29 March 2006

Recollection and the Soul as Harmony

Here is a point of translation that puzzles me. I wonder what readers think. It is a sentence that occurs in the Phaedo, in Socrates' reply to Simmias, just after Socrates offered the refutation that, if Learning is Recollection, then the soul existed before the parts of the body, and thus it cannot be a harmonia in Simmias' sense at least (that is, one that depends on the parts of which it is a harmonia).

Socrates presents Simmias with a choice: either reject the thesis that Learning is Recollection, or reject the view that the soul is a harmonia of parts of the body. "Now which do you prefer," Socrates asks, "that knowledge is recollection or that the soul is a harmony?" To which Simmias responds:

The former, decidedly, Socrates. For this other came to me without demonstration; it merely seemed probable [92d] and attractive, which is the reason why many men hold it. I am conscious that those arguments which base their demonstrations on mere probability are deceptive, and if we are not on our guard against them they deceive us greatly, in geometry and in all other things. But the theory of recollection and knowledge has been established by a sound course of argument. For we agreed that our soul before it entered into the body existed just as the very essence which is called the absolute exists. [92e] Now I am persuaded that I have accepted this essence on sufficient and right grounds. I cannot therefore accept from myself or anyone else the statement that the soul is a harmony.
I am interested in the highlighted sentence. The Greek is:

e)rrh/qh ga/r pou ou(/twj h(mw=n ei)=nai h( yuxh\ kai\ pri\n ei)j sw=ma a)fike/sqai, w(/sper au)th=j e)stin h( ou)si/a e)/xousa th\n e)pwnumi/an th\n tou= o(\ e)/stin

Above is the Loeb translation of Fowler. Here are some others:
Because it was, of course, asserted that our soul existed even before it entered the body, just as surely as its object exists--the reality which bears the name of "that which is". (Gallop)

...for our soul was said to exist also before it came into the body, just as the reality does that is of the kind that we qualify by the words "which truly is"... (Grube)
Rowe comments and gives a translation:
d8 au)th/ seems a necessary replacement for the far better attested au)th=j. Tr. '[as] the being (h( ou)si/a, as at 76d8-9, of a collection of existents) itself (au)th/) exists, bearing the name of "what is [F]"'. For this interpretation of o(\ e)/stin, see 75d2-3n. The reading au)th=j, 'belonging to it' (in the sense of being the object of the soul's understanding: see Loriaux I 155), although literally in accord with 76e1-2 (tau/thn th/n ou)si/an) u(pa/rxouan ... h(mete/ran ou)=san , and accepted by most recent editors, is impossibly harsh.
Yet it seems to me that Rowe, and all the translators above, go astray in not taking into account, or rendering properly, th\n e)pwnumi/an. This term, it seems, is a technical term elsewhere in the Phaedo, and what it means, in all of its occurrences, is something's deriving its name from something else, which is more properly called by that name. (Below, I paste the relevant passages from a TLG search.) Anything called 'F' is called that derivatively from the Form, F Itself, which is most properly called by that name, 102b2. (This, indeed, seems a consequence of the 'simple' explanation that Socrates advances, that 'a beautiful thing is beautiful because of the beautiful'.) Simmias himself is called 'large' or 'small' by a derived name (eponymia), because of large or small in him (more properly called that), 102c10. Likewise, something that has an opposite is called by that name derivatively, whereas the opposite which it has is more properly called that (103b7-8).

If this is so, then th\n e)pwnumi/an th\n tou= o(\ e)/stin” must mean something like "the name derived from that which is", and it cannot be a reference to the Forms, as the translations above understand it. The phrase apparently refers to something in the soul and should indeed be placed in correspondence with 76e1-2.

What the sentence might mean, I'll try to say tomorrow (or perhaps Friday). It has interesting implications, too, for how the Recollection Argument should be understood.

2. Plato Phil., Phaedo. {0059.004} Stephanus page 102 section b line 2. (Browse)

(b.) kai\ w(mologei=to ei]nai/ ti e3kaston tw~n ei0dw~n kai\ tou&twn

ta}lla metalamba&nonta au)tw~n tou&twn th_n e0pwnumi/an i1sxein,

to_ dh_ meta_ tau~ta h)rw&ta, Ei0 dh&, h} d' o3j, tau~ta ou3twj le/geij,

3. Plato Phil., Phaedo. {0059.004} Stephanus page 102 section c line 10. (Browse)

1Esti tau~ta.

Ou3twj a1ra o( Simmi/aj e0pwnumi/an e1xei smikro&j te kai\ (10)

me/gaj ei]nai, e0n me/sw| w2n a)mfote/rwn, tou~ me\n tw|~ mege/qei

4. Plato Phil., Phaedo. {0059.004} Stephanus page 103 section b line 7. (Browse)

to&te me\n ga&r, w} fi/le, peri\ tw~n e0xo&ntwn ta_ e0nanti/a e0le/go-

men, e0ponoma&zontej au)ta_ th|~ e0kei/nwn e0pwnumi/a|, nu~n de\ peri\

e0kei/nwn au)tw~n w{n e0no&ntwn e1xei th_n e0pwnumi/an ta_ o)nomazo&-

5. Plato Phil., Phaedo. {0059.004} Stephanus page 103 section b line 8. (Browse)

men, e0ponoma&zontej au)ta_ th|~ e0kei/nwn e0pwnumi/a|, nu~n de\ peri\

e0kei/nwn au)tw~n w{n e0no&ntwn e1xei th_n e0pwnumi/an ta_ o)nomazo&-

(c.) mena: au)ta_ d' e0kei=na ou)k a1n pote/ famen e0qelh~sai ge/nesin


anon 2-4 said...

How do you translate the genitives depending on eponumia in 103b7 and 8? Possessive?

Michael Pakaluk said...

Dear anon 2-4,

I understand these as genitives of the thing from which the name is derived. See eponumia in LSJ. Also Smyth, "Genitive of Source", §1410.

e.g. "Then we were speaking about things that *have* those opposites, naming them with a name derived from those opposites; but now [we are speaking] about those [opposites] themselves, from the indwelling of which the things so named have their derivative name."


P.S. I use square rather than angle brackets because angle brackets are interpreted by Blogspot as html tags.