MorkTheFiddle wrote:Pardon the belated interruption. You may say more about this topic later in your log, so I'll save commenting until I finish it. But what a stimulating set of observations and questions.
I'm so glad you stopped by and brought this up. I had forgotten that I posted about coming back to talk on this theme, actually. I keep thinking about it though, especially as we study history chronological and see what was happening all over the world at different times. It's love to hear your thoughts and if we have any others interested in the discussion maybe we can port my original thoughts into a discussion thread.
Merry Christmas everyone!! Hope you are all having a wonderful time with family and friends.
First of all, I hope the Christmas season is going well for you and yours.
Second, as for my "thoughts." First, I'll bring in Whitehead's overworked remark,
The safest general characterization of the philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.
That used to mean to me that Plato was the more important part of the equation. But lately I wonder if the "footnoters" aren't the more important part. Plato may have laid the first course, but the rest of the building belongs to his footnoters. Without the intervening 2500 years of explanations and interpretations, how important would Plato be? Some of what Plato has Socrates say is downright nonsense. Socrates's "proof" of the immortality of the soul in the Phaedo
is ridiculous (I'll look up the exact reference when I get through with this: it is Phaedo
70c-72a; there are so many editions of Plato, but here is one, starting at 70c: http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0170%3Atext%3DPhaedo%3Asection%3D70c
). Further, though I have not read a great deal of Plato in the Greek (or any of the other Ancient Greeks or the Bible), I have read enough to believe that nothing gets lost in translation. Plato's style of writing does get lost, and he is a masterful writer, to which some of his longevity can be attributed, but not the ideas. I would leave aside the poetry, but I think what I have said about Plato is true for all the other prose writers and "thinkers" (excepting maybe Thucydides, but with him what gets lost is his lack of clarity
As for Latin, I must confess a bias here. I'm surprised that Latin literature has survived at all. But leave that aside, are there any ideas from Latin secular literature that we use unadulterated in their original form? Is what the Romans called a republic what we would call a republic? Haven't their ideas like the ideas of the Ancient Greeks substantially mutated with the passage of time and the application of interpretations?
And in that case, do we really need to learn Latin and/or Ancient Greek in order to understand their thinking and concepts? My answer would be no. The quantity of their literature is low, indeed, as you allude to, so if you spend 4 or 5 or 6 years mastering the languages, where are you and what do you read next? What is the point of it all? I have made a couple of serious attempts to learn Latin. I would be especially interested in being able to read Tacitus in the original. But Tacitus is so very difficult and there is so little else of Latin I want to read, that I just quit. I am in a similar position with Ancient Greek, except with Greek there is enough, just barely enough, to keep me interested and to keep me going.
Very recently a doctor told me he missed not knowing Latin for the help it would have given him learning medical terminology. So there is one reason to study Latin. Another would be just the pure simple pleasure of learning the language, which would apply to Greek as well, of course. But barring those two reasons as well as a religious reason, I can see no point in anyone's labor--hard labor indeed--learning either language.
I have a tendency to say too much, but I'm going to stop here
(I haven't forgotten the reference to Phaedo; I'll come back with it once I find it in an English version)
It would be great to hear more of your opinions about this as well as the opinions of others. Thanks for inviting me in.
Edited once to provide the reference to Phaedo
Tu sabes cuando sales pero no sabes cuando regresas.