all right

Occasionally adding corroborative details to add verisimilitude to otherwise bald and unconvincing,
but veridicous accounts
with careful attention, indefatigable assiduity, and nice discrimination.

19 May, 2013

“Half the World’s Troubles”

In her novel, The Last of the Wine (1956), set mainly in Athens during the conflict now known as the Peloponnesian war, Mary Renault has Phaedo, the young friend of Sokrates, say:
Half the world’s troubles come from men not being trained to resent a fallacy as much as an insult.
Earlier in the novel, Lysis, the friend of Alexis (the narrator), says:
Men are not born equal in themselves […] so I think it beneath a man to postulate that they are.  If I thought myself as good as Sokrates I should be a fool; and if, not really believing it, I asked you to make me happy by assuring me of it, you would rightly despise me.  So why should I insult my fellow-citizens by treating them as fools and cowards?  A man who thinks himself as good as everyone else will be at no pains to grow better.  On the other hand, I might think myself as good as Sokrates, and even persuade other fools to agree with me; but under a democracy, Sokrates is there in the Agora to prove me wrong.  I want a City where I can find my equals and respect my betters, whoever they are; and where no one can tell me to swallow a lie because it is expedient, or some other man’s will.
UPDATE I (30 May): from Why Don’t We learn from History? (1971), by Sir Basil Liddell Hart:
Neither intellectuals nor their critics appear to recognise the inherent dilemma of the thinking man and its inevitability.  The dilemma should be faced, for it is a natural part of the growth of any human mind.
An intellectual ought to realise the extent to which the world is shaped by human emotions, emotions uncontrolled by reason—his thinking must have been shallow, and his observation narrow, if he fails to realise that.  Having once learned to think and to use reason as a guide, however, he cannot possibly float with the current of popular emotion and fluctuate with its violent changes unless he himself ceases to think or is deliberately false to his own thought.  And in the latter case it is likely that he will commit intellectual suicide, gradually, “by the death of a thousand cuts.”
A deeper diagnosis of the malady from which left-wing intellectuals have suffered in the past might suggest that their troubles have come not from following reason too far but from not following it far enough—to realise the general power of unreason.  Many of them also seem to have suffered from failing to apply reason internally as well as externally—through not using it for the control of their own emotions.  In that way, they unwittingly helped to get this country into the mess of the last war and then found themselves in an intellectual mess as a result.
UPDATE II (30 May):  in Phaedo, by Plato, Socrates says to Simmias:
ἀνδρεία καὶ σωφροσύνη καὶ δικαιοσύνη καὶ συλλήβδην ἀληθὴς ἀρετή, μετὰ φρονήσεως, καὶ προσγιγνομένων καὶ ἀπογιγνομένων καὶ ἡδονῶν καὶ φόβων καὶ τῶν ἄλλων πάντων τῶν τοιούτων: χωριζόμενα δὲ φρονήσεως καὶ ἀλλαττόμενα ἀντὶ ἀλλήλων μὴ σκιαγραφία τις ᾖ ἡ τοιαύτη ἀρετὴ καὶ τῷ ὄντι ἀνδραποδώδης τε καὶ οὐδὲν ὑγιὲς οὐδ᾽ ἀληθὲς ἔχῃ, τὸ δ᾽ ἀληθὲς τῷ ὄντι ᾖ κάθαρσίς τις τῶν τοιούτων πάντων καὶ ἡ σωφροσύνη καὶ ἡ δικαιοσύνη καὶ ἀνδρεία, καὶ αὐτὴἡ φρόνησις μὴ καθαρμός τις ᾖ. (69 β-ξ)

([C]ourage and self-restraint and justice and, in short, true virtue exist only with wisdom, whether pleasures and fears and other things of that sort are added or taken away.  And virtue which consists in the exchange of such things for each other without wisdom, is but a painted imitation of virtue and is really slavish and has nothing healthy or true in it; but truth is in fact a purification.” —Harold North Fowler’s translation.)

[I]t is
wisdom that makes courage and self-control and integrity or, in a word, true goodness, and the presence or absence of pleasures and fears and other such feelings makes no difference at all; whereas a system of morality which is based on relative emotional values is a mere illusion, a thoroughly vulgar conception which has nothing sound in it and nothing true.  The true moral ideal, whether self-control or integrity or courage, is really a kind of purgation from all these emotions, and wisdom itself is a sort of purification.”—Hugh Tredennick’s translation.)

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