Skip

Socrates in his own words
December 17, 2013 7:05 AM   Subscribe


 
I was expecting Greek.
posted by pracowity at 7:18 AM on December 17, 2013


I actually don't think that you can read Plato as some kind of stenographer giving us exactly what Socrates said
posted by thelonius at 7:23 AM on December 17, 2013 [5 favorites]


One would hope there's some mention of Xenophon's Memorabilia (and even Aristophanes' The Clouds) in Griffin's lecture. As Thelonius points out, Plato was not interested in giving us a verbatim record of his former teacher. It's hard to shake the feeling that if the Symposium were an online forum today, Plato would be accused of creating a Socrates account as a sockpuppet.
posted by Doktor Zed at 7:29 AM on December 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


Plato would be accused of creating a Socrates account as a sockpuppet.

The death would have been live tweeted on a fake Twitter account: "OMG hemlock tastes like ass, LOL #asclepiusneedsmorecock"
posted by yoink at 7:37 AM on December 17, 2013 [10 favorites]




"Plato would be accused of creating a Socrates account as a sockpuppet."
If only from the truly alarming number of symposia he was said to have attended, and the yet more alarming volume of diluted wine he would have needed to moderately consume at them, I think we can safely assume Socrates to be more sock than man in general. Everything in this is, at best, filtered through Plato but that is essentially what Socrates, at least as we know him today, is along with a couple of other filters.

Condensing Socratic wisdom into less than 4 minutes of slow speech is not really possible, but I think this is a pretty neat window into his philosophy given the constraints of the medium. It is, of course, no replacement for reading his words un-jumbled, but I hope at least a few will the inspiration to follow the links and do just that.
posted by Blasdelb at 7:46 AM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


One would hope there's some mention of Xenophon's Memorabilia (and even Aristophanes' The Clouds) in Griffin's lecture.

It's worth mentioning that Socratic dialogues were a whole genre in ancient literature. Wikipedia mentions ten known authors of them, though most are lost.

Little known fact: Aristotle wrote literary dialogues for a popular audience. Little known because these dialogues were entirely lost until ten years ago, when the project of reconstructing the Protrepticus got serious. Here's (the current draft of) the partially reconstructed text of Aristotle's dialogue Protrepticus.

Plato was not interested in giving us a verbatim record of his former teacher.

Plato was not interested in giving a fair and accurate record of the words of anyone. In his era, no one was. Accurately quoting the work of others before critiquing them is a practice that Aristotle started. That's probably Aristotle's biggest achievement, inventing the very idea of what we would now call honest scholarly research.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 7:50 AM on December 17, 2013 [5 favorites]


"... I drank what?"

(someone had to be the one to include this... it is a moral imperative!)
posted by 1367 at 7:51 AM on December 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


One would hope there's some mention of Xenophon's Memorabilia

Classicists as a group hold Xenophon in disdain for reasons that aren't entirely clear to me. I get that he was a worse philosopher than Plato and a worse historian than Thucydides, but that doesn't really justify the number of cracks at him that I heard while taking Greek classes in college.
posted by Copronymus at 7:53 AM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Plato was not interested in giving a fair and accurate record of the words of anyone. In his era, no one was.

Except maybe Mr. "I'm writing for those who desire an exact knowledge of the past as an aid to the interpretation of the future" Thucydides.
posted by Doktor Zed at 8:24 AM on December 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


Touche.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 8:30 AM on December 17, 2013


Without having any actual expertise in the matter, Xenophon's Socrates seemed a lot more plausible than Plato's version to me. Xenophonic Socrates doesn't have such a complex and thorough set of ideas. But he seems like a much nicer guy. He gives his students practical career advice, he commiserates with them over their romantic troubles. He doesn't dish out snide insults all the time "Oh yes, you're so devoted to Bacchus".

What we do know about the real Socrates was that he had a number of highly devoted followers. I can easily see how the nice Xenophonic Socrates would attract loyal students, it's harder for me to imagine the irritating Platonic Socrates having so many people care so much after his death.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 8:43 AM on December 17, 2013


What's with all the questions?
posted by sneebler at 10:41 AM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


> Classicists as a group hold Xenophon in disdain for reasons that aren't entirely clear to me. I get that he was a worse philosopher than Plato and a worse historian than Thucydides, but that doesn't really justify the number of cracks at him that I heard while taking Greek classes in college.

Really, you read Xenophon in Greek and don't understand the cracks? Budding Latinists get to read the lively and crystal-clear Caesar; Hellenists are stuck with Xenophon unless they're lucky and get to start with Homer, like I did. The guy was no dummy, but he wasn't much of a stylist either.
posted by languagehat at 10:49 AM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Socrates in his own words

Ah, so it's a red letter Socrates, eh?

If only from the truly alarming number of symposia he was said to have attended, and the yet more alarming volume of diluted wine he would have needed to moderately consume at them, I think we can safely assume Socrates to be more sock than man in general.

It's worth remembering at this point that the meaning of symposium is 'to drink together'. Thinking together was secondary.

We have this advice of Dionysos by way of Eubolus:
Three cups of wine the prudent take;
The first for constitution's sake;
The second drunk t'whom we love best;
The third brings sleep, so home to rest.
But if a fourth the drinker pours,
The cup of Folly -- it is not Ours;

Loud voices on the fifth attends;
The sixth brings falling-out of friends;
The seventh: blows, black'd eyes, and gore;
With eight, the cops break down the door!
With nine, depression -- one more round,
Finds you unconcious on the ground.
posted by Herodios at 11:15 AM on December 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


My favorite account of ancient Greek crunkness is from a symposium described by Timaeus of Taormina,
"In Agrigentum, there is a house called 'the trireme' for the following reason. Some young men were getting drunk in it, and became feverish with intoxication, off their heads to such an extreme that they supposed they were in a trireme, sailing through a dangerous tempest; they became so befuddled as to throw all of the furniture and fittings out of the house as though at sea, thinking that the pilot had told them to lighten the ship because of the storm. A great many people, meanwhile, were gathering at the scene and started to carry off the discarded property, but even then the youths did not pause from their lunacy. On the following day the generals turned up at the house, and charges were brought against them. Still sea-sick, they answered to the officials' questioning that in their anxiety over the storm they had been compelled to jettison their superfluous cargo by throwing it into the sea." -Timaeus FrGrHist 566 F149
posted by Blasdelb at 11:44 AM on December 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Really, you read Xenophon in Greek and don't understand the cracks? Budding Latinists get to read the lively and crystal-clear Caesar; Hellenists are stuck with Xenophon unless they're lucky and get to start with Homer, like I did. The guy was no dummy, but he wasn't much of a stylist either.

One of the reasons it stuck out to me so much is that we weren't reading Xenophon at all. All we were actually reading was Lysias, Plato, and then Homer, but still got people complaining about the quality of Xenophon's Greek and going on from there to talk about how generally stupid and terrible he was.
posted by Copronymus at 1:57 PM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Very moving. A truly awe inspiring vision of life and death.
posted by xammerboy at 6:38 PM on December 17, 2013


What we do know about the real Socrates was that he had a number of highly devoted followers. I can easily see how the nice Xenophonic Socrates would attract loyal students, it's harder for me to imagine the irritating Platonic Socrates having so many people care so much after his death.

But easy to know why so many people would want him dead.
posted by empath at 12:13 AM on December 18, 2013


The book Why Socrates Died by Robin Waterfield has quite an interesting account. During a time of civil conflict between the Oligarchic faction and the Democratic faction, Historical Socrates seems to have been on the Oligarchic side: he was present in the city at a time when the Democratic faction were exiled, he was associated with other members. When the Democratic faction regained power, Historical Socrates was just one victim of the resulting purge.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 1:06 AM on December 18, 2013


« Older A Barkeeper Entering the Kingdom of Heaven   |   Icelandic traditions: the Yule... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post