Why Pursue Scholarship? (Hint: Not to Be Happy)

Take time to be sick in the right way….

Epictetus, 3.10-12

“But, am I not a scholar? Why do you pursue scholarship? Servant, do you do this to be content? Do you do it to be safe? Do you do it to grasp nature and live in accordance with it? What stops you when you’re sick from having your principle align with nature? This is the test of the matter, the crucible for any philosopher. This is also a part of life, like a stroll, a voyage, a trip, the fever too! Do you read while walking? No! And you don’t read while having a fever.  But if you walk well, you deliver the promise of one who walks.

If you have a fever, then do what one who has a fever should do. What does it mean to be sick well? Don’t blame god, or man. Don’t be undone by the things that happen. Await death bravely and correctly, and do what is given to you.”

Ἀλλ᾿ οὐ φιλολογῶ;—Τίνος δ᾿ ἕνεκα φιλολογεῖς; ἀνδράποδον, οὐχ ἵνα εὐροῇς; οὐχ ἵνα εὐσταθῇς; οὐχ ἵνα κατὰ φύσιν ἔχῃς καὶ διεξάγῃς;  τί κωλύει πυρέσσοντα κατὰ φύσιν ἔχειν τὸ ἡγεμονικόν; ἐνθάδ᾿ ὁ ἔλεγχος τοῦ πράγματος, ἡ δοκιμασία τοῦ φιλοσοφοῦντος. μέρος γάρ ἐστι καὶ τοῦτο τοῦ βίου, ὡς περίπατος, ὡς πλοῦς, ὡς ὁδοιπορία, οὕτως καὶ πυρετός. μή τι περιπατῶν ἀναγιγνώσκεις;—Οὔ.—Οὕτως οὐδὲ πυρέσσων. ἀλλ᾿ ἂν καλῶς περιπατῇς, ἔχεις τὸ τοῦ περιπατοῦντος· ἂν καλῶς πυρέξῃς, ἔχεις τὰ τοῦ πυρέσσοντος. 13τί ἐστὶ καλῶς πυρέσσειν; μὴ θεὸν μέμψασθαι, μὴ ἄνθρωπον, μὴ θλιβῆναι ὑπὸ τῶν γινομένων, εὖ καὶ καλῶς προσδέχεσθαι τὸν θάνατον, ποιεῖν τὰ προστασσόμενα·

Let’s Talk about [Death] Baby: #DeathAndClassics

Roman Epitaph, B808

“[Hey,] you who are reading this epitaph, remember that you too will be dead.”

Qui legis hunc titulum, mortalem te esse memento.

A few days ago I posted the following tweet.

Aelian, Fragment 187/190 (from Stobaeus 3.29.58)

“Solon the Athenian, the son of Eksêkestides, when his nephew sang some song of Sappho at a drinking party, took pleasure in it and asked the young man to teach it to him. When someone asked why he was eager to learn it, he responded: “So, once I learn it, I may die.”

Σόλων ὁ ᾿Αθηναῖος ᾿Εξηκεστίδου παρὰ πότον τοῦ ἀδελφιδοῦ αὐτοῦ μέλος τι Σαπφοῦς ᾄσαντος, ἥσθη τῷ μέλει καὶ προσέταξε τῷ μειρακίῳ διδάξει αὐτόν. ἐρωτήσαντος δέ τινος διὰ ποίαν αἰτίαν τοῦτο σπουδάσειεν, ὃ δὲ ἔφη ‘ἵνα μαθὼν αὐτὸ ἀποθάνω.’

There were lots of interesting answers–it would be annoying to post all the tweets here, but I have added some to give an idea of the range of responses.

Simonides, Fragment 15

“Human strength is meager
Our plains incomplete
Toil follows toil in our short lives.
Death looms inescapable for all—
People who are good and bad draw
of that an equal portion.”

ἀνθρώπων ὀλίγον μὲν
κάρτος, ἄπρακτοι δὲ μεληδόνες,
αἰῶνι δ’ ἐν παύρωι πόνος ἀμφὶ πόνωι·
ὁ δ’ ἄφυκτος ὁμῶς ἐπικρέμαται θάνατος·
κείνου γὰρ ἴσον λάχον μέρος οἵ τ’ ἀγαθοὶ
ὅστις τε κακός.

Fragment 16

“Since you are human, never claim what tomorrow might bring.
Nor, if you see a fortunate man, how long it will last.
For not even the time of a tender-winged fly
Is not as fast.”

ἄνθρωπος ἐὼν μή ποτε φάσηις ὅ τι γίνεται 〚αὔριον〛,
μηδ’ ἄνδρα ἰδὼν ὄλβιον ὅσσον χρόνον ἔσσεται·
ὠκεῖα γὰρ οὐδὲ τανυπτερύγου μυίας
οὕτως ἁ μετάστασις.

Here are the tweets I sent to try to contextualize the question:

I ask the #deathandclassics question in all seriousness because it is a question I actually consider often (1/8)

I actually have been memorizing the opening lines of the #Odyssey to recite to myself in times of agitation. And I think, if I know I am going to die, I will recite it to myself. (2/8)

Why the #Odyssey? I think the #Iliad is the poem of death and the Odyssey is the poem of life. Both poems are at some level about what it means to be a person, but the Odyssey is about how life is lived. #deathandclassics (3/8)

In a way, it will be like a replaying of my life through a story I have read many times. There is also the ancient allegorical tradition that the Odyssey is about the transition from one realm to the next, the movement of a soul from one plane to another #deathandclassics (4/8)

Even without the allegory, the Odyssey is about the journey of a person and the journey that IS the person. #deathandclassics (5/8)

I think that this might be nice to think about in the final moments—that even though I individual am passing on, I am drifting away on words that have moved through a thousand years #deathandclassics (6/8)

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“Citizens of the World” From Diogenes to Marcus Aurelius

Yesterday I quoted a bit from Plutarch’s essay On Exile and received a bit of feedback about the fact that Plutarch was not the first to claim that we are all citizens of the same country. He wasn’t even the first to assign the remark to Socrates! As far as I can tell, there is no clear articulation of this idea in Plato or Xenophon. The first person to have said such a thing was Diogenes the Cynic.

Diogenes Laertius, 6.63, on Diogenes the Cynic (4th Century BCE)

“When asked where he was from, he said “I am a world-citizen.”

ἐρωτηθεὶς πόθεν εἴη, “κοσμοπολίτης,” ἔφη.

Diogenes Jules Batien-Lepage

“Diogenes” by Jules Bastien-Lepage

Cicero is one of the earliest sources attributing the sentiment to Socrates.

Cicero, Tusculan Disputations 5.108

“Socrates, when he was asked what state was his, used to say “the world”. For he judged himself an inhabitant and citizen of the whole world.”

Socrates cum rogaretur, cujatem se esse diceret, Mundanum, inquit. Totius enim mundi se incolam et civem arbitrabatur.”

 

Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius articulate different versions of what becomes a central part of Stoic philosophy.

Seneca, De vita beata, 20.5

“I know that my country is the world and that the gods are guardians, those judges of my deeds and words above and beyond me.”

Patriam meam esse mundum sciam et praesides deos, hos supra circaque me stare factorum dictorumque censores.

Seneca, De Otio, 4.1

“We encounter two republics with our mind–one is great and truly public, by which gods and men are contained and in which we may not gaze upon this corner or that one, but we measure the boundaries of our state with the sun; the other we enter by the fact of being born. This will be the state of Athens or Carthage or of any other city at all. It does not extend to all people but to certain ones. Some people serve the good of both republics at the same time, the greater and the lesser, some serve only the lesser or only the greater.”

Duas res publicas animo complectamur, alteram magnam et vere publicam, qua dii atque homines continentur, in qua non ad hunc angulum respicimus aut ad illum, sed terminos civitatis nostrae cum sole metimur; alteram, cui nos adscripsit condicio nascendi. Haec aut Atheniensium erit aut Carthaginiensium,aut alterius alicuius urbis, quae non ad omnis pertineat homines sed ad certos. Quidam eodem tempore utrique rei publicae dant operam, maiori minorique, quidam tantum minori, quidam tantum maiori.

Epictetus, Dissertationes 1.9.1

“If what is said about the kinship of humans and god by the philosopher is true, what is left for all people other than that advice of Socrates never to say when someone asks where you are from that you are Athenian or Corinthian but that you are a citizen of the world?”

εἰ ταῦτά ἐστιν ἀληθῆ τὰ περὶ τῆς συγγενείας τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ ἀνθρώπων λεγόμενα ὑπὸ τῶν φιλοσόφων, τί ἄλλο ἀπολείπεται τοῖς ἀνθρώποις ἢ τὸ τοῦ Σωκράτους, μηδέποτε πρὸς τὸν πυθόμενον ποδαπός ἐστιν εἰπεῖν ὅτι Ἀθηναῖος ἢ Κορίνθιος, ἀλλ᾽ ὅτι κόσμιος;

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 3.11

“Nothing is as productive of an expansive mind than to consider truly and as completely as possibly everything you encounter in life and always to look at things so that you realize what the nature of the universe is, what each thing is used for, and what worth it has in relation to the whole, and how it relates to man, who is a citizen of the highest city, within which the rest of the cities are like houses. Think: what is it, and where is it from, and how long has it endured which now makes this impact on me.

And: what are the demands of virtue from me because of it? Gentleness, bravery, fidelity, simplicity, self-sufficiency and others. This is why at every opportunity we must say that this comes from god, this is according to the serendipity and spinning of allotment and this is from the same chance, while this is from the same character and family in common, even when one is ignore about what is his because of nature. But I am not ignorant. This is why I treat each person according to the natural law of the commonwealth, kindly and justly, just as at the same time, when dealing with indifferent things, I try to assign them their true value.”

οὐδὲν γὰρ οὕτως μεγαλοφροσύνης ποιητικόν, ὡς τὸ ἐλέγχειν ὁδῷ καὶ ἀληθείᾳ ἕκαστον τῶν τῷ βίῳ ὑποπιπτόντων δύνασθαι καὶ τὸ ἀεὶ οὕτως εἰς αὐτὰ ὁρᾶν, ὥστε συνεπιβάλλειν ὁποίῳ τινὶ τῷ κόσμῳ ὁποίαν τινὰ τοῦτο χρείαν παρεχόμενον τίνα μὲν ἔχει ἀξίαν ὡς πρὸς τὸ ὅλον, τίνα δὲ ὡς πρὸς τὸν ἄνθρωπον, πολίτην ὄντα πόλεως τῆς ἀνωτάτης, ἧς αἱ λοιπαὶ πόλεις ὥσπερ οἰκίαι εἰσίν: τί ἐστὶ καὶ ἐκ τίνων συγκέκριται καὶ πόσον χρόνον πέφυκε παραμένειν τοῦτο τὸ τὴν φαντασίαν μοι νῦν ποιοῦν καὶ τίνος ἀρετῆς πρὸς αὐτὸ χρεία, οἷον ἡμερότητος, ἀνδρείας, [3] πίστεως, ἀφελείας, αὐταρκείας, τῶν λοιπῶν, διὸ δεῖ ἐφ̓ ἑκάστου λέγειν: τοῦτο μὲν παρὰ θεοῦ ἥκει, τοῦτο δὲ κατὰ τὴν σύλληξιν καὶ τὴν συμμηρυομένην σύγκλωσιν καὶ τὴν τοιαύτην σύντευξίν τε καὶ τύχην, τοῦτο δὲ παρὰ τοῦ συμφύλου καὶ συγγενοῦς καὶ κοινωνοῦ, ἀγνοοῦντος μέντοι ὅ τι αὐτῷ κατὰ φύσιν ἐστίν. ἀλλ̓ ἐγὼ οὐκ ἀγνοῶ: διὰ τοῦτο χρῶμαι αὐτῷ κατὰ τὸν τῆς κοινωνίας φυσικὸν νόμον εὔνως καὶ δικαίως, ἅμα μέντοι τοῦ κατ̓ ἀξίαν ἐν τοῖς μέσοις συστοχάζομαι.

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 4.1

“If the power of thought is common then our reason is also shared, through which we are rational beings. If this is true, then we also share the assignment of what to do or not to do according to reason. If that is true, than law is shared. If this is the case, we are fellow citizens. And if that is true, we shared some state. If we share a state, the world resembles a city. For what other state could claim to contain the whole human race?…”

Εἰ τὸ νοερὸν ἡμῖν κοινόν, καὶ ὁ λόγος, καθ᾽ ὃν λογικοί ἐσμεν, κοινός: εἰ τοῦτο, καὶ ὁ προστακτικὸς τῶν ποιητέων ἢ μὴ λόγος κοινός: εἰ τοῦτο, καὶ ὁ νόμος κοινός: εἰ τοῦτο, πολῖταί ἐσμεν: εἰ τοῦτο, πολιτεύματός τινος μετέχομεν: εἰ τοῦτο, ὁ κόσμος ὡσανεὶ πόλις ἐστί: τίνος γὰρ ἄλλου φήσει τις τὸ τῶν ἀνθρώπων πᾶν γένος κοινοῦ πολιτεύματος μετέχειν;.

 

Thanks for help from twitter!

 

 

“Two Ears, One Mouth”: Hunting a Proverb from Zeno to Paul’s Mom

On using twitter and the internet to trace the history of a cherished proverb; or, on the birth of a t-shirt.

Last fall, I noticed the Paul Holdengraber‘s 7-word autobiography from brainpickings.org.: “Mother always said: Two Ears, One mouth.” The phrase bounced around in my head a bit–it has that aphoristic perfection of brevity and familiarity. So, I reached out to Paul over twitter and told him it sounded like something from a Greek philosopher like Heraclitus.

Proverbs have a special place in language and society cross-culturally–they strike a promise of insight that demands  contemplation or explanation. They also have an air of authority and antiquity, even when they actually possess neither. And, unlike longer, less anonymized forms of language, they are repeated, borrowed, and stolen without end.

My late father was a great aphorist–perhaps missing him is part of why Paul’s tweet stuck with me. Most of my father’s words, however, were far more Archie Bunker than Aristotle. Those I can repeat were likely taken from his own father, a Master Sargent in WW2 who died a decade before I was born. The tendency to inherit and pass down proverbs is something I only really noticed when I had children and found myself ‘quoting’ (or becoming?) my father (“if you take care of your equipment it will take care of you”) or my grandmother (cribbing Oscar Wilde: “Only boring people get bored”).

So, when Paul thought it would be a gas if we actually translated his mother’s words into ancient Greek (and eventually Latin), I was ready. I got help from some great Classicists too. We came up with a few versions.

First, I went with classical rhetoric, a close antithesis: μήτηρ ἀεὶ ἔφη ὦτα μὲν δύο, ἕν δὲ στόμα. But our friend the Fantastic Festus argued that Heraclitus or Hesiod would not use use μὲν and δὲ so, so he suggested losing them for something like this:

μήτηρ ἀεὶ ἔφη ὦτα δύο, ἕν στόμα [“mother always used to say two ears, one mouth”]

This gave us Paul’s mother’s advice in seven Greek words and his mother’s advice. But this didn’t get us out of trouble. The critic, author and Classicist Daniel Mendelsohn suggested hexameters and from across the Atlantic the extraordinary Armand D’Angour obliged with a composition of his own:

ῥᾴδιόν ἐστι Λόγον τε νοεῖν ξυνετόν τε ποιῆσαι·
τοῦτο γάρ ἐστι βροτῶν, ἓν στόμα τ᾽, ὦτα δύο.

[Literally, this is “it is easy to know the Logos and make it understood: Mortals have this [character]: one mouth and two ears” Go to the full post for all the compositional glory and an appearance from Salman Rushdie].

At this point, I felt like I had entertained myself on a Saturday morning, involved my internet friends in a silly, though somewhat academic caper, and done a favor for a new friend to please the spirits of parents no longer with us. But the world wide web had a a plot twist I should have thought of.

Ancient Greek and Roman authors and scholars loved proverbs. Writers like Zenobius and Photius made collections and interpretations of them. The Byzantine Encyclopedia, the Suda, uses the word for proverb (in Greek paroimia) over 600 times and presents nearly as many distinct proverbs. (Many of which are wonderful.) And in the modern world, we have an entire academic field dedicated to the study of proverbial sayings: paroemiology. Let me tell you, we could have used en expert last fall.

While we were playing around with translations, one of our ‘players’, the grand Gerrit Kloss, let us know we were, to use a proverbial saying, reinventing the wheel. Zeno, the Cynic philosopher, was credited with this saying over two thousand years ago:

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Never Changing Your Mind is Just Crazy

Epictetus, Treatises Collected by Arrian, 2.15: To those who cling to any judgments they have made tenaciously

 

“Whenever some men hear these words—that it is right to be consistent, that the moral man is free by nature and never compelled, while everything else may be hindered, forced, enslaved, subjected to others—they imagine that it is right that they maintain every judgment they have made without compromising at all. But the first issue is that the judgment should be a good one. For, if I wish to maintain the state of my body, it should be when it is healthy, well-exercised. If you show me that you have the tone of a crazy person and brag about it, I will say ‘Man, look for a therapist. This is not health, but sickness.’ “

ιε′. Πρὸς τοὺς σκληρῶς τισιν ὧν ἔκριναν ἐμμένοντας.

῞Οταν ἀκούσωσί τινες τούτων τῶν λόγων, ὅτι βέβαιον εἶναι δεῖ καὶ ἡ μὲν προαίρεσις ἐλεύθερον φύσει καὶ ἀνανάγκαστον, τὰ δ’ ἄλλα κωλυτά, ἀναγκαστά, δοῦλα, ἀλλότρια, φαντάζονται ὅτι δεῖ παντὶ τῷ κριθέντι ὑπ’ αὐτῶν ἀπαραβάτως ἐμμένειν. ἀλλὰ πρῶτον ὑγιὲς εἶναι δεῖ τὸ κεκριμένον. θέλω γὰρ εἶναι τόνους ἐν σώματι, ἀλλ’ ὡς ὑγιαίνοντι, ὡς ἀθλοῦντι· ἂν δέ μοι φρενιτικοῦ τόνους ἔχων ἐνδεικνύῃ[ς] καὶ ἀλαζονεύῃ ἐπ’ αὐτοῖς, ἐρῶ σοι ὅτι ‘ἄνθρωπε, ζήτει τὸν θεραπεύσοντα. τοῦτο οὐκ εἰσὶ τόνοι, ἀλλ’ ἀτονία’.

On the Faults People Will and Won’t Admit

Epictetus, Discourses Collected by Arrian, 2.21: On Inconsistency

“People admit some of their own faults easily, but not others. No one, for example, will agree that he is foolish or ignorant, but in complete contrast you will hear everyone saying that “I wish I were as lucky as I am prudent.” And they also easily accept that they are frightened when they say “I am rather timid, I agree, but you will not discover me to be a fool.” Someone will not admit he is powerless, completely unjust, envious or a busybody, but most will confess they feel pity.

What is the cause of this? The most powerful is inconsistency and a confusion of thought in matters concerning right and wrong, different faults to which different men will not admit whenever they sense they might be shameful. Being timid, for example, is something people believe is a mark of prudence; and pity is the same. But stupidity, well, men think that is a slave’s quality. Men will also never confess to sins against the common good.

In the case of most mistakes, men are comfortable with confessing to them because they believe that there is something involuntary in them, as in the case of timidity or pity. And if anyone does admit that he is powerless in his action, he offers lust as an explanation, proposing he should be pardoned as an involuntary actor.”

κα′. Περὶ ἀνομολογίας.
Τῶν περὶ αὑτοὺς κακῶν τὰ μὲν ῥᾳδίως ὁμολογοῦσιν ἄνθρωποι, τὰ δ’ οὐ ῥᾳδίως. οὐδεὶς οὖν ὁμολογήσει ὅτι ἄφρων ἐστὶν ἢ ἀνόητος, ἀλλὰ πᾶν τοὐναντίον πάντων
ἀκούσεις λεγόντων ‘ὤφελον ὡς φρένας ἔχω οὕτως καὶ τύχην εἶχον’. δειλοὺς δὲ ῥᾳδίως ἑαυτοὺς ὁμολογοῦσι καὶ λέγουσιν ‘ἐγὼ δειλότερός εἰμι, ὁμολογῶ· τὰ δ’ ἄλλ’
οὐχ εὑρήσεις με μωρὸν ἄνθρωπον’. ἀκρατῆ οὐ ῥᾳδίως ὁμολογήσει τις, ἄδικον οὐδ’ ὅλως, φθονερὸν οὐ πάνυ ἢ περίεργον, ἐλεήμονα οἱ πλεῖστοι. τί οὖν τὸ αἴτιον; τὸ
μὲν κυριώτατον ἀνομολογία καὶ ταραχὴ ἐν τοῖς περὶ ἀγαθῶν καὶ κακῶν, ἄλλοις δ’ ἄλλα αἴτια καὶ σχεδὸν ὅσα ἂν αἰσχρὰ φαντάζωνται, ταῦτα οὐ πάνυ ὁμολογοῦσι· τὸ δὲ δειλὸν εἶναι εὐγνώμονος ἤθους φαντάζονται καὶ τὸ ἐλεήμονα, τὸ δ’ ἠλίθιον εἶναι παντελῶς ἀνδραπόδου· καὶ τὰ περὶ κοινωνίαν δὲ πλημμελήματα οὐ πάνυ προσίενται. ἐπὶ δὲ τῶν πλείστων ἁμαρτημάτων κατὰ τοῦτο μάλιστα φέρονται ἐπὶ τὸ ὁμολογεῖν αὐτά, ὅτι φαντάζονταί τι ἐν αὐτοῖς εἶναι ἀκούσιον καθάπερ ἐν τῷ δειλῷ καὶ ἐλεήμονι. κἂν ἀκρατῆ που παρομολογῇ τις αὑτόν, ἔρωτα προσέθηκεν, ὥστε συγγνωσθῆναι ὡς ἐπ’ ἀκουσίῳ.

How Do You Persuade the Close-Minded?

This is from Epictetus’ Dissertationes ad Arriano Digestae (“Treatises Collected and Edited by Arrian”)

Book 1.5 Against the Academics

“Epictetus said that if someone resists what is clearly true, then it is not easy to devise an argument to persuade him to change his mind. This is due neither to the man’s strength or the teacher’s weakness, but instead because once someone has been assailed and hardens to stone, how could anyone prevail upon him with reason?

Men are hardened to reason in two ways: one is the petrification of thought; the other comes from shame, whenever someone is deployed in battle to such a degree that he will not acknowledge what is obvious or depart from his fellow combatants. Most of us fear the necrosis of our bodies and we will do anything to avoid having this happen in anyway; but we don’t think at all about the mortification of our mind. By Zeus, if a man is disposed in such a way concerning the mind itself that he can’t follow any argument or understand anything, we believe that he is ill. But if shame or self-regard hardens a man, we still persist in calling this strength!

Do you sense that you are awake? “No”, he answers, “Not more than when I imagine that I am awake while I dream.” The fantasy of dreaming differs in no way from being awake? “Not at all.”

How do I have a conversation with this man? What kind of fire or iron can I take to him to make him perceive that he has turned to stone? Although he realizes it, he pretends he does not. He is even worse than a corpse. One man does not perceive the conflict—he is sick. The other perceives it and neither moves nor responds—he is even worse. His sense of shame and his self-regard have been amputated and his reason has not been excised but instead has been mutilated.

Should I call this strength? May it not be so, unless I should also it strength when perverts do and say everything that occurs to them in public.”

 

 

ε′. Πρὸς τοὺς ᾿Ακαδημαικούς.

῎Αν τις, φησίν, ἐνίστηται πρὸς τὰ ἄγαν ἐκφανῆ, πρὸς τοῦτον οὐ ῥᾴδιόν ἐστιν εὑ<ρεῖν λόγ>ον, δι’ οὗ μεταπείσει τις αὐτόν. τοῦτο δ’ οὔτε παρὰ <τὴν ἐκεί>νου γίνεται δύναμιν οὔτε παρὰ τὴν τοῦ διδάσκοντος ἀσθένειαν, ἀλλ’ ὅταν ἀπαχθεὶς ἀπολιθωθῇ, πῶς ἔτι χρήσηταί τις αὐτῷ διὰ λόγου;

᾿Απολιθώσεις δ’ εἰσὶ διτταί· ἡ μὲν τοῦ νοητικοῦ ἀπολίθωσις, ἡ δὲ τοῦ ἐντρεπτικοῦ, ὅταν τις παρατεταγμένος ᾖ μὴ ἐπινεύειν τοῖς ἐναργέσι μηδ’ ἀπὸ τῶν μαχομένων ἀφίστασθαι. οἱ δὲ πολλοὶ τὴν μὲν σωματικὴν ἀπονέκρωσιν φοβούμεθα καὶ πάντ’ <ἂν> μηχανησαίμεθα ὑπὲρ τοῦ μὴ περιπεσεῖν τοιούτῳ τινί, τῆς ψυχῆς δ’ ἀπονεκρουμένης οὐδὲν ἡμῖν μέλει. καὶ νὴ Δία ἐπὶ αὐτῆς τῆς ψυχῆς ἂν μὲν ᾖ οὕτως διακείμενος, ὥστε μηδεν<ὶ> παρακολουθεῖν μηδὲ συνιέναι μηδέν, καὶ τοῦτον κακῶς ἔχειν οἰόμεθα· ἂν δέ τινος τὸ ἐντρεπτικὸν καὶ αἰδῆμον ἀπονεκρωθῇ, τοῦτο ἔτι καὶ δύναμιν καλοῦμεν.

Καταλαμβάνεις ὅτι ἐγρήγορας; ‘οὔ’, φησίν· ‘οὐδὲ γάρ, ὅταν ἐν τοῖς ὕπνοις φαντάζωμαι, ὅτι ἐγρήγορα’. οὐδὲν οὖν διαφέρει αὕτη ἡ φαντασία ἐκείνης; ‘οὐδέν’. ἔτι τούτῳ διαλέγομαι; καὶ ποῖον αὐτῷ πῦρ ἢ ποῖον σίδηρον προσαγάγω, ἵν’ αἴσθηται ὅτι νενέκρωται; αἰσθανόμενος οὐ προσποιεῖται· ἔτι χείρων ἐστὶ τοῦ νεκροῦ. μάχην οὗτος οὐ συνορᾷ· κακῶς ἔχει. συνορῶν οὗτος οὐ  κινεῖται οὐδὲ προκόπτει· ἔτι ἀθλιώτερον ἔχει. ἐκτέτμηται τὸ αἰδῆμον αὐτοῦ καὶ ἐντρεπτικὸν καὶ τὸ λογικὸν οὐκ ἀποτέτμηται, ἀλλ’ ἀποτεθηρίωται. ταύτην ἐγὼ δύναμιν εἴπω; μὴ γένοιτο, εἰ μὴ καὶ τὴν τῶν κιναίδων, καθ’ ἣν πᾶν τὸ ἐπελθὸν ἐν μέσῳ καὶ ποιοῦσι καὶ λέγουσι.

A Serious Saturday: Epictetus on the Beginning of Philosophy

From Dissertationes ab Arriano Digestae, 2.11

What is the Beginning of Philosophy

The beginning of philosophy for those who approach it in the right way—by the front gate—is the acknowledgement of mankind’s weakness and inability to affect the most important things. We arrive in life possessing no inborn understanding of a right-angled triangle or a half-tone musical note, but we are taught these things through a specific technical approach; for this reason, those who do not know them do not think that they do. But, in contrast, who has arrived without some pre-implanted notion of right and wrong, noble and shameful, appropriate and inappropriate, what is fitting or chanced and what it is right to do or right not to do? This is why we all use this terms and try to harmonize our preconceptions with reality at each moment? “He has done well, as is right, or as not right. He has been unlucky, or lucky. He is unjust or just.” Who of us avoids these types of judgments? Who of us postpones their use until he has learned what they mean, as those who are ignorant of letters or syllables?….

….This is the beginning of philosophy—the acknowledgment of the struggle among men and the search for its origin and a condemnation and distrust of mere belief—a search of kinds whether a belief is kept correctly with the establishment of some kind of standard, as we have made for the balancing o weights or for figuring out whether a board is straight or crooked.”

 

 

ια′. Τίς ἀρχὴ φιλοσοφίας.

᾿Αρχὴ φιλοσοφίας παρά γε τοῖς ὡς δεῖ καὶ κατὰ θύραν ἁπτομένοις αὐτῆς συναίσθησις τῆς αὑτοῦ ἀσθενείας καὶ ἀδυναμίας περὶ τὰ ἀναγκαῖα. ὀρθογωνίου μὲν γὰρ τριγώνου ἢ διέσεως ἡμιτονίου οὐδεμίαν φύσει ἔννοιαν ἥκομεν ἔχοντες, ἀλλ’ ἔκ τινος τεχνικῆς παραλήψεως διδασκόμεθα ἕκαστον αὐτῶν καὶ διὰ τοῦτο οἱ μὴ εἰδότες αὐτὰ οὐδ’ οἴονται εἰδέναι. ἀγαθοῦ δὲ καὶ κακοῦ καὶ καλοῦ καὶ αἰσχροῦ καὶ πρέποντος καὶ ἀπρεποῦς καὶ εὐδαιμονίας καὶ προσήκοντος καὶ ἐπιβάλλοντος καὶ ὅ τι δεῖ ποιῆσαι καὶ ὅ τι οὐ δεῖ ποιῆσαι τίς  οὐκ ἔχων ἔμφυτον ἔννοιαν ἐλήλυθεν; διὰ τοῦτο πάντες χρώμεθα τοῖς ὀνόμασιν καὶ ἐφαρμόζειν πειρώμεθα τὰς προλήψεις ταῖς ἐπὶ μέρους οὐσίαις. καλῶς ἐποίησεν, δεόντως, οὐ δεόντως· ἠτύχησεν, εὐτύχησεν· ἄδικός ἐστιν, δίκαιός ἐστιν. τίς ἡμῶν φείδεται τούτων τῶν ὀνομάτων; τίς ἡμῶν ἀναβάλλεται τὴν χρῆσιν αὐτῶν μέχρι μάθῃ καθάπερ τῶν περὶ τὰς γραμμὰς ἢ τοὺς φθόγγους οἱ οὐκ εἰδότες;

…..

῎Ιδ’ ἀρχὴ φιλοσοφίας· αἴσθησις μάχης τῆς πρὸς ἀλλήλους τῶν ἀνθρώπων καὶ ζήτησις τοῦ παρ’ ὃ γίνεται ἡ μάχη καὶ κατάγνωσις καὶ ἀπιστία πρὸς τὸ ψιλῶς δοκοῦν, ἔρευνα δέ τις περὶ τὸ δοκοῦν εἰ ὀρθῶς δοκεῖ καὶ εὕρεσις κανόνος τινός, οἷον ἐπὶ βαρῶν τὸν ζυγὸν εὕρομεν, οἷον ἐπὶ εὐθέων καὶ στρεβλῶν τὴν στάθμην.

 

 

Advice for the Holidays — Mother, Zeno, and Apuleius Always Said: “Two Ears, One Mouth”

Now that the holiday season is upon us, hordes of Americans will brave weather and traffic to reunite with their families. This is the perfect moment for considering how to survive after the eating is done. Some advice from Zeno (and many others): “Two Ears, One Mouth,”

A few months back I reached out over twitter to Paul Holdengräber about his seven-word autobiography from Brainpickings.org‘s “The 7-Word Autobiographies of Famous Writers, Artists, Musicians and Philosophers”. It had been in my head for a few days: “Mother always said: Two ears, one mouth.” 

I started out by having some fun putting the saying into Greek and enjoining others to do this in Latin and Greek verse.

I settled on this: μήτηρ ἀεὶ ἔφη ὦτα δύο, ἕν δὲ στόμα

Armand D’Angour gave us a nice version in elegiac couplet:

ῥᾴδιόν ἐστι Λόγον τε νοεῖν ξυνετόν τε ποιῆσαι·
τοῦτο γάρ ἐστι βροτῶν, ἓν στόμα τ᾽, ὦτα δύο.

Armand added a Latin Elegiac couplet too!

en clarum est rerum ratio, nam invenimus aures
esse homini geminas, os tamen unicum adest.

But not to be completely left out, Gerrit Kloss joined in with his own version:

illud (vera patet ratio) tibi mente tenendum:
auribus est geminis, unius oris homo

While we we throwing these translations and links to Paul’s stories around online, we found that the saying had a much more complicated history than we’d originally imagined. Gerrit Kloss found it attributed to Zeno.

So, the quote I thought sounded Greek, turned out to be Greek. According to Diogenes Laertius, Zeno said something powerfully similar (the full text is available on Perseus). And, honestly, without preening too much, I was happy that the version I settled on (μήτηρ ἀεὶ ἔφη ὦτα δύο, ἕν στόμα) wasn’t too different from the words attributed to Zeno: δύο ὦτα ἔχομεν, στόμα δὲ ἕν).

But the situation grew more complicated.

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Phaedo, Diogenes and Epictetus Were Slaves, Then Philosophers (Gellius)

Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights 2.18

“On the fact that the Socratic Phaedo was a slave and that others also served as the same

Phaedo of Elis, a member of Socrates’s and Plato’s circle and very close to both of them, was a slave. (Plato used his name for that divine dialogue concerning the immortality of the soul.) This Phaedo, though a slave, was by birth free and noble and, as some have written, was forced as a boy into prostitution. Cebes, also of the Socratic circle, is reported to have purchased him at Socrates’ urging and to have exposed him to philosophical training. Later he became a famous philosopher and his fine writings on Socrates are still read.

There are many other slaves who later became famous philosophers including that Menippus whose books Marcus Varro imitated with the satires some call “Cynic” but he called “Menippean”. In addition to these two men, Pompylus, the slave of the Peripatetic Theophrastus, and Zeno the Stoic’s slave who was named Persaeus, and Epicurus’ slave, Mys, all lived as famous philosophers.

Diogenes the Cynic also lived as a slave—but he was sold into servitude from freedom. When Xeniades of Corinth wanted to purchase him and inquired what his skills were, Diogenes answered, “I know how to rule free men.” Then Xeniades, because he admired the answer, purchased him and entrusted him with his children, saying “Take my children to rule”.

The fact that Epictetus, the noble philosopher, was also a slave is too recent a memory to record as if it had been forgotten.”

XVIII. Quod Phaedon Socraticus servus fuit; quodque item alii complusculi servitutem servierunt. 1 Phaedon Elidensis ex cohorte illa Socratica fuit Socratique et Platoni per fuit familiaris. 2Eius nomini Plato librum illum divinum de immortalitate animae dedit. 3 Is Phaedon servus fuit forma atque ingenio liberali et, ut quidam scripserunt, a lenone domino puer ad merendum coactus. 4 Eum Cebes Socraticus hortante Socrate emisse dicitur habuisseque in philosophiae disciplinis. 5 Atque is postea philosophus inlustris fuit, sermonesque eius de Socrate admodum elegantes leguntur. 6 Alii quoque non pauci servi fuerunt, qui post philosophi clari exstiterunt. 7 Ex quibus ille Menippus fuit, cuius libros M. Varro in saturis aemulatus est, quas alii “cynicas”, ipse appellat “Menippeas”. 8 Sed et Theophrasti Peripatetici servus Pompylus et Zenonis Stoici servus, qui Persaeus vocatus est, et Epicuri, cui Mys nomen fuit, philosophi non incelebres vixerunt. 9 Diogenes etiam Cynicus servitutem servivit. Sed is ex libertate in servitutem venum ierat. Quem cum emere vellet Xeniades Korinthios, ecquid artificii novisset, percontatus “novi” inquit Diogenes “hominibus liberis imperare”. 10 Tum Xeniades responsum eius demiratus emit et manu emisit filiosque suos ei tradens: “accipe” inquit “liberos meos, quibus imperes”. De Epicteto autem philosopho nobili, quod is quoque servus fuit, recentior est memoria, quam ut scribi quasi oblitteratum debuerit.

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