Tuesday, February 21, 2017

2 Reading Plato’s Statesman (with references to his Euthydemus)

In my last but one post (4cc, February 17) I recorded parallels between Plato’s Euthydemus and Statesman. Let me add another one.

Socrates says in the Euthydemus: ‘The kingly art was identified by us with the political (edoxe gar dê hêmin hê politikê kai hê basilikê technê hê autê einai, 291c4-5, tr. Jowett).’

The Stranger says in the Statesman: ‘Then we may put all together as one and the same – statesmanship and the statesman – the kingly science and the king (Tên ara politikên kai politikon kai basilikên kai basilikon eis t’auton hôs hen panta tauta sunthêsomen, 259d3-4, tr. Jowett)).’

In the Euthydemus Socrates goes on to say: ‘To this royal or political art (Tautê̢ tê̢ technê̢) all the arts, including the art of the general (hê te stratêgikê kai hai allai), seemed to render up the control of the products (paradidonai archein tôn ergôn) of which they are the artificers (hôn autai dêmiourgoi eisin), that being the only one which knew how to use them (hôs monê̢ epistamenê̢ chrêsthai). Here obviously was the very art which we were seeking (saphôs oun edokei hêmin hautê einai hên ezêtoumen) – the art which is the source of good government (kai hê aitia tou orthôs prattein en tê̢ polei), and which may be described, in the language of Aeschylus (kai atechnôs kata to Aischulou iambeion), as alone sitting at the helm of the vessel of state (monê en tê̢ prumnê̢ kathêsthai tês poleôs), piloting and governing all things (panta kubernôsa kai pantôn archousa), and utilizing them (panta chrêsima poiein ‘making all of them useful’).’ (291c7-d3, tr. Jowett)

In the Euthydemus thus culminates Socrates’ effort at showing two sophists (and all those surrounding him and them in the Lyceum), Euthydemus and Dionysodorus – who at the beginning of the dialog claimed that they ‘could impart virtue better and quicker than any man’ (aretên hoiô̢ t’ einai paradounai kallist’ anthrôpôn kai tachista, 273d8-9), but in course of the discussion proved to be bent on nothing but sophistic refutations of their interlocutors – what would be the right way of attempting to persuade a young man that ‘one ought to pursue philosophy and study virtue’ (hôs chrê philosophein kai aretês epimeleisthai, 275a6). For what follows 291c4-d3 is Socrates’ relapse into philosophic ignorance. Can we view the Statesman as a re-activation of the theme that commenced in the Euthydemus and ended there in the quagmire of Socrates’ not-knowing?

In the Statesman, in the closing stages of defining the statesmanship, the Stranger says: ‘Considering how great and terrible the whole art of war is, can we imagine any which is superior to it (Tin’ oun pote kai epicheirêsomen houtô deinês kai megalês technês sumpasês tês polemikês despotin apophainesthai) but the truly royal (plên ge tên ontôs ousan basilikên;)? … The art of the general is only ministerial, and therefore not political (Ouk ara politikên thêsomen, hupêretikên ge ousan, tên tôn stratêgôn epistêmên)’. (305a4-9, tr. Jowett)

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