Friday, June 30, 2006

On Rhetoric

For the record, Fonseca Bin no. 27 is my favorite annual port (meaning it is produced every year and so is widely available ... truly high quality sweet wines are only produced when the grapes are just right and so are unpredictable).

A good friend thoughtfully gave me the Loeb with Plato's Symposium, Lysis and Gorgias for summer reading, and I have decided to work through Gorgias. If I keep an average pace of about 15 pages per week I should easily finish during the summer. I'll post comments here to keep myself accountable (cough).

As an opener: So far, Mr. W.R.M. Lamb ("sometime fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge") seems to have been an ironic choice to translate the dialogue on rhetoric, for his translation robs the speakers of some of their best demonstrations of wit. This is so important because Gorgias is the supreme rhetorician whose craft, as Socrates will demonstrate, has nothing to do with true knowledge and so is not a craft at all; besides, as we shall see, Socrates is better at it than everyone else.

Very Beginning (my own):
Kallikles: As they say, Socrates, you desire a war and battle so as to get a share (ie., just to get the spoils).
Socrates: Rather do you mean the saying, we have come too late for the feast?
K: Indeed and a most urbane feast. For just a moment ago Gorgias put on a varied and beautiful display for us.
S: Chaipheron here is to blame, having forced us to spend our time in the market place.

Get it? Kallikles has just listened to a display of rhetoric, but has learned nothing (because rhetoric has nothing true to teach) since he immediately proceeds to quote a useless proverb at his new quests. Kallikles calls the feast urbane; Socrates puns on the word complaining that he was stuck in the market (ie., the center of the city). Who's the rhetorician now? Who's the true teacher: the one at a feast giving a self congratulatory display of words at a posh dinner or the one in the market place with his students? Ta da, the themes of the dialogue summarized and proven in the first four lines. All of this is missed in Lamb's translation thanks to his unimaginative diction.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Thoughts on JKR

(1) Rowling said recently that two characters will die in the final Harry Potter novel. All fine and good. I want to know if any of them will come back to life.

(2) While reading Plato's Phaedrus to prepare to lead some discussions on it, I came across this passage:

For the prophetess in Delphi and the priestesses in Dodona when mad have accomplished many beautiful things for Greece both in private and in public, but little, or rather nothing, when of sound mind. And if we should speak of the Sibyl and others, who used divinely inspired prophesy to foretell in the future many things to many people and guide them aright, we would draw it [our speech] out at length, saying things that are clear to everyone. (244a-b, trans. Nichols)

Is this description not a deadringer for Trelawny? What was her first name again? Sibyl? I also wonder if Trelawny's penchant for sherry is based on her desire to lose herself in something other than herself so that she may prophesy. For she does not prophesy under her own power, but only when influenced by . . . ? What? God?

I've thought for a while now that the only thing in Harry Potter's world that is truly supernatural is prophecy. What about the magic, you say? Two things about the magic make it not so easily supernatural: it has to be learned by great study (that is why the students are at Hogwarts) and a fully developed natural science would be indistinguishable from magic. (Here I could throw in some quotation from Lewis's Abolition of Man about how magic and science both spring from the same desire, but you already know all that. But consider anyway this article describing how scientists will probably make something like Harry's invisibility cloak.)

John Granger has written a wonderful article on Harry Potter. Everyone should read it, especially critics. Among other things, the article points out in various places the tenuous nature of our understanding of the distinction between natural and supernatural. What is it to be supernatural? Is alchemy natural or not?

One thing I would add to his article is a mention of the existence of prophecy in the books. I think it is one of the clearest indicators Rowling's world is supernatural. And immersing ourselves in that world is indeed a powerful ally in helping us to live "fully human, which is to say 'spiritual,' lives" (Granger, last para.).

Thursday, June 15, 2006

My New Pastime

Listening to the Dan Patrick Show on ESPN Radio. I grew up watching and playing sports, but I've drifted from those roots (mixed metaphor, I know) in the last ten years or so. But now I'm moving back to more sports.

The Dan Patrick show is on during the time when I drive back home from teaching a summer school class in logic. At first, I just listened because the long pauses between his sentences made me think something was wrong with my radio. Then I loved the fact that when people call in to the show, they give their height and weight.

What I like about the DPS is that it's not just about sports for sports' sake. I mean, he isn't talking about who's the greatest running back of all time. The last two days have covered interesting ethical issues.

(1) Does Ben Roethlisberger have a duty (obligation) to wear a motorcycle helmet?
(2) Was it immoral for Ozzie Guillen to tell his rookie pitcher, Sean Tracey, to hit Hank Blalock? And then was Tracey justified in not hitting Blalock? And was Guillen justified in demoting Tracey to triple-A ball for not hitting Blalock?

I'll actually discuss what I think are the relevant issues in (2) later.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Bernard Lewis on Islam

A lengthy but worthwhile read.

About Time

The Tigers beat the White Sox (for the first time this season) to hold on to first place and the best record in the league.

Five Best Mystery Novels

Glad to see that DLS makes the cut, though it's not the one I would have chosen. Rather surprised that there's nothing from Agatha Christie, though perhaps the designation "crime novel" rules her out. Perhaps she's good at crime, but not so good at novels. Same for Doyle.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

I Am . . .

an impending father. The little one is scheduled to make an appearance in November.