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Anthemion (or on Relativity)

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redundant fallibility

PostPosted: Thu Jan 28, 2016 7:01 pm    Post subject: Anthemion (or on Relativity) Reply with quote

Anthemion (or on Relativity)

So, Anthemion, they say your father was a tanner, and you yourself took over the family business, so that today your atelier has become quite large, and that you no longer hope your son will follow you and his grandfather, but that he will go into the affairs of the city. Have you lost your love of your business then?

Not at all. However, my son is gifted, and I see him making a place for himself amongst the leaders of the city. I will not be the one to hold him back.

Then the custom of your family is breaking up?

We are an energetic lot. And can not help but to grow beyond ourselves. Such is our character.

Dear Anthemion, you are a man of energy, that is very true. But, tell me this, how do you know that it would not be better for your son to remain a tanner, like your father and his father, and you yourself?

I think it is better to widen oneís compass. We are not obliged to stay in the same rut for all eternity. I am satisfied to see the boy roll down another path, so long as it suits him.

Then you think that he would not make good if he stayed with the family business? Since it does not suit him, as you imply.

I never said that. There would be nothing wrong with that, but he is gifted and I will live some time longer. And continue to manage the affairs of business. Let us see him go on to larger things, that is what I say.

And did your father speak of Ďaffairs of businessí as you do?

O! Heavens no. For him the tannery was almost his very self. In some ways he was a narrow man, though a very good and pious man who always observed the rituals. And he took great pride, almost astounding pride, when one thinks of how little ambition he had, in his humble work. But we are growing as a family, and widening in our outlook and prospects.

And will there be no end to this widening, and to these larger magnitudes?

We must take first things first, kind sir, surely you are eager to be done with my sonís career before it has started.

You are right Anthemion, I am too rash! There is something ridiculous in leaping so far at once. Yet, I can not help but be curious about how it will all end.

There are many things in this life, many ways to live.

The polyphonics of custom make us aware of the possibility of ethos. That is how it seems to me. Just as there are many people, there are many ways to live.

What does ethos say?


Thus, ethics.

In ordinary life we always judge some characters to be better than others. There are the well bred and the vicious or low.

Yes, and we say some ways of life are better than others. And you may be right, now that you mention it, I do think my son shall be better than his father. Indeed, I have carried that idea with me for some time, but now I have said it outright.

And so the affairs of the city are something grander than working in the family business?

Oh! It is this business, as you call it, that will lift him up. For without it he could not afford everything that is needed.

Certainly. And to be able to afford a thing, and to do it, are better than being able to afford a thing and not to do it, or not to be able to afford it.

If the thing is worthy, then you are right.

And it is worthy Anthemion. To govern is worthy.

Then you see, our family is increasing its fortunes. And no one of any sense would say otherwise. The conclusion is binding on all fair-minded men.

But must they also say, that among all things, the life of a statesman is the best? Or only that it is better than that of the tanner, or the manager of a large atelier of tanners?

To be cautious, I would only affirm the latter. If his sons too, will be energetic, and seek what is higher, let them have luck in it. For my part I must tend to what I can see plainly, and that, kind sir, is the ambition of governance in the city.

It is a worthy ambition. I will not tire of saying it.
But what haunts me is this, what will come next? I suppose to be a fair-minded ruler of the city, and to use oneís power in the best way, is the last and highest occupation of a man, at least insofar as he sets his eyes on the city, and its good?

It may be as you say. I am not so farsighted as you. Nor so inordinately curious.

Am I inordinate then?

Your curiosity about this future increase is a kind of irrational reverence. For a god that has no place in the city. Where is the altar of this deity?

Why, it is in the human heart, Anthemion.

Then it might go beyond what is possible, for this reason it is borish. Why bother with such nonsense?

Is the character of oneís life nonsense then?

No. Indeed. But you go too far. Beyond what can be seen.

I can't disagree with you. Although, I think that there is something worthy in this pursuit, of the best character.

You make one suspect that your questioning is itself supposed to be an ethic. Surely.

You have peeled back the outside of my tent, but what kind of circus do you see there?

A ridiculous comic cacophony.

Anthemion, would you entertain a little performance by one of my high wire walkers?

Let us have it.

I was thinking, if a man learns language, or, as one says, grows into language, that of the Hittites, let us say, and he does not know of the vocabulary of the Greeks or of the Egyptians, or even less of the barbarians to the far West, will he imagine that there is anything wanting in his Hittite tongue?

How would he? He will not even notice the question. But, it is natural that he will sooner or later learn that his neighbors do not use his language.

But will this be enough to make him question whether or not his language is in some ways not up to the tasks that the others are up to.

Oh. I donít think he will question that. He will likely see the others as somewhat crude, or at best as charmingly strange.

And even if he learns one of these languages, and discovers the remarkable: that some phrases donít quite translate, will he ask, is there one best language, over and above all the languages?

Such an utterly strange thought would never occur to him.

But donít you say that gaining in compass is a good, and donít even men who only look a bit beyond themselves, just out the next step, sound men of common sense, come to that conclusion?

Oh. We do. But, we donít bother with this ever-widening thing, except with brief glances, and then we know it is just a spinning about in the mind.

But, is it only spinning to become a statesman, when one is a tanner? Is it not a real increase.

I say that it is.

But what is the distinction, between one character and an another based on, at bottom?

I should think it is based on the city, on what can be done there.

And yet, did you not tell me, not a moment ago, that the fair-minded man is the judge of the better and the worse with respect to ethos?

Something like that, indeed, I did say.

And how do men accomplish that? Is it in the way they judge magnitudes?

Yes, in the same way.

And a magnitude is an amount of something, as of gold or dirt?


And some characters have greater magnitudes than others?

Surely, that is obvious.

And how are magnitudes of gold quantified, in your view, Anthemion?

They are weighed.

And when they are weighed we say they are this or that quantity, and we add a number to the quantity do we not? So that one man has eight talents of gold. And we mean that he has a magnitude that has been quantified.

Yes, of course.

And the quantity is something real, and not merely number?

It is real, though we attach, also, a number to it, to that pile of gold.

And everything that can be traded, property, and slaves, and livestock, and everything else, this is a kind of pile of things that can be quantified.

Yes, they are all money, magnitudes of money, like the leather in my workshop.

And how then, is character, in its increasing magnitude, different from that. Can it not be quantified?

Yes, since the goods necessary to bring a young man to the life of a statesmen, for example, might be counted.

But what of that of my circus, which requires almost no goods?

You say that it is higher, but not the rest of us. Like someone who thinks an old chair, owned by their grandfathers, ought to be quantified as a thousand talents of money.

Then, the human heart does the judging in this regard?

Sometimes. But when there are things, where the price stands beside them, everyone is ready to say that it is objective, I mean that all discerning people must agree to its fairness. For example, this is how it is with the price I place on my leather at the Piraeus, and everyone understands it is fair.

And then, in the same way, everyone is sure that some characters of life are higher than others? For instance, they say the magnitude is greater, with respect to the decent tanner, then is that of the thief on the run.

They say that, though they do not always believe it. Some even hold the thief's life dear, or even the murderer's.

Yes, men have diverse opinions, but they do not always admit the way they quantify character, for they fear to be condemned or shouted or shut down by the common fair-minded man.

Yes, sometimes that is so. And, perhaps, by in large, we do not agree with the common quantifications. Even of my leather. I have often heard men curse me for cheating them--quite absurdly!

Anthemion, you would never cheat your customers, but have there not always been especially nasty men, who spread rumours or in other ways confuse the buyers, so that they quantify your money, I mean your magnitude of leather, more dearly then they should?

There have always been such cheats.

Will you join in with my circus acts a bit more? I have just noticed the performers rehearsing something new?

Include me then.

If a house and even a stone in the yard of a house can be counted as money, as a pile of money, and can be quantified, and eventually reach all the way to number, is there even anything left that can not find its way to number?

Everything is money, but the quantity is sometimes negative. For example, with the unbeneficial things, like dead animals with plague, that must be removed and burned.

And then, is it not also true that everything is character, a pile or magnitude of character. Each way of life?

Yes, perhaps. For I must say, I for one quantify my sonís fate much more dearly than that of his own grandfather, who founded the tannery. And it is not an extraordinary judgment, but a fair one, and a comprehensive body of men would assent to its binding fairness. It has a very great evidence.

Yes, it is evident that a tanner is not so worthy a thing as a statesman, who with his lofty soul and energetic body, forces reforms in the city.

Who, indeed, would reject that? They would be fools.

Then we must say that whoever does not come to such judgments, in similar cases, is defective?

Even if they cannot understand the matter themselves they should take it on the word of those who know, and of whom they trust. Let their near and dear guide them, towards a knowledge of what is best for the city.

Yes, Anthemion, that is rational and fair, it has reason for anyone who is thoughtful it is necessary. And the rest ought to go along with them, for they are sound judges when it comes to the cause of the city.


I see that we have sorted out something with respect to the city. But, what about those who do not live in our city, and do not care at all for the good of its members?

Let them sort things out in their own way. I for one am not concerned with their problems and projects.

In my circus, dear Anthemion, father of Anytus, there are some acrobats.

And what kind of tricks do they perform to thrill the crowd?

Why, they leap out of the top of the tent, and are never seen again.

A droll trick.

Yes, but the ordinary view of character, the community view, seems to be limited to the tent, to the city. That is something, that in my lack of skill, I am having difficulty in thinking about. Is it even fair to say that there must be some naturally best tent? Or can an end to all tents be thought at all?

Well, if the tent is a city, men can always leave the city, but then, like the animals, they would not bother about what is better and what is worse.

Never mind about that for now. A lower problem concerns me. What is the meaning of the fair, in fair judgment?

That if they have sense, they use it, and say what they think, and donít lie. And when they do that, my kind man, they will say what they ought to say. They will say that he who does good for the city is worthy.

Yet, where did this fairness come form?

One sees a thing, and at once one knows what it is. It is as simple as the surety of sight. One sees and knows. A tannery, a house, a statesman.

Or, indeed, as I now know, before me stands the father of a future man of governance.

Your eyes tell the truth. And you know rightly, and after knowing, you even go further, and speak fairly about what you know.

And do you say that any fair-minded man, in seeing Anthemion, must say, or should say, that there is Anthemion, the tanner.

If he did not he would tell a lie. Unless he knew nothing of me, but if he did know, he must say so on sight, and be fair.

Then judging fairly of what one knows on sight is a matter of what one ought to do?

Yes. One should say the truth of what one sees.

But, what of those who do not know of the tannerís work, or of Anthemion. Will they know Anthemion on sight, and if not, will they tell a lie when they say, there stands the father of the Greek boy? And not, there stands the father of the future man of governance.

They can only say what they know, and if they do so fairly, I call them reasonable.

And yet, strictly speaking, how do they learn what a man is at all, is it not from seeing the character of his life in the city of their origin?

Yes, no one teaches them. But they know it already quite early on.

And is it not the same with all things in the city, that they know roughly, what everything is, not from being taught, but because they grow into the character of the city?

They grow into, and they carry what they grow into along with them, like I with my ambition for my son, who will be something worthy, but later when they learn some things in school, they add something to what they carry with them already.

Do they add something by way of alteration, or by way of peeling off the image of what they know, and making some thoughtful remarks about what they already know?

I am not sure what you mean, I think if someone knows a thing, he can learn more about it.

Yes, he can learn more, but only about what he already knows, what he began with in the city.

Your circus is becoming too dark for me.

It has some slimy body at its foot. That is how it seems to me. But let us not fancy that we are as yet ready to say anything more about this matter, so far one seems to know nothing worth saying about it.

Well, I must go see to my tanners, they are good men, but if one doesn't keep an eye on themÖ

Good day to you Anthemion.
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