Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Socratic Method

Of drinking, that is:

But Socrates said, "Well, gentlemen, drinking gets my approval, in so far as it's a fact that wine refreshes the heart, and both allays worry like a sedative and feeds the flame of good cheer like oil. But it seems to me that the human body is affected in just the same way as plants are. When God gives plants too much to drink at a time, they can't stand up or breathe in fresh air; but when they drink only as much as is pleasant, they grow up quite straight and flourish and reach the fruiting stage. In the same way, if we imbibe all the drink at once, both our bodies and our minds will quickly let us down, and we shan't be able to breathe, much less speak.But if the servants drop for us frequent dew in goblets small, to put it as Gorgias would have, then, instead of being forced into intoxication by the wine, we shall reach a more playful mood through gentle persuasion."

[Xenophon, Symposium, ii.]

This is from the Tredennick-Waterfield translation in the Penguin Classics. Here's the Dakyns translation:

At this point Socrates: Nay, gentlemen, if drinking is the order of the day, I heartily approve. Wine it is in very truth that moistens the soul of man, that lulls at once all cares to sleep, even as mandragora drugs our human senses, and at the same time kindles light-hearted thoughts, as oil a flame. Yet it fares with the banquets of men, if I mistake not, precisely as with plants that spring and shoot on earth. When God gives these vegetable growths too full a draught of rain, they cannot lift their heads nor feel the light air breathe through them; but if they drink in only the glad supply they need, they stand erect, they shoot apace, and reach maturity of fruitage. So we, too, if we drench our throats with over- copious draughts, ere long may find our legs begin to reel and our thoughts begin to falter; we shall scarce be able to draw breath, much less to speak a word in season. But if (to borrow language from the mint of Gorgias), if only the attendants will bedew us with a frequent mizzle of small glasses, we shall not be violently driven on by wine to drunkenness, but with sweet seduction reach the goal of sportive levity.

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