Tolerate People, Endure Their False Quotations

An old friend of mine reached out about the quote posted below and asked if it is really old Marky A.

Tolerant with yourself

This is a translation of Marcus Aurelius by Gregory Hays

Hays Tolerant

And here’s the Loeb translation by C. R. Haines

Loeb tolerance

Here’s my take:

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 5.33

“What then? You will wait either for being snuffed out or transformed pleasantly. But until that right moment comes [the end of life] what is there for us? What else but honoring the gods and singing their praise, to do well for people, and to “endure” them and “be restrained and for however much else is within the bounds of flesh and breath, we must remember that they are not really yours or under your power.”

τί οὖν; περιμενεῖς ἵλεως τὴν εἴτε σβέσιν εἴτε μετάστασιν.  ἕως δὲ ἐκείνης ὁ καιρὸς ἐφίσταται, τί ἀρκεῖ; τί δ᾿ ἄλλο ἢ θεοὺς μὲν σέβειν καὶ εὐφημεῖν, ἀνθρώπους δὲ εὖ ποιεῖν, καὶ “ἀνέχεσθαι” αὐτῶν καὶ “ἀπέχεσθαι·” ὅσα δὲ ἐντὸς ὅρων τοῦ κρεᾳδίου καὶ τοῦ πνευματίου, ταῦτα μεμνῆσθαι μήτε σὰ ὄντα μήτε ἐπὶ σοί.

Let’s concede that the Daily Stoic choice takes it out of context and that the translation gives no sense that the Aurelius passage is quoting (and perhaps even misusing) famous dicta of stoic philosophy. Let’s also put aside the fact that the Stoic is bandying about a translation without crediting the translator or acknowledging that this thought has been thrice mediated from one language to another. (And this mediation is shaped in turn by cultural presuppositions.)

Let’s just look at the Greek “ἀνέχεσθαι” αὐτῶν καὶ “ἀπέχεσθαι can mean to “hold back from” but more typically means endure. So, here, “tolerate” is just fine but in Hays’ English maxim it comes off as a bit more benevolent, when in Epictetus (Arrian 3.10) it is more to “submit” or “withstand”, to not react to someone else’s provocation. The verb ἀπέχεσθαι means to be strict only insofar as it means to refrain and in the works of Epictetus generally means restraining from pleasure or desire.

Let me make something clear: this is not a knock against the translator who made choices based on a context to render something in a certain way. My main quibble is presenting this specific translation as authoritatively Aurelius.

So, on my list of ratings for fake quotations, I rate this as “Cylon-Helen Fake“: “Just as Herodotus and Stesichorus report that ‘real’ Helen was replaced with a near-exact copy for the ten years of the Trojan War, so too some quotations are transformed through translation (Latin into Greek, Greek into Latin; or into Modern languages). The intervention of an outside force changes the cultural status of the words.”

Here’s where I will get a bit meaner. This choice of translation is likely popular online because it adheres to a particularly “muscular” or masculine view of stoicism that bubbles up in certain quarters. Being strict and refraining from something are not the same and neither is, to put this stoically, an unmixed virtue. This is not a Stoic value, per se, but the value of an internet meme for stoic cos-play.

One of the things that is really hard to handle about certain forms of modern stoicism is that it overlooks (1) that the biggest stoics  (Seneca and Aurelius) were fabulous rich people with a lot of power and many thousands of people making it possible for them to have easy lives “to be strict” in. It is no accident that Stoicism is popular among the technorich of the Modern age: its Senecan and Aurelian form allows you to focus on yourself and rewards self-restraint and ‘negative’ virtues over notions of responsibility egalitarianism.

(And Eric has written pretty clearly about the vapidity of modern pseudo-Stoicism.)

One of the reasons we started this site almost 10 years ago was that the internet was full of unsourced, low quality translations. We have, of course, ended up contributing to the mess, but we should still strive to (1) provide the original languages of the things we quote and (2) provide the context or access to the context if it is possible.

Let me be clear, this is not a screed against Stoicism, but a reminder that ancient philosophical schools only exist in dialogue with one another. Modern meme-Philosophy also gets to pick and choose, ignoring the fact that someone like Seneca spent years–even decades–studying many forms of philosophy and can be found in his letters and treatises espousing values from many different traditions. Roman philosophers–especially those we call stoics–were eclectics who learned and practiced multiple disciplines.

But that would be too hard today. Unless, of course, you rotate in some Epicurus and Diogenes quotes with your Stoic memes.

The Antidote for Fake Quotes Is….

This is fake. What is it about fake quotes and numbers?

Image result for Never Forget You're A Man, The Odds Are Always Against You Aristotle

The quote above is so fake that it made me create an eighth category: Motivational Poster Fake. It ain’t real; it also ain’t deep. It shows up in print inspiration books in the 1980s. Somehow we can blame this on boomers, I think

Here’s the updated rating list.. And here’s a list of fake Aristotle quotes.

  1. The Real Deal: A quotation from an ancient text which is extant.
  2. Aegis Real: Like the head of the Gorgon Medusa, these quotations have been decontextualized and passed down embedded in some other ancient author. They have been attributed to the same author for a long time, but who really knows.
  3. Delphian Graffiti: A quote of real antiquity, but whose attribution has been shifted for different valence in modern contexts (e.g., “know thyself” has been attributed to almost everyone)
  4. Rhetorica ad Fictum Fake: (with thanks to Hannah Čulík-Baird) Aristotle and Quintilian think it is just fine to make up quotations for persuasive reasons. This actually undermines many of the attributions we have from antiquity. So, this is the kind of fake that is really old and may just be too good to be true.
  5. Cylon-Helen: Just as Herodotus and Stesichorus report that ‘real’ Helen was replaced with a near-exact copy for the ten years of the Trojan War, so too some quotations are transformed through translation (Latin into Greek, Greek into Latin; or into Modern languages). The intervention of an outside force changes the cultural status of the words.
  6. Peisistratos Fake: A quote that is not misattributed or transformed, but merely just dressed up and falsely claimed as antique for political reasons (the tyrant Peisistratos pulled some pretty crazy stunts to get into power). These quotations have no sources in antiquity and are used to enforce modern points of view.
  7. Racist Fake: Quotations of the Peisistratus type but with the particular intention of enforcing a racist world view.
  8. Motivational Poster Fake: This kind of quote sounds good, but has nothing to it. It is anti-Philosophical in its gooey sententiousness which values seeming over being to such an extent that it makes us all dumber. Also, it is fake without any roots in antiquity

Some real quotations;

Aristotle, Rhetoric 2 1381 a

“A friend is someone who loves and is loved back. Friends believe they are friends and see their relationship to one another in this way. Because of this, a friend is someone who is a partner in our happiness and a partner in our sorrow not for any other reason but for friendship.”

φίλος δ᾿ ἐστὶν ὁ φιλῶν καὶ ἀντιφιλούμενος. οἴονται δὲ φίλοι εἶναι οἱ οὕτως ἔχειν οἰόμενοι πρὸς ἀλλήλους. 3τούτων δὲ ὑποκειμένων ἀνάγκη φίλον εἶναι τὸν συνηδόμενον τοῖς ἀγαθοῖς καὶ συναλγοῦντα τοῖς λυπηροῖς μὴ διά τι ἕτερον ἀλλὰ δι᾿ ἐκεῖνον.

 

Aristotle*, Nicomachean Ethics 8.5 (1157b11)

“Disengagement destroys many friendships”

πολλὰς δὴ φιλίας ἀπροσηγορία διέλυσεν.

*This is Aristotle quoting an unknown source!

 

Plutarch, On Having Many Friends 1

“Shouldn’t we also face up to mockery because, although we have not even made one real friend, we are afraid we might have too many?”

ἆρ᾿ οὖν οὐχὶ καὶ ἡμῖν ἄν τις ἐπιχλευάσειεν ὅτι μηδέπω μίαν φιλίαν κεκτημένοι βεβαίως φοβούμεθα μὴ λάθωμεν εἰς πολυφιλίαν ἐμπεσόντες;

Le Jeunesse d’Aristote by Charles Degeorge

 

Men Quote When They Have Nothing to Say

This quotation is huge online. But, like most things that look big on the internet, its actual size leaves something to be desired. I started poking around (by which I mean googling) and found pretty quickly that this line has already been called into doubt. It seems to have entered the popular discourse through the usual route, a quote book from the 19th century (1891). The sentiment appears in different collections with some intensity a decade later in 1901, 1903, and 1904.

Proverbial wisdom that uses knowing when to speak as the distinction between wise people and fools is pretty common: check out quoteinvestigator’s overview of the ubiquitous “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt” attributed apocryphally to both Mark Twain and Abraham Lincoln.

Based on my own new rating system, this quotation is Peisistratos Fake: it draws on ancient ideas, but has no real antiquity to it.

Discerning when to be silent and when to speak is also a regular trope in ancient literature (which is alive and well in the Renaissance too, with entries on this from Piccolomini and Vergerio). Plutarch models Odysseus as the type of sage who shows his wisdom by selecting the right moments for speech (and Aulus Gellius says something similar and Macrobius too). It is also very common to use the figures of the fool and the wise person in antithesis

Gnomologia Vaticanum

58 “When Aristotle was asked what the most burdensome thing in life is he said “staying silent.”

῾Ο αὐτὸς ἐρωτηθείς, τί δυσκολώτατόν ἐστιν ἐν βίῳ, εἶπε· „τὸ σιωπᾶν”.

[Psst: the quotation I just provided falls somewhere between Rhetorica ad Fictum and Cylon-Helen]

Emerson Admirable
Ralph Waldo Emerson. H/T to Hannah Čulík-Baird for quoting this so I could quote it

Fake Aristotle Fakely Rails Against Fighting Inequality

Want to read about more fake Aristotle quotes? We have a post for that….

So, I came across the following in a random Aristotle hashtag search. it is, indubitably, a fake. This is Peisistratos and Racist Level Fake:

“The worst form of inequality is to try to make unequal things equal”

This has already been judged a “misattribution” by wikiquotes, but it has a life of its own as a meme that is used to justify inequality. What more a noble pursuit than the counterfeiting of ancient philosophical quotes in the service of upholding injustice!

This little horror shows up in the mid-seventies and has gained new life in the last decade or so. It seems that this is ‘inspired’ (to stretch the meaning of the word) by a segment from the Politics, which, by my reading, provides a very different sentiment from that purveyed by the meme:

Aristotle, Politics 3, 1280a 8-17

“First we must establish what people claim as the definitive boundaries of oligarchy and democracy and what principle of justice characterizes oligarchy and democracy in turn. For all people lay claim to some kind of justice, but they only pursue it up to a point and they do not define justice in its proper entirety.

For example, equality seems to be just and it is, but not to everyone, only to those who are equal to begin with. And so, inequality seems to be just, and, indeed, it is, but not for all people, only those who are not equal. But those people deprive [the concept of the meaning] in respect to those [whom it concerns] and render a bad judgment. The fault behind this is that the judgment is over something that concerns the people [making the judgment] themselves! Nearly all people are poor judges on matters that interest them.”

Ληπτέον δὲ πρῶτον τίνας ὅρους λέγουσι τῆς ὀλιγαρχίας καὶ δημοκρατίας, καὶ τί τὸ δίκαιον τό τε ὀλιγαρχικὸν καὶ δημοκρατικόν. πάντες γὰρ ἅπτονται δικαίου τινός, ἀλλὰ μέχρι τινὸς προέρχονται, καὶ λέγουσιν οὐ πᾶν τὸ κυρίως δίκαιον. οἷον δοκεῖ ἴσον τὸ δίκαιον εἶναι, καὶ ἔστιν, ἀλλ᾿ οὐ πᾶσιν ἀλλὰ τοῖς ἴσοις· καὶ τὸ ἄνισον δοκεῖ δίκαιον εἶναι, καὶ γάρ ἐστιν, ἀλλ᾿ οὐ πᾶσιν ἀλλὰ τοῖς ἀνίσοις· οἱ δὲ τοῦτ᾿ ἀφαιροῦσι, τὸ οἷς, καὶ κρίνουσι κακῶς. τὸ δ᾿ αἴτιον ὅτι περὶ αὑτῶν ἡ κρίσις, σχεδὸν δ᾿ οἱ πλεῖστοι φαῦλοι κριταὶ περὶ τῶν οἰκείων.

Just because this sentiment does not belong to Aristotle, does not mean that someone in the ancient world didn’t express (something like) it. H/T to Andrew Riggsby (@AntiqueThought) and John Ma (@Nakhthor) for pointing out these passages.

Cicero Republic 1.43

“But the people have too little participation in common justice and deliberation in monarchies; in aristocracies, the populace is incapable of having the smallest part of freedom since they lack access from any shared governance and power. When all the power is exercised by the people, even if it is done justly and moderately, the equality itself is not equal since it provides for no gradations in honor.”

Sed et in regnis nimis expertes sunt ceteri communis iuris et consilii, et in optimatium dominatu vix particeps libertatis potest esse multitudo, cum omni consilio communi ac potestate careat, et cum omnia per populum geruntur quamvis iustum atque moderatum, tamen ipsa aequabilitas est iniqua, cum habet nullos gradus dignitatis.

 

Pliny the Younger, Letters 9.5

 “You stand very far away from this mistake, I know well, but I cannot keep myself from seeming to warn you when praising the way you maintain differences of class and honor. If these things are mixed up and confused, nothing is more unequal than that kind of equality. Goodbye!”

A quo vitio tu longe recessisti, scio, sed temperare mihi non possum quominus laudem similis monenti, quod eum modum tenes ut discrimina ordinum dignitatumque custodias; quae si confusa turbata permixta sunt, nihil est ipsa aequalitate inaequalius. Vale.

Pliny the Younger, Letters 2.12.5

“But this is judged by the majority—their views are counted but they are not weighed. Nothing else can happen in public decision making in which there is nothing as unequal as this kind of equality. This persists because the right is everyone’s equally even though wisdom is unequally distributed.”

 Sed hoc pluribus visum est. Numerantur enim sententiae, non ponderantur; nec aliud in publico consilio potest fieri, in quo nihil est tam inaequale quam aequalitas ipsa. Nam cum sit impar prudentia, par omnium ius est.

Fake Aristotle

“Braver by Overcoming:” Some More Fake Aristotle

Another entry in Meme Police, cue the music. This one’s a little complicated.

Someone asked me about the following quotation this morning. I tried to ignore it and move on with my day, but the internet is a terrible drug.

So, this does not really sound much like Aristotle and I will be the first to admit it. I expected this to be totally fake. I searched around a little, and found a link on wordreference.com which includes the following rather convincing Greek.

“Aνδρειότερος εἶναι μοί δοκεῖ ὂ τῶν ἐπιθυμῶν ἢ τῶν πολεμίων κρατῶν καὶ γὰρ χαλεπώτατόν ἐστι τὸ ἑαυτόν νικῆσαι

This is listed as being from Stobaeus’ Florilegium. This attribution shows up in a quotation book from the 19th century.

Thomas Benfield Harbottle, Dictionary of Quotations 1897

Aristotle 1

There’s more than a little problem with this ascription. First, elsewhere in this particular quotation book, Stobaeus is cited by Roman numeral and Arabic numeral, so, probably according to the standard version published by Wachsmuth and Hense (1884; available through the TLG) or the version edited by Augustus Meineke in 1854. The edition cited in the quotation book is one printed by Hieronymos Frobenius from the 16th century. The editor was Sigismundus Gelenius who only printed part of the Florilegium.

The 19th century editors do slightly different things with this line. Neither of them include it in the full manuscript. Meineke includes it among the Addenda ex edit. Froben (additions from Frobensius).

Aristotle addenda

Wachsmuth and Hense include it in the apparatus criticus (page 502):

Aristotle Hense

The later editors have judged that the original quotation above is not correctly part of the manuscript tradition Stobaeus and was instead added in the margins because of its similarities to the sentiment attributed to Democritus.

Stobaeus 3.17.39, attributed to Democritus [=page 502 Hense]

“Not only brave is the one who is stronger than enemies, but the one who is stronger than pleasures is too.”

᾿Ανδρήιος οὐχ ὁ τῶν πολεμίων μόνον, ἀλλὰ καὶ ὁ τῶν ἡδονέων κρέσσων.

Democritus’ line is a little different from the Pseudo-Aristotle: where Democritus merely says that the one who overpowers desire is also brave (like one who overpowers enemies), the dubious fragment claims that this man is braver.

I think that it is most likely that this made the leap straight from Meineke’s version to the quotation book without the collator actually consulting Frobenius. According to editorial information above, the line is extracted from a collection of gnomologia (proverbial sayings).

But, it gets a bit more complicated: Here’s the one of the works cited above, the Aristotle Pseudographus.

Valentin Rose Aristoteles Pseudigraphus 1863

Aristotle 2 Rose

This is cited from the section of this text on Pseudo-Aristotle which is titled dubia. In particular, this is from the subsection “sententiae ex florlegiis collectae” [“quotations collected from quotebooks.”). As Rose notes in the introduction, the section attributed here to Maximus are printed in gnomologia from the 12 century CE (Laurentianos XI, 14) and the 11th century (VII, 15). [This is what “La” means above.] Several of these sententiae are attributed to Maximus Monachus, Maximus the Confessor, from the 6th-7th century CE.

So, based on the pretty clear fact that this line is not included in the manuscripts of Stobaeus, but is instead attributed to other florilegia from the medieval period and that its content seems more Stoic (and more stoic-Christian) than anything in Aristotle, I am going to say this is just not Aristotle.

Also, this line is used on reddit (and likely elsewhere) to encourage people who are trying not to masturbate. So, um, let’s be done with it.

This entire process has made me think that I need some sort of rating system, since there are levels of fakery. So, let me explain.

    1. The Real Deal: A quotation from an ancient text which is extant.
    2. Aegis Real: Like the head of the Gorgon Medusa, these quotations have been decontextualized and passed down embedded in some other ancient author. They have been attributed to the same author for a long time, but who really knows.
    3. Delphian Graffiti: A quote of real antiquity, but whose attribution has been shifted for different valence in modern contexts (e.g., “know thyself” has been attributed to almost everyone)
    4. Rhetorica ad Fictum Fake: (with thanks to Hannah Čulík-Baird) Aristotle and Quintilian think it is just fine to make up quotations for persuasive reasons. This actually undermines many of the attributions we have from antiquity. So, this is the kind of fake that is really old and may just be too good to be true.
    5. Cylon-Helen: Just as Herodotus and Stesichorus report that ‘real’ Helen was replaced with a near-exact copy for the ten years of the Trojan War, so too some quotations are transformed through translation (Latin into Greek, Greek into Latin; or into Modern languages). The intervention of an outside force changes the cultural status of the words.
    6. Peisistratos Fake: A quote that is not misattributed or transformed, but merely just dressed up and falsely claimed as antique for political reasons (the tyrant Peisistratos pulled some pretty crazy stunts to get into power). These quotations have no sources in antiquity and are used to enforce modern points of view.
    7. Racist Fake: Quotations of the Peisistratus type but with the particular intention of enforcing a racist world view.

This quotation has some antiquity to it but it is not in any text we have from Aristotle and is not attested until at least the 6th century CE. While it has some Cylon Helen features and not a little of Peisistratos cultural drift going on, it is Delphian Graffiti level fake: it has shifted to Aristotle over time.

It Sounds Cool, But Aristotle Only Kind of Said “The End of Labor is to Gain Leisure”

 “The end of labor is to gain leisure.”

This shows up in Tyron Edwards’ A Dictionary of Thoughts in 1909, Century Illustrated Magazine, also from 1909. And then it just keeps on keeping on. This may be Aristotelian, but as far as I can find, it is not really Aristotle.

There are ideas that seem akin to this in Aristotle: in Nicomachean Ethics, for example, he says “[because], happiness seems to reside in leisure, we labor [sacrifice leisure] so that we may have leisure” δοκεῖ τε ἡ εὐδαιμονία ἐν τῇ σχολῇ εἶναι, ἀσχολούμεθα γὰρ ἵνα σχολάζωμεν (1177b). And Aristotle talks a lot about leisure as being desirable and “although leisure and business are both necessary, leisure is more fully an end than business” (εἰ γὰρ ἄμφω μὲν δεῖ, μᾶλλον δὲ αἱρετὸν τὸ σχολάζειν τῆς ἀσχολίας καὶ τέλος, 1337b33-35). Earlier, he repeats the phrase that “business is for the sake of leisure” (ἀσχολίαν δὲ σχολῆς), in a series of nearly Orwellian paradoxes: “war is for the sake of peace, business for the sake of leisure, and necessary and useful things are for the sake of the good.” (πόλεμον μὲν εἰρήνης χάριν, ἀσχολίαν δὲ σχολῆς, τὰ δ᾿ ἀναγκαῖα καὶ χρήσιμα τῶν καλῶν ἕνεκεν,1333c35-37).

So, for this one, I think we have a bit of an elaborated translation of an essentially Aristotelian idea. But, still, he didn’t really say this—Aristotle is perfectly capable of saying that the telos of a thing is another thing. Where he mentions telos in conjunction with leisure, he writes that leisure itself is an end on its own more than business [read: ‘labor’] is. This is a rather different notion than saying that one is the end of the other.

From the Psalter of Bonne