ADDRESSED TO CLASSICISTS AND CLASSICAL PHILOSOPHERS
Allow me to inform you that I have put The Lost Plato on line at:
www.juliustomin.org. Why the lost Plato? Firstly, by rejecting the ancient tradition according to which Plato began to write his dialogues prior to the death of Socrates, modern Platonic scholarship has lost from sight Plato's creative twenties, disregarding the opportunity that the ancient tradition provides for studying Plato's dialogues in connection with Plato's autobiographic introduction to his Seventh Letter. As a result of this omission Plato has been studied for more than a century completely divorced from the historical situation in which his dialogues are anchored, to which they respond, and the impact of which they bear. Secondly, the rejection of the ancient tradition according to which Plato's first dialogue was the Phaedrus has gone hand in hand with completely missing the import of Aristotle's testimony concerning the situation and the time in which Plato conceived his theory of Forms. For according to Aristotle's testimony, which can be found in the early Metaphysics A as well as the late Metaphysics M, Plato conceived of Forms at the initial stage of his encounter with Socrates. By transposing the conception of the theory into Plato's late thirties or early forties, modern Platonic scholarship deprived all the so called early dialogues of the dimension of Forms, which provide the theoretical background to all of these dialogues, and to which all these dialogues point. What has thus been lost, as far as the dialogues written during Socrates' life-time are concerned, is Plato's real struggle with Socrates, namely with the ignorance with which he faced Plato's theory after Plato put it into his mouth in the Phaedrus. As you will see, The Lost Plato radically differs from everything that has been written on Socrates and Plato. In your view, should students interested in Plato be given access to The Lost Plato? If so, what can be done that they are given a proper access to it? If not, why not? There is another set of questions, which I should like to ask in relation to the following problem. The Lost Plato focusses on the Phaedo plus the nine dialogues that I view as written before Socrates died, but in discussing these dialogues Plato's works in their totality are taken into account in so far as Plato's later dialogues bear on the nine dialogues viewed as written during Socrates' life-time. In this connection I discuss the Crito, the Laches, the Cratylus, the Gorgias, the Symposium, the Republic, the Theaetetus, the Timaeus, the Sophist, the Politicus, and the Laws. What remains to be done from the perspective opened by The Lost Plato is a systematic study of the dialogues written after the death of Socrates in so far as their interpretation is affected by The Lost Plato. In your view, should this work be undertaken? If so, what can be done that it is undertaken in conditions worthy of the work it requires? If you think that such work should not be undertaken, could you tell me why? I hope to be hearing from you soon. With best wishes, Julius Tomin
Dear All, More than a fortnight ago I sent you an email in which I informed you about The Lost Plato that I put on line. Since you are on the list of those who are regularly invited to SAAP meetings, I had reason to believe that you are interested in Plato, and so I wrote to you: "The Lost Plato radically differs from everything that has been written on Socrates and Plato. In your view, should students interested in Plato be given access to The Lost Plato? If so, what can be done that they are given a proper access to it? If not, why not?" I have received no reply. Would you be so kind and inform me whether you received my email? The reason for my worry is the following. About a year ago a Czech student asked me to join a protest movement against a USA military basis on the Czech soil. I responded positively to his request. From then on the vast majority of emails that I have been receiving goes straight into the "junk" with an explanation: "This message has been blocked for your safety". Since I have been waiting for your reply in vain, it occurred to me that you may have received it in "junk", unable to open it. For email that I have been receiving from the Czech Republic is not only relegated into "junk", it resists my attempts to open it. Would you therefore be so kind and simply confirm your having received my message? Many thanks in advance, Julius Tomin
Dear All, I am grateful to all of you who replied to my polite request. Regrettably, only Nicholas Denyer replied to my original questions concerning The Lost Plato. To the question ”In your view, should students interested in Plato be given access to The Lost Plato?” He replied ”Yes.” To the question ”If so, what can be done that they are given a proper access to it?” He replied ”Nothing more needs to be done. It is accessible by anyone with access to an internet terminal, and they have access to internet terminals.” To the proposal ”What remains to be done is a systematic study of the dialogues written after the death of Socrates in so far as their interpretation is affected by The Lost Plato. In your view, should this work be undertaken?” He replied ”No.” To the question
“If you think that such work should not be undertaken, could you tell me why?” He replied ”Yes. You do not name the nine dialogues you view as written before Socrates' death. But whichever nine dialogues you were to name, there is no reason to suppose that your view about their dating is correct. Amplifying a view which there is no reason to suppose correct is not a good use of your time and talents.” This reply reminds me of the closing words in an editorial in The Times of August 25, 1988 entitled Ancient Examples ”It is to be hoped that the friends who encouraged Dr Tomin to Britain may prevail upon him to bend his ways and, when he has bent them, find him a home from which he can continue to lay bare the wisdom of old.” Denyer 'knows' that there is no reason to suppose that my view about the dating of the nine dialogues in question is correct without taking the pains of at least opening the short Introduction to The Lost Plato to find out of which nine dialogues I speak. And yet, Denyer is very well aware that our putative dating of the dialogues of Plato may profoundly influence our view of them. In the Introduction to his Cambridge edition of Plato's Alcibiades he says that we do not know when the dialogue was written, but that there are reasons to believe that it was written in the early 350s (p. 11). This allows him to view the dialogue on two levels. In connection with the charge against Socrates that “he corrupts young men” and in connection with Plato's unsuccessful attempt to turn to philosophy the Syracusan tyrant Dionysius. I quote ”Back in Athens in the early 350s, Plato therefore had every cause to reflect on what can happen when an older philosopher tries to win for philosophy young men subject to all temptations of political power” (p.13). Plato's Alcibiades deserves to be compared with three dialogues that I date prior to Socrates' death: Charmides, Lysis, and Meno. Let me briefly compare it with the Charmides. In the Alcibiades Plato emphasizes Socrates' positive influence on the young Alcibiades, whose last words are ”From now on I shall begin to devote myself to justice.” Plato equally strongly emphasizes that Socrates was not the one to blame for Alcibiades' subsequent crimes. Socrates answers Alcibiades' pledge with the following words, with which the dialogue ends: ”I should wish that you persevere in doing so. But I am afraid, not because I do not trust your natural predispositions, but because I see the power of the city. I am afraid that it will overpower both you and me.” In the Charmides Socrates’ main interlocutors are Critias and Charmides who in 404 became members of the ruling body of the Thirty Tyrants, Critias becoming their leader. In the Seventh Letter Plato says that the Thirty filled the city with their inequities so that in a short time the former democracy looked as gold in comparison (324d). In the Charmides there is no sign of the catastrophic end of Charmides and Critias. Socrates' positive influence on Critias is unqualified. In consequence of discussing sophrosune, the virtue of temperance, self-control and political wisdom, with Socrates, Critias exhorts the young Charmides: ”Don't disappoint Socrates in anything either great or small.” Charmides replies: ”You may depend on my following and not deserting him.” Critias: ”And I command you to do so.” Socrates protests that he has not been consulted: ”Will you force me without even allowing me to examine this matter?” Charmides: ”Yes. Consider yourself forced by me, for Critias commands it; and you had better consider it well.” Socrates: ”Once you are intent on doing something and resort to force, no man alive will be able to resist you.” Charmides: ”Well then, don't resist me then.” Socrates answers, concluding the whole dialogue: ”I won't resist you then.” In The Lost Plato I argue that Plato wrote the Charmides in the early stages of the reign of the Thirty when he hoped that they would turn the city to justice (Seventh Letter 324d). I hope that you find the comparison telling and will allow me one more question Do you agree with Denyer's no? I hope to be hearing from you soon. With best wishes, Julius Tomin
Dear All, In my email on Denyer's NO I referred to his dating of Plato's Alcibiades in the early 350s, which allows us to view the dialogue on two levels: Socrates-Alcibiades, Plato-Dionysius. I did not mention Peparethus, essential for Denyer's dating. Socrates addresses Alcibiades: "And having acknowledged that the just is the same as the expedient, are you not prepared to ridicule anyone who ... gets up to advise the Athenians or, if you like, the Peparethians that just actions may sometimes be evil?" (116d7-e1, tr. Jowett). Denyer says: "Myles Burnyeat alerted me to the significance of Peparethus (Preface p. vii) ... Peparethos was a tiny and obscure island in the northern Aegean ... it is here paired with Athens to indicate that Socrates' point applies with utter generality to any city, however big or small ... Of all the many tiny and obscure places that might be contrasted with Athens, why should Peparethos come to mind? ... Peparethos does not seem to have impinged much on the awareness of the Athenians, except for some dramatic events in 361, when the Athenians sent a force to defend it against Alexander of Pherai, and Alexander was provoked to mount a damaging raid on the Piraeus. This suggests that the Alcibiades was written not before, and not too long after, the events of 361." (p. 152, note on 116d8). Denyer's dating helped me to remove Alcibiades from the dialogues I consider as written in the first decade after Socrates' death. The remaining dialogues that come into question can be viewed as written with the intention to resurrect Socrates as a powerful moral and political force within the framework of the Athenian democracy. In the Laches, in the Protagoras, and in the Gorgias Plato brought to view Socrates as he pursued philosophy prior to and in the early stages of the Peloponnesian war, as he did in the earlier Charmides and the later Alcibiades. Obviously, this Socrates was of paramount importance for Plato and for the Athenians. To understand this Socrates better, I am at present re-reading Thucydides. And so I found, yesterday, that Peparethus figures prominently in the events of the sixth year of the war: "At Peparethus, too, the sea sank back some distance from the shore, but this was not followed by an inundation; there was also an earthquake which destroyed part of the wall, the town hall, and a few other buildings." (III.89.4, tr. Rex Warner). The destruction of the town hall in Peparethus by an earthquake would have brought the island to Socrates' mind as naturally in 426 as to Plato not long after the events of 361. This shows that Plato, in choosing those moments in Socrates' pursuit of philosophy that were in tune with what he wanted to say to his readers in the situation in which he wrote, was attentive to the historical circumstances in which Socrates stood at the time of the dialogue's dramatic dating. Against my reference to Peparethos in Thucydides it may be objected that it is anachronistic, for the Alcibiades is dramatically set about 433 - Alcibiades is not yet twenty (123d6) - but the reference to Peparethus points to the year 426. To this I answer that Socrates in the dialogue speaks of Agis as a Spartan king, who became a king only in 427 (cf. Denyer p. 190, n. on 124a1). With such anachronisms Plato wants to indicate that in a given dialogue he thinks of Socrates as he was at the specific dramatic date, but that he at the same time always has in mind Socrates in the totality of his philosophic pursuit. Plato wrote the dialogue some sixty five years after the events that brought Peparethus to prominence during Socrates' time, and so we may assume that the reference to the island would remind the reader in the first place of Thucydides. In a lengthy passage shortly before the reference to Peparethus Thucydides speaks of the effects of the war on morality: "To fit in with the change of events, words, too, had to change their usual meanings. What used to be described as a thoughtless act of aggression was now regarded as courage ... " (III.82.4, tr. Rex Warner). It is against the background of these circumstances that I view Socrates' search for stable, immovable, unchangeable, universally valid moral terms and norms in The Lost Plato. I hope my emailing you on this subject needs no apology; as myself, you are on the mailing list of the SAAP. With best wishes, Julius Tomin
V. Dear All, I have received an objection against The Lost Plato: "I find myself completely unable to agree with you that Plato wrote the Apology after the trial but before Socrates' execution. The last four lines seem to me to be the clincher, but the dialogue as a whole strikes me as Plato's justification of Socrates' choice of conduct both for his life and for the manner of his death. If you want to persuade me, the burden of proof lies with you." Plato's justification of Socrates' choice of conduct and for his life? Certainly. His justification of Socrates' manner of death? Certainly not. This task Plato undertook after Socrates' death, in the Phaedo. The burden of proof lies with me? I agree, and the shortest answer would be: Read Chapter 12 of The Lost Plato. But there is a catch. As long as everybody believes that my dating of the Apology discredits The Lost Plato, hardly anybody will read it. For this very reason, I considered omitting the twelfth chapter. But since the first part of the next volume will deal with the dialogues written in the first decade after the death of Socrates, when Plato still had some hopes of entering a political career in Athens, the twelfth chapter had to be written. The Apology does not belong to that period. So let me justify my dating. Socrates' followers were totally unprepared for the death sentence; Plato's, Crito's, Critobulus' and Apolodorus' last minute intervention testifies to it (Ap. 38b6-9). After the trial, they all believedthemselves to be in danger; Plato and others took refuge in Megara. And yet, they all (except Aristippus and Cleombrotus, Phaedo 59c3-4) stayed in Athens until Socrates' end. With others, Plato was prepared to die in exile, he was prepared to risk his life in liberating Socrates, but the outcome of that undertaking was uncertain. It could have ended badly wrong, resulting in more than one death. What was in Plato’s power was leaving behind him in Athens the most immediate, most potent, and lasting defence of Socrates, his finest hour, the Apology. The piece has a feel of great urgency. Plato, the most prominent follower of Socrates, the man closely associated with the Thirty Tyrants, might have been seized and imprisoned at any moment.Until a year ago, it simply did not occur to me that the Apology might have been written during Socrates’ imprisonment. Then I had a lecture on the dating of Plato's dialogues in Prague at Charles University, and in the discussion I was suddenly struck by the dissonance between the Apology and the Crito. Amazed and dizzy with the thought, I said: "In fact, I believe that Plato wrote the Apology before Socrates died." During my infrequent short visits to Prague it is not the casino capitalism I experience: I re-live there my past, aware of a certain affinity between Prague of the late 1970s and Athens immediately after the trial. In the spring of 1979 Dr Wilkes was the first Oxford don to visit my philosophy seminar. One night in the summer a masked man attacked my wife Zdena Tomin as she was entering the house in which we lived; he was hiding behind the door. Neighbours were returning from the cinema and the attacker fled. A neighbour phoned me in the zoo where I worked at that time as a night watchman. On hearing the news I first visited my wife in the hospital, then returned to the zoo and wrote "Was it to be a murder?" Was I to be accused of murdering my wife, for I would have been the first to find her body early in the morning on my returning from work? The piece was published within a week by Die Welt, a leading German daily. In November 1979, with great haste and sense of urgency I wrote "Inside the Security State". I quote from its English version published in the New Statesman 7 March 1980: "On Friday 2 November 1979, twelve men were detained by the agents of the public and secret police in Prague. The detentions were formally based on article 7, paragraph 1 of the Penal Code, allowing criminal proceedings against those suspected of preparing terrorist acts ... I quote from the warrant ... "materials and important items connected with the preparation of the crime" were confiscated during the searches. These included ... typescripts of adebate on structuralism between Levi-Strauss, R. Belour and N. Ruwet ... Those of the detained who participated in the unofficial course in philosophy were asked "whether the course discusses theoretically the problem of terrorism". ... The detained spent 48 hours in the cells of the Central Police station. They were then taken to Ruzyne prison where their hair was cropped and they were released. I don't want to write about what having one's hair cut against one's will means in terms of loss of human dignity ... I want to discuss another aspect of the whole affair, namely the arbitrary handling of concepts ... it was Thucydides who drew my attention to this problem ... The Security accuse young people of terror in order to evoke fear and consternation in them, their associates and those who will hear of it. Here we have an inversion of the relation between word and action and so, like Thucydides, I too have reason to suppose that such an inversion reveals something fundamental about our society ... in the realm of inner freedom one faces the question of how to live so that the free life would be worth the sacrifice. That is where philosophy can help. ... Can Security come to terms with free human encounters and can it return to the social function which belongs to it? Can the Security become the guardian of the law? That would mean the end of the Security state." Forgive me the digression. Let me focus on the closing lines of the Apology, the supposed clincher against my dating. Jowett translates: "The hour of departure has arrived, and we go our ways - I to die, and you to live. Which is better God only knows." I cannot see anything in these words that might stand against my dating. On the contrary. Just a few lines earlier Socrates argued that death is something good, for "if you suppose that there is no consciousness, but a sleep like the sleep of him who is undisturbed even by dreams, death will be an unspeakable gain" (40c9-d2), but if death is to open an incomparably better life for him, if after he dies he is to discuss philosophy, examining such men as Palamedes, "what infinite delight would there be in conversing with them” (41c3-4). Had Plato written the Apology after Socrates' death, with as much time as he wished to ponder on every sentence, weigh every argument, would he have ended it by virtually dismissing Socrates' previous deliberations: "Which is better God only knows"? With best wishes, Julius Tomin
Dear All, In my initial e-mail I informed you that I put on my web page The Lost Plato. I told you that the book focuses on nine dialogues of Plato which I consider as written prior to Socrates' death and I indicated that I am preparing its sequel: "What remains to be done from the perspective opened by The Lost Plato is a systematic study of the dialogues written after the death of Socrates in so far as their interpretation is affected by The Lost Plato. In your view, should this work be undertaken? If so, what can be done that it is undertaken in conditions worthy of the work it requires? If you think that such work should not be undertaken, could you tell me why?" I then informed you of Nicholas Denyer's no, which he justified as follows: "You do not name the nine dialogues you view as written before Socrates' death. But whichever nine dialogues you were to name, there is no reason to suppose that your view about their dating is correct. Amplifying a view which there is no reason to suppose correct is not a good use of your time and talents." Since then I have received only one other reply to my questions, from David Lee: "I'm much in sympathy with Nick Denyer's point that you haven't given reason (as opposed to a consistent story) to believe your account of Plato's development - and the dating hypothesis which goes with it." I should like to inform you that as of yesterday my questions acquired an unexpectedly grave existential dimension. From the Stroud District Council I received the following letter: "We have been advised that your Pension Credits have stopped, which may affect your entitlement to Housing or Council Tax Benefits. We have therefore suspended payment of these benefits in accordance with Regulation 11 of the Decision and Appeals Regulations 2001. There is no right of appeal against this decision." I phoned the Council, informed the lady I spoke to that my wife, who was self-employed on a part time basis until September is now studying at Cheltenham, taking a year long post-graduate course to become a teacher. The lady told me that on the information they received from the Pension Service my Pension Credits were disconnected as of July 2008. This surprised me, for when I asked my wife a few days ago whether I was receiving the pension credit as normal, she looked at my account and said "yes". I was advised to contact the Pension Service, which I did. The lady I spoke to at that office told me that my last Pension Credit payment would be sent to me on October 19: "Your Pension Credit is stopped because we have been informed that you and your wife are receiving Working Tax Credit." I told the lady that they were badly misinformed, for my wife ceased to work, as I duly informed their office at the beginning of September. I pointed to a letter I received from her office on 10 September, which said: "Thank you for informing us of the cessation of your partner's self-employment." The Pension Credit I have been receiving until October 19 was £62.79 a week. Since we neither smoke nor drink, and live all in all frugally, we have been able to survive. This morning I received a letter from the Pension Services, dated 13 October 2008, which says that "from 21 July 2008 you will get £5.10 a week. From July 2008 you are not entitled to Pension Credit." The section "How Pension Credit has been worked out" says "the minimum amount of money the Government says you must have each week taking account of specific circumstances is £189.35. State pension for Julius Tomin £31.38. Working Tax Credit for Doina Cornell £70.18. Earnings of Doina Cornell [my wife has kept her maiden name] £82.69. Total income £184.25. Your appropriate amount of £189.35, less your total income of £184.25. So your total guarantee credit is £5.10." I see a certain similarity between Denyer's NO and the Pension Service calculations. Denyer does not need to look at a single page of The Lost Plato in order to proclaim confidently that there is no reason to suppose that my views are correct and that therefore my question whether my future work deserves to be undertaken in conditions worthy of such work deserves a NO. I may phone and write to the Pension Service as often as I wish, informing the office workers that my wife is now a student, that she has no earnings, that we consequently do not receive any Working Tax Credit - the Pension Credit officers KNOW better. With best wishes, Julius Tomin
Dear All, In my preceding e-mail I referred to David Lee's endorsement of Denyer's NO. To do David Lee justice, he did have a look at The Lost Plato: "Having read the introduction and a few passages, I have a number of reservations about the plausibility of your views." I met his reservations concerning the Apology, and I intend to meet his reservations concerning the Meno on another occasion. His most serious reservation concerns Aristotle's testimony: "A cursory inspection of your interpretation of passages from Aristotle leaves me in doubt as to whether your reading can be right, particularly 987b1 onward; it's not obvious that the aspect of the genitive absolute indicates anything more than the fact that Socrates engaged in seeking for some time. The claim that Plato formulated a theory of forms instantaneously is already pretty implausible, and the use of the aorist is not at all conclusive, as you seem to be suggesting. Aorists don't always, or even typically, signify instantaneous actions, as can be seen from your quotation of Diogenes in the following paragraph, where he says that Plato listened - akousas - to Socrates." I agree that "the claim that Plato formulated a theory of forms instantaneously is implausible," but I have never made such a claim. In the Introduction to The Lost Plato I write: "Aristotle says that Plato in his youth, prior to his encounter with Socrates, embraced the Heraclitean doctrine according to which everything is in constant motion, always changing, and that when he met Socrates whose mind was fixed on definitions of moral terms, he realized that these entities were unchangeable and called them Forms (IDEAS, Metaphysics A 987a29-b9)." The term Form is misleading, it suggests a formulation of a theory. Plato's IDEA means that which can be seen (IDEIN, infinitive of aorist: "to catch with an eye", if this can be said in English) by reason only (MONOOI THEATEE NOOI, Phaedrus 247c7). [Double OO stands for omega, double EE for eta, iota subscriptum is adscripted.] But the English "idea" is so far removed from Plato's IDEA that I shall mostly stick to the Form. Plato's initial realization that the entities, on which Socrates' mind was fixed, fundamentally differed from things in the world open to the senses, i.e. his catching a glimpse of Forms with his minds eye, was an instantaneous action, a revelatory experience. Formulating the theory of Forms could take years. On my dating he wrote the first outline of the theory, in the Phaedrus, some four or five years after his first philosophic encounter with Socrates. I do not derive the claim that Plato's initial glimpse of the Forms was instantaneous from Aristotle's use of aorist, I merely note that his use of aorist well reflects Plato's initial intellectual apprehension of Forms. Lee's reference to Diogenes is to the point. The English "listened" for AKOUSAS is inadequate. Diogenes says: "at the beginning Plato's philosophy was Heraclitean (EPHILOSOPHEI DE TEEN ARCHEEN KATH' HEERAKLEITON). Afterwards, when he was about to compete with a tragedy, having listened to Socrates (SOOKRATOUS AKOUSAS) in front of the theatre of Dionysus he burnt his poems" (KATEPHLEXE TA POIEEMATA). AKOUSAS -"having listened to" - is a complexive aorist, reflecting as if at a glance Plato's first listening to Socrates. The experience was overwhelming, followed as it was by Plato's burning his tragedies, the action again rendered by aorist: KATEPHLEXE. Diogenes continues: "From that time onward, having reached his twentieth year, he was the pupil of Socrates (DIEEKOUSE SOOKRATOUS). The aorist DIEEKOUSE comprises the whole time of Plato's "listening" to Socrates, from their first encounter to Socrates' death. Can Aristotle's HUPELABEN "Plato held" in 987b5 be interpreted similarly, comprising the time of some twenty years that on the modern view separated Plato's initial encounter with Socrates from his conception of Forms? Even if it were so, I do not know of any form of aorist where HUPELABEN would mean "did not hold for twenty years and began to hold after then". Since Lee does not offer his interpretation of Aristotle's passage, let me take recourse to W. D. Ross. Ross translates 987a32-b1: "Having in his youth first become familiar with Cratylus and with the Heraclitean doctrines (that all sensible things are ever in a state of flux and there is no knowledge about them), these views he [Plato] held (HOUTOOS HUPELABEN) even in later years (KAI HUSTERON)". Ross' brackets are misleading, for he brackets the most essential qualification, expressed in genitive absolute HOOS HAPANTOON TOON AISTHEETOON AEI REONTOON KAI EPISTEEMEES PERI AUTOON OUK OUSEES (987a33-4). It is the Heraclitean view limited to the world of things perceived by our senses, which Plato held even after his meeting Socrates and catching the first glimpse of Forms, of true things that can be perceived only by the intellect. Ross translates 987b1-9 as follows: "Socrates, however, was busying himself with ethical matters and neglecting the world of nature as a whole but seeking the universal in these ethical matters, and fixed thought for the first time on definitions; Plato accepted his teachings, but held that the problem applied not to sensible things but to entities of another kind - for this reason, that the common definition could not be a definition of any sensible thing, as they were always changing. Things of this sort, then, he called Ideas, and sensible things, he said, were all named after these, and in virtue and by relation to these." The first clause "Socrates ... and fixed thought for the first time on definitions" translates the participle clause in genitive absolute SOOCRATOUS ... PRAGMATEUOMENOU ... TO KATHOLOU ZEETOUNTOS ... PERI HORISMOON EPISTEESANTOS PROOTOU TEEN DIANOIAN (987b1-4). Ross' translation loses the connection in which the participle clause stands to the main clause; no wonder Lee can say: "it's not obvious that the aspect of the genitive absolute indicates anything more than the fact that Socrates engaged in seeking for some time." The grammarians observe that circumstantial participles in genitive absolute "express time, cause, condition, concession, or simply any attendant circumstance" related to "the main construction of the sentence" (Smyth 2070). The main construction of the sentence is translated by Ross as follows: "Plato accepted his teachings, but held that the problem applied not to sensible things but to entities of another kind - for this reason", which stand for EKEINON APODEXAMENOS DIA TO TOIOUTON HUPELABEN HOOS PERI HETEROON TOUTO GIGNOMENON KAI OU TOON AISTHEETOON (987B4-6). Ross' translation distorts the original in several ways. Firstly, he translates EKEINON APODEXAMENOS as an independent clause, which stands in opposition to what follows, that is to Plato's conceiving the Forms: "Plato accepted his teachings, but held". In fact, EKEINON APODEXAMENOS is another participle phrase, which defines the circumstances owing to which Plato conceived forms. What EKEINON APODEXAMENOS means has been depicted by Aristotle in the preceding text, beginning with the reference to Plato's initial Heracliteanism, and ending with the mind of Socrates fixed on definitions of moral terms. Secondly, by taking DIA TO TOIOUTON - "for this reason" - out of its context in the main clause and prefixing it as an introduction to the clause that follows, Ross aggravates the artificial separation of Plato's conception of Forms from the circumstances owing to which the conception took place: "because Plato accepted Socrates (EKEINON APODEXAMENOS), he for this reason held (DIA TO TOIOUTON HUPELABEN) that this (HOOS TOUTO) applied to entities of another kind and not to sensible things." Thirdly, Ross' "that the problem" misrepresents Aristotle's HOOS TOUTO, which means "that this", and as such refers to the preceding description of the circumstances owing to which Plato conceived Forms, as does the preceding DIA TO TOIOUTON. This does not mean that DIA TO TOIOUTON and HOOS TOUTO have the same reference. In fact, they both refer to what preceded, but while DIA TO TOIOUTON, which precedes the finite verb HUPELABEN ('conceived'), refers to the totality of the circumstances that determined Plato's conceiving Forms, beginning with Plato's initial all-embracing Heracliteanism and ending with his accepting Socrates, HOOS TOUTO refers only to Socrates' bringing his mind to a stand still, for only concerning "this" Plato realized that it could not refer to anything apprehended by our senses: HOOS PERI HETEROON TOUTO GIGNOMENON KAI OU TOON AISTHEETOON (987B4-6). Ross' note on DIA TO TOIOUTON is instructive: "Bonitz interprets this as propter insitas et fixas animo Heracliteas opiniones. As Apelt points out, a nearer reference may be found out for the words in the clause beginning ADUNATON GAR" [i.e. the clause "that the common definition could not be a definition ... " in Ross]. Bonitz is right in taking DIA TO TOIOUTON as pointing back, but wrong in limiting that reference to Plato's Heracliteanism, with which Aristotle started. The reference involved in DIA TO TOIOUTON does indeed begin with Plato's youthful Heracliteanism, but it ends with the immediately preceding EKEINON APODEXAMENOS "having accepted Socrates". The impact of Socrates' seeking on Plato's Heracliteanism becomes clearer if we view it in simpler terms, in which Aristotle speaks of it in Metaphysics M 1078b23, where he says that Socrates "was correctly seeking that which is" (EULOGOOS EZEETEI TO TI ESTI). Let me add that Aristotle's account closely corresponds to Plato's first written presentation of the Theory of Forms. Referring to his two speeches on love, Socrates asks Phaedrus "tell me ... whether I defined Eros at the beginning of my discourse" (EIPE ... EI HOORISAMEEN EROOTA ARCHOMENOS TOU LOGOU, Phdr. 263d2-3). The charioteer is stricken with awe as he views "the Beauty standing still on the holy pedestal" (EN HAGNOOI BATHROOI BEBOOSAN, 254b7). "In speaking, reason brings the flow of many sensory perceptions into one in accordance with Form" (SUNIENAI KAT' EIDOS LEGOMENON, EK POLLOON ION AISTHEESEOON EIS HEN LOGISMOOI SUNAIROUMENON, 249b6-c1). I should greatly appreciate your critical remarks on my analysis of Aristotle's testimony and hope to be hearing from you soon. With best wishes, Julius Tomin
Until yesterday, I shared the commonly accepted view that Theaetetus died in 369 and Plato wrote the “Theaetetus” in that year or shortly thereafter. Yesterday I began to doubt this dating. Would you help me to remove my doubts? (If I lived and worked in normal circumstances, I would go on Monday to Oxford and find all the answers to my queries in the Bodleian Library. But in the situation in which I find myself this is quite out of the question. This year I could not bring myself to buy any Christmas presents for my children (Dan is six, Nera is nine years old, they will not be without presents, for they have their grand-parents, and my wife bought them a present); how could I justify to myself and to my children my going to Oxford for a day?)
What caused my doubts and how could you help me?
It all began with Aristotle. In my last e-mail, more than a month ago, I sent you my analysis of Aristotle’s testimony concerning Plato’s original conception of Forms, accompanied by a critical analysis of Ross’ translation of Aristotle’s text. I hoped that I would receive a critical response from you, but until now I received none. In the days when I was still receiving Pension Credit and my wife was part-time self-employed, my wife bought me R.M. Dancy’s Plato’s Introduction of Forms. As such it is of no help, for Dancy closely follows Ross, but in note 42 on page 11 he says that his treatment of Aristotle’s testimony is similar to Fine’s account in “On Ideas”, but that contrary to himself, Fine argues that Plato’s Socrates should be construed as having a Theory of Forms. I asked an Oxford colleague to lend me her copy, which she graciously did.
In Ch. 3 on “Evidence, Provenance, and Chronology”, p. 39, Gail Fine says that the “Theaetetus” “was probably written shortly after 369”, and in the accompanying note she states that “This date for Tht. seems firm, since Tht. begins by saying that Theaetetus has just recently died; and we know he died in 369” (n. 57 on p. 262). I thought that anybody who read the Proem to the “Theaetetus” would remember that when Euclides tells Terpsion that he met Theaetetus “carried to Athens from the army at Corinth” (PHEROMENOOI EK KORINTHOU APO TOU STRATOPEDOU ATHEENAZE, 142a7), Terpsion asked “Living or dead?” (ZOONTI EE TETELEUTEEKOTI; 142A8), and Euclides answered “Alive, but only just” (ZOONTI KAI MALA MOLIS, 142b1). And so I must confess that Fine’s words made me doubt whether she ever read the Proem. But then I looked at Jowett’s translation and found that he renders Terpsion’s “What a man to be in danger” (HOION ANDRA LEGEIS EN KINDUNOOI EINAI, 142b6) as “Alas! what a loss it will be!”, and thought that she must have simply made a mental short-cut.
But further on the same page she says that “Plato does not generally refer to living philosophers by name” (p.39), noting that David Sedley has pointed out to her that “there is at least one exception: the Phaedo mentions Phaedo” (n.60, p. 262).
Well, Terpsion and Euclides can be safely added, I thought, for at the time to which the Proem refers they both are full of vigour. Terpsion worked during the day at his fields and then looked for Euclides for quite a time in the agora. The latter went to the harbour, on the way met Theaetetus, who was being carried to Athens, and accompanied him as far as Erineos (MECHRI ERINOU, 143b1).
At this point came my first serious doubt. If Plato had to wait until Terpsion and Euclides died, then the year 369 can be treated only as a date “after which” it was written, and nothing more.
Next came the question: How far from Megara is Erineos? In Pausanias’ “Descriptio Graeciae”, which I bought in a second-hand bookshop in Prague in the 1960s, I found that a place near Eleusis (PROS ELEUSINI) people call Erineos (KALOUSIN ERINEON, I.38.5). Eleusis is in Attica, about half way from Megara to Athens, as I can see in my Atlas. What does this mean? On the internet I found that Athens is about 40 kilometres from Megara. It thus would appear that Euclides made that day himself some 40 kilometres, to Erineos and back. How old was Euclides? I looked in the Oxford Classical Dictionary. G.E.L. Owen’s entry says c. 450-380 B.C. On that dating Euclides was eleven years dead when Theaetetus was wounded.
I looked on the Internet and there I found a good reason for Owen’s dating. For there I read, with reference to Aulus Gellius, vii. 10. 1-4, that at a time when Athens had a ban on any citizen of Megara entering the city, Euclides would sneak to Athens after nightfall, disguised as a woman, to hear Socrates speak. This means that Euclides became a disciple of Socrates sometimes during the Peace of Nicias, between 422-413, and became so attached to him, that he continued visiting him after the resumption of hostilities in 413, risking his life. So if he was twenty in 413, he was almost seventy in 369. If I lived and worked in anything like normal circumstances, I would take the next flight to Athens, go to Megara, then to the harbour, and from there to Eleusis. I am seventy, walking is my passion. Could I do it?
And then I took in my hands Xenophon’s Hellenica. No mentioning of any battle at Corinth in the year 369 in which the Athenian military were engaged, but a very detailed description of a battle at Corinth in 394, in which some six thousand hoplites took part, recruited from all the ten Athenian tribes, many of whom fell:
“the defeated troops at first fled to the walls of Corinth; but afterwards, since the Corinthians shut them out, they encamped again in their old camp (EIS TO ARCHAION STRATOPEDON).” (IV.ii.23)
This well corresponds to what we read in the Proem. What oppressed Theaetetus most was the dysentery that had broken out in the army (EN TOOI STRATEUMATI, 142b3).
And so I reread the Proem and realized that nothing in it implies that Theaetetus died as a result of his wounds and his illness. What suggests that the existing Proem was indeed written after Theaetetus’ death is Euclides’ reflection on the amazing correctness of Socrates’ prediction that if Theaetetus reached his prime (EIPER EIS HEELIKIAN ELTHOI), he would of necessity become famous (ANANKEE TOUTON ELLOGIMON GENESTHAI, 142c4-d3), but we know that there was another Proem (referred to in Papyrus 9782 published in Berlin in 1905 by Diels and Schubart), which was “rather frigid” (HUPOPSUCHRON), was of about the same number of lines (SCHEDON TOON ISOON STICHOON), and which began “Boy, are you bringing the dialogue about Theaetetus?” (HOU ARCHEE: ARA GE, OO PAI, PHEREIS TON PERI THEAITEETOU LOGON;). The lost Proem thus began with the words with which the existing Proem ends, turning the question, addressed to the boy, into a command: “Well, boy, take the book and read” (ALLA, PAI, LABE TO BIBLION KAI LEGE, 143c7). We may presume that the discarded Proem did not refer to Theaetetus’ wounding and his illness, for Plato wrote the dialogue at Euclides’ request, to cheer Theaetetus up and help him to recover.
On this hypothesis Plato’s ascription of the dialogue to Euclides may be reconciled with Plato’s authorship. Consider what Euclides says about his recording of the discussion:
“I made some notes at the time, as soon as I got home, and later on I wrote out what I could recall at my leisure. Then, every time I went to Athens, I questioned Socrates upon any point where my memory had failed and made corrections on my return. In this way I have pretty well the whole conversation written down,” (143a1-5, tr. Cornford).
When Terpsion and Euclides then listened to the boy reading Euclides’ version, Euclides must have realized how greatly it could contribute to Theaetetus’ recovery, to have it read to him. He at the same time realized how clumsily written it was, how lifeless in comparison with Plato’s dialogues. And so he asked Plato to put his hand to it, and Plato made it his own, while paying due homage to Euclides’ role in bringing it about.
Plato wrote the dialogue after the battle in which Theaetetus was wounded, in 394. Theaetetus survived, became famous as a mathematician, and Plato wrote the existing Proem after he eventually died.
If you can, deliver me from my uncertainties. Most importantly, could you tell me the source of information about the battle at Corinth in 369, and would you kindly photocopy the relevant passage and send it to me?
I wish you Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year,
Ps. For those, who are interested in Aristotle’s testimony, I send in the Attachment an extract from an e-mail addressed to an Oxford don, entitled ON GAIL FINE’S VIEW OF ARISTOTLE’S TESTIMONY
Cam/Dursley, December 20, 2008
ON GAIL FINE’S VIEW OF ARISTOTLE’S TESTIMONY
Concerning Aristotle's testimony Gail Fine writes in n. 48 on ch. 3 (“On Ideas”, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1993): "in Met. 1. 6 Aristotle says that Plato first became acquainted with Heracleitus' views in his youth, views he continued to accept 'later' (987a33-b1). Perhaps 'later' indicates that Aristotle believes that Plato, from the “Phaedo” on, held essentially the same theory of forms." Fine’s “later” refers to Aristotle’s HUSTERON. But in Aristotle’s text this HUSTERON is clearly specified. Aristotle's TAUTA MEN KAI HUSTERON HOUTOOS HUPELABEN (“these things he viewed in this way even thereafter”) does not refer to Heraclitean doctrines as such, which Plato imbibed in his youth, prior to his meeting with Socrates, but to that doctrine strictly limited within the scope of the world as perceived by our senses, as specified in the immediately preceding participle clause HOOS HAPANTOON TOON AISTHEETOON AEI REONTOON KAI EPISTEEMEES PERI AUTOON OUK OUSEES (“that all things perceived by our senses are in constant flux and there is no knowledge about them”). This specification is essential, for the Heracleitus' doctrine as such encompasses the world in its totality; there is no place in it for entities that are stable, exempt from any change. (Plato makes this abundantly clear in the closing discussion between Socrates and Cratylus in the “Cratylus”, in which Socrates attempts to persuade Cratylus that TO KALON TOIOUTON AEI ESTIN HOION ESTIN (“the beautiful is always such as it is”, 439d5-6), asking EI DE HOOSAUTOOS ECHEI KAI TO AUTO ESTI, POOS AN TOUTO GE METABALLOI EE KINOITO, MEEDEN EXISTAMENON TEES AUTOU IDEAS; (“and if it is always in the same state and is the same, how could it change or move, if it never departed from its own form?”, 439e3-5) Cratylus accepts the force of Socrates' arguments, but in the end he rejects it because of his Heracliteanism: ALLA MOI SKOPOUMENOOI KAI PRAGMATA ECHONTI POLU MALLON EKEINOOS PHAINETAI ECHEIN HOOS HEERAKLEITOS LEGEI (“I have been looking into this matter already and it cost me a lot of trouble, but the result is that I incline to think that it is Heracleitus who is right”, 440d8-e2).) The meaning of Aristotle's MEN-clause TAUTA MEN KAI HUSTERON HOUTOOS HUPELABEN (“these things he viewed in this way even thereafter”) is immediately clarified by the following DE-clause: SOOKRATOUS DE PERI MEN TA EETHIKA PRAGMATEUOMENOU (“but as Socrates devoted himself to ethical matters”) ... The meaning is thus clear: Plato remained true to his early Heracliteanism - in its severely restricted form - even after his acceptance of Socrates (EKEINON APODEXAMENOS, 987b4) that resulted in his conception of Forms. Not only that, it was because he encountered Socrates with his "bringing his mind to standing still on definitions" (PERI HORISMOON EPISTEESANTOS TEEN DIANOIAN, 987b3-4), while remaining true to Heraclitean views concerning the world perceived by our senses, that he realised that Socrates' fixation of mind on definitions must refer to entities that are fundamentally different from anything perceptible by senses: DIA TO TOIOUTON HUPELABEN HOOS PERI HETEROON TOUTO GIGNOMENON KAI OU TOON AISTHEETOON (“because of this kind of situation [everything perceived by the senses being in constant flux – Socrates’ mind standing still, fixed on things that did not change nor move] he realized that this [Socrates’ fixation of mind] pertained to different things and not to those that are perceived by the senses”, 987B4-6). It is because Plato - in his own view - discovered the truth about the sensible world so early, and because he discovered the truth concerning Forms very early, that in the Laws he points to the truth as that which is the guiding principle of everything that is good both for gods and for men (ALEETHEIA DEE PANTOON MEN AGATHOON THEOIS HEEGEITAI, PANTOON DE ANTHROOPOIS), that a man who is to be blessed and happy ought to partake of it straight at the beginning (HEES HO GENEESESTHAI MELLOON MAKARIOS TE KAI EUDAIMOON EX ARCHEES EUTHUS METOCHOS EIEE) so as to live a true man throughout a prolonged life (HINA HOOS PLEISTON CHRONON ALEETHEES OON DIABIOI), for such a man can be trusted (PISTOS GAR, 730c1-4). May I end with a New Year’s wish?
Fine writes: "Aristotle is a developmentalist, in so far as he distinguishes between a Socratic and a Platonic theory of forms, and so between the theory of forms in the early and middle dialogues." (p.37) In the accompanying note (n.46, p.260) she says: "For a defence of the claim that the views Aristotle ascribes to Socrates are the views he finds in the Socratic dialogues, see Vlastos, 'Socrates'; W.D. Ross, 'The Socratic Problem', Proceedings of the Classical Association, 30 (1933), 7-24). I should love to read Vlastos' and Ross' articles. In the situation in which I find myself because of my work on Plato, I can't. Can this be right?
Is it too much to ask, after so many years of my working in the conditions unworthy of my work, that a way could be found to allow me to work under more normal conditions? I came to Britain twenty eight years ago at the invitation of King's College Cambridge and Balliol College. In the intervening years I did all that was in my power to allow Oxford and Cambridge dons to get acquainted with the progress of my work. Several months ago I put THE LOST PLATO online. May I reiterate my hope that Oxford dons will at least send me their criticism of my work, and if they reject my work as fundamentally flawed, may I be given an opportunity to answer their criticism and question their rejection in an open discussion with Plato and Aristotle in hand?
Would you sponsor my work on Plato?
Let me explain what led me to my request. A few days ago I wrote to a friend of mine:
“May I ask you for your advice? As you know, in the e-mail in which I informed my Oxford and Cambridge colleagues about The Lost Plato, I wrote:
‘What remains to be done from the perspective opened by The Lost Plato is a systematic study of the dialogues written after the death of Socrates in so far as their interpretation is affected by The Lost Plato. In your view, should this work be undertaken? If so, what can be done that it is undertaken in conditions worthy of the work it requires? If you think that such work should not be undertaken, could you tell me why?’
The only replies I received – from Denyer and Lee – were negative.
Quite recently, I came across a problem that gives my appeal an added urgency. It concerns the dating of the “Theaetetus”. I was alerted to the problem by Gail Fine’s mistaken claim that the “Theaetetus” “begins by saying that Theaetetus has just recently died; and we know he died in 369”. Looking into the matter I soon found that the commonly accepted dating of the “Theaetetus” needs re-examination. I wrote to my Oxford and Cambridge colleagues in an attempt to interest them in our exploring the matter together, but I received no reply. I am sending you my appeal to them in the Attachment.
What is the advice I am seeking?
As you know from my e-mails, during my work on The Lost Plato I was receiving Pension credit, and so I could from time to time go to Oxford and visit the Bodleian Library. But now, when the only money I can call my own is £ 31.38 a week of my State Pension, my going to Oxford is out of the question. I am firmly resolved to go on working on Plato, as outlined above, but in order to do so I need a regular access to the Bodleian Library, once a week. This means that I need not only the money for rail-tickets, but as well for a breakfast and after-school club for my children once a week.
I was on the point of addressing – for a change – members of the Law departments at British Universities, asking them for advice and help. As you may remember, on November 18 1989 Nick Cohen published in The Independent Magazine an article entitled “The Pub Philosopher”, in which he wrote:
“The judgments passed by Oxford dons on Julius Tomin seem outrageously brutal. ‘I don’t wish to sound East European,’ said one, ‘but perhaps he does need psychiatric help.’ ... Younger philosophers, who do not have the personal ties, will go on the record. Jonathan Barnes, Professor of Ancient Philosophy at Balliol College, Oxford, impatiently brushed aside the suggestion that the Conservatives’ reduction in funding for British philosophy since 1980 might explain why there was never an academic post for Tomin at Oxford. ‘That’s not the point at all,’ he said. ‘He would not be accepted as a graduate here, let alone be given a teaching job. He’s like a recalcitrant student who can’t admit he’s wrong.’”
There can be little doubt that this article “sealed my fate”: there was to be no academic place for me. Let me refer to two immediate effects.
1. for several years I was giving tutorials in philosophy for students from the USA, regularly visiting at Black Friars’ College at Oxford. After that article, no US parents would entrust me with tutoring their students.
2. Until then I could give unpaid lectures at Oxford University. After the publication I was deprived of that privilege.
Since my exclusion from academic circles persists, and since it seriously impedes my work, isn’t there a legal redress open to me?
What has stopped me from addressing the members of Law departments with such a cry for help was my awareness that it would distract me from my work for months, if not for years.
And this is why I decided to write to you. Can you see any light at the end of the tunnel?”
My friend replied: “I’m very sorry to hear of your wide-ranging problems, but I’m afraid there’s little I can do to help, especially since I too will be retired (and without students) in a few months.
I think it’s disgraceful that scholars won’t respond to the issues you raise about the dating of the dialogues. I am no expert at all, but your points do seem to me to be very relevant, and need to be answered.
I’m sure you won’t get anywhere down the legal route, because Oxford has no legal obligation to give you facilities for lecturing, even for no fee.”
I was disheartened and very low after receiving this letter. I took my dog for a long walk, and it was Cam Peak, a Vesuvius-like hill at the edge of Cotswolds, with its grandiose views, from the Malverns, over the River Severn, to the Black Mountains in Wales, which gave me the idea: If people can appeal for sponsorship to climb Mount Everest, sail around the world, trek to the North Pole, why not seek sponsorship for work on Plato?
In seeking the sponsorship, I want to use the internet facilities as much as I can, but I intend to take recourse to more direct forms of action as well. In April it will be thirty years since “Oxford came to Prague”. To mark the anniversary I shall go to Oxford and appeal for sponsorship in front of Balliol College with a hat in my hands.
Won’t you agree with me that the event is worth celebrating?
Let me end my appeal to you by quoting from Barbara Day’s “The Velvet Philosophers”, chapter “Oxford comes to Prague”:
“On 9th April Wilkes arrived in Prague, Tomin was delighted by his visitor ... only now did Kathy Wilkes discover that her visit was the only response to Tomin’s appeal to four universities [apart from inviting Oxford dons, I invited to my seminar academics from West Berlin, Heidelberg, and Harvard universities] : ‘... since he had by then virtually given up hope of any response, my visit held greater significance than I had ever imagined.’ ... Wilkes’ first seminar, on Aristotle, took place on the Wednesday evening; starting at the usual time of 6.00 pm, it lasted until midnight. Wilkes subsequently observed that: ‘the discussions were the most stimulating that I have experienced. It was impossible to receive a “standard’s counter” to a familiar argument, because they have had no chance to learn of the standard arguments; all comments were first-hand; absolute concentration was sustained throughout the session – not surprisingly, given that they were willing to take risks to attend.’”
Hoping against hope, I look forward to hearing from you soon.
With best wishes,
Concerning the Theaetetus, an Oxford colleague informed me that I am not the only one who doubts the widely accepted modern dating of the Theaetetus. In a fairly recent book “The People of Plato” (Hackett 2002) Debra Nails ‘also doubts that the battle referred to is the one of 369, and supposes instead that it was in 391’. The colleague sent me pages 275-277 in which Debra Nails gives arguments for her dating. If I have any success with my attempt to obtain sponsorship for my work on Plato, Debra Nails’ book will be one of the first things I shall buy. In the meantime I have to cope with what I have got. On page 266 she argues for her 391 dating:
‘Theaetetus’ skillful soldiering (142b-c) was far more likely to have been exhibited when he was of military age, twenty four’.
In 142b-c I find nothing about any ‘skillful soldiering’. Terpsion says ‘Of what a man in danger you speak.’ Euclides replies ‘An excellent man (KALON TE KAI AGATHON), for even just now I heard some people highly praising his conduct in the battle (ENKOOMIAZONTOON AUTON PERI TEEN MACHEEN)’.
Since the praise of Theaetetus’ behaviour in the battle by the unnamed people refers to Euclides’ characterization of Theaetetus as KALOS KAI AGATHOS, it relates to his bravery, not his military skills. It can be best read and understood in the light of Alcibiades’ description of Socrates’ behaviour in the battle at Delion in the Symposium (220e-221c) or Laches' description of Socrates in the same battle in the Laches (181b). The battle took place in 424, when Socrates was 45. So on this account I would have no objections against 369, if there could be found a battle in which Theaetetus would have been likely to take part. This is why I find so tantalizing Debra Nails’
‘modern scholars ... found a later battle in Corinth, a famous one in 369, and attached Theaetetus’ death to that one’.
She gives no reference to the sources concerning the ‘famous battle’.
I agree fully with Debra Nails when she says
‘Euclides’ 30-km walk, from which he has just returned as the dialogue’s frame begins, is more likely for a man of fifty-nine than a man of eighty-one.’
Obviously, Debra Nails dates the birth of Euclides at 450, but unfortunately, in the pages I received I find no grounds for this date of his birth.
My most serious objection concerns Debra Nails’ crowning argument for her dating Theaetetus’ death at 391:
‘the remark of Socrates that seems so prescient to Euclides and Terpsion, the query whether Theaetetus will live to grow up (142c-d), is appropriately applied to a man who dies before reaching thirty, but hardly for one who reaches forty six.’
But in 142c-d Euclides does not praise Socrates’ prescience concerning any query whether Theaetetus will live to grow up. Socrates’ prescience consists in his claim (EIPE) ‘that Theaetetus of necessity will become famous (HOTI PASA ANANKEE EIEE TOUTON ELLOGIMON GENESTHAI) if he reaches his prime (EIPER EIS HEELIKIAN ELTHOI)’. Thus, contrary to what Debra Nails says, Socrates can be praised as prescient – as he is praised by Euclides – only if Theaetetus reached his prime. Unfortunately, the term EIS HEELIKIAN ELTHEIN is not a very precise term, or better to say, it is a relative term par excellence. Thus the next use of the term in the Theaetetus concerns midwives: Artemis assigned the task of midwifery to those women that became unable to give birth ‘because of their age’ (DI’ HEELIKIAN, 149c2). If Euclides was born in 450, he was 51 when he discussed Theaetetus with Socrates, and I find it quite plausible to think of Socrates having in mind Theaetetus reaching at least his forties, if not his fifties, as ‘the age in which he of necessity will become famous, if he reaches it’. Perhaps the most relevant is here Socrates’ use of the term in Meno 89b6; in 89b Socrates argues that virtue cannot be determined by one’s nature (PHYSEI), for if that were the case, there would be men capable of recognising young men virtuous by nature (TOON NEOON TOUS AGATHOUS TAS PHYSEIS), such young would be appropriately marked and guarded against their becoming corrupted in order to become useful to their cities after reaching their prime (EPEIDEE APHIKOINTO EIS TEEN HEELIKIAN).
Debra Nails says with a marked touch of irony
‘Those who insist that Theaetetus was involved in the mathematics of the early decades of the Academy are invited to imagine that Theaetetus recovered from his wounds and dysentery and lived on for as long as they like (the year 369 becomes irrelevant when no battle is required to kill him off).’
The text of the existing proem – in contrast to the proem that had been lost and of which we have only the opening line on Papyrus published in Berlin in 1905 – requires us to think of Theaetetus as having reached the HEELIKIA in which a man of excellence (KALOS KAI AGATHOS) was expected to become famous (ELLOGIMOS).
There are two more reasons that lead me to believe that Theaetetus survived his injuries and his dysentery.
1. Euclides encountered Theaetetus as he ‘went down to the harbour’ (EIS LIMENA KATABAINOON, 142a6). Megara is about half way from Corinth to Athens by sea. Why did Theatetus alight in Megara, why did he not go by ship up to Piraeus? My only explanation is that he became sea-sick and that his sea-sickness severely aggravated his dysentery symptoms. No wonder Euclides found him ‘barely alive’ (ZOONTI KAI MALA MOLIS, 142b1). But Theaetetus clearly remained alive all the way up to Erinous (143b1). They presumably talked together on the way, and Theaetetus did become better.
2. When Euclides calls his servant to bring the text and read it to him and his friend Terpsion, he does not give as the reason their celebrating the memory of Theaetetus who was dying and might be already dead by the time Euclides returned to Megara, not even implicitly, for there are given explicit reasons for their listening to the piece: Euclides says that on his way back to Megara he remembered what he had heard from Socrates about his discussion with Theaetetus, which took place shortly before Socrates’ death (142c).
Terpsion asks what the discussion was about (142d4-5).
Euclides answers that he had written it all down. This reminds Terpsion that he had heard Euclides talk about it, and always wanted to ask him to show it to him, ‘but I have kept putting it off until now’ (142d-143a).
But now Terpsion would welcome a rest after his day in the fields, and since Euclides is equally willing to have a rest after his long journey to Erinous and back (143a-b), they decide to listen to it jointly. Euclides calls his servant, orders him to take the book, and read it to them (143a-c).
If you can shed any further light on this matter for me, I shall greatly appreciate it. You can hardly imagine how much better I feel after receiving my Oxford colleague’s email and letter.
With best wishes,
GOOD NEWS AT LAST
In September, in my first e-mail I informed you about my putting The Lost Plato online. I outlined the further work that The Lost Plato postulates and asked you whether in your view this work should be undertaken; if so, what could be done for it to be undertaken in conditions worthy of such work. The only response I received was negative. Nicholas Denyer wrote: ‘Amplifying a view which there is no reason to suppose correct is not a good use of your time and talents.’ Even more ominously, in mid October I was informed that the Tax Credit (£62.79 a week) I had been receiving, which until then enabled me to go to Oxford from time to time and visit the Bodleian Library, was disconnected by The Pension Service.
Yesterday I received a letter from The Pension Service:
‘We are pleased to tell you that you are entitled to Pension Credit as follows:
£157.97 a week from October 2008 payable weekly on a Monday.’
It is now possible for me to go to Oxford during the forthcoming half term; my children will be in London with their grandparents.
In my ninth e-mail I wrote to you:
‘In April it will be thirty years since “Oxford came to Prague”. To mark the anniversary I shall go to Oxford and appeal for sponsorship in front of Balliol College with a hat in my hands.’
Now I hope that a more appropriate celebration will take place. Yesterday I wrote to Lesley Brown:
‘I should like to stay at Oxford from Monday February 16 to Thursday February 19. Would it be possible to find for me a place to stay either at your College or at any other College willing to offer me their hospitality? Could you help?
I intend to work on a paper entitled ‘Plato versus Isocrates’ to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of Kathy Wilkes’ first lecture in my seminar in Prague. It would be great if I could present the paper at Oxford in April. I should greatly appreciate it if a few members of the Czech Plato Society could be invited to attend the event: Stepan Spinka, Ales Havlicek, Filip Karfik, Karel Thein. I know that you are very busy, but if you could help organize the event, it would be great.’
I have known Lesley Brown since I came to Oxford in 1980. It was thanks to her driving us to London that I could visit G.E.L. Owen’s Aristotelian Seminar that was held three times a term at London, and which was attended by classical philosophers from Oxford (Kathy Wilkes, Christopher Kirwan, Michael Woods), from London (Richard Sorabji), and from Cambridge (Myles Burnyeat, Malcolm Schofield, Geoffrey Lloyd), to name but a few. All through the 1980s we both visited John Ackrill’s Aristotelian seminar at Oxford. The Oxford visits to the ‘underground’ seminars in Czechoslovakia continued after my leaving Prague in 1980, and Lesley Brown repeatedly visited the Plato seminar in Prague in 1988 organized by Christopher Kirwan from Exeter College Oxford.
As soon as I know the place and the date, I shall inform you about it. I hope the event will be well attended and that my paper will provoke a well founded and lively discussion.