A Madman’s Kind of Ignorance

Hippocrates of Cos, The Art 8

 “There are some who find fault with medicine because of doctors who are not willing to attempt cases completely overpowered by diseases, saying that while doctors will try to heal patients whose diseases would heal themselves, they do not touch cases for which there is a great need of help—and, if [medicine] were truly an art, it would be necessary to treat all diseases equally.

The people who say these things, if they are really criticizing doctors because they do not care about the people who say these kinds of things as if they were delirious, perhaps they might make a more pointed critique than the one they offer. For, if someone believes that a skill can do something it cannot do or a exhibit a character which it does not have by nature, he is ignorant with the kind of ignorance that is closer to madness than a lack of education. For it is possible for us to master some fields by a natural disposition and with the tools of the art and then to become practitioners of these fields, but it is not possible for others.”

VIII. Εἰσὶ δέ τινες οἳ καὶ διὰ τοὺς μὴ θέλοντας ἐγχειρεῖν τοῖσι κεκρατημένοις ὑπὸ τῶν νοσημάτων μέμφονται τὴν ἰητρικήν, λέγοντες ὡς ταῦτα μὲν καὶ αὐτὰ ὑφ᾿ ἑωυτῶν ἂν ἐξυγιάζοιτο ἃ ἐγχειρέουσιν ἰῆσθαι, ἃ δ᾿ ἐπικουρίης δεῖται μεγάλης οὐχ ἅπτονται, δεῖν δέ, εἴπερ ἦν ἡ τέχνη, πάνθ᾿ ὁμοίως ἰῆσθαι. οἱ μὲν οὖν ταῦτα λέγοντες, εἰ ἐμέμφοντο τοῖς ἰητροῖς, ὅτι αὐτῶν τοιαῦτα λεγόντων οὐκ ἐπιμέλονται ὡς παραφρονεύντων, εἰκότως ἂν ἐμεμφοντο μᾶλλον ἢ ἐκεῖνα μεμφόμενοι. εἰ γάρ τις ἢ τέχνην ἐς ἃ μὴ τέχνη, ἢ φύσιν ἐς ἃ μὴ φύσις πέφυκεν, ἀξιώσειε δύνασθαι, ἀγνοεῖ ἄγνοιαν ἁρμόζουσαν μανίῃ μᾶλλον ἢ ἀμαθίῃ. ὧν γὰρ ἔστιν ἡμῖν τοῖσί τε τῶν φυσίων τοῖσι τε τῶν τεχνέων ὀργάνοις ἐπικρατεῖν, τούτων ἔστιν ἡμῖν δημιουργοῖς εἶναι, ἄλλων δὲ οὐκ ἔστιν.

This has no relation to the last statement but I needed to share it to remember it. Also, anything like this sticks with me because (1) I grind my teeth and (2) my spouse is a dentist.

Hippocrates, Prognostica 3

“To grind the teeth during a fever—if it is not a lifelong habit—is sign of insanity and mortal danger. And if this is done while delirious, it is especially deadly.”

ὀδόντας δὲ πρίειν ἐν πυρετῷ, ὁκόσοισι μὴ σύνηθές ἐστιν ἀπὸ παίδων, μανικὸν καὶ θανατῶδες·6 ἢν δὲ καὶ παραφρονέων τοῦτο ποιῇ, ὀλέθριον κάρτα ἤδη γίνεται.

File:Medieval dentistry.jpg
Wikimedia commons

This is Not the Truth You Are Looking For

Caesar, Bellum Civile 2.27.2

“We all willingly believe those things we are wishing for…”

quae volumus, ea credimus libenter

 

Xenophon, Memorabilia 3.3.9

“You probably know that in every matter people want to obey those most they believe to be best.”

 

᾿Εκεῖνο μὲν δήπου οἶσθα, ὅτι ἐν παντὶ πράγματι οἱ ἄνθρωποι τούτοις μάλιστα ἐθέλουσι πείθεσθαι οὓς ἂν ἡγῶνται βελτίστους εἶναι. 

Lucretius, De Rerum Natura 2.1023-1039

“Nothing is so simple that at first sight
it is not rather difficult to believe…”

sed neque tam facilis res ulla est, quin ea primum
difficilis magis ad credendum constet

 

Sophokles, fr. 86

“Indeed, what is believed overpowers the truth”

τό τοι νομισθὲν τῆς ἀληθείας κρατεῖ.

 

PhaedrusPrologue to Phaedrus’ Collection of Aesopic fables

“Don’t forget: we are playing with the make-believe.”

fictis iocari nos meminerit fabulis.

 

Philostratus, Life of Apollonius 3.45

“It would be profitable neither to believe in everything nor yet to disbelieve it.”

καὶ γὰρ κέρδος (ἂν) εἴη μήτε πιστεύειν, μήτε ἀπιστεῖν πᾶσιν.

 

Euenus of Paros, fr. 1

“Go ahead, you think these things, but I believe those”

“σοὶ μὲν ταῦτα δοκοῦντ’ ἔστω, ἐμοὶ δὲ τάδε.”

 

Pausanias, 1.3.3

“On the opposite wall are painted Theseus, Democracy and the People. Clearly, this painting shows Theseus as the founder of political equality for the Athenians. In other accounts the story has been popularized that Theseus handed the powers of the state over to the people and that the Athenians lived in a democracy from his time until Peisistratus rebelled and became a tyrant. The majority of people repeat many things which are not true, since they know nothing of history and they believe whatever they have heard since childhood in choruses and tragedy. This is how it is with Theseus who actually was king himself and whose descendants continued ruling for four generations until Menestheus died.”

ἐπὶ δὲ τῷ τοίχῳ τῷ πέραν Θησεύς ἐστι γεγραμμένος καὶ Δημοκρατία τε καὶ Δῆμος. δηλοῖ δὲ ἡ γραφὴ Θησέα εἶναι τὸν καταστήσαντα ᾿Αθηναίοις ἐξ ἴσου πολιτεύεσθαι· κεχώρηκε δὲ φήμη καὶ ἄλλως ἐς τοὺς πολλούς, ὡς Θησεὺς παραδοίη τὰ πράγματα τῷ δήμῳ καὶ ὡς ἐξ ἐκείνου δημοκρατούμενοι διαμείναιεν, πρὶν ἢ Πεισίστρατος ἐτυράννησεν ἐπαναστάς. λέγεται μὲν δὴ καὶ ἄλλα οὐκ ἀληθῆ παρὰ τοῖς πολλοῖς οἷα ἱστορίας ἀνηκόοις οὖσι καὶ ὁπόσα ἤκουον εὐθὺς ἐκ παίδων ἔν τε χοροῖς καὶ τραγῳδίαις πιστὰ ἡγουμένοις, λέγεται δὲ καὶ ἐς τὸν Θησέα, ὃς αὐτός τε ἐβασίλευσε καὶ ὕστερον Μενεσθέως τελευτήσαντος καὶ ἐς τετάρτην  οἱ Θησεῖδαι γενεὰν διέμειναν ἄρχοντες.

Thucydides, 1.20.3

“For most people the examination of the truth is so careless that they accept whatever is prepared for them.”

οὕτως ἀταλαίπωρος τοῖς πολλοῖς ἡ ζήτησις τῆς ἀληθείας, καὶ ἐπὶ τὰ ἑτοῖμα μᾶλλον τρέπονται.

 

Tertullian, Apology 1.4-5

“Those people are ignorant while they hate and they hated unjustly because they were ignorant”

et ignorare illos, dum oderunt, et iniuste odisse, dum ignorant

Image result for medieval manuscript the fool
 gallica.bnf.fr Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des manuscrits, Latin 1050, fol. 48v.

Ignorant in a Special Kind of Ignorance

Hippocrates of Cos, The Art 8

 “There are some who find fault with medicine because of doctors who are not willing to attempt cases completely overpowered by diseases, saying that while doctors will try to heal patients whose diseases would heal themselves, they do not touch cases for which there is a great need of help—and, if [medicine] were truly an art, it would be necessary to treat all diseases equally.

The people who say these things, if they are really criticizing doctors because they do not care about the people who say these kinds of things as if they were delirious, perhaps they might make a more pointed critique than the one they offer. For, if someone believes that a skill can do something it cannot do or a exhibit a character which it does not have by nature, he is ignorant with the kind of ignorance that is closer to madness than a lack of education. For it is possible for us to master some fields by a natural disposition and with the tools of the art and then to become practitioners of these fields, but it is not possible for others.”

VIII. Εἰσὶ δέ τινες οἳ καὶ διὰ τοὺς μὴ θέλοντας ἐγχειρεῖν τοῖσι κεκρατημένοις ὑπὸ τῶν νοσημάτων μέμφονται τὴν ἰητρικήν, λέγοντες ὡς ταῦτα μὲν καὶ αὐτὰ ὑφ᾿ ἑωυτῶν ἂν ἐξυγιάζοιτο ἃ ἐγχειρέουσιν ἰῆσθαι, ἃ δ᾿ ἐπικουρίης δεῖται μεγάλης οὐχ ἅπτονται, δεῖν δέ, εἴπερ ἦν ἡ τέχνη, πάνθ᾿ ὁμοίως ἰῆσθαι. οἱ μὲν οὖν ταῦτα λέγοντες, εἰ ἐμέμφοντο τοῖς ἰητροῖς, ὅτι αὐτῶν τοιαῦτα λεγόντων οὐκ ἐπιμέλονται ὡς παραφρονεύντων, εἰκότως ἂν ἐμεμφοντο μᾶλλον ἢ ἐκεῖνα μεμφόμενοι. εἰ γάρ τις ἢ τέχνην ἐς ἃ μὴ τέχνη, ἢ φύσιν ἐς ἃ μὴ φύσις πέφυκεν, ἀξιώσειε δύνασθαι, ἀγνοεῖ ἄγνοιαν ἁρμόζουσαν μανίῃ μᾶλλον ἢ ἀμαθίῃ. ὧν γὰρ ἔστιν ἡμῖν τοῖσί τε τῶν φυσίων τοῖσι τε τῶν τεχνέων ὀργάνοις ἐπικρατεῖν, τούτων ἔστιν ἡμῖν δημιουργοῖς εἶναι, ἄλλων δὲ οὐκ ἔστιν.

This has no relation to the last statement but I needed to share it to remember it. Also, anything like this sticks with me because (1) I grind my teeth and (2) my spouse is a dentist.

Hippocrates, Prognostica 3

“To grind the teeth during a fever—if it is not a lifelong habit—is sign of insanity and mortal danger. And if this is done while delirious, it is especially deadly.”

ὀδόντας δὲ πρίειν ἐν πυρετῷ, ὁκόσοισι μὴ σύνηθές ἐστιν ἀπὸ παίδων, μανικὸν καὶ θανατῶδες·6 ἢν δὲ καὶ παραφρονέων τοῦτο ποιῇ, ὀλέθριον κάρτα ἤδη γίνεται.

File:Medieval dentistry.jpg
Wikimedia commons

Monkey and Fox: An Election Fable for Our Times

Several times during the election season I have tweeted the following lines attributed (weakly) to Archilochus.

Archilochus, fab. 81

“After he danced at a gathering of unreasoning animals and earned a reputation, a monkey was elected their king.”

ἐν συνόδῳ τῶν ἀλόγων ζῴων πίθηκος ὀρκησάμενος καὶ εὐδοκιμήσας βασιλεὺς ὑπ᾿ αὐτῶν ἐχειροτονήθη

Archilochus talks about the monkey in another fragment. Here, the monkey meets a fox.

Archilochus, Fr. 185

“I will tell you a fable, Cerycides,
With a mournful message [stick]:
A monkey was traveling ahead of the other animals,
Alone into the distance,
When a clever fox met him,
Possessing a well-formed mind.”

ἐρέω τιν’ ὕμιν αἶνον, ὦ Κηρυκίδη,
ἀχνυμένηι σκυτάληι,
πίθηκος ἤιει θηρίων ἀποκριθεὶς
μοῦνος ἀν’ ἐσχατιήν,
τῶι δ’ ἆρ’ ἀλώπηξ κερδαλῆ συνήντετο,
πυκνὸν ἔχουσα νόον.

monkey-and-fox
Les Fables d’Esope Phrygien, mises en Ryme Francoise. Auec la vie dudit Esope extraite de plusieurs autheurs par M. Antoine du Moulin Masconnois. A Lyon, Par Iean de Tournes, & Guillaume Gazeau. 1547. Fable 41. Du Singe & du Renard.

(confused about the “message stick” [ἀχνυμένηι σκυτάληι]? Me too. For a discussion, see

See Katerina Philippides’ “The Fox and the Wolf: Archilochus’ 81 D/185 W and Pindar’s “Olympian” 6, 87-91 (With Reference to “Pythian” 2)” Quaderni Urbinati di Cultura Classica. 9 (2009) 11-21).

The fabulous meeting of the monkey and fox may have even more to say to our times. Here are two fables from the Aesopic tradition. (For an embarrassment of riches when it comes to resources for fables, go to mythfolklore.net)

Aesop, Fable 83

“A monkey danced at a gathering of unreasoning animals and, impressing them, was elected king. But a fox, envying him for this, noticed a piece of meat lying in a trap. She led the monkey to where it was, and said that she had discovered a storehouse on her own but did not use it because she had saved the prize for his kingdom. She advised him to take it. When he stupidly approached, he was caught by the trap. When he blamed the fox for leading him to the trap, she said, “Monkey, how are you going to be king of the animals with this kind of mind?”

In this way, people who attempt deeds without any experience slip into misfortune and absurdity.”

ΑΛΩΠΗΞ ΚΑΙ ΠΙΘΗΚΟΣ
ἐν συνόδῳ τῶν ἀλόγων ζῴων πίθηκος ὀρχησάμενος καὶ εὐδοκιμήσας βασιλεὺς ὑπ’ αὐτῶν ἐχειροτονήθη. ἀλώπηξ δὲ αὐτῷ φθονήσασα ὡς ἐθεάσατο ἔν τινι πάγῃ κρέας κείμενον, ἀγαγοῦσα αὐτὸν ἐνταῦθα ἔλεγεν, ὡς εὑροῦσα θησαυρὸν αὐτὴ μὲν οὐκ ἐχρήσατο, γέρας δὲ αὐτῷ τῆς βασιλείας τετήρηκε καὶ παρῄνει αὐτῷ λαβεῖν. τοῦ δὲ ἀμελετήτως ἐπελθόντος καὶ ὑπὸ τῆς παγίδος συλληφθέντος αἰτιωμένου τε τὴν ἀλώπεκα ὡς ἐνεδρεύσασαν αὐτῷ ἐκείνη ἔφη· „ὦ πίθηκε, σὺ δὲ τοιαύτην ψυχὴν ἔχων τῶν ἀλόγων ζῴων βασιλεύεις;”

οὕτως οἱ τοῖς πράγμασιν ἀπερισκέπτως ἐπιχειροῦντες πρὸς τῷ δυστυχεῖν καὶ γέλωτα ὀφλισκάνουσιν.

Aesop, Fab. 14

“While traveling together a fox and a monkey started arguing about their family trees. They were arguing for a while until they came to a graveyard. After he looked there, the monkey moaned. When the fox was asking why, the monkey pointed to the monuments and said, “How can I fail to weep looking at the graves of my ancestors?” The fox responded, “Lie as much as you want. None of them will stand up to refute you!”

It is the same way with men: braggarts lie the most whenever they won’t be challenged.”

ΑΛΩΠΗΞ ΚΑΙ ΠΙΘΗΚΟΣ
ἀλώπηξ καὶ πίθηκος ἐν ταὐτῷ ὁδοιποροῦντες περὶ εὐγενείας ἤριζον. πολλὰ δὲ ἑκατέρου διεξιόντος ἐπειδὴ ἐγένοντο κατά τι<νας τύμβους>, ἐνταῦθα ἀποβλέψας ἀνεστέναξεν ὁ πίθηκος. τῆς δὲ ἀλώπεκος ἐρομένης τὴν αἰτίαν ὁ πίθηκος ἐπιδείξας αὐτῇ τὰ μνήματα εἶπεν· „ἀλλ’ οὐ μέλλω κλαίειν ὁρῶν τὰς στήλας τῶν πατρικῶν μου ἀπελευθέρων καὶ δούλων;” κἀκείνη πρὸς αὐτὸν ἔφη· „ἀλλὰ ψεύδου, ὅσα βούλει. οὐδεὶς γὰρ τούτων ἀναστὰς ἐλέγξει σε.”

οὕτω καὶ τῶν ἀνθρώπων οἱ ψευδολόγοι τότε μάλιστα καταλαζονεύονται, ὅταν τοὺς ἐλέγχοντας μὴ ἔχωσι.

Here’s a strange variation from Phaedrus:

Phaedrus, Appendix: Simius et Vulpes (Monkey and Fox)

“A monkey was asking a fox for part of her tail
So he could properly cover his naked ass.
The mean fox said, “even if it should grow longer still
I would rather drag my tail through muck and spines
Than share with you the smaller part of mine!”

Vulpem rogabat partem caudae simius,
contegere honeste posset ut nudas nates;
cui sic maligna: “Longior fiat licet,
tamen illam citius per lutum et spinas traham,
partem tibi quam quamvis parvam impartiar.”

And just because I cannot leave well-enough alone:

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Philosophers 5.6 (Heracleides)

“Dionysius said to him: “you will also find these lines: ‘an old monkey is not caught in a trap’; ‘he is caught, he is caught after some time’. And in addition to these, he said: “Heracleides is illiterate, but not ashamed of it.”

Διονύσιος ὅτι “καὶ ταῦτα εὑρήσεις:
α. γέρων πίθηκος οὐχ ἁλίσκεται πάγῃ:
β. ἁλίσκεται μέν, μετὰ χρόνον δ᾽ ἁλίσκεται.”
καὶ πρὸς τούτοις: “Ἡρακλείδης γράμματα οὐκ ἐπίσταται οὐδ᾽ ᾐσχύνθη.”

People Believe (And Repeat) What They Hear: Pausanias on Theseus

Pausanias, 1.3.3

 

“On the opposite wall are painted Theseus, Democracy and the People. Clearly, this painting shows Theseus as the founder of political equality for the Athenians. In other accounts the story has been popularized that Theseus handed the powers of the state over to the people and that the Athenians lived in a democracy from his time until Peisistratus rebelled and became a tyrant. The majority of people repeat many things which are not true, since they know nothing of history and they believe whatever they have heard since childhood in choruses and tragedy. This is how it is with Theseus who actually was king himself and whose descendants continued ruling for four generations until Menestheus died.”

ἐπὶ δὲ τῷ τοίχῳ τῷ πέραν Θησεύς ἐστι γεγραμμένος καὶ Δημοκρατία τε καὶ Δῆμος. δηλοῖ δὲ ἡ γραφὴ Θησέα εἶναι τὸν καταστήσαντα ᾿Αθηναίοις ἐξ ἴσου πολιτεύεσθαι· κεχώρηκε δὲ φήμη καὶ ἄλλως ἐς τοὺς πολλούς, ὡς Θησεὺς παραδοίη τὰ πράγματα τῷ δήμῳ καὶ ὡς ἐξ ἐκείνου δημοκρατούμενοι διαμείναιεν, πρὶν ἢ Πεισίστρατος ἐτυράννησεν ἐπαναστάς. λέγεται μὲν δὴ καὶ ἄλλα οὐκ ἀληθῆ παρὰ τοῖς πολλοῖς οἷα ἱστορίας ἀνηκόοις οὖσι καὶ ὁπόσα ἤκουον εὐθὺς ἐκ παίδων ἔν τε χοροῖς καὶ τραγῳδίαις πιστὰ ἡγουμένοις, λέγεται δὲ καὶ ἐς τὸν Θησέα, ὃς αὐτός τε ἐβασίλευσε καὶ ὕστερον Μενεσθέως τελευτήσαντος καὶ ἐς τετάρτην  οἱ Θησεῖδαι γενεὰν διέμειναν ἄρχοντες.

An early twitter respondent noted that the main thrust of this section sounds a bit Thucydidean:

 

 

Here’s the Greek (Thuc. 1.20.3)

οὕτως ἀταλαίπωρος τοῖς πολλοῖς ἡ ζήτησις τῆς ἀληθείας, καὶ ἐπὶ τὰ ἑτοῖμα μᾶλλον τρέπονται.

“For most people the examination of the truth is so careless that they accept whatever is prepared for them.”

Later Karl brought us some Tertullian

Here’s the Latin: et ignorare illos, dum oderunt, et iniuste odisse, dum ignorant

Later Karl brought us some Tertullian

Here’s the Latin: et ignorare illos, dum oderunt, et iniuste odisse, dum ignorant

Here’s the translation Karl shared from Robert Sider’s book Christian and Pagan in the Roman Empire:

I am fairly certain there is some Platonic antecedent for these ideas…

Politicians speaking about Education: Xenophon, Memorabilia 4.4.2

 

“Men of Athens, I have never learned anything from anyone nor when hearing that some men are competent at both speaking and acting did I seek to meet them. I never cared about having one of the men who know things as a teacher. Instead, I have successfully avoided not just learning from anyone but even seeming to learn anything at all. Nevertheless, I will advise you with whatever comes freely to my mind.”

 

 

‘Παρ’ οὐδενὸς μὲν πώποτε, ὦ ἄνδρες ᾿Αθηναῖοι, οὐδὲν ἔμαθον, οὐδ’ ἀκούων τινὰς εἶναι λέγειν τε καὶ πράττειν ἱκανοὺς ἐζήτησα τούτοις ἐντυχεῖν, οὐδ’ ἐπεμελήθην τοῦ διδάσκαλόν τινά μοι γενέσθαι τῶν ἐπισταμένων, ἀλλὰ καὶ τἀναντία· διατετέλεκα γὰρ φεύγων οὐ μόνον τὸ μανθάνειν τι παρά τινος, ἀλλὰ καὶ τὸ δόξαι. ὅμως δὲ ὅ τι ἂν ἀπὸ ταὐτομάτου ἐπίῃ μοι συμβουλεύσω ὑμῖν.’

 

So Xenophon’s Socrates says of Euthydemos–but he’s not too far off from some proud politicians today…