Singing While the House Burns Down

Aesop, Fab. 54 (Perry=Chambry 172) Boy and Snails

“A farmer’s child was roasting snails. When he heard them trilling as they cooked, he said, “Most pathetic creatures, You are singing as your homes burn?”

This story makes it clear that everything done at the wrong time should be mocked.”

γεωργοῦ παῖς κοχλίας ὤπτει. ἀκούσας δὲ αὐτῶν τριζόντων ἔφη· „ὦ κάκιστα ζῷα, τῶν οἰκιῶν ὑμῶν ἐμπιπραμένων αὐτοὶ ᾄδετε;”

ὁ λόγος δηλοῖ, ὅτι πᾶν τὸ παρὰ καιρὸν δρώμενον ἐπονείδιστον.

This looks like it has jumped to a proverb in Modern Greek which attributes it to Thucydides and changes the person of the verb, rendering it. “you sing while your homes are burning.” [«Των οικιών ημών εμπιπραμένων, ημείς άδομεν»]. I retweeted  thinking it did not sound much like the ancient historian, but just had to check for it.

https://twitter.com/Andreas50805488/status/1161574040554868736?s=20

So, I think this qualifies on my rating scale as Delphian Graffiti Fake: It has antiquity, but has been reassigned for authority in a new context. I mean, really, who wants to cite Aesop and his animals when we have the gravity of Thucydides.  And, let’s be honest, this is a good line for any age, but especially apt for ours.

Kid should have been careful. Snails are dangerous.Brunetto Latini’s Li Livres dou Tresor, c 1315-1325 via British Library

Here’s some singing about burning down a house:

Anonymous, Greek Anthology, 7.704 [=see here for more]

“When I’m dead, the earth can be fucked by fire.
It means nothing to me since I’ll be totally fine.”

Ἐμοῦ θανόντος γαῖα μιχθήτω πυρί·
οὐδὲν μέλει μοι· τἀμὰ γὰρ καλῶς ἔχει.

 

 

Singing While the House Burns Down

Aesop, Fab. 54 (Perry=Chambry 172) Boy and Snails

“A farmer’s child was roasting snails. When he heard them trilling as they cooked, he said, “Most pathetic creatures, You are singing as your homes burn?”

This story makes it clear that everything done at the wrong time should be mocked.”

γεωργοῦ παῖς κοχλίας ὤπτει. ἀκούσας δὲ αὐτῶν τριζόντων ἔφη· „ὦ κάκιστα ζῷα, τῶν οἰκιῶν ὑμῶν ἐμπιπραμένων αὐτοὶ ᾄδετε;”

ὁ λόγος δηλοῖ, ὅτι πᾶν τὸ παρὰ καιρὸν δρώμενον ἐπονείδιστον.

This looks like it has jumped to a proverb in Modern Greek which attributes it to Thucydides and changes the person of the verb, rendering it. “you sing while your homes are burning.” [«Των οικιών ημών εμπιπραμένων, ημείς άδομεν»]. I retweeted it earlier today thinking it did not sound much like the ancient historian, but just had to check for it.

https://twitter.com/Andreas50805488/status/1161574040554868736?s=20

So, I think this qualifies on my rating scale as Delphian Graffiti Fake: It has antiquity, but has been reassigned for authority in a new context. I mean, really, who wants to cite Aesop and his animals when we have the gravity of Thucydides.  And, let’s be honest, this is a good line for any age, but especially apt for ours.

Kid should have been careful. Snails are dangerous.Brunetto Latini’s Li Livres dou Tresor, c 1315-1325 via British Library

Here’s some singing about burning down a house:

 

 

 

Nope, Aristotle Did Not Say, “It Is the Mark of an Educated Mind to Entertain a Thought Without….”

Oh, Internet, why do you abuse Aristotle so?

This has been bouncing around lately with the hashtag #Aristotle

Like many of the fake-istotle quotes, this one can be googled out of existence in about 5 seconds. According to wikiquote, this was first attributed to Aristotle by Lowell L. Bennion in his Religion and the Pursuit of Truth 1989, 52). They suggest that it is a misunderstanding of Nicomachean Ethics 1094b24. The density of the passage provides some grounds for why it may have been (over)simplified. But since it stands so early at the beginning of the Ethics, I suspect that there was a kind of smash and run search for an authoritative sounding quotation. As a side note, there is an interesting–by which I mean crazy–discussion of what this fake quote might mean on Quora. Some of the content there is interesting and accurate (about the idea of the fake quotation, not the actual bit); other parts are like Ancient Aliens crazy.

Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, 1 1094a24-1095a

“It is right that we ask [people] to accept each of the things which are said in the same way: for it is the mark of an educated person to search for the same kind of clarity in each topic to the extent that the nature of the matter accepts it. For it is similar to expect a mathematician to speak persuasively or for an orator to furnish clear proofs!

Each person judges well what they know and is thus a good critic of those things. For each thing in specific, someone must be educated [to be a critic]; to [be a critic in general] one must be educated about everything.”

τὸν αὐτὸν δὴ τρόπον καὶ ἀποδέχεσθαι χρεὼν ἕκαστα τῶν λεγομένων· πεπαιδευομένου γάρ ἐστιν ἐπὶ τοσοῦτον τἀκριβὲς ἐπιζητεῖν καθ’ ἕκαστον γένος, ἐφ’ ὅσον ἡ τοῦ πράγματος φύσις ἐπιδέχεται· παραπλήσιον γὰρ φαίνεται μαθηματικοῦ τε πιθανολογοῦντος ἀποδέχεσθαι καὶ ῥητορικὸν ἀποδείξεις ἀπαιτεῖν. ἕκαστος δὲ κρίνει καλῶς ἃ γινώσκει, καὶ τούτων ἐστὶν ἀγαθὸς κριτής. καθ’ ἕκαστον μὲν ἄρα ὁ πεπαιδευμένος, ἁπλῶς δ’ ὁ περὶ πᾶν πεπαιδευμένος.

Fake Cicero Quotation Alert!

The following post is making the rounds in favor of impeachment (thanks to my friend and former roommate Timothy Gerolami, the south shore’s biggest P. Clodius Pulcher fan and librarian extraordinaire for bringing this to my attention):

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I don’t want to disagree with the contents of the quote or the sentiments of using it (our current president is certainly impeachable and likely the worst and arguably the most corrupt president in our nation’s history). But this is a demonstrably false quotation on two counts.

First, Cicero died on the 7th of December in 43 BCE. So, the date of attribution is wrong, but that is not a big deal (for me). The bigger deal is that this passage is not a translation of anything in Cicero. It is from a modern novel by Taylor Caldwell called A Pillar of Iron (1965, 661) as documented by wikiquote. Another site documents how this quotation made the leap from historical novel to political discourse via a conservative judge. (For his speech, look here. And thanks again to Timmy G. for both links.)

When we quote the past, we appropriate it for modern purposes–which is fine. But when we use false quotations we attempt to assert a modern purchase with counterfeit currency. This is not about the aptness of the quotation or the rightness of the movement. Indeed, I don’t think it matters so deeply–but it is lazy and likely harmful to use a quotation in this way .

We seem to want the appearance of antiquity and propriety without wanting to do the work it requires. This laziness is not exactly the same as spreading false information (e.g. ‘fake news’) but emerges from the same meme-crazy, superficial information culture that makes fake news inevitable. It undermines our attempts to use history to understand our present events and attenuates the credibility of the very practice.

The Romans and Greeks have lots of great stuff to say about treason, why not just quote them? If Cicero’s quotation there is not good enough, why not some Cicero on hate or the glory of killing a tyrant on the Ides of March (which he loves to talk about, even though he did not help)?

If that’s not enough, here are some others.

Cicero, Philippic 13.21

“At this point, what crime, what betrayal has this traitor not committed? He attacks our colonists, an army of the Roman people, and a general, a consul elect! He despoils the lands of the best citizens. He is the most hostile enemy who threatens good people with crosses and torture.

What peace can there be with this man, this Marcus Lepidus? No punishment would be enough for him to satisfy the state!”

Postea quod scelus, quod facinus parricida non edidit? Circumsedet colonos nostros, exercitum populi Romani, imperatorem, consulem designatum: agros divexat civium optimorum; hostis taeterrimus omnibus bonis cruces ac tormenta minitatur.

Cum hoc, M. Lepide, pax esse quae potest? Cuius ne supplicio quidem ullo satiari videtur posse res publica.

Cicero, De Haruspicium Responsis 17

“Yesterday I noticed someone muttering, and people were saying that he denied I could be endured because, when I was asked by this most unholy traitor what state I belonged to, I responded to the applause of you and the Roman knights “to the state which is impossible without me”.

I believe that he groaned at this. How should have I responded? I ask this from the very man who thinks I am intolerable. Should I have declared myself a Roman citizen?”

Vidi enim hesterno die quemdam murmurantem: quem aiebant negare ferri me posse, quia cum ab hoc eodem impurissimo parricida rogarer cuius essem civitatis, respondi me, probantibus et vobis et equitibus Romanis, eius esse, quae carere me non potuisset. Ille, ut opinor, ingemuit. Quid igitur responderem? quaero ex eo ipso, qui ferre me non potest. Me civem esse Romanum?

No, Aristotle Didn’t Write “A Whole is Greater Than the Sum of Its Parts”

(…but he said something that could kind of be misconstrued that way.)

From the website T.E. Wealth:

“First coined by the philosopher Aristotle, this phrase aptly defines the modern concept of synergy. For anyone who has played team sports, it echoes the T.E.A.M. acronym—together, everyone achieves more. At T.E. Investment Counsel, it embodies how we take our investment process to the next level, bringing unparalleled value to our clients.”

Goodreads also attributes this to Aristotle so does quote fancy. A simple google search will show that there is an alarming uptick in the casual assertion that Aristotle said this. He didn’t. He said something kind of like this…

This line was clearly listed as a attribution and not a correct quotation on quoteland. The quotation is not attributed to Aristotle when it shows up in connection with Gestalt psychology. Indeed, a search of google books of the 20th century shows this proverbial saying as a generally unattributed axiom. The earliest example I can find so far is an essay by Patterson Dubois in the Pennsylvania School Journal, vol. 39. This essay certainly seems partly informed by some of the categorization in Aristotelian Metaphysics.

As some have noted online and as Seán Stickle informed us (@seanstickle), the closest passage from Aristotle which comes close to the apocryphal quotation is this:

Aristotle, Metaphysics 8.6 [=1045a]

“Concerning the challenge we just faced about how to describe things in numbers and definitions, What is the reason for a unity/oneness? For however many things have a plurality of parts and are not merely a complete aggregate but instead some kind of a whole beyond its parts, there is some cause of it since even in bodies, for some the fact that the there is contact is the cause of a unity/oneness while for others there is viscosity or some other characteristic of this sort. But a definition [which is an] explanation is one [thing] not because it is bound-together, like the Iliad, but because it is a definition of a single thing

Περὶ δὲ τῆς ἀπορίας τῆς εἰρημένης περί τετοὺς ὁρισμοὺς καὶ περὶ τοὺς ἀριθμούς, τί αἴτιον τοῦ ἓν εἶναι; πάντων γὰρ ὅσα πλείω μέρη ἔχει καὶ μή ἐστιν οἷον σωρὸς τὸ πᾶν ἀλλ᾿ ἔστι τι τὸ ὅλον παρὰ τὰ μόρια, ἔστι τι αἴτιον, ἐπεὶ καὶ ἐν τοῖς σώμασι τοῖς μὲν ἁφὴ αἰτία τοῦ ἓν εἶναι, τοῖς δὲ γλισχρότης ἤ τι πάθος ἕτερον τοιοῦτον. ὁ δ᾿ ὁρισμὸς λόγος ἐστὶν εἷς οὐ συνδέσμῳ καθάπερ ἡ Ἰλιάς, ἀλλὰ τῷ ἑνὸς εἶναι.

If anyone can find a better passage, please leave it in the comments.

One twitter correspondent who may be Aristotle the living demigod suggested a separate text for the sense (Topica 6.13)

Also, maybe Aquinas

https://twitter.com/Zeklandia/status/1015280747446521861?s=19

(I love twitter for this stuff)

There’s always Hesiod too (Works and Days 37-41)

“For we have already divided up our inheritence, but you
made off with much more as you kowtowed to bribe-taking
kings, the men who long judge this kind of case.
The fools, they do not know how much half is greater than the whole
Nor how much wealth is in mallow and asphodel.”

ἤδη μὲν γὰρ κλῆρον ἐδασσάμεθ’, ἄλλα τε πολλὰ
ἁρπάζων ἐφόρεις μέγα κυδαίνων βασιλῆας
δωροφάγους, οἳ τήνδε δίκην ἐθέλουσι δικάσσαι.
νήπιοι, οὐδὲ ἴσασιν ὅσῳ πλέον ἥμισυ παντὸς
οὐδ’ ὅσον ἐν μαλάχῃ τε καὶ ἀσφοδέλῳ μέγ’ ὄνειαρ.

Image result for medieval manuscript mathematical axiom
From here.

Head and Heart: A Quotation Falsely Attributed to Aristotle

A twitter correspondent asked me to check on the following quotation often attributed to Aristotle: “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” The proliferation of unattributed quotations was one of the reasons we started our twitter feed years back–and tracking down proverbs is something that allows me to procrastinate with purpose!

I was almost immediately certain that this line could not be Aristotelian (or even ancient Greek) for the following reasons: the mind/heart division would only make sense from the period of Classical Greek if it were a drastic mis-translation; the phraseology as translated does not seem Aristotelian at all.

Image result for ancient greek education

I started out with a simple google search and was a little disappointed, but not exactly surprised, at how widespread the unattributed quote was. I then searched for discussions of the provenance/authenticity of the quotation (there were a few). While doing this, I switched between the TLG where I search Aristotle’s corpus for paideu-, didask- and manthan– compounds (varied as well for their root forms etc.) and the Loeb Classical Library online where I searched using English “education”, “teaching”. “learning” etc. I was not shocked to come up with nothing.

The best texts for education in Aristotle are the Politics  and the Nicomachean Ethics. There is also some material in the Poetics and the Rhetorica. The closest I came to a comment like the quotation is actually in the margin of the Loeb for the Politics (H. Rackham, 1926) 8.6 “Teaching is powerless without a foundation of good habits”. This annotates a passage that begins as follows:

“Some think that we are good by nature; others by habit, and others by teaching. It is clear that what comes naturally is not subject to our will, but it is based on divine causes, given to those who are fortunate

—γίνεσθαι δ᾿ ἀγαθοὺς οἴονται οἱ μέν φύσει, οἱ δ᾿ ἔθει, οἱ δὲ διδαχῇ. τὸ μὲν οὖν τῆς φύσεως δῆλον ὡς οὐκ ἐφ᾿ ἡμῖν [ὑπάρχει],2 ἀλλὰ διά τινας θείας αἰτίας τοῖς ὡς ἀληθῶς εὐτυχέσιν ὑπάρχει·

This is too tenuous a connection and unrelated a statement, I think, to have anything to do with the quotation. So, taking a tip from Yahoo answers, I looked into Google books and found several variations on the saying without attribution during the latter half of the 19th century.

In Home, the School and the Church, Or, the Presbyterian Education we find “whilst the state plan educates the mind without educating the heart…” (1850). Similarly, in the report of the faculty of Waterville College (1856) we find  “To educate the head without educating the heart is to make moral monsters…”

But this did not explain how and when the text came to be attributed to Aristotle. Many self-help books, educational texts, and business texts past-2000 attribute the quotation to Aristotle, but the earliest print attribution in google books I could find is from  1991’s Invitational Teaching, Learning Living.

So, the quotation is as I first suspected: absolutely false (and, to add my opinion, rather banal). I cannot say with certainty when it made the leap from proverbial blather to Aristotelian counterfeit, but it happened before the modern internet.

Here are some actual quotes on education from Aristotle.

Politics 8 (1337a)

“No one could doubt that a lawgiver must make provisions for the education of the youth. For, when this does not happen in a state, it undermines the constitution.”

Ὅτι μὲν οὖν τῷ νομοθέτῃ μάλιστα πραγματευτέον περὶ τὴν τῶν νέων παιδείαν, οὐδεὶς ἂν ἀμφισβητήσειεν. καὶ γὰρ ἐν ταῖς πόλεσιν οὐ γιγνόμενον τοῦτο βλάπτει τὰς πολιτείας.

“It is clear that education must be one and the same for everyone.”

φανερὸν ὅτι καὶ τὴν παιδείαν μίαν καὶ τὴν αὐτὴν ἀναγκαῖον εἶναι πάντων

1340b

“Since it is clear from these arguments that music is able to shape the character of the soul, and if it can do this, it is manifest that it should applied and taught to the young.”

ἐκ μὲν οὖν τούτων φανερὸν ὅτι δύναται ποιόν τι τὸ τῆς ψυχῆς ἦθος ἡ μουσικὴ παρασκευάζειν, εἰ δὲ τοῦτο δύναται ποιεῖν, δῆλον ὅτι προσακτέον καὶ παιδευτέον ἐν αὐτῇ τοὺς νέους.

Here are some quotes attributed to Aristotle by Diogenes Laertius in his Lives of the Eminent Philosophers.

“He said that the root of education is bitter but the fruit is sweet. ”

Τῆς παιδείας ἔφη τὰς μὲν ῥίζας εἶναι πικράς, τὸν δὲ καρπὸν γλυκύν.

“He used to say that three things are needed for education: innate ability, study, and practice.”

τριῶν ἔφη δεῖν παιδείᾳ, φύσεως, μαθήσεως, ἀσκήσεως.

“When asked what the difference was between those who were educated and those who were not, Aristotle said “as great as between the living and the dead.” He used to say that education was an ornament in good times and a refuge in bad. He also believed that teachers should be honored more than parents who merely gave birth. The latter give life, but the former help us live well. “

ἐρωτηθεὶς τίνι διαφέρουσιν οἱ πεπαιδευμένοι τῶν ἀπαιδεύτων, “ὅσῳ,” εἶπεν, “οἱ ζῶντες τῶν τεθνεώτων.” τὴν παιδείαν ἔλεγεν ἐν μὲν ταῖς εὐτυχίαις εἶναι κόσμον, ἐν δὲ ταῖς ἀτυχίαις καταφυγήν. τῶν γονέων τοὺς παιδεύσαντας ἐντιμοτέρους εἶναι τῶν μόνον γεννησάντων· τοὺς μὲν γὰρ τὸ ζῆν, τοὺς δὲ τὸ καλῶς ζῆν παρασχέσθαι.

“When asked what he had gained from philosophy, he said “doing unbidden what some do for fear of the law.”

ἐρωτηθεὶς τί ποτ’ αὐτῷ περιγέγονεν ἐκ φιλοσοφίας, ἔφη, “τὸ ἀνεπιτάκτως ποιεῖν ἅ τινες διὰ τὸν ἀπὸτῶν νόμων φόβον ποιοῦσιν.”

I also quickly searched Stobaeus to see if the sentiment had been mis-attributed from some other ancient author. It wasn’t. But there are some other worthy quotes.

Stobaeus, 2.31.64

“Diogenes said that the uneducated differ from wild beasts only in their shape.”

     ῾Ο αὐτὸς ἔφη τοὺς ἀπαιδεύτους μόνῃ τῇ μορφῇ τῶν θηρίων διαφέρειν.

2.31.68 [Antisthenes]

“It right that those who are to become good men shape their bodies in the gymnasium and their soul through education.”

Δεῖ τοὺς μέλλοντας ἀγαθοὺς ἄνδρας γενήσεσθαι τὸ μὲν σῶμα γυμνασίοις ἀσκεῖν, τὴν δὲ ψυχὴν παιδεύσει.

Ariston (Stob. 2.31.95)

“A navigator loses his way in neither a great nor a small vessel; but the inexperienced do in both. In the same way, an educated person is not troubled in wealth or poverty, but the uneducated is troubled in both.”

     Κυβερνήτης μὲν οὔτε ἐν μεγάλῳ πλοίῳ οὔτε ἐν μικρῷ ναυτιάσει, οἱ δὲ ἄπειροι ἐν ἀμφοῖν· οὕτως ὁ μὲν πεπαιδευμένος καὶ ἐν πλούτῳ καὶ ἐν πενίᾳ οὐ ταράττεται, ὁ δ’ ἀπαίδευτος ἐν ἀμφοῖν.

2.31.96 Pythagoras

    “A lack of education is the mother of all suffering.”

᾿Απαιδευσία πάντων τῶν παθῶν μήτηρ·

3.4.61 (Attributed to Socrates)

“While foreigners wander on the roads, the uneducated wander in their actions.”

     Οἱ μὲν ξένοι ἐν ταῖς ὁδοῖς, οἱ δὲ ἀπαίδευτοι ἐν τοῖς πράγμασι πλανῶνται.

3.20 12b

“Many evils come from uneducated rage.”

     Πόλλ’ ἐστὶν ὀργῆς ἐξ ἀπαιδεύτου κακά.

 

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