07 March 2005

Niggling Concern

I shall delay giving my resolution of the Pradeau-Bobonich controversy for a day or two and offer some observations first.

It’s clear that Bobonich's view rests largely on his interpretation of the servile doctor/free doctor analogy. His discussion of the analogy therefore deserves special scrutiny.

Here’s a niggling concern involving, in particular, Bobonich's treatment of the passage at 4.720B8-E2, where Plato introduces the servile doctor/free doctor analogy for the first time. The discussion of that passage in Plato’s Utopia Recast, p. 98, leaves out several lines from the end of that passage, which seem to count against Bobonich’s view. And, although Bobonich alludes to those missing lines, and quotes a fragment from them, he does so using what seems a doubtful translation, and which has the effect of making those lines appear to support his view, instead of counting against it. When we take these things into account, it looks like a crucial bit of evidence in favor of Bobonich’s view disappears.

Here's the entire passage in Greek. (This was quoted in an earlier post, but there's no harm in including it again--no waste of paper!):

a)=r' ou)=n kai\ sunnoei=j o(/ti, dou/lwn kai\ e)leuqe/rwn

[720c] o)/ntwn tw=n kamno/ntwn e)n tai=j po/lesi, tou\j me\n dou/louj sxedo/n ti oi( dou=loi ta\ polla\ i)atreu/ousin peritre/xontej kai\ e)n toi=j i)atrei/oij perime/nontej, kai\ ou)/te tina\ lo/gon e(ka/stou pe/ri nosh/matoj e(ka/stou tw=n oi)ketw=n ou)dei\j tw=n toiou/twn i)atrw=n di/dwsin ou)d' a)pode/xetai, prosta/caj d' au)tw=| ta\ do/canta e)c e)mpeiri/aj, w(j a)kribw=j ei)dw/j, kaqa/per tu/rannoj au)qadw=j, oi)/xetai a)pophdh/saj pro\j a)/llon ka/mnonta oi)ke/thn, kai\ r(a|stw/nhn ou(/tw tw=| despo/th| paraskeua/zei tw=n kamno/ntwn

[720d] th=j e)pimelei/aj: o( de\ e)leu/qeroj w(j e)pi\ to\ plei=ston ta\ tw=n e)leuqe/rwn nosh/mata qerapeu/ei te kai\ e)piskopei=, kai\ tau=ta e)ceta/zwn a)p' a)rxh=j kai\ kata\ fu/sin, tw=| ka/mnonti koinou/menoj au)tw=| te kai\ toi=j fi/loij, a(/ma me\n au)to\j manqa/nei ti para\ tw=n nosou/ntwn, a(/ma de\ kai\ kaq' o(/son oi(=o/j te/ e)stin, dida/skei to\n a)sqenou=nta au)to/n, kai\ ou) pro/teron e)pe/tacen pri\n a)/n ph| sumpei/sh|, to/te de\ meta\ peiqou=j h(merou/menon a)ei\

[720e] paraskeua/zwn to\n ka/mnonta, ei)j th\n u(gi/eian a)/gwn, a)potelei=n peira=tai; po/teron ou(/twj h)\ e)kei/nwj i)atro/j te i)w/menoj a)mei/nwn kai\ gumnasth\j gumna/zwn: dixh=| th\n mi/an a)potelw=n du/namin, h)\ monaxh=| kai\ kata\ to\ xei=ron toi=n duoi=n kai\ a)griw/teron a)pergazo/menoj;

(If you do not see a display of the Greek, download and install the SPIonic Font here.)

Here is Bobonich's translation, as found in his book. Note that the final few lines are not included:

[S]ick people in the cities, slaves and free, are treated differently. The slaves are for the most part treated by slaves...None of these doctors gives or receives any account of each malady afflicting each domestic slave. Instead, he gives him orders on the basis of the opinions he has derived from experience. Claiming to know with precision, he gives his commands stubbornly, just like a tyrant, and hurries off to some other sick domestic slave...The free doctor mostly cares for and examines the maladies of free men. He investigates these from their beginning and according to nature, communing with the patient himself and his friends, and he both learns something himself from the invalids and, as much as he can, teaches the one who is sick. He does not give orders until he has in some way persuaded; once he has on each occasion made the sick person gentle by means of persuasion, he attempts to lead him back to health.

Here is Saunders' translation of those additional lines:

Which of the two methods do you think makes a doctor a better healer, or a trainer more efficient? Should they use the double method to achieve a single effect, or should the method too be single--the less satisfactory approach that makes the invalid more recalcitrant.

Now one might quarrel over details of Bobonich’s translation and whether his particular decisions about translation are truly required. Is it that the free doctors do not give or receive an ‘account’ (tina\ lo/gon) of the malady, or rather that, in contrast with the servile doctors, they don’t stop to give some kind of an explanation? Do they ‘commune’ (koinou/menoj) with the patients or simply spend some time with them? Does the free doctor teach ‘as much as he can’ (kaq' o(/son oi(=o/j te/ e)stin) or rather as much as is possible, given his circumstances or purposes? In short, there’s a reasonable way of construing the passage, according to which Plato is making no special point except to draw out a few obvious ways in which a free doctor’s approach contrasts with that of a servile doctor, all with a view to emphasizing that the free doctor’s approach will tend to be more effective.

But my main concern here is with the last few lines. These lines seem to count against Bobonich’s view. Why? Because in these lines Plato explains the purpose of the free doctor’s conversations with his patient, and he says that their point is to make the patient more receptive to the therapy. The implication is that, if the patient were already receptive, then such conversations would be unnecessary. In particular, that the patient is instructed by the doctor is not presented as something worth seeking for its own sake. (And Plato’s unexpected inclusion of physical training alongside medicine strengthens this point: it would be strange to claim that it’s especially important for an athlete to grasp the theory behind a regimen of physical training.)

As mentioned, Bobonich does allude to these missing lines. Here is what he says on p. 98:

Plato unequivocally condemns the method of the slave doctor as 'the worse and more savage of the two' (Laws 720E5)

No doubt 'unequivocally condemns' is a bit strong for an alternative which is dismissed merely as being less effective. But that's a quibble. The more important point is that, for various reasons, it’s not clear that we should render a)griw/teron ('more savage'), as Bobonich does, as referring to the method. First, the comparison makes little sense: would the free doctor’s method, then, be savage, but less so? Second, it seems that a)griw/teron is intended to draw a contrast with the claim at d8 that the free doctor’s approach makes a patient 'tame' or 'gentle' (h(merou/menon)): Plato is saying is that the servile method, in contrast, works to make the patient ‘unruly’ ('uncooperative', 'resistant'). Third, the phrase a)griw/teron a)pergazo/menoj seems most naturally understood as signifying an effect on a person: sc. to\n ka/mnonta a)griw/teron a)pergazo/menoj (cp. tou\j pai=daj a)perga/zwntai deilote/rouj, Rep. 381e).

(To be sure, Bobonich’s construction is possible—Jowett adopts it—but it is not required and not, I think, preferable.)

Yet if we render these lines in the way that Saunders does, and which seems preferable, this also counts against Bobonich's view. Why? If the free doctor's approach is better because it makes the patient receptive to the course of treatment, then, by analogy, it's good to add preludes to laws, because this helps to make citizens willing and eager to abide by the law. From this we might conclude that, if a prelude does happen to 'teach', it does so simply with a view to making citizens 'tame' and 'gentle', not as an end in itself.

(Note also that, from Plato’s saying that persuasion and compulsion are two different paths to the same effect, dixh=| th\n mi/an a)potelw=n du/namin, it follows that persuasion has the same standing as compulsion, and therefore both are to be sought insofar as they incline a citizen to follow the law.)

It is clearly Bobonich’s view that the ‘teaching’ character of a prelude, as he sees it, is inherently worth seeking, as befitting the status of free citizens. Bobonich claims in fact that Plato endorses the following principle, which is the reason for the preludes:

In the case of two free persons, even when the first possesses knowledge of what is good for the second that the second lacks, it is ethically appropriate that the one try as far as possible to persuade the other rationally; because of the patient’s status as a free person, he deserves to be rationally persuaded (105).

But upon careful consideration it appears that the passage at 720B8-E2, at least, says nothing of the sort, and, when considered in its entirety, it even seems to say something incompatible with this.


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