17 October 2006

My "I" Tooth

It seems best to make a division. Today I'll discuss how I think that passage from NE (1161b18-29) should be understood. Tomorrow I'll consider Jennifer Whiting's treatment of the passage.

I'll take the passage out one additional line, since then it becomes clear that we have a 'sandwich', with the same thesis repeated in almost identical words at the beginning and end. In the middle of the sandwich are three considerations. I'll parse accordingly:

[Thesis] oi9 gonei=j me\n ga_r ste/rgousi ta_ te/kna w(j e9autw~n ti o1nta, ta_ de\ te/kna tou_j gonei=j w(j a)p' e0kei/nwn ti o1nta.

[1] ma~llon d' i1sasin oi9 gonei=j ta_ e0c au(tw~n h2 ta_ gennhqe/nta o3ti e0k tou&twn,
[2] kai\ ma~llon sunwkei/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.
[3] kai\ tw~ plh&qei de\ tou~ xro&nou: oi4 me\n ga_r eu)qu_j geno&mena ste/rgousin, ta_ de\ proelqo&ntoj xro&nou tou_j gonei=j, su&nesin h2 ai1sqhsin labo&nta.
(e0k tou&twn de\ dh~lon kai\ di' a4 filou~si ma~llon ai9 mhte/rej.)
[Thesis] gonei=j me\n ou}n te/kna filou~sin w(j e9autou&j (ta_ ga_r e0c au)tw~n oi[on e3teroi au)toi\ tw~ kexwri/sqai),te/kna de\ gonei=j w(j a)p' e0kei/nwn pefuko/ta.

The thesis is about a difference in kind between the love of parents for children and of children for parents; the three considerations are about a difference in degree. This raises the question: What is the relationship between the considerations and the thesis?

Perhaps the considerations are simply a digression or interpolation. Aristotle wanted to say something somewhere about the difference in degree, and this was a good place to put it.

But I rather think that Aristotle thought that a good way of drawing attention to the difference in kind, and its significance, was by drawing attention to the difference in degree. After all, the difference in kind is surprising and difficult to grasp. If parents love their children "as themselves", then why don't children love parents "as themselves"? If children are "other selves that are separated out", then why aren't parents, too, "other selves" that are separated from the children? (Isn't the "other self" relation symmetric?) Children and parents, once joined, are now detached: but then isn't each related to the other in the same way?

To show that this is not the case, Aristotle draws attention to the difference of degree. Consideration [1]: the one ground ('derived from me') is more an object of thought and awareness than the other ('my source'). Indeed this is true: to pick just one example, parents frequently think of a child as 'like me'; a child never thinks of his parent as 'like me' and hardly ever dwells on whether he is like the parent.

Consideration [2]: the one ground ('derived from me') constitutes a closer bond than the other ('my source'). This again is also true. Parent and child are not 'detached' from each other so much as the child 'comes from the parent'. Aristotle illustrates the asymmetry with the example of a tooth. Suppose a tooth falls out of a man: the tooth belongs to the man, not the man to the tooth. The tooth is 'his tooth', the man is not 'its man'. Similarly, parents almost always think of their children as 'mine', but a child only occasionally thinks of his parents as 'mine' (say, to distinguish them from his friend's parents, to identify them).

Consideration [3] is different, I think, as signalled by the compressed way in which it is given. Is it a later addition? Or perhaps Aristotle has lost track of the purpose for which he is considering differences in degree (this one makes no essential appeal to the difference between being 'derived from me' and 'my source'), and is simply giving an additional reason for there being a difference in degree?

The remark e0k tou&twn de\ dh~lon kai\ di' a4 filou~si ma~llon ai9 mhte/rej means, as signalled by kai/, "why mothers love more than fathers", since the outward parts of the 'sandwich' are already about the parents.

I'll paste the Ross translation below.
For parents love their children as being a part of themselves, and children their parents as being something originating from them. Now
(1) parents know their offspring better than there children know that they are their children, and
(2) the originator feels his offspring to be his own more than the offspring do their begetter; for the product belongs to the producer (e.g. a tooth or hair or anything else to him whose it is), but the producer does not belong to the product, or belongs in a less degree. And
(3) the length of time produces the same result; parents love their children as soon as these are born, but children love their parents only after time has elapsed and they have acquired understanding or the power of discrimination by the senses.
From these considerations it is also plain why mothers love more than fathers do.
Parents, then, love their children as themselves (for their issue are by virtue of their separate existence a sort of other selves), while children love their parents as being born of them...