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55 Posts

Posted - 07 Nov 2006 :  02:08:44  

In Plato's Timaeus 18b Socrates refers to the Guardians of Politeia, how they are to practice virtue, having no property of their own and no other employment than practicing virtue. This is how Jowett translates this passage, making at least two mistakes, not to be neglected, the first in the phrase “they were not to consider gold or silver or anything else <ever> to be their own private property”, omitting the ever (ποτὲ) of the original, obviously thinking ‘anything else’ suffices, and the second in the phrase “which (virtue) was to be their sole pursuit”, a phrase that in the original is different, not about their sole pursuit, but about what they abandon: τῶν ἄλλων ἐπιτηδευμάτων ἄγοντας σχολήνacting rest from the other employments. Why are these mistakes so important? At first glance they seem just ways to say the same thing.

Plato could have himself omitted the ever of the first phrase; if he did not, then there is here at least an emphasis that the translation removes. Ever means that the Guardians-Ascetics they are not to have any property under any circumstances, temporarily or not, now, then and always – at any time and on any occasion, that is, beyond size, sort and origin of the property, – in any case “no more than would suffice for men of simple life (σώφρονες : men who have their minds healthy, wise men)” – they should all the time have nothing as their own, but as granted by who they protect.

Since the city is composed of friends, Jowett, I think, should not use “hired troops” to translate ἐπικούρους (helpers), and he should not translate σώφρονες as “men of simple life”. The Guardians live in between the gifts and presents of their friends, brought up with the food of meaningfull poetry of God for their wise nature to grow to perfection, in order to be able to oppose the enemy while loving the friend, at all times and in any condition having nothing but only their friends, passionately protecting them and being protected by them. They are not hired troops or professional warriors, they are such as those on the image at Elpenor's cover, not touching the ground more than is absolutely necessary, not because they are not greedy, etc., but because their mind draws them upwards by being devoted to the friend in front of them and the whole Godly city of friends. They are not powerful, but invincible, their strength is not in weapons or physical strength: they are invincible because they are holy.

Thus we understand also why, not only virtue is their sole pursuit, but they act rest from all the other employments, they consciously are fighting their real and existing temptation to have other employments and depend to something else (even a little, even only on certain occasions), than just to the city, which in turn means, that the city itself is not idealised; besides their own weaknesses, there must be also reasons in the city and from the city, that make Guardians feel the need to not depend to the city.

Plato offers the ideal of a city, without idealising the city as existed in his time. We are presented with an effort of ideal citizens-philosophers to strengthen any goodness, uproot internal evil and oppose the external, by paying attention to their Godly relationships of personal friendship and trust, that is, not only unconventional, but hopefully to an extreme level of friendship, to the point of not touching the ground.



615 Posts

Posted - 13 Jun 2007 :  02:41:46  


A Poem by Lee Evans (June 2007)
Cf. other poems by Lee Evans at the www.ellopos.net/theology/eckhart.htm">Meister Eckhart Site

Milk of Magnesia

If I lived in a just society,
I would gladly renounce freedom of speech,
I could do without religion-
If I lived in a just society.

There would be no need to assemble
And petition for redress of grievances,
For the Law itself would adjudicate
Inherent rights and privileges.

No need of censorship would there be,
For all expressions would be apropos.
No words would be addressed but those
Promoting the general welfare.

What need for one to bear arms there,
Except against invasion, or enemies within
Who subvert the good of the whole
With their greed for separate identity?

All citizens being trustworthy,
No search or seizure therefore
Would they deem unreasonable--
No need to seek a hiding place.

The hungry would take nourishment
As organs of the whole anatomy.
No Habeas Corpus need there be
When the Body belongs to one and all.

What need of Artistic License there,
Where the Earth reflects the order of Heaven,
Whence the Guardians of the State
Derive the sacred Constitution?

If we lived in that just society,
Our daily lives would be conjoined with GOD;
And the sweep of a broom or the glance of an eye
Would legislate all wisdom and morality.

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