Saturday, May 07, 2005

Republic 330b8-c8

"I bring this up," I said, "because you did not seem to me to care very much for money, and this is what many people will do about whatever they have not earned themselves. But those having earned it really cling to it twice as much as the others. For just as poets are fond of their poems and fathers of their children, so also those who have made money are serious about money, as their own handiwork, yet serious for the same reason as other people: for its advantages. Accordingly, it is difficult to be with them: they are willing to approve of nothing but wealth."

This is Socrates speaking to Cephalus. The grammar at one point is slightly ambiguous and leads to different senses of the passage. The sticking point is understanding the preposition kata at 330c6. With the accusative (th\n xrei/an) the best option in this context is to translate it as a purpose clause. Most translations go this way. However, Grube/Reeve (it's Reeve's revision; Grube originally translated it as "besides") translate the phrase as "they don't just care about it because it's useful, as other people do." Their translation implies that there is a difference between the place given to money by those who have made money and those who have not. Since this is the accusative case, translating kata as "against" is out. The only way to get a sense of opposition is by using the spatial sense of kata metaphorically. I'll just say that this seems unlikely since the genitive case is available.

So the grammar is against Grube/Reeve, but perhaps the sense is not. The analogy running through the paragraph is that poets and fathers treat their respective creations differently than others do. By extension, one would think that Socrates' point is that money makers treat their money differently than others do. But using the purpose sense of kata seems to go against the analogy: it's saying that money makers and non-money makers alike are serious about money because of its advantages.

However, I think that the analogy works if we limit its sense to the idea that people are fond of their own creations in ways that others are not. The point is that poets, fathers, and money makers all give pride of place to their "offspring." It is just that in the case of money, the money makers are serious about money for the same reason as others.

Reading Plato, or old books in general, reminds us that nothing much changes. There are still people who make money and think of nothing else, and it remains just as difficult to be around them.

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