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Theaetetus 156a to 157c
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ThePlatonist DotCom



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PostPosted: Mon Jul 14, 2014 8:40 am    Post subject: Theaetetus 156a to 157c Reply with quote

Peter,

I have attached a one page pdf file of the dialogue between 156 and 157. The translation comes mostly from Seth Benardete with a few changes inspired by Perseus and Hackett.

The most obvious thing is that it's split into two halves, the first half concerns what Perseus and Hackett call the active vs passive, the second half, the completion, concerns the slow and swift.

So let's go through it together. The big opening question is clearly in lines [04] and [05]. Seth Benardete talks about "the power to affect" vs "power to be affected", Perseus and Hackett call this the "active vs passive". What does Plato actually say?

For example, we often think of the active and passive as an Eastern philosophical concept which is pretty grey and isn't clearly mapped to power to affect and power to be affected. Eg we often talk about women as passive but at the same time bossy or manipulative, and men as active but easy going and in search of direction. Eg the Turkish talk about the evil eye affecting disaster in the lives of whomever it scrutinizes passively.

Does Plato talk about the power to affect vs the power to be affected or something else? Please summon up all your linguistic skill and translate it as perfectly as possible so we can examine it like scientists. If the wording is close to this Seth Benardete inspired translation, there is something absolutely critical that we must check very rigorously. Does Plato really talk about "the power to be affected"? That's an amazing thing because submission could be considered the lack of power not the presence of it no? Ie would make more sense to say power vs powerlessness no? But if that's not the case what is the passive power? Some sort of power of inertia? No, that would be a power of affecting not being affected. Basically we need to figure out what Plato is trying to say by thinking about these opening few words very very carefully.



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Peter Blumsom



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PostPosted: Mon Jul 14, 2014 10:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear TP

We should take note of the sense of wonder (thaumatzo) Plato senses through Socratic words concerning this conception he is about to unfurl. To acclimatize the mind I find it a good idea to go to the section of Timaeus which starts at 47e in the monologue and continues for quite a number of pages. It’s in this section that he describes, in a different way, something which is in essence the same: the receptacle (uperdokhein), and nurse (titheinei), of all (pasus) becoming (geneseoes). [49a]; here also, the baffling sense of strangeness and wonder, as if he (Plato) is showing us what he considers a forbidden ‘seeing’; here also the sexual implications and presence of mid-wifery; here also the fluxist strictures on what may be named and what is merely a ‘suchness’ or quality; and, finally, here also, in the background, the presence of ‘she who even the gods fear’ – Ananke or Necessity – Mistress of Fate. I can’t even contemplate the Theaetetus passage without bringing these things to mind, both wrapt in the same wonder and perplexity as they are.

He calls the upodochei a Form (eidos) but goes on to demonstrate that this is the Form of the Unformed.

Nor do I frown at making a prior comment regarding the Dyadic indeterminancy of the two motions.

I agree on the importance of the two forms of dunamis – which can mean 'power', 'capacity' or 'able-ness' (we can do this/thy will be done) which is attached to both agent and patient. And I do not believe this role is necessarily cast until the actual point of meeting and intercourse occurs. In other words, is there even a specific agent or patient until this moment? I think Aristotle was influenced by both passages when he composed Book Theta of Metaphysics.

By the way, you seem to be adding the level of personality to what I already consider deeply psychological. That should be interesting.

Pete
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ThePlatonist DotCom



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PostPosted: Mon Jul 14, 2014 11:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear PB,

I am greatly impressed with your knowledge of Plato and Aristotle. I am afraid I am not at an Oxford type myself, grand and radiant, rather a humble Cambridge sort of fellow, more laser like than explosive. For example, while the windy speeches of the Oxford polemicist can make we less educated fellows feel rather left out and cold, the fiery talk of the Cambridge logician engages and enrages us with its pesky contradictions. But when the Cambridge type has rubbed some sticks together setting fire to some idea, then when his rival lover at Oxford blows upon the flames, he is not freezing but explosive. So let me start before you take over!

Therefore, I have to say that even though I found your comments very interesting- although a little humbling because I for example know as much about Aristotle as I do about Ancient Greek, ie nothing at all- and the ones about dunamis were especially to point, you didn't in general hit the little nail I was holding up for you completely on the head, and I apologize for that because I realize I am doing a poor job of trying to explain myself, so now I'll try again:

In the second section it's clear that Socrates is discussing what he calls the "slow" and the "quick", but in the first section I'm not sure what he is discussing because different translators have seen fit to translate the Ancient Greek in completely different ways. (1) Does he use the words "active" and "passive", or does he talk about "to affect" and "to be affected", or something else again? (2) Are you 100% certain Socrates makes it clear that both concepts are powers? (3) Can you give examples from Plato in which he uses the same words?

TP


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Peter Blumsom



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PostPosted: Mon Jul 14, 2014 2:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Your questions.

Quote:
(1) Does he use the words "active" and "passive", or does he talk about "to affect" and "to be affected", or something else again?


What he is talking about is what we are trying to discover. For this the Lexicon, the text, and precedents may help us.

You have access to Perseus, I also have Liddell, so it is easy to make some sort of translation:

δύναμιν δὲ τὸ μὲν ποιεῖν ἔχον, τὸ δὲ πάσχειν

Dunamin de to men poiein echon, to de paschein

Poio - ‘I make’, pascho - ‘I suffer’ or more explicitly, ‘receive an impression from without’.

“And indeed (of these ‘kinds’ of motion – teis de kineiseos duo eidei) one has a doing/making power, the other has the ability to be affected (or to receive an impression – from some affecting power.)

That’s about as far as one can go. You must know the difficulties of the Greek language. Notice there are very few English-Ancient Greek lexicons.

Quote:
(2) Are you 100% certain Socrates makes it clear that both concepts are powers?


Well, this is what I'm talking about. No one can be absolutely sure of anything. 'Power' is an English word, dunamis, a Greek term which we’ve adopted for our own purposes. To make it even more confusing, poiew is also the root of the word for poet - poeitus. Make of that what you will!

When I first started Greek I also had the feeling that there was an exact English mould (a passion if you like) into which you can pour the Greek text and out it comes out with the definitive meaning. I now know it aint like that!

Quote:
(3) Can you give examples from Plato in which he uses the same words?


Not really. It is certainly implied (acc. To Cornford) in certain parts of the Timaeus passage on the Receptacle, but, apart from that, I have to refer you once more to the Seventh Letter (342d), where it is mentioned as a kind of aside : "and of all moral actions or passions in souls.” Again using poieo and pascoe

Comments.
In Timaeus we have the paternal, the pattern maker, and the maternal, that ‘matter’ which is stamped with the pattern. It is fairly common usage in Aristotle, and seems to have Pythagorean roots - the dye and its thousand casts. But the difference here is that we enter the mind of a man who is measuring all things by his own perception, and to make that work, each intercourse produces a unique pair of offspring. But is even this true, for a thousand eyes might see the same stone.

Now look, TP, I can’t think what it is you are looking for if it’s not here and although it’s nice to be labelled Oxfordian but actually I learnt most of my Plato sitting in the back of a bandwagon on the road. I am merely a lonely rock’n’roller who had ideas above his station, and who thinks that he's passed the baton to you and you should now run with it.

Pete
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ThePlatonist DotCom



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PostPosted: Mon Jul 14, 2014 4:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear Peter the Oxfordian Troubadour,

You have done a great job, you have precisely confirmed:

(1) That our lonely hero Seth Benardete did a much better job of translating Plato that the crowd of scholars at Perseus and Hackett. Plato didn't use the words "active" and "passive", he used the words "poiein" and "paschein", to "make" and to "suffer". The scholars didn't think it poetic enough to simply translates Plato's words, so they threw in some fancy philosophical jargon, but it confused little old autistic me. I am convinced that if Seth Benardete had devoted his life to writing his marvelous translations instead of his terrible commentaries, he would have revolutionized Platonic Scholarship! Be an expert in one thing and mind your own business is apparently something only the wonderful Germans still understand. Still and all, those forest loving Germans aren't know for their philosophy, but if one's goal is ranging over everything philosophical conversations on the crowed beach or city instead of single minded conversations with fellow craftsmen, leave your ego far far behind, never think just because you know how to translate something means you know what it means more than someone who is wise but illiterate. Ie don't be like the ugly builder who fell in love with his necessity, and fired the architect who made his life beautiful. That would be hubris no?

(2) The word "dunamin", power, applies both to making and suffering even though it appears only once at the beginning of the sentence unlike lines [4] and [5] of our translation above.

(3) These are really common words and you can't think of a particularly notable example of the pair being discussed together elsewhere in Plato.

-----------------------------

So do you think the idea is that those who become more virtuous by making learn by testing their skills changing the external world, and those who become more virtuous by suffering learn by testing their comprehension of the external world?

Is this like the Diotima's speech in the Symposium? Love is borne of resource and need, without need the resource would have nothing to make, without resource the need would have nothing to suffer? When I got married they told me to "have and hold" my wife, and her to "serve and obey" me. But did they cross the wires, I must make the world while serving and obeying her, and she must suffer the world while having and holding me? Or is it me crossing the wires, getting married to a woman instead of following Heavenly Aphrodite?

Anyhow, in this relationship I am of course need and you are make, so tell me Peter what do you think, pray to the muse then give me your thoughts, and I will try to joint the dots.
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Peter Blumsom



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PostPosted: Mon Jul 14, 2014 5:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, you have to be careful for, in reading a phrase like: By nature, they say, to commit injustice is a good and to suffer it is an evil” REP. 358e the original Greek does not mention either dunamis, nor poein/pascheon. But this is contained in the active and passive mood of the verb adikaio 'to injust someone’ (as it were), and middle/passive voice adikaisthai ‘to be injusted upon’. Nevertheless, the concept is there, and writ boldly in the main part of Glaucon’s exhortation to Socrates, regarding 'perfect justice' and 'perfect injustice' without which the dialectic of the whole Dialogue might have foundered.

I’ll let you dig out some other examples. Joining the dots is less labour intensive.
Pete
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ThePlatonist DotCom



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PostPosted: Mon Jul 14, 2014 5:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think I made a mistake by talking about joining the dots, it perhaps put you into a lackadaisical frame of mind. But that's not what we need at all, we want you like a soldier, like young Theaetetus, not just handsome also rigorous and manly.

We are trying to define the meaning of the "make" and "suffer", which when they associate with each other and rub together, give birth to the perceived and the perception. Eg I suggested it might be the same story as the Symposium.

But I think you are saying no, it's precisely the active and passive of Ancient Greek grammar. Is that your decision? If so can you explain to me why passive is a "power". Eg when i look up active passive grammar on google i get: "In a sentence using passive voice, the subject is acted upon; he or she receives the action expressed by the verb." But this mechanical definition is no good Peter, because then the active is simply the power and the passive it's opposite, contradicting Socrates. The point is very subtle I'll admit, but philosophy is a subtle thing not a mechanical thing that can be understood by robots and summarized algorithmically. Do you see what I mean Peter?

PS This conversation is very helpful for me, you are showing me something and I very much appreciate it.
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Peter Blumsom



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PostPosted: Mon Jul 14, 2014 6:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That's what you get for looking things up on Google. A well stocked library is more reliable. For example, modern grammar doesn't express the middle voice which is like a halfway house between what WE call active and passive. I'll let you look it up on Google. Also have you given a thought to Heidegger on this sort of thing. I say no more unless you find his politics distasteful, but he is relevant. If you already are acquainted then it saves me the work, but if not, I'll go through some of it with you.
Pete
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ThePlatonist DotCom



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PostPosted: Mon Jul 14, 2014 6:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You have clearly given up on this conversation Peter. Clearly you think I am a geek and beneath you, so you refuse to answer my questions and brush me off with all this tiresome chatter and name dropping like a bored academic getting rid of a troublesome student. Well Peter, you're right I am no good and I will go back to my cave. Still for what's it worth I did enjoy talking you while it lasted. It's hard to do philosophy alone, it was nice to have someone to try and bounce things off briefly.

You're the moderator here. I would appreciate it if you deleted both the threads I started here at your forum. Thank you.
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Peter Blumsom



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PostPosted: Mon Jul 14, 2014 7:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, that's sort of unreasonable. But you sound like a person who changes their mind. So if I hear nothing by tomorrow I will do as you suggest.
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ThePlatonist DotCom



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PostPosted: Mon Jul 14, 2014 7:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's not at all unreasonable to ask for these threads to be deleted. I put an extraordinary amount of work into these posts, you didn't reciprocate in kind to say the least. In fact, it's not even clear to me you even read many of things I wrote, it's a totally unjust conversation.

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Peter Blumsom



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PostPosted: Mon Jul 14, 2014 8:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm sorry the forum didn't come up to muster. We must try harder in future. However I do recommend you look into Heidegger as I think you might find he touches on the nature of the bond which exists between that which moves and that which is moved. I also hope that some of the work I undertook for you regarding the Greek translation might prove helpful. I suggest you take your own posts off, it's easy enough to do, but I might allow mine to stay though naturally I will delete references to you. They might prove useful to other students.
Good Luck,
Pete
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Plato DNA



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PostPosted: Tue Jul 15, 2014 2:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I try following but I am not sure where this is going. It looks like my comments are a little late, and you two have already reached the end. My ideas might not help at all and may just add some confusion, but maybe they might trigger some kind of ideas. Maybe I am simple minded or am taking the wrong approach. After all I have been looking into a more scientific approach at these ancient ideas. So we have the active and passive, to make and to suffer, the perceived and the perception. Is it wrong for me to imagine it in this way….?

That which IS, is always perceived; that which IS becoming, is always are perceptions. Nothing is one thing in and by itself; now maybe I have read too much eastern philosophy but I read this as no-thing is one thing, which can have a completely different idea. There is one that is not a 'thing' (invisible and untouchable) but is responsible for all the many things we perceive. Many ‘things’ being created out of our perceptions of the one that is perceived; maybe this one when arising in our perceptions takes both an active and passive role which is always relative to the perception of the moment, such as force as an active power and matter as a passive power. At least some form of duality to start our perceptions, because one thing alone would be no ‘thing’ for our perceptions to perceive. It could be something like hot and cold, up and down, positive and negative, north pole and south pole; one affecting the other being affected. Two motions being infinite in nature, I imagine light and gravity, two fundamental forces infinite in nature. You could also do one or the other; light being electricity and magnetism, or gravity being space and time. Then the speed and slowness would be another level of duality added to whatever you chose as your first duality. Take light for example, it is said to be a constant speed however it is measured, so is kind of like no speed at all, but speed and slowness can still be found in the frequency of the wavelength. One wave could be said to be quicker or slower than another, but they are all moving at the same constant speed.

"Ninety-nine percent of who you are is invisible and untouchable." -R. Buckminster Fuller

Jason
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Peter Blumsom



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PostPosted: Tue Jul 15, 2014 6:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

And then along came Jason to throw a whole pile of new goodies on the floor! I will read this carefully before responding, because TP was correct in that when responses become too rapid there is a tendency on both sides to stop 'listening' to the other.

By the way, I still remember your Timaean DNA theory as the most startling since this forum began. Did you have any luck with publishing?

Pete
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ThePlatonist DotCom



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PostPosted: Tue Jul 15, 2014 9:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Since these threads have not only not been deleted, but extended, this forum must pay the price. I address myself not to Peter and Jason now, but to the world.

I am going to show you something very important now: Namely, if you study Plato properly, your brain will expand and you will become a sort of Luke Skywalker superhero who can destroy supercomputers with your light sword, but if you study Plato wrongly, you will be reduced to a hopeless child.

Let's see whether Peter is right to write "and then along came Jason to throw a whole pile of new goodies on the floor", or let's see whether Jason's post is completely insane.

He begins as follows: "I am not sure where this is going. I have been looking into a more scientific approach at these ancient ideas. So we have the active and passive, to make and to suffer, the perceived and the perception. Is it wrong for me to imagine it in this way….?"

Do you think that is a scientific thing to say? Is that that way Albert Einstein or Roger Penrose would join the conversation? Haven't I been pulling my hair out trying to get Peter to consider whether or not its the active-passive or make-suffer that generates the perceived and perception? And what has Jason said? So we have three things, is it wrong for me to imagine it in that way? But what way? As three, or two, or one? Ie he says nothing, there is no science here at all, it's absurd.

Then he continues: "That which IS, is always perceived; that which IS becoming, is always are perceptions."

What does that mean? We will have to guess. He has read a book by Whitehead or Heidegger and has picked up on two very trendy words "being" and "becoming", which everyone talks about as somehow connected with the secret of Plato's philosophy and the Intermediate Dyad etc. So he has decided that's what this debate is all about: active = make = becoming = perception and passive = suffer = being = perceived. But that would be totally and utterly absurd.

Then he continues: "Nothing is one thing in and by itself"

What is he talking about? Perhaps you think he means he doesn't believe in Plato's theory of forms, he doesn't believe in a one that exists in of itself, rather he thinks that everything is many, like a follower of Heraclitus instead of Parmenides. But looking at what follows, I think he means literally there is something called nothing that is in fact precisely one thing apart from the rest and all by itself, which is of course completely and utterly ridiculous.

He goes on: "Now maybe I have read too much eastern philosophy but I read this as [...the nothing that is the one] is not a 'thing' ([because it is] invisible and untouchable), but [it] is responsible for all the many things we perceive."

What's he talking about? Crazy sentences are popping into his mind on the one hand like people who inhale vapors, and he is interpreting them on the other. So he is seeking to explain his own mad musings. And the explanation is that "there is an invisible one responsible for all the many things we perceive" and "we call it nothing because it's invisible and untouchable". Eureka! Do you think that's an amazingly wise thing to say? Or isn't it something even the tiniest child says, namely there is a god, and god is invisible and untouchable, except children don't make the mistake of calling god nothing! So let's pray together: "Dear God, help us fight this madness, by sending a daemon down to earth carrying your sword instead of keeping yourself to yourself hidden and untouchable up in heaven!"

He goes on.."[Therefore] many ‘things’ are created out of our perceptions of the one that is perceived'; and maybe this one when arising in our perceptions takes both an active and passive role which is always relative to the perception of the moment, such as force as an active power and matter as a passive power... I imagine light and gravity, two fundamental forces infinite in nature."

If something is one it isn't two, so the one can't be active and passive, rather active and passive must belong to the things that are many. But perhaps he means that the active and passive are two types of perceptions of the one. Yet this is miles and miles away from the dialogue because we are talking about the rubbing of active and passive or make and suffer creating perceptions and perceived, and this wouldn't happen if the one is the creative power that makes the many, because active and passive would be effects not causes. He is also throwing lots of stuff about matter and light and gravity etc like a child baking a cake going through the cupboard and chucking everything that seems exciting into the mix.

He finishes off with an absurd quote "Ninety-nine percent of who you are is invisible and untouchable." Does that mean Socrates was wrong and we are not soul, we are 99% soul and 1% body? Is sounds lovely but it's just complete New Age nonsense.

MORAL:

If you want to be philosophers then you have to build coherent well defined precision models of human nature, and you have to search out the smartest people you can find and argue about them. Go round the internet looking a wise man, cut through the millions of idiots with your light sword in search of someone brilliant to do battle with. Remember how Freud and Jung met, how they fell in love at their first meeting and argued for 18 hours non-stop, that's the way philosophers and scientists are. Think about the idiots in the American Congress, rubbing each other up or trying to keep their distance, never able to stop running round in circles like sheep, that's the god forsaken existence of the bad philosopher.

For example, Freud had his superego, ego, id and Jung added ideas such as anima and animus and archetypes, they could actually talk at length and in detail about their models. Now it's true that these division can be understood not just psychologically, but also cognitively, and that's what all Plato's one and many set theory like stuff is all about. But before you get involved in all that one and many stuff and become an expert in number, you must grasp hold of political philosophy, you must learn to define "justice" and "self-control".

Forget about gravity and light and all this mumbo-jumbo, start by writing essays about the problem of evil, then democracy, then faith and beauty, then the difference between Catholics and Puritans, the reason societies split into political factions such as right and left and how childish and laughable these ideological perspectives are, finishing you preliminary education by writing an essay about how everyone is flying around like bats in a cave.

But by god be warned you are rotting your brains swapping famous names and dabbling in pseudo-scientific models of physics on this forum like Congressmen. You are not turning yourselves in warriors, you are castrating yourselves and becoming New Age hippies calling themselves all wise because they can make everything up with pendulums, or Tea Party bozos and Sep 11th Conspiracy Theory believers wallowing in ridiculously silly pseudo-science.


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