Monday, May 29, 2017

2 Eros in Diotima’s speech in Plato’s Symposium and Socrates in his Charmides – with a digression on his Philebus

Diotima ended her description of the parentage and birth of Eros with a description of him as a philosopher, ‘a mean between ignorance and knowledge’ (sophias te kai amathias en mesô̢ estin, 203e5, translations from the Symposium are Jowett’s). Socrates asked: ‘But who then (tines oun), Diotima (ô Diotima), are the lovers of wisdom (hoi philosophountes), if they are neither the wise (ei mête hoi sophoi) nor the foolish (mête hoi amatheis)?’ – Diotima: ‘A child may answer that question (Dêlon dê kai paidi); they are those who are in a mean between the two (hoti hoi metaxu toutôn amphoterôn); Love is one of them (hôn an eiê kai ho Erôs). For wisdom is a most beautiful thing (estin gar tôn kallistôn hê sophia), and Love is of the beautiful (Erôs d’ estin erôs peri to kalon); and therefore Love is also a philosopher or lover of wisdom (hôste anankaion Erôta philosophon einai), and being a lover of wisdom (philosophon de onta) is in a mean between the wise (metaxu einai sophou) and the ignorant (kai amathous, 204a8-b7).’

In my preceding post, I focussed attention on Diotima’s succinct characterization of Eros’ activities: to de porizomenon aei hupekrei: ‘what is gained always flows away’. Presuming that this characteristic of Eros corresponds to Plato’s picture of Socrates in his dialogues, I chose the Charmides as a test case, and found that the Charmides confirmed this hypothesis. It could be objected against it that Socrates in the Charmides never really ‘gains’ anything, for his attempts at defining sôphrosunê are undermined by his doubts. One could say that what he is gaining escapes him as he is gaining it. But this corresponds precisely to Diotima’s depiction of the world in which Eros – a philosopher – operates: ‘Nay, even in the life of the same individual there is succession and not absolute uniformity: a man is called the same, and yet in the interval between youth and age, during which every animal is said to have life and identity, he is undergoing a continual process of loss and reparation (epei kai en hô̢ hen hekaston tôn zô̢ôn zên kaleitai kai einai to auto, hoion ek paidariou ho autos legetai heôs an presbutês genêtai, houtos mentoi oudepote ta auta echôn en hautô̢ homôs ho autos kaleitai, alla neos aei genomenos, ta de apollus) – hair, flesh, bones, blood, and the whole body are always changing (kai kata tas trichas kai sarka kai osta kai haima kai sumpan to sôma). Which is true not only of the body (kai mê hoti kata to sôma), but also of the soul (alla kai kata tên psuchên), whose habits (hoi tropoi), tempers (ta êthê), opinions (doxai), desires (epithumiai), pleasures (hêdonai), pains (lupai), fears (phoboi), never remain the same in any one of us (toutôn hekasta oudepote ta auta parestin hekastô̢), but are always coming (alla ta men gignetai ‘but some are generated’) and going (ta de apollutai ‘some perish’). What is still more surprising (polu de toutôn atopôteron eti), it is equally true of science (hoti kai hai epistêmai); not only do some of the sciences come to life in our minds (mê hoti hai men gignontai), and others die away (hai de apolluntai hêmin), so that we are never the same in regard of them either (kai oudepote hoi autoi esmen oude kata tas epistêmas): but the same fate happens to each of them individually (alla kai mia hekastê tôn epistêmôn t’auton paschei). For what is implied in the word “recollection”, but the departure of knowledge (ho gar kaleitai meletan hôs exiousês esti tês epistêmês), which is ever being forgotten (lêthê gar epistêmês exodos), and is renewed and preserved by recollection, and appears to be the same although in reality new (meletê de palin kainên empoiousa anti tês apiousês mnêmên sô̢zei tên epistêmên, hôste tên autên dokein einai), according to that law by which all mortal things are preserved  (toutô̢ gar tô̢ tropô̢ pan to thnêton sô̢zetai), not absolutely the same (ou tô̢ pantapasin to auto aei einai hôsper to theion), but by substitution, the old worn-out mortality leaving another new and similar existence behind (alla tô̢ to apion kai palaioumenon heteron neon enkataleipein hoion auto ên).’ (207d4-208b2)

Here I must interrupt my looking at the Charmides in so far as it is reflected in Diotima’s speech in the Symposium. For at last I have found what I didn’t hope to find. I refer to Jowett’s ‘translation’ of Plato’s meletê as ‘recollection’. For meletê means ‘practice’, ‘exercise’, ‘rehearsal’, not ‘recollection’. Thus Plato’s brother Adeimantos says in the Parmenides that their half-brother Antiphon ‘diligently rehearsed (diemeletêsen) the arguments’ exchanged between Socrates, Zeno, and Parmenides (126c6-7). Jowett’s ‘recollection’ as a substitution for meletê is neither innocuous nor innocent. Presumably, Jowett dated the Phaedrus after the Symposium, the Symposium after the Meno, or at least in proximity to each other, as Plato’s middle dialogues. To find the Symposium without any reference to the theory of recollection must be very embarrassing to any expert on Plato, who dates these dialogues in that way, and thinks about it.

When I came to Oxford in 1980 I became a Member of the Oxford University Philosophy Society. The first talk I attended was by Myles Burnyeat, on the theory of recollection in Plato’s dialogues. As far as I remember, Myles maintained that there are for dialogues in which the theory can be found, the Meno, Symposium, Phaedo, and Phaedrus (I name these dialogues in the sequence in which, presumably, Burnyeat views them). I did not contest Burnyeat’s view on the Symposium, although I could not recollect any theory of recollection in this dialogue. But I suggested Philebus, in which Socrates refers to ‘recollection’, which is very different from the ‘recollection of Forms’, which we find in the Phaedrus and the Phaedo, or of ‘mathematic and other truths’, which we find in the Meno, but ‘recollection’ of ‘bodily replenishment’. The ‘recollection’ in the Philebus has nevertheless one thing in common with the recollection in those three dialogues: it points to the pre-existence of the soul. Since I was deeply struck by the Philebus passage, and I took with me to the talk the second volume of the Oxford edition of Plato, I found the passage, raised my hand in the discussion that foolowed Burnyeat’s talk, was given the word, read the relevant passage in Greek, and then rendered it in English. I’ll never forget the occasion, for my contribution was received with a ‘dead silence’. Kathy Wilkes was livid (we lived at in the same house in Bainton Rd, my wife, our two children, I, and Kathy): ‘Quote a text in English, or in Greek, if you must, but never in Greek and then in English!’

Let me end this post by giving the relevant Philebus passage – of which I quoted on the given occasion only the lines 35a6-9, presented in bold.

Socrates: ‘Memory may, I think, be rightly described as the preservation of sensation (Sôtêrian oun aisthêseôs tên mnêmên legôn orthôs an tis legoi kata tên emên doxan)?’ – Protarchus: ‘Right (Orthôs gar oun).’ – Soc. ‘But do we not distinguish recollection from memory (Mnêmês de anamnêsin ou diapherousan legomen;)? – Prot. ‘I think so (Isôs).’ – Soc. ‘And when the soul recovers by her own unaided power some feeling which she previously experienced in company with the body (Hotan ha meta tou sômatos epaschen poth’ hê psuchê, taut’ aneu tou sômatos autê en heautê̢ hoti malista analambanê̢), is not this what we call recollecting (tote anamimnê̢skesthai pou legomen. ê gar;)?’ – Prot. ‘Certainly (Panu men oun).’ – Soc. ‘And again when she receives by herself alone the lost memory of some sensation or knowledge (Kai mên kai hotan apolesasa mnêmên eit’ aisthêseôs eit’ au mathêmatos authis tautên anapolêsê̢ palin autê en heautê̢), the recovery in all such cases is termed recollection (kai tauta sumpanta anamnêseis pou legomen)? – Prot. ‘Very true (Orthôs legeis).’ (34a10-c3) … Soc. ‘Do we mean anything when we say “a man thirsts” (Dipsê̢ ge pou legomen hekastote ti’ – the Greek dipsê̢ means simply ‘thirsts’)? – Prot. ‘Yes (Pôs d’ ou;).’ – Soc. ‘We mean to say that “he is empty” (Touto de g’ esti kenoutai; ‘And this is “gets emptied”?’)?’ – Prot. ‘Of course (Ti mên;)’ – Soc. ‘And is not thirst desire (Ar’ oun to dipsos estin epithumia;)?’ – Prot. ‘Yes (Nai), of drink (pômatos ge).’ – Soc. ‘Would you say of drink or replenishment of drink (Pômatos ê plêrôseôs pômatos;)?’ – Prot. ‘I should say, of replenishment with drink (Oimai men plêrôseôs).’ – Soc. ‘Then he who is empty desires, as would appear, the opposite of what he experiences (Ho kenoumenos ‘who is getting empty’ hêmôn ara, hôs eoiken, epithumei tôn enantiôn ê hôn paschei); for he is empty (kenoumenos gar ‘for he is getting empty’) and desires to be full (erâ̢ plêrousthai ‘desires to get full’? – Prot. ‘Certainly so (Saphestata ge).’ Soc. ‘But how can a man who is empty for the first time, attain either by perception or memory to an apprehension of replenishment (Ti oun; ho to prôton kenoumenos ‘who is getting empty for the first time’ estin hopothen eit’ aisthêsei plêrôseôs ephaptoit’ an eite mnêmê̢), of which he has no present or past experience (toutou ho mêt’ en tô̢ nun chronô̢ paschei mêt’ en tô̢ prosthen pôpote epathen; 35a6-9)?’ – Prot. ’Impossible (Kai pôs;).’ – Soc. ‘And yet he who desires (Alla mên ho ge epithumôn), surely desires something (tinos epithumei, phamen)? – Prot. ‘Of course (Pôs gar ou;).’ – Soc. ‘He does not desire that which he experiences (Ouk ara ho ge paschei, toutou epithumei), for he experiences thirst (dipsê̢ gar), and thirst is emptiness (touto de kenôsis); but he desires (ho d’ epithumei) replenishment (plêrôseôs)?’ – Prot. ‘True (Nai).’ – Soc. ‘Then there must be something in the thirsty man which in some way apprehends replenishment (Plêrôseôs g’ ara pê̢ ti tôn tou dipsôntos an ephaptoito)? – Prot. ‘There must (Anankaion).’ – Soc. ‘And that cannot be the body (To men dê sôma adunaton), for the body is supposed to be emptied (kenoutai gar pou)?’ – Prot. ‘Yes (Nai).’ – Soc. ‘The only remaining alternative is that the soul apprehends the replenishment (Tên psuchên ara tês plêrôseôs ephaptesthai loipon) by the help of memory (tê̢ mnêmê̢); as is obvious (dêlon hoti), for what other way can there be (tô̢ gar an et’ allô̢ ephapsaito;)?’ – Prot. ‘I cannot imagine any other (Schedon oudeni).’ – Soc. ‘But do you see the consequence (Manthanomen oun ho sumbebêch’ hêmin ek toutôn tôn logôn;)?’ – Prot. ‘What is it (To poion;)?’ – Soc. ‘That there is no such thing as desire of the body (Sômatos epithumian ou phêsin hêmin houtos ho logos gignesthai). – Prot. ‘Why so (Pôs;)?’ – Soc. ‘Why, because the argument shows that the endeavour of every animal is to the reverse of his bodily state (Hoti tois ekeinou pathêmasin enantion aei pantos zô̢ou mênuei tên epicheirêsin).’ – Prot. ‘Yes (Kai mala).’ – Soc. ‘And the impulse (Hê d’ hormê ge) which leads him to the opposite (epi t’ounantion agousa) of what he is experiencing (ê ta pathêmata ‘of what the body suffers’) proves (dêloi pou) that he has a memory (mnêmên ousan) of the opposite state (tôn tois pathêmasin enantiôn). – Prot. ‘True (Panu ge).’ – Soc. ‘And the argument, having proved that memory is the power by which we are attracted towards the object of desire (Tên ara epagousan epi ta epithumoumena apodeixas mnêmên ho logos), proves also that the impulses and the desires and the moving principle of the whole animal have their origin in the soul (psuchês sumpasan tên te hormên kai epithumian kai tên archên tou zô̢ou pantos apephênen).’ (34e9-35d3, translations are Jowett’s)

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