The haunting of Hegel Aug 4, 2013 4:04:20 GMT -5
Post by Deleted on Aug 4, 2013 4:04:20 GMT -5
M. George Steiner, born at Paris in 1929, was at an early age encouraged by his father to learn many languages, and in fact he "grew up" with three mother-tongues (German, French and English). Steiner later remarked that "Trees have roots and I have legs; I owe my life to that." And he lives by Goethe's maxim that "No monoglot truly knows his own language."
Later he became a founding fellow of Churchill College at Cambridge; but the snooty Cambridge people disapproved. So Steiner planned to leave for a professorship in the united moronic states, but at the last moment his wise father encouraged him to stick it out in Cambridge - and that is where he may now be found at the great age of eighty-four. What wonderful books his Language and Silence and After Babel are! I still remember purchasing the first at a little book-shop just along from the Champion.
So is it not an honour that George Steiner has written in to tell us a little about Plato! (He sets these remarks in the context of a discussion of a book by a Herr Hösle entitled The Philosophical Dialogue.) "Plato is not only the greatest of all philosophers," he reminds us, "but he is also a towering literary genius, one who wrote tragedies in his youth. His dialogues constitute a single literary universe extending from uttermost desolation and pathos to polylinguistic comedy, from harsh gravity to ironic lightness and elan worthy of Mozart. Plato's writings must be studied as a whole, never in isolation. The Charmides and the Euthydemus are astonishingly perfect. [I suppose that is not a contradiction of the preceding sentence?] Plato is supreme in his design of dramatis personæ, of urban and pastoral settings, of private and public spaces, of diverse vocal registers. One might add, of exits and entrances as incisively placed as any in the history of drama. And what about Plato's "invention" of Socrates? To what extent is the Socrates of the major dialogues a partial or largely Platonic fiction, perhaps surpassing in intellectual impact, in both tragic and comic resonance, a Falstaff, a Prospero or an Ivan Karamazoff? In what respect is it Plato's account of Socrates's death, in counterpoint to Golgotha, that animates much of Western civilization? This duality haunts Hegel and Kierkegaard."
May I in closing add the observation that - if one's Greek is not fluent - it is essential to choose a good translation of Plato. The best I have encountered is that of Mr. John Warrington. Do any of our membership show a consistent elan we wonder?