Friday, December 07, 2007

Bad Hexis?

Is there such a thing as a bad hexis? If not then hexis should no longer be translated as "habit" or even as "disposition." In the Theatetus, maybe the loveliest work of ancient Greek thought, Socrates uses the word hexis in two parts of the dialogue. In the second instance (197b) he says hexis means something like holding, as in holding knowledge immediately as opposed to owning knowledge and keeping it tucked away, like pigeons or the like in an aviary in fact. The first time he says hexis (153b) he means something like being in shape. He asks whether the bodily hexis is destroyed by idleness and preserved by exercise. And he asks about the hexis of the soul, whether the soul is preserved through learning and practice and whether through idleness it forgets what it has learned and learns nothing. The concept here is like a hold or fastness or even constitution in one of its senses, which is a translation one encounters, although one can speak of a sickly constitution; I'm not sure one could speak of a sickly hexis. Assuming I'm correct, and there are yet a few reasons to think I might not be, I sort of admire the Greeks for not imagining a bad hexis or an ugly hexis.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 9:22 AM.


Anonymous Josh said...

Ah, but they did imagine a "bad" hexis - at least, one of them did (Aristotle). As I read him, vice is hexis just as much as virtue, the difference being what possibilities for action are brought to light by the corresponding active conditions, as well as other considerations (performing the action because it is most beautiful, etc.).

December 07, 2007 6:11 PM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

Hi, Josh. I didn't consult Aristotle, which is clearly one reason to think I am wrong. Let me ask you, do you think Socrates (as Plato tells it) imagines a bad hexis?

December 07, 2007 7:42 PM  

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