Friday, April 22, 2005

Footnote to an aside on misology

I stumbled across a mention of Plato's disdain for misology (mi_so/logos) in the in the midst of an ongoing discussion of Phaedo at Dissoi Blogoi, in which I sort of intend not to get involved for the time being, as it's learned and deep, whereas I am feeling overwhelmed by ideas and inexplicable urges to pronk. (I happened to be searching for a discussion of metaxu/, which is neither here nor there at the moment, but more on which later....) But the passage and its reading by blogger Michael Pakaluk caught my notice, perhaps because it rang so true given my questions about what is meant by the label "extremism" in the current political debates.

Anyway, to move on to the marginalia, there are two other uses of "mi_so/logos" by Plato. One is in Laches (188c ff.), given here in the Lamb translation from the Perseus server:

Laches: I have but a single mind, Nicias, in regard to discussions, or if you like, a double rather than a single one. For you might think me a lover, and yet also a hater, of discussions: for when I hear a man discussing virtue or any kind of wisdom, one who is truly a man and worthy of his argument, I am exceedingly delighted; I take the speaker and his speech together, and observe how they sort and harmonize with each other. Such a man is exactly what I understand by “musical,”--he has tuned himself with the fairest harmony, not that of a lyre or other entertaining instrument, but has made a true concord of his own life between his words and his deeds, not in the Ionian, no, nor in the Phrygian nor in the Lydian, but simply in the Dorian mode, which is the sole Hellenic harmony. Such a man makes me rejoice with his utterance, and anyone would judge me then a lover of discussion, so eagerly do I take in what he says: but a man who shows the opposite character gives me pain, and the better he seems to speak, the more I am pained, with the result, in this case, that I am judged a hater of discussion.

There is also a passage in Plato's Republic that discusses misology. The following snippet of dialogue (411a-412a) is taken from the Shorey translation on Perseus.

Socrates: Now when a man abandons himself to music to play upon him and pour into his soul as it were through the funnel of his ears those sweet, soft, and dirge-like airs of which we were just now speaking, and gives his entire time to the warblings and blandishments of song, the first result is that the principle of high spirit, if he had it is softened like iron and is made useful instead of useless and brittle. But when he continues the practice without remission and is spellbound, the effect begins to be that he melts and liquefies till he completely dissolves away his spirit, cuts out as it were the very sinews of his soul and makes of himself a "feeble warrior."

Glaucon: Assuredly

Socrates: And if he has to begin with a spiritless nature he reaches this result quickly, but if high-spirited, by weakening the spirit he makes it unstable, quickly irritated by slight stimuli, and as quickly quelled. The outcome is that such men are choleric and irascible instead of high-spirited, and are peevish and discontented.

Glaucon: Precisely so.

Socrates: On the other hand, if a man toils hard at gymnastics and eats right lustily and holds no truck with music and philosophy, does he not at first get very fit and full of pride and high spirit and become more brave and bold than he was?

Glaucon: He does indeed.

Socrates: But what if he does nothing but this and has no contact with the Muse in any way, is not the result that even if there was some principle of the love of knowledge in his soul, since it tastes of no instruction nor of any inquiry and does not participate in any discussion or any other form of culture, it becomes feeble, deaf, and blind, because it is not aroused or fed nor are its perceptions purified and quickened?

Glaucon: That is so.

Socrates: And so such a man, I take it, becomes a misologist and stranger to the Muses. He no longer makes any use of persuasion by speech but achieves all his ends like a beast by violence and savagery, and in his brute ignorance and ineptitude lives a life of disharmony and gracelessness.

Glaucon: That is entirely true.

Socrates: For these two, then, it seems there are two arts which I would say some god gave to mankind, music and gymnastics for the service of the high-spirited principle and the love of knowledge in them--not for the soul and the body except incidentally, but for the harmonious adjustment of these two principles by the proper degree of tension and relaxation of each.

Glaucon:Yes, so it appears.

Socrates: Then he who best blends gymnastics with music and applies them most suitably to the soul is the man whom we should most rightly pronounce to be the most perfect and harmonious musician, far rather than the one who brings the strings into unison with one another.

Fido the Yak scribbling madly ideas for an automatic crônica of the cante jondo, ¿Dónde está el duende? and so on.... Either that or get some exercize.

posted by Fido the Yak at 5:05 PM.


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