Character: Aristotle, Cognitive Theory and the Man of Many-Ways

Euripides, Bacchae 369

“A fool says foolish things.”

μῶρα γὰρ μῶρος λέγει.

Aristotle Poetics 1450a

“Since it is the imitation of action, it is performed by those who act, by those types of people who necessarily [do those things] due to character and thought. For we believe that actions are the sorts of things which have two causes, thought and character, and that through these things everyone either succeeds or fails. And thus the story [or plot, muthos] is imitation of an action, for I claim that myth is a connection of deeds and that “characters” are those reasons that certain people do certain things, and that thought is that in which they display in talking or when they communicate an opinion.”

ἐπεὶ δὲ πράξεώς ἐστι μίμησις, πράττεται δὲ ὑπὸ τινῶν πραττόντων, οὓς ἀνάγκη ποιούς τινας εἶναι κατά τε τὸ ἦθος καὶ τὴν διάνοιαν (διὰ γὰρ τούτων καὶ τὰς πράξεις εἶναί φαμεν ποιάς τινας [πέφυκεν αἴτια δύο τῶν πράξεων εἶναι, διάνοια καὶ ἦθος] καὶ κατὰ ταύτας καὶ τυγχάνουσι καὶ ἀποτυγχάνουσι πάντες), ἔστιν δὲ τῆς μὲν πράξεως ὁ μῦθος ἡ μίμησις, λέγω γὰρ μῦθον τοῦτον τὴν  σύνθεσιν τῶν πραγμάτων, τὰ δὲ ἤθη, καθ’ ὃ ποιούς τινας εἶναί φαμεν τοὺς πράττοντας, διάνοιαν δέ, ἐν ὅσοις λέγοντες ἀποδεικνύασίν τι ἢ καὶ ἀποφαίνονται γνώμην…

 

Mark Turner. The Literary Mind: The Origins of Thought and Language. Oxford: 1996.

Turner 1996, 133: The stories minds tell (the ways in which we interpret the world) are based on roles and character, “formed by backward inference from such a role, according to the folk theory of “the Nature of Things,” otherwise known as “Being Leads to Doing.” In this folk theory, glass shatters because it is brittle and fragile. Water pours because it is liquid. Someone forgives because she is forgiving. A dog guards the house because it is watchful. A fool acts like a fool because he is foolish. In general, doing follows from being; something behaves in a certain way because its being leads it to behave in that way…

Character is a pattern of connections we expect to operate across stories about a particular individual with that character or across stories about a group of individual with that character. People of a particular character are expected to inhabit similar roles in different stories…

[134] A role in one story is not isolated but connects to the same role in other stories…Focus, viewpoint, role and character in narrative imagining give us ways of constructing our own meaning, which is to say, ways of understanding who we are, what it means to be us, to have a particular life. The inability to locate one’s own focus, viewpoint, role, and character with respect to conventional stories of leading a life is thought to be pathological and deeply distressing. It is a principal reason for recommending psychotherapy to people not obviously insane.”

[136] “We do not live in a single narrative mental space, but rather dynamically and variably across over very many…realism can indicate that a specific life is never contained within a single story space or even a collection of such spaces whose corresponding generic space tells us everything we want to know. The real is in the blend.”

Homer,Odyssey: Epithets of Odysseus

“Sing to me, Muse, of the man of many ways…”
1.1     ῎Ανδρα μοι ἔννεπε, Μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ

 

“Send many-minded Odysseus to his own home”
1.83  νοστῆσαι ᾿Οδυσῆα πολύφρονα ὅνδε δόμονδε,

“Ah, you are Odysseus of many-ways….
10.330 ἦ σύ γ’ ᾿Οδυσσεύς ἐσσι πολύτροπος, ὅν τέ μοι αἰεὶ

 

“[Odysseus] will know how to return, since he is a man of many-devices”
1.205 φράσσεται ὥς κε νέηται, ἐπεὶ πολυμήχανός ἐστιν.

“Divine-raced, son of Laertes, many-deviced Odysseus
5.203 “διογενὲς Λαερτιάδη, πολυμήχαν’ ᾿Οδυσσεῦ,

 

“If very-clever Odysseus were in these rooms again…”
4.763 εἴ ποτέ τοι πολύμητις ἐνὶ μεγάροισιν ᾿Οδυσσεὺς

 

“So she spoke, and much-enduring, shining Odysseus shivered”
5.171     ὣς φάτο, ῥίγησεν δὲ πολύτλας δῖος ᾿Οδυσσεύς,

 

“So she spoke, and much-enduring, shining Odysseus laughed”
13.250      ὣς φάτο, γήθησεν δὲ πολύτλας δῖος ᾿Οδυσσεὺς

“And you, many-pained old man, since a god brought you my way…”
14.386 καὶ σύ, γέρον πολυπενθές, ἐπεί σέ μοι ἤγαγε δαίμων,

 

“They would not conquer me. I am truly much-enduring”
18.319 οὔ τί με νικήσουσι· πολυτλήμων δὲ μάλ’ εἰμί.”

 

“…I am a man of many-sorrows…”
19.118 μνησαμένῳ· μάλα δ’ εἰμὶ πολύστονος· οὐδέ τί με χρὴ

 

“…he is much-prayed for…”
19.404 παιδὸς παιδὶ φίλῳ· πολυάρητος δέ τοί ἐστι.”

 

Schol. ad Demosthenes. Orat. 20

“For a man of many ways changes himself in accordance with the nature of the matters at hand.”

πολύτροπος γὰρ ὁ ἀνὴρ καὶ πρὸς τὴν τῶν πραγμά-των φύσιν συμμεταβάλλεται.

 

Schol. ad Odysseam 1.50 ex

“Antisthenes in interpreting this asks “why, then, is wretched Odysseus called polytropos? Really, this is the way to mark him out as wise. Isn’t it true that his manner never indicates his character, but that instead it signals his use of speech? The man who has a character difficult to penetrate is well-turned. These sorts of inventions of words are tropes/ways/manners

λύων οὖν ὁ ᾿Αντισθένης φησὶ, Τί οὖν; ἆρά γε πονηρὸς ὁ ᾿Οδυσσεὺς ὅτι πολύτροπος ἐκλήθη; καὶ μὴν διότι σοφὸς οὕτως αὐτὸν προσείρηκε. μήποτε οὖν ὁ τρόπος τὸ μέν τι σημαίνει τὸ ἦθος, τὸ δέ τι σημαίνει τὴν τοῦ λόγου χρῆσιν; εὔτροπος γὰρ ἀνὴρ ὁ τὸ ἦθος ἔχων εἰς τὸ εὖ τετραμμένον· τρόποι δὲ λόγων αἱ ποιαὶ πλάσεις.

John Peradotto. Man in the Middle Voice: Name and Narration in the Odyssey. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990: 44

“Events in a narrative are determined by its end. In the telling, however, a narrative gives us the illusion of being motivated, as a historical account appears to be motivated, from the opposite direction, from beginning to end…It is in effect a process of retroactive necessity in composition generating in performance, the illusion of progressive contingency.”