Saturday, June 24, 2017

5a Plato’s Charmides in the light of its dating, with reference to his Phaedrus and Republic

Donald Watt writes in his ‘Introduction to Charmides’: ‘Part of Plato’s purpose in this dialogue is to exculpate Socrates from any responsibility for the crimes of his former companions … By showing Critias as both quite lacking in sôphrosunê and quite ignorant of its meaning beyond a superficial acquaintance with its conventional use within his aristocratic circle; by representing Charmides as equally unaware of its true purport, despite his possession of the natural sôphrosunê of youth, which he will lose when he reaches adulthood; and by portraying Socrates as trying his best to discover with them the true meaning of sôphrosunê, and as failing to elicit answer from them, though possessing the virtue himself – by all these means Plato is endeavouring to show that Socrates tried to educate Critias and Charmides in sôphrosunê, but failed. But by trying, he saved himself from any possible accusation of responsibility for their later crimes.’ (Plato, Early Socratic Dialogues, Penguin Books, 1987, p. 167.)

Let us examine the validity of Watt’s characterization of the dialogue by focussing on Charmides, Critias, and Socrates in their interactions; the translation will be D. Watt’s, but I shall use sôphrosunê for his ‘self-control’.

Charmides presented to Socrates his third and last attempt at defining sôphrosunê as follows: ‘But give me your considered opinion of this statement about sôphrosunê (tode de skepsai ti soi dokei einai peri sôphrosunês), which I have just remembered (arti gar anemnêsthên) I heard from someone once (ho êdê tou êkousa legontos): the sôphrosunê might be doing one’s own job (hoti sôphrosunê an eiê to ta heautou prattein). Give me your considered opinion (skopei oun touto). Was the man who said that right (ei orthôs soi dokei legein ho legôn)?’ – Socrates: ‘You wicked boy (Ô miare), you heard that from Critias here (Kritiou toude akêkoas auto) or from another of our clever fellows (ê allou tou tôn sophôn).’ (161b4-c1)

***
Watt’s ‘or from another of our clever fellows’ for Socrates’ ê allou tou tôn sophôn is hardly appropriate, for it simply means ‘or from another of the wise men’. In the Phaedrus, which on my dating preceded the Charmides, Plato’s Socrates gives the principle of ‘doing one’s own work’ a divine status: ‘Now within the heavens are many spectacles of bliss upon the highways (pollai men oun kai makariai theai te kai diexodoi entos ouranou) whereon blessed gods (has theôn genos eudaimonôn) pass to and fro (epistrephetai), each doing his own work (prattôn hekastos autôn to hautou, 247a4-6, tr. R. Hackforth).’

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Critias: ‘It must have been from someone else (Eoiken allou ‘It seems from someone else’). It certainly was not from me (ou gar dê emou ge, ‘for surely not from me’).’ – Charmides: ‘But what difference does it make (Alla ti diapherei), Socrates (ô Sôkrates), who I heard it from (hotou êkousa;)?’ – Socrates: ‘None at all (Ouden). In any case, the question we’ve got to consider is not who said it (pantôs gar ou touto skepteon, hostis auto eipen), but whether or not the statement is true (alla poteron alêthes legetai ê ou).’ – Charmides: ‘You’re quite right (Nun orthôs legeis).’ (161c2-7)

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Watt’s ‘You’re quite right’ for Charmides’ Nun orthôs legeis misses Charmides’ criticism of Socrates’ ‘you heard that from Critias here’ (Kritiou toude akêkoas auto), which is implied in his Nun: ‘Now you’re right.’

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Socrates: ‘Of course (Nê Dia), all the same, I should be surprised if we actually will discover what exactly its status is (all’ ei kai heurêsomen auto hopê̢ ge echei, thaumazoim’ an). It appears to have a sort of cryptic meaning (ainigmati gar tini eoiken).’ – Charmides: ‘How is that (Hoti dê ti ge;)?’ – Socrates: ‘Because presumably he did not really mean quite what his words conveyed (Hoti ou dêpou hê̢ ta rêmata ephthenxato tautê̢ kai enoei) when he said (legôn) that sôphrosunê was doing one’s own job (sôphrosunên einai to ta hautou prattein). Or do you believe that the writing-master does not do something (ê su ouden hêgê̢ prattein ton grammatistên) when he reads or writes (hotan graphê̢ ê anagignôskê̢)?’ – Charmides: ‘No, I do believe he does something (Egôge, hêgoumai men oun).’ – Socrates: ‘Then do you think (Dokei oun soi) it’s only his own name that the writing master reads and writes (to hautou onoma monon graphein ho grammatistês kai anagignôskein), or teaches boys to (ê humas tous paidas didaskein;)? Or did you write your enemies’ names just as much as your own and your friends’ (ê ouden hêtton ta tôn echthrôn egraphete ê ta humetera kai ta tôn philôn onomata;)’?’ – Charmides: ‘Just as much (Ouden hêtton).’ – Socrates: ‘Well then, were you meddling (Ê oun epolupragmoneite) – that is, were you without sôphrosunê (kai ouk esôphroneite) in doing that (touto drôntes;)?’ – Ch. ‘Not at all (Oudamôs).’ (161c8-e2)

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Socrates’ ‘were you meddling (Ê oun epolupragmoneite) – that is, were you without sôphrosunê (kai ouk esôphroneite)’ implies that Socrates himself in fact understands sôphrosunê as to ta hautou prattein, for he views it as the opposite of polupragmonein ‘to be busy about many things’, mostly in bad sense as ‘interfering’, ’being meddlesome’ (Liddle&Scott).

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Socrates: ‘And yet you were not doing your own job (Kai mên ou ta humetera ge autôn eprattete) if reading and writing are “doing something” (eiper to graphein prattein ti estin kai to anagignôskein).’ – Charmides: ‘They most certainly are (Alla mên estin).’ – S. ‘And, my friend, healing (Kai to iasthai, ô hetaire), building houses (kai to oikodomein), weaving (kai to huphainein) and producing any piece of skilled work whatsoever, by any skill whatsoever (kai to hê̢tinioun technê̢ hotioun tôn technês ergôn apergazesthai), are all presumably “doing something” (prattein dêpou ti estin).’ – Ch. ‘Of course (Panu ge).’ – S. ‘Well then (Ti oun), do you think (dokei an soi) a state would be well run (polis eu oikeisthai) by a law like this (hupo toutou tou nomou), which commands (tou keleuontos) each person to weave his own coat (to heautou himation hekaston huphainein) and wash it (kai plunein), and make his own sandals (kai hupodêmata skutotomein) and oil-flask (kai lêkuthon) and scraper (kai stlengida) [Watt notes: ‘After exercise, it was customary to cover the body with oil, which was then scraped off, taking the dirt and sweat with it.’] and everything else (kai t’alla panta) on the same principle (kata ton auton logon) of each person’s keeping his hands off what is not his own (tôn allotriôn mê haptesthai), and working at and doing his own job (ta de heautou hekaston ergazesthai te kai prattein;)?’ – Ch. ‘No, I don’t (Ouk emoige dokei).’ – S. ‘Nevertheless (Alla mentoi), a state run on the principle of sôphrosunê (sôphronôs ge oikousa) would be run well (eu an oikoito).’ – Ch. ‘Certainly (Pôs d’ ouk;).’ – S. ‘Then, sôphrosunê would not be doing one’s own job when it’s of that sort and done in that way (Ouk ara to ta toiauta te kai houtô ta hautou prattein sôphrosunê an eiê).’ – Ch. ‘Apparently not (Ou phainetai).’ – S. ‘Then it looks as if, as I was saying just now, the man who said that doing one’s own job was sôphrosunê was speaking cryptically (Êinitteto ara, hôs eoiken, hôsper arti egô elegon, ho legôn ta hautou prattein sôphrosunên einai), since I don’t suppose he was so simple-minded as that (ou gar pou houtô ge ên euêthês). Or was it some fool that you heard saying this (ê tinos êlithiou êkousas touti legontos), Charmides (ô Charmidê;)? – Ch. ‘Far from it (Hêkista ge). He seems to be a pretty clever fellow, you know (epei toi kai panu edokei sophos einai).’ (161e3-162b3)

***
Again, Watt’s ‘He seems to be a pretty clever fellow, you know’ does not properly render Charmides’ epei toi kai panu edokei sophos einai, which means ‘for he appeared to be very wise indeed’. Socrates’ response indicates that he did not take Charmides’ words as if spoken in irony.

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Socrates: ‘Well, as far as I can see, he propounded this as a deliberate puzzle for us (Pantos toinun mallon, hôs emoi dokei, ainigma auto proubalen), for no other reason than that he thought it would be difficult for us to find out what on earth doing one’s job is (hôs on chalepon to ta hautou prattein gnônai hoti pote estin).’ – Charmides: ‘Possibly (Isôs).’ (162b4-7)

***
Again, Watt misinterprets. Jowett’s ‘Then I am quite certain that he put forth his definition as a riddle’, for Socrates’ Pantos toinun mallon, hôs emoi dokei, ainigma auto proubalen, is much better, as is Jowett’s ‘thinking that no one would know the meaning of the words “doing his own business Socrates”’ for Socrates’ hôs on chalepon to ta hautou prattein gnônai hoti pote estin. Within the framework of the dialogue to ta hautou prattein remains an unsolved ainigma (‘riddle’).

Socrates’ ‘do you think (dokei an soi) a state would be well run (polis eu oikeisthai) by a law like this (hupo toutou tou nomou, 161e10-11)’ … ‘Nevertheless (Alla mentoi), a state run on the principle of sôphrosunê (sôphronôs ge oikousa) would be run well (eu an oikoito, 162a4-5)’ suggests that Plato was fully aware of the political implications and significance of the principle ta hautou prattein; when he in the end gave up on politics in Athens, he built the ideal state in the Republic on this principle understood as the principle of justice.

***
Socrates: ‘So what on earth would doing one’s job be (Ti oun an eiê pote to ta hautou prattein; echeis eipein;)?’ – Charmides: ‘Heavens, I don’t know (Ouk oida, ma Dia, egôge). I dare say there is no reason why even the man who said it should have the slightest idea of what he meant (all’ isôs ouden kôluei mêde ton legonta mêden eidenai hoti enoei).’ And as he said that (Kai hama tauta legôn), he gave a little smile (hupegela te) and looked at Critias (kai eis ton Kritian apeblepen). (162b8-11)

***
Again, Watt’s ‘I dare say’ is not an appropriate rendering of Charmides’ all’ isôs, which means ‘but perhaps’, ‘probably’, ‘but possibly’, ‘but most likely’.

I’ll end this post by discussing the introductory paragraph of Watt’s prefatory note to this section:
“‘Doing one’s own job’ or, more literally, ‘doing one’s own things’ is the definition of justice given at Republic 433a. There it means ‘each man performing the one function in the state for which his nature most suits him’. Here, however, Socrates takes it to mean the opposite, by interpreting the frase as ‘each man doing (or making) everything for himself’: each man should weave his own clothes, wash his own clothes, make his own shoes, etc. (This is the form of social organization rejected at Republic 369e ff.)” (Plato, Early Socratic Dialogues, Penguin Books, 1987, p. 186.)

Watt’s note is misleading, for Socrates does not ‘take’ to ta hautou prattein ‘to mean the opposite’ of what it means at Republic 433a. He takes it ‘as the words were said’ (hê̢ ta rêmata ephthenxato, 161d1), i.e. ‘to do one’s own things’. Throughout the whole passage, from161b5 to 162b11, the definite article ta functions as a demonstrative pronoun. The words to ta hautou prattein taken ‘as they were said’ do signify (not ‘are taken to signify’) the opposite of what they will mean in the Republic.

When Plato wrote the Charmides, getting ready for the role he was expected to play in the new aristocratic administration, he did view to ta hautou prattein along the lines he later developed in the Republic. For the principle is implied in Socrates’ final attempt to define sôphrosunê:

‘If indeed (ei men gar), as we were supposing at first (ho ex archês hupetithemetha), the sôphrôn would know (ê̢dei ho sôphrôn) what he knew and what he did not know (ha te ê̢dei kai ha mê ê̢dei), that he knows the former (ta men hoti oiden) and that he does not know the latter (ta d’ hoti ouk oiden), and would be able to recognize another man in the same state (kai allon t’auton touto peponthota episkepsasthai hoios t’ ên), it would be of a great advantage to us to be sôphrones [nom. pl. of sôphrôn ‘to be wise’] (megalôsti an hêmin ôphelimon ên sôphrosin einai); for we would live our life without making mistakes (anamartêtoi gar an ton bion diezômen), both we, who would be having the sôphrosunê (autoi te hoi tên sôphrosunên echontes), and all those who would be governed by us (kai hoi alloi pantes hosoi huph’ hêmôn êrchonto). For neither should we (oute gar an autoi) attempt to do what we did not know (epecheiroumen prattein ha mê êpistametha), but finding those who know (all’ exeuriskontes tous epistamenous) we would give it over to them (ekeinois an paredidometha), nor should we allow others (oute tois allois epetrepomen), whom we governed (hôn êrchomen), to do anything else than that which they would do well (allo ti prattein ê hoti prattontes orthôs emellon prattein), and this would be (touto d’ ên an) of which they had knowledge (hou epistêmên eichon); and thus a house under the rule of sôphrosunê (kai houtô dê hupo sôphrosunês oikia te oikoumenê) would be beautifully ordered (emellen kalôs oikeisthai), and a state administered (polis te politeuomenê), and everything else that sôphrosunê governed (kai allo pan hou sôphrosunê archoi); for with error eliminated (hamartias gar exê̢rêmenês), and rightness in charge (orthotêtos de hêgoumenês), men, who are in this state, must do nobly and well in all their doings (en pasê̢ praxei kalôs kai eu prattein anankaion tous houtô diakeimenous), and those who do well (tous de eu prattontas) must have happiness (tous de eu prattontas eudaimonas einai). (171d2-172a3)

Friday, June 23, 2017

4 Plato’s Charmides in the light of its dating, with reference to his Apology, Phaedrus and Seventh Letter, and to Xenophon’s Memorabilia

I ended my preceding post with the words ‘If I were to view the Charmides as written after the death of Socrates, I could not see it otherwise than as an attempt to make Socrates responsible for the crimes of his former companions,’ clearly implying that it is out of the question. But why is it out of the question? If Plato realised that because of his influence on Critias and Charmides in their early days Socrates was partly responsible for their misuse of power during the rule of the Thirty Tyrants, it was only right to give expression to this side of his activities, it might be argued. In my view, Plato’s Apology and his Seventh Letter preclude such possibility.

To make this point, I must return to the closing exchange between Socrates and Charmides. Socrates says to Charmides: ‘Once you’re intent on doing something (soi gar epicheirounti prattein hotioun) and are resorting to the use of force (kai biazomenô̢), no man alive will be able to resist you (oudeis hoios t’ estai enantiousthai anthrôpôn).’ – Charmides: ‘Well then (Mê toinun), don’t you resist me either (mêde su enantiou).’ – Socrates: ‘I won’t resist you then (Ou toinun enantiôsomai).’

In the Apology Socrates imagines that the Jury might let him go if he gave up philosophy, to which he would have to reply: ‘While I have life and strength (heôs an empneô kai hoios te ô) I shall never cease from the practice and teaching of philosophy (ou mê pausômai philosophein, 29d4-5).’ He then goes on to say: ‘I can give you convincing evidence of what I say (Megala d’ egôge humin tekmêria parexomai toutôn), not words only (ou logous), but what you value far more (all’ ho humeis timate) – actions (erga). Let me relate to you a passage of my own life (akousate dê moi ta sumbebêkota) which will prove to you (hina eidête) that to no man should I wrongly yield (hoti oud’ an heni hupeikathoimi para to dikaion) from fear of death (deisas thanaton), and that I should in fact be willing to perish for not yielding (mê hupeikôn de alla k’an apoloimên) (32a4-8) … when the oligarchy of the Thirty was in power (epeidê de oligarchia egeneto), they sent for me and four others into the rotunda (hoi triakonta au metapempsamenoi me pempton auton eis tên tholon), and bade us bring Leon the Salaminian from Salamis (prosetaxan agagein ek Salaminos Leonta ton Salaminion), as they wanted to put him to death (hina apothanoi). This was a specimen of the sort of commands which they were always giving (hoia dê kai allois ekeinoi pollois polla prosetatton) with the view of implicating as many as possible in their crimes (boulomenoi hôs pleistous anaplêsai aitiôn); and then I showed again, not in word only but in deed (tote men oun egô ou logô̢ all’ ergô̢ au enedeixamên), that, if I may be allowed to use such an expression, I care not a straw for death (hoti emoi thanatou men melei, ei mê agroikoteron ên eipein, oud’ hotioun), and that my great and only care is lest I should do an unrighteous and unholy thing (tou de mêden adikon mêd’ anosion ergazesthai, toutou de to pan melei). For the strong arm of that oppressive power did not frighten me (eme gar ekeinê hê archê ouk exeplêxen, houtôs ischura ousa) into doing wrong (hôste adikon ti ergasasthai); and when we came out of the rotunda (all’ epeidê ek tês tholou exêlthomen) the other four (hoi men tettares) went to Salamis (ô̢chonto eis Salamina) and fetched Leon (kai êgagon Leonta), but I went quietly home (egô de ô̢chomên apiôn oikade). For which I might have lost my life (kai isôs an dia tauta apethanon), had not the power of the Thirty (ei mê hê archê) shortly afterwards come to an end (dia tacheôn kateluthê).’ (32c4-d8, tr. B. Jowett)

In his old age, in the Seventh Letter Plato points to this incident as the decisive reason after which, he says, ‘I became indignant (eduscherana te) and I withdrew myself (kai emauton epanêgagon) from the evils of those days (apo tôn tote kakôn, 325a4-5)’.

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Xenophon tells a following story: ‘When the Thirty (epei gar hoi triakonta) were putting to death many citizens of the highest respectability (pollous men tôn politôn kai ou tous cheiristous apekteinon) and were encouraging many in crime (pollous de proetreponto adikein), Socrates had remarked (eipe pou ho Sôkratês): “It seems strange enough to me (hoti thaumaston hoi dokoiê einai) that a herdsman (ei tis genomenos boôn agelês nomeus) who lets his cattle decrease and go to the bad (kai tous bous elattous te kai cheirous poiôn) should not admit that he is a poor cowherd (mê homologoiê kakos boukolos einai); but stranger still (eti de thaumastoteron) that a statesman (ei tis prostatês genomenos poleôs) when he causes the citizens to decrease (kai poiôn tous politas elattous te) and go to the bad (kai cheirous), should feel no shame (mê aischunetai) nor think himself a poor statesman (mêd’ oietai kakos einai prostatês tês poleôs).” This remark was reported to Critias and Charicles, who sent for Socrates (apangelthentos de autois toutou, kalesante ho te Kritias kai ho Chariklês ton Sôkratê), showed him the law (ton te nomon edeiknutên autô̢) and forbade him to hold conversation with the young (kai tois neois apeipetên mê dialegesthai) (Memorabilia I.ii.32-33) … “Well then,” said Socrates (Kai ho Sôkratês), “that there may be no question raised about my obedience (Hina toinun, ephê, mê amphibolon ê̢, hôs allo ti poiô ê ta proêgoreumena), please fix the age limit below which a man is to be accounted young (horisate moi, mechri posôn etôn dei nomizein neous einai tous anthrôpous).” “So long,” replied Charicles (Kai ho Chariklês, Hosouper, eipe, chronou), “as he is not permitted to sit in the Council (bouleuein ouk exestin), because as yet he lacks wisdom (hôs oupô phronimois ousi). You shall not converse (mêde su dialegou) with anyone who is under thirty (neôterois triakonta etôn).” (Memorabilia I.ii.35, tr. E. C. Marchant)

It is worth noting that the order prohibited Socrates to discuss philosophy with Plato who was in his twenties. The law was presumably formulated by Critias to enable him to ‘free’ Plato from Socrates’ influence. Plato says that when the Thirty took power ‘they invited me at once to join their administration, thinking it would be congenial’ (kai dê kai parekaloun euthus hôs epi prosêkonta pragmata me, 324d2-3), instead, he says, ‘consequently (hôste), I gave my mind to them very diligently (autois sphodra proseichon ton noun), to see what they would do (ti praxoien, 324d6, tr. Bury)’. What he says about his ‘withdrawal from the evils of those days’ nevertheless suggests that he became involved, although he did not join them in their administrative practices. On my dating, he was writing the Charmides. The dialogue can be read as his formulating the conditions under which he wanted to become actively involved: You accept Socrates as the moral and spiritual guide, Socrates will accept your authority as political leaders.

Concerning Critias’ motivation in formulating the law forbidding the teaching of rhetoric Xenophon says the following: ‘Nevertheless (All’), although Socrates was himself free from vice (ei kai mêden autos ponêron poiôn), if he saw and approved of base conduct in them [in Critias and Alcibiades] (ekeinous phaula prattontas epê̢nei), he would be open to censure (dikaiôs an epitimô̢to). Well, when he found that Critias loved Euthydemus (Kritian men toinun aisthanomenos erônta Euthudêmou) and wanted to lead him astray (kai peirônta chrêsthai kathaper hoi pros t’aphrodisia tôn sômatôn apolauontes ‘and tried to use him as those do who erotically enjoy the bodies’), he tried to restrain him (apetrepe) by saying (phaskôn) that it was mean (aneleutheron te einai) and unbecoming in a gentleman (kai ou prepon andri kalô̢ k’agathô̢) to sue like a beggar to the object of his affection, whose good opinion he coveted (ton erômenon, hô̢ bouletai pollou axios phainesthai, prosaitein hôsper tous ptôchous), stooping to ask a favour that it was wrong to grant (hiketeuonta kai deomenon prosdounai kai tauta mêdenos agathou ‘begging and asking to be given what was nothing good’). As Critias paid no heed whatever to this protest (Kritiou tois toioutois ouch hupakouontos oude apotrepomenou), Socrates, it is said, exclaimed in the presence of Euthydemus and many others (legetai ton Sôkratên allôn te pollôn parontôn kai tou Euthudêmou, eipein) “Critias seems to have the feelings of a pig (hoti huikon autô̢ dokoiê paschein ho Kritias): he can no more keep away from Euthydemus than pigs can help rubbing themselves against the stones (epithumôn Euthudêmô̢ prosknêsthai hôsper ta hudia tois lithois ‘desiring to rub against Euthydemus as pigs rub against the stones’),” Now Critias bore a grudge against Socrates for this (ex hôn dê kai emisei ton Sôkratên ho Critias); and when he was one of the Thirty and was drafting laws with Charicles (hôste kai hote tôn triakonta ôn nomothetês meta Charikleous egeneto), he bore it in mind (apemnêmoneusen autô̢). He inserted a clause (kai en tois logois egrapse) which made it illegal “to teach the art of words” (logôn technên mê didaskein).’

Xenophon explains: ‘It was a calculated insult to Socrates (epêreazôn ekeinô̢), whom he saw no means of attacking (kai ouk echôn hopê̢ epilaboito), except by imputing him the practice constantly attributed to philosophers (alla to koinê̢ tois philosophois hupo tôn pollôn epitimômenon epipherôn autô̢), and so making him unpopular (kai diaballôn pros tous pollous).’ He adds: ‘For I myself never heard Socrates indulge in the practice, nor knew of anyone who professed to have heard him do so.’ (Memorabilia I.ii.29-31, tr. E. C. Marchant)

Xenophon’s explanation doesn’t make much sense, especially since Critias himself had philosophic ambitions (See fragments in Diels and Kranz, Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker, vol.II, 88 ‘Kritias’), but the story itself, which he gives, makes sense when we see it against the background of Plato’s Phaedrus. What Socrates wanted to achieve in Critias’ relationship to Euthydemus, and failed, this the philosopher achieves in the relation to his beloved in the Phaedran Palinode, Plato’s ode on Love.

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In the Phaedrus Socrates proves the immortality of the soul (245c5-246a2), and then he says: ‘As to the soul’s nature (peri de tês ideas autês) there is this that must be said (hôde lekteon): what manner of thing it is (hoion men esti) … a god alone could tell (theias einai diêgêseôs); but what it resembles (hô̢ de eoiken), that a man might tell (anthrôpinês) … Let it be likened to the union of powers in a team of winged steeds and their winged charioteer (eoiketô dê sumphutô̢ dunamei hupopterou zeugous te kai hêniochou) … it is a pair of steeds that the charioteer controls (hêmôn ho archôn sunôridos hêniochei); moreover (eita) one of them is noble and good (tôn hippôn ho men autô̢ kalos te kai agathos), and of good stock (kai ek tôn toioutôn), while the other has the opposite character, and his stock is opposite (ho d’ ex enantiôn kai enantios). Hence the task of our charioteer is difficult and troublesome (chalepê dê kai duskolos ex anankês hê peri hêmas hêniochêsis)’ (246a2-b3) … The natural property of a wing is (Pephuken hê pterou dunamis) to raise that which is heavy and carry it aloft (to embrithes agein anô meteorizousa) to the region where the gods dwell (hê̢ to tôn theôn genos oikei, 246d6-7) … and the divine (to de theion) is beautiful (kalon), wise (sophon), good (agathon), and everything of that kind (kai pan hoti toiouton, 246d8-e1) … within the heavens (entos ouranou) … each god is doing his own work (prattôn hekastos autôn to hautou), and with them are all such as will (hepetai de ho aei ethelôn) and can follow them (kai dunamenos, 247a5-7) … But when (hotan de dê) they go to their feasting and to banquet (pros daita kai epi thoinên iôsin), then they travel to the summit of the arch of heaven (akran epi tên hupouranion hapsida poreuontai pros anantes), and easy is that ascent for the chariots of gods (hê̢ dê ta men theôn ochêmata râ̢diôs poreuetai), but for the others it is hard (ta de alla mogis); the steed that partakes of wickedness weighs them down, pulling them towards the earth with his weight (brithei gar ho tês kakês hippos metechôn, epi tên gên repôn te kai barunôn), if the driver has not educated him well (hô̢ mê kalôs ên tethrammenos tôn hêniochôn). Here (entha dê) the harshest toil and struggle awaits the soul (ponos te kai agôn eschatos psuchê̢ prokeitai, 247a8-b6) … for the souls that are called immortal (hai men gar athanatoi kaloumenai) … stand upon the back of the heaven (hestêsan epi tô̢ tou ouranou nôtô̢), and as they stand there (stasas de autas) the revolving heaven carries them around (periagei hê periphora), and they look upon the regions outside the heaven (hai dê theôrousi ta exô tou ouranou, 247b6-c2) … 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 (hê gar achrômatos te kai aschêmatistos kai anaphês ousia ontôs ousa, psuchês kubernêtê̢ monô̢ theatê nô̢, peri hês to tês alêthinês epistêmês genos, touton echei ton topon). Now even as the mind of a god is nourished by reason and knowledge (hat’ oun theou dianoia nô̢ te kai epistêmê̢ akêratô̢ trephomenê), so also is it with every soul (kai hapasês psuchês) that has a care (hosê̢ an melê̢) to receive her proper food (to prosêkon dexasthai); wherefore when at last she has beheld Being (idousa dia chronou to on) she is well content (agapa̢ te), and contemplating truth (kai theôrousa t’alêthê) she is nourished (trephetai te) and prospers (kai eupathei), until the heaven’s revolution brings her back the full circle (heôs an kuklô̢ hê periphora eis t’auton perienenkê̢, 247c6-d5) … And this is the life of gods (Kai houtos men theôn bios), but the other souls (hai de allai psuchai, 248a1) … Whatsoever soul (hêtis an psuchê) follows in the train of a god (theô̢ sunopados genomenê), and catches sight of some of the true things (katidê̢ ti tôn alêthôn), shall be kept from sorrow until a new revolution shall begin (mechri te tês heterâs periodou einai apêmona, 248c3-4) … But when she is unable to follow (hotan dê adunatêsasa epispesthai), and sees none of it (mê idê̢I, 248c5-6) … sheds her wings (pterorruêsê̢ te) and falls to the earth (kai epi tên gên pesê̢); then it is the law (tote nomos) that in her first birth she shall not be planted in any animal nature (tautên mê phuteusai eis mêdemian thêreion phusin en tê̢ prôtê̢ genesei), but the one that saw the most of Being (alla tên men pleista idousan) shall be planted in a seed of a man (eis gonên andros) who shall become (genêsomenou) a philosopher (philosophou, 248c8-d3).’

Armed with this image of the soul, Socrates depicts the philosopher’s attraction to his beloved, and the ensuing struggles of love:  ‘Now when (hotan d’ oun) the driver (ho hêniochos) beholds the beloved’s eye (idôn to erôtikon omma), and the ensuing sensation suffuses his whole soul with warmth (pasan aisthêsei diathermênas tên psuchên), he begins to experience a tickling or pricking of desire (gargalismou te kai pothou kentrôn hupoplêsthê̢); and the obedient steed (ho men eupeithês tô̢ hêniochô̢ tôn hippôn), constrained now as always by sense of shame (aei te kai tote aidoi biazomenos), restrains himself (heauton katechei) from leaping upon the beloved (mê epipêdan tô̢ erômenô̢); but the other (o de), heeding no more the driver’s goad or whip (oute kentrôn hêniochikôn oute mastigos eti entrpetai), leaps and dashes on (skirtôn de bia̢ pheretai), sorely troubling (kai panta pragmata parechôn) his companion (tô̢ suzugi te) and his driver (kai tô̢ hêniochô̢), and forces them to approach the loved one (anankazei ienai te pros ta paidika) and mention to him (kai mneian poiêsein) the delights of erotic activities (tês tôn aphrodisiôn charitos). For a while the two resist (tô de kat’ archas men antiteineton), indignant (aganaktounte) that he should force them to monstrous and forbidden acts (hôs deina kai paranoma anankazomenô); but at last (teleutônte de), finding no end to their evil plight (hotan mêden ê̢ peras kakou), they follow his lead (poreuesthon agomenô) yielding (eixante) and agreeing (kai homologêsante) to do his bidding (poiêsein to keleuomenon). And now they’ve got quite close to him (kai pros autô̢ t’ egenonto) and beheld the sight of the beloved flashing with light (kai eidon tên opsin tên tôn paidikôn astraptousan). As the charioteer sees him (idontos de tou hêniochou), his memory is carried to the nature of Beauty (hê mnêmê pros tên tou kallous phusin ênechthê), and he sees her again (kai palin eiden autên) enthroned by the side of Sôphrosunê upon her holy pedestal (meta sôphrosunês en hagnô̢ bathrô̢ bebôsan); and in seeing her (idousa de; in Greek, the subject is the memory, hê mnêmê, which is feminine, identified with the charioteer) in awe and reverence he falls upon his back (edeise te kai sephtheisa anepesen huptia), and therewith (kai hama) is compelled (ênankasthê) to pull the reins (eis t’oupisô helkesthai tas hênias) so violently (houtô sphodra) that he brings both steeds down on their haunches (hôst’ epi ta ischua amphô kathisai tô hippô), the one willing (ton men hekonta) for he is not resisting (dia to mê antiteinein), but the wanton (ton de hubristên) sore against his will (mal’ akonta).’ (253e5-354c3) … And so, if the victory be won by the higher elements of mind guiding the lover and the beloved into the ordered rule of the philosophic life (ean men dê oun eis tetagmenên te diaitan kai philosophian nikêsê̢  ta beltiô tês dianoias agagonta), their days on earth will be blessed with happiness and concord (makarion men kai homonoêtikon ton enthade bion diagousin); for the power of evil in the soul has been subjected, and the power of goodness liberated: they have won self-mastery and inward peace (enkrateis hautôn kai kosmioi ontes, doulôsamenoi men hô̢ kakia psuchês enegigneto, eleutherôsantes de hô̢ aretê, 256a7-b3).’ [In translating these passages form the Phaedrus I am much indebted to Hackforth’s and Rowe’s translations.]

***
After delivering the Ode on Love, Socrates discusses with Phaedrus its oratory merits, as well as the merits and demerits of the two previous speeches on Love: Lysias’ speech, in which a non-lover, who is interested only in sex, propositions a beautiful boy, arguing that love is a noxious complication, and Socrates’ rival speech, in which the lover is interested in seducing the boy of his desire as effortlessly as possible, and enjoying his sexual favours as long as he is interested in having sex with him. Such lover is of necessity devoid of reason (hup anankês anoêtos, 241b7), faithless (apistos), peevish (duskolos), jealous (phthoneros), disagreeable (aêdes), harmful to the physical condition (blaberos pros tên tou sômatos hexin), and by far the most harmful to the education of the boy’s soul (polu de blaberôtatos pros tên tês psuchês paideusin, 241c2-5).

Xenophon says that Critias bore a grudge against Socrates ever since the latter berated him for his attempts to seduce Euthydemus, and that that’s the reason why he drafted a law that made it illegal to teach rhetoric (logôn technên ou didaskein), thus abusively threatening Socrates (epêreazôn ekeinô̢, Mem. I. ii. 29-31) Xenophon’s explanation that Critias thus tried to calumniate Socrates ‘imputing to him a practice constantly attributed to philosophers’ (to koinê̢ tois philosophois hupo tôn pollôn epitimômenon epipherôn autô̢) doesn’t make much sense, especially in the light of Xenophon’s own remark: ‘I myself never heard Socrates indulge in the practice, nor knew anyone who professed to have heard him do so (ibid.).’ Xenophon’s narrative nevertheless makes sense when we view it against the background of the Phaedrus.

As I have argued, Plato wrote the Phaedrus in 405/404, during the siege of Athens (‘4 Dating of the Phaedreus’ posted on January 15, 2017). Critias was at that time in exile in Thessaly ‘in company with men who put lawlessness before justice’ (ekei sunên anthrôpois anomiâ̢ mallon ê dikaiosunê̢ chrômenois, Xenophon, Mem. I. ii. 24); Socrates in the Crito speaks of Thessaly as the country ‘in which there is (ekei gar dê) the greatest disorder (pleistê ataxia) and licentiousness (kai akolasia, 53d3-4)’.

Xenophon’s story suggests that Socrates’ attempt to deflect Critias from his erotic propositions to Euthydemus was well known, and the whole affair provides – and provided for Plato and his readers – a good background to Socrates’ two speeches on love in the Phaedrus. Socrates’ subsequent discussion of their oratorical merits turned into an ambitious outline of scientific rhetoric, founded on dialectic, which, as Plato undoubtedly hoped, was to become the main political tool in rebuilding the Athenian society after the war ‘so as to lead men from an unjust way of life into a just way’ (ek tinos adikou biou epi dikaion tropon agontas dioikêsein tên polin, Seventh Letter 324d4-5).

When Critias returned from exile after the final surrender of Athens, he could not have found the Phaedrus a very pleasant read. His drafting a law that forbade teaching rhetoric, aimed as a threat at Socrates, can be seen as his response to Plato’s Phaedrus

Friday, June 16, 2017

3 Plato’s Charmides in the light of its dating, with reference to his Seventh Letter

Platonic scholarship of the twentieth century rejected the ancient biographic tradition according to which Plato began to write his dialogues during Socrates’ lifetime. How can Platonic scholars view the Charmides as a dialogue written after the death of Socrates? Donald Watt writes in his ‘Introduction to Charmides’:

‘Charmides and Critias were not simply Athenian aristocrats but were, more importantly, members of Plato’s own aristocratic family. Charmides was his uncle on his mother’s side; Critias, his mother’s cousin. Both belonged to Socrates’ circle, though Critias had mixed with the sophists, and in this dialogue, to some extent, he represents their ethical standpoint and methods of argumentation.

Why should Plato have chosen these two members of his own family to be Socrates’ interlocutors in this dialogue? Why should he have honoured them with such praise of their noble ancestry, which was also his own ancestry, as he does at the beginning (157e-158b)? The answers lie in the two men’s subsequent careers. Critias went on to become the extremist leader of the Thirty Tyrants, who imposed a reign of terror on Athens at the end of the Peloponnesian War in 404-403, in their attempt to impose their oligarchy on the citizen body. Charmides too became one of the Thirty, meeting his death, with Critias, in battle against the democrats. Part of Plato’s purpose in this dialogue is to exculpate Socrates from any responsibility for the crimes of his former companions. Xenophon, in Memorabilia I. 2. 12 ff., also comes to Socrates’ defence against the same charge, stating that Socrates had taught Critias sôphrosunê in his youth and had spoken out so strongly against his later behaviour that he had taken grave offence. By showing Critias as both quite lacking in sôphrosunê and quite ignorant of its meaning beyond a superficial acquaintance with its conventional use within his aristocratic circle; by representing Charmides as equally unaware of its true purport, despite his possession of the natural sôphrosunê of youth, which he will lose when he reaches adulthood; and by portraying Socrates as trying his best to discover with them the true meaning of sôphrosunê, and as failing to elicit answer from them, though possessing the virtue himself – by all these means Plato is endeavouring to show that Socrates tried to educate Critias and Charmides in sôphrosunê, but failed. But by trying, he saved himself from any possible accusation of responsibility for their later crimes.’ (Plato, Early Socratic Dialogues, Penguin Books, 1987, p. 167.)

Donald Watt covers a lot of territory in these two paragraphs. In this post I shall limit myself to his question ‘Why should he have honoured them with such praise of their noble ancestry, which was also his own ancestry, as he does at the beginning (157e-158b)?’, and to his answer: ‘Part of Plato’s purpose in this dialogue is to exculpate Socrates from any responsibility for the crimes of his former companions’. Since the main purpose of my entries on Plato in this blog of mine is to view Plato in the looking glass of his texts, let me begin with his praise of Charmides in the Charmides.

Critias tells Socrates: ‘Well then, rest assured (Eu toinun isthi) that he is regarded as far and away the most self-controlled of the present generation (hoti panu polu dokei sôphronestatos einai tôn nuni) and, for his age, second to none in everything else too (kai t’alla panta, eis hoson hêlikias hêkei, oudenos cheirôn ôn).’ – In response, Socrates says to Charmides: ‘Indeed it’s only right (Kai gar kai dikaion), Charmides (ô Charmidê), that you should surpass the rest (diapherein se tôn allôn) in all things like that (pasin tois toioutois). I don’t think there is anyone else here (ou gar oimai allon oudena tôn enthade) who could easily point (ra̢diôs an echein epideixai) to any two Athenian families (poiai duo oikiai), apart from those from which you come, whose union might be expected to produce anyone better or more noble (sunelthousai eis t’auton tôn Athênesin ek tôn eikotôn kalliô an kai ameinô gennêseian ê ex hôn su gegonas). Your father’s family (hê te gar patrô̢a humin oikia), that of Critias (hê Kritiou), Dropides’ son (tou Dropidou), has been eulogized by Anacreon [‘A famous lyric poet, born in Teos c. 570’, notes D. Watt], Solon and many other poets (kai hupo Anakreontos kai hupo Solônos kai hup’ allôn pollôn poiêtôn enkekômiasmenê), and has been presented to us by tradition (paradedotai hêmin) as pre-eminent for beauty (hôs diapherousa kallei te), virtue (kai aretê̢) and everything else that is called happiness (kai tê̢ allê̢ legomenê̢ eudaimonia̢). The same is true of your mother’s family too (kai au hê pros mêtros hôsautôs): no one in the continent of Asia is said to have been considered more handsome or taller than your uncle Pyrilampes [‘A friend of Pericles, famed for his breeding of peacocks, who became Plato’s stepfather’, notes D. Watt] (Purilampous gar tou sou theiou oudeis tôn en tê̢ êpeirô̢ legetai kalliôn ê meizôn anêr doxai einai), whenever (hosakis) he went as ambassador to the Great King or anyone else in the continent (ekeinos ê para megan basilea ê para allon tina tôn en tê̢ êpeirô̢ presbeuôn aphiketo). That whole side of the family (sumpasa de hautê hê oikia) is in no way inferior to the other (ouden tes heteras hupodeestera). So it’s natural that, coming from such people (ek dê toutôn gegonota), you should be first in everything (eikos se eis panta prôton einai). Now, from what I’ve seen of your looks (ta men oun horômena tês ideas), dear son of Glaucon (ô phile pai Glaukônos), I don’t think you fall short of any of your forebears in anything (dokeis moi oudena tôn pro sou en oudeni hupobebêkenai); and if you are sufficiently endowed with self-control and the other qualities, as Critias maintains (ei de kai pros sôphrosunên kai pros t’alla kata ton toude logon hikanôs pephukas), your mother bore a blessed son in you, my dear Charmides (makarion se, ô phile Charmidê, hê mêtêr etikten).’ 157d6-158a4, tr. D. Watt)

I do not see how this eloquent praise of Charmides’ and Critias’ noble ancestry can be viewed as part of Plato’s purpose to exculpate Socrates from any responsibility for the crimes of his former companions. Written in the early days of the aristocratic revolution, when Plato hoped that the Thirty would ‘so administer the State as to lead it out of an unjust way of life into a just way’ (ek tinos adikou biou epi dikaion tropon agontas dioikêsein dê tên polin, Seventh Letter 324d4-5), the praise expresses Plato’s hope, if not confidence, that this is how the Thirty ought to act, true to their vocation as aristocrats. That he was not sure about it can be inferred from the words that follow: ‘so I focussed my mind on them very closely to see (hôste autois sphodra proseichon ton noun) what they would do (ti praxoien, Seventh Letter 324d6).

At this point it could be argued that the same explanation, with added force, could be proffered by Donald Watt and by all those who view the dialogue as written after Socrates’ death: With his praise of Charmides’ and Critias’ noble ancestry Socrates did his best to compel them to become worthy of their noble ancestry, of which they in the end proved to be unworthy.

Against this explanation militates the closing section of the dialogue, to which I devoted the preceding post, and from which I shall now quote only the closing exchange between Charmides and Socrates.

Charmides realizes that he needs to be charmed by Socrates every day. Critias tells him that this is the best proof that he is wise, that he has sôphrosunê, and he commands him to be true to his resolve and not to disappoint Socrates in any way. Charmides promises to obey his command. At this point Socrates addresses Critias and Charmides: ‘What are you two plotting to do (Houtoi, ti bouleuesthon poiein;)?’ – Charmides: ‘Nothing (Ouden), we’ve done our plotting (alla bebouleumetha).’ – Socrates, addressing Charmides: ‘Are you going to resort to the use of force (Biasê̢ ara), without even giving me a preliminary hearing (kai oud’ anakrisin moi dôseis)?’ – Charmides: ‘I certainly am (Hôs biasomenou), since Critias here orders me to (epeidêper hode ge epitattei) – which is why you should plot what you’ll do (pros tauta su au bouleuou hoti poiêseis).’ – Socrates says to Charmides: ‘But there’s no time left for plotting (All’ oudemia leipetai boulê). Once you’re intent on doing something (soi gar epicheirounti prattein hotioun) and are resorting to the use of force (kai biazomenô̢), no man alive will be able to resist you (oudeis hoios t’ estai enantiousthai anthrôpôn).’ – Charmides: ‘Well then (Mê toinun), don’t you resist me either (mêde su enantiou).’ – Socrates closes the dialogue by answering Charmides: ‘I won’t (Ou toinun enantiôsomai, ‘I won’t resist you then’).’ (176c5-d5, tr. D. Watt)

If I were to view the Charmides as written after the death of Socrates, I could not see it otherwise than as an attempt to make Socrates responsible ‘for the crimes of his former companions’, as Watt puts it. 

Thursday, June 15, 2017

2 Plato’s Charmides in the light of its dating, with reference to his Seventh Letter

The most telling reasons for dating the Charmides in 404, before the aristocratic regime deteriorated into tyranny, can be derived from its closing scene. It begins with Socrates berating himself for his inability to investigate sôphrosunê properly: ‘Do you see (Hora̢s oun), Critias (ô Kritia), how all this time I had good reason to be apprehensive (hôs egô palai eikotôs ededoikê), and was quite right (kai dikaiôs) to accuse myself (emauton ê̢tiômên) of not conducting a worthwhile inquiry into sôphrosunê (hoti ouden chrêston peri sôphrosunês skopô;)? Something that is agreed to be the most admirable of all things wouldn’t have seemed to us to be of no benefit (ou gar an pou to ge kalliston pantôn homologeitai einai, touto hêmin anôpheles ephanê), if I had been any use at making a proper investigation (ei ti emou ophelos ên pros to kalôs zêtein).’ (175a9-b2, tr. D. Watt)

Socrates then recapitulates the main points of the investigation, only to return to berating himself; turning to Charmides he says: ‘I’m not annoyed so much for myself (to men oun emon kai hêtton aganaktô) as for you, Charmides (huper de sou, ô Charmidê, panu aganaktô), because you, who have such good looks (ei su toioutos ôn tên idean) and are in addition sôphronestatos [D. Watt ‘very self-controlled’] of soul (kai pros toutô̢ tên psuchên sôphronestatos), will not profit from that sôphrosunê [D. W. ‘self-control’] (mêden onêsê̢ apo tautês tês sôphrosunês), and because despite its presence in you, it won’t bring you any benefit at all in life (mêde ti s’ ôphelêsei en tô̢ biô̢ parousa, 175d5-e2, tr. D. Watt)!

***
Making haste to reach the closing part of the closing scene, I skipped Socrates’ recapitulation of the investigation. But what Socrates has just now said to Charmides compels me to return to it, for only against its background Socrates’ ‘tears’ on Charmides’ behalf can be properly assessed:
‘For as it is now, we have been utterly defeated (nun de pantachê̢ gar hêttômetha), and are unable to discover (kai ou dunametha heurein) to which actual thing (eph’ hotô̢ pote tôn ontôn) the lawgiver (ho nomothetês) gave this name (touto t’ounoma etheto), the sôphrosunê (tên sôphrosunên). And yet (kaitoi) we have conceded many points (polla sunkechôrêkamen) which did not follow (ou sumbainonth’ hêmin) from our argument (en tô̢ logô̢). We conceded that there was a knowledge of knowledge (kai gar epistêmên epistêmês einai sunechôrêsamen), although the argument denied it (ouk eôntos tou logou) and claimed there wasn’t (oude phaskontos einai). We conceded that this knowledge knew the products of the other knowledges too (kai tautê̢ au tê̢ epistêmê̢ kai ta tôn allôn epistêmôn erga gignôskein sunechôrêsamen) although the argument denied this as well (oude touto eôntos tou logou), just to have the sôphrôn [D.W. ’self-controlled man’] in possession of the knowledge (hina dê hêmin genoito ho sôphrôn epistêmôn) that he knows (ho te oiden) what he knows (ho ti oiden) and that he does not know what he does not know (kai hôn mê oiden hoti ouk oiden). We made that terribly generous concession (touto men dê kai pantapasi megaloprepôs sunechôrêsamen) without even considering (oud’ episkepsamenoi) the impossibility (to adunaton einai) of a man knowing in some sort of way what he does not know at all (ha tis mê oiden mêdamôs, tauta eidenai hamôs ge pôs); for we allowed that he knows what he does not know (ho ti gar ouk oiden, phêsin auta eidenai hê hêmetera homologia), and yet (kaitoi) I think (hôs egô̢mai) nothing would seem stranger than that (oudenos hotou alogôteron tout’ an phaneiê). All the same (all’ homôs), although the investigation has found us so very good-natured (houtôs hêmôn euêthikôn tuchousa hê zêtêsis) and compliant (kai ou sklêrôn), it has still been no more able to discover the truth (ouden ti mallon heurein dunatai tên alêtheian), but has made such sport of it (alla tosouton kategelasen autês) as to demonstrate to us quite brutally the uselessness of sôphrosunê [D.W. ’self-control’] as we defined it in those fictions we agreed on for so long (hôste ho hêmeis palai sunomologountes kai sumplattontes etithemetha sôphrosunên einai, touto hêmin panu hubristikôs anôpheles on apephaine).’ (175b2-d5, tr. D. Watt)

In view of the outcome of his investigation into sôphrosunê, Socrates is not entitled to say to Charmides that he is sôphronestatos [D. Watt ‘very self-controlled’]; the investigation into sôphrosunê began with the question whether Charmides has sôphrosunê or not, and this question hasn’t been settled. It could not be settled, since Socrates failed to discover what sôphrosunê is. Even less ground Socrates has for bewailing that Charmides will not profit from sôphrosunê with which he is endowed.

***
Socrates goes on complaining in the same vein, but then he corrects himself; again, neither his complaining nor his self-correction has any foundation in the foregoing research: ‘I’m even more annoyed (eti de mallon aganaktô) about the charm (huper tês epô̢dês) I learned from the Thracian (hên para tou Thra̢kos emathon) – that I went on taking great pains to learn the charm for a thing which is worth nothing (ei mêdenos axiou pragmatos ousan autên meta pollês spoudês emanthanon). In fact, I really don’t think that this is the case at all (taut’ oun panu men ouk oiomai houtôs echein), but that I’m an awful investigator (alla eme phaulon einai zêtêtên) – because I do think that sôphrosunê [D.W. ‘self-control’] is a great good (epei tên ge sôphrosunên mega ti agathon einai), and that if you do possess it (kai eiper ge echeis auto), you are fortunate (makarion einai se). See (all’ hora) whether you do possess it (ei echeis te) and have no need of the charm (kai mêden deê̢ tês epô̢dês) – because if you do possess it (ei gar echeis), I’d advise you instead (mallon an egôge soi sumbouleusaimi) to consider me a fool (eme men lêron hêgeisthai einai), incapable of investigating anything in a reasoned argument (kai adunaton logô̢ hotioun zêtein), and yourself (seauton de) the happier the sôphronesteros [D.W. ‘the more self-controlled’] you are (hosô̢per sôphronesteros ei, tosoutô̢ einai kai eudaimonesteron).’

Charmides replied: ‘But heavens (Alla ma Di’), Socrates, I don’t know (egôge, ô Sôkrates, ouk oida) whether I possess it (out’ eit’ echô) or whether I don’t (out’ ei mê echô). How can I know it (pôs gar an eideiên), when, on your own admission, not even you and Critias are able to discover what on earth it is (ho ge mêd’ humeis hoioi te este exeurein hoti pot’ estin, hôs phê̢s su;)? Still, I don’t really believe you at all (egô mentoi ou panu soi peithomai), Socrates, and I really do think I need the charm (kai emauton, ô Sôkrates, panu oimai deisthai tês epô̢dês); and as far as I am concerned (kai to g’ emon), there’s no reason why I shouldn’t be charmed by you every day (ouden kôluei epa̢desthai hupo sou hosai hêmerai), until you say I’ve had enough (heôs an phê̢s su hikanôs echein).’

At this point Critias steps in: ‘All right (Eien). But (all’), Charmides (ô Charmidê), by doing that (ên dra̢s touto), you’ll prove to me (emoig’ estai touto tekmêrion) that you sôphroneis [D.W. ‘are self-controlled’] (hoti sôphroneis) – if you turn yourself over to Socrates for charming (ên epa̢dein parechê̢s Sôkratei), and don’t disappoint him (kai mê apoleipê̢ toutou) in anything either great (mête mega) or small (mête smikron).’

Charmides tells Critias: ‘Rest assured that I will follow him (Hôs akolouthêsontos) and won’t disappoint him (kai mê apoleipsomenou). I’d be behaving terribly (deina gar an poioiên) if I didn’t obey you (ei mê peithoimên soi), my guardian (tô̢ epitropô̢), and didn’t do (kai mê poioiên) what you tell me (ha keleueis).’ – Critias: ‘I’m telling you (Alla mên keleuô egôge).’ – Charmides: ‘Well then, I’ll do it (Poiêsô toinun), starting today (apo tautêsi tês hêmeras arxamenos).’

At this point Socrates found his word, addressing Critias and Charmides: ‘What are you two plotting to do (Houtoi, ti bouleuesthon poiein;)?’ – Charmides: ‘Nothing (Ouden), we’ve done our plotting (alla bebouleumetha).’ – Socrates, addressing Charmides: ‘Are you going to resort to the use of force (Biasê̢ ara), without even giving me a preliminary hearing (kai oud’ anakrisin moi dôseis)?’ – Charmides: ‘I certainly am (Hôs biasomenou), since Critias here orders me to (epeidêper hode ge epitattei) – which is why you should plot what you’ll do (pros tauta su au bouleuou hoti poiêseis).’ – Socrates says to Charmides: ‘But there’s no time left for plotting (All’ oudemia leipetai boulê). Once you’re intent on doing something (soi gar epicheirounti prattein hotioun) and are resorting to the use of force (kai biazomenô̢), no man alive will be able to resist you (oudeis hoios t’ estai enantiousthai anthrôpôn).’ – Charmides: ‘Well then (Mê toinun), don’t you resist me either (mêde su enantiou).’ – Socrates closes the dialogue by answering Charmides: ‘I won’t (Ou toinun enantiôsomai, ‘I won’t resist you then’).’ (175e2-176d5, tr. D. Watt)

***
In the Seventh Letter Plato speaks about his beginnings: ‘In the days of my youth (Neos egô pote ôn) my experience was the same as that of many others (pollois dê t’auton epathon). I thought (ô̢êthên) as soon as I should become my own master (ei thatton emautou genoimên kurios) I would immediately enter public life (epi ta koina tês poleôs euthus ienai). And it so happened that I was confronted with the following changes in the political situation of my own city (kai moi tuchai tines tôn tês poleôs pragmatôn toiaide parepeson). In the government then existing, reviled as it was by many, a revolution took place (Hupo pollôn tês tote politeias loidoroumenês metabolê gignetai) (324b8-c3) … And Thirty were established as rulers with plenipotentiary powers over all (triakonta de pantôn katestêsan autokratores). Some of these (toutôn de tines) were relatives [notably Charmides and Critias] (oikeioi te ontes) and acquaintances of mine (kai gnôrimoi etunchanon emoi), and they at once invited me to share in their doings, as something to which I had a claim (kai dê kai parekaloun euthus hôs epi prosêkonta pragmata me). The effect on me was not surprising in the case of a young man (kai egô thaumaston ouden epathon hupo neotêtos). I considered (ô̢êthên) that they (gar autous) would, of course, so manage the State as to bring men out of bad way of life into a good one (ek tinos adikou biou epi dikaion tropon agontas dioikêsein dê tên polin). (324c6-d5)


During this hopeful initial period of the aristocratic revolution, in my view, Plato wrote and published the Charmides.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

1 Plato’s Charmides in the light of its dating, with references to his Phaedrus and Symposium

In the preceding post I raised the question whether the science/knowledge of the beauty itself, of which Diotima tells Socrates in the Symposium, sheds light on the science/knowledge of the good mooted by Socrates in the Charmides. I suggested that the dating of the Charmides may help us in answering this question. I discussed the dating of the Charmides in the fifth chapter of The Lost Plato, entitled ‘The Charmides and the Phaedrus’ (available on my website); in its first paragraph the dating of the Charmides is presented as in a nutshell:
‘In the preceding chapter [Ch.4, ‘The dating of the Phaedrus: Ancient Sources’] I argued that Plato wrote the Phaedrus in response to Aristophanes’ scathing attack on Socrates and his disciples in the Frogs, in the final stages of the Peloponnesian war, and that it was finished and published after its end, for only then Simmias, to whom Plato refers in the dialogue in parenthesis, could come to Athens from Thebes. The question arises which dialogue came next. This I believe to be the Charmides, for there are strong reasons for dating it shortly after Plato’s publishing of the Phaedrus. Socrates’ interlocutors in the Charmides are well known historical figures: Chaerephon, Critias, and Charmides. Charmides and Critias took an active part in the aristocratic revolution that took place after the dissolution of democracy with which the military defeat of Athens ended. This regime deteriorated in a few months into tyranny under Critias’ leadership and became known as the rule of the Thirty Tyrants. In the dialogue Chaerephon, an ardent democrat, is on the best terms with Critias and is presented as a great admirer of Charmides. Chaerephon went into exile when the aristocratic regime began to show its true nature (cf. Apology 20e-21a); I therefore date the Charmides in 404, before Chaerephon went to exile.’
***
Before bringing in the passages on which I found the dating of the Charmides, let me refer to a passage in the Phaedrus, which, together with the science/knowledge of the beauty itself, discussed by Diotima in the Symposium, sheds light on the science/knowledge of the good mooted by Socrates in the Charmides. The passage in the Phaedrus is the one in which Plato’s Socrates describes the ‘place beyond heavens’ (ton huperouranion topon, 247c3), where the Forms reside: ‘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 (hê gar achrômatos te kai aschêmatistos kai anaphês ousia ontôs ousa, psuchês kubernêtê̢ monô̢ theatê nô̢, peri hês to tês alêthinês epistêmês genos, touton echei ton topon). Now even as the mind of a god is nourished by reason and knowledge (hat’ oun theou dianoia nô̢ te kai epistêmê̢ akêratô̢ trephomenê), so also is it with every soul (kai hapasês psuchês) that has a care (hosê̢ an melê̢) to receive her proper food (to prosêkon dexasthai); wherefore when at last she has beheld Being (idousa dia chronou to on) she is well content (agapa̢ te), and contemplating truth (kai theôrousa t’alêthê) she is nourished (trephetai te) and prospers (kai eupathei), until the heaven’s revolution brings her back the full circle (heôs an kuklô̢ hê periphora eis t’auton perienenkê̢). And while she is borne around (en de tê̢ periphora̢) she discerns justice, its very self (kathora̢ men autên diakiosunên), and likewise temperance (kathora̢ de sôphrosunên), and knowledge (kathora̢ de epistêmên), not the knowledge that is neighbour to Becoming and varies with the various objects to which we commonly ascribe being (oud’ hê estin pou hetera en heterô̢ ousa hôn hêmeis nun ontôn kaloumen), but the veritable knowledge of Being that veritably is (alla tên en tô̢ ho estin on ontôs ousan).’ (247c6-e2; translation is Hackforth’s)
When Diotima in the Symposium speaks of the sciences that are subject to change as everything else in this world (207d-208b), she refers to sciences/knowledges (epistêmai, 207e5 ff.) of which Plato speaks in the Phaedrus as ‘the knowledge that is neighbour to Becoming and varies with the various objects to which we commonly ascribe being’ (in Hackforth’s translation; Christopher Rowe translates: ‘not that knowledge to which coming into being attaches, or that which seems to be different in each different one of the things that we now say are’).
When Diotima in the Symposium points to the knowledge of the beauty itself, she points to the knowledge of which Plato speaks in the Phaedrus as ‘the veritable knowledge of Being that veritably is’.
***
It might be objected that neither in the Phaedrus nor in the Symposium does Plato speak of the knowledge of the good; in the Phaedrus passage he speaks of the knowledge of the true being, in the Symposium passage of the knowledge of beauty itself; what entitles us to relate these two passages to the knowledge of the good in the Charmides? The knowledge of the good is a subject that in Plato’s view could not be discussed by means of the written word, only by the living spoken word; in the Charmides it is only gestured at.
In the Symposium Diotima intimates that when the philosopher begins to see the beauty itself, he is almost touching the end he strives at (schedon an ti haptoito tou telous, 211b6-7). In her discussion with Socrates Diotima had indicated that the good is of higher dignity and greater importance than beauty.
Diotima: ‘When a man loves the beautiful (era̢ ho erôn tôn kalôn), what does his love desire (ti era̢;)?’ – Soc. ‘That the beautiful may be his (Genesthai hautô̢).’ – D.: ‘Still, the answer suggests a further question (All’ eti pothei hê apokrisis erôtêsin toiande): What is given by the possession of beauty (Ti estai ekeinô̢ hô̢ an genêtai ta kala;)?’ – S.: ‘To what you have asked, I have no answer ready (Ou panu ephên eti echein egô pros tautên tên erôtêsin procheirôs apokrinesthai).’ – D.: ‘Then, let me put the word “good” in the place of the beautiful, and repeat the question once more (All’ hôsper an ei tis metabalôn anti tou kalou tô̢ agathô̢ chrômenos punthanoito): If he who loves the good (Phere, ô Sôkrates, era̢ ho erôn tôn agathôn), what is it then that he loves (ti era̢)?’ – S.: ‘The possession of the good (Genesthai hautô̢).’ – D.: ‘And what does he gain (Kai ti estai ekeinô̢) who possesses the good (hô̢ an genêtai t’agatha;)?’ – S.: ‘Happiness, there is little difficulty in answering that question (Tout’ euporôteron echô apokrinasthai, hoti eudaimôn estai).’ – D.: ‘Yes, the happy are made happy by the acquisition of good things (Ktêsei gar agathôn hoi eudaimones eudaimones). Nor is there any need to ask (kai ouketi prosdei eresthai) why a man desires happiness (Hina ti bouletai eudaimôn einai ho boulomenos;); the answer is already final (alla telos dokei echein hê apokrisis).’ (204d5-205a3, tr. Jowett)
Let me end this post with a passage in which Plato in the Phaedrus indicates why is it the Form of beauty that leads a philosopher to the other Forms: ‘Now beauty (Peri de kallous), as we said (hôsper eipomen), shone bright amidst these visions (met’ ekeinôn te elampen on), and in this world below we apprehend it through the clearest of our senses (deuro t’ elthontes kateilêphamen auto dia tês enargestatês aisthêseôs tôn hêmeterôn), clear and resplendent (stilbon enargestata). For sight (opsis gar) is the keenest (oxutatê) mode of perception vouchsafed us through the body (tôn dia tou sômatos erchetai aisthêseôn); wisdom, indeed, we cannot see thereby (hê̢ phronêsis ouch horatai) – how passionate had been our desire for her (deinous gar an pareichen erôtas), if she had granted us so clear an image of herself to gaze upon (ei ti toiouton heautês enarges eidôlon pareicheto eis opsin ion) – nor yet any other of those beloved objects, save only beauty (kai t’alla hosa erasta); for beauty alone this has been ordained (nun de kallos monon tautên esche moiran), to be most manifest to sense (hôst’ ekphanestaton einai) and most lovely of them all (kai erasmiôtaton).’ (250c8-e1, tr. R. Hackforth)

Monday, June 12, 2017

4 Eros in Diotima’s speech in Plato’s Symposium and Socrates in his Charmides, with a reference to his Phaedo

In the Charmides Socrates suggests that the knowledge of the good and bad alone makes a man do well and achieve happiness: ‘Because (Epei), Critias (ô Kritia), if it’s your intention (ei etheleis) to remove (exelein) that knowledge (tautên tên epistêmên) from the other knowledges (ek tôn allôn epistêmôn), will medicine make us healthy any the less (hêtton ti hê men iatrikê hugiainein poiêsei); shoemaking make shoes any the less (hê de skutikê hupodedesthai); weaving make clothes any the less (hê de huphantikê êmphiesthai)? Will piloting prevent death at sea any the less (hê de kubernêtikê kôlusei en tê̢ thalattê̢ apothnê̢skein), or generalship death in war (kai hê stratêgikê en polemô̢;)?’ – Critias: ‘No (Ouden hêtton).’ – S. ‘But (All’), my dear Critias (ô phile Kritia), we’ll be unable to ensure that each of these performed well and beneficially (to eu ge toutôn hekasta gignesthai kai ôphelimôs apoleloipos hêmas estai) if that knowledge is absent (tautês apousês).’ – C. ’That’s true (Alêthê legeis).’ – S. ‘But it would appear that that knowledge isn’t sôphrosunê [D.Watt ’self-control’] (Ouch hautê de ge, hôs eoiken, estin hê sôphrosunê), but rather the knowledge whose function is to benefit us (all’ hês ergon estin to ôphelein hêmas). It’s not the knowledge of knowledges and ignorances (ou gar epistêmôn ge kai anepistêmosunôn hê epistêmê estin), but of good (alla agathou ge) and bad (kai kakou); so that (hôste) if that knowledge is beneficial (ei hautê estin ôphelimos), our sôphrosunê [D.W. ’self-control’] must be something else (hê sôphrosunê allo ti an eiê hêmin).’ – C. ‘Why (Ti d’) wouldn’t sôphrosunê [D.W. ’self-control’] benefit us (ouk an hautê ôpheloi;)? If sôphrosunê [D.W. ’self-control’] is in the fullest sense the knowledge of knowledges and presides over the other knowledges too (ei gar hoti malista tôn epistêmôn epistêmê estin hê sôphrosunê), it would certainly govern the knowledge of the good too and consequently benefit us (epistatei ge kai tais allais epistêmais, kai tautês dêpou an archousa tês peri t’agathon epistêmês ôpheloi an hêmas).’
***
Critias initially spoke of ‘the knowledge of good and bad’ (174b10), but at this point he speaks of the same knowledge as the knowledge ‘of the good’ (peri t’agathon).  This ‘slip’ is not trivial. In the Phaedo Socrates says that ‘On this theory, then (ek de dê tou logou toutou), a man should consider nothing else (ouden allo skopein prosêkein anthrôpô̢), whether in regard to himself or anything else (kai peri autou ekeinou kai tôn allôn), but the best (all’ ê to ariston), the highest good (kai beltiston); though the same man must also know the worse (anankaion de einai ton auton touton kai to cheiron eidenai), as they are objects of the same knowledge (tên autên gar einai epistêmên peri autôn). (97d1-5, tr. David Gallop)
***
Socrates: ‘Would it make us healthy too (Ê k’an hugiainein poioi), not medicine (all’ ouch hê iatrikê;)? Would it make the products of the other arts (kai t’alla ta tôn technôn hautê an poioi), instead of each of them making its own (kai ouch hai allai to hautês ergon hekastê;)? Weren’t we solemnly declaring all this time (ê ou palai diemarturometha) that it was knowledge only of knowledge and ignorance (hoti epistêmês monon estin kai anepistêmosunês epistêmê) and nothing else (allou de oudenos)?’ Isn’t that so (ouch houtô;)?’ – C. ‘Apparently (Phainetai ge).’ – S. ‘So it wouldn’t be the producer of health (Ouk ara hugieias estai dêmiourgos;)? – C. ‘Certainly not (Ou dêta).’ – S. ‘Because health belonged to another art (Allês gar ên technês hugieia), didn’t it (ê ou;)?’ – C. ‘Yes (Allês).’ – S. ‘So it won’t be the producer of benefit either (Oud’ ara ôphelias), my friend (ô hetaire), since we allocated that product to another art (allê̢ gar au apedomen touto to ergon technê̢) a minute ago (nundê), didn’t we (ê gar;)?’ – C. ‘Yes, certainly (Panu ge).’ – S. ‘How will sôphrosunê [D.W. ’self-control’] be beneficial, then (Pôs oun ôphelimos estai hê sôphrosunê), when it is the producer of no benefit (oudemias ôphelias ousa dêmiourgos;)? – C. ‘It won’t at all (Oudamôs), it would appear, Socrates (ô Sôkrates, eoiken ge).’ (174c3-175a8, tr. D. Watt)
The knowledge of the good thus becomes a stumbling block that stands in the way of defining sôphrosunê, which Socrates professes to be unable to overcome: ‘Do you see (Hora̢s oun), Critias (ô Kritia), how all this time I had good reason to be apprehensive (hôs egô palai eikotôs ededoikê), and was quite right to accuse myself (kai dikaiôs emauton ê̢tiômên) of not conducting a worthwhile inquiry into sôphrosunê [D.W. ’self-control’] (hoti ouden chrêston peri sôphrosunês skopô;)? Something that is agreed to be the most admirable of all things wouldn’t have seemed to us to be of no benefit (ou gar an pou ho ge kalliston pantôn homologeitai einai touto hêmin anôpheles ephanê) if I had been any use at making a proper investigation (ei ti emou ophelos ên pros to kalôs zêtein). As it is now (nun de), we’re defeated on all fronts (pantachê̢ gar hêttômetha), and are unable to discover (kai ou dunametha heurein) to which actual thing (eph’ hô̢ pote tôn ontôn) the lawgiver (ho nomothetês) gave the name of sôphrosunê [D.W. ’self-control’] (touto t’ounoma etheto, tên sôphrosunên). And yet (kaitoi) we have conceded many points (polla sunkechôrêkamen) which did not follow (ou sumbainonth’ hêmin) from our argument (en tô̢ logô̢). We conceded that there was a knowledge of knowledge (kai gar epistêmên epistêmês einai sunechôrêsamen), although the argument denied it (ouk eôntos tou logou) and claimed there wasn’t (oude phaskontos einai). We conceded that this knowledge knew the products of the other knowledges too (kai tautê̢ au tê̢ epistêmê̢ kai ta tôn allôn epistêmôn erga gignôskein sunechôrêsamen) although the argument denied this as well (oude touto eôntos tou logou), just to have the sôphrôn [D.W. ’self-controlled man’] in possession of the knowledge (hina dê hêmin genoito ho sôphrôn epistêmôn) that he knows (ho te oiden) what he knows (ho ti oiden) and that he does not know what he does not know (kai hôn mê oiden hoti ouk oiden). We made that terribly generous concession (touto men dê kai pantapasi megaloprepôs sunechôrêsamen) without even considering (oud’ episkepsamenoi) the impossibility (to adunaton einai) of a man knowing in some sort of way what he does not know at all (ha tis mê oiden mêdamôs, tauta eidenai hamôs ge pôs); for we allowed that he knows what he does not know (ho ti gar ouk oiden, phêsin auta eidenai hê hêmetera homologia), and yet (kaitoi) I think (hôs egô̢mai) nothing would seem stranger than that (oudenos hotou alogôteron tout’ an phaneiê). All the same (all’ homôs), although the investigation has found us so very good-natured (houtôs hêmôn euêthikôn tuchousa hê zêtêsis) and compliant (kai ou sklêrôn), it has still been no more able to discover the truth (ouden ti mallon heurein dunatai tên alêtheian), but has made such sport of it (alla tosouton kategelasen autês) as to demonstrate to us quite brutally the uselessness of sôphrosunê [D.W. ’self-control’] as we defined it in those fictions we agreed on for so long (hôste ho hêmeis palai sunomologountes kai sumplattontes etithemetha sôphrosunên einai, touto hêmin panu hubristikôs anôpheles on apephaine).’ (175a9-d5, tr. D. Watt)
***
At 174a4-6 Socrates presents a positive picture of a man endowed with sôphrosunê: ‘Can it be that you mean the kind of man (ara mê ton toionde) who knows all the past and present in addition to the future (ei tis pros tois mellousin kai ta gegonota panta eideiê kai ta nun onta), and is ignorant of nothing (kai mêden agnooi;)? Let’s assume that such a man exists (thômen gar tina einai auton).’ Then he asks Critias: ‘Which of the knowledges is it that makes him happy (tis auton tôn epistêmôn poiei eudaimona; tr. D. Watt)?’
***
The English term ‘happy’ is the most unfortunate term in rendering the meaning of eudaimôn, for it suggests something felt subjectively – I always think of the song ‘don’t worry, be happy’ – whereas the Greek term eudaimôn suggests a general well-being, of which one’s feeling to be happy is only a part. This aspect of eudaimonia comes to the fore when Socrates takes stock of Critias’ answer that it is the knowledge of good and bad that is most conducive to it. Socrates: ‘It is not the life according to knowledge (ou to epistêmonôs ên zên) which makes men act rightly and be happy (to eu prattein te kai eudaimonein poioun), not even if it be knowledge of all the other sciences (oude sumpasôn tôn allôn epistêmôn), but one science only (alla mias ousês tautês monon), that of good and evil (tês peri to agathon te kai kakon).’ (174b12-c3, tr. Jowett)
Here again, Jowett’s ‘act rightly and be happy’ suggests ‘acting rightly’ and ‘being happy’ as two different things: one ‘acts rightly’ and as a consequence ‘is happy’. But in Greek to eu prattein is almost synonymous with kai eudaimonein; both are verbs, both express life-activities taken in the totality of one’s life.
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Clearly, Socrates has a very strong view of the knowledge of good and bad, although he speaks of it as ‘my dream’ (to emon onar, 173a7). This knowledge can’t be intended to be viewed just as a stumbling block, as which it ultimately functions within the framework of the Charmides; it points over the head of the not-knowing Socrates, transcending the dialogue. Can Diotima’s speech in the Symposium enlighten us on this point?
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After depicting the world in which Eros, who always loses what he has gained, operates, the world in which even the sciences are subjected to generation and decay (Symp. 207d-208a), Diotima points to an entirely different science/knowledge, which is of beauty itself, free from change. Can the science/knowledge of the good in the Charmides be seen in the light of Diotima’s science/knowledge of the beauty itself?
In Diotima’s narrative the world of change is related to beauty itself: A philosopher, guided by Eros, ‘turned towards the vast sea of beauty (epi to polu pelagos tetrammenos tou kalou) and contemplating it (kai theôrôn), will give birth to many beautiful and noble discourses (pollous kai kalous logous kai megaloprepeis tiktê̢) and thoughts (kai dianoêmata) in bounteous philosophy (en philosophia̢ aphthonô̢), until (heôs an), here having been strengthened (entautha rôstheis) and well developed (kai auxêtheis), he can see (katidê̢) a science which is the only one such (tina epistêmên mian toiautên), which is of beauty that is such (hê esti kalou toioude) [the ‘such’ qualifying science {toiautên} and beauty {toioude} is forward looking; it points to all that follows in this paragraph after Diotima’s call upon Socrates to focus his mind on it] – try to give me your best attention (peirô de moi ton noun prosechein hôs hoion te malista). – He who has been instructed thus far in the erotic pursuits (hos an mechri entautha pros ta erôtika paidagôgêthê̢), who has seen the beautiful in due order and in the right way (theômenos ephexês kai orthôs ta kala), coming toward the end of the erotic pursuits (pros telos êdê iôn tôn erôtikôn), will suddenly see (exaiphnês katopsetai) a nature of wondrous beauty (ti thaumaston tên phusin kalon), that beauty (touto ekeino), Socrates (ô Sôkrates), for the sake of which (hou dê heneken) all the former toils were udertaken (kai hoi emprosthen pantes ponoi êsan), which is, in the first place, everlasting (prôton men aei on), and neither coming into being (kai oute gignomenon) nor perishing (oute apollumenon), neither growing (oute auxanomenon) nor decaying (oute phthinon); secondly (epeita), not beautiful in one point of view (ou tê̢ men kalon) and foul in another (tê̢ d’ aischron) ((210d3-211a4) … but beauty itself in itself (all’ auto kath’ hauto) with itself (meth’ hautou), simple (monoeides), everlasting (aei on), of which all other beautiful things partake in some such way as this (ta de alla panta kala ekeinou metechonta tropon tina toiouton), that while all the other beautiful things are in the process of becoming and perishing (hoion gignomenôn te tôn allôn kai apollumenôn), it itself suffers no increase or diminution (mêden ekeino mête ti pleon mête elatton gignesthai), or any change (mêde paschein mêden). When someone (hotan dê tis) ascending from these earthly things by pursuing love in a right way (apo tônde dia to orthôs paiderastein epaniôn), begins to perceive that beauty (ekeino to kalon archêtai kathoran), is almost touching the end (schedon an ti haptoito tou telous).’ (211b1-7) – The end itself is undoubtedly the science/knowledge of the good.
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We can be certain that when Plato wrote the Symposium he was thinking of the Charmides. Socrates opens the Charmides with the words: ‘We’d got yesterday (Hêkomen tê̢ proteraia̢) from the camp of Potidaea (ek Poteidaias apo tou stratopedou, 153a1-2) … I was glad to return to my old haunts (hasmenôs ê̢a epi tas sunêtheis diatribas). I went to Taureas wrestling-school (kai dê kai eis tên Taureou palaistran eisêlthon, 153a2-4) … I sat down (Parakathezomenos oun), said hello to Critias (êspazomên ton te Kritian) and the others (kai tous allous), and proceeded to tell them (kai diêgoumên autois) all the news from the camp (ta apo stratopedou), answering whatever questions I was asked (ho ti me tis aneroito); and each had a different question (êrôtôn de allos allo). When we’d exhausted that subject (Epeidê de tôn toioutôn hadên eichomen) I asked them about things here (authis egô autous anêrôtôn ta tê̢de, 153c8-d3). (Translation D. Watt)
In the Charmides we learn nothing more about the camp and the battle at Potidaea, but In the Symposium Plato presents us with Alcibiades’ narrative about Socrates in the military camp, and in the battle at Potidaea in which he saved Alcibiades’ life (219e-220e).

The realization that Plato was thinking of the Charmides when he wrote the Symposium is important, yet on its own it does not answer the question whether the science/knowledge of the beauty itself in the Symposium sheds light on the science/knowledge of the good mooted in the Charmides. I think that the dating of the Charmides will help us in answering it; I shall discuss the dating of the Charmides in my next post.