18 October 2005


I found this way of introducing Socrates' daimonion, well, weird:

The Socrates depicted in Plato's dialogues spoke of a daimonion signal that came to him. That word daimonion is an adjective meaning "daimôn-ish" -- divine, or maybe what the English of earlier centuries called "weird."

Anyway the sign came as some kind of voice and Socrates claimed to have heard it since childhood. It was apotreptic rather than protreptic, never commanding Socrates to act some way but only making sure he heard the discouraging word whenever he chanced to embark on a harmful action (Apology 31d).

Xenophon's Socrates heard a somewhat different voice, one that did not hesitate to endorse one action over another. Plato consistently presents an inhibiting divine agent.

I don't mean that 'the English of earlier centuries' must mean, in the context, the English who lived before Plato. I mean, rather, that 'weird', derived from Wyrd, the Norse personification of Fate, is not at all like Socrates' daimonion. Moreover, why introduce the term, misleadingly, as if it functions primarily as an adjective (a weird 'sign' or 'voice')? Doesn't to daimonion in Plato typically mean not 'that which is divine' but rather 'that divine agent' (as the author can't help but say, in the last sentence quoted). But see the full review here.


Thornton said...

I think the weirdness enters elsewhere.

In what prints out as a 5 pp. review of a volume containing 10 different essays, I count four paragraphs that actually discuss the contents of the book's essays. Those four paragraphs amount to two sentences about the Brickhouse/Smith essay, one paragraph that spends 4 sentences talking about McPherran's essay (it actually spends more time talking about McPherran's book The Religion of Socrates), a 3 sentence paragraph discussing Destree's essay, and a 2 sentence paragraph discussing Van Riel's essay.

No mention of the essays by Brisson, Weiss, Joyal, Mancy, Dorion, and Brancacci.

Kinda weird for an alleged review of the volume in question.

Michael Pakaluk said...

I've found the NDPR reviews to be very uneven recently. The editors need to insist on higher standards.

Jimmy Doyle said...

I take it that Pappas meant 'weird' in the sense of the weird sisters in Macbeth, ie supernatural. But I think he's wrong to characterise daimonion as a neuter adjective; surely it's a noun -- a diminutive of daimon; hence, 'minor divinity.'