3.6.4 Meno (178v – 184v)


T. Echterling’s valuable recent dissertation merits wider circulation. Here you will find some of my comments to its work on MENO 86,f:

diplasios as ultra-ambiguous, diakatachrestokoteron in Meno 86 – Echterling 13,vii,20

More on this topic is likely to be forthcoming, from a project helped by Holger Thesleff of Helsinki, and described recently: The Making of the Platonic Corpus


Please give it the necessary close look, this snapshot of the TLG text of Euthydemus.   In particular please look closely at that dialogue’s cluster of  the key term aei/aiei,   

Now in Chapt. 22, which runs to only 32 lines, it is given a striking emphasis by being put inside quotation marks by the always-careful Oxford editor John Burnet.  

Such ‘encrustation’ is of course open to a reasonable reader’s scepticism.  John Cooper inaugurated this point of criticism in his Complete Plato,  (Hackett, Indianapolis 1997).  On the other hand this is Plato’s way of writing our ‘eternal’ or ‘always’.   

This is clearly a term Plato puts much emphasis on.   Further, it is a concept close to the heart of Amphinomus, who is well known to Proclus and other commentators on Euclid.   It is likely he to whom we owe Scholion #18 to Euclid I, which complains about the opening proposition.   What complaint, exactly ?   Well it is not a Theorem proper, but rather a construction.   Thus its product appears to be one of those hitherto-non-existent items, just ‘at this moment’ built by our geometer.   He is scornful toward the ‘tote=trigwnon’,  i.e. the ‘then-triangle’.   It is as if Triangle weren’t an eternal object !     

Plato had used the term in many of the centrally platonic contexts — well over 700 specimens  of this occur corpus-wide — either in its 3-letter or its 4-letter variant.   

This seemingly small variation of spelling has a very direct bearing on the report in Dionysius of Halicarnassus — the remark that Plato was fond of and preferential towards a diphthongal pair of letters, ahead of using the simpler monophongal variant.   This latter variant, == which I have echoed here just a dozen or so lines below this — harks back to an earlier, Pre-Plato Attic.   

Quite possibly young Theaetetus grew up writing this older style of Attic in Sunium, as witness the 70% preference shown at the beginning of Euclid X, where it very likely to be his authorship.   This is exactly where potentially infinite ongoing  processes come over the mathematical horizon in early Greek mathematics.  the Theaetetus 

On the literary side a chief model of that centenary=earlier writing is Thucydides, who favors it by a 128:0 ratio over the simpler form   ἀεὶ  .

Here is the snapshot of our ‘flock’ of  αἰεὶ

AIEI, clustering in Ch 22 of Euthyd




Prof. Joseph Arel of No. Arizona State has published an insightful piece elaborating on recollection in Meno and bringing in connections between self-awareness and blindness averted or inverted.   He does this with much vigor and clarity and makes ample references to Derrida on the ‘aveugle’

Here, in this pair of links, you will see a set of curious signs of A. De Morgan’s achieving  deeply witty results with subjects in ancient physics, especially Thales.  He plays artfully on a word like ‘niemand‘ and/or Odysseus’s adopted proper name : ‘ou-tis‘   Odysseus is not often credited with a Sisyphus kind of  wit there in Polyphemus;s epic auditorium.   The giant’s infinite appetite (alas, anthropophagous !) is heard to reach its end with this very mortal — with Outis.    Thales’s publications  are the front of the atomists’s physics, h.e.  the ou- part of their ou-den.

A major point Slings was fond of in his interpreting of Rep. was his bringing out the elaborate wordplay on ‘ourano’ and soundalike words, related to seeing.  Here Slings can rely on the strength of the witty byplay, in that Plato’s text confesses to the peccadillo in point.   That is the little prank on the reader which is to shift about amongst the cognate sounds and near-cognate meanings.  Here in our Anglo-America and its customary ways of speaking, we can find speakers offering their apologies for seeming to perpetrate a pun or trick of words.   And clearly in Plato’s Athens one could find those offended by exhibits of philological theatrics.    Plato locates this wicked word-play in the penultimate chapter of the key middle Book 5 of his masterwork, Republic.   Notice Plato’s signalling his own self-consciousness and conscientiousness over this  remark near this seeing-or-heaven passage:

εἰπὼν σοι σοφίζεσθαι περὶ τὸ ὄνομα [509d3]  [=  ‘I seem to you to be speaking a sophism over the word.’ ]

In the myth at the end of Phaedo, recall, the soul is meant to see with newfound power after being freed from its erstwhile body; it is calculated to be advantaged with a new heaven-specific clarity.   One will see well soon enough (I might put it into idiomatic French.)

Plato’s own wit, especially when challenged by his two students Aristotle and Philip of Opus, gave rise to published writing.   To include, I judge the little work that makes efforts at etymological wit — the seventh and final chapter, about the names of gods.  I refer to Chapt.. 7 of the π. κοσμου (=P. Kosmou).    A little anacoluthon of our best texts of Timaeus 28b  seems to be executing a play of wit:   call your book what you may, they both look to me to be about The All.   This little aside continues ‘. . . or whatever we may opt to call it’.   The text uses the optative of urbanity here, a usage later called the optativus urbanitatis.  This usage is urbane in the sense of one often issued by an Athenian addressing another Athenian.    But it is just as fitting if a Londoner such as Jonathan Barnes is addressing a fellow Oxonian J. Annas.    Something we might imagine Plato to have added here might read this way :  ‘. . .my good and early editors have wanted to add an alternate title  p, Physews ) .    Were Plato to emulate Philodemus and his tradition he might opt for a Latin version, De Natura.    Each of you two, my early academic disciples may opt differently, Aristotle using  Π. οὐρανοῦ  and Philip Π. κόσμου    A still further aside might refer ahead to still later editors.   I mean the option of the p. kosmou of pseudo-Aristotle.

An additional follower of Plato, Holger Thesleff, has for many decades now admired Plato’s wit.   There are many of us Plato-admirers, both “Quick and Dead”  as A.E. Taylor wrote.  He exercised a specialist wit in thus including himself as one amongst the dedicatees, even today.   Some of us are still quick today.  Plato, the man and his work.    One can reasonably say even that Holger is a major participant in the Ideal of Platonic Wit.   Thesleff’s admiration of Plato is very durable indeed, and he exhibits many of the virtues of Plato-lovers all.   A notable virtue, which Thesleff is witty in his own naming of it.    I feel sure he will plead guilty, before St. Peter, of the seeming vice, ‘The Over-Attentive Reader’.    Where do we find a more worthy subject for such virtuous reading, than the writer Plato ?   A subject author of very distinctly lower value, the author of Epinomis and De Kosmou.   They are both ‘pseudo-‘ in their little appendings, one to Plato and one to Aristotle.   I believe the author of both these little appended works to be the same author, Philip of Opus, a.k.a. Younger Socrates.   Likely also, for reasons I spell out elsewhere, this same expert astronomer, Philip may well have made appendages to Books IV and XIIA of Euclid’s Elements.  In the case of XIIA he added a little more than an entire book.   He contrived to make it over-attentively Platonistic.   I spell this out elsewhere here also.  In this last case, Philip has earned the descriptive name ‘pseudo-Eudoxus’, for his hyperplatonic ‘exhaustion’ arguments.

De Morgan, blind on right side since 1806, birth year

De Morgan, blind on right side since infancy