Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Sayre Gives It Another Try

Recall my earlier quandary about the night fishing described in Plato's Sophist. I examined a possible explanation from Kenneth Sayre's Plato's Late Ontology. Here is another explanation from his earlier book Plato's Analytic Method.

It is essential to specify that the angler strikes his prey from below, for example, to distinguish him from the net -- or spear -- fisherman; and if we assume angling without bait, daylight appears essential to enable the angler to see the fish he is attempting to hook. (143)

In a footnote to this sentence, Sayre states:

As described, in angling "a hook is used, and the fish is not struck in any chance part of his body, as he is with the spear, but only about the head and mouth . . ." (220E-221A). This suggests that Plato is thinking of a mode of fishing in which the prey is not induced to take the hook within its mouth.

Notice that this is a different explanation than his later one in Plato's Late Ontology. Maybe he found this explanation unsatisfying? I do.

First, I am suspicious that Plato has in mind fishing without bait. If there are any anglers reading this blog, I would appreciate any insight about the likelihood that one would angle without bait. Do the fish swim up to the hook out of curiosity?

Second, I don't see what about 220e-221a indicates that the fish is not induced to take the hook in his mouth. If one were trying to hook without bait, it seems one could try to hook the fish just about anywhere. I take it that the phrase "about the head and mouth" (peri\ th\n kefalh\n kai\ to\ sto/ma) is to specify which part of the head needs to be hooked. Would the angler hook him in the eye?

So the placement of a distinction between night fishing and day fishing in the account of the angler still puzzles me.

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