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Showing posts from November 24, 2013

philosopher buffoons

In the Hippias Minor, Socrates challenges Hippias, a vain sophist, over the matter of who is the better man: Achilles or Odysseus. Hippias holds that Achilles was the truest, strongest and best of the Greeks, while Odysseus was the wiliest – polytropos – or the falsest, the most cunning, the most deceptive. But Socrates, surprisingly enough, comes up with an argument to show that either both Achilles and Odysseus are mixtures of the good and the false, or that – if Achilles lies and deceptions come about involuntarily, whereas Odysseus voluntarily takes on the deceivers role, as Hippias maintains – that Odysseus must be the better man. This is the end of the dialogue: Socrates: Is not justice either a sort of power or knowledge, or both ? Or must not justice inevitably be one or other of these ? Hippias : Yes. Socrates : Then injustice is a power of the soul, the more powerful soul is the more just, is it not ? For we found, my friend, that such a soul was better. Hipp

annals of LA

Right after his daily bread, the human unit needs to feel superior to his coevals. Or some subgroup thereof. Those who lose this feeling are surely clinically depressed – such humility is pathological. Don’t look for it from saints – when God is your personal confidante, your edge is 24 carat. You can no more expect saints to be humble than you can expect the taste of a banana from a rutabaga. The age old tale of the human unit from the sticks who comes to the big city falls, of course, under this generalization.  Although from Balzac to Franzen it is presented as a progress in civilization, the provincial from the provinces inevitably provincializes his city, or part of it, and proceeds to shoot spitball as the yokels from where he was at, or, in general, who are not counted among the elite of his quartier. This is one of the reasons I love the NYT Styles section. It is hard wired to look down at the plebes, and it is written, surely, by former country mice, who have now wiggled