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.

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