etymology were mostly absurd to our thinking. But in the present case I believe that he has hinted playfulness clearly enough by the word apeirokalȏs in the first case, and the phrase tȏi ȏ semnunontes in the second. He cannot seriously have believed, or expected his readers to believe, that the change of manikȇ into mantikȇ was due to modern philistinism, or lack of a proper sense of values; or again that the long vowel in oiȏnistikȇ was due to pomposity. It may be added that he was unlikely to have forgotten the existence of the word oiȏnos [‘a large bird of prey’, ‘a bird of omen’ or ‘augury’ J.T.] , or the fact that the word mantis, so far from being due to “moderns”, was used by Homer. If the paidia needs justification, these ‘etymologies’ serve the purpose of fixing in the reader’s mind the point that augury is inferior to divination proper.’ (R. Hackforth, Plato’s Phaedrus, Cambridge University Press, 1972, p. 59)
Equally interesting is Socrates’ reference to Anaxagoras in his Euthyphro-inspired definition of the soul in the Cratylus. In the Phaedrus Plato’s Socrates refers to Anaxagoras in his great praise of Pericles: ‘He came across the right sort of man, I fancy, in Anaxagoras (prospesȏn gar oimai toioutȏi onti Anaxagorai), and by enriching himself with high speculation (meteȏrologias emplȇstheis) and coming to recognize the nature of reason and mind (kai epi phusin nou te kai dianoias aphikomenos) – on which topics of course Anaxagoras was always discoursing (hȏn dȇ peri ton polun logon epoieito Anaxagoras) – he drew from that source (enteuthen heilkusen) and applied to the art of rhetoric (epi tȇn tȏn logȏn technȇn) what was suitable thereto’ (to prosphoron autȇi, 270a4-8, tr. Hackforth). – [I read with Burnet, cod. V, and Aristides nou te kai dianoias at a5 and render accordingly ‘reason and mind’; Hackforth reads nou te kai anoias with cod. B T, and translates ‘wisdom and folly’.]
Plato’s Apology indicates that the Cratylian dissociation of Socrates from the Phaedran presentation of the Forms as ‘new deities’ was a success. Interrogated by Socrates at the trial, Meletus did not attempt to press, let alone to specifies the charge of Socrates’ introducing new deities.
Socrates: ‘I should like to know, Meletus, in what I am affirmed to corrupt the young (lege hȇmin, pȏs me phȇis diaphtheirein, ȏ Melȇte tous neȏterous). I suppose you mean, as I infer from your indictment (ȇ dȇlon dȇ hoti kata tȇn graphȇn hȇn egrapsȏ), that I teach them not to acknowledge the gods which the state acknowledges (theous didaskonta mȇ nomizein hous hȇ polis nomizei), but some other new divinities or spiritual agencies in their stead (hetera de daimonia kaina). These are the lessons by which I corrupt the youth, as you say (ou tauta legeis hoti didaskȏn diaphtheirȏ).’ – Meletus: ‘Yes (Panu men oun), that I say emphatically (sphodra tauta legȏ).’ – Soc. ‘Then, by the gods, Meletus, of whom we are speaking (Pros autȏn toinun, ȏ Melȇte, toutȏn tȏn theȏn hȏn nun ho logos estin), tell me and the court, in somewhat plainer terms, what you mean (eipe eti saphesteron kai emoi kai tois andrasi toutoisi)! For I do not as yet understand (egȏ gar ou dunamai mathein) whether you affirm (poteron legeis) that I teach other men to acknowledge some gods (didaskein me nomizein einai tinas theous), and therefore that I do believe in gods (kai autos ara nomizȏ einai tinas theous), and am not an entire atheist (kai ouk eimi to parapan atheos) – this you do not lay to my charge (oude tautȇi adikȏ), – but only you say that they are not the same gods which the city recognizes (ou mentoi housper ge hȇ polis alla heterous) – the charge is (kai tout’ estin ho moi enkaleis) that they are different gods (hoti heterous). Or, do you mean (ȇ pantapasi me phȇis) that I am an atheist simply (oute auton nomizein theous), and a teacher of atheism (tous te allous tauta didaskein)?’ – Mel. ‘I mean the latter (Tauta legȏ) – that you are a complete atheist (hȏs to parapan ou nomizeis theous).’ – Soc. ‘What an extraordinary statement! Why do you think so, Meletus (Ȏ thaumasie Melȇte, hina ti tauta legeis)? Do you mean that I do not believe in the god-head of the sun or moon (oude hȇlion oude selȇnȇn nomizȏ theous einai), like the rest of mankind (hȏsper hoi alloi anthrȏpoi)?’ – Mel. ‘I assure you, judges, that he does not (Ma Di’, ȏ andres dikastai): for he says that the sun is stone, and the moon earth (epei ton men hȇlion lithon phȇsin einai, tȇn de selȇnȇn gȇn).’ – Soc. ‘Friend Meletus, do you think that you are accusing Anaxagoras (Anaxagorou oiei katȇgorein, ȏ phile Melȇte)? Have you such low opinion of the judges (kai houtȏ kataphroneis tȏnde), that you fancy them so illiterate (kai oiei autous apeirous grammatȏn einai) as not to know (hȏste mȇ eidenai) that these doctrines are found in the books of Anaxagoras the Clazomenian, which are full of them (hoti ta Anaxagorou biblia tou Klazomeniou gemei toutȏn tȏn logȏn)? And so, forsooth, the youth are said to be taught by Socrates (kai dȇ kai hoi neoi tauta par’ emou manthanousin), when they can be bought in the book-market for one drachma at most; and they might pay their money, and laugh at Socrates (ha exestin eniote ei panu pollou drachmȇs ek tȇs orchȇstras priamenois Sȏkratous katagelan) if he pretends to father these extraordinary views (ean prospoiȇtai heautou einai, allȏs te kai houtȏs atopa onta).’ (26b2-e2, tr. Jowett)
Jowett’s ‘these extraordinary views’ stands for Socrates’ houtȏs atopa onta. Plato does not explain what it was that Socrates viewed as atopos, which means literally ‘no-place’, i.e. for which there is ‘no place’. We must go to Xenophon’s Memorabilia for an explanation: ‘For that sage [Anaxagoras] (Ekeinos gar), in declaring the sun to be fire (legȏn men to auto einai pur te kai hȇlion), ignored the facts that men can look at fire without inconvenience (ȇgnoei hoti to men pur hoi anthrȏpoi raidiȏs kathorȏsin), but cannot gaze steadily at the sun (eis de ton hȇlion ou dunantai antiblepein); that their skin is blackened by the sun’s rays (kai hupo tou hȇliou katalampomenoi ta chrȏmata melantera echousi), but not by fire (hupo de tou puros ou). Further, he ignored the fact (ȇgnoei de kai) that sunlight is essential to the health of all vegetation (hoti tȏn ek tȇs gȇs phuomenȏn aneu men hȇliou augȇs ouden dunatai kalȏs auxesthai), whereas if anything is heated by fire it withers (hupo de tou puros thermainomena panta apollutai). Again, when he pronounced the sun to be a red-hot stone (phaskȏn de ton hȇlion lithon diapuron einai), he ignored the fact (kai touto ȇgnoei) that a stone in fire (hoti lithos en puri ȏn) neither glows (oute lampei) nor can resist it long (oute polun chronon antechei), whereas the sun (ho de hȇlios) shines with unequalled brilliance for ever (ton panta chronon pantȏn lamprotatos ȏn diamenei). (IV. vii. 7, tr. Marchant)