Saturday, July 05, 2014

Alexander Solzhenitsyn, August 1914

Introduction

Opening Passage:

They left the village on a clear morning at dawn. In the early sunlight, the whole of the Caucasus range, each single indentation, could be seen, brilliantly white with deep blue hollows, apparently so close at hand that a stranger to the region might have thought it a mere two hour's drive away.

It towered so vast above petty human creation, so elemental in a man-made world, that even if all the men who had lived in all the past millenia had opened their arms as wide as they could and carried everything they had ever created or intended to create and piled it all up in massive heaps, they could never have raised a mountain ridge as fantastic as the Caucasus.

Summary: August 1914 describes the failure and collapse of Russia's Second Army in a single month in 1914. The failure was not the result of one cause or two. It was a failure of everything. It was a military hierarchy in which promotion was determined almost solely by seniority, and had nothing to do with performance. It was petty jealousies between officers and generals who did not know what they were doing. It was bad communication and poor transportation and even worse preparation; it was hastily changed plans and orders followed almost immediately by counter-orders; it was men who needed months more to be trained marched and marched and marched to the point of exhaustion until even they could not help but think that their superiors had no idea what they were doing. It was a government sharply and suddenly alternating between oppressing the people and promising them liberation. It was revolutionaries eating away at the bones; it was reactionaries ossifying the blood. It was pompous self-importance and all the delusion that it causes. It was the failure of everything.

It was not that the Germans were a better army, although there is no question that they were, for they, too, made mistakes. They consistently underestimated the excellence of Russian riflemen; they completely failed to understand the tenacity of Russian peasants; even the weaknesses of the Russian army outmaneuvered them at time, for when vulnerabilities are so blatant, who will not naturally assume that it is either a trap or an artifact of missing information? The Germans, in a straight fight, were not guaranteed to win. But Russian disorganization, a disorganization that was not merely an accident at headquarters but a seam running throughout all of Russia, allowed the Germans to pull a thread here, pull a thread there, pull another there, until the entire cloth came undone.

Solzhenitsyn tells this tale by following a wide number of people, both in the army and back at home. We follow Alexander Vasilievich Samsonov, head of the Second Army, doing the best he could with a bad hand, but also erring repeatedly by shortsightedness. We also follow Georgii Mikahilovich Vorotyntsev, a colonel, a competent man in an incompetent organization. In many ways the story is the most interesting; he makes no mistakes, but in the Russian military that makes him in some ways the greatest failure. And we follow many others, some more interesting, some less, but through it we get a rounded picture of the whole.

Throughout the narrative, Solzhenitsyn sprinkles folk proverbs, which I thought was interesting. Proverbs are the things everyone knows, the things anyone can advise, but in war people's actions are often contrary to what everyone knows -- and sometimes we discover in the consequences of such disregard why these are the things that everyone can advise. And, of course, the consequences here were vast. A revolution is rumbling under the surface throughout Russian society, and the errors are breaking down the shields that hold it back. The old guard is killed and the Bolsheviks slowly start coming into positions of influence. And on the front, a general surrenders an army of tens of thousands of men, and the Germans, considering what to do with this novel problem, upgrade their ideas of a POW camp to compensate it, figuring out how to make a concentration camp, that "fate of men for decades to come" and "herald of the twentieth century", as Solzhenitsyn calls it (p. 616).

One of the best smaller scenes is when Olda Orestovna Andozerskaya, one of the first women professors of history, faces students who are baffled at the fact that she wants them to study medieval papal bulls written in Latin rather than things they regard as relevant for the day, and responds that human beings are not merely the result of material forces but have a spiritual life, and out of that spiritual life comes the possibility and power of personal responsibility. This idea, the importance of personal responsibility, is the core of the book, I believe. It is seen in another form in Vorotyntsev, whose competence is rooted in his own sense of personal responsibility, and who is foiled by the fact that he is almost the only one with this sense. And it makes sense, if you think about it. When faced with the failure of everything, what other answer can there be except taking responsibility oneself? As one of the proverbs says, "You shouldn't have searched in the village but in yourself" (p. 632).

Favorite Passage: I would have expected something with the toy lion, which is the part I remember most vividly about the book from when I first read it in high school, but reading it this time I was particularly struck by this passage:

At this point General Kluyev's cup of endurance ran over. "To avoid useless bloodshed," the commander of the two center corps ordered the white flag to be raised--when he had twenty batteries of guns, still intact, after being dragged halfway around Prussia, against only eight German batteries, and when his tens of thousands of men dispersed through the forest were faced in this sector by not more than six German battalions.

"To avoid bloodshed"--golden words. Every human action can be disguised with a coating of gilt. "To avoid bloodshed" sounds noble and humane; who could argue with that? One might perhaps raise the objection that the truly farsighted way of avoiding bloodshed would have been not to become a general.

However, it turned out that there was no white flag; they were not, after all issued to units in the Table of Equipment along with the regimental colors. (p. 574-575)

Recommendation: The work is written in a way that requires slow reading; for instance, one sometimes does not know who a chapter is describing until well into the chapter, and there are a great many characters to try to keep straight, who are, in the Russian way, as likely to be referred to by their first name as their last and by a nicknames as by either. But if you can set for yourself a block of time, it is well worth the marathon. Highly recommended.

***

Quotations are from Alexander Solzhenitsyn, August 1914, Michael Glenny, tr. Bantam (New York: 1974).

Music on My Mind



Karen Matheson, "Ailein Duinn". I'm fairly sure I've put this one up before, but it is my favorite version of one of my favorite songs.

The song itself, "Dark Alan", goes back to the eighteenth century. Like a lot of Scottish folk songs from that period, it is about the sea. Alan was a sailor and was lost in a storm, and the song is from the perspective of his bride, who has lost her will to live. "Ailein Duinn, ò hì shiubhlainn leat" in the chorus means something like, "Dark Alan, oh, I will walk/travel with you"; but the word 'siubhail' can also have the figurative meaning of dying.

Friday, July 04, 2014

De Virtute

De Virtute, or Peri Aretes, is the name generally given to a short dialogue sometimes placed with Plato's works in later collections; it has never been regarded as authentic, but it is undeniably Platonic, and could hardly help being since most of it overlaps with Meno, down to the phrasing. It has a much simpler, clearer, structure than Meno, and suggests (to me, at least) that this was either a school-exercise, or was written to make a key argument of Meno more accessible for introductory study. This dialogue, I think, is a good reminder that the order and structure of argument matters in Plato's dialogues, because while the sub-arguments are all from Meno, the overall argument is in some subtle ways different from that of Meno, in part because of what's left out, and in part because of how the arguments selected are organized. (An obvious example: in Meno Socrates is trying to get out of looking at whether virtue can be taught, because he wants to discuss what virtue is; here, he raises the question himself and devotes the entire discussion to it.)

The Characters
(in order of appearance)

  Socrates

There is also an unnamed interlocutor. The one fact we learn about the interlocutor is that both he and Socrates have spent time with Lysimachus (the son of the statesman Aristides). In Meno, Socrates notes that Meno has spent time with Lysimachus; so the author here seems to be taking account of the fact that Lysimachus is also a character in Laches, so Socrates knows him, too.

The Plot and The Thought

Socrates opens the dialogue by asking his interlocutor whether virtue can be taught, and if not, whether people are virtuous by nature. His interlocutor says he doesn't know, so Socrates leads him to the consideration that if virtue can be learned it would have to be from good men, and he asks who the good men of the city are. The interlocutor names Thucydides (the opponent of Pericles, not the historian), Themistocles, Aristides, and Pericles. But for none of these can we name a definite teacher of virtue, so we have to consider their students. But there don't seem to be any of those, either.

Further, if good men are just, it seems they would want to help rather than harm, and would be happy to communicate their goodness. But if we look at Cleophantus, the son of Themistocles, or Lysimachus, the son of Aristides, or Paralus and Xanthippus, the sons of Pericles, or Melesias and Stephanus, the sons of Thucydides, they don't seem any more virtuous than anyone else. So it looks like virtue can't be taught.

This raises the opposing question: is virtue something had by nature. Socrates notes that there is a skill by which one knows the nature of good horses (horsemanship) and a skill by which one knows the nature of good hounds (huntsmanship) and a skill by which one knows good money from counterfeit (money-changing), and a skill by which one knows good traits of the human body (athletics), so if virtue were a matter of nature, one would think that there would be a corresponding skill for knowing good men. The interlocutor doesn't know what it could be, and Socrates remarks (as in Meno) that if we had it, you'd think that the city would find the boys with good natures and take special efforts to protect them. So that's a sign that virtue is not had by nature, either.

The interlocutor asks how men come to be virtuous, then, and Socrates responds that it is by divine allotment:

I don't think it's very easy to explain this. my guess, however, is that the possession of virtue is very much a divine gift and that men become good just as the divine prophets and oracle-mongers do. For they become what they are neither by nature no skill: it's through the inspiration of the gods that they become what they are. Likewise, good men announce to their cities the likely outcome of events and what is going to happen, by the inspiration of god, much better and much more clearly than the fortune-tellers. Even the women, I think, say that his sort of man is divine, and the Spartans, whenever they applaud someone in high style, say that he is divine. And often Homer uses this same compliment, as do other poets. Indeed, whenever a god wishes a city to become successful, he places good men in it, and whenever a city is slated to fail, the god takes the good men away from that city. So it seems that virtue is neither teachable nor natural, but comes by divine allotment to those who possess it. (379c-d)

This is mostly a summary of the end of Meno, but there are two ideas that go beyond that dialogue: that "good men announce to their cities...what is going to happen...much more clearly than the fortune-tellers" and that the rising and falling of cities is connected with the allotment of virtue.

****

Quotations are from Mark Reuter's translation in Plato, Complete Works, Cooper and Hutchinson, eds., pp. 1694-1698.

Panzerschwein

While I was walking last night, I came across three armadillos, quite young, foraging for insects. The armadillos in this area are all nine-banded armadillos, like the one below from Wikimedia Commons, although the three I saw were younger and more even-colored gray; I suspect they were about six to seven months old, since I saw no mother.

Nine banded armadillo

Armadillos will eat practically anything, but in ordinary situations prefer insects; so they typically feed by digging their snouts into the ground to create little pits. This will uncover any insects (which they can scent through the soil) and also creates traps -- they will occasionally go back to the same pit to check if any insects have fallen into it.

There's something poetic about armadillos, although since they are not exactly beautiful animals it's difficult to pin down what it is. I think a lot of it is that they just seem very amiable. They can move very quickly, but they usually don't; they just shuffle and amble along, minding their own business, until a threat comes along, and then they prefer to avoid rather than fight. It can be a pest, but it's only an incidental one -- it likes to burrow, and can do some damage with its foliage.

Panzerschwein, by the way, seems to be originally Texan-German for the species; when armadillos started showing up in Texas at the end of the nineteenth century, it was the word coined for them in places around Fredericksburg and the like with a high proportion of German settlers (and which still have strong German roots).

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Meno

Meno is an undisputed dialogue, and one of the most influential, although its influence mostly derives from the episode with the slave rather than from anything to do with the whole dialogue. Schleiermacher rightly notes that the dialogue has a great many links to both Gorgias and Theaetetus.

You can read Meno online in English at the Perseus Project or in French at Wikisource.

The Characters
(in order of appearance)

  Meno
A handsome and wealthy youth from the Athenian ally Thessaly, who has been doing some studying under Gorgias. Meno will become a general who will participate in the expedition of the Persian prince Cyrus (in which Xenophon also participated); in his first mission, which is to escort an ally, he will manage somehow to lose a hundred men and plunder a peaceful city. He would eventually be tortured to death (or more accurately, tortured in prison for a year before being tortured to death), and Xenophon, who, while not above being firmly partisan or harsh in his judgment, is not cruel, clearly thinks that he deserved it. Xenophon's rant against him in Anabasis is just truly remarkable; sober, calm, level-headed Xenophon despised the man. I just have to put it here in full, because it is all worth reading (Anabasis 2.6.21-27):

Menon the Thessalian was manifestly eager for enormous wealth — eager for command in order to get more wealth and eager for honour in order to increase his gains; and he desired to be a friend to the men who possessed greatest power in order that he might commit unjust deeds without suffering the penalty. Again, for the accomplishment of the objects upon which his heart was set, he imagined that the shortest route was by way of perjury and falsehood and deception, while he counted straightforwardness and truth the same thing as folly. Affection he clearly felt for nobody, and if he said that he was a friend to anyone, it would become plain that this man was the one he was plotting against. He would never ridicule an enemy, but he always gave the impression in conversation of ridiculing all his associates. Neither would he devise schemes against his enemies' property, for he saw difficulty in getting hold of the possessions of people who were on their guard; but he thought he was the only one who knew that it was easiest to get hold of the property of friends—just because it was unguarded. Again, all whom he found to be perjurers and wrongdoers he would fear, regarding them as well armed, while those who were pious and practised truth he would try to make use of, regarding them as weaklings. And just as a man prides himself upon piety, truthfulness, and justice, so Menon prided himself upon ability to deceive, the fabrication of lies, and the mocking of friends; but the man who was not a rascal he always thought of as belonging to the uneducated. Again, if he were attempting to be first in the friendship of anybody, he thought that slandering those who were already first was the proper way of gaining this end. s for making his soldiers obedient, he managed that by bearing a share in their wrongdoing. He expected, indeed, to gain honour and attention by showing that he had the ability and would have the readiness to do the most wrongs; and he set it down as a kindness, whenever anyone broke off with him, that he had not, while still on terms with such a one, destroyed him.

There's an obituary for you! Xenophon does go on to say that one might be mistaken about him in matters that aren't known to everyone; that is, this assessment is what Xenophon thinks you get of him if you just focus on a just and fair assessment of the facts that gives him the benefit of the doubt! It should be said, though, that nobody else comes out quite this strongly against Meno; and that Xenophon explicitly says that he knows of the circumstances of Meno's death only by report. But it's an interesting exercise to read Meno, then read Xenophon's description of him, and then read Meno again.

  Socrates

  Anytus son of Anthemion
The presence of Anytus in the dialogue directly shows that there is much more going on here than might at first be obvious, because Anytus is one of the people who would later bring charges against Socrates to have him put to death. Anytus was a wealthy man who had inherited a tannery; he was active in politics. Something of his political approach is known from the fact that he was once prosecuted for misconduct as a general and he got off by bribing the jury. Because he was a partisan of the democratic factions, he was banished by the Thirty Tyrants despite being an associate of one of them (Theramenes), but when the oligarchy was overthrown and democracy restored, he became one of the major leaders of the new democratic government. He (along with Meletus) brought charges against Socrates, thus leading to his death. An old tradition, found in Diogenes Laertius, says that he was lynched when the Athenians began to regret what had happened with Socrates -- but other evidence suggests that he lived happily ever after

In addition there is an anonymous slave of Meno.

The Plot and the Thought

Meno opens the dialogue by asking Socrates whether virtue can be taught, or whether it is the result of practice, or whether it is had by nature. Socrates remarks that while Thessalians are noted for wealth and horsemanship, through the work of Gorgias they have become wise, since they, like he, have come to give bold answers to big questions; but in Athens things don't work that way. He then says that since he does not know what virtue is, he cannot say what its features are, nor does he know anyone who does. Meno is surprised because Socrates has met Gorgias, and Socrates responds ironically that he doesn't remember what Gorgias's view was, but he's willing to discover what Meno thinks it is.

Meno gives a little speech describing different kinds of virtue and Socrates ironically responds that he is very fortunate to be talking to Meno, since he looked for one virtue and found swarms. So he asks Meno about bees, and the implications of saying what bees are by telling people that they are varied and many and of different kinds; people would still need to know what makes all of them bees. So likewise, one needs to know what makes all these different virtues to be virtues. Through a series of questions Socrates presses Meno to accept that all the virtues he mentioned require temperance (sophrosyne) and justice (dikaiosyne). But we run into the same question: are these virtue, or are these particular virtues? Socrates then uses the analogy of shape, and then that of color, to try to convey what he is looking for.

Meno then claims that "virtue is to desire beautiful things and have the power to acquire them" (77b). Socrates notes that this is to say that virtue is the securing of good things -- but surely we have to add the qualification, 'justly and temperately'. So we are back to virtues when we want to know virtue. So what is virtue?

Meno is getting a bit annoyed at this point:

Socrates, before I even met you I used to hear that you are always in a state of perplexity and that you bring others to the same state and now I think you are bewitching and beguiling me, simply putting me under a spell, so that I am quite perplexed. Indeed, if a joke is in order, you seem, in appearance and in every other way, to be like the broad torpedo fish, for it too makes anyone who comes close and touches it feel numb, and my tongue are numb, and I have no answer to give you. (80a-b)

I find it hilarious, by the way, that Meno says Socrates looks like a torpedo fish, because this is what a torpedo fish looks like:

Torpedo torpedo corsica4

Meno ends on a more ominous note, however: "I think you are wise not to sail away from Athens to go and stay elsewhere, for if you were to behave like this as a stranger in another city, you would be driven away for practising sorcery" (80b).

Socrates remarks that the torpedo fish metaphor is only accurate if torpedo fish don't just numb others but numb themselves, because he himself does not claim to avoid perplexity about what virtue is.

This brings us to the most famous part of the dialogue, as Meno asks how Socrates can search for virtue if he does not know what it is. Thus we have Meno's Paradox: If you know what you're looking for, you've already found it, and if you don't know what you're looking for, you cannot recognize it when you do find it. But Socrates argues that this is not right, and introduces a myth of recollection:

As the soul is immortal, has been born often and has seen all things here and in the underworld, there is nothing which it has not learned, so it is in no way surprising that it can recollect the things it knew before, both about virtue and other things. As the whole of nature is akin, and the soul has learned everything, nothing prevents a man, after recalling one thing only -- a process men call learning -- discovering everything else for himself, if he is brave, and does not tire of the search, for searching and learning are, as a whole, recollection. We must, therefore, not believe that debater's argument, for it would make us idle, and fainthearted men like to hear it, whereas my argument makes them energetic and keen on the search. (81c-d)

Meno asks what this means, so Socrates has him call in a Greek-speaking slave. By questioning he then leads the slave through a geometry problem. Socrates uses this to argue that the slave in some way had the opinions in him already, and by questioning were "stirred up like a dream" (85c); if one continued questioning, asking about the same thing in different ways, the slave could be said to know it as well as anyone. Thus knowledge seems to be a recollection from a prior life, when one was not human, and we should strive boldly to recollect:

I do not insist that my argument is right in all other respects, but I would contend at all costs both in word and deed as far as I could that we will be better men, braver and less idle, if we believe that one must search for the things one does not know, rather than if we believe it it snot possible to find out what we do not know and that we must not look for it. (86b-c)

Therefore, Socrates concludes, he and Meno should work together to discover what virtue is. But Meno replies that he would be happiest if they could investigate the original question: whether virtue is teachable, or natural, or what have you. Socrates remarks that if he were directing Meno, they would not investigate that question until they knew what virtue was; but, he says, "because you do not even attempt to rule yourself, in order that you may be free, but you try to rule me" (86d), he will go along with it. But he suggests that they proceed by a method of supposition or hypothesis, using an example from geometry again to clarify what he means.

So begins an argument considering the question on supposition that virtue is knowledge. If virtue is knowledge it seems to be teachable. So is there reason to think that the supposition is true or false? Virtue makes us good and thus is beneficial; but all the qualities we call virtue are only beneficial when combined with wisdom or prudence (phronesis). Thus it seems that virtue is a kind of prudence. If this is so, though, this appears to rule out the idea that virtue is had by nature, and it seems virtue can be taught.

But perhaps virtue is not knowledge at all. If virtue is teachable, we should be able to find teachers of virtue, and Socrates remarks that despite trying hard to do so, he's never been able to find any. He remarks that Anytus has come to sit by them, so suggests they make use of his wisdom to find out who are the teachers of virtue.

In dialogue with Anytus, Socrates remarks that it seems that if Meno wishes to learn virtue, he should go to the sophists, who claim to teach it. Anytus, not a fan of the sophists, replies that instead they cause ruin and corruption. Socrates remarks that it's strange that they would be able to get away with their claims to teach virtue if that were true, and asks if any sophist has wronged Anytus, and Anytus replies that he's never even met one. Socrates expresses surprise that he knows so much about people he's never met, and Anytus says he knows who they are even if he hasn't. Socrates skeptically remarks that Anytus must be a wizard, but asks Anytus who the teachers of virtue really are. Anytus replies that practically any Athenian he could meet would be a teacher of virtue, and they learned it from the good Athenians before them.

In response, Socrates raises the example of Themistocles, the great statesman of Athens, and Anytus agrees that he would be a good teacher of virtue. But even Anytus cannot admit that he definitely taught his son to excel in the same way he did. And so it is with other great men, like Aristides or Pericles, or Pericles' opponent, Thucydides. So it seems virtue cannot be taught.

Anytus is angry at this point, and says ominously:

I think, Socrates, that you easily speak ill of people. I would advice you, if you will listen to me, to be careful. Perhaps also in another city, and certainly here, it is easier to injure people than to benefit them. I think you know that yourself.(94e)

Socrates more or less brushes this off and returns to discussion with Meno, asking whether there are teachers of virtue among the sophists, and Meno says sometimes he thinks there are and sometimes not. But this in itself suggests that they are not. So there seem to be no teachers, and virtue cannot be taught.

But perhaps things were assumed too quickly here. True opinion can have the same results as knowledge. This leads Meno to wonder why knowledge is considered more important than true opinion. In response, Socrates compares them to the statues of Daedelus, which can run away; a statue of Daedelus that is not tied down is like a runaway slave, but a statue of Daedelus tied down is very valuable. Likewise, true opinions must be tied down by an account, and this tying-down is recollection.

So perhaps Themistocles and the like had no knowledge or prudence, but only true opinion about certain things -- they accomplish what they accomplish by a kind of divine inspiration. Meno concedes that this seems to be so. Thus the conclusion seems to be that virtue is "neither an inborn quality nor taught, but comes to those who possess it as a gift from the gods which is not accompanied by understanding" (99e).

Socrates then ends the dialogue with a comment pregnant with meaning:

It follows from this reasoning, Meno, that virtue appears to be present in those of us who may possess it as a gift from the gods. We shall have clear knowledge of this when, before we investigate how it comes to be present in men, we first try to find out what virtue in itself is. But now time has come for me to go. You convince your guest friend Anytus here of these very things of which you have yourself been convinced, in order that he may be more amenable. If you succeed, you will also confer a benefit upon the Athenians. (100b)

****

Quotations are from G. M. A. Grube's translation in Plato, Complete Works, Cooper & Hutchinson, eds., pp. 870-897.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

The Devil's Hide-and-Seek

"Lack of character--" All too easily we confuse a fear of standing up for our beliefs, a tendency to be more influenced by the convictions of others than by our own, or simply a lack of conviction--with the need that the strong and mature feel to give full weight to the arguments of the other side. A game of hide-and-seek: when the Devil wishes to play on our lack of character, he calls it tolerance, and when he wants to stifle our first attempts to learn tolerance, he calls it lack of character.

Dag Hammerskjöld, Markings, Sjöberg & Auden, trs. Alfred A. Knopf (New York: 1964) p.64.

Euthydemus

Euthydemus is an undisputed dialogue; only a handful of people suggested that it might not be authentic even in the nineteenth century, when suspicion of authenticity peaked. Since part of the argument of the Sophists in the dialogue is similar to arguments attributed to Antisthenes, another student of Socrates, Schleiermacher thought that this dialogue was an attack by Plato on Antisthenes; but, since none of the works of Antisthenes survive, this is wholly speculative. It is far more common, however, to treat the work as an attack by Plato on the rival school of Isocrates (who is the person mentioned at the end of Phaedrus); the mysterious figure mentioned toward the end by Crito is often (although not always) thought to be Isocrates himself, deliberately put in an unflattering light. (Gorgias and Meno are also sometimes taken to have Isocrates in view.)

Cousin rightly notes that there is a great deal in the dialogue that is comic. Euthydemus is also the apparent origin of one of the most famous sophisms of all time (298d-e):

You will admit all this in a moment, Ctesippus, if you answer my questions, said Dionysodorus. Tell me, have you got a dog?

Yes, and brute of a one, too, said Ctesippus.

And has he got puppies?

Yes indeed, and they are just like him.

And so the dog is their father?

Yes, I saw him mounting the bitch myself, he said.

Well then: isn't the dog yours?

Certainly, he said.

Then since he is a father and is yours, the dog turns out to be your father, and you are the brother of puppies, aren't you?

You can read Euthydemus online in English at the Perseus Project, and in French at Wikisource.

The Characters
(in order of appearance)

  Crito
Crito is a wealthy friend of Socrates; he is mentioned in the Apology, has a dialogue named after him, and is also a character in Phaedo. He is also found in Xenophon's Memorabilia and Symposium. He is notable for being the man who was willing to pay for all of Socrates' expenses at and after his trial. He has a son, Critobulus, who is not in the dialogue but plays a role nonetheless, since Crito is trying to figure out the best way to have him educated. Critobulus will become one of Socrates' close students. Despite the connection with Socrates, however, Crito seems not to have been particularly invested in philosophical inquiry himself, and often seems to have a benign but slightly skeptical attitude toward it.

  Socrates

  Euthydemus
Euthydemus is a famous Sophist, who became a Sophist after some time teaching how to fight in armor. As we will see in the dialogue, he handles argument almost as if it were fighting in armor. Most of our information about him comes from this dialogue, although Plato mentions him briefly in Cratylus (386d). Aristotle also mentions him briefly in Rhetoric (1401a) and Sophistical Refutations (177b). He is to be distinguished from another Euthydemus who is mentioned by Xenophon as Socrates' student.

  Dionysodorus
Euthydemus' brother. He is also mentioned by Xenophon in the Memorabilia (3.1.1), who notes that he taught generalship.

  Clinias son of Axiochus
He is the cousin of Alcibiades.

  Ctesippus of Paeania
Ctesippus is the same as the Ctesippus in Lysis. (Notice the curious fact that he is again distinguished not by the name of his father but by the deme in which he is registered as a citizen of Athens.) He is outspoken here as there, and I think in this dialogue he ends up being one of Plato's most vivid characters -- a roguish young man, a little wild, with a tremendous laugh, a sarcastic sense of humor, and a refusal to back down.

There is also a crowd of other people, mostly boys.

The Plot and The Thought

Euthydemus has an interestingly complex structure, with a complex narrated dialogue that is related within the framework of another dramatic dialogue that is fairly substantive in its own right; Crito will break into the narrative dialogue to comment on the behavior of the Sophists.

Crito opens our dialogue by asking Socrates who he was talking with in the Lyceum yesterday. Socrates replies that it was with Euthydemus and Dionysodorus, two brothers originally from Chios, although more recently hailing from Italy. Socrates says that they are marvelously wise and that he wants to become their student, and that Crito should perhaps bring his sons along, too; this is apparently ironic, but, if so, Crito misses it and asks Socrates to tell him something about their wisdom. So Socrates begins to narrate the dialogue with the two brothers.

In the narrated dialogue Socrates says he was in the undressing room and about to live when his divine sign forbade him to go. So he waited, and in came Euthydemus and Dionysodorus, and shortly afterward Clinias and Ctesippus. Clinias saw Socrates and came to sit by him; Euthydemus and Dionysodorus soon afterward sat by them. Socrates remarked to Clinias that the two brothers taught fighting, but they quickly say that they have moved on to other things -- teaching virtue, in particular. Obviously, this is the sort of thing that interests Socrates, and he asks them for a demonstration.

As Euthydemus begins to question Clinias, Dionysodorus remarks to Socrates that no matter what Clinias says, Euthydemus will refute him. This is in fact true; in an extended back and forth that Plato describes in vivid athletic terms, the two refute Clinias coming and going. Socrates jumps in with an attempt to spare Clinias yet another refutation, remarking that Clinias should understand that the two are engaging in "dancing and sport" as a part of the "sophistic mysteries" and are engaging in this "frivolous part of study" like people pulling chairs out from under people who are about to sit down as a practical joke (277d-e, 278b). He urges the two sophists to move on to the serious hortatory work of teaching Clinias virtue. To clarify, he gives a demonstration himself, leading Clinias to see that wisdom is the secret to good fortune, and that it makes any good a greater good.

The sophists respond by arguing with Socrates and Ctesippus (whom they rile a bit), and after this continues a while, Socrates tries again to show the way to engage in hortatory argument toward virtue by picking up with Clinias where he had left off and discussing the art that gives happiness and wisdom. Crito (notably) breaks into Socrates' description of this dialogue, very impressed by Clinias's answers, saying that if he was saying these things he doesn't need to be educated by Euthydemus. Socrates says that perhaps he is misremembering and it was really Ctesippus; to which Crito responds that it doesn't sound like Ctesippus. Socrates takes this interest on the part of Crito to begin a dialogue with Crito on the same subject. We then return to Euthydemus, who argues that anyone who knows anything knows everyone. In this round of argument, Socrates manages to rile Euthydemus, and at one point manages to get the two brothers tangled up in each other's arguments. Ctesippus, in the meantime, is starting to get the hang of the sophists' arguments, and manages to score a point or two against them, although they continue, slippery to the end.

Everyone applauds the brothers' skill at argument, and Socrates ironically advises them that, since they were able to teach Ctesippus so quickly, they should perhaps only argue with each other and their paying students, lest, in arguing with a great many, everyone might learn their art and they would lose money. Socrates finishes up his narration to Crito by telling him to find a way to get in on the classes of the two brothers so that they can learn wisdom. Crito, however, is utterly unimpressed (as Socrates no doubt intended), and describes how he had met up with someone who had been in the crowd, who remarks that the display shows that philosophy is worthless. Crito disagrees with that, but reproaches Socrates for arguing with such people. Socrates has some rather biting comments about this kind of person, remarking that such people think themselves wiser than anyone else, but that their views are more plausible than true.

Crito remarks that he is still uncertain about what to do with his sons; Critobulus is getting to the point where he needs education; whenever he is in Socrates' presence, he begins thinking that his education is the most important thing to look to. But the people who purport to educate men are just absurd, so that he doesn't know how to encourage the boy to take up philosophy.

Socrates' response is to point out that most practitioners of almost any art are rather mediocre at best, and that this is not a reason to avoid them. And thus he ends the dialogue with what I think should be seen as the entire point all along, the idea that philosophy itself is not a matter of who is teaching you but of what you, yourself, are doing:

Then don't do what you ought not to, Crito, but pay no attention to the practitioners of philosophy, whether good or bad. Rather, give serious consideration to the thing itself: if it seems to you negligible, then turn everyone from it, not just your sons. But if it seems to you to be what I think it is, then take heart, pursue it, practice it, both you and yours, as the proverb says. (307b-c)

  Remarks

* Connus, Socrates' music teacher, is attested elsewhere. Plato mentions him again in Menexenus. There was a comedy entered in the Dionysia of 423 BC by Ameipsias named after him, in which Socrates was one of the characters (the play itself has not survived except in a few fragments). It has the memorable description of Socrates as "best among few men and most absurd among many". Interestingly, Connus placed second in the contest, beating out the original version of Aristophanes' The Clouds, which is about Socrates himself. Aristophanes seems not to have liked placing third; he reworked the play significantly, and this is the version of The Clouds we currently have, since the comedy as we have it makes explicit reference to the prior failure of the play. There is also a play, also not extant, by Phrynichus called Connus. Connus was famous for having been a great musician who failed and ended up trying to eke out a living by teaching others music; no doubt that would be why he accepted the old man Socrates as one of his students.

* If we are allowed to use fancy Greek words, Euthydemus is a contest between eristic and elenchus. Eristic is related to the word eris, meaning 'discord' or 'strife', and was a pugnacious question-and-answer method to train students how to refute arguments, any arguments. Socrates's dialectic, of course, is also a question-and-answer approach to education, and it is clearly one of the purposes of the dialogue to show people who confused the two how very different they were in practice. Thus we have repeated contrasts between the eristic of the sophists and Socrates's discussion with Clinias.

Isocrates attacks eristic in his speech Against the Sophists.

* Rosamond Kent Sprague has an excellent little discussion of Euthydemus as a philosophical examination of education: Two Kinds of Paideia in Plato's Euthydemus. A good comment on the contrast:

Another means of contrast adopted by Plato is to show, in the case of eristic, that its practitioners care nothing for the future of their pupils; all they require is someone who is willing to answer 275C. Their purpose is to give a demonstration of eristic tricks with a view to attracting students and making money. Socrates and his friends, on the other hand, desire that the young man "become as good as possible" 275A. Socrates' treatment of Cleinias is kindly, leisured, and adapted to the needs and abilities of the particular pupil before him; the sophists, on the other hand, indulge in a rapid-fire procedure that reaches no definite conclusion and that takes no account of individual differences. Plato emphasizes, further, the ease with which the eristic technique can be learned, (we in fact see Cleinias' admirer, Ctesippus, acquiring the knack before our very eyes 299Eff.), and surely implies, if he does not say, that one hardly becomes a master of dialectic over-night. (In the Republic, as we know, he lays down the lengthy course of studies required in detail.)

****

Quotations are from Rosamund Kent Sprague's translation in Plato, Complete Works, Cooper and Hutchinson, eds., pp. 708-745.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

The Chest

We were told it all long ago by Plato. As the king governs by his executive, so Reason in man must rule the mere appetites by means of the 'spirited element.' The head rules the belly through the chest--the seat, as Alanus tells us, of Magnanimity, of emotions organized by trained habit into stable sentiments. The Chest--Magnanimity--Sentiment--these are the indispensable liaison officers between cerebral man and visceral man. It may even be said that it is by this middle element that man is man: for by his intellect he is mere spirit and by his appetite mere animal.

C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man, Collier (New York: 1955) p. 34.

The footnotes are to Plato's Republic and to Alanus ab Insulis's De Planctu Naturae Prosa (the latter is certainly getting the idea from Plato's Timaeus).

Captain or Colonel, or Knight in Arms

Sonnet VIII
by John Milton


Captain or Colonel, or Knight in Arms,
Whose chance on these defenceless dores may sease,
If ever deed of honour did thee please,
Guard them, and him within protect from harms,

He can requite thee, for he knows the charms
That call Fame on such gentle acts as these,
And he can spred thy Name o're Lands and Seas,
What ever clime the Suns bright circle warms.

Lift not thy spear against the Muses' Bowre,
The great Emathian Conqueror bid spare
The house of Pindarus, when Temple and Towre

Went to the ground: and the repeated air
Of sad Electra's Poet had the power
To save th' Athenian Walls from ruine bare.

The Emathian Conqueror is Alexander the Great. Plutarch briefly notes the event here referred to, in his life of Alexander:

The Thebans indeed defended themselves with a zeal and courage beyond their strength, being much outnumbered by their enemies. But when the Macedonian garrison sallied out upon them from the citadel, they were so hemmed in on all sides that the greater part of them fell in the battle; the city itself being taken by storm, was sacked and razed. Alexander's hope being that so severe an example might terrify the rest of Greece into obedience, and also in order to gratify the hostility of his confederates, the Phocians and Plataeans. So that, except the priests, and some few who had heretofore been the friends and connections of the Macedonians, the family of the poet Pindar, and those who were known to have opposed the public vote for the war, all the rest, to the number of thirty thousand, were publicly sold for slaves; and it is computed that upwards of six thousand were put to the sword.

The reference to Electra's poet (Euripides) occurred after the Spartan conquest of Athens, and is also explained by Plutarch, in his life of Lysander:

Afterwards, however, when the leaders were gathered at a banquet, and a certain Phocian sang the first chorus in the ‘Electra’ of Euripides, which begins with:

O thou daughter of Agamemnon,
I am come, Electra, to thy rustic court,

all were moved to compassion, and felt it to be a cruel deed to abolish and destroy a city which was so famous, and produced such poets.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Plato's Dialogues So Far

So I've gone through eighteen dialogues so far. Euthydemus, Meno, and the spurious dialogue De Virtute will definitely be done this week. There are some works that I hoped to do, but couldn't quite fit in -- Laches, Menexenus, Plutarch's dialogue on Socrates' daimonion. I think that last I will move to after the Phaedo, which is an influence on it, but my current thought is that next week I'll do Laches, Menexenus, and Hipparchus. This July will also see the Last Days dialogues -- Theatetus, Euthyphro, Sophist, Statesman, Apology, Phaedo, Crito -- which deal with Socrates' trial and death. I haven't done any Xenophon yet, but that will start up in July, as well.

Authentic

Charmides
Phaedrus: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV
Ion
Hippias Minor
Gorgias: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV
Lysis
Timaeus: Part I, Part II
Critias


Heavily Disputed

Alcibiades Major


Usually Regarded as Spurious

The Platonic Definitions
Halcyon
Sisyphus
Demodocus
Eryxias
Axiochus
Rival Lovers
Theages
De Justo


Related Posts

Some Thoughts Toward Reading Plato's Dialogues
The Golden Villain of Athens
Sydenham's Scheme for the Platonic Dialogues
Hermocrates: A Non-Reading


Still to do

Plato: Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Phaedo, Cratylus, Theaetetus, Sophist, Statesman, Parmenides, Philebus, Symposium, Alcibiades Minor, Laches, Euthydemus, Protagoras, Hippias Major, Menexenus, Clitophon, Republic, Minos, Laws, Epinomis, Epistles, Epigrams, De Virtute

Xenophon: Memorabilia, Apology, Symposium, Oeconomicus, Hiero, Cynegeticus (probably), Anabasis (probably), Cyropaedia (possibly), Agesilaus (possibly), Constitution of Sparta (possibly), Hellenica (possibly, but probably only if I can do Thucydides' History as well), Hipparchikos (only if time allows), Hippike (only if time allows), Poroi (only if time allows)

Aristophanes: The Clouds

Plutarch: Socrates' Daimonion, Life of Socrates (possibly)

Apuleius: The God of Socrates (possibly)

Libanius: Defense of Socrates (probably)

And, of course, I want to do the Confucian Classics, although that may well be a project for the Fall.

An Ever Richer Crop

Since yesterday was the Feast of SS. Peter and Paul, I thought I'd post something from St. Leo I, who is one of the major theologians who discusses the feast. From sermon 82:

The whole world, dearly-beloved, does indeed take part in all holy anniversaries, and loyalty to the one Faith demands that whatever is recorded as done for all men's salvation should be everywhere celebrated with common rejoicings. But, besides that reverence which today's festival has gained from all the world, it is to be honoured with special and peculiar exultation in our city, that there may be a predominance of gladness on the day of their martyrdom in the place where the chief of the Apostles met their glorious end. For these are the men, through whom the light of Christ's gospel shone on you, O Rome, and through whom you, who wast the teacher of error, wast made the disciple of Truth. These are your holy Fathers and true shepherds, who gave you claims to be numbered among the heavenly kingdoms, and built you under much better and happier auspices than they, by whose zeal the first foundations of your walls were laid: and of whom the one that gave you your name defiled you with his brother's blood. These are they who promoted you to such glory, that being made a holy nation, a chosen people, a priestly and royal state, and the head of the world through the blessed Peter's holy See you attained a wider sway by the worship of God than by earthly government. For although you were increased by many victories, and extended your rule on land and sea, yet what your toils in war subdued is less than what the peace of Christ has conquered.

And since today is the feast of the First Martyrs of Rome, another passage from the same sermon:

Thither came also your blessed brother-Apostle Paul, "the vessel of election," and the special teacher of the Gentiles, and was associated with you at a time when all innocence, all modesty, all freedom was in jeopardy under Nero's rule. Whose fury, inflamed by excess of all vices, hurled him headlong into such a fiery furnace of madness that he was the first to assail the Christian name with a general persecution, as if God's Grace could be quenched by the death of saints, whose greatest gain it was to win eternal happiness by contempt of this fleeting life. "Precious," therefore, "in the eyes of the Lord is the death of His saints :" nor can any degree of cruelty destroy the religion which is founded on the mystery of Christ's cross. Persecution does not diminish but increase the church, and the Lord's field is clothed with an ever richer crop, while the grains, which fall singly, spring up and are multiplied a hundred-fold. Hence how large a progeny have sprung from these two Heaven-sown seeds is shown by the thousands of blessed martyrs, who, rivalling the Apostles' triumphs, have traversed the city far and wide in purple-clad and ruddy-gleaming throngs, and crowned it, as it were with a single diadem of countless gems.

Hermocrates: A Non-Reading

We've done a lot of reading of Plato recently; about some non-reading of Plato? Critias seems to suggest that there was another dialogue in the planning, a Hermocrates as it is usually called, which would round out the trilogy beginning with Timaeus. There are two possibilities here:

(A) Plato intended to write Hermocrates but never did for some unknown reason.
(B) Plato never intended to write it.

Why might one suggest a third dialogue that one never intends to write? One possibility is precisely to get people thinking about what it would be. Critias, the discourse by an Athenian, is about an Ancient Athens that turned back and defeated a mighty imperial sea power. Hermocrates of Syracuse, while not a strong general, was an accomplished and respected diplomat whose work in building Sicilian alliances enabled the city of Syracuse to turn back and defeat a mighty imperial sea power -- Athens herself. So just having him there in juxtaposition raises the question of whether he would have discussed this if he ever had his own speech, and, more importantly, raises the contrast between Ancient Athens and the imperial democracy of the Peloponnesian War.

On the other hand, it could be that Plato just didn't get to it. Can we give a reasonable guess about what its topic would be? We have a very few scattered indications.

(1) The task Socrates sets his guests is to "present our city prusuing a war that reflects her true character" (Tim. 20b); that is, to present the ideal city of Socrates in action.
(2) The three guests agree that Critias's story of Ancient Athens fits the bill.
(3) Critias's account of the plan doesn't mention Hermocrates at all:

We thought that because Timaeus is our expert in astronomy and has made it his main business to know the nature of the universe, he should speak first, beginning with the origin of the universe, and concluding with the nature of human beings. Then I'll go next, once I'm in possession of Timaeus' account of the origin of human beings and your account of how some of them came to have a superior education. I'll introduce them, as not only Solon's account but also his law would have it, into our coutroom and make them citizens of our ancient city--as really being those Athenians of old whom the report of the sacred records has rescued from obscurity--and from then on I'll speak of them as actual Athenian citizens. (Tim. 27a-b)

(4) Socrates does explicitly say that Hermocrates will speak (Crit. 108a) and Hermocrates and Critias seem to confirm it (Crit 108b-c).

And beyond knowing from Thucydides and Xenophon who Hermocrates is, this is all we have to go on. Any speculation has to work by extrapolation or analogy. Some possibilities.

(a) After Socrates describes the ideal city in the Republic, he goes on to describe how it degenerates. So perhaps Hermocrates would talk about the degeneration of the ideal city. The problem is that we already know that Ancient Athens doesn't degenerate -- it's going to be destroyed in cataclysm, with only remnants surviving.

(b) Hermocrates, for practical purposes, destroyed the Syracusan Expedition by which Athens aimed to extend its naval empire. So perhaps Hermocrates would talk about that as a contrast to Critias's account of Ancient Athens. The major difficulty here is that the opposition is fairly obvious already, and the topic doesn't obviously flow from the task Socrates set his guests.

(c) Perhaps Hermocrates would pick up from the cataclysm, so to speak, and talk about how to build the ideal city from scratch. Plato does something like this in the Laws. But why Hermocrates? We know from Critias that Timaeus has devoted his life to astronomy, and Critias is related to Solon; all we know about Hermocrates is that he was a Sicilian statesman.

Plato -- even his gaps are interesting. But in this case it's anyone's guess, so feel free to indulge in your own non-reading of the Hermocrates.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Critias

Critias is an undisputed dialogue; being so closely tied with Timaeus, almost everything that applies to the latter applies to it. It is also the one incomplete Platonic dialogue (it ends literally in the middle of a sentence), and the big question is why it is incomplete. There is no sign or evidence of it ever having been completed. There are several possibilities:

(1) Plato completed the dialogue, but most of it was lost relatively early.
(2) Plato intended to complete the dialogue, but could not for some unknown reason.
(3) Plato deliberately wrote the dialogue as incomplete.

There is, believe it or not, some evidence that it may have been intentionally incomplete (a position held by Proclus and increasingly common in modern times). In Timaeus, when Critias summarized the background for the story, we learned (21d) that Solon also failed to complete his poem on the story; one can easily see this as an anticipation. It's certainly the case that the incompleteness makes the story even more striking (which is perhaps why when Sir Francis Bacon wrote his work, The New Atlantis, he also left it incomplete in imitation). There is countervailing evidence, however; Critias strongly suggests that there will be a follow-up dialogue, with a speech by Hermocrates, but this seems to require that it itself be finished. (And yet, on the other side again, we are curiously never told what the topic of Hermocrates's speech would be.) Probably we need to read it with double vision, taking it in both ways, just to see how it changes in that light.

You can read Critias online in English at the Perseus Project and in French at Wikisource.

The Characters
(in order of appearance)

Since the dialogue occurs immediately after Timaeus, the characters are the same. Timaeus opens the dialogue, transitioning from Timaeus; then Critias, Socrates, and Hermocrates.

The Plot and The Thought

Timaeus opens the dialogue by remarking that he's glad to be done with his part. Critias remarks that it is very difficult to represent human life accurately, and asks everyone for sympathy and good will, which Socrates readily grants. Hermocrates also encourages Critias to go on, and he does.

Nine thousand years ago there was a great war. Athens, which ruled the Mediterranean, fought for the entire war, and they fought against the island of Atlantis. Critias begins with how these two powers arose.

Long before, the gods freely divided the earth, raising human beings "as their own chattel and livestock, as do shepherds their sheep" (109b), but guiding us by persuasion rather than coercion. Because Hephaestus and Athena had a common nature, as brother and sister and as having common interests, they shared the same territory. They drew forth good men from the land and taught them how to build their society:

Now, at that time, the other classes of citizens who dwelt in our city were engaged in manufacture and producing food from the earth, but the warrior class that had originally been separated from them by god-like men lived apart. They had all that was appropriate to their training and all their possessions as the common property of all, and they asked to receive nothing from the other citizens beyond what they needed to live. Their activities were all the activities that were spoken of yesterday, when the guardians proposed by our theory were discussed. (110c-d)

The Athens of the day was far from the sea, since the land had not eroded through the millenia since, and it was a lush and fertile land. Athens itself was larger -- its acropolis alone was nearly as large as the Athens of Critias day.

Critias then turns to the island of Atlantis, which fell under the allotment of Poseidon. People sprang from the earth there, too, and among them was one named Evenor, with his wife Leucippe, who had a daughter called Clito. Poseidon slept with Clito, and to keep her protected, he broke the island into perfect rings. This made her hill, at the center of the island, inaccessible, for there were no ships or boats yet. The center portion of the island he made fit for a god, and begot five pairs of twin sons. He then divided the island into ten parts and made them kings, giving the eldest the central portion and the high kingship. Critias even gives the names, although he does note that they are Greek versions of Egyptian versions of whatever the originals were: Atlas, Eumelos/Gadirus, Ampheres, Euaemon, Mneseas, Autochthon, Elasippus, Mestor Azaes, Diaprepes.

The island of Atlantis was rich in all good things, so the people prospered extraordinarily. This was unsurprising, because they were partly divine. Having a natural affinity to the gods, they had mildness (praotes) and prudence (phronesis); they were sober in judgment, not intoxicated by their luxuries, although their wealth increased along with their wealth and virtue.

But as their divine portion grew faint and they became more mortal over time, they grew more disordered:

To whoever had eyes to see, they appeared hideous, since they were losing the finest of what were once their most treasured possessions. But to those who were blind to the true way of life oriented to happiness [eudaimonia], it was at this time that they gave the semblance of being supremely beauteous and blessed. Yet inwardly they were filled with unjust lust [pleonexia] for possessions and power. (121b)

Zeus decides that to punish them and "to make them more careful and harmonious as a result of their chastisement" (121c) -- although this seems a little incongruous given that we already know that the punishment will consist of destroying their entire civilization, sinking their island, and, in the process, devastating the rest of the world -- and therefore calls the gods to council. This gives us the ending of the dialogue:

And when he had gathered them together, he said

  Additional Remarks

* In a notable and obviously deliberate flip of the Peloponnesian War, in which Athens was an imperialistic sea power and Sparta was a conservative and martial land power, in Critias's tale Athens is a conservative and martial land power, while Atlantis is an imperialistic sea power.

* The gods in the dialogue have a demiurgic role, creating by being Minds that persuade the world. And notice that Critias uses Timaeus's description of human nature to describe the Atlantids, often including the same terms.

Critias also uses the term pleonexia, the craving for more, to describe the degradation of the Atlantids; pleonexia is identified in the Republic, as the cause of injustice, and, indeed, almost all the features of Socrates' ideal city are designed to counter different aspects of it.

There is a common position in scholarship on the dialogue that Critias's tale falls short in some key way, that he is not, in fact, conveying Socrates' ideal city in the historic past; but both of these points seem to me to tell against such a position. Critias is, in fact, doing what he said he would set out to do: he draws on both Timaeus and Socrates to populate his story with human beings. Of course, the problem with an incomplete dialogue is that everything can be taken in any number of different ways, depending on how you assume it would have continued.

* Plutarch (who takes the Platonic attribution of the story to Solon seriously) has a nice passage in his Life of Solon (Chapter 32) on this dialogue:

Plato, ambitious to elaborate and adorn the subject of the lost Atlantis, as if it were the soil of a fair estate unoccupied, but appropriately his by virtue of some kinship with Solon, began the work by laying out great porches, enclosures, and courtyards, such as no story, tale, or poesy ever had before. But he was late in beginning, and ended his life before his work. Therefore the greater our delight in what he actually wrote, the greater is our distress in view of what he left undone. For as the Olympieium in the city of Athens, so the tale of the lost Atlantis in the wisdom of Plato is the only one among many beautiful works to remain unfinished.

****

Quotations are from Diskin Clay's translation in Plato, Complete Works, Cooper & Hutchinson, eds., pp. 1292-1306.