The Worst Things and the Best Speeches (Fragmentary Friday: Democritus Edition)

Fr. 38

“It is fine to hinder the one who commits injustice; if not, it is noble not to do wrong with him.”

καλὸν μὲν τὸν ἀδικέοντα κωλύειν· εἰ δὲ μή, μὴ ξυναδικέειν.

Fr. 39

“It is good either to be noble or to imitate it.”

ἀγαθὸν ἢ εἶναι χρεὼν ἢ μιμεῖσθαι

Fr. 40

“Human beings live in good fortune neither by body nor by money but by rectitude and great-intelligence.”

οὔτε σώμασιν οὔτε χρήμασιν εὐδαιμονοῦσιν ἄνθρωποι, ἀλλ’ ὀρθοσύνηι καὶ πολυφροσύνηι.

Fr. 41

“Restrain yourself from mistakes because of what is right not because of fear.”

μὴ διὰ φόβον, ἀλλὰ διὰ τὸ δέον ἀπέχεσθαι ἁμαρτημάτων

 

Fr. 43

“A change of mind is a saving grace among shameful deeds.”

μεταμέλεια ἐπ’ αἰσχροῖσιν ἔργμασι βίου σωτηρίη.

Fr. 44

“It is right to be a speaker of truth not of many words.”

ἀληθόμυθον χρὴ εἶναι, οὐ πολύλογον

Fr. 45

“The one who does wrong is more evil than the one who is wronged.”

ὁ ἀδικῶν τοῦ ἀδικουμένου κακοδαιμονέστερος.

Fr. 48

“The good person makes no reckoning of rebuking fools.”

μωμεομένων φλαύρων ὁ ἀγαθὸς οὐ ποιεῖται λόγον

Fr. 49

“It is hard to be ruled by the worse person.”

χαλεπὸν ἄρχεσθαι ὑπὸ χερείονος

Fr. 50

“The one completely bested by money could never be just.”

ὁ χρημάτων παντελῶς ἥσσων οὐκ ἄν ποτε εἴη δίκαιος.

Fr. 51

“An argument inclined toward persuasion is often stronger than gold.”

ἰσχυρότερος ἐς πειθὼ λόγος πολλαχῆι γίνεται χρυσοῦ

 

Fr. 53

“Many live according to reason even if they have not learned it.”

πολλοὶ λόγον μὴ μαθόντες ζῶσι κατὰ λόγον.

Fr. 54

“Many who do the worst things prepare the best speeches.”

πολλοὶ δρῶντες τὰ αἴσχιστα λόγους ἀρίστους ἀσκέουσιν

 

Related image

1477 Italian fresco, Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan.

More on the Pharmacology of Language

Following up on Greek references to conversations with friends as a type of medicine

Gorgias, Defense of Helen 13-14

“The persuasion intrinsic to speech also shapes the mind as it pleases. We must first consider the narratives of astronomers who, by undermining one idea and developing another one, alter beliefs and make the incredible and invisible manifest to the eyes of belief. In turn, consider the necessary struggles in which one argument delights and persuades a great crowd when it has been written skillfully, even if it is spoken falsely. Finally, consider the rivalrous claims of philosophers which feature as well the speed of opinion that engenders volatility in the fidelity of a belief.”

 (13) ὅτι δ’ ἡ πειθὼ προσιοῦσα τῶι λόγωι καὶ τὴν ψυχὴν ἐτυπώσατο ὅπως ἐβούλετο, χρὴ μαθεῖν πρῶτον μὲν τοὺς τῶν μετεωρολόγων λόγους, οἵτινες δόξαν ἀντὶ δόξης τὴν μὲν ἀφελόμενοι τὴν δ’ ἐνεργασάμενοι τὰ ἄπιστα καὶ ἄδηλα φαίνεσθαι τοῖς τῆς δόξης ὄμμασιν ἐποίησαν· δεύτερον δὲ τοὺς ἀναγκαίους διὰ λόγων ἀγῶνας, ἐν οἷς εἷς λόγος πολὺν ὄχλον ἔτερψε καὶ ἔπεισε τέχνηι γραφείς, οὐκ ἀληθείαι λεχθείς· τρίτον <δὲ> φιλοσόφων λόγων ἁμίλλας, ἐν αἷς δείκνυται καὶ γνώμης τάχος ὡς εὐμετάβολον ποιοῦν τὴν τῆς δόξης πίστιν.

“The power of speech has the same logic regarding the disposition of the soul as that of the application of drugs to the natural function of bodies. For, just as certain drugs dispel certain afflictions from the body, and some end disease while others end life, so too are there stories that create grief and others that cause pleasure; some send us running, others make their audiences bold. Others still intoxicate and deceive the soul though some evil persuasion.”

 (14) τὸν αὐτὸν δὲ λόγον ἔχει ἥ τε τοῦ λόγου δύναμις πρὸς τὴν τῆς ψυχῆς τάξιν ἥ τε τῶν φαρμάκων τάξις πρὸς τὴν τῶν σωμάτων φύσιν. ὥσπερ γὰρ τῶν φαρμάκων ἄλλους ἄλλα χυμοὺς ἐκ τοῦ σώματος ἐξάγει, καὶ τὰ μὲν νόσου τὰ δὲ βίου παύει, οὕτω καὶ τῶν  λόγων οἱ μὲν ἐλύπησαν, οἱ δὲ ἔτερψαν, οἱ δὲ ἐφόβησαν, οἱ δὲ εἰς θάρσος κατέστησαν τοὺς ἀκούοντας, οἱ δὲ πειθοῖ τινι κακῆι τὴν ψυχὴν ἐφαρμάκευσαν καὶ ἐξεγοήτευσαν.

 

rhyme

 

A Pre-Socratic Saturday: Xenophanes and Friends on Thinking, Waking, Being and Lust

The collection of luminaries known as the Presocratics are great to quote because their words have already been quoted and excerpted for over 2000 years.  This makes our job easy.

But here are some of our favorites: selections of selections.

On Herakles or Achilles?

Xenophanes, Fragment 2 13-14

“It is unjust to judge strength to be better than good wisdom.”

οὐδὲ δίκαιον / προκρίνειν ῥώμην τῆς ἀγαθῆς σοφίης·

A line stolen from the Rocky Horror Picture Show:

Parmenides, fragment 3.7

“Thinking and being are the same thing.”

… τὸ γὰρ αὐτὸ νοεῖν ἐστίν τε καὶ εἶναι

Wake Up! Inspiration for Plato?

Heraclitus, Fragment 73

“It is not right to act and speak like men who are sleeping”

οὐ δεῖ ὥσπερ καθεύδοντας ποιεῖν καὶ λέγειν·

Money Corrupts, right?

Democritus, Fragment 50

“A man wholly committed to money can never be just.”

ὁ χρημάτων παντελῶς ἥσσων οὐκ ἄν ποτε εἴη δίκαιος.

David Byrne said something like this:

Thales fr. 20 (Hippolytus, Refutation of all Heresies. 1.1.1)

“Water is the beginning and the end of everything.”

[οὕτος ἔφη] ἀρχὴν τοῦ παντὸς εἶναι καὶ τέλος τὸ ὕδωρ

If you thought money was bad…

Prodicus fr. B7 (Stobaeus 4.20.65)

“Desire when doubled is lust; lust doubled is madness.”

ἐπιθυμίαν μὲν διπλασιασθεῖσαν ἔρωτα εἶναι, ἔρωτα δὲ διπλασιασθέντα μανίαν γίγνεσθαι.

But don’t worry, it is all in your head:

Diogenes F6 (from Simplicius Physics152.21-153.13)

And yet all things live, see and hear though the same thing; and they derive every other part of their mind from that very source.

ὅμως δὲ πάντα τῶι αὐτῶι καὶ ζῆι καὶ ὁρᾶι καὶ ἀκούει, καὶ τὴν ἄλλην νόησιν ἔχει ἀπὸ αὐτοῦ πάντα

Innocent as a babe? That’s what some think:

Ion of Chios, fr. 5a 1-2

“All creatures are born to their parents ignorant
but experience teaches them.”

καὶ μὴν ἅπαντα τίκτεται πρῶτον γοναῖς
ἄϊδρα, πειραθέντα δ’ ἐκδιδάσκεται

But we all have to start somewhere. And then work real hard:

Protagoras fr. B10 (Stobaeus 3.29.80)

“[Protagaras said that] skill is nothing without practice and practice is nothing without skill.”

[Πρωταγόρας ἔλεγε] μηδὲν εἶναι μήτε τέχνην ἄνευ μελέτης μήτε μελέτην ἄνευ τεχνης

καὶ μὴν ἅπαντα τίκτεται πρῶτον γοναῖς
ἄϊδρα, πειραθέντα δ’ ἐκδιδάσκεται

If this wasn’t enough for you, search for some Heraclitus, Democritus, and Parmenides. We love quoting these guys. And then read them again, because:

Critias 9 (Stobaeus, Anthology 3.29.11)

“Men become good more from practice than nature.”

ἐκ μελέτης πλείους ἢ φύσεως ἀγαθοί

Critias was an uncle of Plato

And:

Parmenides, fr. 6.16

“The path of all things goes backwards.”

…πάντων δὲ παλίντροπός ἐστι κέλευθος.

Democritus, fr.61 [Stob. III 37, 25].

Democritus, that old laughing-philosopher, has some advice for all of us returning to work and school:

 

 

“Whoever has orderly ways also has an ordered life.”

 

οἷσιν ὁ τρόπος ἐστὶν εὔτακτος, τούτοισι καὶ ὁ βίος συντέτακται

Beginning and Ending the Week with Parmenides

Feeling metaphysical this morning? Some of our favorite lines from Parmenides:

 

Parmenides, fragment 3.7

“Thinking and being are the same thing.”

… τὸ γὰρ αὐτὸ νοεῖν ἐστίν τε καὶ εἶναι

For fun, invert the predicate and verb and pretend you’re Yoda.

Parmenides and other presocratics provide a good workout for the articular infinitive.

 

Parmenides, fr. 2.8-9

 

“These are the only paths of investigation to contemplate: how it both is and is not possible not to be…and how it is both unnecessary and necessary not to be”

 

αἵπερ ὁδοὶ μοῦναι διζήσιός εἰσι νοῆσαι·

ἡ μὲν ὅπως ἔστιν τε καὶ ὡς οὐκ ἔστι μὴ εἶναι, ….

ἡ δ’ ὡς οὐκ ἔστιν τε καὶ ὡς χρεών ἐστι μὴ εἶναι

 

Some great structure in this piece. The stripped down version on the twitter-feed (“the only paths of investigation: how it is and isn’t possible not to be; and how it is isn’t and is necessary not to be”) seems vaguely (and haphazardly) Heraclitean.

 

Parmenides, fr. 6.16

 

 

“The path of all things goes backwards.”

…πάντων δὲ παλίντροπός ἐστι κέλευθος.

 

Yeah, yeah, Cole: and time is a flat circle, right?

 

Parmenides, fr. 7.1

 

 

“You can never prove that what doesn’t exist exists”

 

οὐ γὰρ μήποτε τοῦτο δαμῆι εἶναι μὴ ἐόντα·

 

Is the opposite true as well?

Now, I’m confused.

 

Parmenides, fr. 1 51-53

 

“It is right that you learn all things: both the steadfast heart of well-polished truth and the opinions of men…”

 

χρεὼ δέ σε πάντα πυθέσθαι

ἠμὲν ᾿Αληθείης εὐκυκλέος ἀτρεμὲς ἦτορ

ἠδὲ βροτῶν δόξας….

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