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06.13.2018: One Chapter of Nonfiction

Today's soundtrack is Shiny Toy Guns: III. This afternoon, I'm reading the next ten pages of Socrates' dialogue Charmides, by Plato. Yesterday, I read about Socrates' discussion with Charmides about the definition of temperance. Where I left off, Socrates had proposed to Charmides that the definition of temperance as being "doing our own business" (p. 20) must have been a riddle. It turned out that Critias had given Charmides this definition, and being accused of not understanding the meaning of temperance himself, he wished to defend his definition. So Socrates took up the conversation with Critias. Socrates argued that those who do the business of others are not all intemperate; thus, the definition of intemperance could not logically be doing one's own business. Critias wanted to save face, so he argued this point, saying that those who make things for others can be temperate, but those who do things for others are not. He says that he learned from Hesiod that people can be employed at places of ill repute; so Hesiod differentiated between works and doings: the former being man's business; the latter, not necessarily: the former good; the latter bad. So those who do their own business do good and are temperate; those who do others business do wrong and are intemperate. Thus, he said, "temperance I define in plain words to be the doing of good actions" (p. 24). Socrates took another tact, asking Critias whether a temperate man could be temperate without knowing it. Critias said that would not be possible. Socrates proved that a man could do bad while intending good; would this make a man intemperate? No, of course not. For the doctor who administers a medicine to a patient who has a rare adverse reaction to it did not intend to cause the patient death; he was doing good, not evil. So sometimes people do good or evil without intending to do so. So a man's actions do not make him temperate or intemperate. Critias realized that Socrates was right on this point, and says that he is not afraid to confess his error. Critias said that he knows the importance of knowing himself, and said that one who knows himself is temperate. Critias wished to prove that "temperance is self-knowledge" (p. 26). Socrates asked for more time to think about it, for, as he said, "[Y]ou come to me as though I professed to know about the questions which I ask, and as though I could, if I only would, agree with you. Whereas the fact is that I enquire with you into the truth of that which is advanced from time to time, just because I do not know; and when I have enquired, I will say whether I agree with you or not" (p. 26). So Critias gave Socrates time to reflect. After Socrates had reflected for a time, he told Critias that if temperance was the knowledge of something, then it must be a science. But all sciences have a result, either in themselves or in something else. At this point Critias got annoyed with Socrates and accused him of talking in circles, of arguing for the sake of proving Critias wrong instead of pursuing the truth. Socrates responded, saying, "I pursue this argument chiefly for my own sake, and perhaps in some degree also for the sake of my other friends. For is not the discovery of things as they truly are, a good common to all mankind?" (p. 28). Critias agreed that it was.

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