18 October 2006

More Small Points

I want to discuss the translation of consideration [2] from yesterday's post, both how it should be translated, and how Whiting translates it. Later I'll say something about why, I think, Whiting was led to deal with it as she does.

What as at issue is this observation:

[2] kai\ ma~llon sunw|kei/wtai to_ a)f' ou{ tw|~ gennhqe/nti h2 to_ geno&menon tw|~ poih&santi: to_ ga_r e0c au)tou~ oi0kei=on tw|~ a)f' ou{, oi[on o)dou_j qri\c o(tiou~n tw|~ e1xonti: e0kei/nw| d' ou)de\n to_ a)f' ou{, h2 h{tton.
Suppose we want to know what sunw|kei/wtai means here. (By the way, Bywater's text has a typo and omits the iota subscript.) What should we do? We might follow Ackrill's advice and look to the ga/r clause. That doesn't help, entirely, because the term oi0kei=on,which is crucial in the ga/r clause, can take a variety of meanings. But fortunately Aristotle provides us with examples, that help to fix the meaning, viz. o)dou_j qri\c o(tiou~n. So by oi0kei=on here he means the relationship which something that grows naturally out of another thing continues to have to it--'belongs' will do well enough--and then we might accordingly understand sunw|kei/wtai as something like "bound together" or "bound up with".

Another approach would be to look in the lexicon, which would confirm the results of our first procedure. LSJ give for sunoikeio/w (N.B. not for the closely resembling sunoike/w) in the passive: to be bound by ties of kindred, to be closely united... generally, to be closely united. The Perseus site additionally gives cateno as the Latin equivalent.

A lexicon is of course little more authoritative, ultimately, than the instances on which it must rely. Fortunately for us, several of the more revealing uses of the term are in the NE (as Bywater's index also shows): besides 1162b21, also 1162a2, 1172a20, 1175a29, and 1178a15. If we examine these passages, we get confirmation once again that sunoikeio/w in the passive means something like, "to be inextricably bound together, by the very nature of the things involved". At 1162a2, shortly after the passage under consideration, Aristotle uses it to refer to how any relative is bound to other through their relationship to brothers (siblings). It is used for the way in which pleasure is inextricably mingled with human life (1172a20) or the way a proper pleasure is bound up with its activity (1175a25).

Here is Whiting's discussion of the word, once again:
Note especially my rendering of sunōkeiōtai [sic] as "familiar with". Ross (1980) has "attached to," which is good insofar as it suggests some sort of emotional bond; Irwin (1999) has "regards ... as more his own," which is less good insofar as it suggests something primarily cognitive. I prefer "familiar with" both because it preserves the etymological connection with sun- (meaning "with") and oikos (whose focal referent is the family), and because it has both cognitive and affective aspects; it suggest not only recognizing that something is oikeion to one, but also the sort of emotional affiliation people tend to have with those with whom they have lived. It suggests a bond requiring a certain kind of perception or understanding, which is why it takes time for children to achieve it (p. 289).
Whiting wants to understand sunw|kei/wtai to be referring not to a bond that is connatural, and which is prior to affection, rightly providing the basis for affection, but rather as a kind of 'familiarity' (to be familiar with is to be accustomed to). As I said, perhaps I'll explain later why she wants to understand it in this way. It has to do with her view that, for Aristotle, natural bases for affection are 'biases' which we must overcome. But for now some comments:

1. Her interpretation of the term is at odds with every other occurrence of the term in NE, including the occurrence a few lines later, at 1162a2. In no other place does it or could it mean a familiarity having "both cognitive and affective aspects".
2. If one were to restore Aristotle's examples in the ellipsis, "a tooth, hair", then it would be clear that "familiar with"="accustomed to" can hardly be sustained: teeth don't develop familiarity with their owner over time.
3. Likewise, it won't work to take oikeion to mean 'familiar'. Teeth aren't "familar" with the jaw they came out of.
4. Anyway, sun- doesn't work in the manner of 'with' (that role is played by the dative), but rather it has the sense of 'together' and connotes reciprocity , viz. bound together.

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