This is Not the Truth You Are Looking For

Remember this?

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.

Image result for obi wan move along gif

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.

Ridiculous Etymologies: New York Times Edition

Folk etymology is a long-lived tradition empowering writers to fabricate etymological explanations to suit their current interpretive and argumentative needs.

Procrastinate: To be In favor of Being Out of Control from the New York Times, March 25, 2019.

NYTimesProcrast

Here’s what those joyless pedants of the Oxford English Dictionary have to say about it:

Procras OED

Akrasia

Just in case you were wondering, the ancient Romans and Greeks did have the concept of procrastination. Here are some passages I collected about it.

But where would we be without hermeneutically adventurous lexicography? Plato makes it a centerpiece of his Cratylus! And we have dictionaries dedicated to it:

“Lipless Achilles” Kallierges, Etymologicum Magnum 182

“Akhilleus: [this name comes from] lessening grief, for Achilles was a doctor. Or it is because of the woe, which is pain, he brought to his mother and the Trojans. Or it is from not touching his lips to food [khilê]. For he had no serving of milk at all, but was fed with stag-marrow by Kheiron. This is why he was hailed by the Myrmidons in the following way, according to Euphoriôn:

He came to Phthia without ever tasting any food
This is why the Myrmidons named him Achilles.”

᾿Αχιλλεύς: Παρὰ τὸ ἄχος λύειν· ἰατρὸς γὰρ ἦν. ῍Η διὰ τὸ ἄχος (ὅ ἐστι λύπην) ἐπενεγκεῖν τῇ μητρὶ καὶ τοῖς ᾿Ιλιεῦσιν. ῍Η διὰ τὸ μὴ θίγειν χείλεσι χιλῆς, ὅ ἐστι τροφῆς· ὅλως γὰρ οὐ μετέσχε γάλακτος, ἀλλὰ μυελοῖς ἐλάφων ἐτράφη ὑπὸ Χείρωνος. ῞Οτι ὑπὸ Μυρμιδόνων ἐκλήθη, καθά φησιν Εὐφορίων,

᾿Ες Φθίην χιλοῖο κατήϊε πάμπαν ἄπαστος.
τοὔνεκα Μυρμιδόνες μιν ᾿Αχιλέα φημίξαντο.

Odysseus Was Born on the Road in the Rain: Kallierges, Etymologicum Magnum 615

“The name Odysseus has been explained through the following story. For they claim that when Antikleia, Odysseus’ mother, was pregnant she was travelling [hodeuousan] on Mt. Neritos in Ithaka, and it began to rain [husantos] terribly Because of her labor and fear she collapsed and gave birth to Odysseus there. So, he obtained is name in this way, since Zeus, on the road [hodon] rained [hûsen].”

᾿Οδυσσεύς: Εἴρηται ἀπὸ ἱστορίας. ᾿Αντίκλειαν γάρ φασι τὴν ᾿Οδυσσέως μητέρα ἐγκύμονα ὁδεύουσαν τὸ Νήριτον τῆς ᾿Ιθάκης ὄρος, ὕσαντος πολὺ τοῦ Διὸς, ὑπὸ ἀγωνίας τε καὶ φόβου καταπεσοῦσαν ἀποτεκεῖν τὸν ᾿Οδυσσέα. Οὕτω ταύτης τῆς ὀνομασίας ἔτυχεν, ἐπειδὴ κατὰ τὴν ὁδὸν ὗσεν ὁ Ζεύς.

It is more typical to derive Odysseus’ name from the verb odussomai, which means something like “being hateful, being hated”.  Autolykos, Odysseus’ maternal grandfather, is reported to have named him in the Odyssey (19.407–409).

“I have come to this point hated [odussamenos] by many—
Both men and women over the man-nourishing earth.
So let his name be Ody[s]seus…”

πολλοῖσιν γὰρ ἐγώ γε ὀδυσσάμενος τόδ’ ἱκάνω,
ἀνδράσιν ἠδὲ γυναιξὶν ἀνὰ χθόνα βωτιάνειραν·
τῷ δ’ ᾿Οδυσεὺς ὄνομ’ ἔστω ἐπώνυμον…

Sharing Blame: Professional Organizations and the ‘Death’ of the Humanities

Homer, Iliad 11.653-654

“Old man, you know well what kind of terrible person
That man is: he would even be quick to blame the blameless.”

εὖ δὲ σὺ οἶσθα γεραιὲ διοτρεφές, οἷος ἐκεῖνος
δεινὸς ἀνήρ· τάχα κεν καὶ ἀναίτιον αἰτιόῳτο.

Schol. bT ad Il. 11.654 ex

Blameless [corresponds] to swift to criticize [which he says later]. And he is explaining his temper, furnishing an excuse for himself in case he cannot persuade him.”

ἀναίτιον πρὸς τὸ „νεμεσητός” (Λ 649). ἐπιτείνει δὲ αὐτοῦ τὸ θυμικόν, συγγνώμην ἑαυτῷ ποριζόμενος τοῦ μὴ πεῖσαι αὐτόν. b(BCE3)T

The Chronicle has another article out on the death of the humanities-—this opinion piece is one variation on the genre that blames humanists (mostly tenured professors) for their (our) failure to react and adapt to save the profession (in this case history departments). I am reluctant to critique the piece too much, because the authors are early career scholars and because they are not wrong. The last generation of professors tenured has failed in any ways to rise to the occasion and rally in defense of the humanities.

And I totally agree that what the authors conclude for the AHA is applicable to the other major organizations as well: “The AHA must instead adopt a more active role that challenges the casualization of labor that has degraded academic work. The jobs crisis is not natural; it is a crisis of political economy caused by a series of decisions made by corporate, governmental, and, yes, academic elites over the past 50 years.”

Before I say anything else, let me be unequivocal about this: our professional organizations have either been incapable or unwilling to agitate for needed changes in employment and professional life over the last two generations. We have especially failed the last two decades of PhDs, a majority of whom work in less favorable and endurable conditions than the generation before them (if they are lucky enough to work in the field at all). And, we have failed to acknowledge and understand the economic and demographic challenges ahead of us.

At the same time, we have failed to help our students and future colleagues understand the way things are and might be. Let’s think about the last line quoted above: the corporations and governments. Academic elites? Sure, they—we—are all complicit in the system. But I would hazard a guess that no amount of concerted effort by this class over the last 50 years would make a difference at all.

Professional organizations are not equipped, funded, or designed to combat the base problem: an economic and political system that values utility and profit over humanity. All the professional organizations and all the professionals of the humanities could unite and the economic power we wield would still be less than a Bezos or Koch.

The scarcity of the academic job market and the ostentatious leap in ‘standards’ for employment, retention and tenure over the past generation has turned academic careers into zero sum exercises. The desperation and alienation that attends us at nearly every stage of our careers conditions us to turn on each other, to blame those who are closest and more familiar, instead of taking hard looks at the system itself. We use our considerable training to turn censorious voices against the younger generation or to attack the lazy complicity of the older one. It is as if we are the sown soldiers from the myth of Jason and the Argonauts, bewitched to assail one another and to never acknowledge the authors of our pain.

Based on the pabulum the Chronicle typically publishes, it does not surprise me that it would embrace and foster the kind of essay which leads the reader away from the systemic problems and towards the symptoms. It profits from perpetuating strife. The Chronicle’s nearly chronic administrative friendly and supply side reporting—when it is not salaciously reveling in scandals that make humanists look like fools—is indicative that it is reflective not of some professorial ideal or professional standard, but rather of the messy patchwork quilt of corporate and political interests that make up modern academia, combined as well with a 21st century’s news outlet’s desperation to print the news that gets the clicks.

“Why do we train our children in the liberal arts? It is not because these studies can grant someone virtue, but because they prepare the soul for accepting it.”

“Quare ergo liberalibus studiis filios erudimus?” Non quia virtutem dare possunt, sed quia animum ad accipiendam virtutem praeparant, Seneca, Moral Epistles 88.20

Here’s the truth, as I see it. Only two things can subvert the trends that are turning higher education into vocational factories for the lower classes and finishing schools for the 1%: huge amounts of money and collective action. Professional organizations lack the first tool by several orders of magnitude; when it comes to the second, as faculty we are so blinded, bruised, and psychologically mutilated by the system that has shaped us, that it is almost inconceivable that we would walk out collectively to protest something happening to colleagues in another discipline at another institution.

Almost every week—if not every day—there are indications of where the power and priorities of higher education now lie. From the recent heist of the humanities and the soul of the University of Tulsa, to Stanford University’s decision to enforce financial austerity on its own press, Harvard out-raising its goals by 50% to yield 9.6 Billion new dollars and then claiming austerity to freeze wages and health benefits for graduate students, evidence for a foundational shift of budgeting models in education is everywhere. Students and faculty are often overwhelmed by budgetary detail, but the essential framework that guides our institution is something that we should care about.

The classic model of a university budget is the “everything in one bucket” model which assumes that the institution will pay for all of its expenses from the same pot of money. This allows “profitable” segments of the university to offset the costs of other units and communicates either financial incompetence or a commitment to supporting the core values of an academic community without worrying about line-item costs. More and more universities, however, are following models that demand each school or academic unit have a balanced budget, or, even worse, meet externally imposed projections of growth. These ‘business models’ when applied incompetently or insidiously almost inevitably destroy the humanities, as is happening with the slow death of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Cincinnati.

While many Universities apply ‘hybrid’ models that try to balance institutional values against market demands (There are, of course, many models for university finance), the cumulative effect of proposing and then assuming and demanding that an educational institution work like a business will inevitably reduce Universities to massive displays of Coca Cola and Pepsi Products. We all know they are bad for us and, in truth, little different from each other, but we eventually buy them anyway. (But oh, wait, there’s artisanal soda at three times the price!)

Essays like the Chronicle’s that blame the players—even if we may be complicit, blind fools—and not the game actually work in service of the rhetorical regime that supports an oppressive dehumanizing system. The elegant rhetoric and fine argumentation are smoke and mirrors obscuring the fact that we don’t really understand the rules of the game. By blaming the historians and the field, we are claiming agency where we have none and making real action impossible.

Of course, when I tweeted about this last week, there was protest:

Humanities that do not force us to question our assumptions about what it means to be human and how we should best live together are dehumanizing and not worth saving. Period. As I have mentioned several times before, the subjects under the ax are those which help us see the ax and imagine different futures that don’t require the ax. It is not accidental that the proto-fascist Brazilian strongman, President Bolsonaro, wants to cut all funding to philosophy and sociology. We don’t (yet) have the same political regime, but we are in the same systemic danger.

“Let this be your business, let this be your leisure; let this be both your work and your rest.”

Hoc sit negotium tuum hoc otium; hic labor haec quies; in his vigilia, in his etiam somnus reponatur #Pliny

Scrooge McPindar

Rising and Evolving: Classical Studies in the News

The the Notes & Comments Article from the March 2019 Issue of New Criterion (“Decline and Fall: Classics Edition.”) presents not a moment of original thought or convincing argumentation. Instead, it is an intellectually lazy but rhetorically effective collection of fear-mongering and base-rallying. I say “rhetorically” effective because it plies the right phrases and plays the right notes to get the right people riled up about an attack on their culture they just can’t wait to complain about abide.

The essay’s first rhetorical aim is to incense and by incensing reaffirm a sense of community and belonging which is so ephemeral and hard for this embattled audience to maintain. Its second (or perhaps coterminous) aim is to inspire response and rage from its targets and those aligned from them in hopes of a juvenile opportunity to say “Look, these are savage maniacs. Hypocrites. Not (really serious) people.” Those who are targeted and attacked can do nothing about the first aim. The rhetoric is to belittle, dehumanize, and marginalize the ideas (and people) found threatening.

The thing that is important about this piece, the Quillette piece (and its ongoing tweetstorm), the Breitbart coverage, and the ongoing plunge of the participants of Novae Famae into that whitest of darknesses, is that they are all over-reactions to cultural change–they are examples of white fragility. But in doubling down on certain values and ideas, in rhetorically crafting this whitest of universes, these voices have the potential to do more than simply join a Trumpian paroxysm of sub-literate protest. They cause emotional harm to those already marginalized; they prey upon those who feel isolated and feed on their worst inclinations; they further polarize and by polarizing obscure pathways to truth; and through their deceptions and misconceptions they lay the groundwork for violence (emotional and otherwise).

My friends, these reactions are not a sign of the progressive vision of the future of Classics losing. I know it feels like it and this noise hurts. But this whitegasm of fury is a sign of fear. International coverage of the SCS is a sign of a shifting battleground, of a desperate search for a win, of an attempt to grab some territory before all is lost. They are attacking Eidolon, and Sarah Bond, Rebecca Futo Kennedy and Dan-el Padilla Peralta on the message boards and these articles because they represent the future and because they represent what they fear.

This is what intellectualized racism and misogyny looks and sounds like. Who gets attacked matters because we are not dealing with strategic masterminds: they tip their hand every time they make up a juvenile nickname. They fear women. They fear people who aren’t white. They fear the changing field. They fear challenges to a ‘traditional field’ because it is a metonym for a changing world. We can ignore them to take their power away. (And I am not doing a good job of that). We can show how foolish and frightened they are. But we must keep doing the work that we do in aligning our values and beliefs with the way we work in the world. We must support our colleagues. We must speak out where we can. But above all, we must just keep doing what we do.

They are attacking because they are losing.

Continue reading “Rising and Evolving: Classical Studies in the News”

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.

Martial, Epigram 9.35: You Know the Secret to a Free Meal, Now Forget It

“You will always earn a dinner with these skills, Philomusus:
Fabricate many tales, but relay them as if they are true.
You know what Pacorus is considering in his Arsacian abode;
You count the number of Rhenish and Sarmatian men,
You reveal the words consigned to paper by the Dacian chef,
And you see the victor’s crown before it arrives.
You know how many times Pharian rain dampens dark Syene
And the number of ships departing from Lybian shores
For whose head Julian olives are harvested,
And for whom the heavenly father has promised his wreaths.
Forget your skill! You will dine with me today
Under one rule: Philomusus, tell me nothing of the news.”

Artibus his semper cenam, Philomuse, mereris,
plurima dum fingis, sed quasi vera refers.
scis quid in Arsacia Pacorus deliberet aula,
Rhenanam numeras Sarmaticamque manum,
verba ducis Daci chartis mandata resignas, 5
victricem laurum quam venit ante vides,
scis quotiens Phario madeat Iove fusca Syene,
scis quota de Libyco litore puppis eat,
cuius Iuleae capiti nascantur olivae,
destinet aetherius cui sua serta pater. 10
Tolle tuas artes; hodie cenabis apud me
hac lege, ut narres nil, Philomuse, novi.